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Archive for May, 2009

The real or not question continues.  Are these dazzling damzels actually playing the piano?

After watching Big as a child, the difficulty of oversized keyboarding has always seemed pretty high, but I reckon this pure talent:

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Feeling blu

We’ve been researching Blu-ray a lot this week. As a relatively young format it’s been through a lot – the initial (and ultimately victorious) battle with Toshiba’s HD-DVD, widespread consumer confusion and the threat of digital downloads.

But now the tide seems to be turning. Increasing adoption of HD programming from the likes of Sky, Virgin and Freesat is getting the message through to consumers that their shiny new HDTVs are only really HD when a proper source is plugged in. Prices of Blu-ray players and the discs themselves are falling, they’re becoming more visible in stores, and adverts which would previously have DVD as the main format are now leading with the Blu-ray version.

The technology is also evolving. Interactive content through the BD Live service is being realised, moving away from simple web pages with more trailers to real dynamic content that isn’t available anywhere else. A good example is last year’s The Dark Knight, which featured a live, community commentary with the director. A new development this year will be seen with the release of Watchmen, where a special edition will also include a PS3 game, taking advantage of that format’s shared userbase.

So, what do you all think of Blu-ray? Have you seen it going and do you think it lives up to the hype?

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Some debate whether this is all real – but some impressive skills from a bunch of American Footballers. What do you think,  computer generated or not?

Certainly more realistic than this from Nike.

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Brilliant post explaining what would and wouldn’t work for time-travel in Discover magazine – via Kottke. A special favourite from his list of rules, particularly given that it features in the new Star Trek movie and involves the word ‘spaghettification,’ which sounds both painful and delicious.

5. Black holes are not time machines.

Sadly, if you fell into a black hole, it would not spit you out at some other time. It wouldn’t spit you out at all — it would gobble you up and grow slightly more corpulent in the process. If the black hole were big enough, you might not even notice when you crossed the point of no return defined by the event horizon. But once you got close to the center of the hole, tidal forces would tug at you — gently at first, but eventually tearing you apart. The technical term is spaghettification. Not a recommended strategy for would-be time adventurers.

Loads of other good tips / facts on Discover.

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Ahoy me hearties. I’ve raised the Jolly Roger and taken over the Chivalry House ship.

I’m late to the party on this, but pirates are back in a big way. For much of last month barely a day went by without another reported attack off the coast of Somalia, then the Pirate Bay founders finally appeared in court (and lost – although an appeal may yet save them). Next was Wolverine, whose famous healing powers were tested when his big budget movie launch was trumped by an early copy popping up online, and then, best of all, Facebook became infinitely more fun and interesting than it has in years with the pirate language option (yes, I am that easily pleased).

The traditional, seabound pirate variety got a lot of traction last month and it was pretty scary stuff. One of the more exciting twists was when the media brought Obama in on the act. What must have been a challenging, yet routine mission to rescue a US captain was reported more like an episode of 24, with the President personally giving the snipers the green light to shoot – almost as if surveying the scene from afar with binoculars before calling in Jack Bauer and giving the order.

I’m more interested, though, in the repercussions of the Pirate Bay trial on movie piracy and online distribution. I won’t deny ever using sites like The Pirate Bay, particularly during my uni days. That was the golden age, if you will, of Internet piracy – broadband was a still relatively new thing and practically every film, CD, software or even book appeared online, often before official release. Agree or disagree, you can see the appeal to a poor student. With less time and more money these days, I don’t go there anymore – but I know many still do.

The challenge for the movie studios now is to adapt and evolve to meet the demands of an 21st century, net-savvy audience. Personally I don’t think Hollywood can ever beat the geeks at their own game. While they may manage to close The Pirate Bay, a hundred more will spring up in its place. There have been some overtures to drag film distribution forward: US Lovefilm-alike NetFlix allows members to stream directly over the web, YouTube has recently announced plans to stream entire films and services like iPlayer and Hulu are improving and growing in popularity all the time.

But as yet, there is no Spotify moment on the horizon. I mention that service specifically because it’s truly a watershed in how music reaches its audience – and all who see it, young and old alike, immediately understand it and get started. I have heard friends say they went home and introduced the service to their mum or dad only to find that they started using it weeks ago – when was the last time that happened!?

The film industry needs to get its act together, and refocus its efforts from prevention and prosecution to finding new methods of online distribution. My personal belief, albeit one that is not shared by many, is that online file-sharing of music and films has only a negligible effect on sales – a viewpoint backed up somewhat by record box-office takings this year and a recent survey on music buying habits. What it demonstrates is that people want a new, convenient, cheap way to access content. Give us that, and although sites like The Pirate Bay will survive, they won’t ever prosper like before.

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There’s going to be a hell of a lot of buzz about this “next big thing” in search… the demo is extremely impressive. It’s due to launch soon, and well worth checking out.

I think its particularly interesting in light of a thought I’ve been having for a while – in that the next ‘literacy’ challenge we have (basic literacy, numeracy, computer literacy)… what I guess we could broadly call data literacy. Most of us, including me, aren’t data literate. I couldn’t write a script that took data from one source and manipulated it into/onto another – beyond basic mashup toys and Spreadsheet jiggery pokery. Why is this useful? For any number of reasons – maybe we want to plot all the beerintheevening pubs with pool tables on a Google Map, or maybe we want to analyse the number of #tag mentions of a specific topic happen on Twitter in any given day/week and plot it on a graph… you’d need to be pretty handy with computers to manage that. Well, by my standards…

What’s really cool about Wolfram Alpha is that its a tool for the rest of us. Its apparent ‘intelligence’ takes that data and runs clever routines on them to deliver the information to us in helpful terms.

Have a look. Let me know what you think.

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I’ve just started following Sci-Fi author John Scalzi on Twitter and reading his blog.

The man’s very entertaining… having started reading him thanks to his Hugo Award nomination for The Last Colony (don’t start there if you’re interested, start here)…

Two posts that particularly caught my attention this week; first, his column on Sci-Fi Scanner, which has a look at a few sci-fi technologies we could probably do without. I’m with him on Star Trek’s transporter technology (“99.9 percent accuracy would mean you’ve been turned into a screaming lump of meat”) and flying cars (“We already know how badly people drive in two dimensions. Do you really want to add 50 percent more dimensionality to drive badly in?”)… but am a little bit more optimistic about humanity’s prospects for dealing with intelligent robots and warp drive.

The second post was this brilliant conversation with a stick of butter. It makes little sense and follows on from a poll he conducted on his blog, but is hugely entertaining and reminds of me Scary Duck, who is also Awesome.

Worth checking out if you like sci-fi, or things that are awesome.

H/t to Flashboy for introduction to all things Scalzi.

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