Monday, 30 January 2006

Work - Interesting stuff from Broadcast

First up, the Beeb is thinking of scrapping Jupiter after several years and around £11m. Was meant to be up and running in September 2004, but 'the newsroom still relies on older systems for back-up'.

Looks like April's the crunch date. Says Mark Thompson: "It's time to make our mind up. We need to decide if it can work or not."

The Beeb is also trying to get Channels 4, 5 and ITV onboard to help pressure the government to release parts of the spectrum for HD transmisison once the analogue signal is turned off. 12 frequencies would be needed to transmit 5 HD channels via Freeview (two more are being sold off, perfect for DVB-H really).

Enjoyed this quote from 4's CE Andy Duncan: "It's very hard to see that, even by 2020, HDTV will be in a majority of hmes."

Hmmmm...sounds like a negotiating position to me.

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Lights, camera etc

Wired News: Machinima for the Masses

Extremely cool story from Wired. Essentially, the gist is that people are using a new computer game, The Movies, to make their own films. Some are political statements, such as The French Democracy (pictured, hope you don't mind too much, Lionhead), which is a 13 minute short depicting the citizen's rage during the French riots of last year, some are genre movies that Hollywood isn't going to touch in a very long time (lesbian sci-fi).

Either way, The Movies has got the sort of GUI that means that anyone can basically do it (as opposed to hacking a Quake engine, which was how the whole Machinima genre took off. The game started as a strategy title a la Lionhead founder Peter Molyneux's previous opus, Theme Park. Looks like it's taking on a life of his own.

Clever bugger is that Molyneux. I still go to sleep at night sometimes with an Amiga-generated wind from Populous echoing in my ears.

Disney snaffles Pixar

For a meagre $7.4bn, Disney's managed to buy Pixar in a move which has surprised approximately no one. Of course, this now means Steve Jobs is on the board of Disney, so cue lots of pointing at Apple Macs and calling them Mickey Mouse computers etc.

BBC NEWS | Business | Disney buys Pixar in $7.4bn deal

Disney's earnings from Pixar's six films are estimated to be about $3.2bn so far and each has been a hit. Let's hope the Curse of Mickey doesn't strike with this one as the next film, Cars, comes out in the summer and from the trailers so far looks a bit US-centric. I mean, Nascar sucks...

Monday, 23 January 2006

High def dumbed down

As the industry wakes up to the knotty 'We love it, but what will the punters think of HD once Sky has squeezed the bandwidth' question, it already looks like consumers are perhaps not going to get HD in its full on 1920 x 1080 glory.

According to this article in Video Business Online, HD DVD and Blu-ray players will downconvert the output to a measly 960 x 540 for analogue outputs? Why analogue? Because it's not encrypted, that's why. And how many of those HD-ready sets out there have analogue only inputs? Yup, you guessed it, lots.

Industry 1 Consumer 0

Friday, 20 January 2006

Nepalese news

Keeping a weather eye on the situation in Nepal, and the FCO's latest statement says:

During this tense period other scheduled events such as 1 February anniversary of the King's takeover, 13 February anniversary of the People'’s War, and 19 February Democracy Day may be occasions for further political unrest and violence.

So, that'll be Feb 13, the anniversary of the People's War, when I land in Kathmandu, right? Hmmm...People's War, that's when the whole Maoist uprising started in 1996, isn't it?

Ah well, I wanted an exciting life and at least it isn't the tenth anniversary or anything. Oh wait...

Update: The Foreign Office is now advising against all but essential travel to Nepal up until Feb 8. Expect this will have implications of some sort or another...

new meeja rights

A meeja Grauniad story on Channel 4 taking a tough line with Pact over rights. Seems that the BBC has negotiated a seven day window for exclusive exploitation of content before it hits the interweb, while C4 is after 30 days. Or something like that anyway, I'll just bittorrent the programme they make about it ;-) | Broadcast | Channel 4 reasserts tough line on new media rights

Thursday, 19 January 2006

Invade Iraq, Zork-style

Can't remember where I came across this, but truly it is a work of genius: a Zork-style text misadventure that sees Bush try to invade Iraq in the manner of a 1970s computer game. It starts like this:

Oval Office
You are standing inside a White House, having just been elected to the presidency of the United States. You knew Scalia would pull through for you.

There is a large desk here, along with a few chairs and couches. The presidential seal is in the middle of the room and there is a full-length mirror upon the wall.

What do you want to do now?

You are not able to do that, yet.

Self-reflection is not your strong suit.

It's not that kind of seal.

More at :defective yeti: Xyzzy

And hallelujah, Zorks I, II & III seem to be available for download here. Okay, that's my winter sorted...

Update: Or perhaps not. A mere 5 minutes of Zork-style gaming almost had me seperated from my PC via an open window and I was googling feverishly for a walkthrough already. Modern gamers, eh? They're all nesh.

Wednesday, 18 January 2006


Just to inject a slightly personal note; so here I am in my room of an evening listening to the radio and doing my homework. Okay, so it's 6Music now and not Caroline, and it's Open University work rather than O-level stuff, but really, what exactly was the point of the intervening 25 years, eh?

I want my PS3

Two decades ago it was Dire Straits whining on about how they wanted their MTV, but then I guess that's progress for you...

Rumours are starting to circulate via GamesDigest and others that the PS3, that shiny object of beauty and fable, has slipped fairly severely and is now not expected to be released till the summer in Japan followed by a November launch in the US.

Europe? That makes us around March 2007. Stiffed by Sony once again. Maybe we should all get a badge...

On Mars, on Mars, on Mars

Wired News: One Giant Leap to IMAX

Wired, bless it, is more than happy to report a new Imax movie, Roving Mars, and I for one am more than happy to read about it.

Seems like all those high res pics the Martian rovers have been snapping away wrap rather nicely round an Imax screen, so the Nasa/Disney military entertainment complex put two and two together and came up with the highly unusual answer of four and Roving Mars is the result.


Here's a quote:

"Nobody has the display capability in their homes you'd need to really see these images in all their grandeur," said Mars Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres. "One panorama we created was 4,000 pixels high and 24,000 pixels around, and your laptop just can't display that. But on an IMAX screen five stories tall, you're standing on the edge of the crater. You're there."

Oddly enough directed by George Butler, who was also the man behind The Governator's Pumping Iron biopic way back when, the movie is out Jan 27 in the US.

Tuesday, 17 January 2006

And the award for best use of Philip Glass in a science fiction TV serial goes to...

Battlestar Galactica

Very stylish.

And the piano piece is called Metamorphosis if you're interested

Shiny! Yes, it's an isochronic Tube map

Via those ever-wonderful people at Inky Circus, comes this: a Travel Time Tube Map. Most neat.

Isochronic maps basically have temporal contour lines, so that points further away in travel time are depicted as being further away on the map (there's a famous one for the Pacific that has Sydney and LA basically next to each other, while places like Vanuatu are effectively on Mars). This one morphs depending on which starting station you choose, which is fairly cool IMHO.

The write fesses up to making up the times for the DLR and says it's very much a work in progress, but has got synching with realtime Tfl data on the wishlist, so there might be more good stuff to come.

More Mobile stuff

And just to muddy the waters, here are the interim results from the Oxford trial being given a very happy clappy spin in the official press release:


· Clear consumer demand for the creation of a nationwide, mass-market, multi-channel mobile broadcasting service

· Usage and viewing duration are exceptionally high and the vast majority of consumers are satisfied with the services

Interim results from the Oxford Mobile TV trial of multi-channel broadcast TV to mobile handsets have revealed a high level of consumer interest in a commercial Mobile Broadcasting service in the UK. The first phase results from the Oxford Mobile TV trial, a partnership between Arqiva and O2, which offers 24 hour, live access to 16 TV channels, show that 83% of triallists are satisfied with the end-to-end service provided. In addition, 76% of triallists indicate that they would take up the service within 12 months.

