Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hiatus Attack

Between studying for LSATs, my new job, and commuting to downtown LA for said job, I barely have time to keep up with everything that's been happening in the tech world. I could blog about being a white collar office-slave, but it would be more depressing than entertaining.

So for now, I'll hang up the old keyboard, and take a break from regular ranting blogging at least until I've conquered the LSATs. Or until I decide I'm fed up with my job and I quit. Whichever one comes first. Anybody want to make any bets?

Either way, I'll be posting rather irregularly at best. Not that it matters, since this isn't a news blog anyways, but I always like to keep readers informed. Ingrained habits from the days of Technoleet, I suppose. Those who stuck around long enough to remember that distant but fond memory will know very well what I'm saying.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Random Things: July Laziness edition

Firefox 4.0 Beta Quick review: Been trying it out since it came out a month ago, and for a beta the browser is looking pretty good. It's still fast, still has all the sexy customizable options, and more importantly it's added some new toys. Probably the most important addition has been the 'App tab', which allows the user to organize their tabs by making certain ones smaller and harder to close accidentally. This is great for stuff like Gmail or any streaming music sites you want playing while you procrastinate work on the web.

So the unorganized web surfers can rejoice, since Firefox 4.0 will organize your clutter for you. Gotta love laziness.

The downside is that since it's a beta, some stuff will be funky, especially anything that uses Flash. Not that Flash really was awesome anyways, but it's more prone to crashing if you try to full-screen a streaming Flash-based video from any website like Youtube. It doesn't happen enough to be an annoyance, but it's still a nagging worry.

God I hate Flash. But that's another story for another day.

Random YouTube video of the month: Freddie Wong has my dream job: making as many awesome and funny YouTube videos as he can. Flower Warfare (embedded above) is my favorite so far, though his hilarious Jedi A-holes short comes pretty close. While he's somewhat hindered by a lack of good actors and writers, he more than makes up for it with his visual creativity and solid cinematography.

Yea, that's right. I'm talking about cinematography in a YouTube video. No matter who you are, all of his videos are great fun, so go check them out.

Pandora: Yea, I'm like a couple years late to the party. So sue me. Now that I've recently gotten a HTC Hero, I've finally gotten a reason to dive into the depths of Pandora. I'm especially loving the way that it connects flawlessly with the Android app on my phone, and of course I'm also loving the superb music selection. Plus it's free. Sweeeeet.

It isn't all hugs and kisses though. After a few days of Pandora killing my battery life and my data plan though, I'm convinced that streaming media apps on any mobile smartphone are extremely overrated. It's long as you're near a power plug and have already ponied up the cash for that expensive unlimited data plan And don't even get me started on how slow streaming video is without 4G.

So to all you ancient, annoying, and horrible FM radio stations; you can live for another day. On the flip side, using Pandora at home has allowed me to seriously test out the App tab on my Firefox 4.0 beta browser. WHAT. DID WE COME FULL CIRCLE? WHATISTHISIDON'TEVE-

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Privacy and the digital future

The digitized future. As a term it's rather innocuous, but as a concept it carries some strong negative connotations in our current culture. In the film Minority Report, there's a scene (embedded above) where Tom Cruise walks into a Gap and is 'recognized' by the billboard, which then goes on to greet him and recommend some products based on his past shopping history. I'm taking the scene a bit out of context, but it's impossible to escape the fact that in that scene and throughout the movie, the integration of technology with normal life is more frightening than awe-inspiring.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Working!!

Only Japan could make the life of a part-timer look glamorous and exciting. If food services work was anything even resembling what Working!! portrays, then I definitely wouldn't have quit my old job flipping burgers at my university cafeteria. As you can tell, Working!! isn't exactly a show grounded anywhere close to reality, but what else can you expect from a whimsical slice-of-life anime?

Working!! does have one thing correct though; it's the people you work with that make work fun. There's a lot of unique and wacky characters that all work in the same family restaurant. From the lazy ex-delinquent manager Kyouko to the androphobic (e.g. man-fearing) Mahiru Inami. Amazingly enough, the character cast of Working!! avoid a lot of the generic stereotyping, making them stand out amongst the throngs of cookie-cutter anime characters this Spring season, which is a great thing.

But that's where Working!! starts to fall apart; there's really nothing else besides the characters. Being a slice-of-life, there's no real drama or plot, so all of the anime's charm lies in whether you like the characters or not. The gags are amusing, all of the wacky characters interact in ridiculous ways, and the laid-back pace of the show is great. But if you aren't even intrigued by the characters after the first few episodes, there's nothing in the rest of the short thirteen episode anime to really catch your attention.

If you do like the characters, you'll be annoyed at how incomplete Working!! feels in the character department. The writers don't bother to flesh out even the most suspicious of characters, which is frustrating since it would have given the show more substance.

Those looking for a easy-going anime will most likely enjoy Working!!, but those looking for a even a bit of suspense or tension should probably move along. Working!! is a show that soothes rather than a show that captivates, so if you want something light-hearted and laid-back, Working!! probably won't disappoint. Otherwise, you can move on without missing much.

At the very least though, it's better than K-ON!! this season. Take that for what you will.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review: Angel Beats!

 Angel Beats! is like your favorite childhood book; fun and memorable, but ultimately very adolescent and somewhat simplistic. From the unique premise set in the afterlife to it's high-powered musical inserts, Angel Beats! is definitely the one of the most memorable shows of the past Spring 2010 season, but unfortunately some of the flaws are just as memorable. Angel Beats! doesn't deliver a masterfully-woven story on life and death, but it does manage to tell a tale that still resonates strongly.

There's really no beating about the bush about the main flaws; Angel Beats! is not very well written or very well directed. There's a lack of consistency since the rising action never gets properly set up, and as a result there's no overarching narrative flow between the thirteen episodes. Consequently, most of the characters never get a chance to really develop or stand out. Plus there's plot holes aplenty, almost all of which are ignored by the writers, which is a problem since some of the plot holes actually are more memorable than some of the characters.

Luckily though, in the places that Angel Beats! falls apart in delivery, it makes up for it in surprises. There's a solid number of memorable and emotional moments as the characters remember and come to terms with their traumatic pasts. Add in some nicely produced music and brief flashes of great animation, and you have some moments that you'll definitely revisit later on. When there aren't any emotionally-heavy set pieces, there's plenty of whimsical and funny moments to carry the story and characters along.

