October 31, 2005

Apple Sells 1 Million Videos

Creating a new market worth $200 million in less than 20 days is pretty impressive. Especially since everyone that has tried downloadable videos before has failed. Go Apple go!

Topping the list of big sellers were music videos by Michael Jackson, Fatboy Slim and Kanye West, as well as episodes of ABC shows. "Selling one million videos in less than 20 days strongly suggests there is a market for legal downloads," Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, said in a statement. "Our next challenge is to broaden our content offerings."

Ken Kutaragi on PS3 Power

Ken is up to his crazy antics again proclaiming the power of the Playstation 3. 120 frames per second! 10 HDTV channels decoded at once! Whoopee. Just ship the damn console already so we can see it for ourselves.

Kutaragi also pointed out that the Cell chip can decode more than ten HDTV channels at a time, and can be used for rotating and zooming effects. He discussed some of the different ways in which it could be used - to display actual-size newspaper pages, for example, to show more than one HD channel on the screen at a time, or for video conferences. Kutaragi also explained how a processing power of 25.6 teraflops could be achieved - by creating a Cell cluster server with 16 units, each madeup of eight Cell processors running at 2.5Ghz.

October 30, 2005

Playstation 3 Interface

Screenshot of what may become the interface for Playstation 3. It basically is just like the Sony PSP with a different background as of now.

Steve Jobs the Guru

RedNova has a puff piece on Steve Jobs, the technology business guru. I don't agree with the thesis that Jobs pulled a fast one on Disney since Disney owns the Pixar movie IP and the rights for sequels, but whatever.

he gave a long interview to Wired magazine. In it he forecast that Microsoft wouldn't find out a way to own the Web, that nobody would make money from web browsers, that the Web would be a huge hit for commerce (at a time when Amazon was barely six months old), and that the internet would revolutionise the supply of manufactured goods, by letting consumers specify fine detail of their desired product which could be relayed back to factories. Dell Computer, for example, works on precisely that basis. And Dell is by far the most profitable of the computer manufacturers. Jobs tends to be right about the direction of technology.

Underground City for Sale

An underground city in Britain is for sale. It used to be the nuclear bunker for the government and royal family.

WELCOME to Cold War City (population: 4). It covers 240 acres and has 60 miles of roads and its own railway station. It even includes a pub called the Rose and Crown. The most underpopulated town in Britain is being put on the market. But there will be no estate agent’s blurb extolling the marvellous views of the town for sale: true, it has a Wiltshire address, but it is 120ft underground.

Creative Labs Zen Nano Plus Review

A review of a flash MP3 player from Creative Labs. It got nothing on the Nano, even if it is called Nano Plus. Who was the pea brain that thought to name it that moniker?

The Creative Nano is jam-packed with features, including MP3/WMA/WMA (protected) playback, MP3 encoding up to 160kbps from the line-in, on-the-fly playlist creation, five graphic equalizer settings (one custom), as well as automatic synchronization software. As mentioned earlier, the Nano is recognized as a USB 2.0 Mass Storage device, which means you can store documents on it; the transfer rates are snappy.

Tivo Programs Automatically Transfered to the iPod Video, Palm, and Sony PSP

This program supposedly automates TV show transfers from your Tivo to the iPod Video, Palm PDA, and/or Sony PSP.

Student's Homework Site Nets him $1.25 Million

This kid makes a site for a high school homework class project. Now he's a millionaire. He just learned PHP and MySQL just to create this site too. Insane.

Adil Lalani was still in high school when he conceived the idea for SurfYourWork.com, a free, web-based school management system that lets teachers and administrators post assignments and other documents online for students and parents to view and download. Now, little more than a year later, a New York-based educational software provider has purchased the product, prompting schools across the country to take a serious look at this one-time classroom project--while reportedly making Lalani, 19, a millionaire in the process.

October 29, 2005

Civilization IV is Like Crack

Slashdot had an interview with the Civ IV development team. From what I hear this game is the cat's meow and will have you so addicted you will lose your job, girlfriend, and any life whatsoever. It will bring back memories of World of Warcraft.

Graphics succeed in a Civilization game when they provide a good representation of the world's state. Simply put, what-you-see-is-what-you-get is a lot easier with 3D than with 2D. Wonders and buildings now appear on the map, so the player doesn't need to reference an advisor screen to see which city has the Pyramids. Improvements like farms and mines animate differently depending on whether a city is working them or not. Multiple units can now be used to signify hit-points, instead of the old red/green bars. [Discuss]

Apple Gaming Hardware Suggestions

As much as I love Apple, trying to pretend their computers are good gaming machines is pretty laughable. Build yourself a cheap Shuttle PC box for games and stick with the Mac for desktop computing I say.

The Mac mini offers solid gaming performance to those looking to add or include games in their digital lifestyle. Whether you’re just beginning to explore games, or already a player, the Mac mini provides a sensational gaming experience — both off and online.

Birth of the iPod

A former Apple employee writes about what it was like to be there at the birth of the iPod with Steve Jobs ranting and raving.

“This feels like crap!” Steve growled at the engineer from the industrial design department. He repeatedly plugged and unplugged the headphones from the pre-production iPod and looked as if he might fling it across the room. “...these headphone jacks all have to be replaced by tomorrow” he continued. Tomorrow was October 22, 2001, one day before the introduction of Apple’s new digital music player, known as P68, but soon to be christened ‘iPod’.

Stallone to do Rambo IV after Rocky

Got to hand it to Stallone. Even when he is 59 years old, he still thinks he can act in a boxing ring and fight as Rambo in a movie. He got some cajones.

The 59-year-old Stallone also intends to bring boxer Rocky Balboa out of retirement. He will write and direct "Rocky Balboa," the sixth film in that franchise, with shooting set to begin next year.

Nedivi said the $50 million "Rambo IV" will recapture the rawness of "First Blood," which launched the franchise in 1982.

Intel to Lag AMD for Four More Years

That being said, it's a pretty amazing marketing job when you continue to have dominant market share when your products are slower and more expensive. Someone in the Intel marketing and business development department deserves their bonuses this year.

Dual-core Itanium chip production slowed because of quality concerns. A sophisticated future Xeon processor was cancelled. Plans to unite the Itanium and Xeon lines around a common architecture to make servers more affordable and faster have been pushed out likely until 2009. In short, bad news for Intel customers.

Underneath all of these roadmap adjustments lurk some painful technology slips that must have customers concerned. In particular, it now appears that Intel will stay married to its front side bus dependency for much longer than previously expected and will fail to deliver integrated memory controllers on time. Where Intel had a very real shot at closing the gap with AMD in just 18 months on previous roadmaps, it now looks more likely to trail for close to four years.

First Generation Xbox 360 Games using Single Thread?

Inquirer is spreading speculation that the first generation of Xbox 360 games are only using a single thread out of the six available on the CPU. Take it with a grain of salt until Microsoft confirms or denies it directly.

During a talk on multithreaded programming, Microsoft used the three core, two thread per core Xbox360 as an example. The bombshell was that the first generation of Xbox titles, all of them, are single threaded. Not good.

October 28, 2005

Xbox 360 Off to Slow Start

This happens every new console generation. The companies always proclaim how they are going to have multi-million unit launch, but due to last minute difficulties they are forced to back track big-time. 1.5-2.0 million Xbox 360s at launch is pretty puny if you think about it. That's world-wide. Nuts.

Microsoft's Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell said there wouldn't be a big initial spike and promised that the software giant would be able to ship between 4.5 and 5.5 million Xbox 360 consoles by the end of the business year to June 2006. For the launch in a month, analysts expect Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft to ship between 1.5 million and 2 million consoles.

Microsoft Threatens to Withdraw Windows in Korea

Microsoft is back to their old ways. The evil empire better be a bit more careful though because forcing a whole country to move their computers from PC to Linux or Mac may not be a smart move in the long-run. Although Koreans would be up at arms over not being able to play Starcraft or World of Warcraft on the their PCs. However come to think of it, people are just going to pirate the OS if it comes to a outright withdrawal.

Microsoft Corp. has threatened to withdraw its Windows software from South Korea if the country's antitrust agency orders it to unbundle its Instant Messenger and Media Player from the operating system. South Korea's Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) has been investigating allegations that the world's top software maker breached antitrust laws by incorporating the services into Windows.

Catholic School Principal Bans MySpace

A catholic school principal who probably is a technophobe banned his students from having a blog on the internet "to protect the children" from online predators. We live in a world where teenagers live on MySpace and instant messaging from their blogs. I guarantee no-one is complying with this order.

