Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Impressive case mod turns Xbox into PC... and Mac?

This is an impressive video of an industrious modder with an old xbox case, $1500 worth of parts, and a lot of know how making himself a machine capable of booting both Windows 7 and Mac OSX.  A fascinating watch.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rapid Model Acquisition coming to a webcam near you!

Normally the process of translating a physical object into a three dimensional computerized format has one of two approaches:  slow, painstaking manual recreation by a human modeler and texture artist, or rapid acquisition using an incredibly expensive array of lasers and cameras.  Well, thanks to Cambridge Engineering student Qi Pan, there is now a simpler answer: your average webcam.  Check out the video below, or some further examples here.

This technology, with some refinement, could be revolutionary across any number of fields. Imagine the archaeologist able to map and piece together pottery or bone fragments on the fly in the field with nothing but his laptop. Imagine museum curators creating online repositories of their entire collection to be toured on the web. Imagine game developers using figures and sculptures to instantly create models for their games rather than wringing them from the ether manually.

This could be very, very big.

PSN Adding Subscription Service

It would appear that Sony is taking their Playstation Network in the same direction as Xbox Live in the years to come, adding a paid subscription service to the currently free system.  On the plus side it seems that the current level of service will remain free, so playing games online will still be available without charge, unlike the Xbox service.  Instead Sony will be adding 'premium content and services,' though there is no word yet on what exactly that means or how much it will cost.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Google Chrome OS shows its face

So the first public look at Google's Chrome OS happened this morning.  Is it everything that anyone could hope or dream?  As a grudgingly admitted Google fanboy, I'm a little surprised that my answer is:


Frankly, I'm not overly impressed.  Google's approach is a good one and addresses some real problems, and of course there are some very nice bells and whistles, but it just isn't anything I'd ever use in a day to day situation.

Google's basic idea is something along the lines of "What if the entire PC experience were based on the web?"  What this translates to in reality is "How much functionality can you squeeze into a web browser?"  Literally the entirety of the Google OS as it stands right now is a souped up version of their Chrome browser.  All applications are pure web apps (Gmail, Google Docs, etc) and each of them gets a tab.  Background processes like chat happen in popup windows like Google talk does in current Gmail. File interaction is either all stored online, or pulled off of USB media on the fly via another popup window.

This setup does offer advantages.  For example, since all of your data is on the web, the machine you use is irrelevant.  Log into a Chrome OS machine anywhere and you'll have all your stuff.  Because the browser is the only resident program, it also means the system boots up EXTREMELY quickly.  Also, because of the enclosed setup, security is much stronger.  Basically the system knows what programs are SUPPOSED to be allowed, and nothing else will run.

This, of course, is the rub.  If it doesn't run in your current browser, it wont run on a Chrome machine AT ALL.  That means no Photoshop, no full scale games, no stored media watching... nothing.  If you cant do it online, you cant do it.

Is this perfect for someone who only wants to check email and play bejeweled with their $400 netbook?  Possibly.  However, while the Chrome OS is open source and therefore free, it targets only specific hardware.  This means you cant just drop it on your existing machine.  You have to buy a new one with the software in place.  Since you're going to fork out the dough anyway, is there a point in choosing this system over one that offers a more robust experience, even in the netbook realm?  Debatable.

Google justifies all this by saying that they don't expect their OS to serve as a primary machine, but as a companion to a machine with a more traditional OS.  They want to fill the niche for simple online use in a more mobile device.  Wait, isn't that what increasingly ubiquitous smartphones are for?  I can easily do with my iPhone most of what the Chrome OS will do, with the exception of file access via USB.  Why would I need another entire computer just to occupy the same niche?

Frankly, I love the slick look and feel of the system and some of the features are wonderful.  If they added this functionality to the existing Chrome browser they'd have even more than the current 40 million users pounding their servers I'm quite sure.  Does it really have a place in the world as a standalone system though? I dunno.  We'll see.

