Opinion: All that 3D hype

on February 9th, 2011 by Matt

3D has existed for a while, however it has only reached the consumer market very recently. And while so many companies are jumping onto the bandwagon, I don’t really see what the hype is about. Personally, I think there are other areas companies should focus on. How about… Virtual Reality? I mean, we’ve all seen the bulky headsets from the 1990s, yes?

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Well, howcome nobody is perfecting that technology? Most gaming companies are well on their way to getting games to look pretty realistic, which I’d say is the first step. It’s not really Virtual Reality if it looks absolutely fake. I’d say the next thing would be sound, in this case 7.1 surround sound headsets. These, exist (even better if they have powerful noise cancellation). Lastly is the actual visual part of VR. We need a headset (or even just glasses) that replace the real world that we can see. We need to actually be immersed in whatever we see, so everything has to be rendered right in front of our eyes. The software should also be able to tell which way our head is facing, etc. If I’m right, this technology also exists, however it is used in a very tiny number of places (I hear the US Navy were using it at some point). But, why can’t we use the same thing? If it’s expensive to make, or needs to be perfected, then why can’t major consumer companies start working on these things? Personally I would love proper VR at home. The Sims just don’t cut it, yet. I mean, we’ve all seen how exciting all those ‘cyberspace’ shows can be (think CyberChase and stuff like that). I mean, in a virtual world we can do absolutely anything. We can make up technology, do anything we like (I’m sure you’ve always wanted to fly), anything. Even better, the internet is almost infinite. Imagine walking through cities of unimaginable beauty, flying your custom designed spaceship through virtual galaxies that expand forever, all without leaving your house. So, what is your opinion on all this?

Fun game: Lord of Ultima

on January 5th, 2011 by Matt

I love browser based games. Why? Because you don’t have to wait 10 minutes for the game to load, it’s ready for you in a matter of seconds, depending on your connection.

For those that have tried Evony (‘free forever’), this is kind of like a higher quality, more interesting, version of that. And it’s by EA Games!

The world is split into multiple continents. On these continents you will find cities, forest dungeons, dragons, moongates, rivers, mountains and forests. You’re able to raid forest dungeons, settle in lawless cities, and trade with other people. Each city has it’s own storage limit of Wood (building/units), Stone (building/units), Iron (units) and Food (units). Each of these has an increase per hour, can be traded, and purified for research. As with most MMOs, there are quests in this game. However, they aren’t similar to other games. They include ‘checkpoints’ like ‘City Score: 8,000’ or ‘10 Cities’ and others (like ‘invite 2 friends’). When you complete a quest, you get things specified by the quest (eg. cash, tools or resources) which can be very useful to progress in the game. To conquer or create cities, you need a baron and multiple resources, as well as trade ships or carts.

I’ve been playing this game for a while, and while it can be a little slow (some buildings take 10 hours to construct), it’s a great way to do something when you’re bored. The great thing is construction and commands continue even when you’re not playing, so no having to worry about leaving the game running 24/7.

At the time of this posting I have 5 cities, a score of 12,000+ and a rank of 610. If you’d like to try it out, follow the link below and don’t forget to add me (WizardCM) as a friend, or join my Alliance (Technoria). Happy gaming!

Play: Lord of Ultima (also, if you already have an EA account you don’t need to register, simply sign in with your existing details!).

What I want in a desktop Media Player

on November 14th, 2010 by Matt

We all use one at one point. Windows Media Player, iTunes, or something else entirely. But in my humble opinion, no media player offers everything that I want personally.

Here are the upsides of the media players I’ve felt like using more than 5 minutes.
Windows Media Player

  • Built into Windows
  • Has many connections to Windows Media Center
  • Doesn’t take long to start up
  • Has 2 modes: Library, Now Playing
  • Understands Windows 7 Libraries
  • Default theme fits in with Windows
  • Skinnable
  • Very useful plugins
  • ‘Always on top’ feature

Winamp

  • Very skinnable via cPro (Classic Pro)
  • Can be set to auto-hide on a side
  • Very compact
  • Extensive amount of available/useful plugins
  • Direct compatibility with SHOUTcast
  • Can have all details about current playing song on display at the same time
  • Simple to use
  • Built in web browser
  • All kinds of expandable sidebars
  • Windowshade mode
  • Mini visualizer

iTunes

  • Easy to organize music (Albums, Artists, Genres, etc)
  • Smart Playlists
  • iTunes Store, Ping
  • Proper iPod Sync (including ‘Convert to AAC’ when you run out of space)
  • Play by artist/album (shuffle)
  • Great Podcast support
  • Resizable picture grids
  • Mini Player
  • Get Album Artwork online
  • Genius
  • Can be set for completely manual folder/file additions

What all of the above also share (pretty much the basics):

  • Repeat 1, Repeat All
  • Says how many artists, songs, total time and size
  • Album Art
  • Available G15/Z-10 screen compatibility
  • ‘Display Duplicates’
  • Song Ratings
  • CD Art Display compatibility
  • Last.FM compatibility

But of course, each of these have their downsides. And thats what makes it had to choose between them. I’ve tried other media players like MediaMonkey, foobar2000, VLC, Songbird, and even some lesser known ones. None have even a fraction of what I need, let alone all the best from everything.

Why can’t there just me one media player to rule them all? How about more customization on every front?

If you guys have any recommendations, please let me know. There goes another mini-rant by me. 😛

What Windows Live Messenger and Mail 2011 are Missing

on October 2nd, 2010 by Matt

Well, Windows Live Essentials 2011 came out yesterday. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, go over here and get it now!

So anyway, I’ve already used both the betas and always felt like they were missing something. When I installed the RTM, I noticed they were still missing features. So today, I’m going to release my little list of things I think both should have had.

Let’s start with Messenger. Firstly, it’s very hard to organize your contacts if you have MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn connected to your Live account. The main problem with that is you only have 2 (very limiting) options of organization: via Online Status, or via Categories. Now, before Facebook Chat was enabled in Australia, I happily had my Messenger contacts sorted by Categories. They were listed as Forum Members, School, and Other. Some default ones which I had disabled were labeled as Facebook, MySpace and Offline (seeing as I like to put Offline contacts into a separate category. This is useful when you have almost 200 Messenger contacts). Now with Facebook Chat enabled, I cannot use that choice of organization. Why? Because Facebook contacts are in a completely separate category from my normal Messenger contacts. Not only that, but you can’t separate Online Facebook contacts, and Offline Facebook contacts. I have about 245 Facebook contacts. This form of organization does not work, because not only are the Facebook contacts separate from your normal ones, they are all in one group. Have you ever tried looking for who’s online in a list of over 200 contacts, in alphabetical order? I have, and it’s not fun. Now onto the SECOND form of organization. By Online status. This, at least, puts all your contacts into two categories: Online and Offline. Great! But wait, there’s a catch. In the Online list, it also includes people that are Away, Idle or Busy. If this form of organization is designed to sort by Online status, then shouldn’t those three be in separate categories? Or did I miss something? Another problem I have with organization is the Favourites list. I admit, I don’t talk to every single person in my contact list all the time, but I do talk to quite a few of them. So yesterday, I decided to start my Favourites list. Added about 20 people of those Favourite contacts that were currently online. Two hours later, about half of them have signed out. BUT, they are all still showing up in the Favourites list. If they are offline, then why are they in the list? The only time I want them in that list is when I can to talk to them! So, none of the current Contact organization is nice enough for me. Let’s move on.
Sometimes, contacts have to sign off pretty quickly, or you only spoke to someone for a few minutes. Most of us Windows 7 users (with our wonderful grouping feature), I’m sure, constantly forget to close old (unused) chat windows where the contact has signed off. I think that Messenger should have a feature that if a contact in a chat window has been offline after a set amount of time (of the user’s choosing), to automatically close that useless window. This would probably also extend to when chatting with Facebook contacts, because quite a few people (it seems) only go on Facebook for 5 minutes, and you sometimes choose to chat to one (or twelve) of them. Maybe twenty minutes later you might go through your chat windows, and notice that most of the people you spoke to are offline. This means you have to go through each one and close them. Yes, that’s what happened to me yesterday. Also, just a quick mention, every time I open a Facebook chat, not only do I see the in the window title, but I also see a small Facebook icon under the display picture and a “You are chatting via Facebook.” Why? Obviously, I KNOW I’m chatting to someone through Facebook, and if I didn’t know, I still wouldn’t need THREE notifications PER WINDOW.

