Borrowing a page from Pixar, Lasseter is hands-on at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He gives extensive notes, pores over story reels and even does the first reading with actors and directors. Initially, Pixar animators worried that he was spending too much time at Disney, where he overhauled Bolt and Tangled. Now that the situation has stabilized, he divides his focus. “Both places think he spends too much time at the other place,” says a friend. “That’s the true telling point.”
I had no idea Lasseter was also running Walt Disney Animation Studios — or that WDAS is now on a roll (Frozen just opened with $94 million) while Pixar is in a bit of a funk (with recent layoffs and the next film delayed until 2015).
“His face got triumphant — the way Kenneth’s face got triumphant; without implications of his having defeated or outdrawn anybody. The ocean was terrible now. It was full of bowling balls.”—J.D. Salinger, from one of his newly leaked unpublished stories.
The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.”
Takashi Amano & Cliff Edwards are full of bad news ahead for Nintendo:
Nintendo Co.’s prospects for meeting its profit and sales forecasts for this year are diminishing after Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. each sold more game consoles in 24 hours than the Wii U maker did in nine months.
Not good — especially when you consider:
President Satoru Iwata vowed in October he would meet a forecast for 100 billion yen ($974 million) in full-year operating profit and 9 million units in Wii U sales. Analysts are skeptical, with the average estimate for profit at 57 billion yen and for sales at 6.2 million units.
That’s a huge gap. We’ll see, but it’s definitely not looking good:
Those moves may not be enough to make up lost ground, as the company sold just 460,000 Wii U machines in the six months ended Sept. 30, about 5 percent of its target for the fiscal year. Nintendo reported a net loss of 8 billion yen in the quarter ended Sept. 30, saying Wii U hardware “still has a negative impact on Nintendo’s profits.”
Five percent of the yearly target, six months in. And:
Shares of Nintendo have lost 82 percent of their value since closing at 72,100 yen in November 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Yikes. And that’s with the stock gaining41 percent this year. And:
The Wii U features a tablet-like, 6.2-inch touchscreen controller that lets players connect wirelessly to the console and shift the display between the device and a television. In the nine months from January through September, the company sold 850,000 — fewer than Sony and Microsoft did during the first day their new consoles were released.
Hard to overstate just how awful and embarrassing that is — especially since those consoles don’t seem that great either.
This is turning very ugly very quickly for Nintendo — which is sad, but not shocking.
The cause appears to be the difference in refresh rates between UK and US TV sets and services. In the UK, the TV broadcast standard is 50Hz, or 50 frames per second (FPS), which most television set top boxes including Sky, Virgin and Freeview services output. In the US, the standard is 60Hz or 60FPS, and by default the Xbox One is set to the US, not UK standard.
"Assuming the reports are true, this represents a significant issue Microsoft has to address," Richard Leadbetter of visual testing company Digital Foundry told Eurogamer. "Displaying 50Hz video at 60Hz means that every sixth frame will be a duplicate, resulting in noticeable judder on a lot of material – scrolling text on news channels, fast pans in TV and movies, and the left to right sweep of the camera in football matches."
Microsoft said that it is aware of the issue, but did not have a comment at the time of publication.
What a colossal fuck-up. How on Earth do you release a product so focused on television and not realize that the UK has a different broadcast standard? You had one job.
And guess what?
Leadbetter said that there are no easy solutions to the difference between 50 and 60Hz, and that altering a 50Hz picture to match a 60Hz refresh rate would likely have a detrimental impact on image quality. It is unknown how Microsoft is going to deal with the issue.
“The reality is that the only thing that’s the same from Nasdaq 4000 in 1999 and Nasdaq 4000 in 2013 is the number 4000.”—Doug Sandler of RiverFront Investment Group speaking to Matt Krantz of USA Today.
Why do you think Apple still sends stickers with every new product?
It’s a good question — I have no idea. If I had to guess, I’d imagine it’s largely about tradition. If Apple stopped shipping them with new products, I could envision a revolt similar to if Google took away the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button (in that, while not that many people may use these things, they’re expected to be there).
I can’t even begin to imagine how many of these stickers I’ve pilled up over the years. Dozens? Hundreds? And I think the last time I actually put one of them anywhere was the very first one I got (with an iPod way back when).
In a way, they’re viral real-world marketing. I still see them on the bumpers of cars quite frequently.
If Apple were to buy Nintendo, how do you think Nintendo would be managed?
The only way I think it would work is if the company is allowed to run autonomously. That’s obviously not in Apple’s DNA — though Steve Jobs largely did allow Pixar to operate that way (as a stand-alone separate company, of course), and now Disney seems to as well.
The big issue that everyone brings up with regard to this is Nintendo’s unwillingness to sell, and certainly not to an American company. I just can’t see how this would ever work if Apple tried to buy the company and forced them under the control of Cupertino. The blood would probably be bad on both sides.
Chris Kohler has a good post on the end of an era (that era being the last generation of gaming consoles). Humorously, looking back revealed this tidbit:
“Imagine players slapping down $.99 to buy a one-of-a-kind, fully tricked-out racing car to be the envy of their buddies,” Microsoft wrote in a 2005 press release. In Forza Motorsport 5 for the Xbox One, you can slap down cash to buy a fully tricked-out car, but it costs ninety-nine dollars.
That’s an increase slightly higher than the rate of inflation, I imagine. Welcome to the next generation of gaming, folks!
The original paper that sparked the creation of Bitcoin has since been supplemented by layers of agreed-upon protocol, updated regularly by the system’s participants. The protocol, like the currency, is a fiction they accept as real, because rejection by a large proportion of users—be they banks, exchanges, speculators or miners—could cause the whole system to collapse. Mr Hearn notes that he and other programmers who work on Bitcoin’s software have no special authority in the system. Instead, proposals are floated, implemented in software, and must then be taken up by 80% of nodes before becoming permanent—at which point blocks from other nodes are rejected. “The rules of the system are not set in stone,” he says. The adoption of improvements is up to the community. Bitcoin is thus both flexible and fragile.
Is it just me, or does this entire paragraph reads like the explanation of The Matrix?
When Magnus Carlsen became the world chess champion a few days ago, I don’t think anyone in the chess world lost money. All bets were on the almost-twenty-three-year-old Norwegian’s beating the reigning grandmaster, Viswanathan Anand. With play in Chennai, India, Anand had the home-court advantage, but, at nearly forty-four, he is getting old for top-level chess, and Carlsen gained momentum as the match went on. He didn’t lose in ten games. Perhaps the biggest surprise was in the last one, when Carlsen, with the prize in his grasp, played to win rather than accepting what looked to be Anand’s offer of a draw, which would have clinched it for Carlsen anyway. He could have been the world champion a couple of hours sooner.
Despite his ad-hoc approach, Carlsen seems so good at so many things now, it’s not clear to chess commentators where it’s going to end. He’s like a great baseline tennis player who just keeps returning the ball deep and with power until he forces an error, but rarely makes any of his own. “He’s gotten a little older,” notes Mig Greengard, who works with Kasparov and tweets as @chessninja, “but as far as the actual games, I don’t think he’s really different now. He’s just more.” That Carlsen still hasn’t peaked he finds “frankly terrifying.”
Sounds like anotherDOA POS. I really don’t get why these companies keep putting these out there when they have to know they’re pretty poor. As has been proven time and time again in tech, being first means precisely jack shit in the long run.
Equally hard to refute is the idea that we are approaching a horizon of video convergence, in which all those screens will be equal and interchangeable and the distinctions between the stuff that’s shown on each one won’t seem as consequential as it does now. We still tend to take for granted that a cable drama, a network sitcom, a feature film, a web video and a first-person combat game are fundamentally different creatures, but they might really be diverse species within a single genus, their variations ultimately less important than what they have in common. They are all moving pictures, after all, and as our means of access to them proliferate and recombine, those old categories are likely to feel increasingly arbitrary and obsolete. The infrastructure of a multiplatform future is before us, and resistance to it can look like an especially tiresome kind of sentimentality. Cinephilia is nostalgia. We might keep going to the movies out of habit, or because it’s sometimes nice to leave the house, but we are losing the old, sustaining belief that this is a special and exalted cultural activity, the supreme mode of participation in the popular arts.
But even as the studios, in the midst of a panic, trip over themselves to look dumb and greedy:
But within this landscape of bloat and desolation, there is quite a lot worth caring about. More important, there are filmmakers determined to refine and reinvigorate the medium, to recapture its newness and uniqueness and to figure out, in a post-film, platform-agnostic, digital-everything era, what the art of cinema might be. Like every previous period of decline — which is to say like just about every other moment in the past century — this is an age of wild and restless experimentation. Maybe even a golden age.
You might end up watching these at a theater, on a tablet or in your den, courtesy of Netflix or BitTorrent or your local cable provider. But you will not be able to mistake them for anything but movies. What is cinema? You know it when you see it.
The entire article is well constructed. In the post-Ebert world, Scott has become the go-to writer not just for reviews of film, but about film.
Thomas Fuller on the newly freed media struggling in Myanmar:
Daw Nyein Nyein Naing, the executive editor at The 7 Day Daily, one of the new newspapers, said finding good reporters had been difficult. Her reporters are addicted to Facebook, she said, and often post scoops to their Facebook pages, rather than filing stories to their editors.
She also lamented that many readers appeared to prefer dailies and weeklies that she said ran sensational articles of dubious veracity. “People are not buying quality,” she said.
Even in the newest of places, with the best intentions, history repeats.
“They want to make cars that make drivers better. We want to make cars that are better than drivers.”—Google’s Anthony Levandowski talking about the self-driving car project in a long New Yorker profile.
The Google car has now driven more than half a million miles without causing an accident—about twice as far as the average American driver goes before crashing. Of course, the computer has always had a human driver to take over in tight spots. Left to its own devices, Thrun says, it could go only about fifty thousand miles on freeways without a major mistake. Google calls this the dog-food stage: not quite fit for human consumption. “The risk is too high,” Thrun says. “You would never accept it.” The car has trouble in the rain, for instance, when its lasers bounce off shiny surfaces. (The first drops call forth a small icon of a cloud onscreen and a voice warning that auto-drive will soon disengage.) It can’t tell wet concrete from dry or fresh asphalt from firm. It can’t hear a traffic cop’s whistle or follow hand signals.
And yet, for each of its failings, the car has a corresponding strength. It never gets drowsy or distracted, never wonders who has the right-of-way. It knows every turn, tree, and streetlight ahead in precise, three-dimensional detail. Dolgov was riding through a wooded area one night when the car suddenly slowed to a crawl. “I was thinking, What the hell? It must be a bug,” he told me. “Then we noticed the deer walking along the shoulder.” The car, unlike its riders, could see in the dark. Within a year, Thrun added, it should be safe for a hundred thousand miles.
I’ll repeat: “The car, unlike its rider, could see in the dark.”
Speaking of simulations, here’s Christopher Chabris and David Goodman on the role that computers have settled into in chess:
Before the Deep Blue match, top players were using databases of games to prepare for tournaments. Computers could display games at high speed while the players searched for the patterns and weaknesses of their opponents. The programs could spot blunders, but they didn’t understand chess well enough to offer much more than that.
Once laptops could routinely dispatch grandmasters, however, it became possible to integrate their analysis fully into other aspects of the game. Commentators at major tournaments now consult computers to check their judgment. Online, fans get excited when their own “engines” discover moves the players miss. And elite grandmasters use computers to test their opening plans and generate new ideas.
This wouldn’t be very interesting if computers, with their ability to calculate millions of moves per second, were just correcting human blunders. But they are doing much more than that. When engines suggest surprising moves, or arrangements of pieces that look “ugly” to human sensibilities, they are often seeing more deeply into the game than their users. They are not perfect; sometimes long-term strategy still eludes them. But players have learned from computers that some kinds of chess positions are playable, or even advantageous, even though they might violate general principles. Having seen how machines go about attacking and especially defending, humans have become emboldened to try the same ideas.
Since the computers have already mastered chess, we’re now the ones learning from them. And becoming more like them…
Seth Lloyd, a quantum-mechanical engineer at MIT, estimated the number of “computer operations” our universe has performed since the Big Bang — basically, every event that has ever happened. To repeat them, and generate a perfect facsimile of reality down to the last atom, would take more energy than the universe has.
“The computer would have to be bigger than the universe, and time would tick more slowly in the program than in reality,” says Lloyd. “So why even bother building it?”
But others soon realized that making an imperfect copy of the universe that’s just good enough to fool its inhabitants would take far less computational power. In such a makeshift cosmos, the fine details of the microscopic world and the farthest stars might only be filled in by the programmers on the rare occasions that people study them with scientific equipment. As soon as no one was looking, they’d simply vanish.
In theory, we’d never detect these disappearing features, however, because each time the simulators noticed we were observing them again, they’d sketch them back in.
That realization makes creating virtual universes eerily possible, even for us. Today’s supercomputers already crudely model the early universe, simulating how infant galaxies grew and changed. Given the rapid technological advances we’ve witnessed over past decades — your cell phone has more processing power than NASA’s computers had during the moon landings — it’s not a huge leap to imagine that such simulations will eventually encompass intelligent life.
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Winamp, the first MP3 player I ever used. At some point in the late 1990s, I recall downloading my first MP3 — “Circles” by Soul Coughing — and firing up Winamp and being absolutely amazed. A piece of software, on my computer, was playing music without any sort of physical media present. It was so obviously the future.
And it really did whip the llama’s ass (bonus points to Frederic Lardinois for an excellent and appropriate title).
Chaim, it turned out, was Chaim Pikarski, an Orthodox Jewish man with a wispy red beard who seemed amused at my attempt to understand his business. He also knew his Hipe speaker would appeal to me, because that insight—knowing what people are searching for on Amazon—is at the core of what he does. He has an entire team of people who read reviews on Amazon, looking for moments when people say, “I wish this speaker were rechargeable.” Pikarski then makes a rechargeable version. Hipe exists, in essence, because enough people think like me. It’s a profitable trick: C&A Marketing does “in the nine figures” in sales every year, Pikarski says, and grows at about 30% annually.
A few video game notes: The PS4 controller has received near-unanimous praise for being one of the best controllers ever made. Most consoles launch fairly lacklustre -- the PS2 and DS had awful launch lineups. This iOS vs consoles narrative is at odds with how gamers actually look at this stuff -- it's like saying YouTube is going to destroy Hollywood. While tech pundits talk about Nintendo dying, they've sold close to 40m 3DSes, and are going into the holiday with a new Pokemon game.
Point 1: From what I’ve read, a lot of people are praising the PS4 controller, but mainly because the PS3 version was so bad. Also, the battery life on this one is apparently fairly awful. Overall, it still seems like people still like the Xbox controllers better, at least in my reading of the reviews.
Point 2: Sure, most console launches are fairly lackluster due to a lack of great games initially. But while this seems to be the case with the PS4, the parts of the reviews that worry me about the Xbox One are all about hardware/software included (or not included) with the system.
Point 3: Okay, except mobile gaming is already much larger than console gaming. And it will keep extending that lead. I’m not saying the consoles will be fully destroyed, just that they’ll be increasingly niche. And I wouldn’t be shocked to see at least two of the current players exit the space after this generation.
Point 4:We’ve been over this. Some of Nintendo’s continued limited success (in one area, by the way) is masking very real and obvious problems with the business going forward. We’ll see. But sadly, I like my bet.
Do you intend on trying out an Xbox One yourself or merely peddling other people's experiences on your blog? I understand you're not a fan of MS but your mindless reposts do your readers a great disservice.
Serwer: But people love their cars. They have their stuff in their cars, the car seats for their baby, their Frisbees, their golf clubs—it’s their second home. People aren’t going to give that up, are they?
Andreessen: Ask a kid. Take teenagers 20 years ago and ask them would they rather have a car or a computer? And the answer would have been 100% of the time they’d rather have a car, because a car represents freedom, right?
Today, ask kids if they’d rather have a smartphone or a car if they had to pick and 100% would say smartphones. Because smartphones represent freedom. There’s a huge social behavior reorientation that’s already happening. And you can see it through that. And I’m not saying nobody can own cars. If people want to own cars, they can own cars. But there is a new generation coming where freedom is defined by “I can do anything I want, whenever I want. If I want a ride, I get a ride, but I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to make car payments. I don’t have to worry about insurance. I have complete flexibility.” That is freedom too.
Even for me, with each passing year, owning a car seems to be far more of a hassle than it’s worth — quite literally. Yeah, yeah, Silicon Valley bubble talk for now, perhaps. But I think this mentality will spread rather quickly in many areas of the country.