Thursday, 28 January 2010

All hail the arrival of the iPad …

I haven’t seen so many geeks so excited about a gadget for an eternity (myself included). The Internet has literally been oozing with desire, rumour and conjecture about the iSlate/iTablet – and now we know … it’s the iPad. Not since the very first sex toy was revealed have people wanted to glide their sweaty hands over a piece of erm functional technology so badly. Shame about the name. Still, this can’t be a review since I haven’t managed to get my hands on one (yet). So, what’s all the hype about?

Well... let's have a look. What are we waiting for?!

Let’s be honest. The iPad is a sexy beast. It’s everything we have come to love about Apple. They make user friendly, innovative, functional sexy shit that makes other companies panic and run around like headless chickens trying to emulate Apple. My instant gut reaction is that I want an iPad and I don’t even know why! Apple claims it’s “The best way to experience the web, email, photos, and video. Hands down.” Wow! I don’t know about that but did I mention it might be the sexiest way to do all those things? I’ve read the specs, I seen the video, I’ve marvelled at the design but … (there is always a but) the question is would I buy one? To be honest, It looks like a big iPod or iTouch and you can’t exactly call that a criticism. Some might say 9.56inches is big and be proud. I say, it’s small. Handy. A good size. And with a width of 7.47inches – it’s going to be small enough to cart around very easily. It’s a veritable pocket powerhouse promising extreme intuition for the user and features we’re already familiar with only better. My mum can use it. My Nan can use it. My dad can use it.

As the blurb says, it does everything you can do normally – only better. If I listen to my heart as it thuds ever so delicately in my chest, I’m already whipping out my credit card as I type (yes, that’s right, I can multitask). But if I listen to my head and stop to think, I don’t think I’d buy it. It didn’t blow my socks off quite as much as I thought it would. You could say that my expectations were too high but if you have an iTouch or an iPhone – why would you buy an iPad? If you want a bigger screen, more speed and an ability to play more games then I guess you might be tempted but it doesn't offer much more than the iPhone. And it is missing features. No camera (I double checked and still find it hard to believe it doesn’t have one) so no pics and no video conferencing. As a photographer, I was tempted to get one to dump my photographs on when I’m travelling and use it as a portable hard drive. Oh no, wait, it doesn’t have an SD card slot? Shoot. Never mind, I’ll use the USB port as a connection. What? There isn’t one? Hmmm. Of course, you could look at it the other way and say that, since it's just like the iPhone/iTouch, it's instantly usable by millions of people. A bit like Windows without the glitches *coughs* And the iBook feature which looks super amazing. That I am interested in.

Now Apple has a loyal army of hardcore followers that must have the latest Apple gizmo so I don't need to be psychic to know that this gadget will sell. But I’d rather wait for the new iPhone and get that instead. Or, if I really want one when I finally manage to caress one in a shop, I might wait till the 2nd or 3rd incarnation. Or, if the exchange rate works out in our (UK's) favour, I might still get one anyway and live a little - $500 for the basic iPad is around £350. *sigh* I'm normally so decisive.

Decisions, decisions. What should I do? Views? Opinions? Will you all be getting one?

Treehouse rating: N/A (For now)

Could be a chronic case of iron pyrites or golden Apples ...

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Sunday, 24 January 2010

2009 we barely knew ye..

2009 was a great year for cool stuff, and now that we’re firmly into 2010, we can safely look back without anger, and assess our favourite moments of all the cool stuff, and work out which was coolest. Cool films, cool games, movers and shakers, all the best bits. Come on through to see my roundup of both stuff and things that went well in 2009, and a little look forward to 2010 too.

Best Film

It was a fantastic year for sci fi nerdy joy with an avalanche of hotly anticipated brilliance right throughout the seasons, from Watchmen to Star Trek to Avatar, but who could’ve predicted it would be a (relatively) low budget, deeply personal and political buddy movie that would see them all off? Yes, my sci fi movie of the year has to go to District 9. By turns hilarious, disturbing, thrilling and moving, District 9 is that rare gem of a movie where you expect little and come away with so much. Of all the movies released in 2009, with perhaps the exception of Avatar, District 9 is the one people will remember years from now as being an important milestone both in the genre and in the creation of a force to be reckoned with in 1st time director Neil Blomkamp.

Best Comedy Character

In the year of Hangovers and Brunos, laughs were generally pretty thin on the ground in 2009. Perhaps that’s why the movie that made me laugh more than any other came so far out of left field, being as it was Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. Sure there was plenty of wincing too in this uber violent jew-ish-fulfillment vengeance wet dream, but punctuated with moments of such comic brilliance to make it stick out firmly in the mind. Brad Pitt's drawl. The pipe. The headbutt. Colonel Landa generally. In fact lets just make him best character of 2009 and be done.


Best game is a tricky one as I spent most of 2009 playing Fallout 3 – technically a 2008 title, but one of such breadth and depth, it took me that long to get through it. Add in the expansion packs and cor blimey guvnor that’s more gaming than you can shake a Chinese officer’s sword at. But rules is rules, so for a strictly 2009 only GOTY, look no further than Batman Arkham Asylum. With a sublime mix of stealth and brawling, both masterfully implemented, never before have we felt so Batman-y. If God is in the details, Batman Arkham Asylum is a religious experience, the beautifully crafted asylum is choc full of delicious nods to Batman’s glorious comic book roots, with villains and in jokes under every flowerpot. Throw in some truly out-there set pieces, flawless voice acting and a combat system so tightly implemented, dropping into a room full of thugs and walking away moments later, the assailants soundly snoozing with broken limbs a-plenty, has never felt so rewarding.

