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Hardware revisions are "commonplace within the industry," an agreeable statement made by Microsoft in response to the recent spotting of the recent hardware revision that the Xbox 360 has undergone. In an attempt to provide additional cooling to the 360's Xenos GPU, new models of the 360 include a second heatsink. Both pictures and videos of the new model have surfaced this week, though it remains unknown if this is an effective solution to the 360's prevalent "Red Ring o' Death" issue. 苏州美睫美甲

Despite the improvement, though, Microsoft has remained tight-lipped about the update. GamesIndustry.biz spoke with a Microsoft spokesperson, who explained the company's approach to hardware revisions. "Regularly updating console components is commonplace within the industry and is a standard aspect of the business for a variety of reasons including cost reduction, improved manufacturability and improved performance," the spokesperson explained. As would be expected, when asked directly about the new heatsink, the spokesperson declined to comment.

No word yet on whether or not this new addition will become a standard inclusion in future 360 models, or if the fix will be incorporated into Microsoft's repair service. Unwilling to admit a mistake, the overheating and "red ring" issues that have made the 360 a fairly unreliable device continue without official comment from Microsoft.

I, for one, would think that publicizing a substantial hardware revision like this could only be good for the company. Either way, if the 360 becomes more reliable with this update, that should bode well for both Microsoft and 360 owners. Hopefully the new cooling solutions along with the 65nm process coming this fall will make the 360 a more reliable system going into the holidays.

Years of observation at the Japanese arcade on campus of the finger-gymnastics necessary to play Guitar Freaks and Beatmania have left me fearing the adored music games of today, but for whatever reason Harmonix's Rock Band seems to get more and more attractive with each additional development. The latest news on the title comes by way of a big preview in the latest GameInformer issue, which provides crucial details on the mechanics of each of the instruments and some other information about the game's "campaign." 苏州美睫美甲

Players will be able to play through the main mode with any of the four instruments alone, or with three others in a massive symphony of co-op. The first batch of "original master tracks" for the game's campaign and free-play were noted in the article. Here's some of what you'll be rocking out to when the game ships:

Weezer — "Say It Ain't So"Black Sabbath — "Paranoid"The Who — "Won't Get Fooled Again"Nirvana — "In Bloom"

Though the game's guitar and bass are similar to the ones found in Guitar Hero, there are some new functions that will fundamentally change what axe-masters are capable of. First and foremost, the guitar and bass will both have double the frets; a whopping ten buttons will be on each of the instruments which are apparently for the new "solo sections." In addition, a five way switch will enable the application of various effects, like Flange, Wah, Echo and so forth that can be purchased via the in-game store and the whammy bar and tilt-sensing return.

The microphone, too, is a bit of an evolution from the current models available with the likes of SingStar. You won't be able to cheat your way through the game by humming. Rather, the game has a "phoneme detector" that targets phonemes produced during human speech. As an added bonus, the microphone will also double as a tambourine for certain songs.

Lastly, the four-piece drum set will include four pads with stands and a kick pedal. One pad represents the snare while the rest represent song-dependent toms and cymbals. Included will be a set of wooden Rock Band drum sticks.

Also mentioned in the update was a character creation system, which will allow players to unlock new gear and customize their rocker. With some great tunes, and some great controllers, Rock Band is shaping up to be quite the rhythm game indeed. Rock on.

In early May we learned that the shortage of blue-violet laser diodes would soon be coming to an end, thanks to ramped-up production in East Asia. With that hurdle out of the way, it was only a matter of time before Sony cut prices on the PS3. While no cuts have been announced, Sir Howard Stringer, big bossman at Sony, is talking about the company's plans for price cuts in the only way a CEO knows how: by ruminating on them. 苏州美睫美甲

Speaking to the Financial Times, Stringer did a surprising thing: he answered a question about the PS3 by praising the Nintendo Wii. Asked if the PS3 was going to take off any time soon, Stringer said that "Yes, it is. I think I would be the first to say to you that Nintendo Wii has been a successful enterprise and a very good business model compared to ours." Your guess is as good as mine as to why Stringer brought up Nintendo, but the reporter jumped on it and instantly asked the obvious question: is Nintendo's success due to pricing?

Stringer said that it was due to pricing, and he dismissed the idea that the Wii is more fun. Saying that consumers clearly want to see a lower price, Stringer then said that, with regards to a price cut for the PS3, "That's what we're studying at the moment; that's what we're trying to refine."

The next bit of the exchange is a little confusing, but I understand it as indicating that Sony plans to make a move before Christmas:

FT: Will you come up with an answer [to the pricing] by Christmas?

HS: Yes, of course. PlayStation 2, meanwhile, gets lost on the radar.

The Financial Times reporter was clearly asking if the price cut decision would be made in time for Christmas, but it isn't entirely clear that Stringer understood the question. In any case, this is as close to talking about the cuts as Stringer got during this interview.

The end of the blue-violet laser diode shortage reportedly frees up approximately $100 of overhead in the manufacturing cost of the PS3. Should Sony make a cut, there's room to do so. Whether or not Sony truly needs to do this is a matter of interpretation, but our view is that the pricing of the console is still a major—if not the major—obstacle to wider adoption.

While we don't believe that the PS3 is in trouble, especially since recent updates have really transformed the console, we do think that Sony is losing valuable exclusives to the Xbox 360. Just this morning, Opposable Thumbs has reported that the next-generation Katamari Damacy game, Beautiful Katamari, will likely end up a 360 exclusive.

I've been using DEVONthink Office Pro for a few months now to organize and mine the massive amounts of information—PDFs, presentations, HTML archives, article drafts, images, notes, emails etc.—that I've accumulated and generated over almost a decade (yikes!) of writing for Ars. I learned early on that the program doesn't do that much until you just dump everything into one database and start to make use of the search and classification features that it provides. So now that all my Ars stuff is in one huge and still growing database, I can go back and find, for instance, the links and documents I used in doing background work on a particular news post, or what presentations I have that relate to a particular company, technology, or topic, and so on. In short, I now spend less time using Google to try to dig up stuff that I've already seen but just can't locate and more time doing actual research and writing. 苏州美睫美甲

As much as I love DEVONthink, it's not without its flaws. The interface needs an overhaul to make it easier for me to do more of my own organizing and filing; for example, tags, smart folders, more views, and better metadata manipulation in general would all be nice. My recent flirtations with EagleFiler brought home for me some of the shortcomings in the present incarnation of DT, and it got me wondering where DEVONtechnologies is taking the product. So, I fired off an email to the company requesting an interview, and DEVONtechnologies' president, Eric Boehnisch-Volkmann, was kind enough to indulge my questions.

Eric not only told me where DT is headed, but he also told me some things about the product that I didn't know. There are a few features tucked away in there that I wasn't aware of, features that will help tide me over until the next major release.

JS: Before I dive into details of some specific features I'd like to ask about, I'd like to start with having you articulate your big-picture vision for DEVONthink development. What general directions do you plan to move the product in?

EBV: For us, DEVONthink is a data hub, a central repository for all the documents and items one works with on a daily basis. Contrary to a simple file manager like the Finder, it knows about the documents and helps the user to work with them, e.g., by providing assistance with filing new documents, organizing them, and finding the one document that the user needs right at this moment.

In the future, DEVONthink will be easier to use and come with more functionality that enables the user to use it in a workgroup. Except for being a personal database it can then be used by multiple people to collect, share, and publish data.

JS: The most useful things about DT for me are definitely the search and sorting features. These set DT apart from similar applications. Can you tell us any more about how this "AI" component works? Is it pretty much where you want it to be, or are you still putting a lot of effort into refining it?

EBV: The AI is not a component but the basic structure of the database itself. All information that is stored in DEVONthink is therefore by default analyzed and classified in the very second is added to the database structure. We are constantly working to make the AI better, to increase its effectiveness, to reduce the memory footprint, and to improve the database structure. We are also developing new products based on our technology from which improvements will flow into DEVONthink.

JS: My biggest gripe about DT is the limited number of file formats that the dB supports. I use OmniOutliner and Mellel, and I really wish that I could at least drop those files into the dB for storage, just to have all my project files in one place. Any plans to open the dB up to different file formats in a future revision? [Apparently, I was missing an option in the Preferences panel.]

EBV: DEVONthink can store any file even if it doesn't know about the file format. The user can add the file and open it with a double-click in the default application for its type. We are also planning to add support for more file formats, e.g., OpenDocument or other XML-based file formats for which XSLT templates are available that allow us to read and render them.

JS: My second biggest gripe is the way that DT handles email. I've been playing around with EagleFiler recently, and it's great to be able to search on fields in the email header (from, to, subj., etc.). Any plans for better email header awareness in DT?

EBV: Yes, but this requires substantial changes to the high-level database structure. We will make these changes with DEVONthink 2.0, for which no release date has been fixed yet.

JS: On a related note, any plans for MailTags integration?

