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Sci-Fi

Star Wars Actor Kenny Baker Dies at Age 81 (theguardian.com) 51

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Guardian: The British actor who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. Kenny Baker, who was 3-feet 8-inches tall, shot to fame in 1977 when he first played the robot character.

He went on to play the character in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three Star Wars prequels from 1999 to 2005. He also appeared in a number of other much loved films in the 1980s, including The Elephant Man, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

Baker's niece told the newspaper that "He brought lots of happiness to people and we'll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world..."
Security

A Bored Hacker Easily Stole And Defaced More Than 70 Subreddits (vice.com) 74

An anonymous reader writes: Hacker, BVM, said he's "lost count" of the number of subreddits he's stolen and defaced, but estimates that the number is more than 70. Subreddits like r/pics, r/starwars, and r/gameofthrones, and many others, have been defaced just in the last few days. He claims Reddit's crummy security, and lack of two-factor authentication are what has made his exploits possible. "Reddit's security is shit," he says. "If Reddit would simply add 2FA it would be a lot harder to get in." Why is BVM hacking these subreddits? "No reason really. Just boredom. It's not like it's really a challenge or anything so I just do it to pass time," the hacker told Motherboard in an online chat. BVM didn't comment on how exactly he is taking over subreddits. However, he did admit he's been hacking into moderators' accounts and then changing the CSS style of the pages, replacing it with a note taking responsibility. Reddit appears to be responding to these incidents quickly, restoring the subreddits.
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars Buttons And Lights You May Have Missed (vice.com) 125

tedlistens writes: At Motherboard, Alex Pasternack writes: "Star Wars is set in a world of wildly advanced technology. But take a good look at the machinery of Star Wars, and you may be surprised to see how wonderfully analog it all is -- buttons! levers! vector graphics! Yes, there are hyperdrives and lightsabers and hologram Princess Leias and droids that know six million languages (including the language of moisture vaporators, along with various etiquette and diplomatic protocols useful across the galaxy). But it's also a world where sometimes you have to hit a robot to get it to work, like an old dashboard radio, a place where the supercomputers are operated manually and where buttons and control panels and screens seem far removed from our own galaxy: tactile, lo-fi, and elegantly simple." May the 4th be with you.
The Military

Ted Cruz Proposes Reviving SDI To Counter N. Korean Nuclear Threat (blastingnews.com) 349

MarkWhittington writes: One of the more substantive issues that was discussed during the Republican presidential debate in Detroit concerned the latest threat to come out of North Korea. That country's mad, bad, and dangerous to know leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered his nuclear arsenal prepared and is firing missiles in the vicinity of Japan. The United States and South Korea have started military maneuvers, partly as a result of North Korea's actions. Discussions on deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea have also become urgent. Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas would go one step further. He proposed reviving the idea of space-based missile defenses that were part of the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative.
Star Wars Prequels

Original 1977 Star Wars 35mm Print Has Been Restored and Released Online (arstechnica.com) 272

AmiMoJo writes: A restored HD version of the original Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 35mm print has appeared online. While this isn't the first time that attempts have been made to restore Star Wars to its original theatrical version—that's the one without the much-maligned CGI effects and edits of later 'special' editions—it is the first to have been based entirely on a single 35mm print of the film, rather than cut together from various sources. The group behind the release, dubbed Team Negative 1, is made up of Star Wars fans and enthusiasts who spent thousands of dollars of their own cash to restore the film without the blessing of creator George Lucus, or franchise owner Disney.
Space

Scientists Propose Using Cold War Era Weapons To Deflect Asteroids (blastingnews.com) 114

MarkWhittington writes: Many people are considering what to do if an asteroid was headed for a collision with Earth. One such collision wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Now, films such as "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" depict what might happen if Earth were threatened with a similar event in modern times. As a result, some people are repurposing weapons that were built or envisioned during the Cold War to confront the celestial threat, from old ICBMs to space-based laser systems.
Businesses

