Lifehacker Australia

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I just found out about a site called Lifehacker Australia. It does exactly what its title indicates, provides hacks, in the form of tech tips, apps, useful info and scientific revelations about the minutiae of the world, to help the user navigate the modern world just a bit more comfortably. The site is pretty barebones, no introduction setting out its overarching purpose, just a long list of links, but it seems to be updated quite regularly (20 or so links added this calendar day). Potentially very useful.  I’ll keep an eye on the site and see how it develops

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Player Attack

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The indefatigable hunter of TV gaming shows has unearthed yet another. Player Attack airs on Foxtel’s Aurora community TV channel at 9 pm on Friday nights and is repeated, in the usual pay-TV manner, at numerous times through the week. It is also accompanied by a very slick website, from which the TV show grew. It is fronted by the very pleasant Jessica Citizen (delightfully Kafkaesque name), who radiates bonhomie, genuine enthusiasm for gaming and real knowledge of the industry in equal quantities. Reviews of games are presented by Jimmy the Geek and Mel Evans, who also convey in spades their love of gaming and deep knowledge of the craft. While the show reflects its community TV nature (amateur enthusiasm rather than slick effects), it is a neatly produced and knowledgeable affair that makes up for in gaming nous what it lacks in glitz. Its a hackneyed phrase, but this show is clearly really a show for gamers, by gamers. I’ll certainly be adding it to my regular viewing schedule.

Summon

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The Library will soon be switching from a dedicated in-house catalogue to Summon, a unified discovery service provided by Proquest. Summon promises the ability to search, discover and access reliable and credible Library content. Through a single search the user is able to access print and e-books, articles, e-journals, newspapers, theses and more. While this has obvious advantages over an in-house catalogue, such as the ability to access in a single search material from outside the library collection, I have some reservations. The ability to access material from outside the library collection is a disadvantage if you simply want to access the library catalogue, as is sometimes necessary for the purposes of collection development, stock-taking, weeding, etc. Summon does not currently offere the facility of switching to an internal search until you make the initial search and then specify a library collection-only search as a search criterion for your initial list of results. In addition, Summon’s relevancy ranking has an annoying habit of dumping what it considers the most relevant items at the top of the search regardless of age, so you might find it considers an article from 1906 the most relevant. Again, you cannot specify relevant dates except from choosing search-narrowing criteria once you have made the initial search.  You can of course solve these problems by undertaking an advanced search, however, that is an extra expenditure of time and effort, is not something our library users will likely be inclined to do, and not least, defeats the one simple search box idea which Summon has pushed as a major advantage. Perhaps there are ways around these problems I haven’t found yet, or they might be solved in Summon 2.0, which is due by the end of the year. Time will tell. For the moment, as I said, I have some reservations about this blanket move from catalogue to all-encompassing discovery tool.

Celebration

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Just had myself a tasty German sausage to celebrate completing Wolfenstein: The New Order and killing many, many Nazis in the process. Blowing away Nazis is just awesome. Here’s hoping there are many more Wolfensteins to come.

Wolfenstein – The New Order

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A bout of appendicitis and subsequent recuperation time coincided nicely with the release of this latest iteration of an old favourite. I have played all the Wolfensteins bar the first couple and always found them entertaining, well-made, if not earth-shattering games. That goes for this one too, its thoroughly enjoyable, a good old-fashioned shooter such as is a rarity today, but there’s no wow factor. Its set in an alternate 1960 where the Nazis won WWII and now dominate the world, although they seem to have largely forsworn the magic and mysticism that  as a feature of earlier Wolfensteins in favour of hard-core technology. Acres and acres of gleaming steel and concrete, robotic watchdogs, armoured guards and giant assault robots, you’ll have to fight through all these as the ever reliable B J Blaskowicz. However, Blaskowicz himself has changed considerably in this brave new world from the robotic Nazi-killer of earlier games. He’s much more human, he hurts, falls in love (complete with explicit sex scenes) and muses wistfully on the  meaning of life and the horrors of life in the Nazi new order. He has also discovered stealth as an alternative to blaziing away upon the mere sight of a Nazi.  The stealth mechanic works reasonably well, but swings wildly in difficulty depending on whether Nazis have their backs to you. If thay’re turned away, no problem, knifing them is ridiculously easy. However, woe betide you if they’re facing you, for their eyesight is incredibly keen and they readily will spot you from 100 metres away if the slightest portion of your anatomy protrudes from behind cover. This can make the stealth sections a complete lottery. I was able to wander through a prison knifing a dozen guards in the back without raising a peep, but later an attempt to stealh a railway depot with just 3 guards I had to abandon in favour of going in with guns blazing after a dozen failed attempts because I was spotted no matter how well I hid. And choosing to go the firefight method has major consequences because if you fail to take out the officer with stealth he will sound the alarm and you will end up fighting a dozen or more enemies, including tough to kill armoured soldiers, watchdogs and assault robots. Luckliy combat in this game is fun and rewarding if you’re careful. There are an array of weapons with impressive firepower that feel good and sound realistic. Overall this comes down to why this game with its old-fashioned shooter feel continues to enthrall decades after its first appearance, Basically, its fun to kill Nazis, you can enjoy this game for that simple reason and no other. Games seem to become more complicated and loaded with deeper meaning every day, but as long as the simple joy of pouring a magazine  into a bunch of hysterical, shouting caricature  Nazis remains, there’s a place for Wolfenstein in this world.

Apple ID problems

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I went to load a new app on my iPhone this afternoon, and discovered my Apple ID password doesnt work. I suspect it got changed while I was changing over from my old to new iPads and I had forgotten. So, no problem, off to the Apple ID website to change. Yes, big problem, changed the password, Apple ID wouldnt accept it. Changed it again, put it in very carefully, no, wouldnt accept that either. I refrained from throwing the phone into the nearest wall and have put in an appointment for Apple Support to ring me tomorrow night. Just can’t wait to lay this one in their laps. On a scale of annoying and pointless, this one is an 11/10.

 

Bioshock Infinite -Burial at Sea. Part 2

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Just finished playing this and was pleasantly surprised after the disappointment of BI-BAS. Pt 1 (less than 2 hours for a full-priced DLC?), to find a game that not only is triple the length of Part 1, but settles the dichotomy between Rapture & Columbia quite effectively. It also takes the game in a completely different direction gameplay-wise. This is a stealth game, pure & simple. Obviously someone at Irrational has been playing Dishonored & Thief because this follows those models closely. You play as Elizabeth this time, and in  recognition of the fact that Elizabeth is not a fighter you have minimal weapons and minimal ammo, and the weapons you do have are much weaker than in the earlier games. Far & away the most effective weapon you have is a crossbow that fires tranquilizer darts, in keeping with the stealth theme you want to put enemies to sleep quietly rather than kill them noisily. However, ammunition is scarce and the crossbow only holds 4 bolts, which are re-usable provided you get to your victim immediately after takedown and reclaim them. So it becomes a desperate race after you fire to get to your victim’s body to reclaim a precious bolt without alerting anyone else. In keeping with the stealth theme, Rapture & Columbia are much sparer of resources, there is much less ammo & money lying around, which makes conserving your resources vital. As I said, this game merges Rapture & Columbia much more seamlessly than the first, you move back & forth between them, in effect this is the game that not only ties up the entire Bioshock saga, but finally and definitively links the Rapture & Columbia stories. Although the ending is slightly disappointing, there being no final battle and you are  merely a passive viewer in a series of cutscenes, this is a rich little game that rewards the careful player. I’m sorry to see the Bioshock series wrap up, but there are worse ways it could have finished.