In the end, it's painfully clear that Angel Beats! could have been much better. There's too much pandering to popular stereotypes, a over-reliance on deus ex machina motifs, and no emotional roller coaster here. But even despite the flaws and wasted potential, Angel Beats! is still a show that I recommend worth checking out. Even though Angel Beats! isn't a great show, it still tells a unique story that has a chance to pluck at your heart-strings.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

E3 2010: Motion Control Madness

To be brutally honest, I find it hard to be excited by either the Microsoft Kinect or the Playstation Move. Thanks to the mediocrity of the Nintendo Wii, motion controlled gaming hasn't really been that appealing to me, and a good number of gamers have felt the same too. Safe to say, coming into this year's E3, there have been some fairly high expectations from Kinect and the Move

So were those expectations met after the Microsoft and Sony announcements? Somewhat. Both companies have proved that their ambitious technologies work very well, but they didn't prove that they could challenge the Nintendo juggernaut.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June Playlist: Alt Rock explosion

It's been a while since my last playlist, so I've been catching up on music that I've missed in the past couple months. First up is the title single from Relient K's latest album, "Forget and Not Slow Down" (embedded above). It's a solid song filled with musical and lyrical catches, a great example of Relient K's masterful composition of guitar, piano, and vocal sounds. If you're looking for something a bit more pop-oriented from the same album, "Candlelight" is a great fast-paced piano ballad that really showcases lead singer Matt Thiessen's songwriting talent.

Despite not being quite as solid as Relient K's latest album, Thousand Foot Krutch's 2009 Welcome to the Masquerade album still has a few interesting tracks like "Forward Motion" and "Fire It Up". While "Fire It Up" is a energetic headbanger that may please the punk rock fans, "Forward Motion" is a ballad that takes better advantage of the band's vocal strengths, and is just a more memorable song in general.

While B.o.B. doesn't really fit with the other alt-rockers here, his album The Adventures of Bobby Ray is still a great album that is worth mentioning. There are the hits "Airplane" and "Nothing on You", plus other great songs like "Magic" featuring Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo. A talented musician that can play multiple instruments, B.o.B. isn't your ordinary rap artist, and his collaborations with rockers Rivers Cuomo and Hayley Williams (in "Airplane") show just how broad his creative talent is.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oil and dirty water ahead

The BP oil spill in the Gulf is the worst environmental disaster in history. The fact that it's still growing is baffling people. There's just one question they are asking right now; "We managed to put man on the moon in the 1960's, but fifty years later we can't plug a hole at the bottom of the ocean?" Working the phones at Senator Boxer's office, I had one constituent scream his disbelief that the U.S. government wasn't sending NASA to plug the leak.

Last time I checked, NASA specializes in rockets and spacecraft technology. They don't specialize in plugging a broken and brittle oil pipe 5,000 feet down that's spewing thousands of gallons of oil at 9,000 psi. Quite different from building a rocket to brute-force Earth's gravitational field.

In summary, the Gulf oil spill has been an act of technological arrogance, so it's not surprising that we have been trying to find technological solutions to help stop the leak and help clean up the devastated Gulf ecosystems. From smartphone apps to help chart the widespread damage to the Gulf coastline to massive supercomputers calculating fluid simulations in an effort to find a method to plug the leak, there's no shortage of tech that has been deployed.

But we always have to remember that technology isn't the be-all-end-all solution.

Those smart phone apps? It's useless if there aren't already people on the ground trying to clean up. Those supercomputers? Only tools to aid the engineering and scientific minds working to find a solution to this crisis. And let us not forget that it was human error that allowed the safety equipment in the oil rig to fail at that critical moment. 

So the lesson to this slightly rambling rant? Don't idolize technology. We can't brute force issues and problems with tech; it can only aid us in finding solutions to the various problems in our lives and in our society. It's made living our lives easier, but we shouldn't let it define our lives. This is a call of caution against the looming technology-dominated future, and a reminder that even our technological brilliance cannot save us if we lay waste to Mother Earth.

Rant over. While we're talking about BP, be sure one of the funniest twitter parodies I've ever seen.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Extreme makeover, Intel edition

The iPad may have captured the hearts of yuppies everywhere, but netbooks are the overlooked heroes of portable computing. The enormous touchscreen on the iPad is pretty sexy, but it is utterly useless for those of us who actually use the Internet to get work done. Unfortunately, the most of the netbooks you can buy now have been hit pretty hard with the ugly stick. There's a reason why you'll have a hard time spotting a netbook in broad daylight at you local Starbuck's; faux chrome accents and flimsy plastic casing aren't exactly cool.

Thankfully, for those of us with the gift of eyesight, Intel has the solution.

Enter Intel's new duo-core Atom processor and "Canoe Lake" (huzzah awkward Chinese translations) chipset architecture. Long story short, the new tech that Intel presented promises to allow netbooks to be faster, lighter, and most importantly, sexier. The first two improvements most techies will love, but the last improvement is what all tech geeks and nerds secretly really want in their electronics. After all, they do call it tech fetish for a reason.

It's unfair to compare the iPad and netbooks, since they each do have unique specialties despite having common functionalities. But at least when this new Intel tech hits shelves later this year, we won't have to choose between looking like a nerd and looking like a geek. Trust me, there's a difference.

Source: Engadget

Monday, May 10, 2010

...And I'm Back Folks!

Just got back from Taiwan, so hopefully I can get back to my normally (un)scheduled ramblings. Here are some choice shots that I took from my trip, so go ahead and click on the thumbnails to view the full shots. Sorry, I don't have a DSLR, I just had an ancient digi-cam to work with. Still, some of these shots turned out fairly decent.

Talking about something somewhat tech-related, it's interesting that Apple doesn't have actual stores over in Taiwan. Instead, they outsource actual physical retail to a local company, who copy the look of the Apple stores pretty closely. But it's still pretty obvious that the guys behind the rows of iPods and Macbooks aren't exactly the Apple-certified geniuses.

Also, taking photos without a DSLR is somewhat annoying, not because of the quality differences and the lack of photo settings, but because without a giant obnoxious giant lens on your camera people tend to look at you weird when you're trying to position yourself with tiny digi-cam. I guess you need to look like a photographer before people start ignoring you.

Acting like a photographer has also made me appreciate how much nerve and shamelessness you need to pull off some of the more dramatic shots with people. All those dramatic depth-of-field shots with people in them are really, really difficult to do unless you have the guts to put aside your fears of prying into some personal space. Props to you photographers; you sure know how to invade people's privacy.

Taipei was such a great place to take photos. It's not as pretty as Tokyo, nor as historic as London, and it's not as romantic as Paris, but it is a city that's full of raw, unadulterated life. Hopefully the next time I go, I'll bring along a DSLR, so I can show you more of Taiwan's gorgeous and interesting scenery.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Impressions: Spring 2010 Anime Season

Man, this season actually packed with things that I can stand watching. Amazing. That said, I actually wanted to wait at least until the third week of the Spring 2010 season before previewing them, but since I'm bound for Taiwan in a couple days I don't have much choice. So all of my impressions are based on the first two episodes of each series. Not the most accurate impressions, but work with me here.

