Outland Traveller writes "In a move that continues to shake the Second Life community of content creators, merchants, and consumers, Linden Labs has declared that free virtual content will no longer be searchable without listing payments on their website portal; and additional fees will be added with the intention of discouraging content listed for inexpensive selling prices. The move is particularly troubling because the online Web listing service is the de facto search engine for virtual content in Second Life, since the in-world search tools are unable to provide information about an object beyond name and location — basic textual descriptions, pictures, or descriptions of licensing, size, or content-category are not possible. While initially the change was explained as a response to community feedback, the residents involved in this feedback process were revealed to be fewer than 100 in number, primarily larger merchants among a community of millions. Within 24 hours of the announcement, the feedback thread has swelled to over 1,000 overwhelmingly negative responses. Additionally, in-world protests have erupted throughout the day, and over 20,000 objects have been voluntarily removed from the online store by angered merchants." Read on for more details on the brouhaha.
eldavojohn writes "Chinese gamers have a pretty hard life. From crackdowns on 'undesirable' games to bans on gangster games to delayed World of Warcraft expansions, they suffer. The worst part is that in order to qualify for operating in China, you face a maze of conflicting bureaucracy and regulation. Well, it just got a little worse. Now, if you want to operate, you need to hire a 'specialist' to oversee content, and you need to 'enhance socialist values' in your game. They also want to limit in-game marriages and how many player-versus-player combat sessions one can engage in. The circular issued from China's Ministry of Culture contained all the vague verbiage giving them easier reign over who operates and who doesn't. It's a large market, but is it worth the gamble to game developers?"
Glyn Moody writes "Last year, we discussed here a Russian plan to install free software in all its schools. Seems things aren't going so well. Funds for the project have been cut back, some of the free software discs already sent out were faulty, and — inevitably — Microsoft has agreed to a 'special price' for Windows XP used in Russian schools."
At a UN-sponsored Internet Governance Forum in Egypt, anti-censorship group Open Net Initiative was startled by a demand from UN officials to remove a poster mentioning Chinese Net censorship. When ONI refused the request, security personnel arrived and took away the poster. The group was promoting a new book, Access Controlled, a survey of Internet censorship, filtering, and online surveillance. A witness said, "The poster was thrown on the floor and we were told to remove it because of the reference to China and Tibet. We refused, and security guards came and removed it. The incident was witnessed by many." Here is a video of the removal.
spongman writes "Microsoft's Senior Vice President, Developer Division, S. Somasegar has announced that Microsoft has acquired Teamprise from Sourcegear, LLC, and will be shipping it as part of the upcoming Visual Studio 2010 release. Teamprise is an Eclipse plugin (and related tools) for connecting to Team Foundation Server, Microsoft's source-control/project-management system. What's most interesting about this is not only that Microsoft has realized that heterogeneous development platforms are important to their developer customers, but the fact that Microsoft themselves will now be developing and shipping products based on those heterogeneous platforms, including 5 versions of Unix."
Z80xxc! writes "After a comment by a Microsoft employee claiming in an interview that 'what we [Microsoft] have tried to do with Windows 7... is create a Mac look and feel in terms of graphics,' the Windows 7 team has issued an official rebuttal, saying that the comment came from an employee who was 'not involved in any aspect of designing Windows 7,' and that it was 'inaccurate and uninformed.'"
We've been following the ongoing struggles of the print media, watching as some publications have died off and others have held to outdated principles and decried the influence of the internet. A side effect of this has been many journalists put out of work and many others fearful that informed reporting is on its way out as well. Now, an editorial in the Washington Post calls for a solution journalists would likely have scoffed at only a few years ago: federal subsidies. Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols write, "What to do? Bailing out media conglomerates would be morally and politically absurd. These firms have run journalism into the ground. If they cannot make it, let them go. Wait for 'pay-wall' technologies, billionaire philanthropists or unimagined business models to generate enough news to meet the immense demands of a self-governing society? There is no evidence that such a panacea is on the horizon. This leaves one place to look for a solution: the government." They hasten to add, "Did we just call for state-run media? Quite the opposite."
A recent Notice of Inquiry from the FCC is looking for opinions on how the "evolving electronic media landscape" affects kids, and whether the FCC itself should have more regulatory control over such media. The full NOI (PDF) is available online. "FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski included a statement with the NOI in which he noted that 'twenty years ago, parents worried about one or two TV sets in the house,' while today, media choices are far more widespread for children, including videogames, which 'have become a prevalent entertainment source in millions of homes and a daily reality for millions of kids.'"
oranghutan writes "The Obama administration is looking to the southern hemisphere for tips on how to improve the broadband situation in the US. The key telco adviser to the president, Sarah Crawford, has met with Australian telco analysts recently to find out how the Aussies are rolling out their $40 billion+ national broadband network. It is also rumored that the Obama administration is looking to the Dutch and New Zealand situations for inspiration too. The article quotes an Aussie analyst as saying: 'There needs to be a multiplier effect in the investment you make in telecoms — it should not just be limited to high-speed Internet. That is pretty new and in the US it is nearly communism, that sort of thinking. They are not used to that level of sharing and going away from free-market politics to a situation whereby you are looking at the national interest. In all my 30 years in the industry, this is the first time America is interested in listening to people like myself from outside.'"
The Wall Street Journal is running a piece about the growing momentum behind the idea of NASA outsourcing to private companies everything from transporting astronauts to ferrying cargo into orbit. Quoting: "Proposals gaining momentum in Washington call for contractors to build and run competing systems under commercial contracts, according to federal officials, aerospace-industry officials and others familiar with the discussions. While the Obama administration is still mulling options and hasn't made any final decisions, such a move would represent a major policy shift away from decades of government-run rocket and astronaut-transportation programs such as the current space-shuttle fleet. ... In the face of severe federal budget constraints and a burgeoning commercial-space industry eager to play a larger role in exploring the solar system and perhaps beyond, ...a consensus for the new approach seems to be building inside the White House as well as [NASA]. ... Under this scenario, a new breed of contractors would take over many of NASA's current responsibilities, freeing the agency to pursue longer-term, more ambitious goals such as new rocket-propulsion technology and manned missions to Mars. ...[T]hese contractors would take the lead in servicing the International Space Station from the shuttle's planned retirement around 2011 through at least the end of that decade."
Actually, free market economies abhor a monopoly...
An unexplained rash of spontaneous cow explosions has resulted in a glut in the Canadian beef market...
Canadian scientists are breeding a type of cow that burps less, in an attempt to reduce greenhouse gases. Cows are responsible for almost 75% of total methane emissions, mostly coming from burps. Stephen Moore, professor of agricultural, food and nutritional science at the University of Alberta, hopes the refined bovines will produce 25 per cent less methane. Nancy Hirshberg, spokesman for Stonyfield Farm says, "If every US dairy farmer reduced emissions by 12 per cent it would be equal to about half a million cars being taken off the road."
eldavojohn writes "GamePolitics is writing about a proposal to tax things that make your kids fat. The logic from its author: 'Almost all experts agree that the primary reasons [for the obesity epidemic] are increased consumption of larger quantities of high calorie foods, snacks and sugar sweetened beverages... and lack of physical activity as vigorous play is replaced by sedentary activities such as watching more television, movies and videos and playing video games. This bill would raise revenues from modest surcharges on the very food products and sedentary activities that are linked to the lifestyle changes involved in the explosion of childhood obesity in the last 20-30 years.' Not as explicit as Japan's fat tax but we're getting there."