Category Archives: Tech

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

Gaming, Hobbies, Tech

Give me 15 more PlayStation Dollars, you will!

Imagine my surprise when I got Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II for Xmas! Yay!

Imagine my delight as I started to hack my way through Stormtroopers, excited with the knowledge that somewhere in the game I would be kicking Ewoks on Endor! Cool!

Imagine my anger as the game ended under less than 6 hours. And with no violent visit to Endor! WhatFuckWhat?!?

The story is a veritable banquet for Star Wars aficionados, and a bit too convenient for mild fans. Plot points in ST:TFUII make the transition between Star Wars Episode III and IV much smoother: (SPOILER ALERT) we are told (via the included encyclopedia extra, not by game play) why Stormtroopers aren’t clonetroopers and why they’re such bad shots as well as other little gems. There’s enough here to keep a SW geek happy, but not raving. I’ve always wondered what happened to Kamino – why didn’t they just keep making clones for the Emperor? Partial answers are provided. In the end we’re left wide open for part 3 with a nice nod to Empire Strikes Back and The Silence of the Lambs. “Oh and Starkiller? Nice suit…”

Visually the game doesn’t disappoint. The character design has been ramped up since the first game and they move a little better than Wii puppets this time around. Starkiller has a few more facial expressions other than “golly gee grumpy” and in some cut scenes, and there are a lot, you might even feel for him. The only odd moment was the weird voice actor choice for Princess Leia: way too suburban mall Barbie.

As you play, literally everything has some sort of physics attached to it, making destroying things all the more fun with a wave of blue Force bluey burst thing, but they could have pulled back on the visuals and maybe added more to the game play in the way of more varied locations or more interesting sprites to kill.

Oh the game play…

As I said I finished the game in under 6 hours. I’m not one to look for prizes. With “hack and slash” games, I’m cool with the occasional powerup find or mystical lightsabre gem discovery, but SW:TFUII seemed like to rely on treasure hunting a bit too much. To me, it shouldn’t be central to the gaming experience because then you’re stuck at the whim of the game designer’s possible hap-hazard easter egg hunt. Give me something more organic.

The short game play is probably due to a cash-grab trend where they’ll be releasing more downloadable content off various platform’s online shops (this is where you actually get to kick Ewoks into the distant trees, not from the main game disk), hence squeezing $10 more out of you per game pack. I wouldn’t take offense to that, but the game itself is marked as a full “experience” game at $55. Also, if these DLCs contain story parts that make the inevitable ST:TFUIII impossible to comprehend, then fuck ’em. I won’t pay, I won’t play.

In all, I’d recommend it to people who like Star Wars, who loved the first game and who don’t mind paying a little more for a lot less.

Project ing

Celebs and Media, Distractions, Tech

Around 1995 I picked up a magazine called “Wired” and knew that graphic design was something that could be manipulated to manipulate. At the time, nothing was like Wired. They broke new grounds in typography and in design with head-scratching layouts that angered or amused, depending on your intelligence. The magazine embodied the spirit of “technology molding culture”, the very masthead they built the magazine on.

I remember one layout for an article had 2, 4 page spreads dedicated to just two quotes – something that will never be copied today (unless some advertiser paid huge dollars for it, or your magazine is called AdBusters). The printing was silver on silver and you had to angle the page just so to read it. Bad boy publishers indeed!

Today, Wired is tired. Oh it still has some pretty cool infograpics and splashy layouts but it’s not a leader in design anymore. It may even be transforming itself to curmudgeonly, what with the stir of their last article “The Web is Dead“. They may be displaying truth in numbers but the web never actually played to anyone’s rules. That’s another blog post. Point is, ad space and the “death” of print seems to have quieted their creative side.

