I swear this concept is based on the Rudy Rucker thought experiment turned into the novel The Hacker and the Ants, in which a programmer models virtual ants to work out a system of robotics driven by emergent behavior and mesh networking. That was in the early 1990s, when Rucker was a programmer at Autodesk, Inc., writing 3D CAD/CAM modeling software as his day job. With the state of the technology at that point, that story was officially science fiction; he could have copyrighted the concept, but there was no way to actually build any of it in the real world, therefore no patent. Pretty much the same way Aurthur C. Clarke lost a billion dollars in his spare time when he invented the geosynchronous satellite during WWII; it would be almost 20 years before anything could actually launch into terrestrial orbit, and more years after that before any of it could reach the geosynchronous sweet spot 23,400 miles up.

But now, decades later, the folks at Festo in Germany have done it; using a combination of 3D Printing, Piezoelectrics, Mesh Networking, Neural Networking, Heuristic Extrapolation, and just damn good programming, they have created Rucker’s Ants. And yes, it does look like they have hit on a system that supports Emergent Behavior as well. Mind, these ant-like androids are the size of your hand, but that is useful for a lot of tasks, and as they continue to develop the project, they will no doubt be able to miniaturize them more each year (scaling them up was never a problem). I have to wonder if Rucker’s new ant story, Attack Of The Giant Ants, was created once he learned of this project. Thanks to New Scientist for the heads up on this one!

I think they have only mapped out around 50 cities in North America, although it could be even a smaller number than that. But if you ever wanted to play real live PacMan on the streets of Washington, DC, now is your chance, using this link:

DC PacMan

If you want to play in one of the other available major cities, go to: Google Maps, and look for the PacMan icon in the lower left corner of the browser window. If you see it, click it, and play the game on the streets of your preferred city. I suspect this is yet another Google implementation that could evaporate as soon it is no longer Aprils Fools Day, but I intend to play it for all it is worth until it expires!

In North America in 1982 there were a limited number of companies fighting for the home computer market, and with 20-20 hindsight it is obvious that Apple was the winner of that battle. But my own system of choice that year had the same overall computing power, plus a few dedicated chip sets that meant superior 8 bit graphics and sound processing. Plus it had a built-in programming language that made it easy to create your own audio/visual sequence complete with text overlays. This is the state of the art Christmas demo sequence from Commodore that year, and if you remember what any of the other systems available at the time could do, it will be obvious why I thought this one was the way to go. Merry Christmas!

The new release of LinuxConsole 2.3 is good news for those with older computers who still want to get some entertainment or work out of them. This Live Disc build started life as a way to turn an old computer into a working games console, and it will still do that. But what it has really gotten good at is making old computers with few resources work properly. That means a box with as little as 256Meg of RAM and running an old Intel, NVIDIA, or ATI graphics cards can run just fine with a fast boot, and it also supports newer graphics cards as well. They have also built some scripts to help you update packages into local RAM while running the base Live Disc, connect to printers, and so forth. They also support installing it to a LiveUSB stick, or installing it to duel-boot with Windows. They have downloads to make both of those tasks fairly easy, so you don’t have to be a Linux guru to get them running.

They came up with the idea in 2012, and after million of views they decided there was enough interest to actually do it. This is a Pong game embedded in the traffic crossing controller so you can play with someone across the street while waiting for the light to change. Thanks to i-Programmer for the heads up on this one.