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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

PC Gaming Alliance to "propel PC to new heights

Group of major players in PC gaming, including developers, hardware manufacturers and software publishers, have joined to form the PC Gaming Alliance.

The leader of the group will be Intel’s Randy Stude. He is the president and founding board member of the PC Gaming Alliance.

Others who have joined the group include Epic, Activision, Microsoft for developers / publishers, as well as AMD, Nvidia, Intel, Dell, Acer, Alienware, and Gateway.

The PC Gaming Alliance has officially revealed itself at GDC in San Francisco and has expressed confidence in the future of the platform.

Founding companies Epic, Microsoft, Activision, Intel, AMD, nVidia, Dell, Alienware, Razer and Gateway have united "with the common purpose of advancing the PC as a worldwide gaming platform", PCGA has said.

As such, they'll be aiming to drive and accelerate innovation in PC gaming and to improve the gaming experience overall for us lot, while at the same time filtering their passion and knowledge of the platform down through to developers and publishers.

PCGA's added it "will focus on driving coordinated marketing and promotion of PC gaming, consistent and accurate reporting of PC gaming market sizing and research, and creating forums for member companies to cooperate on solutions to challenges facing the PC gaming industry, such as hardware requirements, anti-piracy, and more".

"Working together, we have an exponentially greater opportunity to propel the PC gaming experience to new heights", Kevin Unangst, senior global director of Games for Windows at Microsoft, has said.

Randy Stude, director of the Gaming Program Office at Intel, added, "PCGA members believe that we are stronger and more effective together than any member company is alone, and that our shared vision and group effort will improve PC gaming worldwide"


Wii Fit, Mario Kart Wii European Release Dates Confirmed
Officials from Nintendo of Europe have confirmed local release dates for both Wii Fit and Mario Kart Wii in April, while the Wall Street Journal has suggested U.S. dates for both Wii Fit and WiiWare for sometime later in May.

Unlike Sony and Microsoft, and most other third party publishers, Nintendo’s various worldwide subsidiaries continue to maintain entirely separate release schedules in each territory.

Significant gaps are still commonplace, and even between North America and Europe, many games are marketed with different names and even different English translations, such as the recent Advance Wars: Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict.

Despite being released in Japan in February and North America on March 9th, there is still no confirmed release date for Super Smash Bros. Brawl in Europe – with current rumors suggesting June 6th as a likely date.

However, today Nintendo of Europe has confirmed release dates for two of the Wii’s other big titles for the first half of 2008, with Mario Kart Wii due on April 11th and Wii Fit (previously referred to as Wii Fitness in Europe) due on April 25th.

No confirmed release date exists for either title in North America, although Mario Kart Wii is rumoured to be due in late April. A recent Wall Street Journal article suggests the release date of Wii Fit is Mary 19th in the U.S., although at time of press this has not been confirmed by Nintendo of America.

The same Wall Street Journal article also suggests that the WiiWare range of original downloadable games will launch in the U.S. on May 12th, although no specific titles are mentioned. The launch date of the service in Europe is currently unknown.

Mozilla Messaging revives Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird Messaging - Is It Worth The Wait?
Five months after being first announced, Mozilla is now announcing the official formation of Mozilla Messaging. Back in September of 2007, Mozilla anecdotally referred to the new mail spin off effort as MailCo but now they've given it a name,,hurray.

The new announcement follows what was another 'new' Mozilla Thunderbird announcement just last month when Mozilla Messaging leader David Ascher posted a long diatribe on what Thunderbird 3 needs to do directionally to get on track.

So five months after they first announce the effort, Mozilla now announces a name and that they are ready to rock. Frankly I don't understand why the effort didn't start in full five months ago so that this week they could announce progress instead of just announcing a name and what they plan to do.

In a post from Mozilla Chief Wrangler Mitchell Baker, there might well be a hint of the same kind of action that I am talking about.

