Layoffs and Reorganizing at Electronic Arts

EA Logo Just when you think you’ve heard the last bit of bad news from Electronic Arts (EA), more is revealed. On March 18, 2013, CEO John Riccitello resigned from the company. His position was temporarily taken over by Chairman Larry Probst, who was a previous EA chief executive.

Riccitello’s resignation was probably not a huge surprise to many. EA has had a history of difficulties with their games. In June of 2012, Star Wars The Old Republic (SWTOR) went “free to play”. Shortly after that, EA stopped reporting the number of subscribers the game had (which is never a good sign). Earlier this year, EA gained a lot of negative attention after the fiasco that followed the launch of SimCity. Many gamers were frustrated by the problems with the game, and felt that EA took too long before it acknowledged the problems or tried to fix them.

This month, EA announced that it will be retiring three of the games that are currently available through Facebook. Those games are: The Sims Social, SimCity Social, and Pet Society. They will be gone, forever, as of June 14, 2013. EA has been suggesting that players try out some of the Facebook games made by PopCap (which EA owns) instead.

Today, Kotaku reports that EA has done some layoffs, and is streamlining some of its divisions. Kotaku has published a memo from Larry Probst that was sent to workers while the layoffs were occurring. Here’s a piece of that memo that was released on the EA blog

In recent weeks, the executive team has been tasked with evaluating every area of our business to establish a clear set of priorities, and a more efficient organizational structure. This process has led to some difficult decisions about the number of people and locations needed to achieve our goals.

The workforce reductions which we communicated in the last two weeks represent the majority of our planned personnel actions. We are extremely grateful for the contributions made by each of these individuals – they will be missed by their colleagues and friends at EA.

Other portions of the memo note that Andrew Wilson will take on leadership at Origin (which EA owns). The Vancouver Sun reports that PopCap Vancouver and Quicklime Games studios are shutting down as part of the restructuring at EA. This resulted in some layoffs. Some PopCap Vancouver employees will be placed in jobs at other PopCap or EA studios.

Need to cross China quickly? There’s a train for that

bigstock-High-Speed-Train-18755

China loves its high-speed rail lines. Now the country is boasting that it is even faster and cheaper to go from one end to the other, with the “longest” high-speed rail line in the world — a staggering 2,298 kilometer stretch of metal that reaches from north to south across the nation.

The new trains move at 186 mph and run between  Beijing in the north and Guangzhou in the south. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the ride will still take eight hours, but that is much faster than the previous twenty that this journey used to entail.

Plus there is an added bonus — the $139 price tag for a ticket to go the distance is considerably cheaper than flying. although it does still take more time than traveling by air. Still, a slightly slower journey at a much-discounted price represents real competition. Now, if only services like this would come to the United States, where our infrastructure is in great need of a serious upgrade.

Image High Speed Train by BigStock

The increasingly bizarre world of John McAfee

There is perhaps no need to bore you with past details because by now all of you likely know the saga of John McAfee, the creator of McAfee anti-virus. He has been living on an island along the coast of Belize for the past five years, but recently ran into a bit of trouble there. McAfee hasn’t actually been charged with murder, contrary to what many assume. He is simply wanted for questioning, although the implications are there.

While on the run for the past few weeks in his adopted homeland, McAfee has kept an active blog which is entertaining and sometimes quite strange. In fact, the blog is now pushing a “Boycott Belize” promotion.

This week he surfaced across the border in Guatamala where he filmed a video that was posted to YouTube. He was also arrested there and is being held in prison, from which he is still blogging.

“I am in jail in Guatemala.  Vastly superior to Belize jails.  I asked for a computer and one magically appeared.  The coffee is also excellent.”

“I just spoke with the duty officer at the Embassy who said there is nothing that they can do.  I asked to be returned to the States, and again … nothing they can do.”

“I’ve been reading posts (There’s no TV here).  One poster asked, in a kindly way, whether I felt like killing myself.  My reply: “I enjoy living, and suicide is absurdly redundant.  The world, from the very begining, hurls viruses, accidents, hungry animals, defective DNA — and uncountable more – in an attempt to kill us. It always succeeds. Suicide is simply aiding and abetting.” My spirits are brighter.”

Where will this made-for-TV-movie plot twist to next? Given his ramblings it’s very hard to say. Is he guilty? I am not a judge or even an experienced legal analyst. Is all of this fascinating? There I can emphatically say YES!

