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Monday, April 17, 2006

Spike Lee's Inside Man "machinima"
A bit late with this one, but the Hollywood Reporter has an interesting article on what went into the creation of the "machinima" piece used in Spike Lee's movie Inside Man. Although I'm not sure if using 3D Studio Max and Maya technically qualifies as machinima.
Lee asked for the sequences to show two black characters in a ghetto environment dressed in West Coast-style gangster attire: baggy white T-shirts, baggy pants, do-rags and Timberlands. Alba digitally photographed reference stills of buildings near the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn. Portions of "Gangstas" were pre-visualized in 3D Studio Max, then stills were imported as textural samples and added to animated cut scenes created in Maya.

Alba said House of Pain considered using a gaming engine to create an actual machinima for the movie, but they wanted complete control of the animation. The sequence also needed to play both in-camera as a practical playback on the kid actor's PlayStation Portable and also had to be rendered out to play onscreen in full film frame resolution (2K or 4K files), which a professional animation tool like Maya supports.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:07 PM Comments (0)
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Major League Gaming announces deal with USA Network
The Associated Press reports (via The Globe & Mail) that Major League Gaming, the world's largest organized video gaming league, has signed a deal with USA Network tha will bring video game competitions to TV later this year. "This is the sign that pro gaming has finally arrived to the mass market," said Matthew Bromberg, MLG's president and chief operating officer. "It's like poker was two years ago, or NASCAR 15 years ago."
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:40 PM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Google defends self-censorship in China
Google's CEO Eric Schmidt today defended the company's practice of self-censorship in its Chinese-language search engine, saying "we believe that the decision that we made to follow the law in China was absolutely the right one,” the AP reports (Via MSNBC). Schmidt also said "I think it's arrogant for us to walk into a country where we are just beginning to operate and tell that country how to operate," adding that "[t]here are many cases where certain information is not available due to local law or local custom."

Currently, searches originating in China on topics like Taiwan, Tibet, and democracy are filtered.

[Via Google Blogoscoped]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 5:22 PM Comments (0)
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Disney to offer free, ad-supported TV shows on the web
Disney is set to offer four TV shows, including "Lost" and "Alias" for free on ABC.com beginning in May, the AP reports (via The Globe & Mail). The shows will have ads that can't be skipped, unlike the videos ABC currently sells on iTunes for $1.99. New episodes will be available the day after they air on ABC. It appears to just be an experiment to gauge interest, however, and will only be available for two months.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:37 PM Comments (0)
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Friday, April 07, 2006

Forrester report: 1% use podcasts
According to Forrester Research, just 1% of online households in North America regularly use podcasts. Forrester's Charlene Li adds that "when you include all of the people who are just interested or have used podcasts, they strongly favor listening to existing content like Internet radio or broadcast radio, not necessarily new content."

Our pal and occasional contributor Tony Walsh offers a few thoughts on why the number is so low:
  1. Nobody knows what a "podcast" is, or thinks it's Apple-exclusive technology.
  2. 99% of podcasts are crap.
  3. Even if someone knew what a podcast was, and knew of a good podcast to listen to, usability/interface barriers are too high.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:59 PM Comments (0)
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Online funeral ambushed
Mark Federman points to a report of an ambush that took place in World of Warcraft, where a funeral was being held for a player that had actually died in real life. Video of the event is here. In the comments on ShoutWire, the responses to the incident are sharply divided, with some saying it's just a game and the players fairly took advantage of a situation, and others saying the memorial should have been respected.

Federman adds: "I'm often asked about the relative reality of the goings-on - including relationships - in the cyberworld. My answer, derived from the medium is the message, is always the same: If the effects persist when the computer is turned off, it's real. Mediation is a confusing bitch: the content blinds us to the true effects that work us over, whether we consciously realize it or not."
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:15 PM Comments (0)
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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Will Wright's GDC keynote
Will Wright is arguably the most influential person in video games. He's the creator of SimCity and The Sims, and his upcoming game, Spore, already has people tossing around phrases like "best game ever," even though no one has actually played it. Much of that excitement came from Wright's keynote speech at last years Game Developers Conference, where he showed off the game to a stunned crowd. His speech at this year's conference took a different approach, focusing on the research process behind games like Spore, but looks like it was no less interesting. GameSpy has a wrap-up:
Real artists are able to embed deep messages in creative forms. Will Wright pointed out that Stanley Kubrick is his creative hero. Kubrick is also a fan of heavy research, and you can see the results in landmark films like 2001, which made space travel real for so many people. Wright strives to have that level of depth in his games.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:33 PM Comments (0)
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Joshua Ellis' Trinity essay
Following up the last post, Joshua Ellis has just posted his excellent essay: Dark Miracle: Trinity, the Manhattan Project and the Birth of the Atomic Age. It's a must read.
There's an old story that in the hours before dawn on July 16th, 1945, a young woman named Georgia Green was being driven back to school at the University of New Mexico by her sister Margaret and her brother-in-law Joe. Suddenly, she saw a bright flash of light, and she gripped Joe's arm hard enough to make him swerve the car. "What's that light?" she asked.

The thing is, Georgia Green was blind.

At that moment, some fifty miles away, a tall, gaunt man in a porkpie hat was also staring at the light, through a pair of darkened welder's glasses. He was the architect of Georgia Green's dark miracle, and he was very, very tired -- as tired, perhaps, as anyone can be and still move and breathe. It had been a long road coming out to this empty desert spot, which he called Trinity. It had been a long war.

Continue reading here.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:07 PM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ed Grothus and the Black Hole museum/junkyard/surplus store
Erstwhile Mindjack contributor Joshua Ellis took a trip to the Trinity nuclear test site in New Mexico recently and has been blogging along the way. Now he's posted a great video he shot of Ed Grothus, former nuclear bomb maker and proprietor of the Black Hole, a surplus store and museum "dedicated to the detritus and ephemera of the Los Alamos National Laboratory."
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:05 PM Comments (0)
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The New York Times vs. The New York Times
What happens when the online edition of a newspaper is better than the print edition? Slate's Jack Shafer cancels his subscription.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:31 PM Comments (0)
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Apple lets Mac users run Windows (officially)
Apple has just released a beta version of a program called Boot Camp, which lets users of Intel-based Macs choose to boot either Mac OS X or Windows XP, BBC News reports. The software will be standard in the next release of OS X. The announcement comes just a few weeks after a pair of enterprising individuals came up with their own solution for running Windows on a Mac, and won a $13,000 bounty in the process.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 1:28 PM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Danah Boyd on the O'Reilly Factor
Danah Boyd was on The O'Reilly Factor last week discussing MySpace and has now posted the video on YouTube. It should be noted -- but wasn't by Mr. O'Reilly -- that MySpace is owned by News Corp, which also owns Fox News.

[Via plasticbag.org]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11:54 PM Comments (0)
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YouTube's 'Bowiechick' influences, doesn't sellout
A YouTube user going by the name Bowiechick sparked interest in Logitech webcams when a video she created with one was viewed over 300,000 times last month. But, as CNET News.com reports, she didn't sell out to Logitech when she later did a video demonstrating the camera, which itself was viewed almost 200,000 times. The videos were so popular that they appparently caused a short spike in sales of the cameras on Amazon. After Logitech noticed the popularity of the videos they offered Morrision a free Logitech product of her choice, but she hasn't yet taken them up on that offer. She also said that at least one website has offered to pay her if she mentioned the site, although she hasn't yet agreed to that either.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9:00 PM Comments (0)
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Monday, April 03, 2006

Michigan violent video games law struck down
GameDaily Biz reports that a Michigan judge has struck down a state law that tried to ban the sale of violent video games to minors, ruling that the law was unconstitutional and could not be implemented.

The state of Michigan had argued that the interactive nature of video games made them less entitled to protection under the First Amendment. But Judge George Caram Steeh shot that argument down, saying "[t]he interactive, or functional aspect, in video games can be said to enhance the expressive elements even more than other media by drawing the player closer to the characters and becoming more involved in the plot of the game than by simply watching a movie or television show," adding that "[i]t would be impossible to separate the functional aspects of a video game from the expressive, inasmuch as they are so closely intertwined and dependent on each other in creating the virtual experience."

The Entertainment Software Association's statement on the decision is here.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8:52 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Chevy gets a taste of culture jamming
Chevrolet recently launched a website where it lets visitors create their own advertisements for the new Chevy Tahoe SUV. But, as World Changing points out, there's nothing stopping anyone from creating ads that criticize the Tahoe and SUVs. Here is one example. A number of sites, including Network-Centric-Advocacy and Total Tactics, are collecting links to user-created ads, although some have already reported cases of ads being censored.

[Via Kris Krug]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 10:26 PM Comments (0)
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Friday, March 10, 2006

U.S. senators introduce CDC video game investigation bill
Gamasutra reports that a group of U.S. senators including Democrats Joseph Lieberman, Hillary Clinton ad Dick Durbin and Republicans Rick Santorum ad Sam Brownback have managed to convince a Senate committee to initially approve a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that would examine video game ad other electronic media use. Lieberman first introduced the bill in 2003, saying "For one thing, we should know whether games like Grand Theft Auto that celebrate violence against women, beyond being sick and offensive, are actually leading to more violence against women." That first bill allocated some $90US for the study, but no figure has been confirmed for this new study.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:07 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Well co-founder Larry Brilliant named director of Google.org
Google announced this week that they have named Well co-founder Larry Brilliant as director of Google.org, the company's philanthropic organization. According to Google, Google.org focuses on areas like global poverty, health, energy and the environment and has made over $7 million in investments and grants to date.

[Via BoingBoing]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:12 PM Comments (0)
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Friday, January 20, 2006

Lessig gives virtual talk
Author and Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig gave a talk in the virtual world of Second Life on Wednesday, Wagner James Au (a.k.a. Hamlet Linden) has the first part of the transcript up on his site, New World Notes.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:15 PM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Now in Mindjack: The Telephone Repair Handbook
In the first part of a three-part feature, Mark Pesce and Angus Fraser propose a radical rethinking of a technology that remains as important as ever: the telephone.
A few weeks ago, just before the Australian Broadcasting Corportation (ABC) turned on the cameras to tape the season’s final episode of The New Inventors, the show’s host, James O’Laughlin, put me on the spot. Since I am described as a futurist when I am introduced as a panelist, James asked me (horror of horrors) for a prediction.

“Alright,” I said, thinking furiously, and aiming a furrowed brow at the studio audience, “In five years’ time you’ll be using your mobile phones ten times as much as you do today.”

The audience burst into a great, wearied groan. Not a gasp of disbelief, nor the laughter of dismissal, but the pained sigh of resignation. The audience instinctively recognized the inevitability of my prediction, and dreaded it. Why such dread? With telephony, human communication has grown from a phenomenon constrained by shouting distance to something which allows us to enjoy never-ending conversations with our friends around the world at nearly no cost. We enjoy talking on the phone; we collectively share a uniquely human pleasure in communication for its own sake. Yet the thought of spending more time doing more communicating struck that audience, at that moment, as something to be avoided. That moment set us on course to this paper.

Full Story
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:54 PM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

EFF Brings Class Action Suit Against Sony
Via BoingBoing: The EFF has filed a class action lawsuit against Sony BMG over the company's DRM practices, specifically that recently used on a number of Sony music CDs. From the EFF press release:
The suit, to be filed in Los Angeles County Superior court, alleges that the XCP and SunnComm technologies have been installed on the computers of millions of unsuspecting music customers when they used their CDs on machines running the Windows operating system. Researchers have shown that the XCP technology was designed to have many of the qualities of a "rootkit." It was written with the intent of concealing its presence and operation from the owner of the computer, and once installed, it degrades the performance of the machine, opens new security vulnerabilities, and installs updates through an Internet connection to Sony BMG's servers. The nature of a rootkit makes it extremely difficult to remove, often leaving reformatting the computer's hard drive as the only solution. When Sony BMG offered a program to uninstall the dangerous XCP software, researchers found that the installer itself opened even more security vulnerabilities in users' machines. Sony BMG has still refused to use its marketing prowess to widely publicize its recall program to reach the over 2 million XCP-infected customers, has failed to compensate users whose computers were affected and has not eliminated the outrageous terms found in its End User Licensing Agreement (EULA).

The MediaMax software installed on over 20 million CDs has different, but similarly troubling problems. It installs files on the users' computers even if they click "no" on the EULA, and it does not include a way to fully uninstall the program. The software transmits data about users to SunnComm through an Internet connection whenever purchasers listen to CDs, allowing the company to track listening habits -- even though the EULA states that the software will not be used to collect personal information and SunnComm's website says "no information is ever collected about you or your computer." If users repeatedly requested an uninstaller for the MediaMax software, they were eventually provided one, but they first had to provide more personally identifying information. Worse, security researchers recently determined that SunnComm's uninstaller creates significant security risks for users, as the XCP uninstaller did.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 12:53 AM Comments (0)
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Past Features:

feature: january 26, 2006
The Telephone Repair Handbook
by Mark Pesce & Angus Fraser
In a three-part feature, Mark Pesce and Angus Fraser propose a complete rethinking of a technology that everyone depends on: the telephone.

interview: may 30, 2005
Brooke Burgess: The Mindjack Interview
by Melanie McBride
Mindjack's Melanie McBride recently caught up with Broken Saints creator Brooke Burgess to talk about long form Flash and the way of this Broken Saints warrior.

feature: may 13, 2005
Piracy is Good? How Battlestar Galactica Killed Broadcast TV
by Mark Pesce
In the first part of a two-part article, Mark Pesce looks at how a re-visioned 70s camp classic changed television forever.

feature: may 21, 2005
Piracy is Good? Part Two: The New Laws of Television
by Mark Pesce
In the final part of a two-part article, Mark Pesce lays out some new rules for television, which he says are good for everyone — unless you're a broadcaster.

feature: february 01 , 2005
The Future of Money
by Paul Hartzog
Mindjack's Paul Hartzog examines the changing nature of money and what might be in store for the currency of tomorrow.

feature: november 05, 2004
Cities Without Borders: Digital Culture and Decentralization
by Paul Hartzog
Paul Hartzog rethinks sociologist Saskia Sassen's idea of the Global City and how it may or may not apply to digital culture.

feature: august 31, 2004
Banner Ads Invade Gamespace
by Tony Walsh
What do you get when you cross the world's most measurable medium with the world's most immersive medium? Video games peppered with Internet-style banner-ads. This new method of marketing allows measurable demographic data to be collected from the elusive online gaming community, targeting dynamically-downloaded advertisements at specific demographics. The promise of a new revenue stream is obviously attractive to advertisers and game publishers, but will the idea win over gamers?

feature: july 20, 2004
Multiplayer Gaming's Quiet Revolution
by Tony Walsh
Today's avatars in massively multiplayer environments like Second Life are giving their users the gift of expression and infusing games with something more, soul.

feature: june 25, 2004
Supernova 2004
by J.D. Lasica Reports
Blogging, collaborative work tools and the drawbacks of social software took center stage at this year's Supernova. The third annual tech-in-the-workspace conference — "Where the decentralized future comes together!" — drew more than 150 technology thought leaders, software startup CEOs and other heavy hitters (alas, fewer than 20 of them women) to the Westin Hotel in Santa Clara, Calif., on June 24-25.

feature: may 24, 2004
Will Digital Radio Be Napsterized?
by J.D. Lasica
The Recording Industry Association of America has discovered that digital radio broadcasts can be copied and redistributed over the Internet. The horror. And so the RIAA, the music business's trade and lobbying group, has asked the Federal Communications Commission to step in and impose an "audio broadcast flag" on certain forms of digital radio.

feature: may 17, 2004
Redefining Television
by Mark Pesce
In the earliest days of television, writers like George Orwell in 1984 and Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 projected television as the instrumentality of a totalitarian future - a monolithic entity dispensing propaganda. And, if any of you occasionally watch Fox News, you can see they weren't that far off the mark. But here's the thing: the monolithic days of television are numbered. Actually, they've already passed - though, as yet, very few people realize this.

feature: april 19, 2004
Linked Out: Blogging, Equality, and the Future
by Melanie McBride
With the mainstream media's interest in blogging at a fever pitch, Mindjack's Melanie McBride takes a critical look at the future of blogging and talks to some of the bloggers trying to shape it.

feature: april 12, 2004
"The killing fields"
Copyright Law and its Challengers
by J.D. Lasica
A profile of Jed Horovitz and his documentary Wilfull Infringement, about his struggles with Disney over copyright laws, and other individuals who have run into similar problems in their creative pursuits.

feature: march 11, 2004
Is Nothing Sacred?
Digital Music for a Digital Age

by Ian Dawe
"Is nothing sacred?" This was the rallying cry, some years back, concerning sampling. Pioneered by the fledgling hip-hop artists, with its roots in music concrete, sampling is the art of extracting snippets of music from other recordings and re-assembling them into a new piece, usually based around some kind of electronic beat. Theft, it was called. Another phrase applied to it was "art".

feature: december 12, 2003
Reunderstanding Movies
by Donald Melanson

Social software is the latest "next big thing" to get technophiles excited and VCs interested. What exactly it is, few can describe. In some respects, it is nothing new at all, but rather a means of connecting and defining previously disparate elements. Mindjack editor Donald Melanson takes a look at one group that has taken this idea and run with it, before the idea ever had a name: film and DVD enthusiasts.

feature: october 29, 2003
12 Variables for Understanding Online Communities
by Andrea Baker and Bob Watson
This article is an attempt to discuss some of the qualities that define virtual communities. It is a work in process, an exploration. The twelve variables we've selected are most likely not all that exist, just the ones we find most important in our thinking right now. These variables struck us as important ways in which communities are differentiated despite the type of software chosen to carry a given community.

feature: october 29, 2003
Deconstructing Knowledge
by Nicholas Carroll
"I was puzzled the first time I read about "knowledge management." How can you manage knowledge -- much less shuffle it around an organization -- when knowledge is a construct in an individual mind? People in information science and neurobiology were of the same opinion: you can manage information, but not knowledge. Knowledge is something that lives between your ears. It has to be reduced to information to be organized, stored, and transmitted."

feature: september 18, 2003
The Myth of Fingerprints
by Ian Dawe
Mindjack's newest contributor, Ian Dawe, examines the history of identification technology, from passwords to fingerprints to DNA.

feature:
The Trouble with e-Voting
by Sarah Granger
e-Voting is one of those things I?ve been dreading for several years. Since it first became a technological possibility, the thought of all of the security risks involved has been swarming in my head like a hornet?s nest. On the surface, it sounds like a beautifully democratic thing ? each person anywhere in the world just needs to get him or herself to a computer in order to vote. But when one puts together the current legal ramifications and the technological flaws, it?s actually rather scary.

gear:
Have iPod, Will Travel
by Raffi Krikorian
Raffi reviews the iTrip FM Transmitter for the iPod from Griffin Technology.

Reloaded: The SimMatrix
Bryan Alexander on The Matrix Reloaded
A sequel to The Matrix faces a series of challenges. It must satisfy, then exceed its audience’s appetite for imaginative fight scenes. It needs to work with the science fiction concept of split-level reality, going further without undoing the premise. Fidelity to an ambitiously defined alternate world isn’t crucial, yet – unlike the situation of the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies. However, a sequel is bound to plumb the first movie’s underworld of technological fear and cultural theory riffing. The Matrix: Reloaded attempts all of these, but diffuses, throwing itself into an open, unsettled finale

feature: may 26, 2003
Taste Tribes
by Joshua Ellis
Josh examines the online, interconnected groups of people that you turn to for advice on music, art, fashion, books, etc., and the broader implications of these taste tribes.

interview: may 05, 2003
Thinking Outside The MUD
Ludicorp CEO Stewart Butterfield on the Game Neverending
Mike Sugarbaker talks to Stewart Butterfield about his company's take on massively-multiplayer gaming.

feature: march 21, 2003
The State of Digital Rights Management
Bryan Alexander reports from the Berkely DRM Conference.
In February the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology held a conference to demonstrate and push the limits of DRM. For a sunny weekend in northern California, representatives of computer science, entertainment, media companies, Congress, the FTC, European copyright law, and the occasional cypherpunk, offered their versions of DRM, while holding each other's notions up to fierce scrutiny.

culture: march 21, 2003
Two Degrees of Separation
by Sarah Granger

In an entirely unscientific study, Sarah examines the uncanny social connections that sprout from the Silicon Valley populus.

books: march 10, 2003
More Machine Than Flesh
by J. Johnson
A review essay of Rodney Brooks' Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us.

feature: february 17, 2003
Spinning the Web
by Nicholas Carroll
"Online reputation management" is reminiscent of the political term "spin control." But the Internet is not traditional media, and opportunities for controlling one's reputation are quite different Š in theory unlimited, but in practice limited by an almost inherent lack of focus, and the countervailing weight of mainstream media.

feature: november 04, 2002
Inside The Internet Archive
by Doug Roberts
Tucked away in one of the seediest neighborhoods of San Francisco is a roomful of over two hundred computers with a terabyte of data stored on every three.

interview: october 28, 2002
The Transmetropolitan Condition
An Interview with Warren Ellis

by Melanie McBride
There has never been a better time to read the work of comic book legend Warren Ellis. From the formulaic pornography of news coverage to the on-going ineptitude of our world "leaders", Ellis delivers an intelligent and savagely funny antidote to global idiocy. The creator of Transmetropolitan, Planetary and Global Frequency talks to Mindjack about his work, our times and the future.

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