Category Archives: Science, Tech, & Health

Google Chrome: Both an OS and a Web browser

Late last year Google unveiled Google Chrome. Rumors were abound about it being some sort of operating system (OS) to give Microsoft Windows a run for its money. At the time, people and rumor-mongers alike could not have been further from the truth. What Google instead unveiled was a simplified web browser called Google Chrome. It was a sleek, simple browser that loaded pages faster and more accurately than most of its counter-parts. It included tabbed browsing along with a pallet page which showed the user’s most frequently visited sites. That was about it as far as Google Chrome was concerned… Or was it?

Earlier this year, rumors once more abounded about a new OS from Google, though many thought it was in reference to Google’s Android OS, something they had come out with for mobile devices earlier in the year. Once more, the name Google Chrome was tossed about and the rumors eventually died down. Then in July, Google made an official announcement about the Google Chrome OS.

The Google Chrome OS will not be like another OS in current existence, it will be an OS targeted to light-weight, low-powered netbooks. Instead of focusing on the processing power of the OS, it is more concerned with getting people online as fast as possible. The OS itself works like some sort of sped-up web browser, ideally allowing someone to connect online within seconds of loading up their computer. Google also made it clear that security would be a major part of their emphasis for the new OS, trying to make it as virus and spyware-proof as possible. Google has claimed that much like the browser, the OS will be simple and sleek. Will this be on the market for desktops and laptops? Probably not, though netbooks could certainly use something like this.

Google Chrome OS could cause a stir in the netbook market, as the tiny laptops are often bogged down by cumbersome Vista or Mac’s OSX. The two major OS eat up a fair amount of the tiny netbooks’ hard drive and a decent amount of its ram, slowing down what should be a fast little machine. One can always go open-source and find a simple and clean Linux-based OS, assuming you can figure out how to run it. The Google Chrome OS promises to be open-source, meaning it will be more or less free. Combine that with the promise of a sleek, simple interface and it could cause series trouble for its competitors in the netbook market. Google states that the OS could be found in some netbooks as early as the second half of next year, leaving one more thing for those who love all things “google” to look forward to.

Google Chrome OS preview

video embedded from outside source

Photos from:

blogs.learnnc.org

thetechherald.com

Castle Crashers a Flash Game on steroids

Castle Crashers is a unique and intense game, despite its unassuming flash-like graphics. The game comes from the same minds that brought Alien Hominid to the world, which is a game that was among the most well-received flash games ever and later made the jump to consoles. The game’s story revolves around knights in their epic quest through the lands to save the kingdom. Along the way, the knights get a chance to rescue four kidnapped princesses. As the game moves forward, the battles get more and more difficult, finally leading to the apex of the game: a five stage boss battle.

Gameplay

At the beginning of the game you get to choose from four different starter knights: fire, lightning, ice, and poison. Each knight has a different special or magic attack whose range and recharge time vary. The game has a fluid simple interface for battle, and is pretty much what one would expect from a flash game.
It has simple, quick combos and employs an effective use of the Xbox controller for spells. Physical attacks and spells chain together with ease, allowing for greater experience bonuses. The game’s leveling system is based upon hits instead of the number of enemies you have slain. Game play is fairly evenly split between melee and magic. Early on in the game it may be more advantageous for people to start with melee attacks until you get used to the relatively quickly paced game play. As the game progresses you also finds pets hidden throughout the world. Each pet gives you a different bonus, some better and more useful than others. Along with the pets are a seemingly endless number of unlockable characters for you to play the game through with again and again. When playing multiplayer mode you can play with up to four other people through the campaign. Once you and your comrades have vanquished the foes you fight each other in a freestyle battle for the right to receive a kiss from the princesses you save throughout the game.

The Good

The game has some of the most in-depth backgrounds I have ever seen in a game of this type. At one stage in the game your character is battling on a field and a massive battle rages in the background. The music in the game is extremely catchy, with the exception of the music for the world map. Each boss is unique and strange and there are more than enough to keep one interested in the game even during the more repetitive parts. Along with the strange and sometimes amusing bosses, the game has its fair shares of odd twists and turns that serve to keep it from getting too stale.

The Bad

There isn’t much that is wrong with this game. A few of the unlockable characters that are found throughout game play are extremely similar regarding their special moves and attacks. At the same time, a lot of the remaining unlockable characters are fun to play with and more than easily make up for the less-than-stellar ones.

