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Malik (6/18/07)  

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 friendly.

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 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 back.


Malik (6/19/07)  

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.

Apparently, 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).

Teenage Mutant 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 Sigma or 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.


Malik (6/20/07)  

The first so-called official 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 action.

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 hands.

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.


Malik (6/21/07)  

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.

As for 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 world?

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 authority.

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.


Malik (6/22/07)  

Big surprise 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 reading.

BREAKING NEWS:  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 making a 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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