January 30, 2009

Netbook or Notebook?

There's something about the economy that makes one want to penny-pinch today. I can't lie, I'm saving a few pennies myself, and I myself am considering getting my own laptop when the time comes. But while I'm established on my stand that Notebooks are simply better, how about you? This guide will (try to) help you make the choice. Netbook or notebook?

The difference
What's the difference between a Netbook and a Notebook anyway?

Netbooks have generally got a boost in profit this year despite the economic slowdown, and that's because it offers a barebones, but tolerable computing experience for the Facebook generation. It basically lives on Wi-Fi and the Internet, and has great battery life, but in return,  users may have to be careful in picking the right netbook, as they don't always run Windows XP (or even rarely, Vista) nor do they usually have DVD drives and high storage.

On the other hand, Notebooks have been in existence since the 70's, and they offer better usability, better specs under-the-hood, more upgrade options, but in return, a significantly bigger price, heavier weight and even less battery life.

Perhaps, that comparison alone will help you make a choice, but if not, read on.

Long term investment?
I've usually regarded the netbook as a fad, but it doesn't seem to stop- not with this economy. But OK, so let's say you bought a netbook simply because you couldn't afford anything more expensive. Well, what will happen when the programs you need can't be installed because the thing probably won't have a CD drive, or that you are driving it to breaking point by doing something that would be a piece of cake for regular computers? That's what I mean by the statement of the netbook being a fad, and the addressing of the issue of the long term.

By buying a netbook, you may deprive yourself of the long term benefits a notebook typically has. Some notebooks have become very easy to upgrade, and the standard features that come with it (that don't come with netbooks) are a boon as well.

Still, if you plan to not edit videos, or do graphics work, you'll do splendid for a few years with a Wi-Fi connection and a netbook.

It simply depends on one question: Will I find a use for more (or the lack of) advanced features and use them frequently?

How comfortable are you with the screen? Is the keyboard tactile? Is the mouse located conveniently near the keyboard? Are your wrists feeling good? Those are just some of the questions you have to ask when you decide to buy a laptop- or any mobile device for that matter.

Sometimes, users don't mind being uncomfortable as long as they are able to get used to it. But in long term use, people may get tired of something that pretty much feels downright uncomfortable, so technically, this category may well be filed under "Long term investment" as well.

This is where notebooks excel, just because they are bigger.

How portable?
How portable do you want it to be? Does battery life last my average usage time? Can it withstand the elements?

Those are the components that you need to consider when deciding, and the netbook excels here very much. Battery life is more efficient due to stripped components, and those stripped components also contribute to the tiny form factor. It all depends now, on the materials used to make it. Many netbooks are pretty much plasticky, with the occasional metallic touch here and there, so while light, kind of feels cheap and weak. Notebooks are not exempt from this either.

Thing is, progress is being made in the notebook arena in terms of battery life though, most recently on the 17-inch MacBook Pro which can last up to a theoretical 8 hours on integrated graphics- nearly like a netbook.

January 27, 2009

Changeling Movie Review

Starring Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich
Warner Bros. Pictures

It's Los Angeles in the 20's and a suburban single mother suddenly finds out that her son is lost. She calls the police and 5 months later, her son comes back. The catch is, the boy's not her son as dictated by the woman's ever-reliable intuition, and soon enough she gets into the fight of her life. Where is her real son? Why is the boy lying? Is she just crazy? Maybe the police did something to the boy? Whatever the case, this is an intriguing mystery that'll leave you in the dark for oh so many a minute.

Many, many minutes.

For what seems like hours does the movie reveal its mysteries, and that's because there's simply something that feels so wrong about it's execution. You know the thing that's wrong about the execution? It's the fact that the movie tries to do too much at a time. It's like the topic of oppression and corruption were simply squeezed in so the younger ones will get a bit of something out of it thus resulting in the lack of focus to plot progression which is simply obnoxious.

What's so ironic is that it's pretty short, but said lack of focus to plot progression makes it feel that much longer. Hell, it will even fake-out on you! There'll be one point in the movie that will seem like an ending that'll be finished using some text, but no, it stays longer than that- and the saddest part is that the real ending actually left me feeling disappointed, despite the fact that it actually DOES that.

Aesthetically, it's great, and the acting? Nice. Otherwise, there's nothing as special as you'd think in this movie, although at first it can suck you in, and then... that craving for an ending.

Rating: 7.3/10

January 25, 2009

Movies Opening This Week (Week 10)

Revolutionary Road
Watched this year's Golden Globes? Watched Titanic?

Well if you've watched either of those, I'd assume that you already know the winning combination of di Caprio and Winslet, and how awesome the combination is, especially with Kate if the Globes can attest.

Anyway, the movie is based off the novel by Richard Yates, and is directed by American Beauty's Sam Mendes. It's about a couple living in the suburbs of the 1950's who are trying to come to terms with their personal problems whilst raising two children.

You'd think the producers would merely cash in on the lead stars (since they're oh-so profitable) but it doesn't. It seems that it will rely on the "I can relate to this" card to capture audiences, and with the acting prowess of the two I don't see anything going wrong with that.

A thriller that actually looks half-decent, Taken is about a former soldier whose daughter goes to Paris. Unfortunately, some people have taken her and her friend, so the soldier marches on to find out the mystery.

Some have said that it is a bit demoralized despite the fact that it's directed by a Frenchman though.

January 24, 2009

Mac turns 25

A big-budget commercial filmed by none other than Ridley Scott. An interface that changed the whole world. A relatively low price at the time. All the things we take for granted in the present, and the way we think about computers today, can be attributed to Apple, and maybe that legendary, introductory ad as well.
It was a time of IBM's dominance in the market, and Apple's ad represented the IBM monopoly. That girl represented the Mac, and its sheer difference from the competition back in the day. It still remains one of the most expensive TV spots of all time as it cost 100,000 short of a million dollars, and was based on the book 1984.

It helped popularize the mouse, drag-and-drop, double-click and generally the Graphical User Interface- meaning every little thing you currently see on your computer, cellphone, camera, and lots, lots more.

It was aimed at simplicity and ease of use- something that holds true today- and it took the world by storm.

We don't have to cover the ironies of the Apple of today, nor do we have to mention Microsoft's adoption of the technology a year later, as today's spotlight is simply focused on the ever-influential Macintosh.

So on this day of tech history, I give my salutations to the original Macintosh- we owe you lots.

January 18, 2009

Movies Opening This Week (Week 9)

It's yet another adventure from Brendan Fraser- Mummy killer extraordinaire.

The premise is semi-Bedtime Stories, but perhaps better. Based from Cornelia Funke's best-selling book, Inkheart is about a dad and his daughter who make fictional characters leap out of the book and into reality. When Gollum- err, the baddie in the book sprouts out into reality as well, he kidnaps the dad and it's up to the daughter to save him- with a little help from her fictional friends.

I'm kind of surprised that Brendan is the one playing the damsel- err, dude in distress, but I suppose he will still have his share of action regardless.

Early reviews have already raved about its non-stop action, and pleasing cast starring Brendan Fraser, Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent. Many user comments on the trailer's YouTube page comment about the book's superiority- but what movie doesn't bend a book nowadays?

January 17, 2009

Windows is annoying- with pictures!

DISCLAIMER: This is not gonna be a Vista bashing post since I've since downgraded from XP and will only be able to collect screenshots from that OS, nor is it a Mac patronizing post. Even if I didn't have a Mac right now, I'd still be bound to do something like this anyway. Without further ado, here are some annoying screenshots that you'll agree on with me.

1) Automatic Updates
Look familiar? Yeah it's that thing that pops up when the Windows has finished downloading your updates. Gee, if only we could say "Not Now" like in Mac.

You're probably saying, there's the Restart Later button! What are you complaining about? Well, let's just say that this dialog box is like a roach. You kill it, but it doesn't stay dead at all. In fact, no matter how many times you kill it, it'll simply come back to pester you. That's how this dialog box works. It's stupid. If I want to "Restart Later", I'll do my own damn business and Restart- not imply that you should come back to me every 5 minutes!

I'm on Windows XP SP3, and yet Microsoft still doesn't want to make this go away or put a "Not Now" button.

The only cure? Disable automatic updates from the Control Panel. But why bother when updating your software is only crucial? You may not admit it, but you know you're gonna be lazy if someone advised you to update your computer.

2) Printer Job DeletionI don't know if it varies from printer to printer, but from my experiences with different printers, deleting a print job is simply hard unless the printer is actually turned off. Look at that print job above. It says deleting, but in reality it's not deleting, it just stays there.

So OK, the typical scenario. I print a job, but I forgot to turn the printer on. I turn it on, and it doesn't print. What do I do next? I delete the job and try again.

I highlight my job, and press the Delete button. This dialog box appears (pictured below), and I click Yes. What happens? The aforementioned scenario in the first paragraph.
So what do I do? I have to save my work, memorize the pages open in my browser, say "brb" to my Yahoo! Messenger friends, and Restart the computer. After restarting, then it prints.

The thing that can prevent this headache is to simply delete the job before turning on the printer. But whoops, too late, you have to learn lessons the hard way, kid.

3) Internet Explorer 7- in generalConsider the above picture a stolen shot.

So here's the thing: every time I open Internet Explorer 7, I find it bailing out on me when it has barely operated for 5 seconds. The best thing about it is that it opens, probably as fast, as Chrome, the only thing is that the latter actually works for more than 5 seconds!

Am I the only one who's experiencing this? It's not that big of a loss to me since I use either Firefox or Chrome, but it's still annoying!

4) Sheer stupidity
Take a good look at the picture. Notice anything different?

