Archive for June, 2009

iPhone porn to-do reveals our prudishness

June 30, 2009 Comments off

Last week saw quite a big to-do over a “porn” app for Apple’s iPhone. The application, called “Hottest Girls” and featuring topless women, became available for download, then disappeared almost as quickly. At first, the developer behind the application said on his website that its unavailability was because it had “sold out,” but then it later became apparent that Apple had blocked it.

The application caused enough of a stir to actually force normally tight-lipped Apple to speak up about it, telling CNN that it “will not distribute applications that contain inappropriate content, such as pornography.” It turns out the developer had created a non-nude-containing application and got it approved by Apple, then snuck in the nude content afterward. Very sneaky, but man, what a lame excuse - only an idiot would believe that an iPhone application could actually sell out. Welcome to the internet, where software is unlimited!

The situation raised a number of issues. First up was the obvious fact that Apple’s app store has holes in it, which doesn’t just mean developers can sneak in objectionable content like nude pictures, it also means they can potentially sneak malicious code through. In other words, unless Apple fixes the system that allowed nudity to slip in, it’s only a matter of time before viruses or spyware gets into the app store.

Another issue, which always comes up whenever porn is the topic, is accessibility by minors. As porn star Stoya said when I interviewed her earlier this year, technology is now widely available to children, so some care needs to be taken in preventing them from getting to it:

Technology used to be for adults. Disposable income in the 80s was usually college age and up. Now it’s the kids who have more disposable income… When you’re dealing with the focus for disposable income use being moved to younger and younger people, we’ve dipped below that focus being 18 and up so now [you have to be careful].

She said that several months before Apple released its latest 3.0 software upgrade for iPhones, which contains new controls that let parents restrict access on their kids’ devices to adult content. Now that Apple has delivered, others in the porn industry are wondering why the company won’t allow the sale of adult content through its app store. I asked Kim Kysar, product manager for Pink Visual (link is not safe for work), what she thought about the whole situation and here’s what she said:

It’s just another case of people not being willing to take responsibility
as parents… All these ‘concerned’ parents have to do is take the phone, set the controls, and talk to their kid, know their kid and what they’re into. Of course that would require attentive, involved, invested parenting… And um, are these people forgetting that the iPhone can access the web? The WHOLE web? Just like PSPs? If anyone wants to look at porn they can.

One other issue to come out of this, I think, is yet another example of the unbelievable prudishness of our society. Just about every media outlet unthinkingly labeled “Hottest Girls” as “porn,” which seems amazingly silly. Over in Europe, where topless women are featured in commercials, day-time television and on page three of many big newspapers, they are surely laughing at us North Americans and our backwards view on sex and nudity. And the fact that we allow senseless smorgasbords of violence like Transformers 2 get made. At times like these it’s apparent how backwards we’ve got it all.

Google says it doesn’t want to steal my book

June 29, 2009 Comments off

A little while ago, I wrote a post about my mixed feelings regarding Google and its controversial book-scanning process. The long and the short of it is, Google has for some time now been scanning books and making them searchable online. The company got sued for this alleged violation of copyright by a bunch of authors and assorted book people down in the U.S., but the two sides recently came to a settlement. The deal is still awaiting approval by a judge and there are many questions still surrounding the issue.

I was fortunate to get to sit down with Alexander Macgillivray, one of Google’s top intellectual property lawyers, last week for a discussion on this whole books thing. I’ve posted the full interview on YouTube, chopped into four parts, the first of which is below (links to the other three also follow the embedded video).

In a nutshell, the deal is fairly complex because it involves three separate issues: libraries, in-print books and out-of-print books. Under the terms of the settlement, Google will be making snippets of books available online and users will be able to purchase full access to a copy that is viewable only online. I can see this being particularly good in at least two circumstances: it’ll be an awesome tool for people doing research and who need to access hard-to-get, rare or out-of-print books. Looking at my bookshelf, I’ve shelled out for at least 50 books in the course of researching Bombs, Boobs and Burgers, and there were several books that I simply did without because they would have cost too much or taken too long to get. Having instant online access to any book I want, even if I have to pay for it, will be an amazing resource. Consequently, Google’s plan is also good for authors who have books that are out of print. By making them purchasable online, they get a new life and allow authors to continue making money from them.

