Archive for the ‘Leisure’ Category

Nokia N82 appreciation usecase #3: The Economist in my pocket

November 5, 2008
The Economist in my pocket

The Economist in my pocket

As a subscriber to The Economist, I get the newspaper in my mailbox every Saturday (UK subscribers get it on Fridays, I believe, but up north we are not so fortunate…). However, I can usually download the MP3 edition on Thursdays. Of course, I copy it onto my N82 right away.

Most often, I listen to The Economist while walking or commuting to work, using my Koss Portapro headphones, but sometimes my ears tire from the headset, or the headset cable gets in the way as I move about tidying the house (right..).

Thanks to the N82’s pretty powerful stereo speakers, I can put the phone in my pocket and have it play The Economist for me as I walk around the house. They aren’t powerful enough for this to work well outdoors, and the sound quality doesn’t cut it for listening to music – but for radio, podcasts or audio editions of newspapers, they work fine.

My next phone will need to have at least as powerful speakers as the N82 – judging by reviews, it seems the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is well equipped; hopefully upcoming Nseries touchscreen phones (and Android handsets) are as fortunate.

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Josh Woodward and how the music industry should work

October 10, 2008

 

Josh Woodward

Josh Woodward

About 30 minutes ago, as I was listening to a friend’s radio station on http://last.fm, I heard a song by Josh Woodward – “Midnight Blue”. I was doing something else entirely, but the song was good enough to make me task-switch over to my laptop and check who the artist was. In his artist’s description, it said he was giving his music away for free.

Fabulous stuff. I headed straight over there – http://www.joshwoodward.com/ – you can download 100+ songs in MP3 format. No hassle, just zip files and music. I decided I had to donate to this guy, considering his music is great and he’s letting everyone listen to it for free and share it as they like. Turns out I can’t actually donate – I mailed him about that and got a reply (within 5 minutes!) where he explained he didn’t want to make people feel they owed him anything. What a fantastic guy. 

Anyways – it is possible to order both CDs and lossless FLAC files of his music (which is awesome) for a fee, which you set yourself. I definitely don’t need the CDs, and the FLACs are also way overkill for me, but at least I can give something back to the man for creating such great music and sharing it with everyone.

I’m crossing my fingers and hoping other artists will follow his lead!

Open letter to Sony: Why the limited multiplayer game modes in Singstar?

February 29, 2008

(Sent to Sony’s London Studio, makers of the Singstar games.)

Dear London Studio,

thanks for bringing us Singstar – a great party game. After having played Singstar for a long time I do, however, have a couple of issues with your game’s design that I believe you should address.

The 2-8 player Pass the Mic game mode is a good idea: Let people team up and play against each other. But why cap the number of players at 8? I can see no technical reason why you should have to place a limit on this number. It is very frustrating to have 9 or 10 people to visit – but only 8 can join, because of an arbitrary limit you set. Yes – having 20 players might make for boring games, because you would have to wait for a long time – but give the player that choice. How we set up our parties is our business.

My second issue is with the forced randomization of songs. It is no secret that not every song on every disc is a crowd pleaser. The random track selection should have been optional. I cannot see any reason why you should continue to force players to sing songs they don’t like. (Sorry – the 5+5 shuffle tokens do not solve the problem.)

Interestingly, this sort of unnecessarily restrictive game design is also present in the Buzz series of games – another social gaming giant. It is tempting to suggest that your common failure to provide customizable gameplay is a consequence of lacking competition – it would not require much code to add the functionality described above, yet the Pass the Mic mode has remained largely unchanged for the previous 10-12 Singstar titles.

I sincerely hope you will address my concerns in future editions of Singstar – and maybe with a patch for the PS3 version.

