Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stupid Arena Names for $1000 Alex!

Ok, so maybe you thought, like I did, that it wouldn't get worse than the "Gaylord Entertainment Centre" in Nashville. Well, yeah, so maybe that one is still the king, but here's the latest groan-tastic act of greed disguised as an attempt to repell feelings of inadequacy masquerading as corporate showboating (from the Toronto Star):

"NICE HANDLE: has acquired the naming rights to Glendale Arena, home of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes. The arena, which now will be known as Arena, had been without a corporate sponsor since it opened in December 2003., a Phoenix-based online employment service, will pay $2.5 million (U.S.) per year in the 10-year agreement, the team announced yesterday."

R.I.P. Montreal too, Maple Leaf Gardens, we'll all be joining you soon.

Reminds me of when The Mosaic Company bought the rights to Taylor Field in Regina this summer. Except everyone still calls it Taylor Field, or at worst it's Mosaic Stadium at Taylor don't get rid of Taylor that easily! To say nothing of the fact that the annual multicultural festival in Regina is also called Mosaic. How on Earth did the
festival raise enough money to buy the rights to the stadium? Oh, you mean the Potash company is named after the festival? Hmm, well, no time to argue now, we'll miss the game at Taylor Field!

Oh well. I'm not against naming things after corporations, if it pumps some money into the coffers of the city or surrounding area, paves some streets or whatever. But couldn't we all just be a little more choosy when it comes to naming our companies?

And anyway, shouldn't it be "jobbing"? Or is it really "jobing", like in:

"Hey Bob, how's that job hunt coming?"

"Fine Bill, just fine. I hate to do it, but I got a family to feed, right?"

"Yup, you sure do. Must take a lot of patience right?"

"Sure it does Bill, I'm 'Jobing' it up over here!"

Ok, I'll leave you with that to ponder.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ah, finger on the pulse...

Ok, take a deep breath, and meet Canadian television's newest mascot, "Global Water Cooler Guy". I wish I was kidding. Read the description too, I love the part about "...he'll be expecting you to gather and discuss...". Yeah, he can expect all he wants, but I don't think we'll be doing that any time soon...I'll might just eat my own blog before that happens.

Yup, pretty sad. This idea is not clever, funny, interesting, or worth-while. Some suit's idea of getting in touch with viewers. "Well Johnson, how can we create buzz this season?" If that's the idea that stuck, I'd like to see the ones that fell to the floor:

"Meet Global-G!" (We see a man-sized Red Letter "G" costume, with a turntable strapped to his chest, and the requisite 'bling'). "Global-G is a real playa playa...he gots all the 411's on Global's supersized off-the-hook Fall lineup...count on Global-G...he'll hook you up witz entertainment, fo' shizzle!"

These are the kind of ideas that happen in top-level executive-style meetings, where out of touch people with nice suits and bad ideas come together to vibrate at the same frequency, or at least close enough to create harmonic distortion. If anything, why isn't he just a big TV?! Perhaps CTV already rented that costume?

I get that they want to promote their shows, as they should...but, let's look closer. First of all, FOX's "Family Guy" is hardly a Global production. Pretty much Canada's entire broadcast business model relies on rebroadcasting, or "simulcasting" shows from the USA, but disguising them to look like local productions. Like I've harped on previously, just open up the iTunes TV Store floodgates in Canada, simulcasting makes no sense in today's world, except for people with dialup and rabbit ears.

If we'd stop the simulcasting and start producing our own shows, then maybe Global Water Cooler Guy would be a little cooler, perhaps even relevant...however, it is what it is. The point is to advertise the shows.

Perhaps another point to quickly touch on is the "guy in big costume" approach to marketing. From the "Fruit of the Loom" guys, to the "Listerine" Hero guy, to chickens selling chicken wings...there's plenty of examples of this tired approach. On the other hand, they're basically the same as those Apple vs PC ads that I like, just that Apple wisely chose to fore go the giant costumes and just use humans in normal clothes...or maybe nobody's thin enough to fit in an iMac costume? No, it was probably rented out already, Halloween's in just a couple weeks after all.

Anyways, I don't wanna get into a big thing here, I just thought I'd share the laugh(s), if there were any to be had.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

NHL 07 for PS2 review

Got around to renting EA Sports' NHL 07 for Playstation2 this past weekend. I haven't played it a ton yet, probably 10 hours, but as with most EA NHL games, that's just about long enough to find every single bug and gripe and problem with it (and wail my annual cries of "How did they miss that?!" and "Don't they test this?!").

However, I'm pleased to say that I'm actually enjoying it a lot so far. For the video hockey obsessed like me who rent or buy every yearly NHL game, I'd describe it as the good parts of NHL 2004 (Dynasty Mode), the graphics of NHL 2005 and 2006 (not much has changed there, course this is not "next-gen" we're talking about, although Sundin no longer appears as a giant fat man (I didn't see Lindros, since I released his virtual-ass to free agency but quick.) If you've never seen NHL 2006, Lindros and Sundin are very very wide men for some reason. Yeah, screenshot would be nice I guess. Picture the fattest hockey player ever to lace 'em up...then double it.

