Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Editorial: The Tablet Landscape, Looking Forward

Today Amazon made a bold move indeed. What we had previously thought to be a $250 tablet device inexplicably became fifty dollars cheaper- at $199. There's just something about the price that is so alluring and all-too-close to impulse buy price. And for what it is, two hundred bucks (minus that last dollar of course) gets you a lot more than anything else (assuming there is another tablet for this price) on the market today. In fact, I can't think of a tablet thats both under four hundred dollars with high-end specs. But that's because there really isn't. And that in itself is what makes the Kindle Fire so incredible. And that in itself will be the reason that no competitor will be able to even dent the market Amazon has just broke up.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Facebook Timeline: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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On Thursday, Facebook CEO and professional profile stalker Mark Zuckerberg passionately and emotionally announced the future of the world's largest social network. Facebook has been blessed with a plethora of features that will forever change the way it is used, enjoyed and the way in which we interact with people online.

We've already gone over the details of the immediate features of Facebook as a service. However, we barely scratched the surface of Facebook's personal ties with the user. This is most evident in the platform's new rendition on your "profile".

However, it's barely a profile anymore. It's reached beyond that of a personal display of information. Instead, users will be able to experience a scrolling "timeline" (hence the name) of their existence on Facebook.

Friends, family, posts, likes, pages, subscriptions, photos, videos and everything you've ever done. It's there, and it's hard to believe Facebook actually took track of the thousands of statuses users have put up all these years.

However, the interface still feels like a beta. It's glitchy, sometimes it doesn't even appear and the design itself is questionable. But that doesn't mean anything for the final release. Remember, it's an early developer beta.

Also, we seriously cannot stand the blocky layout of posts, photos, videos and what not. It's inconsistant and very irritating.

The software should be released to the public in a few months or so, but we still have yet to see the chances that Facebook will bring to this beta software. Other than the fixable quirks, we really like the idea of it and it's potential as a radical change to social networking as a whole.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Editorial: HP Without Apotheker

For less than a year Leo Apotheker had joined HP. In less than a year, he successfully destroyed it's vital pieces. And in less than a year, he cancelled the results of a $1.2 Billion acquisition that had so much potential- all because he lacked the testicular will power to rival with the competition.

Reading this title we can look at the former HP CEO's effects in two ways- the positive or the negative. Unfortunately though, it's almost impossible to find such a positive. He came in and left behind him in his departure a comparative disaster upon which it will take years to fix. The result of his actions has left both himself and the company he ran in a laughing stock all across Silicon Valley. It's easy to look at what he did while he was in power- but it's incredibly difficult to imagine the future of the company now that he has finally left it behind him.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Editorial: AppleCare Really Does Come in Handy

2 Years ago, I put down $1400 on a MacBook and some software. The white polycarbonate machine was both durable and less expensive than the pro- and honestly, in 2009 nobody really needed a duel core processor with a clock speed above 2 GHz anyway. At the time it came with 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, which I hastily upgraded to 2 GB of DDR2. The hard drive was also only held the capacity of about 120 GB (about 95 without OS X or other software), so I also upgraded it- to $160. I only bought a simple nylon carrying case so that I could effortlessly transport it place to place without worry.

The final purchase I made was on AppleCare Protection Plan, which costed $250. At first, I was extremely hesitant to do so- $250 for extended telephone support and only support for manufacturer defects? Hell no! But after about a week of extra thought, I gave into it and bought it. The machine ran very well, at speeds unlike my previous iBook G4 and with the future-proof assurance of an Intel and nVidia chipset. Everything was perfect for the first year. But then, as the second year arrived, a ton of issues had arisen.

Minecraft 1.8 "Adventure Update" Review

Minecraft; arguably the best sandbox game ever imagined, puts you in a world of blocks to mine, dig, build with, and craft into awesome creations. But, being only in its beta stages, veterans have a hard time finding interest in the somewhat monotonous survival mode, limited motivation for exploration, and a list of blocks to build with that can become old easily.

These are hardly problems with the latest update, Minecraft 1.8- The “Adventure Update,” which came out Wednesday Sept. 14th (or earlier if you found access to the pre-release). Completely revolutionizing the gameplay and giving ample room for future innovation, Minecraft 1.8 almost has too many new things to talk about… but what else am I here for?

Starting with the basics, there’s an overhaul to the world generation system. When making a new world you have the option of survival mode- original gameplay with a new “hunger bar” and an experience system- or creative mode, which grants you flight, invincibility, inventory editing, and the ability to break any block. You also have the option to generate structures like villages and dungeons (or not to do so)- but more on those later.

Upon entering the world, you’ll find a new terrain generation system that promotes larger biomes (no more tiny snow regions or underwhelmingly small deserts) and gives all new features like rivers, ravines, mountain ranges, swamps, and much more dynamic landscapes. Hidden among these “natural” features are those structures I was talking about. Villages, which will be filled with NPCs in the next update, are currently just a collection of predesigned wells, forts, houses and farms, and showcase a few new blocks, not the least of which are brick stairs, stone bricks and stone brick stairs, window panes, and jail bars. If you’re lucky you’ll find one of the two new dungeon types, the stronghold and the abandoned mine. Strongholds, which are pretty rare at this point at only a few per world, are underground complexes of stone brick, jail cells, and miscellaneous mob (monster) spawners. Abandoned mines are giant cave systems full of spider webs, wood, and minecart tracks, and pack many of the new creatures of the minecraft night.

Speaking of which, you’ll find the new smaller cave spiders who can poison you, the new skeleton model that looks more natural, and my personal favorite: endermen. These creepy black creatures are neutral until you attack them or look at them, then they rush at you, teleport around you, and then go in for the kill with their high damage output (as much as 3.5 hearts a hit!). They will follow you until one of you dies if you look at them, so watch out for their creepy yellow eyes. Also new is the flashy creeper (suicide bomber monster) explosion graphic. Combat is made more fun with the inclusion of blocking (still not completely implemented yet, but will be next update), dashing, powerful knockback hits, critical hits, and a more realistic bow mechanic. It’s also much more rewarding, with the (currently functionless, with for the next update) experience bar and new drops- not the least of which is food, now necessary to keep your hunger bar full.

This only scratches the surface of the changes made and those yet to come. Among those I didn’t get into are new lighting, new animations, and interface innovations. To old minecraft fanatics, it’s a great refresher to the game and puts new life into it, and to newcomers it gives all the more reason to buy minecraft now, before the full (and more expensive) version comes out in November.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Microsoft's Xbox Live is Coming to Windows, Here's a Neat Preview

It's hard not being a little jealous of Microsoft's gaming service being available on Windows Phone 7 and the Xbox exclusively. Cry no longer, Live fans! Your day has arrived. Microsoft will be rolling out Xbox Live to Windows 8 with it's final release... but you want to see it now, don't you? We thought so. Click the link below to get a full YouTube experience of the Microsoft demo, which frankly, is just plain awesome.

Via YouTube

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Opinion: Apple's iPod Line is a Total Mess

Almost ten years ago, Apple dipped into the music industry and changed it forever with the revolutionary iPod. Ever since, when we have all thought of tiny mp3 or music players- we've thought of iPods. And rightfully so; they produce the industry standard for portable media players (PMPs) and make the best products in the world. They earned their success. But the market is changing- smartphones and tablets are eating up media player market share. At the same time, the relevance of the products are slowly fading into oblivion- but we all still need that product that has excellent battery life, small size, a robust and unbeatable design, large storage sizes and ruggedness. That's the iPod line as it was once upon a time. But as I've said before, things have changed. The products are not as revolutionary and awesome as they were in the past. Something needs to change soon- or Apple will loose the beautiful gem that is the iPod product line.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A whole new world: the Pokemon Black and White review

We all grew up playing Pokemon. Everyone has his or her own favorite version, from the original Red and Blue (which, incidentally weren’t even the first ones released- there were earlier versions in Japan) to the more recent Emerald version from 2005 in the 3rd generation of games. Being the incredible nerds Wes Darvin (another thetechtile editor) and I am, we decided to buy the new generation of games to occupy us during the downtime of a school trip. We walked onto the 8-hour plane ride carrying our respective copies of Pokemon White, which we both chose over the alternate Black version, and plunged back into the familiar yet brand new world of Pokemon.

Pokemon Black and White are the first titles in the 5th generation of Pokemon games, and encompass the brand new Unova region. According to the games, the region is far from any of the previous games’ regions, and therefore you can’t find any preexisting Pokemon from the first 4 generations until you beat the Elite 4, the final challenge that carries throughout the series. Pretty much, if you had any favorite Pokemon… too bad, you won’t be able to get them until the game is over.

Despite the lack of classic Pokemon, (though several Pikachu and Charizard references were worked into the game) Pokemon Black and White are good fun for any fan of the games- admit it, you love them. It follows pretty much the exact same gameplay as the first 5 generations, but with a new setting and 156 new ‘Mons to catch, fight, train, and trade with friends- more than the first generation brought to the table.

As annoying as it is not being able to get Charizard, Scyther, or whatever other Pokemon was your favorite back in the old days, the new Pokemon fill both the roles of old favorites and some really inventive new ones. In fact, the lack of old Pokemon makes the game more accessible to newcomers; it offers the same experience as the original games but with the refined mechanics that have been built over 5 generations of slight improvements; the stats are balanced and moves behave like they were originally intended (ex. Fire punch is a physical move rather than a special one, as in the first 3 generations).

If you’re worried about the decision between the two, the only differences are some Pokemon being available in one but not the other (ex. A Pokemon that resembles a gigantic cell is in White, and Black has a goth Pokemon in its place) and Black has Black City in it, where White has the aptly named White forest in its place.

If you have nostalgia for the older Pokemon games, you will probably have fun reliving the same experience in a more polished form. If you never really got into the series, Nintendo’s given you your chance. While nothing revolutionary to video games- or even to the Pokemon series- they’re good time-killing fun and solid additions to a series that really didn’t need to change anything.