SciTechBlog
December 9, 2009

Military purchases 2,200 PS3s

Posted: 11:14 AM ET

It seems generous grandmothers aren't the only ones purchasing PlayStation 3 (PS3) consoles this holiday season. The U.S. Dept. of Defense has announced plans to buy an additional 2,200 PS3s to complement a military supercomputer cluster running on 336 PS3 systems.

The military purchase was likely encouraged by Sony's recent PS3 price cut, which brought the price of a single console down to $299.

A military justification of review document explains the decision:

Though a single 3.2 GHz cell processor can deliver over 200 GFLOPS, whereas the Sony PS3 configuration delivers approximately 150 GFLOPS, the approximately tenfold cost difference per GFLOP makes the Sony PS3 the only viable technology for HPC applications.

According to Ars Technica, Sony sells the PS3 at a loss and hopes to make back the difference by selling games and accessories.

The reason that the PS3 is a more cost-effective way to buy Cell-powered GFLOPS than, say, the Cell blades that IBM actually makes specifically for supercomputing applications, is that the consoles come with a big, fat subsidy from Sony.

However, the military isn't likely to purchase any games for these PlayStations. The justification review states the systems will run a proprietary Linux-based operating system, which probably won't be able to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

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Filed under: consumer tech • Games • Gaming


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December 8, 2009

Tech Torture, Day 2: Football on the Web

Posted: 04:33 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it. This week, Topher is trying to watch all his beloved TV shows online instead of on his TV.

So it's Day 2 and I'm on the road for work.

Last night was not that bad. I watched Monday Night Football on NFL.com and, I have to say, it was a great experience. It wasn't as good as watching the game live, but I knew exactly what was happening the whole time.

Later, I caught some of my favorite shows, like "Big Bang Theory," on Hulu. I'm flying home tonight, so I'll try and catch up on some TV viewing if I can find Wi-Fi in the airport.

We still hope you'll comment below and keep the conversation going. Also head on over to my Twitter account (Topheratl) and join the conversation there.

To help you get started, I've made some short videos that walk you through the sites I'll be using to watch TV online. The first one is about Hulu.com

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for CNN.com, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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'Saboteur' brings black & white to color

Posted: 12:21 PM ET

Musical cues are often used to highlight or signify moods in games and films. Now a new video game is using color – or the lack of it – to symbolize oppression and freedom in the 1940s.

“The Saboteur” (Pandemic Studios, Electronic Arts), which hits stores today, is an action-adventure game based in Paris during the German occupation of World War II. You play Sean Devlin, a character inspired by the true story of William Grover-Williams, an English racer who joined the British special ops unit.

You’ll use a broad range of weapons, explosives and vehicles to throw the Nazis out of Paris. But it's the visual aspects of "The Saboteur" that are most interesting.

Lead designer Tom French's team made Paris black and white at the beginning of the game; color gradually bleeds in as players progress and sections of the city are liberated from Nazi control. French says it was a middle-of-the-night idea.

“We wanted to make the City of Light feel occupied [by the Nazis],” he says. “We wanted to suck the life out of it.”

French says the challenge was making black and white still look like it has depth and feel to it. Turning colors off makes everything flat, so French's team drew inspiration from the movie “Sin City” to make it look cool, he says.

If you think once you’ve ‘colored’ an area you are safe, guess again. French said Paris never gets completely colorized, and some parts turn to black and white again as the Nazi retake certain areas of the map.

“Once you take out a sniper, you never have to worry about him again,” he says. “But there is a point where the Germans take back a headquarters, turning it to black and white again.”

The design team traveled to Paris to get a firsthand look at the city and the buildings. French says they came away with a lot of information.

“I spent three hours in a cemetery imagining firefights,” he says. “We visited Resistance museums, taking pictures secretly and scribbling notes.”

They came away with more than 2,500 photos, but French believes it was worth it. “We wanted to give [Paris] an organic feeling.”

As with most games with wide-open spaces to roam, repetition of buildings can be a problem. The team used what French calls “Legos” to create buildings where they could mix and match different elements without having to create new buildings from scratch every time.

“Climb all the buildings,” French advises. “Use every square inch to make sure you experience the depth of the game.”

“The Saboteur” is available for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. It is rated M (Mature – blood, intense violence, nudity, sexual themes, strong language).

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • video games


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December 7, 2009

Tech Torture with Topher: My week of Web-only TV

Posted: 05:06 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it.

Welcome back you all!

This week I'm going to give up my TV! Not watching TV - just the TV set itself.

