Thursday, July 29, 2010

10 Things to Try for 30 Days

10 Things to Try for 30 Days: "You’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to change a habit, right? Well, apparently there isn’t any hard evidence that this is a fact. According to Jeremy Dean over at PsyBlog, the “21 day myth may well come from a book published in 1960 by [Dr Maxwell Maltz] a plastic surgeon.” According to Dean, [...]"

Dave's Take: Numbers 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are great IF YOU'RE A HIPPIE LIVING ON A COMMUNE OR A VILLAGER IN AN AUSTRIAN FOREST. For HUMANS, this list is GARBAGE. Seriously, what is it today with all this fluffy-wuffy crap?

Geek Kids : Boogie Board LCD Tablet

Geek Kids : Boogie Board LCD Tablet: " Paperless LCD writing tablet: write, draw, play, learn, go wild! This ain't yo momma's Etch-A-Sketch, son. This paperless LCD writing tablet is perfect for leaving messages, sketching ideas, and practicing anything from handwriting to calculus without killing a single tree. $35.99"

Dave's Take: Ok what happened to think geek? Awesome products like this shouldn't be presented by contributors who must be hippies recently emerged from a forest commune in California hunting and pecking "without killing a single tree" on their Commodore 64.

Home & Office : Illuzine Magazine Rack

Home & Office : Illuzine Magazine Rack: " Magazines are artwork! Display your dead trees proudly!Hold up to a dozen magazines, floating in midair! $29.99"

Dave's Take: Alright, with the exception of the author (whose name must be Windy Child Starshine), this is a great idea. Print will never die.

Safari still crashing after update?

Safari still crashing after update?: "

A number of people have complained about Safari often crashing on their systems. While Apple's latest Safari update (5.0.1) is supposed to address some stability issues with the program, a number of people are complaining of crashes. Here are some things you can try to hopefully clear these problems.

General maintenance
There are some general maintenance routines you can run both on Safari and on the system to help clear problems. In Safari, try clearing cookies and caches, among other items in the 'Reset Safari' option in the Safari menu. You can also run general maintenance on your system to clear user account and system caches that could be contributing to the problem.

Adobe Flash
Since installing Safari 5, I have had numerous crashes that were Flash-related. You can see this when Flash and Adobe are referenced among the functions being run in the crashed thread in the crash report.

Try removing Flash from the /Macintosh HD/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/ folder to see if that helps. After that, if you need Flash, you can install the latest version from Adobe's Web site.

You may also benefit from using a Flash-blocking utility such as Click2Flash that will disable Flash components on Web pages unless you specifically enable them.

In addition to flash, if you have other plug-ins that you've installed, you might try uninstalling or updating them. Be sure they have been tested with your version of Safari before ruling them out as a cause for the crashes, and also be sure to manually troubleshoot them (remove them one-by-one and relaunch and test Safari each time you do this).

Input managers
Third-party input managers--Saft, Inquisitor, PithHelmet, SafariStand, and so on--can also cause crashes in Safari. Try either updating them or removing them from the system. They should be located in one of the following folders, but you should use an uninstaller if one is available.

username/Library/Input Managers

Macintosh HD/Library/Input Managers
Macintosh HD/Library/Application Support

A commonly used input manager is SIMBL, which may load numerous plug-ins that may also be contributing to the crashes, so be sure to test them as well. We recently wrote an article on managing SIMBL with Safari 5.0.

Clear preferences
In addition to using Safari's 'Reset' feature, you may be having problems a corrupt Safari's preferences file. Locate the file '' in the /username/Library/Preferences/ folder and remove it. When you relaunch Safari, it will recreate the file. (Keep in mind custom settings in Safari's preferences will be reverted to default after doing this).

Dave's Take: My solution? Firefox. Don't use any software Crapple® comes out with. Or hardware for that matter. Unless you are a pretentious viente lattecino(?) turtleneck. Then by all means I hate your face.

6 Epic At-Bats

6 Epic At-Bats: "
Major League batters see, on average, about fourDave's Take: This is about how far I read until I noticed the word EPIC. Stop saying this.

Rename Files Fast with the Tab Key [Windows Tip]

Rename Files Fast with the Tab Key [Windows Tip]: "

Need to rename a lot of files in a folder and looking for the fastest way possible to do it? Lifehacker reader Platypus Man offers this quick, new-to-us Windows shortcut. More »

Dave's Take: I can definitely use this on a weekly basis with all the file management I have to do.

Notes Is a No-Nonsense Note-Taking App and Manager that Syncs with Simplenote [Downloads]

Notes Is a No-Nonsense Note-Taking App and Manager that Syncs with Simplenote [Downloads]: "

Windows only: Notes is a free, portable, no-nonsense note-taking application for Windows based on Notational Velocity (Mac only). It's fast, keyboard friendly, and in the beta release, supports syncing with Simplenote. More »

Dave's Take: This looks like a real good free alternative to what I'm using right now - the "paid" version of Melon Pro. I only wish ShirusuPad would get a Win 7 compatible update...