The Reverend Kieran McHugh stunned the 900 students of the private Pope John XXIII Regional High School at a recent assembly when he told them that, effective immediately, they would have to dismantle their personal pages on sites such as MySpace.com and Xanga.com and any other blogs, or face suspension.

Goldeneye Source

A team is working on a Goldeneye Source Half-life 2 mod. Unfortunately I think it's only a matter time before these guys get hit with a cease-and-desist order from EA.

Shadow of the Colossus is One Good Game

Wired has a puff piece on Shadow of the Colossus. It's the kind of game that pushes the boundaries of interactive entertainment into a true mainstream art-form. Nice job Ico team. Nice job Sony.

Colossus truly excels at manipulating your emotions. You'll go from feeling a sense of loneliness and despair as you gallop through desolate plains to feeling jubilant exhilaration as you cling to the back of a bucking, thrashing colossus and deliver the death blow -- all accompanied by a gorgeous orchestral score.

Digg Gets VC Funding

Congrats to Kevin Rose for getting $2.8 million in venture capital funding. From some primo investors too. Can't do much better than the founder of eBay. Digg.com is now getting 500K daily visitors. Look forward to the digg engine to be used for non-tech news and instant messaging in the near future. I bet the site gets bought out for $50M within 12 months.

And it just received $2.8 million in venture capital from some big-name investors, including Omidyar Network, the outfit led by eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, and Greylock partners.

Delta Dumping Song

Delta raised the white flag and is going to fold Song into their core airline by mid-2006. I liked Song, tried it once and had a pleasant experience. It has a wanna-be JetBlue type feeling, but compared to a normal airline that's not a bad place to be.

Delta, the No. 3 U.S. carrier, said Song would stop operating as a separate unit in May 2006, about three years after it started flying. The decision on Song is the latest sign of Delta's willingness to break with its past as it seeks to reorganize under bankruptcy protection and stem billions of dollars in losses from high fuel costs and competition. Delta has never disclosed whether Song was profitable.

October 27, 2005

University Podcasts

A great trend we're seeing is universities spreading the intellectual love by putting college lectures on podcasts. Although I don't think this is good for student attendance for these classes, it's great for all of us life long learners who want to learn about Biology while we're conquering the treadmill with our iPod Nanos.

# AGEC100 - Introductory Agricultural Business and Economics
# AGR101 - Introduction to the School of Agriculture and Purdue University
# AGR290 - Special Topics in Agriculture
# ANTH379 - Indians of North America
# BCHM307 - Biochemistry
# BIOL110 - Fundamentals of Biology

Peter Jackson Disses EA

Peter Jackson was not happy with the relationship with Electronic Arts in making the Lord of Rings games. So for King Kong, he went with Ubisoft and specifically asked for the team that made the critically acclaimed (but commercial flop) Beyond Good and Evil. Jackson clearing is an avid gamer and knows his stuff. Kudos to the King maker. I still have a copy of Beyond Good and Evil for my PS2 which I picked up for $5 at Best Buy during a clearance sale. I still need to play it someday.

So it came as a surprise to many when Jackson announced that Ubisoft, not EA, would be developing and publishing the game version of his remake of King Kong, due out on December 14. However, the primary reason Jackson, an avid gamer himself, gave was perfectly plausible. He said he wanted to work with Ubisoft producer Michel Ancel after having played the acclaimed but unpopular Beyond Good and Evil.

That said, an article in Monday's edition of the New York Times (subscription required) said Jackson had another motivation for going with Ubisoft: Namely, he didn't like working with EA. The article, which dealt with how filmmakers are becoming increasingly enmeshed in game development, said that Jackson "chafed at his dealings with the industry heavyweight."

The article also quoted Ken Kamins, Jackson's manager, as saying that "Electronic Arts was not interested in input from the filmmaker" but had no problem marketing the games as though he was closely involved in their making.

Sony Profit Down 72%

Sony isn't doing so hot these days. CRT televisions sales are dying. They have been forced to buy LCD panels from their competitors for their LCD TVs. And worst of all, they lost the next-generation digital music hardware market to Apple. The only dominant beach-head they have is the Playstation, which is increasingly under attack from the $4 billion loss is nothing Xbox from Microsoft.

Sony Corp said its net profit for the first half to September tumbled nearly 72 pct to 21.20 bln yen because of falling prices of electronic products and high restructuring charges. But the world's second-largest maker of consumer electronics retained its forecasts for the year to March 2006, which were last revised a month ago, when Sony announced a three-year turnaround plan calling for 10,000 jobs to be cut and the shutdown of 11 manufacturing plants.

Epic VP Bashes Nintendo

A Epic VP bashes Nintendo, Sony, EA, and Activision. Nintendo for being an also-ran in console market, Sony because of its crappy controller, and EA/Activision for whining about larger project teams and budgets required in next-generation development. Epic sure is in the gaming press these days, lately because they are miffed about the growth of the used games market. That's what happens when you are a small studio amongst big publishers.

"Don't kid yourself - you're going to see more gimmicky, crappy, cheap, I-wish-I-hadn't-bought-it gimmick games based around that controller than you can ever possibly imagine. "I guarantee you there's going to be lots of people who say the whole reason for this game is this controller, we made the perfect game for the controller. And all it'll be is about the controller, and not necessarily a great game."

"I don't think anybody knows what the PlayStation 3 controller looks like," he said. "I think we all sure as hell pray like hell it's not that stupid-looking thing they showed at E3."

"I've heard EA and Activision make absolutely ridiculous statements about, 'Oh, it's going to take 30 million dollars to make a game and we need 300 people - that's just a bunch of bullsh--. "They're just covering up for their own management and incompetence. Or mismanagement I should say. "Our team size is only about 50 per cent higher than it was last generation, and we're making fantastic games. Gears of War [Epic's forthcoming Xbox 360 title] is only about 25 people, and that's smaller than most current-generation game teams."

Target to Sell $500 Arcade Machine

Beginning in November, Target is going to sell a full sized arcade machine that will play 12 Midway Arcade classics for $500. Not so bad if you're a Joust or Defender junkie, but it might be cheaper just to buy the classic compilation for your PS2 and buy a nice arcade joystick, no?

$500 nationwide in November of 2005. Each unit plays 12 of the original arcade versions of the most popular Midway® games including: Defender®, Defender® II, Robotron®, Joust®, Bubbles®, Splat™, Sinistar®, Rampage®, Rootbeer Tapper™, Wizard of Wor™, Timber™, and Satan's Hollow™. The unit stands 62” tall and has an included, built-in, full color monitor. It comes with additional A/V inputs that allow (almost) any existing home video game system, DVD player, VCR or any other A/V product to be plugged in and viewed on the built-in monitor.

Call of Duty 2 Review

The first reviews are out for Call of Duty 2 and they are uniformly position. This version isn't as ground breaking as the first iteration, but how can we expect it to be. The first Call of Duty was an awesome revolutionary experience, one of few games I made time to finish in the past few years.

Call of Duty 2 in many ways can be criticized for changing less in the formula than the Call of Duty expansion pack did, but then you face the question: what else would you change? It's just that damn good. Yeah, we've fought World War II several times over by now and each of us have killed enough virtual Germans to have them appealing for help from the UN, but there's no denying that the subject matter remains compelling despite being worn several times.

October 25, 2005

JibJab Big Box Mart

JibJab is at it again making fun of Wal-mart.

Puff Piece for a Pro Gamer

The Washington Post wrote a nice puff piece on Ksharp, the best Counterstrike player in the world.

He drives a Bimmer. He attracts the ladies. He's got sponsors. He trains hard. He plays harder. He's 21. No, he's not in the NBA. Kyle Miller and fellow members of Team 3D at last year's World Cyber Games. Team 3D has won more tournaments than any other U.S. team. Reston, Va., resident Kyle Miller makes a good living competing with players from around the world and has adoring fans in many countries. His sport? A first-person-shooter video game called Counter-Strike. "Ksharp" -- aka Kyle Miller -- is a full-time professional computer game player.

First BitTorrent Conviction

This is not good news for BitTorrent pirates the world over. You know who you are!

A customs officer was browsing a BitTorrent movie newsgroup when he encountered "Big Crook", a Hong Kong user who uploaded the Hollywood film Daredevil to the site. Officer Chan Tsz-lai downloaded the movie and two others uploaded from the same IP address in January this year, leading to the world's first arrest involving BitTorrent technology. From there, the police raided the domicile of Big Crook, where three films were found on Mr. Nai-ming's computer: Daredevil, Red Planet, and Miss Congeniality.

Interview with Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com

I like how the writer asks Mr. Bubble Boy if we're in a bubble. Deep question man.

So was eBay's deal with Skype a daft move? He shrugs. "It may be very smart, but we are focused on building a great customer experience in an area that has unconstrained market size."

As to whether the boom times are back - "I don't know," he admits. "And the reality is that bubbles are easy to see in hindsight and hard to see in foresight. If they were easier to see in foresight they wouldn't happen. That's a stock-market question; it is very disconnected in the short term from the business and the business results."

Google Base

Google put up and and took down the Google Base site today, a Craigslist.org/eBay killer. It's only a matter of time before Google takes over the whole damn internet.

Interview with Valve Project Manager

Good interview on the internal workings of Valve, the success of Steam content distribution engine, and short development cycles in the future.

While we haven't done a significant release for Counter-Strike: Source in a little while, we've been continuously building content for it. There are two new maps on the horizon for Counter-Strike: Source, de_nuke, and cs_militia, which will bring the total number of maps we've released to 18. The team has also been busy working on getting the rest of the player models built, which we'll also be releasing soon. November should be a fun month for Counter-Strike: Source fans. On the Day of Defeat: Source front, we have a few maps currently in development. There will be a mix of new maps and a Source adaptation of an original Day of Defeat map coming before the calendar year is over.

October 24, 2005

AMD Cuts Chip Prices

Digitimes reports that AMD cut chip prices by as much as 26% today. It's a good time to pick up an Athlon 64 before the Christmas rush.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) today cut prices for its mobile Turion 64, Athlon 64 X2, Athlon 64 for full-size notebooks, Sempron, and mobile Sempron CPUs for desktop PCs and notebooks, with the steepest reduction in the mobile Turion 64 line, according to the price list on the company’s website. In contrast, prices for its Opteron, Athlon 64, and Athlon 64 FX CPU lines remain unchanged. The AMD Athlon 64 CPUs for desktop replacements was no longer listed on the CPU price list released by the chip vendor. Socket-A and Socket-754 Sempron processors have also been removed from AMD’s price list, as well as the Athlon 64 3000+/ 2800+ and mobile Athlon 64 2800+.

Bush Comes Down Hard on the Onion

After doing an amazing job during the hurricanes and picking qualified Supreme Court nominees, the Bush is coming down hard against satire sites using the Presidential Seal. Your tax dollars at work.

"It has come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential seal on its Web site," Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on Sept. 28. (At the time, Mr. Dixton's office was also helping Mr. Bush find a Supreme Court nominee; days later his boss, Harriet E. Miers, was nominated.) Citing the United States Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that the seal "is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement." Exceptions may be made, he noted, but The Onion had never applied for such an exception.

Mr. Duffy, how did they find out about it? "Despite the seriousness of the Bush White House, more than one Bush staffer reads The Onion and enjoys it thoroughly," he said. "We do have a sense of humor, believe it or not."

Gap Virtual Strip Tease

Check the new generation of internet advertising. Gap let's you create a virtual model of your self and then watch it do a strip tease. I'm not joking. For real.

October 23, 2005

Apple Nano Class Action Suit

I hate lawyers. Obviously the Nano scratches easily, but who said the Nano has to be scratch free? It's not Apple's fault a consumer scratches his or her products and doesn't buy a case for it. My Nano after its initial scratches is sitting pretty now in a new case. And even if the case wins, the lawyers will find a way to benefit the most in legal fees and settlements. Argh.

Claiming that the iPod Nano has a widespread propensity for scratching easily, lawyers this week filed a class action suit against Apple Computer on behalf of those who have purchased the diminutive music player. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday on behalf of all those who have bought a Nano, alleges that Apple violated state consumer protection statutes, as well as express and implied warranties. The complaint charges that Apple knew that there were design problems with the Nano. "These Nanos scratch excessively during normal usage, rendering the screen on the Nanos unreadable," according to the complaint

Japanese Creators Speak on Revolution Controller

Nintendo shoots and SCORES with the all important developer crowd. I can't wait to play the next generation of innovative games from these developers on the Nintendo Revolution.

"I was surprised when I saw it, I was surprised when I touched it, and when I played the sample games, I was even more surprised!" Nagoshi states. "I doubt that there's a creator who doesn't get tickled after getting their hands on this. It combines all the elements required to let you enjoy games while feeling that you've become the character." Continuing, Nagoshi states that he expects the controller to open up new paths for all genres.

Sid Meier Interview

Slashdot has a good interview with the computer gaming legend Sid Meier. I have many of fond memories of his games destroying my life from playing Pirates! on my Commodore Amiga to the original Civilization on the PC. Classic gaming at its finest.

I like to play all kinds of games...on a variety of systems. My son and I play games on the PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube...and they range from Warcraft, to Halo to Grand Turismo...to Civilization. :) I definitely try to create, and most enjoy playing, games that strike a balance between depth/complexity and ease of use. My goal when making a game is to find the right mix of story and mechanics that will deliver many hours of fun to players. We try to put the player in a situation where they can be something great - King, Pirate Captain, Tycoon, Entrepreneur - and create an interesting world where they can have an adventure, build an empire, conquer the world etc. The game can be as deep as a player wants it to be.

F.E.A.R (PC) Review by Arogan

- about 10-12hrs
- 11 intervals
- You stay pretty confused about the plot until near the end where almost everything gets resolved. There are a few lose ends, and there's definitely room for a sequel. Overall I found the ending very satisfying and appropriate.
- The graphics are just amazing especially during the battles and the dream sequences (much better than Max Payne). I love the bullet trails during slow mo, the matrix bending of light during explosions, the gore (You can take of limbs and heads with the shotgun close up. I once even exploded a guy and lots of blood splatters all over the place), and a ton of debris and sparks during large gun battles. You haven't seen a gun battle like this before. The end game has some of the best graphics. Physics are pretty top notch too. I did have one funny occurrence where I killed a soldier, then set off proximity grenades. This was inside a tunnel. It blew the body up to where the head was stuck into the ceiling of the tunnel and the body dangled like a Piñata. I had some fun shooting it some more, threw a few sticky bombs on it, etc. What's interesting is the particle weapon usually vaporizes the flesh off your enemies but doesn't do anything to already dead bodies.
- The AI is some of the best I've seen. It's right up there with the marines in Half Life and the mercs in Far Cry. They really use squad tactics and try and suppress and flank. I also like all the chatter that is context sensitive to the current state of the battle. They knock down tables for cover and jump through windows.
- The weapons all feel fantastic and really pack a punch (even the dual pistols). The melee moves are pretty cool too and do a lot of damage. You can engage bullet time, run up and shoot somebody with a shotgun, then jump scissor kick them pretty much just like Neo. You can only carry 3 weapons at a time. I ended up settling on shotgun, assault rifle, and particle weapon. You can use grenades without switching weapons (well except for the sticky kind).
- There isn't a whole lot of different enemies but there are a few nice surprises. It doesn't matter so much since I still enjoyed every battle. Environments also lack variety but I like the office building setting because it's something I can really relate to. Level design is overall excellent. I like how if you are fight some guys that are high up in a balcony, or shooting at you in a building across the street, eventually you can travel there. There's some limited problem solving toward the end but nothing too hard.
- One of the few games that gave me chills on more than one occasion and lasted well into the end credits.
- The quality of the content is very high all the way through. The pacing is frantic with no fluff material.
- Incredible sfx and music that really sets the creepy mood. You can really hear the battle rage around you in full 5.1.
- I played it on the default difficulty level. It was a bit on the easy side with health and ammo everywhere. You can change the difficulty level at anytime during the game through the options menu.
- Voice acting is good overall. There's some pretty funny writing too. When you get to interval 8 stick around at the start and listen to your buddies. They've got quite a lot to say.
- Make sure to turn vsync ON. The game looks a lot better.

If you love the purity of infantry combat (no vehicles, no shooting monsters or aliens for the most part) combined with great creepy japanese influenced horror (think the ring or Juon, no monster closets) then you will absolutely love this game.

This is an instant classic. I put it right up there with Half Life 2 though each game has a very different feel. [Discuss]

October 22, 2005

FirstAdopter.com Show: Episode 7

This show covers the following topics:

Internet startup history including: Google, Geocities, Broadcast.com, TheGlobe.com, Paypal, Billpoint, Goto.com/Overture, Pointcast, and MySpace. Google Profits, EB Games Sucks, Occupation Salary List.

Download the MP3 Podcast

Sony Sets Targets for PS2 and PSP

Sony has set a goal to sell 2-3 million PSPs before Christmas. Another SKU was announced which will come with a usable 1G memory stick vs. the paltry 32MB stick used before. Sony has shipped over 10 million PSPs world-wide and with software sales of 20M units and UMD movie sales of 15M. They want to sell 2.5-3M PS2s by the end of year too.

I'm very surprised how well UMD movies are selling. I didn't think a $200+ device would be bought people just to play movies, but I was wrong. Overhearing people talk about the PSP at Target, women are like, "I want that thing to play movies". I guess if you are willing to buy a crappy DVD portable player for $150, a PSP isn't such a bad buy. Although I doubt many consumers know they have re-buy all their movies in UMD format. I doubt most consumers want to go through the hassle of converting their video content to fit on a memory stick.

Pre-Christmas sales in the US, SCEA president and CEO Kaz Hirai has stated that the company expects to sell 2-3 million PSPs before the beginning 2006... the company has recently announced a new 'Giga Pack' PSP bundle, which includes a 1GB Memory Sick Duo in place of the standard 32MB memory stick. The new pack will be available in the UK and Ireland from November 21st, with EMEA territories following a week later. Sony plans to release the pack in North America, although no release date has been announced.

Radioshack Gets iPod and Cuts Verizon

RadioShack is still viable channel for electronics as laughable as that may of sounded years ago. The company is going to focus on satellite radio, digital imaging, Mp3, and wireless products. They announced they are going to sell the iPod and accessories in a big way. Also they are gong to cut Verizon wireless and just sell Sprint PCS and Cingular phones and plans.

Chief Operating Officer David Edmondson said the company will emphasize sales of satellite radio, digital imaging MP3 and wireless products. "These are hot categories and very productive for RadioShack," Edmondson told analysts in a conference call. "They drive traffic into the stores, and they also provide opportunities for selling profitable accessories." The year has been replete with new products, deals and advertising representation. Last month, RadioShack began carrying Apple Computer Inc.'s popular Ipod.

Apple Computer Universal Dock and Apple Remote

When you first get your iPod Nano, there is a plastic connector that makes you scratch your head and say, "What the hell is this used for?" Nothing in the manual or documentation gives you a clue. Well now we know it is used to connect to the Universal Dock. This new product lets you put your new Nano or iPod upright and the dock lets you output stereo audio and video to your TV, audio system, and computer. The kicker is your iPod can now be controlled by the new Apple remote control.

A single iPod dock electronically compatible with all Dock Connector-equipped iPod models, including necessary adapter plates for all 4G and mini iPods. Outputs S-Video and variable audio natively, composite video with an optional cable, and can be connected to a computer. Compatible with an optional Apple Remote, which is iPod shuffle-like in simplicity and looks.

Silver PS2 Not Compatible

Sony is going to release a new silver PS2 this November in Japan. Due to new chips and hardware underneath the silver coat of paint, the new console will not be compatible with the following games:

Tekken 5 (SLPS-25510)
Ai Yori Aoshi (SLPS-25224 and SLPS-25225)
F1 2001 (SLPS-20120)
F1 2002 (SLPS-20199)
Gauntlet Dark Legacy (SLPM-62125)
Hitman: Contracts (SLPS-25406)
Racing Battle C-1 Grand Prix (SLPM-65897)
Stylish Mahjong Usagi Double Pack (SLPM-62571)
Usagi: Yasei no Topai (SLPS-20207)

Most of those games are crap, but Tekken 5? That's pretty bad when your new console doesn't play one of the best most recent fighters released.

RIM Ruling Could Shut Down Blackberry Service

RIM lost another battle. As a result Blackberry users might be faced with a disruption of their email service. Of course the company suing, NTP, is emphasizing that federal, state, and local governments will be exempt from the injunction. Whatever. I hate "do nothing" companies that are led by lawyers and all they have are the patents, which they use to get money off innovative companies like RIM.

Research in Motion Ltd. moved closer on Friday to an injunction that could halt U.S. sales of its popular BlackBerry wireless device after it lost a bid to suspend a patent case against it. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied RIM's motion to stay the case until the U.S. Supreme Court decided whether to accept RIM's request for an appeal.

October 20, 2005

Google Profits up 700%

Remember when the Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, said, "Google's not a real company. It's a house of cards." Google just reported their Q3 earnings and profit was only up by 7X vs. last year with revenue up almost 100%. How bout them apples Steve?

Google Inc.'s rapidly rising profits soared to new heights in the third quarter as its Internet-leading search engine churned out a sevenfold earnings increase that blew past analyst expectations. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said Thursday that it made $381.2 million, or $1.32 per share, during the three months ended in September. That compared with net income of $52 million, or 19 cents per share, a year ago.

iPod Video Review

As usual, Ars-Tehnica have one of the best in-depth detailed reviews of the new iPod Video up for your reading pleasure. I love the pictures they take of the innards and all the chips on the circuit board. I certainly wouldn't do that to my gadget, even for an FA review.

Looking at the iPod from the vantage point of someone who's on the lookout for their first and primary digital music player player, I'd say its a fantastic deal. A lot of people will never collect 30 GB of music on their PCs anytime soon, and the 5th generation model is light, thin, and does just about anything that anyone would want to do with their digital audio player.

EB Games Sucks, Any Questions?

This former employee of EB Games really rips his old employer from accusing it of shady business practices, not allowing sales people to be honest in selling games, and dirty housing of pre-owned consoles. After reading this, I'll stick to Best Buy thank you.

Never ever buy a pre-owned game system. 90% of the time they are broken, or will be in a few weeks. Still, EB will sell you a one-time use warranty for $10-$15 more at purchase of the pre-owned system. It'll be good for a replacement should anything go awry. But ask yourself if it's really worth what you may be getting for your money.

October 19, 2005

F.E.A.R. (PC) Impressions by Arogan

Just picked this game up at Fry's for around $37. FYI, the collector's edition is NOT on sale ($55). It comes on 5 CDs. It seems the only way to get it on DVD is to buy the collector's edition.

After 2-3 hrs of play
This game is everything I expected after playing the demo. The pace is relentless. You go from one set piece battle where you focus on gun play and tactics (I love bullet time) to total scary freak out / explore sections of game play. It really is a great combo. The light and shadows, sfx, and music all come together to create an incredible atmosphere.

The story (or the bits I've seen so far) is still rather confusing. I actually feel a bit tired after playing a few hours because your are just on edge the entire time and your heart rate is way up. The content is rich and dense. There are NO filler parts so far.

The 5.1 is excellent as you can really hear all the bullets hitting around you. Quick save/load is very fast. I have to say this is shaping up to be one of my favorite shooters of all time next to Half Life 2. But really this game has a very unique feel to it, and it's like no other shooter you've played before.

At autodetect settings, vsync off, all eax hw sound stuff turned on @ 1024X768 I ran the benchmark:

Min 32
Avg 58
Max 113

0% < 25fps
13% 25-40fps
87% > 40fps

Turn on vsync. It looks much better and still plays very smooth.
AMD64 Venice overclocked to 2.5ghz
1 GB RAM [Discuss]

More Apple New Products - Dual Core G5s, Powerbooks, and Aperture

Apple keeps on coming out with new products galore. On what may be the final PowerPC product cycle, Apple launched new versions of the Power Mac G5 desktops and Powerbook laptops.

The new Power Macs will have dual-core PowerPC 970 processors from 2.0-2.5 ghz. The hardware includes upgrades to DDR2 RAM, SATA storage, and PCI Express 16x. The Powerbooks now support higher resolution displays, better battery life, and DVD Superdrives. The main problem is the laptops still use slower old-generation G4 processors as the G5s run to hot for portable machines. This will be fixed next year when Apple moves to Intel processors.

Last but certainly not least, Apple came out with a $500 image management and manipulation program called Aperture, which will certainly raise an eyebrow from partner Adobe. Apertutre lets photographers have an end-to-end RAW image workflow, which means better images for all of us.

2005 NASA Satellite Hurricane Animation

Check out this really cool video of the 21 hurricanes that have originated from the Atlantic Ocean this year. The view is from NASA satellite footage.

List of Salaries from New Yorkers

New York Magazine had an interesting article on what people make from first year real estate brokers that make over $300K to pan-handlers. Unfortunately 99% of these people make more money than I do, read it and weep.

John Thain
$4 million
CEO, New York Stock Exchange

Chelsea Clinton
Consultant, McKinsey & Co.

