Trashware Panic

By Mike on 2:12 pm

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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