Merry Christmas

By Mike on 8:51 pm

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Merry Christmas from MMNTech!


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Need a video converter? Here's three of them

By Mike on 10:07 pm

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Every now and then, you'll need to convert a video. Whether you're editing some family films or just want to rip a DVD to your iPhone, different devices require different formats. Here's three great converters to get the job done fast.

Handbrake (Mac/Windows/Linux, free)
Most devices use the the advanced video format (AVC) also known as H.264. If you need to convert any video into AVC, Handbrake will do it, fast. It's designed to do just one thing and one thing well. Of course it does have a few frills, like deinterlacing, freely adjustable bit rates, cropping, and presets for most Apple devices. On Mac and Linux, it also supports 64-bit processors for about a 10% speed bump. It will convert most DVDs in real time, which is pretty quick for a CPU converter. Handbrake open source program, works with all major operating systems, and it's completely free.

SUPER Media File Converter (Windows, free)
SUPER is clunky, a tad on the slowside, and not exactly the most user friendly program out there. Even finding the download link on eRightSoft's website is a chore. However, it's one of the few free converters out there that will literally convert anything into anything. Got an MPEG that needs to be in DV format? Done. It's one of the few programs that actually supports professional formats such as DV, so it's often my go to when editing.

Media Espresso (Windows, $37.56 on sale)
Cyberlink's converting program isn't cheap, but it does have one thing going for it. It will tap into the power of your computer's graphics card. There's a lot of power hidden in there too. It's the most user friendly and straightforward program on our list. It's basic drag and drop converting. Select your file, drag it into Espresso, hit the convert button your device, and it does the rest. You can also set up custom profiles with today's most common video formats. Where Espresso shines is speed. Using my Radeon HD 5770, I can convert a two hour DVD in just 20 minutes. It would normally take the full two hours using Handbrake. Unlike other GPU converters, it works with Intel, nVidia, and AMD graphics chips. If you need to convert big video files fast, and have a reasonably powerful graphics card, it's well worth the expense.





Vita's media will cost a lot of dollas

By Mike on 5:38 pm

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Sony never met a proprietary format it didn't like. Beta, Minidisc, Bluray, Memory Stick. Joining it is the PS Vita Memory card. Like all other Sony formats, it's incompatible with other devices, completely unnecessary, and as we learned this week, very expensive.

Sony announced four size formats for the new PS Vita Memory Card. It will range from 4gb to 32gb and be priced between $30 up to a whopping $120 for the 32gb model. By comparison, commonly used SD cards in the same sizes range from $6 to $70. Sony's own failed Memory Stick Pro Duo cards retail at $95 for 32gb. This makes Sony's Vita cards the most expensive flash storage cards around.

Contains gold, platinum, and unobtanium... which is my theory for the high price

Like the PSP before it, the Vita has no built in storage. As PC World correctly points out, this bumps the true cost of the Vita to at least $320 with tax factored in. That's even before you buy any games or accessories. In other words, Sony is repeating the same mistakes it made with the PSP.

With companies trying to push downloadable games over retail copies, I find the high markup on storage puzzling. It made sense when there were no alternatives, but the iPhone and Android have changed the game. It's certainly not going to convince people to drop retail.

Source: PC World

Images courtesy of PC World and Meme Generator





Sonic Generations Review

By Mike on 9:09 pm

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We've said it time and time again. You got your hopes up only to have your dreams dashed. This time I can say it with confidence. The Hedgehog is back. In fact, Sonic Generations is easily the best Sonic game in 15 years.

As a long time Sonic fan, I don't make the above claim lightly. I was a huge fanboy back in the Genesis heyday. I mastered every game of the main series, played every other at least once. I religiously watched Sonic SatAM, and collected all the Archie Sonic comics. I loved the blue blur. To seem him fall so low in the 3D era pains me. It's like watching a piece of your childhood die. 

Saga is trying hard to turn their struggling mascot around. We've seen three major releases in the last year. Each one has improved upon the other. Generations finally manages to capture the spirit of the Genesis games, while at the same time perfecting them for the modern era.

Story & Gameplay

Thankfully, Generations keeps it simple for once. No bad dialogue, no weird ineterspecies romance. The story is kept light. Sonic's friends are captured by a time beast and thrown into the White World. This acts as the level select screen. There's no unnecessary over-world, which is refreshing. The story has plenty of nods and in jokes for fans. It even mocks the ludicrous stories and bizarre characters the 3D era is known for.

The game is structured like a classic Sonic game. There are nine zones with two acts each. Each zone is taken from the nine games released in the main series, from Sonic 1 up to Sonic Colours.

The zones are split into a Classic Sonic act and a Modern Sonic act. Seeing the chubby Sonic of yesterday puts a smile on any fan's face. Seeing him race through modernized versions of Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant managed to put a huge grin on mine. Everything is just perfect with these classic levels. The focus on speed, speed, speed is gone. Instead, we return to good old fashioned platforming. That's really what the original series was all about. Physics are as close to the original Genesis games as you can get. You do tend to loose momentum in rolls quicker. The jumping is spot on though, a big improvement over Sonic 4.

Green Hill Zone looks great in the 21st Century


Compared to the original Green Hill Zone in 1991
After that first act, you move on to 3D Sonic. I actually enjoyed playing these levels just as much as the classics. Building on what they learned in Unleashed and Colours, Sega has perfected Sonic in the third dimension. There's a lot of great speed but a lot of good platforming. You get the feeling of a blistering pace, but without the cheap deaths that went along with previous games. One difference over the past is a boost gauge, which allows for temporary bursts of speed. You fill up the gauge by collecting rings, and doing mid air "tricks".

Both classic and modern levels are just a blast to play. The difficulty feels just right. It gets harder as the game progresses, without overwhelming the player. There's no sense of cheap traps here. Except maybe in Chaos City. Why Sega would want to revisit that rotting disaster known as Sonic 2006 is beyond me.

The game can be completed in a few hours. Some reviewers have complained about the length. I think they forget how short the original games were. Though Sega is not completely cheap here. Each zone has several challenge levels for both classic and modern Sonic. Completing these will more than double the game time. Plus, you get to unlock lots of goodies by finishing them.

Graphics & Sound

Sonic Generations is a gorgeous game. Sega has really taken attention to detail seriously. They're good at making their games pretty. The levels are crisp and colourful, which is nice in today's shades of grey games. The recreations of the Genesis levels in 3D are stunning and true to the classic design. Levels have been carefully designed to add challenge and excellent platforming.

