April 30, 2005

Nintendogs Helping Nintendo DS Outsell Sony PSP

Nintendo wasn't kidding when it says "new types" of games will let it succeed vs. greater horse power technical capabilities. Thanks to the release of three Nintendogs titles, which is a virtual dog pet game, the Nintendo DS is now outselling the Sony PSP by almost 3 times in Japan. Wow.

How in the hell can this happen? Well the leading Japanese game magazine gave the Nintendogs titles perfect 10 ratings. If that isn't enough check out this in-game video. I showed it to my wife and she immediately said "I want to buy this game! Forget Sony, let's buy Nintendo." I showed her Warioware the other day at Best Buy and she loved that too.

I think this is what Nintendo means by saying the Revolution will focus on new types of innovative gameplay for casual players like my wife and probably every other woman out there, not just better graphics and sound. Here's also a TV commercial and also a blog for the game.

Top 10 Best Selling Games in Japan for the week of April 18 - 24.

1. Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song (PS2, Square Enix) - 217,000 units
2. Fire Emblem: Souen no Kiseki (GC, Nintendo) - 102,000 units
3. Naruto: Saikyo Ninja Daikesshu 3 for DS (NDS, Tomy) - 84,000 units
4. Nintendogs: Shiba and friends (NDS, Nintendo) - 83,000 units
5. Nintendogs: Dachs and friends (NDS, Nintendo) - 53,000 units
6. Nintendogs: Chihuahua and friends (NDS, Nintendo) - 46,000 units
7. Baseball Live 2005 (PS2, Namco) - 44,000 units
8. Rockman Zero 4 (GBA, Capcom) - 38,000 units
9. Mobilt Suit Gundam: The One Year War (PS2, Bandai) - 30,000 (234,000) units
10. Shutokou Battle: Zone of Control (PSP, Genki) - 29,000 units

Hardware sales in Japan for the week of April 18 - 24.

1. Nintendo DS - 96,191 units
2. PlayStation 2 - 33,080 units
3. PlayStation Portable - 33,004 units
4. GameBoy Advance SP - 10,820 units
5. GameCube - 8,329 units
6. GameBoy Advance - 422 units
7. Xbox - 112 units [Discuss]

Sony PSP 2GB Memory Stick PRO Duo MSX-M2GN

SonyStyle has put up a page for a 2 gigabyte Memory Stick PRO Duo, perfect for you Sony PSP video ethusiasts. It has a read/write speed of 80 megabits per second with a usable capaciity of 1.85 gigabytes after formatting. The operating temperature is -13 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit and it also has backwards compatibility to Memory Stick PRO devices through the use of an included adaptor.

The size is a paltry 0.79" x 1.22" x 0.06". Unfortunately the price is $449.99 which costs almost twice as much as a Sony PSP Not-So-Value Pack.

April 29, 2005

Brando Sony PSP Case Review

PSP411 reviews the Brando aluminum case for the Sony PSP. It seems like it may be a quality, albeit bland looking, alternative to the Logitech PlayGear case.

With the way that the case is hinged, if you don't close it carefully, the tab that keeps the case closed will come in contact with the top of the PSP. Fortunately, the tab surface is smooth and I dont think there's a chance that it will scratch the PSP. Pros: Very lightweight, strong material, secure fit, good finish. Cons: Some minor usability issues, bland looking to some people. I think this is an excellent case and worth the money.

Tivo 30 Second Commerical Skip Easter Egg

For new Tivo users this is a must-have easter egg to skip through commercials 30 seconds at a time on your saved programs and Season Passes.

To activate this feature, bring up any saved program or Live TV. Then on your remote press in this exact order:

Select - Play - 3 - 0 - Select

If you entered it correctly, the Tivo will sound out 3 pleasant sounding beeps. Now all you have to do is press the skip forward button on your remote (the one to the right of the Slow Motion button) and you will be skipping through commercials in no time.

Mac Mini Memory Upgrade Specs

Straight from the horse's mouth, here are the specs for upgrading memory on a Mac Mini from Apple's support website:

Mac mini computers have a single memory slot. This slot accepts a standard PC2700 or PC3200 184-pin DIMM with the following specifications:

* PC2700 or PC3200 Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM)
* 2.5 volt
* 8-byte
* non-parity
* 64-bit wide
* 184-pin module
* maximum of 16 memory devices on the DIMM
* unbuffered—do not use registered or buffered SDRAM
* maximum height of 50 mm

Using PC3200 memory does not provide additional speed benefits. Although the Mac mini supports PC3200 DIMMs, the PC3200 RAM will operate at PC2700 (333 MHz) speeds.

The Mac mini has a 256 MB base memory configuration, which can be expanded up to a maximum of 1 GB. The Mac mini can be configured to order (CTO) with 512 MB or 1 GB of SDRAM. Additional memory should be installed by an Apple Authorized Service Provider.

Video memory
The Mac mini has 32 MB DDR of soldered SDRAM dedicated for video. Video memory cannot be upgraded.

Logitech Playgear Pocket Sony PSP Impressions by arogan

I picked up the Logitech Case. $20 at gamestop

- clear polycarbonate shell that is suppose to be very tough
- nice and tight snap. no chance of it opening on it's own.
- very thick foam padding all the way around.
- heavy, adds some bulk. It makes the psp thicker which actually feels more comfortable in my hands.
- you never have to take it out unless changing games.
- trigger buttons are kind of recessed and hard to reach.
- depending on how you hold it the case can create some uncomfortable sharp edges.
- good amount of friction on the hinge so it stays put at whatever angle you wish. Flips to the back to act like a stand.

I might be returning this one. I still haven't decided. I need to play with it more to see if I can get use to the new feel. [Discuss]

Valve and Vivendi Universal Kiss and Make Up

Valve and Vivendi decided to settle their lawsuits against each other. Looks like Valve won the cybercafe license issue, however it's quite interesting to see Vivendi is going to stop selling Valve games effective August 31, 2005. I wonder which publisher is going to take over? Or is Valve so STEAMPOWERED crazy that will it become an online only games publisher? Doubtful.

BELLEVUE, Wash. and LOS ANGELES, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Valve and Vivendi Universal Games (VU Games) today announced the settlement of a pending federal court lawsuit filed by Valve in August 2002. The parties have resolved their differences and the settlement provides for the dismissal of all claims and counterclaims. Under the settlement agreement, VU Games will cease distribution of retail packaged versions of Valve's games, including "Half-Life"®, "Half-Life 2", "Counter-Strike"(TM), "Counter-Strike: Condition Zero" and "Counter-Strike: Source", effective August 31, 2005.

PortalPlayer Shows Positive iPod Sales

Piper Jaffray is out tooting the iPod horn after PortalPlayer reported earnings and good future guidance. PortalPlayer makes the Mp3 semiconductor chips used in every hard-drive equipped Apple iPod, which includes the iPod Mini, iPod, and iPod Photo. Basically every model execpt for the Shuffle.

According to the analyst, retailers are doing a good job upselling prospective Shuffle buyers to at least the iPod Mini. For just $50 more you can 4x the storage space is the value proposition. I actually prefer the durability and the form factor of the Shuffle myself, but to each his own.

“We believe that PortalPlayer’s Q2 guidance is positive for Apple’s HD based iPods and may be consistent with a trend that we have been picking up on in the channel related to iPod shuffle to 4GB iPod mini up-selling,” Munster said in a research note obtained by iPodlounge. “Specifically, we have been hearing from Apple retail stores and independent Apple VARs that customers are consistently being up-sold to 4GB iPod minis ($200) when intending to buy the 1GB iPod shuffle ($149), given the minimal ($50) difference in price."

New PowerMac G5 Benchmarks

Apple published the new PowerMac G5 benchmarks. According to them, the new dual G5 is up to two times faster than the fastest Pentium 4 on certain rigged applications tests. Apple is famous for the most hyper-bolic unscientific benchmarks known to man. Using different applications and settings to put the Mac in the most favorable light.

For performance freaks looking for value, the Athlon 64 is by far the best way to go. But for computer ethusiasts who care about having the best OS on the market for daily computing and are sick of spyware and viruses, the Mac is for you.

I'll put it this way, since I got my Mac Mini a few months ago. I spend 95% of the computing time on the Mac even though its a paltry 1.25 ghz vs. my PC's 2.66 ghz. OS X IS worth it.

Microsoft Xbox Back to Losses

Revenues in Microsoft's Home and Entertainment Division rose to $583 million in the March quarter, which is above the $519 million last year. However after a $84 million profit in the December quarter, the division lost $164 million this time.

Halo 2 software sales drove the profit last Christmas, but without big software releases, it seems Microsoft will continue to lose tons of money from the Xbox. Maybe that is why the Evil Empire is going to launch Xbox 360 without a hard-drive, to keep costs low in the next cycle. Unfortunately Microsoft is going to probably lose even more money with the new hardware launch as the next generation technology always costs and arm and a leg at the beginning of each cycle.

But don't be crying for Bill Gates because we all pay him through the Windows monopoly and Microsoft Office sales. $164 million losses are nothing, when the company did $9.6 BILLION in sales this quarter with a whopping $3.3 BILLION operating profit.

Game Industry Collapse?

According to noted technology pundit John Dvorak, the game industry is about to collapse due to lack of innovation. He says that graphics have reached a level that improvements may not mattter, also that games are too hard to play now for casual players like himself.

I actually think he has a point that the next generation consoles won't be a big step-up in terms of revenue and sales. I think the graphics step function will NOT be as big this time as the PS2 and Xbox was. Moreover it seems most games are re-hashes of the same thing with better graphics. Boring. But are we going to see a collapse like the one after Atari 2600? Probably not. A brief pause will be more like it.

None of this will save a doomed industry. The business is going to attempt to sustain growth and creativity by making game players buy newer and newer machines. Computer gaming has always been sustained by never-ending improvements in resolution and realism. But once we get to photorealism, what is going to sustain growth? [Discuss]

Sony PSP to Match PS2 Units at 12 Million

Sony is dreaming big for the Sony PSP. It guided to a 12 million unit shipment number for both the PSP and PS2 this year. That is mind-boggling for a high-end handheld launch. Nintendo DS has sold about 5 million, but you have to remember the much lower price-point. Go big or go home Sony indeed.

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) expects shipments of the recently launched PlayStation Portable (PSP) to equal those of its PlayStation 2 console this year at 12 million units each, the company said Wednesday. The prediction is the first from SCEI regarding PSP shipments for this year and came as its parent company, Sony Corp., announced its full-year financial results. Those results showed shipments of the PSP totaled 3 million units in the period from its launch in Japan in December until the end of March. That included PSPs shipped in the Japanese market and the U.S. market, where it was launched in late March, and are in line with SCEI's original predictions. Source: IDG

Don't Buy Used Console Games

Three times in the past few years, I've convinced myself it's a great deal to buy a used console game. The first time was when NBA Street first came out, I ran to EB Games and was told they only had used copies for sale. No problem. Well at least until I came home and found the game didn't work. I had to go back and get a refund, a nice waste of an hour.

The second time, I bought Panzer Dragon on eBay. The seller guaranteed it was in great condition. When I got it, I found the cover was smeared and the disc had tons of scratches on it. Well at least the game worked.

So last week, I saw ESPN NBA 2k5 for $10 on Half.com in "Like New" condition shipped to my door. Even though I could get it new for $15, I figured $5 off is a whopping 33% right? I got the game today. The cover box is in blah shape and the disc is full of scratches. Eh if it works, what can I expect for $10. Well the game hangs on the load screen. Argh!

I emailed the seller and we'll see what happens. But this is the final nail in the coffin, no more used games for me. In fact, I don't think I'll buy new games anymore from eBay or Half.com. One time I bought DDR in "brand new" condition on Half.com and found the cover punctured with a big whole. Am I just unlucky? What have your experiences been like? [Discuss]

April 28, 2005

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Review

Ars-Technica rocks the house with a 21 page review of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. It makes me salivate to get this OS. We've come a long way baby indeed. Grrrrrrreat!

Tiger is the best version of Mac OS X yet. It offers substantial improvements over Panther in all important areas. The performance improvements are immediately noticeable. Every major bundled application has been improved. There's an unprecedented number of substantial, totally new features and technologies: Spotlight, Core Image and Video, Quartz 2D Extreme, Dashboard, and Automator, just to name a few.

April 25, 2005

AOL Lowers Dial-up Internet Pricing to $19.95

After years of over charging for dial up internet access, AOL finally saw the light and lowered their monthly pricing to $19.95. Too little, too late Mr. AOL. I kind of laugh at the business model of "works with and enhances any basic high-speed cable or DSL connection", who are they kidding?

There is no AOL specific content worth its grain of salt, other than keeping your old AOL email or IM address. I gave mine up over a year ago because I decided it wasn't worth hundreds of dollars a year.

Google Banner Impression Program

Google announced it will begin selling branded advertising across its publisher network. This lets big companies pay by impression instead of click-through. It also competes directly with Yahoo and Doubleclick's brand impression programs.

Beginning Monday, the search giant will start allowing advertisers to display ads that contain animated images on third-party partner sites--a first for Google and a departure from company co-founders' early stance against such Web advertising. (Google itself still shows only text ads on its site.)

Digital Illusions Release Schedule

Shacknews got a hold of a release time table for Digital Illusions's games over the next couple of years. The most interesting parts are a Battlefield Modern Combat for PSP and the fact that Sony Next Generation looks like a go for 2006.

Digital Illusions' launch timetable

Title - Platform - Genre - Date
Battlefield 2 - PC - FPS** - June -05
BF2 Modern Combat - PS2, Xbox - FPS** - Fall -05
Untitled - PC - FPS** - Fall -05
BF2 Modern Combat - MS Nextgen, PSP* - FPS** - Q1 -06
Untitled - PS2, Xbox, Sony and MS Nextgen - 2006/2007
Untitled - Sony and MS Nextgen - Action - 2007

Microsoft Launches 64-bit Windows XP Professional x64 Edition

Microsoft announced the general availability of the 64 bit version of Windows XP Professional. Customers have an option to get a 32-bit or 64-bit version, they can even trade into their old 32-bit license. There is also a free 14 day trial, if you just want to check it out.

Be warned though, performance gains for games are non-existent (Doom 3, Far Cry, Chronicles of Riddick) and the drivers are still very immature. For mission critical applications, it probably pays to wait a little longer.

The biggest advantage of 64-bit computing is addressable memory of more than 4 gigabytes. In fact the new OS supports 128 gigabytes and 16 terabytes of virtual memory. Wowers.

April 23, 2005

Jobs Says Microsoft "Shamelessly Copying"

Steve Jobs is talking smack and the media is loving it. Microsoft is even talking back by saying Apple is copying the evil empire too. You have to love competition.

It's kind of ironic though because Microsoft kept Apple on life support by investing a lot money into Apple stock back when Jobs first came back. Without that support and a pledge to keep developing Microsoft Office, Apple would probably be dying on the vine. However Mr. Bill Gates probably invested back then just to get the Justice Department off its back. And also it turned out to be a VERY profitable investment.

Jobs of course doesn't know anything about shamelessly copying. Remember Xerox Parc operating systems? Remember taking the Woz's Atari programming work and claiming it was his own? Let's just forget the past why don't we? Game on!

"They are shamelessly copying us," he said during Thursday's annual meeting. Most telling, Jobs said is that Tiger, the next version of Mac OS X, will go on sale later this month, while Longhorn is still more than a year away. "They can't even copy fast," he said. Some of Apple's advances can be protected by patents, he said, but not all. "Innovation is the only way to win," he said. "You just have to stay ahead of people." Source: News.com [Discuss]

MicroNet MiniMate 160GB HD

MicroNet has come up with a Mac Mini companion that looks great next to or on top of the Mini. When I first saw the photo, it almost looked like a mirror image reflection. It adds a 160 gigabyte 7200 rpm hard-drive and a USB (4) / Firewire (3) hub. It's a solid addition if you need more storage space. According to the site, it will be available on April 29th for $180.

First Xbox 360 Pictures

Source: Engadget

Unless someone really has a lot of time on their hands, the first real Xbox 360 pictures are out. What do you guys think? For high resolution shots you can try here. I think it looks kind of bland with its concave and white scheme, Microsoft needs to hire some Apple or Sony designers pronto. [Discuss]

April 20, 2005

Jade Empire Speaks a Real Made-up Language

Bioware actually paid an linguist $2000 to create a brand new Asian sounding language with a real vocabulary and alphabet for the game Jade Empire. $2000 for a whole new language? A bargain. The dude has already created four more languages for Bioware's future epic, Dragon Age. I hope he was able get a bit more money for those.

He invented an alphabet and began making words, 50 a day and then 200. "Person" would be "uyu" (pronounced OO-yoo). Blood was "kawisrihr" (caw-wee-SHEER). Some words were inside jokes: Rabbit was "punihrapith" (POO-knee-raw-peeth). Similarly, the word for "director" was "wankaawayi," sounding somewhat like Wong Kar-wai, the Hong Kong film director.

Xbox 360 Two SKUs - One at $299

Kotaku's sources are spewing out Xbox 360 launch details. Supposedly the base system will be $299 without a hard-drive. There will be a $100 add-on module for those that want a hard-drive, WebTV functionality, and backwards compatibility. Moreover most of the launch systems will be sold in bundle packs, which means you probably have to spend close to $400 if you want one this Fall. I hate you Sony PSP for starting this trend!

All Out Console vs. PSP Final Fantasy Battle

For you video game historians, check out this awesome flash animation between the Sony PSP and a long line of historical consoles using the Final Fantasy turn based action motif. Someone sure has a lot of time on their hands to entertain us videogame nerds. Click on "New Game" for the full animation.

Logitech mx518 Mouse Review by Arogan

- $50
- Currently it is available early exclusively at Best Buy. They had the same deal when the mx510 was first introduced.
- this is an incremental upgrade over the mx510. The big differences are: 16bit data path vs 12bit. fixed 800dpi vs On the fly adjustable dpi from 400 up to 1600.
- Even at the default 800dpi it just feels smoother.
- new software. They have ditched mouseware. Now it's called setpoint. It's a new interface and has some very flexible features. You can pretty much adjust and customize everything: buttons, acceleration, dpi settings, etc. These profiles can be applied to a specific mouse, desktop vs gaming (dx or opengl or both), a specific game, etc. You can set up to 5 different dpi settings as small as 50dpi increments. You use the cruise buttons to step up/down the dpi during a game. So lets say you use 800 dpi typically but then maybe drop down to 600 dpi for sniping.
- still uses led. WHY NO LASER??!!??
- I really don't like the look. the swirl pattern when it was red/blue with the mx510 looked fine, sort of like a bowling ball. The monochrome grey of the mx518 creates shadow effects so it just looks more like pits and a wrinkled piece of paper.

At $50 it's a bit pricey. I'm sure it will drop to $30 quickly. I really wished they took the laser tech from the mx1000 and stuck it into their gaming line of mice.

It's definitely better than the mx510 but I'm not sure it's quite worth the price premium right now. [Discuss]

Jade Empire (XBOX) Impressions by Arogan

- xbox exclusive
- I picked up the limited edition version (extra char, making of stuff)
- about 7 hrs into it (should be around a 22 hr game)
- if you loved KOTOR you'll love jade empire
- great characters, great story so far. Instead of light/dark you have open palm or closed fist philosophies.
- graphics and 5.1 sound are very good. it's the kotor engine.
- real time combat. it's not a button masher but more strategic. Easy to pickup up but still deep.
- You can change difficulty at any time during the game.
- save anywhere (except during combat). Save times are quick. Load times are kind of long. Looks like unlimited save slots.
- no real inventory management. spend more time exploring and fighting and less time in the menus!
- lots of dialog all of it spoken. Pretty good voice actors.

This game is now at the top of my must finish list. [Discuss]

April 19, 2005

DSW Shoe Theft of 1.4 Million Credit Cards

It seems every week we get another massive security breach of sensitive personal and financial information. Reuters reports DSW Shoe found that 1.4 million credit card numbers and 96,000 check transactions have been stolen from their computers. About 108 of their stores have been impacted. If you're a customer, I recommend calling in and changing your credit card number.

Disney Buys Avalanche and Starts Gaming Studio

Disney announced it has acquired Avalanche Software to create games for Disney-based franchises. Avalanche made the Tak games for THQ and also developed Disney's Chicken Little games. The studio is over 10 years old and have more than 100 employees in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition, Disney is starting a new studio in Vancouver, Canada with some ex-Electronic Arts talent. About 20 employees with experience from NBA Street and the Def Jam games have joined the new Disney start-up. The out flow of talent from Electronic Arts continues.

April 18, 2005

PalmOne LifeDrive Actually Tungsten X?

According to a Brighthand source, the new PalmOne handheld will actually be called Tungsten X, not LifeDrive. The source said the unit will come with 64MB of memory, 4 gigabyte hard-drive, and Normsoft's Pocket Tunes media player. Additional specs are Wifi, Bluetooth, 416mhz Intel Xscale processor, 480x320 display, and a $499 retail price. The size will be about the width of two Tungsten T5s.

If they get the user interface right, it could be an interesting device for consumers that want MP3 player, TV show video playback, and PDA functionality. As usual, software is everything. And using Garnet as the media OS is definitely a set back. The expected release date is mid-May.

Verizon Signs NBC Universal and Starz for its FiOS TV

Verizion is getting battered by the cable companies and upstarts like Vonage, who are taking huge share of the local and long distance telephone business because of VOIP. So what is Verizon doing? It's taking the game to the cable companies by starting its TV video on demand service later this year with its fiber to the home strategy.

People in Japan get thousands of movies on demand, phone, and super high speed internet service for like $60 a month. God I love competition. Verizon is vowing that eventually half the states it covers will have access to fiber to home services. I can't wait for megabits of download speed and tons of HD programming. Even though I hated Verizon for most of my life, if they can do this, all is forgiven. Note to Verizon, please think of a better name that FiOS TV. It sounds retarded.

Verizon FiOS TV will offer customers a competitive alternative to cable or satellite. In addition to the NBC Cable and Broadcast channels, FiOS TV will also deliver hundreds of other digital video channels, high-definition programming, video-on-demand content, music channels, an interactive programming guide and other customer-friendly features via the company's fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband network. Verizon is already constructing FTTP networks in half the states where it offers landline communications service. Customers will be able to buy FiOS TV as a stand-alone service or packaged with voice and FiOS high-speed data services, which are already available in some areas.

U.S. Government Hacker Warfare

Cyberwarfare hacker posses. Your tax dollars at work. I don't know why, but I have the feeling the best hackers in the world wouldn't be caught dead working for the U.S. government. It brings me back to one time when I saw the CIA director on C-SPAN bragging how their cyberwarfare group has not stood still. Give me a break.

The U.S. military has assembled the world's most formidable hacker posse: a super-secret, multimillion-dollar weapons program that may be ready to launch bloodless cyberwar against enemy networks -- from electric grids to telephone nets. The group's existence was revealed during a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month. Military leaders from U.S. Strategic Command, or Stratcom, disclosed the existence of a unit called the Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare, or JFCCNW.

Tivo Talking to Google and Yahoo

CNET has learned through an anonymous source that Tivo is in partnership talks with Yahoo and Google. A new partnership may result that brings together the vidoe on the internet to playback on your living room TV through the TV box. Moreover an equity investment or outright acquisition is also in the cards.

"A deal to cooperate could happen quickly, but then the details would have to be worked out," the first source said. "The search companies need to work with companies like TiVo because they have access to the living room, and they own a television interface."

Next Generation Consoles: What is Known?

1up has a feature on what is known about the next-generation consoles, most of which will be announced and revealed around the time of E3. Playstation 3 will have the Cell processor which will reportedly be 10 times more powerful than any current CPU. The PS3 will also incorporate Blu-Ray storage which offers 6 times the space of DVD at 27GB for single layer and 54GB for dual layer.

Microsoft Xbox 360 will reportedly come with a wireless controller, white design color scheme, HD Era graphic requirements (all games must support HDTV resolutions), and bigger Xbox LIVE integration. Clueless Nintendo will focus the Revolution on a new user interface (touch screen like DS?) and integrate Wi-Fi wireless.

Sony PSP Processor Capped at 222mhz?

According to Games Radar, a Sony representative has admitted that the Sony PSP is capped at 222 mhz, even though the processor can do 333mhz. The speculation is this was required to have reasonable battery life or heat concerns. Remember the PS2 is 295mhz, so maybe the PSP really is more powerful than its console cousin. Either/or if this story is true, I'd be upset since the PSP specs do say 333mhz.

While the specification of Sony's new handheld states the machine has a 333mhz capable processor sitting beneath its cool-looking exterior, the machine has been capped to just 222mhz, according to a Sony America representative speaking at the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco last month. [Discuss]

Google Video Beta Upload Program

Google doesn't quit with its new interent ideas. Since the company is so rich, it can do wild ideas with seemingly unlimited bandwidth. Google has set up a site where you can upload a video file of any size, promote it, and get revenue when users buy to play it. I bet Google will take a commission, but still it's an amazing service due to the bandwidth constraints of selling video on your own.

We're accepting digital video files of any length and size. Simply sign up for an account and upload your videos using our Video Uploader (please be sure you own the rights to the works you upload), and, pending our approval process and the launch of this new service, we'll include your video in Google Video, where users will be able to search, preview, purchase and play it.

Google Philanthropy

Looks like Google is looking to give back. It has set up a place holder site at google.org. Even though the founders are billionaires, it's still pretty cool they are going out of their way to do good stuff like this. I will admit even the evil empire's Bill Gates is doing good stuff these days with his foundation.

"We hope that someday this institution will eclipse Google itself in overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world's problems." -Sergey Brin & Larry Page

Wall Street Journal Online Makes More than Print Edition

The Wall Street Journal Online makes more money than the print edition according to an article in the New York Post. It's a pretty amazing feat even when you take into the fact an online subscription costs $84 a year vs. $356 for the print edition, but thanks to the lower costs of the internet this means profits galore. There are currently 731,000 subscribers to the Wall Street Journal Online. That is about 731,000 more paid subscribers than First Adopter.

Adobe Announces Acquisition of Macromedia

Adobe, maker of Acrobat and Photoshop, announced this morning it will acquire Macromedia, maker of Dreamweaver and Flash, for $3.4 billion in stock. Each Macromedia share will convert to 0.69 shares of Adobe which is a 25% premium ($41.86) to Friday's close.

The combined company wants to dominate the graphics, layout, and animation software vertical against the evil empire of Microsoft. I don't know about the complentary combinatin of PDFs and Flash, but let them give it a try.

Gamestop and Electronic Boutique Announce Merger

Gamestop this morning has agreed to acquire Electronic Boutique for a cash and stock deal worth $1.44 billion. Each Electronic Boutique shareholder will receive $38.15 in cash and 0.78795 shares of GME stock for each share they own. This represents a 34% premium ($55.18) to ELBO's Friday close. Not too shabby.

The combined company will use the Gamestop name and have 3200 stores worldwide. It's a move that makes sense as both companies basically offer the same value propositiion to the market. Now they can join forces to battle the Best Buys, Targets, and Walmarts of the world. Game on! [Discuss]

April 07, 2005

AOL Says You Got VOIP

AOL announced today it will launch Internet VOIP phone service in more than 40 cities for as low as $13.99 a month to current AOL subscribers. The $29.99 plan gives you unlimited calling to North America, however the price will increase $5 after three months. If you're not an AOL subscriber, you can get AOL and VOIP for $29.99 a month for the first six months, then the price goes to $39.99 a month after that.

This still isn't as good a deal as Vonage which offers $15 to $25 a month plans, but AOL users aren't known to be the brightest bunch. Vonage is the VOIP leader with over 500,000 subscribers.

EA Nabs Sean Connery for Bond Game

The names Connery. Sean Connery. Mi6 has learned that Sean Connery will do the voice acting for EA's new Bond game slated to come out in November 2005 for Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube. The game will be based on the 1963 film "From Russia With Love." EA will expand upon the classic flick with additional characters, locations, and plot-lines.

Next James Bond game from EA will be titled "From Russia With Love" and set around the 1963 film. 007's likeness and voice in the third person perspective game will be none-other than the original Bond - Sir Sean Connery.

Sony Sells 60-70% of Sony PSPs in First Week

According to a survey done by CSFB, Bloomberg reports Sony sold about 600,000 to 700,000 units in the first week of release. This is about 60-70% of the initial 1 million units shipped to retailers. Sony please listen to me, if you get rid of the Value Pack and just sell the PSP like you do in Japan, I promise millions of gamers and myself will buy one. Be like Nike and just do it.

Sony sold 600,000 to 700,000 units of the PSP, as the game player is known, in the first week of U.S. sales, Credit Suisse First Boston said April 1, citing its own survey of retailers. Sony said it prepared 1 million units for the release.

April 06, 2005

Tivo Acquires Six Patents from IBM

It's pretty clear which direction Tivo is going these days. After getting squeezed out by DirectTV and probably signing a low rate deal with Comcast, the company is going on a patent buying spree. Today it acquired 6 patents from IBM covering interactive television. How much you want to bet we'll see Tivo try to become a Rambus or a Gemstar and start sicking their lawyers onto people? Remember Tivo has a ton of PVR patents that cover the basic essentials. With good lawyers they can probably pull it off.

The acquired patents cover audience measurement, the integration of Internet and TV, automatic scheduling of recording, content screening, information search and electronic program guide enhancements, TiVo said. TiVo spokesman David Shane said the company "placed great emphasis on developing and protecting our intellectual property, and we believe these patents will help us toward that end."