The Most Popular Bad Passwords of 2015 (dice.com) 165

Nerval's Lobster writes: For years, security experts have told people they need better passwords protecting their online accounts: no more '123456' or 'qwerty' or 'password.' Based on SplashData's fifth annual list of the 25 most common passwords, however, it's clear that relatively few people are listening to that advice. The firm based its list on more than 2 million leaked passwords during the year. The most popular, as in 2014, was '123456,' followed by 'password' and the ingenious, uncrackable '12345678.' One new entry on this ignoble list: 'starwars' in 25th place, no doubt thanks in part to the popularity of 'The Force Awakens' and the accompanying marketing campaign. Seems like a lot of people have forgotten (or never learned) that, while it's a pain to create (much less remember) a complicated password with lots of numbers and special characters, it's nothing compared to the pain of having your online accounts compromised. Maybe, as some have proposed, we could someday kill passwords for most services.
Star Wars Prequels

'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Delayed By Seven Months (hollywoodreporter.com) 203

Mr.Intel writes with bad news for those of you champing at the bit to see the next Star Wars movie. Engadget reports: "You'll have to wait a bit longer to see what the heck is up with Luke Skywalker. Disney announced this afternoon that it's delaying Star Wars: Episode VIII from May 26, 2017 by seven months to December 15, 2017. Disney didn't give any reason for the delay, but sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that it'll allow the studio to give the film a Christmas release treatment, which worked pretty well for The Force Awakens. Additionally, it'll give director/writer Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) more time to work on the film. THR's Borys Kit notes that may include rewrites to focus more on the new class of Star Wars characters."
Star Wars Prequels

Quantifying How Much the Force Is Used In Star Wars (bloomberg.com) 188

An anonymous reader writes: Bloomberg has posted a data visualization for a very important subject: how much, how often, and to what effect The Force is used in Star Wars movies. As you may expect, we see the light side of the Force used much more often than the dark side. Luke Skywalker spends about 11 minutes using the Force, but pre-Vader Anakin clocks in at under 3 minutes of Force time — less, even, than Palpatine. It also turns out that Jedi really love Force Leaping, while the dark side has a monopoly on making lightning and choking people. It's kind of silly, but also kind of cool. Bloomberg even posted their methodology: "To arrive at a figure for total on-screen Force time, we decided to measure cumulatively, by scene. That means when multiple people use the Force simultaneously, we counted the time only once. Light-side and dark-side times are the cumulative durations that characters associated with each side are depicted using the Force. When multiple characters associated with the same side at the same time use the Force, that time is also counted only once. When light-side and dark-side characters use the Force at the same time, the durations are scored separately. Each recorded duration is rounded to the nearest second, and no use of the Force was assigned less than one second in duration." (That's just a fraction of it.)
Star Wars Prequels

George Lucas Criticizes the Force Awakens (theguardian.com) 562

RogueyWon writes: While many critics have responded positively to JJ Abrams's take on Star Wars, one particular industry figure seems rather less impressed. George Lucas has criticized the "retro" tone of The Force Awakens and lamented his own lack of involvement in it. Speaking to television talk-show host and journalist Charlie Rose, Lucas quipped that he had sold his "kids to the white slavers that take these things". "They wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that,” he said. “They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway, but if I get in there, I’m just going to cause trouble, because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that any more, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said, ‘OK, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’”
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars Pulls In $1 Billion At Record Speed (reuters.com) 467

New submitter henrydan798 writes to note that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has set a new record for ticket sales, becoming the fastest movie ever to earn a billion dollars at the till. As the L.A. Times reports, The latest installment in the "Star Wars" franchise grossed an estimated $153.5 million in the U.S. and Canada in its second weekend, beating the lower end of analyst expectations of $140 million. This drives the J.J. Abrams-directed picture to a to-date domestic gross of $544.5 million. "The Force Awakens," which cost an estimated $200 million to produce, debuted last weekend to record domestic ticket sales of $248 million. It also grossed $281 million overseas for a global total of $529 million, topping the previous worldwide debut benchmark set in June by "Jurassic World" ($525 million). This week, with an international estimated gross of $546 million to date, the film became the fastest to surpass $1 billion globally. Were any of those dollars yours? If so, do you think they were well spent?
Medicine

Star Wars Fans and Video Game Geeks 'More Likely To Be Narcissists,' Study Finds (independent.co.uk) 182

schwit1 writes: Those who take part in "geeky events" are more likely to have an "elevated grandiose" level of narcissism, according to a study conducted by the University of Georgia. Psychologists examined the personality traits of those who turn to "geek culture," developing a Geek Culture Engagement Scale and a Geek Identity Scale to help quantify the figures. It was found that those who scored highly on both scales were more likely to narcissists. Subjects are scored on a scale of one to five, depending on how often they take part in activities such as live action role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons, cosplaying, puppetry, robotics — and enjoying things such as video games and Star Wars.
Businesses

Disney Is Making a Fortune and Safeguarding Its Future By Buying Childhood (economist.com) 207

An anonymous reader writes: Disney has been successful for the better part of a century. But they haven't always had to work as hard to do it. Over the past couple of decades, they've been facing more and better competition than ever before, and they've had to change their business strategy in response. An article at The Economist details this strategy, which seems to have a central theme: buy up things people loved as kids, and commercialize the hell out of them. The recent Star Wars film is the latest example — the marketing blitz around it (and its related merchandise) was a sight to behold. Disney is hoping that focusing investment on great content will protect them from the massive transitions underway in the content delivery part of the entertainment industry. "The biggest doubt is the durability of the model. It is not clear for how long such franchises can be stretched. And introducing new ones is a risk. John Carter, a film based on one of a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, flopped. Cinema-goers will also have far more choice as other firms try to establish or add to their franchises."
Star Wars Prequels

Economists Discuss the Financial Repercussions of the Destruction of the Death Stars (hackaday.com) 171

szczys writes: What would the Galactic Economy look like following the destruction of two Death Stars? This is the informed Star Wars debate taking shape between to people who know their economics. Elliot Williams, a Ph.D. in Econometrics, has just debunked the work of Zachary Feinstein who claimed that the Rebel Alliance would have been off had they not destroyed the two Death Stars because what they're left with is a Galactic Economy in ruin. Feinstein, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, published a scholarly paper early this month saying it was financial suicide to destroy both of the giant construction projects. Williams' take on things is that the project was a sunk cost; destroyed or whole the Death Star expenditures already made are gone and not likely to further cost or benefit the new government. Perhaps most interesting in the discussion is how you estimate the cost of the Death Star projects and the GGP — the Galactic Gross Product of the fictional universe.
Star Wars Prequels

Reddit Is Banning Users That Post Star Wars 7 Spoilers (softpedia.com) 268

An anonymous reader writes: A few naughty users have started spamming Reddit with Star Wars 7 spoilers, but also hoaxes. Some known Star Wars fans with Reddit accounts were even bombarded with PMs about the upcoming film, with trolls trying to ruin the movie before they saw it. As a result, Reddit is now banning any user that posts Star Wars 7 spoilers. The movie officially launches tomorrow; do you plan to see it? Do you care about spoilers?
Star Wars Prequels

Writer: Why Watching the Original Star Wars Again Was a Bad Idea (cnet.com) 400

An anonymous reader writes: CNET's Michael Franco recently sat down and watched Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope again in preparation for the release of The Force Awakens later this week. His advice to anyone who's thinking of doing the same is to save your childhood memories and skip watching it again. Unlike wine, Franco doesn't think the movie gets better with age. He writes: " Since that first viewing, Luke, Vader and company have loomed large in my imagination, and clearly in the imaginations of many other adults introduced to the sci-fi franchise as kids. So have the rest of the characters, as well as the sounds of a lightsaber, a Wookiee and a TIE fighter and the idea that someday I would learn to control people through the power of suggestion and a wave of my hand. But it now seems that maybe all that got a little gilded in my memory."
Censorship

Richard Dawkins Opposes UK Cinemas Censoring Church's Advert Before Star Wars (theguardian.com) 319

