Friday, September 30, 2005

FEAR multiplayer

After playing through the single player demo of FEAR I was massively impressed, it delivered brilliantly on a few ideas I felt recent big name games fell short on (namely horror, amazing physics and remarkably AI). Now the multiplayer demo is out and it really does look like this will be the must have PC game this Christmas.

The action here is very much in the quake/unreal space, expect lightning quick battles with extremely powerful weapons, a few bullets from any gun is deadly. DM, TDM and CFT modes are all offered in the demo but the basic game play is fairly similar in all of them. You are able to select from about 6 guns to spawn with and as soon as you enter the map expect to be looking for cover, standing in the open will render you dead in seconds. As per usual you will find armor, guns and power-ups scattered thought the map, and health packs are dropped by when a player is killed. That's about all there is to it really, spawn, shot, hopefully kill a few people, die, then repeat.

While it doesn't bring anything new to the table it is the first straight up DM game released on the PC for a while so that's forgivable in my books. Now I have to go play some CTF. Those who are interested can grab the demo here.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

X-box live

There has been a distinct lack of posts recently, primarily due to me finally getting xbox live at the start of the week. I have played online games on the PC since the duke 3D/quake days but this is the first time I have taken a console online and I have to say it was a great experience. In what seems to be becoming a trend in the market the console people (MS in this case) really did take a good idea from the PC and refine it. The whole service really blows away anything I have seen on the PC by allowing you to jump straight into an evenly matched game and build up a buddy list so you can always play with players you get along with.

Possibly the best addition is the headset included in very live starter kit. This makes actual team play (rather than a team of people playing for themselves) a possibility like no PC game I have seen. Sure you get the occasional annoying prick but muting one person is a simple task.

I'd write more but I'd rather be playing some halo.

eDonkey goes down

eDonkey has become the third popular P2P network to close its doors recently following Kazaa and winMX. I still think the RIAA is going about this the wrong way but at the moment they unfortunately look to be making inroads. Sure the big two, in limewire and bittorrent remain untouched, but 3 major networks gone in the space of a few weeks speaks for itself really.

AdTech London 2005

The company I work for has been down at AdTech London the past few days, which made for a nice change from the office and computer screen. Given it was the first AdTech outside the US it went smoothly and it was interesting to see where everybody was going with online advertising. As expected the majority of large exhibitors were in the paid search or affiliate markets but there were a number a newer companies looking to do things a little differently.

The one who really caught my attention was free-hotspot.com. As the name suggests the company is offering free wireless access through their hotspots and then showing localized ads to the users accessing their network. Basically this is exactly what most people expect google is currently working on but they have been beaten to the punch. A quick look at their site shows most hotspots are within cafes, restaurants and hotels but they already have reasonable coverage in both the US and Europe.

I really feel this is the way forward for advertising and internet use in general, as it works perfectly for both the user (who gets free access in a number of locations) and the advertisers (who can target their ads right down to a specific hotspot, removing much of the irrelevant advertising currently seen online).

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Forbes on Microsoft

It seems for the first time in memory Microsoft have a serious challenger to their IT world leader status. In fact it actually looks like the company is falling apart from within with product launches slipping and employees leaving at an alarming rate. All the talk recently have been about Google at the future with MS in the past. To coincide with this Forbes has a somewhat critical look back at where MS came from, where the find themselves at the moment and what they are planning to do in the future. A great read.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Cnet plan google takeover

A Cnet poster has laid out a step by step plan showing how Google could take over the computing world. Covering Google OS, Google broadband and Google systems. The scariest part is that as you read through it it all makes a lot of sense and it actually very possible.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Pegasus

Wow, I just finished watching the final episode of Battlestar Galactica, which is now on a break until early next year. This intense episode is one of the best I have ever seen on TV and left me feeling both defenseless and sick. The core plot line here borrows heavily from the invasion in Iraq and shows what can happen when one dehumanises and hates another race. This is definitely not for the faint of heart but is the perfect example of why this is one of the best shows on TV at the moment.

Invasion

So we are up to number 3 on the alien invasion list, good to see everybody got original with their new series this year. Thus far (in my opinion) we have one very cool series in Threshold and one DOA in Surface. This one manages to fall right in the middle.

With almost painful similarity to Threshold (and Battlestar Galactica for that matter) the aliens in this case seem to taking over human subjects, intending to blend in with normal human society. Clearly not the most original storyline but it definitely allows for good number of twists and turns, as everybody is suspicious of everybody else. Sadly it has been made very clear so thus far which characters have been “replaced”.

Much like Lost last year this pilot left me somewhat overwhelmed, a lot of ground was covered and there is a relativity large cast to introduce. This makes it hard to comment of how it may turn out, it all seemed a little too straight forward and obvious to me but that could be just setting the ground work for a nice twist. At very least I will be watching to find out.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Surface

Well the new sci-fi shows just roll on, this time we are treated to an alien invasion, sea monster style. Unfortunately it isn't really entertaining, this is the first new show that has not managed to interest me at all. The storyline is rather weak and for a pilot episode the pacing was terribly slow, by the end of the episode nothing has really happened which isn't good for the major audience grabbing effort. The characters all seemed fairly generic and not at all interesting and the entire show was completely devoid of any humor.

