Horn game, iOS or Tegra3?

If you happen to have both and iOS device and a Tegra3 Android device, you may be wondering which version of Horn is the best before plunking down your hard earned money.

Well I’ve plunked down my hard earned on a copy for each device and have some observations that may help you out.

(*update* iOS Screenshots taken on a Retina display iPad, Tegra3 shots on an Asus Transformer Prime)

First, the Android Tegra3 version has some nice graphical touches that the iOS version doesn’t. For instance the main character, Horn, has a kind of scarf/cape in the Tegra3 version that sort of flows around depending on Horn’s movement.

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Note in the screenshot above the scarf thing hanging over the sword.

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Above is the iOS screenshot from a retina iPad. The scarf thing is missing.

The Tegra3 version also has some other touches, like lights floating around certain areas of the game world, as seen below near the lamps.

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Again, in the iOS version seen below, the lights are missing.

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The Tegra3 version also has rubble strewn about some parts of the world that reacts when Horn runs past them by bouncing out of his way. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the iPad screenshot feature to work properly in those areas, so you’ll just have to trust me, the rocks in the below Tegra3 screenshot are missing in the iOS version of the game.

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As for other areas of the game, as far as I can tell they are the same. The textures look the same across both versions. The Retina iPad has clearer text and icon buttons, but the world itself looks like it has shared textures across both games. The iOS version wins hands down for multi-tasking. It is much easier to back out to the homescreen and pick up right where you left off in the iOS version than it is in the Android one. For some reason, every time the Android home screen is pulled up, the game has to be restarted and you fall back to the last save point. iOS handles this much nicer, simply pausing the game and returning you to the exact moment you stopped when returning for more play time.

I’ve also heard about multiple crashes in the Android version, although I haven’t experienced any myself in the first hour or so of playtime. I’m sure that this will be corrected by patches and updates before too long. So if you have both devices and want the best graphical mobile experience I’d say go with the Tegra3/Android version but know that in the short term, while they patch up the game, you may experience crashes. And in the long term you won’t be able to hop out and into the game as smoothly as you would be able to on an iOS device. So if convenience is your thing, go with the iOS version.

Netflix streaming neat trick

Had to tell somebody… I was streaming a Netflix movie on the Xbox360 and thought it looked a little hitchy, not very smooth.  So I decided to stop it and move to the TivoHD, which I’ve used before and hadn’t noticed any issues watching Netflix on.

Well guess what, the movie picked up on the Tivo right where I’d stopped it on the Xbox360.  Basically resuming where I’d left off.  Pretty neat trick if you ask me.

Nothing special, but I wanted to share it.

ps. I haven’t forgotten about WMWiFiRouter, it worked great and I’ll have to pony up and buy it next time I go out of town.  Hopefully sometime soon I’ll have time to write a more detailed entry on how it did.

Skins for Zune and iPod

Gelaskins on Left, Decalgirl on Right

Gelaskins on Left, Decalgirl on Right

Being averse to the traditional bulky cases that are so popular for carrying your mp3 player, I decided to go with the vinyl skin option.

For the iPod, I went with a gelaskins cover.  They’ve got an amazing selection of art and the skins are very well made, thick, and precision cut.  They also include a “hard” or “crystal” screen protector.  They cost a little more than some of the other places, but the thickness of the skin along with the screen protector make it well worth it.  So far the skin has been extremely scratch resistant and hasn’t shown any signs of peeling up at the corners.

I would’ve like to go with gelaskins on the zune, but they don’t currently make anything for that application.  So I went with decalgirl.  The decalgirl skin is about half the cost of the gelaskins equivalent, but doesn’t include a screen protector.  The skin itself is well made although the printing doesn’t seem to be quite up to the same level of quality found on the gelaskins.  There are areas on the decalgirl skin that look a little low res.  Although the colors look quite good.  The decalgirl skin is also thinner than the gelaskins, and has taken a couple of scratches, nothing that has broken the skin, just little dents in the skin itself.  The cutouts for the large center button is well done, but the smaller play/pause and back buttons aren’t cutout at all, and the buttons must be pressed through the skin.  Which isn’t difficult, but does make the feel of the buttons a bit mushy.  Overall it’s not as nice as the gelaskins, but it is an acceptable alternative if gelaskins doesn’t make a skin for your device.

Since the decalgirl skin doesn’t include a screen cover, I decided to go with an Invisible Shield from zagg.com.  This is the same material used on the leading edge of helicopter blades to protect them from um… whatever damages helicopter blades?  The point is, it’s a very tough, resiliant piece of material.  They make designs that provide complete coverage for many devices, but since I have the vinyl skin already I chose the screen only option.  The material itself is soft and because of this reflects light differently than the naked screen or even a “crystal” screen protector.  It is extremely scratch resistant, it’s been on my phones screen for several months now, which I carry in my pocket, and it looks as good as the day I put it on.  On the zune, the Invisible Shield provides coverage for the whole screen, and since the decalgirl overlaps the screen a bit on the edges where there’s no image I’ve got some overlapping of the vinyl skin and the invisible shield.  It looks good like this and despite the doubling up, no bulk was added to the front of the device.

I think that the invisible shield will outlast the vinyl, and wish I had put it on first, with the vinyl covering it instead of the other way around.  As it is I will need to purchase another screen protector if I ever feel the need to change skins.All 3 skins/covers went on very easily and at the moment show no signs of pulling up at the corners and so far I’m quite happy with the results.

Cheap (Free) Project Management applications and tips on finding them.

This is another email I put together for a family member and thought I’d share with my blog since it may come in handy for some folks out there…

One trick I’ve learned is using certain substitutions in google when searching for things, for instance using “Open Source” instead of “Free” will generally turn up higher quality results in regards to applications. (one exception to this rule is anti virus software, there being several good free solutions and only one or two open source applications)

Another source I like for things like this is the website www.lifehacker.com, which is a general productivity/self improvement type site. I searched that site for “project management” and got this. You can read through the summaries quickly and see which ones are tips and which ones are actual downloadable programs. I trust this site not to link to spyware/viruses/questionable-stuff, so you could download and install one of the apps they link with confidence.

One last thing, often I find the comments in the lifehacker.com posts to be as informational as the actual post itself, usually finding several more good suggestions above and beyond what the lifehacker writers have suggested. A quick glance at the comments will also tell you if the application in the main post is any good. For example on this post, there are 3 links to project management programs in the post itself, and the first two comments link to 2 others.

Something called GantProject keeps coming up in all the lifehacker posts as a very good and easy to use project manager that functions very much like Microsoft Project. It may be worth checking out.

Cool things you can do with Twitter

Twitter is blowing up right now, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s extremely addictive, and very easy to update assuming you have unlimited texting on your phone.  Not being tied to a computer is, I believe, one of Twitters biggest advantages over similar offerings like Pownce.

But did you know you can do lots of other stuff with Twitter besides keep in touch with friends?  Here’s a short list I’ve put together…

You can:

1. track your gas mileage
2. Read “headlines” in a newspaper-like layout
3. Track packages from UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL (thanks John C. Dvorak for twittering this)
4. Use an RSS feed to keep track of high priority websites.  (it doesn’t have to be your website, got something you wish had a twitter feed but doesn’t, like a surf report or local news headlines?  Put their RSS feed into this website and follow them)
5. You can see what people love, hate, wish for or several other options.
6. With a little elbow grease you can know when to water your plants.

Okay, the last one is a stretch, but the first three are genuine useful applications that have surfaced using the Twitter interface.  I love it!

xxx@mycingular.blackberry.net “address rejected” explained

One of the execs at work suddenly stopped receiving emails on his blackberry today.  After some testing it was determined that his blackberry account was being returned with a 550 Address Rejected error.  Thanks to this blog entry I was able to get him going again.

Basically what has happened, if you don’t feel like following the above link, is that AT&T has stopped forwarding mail to mycingular.blackberry.net.  All you need to do to correct this is replace mycingular with att.  Like so, xxx@att.blackberry.net instead of xxx@mycingular.blackberry.net.   Ta-da, email is working again.  Thank you Ken Hanscom for blogging about this, as I’m not a blackberry user and never got the email explaining the cut off date for the mycingular server.

I want a Chumby

I tend to agree with the proponents of technology free bedrooms. But this Chumby thing looks really neat, and the most useful place for me to have one would be the bedroom, since I have a laptop in the living room along with a handful of gaming consoles.

I really just want this thing for wantings’ sake, but it would be an excellent gift for someone who isn’t all that tech savvy. Imagine a digital picture frame that you could send little e-cards and messages to. The downside is that the perfect recipient of the Chumby as a gift would most likely not have a computer, or be very computer illiterate and unlikely to check email regularly. Which would also mean that they likely wouldn’t have a wifi network in place. Which kills the usefullness of the Chumby.

So it’s a bit of a niche piece of hardware. Not as useful as a small laptop, but infinitely better than many single use piece of hardware such as a digital photo frame or an internet radio player like the Grace Digital box.

I’ve got a few questions as to its usability. First, can it use services like Orb or TVersity to stream my personal music collection? Second, how does it go about displaying Flickr photos, does it just use a persons RSS feed, missing anything marked private, or does it log into the service and actually display private/friends/family marked images?

