Video: Black children's stunning answers when comparing black and white dolls leads the "Conversation About Race" panel to discuss how society can begin to correct deep-seated self-esteem problems within the African-American community.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Now your content is also on Google. It is illegal that Google and Yahoo/Microsoft could merge so you have DRed your content. If you provider loses or destroys your content (Yahoo) its all kept up in Google, or one of the other blog sites.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Ebay will consider selling off its Skype internet phone subsidiary at the end of this year if it fails to find ways to use the fast-growing service to support its core e-commerce business, according to the company's chief executive.
The comments from John Donahoe, who took over at the end of last month, are the most direct indication yet that Ebay is thinking of scrapping the ill-starred acquisition. It paid $3.1bn, but wrote down the value of the business by $1.4bn last year after concluding it would not match earlier hopes.
Ebay originally believed that Skype would oil the wheels of its online markets by making communications easier between buyers and sellers, while also supporting new business models such as "click to call". Nearly three years after the acquisition, however, Ebay has yet to prove Skype can help its other businesses.
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Friday, April 18, 2008
NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday that whoever wins the presidency in November, "at least we'll have an adult in office who can lead and accomplish something."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is looking for a candidate who is "willing to face reality."
During a question-and-answer session, Bloomberg said he will not have to agree on all matters with whomever he ultimately endorses for president.
"I'm looking for a candidate that is willing to face reality and say, 'We can't have everything and there are costs and we've got to make choices.'"
The billionaire media mogul added, "Some of the things they will be in favor of I will agree with, some of the things they will be in favor of I won't. But at least we'll have an adult in office who can lead and can accomplish something."
Bloomberg then ticked through a list of major issues affecting society, citing international relations, terrorism, health care, public education and energy independence as examples.
"Right now, everybody is afraid to tell the American public that there's no easy answers," he said. "Nobody is willing to do anything other than say, 'I'm in favor of motherhood and apple pie.'"
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Thursday, April 17, 2008
Brilliant post by Giles Bowkett
From BoingBoing. I used to think Second Life was just kind of silly and self-indulgent, but check this out. A French racist group opened an office in Second Life and it was only a matter of time before flying saucers were bombing it with pig grenades. A protest escalated almost immediately into utterly surreal political violence. I'm often tempted to laugh off Second Life, but you have to admit, this could never happen in World of Warcraft, and for once, the freedom in SL actually fulfills its promise, making WoW look like a gated community of Republican Baptists. No disrespect to any actual Republican Baptists reading this, but you must admit, the range of social expression among your people tends to be more conventional and less imaginative, and tainted with a corresponding authoritarianism. If you encounter racism in WoW, the most you can do is report it to a Blizzard employee. In Second Life, you can express your outrage by pelting the motherfuckers with exploding pigs.
The funny thing, though, is that this blog post, and the BoingBoing post which brought it to my attention, they both refer to this situation as a political protest that turned into something else. But that's not accurate at all. Nobody in the world was hurt by the exploding pigs. It wasn't really a political protest that turned into an exploding pig riot. It was a political protest in a simulated space. The protestors started out by simulating a real-world protest, and the neo-Nazis responded by using "weapons" which set off explosions that can lift your avatar and send it flying off through virtual space. Essentially, they sought to silence the protestors, and this is when the protest turned "violent." But in reality, the protest wasn't violent at all; it was merely theatrical.
Anybody who's ever heard of Gandhi knows that Second Life didn't see the invention of the theatrical protest. Gandhi's non-violent protests were based to a very large extent on the awareness that the British soldiers beating up his non-violent protestors would have to answer to ordinary British citizens who would hear about it. Gandhi and the British military were already on stage when that happened; it's just the British military didn't notice the audience, and Gandhi did.
This political "battle" in Second Life was in fact a very theatrical political protest. What's interesting about it from the standpoint of developers of social software is that nobody planned the event; its highly theatrical nature was an effect of its highly theatrical context. That's actually a very interesting thing. I've been skeptical for a very long time about these virtual worlds, because it seems like nobody except curious intellectuals ever seems interested in them. The only virtual worlds regular people go for are World of Warcraft and Quake, and the user experience in those worlds is extremely structured. The emergent behavior Second Life chases after is much more constrained in those contexts.
This, however, this political protest is absolutely an emergent behavior. It's a new thing, and if future MMPORGs offer similar freedom, we'll see similar things happen in the future. That being said, it isn't necessarily a victory for justice or whatever. The protestors weren't interested in hearing the neo-Nazis' point of view, and while I can't blame them, consider if Second Life were a Christian-themed MMPORG, and you're a member of one of the extremely large number of additional religions in the world. A victory for peer pressure is not necessarily a victory for justice. That may have happened this time, but the overall effect does not actually make Second Life a more democratic place.
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Back on April 1, Congress held its first hearing on virtual worlds, and no, it wasn't an April Fools prank. Warning: If the politicians can hold a hearing on it, then they can probably tax it too.
