Archive for the 'FAMILY' Category

[INSERT GAME] Xbox 360 “PURE” Demo Review

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for driving games.  Not just any driving games, though.  I like the ones where you’re pretty much riding the throttle the whole way thru!  Insanely fast (virtual) speeds, pretty visuals, crashes, and stunts, where applicable.  You know: totally unrealistic driving at its best!  That’s what I like.  🙂

A new game coming onto the scene is right up my alley.  “PURE“, from Disney Interactive Studios, is an ATV-based/quadrunner racing game that is all about speed, tricks, and having fun!  It really is.  If you remember games like Motocross Madness or the Rallisport Challenge series, then you’ll probably enjoy PURE.  It’s easy to learn, fun to look at, and very entertaining to perform the various stunts.

The Xbox 360 demo of PURE is about 1.1gigs, so a fairly meaty download.  Once downloaded, though, the fun begins.  The demo starts with a quick, throw-you-into-the-action tutorial where you learn basic driving — though they don’t tell you how to accelerate (use the right-trigger), which is strange — pre-loading before jumps, basic A-button stunts, boosting, and finally putting them all together.  The tutorial ends when you’re able to complete a lap of the tutorial track in 27 seconds or less, which will require atleast one stunt and the corresponding “boost”.  A lot of games use similar tutorials where you are learning the game by playing the game.  I like that method.

Once you’ve completed the tutorial, you have access to a full level that is set in Italy somewhere, and the visuals a bee-ooo-ti-full.  Let me re-emphasize how great they look.  They really do!  And what does one do with a nice looking Italian countryside?  Beat the heck out of it with 16 ATVs + riders, naturally.  What’s nice about this track, however, is that it provides plenty of opportunities for driving fast, lots of jumps, multiple paths to accomplish the same result, and, of course, a few insanely ridiculous jumps!  As you successfully perfrom stunts (and land them), you start building “boost”.  You can either use the boost to go faster — which may be necessary if you’re far behind — or you can allow the boost to accumulate, which grants you access to better, more complicated stunts.  Initially you use the A button for stunts, but with enough boost accumulate, you have access to the B button range of stunts, then the Y button, and finally the ‘super’ stunts — using the bumper buttons — and those are hilarious.  Honestly.  I found myself laughing out loud at how silly they were, but they’re also a lot of fun.  Is it absolutely critical to perform stunts to win the race?  No, actually, as my son was able to come in 1st without any stunts at all, but it’s not as much fun.  I’m also guessing that the full game will feature levels requiring “boost” to complete it, and also a scoring system that places a premium on pulling off increasingly more difficult stunts.  It’s all in good fun.

My verdict?  This game is a winner if the genre appeals to you at all.  It most definitely accomplishes what it sets out to do, and I’m guessing that the full version — complete with 48 tracks, online multi-player, and 80 different stunts — is even more fun.

Go here for more info.



Coming soon…to a home near….us!

I’d like to introduce Heather, our soon-to-be family dog.  Heather comes to us via Summit Assistance Dogs, a local non-profit organization that trains dogs for assisting folks with special needs.  I don’t have “special needs”, per se, but our five-year-old son, Brighton, does.

You see, Brighton has cerebral palsy.  Don’t know what that is?  You’re in good company.  I bet you’ve heard of it, though.  Most folks have.  A simple description would be this: cerebral palsy (C.P.) is brain damage that occurs before, during, or after birth.  Pretty generic, I know, but the point is that C.P. isn’t a disease that you contract, or some sort of genetic disorder.  It happens, and it cannot be “discovered” before birth, as many other conditions can.  C.P. also is very far from being consistent.  Some folks are severely crippled with C.P., while others are able to function almost perfectly normally, as we might typically define it.

All that said, my son has special needs.  He uses a wheel chair, he has hearing aids in both ears, he has limited use of his right hand, and he is unable to walk.  Who knows if any of those conditions will change over time.  Those things being as they are, we decided some time ago to look into assistance dogs — both for his help, and for our sanity.

Anyhow, Summit Assistance Dogs has been awesome to work with!  They train only a few dogs each year, and we’ll feel fortunate (and blessed!) to be a recipient.  Heather will not be an “assistance dog” in the truest sense, because the assistance that our son can receive as a five-year-old is somewhat limited.  She will be a great companion to him (and all of us), though, and we’re looking forward to that.  We’re also anxiously awaiting to see if she might help him sleep better through the night, in picking up things that he drops (all the time!), helping him move properly in his wheelchair, and just “being a friend”.  I’m sure that her helpfulness will only increase as he gets older.

