I enjoyed this when I read it earlier this week: In Praise of Third Place
Sony and Microsoft are desperate to be the biggest players in a market that, in their vision, will encompass not just video games but â€œinteractive entertainmentâ€ generally. Thatâ€™s why the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 are all-in-one machines, which allow users not just to play video games but also to do things like watch high-definition DVDs and stream digital music. Sony and Microsoftâ€™s quest to â€œcontrol the living roomâ€ has locked them in a classic arms race; they have invested billions of dollars in an attempt to surpass each other technologically, building ever-bigger, ever-better, and ever-more-expensive machines.
Nintendo has dropped out of this race. The Wii has few bells and whistles and much less processing power than its â€œcompetitors,â€ and it features less impressive graphics. Itâ€™s really well suited for just one thing: playing games. But this turns out to be an asset. The Wiiâ€™s simplicity means that Nintendo can make money selling consoles, while Sony is reportedly losing more than two hundred and forty dollars on each PlayStation 3 it sellsâ€”even though they are selling for almost six hundred dollars. Similarly, because Nintendo is not trying to rule the entire industry, itâ€™s been able to focus on its core competence, which is making entertaining, innovative games.
And I was pleased to see that it was made a part of this assessment of this week’s video game news: Sony, Nintendo, etc.
Interesting that this is the only domain where this kind of attention to information management has developed so broadly: Hereâ€™s My Number (for Today)
In an age of information oversharing, the mobile-phone number is one of the few pieces of personal information that people still choose to guard. Unwanted incoming calls are intrusive and time-consuming and can suck precious daytime cell-plan minutes. And the decision to give out a cell number can haunt you for years, as people now hold on to the numbers longer than their land-line numbers.
Some people have found a way to avoid compromising the sanctity of their cellphone without committing the modern sin of being unreachable. Instead of giving out her cell number, Ms. McClain has recently been dispersing what has become known as a â€œsocial phone number.â€
This is a free number that is as disposable as a Hotmail address. A handful of Web sites are creating these mask numbers, which can be obtained in nearly every area code (users can either have a number in their own region, or make it look as if they have an office in New York City when they are actually operating out of rural Maine).
These sites buy numbers in bulk at a discount, then generate profit by displaying ads and getting users of the free service to upgrade to billable plans with features like call forwarding, call blocking and outbound calling.
I find this hard to believe, so I’ve asked a colleague for confirmation: NASA gives green light for night launch – pdf
If the launch does not happen on Dec. 7, NASA can keep trying through Dec. 17. After that, the agency will re-evaluate its options and may call it quits until mid-January.
NASA wants Discovery back from its 12-day mission by New Yearâ€™s Eve because shuttle computers are not designed to make the change from the 365th day of the old year to the first day of the new year while in flight.
The space agency has figured out a solution for the New Yearâ€™s problem, but managers are reluctant to try it since it has not been thoroughly tested.
Open-source group wants educational patent reversed
The Software Freedom Law Center said Thursday that it has asked the U.S. Patent Office to re-examine a patent awarded to education software company Blackboard. It claims that the patent is bogus and could undermine three open-source education software projects it represents–Sakai, Moodle and ATutor. The patent, No. 6,988,138, is titled “Internet-based education support system and methods” and relates to a central feature of Blackboard’s software: The ability to grant different people, such as students and teachers, different access rights to online resources such as grades, files or quizzes.
“It’s a junk patent that should never have been given by the Patent Office,” said Richard Fontana, a patent attorney with the Software Freedom Law Center. And the patent’s claims could have an impact on the three projects, he said: “They do effectively cover just about any e-learning software that is currently in use.”
See earlier Educational Software Patent Fight: Blackboard and Rising Profile of the Blackboard Patent Dispute
Who wants to play? Who Did What in Chinaâ€™s Past? Look It Up, or Maybe Not
Just who was Mao Zedong?
In the English-language version of Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, he was a victorious military and political leader who founded Chinaâ€™s modern Communist state. But he was also a man whom many saw as â€œa mass murderer, holding his leadership accountable for the deaths of tens of millions of innocent Chinese.â€
Switch to Wikipedia in Chinese, though, and you read about a very different man. There, Maoâ€™s reputation is unsullied by mention of any death toll in the great purges of the 1950s and 1960s, like the Great Leap Forward, a mass collectivization and industrialization campaign begun in 1958 that produced what many historians call the greatest famine in human history.
Wikipedia, an open encyclopedia founded in 2001 that allows ordinary users to create and edit the vast bulk of its entries, has always posed a challenge to Chinaâ€™s hypersensitive censors. Earlier this month, the government opened access to both the English and Chinese sites, though it has since resumed its blackout on the Chinese site. But on questions of this countryâ€™s modern history or on hot-button topical issues, the Chinese version diverges so significantly from its English counterpart that it sometimes reads as if it were approved by the censors themselves.
New rules compel firms to track e-mails – pdf
U.S. companies will need to keep track of all the e-mails, instant messages and other electronic documents generated by their employees thanks to new federal rules that go into effect Friday, legal experts say.
The rules, approved by the Supreme Court in April, require companies and other entities involved in federal litigation to produce “electronically stored information” as part of the discovery process, when evidence is shared by both sides before a trial.