11.28.2009

Ten Reasons We Don't Want The Next Gen



Why new consoles would be a bad thing. Viva la PS3 and Xbox 360!

Australia, November 26, 2009 - Normally by this stage in a console generation's lifespan, we'd have at least one eye trained on the consoles around the corner. Not so this time. Nope, this time there are just too many compelling reasons why the PS3 and Xbox 360 (we're not including the Wii in this particular debate) should hang around for several more years at the least. We've jotted down the ten we think are most salient.



1) Modern Consoles Evolve


Remember the (not so) good old days when you bought a console and you pretty much knew what it could do from the outset? The PS2, for instance, could play music, DVD movies and games… and that was about it. Sure, later in its life you could get a network adapter to take it online, and it had all sorts of peripherals (guns, microphones, guitars) that helped evolve what it was capable of, but really, the system's functionality didn't change a great deal from picking it up on the store shelf to retiring it to the back of the cupboard.

Fast forward to the PS3 and Xbox 360 – systems that are permanently net-connected and that have decent storage capabilities (unless you own the Xbox 360 Arcade, in which case – go buy a 120GB HDD for it now) – and it's a completely different story. Think about how these systems have changed and are continuing to change. Since the PS3 launched, for instance, its multimedia functionality has become a whole lot more flexible – it now supports far more video formats than it originally did. Its online service has also improved drastically, with revamped friends lists, redesigned Store interfaces and other changes, while all sorts of other things have been added over time – the trophy system, the ability to play PSone games downloaded from the PlayStation Store, upscaling PSone games, PS2 games and DVD videos, XMB functionality, and so on. And then there are services that have been introduced, like VidZone – streaming music video clips on demand, and PlayTV, which turns your PS3 into a Personal Video Recorder.

Avatars REVOLUTIONISED our Xbox experience (hence, the 'New Xbox Experience'), while PlayTV means you need never miss an episode of 'Tom Selleck's Moustache A-Go-Go' again!

As for the Xbox 360, well we've seen regular updates to the system's front end since its inception. 1080p video output was added, the Marketplace got its own blade, Windows Live Messenger functionality was integrated in, and then we had the 'New Xbox Experience' which was a major dashboard overhaul, introducing avatars and the ability to install games to HDD, as well as a new GUI. Plus, while the system may not play Blu-ray discs, it has been trying to keep up in terms of SD and HD video content. 1080p streaming has now launched in a number of territories including Australia, while the U.S. has had a decent video marketplace for ages. Throw in Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm integration and the system's functionality is almost unrecognisable.



2) Higher Development Costs Means Safer Games


It already costs a fair sack of cash to make a blockbuster title for PS3 or Xbox 360. The number of man hours that goes into the creation of something like GTA IV, Modern Warfare 2 or Uncharted 2 is insane, and total development costs can run from millions to tens of millions. And that's before you even start marketing and manufacturing it. Development costs have been steadily rising since the industry's inception, but with each new console generation it typically jumps, as all sorts of research is required to get up to speed on the new hardware, while with each new level of visual fidelity expected, asset creation takes longer and costs more. Generational jumps tend to represent significant changes, after all. A character that would have been comprised of a couple of thousand polygons on PS2 or Xbox for instance, jumps up to tens of thousands on PS3 or Xbox 360. It's important to note, however, that progress obviously doesn't stop within a generation - a car in Forza Motorsport 3 has ten times as many polygons as a car in Forza 2, for instance. The use of the hardware will always improve, but as soon as you jump to new hardware, the ground starts shaking beneath developers' feet and there's a heap if shoring up that needs to be done before things settle down, and that costs money.

Woeful licensed games can simply be ignored now, but what if they were all that the eye could see?

The upshot is that while many developers and publishers are already reluctant to take risks with PS3 and 360 games (because blockbusters cost so much to make), a new generation of consoles would require an even more significant investment, and you can bet that we'll see a lot of licensed games and paint-by-numbers titles initially. Conversely, the longer a system is on the market, the more streamlined development becomes and the more viable fringe titles become. After all, the bigger the install base, the more mega niches are likely to form.