Indeed, the minority staff of Congress' Joint Economic Committee has a study underway, and academics are already churning out papers on the proper tax treatment of pretend online worlds with their own economies and commerce. You can buy weapons to use in battle in "World of Warcraft," or sexy outfits to go out dancing in "Second Life," or furniture to decorate your igloo in "Club Penguin."
The potential tax dollars at play here would hardly seem worth worrying about, considering that the Internal Revenue Service estimated the annual tax gap (for 2001) at $345 billion. Moreover, the issue pales in comparison to other fights over taxes online--for example, states' continuing push to get online sellers to collect sales taxes and the Treasury Department's proposal that certain "brokers"--including presumably eBay (nasdaq: EBAY - news - people ), report the gross proceeds of active sellers to the IRS.
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By Eric Reuters
SECOND LIFE, April 15 (Reuters) - Fewer new users are signing up for Second Life, but the faithful are spending more time and money than ever inside Linden Lab’s virtual world.
Second Life’s in-world economy is growing at a rate of 15 percent annually, Linden Lab CFO John Zdanowski (writing as Zee Linden) said on Tuesday. User hours, concurrency, and economic transactions all showed robust growth.
But even as time and money spent in Second Life swells, Linden’s premium subscriber base — the paid accounts that are allowed to own land on Second Life’s mainland — declined for the fourth consecutive month in March. The total avatar population grew by 3.2 percent to just over 13 million, the slowest month-to-month growth on record.
The numbers suggest that a smaller, highly engaged base of Second Life users is intensifying its interest in the virtual world even as Second Life’s appeal to new users fades.
Zdanowski said Second Life achieved a gross domestic product of US$300 million by the end of March, a larger total economy than real-world nations such as Dominica or Micronesia. While Second Life’s economy is still significantly smaller than it was before gambling was banned last summer, the number of financial transactions between users shows relatively steady growth.
More money is also circulating through the LindeX, Linden Lab’s exchange for converting real-world currency into Linden Dollars, and strong consumer demand has pushed average land prices up from L$6.3 per meter to L$11.5 per meter in three months. Linden has said it will increase its supply of land to put downward pressure on prices, a move that angered some existing owners of virtual homesteads.
But even as the overall demand for land surges, there are fewer buyers in the market. Second Life shed 1,656 paid accounts in March, the fourth month in a row more people got out of the land trade than entered it. Total premium accounts stand at 89,875, below last summer’s 94,607 peak.
Second Life’s population at March’s end grew to just over 13 million, although that number includes an unknown number of inactive accounts widely thought to be about 90 percent. But in March only 408,000 new accounts were created, the smallest gain in absolute numbers since September 2007, and the smallest monthly percent gain since Second Life’s debut in April 2001.
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Apr. 16, 2008 at 4:00pm Eastern by Barry Schwartz
It appears that Google is having major issues with their email server. In the past 15 minutes, I received a few phones, tons of twits and found a fast growing Google Groups thread about Google removing IMAP from their email settings options.
This seems to be a major issue, where hundreds of Gmail users can no longer use Gmail or their email on Google Apps. If you login to your Gmail account and click on "settings" you may notice that the IMAP option is gone, here is a screen capture:
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008
By Erica Naone
The typical network architecture for virtual worlds, Kulkarni says, involves central servers that control all the information flowing to and from the clients installed on users' computers. Some virtual-world architectures, such as that of Linden Lab's Second Life, stream all the information about the world from those central servers, including information about 3-D content, along with information about the position of the user's avatar. Other architectures, such as that of the Multiverse network, separate information about the look of the world from information about how avatars are interacting. Display information gets distributed with client software and stored on users' computers, reducing the amount of information that needs to pass through the central server on a regular basis. Kulkarni says that NICTA's system reduces the infrastructure required by the company hosting the world because, while the company can still run a central server that distributes client software and contains information about 3-D content, peer-to-peer networks can handle information about avatar position and character interaction.
Kulkarni says that figuring out how to map this content onto a peer-to-peer network is a completely different problem from figuring out how to divide content for common peer-to-peer applications, such as file sharing. NICTA's technology, he explains, divides the space in a virtual world into regions, and peers become responsible for hosting the regions. As the regions become more populated, they are further subdivided, and more peers become responsible for the pieces. When a user's client wants to find out about the objects around her avatar, it sends a request to the network, which finds the peer hosting her current region. That peer puts the user's computer in touch with the peers closest to her in the virtual world, who have information about her surroundings. The system also contains code to reduce the load on the network, such as an algorithm that notices clusters of users moving around the world together and consolidates their update requests into a single query.
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Monday, April 14, 2008
By Paul McDougall InformationWeek April 14, 2008 08:55 AM
Mandriva last week released the latest version of its distribution of the open source Linux operating system -- and it's hoping some new features will catch the eye of mainstream computer users weaned on Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Windows.
Mandriva Linux 2008 Spring uses the final version of the KDE 3 desktop environment, version 3.5.9, to deliver a Windows-like graphical user interface and menu. The included Elisa multimedia center provides drag-and-drop tools for storing and managing digital content such as photos, music, and videos.
There are also tools that help users synch Mandriva-based PCs with cell phones and PDAs running in the Windows Mobile and BlackBerry environments. A new parental control utility lets parents block content to certain Web sites and limit their children's time on the Internet.
Linux, created by Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds, has long been the preserve of tech enthusiasts willing to trade ease-of-use for a free operating system that doesn't lock them into the Microsoft ecosystem.
But distributors like Mandriva, as well as Ubuntu and Red Hat, are hoping that the addition of more user-friendly features to the OS will entice everyday computer buyers to Linux.
Mandriva says its 2008 Spring release was developed with the low-cost Asus Eee PC in mind. The Eee PC features an assortment of office productivity, Web browsing, and e-mail tools, with some models selling for less than $300.
Mandriva says Linux 2008 Spring works out of the box on the Eee PC.
Low-cost PCs from Asus, Everex, and other manufacturers are becoming increasingly popular as some computers user conclude that mainstream systems running the Windows or Macintosh operating systems are overpowered for their needs.
The trend has provided an opening for Linux in the consumer PC market. Wal-Mart recently began stocking a Linux-based PC from Everex in its online store.
Microsoft, however, is taking steps of its own to cash in on the growth of the low-cost PC market. The company recently announced that it would extend the life of its Windows XP operating system, but only for deployment on low-cost systems.
Microsoft's current OS, Windows Vista, carries system requirements that are beyond the reach of most budget computers.
COMMENT: Where the Google Linux box failed Mandriva tries to go. Its a nice distro of Linux. Its not Ubuntu.
By Eric Reuters
SECOND LIFE, April 11 (Reuters) - The fledgling virtual agencies and service companies who made it big during the boom years of Second Life are looking toward greener pastures, weary of unmet promises from Linden Lab and drawn by competing virtual worlds.
Second Life’s growth over the last several years spawned an entirely new industry, sometimes called metaverse development companies (MDCs), to shepherd multinational brands into the virtual world. Companies like the Electric Sheep Company and Millions of Us built up rosters full of blue-chip clients who wanted to access Second Life’s demographically attractive audience, and drew investment from real-world media companies and venture capital firms.
But with new virtual world platforms coming online and Second Life noticeably lacking in buzz for consumer-facing brands in the real world, some of the most well-known MDCs are publicly criticizing Linden Lab for shortcomings in technology and usability.
“In 2006, Second Life seemed like the place we could get the most immersion,” said Electric Sheep chief operating officer Giff Constable in a telephone interview. “Linden hasn’t been able to realize the potential of the platform or to make it easy.”
Electric Sheep has produced some of Second Life’s most visible corporate projects, including a tie-in with CSI:NY, and Reuters Island. In December the company laid off about one-third of its staff, mostly from its Second Life-heavy Events Group.
The change of view, as Constable describes it, stems from a series of unfulfilled promises by Linden to improve both the usability of its software, and to implement developer tools that would allow MDCs to customize the Second Life experience for its corporate customers.
He specifically cited difficulties with the CSI:NY project, a cross-promotional event where Second Life played a prominent role in the television show’s plot line and the audience was encouraged to create a Second Life account through a CBS.com gateway. A lack of native programming support made it difficult to bring new avatars into Second Life already wearing themed clothes, nor was it possible to auto-enroll viewers in a CSI-themed group without special assistance from Linden Lab not generally available to developers.
“Second Life is just not at production level,” Constable said. “You want to things to be bulletproof when you’re working with a global brand … I don’t know if we’d do it in Second Life the next time.”
Glenn Fisher of Linden Lab conceded that introducing planned improvements to the Registration API, the program used by companies to bring customers into their Second Life sims, had proved “more difficult than we anticipated.” Improving the registration links between the Second Life Grid and partnered companies remains a high priority for Linden, Fisher said.
Fisher added that brands in Second Life had achieved a return on investment comparable or superior to other Internet-based campaigns. He pointed to the ongoing commitment of cosmetics company L’Oréal as an example of successful marketing on Linden’s grid.
But he said that Second Life isn’t for every company.
“Marketing is easier in a virtual world where the marketer has direct control over the communication in that world. We’ve always taken a decentralized approach,” Fisher said.
Linden Lab enjoys strong fundamentals, including growing demand for hosting virtual land on its servers, its core business. Company founder Philip Rosedale has repeatedly said Linden operates in the black. But as MDCs steer marketing projects towards Linden’s rivals, the company could suffer from a dearth of new users and diminished industry buzz.
Other virtual worlds consultants were more circumspect in their criticism, while acknowledging the trend against working within Second Life.
“Second Life, despite its much publicized travails, has a lot of very loyal users there. We wouldn’t hesitate to go into Second Life again,” said Mat Small of Millions of Us which has worked on Second Life projects with Toyota, Intel and Cisco. “That being said, we recognize that a lot of the growth right now is in youth-centric worlds like Habbo and Gaia.”
Peter Haik, CEO of Metaversatility, said his company is “platform-agnostic.” But while Metaversatility is doing ongoing maintenance and enhancements for existing Second Life clients, the firm has no new Second Life builds scheduled.
“If a client wants to reach an existing community, we’d tend to go towards There.com,” Haik said. While he wouldn’t shy from doing a Second Life build for a client that was “not so conservative,” Haik echoed Constable’s concerns about the ease of using Second Life’s software for both developers and end-users. “You’re likely to hit a wall when building in Second Life,” he said.
Haik sees the larger trend as not so much away from Second Life specifically, but away from the idea of bringing brands into pre-existing communities. He anticipates building purpose-built virtual worlds around specific brands using the Multiverse platform.
“We have a lot of people that want a stand-alone experience,” Haik said. “The client might have a very specific demographic in mind that’s not the Second Life demographic.”
Constable agreed with Haik the industry is trending towards more modest virtual experiences, and tempered his criticism with praise for Linden’s past cooperation. “I’m bullish on virtual worlds,” Constable said. “I’ll keep on rooting for Linden Lab to make progress on their platform, and maybe we’ll be back in Second Life in a significant way down the road.”
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A Gartner conference last week featured a session entitled, "Windows Is Collapsing: How What Comes Next Will Improve." Gartner may not be stellar at identifying industry trends, but they sure know how to pick controversial session titles.
Given that Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Windows has a near-lock on the corporate desktop market today, I suppose Gartner is right that there's nowhere to go but down. But "collapsing" is harsh, and most likely way off base. This is one of those presentations where you hope that the news reports have it wrong, just to spare Gartner the embarrassment of looking so lame. I'll just touch on a few of the strange takeaways from reports on this session.
The Gartnerites asserted that "Windows as we know it needs to be replaced" and that Windows may need multiple kernels because "one size doesn't fit all." Indeed, that may be why Microsoft already has Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows Mobile, and Windows XP Embedded, not to mention those still-kicking classics like Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
Most developers can't write good code for even one version of Windows. Now we have two desktop versions out there -- XP and Vista; Vista suffers because XP still gets more developer attention by virtue of larger market share. More versions of Windows just make this problem worse.
Gartner logic says the large Windows code base makes it impossible to do anything more in a new version than just deliver a few incremental improvements. I guess it depends on how you define improvements. In my eyes, Vista's sin wasn't in making too many incremental improvements, but in adding too much bloat. That was compounded by a new device driver model, which (at least initially) prevented many devices from working properly. The early reports on Windows 7 seem to indicate that Microsoft finally caught on to the less-is-more philosophy, but we'll see.
Finally, the analysts said that companies shouldn't skip Vista, but instead ease Vista in, as old systems are replaced. That's supposedly because Windows 7 isn't going to be here until 2009. What's wrong with staying on XP until Windows 7 comes out then, since XP is supported through 2011? There's no reason for corporate IT to support two "collapsing" versions of Windows when they can support just one.
Perhaps the most important reason that Windows isn't collapsing is that nothing happens quickly in corporate America. Over the next 10 years, some companies may move to Macs for desktops and Linux for servers or portable devices. Others may outsource the functions through software-as-a-service companies and not care what operating system is used. Yet I'm willing to bet that there will still be plenty of "uncollapsed" copies of Windows in companies a decade from now. What's your take? Come to my blog and post a comment.
OSx86 your own PC, psystar will sell you its OpenMac clone for $400. For that price you get 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo E4500 processor, 2GB of memory, integrated GMA 950 graphics, 250GB disk and 20x DVD burner. Add another $155 and they'll even install Leopard on the non-Apple kit with the help of an EFI V8 emulator. Even at $555 it's still a spec-for-spec bargain compared to the Mac mini (albeit without the mini dimensions). If interested you'd better snap one up quick. Jobs, you'll recall, put a swift end to official Mac-clone licensing when he resumed power at Apple. No reason to think that he (or his lawyers) feel any differently now.
COMMENT: As a heavy Mac user myself the prices that Apple charges for its stuff disgust me. Sure I keep giving them my money, but I have stuck to my Mini and am pretty happy with it.
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Sunday, April 13, 2008
Washington wanted to keep Somalia from turning into another Afghanistan. Now it's an African Iraq.
The jihadist leads a double life. By day he's a government functionary in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. Standing in the shade of a crumbling, Mussolini-era balcony, a phone headset clipped to his ear, he affects a casual, corporate air. But then he pulls his blue oxford shirt aside to reveal a fresh bullet scar. He spies on his co-workers, he admits, and feeds information about them to the Islamist rebels who are laying siege to Mogadishu. "God willing, we'll take over the country soon," he tells a NEWSWEEK reporter, one of the few Western journalists who have ventured into Somalia in months. The State Department recently added al-Shabaab (meaning "youth") to its list of terrorist organizations, making the group a target for attacks by U.S. forces operating in the Horn of Africa. The jihadist is unconcerned. "We're like a centipede," he says. "You cut off one of our legs, we just keep going."
Unfortunately, he's probably right. In late 2006 the United States backed Ethiopia's incursion into Somalia, designed to oust the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamist coalition that had taken over much of the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country. (Al-Shabaab was the Courts' military wing.) Washington accused the Islamists of harboring Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But the Courts had also brought more stability than Somalia had enjoyed in years. Somalis could walk the streets and do business again, and many welcomed the Islamists just as war-weary Afghans hailed the Taliban in the 1990s.
Now, by trying to prevent another terrorist haven like Afghanistan from developing, America may have helped create another Iraq, this one in the volatile Horn of Africa. "Every year this fighting continues, the situation worsens," says Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Abdul Salaam of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. The Islamists' eviction in 2006 left a power vacuum that the U.N.-backed government still hasn't managed to fill. Ethiopian troops are loathed as occupiers and rarely leave their heavily fortified bases. And al-Shabaab has broken off from the Courts to wage a brutal and effective insurgency. The guerrillas have overrun at least eight Somali towns this year and control parts of the capital. Where once they brought order to Somalia, they now gleefully spread chaos.
Mogadishu looks like Baghdad during its darker days. Thousands of Ethiopian soldiers are hunkered down behind sandbags, concrete barriers and heavy artillery. Whenever they go out on patrol, their heavily armored convoys are blasted by roadside bombs, rockets and small arms fire. In recent weeks, al-Shabaab has stepped up a suicide-bombing campaign; an attack last week targeted a compound housing African Union peacekeepers, wounding nine and killing one. Leaflets warning of death to government collaborators likewise recall Iraq.
For ordinary Somalis, violence is ever-present and random. Mogadishu is cut up into fiefdoms more than neighborhoods, divided by checkpoints and patrolled by militias that claim varying degrees of loyalty to the government. Death can come from many quarters. Two weeks ago, when insurgents attacked the presidential palace with rockets, Ethiopian troops responded with a mortar volley into the crowded Bakara market. Seventeen people were killed and nearly 50 others were injured. Shrapnel struck shopkeeper Abdul Rashid, 25. "In your country, do you throw mortars at your own people?" he asked from his hospital bed, wincing from a clear plastic tube inserted into his ribcage. Some 600,000 have fled the country in the past year, and 750,000 are now trapped in squalid camps for the internally displaced.
Whereas in Baghdad the surge is beginning to have an effect, the violence in Somalia is increasingly random and getting worse. Noor Muktar, 35, was living in Mogadishu's sports stadium with other refugees when a fire fight broke out two months ago. She fled with her daughters—"I couldn't even get our bedding," she says—and now lives on the outskirts of town in a teetering shelter of twigs and plastic. Aid workers are being driven out of the country. Three staff members from Doctors Without Borders were killed earlier this year by a roadside bomb. As of last week two humanitarian contractors, a Brit and a Kenyan, remained hostage after being taken at gunpoint on April 1. Foreign U.N. officials are prohibited from overnighting in Mogadishu. Aid agencies stopped delivering bulk food shipments in many areas of the capital after a Somali government official told radio listeners to seize food from convoys by force. A recent U.N. report declared Somalia's humanitarian crisis the worst in Africa.
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So how does it stack up on the eve of a major battle for Microsoft.
Great product for use inside an SME to store documents in a way they can be managed and found. Web Development? No way, I mean NO WAY!!!!
First full MOSS as a Web Developer product will cost you an arm and a leg so you have to do all the work.
But WSS is free and it gives you Wikis, Blogs, collaboration spaces and chats as extensions of .NET.
Well just take a look at the code. Its trash.
Lets not go there. Lets say in the Yahoo deal trash has meet garbage.
Live is dead.
Flash, doesn't Microsoft have some name for something they image will replace it? Yah right, better chance going after YouTube. I stated developing with Flash in 1998, there is just too much experience.
So what is the story of web development and Microsoft. Well ASP.NET remains the easiest format to bring web developed projects to life. Admitted I have NOT tried Ruby yet. JSP and PHP require more skills of staff and more time and effort. ASP.NET does require a Windows Server but the community has circulated so much code its essentially an open sourced community.
For the vast majority of medium to high functional web sites out there Microsoft has a great platform, and from that they might expand in to something.
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Ted Castronova, a social scientist and professor at Indiana University, made a name for himself studying the economies of online games, going so far as to calculate the exchange rate between US dollars and EverQuest platinum. But he wanted to do more than study virtual worlds — he wanted to create one. So in 2006, armed with a $250,000 MacArthur Foundation grant, Castronova and a team of grad students got to work designing Arden: The World of William Shakespeare. The aim was to have players explore an Elizabethan environment, interact with characters from the Bard's plays, or just go to a tavern and wager a few farthings on card games like One-and-Thirty. Meanwhile, Castronova would further his research by studying players' behavior. Hey nonny nonny!
The game was released last fall — to little fanfare. It seems something was rotten in the state of Arden. "It's no fun," Castronova says ruefully. "We failed to design a gripping experience." The scholar says he has, however, gained a deeper appreciation for the challenges of game design: "I always had respect for the people who made World of Warcraft," he says. "But now it borders on worship." Castronova and his team are currently putting their hard-won insights to use on a jazzed-up version called Arden II: London's Burning. Wired asked Castronova to give some advice for other researchers looking to create their own games.
Ted Castronova's 5 Tips for Making Games That Don't Suck
Don't Be Overly Ambitious
"We thought it wouldn't be too hard to design a realistic War of the Roses-era economy, complete with swords, armaments, horses, food, and clothing. You want to create a suit of armor? First you have to smelt brass to make the bolts and gather fibers to make string ... We soon learned why most designers don't do that level of realism."
Go Low Tech
"If you can't find a professional game studio to partner with, start small. There are lots of simple development platforms to experiment with. Look at Tribal Wars — it's an HTML-driven online game with hundreds of thousands of users. It can be played in a browser window."
Think About Your Audience
"We put Arden in front of Shakespeare experts and they loved it. We put it in front of play testers and they yawned. We'd get feedback like, 'I talked to that Falstaff guy for a while and got a quest to go repair something. I logged out and never came back.' Too much reading, not enough fighting. Arden II will be more of a hack-and-slash Dungeons and Dragons type of game."
Get a Full-Time Staff
"I love my students, but they just don't have the schedule to do this. I have a very able lead designer and an excellent lead artist, but they had to pause for midterms. You need a core group of 60-hour-a-week people."
"You face a moment where you can admit something isn't working or you can lie about it. It's like in Shakespeare's plays: The tragic heroes keep making new mistakes that compound their original mistakes. The comic heroes muddle around and find themselves in ridiculous circumstances, but in the end they accept their own humanity, and the audience respects them for it."
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Friday, April 11, 2008
JERUSALEM — Israeli defense officials say they have identified an unlikely new threat to national security — Facebook.
A new list of rules announced Thursday aims to prevent soldiers and Defense Ministry employees from revealing classified information on social networking sites.
The officials say some soldiers have uploaded pictures of themselves with classified equipment, inadvertently revealing sensitive information.
The rules allow soldiers to create pages on networking sites as long as they do not identify themselves as soldiers or reveal any information about what they do.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because the rules have not been officially published.
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Google has hired boutique investment bank Qatalyst Group to provide advice on the ongoing battle between Microsoft and Yahoo.
Qatalyst Group is headed by colorful Silicon Valley investment banker Frank Quattrone, who as we noted in March has returned to the Valley after spending years in the wilderness fighting obstruction of justice charges.
Quattrone was head technology banker for Credit Suisse, and Morgan Stanley before that, during the first internet boom and had a hand in practically every major Internet IPO during the 1990s, from Amazon to Netscape. Notably Quattrone was one of the first investment bankers to show an interest in Google.
Amid daily reports of Microsoft’s attempted takeover of Yahoo, it comes as little surprise that Google has turned to an outside advisor for guidance. That it is Quattrone’s Qatalyst Group shows that Quattrone may climb back to his prime spot in Silicon Valley faster than his detractors would have expected..
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Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald told a conference audience yesterday that Microsoft’s Windows product is collapsing and must make radical changes to its operating system or risk becoming a has-been.
They specifically pointed out the slow adoption rate by businesses - just 6% to date - and the fact that the Vista code base is so large. That means changes take years, and only high end computers can really take advantage of it anyway.
For most early adopters (and all Mac users), the browser is increasingly the only operating system that matters anyway. Windows isn’t really that relevant any more just because of the increasing utility of online applications like Google Docs, which competes with Microsoft Office. Vista could be perfect and it still wouldn’t matter. The fact that it is flawed only makes the situation worse.
Microsoft makes a ton of revenue on sales of software that sit on the computer. $15 billion a year for Windows alone, and another $16 billion for Office and Exchange Server in 2007. That’s 60% of Microsoft’s total revenue, and profits from those groups float the rest of the company. Microsoft isn’t a viable company without their consumer and business desktop software profits.
The real question isn’t “What can Microsoft do to fix their Windows product?” but rather “Even If Windows and Office were perfect, would it be enough to keep Microsoft relevant in the medium term?” I think the answer to that latter question might be “nope.” And that, of course, is why they want Yahoo so badly. Online advertising revenue is their only real hope of long term survival.
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Thursday, April 10, 2008
"Logica has announced it is to impose job cuts in the UK as the new chief executive attempts to bring the company in line with changes in the IT services market....
"A lot of the work that Logica does here is at the lower end – application development and maintenance and so on – which customers can get done up to 50 per cent cheaper by an Indian vendor."
When I was at Logica my staff manager at the time was an old school IT type. There are thousands of these people stuck in denial about what is happening to the industry. I had expressed a desire to move from hard IT to pre-sales since the company was moving coding to India.
He told me that this was a bad idea, that offshoring was not working and that I needed to work on hardcore development. It was clearly an expression of his desires rather than reality. I ended up being in a .NET development project involving a lot of cutting a pasting and something I would have found interesting 15 years ago but all could have been done in India.
The problem in organisations like these is that the culture inside the company values IT activity like development and programming and works against the economic reality that such things can be done in India. Also the fact that computers are essentially a great deal of bullshit, that Microsoft technology all sucks and yet wins, that documentation does not tell you anything and that things are held together by tape and string.
But people don't post photos because they are interested in photography or because images are some key information unit like documents or blog pots, people use Flickr as a community tool. The photos are unites of exchange of a social network built around Flickr.
The problem with Flickr is its massive mediocrity. While YouTube and MySpace have been used to launch bands and concerts and art fill Second Life Flickr has elected to become the dullest collection of images you can imagine. Also photo urls are not reliable, bloggers who post from Flickr have to deal with their sites soon being full of white images stating the picture is not available.
SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK - Microsoft Corp and News Corp are in talks about a joint bid for Yahoo Inc that would add MySpace to the Yahoo-Microsoft combination proposed by the world's largest software maker, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
IMF slashes world growth forecast
Analysts forecast the US will briefly go into recession
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that the world economy will grow much more slowly in the next two years as a result of the credit crunch.
In its latest economic forecast, the IMF says that world economic growth will slow to 3.7% in 2008 and 2009, 1.25% lower than growth in 2007.
The downturn will be led by the US, which the IMF believes will go into a "mild recession" this year.
Growth in the UK will slow sharply to 1.6% in both 2008 and 2009.
It said that the UK economy would be affected by a weakening housing market, the contraction of the financial sector, and the impact on UK exports of weaker growth in the US and Europe.
Its UK forecast is substantially below the Treasury forecast of around 2% growth this year and 2.5% next year made at the time of the March Budget.
The greatest risk comes from the still-unfolding events in financial markets (which might lead to) the current credit squeeze mutating into a full-blown credit crunch
IMF World Economic Forecast
The IMF admits that the global downturn might be still more severe than it is currently predicting, and says that there is a one in four chance of a "global recession" when world growth falls below 3%.
The world downturn will be led by problems in the US housing market, but the IMF warns that excessive house price inflation in some European countries, including Spain, Ireland and the UK, has made them more vulnerable to a slowdown.
House prices have already fallen by around 10% in the US by some measures, and the IMF says that it they may be over-valued by 10% to 20% in the UK.
It is forecasting further falls in US house prices of 14% to 20% this year.
The IMF forecasts that the US economy will grow by just 0.5% during 2008 and will actually contract in the first half of the year.
WORLD ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
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Its recovery will be slow, with growth of only 0.6% forecast in 2009.
"The US economy will tip into a mild recession in 2008 as a result of mutually reinforcing housing and financial market cycles, with only a gradual recovery in 2009, reflecting the time needed to resolve underlying balance sheet strains," the report notes.
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The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Yahoo's second largest shareholder, investment firm Legg Mason, characterized Microsoft's recent ultimatum letter as a tactical "blunder" and said it would support Yahoo's independence if Microsoft maintained or lowered its current offer.
The article also reports, however, that an informal survey of 20 institutional Yahoo shareholders by the investment firm Piper Jaffray found "the majority suggest they favor the current deal to no deal." But the Legg Mason statements are significant nonetheless.
The Microsoft gambit appears to be setting the stage for a hostile takeover, in which it would seek to nominate a more sympathetic slate of board candidates to replace the existing board, which has twice rebuffed Microsoft's offer as too low. The support of shareholders would be critical for either side in such a battle.
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Monday, April 07, 2008
THE internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds.
At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, “the grid” will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.
The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that created the web, the grid could also provide the kind of power needed to transmit holographic images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call.
David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technologies could “revolutionise” society. “With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine,” he said.
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Businesswomen in Japan pay up to $50,000 a night for male companionship from "hosts" like Yunosuke.
This isn't a date, though. It's business.
The woman, a successful executive, has joined a growing number of professional women in Japan in forking out from $1,000 to $50,000 a night for male companionship.
They meet their "hosts" in hundreds of clubs that have sprung up around Tokyo - the industry says only compliments are exchanged. The women pay for a man to lavish them with undivided attention.
"There's nothing wrong with a woman paying to be entertained by a man," one female client says. "It's just another step in equality."
It's a dizzying reversal of traditional gender roles in a country long known for geishas pampering male clients with conversation, singing and dancing. Now a new breed of entertainer has cropped up -- think of them as male geishas."I give women things that men norm
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Virtual worlds come in two forms. Some, like Second Life, are 3-D, requiring users to install programs that run most smoothly on computers equipped with high-end graphics capabilities. Others, like Disney's Club Penguin, are browser-based environments that can be accessed through older computers--even those that access the Internet using dial-up modems. Each form has its drawbacks: not everyone has the computing power to get into a 3-D virtual world, but the browser-based worlds don't have the breathtaking, immersive qualities of 3-D. Today, at the Virtual Worlds conference in New York City, Multiverse, a company based in Mountain View, CA, that provides foundations for virtual worlds, will show new technology that allows developers to build virtual worlds that users can access in either a rich, 3-D form or a simpler, browser-based form.
"For worlds that take advantage of this, you as a player may not actually know if the people you're talking to are accessing a 3-D world or coming in via 2-D," says Corey Bridges, cofounder and executive producer of Multiverse. This is important, he says, because it gives virtual worlds the flexibility they need to reach a larger audience. Developers can build virtual worlds with beautiful 3-D graphics without shutting out users with older computers. The flexibility also allows the possibility that the user might experience a virtual world in different ways throughout the day, perhaps accessing the 3-D version from a home computer, and then later accessing the browser-based version from a mobile device. "We knew that virtual worlds were more than just PC-based experiences," Bridges says.
The demonstration will take place in a virtual Times Square. Bridges says that the company will showcase the photo-realistic 3-D version of the environment, spotlighting two users interacting there through 3-D virtual representations of themselves, called avatars. Then, Multiverse will show the other side of the conversation: a cartoonish Flash animation running through a browser.
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Saddam's Iraq at least offered women the protection of enforced secularism; they were encouraged to study at universities and to pursue professional careers. That changed in the 1990s as the dictator began to rely on tribal sheiks to prop up his rule, while U.N. sanctions drove families into poverty and reduced opportunities for women. Americans arriving in 2003 hoped to make the new Iraq a showcase for gender equality. But women's advocates say that dream fell by the wayside as violence engulfed the country.
Some tribal leaders are more egalitarian than others. In Baghdad's Adhamiya district, the local women's college is bustling with students, even with the Sahwa in charge. Times are tougher in Anbar's provincial capital, Ramadi, where tribal troops allow women to work but not to go without headscarves, and polygamy is reportedly on the rise. Women rarely venture out of their homes now in rural Sahwa areas like Arab Jabour, south of Baghdad.
In Anbar, the Sahwa movement's birthplace, tribal leaders have taken full control. "They have their own personal fiefdoms, and they answer to no one," says Isobel Coleman, a women's rights specialist for the Council on Foreign Relations. "The tribal groups may not be directly affiliated with Al Qaeda, but they're no less conservative." That may be an exaggeration: the jihadists forced girls into marriages, closed schools and killed indiscriminately. But tribal values are more medieval than those enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution—and this time the gunmen have the backing of the U.S. military. Some fear that worse is coming. "I can see in the eyes of some of them that they have something to say to us unveiled women," says Samara Ali, 27, a library worker at Baghdad University. "I think that they are waiting for a proper time to speak out."
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Saturday, April 05, 2008
CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- Microsoft Corp. may take its case to acquire Yahoo Inc. directly to the Internet company's shareholders if the two firms can't come to a deal within the next three weeks, Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer said Saturday.
In an open letter to Yahoo's (YHOO:YHOO 28.36, +0.23, +0.8%) board of directors, Ballmer said that Microsoft may initiate "a proxy contest to elect an alternative slate of directors for the Yahoo board."
He also warned of a lower offer for the company if an agreement isn't reached within the deadline.
"If we are forced to take an offer directly to your shareholders, that action will have an undesirable impact on the value of your company from our perspective, which will be reflected in the terms of our proposal," Ballmer said in the letter.
Microsoft (MSFT:MSFT 29.16, +0.16, +0.6%) made a proposal to acquire Yahoo at a 62% premium to its Jan. 31 closing price more than two months ago.
"Our goal in making such a generous offer was to create the basis for a speedy and ultimately friendly transaction. Despite this, the pace of the last two months has been anything but speedy," Ballmer sai
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After weeks of silence, recent comments from various sources to journalists suggest the software maker is hardening its stance and pushing Yahoo for action.
The sources told Reuters that Yahoo has lost key personnel, making the company less valuable, while generous severance packages it handed out to executives and full-time employees in the case of a takeover have made it more expensive.
Yahoo's board of directors has rejected Microsoft's offer, made on January 31, saying it "substantially undervalues" the company. The cash-and-stock bid initially valued Yahoo at $44.6 billion, but is currently worth about $42 billion.
Yahoo and Microsoft representatives declined to comment.
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Friday, April 04, 2008
Technical analysis of the Phorm online advertising system has reinforced an expert's view that it is "illegal".
The analysis was done by Dr Richard Clayton, a computer security researcher at the University of Cambridge.
What Dr Clayton learned while quizzing Phorm about its system only convinced him that it breaks laws designed to limit unwarranted interception of data.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has also said it would monitor Phorm as it got closer to deployment.
In addition the ICO confirmed that BT is planning a large-scale trial of the technology "involving around 10,000 broadband users later this month".
Previous trials of the technology by the telecoms firm were branded "illegal" by Nicholas Bohm of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (Fipr), which campaigns on digital rights issues.
As the company did not inform customers that they were part of the trial, he said the tests were "an illegal intercept of users' data".
In the subsequent trial the ICO said: "We have spoken to BT about this trial and they have made clear that unless customers positively opt in to the trial their web browsing will not be monitored in order to deliver adverts."
In a statement Phorm said it was satisfied that its system complied "with all the appropriate UK laws".
Phorm works by taking a copy of the traffic generated when a users visits a website, analyses the text in this traffic and then uses the resulting information to insert targeted adverts on sites that have signed up.
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