One of my main concerns was that once the book is digitized and distributed, people would be able to make copies of it and distribute it the same way they do with music, movies and TV shows. Not so, Macgillivray says, because there will be no actual file to download - the books will be hosted online only. I’m sure some users somewhere will figure out how to make copies (i.e. with screen grabs), but at least Google won’t be selling easy-to-distribute PDF files, or anything like that.

Check out the interview:

Also check out part two, part three and part four.

Interestingly, Google has already scanned about 10 million books. Estimates as to how many books there are in existence vary, but the number is pegged at between 30 million and 100 million. Either way, the company is actually quite far along in its scanning project. It won’t be long before every book ever printed is available online from Google. Like I said before, that’s both really cool and somewhat scary.

Pre-order your copy of BBB today!

June 26, 2009 Comments off

Can’t wait to get your hands on Bombs, Boobs and Burgers? Well, it’ll be a few months yet but as of now, if you’re in Canada you can pre-order my book online. Here is the page and the Chapters/Indigo page is here. As you can see on both sites, there’s no actual cover design as of yet; the image you see in this post is a quick mock-up I whipped up myself in Photoshop a few months back. I imagine Penguin has some talented artists on staff that can come up with something considerably better (it’d be hard not to).

As the Amazon and Chapters pages say, the hardcover is going to be out March 2 and will sell for $32. If you order online, however, you get an immediate mark-down to around $21. Why? Well, I’m told that’s how much online booksellers can mysteriously shave off in costs versus actual bookstores. Obviously they have lower costs, but I suspect they’re also accepting a lower profit margin. Luckily (for me), I get paid royalties on the full retail price.

There isn’t much other info as of yet, other than both sites are listing the book at 320 pages. I suspect it’ll be longer, but that’ll probably depend on how merciless my editor ends up being. Other than that, I, uh, promise it’ll be good?!? Don’t delay, reserve your copy of Bombs, Boobs and Burgers today!

Categories: amazon, chapters, food, penguin, sex, war

Video games meet war, or is it vice versa?

June 25, 2009 1 comment

Last week a friend of mine, Andrew Wahl, pointed me towards the new U.S. Air Force website which, after having checked it out, I find impressive and kinda disturbing at the same time. The site is neat because it incorporates a lot of interactive games - you can fly jets and unmanned Reaper drones into combat, or even train search dogs. Clearly, the Air Force has pumped some dough into its website.

It’s somewhat disturbing though because of what it means, and what war is becoming. A large number of troops over in Afghanistan and Iraq are young twenty-somethings from the video-game generation. Having been born in the eighties, they have never known a world without video games, and certainly not a world without the crappy, primitive Atari stuff people my age had through their formative years.

If the Air Force site is any indication, the military is obviously capitalizing on this fact by enticing young men (primarily) to sign up with the promise of letting them live the video game. Indeed - many of the unmanned aerial vehicles in the Middle East are actually being piloted from a base in Nevada. Imagine as a soldier, you drive to work at a desert base, spend seven hours blowing up Iraqi insurgents, then driving home to pick up your kids from soccer practice. This disconnection of soldiers from the grit and grime of war is exactly what’s happening with the increasing automation of the military. Is this good or bad? I’m not sure yet.

The website actually reminded me of Ender’s Game, the classic science-fiction novel by Orson Scott Card that I only just finished reading for the first time the other day. If you haven’t read the book and plan to (plans for a movie have apparently been scrapped, although there might be a video game, which would be ironic), you may want to skip the spoilers I’m about to drop. In the book, a smart young boy named Ender Wiggin is taken into the military to be conditioned as the commander that will save them from an alien menace. Ender first trains in war games at a battle school against other cadets. After becoming a master leader there, he is transferred to command school where he gives orders to entire fleets in a simulated game against the alien forces. He masters those games too and wipes out the aliens in the final simulation. In a twist ending, though, it turns out the simulation was actually real, that Ender was in fact commanding fleets that were killing aliens. That’s not too dissimilar to what’s happening now.

It’s amazing that way back in 1985, Card was able to visualize how video games and war would eventually mesh and become almost indistinguishable from each other. That’s what good science-fiction writers do, obviously.

Wrap your mouth around this

June 24, 2009 Comments off

Ah, so rarely do food and porn intersect, much to my dismay. When it does happen, though, you know I’m going to be all over it. This has nothing to do with technology but the ad below for a new Burger King sandwich available in Singapore is just simply awesome. Click on the image to get a larger view.

I don’t think I even need to comment on this. It pretty much takes care of itself, doesn’t it?

Categories: Burger King, food, sex