Windows 7 install times

Just an FYI:  It takes about 5 times longer to upgrade from Vista to 7 than it does to install a fresh instance.  Also, heaven help you if you lose power midway through the process.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Braid comes to the PSN

Last years highly praised platformer Braid, originally available only on the Xbox 360, has finally reached the Playstation Network.  Its the same game, nothing new, for the same price.  Even so, by all accounts if you haven't yet had a chance to try this one out, you really should!  Check out the vid for a preview.

Holy Micro Flash Drive Batman!

Check this out folks:  This is a flash drive that holds 16 GB.  Thats roughly *23 CD's* worth of data.  On this little bitty slip of plastic.  Better yet, its only $40 on amazon for this whopper, and there are cheaper models with less capacity.  Christmas ideas anyone?

Wink 4B by Active Media Products Ltd.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

8 screens with one video card? **WANT.**

Matrox just announced the world's first video card capable of driving eight separate displays simultaneously.  With two of them in one tower, that gets you *SIXTEEN* screens.



Monday, November 9, 2009

Featured CyberCube Design

A little while back I mentioned some very cool magnets that are available for a solid price at The Cyber Cube.  Well, I went ahead and snagged some for myself, and they're a blast :-)  The folks over at the Cyber Cube's main site even featured one of my designs today, take a look.  Its a rocket!  Yes, really.  REALLY.  No, look, I KNOW, ok?  But seriously, it is.  Seriously.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Altering the Main Thread from a Worker Thread

For any of you code monkeys out there who need a way to update something in the main thread (GUI, etc) from a worker thread in a WPF application and cant seem to figure out how, there is a succinct and extremely helpful writeup available from a fellow blogger here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

First Impressions: inFamous

After playing through the first third of inFamous (in one sitting mind you, which says something in itself) these are my initial thoughts.

Honestly, I'm having a blast.  Playing inFamous hearkens back to my days with City of Heroes in that playing as Cole makes you feel really powerful.  Not like, say, World of Warcraft where your character is certainly strong and well able to make his way among the many threats in the world; Cole truly gives the impression of playing a god among mortals without crossing the line of being too easy.  When pulled off correctly this trick makes any game loads of fun.

This is partly managed through extreme freedom of movement, initially through Cole's 'extreme urban running' skills at climbing and jumping off anything and everything in a quick and intuitive manner and eventually augmented through superpowers.  The rest of the effect comes from the powers themselves which come in an inpressively wide variety and are easy and fun to use.

As a standard GTA style 'find a mission on the map, then do it' game, inFamous is susceptible to one of that genre's biggest problems: stale filler.  Most of these types of games use optional side quests to fill time between the main ones and to allow for some grinding, but usually offer only a slim variety of these missions that get old very quickly.  Thankfully, inFamous overcomes this problem with a remarkable range of side missions, though of course some repetition is still present.  My favorite 'love to hate' mission type is the 'building under surveilance' mission, in which Cole must clamber over all surfaces of a building disabling equipment that has been placed there.  It sounds like it should be easy, but in reality its quite time consuming and more than a bit annoying.  Most of the rest of the missions are a joy though, so its hard to complain.

Graphically speaking the game is on par with many current titles, though unfortunately that also means the standard 'everything is gray or brown' palette.  The animation is unfortunately very... for lack of a better word, 'fake.'  I realize that not every game can have the benefits of motion capture, but there are times when its certainly obvious that it would have helped.  It takes a little while to adjust to the animation's eccentricities, but its certainly not a huge problem.  Sound effects and music are solid.  Unfortunately I have had a single hard lock, but so far I'm willing to call that a fluke.

All in all, inFamous is definitely shaping up to be a great experience.  You'll get the full review when it's done!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen coming to... jumpdrive?

It would seem that the execs at Kingston and Paramount have put their heads together and are releasing a number of movies in digital format directly to flash memory in the form of jump drives and flash cards.  First up is Transformers:  Revenge of the Fallen.  Most interesting, says I.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Endless Racing Game

It may not actually be much fun to mess with in reality, but it makes for a pretty interesting YouTube video.  Check out the endless racing game, available on the app store: