Sunday, November 23, 2008
If your looking to get some extra Microsoft Points or maybe some Xbox Live then head on over to Rewards1.
All you need to do is sign up for your free account. Then complete simple surveys and earn points. Those points can be redeemed for prizes like Microsoft points or Xbox live time!
So head on over to Rewards1 today!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Apple may soon add an iBangle to its army of iPods. It’s a bangle bracelet that sits on your wrist while you play your tunes through a wireless bluetooth in-ear headphone.
The aluminum bangle will not feature a screen, but a trackpad so your finger can slide and tap your way through all of your music.
Worried about fit? When you press the blue button on the device, the blue lining inflates with air, securing the iBangle snuggly around your wrist.
Designed by Gopinath Prasana, the iBangle currently exists in concept only…but hopefully not for long. No word on an ETA or price.
Apple released a hefty update for the iPhone on Thursday night.
The 2.2 software update is available through iTunes, and it's packed with lots of goodies. Apple released its 2.1 software update in September.
Some of the highlights of the update center on GPS and Google Maps. For example, version 2.2 includes Google Street View in Google Maps, which allows users to see a 360-degree view of locations taken with cameras mounted on Google's cars. It also added walking directions in Google maps with information on public transportation stops.
In addition, the iPhone can now download podcasts over the air using a Wi-Fi or 3G network. Previously, users had to download podcasts into iTunes on their computers and then sync their files. Now iPhone users can also turn off the auto-correction on the virtual keyboard, which I must say is a nice alternative to allowing the iPhone to guess what you're trying to type.
Other improvements include a bug fix for scheduled e-mail fetching, improved stability and performance for the Safari Web browser, improved phone quality to reduce dropped calls (hooray!), and improved sound quality in visual voice mail messages.
But there are still lots of things missing--for example, cutting and pasting. And the iPhone still doesn't support MMS messaging nor does it have GPS turn-by-turn directions.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
On the PlayStation, Wii, and Xbox, this fourth Guitar Hero installment counters Rock Band's drum and vocal tracks, which themselves had one-upped Guitar Hero's original stringed instrument. Vocals aren't practical for the mobile version--which still rocks, by the way--but a drum track is. Activision and game-maker Hands-On Mobile have introduced a drum choice for every song.
There's a lot more news here--the updated game, which has a new look and two fresh game-playing features (can you say "battle mode"?). There are also technical details that could make a difference to how the game looks and sounds on your individual phone. Finally, there's all the practical stuff about when your carrier will stock the game and how much it'll cost you. Let's take one at a time.
Note the new purple drum line you have to think about while you play.
(Credit: Hands-On Mobile)
Anyone who has played Guitar Hero III Mobile (video review) will feel right at home with Guitar Hero World Tour Mobile, which begins with fifteen new songs for guitar and drums, and which uses the phone's keypad buttons instead of guitar frets. When it comes to customization, you drummers out there are an afterthought--guitarists can choose their instrument, but not you. Also, when you're playing drums, the bottom row of keys (7, 8, 9) stand in for the kick-drum, which is represented in the game by a horizontal purple line that floats at you along with the notes. I played several songs in the drummer's mode, where the kick-drum line helped keep the game interesting.
Also new to the mobile game is the multiplayer battle mode, where Hands-On Mobile has created a good way to pair you up with similar players all over the world. You'll be matched by skill level and by phone type (more on this below.) You'll divvy up picking a song and the instrument, and will have to use your star power strategically (called battle power in this mode) to keep your opponent from scoring. After playing, it'll be easy to track your score from the accompanying Web site (launching Friday). This is neat, but what if you want to play your friend? You should be able to duke it out with personal pals as well as with perfect strangers.
Guitar Hero World Tour Mobile is a fun game to play; at two minutes per song, it's also well-suited for playing in-between other activities. This World Tour version sports a darker look and more updated graphics, but for some reason, Hands-On Mobile has opted for tiny, ornate--even arcane--font that might be favored by the Black Sabbath crowd, but which frankly is uncomfortable to read on a tiny screen. Judy and Axel are also mini. The avatars' small statures may help the characters render better (or make you notice wonky animation less,) but if they're part of the draw, then I want to be able to look my singing, head-banging avatar right in the rock 'n' roll eyes.
Sound quality on Java (J2ME) phones was the number-one complaint of the first mobile Guitar Hero. In World Tour, Hands-On Mobile has improved the audio for Java phones, bringing it up to the MP3 quality of other platforms.
The graphics have also improved. BREW and Windows Mobile users get 3D graphics, while animation for the J2ME phones has gotten smoother since the last version. It's still not as good as most console games, but considering how much action is crammed onto a roughly 2-to-3-inch screen, it's pretty impressive. The graphical quality will also depend on each individual handset. Higher-end Sony Ericsson phones will give you a richer experience than Motorola V3 RAZRS, for instance.
Handsets make a difference in the visual experience, but also when it comes to playing the game and matching up players for battle mode. Those high-end phones will support multiple key presses, which add an element of difficulty if you need to press two keys at once to play a chord. Phones that don't have that capability get a different pattern of notes that excludes mutli-pressing. To keep things fair, you won't battle anyone with a different key press philosophy than yours.
AT&T is the first carrier to get Guitar Hero World Tour Mobile, but by the end of November the game will also be available on Sprint (11/17), Verizon (11/25),and shortly after that on T-Mobile, Alltel, and USCC. The game will work on Java and BREW phones this month, BlackBerry phones next month, followed by Windows Mobile and Google Android.