Set Up a Simple Recharging Station for Guests [Timesavers]

Set Up a Simple Recharging Station for Guests [Timesavers]: "

Almost everyone's carrying portable electronic devices in their pockets, and a guest in your home is likely to have at least one device that needs juice. Tuck an extension cord away to serve as an immediate and accessible guest recharging station. More »

Dave's Take: This is actually a great idea for this day and age.

Listiki Crowdsources Lists for Easy Creation, Sharing, and Ranking [Lists]

Listiki Crowdsources Lists for Easy Creation, Sharing, and Ranking [Lists]: "

Listiki is a crowdsourced list creation service. You create lists and others participate in adding to and ranking the contents of your lists. Best Windows applications, vampire movies, restaurants in Reno, worst CG movie—anything you can rank is fair game. More »

Dave's Take: Sounds awesome. I lummy sum lists.

What the Zuk: an ode to Total Commander

What the Zuk: an ode to Total Commander: "
Filed under: , ,

What the Zuk is a (very) occasional feature, in which I review software that I have been using for many years, and which is instrumental for my work. These are the first tools I install on every new system, the reliable work-horse applications I turn to for every need. In every installment I will try to explain what makes this particular program special, and why I find it so vital for my computing experience.

The first program I'd like to review is none other than perennial classic, Total Commander. Now, this review isn't aimed at the hardened geeks who use FAR and other file managers; rather, it's aimed at most Windows users, whom, I assume, use plain Explorer. And while Explorer has made tremendous strides over the past few years, it still doesn't come close to what you can do with Total Commander.

So if you've looked at the screenshot and wondered what could you possibly get out of such an 'antiquated' interface, keep on reading to find what you can do with Total Commander that you can't do with Explorer.

Dave's Take: I'll definitely have to check this out. Right now I'm using Cubic Xplorer on Windows 7. Folder bookmarks, tabbed browsing, it's great. I guess he's recently started working on CE 2.0. Can't wait!

GameStop acquires flash gaming site Kongregate

GameStop acquires flash gaming site Kongregate: "
GameStop may currently be known as the largest brick-and-mortar retailer of physical game media in the U.S., but the company is hoping to increase its digital presence with the purchase of flash game website Kongregate.
Kongregate currently hosts tens of thousands of free games on its website, with new games being added by the community on a daily basis -- a dynamic GameStop doesn't look to want to alter too much, as the transaction will allow Kongregate to work as a subsidiary of GameStop while keeping its current offices. Kongregate, which was founded in 2007, will be purchased by the gaming retailer on or before August 1.

Kongregate's current profit model, detailed in our profile of the company late last year is currently driven by 'Kreds,' an in-site currency akin to Facebook credits. GameStop has not revealed any plans on how its online or retail presence will integrate Kongregate's economy or content, but it's something we'll keep our eye on in the coming months.

Dave's Take: Well here we go again, free market corporate "ambition" and "vision" ruining EVERYTHING. Hey Gamestop, why not sell PS1 and SNES games again? "It's not part of our customer centric vision plan valuesBLAHBLAHBLAH......"

The top three StarCraft 2 gripes (so far)

The top three StarCraft 2 gripes (so far): "
We're hardly two days out from the launch of StarCraft 2 and one-star users reviews are flooding the internet alongside five-star (and numerical equivalent) professional reviews. Here are the top three complaints making the rounds.

1) Lack of an offline mode -- 'No LAN support!'

Why it's an issue: Multiplayer PC gaming was defined by local area network connections, especially in the days when many people didn't have high speed internet connections to support online play. With no offline mode and no way to connect to other players other than through the internet, gamers are out of luck if goes down or they lose their internet connection for some reason. Also, no more LAN parties.

Why Blizzard might think it's not: is supposed to be awesome enough to replace the need for LAN, and by being always-online, it's easier to track and prevent piracy.

2) You can only play one faction -- 'What, did I buy 1/3 of a game?!'

Why it's an issue: There are three factions in StarCraft 2 and at present, consumers can only complete the Terran faction campaign. Blizzard intends to add the other two factions' campaigns with Legacy of the Void and Heart of the Swarm, but many consumers are angry that they might have to pay a lot of money for those add ons. Some also argue that the Terran campaign isn't substantial enough for a singleplayer experience by itself.

Why Blizzard might think it's not: By breaking up the campaigns, Blizzard can ration resources so that each campaign gets high quality cinema scenes and well-balanced units. And while it does seem like a money-grubbing tactic, it's not like Blizzard hid the fact that only the Terrans were playable in Wings of Liberty.

3) It does a lot of stuff PC gamers aren't used to, but console gamers are -- 'You want me to pay how much?' / 'What do you mean I can't play international matches?'

Why it's an issue: PC gamers are used to $30 games with the freedom to take on other players from around the world through online matches. Asking them to pay twice as much for a game that does only half of what they're used to (by region locking them) is understandably jarring.

Why Blizzard might think it's not: This is their fist major game release in a long time and games are more expensive now that ever. $60 is par for the course in every other market, as is region-locking. Besides, different regions have different needs -- it's easier for Blizzard to address stuff like Korean or U.S. privacy regulations in-game if the regions are kept apart.

