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Showing posts from April, 2014

The Rise of Aggregators : Who Filters your Information Infow?

The increasing use of  highlight aggregators to discover popular content on the internet is on the one hand very convenient and on the other hand a great step backwards towards discrete centralised media  services. I am talking about Google Play News Stand, I am talking about Feedly, I am talking about Mediagazer and other news aggregators but I am also talking about content streaming services like Spotify, Netflix and Youtube. I am even talking about certain aspects of Facebook. All of these services try to address a problem of information overload by providing users with a filtered list of highlights. Of course this is an essential trend because there really is too much content out there and we need some assistance at discovery and selection. However I think it is important to realise that the more we come to rely on aggregators the more blinkered we become. We hand over control of our information inflow to a few hopefully trusted  organisations. In many ways we are going back to

Clive Barker's Jericho, Seven years on.

I am playing and enjoying a game that got dismal reviews when it came out in 2007. To be honest I can understand why Clive Barkers Jericho scored so badly in comparison to other AAA shooters that came out that year including Crysis and Call of Duty 4. Jericho is an on rails shooter with hordes of dumb opponents patrolling generic brown corridors and feels like a game from the late 1990s. Painkiller is perhaps the most flattering comparison but Painkiller was itself considered charmingly retro when it came out in 2004. Happily the passage of time makes Jericho's datedness less relevant and allows one to enjoy the rather clever gameplay. This is squad shooter allowing you to switch on the fly between any one of six warrior mages. Each character wields two conventional weapons mapped to left and right mouse buttons and also has two magic powers. Some of the powers feel a bit redundant but there are gems like the lady who uses blood magic to create a ward which entangles nearby enemi

My First Gaming Mouse: Logitech G300

I bought a gaming mouse yesterday a Logitech G300, here my initial thoughts. What is a gaming mouse?  There are a wide variety of devices available classified as gaming mice but a few features  seem common: 1. Wired rather than wireless: Although some high end models are wireless wired connections are just better and faster than wireless so most gaming mice stick with wired. As a bonus wired mice don't need batteries so the mouse is lighter.  2. High response rate: 1 to 2ms response rate so the mouse immediately responds to input.  2. High DPI. Gaming mice invariable boast high DPI numbers from 2,000 DPI upwards. This makes the device very responsive to the smallest movements.   3. Adjustable DPI . High DPI improves responsiveness but reduces precision so gaming mice generally allow you to adjust the DPI down for precise work such as pulling off headshots in sniper mode. Generally the mouse allows dpi to be changed on the fly by pressing a button.  4. Extr

Kings Bounty the Legend Again

For the last few weeks I have spent most of my gaming time in Kings Bounty the Legend. I started playing the game back in 2009 and loved it but I managed to burn out fairly quickly. This time I have stuck with it and I have over 70 hours clocked up. I play very slowly so even with this I am only half way through the campaign. The game is wonderful for its art, its humour, its challenging implementation of turn based strategy and for it's ability to keep things varied with a variety of locations, enemies and troops. If you have never tried it I strongly recommend it particularly now that it can be bought for a few euros and is regularly on sale. One feature of the game that has provoked much comment both good and bad from players is the limited availability of troops and the constant need to travel the lands in search of replacements.  I myself have noticed that this one feature has a huge influence on how I play the game and I am not convinced that the benefits outweigh the adv

Android: The Enchanted Cave thoughts and tips

The rogue-like Enchanted Cave is one of the rare mobile games that caught my attention for more than a few minutes. I liked it because my understanding of the game game organically evolved through several phases each lasting just long enough to keep me from getting boredt:: Stage 1. WTF this game is hard I can't even make it beyond the first few levels without dying. Stage 2. Ah now I see how to make permanent improvements to my character. I can finally begin to make some some progress. Stage 3. I'll grind for a bit now to prepare my character for later levels. Stage 4. Ah, Now I have figured out the the combat model. I see how the numbers work and I can prepare carefully for every battle. The game becomes less random and more puzzle like. Stage 5. Now we are rolling. I am going to make a run for it and see can I get to the final boss and take them down. It is worth noting that the author of the Enchanted Cave has just run a successful Kickstarter campaign for "The

Why do games end up being sold for a song in bundles?

There is always a reason why any given game appears in a cheap bundle. 1. Sometimes it is just a terrible game that no wants to pay money for. 2. Other times the game is not terrible but has flaws that limit its sales in the crowded gaming market. Although these games are released at full price they quickly drop off the charts and end up in sales and bundles. 3.Sometimes you can find excellent games that are fairly recent but didn't fulfil their sales expectations and the distributor is trying to get extra revenue from the game and perhaps renew interest in it. 4. Sometime you get new games, particularly from indie developers who see a bundle as a way of getting exposure and publicity. 5. Sometimes the game is just very old. Such games may be excellent but no one buys them at full price any more. 6. Occasionally a very good game is deliberately released to a bundle just before it's sequel is launched in order to generate publicity for the sequel. 7. On occasion publishe

Google Please Bring Back Custom Labels for Map Locations.

There doesn't appear to be any way to add  custom location labels to the current incarnation of Google Maps (Android and Desktop) and it is driving me nuts. It is not just that I miss being able to give saved locations friendly names like "Uncle John's place" or "My Golf Club". It is also that there are loads of places which the current version of maps doesn't seem to be able to provide any address for at all. These include the tennis club I bring my daughter to and the headquarters of a major company that I visited this morning. Not only does Google not know where these places are. It has no mechanism of addressing them because they do not appear on a standard road with a standard building number. I live in a major city in which Google employs several thousand people and this is still an issue here. I can only imagine it is a complete deal breaker for those living in rural locations where every address is something like "The cottage beside Murphy&#

The unstoppable march of innovation. A Kettle Retrospective

I grew up in a house with a basic aluminium kettle designed to be used on an externally heated hob. Although we did not possess one ourselves the height of kettle technology at the time was a similar externally heated vessel with a whistle attached to the spot which made an audible noise when the water was boiling vigorously. I was still quite young when we purchased our first electric kettle. This object of wonder was made of stainless steel rather than aluminium but it had a similar shape to the kettle it replaced. An internal electric heating element meant water could be boiled without the aid of a stove. It also boiled its load of water a good deal more quickly probably because the heating element is fully immersed in the water.

How would you describe a Google Chromecast to someone?

It's a device that plugs into your TV and connects with a phone, tablet or computer to stream audio and video to your TV.  Ah ... I see so is it a stand alone receiver then that just needs a phone or table to act as a remote? Well, not exactly - you see the phone or tablet needs to be connected to the internet itself and you must first run an app on that device in order to stream it to the Chromecast.   Ah ... so the Chromecast is just acting like a remote display for your phone?   Well, not exactly because only certain apps support the Chromecast (notably Netflix and Youtube). Most apps don't support it.   OK, I am beginning to understand, but for those apps that do support it the content is coming from your phone and being sent to the Chromecast right?   Well, not exactly, Once you initiate the app on your phone and send it to Chromecast then the Chromecast seems to get its own copy directly from the internet. You can put the phone to sleep and the Chromecast wil

Revisiting the ethics of cheating in single player games.

The rise of F2P games with in app purchases has introduced a new twist to the ethics of cheating in single player games. Life used to be simpler. Pretty much everyone agreed that cheating in multi-player games was  despicable, interfering as it does with the enjoyment and achievements of others. There was no ethical issue however about using cheats in a single player game. The only person affected was yourself and while many might contend that cheating diminishes the pleasure of a game by removing challenge plenty of others felt that cheats or god modes gave them more control over their gaming experience. The point was that no one else was affected but the player who choose to use cheats. Today however a huge number of single player games especially in the mobile space use a free to play business model with in app purchases. Surprise, surprise, cheating has become a thing in such games and tools have become available for many popular titles that will allow you to progress without s