Planet Calacanis

Marco Arment dissects Jason Calacanis’ “out of this world” criticisms of Apple:

This, unfortunately, is the fate of Calacanis’ piece: he has some good points, but they’re buried in so much off-base ranting and misplaced frustration that it’s difficult to take any of it seriously.

American’s Unjust Sex Laws

The Economist again hits the nail on the head, this time about the draconian and harsh sex laws in America that are being emulated in the UK:

Garsh laws often do little to protect the innocent. The police complain that having so many petty sex offenders on registries makes it hard to keep track of the truly dangerous ones. Cash that might be spent on treating sex offenders—which sometimes works—is spent on huge indiscriminate registries. Public registers drive serious offenders underground, which makes them harder to track and more likely to reoffend. And registers give parents a false sense of security: most sex offenders are never even reported, let alone convicted.

Edit: The Economist has another more in-depth article on the same subject.

Movie Industry Admits It Overstated Piracy on Campus

The MPAA overestimated the amount of piracy by campus students by a factor of three.

No wonder public opinion is so against them.

Ninjawords Dictionary: Censored by Apple

John Gruber from Daring Fireball writes about the ridiculous process Ninjawords had to go through to get their dictionary app approved on the AppStore.

Ninjawords for iPhone suffers one humiliating flaw: it omits all the words deemed “objectionable” by Apple’s App Store reviewers, despite the fact that Ninjawords carries a 17+ rating.

Apple censored an English dictionary.

New Campaign for Left 4 Dead

Crash Course is a new campaign for Left 4 Dead which will be free for the PC, and cost 560 Microsoft points on the Xbox 360.

It looks like Valve listened to user requests for an attack regeneration timer for infected teammates, and a fairer item spawn system. This should improve public teamwork, and prevent balance issues when one team gets loads of items compared to the other.

I suspect Microsoft’s policies forced Valve to charge for this DLC, but it’s nice to see it free for PC users.

The Edge of Reason

Simon Parkin has written a very detailed article for Eurogamer on the on-going legal battle between Mobigame and trademark-troll Timothy Langdell over Mobigame’s iPhone game Edge.

The Decline and Fall of the British University

Ex lecturer Dr Mark Tarver on the declining teaching and research standards in British universities.

In my experience, many degrees are having their acedemic content diluted to be more attractive to potential students. I consider myself lucky to have taken a degree which had compulsary modules on hard-core foundation subjects that I would’ve avioded otherwise.

Ironically, a recent report from MPs criticised universities for failing to maintain standards, which is a byproduct of their own socialist policies for higher education reform.

New Developments in Foxconn Employee Suicide Case

The New Yorker has some new twists on the suicide of a Foxconn employee over a lost iPhone prototype.

The Sourthern Daily claims to have viewed surveillance footage of the interrogation, and they show no signs that he was beaten or locked up.

Living in a Police State

The Populist Party on the arrest of Henry Gates:

We have, as a nation, sunk to the level of a police state, when we grant our police the unfettered power to arrest honest, law-abiding citizens for simply stating their minds. And it’s no consolation that someone like Gates can count on having such charges tossed out. It’s the arrest, the cuffing, and the humiliating ride in the back of a cop squad car to be booked and held until bailed out that is the outrage.

Apollo 11 Source Code

Just to satisfy your curiosity, you can see the source code of the guidance computer from the lunar module 40 years ago.

Foxconn Employee Commits Suicide After Losing Prototype iPhone

VentureBeat reports:

Last Thursday, 25 year-old Sun Danyong committed suicide after a fourth-generation iPhone prototype he was responsible for went missing.

This sounds like something straight from The Onion, but the rest of the article has a very grave tone:

On Thursday, July 9th, Sun got 16 prototype phones from the assembly line at a local Foxconn factory. At some point in the next few days, he discovered that one of the phones was missing. He suspected that it had been left at the factory, but couldn’t find it. On Monday, July 13, he reported the missing phone to his boss. Then, that Wednesday, three Foxconn employees searched his apartment — illegally, according to Chinese law. Accusations are flying that Sun was detained and physically abused during the investigation, although this has not been substantiated (possible evidence: there’s this somewhat garbled and potentially faked instant message exchange from Sun shortly before his death).

What is known: On Thursday — a little after 3 a.m. according to surveillance videos in the apartment building — he jumped out of a window in his apartment building to his death.

Twitterlicious 2.3.2

A minor update to the 2.3 branch of Twitterlicious fixes the Twitpocalypse bug and a security issue.

If you have Twitterlicious 2.3 or above, it will automatically update. Otherwise get it from the usual place.

Stay tuned for some major new features.

iPhone 3G S UK Pricing

Across the pond, the new iPhone 3G S has kept the previous iPhone 3G price points of $199 and $299. The old 3G has been reduced to $99 as a budget option. This is what Apple has traditionally done with new products.

But in the UK, according to new O2 pricing, the iPhone 3G 8GB has remained the same price, while the two new 3G S models are even more expensive. If you want an 18-month contract at £35 per month, it will cost you £184.98 for the 16GB, or a whopping £273.23 for the 32GB, on top of the contract price.

If you want a contract free iPhone 3G S, it’s £440 for the 16GB, and £538 for the 32GB. That’s over double the cost of the equivalent iPod Touch.

I thought we were rid of Rip-off Britain.

Left 4 Dead 2 Boycott

The Steam Group protesting the sequel to Left 4 Dead now has over 12,000 members.

I have a feeling that a good majority of the people in that group will still buy L4D2 when it comes out, and they’ve joined because there’s no harm in tying to get Valve to update L4D1 for free instead.

Left 4 Dead: Left 2 Die

Left 4 Dead 2

Valve’s games are known for their long shelf lives. Just look at the number of people playing the original Counter-Strike 1.6, and the number of free updates which has kept Team Fortress 2 very popular since it’s release in October 2007.

Left 4 Dead was released in November 2008 to widespread acclaim from gamers. It had it’s problems on launch: only two of the four campaigns were available on Versus mode and the numerous exploits and glitches, but the brilliant team-based game play made it an instant hit.

Valve’s decision to announce the release of a sequel just seven months into L4D’s life has angered many gamers in the community.

(Personal note: I paid £25 for my copy of Left 4 Dead and feel it was worth every penny. I could’ve paid £50 and I still wouldn’t feel ripped off. It may be an incomplete game, but I don’t feel aggrieved with the price or sequel at all. What I am worried about is how the community will react to the sequel, and what happens to Left 4 Dead once it’s sequel is released.)

In an interview with VideoGamer, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell promised additional downloadable content, in the way they updated Team Fortress 2:

One of the things that we’re doing is we seem to be in a transition between games as a package product and games more of a service. So if you look at Team Fortress 2, one of things that’s really helped grow the community is the continuous updates, where we release new maps, new character classes, new unlockables, new weapons. And we tell the stories about the characters, like the meet the sniper, or meet the sandwich. And that ongoing delivery of content really seems to grow the community.

So each time we’ve released one of those for Team Fortress 2 we’ve seen about a 20% increase in the number of people who are playing online. And that number is really important because it determines how many community created maps there are, how many servers are running, and so on. So we’ll do the same thing with Left 4 Dead where we’ll have the initial release and then we’ll release more movies, more characters, more weapons, unlockables, achievements, because that’s the way you continue to grow a community over time.

The announcement of L4D2 seems like a complete u-turn on this model, with many gamers saying they bought L4D because they expected Valve would be constantly updating it with new content. A thread on Valve’s L4D2 forum sums up the (nerd) rage being expressed:

  • Significant content for L4D1 was promised, and never delivered
  • Valve put little faith in L4D1 since they almost certainly started working on L4D2 right after release
  • The fact that L4D2 is nearly identical to L4D1 will decimate the community for both games
  • The announced date is not nearly enough time to polish content or make significant gameplay changes
  • L4D2′s release will result in a drop in quality and frequency for L4D1 content, even compared to before
  • The community has lost faith in Valve’s former reputation for commitment to their games post-release

And one more which I think is missed: L4D2 is very similar visually to L4D which would cause it to look more like an expansion pack rather than a proper sequel. This is something Valve can’t do anything about until they update or replace the Source engine.

Judging by the number of replies that agree in that thread (874 at the time of writing), a very significant proportion of the community is pissed, and all the good will Valve got from their spring DLC release has evaporated.

Valve’s Response

Valve has responded to the criticism with interviews for Ars Technica and Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

Their response boils down to:

1. Left 4 Dead is not as easy to update as Team Fortress 2

“Team Fortress gets to do these nice little discrete units of content, they get to do a map, there’s an internal consistency and an internal world that happens.” He described the content updates as “clean little things.” Bite-sized updates that add to the game, and over time change things. It’s not nearly that easy with Left 4 Dead, where one change affects nearly everything else.

Fair enough it may be harder to update, but they’re already working on making the L4D maps work on L4D2 so they must have a solution for introducing new content to existing maps.

2. There is a SDK coming out soon for user created maps

All the maps created with the SDK will work on the sequel. As for playing old maps with old characters but new creatures and melee? “We have some additional work to do there, we’re talking about how to do that. That’s what we want to do.”

Great for the PC community, this does nothing for the Xbox 360 community unless they allow a way to import them onto Live.

3. People didn’t feel aggravated about “buying” Half Life 2 again with the Orange Box

The Orange Box contains two expansion packs for Half Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. Compairing the value of the Orange Box (considering I paid £15 for my copy) to a £35-40 copy of a sequel to a game I already paid £30 isn’t quite the same.

4. “Trust us”. We’ll still be supporting L4D

I think the short answer is: trust us a little bit. We’ve been pretty good over the years, even with L4D going back just a few months, about supporting games post-launch. Gabe’s always talking about providing entertainment as a service – it’s not about making a game any more.

Yeah, there’s certainly a chance of [more content for L4D], and we’re not announcing any of the specifics of that today. Like I say, stay tuned, there’s more coming, there’s more information we’re going to talk about for the sequel, there’s more content coming for Left 4 Dead in the fairly near term, that I think will sort of add to this picture and hopefully change some people’s opinions of what’s happening right now.

A lot of the community rage is coming from the uncertainty of what is going to happen to Left 4 Dead. Will it carry on with a separate community, will the content and community merge into Left 4 Dead 2, or will it die a slow and painful death where you can no longer find anyone to play with.

Gamers feel the money they paid for Left 4 Dead might be lost once Left 4 Dead 2 is released, and I think they have a right to be concerned. Hopefully Valve will be able to address this in a way that is beneficial to them and the community, but I seriously doubt Valve will back down and release L4D2 as a DLC now they’ve committed themselves.

Training Day: David Palmer

Inside Sport has a fantastic article about former squash world number one David Palmer’s training routines and match preparation.

Sometimes our matches go for 40 minutes, sometimes they go for two hours. You get a 90- second break between sets, so it’s not like tennis. I like tennis and I think tennis players are fit, but I definitely think squash is the harder game. I admire Rafa Nadal for what he did at the Australian Open, but the difference with squash is that during tournaments we don’t have days off between matches, so we play five days in a row, no breaks.

Another World Remake in HD

Another World HD Screenshot

The classic Another World game had a remake by the original creator Eric Chahi.

This is old news, however I think it’s worth mentioning as I’ve been trying to play the original PC version on DOSBox, when there’s the 15th anniversary special edition with the bonus level, more enemies, and better graphics in 1280×720 resolution for £10.

Brushes App Boost from New Yorker Cover

A recent cover painting for the New Yorker by Jorge Colombo boosted sales of the Brushes iPhone application to 2700 in a day.

On Monday, Mr. Sprang said the application had its highest selling day since it was first released into Apple’s App Store in August, with 2,700 copies at $4.99 apiece flying off the virtual shelves.

“That’s even bigger than when Apple featured the application on iTunes,” said Mr. Sprang, who estimated that on average the application sells roughly 60 to70 copies each day.

Colombo used Brushes to make the cover

One Downside of Being an Atheist…

…is that doing something like this out of church will make you look like you’re on drugs.

Also see part 1 and part 2.

3DRealms Shuts Down

No more Duke Nukem Forever, for now. No official statement from 3DRealms has been released, although webmaster Joe Siegler has said:

It’s not a marketing thing. It’s true. I have nothing further to say at this time.

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