Category: Internet and Technology
The iPhone music program reportedly shares your age, gender, and even location with advertisers.
Online radio network Pandora provides users with highly curated playlists based on the Music Genome Project, an analysis of more than 400 attributes of a song that make it appealing to your specific ear taste buds. The cost of this pretty incredible service for most folks: nothing at all. Well, nothing at all if you don’t consider quietly sharing some of your web habits with advertisers a “cost.”
While you’re paying zilch to listen to Led Zeppelin Radio, someone is footing the royalty bill — Pandora, duh. As the service explains in its Frequently Asked Questions, it collects some personal information from users so it can help its advertisers — who support the service by paying Pandora cash money — target consumers that will be useful to them. The explanation for why you tell Pandora your age and gender: “The free version of Pandora is mostly supported by advertisements, and we want to be able to show the most relevant ads to our listeners.”
But just how much of your private info is flowing out to advertisers as “Black Dog” streams into your earphones? A new exposé by the Wall Street Journal seems to argue the answer is “too much.” According to the WSJ’s data, Pandora shares age, gender, location, and phone ID information with marketing firms on both its iPhone and Android mobile versions. So while advertsiers won’t have your name and email address, they’ll get their hands on a lot of info about your mobile phone behavior. .
The director’s much-hyped LMNO video game was reportedly in development for years.
He rescued Amity from Jaws, reminded us of Oskar Schindler’s heroic list, and, of course, saved Private Ryan. But even a filmmaker as messianic as Steven Spielberg couldn’t do the same for his latest video game project.
After years of work on the top-secret “Project LMNO,” publisher EA has officially announced that the title has been canceled.
“While EA maintains its relationship with Steven Spielberg, we ceased development of LMNO,” a company rep told game blog Joystiq.
The news came to light during a podcast with industry vet Jake Kazdal, who revealed that he worked on the doomed project for over two years.
“I don’t want to get the EA police on me. I can’t say too much. It was very ambitious,” he said on the podcast. “I don’t know exactly what was the thing that made it fall apart.”
“There was some rival game stuff that may or may not have come out of EA that was basically the same thing minus some of the stuff we were doing,” he continued. “There was just a lot of politics.”
The death of LMNO — a very ‘Spielberg’ action-adventure featuring a secret agent and a female alien — is one of the few blemishes on Spielberg’s otherwise solid game career. He’s credited as being the creator of the company’s Medal of Honor shooter series, which debuted on the Playstation back in 1999 (a reboot of the franchise set in modern-day Afghanistan releases this week, though he’s not involved.) He’s also the designer of the critically-acclaimed Boom Blox titles for the Wii.
Boom Blox and LMNO were the first two titles revealed as part of a three-game Spielberg / EA development partnership back in 2005. There’s been no word on the state of the third and final game.
If you’re planning to ditch your current cell phone plan, here are some things to do first.
Kevin Van Dyk is perfectly willing to talk about why he is counting the days until he can ditch his cellphone service provider, AT&T, in March 2011. But you might not be able to get a hold of him.
“My phone only works half the time in my house,” says Van Dyk, a Spring Hill, Fla. resident. He isn’t sure if any of the other providers can do better — spotty service is a problem in and around the small town, too. But with rampant billing errors and poor service from AT&T, he says, they can’t do much worse.
Bad connections, dropped calls and other service quality problems are driving consumers like Van Dyk to switch carriers. In a recent study, J.D. Power & Associates notes that consumers planning to switch reported problems four times as often as those without plans to switch. And a growing number fall into the former camp: The rate of dropped calls reported is up 33% compared with six months ago.
There are ways to try before you buy — to test call quality before you’re locked in with a service provider. But it’s a labor-intensive process. And if you’re not willing to wait out your current contract, it’s also an expensive one, with early termination fees of up to $350.
The best way to find out if a new phone will work where you do is to get one and try it. Carriers will let you out of a new contract penalty-free within the first 14 to 30 days. You’ll most likely want to port your number over, but be aware of the timing: if your existing contract isn’t up yet, that will trigger an early termination fee. Use the trial period to test your phone at home, in the office and other places you frequent.
It may sound obvious, but a surprising number of people buy a new phone before going on vacation or some other shift in their usual schedule, says Kent German, a senior editor covering cell phones for CNET. Not enough bars? You’ll owe only for plan charges during that trial period, whatever plan you sign up for. Of course, then you’ll have to go through the process of porting your number and trying again with another carrier.
If you’re not up for the hassle — or you want to research options before your contract is up — there are applications such as CNET’s cell coverage maps and BillShrink’s plan comparison tool out there to estimate signal strength down to the zip code. Those applications and carrier call quality ratings aren’t foolproof, says Kirk Parsons, the senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power & Associates, because reception can vary by block. This, of course, is all subjective. People on a network with wide reports of problems are more likely to notice those misconnections, he says, “and some carriers do a better job of managing customers’ perceptions than others.”
Or you can source the crowd. Before Tariq Ahmad moved to Greeley, Colo., to attend grad school earlier this year, he visited the major carriers’ cell phone stores in the town and talked to people on the street about the quality of the service. Alternatively, have a party. Inviting other people over to check out how many bars their phones get in your home or apartment is a fast and friendly way to research other carriers. At work, poll cube-mates for similar results.
Even heavy data users should think carefully before rushing out to get an ultrafast 4G phone.
Imagine having a mobile phone that matches what you can do on your home PC or laptop. That’s the power of 4G – the term for fourth generation mobile service – which was rolled out by Sprint (S) earlier this year and will soon be available for Verizon (VZ) subscribers. Here are the most important things you need to know about 4G.
1. It’s fast. Sprint, the first mover in the 4G market, says its 4G is up to 10 times faster than 3G, which was introduced eight years ago. Sprint promises peak downloads of more than 10 Mbps (megabits per second), with average downloads of three to six Mbps. Verizon announced on October 6 that it plans in the fourth quarter to launch its 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) network with downloads to range between 5 to 12 Mbps.
A closer look at the numbers, however, reveals that 4G speeds may vary. Sprint says that 4G can be 10 times faster than 3G. But read the fine print in Sprint’s promotional material: Sprint bases this claim on speed comparison between 3G’s low-end 600 kilobits per second (Kbps) vs. 4G’s max 6Mbps. Sprint notes that 3G can reach 1.7 Mbps, while 4G may drop down to 3 Mbps. So that’s less than twice as fast. We will know more specifics about Verizon’s network in the weeks ahead as it rolls out its service.
2. Regardless of how much faster 4G might be, the increased connection speed lets you do more things with your phone. Early users are already enjoying features like uninterrupted video conferencing, high-definition television streaming and of course lightning fast web surfing that smartphones on 3G networks are unable to provide. Power business users and other early adopters of the new technology who experience 4G will never want to go back.
3. Casual users mostly interested in talking, texting and occasional web surfing on their cell phones don’t need to rush into buying a 4G-enabled phone (and it is not possible to upgrade existing 3G models to the new network.) Even if you are ready to buy a phone and wanted to upgrade to 4G, the network is not available in all parts of the country (see below). It will take years for 4G to roll out into every rural area, and residents of big cities could get shut out due to big restrictions on new cell phone towers.
4. You can easily find out if 4G is available in your area. Sprint says its 4G network reaches more than 268 million people in 50 markets in the United States “and counting.” To see whether 4G is available in your hometown, go here.
Verizon says its 4G LTE network initially will cover 100 million people in 38 markets by the end of 2010. The first markets with access to Verizon’s 4G network include Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
5. 4G is more expensive. Sprint currently charges its customers with 4G-enabled devices an extra $10 per month, regardless of whether they can access a 4G network or not. With increased data usage and Verizon entering the fray, both networks are rumored to convert to “pay-as-you-go” pricing schemes rather than unlimited use packages. 4G devices will also invariably cost more – at least at first – than similar phones on the same networks.
Back in May, Sprint launched its first 4G phone, HTC EVO 4G, selling for $200 with a two-year contract. That phone runs on Google’s Android mobile operating system, and has access to nearly 100,000 Android apps. Verizon has not announced pricing and plan information for upcoming 4G-enabled smartphones.
6. Batteries take a hit on 4G. Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G can run out of battery power after only a few hours of use. While power can be conserved by switching off the 4G setting, the last thing you want to do with your new state-of-the-art smartphone is to slow it down. Extra battery packets which add to the weight of an already heavy phone can be purchased for about $100.
7. A 4G mobile hotspot can give a boost to your 3G phone. Sprint’s website displays a video showing how an iPhone user can find its 4G network and increase the iPhone’s speed. Take that AT&T. Sprint says the hotspot can work with up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices at time: a phone, a laptop, camera, a couple music players and so on. Sprint says the Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot by Sierra Wireless is the first dual-mode mobile hotspot on the market.
8. Sprint and Verizon are leading the way with 4G, but where’s the competition? They’re not snoozing. Kent German reported in CNET that AT&T will be busting a move into 4G next year. AT&T Operations CEO John Stankey says the company will light up its network with LTE service by the middle of 2011. He didn’t list cities, but he says AT&T is aiming to cover between 70 million and 75 million people by the end of 2011.
Meanwhile T-Mobile has been touting its HPSA+ upgrade. T-Mobile says the upgrade increases its network’s speed three to five times over 3G. T-Mobile describes its HSPA+ enhancement as a “super-fast mobile broadband network that delivers 4G speeds in the Northeastern U.S. and other major cities across the country.”
9. So if you are one of those people with a need for speed or rely on your phone for multimedia business communication, it makes sense to upgrade to a 4G phone right away. Just understand the geographic restrictions in accessing the network, and be prepared to pay more in your monthly bill while also making sure to charge your phone more regularly.
For everyone else, there is no need to rush into 4G. Whenever it is naturally time to upgrade your phone due to performance or an expiring contract, you should consider jumping on to the faster network. By that time, 4G will be available in more areas and on more carriers. Although I wouldn’t expect prices to go down, battery and other technical issues associated with new gadgets should be resolved.
The only other thing you’ll have to worry about at that point is when it makes sense to upgrade to the fifth generation of cell phone technology.
StarCraft: Ghost is one massively hyped game that never made it into players’ hands.
So, the unthinkable has happened: once-dead tongue-in-cheek shooter sequel Duke Nukem Forever has been uncancelled, and should be heading to stores sometime in 2011. But what games weren’t so lucky? Which high-profile projects were cancelled and won’t ever rise from their graves? Read on for some of our favorites.
Starcraft II is ruling the charts this year — but this console-based spin-off probably never will. A stealthy, third-person adventure set in the popular Starcraft universe, it was abandoned in 2006. It’s technically “suspended” and not cancelled as such, and some fans still cling to the faint hope that it might see the light of day at some point.
Super Mario 128
First named in the late ’90s as a follow-up to the seminal Super Mario 64, Mario 128 originally saw the light in 2000 as a tech demo for the then-new Gamecube. Rumors around its development persisted for years but to no avail; bits and pieces of the Mario 128 concept have shown up in other Mario titles, including Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, however.
This World of Warcraft-style Halo spin-off was never formally announced, and details only emerged after it had been canned by Microsoft around 2007. With a budget said to have been as much as $90 million, it could be the most expensive cancelled game around.
Warcraft fans were devastated when this point-and-click adventure was dramatically canned in 1998. It was to have been a light-hearted, hand-drawn 2D affair in the vein of the early Monkey Island games, but developer Blizzard decided it had been outpaced by its competitors and pulled the plug.
The mid-00s didn’t exactly go well for publisher Take Two. Reeling from the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas “Hot Coffee” debacle, it took steps to clean up its image — and one of them was to quietly cancel Snow, which was to have been a drug-dealing sim that let players advance from small-time marijuana pusher to cocaine kingpin.
This Is Vegas
Open-world gambling and womanizing sim This Is Vegas always sounded like a bit of a risky bet. Publisher Midway poured as much as $50 million into development of the project, but came up snake-eyes, filing for bankruptcy last year. Warner Bros. picked up the company’s assets — including Vegas — but word is the game is no more.
Christopher Nolan says he has lots of ideas that couldn’t fit in the film. But game won’t come soon.
Christopher Nolan might have the Midas touch when it comes to making movies, but he hasn’t had a lot of luck in the videogame arena. But that’s not dissuading the writer / director / producer, who plans to bring his hit film “Inception” to a console near you.
“We are looking at developing a videogame based on the world of the film, which has all kinds of ideas that you can’t fit into a feature film,” Nolan told reporters at a press conference in Rome, according to a report in Variety. “That’s something we’ve been talking about and are looking at doing long term, in a couple of years.”
The move makes sense. “Inception” has grossed over $750 million dollars at the box office since its release – and the film’s target audience lines up perfectly with the core gaming demographic.
But Nolan has tried to bring one of his movies to the gaming space before – 2008’s “The Dark Knight” – and it didn’t go well.
The game first missed a coordinated launch with the theatrical release, then failed to materialize when the DVD hit shelves. Ultimately, Electronic Arts cancelled the title after shutting down the studio that was working on it.
The world of video games is, of course, littered with forgettable movie-based tie-ins. The vast majority of those were rush jobs done by developers who were far removed from the film process, rarely (if ever) coordinating with the director.
If Nolan were to take an active role in the “Inception” game’s development, that would be an encouraging sign – but it would hardly be a guarantee of success.
Just ask James Cameron. The most successful director of all time worked closely with Ubisoft when that publisher was creating the videogame companion for “Avatar”. But when the game launched, it didn’t come close to mirroring the film’s success, failing to even crack the list of the top 20 best-selling games last December.
Atari had better luck when it worked with the Wachowski brothers on “Enter the Matrix”. Launching simultaneously with “The Matrix Reloaded” in 2003, the game went on to sell 5 million copies – but it was lambasted by critics and players, and future “Matrix” games weren’t big sellers.
Other Hollywood directors have been able to extend their cinematic prowess to the gaming screen, though. Peter Jackson worked closely with Ubisoft to create the gaming adaptation of his “King Kong” film, a game that went on to become one of the premiere launch titles for the Xbox 360. And Steven Spielberg has worked on non-movie related games with Electronic Arts — including his “Boom Blox” puzzle games — that have gone on to become critical smashes.
More recently, developers at Disney Interactive Studios worked closely with Pixar on the video game version of “Toy Story 3.” That game became one of the most lauded movie tie-in titles in the company’s history.
Nolan’s not the only celebrated director expressing interest in exploring the game world these days. Guillermo Del Toro, director of the “Hellboy” franchise and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” is said to be close to signing a deal with publisher THQ to work jointly on “games that are going to be technically and narratively very interesting.”
Like Nolan, del Toro has an artistic vision that’s distinct from the rest of Hollywood. Gamers are wary, having been burned by too many bad Hollywood tie-ins already, but hopeful that the magic the directors bring to the big screen is something they can deliver to the consoles as well.
Related Link: Inception Movie Full Production Notes