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Mickey Mouse Makes a DVD Pick
The Register provided a good run down of some key differences between the rival formats: "Blu-ray wins on the capacity front, offering 25GB on a single-layer disc to HD DVD's 20GB and a more aggressive roadmap to increase capacity. The downside is the need for entirely new disc production lines. HD DVD, by contrast, calls for existing DVD pressing rigs to be retooled rather than replaced. It also has the strength of the DVD brand, which has been very strongly pushed to consumers over the last seven years or so. Toshiba this week announced a hybrid disc containing HD and regular DVD content, making it capable of working in today's DVD players and tomorrow's HD DVD units." (The IDG News Service has more on the dual DVD-HD DVD).
The Register: Disney backs Blu-ray
Much has been reported about the Pentagon's use of video games as recruiting and training tools. The Boston Globe joined the pack yesterday with its profile of Cambridge-based BBN Technologies, which it described as "the legendary firm that helped develop the Internet and electronic mail. Now BBN is designing realistic combat computer games designed to help save the lives of US troops patrolling the streets of Iraq." BBN's combat simulator is already training soldiers heading to Iraq, the paper said. The company's combat gaming program, called DARWARS, "takes its name from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon agency that funds unusual technologies that might have military value. Much of BBN's early Internet research was funded by the agency, and BBN has long been a major recipient of the agency's dollars. The Pentagon agency invested $1.5 million in the game project, which has so far produced DARWARS Ambush!, a combat simulation game for training up to 24 soldiers at a time in military convoy operations. The BBN team that produced Ambush! is also working on a version to teach the skills needed in foot patrols."
The Boston Globe: War Games 2.0
The Washington Post today has its own look at a company based in Potomac, Md., that is churning out war game/training simulation videos: "For the past year, Will Interactive Inc. has been working on a simulation program designed to replicate the experiences of soldiers in Iraq. The company is part of a prospering crop of Washington area firms trying to sell interactive training and simulation technologies to the military. Will Interactive's computer-based system resembles a choose-your-own-adventure video game, asking users to assume the role of the main character, make decisions throughout the mission and face the consequences. Different video clips pop up on a computer screen, for example, depending on whether the soldier taking the training decides to emphasize restoration of electricity or security for soldiers."
The Washington Post: Simulation -- War's New Teacher (Registration required)
And the Grammy For Best Video Game Tie-in Goes to ...
The video game industry is so hot that even big name musicians are recording tracks to go with games. The Washington Post reported on the trend today in a front-page feature that explained how getting a song onto the lucrative Madden NFL game is a coup for many musicians: "Madden NFL 2004 was last year's top-selling game, and Madden NFL 2005 is poised to be near the top again this year. The competition to get onto the game's soundtrack -- a lineup of thumping, furious, go-play-ball songs -- is fierce. Last year record labels sent more than 2,500 songs to vie for the game's 21 tracks, which included Hoobastank's 'Same Direction,' New Found Glory's 'This Disaster' and Yung Wun's 'Yung Wun Anthem.'"
The Washington Post: Musicians Are Making Tracks To Video Games (Registration required)
Will the High Court Buy This Case of Wine?
Laws limiting the ability of winemakers to ship their products directly to consumers across state lines may be heading to the mulcher. "Small producers of fine wines may have made a sale in the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, as the justices signaled that they were inclined to strike down state laws prohibiting people from buying wines directly from out-of-state vineyards. That would not only give boutique wineries in California and around the country a way to expand their markets, but might also unravel decades-old laws that regulate the marketing of beer, wine and liquor in the United States," The Los Angeles Times explained
The Los Angeles Times: Justices May Favor Direct Wine Sales (Registration required)
The New York Times explained how divisive the issue has been for the states: "If the Supreme Court argument Tuesday on interstate wine sales proves to be a reliable roadmap to the eventual decision, consumers who want to order wine directly from out-of-state wineries will soon be able to do so with the court's blessing. The 50 states are divided almost in half on a question that has grown increasingly contentious in the age of Internet advertising and sales. Twenty-six states permit direct shipment from out-of-state wineries; 24 ban it. The federal appeals courts are divided, too; one court upheld New York while another, almost simultaneously, declared Michigan's law unconstitutional."
The New York Times: Justices Pick Apart Ban On Wine Sales From State To State (Registration required)
Warning! The Internet May Be Hazardous To Your Health
Are you a Blackberry addict? Do you find yourself zapping text messages and staying plugged in on your cell, computer and PDA at all hours? Experts are now advising that people unplug from the Internet and other technology devices. The Associated Press reported on the unplugging trend: "As technology's influence in the lives of young people becomes ever greater, a few teens and twentysomethings are unplugging -- getting away from the Internet and other high-tech gadgets, at least for a while. It's a backlash, experts say, to being hyper-accessible by e-mail, instant message, cell phone calls and text messages. People are spending more and more time in front of a computer screen or futzing with technological devices. Sometimes, they just need a timeout."
Michelle Weil, co-author of one of the most visually confusing book titles, "TechnoStress: Coping with Technology @ Work @ Home @ Play," told the AP: "It's like being lost in space. You get lost in the world of the Internet, games or multiple instant-message chats." The article noted that Weil and "fellow psychologist Larry Rosen wrote the book after noticing that more people were getting stressed out or fatigued by technologies that are supposed to make life easier."
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Experts Urge People To Unplug Occasionally
Some companies are taking advice like this to heart, enacting "no e-mail" days and other measures to strip technology from the work place to get people to focus on face-to-face conversations. Imagine the horror for many workers, since it's so much easier to instant message a snarky remark (or pen criticism by e-mail) than say it in person. More from USA Today on how some companies are turning back the clock on e-mail: "At Chicago-based U.S. Cellular, a wireless phone company, there's a new rule for employees. The company has banned most e-mail on Fridays for at least the rest of the year. That followed a four-week test run of the program in August. The idea is to encourage more face-to-face interaction." An exec at Siemens explains what's behind the e-mail boycott at many companies. "People are spending most of their time supporting communication rather than being productive," Tim Miller, director of application planning at Siemens, told USA Today.
USA Today: Some Firms Trade E-mail For Face Time
Yesterday's Filter noted that China is the third-largest country in the world in terms of area. That, of course, is not true. Raspberries go to editor Robert MacMillan who consulted his faulty memory and backed it up with a mistaken entry in his desk reference. According to the CIA World Factbook, China's total area is 9,596,960 square kilometers, compared to the United States at 9,631,418 square kilometers. Other sources tend to vary depending on whether you throw Alaska, U.S. territories and Taiwan into the mix. Either way, America always comes out on top.