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?

Posted in iPhone/iPad | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

On Facebook and the Oculus Rift

So, if you haven’t heard yet, Facebook announced today the purchase agreement of Oculus VR, Inc., the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Many people are worried about what this means for the device, others are concerned (as always) with privacy issues, and still others are just puzzled as to why Facebook would want it in the first place.

I’m not terribly worried about Thing 1 and Thing 2, but that’s just me. I’m sure the Oculus Rift will still come out and be much the same device as we expect it to be now. As for privacy concerns, the Oculus Rift is designed heavily around gaming and a lot less around “3D Facebook”, so the data it can gather from users will be quite different (though some of it could be a pretty big deal) than what Facebook is typically after. Surely there will be data worth mining, especially if Facebook decides to try and take on Google in any aspects of its business again in the future. But, for the most part, tracking which games you play doesn’t provide nearly as much critical data as what websites you visit, what you buy, and who your friends are (and what websites they visit, etc.)

As for why Facebook would want the Oculus Rift, I find that a much simpler conundrum. I can think of three key reasons for Facebook’s desire to own the VR company.

  1. If Facebook owns Oculus Rift, Google doesn’t. It’s a no-brainer that Google would be interested in Oculus Rift. Their Glass project focuses on augmented reality rather than virtual reality, but there is still a great deal of overlap. Plus, since Oculus Rift is self-contained hardware designed for playing games and watching media in 3D, it appeals to a different subset of tech culture. A Glass-powered Oculus Rift would give Google all the same data that Facebook likely wants, but it could also be paired with an Android smartphone to give Google more access and ecosystem control. Facebook has more money than it needs and buying up a company simply to prevent Google makes business sense. Especially if Facebook already has an idea on what to do with Oculus Rift.
  2. Facebook is looking to a future without Facebook.com. No, Facebook’s social network isn’t going away, but it almost certainly could one day. MySpace was unstoppable until it wasn’t. Facebook could simply be trying to make sure that if and when that day comes, they’ve got additional revenue streams to keep things going. Wearable tech is shaping up to be a big part of the future and Facebook is trying to get in on the ground floor, rather than waiting until it’s too late to carve out a niche (like they did with the Facebook phone). By selling hardware that could be the definitive way to play games and watch movies in the future, Facebook is positioning itself to move away from social networking and to become an ecosystem of its own. Which brings me to…
  3. Facebook is starting its own gaming platform and network. Right now, if you ask a console gamer if they’re on Xbox Live or PSN, you can’t be certain of the answer you receive. But, if you ask a PC gamer if they’re on Steam, you almost always get a “Yes.” There are other alternatives to Steam out there, but none with the clout and popularity of Valve’s little digital store that could. Considering that Steam is making a play for the living room, Facebook could have seen the Oculus Rift as a way to get a foothold there, as well. Sure, they could just try to work side-by-side with Steam and other PC developers to make sure their hardware is the definitive virtual reality headset, but Facebook could also be planning to simply build their own Steam alternative. And why not? They already command the largest curated list of friends online. Their social platform has been used to effectively leverage mob tactics to generate a large amount of revenue for a number of web-based games. Imagine turning that power loose on Borderlands 3 or Grand Theft Auto Eleventy-Five. Steam has already integrated Facebook to make it easier for players to find their friends. But that requires players to link their Steam and Facebook accounts. Facebook could find all your friends instantly and tell them what games you’re playing lately.

Of course, there are major positives and negatives to Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift. What looked like promising tech that could change the face of PC gaming might now become just another tool to harvest personal information. Major players may decide not to support it for fear of alienating gamers that don’t trust Facebook with their personal data. Sony now has a major opportunity, though. Project Morpheus will likely be a PS4 exclusive at release, but it will almost certainly find its way to PCs via third-party drivers. Sony could even release official drivers if they felt they could make enough money on the hardware to justify not controlling the profits from games (or to prevent Microsoft or someone else from doing the same).

I will be keeping an eye on Oculus Rift and the VR market, in general. Things in this space are just heating up.

Posted in Video Games | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in iPhone/iPad, Movies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Return to Hyrule: An ardent journey to a familiarly unfamiliar place

Zelda-ALBW

Over the winter solstice holiday, I received a Nintendo 3DS XL bundled with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (thanks to my incredible wife), the latest offering in the Zelda franchise. While I have wanted a 3DS for some time, A Link Between Worlds became available at the perfect intersection of available funds and ultra-desirable game release. I have been a fan of the Zelda series ever since I first laid eyes on the initial game as a child, so I was very excited to play this game. However, I’ve been a little put off by the last two handheld entries into the franchise, simply because I was not as big a fan of the touch controls as I was of the classic controls of the past.

Thankfully, right out of the gate, Nintendo nailed the controls with A Link Between Worlds by basically reusing the same controls of A Link to the Past (which would make sense, since the game is actually a sequel to the Super Nintendo smash hit). But, it wasn’t just the spot-on controls and perfect execution of the 3-D in dungeons that made A Link Between Worlds so fantastic. There are two huge improvements to this game that make it stand out against so many other Zelda entries.

First of all, Nintendo was kind enough to avoid punishing players with sliding block puzzles as they so often have in previous Zelda games. Not once did I enter into a room that forced me to figure out how to slide a series of blocks just to get from one side of the room to the other. That doesn’t mean that I never had to push a block around to solve a puzzle, but I never had to wrack my brain trying to figure out which block to push in which order to prevent it being trapped against a wall or forcing me to exit the room just to reset and try again. I’ve done enough puzzles of that nature to last a lifetime, so I was quite thankful to be able to skip out on that, this time around.

Even more relieving, though, was the complete lack of a Shovel in this particular adventure. Don’t get me wrong, there is something very satisfying about digging up cool treasure in previous Zelda titles, but by eliminating the shovel entirely, I am never tempted to run around digging up every square foot of land in someone’s garden in the hopes of finding something cool. I can instead focus on throwing bombs at walls and dashing headlong into trees to find something cool. Which is something that really only works in video games. I mean, I can take my shovel into the neighbor’s yard and dig it up like crazy any time I want, but throwing a bomb at the cliff wall just outside of town is a surefire way to end up in a dungeon surrounded by angry moblins.

But, even had Nintendo subjected me to such OCD-feeding items as the Shovel and nerve-wracking torture-tests as pushing blocks until I wanted to scream, I still would have ranked this game among the best games I’ve ever played. I can say with absolute certainty that this the best gameplay ever offered by a “classic” Zelda title—in this case, “classic” refers to the top-down camera angle from the earliest Zelda titles (except for Zelda II, which was its own beast, and was awesome for a whole different slew of reasons). Is it the best story? No. That honor is still reserved for Link’s Awakening, which also has the best music, as well. But it’s certainly the most fun.

And on the subject of the story, A Link Between Worlds is no slouch. Using similar techniques to A Link to the Past (psychic messages from a sage and a princess that need your help), Link journeys between light and dark worlds on an epic quest to save the Hyrule from doom. And in a rather clever twist, the dark world on his latest journey is not the same Dark World from A Link to the Past, though it bears a very similar feel. This helps prevent the game from feeling as though it’s just a retread of a familiar game and lets gamers really explore the dichotomous environment to their heart’s content.

One place where A Link Between Worlds feels a little less than perfect is the challenge. Traditionally, Zelda titles have at least a couple boss fights or dungeons that have me pulling out my hair in frustration due to dying repeatedly. While there were definitely some challenging moments, I almost never died. This is actually great for getting younger and less-experienced gamers into the game, but for those of us that have played every Zelda game Nintendo published, it can be a little too easy. There is a Hero mode available after completing the game, but I think it might have been worth having an option to choose a difficulty somewhere between Hero and Normal when first setting out on your quest.

Of course, it may just be that the challenge I’m looking for no longer exists because I am an old hat with filling the shoes of the Legendary Hero and because the game has advanced to a point that some of the challenge I recall has been eliminated due to refinements in the controls and gameplay over the years.

All in all, if you haven’t yet played the game, I urge you to run out and pick it up (or just download it here). If you don’t have a 3DS, Nintendo is actually selling them at a pretty affordable price on their Online Store, if you don’t mind a refurbished system.

I am continually amazed at how much more willing I am to grab my 3DS and take it with me than I have been in the last few years. My iPhone and iPad had nearly eliminated my desire to take a Nintendo handheld with me, but A Link Between Worlds, the Bravely Default demo, and my collection of unfinished DS games have done an excellent job of reminding me of how consistently great Nintendo handhelds are.

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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.

Posted in Apple, Random Acts of Technology | 4 Responses

There and Back (on sale) Again: The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now available on iTunes in an exclusive extended edition for $20, which (if you are a fan of the movie) is reason enough for excitement. But, even better than that is the discovery that you can buy the complete extended editions of The Lord of the Rings for $40 in HD.

Sadly, I bought the bundle when it was $54 a couple weeks ago, but if you don’t own them yet, this is an incredible deal (especially with the advent of iCloud streaming for iTunes movies that went live recently).

You can also still get the theatrical edition of the first film in The Hobbit trilogy for $18, if you don’t think the extra 13 minutes is worth $2 (or anything). I know very little about the additional footage, so if you do, feel free to leave a comment letting me know.

Posted in Movies | Leave a comment

#WednesdayChallenge – October 16, 2013

I took the time to write up a few more #WednesdayChallenge entries this week. The theme was “Childhood”, which I sort of experimented with quite a lot for my first post. The second was more traditional, however.

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr Fathers, daughters, mothers, and sons wailed as the planet’s core cooled, the atmosphere stripped away, and the planet broke apart. At the center, a massive beast unfurled and sailed away into space. Hatched, the planet-slug’s childhood had begun.

#WedC
@zepfhyr
zepfhyr “Fuck!”

‘Johnny!’

“Sorry, mom. I just realized that I forgot to do my homework, and there won’t be time before class starts.”

Johnny’s mom pulled into the empty driveway and realized she forgot to set her clock forward. She was late.

‘Fuck!’

#WedC

UPDATE (2013/10/21): I wrote another one today, so I decided to toss it up here, too.

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr “I’m scared.”

‘Let me tell you a secret that my grandfather once told me. The things that move in the night fear our family.’

The Watcher remembered these words as he smiled and cast the incantation that banished the demon back through the portal.

#WedC

If you missed last week’s #WednesdayChallenge post that explains what it is, you can check it out here.

Posted in Previously, on App.net, Writing | Leave a comment

Captain Dirk Darkstar

“Sir… I don’t know if this is the best time for–”

Captain Dirk Darkstar of the Darkstar Spacestar Search & Research Society smacked his first officer across the mouth. The first officer went silent.

“I don’t know what star system you were born in, boy, but I come from the Darkstar System. The darkest system of stars in the known universe.” Captain Darkstar chewed on his holo-cigar and blew holographic smoke across the deck. “I’m not afraid of anything in space. Which means, it’s always time for—”

The USS Darkstar rumbled and shook violently, like a children’s toy caught in a tug of war between God and a child intent on defying his maker. The first officer tumbled and sprawled out on the floor, but Dirk Darkstar, the youngest commander to have command of his own starship in the DSSRS fleet didn’t even flinch.

“Get up, Number One. We’ve got a space kraken to explode.”

Captain Dirk Darkstar flicked his holo-cigar into the holo-trash-receptacle, which flickered into nothingness as the system lost power. The telltale sound of air escaping into the void of deep space was all Captain Dirk Darkstar needed to motivate him to try his riskiest of maneuvers yet. He flipped up the emergency guard on the emergency superlaser detonato-ray activation button and jammed it down, hard.

“Space is no place for a cephalopod.” Captain Darkstar mentally checked off Use word-a-day calendar in tense situation from his daily to-do list as the bridge of the USS Darkstar went white.

“Yippy-kay-yay, moth—”

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

#BattleshipLoveBlog

Last night I decided to watch BATTLESHIP, which is a mostly terrible movie that is full of big, stupid fun. I knew almost immediately that I was going to love hating this movie so I decided to do an impromptu live blog on App.net of my thoughts as I watched it. I’ve reposted the results here:

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr I’m watching Battleship. Prepare for a steady stream of commentary if this movie remains as epically awe-ful as it has been so far.

Awe-ful, by the way, is a very clever portmanteau of awesome and awful, which is absolutely 100% how I would describe this movie.

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr First thing I’ve noticed, this movie is like watching Independence Day without the obvious talent. There also seems to be some Armageddon and a whole lot of Transformers thrown in there for good measure, too. #BattleshipLiveBlog

Fun fact: Producers originally cast Ben Affleck in the lead role before they realized that Taylor Kitsch is, quote: “prettier and younger and at least 2% better at acting”. Yes, I know that it’s redundant to type ‘quote’ when I am using quotation marks, but I liked the way it sounded in my head and it’s my blog so nyaahhhh!

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr Did the director even know anything about soccer? Overtime? Really?

#BattleshipLiveBlog
@zepfhyr
zepfhyr Battleship is the story of a young Tom Cruise before he was shipped off to Top Gun to become the greatest helmsman that ever lived. Or something.

