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The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008, which was blasted by consumer groups and library associations this week as an "enormous gift" to the content industry, won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon by a 14-4 vote. As first reported by Ars this morning, a series of amendments were added during committee mark-up, providing privacy safeguards for records seized under the law and stripping away several controversial provisions—though not the hotly contested section empowering the Justice Department to litigate civil infringement suits on behalf of IP owners. HangZhou Night Net

One significant change to the proposed legislation addressed, at least in some small measure, a concern broached by Public Knowledge and other consumer groups in a letter to the Judiciary Committee yesterday. Though the amended bill still creates expanded provisions for civil forfeiture of property implicated in an IP infringement case—potentially including servers or storage devices containing the personal data of large numbers of innocent persons—lawmakers altered the bill's language to affirmatively require a court to issue a protective order "with respect to discovery and use of any records or information that has been impounded," establishing "procedures to ensure that confidential, private, proprietary, or privileged information contained in such records is not improperly disclosed or used." They did not, however, go so far as to immunize the data of "virtual bystanders" from seizure, as the letter had requested.

The forfeiture section was also modified to exclude, as grounds for seizure, the violation of the "anticircumvention" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The old language would have allowed for forfeiture of tools that could be used to circumvent digital rights management software.

Excised, as well, was language that would have barred the "transshipment" through the United States of IP infringing goods. Since different countries have different IP rules, this language would potentially have defined goods that were legal in both their country of origin and their final destination—because, for instance, differences in copyright terms allowed works to fall into the public domain overseas while still under copyright in the US—as contraband.

The amendments also added a seat for a representative of the Food and Drug Administration, as well as any "such other agencies as the President determines to be substantially involved in the efforts of the Federal Government to combat counterfeiting and piracy" on the "interagency intellectual property enforcement advisory committee" that the bill would create.

Two new provisions were tacked on to the end of the law. The first directs the Comptroller General to conduct a study of the impact of piracy on domestic manufacturers and develop recommendations for improving the protection of IP in manufactured goods. (Wouldn't it be better to do this sort of thing before enacting enforcement legislation?)

The second is a nonbinding "sense of congress" resolution stipulating that, while "effective criminal enforcement of the intellectual property laws against such violations in all categories of works should be among the highest priorities of the Attorney General," the AG should give priority, in cases of software piracy, to cases of "willful theft of intellectual property for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain," especially those "where the enterprise involved in the theft of intellectual property is owned or controlled by a foreign enterprise or other foreign entity." Which is to say, that copy of Photoshop you pulled off BitTorrent last week isn't on the top of the Justice Department's docket… yet.

Remaining intact was language that would give the Justice Department authority to pursue civil suits against IP infringers, awarding any damages won to the patent, copyright, or trademark holders. Critics have blasted this provision as a gift of free, taxpayer-funded legal services to content owners. The bill now goes to the full Senate, and must still be recognized with its counterpart legislation in the House, which lacks the language deputizing the DoJ to bring suit on behalf of IP owners.

It's easy to develop a confusing picture of what goes on inside of multiuser virtual worlds, such as Second Life and World of WarCraft. Some reports suggest that the virtual reality enables people to escape from social interactions they otherwise find difficult; others highlight how users of virtual worlds find them satisfying because of the rich social interactions they enable. Some researchers at Northwestern University looked into just how well real-life social influences translate to the the virtual realm and discovered one that does: racism. HangZhou Night Net

The authors used two different instances of social manipulation that are known to work well in the real world. The first is the "foot in the door" (FITD) approach, in which a small, easily accomplished favor is asked. These tend to make the person who granted the favor happy about their cooperation, and more likely to agree to further requests, even if they require more effort.

The second method, called "door in the face" (DITF), accomplishes the same thing using a different approach. The initial request, instead of being easy to handle, involves an extensive effort on the part of the person asked. Usually, that request is declined, but it makes people more likely to agree to a further, less time-intensive request. Instead of being inwardly-focused, the DITF method depends largely on a person's perception of the individual or organization making the request; the more responsible and credible they seem, the more likely the second request will be agreed to.

The researchers added a second layer on top of these two methods of manipulation by using avatars with skin tones set at the two extremes of light and dark that the environment, There.com, allows. This let them check for whether another pervasive social influence, racism, holds sway in the virtual world.

The tests involved the ability of There.com users to instantly teleport to any location in the game. The control condition, and the second request for both the FITD and DITF approaches, was a teleport to a specific location to take part in a screenshot. For FITD, the first, easy request was a screenshot in place. For DITF, the initial request involved a series of screenshots around the virtual world that might take as much as two hours.

416 There.com users were approached at random. Somewhat amusingly, about 20 of those approached for each test did something unexpected. For FITD, they simply teleported away before the question could be completed. Even more oddly, over 20 people agreed to spend a few hours taking screenshots with random strangers.

It turns out that social manipulation works just as well in virtual worlds as it does in the real one, with one very significant caveat. The FITD approach, which depends on people feeling good about themselves, increased cooperation on the second request from roughly 55 percent to 75 percent. DITF did even better, boosting the fraction of those who agreed to the second request to over 80 percent—but only if the avatar making the request was white. If that avatar was black, the response dropped to 60 percent, which was statistically indistinguishable from the control.

Since the DITF method depends on subjects' perception of the one doing the asking, the obvious conclusion is that black avatars are viewed as less appealing than white ones. The virtual world not only recapitulates social manipulation, but also social problems. The judgment directed towards the avatar's color is even more surprising, given that There.com allows its users to change their avatar's appearance instantly.

The authors don't seem to know whether to celebrate the finding, since it opens up new avenues for pursuing social research, or to condemn the fact that racism has been dragged from the real to virtual worlds. The recognize that there is an alternate interpretation—namely, that people judge users for having chosen to use a black avatar, rather than for being black—but don't find that alternative any more appealing.

Social Influence, 2008. DOI: 10.1080/15534510802254087

The huggable bunch at Greenpeace have given a thumbs up to Apple's announcement this week of a refreshed line of iPods that are much more environmentally friendly than past versions. In the same breath, the organization also took the chance to add to its recyclable Christmas wish list. HangZhou Night Net

On Greenpeace's official blog, the organization patted Apple on the back by proclaiming "It's great to see Apple dropping toxic chemicals like PVC, BFRs and mercury in their latest products." As we reported in our live coverage from Apple's "Let's Rock" event, Jobs touted the new iPods as having arsenic-free glass, as well as being BFR-free, mercury-free, PVC-free, and "highly recyclable." Jobs announced last year that Apple was working towards boosting efforts in recycling by 2010.

In the same post, though, Greenpeace went on to point out that greener iPods aren't actually all that special, since companies like Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and Samsung have achieved this with small iPod-sized gadgets. "While these iPods may rock what would really shake up the computer industry is if Apple sticks to its promise and becomes the first company to make personal computers free of toxic PVC and BFR's."

In a surprisingly candid article posted to Apple's "Hot News" section last May, Steve Jobs outlined his company's plans for "A Greener Apple." Among the environmental manufacturing challenges that Jobs tackled in the piece, Jobs said that Apple plans to "completely eliminate the use of PVC and BFRs in its products," as well as eliminate the use of arsenic in all of its displays, by the end of 2008. We'll keep an eye out for new prose from Jobs, or criticism from Greenpeace, on whether these goals are met.

Newest updates are at the top! HangZhou Night Net

-Steve Jobs says thanks, it's over! Check Infinite Loop for hands-on with the new iPods!
-Jack Johnson is getting a standing ovation
-Music is done, Steve Jobs is back
-There's a guy in the camera pit dancing to the music
-Playing another song
-Song is over, Jack Johnson is thanking Steve Jobs, thanking iTunes
-(Made a few clarifications/fixes to what was typed below)
-Jack Johnson now performing
-Special guest today is Jack Johnson
-"Whenever we have a music event, we like to remind ourselves why we do it"
-We appreciate the chance to share this with you this morning (sez Steve)
-"Strongest lineup of iPods we've ever had for holiday season '08"

-Software is available this Friday for both iPhone and iPod touch
-Backing up to iTunes is dramatically faster, less crashing
-Significantly improved battery life, fewer call drops, fixed a lot of bugs
-New software for iPhone too, 2.1

-Free update for iPod touch users from 2.0, $9.99 from 1.x
-New iPod touch comes with new version of software, 2.1
-All models are available today. Now playing new iPod touch ad

-3 models: 8GB for $229, 16GB for $299, and 32GB for $399
-"The funnest iPod ever" — Yes, he said funnest, and so did the slide
-Environmentally, checklist looks like nano. Arsenic-free glass, BFR-free, mercury-free, PVC-free, highly recyclable
-"Battery life is astounding" 36 hours of music, 6 hours of video
-Steve Jobs is back to round up iPod touch stuff. "Works with the new headphoens coming out next month"
-"Transport a… package… across town"
-Demoing an EA game coming out later this year, Need for Speed (coming out for all platforms including iPod touch and iPhone at the same time)
-Now demoing Gameloft, "Real Soccer 2009" brand new game shipping today
-"Animations and graphics and interactivity is just incredible!"
-Demoing Spore specifically for the iPod touch (Spore Origins), just released the other day
-Inviting Phil Schiller on stage to give a demo of games that are not yet out on the market
-Now demoing iPod touch features
-App Store available in 62 countries now, all available on iPod touch
-About 700 games on the App Store today
-"This is mind-blowing!" Launched only 60 days ago
-App Store: users have downloaded over 100,000,000 applications

-When you're panning/shuffling in a song, a genius icon will appear, just tap it and it'll save it into your Genius playlist
-Software is all built in for Nike, don't need to plug in the Nike receiver like on the nano, it's all built-in
-UI is "even nicer than it has been," also built in Nike+iPod
-Genius playlist creation, App Store built-in
-built-in speaker like on the iPhone, "really hard for something this thin, for casual listening"
-Integrated volume controls into the side like on the iPhone
-New iPod touch has same 3.5" display, even thinner (looks tapered, stainless steel on back, just like schematics)
-Unlike anything in the marketplace, well for holiday season we're making it even better
-Let's move onto iPod touch: iPod touch is an "incredible product"

-Showing new iPod nano ad
-Also have new in-ear headphones, sell for $79 in October, "we think we really got it right this time"
-New headphones are $29 next month
-Back side has microphone which works great with voice recording app
-Also has volume controls up & down, all right from headphone cable
-New headphones have a little thing on the cable like from the iPhone, if you double click it, goes to next song, single click pause, triple click previous song
-Shipping today, 8GB should be in stock next few days, 16GB available next weekend, "early next week at the latest"
-$149 for 8GB of memory, second model 16GB at $199
-huge range of colors (silver, indigo, blue, lime green, yellow, orange, red, magenta)

-nano-chromatic, "best colors we've ever done"
-New iPods are looking great: arsenic-free glass, BFR-free, mercury-free, PVC-free, highly recyclable -We want to be really environmentally sensitive with these products, biggest thing we worry about are the toxics, we use an internal environmental checklist -That's it for the iPod nano! Great new features, great battery life, "24 hours for music, 4 hours for video"
-Shake to shuffle (awesome) — if you want to skip to the next song, just shake the nano
-Software extras that are "normally" shipped (voice recorder, calendar), now demoing
-Turn it sideways and see full-size album art, see photos in landscape mode, video
-Can create Genius playlists from the nano itself without connecting to iTunes -What are some of the feature? Curved aluminum, curved glass over display, thinnest iPod ever, enhanced UI, accelerometer from iPhone/iPod touch and brought it to the nano
-The one he's showing is silver metal with a black wheel
-"Thinnest iPod we've ever made," oval shape, fits in "beautifully" with the line of first/second gen portrait mode
-New iPod nano for holiday season: tapered, has a black wheel, looks just like the rumors
-Shipped first nano 3 years ago, then second and third gen, became very popular
-iPod classic: discontinuing thick and just going with thin (no one buys the thick): upgrading to 120GB for $249

-Now talking about updates and new products for holiday season
-Over 5,000 accessories for iPod, incredibly thriving ecosystem, "they announce products even before we want them to. It's so funny."
-Now to talk about iPod stuff: Latest NPD data is from July, iPod holds 73.4 percent of the market

-iTunes 8 is available today as a free download
-"Boom," creates a genius playlist that go with the song you're playing
-Going back to music, playing John Mayer (Gravity), just go down to the bottom and push the genius button
-Demoing HD TV shows right now (The Office)
-Now Steve is Demoing the Genius feature ("just one click!") and iTunes

-As people keep using it, Genius keeps getting smarter and smarter, sends back down results
-But it's not just info from you, Apple will combine it with knowledge of millions of other iTunes users as well
-It's all voluntary, your library will send info into the cloud (anonymously) with track names, how many plays, etc.
-How's this all work? iTunes Store is in the cloud, added "Genius Algorithms"
-Genius sidebar makes recommendations from iTunes Store of songs you might want to buy
-Genius: automatically make playlists from songs in your music library that go great together
-New browsing feature
-HDTV shows
-Tons of new stuff
-Biggest thing with iTunes today is iTunes 8, next major release
-All NBC's great shows are coming back not only in SD, but in HD as well
-NBC is coming back to iTunes
-HD shows are $2.99 and you can watch them on the computer (not just Apple TV like movies)
-Adding new content to iTunes: adding HD TV shows
-This has enabled Apple to become the #1 music distributor in any format!
-Over 65 million accounts in iTunes right now
-Music: let's start with iTunes
-"Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated"
-Steve Jobs is out, "We've got some really exciting stuff to share with you"

-We're in, waiting for the event to start. Apple is cracking down on photography from the main area, so we'll have to see about photos. (There's a photo pit, but we're only allowed one spot today.) It's getting dark!

Original post:

It's Tuesday, September 9, which means Apple's special event is mere hours away. We have touched down in San Francisco and are preparing for what we (and most others) believe will be a very iPod-focused event. This is the post that will contain all of our live event coverage when it kicks off at 10am PDT, so keep checking back here for our updates before and during the event. Let's rock it!

A shot of press outside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, waiting for Let's Rock to begin:

Following a one week delay, the beta for SOCOM: Confrontation, the latest iteration of the long-standing PlayStation franchise, is now underway. Press and pre-order patrons have begun to delve into the tight tactical action, while those who purchased the first issue of Qore will be joining the force on Friday. And while the beta has been a bumpy one thus far, the game does play well for the most part… once you can actually get into a match. HangZhou Night Net

Out of the gate, the beta suffered from some pretty brutal connectivity problems, lag, and other "load related issues." My play time has been marred by long waits for entry into matches and some pretty mean bouts of lag and stuttering in-game. Numerous accounts from other outlets have identified a number of problems, for which Sony and Slant Six Games have gone on the record to apologize. "We are doing everything we can to resolve these issues as quickly as possible and you should see some improvements progressively over the next couple of days," reads the entry on the official SOCOM blog. The first of what will likely be many patches has already gone live today.

Of course, it is a beta for a reason. Thankfully, looking past those issues, SOCOM proves to be a solid third-person shooter with some great community features. Warhawk has long been the standard for organized multiplayer on the PlayStation 3, but it appears that the title will quickly be passed to SOCOM when the game launches. Even in beta, a number of key improvements already trump Incognito's excellent title.

Expect to see this screen a lot if you're in the beta.

For one, voice chat in the beta has been surprisingly excellent. The new official PS3 headsets come with a special high quality mode that SOCOM will take advantage of, but even without them the voice chat is higher quality than any other PS3 titles. Given that the game is so highly tactical and team-oriented, this is good news.

The clan options are also significantly more robust. An integrated clan calendar allows clan leaders to create scheduled events which are pushed out to all members of the clan. These events range from tournaments to clan matches and even open invitationals. Clan leaders can also interact with other clan leaders to set up events for all the clan members involved. Clans themselves can be heavily customized: all clan members have a shared uniform designed when the clan is created, in addition to a clan logo; this distinguishes any and all clan members from "mercenaries and commandos," which are players unaffiliated with any clan.

As for the game play itself, the game plays smoothly when a given room is running well. If you've played SOCOM before, there won't be very many surprises: interface improvements, customization options, and a more fully-featured clan system are the main draws here. Should the beta continue to steadily improve connection-wise, SOCOM: Confrontation should be well worth the $59.99 price tag with the pack-in Bluetooth headset when the game launches October 17.

At the latest in what is becoming an annual September event for Apple, the company today announced a number of new products in time for the holiday rush. We covered the Steve Jobs' "Let's Rock" keynote live in San Francisco, and here is a roundup of the actual announcements and new products. HangZhou Night Net

HD TV shows

Leading off by touting over 65 million accounts worldwide in the iTunes Store, Steve Jobs first announced the arrival of HD TV shows. Shows will cost $2.99 apiece (instead of the typical $1.99 for SD episodes), but unlike the handful of HD movies the store already has, HD TV show episodes can be watched on a computer, not just on an Apple TV. In addition, after a much-publicized breakup, NBC is also returning to the store with its most popular shows, and in HD to boot.

iTunes 8, now with more Genius

The next major announcement is iTunes 8, a major new version of Apple's media management software that governs its iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV ecosystem. Confirming "tons of new stuff" and features that were rumored over the weekend, Jobs announced a new Pandora-like "Genius" feature that can generate playlists of songs "that go great together." A new Genius Sidebar can also anonymously (and voluntarily) send your library info up to the iTunes Store cloud to make smarter recommendations of new music a customer may like. The "Genius Algorithms" that power all of this will also harness everyone's library information to fuel this new community powered music recommendation system.

A new button in the iTunes 8 interface offers easy access to these new Genius features. When you're listening to a song, for example, pressing this button will generate a new playlist based on similar music you already have in your library, as well as recommendations of music in the iTunes Store you might like. iTunes 8 should appear in Software Update for both Mac OS X and Windows users, but you can also easily grab it from iTunes.com.

New iPod nano

The first iPod-related announcement today was an actual discontinuance of the largest traditional iPod, the 160GB iPod classic. "No one buys the thick" one, Jobs said on stage. The iPod classic line will slim down to a single 120GB model for $249, which should be the same size and dimensions as the current 80GB model.

The iPod nano line got a refresh today with an entirely new version as "the thinnest iPod we've ever made." (First, hands-on review of Infinite Loop) It has an oval, tapered shape with a black wheel, and fits "beautifully" with the iPod nano's original, taller portait design. The new iPod nano can create Genius playlists on the go, without having to connect to iTunes, and it also gained the accelerometer from the iPhone and iPod touch for viewing Cover Flow album art, photos, and video when turned sideways. The iPod nano is also gaining a number of new hardware and software features that typically could only be had through third-party accessories (if at all), such as a built-in voice recorder and the ability to shake it to shuffle.

Other new iPod nano features include an iPhone-like headphone set with a new clicker, volume control, and microphone. You can double-click to skip to the next song, press once to pause, three times to go to the previous song, and record voice memos with a microphone on the other side. This set of headphones will cost $29 and arrive next month, along with a new set of higher quality in-ear headphones that will sell for $79." We think we really got it right this time," Jobs said about the new headphones.

Apple claims a "great" battery life for the iPod nano with 24 hours of music and 4 hours for video. The new iPod nanoshould be in stock in the next few days, if not early next week, and will cost $149 for 8GB, $199 for 16GB.

New iPod touches

Calling the iPod touch "an incredible product," Jobs bragged that even though it's "unlike anything in the marketplace… well, for the holiday season we're making it even better." The new iPod touch (first hands-on review on Infinite Loop) has the same 3.5" display but gets thinner with a tapered, stainless steel back (probably to differentiate it from the iPhone). The iPod touch will gain the iPhone's integrated volume controls on its side, and gains a built-in speaker like the iPhone which Jobs claimed was "really hard for something this thin, for casual listening." Genius playlist creation will also be built into the iPod touch.

Another unique feature of the new iPod touch is the integration of the Nike+iPod system for tracking running statistics. Unlike the iPod nano, the hardware receiver has been built into the iPod touch.

The new iPod touch is rated for an "astounding" 36 hours of music and 6 hours of video, will work with the same new clicker headphones as the nano, and is available today in sizes of 8GB for $229, 16GB for $299, and 32GB for $399. Steve Jobs' and Apple's marketing tout the new iPod touch as "the funnest iPod ever." No, that isn't a typo.

New iPhone OS 2.1

The iPhone also got some time in the spotlight today with the much-anticipated announcement of iPhone OS 2.1, the software and firmware that runs both the iPhone and iPod touch. The major update should "significantly" improve battery life, problems with droppped calls, fix a lot of bugs, and backing up to iTunes should be "dramatically" faster. New iPod touches ship with the 2.1 OS update, and it should be available to download for free for all other iPhone and iPod touch owners running iPhone OS 2.0 this Friday. iPod touch owners still using 1.x will need to pay the 2.x upgrade fee of $9.99.

That's a wrap

Jobs ended the event by exclaiming that this is the "Strongest lineup of iPods we've ever had for holiday season '08." As Apple typically ends major keynotes with a performance, Jack Johnson took the stage to wrap up the event.

With digital distribution becoming more and more prominent, online stores hawking downloadable games are a dime a dozen. But standing out from the pack is a new site called Good Old Games that focuses on bringing old, time-tested games into the downloadable era with low prices and no DRM. Though the service, currently in beta, is still young, it already shows signs of being a big deal for PC gamers. HangZhou Night Net

Drawing from a pool of Interplay and Codemasters Windows classics, GOG currently features the likes of Fallout, Fallout 2, Freespace, Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Descent, and many more. The site updates every Tuesday with a handful of new titles, and there are more games due "soon," including Soldiers: Heroes of World War 2, Operation Flashpoint, and Colin McRae Rally 2005.

Prices on the classics currently range from $5.99 for games like Fallout 2 to $9.99 for games like Perimeter. Weekly sales bring down the prices on some of the old games, as well. The true selling point here, though, is that all of the games are completely DRM free and available by direct download through the site. Users can access their purchased games list just by logging into the site and they are free to re-download the game files, manual, and even other tasty bits like stand-alone game soundtracks, desktop wallpapers, and more—all without having to download a special download client or install any invasive software.

The front page of GOG (click for a better look)

In addition, the team at GOG has put much time into ensuring the old classics play on new computers. Working with groups like DOSBox to pack a powerful DOS emulator into games that require it and offering Audiere for high-level audio APIs, the GOG team has ensured that your old PC favorites play as you remember them on your fancy new gaming rig.

A game profile, with ratings, reviews, and requirements (click for a better look)

For a small upstart, the actual website itself is surprisingly polished and sharp-looking in its beta form. Games can be sorted by a number of criteria, including price, publisher, rating, genre, and so forth. Best sellers for the week are made prominent on the store section, as are sales and recommendations based on your purchasing habits. Account information is kept to a relative minimum, and credit card information isn't stored through sessions. Payment options are currently limited to Visa and Mastercard.

The account page with game downloads (click for a better look)

The site also features a relatively large, though currently quiet, community section. Games can be rated and reviewed by GOG users and rewards are handed out to contributing users. Moreover, each game in the library has a forum where players can discuss the title, find modding information, and organize multiplayer matches. The helpful team has already posted a number of how-to guides and modding links for players diving into old titles for the first time.

In an age of increasing amounts of invasive DRM, the GOG store look like a dream for PC gamers. Most of these games are impossible to find on store shelves these days, and GOG has made some PC staples available at reasonable prices with no DRM. With an expanding library, a support staff already hard at work building a strong community even in the early beta stages, and some excellent policies, Good Old Games is a stand-out new portal for our favorite games of yore.

Getting your music on iTunes, Amazon, or eMusic used to be tough without signing on with a label, but services like TuneCore (which we profiled earlier this year) have made it possible for everyone from basement techno geeks to Nine Inch Nails to sell their compositions to the world. Now, TuneCore hopes to offer the same service for films, documentaries, and concert footage. For a few hundred bucks, you too can sell your homemade monster movie on iTunes. HangZhou Night Net

The movie service, currently in beta, will launch in mid-November with the same basic proposition as TuneCore's music offering:

    Pay upfront flat feeHave your work sent out to the digital download stores of your choiceProfit!

TuneCore takes no rights nor percentages, so artists keep all of the money (the stores still take their cut, of course). While an album of music can be delivered for $20 or $30, films will cost much more. Pricing will depend on the length of the work; a 60-minute film will cost $550 and a 90-minute film will cost $770.

The move is clearly good for independent filmmakers, who long had trouble getting adequate distribution for their work, but TuneCore provides little in the way of marketing and promotion. Getting your work on iTunes may be a crucial first step, but it certainly won't be enough to turn you and your camcorder into the next Hollywood mogul.

It does provide more options for selling video content apart from the studio system, though. YouTube and other streaming services have developed ways to share ad revenue with filmmakers, but access to major download services like iTunes has been much slower in coming. While iTunes will be the first store that TuneCore supports, we expect the company to offer as many options as possible, as soon as possible, much as it does for music.

Look for our award-winning documentary, Ars Xposed and Xtreme: Inside the Orbiting HQ, coming soon to a download store near you!

By now, you've already heard about what was announced during this morning's Apple Event: Let's Rock. New iPod nanos, new iPod touches, price drops, iPhone/iPod touch 2.1, iTunes 8, oh my! And, if you've been paying attention to Infinite Loop, you've seen our hands-on photos of the new nanos and iPod touches too. HangZhou Night Net

Unfortunately, there was no "One more thing…" at this event, but we did score a couple tidbits of info that weren't talked about during the press event. For one, the new iPod nanos now have a feature that speaks every menu and song info, which is especially nice for those who are hard of sight. The Apple rep who spoke to me said that it will tell you everything you need to know over the headphones, and if you have speakable items set up on your computer, the nano will inherit the voice you chose to use. It's unclear whether this feature will also be part of iPod touches and iPhones.

Additionally, the iPod shuffle line got a quiet update today as well. Nothing of substance is different; the storage sizes are still the same and pricing is as it was before, but the shuffles are now available in all the same colors as the iPod nano. Silver, black, indigo/purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, and magenta.