Motorola a630 Review

You like text and instant messaging? Motorola has the device for you. My main cellphone man Howard Chui reviews this bad boy, which has a built-in keyboard, 4.5 hours of talk battery life, and weighs 123 grams. Overall he likes the compact design, display, and keyboard, but gives it an average rating because of lack of multimedia features. It's also a definite no-no for business users, but could be great for IM crazy consumers.

The battery life is comparable to most other Motorola phones it seems to be on par. I got about three days without needing to charge it with a fair amount of use (about 45 minutes of airtime daily, 5-10 text messages, and sometimes a few web pages). According to Motorola, you can get 4.5 hours talk-time, and 190 hours of standby. Although the a630 is basically just a phone with a QWERTY keyboard, it does have lots of handy features. While the a630 doesn't have a HTML browser or a higher quality camera, the a630 still makes a handy powerful little phone.

Vonage Says No More Financing till Profitability

Vonage has gone on record that it has enough funding to build their business to profitability. The media saturation of Vonage on cable channels and the internet is pretty impressive as is the growth rate. Almost one third of my friends are already subscribers.

I guess saying that profitability is a stone's throw away is a smart move to up their IPO valuation. I expect to see this supernova hot company to go public in the next few months. I recommend them highly if you want to stop being taken by your local phone company and tax authorities. Go Vonage!

Askin was kinder to Vonage Holdings Corp., the company his boss founded. “Now Vonage’s marketing campaign is state of the art. I’d gladly stop being a lawyer to run the marketing campaign for Vonage,” he says. “I’m hearing that Vonage is now thinking of postponing its IPO and getting a hundred million dollars more to use in its marketing campaign.” "That's not true," says Vonage's VP of corporate communications, Brooke Schulz, who Light Reading contacted on Tuesday. Vonage's most recent financing round "is intended to take us through to profitability," she says.

Apple Video iPod?

Silicon Valley Watcher has learned Apple has ordered a chip design from Alphmosaic, a Cambridge UK based semiconductor company owned by Broadcom. One the the main designs is the VC01 which can display video on a 3.5 inch LCD screen, capture 8 megapixel images, and produce vivid TV 3D images. A new Apple product can be launched as soon as end of 2005 or January 2006. Potentially we could see a multi-function MP3, video playback, cellphone, camera, DVR, and gaming device. However a simple video iPod with music capability is most likely.

Broadcom says the chip uses very small amounts of battery power and "excels in high-quality 3D graphics performance with the capability to support pixel shading and volumetric lighting with low power consumption, making it ideal for use in mobile gaming applications and comparable in performance to home consoles."

Transformers Live Action Movie

God this would be so awesome. Transformers was my favorite cartoon as a kid and now Michael Bay is in talks with Dreamworks/Paramount to do a live action Hollywood movie. I guess we can't expect much of a plot from the guy who made Bad Boys, Armageddon, and Pearl Harbor, but the action scenes will sure be cool. I hope. Autobots, ROLL OUT.

Bay also would reunite with writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who, under their two-year, first-look deal with DreamWorks, rewrote "Island" and wrote "Transformers." The Transformers are divided into two groups of robots, one led by Optimus Prime, which believes in tolerance and the sanctity of life, the other by Megatron, which espouses survival of the fittest and the extermination of biological life. A November 17, 2006, release date has been set. Bay's credits include the two "Bad Boys" movies, "Pearl Harbor," "Armageddon" and "The Rock."

One Pinball Machine Maker

It's fascinating to think the world has gone from 150 pinball machine makers to only one. Stern Pinball has 56 employees with $30 million in annual revenue and comes out with 3-4 new models a year. Each machine is hand buit from 3,500 parts in a 40,000 square foot factory. At $4,000 a piece, the company does about 10,000 units a year with a virtual monopoly. Which isn't saying much because in the early 1990s, the industry prouduced more than 100,000 units.

Today, Stern Pinball stands alone. Based in Melrose Park, Ill., about 10 miles west of Chicago, Stern has been the only game in town since its remaining competition folded in 1999, making Gary Stern -- its silver-haired, pinball-tie-wearing Willy Wonka of sorts -- the only person keeping this piece of Americana from extinction. "If we ever quit," he says, "that will be the end of pinball."

Window Mobile Treo Sighting

A reporter from newswireless.net has reportedly seen a working Treo running Windows Mobile 2005. Supposedly it was in the hands of an executive at Orange, a European wireless carrier. Let me stick my neck out and say it definitely will happen, no doubt about it. With PalmOne basically ignoring PalmSource's Cobalt, the latest next-gen OS, Windows Mobile is the only other real choice. I don't see PalmOne going with Symbian.

Spitzer's Google "AIG" Keyword Search Ad

In what is definitely a lapse of judgement, the Spitzer for New York Governor website had a Google ad link on top of search engine results for the word "AIG" today. I tried it an hour ago and it worked. However since then, the ad has disappeared.

Spitzer's attorney general office is current investigating AIG for accounting issues. It doesn't look good when you're campaigning for governor using a current unresolved investigation target to point people to your fund raising site. I bet someone is going to get a tongue lashing.

The New York campaign for the corporate crime fighter appears to be paying to tie ads to the key word "AIG." When an Internet user types in that query, Google returns a search ad at the top of the search results page. The ad reads "Spitzer for NY Governor." A click on the ad sends viewers to www.spitzer2006.com. An ad for AIG Auto Insurance also appears above the search results. It appears that Spitzer2006 has singled out AIG in its Web search advertising blitz, since no ads show up when Web users run queries on other high-profile Spitzer targets including former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Dick Grasso, insurance broker Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. and Marsh's mutual fund unit Putnam Investments.

April 05, 2005

Best Buy to Carry Mac Mini

Apple confirmed today Best Buy has agreed to sell the Mac Mini. Let's hope this works out better than the last time Best Buy tried to sell Macs in 2003 and pulled out after it failed. If you're in the hunt for Mini, why not wait a month when OS X Tiger comes out. It will save you $129.

Kevin Cockett, a Best Buy spokesman, said the retailer was "excited" to begin carrying the Mac Mini in all of its stores. "It's the latest innovation from Apple and strengthens Best Buy's assortment of computers." Source: News.com

Father of Playstation Demoted

Pretend the division you headed was the only one to significantly outperform in the past decade. Pretend you were responsible for the majority of the profits and growth for you company. How would it feel if you got demoted?

Well that is what hpapend to Ken Kutaragi at Sony, the father of the Playstation and PSP. Supposedly people didn't like his outspoken manner in criticizing his company's decisions. The reward he got was a demotion and a passing over for the top job. To make matters worse, he lost his board seat and was put under a foreigner. It seems in response all he is doing is putting his head down and focusing on the success of the PSP.

But instead of ascending in the dramatic management reshuffle last month that put Howard Stringer in the chief executive's chair, Kutaragi was demoted. Not only was Kutaragi passed over for the Welshman who had overseen Sony's music and movie businesses. He also lost his seat on Sony's board, though he still runs Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc., the company's game subsidiary.

Nvidia nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition Review

Reviews of the Nvidia nForce SL Intel Edition motherboards are out today. HardOCP as usual has one of the most in-depth articles. Overall expectations were met, but performance still lagged an AMD system. AMD is still the champ for extreme gaming, no doubt about it. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a hard release date on the chipset either.

Our expectations for the nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition chipset were high, and they were either met or exceeded. In terms of performance, the nForce 4 exploited its faster memory bus in 3D games and we still think there is a special relationship between NVIDIA chipsets and NVIDIA GPUs, however we have no measure of that. In our application testing in terms of movies and music, the nForce 4 SLI did just as good if not better than the Intel 925XE.

New Halo, Fable, and Project Gotham Racing Coming to Xbox 2

Shane Kim, the head of Microsoft Game Studios, has gone record we'll see sequels of the Halo, Fable, and Project Gothan Racing franchises on the next generation Xbox. He further teases us that Forza Motorsport is one of this favorite past-times. The bastard.

Xbox.com: What about existing franchises—will we see those on the next-generation Xbox? Kim: That’s probably the most-asked question I get right now! The short answer is yes. Without giving away all the surprises we have in store, gamers that love franchises like Halo, Fable, and Project Gotham Racing can safely assume we will continue to invest in them as we move into the next generation.

Yahoo Semel Gets More Moola

It's nice to have a desperate competitor willing to pay up to steal you, if you're the CEO of Yahoo. Because Disney was after Semel, Yahoo did its best to retain him with an "aggressive package." Under the new contract, Semel gets the option to purchase 2 million shares of stock and 250,000 restricted shares. Last year he excercised $230 million in options and has $324 million vested left. He also gets a paltry $600,000 salary, which experts believe is low. Shhhh, don't tell the board that Yahoo stock performance is down 65% in the last five years.

"There is...recognition that Mr. Semel's unique skills, experience spanning the Internet and media industries, and repeated past success make him an attractive candidate to competing organizations," stated Yahoo's proxy filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. "Consequently, (Yahoo's) compensation committee took aggressive action in 2004 to retain Mr. Semel."

Google Maps to Use Satellite Images

Google Maps will soon let users plot driving directions and locate destinations by overlaying detailed satellite ariel photograph maps. Search results will also show local businesses and other locations using the technology acquired in Keyhole.

John Hanke, general manager of Google's Keyhole unit, said the satellite maps combined with search results would be useful for people looking for homes or apartments, for example. "You can see the house, the street it's on, the coffee houses in the area, the park around the corner," he said. "You can see what these places are like in a way you can't with a normal map." Source: WSJ

Video Blogs on Google

Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, pre-announced a new beta service today at the National Cable & Telecommunications Show. In the next few days, Google will allow video blogging on their servers. Initially it will be an experiement to learn how to efficiently search and display video information, but I bet new video blogging celebrities won't be far behind. And no, First Adopter will not be one of them. I won't force my face on the world, that would be cruel to our readers.

While there's no formal announcement yet, Google co-founder Larry Page said Monday that the well-known search engine concern would soon let the general public upload self-produced videos to Google's servers, partly in an effort to learn more about how to more efficiently search and display information about video-based data. "It's an experiment we want to run," said Page of the video-uploading service, which he said the company will formally announce "in the next few days."

Consumer Reports Disses Ionic Breeze Again

Consumer Reports continues to attack Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze line of air purifiers. If you don't know, Sharper Image sued the magazine for libel because of a negative review on its prized product that generates a huge chunk of its sales. Of course the magazine won that case and it just wrote another article saying the Ionic Breeze does little to clean the air and actually releases "unhealthly levels" of ozone. Ouch.

Over 2 million units have been sold at $350 each. What a major rip-off if Consumer Reports is on the ball, which I don't doubt it is.

The magazine reports in its latest issue hitting newsstands Tuesday that Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze Quadra Silent Air Purifier and four other similar machines fail to significantly clean the air — but also release potentially unhealthy levels of ozone.

Logitech Driving Force Pro Review

Logitech Driving Force Pro is reviewed at Worthplaying. The wheel is perfect for Gran Turismo 4 and works in 900 and 200 degree turning mode. As the writer says, this is how racing games are meant to be played, now only if it was a bit cheaper to acquire. $150 is quite an outlay especially when an entire PS2 costs that much.

The Driving Force Pro is definitely a hit, and hardcore racing game fanatics should bite the bullet and purchase this peripheral. It's no exaggeration that this wheel will make you love racing games even more. Sure, Logitech could have made some improvements to the pedal unit and shifter, but the setup wouldn't be nearly as cost effective.

April 04, 2005

$5 WiFi Antenna

Don't have the money for a WiFi antenna? This site offers a way to make your own using a tin can for the cost of a measly $5. Not a bad hack.

You're looking for a can between about 3" and 3 2/3" in diameter. The size doesn't have to be exact. I made a good antenna with a Nalley's "Big Chunk" Beef Stew can that was 3.87" in diameter. Others have reported good results with big 39oz. coffee cans that are 6" in diameter. The pringles can is really too small for good performance, however. Try to get as long a can as possible. The old fashioned fruit juice cans should work well.

