Friday, April 24, 2009

Tech News: March 2009

Haven't done one of these in a while. Pick a few news stories and pick 'em apart. There have been slim pickings in the news as of late, but I was able to find a couple at a glance tonight.

India unveils world's cheapest car
Ooh, I want one. The good news? For $2000 (or $2200, sources differ on this) you can get a four-door car, seats four, and in addition to being the world's cheapest car, it's among the smallest as well. "Smaller than a Mini Cooper" small. And it gets 47 miles to the gallon. The bad news... no heater, no A/C, no automatic transmission, and no radio. Top speed of 65mph... and you might get teased for driving what's being called a street-legal lawnmower. But the good news in that is that for the higher-end model with all of those features is still only $3800.

It must not ever get real cold in India. No heater? You probably couldn't sell a car in North Carolina without a heater. You get in your car which is covered in ice, you scrape the ice off the windshield, what stops it from reforming? And as you race down the road, even if it's only at 45mph, that actually lowers the perceived temperature. You go numb, your little car is now a liability, a hazard to every other car on the road. I can only imagine the problems with selling one up in Wisconsin or somewhere like that.

Still, a little car like that is all most Americans need. Now I'm not one of those Republinazi "do it my way or you're going to hell" types, but most SUV drivers really don't need an urban assault vehicle to carry them to Starbucks for a latte. But, people have issues, and they feel the need to compensate for something, maybe they got picked on in school, maybe they just have underdeveloped genetalia, and need to feel like they're on top of the world. One of these popular celebrities really needs to endorse these small cars, make "small" the new "big".

Oh yeah... they've received over one million orders, but they're only going to make 60,000. Smart, business-wise. Stupid overall, but par for the course. I mean, it's not like we're in a recession or anything.

Rock Band Track Pack: Classic Rock: Coming in May
Good news for those of you playing Rock Band who haven't got your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 connected to the Internet (or have a Wii or PlayStation 2, the former of which hasn't got a hard drive and the latter can't get online). Depending on your system, Harmonix is releasing the third or fourth track pack, 20 songs you can play independent of the original game and its songs. Track Pack 1 was only released for the Wii and the PS2. The first real track pack, available for all four platforms, was Track Pack 2. Then they put out the AC/DC track pack, only 18 songs but all of them top-dollar songs.

Here's how a track pack works. Rock Band isn't just a game, it's really just an interactive media player. Rock Band and Rock Band 2 have three elements: The media player (Quickplay), the songs, and the game (Tour). The track packs are simply the media player and 20 songs. Unfortunately and stupidly, it's the first version of the media player, not the second. That is, it's the Rock Band 1 engine rather than the updated Rock Band 2 engine. Not a big deal, but it's silly that the track packs don't represent the latest and greatest.

On the business side, Rock Band downloads go for $2 apiece, except in special cases where it's an independent artist and the song's only $1, though there are plenty of independent artists up there whose songs cost the same $2 as famous artists. The problem with downloads is that only two of the four consoles Rock Band is available for support them, and the lower-end Xbox 360 doesn't, either, unless it gets upgraded with a hard drive. (You can buy them separately, or in my younger brother-in-law's case, you can have an older sister who sprung for the 120GB drive and wound up with a spare 20GB drive in need of a happy home.) Then, not all PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles are online. Furthermore, for whatever reason, not everyone who can download, does. But they will buy track packs. Harmonix knocks $10 off the price of the 20 downloads, which would be $40, nevermind the cost of the disc and packaging, shipping and handling (to the store) and all that. Because not all the songs on the track pack are songs you'd pay $2 for. They give you some good ones and some not-so-good ones. It depends on your taste, but anyone can look at the list of songs and see songs they'd swap for something else. Some boil down to opinion, but some are just plain fact. Like the Lenny Kravitz song, "Let Love Rule". How about "Are You Gonna Go My Way"? I could do this all day, but instead I'll just post the list and let you decide if it's worth $30 for the lot:

Boston - Peace of Mind (1976)
Boston - Rock and Roll Band (1976)
Dead Kennedys - California Über Alles (1987)
Dead Kennedys - Holiday in Cambodia (1987)
Free - All Right Now (1970)
George Thorogood & the Destroyers - Bad to the Bone (1982)
James Gang - Funk #49 (1970)
Jethro Tull - Hymn 43 (1971)
Lenny Kravitz - Let Love Rule (1989)
Pat Benatar - Hit Me With Your Best Shot (1980)
The Police - Can't Stand Losing You (1978)
The Police - Truth Hits Everybody (1978)
Rush - Closer to the Heart (1977)
Rush - Red Barchetta (1981)
Siouxsie and The Banshees - Kiss Them For Me (1991)
Steve Miller Band - Take the Money and Run (1976)
Steve Miller Band - The Joker (1973)
The Stone Roses - Love Spreads (1994)
The Who - Baba O'Riley (1971)
The Who - Behind Blue Eyes (1971)

Some of those are pretty good. Both of the Who songs are excellent. Bad to the Bone and The Joker are evil if you're a bassist. Pat Benetar's song is fun as hell - for a bassist, at least.

Despite my comments about some songs not being as good as other offerings by the same artist, if I wasn't on Xbox Live, I'd get this in a heartbeat. But at the same time, if I had $30 to spend on Xbox Live and had no downloadable songs, I could come up with 15 songs I'd rather have than these 20 (though the 15 would include some of these). But since I do have DLC, I'll point out that I have all the songs on this list I want, though I don't have Closer to the Heart (Rush) and wouldn't mind having that. We have the Who songs, we have the Steve Miller songs, the first Boston song, the Free song, Bad to the Bone, Funk 49, and the Benetar song. Plus a bunch of other great songs.

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