Plus, Google CEO says "don't be evil" was "stupid", and the $325,000 in-vitro burger.
By Jason Imms on May 17, 2013 at 12:46 pm
Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup! Contained herein is a weekly dose of some of the best tech news from across the Internet, rounded up for your edification and entertainment. Read on for all the details of Windows 8.1, Nintendo’s method of monetising fan videos, and the $325,000 burger that you probably wouldn’t want to eat.
Windows 8.1 is nigh, free, and feature-filled
The previously-named “Windows Blue” update for Windows 8 has been officially dubbed Windows 8.1, and will be released for free. According to a recent Microsoft press release, a public preview of Windows 8.1 will be made available via the Windows Store on June 26, to coincide with the 2013 Build conference in San Francisco. The major difference between Windows 8.1 and past service packs is that 8.1 will include a slew of unannounced new features and visual changes, the likes of which are traditionally reserved for major revisions.
In fact, Microsoft have been careful to avoid referring to Windows 8.1 as a “service pack” at all, further shoring up the fact that Windows 8 and the latest revision of Office are signs of a Microsoft that has finally learned that their decrepit licencing model won’t last, and that something needed to change in order to keep consumers buying into their latest and greatest releases.
Nintendo will forcibly add advertisements to amateur Let’s Play videos
The concept of the Let’s Play (LP) has been around for quite a while: lengthy videos of gameplay that are narrated by the player, which give viewers some deep insights into the featured game. As time has gone on these videos have become an incredibly valuable tool for gamers, as they show a lot of detail without being caged or focused by PR. It seems that Nintendo has finally come to this realisation itself, and reacted swiftly and harshly. Automated takedowns were issued by the venerable purveyor of family-focused games, which caused popular LP’er Zack Scott to complain loudly on Facebook about the situation, saying “It jeopardizes my channel’s copyright standing and the livelihood of all LPers”.
After his post was reported by GameFront, Nintendo responded officially stating that the blocks would stop, but that ads would be added to the videos, “For most fan videos this will not result in any changes, however, for those videos featuring Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to, or at the end of the clips. We continually want our fans to enjoy sharing Nintendo content on YouTube, and that is why, unlike other entertainment companies, we have chosen not to block people using our intellectual property.”
Google I/O 2013 heralds major new features for many Google products
Google’s annual I/O conference has rolled around again, and this year they have announced a set of new features and UI revisions for a large number of their products. As well as updated UIs for Google Plus, Google Music, and Google Play, the Mountain View crew has added All Access, a $9.99 per-month subscription service to Google Play that provides access to the entire Google Play music library in a fashion similar to Spotify and rdio; a new service called Hangouts which aims to unify all Google-based communications systems into a single platform for use on PC, and your mobile devices; “hot wording” replaces Google’s voice search, now all that is required to search with voice is to say “Hey Google…” at Chrome, and it should respond by performing a search based on what you say next.
A lot more was announced, the details of which can be found at this handy round-up at The Verge.
Eric Schmidt says ‘Don’t be evil’ was the “stupidest rule ever”
In more Google news, executive chairman Eric Schmidt has told National Public Radio that Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ rule is “the stupidest rule ever,” though the his reasoning isn’t as controversial as it sounds. More of a motto than a rule, ‘don’t be evil’ was designed to allow and remind staff to speak up when something that was potentially “evil” was being discussed at Google. According to Schmidt, the rule is stupid because the definition of evil is quite broad, “there’s no book about evil, except maybe, you know, the Bible or something.” This has apparently caused problems in the past, and he cites an example: “What happens is, I’m sitting in this meeting, and we’re having this debate about an advertising product. And one of the engineers pounds his fists on the table and says, that’s evil. And then the whole conversation stops, everyone goes into conniptions, and eventually we stopped the project. So it did work.”
It is also difficult for a large-scale business to avoid doing any evil whatsoever, as many common business practices could be easily classified as at least a ‘little bit evil’, such as dodging taxes by putting offices in countries like Bermuda to avoid millions of dollars’ worth of taxes each year. When NPR asked Schmidt whether he could “flip a switch on [his] office computer and read [our] emails,” Schmidt replied “Yes, and I would lose my job and be sued to death.” But would anyone even find out? “Someone would find out, trust me,” says Schmidt.
The $325,000 in-vitro burger
Do you like burgers? Are you worried about the impact your carnivorous tendencies are having on the world around you? Well, Dr. Mark Post of the Maastricht University in the Netherlands has come up with a method for obtaining meat that could one day have a positive impact on the world livestock industry. This might appeal to your conscience, but what about your appetite? Dr. Post’s method involves taking stem cells from the necks of cows obtained from slaughterhouses, and causing these precursor cells to transform into cells specific to muscle that is good for eating.
The process is adapted from that which tissue engineers use to grow tissue and organs for use in medical research and procedures. Reading into the procedure even a little bit was enough to turn this writer’s stomach, but if the idea of eating 20,000 strips of lab-cultured meat, grown in foetal calf serum, and packed into a US$325,000 burger patty which “tastes reasonably good” sounds good to you, go check out the New York Times explainer piece.