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.