Published on 7 Apr 2015
Bundling refers to when two or more goods are sold together as a package. Microsoft Office, Cable TV, Lexis-Nexis, and Spotify all provide examples of bundling. What if there were no bundling and you had to pay for Cable TV by channel rather than purchasing channels in bundles? Would you end up paying more or less? We explore this question and others in this video.
March 30, 2016
September 14, 2015
Jerry Pournelle talks about his differing browser experiences on the Microsoft Surface:
Apple had their announcements today, but I had story conferences so I could not watch them live. I finished my fiction work about lunch time, so I thought to view some reports, and it is time I learned more about the new Windows and get more use to my Surface 3 Pro; a fitting machine to view new Apple products, particularly their new iPad Pro which is I expect their answer to the Surface Pro and Windows 10.
My usual browser is Firefox, which has features I don’t love but by and large I get along with it; but with the Surface it seemed appropriate to make a serious effort to use Edge, the new Microsoft Browser. Of course it has Microsoft Bing the default search engine. It also doesn’t really understand the size of the Pro. It gave me horizontal scrolling, even though I had Edge full screen. I looked up Apple announcements, and Bing gave me a nice list. Right click on the nice bent Microsoft pocket wireless mouse, and open a repost in a new screen. Lo, I have to do horizontal scrolling; Edge makes sure there are ads on screen at all times, so you have to horizontal screen the text to see all of it. Line by line. But I can always see some ads. Edge makes sure I don’t miss ads. It doesn’t care whether I can read the text I was looking for, but it is more careful about the ads. I’m sure that makes the advertisers happy, but I’m not so sure about the users. I thought I went looking for an article, not for ads.
Edge also kept doing things I hadn’t asked it to, and I’d lose the text. Eventually I found if I closed the window and went back to the Bing screen and right clicked to open that same window in a new tab, I was able to – carefully – screen through the text, and adjust the screen so all the text was on screen even though there was still horizontal scrolling possible. This is probably a function of inexperience, but using a touch screen and Edge is a new experience.
Even so it was a rough read. I gave up and went to Firefox on the Surface Pro. Firefox has Google as its default browser, and the top selections it offered me – all I could see on one screen – were different from the ones I saw with Bing. I had to do a bit of scrolling to find the article I had been trying to read, but eventually I found it. Right click to open it in a new Tab. Voila. All my text in the center. I could read it. Much easier. For the record: same site, adjusted to width in Firefox on the Surface Pro, horizontal scrolling of the same article viewed in Edge. Probably my fault, but I don’t know what I did wrong.
Now in Microsoft’s defense, I don’t know Edge very well; but if you are going to a Surface Pro, you may well find Firefox easier to use than Edge. A lot easier to use.
As to Google vs. Bing, in this one case I found Bing superior; what it offered me had more content. But Edge is advertiser friendly, not User friendly.
March 11, 2015
I’d expect some legal action is pending over this little contracting embarrassment for Undead Labs:
Undead Lab’s State of Decay became a cult hit when it released back in 2013. Last year, the developer announced State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition. This updated iteration packs in previously released DLC along with a 1080p graphical overhaul. And once the visuals became clearer, developer Undead Labs realized their contracted help for the game hid an abundance of phalluses in the game.
While working on State of Decay, Undead Labs hired contractors to help build some of the backgrounds. For reasons unknown, those contractors scattered a collage of genitalia across the backgrounds. However, the original version of the game was a low enough resolution that the naughty bits flew under the testing radar.
“Some of our contractors worked a ridiculous amount of genitalia into the background,” says Geoffrey Card, senior designer at Undead Labs in an interview with XBLA Fans.
H/T to John Ryan for the link.
March 7, 2015
Joey deVilla posted an image which requires no further explanation:
February 2, 2015
James Lileks on when gaming stops being fun … because of the damned controller:
My wife asked if we had an xbox 360, and I said we did. She said that someone on the neighborhood mailing list wanted one and could we sell it. I balked. I haven’t played it for some time but there were two games I wanted to get back to, some day. Why had I stopped? Because I can’t play console games. I can’t aim. I can’t figure out the buttons. Once upon a time I was an ace at Halo, but that was long ago, and now there’s just TOO MANY BUTTONS. I’m a keyboard-mouse man and so it has ever been.
I will never finish those games. The reason they were unfinished was because my characters had walked into walls and fallen off horses and the controller felt like a ceramic croissant in my hand. One of them started out interesting, but turned into a driving game as I chased a suspect. My inability to drive had no bearing on the story; even though I rammed the car into phone poles and fire hydrants and mowed down pedestrians by the dozen, all I got was a “be careful!” from my partner.
Every standard image of console gamers shows them sitting back on a sofa, right? Plinking away, trash-talking, relaxed. Every good game I’ve played on a computer has had me on the edge of my seat. Literally. Tense. It’s the difference between playing and inhabiting, between popping in a game disk like you’d put in a movie or turn on the radio, and entering a world. It’s odd, really: the computer screen feels interactive, responsive, an immediate field of action, perhaps because it’s a couple of feet from my face. When I’m sitting in front of a TV, it feels peculiar to interact with it, because it’s supposed to be doing all the work. ENTERTAIN ME! If you do nothing during a game your character stands there, and that makes the TV screen like the real world. It’s like walking away from the TV for a few hours and coming back to see the news anchor is sitting at the desk eating a sandwich.
So out it goes. It’s a relief, really. When entertainment feels like obligation it’s best to look elsewhere.
I wonder if James was playing L.A. Noire, as that was pretty much the point at which I stopped trying to play the game … and my partner said something remarkably like “Be careful!” before I put down the controller and turned off the console.
January 23, 2014
At Techdirt, Timothy Geigner recounts the potential PR disaster facing Machinima after they attempted to buy positive coverage from their own contributors for the Xbox One:
It began with a thread on NeoGAF that included text from an email Machinima was sending out to their partners which offered bonus CPM (cost per thousand views, the standard way advertising is priced) payments on videos covering Microsoft’s new console. Their requirements for this “promotion” in the email were already problematic, including gameplay footage from an Xbox One game, a mention of playing the game on the Xbox One console in the video, and a vague reference to following the “guidelines listed in the assignment.” Just in those lines, most journalists would find deal-killers. While the line on whether or not YouTube video makers covering games like this being journalists may be a bit blurry, there’s little doubt that thousands of YouTubers look to these folks for help on their purchasing decisions. In other words, they’re fame rests squarely on their reputations for honest reviews. Minus those reputations, these people have no following.
Which is what makes the details in those “guidelines” mentioned above so misguided.
Now here’s where we enter really sketchy territory: Ars Technica tracked down a copy of Machinima‘s contract for the promotion, and there’s one line that stands out: “You may not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One or any of its Games in your Campaign Video.” What’s more, these YouTubers can’t even be transparent about this arrangement, according to the contract:
“You agree to keep confidential at all times all matters relating to this Agreement, including, without limitation, the Promotional Requirements, and the CPM Compensation, listed above. You understand that You may not post a copy of this Agreement or any terms thereof online or share them with any third party (other than a legal or financial representative). You agree that You have read the Nondisclosure Agreement (attached hereto and marked as Exhibit “A”) and You understand and agree to all of terms of the Nondisclosure Agreement, which is incorporated as part of this Agreement.”
Hear that sound? That’s the sound of this entire promotion exploding with enough payload-force to also take out both the guilty and innocent Machinima video-producers. What this does is put everyone under suspicion. Given what we said about the importance of reputations above, this could be the meteor that destroys Machinima‘s world.
Yes, if you’re following along a home, the post title is a Blackadder reference.
November 25, 2013
Bruce Schneier on the rising tide of non-governmental surveillance:
Google recently announced that it would start including individual users’ names and photos in some ads. This means that if you rate some product positively, your friends may see ads for that product with your name and photo attached — without your knowledge or consent. Meanwhile, Facebook is eliminating a feature that allowed people to retain some portions of their anonymity on its website.
These changes come on the heels of Google’s move to explore replacing tracking cookies with something that users have even less control over. Microsoft is doing something similar by developing its own tracking technology.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that big technology companies are tracking us on the Internet even more aggressively than before.
If these features don’t sound particularly beneficial to you, it’s because you’re not the customer of any of these companies. You’re the product, and you’re being improved for their actual customers: their advertisers.
November 1, 2013
Dan Goodin posted a scary Halloween tale at Ars Technica yesterday … at least, I’m hoping it’s just a scary story for the season:
In the intervening three years, Ruiu said, the infections have persisted, almost like a strain of bacteria that’s able to survive extreme antibiotic therapies. Within hours or weeks of wiping an infected computer clean, the odd behavior would return. The most visible sign of contamination is a machine’s inability to boot off a CD, but other, more subtle behaviors can be observed when using tools such as Process Monitor, which is designed for troubleshooting and forensic investigations.
Another intriguing characteristic: in addition to jumping “airgaps” designed to isolate infected or sensitive machines from all other networked computers, the malware seems to have self-healing capabilities.
“We had an air-gapped computer that just had its [firmware] BIOS reflashed, a fresh disk drive installed, and zero data on it, installed from a Windows system CD,” Ruiu said. “At one point, we were editing some of the components and our registry editor got disabled. It was like: wait a minute, how can that happen? How can the machine react and attack the software that we’re using to attack it? This is an air-gapped machine and all of a sudden the search function in the registry editor stopped working when we were using it to search for their keys.”
Over the past two weeks, Ruiu has taken to Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus to document his investigative odyssey and share a theory that has captured the attention of some of the world’s foremost security experts. The malware, Ruiu believes, is transmitted though USB drives to infect the lowest levels of computer hardware. With the ability to target a computer’s Basic Input/Output System (BIOS), Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), and possibly other firmware standards, the malware can attack a wide variety of platforms, escape common forms of detection, and survive most attempts to eradicate it.
But the story gets stranger still. In posts here, here, and here, Ruiu posited another theory that sounds like something from the screenplay of a post-apocalyptic movie: “badBIOS,” as Ruiu dubbed the malware, has the ability to use high-frequency transmissions passed between computer speakers and microphones to bridge airgaps.
October 13, 2013
As a writer, Charles Stross hates, hates, hates, hates, hates Microsoft Word and wants it to DIE:
Microsoft Word is a tyrant of the imagination, a petty, unimaginative, inconsistent dictator that is ill-suited to any creative writer’s use. Worse: it is a near-monopolist, dominating the word processing field. Its pervasive near-monopoly status has brainwashed software developers to such an extent that few can imagine a word processing tool that exists as anything other than as a shallow imitation of the Redmond Behemoth. But what exactly is wrong with it?
I’ve been using word processors and text editors for nearly 30 years. There was an era before Microsoft Word’s dominance when a variety of radically different paradigms for text preparation and formatting competed in an open marketplace of ideas. One early and particularly effective combination was the idea of a text file, containing embedded commands or macros, that could be edited with a programmer’s text editor (such as ed or teco or, later, vi or emacs) and subsequently fed to a variety of tools: offline spelling checkers, grammar checkers, and formatters like scribe, troff, and latex that produced a binary page image that could be downloaded to a printer.
These tools were fast, powerful, elegant, and extremely demanding of the user. As the first 8-bit personal computers appeared (largely consisting of the Apple II and the rival CP/M ecosystem), programmers tried to develop a hybrid tool called a word processor: a screen-oriented editor that hid the complex and hostile printer control commands from the author, replacing them with visible highlight characters on screen and revealing them only when the user told the program to “reveal codes”. Programs like WordStar led the way, until WordPerfect took the market in the early 1980s by adding the ability to edit two or more files at the same time in a split screen view.
September 8, 2013
Charles Hugh Smith on the dangers of being too big in your own market:
Microsoft is a case study in dominance leading to incompetence and catastrophe. Within the moat of near-monopoly/dominance, competence dwindles to the ability to keep doing what worked spectacularly well in the past, and keeping bureaucratic infighting and divisional rivalries down to a dull background erosion of initiative and talent.
Doing more of what succeeded spectacularly in the past works until it doesn’t, at which point doggedly pressing on with the old formula of success leads to catastrophic failures.
Nokia and Blackberry are recent case studies, but the rise of Google Chrome and smart-phone/tablet computing is beginning to threaten Microsoft’s core business of being the utility monopoly in the PC space.
Dominance means leaders and employees alike lose the ability to experience risk. The customer will take what is delivered, regardless, for the simple reason that alternatives are either unavailable or cumbersome.
Dominance in any space breeds complacency and enables the luxuries of political squabbling, sclerosis and loss of focus. Competence becomes incompetence, and the infrastructure that fosters creativity and flexibility — that is, a keen appreciation of risk and spontaneity — is slowly dismantled.
That applies not just to corporations but to governments, nations and empires.
H/T to Zero Hedge for the link.
September 3, 2013
Oh, sorry, I misread the headline … it should say “Microsoft buys Finland’s tech sector“:
Microsoft has agreed a deal to buy Nokia’s mobile phone business for 5.4bn euros ($7.2bn; £4.6bn).
Nokia will also license its patents and mapping services to Microsoft. Nokia shares jumped 45% on news of the deal.
The purchase is set to be completed in early 2014, when about 32,000 Nokia employees will transfer to Microsoft.
While Nokia has struggled against competition from Samsung and Apple, Microsoft has been criticised for being slow into the mobile market.
Describing the deal as a “big, bold step forward”, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer told the BBC that his company was in the process of transforming itself from one that “was known for software and PCs, to a company that focuses on devices and services”.
“We’ve done a lot of great work in the two-and-a-half years that we’ve been in partnership with Nokia, going literally from no phones to 7.4 million smart Windows phones in the last quarter that was reported,” he said.
But he admitted: “We have more work to do to expand the range of applications on our product.”
I guess we can now retire the “Microsoft is buying
RIM Blackberry” rumours…
September 1, 2013
Strategy Page talks about the US Air Force use of Windows tablet computers for aircraft pilots and the wider adoption of tablets in the rest of the military:
Air forces all over the world are catching up when it comes to iPads. These devices were soon being adopted by officers and troops after they first appeared in 2010, without waiting for official permission. The iPad mini showed up in 2012. While using PDF files to replace maps and manuals was one of the first military uses, this was quickly followed by military-specific smart phone apps.
Early on combat pilots in Afghanistan, like many businesses, discovered how useful the iPad could be on board. U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilots found the iPad a useful way to carry hundreds of military maps, rather than the hassle of using paper versions. Marine commanders quickly realized this “field expedient” (a military “hack” that adopts something for unofficial use while in the combat zone) worked, and made it official. That meant buying iPads for this and getting to work coming up with more uses. Meanwhile, support troops that have to handle a lot of data, quickly found ways to get it done on iPads. This was pretty simple for technical troops who rely on lots of manuals. They are often already available in PDF format, and can easily be put on an iPad. But the iPads are basically hand-held computers, and can do so much more. The troops quickly began making that happen themselves.
About the same time iPad appeared the U.S. Army decided to establish an app store (the Army Marketplace) for military smart phone users. This quickly included the iPad, which soldiers were instant big fans of. The army app store included an “App Wanted” section where users could post descriptions of an app they need. If a developer (in uniform, or an army approved civilian with access to the Army Marketplace) was interested, a discussion could be started on an attached message board. The army found that many needed apps were quickly created and made available at the Army Marketplace. Developers could charge for their apps, although the army is also would pay developers to create needed apps that have been described by military smart phone users. The other services quickly adopted a similar attitude towards app development and many of the U.S. Army apps have shown on smart phones outside the country.
August 13, 2013
In Maclean’s, Peter Nowak wonders why Microsoft hasn’t already purchased Blackberry:
The logic is pretty solid. Android and Apple have run away with the smartphone market, with the Canadian company clutching at a distant and declining third-place slice. The latest numbers say the company has indeed lost that spot to Microsoft and its Windows Phone.
That’s not cause for any excitement — these are low, single-digit scraps we’re talking about. Android and Apple have about 80 and 13 per cent of the market, respectively. (As an aside, it’s funny how those numbers are starting to look like the historical division between Windows and Mac computers, huh?)
So what’s the fastest and easiest way for a company to make its anemic market share bigger? It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out the answer: combine it with somebody else’s equally anemic share into something with a little more meat on its bones. Putting BlackBerry and Microsoft’s Windows phones together would amount to almost seven-per-cent share. That’s still small, but it’s almost within striking distance of Apple.
More importantly, Microsoft — through an acquisition — would eliminate its biggest obstacle. In some countries, especially Canada. BlackBerry still enjoys decent success as the de facto third brand that buyers gravitate to because they’re loyal and/or hate Android and Apple. By most accounts, Windows Phone sales are extra anemic to non-existent in these markets as a result.
August 7, 2013
Bruce Schneier – “it’s becoming clear that we can’t trust anything anyone official says about these programs”
Bruce Schneier talks about the need to restore trust in government and the internet after all the proof we’ve had lately that “they” are lying to us pretty much all the time:
In July 2012, responding to allegations that the video-chat service Skype — owned by Microsoft — was changing its protocols to make it possible for the government to eavesdrop on users, Corporate Vice President Mark Gillett took to the company’s blog to deny it.
Turns out that wasn’t quite true.
Or at least he — or the company’s lawyers — carefully crafted a statement that could be defended as true while completely deceiving the reader. You see, Skype wasn’t changing its protocols to make it possible for the government to eavesdrop on users, because the government was already able to eavesdrop on users.
At a Senate hearing in March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assured the committee that his agency didn’t collect data on hundreds of millions of Americans. He was lying, too. He later defended his lie by inventing a new definition of the word “collect,” an excuse that didn’t even pass the laugh test.
As Edward Snowden’s documents reveal more about the NSA’s activities, it’s becoming clear that we can’t trust anything anyone official says about these programs.
Google and Facebook insist that the NSA has no “direct access” to their servers. Of course not; the smart way for the NSA to get all the data is through sniffers.
Apple says it’s never heard of PRISM. Of course not; that’s the internal name of the NSA database. Companies are publishing reports purporting to show how few requests for customer-data access they’ve received, a meaningless number when a single Verizon request can cover all of their customers. The Guardian reported that Microsoft secretly worked with the NSA to subvert the security of Outlook, something it carefully denies. Even President Obama’s justifications and denials are phrased with the intent that the listener will take his words very literally and not wonder what they really mean.
Ronald Reagan once said “trust but verify.” That works only if we can verify. In a world where everyone lies to us all the time, we have no choice but to trust blindly, and we have no reason to believe that anyone is worthy of blind trust. It’s no wonder that most people are ignoring the story; it’s just too much cognitive dissonance to try to cope with it.
This sort of thing can destroy our country. Trust is essential in our society. And if we can’t trust either our government or the corporations that have intimate access into so much of our lives, society suffers. Study after study demonstrates the value of living in a high-trust society and the costs of living in a low-trust one.
June 18, 2013
At Techdirt, Tim Cushing explains why the console gaming industry’s problems should not be “fixed” by taking away the customer’s rights:
If the current business model is unsustainable, why is that the consumer’s fault? More specifically, why are customers being pushed into giving up their “first sale” rights, along with being asked to plug the holes in the leaky business model with wads of hard-earned cash?
On top of this imposition is the assumption the current model is the only model [$200m movie, anyone?] and that mankind greatly benefits from “thousands of developers” crafting AAA titles. This is completely backward. The industry exists because of its customers, not despite them. AAA studios are not benevolent deities. They’re companies that exist because there’s a market for their products. If this market dies, so do they. If the prices are too high, customers buy elsewhere. Or not at all.
[. . .]
It’s beginning to look like a few members of the industry have been cribbing pages from the disastrous playbook of the recording industry. Raise prices. Blame customers. Bend the world to your business model. Is it only a matter of time before the gaming industry begins lobbying Congress to shut down secondhand sales?
Oh, and if the above twitrant weren’t galling enough, Cliff B. throws in a little something for those who find the online requirements of the Crossbone to be dealbreaker.
“If you can afford high speed internet and you can’t get it where you live direct your rage at who is responsible for pipe blocking you,” he said.
Really? Maybe I’ll direct my rage at the entitled jackass who’s supporting a company’s decision to effectively limit its own market simply because it can’t live without some sort of DRM infection. And what if you can’t afford high speed internet? Well, you must be one of those people who live in the area marked “Whogivesashitland” in Cliffy’s mental map. And trust me, plenty of rage has been directed at the “pipe blockers,” but they care even less about their customer base than the area of the gaming industry Bleszinski represents.
Those interested in gutting the resale market to protect their margins are turning potential customers into enemies. If you can’t adapt, you can’t succeed. These moves being made by Microsoft (and supported by industry mouthpieces) are nothing more than attempts to subsidize an unsustainable business model by forcibly extracting the maximum toll from as many transactions as possible. The industry is not a necessity or a public good. If it’s going to make the changes it needs to survive, it needs to give up this delusion.