March 31, 2005

VOOM to Get $400 Million Investment from Charles Dolan

Maybe VOOM isn't going to die after all, as Charles Dolan has reportedly told the FCC he will invest $400 million more into the HDTV satellite service from his personal wealth. The catch is he wants the FCC to nix the deal that sells VOOM's satellites to the Dish Network. That probably won't happen.

Everyone who follows the VOOM story knows that Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan looks at the HDTV satellite service as his own pet project. Now Dolan reportedly is really putting his money where his mouth is. Dolan told FCC officials that he will make a $400,000,000 personal commitment to save the struggling satellite provider and Cablevision has plans to raise even more money to keep the project afloat. The catch is that Dolan wants the FCC to nix the deal that would have sold VOOM’s satellites to Dish Network.

Sony Wants iTunes for Movies

That was pretty damn quick. One day after I lambasted Sony to make an iTunes for video files on the Sony PSP, the Senior Vice President of Sony Pictures said they will develop an iTunes for movies over the next year. I wonder if he reads First Adopter. It's fascinating as the guy used the exact analogy I did with Steve Jobs and iTunes. Good stuff, probably a coincidence.

Michael Arrieta, senior vice president of Sony Pictures, said at a US Digital Hollywood conference that it wanted to create an "iTunes" for films. Films will be put onto flash memory for mobiles over the next year, said Mr Arrieta, and it will develop its digital download services for films.

"We want to set business models, pricing models, distribution models like (Apple chief Steve) Jobs did for music, but for the film industry," Mr Arrieta told Cnet news.

Sony PSP Not Sold Out

American Technology Research did a survey and found that only 50 of 150 stores nationally have sold out of the Sony PSP. Specialty gaming shops like Electronic Boutique and Gamestop has sold through two shipments, while big box retailers like Target and Walmart seem to have more inventory. His best guess is 575,000 units were sold the first week, with 300,000 still available in the channel.

Analyst P.J. McNealy said the specialty gaming retailers have already sold through two waves of hardware, but "big-box" retailers like Target Corp. (TGT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) got more units than expected at launch and have inventory remaining.

McNealy estimated the PSP sold as many as 575,000 units in its first week, with up to 300,000 left in the inventory channel.

Wordpress Caught Spamming Google

It's a sad day as Wordpress has been caught spamming the Google search engine. From what I hear Wordpress is a fine piece of open source software and a great example of common community for a good cause. However Waxy revealed Wordpress let a search engine spam company host thousands of articles on their server resulting in major Google Adsense profits. Now Google in response deleted Wordpress from their search engine results. Nasty stuff. now has a pagerank of 0/10, which means they've been effectively removed from Google search results (for now). The article results have all been removed from Yahoo, as well.

Fortunately, someone removed all of the Hot Nacho articles from the site completely. It looks like the entire /articles directory was removed, so I'm sure Google will be adding back to its index soon. Does anyone know if they were removed by someone at Wordpress or by someone at Hot Nacho? If you know, please leave me an e-mail.

Microsoft Unveils Mobile Video Downloads

Microsoft announced MSN Video Downloads, which will offer video content from MSNBC, Food Network, FOX Sports, and iFilm for playback on Windows Mobile smartphones and PDAs. Pricing is a one year subscription for $19.95. What we need as I mentioned yesterday though, is an iTunes for TV shows. I want to be able to download a TV show for $1 just like music. Is anyone out there listening? News and sports clipping for $19.95 a year just doesn't cut it.

Dell Releases Super-Light Latitude X1 Laptop

Dell launched the Latitude X1 which weighs only 2.5 pounds and comes with a 1.1 ghz Intel Centrino mobile processor. The screen is 12.1 inch with a wide-screen format. Other features include built-in WiFi, reinforce casing, sealed keyboard to ward off coffee spils, Bluetooth 2.0, and gigabit ethernet. Pricing starts at $1699.

Sony PSP Delayed in Europe

Bad news for our friends across the pond, it looks like Sony is contemplating a delay for the European launch of the PSP. According to sources, titles originally seen as normal autumn releases are now being reconfigured as "launch titles", which could mean a post-summer PSP launch. Another reason could simply be a lack of supply, the deal pixel laden screen probably isn't helping manufacturing matters.

It's now widely believed that June is the earliest possible date for the system to arrive - but comments from two senior sources close to the development of titles for the PSP have suggested that Sony may be considering slipping the system past summer entirely.

Nintendo Revolution to Include Wi-Fi and New Controller

Nitendo President Satoru Iwata has confirmed the next-generation console, Revolution, will include built wireless Wi-Fi and a new controller. The new controller/user interface will be easier to use, where a mother who never played videogames will want to try it. This sounds fishy and as a hard core gamer, I'm becoming less and less interested. A touch pad? Built-in bongos? Whatever it is, I don't think so. The Sony Dual Shock controller is fine by me.

Speaking to Japanese weekly Nikkei Business in an interview partially translated by US website GameSpot, Iwata-san confirmed that Revolution will feature wireless LAN capability and said he hoped it would make playing games online easier for consumers.

"The next-generation console will follow along the same line as the DS [for wireless LAN]," he said. "The ideal is for users to be able to connect to the Internet without having to think about it."

God of War New Standard of Cinematic Gameplay

Wired raves about a new standard of cinematic quality of Sony's latest and greatest videogame hit, God of War. I can tell you from first hand experience, this is the most fun I've had playing a videogame in years. Yes you heard that right, more fun than Half-life 2 and World of Warcraft. It is THAT good.

What makes God of War so special is not merely the polish on its gameplay, but the incredible cinematic presentation. Unlike 99 percent of action games, the God of War player has absolutely no control over the camera. Instead, it is carefully programmed to be always in just the right spot, automatically rotating and zooming to create a fluid, deliberately controlled visual experience.

Apple to Upgrade iMac G5, iBook G4, and eMac G4 Next Month

Apple Insider is reporting according to its sources Apple will upgrade the iMac G5, iBook G4, and eMac G4 next month. The iMac G5 will get a boost from 1.6 to 1.8 ghz and a new 2.0 ghz high-end model with a high definition 22-23 inch display. The iBook will get a speed boost from 1.2 to 1.33 ghz and a high-end model at 1.5 ghz.

IAC Diller says Ask Jeeves Deal was Defensive

IACI chief, Barry Diller, is now saying the Ask Jeeves acquisition was partly a defensive move against search dominating the internet. However one has to wonder if it was smart to buy the number FIVE search company, as if it will do any real good. Never mind the fact a huge portion of Ask Jeeves revenue comes from... you guessed it. Google. How does that make any sense?

"We were worried that search could disintermediate our other brands," he told a business forum here. "What would prevent Google (GOOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research) from having its own mortgage lender and taking us out of the equation?"

March 30, 2005

FA Rant: Sony PSP Rant and the Killer Video iPod Strategy by Rendition

Sony launched the PSP last week to much fan-fare, but it looks like the launch has been tepid by any standards. Hardcore gamers snarfed up the hardware in most metropolitan areas on day one, however there seems to be plenty of supply out there in more rural areas and mid-size cities. This is the result of lack of national marketing, a non-Christmas launch, and the scam that is called the Value Pack.

