Venturing hesitantly into unfamilar territory here. I don’t have children of my own and so normally I would take little notice of something like this, a controversial new product from Fisher-Price. It’s basically a iPad suspended over an infant’s bassinet or bouncer, the idea being that kids will be exposed from the earliest possible age to the interactivity of a tablet,. even if they are too young to manipulate it for themselves. Naturally it has caused enormous controversy, with experts and self-titled experts claiming that under 2 years is too young to be exposed to online interactivity, while just as many have claimed that the device is at worse harmless and at best a positive introduction to the interactive world the children will be spending their whole lives in. It has been pointed out the device times itself out after 10 minutes, so over-exposure is not a problem, and also that it is far more positive than depositing children in front of a TV. My own viewpoint, again emphasizing that I do not have children myself, is that with proper safeguards I see no reason why this can’t be a very positive introduction for children who are going to spending their whole lives immersed in technology anyway. Its an experience that people of my generation will never share, because we grew up before the general advent of IT into people’s everyday lives. I was 16 before I used a computer for the first time, and while I am comfortable with tech and in my own way quite skilful at using it, it will never be as intuitive to me as it to children growing up today. I am at least more fortunate than my parents, who are completely tech non-savvy and really quite terrified of it, despite my best efforts to introduce them to its beneficial aspects. Today’s children are really very fortunate, in my eyes, and I have no problems with something that will integrate them into this coming world of ours from the earliest possible age.
And just as I am lamenting the possible death of the gaming PC, I hear the first real details about Steam’s own attempt to combine the best features of PC & console gaming. I’ll wager I’m probably the last person in the Western world to hear about Steam Machine, but really I just play games, I dont pay much attention to new technology unless it’s thrust under my nose, in this case through a quesstion on Good Game: Pocket Edition the other night, So I’ve raced off to bone up on Steam Machine. With about 100 games already in my Steam catalogue, I’m tailor-made for this. Everything sounds good, the idea of a controller that mimics K & M, the Steam OS that can be downloaded to PC, I like all of it. of course Valve arent really in my good books at the moment because of the dangerously Duke Nukem Foreverish non-appearance of either Half-Life 3 or Half-Life 2: Episode 3 (I’ll take either, thanks), but if this comes off, and there are some big ifs involved, I’ll gladly forgive them (although still want HL3 or HL2:E3 someday).
I like the sound of this, but wait & see..
Watching Good Game last night clarified within me a debate that I’ve been having with myself for quite some time. It was the first reviews of PS4 & XBone, and, yes, I’m seriously considering buying one of them. However, the debate I’m referring to is not about purchasing one or other of them. It is, in essence, about my PC gaming future. I am a dedicated PC gamer. I have been playing games on PC for around 20 years, and have gone through a string of PC’s of steadily increasing power. My last 3 have been custom-specified gaming rigs. I love the power and spectacle, the fluidity, of PC gaming, which I just dont find in console games. Above all I love the mouse and keyboard. I have an elderly PS2, the only console I have ever owned, which I bought when there was a flood of FPS games coming out for it, while the flow of PC FPS seemed to have dried up. I have used it and enjoyed it, but I just do not have the same respect for the controller as I do for my M & K. Given my druthers, I would stick with PC and never change. But it doesnt take any particular prescience to see the PC is on the way out, washed away by a tidal wave of tablets. It will never disappear entirely, there will always be a market for basic PC set-ups in offices and business, while really dedicated PC gamers will keep alive a niche market for expensive, custom-built gaming rigs. But the in-between, run of the mill, home/office PC, on which about 90% of PC games are played, is on its last legs. And that means the disappearance, I forsee, of mass-produced PC games, since there simply wont be a market for them. So in future I see only downloadable indie games and console ports as being PC available. With this in mind, and my current gaming rig having about another year, maybe two, of useful life, I am seriously considering not replacing it, and by extension, fuflilling my gaming needs with a console. On face value, its a no-brainer. My preferred genre is FPS, and consoles are basically built around FPS and 3P shooters, there is a never-ending flood of suitable titles. In addition, on purely financial terms, a console is less than half the price of a custom-built gaming rig, albeit the games are more expensive. But there is a more deep-seated issue for me than the purely practical ones. Do I abandon a medium I have loved for decades and which has brought me enormous pleasure?
To buy or not buy, that is the question…(Sorry, Will.)
I’ve just downloaded App of the Day, a new app that promises you one paid app, for free, per day. It sounds like a good deal, probably too good to be true, but I’m giving it a try. It really depends on the quality of the apps being offered. Today’s first offering was The Ashes app, relating to the current Ashes Test cricket series between Australia and England. Apparently its a drinking game app, so you can imagine it involves consuming certain amounts of alcohol based on certain happenings in the game. Its exact nature will remain a mystery to me, because being a non-drinker (well, at least not drinking in the sort of amounts involved in drinking games), I opted not to download it. I suspect that most of the offerings will be $0.99 apps, so not a huge saving, and I’ve yet to see what the catch is, but I’ll continue to monitor the offerings, and if anything is worthwhile, I’ll post it on here.
My 50th post! A significant personal landmark, if I do say so myself,
I’ve begun playing Crysis 3 for the second time. I have a definite feeling that you learn much more about a game after a second playthrough. So far, I’m enjoying Crysis the Third slightly more than I did on the first go around. I wasnt a fan of the first Crysis, the game lagged badly in its second half and it was bugged to a ridiculous extent. However the two sequels have been excellent, maybe Crysis 3 just shades its predecessor, with somewhat more varied environments and the addition of a killer (silent) bow. The difficulty level has also been ramped up, enemies seem to spot you much easier, even if cloaked. More challenge, which increases the satisfaction without necessarily raising the frustration. That comes from the game’s major bugbear, which it carried over from Crysis 2, namely the checkpoints being too far apart. Its quite ridiculous to play through a solid 10-15 minutes of stealth and action, cover a fair bit of territory having disposed of multiple enemies, accidentally hit the wrong button at the wrong time and get killed, and find yourself right back at the start again. Now that’s frustration. Its still a damn good game, although there are signs that after 3 games, the franchise is wearing a bit thin, and may need to consider going in a different direction if its to continue being a worthwhile exercise.
I’ve just started playing The Stanley Parable, a new game which is really hard to pigeonhole as one genre or another. It’s in the vague mould of recent games like Gone Home or Outlast, but has almost zero interaction with the environment in addition to no combat. Basically you move, and thats all you can do. The game is based arouind choices. Basically the narrator, who orchestrates the entire game in between insulting your character, Stanley, tells you which direction you should take, and if you decide to take another, will instantly pillory you for the choice and, seemingly out of spite, will ensure you end up in some horrible situation, going around in circles, or just plain going mad, until the game finally reboots and despoits you back at the last savepoint. I havent played far enough yet to get beyond the first couplr of choices, but so far taking the “wrong” choice has simply ended me up restarting from save, which isnt really an encouragement to buck the system. Will have to wait and see how subsequent choices pans out.
I’ve just been having a look at Wix, a site that promises trouble-free, easy website creation. They claim over 40 000 000 users and growing. Their site is certainly colourful, minimalist and easy to navigate, and they have a brief, equally colourful introductory video to get users started. They also promise full support, which is something out of the box for a free website That’s as far as I’ve got pro tem, the test will be to see how their claims stack up by creating my own website.
Monitor my progress…
Am I the only one that gets irritated occassionally by the IPad gyroscope? The damn thing always seems to choose when I’m deeply immersed in something to suddenly swing its orientation, and my attempts to get it back usually result in it swinging wildly in all compass directions. There seems to no rhyme or reason in its swings – it will remain placid when I’m lying on my back looking up, yet will swing wildly if I’m sitting dividing my attention between it and the TV. Is there anyway to make it less sensitive? I’m open to suggestions.
I have just received my first book in the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. This is where LibraryThing members can sign up to request gratis copies of new books to read, and hopefully post a review on LibraryThing. The book I signed up for was the Bluffer’s Guide to Opera, by Keith Hann, which is a great book for me, as although I love opera, I have only been attending for a couple of years and so still know next to nothing about it. It’s only a small book, so shouldnt take long to read. Librarything informs its members that only North American reviewers get print copies, everyone else would get e-copies, so I got a surprise on Friday when the book arrived in the mail as a hard copy, with a pleasant note from someone at the publishing house accompanying it. I shall indeed be writing a review for LibraryThing, and likely posting the review here as well.
We have just had training in Springshare, which is the platform we will be using to create new library guides. The libguide software is one of several specialist apps which it provides for libraries, including chat, staffing scheduling and calendar platforms. I was quite impressed with Springshare’s libguide software, not only is it easy to use, intuitive, simple and colourful, the company does an excellent job of providing online training and support, with a number of video presentations detailing all aspects of putting together libguides. Examples of libguides from other libraries showed us that the Springshare guides really are good, easy to use, colourful and able to convey access to information for users concisely and in an interesting manner. I’m starting work on a couple of new libguides using this software, so hopefully I will get results just as good.
As you/ve probably noticed, Gmail has recently split itself, like an amoeba, although into 3 parts rather than 2. There are now Primary, Social and Promotion sections, and Gmail has taken up on itself to decide what of your incoming mail goes into which category. I’m really not privy as to the logic that ordains what goes into what category, but so far, I’m happy with the Primary, which is obviously the most important, for me anyway, others may feel the Social category is more special. Social also seems to work well for me, but Promotional is just bizarre. Apart from obviously becoming a receptacle for spam that gets through the filter, it is also catching my newsfeeds, websites that I have registered with, and a grab-bag of assorted mails that dont fit obviously into any category. Why then is this called “Promotional”? I really cant see the logic. I think I shall refer to it myself, from now on, as “Odds & Sods”, which seems far more appropriate to its purpose.
OK, I have benefited greatly from digital distribution over the past few years, and I buy most of my games by preference through Steam. However, that doesnt preclude me form occassionally longing for the old days, when you bought a game on disc, whacked it in, let it run, and hey presto, you would be playing within a few minutes. One such time was last night, when, stuck in a motel room with only free-to-air TV (Ouch!!), I decided to relieve the boredom by playing a few games on my trusty notebook. Did I get to play any games? No, because not one but 2 DD services let me down. First Steam decided it was not going to play ball. Persistent attempts to log-in just led to the old reliable standby message “You do not appear to be connected to the Internet”, which from past experience I believe is Steam’s way of letting you know it has no particular reason for locking you out but is determined to do so anyway. After about 45 minutes of this, I gave up and moved on GOG, which has a good library of old reliable games, (comfort games, as I call them), and which has seldom let me down in the past. Not tonight. GOG’s downloader decided it wasnt going to accept my login, even though I had just moments before used it successfully to login to GOG itself. Another 45 minutes of trying, until in a fit of truly monumental petulance it finally decided to freeze up altogether. So, all up 90 minutes of wasted time, and no games. Thanks to DD I was left with nothing to do but watch the ghastly free to air TV. And as I said, this is one time I really did lament the demise of the humble gamedisc. DD has undoubtedly conferred enormous benefits on us, including the ability to rapidly downloading any game, anytime, anywhere, the ability to download DLC, community gaming, forums and many more, But the downside is, when DD decides its not going to come to the party, you’re pretty much stuck without access to your games or anything else for that matter. Yes, I know if the games are already downloaded you can play offline (but Steam wouldnt even let me have that last night), although without access to the cloud your saves are likely to be in jeopardy, something that always leaves me in a cold sweat. But that didnt help me, since my notebook, used for business reasons only up until now, was gameless. Which is why when I get home I’m going to dig out the old reliables I still have on disc and stick a few of them in my notebook bag, remembering the Boy Scout motto “Be prepared.”
Just started re-playing Bulletstorm, having finally been able to gain access again through the impending death of Games for Windows Live. The dramas that GFWL have caused for me with this game are beyond belief. I’ve been locked out more often than I’ve been able to play. I’ve had minor GFWL log-in troubles with other games, notably Bioshock 2, but nothing along the lines of the problems I’ve had with Bulletstorm. Initially it kept me locked out for days because GFWL would not recognise my CD key, and kept sending me in circles (for about 3 days). Eventually , by a tortuous circuitous route I cant even remember, I got in and was able to play the agme to its conclusion. Next problem was when I decided to download a clean copy from Steam for my laptop. No problem there except my laptop couldnt quite handle the game, so I decided to download it to my desktop. Big problem. GFWL decided it didnt want to recognise my game key, even though Steam confirmed it was corrrect. GFWL wouldnt have a bar of that, so I gave it away, until last week, when I decided to have another try. Lo & behold, although GFWL stil doesn’t want to know my key, I was able to get in, just by cancelling out of GFWL. Since this route definitely wasnt available during GFWL’s reign of terror, when with all the zeal of a Stalin-era Soviet border guard it clamped down on accessing games without going through the tiresome GFWL log-in process and being forced to go online even though you only wanted to play alone. I can only presume that with the impending demise of GFWL next June that border security has been relaxed and the hordes can play freely. Of course, the impending demise of GFWL will cause its own problems and its quite possible that some of these games will no longer be playable after June next year, but until then, I’ll keep playing and just see what transpires.
I’ve just heard that a local council has come up with an app that allows residents to report issues and problems to council workers, including noisy dogs, fallen trees, missed rubbish collection and leaking pipes. The app, which is available from both Apple and Google, sends the request to a queue where council workers can deal with the problem as they get to it. The council in question is the Moreton Bay Regional Council, just north of me, but I expect it wont be long before other local government bodies adopt similar technology. One doesnt often associate local government with innovations like this, but full marks to the MBRC for a great idea.
I have just downloaded the free app from the State Library of Victoria promoting their exhibition of Ned Kelly memorabilia. Its very encouraging to see cultural organisations like museums, art galleries and libraries starting make use of this sort of technology to promote their wares. The SLV appp includes the full story of Kelly’s life and career in chronological order with original pictures and engravings, and a few extras including a video reconstruction of Kelly’s iconic armour, fact sheets, exhibition info, search functions, and detail about the SLV itself and its collections. All in all, its an excellent intro to the exhibition and the Library itself. I am a great devotee of free apps, a minimal effort in downloading them is usually highly rewarding. And there are plenty of them out there.
Compared to Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, this little gem positively sparkles. Havent quite finished it yet, so a final verdict waits, but its one of the most refreshing games I’ve played in a long time. Nowhere near as scary as it’s been made out to be, but its power lies not in chills, but in a whole new dynamic in survival horror. Not running and hiding, but outwitting. You have no weapons, no way to fight back, your enemies are nearly as fast as you, but you have the advantage of brains and agility. Wait in the darkness, watch your enemies, plot their movements and then go where they’re arent. Crouch in a dark corner while your enemy walks past oblivious then track them at a safe distance. Being pursued, duck into a narrow crack or crouch into a low pipe where they cant fit, then taunt your enemies while they glower impotently at you. Its quite intoxicating to outwit such powerful enemies from a position of absolute weakness and is such a refreshing change from running frantically or trying to hide in cupboards (which is offered in the game, but you’ll soon learn its a clever tease from the makers. Take the easy option and do it, an you’ll end up dead more often then not.) I would venture to say this game has turned survival horror on its head, and all from the most cliched and over-used setting in the genre’s history – the good old insane asylum full of psychotic freaks.
So far tracking to a 9 – great stuff.
I’ve been playing this on and off for a while now, and frankly its been a major disappointment so far. Amnesia: The Dark Descent was such a breath of fresh air when it came out a few years ago, a genuinely original game that appeared out of nowhere and scared the whilikers out of a slew of impressed gamers. Sadly, there’s nothing original or fresh about A:AMFP. So far its a by the numbers survival horror game that looks like it was made a decade ago. The muddy graphics, the lack of interaction with just about everything in the environment, the generic scary old house, creepy church and cardboard cut-out steampunk machinery, the whole blah feeling of the game, all combine to make this a major disappointment after so much was expected. So far halfway through, but there been next to no action, just a whole lot of very uninspiring puzzle solving. The much-vaunted pigmen have yet to make an appearance, however, they’ll have to be very, very scary to salvage this game.
So far tracking for a 5, the pigmen will have to work very hard to push this to a possible 6.
Last night I took a long-overdue step into the real world by downloading (and reading), my first ever Kindle book. No, I still don’t have a Kindle reader, I downloaded it to my iPad Kindle app. This worked really well, the app is easy to use, downloading of my book was painless and very well integrated with the online Amazon store. I also found that the iPad was easy to read, having heard that some people find the shiny screen causes eye strain, but I made a point of reading the book in a low light situation, which worked very well. With no glare off the screen, the print stood out well, with just the right amount of backlight, and reading was actually considerably easier than with a print book. So for the moment I will hold off getting a an e-book reader, as I have so far, and continue with the iPad. I just remain unconvinced about e-book readers, until there’s a universal reader (if such an animal ever arrives), that will access all e-book catalogues and libraries everywhere. For the record, the book I downloaded, a shorty at 65 pages and the bargain price of just $2.95, was excellent. It’s called Pioneer Detectives, by Konstantin Kakaes, and tells how the amazing Pioneer 10 & 11 spacecraft, launched in 1972 and still travelling outward bound in the depths of interstellar space, almost caused the Newtonian and Einsteinian theories of gravity to be overthrown. I won’t reveal anymore because its a fascinating scientific detective story well worth reading, highly recommended to anyone who loves reading about space travel or science & technology in general.
