Clip of the Week: Dragon Age: Origins Sacred Ashes

Bioware just released an oh-so-juicy trailer of their upcoming title, Dragon Age: Origins. The vid eloquently sets the tone of the game with scenes drenched in gripping suspense and exhilarating, blood-laden action. With a projected 40 to 60 hours worth of gameplay, RPG enthusiasts will find it difficult not to be drawn to the universe Bioware so-passionately conceived.


Of all the aberrant gadgetry one may conjure in his sleep, why this? The Asspeaker clearly borders between technological wizardy and blatant sex novelty. Still, it does evoke a sense of guilt-stricken appreciation of how far we’ve come in terms of aesthetically pleasing concept designs.

Ok, so how does it work? Give the ‘cheeks’ a gentle tap (note: gentle) to turn the sex-plagued object on. To manipulate volume output, just fondle the smooth surface to get your desired level of ‘noise’. Amazing.

A Giant's Downfall

An epic melancholic piece on why a US superpower is now on its last stretch. Uncle Sam’s dominance and influence are waning as other economies recover (though at a sluggish pace) from the recent global recession. You may or may not agree with the article but the figures are convincing and substantiated extensively.

Here's the gist on the numbers and stats so graciously showcased throughout the piece:

Jobs. The International Monetary Fund predicts that the U.S. unemployment rate will be 9.3 percent for all of 2010. That's lower than in some European nations, but it's higher than in Canada and a lot worse than most countries in Scandinavia and Asia. Overall, the U.S. unemployment rate is about average for advanced economies and likely to stay that way. It could be worse, but middling job creation isn't a sign of global leadership.

Economic growth. The IMF also predicts that the U.S. economy will grow 1.9 percent in 2010. That's a tad better than the average for all advanced economies, but at least 10 developed nations will grow faster. Woo-hoo. Three cheers for mediocrity.

Poverty. The U.S. poverty rate, about 17 percent, is third worst among the advanced nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In that sample, only Turkey and Mexico are worse.

Education. American 15-year-olds score below the average for advanced nations on math and science literacy. But don't worry, our nation's future leaders are still ahead of their peers in Mexico, Turkey, Greece, and a few other places.

Competitiveness. In the latest global competitiveness report from the World Economic Forum, the United States fell from No. 1 to No. 2. Sure, let's console ourselves that the No. 1 country, Switzerland, is a tiny outlier nation and that getting bumped from the top spot doesn't really mean anything. Add an asterisk, and we're still No. 1.

Prosperity. The most prosperous nations, according to the Legatum report, are Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. These fairly homogenous European countries are the teachers' pets of global rankings, often appearing near the top because of right-sized economies and a relatively small underclass. For a huge economy like America's, a No. 9 ranking is still respectable. And part of the drop from last year's No. 4 spot is a change in methodology that puts more emphasis on the health and safety of citizens. Still, in the index's subrankings, the United States isn't even in the top 10 for economic fundamentals, safety and security, or governance. We should do better.

Health. In the Legatum study, the United States ranks 27th for the health of its citizens. Life expectancy in America is below the average for 30 advanced countries measured by the OECD, and the obesity rate in America is the worst among those 30 countries, by far. And, of course, we spend far more on healthcare per person than anybody else—but get no bang for the extra buck.

Well-being. In the United Nations' Human Development Index, which attempts to measure the overall well-being of citizens throughout the world, the United States ranks 13th, one notch lower than in the prior set of rankings. Norway, Australia, Iceland, and Canada are at the top.

Happiness. The United States ranks 11th in the OECD's measure of "life satisfaction"—behind Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and other usual suspects. That's not bad, but the United States is one of only four countries where life satisfaction is going down, not up. The other downer nations are Portugal, Hungary, Canada, and Japan. Plus, the research behind these rankings predates the recession, so it's likely that Americans are a lot less satisfied these days.

Notebooks 2.0

Fresh off the pipeline: Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell, claims the anguish and self-condemnation one experiences 36 hours after a netbook purchase.

"If you take a user who's used to a 14- or 15-inch notebook and you say 'Here's a 10-inch netbook,' they're gonna say 'Hey, this is so fantastic. It's so cute. It's so light. I love it,'
"But about 36 hours later, they're saying 'The screen's gonna have to go. Give me my 15-inch screen back.'’

"We see a fair amount of customers not really being that satisfied with the smaller screen and the lower performance - unless it's like a secondary machine or it's a very first machine and the expectations are low,"

"But as a replacement machine for an experienced user, it's not what we'd recommend. It's not a good experience, and we don't see users very happy with those."

Problem is Mr. Dell, millions are happy with it. For the past two years, the industry has witnessed an explosive growth for these miniscule devices. Millions of these demure gadgets have been propping up everywhere in retail, and the masses seem to eagerly embrace them.

HP, Acer, Asus, and Toshiba have invested heavily in releasing competitively priced and well-designed netbooks to answer the rising demand. Even Dell tried it with their Mini product line, alas, a success it was not compared to it's Asian brethrens: Acer’s Aspire One and Asus’ Eee PC series.

Dell’s failure to conquer the low-end, price-conscious market puts a dent on the company’s ability to capitalize on emerging trends. It's obvious they failed to anticipate the sudden meteoric rise of the average man's laptop. The question is, why such harsh criticism from Dell's big boss?

Apparently, the all-too-consumer-friendly product ain’t too business-friendly after all – PC manufacturers know this. With rock-bottom profit margins, manufacturers will only recoup their investments after selling droves of netbooks. With such a glaring disadvantage, it should curtail them from churning out these low-profit generating pests right? On the contrary, consistent netbook releases and over-the-top marketing campaigns are but the craze nowadays.

Over the years, the PC business has shifted from desktops to notebooks as its main source of growth. During ’05 to ‘06, standard notebooks were running north of a grand, manufacturers were comfortable with the price point and decent margins. It all came downhill though the instance
Asus introduced its Eee PC to the world back in ’07. The 7-inch 'companion laptop' disrupted the market dramatically. In less than a year, major PC manufacturers were planning a similar device to satiate the surprising wave of consumer demand for these types of notebooks.

Consumers loved it (they still do). Though not as powerful as other laptops in the market, netbooks were sufficient for word processing, surfing, and casual entertainment at a very low price (and still are).

Mr. Dell’s perception of the netbook doesn’t spur out of hate or disdain but rather of fear for the industry to settle with the new status quo. Perhaps the existence of the average man’s notebook is indeed beneficial to consumers, even too beneficial at times, but manufacturers are risking their financial viability to remain competitive by supporting such dirt-cheap devices.