The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'sony'
Apparently Sony-Ericsson have codenamed their latest mobile phone "Shakira", after a pop singer signed to Sony Music. This isn't the first time a Sony electronic gadget was named after a Sony-signed recording artist; four years ago, Sony launched a pocket instant messaging device which shared its name with a dance-music artist. Which makes one wonder whether there's now a clause in the standard Sony Music recording contract that grants Sony's electronics division the rights to use an artist's name for naming products, and, if so, what artist will get a gadget named after them next.
Remember Gracenote, the firm that bought the user-contributed CDDB database and locked it up, locking open-source clients out of it? Well, they've just been bought by Sony. I wonder what this will mean: with Sony BMG being a pillar of the RIAA, will owning a database which receives a notification every time somebody rips a CD be a useful weapon in the War On Copying? And will Apple keep using Gracenote for iTunes now that it's controlled by a rival?
A year or so ago, Sony's egregiously misnamed Universal Media Disc format (a prooprietary optical disc which only plays in one device—the Sony PlayStation Portable)—essentially died as a viable medium for selling anything other than PSP games. For some reason, people didn't want to spend good money on a low-resolution copy of a movie, bound to a plastic cartridge, for viewing on their PSP; perhaps the number of PSP owners who would use their units for repeatedly watching Spiderman 2 on the train, as opposed to, say, playing videogames, wasn't that great to begin with, and the percentage willing to incur the cost of buying a movie in this inflexible format was even lower. Not even Sony giving away UMDs of their films with DVDs, for only slightly more money, could revive the flagging format.
So now, we learn that Sony are trying to revive the UMD format as a medium for movies by selling TV shows on it, in conjunction with MTV (formerly a music-video channel, now a purveyor of entertainment to the lucrative young-and-dumb demographic). That's right; presumably some executive decided that, while people may not be willing to pay money for a disc containing a version of a movie that only plays on their PSP, they'd be willing to do so for some episodes of Beavis & Butthead. Unless they're planning to bundle them with boxes of breakfast cereal or something.
It's not just the cost of purchasing the disc that counts; it's also the cost of having another bit of plastic taking up space in your house and your mental filing system. As the value of the bits of plastic decreases, the awkwardness of their material nature increases. (A video game you may spend many hours playing is worth a plastic disc and case to store it in—not to mention £25 or however much it costs— a movie you watch once or twice, less so, especially since looking at a small handheld screen is not the best way to enjoy movies if there are alternatives. A few episodes of a TV show sounds like an even more marginal proposition, and the sort of problem that downloads were invented to solve.) Especially in a format whose flexibility is deliberately limited.
Nolan Bushnell, the founder of pioneering video game company Atari (of little relation to anything named "Atari" after about 1982 or so), talks about the state of videogaming, his new casual video-game bistro concept and why Sony's PS3 is (in his view) doomed to failure:
I saw a very large and untapped market, which is the entrepreneur's dream. There was no real venue for social games. Games got violent in the mid 1980s... that lost women. Then they got long-form and complex. That lost the casual gamer.
I think Sony shot themselves in the foot... there is a high probability [they] will fail. The price point is probably unsustainable. For years and years Sony has been a very difficult company to deal with from a developer standpoint. They could get away with their arrogance and capriciousness because they had an installed base. They have also historically had horrible software tools. You compare that to the Xbox 360 with really great authoring tools [and] additional revenue streams from Xbox live... a first party developer would be an idiot to develop for Sony first and not the 360. People don't buy hardware, they buy software.
Apple recalls laptop batteries that were made with potentially contaminated Sony cells. If you have a 12- or 15-inch G4 PowerBook or 12" G4 iBook, you could be a winner. Check the serial number on the battery and, if it matches, fill in the form and a new battery will be sent out to you, along with a pre-paid envelope for the old one. Even in the overwhelming probability that your battery wasn't about to explode, you do get a fresh battery for free.
Were there a law requiring accuracy in format naming, Sony would undoubtedly be hauled over the coals for its "Universal Media Disc" format. Technically, the format itself is not all that bad (it's essentially a small optical disk in a shell, not unlike Sony's previous innovative format, the MiniDisc), and contains something not unlike DVD data. However, because Sony's decision-making process seems to have been terminally beholden to the dogs in the intellectual-property manger since they got into the movie-and-music business, the key feature of the format was not what you could do with it, but what you, the thieving user, cannot: there are not, and most probably never will be, devices capable of reading UMDs and being hooked up to a computer. And that goes doubly for recordable UMDs: you can imagine the blood pressure of Sony executives soaring at the very thought. No, UMD is an impregnable fortress; so impregnable, in fact, that there is only one device capable of doing anything with the nifty-looking plastic discs: the PlayStation Portable. Which is not particularly universal, is it?
As a proprietary carrier for PSP games, that's all very well; after all, cartridges (from the Atari days onwards) were no more designed for interoperability. Sony, though, had bigger plans. Hence it became a Universal Media Disc, capable of holding various types of content, and playing them on... well, one type of machine. Someone at Sony noticed that personal media players were the next big thing and that the PSP would make a dandy one of those. Of course, letting people rip their DVDs to a PSP would be Wrong and Sending The Wrong Message (and, more importantly, illegal; even if Sony locked the path down with all the DRM they could muster, the very fact that the process involved breaking DRM at the ripping stage would guarantee litigation), so, instead, PSP owners would be able to get their fix of legitimate movies and videos on UMD.
In an alternate future somewhere, fashionably connected e-consumers go down to shops, plonk down two-digit sums and buy UMD copies of their favourite movies. Perhaps they cost a bit less, because, after all, the resolution is considerably lower than a DVD; or perhaps not, because the convenience of re-watching your favourite Friends episode on the bus outweighs the fact that the picture is not as detailed as a DVD. Of course, you can't watch your UMDs on anything other than your PSP's pocket-sized screen, but that's OK, because in this reality, everybody buys two copies of everything: one for the plasma-screen and one for their PSP. Much as every household in this reality has two copies of the latest Coldplay album: one for the living-room hi-fi and one for the SUV stereo; making a copy would, after all, be wrong.
However, this reality, with its radically different laws of economics and human psychology, is not our reality; and consequently, the UMD movie format looks to be on its last legs. Stores are removing acres of shelf space devoted to UMD movies and studios are cutting their losses and cancelling UMD releases. Even Sony's practice of bundling UMDs with DVDs (at a slightly lower markup than buying both separately) failed to breathe life into the format, and it now looks set to become dead media. As expected, a Sony executive tries to blame those thieving users with their Memory Sticks and piracy-encouraging video iPods, though without much conviction.
A future version of the PSP may have a TV output (provided that Sony can convince the Hollywood studios that such an analogue hole won't threaten their precious intellectual property too much), though that may not be enough to get people buying UMD videos in droves and breathe new life into the format. If UMD video dies, that will further cement the Universal Media Disc's claim to being the world's most ironically-named media format.
In an attempt to generate spin for the PlayStation Portable, Sony hire graffiti/paste-up artists to put up pictures of kids playing with PSPs as if they were traditional toys. Local hipsters, irritated with the Spectacle's commodification of dissent (and/or copy-protection malware on Sony CDs), retaliate, scrawling anti-Sony slogans on them. Discussion ensues:
"Aaaaaarrrrggggghhh. I KNEW something wasn't right about the thing when I took a picture of it a couple weeks ago in san Francisco. Two kids. 6-feet tall. Right near the new freeway off-ramp. Looked way too clean to be real. Working for a branding firm. I'm adamantly opposed to this kind of infiltration by the big corporations. Equivalent in my mind with viral marketing stealth efforts to generate a buzz about a new product the unsuspecting masses by some cool, attractive shill on the company payroll."And more pictures here.
It looks like Sony's CD copy protection compromises Macintoshes too; at least if you're trusting enough to enter the administrator password. Which just means that Sony's copy-protection geeks haven't found a local privilege-escalation exploit in MacOS X that they can use. (I'm sure that Sony would believe that they are within their rights to do this because their prerogative to control access to their intellectual property by all means necessary overrides the user's right to maintain the integrity of their computer, and the ability to use it to potentially use Sony's IP in unapproved ways.)
(via bOING bOING)
Reports are coming in about a new Sony Vaio computer with, wait for it, a SACD burner. Which sounds good, except for the facts that the SACD format uses an unusual extremely-high-frequency 1-bit audio encoding system requiring considerable processing to convert to/from the PCM formats used everywhere else, that SACD recordable media seems to be rather rare, and that once you burn a SACD of music (presumably from your Sony Trusted Client ATRAC jukebox application, which does the PCM-to-bizarro-world conversion in the background for you), that disc will be useless for anything other than playback in a few SACD players, and the DRM inherent in the format at every level will prevent such discs from having the positively criminal levels of flexibility and tinkerability that have made recordable CDs (and DVDs) such a hit with users everywhere. Which makes it all seem rather pointless.
It looks like Sony are finally releasing a MiniDisc-based data drive; only a decade too late, too. The Hi-MD drive (with the catchy name "PIT-IN") will apparently be a USB Mass Storage device, and will go head-to-head with smaller and more robust USB keyrings. Chances are it'll still not be able to rip data off audio MiniDiscs for copyright-enforcement reasons, so all your bootleg gig minidiscs are still locked up in the translucent plastic prison of Sony DRM.
Meanwhile, the next Palm handheld will be the Tungsten X; it's basically going to be like a T5 with a built-in iPod Mini-sized hard drive, and MP3 player software to take advantage of that. If they put some audio inputs on that (other than the voice-grade microphone they come with), it'd make a pretty nifty portable audio workstation.
And someone has created OSX developer trading cards. Which make you wonder whether they buy their shirts in bulk from the same retailer.
Sony have received a patent on a technology for inducing sensory experiences by ultrasonically stimulating the brain; it works similarly to the transcranial magnetic stimulation used in the "God helmet", which stimulates the sensation of a supernatural or religious experience, only on a finer level. The patent is here; perhaps this means that we can expect a PlayStation accessory that induces the authentic visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory sensations of stalking cyborg terrorists through the ventilation ducts of an alien space station or whatever.
The pattern of energy is constructed such that each portion of the pattern projected into the neural cortex may be individually pulsed at low frequency. The system produces low frequency pulsing by controlling the phase differences between the emitted energy of the primary and secondary transducer array elements. The pulsed ultrasonic signal alters the neural firing timing in the cortex. Changes in the neural firing timing induce various sensory experiences depending on the location of the firing timing change in the cortex. The mapping of sensory areas of the cortex is known and used in current surgically invasive techniques. Thus, the system induces recognizable sensory experiences by applying ultrasonic energy pulsed at low frequency in one or more selected patterns on one or more selected locations of the cortex.
Apparently British technogoth scifi author Charlie Stross has uploaded to a new Sony PSP:
"Charlie was teetering on the precipice of transhumanism for the whole last year," said his friend and collaborator Cory Doctorow. "His lifestyle and cerebral/neurological capabilities had been ramped up through intensive ideation and selective smart-drug use to an exquisite pitch just short of the Singularity. When he laid his hands on that sweet, sweet hunk of hardware, it provided the critical mass of complexification necessary to tip him over fully into the Extropian ideal condition."
(Stross himself has posted a correction, saying that it was a Palm Pilot he uploaded to. Which makes more sense; would anyone with Stross' copyfighter credentials really want to upload to a Sony PSP? I imagine that, with the DRM infrastructure, it would be too much like being trapped in a prison for all eternity (or, at least, until the batteries run out).
Anyway, he may not be the first to have done so; it is rumoured that Australian hard-scifi writer Greg Egan's absence from the publishing world is due to him having uploaded some years ago:
Aussie critic and potential "Spiker" himself, Damien Broderick, comments, "I tried to visit Egan years ago, and found myself stuck in a timelike infinity loop once I got too close to his nominal address. Only the concerted efforts of Stephen Baxter, Vernor Vinge and Greg Bear were able to free me. And even now, all my interior organs remain reversed. I subsist solely on amino acids of alternate chiriality."
Really? And I thought he was too busy fighting for asylum-seekers' human rights.
Sony announce new, improved MiniDisc. Remember those? Well, the new ones will be able to hold 30 hours of sound, and to store video. Of course, since Sony is beholden to the copyright industry, the format will be crippled from birth; you won't be able to mount one as a disk (as you can do with, say, an iPod) and copy files to or from it, as that would allow the user (who, by definition, cannot be trusted) to steal music. The best you will be able to hope for is something like "NetMD", a deliberately proprietary, crippled and nonfunctional protocol running over a USB cable and allowing you to laboriously check in/out some media, and only if you run Windows too. And don't even think of a USB/FireWire/IDE MiniDisc drive, as there's no way such a threat to global economic stability would ever be allowed to see the light of day. In any case, it doesn't sound like the New, Improved MiniDisc is going to do much to threaten the supremacy of MP3 players/recorders (including the upcoming mini-iPod).
(MiniDiscs? Yes, I remember those. I've even got a MD recorder gathering dust somewhere. I haven't used it at all since getting my Archos Jukebox Recorder.)
Meanwhile, the same section of The Age has a
press release article about Personal Paint coming out for AmigaOS 4.0, just in time for the Amiga to reconquer the computer world. Personal Paint is supposed to be "a mainstay of the application base for the Amiga platform", though it's the first I've heard of it; wasn't Deluxe Paint the most popular Amiga application throughout that platform's working life?