Google is facing a backlash over plans to put people’s faces and comments about products and places into adverts.
The “shared endorsements” policy change starts on 11 November and covers the comments, “follows” and other actions people do on Google+.
One protest involves people swapping their profile pictures for that of Google boss Eric Schmidt so his image rather than their own appears on ads.
Google said it had made it easy for people to opt out of the system.
But they’ll still collect and collate and who-knows-what your data.
Reminds me a bit of a digital version of one of the scariest moments of my life. Summer of ’84, I spent a month in Germany with our German teacher and a dozen other 15-year-old boys. We were there during the Los Angeles Summer Olympics — the games the entire Warsaw Pact (minus Romania) had boycotted in protest of… Reagan or whatever. Really it was just payback for our boycott of the 1980 Moscow games. Needless to say, tensions were high.
And there I was with my friends, getting ready to cross a Berlin Wall checkpoint to travel from West Berlin to East.
Guard towers with machine guns, soldiers with automatic rifles — the works. The worst part was sticking your passport through a slot in an otherwise blank concrete wall. You’re standing on unfriendly territory, without your passport, while people you can’t see are doing who-knows-what to it.
Every American ought to experience a police state like that at least once, although right now maybe I should be more careful about what I wish for. But I digress.
Google reminds me a bit of a much-friendlier version of that East Berlin border crossing. In exchange for free services like Google+, Gmail, and Google Docs, you surrender pretty much all your browsing information and tons more — to Google. And what are they doing with all that data and metadata you provide them?
It’s a lot like that slot in the wall in East Germany. You put your data in and Google does …stuff… with it.
Good stuff? Bad stuff? I dunno. Just… stuff.
I avoid Google’s data wall slot as best I can, by using Dogpile as my search engine, using my own, paid-for email as much as possible, and avoid signing in to Google at all. Except when I need Google Voice for conference calls or to upload YouTube videos. The rest of the time I’m signed out and using DoNotTrackMe at all times.
But I get the feeling I’m fighting nothing better than a rearguard action, and probably losing.
Via Business Insider, some Reddit “colorizers” are doing their thing to Civil War photos. The quality of the photography — and the colorization process — is amazing. Digital is easy, but nothing (yet) can reproduce the results of a big slab of film inside a big box camera.
As fine a job as the Redditers are doing, there’s still something missing, because you know the color was added later. For the real deal, check out this collection of rare color photographs from the First World War.
I never owned a Mac before seven or eight years ago, but every time I could get myself seated in front of one back in the ’80s, the first thing I’d do is launch MacPaint. You drew things with a mouse, various brushes and tools, and a selection of fill patterns. That was it — but there had never been anything like before in simplicity and ease-of-use. Perhaps the most revolutionary thing is that the Mac’s screen used square pixels, instead of the traditional oblongs of every other CRT screen. So when you drew a circle in MacPaint, your square-pixeled printer printed a circle. People using any other computer would print an oval.
There could be some serious load times if your artwork was any bigger than the workspace, because MacPaint and your creation all had to fit in the original Mac’s 64k of working memory. So any scrolling was accompanied by some pretty lengthy read/writes to the 800k floppy drive.
This website’s banner takes up more than 90k and renders just as quickly as your internet service can pipe it to you.
The point of all this is that MacPaint is back as CloudPaint, completely re-engineered in HTML5. It looks and feels just like the original — but I bet it’s quite a bit bigger than 64k.
Give it a whirl.
Say what you will about Tom Clancy, but the man knew how to tell a story. Of his self-written novels — leaving aside the Clancy “branded” books and his current crop of co-authored works — there was only one real misfire. Reading 2002′s Red Rabbit, you might find yourself thinking, “I liked this better when it was called Day of the Jackal.” Not bad for a former insurance salesman who had hoped to sell his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, to a few hundred Navy officers — until it got blurbed by President Reagan.
People talk about how Clancy made high-tech weaponry understandable to the layman, but that wasn’t his ace — it was his ability to keep countless story threads going, all over the globe, without the reader ever getting lost or tangled up in them. Most people can’t just drive to the corner store without swerving out of their lane a few times. And when Clancy dug deep, as he did with 1993′s Without Remorse, he could really affect you. He wrote that one after losing a childhood friend to cancer, and I think Clancy used that experience to show he could do more than simply quicken the reader’s pulse.