So, let's get to the details. The menus are good again, no longer have that f'ing horrible tenth-of-a-second delay when you move up or down (since 2005, there was always a slight delay on any button press in every menu), unless it's loading a player's stats or whatever. Plus if you hold up and down, you can scroll quickly through your team's roster...this makes a huge difference for us hardcore "Dynasty Mode" fans, since we probably spend more time in the menus than on the ice.

GRAPHICS: Improved all around, the menus are nicer looking than before, easier to read and quicker to get through. There's more in-game cut-scenes, but honestly, I end up skipping a lot of those. The goalie's seem to have better animations this year. Still too big of reflections on the game companies doesn't seem to think hockey is played on ice so much as it is white coloured glass. Although it does get marked up with skate cuts, etc, on my aging current-gen machine I'd much rather have a higher frame rate. I mean don't waste precious triangles on reflections.

All the old-skool jerseys are here and looking good, and the real coaches are once again behind the bench. support this again year in current-gen systems. I don't really expect it, since they want me to buy an XBox360, but the fact that all the player photos are anamorphic (why the long face?) just adds salt to the wound. Last year in 2K6, you could flip into widescreen progressive on the PS2, but the gameplay was still 4:3 (albeit stretched). Oh well, another year or two, we'll get there.

SOUND: This game sounds great, once you turn down the (personal judgement) awful garage rock box set that comes built-in. I apprieciate EA not wasting a ton of money on "big name" songs, and there's a lot of songs (Betcha can't hate just one!) last year, off goes the Menu Music slider. Ahh, that's better, now I can focus on my line combinations...Steen, Peca, Stajan...but who will play with Sundin? The best option would be to add your own music (or podcasts...?), but PS2 don't play that way.

Actually, one of the better features this year, although it's not new, just improved, is the "On-Ice" sound. This is where you turn off the recycled Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson commentary, in favour of hearing actual yells and chatter from the players on the ice. I really like this feature, it just adds a big piece of realism that was always missing, if you ask me. I think what's new about this year, and is really cool, is now you can hear the refs and linesmen! It's actually helpful, if you're playing with delayed-offsides, and you dump the puck in when you have a guy trapped, you'll hear the linesman yell "Offside, Offside!". If you clear the zone, then he yells "Go!" or "You're clear!". Good show, EA. Like a character in an aging Archie comic would remark, I dig it the Most.

Other audio goodies include the player's whining for penalties when they get tripped or highsticked, etc. "Come on, ref", "There's two teams out here!", stuff like that. I'm sure there's lots more too, I just haven't played enough yet, looking forward to hearing more, but I really like hearing the officials...maybe it's my hockey-nerdiness shining, but don't knock it til you're heard it. Again, this isn't a new feature, it's a few years old at least, but it's been perfected this year.

GAMEPLAY: EA's marketing this year, understandably, has been focused around the next-gen XBox360 version. So it's hard to find PS2 specific information and reviews...when I did, they were mostly pissed at all the stuff that's missing compared to the 360 version (like what did you think would happen!). Anyway, now that I have the game on-hand, I was pleased to find that some of the much-hyped "analogue skill stick" stuff is available on the PS2, but it's been improved 200% over last year's garbage-stick.

Basically, you skate your player around with the left stick, and use the right stick to make passes. This is a really cool feature once you get the hang of it, and it totally transforms the game from one of constant button mashing, to one of constant stick-flicking, which is much more fun, and is more satisfying when you score a one-timer.

I read a review saying one-timers are all but extinct this year. Couldn't disagree more, that's how I get 80% of my goals, it's both fun and endlessly satisfying, like any good video hockey game should be. I'm playing on Medium, since the computer just cheats on Difficult...same as previous years. LOL. I also like using the stick to win faceoffs, feels more real vs mashing buttons. The CPU seems to always score on his first or second shot, which is suspicious, but I'll reserve judgement on that until I actually learn how to defend. :)

Shooting is R1 and R2 shoulder buttons, which takes time to get used to, since R1 used to be Speed Skate...I'm often shooting the puck when I meant to turn on the jets.

The Dynasty or Franchise Mode seems to be about the same as it always is, which is fine: If it ain't broke, don't break it. New this year is the long awaited salary cap, which actually makes Dynasty Mode worth playing, since you can no longer have $6 million dollar guys at every position, you actually have to think. Not sure what happens when you go over, in real life you're not allowed to play until you get back under (I'm looking at you, New Jersey). I'm $10 million under after blowing out Lindros, Allison and Belfour, so I probably won't find out soon...not until my rookies mature and want more money!

You still earn points you can trade for unlockables by winning games, this year it's called "Trust Level"...something to do with how much the owner trusts you to run his team...I dunno about trust, but it's pretty funny to see the word "Faithless" on the screen, just struck me as weird.

Your players can lose their sticks and then go pick them up. That's a neat little thing to have, and mercifully it doesn't happen too often, so far so good. Dunno if sticks break yet, wouldn't mind seeing that sometime. Oh, and I've only seen the glass break once so far, another too-often event in previous years.

ODDS N' ENDS: As with all EA games, there's a few graphical/AI glitches here and I said, I've only played about 10 hours so far, but I've already seen Tellvqist stop the puck on the goal line, then turn immediately around 180 degrees so not only is the crossbar now reamed through his chest, but he deposits the puck in his own net! I've only seen that once so far, but I know what I saw, and it sucked (I was holding my own in the game until that point...then all bets were off!)

Another odd thing is that when the computer wins a faceoff in his defensive zone back to the D-man, this dude immediately spins around and charges directly towards his own net!! I mean, directly! WTF?! Only by the grace of God does the puck not go in, even when it looks like the puck is firmly planted between the goalie's legs. This happens a lot! It is my belief that EA saw this bug, and instead of being able to fix the AI, instead threw some code in to magically keep the puck out. As dumb as it is, I am glad they seem to have addressed it, cause own-goals might happen in soccer, but I've maybe seen two in my life of hockey watching. And never from the D rushing his own goalie.

SUMMARY: I'll go out on a limb here and give EA's NHL 07 for PS2 an 8 out of 10. Feels weird to rank it so highly after the previous two years of hyper-active, padstacking action, but with the new skill stick moves, Dynasty improvements and enhanced audio, "07" seems like a good bet for my video game hockey needs this season. Bottom line, it looks good, sounds good, and above all, it's fun. Course, I haven't played 2KSports' NHL 2k7 yet, so we'll see. Til then, this is a good purchase, way to go EA, may your anti-competitive monopoly never cease...err, something like that.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


You know, there's nothing like a little comeuppance. A little "Next-Gen Justice", if you will. Surfing the tech headlines today found this delightful article, which lays out the path for the coming demise of the so-called "Next-Gen" home video formats, HD-DVD and BluRay.

Now, before we get too far into this, I will say that just because one article says they aren't selling well, doesn't mean the whole thing is collapsing...but, at the very least, things are looking up (or down, if you're a member of the HD-DVD or BluRay camps). I'm very passionate about seeing the format war end, so we can all get on with it (it being enjoying HD content), so thought I'd help spread the word.

Basically, these players aren't selling all. Not at all. Very poorly. Bad. No interest. Nope. Sorry. Better luck next time.

Wonder why...oh wait, it couldn't be the lack of titles maybe? Maybe the high costs? The players are about $600 to $1200 CDN. The movies are $40 to $50. And the selection is not good..."RV" for $45?! "Into the Blue" for $38?! Nah, couldn't be the problem.

Why am I so interested in the failure of these Next-Gen formats? Well, I guess for starters, it's the fact that there is even a format war at all. A couple years ago, and even up until earlier this year, they (the companies responsible for this mess) had their chance to make nice, and create a unified standard where everybody wins and consumers come to the till with their wallets raging, and hearts full of joy for the chance to experience HD content on their new HD-TVs (another not-so-hidden cost of Next-Gen).

Nope, they blew it. Couldn't agree...we all can't share a pie, they each said, cause then my piece will be smaller, and I don't like small pie, I only like big pie. That is not a direct quote.

And so there was no unitedness, and thus two competing formats emerged. Confusing, yes. Each format boasts similar specs, couple differences here and there. I never really paid much attention, cause I figured I won't be making the Next-Gen leap until the better format wins.

Now, if I thought that to myself, and I did...then, well, surely the big companies, with their millions of dollars and hours of carefully thought out research and market analysis, and just plain ol' savvy when it comes to reading the consumer...surely they thought that as well? Hmm, guess not. What I'm saying is, not only did I choose to wait n see, but so have 99% of the home video consumers.

And then came the players...I mean the actual hardware disc players. So, what do you get for all that money spent? Well, they're slow. I'm talking turn-it-on, wait a couple minutes, put the disc in, wait 3 to 5 minutes, and by then you're maybe at the forced-trailers (the trailers for other titles you don't want to know about and cannot skip...oh, these are on DVDs too, nothing Next-Gen about that little gem). Now, that's just what I've read, but there's new firmware, and new models of players, maybe it'll be an acceptable experience someday, maybe it already is...dunno, don't care. Fun fact: Apparently these players run Linux...which slays me, because wasn't it a Linux user who cracked the DVD copy protection?

And what of connectivity? Business tip to all the young "suits" out there, you cannot launch a new format of entertainment without a new form of connector: Behold...HDMI! This baby is basically DVI (the digital out you've likely seen on your computers video card)...but, with the added "benefits" of also carrying digital audio down the cable...and, wait for it...Digital Rights Management (read: copy protection). Yeah, DRM, that thing that the Norwegian teens love to hack to death. So, you'll also need a new HDMI cable...and if your TV doesn't have an HDMI port (and if your HDTV is about a year and a half old due to your "early adoption", it may not), then you'll need an HDMI-DVI adapter, which are about $100 themselves! Just for the right to carry DRM...nah, no thanks.

Side note, I'm not sure why we should care that HDMI carries the audio with the video. Home theatre buffs don't listen to movies through their TV speakers, they listen on their home theatre, through their amp! They want us to think it simplifies connections...but...if I come out of the DVD Player into the TV, where's my 5.1 surround sound go? Maybe you can go from the DVD player to the amplifier, and then the video goes to the TV...but then I'd need TWO HDMI cables?! I dunno, I don't have first hand experience with this.

One more word about available titles: Perhaps studios are holding back their good movies for a couple reasons: Spending the extra time to make sure our favourite movies are remastered/transferred in the best possible methods, with all new extra features (which I never watch)? Or, like the rest of us, are they just waiting for one standard to claim to crown before they ship more product? The Circle of Life, Simba.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that these companies thought they could browbeat us into another format war (the first being VHS vs Beta), and we'd all just chase like rabid dogs into the Wal-Marts and home electronics stores to hand over our first-borns for just a taste of higher resolution and less compressed soundtracks.

Well, the problem, as I see it, is the HD/BluRay experience is not at all the quantum leap over DVD that DVD was over VHS. Think about it: DVD gave us discs...with discs comes chapter skipping, menus, extra features, no rewinding, no tape degradation, digital video and digital sound, all in a convenient disc-sized disc. Now...Next-Gen gives us the same things, with higher resolution pictures and audio, but at the price of the numerous problems, as I've outlined just a few of. Oh, and the HD players "phone-home", using their Ethernet help yourself to some conspiracy theories.

To sum up:

DVD over VHS = Obvious improvement...sound, video, random access, extra content and more.

Next-Gen over DVD = Hmm, nah, don't think so.

So, the question becomes, where do we go from here? Well, lots of us have HDTVs, screaming for content, especially in Canada. Fortunately, there is an emerging solution: Online distribution.

Last week, Apple announced it will be selling movies online through it's iTunes Store. Now, these movies aren't HD...yet. But, since Apple's Quicktime website is the home of HD Movie Trailers, it's not a stretch that once demand and bandwidth catch up, HD movies should be offered. Just a matter of getting studios on board...but since their Next-Gen discs are all but dead, is there any other option? Not if they want to make me, they want to make money.

And there you have it. Outside of the PlayStation 3, which is also expected to be a gigantic flop anyway, BluRay will likely go the hell it's a stupid name. HD-DVD could maybe stick around, since there is a legitimate need for a Next-Gen format, just as a ROM/-R format for video games, computers, that sort of thing.

But movies are going online...and DVDs will stay around in stores for a while yet. People have huge DVD collections, they can be had for less than the price of med school tuition, and the discs just work. There's also "up converting"DVD players...haven't tried them, but supposedly they can process the video information on your current DVD and, make them look Hi-Def? Sounds good anyways.

I used to subscribe to Movie Central HD, but at the end of the day, they have a poor selection, and even poorer scheduling, and too much Canadian garbage, to put it nicely. There's too much regulation in Canada, but that's another blog. I crave Hi-Def content for the big TVs, but for now that'll have to be sports. And with NHL just a few weeks away, I think I'm all set!

Anyway, there's tons of analysis and anecdotes on all of these topics on the web. Check out for Bill Hunt's "My Two Cents" for first-hand looks and the Next-Gen players.

The best HD content is still broadcast. Go Apple Go.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

No iTunes TV shows in Canada make Homer something something

With the launch of an iTunes Movie Store now all but announced this Tuesday, I've been doing a little research into why the Canadian iTunes store is lacking in the TV show department...or bone dry, to be frank.

Found an article from February of this year, suggesting that CBC and NFB (That's "National Film Board", yes, proud providers of the Canadian classic "Log Driver's Waltz") are currently at the table with Apple and Google to negotiate bringing content online. Hope that's true, hope it's soon!

Further to that, it's likely that Canada just has to wait it's turn to cut a deal with Apple, since they are currently working out options with every interested country...could be a while!

Anyway, that's what I've found so far, thought I'd mention it, as online distribution is something I'm very interested in, and cable TV is such crap. Props to CBC for going after it...although I don't expect to be downloading Hockey Night in Canada anytime soon.

It'll be interesting to see the specs on Apple's movie store. One thing is for sure, it won't use Windows Media streams like Amazon's new Movie/TV store that just launched this past Thursday (also USA only). It'll use Quicktime, which actually streams properly (my personal opinion). Quicktime allows you to rewind and fast forward, which I've never seen Windows Media do properly.

The real question is how will it compete with DVD? It's one thing to watch $2 TV shows in 320x240, stereo for 20 or 40 minutes. But it's another thing to expect people to plop down $10 or $15 for 90 or 120 minutes in the same quality. I don't know what the Amazon store quality is like.

I'd be impressed if 5.1 surround sound (which Quicktime supports) and HD resolutions (like on the Quicktime Movie Trailers site) are included. There's nothing sweeeter than those 1080p trailers! But do most people have their Macs sending to their TVs? And a surround sound system hooked up? Oh, and do most people have the bandwidth to download a 2 GB (or bigger!) movie? That new 24" iMac is an HD monitor, with a resolution of 1920x1200!

Steve Jobs claimed 2005 as the "Year of HD"...then launched an underpowered Mac Mini with an integrated video card incapable of playing HD. But with the new Core Duo and Core 2 Duo iMacs selling like hotcakes (I don't have the numbers, I just want one bad!), maybe 2007 is what he meant to say?

The other question is, rental or purchase? Personally I don't see "renting" a 2GB file for 24 hours...isn't that a colossal waste of bandwidth? Perhaps it'll be a combination of streaming and downloading. For example, you pick your movie rental from Apple's new "Front Row Movies" menu, let it buffer a minute or so, like the movie trailers, and then being watching. When the movie is done, you can save it for whatever the purchase price is, or delete it. Will you be able to burn it to a disc to play in your DVD player, like the way you can burn audio files to audio CDs for your CD player? Or do you have to redownload it everytime you want to watch it (again, huge waste).

Anyways, it's exciting times. The big entertainment companies are finally figuring out that it's in their best interest to pay attention to what consumers want, and how they want it, by watching indie content producers and copying them.

The 'tubes are alive, with the sound of movies...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hello, I'm a Mac VS PC parody...

Well, an idea for one anyway, although I'd love to see somebody produce this. I'll just post the script first, and see if it's funny without any background information. Explanation and links to follow, if you haven't seen these ads for Apple, check out this page first. Enjoy!

Spot Title: "Stack". Familiar Music-box-esque music in background.

MAC: "Hello, I'm a Mac."
PC: "And I'm a PC." (PC is making one of those really tall sandwiches).

MAC: "What's up?"

PC: "Oh, I'm rebuilding my network stack...fresh from the ground up." (continues to add toppings and layers) "It's all part of the next version of my software, coming next year, sometime."

MAC: "Cool. So, that'll make it more secure, less prone to security holes?"

PC: "Yup. Well, that's the theory anyway."

MAC: "I see. Must be tough, starting from scratch. It'll be vulnerable to exploits from like ten years ago."


PC: "Well, you can't expect people to eat a sandwich with ten year old toppings...that's just gross." (PC begins to take a bite)


MAC: (in sarcastic agreement) "Uh huh." (PC takes another bite, chews)

PC: (mouth full) "Mmm, needs more mustard. Want some?"

(cut to Mac logo)

MAC: "Uh, no thanks I'm good."


(alternate last lines)

MAC: "Sure you can chew all that?"

MAC: "Thanks I just ate" (or "I'm full")

MAC: "Bon Appetit."

MAC: "Is that white bread?"

Inspired by ideas from "Security Now" podcast with Steve Gibson, Episode 51, "Vista's Virgin Stack." In this episode, Steve outlines numerous reasons why Windows Vista will be the least secure version of Windows yet. Microsoft is creating a new "network stack" from the ground up. While it's understandable why they'd need to do that, claiming "the most secure ever" is bogus, since it's impossible to claim security until it's been throughoughly tested and patched.

Anyways, check out that link for all the info. I was listening to it last night, and the idea for the script just appeared in my head, waiting to be blogged. Ahh Vista, everyday it's something.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Easy come, easy go.

So, I'm packing up my gear for a long weekend getaway (GP2X, iPod, etc) and I grab my new earphones...oh yes, the ones I raved about in the previous post.

Well, I pop them on my ears one more time and if the left ear hook doesn't completely snap! Useless. I then examined the right earphone, and it's got (what dr's refer to as) a hairline fracture as well. So much for that. At least they were cheap.

Thus ends my career as headphone reviewer (although I'll be letting you know what else I get, since I gotta get something else now). Perhaps something in a similar design, but made out of rubber or some non-breakable material.

In other news, check out the trailer for the new Teengage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Yeah, you read that right! Cool trailer anyway, let the action speak for itself (that's a lot of foley!)
And finally, can't go without some NHL news, TV schedules were released today. has the goods. No mention of which TSN games are in HD yet, but hopefully a ton of 'em (gotta justify re-subscribing to TSN HD). NBC added 3 more games or something...yup, still way below beach volleyball and monster trucks for one more year at least. :)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Ha. Earphones.

So a while ago I mentioned I was in the market for some new earphones. Well yesterday I finally found some I like. I headed off to my local Wal-Mart, assuming they'd have about one pair to choose from, however, there were about 15 different kinds. I probably took about 20 minutes checking them all out, but finally settled on a pair of Excel International Electronics HS812's.

Yeah, it's one of those "no name" brands that copy the bigger names for cheap (a similar pair from Panasonic was $40). That's actually a link to the 816 model, but my 812's are almost the same, white with a silver circle in the middle. They clip onto my ears comfortably (wore them for an hour yesterday), and I can wear them while lying down. I took them out for a spin on my bike for about 40 minutes and they were actually pretty good at blocking the wind noise. Don't wanna block out all the ambient noise of course, but just cut out enough so I can hear my podcasts without cranking them to stupid volumes. They also fit under my helmet.

So, they don't meet all the original criteria I had written up: no in-line volume control and the cord is anything but tangle-free. However, they're amazingly comfortable, sound much better than I'd expected, and can be had for a grand total of $6.51! Considering that extremely low price, I'm very happy with them...I may even go back and pick up a few more pairs, just in case.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fugly Jerseys.

Ok, scanning the hockey headlines this morning, seems that Buffalo Sabres fans are outraged at the new potential jerseys their team owners have come up with. Hmm...Very Nashville -Meets-Boston's-Taxi-Cab-Jersey:

The new logo also resembles Barney Rubble's haircut, credit USCanuck on the Sportsnet forums for that link. :)

Hmm, what else is new? Leafs signed Michael Peca to a one year deal. That's probably a good move, Peca was a big part of the Oilers run, not so much in points, but he's a strong two-way player, as they say. I'm more just happy that Jason Allison and Eric Lindros have been shown the door.

EA's NHL 07 is supposed to come out in September. They say it's a return to the glory days of video game hockey (ie. NHL 94 for SEGA). Perhaps they'll just put out '94, with updated rosters, and all the GM Dynasty stuff from NHL 2004, within the confines of the new CBA...I'd pre-order that no question! This will be the first EA NHL sporting the new ESPN license they strongarmed away from 2KSports, so that may be cool I guess. Looks like Jim "The Ref Gets Ready To Drop The Puck" Hughson has been dropped as play by play announcer in favour of the ESPN guys. Whatever, I usually turn that off after a couple games anyway. Check out EA's NHL 07 website for more info.

Oh, and this October, the NHL will unveil some pink jerseys for women. Maybe EA can include those in the game?

Ok, well, I'll be back when something else irks me (shouldn't be too long).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Leafs Update - These Buds For You

Sweet, the Leafs have finally gotten around to resigning my favourite young Leaf, Kyle Wellwood. This guy has more creativity on his stick than a lot of the Leafs we're used to watching, and it was awesome to watch him show his stuff last season. Also resigned are Brendan Bell, Jay Harrison and Carlo Colaiacovo.

I've been waiting for Wellwood to resign this summer, and after all the talk about Eric Lindros , Jason Allison, Gary Roberts and Tie Domi, I was worried the 2006/2007 Leafs would return to their "get older at any cost" strategy that worked so horribly this past season. They've got two new defencemen, Hall Gill and Pavel Kubina, and to me, defence is a position where experience is more immediately obvious and beneficial...also goaltending. But up front, I'd go with speed and creativity.

The "New NHL" ain't goin' away, so their best bet is to get with the program, and in the words of new head coach Paul Maurice, "we're gonna get younger and faster." This is pretty much a direct contrast to the Pat Quinn era, and I'm excited about it. Nothing worse than blowing a perfectly good Saturday night watching a bunch of slow, oft-injured and unskilled seniors make their way around the ice for 2 hours. I seem to recall yelling at my TV that they should just call up the entire Marlies squad! Or maybe I should be watching CHL games, if it wasn't just fights.

Not that you can build a champion team with rookies alone (outside of the video games), but it sure makes the games a helluva lot more exciting to watch, and that's probably more important to me. After suffering through Allison's turtle-esque approach in the shootout night after night this past year, hopefully the Leafs have learned what kind of team they actually need to put on the ice.

Monday, July 17, 2006

And we're back...

Ahh, first post in a couple weeks. I had a week off and wasn't near a high speed internet connection, so it wasn't worth trying to post I was just enjoying the time off. Still developing my blogging reflexes too I think, too much thinking, gotta just write! However, my "What I Did..." summer vacation story should be coming up soon. Probably should get a digital camera one of these days, but til then, have to rely on my word pictures.

Currently in the market for some new headphones. My Sony street style "behind the head" ones recently shed the last of their foam, and the iPod ones make you a target for muggers. Found these...a little pricey, but kinda neat:

SkullCandy LINK headphones

This "Link" product is basically headphones, but with two jacks. So you plug your iPod (or what-mp3-player-have-you) into one and the other jack goes to your cell phone headset plug. Then when somebody calls, you can switch to your phone with one button. Skullcandy also make a $220 backpack with built-in amp and speakers. :)

Seems neat in theory, but I don't think it will actually pause the iPod, just mutes it. So if you're listening to podcasts, kinda annoying, you'd miss a chunk of your show. Or, you can just lower the music while you're on the call...not sure how annoying that'd be, but I'm guessing PLENTY!

Not only that, but if cell phones are distracting enough while driving a car, would that make cell phones on bikes worse...or better? At least a bike is probably easier to pull over and stop.

Anyway, I just want behind-the-head style, in line volume control, decent durability and retractable cords. I kinda like the ear clipping ones that are seperate, so you could lie down with them, for example. My Sony's had a pretty decent bar at the back that kept me even sitting back on a couch. I wear glasses, so the ear clips will need to accomodate my frames. Also should fit under my bike helmet. I'd prefer to buy them locally, ideally trying them on first, but my area ain't the best for retail experiences...probably be it's own entry. I'll let you know.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Only time will tell...

Well, thought I'd just pop in here with my first post regarding the Maple Leafs, since there's been a bundle of Leafs' news the past few days, and will no doubt be more in the coming weeks.

Let's start with last Saturday, the night of the Entry Draft. John Ferguson Jr made a splash trading away Finnish goaltending prospect Tuuka Rask to the Boston Bruins for former rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft. This move should help the Leafs in goal immediately, providing a young, solid number one goalie, and based on the last 20 games of this season, J-S Aubin and Tellqvist should provide more than enough backup if Raycroft fails to regain his form right away.

Today's big news was the much hyped resigning of Bryan McCabe, for just short of $30 million dollars (spread out over 5 years...this isn't the NFL after all!). That's probably too much money, I hope for his sake he can at minimum match his output from this year...he better thank the hockey gods that the Leafs signed Kaberle long term as well, since Tommy's sweet passes are the main reason he gets any goals at all!

Former Leaf Gary Roberts has requested a trade from Florida back to LeafTown. As long as he comes cheap, I say bring it on! This move can easily replace the turtle-esque Jason Allison, although Allison gets us power play points, his play elsewhere on the ice is nothing short of painful to watch. He'll make a great Old Timer. Fortunately, veteran-loving Pat Quinn is no longer behind the Leafs bench, and I don't think you'll see Paul Maurice repeatedly send Allison in on the shootout, not when there's real points at stake.

Anyway, Free Agent season starts July 1st, so I just wanted to jump in here with some thoughts before they're out of date. Here's hoping we can land another top notch d-man, cause McCabe and Kabby can't do it all. Not sure what to make of the whole Chris Pronger situation. Why you'd wanna leave a team that went one win short of the Stanley Cup, but I guess if he's facing anything like McCabe's ordeal, then maybe I'll just keep my mouth shut and wish him all the best. The Leafs have nothing to offer the Oilers anyway, they'll need a great defenceman in return, and we're fresh out!

Leaf free agent rumour talk has always focused around finding a skilled winger to play with Sundin, ever since Mogilny went to play in the minors. Roberts can hopefully still fill that role. If not, time to bring up the kids. Wellwood, Steen, Stajan...any of those guys will look good on Mats' side, feeding him pucks. Sure, an established bonafide scorer would be nice, but prices will be high. Leafs' do have some cap room though, after buying out Belfour and Domi...which they haven't yet, but are expected to do. Maurice coached the kids last year, and I'm hoping he brings a bunch of them up where they belong, in the new NHL.

Anyways, I'm no Sportsnet, and that's where I'll be checking hourly for all the latest moves Saturday morning. 'Til then.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Full Length GP2X Review

Ok, after playing around with it for a full week, here's my lengthy review of the GP2X. It's the new portable open-source gaming device from GamePark Holdings. "Open-source?" Yup, this baby runs Linux! That means anyone can develop games, applications, hardware add-ons, and other fun stuff for it, without being sued out of existence. There's a good size dev scene behind it already, and will hopefully continue to grow.

I received my unit from on June 21st. Also got the AC adaptor, TV Output cable, and a replacement joystick cap, just in case. $250 CDN for all that including 7% GST (6% on July 1st, yay!) and shipping. I also bought 4 rechargeable AA's and a charger, a USB SD card reader and of course, an SD card off eBay...$145 for 4GB. And I picked up a Gameboy Advance case from a surpus store in town for $4.88, fits perfectly!

My unit is known as the "MKII" version, with Firmware 2.00, the latest release from Gamepark Holdings. Check the wiki for differences between the previous and new hardware. Dunno if you can buy the old one anymore, but make sure you get the new one if you're interested. You just might after my review.

So yeah, a pretty big pile of cash to get in the door, but every time I use it, I become more convinced it was a good move. There's only a few drawbacks I've come across so far, but they're pretty minor, and I'll get to those later. First, some of the fun:

1. Games. And I mean Games. From old skool C64 and Sega emulators, to new indie originals and remakes, your thumbs will find plenty to do with this machine. There's literally a ton of emulators available for it, check out the GP2X Dev Wiki for more info. That list is only as up to date as people make it, of course, but it's a good start. The other site I check everyday is the GP2X File Archive. I have the RSS feed in my newsreader, so I can see the newest stuff as soon as it's available.

As far as specific games, I'm currently rockin' NHL 94 for Sega Genesis...check out Reesy's Sega Emulator, DrMDx, easily the best I've used. If you like the hockey, check out and for updated versions of NHL games for Sega and Super Nintendo...all the teams have been updated to the latest rosters, including graphics for jerseys and arenas! Tons of work, glad someone else took the time!

As far as non-emulation games, there's a really good remake of the classic "Paradroid" called "Freedroid". Basically, you're a robot on a space ship, and you make your way from room to room encountering other robots. You can either shoot them or engage them in "brain to brain" combat, a sort of minigame where you have to highlight more circuits to win control of the other robot...maybe it's only good if you grew up with it, but I played Paradroid on the C64 and "Paradroid 90" on the Amiga, so it's great to have a new version. Also features .ogg files for music, and 3D art for the various robots, cool stuff.

Most of the Linux ports/versions of games have ended up on the GP2X, from what I can tell: SuperTux, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem, etc. I've got them on there just to see what they look like, why not? Duke Nukem 3D brings back memories, I used to play that over dialup on my Pentium 100 with my friend on his 486. Cue the black and white archive film footage and film reel sfx... :)

Anyway, there's tons of other games available, various puzzle and Tetris clones, card games, with more coming everyday. So you have to factor that in to the purchase price...No longer spending $30 to $60 a pop on something I'll probably only play for a little while, although I do plan to donate to my favourites, keep the goodies coming.

2. Applications & Utilities. These can be launched from the "Utility" menu, and again, there's tons of stuff around. I'll just mention two ones I'd recommend: "EnergySaver" and "GP2X Stereo Fix". The first one, as you might have guessed, is a tiny app designed to save some battery life. Once launched, it runs in the background, and when it detects no input (button presses) for a set period of time, it turns off the GP2X screen and speakers, and underclocks the CPU to a very low setting. I found 20MHz was too low and crashed my game of NHL when I woke it back up, but 30MHz seems to work.

The second app is a software switch that sets your GP2X speakers to stereo mode, instead of the default mono. Not sure why mono is the default, other than perhaps they figured most people are playing Atari on it. :) Anyway, I've got both of these apps starting automatically when my GP2X boots up, they work, and don't seem to cause any problems. The settings are pretty easy to change, you just need a text editor.

3. Skins. You can change the look of the menus on the GP2X, just head to the File Archive again and check out the "Skins - GPH Linux" section. The default skin is kinda ugly (white text on yellow BG?). So I've tried a few of the higher rated ones, "dittnet GP2X Aqua" is cool, a tribute to OS X. There's tons available, so try some out, they're easy to swap. Also using "Candy", pretty nice.

4. Video and Music. Yup, in addition to all this, it also plays mp3, ogg, Divx and avi. Not sure how much I'll use it for music, since I already have an iPod Shuffle and most of my favourite tracks are in Apple's incompatible AAC format. However, since my iPod can't do video, it'd be nice to load my SD card up with some video podcasts that are all the rage these days. However, since it can't play Quicktime, so far it's proven ineffective, without converting them first, and that doesn't interest me. I also found I have to rename .divx files to .avi to get it to see them, but they play back well after that, I don't have a ton of those anyway, just testing them out.

I have put a couple mp3 albums on there, and they play back fine. The quality of the speakers is pretty bad, they're great for 8 bit games, but if you're looking for hi-fi portable playback, keep looking. Speech is intelligible, but it's not enjoyable for music. On the other hand, there's a stereo headphone jack which sounds as good as it should, plus you won't annoy people around you.

What I thought I could do was load up with video podcasts and play them in my car on the way to work (keeping my eyes on the road of course), with my Belkin FM tuner plugged into the headphone jack...this seemed to be working, until the tuner would auto shutoff as if it wasn't gettting any signal. Weird, I'll have to experiment a little further with that.

Supposedly it also plays Windows Media video and audio, but I don't have any to try with. It can also view photos, but I don't use that much either yet. It works though, just hit the left and right shoulder buttons to skip through them, use the stick to zoom and pan.

Which brings me to my negatives, but there's only a couple. Let's do the hardware specific ones first:

1. Joystick. I'd read lots of opinions on this, good bad ugly, but I can't say I have any problems with it. It takes some getting used to, especially if you're used to an up, down, left, right style "d-pad" from a GameBoy or whatever. I'm coming from the PS2 DualShock controller, so I like the analog stick feel, even though it's actually 8-way directional underneath, from what I've read. If you push it in, just like the DualShock, it acts as another button. At first I was shaking the whole unit when I would try and move the stick, but I've gotten used to it now, so I just turn the stick instead of the whole screen! :)

2. Headphone jack. Not really a problem here either, just that it's sort of recessed a little into the plastic, so if your headphones have a fat jack on them, you may have trouble getting them to stay connected. I think that what kept disconnecting my FM tuner, but I'll check again.

3. TV Out cable. This one is sort of hit and miss. The main menus work, but individual apps may vary. But I only tried it for a little while, so I'm sure support for this will come. Also, my cable itself was a little weird, I had to bend the tiny right side metal "tooth" to get it to stick in properly. Also, it doesn't seem to turn off the internal speakers when sending to the TV, so that's a little odd.

4. Power. I also had to bend one of the battery terminals to get my battery to stick in place properly. Easily done, but thought I'd mention it. Also, when you're running off the AC adapter, it plugs into the unit on the right side, precisely where you rest your hand while holding it! So you're trying to play, and this plug is constantly digging into your hand. They really should have put this on the top or bottom. I have gotten used to it, but I recommend battery use whenever you can, more comfortable. And for the record, I seem to get about 3 1/2 to 4 hours of gameplay from a pair of Sony rechargable batteries I bought, they're rated 1700 mAh, but the charger can take up to 2500 mAh, so I may get a pair of those if I can find them locally. The charger I got takes about 6 hours to recharge both sets.

5. Flash Drive-ability. As I understand it, you're supposed to be able to plug the supplied USB-mini to USB-standard into your computer and have the GP2X mount as a flash drive on your desktop, basically making the GP2X act as a card reader. For the 5 times I've tried it, it doesn't freezes completely, and I have to power off my Mac! Hence the need for the USB card reader. Not sure if that's cause I'm on a Mac (there's drivers for Windows, and Linux I think), or maybe I'm just doing it wrong, but no big deal, I have to use the reader when I want to add something new to it. The reader was only $5, so whatever.

And that's about it for now I think. Great little unit, with more and more potential discovered everyday, most apps don't even use both CPU cores yet, from what I've read, so hopefully there's even more speed to come. Retro gaming, a little music and the odd video make it perfect for my needs. The drawbacks are minor, and price is not bad depending on what you want it to do.

Ok, that's plenty. Later.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

First Post!

Well, here we are, the first entry of my new blog. Looking forward to adding my two cents about everything. I'm mostly gonna write about hockey, music, Mac stuff, and video games, specifically my new portable gaming device, the GP2X. But I'll be adding stuff pretty much whenever something needs to be said, that's the goal anyway...we'll see how it goes.

Ok, well this will just be a quick first post, just make sure this site works and stuff. Later!