On a different note than usual, I learned some interesting things
this weekend. In the wide world of geek things, one of the more
silent sides of all things geek (at least in the US...not quite so
silent in other areas) is the good old cell phone. It's slowly
becoming a cross between an all-in-one tech device to end all tech
devices, and it's becoming a status symbol of sorts.
On the second part, I couldn't honestly care less about what my
phone says about my status symbol-ness. I have a V360 (from
Motorola) and it's ugly as sin. Well, I guess it's safer to say that
the V360 is not ugly, as much as it's plain. It looks like a phone.
It doesn't look like some tech gadget to be in awe of (like
something from RIM), and it doesn't look flashy (like something more
along the lines of a RAZR). It's a phone that can handle some MP3
playing, some storage ability using it's micro SD card, and it can
take VGA quality pictures. However, it doesn't say, by being in my
hand, that I'm tech savvy. Instead, it says that I didn't want to
blow massive money on a RAZR, back before you could get one from a
box of Cracker Jacks or in a Happy Meal for free.
However, on the all-in-one side of things, I learned that the best
feature for a service provider to offer is no feature. What I mean
by this is that I saw someone drop Verizon as a provider for all of
the dumbest reasons. The person who swapped away from Verizon made a
smart move, but Verizon is including a feature that is nothing short
of a true pain in the ass.
I'm talking about V-Cast. The special service Verizon uses to
include music or video on one's Verizon controlled cell phone is to
use V-Cast. On one hand, it's a means to get content, and it's also
the means one must use to put content on their phone. It's a lot
like iTunes is for an iPod, in that regard. However, while iTunes is
actually pretty good for being the only means to put content on an
Apple controlled media player, V-Cast is not as nice.
First off, while iTunes is it's own software that can run on a PC
without many issues, V-Cast hijacks Windows Media Player 10. This
means that it will cause problems for anyone wanting to use
Verizon's V-Cast service from time to time if they also want to
exclusively use Media Player more frequently. V-Cast will take
control of the player without warning. Each time you try to play
music on Media Player, V-Cast will try to take center stage...even
if you don't want to use it...yet.
The other problem is that it requires Media Player 10, and seems to
have some issues for some installations of Media Player 11 (the new
standard). They may be minor issues, but they are still there. Even
if you don't recognize them, they are present and they are not
The largest problem is that this process of having to use V-Cast is
that it is just overly complex for a simply ability (to add media to
a phone). While a service like T-Mobile (what I use, since it's what
many of my friends use...free mobile-to-mobile calls are a great
thing) will only make a user drag and drop items from their media
folders on the PC to the media folders on their phones micro SD (via
a USB cable and treating the phone like a standard USB drive),
Verizon is just bogging down the process and devouring some
additional and precious RAM.
I am going off about this for two main reasons. First off, I feel
like saying that additional features in the cell phone game can be a
great thing, but they should not be forced upon someone to use
standard features of their phone. If you want to use your phone to
play music you already own, then you should not need to go through
additional hoops and to pay extra (the Verizon kit that includes the
software runs about $20...including the USB cable that some
providers, like T-Mobile, offer for free with the phones that use
them) for what another phone provider leaves to the phone's default
programming to do for free.
Secondly, I spent about three hours of my life helping my
acquaintance to get V-Cast running in conjunction with her phone. As
someone who feels confident in handling codecs, knows how to run an
overclock and to optimize for stability, and handles all sorts of
media programs and files without issues (including iTunes for my
precious iPod), V-Cast should not have required three hours of my
life. On top of that, after three arduous hours, V-Cast still
failed. It was too unstable on the PC I was setting it up for to
handle the phone that was designed for it's service.
This person who was using Verizon had been under contract with them
for seven years. That's a long time in the cell phone world.
However, it only took one night of V-Cast hell for her to jump onto
T-Mobile. Why did she change? Primarily just because she wanted to
use her phone the way Motorola designed it to be used. In simple
terms, she wanted to drag and drop music and videos onto her phone
and to do it without hassle.
Maybe if putting media on a cell phone, under default settings, was
difficult, then I could see the need for something like V-Cast.
However, it's a simple process that cannot be made more
simple...even with $20 worth of software. It makes me think of that
old saying from kindergarten; KISS: keep it simple silly. Maybe
Verizon's technology department needs to go back to school...way
It's nothing short of
funny to see the shoe land on the other foot. I'm talking about
Immersion being in another lawsuit...but this time
they are the ones being sued. By Microsoft of all people.
Immersion has sued Microsoft and Sony in the past, and it led to the
removal of rumble technology from the PS3 controller. However,
Microsoft reached a settlement that including paying Immersion
multiple millions of dollars in exchange for certain concessions.
Microsoft is not happy to see Immersion supposedly not living up to
their end of the deal. Considering how trigger happy Immersion has
been with patent lawsuits, it's nice to see the shoe on the other
foot. I don't like to see these, mostly bullshit, lawsuits hitting
the overly bogged down court system, but it's nice to see a company
learn a lesson about what it's like to be on the side being served
with a suit.
I just hope this
doesn't turn into one of those standard long term court battles that
involves one party suing another...then the second party counter
sues...then the first party sues again...then we don't know, nor do
we care, what is going on...yet it ultimately hurts us gamers
because two sides are too blind to see the reality of this (that
money is to be made by keeping gamers happy).
On a completely
insane different note, I'd like to inject some reality into some
cartoons. I work with genetic manipulation of easy to manipulate
gene pools (bacteria...a very competent bacteria).
Ninja Turtles. So, supposedly, four turtles were in a group when the
ooze hit them, and they were mutated to gain the ninja gene set
(still being looked for by mad scientists the world around). Well,
let me tell you one important fact about mutations; it takes a lot
of failures to make a successful candidate. I will burn through
potentially millions, if not billions, of competent (that means it's
easy to manipulate the genes of, or to "transform") bacteria to make
one good mutant with a simple gene mutation of interest. I would
like to assume that the "ninja gene" is actually made of multiple
genes (maybe dozens or hundreds of genes).
So, on one hand,
I'd like to know where I could pick up some of the ooze used on the
turtles (and Splinter). If it's so damned efficient at transforming
animals, then it would make my day job (as a molecular
microbiologist) a lot easier. I'm sure one of the major chemical
companies must have it (afterall, we can obtain far more potent
mutagens via a company like
Fisher). On the other hand, I want to know what happened to the
other turtles...the failed experiments.
I like to think
that maybe Snarf, from Thundercats, was one of these failures.
Afterall, there is no explaining a freak of nature such as Snarf and
Snarf must be a failure of some sort of gene manipulation (I haven't
watched Thundercats for a while, but I don't recall them explaining
his species' origin). However, even with a whole army of Snarfs as
failures, there must be a lot of dead turtles in the New York sewers
from the failures. What happened to them? I mean millions, if not
billions, of dead turtles with freakish changes must have been
noticed by someone at some point.
I don't know my
point in saying this stuff, but perhaps it will be the food for
thought that I need to focus on making three bacteria change with a
single gene mutation. Now, if only I can learn the secret of the
ooze...and about the "ninja" gene cluster...I think I would win a
Noble Prize in Medicine for that work.
The first so-called
shots of the Rock Band guitar controller are up. I really wish I
could be happy about this thing, but I have a few concerns/comments
on the design.
First of all, I do
have to say that this thing looks better than the 360 GH2
controller. I mean that this has the nice big forward and back
buttons, as opposed to the GH2 controller that has those tiny and
useless buttons. Seriously, while playing some GH2 last night,
across both the PS2 (multiplayer since I have only one 360 GH2
controller) and the 360. The one thing I notice every time with the
360 controller is that I cannot pause the game while playing, unless
I'm willing to sacrifice my performance as I hunt for the button.
Also, while the select button on the PS2 is an easy way to activate
star power, it just isn't the case on the 360...which offers either
a loss of a combo as you hunt for the button or the unruly tilt
However, my big
concern is that the colors are hard to see for the buttons (at least
from a casual glance...which is what new players are most judging
the game from). Thankfully, the colors are in the same order as
those on the GH/GH2 controller. However, this still makes the game
less likely to appeal to newbs of the guitar rhythm game world. It
may look less like a real guitar, but the big colored buttons are
just that much more user friendly (which is key to getting in some
co-op action at a party setting).
As I said, it
looks like the colored buttons are in the same order as on the GH/GH2
controller. I can't help but wonder one important thing; can we
interchange controllers on the 360 version? If so, this will make
co-op a lot cheaper of an option for those of us who have the 360
version of the controller to begin with.
I guess the real
test of how well this thing will serve, or fail, us gamers is going
to be how it really handles. The 360 GH2 controller has a tremolo
(whammy bar) from hell that only likes to work when it's damned
ready. The PS2 version has been plagued by horrible tilt action.
Some controllers have suffered (the first guitar for the PS2, in
particular) from sticky buttons. So, will the Rock Band controller
fix these issues? Sadly, we won't know until it's already in our
I think my largest
concern about this game, in the end, will be how much will it hurt
my bank account. Hopefully, the peripherals are not
priced as high as currently expected. Afterall, paying the price
of an older console for just one game is not my idea of getting a
party rolling. If Harmonix/EA can find a way to get Rock Band down
into the lower $100's for the complete package, that would be
awesome. Sadly, this looks unrealistic. I imagine that this will be
a game that I will have to count on friends to bring over their
peripherals to get the most out of the package...while we all end up
having the same damned guitar controller and nothing else.
Manhunt 2 is looking at an AO rating, as of right now. The game
is also facing being
banned from the UK. Now, Rockstar and Take Two are facing being
banned on a more global scale, by being
prevented from being licensed on Sony and Nintendo consoles.
On one hand, this
was obvious from the start. Manhunt was a brutal game that was
little more than an exercise in how many unique ways the player
could pull off stealth kills. If there was another point, such as
being a fun game, it completely escaped me. Afterall, Manhunt was a
boring game that suffered from a very pointless plot and a very
repetitive game style. Maybe Manhunt 2 will be geared more towards
being fun and actually not just being the same motions over and over
again. Then again, Rockstar does have a bad history of bad games
when the title is not involving the words "auto", "grand", or
"theft", and not in that order.
However, I have to
say I'm a bit disappointed that Sony and Nintendo are taking a stand
against AO games. I can understand that they don't want to release
something that amounts to smut or porn, or whatever else may be
found too offensive for typical audiences. However, to ban a game
because it's rating would make for an AO game, yet would only be a R
rated movie, seems like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction.
I mean you can
find some very perverse games on Sony consoles, when you look
outside North America. In fact, this is not really Sony stopping
inappropriate games on their consoles, which would be the same as
overly censoring behavior in which Sony is trying to police our
morals. It is merely Sony trying to take a stand as the moral
authority in North America.
Nintendo...well, they have a softer image and I can understand this
stance against anything controversial. Afterall, they are pretty
strict around the globe on keeping things family friendly.
In the end, I
don't think it should be up to Nintendo and Sony to determine what
should be played on their consoles, as long as it's not illegal.
Sony and Nintendo don't stand to take any heat for this game being
released as an AO title. The only entity that will suffer is
Rockstar/Take Two. Their game will not find a retail outlet to sell
it (AO games rarely get sold in retail stores), they will suffer
from limited sales, and they will take any heat from frivolous
lawsuits when Jack Thompson gets his hands on some idiot who claims
that Manhunt 2 made him kill a puppy or shoot at traffic signs.
I think the main
matter in this is that censorship is never a good thing. Just like
we should all have the choice to play whatever we want, we also
always DO have the choice to not play anything we don't want to come
into contact with. When your morals are forced on others, then the
real problem is present. Afterall, how do we pick and choose who's
morals are the ideal that need to be forced on the rest of the
Do we go with
someone who is religious? That would be someone who may have a
different idea of spiritual and secular salvation that would only
lead to people of opposite and alternative religions being forced
into a situation that may potentially ever violate their beliefs.
