World's Worst Website

By Mike on 1:43 pm

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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