Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Macworld & EFF

I got to feel ridiculously hip yesterday, what with wandering Macworld and then schmoozing at EFF's 17th birthday party at the 111 Minna Gallery a few blocks down the road. The highlight of Macworld for me, besides playing with the new Macbook Air, was getting a chance to play an early version of Spore, genius Sims creator Will Wright's much delayed new wonder in which players get to create an entire universe, from single-celled organisms to highly customizable animals and creatures to galactic physics.

Check Wright's inspiring TED talk for a closer look.

In the picture, a guy is designing a creature, elongating and shaping the spine. You decide on the length, width, and placement of legs, eyes, mouth, and every other design element of the creature. Then, when he comes alive he moves according to your design and, presumably, some basic rules of anatomy and physiology. Tres cool.

Spore is the game my son and I and -- a great many other people -- have been most eagerly anticipating for several years. Wright's the kind of guy who won't release a game until it's really, truly ready, and I'm willing to believe Spore has required some seriously heavy-duty coding to bring to fruition. Previous release estimate put the date around March, but all I could get out of the EA reps was that the game would be released "sometime this year."

After following their heroic work for well over a decade, I finally joined the EFF at Macworld. Joining supports the leading voice for civil liberties in cyberspace and netted me a cool Hugh D'Andrade-designed tee shirt, too.

I ran into my buddy Bob around the iPod Touch display and we ended up going to dinner at Osha, a very nice Thai place right in the neighborhood. We watched a very cute redhead in a short skirt and white stockings getting a big takeout order. After dinner, we walked over to 111 Minna and discovered the cute redhead is an EFFer. I knew there was something special about her!

At the EFF party, I met Fred von Lohmann, Senior Intellectual Property Attorney, copyfight hero, and all-around nice guy. I've been a fan for years, and I complimented von Lohmann on his excellent interview in Steal This Film II, the fantastic free documentary all about the historic threat to free and open information exchange on the Internet.

I also had a nice long chat with Charles Choi, founder of a new indie film distribution site. With Caachi, filmmakers set their own prices for DRM-free downloads. Artists retain all rights to their work, along with 75 cents of every dollar their films take in. I wonder what percentage goes to the artists with Apple's newly-announced video download service?

In the corner, a couple of guys held court for a while with XO laptops from the One Laptop Per Child project. Impressions without actually playing with one: Very cool, stylish design, and pretty powerful for what it is. The guy doing the demo claims it's very easy to learn to use, especially for someone who has never before used anything else.

Then I met EFF's incoming webmaster Chris and his delightful girlfriend Hilary (one "l," thank you very much) and told them about the seminal role EFF has played over the last 17 years. I advised Chris to make sure the site steers everyone to the Join EFF page as clearly and conveniently as possible.

I even got to introduce Chris and Hilary to Fred von Lohmann, who wished Chris well in organizing a decade and a half's worth of documents into some coherent form!

No comments: