Zephyrus of the Anemoi

.the ramblings of a radman.

Category: Apple (page 2 of 13)

No, you’re wrong; Nintendo should NOT exit the hardware business

With Nintendo reporting a loss of $456 million dollars last year, armchair-CEOs have once again begun clamoring for Nintendo to “get out of the hardware business” and start making games for iOS, Android, and PCs. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:

This is the wrong solution.

Nintendo is not Sega, the last great console-maker to exit the business and focus solely on software (something which has led to rather pronounced decline in the quality of games from their studios, though correlation or causation depends on the data, which remains scant). But, they do need to either create hardware capable of playing the games that “core” gamers want (such as Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Elder Scrolls, etc.) with all the bells and whistles and fancy lighting and super-pixels or whatever, or else aim for mass-market appeal with devices that cost less monies, increasing the likelihood of families being interested in purchasing them for the home.

The Wii was a smash hit because it was cheaper than the competition and it provided a gameplay experience that was easy-to-learn and encouraged community (not in the online way that Xbox Live does, but in the actual face-to-face way). The Wii U is a step backward from that, thanks to its higher price tag and poorer selection of games. The Wii may not have had all the shooters and hardcore action games that the last-gen systems had, but it got pretty much everything else and massive numbers of other great games that embraced the physical nature of its control system (Boom Blox is a prime example of this).

Nintendo makes amazing games, it’s true, but what allows them to do so is the fact that they control the entire experience, just like Apple does with OS X and the Mac or iOS and the iPhone/iPad. But people don’t buy game systems the same way they buy computers and smartphones, and most casual gamers aren’t compelled to upgrade to the new system when the old one still works fine for everything they used it for (Wii Sports, Netflix, Virtual Console).

But putting their greatest assets (in this case: Mario, Link, Samus, and Kirby) onto other people’s platforms will reduce them to a shell of what they are now. You won’t see amazing games like Super Mario Galaxy on those systems, because Nintendo won’t have the advantage of developing the hardware and software in tandem to create new and unique gaming experiences.

What we want Nintendo to do and what Nintendo needs to do are not the same thing. I’d love to play Zelda on my iPhone, but not at the cost of the most influential gaming house the world has ever known. Instead, I want Nintendo to focus on creating affordable systems and valuable software. Let us buy Virtual Console games on the Wii U and play them on the 3DS (and vice-versa). Provide us the opportunity to purchase games once for all the systems we own (instead of requiring us to buy three copies of one game so that we can play it with our kids). Bring us new, big Mario and Zelda games every few years, but also give us more games like NES Remix that provide incredible gameplay at prices that scream “Value!”

If Nintendo can stop trying to retake the number one spot and instead focus on providing the best games at a price people are willing to pay, they’ll do well for themselves. But to throw all their control away to make a quick buck on iOS and Android is a fool’s errand.

In your future (“you” being the iOS/Android cage-rattlers), customers will clamor over every release of a classic title they loved to play until Nintendo runs out of classic titles. And they will run out of classic titles eventually, because they won’t be making another new title worthy of becoming a classic.

Get 100GB of online storage for only $1/year – No, really, only $1/year

IDrive is doing a special deal right now for 100GB (50GB for backup/50GB for sync) of storage for only $1/year. You can only get the subscription deal through the iPhone/iPad/Android app, but you should sign up through this link first to get an extra 1GB of storage for free. And according to IDrive reps, this is an on-going deal, not just a one-year special.

If you don’t already have an account, sign up here to make sure you get your free extra 1GB. Then, download and install the iOS app. Once you sign in, there’s a little banner at the bottom of the front page that takes you to a screen where you can tap “Upgrade to iDrive Pro 50GB ($0.99)”. It’ll prompt you for your iTunes password and a purchase confirmation.

To get the extra 50GB for sync, you just login to the website and turn it on. Plus, it lets you set your own encryption key if you want to make the data extra secure. Of course, if you do that, you can’t share files/folders with other people and if you lose the encryption key, your data is gone.

So go get your cloud storage on! That’s a thing the kids say these days, right?

Right?

Free copy of “The Incredibles” with Disney’s new Movies Anywhere app

Right now, you can get a free copy of Pixar’s superhero-family flick The Incredibles just by downloading Disney’s Movies Anywhere app for iOS and linking it with your iTunes account. The app is free and, once synced with your iTunes account, lets you watch any of your purchased films, as well as loads of bonus content. Last night, I watched “Let It Go” from Frozen in 25 languages. There are also numerous behind-the-scenes and extended preview clips of Disney’s films, including a number of them for Marvel’s Avengers series.

Don’t have an iPhone or iPad? No worries. You can also access Movies Anywhere from a web browser. The deal remains the same. Sync with iTunes, get a free movie.

So go check it out. It’s free, it’s easy, and now you can have my favorite Pixar movie with you wherever you go without forking over a single, red cent.

Oh, and if you haven’t yet seen Frozen, go buy it on iTunes today. Honestly, it’s fantastic. If you are looking for strong female characters for your daughter or your own enjoyment, you won’t be disappointed.

Mavericks Browser Showdown: Safari 7 vs. Firefox 24 vs. Chrome 30

A new version of OS X has been released into the wild and, with it, a new version of Safari. I’ve had the luxury of playing with Mavericks during the beta and so I had been using Safari 7 off and on for a while. While I had already grown accustomed to a few of the new features (Shared Links and automatically stopping plug-ins to save power were the most noticeable), I wasn’t using it on my daily driver. So when it was released to the rest of the world, I finally got to see first-hand how much faster the computer felt due to the improvements in resource management.

I suffer from tab-creep in my web browsers. I have never implemented a proper system for taking sites I want to remember but don’t need right away and filing them away somewhere with an easy system for retrieving them. I used to bookmark everything and categorize it later. I’ve also tried dumping everything into Pocket, but it still mostly goes unused. So, as a result, I leave lots of tabs open in my browser until I get fed up and do something about the ones that are left open.

(Incidentally, if anyone out there has a suggestion on a service for filing, tagging, and searching sites I want to remember that is easily accessible from Mac and iOS devices, let me know.)

The first thing I noticed in Mavericks is how much faster Safari behaved with lots of tabs open. Many times I would have to quit Safari while I performed certain key tasks and then reopen it a few moments later when I was finished. This was even more aggravating due to the Internet at work running at glacial speeds during the majority of the day, as I often would have to buffer any videos I wanted to check out in the background in order to watch them later. Suddenly, however, I could leave Safari open and suffer no ill effects in other tasks. After reading up on how much more efficient Mavericks handles resources, I was excited, to say the least.

Throughout the last 5 years or so, several tech websites have performed “browser shootouts” on both Macs and PCs to break down the strengths and weaknesses of each web browser and declare one the victor over all. While Firefox and Chrome are updated semi-regularly, Safari only sees major improvements a few times a year. Generally, a new major release is refined over the course of the year, but adds very little in the way of new features, only bug fixes and optimization. One of the few times to truly see how the browsers compare to one another is to test them shortly after Safari’s major update, so I took it upon myself to do so.

What follows is a very simple test that is by no means exhaustive. But, it gives a good example of Mavericks’ impressive performance gains and what we can expect to see from Chrome and Firefox should they adopt the appropriate APIs to improve their resource management in Mavericks.

The Test

To compare the performance of each browser, I wanted something that was simple and fairly easy to replicate across each browser. So, I exported my bookmarks from Safari and imported them into Chrome and Firefox. Then, one at a time, I launched the browser and opened several bookmark folders into tabs. Once finished, I had 91 tabs open in the browser, four of which were YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, and Netflix.

These final four tabs were where the real magic was going to happen. I started playing videos in each of the sites, and left Netflix as the front-most tab. Then, I jumped over to Activity Monitor to observe the results.

The first thing I noticed, in both Firefox and Chrome was how quickly the computer became taxed. The fan on the computer ramped up to full speed as it attempted to dispel the heat from my MacBook Pro. In Safari, however, the fan never sped up. I even performed the Safari test twice, once before the others and again at the end to ensure that the computer had been properly warmed up. The MBP kept its cool throughout Safari’s test both times.

I took screenshots of Activity Monitor and used a calculator to add up the percentage of CPU use and GBs consumed in RAM.

The Results

Here is what I discovered (all numbers are approximations):

  • Firefox used 262.6% CPU and 3.37 GB of RAM
  • Chrome performed a mite better using only 234.3% CPU and 3.17 GB of RAM
  • Safari blew them all away with only 85.7% CPU and 2.06 GB of RAM
  • Safari came in a very respectable first place with 120.6% CPU and 2.21 GB of RAM

(Shortly before publishing this, I realized that several instances of two processes that were owned by OS X but managed by Safari weren’t being counted in my initial results: com.apple.audio.ComponentHelper and com.apple.audio.SandboxHelper. Both appeared several times, but were only recognized as Safari processes when viewed hierarchically in Activity Monitor. I have included the correct results above.)

For Firefox, verification was easy. Since Firefox is the only one of the browsers tested that doesn’t separate each tab into its own set of processes, I could just add up the numbers for the Firefox app, and the two plugins being used: Flash and Silverlight.

Chrome and Safari were a bit more frustrating, as they break up tabs into multiple processes, rather than lumping them together. In fact, the first two times I ran this test for Safari, I missed some processes, as mentioned above. I might have missed some for Chrome, as well, but since the goal of this test was to see how Mavericks’ new APIs benefit resource management, I didn’t bother checking to see if Firefox actually managed to outperform Chrome. Once I had added up all the numbers for Chrome and Safari, it became evident that the new features in Mavericks were a huge benefit. It will be interesting to see if Chrome or Firefox see significant performance gains in future versions, as well.