If I do get one or figure out answers to these questions through a forum or faq I’ll be sure to post up.

*update – The Flickr widget for the Chumby does allow you to “approve” the chumby via Flickr and allow it to display personal photos.  Unfortunately some people are reporting that the Flickr widget also tends to freeze up.  Nothing so far on whether it works with tversity and/or orb

Making big video files smaller, or encoding the easy way

I just mentioned a neat site that allows you to share videos without letting the whole internet see them. But there’s a problem, the videos have to be under 50mb. I know that the majority of my videos are done on my digital camera or my cellphone, and even at the poor resolutions these devices use file sizes can quickly grow well beyond the 50mb limit set by Vox.

Here’s an easy solution. Video encoding is taking a video file and changing the resolution, bit-rate, or even file type so that it can be played with certain “decoders” or media players. There are several applications available for doing this, but one of the best (read free) and easiest I’ve found is MediaCoder. Even with the default settings MediaCoder took a 50mb video and converted it into a 2.5mb file for uploading to Vox. The only downside I can find with MediaCoder is that it is updated pretty regularly and if you want the best results you’ll need to check the website for updates pretty often. And that’s just nit-picking, I actually prefer updates and improvements over a product that gets released and then is never touched again.

So, if you’re looking to share videos online, or just want to save some room on that hard drive, get working on encoding those video files to a more efficient type of file. Just remember, while you can and will lose some quality if your settings aren’t set right or you try to compress them too small, you can never improve the quality above what the original file had. This is off the subject, but I’ve had some people come to me complaining that they didn’t hear any improvements when they converted their mp3 collection to lossless audio… well of course not, you started with mp3’s, the information that was lost when creating the mp3’s isn’t going to magically reappear! You need good source to get good finished product.

Sharing videos privately

Ever want to share a personal video clip, but just with a few people?  Afraid of putting it up on youtube?  Want to be able to use the same site for sharing pictures, videos, and blog posts?

Ok, that intro sounds like a bad late night paid commercial, but Vox is a neat little blogging site that can handle all the above as well as allowing you to setup friends and family groups so your private moments stay private.  It’s a little awkward setting up friends at first, but definitely worth it when you’re able to easily share the things you want with the people you want.  I’ve been using flickr for sharing pictures and it’s pretty easy to think of Vox as flickr for videos, with blogging thrown in for fun.  At least that’s primarily how I’ve been using it.

I mentioned that adding people as a friend or as family is a bit difficult.  Basically what you have to do is have them sign up, then find their page, click on their profile link, and then from their profile you can add them as a friend or family or both.  Not the most intuitive process, and it’s actually kept me from getting a couple of the less tech savvy family members setup.

Is Microsoft squandering their lead in the console war?

Microsoft has made a few good changes lately. Upping the warranty for the red ring of death to 3 years, finally doing something about the red ring of death, getting several games that used to be Playstation exclusives released on the 360. But there is one glaring problem that until recently I couldn’t put my finger on. I knew it was out there, I just couldn’t vocalize because there was no precedent, there were no other broadband connected consoles to compare to so I figured it just wasn’t to be. I’m talking about user created content on a console.

It’s actually much broader than that, but essentially, at the core of the problem is the fact that xbox live isn’t an open network. Everything is tightly controlled by Microsoft. Remember the Gears of War maps that came out recently? Epic wanted them to be free, it was Microsoft that demanded the maps be premium content. I’d like to blame Microsoft for the Guitar Hero song pack pricing, but seeing as how Red Octane, or Activision, or whoever owns the franchise now hasn’t spoken up, I don’t know where to lay the blame for that one. The point I’m trying to make is that as nice as a global friends list and voice for every game is, it’s not going to make up for the fact that the PS3 is an open system where developers can release add ons and map packs and even user created content on their own without Sony (or in the case of Live, Microsoft) getting in the way demanding this and that must be charged for, this or that has to be released later or earlier or even stating that content can’t be released at all.

This interview is what crystallized the whole situation for me. The fact that Unreal Tournament III can have mods on the PS3 is enough to break me away from the 360 for that game. If more games continue in this trend and Microsoft doesn’t loosen the death grip they have on Xbox Live they will start losing gamers to the more flexible gaming platform.

Come on Microsoft, I prefer your blades to the Sony Media Cross Bar, I prefer the universal friends list to Sony’s patched together mess. I don’t even mind paying $60 a year for an online gaming service. But when you start limiting what publishers can release, or start messing with a publishers pay schedule, forcing them to charge for something that they themselves would like to be free. I’ll leave. I will pack up my bags and head out the door. Don’t make me…