EBV: MailTags is already supported, tags and project information is copied into the Comments field in DEVONthink.

JS: What's your vision for the DT interface? Will it get more of an overhaul in the next version, and if so, can you tell us anything about it? Or will there be incremental improvements to it? Maybe a tagging feature, or other kinds of metadata-based improvements?

EBV: The interface will be an overhaul. It will be easier to use, look nicer, and hide more functionality that is not for Mr. Everybody. Tagging and customizable meta-data are on our list as well as many other new features that make the DEVONthink workflow smoother and elegant.

JS: Two words: live queries. One day, perhaps?

EBV: Yes, that will be possible eventually.

JS: Will DT be sticking with its .dtbase format?

EBV: Yes, because the .dtbase format is the basis of all the AI. But, DEVONthink 2.0 will store all documents also in their original format inside the database package and use the AI structure only as an index. This makes it possible to search the database also with Spotlight and easier integrate third-party file formats.

JS: Can you tell us what new features of Leopard, if any, you plan to exploit in DT?

EBV:That is hard to tell. We will definitely support full 64 bit as well as multiple processors and cores, but we may also exploit some of the user interface improvements as well as Core Animation.

Thanks again to Eric for replying to my questions. I'm sure he'll be monitoring the discussion thread attached to this post, so if you have feedback/questions of your own, drop in and ask them.

The National Academies of Science produces regular reports on the state of scientific research in the US. Their latest effort along these lines has just been released, and the academy has put the spotlight on physics in a report entitled Condensed-Matter and Materials Physics: The Science of the World Around Us. Despite the dry title, this is an area of physics that Ars readership cares deeply about, even if it doesn't realize it: advances in this field have produced the electronics revolution that we're relying on to read this page. 苏州美睫美甲

The report identifies six key questions that will represent the grand challenges that materials science will face over the coming decade: the ones most likely to produce the next revolution. But it also raises fears that those challenges will be met by researchers outside of the US. It highlights the fact that government funding has not kept up with the rising costs of research at the same time that the corporate-funded research lab system has collapsed. As a result, US scientific productivity has stagnated at a time when funding and output are booming overseas. The report makes a series of recommendations that it hopes will get US physics research booming again.

The grand challenges of materials science

Materials science, as the report notes, is not only a broad field of inquiry itself, but advances in materials science enable advances in many other fields, and its progress has a direct impact on consumers. Our understanding of the physical and chemical properties of materials has become essential to creating various processors, sensors, light sources, etc. As such, the grand challenges proposed in the report drift into areas such as biology and computer science:

How do complex phenomena emerge from simple ingredients?How will the energy demands of future generations be met?What is the physics of life?What happens far from equilibrium and why?What new discoveries await us in the nanoworld?How will the information technology revolution be extended?

The report suggests that meeting these challenges will be essential not only for our scientific understanding, but for future economic growth as well. The countries that do the most to meet them will benefit the most economically.

Although the US has dominated the field during the 20th century, a number of reasons are listed to suggest that it is poorly positioned to continue at this pace. As someone who has followed the funding situation in biology carefully, the problems facing physics appear to be essentially identical.

Stagnating research

The total grant money dedicated to the field has barely outpaced normal inflation over the last decade, but lab costs (especially salaries of students and fellows) have shot up at a much faster rate: grant buying power has declined by 15 percent as a result. Because of this, researchers are applying for more grants, sending the competition up and success rates down: overall funding rates have dropped from 38 percent to 22 percent. New investigators, who are generally thought to take more aggressive and innovative approaches, are faring even worse as their success rates have dropped by more than half and now stand at only 12 percent.

The net result is that the academic community is now devoting far more of its time to writing grants, a shift that has come at the expense of directing and publishing research. In the past, academics have had an escape route from the pressures to retain funding: the "blue sky" research labs run by major companies, such as AT&T's Bell Labs. But the report refers to these institutions as "once great," since recent years have seen them closed, sold off piecemeal, or refocused on product development.

Combined, these changes have caused US research output to shrink in comparison to the rest of the world. Based on publications in Physical Reviews B and E, the US contribution to papers has remained flat over the last decade, while papers originating from other countries have nearly doubled. The report predicts that this reduced output will ultimately exact a price on the American economy.

Money for new directions

Many of their recommendations for correcting the situation are similar to the proposed solutions for other fields of research. Grant success rates should be brought up to the neighborhood of 30 percent, and the funding amounts need to be adjusted to compensate for the fact that academic researchers are now paid semi-reasonable wages. Grants should be pushed towards small research groups, as these are the major source of innovations. More minorities and women should be brought into the field, and career flexibility needs to be provided so that researchers do not have to choose between career and family needs as often.

