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Guitar Hero II's Tracklist

Although I find the very strong tendency of videogame recycling annoying — Ooh! Another gangster game! Hey, here's one where I can be a special ops guy! Yowza! Another big-haired dungeons and dragons game with more townspeople to get hints from! — I am pleased to see the final list of tracks from the upcoming Guitar Hero II.

The sequel, viewed in combat game terms, could simply be viewed as “more missions”, and when you really boil it down to its essentials, Guitar Hero (and its cousins, Dance Dance Revolution, Karaoke Revolution, Donkey Konga and others) is really a dressed-up version of Whack-a-Mole. That would be missing the point, which is to fulfill our rock star fantasies. I have yet to meet anyone with a serious emotional connection to Whack-a-Mole or fantasies about being a world champion at it, but George and I have fond memories of the music and rocking out in our capacities as DJs and bandmates during our crazy college years.

Take a look at the track list, and you'll find both tracks you'd expect — Carry on Wayward Son, You Really Got Me, Sweet Child O' Mine, and (groan) Free Bird — as well as some unexpected treats, including Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name Of, Butthole Surfers' Who Was in My Room Last Night, and Suicidal Tendencies' Institutionalized (“All I wanted was a Pepsi! Just one Pepsi!”).

Guitar Hero II is scheduled for release for the PlayStation 2 on November 7th, and the XBox 360 version is expected in spring 2007. Alas, Accordion Hero remains but a dream.

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iPods Aren't Made in Sweatshops

AppleInsider has a coda to the issue of the conditions under which Apple's iPods are made in mainland Chinese factories. First, things don't appear to be as dire as the original newspaper report made out and, second, Apple's going to take action to fix any issues nonetheless.

Going forward, Apple has enlisted the services of Verité, an internationally recognized leader in workplace standards, to ensure that its manufacturing partners around the world are in compliance with its Code of Conduct.
By the end of the year, Apple said it will complete audits of all final assembly suppliers of its Mac and iPod products.

“Apple is committed to the highest standard of social responsibility in everything we do and will always take necessary action accordingly,” the company said. “We are dedicated to ensuring that working conditions are safe and employees are treated with respect and dignity wherever Apple products are made.”

It's a happy coincidence when the morally right thing and the optically smart thing coincide. Although you can never really tell if the mass market pays attention to these things (Kathy Lee Gifford got raked over the coals, but Nike doesn't seem to be doing too badly), Apple couldn't afford to be tarred with the “sweatshop” brush. It would have been especially disappointing for the true believers—those who think their buddies in Cupertino really do Think Different.

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Microsoft's Extreme Zune Strategery?

Mike Gartenberg at Jupiter's a clever chap, so let's play along with his speculation on Microsoft's plans take on the iPod:

[I]t’s likely we’re going to see Zune focused on the music enthusiast marketplace. The real aficionados who could appreciate features like community or the ability to share music. Look for this to follow the Xbox approach, which targeted the high end gamers early on. I’d expect the message will be to try to marginalize the iPod as being the music player that dad, mom or your little sister uses, and Zune is for the cool kids.

That's an interesting idea: make Zune Mountain Dew to iPod's Coke.

Still, we all know which brand sells more sugar water.