Value pack? I don't think so. More like pad-our-margins-as-much-as-we-can-by -ripping-off-the-consumer-pack. Making the package $249 by ramming down our throats a Spiderman 2 UMD movie, a case, 32 MB memorystick, a strap, and headphones is poor move. The market is responding with anecdotal data-points of in-stock inventory at the Best Buys, Walmarts, and Circuit Citys out there. Moreover what's with the $49 dollar pricing for some of the games? Don't tell me development costs for porting over old PS2 games require that price-point. Early first adopters are your friends, don't try to rip us off ok?

Never mind that it seems over half of the PSPs out there have dead pixel defects on the LCD screen, that the headphone sound quality is horrid, and the case reportedly scratches the PSP, you can see why some people are a little miffed. It doesn't help things when a Sony executive says because of strong demand the company will not lower prices for the rest of 2005 for the PSP and the PS2. Sony, we want a choice to buy a PSP without the extra crap. Also please let users exchange their dead pixel PSP for a "new" one without having to wait 2 weeks as according to the latest Sony exchange guidelines. And no, dead pixels isn't a feature as written in the infamous page 13 of the PSP manual.

All that being said, there is a lot going for it. The technical hardware horsepower is a marvel, a needed boost over the lackluster lets-re-port-our-old-console-technology we've been acclimated to from Nintendo. The screen is amazing and with good headphones, so is the sound and music. There seems to be some decent launch titles like Wipeout, Ridge Racer, and Lumines. And Sony definitely chose a good spokesmodel in the PSP girl (the poor man's supermodel with a lisp). Because of all this, I will give Sony a freebie. A drop dead strategy that will make all the iPod-as-next-generation-Walkman envy disappear, well almost.

Sony read my words carefully. You have the hardware, you can make the software. Create a video iPod and video iTunes ASAP. Create an easy to use end-to-end experience, where you can download TV shows for $1 an episode using a carbon copy of iTunes user interface and simple synchronization from PC to PSP. You kind of get inklings and the potential form the site, but put it into high gear. Do it now before Apple comes and eats your lunch.

Notice how I said TV shows, not movies. Without a large hard-drive, there simply isn't enough space to download movies onto an affordable memory stick. TV shows would be perfect for the commute to work and the size constraints of an affordable memory stick. Of course that means acquiring and using TV show content libraries, but if Steve Jobs can do it with music, why coundn't one of largest consumer electronic media companies in the world? Your move, Sony. Use my advice and all the world's riches will once again be yours. Well almost. [Discuss]

Sony PSP Girl

Who is she? Everytime you load up, she's there narrating and smiling at us. I call on you, the mass resources of the internet to find out who she is. She calls herself "our guide" to the Sony PSP, we might as well find out something about her no? [Discuss]

Norton Antivirus Vulnerabilities

Remember when we bought anti-virus software and it was supposed to protect us, not make us vulnerable for more security attacks? Symantec admitted this week its anti-virus software had two holes that could of let a hacker crash your computer or use it for launching denial-of-service attacks to slow computers to a crawl. The company has sent out a patch to fix it, so be sure to update your software ASAP.

The flaw essentially causes Symantec's software to crash when it is asked to inspect a file specifically designed to exploit the flaw. The file could be submitted either remotely from outside a system or internally by someone with physical access to a computer, Symantec said.

The second flaw, discovered by the Japan Computer Emergency Response team, can be used to launch denial-of-service attacks by scanning specific file modifications using the SmartScan feature in Norton AntiVirus. Symantec said that any malicious use of that vulnerability would specifically require someone with authorized access to a computer to exploit the issue. SmartScan is designed to scour for viruses hidden in file extensions, as well as in executable and document files.

Gran Turismo 4 Online

GamesRadar has a writeup on how you can trick Gran Turismo 4 into thinking its on a LAN, when actually you're playing against opponents on the internet. It uses a program called Xlink Kai which serves as gateway software using your PC.

We had a 40ms ping time and it was still annoyingly jerky to begin with - although after a couple of races you do get used to it. XLink Kai works as a gateway between your PS2 and their servers. When you load the software on to your PC, it will begin trying to contact the list of known servers. If it cannot connect, you must configure your firewall to allow it to. This may involve opening port 30000 on your firewall.

Sony PSP Movies - Free Downloads from PSP Connect

Sony is serious about Sony PSP being a handheld audio video platform. The company has already setup a site that offers free video downloads in an easy to use process using the Sony Connect service. There are several 1-12 minute movies ranging from news, trailers, nature, speed racer cartoons, and commercials. PSP users out there, looks like Sony wants the PSP to be the "video iPod". Apple needs to get its video game going or it might be left behind.

The chick on the page that narrates the process seems to fall into the Sony PSP brand of cute, shiek, and cool. Not a bad pick if I say so myself. Let's call her Sony PSP girl, she will be our guide, just like she says. [Discuss]

How to Speed Up Firefox

We pointed to this tip a few days ago. Due to strong demand, we'll outline right here how you can make Firefox 2-3 times faster, even faster than Internet Explorer with the added benefit of not dancing with the Evil Empire's security holes.

1. Type "about:config" on your URL bar and press return.
2. Find "network.http.pipelining" in the list and change the value to "true" by clicking on it.
3. Find "network.http.proxy.pipelining" and change that to "true" too.
4. Find "network.http.pipelining.maxrequests" and change the value to "30" or any higher number you wish.
5. Right click anywhere on the page and select "New" and then "Integer". Name it "nglayout.initialpaint.delay" and make the value "0". Source:

Boom! You're Firefox will now load up pages faster than ever before. Take that Microsoft.

Shuttle XPC SB81P Review

Hardware enthusiasts love their small form-factor PCs these days. SilentPC reviews the latest and greatest Shuttle XPC SB81P. Being a noise focused site, they pan the high noise levels of the SB81P, however the performance and features are top notch.

From a noise perspective, we cannot recommend the SB81P. At 32 dBA/1m, its noise floor is simply too high to be considered quiet. A large part of the problem is the use of five fans, three of which are smaller and thinner than the 80 x 25mm design that is the smallest size in which quiet fans are commonly found. A further problem is the aluminum construction of the case, although this is a shared failing with almost every SFF system on the market.

Blockbuster Settles "No Late Fees" Claims

Ooow what a difference. Blockbuster Video! The company has settled with 47 states for $630,000 and will also refund restocking fees for any customer who felt he or she was misled by the "No Late Fees" ad campaign. Blockbuster instead of charging late fees charged the whole movie and a restocking fee on your credit card if you were a week late. And oh my goodness, the States are actually forcing Blockbuster to clearly disclaim there ARE fees if you're late returning your video in their "No Late Fees" ad campaign. Tricky tricky corporate marketing didn't get away with it this time.

Blockbuster agreed that in future advertising, among other steps, it will not represent directly or by implication that there are no late fees or only limited late fees unless such representation is accompanied by clear disclosure of any charges. In addition, the movie renter would advise of any limitation on the stores participating in the offer; clearly display its rental return policy and applicable charges if products are not returned.

Sony PSP Inside Guts

Some adventurous soul opened up his Sony PSP to look at its guts. He gives us the inside scoop on how you too can open up yours too, but please note you void your warranty if you do so. I can't wait for the hardware hackers to come up with mods such as better wi-fi reception and screens.

My ideas are to increase the Wi-fi strength with an external antenna and perhaps alter the shell a bit to allow me to raise the screen for on-the-desk viewing. Other enhancements could be to add a bigger screen, or maybe even some sort of input device.

Sony 2GB Memory Stick PRO Duo High-Speed

Good news for you Sony PSP owners who want more storage for your video and music, Sony has released a 2 gigabyte version of the memory stick that has a transfer rate of 80 mbps or 10 mb/second. Of course Sony will charge an arm, leg, and a kidney for it, but that is what organ transplants are for right?

March 29, 2005

PalmOne Life Drive?

A picture of PalmOne's next supposed handheld is making the rounds today. The unconfirmed report is that the new model will be called Life Drive have 32 megs of RAM (pathetic), 416mhz XScale processor, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 320x480 display, Palm OS Garnet, and cost $500. Yuck, talk about a non-incremental upgrade.

Hillary Clinton Against GTA

You have to love politicians who are running for President. Isn't Clinton supposed to be a liberal that believes in the First Ammendment? Well not if you're running and need votes from conservatives. Hillary is almost a freaking Republican these days with her hawkish views on the war, speaking out to lower abortions, and now this anti-GTA talk. She wants to spend $90 million of our money to study how games like Grand Theft Auto affect children. Are you kidding me? Why not study violent movies? Of course not because of her Hollywood donor buddies. This is a joke.

"Children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them," she said in a statement on the issue. "This is a silent epidemic of media desensitisation that teaches kids it's OK to diss people because they are a woman, they're a different colour or they're from a different place."

She wants a $90 million investigation to be launched into the impact of games and other electronic media on the "cognitive, social, emotional and physical development" of children, according to a Sunday Times report.

AOL Teen Blogging Service

AOL is simply a dying company. All the good technology folks have left and applied for geek leaders like Google. The company just released a teen blogging service that lets parents select the level of privacy for their kids. It's obvious this will not work as everyone I know uses Xanga in that demographic. Good luck AOL, actually forget it. It's luck wasted.

Red Blogs, which AOL unveiled Tuesday, allows teenagers and parents to select the level of privacy they want for their online diaries; a private blog can be kept locked. A semiprivate blog is locked to all but those who are invited to read it. And a public blog allows access to anybody on the Net.

Five Stages of World of Warcraft

Gamespy has posted a comic strip on the five stages of World of Warcraft. It is so true, it's almost not funny. Well actually it's hilarious.

1. Denial - Wait, what time is it? I didn't just spend eight straight hours playing World of Warcraft, did I?

2. Anger - I can't believe I just spent eight straight hours playing World of Warcraft!!

3. Blame - It's because the stupid warrior class is underpowered.

4. Depression - Eight straight hours. I'm wasting my life.

5. Acceptance - ... Eight more won't kill me.

CH FighterStick/Pro Throttle and Saitek X52 Review

Flight sim ethusiasts seems to be a dying breed these days, but for those that love taking to the skies you really need a top flight joystick and throttle to get the full experience. Firingsquad has reviewed the Saitek X52 and CH Fighterstick/Pro Throttle.

The Saitek X52, for example, is the ultimate entry-level item. It's comfortable, easy to use, simple to set up and since it actually is a single item, it won't have any issues with older titles. It has all the features anyone would want of a HOTAS, and is made of at least relatively high quality components. It's certainly more accurate and at least as durable as the Cyborg Evo I owned before.

Google Buys Urchin

Google announced it will acquire Urchin Software Corporatin, a San Diego based web analytics company. Timing will be at the end of April and pricing was not disclosed. Hopefully Google Adsense users will get some free web analytic marketing tools to optimize their sites. As more revenue for Google customers means more revenue for Google. A win-win situation, now isn't that just great.

Urchin is a web site analytics solution used by web site owners and marketers to better understand their users' experiences, optimize content and track marketing performance. Urchin tools are available as a hosted service, a software product and through large web hosting providers. These products are used by thousands of popular sites on the Internet. Google plans to make these tools available to web site owners and marketers to better enable them to increase their advertising return on investment and make their web sites more effective.

"We want to provide web site owners and marketers with the information they need to optimize their users' experience and generate a higher return-on-investment from their advertising spending," said Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president of product management, Google. "This technology will be a valuable addition to Google's suite of advertising and publishing products."

Preview of Windows Mobile 2005

Expected to launch in the summer, Pocketnow has a brief overview of Windows Mobile 2005's new features. With no viable company out there using Cobalt, it seems Windows Mobile and Symbian will be our only choices for a multimedia cellphone OS going forward. I still hate the Windows-like user interface and side drag arrows, however any improvements of the core applications, multimedia, and memory management are more than welcome. Key feature upgrades include:

-Softkeys: on the bottom of every screen will be appliation sensitive buttons which can be reassigned to any function
-Office Mobile: Word and Excel Mobile will be enhanced to handle charts and tables
-Internet Explorer: a full screen browsing mode will be available
-Memory Management: RAM will be used for applications and Flash will be ussed for file and application storage, just like a desktop computer
-ActiveSync 4.0: media files can be synchronized. Source: Brighthand

Secret Service Uses Distributed Desktop Computing to Break Passwords

The Secret Service uses 4000 of their own employee desktop computers to break passwords of would-be criminals to nail them in court. Normally a 256-bit encrypted key would take too long, however even the bad guys are known to choose non-random passwords. The Feds use a "plaintext" search of the person's hard-drive from email, documents, and even the web browser cache for password fodder. Most of the time the password is a quirky word from a hobby. AccessData has learned law enforcement can break 40-50% of passwords just by using the internet browser log and web site bookmarks. So for you criminals out there, pick a random collection of letters and numbers if you want the Feds to have a tough time getting evidence.

Tying together its employees' desktop computers in a network designed to crack passwords that alleged criminals have used to scramble evidence of their crimes -- everything from lists of stolen credit card numbers and Social Security numbers to records of bank transfers and e-mail communications with victims and accomplices. To date, the Secret Service has linked 4,000 of its employees' computers into the "Distributed Networking Attack" program.

Apple OS X Tiger Available for Pre-Order

Apple OS X Tiger is available for pre-order on Please use this link if you're going to get it as it will help support FirstAdopter. The price is $94.99 after rebate with free shipping. Features include:

-Expected to be available in first half of 2005.
-Surf, receive RSS news-feeds, personalize content, and view Web pages in 1 place
-Safari RSS consolidates most recent news and info from the Web
-iChat AV multi-way video and audio conferencing with a stunning 3D interface
-Open and close Dashboard instantly using function key to access Widget mini-applications

Sony PSP Review

With the avalanche of Sony PSP reviews out there, Designtechnica can always be counted on for an accurate well-written review. The writer likes the stylish design, beautiful display, battery life, and technology. On the downside, the memory stick cover seems flimsy, the hold button isn't thought out well, durability may be questionable, and media playback user interface has issues.

We tested the PSP with Need for Speed Underground: Rivals, Lumines, WipeOut Pure, and Dynasty Warriors, as well as the supplied Spider-Man 2 UMD. The graphics were near PS2 quality and never stuttered, the load times were very tolerable, and the audio quality was excellent. The analog pad was responsive, and the placement of the various switches, cords, and buttons was well thought out to avoid accidentally causing problems during use. Sony rates the battery life at 3-5 hours for video, and 4-6 hours for game play. In our yet-to-be-concluded battery tests, we were able to play for a solid 4.5 hours, and found the battery to be at only 40%. [Discuss]

March 28, 2005

Tivo Testing Popup Banner Ads

To the collective sigh of Tivo owners everywhere, Tivo has begun beta-testing pop up banner ads when you fast forward through commercials. The ad takes up to 25 percent of the screen and is being tested only on Series 2 boxes. If it goes into full launch, subscribers will NOT be able to opt out of the program even if you have a Series 1 box. As long as they don't get rid of the 30 sec commercial skip Easter egg, this won't be a problem. Unfortunately I have a funny feeling it will go away someday. Everybody now. SIGH!

The first test feature--a tag--pops up on the screen when a viewer is fast-forwarding through an advertisement. If viewers press the thumbs-up or select button during the half second the tag is displayed, they will be redirected to a menu that leads to more information about the advertised product. The tag takes up about 25 percent of the screen, according to the company.

Nintendo Not Going to Take It Anymore

After getting whacked around my Sony, Nintendo is not going to take it anymore. This is one of the most creative and best flash music video animations I've ever seen using Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It" as its beat. A worthy look if you're a Nintendo fan or even if you're not, who needs JibJab when you have stuff like this. It will have you humming and bobbing your head like a heavy metal groupie, trust me. Luigi on drums, Mario on electric guitar, priceless entertainment. [Discuss]

2005 World Series of Poker Main Event Purse to Exceed $50 Million

The director of the World Series of Poker tournament, the most prestigious poker event of the year, has gone on record he expects the Main Event prize pool to be over $50 million. All 45 events in aggregate is expected to bring in $100 million. He also believes there will be 15 to 20 thousand players in attendance and 5 to 6 thousand playing in the Main Event. For you poker nuts out there, this your chance to win as I won't be able to make it this year. :)

Because of the explosive growth in interest in the World Series, the event simply outgrew the space available at the Horseshoe. We've built a 60,000 square-foot convention space at the Rio that will have room for 200 tables and provide greater comfort and accessibility to the players, as well as to the media and fans who want to experience the excitement of the event.

600 Watt Power Supply

With dual SLI graphics cards, serial ATA hard-drive arrays, dual core CPUs, and gigabytes of RAM, the power user these days needs more power than ever. Phoronix reviews the X-Finity power supply unit for our pleasure. It's kind of funny to think the Mac Mini, which I do most of my computing on, runs on a massive 85 watts. Everyone say "oohhhhh!"

this power supply performed very well in our test system. The rails were rock solid and reasonably close to their ideal specifications. Switching to the X-Finity PSU even allowed us to attain a higher overclock than was possible before. Appearance wise this unit is also very nice. The mirror Titanium finish and LED fans were definitely a welcome improvement to the system...we can recommend this unit to anyone looking with a system is similar to our testbed in terms of power draw. Overall we were very pleased with the results.

Introduction to High-End TVs

FiringSquad has an excellent introduction to various types of high-end TVs from plasma, LCD, Lcos, and DLP, everything is covered. I personally like plasmas the best with its rich colors and dark blacks, but if you want true HDTV and some money left over you'll probably have to get one of the projection models.

For most people, DLP and LCD based technology offers the best balance of performance, price, and reliability. Neither technology is inherently superior to the other so you will need to do some shopping. DLP TV's look better in daylight, however the rainbow effects can be problematic for those sensitive to it.

iD's Carmack Working on Cell-phone Games for Fun

Some people like to collect stamps, some people like to fly kites, and some people like to build life size rockets and program cell-phone games for fun and diversion. Just for kicks the Great Carmack decided to work on some Java cell-phone games. On his latest post, he goes into detail the pitfalls of Java and recommends improvements to the mobile platform. Hear him Qualcomm and Motorola, for he's the man.

I have a small list of games that I think would work out well, but what I decided to work on is DoomRPG – sort of Bard’s Tale meets Doom. Step based smooth sliding/turning tile movement and combat works out well for the phone input buttons, and exploring a 3D world through the cell phone window is pretty neat. We talked to Jamdat about the business side of things, and hired Fountainhead Entertainment to turn my proof-of-concept demo and game plans into a full-featured game.

eBay Sales IRS Taxable Income?

Don't you love this time of year, when you can look forward to spending hours doing your taxes, scrounging for tax forms, and year end reports. If you're a big eBay user, you might have an unpleasant surprise if you get audited by the IRS. If you have a profit motive, yes you owe taxes.

In tax law, there is no clear, bright line that separates fun from profit, or a hobby from a business. But IRS instructions make it clear that all income — a category that includes bribes, gambling winnings, kickbacks and money made in illegal activities — can be taxed.

Firefox on Steroids - Super Fast Downloading and Rendering

One of the readers of IPkonfig has figured out a way to vastly speed-up Firefox by editing preferences using the about.config command. I've tried it and it works like a charm. It kind of works like a multi-downloading pipeline feature in a P2P application, where Firefox uses many connections to render pages faster.

We gave it a try ourselves and found the performance gave us a huge gain on download speeds bringing up web-pages. You may have noticed that the browser will make one request to a web page at a time, as do most web browsers currently on the internet. This is due to Firefox's configuration for the pipelines, which you can take advantage of that by making some simple modifications to its configuration file.

Microsoft's Six Tips For Buying an MP3 Player

Microsoft has posted a marketing page with six tips on buying an MP3 player. As a happy satisfied iPod Shuffle user I shall counterpoint this drivel.

1. Understand the basics.
For the active person, a player that uses flash memory to store music has distinct advantages over a player that uses a hard disk. Simply put, flash memory players have no moving parts, meaning that you can take them jogging and your music won't skip.

Ok we can agree here there are benefits for choosing a flash player. In fact I sold my iPod, to get an iPod Shuffle for the durability and smaller form factor attributes mentioned above.

2. Make sure you're getting all the goodies.
Many portable music players can do more than just play music. Some players have a built-in voice recorder, FM recorder, or stopwatch. And some come with extra accessories like high-quality headphones, a belt clip, or an armband. Because most of these features are included at no additional cost, make sure the device you choose is filled with these fun extras.

More featuritis, feature creep. If I want a swiss army knife device that will clutter the user interface, I would ... well I don't want one. The reason I buy an MP3 player is to ... can you guess? Play MP3s.

3. You'll want a display.
When you have hundreds of songs on your player, you really need an easy way to select your music by artist, album, or genre. This is critical if you want to find that one song or artist you really want to hear. A display also comes in handy when you're looking for your favorite radio station.

Let's attack the shuffle why don't we. A display would of been nice, but cost, simplicity, and form factor makes it a compromise worth having.

4. Let a professional make your next playlist. Having an FM radio lets you put your player on autopilot as you mountain bike, cycle, or rollerblade. And when you're sweating it out on the stationary bike at your health club, you can listen to the program airing on the club's TV. You want to have something that is fun, lightweight, and flexible. And FM radio is a key feature that many players offer at no extra cost, even for less than $100.

A professional pick your playlist? Does this writer even listen to the radio? Filled with same old tired playlists, over and over again. Never mind the huge chunk of commercial air-time rammed down your throat.

5. Pick the right size for you.

Yup, buy as much as you can afford.

