Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

Of Rock and Roll and Cameras

I purposely arrange my schedule around Apple’s media events. No really, I do. Today I actually rescheduled a meeting so that I could read about Apple’s “It’s Only Rock And Roll” event in realtime. In my defense (or defence, for you kids across the pond), I actually got it out of the way early in a responsible, adult manner.

I hate to be anything that even vaguely resembles a fanboy, but I find their announcements absolutely fascinating. Apple has managed to take something that most companies relegate to either a press release or one of a handful of trade shows and turn it into some sort of massive party/lovefest/shindig where the crowd treats company executives like rockstars and treats rockstars like, well, regular folks. Quivering journalist-types and tech bloggers hang upon their every word, frantically posting updates to their website, and mere mortals such as myself eat up those updates like so many delicious cookies. Second-hand love like that requires talent, folks; talent that Apple has in spades. I enjoyed today’s “It’s Only Rock And Roll” event as much as any other of their announcements (well, almost: I was practically jumping up and down in excitement when the iPhone and iPod Touch were announced two years ago). There was just one problem.

The 3rd-gen iPod Touch has no camera. Continue reading


September 11, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, iPhone/iPod Touch | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death, Quietly

My iPod died yesterday.

I’m not entirely sure what time it passed, though I became aware of its demise somewhere around 8 pm. I’ve been busy moving back into my house in Oklahoma, and had plugged it into my computer to juice up. The battery on it had been absolute crap in recent weeks, so charging had been taking forever. I popped back into my room, and hit the home button to check the status of the battery.

Nothing. Continue reading

August 17, 2009 Posted by | iPhone/iPod Touch, Tech | , , | Leave a comment

My iPod Is On Life Support

White Screen Coma

White Screen Coma

My iPod is currently in the gadget version of an intensive care unit. It’s near death, and I’ve got absolutely no idea what caused it. Everything is playing out like an episode of House, where every treatment come up with by the doctor (ahem, yours truly) only makes things worse. This is no fun.

I use my iPod on a daily basis. I need to walk somewhere? Bam, in go the earphones. I’m driving somewhere? Bam, my iPod gets plugged in, the tunes blast, and away we go. I’m studying and using my laptop would be too distracting? Out comes the iPod, in go the earphones, and Ratatat or Architecture in Helsinki or Norma Jean serenade me. Beyond the basic function of listening to music, I use my beloved iPod Touch (which is named Lisa, by the way) to play games, check email, and scratch out notes for writing ideas. It’s absolutely essential to my always-on lifestyle. Only now I can’t do any of that.

Ever so briefly, I considered turning this into some sort of admission to being too dependent on electronics, that everyone voluntarily cuts themselves off from the world with them, that we need to lose the gadgets every now and again and just appreciate life.

Screw that. Continue reading

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Personal, Tech | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rollin’… in my 3.0

This piece was first published at iPGN. To see my original article, click here.

Rollin’… in my 3.0 thumbnailI’m currently drowning under a deluge of updates. It’s kinda fun. With the new 3.0 firmware having recently dropped, publishers are rushing to get their newly-improved games to the public. I’ve gotten updates or new releases of Baseball Sluggers, Star Defense, and Enigmo so far. I’m willing to be that there will be more by the time I’ve finished writing this.

Oh, here comes Leaf Trombone. Sweet.

While I won’t be among the lucky few getting the new iPhone 3G S, I do get to use the new firmware – it’s the every-man’s upgrade, providing you ignore the fact that us second-class iPod Touch users have to pay $9.95 for it. It’s a fair price, though, for all the fun little upgrades I’m getting. I won’t really be going into detail on them here – expect that in a later piece. Here are the things I’m enjoying so far: Continue reading

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, iPhone/iPod Touch | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile Gaming: Roundup

I really need to move the App Store button in my iPod Touch to somewhere other than the front screen. It’s just too tempting. Frankly, I’ve been downloading and playing games much, much fast than I can review them. Also, my time and resultant attention span is even more fragmented right now than usual. In light of that, here’s a roundup of what I’ve been playing recently that’s earned the T+L seal of approval:

Shoot dem Zombies!

