Archive for February, 2008

Apple iStick?

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Interested in a small iPod Touch the size of a tube of lipstick?

iStick

There’s a design for one right now with a cube shape where all four sides are touch screens. Take a look at more pictures here from the article over at Yanko Design. I’m not sure about those funky, assumably Bluetooth, earpieces… but that’s not important. Apple has never been known to package decent earphones with their mp3 players.

I have no idea if this is in the pipeline for Apple or not, but it is an interesting concept. Given the familiar Mac / iPhone interface and the unusual size and shape,I’m sure that if Apple were to build it, the masses would buy it. No matter what.

I hate Blackberrys

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

I hate Blackberrys. Not the fruit but the more popular psuedo-pager Blackberry that most people assume work by way of magic. Which they do kind of. They also seem to stop working as if by magic as well. Perhaps it’s more like voodoo. The only thing for sure is that business people love them and can’t live without them. And when they don’t work they want us tech people to wave our magic wand and make it better in 10 seconds or less.

For those of you that don’t have to support Blackberrys, here’s how we troubleshoot them when they stop working:

  1. Check to make sure that the radio is still turned on. So often it gets turned off for mysterious and dark reasons.
  2. Make sure it shows that it has a signal and sees the network.
  3. Realize that Step 2 was absolute rubbish (because that means nothing) and pop the battery out to truly power off the device.
  4. Put the battery back in and start chanting praises to the lesser demons of wireless. They sometimes enjoy that.
  5. Sit and stare at that stupid hourglass till it finishes booting up. Continue with the chanting or begin the ritual dance as described in Blackberry tech support article FU666BS86.
  6. Check to see if mail is being sent and received. Most of the time, it will be fixed and no matter how many times you tell the user that simply removing the battery (with ot without the chanting and dance) is well within their means.
  7. If it’s still not working, curse the lesser demons of wireless and try manually setting the Network Provider. You know, just in case.
  8. If the user is standing over your shoulder, you may want to poke about in the Advanced options as quickly as possible with a stern yet determined look upon your face until they decide they have better things to do.
  9. Mumble to them that you’ll get back to them. They like that.
  10. Remove the Blackberry account from the Blackberry Enterprise Server. Because you’re using that, right? If not, you are a mockery to all the other Blackberry support people. And also a bit of an envy to us too. We hate you either way.
  11. Add the Blackberry back onto the server and get a new activation password. If you are doing this for someone else, make sure you make the most difficult password you can possibly imagine. Especially if the Blackberry is saddled with one of those crappy T9 inputs.
  12. Wipe the Blackberry. This isn’t always necessary BUT it seems to work better sometimes. Magic.
  13. Go through the Enterprise Activation one more time and enjoy the thrill of clicking Next on meaningless screens of crap you’ve seen a hundred times before.
  14. Enter the e-mail address and password and then take up a new hobby. Model plane building, learn the guitar, paint your office followed by the rest of the offices in the building, blog posting, etc. Whatever you do, and this is crucial, DO NOT sit there and wait for that activation to complete while you sit there and watch. You have a better chance of curing a person of leprosy by licking their wounds than you do of outlasting this painfully long process. This is where the lesser demons perform their activation rituals and they are shy. And evil. Do not mess with them at this point.
  15. When you get back from vacation, check the Blackberry and see if activation is complete and then see if it’s working. If so, yay! If not, quit your job and become a firefighter or a bomb defuser or a journalist in the Middle East. Because that would be easier than trying to figure out what exactly is the issue.

As you might have guessed, there’s been a few Blackberry issues here lately. They come in groups it seems. Nothing for weeks and then four or five of them will flake out at the same time. Very rarely do you ever see one go bad on it’s own. They just don’t have the ambition or self-confidence to do anything on their own. They live and work in a pack mentality. You just have to learn to deal with that.

Capsule toys

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Capsule toys are small, usually cheap, toys that fit inside a small plastic egg or capsule and are distributed from big coin operated machines much like gumball machines. You put in one to four 5HKD coins in, twist the knob, and hope like hell that the random capsule rolling out the chute is the one you wanted.

These capsule machines and toys are so common that you will find them everywhere in Hong Kong. I’m relatively certain that they are more common here than they are in Japan or Korea. I certainly didn’t see them in those countries like I do here. I’ll try and get a picture of a typical capsule machine display for your amusement later.