Thanks for reading through this more-personal-than-usual posting.  Have a great day!

Retro Computing. Ahhhhh….the memories!

Recently spotted on the website…

….RETRO COMPUTING ADS!  Check ’em out.

Awesome stuff, really, and it brings me back to the “good ol’ days” when computing was much simpler in some ways, and (of course) a whole lot more difficult in other ways!

Back in the early 80s, my family owned a MicroAge franchise computer store in Anchorage, Alaska.  My Dad sold cutting-edge computers at the time.  The IBM PC, the PC Jr, the Commodore 64, and, of course, the VIC-20, which is picture above.  Harddrives?  Bah.  Dual low-density floppy drives was all you *really* needed.  Honestly!  Color monitor?  Sure… as long as you only need 1 color: green or orange (amber).

Hmmm…what else can I remember?

<insert wavy lines onto screen as I slip into a dream sequence…>

  • Playing Moon Dust on our Commodore 64.  I never really did understand that game, but it had a schwanky cartridge!
  • Entering code by hand from Byte magazine for hours (and hours) with my brother so that we could play awesome games like Graveyard Charlie.  The goal?  Don’t run into a gravestone before you exit the cemetery.  The trick?  You can’t see *anything* except when the lightning strikes.  Scary!
  • Playing and designing levels for Lode Runner!  So cool…
  • Writing a *secret* phone book with my good friend Aaron (Sprinkle) where we would enter in girls from school and give them a “rating” of how cute we thought they were!  I know, I know — pretty tasteless.  We were in junior high, for crying out loud!  The phone book was password protected, I’ll have you know!
  • The early versions of Castle Wolfenstein!  No 3D stuff here, kids!!  Hmmm…the box artwork was always a LOT cooler than the actual game.  Hmph.
  • Writing a text-based adventure game with my good friend Bob (Luton).  It was called “Nightmare at McMurray Junior High” and we never got very far.  It could’ve sold millions of copies, though!
  • Putting the phone onto the modem cradle — a la WarGames!
  • Load “*” ,8,1
  • Other awesome games like: Impossible Mission, Racing Construction Set, Zork, Karateka, Hard Hat Mack, Dream House, and so many others…

</end dream sequence>

Reticulating Splines (and other “Mozy” thoughts)

I use a little data backup service called Mozy.  You should use it too.  “Why?“, you ask.  Because bad things happen and data goes bye-bye.  Tears flow.  Much grief ensues.  “Oh… but I backup my stuff to an external USB drive!  I copy all of my pictures and stuff to some DVDs and store them in my sock drawer!!”  Ever hear of thieves?  Ever hear of a house fire?  Suddenly that “backup to my external USB drive” doesn’t look so awesome.

Enter Mozy.  For $4.99/month, you have “unlimited storage” with Mozy online — away from burglurs, house fires, and all that jazz.  “But what about ‘online thievery’?  This Intar-web I’ve heard about is a dangerous place!”  Then feel free to encrypt your data with your own PGP encryption key.

Here’s what you need to do….

  1. Get a broadband Internet connection
  2. Sign up for the $4.99/month Mozy service.
  3. Install the Mozy application on your home PC (or Mac).
  4. Select the folders you’d like to backup — pictures, documents, music (if you like), money software files, and so on.
  5. Set the backup schedule.
  6. That’s it!  Feel better when you sleep at night…

Depending upon how much data you have to backup, the initial backup can take a very long time.  This is to be expected.  You can stop that backup at any time, of course, but if you have several gigs of data to backup, then it’s going to take awhile to push that data online.  After the initial full backup, though, you are only ever backing up changed or new files, so subsequential backups are pretty quick.  Deleted files remain on the backup for 30 days, so you can get them back.  Nice!

Stop dilly-dallying and just do it.  Trust me on this.

After you’ve set everything up, you’ll get to see fun messages like this…

I’ve noticed the message “Reticulating splines…” for awhile now, but never thought much of it.  Evidently there is a bigger story behind that particular message: something to do with SimCity, and other wackiness.

Oh, Mozy — you so crazy!

Xbox 360 + Netflix = Awesome

Despite the over-publicized HD DVD vs. BluRay war, I think that there is little doubt that the future for media distribution — of all types — is really heading toward downloadable content, if it’s not already there.  Folks are puchasing CDs less, and opting for iTunes, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody MP3, and other “subscriber”-based methods (Zune, Rhapsody) for their music.  Love it or hate it, that’s what people are doing.  The same goes for movies, and will continue to head in that direction as the content is made more readily available.

Well, today Microsoft has announced the very next step in this process: a partnership with Netflix to allow streamable content to the Xbox 360 console.

The recently released $99 Roku player for Netflix was an amazing release in its own right, but the announcement today is MUCH bigger for many reasons. First of all, there have been over 10 million Xbox 360s sold around the world — most of those in the United States.  The majority of those 10 million units are now *instantly* capable of acting as Netflix streamable devices.  Secondly, there are over 8 million Netflix subscribers.  I’m guessing that a great many of these Netflix subscribers also own an Xbox 360.  Congrats!  Now you’ll be able to get Netflix content on your media console!!  Thirdly, this is a big win for two media-centric companies: Microsoft and Netflix.  The Xbox 360 will now have more media content available than ever before, while Netflix will certainly broaden it’s customer base.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Netflix gained thousands of subscribers shortly after today’s announcement!

This move will have its share of detractors, I’m sure.  For starters, you do need to have the Xbox Live “Gold” membership — as well as a Netflix subscription, of course — to be able to access the Netflix content.  You know what?  It only makes sense, as Microsoft needs to make some money in this deal too.  For $40, you can purchase a 12-month Xbox Live “Gold” membership from  Done deal.  Also, may will lament about the (currently) limited “streamable” library offered by Netflix.  Fair enough.  Be on the lookout, though, because that library will certainly continue to grow in the coming months.  Netflix has every reason to increase their streamable content base.

Needless to say, I’m very excited about today’s announcement.  It not only builds upon the great technology that Netflix has offered for years, it also utilitizes hardware that is in many living rooms already — the Xbox 360.  In my opinion, a “win-win” situation for all around — except, perhaps, for Sony, Apple, and a few others 🙂

Looking forward to the fall release of this technology update!

The ol’ Xbox 360 is (back) in the hiz-zouse

We were happy to receive our *replacement* Xbox 360 this past Friday.  Not too long of a wait, I must say.  I wondered if we would receive a “repaired” X360 (our original), a refurbished unit, or an entirely new unit altogether.  Well, I am happy to report that we received a brand new console that was manufactured just a few weeks prior!  How cool is that? 🙂

Funny that I should say “cool”.

Our new console has twice now done something that we never, ever saw on our previous unit: the 2-red-quadrants-of-shut-offed-ness.  Ever seen this?  Evidently this is the message that your Xbox 360 has reached some sort of internal temperature threshold, and then shuts itself down.  Microsoft even has a KB article on this.  This “behavior is by design”, I imagine.  I’m guessing that the (almost certainly) heat-related RRoD issues are now dissuaded by lower temperature thresholds in the Xbox.

Less heat = less issues = less RRoD = less failed units = less $$$ out the door

To be fair, we’ve always kept our console in a TV cabinet.  Evidently this is an undesirable situation, as the (above) KB article states…. “Do not put the Xbox 360 console in a confined space, such as a bookcase, a rack, or a stereo cabinet, unless the space is well-ventilated.” Guess what?  That’s where we keep our entertainment stuff!  Now we’re just leaving the doors of the TV cabinet open while we use the X360, but at the expense of our hearing and sanity.  Geez these things are loud.  Too loud.  WAY TOO LOUD.

It’s obnoxious.

Meanwhile, the rest of the getting-our-Xbox-up-and-running-again experience has been fine.  Our profiles and saved games were all fine.  Connecting to our wireless required re-entering the key, but that’s easy-to-do.  All in all, a fairly smooth transition.

Watch out for KungPuFanda!

So…my son and I started playing a little “Rock Band” on the ol’ Xbox 360 this weekend. He’s been wanting it for ages — for the drums, of course — and thankfully our friends were nice enough to allow us to borrow theirs. Thanks, Frogchildren (and fam)!

Anyhow, after mispronouncing an upcoming movie title when the commercial popped up on the TV, well… our band name was discovered:  KungPuFanda.

Fear us.