Still playing (56% of the way through, according to the little spiel that comes up on loading). I did take some time off to start Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (but that’s another story). Its been a mostly enjoyable romp so far, a few frustrations, but nothing I would term a fault in the game. Certainly its challenging, but to my surprise I have found the combat more frustrating then the climbing & leaping. No matter what anyone tells me to the contrary, the 3rd person mechanic is inferior to FPS when it comes to shooting. What is an instinctive process in 1P, becomes awkward and non-intuitive in 3P. Particularly in a game like this, which features mass attacks by enemies from all angles. Maybe they could consider an automatic switch to 1P when a weapon is raised? Just a thought. Not going to beef about 3P in general, its a good fit for this game and in addition allows pervs to leer constantly at Lara’s trim form as she runs away from you. Juvenile, I know, but hasn’t that always been a key part of Lara’s appeal?
Trending towards an 8/8.5 so far. Stay tuned…
Just discovered a site I hadn’t previously heard of – BookRiot. It appears to be the accompaniment to a podcast of the same name, and is another social networking book reading site, but not in the same class as GoodReads or LibraryThing. I have a suspicion, based on the accompanying ads for books and the apparent ages of the staff (clearly no-one over 30), that this site is aimed at teenagers and twenty-somethings, but its not made explicit, just implied. What drew my attention was a review of GR and LT and their respective merits in a number of categories, which was fascinating and really well done. I shall keep an eye on the site, have a listen to the podcasts and see what eventuates.
I’ve just downloaded HabitRPG, a rather novel app that allows you to treat your life like a Role-Playing Game. The slogan is “Gamify your Life”, a phrase which I rather like (can I get a bumper sticker that says that?) and will be seeking every opportuinity to drop into conversation. You set goals, as you achieve them you level up just like in an RPG, lose HP as you fail, and earn money to buy weapons & armour (Oh Yeah!!!). As I’m a compulsive gamer and RPG is my 2nd favourite genre after FPS, of course I have to give it a go. As usual I will report on my progress.
One of the most popular games currently available on IOS. Its an unashamed grab for your hard-earned, and if you’re not careful you can spend hundreds on it, buying your way out of sticky situations. But its an enthralling, addictive experience. The bright colours, movement, and soothing sounds all create a hypnotic effect and you spend literally hours entranced by it. Since I got an iPadI I have currently spent about 30 hours on it, and I’m into the low 110s as far as levels go. Kudos to a well-designed, thoroughly addictive waste of our collective time
I have recently loaded the meetup app onto my iPad, having had it on my iPhone for some time. IMHO, this one of the best designed special purpose apps I have come across. For the record, Meetup is a social website that allows people to form social groups based on desired criteria ie social groups by age, foodies, wine or coffee-lovers, travel, dating, various sporting or recreational activities to name just a few. The idea is to form a group and have a readymade platform up on the web to advertise it in the hopes of attracting like-minded people to join. The Meetup app allows the user after joining a particular group to register their attendance for events on the go, to see who else is attending a particular event, to send a message to the the organiser of the event and others who might be attending. So far I have not found a fault with it, it is simple to use, does what it is intended to very efficiently and has an attractive layout. And its completely free. What else can you ask for in an app.?
23 Things is finished, but as I said, I intend to keep the blog going. Having devoted some thought to the type of content I will publish, and have decided to keep the blog as much as possible in the vein of 23 Things, namely commenting on new tech and new apps as I discover and use them. As a dedicated gamer, I will also add comment on gaming, including new games as I play them, not reviews as such, as I already contribute those to other sites, but just commenting on the gaming experience, the good, the bad and the ugly. First to come, in the next few days, will be the game I have most recently completed, Gone Home.
The journey has concluded. Its has certainly been a worthwhile experience. I have discovered a number of interesting and in varying degrees useful apps and tools. the two standouts, for very different reasons, were Google Drive and LibraryThing. There’s nothing particularly exciting about Google Drive. It is simply an immensely useful and ridiculously simple device that makes my work life, and to a lesser extent my home life a lot easier. The ability to transfer documents, photos, etc between multiple devices at the flick of a finger, marvellous, a real boon. LibraryThing, on the other hand is powerfully useless in any practical sense of the word. It wont make life easier in any respect, in fact it will probably make it more difficult as you frantically dig out all your cupboards looking for long lost books that you can add, and give you massive headaches as you plumb your memory for equally long lost books that you no longer possess. Its a tool for obsessive book lovers to become even more obsessive, completely useless but utterly essential. I’ll also give a honourable mention to Prezi, for delightfully simple design, being fun to use and useful to boot.
I cant say there were any disappointments, because to be disappointed implies having a preconception that something will be good, and I had no preconceptions coming into this. The newsfeeds were perhaps something of a letdown, for they were something that with my insatiable appetite for net news could have been a boon. I didnt find any that will change my habits of roaming far and wide for news, although Digg gets points for its ease of use.
As I said, its been a great journey. The self-directed learning has been a great idea, and I have learned much.Dividing it up into taks to be complted at leisure has also been great. Having an actual blog will be a lasting legacy, because I intend to maintain it, in some form or another, as I dont want to waste what has been a considerable effort in time and labor, although well worth it.
Many thanks to Jake Tilse for co-ordinating the project and his helpful advice.
Goodbye to 23 Things, but stay tuned for further developments…
I already have a Facebook account, have had for a couple of years as a matter of fact, but after starting and using briefly it, I ignored it for a long time, and only recently returned to it. I found it valuable, even in the brief time I used it, because it reunited me with several friends I’d lost contact with, which delighted me no end. Howver I found the trivial nature of most of the content was a turn-off, not so much the content of other’s people’s pages, which was obviously important to them and therefore worth putting up, but because I couldnt find much in my life I would consider worthy of putting up. (If you think this is a roundabout way of telling you I lead a pretty boring life, you’re probably right). But now I’m back on Facebook, and I intend to stay around this time, not so much for putting my own stuff up, but for reading other people’s content. Not to be a voyeur, but because, like Twitter, I’ve found it to be a great way of seeing what people think on things and issues of importance, and that’s important to me, if I want to think of myself as a responsible inhabitatant of Planet Earth, and stay informed with what’s happening in the world. As I’ve said, I’m a hopeless news junkie, and I find news is meaningless personally unless I know what others are thinking about the issues that are reported.
Top marks to Facebook for reuniting friends and for being the modern equivalent of the parish pump.
Till next time…
My library has now reached the astonishing number of 523 books, astonishing because I don’t currently have nearly that number of books in my immediate possession. What I have been doing is dredging up books I have read in the past, some from childhood, mainly because seeing the cover of a book I remember fondly from as long as 40 years ago suddenly appear in my library list is extraordinarily pleasurable. I’m a very visual person, so the appearance of a book brings back as many memories as acually reading it does, which is one of the reasons I’ve become so fanatical about hunting down the exact edition & cover, its become an obsession. I have now uploaded more than 20 covers to LibraryThing. Having now finally recognised that obsession, and also that LibraryThing has added something new and good to my life, pleasure in books not just being currently read, but in books read long ago, here is my final rating for LibraryThing
I took a risk on the weeked and purchased Tomb Raider. It was a risk because I usually play FPS games, and although I’m no stranger to 3rd person games, having played all 3 Deep Space games and enjoyed them, albeit with a fair level of frustration because I believe they would have been even better as FPS, it was sufficiently expensive that if I didnt enjoy it. it was s substantial loss. However, so far i’ve been pleasantly surprised. The 3rd person mechanic works well, although some things could be better (why, oh why, when you press S, does she turn around and walk back instead of just moving backwards?). Its a remarkably forgiving game, I feared the jumps, climbs and other maneuvers could be quite difficult, but so far they have been good, challenging, but not frustrating. Lara herself is a more appealing character than the impossibly large-breasted, impossibly talented, impossibly cool version in the earlier games I played as a kid. She is appealing, vulnerable, occassionally clumsy and her bust size is actually realistic. So far so good, and I will submit a complete review when I complete.
Actually I have been subscribed to Twitter for some time, although I’ve never sent a tweet, and barring some amazing universal conjunction of circumstances, I never shall. I subscribe because its useful, and often very amusing to see what’s trending week by week. I am a hardcore consumer of news, I check a variety of online news sites every day, including comments on the news, because I always like to know what the public zeitgeist is on key issues and events, and because, again, its often amusing. For the same reason, I monitor Twitter trends, and at the moment as you’d expect with a Federal election less than a week away, politics is overwhelmingly the topic-du-jour. My verdict on Twitter is although I have no personal use for it myself either sending or receiving, it is a useful tool for monitoring the public pulse, and a frequent source of amusement, so I figure the world is better off with than without.
Till next time.
I have at least 50 apps on my iPhone and about half that on my iPad. Many have proved to be very useful and I make use of them frequently, others were useful once or twice, or for a limited time, but are now just taking up space, some I downloaded in an excess of enthusiasm, but have never once used. Sports and social apps make up the bulk of the apps I use frequently. I have several different apps to keep me updated on sport scores (that’s essential). As far as social apps go, my Meet-up app (incidentally one of the best-designed and most reliable I have encountered) ensures I always have somewhere to go Saturday night, and I recently downloaded the Facebook app ( but find it clumsy and limiting, much easier to simply refer to Facebook on the Safari browser.) I also have a number of games, which are amusing and diverting if there are 10 minutes or so to kill. The app store itself works well – I have never had any problem locating an app I was looking for and downloading is usually fast and hassle-free. One problem I have run into is getting rid of apps you no longer want. I have several apps which were useful at one time or another, but are now defunct and I would like to expel, but have not found a way of doing it. A good example is the app for the 2012 London Olympics (actually I have 2, one for the Olympics as a whole and one specifically for Australian competitors). extremely useful at the time, now just a waste of space. How do I get rid of them? All suggestions gratefully accepted…
To sum up on apps, they are fantastically useful, usually reliable, fun, and best of all, are 99% of the time completely free. Minor bugbears don’t detract from the fact that I would find it difficult to live without them now.
Mobile apps 9.5/10
Til next time…
Ok, a word of apology for LibraryThing. I still dont forgive them for their grab for cash at the 200 book mark, but I will amend my initial comments that i couldnt really see a use for it. Now approaching the 350 book mark, I will fully concede this is one of the most addictive sites I’ve ever comes across. I have become quietly obsessed with it. Scouring the depths of my library (and my memory) for half-forgotten books I can add, finicking over getting exactly the right publication details, uploading my own pictures of the right cover when the site does not have exactly the right shade of pink on its cover images, reviewing books frantically ( now more than 50 reviews and counting), I now concede that while Librarything may not be useful, it is in fact essential.
Mea culpa, please forgive me, LibraryThing.
Amended rating: 7.5/10
PS: LibraryThing has now awarded me a badge for uploading cover images for others to use. Glad that being pedantic pays off. Good stuff.
I guess I’ve never thought much about WiFi security, probably because I havent been using it very long. I only acquired WiFi for my notebook last year and have only just gained access to an iPad. When I first turned on the WiFi for my notebook, straight away I noticed that an unknown network cropped up and asked if I wanted to join. I soon worked out it was my neighbour’s WiFi and that if I had wanted I could have hitched onto his for a free ride. I didnt because I’m basically boringly honest, and I really couldnt see the point anyway because the signal strength was very weak. I guess it was an early notice about how insecure WiFi really is. I am certainly aware of these risks and to the best of my ability I try to minimise them. I only use my WiFi devices in trusted environments, at home, at work, or at friends’ houses if I ask them for permission to access theirs. Probably this is really no safer and I am being naive, but after reading about available safety devices, I’m no wiser. I was told WPA2 was safe, now its appear it isnt. I’ll freely admit I’m clueless in this area. All advice will be gratefully accepted.
Till next time…
Technorati has just informed me that I have the 23450th most popular blog on their hit parade. Considering Technorati lists more than 1.3 million blogs, I’m quite impressed. For stroking my ego so proficiently I will add another half a point to their rating.
At last! A task where I’m already well ahead of the game. I’ve have been a dedicated consumer of podcasts for years, I have subscribed to many, including those on topics including gaming, pop culture, literature, science, sexuality and the paranormal. I find it simply a tremendous way to fill in dead time, ie travelling on public transport, waiting in the dentist’s surgery etc, with informative, funny and engaging entertainment. Some I have subscribed to have been awesome, some ordinary, most have a surprisngly short life – I have outlasted at least a half dozen whom I have subscribed to early in their existence and which have ceased for various reasons. With a few exceptions they appear to be fairly ephemeral, which can be disappointing if you get attached to particular one and are suddenly deprived of your weekly fix. For the purposes of this task, I decided to try something different and download to iPad rather than iPod. It turned out to be somewhat different and perhaps not as intuitive. I quickly found that iTunes on the iPad will not instantly deliver sounds to your ears, you need to download the Podcast app as well. Fortunately this proved quite painless, and withing minutes of subscribing to my chosen podcast, it was ringing out of the iPad.
I am a great believer in the use of podcasts for education, because they fit very well with the information needs of current students, and also with their wired lifestyle, Listening to educational information out of iPods, iPads and iPhones as they multi-task, its a no-brainer. I have been very impressed with library guides for other universities that incorprate podcasts. I am endeavouring to add podcasts as part of the content of the new library guides here. To the same end, I have also been looking at creating podcasts of my own, for information skills etc. That’s certainly in the pipeline – stay tuned for further developments.
Podcasts – terriffic – 10/10
Unfortunately LibraryThing has lost a couple of points from its original rating for springing a completely unheralded demand for payment after adding the 200th book to my library. I’m not opposed in principle to paying the money, but very annoyed that this was not mentioned ANYWHERE prior to reaching the 200th addition.
The verdict: Grab for cash OK, sneakiness not OK
Amended rating: 6/10
Well, Technorati came through, it took a while, but they finally authorized my blog, so now I guess I’m a fully-fledged member of the Blogosphere.
Well done, Technorati
I do like YouTube, although I dont use it for anything more for casual searches for amusement, or for specifically searching for a video I’ve heard about. I have never uploaded anything, although I did contemplate creating and uploading a video resume, which I may still do in the future. I think YouTube has a lot of practical possibilities for things like thi, but it needs to shed its image as a vehicle for people to make fools of themselves for a world-wide audience.
Anyway, the task calls me to embed a video in the blog so I’ve chosen something both relevant to the blog and very, very funny.
My initial impressions of Technorati were quite favourable. Its a well-organised tidy site, with lots of interesting stuff to look at on the home page and it leads you straight away to where you want to go. I set up an account without much trouble, and then went to validate my blog. It was painless to start with, my URL was verified and the blog appeared on my account page. But then I got this message saying it couldnt verify my feed, and then the trouble started. The message claimed I should look for the RSS icon on my page and submit whatever URL was listed as the feed. The only URL there was the BBC news website, not a feed. I put this in and back came Technorati telling me it was an invalid feed. Might have have solved the problem. done some playing around and now have a RSS Links widget on my page. See what happens now…
I really struggled to find a worthwhile purpose for this application. The initial description of it as a bookmark site elicited from me a large “Why?” We already have Bookmarks (or Favourites as the case may be) on our browsers. Looking for a bit of clarification, I went to the site, and signed up, painless enough, however, when I went in, I found the site did very little to explain itself and why it it was useful. After fooling around blindly for a a few minutes, looking for sites to link on the Discover page, I gave up and just input a few sites of my own, which I was able to link with a minimum of fuss. But after that, I was seized with a renewed sense of ennui, and again that question “Why?” The best way I could describe Delicious is as a cross between Facebook/LinkedIn and an RSS feeder, and to put it bluntly, quite unneccessary. And certainly Delicious did little to justify its own existence with its lethargic and amorphous layout. In the final analysis I really couldnt find a worthwhile purpose for this site’s existence.
Making a direct comparison with Slideshare, the initial impression was much more favourable. Whereas the Slideshare site looked immediately daunting and complicated, suggesting (not necessarily correctly), a lot of work, Prezi’s simple and colourful home page was instantly inviting, and Prezi itself turned to be just as fun and colourful to use. This really seems to be a site aimed at children, newbies or technophobes. the fonts are all large and bright, the pages are minimalist in design, emphasizing flair and creativity, and everything is explained in very simple terms. Signing up is very straightforward, there is a 90 second video which tells you what you need to know, then you’re away. And it makes designing a simple presentation child’s play. literally. You’re given a number of bright, simple templates to use, which you then systematically work through to create a very easy 6 page slide presentation, literally the work of 5 minutes. This would be very useful, I think, if you needed to create a presentation very quickly or on the go. However, i could see problems if you wanted something more sophisticated, but I would argue that in that case, Prezi probably isn’t what you should use. It is obviously designed for quick, painfree, basic but good-looking presentations, and it does that very well.
Prezi – 8/10
See you next time.
Actually Slideshare turned out be not nearly as daunting as I thought. A rather overcrowded and fussy open page gives that impression, but its actually the work of a couple of minutes to creat an account and start uploading presentations. lacking any presentations I wanted to upload, I simply uploaded a Word file of a handout I had prepared for a class, and it went through without any trouble. With a bit of effort, it would be easy to turn such a document into a presentation. Pix and tables would seem not to present any greater issue. As of yet, I really dont have a pressing use for Slideshare, but its certainly a worthwhile application and well worth considering.
See you next time…
Well, it took me a while to get my head around Pixlr, but better late then never, as they say. A fun app, one of those fun apps that apps that really of much practical use, but just make life a bit brighter.
Here is the product of aproximately 5 minutes of playing around. Its not one of me (which is lucky for you), but one which seemed to sum my feelings toward the task and working at Gatton. Also, I like cows. Continue reading
At last! Something that I’ve actually used before! While I haven’t made really extensive use of Skype, it has come in useful when I’ve needed it. I first used it for doing job interviews in far-flung corners of the country, While not perfect it is a lot simpler and a lot cheaper then a plane ticket. On the other hand, unlike simple phone interviews, it does mean you still have to dress up, rather than being able to do your interview in your casual clothes, your pyjamas, or your birthday suit if you’re that way inclined. I was surprised at how easy it was to set up and get it to work well. There were some teething problems the first time I used it, but overall its a very simple and straight-forward piece of technology, almost idiot-proof. requiring only a laptop and a basic webcam to shred hundreds or thousands of kilometres of distance.. Since becoming employed and working at a distant campus I have used it for conferences and meetings and it has always worked well.There are many tools out there that promise much and deliver little, or are just basically unnecessary, but Skype really is a tool that by rendering the tyranny of distance inert, makes tremendous savings in time, cost and energy possible.
See you next time
Undoubtedly a worthwhile site, a comprehensive collection of public domain books recorded by volunteers for free download. A great and noble ideal, unfortunately it was a bit of a let-down. I am an intensive user of podcasts, and unfortunately I’m used to going to iTunes and finding pretty much everything I want at the flick of a mouse (albeit at a cost). Despite extensive searching, not one of the books I entered was present, and I tried at least 20 titles, all old enough I thought to be public domain. In fact I could not find books which I know are in the public domain, such as many of those by Orwell. Browsing did no better. I found nothing in the catalog that grabbed me, most seemed to be very obscure titles. In fact I gained the sneaking suspicion that the site had been hi-jacked by intellectual snobs with a disdain for “popular literature.” Once again the problem of not knowing what’s in the public domain and what’s not reared its head. I really did not know what to search for. I eventually did find an item, a report on UFOs that seemed mildly interesting, and downloading turned out be pain-free. However, finding one interesting item in half an hour of searching doesnt really seem to be a worthwhile expenditure of time. A great idea, yes, but unless I was specifically looking for, say, a French novel from the 1700s, I cant see much use for it personally. However, if I was an academic or student searching for titles such as that, this site would be a boon. So I’ll give it:
10/10 for worthiness
5/10 for everyday practicality.
See you next time.
I find Google Books a very useful tool for checking bib data on books, for purchase. Its fairly comprehensive, covers most if not all editions, and gives you that sneak preview inside the book that tells you whether its really what you want. As a library tool, its great. As a personal one, much less so. I went in, found a few classic novels that I read at school and still cherish (1984, Brave New world, Great Gatsby), and added them to my library. However, here I ran into problems. You would probably really only want to find books that are in the public domain and therefore you can download freely. However, there is no easy way to find which books are in the public domain. I got lucky with 1984, the very first edition that came up I downloaded, but the with the others I struggled to find free editions. There’s no obvious way of searching explicitly for public domain items.. After a while I gave up. it was simply too much effort. I really cant see much reason to bother with it as a personal tool.
See you next time
Google Books (for libraries) 8/10
Google Books (for personal use) 5/10
I’ve been aware of LibraryThing for some time, but havent bothered to check into it, probably because I have so many books (and keep adding constantly) that cataloguing them would be an (enormous) waste of time. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this task, I duly logged in and created an account to add some of my more recent purchases (because I can remember their titles and authors). The process of joining painless and speedy and the site is well-laid out. Adding books is very simple, the only problem being that if you’re a purist like me, you have to locate and add the exact edition, which can be time-consuming. I had to give up on one title, which has been published in conservatively at least a million editions, sometimes up to 6 (???) editions in one year (if anyone can tell my why over-kill like that is necessary, please do so). However, as this is hardly LibraryThings’ fault, I wont count it as a blemish. I even added my 2 cents worth to some of the topics on the forum, which contained some very interesting, thought-provoking, and above all, polite comments.
In summing up, although I still cant see a real use for LibraryThings for me personally, it is a great idea, it’s well put-together and it’s quite fun to use. It probably wont be featuring on my must-have tools anytime soon, but I’ll happily recommend it to anyone who might have a real use for it.
LibraryThing – 8/10
I must say I was quite impressed with Netvibes, I logged in, quickly sized up what had to be done, decided on “gaming” as the topic of my dashboard, clicked a few buttons, and hey presto, with a minimum of fuss had a personalised dashboard with several good gaming feeds right there in front of me, well laid out and quite visually appealing. I went a bit further, clicked on widgets, chose gaming and did a search for other gaming feeds, and again with no pain I added feeds for Gamespot and the Comment section for PC Powerplay magazine. This all took a shade under 10 minutes, half of which was me deciding what I wanted to do exactly. My dashboard has now been added to my bookmarks and I’m pretty sure I’ll be making use of it, and Netvibes, in future.
Netvibes – 9/10. Good show.
Now, PInterest. A problem – I dont have Twitter and I havent accessed my Facebook account for ages. Stay tuned…
I have only had limited experience with RSS, but as I’m an inveterate & insatiable consumer of online news, I embraced this task eagerly. The news that Google Reader is dead left me cold (how you mourn something you’ve never used?), although I found the copious tears being shed over its demise somewhat touching. So I pitched in to check out the althernatives suggested.
The first one I tried was Feedly. My verdict – Dreadful. Logging in was easy enough, but the very bland and unhelpful home page then left me scratching as to where I went from there. There were few options available, when I clicked on the Explore button, it led me to a list of categories, easy enough. I clicked on one – Gaming – took me to a list of gaming sites – great, I clicked on one, and it painlessly added it to my feed. So far so good, but when I tried to get back to the list of categories, Feedly left me high & dry. Try as I might I could find no way to get back to that initial list of categories. All it would show me was that list of gaming sites. I desperately scanned that useless home page, but none of the painfully few options available led anywhere. In fact most led me up completely useless trails, such as trying to get me to sign up again. It took about 10 minutes before completely by accident I clicked on the search box above the Gaming list and hey presto, I was back at the categories again. The I tried to find some of my own favourites sites by title and URL. Sorry, unless you’re looking for American sites, forget it. It couldnt find the Courier Mail, Foxsports.com.au wasnt in its universe, in fact I couldnt find any Australian sites whatsoever. At that point I cut my losses and bailed. Feedly has lost me forever.
I then skipped over a few of the alternatives that actually wanted money from me (not in this lifetime!) and settled on Digg. Aah, much better! Not only a much simpler, more helpful interface, but wonderful stuff, all my Australian favourite sites came up as soon as I searched for them. And adding them was a dream. One click and those feeds were there, waiting to be read. Brilliant! I’m now signed up to about a dozen worthy feeds, that I will be accessing regularly. Digg, you’ve won a friend for life.
Feedly – 2/10
Digg – 8/10
I havent had any experience with either of these applications before, but then again since I usually take photos and they sit there on my camera or phone until Doomsday, I havent really had need. So I approached using Flickr with some trepidation, sure it would be some impossibly techy set-up that only a professional would understand. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Flickr was not only quite easy to use but fun as well. Within minutes, starting from scratch, I had uploaded some really cute photos of our cats and a former litter of kittens they had foisted upon us, captioned them, Photostreamed them and very quickly had a presentable gallery of pix, with minimal effort maximum enjoyment. Just for everyone’s viewing pleasure I’ve included the photos on the blog. I couldnt really work out what the Tags are for, but I tagged them anyway. All in all, this a very useful and easy to use piece of software, and now having discovered I intend to make much use of it.
Unfortunately I didnt have as much luck with Picasa, through no fault of its own. The damned administrator privileges reared its head again and consequently I’m going to download it on my home PC and work with it from there. So there will be more to come..
Well, I downloaded Picasa on my home PC, and instantly, without so much as a by your leave, it had grabbed and organised all the pix on ony drive. I was quite impressed with its speed & efficiency, if a little miffed that I hadnt been given a say in the matter. However, given my photos had been in an unholy mess, some I hadnt seen in months or even years and had no idea they were even there, I swallowed my pride and muttered “Thank you, Picasa.” Now lets see what else it can do…
Flickr – 7/10
Picasa – 7/10
I do love using Google Maps. I have been using it for quite some time as my primary means of navigation. Lacking a car navigator, and reluctant to acquire one because I just plain dont like be told what to do by an insistent voice on the dashboard, and no longer having the eyesight to distinguish the fine print in a street directory (especially at night), my chosen method now is to consult Google maps before I leave, getting a point to point set of directions, printing it out and carrying it with me. I have found this works quite well, its essentailly an wired version of the old mud maps we used to obtain from friends & family before travelling somewhere.
As per the instructions for the task. I checked Google maps for the location of my campus (Gatton), typed in the name of the campus, it came up without trouble, and found a bonus – the map not only has a detailed street map of the campus, but includes the names and/or numbers of the most important buildings. This would obviously be extremely useful for someone who did not have a campus map on them when they arrived. If they had an IPad or iPhone, they could instantly call up the map and locate where the building they wanted was located.
I then used Google Maps to find my home, a well-worn path since I’ve done it before (isnt that the first thing everyone tries in Google maps?) As always, slightly disturbed by the full colour Street View pic of one’s house that comes up (with my car obligingly parked in front), but as always equally entranced by the 360 view feature that enables you to figuratively stand in the street and twirl round for a flawless 360 degree view of your sourroundings. Stunning the first time you do it, it always leaves me breathless at the potential of modern technology.
I then got a bit more adventurous and looked up not my present home, but my past homes, going back to my houses in Home Hill & Cairns from a decade or two ago. Found all of them without difficulty, however only my former house in Cairns had Street View, so I was able to see that it now has trees that werent there in my time, then did the 360 and found that what used to be a petrol station/7-11 across the road has now metamorphosed into a bait shop. Amazing whatt you can discover without leaving your desk. Wonderful thing, Google maps.
Next I had a look at Google Drive. I was unable to install it on my desk PC (damn administrator privileges), but downloaded it my iPad & iPhone, then uploaded a file to the non-installed browser verion on the PC and Hey presto!, it almost simultaneously appeared on the iPad & iPhone! Magic! i was very impressed with it and straight away saw the potential for use in meetings, classes or anywhere else away from my desk, also for transferiing files quickly and painless from my desk to my home PC etc. If it works consistently (and I really will have to test it under field conditions, like when I’m visiting St Lucia next week), this could be a real boon. I can see it solving so many problems.
All in all, a very successful & interesting task. Two very different, but extremely useful applications.
Looking forward to the next task very much.
Catch you next week!
Google Maps – 9/10
Googel Drive – 9/10