Tag Archives: Review

Bored by Superman

Our family settled in for a movie night on Friday night.   There’s usually an argument over what we’re going to watch, but for some reason, on Friday, Miss 10 says to me, “Dad, you can choose what to watch!”

“Awesome!”, I thought.

Despite them having watched hundreds.. no.. probably thousands of hours of movies and TV, there’s still much that they hadn’t seen yet.  I was thinking of filling them up on classic movies from when I was a kid.  Yep, daggy.  But staples that I think all kids need to have watched. 

We could finish off the Star Wars movies.  Maybe venture into Indiana Jones although maybe I’ll leave that for when they’re older.  They hadn’t finished seeing the Goonies yet.  Hadn’t seen ET, but it might freak them out.  Move onto Back to the Future 2 or Karate Kid 2 as they’ve seen the first ones? 

But I remembered, they hadn’t seen Superman yet.  Yet Superman is still part of modern culture – in song lyrics, sayings, etc.

Superman it was.  And it was slow to start.  Veerrrryyy slow.  I think movies back then were directed, edited and screenplayed at a much slower pace – they definitely wouldn’t be releasing something like that nowadays.

I tried to keep the kids enthusiasm and interest up, “Just wait – it gets better!”.  Well, I’m sure it does..  when he flies and all that right?

Wifey started drawing parallelisms between Superman and Jesus.  Hmm…

And then Superman flies out of his ice castle!  I’m happy – surely the kids need to see this momentous occasion in the movie. 

But they laughed!!!   “That looks soooo fake!” Miss 11 points out. 

Hmm..  yes it is.  Why didn’t I think that at their age?   Their standards are definitely higher than mine were. 

The groans continued as Superman did more tricks, flew above the clouds, drilled into the ground, etc.

Then when Superman turns back time to save Lois, Miss 11 points out a major plot flaw – “What happened to the earthquake and the other damage?”  “Good question” I had to answer.  I don’t know!  Superman definitely didn’t go back beyond the time when the rocket hit the fault line. 

Then it was all over with rousing John Williams music that the kids said sounded like Star Wars.   The final verdict?  “Boring” says Miss 10 and Miss 11.

Oh well, at least they’ve seen it – I can cross that one off the list.   I’m pretty confident I won’t get to choose the next family movie for movie night.

Have you made your kids watch your childhood favourite movies?  Were they as good as you remembered?

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MyTown iPhone Game Review

The multitude of functions of the iPhone have introduced a whole new range of games.  MyTown, made by Booyah,  is one that combines location (GPS), map information (where buildings and businesses are) and social networking together to be a location-based game.  Some think of it like Foursquare, or an expanded version of Facebook’s checkin facility.

But I like to think of it as real world Monopoly that you play on your phone!  Sounds geeky right?

Booyah claim that it’s the most popular location based social game ever.   Big call!

I think the original idea was when you’re at some place (cafe/restaurant/business/anything), that you fire up MyTown and check in to say that you’re there.   You get a bonus for checking in to properties when you’re actually physically closer to it.  You can also receive items for checking in at places.

Radio City Music Hall - one of my properties

The next aspect to the game is purchasing properties.  At first I didn’t get this at all.   I mean why would you want to buy your local deli, cafe, bar, etc?  It’s definitely one way of saying “I like this place!”, but buying virtual properties lets you earn rent and create items.  Rent gives you money which lets you upgrade and decorate your properties.  Items lets you earn more money or items.   There’s only a fixed number of properties you can buy and you’re also constrained by how much money you have (well, the initial parts of the game) – but you unlock “slots” more as you play the game more.

Since MyTown must host a massive database of every property in the world (HA!), they can keep track of how many people check in at each one and calculates a popularity rating which can affect the current “price” of the property.

Besides upgrading, buying and selling properties, you can also create “items” at your properties – depending on what type of business it is.  I don’t see the point of this side of the game unless you’re into levelling up.  I’ve persisted for a while – for exmaple, getting my Gas and Convenience to 16 skill points.  But so what?  So I can unlock more items?  Little Miss 11 plays this game too but hasn’t even touched this side of the game.

Creating items and increasing your skill level

So when I started playing, I just had a few local popular businesses.  Then I started checking in more often when I was out and about around Perth.  And adding places like Burswood Casino, Subi Oval, Greens & Co, etc to my property portfolio.  But I wasn’t earning much cash at all.

Burswood Casino

Then I found out how you can “game” the system. 

Seems like you can turn off Location Services on your iPhone/iDevice for MyTown (or just play it on a non-GPS iDevice), and then when you start up, it asks you which city you are in.  You can put it any city in the world! 

Turning off Location Services for MyTownChoose any town you want!

It seems to make sense to buy the most popular properties in the game, and they seem to be the ones that are closest to the default location of each city.  Actually, if you look at the list that comes up, many people end up choosing Abilene, Texas and then checking in and/or buying the first properties on this screen or anything closer than 100m to where you are in Abilene, Texas.

Choose properties less than 100m away

Take a look at Abilene Educational Supplies!   The problem with this now is that the property rankings in MyTown have nothing to do with how popular the property is in real life at all.  In my eagerness to get more money, I ended up buying properties like this in the U.S. (Bitsy’s Flowers, Quiznos, Hoofbeats), and famous tourist destinations like the Apple Store in New York, Statue of Liberty, etc.

Hoofbeats - one of the most popular and valuable properties

And now I don’t really play the game much anymore.

I think they need to do a few things:

  • Stop people checking in and buying places that they aren’t actually at.  It means the whole property popularity thing has no meaning.   But then again, it’s a game right?  Not some official data collection service.
  • Change the UI.  The styling, colour and graphics need to be slicked up.  Maybe it’s meant to be targeted towards kids – in which case it’s fine.  
  • Perhaps see who just checked in at a location like Facebook or Foursquare?  But maybe this is not the intent of the game.
  • Increase the social aspect of the game.  At the moment I can “visit” someone else’s set of properties and send them a message, but that’s about it.  Would be nice to see common properties, or set up tasks/challenges like We Rule Quests or FarmVille.

For older players (like me!), I think I’ll be content in just checking in in Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare.

More info here:  http://www.booyah.com/products/mytown

App Store for Macs

Wow!  Apple is clever…   they seem to have recognised and acknowledged the ease and success of the App Store on the iPhone, iPad, iPodTouch platform and expanded this to their personal computer market.

Yep, if you haven’t heard – the latest update of the OSX operating system introduces the App Store to Macs.

What a great idea!!  I can definitely see myself buying and downloading apps and games, especially if they’re competitively priced.  So consumers will now get more out of the Macs.  And this will also encourage developers to write more applications and games for Macs since the distribution model is all there – the App Store is just too easy to buy and install a new application or game!!   I wonder if this will convert users who have iPhones but Windows computers at home to a Mac too.

The first thing I looked up was the new iLife 2011 upgrade.   I was thinking – maybe I can upgrade the parts I want, like maybe just iPhoto.   So I did some price comparisons between the Australian Apple Store and the AppStore.

Retail Store Price – iLife ’11  (iPhoto 11, iMovie 11, GarageBand 11 + existing iDVD and iWeb) = AUD $69

Retail Store Price – iLife ’11 Family Pack (As above but install on up to 5 computers in the house) =  AUD $99

App Store Price –  iPhoto $17.99 + iMovie $17.99 + GarageBand $17.99 = AUD $53.97

So, it looks like if you only have 1 Mac at home to upgrade to iLife ’11, it’s cheaper to buy it through the App Store than off the shelf.  But if you have more than 1 Mac, it’s already cheaper to buy the Family Pack off the net.   But if you don’t need all the new iLife applications for the whole family – for example, if I only wanted to upgrade to iPhoto and no-one else, it’s definitely cheaper to buy it through the App Store.

But then I had an idea – one really valuable aspect of the iPhone App Store is that I can buy a game once, and then my family can also install this for free on their iDevices thanks to Home Sharing.  I’ve done a bit of Googling but can’t seem to find any mention of Home Sharing for the Mac App Store, which is disappointing.  Why should I be able to share Angry Birds between my iPhone, my wife’s iPhone and Little Miss 11’s iPod Touch, but not Angry Birds for the Mac to my wife’s Mac?   Apple – any Home Sharing planned?   I guess not being part of the iTunes framework might make it technically hard to do this?

So how does the purchasing and installation experience work?  Just the same as the iPhone platform.  After signing in with my App Store account, I clicked the “Free” button for a few of the free applications like EverNote and MindNode.   My dock showed them downloading and they just installed seamlessly to my Applications folder.  I did notice that downloaded applications seemed to be pinned to the dock by default.   Arghh!!   Does this have to be the default?   I guess it might help the newbie Mum and Dad who wondered where their purchase went, but this could cause a lot of clutter!!!!

Actually, on clutter – I think people’s Macs will now get cluttered with useless applications and games!

Anyways, I can see my whole weekend taken up by browsing all these apps I never knew existed for the Mac.  I expect that it will take a few weeks/months for the App Store rankings to settle down and be more meaningful too.   I can’t wait until more commercial and common software is available through the App Store for easy purchasing and/or installation – Adobe, Sibelius, Firefox, Chrome?

Awkward cinema moments

We grabbed the opportunity to buy cheap tickets to see Megamind last night.

Does anyone like Event Cinemas’ pre-allocated seats?

Works fine I think – definitely choosing your seat like any other type of show brings the cinema out of the dark ages, and removes that frustrating feeling of walking into a cinema, seeing all those seats and arguing over where to sit.    I remember plenty of times when we’ve been torn between sitting towards the middle, about a third from the front or near the back.

Actually, I wonder if the position you sit in the cinema is relative to your age?   In my teen years, I always wanted to be closer to the front, but now I opt for the “middle”.   When I was dating, towards the back would be good.   And I reckon when you’re older, you would tend to sit further away.

Anyway I digress.   Pre-allocated seats should work.

Except when someone else is sitting in your seat.  Or someone else thinks you’re sitting in their seat!

How can this be?  We were definitely sitting in the right spot.   Date – check.  Time – check.  Cinema number – check.  Row – check.  Seat number – check.

So what went wrong?   I don’t know – all I know is that I missed the first minute or so of Megamind as the latecomers were wondering what to do about us having the same seat numbers.

And I couldn’t rewind back to the beginning!  Arghhh…   What’s with this shared viewing and no personal control of the movie?  Movie review in the end?  OK – a bit too convoluted for young kids, not witty enough for me  😦

At least we got the kids out of our hot house for a while.   Can’t wait until that aircon repairman comes!

2010 – Year In Review

Happy New Years all my blog readers!   I can’t believe how fast 2010 has gone.   Or the 2000’s for that matter.  Suddenly we’re in another new decade!   I wonder what we’ll call it – not the naughties, maybe the teens?

I spent the last week feeding myself silly..  well, not as much as last year – definitely tried to eat less this year so there’d be less to lose in the coming months!

Since I’ve started a trend with myself, thought I’d better continue with my year in review!  So, here’s the good and bad of 2010!

The Good!

Violin

I think the violin went well in 2010.   I don’t know how I managed to, but I’m really proud of learning/cramming in the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in time for the Fremantle Eisteddfod.   This together with becoming a finalist in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra and an orchestra gig made 2010 feel productive on the violin front.   However, I wish I had the time to have had a violin lesson or two, and play in one of the community orchestras.  Maybe in 2011?

Bike/Fitness

Well, it started quite well with doing the 60km HBF ride, riding weekly and later the Ride to Work day.  I managed to get up to Kalamunda a couple of times, but it’s really highlighted that I need to develop my hill climbing power!   Unfortunately, in the last 2 or so months, my riding has decreased.   I hope to cycle more in 2011 again.  I really need to get a bike computer so I know how much I’m really doing, and maybe a heart rate monitor too..

Community

For me, my community giving in 2010 was to my daughters’ Primary School.   Many hours went into work for the School Board because of the Building the Education Revolution program, but by the end of 2010, I decided to it was time to quit and re-balance my time back to the family.

Photography Business

2010 will be the year that I started to make my hobby of photography to start earning something!   Overall I’m still making a loss  as my equipment and time outlays far outweigh any profit, but at least I can fund some smaller equipment purchases from sales – allowing me to take and process better photos!

Travel

Even though the total number of getaways with the family was less in 2010 than 2009, travel was still a highlight because of our family trip to Japan!   We had such an awesome experience in the amazing culture there – I can’t wait to go back!

Digitizing Home Videos

My big project of digitizing our home videos is practically finished!  All handycam videos from Video8, MiniDV and the new AVCHD HDD camera are now all on the computer in iMovie!   Yes, it’s slow doing it in realtime, but it’s doable.

The Not So Good

Dates

Aarghghghg!  I don’t know what happened, but dates with wifey really suffered in 2010.  We were meant to do a dinner date once a month on our anniversary day but that fell apart.   I’m DETERMINED to make this work in 2011.

Me Time

Well, I guess I made my violin time my “Me Time” earlier in 2010.  But as for PS3 gaming, considering I still haven’t finished Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 or Assassin’s Creed 2, not so good 😦

Lindyhop

The number of times we went out dancing can fit on one hand.  Unfortunately 2010 was a poor year for swing dancing.   One night of Hullabaloo, a few times at the Mustang, some DJ gigs at the Deen…   and that’s about all 😦  Even for the 2010/2011 New Years Eve, it’s the first time we didn’t go dancing in 10 or so years…

Neither Here Nor There

Movies/TV

What did I watch in 2010?   It will be the year that we watched  Mad Men Season 2, 24 Season 7, Caprica Season 1, more So You Think You Can Dance and Australian MasterChef, but the show that we really got hooked on and watched most of in 2010 – True Blood!

Books

Ah, my night time habit – reading in bed before I got to sleep.  Probably not the best thing to do when I want my brain to slow down, but it’s the only time I have.   In 2010, I read all of the fantastic Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Ender’s Game sequel Speaker for the Dead, Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About The Bike, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, Daniel Levitin’s This is Your Brain on Music and Lee Child’s Gone Tomorrow.    Currently next to my bed is a few book’s on parenting teenagers – The Princess Bitchface Syndrome by Michael Carr-Gregg and Michael Riera’s very useful Staying Connected to Your Teenager

2011 Resolutions?

Yep, I’ve sat down with Wifey to write a list of changes for 2011!   One of the things we’ve put down is an idea from a friend in Singapore – parent dates with individual kids!   We’re aiming for one a quarter – hopefully it will work out!

U2 360 in Perth

WOW!

What a way to end an awesome weekend.   On Saturday we had family and friends over for a big swim, BBQ and Christmas carols party.

And then on Sunday, thanks to a friend on Facebook, we scored 2 cheap tickets to the U2 concert 🙂  Having not gone to many concerts this year, I HAD to go this one!!

I had heard about the giant spider like stage structure that was built to dwarf all the stadiums it was put in, but walking into Subi Oval and seeing taking up a third of the oval was just mind boggling.  The stage .. was..  just HUGE!  I wonder how they got it in there – there were initial rumours that the stage would not even fit (http://u2.interference.com/f304/360-stage-not-able-to-fit-in-subiaco-oval-perth-208863.html).

The stage looked even more spectacular as the night grew on, with the lighting rig and the huge circular screens wrapping the entire structure lighting up the venue.  I loved the mirror ball right on top of the central spire – later in the evening it was reflecting dots of light all over the oval!     And when the whole screen thing expanded – ultra cool – and the geek in me was thinking, “what a cool engineering feat” 🙂

But one thing struck me and Wifey throughout the U2 set..   this was “just” 4 musos on stage.  I can’t believe the sound they put out.  I’m sure there must be some backing tracks/layers in there, but still..   VERY impressed.    I was following The Edge and had that young dream of being a guitarist with your awesome sound amplified to a large stadium…

U2 in concert... sorry about the quality - no cameras with detachable lenses allowed!

Wifey and I haven’t kept up to date with U2’s latest albums, so I was extremely excited to hear older stuff.  Big thumbs up for “All I Want Is You”, “Desire”, “Where The Streets Have No Name”, “With Or Without You”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.  Interestingly, since U2 have been around for so long, the crowd was quite mixed with not many teens.   The full setlist is here:  http://www.u2gigs.com/article806.html

As for sound – I’m so glad this gig was at the Subi Oval (I should stop calling this..  it’s now Paterson’s Stadium) and not Burswood Dome.  The sound was MUCH better, and there was so much space that we still had some personal space around us 🙂  And we didn’t all have to squeeze through a handful of airlock doors to get out!

Definitely recommend fans to go to this concert – I think the next stop is Johannesburg!

Warmup act was Jay-Z.  Strange combination, but he and his band were good 🙂  Even though the forecast said chance of a shower, there was some light drizzle during the concert which was actually quite refreshing (although it did make the metal floor quite slippery).   So glad the weather held out until about midnight when it actually did rain more heavily!

Then it was all over…  a great way to end the weekend, and 2010.  The last date night for 2010?   I’m hoping we can squeeze in another date before the end of the year!

Upgraded to iPhone iOS 4!

Not sure if existing iPhone 3G/3GS owners are aware – but you can upgrade your iPhone to the latest firmware that comes on the new iPhone 4’s.   Yep!  New features!  FOR FREE!  And you don’t need to buy an iPhone 4.

There’s a whole ream of new small features.  But as I have an “old” iPhone 3G, I don’t get the whole lot.

What I like

Playlist management

Before this update, the only way to create a playlist on the fly was using the On the go playlist.   It was definitely not the best way of saving a collection of favourite tunes or tunes you wanted to listen to.

At last, now you can create as many custom playlists as you like!

But one feature that is missing – the ability to add the currently playing song to a specific playlist.  I would have thought that this would be a common use case – you’re listening to a song that you like, then want to add it to a playlist.  Aargghhh!

Merged Inbox

I have an iiNet account and a Gmail account both for personal use.  Previously on the iPhone I would have to navigate up and down the tree to check emails on both accounts.  Now, I don’t have to.  Fantastic.

Folders for applications

Alright – this is a great feature!  Hands up who had screens and screens worth of applications?  Me!

I’ve now re-organised my applications into groups on my first main screen.  The result is just 2 clicks to get to my most used applications and games.  Yes I hear people complaining that you can’t add more than 12 applications into one group.   But hey, if you had more than 12 I don’t think you’d save any extra UI interactions to get to the application you want – you’d need more than 2 clicks/swipes.

Too many folders

I’m just struggling with the most suitable way to group the applications.  Where should I put Flickr?  In an “Internet” group for internet related applications, “Photography” since it’s all about photos, or “Social” since it’s all about sharing and engaging with friends?

Expanded folders in iOS4

I started with heaps of folders on my home page, but then realised that I only really used a handful of these applications all the time, and I now introduced two clicks to get to them.  So I’ve now re-organised my applications so the most used are directly on the first screen, and folders can flow into the second screen.

Consolidated my folders

iBooks

Yay!  Another digital book application to add to my existing Kindle, Borders and Wattpad apps.   I spent a whole evening downloading as many free books as I could find thanks to Project Gutenburg – http://www.gutenberg.org/.

iBooks

What could be improved

No multitasking

I was really looking forward to this, just so I can swap between applications quicker.  A friend showed me how it works on his iPhone 3GS and it’s really quick to switch apps.

Unfortunately for him, he left a GPS application running in the background accidentally and it chewed up nearly all his battery without him realising!  Hmmm..

5x Digital Zoom

It’s responsive, but hey, it’s just digitally zooming a 2 megapixel picture so the result is quite pixelated, especially at the 5x end of the zoom.  I’m sure I would use a little bit of zooming if I can’t actually get closer to the subject I’m taking, but otherwise *yawn*.

Upgrade experience

So first thing I did was upgrade my iTunes, and then proceeded to upgrade the OS on my iPhone.  But the first thing iTunes does is backup your phone which took hours!  Then it puts on your OS, then puts all the applications back on it.  For me, I had to leave this to run overnight – it was just taking too long.

And then the next morning when I checked to see how it went, I found that I had lost all my email configuration and emails and contacts!  Even my Safari bookmarks were gone.  Basically all individual application data was lost.

Since then

Since upgrading, I’ve found that the UI can be a bit sluggish at times.   There was one time when my iPhone got “stuck” in the Phone application and pressing the Home button didn’t even go to the home screen anymore.

I decided to upgrade Miss 11’s iPod Touch to the latest firmware, and after that she found that she couldn’t play music anymore!   The iPod music application would keep on quitting.  A restore of a backup seemed to fix things.

So final verdict?  Don’t upgrade yet.   I’d recommend friends to wait until the next firmware update if possible so that these issues can be ironed out.