Angel Beats

The opening moments of this show pretty much sum up everything you want to know.

Aside from K-ON!!, it's probably the most hyped series of this season. From the amount of gracious fanservice (guns, explosions, a random j-pop concert, and more guns) in the first episode alone, it's certainly trying to live up to it. The plot, which revolves around Otonashi and Yuri and their attempts to rebel against 'God'  in the afterlife, is surprisingly comprehensible. However the characters definitely aren't memorable or unique, all being familiar stereotypes that we've seen before, especially Yuri.

Another problem is that Angel Beats is somewhat inconsistent. Compared to the first episode, the second episode seems rather half-baked. Everything still looks good, but it's easy to tell that they just couldn't maintain the intensity from the first episode. That said, the unique plot and stellar production values are keeping me intrigued, and I'm looking forward to seeing more action later on. Overall, Angel Beats is show that's worth checking out.

Arakawa Under the Bridge

Yea. Don't ask me.

Otherwise known in English as "What The Hell Am I Watching." Be warned though, my Japanese-to-English translations tend to be tinged slightly with sarcasm.

On a recommendation from a friend, I'm checking out Arakawa Under the Bridge. It's a Japanese gag anime, which means there's tons of Japanese puns, cultural references, and a tendency to be totally impenetrable to those who aren't Japan-o-philes. The story is about a straight-laced student who meets a beautiful girl living under a bridge, but I would be lying if I said this summary actually conveyed what the anime was about. It's akin to Gintama, if the writers of Gintama were hopped up on a few illicit drugs.

I'm sure there's a ton of stuff in Arakawa Under the Bridge that will please both anime nerds and literature majors, but I'm enjoying it because of the very charming and unique characters. Even though it's been nothing but visual gags and puns so far, I'm hoping that they actually might develop an actual plot between the two main characters later on.

Giant Killing

 Goal? GOAL!

Hell yea, you are the best anime of Spring 2010.

I'm not lying. I don't like soccer, I don't normally watch sports shonen, but Giant Killing has caught my attention like no other anime this season so far. I decided to give it a try just to break my usual habits, and I have not regretted doing so since. Underdog sports team in the ruts? Check. Cocky youngster who thinks he can change things? Check. Checkered histories and longstanding rivalries? Check. Awesomeness? Check. Giant Killing has everything it needs to be the perfect sports shonen, and then some.

Since I'm not a regular of the genre, I'm hard pressed to describe what's unique about Giant Killing. But I can say that so far pacing of the plot and action has been stellar in building up drama, even if it is moving at a somewhat slower pace than the other animes this season. Even though it doesn't have the art and animation budgets of blockbuster animes like Angel Beats and K-ON!!, it's gathered attention because it's setting up what could be a damn good story. Really, the title says it all.

Kaichou wa Maid-sama

 Sorry pretty boy. Your act ain't working here.

...and we go from Giant Killing to this. Anime has long been defined by the balancing act between fetishism and commentary, and Kaichou wa Maid-sama unfortunately falls heavily in the former category. Now that wouldn't too much of an issue, except the writing is terrible. Two episodes in and all the audience knows about the male lead is that all the girls and guys swoon in his presence because...he's pretty. That's all.

Hell, he barely even talks too, which is another problem.

So how do you prop up the creepiest, most poorly-written male romantic lead? Have the overbearing female lead have an almost unexplainable love for being a maid. No, don't mind the fact that she's the strong-willed student council president, let's make her attractive by letting her cosplay at work as a submissive maid, and let's make that the central conceit for the show.

Ugh. Next.

K-ON!! (Season 2)

How I wish this happened more often.

I hope you liked the first season of K-ON!, because it's more of the same. The only thing that's changed so far has been the ridiculous amount of money and attention they've pumped into the second season, and as a result K-ON!! is definitely the best looking show of the season. The opening sequence of cuts and shots in the first minute of the first episode actually shows some cinematic effort, and once again makes me wish that this series was about making music instead of eating sweets and being cute.

Goddamn it Japan. Make a worthy spiritual successor to Beck already. As a slice-of-life show, K-ON!! looks like it will entertain, as long as you don't mind the lack of music.


Oh god. She's so cute.

There really needs to be less exclamation marks in anime titles this season. Besides sharing a similar obsession with punctuation in the titles with K-ON!!, Working!! is also a slice-of-life series. Unlike its more popular musical compatriot though, it focuses more on slapstick humor and personality-driven gags, which is somewhat hit and miss.

My main issue with Working!! is that it's just a series of animated shorts, like Arakawa Under the Bridge. However, whereas Arakawa Under the Bridge has some pretty solid writing to back it up, Working!! is nowhere as witty or as well written. Apart from some half-hearted efforts to flesh out its characters, so far most of the cast come across as one-trick ponies. In particular, the introduction of the man-fearing Inami definitely hasn't impressed me. Really? You're a waitress in a restaurant, and you have to punch every guy you meet because of fear?

Yea. Some gags get old fast.

At the very least, the setting and mood is charming, and Poplar (in screenshot above) does make up somewhat for the annoying parts of the show. I hope the series gets better, as there's promise.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: Pokemon Soul Silver uses Nostalgia Attack!

It's Super Effective! 

Oh god. The nostalgia that this game brings back from my childhood memories is amazing. What got me into gaming and anime was none other than the original Pokemon Silver 10 years ago. I was so overcome with nostalgia that I went out and bought a new DS specifically so I could relive those memories with the new Pokemon Soul Silver. Yea. A totally unbiased review coming up.

 Click to see the difference 10 years looks like.

The good? It's the Pokemon game you loved as a kid. The bad? It's still essentially the same Pokemon game that you played as a kid.

Nostalgia aside, it's actually kind of infuriating that most of the general game concepts have remained mostly unchanged for over a decade. So if you're not entranced by the nostalgia or the remade world, Soul Silver won't really have any staying power. Plus this remake hasn't fixed some things about the original, like the utter dearth of different pokemon in the first quarter of the game.

In fact, you can't even some of the newly added Pokemon until really late in the game, which makes me wonder why they added them in the first place.

All that said, it's hard not to be impressed with Soul Silver. Pokemon games have always been about the large immersive worlds with large numbers of interesting creatures, and Soul Silver doesn't disappoint. Not only are there several new areas, but also new additional gameplay aspects like the Pokeathalon mini-game events, so even old veterans of the original Pokemon Silver have something new to see. Add all of the above with a much improved art style, and you got yourself a great looking game.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Soul Silver has been the Pokewalker. Essentially a tamagotchi (remember those?) for Pokemon, it's unique since it operates off a pedometer. However, it doesn't offer anything revolutionary, other than making Pokemanics easier to spot. Luckily, you don't need to use it. The Pokewalker has its uses, but it feels really tacked on.

Honestly, if you want your kids to exercise, find another excuse.

Despite being a remake, there's enough new elements to make Soul Silver worth the money. Once you add in the sheer nostalgia that it brings, it's almost priceless. Plus it doesn't hurt that it's a remake of a very solid game. Of course, if you've never liked the Pokemon games, then Soul Silver won't change your mind.

But if you've hated Pokemon games since you were a kid, you probably hate cute animals and pretty things anyways. Just saying.

Friday, April 9, 2010

2010, Year of the Touchscreen Tablet PCs

Nuh-uh. Not the iPad. This is the HP Slate. 
The iPad might not be worth all the hype, but it sure as hell has kicked off a craze for touchscreen tablet PCs, and they all the new touchscreen tablet PCs happen to look disturbingly similar to the iPad. As much as I docked points for the iPad's lack of certain features earlier, there's no denying it's appeal to the casual user. You don't need amazing computer knowledge to operate one, and chances are most people will overlook the iPad's weaknesses thanks to how intuitive the touchscreen interface is. Touchscreen tablets have great potential to expand the market for portable computers, and this is why everybody's banking on tablet PCs this year thanks to the hype that the iPad has created.

Nope. It's the Fusion Garage JooJoo.

Besides the iPad, the other tablet PCs that I can name off the top of my head are the HP Slate, Archos 7 Home Tablet, and the Fusion Garage JooJoo. Hell, even Dell is rumored to be making one. Quite a lot of tablet PCs, considering touchscreen tablet PCs didn't really fly off shelves before the iPad was launched.

With numerous alternatives to choose from, the future computing is slowly being set into place. It doesn't matter if these tablet PCs lack the processing power and other functionalities of traditional computers, since there touchscreen tablet PCs are promoting the future of multiple-computer household. No matter how much techies and purists like me rail against how trends like these promote aestheticism over functionality, it's undeniably where the consumer culture is currently taking us.

Of course, it's not set in stone that tablet PCs will really take off, as it depends on how Apple and other companies build services around the hardware. But in one day, 300,000 of you seemed determined to make 2010 the Year of the Touchscreen Tablet PCs, so I expect tablet PCs to be here for good.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Review: Kimi ni Todoke, a.k.a. Kiss Your Masculinty Goodbye

START OF REVIEW: It's a decent shoujo romance. END OF REVIEW.

Of course, your questions aren't "Is the narrative flow interrupted when the exposition changes its focus?" or "Hey, just how good is Kimi ni Todoke Justin?". No, I believe your questions are something along the lines of; "So Justin, why were you watching a shoujo?", or "Do you secretly love these sappy romances targeted to teenage Japanese girls?", and "Hey, when are you going to watch an anime that isn't romance?"

In my defense, there was nothing decent to watch from the cavalcade of trash that defined the Winter '09 season (shhh don't mention Bakemonogatari, haven't finished it yet shhh), and I was curious to see why so many dudes liked this show after seeing all the hubub over it. To answer the second question, I hope I don't secretly like shoujos. And the answer the third question, I'll hopefully be talking about a non-romance soon since the upcoming Spring '10 anime season shows some promise.

Boring answers, I know.

Oh, you want to know more about Kimi ni Todoke? Well, if you haven't been able decipher my sarcasm, I don't blame you. As I've said before, it has its moments when the beautiful artwork in the scenery come into play, but those moments are depressingly brief and few. For the most part you'll be treated to a glacially s-l-o-o-o-w romantic developments to the point where you realize that nothing happens in some episodes. All the characters are so innocent and pure-minded that it's actually impossible for anything dramatic to happen. Well, almost all the characters are pure, barring the extremely obvious antagonist.

Heck, they're so pure that they make freshly fallen snow look dirty.

So there's the charm in Kimi ni Todoke. It's so innocent and heartwarming that it'll send you to the dentist with a cavity from it's sweetness. Those wanting some romances with exciting romantic development, I advise watching (or re-watching) Nodame Cantabile, Toradora!, or True Tears. But if you don't mind something slow to take your mind off of life's dramas, Kimi ni Todoke is a solid choice.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Price of Pushing Internet Freedom

This kind of tech drama doesn't happen too often folks. Ever since several accounts at Google got hacked by someone in China earlier in December 2009, Google has taken the gloves off and announced that they were no longer censoring search results. Of course, the Chinese government simply flipped some switches on the Great Firewall of China, and started blocking various Google services. The response from within China has been somewhat varied, ranging from cautious support to nationalistic outrage.

So what happens now?

The obvious answer is that Google loses, big time. China's 384 million plus internet users will probably turn to the domestic search engine Baidu, and Google will no longer have a foothold in the world's fastest growing tech market. Of course, Sergey Brin expected this, and this was a decision based on personal rather than business ideals.

But the more disturbing answer is that US tech companies working with China will face this sort of treatment for the indefinite future. Google hasn't been the only high-profile company that has had trouble recently working with the Chinese government. Activision-Blizzard also has experienced its fair share of troubles in its efforts to renew the World of Warcraft license with the Chinese government, even though it has done exactly the opposite of what Google has chosen to do.

With an increasingly nationalistic and inward-focused China protests about intellectual property violations, hacking attacks, and censorship will fall on mostly deaf ears. As Western tech services and firms are handicapped by the Chinese government, Chinese copycats will continue to flourish. The digital divide between China and the rest of the world is growing day by day, it's clear that the digital landscapes on both sides of this divide will be very different.

Update: Oh, and it was confirmed that Yahoo had several email accounts hacked very recently. Starting to see a trend here?

Image courtesy AFP

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review: Nodame Cantablie Finale

The saga finally ends, and one of the most entertaining and charming animes in recent years draws to a close. The final season has been intriguing and unpredictable, even if events did unfold rather slowly. Nodame Cantablie Finale hasn't been a wild roller coaster ride like what we experienced with the first season, but it still manages to throw some unexpected hooks and turns in the overall story that will satisfy many fans. The final season hasn't been quite as epic as I had foresaw, but even so this is one final act that undoubtedly fits with the mood of the series.

They've put a lot of money and time into this, and as a result Nodame Cantablie Finale looks and sounds great. There's plenty of grand and sweeping musical scenes, lots of slow-motion effects, great CG, and plenty of detailed animation. However, what we really care about is the character development, and there is plenty of that. Not only do we finally get to become acquainted with the side characters and their relationships, but even Nodame and Chiaki's relationship develops, albeit in a rather subtle manner.

In my preview I mentioned that the relationship between Nodame and Chiaki was a known quantity, and I was wrong. I won't spoil anything, but roles have been reversed, and it's been interesting to see the normally confident Chiaki becoming increasingly befuddled. While the comedy is still plentiful, it's obvious that the tone has become a bit more serious as the characters come to terms with each other and themselves. The tone of the series is by no means brooding, just a bit more contemplative than usual.

The very last episode might disappoint those expecting something concrete, but if you've been expecting some very serious closure you really have to look at what the series is about. That said, the last few minutes of the last episode has been one the most graceful closures that I have seen. Overall, Nodame Cantablie Finale is a solid ending to a much-beloved series. Even if it doesn't offer a exciting roller coaster ride of drama, the final season is still an outstanding emotional sendoff.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Review: Toradora!

I'm not a fan of the art. There's just something about how soulless their eyes seem that creeps me out. Also, what is up with Japan's fetish for small girls that look like they're in elementary school? I also don't like how it takes about 12 episodes for the writers to realize that Toradora! is actually much better at being a dramatic and emotional high school romance than it is at being a slice-of-life comedy.

And I can't believe that I missed this little gem when it came out over a year ago.

Sure, some of the characters are stereotypical for this genre, and the eventual love triangle is predictable. But I'll be damned if I let anybody think Toradora! is another generic romance anime. Things start off slowly, but eventually even the annoying stereotypes eventually get explained as the characters start to define themselves. The male lead isn't a total write-off for once, and the female lead is similarly strong-willed, so the chemistry between the two easily makes this one of the most satisfying romances that I've watched in a while.

Don't think it's all drama and no fun. The character cast are all light-hearted, innocent, and determined in ways that really can make anybody nostalgic for their high-school days. The surprisingly consistent writing also means that you'll be hooked on the slow-but-powerful blossoming of emotions from episode to episode. I still think that the first 12 episodes didn't need to be so meandering, but in hindsight I guess it does reflect the uncertainties of youthful love. Either way though, the pacing in the first couple of episodes isn't too bad, and I can easily name many other animes whose entire plots were much less exciting.

When it decides to get started with the emotional fireworks, Toradora! is a emotional ride that doesn't stop until literally the last seconds of the last episode. I'm a picky one, but Toradora! was able to get me completely addicted. Toradora! is the clam chowder of romance anime; warm, inviting, and rich in flavor. It's the soup that warms the romantic soul.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March Playlist: J-pop galore

I promised myself that I wouldn't be listening to any more Japanese music, since y'know, I don't know any Japanese. But goddamn, the Japanese make some pretty catchy pop-ballads, so I couldn't resist this month. First up is Supercell's new single "Sayanora Memories" (embedded above). It's similar to Supercell's other popular single that was used as the ED for Bakemonogatari, which means it hits all the high marks, literally. Another plus is that the music video for "Sayanora Memories" is also pretty charming and well produced, so by all means check it out. 

Next up is "Pink Monsoon" by May'n, her latest single for the Macross Frontier movie. It's not as epic as her older hit "Diamond Crevasse", but it's a very slick song that's so well produced it will be stuck in your head for days. Also from the Macross Frontier movie soundtrack is May'n's "Eternity", which doesn't have as much layered synth effects, but is still a solid song. Last of all, we have "Kaze to Oka no Ballad" by Real Paradis, which is the ED song for Nodame Cantablie Finale. It isn't a spectacular song (and not a very good music video either...), but it definitely encapsulates the mood of the anime well with its lyrical hooks and relaxed tones. 

Hopefully next month I'll have a playlist that isn't filled with songs in a language I don't understand.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Moving nowhere with the PlayStation Move

There's quite a number of differences between the Wii and the new PS3 motion control add-on the PlayStation Move, but it's not a huge exaggeration to call it Sony's 'Wiimote-HD', since both controllers are used in similar fashions when playing games. The most important distinction is the Move's accuracy; it's far better at tracking where the controller is, so it can do a lot more than even the upgraded Wii Motion Plus can hope to do.

So will the Move be Sony's gaming holy grail? Sadly, no.

Unique controls do not always produce unique gameplay. The Wii has proved this with years of simplistic-but-mediocre games best suited for very young kids. Aside from the Nintendo-developed Wii Sports Resort, there hasn't been a Wii game that has delivered on the Wii's original promise. And does Sony really expect the sell the PlayStation Move to the mainstream 'non-gamers' if it's an additional $100 (let's be honest here, it won't be much less than $100) cost on top of the $300 PS3?

Once you consider the launch games for the Move being very similar to current games being offered on the Wii right now, all of what has been announced so far has been rather underwhelming. With the Move, Sony simply isn't making a compelling argument for gamers or mainstream non-gamers to purchase it. These same problems also affect Microsoft's Natal motion controller, so these are problems that aren't necessarily limited to Sony.

I'm tempted to call the PlayStation Move another knee-jerk attempt by Sony to bandwagon on technology trends. But unlike my opinion on the PSP Go, I actually have some hope for Sony in this case. There's some promise in what the Sony can offer through the Move because the technology behind it is rather versatile, but it remains to be seen if they can capitalize on it with some great games after it's launched.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Short Story About HTML 5

Since the announcement of the iPad and it's lack of Flash support, some Internet geeks have been championing HTML 5 like it's the next coming of Christ. I'll be frank here. HTML 5 isn't something you should be worrying about right now. For the ordinary users, HTML 5 is a new web coding standard that not only promises to make web browsers more powerful, but also promises to have a plugin-free and web-based future. This means no more annoying Flash updates and more powerful web browsers that offer a lot more functionality.

And it also makes websites look prettier, which is a pretty nice bonus.

The real miracles behind HTML 5 though will only be noticed by web developers. But even if you don't know the difference between Javascript and CSS, HTML 5 still something to be excited for, since it has the potential to make browsing the web much faster and easier. And by that, I mean you can procrastinate on YouTube much more easily with HTML 5, since it gets rid of processor-draining web plugins like Flash. So if it's that good, why should we not be excited about it right now?

Point one; It's not done yet. The Wizards Behind The Internet (as I like to call the fine folks working on it right now) have been working on it for over six years, and there's still a few years before it's going to be officially 'completed'. Parts of the HTML 5 code are being rolled out right now, but those bits of new coding have only moderately changed the way websites are built.

Point two; Even when it's finished, it's not going to be entirely widespread because Microsoft hasn't really been involved in it's development. The godforsaken hunk-of-Internet-junk Internet Explorer is still commanding the majority of the browser market, and web developers don't like using a code that won't be fully compatible with the most popular browser on the Internet.

So if you've noticed all the noise about HTML 5, ignore it. It's much too early to be talking so glibly about it; it has a long way to go before it will be relevant news to the average consumer.

Image source: Webitcet, Gizmodo

Friday, March 5, 2010

While We're Talking About Webcomics

Check out Dresden Codak's webcomics. Actually, I would hesitate to label it as a webcomic, they're more works of art. His works are somewhat comparable to the webcomics over at XKCD, since both share a pretentious-intellectual-bordering-on-sarcastic-genius tone, but otherwise Dresden Codak's recent works are simply amazing in their beautifully created fantasy grandeur and the sheer length of each 'comic'. Be warned though, there's a fair amount of historical snarky-ness that will have you running back and forth between the comics and Wikipedia. Dresden evidently has a love for re-casting notable historical figures in unique situations.

While we're wasting time on the Internet, you also should check out Tim Rodger's description of why living in Japan sucks. His amusingly titled 'Japan: It's Not Funny Anymore' up on Kotaku is a VERY long read (I've written that much, but only for research papers), but it's a captivating piece that highlights the very weird things about Japanese culture that makes it almost impossible for foreigners to live and work there. He uncovers the not-so-glamorous side of Japanese life and business culture after years of living and working there, so it's an eye-opener. By all means check it out. I'll put some choice quotes below;
  • "It's not just comedy. Japan is land of the abundant "Famous For Being Famous" class of entertainers. If Paris Hilton were Japanese, they'd literally have her anchoring the fucking national news."
  • "Japanese television is a way of programming the mannerisms of tomorrow's society and/or/by propagating the mannerisms of yesterday. It scared the shit out of me." 
  • "It's hard to find a garbage can in Tokyo. That's why the city is so clean — the people carry their garbage everywhere. In addition to being a metaphor for the en-masse bottling-up of passive aggression in Tokyo, it's also the truth."

Source of first image: Dresden Codak

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oh Geek Culture, How I Sometimes Don't Understand You

This webcomic by Caldwell Tanner is probably the best example of geek culture right now; full of constant in-references built upon years of re-translating elements of pop culture. I can count no less than four references in this comic, which is pretty amazing for a webcomic. Browsing through Caldwell Tanner's webcomic/blog looking at his other works for web-famous College Humor, there is a amazing diversity of comics about stuff I've heard about, and other stuff that's left me slightly confused.

Of course, College Humor has it's misses and hits in terms of genuinely funny things, but it doesn't change the fact that geek culture has grown so much in the past decade that now it's referencing itself. Internet memes are probably the best and most memorable example of this. Thinking (or in my case reading about) geek culture back in the 90's, it was pretty much the realm of Star Wars nerds, Star Trek nerds, and Dungeon and Dragon nerds. Geek culture today is such a monstrosity that it defies any attempts at definition sometimes. Trying to keep track of the countless memes and Internet in-jokes is a full time job, which some people have made a living off of.

At any rate, one thing is for sure; one day geeks will take over pop culture. It's only a matter of time, and as the influences of the Greatest Generation wanes, the eccentricities of the Geekiest Generation shall reign. I for one, welcome our geek overlords.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: Kara no Kyoukai

This week seems to be a slow week tech-wise, and with a dearth of topics to talk about, I might as well take a look at Kara no Kyoukai. I wasn't intending on reviewing this series, since it's a bit polarizing. Either you'll love it, or you'll find nothing special about it. If I had to describe Kara no Kyoukai in a few words, I would say it's quintessentially mono no aware; it's a slow but deliberate story that highlights the relations between characters through the spiritual and mystical world around them.

Kara no Kyoukai takes place within the universe of Tsukihime, and even though it takes place within a parallel universe to the main story of Tsukihime, it still contains lots of references that Tsukihime fans can appreciate. Newcomers to the Tsukihime story line and Type-Moon's works will feel a bit lost, since the story doesn't stop to explain concepts or events clearly. Another thing that contributes to the slow, methodical feel of the series is it's format; Kara no Kyoukai is a series of seven movies, so even though there's lots of tension and bits of action, there's a lot of 'dead time' in between.

I use the term 'dead time' quite loosely though. The slow panning scenes are there for the atmosphere and tension, and the action sequences are all the more enjoyable as a result. The action sequences are few and far in between, but they're definitely among the best animated sequences I've seen. From the rain-drenched rooftop fight scene to the leap of faith off an apartment block during an intense battle, these beautifully animated and choreographed scenes are hard to forget.

Along with the action, the characters of Kara no Kyoukai are similarly just as memorable. They each have unique quirks and traits, and more importantly they have intriguing personalities. With characters that are this interesting, it's fascinating to watch the relationships unfold between the characters, especially the relationship between the main leads Mikiya and Shiki. While the art, animation, and atmosphere might attract you to Kara no Kyoukai, you'll most likely stay for the characters.

Of course, we arrive at the reason why I was so hesitant to even share my thoughts on Kara no Kyoukai; it's very art-house. The methodical pacing and the slow unfolding of the plot and relationships takes quite a bit of patience to enjoy. The narrative is also structured to keep the viewer guessing, which can be frustrating since the plot isn't very easy to grasp. Kara no Kyoukai isn't something that I'll recommend to those expecting constant action or those new to anime, but those who come ready to immerse themselves in a mysterious world won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Impressions: Nodame Cantabile Finale

It's more Nodame Cantablie, so that means more awesome musical adventures. If you've watched the first two seasons of Nodame, and aren't watching the final season, then I don't know why you're wasting time reading this instead of watching it. What are you waiting for?

That said, the final season is a bit different from the previous one. They're still in Paris, and they're still continuing their roller coaster ride in the musical world, but in this season we finally see more development in the supporting cast. The second season of Nodame just dumped a bunch of new faces on our plate without much explanation, and that didn't make the loss of the stellar supporting cast from the first season that much more palatable. Thankfully, the final season is wrapping up those loose ends, and I'm enjoying see the supporting characters finally getting some more face time on screen.

Chiaki and Nodame's relationship and musical destinies are almost a known quantity at this point, so watching the relationships between the supporting characters has been something that's really drawn me in. The development between one Mr. Samurai (obviously not his name, but I can't spoil it here) a female supporting character particularly has me riveted.

So far, Nodame Cantablie Finale is definitely looking like it'll be the epic ending that we all wanted. More music, more adventures, and more heartwarming-yet-awkward romance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Breaking News: Windows Phone 7 Announced

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Microsoft announced their newest mobile smart phone OS platform, the Windows Phone 7.


