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Maxis Confirms Offline Was an Option, Not Pursued for SimCity

posted Saturday Mar 16, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Maxis Confirms Offline Was an Option, Not Pursued for <i>SimCity</i>

Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of Maxis, has been talking a lot since the disaster that has been SimCity's launch; possibly too much. She has been very open about the failure that was the server preparation, claiming they simply did not have enough servers in place to be prepared for the initial roll-out. This week she is being candid about another topic near and dear to my heart: the decision to not offer offline play.

Maxis has been very clear about the reasons since they announced it a year ago: the entire world, single player or multi-player, would revolve around calculations performed by the server. One of the major changes to the new game is the free market concept implemented for resources. Clearly, when playing multi-player, you would need the ability to calculate global resource pricing and availability. However, in single player mode, there is no world, so no need for universal calculations, or so I have maintained since the beginning.

Well, Bradshaw confirmed my suspicions this week. In fact, her comments are in response to the fact that a few minor tweaks to the game from some crafty hacker/developers has fully enabled offline play for single player mode. Her comments, however, are not fully in alignment with the facts at hand. She said,

So, could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes. But we rejected that idea because it didn't fit with our vision. We did not focus on the "single city in isolation" that we have delivered in past SimCities. We recognize that there are fans - people who love the original SimCity - who want that. But we're also hearing from thousands of people who are playing across regions, trading, communicating and loving the Always-Connected functionality. The SimCity we delivered captures the magic of its heritage but catches up with ever-improving technology.

The problem with this statement is they DID build a single-city isolation mode, they just required it to be played with an Internet connection. That is, by definition, always-on DRM and not server-based rendering or calculations. Bradshaw has maintained, time and again, that to enable the ability for offline play would require "significant engineering." However, a single individual has enabled it for himself and claims the tweaks are "very minor and easy."

Any developer worth anything could have told you this a year ago, but it is nice to have my suspicions about DRM requirements confirmed so readily.

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DMCA Safe For Another Day, Says Court

posted Saturday Mar 16, 2013 by Scott Ertz

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, enacted in 1998, helps protects a lot of online companies from legal suits for content not produced with their permission. For example, if you were to upload a protected video to YouTube, such as an episode of The Daily Show, Google is not liable for any loss claims from Viacom, assuming they comply with any takedown notices from Viacom on the affected content. Instead, the user who uploaded the content is liable, assuming the person can be identified, and Viacom is interested in pursuing.

Now, clearly, a lot of large content creators do not like this law. For example, Viacom has never been happy about Google's protection for YouTube under the law, filing more than a billion dollar suit and causing Google to implement content filtering to help prevent further legal action. Because of this, companies have tried to undermine the law through court cases, one of the most important being between UMG Recordings and Veoh, a video site, filed in 2007.

Over the past 6 years, the courts have been listening to and considering the arguments in the case. This past Thursday, a ruling was handed down by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and it was a massive victory for Veoh, with an almost entire dismissal of all of UMG's key arguments. UMG's argument was that, by having a music section on their site, they encouraged the illegal uploading of copyrighted music. The court disagreed, saying,

Merely hosting a category of copyrightable content, such as music videos, with the general knowledge that one's services could be used to share infringing material, is insufficient to meet the actual knowledge requirement under §512(c)(1)(A)(i).

This is not just a win for Veoh, but a win for the entire Internet. Let me explain. We are probably all familiar with SoundCloud, a service designed to allow artists to upload their own music to share to their fans. Of course, the ability to upload audio files opens up the ability to upload copyrighted music. If this ruling had gone the other way, SoundCloud's entire business model becomes illegal, despite the fact that the company is entirely legitimate and encourages their users to be legitimate as well. Sites like YouTube, Video and even Facebook and Twitter would also immediately become infringing because they give the ability to upload videos, which could allow for illegal uploads.

Clearly, the entire Internet as it stands today would be at risk. Social engagement is the lifeblood of the Web, and spells success or failure for new tech products. One of the biggest announcements of the week surrounded Google shutting down a social engagement product, and it could turn into a Netflix-level PR disaster. If that doesn't show the power of social engagement, I don't know what does. Social engagement is surrounded in a world of image, video and audio sharing, all at risk if this ruling had gone the other way.

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Yahoo Kills Off BlackBerry Mobile App, Six Other Projects

posted Sunday Mar 10, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Yahoo Kills Off BlackBerry Mobile App, Six Other Projects

Ever since former Google exec Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo in October, the entire company has been turned upside down. From refusing to let employees work from home, to making new partnerships with her old stomping grounds, it looks like Yahoo might be on the track to relevancy again. This week, more changes are on the horizon as Mayer took another page out of Google's playbook and shut down any unnecessary and unprofitable projects. Sounds a lot like Zynga, right?

Executive VP of Platforms, Jay Rossiter, announced the closures in a blog post this week, saying that,

At Yahoo!, we're focused on making your daily habits more inspiring and entertaining. This means that we're constantly reviewing and iterating on our products and experiences...after much thought and deliberation, we decide to shut down some products....The most critical question we ask is whether the experience is truly a daily habit that still resonates for all of you today.

So, what's shutting down? On the docket, we have,

Yahoo! Avatars

Effective April 1, 2013, we will no longer support Yahoo! Avatars across our properties. If you like your existing avatar and want to keep it, please go to the Avatars download page, pick a picture size and format, and click the appropriate download button. Similarly, if you want to edit your avatar, you can download the image and then use a photo editing service of your preference. Additionally effective April 1, we will no longer support the Avatars YQL table.

Yahoo! app for BlackBerry

Effective April 1, 2013, the Yahoo! app for BlackBerry will no longer be available for download. For those of you who have already downloaded the app, you can continue to use it but it will no longer be actively supported.

Yahoo! Clues (beta)

Effective April 1, 2013, Yahoo! Clues (beta) will shut down.

Yahoo! App Search

Effective April 1, 2013, Yahoo! App Search will shut down.

Yahoo! Sports IQ

Effective April 1, 2013, Yahoo! Sports IQ will shut down. Your final lifetime Sports IQ score and rank will be automatically transferred to and preserved within your Yahoo! Fantasy Profile.

Yahoo! Message Boards website

Effective April 1, 2013, the Yahoo! Message Boards website will shut down. Our message boards on individual properties (like Yahoo! Finance and Yahoo! Fantasy Sports) will remain active. We also encourage you to ask and answer questions on Yahoo! Answers, and discuss issues in the comments section on Yahoo! News.

Yahoo! Updates API

As of April 16, 2013, we will no longer support the Yahoo! Updates API.

Oddly enough, none of this is an April Fool's joke. It's surprising that their message boards are shutting down, but who is going onto Yahoo specifically to talk about whatever topic could be found on a more popular forum? In the end though, did anyone really use these services anyway? I had no clue some of them even (still) existed. If Mayer is able to trim the fat, and decides to stop ignoring the rules of the web, perhaps Yahoo will be able to stick around a bit longer.

Are you saddened by any of these closures? Do you think Yahoo still has a chance to be relevant? Do you like the new, revamped Yahoo homepage? Let it all go in the comments section below.

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Pandora's CEO Joe Kennedy Resigns Despite Strong Q4 2012 Numbers

posted Sunday Mar 10, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Pandora's CEO Joe Kennedy Resigns Despite Strong Q4 2012 Numbers

Remember last week when I said Pandora has been stuck in some sort of crazy reality of their own and chose to limit the amount of listening done on mobile platforms for free? Well, in a related story, the CEO of Pandora, Joe Kennedy, has stepped down from his position despite the company reporting strong numbers in 2012. Kennedy has run the company since 2004.

In his statement, he said,

As I near the start of my tenth year at the helm of Pandora, I am incredibly proud of the team and what we have accomplished in redefining radio. As part of our Board discussions of the road that lies ahead, I reached the conclusion and advised the Board that the time is right to begin a process to identify my successor. There is a tremendous market opportunity ahead and I look forward to continuing to work with all the great people at Pandora to keep driving the business forward.

Until said successor is found, the CEO will remain in position. This comes as a bit of a surprise, however, as the music-streaming service reported Q4 revenues of $125 million, which is a 54 percent hike against 2011's fourth quarter numbers. For those keeping score at home, $109 million of that revenue came from ads.

In the eight years Joe Kennedy was with Pandora, he was able to get the company to reach very remarkable achievements. Pandora currently has over 67 million monthly active listeners, owns over eight percent of total US radio listening, and for their last fiscal year, was able to bring in $427 million, with $255 million coming from mobile. As I've said, however, their refusal to adapt and change with the times, including killing off their failed use of the music genome project, has led them to play catch up with up-and-comers like Spotify. With rumors spreading of Apple trying to enter the streaming game, on top of Spotify looking to cut cheaper rates with the music labels, perhaps this was the right time to look for a new leader.

So there you have it. If you liked this article and cherish the news you read each day, please do not like, +1 or share it. You may end up filling your timelines and feeds with articles about CEOs from other companies you don't care about. This was an article about Pandora, after all.

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Sprint Rolls Out 4G LTE in Nine New Markets

posted Sunday Mar 10, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sprint Rolls Out 4G LTE in Nine New Markets

Ever since Sprint announced its move to 4G LTE, a lot of things have been happening with the company. First, Softbank acquired 70% of Sprint, who then turned around and picked up Clearwire, a company they've been financially carrying on their back. However, we've still seen a lack of 4G LTE from the pin drop company. Hopefully, with all of these transactions being finalized, we'll see more in the future, but this week, Sprint announced it's rolling out more of the high-speed network.

Sprint has rolled out 4G LTE in nine new markets, bringing the total number of areas who have the coverage to 67, which is still over 200 less than Verizon's map. Those markets are Altoona, Pa., Asheville, N.C., Columbus, Ind., Elkhart/Goshen, Ind., Hammond, La., La Crosse, Wis., San Juan, Puerto Rico, Statesville, N.C., and Temple, Texas. Bob Azzi, Senior VP of Networks for Sprint, said,

With today's announcement, Sprint is enabling even more customers to sample the power of 4G LTE on their smartphones, tablets and wireless hotspots. The network team continues to build and test the new network across the country, including areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Customers report they are already finding a 4G LTE signal in these places, and we look forward to providing even more reliable access to the data they need with our official launches.

Because of the new markets and expanded high-speed coverage, Sprint is making a push to try and get customers to switch over. Until April 11th, you can save an extra $100 off a Galaxy S II or Galaxy S III.

In part with the newly added 4G LTE, the expected 3G+ enhancements are also underway in the mentioned markets and surrounding areas. Customers in those areas should expect:

  • Faster data speeds to enable instant Web access for news updates, HD viewing and game-playing, quicker video downloads and clearer video chats.
  • Better signal strength when accessing the Web.
  • Fewer dropped calls for peace of mind when talking to friends, family or colleagues.

So, there you have it. Sprint, with the help of Softbank, is making gradual steps to try and get back into the game. They still have the only truly unlimited 4G LTE service available nationwide and, if talks of the potential Windows Phone makes its way over to Sprint, they might have the leverage they need to really compete with Verizon Wireless and AT&T again.

If you'd like to check out Sprint's short clip on the future plans of their network, hit the break.

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Court Rules Search Engines Not Responsible for Unflattering Results

posted Saturday Mar 9, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Court Rules Search Engines Not Responsible for Unflattering Results

One of the fascinating things about people in the US is that, despite highly publicized precedent in court, people will still file the same suit and expect different results. I believe I heard that is the definition of insanity, but I'm no expert.

This week's example of insanity comes to us care of Wisconsin resident Beverly Stayart, CFO and Director of Business Development at Stayart Law Offices. You would think that someone working at a law office, especially one whose last name is in the office name, would be smarter than wasting resources, but here we go. Miss Stayart sued Google because of the search results that return when searching for her name, "Bev Stayart."

As it turns out, "Bev Stayart Levitra" is related to erectile dysfunction and, therefore, her name returns sex pills. She believes this sullies her "wholesome image," despite the fact that she is obviously not related to erectile dysfunction. The court ruled in Google's favor, just as they have in Yahoo's favor previously for the same case.

Previously, in an unrelated case, Google won a very similar battle with then Presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Santorum believed that the results for his last name returning a relatively unknown, yet legitimate British slang term with the same name, returned before his own results, were hurting his chances for the Republican nomination. The term had gained popularity in the US when openly gay sex advisor Dan Savage used SEO skills to promote the term when Santorum came out angrily against gay equality.

If a Presidential candidate was unable to win the case against Google, I'm not sure what an unknown lawyer in Wisconsin thought she brought to the table. For now, the Internet has won another battle against censorship, no matter how frivolous and insane it might be.

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