If you don't then I'll play the role of Captain Obvious: it doesn't look like a Firefox document, moron!

If you had the decency to declare a web page a Firefox document, at least make the effort to make it obvious to the n00bs out there. What? Does XP become nauseous when 2 browsers are present in a computer? Doesn't it accept that I have ignored Internet Explorer 7 forever and that I've set my default browser to Firefox, so it shoves the Internet Explorer icon to my face?

Whatever the case, you have to admit that this reeks of idiocy. Can't XP make up its mind?

Let's hope every one of these are gone not only in Vista, but in Windows 7.

January 14, 2009

iPod touch 2G unlocked?

It seems that the iPhone dev team have more of accidentally found an exploit for 'a certain device that fits in your pocket'. When commented on it perhaps being the 2nd generation iPod touch, a dev team member commented on it as related, especially since the post explicitly states that it's not iPhone 3G related... not right now.

The ever-cryptic hacking group only gave out this website which only contains the image below:
Perhaps we'll have to wait and see.

January 13, 2009

Movies Opening This Week (Week 8)

Life starts at 40. Lest you be a rapper.

Last Chance Harvey
Big names, small film. What is it about? It's about a guy named Harvey- played by veteran Dustin Hoffman- who loses his job, and his daughter doesn't want him to be the one to give her away, as is the tradition, in her wedding. Now as his life seemingly falls apart ego-wise, he meets a girl named Kate- played by Emma Thompson- and shows how anyone can fall in love and start over at any age.

But let's be honest, Hoffman is 70-ish and
Thompson seems to be in her late 40's. How is this thing gonna work? Well, critics rave about how they have so much chemistry, so naturally, I'm curious. Add in the caliber of the actors involved and you have a seemingly predictable romantic-comedy that has an irresistible pull.

Gran Torino
I think I'm gonna love, love, love this film.

There's not a racist slur that war veteran Walt (Clint Eastwood) doesn't love. Set in contemporary Detroit, Walt observes a change in society and the demographic around it, especially when a family of Hmong people move in next door. When neighbor Thao attempts to steal his muscle car to start a gang, he decides not to play nice.

Gran Torino is shaping up to look like a movie that proves that Clint can still be badass at 70. And just looking at the semi-humorous trailer will show that. Additionally, it's simply unique.

The story of the life of the rapper Biggie, he seemed to show promise even at an early age. He became big in the rapping business, but got shot to his death- similar to that of rival Tupac Shakur. Stars newcomer Jamal Woolard as Biggie Smalls, and produced by P. Diddy and Biggie's mom.

Looks like a good biopic to me. Not really big (no pun intended) on my rappers, though.

January 11, 2009

REVIEWS: Benjamin Button, and some Cholera

By sheer coincidence, I've watched two movies throughout the weekend that seemed to have several things in common. They're both adaptations, they both use flashbacks to tell the narrative, they both look really good aesthetically, they both involve some sense of time and space, but most of all, they both have the same theme of ethereal love.

Just like Romeo and Juliet before them, these two movies tackle the kind of love that can last forever, but do they fare very well? I mean, despite all these similarities, these 2 can also be considered polar opposites. Why? Find out below.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount Pictures
Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton

It's ironic to see a commercial for Pond's Age Miracle cream right before a movie with a premise like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button starts to roll.

If you haven't heard, let me tell you about the star-studded shenanigans of Brad Pitt and company in this movie directed by acclaimed 'Fight Club' (which also stars Pitt) director David Fincher and written (or adapted, since this was originally a short story) by no less than Eric Roth and his box of chocolates (figure that out for yourself).

The film starts out after World War I. Everyone's rejoicing and really, 'it was a great time to be born', and as luck would have it our protaganist is born, albeit in 'unusual circumstances'.

By chance the baby was not really much of a baby- more of an octogenarian on his way to the grave- so naturally he looked like hell, thus causing panic in his father, forcing him to run and leave him right on the doorstep of a black landlady- not that race has anything to do with the movie- and she decides that since he's still a creation of God, she would raise him.

Along the way he meets Daisy, and they fall in love. When their ages meet, they marry, and... any further would spoil the whole movie.

So where do I begin... We went in and the theater was packed to the sides but luckily there was little noise. My assessment? The audience got sucked into the movie. Heck I got sucked in. Brad Pitt comes off as surprisingly endearing that it's hard not to get into the movie. Same would go for Cate Blanchett who's always a charm to see on screen (and rather phenomenal), with special mention going to Tilda Swinton who plays it simple in her brief role.

The other real catalyst of the movie's inmersiveness is pretty much the curiosity one would have due to its intriguing premise. Its marketing apparently banks on it too with the trailer making you extremely intrigued and the posters made oh-so simple yet somewhat mysterious using an inverted version of the title.

To pull off a movie like this, meticulous direction and technical brillance is needed. And boy, there is a lot of attention to detail and a great use of prosthetics and special effects that adds a lot to the experience. Aesthetically, it's awesome and you should seriously make an effort to see the movie on a theater or at least on Blu-ray with an HD projector and 7.1 surround sound. It's that nice. Every single technical aspect is nailed, the scenarios look extremely nice, and the make-up is startlingly convincing. Additionally, Fincher manages to get aforementioned wondrous performances from its star-studded cast while making an effort to also make it feel human.

Honestly, he is pretty successful in that regard. You'll feel Benjamin's hesitation and childlike curiousity in his dealings with the concepts of life and death as he grows younger, and then there's Daisy who you'll root for in the latter part of the movie.

There's a condition if you're already itching to watch this, and it concerns time. The movie is epic, clocking in at 2 hours 30 minutes, so make sure you have the time. Ironically, the movie is based from a short story, and even more ironic is that some events in Benjamin's life feel as if it merely drifted through, while other unnecessary ones somehow drag. This is probably the movie's only fault, but once you're sucked into the movie, you'll never get out.

The way the narrative unfolds is notably unique compared to movies of late. People say it's reminiscent to that of Forrest Gump's, but I'll let that issue hang until I get to actually watch that one. Personally, it reminds me more of Titanic's way of telling the story so basically, it's a flashback that also alternates with the current time. The difference here is that the segments that depict the present time are also entertaining, simply because it makes the story a lot more three-dimensional instead of serving as filler (like in Phantom of the Opera). You'll know what I'm saying if you've watched it.

Despite all the heavy drama, there's also abundant humor. I mean, who knew that an anecdote about thunderstrikes could make such a nice running gag?

Plus, there's some interpretation to be had with the movie as there are some symbolic moments in there- the clock, the sunset, the characters, any of those could have a deeper meaning lying within, and it could probably take a second viewing.

Personally, I think you should watch this and in a theater. It somehow works like a fairy tale but it's also grounded in reality- Yeah, that's about accurate for me- and it's just amazing. Not perfect, but still really good.

Rating: 9.2/10

Love In The Time of Cholera
Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt

Some filmmakers become liberal with an adapted story, some filmmakers get away with an entirely new version of a story using only its basic premise, and some filmmakers simply misinterpret the source material a movie is based from.

Even though I only used the critique of someone else to make the above introduction, the movie I'm going to review still pretty much sucks in several levels, and that movie is Love In The Time of Cholera.

It basically chronicles the escapades of its 2 central characters named... Uhhh... I forgot. Damn it, I think the guy was called Fernando (Javier Bardem) and the girl... uhhh... Ms. Little Mood Swing. Anyway, those two initially were to be married but her father refused and later she marries a doctor played by Benjamin Bratt. Fernando, becomes heartbroken and waits several decades to get back with Ms. Mood Swing.

Sigh, this is a movie I want to hate with a passion. Bad acting, ridiculous script, and bad casting gift-wrapped nicely with a great aesthetic and cinematography is simply the formula for this literal- if you excuse the term and language as there is no better nor fitting alternative for it- f**kfest. Seriously, Javier Bardem's character Fernando is too unbelievably sexy for women and it just seems as if half the movie is composed of sex scenes. In short, he's a man-whore.

And as if that wasn't unbelievable enough, Javier's character is just creepy. He stalks Ms. Mood Swing all the time, he thinks about her all the time, he counts the number of women he has slept with just to know how much he can resist temptation (and the number isn't pretty, and his whore-ness seems hereditary too), and... damn it, it's JAVIER BARDEM. Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. He looks more like a villain and could switch places with Ms. Mood Swing's father anytime because the guy (the guy who plays Ms. Mood Swing's father) looks as old as his damn daughter!

Ms. Mood Swing is also not without stupid quirks. For one thing, she first denies Fernando's hand in marriage years after their vow and engagement, and after her husband dies, she first denies Fernando, and suddenly we're shown her uncensored torso in bed with Fernando. AHHHHH MY EYES!

To be honest, when you put some things in consideration, the movie's not THAT bad. It has some moments, and the ending is just iconic and jaw-droppingly beautiful. You'll feel sort of sorry for a few characters, too.

But ultimately, it's a severe case of style over substance. Plus, it's obviously forgettable. If you're the type who watches a film adaptation of a novel before reading it, just don't watch this. Otherwise, err... give it a rent. Perhaps the visuals will sweep you away and you'll enjoy this crap. Regardless, it'll give you a terrible impression of legendary Gael Garcia Marquez's bestseller of the same title.

Rating: 3.5/10

P.S., if there are typos or grammatical errors, I'm sorry because I just typed these on the way home on my iPod touch.

January 10, 2009

CES: More cool stuff

There's always some fantasy that turns into reality everyday. Those fantasies usually come first in a movie, and with passion do tech companies turn them into something that simply seems second nature. Today, we have yet another iconic gadget turned reality, and it's the Watch Phone, courtesy of LG.

While there have been watch phones in the past, they've been big and bulky and clearly have drowned from the public consciousness. With this watch phone, it's all different. It's sleek, it looks cool, and it just looks awesome.

I mean, I'm not gonna be first in line because simply putting a wristwatch onto your ear would look damn silly, but the features are simply as brilliant as Dick Tracy's. I mean, first you get a touch screen based interface, and then there's the phone part, of course, then there's the music player and hell, a camera (with megapixels that have yet to be determined)!
Additionally, for your text messages, the watch will read them out loud for you. It's not yet known whether there'll be a speakerphone, but I suggest getting a Bluetooth headset because it has a feature that even the iPhone doesn't even have: stereo Bluetooth!

That is awesome, but impractical.

So let's see some more practical stuff then- like the Samsung P3.

OK, maybe it's just a music player that is reminiscent of the iPod touch. It plays movies, music, and shows photos. But here are some things the iPod touch can't even have because it's in the iPhone (oh wait, the iPhone doesn't even have them either): stereo Bluetooth, FM radio, built-in voice recording, haptic feedback (the thing vibrates when you touch it), a great customizable widgets interface and wait for it- a frigging phone.
Technically, the P3 is not a phone. But here's the thing: if you go through a few menus and select Mobile Phone Bluetooth syncing, you don't even have to use your phone anymore. Instead, you can receive text messages and receive calls because the P3 has a built-in speaker and microphone. It's like the surrogate of your phone! But don't take my word for it, watch it in action.

Interested? Well, like the iPod touch, it'll max out with 32 GB of capacity with 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB capacities to choose from. Prices unknown as of now, though.

Not practical enough? Already have an iPod? Well, then I don't know... Let's just throw practicality out the window, and say hello to glasses-powered 3D gaming by nVidia.

The glasses aren't as geeky as the red-blue glasses of the 50's, and the feature is already compatible with several current-gen games. All you need, however, is a special monitor, I think. Just shell out for that and $199 for the nVidia kit, and you're all set for that 3D LAN party.

There are sliders everywhere so you can adjust several settings, too, but if you're interested in this, just remember the Virtual Boy.

Surprisingly enough, 199 US dollars is kind of inexpensive, but my hearing may be wrong.

Perhaps that thing is too cheap for you, and you want to hear something outrageous. Fine. I'll give it to you.
What's this? A picture frame? Nope, it's a portable Blu-ray player- the world's first.

You can swivel the screen to make it look like a frame or a laptop, and... there are connections on the side.

Panasonic managed to fit the power of Blu-ray into this thing, and it'll sell for 799 US dollars- equivalent to about 37627 Philippine pesos. OK, perhaps it's not THAT outrageous when you consider that it's a Blu-ray player, but think about it like this: it defeats the purpose of Blu-ray.

How? Well, it's like this: High-definition is made for big screen TV's, so being able to experience high definition is next to impossible in a portable device. In short, you're better off buying a significantly cheaper portable DVD player, as it's more practical, and you won't notice the difference at all.

That is unless the device can output to a TV. That changes everything.

*If you've been tracking CES, you may ask: Where's the Sony VAIO Lifestyle PC? Well, that netbook is pretty lame in my eyes. Stylish, but lame, like the MacBook Air, only significantly harder to use. Seriously, would you like to squint while using Windows Vista AND get used to that really small joystick in replacement to the touchpad? I don't think so.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Review

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
PictureHouse, New Line Cinema
Abigail Breslin, Chris O' Donnell, Joan Cusack, Stanley Tucci

Take a good look at the poster. OK, what does it tell you? Kids movie... no, tween movie, right?

Fortunately, everyone else beyond that target audience can watch this, very much so, as it also tackles such an extremely important era (1930's, the Depression, which is what America may go through again) and how one can feel so content and happy despite the hardness of the times.

To be honest, I want to write a synopsis, but that would simply give the whole movie away. While the poster makes the movie seem so light and innocent, it's actually pretty deep. I mean, you as a viewer will also feel the Depression closing in as Kit as her family struggles to barely survive it, yet you will also feel a certain thrill in the mystery that occurs halfway through the movie. I don't really know the thing the movie wants to be- an allegory for these modern times of economic slowdown, or simply a mystery, or both. Perhaps both, and if it is, the balance doesn't really feel as if it was nailed.

Whatever the case, you'll find that Kittredge is a rather fresh breath of air in an era of really dark movies. It manages to tackle a really heavy issue in a somehow timely manner, yet it manages to keep a shining, smiling demeanor. Perhaps it's Abigail Breslin? Her dollish appearance seems to radiate off the screen all throughout, and her acting is just fine, but nothing spectacular.

Perhaps a Mr. Jackie Cooper sums it all up for me- "More depth than you would expect"- and it's true. There's a lot of depth in what seems like a simplistic tale, and it thinks that its audience is intelligent. This is the kind of movie that can hold off the short attention spans, and make kids become inquisitive, or if not, be lost in thought about the economic landscape.

One thing I hate about it, really, is the fact that the ending is just so cheesy, and some moments are all too predictable. The fact that it surprises you in its mystery-book-like roll out, however, pretty much makes up for it.

It's bright and whimsical enough to be extremely advisable for kids, but not shallow enough to turn off all the others- I simply can't stress it enough. If you're looking for a nice family flick that's not shallow but still enjoyable, Kit Kittredge is the one to play on your DVD player.

Rating: 8.5/10

January 9, 2009

CES: Palm Pre is what I want

Sony's bendy TV, Nyko's own Wiimote, Samsung's sleek P2, touch-screen Walkman, I can go on for days. CES is the convention that holds the Microsoft conference, which merely reiterated the stuff found in a previous developer's convention (Windows 7 beta is available for download though), but it's also the convention where all the other brands converge and show their wares.

One in particular looks like my ticket to touchsville- the Palm Pre. While I predict that it seriously won't kill the iPhone, people who know their tech will probably say that it's better. Of course, the iPhone will be guaranteed to have a new iteration by June or so and complete specs for the product aren't readily available (I'm curious about a few other features that it may or may not lack), but for now, the Palm Pre looks real nice and desirable.

It's not sleek like the iPhone, and the QWERTY keypad looks awful to press, but the software is the ticket. If Palm's new WebOS- the upgrade Palm fans have been waiting for- performs as admirably as the iPhone's, I may just jump ship and save for one. It also supports multi-touch gestures like the iPhone, but it will also give you a way to switch between open applications in a manner similar to the way you switch through 'tabs' in iPhone Safari.

OK, so perhaps I'm associating this one way too much with the iPhone. I apologize, but the iPhone is simply the de-facto standard for touch-screen phones for now. I'll try not to associate in the succeeding paragraphs.

Anyway, you may ask: It has a keypad, but where's the directional pad?! Well, you can actually use the area just below the screen to navigate your phone. 
Additionally, charging isn't a mess either- You can charge the Pre wirelessly in the literal sense through a hockey puck.
No AC adaptors.

What do you do with the hockey puck? Well you place the device on top of it, and voila! Charging.

While it's not clear whether you have to charge the hockey puck on the wall, but if you could, it would be awesome and you could charge on the road if you ran out of juice.

If you want to see it in action, watch the video below.

I'm crossing my fingers that this will be the phone for me. Seriously.

January 7, 2009

MacWorld '09: Fall Out Boy shows you how to play guitar

So the rumors were true.

Last night, Philippine time, Phil Shiller made his MacWorld appearance to unveil several things that matched the rumors.

Unfortunately, the stream of the keynote isn't going as smoothly as keynotes past, but I'm just gonna outline every major announcement over here.

1) iLife '09
So the iLife suite is pretty much a big selling point since it comes built-in to every Mac. And since this is a suite, there are singular applications that run in an integrated, seamless environment, and they are:

a) iPhoto
The photo management tool gets new features- face detection, geotagging, online sharing, better editing tools and themed slideshows. 

With Faces (or face detection), you can get a photo, select the face you want to track and type the name of the person with the face. After that, iPhoto automatically detects whether the person is in a picture the next time you import photos from your camera.

With Places (geotagging), you can "tag" the location of the picture you took using a GPS-enabled cameraphone (ahem, iPhone) or a GPS-enabled camera. iPhoto will group your pictures according to the place you went to. If you live in America, you can also use this feature to print out books that also track the location of your vacation (called Travel Places).

Then there's online sharing which lets you directly upload your pictures to Facebook or Flickr in one click.

Additionally, themed slideshows are (finally) there, and all you have to do is view your pics as a slideshow and show them off on-screen with an accompanying theme.

Bottom line, amateur photographers who don't want to shell out more cash to buy Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture can get by with iPhoto even better, especially with better editing tools.

b) iMovie 
I've criticized iMovie '08 for being hard to use, and preferred iMovie HD. Now, even though it kind of keeps the same interface, it adds in new features that will most likely satiate the fickle ones- like me.

Precision editing, advanced drag-and-drop, more themes, video stabilization, green-screen effects, new effects, and a full screen browser make up for the lackluster '08 edition.

I can't wait to get my hands on it, because I'm still quite skeptical.

c) GarageBand
Ever wanted to learn all those crazy riffs for all those crazy songs from the crazy ones who made them popular? Well, you can now get Sting to teach you Roxanne, or Patrick Stump with I Don't Care when you purchase Artist Lessons. This is a pretty good gimmick that'll get guitarists, pianists and girls (mostly girls) screaming, and an interesting experiment. There's a huge chance of it sinking under, you see, but who knows.
Colbie's teaching me how to play "Bubbly"!

Additionally if your guitar supports it, you can wire it onto your computer and make it sound like those legendary guitars your dad keeps talking to you about. Let's get that oomph into the music.

d) iWeb
The only update that's probably meant for everyone to care about is iWeb's Facebook features which let your Facebook friends know whether an iWeb website has been updated.

 Unfortunately, one would require MobileMe for that one.

e) iDVD
Actually nothing much new here, just more themes since iDVD is excellent already in its own right.

2) iWork '09
Because of versatile export tools, excellent themes and speed, I prefer iWork '08 to the Mac version of Microsoft Office. While Microsoft Office on Windows is still better (except for PowerPoint, Keynote pwns it regardless of version), there are some welcome changes to this suite of applications.

a) Pages
This is Apple's answer to Microsoft Word. While I loved the previous version, this version adds even more options to the fray like a full-screen view, better outlining, mail merge (with Numbers), more gorgeous templates and a better way to type mathematical equations (using MathType or EndNote).

b) Numbers
Microsoft Excel's extremely young brother. While Numbers was a decent alternative to Excel, it didn't really compare. This new version, fortunately, adds some more functions that make it more user-friendly, even if it still doesn't compare to Excel.

Your charts can now be categorized and hidden so that you can work better with a more compact view of looking at things, for example.

c) Keynote
Now this is a program I enjoy tinkering with. Significantly more beautiful and better than PowerPoint, Keynote once again blazes ahead of the pack with even more stunning effects and actions.

Magic Move, for example, operates quite a bit like Flash's keyframes. In one slide, you can place an object in one side, and in the other slide, you can place the same object in another side. Once Magic Move is activated, the object will automatically animate. This is a great way to save time (and for animating a set of scattered cards).

Then there's the ability to use your iPhone or iPod touch as a remote control. I've always wanted that, and now it's available through a separate app in the App Store!

d) iWork.com
Now in public beta, iWork.com promises to be a glorified Google Docs and Spreadsheets, meaning that you can work on a presentation, document or spreadsheet on your computer, transfer that file online and work on that thing on your PC through a browser. You can invite other people so they can collaborate on comment on your work.

Additionally, iWork.com also promises to be able to send copies of the same document to friends regardless of operating system because it can convert and send the files in Microsoft Office or iWork formats.
No need for exporting and sending and waiting for the other person to respond.

I'm not sure whether you'll need MobileMe for this, though, but it would be cool if you didn't. And let's hope there aren't any severe bugs this time, OK, Apple?

3) It's all in the box.
iWork '09 and iLife '09 will strictly need Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard). Fortunately, Apple is selling a box set that is of extremely high value for money (how surprising!) which includes Leopard, iWork and iLife. For 169 dollars, it's a fricking bargain.

4) iTunes without condoms.
What is DRM? It's a stupid way of stripping the rights of consumers while protecting the rights of copyright owners. iTunes has had that for years and now, it suddenly doesn't.

With 4 major labels and thousands of independents agreeing, iTunes is finally making the shift to being DRM-free, meaning that you can buy that track and burn it not 3, not 4, but infinite times. You can also put that song into your Zune, or your Creative Zen without having to actually re-encode it.

This will really grant Apple the status of biggest music retailer ever.

Still, how about existing purchased songs? Well, for 30 cents per track, you can get a DRM-free version of the same track with a 256kbps bit rate.

iPhone and iPod touch owners in America can also get on the act, now even without Wi-Fi.

5) A 17-inch MacBook Pro that sips, sips, sips juice
Not just a bigger screen.

There was a product that was noticeably ignored last year in the Notebook event. While its younger brothers were re-designed, the 17" MacBook Pro was left in the dust. Apple makes amends this time and introduces a little twist: an 8-hour unremovable battery that's environmentally-friendly, lasts 1000 charge cycles and jives with the Pro's demands. Holy sh*t.

And if your eyes are good enough, the color gamut of the screen has been increased greatly (60%) as well. Most likely for the pro video editors and graphic designers.

Other than that, the redesign introduces the 17-incher to the MiniDisplayPort, the unibody, the dual video cards and the gorgeous LED backlit screen (and yes, an optional matte finish for 50 more). And yes, it costs the same as the last-generation 17" MacBook Pro.

Here's the commercial:

And here's how the unbelievable 8-hour battery came to be:

(thanks goes to the user applejuicevideos for being such a fast uploader)

6) Tony Bennett
Ending the whole keynote was world-renowned singer Tony Bennett. But I didn't see that performance either.

I can't really muse about 'how the keynote was so underwhelming' because I couldn't really watch it properly for some reason, but I gotta say, just the promise of a more precise iMovie sells for me.

January 6, 2009

Sonic Rush (DS) review

Sonic Rush
Nintendo DS
SEGA, Sonic Team, Dimps Corporation

Released in 2005, you'd expect this game to be one of those really bad stinkers you'd find in regular consoles. Fortunately for series fans, this game reminds everyone why Sonic is still popular in the first place.

With Dimps once again taking the reins on this 2D platforming adventure from the GameBoy Advance to the Nintendo DS, it's a no-brainer that the game would be what Sonic really is about: speed and fun.

Like the extremely popular New Super Mario Bros. coming after it, it models the characters in 3D and the environments are in 2D with some 3D elements thrown in the mix. And like that other game, it works extremely well. The character models look good, and the environments are extremely colorful and varied.

The action however, unlike that other game, occurs on both screens instead of only on top, and the developers utilize both screens to nice effect (as well as giving you a bit of a heads-up on whether there's an enemy above).

But the thing that matters most in a Sonic game is the speed, and the game delivers on that promise as it introduces a mechanic that makes the blue blur even faster- a dash attack. While you can dispatch enemies by jumping, you'll have to slow down to see them, thus the dash attack removes all that and lets you enjoy adrenaline-pumping speed continuously throughout the level. This dash attack doesn't last very long, however, as there is a limit to how long you can do it indicated by a meter on the left side of the screen. You can fill up this meter, easily enough, by mashing the B button mid-air, and this causes Sonic (or Blaze) to do tricks. This system is rather addicting, and you'll want to rack up the points and maintain the dash attack's limit.

Other than that new mechanic, it's all a return to roots for Sonic in this considerably successful entry in the series. It goes back to the magic of the Genesis Sonic's, while managing to keep the whole experience fresh and exciting.

But then again, there's also the way it handles Multiplayer. Regardless as to whether the other DS has a copy of the game or not, the game lets you select from all the stages available in the game (as long as you have played it in the single player campaign) for multiplayer play. And unlike that other mascot's game, it also loads extremely and relatively quick even if the other DS doesn't have a copy of the game. This is an approach to Download Play that I extremely like, and also a factor that makes it addictive for me.

Unfortunately, there are a few cons that keep the game from getting a perfect score. While this is personal preference, I think the game's music is rather grating. While not enough to make you throw the DS to the wall, it's still pretty annoying. And then there's the random placement of enemies on the stage. While there are power-ups that make you invincible to them, it's only occasional as the game expects you to use your Dash attack regularly. It does make sense, but in the first playthrough, you'll simply find this fact annoying. And then there's the button-mashing you'll have to endure in some bosses. There are times when you'll have to alternately press the A and B buttons just to win a boss battle. OK, perhaps this is just a way for us to feel more rewarded when the boss is defeated (and a way to put a bit more variation), but in my opinion, it's more annoying that way.

Overall, the game is still top quality, and I recommend a purchase, not only for Sonic fans but for platforming fans everywhere too. Of course, there's the more recent Sonic Rush Adventure (which is also excellent), but that's for another day (ie, when I finish it).

Rating: 8.7/10

January 5, 2009

de Blob (WII) review

de Blob
Nintendo Wii
Blue Tongue, THQ

Ever reminisce those times as a child when you'd actually get a crayon and start painting on the bland, white wall, and every time you did you would get reprimanded by your parents? Well, this game basically takes this child-like desire to color the world and put it in a video game, and infuses it with a political metaphor along the way.

So you start out as the titular Blob as you help the Color Revolution bring all life back to Chroma City, much to the anger of the colonizing INKT Corporation. You restore landmarks, ancient ruins, rivers, lands, and look at pretty pre-rendered, but smartly 'written' cutscenes in between.

Gameplay-wise, de Blob is extremely easy to pick up and play. The primary mechanic here is to put color back just by absorbing a specific color and touching a building to color it. Still, you're not exactly an unlimited coloring machine, as you have to observe the number of paint points you have. They operate similar to ammo, but these points also double as your HP or life points. 

You can get several styles to give a bit more personality to your establishments, and you are free to color the part of the town you want as long as the timer doesn't run out, which is pretty much the least of your concerns if you agree to the challenges presented to you by the members of the Color Revolution.

These challenges are generally easy, but one challenge type in particular which involves having to paint a select part of the town in specific colors is a bit limiting (and at times, frustrating). They manage to infuse some variety in the paint job, but they, in the end, lack just that as well-variety. To be honest, the lack of challenge types (there are only 4 if I'm not mistaken!) is the only major con in the whole game, but that won't stop you from actually getting addicted to coloring the entirety of Chroma City and killing every INKT soldier in sight.

Another con, albeit minor this time, is the fact that Blob can and will cling on to the walls of buildings every single time. This is frustrating if the path is narrow, but with a little bit of perseverance and luck, you can get out of that sticky situation.

The thing that the game definitely runs with is its artistic presentation (the effect that accompanies you painting a building never gets old) as well as its addictive, yet simplistic (and deceptively so) gameplay. If you have a Wii, de Blob is a title you may want to nab if you're into platformers. It may not be as magnificent as Super Mario Galaxy, but it's a potential third-party franchise I'd want a sequel for.

Rating: 8/10
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