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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2009 » March

March 2009


Technology March 31st, 2009 by HMTKSteve

While going through a big stack of catalogs that came in my mail today I happened upon a catalog from Dell. unlike most people I receive two different catalogs from Dell, I receive the consumer and business catalogs. It was the business catalog that arrived and right on the front cover was a special deal on a laptop with 19 hours of battery life

19 Hours of Battery Life?

Battery life results based on Dell lab testing using MobileMark 2007 Benchmark. 19 hour battery life resulted from testing a Dell Latitude E6400 configured with solid state drive, Mobile Intel® GMA 4500MHD graphics, 9-cell primary battery, and 12-cell slice battery. Battery life varies by configuration, operating conditions, and other factors. Maximum battery capacity decreases with time and use.

Naturally all that extra power comes at a price and I'm not just talking about money. The 9-cell battery sticks out the back of the machine and the 12-cell slice battery goes on the bottom. Without the extra power the base machine weighs about 4.3 lbs.

Who would want such a thing? Business travelers.

Business travelers have long purchased laptops that offered secondary battery bays. Bays that are hot swappable and allow for either a battery or an ROM drive to be placed within.


studio design_300x100

I talked with a customer service rep from Dell and he told me that the 12-cell slice battery drains first and is hot-swappable. The 9-cell (or 6-cell) is not hot swappable.

As for weight. The machine weighs 4.3 lbs with the 6-cell, 5.3 lbs with the 9-cell and 6.6 lbs with the 9-cell and 12-cell slice installed.

video games March 29th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Nintendo DSi

When the original DS launched on November 21, 2004 Nintendo told us that the DS would not be replacing the Game Boy. Nintendo did not proclaim the DS to be the next generation Game Boy because they did not know if the little portable gaming unit would catch on. They were taking a big risk introducing a new portable system that was so much different than the existing Game Boy line.

A little over four years later I have to wonder if the powers that be at Nintendo are still thinking of launching a new Game Boy or if they have decided to just tell us that the DS was meant to be the next Game Boy after all.

As of March 6, 2009 Nintendo announced that they had shipped over 100 million DS (includes DS, DS Lite and DSi) units worldwide. Not too bad for a system that has only been out for four years! You can compare that to the Game Boy line (original through GBA SP) which has sold 200 million units worldwide.

Now that you know a little bit about the back story of the Nintendo DS and Game Boy lines let me tell you a little bit about the changes we see in the DSi over the DS Lite, its most recent ancestor.

Nintendo DSi

Dual Screens
No, the dual screens are not going away! If anything they are getting bigger!

The new screens are 3.25" compared to the 3" screens on the DS Lite.

Sound
The speakers have been improved and are louder!

Backwards Compatibility
It was a rather sad day for me when I moved on to the DS. Even though it featured a slot for GBA games it would not play any of the older GBC or GB titles. What about the DSi?

The DSi has completely dropped the GBA slot and replaced it with an SD card slot. This change is a precursor to a DSi-Shop channel (much like on the Wii) and will allow users to download (and pay for) games that will be stored on the SD card.

As an added bonus early DSi owners will receive 1,000 shop points for use in acquiring software.

This also means you can not use a Rumble Pak or the Guitar Hero: On Tour games because they need the GBA slot.

Nintendo DSi

The Other Stuff
For starters the DSi is thinner than the DS Lite. It has upgraded hardware and sports two VGA cameras.

The DSi also has five brightness settings. The DS Lite had four.

The DSi has a better CPU and RAM (ARM 133Mhz/16MB) than the DS Lite (One ARM9 and one ARM7/4MB).

The DSi also breaks the DS out of the world of WEP by including support for WPA and WPA2. Sadly this support is not implemented in a manner that would allow older games to use the better encryption standard. I'm not sure why Nintendo chose to go this route (I would have the hardware handle all the Wi-Fi rather than the game) but it may have been a design flaw from the first DS that just sort of hung around.

In fact, when the Wi-Fi adapter was released for the GBA line it suffered the same compatibility problem in that only games designed for the adapter could use it. Yeah... Wonderful!

You will be able to edit photos you take with the built-in cameras and Picto-chat will work in color now.

Nintendo DSi

My Thoughts
I didn't buy a DS when it first came out but I might consider getting a DSi. It all depends on if the games I want to play are optimized for the DSi or not.

I am not very happy about the GBA slot being dropped (I play Pokemon) but I can't say I have played a GBA game on my DS Lite recently. In fact the only thing I use that slot for is Pal Parking my Pokemon to Pearl. As long as I have one DS Lite in the house I can keep doing that, well, sort of. The Pokemon games on DS know if you put them in a different system and lock out the Pal Park for 24 hours!

At $169.99 the price point is a bit high for me as well. Not a deal breaker but I don't know if the DSi has enough to offer me to get me to upgrade.

If you want some more reviews or to buy nintendo dsi why not look around or talk to your friends? I don't know if I will have access to one after they launch on April 5, 2009 so don't hold your breath for a review!

video games March 29th, 2009 by HMTKSteve



It's only a few more days until release day! Have you pre-ordered the game to get a free map?

I was talking to Grimjesta about this game and he is going to offer a second review after I review it. He has reviewed several games on HMTK in the past as well as a few on his own site.

Stay tuned!

PS: Demos are available for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Download it and try it out.

video games March 27th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Fallout 3: The Pitt

Description:

The Pitt allows you to travel to the post-apocalyptic remains of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and become embroiled in a conflict between slaves and their Raider masters. Explore a sprawling settlement ravaged by time, neglect, nuclear radiation, and moral degradation. The Pitt is filled with morally grey choices, shady NPCs, new enemies, new weapons, and much more.

Story:

The Pitt opens with a desperate radio message, and a meeting with its sender, an escaped slave named Wernher. Wernher claims that the leader of “The Pitt” has created a cure for mutations… and he needs you to go in and retrieve it. From there, the player can proceed in a number of ways, in true Fallout 3 style. Do you fight your way in, or disguise yourself as a slave? Ally with the slaves, or join their Raider overlords? The Pitt is very morally ambiguous – there’s no real right or wrong, just choices to be made, sides to be chosen, and a mystery that could send shockwaves throughout the entire Wasteland.

    Key Features:

  • Explore an entire new area – the post-apocalyptic ruins of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, known as The Pitt!
  • Find and use new weaponry, such as the AutoAxe, a new melee weapon with a powerful, serrated rotary blade hungry for flesh.
  • Discover new side quests and subtle plot elements and determine your path in this place where nothing is “right” or “wrong.”
  • Exclusive new perks and achievements!

After burning through Operation Anchorage right after it came out I have not had reason to boot up Fallout 3. That drought is now over! I plan on downloading this beast this evening and then I have to make a hard decision; which save game do I load up and play with?

Should I use my good character with Karma through the roof or my evil character who spends her time mesmerizing people and selling them as slaves? Either way I'll report back on my results.

video games March 27th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Punch Out!

It can be fun beating the snot out of your friends with Wii Sports: Boxing. It can even be fun hitting the bags in Wii Fit. You know what's really fun? Kicking it old school with the Wii remake of Punch-Out!!!

No, Mike Tyson is not in this one (wasn't he a tough nut to crack in the 80's?) but many of the fighters you remember from those glory days are.

What characters you ask? How about Little Mac, Glass Joe, King Hippo, Doc Louis, Von Kaiser and newcomer Disco Kid. There are a total of 13 opponents for Little Mac to step into the ring with, 12 of which are returning from previous games in the Punch-Out!! series.

What about the controls you say? You say you don't want to be waggling the Wii remote all night long? Well, if you don't have the stamina to go toe-to-toe with the likes of King Hippo by swinging the Wii remote all around you can hold it sideways and play the game the same way we played it back in the 80's using the control pad to move around and the 1 and 2 buttons to throw your punches.

I pity the fool who doesn't have the endurance to play this game the way it is meant to be played; dancing and prancing around the living room.

It's been 15 years since Punch-Out!!! first appeared on the NES. 15 Years is a long time to wait but after looking at some video of this new version I have to say that it is clearly worth it.

video games March 26th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

I was so happy this morning when I visited Nintendo's press page and found out what Satoru Iwata has announced:

As the library of downloadable WiiWare and Virtual Console™ games continues to grow, Wii owners have asked Nintendo to provide easy, expanded storage space. Starting today, Wii owners will be able to save downloaded WiiWare, Virtual Console video games, and Channels directly to High Capacity SD cards, in addition to SD memory cards. To play games that have been saved to SD cards, consumers will be able to select and launch them from an SD Menu icon on the Wii Menu. (Note that when launching games or channels from an SD card, an equivalent amount of internal Wii memory is required. To clear space from the internal memory, users can transfer games or channels from the Wii Menu to the SD card). This feature is included in the latest version of the Wii System Menu Update, which owners will receive immediately after performing a system update today.

Wii

All I can say is, "it's about time!"

I have been doing the "SD card shuffle" for months now. I have a 512MB SD card that I move content from the Wii system memory to all the time. When the SD card fills up I move any low priority content to my computer. I know I can always re-download the content but some content includes save-game data. If I have invested hours playing a game I don't want to have to do it again if I don't have too.

I have not taken the time to download the update myself so I don't know if everything can be moved and played to the SD card. Those who know me know that I am a big player in the Pokemon world. As such I have a copy of My Pokemon Ranch on my Wii.

The My Pokemon Ranch software can not be copied to an SD card and for good reason. If you were able to copy it you could then copy it to your computer and use this method to clone Pokemon in minutes. Because of this I expect that the update will not allow some content to be moved off of the internal Wii memory.

It is also important to note that this update still uses the Wii internal memory to run the content. What this means for some of us is that if we buy a lot of content that can not be moved to the SD card it will suck up system memory and possibly prevent us from playing some games that are on the SD card if a like amount of memory is not available on the Wii itself.

In all I am very happy with this announcement. We have long been itching for more storage space on the Wii and this answer from Nintendo is a step in the right direction. It's not perfect but at least they are not going the Microsoft way and forcing us to buy a locked down drive expansion at an inflated price. (MS HDs for the 360 cost more than $1 per GB while most HDs cost < $0.20 per GB.)

There were a bunch of other announcements involving WiiWare and the DSi but the only important announcement was the one about Wii storage.

Technology March 22nd, 2009 by HMTKSteve

I am still having a few minor issues getting used to the smaller keyboard. I also have not installed Open Office yet so I am instead taking advantage of the installed copy of Word. I’m not sure how long Word will continue to work for me because every time I start Word it asks me for a registration key. I’m sure the key is in my documentation but I’m simply too lazy to look for it right now.
Since Word is currently working well enough for me (even though I have no idea where any of the tools are) I’m going to go ahead and write up the next few posts using Word.

In fact, while preparing to write this particular post I was clicking on the “New Document” option when I saw an option to create a new “blog post”. I did not know that Word had added some blogging tools.
I started to use the tool but stopped when it started asking me about how to publish the post. I’m not connected 24/7 to the Internet with this little machine so I do most of my work offline. Because of this I’ll be writing my posts offline and then copying them to the blog later.

Battery life has been decent. I have the three cell battery and it appears to last about 2.5 – 3 hours on a full charge with the wireless turned on. In fact I just reached in front and hit the wireless switch while checking on the estimated battery life:

Wi-Fi on = 2:46 hours / 95%
Wi-Fi off = 3:47 hours / 94%

When using the front mounted switch to turn the Wi-Fi on and off a one line message in green appears at the bottom of the screen. This message can be hard to read because it is displayed right above the status bar on XP.

Another thing I have noticed (now that I have had a chance to use this machine somewhere quiet) is the fan noise. It’s not as loud as the fan on a full size laptop but it does generate a low level buzzing noise. It almost sounds like the hard drive is doing something but it is the fan. I’m not sure if the fan is monitoring the CPU temp or if it just runs all the time.

I have also been having a few issues with selecting text using the mouse pad. I normally turn off the tap feature on a touch pad but I’m leaving it on for ease of use issues. The placement of the mouse buttons to the left and right of the touch pad are taking some getting used to.

That’s all I have for today.

video games March 21st, 2009 by HMTKSteve
King of Clubs

I admit to being a sucker for a good golf game on the Wii. I've been addicted to the Super Swing Golf games since the first one came out a few years back. It should be no surprise to any of you that I have also been searching for a good mini golf game for the Wii.

The Wii should be the ultimate platform for a golf game. The Wii remote does an excellent job as a golf club simulator and as bad as the golf portion of Wii Sports is it still does a decent job of simulating a game of golf.

The King of Clubs bills itself as "Miniature Golf With Attitude". Some of you may remember my recent review of Fun Fun Minigolf and how disappointed I was after paying 900 Wii points. Any guess on how I'm going to fell about this game that I spent $14.99 on?

In King of Clubs, you'll tee-off against the wackiest golfers this side of Augusta – including Bubba, the Elvis impersonator. Take advantage of a magic bag full of tricky golf accessories – like special balls and trick clubs.

Laugh through 96 competitive mini golf holes that will leave you in stitches. Thank you. Thank you very much.

That is what the back of the box says, but does it deliver?
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