Sun Microsystems has announced a new program in which the company intends to donate a million dollars to independent software developers who contribute to Sun's open source software projects. The Open Source Community Innovation Awards Program was announced by Sun's chief open-source officer, Simon Phipps, at FOSS.IN, an open-source software summit that took place in Bangalore last week.
Although some are comparing Sun's award program to Google's Summer of Code initiative, there are some significant differences. Unlike Google's Summer of Code program—which focused on increasing student participation in open-source software development—Sun's program is open to everyone.
Another crucial difference is that Sun isn't establishing the terms under which the resources are distributed. Instead of creating specific guidelines for individual contributors, Sun will permit participating open-source projects to determine individually how they plan to distribute the award funds allocated to them by Sun. This approach is highly advantageous, because it will allow individual projects to award contributors in a manner that is most appropriate for their development model and goals. For instance, the open-source communities that receive resources from Sun could potentially choose to use the money to set up bounties on specific bugs and features, reward notable longtime contributors, or set up paid internships.
Another major difference between Sun's program and Google's Summer of Code initiative is the nature of the participating projects. Google's Summer of Code program involved a highly diverse assortment of independent open-source projects that aren't directly affiliated with Google. Sun's program, on the other hand, is currently limited only to Sun's own open-source products, including OpenSolaris, GlassFish, OpenJDK, OpenSPARC, NetBeans, and OpenOffice.org. Google's initiative is clearly focused more on giving back to the broader open source community, whereas Sun's program is specifically about rewarding contributors who participate in Sun's communities.
In recent years, Sun has been working hard to build robust open-source software communities around many of its flagship products. For instance, the company has attempted to build mindshare around OpenSolaris by turning it into a more practical platform for day-to-day use with Project Indiana. Sun's new award program isn't charity in any sense of the word, but it does seem like another pragmatic way for Sun to invest in its own community.
As one of Apple's products that has gone the longest without an update of any kind, the Cinema Displays are definitely beginning to look a bit long in the… cable. Introduced in June 2004, the Cinemas gained DVI inputs and a new aluminum design to match Apple's Pro machines. The lineup has more or less remained dormant since then.
However, while Apple added iSight cameras to its other machines, it quietly discontinued the standalone version last year. This strange retirement refreshed rumors of a change in the iWind for Cinema Displays, but alas, plenty of announcement opportunities and events have come and gone with nary a word from Apple.
Now, ZDNet is shaking the rumor tree again with an observation that Apple has moved the Cinema Displays from its online store's main page during a supposed minor design shuffle. You can, however, still get to the displays by clicking Mac Accessories > Displays in the left-hand navigation, and they still ship within 24 hours. Typically, if a product in Apple's online store is on the verge of a revision, shipping times shoot through the roof. This reorganization of Apple's online store is likely more about optimizing for holiday shopping than preempting a new display.
If the Cinema Display is, in fact, about to receive a redesign, I doubt that it'll happen at Macworld '08. Like we've said before, outside of a few exceptions (like the new Intel-based MacBook Pros accompanying iMacs at Macworld '06), pro hardware usually doesn't have much of a place at Macworld. That stuff is mostly reserved for other more pro-friendly events like WWDC, NAB, or simply Apple's own press events scattered throughout the year.
Still, there's no arguing that the Cinema Displays need a makeover—particularly one that includes an iSight camera and HDMI support. That said, I think the overall design is looking just fine, and it still perfectly complements the aesthetic of Apple's pro lineup. If anything is actually in store for Apple's displays, we probably still have to wait a bit longer.
It's been just a few short weeks since the Gamespot-Gerstmann debacle passed and, though the fallout was beginning to fade a bit, it has kicked back up again in full force. Its revival comes thanks to a lawsuit involving the large game industry public relations company Kohnke Communcations. The full suit includes explicit confirmation that the company admits to convincing "reviewers to write positive reviews" about games.
The suit itself is between Kohnke, which prides itself as being the "premier public relations agency for interactive entertainment companies," and developer Perpetual Entertainment. The dispute centers on various issues related to the developers' recently canned project Gods & Heroes as a result of interest shifting towards the company's current project, the MMO Star Trek Online. Kohnke claims to be owed a balance of $10,675 in "outstanding invoices" for the PR services rendered unto Perpetual to promote the game.
What's more interesting than the simple suit, though, is the information that has been revealed about the business practices of Kohnke Communications in its wake. In a copy of the filing seen by Ars, the company admits to a few interesting "PR-related activities" that seem pretty questionable:
Kohnke's public relations campaign was successful in creating pre-release 'buzz' around Gods & Heroes, and in convincing reviewers to write positive reviews about the game. In addition, on information and belief, Perpetual had signed up more than 100,000 beta testers for Gods & Heroes, a large number for an unreleased MMO. These early, pre-launch successes indicated that Gods & Heroes would be a great success upon launch, and that Kohnke would receive an incentive compensation payment of up to $280,000 after the launch of Gods & Heroes.
While working to promote a game is certainly the expected practice of a PR firm, the admission of successfully "convincing reviewers to write positive reviews about the game"—and the subsequent call for reward—is certainly suspect, especially at such a sensitive time in the world of game journalism. Kohnke Communications is a significant player in the game industry, working with many of the biggest players and acting as the face of countless companies at the big trade shows across the country.
We'll be keeping our ear to the ground for more details about the original case, and the reaction that this revelation will likely produce.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), also known as Congressman Hollywood, is one of the most powerful members of the House when it comes to intellectual property issues, so when he muses aloud about "revisiting" the DMCA, people listen. Unfortunately, Berman wants to reform the DMCA because it doesn't go far enough, and his ideas sound like they're ripped right from the pages of the Big Content playbook.
Berman chairs the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, and this morning oversaw a hearing on the PRO-IP Act, a bill that could boost statutory damages for copyright infringement and create a special IP enforcement office in the executive branch as well as a new IP division at the Department of Justice. Before witness testimony got underway, Berman mused aloud about things the bill did not contain but which he would like to revisit in the future.
Berman believes that the DMCA, in particular, needs reforming, but not in the ways that consumers have clamored for. Instead, the congressman wants to look again at the issue of "safe harbor" provisions currently extended to ISPs for infringing content flowing across their networks. He wants to examine the "effectiveness of takedown notices" under the DMCA, and he'd like to take another look at whether filtering technology has advanced to the point where Congress ought to mandate it in certain situations.
The ideas could not be more pleasing to companies like Viacom, which is currently suing YouTube over the issue of takedown notices, claiming that simply adhering to the DMCA takedown notice system is not good enough. The MPAA, which has been pushing for ISPs to adopt video filtering on their networks, should also be thrilled.
Big Content has been touting fingerprinting and filtering technologies as the solution to the problem of having their copyrighted content posted online. In October, Viacom and a handful of other companies issued a set of principles governing how user-generated video content should be handled. Signatories to the manifesto would be forced to beyond the boundaries of the DMCA—in the same direction Rep. Berman wants the DMCA to go, in fact.
Gutting the Safe Harbor provision of the DMCA, as Berman appears to be advocating, would also provide a massive boost to the rights-holders. Conversely, it would have a chilling effect, not only on the likes of YouTube, but on any site that hosts any sort of user-generated content. The Safe Harbor is arguably one of the very few worthwhile provisions of the DMCA. Rewriting it to favor the interests of Big Content would be a gigantic mistake.
Eric Bangeman contributed to this story.
Reinventing the term "straight to DVD," Paramount and MTV have decided to try a new concept: "straight to the Internet." With the upcoming Internet-only premiere of Jackass 2.5, the two have also managed to remove the stigma associated with skipping the movie theater and going straight to the small-screen by making a big deal of the venture. The 64-minute feature-length film's debut will be the first of its kind from big studios. If it proves successful, Jackass 2.5 could open the door to more 'Net-only debuts, or, more importantly, simultaneous releases of movies that won't be as monumentally bad as this one is sure to be.
Most of you are probably already familiar with Jackass, the show from MTV that highlighted the injury-prone, dangerous, and otherwise stupid antics of Johnny Knoxville and friends. The empire has grown since its humble beginnings, and box offices have already welcomed the original and sequel Jackass movies to the tune of $64 million and $73 million, respectively. But Jackass 2.5, which only cost $2 million to create (I mean, how much do some skateboards, 80 dozen eggs, a broom, three razors, and a live pig cost anyway?), is apparently just the thing to test out Internet-only distribution with—at least at first.
The plan goes like this: on Wednesday, December 19, Blockbuster will present the movie at http://www.blockbuster.jackassworld.com, which Internet users will be able to stream for free. Ads will be placed before and after the film, and presumably on the web page surrounding the embedded video. The ad-supported, streaming version of the movie will be available through the end of the year, but on December 26, those crazy enough to want to pay for a copy of it will be able to purchase Jackass 2.5 through some of their favorite digital video stores (which includes iTunes and Amazon), as well as on DVD. The movie will go for between $10 and $15 online, and a whopping $30 on DVD (which will include an additional 45 minutes of extras).
This scene from Jackass 2 tells
us what to expect from Jackass 2.5.
On January 1, ad-supported services like Joost will begin offering the movie (or clips thereof) for free, and later in the year, customers will be able to watch it through on-demand services. At that time, the website (jackassworld.com) will be turned into a portal of
stupidity jackassery "all things jackass," including things like interviews and blog posts.
This isn't the first time a movie has gone 'Net-only. Independent filmmaker Edward Burns decided to debut his $4 million film Purple Violets exclusively through the iTunes Store last month, and larger studios like Fox and Sony have made their own short, promotional films available online. But this will be the first full-length movie, backed by a major studio, that will be introduced online before being sold on physical media. Paramount appears to be confident that the venture will easily pay for itself—it's not as if $2 million is a particularly far-reaching goal. "If this works, it could open up and really change the game about additional content that studios can create," Paramount president Thomas Lesinski, told the New York Times.
Lesinski is apparently referring to the type of game-changing content that contains "more vomiting, nudity and defecation," according to one exec speaking anonymously to the New York Times. That's, um, nice and all, but what we would really like to see are movies that would otherwise be fit for the box office, but distributed online first (or at the same time as they hit theaters). The concept of simultaneous releases has been tossed around for some time now, with some adventurous moviemakers even experimenting with it. But overall, the big studios are still slow on the uptake, worrying that they'll never be able to make the kind of revenue they do at the box office through advertising, licensing, and download fees.
But perhaps Jackass 2.5, with its low overhead and easy-to-reach goals, can change that. We're rooting for you and your nut-crushing antics, Johnny.