Final Thoughts

The game is well worth the 1200 Microsoft points that it costs to buy and download the game off of Xbox live. This is definitely for anyone who enjoys playing flash RPGs and is in need of something more intense than their normal flash game.

Whim Rating: 5

Check out a video of the game

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time


The classic arcade game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time has made its way to Xbox Live thanks to Ubisoft. There isn’t much that Ubisoft has changed about the original Nostalgic game, instead leaving it entirely intact for those who wasted small fortunes as children playing the game at their local arcade.

Game play

Even if one was unaware of the game’s humble roots it becomes instantly recognizable where this game gets its origins. Its simplified game play can make the game go by rather fast as you rapidly hit the ‘X’ button on the Xbox controller, bashing your way mindlessly through each level. In fact, the levels may pass too quickly for you to really enjoy the updated graphics as the turtles are rehashed into more current 3-D environments. The game itself is rather short. It consists of maybe an hour of play at its most difficult setting. This addition of the game does support Xbox live, allowing you to play through the games stages with up to three other people. It is also possible to do so locally with four controllers, though this tends to shorten the game length rather drastically.

The Good

As was mentioned before, this game is a nice retro throw back, and is good for a nostalgic play-through or two. Another nice feature is the creators kept much of the original dialog between the turtles and their adversaries, not that there was that much of it to begin with. But it is still nice to know that the shredder will taunt you pointlessly throughout the game. The updated graphics are a nice touch and pretty much the only real makeover added to the game. If you are among the many achievement seekers on Xbox live, the game supports a few fairly easy ones for you to rack up your gamer score.

The Bad

There is a lot more bad with this game than good. Unlike a number of other retro games found on Xbox live, the player is unable to choose between the updated graphics and the retro graphics. Game play is really too quickly paced to make it worthwhile. Ubisoft could have updated the controls for the game and added different moves to different buttons or triggers on the Xbox controller. Instead it kept with the overly simplified arcade style game play which only added to the extremely short play. The update to this classic game did not really add much of anything besides graphics, which are mediocre at best. Ubisoft could have certainly put much more effort into the game than they did.

Final thoughts

The game was a nice throw back to the past, but that was about all it was, making it clear that some things are left better off in the fond memories of childhood. It would not have been difficult for Ubisoft to add content to the game while remaining true to the original. If you feel like burning some Microsoft points on a game you may play only two times at the most, feel free to dish out the 800 points for a rather disappointing update to the original TNMT.

Rating: 2/5

Check out the trailer

Pet cloning: wave of the future?

Dolly, the first cloned sheep, started it all. It began a massive debate on the ethics of cloning. The debate of animal cloning did not stop purely with Dolly the sheep. It continued on to reach into our homes and the pets that we see as our constant companions. In 2004 the first commercial pet cloners made their way out onto the market. The first commercial pet-cloning was Genetics Saving & Cloning. The company later closed its door due to a failure of technology to allow them to clone dogs as well as cats. From that point on the market has boomed as people seek to clone their pets, hoping to recreate their best friends and keep them around indefinitely.

This service has been constantly plagued with controversy. The main point of discontent that many people feel is that the organizations which offer this service misrepresent it; that they act as though the cloned pet will be the same as the original. While their appearance may be identical, the pet’s personality will most certainly vary. Those opposed to pet cloning also make the argument that the vast majority of cloned animals suffer health issues later on in life. There are those who argue that all the money that is being spent towards cloning research for pets should instead be focused on providing vaccines and basic care for those pets who are not fortunate enough to have homes.

Those who are for pet cloning argue that what should matter is that it makes the owners of these animals happy to have cloned replacements of animals who they have lost. There are some that claim that it is just the natural progression of the market and there is no point in fighting it because if people want it badly enough they will get it. And still some claim that cloning is a tool that can teach veterinarians the anatomy and function of animals’ organs.

No matter where one falls in this debate one thing is certain: this is an issue of ethics that needs to be addressed. With cloning becoming more and more sophisticated, it is only a matter of time before cloning becomes an everyday option. As cloning progresses it will not be too long before we will forced to consider the issue in regards to ourselves. Do we wish to be cloned? Before that occurs, it is certain that whatever decision is made will certainly have a long-reaching effect.