Instead, I'll see if between now and Friday I can watch all the TV I would normally watch - which is a lot - online, legally, on my computer or smartphone. I'm also traveling for work this week, which may throw a new wrinkle into this experiment.

To add some more fun to the mix, I'm working with the great folks at CNN's iReport to challenge our audience to try this tech torture themselves this week, then report back to us on how it went. View their challenge here.

We still hope you'll comment below and keep the conversation going. Also head on over to my Twitter account (Topheratl) and join the conversation there.

To help you get started, I've made some short videos that walk you through the sites I'll be using to watch TV online. The first one is about Hulu.com

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for CNN.com, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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'Dead Space 2' vows to 'scare the daylights out of you'

Posted: 01:38 PM ET

It was only a matter of time.

On the heels of "Dead Space's" successful debut last year, Electronic Arts has officially announced that the game series' storyline will continue with the creation of “Dead Space 2.” Hero Isaac Clarke will return to battle necromorphs with new weapons.

Visceral Games will be producing the new saga, which had been rumored for months. A press release from EA says that survival won’t be the only thing on Isaac’s mind in "Dead Space 2" – "this time, he calls the shots."

Released in October 2008, the original action-horror game won nearly 100 industry awards and received a score of 89 percent from gamerankings.com. Earlier this year EA released “Dead Space: Extraction”, a prequel story that was exclusive to Nintendo's Wii system in an effort to win over a new audience.

Executive producer Steve Papoutsis said, “Expect plot twists that will surprise you and a huge cast of twisted, disgusting monsters that are sure to scare the daylights out of you.”

“Dead Space 2” is being developed for the PS3, Xbox 360 and the PC. No release date has been announced.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Microsoft Corp. • Sony • video games


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December 4, 2009

Mixed bag for early holiday console sales

Posted: 09:28 AM ET


As the holiday shopping season ramps up, video game console makers are keeping a wary eye on early sales.

Sony, maker of the PlayStation 3, claims it got off to a rousing start during the Black Friday week ending on November 29.  Patrick Seybold, Sr. Director of Corporate Communications, said the company sold more than 440,000 consoles, which was an “all-time high.”

Those sales numbers are up from October (320,600 units sold) and Seybold believes Sony's software will help sell its hardware.  “We have no doubt the momentum and demand will continue,” he said.

By contrast, Nintendo said it sold 550,000 consoles during the same Black Friday week.  It also announced its DS Lite and DSi portable gaming devices combined to sell more than 1 million units during the week.

In September Nintendo cut the price of the Wii for the first time, by $50 to $199.99.  Last year, the company shipped 800,000 Wiis to the U.S. for Black Friday week.

Microsoft has not made any announcements about sales of the Xbox 360 during the intense shopping week.  Aaron Greenberg, Director of Product Management, posted on his Twitter account that the Xbox 360 had its biggest sales week of the year.

When asked about hard numbers, Greenberg tweeted that Microsoft was waiting for the official industry numbers before commenting.  The game review site, Gamespot, extrapolated previously reported numbers from October to come up with approximately 124,850 consoles sold during this past Black Friday week.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Microsoft Corp. • Nintendo • Sony • video games


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December 1, 2009

Michael Jackson tops 2009's Google Zeitgeist

Posted: 02:33 PM ET

What was the world buzzing about most in 2009?

Michael Jackson’s death, the rise of Twitter, “New Moon’s” vampires and Microsoft’s Windows 7 release, among other hot topics gathered by Google for its annual Zeitgeist survey.

The year’s other “fastest-rising” topics, culled from Google search results in almost 50 countries, included Facebook, emerging pop star Lady Gaga, Spanish social-networking site Tuenti and Torpedo Gratis, which I believe has something to do with sending free text messages in Brazil.

These replace 2008’s hot topics, many of which landed on Google Zeitgeist’s “fastest-falling” list for 2009: The Beijing Olympics, Barack Obama, Wii, Heath Ledger and Amy Winehouse.

To compile the 2009 Year-End Zeitgeist, Google says it studied the aggregation of billions of queries people typed into Google search so far this year.

“We use data from multiple sources, including Insights for Search, Google Trends and internal data tools. We also filter out spam and repeat queries to build out lists that best reflect 'the spirit of the times,' " Google said in a statement.

Last year's fastest-rising topic, Sarah Palin, didn't make the fastest-falling list this year, which means people must still be intrigued with her. Maybe it's all the fuss over her book, press tour and chat with Oprah.

The only topics to make the "fastest-rising" list for 2008 AND 2009? Facebook and Tuenti.

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Filed under: Google


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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