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Friday, August 24, 2007

The final count down

As of today, I have a week left at 5DT. I'm really excited, but at the same time I'm pretty damned apprehensive as well.. there's always so much more stuff to finish up than time to do it in!

They're here!

Natz went off to the coast last week with her folks so that I could get some overtime in and not feel guilty about it, and she brought back an awesome present, DVDs of the great 80's monster comedy/horrors Gremlins and Gremlins 2. These two pull of cheeze like only an 80s flick can and have always been two of my favorite movies-right up there with Aliens and T2. I recently tried to find the two in a box set, but they are all a bit overpriced (before taking shipping into account) and I gave it up for the time being. Natz managed to pick up the two for 100 bucks, what a steal! :)

Raiding the gamerscore tomb

With Natz away, I finally managed to finish Command and Conquer 3 on the 360 (hey I can't work 24/7) as well as Prey. The latter was actually surprisingly easy thanks to the resurrection mechanic, so I finished it in two sittings. The ending is actually quite good, and overall I enjoyed the experience. I'm not typically a fan of mindless shooters though and this was definitely a big enough dose of that kind of gameplay to keep me satisfied for a while. Prey was also really generous on gamerscore, giving up over 650 points just for completing it!

I have now started on Tomb Raider Legend, which seems good so far, with some serious challenges right from the start and a nice variety of locations and gameplay.

Google sorry, Google pay

When Google canceled their video buy/rent feature earlier this month they mistakenly thought their customers would be satisfied with a pat on the back and a Google Checkout refund. Of course the masses weren't too happy with this arrangement, and Google have answered the flood of complaints by giving these customers not only the promised checkout refunds, but refunds to their credit cards as well, essentially a double refund (of course they are probably banking on a fair number of Checkout converts as a result). The videos will also remain available for another six months. Way to apologize for a screwup!

Continuing in the 'sorry we did evil, wont happen again and here's a cookie' vein, Google announced it's change in policy regarding street view privacy. Previously complainants would have to verify their identity before having images of themselves or their numberplates from street views on Google maps, this is no longer necessary and such images will be blurred out immediately on request and without question.

Friday, August 17, 2007


I have a nifty new toy to complement my N95, W850i, or any other Bluetooth-enabled phone I want to use safely while driving. Through the same generous donor that I got the N95 from, I've got a Blueant Supertooth Lite hands free kit. I've been using the device all week, and I cam really impressed with every aspect of it.

Setup of the Supertooth Light was ridiculously simple, just hold down a button and search for devices to pair with on the phone. After that (assuming you allow auto-connection) reconnection is a simple case of turning on Bluetooth on the phone and turning on the Supertooth. The included clip slips easily onto your sun visor, and thanks to the small magnets on the Supertooth the unit can be attached and detached with absolutely zero hassle.

Day to day use is just as simple as the initial setup. When your phone rings, the ringtone plays through the Supertooth's speaker as well, and answering is as simple as pressing the big answer button (which is conveniently backlit at night). Phone voice prompts are supported as well, so once voice prompted quick-dialing is set up on the phone, it automatically works on the Supertooth-triggered by holding down the call button for a second. While it obviously isn't stereo and I would hardly use it for listening to music, listening to podcasts using the Supertooth as an external speaker is great too. The one criticism I have of the unit's design is the volume controls-due to the Supertooth's orientation while in use on your car visor, it's difficult to see the +/- markings. At night it is completely impossible. Otherwise it's a wonderfully easy to use piece of kit that really does it's job well.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Not so lazy long weekend

From the lack of traffic this morning, it would appear that half of South Africa took leave today to enjoy a long weekend (Yesterday was national Women's Day). I wish I was in the same boat, but obviously with an upcoming switch in jobs I need to take every opportunity to tie up any loose ends I can at 5DT, so I was in yesterday and am Packing Natz off on holiday with her folks so I can put in some serious overtime.

As far as interesting tech things this week, it's been a bit quiet this week. Games wise Xbox Live Arcade didn't even see it's now customary double release, and no retail games hit shelves either. Next week should be the beginning of the build up to the (US) holiday flood though. I am still working through Command and Conquer 3's single player campaigns, and dabbling in a bit of Spyglass boardgames as well (it's wonderful to finally have a chess game on the arcade, I just wish the achievements were not completely broken). The good news is I finally broke the 5k gamerscore mark. Woohoo!  :)

Nothing particularly interesting on the cell front either, other than Nokia starting it's limited Beta of MOSH, a community content sharing system that consists of a website (standard and .mobi version) and an optional application to upload and download content. It will be interesting to see what sort of copyright protection is in place in this system (YouTube, anyone) and also how mobile networks will take this, considering many of them have content portals that would more than likely suffer from the availability of a competing portal with free content. We have already seen removal from branded firmware of applications and links that offer services that might threaten network revenue, so I'm sure the MOSH application will see similar censorship.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Rant: Out of context reporting

Browsing my RSS feeds earlier this morning, I saw a Joystiq item on an African Women's Blog that has taken offence to recently released footage of Resident Evil 4. I am by no means surprised and had predicted to my colleagues (and fellow gamers) that this title would cause some kind of 'racist' outcry. It got us onto the topic of how non-gaming media seems unable to get away from reporting on gaming and other technology related news without taking context into account.

Games, social websites and virtual worlds often require a significant investment of time to be able to fully understand the context of their characters and functionality. In the above example, one would have to play Resident Evil 5 to understand the context for these enemies, which happen to be black-they are diseased zombies, the need to shoot them has nothing to do with their race. It would appear however, that mainstream publications do not consider this legwork as necessary as if they were reporting on a political story, a new (physical) social spot or even a movie. A reporter that made unsubstantiated claims about a neighborhood coffee shop harboring rabid pedophiles would be brought to task, why is the same standard not held to when reporting about 'virtual' activities? By contrast, when reporting on the likes of supposed terrorist training camps in Second Life or the rise of a 'new' kind of bully online it would appear that any sort of real journalistic investigation is an optional extra.

Second Life has been the target of many such articles, ranging from exaggerated claims of the business potential of the platform, to numerous sexual scandals. The most recent trend in misguided reporting about the platform (note: not game) is that of it having been over-hyped and now being on the verge of collapse. The irony of this is that this supposed hype was all generated by the same publications now predicting Second Life's doom. Of course in terms of subscriber numbers and concurrent users, it is healthier than ever. Reading through any of these articles quickly reveals that -at best- the author has signed into second life and spent a few minutes wandering around the welcome area and does not really comprehend what the virtual world is about or it's potential.

As someone that thrives on technology, I tire of seeing otherwise respectable publications (both on- and offline) degraded to the level of a common tabloid whenever they report on technology. Is it really that difficult to find a staff member that is knowledgeable about technology? Are freelance technology writers that know their stuff really that few and far between? Or does the problem lie higher up the chain, with editors that honestly don't believe editorial responsibility extends to technology reporting?


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