How much woud it really cost to build a PC Mac Pro?

By Mike on 6:42 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

A lot of people think Apple overcharges for their Mac computers. For today's post, I'm going to lay the costs out bare by building my own PC based Mac Pro clone to see how much it really would cost and how much the "Apple Tax" really is. One report I read claimed that Apple overcharges over $1600 for this system. Let's look at just the facts miss. We'll build a Mac Pro with the cheapest comparable parts, not the cheapest outright as that can skew results. Prices all from, unless otherwise stated. Prices in US dollars.

We'll look at the base model Mac Pro that comes with a single 2.66ghz "Nahalem" quad core Xeon processor, 3gb DDR3 1066, a 640gb 7200rpm SATA hard drive, a Radeon HD 4870 512mb, 18x DVD drive, Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, no Wifi, and OS X Snow Leopard 64-bit. The Mac Pro costs $2,719 with this setup.

The Mac Pro PC

Motherboard: $299.99
Apple uses an ATX style server motherboard for their Pros based on Intel's X58 chipset. The Pro has a board with four PCIe slots and requires Firewire connectivity. I found just one that fit this requirement. The Asus P6T WS Pro. It only has two PCIe 16x slots but has five expansion slots total, and supports Firewire.

Processor: $999.99
The Mac Pro base model uses a single Intel Xeon X5550 clocked at 2.66ghz. This CPU has four cores based on the "Nahalem" architecture, similar to the prosumer i7 processors.

RAM: $101.97 ($33.99 per stick)
The base Mac Pro uses three 1gb sticks of server DDR3 1066 in a triple channel configuration, which must support ECC. I went with three Crucial 1gb sticks since there are no 3gb triple channel server kits available.

Graphics: $179.99
The base model comes with an nVidia Geforce GT120. These cards aren't available to consumers so I upgraded it to an ATI Radeon HD 4870 512mb. The additional cost is included with the price of the Mac Pro I listed above. VisionTek still makes these cards with 512mb.

Hard Drive: $59.99
The Pro comes with a surprisingly small HDD, at only 640mb. It's a standard SATAII 7200rpm desktop drive. I went with Western Digital's Caviar Green drive, to make Al Gore happy.

DVD drive: $29.99
The Mac Pro comes with an 18x DVD multi burner, presumably with a SATA interface. No 18x drives were listed on Newegg so I went with a 20x drive from MSI. The difference is fairly negligible.

Case: $259.99
Finding a case to match the Mac Pro is hard. The closest I could find to that Mac Pro look is the Lian Li V1000Z. It's a full tower ATX case that has the same number of hard drive slots, etc. Full anodized aluminum. It's black but close enough. There used to be a silver version available. From FrozenCPU as Newegg no longer sells it.

Power Supply: $99.99
The Mac Pro is rumoured to have a 1kw power supply. It looks to be modular (removable cables) too based on pictures. I went with the ePower EP1000-SC 1000w PSU.

Keyboard and Mouse: $149.99
The Mac pro comes with a wireless mouse stock but I added a wireless keyboard as well for good measure. Both run on Bluetooth. The only one that seemed to fit the bill was Logitech's pricey MX 5550 Revolution gaming keyboard and mouse. A little more robust than Apple's but this is plastic and conventional instead of brushed aluminum and multi-touch mouse, so it evens out.

Operating System: $174.99
Apple really offers a bargain with OS X is seems. To get it's drive encryption features and other pro functions, we had to go with Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit single license OEM. Windows of course now comes with programs similar to iLife, so those don't need to be added separately.

Total: $2,362.88

So the price difference between a Mac Pro and a similarly configured PC is $356.12. I'll add $150 in to cover warranty, shipping, and assembly costs, bringing the Apple tax down to about $206.12.

So there definitely is an Apple Tax, but it's not as much as some people are claiming.

2009 Xmas/Boxing Day Console Buyers Guide

By Mike on 12:00 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Late this year, but here we are with our annual gaming buyers guide. What should you pick up for your gamer? Let's take a look at the contenders.

TV Top Console

Best Budget System: Xbox 360 Arcade
As it stands, the Wii is still grossly overpriced and gimmicky. The 360 has taken the supreme crown for the best family friendly and best budget systems. With it's wide array of XBLA games, low cost titles, the best online experience, and excellent graphics, picking one of these up for $199 is an excellent choice.

Best Console Overall: PS3
The PS3 has had a vary good year. Now at $299, the price is a little more palatable. With it, you get an excellent gaming system that boasts the highest number of top rated games on any system. To top it off, it also makes the best media centre out of all the consoles with it's Blu-ray functionality being top notch. The PS3 is still an excellent value.

Systems to Avoid: PS2, Wii
The Playstation 2 is still going strong but it's dated now. Only get it if you can't afford anything better. The Wii is just too expensive and gimmicky. Most people say that their Wiis get the least amount of play after the initial novelty wears off. It also has the weakest game library.


Best Budget System: Sony PSP-3000
The oblong brother to the Go still stands as packing the best value out of all other portables. It plays movies, games, music, and surfs the web. Plus you can buy full games online over Wifi as well as use disc based games. The base system is just $170 for all that. $199 gets you great combo packs with two games and a 1gb memory stick. It also has a large library of good low cost games such as Patapon, LocoRoco, WipEout, and others.

Best Overall: Nintendo DSi
The improved DS is one of the most family friendly systems and will get lots of use from both kids and adults alike. It doesn't have the best graphics but it has a vary strong lineup of games, great online connectivity, plays music, and has a built in camera. A good choice for anyone on your list, especially if they're not a gamer. The system is $180. For a more budget friendly option, the DS Lite is still a good choice. It trades the camera, music, and downloadable games for Gameboy Advance compatibility. It's much cheaper at about $120.

Systems to Avoid: PSP Go
The Go is overpriced and poorly developed. People who already own an older PSP will not want this. It doesn't support older disc based games and Sony has not done a good job stocking the library on their online store. Some report it not being vary ergonomic. Spend your $250 on something else.

PC Gaming

Best Budget Graphics: TIE: ATI Radeon HD 5770 / nVidia Geforce GTX 260
These two upper mid range card pack a lot of punch. One supports the latest DirectX 11 series graphics, the other is DX10 but slightly faster. Both come at a comfortable price point of $190.

Best Graphics Overall: Radeon HD 5870
If you have deep pockets and you're feeling in a giving mood, this is the fastest single GPU graphics card money can buy. It also supports DirectX 11, which comes with Windows 7. It's expensive, setting you back $450.

A Note on PC Parts: Gift certificates to big computer stores like NewEgg are an excellent choice as it will allow your gamer to pick their own parts. Especially given how each PC is different. You wouldn't want to accidentally buy an Intel CPU for someone who has an AMD system, or vice versa.

PSP Classic Outsells PSP Go 10-1 in Japan

By Mike on 9:10 am

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

Sales results out of Japan for the last week of November show some interesting findings in the portable front. The original oblong PSP is outselling the new PSP Go by a factor of 10-1. The Go only managed to push 3,800 units nation wide versus 38,800 for the original. It's not particularly terrible but it's at the bottom of the list for portable sales. Especially given the brand power Sony holds in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The supersized DSi LL by contrast has had a vary good launch, selling 67,200 units, a factor of 2-1 over the original DSi.

Source: Joystiq

The Best Free Video Encoders

By Mike on 9:57 am

comments (0)

Filed Under: , , ,

Video encoding is a common task these days. We all want to export our DVDs to different formats so we can watch them on a variety of devices we have around the house. Or maybe you need something converted to a format Final Cut can read for editing your home movies. Here are four excellent free video encoders you should definitely take a look at.

Handbreak (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
Encodes video as H.264 and MKV formats. Vary easy to use but contains a few powerful features. It supports multi-core processors and the Mac version is full 64-bit, promising a 10% boost in performance. Handbreak comes with a number of presets for devices such as Apple TV, PS3, and Xbox 360 making it the ideal, light weight choice for encoding files for your media devices.

Dr. DivX (Windows, Mac OS X)
A free DivX encoder that is produced in house by DivX Labs, it acts as a counterpart to the payware DivX encoder. Not as easy to use as the paid version but it's quite a powerful piece of software. It will convert any video you have to the popular DivX format which can be played back on numerous devices such as PS3, Xbox 360, and many DVD players. DivX isn't as good as H.264 but it encodes faster.

Super (Windows)
It's not user friendly but Super is an extremely powerful encoder. It's a must have for anybody doing video editing, namely because it's one of the few (if not the only) free converters that will encode anything you throw at it to DV and MPEG 2. It's also blazing fast compared to a lot of other programs out there thanks to it's excellent multi-core support. Too bad it's only for Windows.

Red Kawa PSP Video 9 (Windows, Mac OS X)
A light weight encoder tailored specifically to encode videos to PSP and PS3 formats. It's a bit on the slow side but it's dead stupid easy to use. If you're encoding files for mobile devices, this is the one to get. Check out the other Red Kawa device specific encoders too.

Nyko Responds to PS3 Frontman Issues

By Mike on 9:49 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Several people on the official Playstation forums said they received a letter from Nyko over the Frontman wireless guitar issues. Nyko has finally posted a statement on their website acknowledging there is a problem.

"The latest firmware update of the PlayStation 3 (Version 3.10) is not compatible with the FrontMan for PS3. We are currently researching any possible solutions to fix this problem."

Not really an encouraging statement but obviously the problem lies with Sony as the guitars worked fine before the update. I can't imagine they're in too much of a rush to fix third party controllers though. For those who don't know, the problem lies with the PS3 not interfacing with the controller. The FrontMan shows a red controller 1 connection LED but does not respond when buttons or pressed, nor does it show up in the PS3's menus.

PSP Go to get UMD Drive Add-on

By Mike on 5:35 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Soon the PSP Go will be little more than an expensive plastic brick to UMD owners. A source told CVG that Logitech plans to release a UMD drive addon for the solid-state console. Not a lot is known about the device at this time. Gizmodo figures it presumably plugs into the MSPD card slot. The download-only PSP Go had been heavily criticized for not being backwards compatible with UMD based games.

MMN Tech's Top 10 PSP Games

By Mike on 10:30 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

I'm doing up some favourites lists since I'm far too busy to post anything serious. My PSP is sorely getting neglected so I thought I'd give it some love with today's top ten. Remember, these are games I have played so forgive me if I leave out popular ones such as Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto.

10. Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters
The Lombax and robot duo's first and so far only portable title, if you don't count spinoff "Secret Agent Clank." This game managed to shrink down everything that was great about the console versions into this pocket sized adventure. Great dialogue, colourful worlds, and of course tons of great weapons. You get to go inside Clank and fight a megalomaniac toddler. What more could you ask for? However, the bad camera in this game keeps it from being closer to the top of the list.

9. Jeanne d'Arc
The Japanese seem to have a fetish for the French. Obviously they don't share the disdain for the land of cheese, wine, and abruptness that the rest of the world does. Jeanne d'Arc takes a uniquely Japanese otaku twist on the story of Joan of Arc. An Oracle from above gives her an ammulet with the power to turn back the evil invading army and restore freedom to her people. Jeanne d'Arc is a classic turn based JRPG rivalled only by the Disgaea series on the PSP. This style of RPG isn't always accessible to everyone (as say Pokemon is), but these PSP titles are great even for us westerners to pickup and play.

8. WipEout Pulse
Fast, Furious, and Frustrating. Everything we love about the WipEout series. Probably one of the hardest racing tiles out there. Running at a glorious 60fps with colourful tracks and fast paced combat action, this and it's sister title Pure are probably one of the only racing games worth getting on the PSP. To top it off, it actually supports decent multiplayer.

7. Daxter
Out of all the Jak games I've played, this one is my favourite. The console versions can be frustrating at times. I still can't get past the time limited driving part in Jak II. (don't laugh, I'm not the only one) Daxter just pulls everything great about those games and gives it a unique twist. Taking place as a prequel to Jak II, the otsel has to get a job in order to spring his partner from prison. Daxter becomes a bug exterminator, killing powerful dark eco insects that are plaguing the city. It's a wacky premise that just fits so great with the character, plus it's still one of the best looking games on the platform.

6. Sega Genesis Collection
This compilation probably gets the most play out of my entire PSP collection. A ton of classic Sega Genesis games including Sonic the Hedgehogs 1 & 2. Not really much to say other than it's classic gaming at it's finest, without the bulky, battery hungry Nomad. Makes me wish Nintendo would release a Best of SNES/NES collection for the DS. Then I'd be set.

5. Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception
Probably the standard for console based modern air combat tiles, Ace Combat was beautifully moulded to the PSP. It stands as the platform's definitive flight simulation title. Perfect natural controls, thrilling combat, great music and cutscenes, plus it looks great too. If only Il-2 PSP had lived up to this.

4. Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?
An unforgiving 2D platformer. Really takes you back to the NES days doesn't it? The penguin like bumbling Prinny, all 1000 of them, have been charged with getting back the ingredients for overlord Etna's ultra dessert. Dood, this game is hard. Three hits and you explode. You'll need that entire army. Prinny really brings back what was long considered a dead genre. It's the kind of game that tiles like Ninja Gaiden and TMNT on the NES set the groundwork for. They were hard but they were always fun. Never frustrating like so many newer games. Prinny is a perfect revival. I left the other Disgaea games off the list namely because I haven't played them yet. I just picked up Dark Hero Days though.

3. LocoRoco
Speaking of 2D graphics, here's another masterpiece created by Sony's Japan Studio. Litte adorable gel balls trying to escape from the evil moja force. You play as the planet trying to bounce and tilt their way to safety. This puzzle-platformer is loads of fun and has great music. I would say it's even better than Patapon.

2. LittleBigPlanet
Not much to say about this title except that the charm of LBP and Sackboy has been perfectly ported to the PSP.

1. God of War: Chains of Olympus
Kratos, the God of War, stands as the killer app for the platform. Chains of Olympus is just as bloody and challenging as it's console brothers. It's topped off with probably the best graphics on the platform. This is probably as close to the console experience you can get on a portable. Sadly, the head ripping and beating your enemies to death with their own severed arms was left out of this game.

PS3 Firmware 3.10 Breaks Nyko Frontman Guitars

By Mike on 11:31 am

comments (2)

Filed Under:

Reports are coming out that the latest PS3 firmware breaks functionality with some third party guitar controllers. Namely the Nyko Wireless Frontman. The system fails to recognize the guitar if it is synced as controller one (red LED). Previously, the guitar would always automatically sync as controller two (blue LED), but will no longer do so. I have this controller and have confirmed this to be a real issue. The official PS3 forums has a lengthy thread on the issues including some complicated workarounds.

One fix, posted by "CashOD" suggests the following solution.

Start your wireless controller as C1.

Start a seond wireless controller as C2.

Enter Rockband.

Sync the Nyko with guitar. (should go to red).

Flip the switch from GH to RB and back To GH.

Allow the guitar to sync automatically (don't press the PS button)

It may take a couple of times to get the contoller on orange.

Sony has reportedly been less than helpful, suggesting that people send in their systems and pay them $149 to fix the issue if they're out of warranty. The Frontman controllers did work prior to the update, as mine did, so this is obviously a firmware issue. It's rather shameful for them to suggest you pay them to fix a software problem they caused.

No official announcement from Sony of Nyko has been made yet.

The Great Windows 7 Unboxing

By Mike on 12:57 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

Yesterday a Microsoft exec admitted that many of the ideas used in Windows 7 had been borrowed for Mac OS X. Looks like it's not only the look and feel of Apple's OS that they borrowed. I ordered Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit yesterday and I was quite amazed by how fast it arrived. Direct Canada certainly has fast service and I love how they don't charge PST to non-BC residents. Still, there was one problem with my order. If you read my Snow Leopard article, you know where this is going.

I was greeted by the courier with this. Another massive box with Blu-ray case for scale. Pre-opened by me of course. Did Direct Canada screw up my order? Apple didn't the last time so I wasn't holding my breath. So what's in the box?

A whole lotta paper. What a heart breaker; I guess the song remains the same. Ok, enough with the Led Zeppelin puns.

Taking the massive ball out, I discovered the Windows 7 DVD case at the bottom.

There you have it, the box and it's entire contents out on display. The DVD of course is currently in my computer.

I think I'd rate this as a point worse than the one Apple sent me. All fairness to them, Snow Leopard does come in a wimpy paper sleeve while this one comes in a durable hard plastic DVD case. Either way, a padded envelope would have sufficed. The post office does charge extra for oversized boxes. Surely sending this must be costing them a fortune in shipping. No wonder it was $10.

If you are buying a retail copy of Windows 7, it might be a good idea just to get the downloadable version and burn it to a DVD.

The State of HDTV Programming In Canada 2009

By Mike on 3:09 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

It's been over a year since I wrote about how to get free HDTV in the Toronto area using a digital antenna. This was before the Americans shut off all high power analogue stations last June. Canada is still poised to switch to ATSC in August 31st, 2011. So how is the HD switch progressing in Canada? We've seen a little movement in the past year but the process is still vary slow.

Perhaps the biggest announcement comes from the CBC. My inside sources tell me that the network will be switching to full HD in the next couple of months. Currently, most of its newer programming is already high def, but news and live studio programs (ie. The Hour, Steven & Chris) are not. The shows are currently broadcast in 16:9 SD video. The network is moving away from the tape based DVCPRO format to Sony's XDCAM, which use the blu-ray based Professional Disc. Broadcasts will be 100% server based instead of using tape. This makes editing less time consuming. The process has been slow due to the high cost of the equipment. A single portable XDCAM is upwards of $24,000.

With the CBC moving their news and studio shows to full HD within the next couple of months, this leaves Global as the sole network to broadcast in 4:3 SD video. CTV Toronto made a switch to full HD earlier this year, while CITY Toronto has been in full HD for some time now.

Canadian specialty stations have been particularly slow on joining the HD bandwagon. Movie networks remain the leaders. TMN and MPIX have been HD for some time now. Astral Media debuted HBO Canada in HD a few months back.

Showcase is currently the only Canadian non-sports specialty channel that broadcasts regularly in HD. Discovery HD still has a fairly limited programming repertoire. It airs the same nature shows it always did and really serves as more of a tech demo for high definition than anything else. Popular shows such as Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs are shot in high def in the US but are not aired on Discovery Canada's HD channel. Channels such as The Comedy Network have applied to the CRTC to begin broadcasting in HD. However, there has been no word on when, or if, these will be rolled out. American specialty networks such as A&E, TLC, HDNET, and National Geographic regularly broadcast in HD. Vary few Canadian specialty networks have shown interest in the switch.

Sports channels, being the primary draw to high definition, are leading the pack. The Golf Channel recently debuted it's HD version, which it airs regular HD content identical to the SD version.

Some signs are pointing to movement. Bell TV is currently in the process of reorganizing its high definition channels. Previously, they had a block of 100 available stations in the 800-900 range for high def content. They are currently moving this to the channel 1000+ with more than 500 spaces reserved. This suggests that Bell plans to start offering full time shifting in HD soon. Currently only Toronto and Vancouver stations are available. It also indicates that Bell expects the specialty networks to be making the switch in the near future. Bell still does not offer HD versions of Hamilton based CHCH, and Toronto based multicultural channels OMNI 1 & 2. These are available on OTA antenna and through some cable providers. Cable, however, has been much slower at rolling out HD content and still carries analogue broadcasts.

So, it looks like things haven't really changed in the HD world but signs are pointing to a shakeup. Stay tuned....

Trashware Panic

By Mike on 2:12 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Most pre-built computers you buy today inevitably come with software preinstalled. That may seem like a good thing, and indeed some of it is vary useful. The problem is that the vast majority of it is not. Proprietary media players, virus scanners, and games can eat up storage and triple or quadruple boot times.

PC pro looked at laptops from nine major manufacturers to determine which systems had the highest amount of useless software and the performance penalties it delivered. They looked at boot time, memory footprint, general performance, and HDD space consumed.

Acer ranks the worst, with 2:01 longer boot times versus a clean install and a 952mb larger memory footprint. HP was in second with 1:35 longer boot and a 1.06gb larger memory footprint. Dell stands as the worst for memory usage and hard drive spaced consumed. It's trashware consumes an additional 1.18gb of RAM and over 3gb HDD space.

Apple ranked the highest. Although it contains plenty of preinstalled software, most of it could be considered useful. There was no difference in memory footprint or boot times versus a Mac with iLife installed versus a clean install. The 13'' Macbook Pro booted in 49 seconds and used 288mb of RAM. The Acer by comparison took 2:45 to boot.

Crapware/Trashware/Shovelware has become a huge problem with prebuilt PCs due to its lucrative nature for builders. There are ways to remove it but this is time consuming if done manually. Some proprietary software will refuse to uninstall. Clean installs don't always work because often the trashware is installed with the OS, with both being on the same disc. For the most part, these procedures are over the heads of a lot of users. Keeps my a friend of mine's husband in business.

Some laptops and pre-built desktops will come with the OS and additional software on separate DVDs. You can also purchase barebones laptops and install your own OS, or request the store to do it for you. This is really your best defence against useless software.

Source: PC Pro

Nintendo Supersizes DS with DSi LL

By Mike on 11:24 am

comments (0)

Filed Under:

If you think Sony releases a lot of new models of the same thing every year, Nintendo Gameboy line certainly has to take the cake. In a surprise move, the company unveiled a new DSi model in Japan. The new design features bigger screens: both being "supersized" to 4.2'', up from the usual 3.25''. The entire system is much bigger as well. To give you an idea, Kotaku shows that it is slightly larger than a DVD case when unfolded. Despite the larger screens, the pixel count remains the same, which could present aliasing (jaggies along borders of 3d objects) issues.

Nintendo says the larger screens primarily benefit people who use the DSi for web browsing and music playback, as they show text better.

The system is due to be released in Japan on November 21st. It will be released in Europe and North America some time in Q1 2010. The system will be available in three colours: Dark Brown, Wine Red, and Natural White. It will sell for ¥20,000, which is approximately $235 CAD.

The price point is quite a bit higher than the regular DSi, which sells for a hefty $200 as is. This puts the DS in direct competition with the more powerful PSPGo, which has been harshly criticized for its high price.

What do you think? With TV top consoles selling for around the same price, are portables becoming far too expensive? Would you rather pay extra for the convenience?

Source: Kotaku

Gay Tony's Anime Parody

By Mike on 8:12 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Grand Theft Auto 4 is know for it's parodies of real life TV and radio shows playing in the background. (The Opie & Anthony team starred in several of these for example, or you could just go kill Steve C). The Ballad of Gay Tony introduces a new in-game TV show: Princess Robot Bubblegum. A great anime parody that calls a spade a spade: it's all saving the world through hyper-sexualized nerd fantasies involving misogynistic tentacle porn.

More Woes for the PSP Go

By Mike on 11:09 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Looking to pick up a shiny new copy of NBA2K10 or Undead Knights for your PSP Go? Well, you're out of luck. Joystiq is reporting that several high profile developers for the PSP are still not publishing digital copies of their games. 2K Games, Disney, Temco, and LucasArts are all still producing PSP games in the UMD format only.

Sony has left it up to their third-party publishers to decide when, and if, they'll publish their titles on PSN for direct download. A lot of companies are still opting to use the older UMD format, which is a serious threat to the solid state Go. Many commentators feel that the Go's lack of an optical drive was ill conceived at best. Sony has no plans to force developers to simultaneously release their titles on PSN.

Sony has reported brisk sales of the PSP Go. They claim that it at least matches the figures achieved by the PSP-3000 last year over the same period. Reviewers have harshly criticized the console for its price and method of content delivery.

At $250, the Go is on par with the competing iPod Touch but boasts far fewer features. With the release of the Nintendo DSi earlier this year, the cost of owning a portable system has been steadily increasing, making them comparable in price to TV top consoles. With the problems the system is facing and the lingering recession, it will be difficult for Sony to convince people to place it's portable under the tree this Christmas.

Source: Joystiq

Il-2 Birds of Prey PSP Review

By Mike on 4:12 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

Ace Combat X was a perfect example of how to do arcade flight sims right on the PSP. Il-2 has also made it to the portable system. The game is born from one of the most revered combat flight simulator series out there. It's been some five years since the last full Il-2 game came out. Birds of Prey represented a triumphant return of the hard simulation genre not only to consoles but to gaming in general. The console versions are excellent, but does the portable outing soar or stall?

While the PS3 version is vary well done, the PSP version is not. The biggest problem is the controls, they're just awful. Take everything you know about flight sims, arcade or hard sim, and throw them out the window. Controls have been dumbed down so much that they actually fight your instincts. You cannot roll the plane more than 90 degrees in either direction, making even basic aerobatic manoeuvres impossible. Forget doing Immlemans, split-S, or barrel rolls. You can't even do a basic loop because the game self rights you if you try. Pitching while turning is also impossible. I thought I was flying a plane, not a car.

Due to these limitations, you'll often find yourself being pounded by the enemy and not being able to escape. I figured there must be at least some way to turn this off, but all the options menu lets you do is reverse the pitch control. That's another thing that irritates me about this game. Like so many bad flight games, pitch control is reversed by default. Pulling back on the nub makes your plane go down and vice versa. This is counter to how an actual plane is controlled and how most other decent flight sims function. It is possible to get used to the controls. However, it's a vary steep learning curve that is completely unnecessary. Ace Combat used fairly advanced controls for the PSP, so why couldn't Birds of Prey?

Getting past my original disgust with the fubar control scheme, I at least tried some missions. The mission structure is pretty basic. You get a target, you shoot it down. It's similar to its bigger brother. The PSP does include briefings, which the PS3 and 360 version do not, which is a nice touch. The actual missions themselves though are pretty bland, and the campaign is vary short. Another flaw is lack of a fight group of any sort. You're the only plane in the air besides your enemies. Ace Combat lacked a wingman system but at least you had your allies there with you to help you along.

For visuals, the graphics look considerably subpar compared to a lot of other PSP flight games and PSP games in general. The player aircraft look good but the environment relies a little too heavily on fogging. Ground textures look bad. It's not the worst I've seen but it's far from being acceptable. I've also noticed some slight tearing at the top of the screen. The audio is vary well done though, as it usually is with PSP titles. The music was lifted from the console versions and the quality is pretty good.

There's really no excuse for a game this sloppy. You cannot blame the hardware limitations of the portable since Ace Combat X stands as the benchmark glaring at Birds of Prey. I expected a lot more from 1C Games given the reputation the Il-2 series has. Unfortunately, there aren't too many reviews up making the purchasing decision a gamble for me. To pour salt in the wound, I bought the digital copy of the PSN store meaning I can't even sell it. It's also worth noting that the digital download version doesn't even come with a manual. Really, this game is an awful broken mess and I'm extremely disappointed. I'm being vary generous with my final score here.

Score: 4 out of 10

What Works:
-Mission briefings
-Player aircraft look good
-Music is well done

What Doesn't Work:
-Severely broken controls make the game nearly unplayable
-Limited freedom of movement, I can't roll my plane 360 degrees?!
-No wingmen in the air, you're alone
-Short campaign
-Digital download copy doesn't even include a manual
-Mediocre graphics fall far short of what the PSP is capable of

PSP Go Getting Price Cuts in UK

By Mike on 8:43 am

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Some retailers in Britain have already lowered the price of the PSP Go. Major retailers Amazon, PLAY, HMV, and GAME are cutting the price from £224.99 to £199.99. While the Pound is worth more, items usually sell at a 1:1 Pound to US Dollar ratio. There's no official word from Sony yet. There is no word whether North American prices will drop as well.

Source: Eurogamer

Thoughts on the PSP Go

By Mike on 8:06 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Wow, Sony's new PSP Go isn't attracting a lot of positive press. Reviews have been vary mixed. Ars Technia offered a particularly scathing review. I've yet to get my hands on one but I think a lot of the criticisms seem justified. The consensus seems to be that the Go suffers from several common problems.

1. Awkward to use:
The Go's smaller size makes it difficult for adult hands. Remember that this device is primarily being marketed at teen and adult gamers. Placement of the analogue nub, which was never ideal in the original, is particularly awkward. The Go is only slightly larger than the iPhone, which is also a horrendous gaming platform.

2. No legacy UMD support:
None, nada, nothing. This thing cannot play 99% of PSP games currently out in the wild due to lack of UMD support. Sony had planned a trade in program but quickly confined that idea to the trash bin earlier this weak. Current PSP owners don't have any incentive to buy the GO if their game collection isn't compatible with it. While the PSN store has added a robust number of games, there are still a lot of titles that aren't up there yet.

3. Painfully Slow download times:
Go owners are reporting that games seem to take forever to download on the system. It's true that the PSP's 802.11b Wifi is painfully slow. Most mobile devices today use the faster 802.11g standard, with "b" being ancient by computer standards. I personally use my PS3 for downloading PSP content but not everyone has that option.

4. Poor Value:
The Go costs $249.99 for the core system where as the PSP-3000 costs $169.99. Compounded with the problems above, it's difficult to justify the cost. You can't honestly tell me that 16gb of wholesale flash memory is going to add $80 to the value of the system. It's a tough sell with the 32gb iPod Touch going for only $50 more, with double the storage, faster wifi, and a Swiss Army knife package of apps and games to go with it.

5. Dubious Improvement over PSP-3000:
The PSP GO offers games for direct download on the store that can be played strait from memory. So does the PSP-3000. The latter can also play UMD games. The PSP Go also apparently doesn't use a standard USB Type B cable for data transfer. Unlike the PSP-3000, it requires a proprietary connection. It does add Bluetooth but so far nothing supports it. There's a promise of being able to use the Sixaxis to control PSP games but I can't help but wonder if that defeats the purpose of a portable game system. Really, the PSP Go doesn't offer anything useful over previous PSP designs.

It seems to me that the Go is a system that really did not need to be made. I know I chewed out the PSP-2000 years ago but I think this one deserves criticism far more. It's just a neutered PSP that thinks it's a slider phone, yet costs more. Sony really needs to get their act together and realize that releasing new SKUs every year doesn't constitute innovation. nVidia just released its powerful Tegra mobile all-in-one graphics chip. If Sony were smart, they could have gotten the jump on Nintendo and released a PSP2 at this price point with hardware that already exists. Unfortunately, we just get another stop gap. Ultimately, the PSP's biggest flaw is still the lack of top tier games.

PSP Go Get's 3G... Sort Of

By Mike on 5:17 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Today is the launch date for Sony's PSP Go. The new system appears to finally be getting mobile Internet, with a catch. Firmware 6.10, the launch version for the Go will allow users to tether it with a mobile phone using Bluetooth in order to access Internet when away from Wifi hotspots. Of course this does come with a catch. Namely that Bluetooth 2.0 is only about 1/5 as fast as the PSP's 802.11b wifi, meaning downloading games will be painfully slow. You'll also require a costly mobile broadband plan, preferably with unlimited transfer. Older PSPs also cannot use the features and there is no word if USB tethering will be enabled.

Other updates include a redesign of Sony's proprietary Media Go software, which works like iTunes for Sony products. This is linked with the new SensMe feature available for the PSP's audio playback, which selects tracks automatically depending on the preset mood you select. This is vary similar to Apple's Genius.

Source: Playstation Blog

World's Worst Website

By Mike on 1:43 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

I often complain about how Blogger isn't always ideal, with it's weird bugs. Still, it's a lot better than if I did this myself on Dreamweaver. There's a great site called "Webpages that Suck" that claims to show the world's worst. This one I stumbled upon has to take the cake. Done by LA hippie Bella De Soto, the entire site is a garbled mess of left wing political slogans, posters, videos, and other miscellaneous crap. The entire site weighs in at well over 500 megabytes in size and has a hefty resolution of at least 7000x6000. According to WTS writer Vincent Flanders, the site was too big for his screenshot program to take in everything that was there. To give you an idea at how big this is, if you tied four 1080p monitors together in a grid, they still would not be able to show the site in it's entirety. In fact, no monitor in existence would be able to display it on a single screen. It begs the question: how long did this take? More importantly WHY?!

I'll spare readers the link to and just show you the condensed screen shot. A full sized image is available but it will take forever to download.

Rock Band: The Beatles Review

By Mike on 8:00 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

Ladies and gentlemen... THE BEATLES!... Rock Band. Yes, after much anticipation, the Fab Four from Liverpool have finally made their video game debut. They are perhaps the greatest band in the history of the rock & roll genre. Stretching from humble beginnings at the Cavern Club; John, Paul, George, and Ringo cemented themselves into the pantheon of pop culture and became an icon of the 1960s. The band itself only recorded over an eight year period from 1962 to 1970 but they managed to turn out hit after hit; sparking Beatlemania in the United States. The band was dissolved in the early 70s, largely attributed to John Lennon's bizarre avant-guarde artist wife Yoko Ono. (She's fairly ugly for a Japanese woman and has nothing resembling a personality; what he saw in her is a mystery.) The Beatles and their managing studio Apple Corp. have been notoriously protective of the band's catalogue. Most notably, the songs are not even available on iTunes due to a naming dispute between Apple Corp. and Steve Jobs' Apple Inc. Therefore, getting the rights to 45 tracks for Rock Band is a major victory for EA, MTV Music, and Harmonix. Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Yoko Ono appeared at Microsoft's E3 2009 press conference to promote the game. (George Harrison died of cancer in 2001 and Lennon was fatally shot by an obsessed fan in 1980. Pete Best does not appear in the game as all tracks are post-1962.)

Rock Band: The Beatles is like any other Rock Band game. I had tried to resist the music game craze for as long as possible but this one was difficult to pass up. The game is sold in two configurations. The software only version retails for $60 while the "Limited Edition" kit sells for $250. The kit comes with a replica Rickenbacker 325 or Gretsch Duo-Jet guitar, "The Beatles" drum set, and microphone. Like all Rock Band games, you have a choice of what position you want to play in the band: bass, vocals, drums, or guitar. You do not need to own all the peripherals to play the game, but you do need at least one. Third party controllers or ones from previous Rock Band editions will work. I originally picked up a Guitar Hero 3 Les Paul controller used, but upon discovering it was broken, I picked up a Nyko Frontman instead. Just buying the guitar makes sense as it allows you to play at least two positions.

Rock Band is intended as a party game but can easily be played by yourself or with a friend. The goal of the game is to tap the right coloured "notes" as they scroll across the screen and "strum" when they reach a bar at the bottom. It's one of those games that's easy to learn but difficult to master. A tutorial section will give you a rundown on the basics as well as more complex techniques used on higher difficulty levels. There is a scoreless practise mode and a free play mode as well, which gives you access to most of the 45 tracks right from the beginning. In story mode, you follow the Beatles from their humble beginnings playing rock & roll at the cavern club to the psychedelic era of their latter days. The Beatles only performed live for a part of their career, mostly older tracks. These follow the classic live concert style of Rock Band. Studio albums feature beautifully rendered psychedelic dreamscapes. Overall, the game really shines graphically. Audio quality as you'd expect is also top notch. The overall goal of the game is to hit all the notes and achieve the highest score. Certain techniques will raise your score, such as use of the whammy bar on sustained notes, or tilting your guitar up in the air once you reach enough energy to trigger "Beatlemania", which drives the crowed and your score wild.

Despite all the effort that has gone into it, it's still the same old Rock Band and it doesn't bring anything new to the table. One problem with the game is that to my knowledge, it cannot be expanded. Additional track packs are planned to be released later this Fall but you have to buy Rock Band or Rock Band 2 to get the full experience. I really think this would have been better as an expansion pack instead of a stand-alone game. It is not cross-compatible with the main game. Most Beatles songs are fairly short, so 45 tracks isn't a lot even though it's still generous. A lot of more popular songs are missing such as Hey Jude, Help!, and Yesterday. The full Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's, and Rubber Soul albums will be released as DLC for a steep $17 in October, November, and December of 2009 respectively. The game is an overall solid title though and is definitely a must-have for any Beatles fan, even if they're not a gamer.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

What Works
-45 of the best Beatles songs
-Excellent, colourful dreamscape graphics
-Still uses the tried and true formula while staying true to the classic music.

What doesn't work
-Doesn't really bring anything new to the table
-Not cross-compatible with Rock Band 2
-"Limited Edition" peripheral kit is vary expensive
-Some of the band's top songs are missing from the track list and DLC

How to Fix Satellite Radio

By Mike on 10:14 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

It's no shock that the satellite radio industry is in trouble. XM/Sirius merged but the company is still bleeding money. Here's five ways the company could potentially restructure itself to get back on it's feet.

1. Sack Stern
Sirius paid $100 million per year over five years to get exclusive rights to Howard Stern's show. It's worth noting that this is the entire production budget, not just his salary. Stern is arguably one of the most influential and groundbreaking radio hosts in the last 30 years at least. Sirius took a big gamble on getting him after he left terrestrial radio, and the company was put into debt up to their eyeballs for it. The idea was that his fans would all migrate over to satellite radio, which many did indeed do. However, all but the most diehard fans feel that Howard is approaching the end of his career and that the show has gotten stale. Simply put, he doesn't have the pull he used to, and while Sirius has maintained the old fan base, arguably the show hasn't drawn new people in. Assuming Hoo Hoo gets at least two months vacation, the figure Sirius pays him would equal at least $333,000 per episode. For television maybe but for live radio it seems a little excessive. Stern's contract ends in 2011. If Sirius/XM wants to keep him on, they're going to have to keep paying him the same high amount. He's probably not going to take a pay cut. I say cut him loose and focus on new talent and other hit shows.

2. Make Satellite Radio more accessible
Sirius/XM has been hugely successful with their iPhone App in the US. Satellite radio content doesn't just have to be available over satellite and they stand to make big bucks by making it more available outside cars. Most plug-&-play or portable satellite radio units don't even come with a home kit. Expand the app to more smart phones and make the online versions more competitive. Also, current subscribers should not have to pay extra to get the online version, that's just being incredibly cheap. Who's going to honestly pay twice for the same service? (XMRO is still free to subscribers in Canada by the way, but not to Americans) More ways to access it equals more subscribers, which equals more cash. Simple math. Get apps out on other smart phones and start integrating players into devices such as the Xbox 360 and PS3.

3. Merge Sirius and XM into one entity.
In the US, the companies are merged but still operate as two, with two sets of channels on completely different channel numbers. Subscribers of say XM have to pay extra to get "premium" content from Sirius. Why? If the companies are merged, why didn't they merge their services. It just confuses people.

4. Stop treating it like regular radio
I've noticed more DJ banter popping into the music stations, and more commercials on the premium stations. You can literally sit through 10min of commercials on XM202. Satellite radio is loosing touch with the original reason why it was so desirable. No banter, no commercials, edgier programs and talent not subject to the FCC's content laws. This seems to be going by the wayside. I think a lot of it is due to the new management. Quality of the programming has definitely declined since the merger. Satellite radio subscribers signed up and paid good money to get away from the "morning zoo" garbage and overly nice & proper nature of terrestrial radio. Don't take that away from them because the newbies in management don't know how to do things any differently.

5. More exclusive content
XM/Sirius needs to cut out a lot of the garbage stations they have. They got rid of the new jazz station and replaced it with spa music?! Honestly. Then there's the TV news audio feeds from CNN and FOX, etc. TV news as a medium just cannot be adapted into an audio-only format, since it relies so much on visual information. Get more exclusive content. Canadian content also needs drastic improvement. Canada 360 for example has a really amateur feel to it. Vary dry. If you want the big networks on board, get them producing high quality content specifically for the medium.

Skype for iPhone Now Officially Available in Canada

By Mike on 9:57 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

After months of confusion and denial, Skype for iPhone is finally available in Canada. The App went up on the App Store today as a free download. Previously, Canadians either had to sign up for a US account or do without. Skype allows users to make cheap or free long distance phone calls over the internet using Voice over IP protocol. This is a big plus for iPod Touch users who can now use the media player as a cordless land line phone. iPhone users benefit from cheap long distance calls, which packages being as low as $2.95/mo on top of your internet service costs. One gigabyte of data transfer gives you roughly 7,000 minutes, or over 4.8 days of talk time.

Originally, the CRTC had blocked the app from appearing in Canada, making it a US exclusive. There was no clear idea as to why. Many claim it was due to a patent issue over how Skype encodes data. The Financial Post noted that AT&T had originally tried to have it barred on American iPhones in 2007. The obvious answer is the ability to make cheap long distance calls poses a major threat to their business. Particularly with more people moving from land lines to cells for their home phones.


Okami 2 Screenshots, Gameplay Trailer Out

By Mike on 8:21 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Capcom has released a few screenshots as well as a short gameplay teaser video for Okami Legend: The Small Sun. From these early demos, it seems the game has managed to retain the same quality art style, even though it has been scaled down to N64 equivalent hardware. Chibiterasu and Kuninushi, the game's kawaii protagonists, are shown in the teaser video.

Source: Destructoid

Update: I noticed the video doesn't format correctly on some browsers, covering up the nav bar. Oddly it displays incorrectly on Firefox on Windows but not Mac OS X. It's an issue with blogger conflicting with Youtube's new widescreen format. Nothing I can really do about it other than reduce the size of the video. It should be fixed now.

Okami Sequel Announced

By Mike on 8:43 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Sometimes the world smiles upon you. As you know, Okami is high on the list of my all time favourite games. After Clover Studios was disolved, fans like me had all but given up hope that a sequel would be released. Seems we were wrong. Capcom has a new Okami game for the Nintendo DS is in the works and the company announced that a playable version will be on display at this year's Tokyo Game Show, opening on September 24th. Okami's cartoon visuals should not give the DS too much problems and the stylus control seems ideal for the unique brush gameplay. Game director Kuniomi Matsushita noted that "the original idea was to take what makes this game special and expose it to more people. That was why we chose the Nintendo DS -- being on a portable system will allow people to easily pick up and play it, and you can also use the touch pen as a brush."

The new game will be entitled Okamiden: Chiisaki Taiyo, which translates to "Okami Legend: The Small Sun". The game will be set a couple of months after Amaterasu defeated Yami and left the world for the celestial plane. Apparently she missed some monsters, which are back harassing Kamiki Villiage. Sakuya summons Chibiterasu, a mysterious wolf pup that bares resemblance to Ammy. The core gameplay is said to be the same as the original but with a new partnership system added. It allows Chibiterasu to work in tandom with his partner in battle or to overcome obstacles. Kuninushi, Susano and Kushi's son, is confirmed to be one of the available partners. No word on a release date but I don't expect it to arrive until Q1 2010 at the earliest. Well, at the vary least I now know I bought that DS for something other than Pokemon.

Source: 1UP

The Great Snow Leopard Unboxing

By Mike on 4:36 pm

comments (2)

Filed Under:

I would have done this yesterday but unfortunately I missed the Purolator guy given that I'm out of the house from 7am to 6:30pm usually. I've been living at home while attending school given how expensive housing is. You'd think one of my retired parents would have heard the doorbell but apparently they're both completely deaf. Anyways, enough about that rant. In my hands right now is Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard. I asked someone pick it up from the courier office for me (at a stationary store that's thankfully open Saturdays) while I was at work today. So let's get ahead with the pictorial unboxing.

When I got home from work today, I was greeted by this box.

Did Apple make a mistake and ship my a Mighty Mouse or maybe a USB super drive by accident? Look at the size of this beast!

This standard sized Blu-ray case compared to the box speaks (excessive) volumes.

So I cut open the box and I was unfortunately not greeted with some expensive swag but rather the Snow Leopard DVD in a typical paper sleeve and packing slip.

Not even any peanuts or bubble wrap? Darn. Those are fun to play with. The disc and packing slip were shrink wrapped to a piece of cardboard.

Snow Leopard in all it's glory complete with all the other junk that came with it. For a company that markets itself as being "green", Apple sure went to excess sending me this when a simple padded envelope would have sufficed. It would have cost them less to ship to boot. I don't even think Leopard came with this much packaging, or even my Macbook for that matter. This isn't as bad as shipping a single mouse on a pallet but it's still pretty bad. I'd say this is why Apple products are so expensive but then again HP is even more guilty of the crime of excess packing.

I'm backing up my Macbook right now but I'll have a full review of Snow Leopard down the road once I get it installed.

Ifixit's PS3 Slim Teardown

By Mike on 9:59 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

The folks at Ifixit love taking new tech apart as soon as they can get their hands on it. The PS3 Slim is no exception. You can see that a lot of changes have been made internally over the generations.

The heat sink in the new version is considerably smaller thanks to the 45nm cell processor, which also draws considerably less power.

And here's a look at the motherboard from a launch 60gb.

Notice the Emotion Engine and GS chips missing. Also the mystery chip on the top right has also disappeared. The motherboard is considerably smaller in the slim as well.

Update: The Mystery chip on the launch is the South Bridge, aka the I/O Controller. I'm not sure where it's been moved to on the Slim.

Game Cars: Sully's Grumman Goose

By Mike on 9:00 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Nathan Drake's treasure hunting has taken him to the far corners of the world. Nathan Drake is searching for the remains of Francis Drake off the coast of Panama. Legend has it that Drake's lead coffin was buried at sea empty, containing only the infamous explorer's diary that leads the way to the treasure of El Dorado. Elana Fischer is sent by her employers, who are also financing Nathan Drake's mission, to film a documentary about it. Shortly after discovering the coffin and diary, the two are attacked by pirates looking to score the treasure for themselves. Nate and Elana manage to fend them off for a while until their boat is set on fire. Just in the nick of time, Nate's old friend Victor "Sully" Sullivan swoops down in his red and white Grumman Goose flying boat to rescue the pair while their boat sinks into the abyss. After Sully is killed for not paying off his gambling debts, Nate and Elana are forced on the fun and take his Goose to an uncharted pacific island to search for El Dorado, the golden man. As soon as they arrive, the plane is shot down by pirate anti-aircraft guns leaving the two stranded on the mysterious island.

The Grumman Goose was an amphibious flying boat designed in 1936 as an eight-seat commuter plane for business passengers. It was originally envisioned to act as a corporate aircraft or "flying yacht" for Manhattan millionaires. During the period, flying boats were seen as the future since their ability to land almost anywhere made their range effectively unlimited. Long before the jet age, they dominated the airways, taking passengers to far flung corners of the globe. As an amphibious aircraft, the Goose had a boat-like hull and wing mounted floats for water landings. Two retractable wheels and a non-retracting tail wheel were mounted on it allowing it to take off and land on conventional ground based runways. The plane had a wingspan of 49ft and an approximate length of 38ft. It was powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior SB2 radial engines rated at 450hp each. The Goose has a top speed of 184mph, a range of 1050 miles, and a service ceiling of 21,000ft. Like many civilian planes of the era, it was adapted for military use during the second world war as a trainer and for combat roles. Namely submarine hunting during the Battle of the Atlantic along with other flying boats such as the PBY Catalina. It could be equipped with two .50 cal machine guns and two 250lb depth charges. Following World War II, it took the role of a light civilian transport workhorse. 345 aircraft were built in total with 60 still flying today.

Overweight? Depressed? Stop Gaming You Fool!

By Mike on 5:24 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Feeling a little bloated and sad lately? Your PS3 or Xbox 360 might be your "X Factor" according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a study by the CDC in conjunction with Andrews University and Emory University, it was found that gamers on average are 35 years of age, overweight, and prone to depression. 552 people between the ages of 19 and 90 in the Seattle-Tacoma region of Washington State were surveyed. 249 respondents reported themselves to be gamers with 56% of them being male. Men who played games were found to be heavier than their non-gamer counterparts and also reported higher levels of Internet usage than society at large. Female gamers showed higher occurrences of clinical depression and were found to be generally less healthy than non-gaming women.

"Health risk factors differentiated adult video game players from non-players," National Center for Health Marketing researcher James Weaver said in a statement. "Video game players also reported lower extroversion, consistent with research on adolescents that linked video game playing to a sedentary lifestyle and overweight status, and to mental-health concerns." The CDC equated gaming to "digital self-medication" citing that people play games to "literally take their mind of their worries."

Critics have attacked this study due to the relatively small sample size and its limits to a single geographical area. In a country as vast as the United States, life styles and attitudes vary widely from coast to coast. Health concerns over video games are nothing new. They have been blamed for rising obesity rates among children over the past decade. Similar parallels can be drawn to studies on children and television in the 1950s, when TV was believed to cause similar mental health problems. Rather than being the problem, video game addictions are a symptom of much larger issues that the health care systems in a wide variety of countries have failed to address, forcing people to find methods to self-medicate mental health problems. Rather than blame the medium, the medical community needs to look inward as to how it can offer better mental health support.

Source: DailyTech

Game Cars: 1960 DeSoto Adventurer

By Mike on 9:14 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

I'd though I'd start another feature for the month profiling the cars of gaming. Every hero needs a set of wheels to get around and the car is often the unsung sidekick in the gaming world, outside of racing games. Take Sam & Max for example. A crime fighting duo consisting of six foot tall dog Sam, and Max, a hyper-kinetic rabbity thing, though he refers to himself as a lagomorph. The two "freelance police" need a car to catch perps of course, and what better car than their heavily modified 1960 DeSoto Adventurer.

DeSoto, named after a Spanish conquistador, was a line of cars produced by the Chrysler Corporation from 1928 to 1961. The Adventurer was produced from 1956 to 1961 as a lower cost alternative to the top model DeSoto Fireflite. In total, 11,597 cars were produced. The 1960 model featured a Chrysler 383 V8 engine with two barrel carb producing up to 350bhp allowing it to accelerate it's bulky mass from 0-60mph in under 10 seconds. The car had traditional 1950s styling with a long, sleek body complete with tail fins.

Sam & Max's black and white 1960 DeSoto Adventurer is a heavily modified version of the production car. For starters, it is a hard top convertible despite no convertible versions being made during the 1960 model year. The car is capable of both space and time travel, and it can also drive under water. It presumably has a pressurized cockpit when the top is up to allow it to accomplish these feats. The car has also driven clear across America in search of a missing Bigfoot. Sam is the one who does most of the driving as Max cannot see over the dashboard or reach the pedals. Sam is terrified of Max's driving ability, most likely due to the lagomorph's crazed homicidal tendencies. However, max will occasionally drive to allow Sam to do drive-by shootings while trolling for wealthy perps with "broken" tail lights down White Collar Crime Dr. Since going to Hell in Telltale's Season 2, the DeSoto has become possessed and developed a mind of its own.

Games the Freelance Police DeSoto Adventurer is Featured in:
-Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993)
-Sam & Max Season 1: Culture Shock (2006)
-Situation Comedy (2007)
-The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball (2007)
-Abe Lincoln Must Die! (2007)
-Reality 2.0 (2007)
-The Bright Side of the Moon (2007)
-Sam & Max Season 2: Ice Station Santa (2007)
-Moai Better Blues (2008)
-Night of the Raving Dead (2008)
-Chariots of the Dogs (2008)
-What's New Beelzebub? (2008)

Sources: Sam & Max Wiki, Wikipedia, How Stuff Works
For more DeSoto Adventurer images, check out

Got a request for another game car, plane, boat or any other vehicle to be profiled? Post it in the comments section. A couple of ground rules first though. It has to be a real vehicle, no fictional ones. Secondly, it has to come from something other than a racing or simulation title unless that game specifically focuses on that vehicle only. So nothing from Gran Turismo. Please provide the name of the vehicle and the game it is from, and if possible the model year and a link to some information on it.

GameCon: Sony Finally Intros PS3 Slim, Price Cut, FW 3.00

By Mike on 4:44 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Sony finally laid to rest the long standing rumours of a PS3 slim by finally introducing the console. The PS3 Slim looks about half the size of the current generation. claims it is 33% smaller and 36% lighter than the current model. It has been given a more curvy design but lacks the high polished finish and chrome trim of its bigger brother. In my opinion, this design more makes the console look significantly cheaper too. Speaking of price, Sony has announced the Slim will retail for $299 US and will include a 120gb hard drive as standard. Other than that, specs are the same as the current 120gb model. The current fat model will also receive a price cut to $299. Sony is claiming it is available for retail immediately. has the console listed for pre-order while other sites are claiming it will be released September 1st. The price cut for current SKUs is effective as of today.

Sony also introduced Firmware 3.00. It doesn't really add anything new and exciting other than some cosmetic changes to the XMB and a partial overhaul of PSN. A strait copy/paste from the official PS Blog details the following features.

  • “What’s New” – The “Information Board” will be replaced with a “What’s New” section, which allows you to enjoy interactive PlayStation news every time you start the PS3 system. Located under the PlayStation Network icon, “What’s New” displays the latest and greatest game, video, PlayStation Network and PlayStation news and releases, as well as your recently played games, in a sleek, new animated format.
  • Status Indicator – In the top right corner we’ve added an indicator bar, which displays your user icon, friend icon, the number of friends you have online and a small message icon to let you know if you have any new messages. The indicator also includes a scrolling ticker that features the latest news from PlayStation Network. In addition, when you press the PS button, the battery life indicator will no longer cover up the clock.
  • Friends List – Now your PlayStation Network friends will appear in a slightly redesigned format on your Friends List. Also, messages will now be viewable from each of your friends’ respective profiles.
  • PlayStation Store Shortcuts – We’ve added a handy shortcut icon to the PlayStation Store under both the Game and Video categories so you can access the latest content quickly and easily.
  • Personalization – Personalize your PS3 with new dynamic custom themes and avatars. Dynamic themes as well as free and premium avatars will be available through PlayStation Store. A dynamic theme takes your screen to a whole new level as it incorporates animated objects into the background.
  • Trophies – Showcasing your hard earned trophies just got better. Update 3.00 gives game developers the ability to modify how they display trophies for add-on content. Base and add-on game trophies will continue to be combined into a single list so you can see where you stand in a game as a whole. Within that list, trophies will be broken out into subcategories—base trophies and add-on trophies—that way, you can easily view the percentage of your base game trophy collection, and separately track your trophy progress in add-on packs. Look for this enhancement to be included in upcoming games.
Sony did not way when it would be released but we can assume it will be the launch firmware for the Slim.

Source: Playstation Blog: Slim, Playstation Blog: Firmware 3.0,

Consoles Suffering High Failure Rates

By Mike on 1:15 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: , ,

Magazine Game Informer surveyed 5000 readers to determine failure rates and satisfaction with the repair process for the three current generation consoles. The results show that the Xbox 360 is suffering a staggering number of hardware failures. Of the respondents, 360 owners reported that 54.2% of their consoles had failed. Those sent in for repairs had a second failure rate of 41.2%. Xbox owners were also the least satisfied with the service they received with only 37.7% reporting a good experience. 3.6% of 360 owners said they would never buy a Microsoft console again due to the high failure rate. The Wii and PS3 faired significantly better, having failure rates of 10.6% and 6.8% respectively. In terms of customer satisfaction, the Wii and PS3 were almost even with 56.1% and 51.1%.

I think the numbers do seem quite high though I suspect they're including as "failures" anything that requires the console to be repaired including worn out fans, hard drives, and optical drives instead of just catastrophic failures such as the 360's infamous Red Ring of Death. This would explain why the Wii's rates are so low since it has the fewest moving parts. This news doesn't bode will for Microsoft though, who has been battling serious hardware issues with the 360 since day one. We can only assume that sales may have been better had these issues not existed to begin with. One has to admire the resilience, or stupidity depending on how you see it, of 360 owners. Many keep coming back to the system due to its strong library of games while Sony has failed to take advantage of consumer dissatisfaction with the problems by not aggressively building their library and marketing the PS3.

Source: IGN

Amazon's Orwellian Mess Could Set Dangerous Precedent

By Mike on 9:32 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

Amazon's new Kindle is all the rage right now in the United States but it seems to be having its own Orwellian moments. Kindle owners who had purchased George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm found their digital copies to have mysteriously disappeared. Amazon claims that a third party publisher had mistakenly assumed that the two works were in US public domain. This is a fair assumption since in many jurisdictions, including Canada, copyright remains in force for 50 years after the creator's death before being released. Orwell died in 1950. In the United States, copyrights last for 70 years after the death of the author, meaning 1984 won't enter public domain until 2020. The current copyright holders of both works demanded that Amazon pull the content, which the company complied.

Amazon did not simply remove it from the store but sent out a message to all Kindle 2 readers to delete the two works. This was done without the knowledge of those who had purchased the work. Rather than incurring the wrath of (ironically) Orwell's estate, Amazon is now being sued for violation of their own terms of service as well as violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act and the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act. One of the plaintiffs, Michigan high school senior Justin D. Gawronski, had been studying Nineteen Eighty-Four for school and had made notes using the Kindle's built in note taking feature. When he went to start up his Kindle, he found the book was gone but the now useless notes and bookmarks still remained. Gawronski expects he will have to read the book all over again. "A note such as 'remember this paragraph for your thesis' is useless if it does not actually a reference a specific paragraph," the suit noted. A second person, Antoine Bruguier, a Silicon Valley engineer, has also been listed on the suit. Bruguier claims that Amazon sent him an email notifying him that a refund was being processed. He asked to keep the book but Amazon refused, noting that they would not provide any "additional insight or action." Bruguier claims Amazon deceived him by making him think the books he purchased were his. Amazon's terms of service do state that books are licensed, not sold. However, it goes on to say that users have the right to keep a "permanent copy" to "view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times." The suit contends that Amazon never disclosed that it could remotely remove content from the reader without the knowledge or consent or the purchaser.

This suit pretty much sums up the reasoning for my lack of comfort with digital downloadable content. When I purchase a paper book, I own that copy and I am entitled to do what I please with it under fair use. I can read it, make personal copies, lend it to friends, and sell it if I choose. Furthermore, the license on print copies can never expire or be revoked. The inherent intangibility of digital copies has given a great deal more power to content holders than they ever had before. Probably the most disturbing part of all this is that Amazon has given itself the power to remotely control the Kindle, allowing them to add or delete content at will without the user's knowledge. This is technically illegal as the law suit contends. Under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, it is illegal to install or remove files from a computer without the user's knowledge and explicit consent. This was the reason Sony BMG was sued in 2005 over the CD rootkit debacle. It is also partially why Electronic Arts was sued over Spore and SecuROM DRM in 2008. Despite this, parts of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act still manage to trump these laws. It is best to avoid diving head first into the realm of digital content until solid laws are passed that guarantee some form of stronger consumer protection. Amazon has pulled the bait & switch on their customers and I really hope the two plaintiffs manage to get some laws changed out of this suit.

Source: The Register, Wikinews

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Reivew

By Mike on 2:00 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

"Conglaturation !!! You have completed a great game. And prooved the justice of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes!" This grammatical nightmare was the ending screen for the original NES Ghostbusters game, produced by Activision way back in the late 80s. The game has an infamous reputation for being just awful. In fact, so have most other Ghostbusters games. I smiled when I saw the ending screen included in Atari's new game. It can be seen on one of the computer monitors at the Ghostbusters' firehouse. Unlike so many of the ones that came before it, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is actually quite good. The game proclaims that this is the third movie. Indeed the story plays out in exactly that fashion.

You play as a newly hired rookie Ghostbuster rather than one of the actual characters from the movie. Ray, Peter, Egon, and Winston are all there, voiced by Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Herold Ramis, and Earnie Hudson respectively. It's nice to see Winston finally included in the game as he seemed to be suspiciously left out of past ones. Annie Potts returns as the Ghostbusters secretary Janine and William Atherton returns as EPA agent Walter Peck. Saturday Night Live alumni Brian Doyle-Murray is new to the cast as Mayor Mulligan. Alyssa Milano, known for roles in Charmed and My Name is Earl, voices Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn. It's vary nice to see nearly the entire original cast return to voice their characters. This really ties it in beautifully with the concept of the "third movie".

The game itself begins where the first movie began, at the New York Public library. The library is soon to host a new exhibit on Gozer, the demon god. Late at night, a woman is seen running past two security guards followed by a huge blast of energy that engulfs the city. Slimer escapes soon after, heading back to the old Sedgwick hotel. The Ghostbusters soon encounter other powerful ghosts from their past including the librarian and Stay Puft. Missions vary from being part of a team of one or more of the other Ghostbusters, or solo. The goal of the game is simple enough, catch ghosts and destroy deities. The Rookie has been hired on as the experimental equipment technician, who's job is to test Egon's new inventions. At the beginning of the game, you're given the standard proton pack, which is used to weaken then wrangle ghosts into your trap. Hitting R2 activates the proton stream to attack the ghosts. Once the green reticule around the ghost turns red, the pack automatically lassos them, where you have to fight the ghost into the trap, deployed by hitting Square. Once trapped, you can further weaken the ghost by "slamming" them with L2, when your slam meter reaches full, which is charged by pulling the ghost in the opposite direction they're trying to go. Once weak enough, pull them over the trap and wrestle them in. Pick it back up when you're done with X. Other weapons become available later in the game. The green slime pack from Ghostbusters 2 allows you to neutralize caustic black slime as well hurt enemies. It also packs a slime tether which can be used to tether objects or manipulate them; it's used by L2, which is the secondary weapon function button. The dark matter generator allows you to temporarily freeze ghosts, and the meson collider is especially effective against deity ghosts. Boson darts fire a high powered charge from the proton pack, working as its secondary weapon. Certain weapons are more effective against some enemies than others so it's best to play around. Catching ghosts or destroying deities brings in money, which can be used to purchase upgrades for weapons and other inventory. Destroying property takes away money.
Another aspect of the game is using the PKE meter, which detects hidden ghosts (red screen), environmental phenomenon (green), or hidden possessed artifacts (blue). It switches to a first person view when using it. Scanning various things using R2 collects information for the Tobin's Spirit Guide, including the ghost's methods of attacks, how difficult they are to capture, and what their weaknesses are. The Spirit Guide as well as weapons, tutorials, and gameplay information are stored in the PKE meter, accessed by hitting start. Hit triangle to enter scanning mode.

The game itself can be quite difficult at times, especially if played on experienced or professional mode. On the proton pack, a green bar on the right side shows your current health. If you drain it, another Ghostbuster will come and revive you if they're near by. If not, you fail the mission. You can also revive your own colleagues if they fall. It's not so much the more powerful ghosts that are the big threats, but the ones that attack in large groups, such as the possessed wall sconces in the Sedgwick level. You'll also need to periodically vent your proton pack when using weapons to prevent it for overheating. This can slow down gameplay somewhat. The Rookie's dodge and movement abilities are somewhat limited. You can run and dodge using the circle button but this feels delayed and is often pretty much useless beyond normal movement.
The levels themselves are well done with plenty of variety. The entire game has eight in total, and it can be beaten in about six hours depending on the difficulty setting. The artistic style of the game blends a mix of cartoony atmosphere with realistic character models. The game has trophy support and multiplayer to keep you busy for longer, though I didn't try the latter. Overall, Ghostbusters is a fun game to play despite it's minor flaws. Fans of the series will definitely get a kick out of it.

Sadly, despite it being a solid game, Ghostbusters does have some technical issues on the PS3. Despite Sony owning the Ghostbusters IP, the Playstation version is clearly inferior to the Xbox 360's. For starters, the game does not run in HD. On the 360, it does run at 720p but on the PS3, the resolution is limited to 960x540, which isn't much better than Euopean PAL's SD video resolution. Rather the PS3 will upscale the game to HD. My TV indicated it was running at 1080i but it certainly did not look like it. Textures are washed and aliasing problems are clearly evident. Once again, programming difficulties on the Cell were blamed. After three years of the PS3 being on the market, and vastly superior games being developed for it, this excuse just doesn't fly any more. If your programmers can't develop on the Cell, sack then and hire some that can. Given that Atari published the game, this doesn't surprise me though considering the technical garbage that studio has produced over the years. In contrast, Ghostbusters is an achievement compared to most of their rubbish. Aside from the low resolution and bad textures, there really aren't any more other technical issues. There's no tearing or frame drops. However, I did notice that during pre-rendered cut scenes, lip syncing seemed a bit off.
I already mentioned how impressed I was with the audio. The voice talent is spectacular and the game includes all the classic themes and sound effects from the movie. From a technical standpoint, audio is where this game really shines.

Compared to other Ghostbusters games, this one is definitely the best. Compared to other games in general, this one still has issues. The gameplay is just plain fun and the controls are decent enough. The resolution issues on the PS3 though are inexcusable, which is what prevented it from getting a higher score than it did. This is easily worth an 8 out of 10 on the 360 but it gets docked half a point on the PS3 because of the graphics problems. This is definitely worth a rent, especially if you're a fan of the series. It's the first game for the IP that really lets you feel what it's like to be a Ghostbuster.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

What works
-Outstanding use of original cast for voiceover
-Fun gameplay with all your favourite weapons from the movies
-Good level design
-Excellent music and sound effects
-Intriguing story really does feel like the "third movie"

What Doesn't Work
-PS3 version doesn't run in HD
-Textures look washed and 3D models have aliasing (jaggies) issues
-A little on the sort side
-Dodge and run controls a little unresponsive and not vary useful