Amazing Life

Here we have the man who invented the personal computer, then the laptop. He’s now destroying them. That is an amazing life.

Rupert Murdoch on Steve Jobs

Books and e-books

Two interesting, possibly not entirely unrelated news stories in the past week.

First is the really sad news that Waterstones is closing its two Dublin stores. I'm genuinely quite upset about this. Not only because I know a few fantastic people who work there, but also (and slightly selfishly) because I loved going into these shops. The Dawson Street branch is like a Georgian oasis of peace and quiet. I'm less excited about returning home to Dublin now that Waterstones is gone.

Then there's the news that for the first time, Amazon sold more kindle e-books than paperbacks. Amazon claim that for every 100 paperbacks sold in the last quarter of 2010, it sold 115 kindle e-books. I'd love to see the actual figures here. It could be, as Steve Jobs suggests, that people just don't read anymore, in which case the entire story is a statistical blip and not worth getting too excited about. I'm guessing it's not, and we're seeing a genuine shift in the way people read.

When I was back home in Dublin, I took a stroll around Waterstones in the Jervis Centre. I spent almost an hour browsing because, like I said, it's a nice place to take your time in. Although I had three books in my hands (Bad Science, Operation Mincemeat and The Good Fairies of New York, if you're interested), I put them back. I realised buying them would take up precious space in my suitcase for the trip back -- space that could be used for Tayto and Ballymaloe relish -- and then I'd have to find space for them on already-overflowing shelves. While I was sitting down for coffee later, I bought the Kindle versions of the three three books I had been looking at.

Now I feel pretty bad.

But at the same time, I think now is a good time for publishers and booksellers (the bricks-and-mortar kind) to tackle this problem. Because they have something powerful that Amazon, as much as it tries, can't compete with.

I love my Kindle. I love the convenience of it. I love the fact that I've got my library with me wherever I go. I love that every book I buy for it means one less book taking up space on my bookshelves, one less thing for my wife to yell at me about. I love the experience of reading on it.

But I don't like the experience of shopping on it. Or rather, I don't like the experience of window-shopping on it. It might give me the choice of hundreds of thousands of books right at my fingertips, but unless I know exactly the book I'm looking for, I'm screwed. There's no serendipity.

Retail stores, like Waterstones, have the opposite problem. They're all serendipity. Conversely, because they have limited physical space, chances are they might not have that one particular book you're looking for, especially if it's in any way off the beaten path. But that doesn't matter because while you're looking for that one book, your eye might be drawn to something else. An author you haven't heard of, writing in a genre you don't usually like. You decide to check it out and -- boom -- you have a new favourite book.

Amazon doesn't have that.

Another thing Waterstones has that I'm really going to miss are the 'Our favourites'. A curated section with books chosen by the people who work there, with a little note underneath, written by the member of staff who chose it explaining why they like that particular book. These were always great places to discover something new because their choices were always wonderfully idiosyncratic and always interesting.

Amazon doesn't have that either.

What Amazon does have are recommendations based on what I've already bought. In other words "If you liked this, here's more of the same". I'm sure it's a very sophisticated algorithm and took hundreds of man-hours to perfect, but that's not what I want. It sounds stupid, but I don't want you to recommend stuff I like, I want you to recommend stuff you like.

That's the role retail book shops play. That's the itch they scratch that online shops just can't reach. And I think it's time for them to start playing that up. It wouldn't take much for retailers to offer the option of selling digital copies of books on small, cheap USB keys, but I doubt Amazon will get the 'window-shopping' experience right anytime soon.

Pixar has us right where they want us

Pixar is bulletproof, assholes. We can put out any old piece of shit that perfectly examines universal themes of love and friendship and just walk away with record box-office numbers. In fact, I think I'll have my award-winning design team get cracking on an anthropomorphic piece of shit right now. Yes. Shit. I'm talking actual human feces here, folks. We'll give it eyes and limbs, and—I don't know—call it Danny Caca. Brad Bird can make a story about how it got lost on its way to the sewage treatment facility. Its best friends are a used sewage-logged tampon and a hypodermic needle. Then we'll just sit back and watch the receipts come in.

Yeah, it'll have heart and depth, but still, it's going to be a talking piece of shit. Kids won't flush for years because of it.

John Lasseter - I've Got You Dumb Motherfuckers Eating Right Out Of My Hand

Everything is a Remix →

The second part of Kirby Ferguson's incredible Everything is a Remix series. Two things: 1. 'Sorry about colonialism' is a great name for Avatar's genre. 2. I know Kill Bill is like the film version of a nerd's scrapbook, but I personally find Death Proof almost completely unwatchable.

Up Premake Trailer

A trailer for Up created by splicing together bits of old movies. What an amazing piece of work.

Jersey Shore, in Italy →

Jersey Shore is coming to Italy

Sources connected to the show tell us they will be scouting locations in Italy -- similar to the way they did it in Miami -- to find the right locale.

One source connected with the show says they've already lined up some of Vinny's Italian relatives to host the "Jersey" crew for an authentic Guadagnino dinner.

Called it.

This is how all games should be reviewed

reley dont wan to say this, but i have to now.
this game is so esey. i mean, all you do is hit the spacebar. thats it! how is this an RPG anyway? you cant contrail anything but what it says on > the screen! what if i didnt want to buy the potion? what apout quests? all you can upgrade is stranth? there is no way you can lose to the boss at > the end! this game is crap! its not even an RPG at all! i mean look at it! in what way is this supposed to be an RPG if you can do quests and stuff? all you do is press one butten the entier time! explain to me! the athore coments al totol lies! is it supposed to be stick dudes? i dont even know how this damn game got the daily 3rd prize, or a rating of 4.26!
pepole think this review is worthles.
go ahead! say it! i dont care! im just trying to make a point here!
blam this piece of crap!!!!

P.S the only reson im giving this a 1 is beacuase the voices where pretty good. but thats it!

Penis →

penis

Community is so good, even its throwaway jokes are gold.

Death in Videogames

Kotaku - There is real death in this video game

Beloved niche PC publishers Paradox Interactive today revealed Salem, a free-to-play MMO that wants to make sure that players take their decision-making seriously. To this end, things you do in the game are promised to have a lasting effect, while more importantly, if you die, you are dead.

Your character is gone, and all your equipment is set loose for other players to grab. There is no respawning, no retention of your name or your stats or your skills. You are simply dead, and if you want to play again, you need to start all over at the beginning with a new name and a new character.

... It's a brave decision, and one that has a far more drastic impact than in a singleplayer game, where you're the only person who cares. In an MMO, when you die, you can be mourned.

I love this idea, and I applaud the publishers for having the balls to put out a videogame that actually deals with death in a serious way, beyond the usual "LOL I TOTALLY JUST SHOT THAT FUCKER IN THE FACE." My only concern is with how they are planning on implementing this. When you die, will you immediately be able to start a new character? Will they ban your account for a period of time? Death only has meaning because of its permanence. It's the ultimate full-stop. There's no coming back. And in an MMO, the character doesn't matter, the player matters. So the idea that a player can just roll a new character and maybe even be present for the 'funeral' of his previous character bothers me slightly, like it's missing the point slightly. Why would anyone mourn a character when they know the player is still around - the same person in a different avatar?

Still, it's a step in the right direction.

XBMC ported to Apple TV

Cult of Mac reports that XBMC has been ported to the second-generation Apple TV.

The new port of XBMC not only makes the second-gen AppleTV one of the cheapest devices out there that can run XBMC short of a used Xbox, but it also adds some lovely functionality to Apple’s woefully slim-featured set-top box, including the ability to pump out 1080p video, play a myriad of codecs and web content natively, as well as install and expand your experience with new apps.

My original Xbox running XBMC was, hands down, the best media centre I've ever owned. It never once complained about codecs and it ran silky smooth. In fact, I still keep it hidden under my TV for emergencies. The only problem with it is the hardware itself. The Xbox is bulky, noisy, ethernet-only, and has no remote control, so when I use it, I'm forced to use the monstrously huge Xbox controller, with its cable draped across my living room.

I had been thinking about getting a Boxee box, but slightly went off the idea after reading Jon Hicks' lukewarm review. The availability of XBMC on the ATV2 nails it for me. My next toy.

Begrudgery

Adrian Wreckler - Meet the Monaghan lass with 345,000 Twitter followers

Sinead Duffy is a lifecoach (with her own company, Great Minds) who has set up the mother of all Twitter accounts. Called Greatest Quotes, it's an auto-tweeting feed of... greatest quotes. Astonishingly, Greatest Quotes is growing by 10,000 followers per week. That's almost as much as Ashton Kutcher.

Ah, you think -- that's a bit of a swizz. Sure, just set up a few RSS feeds and let it take off; that's not a real account.

Think again. Because of this account, Duffy is getting business online. And it's cash upfront. "I coach select overseas clients via Skype and charge through Paypal," she tells me. "It's mostly through Twitter that potential clients find me."

Who's laughing now?

Coaching. "Select overseas clients". From a Twitter account that spews out 'greatest quotes'.

Sometimes I think this recession hasn't hit hard enough.

Blu-Ray Hassles

Marco Arment:

In fact, aside from the fact that Blu-Ray’s high definition picture is so ridiculously gorgeous, the whole format is demonstrably worse than what came before it.

Khoi Vinh

Agreed. I’ve only used Blu-Ray on a PS3, which is probably better than most standalone players, but all of the consumer-hostile “features” of DVDs — unskippable logos, previews, warnings, and disclaimers, long animation delays before menu activation, custom-themed interfaces that make everything more difficult — has advanced to new levels of hassles, delays, restrictions, and annoyances. Granted, I probably own more Blu-Rays than I should (I'm slowly weaning myself off physical media), but each time I pop a new disc into my PS3 and wait the full three-to-five minutes for my movie to actually begin, I say "This is why people pirate movies".

Although recently, I'm noticing a disturbing trend in the pre-movie junk. Where there used to be the "You wouldn't steal a car" warning, some studios are now putting a message to say "Thank you for buying a legitimate copy of this movie". Except the whole thing is done in a comedy voice, kind of like the E4 announcer, which makes the whole thing seem really insincere. Which is a step in the right direction, I suppose -- at least they're no longer treating consumers as potential criminals -- but it's a long way from what consumers actually want, which is quick access to the movie they just bought.

Mediocrity

The slowness of genius is hard to bear, but the slowness of mediocrity is intolerable

-- Henry Thomas Buckle, after his chess opponent took so long to finish a move that Buckle had time to write two chapters of a book on the history of civilisation. Buckle won the game.

The Beauty of Pixar →

What does it say about a studio whose worst movie is merely great? It says that you can put together a fantastic 7-minute montage of great Pixar moments and still only have scratched the surface.

The Beauty of Pixar

What does it say about a studio whose worst movie is merely great? It says that you can put together a fantastic 7-minute montage of great Pixar moments and still only have scratched the surface.