Get your Kerbal on! Update .18 released.

The latest, and possibly greatest, update to Kerbal Space Program has just been released, featuring:

* Docking
Connecting vessels together is now possible! Build space stations, surface bases, or assemble huge spacecraft in orbit.

* Flight Planning
Getting to other planets and moons just got a lot simpler. Place maneuvers along your orbit to create a flight plan, and then just follow the guidance cues. No need to figure out angles or hold a protractor to the screen!

* Action Groups
A new way to control your ships! Instead of having everything done through staging, you can assign parts to groups that are controlled with a keypress. Set up Abort systems, or rig up complex contraptions. Or just let the game handle it automatically.

* New Resources System
Watching fuel drain has never been so much fun! New resources allow for completely new possibilities. Energy, Fuel, Oxidizer and other resources now flow through your ship. Manage them as you fly, and pump them across parts.

* Music
KSP now has its own soundtrack, featuring many cool tracks, from smooth jazzy tunes to build ships by, to wondrous spacy themes as you explore the solar system.

* Performance Tweaks
New terrain optimizations and a system to prevent lag by slowing the simulation make for a significant improvement in performance.

Check out the video below to see some of these new enhancements in action!

Calling All Scientists – Google Science Fair Entry Deadline Looms


Well there’s only 5 days left (as I write this) for students world-wide complete their experiments, write-up their summaries, and create their supporting video (or slide presentation) for entry into the Google Science Fair (http://google.com/sciencefair).

I’m really looking forward to seeing the creativity shown in these entries — especially any that relate to living in a northern climate (yes, winter is going on way too long up here this year).

I’m also kind-of envious, one of the prizes is really awesome:

The Grand Prize winner(s) plus one parent or guardian per winner will win an amazing 10 day trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic Expeditions. Traveling aboard the National Geographic Endeavour the winner(s) will visit Darwin’s living laboratory and experience up-close encounters with unique species such as flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, and domed giant tortoises.

And yes, back in the day, we didn’t have Science Fairs quite this cool, or technology quite this sophisticated to work with.

But just entering this contest exposes contestants to many of the base concepts of modern science; experimenting, learning, failing, trying again, and reporting on your results, all things that modern scientists do today.

Some days, I think i was born too soon. Oh, and check out this video for a bit more inspiration and information about Google’s Science Fair.

This is a sponsored post.

My most anticipated game of 2011 [Video]

Portal 2

I loved Portal. It was a challenging, entertaining and darkly humourous puzzle game in a First Person Shooter style.

And later this month, Valve will release Portal 2. Yes, it’s more Fun, with Science!

Basically, you have a gun that creates a portable hole that is a gateway to another portable hole. The Blue-ringed hole is matched with the Orange-ringed hole. What goes in a Blue hole, comes out an Orange hole.

Your challenge is to work through increasingly difficult mazes. To what end? Well, that would be telling!

Simple. Then it gets complex! Check out this new video, and previous Portal2 videos below!

And a demo of one of the new game-play elements – bounce!

The April launch date can’t come soon enough. Available on Steam, and in the regular retail channels, on PC, OSX, and consoles.

Turning science fiction into reality. How cool!

A few years back my wife introduced me to an entertaining book called Earthweb; a science fiction novel set in the near future. The book introduced to me a couple of interesting concepts that are just being realized in our daily life today — the first is that of a social currency or rating system that we’re seeing developing online in the form of crowdsourced reviews (music, movie, etc).

OLPC_CA.jpgThe second, and perhaps socially more important one became real today here in Canada — the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which looks at delivering education and technology to the world’s children who don’t have access to those resources:

One Laptop Per Child’s mission is to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.

Here’s how it played out in EarthWeb:

“After the Top Drop, Dorothie tricked me into learning how to use her palmtop, and I became the satlink admin for our village.” Reggie nodded. “I see.” That explained many things. Top Drop had been a part of the WebEveryWhere initiative. In parts of the world where the governments stole more than the bandits, and used even food as a tool of control, Earth Defense had bypassed them and dropped millions of palmtops from the air. Solar powered and capable of vocal as well as written communication, the palmtops did best with children, playing games with them till they learned to read, write… and eventually to do calculus.

LAPTOP.jpg

Here in Canada (and in reality), things are a little less dramatic, but yet hope to be just as effective:

The Belinda Stronach Foundation today announced it will distribute up to 5,000 laptops to children aged six to twelve in Aboriginal communities across Canada.

The OLPC Canada initiative is modeled after the internationally successful One Laptop Per Child Program currently in place in more than 30 countries. This first of its kind program in Canada was designed in collaboration with Aboriginal students, education specialists and program experts from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), ParticipACTION, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ekomini and Safe Kids Canada.

I’ve always promoted technology as an enabler — something to make your life easier, something to help you get things done faster or better. But only if you could afford the technology. That’s the rub.

It’s been the lack of access to the technology that’s been the barrier to make life better.  Frankly, many people in Canada can’t afford to get a computer for the household, let alone one for the children. Yet, a computer is almost essential to learning and excelling in today’s educational systems.

The One Laptop Per Child program looks like it’s taking steps remove that barrier for some children in Canada — making educational success that much easier to achieve by providing some of the resources. I hope it’s a trend and program that continues to grow. We need more smart kids to grow into smart adults and turn more science fiction into reality.



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.