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Archive for July, 2010

Review: Apple iPad

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

A warm breeze from the ducted heating brushes past my face as I wipe my brow overlooking the savanna that is my coffee table. It is a harsh and varied terrain home to many inhabitant species, both native and introduced. Amoung them, the elusive remote. Wiley and cunning with extraordinary camouflage abilities, especially when ‘A Current Affair’ appears and speed of use is a factor. Next to it is the coffee table book, a slow somewhat dim-witted creature that requires frequent replacement due to yielding to natural selection (and current trends). Add to it your normal array of run-of-the-mill savanna denizens such as matchbox cars (lethal when stood on), Iggle Piggle (don’t ask), and a homeless forsaken sock, and you have the lowland Jarrah plains that situate in the middle of my lounge room. Today, the hierarchy of this fragile ecosystem was challenged as I introduced a new species to the region, a dominant male. The alpha dawg. The Apple iPad.

If I were to own an iPad (and didn’t have a 2 year old), the coffee table is where it would reside. Ruling supreme over other lesser devices that call the table their home. The remote simply controls the television, the books are just books, the toys are just toys. The iPad is all of these and then some. It’s almost any book you want, it’s a television centre, it’s games, it’s a notepad, it’s a stereo. It leaves anything that resides in it’s vicinity in the dust. If the coffee table is the savanna, the iPad is the lion.

The iPad has been out long enough for us to all know what it is capable of and what the user interface is like, but the real clincher is ‘how would it fit into my life?’ After my usual involuntary reaction of “gotta have it gotta have it gotta have it” after seeing a shiny new gadget’s release, I usually sit down and really think about where it would fit in my life and if I could really get use out of it. On the iPad I’m conflicted. There are times where I will LONG to own one of these, long drives and plane trips are what instantly spring to mind, especially with kids. Handing the rowdy child the iPad on the plane (with my eagle eyes sitting adjacent) and watching them be entertained for hours with the multiple games pre-loaded before flight sounds heavenly. Not to mention having the iPad as your internet connectivity device once at your destination. Once free wifi on planes becomes standard (shut up, give me my dreams) it will become even better to have an iPad with you. I’m not comfortable traveling with my Macbook Pro all the time and risking getting it damaged or stolen or otherwise man-handled, so the idea of taking a cheaper, smaller, more compact ‘computer’ that I can fit in my handbag is very appealing for things like travel. But for everyday, I don’t think I would use it a great deal. The times it would shine is when I’m out of the house and away from my main computer, or if I didn’t have a portable computer and wanted to browse while away from my desktop. We travel overseas at least once a year, and tend to travel interstate at least once also. But I’m not 100% sure these infrequent flights justify the world’s best inflight entertainment system.

As cringeworthy as it sounds, actually holding the iPad and having a play, it felt like holding the future. I felt the same when I first played with my iPhone. A million years ago when I had a gameboy, I was wondering what it would be like to one day have a handheld device that actually looked just like the Nintendo gameplay on my television screen. When I had my first mobile phone, a Nokia 5110, I longed for the day my mobile screen would be in colour, and dreamed of a day it would look like my computer screen. Now my phone looks just like my computer screen and is capable of more than I ever imagined, and the iPad feels like some kind of dubious witchcraft. It was a surreal experience, and I found myself amazed with how far technology has come. Actually using one is a pleasure within itself, and makes it hurt all the more that I probably don’t need one just yet. In a few years when the short person in our house learns the difference between an electronic device and a frisbee, I might consider it. But right now, I’ll settle for hiring or borrowing one for flights and times I think it would come in handy for us. It’s an amazing device and I really admire it. Once more iPad apps come out it will be even better, as a lot of what is out there at the moment are upscaled iPhone apps.

I for one am proud of my restraint. Normally I feel the need to have every gadget that impresses me. I should get some kind of prize for my efforts. Perhaps one that is about 680 grams, 24cms by 18cms… with a shiny LCD screen and Plants vs Zombies….

Competition Time!

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Remember the Cadbury gorilla and those creepy kids with the dancing eyebrows? Well Cadbury are bringing out another of these little gems with Freida, the dancing cow. To celebrate this they’ve released a Facebook game where you use your arrow keys to bring the bovine boogie. To entice you to play this game, you’re put in the draw each time you play to win one of five 8GB iPhone 3GS’s and one of ten iTunes vouchers.

Subsequently I have two 200g blocks of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate to give away, which I will give to the two Australian readers who post the best cow and chocolate related haiku in the comments.

Hit me with your best, I wish to be entertained, you will win some noms.

KGO!

Incoznito

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

The world of online gaming (and particularly in-game chat) is perhaps not the most mature of places you’ll find in this world. At best it resembles a school playground, at worst, a lynching. I don’t know if it’s because you have a group of people there for light-hearted fun, and accordingly they don’t take it too seriously and therefore tend to ham it up a bit, or whether they’re genuinely just adopting keyboard courage and trying to antagonize for fun. Whatever the reasoning, it’s something we all have to deal with. There are jerks everywhere in this world, and the online gaming world is no different. Whether you have an accent, can’t speak great England, or are one of those allusive “girls” on the internet (OMGHAI2U), there are times where you’re going to be picked on through in-game chat. Obviously you can shop around for a server with a better awesomefolk:douchebag ratio, but it is inevitable that while trying different servers on to find the right fit you’ll come across immaturity, racism, sexism, homophobia and explicit language.

I’ve been asked a few times if my gaming experience is different online because of my gender, and to be honest I think it’s different for everyone that isn’t your everyday white dude. If there’s something that makes you different, certain people will hone in on that and kick the can a bit. For those like me with a thick enough skin to be completely at peace with telling someone to go fuck themselves, I don’t mind so much. It’s par for the course really. But not everyone is built that way, and even then there are some days when I just can’t be bothered with the “OMG ARE YOU A GURL!!!1 Buttsecks?” and just want to play games. Which brings about my confession. Sometimes I play incognito. I don’t think I’m the only one either, I’ve seen many girls playing online with masculine names or no hints towards their gender at all. I turn off my mic, change my avatar and adopt a non-gender-specific display name sometimes. Usually I game as “Coz”, and find this supplies me with sufficient camouflage while “HelloKittyTeeHee” and “SweetiePie1990” are being set upon.

However things might change. Soon I might not get the option to play incognito. This month we’ve seen a bit of controversy over Blizzard’s RealID scandal. For those that don’t know, the Blizzard Real ID system was going to instill a measure that meant everyone could see your real name if you posted on the forums. This was planned to be a way to tackle the problem of forum trolls and general nuisance accounts (instead of, I don’t know, actually moderating) with the hopes that everyone knowing everyone’s first and second names would bring about some accountability and make people think twice about their actions. Great in theory, but not so great when you think of the real world applications. Thankfully due to the backlash Blizzard have changed their minds, saying they will not release people’s real names on RealID. It was never going to be an in-game thing, it was restricted to just the official forum, but it could have opened the floodgates for other games to follow, and for the eventual integration into game play. I’m hoping that never happens.

So while I can still play as whoever I wish, there will be days where I just can’t be bothered with the crap and will be quiet and just keep my eyes on the prize. But I think my days of needing the cloak of invisibility are coming to a close. That which makes me different is becoming less of a rarity. Soon I won’t have to bother, and that pleases me. Let’s all focus on what makes us similar instead of what makes us different. We all love games, so let’s focus on that and get on with it. You think? Awesome. Good talk. Let’s go kill some zombies.

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