There Are Some Things Money Can't Buy (Android)

android-market-logoAs a longtime Android user with little hands-on time with iOS devices, the discovery that Path was uploading entire iOS device address books to their servers without confirmation or approval was shocking. I had assumed that iOS apps were almost entirely sandboxed, relying on things like Facebook connect style logins to join up with others playing online, not allowing address book access or the like, but apparently I was wrong.

The Android faithful have been thumping their chests over the fact that while nearly every Android application wants some form of your personal information in return for being free or nearly so, at least you have to OK this up-front before it is installed. And while some app developers understand concerns over this by listing why exactly their app needs these permissions, pride in this system of all-or-nothing permissions is for the most part misplaced. Almost nobody pays attention to these permissions just because saying no means saying no to the entire app. Dangle something shiny enough in front of the user, and they will sign all of their personal information away for it.

The Vergecast podcast this week had a flip observation that people shouldn't get so upset about this kind of access, that your personal computer's applications can read each other's data all they want without restriction, so why are you so upset that apps can do it?

Dark humor like this masks an important and fragile distinction between computers and smartphones. The computer is a general computing device that can be audited and analyzed to track traffic and activities to ensure an application is behaving appropriately. Smartphones, for the most part, not only can't be controlled this way but smartphone vendors and app vendors and the carriers themselves have a vested interest in keeping you from doing so.

The Quick Death of My Second PlayStation 3

ps3_4My refurbished 60GB PlayStation 3 died on February 2nd with a yellow light of death, just as my first one did in May 2009. I had seen a small number of identical graphical problems leading up to this unit's death -- not many and not as frequent or drastic as my original unit did, but I hadn't been playing my PS3 as extensively or for as long a period as I was a couple of years ago due to real-life distractions and other gaming opportunities. This lends credence to my suspicions that the first few generation of non-Slim PS3's suffer from a tendency to collapse under design and/or manufacturing flaws under heavy use. Looking back on that article I can see that new PS3 lasted through just two years of heavy use.

What kind of graphical glitches? In Saints Row 3 I had seen occasional instances of the very brief white texture flashes as I had seen on Unreal Tournament III back in the day. The Kingdoms of Amalur demo showed some very serious problems, perhaps because I played it for so long in one sitting. I saw ground textures becoming pools of smeared pixels and I also saw the distinctive problem of geometry spikes on character or enemy models once or twice. These spikes told me something was definitely wrong, and I mentioned as much to my wife to prepare her for the eventual end of life of the system.

Star Trek Online Early Impressions

startrekonline_logoThree very positive things about the free to play Star Trek Online MMO jumped out at me. One, I didn't have to choose a server to play on, implying that the game will handle bringing players together automatically if and when I get the chance to play online with others. Two, the integration of the Star Trek fiction and window dressing are very good. As a fan of next-gen shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and even Voyager, I am seeing, hearing, and reading a lot of familiar and fun things in this game. The sounds, the text, the environments, even the attitude of the medical hologram all seem to be well done. Lastly, characters are surprisingly customizable, despite only having three career options at the start of the game.

ModNation Racers: Road Trip To Drive Asynchronous Gaming Forward

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The upcoming launch of PlayStation Vita will be accompanied by a third game in the ModNation Racers franchise, and this one is planning to capitalize on many of the handheld's features to bring a strong set of asynchronous gameplay features as well as community unlocks. The developer, in a post on the PlayStation Blog, addressed concerns that the game won't have a WiFi infrastructure mode for competitive play by citing a desire to innovate instead of simply replicating features from their PS3 and PSP offerings before it.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Impressions

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As a big fan of Deus Ex, I'd been eager to try out Deux Ex: Human Revolution and got my chance thanks to a one-day rental coupon from the local video store chain. I spent a few hours with it and stopped playing during the first mission post-augmentation. So far I've found it to be a high-quality title with a strong identity and style.

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