3) Sequel Delays


Just as development costs have been rising ever since videogames came into being, so too has the length of time it takes to develop a triple A title. The resources required are staggering, and as soon as you move to new hardware, the longer it's going to take to make an ambitious title. It already takes two to three years to make a great PS3 or Xbox 360… who wants to wait four to five years for GTA V?



4) 3D Gaming Is Coming… Without New Hardware


3D is undoubtedly going to be one of the most significant changes to gaming over the next few years, and the good news is we don't need new gaming hardware to do it! The PS3 in particular seems poised to be a leading light in this area, as Sony will have the 3D TV range to really show off the capabilities of 3D gaming, and is being quite vocal in this area. Sony's Kaz Hirai recently stated that: "Next year, in tandem to the Sony 3D TV product launch, PS3 also plans to launch 3D game titles, not just first-party, but we're also actively supporting third-party 3D software development." The timeline for the system is for all PlayStation 3 consoles to be upgraded with firmware adding support for 3D by the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011. That is HUGE news. Whether it will be backwards compatible or not, the PS3 will be set for all new titles moving forward to support it. 3D is going to change the gaming landscape and that sexy black box (or cheap-looking black box if you have a Slim) under your TV has the hardware partners and the data throughput to do it all at 1080p.

This would look so much cooler in 3D. It'd be like, woah dude it's coming right for me!

The future is not so certain for the Xbox 360. Sure, there are 3D titles being created for the system, such as Avatar (which is also coming to PC and PS3 in 3D), but how well the system will handle 240hz 1080p 3D and how consolidated Microsoft's approach to the technology will be, remains to be seen.



5) New Control Interfaces Are Coming… Without New Hardware


There are other big things on the horizon for the PS3 and Xbox 360 aside from 3D. Yes, we're talking about the PS3 Wand and Natal. How much they'll change the landscape is obviously debatable, but the point is that in the right hands they'll help reinvent how we interact with our consoles and our games. As mentioned earlier, this is a generation of machines that will never grow stagnant – it's a constant evolution of functionality; a constant process of redefining what gaming is.

6) Gaming Is About More Than Graphics


While gamers still crave games with graphics that'll make their eyes bleed, the reality is that with each console generation the scope of gaming gets broader. Take a look at the PS3 and Xbox 360's catalogue and you'll find whole categories of games where hardware power/visuals are largely irrelevant. Do cutting edge graphics matter when you're playing Guitar Hero? How many fantastic games are there available for the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live Arcade where addictive gameplay takes precedence over visual sophistication?

And you know what? We've already got pretty amazing graphical capabilities for the current gen machines. We're really now at the point where it's artistry and art direction that makes games stand out, and we don't need another set of consoles to make the most of that kind of talent.



7) Consoles Are About More Than Gaming


Technophiles have been blathering on about convergence for many many years now, but in some areas it's becoming a reality. Think about it. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 can pretty much act as the heart of your home entertainment set-up now. Both systems can link in to your home PC network, enabling you to stream all sorts of content through them, plus you can stream music video clips and free to air TV through your PS3, and TV/movies through your 360. It's also a breeze to show friends photos on PS3 and watch Blu-rays, while 360 can be quite a social experience, thanks to text and video chatting, and the party system. Both consoles now support some degree of social networking functionality too.

They're not using their PS3 to play games. They're using it to gather as a family and watch a photo of a guy pretending to be a really bad stand-up comedian. The future of entertainment is here!

The question is – once you've got all this configured nicely; you're tuned into your home network, you've bought PlayTV and you've loaded up your consoles with music, photos etc., why would you want to upgrade to a new system? And that's not even factoring in all those PSN/XBLA games, purchased movies and achievement points/trophies you're going to be kissing goodbye.



8) Stability Is A Good Thing


With gaming more of a mainstream entertainment form than ever before, it's important to have a period of system stability. Why make things more complicated than they need to be? Why splinter the market? We're bringing all these new people into the fold, so let's give them some time to get comfortable.

But this isn't just an important point for gaming noobs – it makes sense for core gamers too. As we've already discussed, gaming and console functionality is still changing at a good pace, only now we don't have to invest in an all new box to take advantage of it. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have both really hit their stride, with truly compelling reasons to own them and a steady stream of great games being released. Let's ride this wave for a bit longer.