Clancy quit writing for years after 2003′s mostly-OK-but-not-great The Teeth of the Tiger. I don’t know if he stopped because his last two books hadn’t been all that great, or — as I’m starting to suspect — for health reasons. He did come back three years ago, with a series of books co-written with different co-authors. Against All Enemies (with Peter Telep) remains the only Clancy book I couldn’t get through — and quickly. There was just something missing from that one, but the others since 2010 have all read like “classic” Clancy of the ’80s and ’90s. Just a few days ago I pre-ordered Command Authority, due out in December. I suppose it will be his last.
Clancy was never afraid, in print or in person, to call out lefties. Appearing on Larry King to promote some novel or other, King asked one stupidly ignorant question after another, and an exasperated Clancy finally barked something like, “Read the damn book, Larry.” I hope I’ve remembered the quote exactly. It was for sure my favorite moment of the old Larry King show.
Is it really possible that Larry King, who’s looked like day-old scrambled eggs for thirty years, outlived Tom Clancy? Stranger things have happened, but this one I’m taking a little personally.
A new study from Iowa State and Cornell revealed that individuals who use a narrow glass and pour wine while keeping the glass on the table drank less, compared to those who used a wide glass and poured wine while holding the glass, Nature World News reported.
According to the researchers, it all has to do with the drinker’s perceptions of quantity.
“People have trouble assessing volumes,” said Laura Smarandescu, an assistant professor of marketing at Iowa State. “They tend to focus more on the vertical than the horizontal measures. That’s why people tend to drink less when they drink from a narrow glass, because they think they’re drinking more.”
In reality then, the glass is neither half empty nor half full. It’s simply time to refill your drink.
(The engineer will tell you the glass is exactly twice the size it needs to be, but who the hell do they think they’re kidding?)
Cross-posted from Vodkapundit
Loved The Avengers. Loved, loved, loved that movie. After one viewing it was added to our short & selective Go-To Movies playlist in Ye Olde iTunes Movie Library. The wife loves it, the kids love it, and I think the dog even loves it.
That’s why I’m pretending the new Avengers spin-off TV show, Agents of SHIELD, doesn’t even exist. The reason? They brought back Agent Phil Coulson. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great character and Clark Gregg plays him with just the right mix of authority and humanity. But Coulson died for a reason in the movie. His death meant something. Only by a beloved character getting stabbed-through-the-chest dead was Nick Fury able to forge his dysfunctional group of feuding heroes into a team.
Take that away, and you take away what made The Avengers something more than just popcorn fare. Coulson’s death didn’t just galvanize the heroes; it galvanized the audience.
Yes, I know comic books bring back characters from the dead all the time. But you’re talking about decades-old franchises in need of freshening up every now then. The Avengers is a movie that came out just last year — it still has that new franchise smell. It needs freshening up like I need water in my brandy glass at bedtime. What the hell good did that ever do anybody?
So it doesn’t matter to me how compelling of a backstory Joss Whedon & Co. come up with to explain Coulson’s return, or how much success I wish for Gregg. I’m not going to watch this show, period.
Bring Coulson back for the inevitable reboot, please. But he fell a hero, and that’s how we should remember him.
Cross-posted from Vodkapundit
People hate iOS 7 so much, they’ve upgraded 200,000,000 devices to it since its release last Wednesday — double the upgrade pace iOS 6 enjoyed last year. I believe that makes it the most widely-used version of any mobile operating system.
Not bad for an OS that’s only five days old.
OK, it’s barking remarkable.
I’m pleased as punch with the performance improvements and enhancements over iOS 6. Nothing just appears; everything comes from or goes to some particular place as you touch or swipe the screen. That might seem a small thing, but it isn’t. You always know exactly where you are, how you got there, and what will happen with your next gesture. (Want to have fun with Android owners? Ask them what the Back button does. Almost every answer will begin with, “Well…”) In iOS 7 everything has a certain cause and a certain effect — everything is done with a purpose. The visual clues give your eyes memory, the way your fingers remember how to tie your shoes.
I was afraid my ancient iPad 3 would find its graphics co-processor — already running at Ludicrous Speed just to maintain the Retina Display — overwhelmed by all the new visual bells and whistles. But it still performs with all the speed and slickness you expect from an Apple mobile device. My son’s iPad mini handles iOS 7 just as nicely. My iPhone 5S won’t arrive until Thursday, but my two-year-old 4S feels faster, no joke.