Best regards,

Singstar fan Are Wold

Oslo, Norway

Two mobile applications no W800i should be without

January 1, 2007

Over the past year, I’ve been a very active user of my W800i mobile phone. I find that it is one of the best consumer electronics devices I’ve ever owned. It is a very good music player, overall good phone, and great camera (for a phone) – all in one compact 2×5.5×10 cm / 99 grams package. (More on that in my 6 months on review of W800i.)

IMG_0188

The size of this phone and all the features it offers means that I can do stuff I simply couldn’t before. A few of my favourite examples include:

– Lighting up the dark path in the woods or finding the right cable connections at the rear of my receiver using the camera light

– Listen to music while walking without being concerned about missing calls or texts (the phone automatically pauses the music for me when something happens)

– Do document scans anywhere – need a copy of that A4 sheet? Just photograph it!

Mobile phones today are really small computers – increasingly similar to the general purpose computers most of us use daily. My two favourite applications are brilliant examples of this trend.
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New Year’s Eve at Camilla: Liveblog!

December 31, 2006

22:27: By popular demand, the liveblog was translated to Norwegian and moved to Calcuttagutta!

21:39: Right. As my friends here accused me of being overly trendy, since I was blogging on a Mac at the New Year’s Eve party, I decided to take it all-out and liveblog the evening!

Aerobics 1 at SiO Student Sports (briefly)

April 4, 2006

Last Friday, I joined Margrethe for an aerobics 1 session at the student sports centre, Domus Athletica. She’s been doing a series of reviews of their various training classes, but said she wouldn’t do one for aerobics 1 – I can see that now she has, but I’ll share my point of view anyway.

I’ve never done aerobics before, so I expected a steep learning curve, and that’s what I got. Usually at starter classes (those with a “1” in the name), the instructor will ask the class if anyone there are completely new. Unfortunately, this one didn’t, and just got straight into the routine.

Now, my eyes are only slightly worse than the next guy’s at the ranges we are talking about here, so I was able to follow the instructor’s moves… In a very rough fashion. However, watching and following only takes you so far, so when the instructor started off with “four steps forward, four steps back; mambo and chassé!” the only natural reaction on my part was what the f…!

With hindsight, I realise that I could’ve done a better job at reading up on aerobics jargon; I guess I thought the basics would be explained considering it was a starter class. The instructor did comment after the class that the difficulty level was a bit harder than what’s normal for aerobics 1, which was a relief.

The class itself was pretty OK, considering that I didn’t have a clue about aerobics. I found something resembling a rhythm eventually, which made it more fun, and the exercise was good. My sense of rhytm and my arms/legs/body-coordination is horrible, so this is definitely something I’ll consider doing again.

In conclusion, I’d like the instructor to be more considerate of complete newbies, but overall it was still a varied and satisfying way to exercise.

PS: If you’re male, you should be prepared for the pretty uneven gender balance – about 95% female. Let’s translate that to “twenty-five girls and one other guy — maybe”. And that other guy might be a guy whose main identifying characteristic isn’t his masculinity. So if you’re feeling sensitive about your manhood and prefer not to be the victim of about 43214 witty remarks concerning it, you might want to think twice before attending an aerobics session ;)

Multi-platform gaming with Q3, a DivX download creating a DVD sale and mind games

March 12, 2006

Yeah! Nothing’s like a good old late-night gaming session. Buddy Tor is in town, and he brought along his iBook and a copy of Quake 3 for the PowerPC platform. Surprisingly, getting Q3 ver 1.32 up and running on our Wintel computers and joining a game hosted by the Mac proved 100% effortless. I know I should not be this surprised, but I am anyway.

We were fragging away in no time, also thanks to Q3s very user friendly install procedure – copy the game from A to B and run it. Yeah! That’s the way it should be. I rocked playing against Anders and Tor on Q3DM17 – good old The Longest Yard. Me and my sturdy railgun!

Had a nice evening in other regards too, we had a lot of SingStar fun – although I am frustrated by the fact that exactly what scores information is saved where is a very foggy business. Also, SingStar 80’s seems to be the only disc to actually support profiles, and you can’t play a 4-player game using profiles and the rules from 80’s using the tracks from the other discs. You can do duets, but not 2-8 player party games. How annoying!

