You Are Being Tracked

Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic on a government license plate tracking program that’s been right under the public’s nose for some time now:

Driving down the street, I have no reasonable expectation that my license plate number won’t be jotted down by someone. But I am aghast at the notion that it could be recorded on all major streets, at all times, with each scan aggregated in a massive database and stored forever.

I’ve often wondered what those cameras were for, often mistaking them as security or traffic monitoring cameras. It makes sense that the world needs watching sometimes (see the work done in Boston this past April, for example) but to now discover that there’s more to it than simple passive video surveillance is very unsettling.

via The Atlantic.

Microsoft defends the Xbox One’s licensing, used game policies

Outside of the knee-jerk reaction from gamers, Microsoft’s new Xbox One policies might actually make sense in the right context, but something—okay, everything—seems to have gotten lost in the process. Ars finds Microsoft working defense at E3:

Mehdi noted that purely digital game marketplaces like the iOS App Store have thrived despite having absolutely no physical media. Implementing that kind of disc-free system on the Xbox One “may not [have been] the best thing for consumers, and it may not [have been] the thing they [would have] wanted,” Mehdi said, which is part of why Microsoft decided to keep discs as an option. Still, he did concede that, without discs, the licensing norms for the system “would be easier to understand.”

For now, none of this has changed my decision about which next-gen console will get my money—neither, thus far—but I understand the resistance to any sort of restrictions on what I can do with my purchased games. And yet, I can’t see video games forever being anchored to optical discs and all the freedoms that medium allows, so Microsoft should get some credit for testing the waters and (for the moment, at least) taking all the heat.

via Ars Technica

The one thing that’s bugged me most about the Fast and Furious franchise

As excited as I am to see Fast & Furious 6, I’ve always had a problem (OK, lots of problems) with the series as a whole. It wasn’t until recording the latest Sodapop Journal podcast the other day and then reading this character guide to every major character in every film that it all made sense—no one in these movies loves cars.

Not even Vin Diesel’s Dom, who in every film spends at least one scene under the hood with a tool in hand, seems to genuinely cherish his cars. Yes, there was the black Dodge Charger that managed to hang in there for the first four flicks, but when it’s finally deemed “cursed” in Fast and Furious, he seems all too ready to jump out of it before it crashes into flames during the big tunnel chase finale. And Paul Walker’s Brian always grins at the chance to drive a hot new ride, but never seems attached to any one in particular. And so on and so on. Yeah, they all like cars, but considering how many cars get absolutely trashed each time out, it’s a solid Facebook “like” at best.

By the way, other irritating things about this series? Where’s Lucas Black from Tokyo Drift? And how did Han survive?

Keeping the X in Xbox

On yesterday’s announcement of the Xbox One and it’s shifting approach to entertainment, Anand writes:

Simply building a better Xbox 360 wasn’t going to guarantee success, and I suspect there were not insignificant numbers within the company who felt that even making the Xbox One as much of a gaming machine as it is would be a mistake. What resulted was a subtle pivot in strategy.

Microsoft had lofty goals Xbox brand from the start, and for years they’ve clearly been chipping away at them with the Xbox 360. The “360 degree” idea resulted in a game console that managed to do a lot of things, but outside of games, has never really done any of them exceptionally well.

That all seems to be changing with the One. I like that it has a new architecture focused on speed and connectivity. I like that it’s taking alternate input methods like Kinect and SmartGlass to the next level. I like that it has a Blu-ray drive! None of those things are new, but they are necessary refinements that the Xbox 360 would never be capable of.

I don’t particularly care about the sudden emphasis on TV integration, and I don’t think sports will get any more play in my home because of it, but I recognize that those features aren’t for me. Xbox One is a device designed for everyone, not just gamers and technophiles. The clear indicator? No backwards compatibility for games. The message there is you won’t even need to know or care about games to buy a One. Sacrilege to many current Xbox 360 gamers, without question—I know because I’m not happy about it myself—but again, games are now only one facet of the One’s do-it-all approach.

With the One, Microsoft has now committed to the next phase of creating the ultimate magic box—even if it takes some lumps along the way—by branching further out from just video games. In 2005, the Xbox 360 was a leap forward primarily for gamers; in 2013, the Xbox One represents some much-needed lateral thinking for everyone.

via AnandTech