Now for some stuff that either is being addressed or doesn't really count as constructive criticism:

'This is all Activision's fault!' -- Blizzard made it clear that it calls its own shots.

'There are no chat rooms!' -- That's getting patched soon.

'I can't find my way around the user interface!' / 'I don't like the way the units work compared to the old game.' -- Everyone who liked StarCraft the way it was will obvious have some adjusting to do. It's been 12 years, right?

'Why do I have to use my real name when I create an account?' -- The world of online gaming is at the point where Blizzard feels it needs to know whose name is on the credit card paying for the game. Blizzard also used to feel that it needed to know what that name was on the forums, but they've since backed down from that.

Dave's Take: Even IF I liked the crappy genre of RTS in the first place, this is unacceptable. It sounds like they're crippling games in the name of piracy prevention when in FACT IT'S LAZINESS, GREED AND COWARDICE. The mainstays of modern gaming developers!

Obama slams GOP on campaign finance

Obama slams GOP on campaign finance: "President Obama blasted Republican opposition to a Senate campaign finance bill as partisan gamesmanship that threatens to give special interests undue influence on U.S. elections

Dave's Take: "...threatens to..."???!?!?!? That's how politics has worked for decades now, funded by special interest groups and thereby giving in to ALL their silly requests that always prove to be detrimental in some way or another.

House passes bill to reduce cocaine penalty disparity

House passes bill to reduce cocaine penalty disparity: "Ending a decade-long campaign led by African-American lawmakers, the House Wednesday approved and sent to President Barack Obama a measure to reduce the disparity in penalties between use of crack and powder cocaine.

Dave's Take: Good. This means we won't have to pay 15 years' worth of room and board because a cop busted someone from the sales department upstairs. I don't touch the stuff, but I still feel sentencing for possession alone is way too harsh to this day.

Gear Up: How Dragon Quest IX Emphasizes Loot

Gear Up: How Dragon Quest IX Emphasizes Loot: "
As should be pretty clear by now, Dragon Quest IX strays from some of the well-worn conventions the franchise has built up over the years.

That much is obvious just by looking at any given party. Not only is every character entirely unique, they all sport a diverse array of weaponry and armor. In many ways, the bling brings to mind MMORPGs and classic dungeon crawlers -- genres that used to be pretty far removed from Dragon Quest.

The side effect is that Dragon Quest IX puts more emphasis on gear than ever before. Yeah, item crafting was a big part of Dragon Quest VIII, but it was also out of sight and out of mind. In Dragon Quest IX, I drop everything if I suddenly find a recipe that I can complete. Not only does it make my characters more powerful, it makes them prettier too, and we humans are vain creatures.

Just the other day, in fact, I was privy to a conversation that centered entirely around the outfits of two party members. That's where we are with Dragon Quest IX. The dress-up aspect is compelling enough that I ended up spending cash at Swinedimple Academy just so my main character could run around in the school uniform (which is regulation, after all).

Apart from the obvious fashion statement though, Dragon Quest IX emphasizes gear in a number of ways. It neatly intertwines with the return of the class system, which encourages players to try everything from boomerangs to hammers, and is further fed by the item synthesis system. But the new online components are what jump out the most as contributing to Dragon Quest IX's newly gear-centric approach.

First, there's the "DQVC," which is the online home shopping network for Dragon Quest fans. The DQVC makes it possible to buy all manner of items, including alchemy ingredients that are otherwise tricky to find and treasure maps. Basically, it keeps players thinking about loot, and more the possibility of more loot to come.

But while the online store is an interesting addition, it pales in comparison to the treasure map feature. The maps essentially represent an infinite number of randomly generated dungeons, each with a treasure and a (very) powerful foe waiting at the bottom. In some ways, it brings to mind the endless dungeon that follows Torchlight's main quest. It may be a mere distraction by comparison, but all those treasure maps add up.

What's really interesting is that the treasure is randomly generated along with the map, which can result in some incredibly rare loot. The Japanese fans learned that in a hurry, with the result being that a wide array of terrific maps quickly entered circulation thanks to Dragon Quest IX's trading feature. It was at that point that the storyline was left behind, and the object became acquiring more and better loot. Not unlike an MMORPG, as I've already mentioned.

Once again, the key is that it's actually possible to see the loot this time around. Infinity + 1 Swords are cool and all, but they're even cooler when it's possible to see them in action. I'll admit, I rarely bother with super rare loot and item synthesis these days unless I can get a firsthand look at my handiwork.

With the incentive to dress-up my character, I'm all the more likely to actually check out treasure maps, mess around with item synthesis and visit the online store. And as it happens, I've done all those things, though the boss waiting at the bottom of the dungeon I explored crushed my party in seconds.

Given Monster Hunter's heavy popularity in Japan and the current trends in RPGs, it's hardly a surprise that Level-5 opted to bring gear to the forefront. But I have to say, it's a perfect fit for Dragon Quest. What other game makes it possible to explore the world wearing a tortoise shell and a slime hat?
Dave's Take: Ok I might have to get this now.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The End of History Beer

The End of History Beer: "And what a fitting name it is. The End of History Beer ($650-$900) is an ultra-limited — as in, it might already be sold out — 55% alcohol blond Belgian...