Have you noticed any apps that perform drastically better in OS X Mavericks? Let me know in the comments.

My world in slow motion

I picked up the iPhone 5S the other day and I took the time to play with the slow-mo features today. This is the result.

One frustrating issue I’ve had is that it seems impossible to actually export the slow motion clips unless you either email them or upload them to one of the sharing services. Even sending as an iMessage only sends the full-speed clip. I had to import these videos to iMovie and then re-adjust the speed there, even though I’d already trimmed them to a shorter clip entirely in slow motion on my iPhone. iMovie on the iPhone also doesn’t seem to recognize the slow motion settings, though it also has not been updated since the iPhone 5S was released.

All that said, it’s still pretty awesome and I hope to get some cooler clips over time. I’ll post the best ones here.

To watch the above video in 720p, either click the HD button on the video or just go here.

Infinity Blade III: Infinity Harder!

Infinity Blade III

Soon, Chair Entertainment will release Infinity Blade III upon the world and it will never be the same. The (presumably) final chapter in the Infinity Blade story, Infinity Blade III builds upon its predecessors to become one of the most robust and most anticipated games ever developed for iPhone and iPad. The Infinity Blade story is one of a lone warrior facing off against a number of foul beasts in a quest to slay the God King, murderer of the young man’s father. Only all is not as it seems and soon the player is thrust into a world of immortal beings, ancient civilizations lost to the ravages of time, and truths and secrets long forgotten.

In its initial release, Infinity Blade’s story was very minimal. Players faced off against the God King, died, and their descendant took up his father’s arms to face the God King once more. Eventually, when the player became powerful enough to defeat the God King, the loop began again, leading many players to assume that you simply became the God King and your own son came to destroy you, now corrupted by the power of the Infinity Blade. But the truth of the matter goes much deeper. As Chair released updates to the game adding cells beneath the tower containing imprisoned immortals that reveal much more about your character and the world he inhabits.

Eventually, Infinity Blade II (as well as Infinity Blade: Awakening, a short novella that summarized the first game and bridges the gap between it and the second) gave us many of the answers we had hoped to find in the first title. Your character’s name is Siris and his quest to defeat the God King once and for all has led him to seek out the Worker of Secrets, the creator of the Infinity Blade and an immortal every bit as dangerous as the God King. But will the truths that Siris discovers about himself be too much for him to handle? Will he succumb to the corrupting influence of the world he inhabits? Of course not. At least, not in this game.

We’ve already got a nice taste of whats to come with Infinity Blade: Redemption, another novella bridging the second and third games and revealing a great deal of history in the world these characters inhabit. But it’s a mere morsel compared to what Chair has in store for us tomorrow. Infinity Blade III will soon arrive, giving players the opportunity to conclude the story. At the end of Infinity Blade II, Siris had managed to get himself into a rather dire situation. Can his companion, Isa, rescue him? And once she does, can the two of them manage to bring down the immortals that have plagued this world for so long, or will they become the very things they wish to destroy? Will Chair give us the answers we seek immediately upon release of the game, or will we have to wait for the inevitable content updates to finally reveal all the critical pieces of the puzzle?

I can’t wait to find out. If you’re interested, start with the original title, or just download everything and power through. You won’t be disappointed.

Apple’s pending point-of-sale revolution

This morning, while I was getting gas, I noticed that the price had dropped since the day before. Sweet! I thought. Free dollar! Okay, I didn’t exactly think that, but it sounded cooler than, Huh. Nice.

Anyway, as I was sitting there waiting for the inexorably slow pump to fill my car, I started thinking about services like GasBuddy. If you’ve not heard of GasBuddy, it’s a website and corresponding mobile app that lets you search for the lowest price in gas near your location before filling up. It’s pretty handy, especially on road trips since it can help you determine which cities are the best to stop for gas before moving on, saving you money on the trip and ensuring you don’t run out of gas before you reach the next waypoint.

The problem with GasBuddy is that it requires a real-life human being to observe the price, check the GasBuddy app or website to determine if it has changed, and then update it. It’s a less-than-ideal situation that requires someone to be passionate about the app to make sure it’s up-to-date. Whomever you are out there updating this database for me, I thank you.

However, Apple could change all that very, very soon. With Touch ID on the iPhone 5s, Apple is positioning itself to become the ideal point-of-sale for businesses. Using Bluetooth 4.0 LE, your iPhone could automatically pair with the payment system at the pump, prompt you to provide authentication with your fingerprint, then bill your card on file in iTunes, all without ever taking your wallet out of your pocket or purse. But this can go even a step further. Imagine that when I pay at the pump, Apple takes information like the location of the store and the price-per-gallon and automatically updates an online database, allowing iOS users to quickly find the cheapest gas in their area and know that it’s almost certainly going to be accurate. Going a step further, Apple could also find out how quickly customers get in and out of the pump area, so you know how busy the station is. Your morning commute might be less frustrating if you can find the fastest gas station, assuming you don’t mind paying a little extra for your gas.

Now let’s go out even further. Retailers supporting iPhones for payment would likely send itemized receipts to customers through Apple’s payment system. This gives Apple information on the prices of every product you purchase, which could again be dumped into a searchable database, allowing you to find the best price on any item you wanted to buy. Got some grocery shopping to do? Make your grocery list and let Apple tell you which store is going to cost you the least. Or hell, it could even split up the list between multiple stores and tell you if it would be cheaper to drive to each one (based on current gas prices in your area) and how long it will take. With Apple’s mapping service, your iPhone could even tell you if you’re likely to hit traffic and to recommend the best time of day to make your shopping excursion (maybe even give you an alert if a sudden rush of customers hits a specific store, letting you know that maybe you should just wait until tomorrow).

A lot of people are terrified of sharing this kind of data, and in many cases you should be. Something like this should be dependent on anonymized information, preventing any purchase data from being tied to an individual user (except in the case of itemized, digital receipts, which should be opt-in only). But imagine the possibilities.’

I don’t expect to see this come this year in iOS 7, but I believe with iBeacons and Touch ID, Apple is laying the groundwork. We’ll see a few retailers try to implement their own systems with these existing tools while Apple continues to look for the best way to take the whole pie in one swoop. I’ll be very keenly interested in what will be possible when Touch ID has trickled down to the “free” iPhone.

Worms 3 for iPad on sale!

I love Worms. No, not lumbricus terrestris, but the digital kind that blow each other up for your entertainment. I’m talking about Team17’s series of artillery-based combat using smart-mouthed worms as stand-ins for your friends and enemies. The latest entry for iPad has been very well-received and is currently on sale for $0.99. If you like the series, or are just looking for a great game to play with friends locally or even online against friends and strangers, this game is for you.

I mean, it’s got a Holy Hand Grenade as a weapon. What more do you need? Go download Worms 3 today.

A Call of Duty game built from the ground up for iOS?

Call of Duty Strike Team FPS

Okay, maybe not from the ground up, but it’s not a port. Activision managed to sneak Call of Duty: Strike Team onto the App Store without anyone even knowing it was in development. And, it’s not a tie-in or cheap port of an existing Call of Duty game. It’s a self-contained campaign built specifically for mobile devices.

Now, I’m not a fan of the Call of Duty series. I enjoyed Modern Warfare and played the coop parts of its sequel, but never spent much time in any other version of the games. But, this game certainly piques my interest. Most noticeably because it does not require you to play through the game as an FPS. Strike Team has a really cool 3rd-person tactical display that lets you issue commands to the entire squad and play the game like a squad-based, real-time strategy game. And, from what I’ve read about the game so far, it never forces you to play in one view mode or the other.

Call of Duty Strike Team Tac

Honestly, this is a really smart move for a mobile game. FPS controls on touchscreen devices are never as good as consoles or PCs, but by being able to switch viewpoints to try different tactics, players don’t have to get frustrated with on-screen controls. Plus, tactical strategy games play really, really well on iOS devices, especially the iPad.

Anyway, if you’re a CoD fan, or just want to see how well a hybrid squad-based tactical strategy FPS can work, be sure and download it here.

Star Wars Pinball for iOS is free until the 9th: May the Force be with you!

I snatched up Star Wars Pinball for iPhone and iPad a couple days ago, but didn’t realize until today that it was still free. Not only is it still free, it’s free for 5 more days. So, seriously, if you like Star Wars or pinball or are part of a Venn diagram in which those things overlap and your sexy bits begin to tingle, then go download this. Right. Now.

The first table is included in the download and two additional tables can be purchased for $1 each. Unlocking the extra tables is actually key to one of the other cool features of the game: the ability to team up with your friends on either the Light Side or Dark Side and compete against the world.

Basically, every player has a “Force Score” which is based on your score, the number of tables you have played on, and how many friends you have playing via Game Center. Then, all of your points are used in support of either the Light Side or the Dark Side. The entire app’s interface is used to show which side is currently winning, by splitting it into blue on the left and red on the right. The percentage of the screen covered by each color indicates the current winning side.

Currently, I’m on the Light Side, but I’ve always loved an underdog, so it seems likely that I’ll eventually let my hatred consume me and fall. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as blogger and reader!

If we’re not Game Center friends already, send me an invite. My name is Zepfhyr. Be sure to include that you read the blog so I know to approve you.

Now get out there and download the game before it’s too late. Help me, readers! You’re my only hope!

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