Let's be honest, Microsoft has a tendency to promise big and fail utterly in recent years. I think Windows 7 has been their only major product they released that was a success, and that's because we hit them over the head enough times because of Vista. Plus we're getting into smart phone territory here, in which the popular mind-share of this market has long been captured by the iPhone.

Don't get me wrong, I think Windows Phone 7 is a really slick mobile OS, and it's integration with Xbox Live has great potential. But the success of integration like that is highly dependent on the existence of a diversity of content for it (e.g. games), and there won't be enough Window Phone 7 users to justify developers investing in games for the platform when they can make so much more money off of the wildly popular iPhone app store.

Long story short, I'll be excited if Xbox Live integration isn't just a gimmick a year or so from now. But I'm willing to put down money that nobody will care about it then.

Source and image: Gizmodo

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review: Mass Effect 2

To say that Mass Effect 2 is my favorite game this year would be an understatement. Saying that Mass Effect 2 is my favorite game that I’ve played in my whole life would be more accurate. Mass Effect 2 is by no means the ‘perfect’ game, and there are games out there that arguably have better elements. Bioshock has better atmosphere, Modern Warfare 2 has more thrilling gameplay, Fallout 3 has a bigger world to explore, and the upcoming PS3 game Heavy Rain will definitely be more ‘cinematic’ and emotional than Mass Effect 2. So why Mass Effect 2, if it’s not perfect?

I’ll say it in one word; Immersion.

Video game graphics have proved to be amazing in recent years, but despite these leaps in technology the main problem with video games has been their inability to immerse us in their worlds. Running around any game, you have to actively suspend your notions of reality just to accept what you’re seeing in the game. Some games like Bioshock try to use art style and atmosphere to make it easier to get drawn into the game, other games like Modern Warfare 2 simply rely on pushing you along as fast as possible so you don’t think too much about the world the game is presenting to you.

With Mass Effect 2 though, it engages the most important factor in immersion; you. The whole game is masterfully designed to engage the player in choices that shape the gameplay and the universe.The character that you play isn’t nameless or voiceless like in most other games, your character has an actual personality who builds actual relationships with characters around them. You give the character a name, gender, change their appearance, write their backstory, and customize their abilities to your preference, and all this is before you are presented with the decisions that develop your character's story and relationships.

Decisions you have made in the first Mass Effect have a noticeable effect on the immensely detailed world in Mass Effect 2, effectively writing a game universe that feels unique and tailored to you. The choices that you make don’t have an easily visible foreseeable impact, and they’re morally ambiguous too, which makes every decision fraught with tension as you try to choose what you think is the best decision.The game almost makes you believe you’re writing their story, and that’s the key in Mass Effect 2’s immersion.

It also doesn’t hurt that Mass Effect 2’s combat and level designs have improved leaps and bounds over the first game. Just like the tension found in the moral decisions in the game, every enemy encounter is thrilling and fast-paced, a testament how well designed the combat system and level designs are. You’re still suspending your belief in reality while playing, but the immersion happens so effortlessly because everything in the game is working in harmony to draw you in and invest your emotions in what is unfolding before your eyes. From the vibrant and lush alien worlds to the stellar voice acting (did I mention Martin Sheen voices one of the main characters?), Mass Effect 2 truly rivals some classic sci-fi epics.

Of course, like I said before the game isn’t perfect. I have several gripes with the way that the game’s plot is structured, along with some uncertainties about the balance of the different character abilities, but I haven’t been this enthralled like this by any other video game. Mass Effect 2 isn’t for everyone, as it’s hybrid RPG-FPS system isn’t easy to pick up and the game’s immersion is highly dependant on the player having completed the first Mass Effect (which had its fair amount of gameplay flaws). However, it blows every other game out of the water with its superbly balanced composition of personalized immersion, gameplay elements, epic story, intriguing characters, and emotional impact.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better produced game than Mass Effect 2. Until Mass Effect 3 comes out, that is.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Google Behemoth Strikes Again: Google Buzz

If you accessed your Gmail today, you've probably noticed that Google's added something called Buzz. Some people are calling it Google's answer to Facebook, but that's really a poor way to describing Buzz. Yes, Buzz is Google's new social networking add-on to Gmail, but the two services aren't really comparable beyond that. And that's the problem; Facebook is by far still offers more features, and Buzz doesn't offer anything radically compelling to justify being labeled a 'competitor' to Facebook.

Instead, I think the best way to think about Buzz is that it's enhancing your Gmail experience.You can upload and share decently-sized photos, and if you have Buzz on your smartphone you can 'tweet' your status with a geo-location tag on it so your friends can see where you 'tweeted' from, and all of this is integrated in the Gmail browser. Of course, there's some features that you'll recognize from Twitter and Facebook. Like your Facebook posts, your friends in Gmail can now comment on your Buzz post, and you can have people 'following' you.

Honestly, even if you think of Buzz being an add-on to Gmail, it doesn't really enhance the Gmail experience by much. I have at least 100 friends on Facebook who are constantly on Facebook-stalking, but I have about 10 people on my Gmail list who actively use it for stuff like Gmail chat. Whether you like Facebook's user interface or not, it's impossible to deny the fact that it's much more intuitive and efficient for socializing than Gmail's user interface is.

That said, the additions in Buzz make it a better competitor to Twitter, since it allows much more social interaction with your posts. Even with this positive outlook though, it's hard to deny that it's the awkward late comer to the party; it wants to be popular to be like Twitter and Facebook, but instead of being original, it tries to act like them and fails to appeal to anyone. C'mon Google. We expected more from you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Favorite Superbowl Commercials For 2010


This year's game between the Saints and the Colts was really entertaining, but this year's crop of Superbowl commercials were a bit lacking. But there were a few good ones, and surprisingly this time my favorite commercial wasn't one by Bud Light or Budweiser. No, I didn't like the Motorola commercial (above) just because Megan Fox was half naked in it...well, actually I did since that was the whole joke, but that's besides the point. Props to Motorola for a commercial that was classy and funny, and props to Megan for being more entertaining than she was in Transformers 2. I was more entertained by this than I was for most of that movie, and I didn't get a headache watching it either. 

The honorable mention here is the Google ad. It's rather subtle, and I admit I kind of missed the point the first time I watched it. Luckily, thanks to the magic of Youtube, you can experience the simplistic but heart-warming ad as many times as you want. Pay attention to the ad closely if you watch it. It's definitely not the funniest or catchiest of the ads that aired, but it sure stood out for it's simplicity and cleverness among the screaming chicken ads Denny's ran. The screaming chickens were funny the first time, amusing the second, and really annoying the third time.

