Tim Schafer’s website hints at new Psychonauts project

The crafty gents at Kotaku have managed to spot something that has begun to send the Internet into a frenzy. Tim Schafer's Double Fine Projects website has a little tidbit of tease for fans of the cult classic Psychonauts. In addition to the recently announced Brutal Legend, a darkened image of the Psychonaut art can be seen with the words "Coming Soon" splattered across it. 老域名出售

Schafer's weirdo title Brutal Legend, which stars the "Wonderboy" Jack Black as an axe-wielding roadie, has been met with mixed opinions: some have reveled in the off-beat and hilarious action that's likely to ensue when the game's star attains the electric guitar of Odin to fell foes, while others have shrugged it off as a weird debauchery of Hollywood tendencies and prima donna development. Many clamored for a sequel to Psychonauts, so maybe everyone will get what they want?

Current speculation suggests that the title will either appear on the Wii in some form—this was hinted at by a statement made by Schafer in the company's FAQ, suggesting fans "spam [their] favorite publisher with mail right now and ask them to send [..] money to make a Wii game." Alternatively, previous rumors of a PSP port of the original game are also seeing new life.

We'll have word on the mysterious Psychonauts project when it arrives.

Update: Tim Schafer contacted Next-gen to clarify that the image on the Double Fine Projects web site is in fact not an ad for a new game, but rather just a placeholder for a new page talking about the original Psychonauts. "The truth is we are just putting together a new page about 'The Excellent Game Psychonauts.' We're not announcing any new games or anything. Sorry if we confused anybody! We lightened up the image to hopefully make things clearer," Schafer remarked.

Apple and Google in cloud-cuckoo land

This guy is completely nuts. This “cloud computing” thing? Not gonna happen—at least not this way. This “we’ll store all our files and apps on the network and download them when we need them” is an odd, pundit-driven fantasy that has little to do with what innovators in the mobile space are actually thinking about and working on. Intel, NVIDIA, AMD/ATI, ARM, and mobile device makers like Apple and Nokia are planning to put more transitors and more storage into more pockets and purses; they are not planning to see the bulk of the rising amounts of compute horsepower and storage density go into datacenters, so that the few users who can get good reception and who like to wait for things to download can pull things from “the cloud” onto handhelds with miniscule storage capacities and performance-starved processors. 老域名出售

Why go truly “thin client” when transistors and memory are plentiful enough and cheap enough that “thin” doesn’t really save you any money, battery power, or size vs. “fat”? (Actually, “thin” kills battery power, because you have to run a wireless radio. Adding local storage is much easier on the battery.) Storage is cheap, and it always wants to be as close as possible to the CPU’s execution units; this is why the technology landscape is littered with computing schemes that struck the wrong balance between bandwidth and local storage/MIPS (either at the system level or the network level).

And this business about Google and Apple teaming up to make an underpowered network computer so that Google will have something to do with its datacenter capacity? It’s crazy talk. Apple is buying tons of flash, and they’re going to put it into the iPhone, which is where users want their files and apps to live. But this is also the kind of crazy talk that one can bring up a year from now when the next iteration of the iPhone features some new Google-designed apps and go “see, I was right! It’s the Google-Apple cloud computer! Please ignore the fact that Apple keeps boosting the amount of flash storage and CPU power in the unit.” Anyway, right now, Google and Apple are the Brad and Angelina of the tech world, and everyone is going to fantasize about their love-child for as long as they stay on the A list.

Update: I see (via Wes Felter) that the young Aaron Swartz has already beat me to the Apple/Google debunkery, but from a different angle.

QH: Intel’s new fab, embedded GPU, killer PSUs

Welcome to a new Kit feature called “Quick Hits.” Why the name “Quick Hits”? Because I couldn’t think of anything else to call it. If you have a better name suggestion, drop it in the comments. 老域名出售

Intel is opening a new fab in Arizona. This is Fab 32, and it’s a 300 millimeter, 45nm facility, and it’s Intel’s fourth fab in Chandler, AZ.These memory market pricing stories are often a bit of a mystery to me, but I do occasionally have to pretend that I know something about it. The interplay between supply and demand here is complicated by the fact of increasing DRAM densities. In other words, you’re not just buying an IC at a fixed price. Rather, it’s cost-per-bit that matters, because OEMs don’t so much buy DIMMs as they buy megabytes. So if DRAM bit densities rise, then even if production capacity is flat ASPs will plummet. Waitaminute… I think I just explained it to myself. Nevermind.Fujitsu teams with GPU core designer for embedded system LSIs. Watch the emerging embedded GPU space. The future of computing is in mobiles, and the future of mobiles is in SoCs, and the future of SoCs is in a CPU and GPU on the same die. Just like ARM has made a killing selling CPU core IP, others are looking to get into the GPU core IP game. AMD just scored its first win in this space with a recent Qualcomm deal, and they’re looking for more licensees. And then there’s PowerVR, which Intel will probably use for the GPU core in Moorestown. Anyway, I don’t know who these Vivante people are, but I’ll keep an eye on them.Anandtech as an ultra high-end PSU roundup, so that you’ll know what to buy to power your dual-socket, dual-GPU 4×4 or Skulltrail system. My energy bill is high enough without this kind of thing, but if I did still own a desktop PC I’d probably only fire it up to play games, and then only twice a year. So I guess it wouldn’t matter.

OLPC looks for manufacturing scale, targets deep-pocketed donors

The One Laptop Per Child Foundation is now targeting deep-pocketed donors for its OLPC XO laptop. A new initiative launched by the group is actively looking for charitable foundations, not-for-profit organizations, and wealthy philanthropists to give the OLPC XO a boost. 老域名出售

OLPC's new initiative takes the "Give 1 Get 1" initiative launched last month a step further, with a three-tiered program. Donors can fund anywhere from 100 to 999 laptops for $299 each and select their destination. The OLPC Foundation will use $99 of each $299 to fund another 50+ laptops, sending them where the Foundation deems fitting.

The second tier is for funding 1,000 to 9,999 laptops. The cost drops to $249, the donor decides where the laptops are sent, and OLPC takes $49 from every $249 to fund additional XO laptops for a country of the Foundation's choosing. The top tier allows donors to purchases 10,000 or more laptops for $200 each and choose their final destination.

Like the Give 1 Get 1 initiative, the Foundation's new philanthropic initiative appears to be aimed at building scale for the program. Originally envisioned to cost $100 each, the OLPC's manufacturing costs have since climbed to $188, and the project is having a hard time getting countries to commit to buying the laptops.

The OLPC Project is also looking at more competition than was envisioned when the project first got off the ground. Last week, Asus officially launched its 7", Linux-running Eee laptop at a $299 price point, and Intel's Classmate PC project offers another alternative to the OLPC XO.

Indeed, OLPC head Nicholas Negroponte has been critical of the Classmate PC, telling 60 Minutes that Intel "should be ashamed of itself" for selling the Classmate at a loss. Despite the comments, Intel and OLPC officially made nice in July when Intel took a seat on the OLPC Board of Directors and the two entities agreed to "explore collaborations involving technology and educational content."

Still, the OLPC Project is fighting to build the kind of scale and momentum necessary to make the XO laptop a resounding success. With target countries proving reluctant to commit to the kind of large purchases needed to ramp up manufacturing to the point where economies of scale can make a dent in the price, the OLPC Project hopes that deep-pocketed donors will be able to move the project forward.

AT&T sees third largest subscriber boost during first iQuarter

The first full quarter with the iPhone available on the market has come to a close, and the numbers are looking as good for AT&T as they are for Apple. The iPhone is stealing Treo and Sidekick owners from T-Mobile, and Apple's Q4 earnings report yesterday clocked 1.1 million iPhones sold in the quarter (bringing the total sold to just under 1.4 million). And that's all before the holidays kicked into full gear. 老域名出售

AT&T just announced its own numbers for the quarter, and things are unsurprisingly going well on its campus too. The report primarily involves company-wide profit increases thanks to recent mergers and buyouts, it also mentions wireless revenue growth. That growth is thanks in part to the iPhone's debut and the addition of 2 million subscribers—the third highest increase in the company's history. Considering that the iPhone is reportedly the fourth highest selling mobile phone in the US, as well as the best selling for AT&T, it's probably safe to declare the partnership an initial success, despite Apple's surprising estimate of 250,000 unlocked iPhones.

With all these tea leaves laid out on the Ars coffee table, it almost goes without saying that both Apple and AT&T are likely going to have a very merry Christmahanakwanzika season. AT&T has exclusive rights in the US to one of the hottest mobile phones in the country, and Apple has a killer lineup in both gadgets and computers—not to mention a fresh new OS—for the holidays. Expect to see AT&T competitors like T-Mobile and Verizon to hemorrhage more subscribers in the name of the iPhone. We'll settle in for the show—can someone grab the popcorn?

Police, IFPI make bacon of OiNK BitTorrent tracker

The invite-only music site OiNK will grunt and snuffle no more after police seized the site's servers and arrested a 24-year-old UK man. The IFPI is now crowing over the bust and the closure of the "primary source worldwide for illegal prerelease music." 老域名出售

IFPI and BPI, the UK music trade group, spent two years investigating the private BitTorrent tracker and worked with police in both the UK and the Netherlands to shut the site down. The servers, based in Amsterdam, were grabbed last week, but the alleged administrator of the site was just picked up near Middlesborough in the UK.

OiNK specialized in leaking albums; IFPI estimates that the site had a membership of 180,000 "hard-core file sharers" who had to prove their worthiness to join the site by providing leaked demos or rough mixes of hot upcoming releases.

The site didn't charge a membership fee, but it did accept donations. The Cleveland police, which conducted the UK raid, claim that "hundreds of thousands of pounds" were being made by the operators and then stashed in various bank accounts.

OiNK's address, oddly enough, is oink.cd. The site was previously experiencing DNS problems and eventually decided that the solution was to use an address belonging to the Congo. Now the domain throws up a gray screen with the IFPI and BPI logos. Above those is a warning message about how the site has been closed as the result of a criminal investigation into "suspected illegal music distribution." Will other invite-only tracker sites and darknets take the hint?


The evolution of such sites follows a predictable pattern. First, the development of new technology like BitTorrent means that people initially believe they can do just about anything they want with the new tools and no one will come after them. Once the tools enter public (and police) consciousness, big sites like OiNK generally move underground and out of easy view, or become targets for rights-holders and law enforcement.

Bringing underground sites down isn't easy, as the two-year IFPI investigation demonstrates, but it can be done. Such attention is generally directed only at sites that have grown exceptionally large or important, and the result is often that the operators get busted but the users simply join smaller and less visible communities.

So is this just a game of Whac-A-Mole? BPI insists that is not. CEO Geoff Taylor said in a statement, "BitTorrent has fast become the most popular file-sharing client, and while the technology is now commonplace, closed criminal networks such as OiNK take time to develop; make no mistake, this operation will cause major disruptions this illegal activity."

The hope is clearly that it will also send a message to smaller darknets who might have believed that they could operate without consequences. The legal pressure brought to bear by music, movie, and television content owners around the world has made operating such sites more risky. Anecdotally, we have some evidence that some of these smaller sites are getting the message. For example, Something Awful used to host forums filled with links to torrent files, but worries about potential legal liability led site operators to abandon the project at the beginning of 2005. Many users then migrated to private spinoff trackers like Whilst, which offered a similar set of torrents to a closed community. In the past few months, Whilst, too, has gotten out of the torrent business, presumably out of concern for liability, and now hosts only a handful of discussion forums.

OiNK may be sizzling in Big Content's frying pan, but there are still countless other private trackers and darknets up and running. The arrest of OiNK's admin shows that there is a definite risk in running these sites, but it's a sure bet that the illicit music previously available on the tracker will eventually find new homes on the Internet—especially with sites such as The Pirate Bay openly flouting the IFPI and other industry groups.

EA removes GTA content from Simpson’s game, but we think that’s a shame

"If we make fun of Grand Theft Auto, we're not going to hurt the sales of Grand Theft Auto… But yeah, we've definitely had some reactions—we've had to pull stuff from the game." 老域名出售

Rockstar has this little thing it does to prepare for games they're working on: it creates a sort of tone poem with scenes from movies and music that help to set the mood for the game. This is what the game should feel like, these are the cues they're taking. I've been lucky enough to see a few of these videos, and they're usually pretty rough, but when you play the resulting game you see where they were coming from; it's a good tool to get the team on the same page when working on a game. This is why it's so surprising to hear that Rockstar may have asked EA to make some changes to the upcoming Simpsons' Game. The Grand Theft Scratchy section is now called Mob Rules; hopefully that was the only edit that had to be made.

The Grand Theft Auto series, and to a lesser extent the sublime Bully, have gotten where they are by tapping deeply into pop culture to bring us characters and worlds we already recognize from numerous films, pop songs, television shows… these are the worlds that people who have been saturated in pop culture dream about. In creating games with such rich material, Rockstar has created a cultural force in Grand Theft Auto; it should be the highest honor that the game and its settings have become so entrenched in our minds that another team is satirizing it. In some ways, it's like the student becoming the master.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; why doesn't Rockstar take the compliment?

I'm not sure what Rockstar hopes to do here. It has always been the bad boy of gaming and its games are wickedly funny and show a sharp mind for picking up on the violence and insanity of pop culture. But, now that Rockstar is pop culture, it seems to have lost its sense of humor about its own brand. Grand Theft Scratchy wouldn't have hurt the brand, and it proves how big the Grand Theft Auto series is to gaming in general. If Rockstar forced EA to remove aspects of the Simpsons' Game, causing lead designer Greg Rizzer to say the words that lead off this post, it shows that Rockstar doesn't quite understand how it got where it is. It's a damn shame for such a talented group of people to be so grumpy about their own ubiquity.

Verizon discovers symmetry, offers 20\/20 symmetrical FiOS service

For years, the broadband wars have been largely fought over download speeds, but Verizon has just thrown down the gauntlet and declared that it's going to fight over upstream speeds too, and in a big way. How does 20Mbps sound? 老域名出售

Some residents of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey who live inside the boundaries of Verizon's FiOS network will be the first to be able to take advantage of Verizon's new 20/20 FiOS service. As the name implies, 20/20 FiOS is a symmetrical 20Mbps connection (same speed in both directions), and it's one of the first symmetrical services to target the consumer market.

Available today, 20/20 will cost $64.99 per month and will include Verizon's Internet Security Suite and 1GB of online backup (up to 50GB can be purchased at "competitive rates").

Susan Retta, the company's VP of Broadband Solutions, was quick to compare the new plan to cable. "For more than a decade, the Internet has been defined by how quickly you can download content," Retta said."Our 20/20 FiOS service changes everything by creating an entirely new category of US broadband where 'fast' means fast in both directions."

It's a category of broadband that cable companies have yet to embrace. Although Comcast, Charter, Cox, and other cable ISPs have bumped download speeds in areas where they are facing direct competition from Verizon, they haven't shown much love for upload speeds. Those typically remain stuck in the 256Kbps to 1.5Mbps range even as downloads soar above 10Mbps. If Verizon is able to effectively sell the advantages of symmetrical service to Joe Sixpack, cable companies may be forced to widen the upload pipe.

20Mbps upload speeds will enable a whole host of new services, many of them actually legal (symmetrical connections can also be a boon to P2P networks). Uploading high-def video to friends and family, for instance, suddenly becomes a possibility instead of a nightmare. Online backup systems like Mozy have been gaining in popularity, but it currently takes days to back up a media collection or large photo set. Verizon, of course, also touts the standard example that's always trotted out when speed claims are made: medical imaging.

FiOS now has more than half a million subscribers. How many of them actually need a 20Mbps upstream connection remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that the cool factor here is off the charts; we're confident1 that "Hey baby, want to head back to my place to see to me stream high-def video from my Mac?" will soon be the hot new pickup line at NYC nightclubs.

1Note: we are not sure of this at all. Use line at your own risk.