There are three recommendations that stand out as being distinct from those proposed for other fields. Two suggest restructuring the way grant money is currently allocated. The National Science Foundation currently lumps interdisciplinary studies and educational programs in with other grants, where they are evaluated by people who may not have an appropriate background to judge them. The report recommends that the NSF recruit expertise across fields (such as the physics/biology overlap) specifically to provide a decent evaluation of grant proposals.

It also suggests an emphasis on education and outreach programs, which are essential to increasing public understanding of science and attracting a new generation of researchers. These programs need to be targeted to both college and K-12 education, and the funding for them needs to be separated from general research funds. Evaluations of education grants need to be separated as well, as research scientists are often incapable of properly evaluating them.

But the most radical proposal is that the equivalent of the great industrial labs needs to be reestablished. It suggests that all interested parties, ranging from industry through the Department of Defense and Energy to the academic world, should meet and determine what's needed to recreate the research environment they once fostered. Unfortunately, beyond calling for these discussions, the report is remarkably vague about how to resuscitate these now moribund labs.

Prospects for change

Most of the recommendations of this report are very similar to those proposed for other fields of research. As such, they face a common set of financial and institutional problems. With the federal government expected to be in deficit for the indefinite future, it's not clear whether funding for science will outstrip inflation any time soon. Given that, any efforts to increase the value of grant money will have to come at the expense of the number of grants, a shift that would surely meet resistance from the scientific community. Similar resistance would be expected to greet changes that favored small research groups, as these will come at the expense of established investigators that wield the most political clout.

The educational proposals are in line with the general scientific community's recognition that it's facing a public that's poorly equipped to evaluate the scientific developments that affect them directly and are thus unable to make reasoned decisions regarding funding and research allocations and restrictions. It's hard to say whether they will be enacted, but the proposed changes would make for one of the better structured efforts at public outreach I've encountered.

In contrast, the proposal to return to the days of large labs that sit on the border between basic research and product development are frustratingly vague. I find it hard to imagine that anyone would view it as a bad idea, but in the absence of money, a plan, and a clear view of who would be involved, it seems to be an invitation to talk rather than action.

This is a shame, because it's hard to question the contention that they made huge contributions to science in general and materials science in particular. The report is right that materials science is likely to be key to both scientific and economic advances over the coming decade, and the lack of an achievable plan leaves the US likely to be left out on some of them.

Google will not be the only Internet giant undergoing scrutiny for its recent advertising purchases. The Federal Trade Commission has decided to investigate Microsoft and Yahoo's recent acquisitions as well. Microsoft, which recently purchased online marketing company aQuantive for $6 billion, and Yahoo, which dropped a cool $680 million for 80 percent of ad firm Right Media that it didn't already control, will both be the subjects of an antitrust review by the FTC. 苏州美睫美甲

Google's $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick is getting a full, formal investigation from the FTC after consumer advocates raised concerns over data privacy. Other groups, such as AT&T and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, have called on the FTC and Department of Justice to closely scrutinize the acquisitions over antitrust concerns. In the wake of the advertising acquisition frenzy, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo now control a sizable chunk of the online ad market, a development that has raised concerns not at only other ad firms, but also at companies that rely on a robust ad market.

The Microsoft and Yahoo deals do not appear to be getting the same level of scrutiny from the FTC—at least not yet. So far, the FTC has not made "second requests" of the companies for more data, a move that would indicate a more detailed investigation would be forthcoming.

A Microsoft spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal (subscription) that his company would cooperate fully with the FTC, adding that Microsoft "look[s] forward to addressing any questions the FTC may have."

Unlike the Google investigation, which was first centered around privacy concerns and has since expanded to include the antitrust angle, the FTC's decision to look at Microsoft and Yahoo centers around competitive concerns. Ironically, Microsoft pressured the US government to oppose the Google-DoubleClick deal for the many of the same reasons that the FTC is now looking at the Microsoft-aQuantive deal.

The sales boost Sony was hoping for hasn't come through yet, as the May NPD numbers show an ever-dominant Nintendo sitting on its perch far above the rest of the pack, with the Xbox 360 in distant second, and the PS3 trailing everyone by a significant margin. 苏州美睫美甲

As you know, Nintendo absolutely owned the first quarter of the year, and with 338,000 more Wii consoles sold in May, the sales show no sign of slowing down. Still, the DS took top honors, with 423,000 units sold. These amounts almost look anomalous, for the sales of every other system are so far below Nintendo's preternatural numbers. As this trend continues month after month, Nintendo's domination is becoming a fact of life. When will it end?

