Category Archives: Science, Tech, & Health

Electric cars and how they work

As people become more and more environmentally conscious, there has been a greater trend to purchase electric cars, mainly because these cars pollute less than our standard gas-using vehicles. Though contrary to popular belief, electric cars can in fact contribute to pollution; it all depends on where you get the electricity for your car.

The basic inner workings of an electric car are pretty simple: a battery and electric engine. In fact, that is pretty much all that goes into electric cars that differ from a normal car, though there are other components that come together that make those two major pieces work as they do. These other components are a potentiometer and, depending on the engine, an AC or DC controller.

The potentiometer is what tells the controller how much power to distribute to the engine where the throttle in a normal car controls the gas flow to the engine allowing one to control the speed of their car. This does the same, but with the flow of electricity. Normally the potentiometer is tied directly into the gas pedal of the car, allowing for there to be no noticeable difference between a normal gas-powered car and one driven by electricity.

The AC or DC controller is the most important piece in the entire assembly. Its job is pretty self-explanatory, but you could think of it as a giant switch tied directly to the motor. The accelerator pedal would allow you to push the switch to an on/off position. That would be fairly impractical though; the car would go full-out from the start, allowing the driver very little control of the vehicle’s speed. Instead, what the controller actually does in an electric car is it controls the flow of electricity in such a way that the driver can easily manage the acceleration of their vehicle without the need to constantly pump the pedal to an on/off position.

AC motors and controllers have an advantage over their DC motor counterparts. This advantage is why the majority of cars on the market make use of AC motors instead of DC motors. This advantage is when it comes to energy regen. During braking, some cars have been built to recover some of the energy they exerted during acceleration. This is done by briefly turning the AC motor into an AC generator and recharging the batteries somewhat.

The components to an electric car are so simple that some people began converting standard gas vehicles into electric ones. While the process is fairly simple to achieve, it tends to be a rather costly one when compared to just keeping your old gas-powered car the way it is.

There are some problems with electric cars, and those problems are mainly focused on its batteries. The batteries for electric cars have a short lifespan of about three years. They tend to be acid-lead batteries, which are very bad for the environment. The batteries themselves are fairly heavy, limiting the function of the cars further. Though advances in batteries have been made, these advanced batteries are still too expensive to go into commercial vehicles. That is why the electric cars of the future are expected to be fuel- cell cars powered by hydrogen. It will be some time before these hydrogen cars of the future become a reality. Until then, enjoy this brief overview of the basic mechanics of electric cars.

Cover and story photo from Creative Commons

3-D takeover

3-D movies are a recent trend that studios have used to try and get people back to the theaters. It is a gimmick that has no doubt worked. Now the 3-D experience hopes to move beyond the theaters and a home near you.

Many major television companies recently announced their intentions to release TVs that are capable of rendering 3-D images. A recent electronics expo featured such TVs, showing that it will not be too long before they begin popping up in family rooms everywhere.

While 3-D has been the flavor of the season, very few people have asked what sorts of practical applications this will have. For instance, will being able to view sports in 3-D really enhance the experience anymore, or will it turn it into some gimmicky thing with strange camera angles just because they can?

Will 3-D TVs make things more life-like and enjoyable? Probably. But the issue of practicality remains. In the past few years, TV manufacturers have managed to draw people into the resolution race with high-definition TVs. Now, it seems like it is just another avenue for them to sell TVs in this slumping economy.

Even though 3-D television might be some gimmicky move to get more people to buy TVs, there is still a very exciting aspect to this. 3-D TVs could very well mark a move toward the holograms of the future. As companies compete in this new market, it seems like it might be only a matter of time before what was once nothing more than fantasy, became reality.

Cover and story photo from Creative Commons

Google trouble in big China

The past few months have been filled with strife for Internet mega-power Google, as they haven been dealing with real-world power China. In early January, Google announced that there had been malicious attacks attempting to reveal the identities and Gmail accounts used by human rights activists in China. These attacks were discovered to be coming from within the Chinese government itself.

