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Friday
Jun102011

The End of Two Eras

It is June 10, 2011 as I write this. We have already been warned that the apocolypse would come (it didn't, turns out it was just late). We still have those pesky Mayan 2012 rumors to contend with as well. The 2 Era's I refer to are the end of 2 very long journey's completing their story this year. 

Duke Nukem Forever has finally arrived.

Harry Potter is coming to an end theatrically. 

The Duke

Unless you are interested in the video gaming world, you will probably have no clue who or what Duke Nukem is (in that case, you probably blundered onto my blog by mistake!). But those Pentium Computer users back in the 90's certainly know the Duke, his quips, cigar and lack of bubblegum. Though Duke had 2 self titled games in the early 90's, it was Duke Nukem 3D that most gamers will remember. Mutliple versions and off-shoots were based on this iteration. 

In 1997, 3D Realms announced the sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, entitled Duke Nukem Forever (DNF). That years E3 Expo the game made headlines, the following year showed off game assets and promotional material. Called Vaporware, DNF was caugt in "development hell". The entire studio was terminated in 2009, Take-Two Interactive bought the publishing rights with a hefty advance to finish the game, 3D Realms could not complete the game. The DNF rights were sold to Gearbox Software, who eventually finished the game and released on June 7th 2011, with possibly the longest development cycle (14 years) of any entertainment software to actually be released. To give you some persepctive, Nintendo 64, Playstation 1, the Sega Dreamcast and Saturn were the active gaming consoles at the time.

Early reviews have not been good, but the off and on again dance with the Big Duke has been an industry insider joke. To finally say it is out must fulfill some quasi-universe-altering event we ahve not yet to perceive.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

What do you say to a generation of fans who have grown up with a scruffy-scarred-infamous, now grown up, scruffy-scarred-infamous wizard? More books, please, Ms. Rowling! This year will bring the 7 year journey of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley to an end. The film series began 10 years ago in 2001 with the Sorcerer's Stone has been one of the most successful movie franchises in modern history. The second part of the last book in the series comes to a close on July 15, 2011. It promises to not disappoint all the eager fans waiting to know who will finally win between Voldemort and Harry and what happens to all the characters we come to know and love (if you've read the book, you know how exciting this last movie will be).    

Tossing the word phenomenom has been a Hollywood marketing ploy for a while now, but very few movies actually meet this term. The Potter franchise defines it. For a franchise to keep the same actors (Richard Harris unfortunately passed away after the second movie, causing the franchise to re-cast one of its pillar characters) around for its entire run is a feat in-of-itself, but to also set the same or higher bar for each successive sequel has been nothing short of record breaking. In fact, the Potter film franchise has made over 6 billion dollars, not counting the record breaking book sales and merchandising sales. 

As some of my nieces and nephews have stated, after this movie, what's next? There are no new Potter stories (Though rumor abounds of a possible Rowling revisit) to read or watch. This film franchise reminds me of the Star Wars Trilogy, with HP7, pt2 specifically relating to the Return of the Jedi. I remember knowing this would be the last movie and that it would answer so many questions raised in the first two movies. The feeling of anticipation was too great for a 10 year old kid to handle. As a fan of Harry Potter today, that same nervous anticipation exists for this movie. A feeling of nestalgia, giddiness and sadness all wrapped up together and bouncing about in my gut. It is a great feeling. And though I look forward to many more movies that defined my childhood (The Hobbit), I am happy to have found a story and movie not deeply woven when I was an impressionable kid, but that was refreshingly great as an adult.

10 years. A Decade. Many things can happen in that space of time.

It only happens on a few occassions, but to have such a constant reminder of ones youth, in some cases to define ones youth, and for both of these events to happen in the same year, roughly the same period, is nothing shy of something special. Childhoods end and people move on. That's a fact of life. 

Sadly, this year, we all grow up a little.   

 

Wednesday
Mar022011

Apple is Cocaine 

So, the post you see below where I derided the iPad 2 as a small incremental upgrade that I would most likely dismiss until the undoubtedly bigger update comes in iPad3- I was kidding myself. Apple seems to feed certain endorphins in my body that make me yearn for their products.

It's not all kittens and apple pie. I was able to turn my nose up to the new MacBook Pro's they updated last week. But their isn't much Kryptonite in Apple's arsenal, unless you don't own and use Apple products- then what I say may seem a bit like Charlie Sheen at the moment.

So what am I saying...

I am getting the iPad 2.

Find the features here and specs here.

Suck it Apple - you got my number.

 

l8r - h8r

Monday
Feb282011

One Big Post to Rule Them All

New MacBook Pro's

So, last week Apple refreshed their MacBook Pro Lines. I was underwhelmed with the refresh. Leading up to the announcement, many rumors abounded on what exactly Apple was going to release. I myself was hoping for some radical changes in line with the new MacBook Airs as far as the body was concerned, removing the DVD drive and using a SSD/optical drive combo.

Alas, this was an internal update only. New Sandybridge Mobile Processors, AMD graphics chips are back in the mix and Thunderbolt- Intel's new Light Peak USB-like interface (This thing has real potential). Right now, benchmarks are pretty high for the new Pro's. I will wait until next year to see if Apple redesigns the body. Maybe then I will take the plunge.

iPad 2

Wednesday (March 2nd, 2011) Apple is set to show off the iPad 2. Rumors about this sucker have been all over the place. Here is what I think will actually be in there:

  • Thinner Design (not a crazy redesign)
  • Bigger Speaker
  • Camera (front and back)
  • Slightly better screen, more for viewing angles and sunlight. NO pixel/retina display upgrade.
  • Faster Processor/ more Ram

So, that is what I am guessing for the iPad 2. All safe bets, but that is how Apple rolls with these refreshes. Drastic redesigns usually happen every 2 years, which makes sense form a manufacturing perspective.

Apple may also wow us with Free Mobile Me as well as IOS 4.3. There could be some software enhancements they could talk about, but nothing more. With that being said, I think I may bag an upgrade to iPad 2 and wait it out for iPad 3 next year which should have the inevitable retina display and perhaps a major body redesign as well as being much lighter. Like the Pro, there doesn't seem to be enough for me to upgrade,

however...

XOOM and Honeycomb (is it sweet enough to make me bite?)

I am digging the Motorola Xoom, or at least Google's Android Honeycomb Tablet OS. I am really digging what I have seen so far. I want to get my hands on this Xoom to play around with it. Reviewers tend to like what Google has done here, but the ending to all of these reviews are the same: not enough Apps yet. You know what? That is a great position for Google to be in. With fairly good reviews, developers may start taking the Google Tablet seriously and building up that App store. There are just a few essential apps that need to be there for folks to feel like they have worthwhile apps to download. After that, all is gravy. Right now, Apple has that market, but Google has the best chance to match it.

So, I am not sure I will get one of these right now, but I do think a next generation Google Tablet will be the thing that can compete with Cupertino's juggernaut and just make me switch.

I am also interested in HP's Web OS, but I like to see it in action some more. IT seems sluggish right now, a complaint on Palm Web OS phones. But that OS is also compelling, but not sure if it will have the legs like Honeycomb. I have no feelings for Rim's Playbook. I could be an ass in disregarding it, but they need to prove the most in this race. Only time will tell.

Back To the Future The Game (iPad Review)

So, I bought Telltale Games' Back to the Future adventure game for the iPad. I enjoy point and click adventure games (I had an IBM PCjr with King's Quest way back in the 80's). Telltale has been crafting great adventure games in episodic format, very much like a TV show with Seasons and monthly episodes. It seems to be working for them, as they have just annoucned a slew of new games they are developing as well as a few stables they already have. Spy the list below for a few of their hits and upcoming titles:

So, back to Marty McFly. The iPad, in my opinion, is the best way to play point and click adventure games. The very nature of these types of games, hunting the screen for objects and then using them or combining them to use them, within the game, fits perfectly with the point and tap interface of the iPad. Of course, these games are available for PC/Mac as well, I like the portability of the iPad when playing these games. Telltale, in the past, has released a few games on Apple's device, but sadly only have released the first episode of a particular series. Starting in 2011, Telltale promises this will change as the full season of Tales of Monkey Island will be released as well as the Back to the Future game. I would assume others will follow.

Back to the Future the Game takes place seven months after the last movie. Doc Brown (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) is gone and Marty is trying to cope without his friend and time travel. Soon after, the time traveling DeLorean shows up and whisks Marty back to the 1920's to find his friend. You meet some new characters and interact with old ones. Edna Strickland is a pisser.

The puzzles in the game are not terribly difficult. The in game help system will get anyone over any humps they find themselves in. They usually involve finding items, sometimes combining them, and then using them on characters or the environment. Again, not too hard, though some puzzles will make you think.

The first episode is is fairly short, around 4 hours of game play if you play around in the game world and listen to all the character's lines. This is typically where Telltale shines and for BTF, it is no different. This game feels like a BTF movie, the same humor and frenetic pace of the original films (AJ LoCascio does a great job with Marty McFly's voice). The game engine is gorgeous, the character modeling top notch in this neo-cartoon world. The production values are spot on with this game. Music plays a big part in getting you immersed in the world and again Telltale does an admirable job here in putting together the soundtrack. They even licensed Huey Lewis and the News' hit for the game.

All in all, if you like Adventure games or Back to the Future this is a must get. For $6.99 at the app store, you couldn't do any worse. Many app store game detractors will balk at this price, but it is the first part of a 5 part series. Purchasing the whole series will cost you $34.95, a perfectly reasonable cost for a 20 hour game. The game is avaible from Telltale's site and Steam as well. PS3 and Xbox 360 coming soon. 

This first episode leaves you with a cliff hanger and I must say, I can't wait to go back in time.

l8r

 

Wednesday
May052010

iLove the iPad

So this past Friday, I received my order for Apple's 3G/WiFi iPad. I have played with it over the weekend, and though I haven't learned all the ins and outs of it, I can attest to loving the device. Why? you might ask. Read on and I will tell you why the iPad makes me giggle like a kid and marvel at the future of personal computing.

I Was A Star Wars Child

I grew up in the 70's and 80's at the height of Science Fiction in movies. Though Star Trek, Doctor Who and the Twilight Zone were the trail-blazers, it wasn't until the 1970's that Science Fiction hit the main stream. The movie that had the biggest influence is arguably Star Wars. It set the stage for science fiction relevancy. Movies, TV, Books, Comics and Art were either inundated with renewed fervor or brought attention to established sci-fi works.

The iPad takes me back to those childhood days when I dreamed of jumping into a star-fighter and rocketing my way to other worlds. Cool devices like laser guns, rocket packs, computing devices you could carry around, awesome polyester clothing that looked way cooler than anything Sears was selling. It was all in my imagination. Now, Apple has given us 2 devices that have come the closest to realizing those dreams, the iPhone and iPad.

This is the stuff Science Fiction dreamed of- talented artist and authors drew, imagined and wrote about. Powerful devices that gave you instant access to information, connected you to others and entertained you at the same time, all in a device that you carried with you. Wrapping my hands around the iPad for the first time and using the device shot me back in time to an 8 year old kid staring out at the sky, a myriad of doodads tacked onto my belt and clothing, ready to take on the Empire. I felt like Spock with his Tricorder. I felt like I was Buck Rogers. The future I dreamed of was resting in my hands.

iPad - it's personal now

To say the iPad is just an enlarged iPhone is very disingenuous. Though the look is very similar, the fact that it is roughly 4 times as big, does make a difference. It transforms into a device that is instantly more personal. The term PC means Personal Computer. At the time is was coined, computers were large Main Frame machines powering corporate and academic institutions. Desktop computers were devices that could sit on your desk and be used for a specific set of programs or instructions. Personal Computers or PC's were born. They have gotten bigger and then smaller as time passed. The iPad is the first device that is truly a personal computer.

Its very essence- the way you interact with it, by touching it, connects you to the device in an emotional capacity, more so than I even thought. Humans are tactile creatures, we connect through touch. This simple tactile difference is what makes the iPad the most personal computing device created thus far. With all of its capabilities (I will not argue its short comings, nothing is perfect- you can check my thoughts on the iPhone OS in my previous iPad post here), the iPad invites you, through touch, to interact with it, truly interface in the most human and intimate way, with your fingers. It is, at the same time, subconsciously tapping into an emotional attachment that I have never experienced with a consumer electronic device or any object except a book, funnily, another thing you interact with through touch.

Conclusion

SO is the iPad the best computing device out there? The short answer is NO. It is however, the most personal one and I am glad I purchased it. For me, it fits in my life quite nicely, a sort of trapper keeper for all my digital stuff: books, movies, TV, music, comics, newspapers, internet, games, notepads, word processor, and online shopping, all in an easy to carry device.

Tuesday
Mar232010

Add a little Fluid to your Mac

Hey Mac Heads- just stumbled on a new Mac app that I think is really cool. It's called Fluid and is basically a way to make a web application into a desktop application. The tech they use is Webkit to create a Site Specific Browser (SSB). It is really simple to use and very practical. An app that fits this concept very well is GMAIL. With Fluid, you can create a desktop client for GMAIL so you are able to launch it without a browser. You have a good amount of customization and tweaking you can apply, even selecting the icon for your new desktop app. Coupled with Growl, you can have a desktop GMAIL experience without sacrificing everything you love about the web interface. 

This is how Fluid GMAIL looks like with some slight tweaking:

Another great feature of Fluid is the ability to take your SSB apps and load them as Menu Extras. This is useful for apps like Pandora and Twitter. When you do this, the app can be selected from the Mac Menu bar. Fluid also gives you the ability to choose what browser engine to render the SSB app with. What that means is you can choose Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera or iPhone versions of web pages. If the web application supports a mobile version of its site like Twitter or Facebook, you can choose for the Fluid app to run in that mode. I have done this with my Fluid Twitter application and embedded it in my menu and it works great! Pandora is a natural to run from the menu as well- listen to music without worrying about managing the app in your browser.  

Twitter and Pandora as a Menu Extra:

 

Pandora in Action: 

Twitter in Action: 

I currently have Fluid apps for GMAIL, Facebook, Netflix, Pandora, Twitter and YouTube. I have a few work web apps I converted as well. I actually posted this blog entry with a SquareSpace Fluid app and it works like a charm. I highly recommend you trying it out and adding it into your productivity lifestyle, I don't think you will be disappointed.  

L8r