Ghostbusters: the Video Game; still the ones to call

This latest addition to the Ghostbusters franchise is Ghostbusters: the Video Game. In it you play as a rookie on the Ghostbusters squad. Each member of the squad is voiced by the original characters. The game’s story is written by the original writers of “Ghostbusters”. The events that take place in the game do so two years after the second movie. The game begins with your first mission, which starts at the Sedgewick Hotel where you face off against an old foe of the Ghostbusters, Slimer. From there on it quickly becomes apparent that something is going on in New York City as more and more ghosts begin to appear and Peck tries to shut down the Ghostbusters once more.

Game Play

It is easy to see how people would expect for the game play to get extremely repetitive and boring, the majority of the game being spent catching ghosts and forcing them into traps or destroying them alltogether. The game manages to avoid that problem by the introduction of various types of ghosts who do different things and are affected by different weapons. For instance: one of the new weapons in the Ghostbusters’ arsenal is the slime blower/tether. The blower portion of this weapon is used to save people who are being possessed while the tether is used to solve a number of puzzles throughout the game. The slime blower/tether is just one example of the various new weapons and devices added to the game. Another new device is the PKE meter. When used in conjunction with the Para-goggles, it allows you to view and find paranormal activity that would otherwise be undetectable. The game itself is basically set up as a first person shooter with various quirks of its own. Instead of having a side bar to display health it can be found on your proton pack, along with any signs that your pack may be overheating. Overheating is solved simply by venting the pack. It’s like a much quicker form of reloading for a first person shooter. You will be surprised at just how long the game’s simple but extremely fun concept will have you glued to your controller as you work to discover why the ghost world appears to be fusing with our own.

The Good

The voice acting for the game is just amazing. This has a lot to do with the fact that the old cast returned to voice the characters, giving the game a very movie-like feel as you progress in the story. The characters’ interactions felt very natural and for the most part were extremely funny. The game makes plenty of references to the movies, sometimes using the same dialog while other times having past ghosts return to fight the Ghostbusters once more. The game play is among best: simple and fluid without many flaws. The computer generated cut scenes were nothing less than amazing. The amount of detail put into the game was beyond impressive.

The Bad

The main problem I have with this game is a mechanical one. While the computer generated cut scenes were beyond amazing, at times the ones built around the games storyline were less than great, even pixelated. There are parts in the game where Bill Murray doesn’t quite live up to the acting he put into the movies, but it is only a minor distraction from the game.

Final Opinion

This game is a must have for any hardcore “Ghostbusters” fan. It stays true to the characters and true to the series. More often than not the comedy in the exchanges between the characters will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. Even if you are not a huge “Ghostbusters” fan, the game is solid and extremely fun to play.

My Rating: 4/5

Finally a Batman game we all deserved Batman: Arkham Asylum

Overview

Arkham Asylum was released late summer of 2009. The game puts you into the shoes of Batman as he returns the Joker to the island prison. Once there, the Joker breaks lose with the help of his side kick Harley Quinn, who has taken control of the asylum. After a few cut scenes, the game thrusts you into the thick, battling the Joker’s henchmen and various other villains that Batman has put behind the walls of Arkham. It quickly becomes apparent that Joker’s plan is more than a common jailbreak as he leads Batman ever deeper into Arkham and the story continues to take strange and unexpected turns.

Game Play

Story mode for the game is intense and in-depth, drawing you in and making it hard to put the controller down even when reaching the more difficult portions of the game. The combat style of game-play for Arkham Asylum is as free-flowing as you would expect, coming from The Dark Knight. Each attack easily and fluidly flows into the next, leading to massive chains of hits. Though the free flow battle system is nice, it is not the only way in which Batman dispenses his foes. More often than not, the game will require the player to sneak around, taking enemies out from the shadows. To aid you in this task are a number of gadgets and weapons you obtain as Batman throughout the game. Some are old classics like the “Batterang,” while others are new to Batman’s arsenal. Each item gives you a new way to approach each level, making it fun to go back and replay levels once you have acquired a new tool. A new aspect of game play involves the NPC’s (none player characters) they wander about each level with no set pattern. This feature allows them to respond instantly when you have snared one of their allies and left them dangling up in the air overhead. However, the free roaming feature can also be very annoying. Upon sneaking up on an enemy you are often surprised to find another coming up behind you, seemingly out of nowhere.

Features

Throughout story mode you will be given a chance to face the Riddler’s challenge. This mainly involves solving riddles or finding a hidden riddler trophy somewhere throughout the game. More of the unlockable content involves interview recordings with a number of Gotham’s villains. More of the hidden content in the game revolves around the founder of Arkham and the secret he left behind in various encoded drawings scattered all over Arkham. These are much like the Riddler’s trophies because you more or less have to stumble over them to find any. Searching for these can be a fun diversion when you have hit a wall in the gameplay. Online play for this game is more like a challenge mode where you consistently try and beat other player’s scores or times on any particular level with the two different modes of play. Exclusive to the PlayStation 3 is the ability to play one of the many challenge modes as the Joker. The Joker has his own assortment of weapons and gadgets to be used against his opponents.