The new Control Center (cribbed pretty shamelessly from Android, but turnabout and all that) is a great addition. I find it’s a little too easy to activate it when swiping up to scroll through web pages, but there’s a setting to disable it while you’re in apps, or also from the lock screen. Turn it off in apps/leave it on in Lock, seems to be the best combo for both me and my wife.
Siri is smarter. Last week, I could not for the life of me get her to understand that I wanted her to play Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim’s recording of “One Note Samba.” “Siri, play ‘One Note Samba’,” I must have said a dozen times with perfect diction. Every time she’d reply, “I’m sorry, Stephen, but I can’t find one note somber.” And finally me shouting at my phone, “No! It’s samBA, samBA, samBA!” like a demented dance instructor.
I tried it again in the truck this morning, and instead of getting Siri’s error message, my reply was Frank singing, This is just a little samba, based upon a single note…. That’ll put a bounce in your step on a Monday morning.
iOS 7 is also more security-minded. As you go through the quick initial setup scheme, it will default to having a four-digit passcode. If you choose to turn it off, the OS will ask you if you’d like it to stop using autofill for your browser logins. Smart.
If you thought the camera was fast before, now it’s faster, and complete with HDR, Instagram-type filters, and other nifty new tricks. It’s the best camera I’ve ever used that didn’t say “Nikon” on it and pair with my shelf full of lenses. And remember, this is a two-year-old iPhone 4S we’re talking about here. I got all this new speed and functionality from a simple OS upgrade. Can’t wait to put the new 5S camera through its paces later this week.
Graphically, iOS 7 is hit or miss.
Yesterday I wrote that it was impossible to pick a favorite Elmore Leonard novel. But when I went to pick up one to re-read last night, I reached for Pronto without even having to think about it. It’s the first of Leonard’s works to star Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The first part of the book focuses an aging Miami bookmaker, Harry Arno, one of Leonard’s most visceral characters. I hate to use the cliché “leaps off the page,” except that he does. Harry is greedy and self-absorbed and a bit of a whiner but you just love this guy because he’s so real. He might be old, but his girlfriend is a stacked ex-stripper named Joyce, and you can totally see them together.
Harry is in trouble with the Mob for skimming profits off the top of his bookie operation. So he sneaks off to Italy, which he loves because he fought there in World War II and because of a brief acquaintance with Ezra Pound in an Army stockade.
But the Mob isn’t the only organization that wants Harry. The Justice Department wants him to testify against his old (and peeved) boss, Jimmy Cap. So Raylan is sent to bring Harry home before Cap can have him killed. And, oh yeah, Harry already got away from Raylan once — the only stain on Raylan’s record as a deputy marshal.
Leonard poured his heart into bringing Harry to life. Here’s a guy pushing 70 with about a million dollars of stolen Mob money in a Swiss account, dating a former stripper only half his age, and who once gave the slip to a cowboy marshal — and you believe every last bit of it. That’s some amazing writing.
Problem is, Harry Arno loses control of his own story. Rather, Elmore Leonard lost control of his own novel.
Short version: Best popcorn flick of the summer.
Longer version? OK, longer version.
Giant monsters (Kaiju) from another dimension are invading earth through a trans-dimensional rift at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. They come one at a time, months apart, giving mankind time to unite and figure out a way to fight the beasties. And of course you fight giant sea aliens by building giant, human-piloted battle robots (Jaegers). The neural connection between man and robot is too much for a single human brain to handle, so two pilots are connected together in a neural “drift” and act and fight as one. Think of them as a flesh-and-blood RAID 1 array, if you’re geeky like that. The problem is, the alien attacks are growing more frequent and of course the aliens are also getting bigger and tougher. They even evolve weapons of their own, like acid spit and an EMP-type thing.
If you think giant monsters versus giant robots is just an excuse for city-busting battles… well, yeah. Of course. And if you think the neural “drift” is an excuse to heighten the human drama… well, yeah. Of course. Even better, the deeper connection between the characters, the better they connect in the “drift,” and the better they fight.
I told you it was high concept.