As fast and as beautiful as the game is, modern consoles can't keep up. Sega took the unfortunate step of trading fluid motion for beauty. Sonic has to be played at a high frame rate to create smooth motion. In traditional games, this was 60 frames per second. The PS3 and Xbox 360 can only manage half that. It creates a fair bit of lag and motion blur. This takes a lot away from the Sonic experience.

Sonic Generations is a beautiful game best played at the PC's fast frame rate
 The best platform to play Sonic Generations on is the PC. The game still has a locked frame rate, unfortunately. However, it will run at a full 60 frames per second on Windows. This is how the game should be played, provided you have a powerful enough system. In my case, I'm running an AMD Phenom II X3 at 3.0ghz, Radeon HD 5770 1gb, and 4gb of RAM. This is enough to run the game at full speed without breaking the bank.

The game has no major technical issues. There's the occasionally frame rate hiccup but glitches are at a minimum. Thankfully, Sega learned from the disastrous Sonic the Hedgehog 2006.

Aside from looking good, the game sounds amazing as well. Even in it's darkest days, music has always been the Sonic series' strong suit. We're not getting anything new here. Instead, Sega has recreated and reinterpreted classic tunes with help from their original composers. The new versions of the old Genesis tracks really stand out for classic Sonic fans. Listen for your self. As you play, you can unlock the original tracks for a blast from the past. Even as a Sonic fan since the beginning, I still prefer the new versions.

Conclusions

Sonic Generations is the best console game in the series since Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Period. Sega has made a lot of mistakes with their flagship series. This is the game that finally gets it right. Classic Sonic plays like classic Sonic should. Modern Sonic is fast and fun. Both modes balance each other perfectly.

That said, the game isn't perfect. It has a few pitfalls. Later levels return us to a few cheap deaths, and the frame rate is too low on consoles. Some have complained that the game is short too. While that's true, it's no shorter than the Genesis classics.

Sonic Generations is a pure and unabashed lip service to fans who started with the series' roots. It's a fantastic game that really shows what Sonic should be, and what he can be. No stupid stories, no nonsensical friends. Just pure speed and smart platforming.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

What Works
-Classic Sonic plays like classic Sonic
-Colourful graphics and reinterpretations of classic levels
-Re-imagined music will make Sonic fans smile
-Modern Sonic gameplay finally perfected
-Lots of stuff to unlock, with missions that add variety

What doesn't work
-Cheap pit deaths in later levels
-Low frame rate on consoles




Nintendo 3DS Review

By Mike on 4:01 pm

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It's been a rough year for Nintendo. Stocks have plummeted, executives are taking pay cuts, and Mario has gone back into plumbing. At the centre of the storm is the 3DS. The little system is stirring up a hornets nest. Is it really as bad as gamers say? Is it too expensive and gimmicky? You bet! It's all those things and more, packed into a worthy successor to the DS dynasty.







What's in the box

The 3DS currently retails at a more reasonable $169.99, a reduction of $80 off the original launch price. The box contains the usual goodies. The system itself, a charger and dock, thick manual, warranty cards. It also comes with a few surprises. The 3DS comes with generous a 2gb SD card to get you downloading. Are you listening Sony? It also ships with a small deck of AR cards for the built in augmented reality games. Conspicuously missing is Nintendo's usual Wii style pack-in game cartridge. Given the high price the system originally commanded, I would think that would be a given.

The box includes manuals, AR cards, charger dock, 3DS, and charger (not pictured)

The system itself resembles the older DS Lite and DSi. It's about the same size and weight. Numerous improvements have been made over it's older brothers. The 3DS now contains an analogue nub, which makes true 3D games more playable. The shoulder buttons have also been raised a bit, to give them a better feel in your hands. Something that simple is a huge improvement.

Analogue nub, better buttons, fingerprinty piano black finish.


Your eyes bleed 3D

The real star of the show is the glasses-free 3D display. Until now, most consumer 3D screens have required the use of glasses. Instead the 3DS uses something called a parallax barrier. Tiny slats are used to display a different image for each eye. This gives the illusion of depth.

The display is just gorgeous. It features a wide screen aspect ratio for the first time. The 800x240 display gives a similar resolution to the PSP. The 3D mode works very well, though it's somewhat underutilized. A lot of games are still using pop-up book graphics. Experiments will depth will come.

You get the gist of it. Games look good. No 3D for you on 2D camera though.
 3D will take some getting used to for some people. About 10% of the general population won't notice the effect. Others may get headaches from it. Nintendo provides a slider to adjust the intensity of the 3D effect, so you can tune it to something more comfortable.

It may be a gimmick but the 3D display is where the 3DS really shines. Ocarina of Time has never looked better. 

Of course, the second touch screen from the DS remains. Sadly, it is not wide screen but they did up the resolution to 480x320.

Bad battery

The downside with the fancy screens and souped up graphics is battery life. In a word, it's pitiful.  Expect to get just three to five hours of gameplay depending on the brightness. It does have a fairly large battery, so why is power consumption so high? I've tracked it down to a couple of potential sources. The processors in the 3DS use an older, less efficient design. New mobiles use smaller transistors, which use less power. It's an easy fix that will be included with an inevitable redesign. The 3D screen also consumes a lot of energy. The paralax display requires a brighter backlight. Battery life can be extended by using lower brightness settings, or turning 3D off.

Pop-up Pics, grainier than a Saskatchewan wheat field

The 3DS features three VGA cameras. The front facing camera is unchanged from the DSi. It can take photos of the user and plaster them on Miis and other in-game avatars. Don't expect to be using your 3DS to do any Skype video chats.

The two rear facing cameras are where the fun is. At least if you find grainy, eye hurting photography to be fun. As one would expect, the 3DS can take 3D pictures. The quality is questionable at best. The pictures come out quite blurry and have noticeable gain, even in decent lighting conditions. Nintendo has obviously packed the lowest quality mobile cameras they could find into this thing. Even the cheapest cell phones have 2.0 megapixel cameras in them, and have for some time. By comparison, the 3DS's cameras are 0.3 megapixel.

The 3D effect ranges from okay to quite poor. It all depends on what you're shooting and the angle you shoot at. I've had some that have come out quite well. Others make my eyes want to bleed. It works best with medium shots. Closeups produce a disorientating effect that makes my brain hurt, while wide shots produce nothing noticeable. On the plus side, you can edit your photos to adjust the intensity of the 3D effect. Fine tuning what each eye sees can make better looking photos. Overall, the 3D photos do look better on the device than 2D photos taken with the same camera do.

The rest of the photo app is pretty basic. It allows you to "graffiti" your pictures. Basically, you can draw on them, and that's pretty much it. Obviously it's meant to be easy to use for children. I didn't expect Photoshop Express, so I can't dock points for simplicity. I just wish the pictures it took weren't so awful.