I’m going to move on to Mail now. My biggest problem is this: no sense of control or customization. This includes the new font in the list of messages (changed from 2010 which had the perfect font. Now each message shows half a title), the inability to hide the ‘shortcuts’ in the bottom left corner, and a few other missing settings that require more info. My biggest dislike is when you delete an email, especially if it’s spam and you didn’t even open it. Once it is moved to the ‘Deleted items’ folder, it is still marked as ‘Unread’ and you get a number next to the folder saying how many deleted emails you haven’t read. I think Mail should be smart enough to have the ability to auto-switch a deleted email to ‘read’ and not bother the user. I also require the ability to disable the “Internet Security Warning” dialog when syncing with unverified certificates. The only way to currently do it easily is to set all your email accounts to using ‘clear text authentication’ for incoming mail. Now for some name and placement errors. The biggest would have to be for the button to send a new email (in the main window). To send an email, the button is on the Home tab of the ribbon in the section called ‘New’ and is labeled as ‘Email message.’ Why not simply call it ‘Send New Email?’ I’m sure other people (like me) spent a little time trying to find it when it’s actually right there. Secondly, I’d like to mention the placement of the ‘Send’ button on the New Message window. No, it’s not on the ribbon, that’s where the ‘Paste’ button is. Get this, it’s UNDER the paste button, next to the ‘To’ and ‘Subject’ lines. Oh, and I’d also like the ability to hide the icon in the notification area, seeing as we can’t minimize the window to there anymore (at least, not in Windows 7).

Anyway, thanks for reading my rant. If you’ve got anything else to add, other than how ‘bloated’ messenger is and how bad the ad placement is, write me a comment below!

Movie Review: The Last Airbender

To start off, I’m gonna say this: Yes, I have watched the entire TV series.

Warning: This may contain spoilers to both the show and the movie. Read at your own risk!

Now in my opinion, the movie was a very good realistic-movie interpretation of the TV show. Obviously, they had to change and trim a few lengthy bits, but unlike some other movies they kept it going and they didn’t remove anything too important to the storyline. But they did make some mistakes.

First mistake would have to be the pronunciation of Aang’s name. If it was designed to be pronounced as ‘Ung’ then that’s how it would’ve been spelt. Throughout the movie I got a little distracted by the simple fact that he couldn’t even pronounce his own name correctly, seeing as the TV show actually originated from the United States, as where the cast in the movie are also from. Same country, having two completely different pronunciations for one name? Crazy.

Second mistake would have to be their choice of some of the cast. The biggest disappointment for me would have to be Prince Zuko’s uncle. He was supposed to be a happy old man, yet they actually made him quite boring. Fine, it might seem childish that I actually laughed whenever he showed up in the TV show with his tea, but he was such a powerful and unusual character that they shouldn’t of destroyed when remaking the show into a movie. The same would have to go, I’m afraid, to Aang. Not only did he not seem like the happy and unusual kid the show made him out to be, but he also didn’t seem interested at some points. Of course, when they were by the river and Katara was practicing waterbending and he couldn’t do it, he actually played Aang’s part well, but the rest was a kind of disappointment. I could go on, but I think that would be enough for now.

Next I’d actually like to congratulate the director and producers on the effects used. The elements would have to be the hardest thing to generate in the way it is used in the show, but I think they pulled it off nicely. Unlike the TV show, the movie was able to make every element hard to control. You just have to look at the water, as unlike in the show it sometimes splashed in the wrong way, to see how hard bending the elements would be in a real life situation. It nicely showed that even though benders had quite an extent of control, you could never fully control any of the elements. The same goes for the smoke that goes all over the place when bending fire, the dust flying around when bending earth, and all the extra wind when bending air. All of this was pulled off in a fantastic way, even if at some points the water and ice didn’t seem completely realistic.

Next I’d like to point out some of the flaws in the locations of some things. Most importantly I have to mention the layout and location of Monk Gyatso’s body. In the TV show it’s obviously a sacred place where he’s kind of on a pedistal, while in the movie it’s in the middle of an outdoor battleground on the floor. Secondly, the location of the statues of all the previous Avatars. In the show, it was a very large, locked indoor room, where they were all lined up in a grid. In the movie however, it was in a sort of courtyard outdoors, and they were lined up along the circular walls (going up) with the previous Avatar sticking out a bit on the lowest level. These, I’d have to say, are the two biggest mistakes the producers made in the movie. They are the most important parts and were too much away from the TV series and seemed to be less important.

Lastly, I think they should have said at some point, maybe in the title or at the start of the credits, that it was only the first book. Yes, I saw how it said ‘Book 1: Water’ at the very start, but it didn’t say that the whole movie would be dedicated to the first book. If they had expressed that the next one was being made, or was almost ready, I would have been happy.

So, I give this movie an 8/10.

How to play Lazy Table Tennis (aka LazyPong)

Firstly, you shall need the following;

  • 5 people (4 players, 1 ballboy or ballgirl [recommended, but isn’t needed])
  • A regular 4-player table tennis table
  • At least 6 table tennis balls
  • 4 table tennis bats

Alrightly. Now you get two people sitting on the floor on either side of the table, each with a bat and a ball or two. Then, you simply hit the people on the other side of the table using the ball and bat. The ballboy/ballgirl has to pick up any stray balls and give them to the ‘team’ closest (best measured by which side of the net it’s on). It is preferred that you hit the ball over the table, but under is also fine.
Usually everyone enjoys themselves for the first 20 or so minutes, then everyone actually does get lazy.

So yeah, play it with your friends. 🙂

Added a Google Ad to my Sidebar

Yes, I’m just that crazy. I have decided to put in ONE AdSense Advert onto my website. If you have an ad blocker running, please could you whitelist my blog?
Thanks. 🙂

Extra Notes: I will never have more than one advert showing at a time. I have made sure not to have any stupid weight-loss ads, because they annoy me too.

My Addiction to the Bejeweled Puzzle Games

This is something I should have written about a while ago. I can safely say I’ve been into this series since I first played Bejeweled on one the HP desktops they have in most stores a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been getting more and more addicted. First, it was just Bejeweled 2. I reached level 122 on Endless (which takes some time to do) and just couldn’t stop there. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve actively been playing Bejeweled Blitz and have almost reached Rank 16. I’ve also played Bejeweled Twist on my phone whenever I’ve been away from my computer, and now I just downloaded the desktop version of that too. I’m normally not into puzzle games, usually preferring action or fantasy, but PopCap have done an amazing job with keeping these games interesting and entertaining. The achievements are fun to reach, and when you do the next part of them is a nice challenge. Of course, I can’t say I’m the best at these games, but I’m sure I come somewhat close to being one of the better players. I can easily say I’m addicted to them, because when I’m bored I usually have these games just a click or two away. Not only are these fun though, they are also very good to train your brain. I can sit at these for hours and not get bored.

Anyway, I say check them out at http://popcap.com and if you choose to play Bejeweled Blitz, let me know and I’ll add you on Facebook so we can compare our weekly scores!

Why I Prefer a WordPress Blog over Tumblr

Quite a few people tent to tell me that tumblr is much better than a normal blog and whatnot. Well, I’m here to say I don’t like tumblr. Personally, I don’t need a cross between Twitter and a Blog. I prefer them to remain seperate. It seems everyone on tumblr uses it to just post and re-blog random images, dirty or not, without a care for who’s viewing them. If you’re parents were to one day stumble across your tumblr page, I’m sure they probably wouldn’t like what they saw!

With a real blog like this, I can express my views in any way I like and not have to worry about what other people think.

There are many things I really like about a blog like this. Firstly, I can host it myself, so that way I know that none of my files are being screwed with. Secondly, I can make my own themes from scratch without worrying about it disappearing one day. I don’t need to worry about any screens like the tumblr dashboard, especially ones filling up with random images I’d rather not see. And most importantly, I have full control over everything that happens here.

So yeah, I’m still bored so I might find something else to rant about. See you all soon!

My Opinions on the New 6th Gen iPod Nano

Hi guys.

To begin, I’m going remind everyone that I still despise Apple, and the only reason why I bought the new Nano is because no other MP3 Player has the features that I’m looking for (as in, very small and has a multi-touch screen. Been looking for over 2 years!).

Now onto the tasty personal review. I got the 6th Gen Nano yesterday (Sunday 13th September, 11:44am GMT+10 according to the emailed Apple Store receipt) and have loved every moment of using it. I have never had an MP3 Player that sorts my music correctly, and this seems to be no exception (you read correctly, it doesn’t sort my songs correctly).

MY LIST OF CONS (Note: these can get a little boring, so if you want to skim through these the best way is to read the first sentence of each paragraph)

The first problem I noticed with the new Nano was when I synced my songs over: it doesn’t sort the music by Artists exactly like on iTunes. For example, I have many Basshunter songs, but I also have quite a few remixes of his songs, and then both Artists are in the ‘Contributing Artists’ category. iTunes understands this and sorts all the songs into one ‘Artists’ folder, while the iPod decides to separate these Artists, which means I can’t listen to all of Basshunter’s songs at once. This is the same for a few other Artists, so I’d recommend the iPod should sort the music correctly, via Artists, and not incorrectly (as it current does, via Contributing Artists).

My second problem with the new Nano is that it doesn’t have an actual power button. Yes, many have seen a ‘power button’ on the photos of the Nano, but it turns out it’s simply a ‘Sleep/Wake’ button. This means that the Nano works for specifically 12 hours straight, and must be recharged once a day (especially if your music is paused). The same goes for the non-existent lock button. Alright, fine, it might be built into the sleep button (when the iPod is in sleep, touching the screen does nothing) but this also means that the screen is turned off. You read correctly, this cannot actually be used as a watch replacement seeing as you can’t have the screen on while the iPod is locked.

Another thing I don’t like is the inability to hide icons from the menu. In my case, Genres, Composers, Podcasts and Photos, seeing as I know I won’t be using them at all. Yeah, you’re probably thinking ‘oh, who cares’ but I tend to get annoyed with the little things as well as the larger problems.

Alright, here’s a problem most of you probably won’t see the point in, so if you want you can skip this paragraph, but I have to say this: why is there no large digital clock to go with the nice large analogue clock? I’m not gonna lie, when I look at the time on a digital clock I tend to go through a mental image of an analogue clock anyway, but I just think we should have some choice. Same goes for customizing the clock. You’re able to change it to a black or white background, but I’d prefer to actually have smaller numbers between the main 4 hours (meaning more than just 12, 3, 6 and 9).

Next I have a complaint about the choice in wallpapers. Firstly, you’re extremely limited to 9 very dull Apple-made default choices, and only the first (the one that you see on the iPhone 4, with the water droplets) being the only one worthy of being used as a wallpaper for longer than 2 minutes. This also means you can’t set any of your personal photos as a wallpaper. Personally, I’d much prefer a Windows 7 Harmony wallpaper without the logo, but that’s just me.

Another minor thing that is worth mentioning: when you want to listen to an Artist, you have to go Artists –> !artistname! –> All Songs –> Shuffle. HELLO?!?! I’m quite sure I went into Artists so I could listen to the whole Artist, not have to click again just because of the choice to listen to one of the Artist’s Album(s). I had to stick that sentence in italics because it’s just such a worthless extra click. When you want to listen to music, you don’t want to have to click a hundred times to simply listen to the Artist. In iTunes, Apple did this correctly, because if you sort your music by Artist in the Album grid, you simply hover over the Artist and hit ‘Play Artist’ instead of double-clicking again to open up the Artist before you randomly hit a song. Ok, I said minor problem but I seem to have written more than I expected.

And another little problem, I wish it could show the battery as a percentage as well (I know it can, I heard it on VoiceOver).

Here’s more of a bug than anything else. If you hit ‘Next Track’ while in the middle of a song, before the next song starts it actually raises the volume of the current song for about half a second. This can get annoying if you’re constantly hitting next to find a song you like.

Lastly I’d like to mention something that should have come built-in to the Nano: a calculator. Everyone has heard of calculator watches, and all the iPods Touches and iPhones have them, and if I’m correct the previous Nanos also have them, so why not on the new Nano?

So yeah, that’s my little list of problems with the new Nano, and seeing as most of them are mainly software issues, I don’t see why Apple wouldn’t be able to send out an update to us.

THE GOOD THINGS

Now onto the part you’ve all been waiting for. There are many things I’d like to mention about the new Nano that have been advertised in videos and on other blogs, so that’s what I’m going to say here.

My major point would have to be that it’s just so small. In my opinion, this is a huge plus. The built in clip just seems to be an added bonus. As soon as I got home yesterday I went through my brother’s drawer and found an unused watch-strap. All I had to do was clip it on, add a few tiny rolls of sticky tape to keep it in place (no, I didn’t use the sticky part. Basically I rolled it up, and shoved it into gaps in the clip) and put it on. Early this morning I also had a chance to play around with different areas in my school uniform, and successfully got the cable running up my sleeve (under my school shirt, but above my undershirt), through the gap between the button holes on the front of my school shirt, and up to my head. This is also useful because I wear both a jumper and a vest (for those that don’t know, they are both the same except the latter has no arms) and I can simply clip the headphones onto the collar of my jumper when not in use (added bonus: my vest collar is a little higher than my jumper collar so when I have the headphones clipped on they are invisible, except for the two little lumps they make).

Next would have to be the speed and simplicity of the operating system and menus. No having to wait for the next screen to show up, and everything is well organised. Some things are sometimes a little jumpy but that’s just because I’m kind of using my left hand when controlling it. My favourite screen would have to be ‘Now Playing.’ Not only are the Next, Play and Previous buttons large, but you can swipe between them and the progress bar. That way, you can’t accidentally skip half the song when you try to pause it when talking to someone.

I also like the position of the volume buttons. That sounds lame, doesn’t it? Well the reason is I keep it around my right wrist, so when I want to change something I use my left hand, and seeing as the buttons are on the top left I can turn the music down easily when a louder song comes on without having to uncover the entire iPod.

Well, that’s my little rant.

The only little other thing I think the new Nano should have is a ‘Mini App Store’ so people can make their own custom features for this device.

Features: 4/6 | Value: 3.5/6 (a bit expensive) | Performance: 6/6 | Overall: 4.5/6

Oh, and here are some pics of my Nano with a watch strap: