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Call for donations to raise money for the Good Hope SPCA

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This year I’ll be running my 11th Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon to raise money for the Goodhope SPCA. Please share and follow the link below and more importantly, please donate generously to the cause ! It’s all online, secure and super easy.

Thanks guys, all those animals will appreciate any help you can provide.

Boxer

Time to go retro

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Things have been a little dry on the gaming front. If you’re currently a little bored, waiting for a few releases later this year and are starting to show a little grey hair – I may just have a solution for you.

Boxer

Haul out your old original games (yes, I realise some of them may be on 5 1/4″ or 3 1/2″ disks) pop them into your CD-ROM drive, drag them onto the Boxer import screen and you’re good to go.

If you’ve lost your original disks, you can always head over to abandonware and download a copy. They’ve been good enough to keep a backup for you, for just such an eventuality.

There is just so much to choose from. Over the past few weeks I started and completed classics like: Space Quest 1, Monkey Island 1, Monkey Island 2, Police Quest 1, Prince of Persia, Rogue, Montezuma’s Revenge, The Lost Vikings, Dune 2, the list goes on. If I’m totally honest, I haven’t really finished them all yet. Games were hard back then !

The cherry on top for me was finding an original Roland MT-32 sound module on Gumtree.

Roland MT-32

I’d heard about these when I was playing these games on my old 286/386/486 back in the day, but no-one that I knew owned one. In fact in the USA they were selling for $550. I vaguely recall what the games sounded like on the PC speaker and later on my Creative Labs Sound Blaster Pro, but the first time I fired up Monkey Island 2 on the Roland, I was blown away. This is what the games were supposed to sound like back then. It’s almost worth playing all these games just to listen to the soundtracks you were missing out on.

I realise that finding one of these babies is easier said than done, so our good friend Alun Bestor (the developer of Boxer) has included MT-32 emulation into the app. All you need to do is download the MT-32 ROM’s (which some kind folks out on the Intertubes have made available) and you’re like 90% there. I have told myself that there is no way that emulation can be as good as the well aged black box on my desk.

As the ARS review says, “the only ugly thing about Boxer is not using it.”

Batman Arkham City

You want to visit Arkham City

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(10/10)

“The batcomputer is none too frisky today, Batman.” – Robin

Batman Arkham City

I remember how I felt before I started playing Batman Arkham Asylym. I wasn’t excited. In fact, I was ready for another poor job at trying to recreate a part of the DC super-hero world. Ready to cringe as happy childhood memories of reading comics were destroyed with every click of the “A” button.

But it didn’t happen. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The game was brilliant and brought a bunch of new concepts and gameplay tactics to the fore. It made me smile.

I was moderately excited about Arkham City, but I was pretty confident that it would just be more of the same. I didn’t pre-order it. Then some of my mates got it. Then the Metacritic reviews started coming out and I knew I was missing out.

I rushed out and bought a copy. I haven’t looked back.

It’s dark and it’s fantastic. In every way. The level of detail in the world that has been created is mind boggling. Inclusion of almost every villain that Batman has every faced in a single game wrapped up in a single coherent story is a feat in itself.

The gameplay and control dynamics are also extremely polished. I haven’t wanted to throw my controller at my TV once yet. Some of my friends apparently have, but they have co-ordination issues.

I haven’t finished the game yet, but it looks set to keep me busy for quite some time. Especially if you decide to tackle all the side missions and to finish the Catwoman part of the game as well.

Bravo lads. I’ll pre-order the next one.

Douglas Adams

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“It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an Airport’ appear.”

iOS vs. Android

10 Things I hate about you

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Most people would argue that I’m probably not the best person to write this article as I’m simply not capable of being impartial or objective when it comes to all things Apple. I may have drunk the Kool-Aid, but I’d choose a non-Apple device if I was presented with an alternative that did the job better.
iOS vs. Android

It’s the little things those guys at No. 1 Infinite Loop do that make all the difference.

Some people are trying very hard to convince me to make the move from the iPhone to a device that runs Android. They have supplied me with a Google Nexus One running Android 2.2. Not the newest, shiniest Android phone, but it apparently still does a pretty decent job of showing off the operating system. Some of the criticism I list below is of the device itself and not of Android. I’m sure that later models of Android phones probably address some of these issues.

My top 10 things that will make me go back to my iPhone at the end of the month:

1 – The touch screen isn’t great. It’s not terrible either, but I’ve been using an iPhone since the original 2G came out and I’m used to Apple somehow figuring out exactly what I was trying to push on the screen. I found myself cursing out loud on a number of occasions after repeatedly not being able to tap the link or button I was aiming for.

2 – Global search, or rather lack there of. It’s something I use frequently on my iPhone. If someone sent me an email or text message or if I think I’ve saved something in a note, but I’m not sure, I can use the iPhone’s search function to search the contents of any and all applications on my phone for a keyword. On Android it is limited to looking things up in the contacts database and on the Interweb. I would have though that Android would excel at this, with Google knowing a thing or two about search.

3 – Sometimes there are just too many taps or options to do basic things. Like after installing Skype every time you want to dial a number another dialogue box pops up asking if you would like to use the phones dialer or Skype Out. I’m not debating that it is a cool feature, but it makes dialing painful. Even an option just to turn it on or off would be great.

4 – You can’t adjust the audio volume from the supplied earphones. Ridiculous I know, but super frustrating if you listen to a lot of music on your mobile phone.

5 – If you’re listening to a song and you like it, but you don’t know what it is, you have to go into the music application (you could also use the widget or notification bar I guess) to see what is playing. On the iPhone you just tap the sleep button and you are shown the current songs album art with song and album name. And no, “Car Home” is not a solution. I definitely don’t want to launch an application to change the way I interface with the phone every time I get into a car.

6 – Following on from this, there are no on screen music controls while the phone is locked. This is super annoying when you’re driving and you’re playing music from the device into the cars head unit. Again, you need to unlock the phone and go into the music application to change tracks.

7 – The battery life of the device is shorter than my iPhone. I can’t make it to the end of the day without charging it. I’m a pretty heavy data user so I generally have quite a few apps running in the background and I have most of the services set to synchronise automatically, but I’m not using any services that I don’t use on my iPhone. Push notifications and the limited ability of the iPhone to multi-task is what makes the difference.

8 – This one may be a little unfair as Apple don’t make it easy, but I feel there are enough people in the world that use iTunes to organise, buy and listen to music that there should be an out of the box mechanism to synchronise your music. I found DoubleTwist which does a decent job of getting your music onto the device, but it is cumbersome having to load an additional application to get your music onto it.

9 – Copy and paste. I didn’t know how much I needed it until I got it on the iPhone. Copy and paste on the device is functional, but it’s rather unpleasant to use. On the iPhone it’s almost as intuitive as using a mouse.

10 – Wifi configuration for enterprise and corporate networks is significantly more complex then on the iPhone. I’m not sure how Apple get it right on the iPhone (and in Mac OS X), but all I need to select is “WPA 2 Enterprise”, enter my credentials and it figures out the rest. On the Android device (and on a PC running windows) you need to know your “EAP method”, “Phase 2 authentication”, some other stuff and your credentials.

Now some of these may seem ridiculous, but when it comes to everyday use, the iPhone is a far superior experience when it comes to user friendliness of the user interface.

I do feel that I also need to mention a few things that I really like about Android and where I think Apple could take some direction:

1 – Social media integration on Android is fantastic. Having a view on all the services someone makes use of right in the contacts application is really useful. Media sharing also provides a host of options other than just the Google services.

2 – Dragging the unified notifications bar down from the top of the screen is a great way to get a quick view of all the activity on the phone, especially if you’ve been away from it for a while.

If anyone feels that I’m being unfair to Android because of the Nexus One, please feel free to supply me a device that performs better and I’ll gladly review it and post and update to this article.

Monday-Night-Combat

Too much of rad: Monday Night Combat

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I don’t really have much to say about this game, except that you absolutely have to play it. I haven’t had this much fun since I tried to get the game to zoom in as close as possible into Lara Croft’s boobs in Tomb Raider 1 on the Playstation.

Monday-Night-Combat

It’s all about fast paced death and destruction. Kill your opponent and then gesticulate rudely for added pleasure.

There are a number of classes to choose from and they are all awesome. It takes a while to get used to each classes special skills, but the button mashing remains pretty much the same across all of them, so the learning curve isn’t too steep. Depending on whether you’re a point-and-shoot or sneaky-sneaky kind of guy you’ll probably start off with the Gunner or Assassin class.

Although there is some single player action, the real fun only starts when you get a 16 player ( 8 vs 8 ) Crossfire game going. It’s complete and utter mayhem. Be ready for much swearing and virtual high fiving as you try to take out the other teams moneyball.

As you progress you earn money which you can use to unlock custom classes and badges like “Don’t forget the bacon”. Does it get any better than this ?

There are plenty of local people playing (pretty much everyone on my friends list), so you’ll have no trouble finding a game with a low ping/latency.

It’s on Xbox Live Arcade and will set you back a measly 1200 MS points.

Monday nights will never be the same again.

Groucho Marx

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“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

volume

Fine volume control on Mac OS X

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I came by this on lifehacker.com.

I often felt that volume adjustment offered by the volume control keys on your Apple keyboard didn’t adjust the volume to exactly where I wanted it and often supplemented the adjustment with turning the volume slightly up or down on my external speakers or headphones.

Turns out Apple thought of a solution to this already.

Simply hold down the SHIFT and OPTION/ALT keys at the same time as you use the volume keys an you will get 1/4 increments instead of a full block.

Awesome.

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