Fickle gamers and fence-sitters can subscribe for about $4 to $4.50 per month, but the better news for longer-term cell phone gamers is the $10 to $11.50 it takes to get a lifetime license. It's steeper than many cell phone games, but it also includes on new song title per month for both payment plans. You'll be able to buy additional premium songs if you're on AT&T or Sprint.
Easy to pick up and (mostly) easy on the eye, Guitar Hero World Tour Mobile is as equally suited to casual gamers as it is to fans of the console games looking for a quick guitar-licking or drum-pounding fix before they can make it back to their plastic instruments.
Google has customized its search results for the iPhone's display, getting around some awkward presentation issues.
"Results are formatted to be neatly displayed on the mobile screen, so there's no need to scroll side to side. Local search results now include easier-to-press 'Get Directions' and click-to-call links. Maps are shown by default in the case of a single listing or accessible by the 'Show map"' link for multiple listings," said Google mobile team programmers Steve Kanefsky and Rob Stacey in a blog postTuesday night.
The older look can be retrieved by scrolling to the bottom of the search results page and clicking the "Classic" link, but I much prefer the new look.
The new packaging, however, isn't integrated with the iPhone itself, which has a built-in Google search option accessible via the magnifying glass icon at the top of each Web page. Those results are formatted for a much larger screen, at least on my iPhone. To get the fancy search results, you first must point the browser to www.google.com.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Speaking at a launch event here, Kevin Russell, CEO of 3, said: "The iPhone is a fabulous product--a breakthrough in usability. The Google (Android) phone is an exciting direction. But for us, we want to open this whole marketplace up, in terms of usage of data for mobiles."
The operator announced that it will be offering the new phone, the Inq1, to tap into rising demand for data services, made by new maker Inq under the brand name Social Mobile. The device has been designed for always-on integration, with a range of mobile social networking and instant-messaging services, including Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, and Skype.
Frank Meehan, CEO of Inq--and previously director and general manager of 3G handsets and products for 3's parent company, Hutchison Whampoa--said the vast majority of existing mobile-Internet customers use their phones for e-mail, social networking, VoIP, IM, and video sharing, yet mass-market handsets have not typically been designed with these services in mind.
"If you get the user interface right--easy to use, with access to key services--like the iPhone, like the Blackberry...you can really drive (mobile Internet) usage up," he said.
The phone is client-based so it syncs in the background with web services such as Facebook, pulling in contact and profile data, and updating it automatically. The client system also means that social-networking services can still be used when there is no network reception, for instance, on the London Underground.
The slider-style candybar design--which has a traditional 12-key keypad--runs Inq's own operating system, which is based on Qualcomm's BREW (Binary Run-time Environment for Wireless). On 3, the monthly subscription will be 15 British pounds, while the device will cost 79.99 pounds on a pay-as-you-go agreement.
It is intended to be the first of "many" social mobiles, Meehan added, including a full QWERTY offering.
The two CEOs added that they are hoping for other operators to adopt Social Mobile, after an initial period of exclusivity to 3. However, Russell claimed that the big incumbent operators are not as likely to embrace mobile Internet services in the way 3 is. "Their desire to embrace the Internet is not great; their desire to hang on to their existing customers is great," he said.
Social Mobile will be launched in the United Kingdom in the next few months, according to 3.
According to YouTube, which held a press conference at its headquarters, Sponsored Videos lets users promote their videos by bidding on keywords. Here's how it works: First, YouTube users, whether individuals or corporations, decide which of the videos they've uploaded they want to promote through site search. Then they decide which keywords they want to target.
Google, YouTube's parent company, has created automated tools that help users place bids for the keywords in an automated online auction, as well as set spending budgets. When people use keywords in search terms for videos, YouTube will display relevant videos alongside the search results. If you're, say, a Hollywood film studio, maybe you bid on the words "movie trailer."
Wow. Selling keywords on YouTube's search. What a great idea!
It only represents the single most important concept in online advertising, and it's the inspiration on which Google built an advertising dynasty. So why has it taken so long for YouTube to adopt a similar strategy?
The Web's largest video site has been casting about for a way to cash in on its 80 million users. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said several times this year that YouTube was not generating the kind of revenue the company hoped it would. Wouldn't creating an Adsense-like offering on YouTube have been one of the first things Google did after purchasing YouTube for $1.65 billion two years ago?
As one reporter asked YouTube executives: "Wasn't this a no-brainer?"
It's not as easy as it looks, according to Matthew Liu, a YouTube product manager.
"You're absolutely right," Liu told reporters. "In hindsight, it is a natural transition for YouTube to make. We've been working on this for months. The key was, we wanted to make sure we got it right. There are a lot of intricacies involved. YouTube is a video discovery platform. We've been integrating with Google AdWords for some time, and now we're at a place where it can be win and win."
Sponsored Videos, labeled as such when they appear following a keyword search, are priced on a cost-per-click basis. Currently, only U.S. users can bid on video keywords.
So how much could this be worth to Google? It's hard to say, at this point, whether Sponsored Videos will be the answer to YouTube's revenue problems, but consider that the site recently surpassed Yahoo to become the No. 2 Web search provider, behind Google.
To squeeze more money out of YouTube, Google has launched other ad formats, such as posting links near videos, enabling visitors to purchase goods found in the clip. Google has also worked to repair its reputation in Hollywood and has recently signed deals that will bring full-length TV and film content to the site.