In retaliation, Google announced it was considering ending the services it provides to China. This was followed by threats that the search engine was questioning whether it should filter the searches made through its Chinese site at all. Censoring content is standard for any Internet search engine, which works in China. This stringent censorship has been criticized, and Google was not exempt from such criticism when they agreed to follow China

Tigertext

Ever sent a text message you wish you could take back? Well now you can, thanks to Tigertext. Tiger Woods probably wishes he had this smart phone application; it would have certainly lessened some of the evidence that helped secure his scandal in the mind of the public.

While ironically named, Tigertext was not named after Tiger Woods. The developers at least claim they came up with the name prior to the Tiger Woods scandal.

On to the application itself, Tigertext can be purchased in the iTunes application store for free. Using the application is not free; one has to purchase an unlimited texting plan from the developers. They base these plans on monthly or yearly charges. Unlimited texts for a month will cost users $1.99, and unlimited texts for a year are $19.99. You can purchase these plans through the Apple app store. While it costs to send texts using the program, receiving them is free.

Tigertext works differently from how phones normally send texts. Instead of the texts being saved in multiple places, it is all stored on the Tigertext server; where after a certain amount of time the texts are auto-deleted. That isn

Heroes of Newerth

Heroes of Newerth is your standard real-time strategy game with a slight twist, taking from Warcraft’s most popular game-play mode called “Defense of the Ancients.” This up and coming game looks as though it has a chance to make a large dent in the lagging game market. Currently, the game has been in beta for, a little under a year, with an unknown, but expected release date later this year.

Game Play:

Unlike most RTS out there, Heroes of Newerth does not follow the set-in-stone model of build an army and have the two armies collide somewhere on the map until on side is overwhelmed. Now, what Newerth does instead, creates a siege-like environment where one team or one player is setup in a base that they have to defend by building up its defenses. The other players on the map then have the job of attacking the defending side as they attempt to win the match. Character selection is a sort of new option, most games at best you got to pick your race, and then if you were lucky, maybe your alignment or some similar thing. The number of races would be extremely limited and what you were capable of building was based on this. Instead, you pick from 40 different heroes, each having their own skills and abilities. The heroes are broken down into three times: intelligence, strength, and agility. Heroes of Newerth has stores where one can upgrade their chosen character. Scattered throughout the map are monsters, which players can use to level and upgrade their characters. The armies in Heroes of Newerth are AI-controlled, taking away part of the RTS element many players look forward to. You still command your units, but the players’ view of the battlefield is limited, and your main focus is leveling your hero.

The Good:

Depending on the players, style of play can be quick, short or long and time consuming. The short games are fun and intense, but lack the build-up that long ones have. Either style of play is good, though sometimes you can’t spend four hours leveling characters to create an epic final battle. Playing as a single hero is fun and really does help to draw the player into the game. This is a vast improvement over most RTS, where the players tend to sit back and critically look at the game as they play it, rather than allow themselves to be immersed in the actions of the units on the screen.

The Bad:

Kind of difficult to come up with negative things to say about the game. For most people, going into this game and expecting a classic RTS, they will be disappointed. While this is an RTS, it falls under the sub-genre of “Arena RTS.” The limited battlefield view will upset people who are use to playing Age of Empires and the like.

Final Thoughts:

While still in beta, this game already has a large following of players. It is nearly impossible not to find a game waiting or additional players at any given time. Though it does not fall into the pure RTS category, the game still should do extremely well, maybe even redefining the entire genre.

Whim Rating: 4.5/5

Cover and story photo from Creative Commons

Battlefield Bad Company 2 the demo

Demos are not normally given a full review of their own. That being said, the demo for Battlefield Bad Company 2 demanded to be reviewed if a game can demand such things. The demo offers a fast and dirty sneak-peek of what is to come in this best-selling series that follows those known as Bad Company.