Finally, we inquired about the new $79 headphones that will be available for the iPod nano and iPod touch. The headphones, which let you skip/pause/play with a click just like the iPhone headphones, also let you adjust volume up or down. I asked whether they would work with the iPhone, and the Apple rep said the company doesn't claim that they're supported. "It will work with skipping, pausing, etc. but I don't think the volume will change. That's not supported on the iPhone." He pointed out that iPhone headphones will work with the iPod touch and iPod nano, however.

Update: It appears as if either the Apple rep misspoke or I misunderstood, or perhaps a combination of both, when it comes to the iPod shuffles. They did, indeed, get a color refresh today, but they're not available in every single color as the iPod nano.

HangZhou Night Net

It's great to be surprised by a game, and these days it doesn't seem like it happens very often. I had written off Pure a while ago, before I stumbled on the thread for the game in our forums. Let me give you some idea of how much people seem to have liked the demo…

"I just played the demo again, and I'm amazed at how much I'm looking
forward to this title. I also realized one other aspect of what really 'clicks'… it's reminiscent of my time with ExciteTruck in the way the jumps and airtime feel. A total sleeper out of deep left field!" "Downloaded and went through the demo today. It really does look amazing
and the controls are solid. Definitely grabbing this when it comes out.
I like the look and feel much more than MotorStorm.""I just popped in the 360 disc version I picked up over the weekend from
Gamestop… very cool demo (quick tutorial, then one race). The trick
trick/race ratio is very SSX. Definitely left me wanting more!""Played the demo, did not seem like that great of a game."

Okay, not everyone loved it, but the game got enough of a reaction out of the community that I went and downloaded the demo. I won't use exclamation points and invoke the names of other better-known racing titles, because I'm not trying to get on the damn box of the game as much as the forum apparently is, but I will say I had a great time with the one tutorial and lone race. The demo is available on both the PS3 and the 360, go give it a try. Great graphics, solid controls, over the top tricks… this is a fun arcade racer, all the way.

I can see why everyone likens it to the SSX series, and that's high praise in my book. I'm looking forward to seeing if the full game is able to keep my attention as long as the demo has, and I've just confirmed that we'll be receiving a copy to review after I pinged my source at Disney Interactive. Expect the review as soon as I get my hands on the full game.

Pure is coming to the PS3, 360, and PC on September 16.

SiSoftware Sandra 2009 has been released, and the application offers up a slew of new tests for benchmark-lovers to sink their teeth into. One of the main new additions to the application is the ability to benchmark graphics cards. HangZhou Night Net

Traditionally SiSoftware Sandra is used for benchmarking things like CPU performance, hard drive performance and flash drive performance, among other things. The new SiSoftware 2009 application still offers up the tests the old version provided for testing storage, and now it adds the ability to benchmark the GPGPU (General Purpose Graphics Processing Unit), with two new benchmarks specifically for this purpose.

SiSoftware says that its new 2009 version will tell a user how fast their GPGPU can do raw calculations. The application uses the same sort of format that it uses for benchmarking CPUs. The GPGPU computational performance benchmark uses the Mandelbrot for its workload. This allows direct comparison of the performance of the CPU and the GPGPU with the same workloads.

The second GPGPU benchmark is memory performance. This test analysis how fast data can be transferred to and from the GPGPU. SiSoftware say key feature of the new 2009 release are the support for four architectures including X86, x64/AMD64/EM64T, IA64 (enterprise version only) and ARM. The application supports six languages including English and German. Support has been added for AMD Stream Computing GPGPU engine 2.0 and later and up to eight GPGPU's are supported.

The application has benchmarks for video graphics rendering that tests for performance with video decoding and encoding as well as game performance. Also available is a video graphics memory benchmark to test the bus bandwidth. Another new benchmark in the 2009 release is a cryptographic performance benchmark that supports AES and SHA.

Some reports are saying that the new SiSoftware Sandra 2009 benchmark will replace 3DMark for testing video cards. I don't really see that happening, at least not right away. The key to video card reviews is being able to make direct comparisons from card to card with the same application. I don’t see those who have long tested with 3Dmark simply tossing it out in favor of Sandra 2009. What I see is that the two applications will be used side by side. It's possible that Sandra 2009 could replace 3DMark eventually for video card benchmarking, but it's much more likely that additional benchmarks will simply become common among writers and benchmarking enthusiasts.

If all had gone according to plan, AMD would have already launched its dual-core Phenom processors (codenamed Kuma), but Phenom hasn't gone according to plan since day one. Tidbits on Kuma are slowly making their way to the press, however, and while AMD won't specifically comment on unannounced parts or launches, sources at the company have quietly admitted to Ars that AMD will be launching new products between now and Shanghai's expected debut in December of this year. HangZhou Night Net

New pictures—and SuperPi results—are now available, courtesy of Chinese site Expreview.com. According to them, the Athlon 6500+ will run at 2.3GHz and feature the same 2MB L3 cache as Phenom. Expreview provides CPUID information for both the Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Black Edition (underclocked to 2.3GHz) and the 6500+. Both processors carry 512K of L2 cache per core; the Kuma carries 2MB of additional L3 as previously mentioned.

Unfortunately, the author chose to run SuperPi—possibly one of the most limited benchmarks ever—but we do, at least, see a notable difference between the two chips. The older Athlon X2 core takes 39.37s to finish calculating one million digits of Pi, while the dual-core Phenom finishes the exercise in just 33.43s. That's a single-core speedup of 15 percent, which, as I recall, is roughly what reviewers found when Phenom launched almost a year ago.

We can, however, glean a bit more information from CPUID. Voltage on the 2.3GHz part (at least on this sample) is 1.24v, which falls within the 1.0v-1.25v range AMD has set for its X3 8650, which also runs at 2.3GHz. Power consumption on these parts will obviously be lower than what we've seen from Phenom X4 or X3 chips. When we reviewed Toliman earlier this year, we found that whacking off a core (and 100MHz) cut max load power consumption from 265W to 198W, and while some of that is obviously due to the clockspeed drop, there's plenty of evidence that a dual-core Kuma will draw significantly less power than a triple-core or quad-core part.

If we switch gears a bit (and are willing to examine some early, possibly dubious, Deneb benchmarks at 3.4GHz), we can compare Kuma and Deneb (45nm quad-core) in SuperPi. Remember, the core count difference between the two is meaningless; SuperPi is a single-threaded test. Also remember to take the following with a mountain of salt.

So, if a 2.3GHz Kuma finishes SuperPi in 33.43s, and a 3.4GHz Deneb finishes in 20.51s, how much of Deneb's faster performance is a function of its faster clock? Deneb is clocked 48 percent faster than Kuma and finishes the test in 61.4 percent of the time it took the older 65nm processor. Scaling, therefore, isn't quite linear, but it's close. IF all of these results are actually accurate, SuperPi doesn't pick up any additional performance from whatever special sauce AMD built into the Shanghai core. Then again, only about six people in the universe actually care about SuperPi, so this is no great loss.

As for Kuma, don't expect AMD to push clockspeeds on these parts much, even if the parts themselves are capable of it. Cores count for a lot in AMD's pricing structure, and the company won't want its dual-core parts stealing sales away from higher-margin triple-core or quad-core chips. As for actual overclocking potential, if any, we'll have to see what happens when the parts hit market. At the very least, Kuma should provide an upgrade step for lower-end AM2 users who don't really want to pay a premium for a quad-core part they know they won't make much use of.

It has only been a few months since NVIDIA announced both its Tegra ARM11-based media processors and its plan to be the Next Big Thing in both mobile phones and mobile internet devices (MIDs). Today NVIDIA announced that it and Opera were teaming up to bring a full desktop-like web browsing experience to the mobile phone and MID market. HangZhou Night Net

The two firms say that the full desktop browsing experience will include support for JavaScript, vector graphics, and video content. NVIDIA says that it will offer a fully optimized version of the Opera 9.5 browser in the suit of preintegrated applications that is included with its NVIDIA Tegra line of computer-on-chip Windows Mobile and Windows CE solutions.

The new Tegra feature will support full desktop web content with hardware acceleration of rich media, image and in-page video playback. GPU acceleration with Tegra will provide panning and zooming during browsing and significantly reduce battery consumption. NVIDIA also reports that hardware-accelerated 3D touch browsing with Opera integration into NVIDIA's OpenKODE composition framework using OpenGL ES 2.0.

Jon von Tetzchner CEO of Opera Software said in a statement, "Full Web browsing is a key feature for mobile phones and mobile Internet devices today. End users are demanding a mobile-browsing experience that mirrors that of their home and work computers. Opera 9.5 combined with NVIDIA Tegra will deliver a powerful and visual browsing experience for the next generation of smartphones and mobile Internet devices."

NVIDIA says that devices using the NVIDIA Tegra hardware and using the Opera browser are expected to ship in 2009.