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On Newspapers

Several items of note regarding the plight of the newspaper industry have come to my attention of late. This assumes, for instance, that there is such a thing as the "newspaper industry" at this point, disparate from the multimedia conglomerates, and such a thing as a "plight" disparate from the current financial crisis.

In particular, a college friend of mine, who still works in the industry, called my attention to one of many "save the newspaper" causes that have sprung up on various social networking websites. He also pointed out a piece at the Atlantic on the subject. Much of my daily reading is in the online gaming press, and one of the more popular outlets, Kotaku, also has ex-newspaper employees there, and they have mentioned the situation that their local paper is now in (here and here). I felt a need to somehow explain my relative lack of enthusiasm for this concept.

Given my own personal history it is somewhat difficult to come to terms with these events. Since I have not ever worked as a professional journalist and have not worked in publishing of any kind, in any capacity (save several different blogs) for more than a decade, it may be that my thoughts on this subject are outdated, or irrelevant, or that I have insufficient personal investment in the related issues for my opinion to carry much weight.

Nonetheless, newspapers do hold special significance to me. Learning to drink coffee and reading a daily paper, in my case The Boston Globe, formed a rite of passage into what I then considered adulthood. A change of schools and a change of majors in my first year of college landed me in a liberal arts program and on the editorial boards of two publications, a biweekly college paper and a somehwat more irregularly published literary magazine. At the latter, I learned the rudiments of electronic page layout, and at the former I applied them, eliminating the manual typewriter and typesetting system then in use. (This was in 1991, if you can believe that-- the desktop publishing revolution that Apple wrought in the mid-1980s still had not filtered as far as my suburban college's student newspaper six years later, despite the fact that the campus was lousy with Macintosh computers, everywhere except the newspaper office. Meanwhile, thousands were spent each year on typesetting.) That pattern repeated itself in graduate school, and followed me into my first jobs, where I found that being on the technical side of things paid better and better suited my personality. I worked at a local daily for about three years but later moved into doing similar tasks for nonprofit organizations. At that daily I initiated the paper's website, and went on to either establish or modernize sites at other organizations. Perhaps if I'd had more sense (or, rather, less sense and more vision) I'd simply have dropped out of graduate school in 1994 and gone directly into web design after seeing the first versions of NCSA mosaic; instead I mocked it as being silly and slow compared to Gopher.

Videogames Beat DVDs... Except, Not Really

The gaming and tech press are all aflutter with the news that videogames beat DVDs... except they don't, at least, not in all the areas that matter.The data that lead to the "games beats movies" conclusion, much like the one-day comparisons of game blockbusters like Halo 3 to the one-day takes of top films like Dark Knight, are revenue, rather than unit sales figures.

Blame Canada

CNet strikes again. These guys are awful, although in the interest of accuracy, they're only rehashing a story from the Wall Street Journal, which is itself a few days late in reporting Microsoft's advice to Obama, which was to ditch the BlackBerry and go with an NSA-approved Windows Mobile device. The reason? BlackBerry data passes through RIM's NOC in Canada.

On Zunes And Squirting DRM

My understanding is that most of the restrictive Zune DRM has to do with the WiFi "squirt" feature. (Obviously this crippled what could have been the Zune's killer feature.) But iPods have no wifi at all; it seems silly to argue that iTunes DRM is less restrictive because it does not prevent you from doing things you couldn't do anyway.

Slashdot is linking another "Zune is dead story". The above is a comment on that thread.

Full disclosure: I've been primarily a user of Apple computers since the early 1990s, have owned several iPods, and currently own a MacBook and an iPhone. I do own an Xbox 360 but I've never owned a Zune.

The thrust behind the story is that, for whatever reason, the Zune has not made major inroads, and in these troubled times, MS might as well focus on what works reasonably well and what makes money, and that is Office, Windows, and the 360, and not the Zune.

Of course, why the Zune has not done particularly well is a favorite topic of conversation, as is the difference between the DRM schemes used by Zune and the Zune store compared to the iPod and the iTunes store.

Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Palm

This CNET article suggests MS switch its acquisition focus from Yahoo, to compete in the online ad game against Google, to Palm, to compete in the handheld space against Apple.

This is problematic at best.

Valve: Pirates Are Underserved Customers

This remark from Valve's Jason Holtman is the analysis of game piracy that I've been waiting to hear someone utter for years: the idea that copyright infringement needs to be analyzed from economic rather than purely legal or moral standpoints.

This Just In: Judge Calls Halo "Delusional Environment"

Normally I avoid even commenting on the intersections between violent real-world crime and fantasy videogame violence. There's really little point. There's not much more than can be said on the matter than what is already out there. However, the remarks of Judge James Burge following his conviction of Daniel Petric are simply so ridiculous that I can't let them pass. From story coverage at, of all places, a PS3 website:

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from David and Salta!

Killing Console Multiplayer?

HBO and the HBO forum have both provided links to an editorial by "William Usher" at Cinema Blend about how Halo is killing console gaming. So now that this specious attempt to nab page hits has worked, there can be little further damage that I can do except to examine the author's premise and see if it holds any merit.

Sounds Like Halo Noir

When the rumors about "Halo Blue" and an ODST-focused Halo game first appeared, I began to think that from an intellectual perspective this might be a good game for Bungie, or someone, to make.Part of Halo's appeal, as well as one of its weaknesses, I think, is the special status of the Master Chief as a near-invincible, supercompetent soldier. Ultimately the only challenge the game offers him is near-insurmountable odds. An ODST game could be different, putting you in the shoes of a more vulnerable character with less ambitious goals.