Here’s a couple of the toys I’ve gotten lately:

squishy goombasquishy boo

You can see a Super Mario Brothers Goomba and Boo sitting in the capsules that they came in. I keep the capsules because it makes the toys feel safe. Kind of like security blankets.

squishy goomba and boo

Here is Goomba holding up a drunk Boo as they pose with their pictures from the included inventory sheet. Drunk Boo hides his alcohol dependence when you face him but when you turn your back… watch out!

squishy series label

Each capsule toy comes with a small strip of paper that shows the toy series and an inventory of each character in the series. You can tell this is from Japan just from the writing on it. Well, I can at least.

Unfortunately, this series is gone. They don’t last long and you have to act fast. Luckily I got the Boo because that was the one I really wanted. Now you can’t find them anywhere. But that’s OK, there’s a Series 2 out now. Tee hee.

Capsule toys may be the death of me….

Random news

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Here are some interesting items for the day:

Digital Photo Frames Hack Game Accounts
This is pretty serious. If you have one of these digital photo frames from Best Buy (or any other store) then you need to check for this virus right away. You don’t want to mess with these Chinese computer viruses. They are nasty. Trust me.

U.S. could shoot down satellite overnight Wednesday
So now we can shoot down satellites. It won’t be too long before terrorists take out the TV satellites with this kind of knowlege and technology. And then the US Government will have to initiate a Reality Show Security department to take care of harrassing people in their living rooms.

New Mexico Wants to Tax Your Video Games
If you live in New Mexico, you may soon be paying more for the priveledge of playing video games. The goverment is always trying to get their hands on more money, but this just seems wrong. We’re talking about making peoples hobbies and gifts more expensive. Thats just mean.

Assassin’s Creed Review

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Over the weekend I finally finished Assassin’s Creed on the XBox 360.  I had gotten it while we were back in the States for the holidays when Best Buy had it on sale for $39.99 USD.  Considering the game was still new and selling for $60 normally, I thought that was a pretty good deal.

It took me a couple weeks of playing off and on but I finally beat it and I have to say that I enjoyed the game quite a bit.  I knew that the game was reviewing fairly well  with the major games sites and magazines so my expectations were relatively high.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the premise of the game, you are an assassin during the 3rd Crusades that Europe made against “the Holy Lands”.  Your Brotherhood of Assassins is tasked with stopping the Knights Templar from obtaining certain artifacts that would change the war in their favor.

What I didn’t know about the game was that its based in the future and all the medieval action takes place in a genetic memory replay computer thingy.  You are actually a descendant of the assassin in question and they use this machine to have you relive his memories through genetic memory.  It all sounds kind of weird but it works.  So there’s actually two storylines going on and they’re relatively interesting.

Gameplay is fun.  I’ll just say that now.  It’s like a medieval version of Crackdown but with much better graphics.  However, it is also rather repetitive for such a big name game.  Don’t get me wrong though… the stabbings and the tasks may be the same over and over, but it remains fun throughout.  The enemies become more plentiful as well as better trained as you become more skilled yourself.  There are hidden items littering the landscape if you could just find them and the only inventory you ever have to worry about are your throwing knives (which are easily replaced).  This simplicty keeps the action going strong.

Once you get the hang of it, you can take on a group of soldiers on your own or run like hell through the city trying to lose them.  You can hide in hay stacks or blend in with white robed scholars.  You can go anywhere in four cities in the game world and let me just say that the scope of these cities is huge.  It’s amazing when you climb the tallest tower in a city and look around and see exactly where you are and the hundreds of buildings there are around you in just one city.

This game could potentially be rather short if you wanted it to be.  Some tasks are necessary but others like saving citizens from abusive soldiers are not.  You only need to do a certain amount of tasks before you can go on each of your assassination missions but you would miss out on some odds and ends and some Achievements if you are playing on XBox 360.  I tried to complete as much as I could and there are still plenty of objectives that I didn’t finish.

If you liked Crackdown then you’ll probably really like Assassin’s Creed.  If you liked Assassin’s Creed then you should definitely try Crackdown if you haven’t already.  I say that because Crackdown didn’t sell very well compared to Assassin’s Creed which is a shame.  It’s definitely one of my favorite 360 games so far and Assassin’s Creed gets the formula right as well.  I’ll be looking out for the sequels.