"Timmy, what are you doing?"

Friday, February 5, 2010

I finally stopped being lazy

Actually, I'm just procrastinating from doing something else that I need to work on. Anyways, I'm currently updating the layout of the blog so it looks better. I might make some edits to the coloring and what not later on, but for now I made a new header and fixed the width of the website. Go ahead and leave some comments if you think that I'm doing a horrible job with the layout, or if you just hate the header that I made. Or if you like what I'm doing, by some weird twist of fate.

Now I should start working on that paper of mine...

Edit: I just noticed that the Youtube embedded videos aren't showing up on IE8. There's some shenanigans going on with either the Youtube coding, or Microsoft's coding. And guess which one I'm blaming. Get Firefox (or Chrome if you're feeling adventurous) if you're still stuck in Microsoft's stone age.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Review: Star Trek Online


I've been jaded with massive multiplayer online games since my time with the infamous World of Warcraft, plus I'm not old (or nerdy) enough to be a true Trekkie. Games that are designed to waste your time like MMOs don't fit my lifestyle, and the only person I can really recognize from Star Trek is Captain Jean-Luc Picard. So you can imagine my sense of disbelief when I realized I actually enjoyed my time with Star Trek Online.

From the time I spent in the game's open beta, there's not much that I can praise about the game's structure. The ground combat is clunky and boring, the user interface isn't intuitive to use, and there's little in the way of guidance in what to do in the game. Want to know the difference between Photon and Quantam torpedos? Don't look at the descriptions in the game, Google it. Want to know where the hell the 'Crystaline Entity' is for that one mission? Google it. I could go on, but you get the overall picture.


But I wouldn't be talking about Star Trek Online if it just was mediocre. One thing that the game has satisfied is my childhood fantasies about blowing things up in space. Piloting a lumbering Federation cruiser around Klingon Bird of Preys and crushing them with disruptor beams and photon torpedoes has created a sensation that I haven't felt since I was seven years old and doodling sprawling space battles on the margins of my math homework. The game is quite good at fulfilling the inner Captain Kirk, and even the cumbersome ground battles serves the purpose of giving us the Star Trek experience by expanding the universe beyond go-here-and-blow-up-3-Klingon-ships.

Star Trek Online is about as geeky as one can get (complete with in-game voice over from Leonard Nimoy), and it even appeals to non-Trekkies if you love sci-fi enough. The game is an MMO in concept, but in reality you won't miss much if you want to do things by yourself, which is another plus in my book. I won't be spending much time with the game, but I do appreciate how it has awoken the inner child that I had assumed to be long gone. 

Beam me up, Scotty!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Can hip-hop, blues, and classical music be combined? Heck yea.

Nope, this isn't another crazy Japanese musical mash-up. Rather this exquisite piece of music is a result of a online mix-up collaboration between talented semi-professional and amateur musicians, most of whom live in LA. From its hip-hop and blues influences, to the classical guitar and piano melodies, this musical project is pretty amazing to listen to. Give it a go. You definitely won't be disappointed, no matter your musical preferences. 

Edit: Youtube video here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Not so breaking news: the iPad

I told you so. Not that you needed me to tell you guys the obvious, after all these year of tablet rumors and dancing around that Apple has done. But the iPad finally official, and predictably it's also taken the tech world by storm.

Overall, I'm not surprised with the features that Apple has offered with the iPad. It's all standard fare; magazine and book reading, a online store for those publications, some basic web functionality, and music and movie playback. Even though I'm not surprised with the features, there's no denying the impact the iPad can potentially have on not only the tech world, but also the ancient and declining world of publishing. With Apple's new tablet, magazines are no longer obsolete dinosaurs, out of touch with the increasingly wired universe.

So will the iPad herald a new revolution of online publishing? I sure hope so. Apple has established the beachhead in this battle; it's up to those publishers to create viable strategies and push attractive content to win the war. On the ultra-portable computing front, the iPad isn't quite the revolution that some people were hoping. The inability to multitask, the inefficient virtual keypad, and lack of Flash functionality means that the best bang-for-the-buck for ultra-portable computing still lies in the sub-$400 netbooks. Sure, there's an attachable physical keyboard, but honestly having to lug that around is a deal-breaker.


Revolutionary or not revolutionary, the iPad will be successful. Why? Because Apple knows that to be successful, you don't just sell a product, you sell a lifestyle. The iPod came with iTunes, the iPhone came with its massive app store, and the iPad will come all of those things plus the iBook store. With the ability to download and organize music/movies in iTunes, use/play/downlad apps, and buy books on the iPad, it's a multimedia powerhouse. Even despite not being quite as good as a netbook for web surfing or word processing, there's promise in what the iPad represents.

Oh, and the base model starts at $499. Easy on the wallet, decent on the features, and pretty to look at. Not too bad if you ask me. Now, about that name...

Images courtesy Gizmodo

Edit: Upon further reflection, I ended a bit too much on a positive note. The iPad is promising, but as a device it's still not quite good enough for me to give a wholehearted recommendation.  Apple needs to fix the issues (lack of multitasking is the big one), but I'm confident they will. So final verdict? Wait a year or so till a newer version comes out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oh god I'm talking about music

2009 has been a rather interesting year for alt. rock and rock music. The album I was looking forward to the most, Weezer's latest album Raditude, was almost painful for me to listen to as a whole. But on the flip side, there was some decent stuff that graced the air waves in the past year. The Fray's latest self-titled album was really nice to listen to, and Third Eye Blind's Ursa Major was a solid reminder to why I liked them so much.

But really, I think the biggest surprise of 2009 for me was Switchfoot's Hello Hurricane. I've never been a fan of their older albums (or their past musical styles), but in this album they really pulled out all the stops to refresh their sound. Unlike Weezer's Red Album (again Weezer, c'mon), their musical experimentations blend nicely with their patented vocal catches and soft sounds to create an album that's musically diverse and fun to listen to. Before Hello Hurricane, I wouldn't have put 'musically diverse' and 'Switchfoot' in the same sentence. But now I can do that without any sense of sarcasm.

Another solid album that also came out at the tail end of the year is Leona Lewis's Echo. Not that I expected anything less, even with the standards she set with her stellar first album. What is confusing me though, is why Square Enix choose her single "My Hands" as the theme song for the international version of Final Fantasy XIII. "My Hands" is a nice song...but it doesn't match the whole Final Fantasy concept of androgynous Japanese teenagers summoning giant ice-machine-monsters to fight the Greater Evil. The only people who are going to buy Final Fantasy XIII are people who love the Japanese flavor of the series, so why replace the perfectly fine original Japanese theme?

Heh. I knew I'd manage to talk about games somehow.