Game Play

The previous game ends with your team managing to capture their objective, though as players quickly discover what the retrieve was, just a dummy run. The crate is empty, and the mission rendered pointless. Bad Company is once more out on the field of battle as they move to intercept the shipment once more. The game features what is being called “destruction 2.0.” This is an upgraded version of the game’s original destruction system. Destruction 2.0 is a clear step up from the original destruction system, allowing you to not only blow up walls and doors and pretty much everything, but also allows you to bring down entire buildings. Along with this new system, they also added a bunch of new vehicles to the game. Such vehicles are an unmanned aerial vehicle, an improved light tank, quad-bike and personal watercraft. Each of these vehicles allows people to play the 10 hour single-player campaign differently. Battlefield Bad Company 2 is one of the only Battlefield games to have blood without use of a third party patch. New items were added to the game. These new items also add a new element to this game, especially for the support classes. Medics can now revive downed soldiers on the spot with a defibrillator that can also be turned into an instant kill on enemy soldiers. The time in which medics can revive a downed ally is very limited, since it has to be done before they re-spawn. The assault class is now able to drop ammo for teammates to pick up.

The Good

Multiplayer game-play is fast and intense. There is little room for error, which forces new players to get used to the system, and fast, since there is no hiding to wait for the game to slow down. Everything is destructible: trees, buildings, and most importantly, people. While what little of the soundtrack has been released in the demo does not sound nearly as good as the original game, it does show some potential. Though one does miss the catchy beat of the original that always welcomed players on the loading screen. Sniper class feels like it has been much improved from the first game, while movement is still slow when crouched the developers decided to speed it up enough so the sniper could be a bit more mobile when getting into position. UAV is both a fun, and annoying new addition, allowing you to fly silently over the heads of enemies and rain down shots, or fire hell-fire missiles at them.

The Bad

The UAV is too powerful. Unless you get off a lucky shot or two, the UAV will dog you the entire game, silently getting kills from just about any where it seems. Since this is a demo, there is no telling how much the final game will improve this unfair advantage. The controls at times can seem a bit sticky; your character moves a bit when it isn’t suppose to. Hopefully, this is just a bug that is affecting the demo, and not the greater game at large. Beyond those two minor issues, it is hard to find anything in the demo to complain about.

Final Thoughts

Though the demo was purely multiplayer if it is any indicator how the single-player portions of the games are to unfold, then the second installment of Battlefield Bad Company looks to be an intense, though short, play-through. A lot has been made over the announced short single player campaign, though without the full game in hand, it is hard to make any decisions on such a short campaign at the moment.

Whim Rating 4/5

Cover and story photo from Creative Commons

Free private servers mark the end

For massively multiplayer online games, popularity is both a curse and a gift. These games live off the donations made by their following in the way of subscription fees. These fees allow for the company not only to provide a good lag-free environment, but also goes towards developing new games for the future, or in World of Warcraft’s case, new expansion packs. These things are vital to keeping the genre alive. As much as we all would love to play these games for free, there is a reason they cost money.

That being said, there is a way people can play Massive Multiplayer Online games, or, MMO’s, for free. Not only is this method of playing considered a form of pirating, it also has no benefits whatsoever to the game developer. That being said, there are some distinct advantages of private gaming servers. That is, if one ignores the moral aspect of stealing from the companies who developed the game. Private servers on average, tend to have higher leveling rates than the legitimate game servers. They also provide services that the real game may not, such as custom items, all in one non-player characters, or, NPC’s, thus, making them smaller and easier to deal with communities, the list of advantages can go on forever. There are even some servers that have modified the game entirely creating their own classes and adding different systems to the game play.

With all the advantages provided by the free servers, there are some distinct downsides to them, one being there is no guarantee what you are getting from the free server site. If you do donate to a private server, there is no telling how much of that money is being contributed to keeping the server up and running. Also, most private servers only exist for a short period of time, or, however long it takes for them to get big enough to draw the attention of whatever game company they are stealing from. LAG, or low bandwidth, is a fairly common problem on free servers, many go deserted due to it. Those that are lag-free tend to have a fair number of donor items, which can change game dynamics entirely, ruining whatever experience you are used to.

All this being said, free private servers are a form of piracy that has been around just as long, if not longer, than music piracy. It does have a detrimental effect on the industry, even with all of the advantages to playing a private server. Some companies do much better about stomping out this piracy, while others don’t really seem to care either way. That being said, the choice is yours, choose wisely.

Cover graphic by Kasey Sutphin

Story photo from Creative Commons

Top 5 useless USB devices

Here are my top five useless USB devices. They range in size, function and pointlessness. Hopefully they will have everyone wondering who thought these were a good idea.

5. USB Coffee Warmer

This one made it to number five, depending on what type it can serve as a hub for your USB ports. Still, anyone can see the problem with having a hot plate sitting next to a computer. This seems like a fire waiting to happen. It would take a couple of seconds at most to go refresh a cup of coffee. There really is no point to this device at all.

4. Flower Pot Speakers

Apparently, speakers were such an unsightly thing that a company somewhere had to figure out a way to hide them: flower pot speakers brought to you by Thanko, a Japanese company. It would seem simpler just to find some place to hide the computer speakers when you weren’t using them. After all, when has a fake flower really added anything to a room?

3. USB Greenhouse

Since the last one was about fake plants, it is only fitting that this gets the number three spot (At least the flower pot speakers served some sort of purpose). This, on the other hand, serves next to none. It would seem that growing an actual full-size plant that didn’t drain power from your computer would be much more reasonable, but apparently not. Though this does have one advantage for the forgetful, the device will remind you to water the plant on a set schedule.

2. USB Missile Launcher

While not useful in the least bit, this is one of the more amusing items to make it on the list. The USB Missile Launcher allows one to shoot plastic missiles at those annoying people who just tend to hang around with nothing better to do. It does this through the USB port and control software that comes with the toy. Once the software is loaded, it brings up a fake tracking screen which allows you to direct the missiles toward your intended target.

1. USB Chameleon

Now this little device is utterly useless beyond belief. The entire purpose of this device is to add to needless clutter around a computer. I guess the flicking tail and moving eyes could be somewhat amusing, but the company ShinyShack does not even allow you to pick your own color. The chameleon would be so much more awesome if it could change colors, but it doesn’t.

These are just some of the examples of the useless devices you can use to plug up one of the pesky USB ports that you could be using for something useful. There are a ton more of these devices floating out there, each more useless and pointless than the last.

Cover and story photo from Creative Commons

Golden Eye: A look at the past

Golden Eye is one of, if not the most, well known first-person shooters out there. In its day it was a masterpiece of design, both artistically and game-play wise. Today though, it is just a horribly pixilated game with stiff controls. This is the second installment in the retro gaming corner.

Game Info/Play:

You play as James Bond as you make your way through the Golden Eye movie storyline. You wander through 12 different environments as the story unfolds, each one pushing you ever closer to the climax of the game where you face off against Alec Trevelyan. The game also brags three different difficulty settings, each one an attempt to keep the game fresh for times to come. The game features plenty of explosions as Bond uses them to blow up enemies, narrowly avoiding the explosions himself. Pressing down on the “R” button allows you to aim your gun anywhere on screen; this is an enhancement from previous first-person shooters, where all you did was run around pulling the trigger, hoping you hit someone.

The Good:

It’s hard to find anything good about Golden Eye when compared to current games. The one thing that does stick with the game, no matter how old it becomes, is the multi-player mode. This mode of game-play is arguably among the most fun someone could have on a Nintendo 64 game system. Intense screaming matches have been held over character selection as people inevitably fight over getting/using Oddjob. For a game and character to illicit such a response it must be good. Another one of the few things that remains unaffected by time, is the storyline which is extremely well-developed; it includes unseen twists and moments of panic.

The Bad:

The games graphics are absolutely horrible compared to today’s standards, each of the characters looking like a series of boxes put together rather than an actual person. Levels are confusingly made one section looks just like the next, making it hard to figure out just where you are in the game. While being one of the first games to allow you to aim so fully, the aim controls were clunky and hard to handle. Sound… what sound? The game had very little in the way of a soundtrack at all. The only really notable sound was that of the James Bond theme when someone dies in multi-player.

Final Thoughts:

Even with all of the negative aspects of the game, it is extremely hard for me to give it a negative rating. The nostalgia I felt replaying this game once more is hard to describe, and playing it became more about reliving that experience of my youth than an actual play-through for a game review. All the same, when I started out the game, I started out with the intention of giving it another once-over on today’s standards.

Whim Rating: 3.5/5.0

Cover and story photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Life of a gamer

Gamers are an economically powerful force within our society. While some people see them as a singular uniform group, there are a number of divisions within games as a whole. They vary as much as there are types of games out there for them to play. In fact, you can break games down on what they tend to play, though there is much cross over.

Role Playing Games

Gamers who tend to play RPG’s have this image of the “cave nerd” ingrained into society. You know the image, the guy or girl who sits in front of their computer day in and day out clicking away. This is a relatively accurate description of a fair number of people who play RPG’s, though this is not an entirely true stereotype. There is a reason behind this. Unlike other games, RPG’s require massive amount of time for not only the story to develop to its full potential, but for the character to level as well, and often have a greater amount of re-playablity. This being said, here is a breakdown of people who tend to play RPG’s. They are looking for a story-driven, immerse game to draw them in like any good book or movie should. The game to them is not so much about the end, but the journey to get to the end. After all, once the game is over there is nothing else to do but move on to the next game.

Massively Multiplayer RPG’s

Games in this genre, while some can fall into that “cave nerd” stereotype, often differ greatly from it. People who play MMO’s tend to be of a much more social breed. “Guilds” and “clans” are often an extension of this desire to socialize. In many ways, one could view MMO gamers as creating social networking, before it was cool, though not in nearly as practical an application as say Facebook or MySpace. As far as people who play MMO’s go, there really isn’t that much of a “type” they tend to come from. Since a fair number of MMO’s lack any real-story players, their there to have fun in a fake world doing what they can’t in the real, this mainly involves slicing or blowing up enemies, but it appears society frowns on that.

Fist Person Shooters

FPS gamers are an entirely different breed from people who play RPG’s. RPG’s tend to be slow paced and story-driven, FPS games are high-speed, high-intensity games. The main focus on FPS games is to kill everyone that isn’t you or your allies. The games are pretty straight forward and rarely will you have any huge surprises. Somewhere in the game there is about a 50 percent chance of some sort of betrayal, if there is any storyline at all. Gamers who play FPS tend to be a bit more high-strung and outgoing, rather than their RPG counterparts.

Final Word

This has just been a rough approximation on gamers based on my observations. There are way too many game types to try and break down what their gamers are like. For instance, adventure games, real-time strategy games, action games, the list goes on. Each have their own quirks and as such for each game, there is a different type of gamer.

Cover and story photo by Kasey Sutphin

Facebook games

While everyone is talking about the new Facebook layout, let’s take a look at some of the games on the popular social networking site.

Cafe World has caught the attention of both teens and adults. The idea behind this game is to run a cafe efficiently while keeping it decorated to your taste. There is a wide variety of decorations, similar to the Sims PC games. While you’re leveling up and gaining more money for your cafe, you get the opportunity to expand it’s size (leveling up is more important for getting new recipes to make). All recipes will take different amounts of time to make. Their cooking time ranges anywhere from five minutes to 42 hours. Each dish also gains different amounts of experience points and money. The longer a dish takes to make, the more experience it will give you. What makes this game even more attractive is it’s attention to the holidays. There are special decorations and foods that come out during different times of the year. Right now there are Chinese new year and Valentine’s Day themes.

A somewhat more silly game that is less time-consuming is Medical Mayhem. The object of this game is to treat patients, level-up rooms and staff members, and get money for your hospital. In order to play this game, it is necessary to log in every 12 hours or so in order to start the next flow of patients. You can also steal and heal patients from your friends in order to gain money and reputation points. Eventually you will be able to change the look of your hospital according to medals you’ve earned. For some of the special items that will help to run the hospital more smoothly, it costs gold, which you can either purchase or get for logging in five days in a row. It is possible to play without gold because it does not play a huge role in the game. Recently, Medical Mayhem has improved by including mini games such as, Help the Old Man Pee, Tummy Twister, and E is for Enema. These games might sound raunchy, but they are harmless.