Don't think I will be picking this up again.

Digital File Check

The IFPI (essentially the international RIAA) have released a new program that will delete P2P applications as well as copyrighted music and video files. I really must question who the target audience is here, why would anybody ever install and run this? The only way this could ever work is if they basically released it as a virus, but that would be blatantly illegal and subsequently the cost the involved companies far too much. While they are safe picking people off in individual cases a mass class action against them would quickly drain their bank accounts.

The only place I can ever see this being used is by parents on their children's systems, which would suck for the people involved but realistically is not going to effect the volume of P2P trading at all.

Apart from gaining some more bad press and resentment from their customers I really don't see what is archived by this.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Google sued for copyright infringement

It seems Goggles questionable policies to copyright and trade marks has finally landed them in hot water as a group representing 8,000 authors is suing them for reproducing their materials without their consent. Google response to these allegations is slightly worrying, they say they were just trying to make the information available to the public and would run links to buy the the books, no doubt taking a commission on each sale. They also pointed out the feature allowing for the removal of any books if requested by the author.

Unfortunately in the real world that not how copyright works, you actually need their consent BEFORE reproducing the material and trying to make money off it. This mirrors Goggles backwards ad words policy where company's often pass themselves off as competitors to take their traffic. Google will stop this, as long as you take the time register your trademark with them.

As much good as google has does for the internet this is one area where they really are in the wrong and clearly just trying to make as much money as possible. I hope this case brings that to light and paves the way for more actions or a policy change from Google.

I do find it a little worrying that this article was running on Yahoo but that another issue for another day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Google Secure Access

Google have begin rolling out their much rumored wi-fi service, the main page at wifi.google.com seems to be up and down at the moment but the FAQs page seems to be staying up. As expected there has been much hype on the web but the FAQ suggests this is not at all a big mainstream product, and defiantly not a free wi-fi connection. Rather this is a way to secure your existing connection, using Googles own secure VPN. That said the potential to expand this service is very obvious and they do even make mention of Google WiFi, making it sound like some wi-fi service will be available at some point.

Not surprisingly GSA is currently in beta and “only available at certain locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.” No mentions yet on when we can expect a full rollout what areas will eventually be covered.

Opera goes free

Long time niche browser Opera has finally decided to go with the rest of the market and offer its product for free, without any advertising. Opera lead the way with many accepted technologies like tabbed browsing long before they became trendy in Firefox or Safari but has always struggled for market share as they targeted the business sector rather than private users. I’m all for increased competition, if nothing else at least other browsers (particularly FF) now have a serious player pushing them to keep their products up to date. You can’t beat free, having not used the browser for years I know I will be giving it a try tonight.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Supernatural

Can you say X-Files The Next Generation, apparently the WB can but decided to go with the far catcher name of Supernatural. This new series follows brothers Sam and Dean (WB regulars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) who have been trained since childhood to fight against Supernatural forces following their mothers, rather spectacular, unnatural death.

To start with what they got right the show is defiantly creepy, sure it was overly dramatic at times but it did leave me feeling like I wanted to keep the lights on for a few minutes after watching it. Unfortunately that about all they really got right in my books, taking a lead from the x-files the series set to focus on one mystery a week and start fresh the next week rather than taking the increasingly popular ongoing story approach. While this is fine (and massively popular with the general public, see CSI, Law and Order etc.) is doesn't really inspire me to mark it down as a must watch, if I miss an episode here or there no big loss, and I'm certainly not hanging out to find out what happens next. That really sums up the show fairly well, it came across as very cookie cutter, same old one dimensional characters, same old storyline, while it wasn't bad there just wasn't that hook to keep we watching.

Also I wonder about longevity here, where is the show going to go in 2-3 years? There is no love interests, there is no powerful underlining storyline of alien invasion or government cover up and even with all the things a great show like the x-files died well before it actually left out screens. Where does that leave Supernatural?

I know I have mentioned the X-files every second sentence here but that really is what this show boiled down to, an enjoyable clone without much new to add. The general premise will keep me interested for a while but unless this takes a dramatically new direction I can't see myself watching this thought to the end of the season.

Mac fans are "Blind Lemmings"

Well at least according to USA today. This is actually fairly true of most fans, and every company has them, but you do have to wonder about the people who rushed to be the first to buy a $50, poorly designed, unergonomic, corded mouse.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Threshold

Follow on from the massive success of Lost last year it seems every network as there own present day, non-episodic, science fiction show. Given the lack of quality sci-fi shows recently I think this is great, but you have to wounder about the quality of these manufactured shows. Suprosingly there have been relativity good reposts about all the shows that have aired so far, particularly Threshold and Supernatural. First up for me was CBS's offering in Threshold and all quality concerns where quickly put to rest.

Threshold follows a team in field leading scientists (called Red Team) as they try to save the human race from what is assumed to be alien invasion. This is far from the most original premise going around but the execution makes it rather interesting. Rather than the aliens simply sending a huge army they have infected a select few, altering their DNA and the theory is that they plan to simply transform all humanity into their their own race without ever actually having to invade. Given the technology to do so it actually seems like a reasonable way to fight a war, as it ensures the safety of your own people while still achieving the desired effect, and at very least gives the show a somewhat original feel.

Headlining the show is Clara Gugino (Karen Sisco, Spin City) as Molly a contingency analyst who is placed in charge of the Red Team when her alien invasion contingency plan, called Threshold, is put into action. The team is made up of microbiologist Nigel, (Brent Spiner, Star Trek: TNG), wiz kid, astronautical engineer Lucas (Robert Patrick Benedict) and the very sarcastic, linguist and mathematician Authur (Peter Dinklage) . Also staring is Charles S. Dutton as J.T. the national security adviser to whom Red Team reports and Brian Van Holt as Cavennaugh a "ghost" in charge of the military team involved in the operation.

Many people have complained about the shows very sarcastic sense of humor. This element very Buffy feel, where characters often joke at totally inappropriate times, with the jokes clearly there for audience entertainment, rather than being natural in the, generally serious or life threatening, situation. Personally I have no issue with this, I'm there to be entertained, I want to laugh, even if it may not appropriate in the situation. This is scripted entertainment after all, not a documentary, you have been warned.

Behind the camera there is a wealth of talent here, Executive Producers include long time Star Trek front man Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer the man behind many issues of JLA and writer of Batman Begins, and the Blade movies.

This is going to be a big year for sci-fi TV and I will definitely be tuning into this over the next few weeks. I can't wait to see where they take this rather novel idea.

Yahoo mail revamp

Well just after Microsoft started showing off their new web mail solution Yahoo is getting in on the act too. While it's still in actual private beta testing (rather than google style beta) but you can check out a review here. Looks like a huge improvement on Gmail, and actually looks a lot like Microsofts offering, really bringing a fully functional e-mail client to web based mail. The only question now is will people abandon their current services like they did to Gmail when it was initially released. Personally I will at least check it out.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Perfect power

As power cables are going to be around for a long time yet, that is how every power board should look. No really, why has it taken up till now for somebody to make this?
Find more details at Think Geek

The Bit torrent search

Last year I was looking to move to a fully functional bit torrent client as I was beginning to use the network more, at the time all the hype was about Azureus, so I quickly picked it up without really looking at the options and was fairly content. As my usage of this program has grown in the last few weeks so has my frustration at just how resource hungry it becomes after running for extended periods. I have begun leaving the client on whenever my system is on, even if it was only to upload, and am finding that it isn't suited to this at all. After some time it basically brings my system to its knees through its horrible memory and CPU use. So it was either restart my computer every few days (which I find annoying) or start looking for a new client. As you may have guessed I took option 2.

Upon beginning this search it didn't take too long to locate BitComet, a relativity new kid on the block which has quickly become a popular choice. When first launching it I could quickly see why, Azureus had a functional layout but this really blows it out of the water, everything you could want is right there. The biggest addition was an inbuilt web browser with links to 30 or so major torrent sites, sure its not hard to find these sites but its still very handy to have them right there whenever you open the client. Comet is also laid out much more like a full, professional application rather than the streamlined, amateur, download manager feel of Azureus, weather this is a plus or not will be a matter of personal taste but I found it handy as it made most tasks simpler. Those who like looking at in depth statistics will appreciate the bottom half of the window being dedicated to countless stats, a nice improvement on the already good Azureus tabbed system.

So it was all looking good until I started a download, which at the end of the day is what this thing is for. So far my download speed has been around the 10k/sec, well below my typical torrent speed and well even below my current upload speed. This of course may just be the files in question, but its not a promising start. My other issue is that no information is shown when I mouse over the comet icon in the task bar, sure its a minor issue but it sucks to keep having to open the program just to check my speeds and progress.

I have still yet to download a torrent containing a number of files, which was handled reasonably in Azureus but not brilliantly, I am looking to test this soon.

Overall i am fairly impressed with BitComet and so long as I can get the download speed addressed it could well become my new client. I do still have some issues though and as such my search will continue, expect updates every few days until I settle on something.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bones

My testing of new TV shows continues this week with Bones. While I'm not really a fan of crime shows I'm more than happy to watch the occasional episode of Law and Order or CSI (well, as long as it's not Miami at least). I decided to try this show out based on David Boreanaz (Angel) staring in it and I must say I was surprisingly entertained.

I went in expecting a fairly weak CSI rip off but was pleased to see a potentially different show that actually looks like it might develop some interesting characters (there's a novel concept). The story revolves around FIB agent Seeley Booth and forensic anthropologist Temperance “Bones” Brennan, think bone collector and you will good idea of what Bones does. These two characters quickly fall into a very Mulder, Scully relationship with Bones being lead by her interpretation of the “evidence” while Booth is more interested in ensuring protocol is followed.

The pilot also introduces the members of Bones' team at Jeffersonian Institution (which is a painfully bad name) suggesting that this is where much of the action will take place. Unfortunately there characters had fairly limited screen time so it's hard to really comment on them yet.

While I was surprised by the quality of this episode Bones could still fall into the classic CSI/L&O mode of just solving a crime each week and never really doing anything with the characters or a larger story. While I find this style watchable, it doesn't interest me enough to be a must watch so I hope they follows though on the promise in this pilot and produce an entertaining, deep series.

Catch up

I had a big work event yesterday and as such missed a couple of stories so here is a quick recap:

- Microsoft finalized the xbox 360 launch dates, which are November 22 in North America, December 2 in Europe and December 10 in Japan. It's a very nice change to see the launch only weeks apart in all territories.
- The Tokyo Game Show has kicked off. This is basically japans version of E3 so expect piles of gaming news over the weekend. Keep up to day with coverage at Gamespot or IGN.

Mail Beta

Well its good-bye to hotmail as MSN is nearing the release of its new online mail platform currently called Mail Beta. It looks very much like outlook in a web browser, which I personally think is great, but know that many will not agree with that. This should make a nice alternative to Gmail particularly if they have decent filtering and folder options which I find vital in a usable mail client but sadly lacking in Gmail. The one thing holding my back would be the famous hotmail spam, some major changes would be needed here and I do hope that change the name, even MSN Mail would be an improvement.

Nintendo Revolution


After months of speculation Nintendo has finally taken the covers off its new revolution console in particular showing off the wildly different control device. As promised the controller is completely original, looking somewhat like a basic remote control with heavily iPod influenced styling.

As was excepted the unit will operate using motion sensors, giving game developers much more freedom when creating new games. Use of the device has been compared to using a mouse in 3D space, adding a whole new dimension to current control systems. This gives developers the freedom to try totally new ideas, or refine established ones. An Example springing to my mind would be driving games where the control is essentially the steering wheel, the player leaning it to each side to control the vehicle, this would allow much more precise, realistic cornering.

Now that this has been handed over to the developers we will have to wait and see what they do with it to find out if this will really be a revolution in gaming. Will we be stuck with abstract games that take weeks to learn? Will games just do the same things as before? Or will they actually take this and make some truly different and original titles? The sad fact is that Nintendo has a habit of pushing the envelope with systems and then receiving no support from developers (outside themselves, with their countless Mario games) so it will be interesting to see if they can sell developers on this.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Google earth taking hits

It seems to be a day for Google news, this time its not so good for the big G. In the wake of the explosion of popularity in Google Earth a number of governments are getting a little uptight about detailed satellite maps being easy available to the public.

While most will laugh this off at first, these governments do actually have some valid points. While most militaries probably have access to this, and better, images do you really want everybody having access to detailed images of nuclear power plants and the surrounding area? It doesn’t take much thought to realise that might not be the best idea. Indeed the US government has already had a number of key locations (such as the Whitehouse) blurred out in the interest of national security, it seems reasonable to extend this courtesy to other nations.

Blog Search

Keeping with the trend of rolling out a new services on a weekly basic Google has launched a new search section called Blog Search. As you may well have guessed this is a filtered/refined version of Google’s main search which only gives results from blog sites. Given the explosion of blogs in the past few years its some what surprising how few decent search tools are available for this content, so this is a very welcome addition. Those who prefer to get their news and opinions from blogs rather than more main stream sites, should find a lot here to interest them.

Sadly for me it seems Google is not a big fan of my blog, with most of my traffic coming from MSN, Yahoo and technorati. Maybe this new section will turn this around.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wipeout Pure: Stealth Edition

Sony has announced the UMD version of the summer flop Stealth will contain a cut-down version of Wipeout Pure. The game will contain 2 levels and 2 vehicles from the best selling PSP title as well as a new Stealth based track and the Stealth plane, all of this will be playable in both single player and multi player mode with up to 4 friends. While I don’t think it will work in this case thanks to the poor quality of the movie this is a great idea from Sony really adding some value to UMD movies.

Given their pricing is comparable to DVDs, but they can only be played on a PSP and don’t have any extra features current UMD movies are a hard sell and are struggling to find a large market. Add in some reasonable game content, particularly if its actually tailored to the individual movie and suddenly there is a good reason to look at the UMD over the DVD version. I hope this is not just a one off to try and sell a bad movie but rather becomes somewhat standard on all UMD movies.

Unfortunately Sony has placed the RRP of this title at about US$10 higher than a standard UMD movie, so it looks like, initially at least, users will be paying for the extra content.

