Michael J. Ross writes "Prior to Google+, the company's previous attempts at social networking — Orkut, Dodgeball, Jaiku, Wave, and Buzz — were largely failures, and tended to frustrate users who had devoted time and effort to contributing content and establishing connections with other users, only to see the services wither on the vine. In contrast, Google+ appears to be receiving far more nurturing by the Internet behemoth, and as a result has arguably better chances of not just surviving, but expanding to the point of eventually challenging Twitter and Facebook. Like its rivals, Google+ offers online help information to explain to newcomers the basics of how to use the service. But there is little to no advice on how to make the most of its capabilities, and even the basic functionality is not always clearly explained. That is the purpose of a new book, Google+: The Missing Manual." Keep reading for the rest of Michael's review.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Rick Zeman writes "According to the New York Times, it's the end of the road for the printed Encyclopedia Brittanica, saying, '...in recent years, print reference books have been almost completely wiped out by the Internet and its vast spread of resources, particularly Wikipedia, which in 11 years has helped replace the authority of experts with the wisdom of the crowds.' The last print edition will be the 32-volume 2010 edition."
New submitter hinterwaeldler writes "In 2007 Switzerland abandoned book price control (which requires publishers to fix prices for their books and forbids any dealer to sell at another price), reducing prices by 30% to 50% for online buyers. The brick & mortar book stores lobbied the parliament into creating a bill to reinstate the price fixing, against which a referendum was taken by liberals and the Pirate Party, forcing a popular vote. On March 11, after an intense debate, Swiss voters decided against book price control (German-language original) with a majority of 56%."
Dr Herbert West writes: "According to io9, 'Today is an incredibly sad day for fans of comic books, concept art, and downright anything science fiction. Artist Jean 'Moebius' Giraud, who provided some of the most stunning scifi and fantasy art ever to grace a page, has succumbed to illness at the age of 73.' It's pretty hard to overstate the impact he had on film, comic books, and illustration in general. You can name most any fantasy or science fiction related piece of culture from the last 30 or 40 years, and chances are he provided concept art for it or was involved in some way. Alien, Dune, Heavy Metal, Tron (original AND the new one), The Abyss, Masters of the Universe, The Fifth Element, Willow... the list goes on. With the recent passing of Ralph McQuarrie, it's been a tough week for scifi and fantasy artists."
New submitter es330td writes "I'd like to write a program that takes the old cannon game to another level, but instead of the path being a simple parabolic arc, the projectile will move through a field of objects exerting gravitational attraction (or repulsion) and the player will have to adjust velocity and angle to find the path through the space between launch point and the target.In an ideal world, this would end up as one of these Flash based web playable games, as that would force me to fully flesh it out, debug and complete the app. I doubt this will ever be commercial, so hiring somebody doesn't make sense, and I wouldn't learn anything that way either. I have been programming for almost 20 years, but the bulk of my work has been in corporate programming, primarily web (Cold Fusion, ASP & C#.Net,) or VB6 and then C# Windows GUI interfaces to RDBMS. I have never written a graphics based game, nor have I ever written something using the physics this will require. Once upon a time, I could program in C but I think I would be much better off to work with someone rather than try to roll my own unless good books exist to flatten the learning curve. Any advice on how to proceed?"
An anonymous reader writes "The DoJ says Simon and Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan and HarperCollins conspired to raise the prices of ebooks. The report originates from the WSJ, but the BBC adds comments from an analyst bizarrely claiming increased prices are somehow a good thing and thinking otherwise is the result of 'confusion'. I'd like to see an explanation of why the wholesale model, while continuing to work fine (presumably) for physical books, somehow didn't work for ebooks and why the agency model is better despite increasing costs for consumers."
theodp writes "On Tuesday, the USPTO granted Amazon a patent on its Method and System for Providing Annotations of a Digital Work, which covers 'receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user.' This includes annotations received in a graphical or handwriting format, as well as highlighting of text." I think I smell at least one example of prior art.
jjp9999 writes "I've been looking for some good reading material, and have been delving into the realms of some great, but nearly forgotten authors — finding the likes of Lord Dunsany (The King of Elfland's Daughter) and E.R. Eddison (The Worm Ouroboros). I wanted to ask the community here: do you know of any other great fantasy or science fiction books that time has forgotten?"
eldavojohn writes "Google has just announced Google Play to merge their existing solutions for music, movies, books and apps in the new cloud based storage system promising that you will never have to worry about losing or moving them across devices ever again. You'll be able to store 20,000 songs for free. The region breakdown is: 'In the U.S., music, movies, books and Android apps are available in Google Play. In Canada and the U.K., we'll offer movies, books and Android apps; in Australia, books and apps; and in Japan, movies and apps. Everywhere else, Google Play will be the new home for Android apps.'"
nirgle writes "I have been wondering lately if there are any kids interested in programming for its own sake anymore. When I was my nephew's age, computers were still fascinating: There wasn't a laptop on every table, facebook wasn't splattered on every screen, and you couldn't get any question answered in just a couple seconds with Google. When I was 10, I would have done anything for a close programming mentor instead of the 5-foot high stack of books that I had to read cover-to-cover on my own. So I was happy when my nephew started asking about learning to do what "Uncle Jay does." Does the responsibility now shift to us to kindle early fires in computer science, or is programming now just another profession for the educational system to manage?" Another reader pointed out a related post on the Invent with Python blog titled "Nobody wants to learn how to program."
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that people who read ebooks on tablets like the iPad are beginning to realize that while a book in print is straightforward and immersive, a tablet is more like a 21st-century cacophony than a traditional solitary activity offering a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks. 'The tablet is like a temptress,' says James McQuivey. 'It's constantly saying, "You could be on YouTube now." Or it's sending constant alerts that pop up, saying you just got an e-mail. Reading itself is trying to compete.' There are also signs that publishers are cooling on tablets for e-reading. A recent survey by Forrester Research showed that 31 percent of publishers believed iPads and similar tablets were the ideal e-reading platform; one year ago, 46 percent thought so. Then there's Jonathan Franzen, regarded as one of America's greatest living novelists, who says consumers have been conned into thinking they need the latest technology and that e-books can never have the magic of the printed page. 'I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn't change.'"
theodp writes "Over at Salon, Annie Keeghan does an Upton Sinclair number on the math textbook industry. In recent years, Keeghan explains, math has become the subject du jour due to government initiatives and efforts to raise the rankings of lagging U.S. students. But with state and local budgets constrained, math textbook publishers competing for fewer available dollars are rushing their products to market before their competitors, resulting in product that in many instances is inherently, tragically flawed. Keeghan writes: 'There may be a reason you can't figure out some of those math problems in your son or daughter's math text and it might have nothing at all to do with you. That math homework you're trying to help your child muddle through might include problems with no possible solution. It could be that key information or steps are missing, that the problem involves a concept your child hasn't yet been introduced to, or that the math problem is structurally unsound for a host of other reasons.' The comments on Keeghan's article are also an eye-opener — here's a sample: 'Sales and marketing budgets are astronomical because the expenses pay off more than investments in product. Sadly, most teachers are not curriculum experts and are swayed by the surface pitches. Teachers make the decisions, but are not the users (students) nor are they spending their own money. As a result, products that make their lives easier and that come with free meals and gifts are the most successful.' So, can open source or competitions build better math textbooks?"
hey! writes "On February 18 of this year, global giant payment processor PayPal sent eBook publisher Smashwords an ultimatum: if Smashwords didn't remove all eBooks with certain erotic content from its catalog in the next several days, PayPal would immediately stop handling payments. Smashword's TOS already precluded child pornography, but now PayPal wants them to also censor depictions of consenting, non-related adults acting out incest fantasies. Likewise, fantasy novels in which human characters transform into non-humans are affected if those characters have sex. ZDNet has a summary of the impact of these changes, which would among other things ban Vladmir Nabokov's Lolita. As outrage mounts, finger pointing is in full swing. Smashwords blames PayPal, and PayPal blames the banks it deals with. The crux seems to be that erotica buyers have a higher rate of 'chargebacks' — customers who buy stuff then demand their money back. Fair enough, but is a customer really more likely to return a book because it depicts one kind of fantasy between consenting adults vs. another? Perhaps the problem is just the quality of writing." Note: as you can probably tell from the summary, the linked articles (while factual in nature) discuss subjects that may not be suitable for workplace reading.
An anonymous reader writes "PC Magazine reports that even while Amazon was building their Kindle Fire tablet, it was already planning on a much larger model that 'will be its marquee product and the hopeful cornerstone of its tablet strategy.' Amazon's already begun offering $30 discounts on refurbished 7-inch Kindle Fire tablets, matching last week's new aggressive pricing from Barnes and Noble on their color touchscreen Nook. But PCMag argues that the 7-inch color Kindle was simply a 'beta' release of the larger device to come. 'In no way was Amazon being dishonest with its customers... To be truly fair, many people may never want a screen larger than seven inches because of the associated weight and bulk.' But the author argues that its real purpose may have been as a test run to gather important real-world data for their ultimate war with the iPad. 'After all, as industry insiders joke, all first-generation products, whether hardware or software, are really "beta" programs disguised as initial launches.'"
braindrainbahrain writes "Coincidence or conspiracy? Two new science fiction magazines have just been announced and they are both being published by more serious science publications. New Scientist magazine has announced the publication of Arc, 'A new digital magazine about the future.' Arc features such articles as 'The best time travel movie ever made' and 'The future of science fiction, games, galleries — and futurism.' They are advertising new fact and fiction from the likes of Maragret Atwood and Alastair Reynold. The MIT Technology Review has announced the TRSF, dubbed 'the first installment of a to-be-annual "hard" SF collection.' Some authors: Joe Haldeman and Cory Doctorow. As an interesting note, both publications will be printed on paper for the first ('collectable') issue only; all forthcoming ones will be e-books."