Recorded: November 15, 2009
Published: November 15, 2009
TWiT 221 •Previous episode – Next episode
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This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, Episode 221 for November 16, 2009: Get Off Of My Planet!
This Week in Tech is brought to you by Audible.com. Sign up for the Platinum plan and get two free books. Go to: audible.com/twit2, and follow Audible on Twitter, user ID: audible_com. And by GoToMeeting: business travel can kill your company’s profits, so do more, save more and travel less with GoToMeeting. For your free 30-day trial, visit gotomeeting.com/twit. And by the new Ford SYNC, featuring handsfree calling, music search, and turn-by-turn navigation. All voice activated from Ford SYNC. For more details and to enter to win a free Nano or Zune, visit syncmyridepodcast.com.
Leo Laporte This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, the show that covers the latest tech news, with journalists from across the world and around the nation. Starting with, in the upper – center square to block, it’s Baratunde Thurston. Hey, Baratunde, good to have you back on the show.
Baratunde Thurston Hello, hello, good to be here from Brooklyn, thanks for having me back, you know.
Leo Laporte He’s representing Brooklyn. From baratunde.com, he’s also the web editor – political editor for The Onion Magazine and the host of Popular Science’s Future Of show on the Science Channel. And always glad to have you on.
Baratunde Thurston Always good to be here. Thanks a lot.
Leo Laporte Do you have a show? Do you have like – you don’t have a show tonight, I don’t have to rush to get you out of here, right?
Baratunde Thurston No, I’m good to go. I’ve got a Web 2.0 talk later this week, but hopefully we’ll be done by Wednesday.
Leo Laporte Okay, I know that feeling. Jeff Jarvis has stuck around, which is very nice, from the This Week in Google show, and he’s well pickled. Fresh as a daisy. It’s good to have you, Jeff, from buzzmachine.com, one of the really great commentators on the future of journalism.
Jeff Jarvis For that, do I get a book plug, Leo?
Leo Laporte And the book – we forgot to plug the book on the TWiG show, yeah, you can plug it twice.
Jeff Jarvis That’s ok; I in couple there, but this is a new bunch of sufferers.
Leo Laporte The book is: ‘What Would Google Do?’ And available at better bookstores, also it’s an Audible book. And on the Kindle?
Jeff Jarvis Yes.
Leo Laporte On the Kindle too. That’s fantastic, great to have you back, Jeff.
Jeff Jarvis Thank you.
Leo Laporte And in the lower right hand corner, to block, it is Mr. John C. Dvorak. Is that a TWiT hat you’re wearing? No, I don’t think so; I couldn’t be so blessed. What are you wearing there, what’s that hat?
John C. Dvorak Just a hat.
Leo Laporte Just a hat. It says alumni for the Evergreen State College. Well that’s great. Apparently they don’t know the difference between alumnus and alumna.
John C. Dvorak And why would they?
Leo Laporte They don’t do Latin at Evergreen. Great to have all three of you on the show today.
John C. Dvorak Don’t forget channeldvorak.com.
Leo Laporte Oh, see, I almost forgot the plug. Can’t do that. channeldvorak.com. Boy, this was the week – one of you must be a gamer. I’m guessing Baratunde, you might play a game or two, you as the youngest person on the show today.
Baratunde Thurston I play a little bit, I just got an X-Box 360 a few months back and I play Left 4 Dead and Burnout. I haven’t played the Modern Warfare, Call of Duty.
Leo Laporte You gotta go get Modern Warfare 2, baby, join the crowd. The largest – according to – at least to the Infinity Ward, the creator of the game, the largest media launch of all time, 4.7 million copies sold, I mean huge revenue, $310 million, bigger than any movie launch, bigger than the biggest movie of all time, Dark Knight, which was last year – twice as big as The Dark Knight’s first weekend. This was in one day, by the way, one day sales. Bigger than the biggest record album out there, even bigger than the last big video game which was – last year, was Grand Theft Auto 4. A huge, $310 million sale in one day in the U.K. and North America.
Baratunde Thurston Well – sorry, go ahead.
Leo Laporte No, you finish, you finish the sentence.
Baratunde Thurston Well I wanted to talk about these numbers, because it’s always – it’s very popular for people to say videogame releases are bigger than movies. But what’s always left out of those stories, at least in the lead of those stories, is that they cost $60 a pop.
Leo Laporte Right, right. If you’re just talking revenue, yeah.
Baratunde Thurston Like, Dark Knight did, I don’t know, at least three times as much, because movie tickets aren’t yet $60 – I’m sure they’ll get there… [indiscernible] (05:28)
Leo Laporte Yeah, but Dark Knight is a two-hour commitment.
Baratunde Thurston And this is what, a 40 hour commitment? It’s like a job, right?
Leo Laporte It’s the rest of your life. It’s like a job – in fact, you guys at The Onion…
Baratunde Thurston A job you pay to do!
Leo Laporte You guys at The Onion did a very funny Modern Warfare 3.
Baratunde Thurston Yeah, ‘Ultra realistic modern warfare game features awaiting orders and repairing trucks’, that was about – it just shows guys like fixing their Humvees or like waiting for orders to come down, guarding the Green Zone.
Leo Laporte It was really a very, very funny piece. I think that The Onion News Network is so realistic – do they – are those real like news people that they use on those? Because they’re –
Baratunde Thurston That’s a great question. Some of them are. So we’ve had Bobby Batista, a former CNN reporter, reporting for us. The most realistic people come for the Morning Show, which we call Today Now! which parodies Good Morning America…
Leo Laporte Right, right.
Baratunde Thurston …The Early Show. All these sunshiny people who are creepily happy. And we found that actors couldn’t be creepy enough. They just –
Baratunde Thurston They just didn’t – we had to have a real morning news anchor to get that disconcerting sense of positivity. Only someone trained to do it could actually…
Leo Laporte You have to be a trained professional, it’s not acting. It’s something else; I don’t know exactly what it is.
Baratunde Thurston It’s just being.
Leo Laporte It’s truly amazing.
John C. Dvorak Leo, can the two of us get on that show? We should do it.
Leo Laporte Oh, we could be creepily happy. What do you think, John?
John C. Dvorak Oh yeah. Hey!
Leo Laporte Hey! Happy Talk News. I think that’s a good idea, John. Maybe we got something. It’s really funny, because it just – it’s uncannily – it looks like the real thing.
Jeff Jarvis Be careful, or Onion will do a version of TWiT.
Leo Laporte No, it’s not –
Baratunde Thurston That’s how you know you’ve made it. That’s how you know you’ve made it.
Leo Laporte Yeah, exactly, we’re not well known enough, exactly.
John C. Dvorak They haven’t already?
Leo Laporte No, no, no.
Baratunde Thurston Not yet.
Leo Laporte When that happens, I will say, man. See, Mom? I’m on the – I’m in The Onion now. Anyway, huge success. But you made a very good point. If you talk about unit sales, it’s not close to The Dark Knight. But still.
Baratunde Thurston But I still think it speaks to people’s desire to kind of be in the story, more than watch somebody else’s vision of a story unfold, it’s interactive, it’s collaborative, you’re playing with your friends, all these things are harder to do in a movie theatre. You’re just sitting there watching someone else’s vision unfold. This, you get to be a part of that unfolding, so I think…
Leo Laporte It really pissed off PC gamers, though. I had a PC gamer call a radio show saying, ‘you gotta dance with the one that brung ya’; we made Call of Duty the successful franchise it is, and on this one, they decided not – Infinity Ward decided not to have dedicated servers. Which is something apparently PC gamers really count on.
And Infinity Ward’s response to this was, well – first of all, that’s a small number of people, and in fact I guess the success of the sales shows that it is – and we decided that we wanted to improve the experience of the participants. They said, you know, given the choice between making this small number of kind of hardcore gamers happy and improving the overall experience for everyone, ‘we’re just prioritizing the player experience above the modders and the tuners’, said Jason West, who’s one of the heads of Infinity Ward. He says ‘the cheating, the insular communities, the skill level disparities, were making the game fractured.’
It’s true, when you go on one of these dedicated servers, you die immediately. Instantly. He said, we thought maybe it would be cool if the fans could play the game. But, boy, there’s a petition online, 200,000 plus people signed it saying bring back the dedicated servers.
That’s kind of – I don’t know if that’s too inside baseball for us to discuss. I – every time – I’ve tried now to talk about this three different times, and each time the PC guy said, ‘no, no, you’re getting it wrong, you’re getting it wrong.’
Baratunde Thurston From the link you had on the Delicious feed, it sounds like a big benefit was a) you could have a private match going on.
Leo Laporte Right.
Baratunde Thurston But more importantly, you can modify the game and create your own rules. And that level of, kind of, user generated innovation and, kind of, building on the platform of the game is where a lot of these web tools tend to take us. You can do whatever you want on top of their system. These were all violations of the terms of service, of course, and apparently it reduced the quality of the gameplay for some other people. So the people who own the game were like, ‘sorry, hardcore fans who made us who we are –‘
Leo Laporte Right.
Baratunde Thurston ‘We’re big now, we don’t need you anymore.’
Leo Laporte We don’t need you anymore. But the other issue that they don’t bring up, is that it prevents piracy, because if you control the servers, you block people who don’t have legitimate copies. They say 60% of the players were using illegal copies. But maybe this is the real reason and this is from an article that [ph] Fopo Gigio (10:17) just sent me from computerandvideogames.com.
‘Activision says you should expect paid-for online models, such as those in World of Warcraft where you pay a monthly fee, to make the transition to other games including Call of Duty. So it may be, what they are saying is, we don’t want you to run servers because we want to charge you a monthly fee to play online.
Baratunde Thurston Right.
Leo Laporte You’re already paying that with Xbox Live. I mean they make a monthly fee off of it. So it make sense that they’d do the same thing to PC players. That’s really what’s going on there.
Baratunde Thurston Money, money, money.
Leo Laporte Well, you know, I guess in one way you can’t blame them because you know that’s their business but, on the other hand, you made $310 million in the first day, maybe you should just let them have the service.
Baratunde Thurston That was – that’s old news, Leo, that’s last week’s news…
Leo Laporte Yeah.
Baratunde Thurston …we want to make money this week and next week and the week after. We can’t sell the game again, so we just slice it up in some monthly instalments. It’s like lay-away plan for the game.
Leo Laporte Yeah. Yeah.
Baratunde Thurston Pretty soon they’ll charge interest on these monthly plans.
Leo Laporte Hey, I want to take a break, we’re going to come back in just a second to talk about why text ads work better than all those blinky ads you see, but right now I want to tell you about my car, my Ford Mustang, do you guys it out front?
Isn’t that sweet, isn’t that sweet? Okay, but actually the ad is not for my car, it’s for the stuff in the car, it’s for the Ford SYNC, this thing is amazing.
Microsoft showed this I remember a couple of years ago at CES and I – you know, at the time I thought, well, that’s kind of cool, but when I started using it, I realized, wow, this is incredible. It’s a hands-free system for not just for your phone, I mean, yeah, you’ve got of course a lot of Bluetooth features you look for, but it also lets you talk to the car and it’s like, it’s like KITT in Knight Rider.
I feel like David Hasselhoff when I get in that thing. I say things like – I press the button on the wheel by the way and you don’t need to look down, you just press a button on the wheel and I say, ‘directions’ and it says, ‘directions, where to?’ and I’ll say ‘Starbucks’, and it tell me the they way to the Starbucks.
There is no screen – there is a little LED screen, but this is not a GPS, like the big GPS system you pay thousands of dollars for, this is the Ford SYNC system, you can say, ‘read text messages’ and if you a compatible phone, it will read you your text messages, you can say, ‘read me the front page of The New York Times,’ it will read you that.
It has – I mean, go on and on. It has 911 Assist, so if you get in an accident, the airbags are deployed, it calls 911, it plays a recorded message, gives you the chance, of course, to override it, if you decide you don’t want to make that call. And then it lets – turn the microphone on in the car, so you can talk to 911. If 911 – and more and more of them are able to this has GPS capability, it will send them the exact GPS location so the emergency crew can go right to where you are.
Vehicle Health Report: I have it set to send me one every 5,000 miles, but at any time I could just say send me a Vehicle Health Report. The car tells me the status of the – of all the systems, I could just go on and on. You get personalized sports; if you’re in a – if you’ve got a Fantasy League, you actually get your Fantasy results, all of it without looking away from the road, with your hands on the wheel – both hands on the wheel. It is amazing. Even personalized traffic reports because it knows your route to school or work.
You can say, ‘play TWiT’, and if you’ve got – you have to of course have TWiT on your device. But if you’ve got TWiT on your MP3 player, it’ll play it and – I mean it’s amazing. This thing is – it’s like Knight Rider, the future’s here.
I want you to take a look at it, the next time you are at a Ford Lincoln or Mercury dealer, say, ‘I want to see the SYNC’, and here is your chance to win a free Nano or Zune by visiting the website: syncmyridepodcast.com.
Just go there; syncmyridepodcast.com or if you are on Twitter, everybody in the room now, we’ve got a big audience, big studio audience today, just tweet, just tweet something like, ‘listening to TWiT – I’m in the TWiT cottage listening to TWiT with Baratunde and Dvorak and Jarvis,’ and then put the # sign and syncmyridepodcast; all one word #syncmyridepodcast and you’re automatically entered to win a free Nano or Zune, your choice. They’re giving away 15 of each between now and December 8th and all you have do to enter is Tweet – see he’s doing it, look at that, he’s a smart man, he’s doing it on his Android. And you’re use the keyboard; that’s interesting. Yeah, do you find that keyboard useable? No, he’s saying no.
SYNC, but get it right now, syncmyridepodcast and we thank Ford and the great SYNC. By the way, I bought the car, Ford did not buy the car.
Jeff Jarvis Did you get a good price I hope?
Leo Laporte No, I paid loads!
Jeff Jarvis Well that’s silly!
John C. Dvorak So I went to a Mercury dealer and asked to see the SYNC and they sent me to the bathroom.
Leo Laporte You spelled it wrong, you gotta say SYNC
Baratunde Thurston So all these extra capabilities, does the car still function as a vehicle to transport you from A to B or is it j