May 22, 2015

Happy 35th Birthday, PAC-Man

PAC-Man is 35 years old today.  This early-age video game icon has been gobbling up dots for more than 1/3 of a century.  Spawning dozens of official sequels and spin-off titles -- and hundreds of clones, copy-cats, and unofficial games -- PAC-Man has left his mark not just in the video game world, but throughout media.

"PAC-Man Fever" was one of the first --- if not the first video-game inspired songs to ever be published, and it was a chart-topping hit.  Pac-Man has had multiple TV shows, has appeared in multiple movies, has had toys, clothing lines, cereals, lunch boxes, board games.... You name it - there's a Pac-Man version of it.

From arcades, to consoles, to smartphones, to PCs --- pretty much if there's a digital device out there capable of receiving up-down-left-right input - PAC-Man has been ported to it (officially or not).  PAC-Man once even took over Google.

On this 35th Anniversary, let's look back at some of the world-record breaking milestones that PAC-Man and the whole PAC-Family have been a part of, according to Guinness World Records.

First video game family

Before the Mario Bros came along in 1983, PAC-Man had already established the first video game family. Following the breakout success of the original PAC-Man arcade game, American licensee Bally Midway released a series of unofficial spin-off games. Ms PAC-Man (released January 13, 1982) proved so successful that Namco eventually adopted it as an official release, but the same cannot be said of Baby PAC-Man (1982) and Jr. PAC-Man (October 1983), which, along with Professor PAC-Man (1983), contributed to Namco eventually severing ties with Bally Midway.

First female character in a video game

According to creator Toru Iwatani (Japan), PAC-Man (Namco, 1980) was designed to appeal primarily to women. Two years later, the addition of a hair bow and lipstick to the munching mouth turned PAC-Man into Ms. PAC-Man (Bally/Midway, 1982), the first playable female character in any video game.
Most successful coin-operated arcade machine

From its launch in 1981 until 1987, a total of 293,822 PAC-Man arcade machines were built and installed in arcade venues around the world. Designed by Tohru Iwatani (Japan) of Namco, the original game took eight people 15 months to complete. Namco estimate that PAC-Man has been played more than ten billion times since its launch.

Most viewed PAC-Man video

In April 2009, renowned French prankster RĂ©mi Gaillard uploaded a video of himself dressed in a full-size PAC-Man costume being chased by cohorts dressed as ghosts in a supermarket, golf course and other locations. The clip is the most viewed PAC-Man video on You Tube, with 45,831,671 views as of August 18, 2014.

Largest re-enactment of PAC-Man

In 2004, students from New York University created PAC-Manhattan, a “real-life” re-enactment of the game in which people, dressed as PAC-Man and the four ghosts, chased each other around Manhattan city blocks. The playing field consisted of 6x4 city blocks surrounding Washington Square Park, with a total surface area of 171,029m².

Most costly game of PAC-Man

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the game's release, Google released a PAC-Man-inspired Google Doodle, an interactive banner using the same graphics and game play as the original arcade version. Launched on May 21, 2010, it was available for 48 hours and visitors to played for nearly 500,000,000 hours. Based on the average officer worker's salary, it's estimated to have cost businesses around $122 million in lost productivity.

Largest PAC-Man video game

Measured by its total number of pixels, the largest PAC-Man game is The World’s Biggest PAC-Man, with a total of 4,014,144,000 pixels across 62,721 mazes. The game, playable online at, went live on April 12, 2011 and was developed by Australia’s Soap Creative agency to celebrate 30 years since the original arcade release by Namco. As well as letting Facebook users play against each other, the game allows fans to design and share their own levels.

(Thanks to Mark for reminding me what today was!)

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November 28, 2014

WinBook TW700 - the 7" Windows 8.1 Tablet for under $60 - 2-day Review

Here is an unboxing of my new WinBook TW700 7" Windows 8.1 Tablet from MicroCenter.

It cost me (and is still currently on sale as of the time of this writing) only $59.99 plus tax (normally $89.99).

Here be the specs:
  • 7" 1280x800 (16:10 aspect ratio) IPS LCD 5-point Capacitive Touchscreen
  • Intel BayTrail-T Z3735G 1.33GHz Quad-Core CPU
  • 1GB DDR3 RAM
  • 16GB Flash Storage
  • Windows 8.1 + Bing Operating System
  • 1-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 included (via code on card, not pre-installed)
  • microSD Card Slot
  • Full-sized USB 2.0 slot
  • MicroUSB
  • MicroHDMI video-out
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPS
  • Stereo Speakers
  • Built-in Microphone
  • 3.5 mm Headphone/Mic combo jack
Windows 8.1 + Bing

Don't let the "+ Bing" thing scare you.  All it means is that the manufacturer got the OS for free from Microsoft with the guarentee that it would ship the product (in this case, the tablet) with the defaults for Internet Explorer all set to Bing and MSN.  This is normally the case anyway on Windows 8 - but some companies make deals with Google or Yahoo to change those defaults.  As the consumer, you are free to change all the settings you want.  You are not locked into Bing.  You never have to use it at all, and you are free to use Google, or Yahoo, or Ask, or Alta Vista... (is that even still a thing?) or whatever.

So you are getting a full Windows experience.  This is not WindowsRT, or even something like the Windows 7 Starter Edition.  This is full Windows 8.1 - with all that entails, the good and the bad.  So don't freak out about the + Bing.

I do also want to point out that Windows 8 by itself sells on the Microsoft Store for $79.99.  

Microsoft Office 365

There is a folder and icon for Office 365 on the tablet, but it's not actually installed.  Clicking that starts the installation process, and you have to input the code from the card that is included in the box with the tablet in order to authenticate your subscription to the service. I haven't installed it because I'm not sure I'm going to use it, and since it is a subscription and not a straight install-once-use-forever thing, I'd rather wait until I'm sure I need it before I activate it.

The license is good for "1 Tablet + 1 PC/Mac" - but I don't think it has to be *this* tablet.

A one-year subscription to Office 365 costs $79.99 (or $7.99 per month) - so, again, like with Windows, the cost of the tablet is less than the cost of the software.  (Although, to be fair, the $79.99 subscription gives you 5 installs instead of 2.)

Initial thoughts

I've only had it a couple of days, but I am certain I'm going to get my money's worth out of this one.  Like I said, Office 365 alone is worth more than I paid - but even aside from that - I got a full brand-new Windows computer for less than $60!  That's amazing.

The full-sized USB is important to me.  That gives it far more of a computer vibe and less of a tablet vibe.  I mean, I know technically any tablet/phone/device with a USB-OTG port, regardless of size (full, micro, or mini) can have peripherals -- and I know BlueTooth peripherals exist.  But the convenience of being able to just plug something directly into the side of this thing makes it feel a lot more like a PC to me.  

No adapters or limitations - just any other USB slot on any other computer I've used over the last 15 years.  Easy Peasy.  I've plugged keyboards, USB drives, etc. into the thing, and it just works.  Sure - you have to install drivers for certain things, just like on any Windows computer - but there's nothing strange about the process just because it's a tablet.

The device has a 16GB internal flash drive, but you only have access to 8GB of it, I'm not sure what's up with the other 8GB, but I assume it's something like a recovery drive or something, but it's not visible in Explorer.  I didn't look before I started installing apps and software, but even after installing LibreOffice and a few other decent sized programs, I had over 2GB left.  And it has a MicroSD slot, so I've got a 32GB card in there.  That should hold me for a while.

I do wish the RAM was upgradable.  1GB isn't much.  If you aren't multitasking too much or playing graphics-intensive games, it shouldn't be a problem.  But having too many Google Chrome Extensions installed (like I do) does slow things down a bit, especially when streaming audio in one window and trying to surf in another.  (There is an 8" model with 2GB of RAM available [currently on sale] for $139.99, but that is more than twice the price.)

I am a Mac user, and I have Windows installed on a small partition of my MBP, but I rarely use it.  This tablet will let me quickly and easily run lighter Windows-only apps.  And with the full-sized USB I can do things like root my phone quickly and easily (which is not always simple on a Mac).

I wouldn't recommend it as your main computer, but if you are chugging along on something that is 5 years old, or if you just want a second machine for the living room or something - this is far more functional than a phone or Android/iOS tablet, and it costs less, too.

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October 28, 2014

Future Superhero Films (Marvel and DC) through 2020

Today, Marvel had an event and announced their "Phase Three" films (basically in response to DC's films through 2020).  

MARVEL (Disney)

May 1, 2015 - The Avengers: Age of Ultron
July 17, 2015 - Ant-Man
May 6, 2016 - Captain America: Civil War
November 4, 2016 - Doctor Strange
May 5, 2017 - Guardians of the Galaxy 2
July 28, 2017 - Thor: Ragnarok
November 3, 2017 - Black Panther
May 4, 2018 - The Avengers: Infinity War - Part 1
July 6, 2018 - Captain Marvel
November 2, 2018 - Inhumans
May 3, 2019 - The Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2

DC (Warner Bros.)

March 25, 2016 - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
August 5, 2016 - Suicide Squad
June 23, 2017 - Wonder Woman
November 17, 2017 - Justice League Part 1
March 23, 2018 - The Flash
July 27, 2018 - Aquaman
April 5, 2019 - Shazam
June 14, 2019 - Justice League Part 2
April 3, 2020 - Cyborg
June 19, 2020 - Green Lantern

????  - Stand-alone untitled Batman movie
???? - Stand-alone untitled Superman movie


August 7, 2015 - The Fantastic Four (Fox) - Reboot
February 12, 2016 - Deadpool (Fox)
May 27, 2016 - X-Men:  Apocalypse (Fox)
June 10, 2016 - The Sinister Six (Sony)
March 3, 2017 - Wolverine 3 (Fox)
July 14, 2017 - The Fantastic Four 2 (Fox)
May 4, 2018 - The Amazing Spider-Man 3 (Sony)

???? - X-Force (Fox)

STAR WARS (Disney)

Also, there are the upcoming Star Wars films, Episodes VII, VIII, & IX - and at least 2 other "Stand-alone" films in between those.  

December 18, 2015 - Star Wars:  Episode VII - The Force Awakens
2016 - Stand-alone Star Wars movie (Boba Fett [!] rumored to be the focus)
2017 - Star Wars:  Episode VIII
2018 - Stand-alone Star Wars movie
2019 - Star Wars:  Episode IX

There are many movies to be exicted about in the upcoming 6 years.  "Age of the Geek, baby!"  8^D

I haven't even mentioned all the TV shows.... Star Wars: Rebels, Marvel's Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D., Arrow, The Flash, & Gotham........

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October 15, 2014

More on MicroConsoles

There were two big events in the world of MicroConsoles this week.  The first being that the Playstation TV launched in North America, and the second being the (surprise?) announcement of Google's Nexus Player.

I talked about the Playstation TV before (when it was called Playstation Vita TV, well it still is in Japan).  Basically it's a Vita in a box.  A somewhat stripped down one, it turns out, since it doesn't run nearly all the games or apps that the Vita does.  To be fair, some of the limitations make sense, since there is no touchscreen involved anymore.  However, the fact that Netflix and other video streaming apps don't work doesn't make a bit of sense.  Netflix has said they have no plans of supporting the system, either.  So if you planned on buying the PS TV for your video streaming needs - look elsewhere.  (Amazon Fire TV has it beat hands down, there - so does the $35 Google Chromecast - and basically any other WiFi enabled device you can plug into a TV via HDMI.)

But you aren't buying a PS TV for the TV part - you are buying for the GAMES, right?  Well, hold on...  Because not all PS Vita games work with PS TV.  And Playstation Now (the game streaming / rental service from Sony) is INSANELY EXPENSIVE - so stay clear.  (Sometimes it is CHEAPER to buy the games from the PS Store than to stream them.  And it is almost always cheaper to buy them in physical form - especially used.)

And, did I mention that the Playstation Vita only has 1GB of onboard storage - and the only way to add storage is through Sony's proprietary PS Vita Memory Card.  Those are retailing for more than $1 per GB at the moment.  Some cards almost $2 per GB, depending on size and store and sale.  And you will need a card if you want to download anything.  1GB of storage will not cover much in the way of gaming.  Heck, you'd be lucky to fit more than 1 PS-one classic on there.

So.... for now, unless they change a LOT of the software limitation, and significantly lower the cost of their Vita Memory - I would have to strongly advise passing on a PS TV - as much as I wanted them to be cool.

On the other hand, we have the Google Nexus Player.  I mentioned in my last MicroConsole focused post that Google had bought a game controller company which made some speculate the big G would be entering the game console market.   Well, they sort-of have now. In much the same way Amazon sort-of has with their Fire TV.  The Google Nexus Player is more of a Android Box than MicroConsole - but it is FAR better than the now-defunct "Google TV" boxes of the past.

Like the Fire TV, the Nexus Player is a MicroConsole style set-top-box with an optional game controller.  However, it doesn't appear the game controller was made by the company that Google bought.  It appears to be made by Asus.  Also, it appears to be the exact same controller as the OnLive MicroConsole with the media buttons removed (which is supper odd, since they would actually have potential use here, as opposed to on the OnLive system, which had no media apps whatsoever) and rounded mid-face buttons.

Seriously - Look at them!

Look, I know I said the same thing for the Amazon Fire TV's controller - but this is right out the same controller.  No moving of sticks and D-pads.  The angles - the contours - the indicator lights - everything!  It's the same stinking controller I tells ya!

The Nexus Player seems like a far more solid system, offering the full Android 5.0 (Lollipop) experience and a far more powerful set of specs - including the ability to handle 1080p, which the PS TV lacks.

I'm not saying you have to rush out and get either one (the Nexus Player isn't out yet, it was just announced today, with preorders coming latter this month).  But I'm saying of all the MicroConsoles I've seen, the Nexus Player is the best, with the Amazon FireTV coming a close second.

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Gotham City is Anti-Vancouver.... Lazy Graphics Editing

So apparently Gotham is anti-Vancouver....

This map is from Fox's new "Gotham" TV series, shows the location of Arkham Asylum and the surrounding area, (a place they refer to as "Arkham City" - but it is an area within Gotham City itself).

 The map is actually a mirrored image of map of Vancouver, BC, Canada. Even the labels / street names are flipped.

That is just lazy graphic work, people....

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September 4, 2014

The "New Nintendo 3DS" - Announcement Reaction & Initial Thoughts

For those who might not yet have heard, Nintendo has announced a new handheld game system.  As of now, it has only been announced for Japan, but there isn't much chance it will be exclusive for long.  The new system is called "The New Nintendo 3DS".


And the confusion is already clear.

Let's clarify one thing.  A lot of people online are calling this the "New 3DS" - that is not the name.  The name is the "New Nintendo 3DS" --- not the "Nintendo New 3DS", the New comes first.

I sincerely hope that they will come out with a *ahem* new name before launch - at least a new name for regions outside of Japan.  (Nintendo does have a history of using slightly different names for consoles in Japan - the biggest being Japan's Famicom / Super Famicom vs the Nintendo Entertainment System / Super NES, and the most recent being Japan's DSi LL & 3DS LL vs the DSi XL & 3DS XL.)

The first problem,"New" things don't stay "new" for long.

Remember a few years ago - Apple came out with the "New iPad".  That was the official title.  Not the iPad 3 or the iPad 2012 or the iPad 3G or the iPad 3rd Generation... no, it was officially titled and marketed as "The New iPad".  It was replaced and discontinued in less than 8 months.  It took less than 2/3 of a year for the "New" iPad to go from "New" to "Not-the-Newest-One-Anymore" to "No Longer being made or sold".

I'm not saying the "New Nintendo 3DS" (which I am now going to call the nn3DS because - it's faster) will be obsolete in 8 months.  But what I am saying is that at some point in the future, it will no longer be the newest handheld console from Nintendo.  And before that even happens, it will simply no longer be "new".  The PS Vita is Sony's latest handheld - but it's not "new".  It has been out for over 2.5 years and has already seen a hardware refresh.  It is not "new" by most technological or video game standards.  It is still the new-est - but it is not new.  And the same will happen with the nn3DS.

The second problem - probably the bigger problem - that name is confusing as *#^~@!

It is bad enough that we have currently on the market the 3DS and its follow-up the 2DS, (not to mention the 3DS XL).  Now we will have the 3DS - the 3DS XL - the 2DS - the nn3DS and the nn3DS XL.  So let's say your 3DS breaks, and you want a replacement.  You go to your local game store and you say "I want a new 3DS" - and since "your local game store" is a GameStop, because they are a complete monopoly - they sell used consoles.  So the clerk asks you "Do you want a new New 3DS or a used New 3DS?"  You assume the second-place "new" is lowercase and referring only to the fact that it will be "new-to-you".  ...

Ok, it's late, and I haven't thought the joke all the way out, but you could have up to 3 "new"s (not to be confused with 3 news).  If it is a not-used nn3DS that you have never personally owned before, it would be a new-to-you new New Nintendo 3DS, or just a new-new-new 3DS.  As opposed to a new used New 3DS or a new used 3DS or a new new 3DS or a ....

I hate the name.

I seriously hate the name.

None of this would really matter much if - like the 2DS - the nn3DS only played 3DS games.  But they don't.  There will be exclusive titles to the nn3DS.  Meaning you will run into all this confusion everytime you want to buy a new 3DS game... or a New 3DS game....  or a new-New.... $*#@)#*!#*!!!

Now....  Name aside - what is so... *ahem* "new" about it?

A second analog disc - much smaller than the main one.  The 3DS already has an awkward optional add-on device that adds a second control disc.  So it would be possible for nn3DS games to use that to be backwards compatible - but that is not all that separates the 2.

The 3D is better.  The 3D can now be seen from a much wider angle - and not just directly on.  On the current 3DS, if you tilt either your head or the 3DS screen even slightly it can - and does - break the 3D effect and blurs the screen.  The nn3DS promises to change that.  This will be really helpful for anyone wanting to share their screen with someone else (which doesn't make a whole lot of sense on a handheld... but it is good to have the option).

A feature a lot of reviewers aren't even mentioning is there will now be 2 shoulder buttons per side.  This, with the new circle pad, will finally bring the 3DS to have the same number and type of controls that virtually all other consoles have had for the last 3 generations or so.

The thing that will make nn3DS games impossible to run on the "old" 3DS is that the new hardware will have a faster, more powerful processor.

It will also have NFC to communicate with Amiibos. (Something that yet another optional add-on accessory for the 3DS will be able to do.)  Potentially, this could be used for Disney Infinity and Skylander figures as well, but I am far from familiar enough with the tech to know if that is even possible.

It is moving from an SD slot to a Micro SD slot, which isn't horrible, but it is more limiting.  At least it is an open standard format and not some proprietary garbage like Sony uses on the Vita.

Some of the button layout is different, not just the addition of the new controls, but the star and select have been moved - and the XYAB buttons are now color-coded like the Super NES/Famicom buttons were.  This is a nice touch.

All-in-all I like the system just fine - but I hate the name.  I look forward to seeing it in action.

What do you think?

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August 23, 2014

Online Learning - Knowledge is Meant to be Free

I finally got a smartphone.  I know - "welcome to 2005, Chad..." but, at least I'm here now.  I was using an iPod Touch and a flip phone to fill that role until I got here.  So I've had the Internet in my pocket for a long time, as I'm sure most of you have.

When I talk about the nearly-universal, always-on, instantly-accessible Internet - I often say that I have the ability to tap into the sum total of recorded human knowledge in an easy to search format.  In fact, I remember reading before that something like that was pretty much the goal of Google when they got started - "To index all of human knowledge".  I don't know if that was or is ever really their stated goal, but it might as well be.

The fact is - there has never in the history of mankind been an age where so much information was available to so many people.  It's pretty amazing.  The Internet is more than cat videos and 90's kids quizzes.  In fact, I'd like to share with you some cool sites and apps that can help you learn just about anything.

And the info is all free.  
(Note, some apps may offer "in app purchases" - but they aren't needed to get the info.)

Khan Academy
All levels of learning - from Kindergarten to Graduate level

Learn languages - for free

Tons of free courses from "Top Universities"

18,000+ free "real-world skill" courses

My Open Courses
Focused on Engineering
Android App - Website - (no iOS App)

A "catch-all" app - basically a front end for other learning programs
Android App - Website - (no iOS App)

Free online courses, aka Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
from different providers in one place
Another catch-all front end

Ted Talks
Not really courses, 
but interesting high-level-thinking talks from leaders in their fields

iTunes U
Access complete courses from leading universities and other schools
plus the world’s largest digital catalog of free education content
right on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch
(it says iOS 7 needed - but you can download an older version
if you are like me and have an older iOS device)
(No Android App - obviously) - Website (for support)iOS App

Find what works for you.  Never stop learning.  Whether you are a high schooler who wants to see what college might be like, and maybe what field you want to go in, or a recent graduate who isn't quite sure if college is for you yet - or what you want to do with your life, or if you are in college and just want to learn stuff that isn't a part of your major - or if you are like me, and well passed your college years, and you just want to get the knowledge that is out there... learn a new skill... hone a current skill... whatever - just do it.  It's free.  :)

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