Friday, November 23, 2012

Newspapers vs. new media

Newspapers and the press have hundreds and hundreds of years of history, and have had a big impact on the society during all of it (for good and bad alike.) For hundreds of years newspapers have thrived, and were a staple of any society. This is because for a long, long time they were basically the only medium that people had to get information about current events (be it local, national or international) and people thirst for this kind of information.

In the past 50 years or so TV has kind of become a big competitor to newspapers, but never really supplanted them.

However, during the past decade or two a new form of media has become so big and prevalent that it actually has turned into an almost newspaper killer: The internet (often colloquially called "new media.")

Traditional newspapers have struggled for a decade or two to adapt. Physical newspapers are selling less and less because it just is easier for people nowadays to search for information on the internet, usually for free, than to buy a newspaper. Traditional newspapers have tried to transit to the internet, some with more, some with less success.

One of the biggest mistakes that many such newspapers do is this: Online articles would be quite a useful and valuable resource for many people, especially if they can be referred to. These can be important sources of information of past events, and they could become referred by other articles. The internet could be a very handy and useful, easy to use and free-for-all archive of newspaper publications (something that in the past required one to go to a library that offers such a service eg. in the form of microfilms of scanned newspapers, and making tedious manual searches using microfilm viewing devices.) However, many newspapers only publish some articles, and often they do it temporarily, removing them from public access after a time. (Either they remove them completely, or they make accessing them non free.)

And then they wonder why their readership is decreasing. The one thing that would actually increase the amount of visitors is the one thing that they often avoid (ie. keeping all articles accessible forever.)

The smarter newspapers keep their online articles available forever, but not all of them are that smart.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Microsoft's greed with the Xbox 360

Netflix is, basically, an online video rental service. It's available for a surprisingly large number of platforms besides just desktop PCs. Other such platforms include various Android-based cellphones and tablets, the iPhone, iPod and iPad, Apple TV, various Blu-Ray Disc players and several gaming consoles, including the Nintendo Wii, 3DS, Sony Playstation 3, PlayStation Vita, and the Xbox 360.

There's one thing in common with all of them: Netflix can be used in all of them without any additional cost from the part of the platform's manufacturer.

Except for Microsoft's Xbox 360.

From the literally hundreds of different platforms that support Netflix, the Xbox 360 is the only one where it cannot be used without paying additional money to the platform's manufacturer (in this case Microsoft.) An Xbox Live Gold subscription is needed to use Netflix.

One could argue that this subscription is needed to account for costs from Microsoft's part. I don't know if running Netflix requires anything at all from Microsoft (eg. if it uses anything from a Microsoft's server), but it sounds spurious because for example neither Sony, Nintendo or Apple require any such additional costs to use Netflix. It just sounds like yet another way Microsoft uses to pressure people into paying the monthly subscription fees, at the cost of a third-party, and without any actual concrete reason for that (such as server maintenance costs or the like.)

I wouldn't be surprised if Netflix weren't very happy with this situation. Microsoft is using their service to entice people into paying monthly fees to Microsoft (while other platforms do no such thing.)

It can get quite egregious at times. Recently Microsoft added Internet Explorer to the Xbox 360, which means that you can now surf the web with the console. Well, guess if it can be used if you don't have the Xbox Live Gold subscription. And why exactly is it needed? It's not like the browser needs anything from a Microsoft server any more than the same browser in your PC. (And even if it did, I'm quite sure Microsoft could afford it. After all, the console already downloads tons of things from the Xbox Live servers even without the Gold subscription.)

I'm surprised that they don't limit the ability to actually buy games from Xbox Live only to those with the Gold subscription. I suppose that in this case it would have been more of a loss than a gain (not to talk about the backlash from game vendors.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Scientific institutions should know better

I had a bookmark to a YouTube video where Neil DeGrasse Tyson talks about UFOs and all the argumentative fallacies regarding them. That person is one of the smartest people alive, I really admire him, and I think that he has done an astonishingly good job at popularizing science and getting some rationality to the public knowledge amidst the widespread of irrational superstition.

Today I went to watch that again because it's just such a great video. What do I encounter there?

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by St. Petersburg College."

This is really worthy of a facepalm. Double facepalm. How stupid can these people be? How completely and utterly stupid?

St. Petersburg College, you are not helping the spreading of science and rationality with stunts like this. You are only doing the exact opposite. You are doing the exact same thing as the irrational fanatics are doing.

This makes no sense. This kind of material that helps humanity should be free and public domain. Nobody should have such rights to knowledge and rationality. Nobody should have the right to shut down the broadcasting of this. Making it open and free is only a service to humanity.