Oh, and Liam Neeson is his Navy dad, just like Tom Skerritt.

#BattleshipLiveBlog
@zepfhyr
zepfhyr Janosz managed to become Secretary of Defense?! Looks like his time with Vigo taught him a lot.

#GhostbustersIIReference
#BattleshipLiveBlog
@zepfhyr
zepfhyr “There are aliens invading and the island is under attack. We need everyone off this mountain now. Okay? Now, rather than escorting you out of here, we’re going to leave you here to ignore this warning and do whatever you want.”

#BattleshipLiveBlog

Seriously, though, these guys earn the award for worst park rangers ever. Their deaths were in no way unfortunate because they deserved to get grind-murdered by space-blender-death-balls. Also, how fortunate was it that the guard with the keys to the abandoned jeep wasn’t completely ground into mushy-man-pulp so that they could recover said keys?

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr Now it’s a buddy cop movie? Damn! This film’s got everything!

#BattleshipLoveBlog
@zepfhyr
zepfhyr Hey, who decided to put a home for senior citizens on this boat? Good thing, though. We need a bunch of old guys that now how to work this thing. Pretty convenient that we were honoring them just before this all went down.

#BattleshipLiveBlog

No, I didn’t misspell ‘know’. I actually meant ‘now’. Stop judging me. It sounds totally awesome when you say it wrong like that.

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr MONTAGE TIME!!!

#BattleshipLiveBlog
@zepfhyr
zepfhyr Ding-ding-ding! Welcome to the main event! Battleship vs battleship!

#BattleshipLiveBlog
@zepfhyr
zepfhyr “Hold my beer for a second, I’m going to do a sweet kick flip with a 50-year old boat the size of Rhode Island.”

#BattleshipLiveBlog

I really, really, really want to know if it’s possible to do to the USS Missouri what these guys did. Because, if so, how awesome would Naval X-Games be?!

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr FX Designer: “Radio transmissions are invisible.”

Director: “Really? I’m pretty sure they look like concentrated energy blasts. Like in all the movies.”

FX Designer: “I hate my fucking job.”

#BattleshipLiveBlog

I had an issue with this at the beginning of the movie but I let it go because there were so many other awe-ful things to see. But when it became a critical plot point, I could no longer hold my tongue.

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr It’s a little known fact that blowing up space radio stations creates a chain reaction of explosions all along the power lines to the satellite dishes.

It’s science.

#BattleshipLiveBlog

At one point during my rantings, fellow appnetizen Greg Mooney caught my typo and pointed it out:

@gm
gm @zepfhyr "BattleshipLoveBlog" might be my favorite typo of the day.

As it turns out, the typo was on my “buddy cop” comment, so it fit perfectly. All-in-all, I enjoyed myself. And really, isn’t that what life is all about?

P.S. I kept hoping that the Japanese captain would order the attack on Oahu so I could point out the irony of a Japanese naval officer firing on Hawaii in an attempt to save it, rather than destroy it. Sadly, I was disappointed.

Posted in A Day in the Life, Movies, Previously, on App.net | Leave a comment

#WednesdayChallenge Accepted!

So, I meant to post this yesterday, but LIFE. Instead, you get them now. There’s this pretty cool thing going on over at App.net called the #WednesdayChallenge that encourages users to write a short piece of fiction that fits the weekly theme in 256 characters (technically, less, as the hashtag #WedC needs to be included in the post). I discovered it yesterday and thought it sounded like fun, so I made two entries.

@zepfhyr
zepfhyr I take shelter beneath the footbridge, out of the rain. But the rain is the least of my worries. I’d rather be wet and living.

I can feel its hot breath on the back of my neck, and the tears run down my face as I realize my shelter will be my tomb.

#WedC
@zepfhyr
zepfhyr Drops of methane spattered her visor as she struggled to see her hands in the dark. Warning lights erupted in her helmet.

“O2 levels dangerously low.”

She hauled herself the last few feet up the bluff and saw the dome. Her eyes watered with hope.

#WedC

This sort of reminded me of a subreddit I found a month or so ago called /r/shortscarystories. I took the opportunity then to post this piece there (which directly inspired the first of my two entries above). I hope to continue participating in the #WednesdayChallenge going forward, as it’s an excellent writing exercise and I really need to be writing more. This is the perfect way to force me to do some craft-honing.

If you want to read more about the #WednesdayChallenge, click the hashtag links above or check out the new site the creator threw together to showcase the works.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment