March 30, 2009

Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang review

A Filipino film made during the rather lucrative 70s, Lino Brocka's social commentary has been restored and put to DVD, thus my access to what many regard as a masterpiece. I gotta say, it is quite a piece of work, and it has managed to actually stay rather relevant in these modern times.

So what is it about? Well, it stars a really young Christopher de Leon in his first role as Junior. His family is rather dysfunctional as his father is a womanizer and his mom, well, is his mom in real life. Anyway, Junior finds solace in the company of leper Berto and village idiot Kuala and learns values of love and life while witnessing the sheer hypocrisy that a charitable association in their barangay possesses.

Powerful images are abound from start to finish, and you'll get rather captivated and curious as to how the story will unfold. Surely enough, it has a really great way of rolling out its sub-plots that tie into its climactic ending, and that's no mean feat. I mean, it has quite a few sub-plots that you could also classify the movie into other genres as well: coming-of-age story, romance story, social discrimination story, take your pick.

Director Lino Brocka weaves them so seamlessly and effectively to the main story and gives structure to the searing commentary.

The film dares to ask you one question, "Would you truly, really help the misfits in your community?". Perhaps, in text form, it sounds rather lame, but I'm telling you that it isn't so lame when you see a bit of yourself in this movie.

While the film is extremely grainy, there's something to think about when you go and watch this good film. It presents powerful images, an ingenious use of indigenous instruments, and a great smooth storyline that in its underlying message is extremely thought-provoking.

Rating: 9/10

March 29, 2009

Chrono Trigger Review

Chrono Trigger (DS)

Following in the Square-Enix tradition of porting their old games to the DS, they now feast their eyes on the fan favorite Chrono Trigger. But to make fans even crazier, Square Enix put some additional content, like a formal English translation, two additional dungeons, a new ending and a new Arena mode (which I never really figured out).

Now for a little history. First released in the 90s to much fanfare in gamer circles, Chrono Trigger was an RPG that was made by a so-called 'dream team' composed of the greatest minds from both Squaresoft and Enix at the time (basically when Square Enix merger didn't happen yet). The game also made big names out of several industry figures, and it pretty much took not only the genre forward, but also the industry itself in one way or another.

Now you may think that just because the original SNES game was a such a classic (and that the new game, err, remake adds more to the experience with new content and portability), I'd give it a ten in a heartbeat, but seriously, no. But before the fanboys out there go out and flame me, let me also say that the flaws in this gem are rather minor and the core experience is unforgettable and top-notch.

Let's get a background on the story over here. Crono is just an ordinary teen who resides in the fictional town of Truce during 1000 A.D., and this year is particularly noteworthy because it's when they hold the Millenial Fair- a fair held every thousand years. Everything changes when Crono bumps into exuberant Marle as she later dares to jump in Crono's inventor friend Lucca's teleportation machine. Thing is, the teleporter goes wrong and a time portal opens, sending Marle into another time period. This journey then suddenly becomes a bit more epic in scale as they travel from time period to time period to try and rewrite history as well as the apocalyptic future for that matter from the evil hand of Lavos.

You'd think that the game has aged too much due to the fact that its plot revolves around the now tired concept of time travel. Well, don't you go crying cliché on me right now because the game manages to use this foundation in a fresh, coherent way. How? Well, it's something best explained through experience, although I'll tell you this: despite the shifts in time periods, the big picture manages to flow oh-so smoothly in a manner that doesn't seem confusing at all. There will be times when you'll have to use the time element to affect a few other minor events as well, which is really cool when you get to do it.

Additionally, the characters have their own distinct (if not stereotypical in a manner of viewing) personalities and they come off as a really unique and unforgettable cast. The distinct style of Akira Toriyama (Dragonball) makes sure of that. Hell, everything artfully made in this game is beautiful, even if sometimes a few crucial paths look like walls (that just adds more opportunity for Easter eggs and hidden items which I like). The music goes hand-in-hand with the art direction, and the score is haunting, riveting, beautiful... it deserves an orchestral treatment, in my opinion. Instead, we're stuck to the same 16-bit era versions, although that's not to say that the quality of the music deteriorates due to it- in fact, a 16-bit score may just spur much more nostalgia instead to the retro gamer. Truly, the musicians worked hard to make the score sound as if it was played by true instruments of which they somehow succeed in doing.

Something else that's fresh is the gameplay. Yes, you may have seen the ATB battle system before in some games like FF8 but Chrono Trigger pretty much invented it (correct me if I'm wrong though). What is this ATB thing, you say? Well, let's say that there's a small bar below your character's stats: hit points, magic points, the usual. That small bar will constantly be filled up by a blue bar, and when it's full, you get to make your move as to whether you attack, use Techs (Magic) or Items. Basically you have to wait for a bar to fill up so you can take your turn. Despite the seemingly boring description, I think it's much more exciting and strategic than the usual turn-based battle systems used by many others. Like I said, you just have to experience it.

Subtler changes like being able to move while talking to a person (or when a dialog box is displayed), a silent protagonist (at the time of its release it was a new thing), the ability to evade fights with monsters (the game displays monsters in your field of vision unlike other RPGs that rely on random encounters so you only have to fight them when you make contact with them) as well as the fact that fights start instantly after monster contact without any loading or scenario changes contribute tons to the gameplay experience as a whole. I mean, I haven't seen many an RPG that lets players walk around an area while another person is talking to them or when the game announces that you made a discovery in a treasure box, nor have I experienced many an RPG that has fights that just start instantly- within the snap of a finger without those flashy transitions and 3D scenario changes. I mean, once you play this game, you'll be going ape-shit and you'll be asking questions like, "Why aren't modern RPGs doing THIS?!".

Still, I have a few complaints to get out of the way: most of the time, the game doesn't really give a clear hint as to where you have to go next. I spend much of my time exploring the world and finding out if something will happen in one place or another. It can be excruciating sometimes, but that's what walkthroughs are for. Additionally, a few of the new elements added in by Square Enix for the DS don't really matter much. The new content is composed of fetch quests which go stale, and I can't freakin understand the Arena mode which is basically Pokemon-esque. How can I get my own friggin beast to actually be able to use this mode?! Can anyone in-game tell me?!

Seriously, I think Square Enix should've only added the new ending and put the game out because with the now 13 endings to unlock and watch, the addition makes for loads of replay value alone.

The game is really good as it holds quite a place in my heart (look at me, I'm using understatements!), and the DS version may just be the definitive one since it also adds the anime cutscenes from the PS1 remake minus the load times. If you haven't played Chrono Trigger, then you just might be missing half your (gamer) life. A must-buy for DS owners.

Rating: 9.3/10

P.S. If you were wondering about the length of this adventure, a playthrough with only 4 or 5 sidequests done and only the general ending unlocked will garner 24 hours of game time. There's a LOT of sidequests and endings to unlock, mind you.

March 25, 2009

Run Crysis on a Netbook with OnLive

So what is this newfangled new gaming service called OnLive, you say? Theoretically, it will let you play any game on any computer regardless if it is Windows or Mac, Pentium 4 or Nehalem. All you need is a *fast* Internet connection.
How does it work? Well, let's say you're always on an Internet connection, and let's say that you have purchased a subscription to the service. Now you can log on to the service and select whatever the hell game you want to play. Oh, I don't know... Crysis?
Now, we're on the game and it's running in full speed. Why? Because the service streams the game to you from a real state-of-the-art computer through the Internet, and you are able to control the character in real-time.

Exciting, no?

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the service won't be released here in the Philippines, and you have to get into a paid monthly subscription ala Xbox Live Gold, and the connection speed may have to get beefed up over here unless you still want to play with high-quality lag.

While this concept is very much innovative, and the major publishers are on board, I have a bad feeling about this. There is just as much chance for this project to tank as it is to succeed. And if it really wants to succeed, it should try the Asian market, Korea first then branch out probably.

Anyway, here's a demo video courtesy of Gamespot.

iPhone Features Apple's Not Telling You

Although Apple already announced loads of features for the new iPhone firmware, there are some features (that are actually more hardware-dependent) that Apple may not be telling people. I'm not going to assure that these features will make it to the next iPhone, no doubt to be announced in Apple's Worldwide Developers' Conference in June, but I'm convinced that they will be.

So, the next iPhone will most likely have (that Apple hasn't officially told us)...

1) Video recording
Even the most basic of phones have MMS and message forwarding, as well as basic blurry video recording. If iPhone 3.0 ticks the checkbox off the former two, then the latter's checkbox might be ticked off as well, as evidenced by this "Publish Video" screenshot.

This was found when someone tried to publish/upload a photo to Apple's MobileMe service. Typo? I think not.

2) Internet Tethering
If you don't already have a netbook that you can put a SIM card in, you can always use your cellphone as an internet modem. Essentially, if there's 3G or EDGE coverage, you can just connect the USB cord or connect the iPhone through Bluetooth to use it as a modem. Scott Forstall of Apple actually confirmed this feature in a Q&A but he said that Apple's still negotiating with cellular networks so it's not natively activated even in the iPhone 3.0 beta.

3) Faster Wi-Fi and 3.5G
There are rumors of Apple placing a Wireless-N (and a new 3G) chip inside the iPhone so that it can reach Wi-Fi and 3G speeds of up to 7.2 mbps. Technically, the number's not gonna be possible in our shores, but in America it sure will.

Information is quite scarce as of now, but as time goes, there will indeed be more features waiting to be unearthed. Who knows? Maybe there'll also be a whole other product to be announced in WWDC that will steal the iPhone's thunder- like a netbook? I might be crossing my fingers for a netbook if not for my insane aversion to them, really. The famous reality distortion field might change all of it, perhaps (since Steve Jobs is back in shape by then)?

SOURCES: Macrumors, Engadget

March 21, 2009

House of the Dead: Overkill Review

House of the Dead: Overkill
SEGA, Headstrong Games

It really seems that only SEGA is pretty much going to be the top-tier publisher for hardcore Wii titles this year. While Sonic and the Black Knight did pretty bad, the fallen Dreamcast maker has still spurred a lot of interest through its other games like MadWorld and House of the Dead: Overkill- the latter of which I'm going to review.

Intended to be a prequel to the previous games in the franchise, House of the Dead: Overkill makes a noticeable step-up from those games and gives the game a real personality and distinct signature into it. Anyway, you once again star as Agent G- a name that becomes a running gag- and you fight zom- err, mutants alongside a man who likes to say the word f-k 3 times a second named Isiah Washington. Luckily, the speakers of my TV are crappy enough to block out Isiah's extremely constant swearing, but I unluckily am left out of more of the extremely funny exchanges between the duo.

I seriously love the humor, the gunplay, the tone, and the music of the game. I mean, it's a really good HOTD game but there are also a lot of things that block the title from greatness.

Gamers will definitely note the sheer length of the game- or rather, the lack of it. I mean, there are only 7 missions, and while each mission seems to be really well-crafted, they are extremely short and extremely easy- especially with a second player. Those alone are going to be deal-breakers for some, but fortunately, there are quite a few unlockables (and damn good guns), and mini-games (which supports 2-4 players, unlike the campaign which supports only 2) that will make one come back for more.

Another potential deal-breaker for some is the fact that the game doesn't run for a minute without someone saying a swear word. While I'm fine with swear words as they are used to over-the-top and humorous effect, some will definitely not like the excessiveness of them (or maybe they just won't understand the context of the game). In fact, the game has set a real record for most swear words in the Guiness Book of World Records Gamer Edition!

Yet another less deal-breaking component of the game is the occasional dip in frame rate. OK, that's a really minor flaw given the horsepower of the Wii, but it's definitely a noticeable damper to the action. Plus, the game is still on-rails meaning that you're not exactly in control of where the characters go as that part is merely automatic (but you still can use the Wiimote to look slightly upward, slightly downward, slightly left, and slightly right).

And finally, there is gonna be a lot of disgusting sh*t (for lack of a better word) abound, so be sure to take the warning "Have a strong stomach" seriously, especially in the near-end which involves brain-swapping and mother err..., never mind.

Still, it's well-written, extremely funny and just plain fun, House of the Dead: Overkill ditches the old over-seriousness (that led to some unintentional laughs) and embraces a B-movie look that suits the series extremely well. The environments are extremely stylish and the soundtrack is slick! Seriously, there's a lot to love about HOTD: OK but there are also a lot of things that hold it down from greatness- and that's just unfortunate.

Rating: 8.5/10

March 20, 2009

Internet Explorer 8 is final

The new version of Internet Explorer has just come out of beta and is a seriously huge step for a company like Microsoft. While it still has problems handling JavaScript (and thus, it doesn't pass the Acid3 web standards test), it has several end-user features that people will definitely like.

OK, maybe most of these features have already existed in the form of a Firefox extension (but some IE8 features were inspiration for some extensions as well) or just derived from several browsers outright (but then again, I'm not complaining about that), but it definitely lays some innovations in the table. And yes, those features just might be worth the traditional reboot after installation.

Web Slices
Just as Safari lets you select a part of a webpage to post into Mac OS X's widget environment, Internet Explorer 8 lets you get up to date on the several parts of a specific website. A fine example of what you can do with Web Slices is shown above.

Unfortunately, you'll have to install this add-on as it isn't built-in with the browser.

Although it's present in specialty browsers like Flock, Internet Explorer 8 gives the masses a more comprehensive list of shortcuts or "accelerators" to choose from. Let's say you don't know the meaning of the word "schadenfreude" and you see the word on a webpage. Double-click that word and several options will appear. It's either you blog it, find it on Wikipedia, etc. etc. etc..

Domain Highlighting
It sounds like a subtle cosmetic change, but it's a rather important security feature. Why? Because usually people don't get conscious of the URL when they could be accessing a fake site, I mean, you can know if a website is phishing you and stealing your information by just looking at the URL, but one will not do this always especially when the domain name isn't even noticeable. OK, Chrome users already know this, but since IE8 is a mainstream browser, it's all for the good.

Color-coded tabs
Complementing the domain highlights are the color-coded tabs. Basically, IE8 gives websites of the same domain the same color of tabs, so you can know whether that website you just accessed suddenly brought you to a fake version of it. In theory, that is.

Compatibility mode
Since Microsoft made Internet Explorer 8 a little more standards-compliant, there is bound to be a few issues involving old websites designed for older Internet Explorer versions. You can access this via a button beside the Refresh button. Just hope that you won't mistaken the two of them.

Individual tab management
While IE8 won't be able to let you rip tabs to form another window, you'll be able to have the benefit of a feature similar to Chrome. Let's say a tab froze up because of a plug-in like Adobe Reader or Flash. Usually, you'll have to press Ctrl+Alt+Del and terminate all important data in all the other tabs, well not anymore. You can just exit that tab and continue the work you've been doing in the other tabs.

InPrivate Browsing
Just like Safari's Private Browsing and Chrome's Incognito mode before it, Internet Explorer lets you surf like a rockstar without leaving evidence. Still, the parents have the upper hand if they are tech-savvy, because they can enable Parental Controls and simply disable this feature.

Cross-site scripting filters
Internet Explorer 8 promises to be the most secure browser in the planet, and the efforts show. With cross-site scripting filters ("cross-site scripting" involves one site sending err, messages to another one, hackers may use this system to put malicious code into genuine websites), Internet Explorer 8 finds out whether this is occurring and stops you from going inside the site.

Smart Search
Now when you type a search term, Internet Explorer gives you results as you type- and they're illustrated too!

Admittedly, I won't go back to Internet Explorer unless I'm desperate, but version 8 is very compelling nonetheless. Download it now.

Prince of Persia '08 Review

Prince of Persia (2008)
Ubisoft, Ubisoft Montreal

I discovered Sands of Time probably 3 or 4 years ago, and I immediately liked the platforming, the gameplay, the rewinding, the story- I became a huge fan. While Warrior Within wasn't as engrossing as its predecessor, it came with a dual-weapon combat system that was fun to implement, and Two Thrones tried to fuse both worlds of Sands and Warrior Within with limited success.

Last year's re-imagining changes almost all of that.

New Face
Now starring a new face for the Prince character (the man's name is never revealed), Prince of Persia's protagonist has a radically different flavor from the usual- the man's a decidedly unlikable wisecracking jackass with an American accent- and he looks like a really poor man. So it goes like this: the Prince is just minding his own business leading his donkey Farah (one of the several nods to older games) to who-knows-where, then he sees a girl named Elika running from a few imperial guards. The Prince decides to help Elika and he gets into a sticky situation involving the prevention of the release of an evil God and ridding the world of corruption.

While the game retains the core elements of the franchise- platforming, combat, puzzle solving- the game's implementation of it is very much different, and this change can pretty much be attributed to the fact that it also uses a modified version of the engine behind another famous Ubisoft Montreal game Assassin's Creed. This engine also enables the game to let the player pick whatever mission they want for less linear gameplay, oh and everything you see, you can touch and reach, seriously.

Instead of the dual-sword combat and multiple enemies, the game gives you intense one-on-one battles and a fascinatingly fun combo system, and instead of the ability to rewind time, your companion will be able to save you- always- as the game knows not the meaning of "Game Over". In short, you can't die- ever.

Platforming is widely the same though, with a few more moves here and there. For example, Elika is able to extend the length of your jump, and you can also climb on the roof as well as use your arm to slide down on virtually any flat wall.

The game's presentation is top-notch, and eye-pleasing as it looks like a storybook come to life. Nice little touches like the black goo called corruption that extends its reach to you as well as the glimmering plates of magic lend to its fantasy ambience- it just looks beautiful.

The soundtrack isn't always particularly memorable, save a few ditties, and it contains an appropriate Middle-Eastern flavor to it.

Annoying Dialogue and Personalities
Unfortunately, the Prince itself is annoying and downright unlikable due to his inappropriate sarcasm. Perhaps the storywriters intended the Prince to be constant comic relief- that all of this is just a dream-like game- but they obviously failed.

Despite the fact that the man doesn't divulge much of his personality, the gamer will want to learn more about the subdued Elika since she's a hell of a lot more mysterious than the Prince. Fortunately, the voice actors (while not spectacular, but not bad either) and the fluid animation help in giving the two characters a bit of chemistry that makes the whole experience a lot more tolerable. Still, they're wasted because of how atrociously-written most of the lines are. I mean, the story itself is a wonderful one, but the lines of the characters are just stupid. Maybe the developers knew this, so they made most of the dialogue optional- meaning that if the gamer want the two to talk, he'll have to press a button first before they actually talk. Yes, there are some tidbits that contribute to character development in these optional talks, but most of the time, you're not missing out on much.

Fortunately, the barebones mandatory dialogue is okay and it helps progress the story.

Platforming and Slippery Controls
Platforming- which forms the bulk of the game- is very fun, but I'll have to admit my having a beef with the controls. Sometimes, I want the Prince to go to a certain direction, but the game gets me to another. Or when the camera shifts perspective, the Prince's direction also changes and I usually fall down a simple gap. I would really sometimes find myself wrestling with the controls, and occasionally they even don't respond at all.

Despite the fact that fights are only done in a one-on-one style reminiscent to that of the original game of the same title, the combo system incorporated into the game gives combat a lot of variety. You can chain several exciting combos that deal a lot of damage, and here's a little taste: you can toss the enemy into the air, summon Elika to attack two times, let the Prince attack and let the enemy sustain its floatation mid-air and make the final blow.

You know what, I just love it.

But the game shows its "intended-for-console" colors due to the fact that quick-time events are a bit hard to do in a PC. Of course, it's all easier on the 360, but in the PC, you'll have to memorize all the symbols and stuff that the game throws at you. It's a shame, really, because quick-time events are important in keeping the exciting flow of the fights, and really, failing to be able to execute these will not only bring you down (but not make you die, because you don't die in this game at all), but also let the enemy regenerating life unnecessarily.

Fortunately, most elements in the game will have a text tutorial that tells you the appropriate keyboard button to press, though.

Short, sweet and painful?
The experience ends in a particularly mixed note- as in people will either love it, or hate it. Personally I'm okay with it since I'm actually asking for more in the form of a sequel, but some will note the context of the ending- it's like a waste of all the player's efforts- but hey, it is rather unexpected and opens possibilities of a sequel (but Ubisoft ended up creating downloadable content that screws PC gamers like me which is lame).

I'm still asking for more, because the game was rather short and actually kinda easy. The easy-ness will depend on some, but some hardcore gamers will be put off by the difficulty (or lack thereof).

Replay Value
There is a little bit of replay value in this game, and it exists within the form of collection of so-called light seeds. In the PC version, particularly, you can unlock several "skins". Aside from that, well, you can explore the huge worlds, I guess.

Prince of Persia is a great platformer with some minor kinks which are eclipsed by the beautiful, immersive environment and ambience. Some will be put off by its length and lack of difficulty though.

Rating: 8.4/10

March 18, 2009

iPhone 3.0: Yes, there's Copy and Paste and then some

No new iPhone revealed today, but existing iPhone (or iPod touch) users can expect a lot from the new firmware to be released by Apple in the Summer months (of course, American summer months) and well, let's cover them chronologically according to the media event that was held.

Developers were the ones in mind when Apple decided to conduct this media event, but that doesn't mean that there are no goodies for end-users as well. Just keep in mind though that the firmware is in beta, and new features might be added. Knowing Apple though, they might even strip one or two in the last minute or otherwise add a buggy feature for that matter.

Anyway, here we go.
Statistics, and more boring stuff
First we have the director of iPod and iPhone Development Team giving out the statistics, iPhone SDK downloads, iPhone sales, motivation for the iPhone developers in the audience, OK, the rudimentary stuff. Additionally, Apple is defending its right for having extremely tight control over App Store submissions by saying that their approval process has become a bit more lax because 96% of App Store submissions have been approved and 98% of submissions have been approved within 7 days, and the man goes on for 5 more minutes afterwards.

Here it really is...
After that, Scott Forstall is called to the stage and we go to the real deal: the iPhone OS 3.0 Software.

Transactions in-App
Developers are pretty much happier because they're able to put purchases in-app, which can actually reduce the number of apps in the App Store, but they're also able to get more revenue and give the consumer more convenience. Catch is that free apps can't do that.
Renew magazine subscriptions inside the app itself.

Local connection to fellow iPhones and iPod touches
Then there's the "Peer to Peer" functionality which enables several iPhones or iPod touches to get inside a local match in a game quickly and through Bluetooth so users need not be in a WiFi zone, nor do any inconvenient pairing. Additionally, other apps can utilize it for other purposes... perhaps file transfer with other brands of phones?

Accessories talk to iPhone (and vice versa)
Plus, accessory makers can now make an app to control an accessory from the iPod touch or iPhone. For example, if your blood pressure thingy is compatible with an iPhone, you can connect it to one and you'll be able to see your blood pressure displayed and you can send that data over to your doctor. Or, maybe you can connect it through Bluetooth if you don't like wires.

Where do I really go to get to Point B?
Next, Google Maps can now be embedded into apps so the full app can be used within a third-party app. Additionally, a framework called CoreLocation can now support turn-by-turn directions for GPS or triangulation, but developers have to make their own maps due to licensing issues. This will make driving to several destinations easier, but unluckily for us, we don't have any Philippine maps that are up-to-date.
Developers can put Google Maps in their apps.

Specific turn-by-turn directions help you cut through traffic.

Broken Promises Made Up For
Now here's one thing people have been a waiting for over a year for: Push notifications. Apple hasn't delivered that with 2.0 last year, so now, well, Forstall acknowledges the error and promises Push notifications for the new firmware. Why not background processes, developers ask? Well, battery life wasn't good that way so push notifications became Apple's workaround for better battery life. Plus, performance will not be affected as much. Let's hope Apple's claims are true though, and that the Apple Push server won't get overloaded. This will be great for IM apps.

Miscellaneous Developer Features
Oh, and I have a good feeling about iPod library access. Rhythm games...... plus voice chat during games! Consumers obviously will say 'Meh', but this is a big deal for developers.
Now Forstall invites several developers from EA, Meebo, Johnsons and Johnsons, ngmoco:) etc. to demo the iPhone 3.0 features.

"Taking care of puppies in the morning, fragging n00bs at night" (Impressions of select demoed apps)
1) The Sims 3 iPhone looks great and it was just programmed in 2 weeks, but oh crap, you're gonna have to pay real money to buy new objects! Rip-off!
The former involves a Sim dancing around to the iPhone's music library, the latter shows off the in-game store.

2) ESPN's app looks great for sports fans who want to see results and the highlights of a game. They demo the iPhone's new video streaming standard.
The quality of the game's highlights are automatically adjusted depending on the bandwidth.

3) And how about that LifeScan glucose meter? It's an app made for diabetics who want to check their glucose and food intake through just the iPhone and an iPhone compatible LifeScan accessory. Pretty nice.

4) Oh, and ngmoco:)'s LiveFire FPS... how will the controls be implemented?
The iPhone OS 3.0 also helps game developers make the iPhone a more credible gaming platform.

5) Leaf Trombone... well, not a big fan of developer smule's Ocarina app but lolz, Phantom of the Opera is the song being demonstrated by the two men from smule, and they look... funny. Two people blowing into an iPhone and just shifting the pitch, it's just... lol.
To your left you'll see the Phantom, and to your right you'll see Christine.

1) Cut Copy and Paste - Finally. How to do it? Well, you can double tap some text (or if you want a block of text, just expand the end point/s) and a bubble will appear. Just double tap the part where you want to paste the text and click Paste. Done. More elegant than Clippy, I'm sure. And yes, SMS and Photos can also be copied and pasted. Third-party apps will have support for it as well.

Jailbroken iPhone? Hell no.

2) Undo/Redo - You can shake the device to summon a dialog box that lets you Undo or Redo some erratic typing. This is prolly gonna be a nice feature for those photo editing apps.

3) Landscape typing - Typing E-mails, Notes and SMS (or pretty much anywhere) is a bit less of a pain because people can now type in that format if they so choose.

4) Messages - SMS has been renamed into a more user-friendly "Messages", and they can now be individually deleted and forwarded, thank God. Plus, MMS support has FINALLY been added. Now photos, vCards (contacts), audio, videos and locations can be sent through MMS instead of E-mail. While I don't use MMS much, I'm still happy that Apple whiners and haters can take a break from making fun of the lack of these oh-so basic features.
Can't you help but point and laugh at the two photos above?

5) Voice Memos - An all new app that should've been built-in since the first iPhone, voice memos can now help people create memos using the microphone (or external mic's). The app looks gorgeous, too.

6) Calendar Syncing - Various Calendaring standards are now supported by the Calendar app and iTunes.

7) System-wide Search - Apple finally gives the users a search feature which is pretty much a mobile version of Mac OS X's Spotlight which searches all major apps for specific information by just flicking to the left of the home screen. This will be very much convenient, especially for people who download loads of apps.

8) Shake to shuffle - I knew it. The gimmicky feature first appeared in the iPod nano, and like that device, it'll probably take a vigorous shake before it gets activated- perfect for runners.

9) Stereo Bluetooth - Yup. A2DP right here. Score 1 for Apple's geek rep.

10) Anti-phishing - More mobile security for mobile Safari

11) YouTube accounts - Yes, I can now log-in to my account straight from the dedicated YouTube app!

12) Auto-fill - You can now worry less about dealing with the virtual keyboard as this Safari feature will enable users to fill out forms with the generic information in one click (or in the iPhone's case, touch).
More than a hundred new features, and a thousand new API's can now be downloaded if you're an iPhone developer. Yep, the iPhone 3.0 beta is available on the Apple site today for developers. The final version of iPhone 3.0 will be released in "summer" for free with all the iPhone's (although Stereo Bluetooth and MMS won't be supported due to hardware limitations) and iPhone 3G owners and 10 dollars for iPod touch owners- yes, both generations.

March 17, 2009

Movies Opening This Week (Week 15)

We got two kinds of romance going on: spies and man love.

Starring huge names like Clive Owen and Julia Roberts (and directed by Michael Clayton scribe and director Tony Gilroy), Duplicity pairs the two A-listers as former agents engaged in an illicit love affair. This love affair is made more convenient by their positions in two rival companies, but since they have to do their lucrative jobs, they have to also engage in a high-stakes espionage game that might break their trust in one another. Sound familiar? Well, it kinda reminds of Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

I Love You Man
Now here is an example of what seems to be a very amusing err..., not exactly a rom-com, but sort of?

Well, anyway, I Love You Man stars Paul Rudd as a man named Peter who just got engaged to his girlfriend. Thing is, he doesn't really have a guy best friend- just girls- and now, to get a best man for the wedding, he goes in a search to find the ideal guy friend for the post. You know what, I smell predictability (and does the trailer show a bit too much?), but I don't care because the trailer made me LOL...

Movie you should not watch (but everyone still will anyway):
The big draw in the film is Nicholas Cage, well, him and the apocalyptic premise anyway. The film is about Cage's son discovering a paper that's full of numbers. Cage figures out that these numbers are actually dates of disasters and the number of deaths in each of them. Thing is, they're all correct, and now Cage will try to avert them and manipulate God's hand.

Why shouldn't you watch it? Because nearly every single movie that involves Nicholas Cage (except Grindhouse, but then again he only plays a part in a fake trailer) is either mediocre or just dumb. Now this ludicrous movie comes along and his hair still looks real bad.

March 14, 2009

Another New Shuffle design leaked?

Despite the fact that a new Shuffle was just released, it seems that Apple already has another one in the works!
While details are vague, it may seem that the earphones to be used are the In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, but now the Remote may just be the iPod itself. Potentially, VoiceOver could be used to help in navigating the songs, and Shuffle or Repeat modes might just be activated through several clicks of the Remote's central button.

The use of in-ear headphones may signal a change to the entire iPod line, or maybe it's just because of the huge backlash due to the default headphones that come with the current generation 4GB shuffle.

The questions remain: how much capacity will it accommodate, and how much battery life it will have? Is it real at all? Will the remote have a 3.5" headphone jack (because it doesn't from the looks of it)?

March 13, 2009

Apple to show off new iPhone March 17

Maybe I could mislead you with the title, but the thing is that the iPhone's operating system is the one that's gonna be shown in a media event to be held on March 17. I'm just gonna put the general term iPhone in here just in case Apple does pull off a "one more thing" even without their cult leader Steve Jobs.

Last year, Apple also held a March event for iPhone developers showing off the capabilities of the then-unreleased iPhone 2.0 software development kit.

What would you like to see in this new work-in-progress? Personally, I'd like the iPhone to gain some actual credibility as a real phone: SMS Forwarding, for one. And how about some copy and paste as well? Make sure you don't charge iPod touch owners again, Apple (or at least the iPod touch owners who have upgraded to version 2.0)!

There'd probably be an even longer laundry list, especially for current owners of the much ballyhooed device.

March 11, 2009

Behold the new iPod shuffle

Apple's most affordable product (arguably ever) is the iPod shuffle, and now it gets a new form factor, a bigger capacity and a voice.
Notice anything different? Well, it's smaller but longer and it actually looks like a really thin USB thumb drive. Yes, it's actually buttonless. The controls are now relegated to the headphones apparently, and it will use the control scheme utilized by Apple's In-Ear Headphones with Mic and Remote. It can now store 4GB worth of songs, and it costs just 79 dollars (4000 pesos).

Unfortunately, there are only two colors: black and white, but it still retains the famous belt clip (which now sports the Apple logo and is really shiny) and it adds a new feature called VoiceOver.

VoiceOver tells you what song will be playing next, and for the first time it will support Playlist syncing as well.

A Guided Tour is now available in the Apple web site if you're interested.

Doing What the Sheep Do

Since everyone else is doing lists of their summer plans, maybe I will too.

What I may or may not do:
1) Finish the Endless Setlist. I cower every time I see the "Endless Setlist" in Rock Band 2 just mocking- laughing at me. It stares me in the eye and says, "Are you man enough, bitch? Are you man enough to finish 84 frigging songs?"

2) Learn the basics of Objective-C. I know that you know that I'm cheap and greedy for money. Well, guess what, I'm gonna get ambitious and start learning a programming language called Objective-C. What is it? It's basically the foundation for iPhone apps. And what do I get from iPhone apps? Money. If a fart app can yield a ten thousand dollar profit for a few months, then...

3) Get my YouTube channel workin'. Maybe I'll do some videos out of boredom. Who knows?

4) Finish many games. Piracy can spoil a person. Because of this, I become fickle and I don't finish them at all.

5) Upgrade Final Cut Pro. I just hate that the version of Final Cut Pro I have in this Mac can't support different formats in one project which makes no sense.

6) Get back to hardcore gaming. For the past school year it has been more of App Store and Wii gaming. While there are indeed hardcore games on the Wii (unfortunately they have yet to be available in Tutuban), I gotta get to my Windows PC. Well, if only it didn't randomly restart that is.

7) Read more books. I seemed to start getting back into my reading groove in December, but the long test nipped it right in the bud.

8) Lose pounds. 'Nuff said.

1) Master Objective-C- See Short-term #2; Maybe I can use this in the future, sideline :D

2) Learn AfterEffects- Special effects for movies. Not only in school projects, but maybe for my own entertainment or profit.

3) Master Final Cut Pro- I have an overly basic background on this program, and it's so basic, that I can't even take advantage of the software. When bundled with a mastery of AfterEffects, well, perhaps my mind will get blown.

4) Expand my vocabulary- There's no such thing as too much knowledge... of words.

Of course, I definitely will not do everything, but here they are- my plans.

March 8, 2009

Forrest Gump Review

Duhh... so like, duhh... I watched this 'ere movie about this man who looks like the guy from the Da Vinci code- only sounding a lot like Woody (if he smoked pot) in uhh... Monster Story 2: Finding Wall-E or somethin to that effect. He's like The Flash and...

Damn it, I can't keep up with this ruse. All the chocolate you'll ever want- after the jump.

So here we are: the Best Picture winner Forrest Gump. It was released in the mid-90s and directed by the now-strictly-motion-capture-dude Robert Zemeckis. Yea, he's also responsible for Back to the Future.

Well about this movie. I think it's a feel-good movie in the sense that it just makes you feel so happy that your intellect is not on par with that of the titular character, yet jealous because the man impossibly became a little too prosperous and lucky (clue: his prosperity is related to a certain restaurant found in Greenbelt) despite his sheer naïveté! The movie's message (and possibly the reason why it's such a freaking crowd pleaser) is that ignorance will very much get you places (literally).

The charcter is simply too implausible, not to mention overly dumb and childlike, but here's the catch: I still LIKE this movie.

Maybe it's Tom Hanks' charm, or maybe it's the setting and the narrative style, or the screenplay by Tim Roth. I mean, it didn't win 5 more Oscars aside from Best Picture just for nothing!

I simply adore how the people in the cutting room floor managed to make archived video from the 50's, 60's and 70's blend right in to the character's situation. I mean, footage of several US Presidents are shown here and they seem as if they RESPOND to the expertly green-screened Tom Hanks. Dude, it's 2009 and the effects in this movie, or rather how they are implemented remains unmatched in my opinion.

Another thing that makes the movie work is the performances. Tom Hanks largely deserves the Best Actor award because he contributes largely to the movie's success. I mean, if the role was acted badly, it could've ended up as a really irritating movie about a dumbass. But with Tom Hanks, it ends up as a surprisingly charming and lively movie about, well, a dumbass! The other actors deserve credit as well. Robin Wright (now a Penn) plays her role well, and Sally Field is a warm screen presence.

Lemme say this again: it's 2009. That also means that another Tim Roth-penned film- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- has finished its theatrical run. Why mention another project by the same screenwriter? Well, it's because there are a LOT of similarities between them with regards to the style of plot progression, the amount of symbolism (feather here, hummingbird there), the accents and, damn it, the architecture of their houses, I think! This means that if you watch one of them before watching the other, you'll definitely have an impression of how the story of the other one unfolds- and a dose of déjà vu.

I think this movie is actually one to watch. It may not appeal to all, but you just gotta admire the effort put into this rather nice movie. While I had some rather mixed feelings about it at times, the positive feelings overpower the negative ones.

Personally, I'd love to talk about this movie with another person (who has watched the movie) because just now as I'm typing this review, I just realized that "Hey, what if the actual message was 'Don't let dumbness or disability drag you down!' or 'We shouldn't underestimate people like Forrest.' or 'People will always need a little innocence in life.' (the latter was influenced by the fact that Forrest doesn't age a bit!)". I know that it'll somehow be a testament to the movie's unclear direction (ie, to what conclusion it wants to lead the viewer) as well as the director's (or screenwriter's) inability to convey a definitive message, but it makes the movie open to much interpretation as well!

An 8/10. Hey, why forget the movie that gave us the seemingly immortal, "Mama always said that life is like a box'o'chock-lits--- you never know what you're gonna get," eh?

Posted with LifeCast

March 5, 2009

Some Filipino and Asian-centric apps for your iPhone

We now focus our eyes on some low-profile releases by Filipino developers or some Asian-centric apps. Just a teeny collection. Hell, maybe I could get this going on a regular basis?

Supermarket Manila
#1 on the Philippine App Store charts for paid apps, this game has a polish to it. The premise here is that you own a supermarket, and that you have to manage it. I know, it's a bit of a rip-off to games like Diner Dash, but hey! It looks like a decent rip-off with a Filipino flavor, I'm guessing. It costs $1.99.

Philippine Travel Guide
The Philippines has its own wonders and sights. So why not get yourself a mobile travel guide while you get out during summer?
You don't need an Internet connection, either. $0.99 on the App Store.

CX Mobile
Bring a football spin to your average travel guide with Cathay Pacific's CX Mobile.

It gives you everything you'd want to know when traveling to Hong Kong- probably a location you'll be going to when talking about going abroad- and it has Google Maps support. Ooh, it looks like a great companion to the free Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook! It costs zilch.

TVU Player
iPhone gets live TV! And many Philippine channels work best. You can't watch on landscape though.
The thing is that you can only run this under Wi-Fi, but with my tests, I never got anything to really run. Just a loading screen. Still, several reviews state that it works, and many of the working channels are Asian. For me, at least.

Classical Philippines Radio
This free app gives you all the folk songs you want. Although they're not my cup of tea, I know that some people will want this.

Wonder how old and classic this throwback iPhone radio station gets? Does it still have Pilita Corrales in there somewhere? Or is it purely songs of the Paruparong Bukid variety?

Filipino Phrases: How to Argue, Use Slang, and More!
It's an almost 1200 word list of Filipino phrases fit for daily use.
Unfortunately, the page says, the "argument" part only reaches to "bwisit". Will it cause an uproar if they included other... "phrases"? Maybe in a tiny scale, but otherwise, no. This app is more aimed to people who want to LEARN the language. It costs $3.99.

Ever encountered a Chinese word that you found foreign and that you want to get a translation without having to resort to the Internet nor a bulky dictionary? Well, look no further than the free DianHua Chinese-English, English-Chinese dictionary! It has saved my ass a couple times.

Wan Nian Li Chinese Calendar
Want to specifically know when the Mooncake Festival comes? Well, a Lunar calendar does that job for you. There are many, I know, but I randomly picked this one. :p

That's about it, I guess. Tune in next time, if there is a next time.
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