Hot Coffee Fallout

We all knew it was going to happen and now the ESRB has put out a call to all publishers to resubmit games containing hidden content, released in the the past year. Publishers have until early next year to conform and anybody who fails to do so may face fines. This of course comes after the GTA: SA Hot Coffee incident when the game was reveled to have a sex based hidden game. This action was fairly expected and really this content should have been reviewed in the first place It was put in the game for people to find, simple at that, as such it should be judged along with the rest of the content. If you don't want people to play it you simply don't put that content on the game disc.

Far more ominous is the following:
“ESRB remains concerned about third party modifications that undermine the accuracy of the original rating, and we are exploring ways to maintain the credibility of the rating system with consumers in light of modifications of this nature.”

It would seem that while mods are safe for the time being it won't be long before some sort of regulation is introduced. Exactly what form this will take is difficult to say but any moderation would break down the very free-form, independent nature of the modding scene as it stands. Given how influential the modding scene become, creating game modes like capture the flag, team fortress, counter strike and day of defeat, this would be a step backwards for innovation in games.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Apple time

Time has a great article on the development of the Apple Nano. While it focuses on the Nano product it actually covers the entire philosophy at Apple, highlighting some of the reasons they have their cult following. This makes for an interesting read for those who like taking a look at the business and people behind your favorite gadgets and systems.

More web buyups

Well over the last week News Corp picked the IGN network up for $650m and eBay grabbed Skype for a rather tasty $2.6bn. You really do have to wonder about these prices, I do understand that both companies have established business models but realistically I’m going to be surprised if either company makes money out these deals. It reminds me of the sort of prices that were going around in the late 90’s.

eBay might come out ok if skype manages to become a viable replacement to standard telephony and nobody else offers the service at a more competitive price. One has to worry about how an auction site (who’s only other major business is paypal) actually intents to make good on a phone company, especially given that have to go up against the three web giants in Yahoo, Google and Microsoft.

IGN on the other hand really is verging on the insane, this works out at something like $9 per unique visitor to the network. Most people running news/informational websites would be happy making $0.20 a visitor, and that’s before taking into account any overheads such as bandwidth or employing writers. Not to mention the massive conflict of interest in the company that owns FOX now also owning rotten tomato, gamespy and IGN itself, all of which review and comment on FOX products. The integrity and unbiased quality of these sites really is one of their main selling points, one has to wonder for happy fox will be when it’s next summer blockbuster, worth $100m+ to the company, is sitting in the rotten section on rotten tomato.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Windows Vista versions

WindowsITPro has a in depth article explaining what is expected be included in each of the 7 different version of Windows Vista and what market they are aimed at. It looks like Microsoft got their versioning right this time and there are clear pros, cons, and target users to each version, as opposed to XP where 95% of users are on either standard home or standard pro.

The biggest changes are the pro packages looking like they will stay in the workplace this time, offering little that would be of interest to most home users. As well as the addition of the Ultimate pack with looks to replace pro as the top of the line home system. Bonus features here include, free movie and music downloads via a special ultimate-only online club and game performance tweaker on top of everything in the standard home and pro editions. Unfortunately given there will be two other mainstream packages expect the Vista Ultimate to set you back big money and only be included with the most expensive pre-built systems.

X360 video walk through

Game Trailers sit down with a few members of the xbox live team and get a good look at how the console and controller will work. This is one well designed unit, addressing a number of accepted console flaws. The simplest and most refreshing is the ability to remotely power up the unit, this really is twenty year old tech and makes you wounder why you need to press a button on any other console to turn it on or off. The other classic example is built in support for both wireless networking and controllers, this, again, is really the accepted standard these days and its great to see it being included.

The actual design of the unit and controller look remarkably striking, and should look great in almost any house. This unit really does have a chance of going all the way with the PS3 come 2006.

The video runs about 5 minutes and you can have a watch it here

More Sin

Following up the recent (very bare bones) DVD release of the Sin City movie comes word of a packed expanded release. How does this sound? 2 DVDs, The original movie, the extended edition, with 25 minutes of extra footage, 3 commentary tracks, a missive number of behind the scene segments and to top it off the full graphic novel the movie was based on (which is a great read). Now that is a must have DVD, which sucks for those who already picked up the standard release. More proof that you should never buy original release DVDs, there is always something else around the corner.
Full details as will as images over at DVDAnswers

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Game Trailers

The trailer for GTA: Liberty Stories (PSP) has been release and it looks like you can expect more of the same GTA action, story and characters in this latest installment. Unfortunatly very little gameplay is on display here.

There is also a leaked trailer of the new Sonic game on the 360 doing the rounds. This is supposedly rendered in real time thought the video looks like a cut scene rather than somebody playing so it's hard to determine how it will actually play.

Random weekend reading

Looking for something different to do on your PSP? (not really work safe).
Microsoft patient double click thats just plain stupid.
Million dollar homepage one of the best marketing ideas I have seen in some time.
Pro gamers go on tour and the "mainstream press" actually picks up the story.
Dolby to unveils lated home theater sound tech, TrueHD

Stop raining!

I had a nice sporting weekend lined up with both the final ashes test and the F1 Gran Prix in Belgium, but it seems the weather is conspiring against me, with both events being disrupted by rain today and the forecasts not looking good for tomorrow. Both my teams in Australia and Williams have been struggling in recent times so I was hoping for a nice turn around it form, but that seems unlikely given the current weather. Than again a wet race in Belgium (so long as it goes ahead, can you say indy?) on Sunday should at be somewhat unpredictable.

Lumines

So I have had my PSP a week now and I have to say everybody with one should be picking up Lumines. I have about 4 games on my xbox I am waiting to play through and yet every night for the past week both my girlfriends and I have spend literally hours taking turns at this game. Totally addictive, really sums it up.


Each different actually requires different styles of play greatly adding to the entertainment. As the prefect example she flogs me every time in the 3, 5 and 10 minute games while I win in the longer challenge and single skin modes, as well as (very oddly) the 1 minute dash. Even after this much play we find we are still clearly improving each day, which high score consistently being broken, which really is the sign of a deep, skillful puzzler. Many have called this the new tetris and I am inclined to agree, pure handheld entertainment.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Age Of Empires 3

The demo for the latest installment in the epic RTS series have been released and fan will find a lot of like here. The first change most will notice is the graphics, which have had a major overhaul and look superb, particularly the water and fire effects. You will quickly also note the addition of experience points and a home city, basically as you achieve goals in the game (collect resources, build structures, kill enemies) you gain experience, upon gaining enough experience you level up allowing the selection a bonus from the home city. Bonus' available vary depending on the current age but generally they take the form of free units, structures or resources.

The other main addition is trade routes, which can be captured to gain additional resources and experience. Indian towns work in much the same way and, one captured, allow for the creation new units. Apart from these addition the gameplay is much the same as previous games in the series. You collect resources in the same ways, move through the ages and wage, generally very protracted, wars. Those (like myself) who find the length of each mission frustrating will find little joy here, you can still expect a good mulitplayer/skirmish game to consume the best part of 5 hours.

Those interested can grab the 366MB demo here.

Marketing 101


Want to ruin the relaunch of the Walkman line up? Announce it the same day as a new iPod line is announced. Well done Sony marketing. Sony are indeed bring back the Walkman in mp3 player form, and it looks damn amazing. The most striking feature is the screen which actually blends in with the rest of the unit, try and pick where the screen ends and the unit begins, very impressive. Unfortunately a terrible pricing scheme (the 6GB model is only $40 cheaper than the 20GB and far more expensive than the new iPods), will leave this hard pressed to find a market.

Apple clearly controls the mp3 player market and the moment ans its going to take an amazing device, at the perfect price to knock it off. Unfortunately for Sony this doesn't look to be the one, but that is still an amazing screen.

iTunes 5

So iTunes 5, well the new interface looks nice although it not a major update. The search feature is very handy especially for those people with 1000's of sounds and .... ummm... yeah the search is good.

iTunes 5

Announcement number three from Apple yesterday was the release of iTunes 5. I would like to make some comments on the product but the apple website was down for some time (or the downloads were down at least). This issue has been resolved now and I will update with my thoughts later today.

Motorola ROKR

Announcement number two from apple today is the long awaited iTunes phone. Developed by Motorola the phone will be called ROKR (or motoROKR). This basically looks like the current E1000 with iTunes built in rather than Motos own media player. The phone will store up to 100 songs and sync with a PC or Mac via USB2 much the same was as the iPod line up.

Apart from the iTunes software this really does look like a stock standard moto phone and unfortunately there is a good reason they aren't the market leader. I can't see the iTunes functionality being that huge a feature, virtually every phone now ships with usable mp3 playback and with a 100 song limit this can't compete with even the smallest dedicated player. The phone should be available in the US and UK by the end of the most and virtually every market in the world by the end of the year.

Ipod Nano

So today was the day for Apples must hyped announcement right? The one that was meant to compare with the original iPod, so what did the masters of design have up their sleeve? Well there were actually 3 different announcements but lets kick off with the new iPod Nano. Coming with 2 and 4 GB of flash memory, and a color screen this pencil thin device looks like a a damn stylish piece of kit.

The nano will replace the most popular iPod line, the mini, so clearly this is the sweet spot in the market price and size wise and as an upgrade to the aging mini this looks great. As with the mini the 4GB limit will put many off, while I don't use my full 20GB, I do use more than 4 and the simplicity of not having to worry about grabbing the right songs each time I sync will keep me using the bigger players. This should be hitting stores by the end of the week at the 2GB model will be priced at $199/£139.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

3 drops the walls

Its looks like 3 UK will finally give users real access to the internet via their mobile phones. At the moment 3 limits users to there own portal, which is less than perfect for those wanting more than just short videos and ring tones. Over the next few weeks they look set to allow users to access a number of independent, mobile phone optimized, sites, hopefully allowing for more in the way of news and views.

I have been on 3 for about 6 months now and this would defiantly see me using my phone more. Given their focus on the high speed, high data rate 3G phones this really seems like a very logical much, which has been a long time coming. While their current portal is reasonable for those looking for downloadable content it has virtually nothing in the way of the up-to-date news I tend to use the net for. Now I am just waiting for the £20 a meg charge… I love 3.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thats a big laptop!

Now this is just plain cool. Samsung is set to release a laptop with a huge 19 inch detachable monitor. While in us it looks like a normal desktop set up but at the end of the day you fold it up and carry it home, thought at 19-inch thats going to be one huge carry case.

The product will be officially unveiled this week, hopefully with pricing details and a release date. Unfortunately for those living state site Samsung don't sell their products there due to an agreement with Dell.

Inside a Google Mini

Anandtech take a look at a google mini, a search server available from google. Up until about halfway through I though this was a joke, the packaging system look rather amateurish but this is indeed a real product. Makes for an interesting read for those working in the web development area, or for those who just like keeping tabs on every move google makes.

Google Mini uncovered

Anandtech take a look at a google mini, a search server available from google. Up until about halfway through I though this was a joke, the packaging system look rather amateurish but this is indeed a real product. Makes for an interesting read for those working in the web development area, or for those who just like keeping tabs on every move google makes.

PSP Vs DS

This page has a week by week comparison of PSP and DS sales in Japan since the launch of each platform. Overall the DS is about 1.3 million units up, thanks mostly to a far bigger launch, moving a million more units than the PSP in December last year. This year the race is some what closer with the DS just 300,000 sales ahead. One of the more interesting weeks is April 24, when Nintendogs was released and quadrupled DS sales, since then the PSP has not won a single week. It just goes to show that in Japan at least people are more interested in the gaming experience than flashy graphics and media capabilities.

I would be most interested to see stats for the bigger US and EU markets as I feel these would paint a very different picture with most abandoning the more “childish” Nintendo system.

Red Vs Blue new episodes

To follow up from last week, the first 2 episodes of the new season of Red Vs Blue are now available and this is some of the funniest stuff yet. Not much in the way of gaming commentary, just pure comedy, taking full advantage of the now well established characters.

Those who have never watched the show before will have no idea at all what is going on. If thats you I would suggest heading over to the archives which rotate through episodes from the previous seasons allowing you to get up to speed on this great series.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Some Vista requirements

Some rough system requirements for Windows Vista were split my a Microsoft employee today. Here we go:
- 128MB video card, 256MB for best performance.
- 512MB ram for 32-bit operating, 1GB for 64-bit. Double this and make it DDR3 for best performance.
- SATA-2 hard drive for best performance.
- Dual-core processor for best performance.

These specs are amazingly high even in terms of current gaming systems, I really can't see windows shipping next year with requirements like this.

That said, there will be 3 different levels of graphical quality, the lowest of which apparently looks a lot like XP, while these specs would refer to the highest level. One must think though if your going to make Vista look like XP why would you bother upgrading, aside from the graphics there seem to be very few major additions.

Source : Daniweb

Superman Returns Teaser

Title say it all really, only a short trailer so its imposable to make a serious judgment but still check it out.

Rome

A new TV season is kicking off in the US which for me means watching a bunch of new shows to see if anything is worth adding to the 5 or so shows I catch each week. First off was Rome, which I watched this evening. This show is set around 50 BC and chronicles the rise of Jules Cesar to power in the Roman empire.

The overall premise was good here, I can't think of any other shows set in the same time period so it gets a few points for at least doing something different in a TV world filled by clones. The political wrangling, which make up the main storyline, also turned out to be rather interesting.

As with anything there are a few negatives, primarily, this is clearly a cable show and takes full advantage of it, the violence is far over the top, do I really need to actually see people being nailed to crosses? The sex/nudity was just as over the top, it seemed every female character had a full frontal nude scene and there were some fairly graphic sex too. This in particular made my girlfriends mind up on the show and I can only guess many other women are put off by this. Sure it's nothing you haven't seen before but unless it really adds to the story is it needed? My other issue is the massive cast of characters, I spent half the episode trying to work out who was who. That said this does set a good foundation for many different stories and directions later in the series, so is not really a huge downside.

On the basis of the strong storyline I will be sticking with it for at least a few weeks, so long as that is maintained this should at least prove interesting.

Court Rules against Kazaa

An Australian court has ruled in favor of the record companies in their case against Kazaa, forcing changes to be made to their program preventing the trading of copy write material. Kazza has 3 months to comply. Realistically This leaves Kazaa with three options, close the network, move the company outside of Australia or rework the network to focus on legal files and remarket themselves.

For file sharing at large this will have little impact. Kazaa is only a small player now and most have moved on to networks/services like eDonkey and BitTorrent. Those still using Kazaa will simply move to one of these newer services.

This really is the problem the record companies face, as much as they spend time and money suing users and networks there will always be a new network to move to and 100,000's of people not wanting to pay for certain content, but being more than happy to use when it is available for free.

I still feel that until a good subscription based service is made available, with DRM free files, people will continue to obtain their digital media from the only viable option, free illegal P2P networks.

Real working Mech

Just like something out of the movies a Japanese company has made a real mech (ie huge robot with a human pilot). You really have to check out these images and video

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Finally wireless

Along with the PSP yesterday I finally got a wireless router. I have been meaning to get one for ages but the wireless functionality of the PSP finally pushed me over the edge. Surprisingly, given I have an AOL connection (yeah I know), everything was relatively painless to set up and my little PSP was on the web in no time. I also discovered I could have been picking up free internet for some time now... wish I had checked before.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

OK, I have no will power

Well after saying I wasn't going to get one a few days back I picked up a PSP today (well actually my girlfriend got it for me for our anniversary). I'm hugely glad she did. This is one amazing little device, the screen really does have to be seen to be believed, it's just breathtaking. The inbuilt wireless really should be way of the future, I just wish sony had an xbox live type service to take full advantage of it. I just applied the 2.0 patch and while surfing the net isn't perfect is relatively painless and definitely useful for checking out the latest news and such.

The games are light years ahead of what I would typically expect from a handheld, I know my GBA is going to struggle to get used over the coming months. I picked up Lumines and already feel its the perfect example of a handheld game, massively addictive but very easy to enjoy in short doses. I'd like to write more but I have a high score to defend.

Blu Ray fights "hackers"

It seems blu ray players will be internet connected and will report hacks (such as removing region coding limitations) to a central station which is tern can shut the player down. This seems a rather extreme measure and really fairs to counter the issue as anybody with any knowledge would simple disable the internet connection when preforming/using any hacks.

Friday, September 02, 2005

RIAA make another $6000

A bit of an interesting read about the RIAA and their tactics regarding suing illegal downloaders can be found here. I'm actually surprised Yahoo published such a blatantly one sided story but it does raise some interesting points about people being forced to settle because a legal case with rich record labels is simply financial impossible for most individuals.

Freeze Dry

Microsoft has announced a new feature in Windows Vista, Freeze Dry. The idea here is to maintain applications and unsaved documents when a system is patched or rebooted.

While this isn't huge news for home systems, where a reboot is only a minor inconvenience, it will be hugely useful in office settings where systems are often left on overnight with unsaved work. This should give system admins the power to consistently update and patch systems without frustrating users.

I know for me this will be great as I have a tendency of simply leaving IM conversations and browser windows open expecting to pick up work with them the next morning, meaning my computer could be on for weeks without a reboot. As a result my work system is probably not as up to date as it should be, but I would be somewhat annoyed to come into work and find it rebooted each morning.

As much as some may say its too little it late I feel it's very positive to see Microsoft finally taking security and patching so seriously, with many ongoing efforts to curb illegal activity and make maintaining a clean, patched, secure system easier.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Gametracker

Gametracker is a very cool UK site which collects prices from about 30 online stores and tracks the cheapest prices available. This is a fairly common service in the US but this is the only UK site doing this (as far as I know). As part of the pricetracker network they not only track game pricing but also books, DVDs, music and gadgets (MP3 players).

My actual point here is that they have released a great new site to coincide with the PSP release making finding the best price around even easier.

That whole thing sounded far more like an ad than I intended it too, anyway its a good service, well worth checking out.

20Mb plus broadband this month

Three UK ISPs (Bulldog, Be and UK Online) have each announced they will have ADSL2 offerings available to the public (in London at least) by the end of the month. Speeds on each service range from 20 to 24 meg and pricing is an extraordinary £20-£30 per month, which makes their offering 10 to 20 times faster than most ADSL at roughly the same price.
One interesting thing to watch will be download limits, as connections this fast allow for huge amounts of bandwidth usage in applications such as streaming video. Anything less than 10 GB a month will probably not suffice for people looking to take advantage of this amazing speed and anything up to 50 GB a month is easily viable without really pushing the connection. Sadly I am stuck on 1Mb for another 6 months due to a 12 month contract but its nice to see these speeds available to the mainstream.

$1000 gaming rig

FiringSquad have posted an article covering building a budget gaming system with just $1000 to spend. They actually manage to build a surprisingly high powered A64 3500+, 1 GB Ram, 300GB HD system topped off by a 7800 GT graphics card and an SLI motherboard just waiting for a second graphics card in a later upgrade. While they only build the actual system (so there is no monitor, keyboard or mouse) its is an impressive set-up by anybody’s standards and will fly though any game currently available. Well worth reading for those looking for a new system or considering an upgrade.

PSP Launch

Finally the PSP is now avaliable in the UK (as well the rest of Europe, the middle east and Australia/NZ). I didn't go for the mad midnight rush myself as the software line-up looked fairly weak and there is still no must have games on the platform. Hopefully over the christmas rush this will change and I will pick one up, but for now I am happy with my GBA for any portable gaming needs.