Note: I'd show you how bad the pictures are but the SD card doesn't want to cooperate with either of my computers. I'll post them when I fix it.

Hardware odds and ends

For online connectivity, the 3DS has 802.11G Wi-Fi. It's a major improvement from the DS's painfully slow 802.11b connection. Also, like the iPod Touch, it features an accelerometer and gyroscope for basic motion control, and a microphone for audio recording. All of these work well, though most are not yet integrated into games.

I like the hardware a lot. It feels like the most grown up member of Nintendo's portables. Nintendo finally has something that can rival Sony's portable in the hardware department. Mostly everything works well. Unfortunately, that's only half the story.

System Software

Software can make or break a game system, and the 3DS's just isn't very good. That's not to say it's bad. It just hasn't had time to mature. Still, it remains the number one problem with the system. It feels like Nintendo rushed the launch without really thinking things through.While none of the launch titles were particularly bad, they weren't particularly good either.  Fortunately, things are starting to change for the better.

The system software is the most immediate change you'll see. It's also the most radical. The OS on the DS was the next best thing to useless. Nintendo has borrowed a few pages from Sony, the Wii, and Apple this time around. Apps and games are laid out in a grid on the touch screen. The top screen shows the app's title in fabulous 3D. We get a white, neat theme that has become a trademark of Nintendo since the Wii came out. It's a huge leap ahead of the hideous and utilitarian desktop on the DS.

The 3DS system software is a vast improvement, and more Wii-like than the DS
 Not only is the interface prettier, it's more functional. Nintendo has been kind enough to include some apps to get you started. Some are new, some are a carryover from the DSi.

The reality you're about to see may contain artificial ingredients

To get us started, Nintendo has added a couple of augmented reality (AR) games. AR uses the cameras to blend digital imagery with a real world backdrop. As I mentioned earlier, the system comes with a small deck of cards that can be used with AR GAMES. Only one card is useful, the rest just make Nintendo characters appear on your rug. The actual games are basic shooting and bowling. It's a bit gimmicky but then again, this is Nintendo we're talking about.

Speaking of gimmicky, Face Raiders, the other AR game, is one of the most bizarre I've played. It used the front facing camera to take a picture of your face. Then it slaps your image on malevolent floating balls that attack by... kissing you. This one uses the accelerometer to and cameras. Your goal is to shoot the balls, with little balls, before they get you. Once you defeat the boss mug, that's one level down. Take pictures of your friends, so you can slap them with your balls too. Face Breakers may be stupid and weird, but it's the most entertaining of the two built in games.

It can play music and video, but so does my watch

Besides games, the 3DS has some old and new media capabilities. The photo app has been updated, and can now take 3D pictures. Aside from that, not much has changed from the DSi. You can still view albums and draw on photos. That's about it. The music app can both record and playback sounds. It also has a few neat filters that you can play around with. Even an 8-bit one to turn your favourite songs into chip tunes. Sadly, there's no equalizer. Music playback quality is pretty good tough. The only major flaw is the clunky album navigation system. Remember the old school nested folders from MP3 players from days of yore. They're baaaack.

The 3DS offers a brand new media feature on top of photos and music. It can now play videos, sort of. Nintendo Video automatically downloads videos of the week for you. All in 3D of course. It's like their own version of Youtube. The content on it is actually not bad. There's music videos, artistic and indie shorts, and stuff from CollegeHumor. Great, except for one big problem. You only have access to four videos at a given time. On top of that, once they're gone, they're gone. You can't go back and watch old videos. You're forced to live with what Nintendo picks for you. To make matters worse, you can't even load your own movies onto it. The only other option is Netflix. An app for that can be downloaded from the store. Since I don't have a subscription (and used up my free trial long ago), I couldn't test that feature.

Smiles at everyone she meets on the Street

Finally our last piece of new software: StreetPass. It's Nintnedo's attempt at adding social networking to the 3DS. Like the Wii, you can create a Mii, a cartoon avatar of yourself for online gaming. With StreetPass, your 3DS scans for other 3DS systems and logs their owner's Mii. You can visit other Miis in the Mii Plaza. There you can interact and play games with them. I'm not sure if I like this feature. It seems pretty limited, plus this system is for kids. I'm not sure I'd want it logging information about total strangers, or beaming out my info. Of course there are parental controls, but still. The whole thing just feels underdeveloped, like a lot of Nintendo's online gaming features. They still haven't caught up with the likes of Sony, Apple, and Microsoft in that department.

Games, glorious games. Where art thou?

Now finally, we get to the games. The 3DS had one of the most underwhelming launch lineups that I can recall. I think this is the biggest flaw with the system. The software for it feels rushed. The launch titles have one standout with the rest being pretty dull around the edges. At worst, many of the games feel overpriced.

While it's easy to dismiss Apple as the new kid on the gaming block, they did start a revolution. They priced their games dirt cheap. When the average full featured title for the iOS platform costs just $7, charging $40 for a similar experience becomes hard to justify. Nintendo hasn't really changed their pricing strategy since the Gameboy. Like Sony, they've failed to take advantage of their own app store to compensate, by making these titles impulse purchases.

The store is a bundle of random categories that change weekly. Cut the Rope is a pricey $5!!!

It seems Nintendo doesn't really know what to do with the 3DS. You'd think a company that makes games would know how to make games for their new flagship portable. Of the handful of blockbuster titles the 3DS does have, two are ports from the 90s. A few more are ports of DS games with slightly enhanced graphics and audio. While there are a few original games coming down the pipe, they're still few and far between.

The software experience on the 3DS isn't good. The system does have a lot of potential. Sadly, nobody wants to give it the time of day: not Nintendo, not third parties. They've already written it off as a failure. I think if Nintendo started taking better advantage of the eShop, and lowered the prices of the games, they could have something to compete with Apple and Sony. They just got to get people making good games for it first.

Conclusion


The 3DS is an excellent portable that suffers from a Napoleon complex. The hardware is fantastic, but it really comes up short in the software department. It could be so much more than a gimmick, because the games do look fantastic on it. I think the successor to the venerable DS deserves a lot better treatment.