Final Thoughts

There is hard to find much wrong with this game. It is clearly well developed, thought out and made a solid impression as a game based on a movie. The only real issues I have with the game are more of personal preference and that is in regards to the Joker. Yes, his quips and comments are for the most part funny but he has way too much dialog. You spend most of the game listening to him ramble on about one thing or another.

5/5

Trailer

Pocket projectors: the future

While everything has been shrinking in size, digital projectors for the most part have remained about the same. Those giant, clunky cubes are hardly something you could call portable. Several companies have been working towards fixing this issue. They’re trying to shrink those massive but useful devices down to a much smaller and more manageable size. Technology has finally reached the point where such a feat is in fact capable.

It is now a brave, new world for projectors as several companies have come out with pocket projectors a.k.a pico projectors. Ever wanted to watch a movie on your mp3 player on something besides that tiny screen, without losing its portability? Well now you can. Just imagine the fun that could be had on camping trips or any other vacation when there is no need for a source of power for a television. You can just hook up your battery-powered pocket projector to the portal device of your choice and have an instant movie theater. Some of these projectors also have the ability to hook up with dvd players and most console gaming devices. One is not limited to mp3 players alone.

The two leading companies in this new emerging field are Microvision and 3M. As with any new field, competitors are quickly rising to fill in the void of this new market, hoping to make some money on this budding niche. As a result, it will be only a matter of time before this technology continues to adapt and grow. It will not be long before pico projectors become common place items in everyday life, much like how the mp3 player was rapidly accepted into common use.

Admittedly, these projectors have their limitations. Some of these pocket projectors produce too dim of an image to be used in lit rooms. However, this is not really much of an issue since most of the time these products would be used in the dark. The images produced by these projectors are not the most sharp, but for their size they pack a big punch. For the ones that run purely off battery power, the battery life is relatively short but long enough to go through most movies. Another common complaint with these devices is the low sound quality, but some products avoid the issue by having a jack for plugging speakers or headphones in.

These devices could very well become a hot item for the Christmas season. They are pretty much an ideal gift for those who love to have the latest little gadget to show off. The price range starts as low as $170 and works its way up to $550. It may not be the cheapest item but it would be among the cheaper of the big ticket items for sale this Christmas. Whether they do well or not this Christmas, pocket projectors are certainly something to keep and eye on in the future as technology develops and they are certain to get only better.

Video games Fall 2009 preview

The Fall season is something certainly worth looking forward to this year with a number of well known and not so well known titles coming out for all three of the major consoles plus PC.

Dead Space: Extraction, September 28

This Wii exclusive is the prequel to the Dead Space game released earlier last year. This game promises the same amount of necro-morphed zombies as the first game and more twists and turns, this time for Wii owners. It is certain that this game will make use of the Wii motion sensitive control system for both shooting and slashing the alien zombies to pieces.


DJ Hero, October 27

This is the latest game in the ever-growing genre of music playing games. DJ Hero is hoping to bank into the success that its predecessors Guitar Hero and Rock Band have achieved. The game title is self explanatory. In the game you play a DJ and gradually work your way up as the game becomes more and more difficult.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, November 10

This is a sequel to one of the best selling first-person-shooters of all times. This game promises much of the same experience. Although a third party developer is responsible for making it, all indications show that it will live up to the precedent set by the original.

Dragon Age: Origin, October 27 Xbox360, November 17 ps3

BioWare, a powerhouse in creating role playing games, returns with a new addition to their impressive line up which includes Mass Effect. Though this time they have returned to their roots of fantasy role playing games. Activision has made it clear that this game should be equal to if not better than their epic best seller Baulder’s Gate.

Left 4 Dead 2, November 17

This sequel to the original Left 4 Dead game promises to be as good if not better than the previous game. This game boasts the addition of melee weapons for your heroes to use as they fight off the zombie horde. The game also sports brand new character. Say goodbye to Zoey, Bill, Francis and Louis and hello to Nick, Coach, Ellis and Rochelle. Left 4 Dead 2 is set in Louisiana and promises more special zombies along with stage-specific zombies.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, October 13

This Play Station3 exclusive game promises to be one of the most visually stunning games to be released this fall. This sequel to the original Uncharted is perhaps the most anticipated game coming out for the PS3. The original game is still in many regards, considered the best game to come out on PS3. Combine that with the stunning graphical display that was put on during the Electronic Entertainment Expo and it is easy to see why.

Forza Motorsports 3, October 27

This Xbox 360 exclusive is the third game in the stunning and fun Forza series. This sequel to the game promises more than 400 different cars, over 100 tracks and 50 different car makers. This makes Forza 3 perhaps the most in-depth Forza game to date. This is among the most anticipated car games coming out this year.

Saw: The Video game, October 6

Yes, it is here: Saw on a console. Play as one of jigsaws victims as you try and make your way through his traps and keep alive. This game very well may be a sleeper in a season full of certain blockbusters and a year with above average movie-based games.

Avatar: The Game, November 17

This game is among the most hyped coming out this season, with good reason. With its story driven content mixed with in depth multiplayer gameplay it is hard not to agree with all the hype. If all that was not enough, the game will be in 3-D on televisions, with the ability to support such features.

Gears of War 2: back to war

In this second installment of the acclaimed Gears of War game series, you are once more a member of the Cog army facing down the enemies of humanity known as the Locus. In this sequel to the original Gears of War, the Locus grew stronger since your attack on them in the first game. As a result, the Locus multiplied and different types began to appear.

This sequel features a much needed improvement to the storyline with characters who seem much more human, displaying a greater range of emotions than those found in the original game. Along with a greater amount of story and improved characters, a number of other additions made an already solid game all the better. With the improved storyline comes the game’s biggest flaw. Once the bullets stop flying and all calms down, you are still left with way too many loose ends. More than likely, the game’s designers left it that way for yet another Gears game.

There was considerable improvement to the cover and blind fire system, enabling better control. The improvements to the cover system in the game allow for players to hug much closer against walls and various other forms of cover. This prevents many of the stray hits and kills that occurred in the first game. The game flows more quickly and smoothly thanks to the improvements made to the blind fire system. It enables you not to waste as much time taking aim and instead fire wildly, pushing the Locus back when needed.

The original Gears of War was marked as one of the most violent and gory games to date. The addition of the execution system for downed enemies, initiating a different execution style for each lettered button on the Xbox controller makes it unlikely that the series will lose that reputation. Hitting A enables you to use a downed enemy as a shield to protect you from enemy fire. Pressing B initiates the quick kill; using the back of your gun, you crush your opponent’s head in. The X button causes you to curb-stomp the enemy, while Y triggers the extended execution style. The problem with the extended kill style is, once it starts, you can’t do anything to defend yourself. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself down and frantically crawling for help.

The weapons system, while not getting a complete overhaul, did get some minor tweaks that make gameplay easier. In other words: no fear, the chainsaw-equipped assault rifle remains a main staple in the game, so go forth and hack your enemies to pieces. On a more serious note, beyond the addition of a flame thrower and heavier weapons like a grinder and mortar, the only real difference is the balance of the guns. This minor (but needed) tweak enables quicker targeting and better all-around gun movement.

Another much more obvious change is the utter overhaul to the revival system. In the first game in the series, once downed you had to wait around and hope that one of your teammates would stop by and be nice enough to revive you. In this installment of the game, that is no longer an issue. By tapping A you can crawl toward your teammates in a desperate attempt to avoid becoming someone’s meat shield.

The online play for the game gained four additional play modes: horde, submission, wingman and guardian. Horde pits yourself and four other brave Gears of the Cog Army against wave after wave of attacking Locus. This mode of play is by far the most addicting, as players push themselves to improve upon their previous best survival. Submission is an interesting take on capture the flag. In this mode, the flag is a civilian that you have to capture and use as a meat shield. The only catch is that your flag is hostile and carries a gun, shooting at any opponents that get close. Wingman pits players in teams of two. The main point is that the teammates work together, reviving each other and working toward killing the enemy teams. Guardian pits two teams of five against each other, designating one member of each team as the team’s leader. The point of the game is to kill the other squad’s leader. Anyone but the squad leader can respawn after death an infinite number of times.

This is definitely a game that should be in everyone’s Xbox game library. Aside from its one flaw, this is a very solid game. The sheer amount of carnage you are capable of inflicting makes this one of the more fun recent releases for the Xbox.

Whim Score:
9.4/10

Check out the trailer!