I am exceedingly eager to stop thinking so much about how to organize the Thunderbird mail effort and to start seeing all that energy go to improving our product. That day has come. We have the tools to make email much, much better. I hope you'll join me in celebrating. And then join the Mozilla Messaging effort and help make interesting things happen.
I have a suggestion for you Mozilla : Less talk and more action. Instead of telling us what you are going to do to get in gear, just do it. Let's see some nightly builds, finite timetables and milestones, you know the stuff we can sink our teeth into. Announcements about strategy and direction are all fine and nice, but there comes a point when actions speak far louder than words.

As it is, I am personally somewhat skeptical, but then again I am a bit biased here too. I was a Netscape Mail user for many many years. Then I shifted to the Mozilla Suite still using the same basic mail system (just under the Mozilla banner). In fact while other early adopters were switching to Firefox, I stuck with Mozilla just for mail.

Times do change though. Firefox became dramatically better than the Mozilla suite ever was. At the same time Thunderbird did not keep pace.

While there is nothing in the open source world that can hold a candle to Firefox, on the email side there is another. I speak of Zimbra (and yes I know it's a Yahoo open source license, but it is basically Mozilla public with attribution). Zimbra on both the server and now the desktop offers one of the best email experiences around. If Thunderbird achieved the level of technical prowess of Zimbra then we'd be talking.

As it is the evolution of Thunderbird into something more is too much talk at this point, whether or not it amounts to more than that over time remains to be seen. Considering Mozilla's track record to date with Firefox though, if the same energy and dedication is thrown behind messaging, we may yet see some really great things.


Mozilla opens the doors on Messaging subsidiary
The Mozilla Foundation has opened up a new subsidiary tasked with developing the Thunderbird email software package.

Mozilla Messaging will initially focus on the development of Thunderbird 3, which promises improved features including integrated calendaring and better search. The new non-profit organisation is also interested in developing instant messaging software.

Thunderbird is a free, open source email application that's been built using the same open source development model as the the Firefox web browser. The spin-off organisation aims to push development of the email software, which has to date been something of a secondary consideration for the Mozilla Foundation as a whole.

Mozilla Messaging will be staffed by a small product development team who will work alongside its community of contributors, as explained in the FAQ here.

A blog posting by Mozilla Messaging chief exec David Ascher provides an overview of the organisation's goals and longer term development plans in areas such as instant messaging.

Space Shuttle Atlantis Returns to Earth

Shuttle Atlantis Lands Safely in Florida
The space shuttle Atlantis, after successfully delivering a major new section to the International Space Station, glided home for a safe landing at the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, announcing its arrival with twin sonic booms just before touchdown.
Ending a challenging 13-day mission, Atlantis and a crew of seven took advantage of favorable weather to return to Florida and clear the way for a military attempt to bring down a failed spy satellite.

Atlantis landed at Kennedy at 9:07 a.m. Eastern time, and did not need to make use of the backup landing strip at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Kennedy is the preferred touchdown site for space shuttles, sparing NASA the time and expense needed to ferry the orbiters across the country after missions, but stormy weather has sometimes gotten in the way.

NASA usually does not activate the Edwards site for shuttle landings unless conditions at Kennedy prove very unfavorable, but it took the unusual action of readying both sites this time, to assure that the shuttle was on the ground by Wednesday evening so that the military could proceed with its plans.

The Pentagon intends to fire a missile from a Navy ship to destroy the satellite, which is out of control and expected to crash to Earth early next month. The satellite, which failed soon after launch in December 2006, is carrying a half-ton of frozen hydrazine rocket fuel that could harm people if it crashes in a populated area, the Pentagon said. The attempt to destroy it could come any time this week, and possibly as early as Wednesday, according to military spokesmen.

Because Atlantis potentially could have been damaged by space debris from hitting the satellite during its descent from orbit, NASA and military officials wanted the shuttle to land before the military operation was attempted.

Bryan Lunney, the flight director for the shuttle landing, said on Tuesday that NASA was not pressured by the Defense Department to hurry the landing, and that Atlantis would have remained in space longer if the conditions for a safe landing were not met Wednesday.

Atlantis departed from the space station on Monday and the shuttle was cleared for landing after an inspection of its heat protection tiles showed that everything was normal.

The only technical issue that arose was failure of a heating system circuit that disabled four small aft thrusters.

These jets were not needed for re-entry, Mr. Lunney said, but rather to prevent any fuel-line damage that could delay Atlantis’s next flight.

Atlantis’s mission, which was delayed for two months because of a recurring problem with malfunctioning fuel tank sensors, mostly went according to plan.

The primary objective of the flight was adding the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory module to the orbiting space station. The laboratory, crammed with scientific equipment, is Europe’s main contribution to the international project.

The 17 nations who are members of the agency invested about $2 billion in the project in all, including the cost of the module, its equipment and experiments, and a control center located outside Munich, Germany.

Columbus, a pressurized unit 23 feet long, 15 feet in diameter and weighing 22,700 pounds, significantly increases the space station’s research capability and gives Europeans a major role in human spaceflight. It was built in Italy and outfitted in Germany.

The only major hitch in the mission came when Hans Schlegel, a European Space Agency astronaut from Germany who was to participate in two of the mission’s three spacewalks, suffered an unexplained medical problem. Mission managers delayed the first spacewalk, to install Columbus, by a day and substituted NASA astronaut Stanley G. Love for Mr. Schlegel.

Mr. Schlegel recovered to perform his other assigned spacewalk.

Atlantis also carried a new crewman for the space station. The crewman, Gen. Leopold Eyharts, a French Air Force general, replaced Daniel M. Tani as a member of the station crew. General Eyharts’ assignment is to finish setting up and testing Columbus, and to get its racks of experimental equipment ready for full operation.

Mr. Tani served on the station two months longer than planned because of Atlantis’ delayed flight. While in space, his mother died in a Dec. 19 car accident.

During an emotional farewell gathering before leaving the station, Mr. Tani dedicated his stay to the women in his life, including the 90-year-old mother he called “my inspiration.”

“And of course, my job is easy compared to my wife’s,” he said. “Jane’s the love of my life, and she had the hard work while I was having fun. So I can’t wait to get back to her and my two little girls.”

During the mission, the Atlantis astronauts also attached two large experiment packages to the outside of Columbus and retrieved a failed gyroscope unit from outside the station to return to earth for refurbishing. They also replaced a refrigerator-sized tank of nitrogen that pressurizes the station’s ammonia cooling system and loaded the spent unit into the shuttle to return to Earth.

The astronauts also transferred almost 1,300 pounds of supplies and equipment from the shuttle to the space station, and are bringing back about an equal amount of equipment and scientific samples from the station.

Atlantis will spend months on the ground being prepared for its next flight, scheduled for August, which will be the last mission to send astronauts to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.


Atlantis Lands Safely At Kennedy Space Center
The successful STS-122 mission has ended today after the space shuttle Atlantis descended to a smooth landing at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The STS-122 crew concluded their assembly mission to the International Space Station when the shuttle touched down at 9:07 a.m. EST.

During landing the space shuttle was under control of Commander Steve Frick and Pilot Alan Poindexter.

Atlantis flew 5.3 million miles during its mission to install the European-built Columbus laboratory at the International Space Station. The mission lasted 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes and 55 seconds. Main gear touchdown occured on time at 9:07:20 a.m. EST. Wheels stop occured at 9:08:08 EST.

Atlantis brought home NASA astronaut Daniel Tani, who returned to Earth aboard after almost four months on the station. He was replaced by ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts.

Nasa wanted Atlantis back as soon as possible to clear the way for the Navy to shoot down a dying spy satellite on the verge of smashing into Earth with a load of toxic fuel. The missile could be launched as early as Wednesday night, from a warship in the Pacific.

Atlantis circled Earth 202 times during its mission, which began on February 7.

During their stay at ISS, mission specialists Rex Walheim, Hans Schlegel and Stanley Love conducted a total of three spacewalks to install and prepare the Columbus module and replace the nitrogen tank.

STS-122 is the 121st shuttle mission and the 24th mission to visit the space station. The next mission, STS-123, is slated to launch in March.

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