6. Don't get locked into one online store. Have you ever been on the hunt for a particular song? Some obscure indie rock tune or rare jazz performance you heard on the radio? You might have to shop at more than one store before you find the song you're looking for. Having the flexibility to choose from over 1 million tracks of music from multiple online music stores such as MSN Music, Napster, MusicMatch, and Wal-Mart can be the key to getting the music you want. Several stores even offer subscription services so you can download all the songs you want for about the cost of a CD each month.

I have no issues being locked into iTunes. It bar-none still offers the best end-to-end experience in a music management and online store combo. If you like crashing programs and ugly user interfaces, go nuts with the competition.

March 27, 2005

Japanese Hardware Sales posted the latest hardware sales in Japan for the week ending March 20, 2005. Seems like PSP is doing a lot better in the Far East than the lukewarm reception it has had thus far in the States. Playstation 2 continues to chug along, Gamecube is sucking wind at almost 10% rate of the PS2, and Xbox is plain old dead.

Fascinating stuff as in the States, Xbox has reall taken the lead in terms of mindshare and sales. As it is the always the case in gaming, it's all about the software. Xbox has great software like Splinter Cell (the best versions) and Halo 2, that appeals more to the older Gen-X American crowd.

-PlayStation Portable: 43,644 (Annual: 580,120)
-PlayStation 2: 40,270 (Annual: 602,316)
-Nintendo DS: 22,446 (Annual: 429,545)
-Game Boy Advance SP: 11,013 (Annual: 197,776)
-GameCube: 3,357 (Annual: 70,016)
-Game Boy Advance: 477 (Annual: 6,253)
-Xbox: 345 (Annual: 4,606)

Firefox 1.02 Released

A new version of Firefox is available for download. Not many new features, but it plugs 3 security holes. For that alone, get over there and dowload it quick.

Fixed in Firefox 1.0.2
MFSA 2005-32 Drag and drop loading of privileged XUL
MFSA 2005-31 Arbitrary code execution from Firefox sidebar panel
MFSA 2005-30 GIF heap overflow parsing Netscape extension 2

High End Gaming System Buyer's Guide

Sharkyextreme as the latest monthly feature where they pick the best components for a gaming system budget of $2500. It is always a good read. I don't know if I'll ever spend $400 on a video card, but one can dream.

Last month marked a quantum leap forward for our Intel and AMD systems, and both displayed significant performance and features improvements. This month we already had the benefit of nForce4 SLI and i925X platforms, high-end GeForce 6800 GT 256-MB PCIe video cards and 8ms LCD displays, so the improvements were more sublime. Still, the Athlon 64 3800+ addition will certainly please AMD buyers, while the Maxtor 250GB hard drive (with NCQ and a 16-MB data cache) is certainly a worthwhile upgrade.

March 26, 2005

Shuttle XP17 Lite LCD Monitor Review

Shuttle sure knows its end user demographic of LAN party goers. The company has released a LCD 17 inch panel with nifty handle for quick portability. PC Magazine has one of the first reviews. The positives are good image quality, dispay controls, and ergonomics. On the negative side is the price and extra costs for the carrying case.

Shuttle delivers a display long-coveted by LAN party gamers, combining performance and portability into a slick-looking package. The XP17 will even color-match with many of Shuttle's XPC small systems, but be prepared to pay for these niceties.

How to Transfer Tivo Video Files to Sony PSP has figured out how to transfer Tivo video files to your Sony PSP.

Basically, you need to unlock your .tivo file and convert it from MPEG2 to MPEG4. To do this, download two free programs: 3GP Converter and AviSynth 2.55. Install AviSynth and then launch 3GP. The first time you run it, configure 3GP for English and set output to PSP, Direct, Renamed. You'll also need to edit the 3GP .ini file so that it recognizes Tivo files by adding this line in the [Avisynth] section:

Ext3=TIVO:\cores\AVS_Skelton.avs. Once you've done that, launch 3GP, choose an output directory, drag your .tivo file in, enter your Tivo Desktop password, and conversion should begin. You can play around with output settings, though 368x208/29.97fps/QB7 Stereo/96kbps seems to have a decent balance of quality, file size, and time to convert. Your output file (i.e.: M4V00007.MP4) needs to be located in \MP_ROOT\100MNV01\ on your memory stick for the PSP to find it.

If this flow doesn't work (crashes, bad audio/video sync) on your system you can unwrap your .tivo file using GraphEdit, as described above, and then run your .mpeg through 3GP.

Sony Responds to Dead Pixel Controversy

We the internet aflame with dead pixel PSP chants, Sony has now come out as said "We will work with you" only if you try your PSP after 1-2 weeks and it still bothers you. However the company representative cannot confirm a replacement unit will be brand new, moreover this is far from the no questions asked policy Nintendo has. It seems the more you yell and more you complain, the farther you will go. But with surveys showing more than HALF of PSPs with dead pixel flaws, I doubt Sony will eat that kind of return loss. This sure is an interesting story, more developments to come. If you have a PSP, please vote how many dead pixels you have on our online poll.

The Sony rep suggested that PSP owners who encounter the pixel issue should try the device "for a week or two" to see if it continues to bother them. "If you find the spots are interfering with gameplay/video viewing during this period, we will support the various elements of [the PSP] warranty," the rep said. Each PSP comes with a one-year limited warranty, which is on page 125 of the PSP manual. If a PSP is "determined to be defective" by SCEA, the company will see to the "repair or replacement of this product [the PSP] with a new or refurbished product at SCEA's option."

According to a technical support associate contacted by GameSpot, PSP owners who encounter a persistent and aggravating dead-pixel issue should contact SCEA's customer service line (1-800-345-7669) for instructions on how to exchange their unit after a week or two of using the unit. "We will work with you," he assured. The associate said the process would work much like exchanging PlayStation 2s that suffer from the dreaded "Disc Read Error" problem: Gamers will mail their PSPs in to SCEA and receive units with new screens. The associate was unsure if customers would receive an all-new unit or their old unit with a new LCD screen. Source: Gamespot

Sony PSP Video 9 - Video Conversion Software

Someone wrote a free video conversion and management software for the Sony PSP. It converts PC video files like avi's and mpeg's into video files the Sony PSP can play and also transfers them from your PC to your Sony PSP. Moreover you can setup the application to automatically copy video from an RSS feed using BitTorrent. Sony PSP users let us know how well it works. [Discuss]

March 25, 2005

Sony Hardware PS2 and PSP to Stay at $149 and $249 for Rest of 2005

Sony Computer Entertainment America President and Chief Executive, Kaz Hirai, has gone on record the company plans to keep the price of the PSP and PS2 the same through the holidays due to strong demand outstripping supply.

That is a bummer for those like me who was looking forward to picking up a stand-alone PSP. Currently the PSP is only sold in an outrageous $249 bundle, which includes a copy of Spiderman 2 UMD movie, case, and memory stick rammed down your throat. Also a price cut for the new slim-line PS2 doesn't seem to be in the cards any time soon either.

"Demand for both (Playstation 2 and the PSP) is far outstripping supply," Hirai told Dow Jones Newswires. "They should stay at these prices for a good long time - the holiday season and beyond. And that doesn't reflect demand there," Hirai said. "We were supply constrained, because we had to divert much of that supply to the U.S. for launch." Source: Dow Jones

Sony PSP Impressions

Arogan has posted a bunch of impressions and Sony PSP photos on our Sony PSP thread.

I've spent most of my time with Ridge Racer which just plays, looks, and sounds great! I like how it revisits all the older Ridge racers sort of like a best of collection. Wipeout is excellent too with silky smooth framerates, probably the best handheld graphics I've scene, and some great techno beats. The analog disc works great and took me only a few minutes beofre I was power sliding easily. This is SOOOO Much better than Nintendo DS.

World of Warcraft News

World of Warcraft has been bringing out new features and a content reliability patch. First Blizzard is allowing some players on busy servers the ability to transfer their character to low population realms. You can read about it here.

On the patch front, a new one was rolled out earlier this week with brand new content and bug fixes. However I hear it isn't going so well. The major changes are outlined here.

And last but not least, Blizzard issued a press release that proclaimed there are 1.5 million subscriber to World of Warcraft. Concurrent users have surpassed 500,000 users at the same time.

Europe: Over 290,000 account creations and 180,000 peak concurrency in its first weekend. Over 500,000 active subscribers, and 230,000 peak concurrency to date.

Korea: The most successful 100-day launch of any MMORPG in Korean history since its commercial release on January 18, 2005. World of Warcraft is currently played in 75% of Korean Internet Game Rooms (IGRs), the primary venue for playing games in Korea. IGRs subscribe directly to MMORPGs and then players buy blocks of time from the IGRs for game time.

North America: Over 200,000 subscribers and 100,000 peak concurrency achieved in the game's first 24 hours. Current subscriber base of over 800,000 players.

Treo 650 Update

PalmOne has released a ROM update for the Treo 650. The patch is 1.08 and improves voice quality and memory space optimization. You can read all about it here.

-Overall voice quality improvements and enhanced call clarity -Internal setting modification to allow correct access to Sprint
-Affiliate roaming partner networks (previously released as Sprint PCS Treo 650 Roaming Patch)
-Optimizes memory handling and frees up more memory with non-volatile file system improvements TTY (also known as TDD or Text Telephone) optimizations and improvements
-Optimizations for data calls
-Includes VersaMail 3.0c which provides greater stability and improvements
-Bluetooth Carkit drivers are now included in ROM (previously released as Carkit Update for Treo 650)

Sony PSP Dead Pixel Problem

Oh what tangled web we weave. In the rush to launch as many PSPs as possible, it looks like Sony has a massive dead pixel problem. We have first adopters already complaining about it and from my reading on the web, it definitely looks like our guys are not alone. Some stores are replacing the handheld, no questions asked, but some aren't. Sony, you ain't no Nintendo. Nintendo had a great no questions asked dead pixel replacement policy, I doubt Sony will do the same with this higher resolution screen. If you have a Sony PSP, please vote on how many dead pixels you have on our online poll. [Discuss]

March 24, 2005

World of Warcraft Performance Guide

Leave it to Anand to write up the most comprehensive performance benchmarks for World of Warcraft. I can't believe no-one has done this yet. He has the metrics for various CPUs and graphics cards, so if you're worried about performance or if you want to upgrade this is the article to read.

March 23, 2005

Yahoo Matches Google with 1 Gigabyte of Email Storage

Yahoo has decided to match Google by increasing free email storage from 250 megabytes to 1 gigabyte in mid-April. This is an obvious reaction as most of my friends have switched to Gmail in droves due to the higher storage and better search features, and it's not even officially out of beta yet. Yahoo is also beta-testing a new desktop search product that can index Yahoo IMs and address books. It's crazy to think before Gmail, Yahoo Mail only offered 4 megabytes of space. Isn't competition great? Someone should tell EA and the NFL that.

Yahoo said late Tuesday that it will provide 1 gigabyte of storage for each free e-mail account. The current limit is 250 megabytes. The expanded storage will be available in mid-April, said Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo's vice president of communications products.

March 22, 2005

Symbian Licenses Microsoft Exchange Server ActiveSync

RIM is hurting today as Symbian signed a deal with Microsoft to license Exchange Server ActiveSync. The contract will allow Symbian smartphones direct over-the-air synchronization of their Outlook email, calendar, and contacts, which frankly replaces the need for your Blackberry.

Under the terms of the agreement, Symbian will develop an Exchange Server ActiveSync protocol – plug-in – for the Symbian OS messaging architecture to enable Symbian OS licensees – the world's leading mobile phone manufacturers – to include in their Symbian OS-based phones direct over-the-air (OTA) synchronization capabilities for email, calendar, contacts and other personal information management (PIM) data supported by Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 .

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay Demo

The demo for Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is out. You can download real quick with no registration at the UGO Downloads channel. The demo includes a brief tutorial and a full level called The Mainframe and comes it at 200 megabytes. From what I hear its worth the download. The Xbox version was one of the best highly rated games of last year.

NBA Signs Non-Exclusive Videogame Rights

Kudos to the NBA for signing non-exclusive videogame rights contracts with five publishers. EA, Take-Two, Midway, Sony and Atari all signed up for long-term deals totaling $400 million. The NBA is right on the ball (cough) in thinking competition will breed better games and more innovation vs. the greedy NFL exclusive with EA.

Industry sources pegged the total value of the five and six-year contracts at $400 million, including both direct payments to the league and marketing spending with the league's broadcast partners. NBA executives declined to comment on financial details of the arrangements.

Interestingly EA, Take-Two, and Sony get to make simulation games annually, but EA and Midway will be forced to alternate years for their arcade-style NBA Street and NBA Ballers games. This is actually a smart move by EA to not dilute the quality of the Street franchise. A two year cycle guarantees more time to make a better game.

Apple at 5% Desktop Marketshare?

Do you remember just a few years ago when Apple was on its deathbed? The company was smart enough to bring back Steve Jobs, although giving in to his ransom payout for his failed NEXT operating system company, they were able to get the most innovative computer executive of our age.

Now Morgan Stanley is forecasting Apple will almost double its computer marketshare to 5% due to the success of iPod and its brand benefits. How far we've come indeed.

Analyst firm Morgan Stanley forecast on Friday that the Mac — currently on three percent of desktops — could win its way to five percent of desktop sales this year. This was based on a survey of 400 iPod users that found that 19 percent expect to convert from PC to Macintosh. This conversion factor is double that previously expected by analysts, and over three times the six percent effect reported four months ago.

March 21, 2005

Electronic Arts Misses March Quarterly Estimates

Blaming hardware shortages, lack of re-orders for December quarter releases, and intense competition, Electronic Arts revised its forecast for the March quarter and the fiscal year down. Previous estimates were for EPS of $1.90-1.95, now the company expects $1.70-$1.72 a share.

The CEO mentioned Half-life 2 and World of Warcraft sucking avid gamer time away from EA's owns games. Instead of blaming hardware and competition, why not own up to the fact EA's quality has simply sucked. Fifa Street? Lord of the Rings: Third Age? Medal of Honor Pacific Assault? James Bond? Would any gamer in their right mind want to play those games instead of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, Halo 2, World of Warcraft, Gran Turismo 4, and God of War? I don't think so.

And do you hear that? It's the giant sucking sound of development talent whooshing away to the competition exemplified by the C&C real-time strategy design lead leaving EA for Blizzard. When you have the cream of the crop like Blizzard, Bungies, Sony's internal studios, and even Rockstar able to release games after 2-4 years of development time and WHEN THEY ARE DONE, you just get better games. EA's 1-2 years and pushing them out the door doesn't do games justice and finally it has caught up to them. [Discuss]

God of War Launches and Hits a Homer

Don't you love it when you anticipate something great and it fulfills your highest expectations. Sony's God of War, a game I've been talking about for months, has hit it out of the park. The first reviews are in and the critics love it. IGN gave the game its second highest rating for a PS2 game EVER. The design lead vowed never to do a sequel because the development for this one was so tiring. Well if he likes money, he is going to have to go back and do another one.

Even given the time to write a billion words I couldn't detail exactly how Sony Santa Monica pulled off such an elaborate action game when the genre has thus far been saturated by branded clones the likes of Two Towers, Demon Stone and even the lot of Dark Alliance spins. Where those games and the waves of NanoBreakers and Chaos Legions fall slightly short or fail miserably, God of War simply succeeds. Nearly everything a self-professed connoisseur of videogames is likely to appreciate in a product has been included in this title and tied together with seamless grace.

Xbox Cable Recall Scandal?

The Register is reporting the power cable fix actually makes a design flaw in early Xboxes worse. Although it cut the risk of a fire, it allows the Xbox power supply to fry.

But hardware experts point out that the power cable was never at root of the problem: it simply made the existing problem worse. The meltdown, and subsequent fire risk was actually caused by wear and tear on the power supply used in early models of the Xbox. The replacement cable featured a trip, which cut down the risk of your house catching fire, but left unfortunate gamers with a fried console. The cord has an interrupter switch that acts like a conventional fuse, tripping power to the unit.

March 13, 2005

Blackberrys Will Add Yahoo Instant Messenger Client

According to the Wall Street Journal online, Research in Motion will add a Yahoo instant messenger client on its Blackberry devices in the coming months. The company also plans to allow current users to download the program and install it on old models. The deal isn't exclusive, so we might see an AOL IM client soon. The latest market share numbers are 29.5 million for MSN, 24.1 million for AOL, and 18.2 million for Yahoo. I find these numbers puzzling as 99% of my friends use AOL IM instead of the others.

Best Buy Gaming Special - 2 Games for $25

Best Buy has an online special this week where you can buy 2 Greatest Hits games for PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube for $25. The cool thing is you can order it online and pick it up at your local Best Buy to save on shipping. ATV Offroad Fury 2 and Vice City are good buys. The deal expires on 3/19/05. [Discuss]

God of War Interview

Gamers on our forum know that God of War is the game I'm looking forward to most these days. Not that I have much time to play with World of Warcraft and Gran Turismo 4 sucking the life blood out of me. The game probably has the best production values of a Spring release yet and is slated to be a great combination of Ico and Devil May Cry. 1up had an execllent interview with the creator of God of War and the tough 3 year development experience. He vowed never to direct another game again, lol. This will fill your urge before the game comes out in less than a week.

I think on God of War, I've given everything and more, but to ask somebody to go through that again, for me I just couldn't do it. Internal development has been the biggest challenge I've ever had to deal with in my whole life. It's been three years, and I never want to do it again. The game that's come out of it, I'm incredibly proud of and I'm in love with, but the work is insane."

World of Warcraft Bans 1000 Accounts for Gold Farming

Blizzard is taking Gold Farming seriously and banned 1000 accounts. I appreciate this because the worst thing that can happen to the WOW community would be to see tens of thousands of low wage Chinese and India players grinding away trying to make money online. That kind of saps the experience for real players like it did with Lineage. If you are tempted to take the easy way and buy Gold offline, don't. Blizzard bans your account permanently and you'll be out your $50 you spent on the game.

Over the recent weeks we have been investigating the activities of certain individuals who have been farming gold in order to sell it in exchange for real world currency. After researching the situation, we have issued permanent suspensions to over one thousand accounts that have been engaging in this practice. We do not condone such actions and will take decisive action as they are against our policy and damage the game economy as a whole. We will continue researching this matter. If you suspect someone of taking part in said gold farming, please eMail the report to

March 12, 2005

Hobbit Movie in 3-4 Years

Peter Jackson has gone on record that he thinks it will take 3-4 years before the Hobbit movie is made. The reasons for the delay are the co-owners of the rights MGM and New Line are going through issues. MGM is in the process of being sold to Sony and New Line is getting sued by Peter Jackson.

I hope all these lawsuits and buyouts won't delay a re-visiting of the Lord of the Rings universe any more than it has to. They also better not use someone else than Jackson himself.

AOL Grants Itself Permission to Steal and Read your AOL IM Chats

This is as ridiculous as it comes, an enterprising blogger found changes in AOL IM's Terms of Service that allows AOL to have all rights to your IM conversations. What is AOL thinking? Do they think the next Hemingway is writing his work over AOL instant messenger? This will cause a firestorm and have Time Warner backing down in a jiffy.

Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses. [Discuss]

Legend of Zelda GDC Trailer

Nintendo stole the GDC show with a new Legend of Zelda trailer. The graphics and art direction are some of the best I've seen. Yes this isn't your cartoon Link, it's realistic Link. However after a hundred hours of playiing World of Warcraft, everytime I see a zombie skeleton, dungeons with spiders, and killer monsters, I think of the world of Azeroth. Someone please save me from the WOW addiction. I need help!

March 11, 2005

Next-Generation N-Gage at E3

With Sony PSP launch a couple weeks away, Nokia has leaked out its going to announce a next generation N-Gage at E3. Hold on to your pocket books, I'm sure all of you are waiting with baited breath for another version of the worst console launch since Nintendo's vomit inducing Virtual Boy. Actually Virtual Boy might have been better since at least it tried something new.

"We will be making a significant announcement at E3 regarding our next generation," said Gerard Wiener, general manager of Nokia's games business program.

New iMac G5, eMac, and Tiger OS X Coming in April

ThinksSecret has the latest scoop on new Apple product updates. According to its sources, Apple will update iMac G5, eMac, and launch OSX 10.4 Tiger in April. The iMac G5 will get a speed bump to 2 ghz. eMac may get a 1.5 ghz processor and a faster video card. A release of OS X 10.4 Tiger will be a pleasant surprise, as most people were expecting a May or June launch. Although ThinkSecret nails these updates more often than anyone else, they are also sometimes wrong like the color iPod scoop last time.

EA Outsourcing Programming to China

Late last year there was a firestorm when an anonymous blogger complained about the crazy work hours of 65-80 hours a week at Electronic Arts with no overtime pay. The company has now responded that they will offer overtime wages to some workers who do not get stock options. However this isn't a mea culpa, as the EA executive complains about California labor laws and says they will move work elsewhere including China. I'm sure the labor laws in the Far East are a bit more lenient and the salaries a bit more affordable. Of course EA executives don't have to worry much about overtime pay or salaries, as they are printing money these days with million dollar stock sales.

Brown suggested that California labor rules and demands from employees could push the company to move more of its work elsewhere, including a new studio it has launched in China. "There is a point where the cost of doing business in California gets so high that we have to look at these other studio locations," Brown said.

What do you think? Is this right? [Discuss]

Wallace and Gromit on the Big Screen

Wallace and Gromit are coming to the big screen in October 2005. You can check out the 3 minute preview. Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter will provide voices. I am psyched as this clay-mation animation is one of my favorites growing up. The action sequences are some of the most hilarious, ingeniously plotted ever. The title is Curse of the Wererabbit, where an evil vegetable thief will be investigated by our favorite characters. Forget Star Wars, forget Star Trek, it's Wallace and Gromit time! [Discuss]

March 08, 2005

Xbox 2 Specs

Gamespy has the scoop on the latest Xbox 2 specs from the Game Developers Conference.

-CPU: three 3.0 ghz PowerPC Cores
-GPU: next generation beyond ATI X800, clock speed of 500mhz
-Memory: 256MB of RAM
-Optical Drive: DVD-9 dual layer 12x speed. No HD DVD here
-HD: optional, 2 gig of it used for cache
-Camera: USB 2.0 1.2 megapixel camera

Microsoft is supposedly requiring all games to be Xbox Live compatible and HD 720p 1280x720 graphics capable. These specs sure look mighty tasty, however I'll probably wait for Playstation 3 which will offer HD DVD playback and better performance less than one year later. [Discuss]

March 06, 2005

FA Gaming Rant: Where has all the Innovation Gone? by Rendition

Before Games Domain got bought out by Yahoo, there was an excellent gaming column called GD Rant that cynically roasted the state of gaming and the industry. I decided I would like to do the same with this semi-regular column called FA Gaming Rant. Don't expect grammatical perfection, as I will just rant off stream of conscious thoughts to my own delight. The first topic I'm going to tackle is the lack of innovation in the industry.

Let's look at the big games in the past 12 months. Gran Turismo 4, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Half-life 2, Tony Hawk Underground 2, and Rachet and Clank etc. Don't get me wrong, all these are good games, but frankly aren't they the same games we've been playing for years with better graphics and a few tweaks on gameplay? Can you sit there and tell me GTA:SA and GT4 are leaps and beyond what we played before?

The lack of true innovation is appalling. As the videogame business has grown, it's becoming more and more like the movie business with its sequel-itis. I guess it has to be expected with today's $400 million revenue franchises, the advent of big business, the $5-50 million development budgets per title, and the quest to make quarterly numbers as public companies. It's obvious publishers have grown risk-averse and have decided to go back the same well over and over again.

Electronic Arts is a good example, they have even resorted to copying other company's games. I mean isn't Need for Speed Underground a rip-off of Midnight Club? Isn't NBA Street and NFL Street a rip-off of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz? This is from a company that acquired some of the most innovative talent in the world with Origin, Bullfrog, and Maxis. Where is the next Sims? Where is the next Wing Commander? Where is the next Populous?

I long for the glory days of Commodore Amiga, where it seemed every month there was an amazing new gameplay innovation. The days of Speedball 2, Turrican, Lemmings, Pirates, and Another World? Now we are stuck playing Sims expansion packs and the same game over and over again.

In the past year, the only game that knocked my socks off in doing something truly different is Katami Damacy. Everyone should buy this game that just puts a smile on your face, rolling around picking up anything in its path. Let's encourage developers to take risks and do something different. Or we'll be stuck playing Tomb Raider 15 and its ilk for some time to come. Please let me know what you think on the discussion forum, let's make this column and its ideas as interactive as possible. [Discuss]

Next Generation Games for $60 to $70?

At Destination Playstation, a conference for video game retail partners of Sony, Sega representatives said that the starting price for next-generation console games will be $60. They also speculated that EA would launch their sports titles for $70. Would you pay $70 for a Madden? [Discuss]

March 01, 2005

Dell 2405FPW 24" Widescreen Ultrasharp LCD Monitor For Sale Today

Dell has launched the 24" Widescreen Ultrasharp 2405FPW LCD Monitor for sale on their website today. It looks like the wait is currently 1-2 weeks at a price of $1079.10 on Dell Home. Specs include:

-24 inches of widescreen goodness
-1920x1200 native resolution
-12 ms response time for movies and gamers
-Dual input support for DVI and analog connections
-Consumer electronics inputs such as S-video, composite
-Picture in picture capability for PC and TV viewing at same time
-4 port USB hub and 9 in 1 memory card reader built-in

Dell also notes some video cards will not support the 1920x1200 wide-screen resolution. Please check with your video card manufacturer before buying the monitor. This monitor sounds awesome for games, PVR use, and movie watching. Who is going to get the first one? Join us on the biggest Dell LCD monitor message boards on the internet. [Discuss]

Which Next-Generation Console Will You Buy?

The thinking process of which console to buy next has begun. Xbox 2 will be launched for this Christmas and Nintendo/Sony will launch their offering in 2006.

Although Xbox 2 will be the first one out, I will probably at this point wait for Playstation 3 for a number of reasons. First I doubt there will be any killer launch software this year, if there was, the hype would already be building right now. The best I think people can hope for is a Halo 2.5 remix. Second with more time, Playstation 3 will probably be much more powerful graphically and be able to include a high definition DVD storage medium. The latter is great for people with HDTVs like me and an aversion to switching disks during gameplay. Nintendo will probably flop like a dead fish, since third-parties like Capcom will not make the same mistake by going exclusive on a dying platform. What do you guys think? [Discuss]

Gran Turismo 4 Impressions

I picked up a slim-line Playstation 2 and Gran Turismo 4 at CompUSA this weekend. They were having a GT4 sale this week for $37.99, go and get it folks. The game is basically the same old Gran Turismo with better graphics, more cars (700!), and more tracks.

The good part is the same awesome driving feel is there with the best presentation and graphics seen yet on the PS2. The bad part is the same dumb AI is used for the other cars. They are basically oblivious to you and just run the same driving lines over an dover again. I guess we will have to wait for Forza Motorsport for that. That being said, I'm still having a blast. The thing about this game is it's challenging enough where when you actually pass a test, buy a car, and win a race, it actually means something and is damn rewarding.

As I get older, I think my reflexes are slowing down, so I need all the help I can get. Any tips on progressing in Gran Turismo 4 will be much appreciated on the discussion forum. [Discuss]

Ubisoft to Enter Sports Games

In a strange move, Ubisoft has decided to get into the sports games category dominated by Ubisoft shareholder Electronic Arts and Take-Two. The company announced today it signed Vijay Singh for a golf game and has acquired the sports development assets from Microsoft Game Studios. These assets include the technology, tools, and source code from NHL Rivals, NFL Fever, NBA Inside Drive, and MLB Inside Pitch.

Remember that EA has bought the exclusive rights for football and Take-Two bought the rights for baseball. That leaves hockey, which doesn't even play now due to the lockout and basketball. Slim pickings, but I'm very curious on what Ubisoft has planned. Midway style over the top stuff? Anyone have any ideas? Or is this just a way to attempt to put a needle in the eye of "hostile takeover" EA?

"There is still room for innovation in the sports genre and Ubisoft has some great ideas that we're looking forward to implementing," said Yves Guillemot, president and chief executive officer of Ubisoft. "We hope to not only offer sports fans games that have a unique flair and character, but also something that will take advantage of the fabulous capacities of current and next-generation consoles." [Discuss]