An anonymous reader writes: A controversy has erupted in the United Kingdom following the decision of the three theatre chains that control 80% of the movie screens in the country to refuse to show an advertisement for the Anglican church. The 60 second advertisement is for a new Church of England website, JustPray.uk, the purpose of which is to encourage people to pray. The Odeon, Cineworld and Vue chains refused to allow it to be shown due to a policy not allowing political or religious advertising. Richard Dawkins supported the Church on free speech grounds, stating, "I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might 'offend' people. If anybody is 'offended' by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended." Dawkins was joined by fellow atheist, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston in backing the right of the Church to show the advertisement, stating "As a gentle atheist, I'm not offended by Church screening gentle cinema adverts; we shouldn't reject our deep cultural roots in Christianity." The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said he was "flabbergasted" by the decision to refuse to show it. The National Secular Society found it a "perfectly reasonable decision." The Anglican church had wanted to show the advert prior to the screening of the upcoming Star Wars movie given the expected large, multi-generational audiences.
Star Wars Prequels

George Lucas: "I'm Done With Star Wars" 424

HughPickens.com writes: Entertainment Weekly reports that George Lucas has compared his retirement from Star Wars to a break-up – a mutual one, maybe, but one that nonetheless comes with hard feelings and although Lucas came up with story treatments for a new trilogy, those materials, to put it bluntly, were discarded. "They decided they didn't want to use those stories, they decided they were gonna go do their own thing," says Lucas. "They weren't that keen to have me involved anyway. But at the same time, I said if I get in there I'm just going to cause trouble. Because they're not going to do what I want them to do. And I don't have the control to do that anymore. All I would do is muck everything up. So I said, 'Okay, I will go my way, and I'll let them go their way.'" Lucas says he was going to tell a story about the grandchildren of figures from the original trilogy. "The issue was, ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, 'We want to make something for the fans,'" says Lucas. "So, I said, all I want to do is tell a story of what happened – it started here and went there. It's all about generations, and issues of fathers and sons and grandfathers. It's a family soap opera."

Although the team behind The Force Awakens acknowledges they're taking the story in a different direction from what Lucas intended, they maintain affection for his original creations and the man himself. "Before I showed up, it was already something that Disney had decided they wanted to go a different way with," says J. J. Abrams. "But the spirit of what he wrote, both in those pages and prior, is everything that this movie is built upon." Some fans question why there was no "Based on" credit for Lucas in the poster for The Force Awakens. "I don't know why it isn't on the poster, but it's a valid point. I'm sure that that will be a credit in the film," says Abrams. "We are standing on the shoulders of Episodes I through VI."
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars Battlefront Released (giantbomb.com) 126

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday marked the release of Star Wars Battlefront, EA DICE's attempt to resurrect a Star Wars video game series that had great success a decade ago, but gradually petered out over the course of several years. Early reviews for the game are mixed. Games Radar's video review gives it a lot of credit for being incredibly faithful to the feeling of Star Wars. Polygon's review praises the game's accessibility and its broad variety of PvP options, but acknowledges that it had to trade complexity to get there. Giant Bomb's review is much more blunt: "Slick production values, solid controls, and tons of fan service can't make up for mediocre progression and a lack of content." Many reviews rate the graphics highly, and performance is solid even on consoles. It's worth noting that user ratings on Metacritic come in significantly lower than critics' ratings, with the most common complaint being about the dearth of content.
Education

Hour of Code 2015 Star Wars Tutorial: Spare the IF Statement, Spoil the Child? 156

theodp writes: Teaching U.S. K-12 kids their programming fundamentals in past Hours of Code were an IF-fy Bill Gates and a LOOP-y Mark Zuckerberg. Interestingly, the new signature tutorial — Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code — created by Lucasfilm and Code.org ("in a locked room with no windows") for this December's Hour of Code, eschews both IF statements and loops. The new learn-to-code tutorial instead elects to show students "events" after they've gone through the usual move-up-down-left-right drills. With the NY Times and National Center for Women & Information Technology recently warning against putting Star Wars in the CS classroom ("Attracting more female high school students to computer science classes might be as easy as tossing out the Star Wars posters," claimed an Aug. 29th NCWIT Facebook post), the theme of the new tutorial seems an odd choice for Code.org, whose stated mission includes "increasing [CS] participation by women." But if Star Wars is, as some suggest, more aimed at boys, perhaps Code.org has something up its sleeve for girls (a la last year's Disney Princesses) with another as yet unannounced signature tutorial that it teased would be "just as HUGE" as the Star Wars one. Any guesses on what that might be?

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