Catching up on some interesting items from earlier in the week: Are you on the clock while Vista boots? The latest Highway 520 cost estimates. Game console power consumption. Supercomputers spread. CES pull-back? CliffyB, Epic Games design director. Read on for summaries and links.
Are you on the clock while Vista boots?: The National Law Journal reports on lawsuits against AT&T, UnitedHealth Group. and Cigna, among others, filed by hourly employees who say they were not paid while waiting for their Vista computers to boot up. The story suggests 15- to 30-minute boot times (?!), during which employees took a break. The suit was filed by “Mark Thierman, a Las Vegas solo practitioner who has filed a handful of computer-booting lawsuits in recent years” — there’s an interesting niche. Via TaxProf Blog.
520: New cost estimates for expanding and replacing the Highway 520 bridge — a main route between Seattle and Redmond — put the project at $4.6 billion (a little more than Microsoft’s first quarter net income) to $6.6 billion , above Gov. Christine Gregoire’s $3.9 billion target.
Game console power consumption: The Natural Resources Defense Council this week published what it called the first comprehensive study of power use by video game consoles and “found that they consumed an estimated 16 billion kilowatt-hours per year — roughly equal to the annual electricity use of the city of San Diego.” The report also offers tips for improving the efficiency of consoles, including changing gamer behavior. It turns out that the Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 “have power-saving auto-shutdown modes but it’s up to gamers to enable the mode to save energy and money.” Via GamePolitics.com.
Supercomputers spread: Good story in The New York Times earlier this week on the expanding uses for supercomputers, particularly in developing countries. I wrote this week about a supercomputer in China running Microsoft’s software ranking 10th on the list of the world’s 500 fastest.
CES pull-back?: CNET notes at least five big tech names that are scaling back their presence at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show because of the economy. Meanwhile, attendees received an e-mail last night from the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the gargantuan annual show, with the headline “Vegas Hotels Slash Rates for CES Attendees.” That’s a change.
CliffyB: Earlier this month, The New Yorker ran a very interesting profile of Cliff Bleszinski, design director of Epic Games, which just released the blockbuster “Gears of War 2” — the big exclusive Xbox 360 title for the holidays. This inside story of the development of the game should help convince skeptics that game design is indeed a cinematic art form. One of my favorite passages from the story:
“Much of the resonance of Gears can be directly attributed to the character of [Marcus] Fenix. Video-game characters tend to be emptily iconic. Pac-Man, for instance, is some sort of notionally symbolic being. Mario (who was originally known only as Jumpman) is merely the vessel of the player’s desired task. Halo’s Master Chief is notable mainly for his golden-visored unknowableness. Fenix, encased within armor so thick that his arms and legs resemble hydrants, his head covered by a black bandanna, and his eyes as tiny as BBs, is different. He shows constant caution and, occasionally, fear. Although he can dive gracefully, his normal gait has the lumbering heaviness of an abandoned herd animal. His face is badly scarred, and his voice (excellently rendered by the actor John DiMaggio, who also provided the voice of Bender on Matt Groening’s “Futurama”) is a three-packs-a-day growl, less angry than exhausted. Unlike the protagonists of many shooters, Fenix rarely seems particularly eager to kill anything. The advertising campaign for the first Gears was centered on a strangely affecting sixty-second spot in which Fenix twice flees from enemies, only to be cornered by a Corpser, a monstrous arachnoid creature, on which he opens fire. But it was the soundtrack — Gary Jules’s spare, mournful cover of the 1982 Tears for Fears song “Mad World” — that gave the spot its harsh-tender dissonance. This helped signal that Fenix was something that few video-game characters had yet managed to be: disappointedly adult.”
Thanks to some guy for pointing me to the article. And here’s that “Mad World” ad again. It’s still good.