I should very excited about this story, but I’m not. We’ll get to the why not in just a moment:
In a bid to limit movie piracy in Asia, Disney and Sony have quietly begun testing a bold new on-demand service in South Korea which offers movies to rent while they are still playing in theaters. As noted by the Wall Street Journal, the two companies are the first US studios to provide consumers anywhere with the option to buy a ticket to see a movie or watch it in their own home using their cable, internet, or satellite-TV subscription. Django Unchained, Wreck-it Ralph, and Brave had all been made available as part of the trial.
These are 2012 movies here in the States, but I’m assuming based on the story they’re in current release overseas.
But why make this a piracy-fighting move? Why not just …I dunno… give audiences what they want? Increasingly, that’s to watch movies in the comfort of our own homes, with a picture quality better than many movie theaters of just ten or 15 years ago.
I’m still counting on Hollywood to screw this one up, however.
Do you know why Blu-Ray has failed to take the place of DVD in lining Hollywood’s pockets? Because Blu-Ray sucks. The picture quality is outstanding. And the sound is an audiophile’s dream. But the discs are so locked down that they’re a total pain in the bottom to actually use. Loaded with FBI warnings we can’t skip, menus that can take forever to load, and years-old previews you’re forced to watch again and again. And — oh, yeah — most of the movies are crap.
So we rent from Red Box or stream from Netflix or download from iTunes. Or we just pirate the stuff.
Because as nice as it sounds to be able to stream a current summer blockbuster release like Melting Flying Zombies vs The Buxom Flamethrower Pirates, I’m pretty sure Hollywood would fill it up with all the same, lame stuff they cram onto shiny new Blu-Ray discs.
Consumers just aren’t that into the whole “Designed by Apple in California” thing:
According to data from Ace Metrix, a consulting firm that analyzes the effectiveness of TV commercials through surveys, Apple’s new ad scores just 489 points on its scoring system, far below previous Apple campaigns.
The industry average is 543 points, and other Apple commercials have received in excess of 700 points. So what’s the problem with the new ads?
“Apple was never a company that bragged about itself,” Edward Boches, a professor of advertising at Boston University, told Bloomberg. “In a manifesto ad, it’s hard not to come across as self indulgent. And even though it suggests the wonderful things Apple products can do, the ad lacks joy.”
Around the time Steve Jobs died, some smart Apple observer (I wish I could locate the link) came up with a way to try and determine if the company was losing its footing. His caution? If Apple started running ads about Apple. “We’re Apple. We’re awesome. We’re Apple.” Loser companies tell you how great they are. Winners show you the product.
When Jobs came back to Apple in 1996-97, he made it a 100% product-focused company. And that is what it’s remained, even if increasingly the products are digital services rather than slick hardware. That focus has always been most visible in the company’s advertising, which is the product, the whole product, and nothing but the product.
“This is the iWidget. This is how awesome it is. This is the iWidget.”
Set it to a bouncy pop tune and you’re done — deceptively simple, chillingly effective.
The product was always front and center, with little mention of the company at all other than the iconic logo. The furthest Apple got away from that was in its famous “Get a Mac” ads, in which the Macintosh (and also the PC) were played by likable actors. We never saw a Mac in action, but we still got the idea: Mac was cool, relaxed, easier to use.
That’s still very product-centric.
Oh, and the ads were “Get a Mac,” not “Get an Apple Mac.” That’s an important distinction to make here.
Now here we have Apple’s “Blah blah blah we’re a cool company ad,” and all I can think is, No wonder consumers are rejecting it. Don’t show us the cool company; show us the cool product. The product makes the company cool, not the other way around. Jobs once said that “marketing is about values,” and from Apple’s marketing we know that the company values making good product above anything else.
There was one important exception however.
Yes, that’s two in two weeks. Here’s the latest:
Microsoft Corp will offer its console and computer games for Apple Inc’s iPhone and other smartphone platforms this fiscal year, through a tie-up with Japanese smartphone game maker Klab Inc, the Nikkei said on Monday.
Through a licensing deal, Klab will bring Microsoft’s Xbox and Windows-based computer games to the iPhone and smartphones using Google Inc’s Android operating system, according to the Nikkei.
As I’ve strangely felt the need to remind them over the last few months, Microsoft is a software company. And with iOS and Android there are hundreds of millions, maybe more than a billion, of software platforms bereft of Microsoft software. Which, for a software company, seems… odd.
I suppose the problem is, Microsoft came to dominance in the ’90s as a platform company. But in mobile, they don’t own any platforms. OK, technically with Windows Phone and Surface RT they own two mobile platforms — the problem is that consumers don’t own them. They seemed to think they could buy their way into platform dominance in mobile, but a confused effort has prevented that from happening. Also, with Apple owning most of the profits and Android owning most of the low end, there just isn’t much room for a Microsoft platform.
But selling software, starting with Age of Empires?
Microsoft is great at that, and they’ll be a welcome new developer to both platforms.
POSSIBLY RELATED: Barnes & Noble is getting out of the business of making their own Nook tablets, as a way to stem their losses. I know very happy Nook owners, just not many Nook owners. They’ll license the platform to third-party OEMs.
Did anyone else notice that the Supreme Court just knocked down a goodly-sized portion of Bill Clinton’s legal legacy?
The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.
The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court’s declaration that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation’s most populous state in about a month.
The high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states.
The only part I have any real trouble with is covered in that first graf — marriage shouldn’t come with any tax, health, or government pension benefits. It simply isn’t the government’s business to lavish things on people for being married.
What’s interesting is the non-ideological split of the 5-4 vote. There aren’t many issues where the winning team consists of Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia. It’s disappointing (but not entirely surprising) not to see Clarence Thomas in there making it 6-3.
The best part is Roberts’ ringing defense of federalism regarding California’s Prop 8. He wrote, “We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit.” Exactly right. Although I suspect Ginsburg and Kagan found themselves siding with Roberts out of a conviction favoring gay marriage, rather than a conviction that there are any real limits to what Washington may tell the states to do. It’s a good guess that’s one reason Roberts wrote the decision himself.
A SCOTUS win is a SCOTUS win, but a well-reasoned SCOTUS win is a thing of beauty and healthful to the Republic. But I’ll give my Twitter self the last word on this one.
CORRECTION: I’ll give the last word to the President instead.
image courtesy shutterstock / Syda Productions
We had been told all our lives that we would not watch an ongoing series about such a man. A bruising, foul-mouthed giant with a dent in his forehead was the villain, not the protagonist. TV had always made compromises, always made sure that “flawed” heroes were ultimately redeemable and lovable.
Tony Soprano was not. And we loved him, often despite ourselves.
And his work on the show made possible Vic Mackey, Al Swearengen, Walter White, Don Draper and every complicated, riveting anti-hero (or worse) who followed him. “The Sopranos” was an enormous hit, and told the business that the old rules need no longer apply.
With one role he changed an industry for the better. That’s a helluva thing.
Short version? I really, really enjoyed the movie.
Not that Man of Steel isn’t without its problems. The opening sequence on Krypton needed a much better storyteller than director Zack Snyder. There was almost no narrative, just a bunch of visually cool scenes adding adding up to… well, Krypton explodes, yo… but you won’t find yourself caring very much.
The movie finds firmer footing on Earth, taking its own sweet time letting you really get to know the characters. The performances were all fine, especially Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She’s no Margot Kidder — who could be? — but she brings smarts and tough and tenderness to the role. She’s easily the best thing in the movie. Curiously, the chemistry between her and Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) was hit and miss. Sometimes the sparks flew, sometimes not. But in the end, I bought them and bought them together, so it all worked out. Cavill wasn’t really allowed to shine until the last act, and his performance probably owed more to Smallville‘s Tom Welling than to Christopher Reeve, but that’s OK, too. In the end, when Cavill is finally allowed to flash his impervious smile? He brought the full Chris Reeve-power wattage.
Also curious is the drab color scheme. Superman is a hero of primary colors, but his costume here is dark and drab. The first half of the movie is shot in winter or in the cloudy days of autumn, and even the summer scenes are reminiscent of those cloudless days when the sun bleaches everything to off-whites and muted pastels. That’s a big change from the beloved Superman: The Movie, but I’m not sure it’s a bad change. Just different, and at first slightly jarring.
Michael Shannon wasn’t given a whole lot to do as General Zod, other than chew the scenery and kick some ass. His quieter scenes were menacing enough however to make up some of the difference. I preferred Terence Stamp in the role in the otherwise-inferior Superman II. That’s a shame, because Shannon is capable of much more.
CAUTION: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD…
Insurance fraud seems to be all the rage with the DNC:
The Democratic National Convention may be long over, but its organizers have not forgotten the almost half a million dollars worth of electronics they seem to have lost.
Organizers of the Charlotte, N.C., convention have filed a police report for lost and stolen electronics, some of which they appear to have valued at as much as 62 times the listed market prices.
A reportedly stolen 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop? $75,537. The price listed on the Apple website is $1,199. A lost iPhone? $30,503. A lost Blackberry? $54,250.
The party of Other People’s Money has a cavalier attitude towards other people’s money?
Dog bits man story here, folks.
Or something like that — from StrategyPage:
Chinese military journals are full of exhortations to “render the enemy deaf and blind” by attacking their space satellites. Yet there is little discussion about how China would do this. That is because China does not want the rest of the world to pay too much attention to Chinese work on jamming satellite signals, damaging satellites with lasers and generally leaving them intact but inoperable rather than destroying them.
China did conduct a very visible “KillSat” test in 2007 that blew one of their old weather satellites apart. This was not good for anyone with satellites in orbit because that particular test created over 3,000 large (very destructive) fragments in orbit. These fragments are under no one’s control and will demolish any satellites they encounter. China has not repeated this test and now it is believed that the 2007 test was more of a deception than demonstration. China wants the world to ignore their more intense efforts to disable or isolate satellites in orbit rather than blowing them up.
Going for the eyes is one way to end a fight very, very quickly.
The question is this. On the home front, we’d likely lose TV, phone service, weather warnings,some internet, and general chaos, inconvenience, and some deaths. On the fighting front (should there actually be one), our military would lose tons of intel and much of the networking that it uses as a force multiplier.
Would that be enough to knock us out of the fight?
The Japanese thought so at Pearl Harbor, but I don’t think we’re the same people we were in 1941.
Over at FT, John Gapper is just being silly:
Who will stop Google?
My answer is: nobody, or not easily. Indeed, the best comparison for Google seems to me not Microsoft in the 1980s but General Electric in the late 19th century – the age of electrification. Like GE, Google is a multifaceted industrial enterprise riding a wave of technology with an uncanny ability not only to invent far-reaching products but also to produce them commercially.
Google still earns the vast bulk of its revenues by selling search-targeted ads. NTTAWWT, either — Google is the best at what it does.
But what are these other commercial products? Android? Google makes more money from searches on iOS than it does on Android. And after sinking $12 billion into Motorola trying to defend Android, it’s probably a net money-loser.
So what about Moto, aren’t they selling great Android phones for Google? Not really. Moto is an also-ran, and Samsung commands damn near every penny of profit in the market for Android-powered phones. Horace Dediu even did a study a while back that, thanks to Amazon and the weirdness of the cheap Chinese domestic market, Google’s ownership of Android is only about 60% of sales.
Google’s Nexus-branded tablets? Google won’t reveal its sales figures, so who knows. But Google not revealing its sales figures is hardly an encouraging sign.
Wired has an excellent writeup of the new Xbox One. It was just revealed to the public yesterday, but Peter Rubin got to spend some quality time with one over the last few weeks — the lucky bastard. It’s an impressive piece of hardware, like any new console should be. But here’s what I think makes it a winner:
When the 360 launched, smartphones hadn’t yet trickled out of the corporate world; Netflix was strictly a DVD delivery service; the “cloud” was something that got in the way of a suntan. (Hell, in 2005, people suntanned.) And a big part of the 360’s longevity was Microsoft’s ability not only to develop games but also to forge partnerships that took advantage of these new staples of online life. So as those deals proliferated, so did the things the Xbox 360 could do. People played Halo 3 on their Xbox, but they also watched Netflix. They bought Kinect sensors for controller-free experiences, but they also burned through seasons of Deadwood on HBO Go and caught sports highlights on an ESPN app. But all of this new functionality was built on patches and firmware updates. The 360 simply wasn’t constructed that way, so when the Xbox One was greenlit in the fall of 2011, “the decision wasn’t, ‘We need a gamebox,’” Whitten says. “It was, ‘We need a living-room experience.’” Built that way from the ground up.
This is Microsoft playing at the absolute top of its game (no pun intended). They’ve leveraged everything they’ve learned about gaming, consoles, services, and streaming, and worked them together into a single system. To call the Xbox One a mere “console” is to undersell what it is and what it does. This is an entertainment system-in-a-box, all for a few hundred dollars.
How was Microsoft able to do this, when they’ve pretty much flubbed every single other consumer device they’ve tried to build in the last few years? How did the company that build the ill-fated Zune with its infamous “Squirt” feature manage to get something so spectacularly right?
I’m pretty sure they’re already on the endangered species list, but this news won’t help replenish their numbers:
After mentioning on Twitter that the newly announced Star Wars games from DICE and Visceral will be running on DICE’s powerful Frostbite 3 engine, Andersson responded to a reader concern that this will mean the games will not be available for the Wii U.
“[Frostbite 3] has never been running on WiiU,” Andersson tweeted. “We did some tests with not too promising results with [Frostbite 2] & chose not to go down that path.”
This statement follows a Eurogamer interview from March’s Game Developers Conference in which DICE’s Patrick Bach admitted DICE “could probably make a Wii U game in theory” but said the company is not currently interested in devoting “development time” to the system. “To make the most out of the Wii U, that’s a different game because of the different peripherals. We want to utilize all the power of each console… It’s about ‘where do you put your focus?’ And the Wii U is not a part of our focus right now.”
So it’s not just a question of focus but a question of performance.
“Underpowered” was cute for the original Wii, which Nintendo was able to sell at a profit from the very first unit. But the company’s ambitions were much bigger for the Wii U — which doesn’t appear to be up to the task.
As an early teen in the early ’80s, it was just about impossible not to like Michael Jackson’s music. It was certainly impossible to avoid it. With Thriller, Jackson and producer Quincy Jones set out to make the ultimate crossover album — one that would gain black and white audiences in equal measure. And equal airplay, too, back when radio stations were even more racially targeted than they are today.
And boy, did they succeed.
But Michael Jackson the person? It was pretty obvious even then that he was one strange dude. What happened though is what happens to too many child performers: The weirdness went up and up, while the quality of the performances went down and down. By the time Dangerous came out in 1991, the magic was pretty much gone. It sold in the millions, yet nobody was buying it. And by that I mean, nobody was buying Jackson’s pseudo tough/tender/ladies man act anymore. The weird was just too weird.
Then came the obligatory-yet-somehow-disappointing greatest hits collection, the horrifying-yet-believable stories about his sleepover parties with kids…
I shudder even to think about it. His last studio album, ironically named Invincible, came out after years of delays and way over budget — and to a tepid response.
It was around this time he was dangling babies off balconies and looking like a bad drag queen version of Elizabeth Taylor. Oh, and he’d somehow managed to go broke buying giraffes and rollercoasters and stuff. The music had hit bottom and the weird was at the top of the charts.
The amazingly talented and abused little boy who never had a childhood, never really had an adulthood, either. There’s so much blame to go around, you barely know where to start.
Children’s author — and, full disclosure, occasional VodkaPundit drinking buddy — Amelia Hamilton has just published her second book. I have my advance e-copy here, and I can’t wait for the dead-tree version to arrive so I can read it with my younger son.
It’s called 10 Steps to Freedom: A Growing Patriot’s Guide to the American Revolution. The illustrations are by Anthony Resto, and perfect for the five-and-under set. In plain language, Amelia tells the story of the American Revolution in just ten steps. It’s a great concept, nicely executed. And it’s the kind of liberty-loving literature that used to be standard fare for children’s books, but which now hardly exists.
So in came Amelia to fill in the gap, like she did with her first book, One Nation Under God: A Book for Little Patriots. She’s promised an entire series of Little Patriots stories. This one she self-funded through Kickstarter like a real American entrepreneur (remember those?), so you know she really believes in what she’s selling.
My favorite illustration comes on the third page. You can click on the thumbnail to embiggen it to full size, but look at that — a patriot brandishing a pistol in defense of his rights! In a children’s book! Think of the children! Will no one think of the children?
Oh, relax — it’s perfect.
The progressives will throw a monthlong hissy fit just because of Page Three. Imagine what they’d do if they found a copy freshly unwrapped at their child’s birthday party. I’m not trying to start any family fights; I’m just sayin’.
But that’d be worth my $8.99 right there, folks.