The 360 sold a disappointing 154,900 units, down from April's 174,000. The system has a strong library of games with many standout hits, but increasing evidence of a price drop as well as widespread Internet complaints of reliability issues may be keeping the system from selling in higher numbers. Whether or not a price reduction is in the works, it may be what Microsoft needs to get more customers interested in the system.

The news is mixed for Sony this month. The PSP's price reduction paid off big; the system sold 221,120 units in May to eclipse even the PlayStation 2, which sold 187,800. These are strong numbers, and the PlayStation 2 is still seeing impressive exclusive content in games like Odin Sphere. The bad news is that the PlayStation 3 sold an abysmal 81,600 units in the same time frame. Sony is trying to leverage the PSP's relative success to boost PlayStation 3 sales numbers, but without a price drop and more exclusive games, the system is having a rough time fitting into the competitive hardware market. Luckily, Sony is beginning to hint at a price drop, and with Metal Gear Solid 4, Lair, and Final Fantasy still exclusive, things could look up this holiday season.

To date video games sales are up 47 percent from last year, but a closer look at the numbers shows that only Nintendo systems and Sony's last-generation hardware are moving in real volume. While Microsoft may try to hang on to its current price points as long as it can, at this point it looks like only a price drop will help it shift more units. If the company is able to reduce the price of their hardware near the release of Halo 3, it would be a one-two punch that could send sales skyrocketing during the holiday rush. Sony has a more complicated road ahead, with a price drop being almost essential to staying competitive while it tries to turn its strengths with the PS2 and PSP business into PS3 sales. Fortunately, it looks like one is on the way. Nintendo is in an enviable position: all it needs to do is worry about getting enough hardware into the market to meet demand.

For the more than nine years that Ars Technica has been publishing online, we've been outspoken when it comes to the lack of balance between the threat of piracy (which is always overstated) and the "solutions" to piracy (which are often draconian) that some copyright holders demand. Whether it's laws that would turn the possession of software into a crime, completely baked piracy reports, or yet another law meant to criminalize civil infractions, we've cast a critical eye on an industry that defines solipsism. 苏州美睫美甲

And, everyone once and while, we're accused of hyperbole—of exaggerating our objections. That's why it's with both a grin and a lonely tear that I report to you the latest ridiculous claim from the copyright-trumps-all brigade.

NBC/Universal general counsel Rick Cotton suggests that society wastes entirely too much money policing crimes like burglary, fraud, and bank-robbing when it should be doing something about piracy instead.

"Our law enforcement resources are seriously misaligned," Cotton said. "If you add up all the various kinds of property crimes in this country, everything from theft, to fraud, to burglary, bank-robbing, all of it, it costs the country $16 billion a year. But intellectual property crime runs to hundreds of billions [of dollars] a year." Cotton's comments come in Paul Sweeting's report on Hollywood's latest shenanigans on Capitol Hill.

There are two obvious rejoinders to such a ridiculous statement. The first is that "hundreds of billions of dollars a year" is a myth. The MPAA's own cherry-picked study from Smith Barney in 2005 put their annual loss at less than $6 billion, and while the music and software industries also like to publish trumped-up claims, the figures are nowhere near hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

The second objection, of course, is that the traditional crimes Cotton describes often involve the destruction of people's lives along with property. Burglaries can result in homicide, as can fraud (ask the preacher's wife), while bank robbery is, without a doubt, a dangerous game. Those crimes also typically involve real property. For better or for worse, real property should not be confused with intellectual property, which is not subject to the same rules of scarcity. Stopping a bank heist is, without a doubt, a far more important matter than stopping the bootlegging of Gigli or Spider-Man 3. Chances are you would prefer that the cops spend their efforts protecting people from rampant home burglaries than chasing down kids with pirated music on their iPods.

Regardless, Cotton and his Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy are seeking to change federal law enforcement emphasis so that intellectual property crimes are given priority over other kinds of crime… a realignment, to play off Cotton's statement. Battling organized crime is hardly objectionable, and we hope the coalition sees success in taking down the profiteers of piracy. Offending the public with yet more lies and hyperbole isn't going to curry much favor, however.


While I've played the original Prince of Persia a few times in passing, Prince of Persia Classic on the 360 Live Arcade is the first time I've sat down and seriously gave the game a chance. At $10, it's on the higher end of Arcade pricing, but the game instantly impresses with beautiful graphics and animation, as well as honest to goodness cut scenes. The more I played, the more I started to think that the $10 price wasn't that high after all; this is a game with a solid design foundation, and the cosmetic makeover will impress even jaded gamers.

The game has a great set up. The evil vizier Jaffar has given the princess a choice: either marry him so he can grab control of the throne, or she dies. She has one hour to make up her mind. The princess' real man is locked deep in the dungeons, and has to escape to save her. You're the knight in shining…well, hammer pants, fighting against both the bad guys and time to reach the princess and save her. The game retains the smooth animations from previous iterations of the franchise; it's almost as fun to simply run around and backflip across chasms and run up the walls before springing to a hard-to-reach area as it is to get to the end of each level. Still, you have that clock counting down through the entire game; a constant reminder to hurry.

Most of the game involves finding your way out of each level and moving onto the next one, and the addition of waypoints make the game easy to pick up and play—you won't have to put a solid hour into the session to have any hope of beating it. Prince of Persia also has a fun sword-fighting system where you have to parry and thrust your way to victory. Watching the well-animated characters clang their swords together is quite the thrill, even if the fighting can be frustrating before you master the nuance of combat.

By definition, the game is only an hour long, but you can also unlock time trial and survival modes, and for the hyper competitive this is a great game to perfect a speed run. For the more casual fan, this is an inviting game that shows how well the original Prince of Persia still stands up to modern games. If you've never played the original, you're in for quite the treat.

A new bill introduced into the House of Representatives yesterday would force cable operators to offer a family tier of programming, along with an "opt-out" à la carte cable programming option. At the same time, it would apply broadcast indecency standards that restrict indecent programming to the hours of 10 PM and 6 AM to cable and satellite networks. 苏州美睫美甲

The Family and Consumer Choice Act of 2007 is cosponsored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and would be the à la carte law that Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin says is necessary. The bill has not yet appeared on the Library of Congress web site, but Ars was able to obtain a copy of the legislation from Rep. Lipinski's office.

Tiers and à la carte

The bill has something for everyone who has been advocating for à la carte cable. Those concerned by the amount of programming available on cable that's inappropriate for young eyes should be pleased, as there's a very real "think of the children" thread running through the bill. "Of those homes with children subscribing to cable service, the vast majority subscribe to expanded basic cable service," notes the bill. For that reason, the bill would mandate the creation of "real family tiers of programming," which the bill defines as all channels in the expanded basic tier aside from those carrying programming rated TV-Mature or TV-14 between the hours of 6am and 10pm.

Those who are tired of paying for channels that they never watch will like the bill's opt-out provision, which will give cable and satellite subscribers the ability to cancel channels on an individual basis. The legislation says that anyone electing to do so would receive a "credit on the monthly bill… for such blocked channels in an amount equal to the amount that such distributor pays for the right to provide such blocked channel."

That rumbling you're hearing is the heavy-duty lobbying machines of the cable companies being revved up and put into gear. Cable and satellite providers have consistently opposed à la carte programming, saying that it would raise overall programming costs while dooming niche networks that have a limited audience. A couple of cable companies—most notably Time Warner—have created family tiers, but those are the exception, rather than the rule. And despite all the discussion about à la carte cable, consumers are generally indifferent to it and unrealistic about its price.

Applying broadcast standards to cable

Moving beyond à la carte and family tiers, the legislation would extend indecent programming restrictions that are currently applied to terrestrial TV to cable and satellite networks. "In accordance with the indecency and profanity policies and standards applied by the [FCC] to broadcasters, as such policies and standards are modified from time to time, not transmit any material that is indecent or profane on any channel in the expanded basic tier of such distributor" except between 10 PM and 6 AM.

Rep. Lipinski and FCC chairman Kevin Martin, who has advocated for expanded indecency regulations, believe that parents need government help in protecting their children from objectionable content. "In today's culture, parents are increasingly worried that their children are exposed to obscene, indecent, and violent programming," Rep. Lipinski said in a statement. "While there is no doubt that parents are the first line of defense in protecting their kids, clearly they need more help."

With the parental controls built into every television set, set-top box, and DVR being sold these days, the need for such legislation seems questionable at best. Unlike broadcast television, which is available to anyone with a TV and an antenna, people subscribe to and pay for cable/satellite. Those who are concerned about the possibility of indecent programming during the daytime already have several options available to them, including not subscribing to cable or using some of the technological means available to block objectionable content.