Yesterday Sir Richard Branson (re)dropped his hat into the publishing world by releasing PROJECT. An entirely digital magazine (not the first, lets be clear) available through the iTunes store [iTunes link]. The smart move? Putting Jeff Bridges on the “cover” with a video overlay of TRON-like effects, tying in this month’s release of Tron and a Fanboy’s raving need for Tron things. Geeks, meet your new eReader.

I had some troubles downloading my initial copy from the Project servers (I suppose it was a busy day for them) and while I was at a Starbucks free WiFi, I wasn’t surprised. It took me two attempts, deleting and reinstalling the app, restarting the iPad and just plain “let it sit” patience for me to finally get my issue. In terms of App space, it’s a hog. I’m not surprised considering how much video is included with this issue, not to mention the audio files (Jeff opens up in little soundbites about Tron, Tron Thongs, The Dude and more). Also some transitions kakked out between finger swipes.

All that aside, I would say that Sir Richard got it right. He and his designers clearly wanted a Minority Report style magazine and they’ve managed to deliver.

For me. It was like picking up Wired magazine back in the 90’s all over again.

So far today I’ve learned that Jaguar has managed to put two twin micro turbines in their latest electric car, Alaska used nukes to create a harbour (and still may continue), Jeff Bridges is a wicked laid back guy and loved his head shave the most when it came to the movie Iron Man. And that’s not even an hours worth of playing with Project.  I’m told that there are Easter Eggs to find too, so I’m set for a while. Next issue is Dec 23rd.

Click to see some screengrabs:

Pre swiped


Gallery - touching the numbers advances the images/videos

Front Cover:

PROJECT magazine cover video from PROJECT on Vimeo.

iPad: Privacy Fades

iPad, Tech

One problem I find having an iPad out in the wild is that people want to look at my screen. More so than say, a laptop or a netbook. I think it’s partially because the iPads are relatively new and partially that people are nosey fucks. That being said I think it’s time some European governing board throws money at a docent to create a list of neighbourly screen etiquette (why European? I always thought they were classy people. I digress). While this is in the works, things like this are happening all over the world:

Client: “I have the inspiration photos on my phone, I can show you what I’m talking about now.”

[Client holds the phone facing me and scrolls through the photos with his finger.]

Client: See, these colors. Here’s another one…

[Client scrolls a little too enthusiastically, and lands on a photo of his smiling face next to a giant erect penis.]

Client: “Oh! Ha! Not that one.”

Meeting continues uncomfortably for another 20 minutes.

From Clients from Hell

Not really an iPad story but something similar nearly happened to me when I handed over my iPad to my nephew. Not that I carry around pictures of body parts on my portables but I did have a cock picture from some porn site saved on my photo album to email off to someone as a joke. I now cleanse my electronics if I know he’s going to be around.

One of my last days at Apple, I had an attractive, muscular man approach me with a wonky iPad. I did the initial questioning as to what might be wrong and I thought it might be a settings issue. I asked if we could turn it on and look at it together. He fired up the iPad and it connected to the store’s WiFi network automatically. He had been here before. As we were poking around the settings a pop up window announced that FURFKR has WOOFED @ YOU via the app SCRUFF. In his embarrassment, he jabbed at the window, aiming for the Cancel button, missing it and hitting Respond instead, prompting  Scuff to open. He desperately tried to stop it, but in panic mode, he forgot that just pressing the homescreen button exits any app.

“Popular guy,” I say, trying to deflect his flabberglastnos. (like that? I just made that word up. It means “to be frustrated and come to terms with it”)

“I barely know how to work this fucking thing,” he sighs.

“I love Scruff, don’t worry.”

I’ve had similar situations happen to me, forgetting I’ve allowed Push Notifications to run in some apps. While showing off the device, windows would pop up letting everyone looking that “RAMROD has sent you a MESSAGE!”

App of the Day: Scruff

What is Scruff? I was using Grindr before in the iPhone but it looks weird. Scruff looks like they designed the user profiles as an afterthought. But, with that said, the class of guys (bearish, primarily, in whatever iteration you might think “bear” means) populate this chat program. Once you get past the 100 warnings that you might see nudity (and the stern talking to you get when you upload a profile pic – NO NUDES!!), the interface is easy and basically scaled up from the iPhone version, but with bigger pics. I love the coy “Not my type”/”Maybe…”/”Hot damn!” choice buttons to let the person who’s profile you checked out, know that you have a boner for them. Or not. As a gay man, I get a whispy forlorn feeling seeing hot guys described as being “…far away” when it comes to their location. Sigh!

iPad: You Like To Watch

iPad, Tech

So DeadRobot, I hear you ask, how does one go about putting DVDs on their iPad?

Quickly, I say, before the current Canadian government decides that it’s ok to pay twice for your copy of Colin & Justin’s Home Heist. If you’ve been following entertainment news that involves long winded legal speak, then you know the Conservatives are trying to pass a bill that makes it illegal to burn your DVDs to your computer so you can enjoy it on a plethora of devices. Yes, big name Hollywood players are backing this bill. Go figure. If you want the entire sauce about it, go visit Michael Geist’s blog. He’s tuned in and looking out for us. Otherwise, get burning!

First, download Handbrake: It’s a free program for Mac. Run it and pop in a DVD and Handbrake will scan the disk for all relevant files. I like HB because when you load in a episodal disk, like a TV season disk, it will turn the various episodes into chapters. Simple!

There is a “Preset Drawer” on the right side of the window. Open that and you can choose which device you are ripping your DVD for. Currently there is no iPad choice, but they have been created and you can download them here and install them easy peasy (File>>Import>>choose the zip file you just got. Boom. Done). Choose iPad preset from the drawer and then begin.

Then download Subler. When your movie is done (Put down that cocktail!) you’ll want it to look all professional and poop when you pop it open in your movie app on your iPad. So before loading it into iTunes, use Subler to give it proper meta tags, movie info and “lobby card” image. Drag your movie file onto the icon. You’ll get a metafile window of your newly created movie where you can enter all the info manually or go to File>>Import>>tagChimp. 4 times out of 5, tagChimp will come up with the info automatically, including a poster image (its not as reliable as IMDB, but it does save time!). Hit Apply then Save when done.

Then drag/import your movie into iTunes. Ta da! When you sync your movie across, you’ll see a lovely intro to the movie you will soon enjoy!

App Of The Day: QRANK

Actually not an app for the iPad at all, but I’m hopelessly addicted to it. Once a day, they load questions up for you to answer and win points for you to boast your knowledge on Twitter or Facebook. It’s ad driven so you may have to click on the odd ad between questions but it’s a low price to pay for 10 mins of fun.

iPad: Choose Your Destiny

iPad, Tech

iPad Pricing

While at the Apple store, I would have to justify things for customers. Should I get this or that? Big or Small? What kind of iPad one should get, was always the hardest one to chew through with a client. The iPad comes in six versions and offering someone a choice of more than three makes their eyes gloss over like they’re at a glaucoma convention. Customers would ask what the difference between all 6 iPads were and I would show them the price grid – to which they didn’t want to see the explanation, they wanted to hear it with interesting metaphors as their guide.

There are two types of iPads: With and without 3G connectivity, or iPads that don’t talk as much and iPads that will never shut up. Both types of iPads have WiFi so in case there isn’t any free, open connections, the 3G iPads will effortlessly switch over from WiFi to the cell phone network and start working on downloading your favorite Segway crashes video. If you purchase the 3G version, it means you will rarely not be connected to the internet. Such freedom comes with a price but thankfully the three major cell phone carriers are doing their iPad data plans month by month, and not under contract. You can also manually revise your data plan via the iPad, instead of communicating with the carrier directly. Easy!