Travis Harris
Shoe-shiner, Wall Street ($20 a day, three days a week)

Chris (last name withheld)
Panhandler, Bleecker and Broadway

400 Page Master's Thesis on Gaming

Someone wrote a 412 page Master's Thesis on the architecture of computer games. I wish my education was more like this. The author writes primarily about Starcraft and Unreal Tournament. A bit dry, but a neat idea to waste tuition on something that is at least a bit interesting.

iD's Carmack Loves the Xbox 360

John Carmack, the best programmer in the universe, has said some very nice things about developing for the Xbox 360. Basically it might be 20% less powerful than the PS3, but it is way easier to program and make games for, which in the end will equal more great content. One hopes.

John Carmack: “Xbox 360 has far and away the best development tools [talks about software development support]…and the hardware is comparable”

Geoff: “So you don’t think PS3 is going to more powerful [than Xbox 360]?”

John Carmack: “PS3 is probably marginally more powerful, in terms of raw flops and graphic operations, but that’s not really the best way to look at things. When you look at these development cycles that stretch over years and years, being 20% easier to develop on is much more important than being 20% more powerful. I make little nitpicky decisions about say, well, I prefer the symmetric approach that MS has over the asymmetric Cell approach, but you can do great games on either one of them, and I make fundamental decisions based on development tools and depth of documentation, which Microsoft has been superior on.”

CBS Puts more Content into Podcasts

CBS announced that it will put more content onto podcasts including "60 Minutes" and "Guiding Light", a soap opera. At this rate, who needs TV? I have all the great content I need from NPR, GamingSteve, Motley Fool, and Meet The Press.

DVD Jon Coming to the USA

The hacker famous for breaking the copy protection on DVDs is coming to the States and moving to San Diego to join up with MP3Tunes.com. The site sells music without DRM and was founded by Michael Robertson of Mp3.com and Lindows fame.

Jon Lech Johansen, the 21-year-old Norwegian media hacker nicknamed DVD Jon, is moving to San Diego to work for maverick tech entrepreneur Michael Robertson in what can only be described as the most portentous team-up since Butch met Sundance. "I have no idea what I'll be doing, but I know it will be reverse engineering, and I'm sure it will be interesting," Johansen told Wired News during a Friday stopover in San Francisco.

October 18, 2005

Sierra Founder Ken Williams Interview

The founder of the classic publisher Sierra gave an email interview to Gamasutra. It brought back some good old memories of computer gaming in the 1980s. Ken if you can believe it, hasn't played a game in decades (yeah right) and spent his time crossing oceans on his boat and playing golf. Tough life.

Williams and his wife [and King's Quest creator] Roberta founded On-Line Systems in 1980. Their first game, Mystery House, is considered to be the world's first graphic adventure, at a time when the genre was exclusively text-based. In 1982, the company was renamed to Sierra On-Line and moved to Oakhurst, California, and a legacy was born. Notable franchises developed under Williams' supervision include King's Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Space Quest, Gabriel Knight, the Laura Bow series, and Phantasmagoria, among nearly countless others.

Microsoft Says PS3 Going to be 2007

Microsoft is up to their old tricks of FUD (fear, uncertainty, dispair). As in the PS3 is going to be so late and so expensive, you might as well just buy a over-priced Xbox 360 bundle right now. Yeah Microsoft, I'm sure Sony is letting you in on the exact price and shipping date of the Playstation 3.

"I’ll be happy to compete whenever they turn up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not until spring ’07,” he remarked. "If they hit Xmas ’06, then maybe it’ll be a very thin launch; a launch in name only." MCV also quoted an unnamed “senior European publisher boss” who claimed he also wouldn’t be surprised if the PlayStation 3 didn’t launch in Europe until 2007 and with a price tag of up to Ł499 ($876).

Mossberg Reviews the iPod Video

Wall Street Journal columnist gives the new iPod high marks for its music playing capability. The video stuff is a bit more mixed as he had trouble converting his videos to formats the iPod can play.

As a music player, the video iPod is terrific. In our tests, it rapidly transferred numerous songs from both a Windows and Macintosh computer, and played them back with great fidelity. And there are a few refinements in its music capabilities.

October 17, 2005

BitTorrent's Bram Cohen

Fortune has a great article on Bram Cohen, the creator of BitTorrent, on what he is up to lately. As much as I want to root for Bram to well, after reading this article I kind of doubt he has the business street smarts to be a successful CEO. Remember there was the technical genius of the Woz and the business/marketing genius of Steve Jobs at Apple.

Last month venture firm DCM-Doll Capital Management bet that Cohen could indeed make BitTorrent a business, investing $8.75 million in the startup. Now Cohen has to prove himself again, showing that he can thrive not just in the programming world—a place where logic rules and theories can be proved true or false—but in the fuzzy corporate world too, where compromise reigns and intellect doesn’t always trump idiocy.

Shuttle XPC M1000 HTPC

Shuttle launched a sweet looking home-theater PC today with a great industrial design and component list. The only thing lacking is HDTV support and a reasonable price ($2000+). Anandtech also has a comprehensive review.

(Taipei, Taiwan - October 14, 2005) Shuttle Inc - the world’s leading manufacturer of Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs and accessories - has today expanded its multi-award winning XPC product range with a new system specifically tailored for the growing digital entertainment market.

"The Shuttle XPC Media Center combines advanced power and noise reduction technologies, industry leading audio and video capabilities, and a powerful yet easy to use software interface to create an entertainment-focused home computer ideal for the living room" announced Ken Huang, chief designer and architect of the XPC.

The Shuttle XPC Media Center comes fully loaded with the latest advances in PC hardware, packaged in a stylish case that merges elegantly within any home entertainment center. A performance video graphics accelerator and up to 2 digital or analog tuner cards allow movies, TV shows, online video content and games to be enjoyed on any TV or monitor, while Creative’s leading Sound Blaster Live! audio processor delivers 7.1 high-definition surround sound. Built-in industry standard USB and FireWire connectors allow high-speed transfers to digital cameras and music players, and fully integrated LAN and wireless networking capabilities enable content to be shared with other Media Center compatible devices around the home.

The launch of the Shuttle XPC Media Center has been timed to coordinate with the release of Update Rollup 2 for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. When developing the Shuttle XPC Media Center, engineers worked closely with Microsoft to ensure the system would work flawlessly with the new features added to the operating system, including Away Mode, dual tuner support, and compatibility with new Media Center Extender devices and Xbox 360.

The Shuttle XPC M1000 will be available in Q4 2005 and carries a MSRP of 1.770 Euros plus VAT.

Gametap Goes Live

Turner Broadcasting System launched the Gametap games-on-demand service today for $14.95 a month. It's a valiant attempt, but it's going to fail in its current iteration because the game list they have is too weak. No-one is going to spend $14.95 a month to play budget PC games, Genesis, Atari 2600, and old arcade games. If they can get some publishers to release their new titles, it would be interesting; till then it's going to flop.

October 16, 2005

The Reviews for the FirstAdopter.com Podcast Show Are In

I love first adopter. No bs speaker. Very relaxed and informative. Covers many things im interested in. I just wish there were more of them! Submitted By: lucface@... (on 10-2005)

Really cool tech podcast, definitely will stick to this one. Submitted By: timon.royer@... (on 7-2005)

Excellent source for real and true reviews Submitted By: denisjkassai@... (on 7-2005)

Geek news and reviews. No pointless, self-referential babbling. Good pace. Very informative... (6-2005)

Listen to the best tech podcast on the internet. [FirstAdopter.com Podcasts Link]

Movies Game Preview

The first previews of the Movies game from Lionhead Studios, the creators of Fable and Black & White, are out. Sounds like another ground breaking game from Peter Molyneux.

Other aspects of The Movies such as graphics and sound effects pale in comparison with the depth and volume of gameplay. Suffice to say that both are quite adequate and that you won’t be paying much attention to either, once the game consumes you, which will be sooner rather than later. Overall, I must say that very few games have impressed me as much as The Movies did. I am completely enamored with this game and can’t wait for it to hit stores so that I can get my hands on it at last!

BitTorrent Clients Review

For you Windows users, someone put up a review of various BitTorrent clients with a couple paragraphs on each one. Worth the read.

The absolute no. 1 is… µTorrent. µTorrent is small, fast, clean and really powerful, and it is a breeze to use. It is a big improvement over TorrentStorm, both in speed, stability and features, yet it manages to keep things simple. When I look at what transfer speeds I reach now, I also have the impression that TorrentStorm was holding me back. And it will only get better, it is still in the middle of development! I recommend everyone to use µTorrent. The runner-up is Rufus. It’s a bit slow, but that need not stop you from using it. It has a nice interface and a great feature set, in particular the web-interface and RSS support are interesting.