If you've managed to get this far in my review, you're probably wondering whether you should buy it. If it was still at $250, that would be a definite no. However, I think Nintendo has finally hit a pricing sweet spot that could really challenge the Vita and iPod Touch. If you're a fan of Nintendo, or even just a few of their franchises, I'd say go for it. Otherwise, you may want to hold off until a redesign, or at least until the software situation gets sorted.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

What works:
-Gorgeous glasses-free high resolution 3D screen
-Analogue nub a big improvement over the DS
-Charging dock a neat feature
-3D camera and Augmented Reality are neat gimmicks
-Better quality stylus
-Improved connectivity and social networking
-Better buttons
-Feels like a more grown up DS
-New $169.99 price tag offers nice value

What doesn't work
-Battery life
-Poor image quality with camera
-Lack of standout games
-Price of some games
-Underdeveloped, cluttered, and overpriced eShop
-Bundled apps unimpressive
-Online gaming still a pain

iPhone 4S gets a gory dissection

By Mike on 7:28 pm

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You want to see Siri take it all off. She's been a naughty user interface, and the people at iFixit are just the guys to show you. Each time Apple releases a new product, they're guaranteed to gut it just to find out what makes it tick. Today, they tackle the iPhone 4S.

What did they find new inside? Not much. It's fundamentally identical to the iPhone 4. The key difference, of course, is the Apple A5 processor. It's a dual core beast. They claim it runs at 1ghz, though some have said only 800mhz. Even at a lower clock rate, it's still a very powerful chip, falling just behind the 1.2ghz powerhouses contained in the latest Android phones. Impressive.

iFixit plays striptease with Siri and the iPhone 4S
The big question is how much RAM does it have. Samsung and HTC have been cramming 1gb of DDR into their phones. According to iFixit, the 4S had the same 512mb it's predecessor had.

Curious about what other things lurk inside Apple's latest phone? Hop on over to iFixit for their full teardown.

Source: iFixit

Image courtesy of iFixit.com

The great RIM death watch

By Mike on 6:25 pm

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No dice if you're trying to send out BBMs today. Server problems at RIM are causing Blackberries world wide to go down. This means all the Crack addicts out there will have to go without email, web, messaging, and apps for the time being. At least the phone part still works, though RIM isn't looking very smart at this point.

The problem was caused by a switching failure in RIM's servers, causing a backlog of data. They said services would be restored by Tuesday. However, they have since said they aren't sure when it will be back. The outage originated in Europe, Africa, and Asia and has since spread to North America.

This is the latest round of troubles for Canada's largest smartphone maker. The company is trying to get a leg up on major competitors such as Samsung and Apple. Market share of Blackberry phones has been on steady decline since the iPhone launched in 2007. The Playbook tablet, their supposed iPad killer, was met with a cold reception earlier this year.

I've been texting my Blackberry friends all day and nothing.  Is my iPhone down?

 Some analysts are already on a RIM death watch. One Canadian bank is calling for the company to oust longtime CEOs Lazaridis and Balsillie. Company shares have hit a 52-week low at just under $20, down significantly from their $70 peak back in February.

Source: Reuters via Dailytech

Steve Jobs Dies

By Mike on 10:17 pm

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Legendary inventor and Apple founder Steve Jobs, has died. He was only 56. Jobs had been struggling with cancer for several years. The illness forced him to step down as CEO of the electronics giant earlier this year.






News of his death comes just one day after the unveiling of the iPhone 4S. Apple CEO Tim Cook released the following statement.
Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates also left his condolences.
I'm truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs' death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work.

Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives.

The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.

For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.
Love or hate Apple, Steve Jobs was a visionary. Much of the technology we use today was influenced by his creations. He was one of the last true visionaries in corporate America, and proved the American dream still lived. Our thoughts go out to his family. He will be missed.


Source: Engadget


iPod Lives, Zune Dies

By Mike on 11:30 am

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The beat goes on for the iPod Classic. Contrary to rumours, Apple will keep making and selling the iconic music player. Meanwhile, things are not looking so good for the Zune. Microsoft's music player and iPod killer is official dead.


According to the Zune website, Microsoft announced that "Windows Phone will be the focus of our mobile music and video strategy, and that we will no longer be producing Zune players."


The Zune has had a bumpy history. It was created as Microsoft's answer to the iPod and iTunes. It even looked and functioned similar to Apple's venerable player. 


The device was launched in 2006 to mixed reaction. While certainly as good as the iPod, it had its problems. Namely a poorly implemented copy-protection system. It was unable to play certain files using PlaysForSure, Microsoft's own DRM scheme. The original Zune was also plagued with a clock bug, which corrupted the system software at January 1st, 2009 at 12am GMT.


Despite it's initial shortcomings, the Zune eventually grabbed ten percent of the US marketshare for all MP3 players. Given the sea of choices at the time, and the dominance of the iPod, it seemed Microsoft was onto something. The original Zune 30 gave way to larger capacity models, a "nano" version, and finally the Zune HD. The latter was an attempt to capitalize on the success of the iPod Touch. With it's nVidia Tegra Processor, unique touch interface, and OLED screen, it was arguably the best Zune. Many of the Zune HD's software features would be implemented in Windows Phone 7. 


Zune 4/8/16 and it's nano sized cousin




Despite great hardware and good software to back it up, the Zune continued to trail in the market. By 2008, sales were dipping. GameStop decided to stop selling the player at their stores due to lack of interest. However, 2008 happened to mark the Zune's international launch. The Zune was made available in Canada. This was the first time it had been sold outside the US.


Perhaps that was the Zune's downfall. It never attracted the same international audience that the iPod did. Microsoft went as far to actively discourage international customers from accessing certain online features. The Zune also failed to clearly differentiate itself from Apple. It was too similar to the iPod, and sold at the same price-point, but lacked the same global support. 


As smartphones began to replace dedicated devices, the Zune's days became numbered. It was a fantastic player, hampered by poor marketing.


Update: Just after publishing this, I spotted a new article that says the Zune hasn't died after all. I guess neither Apple nor Microsoft knows what to do with their MP3 players. You can still buy the Zune HD for a cool $160. 


Title image courtesy of Blogging With Ike



Apple might ditch iPod Classic, Shuffle

By Mike on 10:15 am

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The iPod is nearing the end of the road. Apple news blog TUAW broke the story. They claim a reliable source told them the company will kill the iPod Classic and iPod Shuffle later this year. For anyone who follows Apple, this should be no surprise. The Classic was last updated way back in 2009. Once the flagship product, it's become the black sheep of the iPod lineup. Apple is looking to replace older, non-touch models with it's iPhone derivatives. Despite a higher storage capacity, the Classic is no longer cost competitive against smartphones. At $279, it seems expensive and archaic compared to the virtual Swiss Army Knife that is the iPhone.

For those who really love music, the death of the iPod marks the end of an era.

The 6th generation iPod Classic may be the last.
It hasn't been updated since 2009.
The original iPod first launched in 2001. While it wasn't the first MP3 player, it marked a major paradigm shift for the music market. Apple considered contemporary players to be too big, too clunky to use, or too small to be useful. The company wanted something that could fit 1,000 songs comfortably in your pocket, complete with Apple's trademark user friendliness.

The original iPod was smaller, lighter, and could store an incredible amount of music for the time. The innovative scroll wheel made navigating your music collection a breeze. The first iPod had a 5gb hard drive, which could store roughly 1,000 MP3s. Its rechargeable battery lasted about 10 hours, which was on par with its AA contemporaries.

The iPod and iTunes changed the way we consume music
While Napster had already kicked off the digital music revolution, the iPod supercharged the trend. When the iTunes store launched two years later, putting the CD on death row. Apple quickly rose to become the largest music retailer on the planet. While other companies tried their hands at MP3 players, iPod is still synonymous with the devices.

Smartphones killed the iPod, but it's contribution to music history was legendary.

Update: I'll be restoring a 5th generation iPod Classic. Stay tuned for that tear down.


Big tablet is big

By Mike on 6:49 pm

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For today's computers, thin is in. Desktops are dead, laptops are writing their last will and testament. It's all about tablets. The smaller the better. Some folks even think the 10'' iPad is too large. You'd almost think that nobody dreams big anymore. Then you lay your eyes on Martin Drashkov's monstrosity, the MegaPad. The world's first 23'' Android tablet.


 
"The Android MegaPad is then the next logical step - a modern touch-based computing device with with a screen size that will enable a whole different set of experiences. Unlike tablets, devices like this will make simultaneous use by two users a practicality and will let users more fully immerse themselves in apps and games. In the demo video below, you can see two apps that, while written for phones and tablets, nevertheless demonstrate the usefulness of such a device."

Calling it a tablet is a bit deceiving though. The device is not yet portable. Mr. Drashkov claims he built the device for $600, using off-the-shelf parts. That's as much as the "puny" 32gb iPad.

The MegaPad runs a modified version of Android Gingerbread, which was used due to its adaptability. A video shows it running Google Earth and Fruit Ninja quite well. Martin is a fellow member of the Anandtech Forums, so I'm trying to pry some specs out of him. In the mean time, please bathe in the awesomeness that is the MegaPad.


UPDATE: Martin says he used a Pandaboard for this build. The company bills it as a low cost development platform for mobile software. The processor is a 1ghz Texas Intruments OMAP4430 running at 1ghz. It's based on the ARM Cortex A9, similar to the CPU used in the iPad 2. Graphics are fuelled by a PowerVR SGX540, also similar to the iPad 2's. It also features 1gb of DDR2 RAM, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and can handle encoding and decoding of 1080p video.

There's no word on which screen he used, though I'm guessing it's an Acer T231H, as it's the only full HD touch screen monitor Acer currently sells. 

Image copyright Marvel Productions/20th Century FOX

Think twice before suing Sony.

By Mike on 9:07 pm

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Sony's changed the PSN terms of service to include a "don't sue us" clause. Basically, by agreeing, you're now forced into binding arbitration should you have a dispute with any Sony entity.

According to the new user agreement for the Playstation Network...

"Other than those matters listed in the Exclusions from Arbitration clause (small claims), you and the Sony Entity that you have a Dispute with agree to seek resolution of the Dispute only through arbitration of that Dispute in accordance with the terms of this Section 15, and not litigate any Dispute in court. Arbitration means that the Dispute will be resolved by a neutral arbitrator instead of in a court by a judge or jury."

Of course you can opt out, by doing things the good old 1950s way.

"RIGHT TO OPT OUT OF BINDING ARBITRATION AND CLASS ACTION WAIVER WITHIN 30 DAYS. IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE BOUND BY THE BINDING ARBITRATION AND CLASS ACTION WAIVER IN THIS SECTION 15, YOU MUST NOTIFY SNEI IN WRITING WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE DATE THAT YOU ACCEPT THIS AGREEMENT. YOUR WRITTEN NOTIFICATION MUST BE MAILED TO 6080 CENTER DRIVE, 10TH FLOOR, LOS ANGELES, CA 90045, ATTN: LEGAL DEPARTMENT/ARBITRATION AND MUST INCLUDE: (1) YOUR NAME, (2) YOUR ADDRESS, (3) YOUR PSN ACCOUNT NUMBER, IF YOU HAVE ONE, AND (4) A CLEAR STATEMENT THAT YOU DO NOT WISH TO RESOLVE DISPUTES WITH ANY SONY ENTITY THROUGH ARBITRATION."

In order to keep using PSN, Sony is making you agree to these new terms. It's pretty sneaky for them to bury this at the bottom of the terms of service. That whole security breach really stirred up a legal hornet's nest, so looks like they're trying to cover their asses. Naturally, this is the likely result of the class action that emerged after all those credit card numbers were stolen.

This is a good example of the problem with EULAs. Long winded, convoluted contracts that people are expected to "sign" without really understanding what anything in them means. Mind you, this won't effect most people using the service. It just seems a tad unethical to sneak things through like that without first consulting consumers. As if Sony needed a legal advantage if they screw up. What with their legions high priced lawyers crawling out of every crack.


Phoenix Wright copyright Capcom

It's a me, Mario! Mamma Mia, Why you no buy 3DS?

By Mike on 10:25 pm

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Things haven't been so super for Mario lately. Peach left him for Luigi, they repossessed his kart, and he's forced to eat beefaroni because real spaghetti is too expensive. Guess he should have sold his Nintendo stock before the 3DS launched.

Nintendo conquered the video game market through innovation. They introduced us to motion and touch screen gaming, then 3D. Now it seems the juggernaut has finally run out of gas. Revenue forecasts have plummeted 80 percent. The company's stock value has dropped 50 percent since last February.

The Nintendo 3DS is being blamed for the company's poor showing. The portable had a stellar launch back in February. Since then, sales have been lacklustre. There's nothing wrong with the 3DS itself. We don't have another Virtual Boy on our hands here. It's a solid piece of hardware that works as advertised, and does a fantastic job at it. However, panicky pundits, such as IGN, are already declaring it a maybe, sort of, failure. That's not the case. The gaming market has changed a lot since the DS launched, yet Nintendo is still using the same approach they've used in the past.

The three things holding the 3DS back are price, lack of software, and increased competition from smartphones.

Legendary game producer Shigeru Miyamoto likes the 3DS, why don't you?

The 3DS is the most expensive successor to the original Gameboy. With inflation factored in, only the Virtual Boy would cost more today. Prices for Nintendo hardware have been creeping up over the years. Studies into manufacturing costs show the company making fat margins on every console sold. It is estimated the 3DS costs about $100 to build. Even assuming marketing and R&D costs the same, $50 per unit is still a tidy profit.

Nintendo has long refused to sell their products at a loss. So does competitor Apple. Logically, that makes sense. However, that sort of thinking changed with the 2008 recession. People don't have as much disposable income as they did during the DS and Wii's heyday. Nintendo products are marketed at a younger crowd. Parents will think twice at dropping that much cash on a "toy".

Competing products, such as smartphones, are being seen as more economical than standalone systems. Apple sells their iPod Touch in the same price bracket as the 3DS. Not only is it a virtual Swiss Army Knife of media consumption, software is a fraction of the price. Most games are under ten dollars. Compare that to 3DS titles, which sell similar products for, on average, two to four times more. That's the advantage of digital distribution. There's less cost overhead, which opens the market wide open. Why spend upwards of $400 buying little Johnny multiple devices when one will satisfy him for half that?

Lol. Stop it, you're killing me!

Gamers scream that iPhone games aren't comparable. They aren't as in depth, or lack the experience of traditional controls. They're partly right, but it's a moot argument. Most of today's most popular games aren't deep, story driven experiences. Angry Birds, Call of Duty and the like offer simplified gaming in bit sized chunks. Enough to satisfy the short attention spans of today's young gamer. iOS actually does have these in depth games, such as Final Fantasy and Zenonia. It can also surf the web, download your tunes, let you shop for a new outfit, and pay your taxes.

Somewhat ironically, the same argument can be made about the 3DS. Games like Steel Diver and Pilot Wings aren't what you'd call deep. They offer the same experience as many $1.99 apps, yet cost significantly more. The system lacks the strong, original titles that Nintendo is known for. What we get is the same glut of shovelware that's infiltrated the Wii. Very simplistic games sold for high prices compared to competitors. The 3DS has few in depth titles coming down the pipeline, and that's it's problem. In trying to adopt a smartphone, app-style, shovelware based business plan, Nintendo is alienating their core fan base.

This doesn't mean the 3DS is a lost cause. The DS went through similar growing pains way back in 2004. The hardware is fantastic. Nintendo just needs to get software production kicked into high gear. No console can be successful if it doesn't have the games to back it up. It doesn't matter how spectacular the technology is. Nintendo will bounce back, as they always have. They just need to learn how to market themselves and their games better in today's app-based world.

Title image copyright Device Magazine
Images copyright Elder-Geek, Funny-Potato

Beer to game by: Lake of Bays a beer for geeks

By Mike on 7:15 pm

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Geeks too enjoy a good beer, and some are beer geeks. Lake of Bays brewing company prides itself as a beer for the latter. For those who need to get in touch with their inner craft brew fanboy. Their newest offering is Rousse Red Ale. We've already tried the king of nerdy beers, and it was awful. Let's see if the roi of geeky bière can do any better.

Lake of Bays is a new brewery that opened earlier this year.
The company's employees refer to themselves as "beer geeks", connoisseurs of fine brews. They're based in Baysville, Ontario on, as the name suggests, the Lake of Bays. Unlike Rolling Rock, they're totally independent.

Their beer is brewed in smaller batches. While only sporting a small operation, Lake of Bays is widely available across Ontario though the LCBO chain. They currently sell three types: a pale ale, mocha porter, and rousse red ale. The latter is what we're reviewing today.

A quality Quebec-style craft beer to
put Rolling Rock in it's watery place


According to their website, Rousse is a traditional Quebecois red ale. It has a heavy pour to it, and dumps into the glass without much head. It already wins out over Rolling Rock, which looks more like yellow club soda. The beer has a clear malty smell with a dark red colour. It has the shade and consistency of a good root beer. Let's give it a taste.

It's thick, and very flavourful. This is what beer should be like. The toasted malt flavour is very evident. There's nothing watery about this one at all. I can taste a bit of hops bitterness, but it's not overpowering. It has a very slight coffee notes to it to. The flavours are well balanced, making it satisfying to savour slowly.

A heavy dark ale with a lot of flavour to it. The pleasant maltiness is a nice change of pace from yesterday's bread & water.

I prefer dark, malty beers to largers in general. This is definitely a good one. Plenty of flavour with a delightful heaviness, but it's not bitter nor does it leave an aftertaste. It's a good drinking beer, not a beer to get drunk by. You could imagine enjoying this after a day of skiing at Mount Tremblant, or historic pub crawling in Quebec City. It's definitely worth trying during your stay in Ontario.

Title image copyright Beer & Nosh

Drinking the nerdiest beer: Rolling Rock review

By Mike on 5:40 pm

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"He'd rather eat, the rotten asshole, of a roadkill skunk and down it with beer." If you're a gamer, chances are you've seen James Rolfe's Angry Video Game Nerd web series. His character is known for a foul mouth, love of bad games, and affinity for Rolling Rock. The beer is popular in Pennsylvania and Rolfe's native New Jersey. The LCBO here in Ontario just started carrying it. I couldn't resist giving the king of nerdy beers a try.

Rolling Rock is a pale larger originally from western Pennsylvania, now based in St. Louis. It's brewed by the Latrobe Brewing Company, as it has since 1939. InBev, a global beer conglomerate behind many famous brands including Budweiser & Alexander Keiths, currently owns them. It is a staple of the AVGN series, and has been since the 2004 pilots. Rolfe's Nerd is seen drinking it to dull the pain of playing bad Nintendo games.

The AVGN made it the king of nerdy beers.

I'm writing this as I try the beer. Rolling Rock has a very light yellow colour and pours with a thick, foamy head. It's very reminiscent of "cheap" beers like Molson Canadian or Budweiser. It has a light grainy, but non-alcoholic smell. So I take my first sip.

Yep, this is classic American beer. It's fizzier than most beers I've had. The level of carbonation is close to soda. I guess you'd say it has a light, clean taste. There's no appreciable amount of hops in it. That's fine by me, as I don't like bitter beers. However, there's nothing else in the way of flavour. It has a faint grainy taste, but no malt. Heavily watered down is a more appropriate way to describe it. It's like drinking club soda with a slice of white bread. This is a bad beer.

Rolling Rock is pale, too fizzy, and incredibly weak.
I feel bad putting it in the same glass as a good craft beer.



I don't like InBev's brands. A lot of their products are a lesser quality, and weaker, than others I've had. Even Keith's allegedly doesn't qualify as an IPA anymore, it being weaker than in the past. This one is exceptionally poor though. James Rolfe has the right idea. Rolling Rock is only good for dulling the pain. It will get you drunk, and that's it. For those that appreciate good beer, look elsewhere. This is a stereotypical American pisswasser. Despite what the label says, premium this ain't.

Enjoy this review? I might be reviewing some more craft beers to game by in the future. Stay tuned.

Title image copyright Cinemassacre Productions

Nintendo 3DS Price cut to $169.99

By Mike on 1:23 pm

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Nintendo is slashing the price of the 3DS. Lacklustre sales have prompted them to reduce it to $169.99, a savings of $80.

The company had high hopes for the system but it's fallen far short of what they expected. Despite a stellar launch, sales of the 3D capable device have stalled.

The price cut, the largest one time cut in Nintendo's history, is intended to boost falling hardware sales. Profit forecasts have been cut by 82%, from 110 billion Yen to just 20 billion. As if going from bad to worse, competitor Sony's nearly seven year old PSP continues to outsell the 3DS. The PSP moved nearly 1.8 million units during the first quarter of this year. The 3DS only managed to sell 700,000.

Nintendo is hoping this major cut will attract more consumers to the system. At $250, it is the most expensive successor the the Gameboy by a wide margin. The iPod Touch and PSVita sell at the same price point and offer more features. Nintendo says the price cut will be effective August 12th, 2011. Current owners will be eligible for 20 free downloadable games.

Source: Joystiq

Mini-Review: Dyson Air Multiplier bladeless fan

By Mike on 10:33 am

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Dyson is the Apple of the home appliance world. Their products are innovative, yet they're often accused of charging too much. The company is more known for their wacky line of vacuum cleaners. However, they've recently branched off into electric fans. Their Air Multiplier sure is fancy looking. Best Buy had some on display for the summer so I'd though I'd play with it a bit.

The Air Multiplier claims its bladeless, but it actually not. There's a small impeller fan in the base. It pushes air up through an airfoil ring. Dyson claims this design multiplies airflow by sucking more air through the ring. It's a synergy machine. You supposedly get more out of it than the work it puts in.

Look Ma, no blades. Oh wait, they're in the bottom.

It does work as advertised. You don't get the buffeting you get from a bladed fan. Just smooth air. It provides the same level breeze as a conventional desk fan on low settings. It puts out quite a bit on higher settings, on par with your typical 10'' box fan. Even the smaller units are suitable for large rooms. Whether it actually multiplies the air flow is a moot point, since it's hard to test that.

The Air Multiplier is a fan that works well as a fan. There's not much more to say. If the Air Multiplier was $100, I could recommend it. It's attractive and modern looking. It's just not worth the ridiculous asking price. I've seen it go for $380 in some stores. You might as well buy an air conditioner at that point.

Score: 7 out of 10

What works:
-It's a fan, and it works well as a fan
-Looks attractive
-Lack of external blades makes it safe around children and pets
-Relatively quiet

What doesn't work:
-Jaw dropping price, you're far better off buying an AC unit at this point
-Not much better than cheaper conventional fans

Sonic Generations teaser demo review

By Mike on 2:10 pm

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Sonic is back. Today of course is Sonic's 20th birthday. The hedgehog hasn't been doing so well in recent years. After a lot of lacklustre games, Sonic Generations is Sega's makeup present to fans. Sega has managed to achieve what they never could, a game that actually plays like the original.

You get blown way back to the past in the demo. Sega has included the first act of the game; a reimagined Green Hill Zone as "Classic Sonic."

You'll notice some major changes from Sonic 4. The jumping mechanics and speedy rolls are back in their full glory. No more lead lined physics thanks to the new Havok engine.

Generations is a little faster paced than Sonic 1 but the basic gameplay remains the same. The emphasis is more on platforming than raw speed this time around. That's how a Sonic game should be. Run a bit, platform a lot, jump on robots, repeat.


Classic Sonic returns and looks great.
Image courtesy of Playstation Lifestyle


The graphics look absolutely spectacular. Though not a big leap from Sonic 4, things are more squared off this time around. Overall, it just looks better than past games. They've finally got the 2.5D visuals to perfection. One minor issue is frame rate and resolution. You can tell Sega has capped it to 30 frames per second. Sonic can actually outrun the frame rate at times in speedier areas. This causes bad motion blur at times. It's also locked to 720p. There's really no reason why they can't bump it up to 60fps at 1080p. Maybe they will when game gets released in November.

Overall, I'm very impressed with the demo. My only issue was how short it is. I would have liked to see at least one "New Sonic" level included. At least it's good to see that Sonic is finally back in true form. This will be a day one buy for any Sonic fan.

Hurry up and get the demo off XBLA and PSN. It's time limited and will only be playable for the next 20 days.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

What works
-Classic Sonic returns in true form
-Good platforming over raw speed finally makes a return
-Physics greatly improved from Sonic 4
-Spectacular visuals nail the 2.5D gameplay perfectly

What doesn't work
-Frame rate capped too low for this type of game
-Resolution could be 1080p
-Short demo, want to see New Sonic too.

Blog update

By Mike on 9:35 pm

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If you're wondering why there have been so few updates lately, I've been on vacation. I've also started working on some other, unrelated projects. I've also been swamped at work. Us blog writers have day jobs too you know, because lord knows this pays nothing. MMNTech has been on hiatus in the mean time. I'm trying to put some stuff on E3 together. Check out @mmntech on Twitter for updates!




Image courtesy of BevWire

How to protect yourself from another PSN attack

By Mike on 9:08 pm

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Sony allegedly didn't ensure your data was secure. Moreover, they acted slowly in alerting customers when the Playstation Network was hacked. The ball was dropped in this case.

If we've learned anything from this, it's that your data is never safe. No business can be trusted to keep it in good hands. It's not for lack of trying. Hackers are just becoming more sophisticated. Any computer connected to the internet is at risk, even large data centre servers. It's just a fact of life in our online world.

That's not to say there aren't steps you can take to keep your identity secured. At least as secure as humanly possible. A little common sense goes a long way. Now that PSN is back on line, here's some easy tips to help protect you from a future attack.

Use prepaid credit cards and gift cards online
Thieves can't get access to your credit and debit card numbers if you don't use them. Cash is king, but obviously you can't use it online. That's where prepaid cards come in handy. For example, PSN, Xbox Live, and iTunes have gift cards you can use with their respective services. The cards have a set value and can be bought at most convenience stores. They work like any other gift card.

Prepaid credit cards are offered by companies like Visa and can be used almost anywhere. They're not credit cards exactly. They can't be used for pre-authorized payments. They do, however, work like a more versatile gift card. You can put as much or as little as you want on them, and you can top them up too.

If the numbers of either of these get stolen, you're only out the value of the card. Once that's gone, thieves can't access more funds. Think of it as insurance. Better to pay a smaller deductible than the full value of your car if it gets stolen.

