Sunday, August 20, 2006

Buy NewsFire, get Inquisitor free

Developer Dave Watanbe has a cool offer for a free copy of the powerful search extension for Safari and Camino when you buy the pretty RSS app Newsfire. It's definitely worth checking out the offer.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Clubhouse Games (DS) video

Nintendo Clubhouse Games is part of the company's persistent strategy to attract non-gamers to the DS game console. Clubhouse includes about 42 classic parlor games such as chess, poker, blackjack, roulette, darts and bowling making full use of the touch screen and up to eight players online (including an online version of PictoChat for communication). This is looking to be a must-have title available October 2. Credit to NGC France for the video.

Clubhouse Games video

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I haven't picked a winner in 20 years

With the 20-year anniversary of the Nintendo Entertainment system coming up in less than three months, I felt it apt to investigate my history in video games. And it looks like it also marks twenty years since I've picked a console that won the market share in its generation. Strangely, however, I couldn't be happier. While I may have picked the losers, these consoles actually had some of the greatest classics of our time.

Nintendo Entertainment System
I'm not going to dip all the way back to the Atari 2600, but I did have an NES, and I still believe it is one of the best game systems of all time for its variety and, as a result of its pure dominance, had "everything." The controller is like trying to manipulate a brick (and is likely to blame for my early signs of carpel tunnel syndrome), but I loved every minute of it.

Sega Genesis
It may not have been the market leader, losing out to the wonder that is Nintendo's lost console dominance, but damn, did it have great games. It featured some fantastic "mature games" (read: Streets of Rage). It was also essentially the birth of sports games, and it's easy to see that Sony took many notes of where Sega trumped Nintendo and where it faulted with the Genesis.

Nintendo 64
If the Super Nintendo beat the Genesis, then surely Nintendo will be able to beat Sega again and take on newcomer Sony, right? That was my logic for purchasing the N64—well, that and Super Mario 64. The N64 featured such landmark games as GoldenEye, Wave Race 64 and StarFox 64. Oh, and WCW vs. NWO was surprisingly fun, as well. The N64 was, of course, trumped by Sony's Playstation in that era, but hey! At least I didn't pick the Sega Saturn.

Sega Dreamcast
Not only was Sega ahead of its time, but it also delivered the greatest offering in the history of video games. Despite a shaky launch filled with faulty hardware and a Sonic game plagued by camera issues, the Dreamcast was epic. NFL 2k was an unprecedented leap forward in the world of sports, which would take Electronic Arts over a year to catch up to. In the short few years of the Dreamcast's existence, the classics never seem to stop pouring out. Chu Chu Rocket!, Sega Swirl, Jet Grind Radio, Soul Calibur, Virtua Tennis, Crazy Taxi, Skies of Arcadia, Power Stone 2 and of course... Deserving of its own sentence: Phantasy Star Online. I spent hundreds of hours with this game. The first online RPG ever made—and it was free to play online. Sega's offering was too good to be true—it all collapsed way too soon. Due to a legion of gamers who decided to "wait for the Playstation 2" due to clever advertising on Sony's part and a complete lack of participation from Electronic Arts, the Dreamcast quickly disappeared into oblivion, and Sega, as a publisher, remains a shadow of its former self.

Microsoft Xbox
Picking another #2, due to a lack of Grand Theft Autos, Metal Gear Solids and a trusted name in the game industry, Xbox never picked up the momentum needed to topple Sony. While great exclusives like Halo, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Top Spin make it a console worth owning, it always seemed to be more of a wannabe Sony than an original beast. Xbox Live made the system stand out, though. Picking up where Sega left off, Microsoft invested a lot into online play, and it is paying off. For many reasons, the Xbox is called the spiritual successor to the Dreamcast.

Sony Playstation Portable (PSP)
Unlike my other choices, I have nothing good to say about the PSP. Sony went at portable gaming like it did with its console, which creates a cramped, style-over-substance system with ports of games I already own on a console. I've had my PSP for over a year, and I've finally decided put this dog to rest. I purchased a Nintendo DS lite a few days ago, and I think I've finally picked my next winner after twenty years.

What's to come?
After twenty years of bad choices, who better to ask who will win the next-gen race than someone who is incapable of doing so? The Xbox 360 is moving fairly slowly out of the gates, and with an initial offering of fairly standard console games. The Playstation 3 will debut at $500 for its core system ($200 more than the Xbox) and $600 for its standard console. I don't even think its flawless brand name will be able to pull it out of this one. So for the eventual winner, I'm picking the Nintendo Wii for its competitive price point and original ideas.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Nintendo sets its sights on the young adult demographic

Nintendo is a stone's throw away from taking over a market it hasn't had a grasp on since the 8-bit console era: the crucial young adult demographic. In the 16-bit era, Sega stole away many of the 16 to 30-year old gamers with its focus on sports and violent games, and Sony pushed the mature audience further away from Nintendo in the more recent generations.

Up until recently, Game Boy has been targeted to, just as the title suggests: boys. It is a childish toy, as viewed by the mainstream. With the release of the Nintendo DS, the company did something which initially stumped observers. They dropped the highly recognizable, highly successful Game Boy franchise tag. Why would Nintendo purposely create a new brand when they have the leverage of an already established name? To grab a new audience.

