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Archive for January, 2019

As we reported yesterday, Microsoft's "capitulation" to Google's antitrust complaint isn't as much a capitulation as the mainstream media was reporting. We inspected Microsoft's joint filing and found that Microsoft is not going to allow a complete override of the default search service in all Explorer windows, and that the company also rejects Google's concerns about performance. HangZhou Night Net

In response, Google said yesterday that the remedies don't go far enough. Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a statement, "We are pleased that as a result of Google's request that the consent decree be enforced, the Department of Justice and state attorneys general have required Microsoft to make changes to Vista."

Nevertheless, Drummond said that "Microsoft's current approach to Vista desktop search clearly violates the consent decree and limits consumer choice," and the proposed remedies "are a step in the right direction, but they should be improved further to give consumers greater access to alternate desktop search providers."

Google did not elaborate on its expectations, although they are not difficult to piece together. Google had argued that it should be possible to disable Vista's search entirely, and Microsoft has not accommodated this demand. Search still runs, and OEMs and third-party software companies have not been given a way to schedule or disable it.

Furthermore, Microsoft did not make it possible to change the search defaults in a universal way, instead keeping its search system as the default throughout most of Windows Explorer. In short, Vista's search boxes will by and large return Vista's own search results if you type text into them and hit return. Microsoft's changes appear to mostly involve links to the "default" third party program, not a drop-in replacement.

Google's disappointment was only partly echoed by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who called the remedy a step in the right direction. "This agreement—while not perfect—is a positive step towards greater competition in the software industry. It will enhance the ability of consumers to select the desktop search tool of their choice," he said.

At this stage, it's unclear what recourse either Brown or Google has to change Microsoft's plan. Thomas O. Barnett, assistant Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, said in a statement that the agreement reached between Microsoft and the DOJ "resolve[d] any issues about desktop search under the final judgments."

The DOJ and all 17 state attorneys general agreed with Microsoft's proposal. "Plaintiffs are collectively satisfied that this agreement will resolve any issues the complaint may raise under the Final Judgments, provided that Microsoft implements it as promised," according to the joint filing.

The ongoing saga of Manhunt 2 has now come stateside, as the ESRB has announced that the gruesome game will be given the prestigious and rarely-used Adults Only rating (AO); a rating reserved for pornographic and immeasurably violent games. Only three mass-market retail games have ever been branded with the mark: the PlayStation's needlessly gory fighter Thrill Kill (which was never officially released), the mature and haunting epic Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Director's Cut and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which released at the "M" rating but was later recalled and rerated after the Hot Coffee debacle. HangZhou Night Net

The repercussions to an AO rating are immense. Certain retailers will not carry the title, and those that do will be taking extreme precautions not to sell the game to children. This will, of course, lead to a huge decrease in potential sales and naturally Take-Two has been quick to question the merit of the rating:

The ESRB has issued an initial rating of AO (Adults Only) for Manhunt 2. We believe the process of rating videogames is to help people make informed entertainment choices and not to limit them. Manhunt 2 was created for mature audiences and we strongly believe it should receive an M (Mature) rating, aligning it with similar content created in other forms of media. We are exploring our options with regard to the rating of Manhunt 2.

Manhunt 2 has been banned in the UK and has now been given a crippling rating in the US. As GamePolitics speculates, Take-Two will likely take a big financial hit as a result of the trouble surrounding this title, leaving the future of the game uncertain. Take-Two may opt to release the title as is, try to clean up the game and have it rerated, or simply cancel it all together.

We'll be keeping our eye on the situation.

One of the ongoing mysteries of HIV is why it is so infectious against humans when it doesn't do very well against most other primates. One potential contributor to this difference is the protein TRIM5α, which is part of the innate immune system. In most primates, TRIM5α blocks HIV infection as the virus starts to enter the cell; in humans, it is completely ineffective. Research that will appear in today's issue of Science provides a possible reason: in humans, TRIM5α has evolved to protect against a virus that no longer exists. HangZhou Night Net

The researchers noted that the gene for TRIM5α in humans shows signs of positive selection, meaning that it has adapted to a specific function compared to its ancestral form. They speculated that this adaptation might have been in response to a different viral threat, one that might have jumped among primate species. So, they searched the genomes of our closest relatives, and found the remains of a virus that is present in most primates, but not humans. The virus, called PtERV1, is no longer active, but mutated forms of it are present in chimps and gorillas.

Piecing together the sequences from a number of copies, the researchers recreated a protein that once helped PtERV1 infect cells. Placing it on another virus, they tested it against cells expressing human TRIM5α. In contrast to HIV, human TRIM5α blocked infections of PtERV1. In fact, as they tested TRIM5α from various primates, they found that it was only good against one or the other virus: PtERV1, or HIV.

Based on the sequences of PtERV1 left in various primate genomes, researchers have estimated that it was active about 4-5 million years ago, after humans split off from chimps. They propose that human TRIM5α evolved to protect against its infection, and largely succeeded in keeping it out of the human genome. Although a great success by that measure, the changes involved have left humans with one fewer defense against HIV.

The public beta for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars should begin any day now, if it hasn't already by the time this post goes live. There will be 60,000 slots for the public beta, with half of them going to FilePlanet subscribers and the other half going to anyone with a free FilePlanet subscription. The keys will be doled out across a few days after an initial batch goes out. HangZhou Night Net

Neil Postlethwaite, one of the producers of Quake Wars, mentioned a new aspect of the game we have to look forward to: ads. He claims that with features like persistent stats, a community site, and updates, a game like Quake Wars has high ongoing costs; the ads will keep the consumer insulated from those. I'm a little skeptical of that claim myself, but we'll see. The good news is that the ads sound like they won't be a distraction.

The ads aren't intrusive and you won't have to interact with them; they'll just be part of the normal environment. In fact, there are some places it's quite odd not to have an advertisement – the sides of container trucks, for example. Great care is being taken to ensure that all our ads are appropriate for the game world and we have absolute approval rights in this area. If it's not appropriate or it's distracting, it won't go in.

The company providing the ad system does not and will not store any personal information or data that otherwise can be used to identify you. All they track is if and how long you look at the advertisements.

For those of you participating in the upcoming beta, you will get a chance to see them for yourself very soon. And of course we will be releasing a demo prior to the retail launch of the game so everyone can check them out first.

I'm not overjoyed, but I'm not upset about this development. Yet. I think we should wait and see via the beta and the demo just how intrusive the ads actually are and whether or not they make sense in the game world. If I'm going to put up with ads, I also want to see support for the game that goes over and above what we expect from a standard game. If we simply get the expected patches and updates, we'll know where the money went.

The Internet has much to answer for, but one of its chiefest sins is its relentless stupifidication of the English language. And no, I did not just make up the word "stupifidication."1 HangZhou Night Net

UK pollsters YouGov have just completed a survey on the web's most-hated words, the abominations that threaten to turn English into a long series of "plzkthxbye" utterances. At the top of the list (and rightly so) is the word "folksonomy." It's followed by:

Blogosphere Blog Netiquette Blook (don't ask) Webinar Vlog Social Networking Cookie Wiki

Now, any survey of this type isn't designed to get at some sort of mythical objective truth about the Internet's effects on English; it's designed to come up with a handy top-ten list that journalists can use to pad out slow news days. As such, it's just a measure of people's pet peeves, so this seems as good a time as any to share a few of my own that didn't make the official list.

AJAXify. As in, "I'm just going to AJAXify the web site and then we'll be all Web 2.0 and stuff." "To AJAX" is not an English verb. Please don't use it as one. Web 3.0.Web 2.0 wasn't bad enough, huh?Shove a finger into that soft spot at the back base of your ear and you'll know how I feel about this one.Podcast. Our own Peter Bright has a well-known man crush on Steve Jobs but can't abide the term "podcast" when used to describe any recorded audio placed online in any format. He has… strong feelings about this. Crowdsourcing. Typing tags on other people's photos? I want in. Wait. No I don't. Flash mobs. Hipsters show up in public parks at the same time using only text messages and web sites; NO PAPER SIGNS NEEDED. This is not, it has to be said, a huge breakthrough.

So there you have it: my non-objective collection of irritants. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go blog about a webinar.

1Okay, I did. Score another blow for the Internet-based assault on English!

While iPhone madness is reaching crescendo, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard anticipation is at an all-time low. Justified or not? Have a look at the image gallery of the beta handed out to developers at WWDC last week over at Think Secret. Hurry over; Apple's lawyers are probably drafting a cease and desist letter claiming copyright over Leopard's looks as we speak. HangZhou Night Net

The first picture shows exactly how bad the new translucent menu bar looks. Come on, Apple, if the menu bar is so unsightly, why not make it auto-hide, like the dock? I'm reserving judgment on the new sidebar stolen borrowed from iTunes; with the collapsing triangles, it looks useful, and I just might get used to the look. About looks: is it just me or is Apple in love with cold, subdued colors these days? The iTunes icon would look so much better in red than it does in blue.

The nature section in the included desktop pictures shows no less than four new backgrounds over the ones in Tiger, so clearly, Apple is putting the extra time it has given itself to work on Leopard to good use. I wonder if the new zebra background is indicative of a new product naming convention.

The screen saver can now display the time and count down from three before locking the screen. There seems to be some actual innovation in the Spaces space, though. For instance, applications can be tied to a specific Space. It looks like two displays are treated as a single Space, however. I would have loved moving stuff from one display to the other easily using Spaces.

.Mac now has a Back To My Mac pane, which makes it possible to easily share screens or files on remote Macs or even Windows machines. When Steve Jobs demoed this in his keynote last week, I immediately wondered about the security implications. Could we have another IPv6 firewalling publicity debacle on our hands? I'm not that impressed with BTMM, as it basically looks like just a nice, $99-a-year wrapper around the Wide Area Bonjour service that already leads a hidden and not-so-easy-to-configure life in Tiger. I wonder if registering shares using dynamic DNS rather than paying for .Mac will provide the same functionality in Leopard.

The new network preference pane looks nice, and in the accounts pane, it's now possible to create admin, standard, parental control-managed, and sharing-only users. Astonishingly, the Windows drivers for Boot Camp are now included on the Leopard DVD itself and don't have to be burned to CD anymore.

Good thing Steve kept a lid on these secret features for a year; if Microsoft had copied any of it, Apple would have been in deep trouble.

Now that we've focused a bit on the music available to "help" you through your workout, let's move onto one of the most-used type of accessories for the Nike+iPod kit. For those of you who are unaware of the functionality of the Nike+iPod kit while running, the device gives you a good deal of on screen information. Shown on the screen at any given time is your pace-per-mile, total time, and the distance you have already run. When I first started running again, all this on screen information appealed to me, but it wasn't until recently that I discovered that the information was more of a distraction than a motivator. HangZhou Night Net

When I first picked up my kit, I have to admit that I took a look at the Nike armband hanging in the same display. For me, I just couldn't bring myself to spend $30 on something to hold my iPod to my arm, especially when I wouldn't be able to see all the statistics. It wasn't until recently that a friend of mine told me that the Nike armband was on sale at TJ Maxx for a mere $15.00. At the time, I dismissed the information knowing that it was the first-generation armband–the one without the clear window.

About a week or two later, I found myself in TJ Maxx, face-to-face with the aforementioned armband. However, I had forgotten that it was the first-generation model. It wasn't until I got home when I realized what I had bought. I considered returning it, but honestly, heading back to TJ Maxx seemed like too much work so I decided to give it a try.

The pleasant thing about the armband is that it is lightweight and feels pretty comfortable while you run. The material breathes fairly well and is a composite of polyester, nylon, and spandex. Sliding it on to your arm is fairly easy once you figure out that you need to "buckle" the Velcro, then slide it on to your arm rather then trying to "buckle" it while it sits on your arm. All the buttons work fine while your Nano is in the band, and even the volume scroll wheel works fairly well. I had no problems fitting the armband to my arm although your results may vary.

What I thought might be an undesirable lack-of feature (the lack of a screen "window") turned out to be a nice thing in the long run (pun intended). It turns out, at least for me, that the inability to see the screen was a good thing. I realized that I was checking the iPod far too often, to the point where it became almost like the clock-watching phenomenon that happens at schools and offices everywhere: time just seems to slow down and my runs just dragged on.

There is a downside to the armband, however; the setting up and, in turn, the careful slide you must do prior to your run. Since you can't see the screen, you must set your run up outside the band and then ever-so-carefully slide it into the tight-fitting pouch so you don't accidentally start your workout prematurely. It is somewhat a pain but its nice to be able to grab my sides again without dropping the iPod.

Your results may vary, but the arm band has, thus far, improved my runs.

Despite what was originally feared when the Wii was announced, the many "Wii-makes" that the system has been privileged with have fared pretty well on average. Naturally, there have been a few duds here and there but, for the most part, the newfangled Wii controller has helped to make previously so-so games all that much more enjoyable. HangZhou Night Net

There are exceptions to the general rule, of course. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is arguably the best and worst example. While the game has been critically acclaimed by many who dare not speak ill of the franchise, I find it hard to deny the game's Wii-mote slashing was anything other than a gimmick, one that was foreshadowed when the Revolution first surfaced. This same problem has struck Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition: it's a great game that simply doesn't benefit at all from the added motion control.

At the core of RE4 Wii is the original Gamecube masterpiece. Arguably one of the best games of the last generation and easily the Cube's finest title, the original adventures of Leon and Ashley remain intact. For those who haven't played the PS2 port, this version includes all of the extra content that the original didn't have: 16:9 widescreen mode, new costumes, new weapons, and the Ada Wong side missions, specifically. If the expanded RE4 experience is all you're after, then the Wii version is a perfect quasi-budget priced way to play with the new content on a Nintendo console.

However, the Wii version is not without its faults. While the content may be intact, the control most certainly is not. It is my opinion that the Wii control, in fact, detracts from the experience and makes clumsy that which was previously smooth. Perhaps I'm a bit of a purist, but the original RE4 was lauded for finally bringing tight control to the series, and the Wii version seems to take a step back from that.

From the outset, it's apparent that the controls in the game are far from intuitive. As with most Wii titles, you spend the first ten minutes or so fumbling around with the controls, testing the waters and getting your bearings. Unlike the better Wii games, though, the control continues to be a pest for as long as you play.

The most noteworthy addition to the game's control scheme is the ability to aim at any time with an on-screen cursor. Rather than dragging Leon's arms around to shoot, you simply point and click. While this does make aiming from a distance generally easier, controlling the camera with the analog stick while aiming with the pointer leads to some fairly nauseating moments—especially in close-quarters combat. In the Gamecube version, camera control and aiming were not independent. In the Wii version, they are. Complaints about the Wii's general adherence to "bounding box" aiming must have intimidated the developers, but the omission of drag-look makes for an unpleasant experience.

The rest of the motion control doesn't fare much better. The addition of the ability to flick the Wii remote to swing your knife or reload really adds nothing to the experience. Reloading with a shake, in particular, causes your aimer to go astray and becomes utterly pointless once you realize you can just use the d-pad for the same function. Likewise, the cut-scene button presses have been replaced with motions, but this ultimately adds very little to the experience.

While the underlying game may be one of the best in recent years, the subpar adoption of Wii control does nothing but distract from the otherwise stellar experience, a fact punctuated by the game's native support for the Wii's classic controller in place of the motion control. With the included PS2's bonus content rebuilt for the Wii (Gamecube) engine and the lower price, the remake might seem like a compelling purchase for those who really love the game or haven't played it before. However, it's hard to recommend this rehash over the solid $20 PS2 port. Ask yourself: does this game really need to be on the Wii? The answer is no.

Verdict: Skip
System: Nintendo Wii
Price: $30
Rating: Mature
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
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I've used Safari since day one. But after a long and beautiful relationship, I recently made a more permanent commitment to Firefox, that saucy little minx I'd been seeing on the side. After having it in the back of my mind for weeks, what finally pushed me over the edge was Firebug, a great little Firefox extension that allows you to inspect and debug HTML and JavaScript from within the browser. If you design websites in any capacity, it can be an invaluable resource. So it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my own special brand of luck that Safari 3 will have its own extremely capable web inspector. HangZhou Night Net

The Surfin' Safari Blog (the official blog of Safari's open-source heritage) has announced that the new version of the Web Inspector has popped up in the latest in WebKit Nightly Build. A form of the web inspector has been available in the WebKit nightlies for quite some time, but I found the HUD (those little semi-transparent windows that pop up in all the iApps) version to be more trouble than it was worth. The new version, accessed just by right-clicking and choosing Inspect Element, can operate in a separate window (which uses the iTunes/Leopard dark metal window style I might add) or in a very Firebug-esqe pane at the bottom of your browser window.

The interface is very well designed, nicely managing to show you a wealth of information while at the same time easily letting you zero in on specifics. Especially handy is the ability see the tags in context, or in a hierarchal view of the tags and styles that apply to them. Missing from Firebug is the ability to edit directly in the pane. Also the network panel (pictured above) is a really nice way to find bottlenecks in your site.

Additional features in the new version include (from the blog post):

Works with any WebView inside third-party applications, not just SafariShows all resources included by the page, sorted into categoriesGlobal search through all text-based resourcesConsole to show errors and warnings with live JavaScript evaluationResource size and load time summary graph in the Network panelSyntax highlighted HTML sourceInline JavaScript and HTML error reporting

Oh Safari, I was a fool. Let's never fight again.

Not all AT&T stores in all markets will have the same number of iPhones upon launch, according to a report in today's USAToday. The newspaper cites AT&T's senior VP of sales, Larry Carter, as staying tight-lipped on exact stock numbers in different markets, but pointing out that large concentrations of iPod users are the "natural market" for smartphones. Therefore, stores located in metro areas that contain the largest iPod-using populations will have more stock of iPhones than tiny towns in Nowheresville. HangZhou Night Net

That means markets like New York, Chicago, and "much of California" will be pretty well covered.

Does that mean that those stores will have more iPhones than stores in, say, Richmond, Va., or Florida? "Yes," he says. "It's just common sense."

If I lived in Florida and was dying to get an iPhone on launch day, I'd be a little nervous right now.

Carter also points out that if the local store sells out, they will be happy to take (get this) mail orders for the devices which will ship in roughly 3 to 5 days, "inventory permitting." He does, however, reaffirm that they will meet demand for all customers who want an iPhone some way or another.

The USAToday article also outlines a few other details, such as the fact that AT&T plans to announce the service plans for the iPhone on June 29 alongside the launch. According to Carter, the plans won't be anything AT&T is currently offering, but custom-tailored to the iPhone itself and will include fees for both voice and data use (like everything else).

Update: Everyone's favorite AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel told iLounge that the USAToday report is inaccurate regarding the date at which the company will disclose the new data plans. "We will disclose before the 29th," he told them, noting that "it’s not going to be anything exotic." I didn't really expect it to be, Mark.