Best TV moment

A fire burns in a ceremonial bowl. A young man silently weaves at a loom. Now he’s on a pristine beach, catching a fish and cooking it on a stone, before eating it from a banana leaf. Up trots another slightly shifty looking man, and they have a chat, an ongoing argument. The shifty man asks him if he realises how badly he wants to kill him. The man replies he does. “Always nice talking to you Jacob”, and as we pan back, we see the man sits in the shadow of the enormous Egyptian statue until now glimpsed only in the distance, and all those years ago, by Sayid as merely a foot. Yes its Lost, yes it’s still amazing, and yes it will all be over soon. What will we do without it? The reveal of Jacob, the mysterious secret keeper of the island as a simple island dwelling fisherman at the start of the season finale was typically brilliant Lost. It told us so much, and yet so little. The later reveal about who a certain character wasn’t what we thought either was equally thrilling. Where do we go from here?

Biggest Tearjerker

Aside from the moment in Avatar when Jake flies for the first time (oh wow!), there was only one other movie moment in 2009 that jerked my ducts, and that was UP. In a sequence of unprecedented genius (actually, Pixar have a long history of genius so perhaps not totally unprecedented) we see our youthful protagonists grow up and grow old together, and heart breakingly, one of them pass away, all in the space of a 3 minute sequence in the first act of the film. We don't know these characters well yet, having only been introduced to them moments earlier, and yet the sequence is so powerfully moving, people in the cinema were openly blubbering, and we suddenly fully understand a character for the entire rest of the movie, who would otherwise have been rather unlikeable. It's testament to Pixar's brilliance that they would even consider putting such a sequence in a film like UP in the way that they did, but to get it so right, so emotionally spot on, is just mind blowing.

Best news for real Doctor Who fans

Ok, so I know I'm kind of in the minority here, but I for one am very pleased to finally see the back of Tennant and his leash holding idiot savant ego maniac scribbler Russel T Davies. Yes Davies re booted the Doctor, yes without him we wouldn't have had the success that was Eccleston and the handful of good episodes turned in since his departure, but he has also subjected us to some of the biggest stinkers. He single-handedly destroyed the Master, reduced from a hirsute arch nemesis to a blathering bin-man mug. His plots revolved around whatever zeitgeisty dross he had happened to read about in the Metro the day before, thank Christ Tennant to his credit had the good sense to veto the "Harry Potter" episode, where magic became real and guest starring JK Rowling. Jesus. And the Doctor meanwhile turned into the trendy geography teacher who always knew what was going on, never had a worry, and had 2 expressions - smug or wide eyed. His finale was a typically painful affair, spewed from Davies' backside and loaded with nonsensical drivel as everyone wondered what Timothy Dalton was thinking, the climax of which saw Tennat simpering, " I don't want to go..". On that pay I bet you didn't, now piss off. Early indications for 2010 are rosy, new boy Matt Smith under real writer Steven Moffat looks a good fit, although his penchant for shouting Geronimo is a littlle worrying. Watch this space..

Best game featuring a turntable based peripheral

Perhaps surprisingly the winner for me in this heavily populated gaming genre is Freestyle Games' DJ Hero. With a solid deck in the box, a set list of such quality I need to get it on my Ipod, and game play so intense there will be whole generations of wannabe DJ's with massive right arms and an affinity for flickering colourful patterns. A true innovation that is a start to what I hope will be a massively successful series, the joy of decks is alive and well. DJ battles over Xbox live prove a hit and miss affair - poor losers are prone to ditching when the tunes not going their way, but when it works, its a blast. Pure toe tapping, carpal tunnel inducing goodness.

Best phone that wasn't an I-phone

Slightly biased as I didn't do a whole lot of exhaustive testing, but the winner here is, my new phone, the HTC Hero phone. Its a lovely bit of kit, but I mention it here because of its awesomeness in the pocket gaming arena. Thanks to a healthy homebrew community, the android phone can play existing collections of roms for all of your old favourites from the Nes, Megadrive, Super Nes, master system and more. Duckhunt is now a regular fixture on mine, yes it supports the lightgun games. The caveat for the freedom of distribution is you must own any rom you download, otherwise its just bare-faced piracy. Luckily my games collection is extensive, but now they come with me in my pocket..

So that was 2009, but what of 2010?? Well, there's plenty afoot , but for now, lets just make do with..

Most hotly anticipated film of 2010

The only film on my radar, obliterating all others, is this remarkable looking monster from Christopher Nolan. What. Is. This? Not since the Matrix has there apparently been a film of such broad vision that we knew so little about. One of those rare cinematic experiences where you cannot know what you are going to see, you have to see it for yourself.

Most hotly anticipated game of 2010

With a solid 11 months til the appearance of Natal, I’ll have to come up with something else to look forward to in the meantime. There are a few things that spring to mind, most of them sequels disturbingly, all though 2009’s finest were mostly sequels too come to think of it. So there’s Mass Effect 2, Battlefield BC 2, Bioshock 2 lets hear it for the 2’s! Also Heavy Rain will finally fall, and I am very interested to see how that turns out, will it be the catalyst to the final PS3 purchase? No I'm still pretty sure the Last Guardian will see to that, and that remains one of my most eagerly anticipated games ever. But as we’ve covered it elsewhere, lets pick something new.. hrmm, ok, how about Metro 2033. From a team composed largely of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R crew, and set in the crumbling metro/bomb shelter under Moscow, this ruskie apocalypse game is set to be right up my proverbial. That said, I will miss the open fields and the melancholy trees of Stalker-ville, so maybe I should just opt for the imminent S.T.A.L.K.E.R instalment, call of Pripyat. Means I’ll need to upgrade my rig though, damn..

There's plenty more to look forward to of course, but what are you hoping to get out of 2010? Tell me now!

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