Wal-Mart fires warning shots over Black Friday sales price leaks

It's that time of year already: even though you're still stockpiling your Halloween candy and figuring out whether to be a pirate or a ninja, retailers are gearing up for the holiday shopping season. That shopping season officially begins, of course, with the day after Thanksgiving, known as "Black Friday" in the US. But unlike previous years, some retailers aren't waiting until after the bargain sites post their leaked Black Friday ads in order to threaten them with legal action. In Wal-Mart's case, it's making a few preemptive strikes in hopes of preventing its prices from being leaked too early. 老域名出售

"It has recently come to our attention that you and/or your company may potentially obtain possession of and ultimately release Wal-Mart's sales circulars, advertisements or other information prior to their authorized release dates," reads the letter sent to several deal sites and posted by Chilling Effects. "Please be advised that the information on Wal-Mart's circulars and advertisements are, prior to their authorized release date of November 19, 2007, confidential and proprietary information of Wal-Mart. The circulars and advertisements, as well as related documents are also protected by copyright and other laws. Therefore, any unauthorized reproduction, publication, or distribution of the information or materials (e.g., via website) prior to Wal-Mart's authorized release date violates Wal-Mart's rights."

Wal-Mart warns that anyone who violates the company's terms by posting the Black Friday ads before the specified date could be subject to "liabilities and severe legal penalties," and that the documents are protected by "copyright and other laws."

This is not the first time that retailers have tried to claim that their sale prices were copyrighted. Best Buy began to make headlines in the last few years for sending DMCA takedown notices to the ISPs of sites that published its prices. It claimed that prices are not facts, but rather intellectual property that can be copyrighted—something that deal site FatWallet disagreed with in 2003 when it sued Best Buy for abuse of the DMCA.

But as Chilling Effects founder Wendy Seltzer points out, it looks like Wal-Mart is attempting a new strategy with its early notices by making broader claims about its "commercially valuable" pricing information. By making these claims, Wal-Mart could be looking to get in under trade secret laws that prohibit the transmission of information that affect the company's sales (other companies may see the prices and decide to alter their own to better compete). Wal-Mart is making sure that the sites know that they could be misappropriating confidential information, which might then allow the company to pursue further legal action in the future if the sites still push forward with the sale prices.

Five things to do in the 360 Guitar Hero 3 demo, available today on Live

The Guitar Hero 3 demo is out—no need to download a semi-pirate copy or buy Tony Hawk to get it. We've had the Guitar Hero 3 guitar in our possession for a while (we've given our thoughts on battle mode), but now everyone gets their chance to jam out. So what should you do once you download it? 老域名出售

Play "Even Flow" Guitar Hero 3 will feature over 70 songs, and many more of them will be master tracks compared to previous games. "Even Flow" is a great track for Guitar Hero 3, and you may be surprised by how challenging it is. This is a song that I'm guessing would have been slaughtered by a cover, but having the original is just great.

Get a note streak In Guitar Hero 3, if you hit 20 notes in a a row, a little streak counter pops up under your rock meter. This allows you to keep track of how many notes you've played in a row. While watching that counter instead of the notes can be a problem, this is a great way to keep track of how close you are to having a song mastered.

Own a friend in Battle Mode Opinions are mixed on this one. Some people say Battle Mode makes the game unfriendly, but it's not like the developers took away Co-op or Face-Off modes. If anything, this gives you a more aggressive game to play in addition to all the friendliness. The attacks, gained the same way you gain star power in the previous games, allow you to royally mess up your opponent; you don't know pain until someone throws you into expert mode before breaking a string with two attacks. It might be a gimmick, but it's also fun if you're in the mood to really test someone's skills.

Activate Star Power This counts for attacks in Battle Mode as well. It feels like it takes much less tilt to activate star power in Guitar Hero 3. This means that Guitar Hero 2 and Guitar Hero 3 guitars will have a different feel for the movement required to activate star power. Start practicing now, and let's hope this is something they add a dial for. A way to make star power easier/harder to activate would be great.

Watch a friend play While the art feels different than previous Guitar Hero games, the character models and their ability to play and sing along to the songs are pretty amazing. Don't bother trying to watch when you're playing—you're just asking for failure. Give a friend the controller, sit back, and enjoy the show.

Once you've spent some time with the demo, come back and tell us what you think. Some people have been complaining about the audio mix, but so far for me it hasn't been bad—or at least not bad enough to really get in arms about. This looks like it's going to be another solid entry in the series.