Set up a spam email account
Never use your personal email to sign up for services. That's where the deluge of spam usually comes from. It's also another piece, all be it small, in the identity theft puzzle. Leaked emails can be used for all sorts of nefarious things. Setting up a separate email account keeps thieves and spam out of your personal inbox. With so many free services out there today, there's no reason not to.

Limit the personal information you broadcast

Privacy policies mean squat if someone breaks into a data centre's server. Try to limit the amount of personal information you put online. Facebook is a thief's dream. They can get your address, phone numbers, birth date, email addresses, where you work and go to school, who your friends and significant other are, and even where you've been recently. If the service doesn't require that information, don't post it. Keep as little information online as possible. You wouldn't go walking down the street shouting that stuff, so why do it on the internet.

Trust nobody online
The internet is a wrenched hive of scum and villainy. If you don't know the person in real life, don't trust them. Of course the vast majority of people aren't criminals, but you never know who is. Don't wall yourself off, but don't go spreading too much information either.

Trust your instincts
If something seems fishy, it probably is.

PS3 firmware update prepares you for restored PSN

By Mike on 8:41 pm

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What a month it's been for Sony. They've been scrambling to get PSN back up and running, before gamers loose their patience. A firmware update for PS3 has just been launched that will address some security issues. So what does this update do exactly? Crap all, at least until PSN is restored. Once they get it up and running, this mandatory update forces you to change your account password. It's sort of like locking the vault after the bank's been robbed, but I guess it's better than nothing. You can download it now to get yourself ready to go back online. You don't need to log into PSN to grab it. Full press release at the bottom.

There's a lot of talk about compensation for the downtime. US gamers will be getting a month of free Playstation Plus, and complementary identity theft protection. Europeans will get two free PSN games of their choosing. No word on whether other territories will be included.


PS3 System Software Update - Playstation Blog
Posted by Eric Lempel // VP, Sony Network Entertainment

We have been working on a new PS3 system software update that requires all PSN users to change their password once PlayStation Network is restored. The update (v3.61) is mandatory and is available now.

If using a PS3, your password can only be changed on your own PS3 (or a PS3 on which your PSN account was activated), as an added layer of security. If you have never downloaded any content using your account on the system, an email will be sent to the registered sign-in ID (email address) associated with your account when you first attempt to sign-in to PSN. This e-mail will contain a link that will enable you to change your password. In this email, click on the link and follow the instructions to change your password. Once you have changed your password you can sign-in to your account using your new password.

We strongly recommend that all PSN account holders with PS3s update their systems to prepare for when PlayStation Network is back online. The release of this update is a critical step as we work to make PlayStation Network significantly more secure. Thank you for your continued support and patience.

PSN outage exposed Capcom DRM flaw

By Mike on 8:44 pm

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Capcom is tasting a bit of UBIsoft's bad medicine. Sony's Playstation Network is currently suffering from a massive outage. Normally, this would mean no more online noob-bashing for a while. That is unless you own Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2, or Final Fight. Capcom started using a DRM system that requires you to be online to play the games. Yes, even for single player mode. With PSN down, gamers cannot access what they've legally purchased. Capcom has yet to comment on the issue.

Sony is working on repairing the problem, but says it may be a few days before PSN gets back up and running. Early rumours that pointed to another denial of service attack have been denied by Sony and the hacking community.

Source: Kotaku

Easter weekend gaming challenge: Sonic Run

By Mike on 5:38 pm

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The first MMNtech gaming challenge is honouring a retro gaming hero. Classic Sonic is making triumphant return in Sonic Generations, due out later this year. To commemorate this, we're going to play through the chubby blue blur's classic Genesis games in one run. For this challenge, you must play each game in the original series, in order, from start to finish.




The games are...
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic 2
Sonic CD
Sonic 3
Sonic & Knuckles

This is purely for fun. There's no prize, but you do win extra gaming cred if you use a Genesis and an old CRT TV, or get all Chaos Emeralds in each game. Enjoy.

Your iPhone is spying on you

By Mike on 11:38 am

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Your iPhone knows what you did last summer. Ever since Apple released iOS4, a secret file has been storing your movements. It works by triangulating your cell signal instead of the GPS. It's far from accurate. However, it does show the general vicinity of your travels. The scary part is how easy it is to access this information. Programmer and ex-Apple employee Pete Warden has developed a Mac OS app to access the data. It shows everywhere you've visited as a collection of dots on a map.

For it to work, you need iOS 4 installed on your iPhone or iPad 3G. During the brief three-month period I had it on my iPhone 3G, it shows the general areas I've travelled to. In some cases it's spot on, in others it's miles off.


Regardless of the accuracy, it's a serious privacy concern. Apple doesn't appear to be collecting or using this data in any way. However, they won't say why they're doing it. It's stored only on the phone itself and any computer you synced it to. This kind of information has potential benefits for law enforcement. We've all seen them do it on CSI. This information could be a huge advantage for darker elements too: stalkers, overzealous cops, lawyers, shady government agencies, and private detectives.


Data collected from an iPhone shows the user
took a train trip from Washington DC to New York


There's only one way to get rid of this information. You'll have to restore your iDevice to an old firmware. iOS 3 and older don't collect this data. That's not exactly an ideal solution. The other solution is to encrypt your iDevice backups. Less techno-literate individuals won't be able to hack into it. That should at least keep your data safe from that girlfriend with trust-issues.

Source: The Guardian UK
Image property of MAD Magazine



Obituary: PSP Go

By Mike on 10:35 pm

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Today we mourn the loss of the PSP Go. A Japanese blogger, who claims to work for a Sony partner, says the portable is no longer in production. Sony Style Japan no longer lists it on its website. A while back, Amazon listed the Go as "discontinued" on their website. Sony has neither confirmed or denied the reports, only saying they'll support the PSP line as long as it's in demand.

The PSP Go had a difficult life. The system was released to compete with Apple's widely popular iPod Touch and iPhone. It was the first gaming handheld to exclude physical media. The results proved disastrous. Since it couldn't play UMDs, it wasn't compatible with the vast majority of games. Sony was slow to expand the PSN Store to accommodate. Furthermore, gamers complained about its awkward control layout. All this compounded by a $250 price tag for the system alone. A significant jump from PSP value packs which came with games and a memory card for $50 less.

RIP PSP Go.
You were too small, had too few games, and were way too expensive.


Sony has not released sales figures. However, they have admitted it suffered from a lack of consumer interest and poor sales. Learning from their mistakes, Sony returned to physical media with their successor system, the NGP.

UPDATE: Sony has confirmed the PSP Go has been discontinued. The PSP-3000 will remain in production as long as people still buy it.

Source: Eurogamer
Image: Averaging Wrathy