Image: John McAfee Facebook page

World Leaders In Their Underpants

North Korea's Kim Jong-un

I’m generally not a big fan of politicians. There’s too many of them, they’re overpaid and they get their job through a blind popularity contest. At least with X-Factor and Pop Idol, the contestants have to show what they’re skilled at before we vote for them.

So it was with much glee that I came across World Leaders in their Underpants which literally strips politicians, dictators and royalty to their underwear. Created by cartoonist Nick Hilditch, he’s drawing his way through the world’s countries and now has over 120 of the world’s most powerful people in their smalls. All in the best possible taste of course. Regrettably, he’s not yet disrobed either the USA’s President or the UK’s Prime Minister so you’ll have to sign up to Nick’s RSS feed, follow @understates or like on Facebook to await their arrival. I’m told by Nick that Iraq is next.

The perfect antidote to Newsweek, Time and The Economist!

Picture courtesy of Nick Hilditch.

VPN Usage On The Rise Where Internet Surveillance Increases

Young Swedes Going Covert On Internet With VPNs

As lawmakers across the globe attempt to pin down a wriggling Internet with rules aimed at stemming file sharing between users (but, curiously, increasing file sharing between governments and corporations), among other things, there appears to be a growing movement towards purchased privacy by the Internet community – particularly the younger folks.

TorrentFreak shared a study this week done by a research group from Lund University in Sweden showing a significant increase in the number of 15 to 25 year-olds buying and using VPN (virtual private network) services – some 40% more since late 2009.

As TorrentFreak points out, Sweden’s Internet community faces a unique strain of web surveillance with its spacious bandwidth and status as homebase to The Pirate Bay – the leading location on the Internet for getting things for free. That puts a lot of eyes on the Internet users of Sweden and, according to Lund University’s Cybernorms research group, 700,000 Swedes are paying for VPN services designed to hinder access to – and surveillance of – their online activities.

Compared to 500,000 Swedes using VPNs in 2009, the demographic pushing the nearly 30% increase in users looking to limit snooping on their web behaviors are young people in the 15 to 25 year-old age bracket. That demo comprises 15% of the total and is up by about 10% from 2009.

It’s not hard to see the pattern. As surveillance (by governments and private entities like Facebook and Google and other Internet entities) continues to heighten under the guise of hunting for file sharers, the technology to prevent such snooping will not only get better, but more people will be willing to shell out a few bucks for it.

If interested in learning more about VPNs, TorrentFreak put together a great list of which VPN providers actually do what they claim, and which ones don’t.

Image: VPN Net from BigStockPhoto.com

World Wide Web Turns 19 Today

Okay, that headline is a bit misleading because World Wide Web, or W3, is actually older than 19, but on April 30, 1993 it officially entered open-source.  That was probably the biggest open source project in history and it was instituted by the “father of the internet”, Tim Berners-Lee while working at CERN in Switzerland.

Berners-Lee, in 1989, wrote the original proposal to use hypertext to “link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will”.  When the project was released to the public domain on this day in 1993 the official document announcing it referred to it as “a global computer networked information system”  It went on to state that “CERN’s intention in this is to further compatibility, common practices, and standards in networking and computer supported collaboration”.

The original browser, simply called “World Wide Web” is still available for download today.  The file size is measured in kilobytes, as opposed to today’s browsers which are many times that size.

Panasonic Goes Big At NAB 2012

The New AG-HPX600 - Image Courtesy Panasonic

It’s been a big couple of days for Panasonic at the 2012 NAB Show in Las Vegas – announcing a slew of new products and strategic partnerships that boost the broadcasting chops of this tech giant.

Leading the Panasonic pack of announcements is the new AG-HPX600 P2 HD camcorder with 10-bit, 4:2:2 AVC-Intra recording and boasting the lowest weight of a shoulder-mount unit.

“With its ultra-light weight and low power consumption, the HPX600 is the first shoulder mount that’s easy on the shoulder while being super-efficient on battery usage,” said Joseph Facchini, Vice President, Panasonic System Communications Company of North America. “With its innovative design and selectable options, the HPX600 is upgradable to new technology such as wireless remote from a smart phone and much more.”

Weighing in at less than 7 pounds with noticeably low power usage, the HPX600 uses a newly-developed 2/3 type MOS sensor to produce HD and SD images. This future-proof camera aims to provide inventive functionality and improved workflows, with options such as wireless metadata input, proxy recording, and variable frame rates (available Fall 2012), and subsequently AVC-ULTRA recording.

According to Panasonic, the AG-HPX600 will be available in the Fall with a starting price around $16,000 for the body alone.

New Cards; Projectors; and Partners

In addition to the light-weight AG-HPX600, Panasonic also unveiled a new series of 64GB and 32GB microP2 cards – designed for high-speed transfers, reliability, and the writing assurance of all P2 frame rates, formats and codecs. Panasonic also announced the microP2 Card Adaptor, both slated for availability next Spring.

Other new products announced at NAB this week by Panasonic:

  • the PT-DZ21 3-chip DLP projector series – the world’s smallest and lightest 20,000 lumen projectors;
  • the expansion LCD production monitors with the BT-LH2170 21.5” and BT-LH1850 18.5” models; and,
  • upgrades to  the AG-AF100 Large Sensor HD Cinema camera; the AG-HPX250  P2 HD and AG-AC160/AC130 AVCCAM HD handheld camcorders; as well as to the AJ-HPM200 and AJ-HPD2500 solid-state recorders.

Panasonic also announced a few new partnerships that has the industry buzzing:

  • Panasonic and Dejero Labs will offer the Dejero LIVE+ NewsBook – a cellular uplink solution for remote production and electronic news-gathering operations.
  • Panasonic and Aframe will create the Panasonic Production Network (PPN), a cloud video production network that allows professionals to rapidly upload and view their high-quality video from dedicated cloud servers.
  • Panasonic and LiveU announced a new collaboration to deliver an integrated camcorder and live video uplink solution, utilizing the new LU40i video uplink device and the new AJ-HPX600 P2 camcorder with planned wireless integration features. Geek News Central covered that announcement earlier this week.

For more information about Panasonic’s NAB announcements, visit www.panasonic.com/nab.

NAB Coverage Sponsored by GoDaddy.com Save 25% on a 4gh Hosting Account Use Code NAB.

LiveU To Unveil LU70 Mobile Uplink Unit At NAB 2012 Show

New LU70 mobile broadcasting unit - image courtesy LiveU

Portable broadcasters will have a lot to digest at the 2012 NAB Show thanks to the newest LiveU video-over-cellular offering – the professional-grade LU70 Mobile Uplink Unit.

The big boost with this newest incarnation of LiveU’s backpack broadcasting unit comes in the antennae array on the LU70 – an internal/external arrangement designed to improve connectivity in less than desirable conditions. After all, a portable video broadcasting unit is only as good as its ability to get that signal.

“The internal antennas support a larger number of frequencies, ensuring enhanced signal performance with long-range reception and increased uplink capability, “ LiveU announced just days before this year’s NAB show in Las Vegas. “The new external antenna array provides additional resiliency for extreme scenarios, such as heavily crowded locations. Boosted by its remotely-located antennas, the LU70 supports up to 14 cellular links simultaneously. The unit can automatically swap between internal and external antennas as needed, according to the network conditions.” [Read more...]

The Eagles Have Landed…in Decorah, Iowa

decorah eagle cam

You may recall that last spring one of the most popular sites on the web was something called “Raptorcam” – also known as the “Decorah Eagle Cam”.  Well, those same eagle mates have been using that same nest each spring and summer to hatch and raise their young and this spring is no different.

The male and and female eagles have returned to their Decorah, Iowa nest and have recently hatched three new young.  Once again they are on 24-7 streaming video and once again they are under the  watchful eye of hundreds of thousands of online viewers.  You can watch them live at uStream or at Decorah Eagle Cam.  You can get more information from the Raptor Resource Project.  The happy family are now the number one most viewed live video of all time.

Infographic: The Tech World in 60 Seconds

A couple of days ago I stumbled across a new infographic (something I have a weakness for) that displayed some mind-boggling information about the tech world around us.  We know how fast things move in today’s world, but the numbers put forth here are simply staggering.  What happens in 60 seconds couldn’t have been envisioned by even the most imaginative sci-fi writer from the past.

Here are just a few statistics of a typical 60 seconds in today’s world.  1,820 TB of data is created.  More than 950 purchases are made on Ebay.  Google made $75,000.  11 Xbox 360’s are sold.  81 iPad’s are sold.

Those are just a few of the numbers depicted.  If you love statistics then you will love perusing this infographic, which is courtesy of Go Gulf Design.  You can check it out below, and click to enlarge it.

60 seconds infographic