Do we go with
someone who is very unreligious? That way no "false" beliefs will be
forced upon us...but maybe some of our own prohibited ways will be
called good...then we have the problem of an untrustworthy moral
Do we go with a
group of people from different backgrounds? I mean we can see from
the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa that putting a group of
people with different beliefs together always leads to
collaborations and understanding (/sarcasm).
The only moral
authority one can trust is them self and possibly those close to
him/her. We all have the ability to make our own choices and we all
have the ability to understand that illegal and immoral behavior has
it's consequences (usually jail). As for those who still commit acts
of violence or hatred towards others...well, it's their choice and
it's their punishment to face.
coming...Take Two is putting plans to release
Manhunt 2 into limbo. If anyone did not see this, then they are
blind. The game is not allowed to be released in the UK, it will
most definitely be banned in Australia (since they ban everything),
it will be banned in Germany (since they, too, ban everything), it
cannot be licensed in North America for any Microsoft, Sony, or
Nintendo console (maybe the N-Gage will get a second run...hehehe),
and AO limits what retailers will even touch the game.
For Take Two to
even announce that the release has been suspended is completely
pointless. Next thing you know, Take Two will announce that the sky
is blue on clear sunny days, that the Earth is not the center of the
universe, or that the US is bogged down in a quagmire when it comes
to Iraq and the Middle East. There is no point in saying something
is being delayed if it literally cannot come out for anything other
than the PC. It is, quite literally, a waste of time to click that
link above, since it's all common sense...but then again, enough
people lack that as to make it "uncommon sense" and required
Square Enix will be making more crappy Final Fantasy spin off games
in the future!
Wow. Now I
feel as educational as Take Two!
On a different
note of my levels of disappointment or annoyance, Bioware is now
Sonic the Hedgehog RPG. I just want to know one thing; why?
Bioware has made some awesome RPGs from some unlikely sources (like
how KOTOR appealed to me even though Star Wars, in general, had left
me untrusting of all new things SW). Bioware made D&D RPGs fun
again. Then have been on a roll...until they announced, in my eyes
at least, that they will make an MMORPG to be crammed into the
overly saturated market. Now we have Sonic going RPG.
I guess if anyone
can make a good Sonic game, or a good Sonic RPG, it would be Bioware.
However, I think it would be cooler to see them pick up the Star
Wars license again and further the adventures of Darth Revan and the
battles of Sith versus Jedi. KOTOR was an amazing game that begged
for a full on sequel, and that is where Bioware could shine.
I'm still enjoying
the prospect of playing Oblivion. I've been trying to get in a few
hours per night of this game to try out all of the great content
added by mods. In particular, MMM applied to OOO makes for one hell
of an awesome experience. Running through a dungeon to find new
areas, new bosses, and seeing new monsters in the process is way too
much fun. There is nothing like approaching a dungeon and seeing
dire bears, flaming imps, and ogres all laying the smack down on a
hill giant and a massive tiger like thing (don't know the name, but
it looks like Battle Cat from He-Man)...then running in to loot the
bodies and pick off the injured survivors.
Also, being able
to take pride in each level up is a great thing that seriously was
lacking from vanilla (unmodded) Oblivion. Instead of each level
taking away some low level creatures and keeping all enemies equal
to your abilities (effectively making the game harder as you level),
I can take pride in knowing that that necromancer will never go
beyond a certain level...and once I've gained enough strength, I can
take on swarms of low level enemies without hesitation or strategy.
All while knowing that anything new to my eyes will kick my sorry
ass if I don't go in with pure strategy.
Well, I have some
Oblivion to play before looking at reality (read: going in to work
on the weekend...once again...and not being paid for it) for this
weekend. If you need something to do this weekend, I recommend
Ocean's 13. Definitely the best of the threes (unlike Spiderman's
attempt to shit on the Spidey cannon) for this summer, and one of
the better movies I've seen this year.
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