Shoot dem zombies!

5. Zombieville USA: This one is simple enough. There are zombies. You are not a zombie. You have a gun. You shoot the zombies. Also, you loot the other houses in your neighborhood. Kill a bunch of zombies, get better guns, rinse and repeat. My only complaint is that the 3 difficulty levels probably could have been better balanced – Normal ramps up much too quickly from Easy, and oddly enough Insane mode just doesn’t feel… well, insane. Even so, cartoony graphics and a slightly humorous take on your traditional zombie game make this one a worthwhile purchase. Continue reading

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, iPhone/iPod Touch | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Love AppStore (similar to, “I love lamp,” but without Steve Carell).

I love AppStore thumbnail

This was first published at iPGN. To view my original article, click here.

Before I jump into this, I just want to say one thing – I’m preaching to the choir. I know that. If you didn’t like gaming on your iPhone or iPod Touch, then you probably wouldn’t be at iPGN (see that logic? Yeah, that’s an if > then statement. Came up with it all by myself). With that mind, I’m here to tell you that the App Store is the greatest thing that’s happened to gaming in, well, years. I would say the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that’s clearly an exaggeration. And besides – I really like sliced bread. Continue reading

June 12, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Humor, iPhone/iPod Touch, Tech | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile Gaming: DoodleJump

There is a single game that has effectively captured my attention for the last two or three weeks, and its name is DoodleJump. That’s right, DoodleJump. I didn’t mistype that. There’s doodling, and then there’s jumping. Somewhere in the sweet, sweet middle is DoodleJump.

The art direction isn’t mind-blowing, but it doesn’t hurt, either. Everything looks like it was sketched (or doodled, if you like) on a sheet of graph paper. It’s simple, likable, and visually interesting. That’s a good combo if you ask me.

This is a deceptively simple game, and that’s how it gets you (and I really did mean you just then, cuz it never gets me). Here’s how it works: you play a little guy that looks nothing so much like a cross between an elephant and a lightbulb. And you jump, and jump and jump and jump. Jump until it seems second-nature. Jump until you’re the undisputed king (or queen, for you gamer chicks out there) of jumping. Jump until your real legs actually start to ache in some kind of crazy psychosomatic trauma. For the love of all that’s good in this world, jump! Continue reading

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, iPhone/iPod Touch, review | , , , , | 2 Comments

Interview: Ge Wang, Creator of Ocarina and Leaf Trombone

This article was first published to the iPhone Games Network. To see my original piece, click here.

Interview with Ge Wang from Smule thumbnail

I sit down with Ge Wang Co-founder, CTO, and Chief Creative Officer of Smule, to chat about Ocarina and his latest music game, Leaf Trombone.

1. Background

How did you get into making applications like Ocarina and Leaf Trombone?

As an Assistant Professor at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), I come from the field of computer music research, which, for me, combines three passions: music, computer science, and the joy of building things. It’s my mission as a researcher to change the way people think, do, and interact, through sound, technology, and music. Along this line, Ocarina and Leaf Trombone were designed to provide new creative, social experiences that perhaps weren’t possible until now.

Before you started making iPhone apps, you were primarily known for SLOrk. Can you tell me a little about it and how that project has influenced your app writing?

The Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) is a large-scale ensemble of laptops, human players, and special hemispherical speaker arrays (made out of IKEA salad bowls, car speakers, and compact amplifiers). Like its older East Coast sibling PLOrk (Princeton Laptop Orchestra), SLOrk aims to fuse traditional music making (the orchestra) with the vast potential of computer technology. It’s both a performing ensemble and a classroom for exploring this new musical medium. (One can find out more about SLOrk at:

Working with the laptop orchestra has greatly informed the design of iPhone apps for me. Crafting a musical interface for the iPhone (e.g., Ocarina and Leaf Trombone) is similar to creating an instrument from scratch for the laptop, it’s just that the design parameters are different. The challenge is to design around the capabilities (and limitations) and to make the most of it all. Continue reading

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Interview, iPhone/iPod Touch | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile Gaming: Siberian Strike

Remember playing arcade games like Xevious and 1942 in the arcade as a child? You’d take out wave after wave of enemy fighters, ground emplacements, and just about any other obstacle that you care to think of. There were all kinds of crazy upgrades you could earn – typically over-the-top weapons that would destroy just about anything in your path. Those were good times, right? Except for all the quarters you’d have to pour into the arcade machine to keep playing after you’d inevitably make a mistake and die. That wasn’t so awesome.

Now you can relive the experience in all its nostalgic glory, minus all those quarters. Siberian Strike is a Gameloft title for iPhone/iPod Touch that recreates that experience, with a few tweaks to freshen the traditional “vertical scrolling shooter” gameplay a bit.

You can choose one of three fighters – one with great speed but weak firepower, another that has beastly weapons but little speed, and a third that is evenly balanced between the two. The main method of gameplay is Story Mode, in which you’ll embark in a series of missions against the Russian military, moving across the plains of Siberia from one installation to the next, appropriately annihilating everything in your path. As should be expected in games of this nature, there are larger, more powerful “boss” battles to supplement the regular gameplay.

In addition, there are some specialty missions, involving precision flying through a field of icebergs. While not too challenging, these provide a nice change of pace and variety to the experience.

Unfortunately, other modes of gameplay beyond Story Mode are a bit limited. There’s Free Play, which is merely the chance to replay levels out of order, should you feel the urge to do so. You’ve also got Multiplayer, though I’ve got to mention that there wasn’t anyone else online attempting to use this mode when I tried to use it. From what I can tell, it’s just a cooperative mode on the exact same levels that you play in all other modes.

Graphically, the game has cool semi-retro visuals and a cartoonty style that emphasizes the humorous, vaguely-excessive style typified in these games. Battery life is average while playing. I would’ve preferred to see more creativity in terms of gameplay – perhaps an Unlimited/Endless mode, or other forms of multiplayer.

Overall, it’s a solid game, and the $2.99 price is appropriate for the content it delivers. I would prefer to see one of two updates with additional content. Regardless, if you’re into these types of games, Siberian Strike is a good choice.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, iPhone/iPod Touch, review | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weekly Shenanigans #3

I don’t know what to say, other that I’m on a roll. Three weeks in a row of regularly posting a column? That’s something pretty close to a miracle for me. I’m the guy that regularly makes posts with the words, “Part One” tacked onto the end, and regularly fails to make follow-up posts. It might not be a big deal for other people, but three posts in a row is absolutely EPIC as far as I’m concerned.

Enough with the patting myself on the back, though. Let’s get down to business.

  • Not too big (extended ATX), not too small (mini-ITX). Just right.

    Not too big (extended ATX), not too small (mini-ITX). Just right.

    Anandtech recently reviewed a mATX (that’s micro ATX, for all you non-hardware geeks out there) motherboard from MSI, the X-58M. That pint-size sucker went toe-to-toe with the ASUS Rampage II Gene and came out on top in several circumstances. What’s more, it retails for $169.99, which is one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest price I’ve seen for an X-58 board. This looks like a great option if you’re not concerned with adding a bunch of discrete cards – the mobo comes with 2 PCI-e 2.0 X16 slots, a single x4 slot, and a legacy PCI slot. Overall, it’s a great option, and I might be considering it for my upcoming build. Score one for the budget team.

  • There’s an interesting article talking about graphical realism on Gamasutra. It’s plenty accessible, managing to avoid the highly-technical jargon that such pieces so often get bogged down with. Check it out. Continue reading

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Humor, State of the Blog, Weekly Shenanigans | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment