Tuesday, October 21, 2008

To Find Us Now

Please visit www.gamerwok.com This blogger blog is no longer being updated. Check out www.gamerwok.com for the latest in tech news blogs and the new weekly podcast! Thanks for the support! Follow us on Twitter for the latest update: www.twitter.com/gamerwok

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hilfe Medic! Nintendo Killed Me!

As I mentioned in this week’s podcast, Nintendo is releasing the DSi this holiday season in Japan with North American plans for sometime next year.  Aside from some of the bigger updates to system in the forms of camera and size, one of the biggest draws would be downloadable games and the SD Card slot.

I have openly said that I modify my consoles – the ones that are mod-able anyway – and my Nintendo DS is also one of them.  I use a M3 device on mine to enable ROM playability, which essentially allows me to play homebrew and other region games.  Currently, all the Nintendo DS games are region free.  So if you visit Asia and buy that new Rockman World, it will work on your North American DS.

Nintendo has been very active during this console generation in trying to kill piracy on their multiple systems and with their latest attempt by epoxy gluing the ROM chips on the Nintendo Wii, it comes with no surprise that they will be region-locking their downloadable games for the new DSi and the DS Download store.  This is also very accepted practice in home consoles and it was always a surprise to me why they were not implemented in handheld devices.  Nintendo’s DS system is currently the best selling gaming platform worldwide, only to be followed closely by the Wii and with a distant 3rd held by Microsoft’s Xbox 360.  As we all know, hardware sales are only a means to an end.  Similarly to how cell phone providers will give you a greater discount for every extra year you extend you contract agreement, console hardware is sold on the basis of attracting platform loyalty and increasing their attach rates.  This is why manufactures such as Sony and Microsoft would be willing to sell their consoles at a loss in order to increase market share.  Because the chances are if you own a XBOX 360 or a PS3, you will likely be buying XBOX 360 and PS3 games.

Nintendo realizes that with the largest market share in their handheld console, the piracy market seriously hampers their attach rate and software sales.  By limiting software compatibility in the form of region lock, they automatically create multiple markets that do not require worldwide competition.  Asian markets can compete locally, while North American markets can retain their own strategy.  By also moving distribution to the “cloud” and following suit with other digital distribution models, they effectively cut out the middleman and are able to retain a greater portion of the revenue from each sale.

What they haven’t announced, and I will bet is true, is that the new DSi will also kill off any Slot 1 modding device.  Given the built in SD Card slot, there is still hope that hackers will find a way to enable its function to run ROMs directly off of the native SD Card but the hardware manufacturers of these Slot 1 devices will also be put out of business.

This is quite uncharacteristic for Nintendo as they have been relatively quiet on the piracy front and as a company on a whole.  This could spell a pretty interesting next generation battle for pirates VS. hardware manufacturers.  With Nintendo’s track record, no one will know what’s going on until it happens.  However, being someone that is using a slot 1 device, I’m sure going to be hanging on to my current DS even if I decide to upgrade.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Social Ineptitude

Let me tell you guys a story about a little squirrel.

This little squirrel has grown up with his community of squirrels and was generally well liked and accepted.  Over the years, he developed in to a contributing member of the group and was even given some responsibilities in leading the younger squirrels.

But something changed over time.  Certain aspects of this little squirrel’s development were not normal.  He would often believe that instead of saving his nuts for winter, it was a wiser move to grow his very own tree so that the nuts would solely be his.  His friends would question his knowledge of horticulture and even some would suggest that it was a smarter thing to gather nuts than growing nuts.

His response to their advice was. “No pain, no gain, right?”

This would continue onto other aspects of his life which ultimately led to the failure in his attempt to fly, his belief that he would be able to learn to drive a car, or that if he only courted younger female squirrels, he would be successful.  Eventually, his friends stopped offering up advice and the ones that truly cared for his well being moved on.

This little squirrel has now become one of the senior squirrels in his community but because all of his friends already moved on, he is not left with the responsibility of mentoring the young squirrels growing up.

It’s hard to believe that a whole new generation of squirrels will now follow in this retarded squirrel’s footsteps but it’s true.  And what’s even harder to believe is that this could happen in real life with real people.

What did this story have to do with tech?  Nothing.

I’m pissed off at someone and this is my way of expressing it.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Episode 7: Epoxy This!

Podcast Episode 7 Show Notes:


  • Stupid winter tires
  • Global Economy and effect on the home front
    • Construction industry taking a real hit
    • Spending will be low this year
    • It’s not confidence in market since it’s not about investments, it’s protecting your own hide, if analysts are wrong, they aren’t going to be paying your mortgage
  • Changing Careers
    • Stats say you change careers 3-4 times in your life now
    • Contemplating a 4 day work week
    • What I learned while I was off for 6 weeks

Around the Net:

  • Warhammer release
    • Beta experience
  • Robber gets away on an inner tube
    • Uses craigslist to enlist 14 people to serve as decoy
    • Smart thieves and institutional drones (police)
    • How to encourage innovation: a place like google VS. MS
  • Spore/EA gets sued
    • DRM again at the forefront
    • Mass Effect had it, why I still played it
  • Android gets released
    • T-Mobile exclusive
    • Engadget video – lagging screen
    • Open source VS. Apple
  • Nokia 5800 XpressMusic announced
    • Will ship with one year free music from nokia store
    • Looks to be the very first direct competitor to iphone
    • Good to see manufactures are standing up to apple and not trying to just clone
  • Grand opening of first Calgary Apple Store
    • First 1000 people gets a free T-shirt
    • Apple as a lifestyle
    • Dec 8 release in Japan
    • 2009 in North America
    • Do we really need another?
    • Old school protection against modders
    • Ballsy move - impressed with Nintendo


  • Force Unleashed
    • Easy as pie
    • Unlimited health - dynasty warriors with stormtroopers - less deep
    • Good story though - better than Clone Wars
  • Heroes Season Premier
    • Too many stories lines
    • Had to rewatch the last 2 seasons to even remember what the hell happened
    • I hate that they don't use their powers properly
  • Knight Rider 2008
    • So bad it’s good?
    • It takes itself too seriously, tries too hard
    • So far, 2 episodes of fan service only
  • Smallville
    • Messing up the Superman mythos
    • doomsday in title credits but doesn't show up

Thursday, October 2, 2008

OPINION: Hindsight is 20/20

The topic du jour seems to be DRM, both on my own blog and around industry news.  With the recent development of Spore/EA’s stance on Securom and other DRM practices, it seems that we are headed towards the same road as what consumers are currently seeing in the music industry.

With Napster and MP3 gaining huge momentum in the mid 90’s, music industry noticed that their sales of physical media were declining.  There were two possibilities for this:

a)       People are now pirating songs and downloading them illegally because of MP3’s

b)      People are realizing that songs in MP3 format produced a far better listening experience logistically and prefer a medium change

And we all know which option the music industry, mostly RIAA, choose to see as the reason for declining sales.  So what we have then is the evolution from heavy DRM which really started with audio CD’s that could not be played in every CD Player as they were formatted in CD-Rom format.  These were not readily introduced until 2002 while MP3 momentum continued.  What we can see is that in the beginning, the majority of consumers (read: over 50% of consumers – exact numbers are irrelevant in this discussion) were still buying their music.  There were a growing number of people that were interested in MP3 technology but that was relegated to mainly the tech savvy crowd and those that were able to afford $300 MP3 players that held 512MB of music.  In fact, more often than not, music was being “dubbed” onto other CD’s but not for the reason of not paying for your music, but for a way to create your own “mixed-tape” CD. 

I remember when there was talk of “burning stations” that would allow you to buy individual songs from a multitude of artists and labels and the machine would burn you a custom CD of those songs.  I personally was very excited by that possibility and believed it could have been commercially successful.  What the industry decided instead was to lock down CD copying (which was readily cracked anyway) which drove more legitimate users to seek alternative means.   If you told Suzie Soccer Mom that her new Tom Jones CD may not be able to play in her car’s CD-player (the most common player unable to handle DRM CD’s in the early 2000’s), she would have a fit.  She would ask the salesman at her local big boxed retailer what her alternatives were and there would be separate CD players with car adapters or this newer product called an MP3 player, which would allow her to fit hundreds of her favourite songs on one small device that won’t even skip!  When she gets this home and realizes that there isn’t a place where she can buy these songs in a MP3 format, she inevitability asks her teenage song what to do and he in turn sets her up with limewire.  This is only one scenario but most outcomes are the same.  This would also coincide with the success of iTunes and the iPod as the only player capable of accessing these songs. 

Now Apple does have their own DRM in the form of fairplay but it’s less intrusive and much more behind the scenes than Microsoft’s WMA’s or Sony’s DRM rootkits.

Fast forward to 2008 and what we have now is a music industry that is facing extinction in physical media sales and a giant elephant in the iTunes store.  iTunes and Apple are making money on music hand over fist and they want a piece of it.  And the only way to attack this problem is to offer the consumer a better alternative – that would be DRM free MP3 music.  E-tailers such as Amazon have already been selling DRM free music at a fraction of the price Apple is selling them.  This should have been the action in the very beginning but who’s to say that without iTunes, we would be without iPods today.  Although I believe that there will always be someone to step up and fill the void if it wasn’t Apple, it would have been someone else. 

We can take this same argument and apply it to the video games industry as it also sits on a precipice of similar elevation as the music industry did 10 years ago.  The tech savvy will always find a way to hack your DRM.  The major difference here is that there are a higher concentration of tech savvy users in the PC gaming sector than in the music scenario.  But if the industry offers a unified way to organize, distribute, and produce clean, consistent, and stable software, I believe sales will increase and piracy will decline (not by much but at least sales will increase).  If someone like me who can pirate my games quite easily would rather buy a game from Steam than pirate it, then I’m sure there are many others out there that would follow suit. 

Which is why I’m very excited by websites such as www.gog.com .  They are owned by Stardock, the Godfather of DRM free gaming, and are releasing working, supported, DRM free “Good Ol’ Games”.  Games such as Fallout 1 and 2, Decent, MDK, etc.  These are games that I’m very fond of and can remember clearly spending many hours playing.  Most of these games I have either lost or damaged the CD’s to or are simply incompatible with the latest operating systems and video cards.  But a site like GOG sells digital copies of these with working patches for XP and Vista while promising DRM free use and support. 

As I have said before, I’m not qualified to dissect the ins and outs of the industry or their business models.  I can only speak as a tech enthusiast and end user.  But to that end, EA and Activision/Blizzard seriously needs to take notice of models such as these because one day, an iTunes for PC games will happen and they will be left in the dust because they were too busy writing new Securom code (in the case of EA).  If I had my vote, I would like to see Activision/Blizzard merge with Valve and redesign Steam to follow a relaxed iTunes model.   

My Mac Smells like...benzene?

Most people love the smell of napalm…I mean new tech in the morning/afternoon/evening.  Even that new car smell has been bottled up and sold.  But what happens when that smell ends up being toxic and your gonads could shrink from it (Ok, I don’t know if your gonads would shrink but it certainly would from all the chemo)? 

French newspaper, LibĂ©ration had first published a story about how Mac Pros built prior to 2008 were emitting a strange odor.  A quote from a scientist used in the article suggests that the smell had toxic properties and one of which is the chemical Benzene.  According to the CDC, “Benzene is a widely used chemical formed from both natural processes and human activities. Breathing benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and unconsciousness; long-term benzene exposure causes effects on the bone marrow and can cause anemia and leukemia. (Source: ToxFAQs for Benzene August 2007) 

Apple has since said in a statement to Macworld that there were no evidence in their tests to prove the claim but they are still investigating the claim.  

With the recent discoveries of melamine to the milk used in the production of milk products from China, it’s not a surprise that you are now finding weird chemicals in the tech industry as well.  It has been a long running joke within my family that eventually, there will be carcinogens in everything and that if you wait long enough, the things that are now bad for you will be found later to be good for you.  Who’s to say that some odd ball food scientist will come out with a study that Trans-Fats in limited quantities are actually healthy for the liver (that’s conjecture but that’s the joke)? 

I remember years ago, it was told to me that eggs were too high in cholesterol and were not good for you in any amount, but recent articles have stated that eggs indeed are necessary in a proper diet.  I’m not counting out the ill effects of Benzene or Melamine in foods and products as those are clearly harmful industrial chemicals, but the point is that we shouldn’t be surprised.  If any of you reader had the opportunity to travel to China, it would be very clear that in a country with 1.3 billion people, there are actually 3 major cities that could live up to first world standards in healthcare, public safety, and other factors that are taken for granted in North America.  These three cities being Beijing (especially after the Olympics), Shanghai (and only in the new Shanghai – old Shanghai is a shanty town) and, Guangzhou (even though it’s not the 3rd largest).  Hong Kong being the anomaly here since it was a British colony until 1997, it wasn’t affected by the Chinese government’s rules until after that.  

Just some food for thought – that won’t cause you cancer.  No I’ve got to throw out all my M&M’s, Cadbury chocolates, and White Rabbit Candy



Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy Anniversary

It’s been just over one year since I started this blog and lots have happened since then.  There’s been a controversial Halo opinion, a GTA4 head to head, and my most treasured addition – the podcast.  I’ve tried to keep the updates regular and mostly they have been so, but lately it’s been slacking again.  The podcast takes quite of planning since I don’t have a co-host (of which I’m still working on) but it’s still a lot of fun to do. 

I wanted to celebrate with a special podcast this weekend.  It’s going to have a brand new segment for the ladies that listen (read: my wife!) and it’s going to be “Fashionable Tech”.  Even the manliest man still has to satisfy the women in their lives and this new segment will showcase some interesting tech that has to do with fashion/appearance/accessories.  Admit it, the inner geek in you wants to know what new, hip, cool, fancy, accessory can be used with your latest toy! 

Look for the podcast to be available on iTunes and here on Sunday night/Monday morning. 

Keep the comments and suggestions coming, I’m quite enjoying the responses!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Smooth as an Android's Bottom

Google's Android smartphone will be released today exclusively on the T-Mobile device, the HTC-G1 (also refered to as the HTC-Dream).  Engadget has your up to date coverage on their site from the official launch event.  

So far, this is shaping up to be a pretty interesting piece of tech and competition is always good.  I feel that more newcomers will keep Apple on their heels, unlike what happened when the iPod came out and there was really no other competition.
Cellphones are a tricky thing since there are so many user groups involved.  With the amount of competition in the global marketplace, it's a hard battle for a start up (even for Google, the golden-boy of tech) to make headway.  Although their philosophy of open source platforms and developer support is being translated to the Android OS, only time will tell if developers are able to fully utilize it to its full potential.  More to come as reviews and information becomes available.

Monday, September 22, 2008

[UPDATED] Spoke Too Soon

So after my glowing review of the genius that is Apple and their 2.1 firmware for the iPhone, I had a catastrophic error this morning.  I fully charged my phone, like every other night, and this morning woke up to a full battery bar.  Nothing was amiss, right?  By the time I arrived at work, after using the phone’s iPod function for about 15 minutes, my battery was at 60%.  This was shocking and I wrote it off to a faulty charge connector last night.  As the day went on and my phone sat idle on my desk, the battery continued to drain and by the time noon rolled around, I’m at 20% battery life!  My usage meter says that I had 4H25M of usage and 5H15M of standby since last full charge.  What in the hell is 4H25M of usage from??  I didn’t even use the internet or RSS or email functions in all that time!  From checking around the interwebs, it looks like there are numerous others experiencing a dramatic drop in battery life after 2.1.  But so far not many that had great battery life and then just died like mine.  There are a few fixes that I can do to try and aleavate this, one of which is a complete reinstall of the firmware again (this will be my 4th restore).  I’m hoping that will be the last thing I do and that I can fix it by turning off push.  The only thing I can think of that has changed since my battery started to act funny was that I loaded the app “Feeds” and “Galcon Full” (upgraded from Lite) and that perhaps Feeds uses the push functionality and that maybe where the data usage was coming from.  I have since turned off push so we’ll have to see if my usage is nuts still.  I’ll update this tonight and see if anything has changed.

Update Sept 23: I unfortunately had to clean install 2.1 on my iphone, wiping all my settings and stored information.  Luckily my contacts, email, and calendar were synced to Outlook and I was able to recover that stuff.  So far this morning it's been acting normal.  It's been reporting the correct amount of active VS. standby time.  I'll have to see if it holds out until the end of the day.  I turned off Push and dialed back the sync times to 30m for mail and 1H for Feeds.  I also stoped the syncing from my company email system (which is not exchange, just IMAP) so that may have helped.  Price of being an early adopter I guess.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Episode 6: The Birthday Episode

Episode 6: On my Birthday SOAPBOX: Apple Innovation

  • Still innovative?
  • Compared to RIM certainly but needs to step up
  • Lots of tech that still needs reimagining
  • Star Trek Apple Data Pad anyone??
DRM Gone Wild
  • iTunes and Nike+ Patent
  • Spore limits accounts to one per CD KEY
  • EA and Red Alert 3 - I'm not buying
AROUND THE NET: Wireless Communication in Football Helmet (EDIT: Winnipeg, not Edmonton) Queens University in Belfast offering Jedi courses
  • Feel the Force: How to Train in the Jedi Way
  • Do you want your doctor to have on his resume that he's a certified Jedi Knight?
  • Pop Culture collision
  • The full sci-fi story isn't even complete or agreed upon and you teach it??
  • University of Calgary offering Virus writting class - same thing?
New Microsoft Ads
  • Seinfeld ads made no sense but at least got the conversation going
  • New "I'm A PC" ads are directly targeted, at least that's something
  • Could learn a bit from beer commercials - public responds to humor - WOW! That's new!
Ensemble Studios Closing
  • Confirmed closing after Halo Wars
  • Age of Empires was one of my favorite RTS games, better than Starcraft in the Fun Factor
  • Console RTS can't succeed unless keyboard and mouse support are implemented - if they do, I can almost guarantee that I will be a couch jockey for life!
  • Endwar will be a testament for alternative control schemes and if they are viable
IMPRESSIONISTIC: Blackberry 8220 Released:
  • WiFi and GPS
  • Bigger but nicer to type on
  • Suretype is back and better than 2G pearl
  • Competition not against Apple but for the young teens who wants fast texting
iPhone 2.1 Firmware
  • This really should have been the one that it shipped with
  • 3G performance is MUCH better
  • switches to EDGE if low signal without losing your call
  • backups are fast, 15 minutes down to 3 minutes
  • SMS Keyboard lag slightly improved - I didn't have that problem much to begin with
  • Battery life is improved - 50% left after a day of normal 3G use compared to 20% before
  • Genius feature is fun and easy - except on any Alicia Keys songs

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

OPINION: Of Mergers and Slap Shots

With the stock market crash on September 15, lots of investors and advisors were scrambling to make sense of what happened.  This isn’t a financial blog so I won’t go into the details but I will say that the tech industry will be feeling the pinch right away.  This is an industry that is still cautious from the dot com boom and bust of the 90’s.  One of the ripples you see that already touched the tech sector is the EA and Take Two games merger that was just scrapped on Sunday September 14th. 


There were lots of speculations on why Take Two was still holding out after EA continued to come back with counter offers.  That’s a moot point now since EA decided to walk away which caused EA’s stock to close on Monday at $43.30, dropping from $44.90 on the previous Friday while Take Two’s stock fell to a $15.45 low even before the NASDAQ opened on Monday from their previous Friday closing of $21.89.  That’s almost a 30% decrease in stock prices over a weekend. 


What does all this mean for you and I where we are gamers and not investors?  As a gamer, the news has been that this merger wouldn’t have been in our best interest.  No one like EA for various reasons; they are currently the second largest publisher in the industry and certainly use that to their business advantage by consistently releasing buggy games and incomplete builds (Battlefield 2 is an example of this).  Their games do traditionally go on to sell very well but in general, the majority of the problems are not fixed until a 1.2-1.3 patch.  Blizzard, EA is not.  But the primary concern for gamers with the possibility of the now dead merger, was that there would be no more major league sports games competition.  Take Two, while being famous for Rockstar Studios, also owns the 2K Sports studio, the only other major league developer in gaming. 


The question is this: Is it really that bad to have only one player in the sports gaming genre?  I personally believe that competition is great for innovation and for the consumer since this gives us choice.  But in the specific instance of EA VS. 2K Sports, I don’t think it is as important as so may believe.  2K has lost the license to NFL, their NBA games are still very playable but innovative they are not, and their NHL offerings the last 2 years (including this year) has not been innovative either.  In the field of innovation, EA certainly has been busy with their NFL and especially NHL products.  But with the introduction of this year’s “Be A Pro” EA is positioning the sports genre for a transition into the MMO format.  Eventually, I could see sports games becoming subscription based, with real time statistical updates, roster changes, and online fantasy leagues.


Fantasy leagues are a huge hit with armchair quarterbacks and couch goalies, just look around your office especially if you are in Canada and the hockey season is about to start.  If you offer them a way to play out these fantasies in both an active format (actually playing the games with a controller) and a way to play it simulated (stat driven only) then what you have is a cross genre product that bridges the gap between the different armchair jocks.  Unfortunately, it seems that 2K and EA will continue their dance until EA decided to throw more money at the cash starved NHL and make that license exclusive as well (which would not be good). 


The real issue then is would EA have been as motivated to do crazy things like Right Stick actions and Be A Pro if NHL 2K7 wasn’t as good as it was.  That is something only EA would know but as it stands at the moment, innovation isn’t necessary every year.  I would even argue that a new sports game isn’t necessary every year.  Did FIFA 07 change much going to 08?  Would players have been just as satisfied with patches to the engine and rosters?  You are asked to pay full price for a game that’s guaranteed to be out of date in 8 months.  Replayability is much higher on sports games by nature, so that could justify the higher price but instead of charging another $60 for the next year’s update, how about charging us half that price for an expansion – because lets be honest, most year to year updates are just glorified expansion packs.


I hope that EA will continue to give fans innovation and challenge themselves year over year to be the only name in sports games.  If the Madden series is any indication, I think we are fairly safe since innovation and tweaks have continued even though they are the only name in NFL video games.  In the meantime, keep your eye on 2K stocks, if it continues to slide, might be a good time to buy – because you know ActivisionBlizzard or even Ubisoft is keeping their eye on this.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Episode 5: Underachieving with Style!

SoapBox T400 and Why I didn't get it for review:

  • Men and women are instinctually different
  • Main difference when it comes to tech is the man's need for "Upgrades"
  • Women don't understand the need for upgraded toys since you can't really upgrade a purse, you just buy a new one
The Underachiever's Manifesto
  • Hilarious satire on the status of our working North American society today
  • "Good Enough is Good Enough"
  • Very funny and applicable read, check it out here on Amazon.ca
Around The Net Apple September 9th Announcement Google Chrome
  • Fun and "google-esq" but not going to replace my main browser anytime soon
  • Large resource footprint
  • Download and try here
EA/Crytek/Nvidia/Ultra PC Custom PC
  • Interesting concept, a gaming PC capable of running Crysis at 30 FPS for under $700USD
  • No word on what OS this ships with
  • Specs are here
Spore DRM Crisis...again
  • Reviews are firebombed on Amazon and other online retailers
  • DRM issue is installation limits, how does EA define a "computer"
  • Hardware changes are taken into account for "new" computer installs
  • You can see a more detailed article here on Tom's
Impressionistic Force Unleashed Demo
  • Fun times and really makes you feel like a powerful Jedi
  • Has the potential of being a Dynasty Warrior clone if not done correctly
  • Breaks download record with over 1 million downloads
  • Hope that this isn't another Too Human where the demo was better than the game
  • Fun but a bit light on deep content in terms of gameplay
  • Lots of other games do the parts better but Spore does the god sim the best
  • Very deep creature creation
TV Series: BONES
  • CSI meets Hardy Boys
  • Great cast chemistry
  • Takes a bit of getting used to and doesn't really pick up until half way through season 1
  • Currently going into Season 4 and I'm only half way done season 2
" Hey, love the podcast and your blog is interesting. Just wondering what you specifically didn't like about Too Human since you spoke about it a bit last week. Keep up the good work. Thanks."
Thanks for the Email KYJELLY, I won't judge your name! I did have enjoyable moments with Too Human but if I were to pin point a few things I didn't like, it would have to be:
  • The story was very convoluted and lofty without having any substance. It had some very interesting potential but overall, as a standalone game (I know it's supposed to be a trilogy but so was Shemue) it just didn't cut it.
  • The gameplay was too similar to titles such as Dynasty Warriors. There was no real consequence to death, your enemies kept scaling to you, and if you had a dedicated button to "equip best" this game would have been easier than Lego Starwars.
Thanks for your emails and readership, remember to leave an itunes review if you can! Until next time!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sad Truth

I was given some horrible news today. One of my wife's co-workers just had a baby not long ago, less than a year to think of it, but the little girl passed away on Monday night. She was born with a heart problem and it finally gave out. The sad bit is that she was absolutely adorable and had so much life and laughter to share. I am not sure what the problem was or if it was treatable but regardless of how it came to be, the results are still the same. Life is so fleeting and indiscriminate. My love and prayers goes out to the family in this time of sorrow. Readers, if you have kids, family, a significant other, remember to tell them how much you love them everyday. You really don't know when is the last time you may have a chance to and this goodbye could very well be your last one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Episode 4: The one where I wish I was still using a Mac

Episode 4 Show Notes: SOAPBOX

  • Career is going back to the future - I'll be starting my old job again in a few weeks. Unemployment was fun but Money talks.
  • Internet Journalism: IGN is slowly following the path of Gamespot and others that are more opinion sites than objective reviews. Check out Gametrailers for a more refreshing take on reviews.
  • Mac Switch: Sold my Hackintosh and my Thinkpad and have ordered a new T400 Thinkpad. If Steve Jobs decided to grant my wish of an updated MacBook with dedicated graphics, I'm cancelling the Thinkpad and getting a mac instead. Not an Apple fanboy but I still want one if only it's comparable in specs and price to the Thinkpad. For a review of the T400 that's coming soon, check out notebookreview.
  • $1000 iPhone app: Here's a douchbag pretending to have bought the app but gives you a good idea of what I'm complaining about:
  • iPhone Mania: iPhone Girl as reported by USAToday. How sad is it that iPhone mania has made a forgotten erase procedure into worldwide headline news!
  • BlackBerry Bold: Best multimedia blackberry ever made, but still not an iPhone. For the converted iPhone-nites (yours truly included) it's hard to consider going back but if the bold is an indication of things to come, RIM isn't going to go quietly. Check out a fairly indepth review from APC of the BB Bold.
  • Apple Announcement: Rumored by Kevin Rose of Digg.com, before the end of September, shooting for September 9th to be the magic date, there is going to be some pretty big chages to the Apple product line. I'm personally hoping for a Macbook refresh but that may not happen. Check out Kevin's blog to see what he thinks will be announced.
  • Stargate Closed: Stargate Atlantis was canceled by Sci-Fi this past week. Boo! I love that show and don't know what will be there to fill the void.
  • Soul Calibur 4: Worth a rental or a purchase at a discounted price (read: 50% off). Fun for the SC lovers and man-parties. But nothing too new here to warrant a full price purchase except for the diehard fans.
  • Too Human: Not Human Enough. It's fun for the first few hours and then the story drags on and loses focus. Clearly this is meant for a sequel but it still feels like a game that was either rushed (which can't be if it's been in development for 10 years!) or that the developers just were good enough. It's a worthy rental since it's about 8 hours long the first time through but there's nothing really there to keep you coming back.
  • Burn Notice: This is the perfect reimagining of 80's detective shows. Think of it as a Macguyver, Remington Steele, Magnum P.I., and a bit of Quantum Leap all mixed into a 21st century bowl. YUM!
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: This is a brainless romp through a post 90210 neighbourhood. It's still an entertaining show, lets just hope season 2 picks up right where they left off and gets the juices flowing again.
  • iPod Shuffle: Piece of gimped iPod poo! The only thing good about it is the integrated clip and form factor. Can't even sync properly, can only auto fill. Bah! Spend the money and get a good armband for your iPhone instead.
Remember to shoot me off a review if you get the podcast on iTunes, and send your questions and comments to ikeagamer(AT)gmail.com.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Holy Mother of Ikea!

Hey readers and listeners, my sincere apologies for letting my updates totally slide. Firstly, I've taken up a part time gig helping a friend finish up some decking and fencing work he has here in the city while I'm gainfully unemployed. This is keeping my days pretty busy but I still am trying to keep up with the blogging and podcasting. Some of you more astute readers might have noticed that the twitter feed is back (the the right hand side). I'm trying to use twitter (and the power of the iPhone) to keep a mini feed updated, both on the blog status and just my life in general. It's working so far so feel free to follow me if you have twitter yourself. I have recorded, for the third time, podcast episode 4. I lost the first one due to computer failure, and the second one had to be redone as more topics came up. So episode 4 is in the can and should be up this weekend. Show notes will go on right after it's been uploaded so look forward to that. On the work front, I've committed to going back to my old company in two weeks time so that may see a bit of a slow time for the blog as well while I'm trying to get back into the groove. Fear not, as twitter is your friend and I'll be certain to update the blog via email as well. What did we ever do before all this interwebs?? Oh that's right, we played chess through the mail. Cheers and see you on the other side of the mic.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday Update

Yeah, I know. I'm late again. Trust me, it's not all been fun and games this last week. There was a bit of personal stuff I had to deal with right away so the blog has be slightly neglected. But it's sort of back on track now so here's a quick update. I've played through the Too Human demo on XBL this past weekend. Took me about 45 minutes but I was taking my time, customizing my character, etc. I played as a Champion, which likes to fly around the screen and jump a lot. It was pretty fun, I would imagine it as a dumbed down Diablo clone (if that's even possible to dumb D down any further *read: SOJ, Dual Leech). I think I will give the game a chance when it comes out, I won't be putting down $60 for it since it's definitely not worth that but it's worth a few hours of my attention. The other major gaming event in my life is that I've started to dual-box for my World of Warcraft account. If you guys are up with WoW, you will know that the latest Refer a Friend has some pretty sweet incentives but since all my friends already play WoW and those that don't are simply not interested, I decided to refer myself and reap all the benefits. So far, it's been pretty good. I leveled from 1-15 on 2 character in a mere 2.5 hours. That's a personal record considering that's on 2 characters at the same time. I'm excited in seeing if I can bring this dual character up to 60 ASAP (or at least before I'm going back to work). Speaking of work, I'm looking to head back to my old job mid September. Hopefully they will have me, otherwise you will be able to visit the Ikeagamer at your local Wal-Mart soon! Podcast will be up tomorrow, and you can take that one to the bank!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Update

Hello Superfans! This Monday update is going to be short and sweet. I'm going to be covering a lot of topics on this upcoming podcast and its corresponding show notes will have lots of the info I wanted to talk about as well. So for the short and sweet, here it is. I'm still unemployeed. I'm thinking things over still and have almost decided to go back to my old job. There's going to be complications and there's still a chance that when I'm ready to go back, they may not take me. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Currently, I'm trying to catch up on house work, yard work, and of course, games and TV that have been neglected for far too long. I just recently caught up on Burn Notice and that's one awesome show! From someone who still remembers Remington Steele, Magnum P.I., and those other detective shows, this is a major throw back to that era of television. If you haven't seen it, I suggest renting the first season on DVD or buy it if you're employed :) Look for the next podcast to be up by Wednesday night! Cheers and happy gaming!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Episode 3: Unemployment

The Official Ikeagamer Podcast Episode 3 should be up this afternoon on iTunes and on gcast so feel free to stream or download. It's currently being down sampled so may take a little bit of time to show up on the site. Here are the show notes for your reading pleasure while you wait for the show to upload. New website URL: www.ikeagamer.com If you guys found me through blogger, it should now redirect you to the new address. Both will continue to work since I'm still hosting it with blogger (I can't afford my own server :P) iPhone 3G quick impressions: Pros: Cost is low if you sign a contract, function and form meshes very well, well thought out design and interface, official apps support through iTunes, location service integration Cons: Battery life (oh god is it bad!), 3G spotty network reception, apps are only 1/2 ready (more like beta), mobile calendar doesn't allow for invites or acceptance unless with exchange, no cut and paste, no good RSS reader with offline mode Job Update: I started my new job, which was a step up from my last one, 2.5 weeks ago and this past Monday, I find out that I was completely lied to about it and in fact it really wasn't a step up at all. The pay was better but it certainly wasn't worth the sacrifice of giving up my tenure and hard work I put into my career since they really wanted me to take a backseat to someone that wasn't even formally educated or trained. Long story so feel free to listen but to sum it up, I'm unemployed and not sure if I want to go back to my old position or move on to something else. Ethics on the Internet: Denis Dyack did a really awesome lecture on the 1Up Yours July 3, 2008 podcast. I urge you all to give it a download and listen to some of the points this guy brings up. It's certainly brain stimulating that's for sure. He touches on some very real points of how the "net" has the false feeling of anonymity to it, leading its patrons into a series of consequence free actions. Give it a listen and make sure you click the links at the bottom of the page to see some of the books he mentioned. I've already ordered a few of them and am quite excited to start reading (I don't get any sponsorship from Amazon so this is purely my own bias) Listener Mail: New segment I'm creatively calling listener mail! The blog has been up for a few months now and the podcast is into its 3 episode. I'm quite excited that there are actually people that listen to me ramble and visit this blog and on top of that, they write in! Totally geeking out here! So a popular question that I'm asked is: Why is this called Ikeagamer? A few reasons, and first is because I find Ikea furniture and the company to be one that's to the point, trim the fat, right down to the meat and bones. I identify with that philosophy in my gaming life. I don't have a ton of time to play games but I still really like to, so the time that I do have, I spend only on quality products or products that gets me into the "relaxed" mode quickest. So, in a nutshell, that's the Ikeagamer philosophy. Why do you do a gaming blog when you don't even play much games? This is sort of a loaded question. But if you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I don't devote a lot of time to gaming but it doesn't mean that I don't keep up with the news and updates in the industry. It's still something that highly interests me and gets me excited. I do have lots of opinions about the issue and Ikeagamer isn't just about gaming either. This blog is basically about anything that pops into my life/head so all is fair game! Enjoy Episode 3, look for a new cast next week or the following one.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Update

I'm going to start a new regular segment on the blog with this post and that's going to be a weekly Monday Update. Since the podcast is somewhat irregular (hold the bran jokes!) the Monday Updates will keep the blog full of fibre goodness! Since my last update, I have gone through another set of electronic-geektoys. I was so enamored by the stupid iPod Touch, I went and upgraded to an iPhone 3G. I'll speak more about it during the podcast this week (look for it tomorrow) but so far, I'm loving it. I had real reservations with it since I've been using a blackberry since University and that is something that's a tough habit to break. But so far, I've gotten really used to the keyboard and hooked up exchange without much problems. A few glaring features that I hope Apple will patch in the near future is cut and paste (WTH, you think this would be standard in a smart phone, I don't know why they would leave it out) and the ability to send invites from your iPhone's calendar. Aside from that, battery life could be better but that's to be expected from a 3G device that isn't the size of a brick. Also having better receiption while in 3G would be appreciated (but that's more Roger's problem than Apple's). I find that I'm keeping the phone in EDGE mode more than 3G just because of the lack of quality receiption in 3G. My calls actually dropped a few times while my EDGE connection was 100%. I ended up selling my Blackberry Pearl for about the same price it cost me to upgrade so no harm there. I did have to switch my number but that's been painless thus far. On the gaming end, I'm now level 31 in World of Warcraft. Ok, that's piddly but that's also a 10 level jump from just a few months ago. Considering how little I actually play, I have to say I'm happy with my progress. Job is a bit weird at the moment but listen to the podcast and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. As for the blog, you may have noticed that it's now located at www.ikeagamer.com. The name is sticking and I'm actually getting quite a few readers currently. This is exciting since it's really the only public blog I've ever run so hopefully it will continue to grow. Look for a new format with the podcast as well since there's more content that's being added to it. That's it for now. Thanks for reading and remember to send your questions and comments to the address to the top right of this page! Cheers!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Touched by Steve

Whao! Hey! Watch it! Yeah, touched by Steve is right...Steve Jobs that is. What the hell is up with this guy that anything coming out of his mouth is gold? As reported today by DailyTech, Apple issued a press release detailing its financial forecast, stating once again it has finished above expectations and that the next quarter may not be as great as it had been historically. However, with a single tag line at the end of the release where Steve Jobs says, "...and we’re busy finishing several more wonderful new products to launch in the coming months." sent Apple stocks rising again. So what is it about Steve that makes the industry swoon and the financial analysts quiver in their suits? Brand recognition is largely it, and with Steve Jobs heading up Apple in the late 90's to now, their rebranding and reimagining has been a huge success. Look at the recent iPhone 3G release, that was like the release of a Blackberry Pearl 8120 after a year and a half of having the Blackberry Pearl 8100. Or it really should have been and not what everyone blasphamistically referring to it as the Jesus Phone (that's seriously a good one, but what are you going to call the 4G?) Dispite what all the iPod and Apple haters want to say or how much they fight against the norm and accepted social staus quo that is defined by the latest iPod or iPhone, they won't be able to win. History has taught us that there will always be the hottest new thing that defines a generation. This current trend just happens to have lasted a bit longer than expected. Whether or not Apple will survive to be the leader of the next trend depends on how much more innovative they can be. Look at Motorola, they were the first on the market with a widely accepted and popular design for the clam-shell phone we know today. But where are they now? They haven't been able to make too much headway since and have slowly been losing their sales over to others that have been more innovative. Apple needs to be the Madonna and Cher of consumer electronics if they want to stay on top (or keep in the top tier). Why post about Apple again? Well I was able to get my hands on an 8GB iPod Touch at a substantial discount thanks to the mistakes of some drone working at a data entry position at Wal-Mart. If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I don't have a lot of love for the iPod. Simply because of the restrictions Apple places on its use. But I can't say anything bad about its interface. It is still the best, easiest, and cleanest to use for a MP3 player. I will still use my Cowon A3 for videos because I can't be bothered to encode my Divx files for iTunes but in the car and out and about, this new iPod Touch is really something. It's basically a iPhone minus the phone. And with the 2.0 Firmware upgrade (which I didn't pay for and if Apple wants money for this they can shove it) and the new apps store, I could see it replacing my Blackberry one day. I just have to get used to the virtual keyboard, which I slow am. It's still not as great as the blackberry's tactile keyboard but I think it does everything else so well that it doesn't really matter in the long run. The beautiful thing about iPods is also its horrifiic flaw, you simply can't use them longer than 2 years. They either start to fail or functions have changed so much that you want the next best one. That's what Apple designed them to be, and that's what they want you to do. iPods, along with iPhones, are made to be disaposable electronics. Should they be? Environmentally, a resounding no. However all other sectors would call it nothing short of genius. Steve has effectively convinced the world that it needs a new iPod every 1.5 years and that it's totally normal. It's like I'm riding on a rollercoaster to hell and I can't off but oh is it ever fun while it lasts.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Long Dark Good Knight

66+ Million take in just one day domestic. That's to be expected since The Dark Knight's marketing machine was one of the most well planned in recent movie history. I was lucky enough to actually see it this weekend, although my friend and I had to settle for a 11:45am showing on Sunday morning. I prefer to see movies at night however with a high profile film like this, you won't be having a good time sitting 2 inches from your neighbor the whole time. So what I'll write about The Dark Knight is some impressions and general observations on the film. This won't be a full review since this film is so deep and requires a second viewing before I can fully absorb it. But the bottom line, and I'll give it to you now, is that it is a great Batman story. This is truly dark, gloomy, hope in a desolate place, come to life on the big screen. So if you are remotely interested in the Character of Batman (not just his gadgets and cars) or if you are curious about psychological dramas, this is your film. The premise of the film takes place shortly after the first one. The origins of Batman has been established, the character of Bruce Wayne has been explored, and now, the writer and director are looking at how the bridge from Bruce Wayne to Batman is constructed. We know that the Batman from the first film was a little green, not so sure of himself, and was just lacking that something dark we have all been used to. He was spot on for Batman Begins and he was also great for audiences, but he wasn't quite there yet. I believe the director did this intentionally, not because of the hopes of a sequel but because it was necessary for that type of a Batman to be portrayed in a movie titled "Batman Begins". In The Dark Knight, we see with all the heartbreak, sorrow, and hope in how Bruce Wayne fully accepts his chosen path and all the repercussions that comes with it. The hard choices he has to make, the total abandonment of his life for the sole pursuit of justice, this is what it is to be Batman. Producer Bruce Timm of the animated series of Batman and the Justice League understood this and really tried to convey that message in his animated Batman, and in Batman Beyond. Christopher Nolan did a fantastic job and making the audience sympathize with the heartbreak of Bruce Wayne and what it takes to be Batman in a modern day world. This movie is not Iron Man. You don't feel good walking out of it. You don't look to the sky and pretend you can fly. The Dark Knight is the necessary evil and leaves you feeling unsure of society and the choices of mankind. However, this is simply the best representation of a tortured hero that I have ever seen on screen. This isn't teen angst or whining of a superhero with great responsibility. This is a grown man, that chose to not turn a blind eye, motivated by revenge, but realizes that he must become more than a man in order to save the people he values. If you have reservations about movies that makes you think, you should still see this as there's enough explosions and violence to satisfy your testosterone filled man-brain. But if you want to think, be challenged, and be thoughtful about a movie that isn't made by Disney, then go see this. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

And Here We Go Again

A new job has started for me. This is the second day and it's going pretty well so far. There are some surprises but mostly what I was expecting. The biggest change for me has to be the drive into work. As discussed earlier and during the first episode of the podcast, I am driving 40 KM each way. It's a lot to drive but I'm grateful that the car isn't a piece of junk. It's a bit early to tell if I am going to love it here or how long this time will be but I am truly hoping that it will be a while. I'm tired of moving around so much! As for any real updates, E3 is in full swing, and this year looks to be a better organized event than last. Microsoft has come and delivered their press conference with some mixed results. The new dashboard is interesting but my stake in that is really limited to whether it will brick my modded machine (/evil). The additions of 360 avatars is pretty stupid, but if they can make it into a social network similar to Facebook for the 360 then that would be something unique. And the availability of Netflix on the 360 is huge for XBL. I haven't watched the whole conference yet but if this service is available to Canada, I may just end up joining Netflix! At the basic subscription, it's cheaper than getting movie channels for your TV. More to come and look for a new episode of the podcast this weekend (Sunday/Monday) where I'll recap some of the E3 announcements and share my thoughts and opinion on the more important ones. Cheers!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Episode 2: Live from Apple!

Episode 2 is live and up.  Go ahead and download from the right or through iTunes.

iPhone Announced in Canada:
Apple announced that the 3G iPhone will be launched here in Canada on July 11th exclusively to the Rogers network.  Pricing is still TBA but sources have said that the basic prices are going to start at $30 for data + Voice plan and then it will just go up from there.
New Job and the likes:
So I'm starting my new job next Monday, this gives me still 6 days to try and go as high as possible on World of Warcraft.  I'm hoping that this new job will give me some more free time in doing the things that I like.
How to build a Hackintosh:
Here are some links to useful guides on how to build your own OSX86 machine:
This is my parts list for the Mac Pro I built and you can find all these parts one www.ncix.com
 (good for both US and Canadian customers):
  • Intel Pentium Dual Core E2160 Dual Core Processor LGA775 1.8GHZ 800FSB 1MB Retail ($70)
  • Gigabyte GA-945GCM-S2C mATX LGA775 954GC 1PCI-E16 3PCI SATA2 Video Sound LAN Motherboard ($55)
  • Buffalo Select D2U800C-2G/BR 2GB 1X2GB PC2-6400 DDR2-800 CL5 240PIN DIMM Memory ($50)
  • Pioneer DVR-215DBK DVD+RW 20X8X16 DVD-RW 20X6X16 DL 10X SATA Black OEM DVD Writer No S/W ($23)
  • Antec NSK3480 New Solution mATX Mid Tower Case 2X5.25 1X3.5 380W Black Front USB Sound & Firewire ($90)
  • Segate 7200.10 320GB SATA2 HDD ($55)
  • Total Cost: $343 + Tax
That's compared to over $2000 for a legit Mac Pro.  Granted if you have lots of your own parts, you can usually get an old PC to work well as an OSX86 machine.  Surf the www.insanelymac.com forums and you will find all the help you need.  That Atom machine that I linked to above is perfect for a kitchen PC or a Mac Mini replacement.  
Again, please subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or through the GCast module to your right.  Thanks for listening!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I wasn't hacked. But I did end up building a Hackintosh - a PC running OS X. I won't go into too much detail now as I will be discussing the process and impressions during the next podcast (which will be up this weekend). So check those show notes for links to some excellent tutorials on how to do this yourself. So far, I'm enjoying the Mac OS X. It's simple and to the point for almost everything you want to do. However it's not as flexible as Windows but it's also much more stable. The most noticable thing about it is that it shuts down and boots really fast on my Thinkpad (ironic isn't it, IBM Thinkpad running Mac OSX!) That's it for now, remember to check back this weekend for The Ikea Gamer podcast episode 2. Cheers!

Friday, June 20, 2008


PC Gaming is dying.


The latest NPD data according to Tom’s Games is saying otherwise because NPD has updated their results with the MMO sector’s monthly subscription sales.  I believe that there are absolutely still games that are meant to be played on a PC.  Shooters, and RTSes are some of them.  Then there’s the elephant in the room, MMO gaming.


When you hear about MMO, and if you know what that stands for, you immediately think World of Warcraft.  I remember in University X years ago, my group and I did a presentation on Information Technology and used Everquest 1 as an example of what social interactions were becoming.  Who would have thought that there could ever be a network of over 10 million subscribers worldwide in a game! 


Then if you read any of the interviews with the big wigs of publishers and developers of PC games, piracy is the reason you will get for declining sales.  While this is true to some extent and I believe that the majority of PC Gamers are quite capable these days of using BT and cracks.  But what if we took the model of a MMO and combined that with regular games?  Sure there are MMO “private” servers but if you ask WoW players, there aren’t many that would like to play with people that can use hacks and dupes in a game like WoW, which is what private servers are like.  Alternatively, look at the model that Microsoft has followed with their XBL service, and as I have previously touched on, their Gamerscore/tag system.  In general, this is really just an e-penis enlarger for the masses of gamers that care about bragging rights (me temporarily included!)  So here’s the bright idea, create a gaming model where you are required to stay connected to the publishers servers (and this isn’t like the dialling home crap that was tried in Mass Effect) just like an MMO would and you are then able to run assets off of the developer’s servers. 


If this were to be implemented in a game like Starcraft 2 for example, you would install the client on your PC, log into battle.net every time you start the game.  While you are still playing in single player mode (much like Age of Conan’s first 20 levels), you are given the options of seeing a world map that shows rankings, hot spots, progress, achievements, and perhaps even an online store front that could facilitate in downloads of upgrades and other micro-transactional items. 


And here’s how to make it successful, it’s all in the marketing.


If you bill this as a security feature, such as what happened with Mass Effect, it will fail and cause huge rebellion and public outcry.  While if you spin this as an added bonus, free of charge (hint Microsoft!), that enhances the player’s enjoyment of the game, then it will be hailed as ground breaking and revolutionary.  While all of this is great and good, and there will still be those that create private servers and hacks, but if the service you provide on the front end is indeed value added, then I believe consumers will choose to actually use that service instead of circumventing it. 


This is all in my head of course, but I think there’s some merit to this idea.  Battle.net is used as a match making service, but what if Blizzard expands that to something like what Steam has.  Costs of maintaining the servers and bandwidth shouldn’t be any more than the license for Securom or other “innovative” security services.  Maybe the PC Gaming Alliance could even come together to form a standard platform where you can see a PC Gamer Score similar to what XBL has but spans across developers and publishers.  Sure the PC is not a standardized platform, but it’s still a common platform, it’s just open source.  I honestly believe that with some thought and analysis, this could work.


I for one will support it.  Even though I am familiar with piracy, I still pay monthly for my WoW subscription when I can play for free on a private server, but I choose not to as the value of being connected to Blizzard’s servers is just that much better than playing for free.  You are going to get the poor/young students/kids still trying to pirate your games, but they wouldn’t have bought your game to begin with anyway.  It’s the people that CAN buy your games who you want the money from.  That’s where the real purchasing power is at folks.