October 15, 2005

320px Video is Worth Watching?

I agree with this blogger that there is going to be plenty of demand for $1.99 TV shows for the iPod Video even at the lower resolution. People spend billions on crappy song renditions of ring-tones and buy bowling cell-phone games for god-sakes. There is a market for this stuff as long as people have time to waste on-line somewhere or feel like procrastinating from studying at the library. Trust me, I know.

We subscribe to brands. We subscribe to content, not format. There are valid points about surrounding technologies being good or bad: from DRM to BitTorrent. Yet at that single moment in time, I only cared about that THING that's running amok on the island while Jack, Kate, and the ever-suspicious Charlie are making their way back to the others. No one wants to watch video sized at 320 pixels, you'll say. To that, I'll just tell you to keep it down. I'm watching.

Sony Not Worried about iPod Video

Sure Sony, you are not quaking in your pants. Let's see, what happened to your monopoly on portable music players? What was that called, the Walkman? The Sony PSP like the Mini-Disc and Sony MP3 player predecessors simply doesn't provide the easy to use simple end-user interface to downloading video content. If Sony really believes the traditional UMD (buy the UMD/DVD at the store) format is the future, well they deserve to be thrown out into the dust bins of history.

Cradling a black PSP in his hands, Harrison said that millions of people around the world were already enjoying the benefits of the PSP's video playback functions. When asked if he was worried about iPod with video, Harrison smiled and said, "No, we're not worried".

Hollywood Wants their iPod Video Cut

It looks like Apple and Disney went ahead with the download the TV show program without consulting the actors, writers, and directors. Typical Hollywood.

In a show of unity, five unions representing actors, writers and directors issued a joint call for talks to make sure their members get a cut of revenue generated by the sale of TV shows on Apple's iTunes software.

iPod Economy Responds to 5G iPod Video

iLounge got responses from dozens of companies that make accessories for the iPod. The funniest responses are from iSkin:

What is your general reaction to the new iPod Video?
When must companies said, we're happy! Or it's gong to be great. iSkin said: Knew it was coming due to contacts.

Will larger screen change your approach to accessory design?
iSkin: We will innovate past the competition.

I guess you have to respect their tenacity of all-the-time-marketing.

October 14, 2005

FirstAdopter.com Show: Episode 6

This show covers the following topics:

Electronic Arts and Spielberg, Apple Video iPod, Schwarzenegger Signs Violent Videogame Law, iPod Nano Case Review Incase Neoprene Sleeve, Commodore Amiga and Psygnosis Games.

Download the MP3 Podcast

EA and Spielberg to Collaborate on 3 New Games

I bet EA had to give up an arm and a leg to sign up Spielberg to this deal. EA knows it has a major problem in developing new intellectual property as most of their move licenses are starting to tail off and many of the development talent the company has acquired has now left.

Unfortunately for EA, they really need to get at the heart of the problem. They over-worked their staff for far too long and didn't give them the rewards for working ungodly hours. Most of the great games in the past few years took 2-5 years to make, while EA tried to play annual sequelitis. This led to employees being burned out and the quality deterioration.

The long-term deal, which starts this year, will see Spielberg working directly with development teams at EA to create the franchises - the intellectual properties for which will be owned by Electronic Arts.

"I have been playing EA games for years and have watched them master the interactive format," commented Spielberg in an official announcement this morning. "Having watched the game industry grow from a niche to a major creative force in entertainment, I have a great deal of respect for EA's understanding of the interactive format. I'm looking forward to working closely with the team in Los Angeles."

October 13, 2005

Microsoft vs. Google/Comcast for AOL

Not much news today. I'll just ramble on the AOL news of late. The Wall Street Journal is posting up a new AOL joint venture or buy-out speculation almost every day now. Basically Google found out Microsoft was talking to Time Warner about a MSN and AOL joint venture. The main catch being AOL must dump Google for search ads and use Microsoft's engine.

Google is now courting Time Warner big-time with either a $5 billion stake in the AOL portal or a joint buy-out with wing-man Comcast cable. The last thing Google wants to happen is let Microsoft come in and take away the AOL business by using its cash. Google now has over $7 billion cash, so it can now push the big bully back.

The winner in all of this is Time Warner and AOL of course. Frankly however if you ever visit AOL.com these days, other than AOL dial-up users who are forced to go there as their default page, it is pretty useless and the flash ads that go across the page to distract you are VERY annoying. AOL is in decline and nothing is going to stop that.

Sony PSP Firmware 2.5

Sony released another firmware upgrade for the PSP. This one includes features for watching video over wireless networks, web browser bug fixes, and DRM support for downloaded video. Be careful though, the upgrade also makes sure you can't run homebrew software and emulators.

24 New HD Trailers

Apple put 24 new high-definition trailers on their quicktime site. The King Kong one in full 1080p is simply gorgeous.

October 12, 2005

Far Cry Instincts (XBOX) Mini Review by Arogan

First impressions (about 1-2hrs of play)

- Xbox exclusive.
- Very pretty for the Xbox. Not quite as nice as the PC, but close. There's some pop-in on the foliage. They tried to do some pseudo HDR lighting and I personally don't like it. Some things just look too bright in the sun, but other than that very nice graphics.
- This game shares NOTHING from the PC version except the characters, setting, and probably some of the story-line. So far there hasn't been a single duplicate map/mission. It's all new.
- Gameplay feels more linear (but that isn't really a bad thing). You rarely get lost. You always know where to go next (it's shown in your compass). The controls are spot on (very halo like). Weapons feel nice when fired. The gun play and battles are great. There are some innovative gameplay elements I haven't seen before like setting traps or get this. You can go prone, crawl under one of those island huts on stilts, turn around and lie on your back, and shoot the enemies between the floor boards. That is way cool. AI seems almost as good as the PC version.
- Check point save system that hasn't been too bad so far. No difficulty settings but there is a place to enter cheat codes.
- Extensive Live support that I haven't had a chance to test yet - Levels are HUGE.

Overall this is an excellent shooter for xbox and is highly recommended. [Discuss]

Apple Launches Video iPod and new iMac G5

Apple launched new iPods today that are video-capable. The $299 30GB hard-drive version is 30% thinner than before. The 60GB version will go for $399. Both have a 2.5 inch 320x240 screen that is capable of 260,000 colors. Moreover they will have a TV-out that uses a mini-jack cable with 3 RCA composite connectors. Apple also released version 6.0 of iTunes that will let users download music videos, Pixar short-films, and ABC TV shows (Lost, Desperate Housewives) for $1.99 each. Although the screen resolution is meager, it's a start of the inevitable trend towards IPTV. Sony could of had this market with the Sony PSP, but looks like they have dropped the ball and will lose out to Apple again. Even with weaker technical specs and features, Apple wins because of end-to-end ease of use and the best user experience.

The new thinner iMac G5s come in 2 SKUs. The 1.5ghz 17 inch screen version goes for $1299 and the 2.1ghz 20 inch screen version goes for $1699. Apple also release Frontrow and an Apple Remote that mimcis some Windows Media Center functionality.

October 11, 2005

Activision Asking for Credit Card Age Verification

This is what happens when lap-dog politicians pass stupid laws and video-game companies over-react. Activision needs to stand-down from this policy as it will basically nullify their online marketing effectiveness going forward. I mean who is going to want to enter in their credit card to look a screenshots of a new game?

Activision has in addition to their game specific web sites for games like Quake 4 and True Crime: New York City a number of product pages on their official web site. However, if you attempt to access any of their product pages that promote "M" rated games (see this link on the Activision page for a full list), a pop-up shows up with this message and the appropriate fill-in cards:

To access M-rated content please verify your age and enter a valid credit card number. Your credit card will not be charged.

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Review

The Tech-Report has another one of their thorough reviews on the new line of sound cards from Creative. I don't know how they have time to do 22 page reviews with dozens of benchmarks, but I guess someone has to do it. I do doubt the X-Fi will get much game support in the future as sound hardware is not breaking out of the "good enough" quality of built-in PC audio.

Despite its faults, the X-Fi XtremeMusic is highly recommended. In fact, the card's strong performance in our gaming and listening tests, its low CPU utilization, and the X-Fi architecture's considerable potential warrants an Editor's Choice award. If I were buying a sound card for gaming and entertainment today, I'd spring for an XtremeMusic in a heartbeat.

