Friday, July 30, 2010

Starcraft 2 Time

Yeah there probably won't be updates for a while here. Starcraft 2 got released earlier this week and I have been having a grand time playing it. Sooo much fun and definitely worth the 12-year wait.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Inception (Action Drama 2010)

If you want to see the brainfuck movie of the year, this one will be it. The story kinda made sense most of the time, but then many little details sprang up which totally did not click which makes you question the story some more. The writer/director Christopher Nolan, is either a genius, nuts, or a little of both. I don't know how a person could think of a concept this confusing and then manage to pump it out on screen. But then again he did The Prestige which I loved and also Memento which I hated.

Either way the movie was all over the place with dreams, time, reality, and the mind's interpretations of it all. My brain was working overtime to decipher it all but there were still a lot of holes that didn't make sense. It reminded me a lot of the computer science concept of recursion. I remember getting an assignment relating to recursion and knowing that it was a concept where my brain could just not handle. As for this film I'm sure I'll have to discuss it with peeps to get their take.

Nobody can't dispute the fact that it was very well done and well acted, so for that I'll rate it high, but it doesn't mean that I understood the whole thing.
Rating - A

Friday, July 23, 2010

iPhone 4 Quick Look

So I was generous enough to let wifey have my reduced-price upgrade to an iPhone 4 and now we have one in the fam. My first thoughts are that it is a pretty nice device. The squareish as opposed to a rounded one is better on the hands. I'm not sure why either. The display is a night/day difference between my work iPhone 3G. Very crisp and very clear. You can also tell that it has a faster processor because everything from typing to jumping around to different apps produces zero hiccups from what I've seen. The front LED for pictures is very bright too so that is definitely a plus. Taking pictures is noticeably faster on the 4 also.

I'm still very anti-apple, so I probably won't get one for myself, but it is a neat toy to look at.

Update: Last night we tested out the Facetime feature with a good friend of mine in NYC. Wow is all I can say...very impressive. If an Android phone doesn't come out with that same capability by the time I can use our 2nd number's upgrade, I may have to rethink things.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik (Book 2008)

Just cleared this 5th book. Pretty exciting even though the main protagonists were now seen as criminals. Yeah it doesn't have the same feel of rooting for the good guys even though that goody-goody dragon caused all sorts of problems during the end of the 4th book.

I think I cleared this in 2 days...a new best if I do say so myself. Now there is only the 6th book left but it is $9.99 and I am not going to pay that much so yeah I'll most likely have to wait a long while until the price on this one drops. Maybe I'll re-read some books in the mean time...I'm certainly not known to do that though.
Rating - High

Monday, July 19, 2010

Repo Men (Action 2010)

This movie was blah. I liked the whole futuristic part of it, kinda like I, Robot, but the rest of it wasn't too interesting. Not even Jude Law could save this flick.
The thing that got me was that this company sold organs to people and the people could not pay thus these Repo Men came to get the organs back which thus killed the person in the process. How could the company make money in this sort of gig? It is like having a bank dole out mortgages that are purposely too expensive so that they can take the house back when the buyers foreclose on it. The banks are losing in this process as seen in the real world of the US economy. It is in the best money-making interest of the banks to continue making money off of the interest of the loan.
So yeah while watching this movie I kept on thinking to myself how weird it was for a company to be doing this...there didn't seem to be any profit in it whatsoever.
Rating - C

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (Book 2007)

Just cleared the 4th book here. Soon I'll run out of 'em I'm sure. The story for this one was better during the beginning, but towards the end the book it seemed to purposely "start drama" mainly because the main dragon character, Temeraire, turned out to be too much of a goody-goody. He was a better character by just being a normal guy...not some humanitarian.

Anyway the story for this one did not seem as good as the others....but the writing was still good.
Rating - Mid

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik (Book 2006)

I've definitely been busting through these books at a fairly speedy rate, for this 3rd one in the series is now cleared. It was more exciting than the 2nd book and was more in-line with the dialogue and speed of the 1st.

The story took the crew overland from China, through the Middle-East, and over to the Eastern front of the European War. There was a good amount of skirmishes, a few old characters were reintroduced, and of course the story was fantastic. The end of this book wasn't a cliffhanger by any means, but there were still many unanswered questions in the plot that would convince any reader to continue onto the next book.
Rating - High

Monday, July 12, 2010

Amazon Kindle 2 (Random Product)

I've been eying e-book readers ever since the first Sony model came out a few years ago. The display was an interesting concept while the battery life was the most impressive, much in part due to the e-ink technology. I was torn between the B&N Nook and the Amazon Kindle 2, but I eventually went with the Kindle because of the selection and price of the actual e-books. That and I don't like B&N's website UI.

Since getting it, I've read through a good number of books that I probably would've never found or even touched. It's weird how now I can clear a 400+ page book in just a few days. I could probably do it in just one if I had enough time and had no distractions. I still kinda don't like the fact that you can't resell a book that you've already read, but I'm slowly adapting. Books don't hold much value in the secondary market anyway. All this just means more revenue for publishers. No production or distribution costs after a book has been digitized.

The Whispersync thing is pretty neat (Uses the cellular network for an Internet connection. Free for life too). After you link up your Kindle to your online account, you can buy a book with a few clicks from the device. Dangerous if you're not careful and a heavy shopper though, but I'm good since I only read books one at a time. Occasionally various publishers will release free books so this has been a great convenience in delving into different genres and stories that I probably would've never known about.

The price of most e-books is reasonable I guess; $9.99 seems to be the base price for a new release even though I've never purchased one that high. Other books are priced higher and I really wonder if any of those sell. I've made it a habit of not buying books unless they are under $7 or so. Usually a $9.99 book will just sit in my Wish List and will stay there until a price drop surfaces. I wonder how long it'll be until they do?

The Kindle comes with a built-in dictionary which is badass. The second you see a word that you don't know the definition to, all you have to do is use the keypad and get to the word and the definition appears on the bottom. This could've helped a lot while growing up for there is something very wasteful in having to use up time to whip out a real dictionary. I remember numerous times as a kid where I just went ahead and skipped words I didn't know...not the best method of educating oneself.

The battery lasts for weeks on end if you turn off the wireless. You only need to use the wireless to sync up with your account or if you need to buy a book. It does charge via USB cable so that's a nice perk.

The Bad
One of the main negatives that I can think of is the fact that there are way too many buttons on the device. I have never once used the keyboard and have only used the dedicated back button a few times. I'm sure they could've put more reading real estate on the device if they woulda simplified their input UI.

Another negative is the fact that the Kindle, along with many other e-book devices, have some overkill features that are just not needed. Why have a headphone output? Is someone really going to use their Kindle as an MP3 player? Why have the ability to use Text-to-Speech? Who is really going to listen to a book instead of reading it? A blind person could not even get to the selection screen to activate the feature.

If the designers were to clean up the input buttons and remove unnecessary features, I'm sure it could be made to have a larger display,more battery life, or have a faster refresh on the screen.

The last negative has to do with timing. I got this used off of Ebay for around $200. One month later B&N and Amazon had a price war and they both dropped the price down to $140/$189 respectively. Crappy luck on my end...

Overall
After my 2-3 months of ownership I'd say that it is indeed a worthwhile purchase. Sometimes I enjoy reading more than wandering around the Internet for hours, but of course you have to find a good story first.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (Book 2006)

This was the 2nd book in my ongoing trek through this whole series. This time the story took the characters to China and with it all the drama that comes from a very backwards culture that I am all too well aware of.

Although the writing was still spectacular, the story was not as exciting as the first book. It had a ton more character building and then during the end there was a tid bit of foreshadowing where the main dragon character will most likely get himself into hot water. This will of course lead into yet another book but that can be a good thing even though it's quite obvious. The series is still very interesting and has convinced me to move onto the next. Amazon is certainly making some money off of me.
Rating - High

Friday, July 02, 2010

Star Wars The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition (3rd Person Shooter PC Game 2009)

So I just picked up this game when Steam had their big summer sale. I've been eying it ever since the game was released for the consoles. Usually I don't have much luck with console ports but I decided to try it out.

First off I'll say that console ports aren't too compatible with my body because every time I play one, I get really nauseous within 30 minutes or so and sometimes will actually hurl. Why? I don't know. Halo was the first one that I had this type of reaction to. I don't know if its the screen refresh rate or the v-syncing or whatnot but whatever the reason, it isn't cool. This game unfortunately had that type of a reaction with me except that it happened after a few hours instead of a short 30 minutes.

The game itself was fun enough...very linear though. The force powers were badass except for the Grip/Throw. I could almost never aim it correctly so that I could toss some stormtrooper into one of his buddies unless they were front and center, so because of this, I ended up tossing people into a lot of walls. The combos were pretty neat but you could totally tell that the key mashing was designed for a controller and not for a keyboard and mouse. I had been apprehensive about the controls but I was able to complete the game with a KB+Mouse with no real issues...some annoyances though. Also, my 9800M-series Nvidia laptop video card struggled a lot with the game. I could not play it in my beloved 1440x900 resolution and had to bring it down to 1280x800 and on some areas even 800x600.

Overall it was a good SW game very reminiscent of the Jedi Knight II days. The weird alternate story was a bit blah but they had to make up something. I would like to add that this game, like all console ones, had many mandatory boss battles. Some of these were hella hard and did not need to be that difficult. It takes away from the gameplay when they make the bosses way too powerful and essentially immune to most force powers. On this one fight I think I died around 35+ times before I was able to beat 'em by luck alone.

Either way it's worth it if you got it for $7 or so like I did but I would not pay much more than that for it.
Rating - Mid