петак, 04. октобар 2013.

The 'Breaking Bad' writers' room and the endings that could have been

Breaking Bad is over, and (nearly) all of Walter White's loose ends are neatly tied up. But that doesn't mean that there isn't more to know. Now comes the postmortem. What went into making the final episode? How do the creators of the show feel about the fate of Walter and those around him? And, perhaps most importantly, what were the other ideas that Breaking Bad writers had for ending the series? For the answers to these questions — and much more — we're thankful to have cast and crew interviews. After you've spent some time digesting the events of the final episode, "Felina" (an anagram for finale), you may want to dig in to Entertainment Weekly's insightful interview with series creator Vince Gilligan. He explains how Walt's last-minute decision to spare Jesse was inspired by a John Wayne western, and says the most challenging (and important) scene in the episode was Walt's confrontation with Gretchen and Elliott. In all, he concludes that tying up everyone's stories "caused a lot of headaches and a lot of stress trying to get all the stuff worked into the final hour of TV, but I feel real good about it that we did it." He adds, "There’s no right or wrong way to do this job — it’s just a matter of: You get as many smart people around you as possible in the writers' room, and I was very lucky to have that." "There’s no right or wrong way to do this job." Co-executive producer and writer of many episodes, Peter Gould, provides a door into the writers' room in an interview over at The Hollywood Reporter. He says that over the course of the series the writers wondered when should Walt "realize the ends don't justify the means?" Ultimately the writers agreed "That's the end of the show. When he's no longer lying to himself, that is truly the end for Walt." Gould, of course, is referring to the scene when Walter breaks into Skyler's home and finally admits that he didn't become a drug lord for his family. "I did it for me." Lastly, Time has compiled five of the alternate endings Vince Gilligan revealed on AMC's Breaking Bad Insider podcast earlier today. The bleakest of the bunch? One that would have left Jesse and Walt Jr. dead. From this selection, at least, it seems clear the writers made the right choice — even if Walt's machine gun contraption was a bit of a long shot.

New programming language could code DNA to deliver drugs and detect diseases

The University of Washington envisions a future where our bodies will be tuned to heal us just as easily as software is built to entertain us — and it's come up with a method that could eventually turn this idea into a reality. University researchers have developed a programming language that engineers could use to build artificial DNA molecules that can be embedded into human cells. While the language is still in its infancy and not far enough along for use in the medical industry, the university says it hopes its creation will eventually be used to craft custom molecules that can be inserted into a patient's body to deliver drugs or detect diseases and other abnormalities. It's like Java or Python, but for DNA The language essentially builds on the sort of chemical equations anyone who has taken a chemistry class will be familiar with. In a report published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, researchers said the language lets them write equations for DNA in code that can be used to test new drugs and medical treatments. In theory, the language could program DNA molecules to control our cells no differently than a rudimentary computer. If Washington's software-like approach to dictating how our cells operate pans out, doctors could someday have us ingesting code instead of pills to fight off diseases.

Banksy launches New York City street art show with satirical cellphone audio tour

New works from the legendary street artist Banksy are on their way to New York City. Beginning today, Banksy will be holding a month-long show — which he's calling Better Out Than In — on the city's streets. His first painting is already up, and features two young boys reaching into a sign that reads, "graffiti is a crime." According to the Village Voice, the work is located in Chinatown. Those who can't make it into the city can see the painting up on Banksy's website though. "Before you, you will see a spray art." Banksy is also accompanying each painting with a museum-style audio guide. Naturally, there won't be a counter to check out audio players from, so instead each painting will have a phone number stenciled beside it, allowing anyone to call in and hear about the piece. The audio guide will be far from educational though — the first one is instead a humorous sendup of the type of language you might hear from a museum, supplementing the painting with useless details like, "You're looking at a type of picture called 'graffiti,' from the Latin 'graffito,' which means 'graffiti' with an 'O.'" You can listen to the first recording on his website or by calling 1-800-656-4271 and dialing 1# when prompted. Banksy's last big series of paintings appears to have been placed in Los Angeles back in 2011, following the debut of his film Exit Through The Gift Shop in 2010. No other paintings have been spotted in New York just yet, and Banksy hasn't provided many details on what's to come. As for how long his new paintings will be able to stand up under the authorities' watch, Banksy already seems to know that their time could be limited. "Before you, you will see a spray art by the artist [Banksy]," his first audio guide announces, "Or maybe not — it’s probably been painted over by now."

Mars Curiosity rover to continue operation despite federal government shutdown

The shuttering of the federal government has resulted in NASA shutting down almost completely — but for the time being at least, the Mars Curiosity rover won't be affected. A spokesperson for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates both Curiosity and the older Spirit rover, has clarified to International Business Times that JPL is a private contractor owned by the California Institute of Technology. As such, its personnel aren't among the 17,701 NASA employees that were furloughed today after the US Congress was unable to pass a funding bill. That means at the moment Curiosity will continue to operate as scheduled, even if its Twitter account has gone offline. Still, that doesn't mean the rover couldn't run into issues should the partisan brinksmanship continue. JPL's Jane Platt told the Times that "changes to JPL's status will be assessed on a week-by-week basis as events unfold." Should the shutdown stretch on Curiosity isn't the only Mars-related project that could suffer. As Space.com points out, the NASA furloughs have sidelined preparation for the launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution — or MAVEN — project. Designed to study the Martian atmosphere, MAVEN had been scheduled to launch on November 18th, but it's working with a relatively narrow window. If the craft doesn't launch by December 7th, team members say, it would have to wait a full 26 months before Earth and Mars would line up again.

Bill Gates should step down, say three top Microsoft shareholders

In Steve Ballmer's tearful farewell to Microsoft, he assured employees that they would build amazing things without him at the helm. "We will deliver the next big thing... we will change the world again." Some shareholders, however, believe that the company can't make necessary changes simply by replacing a CEO. Today, Reuters is reporting that three of the top 20 Microsoft investors are also calling for Microsoft chairman Bill Gates to step down. According to Reuters: The three investors are concerned that Gates' presence on the board effectively blocks the adoption of new strategies and would limit the power of a new chief executive to make substantial changes. In particular, they point to Gates' role on the special committee searching for Ballmer's successor. They are also worried that Gates - who spends most of his time on his philanthropic foundation - wields power out of proportion to his declining shareholding. Though Gates does appear to dedicate most of his time to philanthropic efforts, fears that he might still be running the company behind the scenes aren't entirely out of whack. Some have argued that Steve Ballmer spent over a decade in Gates' shadow, relying on him to make certain key decisions, and that Ballmer made some of his greatest mistakes while attempting to protect the man's legacy. It's interesting to note that Reuters similiarly cited "at least three of the top 20 investors" as petitioning the board to consider Ford's Alan Mulally to replace Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO. While it's not clear if they're the same three investors, the board of directors did reportedly go on to seriously consider Mulally for the role. Reuters writes that the three shareholders who want Bill Gates to step down hold over 5 percent of the company's stock, compared to the 4.5 percent that Gates himself presently owns.

'Mega Man' spiritual successor coming to PS4 and Xbox One after smashing Kickstarter goal

Mighty No. 9, the new side-scrolling action game from Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune, has finished its round of crowdfunding — and the project was a huge success, raising over four times the initial goal of $900,000. Inafune's team took in $3,845,170 on Kickstarter, or over $4 million total including PayPal donations; an amount that means the game will now come to just about every platform imaginable. Extra modes, stages, and chiptunes PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, PS Vita, Mac, and Linux editions will all see release, as well as the originally announced PC version. Mighty No. 9 will also ship with extra modes, stages, and an optional chiptune-style soundtrack as a result of meeting several stretch goals.
Inafune's team at Comcept is backed up by industry veterans including the level designer from the original Mega Man, the composers from the first two games, and others that have worked on the series. "We're hoping that the success of this project will open a lot of eyes to Kickstarter, especially here in Japan." "We're crazy excited about the response the project got — the fan reaction has been amazing, and really just inspiring and energizing to watch," John Ricciardi of Tokyo-based localization studio 8-4 tells The Verge. 8-4 is working on the Mighty No. 9 project, assisting with PR and the game's Kickstarter campaign. "It took a lot of hard work and preparation to run this thing, but the fans powered us through straight to the end. We at 8-4 have always been big on bridging the gap between east and west, and we're hoping that the success of this project will open a lot of eyes to Kickstarter, especially here in Japan. If we can get more Japanese indies to consider crowdfunding as a viable alternative to big-name publishers, we're hoping it could have a big positive impact on the industry here as a whole." Inafune's team is backed up by Mega Man veterans Although Mighty No. 9 is at a very early stage in production, it looks to follow the classic Mega Man blueprint closely: robot protagonist Beck jumps and shoots his way through scrolling stages, takes on several eccentric boss characters, and uses their powers for himself in later levels. Beck also has the ability to transform into various different shapes. While the Kickstarter project was an unqualified success, Mighty No. 9 is some way off release — Comcept currently expects the game to come out in April 2015.

Spin for iOS puts a new twist on video chatting

If you're looking to make a video call on your mobile device, there are no shortage of options available today. Google's Hangouts, Microsoft's Skype, and Apple's FaceTime all offer usable video calling experiences. Despite this, Spin, a new app for iOS launching today, is giving users yet another option for video calling. Spin uses proprietary technology to offer what it says is "the best-combined audio, video, voice, image and touch quality that exists today." The Human Fidelity technology is a product of four years of development, and offers ultra wideband, 44kHz audio, the best video quality a device can support, and full 60 frames per second interface animation. Spin says that the audio in its video chats are close to recording studio quality. Like Hangouts, Spin can support up to 10 users at the same time, in what it refers to as Gatherings. Users can import photos and videos from Facebook, YouTube, or their camera roll, which they can share with the group and interact with. Any user in a video call can play, pause, or fast forward a video that is shared, and each user has the ability to tweak the volume mix between participants chatting and the video playback to their own preference. Participants can also play around with effects such as simulated tomato tossing, paper airplanes, vuvuzela horns, and collaborative drawing. The whole interface of Spin is gesture based, with swoopy animations and drag and drop actions everywhere you turn. You can add users to a video chat by dragging their avatars onto the open Gathering, or you can send "Spinvitations", which will ping others with a push notification to join an ongoing or scheduled call. Exiting a call is done by dragging your avatar off of the group. The experience of participating in a video call on Spin is pretty impressive: video and audio quality were both quite good, provided you have enough bandwidth between your participants, and there are some really smart features built in (for example, if someone is speaking and you want to make them louder, you just use a pinch-zoom gesture to make their image larger, which will increase their volume). It's best used on an IPad, where you have more room to perform the various gestures and see all of the participants involved. Unfortunately, we didn't find the gesture-based interface to be very intuitive, and there is a bit of a learning curve before you understand how to fully navigate the app. Additionally, since sharing is limited to photos and videos, it's not possible to collaborate on files or share a screencast through the app — necessary features for most business users. Spin could be a powerful tool for businesses, but for now, it's only launching on the iPhone and iPad. It's hard to imagine that most consumers would want to bother with downloading a new app and creating a whole new account for it when their devices have built-in video calling out of the box. With its fast performance and apparently solid backend, Spin does have potential, but right now it's straddling the line of consumer and business needs, without really servicing either one to its fullest.