Yahoo 360 Beta Not That Great

The initial impressions of Yahoo 360 are tepid at best. The combination blog and social community doesn't really add much to the table in terms of new features, in fact the implementation is kind of confusing. However once Flickr functionality is added, I bet people will start loving it. But until then, it's not much to crow about.

Communicating with Yahoo 360 buddies, though, is so multi-layered that it might give you an Internet migraine. In addition to sending instant messages via Yahoo's instant messenger (there's no support for more popular IM services from AOL or Microsoft), you can use two new communication channels. One lets you zap e-mail-like notes to pals. The other can "blast" short notes that your friends will see on their Yahoo 360 pages in a cartoonish bubble next to your photo.

Adobe Creative Suite Major Upgrade

Adobe Creative Suite will get a major upgrade next month, the first since September 2003. New versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive, and Version Cue are expected, in addition to the recently released Acrobta 7.0 Professional. There will be two versions called Standard and Premium available on both Mac OS X and Windows.

The Standard version will consist of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Version Cue, and Bridge. Pricing is $899 and $349 for upgraders. The Professional version will add Acrobat and go for $1199 and $549 for upgraders.

April 02, 2005

EA PSP Titles Mis-labeled and Do NOT Support Online Play

Electronic Arts isn't exactly winning the hearts and minds of gamers these days with the NFL exclusive deal and poor quality of latest releases. Now the company admits on its customer service site, against what is said on the PSP game boxes, EA PSP games do NOT support online gameplay. The games that are at fault are Need For Speed Underground Rivals, NBA Street Showdown, FIFA Soccer, NFL Street 2 Unleashed, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour.

Unfortunately, there are no PSP titles at this time that support any online play that are made by Electronic Arts. There has been a misprint on all of the boxes for our launch titles and this mode is not supported. Although Infrastructure mode is not supported, the Ad Hoc multiplayer mode will work on all of our launch titles provided that each player has their own copy of the game. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.

Best Buy to End Rebates

After giving disappointing financial guidance which killed their stock, Best Buy also announced it will phase out mail-in rebates over the next two years. Instead the company will focus on its rewards program, which forces customers to pay an annual fee to earn points toward future discounts.

I have a sinking feeling this is not a good sign for us bargain hunters. Rebates were awesome in getting products for $0-10 for us enterprising folk who actually didn't mind filling out the forms. Without rebates and the roughly half of people that never filled out the forms, I doubt we'll see deals like that again.

The rebates will be phased out over the next two years to give vendors time to adjust, Jackson said. He said Best Buy is still looking at how to get rid of the mail-in rebates without putting itself at a disadvantage with competitors who might still use them. Some vendors, such as tax software makers, have used rebates extensively. Jackson said others vendors have struggled to fit rebates into their business models. "I think if we're quiet for a minute, we can hear them cheering," he said.

XM Radio Reports Large Subscriber Gain

XM Radio announced that it has acquired 540,000 new subscribers in the first three months of 2005. That is an astounding 68% increase from the year before, even with the announced price increase to $12.95 from $9.99 a month. This puts XM at 3.77 million subscribers vs. the 1.2 million at Sirius. Moreover the XM Chairman said he would have no problems with a radio manufacturer who wants to make hardware that plays both Sirius and XM content.

When asked after a keynote speech whether he would consider letting manufacturers build radios that could play both XM's and Sirius's service, Parsons said he'd have "no problem" with such a product.

"I guess I responded in a not-adversarial way, and I guess people were surprised," Parsons said yesterday. "This is a new market -- we will be strong aggressive competitors, and we understand there will be good times to cooperate."

Sony PSP Media Guide

The Sony PSP Media Guide by Extremtech gives you a step-by-step guide on how you can add photos, music, and video from your PC to the PSP. It goes through the various third party programs that are helpful in the process.

Still, we think Sony needs to take a major leadership role here. Their Image Converter 2 software costs $20 and, let's face it, was made for devices like the Clie, not the PSP. Sony needs to make one simple, easy-to-use application that lets you manage photos, music, game saves, and video. It should transcode video from all popular formats into the advanced H.264 codec. [Thanks Arogan]

April 01, 2005

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Gone Gold

According to Apple Insider, their sources say OS X Tiger 10.4 has gone gold. So expect to see it within a month or so.

Apple earlier today declared build 8A428 of Tiger 'gold master,' the final development stage. Companies typically release the 'GM' candidate to manfuacturing for duplication and packaging.

Battlestar Galactica - Best Sci-Fi Ever

Wired is agreeing with me by saying Battlestar Galactica is the best Sci-Fi show ever. Let's hope it continues in Season 2.

The new Battlestar Galactica (whose season finale airs tonight at 10 p.m. on the Sci-Fi Channel) is the best sci-fi TV ever. And that's because it's not merely great science fiction -- it's great TV. "It's so good," my wife exclaimed as the credits rolled on an encore viewing of the penultimate episode earlier this week. "It's like Next Generation meets The West Wing."

Which is to say, nearly every episode offers up some ingenious situation or unexpected turn, and is backed by a script chock-full of believable dialogue and mostly understated acting. Stacked up against Olmos' Adama, legendary Star Trek captains Kirk and Picard come off as even bigger, unbearable, pompous assess than we might have remembered.

Google Doubles Email Storage Space

Google announced that it will double Gmail storage space from 1 to 2 gigabytes. From that point the company plans to add storage daily to provide its users a virtually unlimited capacity going forward. Yes this is right after Yahoo vowed to match the 1 gigabyte, Google spits on you Yahoo. Lol.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Web giant on Friday plans to double the free storage on Gmail from 1GB to 2GB, said Georges Harik, Gmail product management director. After that, Google will add a yet-to-be-determined amount of extra storage daily, with no plans to stop. "We wanted to make sure we have a plan in place for when people reach their storage limit," he explained. "We don't want people to worry that they might run out."