Yahoo and MIcrosoft Instant Messengers Unite

Microsoft and Yahoo are expected to announce on Wednesday interoperability of their instant messaging programs including voice chat. This agreement wound strike a blow at AOL IM, eBays's Skype, and Google's Talk. The kicker is if Time Warner decides to go forward with the rumored joint-venture with Microsoft, you might see a AOL-Yahoo-MSN instant messaging network. Now that would be pretty sweet.

Verizon FiOS TV Review

I4U got to interview one of the early users of Verizon's FiOS TV service. He basically says it's a killer deal with great TV visual quality, built-in 30 hour PVR, and super-fast broadband to boot. I want it!

I4U: How is the image quality of Verizon FiOS TV? Craig: The picture is really the best that I have seen ever, even on non-HD channels.

I4U: What about the promised HD channels? Craig: I have about 20 HD channels including all the major networks starting at 801 and working down to PBS HD, WB HD, TNT HD, UPN HD, NFL HD, ESPN HD & ESPN2 HD and to HBO HD. I even have some that I have not heard of like Wealth TV.

Tivo Killers Windows PVRs

Extremetech has a good review roundup of Windows PVRs including Snapstream's Beyond TV, PowerCinema, and Sage TV. Net-net it looks like they recommend sticking with the Microsoft solution. Now how many times can we say that with other products?

None of the PVR applications we tested really delivers the whole kit and caboodle. SageTV delivers all the necessary features, but we find the interface unimpressive. Beyond TV does a good job with TV, but it doesn't handle DVD and your other media unless you buy the Firefly remote. And the remote's software doesn't integrate well with Beyond TV. PowerCinema offers the best overall user experience, which is completely nullified by the lack of an electronic program guide.

Microsoft and Real Networks Reach Settlement

Microsoft will pay Real Networks $460 million in cash to settle their anti-trust claims. In addition, the evil empire will pay $301 million to promote Real's music and gaming services. Real originally sought $1 billion in damages. Real will also be allowed to sell casual games for Xbox Live arcade on the Xbox 360. Basically the two companies are joining forces to combat new common enemies like Google and Yahoo.

October 10, 2005

Logitech MX 610 Wireless Laser Mouse Review by Arogan

Logitech has come out with a new line of mice. This is a GREAT laser mouse for the price.

- It uses 2xAA batteries (no proprietary batteries yeah!)
- The usb receiver is TINY! (smaller than my logitech notebook wireless mouse.)
- All the usual buttons work fine in Firefox (forward/back). Scroll wheel has the notches. It also has tilt but that requries their drivers but everything else works fine with no drivers installed.
- Battery indicator
- Auto turns on/off with your computer. This works great even without drivers
- There is a manual power switch underneath. Tap to display battery level, hold to turn on/off
- Has volume +/-/mute which work with NO drivers
- Has indicator lights for email/IM (only works with Microsoft crap). Worthless feature IMO.
- Tracks great even on my couch. there's a BIG difference between this mouse and my mx510.
- Very comfortable shape. If you like the shape of the other mx line (500,510,518,700) you will like this mouse.

This is a great laser mouse for $40. [Discuss]

Brilliant Guiness Ad

Watch and be amazed.

F-14 Remote Control Model Jet Airplane Video

It costs over $20,000 to build a F-14 jet fighter model airplane which you can control by remote control. Looks like it is worth it for someone, check out this awesome video.

Schwarzenegger Signs Violent Videogames Law

How crazy is this? A violent videogame is any game with killing. If this law goes into effect on January 1st, a California retailer that sells a videogame to someone under 18 will get a huge fine.

I can't believe the Terminator kow-towed to the liberal hacks that passed this law. This law better be struck down by the courts, it's so ridiculous it's not funny.

"I'm a big believer in these videogames, I mean they're terrific. A lot of them are manufactured in California and they're doing a great job." "We just want to make sure that they don't go into the wrong hands or that children under the age of ten aren't playing those things, because it does have an impact on our children."

The bill will officially become law on January 1, after which date all "violent" videogames must feature a two inch square "18" sticker, and any retailers caught selling the games to minors will risk prosecution and a fine. According to the state's legal summary, a "violent" videogame "means a videogame in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being."

Yahoo Launches Podcast Site

Yahoo launched their podcast portal site today. It lets users search for podcasts by category, keywords, and topics. The actual implementation is mediocre compared to the cleaner more user friendly design from Odeo.

I surfed around the site for a few minutes and wasn't impressed. The podcast (including the FirstAdopter.com Show) pages were cluttered and not updated. My recommendation is to stick with iTunes since it's the only service that works seamlessly with the iPod and your MP3 music collection anyway or if you don't have an iPod, try Odeo.

eBay Buys Payment Business from Verisign

Verisign sold their online payments business to eBay for $370 million. Due to slowing growth and maturation of the U.S. online auction market, eBay is on a spending binge looking for new growth opportunities from Skype (VOIP), China, and now complementary additions to PayPal.

With Skype, credit card merchant payments, and PayPal, eBay is well on its way to become a internet-generation financial services company for small businesses. We wonder what is next on Meg's shopping list?

VeriSign's payment gateway business, which allows small businesses to accept credit card and other payment types online, processed more than $40 billion in customer transactions last year. eBay sees the service as a way to expand its own PayPal transactions division to a new category of small- and medium-size business customers.

The VeriSign service "perfectly complements PayPal's existing payment services," PayPal President Jeff Jordan said in a statement. "This acquisition allows PayPal to give our customers more choice in payment services and grow our merchant services business even more quickly."

Blockbuster Could Have Bought Netflix for $50 Million

In an article in Variety, a former Blockbuster executive talks about how they could of bought out Netflix for only $50 million a number of times. Today Netflix is worth over $1.4 billion and Blockbuster is swimming in red ink. In hindsight, it looks like a huge mistake not to buy the company.

However it's entirely likely Blockbuster would of just ran Netflix into the ground after an acquisition and another internet startup would of taken its place. Blockbuster back then wasn't wild about cannibalizing their immensely profitable land-based video rental business.

“We had the option to buy Netflix for$50 million and we didn't do it. They were losing money. They came around a few times," he recalls. Instead, in 2000, Blockbuster inked a 20-year exclusive video-on-demand pact with Enron as the energy conglom launched into telecom. Blockbuster canned the pact after nine months. Netflix is now worth $1.4 billion. Blockbuster’s market cap is about $850 million.

October 09, 2005

FirstAdopter.com Show Episode 5 Podcast

This show covers the following topics:

Google RSS Reader, iPod Nano Review, Day of Defeat Source, Logitech USB Desktop Microphone Review, Call of Duty 2 Demo

Download the MP3 Podcast

A Cappella Nintendo Medley

This video just warms my heart with Nintendo nostalgia.


Check out this hilarious video where Bill Gates give the evil eye to the creator of CTRL-ALT-DELETE, when he makes fun of Microsoft. Source: Digg.com

Google Co-Founder Gives Berkeley Lecture

Take a gander of a 39 minute lecture and question & answer by the co-founder of Google. The file uses the Real video format. Source: Digg.com

Sergey Brin's Resume from 1996

Here's a blast from the past. Take a look at Sergey Brin's resume from 1996. Sergey is one of the co-founders of this little company called Google. If you have a similar resume today, maybe you too can be worth $11 billion in 9 years.

Sergey Brin
Computer Science Department,
Stanford University,
Stanford, CA 94305

September 1993 - Present: Stanford University, Computer Science Department
Ph.D.: expected June 1997.
M.S.: received August 1995.
Advisor: Professor Hector Garcia-Molina.

September 1990 - May 1993: University of Maryland
B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science. Graduated with high honors in Mathematics and honors in Computer Science. [Read More]

"Near Neighbor Search in Large Metric Spaces", S.Brin, Proceeding of Very Large Data Bases (VLDB) 1995. (html)
"Copy Detection Mechanisms for Digital Documents", S. Brin, J. Davis, H. Garcia-Molina, ACM SIGMOD 1995. (html)

Research Projects
This project involved indexing multidimensional data for near-neighbor searches. The kind of applications I envision are identity comparisons, information finding, molecular biology, ... A paper (html) appeared in VLDB '95. Different versions of the data structure were implemented using Mathematica, C, and finally C++.

I worked on a project with Hector Garcia-Molina involving automated detection of copyright violations. Together with James Davis (another Ph.D. student here), we developed COPS, the COpyright Protection System. The paper (html) appeared in SIGMOD '95.

Current Research Directions and Hacks
Movie Ratings
A new project I have just started is going to generate personalized movie ratings for users. The way it works is as follows. You rate the movies you have seen. Then the system finds other users with similar tastes to extrapolate how much the you will like some other movies. It is currently written entirely in Python.
LaTeX to HTML Converter
I've been hacking on a LaTeX to HTML converter which was used to generate the HTML versions of the papers above. It is unique in that it is in written mostly TeX and hence is a somewhat more elegant design than other converters. A small portion of it is written in Perl.

Work Experience
Summer 1993: Wolfram Research
I developed a code analysis and extraction tool for the Mathematica source code.

September 1992 - May 1993: University of Maryland Systems Design and Analysis Group
At SDAG, I developed algorithms for scheduling in real time systems. This involved finding approximations for NP-complete problems. Additionally, I worked on profiling tools for real time systems.

Summer 1991 and Summer 1992: General Electric Information Services
In 1991, I developed a macro language library which could be embedded into any application. This was important for GEIS because it demonstrated the use of C++ to them. The following summer I developed a graphical front end for a file transfer program using C++

December 1991 - June 1992: Mathematics Department
Dr. Goldman is in the Mathematics Dept. at the University of Maryland and works in the fields of geometry and topology. I worked with him to develop a portable C++ library for the visualization of objects in non-Euclidean geometries.

June 1990 - June 1991: University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
I developed and implemented of parallel algorithms for image processing. These included connected component analysis, image smoothing, and image enhancement. Additionally, I developed parallel 3-D graphics routines suitable for a flight simulator. Both projects were implemented using C/PARIS and C* (6.0+) on a Connection Machine 2 with 16384 processors.

iPod Nano Free Engraving Hypothesis

I think I know why Apple offers free engravings to the iPod Nano and other iPods on their online store. It just makes re-sale of your iPod much harder, which in turns equals more iPod sales later on. Smart Apple, smart. Although I couldn't resist adding the free engraving to my iPod Nano. It's already slightly scratched anyway, so it won't be going on eBay anytime soon. [Discuss]

October 08, 2005

Palm Tungsten TX Specs

The Palm Tungsten TX will have 320x480 color screen with 65,000 colors, 802.11b Wifi, Bluetooth 1.1, 128MB of memory, 312mhz processor, SDIO slot, and Palm OS Garnet 5.4. Where art thou Cobalt? Picture Source: Engadget

Palm Z22 Specs

The Z22 will have 32 MB of memory, 160x160 screen, 2.7x4.06x0.6 inches, 3.4 ounces, 200mhz processor, and run Palm OS 5.4 Garnet. Picture Source: Engadget

Motorola Wants PalmSource to Pay Up

According to the Chicago Times, Motorola was also a bidder for PalmSource. Motorola contends they are due a $8.7M breakup fee because PalmSource actually accepted their $17.25 share bid and then reneged days later. I'm a bit disappointed that both Palm and Motorola lost the bidding war. It would of been nice for a U.S. based company to take the lead in operating systems for smartphones. Who knows what this Japanese company that actually won the bid will do in the future? The prospect of a Palm-based RAZR phone looks like only a dream now.

Motorola has asked a judge to award it an $8.7 million breakup fee from PalmSource, which Motorola said reneged on a $17.25-per-share buyout agreement last month.

Xbox 360 Production Problems

Suprise, surprise. Microsoft is having trouble meeting demand for the Xbox 360, even with its atrocious bundle packs. One analyst thinks there will only be 300,000 to 350,000 units available on day 1 for the ENTIRE United States. Not a good way to keep your fan-boys happy.

Wall Street has been expecting Microsoft to deliver more than 2 million of its next generation consoles to retailers worldwide this year. On Monday, though, P. J. McNealy of American Technology Research lowered his expectations to the 1.8 million – 2 million range. Friday, Banc of America's Gary Cooper said he believes the company will ship just 1.4 million – 1.6 million.

Google RSS Reader

Google launched their online web-based RSS reader. It's pretty simply designed with large fonts. I don't think I'll switch from Bloglines anytime soon, but I'm sure like Microsoft, they will keep improving it in the future.

October 06, 2005

Awesome Counterstrike Fan Movie

This is the best fan movie about a videogame I have ever seen. A must see! The way he got the movements perfect and the perspective is really uncanny. I bet his teacher and fellow students didn't appreciate the authenticity of the film to the game. [Discuss]

October 04, 2005

Apple Video iPod

The Apple Insider says Apple has begun production of a new version of the iPod that is capable of playing videos. According to their sources, the video iPod will be a variant of the 60GB iPod Photo. The differences being a Nano-like click-wheel, thinner body, and a larger color screen for video.

Apple has also stopped updating their Music Video section on the iTunes Music store, which leads to speculation a major video iPod update is forthcoming. In the grand scheme of things, playing video files on a PDA like device isn't a new thing. People have been playing TV shows and cartoons on their Sony PSPs, Nintendo DS/GBAs, Palm PDAs, and Pocket PCs for years.

However Apple fan-boys including myself are salivating at the prospect of an Apple user interface and "end to end" experience for video done right. No more hours of transcoding Mpeg-2, ripping DVDs, and Divx files. We pray.

Then again those Apple bastards forced me to buy a Nano in recent weeks and they are going to force me to buy another video iPod? They sure know how to maximize the revenue out of us stupid bleeding edge early adopters. This is after I bought an iPod Shuffle, iBook, and Mac Mini ALREADY in 2005. [Discuss]

October 03, 2005

Legal Music Downloads Grow 350% in Revenue

Online legal music downloads grew 350% to $790 million in the first half of 2005 compared to the first half of 2004. CD sales actually fell 6.7% in revenue to $13.2 billion.

iTunes captured about 80% of digital music revenue market-share. It's going to be a battle royale between Apple and the record labels as the pricing contracts come up for renewal at the end of this year. Apple wants to keep pricing fixed at 99c per song, while the music industry wants to be able to charge more or less depending on demand.

Let's not kid ourselves folks, even though the music labels tell us they want to reduce pricing on certain songs, they basically want to RAISE prices. Apple's argument is if you raise prices over 99c, people will simply go back to pirating music.

Catch-22 as Apple dominates the industry with the iPod and iTunes exclusive combination. However Apple would like to sell music too. Then again if you're music label, would you want to dump the only rapidly growing distribution channel that has 80-90% market-share? Probably not. Steve Jobs, don't budge. Stare them down. Show them who is boss.

October 02, 2005

Link Roundup

1) Best Launch Titles of All-Time (Tetris on Gameboy!)
2) 170mbps over Electrical Socket (will this tech ever come out?)
3) Valve High Dynamic Range Explored (includes DoD Source Benchmarks)
4) New Search Site Worm (scary stuff)
5) AMD 64 CPU Shortage (why are chipsets and CPUs so short these days?)
6) Free XM Radio on DirectTV (starts in November)
7) PC World 100 Best Products of 2005 (Firefox #1? Nah..)

October 01, 2005

Best Buy Testing Used Videogame Sales

Best Buy has confirmed it is testing used videogame sales in a few markets. Analysts have found four stores in Illinois and California that are trying it out. And it's not limited testing either, one store had 5000 used games for sale. A Wall Street analyst has said it expects Best Buy to roll it out to over 700 stores in the next 2 years. Our sources say the offering has more reasonable prices than EB or Gamestop.

Developers of games are not happy with this new development as it cuts into sales of new games. Publishers may be forced to sell games through digital distribution like the Steam interface Valve has been so successful with in sales of Half-life 2. However in Best Buy's defense, they have little choice but to compete as the merger between EB Games and Gamestop will create a used-game colossus. The used game business is very high margin as it rip offs kids selling stuff who don't know any better or don't want to deal with the hassle of selling games on eBay. The neat benefit of this service is any used games traded in at Best Buy will give you credits to buy other Best Buy merchandise, not just videogames.

Mark Rein, vice president of Epic Games, creators of the "Unreal" franchise as well as the upcoming Xbox 360 game "Gears of War," has vociferously argued against retail sales of used games in the past. The expansion of a major retailer into the field, he said, is disheartening.

"We pay to be in Best Buy's flyers," he said. "We pay market development funds. Publishers drive gaming traffic to these stores. To have them resell the games, with developers having no participation, that's just wrong. That's just fleecing us."

A substantial rise in used game sales may lead to the expansion of digital distribution -- in other words, downloading games rather than buying a disc. Valve Software saw tremendous success with this model for "Half-Life 2" last year. The game was sold two ways: Through traditional retail channels and via a proprietary digital distribution system called Steam. While Valve consistently declines to give hard numbers for Steam sales, founder Gabe Newell has said that digital distribution is responsible for half of Valve's revenues from the game.