London in 1926

I have often wondered what history would look like in color. So often we are shown films of the past but they’re usually in black and white and the “color” part of the process only happens in your brain.

This footage from 1926 (the title of the video states it originates from 1927, but the description of the video clarifies that it was filmed in 1926) shows London before World War II and is fascinating to watch, especially given it is accompanied by some good music.

Check it out below:

Xbox One: all or nothing?

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CVG:

Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One at a press reveal event in Redmond yesterday to a mixed critical reaction, their tentative first step into the eighth console generation and a surprisingly loaded portent of how they plan to establish themselves in today’s economic current. The console entitles its user to a variety of simultaneous activities such that he can play a game while watching live television, throwing on a movie, or chatting with friends on Skype, all processes that can be controlled through voice command. Much of the press release focused on the One’s intended goal of supplanting all entertainment-related functions, with more specific games coverage likely being reserved for an event that generates more gamer hype (read: E3). Microsoft’s desired first impression based on the positioning of their product is clear: this is a machine designed for the majority of their consumer base, a set of casual gamers who will idle in front of any given AAA release until they get a video call or Monday Night Football rolls around.

The company has approached this one-black-box-fits-all attitude carelessly, implementing policies that will alienate devoted gamers and limit appeal to less informed audiences. The former didn’t necessarily stop the Wii, which was subject to dwindling third-party support and loss of interest from many longtime Nintendo fans but still claimed victory in every notable market. However, Microsoft is not enjoying the same reputation that Nintendo did when they stepped into the seventh generation – gamers are a wary lot now, and one might look to the currently dismal performance of the Wii U as a cautionary tale about willingly displacing one demographic to accommodate another. A glance at any given forum or comment thread suggests widespread dissatisfaction with certain elements of the One, such as Microsoft’s draconian DRM enforcement. Here is a system that claims to be a video gamer’s new best friend, and yet it won’t even let you loan your games to your real friends without forcing them to pay a console licensing fee? (This is, in diplomatic parlance, “a potential scenario.”) A required Internet connection once every 24 hours? No backwards compatibility? No importing your old downloaded games? The latter two are particularly galling because they constitute a transparent bid at stifling the obsolescence of the Xbox 360, but the devaluation of gaming technology is inevitable, especially when it’s so poorly constructed. If Microsoft expects gamers to bounce back and forth between their uber-machine and their old RROD factory just to have full access to all of their titles, then they’d better continue to furnish free maintenance for their old systems, which seems like an unwieldy expenditure for a consumer landscape that they project to be inundated with these wonderful Ones. “Fundamental architecture differences” my ass.

To address the system’s potential difficulty with reaching a casual audience, we can return to the Nintendo parallel. Much of the Wii’s success came from its celebration of family gaming and the shared living space, prioritizing software that was accessible and fun for players of all ages and skill levels. There were some fluffy features like the Weather Channel that granted it more flexibility than a dedicated gaming machine, but the intent behind the platform was always clear. Far less so with the Xbox One, which is in the precarious position of acting as a unifier of common entertainment services where there hasn’t yet been a proven need for one. Anyone with the means or desire to buy an One likely has all of the gadgetry they need to perform each of its vaunted tasks – a laptop, smart phone, and their previous-generation game console for television and movies if they don’t already own a cable box, or a Roku, or the million other similar peripherals. There is something wrongheaded AND disturbingly cynical about Microsoft’s assumption that, if given the chance, people will toss to the side all of these other electronic devices for the chance to sink into the couch and fulfill all of their digital needs through one system alone. At a less intimidating cost, the One may be able to acquit itself at least partially, but this seems unlikely given that a) the processing power is reportedly “eight times greater” than that of the Xbox 360, b) Microsoft claims that there will be over 300,000 servers to host the console’s need for, at least, that mandatory once-a-day connection, and c) a low price point for this system would probably force Microsoft to sell the console at a loss, which is a huge risk in this market. This is a multi-billion dollar industry operating in a culture of excess, where “doing less” has never been the answer the public is looking for even as it struggles to make ends meet.

With all this said, the question of the Xbox One’s library hangs in the balance, and the titles announced at this event are more or less what you’d expect from a Microsoft press conference. Lots of emphasis on their sports content, a Forza title, a new IP from Remedy and, naturally, another installment in the Call of Duty franchise. Quantum Break might be interesting, but everything else we’re seeing here looks like so much of the risk-averse chaff that gamers are growing increasingly dissatisfied with. If these games are your thing, more power to you, but  a gradually more conservative collection of titles, combined with roundly derided copy protection measures and a lot of redundant functionality, all align to make Microsoft’s next move feel a lot less important to watch than it was seven years ago. To me, this reveal reads as the scared baby steps of a company struggling to assert itself for a fractured set of demographics. (You can bet Sony’s keeping an eye on them, though, what with that 9% stock increase after the conference.)

Drew Byrd-Smith – drewbyrd.blogspot.com

Seth Meyers to Succeed Fallon on ‘Late Night’

Seth Meyers to Succeed Fallon on ‘Late Night’ – NYTimes.com:

Seth Meyers will be the next host of NBC’s “Late Night,” the network announced on Sunday. Enlarge This Image

[…]

The assignment will keep Mr. Meyers under the production leadership of Lorne Michaels, who will continue to serve as executive producer of “Late Night” as well as serving in the same position on Mr. Fallon’s “Tonight Show” as it moves to New York.

[…]

Mr. Michaels said: “The thing that’s staggering to me is that since 1982 there have been only three hosts, and Seth will be the fourth. And when you look at the company, it’s all pretty good company.”

Yay, more Seth Meyers! Weekend Update with Meyers has been my favorite part of SNL since I started watching it years ago.

Bloomberg reporters allegedly used financial terminals to spy on Wall Street

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Bloomberg reporters allegedly used financial terminals to spy on Wall Street | The Verge:

Bloomberg reporters have been keeping tabs on Wall Street using their company’s financial terminals, the New York Post reports. Bloomberg terminals, which cost $20,000 a year or more to lease, are a fixture in the banking world. But according to the Post, Goldman Sachs executives recently discovered that reporters could track when investors were logging into the terminals, as well as what they were doing — from looking at a wire story to using the messaging tool. In one case, a reporter apparently asked a Goldman Sachs executive whether a partner had left the bank, mentioning that he hadn’t been logging into his terminal

Talk about a breach of trust. It’ll be interesting if anything more comes of this – if the Bloomberg reporters only had the ability to see what apps traders were using, that’s one thing, but if they had access to any kind of private (which is apparently a loose term nowadays) correspondence this could turn into News International-sized scandal.

Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. coming to ABC this fall

It’s Official: Joss Whedon and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ordered to Series by ABC – IGN:

We all assumed it was a sure thing, but it’s now finally official – ABC has picked up Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a series, debuting this fall.

Co-written by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen and directed by Joss Whedon, the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot was filmed back in January – one of the earliest pilots to go into production this year. It was obviously a high profile project, both as an offshoot of the uber-successful Marvel movie series and specifically as a follow-up/spinoff of Whedon’s amazingly huge Avengers movie, the third highest grossing film ever. Along the way, ABC cautioned they had not given the greenlight to the project beyond the pilot stage, but it would have been shocking if it hadn’t been picked up, given all the factors involved. The massive success of Iron Man 3 only cemented the fact that a Marvel-centric TV series was a highly desirable commodity at this point.

This will probably be a really fun show. Now, cross your fingers and start hoping that ABC gives it a big enough effects budget.

The Magazine’s Writers

Chris Higgins on The Magazine’s writers:

Why does this matter? It means that a strong percentage of those who write for The Magazine are coming back and pitching again. This is significant. As a longtime freelancer, I’ve written for plenty of publications just once.

The Magazine is doing things differently. It’s getting plaudits because it does things a sensible way, not the old-fashioned, backwards way we’re all used to seeing from the publishing industry. Chris Higgins provides a comical, informative and interesting analysis of who writes for The Magazine and why they do it.

I’m a big fan of any publication that rewards it’s writers and provides the least scummy way of rewarding them. That’s why I like The Magazine. (Disclaimer: I have pitched to The Magazine)

Richard Stallman – The Right to Read

The Right to Read – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation (FSF):

This put Dan in a dilemma. He had to help her—but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong—something that only pirates would do.

And there wasn’t much chance that the SPA—the Software Protection Authority—would fail to catch him. In his software class, Dan had learned that each book had a copyright monitor that reported when and where it was read, and by whom, to Central Licensing. (They used this information to catch reading pirates, but also to sell personal interest profiles to retailers.) The next time his computer was networked, Central Licensing would find out. He, as computer owner, would receive the harshest punishment—for not taking pains to prevent the crime.

This short tale of dystopian fantasy from early 1997 looks more realistic with each passing day – though Stallman might have been a little optimistic with how long it would take for these change to happen.

3D models generated from DNA in hair and gun found in public places

Creepy or Cool? Portraits Derived From the DNA in Hair and Gum Found in Public Places | Collage of Arts and Sciences:

From this sequence, Dewey-Hagborg gathers information about the person’s ancestry, gender, eye color, propensity to be overweight and other traits related to facial morphology, such as the space between one’s eyes. “I have a list of about 40 or 50 different traits that I have either successfully analyzed or I am in the process of working on right now,” she says.

Dewey-Hagborg then enters these parameters into a computer program to create a 3D model of the person’s face.” Ancestry gives you most of the generic picture of what someone is going to tend to look like. Then, the other traits point towards modifications on that kind of generic portrait,” she explains. The artist ultimately sends a file of the 3D model to a 3D printer on the campus of her alma mater, New York University, so that it can be transformed into sculpture.

Am I disappointed that we don’t have flying cars yet? Yes. Do I still think we live in the future? Yes.

What readers are looking to get from video game reviews

Mammon-Machine – The Case for Never Talking About AAA Games:

What the readers are looking for is also very different. They are not reading because they are curious about this game they have never heard of. They have been already told by a multi-million advertising budget exactly what their emotional response to the game should be and are mostly looking for validation of that feeling. That’s not to say readers of AAA game reviews are completely uncritical, just that they’re generally not going to think outside of the promises the ad campaign made. If the ad campaign says something and doesn’t deliver that’s a problem, but it’s not very common for an audience to actually be interested in questions like “well I don’t even know if this concept is interesting in the first place…” because they’re already interested because they watched all the trailers and previews. More to the point, they already know how the game is supposed to play and what’s it about: the only thing they don’t know is how it actually works in practice.

One of the major problems of video game journalism is that writers want to talk about the intellectual and moral issues that games touch upon, while readers just want to know if AAA games live up to the hype or not. Based on this premise, the Mammon Machine makes a pretty good case for video game writers to simply skip talking about AAA titles altogether.

Twitter Looks for a Head of News and Journalism

The official Jobs at Twitter site:

Twitter is playing an integral role in the evolution of the news industry — both as a tool for reporters and newsrooms and as a way for consumers to find news in real-time. Twitter has already changed the way news breaks and provided journalists new ways to connect with their readers. We are looking for a seasoned leader to shape and drive the next growth phase of Twitter’s partnership with the news industry.

The obvious assumption to make here is that Twitter has decided to act in the wake of the Boston bombings, during which the social media site was bombarded with a load “information” (rumors) regarding suspects and police events. Telling what was truth from the noise was impossible and Twitter as a platform was criticised after the events for the some of the irresponsible reporting that took place after the tragic events.

The job posting is affirms the idea that Twitter sees breaking news as a key part of its strategy: the posting says the incoming head of department should create a plan that increases “volume and quality of professional news content on Twitter, especially in breaking news”.

Is the posting of the job after a time when some sort of spotlight was on Twitter and its news strategy a coincidence? Probably. But it’ll be interesting to see what the new recruit will do to develop news strategy in the longer term.