Facebook also has Bejeweled Blitz. This game is basically the same as the original Bejeweled, but it only lasts for a minute and it has more vibrant graphics and some new twists. Blitz has gone through several changes since it has been on Facebook. It went from having exploding gems, when you lined up four in a row, to having a whole assortment of special gems. Now, whenever five are lined up, a special gem pops up that will zap all of whatever type of gem you choose. There is also a new gem that will electrocute every gem in the same line and row as itself. The newest change is a coin system. You gain coins during the game and save them up to buy a maximum of three things to help you during gameplay. These aids will last for three games in a row. They include an additional five seconds to your game, adding a special gem at the beginning of the game and a gem that will set off all special gems at once, once it’s pushed.

Cover and story photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Radio Tuna: Join the school

Radio Tuna is primarily billed as a music-discovery search engine. It more than meets what is expected of it. With a simple clean interface, it allows you to scan any number of radio-Internet stations. It filters these stations based on genre and next to these stations, you can see how frequently they play one particular type of music. The right side of the Web site is devoted to track information, along with a play/pause button and a volume control. It also includes the ability to share the station on any number of social networking sites.

Radio Tuna is best described as the love child of ‘Pandora Radio’ and Google. Taking some of the best parts from Pandora, and splicing them with the freedom that Google provides. No longer are you limited to a certain number of station changes or whatever cataloged music Pandora happens to have on hand; you have the freedom of thousands of radio stations. If one doesn’t play what you want, you can always find another.

The overall interface is relatively simple. There are two options for how you can explore all Radio Tuna has to offer. You can use the side bar under the genre tab on the site or you can type in a search. You can search for an artist, genre or station using the search bar. The site is still relatively young, and the search option can be rather limited at times, but that is certain to change as Radio Tuna ages.

Like any new thing, Radio Tuna has its bugs, particularly, the system that indicates how much of a certain genre a station plays. While it tends to be fairly accurate, there are other times when it is completely off, leaving a very confused listener: “Hey, I clicked this for metal, why am I hearing pop?” Also, the genre search does not have much in the way of sub-genres.”

Cover and Story photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Google Buzz hardly buzzworthy

Google Buzz is the latest Web application to be created by the Internet giant, Google. This application is Twitter-like in nature. Google Buzz allows users to post status updates from the ease of their Gmail account. These updates can be viewed by anyone on your contacts list from Gmail. However, this is where the problem with Google Buzz begins. While brilliant in concept, there are a number of downsides that heavily affect Google Buzz’s chances to become the Internet-wide force that Twitter has become in such a short time.

Privacy is a huge concern with Google Buzz because the automatic Web application that generates a list for you from your contacts. This is a huge issue, since the only solution is to go through and block each individual from seeing your “Buzz” updates. There is also another problem, these auto-generated follower lists can be viewed publicly worldwide. Not only is this a bit creepy, it creates a major concern since spammers will suddenly have all these lovely new contacts to use. To Google’s credit, they quickly realized the error of their ways and made solutions to this particular issue.

The early release of Google Buzz also had another not-so-pleasant issue. If someone were to click “Ok” when Google prompted them with the option to join Google Buzz and then decided after the fact that they didn’t wish to participate, they could scroll down to the bottom of the Gmail account page and click “turn off Google Buzz.” The page would then reload, and lo-and-behold the pesky Buzz just wouldn’t die! The button was completely ineffective on removing Google Buzz. The only solution was to disable public profile and then block everyone on your contacts list one at a time. This too was eventually fixed.

In essence, Google Buzz offers the exact same services as Twitter and other social networking sites. Not only can individuals post comments, they are also capable of posting images and videos in their comment stream. While this allows for a richer, social experience in a Twitter-like environment, it still fails to serve any real need on the consumers part, beside the hardcore “Twitterholic.” Goggle Buzz, while good in concept, just doesn’t translate to the needs of the people. Google has lost its cutting-edge feel, and instead seems content on trying to play catch-up.

Cover and story photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Games to look out for 2010

With this year just starting, it is time to look toward the future. This past year brought gamers over some of the best games seen in a long time. Here is a peek of what this year promises to bring.

Battlefield Bad Company 2

This is the second game in the Battlefield series, the first being one of the most popular games of 2008. Battlefield Bad Company 2 promises much more of the games fun, explosive environment. With more vehicles, it only means that the online play will be all the more intense as players will continuously need to move to find new cover as old cover is blown to pieces.

Final Fantasy XIV

This new multi-player online game, offered by Square Enix, is not meant to be an update or a replacement to Final Fantasy XI, which has been on the market for quite some time. FFXI will still be available to play in the foreseeable future. FFXIV takes place in a different world, and offers a bunch of new features and classes. This game promises to be one of the highlights of late 2010.

Final Fantasy XIII

With yet another Final Fantasy game, it looks like the year of 2010 will be heavy with them. FFXIII will take place in a different world from X or XII. Trailers from this game hype the possible return of the gunblade, along with a new summon-system of sorts. This is one of the most anticipated Final Fantasy games in recent years, with both XII and X-2 being complete and utter flops.

Hard Rain

Hard Rain is the cinematic master piece making its way to Play Station 3. While Hard Rain does contain parts of traditional game play, such as first person shooters and basic adventure games, it also throws in something new: the game follows multiple different story lines.

As you complete each chapter of the game, you will jump to another character whose life has been affected by the origami killer. Every decision you make in the game effects the final outcome. If one of your characters were to die, it dies for good, there is no going back to save them.

Heavy Rain has been described part movie, part video game by its developers. This has many critics on edge, stating that it may become more of a nich

Dragon Age: Origins the story begins

Dragon: Age Origins is not Bioware’s first role playing game (RPG), nor will it be its last. The game is certainly among the best from this publisher. Bioware, building off the success of Mass Effect, released Dragon: Age Origins just before Christmas, hoping to draw in a holiday crowd to buy their new RPG.

Game Play

Origins is fairly straight forward as far as RPGs go. The beginning has a slight twist. Based on which race and class you choose influences where and how the game begins, though after this initial stage that choice plays very little effect on the over all story, though it will occasionally affect how people respond to your character.

Actual game play is your standard RPG affair. You pick a class and race. Your job builds off a skill tree, allowing you to pick what abilities and spells you want your character to master.

The real twist Bioware threw into their new game is something borrowed from Mass Effect. What They borrowed is the decision-based storyline. The choices you make influence how the game goes. Even when making a character with the intention of being good, you sometimes find it to be more effective and simple to break down the door to get to someone who refuses to talk to you and apologize later to get them to do what you want. Each choice you make builds your reputation and can either make the game easier or harder.

The Good

There is so much that is good about this game it is hard to gather it all into one little section. The musical score to the game works perfectly, making the moments that are suppose to feel creepy feel, well, creepy and the ones that are supposed to feel epic. Character interactions between your party range from being funny to dramatic. This helps players build a bond to those characters they choose to have in their party. The game has a great twist at the end which leaves it open for them to make a sequel.

The Bad

The only thing I can be really be picky on are some of the non-playable characters and how they react to what you do. Often times their reactions to your actions make no sense at all. For instance, if you were to break down their door, a simple apology is all it takes to smooth everything over before you tell them to help you fight off a zombie invasion. It makes no sense that these people who were busy hiding would so eagerly agree to aid you after you broke into their home. This is just a brief example of some of the things that make little to no sense.

Overall

This is definitely a must-have game for RPG fans out there. The story and game play are deep and fun. It’s surprising at times to see how your choices affect the world, shaping how things play out.

Whim Rating 4.5/5

Cover and story photo from Creative Commons

Top 9 free iPod touch applications

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For those who were lucky enough to receive an iPod touch this past holiday season, here is a little list of need-to-have free applications or apps for the iPod touch or iPhone.

1. Shazama

Ever hear a song and wanted to know who it was by and what it was called, only to forget it later? This is no longer a problem. The app “Shazama” will listen to a snippet of a song and in a matter of seconds, display everything about that song, from its title, to where you can get it. This used to be a purely iPhone app, but since the second generation of iTouch allows for microphone input, it has made its way to the iTouch.

2. IM+ All-in-One Mobile Messenger

This neat little app is all of your messenger options wrapped into one. It has everything: AOL Instant Messenger, iChat, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and more. This is perfect for those who can’t go without being in-touch with people for any period of time.

3. Scribble

Not the most useful of apps, but one of the more fun. Scribble allows you to create drawings and “scribble” over existing photos. From there, you can e-mail them using iPod Touch’s e-mail client.

4. Text Free Lite

This application does exactly what its name says it does. It allows you to send free text messages to be sent to US mobile phones. Misplaced your phone but have something urgent that needs to be shared? Not a problem, thanks to this app, however, there is no way to receive incoming text messages.

5. Social Networking Apps

This is a grouping of the several social networking site applications. For Twitter, there is Twitterific. This app allows you to view and publish tweets from anywhere there is Wi-Fi. There is also the Facebook app, which allows people to view and update their status on Facebook. Myspace app serves much of the same purpose as the other two, allowing quick, easy access to users’ Myspace accounts.

6. Wikipanion

“Wikipanion” allows for people to browse Wikipedia with ease on their iPod touch or iPhone. This app is perfect for those who enjoy browsing Wikipedia as both a way to expand knowledge and waste time looking for random facts.

7. New York Times

This app allows for you to read stories from the New York Times. The nice thing about this app is if the user wanders off away from a wireless hot spot but still wants to read the Times, they can. The app stores the latest stories when it has access to the Internet, allowing for reading later.

8. Instant Paper

This app allows for people to save Web pages for later viewing. This application is perfect for those long blog entries or articles that take forever to read. Unlike book marking, this app literally saves the page, allowing for it to be viewed offline.

9. Flashlight

This app turns your iPod Touch or iPhone into a flashlight. It even has the option to change the color of the lights. While not the most exciting app ever, it is still a rather useful one.

Be quick to get these applications while you can. It is only a matter of time before the publishers rethink offering these great apps for free. Who doesn’t love free stuff?

Cover photo from Sotckxpert

Story photo from Creative Commons

Liberation from wires

There are times when charger cords can be frustrating and somewhat confusing when trying to figure out what cable goes to what device. ‘No more,’ says Powermat, a company which recently released a device called the Powermat. This platform charges multitude of devices through magnetic induction.

Powermat is not a single piece device. It comes in two parts, the mat itself, and a receiver part that connects to the device that is being charged. This second part can be a number of things, depending on what device is being charged. For instance, they offer a harness-like cover to charge the Nintendo DS, while for some phones it is as simple as replacing the slide that covers the battery. The iPod touch and iPhone both have a protective case with a receiver built into the back.

The Powermat’s receivers have chips built into them, allowing the mat to charge as fast as the charger that comes with the device. It also prevents devices from being over-charged. This helps to maintain ideal battery life for the device that is being charged. It does this by letting the mat know how much it needs to charge and how quickly it needs to charge for each device.

The mat has built-in features to let you know when you have connected the device to the mat properly. The first of such features is a magnetic pull that should guide the device to its proper spot on the mat. It also has a light on the front that turns on to let you know the device is charging and goes out once the device has finished and received a full charge. When the device begins charging, the mat also emits a sound letting you know it is working properly.

Powermat provides two different versions of this charging station. One can be folded easily, making it ideal for trips, as it comes with its own portable carrying case that has a magnetic latch. There is a sleeker, more elegant design that is used for the home and office version of the mat.

There is a downside to the charger mat, and that is the price. Both the portable and home/office version of the mat cost around $100. Though each mat comes with a power cube that has various tips that allow it to charge any device, it only comes with one such cube. The dedicated chargers cost another $30 a piece for their various devices. Assuming one would want to use all the spots and doesn’t want to have to mess with switching out charger tips every time they wanted to charge another device, at minimum, this would bring the total price up to $190.

Powermat is not the only company producing wireless platform chargers. Wildcharge is unlike Powermat; their charger works based on conduction. This mean the components for Wildcharge make use of metal, which is used to complete a circuit which allows their charger platform to work with a greater efficiency than Powermat’s. However, Powermat brags that their charger is compatible with a greater number of devices thanks to their wider range of cases.

Either device is a great gift for someone who has a bunch of gadgets and a bunch of charging cords that go with them. The main issue with both devices is their price tag. Each costs a fair amount for what they do. When every device comes with a free charger, are people going to be willing to pay for something they already have in favor of making things simpler?

Cover and story from Creative Commons