Latest Blogs from this feker

Netflix comes to Ireland\UK but was it worth the wait?

After a long wait the streaming service Netflix launched earlier in January in the UK and Ireland.  I have been using Apple TV for movie rentals for the past year on a charge per item basis so the idea of streaming all my content for a set monthly fee was very appealing.  €7 euro per month and watch as many movies or TV series as you want.  As soon as it became available I was on the site to see what they offered and was very disappointed with the content.  It seemed old and had a relatively small collection in the library with a very small number of recently released movies.  I was left a little frustrated but I took advantage of the first month being free to try it out.

However, though many items are a few years old I am thoroughly enjoying the service.  I had a good browse at all that is available in their library and there were quite a number of movies or series I have wanted to see but as I am not much for scheduled TV I have never seemed to catch or bothered to rent or buy on DVD.  Dexter, Firefly, The Inbetweeners, Wallander, Warehouse 13, Saturday Night Live, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Dune, The IT Crowd, and the list goes on.  I can watch Netflix on the laptop, AppleTV, iPad or iPhone.  While stuck in the car a few days after signing up I decided to give it a try across the 3G connection on the iPad.  I watched 2 episodes of The IT Crowd in perfect quality.  And that generally has been my experience, whether it’s the kids popping on a movie or me grabbing an episode of Firefly or The IT Crowd it is just great.  No matter what I access my account from it remembers exactly where I stopped watching which is great.  I start watching on the iPad and a couple of days later I can turn on the AppleTV and continue from exactly where I left off.

A good broadband connection for home is needed and it will impact your download allowance if you are limited.  Other than that if you like TV on demand from any of your devices then this set fee per month is well worth a look.  For now they have a customer in me and I will recommend it to others as I do believe its good value for money.  I hope that as the weeks and months go by they update the content so I can stay a customer.  Never having to purchase or rent a DVD, box set, or other medium is hugely appealing for many reasons.  Just select what we want from a list and watch it, whenever, wherever and on whatever device we want.

The future of mobile and what it might mean for us.

Over the last week I cleaned up a number of blog posts that I had started at various times over the last year but never got around to finishing. Some were just out of date, a few I didn’t have the cojones to publish and others were just something about nothing (which may actually be a good title for this post – something about nothing….).  One of them from October I want to particularly shine a light on.  I sat on my high horse ridiculing those that were running out to upgrade their iphone 4 to 4S when something else I felt was more important and should have been their focus.  That being the new iOS 5 and the iCloud offerings and not the little physical shiny new piece of tech(OK yes there are many levels to this but upgrading seemed ove the top!).

I then saw Siri in action.  A piece of tech not available on the older models with a simple iOS upgrade.  Feel in love with it and just before Christmas I bought a new iPhone 4S.  Glad I didn’t publish that post or I would have looked kinda foolish now. (Yes yes I know!)

Arrogant unfinished blog post aside and ignoring the fact of the hypocracy as I succumbed to the marketing and fell in line to get the latest tech I do think the basic premise of my post still holds true.  The premise being that soon the device in our hand will be somewhat irrelevant, not that we won’t need it, but that they will all offer closely the same functionality be it Android, Windows or iOS.  Very fast, touch screen with voice recognition\control.

So what then? Well it’ll be the data and services that the device can tap in to (and how) that will be the difference (and this obviously is also true at present but at varying degrees of integration and success).  Amazon are offering a service via their Kindle.  Sony (and the relatively recent Sony Ericsson news) are heading the same way.  Apple obviously have their offering.  The Microsoft, Skype, Nokia tie up have their effort of cloud services.  It’ll be the data in the cloud that we will want to access.  Materialism will take on a whole new meaning as the items that once clogged our houses, the picture albums, music CDs, DVDs, box sets, books, magazines, newspapers, will all disappear.  We will want access to everything but yet will not physically be able to touch the vast majority of these things.

Mobile when combined with the cloud is not just about handheld devices.  Its about, strangely enough, mobility.  Access your music from any device such as your TV not just your mobile phone.  Access your data from any computer, read your local newspaper anywhere in the world.  This is not new and the tech is not in the future its now.  However the impact on materialism is an interesting one to ponder.  Materialsim is a topic that has been on my mind a while now as for many others in this post Celtic Tiger era.  Don’t get me wrong I am not about to donate all my worldly possesions just yet but I do think we might be taking a big step in a positive direction even if not fully intentional and not even fully realised at present.  The more we put into and access online the less we will clutter that space around us with physcal things.  The more we are online and share, communicate and seek information the more the data becomes important and not the device we use to access it.  When the information, collaboration and sharing is what we crave and not the physical device or tactile object won’t that be a exciting time?

The internet filter bubble – be warned, be aware and be open

This is, in my view, one of the most important issues facing us and the web today.  It is quite simply the fact that info is filtered specifically for your viewing.  It is customised specifically to you based on a significant number of parameters.  You may think Google or others are presenting results based on your search words alone but they are not.  They are using your location, likes, history and many other pieces of data to present the information they think you want to see.  Unique lists for each individual, each of us inside our own little filtered internet bubble.  As Forbes said in their piece ‘Breaking out of your internet filter bubble’ it is not, or probably not, a conspiracy.  It is just companies trying to maximise return on revenue by keeping users happy.

So why is this a problem(read the Forbes piece!)? Well Eli Pariser says it better than I ever could so take the time to watch the video. It is only 9 minutes and explains this area very clearly and concisely with no conspiracy theory talk or beating up on the companies.  It is level-headed, informative overview of the topic.

However, aside from the Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others feeding us what it thinks we want to see we are also guilty of ‘filtering’ content ourselves.  It might be your subscriptions on Facebook, or the people you follow on Twitter.  Do you push to find people who are not like you? People and orgs you don’t necessarily agree with or even like?  If you politically are left leaning do you follow right leaning people\orgs or vice versa? Do you follow people\orgs across countries and continents and across religions and race? Do you follow non-profit and multinational for-profit companies?

Or like many of us do you surround yourself with like-minded people that have similar interests and a similar outlook on life? This type of place is a very comfy area in which to live and exist online with our believes and view of the world constantly re-inforced by those we interact with.  However it really is somewhat delusional.  It is not the real world that exists out there.  It is a bubble we have created for ourselves and one we can’t blame the big companies for.  Unfortunately for many of us it is a very easy place to end up without even realising it.

Advice?  The issue of advice for who to follow on Twitter, subscribe to on Facebook or blog to follow is an argument I seem to have over and over again.  Many advise us to follow and engage like-minded people, with similar interests, hobbies and pastimes.  I don’t necessarily disagree with that but it should not be the end of the advice.  I would also say to follow people outside your interests, believes, hobbies and pastimes.  Move around, pick a museum, a newspaper, a musician, a techie, a trekky, an arrogant politician, a radio station, a newspaper, a human rights leader, a footballer, a multinational CEO, your local pizzeria and a government party.  You might be surprised who\what you start to like and engage with and who can educate you.  Diversify your stream of information.  I don’t mean overload it with people you hate.  Be reasonable but step outside your known circle of people and interests.

The internet and what it offers us is endless as long as we don’t constrain it by staying in our comfort zone.  Get out there, explore it and burst your bubble.

Is the iPad the best personal gaming device out there?

F1 Game

Yes it is! OK so I am not a huge gaming person and have spent very little time on devices like a PSP or Nintendo DS or other variants so you may ask what qualifies me to judge just what the best one is.  I can obviously appreciate the basics that they offer (or at least try!) and have at times been somewhat envious on long trips watching people pass the hours saving the universe or other such heroic deeds.  However I never once wanted to purchase one personally for a multitude of reasons but there are kids in my house now so there are DS’s and a PSP.  I have spent a little bit of time on them and either the small screen or button location and/or configuration meant I soon put them down.

I wrote another blog post here about a game Modern Combat 3 I downloaded recently for the iPad and really liked.  For the first time in a long time I got the urge to continue playing a computer game.  The game is excellent but a big piece for me was the fact it was on the iPad. While I had talked and wrote about the flexibility of the iPad for such pursuits I hadn’t really gotten submerged in using it in such a ‘pastime’ as it honestly has mostly been more work\learning focused way.

The iPad screen size for gaming is fantastic and so much better than any of those other gaming devices.  It is light, easy to use and I can move and place the buttons for game play anywhere I want (at least in some games).  The battery life is superb and best of all is the price of each game.  Instead of paying €40, €50, €60 or more for a game as they are on other personal devices they range mostly from free to €10.  My favourite was only €5.49! To enhance the experience you could purchase something like the fling joystick for iPad or a Padpivot and your iPad is supported and your device becomes the perfect steering wheel for a driving games or is just help for you while you play.  See video below:

I have a first gen iPad but those with the iPad 2 and an Apple TV can output the game to their TV and the device just becomes the controller.  Imagine those games on a 42″ TV as you sit with you personally customised controller and take on the world as you jump online as with any gaming console or device and play multiplayer games.  How very cool is that? If I was looking for a gaming device for anyone now I would only look at the iPad.  A very cool game platform with all the other uses tagged on.  An absolute arsenal of devices in one.

The best iPad game yet – Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation

I haven’t played a whole lot of games on the iPad, or at least not for any signficant length of time other than to see what they offer and this one Modern Combat 3 started out no different.  I downloaded it and like some other games I was very impressed with it overall.  Great graphics and game play and all for only €5.49.  However, I found for the first time since probably playing Medal of Honour: Allied Assault (which is before I got married and that is not today or yesterday) I wanted to spend more time on it.  Not just with the game itself but going online and pitching myself against some serious gamers who had obviously spent signficant hours playing based on their rank!

I always liked first-player games more so than any of those platform games.  Castle Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake and Medal of Honour-Allied Assault were the shoot me up games I had previously really liked (So I am not 18 or close but a little older ;-).  I  always played on a PC and never a console.  I never liked the consoles, the controllers specifically.  I could never find a button configuration that I liked and would end up very frustrated after a short time. Yes I am that finicky and awkward.  When I used the keyboard I could always assign any action to any key and thus could create a controller I liked and could use.  I can now do the same on the iPad.  I can move any button\action around the iPad screen to exactly where I want it.  I can also resize each button to be as big or as small as I want.   See the screen shot below.

Modern Combat 3 - Customizable Controls

My ability to compete and play the game at a semi-decent level significantly improved as I seem to have an inbuilt reaction to specifically where the fire button is.  The flexibility to put that button and the rest of them exactly where I wanted meant no more hitting the wrong button or slow reaction times due to having to remember where each action was located.  I was able to fine tune the setup over time in the game as I realised moving the buttons even fractionally significantly helped.

The graphics and the game in general I think are excellent.  Considering a game of this quality is so cheap is fantastic value for money.  The online option is really worth a look and probably where you will spend most of your time once familiar with the controls.  You can play people from all around the world and really test your skill level.  The fact that I can play it anywhere on the iPad or iPhone is fantastic.  I am not limited to a console connected to my TV or I don’t need to purchase something like a PSP and carry that around as I wouldn’t (either buy or carry one!).  So yes there is a large part of my love of this games that is down to the flexibility that the iPad brings but this game is the first that makes me appreciate first hand just what the iPad offers as a gaming console. But that is for another blog post.  This game, while yes is just a tad violent, is definitely worth a look as if like me you long for games of old like Duke and Quake then this one won’t let you down.  Top marks – 10/10