Highlights from the trial to date include indications that the 375 triallists, all O2 customers representing a wide range of demographics, are choosing to access TV on their mobiles for an average of 23 minutes per session, with 1 to 2 sessions per day. Overall, triallists are viewing for around an average of 3 hours per week, with one group of enthusiasts viewing over 5 hours per week. Demand is high in the morning and in the early evening, with viewers using the service mainly in the home, at work and on the daily commute. For 31%1 of triallists, the trial has given them their first access to multi-channel TV not currently available to them on their normal TV - heralding mobile broadcast's role in bringing digital TV services to the mass market in the UK.

Interestingly, the results also demonstrate a lunchtime viewing peak higher than the normal TV pattern, suggesting that viewers are enjoying news, sports and their favourite daytime soaps while on their lunch break.

The strong channel line-up on offer in the Oxford Mobile TV trial, which includes a selection of terrestrial channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, coupled with programming from Sky, MTV and other content providers, has proven to be a key factor in the high satisfaction levels. Ease of use and high picture and sound quality were additional factors.

As well as having the choice of 16 channels, viewers benefit from a wide selection of content genres suitable for viewing on their mobile handset. The most popular being: news, soaps, music, documentaries and sports. 33% of triallists also indicated that they are looking for some made for mobile programming, and even some long-form content (e.g. movies) is proving suitable for watching on mobile handsets.

Demand for additional multi-media services is high including digital radio, interactive services and 'live' links to channel web-sites. 7 out of 10 triallists would like to have digital radio channels included in a commercial service.

(snip - quotes and guff)

Arqiva and O2 expect to announce final results from the Oxford Mobile TV trial in the spring of 2006.

Friday, 13 January 2006

First TV to mobile trial data breaks cover

Guardian Unlimited Business | Mobile TV is not a turn-on, BT trial finds

So, is TV to mobile going to be the huge moneyspinner it's hoped to be, allowing the broadcast industry to start ordering the Krug again? Erm, perhaps not. New data from a BT/Virgin mobile trial includes the following:

59% say it's appealing or better (65% say the same for Digital Radio).

Average viewing per week is a mere 66 minutes (95 for radio).

And how much are they willing to pay? A measly fiver per month, half what the industry has built its business plans on.

Ah well, back to the Asti Spumante lads.

If I blog it...

...I won't lose it.

Or that's the theory anyway.

More Serenity?

Sci Fi Wire -- Serenity flies again?

If, so the rumour goes, DVD sales of Joss Whedon's ever-so wonderful Serenity do the business, they might well go make another one.

Thus it becomes everyone's duty to buy at least two copies IMHO.

Can't stop the signal...

Thursday, 12 January 2006


Okay, so Series One has now officially ended in the UK with as big a damp squib as any episodic series has managed to date. Even the Buffys (Buffi?) where the season's Big Bad turned out to be an overgrown snake or an overcharged Frankenstein's Monster didn't quite plumb the depths of pathos Lost managed last night (plus, to be fair to the Whedonverse, Buffy did pull one of the all time greatest cliffhangers out of the pot when the Buffster herself died for our sins).

Nope, that was frankly a bit poor, and you can see why Channel 4 ran eps 22 and 23 together, because nobody would have bothered watching after the pisspoor 22 if ep 23 wasn't rolling up right after the ad break.

Good bits: Hurley's getting on the plane and the incident on The Boat (which was about when I remembered why I like the show in the first place). Bad bits: Shannon has failed to die in spite of my frequent supplications to the gods. Mediocre bits: All the stuff that filled the gaps between Hurley's getting on the plane and the incident on The Boat, to be honest.

Ah well, at least Battlestar Galactica is back.

Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Work - Stuff afoot in the mobile market

Google and Yahoo step up mobile ambitions | The Register

Good piece from El Reg on the new services Google and Yahoo! are launching for mobiles and their plans for world domination therein.

Monday, 9 January 2006

More virtual chicanery

So, we've recently had virtual porn in a virtual world, with avatars shedding their dermal layer of pixels and letting it all hang out. Next we have a TV broadcast from inside Second Life. Not just any TV programme either, but the BBC's venerable Newsnight with uber-anchor Jeremey Paxman at the helm.

And yes, that is Paxo's avatar dancing on the desk and not some horrible Michael Barrymore hallucination.

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Newsnight | Do avatars dream of electric racoons?

Friday, 6 January 2006

thegrauniad adds 10p | Press&publishing | Guardian cover price to rise

10p extra. Bastards! That means my grauniad habit is costing me an extra £25 a year or thereabouts as from next Monday. The swine! If it wasn't for Steve Bell, I could give it up tomorrow you know...

Thursday, 5 January 2006

Use the force for good, Luke

Following the earlier story about in-game yoof marketing, here's the upside: the UN says its free Food Force game has become the second most downloaded game ever in the history of everything, with a whopping 3m downloads.

The moral: if we have to brainwash kiddies, let's at least get some good liberal sensibilities into 'em.

Food Force hits 3m

(Via Wonderland)

HDTV History

One I just stumbled across: a rather trenchant analysis of HDTV efforts written at some point during the Clinton Administration years. Useful if anyone ever needs to know the historical process behind HD.

Okay, so it's a small field...

Lessons from The Cutting Edge: The HDTV Experience

CES stuff

According to the lovely people over at Gizmodo, amongst a veritable plethora of Xbox 360 announcements was that an external HD DVD drive add-on capable of playing HD movies is going to be released for the console sometime this year.

Not only is this a) cool, but seeing as how The Beast of Redmond is planning on flogging around 5m 360s by June this year, b) it's potentially significant too.

Live from CES: Microsoft and the 360 - Gizmodo

The Metaverse Roadmap

Because sometimes putting a link in your blog is the only way of not forgetting information...

Roadmapping: A Collaborative Foresight Tool

This fragfest brought to you by...

Soooo...not content with getting their evil hooks into everyone on the planet, the world's marketing bods are heading into virtual worlds too. Here's some new stuff from Forrester Research:

Two main avenues are open for advertising through games: in-game advertising and advergaming. The former is an extension of the product placement common in movies and television, and can range from graphical representation of a product in a game to wholesale sponsorship of a gaming title...Advergaming refers to a game, usually online, that is wholly intended as a promotional device.

Here's the story on (via Wonderland)

Jesus up before the beak - Did Jesus exist? Court to decide

Love it. Only in the Italian legal system...

"I started this lawsuit because I wanted to deal the final blow against the Church, the bearer of obscurantism and regression," Cascioli told Reuters.

Cascioli says Righi, and by extension the whole Church, broke two Italian laws. The first is "Abuso di Credulita Popolare" (Abuse of Popular Belief) meant to protect people against being swindled or conned. The second crime, he says, is "Sostituzione di Persona," or impersonation.

Sounds like an open and shut case to me. Over to our Religious Correspondent, Richard Dawkins...

One cup or two?

Lots of sites have carried this kettles causes eco-mayhem story, none of them have written it so entertainingly as Inky Circus.

inkycircus: Climate change caused by ... kettles?

Wednesday, 4 January 2006

Work - Deep joy, it's the first NAB rumour of the year

The lads and lasses over at ThinkSecret reckon they're onto something Apple-flavoured.

Think Secret - Final Cut 6 to usher in new video editing era for Apple:

"Preliminary information from sources suggests that Apple will take advantage of the April show to demonstrate Final Cut Pro 6 to the public for the first time. Even more significant, Apple will use the stage to unveil Final Cut Extreme, an extremely high-end version of its video editing software designed to grab marketshare away from rival Avid."

DIY press kit time

Quite worried by the Web Economy Bullshit Generator in that I could swear the first three times I spun its random wheels I came up with phrases I'd already come across in press releases last year.

deliver transparent solutions

monetize viral ROI

mesh plug-and-play supply-chains

Not quite up to the standard of my all-time favourite from Drop The Dead Donkey- synergising nowness with excellence - but getting perilously close.

Work - More Citizen Journalism stuff

Caught an interesting doc looking at the whole citizen journalism thang buried in the deep dark depths of the BBC News 24 schedule called Have You Got News For Us.

The Boxing Day Tsunami probably started it all, with all the major footage taken by amateur cameramen. By the time we get to the London Bombings, the BBC was getting 300 pictures and 3000 SMS messages. And, of course, December's Hemel Hempstead oil fire saw over 6500 contributions pour in.

So, now you have agencies like Scoopt which firmly emphasises the ability to make money out newsworthy and celeb pics, charges a whopping 50% and demands three months' exclusivity on everything sent to it. At the other end of the scale, the technology is allowing the likes of Felixstowe TV to set up broadband-based pico-stations, and these semi-pro outfits are often first on the scene of a breaking story.

Issues? Oh yes. Rights and copyright, privacy, danger, ethics...the lot. Broadcasters are going to have to wrestle with all this in '06, not to mention have enough staff deployed to handle the deluge when anything noteworthy occurs in front of the mobile-wielding masses. Plus, of course, the term 'Citizen Journalism' itself could probably do with an overhaul, unless of course the news orgs of the planet really want the rest of us to start interviewing people for reactions and intoning sonorously about 'scenes of terrible devastation' or 'close-knit communities in shock'.

Tuesday, 3 January 2006

Strewth etc

Google to 'launch own PC' | The Register

Quoth El Reg: Google is planning to provide an own-brand Windows-less PC and sell the low-cost system through a partnership with retail giant Wal-Mart.

Looks like this year's CES is going to be veerrryyy interesting.

Monday, 2 January 2006

Life - The Ideas of '06

Interesting things I read in thegrauniad today, part 2
Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Ideas: Emergence, diaspora, the 'imperial consumer': which ideas will shape the coming year?

Some really interesting stuff in here, including Tom Bentley on Amartya Sen's new book, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, which promises to be another influential Sen masterpiece.

Naomi Klein's entry was interesting too, especially given the continuing WTO tensions:

It's an old idea that is being reclaimed and retro-fitted for a new economy: worker control. For the past four years, and largely under the media radar, workers in Latin America have been responding to rampant unemployment and capital flight by taking over traditional businesses that have gone bankrupt and reopening them under democratic worker management. The wave of takeovers began in Argentina, where some 200 abandoned factories are now run through direct democracy, employing roughly 15,000 workers. It has since spread across the continent, and the past few months have seen the first takeovers in Canada and Spain. In October, the government of Hugo Chavez hosted the first Latin America-wide meeting of "recovered companies" in Venezuela. Six hundred workers from eight countries came together with a simple idea: if the capitalist class can't find a way to make their businesses work, workers deserve to have a go.

Life - Return of the Zombies

Interesting things I read in thegrauniad today, part 1.

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Steven Wells: Zombies come back from the dead

Zombies are everywhere, in particular on Showtime in the US:

Homecoming - a made-for-TV movie where Americans killed in Iraq rise from their flag-draped coffins and slaughter their way to the polling booths so they can vote out a warmongering president. When the Republicans then steal the election, the disgusted dead of other wars also rise. The climax of the film sees a GI zombie army storming the White House.

Sounds cool. Rest of it is a short piece about the rise of zombiedom, which can only be classed as A Good Thing. Is that Steven Wells as in the NME's venerable old Seething Wells I wonder?

Life - Donkey Kong

Was it just my imagination, or was King Kong not very good. Too long, too over-indulgent, too flaccid and a bit too much of Weta Digital going Nyaa nyaaa nya nya nyaaaa at ILM. Yes, that whole dancing through the legs of the Brontosauri was stunning vfx work, but it didn't make for good film-making IMNSHO.

Jack Black was surprisingly good, Peter Jackson surprisingly bad. Lop an hour off it though and you might have a good filum.

Sunday, 1 January 2006

Misc - Cycling across America - A bicycle built for seeing America - Dec 30, 2005

A nice tale for New Year's Day; a lyrically written piece about cycling from Washington over to the Pacific. Not a journey I'd fancy, about 30 miles is tops for me on a bike, but definitely a good way to see the country. Hell, a good way to see any country; the Campaign for Real/Slow Tourism starts here.

Colorado offers many features not encountered since the East. Among them: coffee chains, suburban sprawl, wide shoulders and Democrats.