Dave's Take: This is some of the craziest shit I've come across.

'Tab Candy' to bring calm to Firefox's tab chaos

'Tab Candy' to bring calm to Firefox's tab chaos: "

Tab Candy Icon

Mozilla's head of user experience for its Labs unit, Aza Raskin, on Friday unveiled a new project called 'Tab Candy' that promises to dramatically change the way users manage open browser tabs.

Tab Candy is not an extension, but a new feature that Raskin and team plan to build into a future version of the Firefox browser. In essence, it creates a desktop-like workspace for users to separate and organize open tabs into groups. When opened, these groups act like their own instance of the browser. So, say you had grouped together 5 of 50 open tabs, then opened that group through Tab Candy; you'd only see those 5 in your browser, and not the other 45. You could then jump back and forth between the main grouping and other subgroups--all without having to keep open (or track of) various Firefox windows.

Raskin is keen to note that this level of organization makes it much easier to manage open tabs on devices with smaller screen like Netbooks. The same concept could also be applied to Mozilla's mobile browser efforts, where screen real estate is hard to find.

The concept is still in development, and only available in an experimental version of Firefox, which Raskin has made available for brave alpha testers. Right now it's only feature is this tab organization, though many more features are coming, including search, clusters that can be set as a private browsing session, and public and private sharing of tab groups. Beyond that, Raskin envisions blending in Firefox's extensions functionality to add extra utility to Tab Candy's tab clusters, as well as implementing a memory saving feature that will put long unused tabs into hibernation so they don't suck up memory. Raskin details some of these concepts in the below demo video:

An Introduction to Firefox's Tab Candy from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

Originally posted at Web Crawler

Dave's Take: You need medication if "too many tabs" is a problem. And hey check out Firefox's BOOKMARK TOOLBAR that came out with version ONE POINT ZERO. Gasp! Organization! [Filed under ADD, ADHD, ADDERALL, PATHOS]

Yoono organizes social Web, but add-ons need work

Yoono organizes social Web, but add-ons need work: "

Yoono logo

Yoono makes the task of managing multiple different social-networking accounts less of a headache. Using several instant-messaging programs because your coworkers like Google Talk whereas your friends use AIM can also mix you up.

Like Digsby and VoxOx, Yoono combines social networking with instant messaging. Sure, there are social site applications like TweetDeck that let you follow your friend's Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace accounts--not to mention the numerous all-in-one chat clients such as Trillian and Pidgin, which are very popular around the CNET offices. Yoono, however, combines all of these functions into one sleek desktop app. Those who do not want the added desktop clutter can go for the Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Internet Explorer add-on version, but these have some issues of their own.

With Yoono's desktop application, users can manage their Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, and FriendFeed accounts simultaneously. While you interact with these sites, you can also chat on AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, and Live messenger all from one spot. This program is intuitive and organized with columns that can be customized with each of your social accounts. My favorite feature is the ability to coordinate people into separate groups. This way, when my actual friends update their stuff, I can see it right away without getting lost in the crowd of high school people and 'that one guy from that one Halloween party two years ago...I think'. The program has other nifty features like the ability to update all of your social accounts simultaneously and switch between its column view and browser mode.


Though the Firefox add-on has some added widgets to the desktop model, they definitely need improvement. These six widgets are music, Web notes, news, discovery, and shopping. The first three are useful; the music widget plays radio, Web notes allows you to save information from the Web, and the news widget streams your Google Reader or Digg feeds in the Yoono side bar. However, the discovery and shopping widgets are pretty annoying. These are supposed to pull up links relevant to what you are browsing at the moment. The attempts are failed; it is as though they pick up random words and display the results.

Yoono for Chrome does not have these added widgets. It has all of the same functions as the Firefox version, like the option to change background color and a sharing feature where you can share an entire page or just a highlighted portion with your online buddies. It also gives you the option to choose a tabbed interface like the Firefox version, or a floating interface that rests next to your Web browser instead of inside of it. Note that when you click on a link (such as a friend's Facebook page) it will open in a new tab anyway. Other than these features, the add-on for both Firefox and Chrome is identical to the desktop application. The Internet Explorer add-on is essentially the same as the Chrome version. It does not have the option of changing the background color and it loads much slower.

Whether you want a separate application or a Web add-on is a matter of personal taste. With the number of tabs I have constantly piling up in my browser, I prefer having a separate program to deal with the social Web and instant messaging. If Yoono improves the functionality of its Widgets, however, I might be tempted to switch. For now, though, I will be Tweeting/Facebooking/chatting/Flickring from my Yoono desktop.

Dave's Take: If you need to be connected to this many social sites, you have a problem more serious than keeping track of them all. Seek therapy.

CloudCanvas Is a Snappy HTML5-Based Image Editor [Image Editing]

CloudCanvas Is a Snappy HTML5-Based Image Editor [Image Editing]: "
If you've been interested in using a web-based image editor but you've found them slow or too tied-down to plugins you might not have access to everywhere you want to work, CloudCanvas is a fast HTML5-based editor that frees you from plugins. More »

Dave's Take: AWESOME.

Get Back the Old Google Image Search with a URL Hack [URL Hacks]

Get Back the Old Google Image Search with a URL Hack [URL Hacks]: "
If you're not happy with the new Google Image search and would prefer to stick with the old search as your default, reader The_Doc offers this simple URL tweak. More »

Dave's Take: I personally hate this waste of bandwidth and code. Despicable crap for the sake of change.

Too Much Multiplayer?

Too Much Multiplayer?: "

As we near this year's deluge of first person shooters, Destructoid's outspoken reviews editor Jim Sterling tackles the subject of multiplayer modes in games. Does the inclusion of a mode guarantee that we'll play it? No, says Jim.

Too Much Multiplayer?

Multiplayer is now the standard. Some of you may be very happy to admit this; some of you would do so begrudgingly. Whether you like it or not, multiplayer's not only here to stay, but it's everywhere. Inherently, this isn't a problem—until you realize that time is finite, lives are temporary, and gamers have only so many weekends to dedicate to video games.

Thanks to publisher and consumer demand, multiplayer modes have become obligatory to the point that gamers consider any title without an online component as inferior. It was one of the greatest complaints people had with BioShock. Its absence from Red Steel 2 upset a number of players. Do we, however, really want multiplayer in these games, or are we merely whining for these token inclusions without thinking about what we're asking for?

Only so much space exists atop the multiplayer mountain, and games such as Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Halo fill much of it, with lesser games fighting over the scraps—or fighting over nothing at all. When you think about it, once you have one multiplayer game, you don't really need (or even have time for) another. If you already play Halo 3, why would you want another game that does everything Halo 3 accomplishes? In how many settings can you capture a flag before it gets old? Multiplayer gamers usually dedicate themselves to one or two titles. Part of the multiplayer experience is getting good at a game, learning the maps, practicing with the weapons, and becoming a killing machine. You can't rightly do that if you're playing 15 multiplayer shooters at once.

People are begging for more multiplayer modes without considering that they won't play them. When Sega released Streets of Rage 2 and Golden Axe for Xbox Live Arcade, the publisher felt the games needed an online component. Log into an online game of Streets of Rage 2 or Golden Axe, however, and how many are playing? Exactly. It was like this a week after they appeared on Xbox Live, too. Nobody actually wants to play Streets of Rage 2 online, but if the option were missing? People would throw a tantrum.

The current environment encourages developers to unnecessarily toss multiplayer into their games without caring about it—or even considering whether anyone will bother playing it.

The current environment encourages developers to unnecessarily toss multiplayer into their games without caring about it—or even considering whether anyone will bother playing it. It's like they're checking an invisible quota box that demands multiplayer's inclusion. How many among you have played Dark Sector's multiplayer mode? Or Overlord's? Hell, how many of you even know Overlord has a multiplayer mode?

The video-game industry has gotten to a point where people aren't even playing games built entirely around multiplayer, let alone single-player games that have shoehorned it in. Section 8 and Shadowrun are notable examples of multiplayer games nobody cared about. They weren't especially bad, but neither gained much of a community of players, because, again, once you've fragged something in Halo, you don't need to do it in another game. Many of the multiplayer games coming out are failing because we already have too many to begin with.

My point isn't that developers shouldn't try and conquer Halo or Call of Duty. We'd never have any progress in this industry if developers didn't compete. Game companies, however, should think carefully about what they want their games to be, and more important, gamers should consider what they want. If a developer wants to eclipse Halo, then by all means, pour that effort into a multiplayer mode that's different. Developer Rebellion managed a rare success with Aliens vs. Predator, mostly because its multiplayer modes, buggy as they are, are distinct.

Similarly, if your company's main focus is on the single-player mode, try dabbling with the idea of not including multiplayer at all instead of cramming in a token effort that doesn't work properly. Just look at BioShock 2's online mode: 2K went to the trouble of contracting Digital Extremes to create a narratively distinct multiplayer component. No one's playing it. A single-player experience shouldn't waste budget and development time on a multiplayer mode that nobody's going to play simply to satisfy the demands of a market that clearly doesn't know what it wants.

Now, will someone please play Golden Axe?

Dave's Take: Fucking A! My thoughts exactly!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Especially gamers considering what they actually want. That's a stretch, though, since all the new gamers are born with ADHD and a facebook phone stapled to their face. What surprises me is that developers the past fucking DECADE haven't realized their crap SUCKS or compared their shit games to classic games that WORKED. Guerrilla War, Contra, Final Fantasy Tactics....

Friday, July 23, 2010

The $26,000 Book!

Files of Porcelain in Forbidden City - Paperback (ISBN 9787802202870) - Buy Books, Music and Movies at Borders

Most expensive book on It's a bunch of pictures of the mountains in China or what have you. Ridiculous!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Soup-Up and MARRIAGE!

I GOT MARRIED!!! Yes, I tied the knot with Naomi June 5 and I'm extremely happy that the running around and stress involved with planning a wedding is over. The ceremony and reception were wonderful and I'm pretty sure Naomi had a wonderful time, which is the main thing I was worried about. Honeymoon in the Dominican, etc... good stuff.

So. I spent a good 10 hours just tweaking the content and layout of this blog. I added Contact and List pages as well as links to my Gamespot collection, delicious bookmarks and shelfari shelf.

As it is right now,'s "updated" blog composer is on the fritz but hey.

Return of the Ogre: Why the Tactics Ogre Rebuild is Great News

Return of the Ogre: Why the Tactics Ogre Rebuild is Great News: "

Square Enix has just announced a PSP remake of Super NES classic Tactics Ogre, coming to the U.S. under its original subtitle, Let Us Cling Together. As the second remake of the game -- it originally came to the U.S. on PlayStation in 1998, courtesy of Atlus -- on a machine that's inundated with ports and remakes, this might not seem like such a big deal at first glance. But in fact, it is.

For starters, it's great that Square is doing something with the Ogre franchise, which is a first; despite acquiring the series' original developer, Quest, more than a decade ago, there's yet to be a single Ogre title released under the Square banner. Between this and the DS remake of Lufia II, it looks like Japan's biggest RPG publisher is finally starting to make use of the expansive back catalog of properties it's accumulated through a long string of acquisitions and mergers. The Ogre titles just might be the strongest contender for "cult classic" in its extensive stable of brands -- a franchise for hardcore RPG fans in a way that Dragon Quest very definitely isn't. Exciting as it is to see the Square name on western properties like Dungeon Siege and Deus Ex, there's something about seeing the publisher dredge up such a beloved niche brand that warms the older gamer's heart cockles.

But even more than that, the best part about Tactics Ogre's return is that it also means Square has gotten the band back together: The new remake is being spearheaded by the core Quest team. That means character design by Akihiko Yoshida, art design and direction by Hiroshi Minagawa, music by Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, and above all, game design and planning by Yasumi Matsuno. This is the same group who crafted masterpieces like Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and (one assumes) the more cohesive parts of Final Fantasy XII. Matsuno has been almost complete missing in action for the past five years, so seeing his name attached prominently to this remake is intriguing.

According to Matsuno (via Famitsu), the game is a pretty liberal rendition of the original 16-bit title. It seems to incorporate a significant graphical upgrade, a heavy revamp of the story, and a mysterious system that gives the remake its Japanese subtitle, Wheel of Fate. Early speculation is that the idea behind the wheel is that it will allow players to experience every potential iteration of the plot. That sounds like a great addition. See, not only did Tactics Ogre have a powerful story, it had a branching story. In fact, every time someone argues that a game can't tell an interesting story and still offer player control over the outcome, Tactics Ogre is my go-to counter-example. Sure, these days we have BioWare's works and the Fallout series to show the potential of player input, but ten years ago the idea of a heavily story-driven RPG that allowed the player to determine its ultimate outcome was fairly novel.

In a lot of ways, Tactics Ogre was very much the rough draft for Final Fantasy Tactics. Heck, the story revolves around a trio of characters -- protagonist Denim Powell, his sister Kachua, and his friend turned rival Vice Bozeg -- whose relationship was carbon-copied by FFT's Ramza, Atma, and Delita. Combat played out with a rudimentary turn-based tactical battle system in which character speed and relative heights played major factors. There was even a job system, albeit a much simpler one than in FFT.

In some ways, Tactics Ogre was a more compelling game than its successor. The player-driven story had a lot to do with that, because the plot branched several times at significant moments in the story. Players had to make tough choices -- choices that were taken out of their hands in FFT. At the end of Ogre's first chapter, for instance, Denim is forced to choose between obeying an order to kill innocents or going rogue. The plot is rigged so that Vice will always oppose your decision, but the action you choose there radically changes the story and battles you experience in subsequent chapters. Imagine if the end of FFT's first chapter forced you to choose between helping Delita's sister or teaming up with Algus/Argath to fight alongside the nobles, and you begin to understand how affecting Tactics Ogre dynamic story can be.

The game also offered much more demanding battles than FFT. Where the latter's battles topped out at around 14-15 characters at the absolute maximum -- only five of whom could ever be player-controlled -- Tactics Ogre let you go ten-on-ten. One could argue that FFT didn't need such large battles, since the Job system allowed more varied multiclassing, giving a party of five the same breadth of skills available for a ten-member team in Tactics Ogre, but the resulting scope of combat made for an experience that's still unique among tactical RPGs. Amazingly, the "rebuild" looks to up this, with as many as 30 combatants on the field at once. That won't be the only improvement for this adaptation; it'll also include new characters, music, and story elements. Despite the developers' decision to mimic the visual style of the 16-bit original, this new take on Tactics Ogre offers a lot of niceties introduced by its successors, such as true 3D battlefields. The team claims its goal is to create a version of the game that would resemble “how TACTICS OGRE would be if it was developed and played now.”

There's plenty of room for other improvements here, to be honest. Groundbreaking and influential as Tactics Ogre was, it was also a wildly lopsided videogame. Much has been made of its legendary difficulty level, but the problem with the game wasn't so much that it was hard as that its challenge scaled in an uneven way that made the immense size of the player's party a liability. Enemies in all battles leveled up alongside Denim, whereas in FFT enemies were at fixed levels in all story battles. This made every fight a challenge, to be sure... but it also put everyone who wasn't Denim at a severe disadvantage. Since Denim participated in every battle, he leveled up quickly... and the other nine participants tended to lag behind him, leaving them wildly underpowered next to the enemies. In a game where a single experience level is a significant advantage, a party of warriors five levels below the enemy rabble tended not to last long without extensive training between story fights. I certainly wouldn't complain if they could even that out a bit without compromising the game's innate spirit of overwhelming odds.

However it ultimately plays out, I'm genuinely excited to see one of the greatest RPGs ever made receiving such a comprehensive overhaul courtesy of the original developers. Unlike the PS1 port of Tactics Ogre and even FFT's PSP remake, I'm pretty confident this release won't suffer from slapdash porting shortcuts. And maybe if it does well enough, we'll finally see the Ogre series expanded on with a fresh sequel by its core team. Here's hoping, anyway.

Dave's Take: OOOOOOOO yes. I can't wait for this.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Am Way More Than 8-Bit [Feature]: "
I Am 8-Bit started out as an art show about video games, but that doesn't mean I Am 8-Bit is only an art show. It's more, far more. More »  

Dave's Take: O MY GOD. Get over this art crap already! One remark from Roger Ebert and now half the gaming community's got their iPads in a twist. But what does that mean? That's right, now there's a contingency of developers who are making art and NOT VIDEOGAMES! I don't care if a great videogame isn't considered art. Why? Because it's a videogame. Wow that was deep, huh? Better chat about it at Starbucks..

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Geek Toys : Zombie Dice from Steve Jackson Games

Geek Toys : Zombie Dice from Steve Jackson Games: " Eat brains. Don't get shotgunned.Another reason to love Steve Jackson Games. Zombie Dice is a quick and fun game for two or more zombies. Eat as many brains as you can! Press your luck to try to get more brains than your friends, but watch out - too many shotgun blasts and you're done! $12.99"

Dave's Take: Looks awesome. Must get.

Gmail Notes fails to impress

Gmail Notes fails to impress: "

Gmail Notes fails to save your e-mail notes.

Screenshot by Polina Polishchuk/CNET)

With all the online order confirmation codes, password resets, and hundreds of other e-mails filled with important information, it would be nice to have a tool that helps with the woes of e-mail management. Gmail Notes, a Google Chrome extension that allows users to add notes to e-mail threads in Gmail, has the potential to be one such tool. However, with its unreliability and numerous bugs, that's all it has: potential.

Downloading this extension adds a pencil icon to your browser's address bar when Gmail is open. To take a note, open any e-mail, click the icon, type your note, and then click save. Next time you open this e-mail, your note should be waiting. This is great if you need to memo something for later or add extra information that pertains to that particular e-mail. The extension saves all of your Gmail notes in a Google Doc folder titled 'Google Notes' (very clever); unfortunately, your note will not be in your e-mail in-box after you log out of Gmail and sign back in.

After testing the extension in both the stable version and the developer's build of Google Chrome, I found that every time I wanted to go back to a saved note in my in-box, the note box would say 'not found.' Sometimes the extension's pencil icon would not even show up in the address bar, making it impossible to take any notes.

Gmail Notes would be a great organizational tool, if it worked. With the bugs and unpredictability, this add-on is a disappointment.

Dave's Take: Sounds like every note-taking app/widget out there that doesn't clutter up your desktop with "stickies". Try Melon, it's what I'm using right now. And when you close out of it you don't lose your notes! Wow!
Buy Cheap Sunglasses Without Sacrificing Quality [Saving Money]: "
Apart from the price tag, It turns out the difference between a $40 pair of sunglasses and a $400 pair is often as little as the shiny designer logo stamped on the side. Save money without sacrifice by grabbing some cheap shades. More »

Dave's Take: I knew this all along, but sometimes you need some third party factoids handy.

Curt Schilling's All-Star RPG Becomes Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning [38 Studios]

Curt Schilling's All-Star RPG Becomes Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning [38 Studios]: "
Previously known simply as Project Mercury, Curt Schilling's 38 Studios and EA finally give the Todd McFarlane, R.A. Salvatore, and Ken Rolston powered role-playing game a name, promising open world exploration and fast-paced action combat in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. More »

Dave's Take: "...promising open world exploration and fast paced action combat"??? I hope R.A. Salvatore wasn't conned into contributing to another craptastic cookie cutter of Oblivion, which sucks enough to put E.T to shame.

Mega Man Universe to be revealed at Comic Con

Mega Man Universe to be revealed at Comic Con: "

As announced earlier today on the official Capcom Unity blog, Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune is heading up an entirely new multi-platform take on the Blue Bomber, with details set to be unveiled this weekend at the San Diego Comic Con.

'We are thrilled to finally be able to announce Mega Man Universe,' said Inafune on the Capcom Unity blog. 'This game will break the mold and challenge the conventional wisdom of what a Mega Man game can be. When fans finally get to see it, I believe they'll envision their most far-out Mega Man dreams coming true.'

Details are still scarce at this point, but what we do know is that Mega Man Universe is slated to release on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, and more information is set to hit this weekend at the San Diego Comic Con. GameSpot is hosting an incredibly slick stop-motion trailer (viewable on their site or embedded within this news story) that teases plenty of 8-bit Mega Man goodness, as well as a few surprise cameos from famous Capcom faces.

SOURCE: Announcing Mega Man Universe for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network

Dave's Take: I'm excited but I'm not getting my hopes up. In this day and age, games are being targeted to kids who are seemingly born with ADHD and a tweeting status updating cellphone attached to their face. This results in the current flood of RTS/MMORPG/FPS/WOW CRAP. So my prediction of this game is as follows: a Mega Man MMORPG that entails a monthly fee, requires internet access to play ala Ubisoft, has trophies you can share on Facebook with the multitude of people that care, has chat capabilities, in-game currency you can buy for actual money that allows you to purchase different "clothes" for your "avatar" such as "Snake Man" and has a weak if not absent story while you play in a chatroom. So my prediction of this game is as follows: a Mega Man MMORPG that entails a monthly fee, requires internet access to play ala Ubisoft, has trophies you can share on Facebook with the multitude of people that care, has voice chat capabilities, in-game currency you can buy for actual money that allows you to purchase different "clothes" for your "avatar" such as "Snake Man" and has a weak if not absent story while you play in a chatroom. If I'm lying I'm flying.

News sites reining in nasty user comments

News sites reining in nasty user comments: "User comments on news sites, while vital to interactive storytelling in the digital age, often read like scribblings on a bathroom stall: anonymous, offensive and full of hate.

Dave's Take: Well looky here. The whole comment shitstorm finally is recognized as being detrimental! "Do you like this comment? Do you unlike this comment? Click on this gay button to give this user rep/kudos/stars/exp/etc.! Share this comment on any one of these 100 sites listed below each comment!" I fucking HATE it!

Consumer Reports still won't endorse iPhone 4

Consumer Reports still won't endorse iPhone 4: "Does a free case fix all the iPhone 4's problems?

Dave's Take: The main problem the phone has is that it IS an iPhone in the first place made by and adored by complete buffoons.

Friday, July 16, 2010

BP Announces No Oil Flowing Into Gulf

BP Announces No Oil Flowing Into Gulf: "

After installing the new cap on the broken Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, and then fixing a last-minute crack in the cap, BP has announced this afternoon that, for the first time since April, the flow of oil from the well has completely stopped.

An integrity test on the 75-ton cap is underway, to make sure it will continue to hold back the flow until a permanent solution is in place.

Over 150 million gallons of oil are estimated to have flooded into the Gulf of Mexico since the blowout on April 22.


DAVE'S TAKE: I can only hope they're not lying. This whole thing has been a catastrophe.

Remains of the Day: URLs Replace MP3s Replace CDs and So On [For What It's Worth]

Remains of the Day: URLs Replace MP3s Replace CDs and So On [For What It's Worth]: "
Roughly 90 percent of network shows are available for free online at some point, the co-founder of music application Spotify thinks the URL will overshadow the MP3, and has Google gotten too big? More »

DAVE'S TAKE: Yeah this cloud crap is just that - crap. Just another trend like twitter, bookmarking sites and OH you remember Netscape Navigator? Yeah same damn flash in the pan stuff.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Private Ninja Lessons

Private Ninja Lessons: "We love ninjas, pirates, robots, and zombies here at Uncrate HQ, but there's only one of those that we'd actually consider becoming. Private Ninja Lessons ($200) can help you on...

Visit Uncrate for the full post."

DAVE'S TAKE: What the....

Home & Office : CableClip Cable Storage

Home & Office : CableClip Cable Storage: " Shorten and store those unruly cablesA set of CableClips will bring order to your otherwise tangled life. Quick to fasten, they will hold your cables in a convenient and compact bundle. When you need the cable, it can either be partially extended, loop by loop, or released all at once. $9.99"


Food on the Table Builds Menus and Grocery Lists Based on Your Family's Preferences [Groceries]

Food on the Table Builds Menus and Grocery Lists Based on Your Family's Preferences [Groceries]: "
Webapp Food on the Table creates weekly meal plans and grocery lists based on food you (and your family) enjoy, then hooks into your local grocery stores to find the best deals on your groceries. It's kind of brilliant. More »


DAVE'S TAKE: This could be interesting when it finally gets fully developed. It seems like it's in the pre-alpha stage right now :-/

Stock Your Refrigerator Like a Vending Machine [Eating]

Stock Your Refrigerator Like a Vending Machine [Eating]: "
When you're looking for a snack right now, you'll almost never decide, 'Let's cut and peel some carrots and open that hummus in the back!' You'll reach for what's easiest. Fight your food tendencies by re-stocking your fridge like a vending machine. More »


DAVE'S TAKE: Sounds like a good idea. I'd love to have 40 Hungry-Mans on hand at any one time.