The Nintendo DS succeeded in reclaiming its loyal young peoples' fan base. For a year, Nintendo crafted the same sort of games that have appealed to children and family-oriented gamers for years. The release of the Nintendo DS lite marks the company's paradigm shift. All of a sudden, Nintendo has a sleek handheld that can easily be confused with the elusive iPod. So it's time to attack the young adult demographic now, right?

Nintendo seems to be devising a plan of attack from two sides of the age spectrum. The company will continue to cater to its younger audience and has just recently begun the attack from the other end—middle-aged adults. With franchises like Brain Age and utilities such as Opera, Nintendo plans to capture this untapped section of the gaming market. Commuters need not plunk down the cost of a PDA when a sleek DS and Opera can be acquired for under $200. Once this market is tapped, Nintendo will have the opportunity to steal the core market of young adult gamers from Sony's flimsy PSP brand and the simple cell phone platform, but they will have to revise a few business practices.

Friend codes simply will not do. Nintendo will have to ignore "protecting children's identities" if it wants to be successful with an older demographic. A proper online identity is important. They will also need to woo Electronic Arts to put more effort into their sports offerings on the system. Finally they will need to woo Rockstar Games and Konami away from Sony to produce flagship franchise sequels for the DS like Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid. Once these conditions are met, Nintendo will effectively lock down the portable gaming market before Microsoft even has a chance to get in the ring.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Spammers just keep getting smarter, don't they?

It's nothing new that spammers are duping e-mail clients into thinking a message was sent on a different date. While it is a dead giveaway to the client that it is a spam message (few legitimate e-mails come from days in the future), the spammers realize that anyone going into their junk email box will see those messages first. (E-mail clients generally arrange by descending date.) I'm used to seeing spam messages from as much as a week in the future, but I'm starting to notice a ridiculous new trend: e-mail from the year 2038!

I'm receiving a number of messages marked delivery date as "January 18, 2038." The spammers seem to certainly be at the top of the intellectual food chain.

The Catch-22 of the 'Z' Foundation

CD swapping web site, Lala.com, has announced its new initiative, the 'Z' Foundation, which will donate between $10,000 and $50,000 each month directly to the artists toward offering working musicians health and dental benefits. While the idea is noble in concept (and will certainly give the service some exposure in the press—I'm writing about it here after all), and while the majority of the requirements are fair ("Eligibility is available to working musicians, defined as any individual who has performed live or on a recorded release in the last year") there was one key element to the eligibility that will render this useless to the majority of musicians that are in need of the 'Z' Foundation.

It states that the musician's "music-related income accounts for more than half of their total income." The world's artists who are truly in need of these benefits are the ones who, at this very moment, write lyrics at 3 o'clock in the morning after working a full-time job, and can only afford the time to perform at a local bar on weekends. The musicians who require the 'Z' Foundation to support them financially in order to offer the ability to transition to doing music as a full-time job do not qualify for the funding because they cannot figure out a way to do so without maintaining another job.

So who will benefit from the 'Z' Foundation? Already established acts and those willing to put everything on the line by taking out a loan and doing music as a full-time job will be the only ones who will see any money from the 'Z.' The foundation will not encourage music as a viable way to make a living for new artists. It will only serve to aid the musicians who are already doing music for a living.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Zidane ends career as coward

Just moments ago, Zinedine Zidane, star from the Real Madrid club and international France team, was red carded in overtime of the 2006 World Cup final against Italy. He had an apparent disagreement on the field with an Italian player and head-butted him in the chest. Soon after, an official came over and issued him a red card.

One of the greatest athletes to ever play the game of football/soccer, will end his career at the top on a cowardly, irrational moment.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The word search

Have you ever needed to search a document or a web site for a word like "it?" You'll find your search yielding results like "hitter," "sit" and "fitting." One little known way to avoid this is to simply add a space before and after the word you are searching. So if you need to find just the word "his" in a document, your search term will be: " his ". This will save users precious time when filtering through results that only match part of a larger word. Try it out in Firefox's or MS Word's search functions.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Typers vs. Clickers

As far as productivity goes, I like to think there are two types of Mac users: the clickers and the typers. One camp is very visual-based while the other knows what they want and want it executed quickly. If you want to maximize your productivity on the Mac, you should decide which character suits you best and decide whether you should be using QuickSilver or Dashboard. Let's explore the two camps.Read more »

Do you digg it?

Social news web site, Digg, has stumbled upon a brilliant formula. Where most web sites struggle with worthless or offensive comments on blogs, Digg's thumbs up/thumbs down rating system (digg or bury) encourages meaningful responses. The feature allows users to give a +1 rating to comments they find useful and a -1 rating to ones they do not approve of, much like Amazon's review rating system. Many users find themselves going back to stories they commented on to see whether other users found their comments meaningful using the rating based on the number of diggs or buries a comment has received. This in turn produces topical and interesting reactions from users, which adds to the value of Digg. In some cases, the comment space is used by some to do further reporting on a story supporting or contradicting its validity. The comment bury system also does wonders for fighting spam.

While many web sites are suffering with "comment spam," where people or automated systems post off-topic advertisements, Digg's community will catch spam and bury it (or report it) before it can get out of hand. Digg's intelligent spam filter also helps to keep the flooding of comments at bay.

Digg is introducing a host of new, innovative features as the service grows with its rising readership. Digg v3, which introduces new categories to the previously technology-only web sites like world and celebrity news, is currently in public beta phase.