Big thanks to Tor and Anders for buns (I did a small part) and Lovise for the cake. Yum! And Lene for coming and bringing the usual complement of chocolate. And everyone else for being here! Holy maloney, I’ve had so much candy I feel quite… unstable. Time for bed, I think.

And, yes, we watched Serenity, the movie. And yesterday, I ordered Firefly, the series preceding the movie. That’s one example of ‘illegal file sharing’ helping the TV/movie industry sell DVDs – my first and only exposure to Firefly (the series) was through DivXs downloaded off the net.

It is incredibly ironic that in court, the downloads made in such a case would probably be converted to dollars and considered a monetary loss by the MPAA – when in fact they generated a sale, without causing the creators any financial loss whatsoever. It just makes me shake my head.

Oh, and we visited the Norwegian Museum of Technology – or Norsk Teknisk Museum, if you like. Unfortunately, we arrived rather late, so we had just two hours to spend there, which proved to be too little time. We did get to try out a “brain wave game”, though. The objective is to push a magnetically controlled orb towards your opponent by focusing on something, thereby altering your brain activity. Being calm and focused gives you low readings (good), being excited gives you high readings (bad). The readings are gathered by a headband with some metal contact points that touch your forehead.

You and the other player are seated at opposite sides of a table, there’s a long recessed field of metal where the orb moves back and forth according to the read values and a monitor showing the brain activity on the middle of the table.

The game definitely does read your brain activity. After trying once versus Anders, I played against Tor. He beat me easily the first time. The second time, I really concentrated and put everything but the orb out of my mind. I even repeated the word “orb” constantly in my head. The result: The orb crept steadily towards him and I won quite easily.

The second time around I wanted to see if this was just coincidence. An easy way to find out was to concentrate, then abruptly switch over to Singstar-mode, meaning trying to sing “I believe in a thing called love” and generally achieving a high level of excitement. That shouldn’t be very compatible with the “calm and focused” objective – and indeed, the brain activity readings spiked immediately and I was losing the game fast. However, I was able to switch back into focused mode pretty much at will, and I eventually won the game.

One word: Cool.

That’s it for today, sorry for the very long headline and winding text. It’s incredible how much you wind up typing when you eventually get down to it. Good morning!

Basic Leisure

March 4, 2006

By playing Battlefield 2, you can earn awards, like “Basic Medic Combat” – you’ll have to kill a certain number of enemies or revive a number of people, etc. Today I feel like I’ve earned the “Basic Leisure” in the game called Life ;)

I managed to squeeze in a trip by train, lectures, working on a school project, eating a nice baguette from the school cantina, buying groceries, making pizza, playing SingStar and World Rally Championship 4 with the guests of Anders’ birthday party, and finally playing Battlefield 2 for 1,5 hours. Not too bad for a Friday!

Thanks to Eivind, I also finally got a look at some footage from Spore – Will Wright’s next game. I’ve read about it before, but seeing it in action was very cool. Will they manage to make a game that open-ended interesting? GameSpy has previewed the title here and you can check out the demonstration from last year’s Game Developer’s Conference at Google Video. There’s another one with Wright from the same conference here. I’ve zoomed through most of these now, and all I can say is “wow”. This will be a game I buy just to reward innovation. Brilliant stuff.

SingStar Solo!

March 1, 2006

After thinking about it for a few days, I finally went out and bought SingStar + microphones for the PS2. I knew it was great fun, but the reason I’ve been a bit hesitant is that I’m not that often in a SingStar-friendly environment. Maybe that’ll change, but as a guy who tends to be (too) fond of singing in the shower, en route to school or just whenever the opportunity arises, I suspected that I might find it fun on my own too.

It is!

A game that requires skills of this kind; concentration, some vocal chords and a pair of ears – just engages you in a different fashion than games that only take input from your hands.

Besides, you get to learn the lyrics of great 80s songs. Oops, did I write that?!

For those not in the know, SingStar is a game in which you attempt to sing songs karaoke-style and get points based on how well you sing- that is, how good you are at hitting the right notes at the right time. You can sing alone, take turns, or sing duets with or against friends, competing for the best score. The disc I’ve here, SingStar 80s, comes with 30 songs + music videos. You play it, it plays the music and the music video, shows you the lyrics and the notes you’re supposed to sing. As you sing, you get points.

It’s probably not hard to imagine that this is a popular party game – people often need to loosen up a bit before letting it rip. Most people, anyway ;)

For the record, my favourite tracks on the 80s disc are Material Girl with Madonna, Walking on Sunshine with Katarina and the Waves and Heaven is a Place on Earth with Belinda Carlisle. Yeah!

Death Cab For Cutie – “On the road with…” DVD – background noise review

February 28, 2006

After chilling out in the sofa, surfing the net and gradually getting sleepier as the laptop grew warm on my lap while playing a DVD called “Drive well, sleep carefully – On the road with Death Cab For Cutie” in the background, it seemed only natural to write up a very short review of that DVD here.

Death Cab for Cutie DVD cover and sleepy netizen
No, I’m not on drugs, I’m just sleepy

I should probably start at the beginning (even though reviews seldom do). Why Death Cab For Cutie? Well, it happens that I live next door to a guy who tends to stay up late and listen to music. I tend to be a guy who stays up less late. As the wall between our rooms is pretty thin, I sometimes get a free dose of music through the wall. Usually, it’s pretty OK – he’s got a pretty OK taste in music. It could’ve been a lot worse.

Well, you’ve probably already guessed where this is headed. Indeed – he had been playing “Transatlanticism” (the album) by DCFC for about a week non-stop (of course, I didn’t know what the record was called then, and it was probably a little less than a week) when I asked him what he was listening to – and if he could please upload the stuff to my drive.

Eventually, he obliged, and eventually, I got down to transferring the stuff to my MP3 player. It turned out it sounded even better in my headset than through the wall. I especially like “The Sound of Settling” (though I am enourmously frustrated by its short length, which paradoxically is part of its appeal), “Transatlanticism” and “Title and registration”. (If you ever hear me humming “the glove compartment / is not accuratly named”, those are the first words of “Title and registration”. You know, just in case.)

Both of my, eh, “dorm mates” went to England some time ago, and a while after they got back this DCFC DVD turned up, and eventually found its way into the DVD player, in which fate or coincidence, take your pick, led me to play it today. So what do I think?

The DVD is a mix of concert recordings and interviews, apparently all recorded on 16mm film. The concert recordings are a bit weak in the technical department sometimes, but given the format, I guess that’s natural and meant to be charming (which is usually is on this DVD). Overall, I enjoyed listening and seeing the band in a live setting, but I think you’ll need to be a fan to really enjoy this disc. Meaning: Listen to the albums first, and since I only know one of them, that means “Transatlanticism”. I really like the first track on “Plans” too, but that’s all I’ve heard of that one yet.

Wow. That’s got to be the best background story to review-ratio the world has ever seen.

In technology, Apple released a boombox system for the iPod as well as a mac mini with an Intel processor. I feel slightly underwhelmed. Maybe if it had a wireless component built in, or something else to really differentiate it. Of course, it can charge your iPod, and you can kit it out with batteries and take it outdoors. But if I had an iPod and wanted to combine it with my stereo, I’d rather get a wireless transmitter and hook it up to my receiver, so that I could use the iPod itself as a remote control. With Apple’s solution, you swap the dandy display and cozy clickwheel of the iPod with the six buttons on the remote. Not a nice bargain.

Politics: In Iraq, somewhere between 400 and 1500 people have been killed since the Shia mosque was blown up last week. Tragic.