After that, they split the iPads into memory sizes: 16G, 32G and 64G. My last month at the store saw me selling a lot more 64G versions (both with and without 3G) to business types who primarily were using them for remote access to emails, PDFs (reading,reating and receiving) and generally keeping connected. I rarely sold an iPad to someone who just wanted to use it for “travel only”  which is something SharkBoy says he admits he will use his for when he gets one, but I suspect after playing with it (and tweeting with it) he may drop his small screen iPhone for it in a flash.

If you’re going to use it for fun, family or just kicking back, I would suggest the 16G or 32G sizes. If you’re using it for business, go big. How much you’ll be using it on the road should decide whether or not to get the 3G version.

Will there be a hardware upgrade? It stands to reason that Apple will upgrade their highly successful iPads to something more robust, especially now that RIM has blown away the nerds with their new PlayBook yesterday. When they will do this is anyone’s guess. Most likely in April, a year after they first introduced it, much like they did for the iPhone. If they add a camera, Retina Display, boost the RAM etc, is anyone’s guess. I would say it’s safe to buy one now and get at least a few months of enjoyment out of it, then sell it to a student in the future.

Spirit HD

iPad App of the Day: Spirit HD

I seem to get a lot of playtime out of  the more deceptively simple games, like Flight Control or Osmosis. In this game you are a little winged ghost championed to  surround your enemy with a ghosty plasma field – doing so makes them fall into… nothing. The trick is that for every movement of your finger, the ghost cursor moves .5 times further and faster than your slide, so getting from one part of the screen to the other is a bit tricky. I like how the graphics throw back to The Tempest video game but with less stress. The gameplay speaks to the hidden OCD child in me: CLEAN ALL THE THINGS off the screen!

iPad Week: iPad, you Pad

iPad, Tech

I’ve been wanting to write about my iPad for some time now but I’ve obviously been busy. I have a week long special for you people: All iPad, all this week. It’s like ratings sweeps here at Dead Robot Heavy Industries!

Why iPad? After selling close to a hundred of them at my summer stint at Apple, I can honestly say that tablet/touch computing is the future, if not here to stay for a long while. Obviously not as Apple has it now with it’s closed, unmodifiable operating system, but in time, we will all be hauling around one of these to occupy our day. You should get to know this device, or maybe the competitor’s offerings, because mobile computing is changing.

Wait... no need for a pen?

Today: Gene Roddenberry got it right.
Or How I stopped mashing keyes and learned to love my virtual keyboard

The initial worry iPad had when it came out nearly a year ago was how people were going to type on it. Yes, it is awkward to type on it. Get a Bluetooth keyboard. Or a case/stand for it that props the iPad up on an angle. See, you’re going to find ways to comfortably type on it because it’s design lends to exploration and usage. Thing is, humans have been known to adapt to good design. You just have to look at the history of Apple’s mice design to see that it’s evolved, doing away with buttons entirely to its current version of touch sensitivity, much like all their mobile products. Apple is trying to break down the walls between computer and human and we will get use to the keyboard due to the simplicity of the design of the pad itself.

I can say that after using one for a month, I’ve adapted to long-form typing on the iPad. I do still run into problems with the adaptive typing, finding words changed in my text when not watching the scream. I mean screen. As for mouse-like manipulations, where I use my finger instead of mouse, to draw or move things around, will take some getting use to. Your hand does block a major portion of the screen as you move things around in the upper quadrants, but coupled with the ability to pinch-zoom and twirl, you can shuffle things around on your screen a lot like a real desktop. It’s not that huge of a deal – I would like to say this is a generational tweak that the youth of today will get use to, but that remains to be seen.

So to recap: Get use to it.

Today’s App of the Day: Weather HD. Apple left out the weather app on the iPad and this $0.99 purchase makes up for it. I wish Apple would let developers submit video for their store pages because Weather HD uses atmospheric animations to display how the weather will be now, in three hours or in three days. It actually makes me want to check the weather. When you think about it, someone telling you the weather could do it in seconds (or you could stick your head out the window). Weather HD makes it gorgeous.