9) We're Not Made of Money


Look, games are expensive enough as it is; the idea of building a war chest for a couple more consoles makes us cry a little inside. We're happy with our present systems and the games coming to them. We're happy with where gaming is headed and what our consoles can do now and will be able to do soon. Don't make me spend AU $1500-2000 to get a new machine from Sony and a new machine from Microsoft. Granted, upgrading to a 3D-capable Sony Bravia is going to cost a whole lot more than a new console (or two), but let's keep the costs to a minimum, shall we?

We're not made of money, but these guys are. The guy on the left owns a hotel on Bond St, while Francis Moneypants is so rich he can afford to drop his monocle in astonishment as often as he likes.

And besides, the bottom line is that if you want to chase the graphical dragon and be on the bleeding edge of gaming hardware, you can still do that on PC.



10) Because A New System Won't Necessarily Translate to Market Share


Here's the market reality: the Wii is the success story of this generation, and it did this despite - or perhaps because - it bucked the pervasive wisdom of the industry that each new generation's hardware must be inordinately more powerful than the last. Instead, Nintendo released a standard def system based on last generation technology. Sure, the Wii has proven to be a support system at best for core gamers – given its paucity of triple A titles – but it's still in the lead, and Sony and Microsoft are desperately trying to play catch-up. Given that system power hasn't been a defining factor in this generation, it stands to reason that Sony and Microsoft are better off saving some of the huge amount of money that needs to be poured into R&D, marketing and manufacturing to develop and launch a new system – not to mention the losses incurred on hardware for the first few years, and instead look for other ways to grow their systems and their brands.

Console war-leading gameplay. Does anyone else want to clock this kid in the head with his own balance board?





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Five Ways Assassin's Creed Has Improved


The sequel beats the hell out of the first game. Here's why.





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Nintendo DSi XL Has Big Screens, Bundled Apps



dsixl

Nintendo said Thursday that it would release a new model of its DSi portable game platform with larger screens and built-in software.

Following a Nikkei Shimbun report on Tuesday that sketched out the basic details of the platform, Nintendo made it official this morning alongside its Q2 financial results: The new hardware will be called Nintendo DSi XL, or Nintendo DSi LL in Japan.

It will be available on November 21 in Japan, and in the first quarter of 2010 in the U.S. and Europe.

Going against the trend of micro-sizing portable hardware, the DSi XL will be significantly larger than the current model (see the size comparison below). It will feature 4.2″ screens, which Nintendo says are 93% larger than the current models’.

dsixl_size

While the XL will include a normal-sized stylus that slides into the unit when not in use, it will also include a much larger, more comfortable touch pen.

Nintendo also said that the Japanese version of DSi XL will include built-in software. Besides the DSi Browser and Moving Memo software, it will include both of the downloadable Brain Training apps that are already on the downloadable DSiWare service, as well as a new dictionary application.

The larger size will also come with a larger battery. Nintendo says that DSi XL will get from 4-5 hours of battery life on the brightest screen setting, or about one more hour than the DSi.

On the lowest setting, users can expect 13-17 hours from the XL versus DSi’s 9-14, Nintendo said.

XL will ship in three subdued colors: Natural White, Deep Brown, and Wine Red (pictured).

Nintendo DSi XL will retail for 20,000 yen (about $220) in Japan, slightly more expensive than the DSi. Nintendo did not announce a U.S. price.

All these features support Nikkei’s two conclusions about the target market of the DSi XL: It is meant to entice older consumers into the fold, and to compete more directly with the iPod Touch.

With Nintendo’s profits dropping versus last year and the company revising its sales forecasts downward, today’s announcement has clearly been timed to offset the bad news.

Whether this helps Nintendo expand its audience again or is simply looked upon as a Game Boy Micro-style misfire (but in reverse), I don’t know.

Images: Nintendo/Wired.com





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11.27.2009

ZiiLABS promise Zii Android smartphone demo in December



By Chris Davies on Monday, Nov 16th 2009

ZiiLABS’ ZMS-08 chipset was certainly enough to get us interested last week – the promise of a 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor, Blu-ray quality video playback and parent company Creative’s X-Fi audio tech will do that to a geek – and now they’ve gone and got us hot under the collar with the promise of an Android smartphone. Set to be demonstrated at the Zii Summit 2009, to be held in China on December 1st, the device is described as a Zii Optimized Android Phone platform, albeit based on the (still pretty impressive) ZMS-05 chipset.

creative ziilabs zii summit 2009 540x287

The ZMS-05 isn’t quite as media-packed as the ZMS-08, but it’s not far off. ZiiLABS still promise 1080p HD video output, OpenGL ES 3D graphics, accelerated browsing and more, which would add up to a pretty impressive Android smartphone all round. Android is already available to load onto the Zii EGG developer device, however that lacks a cellular radio.

Among the other products on display will be “a Touch Tablet PC, a Netbook, a Web-Box, a 360-degree Multi-View Camera System, ultra high-performance Speakers, a Piano Keyboard for the PC, and a Portable e-Book Reader”, with which ZiiLABS are hoping to tempt the so-called Shanzhai developers in China. If a success, we could see various reasonably-priced but powerfully-specified devices taking on smartphones, PMPs, set-top boxes and other platforms.





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11.26.2009

Black Friday Anti-Deals: What Not To Buy


Black Friday may be when prices drop, but if you've carefully read the list of deals, you can tell it's also a BS marketing gimmick. Here's how not to get fooled (plus, what gadgets to avoid at any price):

In other words, many of these "deals" really aren't deals at all. Often, Black Friday sale products are priced differently between stores, or they are priced at or above deals you can find elsewhere any day of the week. You might see a particularly juicy deal in a flyer on a big ticket item like an HDTV, only to discover that the store only had a few units to sell. The bottom line is that you need to do your homework, and this is a good place to start.

After digging through a mind-numbing quantity of deals, I came away with a few impressions about how some major retailers do business. Simply put, they are taking advantage of the herd mentality. Losses taken on truly great deals (which are often in limited quantities), are made up by selling high volume products or crap products at or above their normal retail value.

The companies examined here have different angles on Black Friday, though. Amazon always has volatile pricing, so some of its Black Friday prices are already above the current going rates. Besides that, because it shows you its own prices and prices of its third-party vendors during searches, sometimes its own prices look high. Walmart has great prices, but you have to watch out for crappy products. And Sears and Best Buy, well, they just have bad deals—many of the hottest items on their list are available cheaper right now at other retailers.

The way I see it, your odds of scoring a big-time deal at a brick-and-mortar store are slim, and catching the best deal online is often based entirely on timing, maybe even watching the price of a product over an extended period of time. So this year I plan on skipping the crowds (and a potential trampling) on Black Friday in favor of shopping through some online comparison engines, setting up price alerts and doing some price trending analysis to give myself the best chance of scoring real deals.

The following lists feature some of worst deals on hardware offered up by four major retailers. At the bottom is a supplemental list of products you should avoid at all costs.

Best Buy

While Best Buy's offerings during Black Friday are decent, there are an alarming number of instances where they are getting beat on the price—sometimes badly.

• Cellphones: Motorola Droid priced at $199.99 w/contract, available at Dell Mobility for $120.
• Cellphones: Motorola H710 Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headset priced at $39.99, currently available from Wireless Emporium (via Amazon) for about the same price with shipping.
• Electronics: Bose in-ear headphones priced at $89.99, found on Amazon for $89.95 right now with free shipping.
• Home Theater: Monster HDMI Cable priced at $49.95, see our piece on the Truth About Monster Cable
• Home Theater: Sony 7.1 Channel 770-Watt A/V Receiver priced at $279.99, currently available on Amazon for $262.91
• Home Theater: Samsung Home Theater System priced at $399.99, currently available at Best Buy and Amazon for the same price.
• Televisions: Sony 46" 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV priced at $852.99, but on Black Friday, Walmart will sell it for $798
• Televisions: Sony 40" 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV priced at $662.99; Walmart's Black Friday price is $598
• Televisions: Samsung 42" 720p Plasma HDTV priced at $547.99, only $2 cheaper than current Amazon price with free shipping
• Televisions: Samsung 40" 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV priced at $597.99, only $2 cheaper than current Dell price with free shipping
• Televisions: Samsung 32" 720p LCD HDTV priced at $397.99, only $2 cheaper than current Amazon price with free shipping
• Portable Storage: Sandisk Cruzer 8GB priced at $19.99, available at Office Depot and Office Max for $14.99
• Blu-ray: Samsung BD-P4600 Blu-ray Disc Player priced at $279.99, available online for $278.75 with free shipping
• Blu-ray: Samsung BD-P1600 Blu-ray Disc Player priced at $149.99, currently available from Amazon for the same price with free shipping
• Digital Media Cards: Sandisk 4GB Memory Stick Pro Duo priced at $14.99, on Black Friday available from Staples for $12.99
• Digital Media Cards: Sandisk 8GB SD Card priced at $19.99, on Black Friday available from several retailers for $14.99
• Digital Cameras: Nikon Coolpix P90 priced at $299.99, currently available at Adorama (via Amazon) for the same price with free shipping

Walmart

Not surprisingly, Walmart is pretty good about setting the lowest prices. They don't always have the most eye popping offerings, but their deals are solid. Out of their Black Friday electronics lineup, I only found a few questionable (and relatively minor) issues.

• Blu-ray: The hot $78 Magnavox NB500 Blu-ray Disc Player deal is well priced, but keep in mind that this is the same player they have discounted during the holidays for the last couple of years. It's great for entry-level users, but don't expect streaming Netflix or Amazon on demand, or any of the other features found in sub-$200 Blu-ray players.
• Digital Media Cards: Sony 4GB Memory Stick Pro Duo priced at $20, available from ABX ProTech (via Amazon) for $13.63 with shipping
• Electronics: Philips 6-foot HDMI cable priced at $19. While that's still a lot cheaper than Monster cable, it's overpriced. You can get cable just as good at Monoprice.com or Amazon for under $4.

Sears

Sears has something of a reputation for bad Black Friday deals, and this year appears to be more of the same. Looking through their offerings, I noticed a significant number of electronics being sold at or above prices that you can find at other retailers on any given week.

• Digital Cameras: Sony DCR-SR47 60GB Hard Disk Drive Camcorder priced at $299.99, on Black Friday available at Best Buy for $249.99
• Televisions: Sony 52" LCD HDTV (Model KDL52V5100) priced at $1599.99, available for less than $1400 from several online retailers with free shipping
• Televisions: Sony 46" LCD HDTV (Model KDL46V5100) priced at $1239.99, available for less than $1000 from several online retailers with free shipping
•Televisions: Sony 40" 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV priced at $664.99, on Black Friday available at Walmart for $598
• Televisions: Samsung 55" LED HDTV (Model UN55B6000) priced at $2469.99, currently available at or below that price from several online retailers with free shipping
• Televisions: Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV (Model PN50B530) priced at $899.99, currently available from Crutchfield for the same price with free shipping
• Televisions: Samsung 46" LED HDTV (Model UN46B6000) priced at $1599.99, currently available via ecomelectronics for $1574.95 with free shipping
• Televisions: Samsung 46" 1080P Class LCD HDTV (Model LN46B500) priced at $899.99, on Black Friday available for $848 at Walmart and Best Buy
• MP3 Players: GPX 4GB MP3/4 Player priced at $32.99, available from Kmart for $24.99
• Home Theater: Sony Bravia 5.1 Channel 1000 Watt Integrated Home Theater System DAV-HDX589 priced at $329.99, available at Best Buy for $279.99
• Home Theater: Panasonic Blu-Ray Home Theater System (Model SC-BT200) priced at $399.99, currently available at 6ave (via Amazon) for $376.84 with free shipping
• GPS: Magellan RoadMate 1220 GPS priced at $89.99, on Black Friday available at Kmart for $84.99
• Blu-ray: Sony BDP-S360 Blu-ray Disc Player priced at $149.99, on Black Friday available via Target with a $20 gift card and currently priced at Amazon for $133.89 with shipping
• Blu-ray: Samsung BD-P1600 Blu-ray Disc Player priced at $149.99, currently available from Amazon for the same price with free shipping
• Digital Media Cards: Sony 2GB Memory Stick PRO Duo priced at $12.99, currently $12.82 on Amazon with shipping

Amazon

While I expected Amazon's prices to fluctuate from one minute to the next, I did not expect some of their current prices to be far below the price they planned to offer as part of their Black Friday deal. It's almost like they are using Black Friday fever as an opportunity to jack up the profits on certain items. Both price points are competitive, but it appears that scoring the best deal is more about price trending over an extended period of time than it is about Black Friday. Amazon also has a funny situation with its third-party retailers. You can see in the list below that many partners are already underselling Amazon's Black Friday prices. It's a good issue to have if you're in the market for particular items—provided you trust the third-party retailer.

• Computers: ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-PU1X-BK 10.1-Inch Black Netbook priced at $349.99, amazingly it is currently available on Amazon for $339.99—so the promoted Black Friday price is $10 higher.
• Computers: Samsung N120-12GW 10.1-Inch White Netbook priced at $363.32, again, Amazon is selling it cheaper right now—only $319
• Computers: Toshiba Satellite T135-S1307 TruBrite 13.3-Inch Ultrathin Black Laptop priced at $699.99, selling on Amazon right now for $599.99
• Electronics: Archos 5 250 GB Internet Media Tablet priced at $259.95, currently selling on Amazon for $229.99
• GPS: DeLorme Earthmate PN-30 Green Handheld GPS priced at $224.37, currently selling on Amazon for $179.99
• GPS: DeLorme Earthmate PN-30 Realtree Handheld GPS priced at $236, currently selling on Amazon for $179.99
• GPS Garmin NĂ¼vi 780 4.3-Inch Widescreen Bluetooth Portable GPS Navigator with MSN Direct Service priced at $179.99, important to note that MSN Direct is shutting down in 2011
• GPS: Magellan RoadMate 1220 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator priced at $96.94, currently available on Amazon for $89.99
• GPS: Magellan RoadMate 1440 4.3-Inch Portable GPS Navigator priced at $149, currently available on Amazon $138.91 with shipping
• GPS: Magellan RoadMate 1470 4.7-Inch Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator priced at $149, currently available from Electronics Expo (via Amazon) for $139.39 with shipping
• Home Theater: Denon S-32 Internet Radio with Built-in Speakers and 2-Alarm Clock priced at $319, currently available from One Call (via Amazon) for $299
• Television: LG 37LH55 37-Inch 1080p 240Hz LCD HDTV priced at $866.97, currently available from Adorama (via Amazon) for $849.99
• Television: Panasonic VIERA G10 Series TC-P42G10 42-Inch 1080p Plasma HDTV priced at $909.69, currently available on Amazon for $897.87 with shipping Update: price jumped overnight to $916.42

The Worst Gadgets of The Year

There are bad deals, and then there are bad products. Except where otherwise noted, the gadgets in the lists above are more or less worth it if you can find the best prices. The stuff below appear under the Worstmodo tag; it's the stuff we don't want to see any of you people buying. We've mentioned a bunch more Don't Buy products our continuing gift guide series, but here are the most egregious offenders of the year.

TwitterPeek: If you are going to make a gadget that only handles Twitter, it had damn sure better provide an experience that outstrips what I could do with just about any ordinary cellphone. By most accounts, the TwitterPeek fails in this regard. If you spend $99 for 6-months or $200 for a lifetime of service on this, you have lost your mind.

Garmin Nuvifone G60 GPS Phone: As our review clearly states, the Garmin Nuvifone G60 should be taken out back and put out of its misery. Besides functioning poorly, it charges you for what other devices can do better, and for free.

Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition Reader: Sony has long been a proponent of the e-ink ebook, but they keep messing it up by overlaying it with a resistive touchscreen. The trouble is glare—even in the gentle light of a reading lamp, you can see your reflection as you try to make out the page. Some reviewers don't mind this for some reason, but we do, and besides, with so many ebook options out there, why settle for a compromised machine? (We haven't reviewed the upcoming Sony PRS-900 Daily Edition, but we have been told that the touchscreen is constructed the same. This is bad news for Sony. Steer clear!)

Windows Mobile 6.5: With the bar being set by the iPhone and Android, and the Palm Pre doing a nice job of keeping up, Microsoft needed to get their act together with Windows Mobile if they really wanted to compete. The 6.5 update doesn't bring anything new to the table outside of some UI tweaks. As we noted in our review, it's a major letdown...and then some.

Panasonic SDR-SW21 Waterproof Camera: Despite a $400 price tag, the SDR-SW21 takes 640x480 SD video and 0.3MP stills, putting it the same league as some of the crappiest cameraphones. It's also billed as being waterproof and rugged, but can only be used at depths above 6-feet. A complete piece of garbage, pure and simple.

CatGenie Litter Box: A litter box that does all the cleaning for you sounds like a cat lover's dream come true—that is until you realize that the CatGenie creates as many problems as it solves. It cleans up well, but it's also an enormous, power sucking money pit. Check out our review for the full details.

Cell-Mate Hands Free Cellphone Holder: How could wearing a Bluetooth headset in public make you look like a bigger idiot? Answer: when the Bluetooth is coming from the phone strapped to your head. The product page doesn't explain where you can actually buy one of these cellphone-holding headsets, but if you come across the Cell-Mate in the wild, just keep on walking.

[Image via Flickr]


Send an email to Sean Fallon, the author of this post, at sean@gizmodo.com.






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Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks


(Image courtesy of PC World)

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and Christmas is right around the corner from that, so it's time to start thinking about awesome gifts to pick up for your friends and family.

Your book-loving father? How about a Barnes & Noble Nook? Your accident-prone brother? Why not a tough laptop or rugged phone? Your social-networking sister? The Sony Vaio X-Series netbook should do the trick.

But what about your most seriously geeky friend? You know, the one who wants you to call him Ian Thornwald the Dwarf-Slayer (the name of his level-70 Paladin), the one who dragged you out to wait in the pouring rain for the release of "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare," and the one who gets so many shipments from Woot.com that the site's customer service department has him on speed-dial? I mean, what do you get a person who has already preordered "Starcraft II?"

We looked around the Internet and found some gifts that even a geek who has everything would appreciate.

-- Sarah Jacobsson, PC World

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

LED Binary Clock (Image courtesy of PC World)

LED Binary Clock
Give it to: The programming geek

One of the best things about geekhood is being able to laugh at normal people when you understand something that they do not. And what do geeks know that normal people don’t? Binary, of course! After all, there are only 10 types of people in the world … those who understand binary and those who don’t. True programming geeks spend so much time sifting through code that they probably dream in binary and hex, not boring old decimal. The LED Binary Clock ($19.99, ThinkGeek.com) ensures that your geek will be able to tell the time like nobody else (except other geeks).

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

Ice Invaders Ice Tray (Image courtesy of PC World)

Ice Invaders Ice Tray
Give it to: The retro-gamer geek

What self-respecting geek doesn't remember (and love) the classic arcade game "Space Invaders?" Shooting aliens as they slowly advance toward Earth has never been more fun! And when the red spaceship goes speeding across the top of the screen, you know the party has started. Well, now a geeky obsession with pixelated space aliens can extend into the kitchen -- with the Ice Invaders Ice Tray ($7.45, neatorama.com). The 24-block ice tray features two different aliens and is made of silicone so it's easy to pop 'em out. There's no spaceship, but the cute alien ice blocks even feature indented eyes.

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

Wi-Fi Detection T-Shirt (Image courtesy of PC World)

Wi-Fi Detection T-Shirt
Give it to: The mobile computing/Internet geek

There are several ways to search for Wi-Fi these days: You can use your smart phone, you can use a Wi-Fi detection gadget or you can walk around with your laptop open, hoping to run into a signal. But all of those options involve being proactive (taking your smart phone out of your pocket, for example.) For the really lazy geek, there's now another option: the Wi-Fi Detector Shirt ($19.99, ThinkGeek.com). This black T-shirt shows the signal strength of 802.11b or 802.11g Wi-Fi networks, changing as the signal strength changes. The animation runs on three AAA batteries, which can (and should) be removed -- along with the signal decal itself -- from the shirt for washing. It's the perfect gift for someone who needs to know the status of Wi-Fi hotspots at all times.

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

Chargepod (Image courtesy of PC World)

Chargepod
Give it to:
The gadget geek

Here's the perfect gift for someone who is rich in gadgets but poor in electrical outlets. The Chargepod supports simultaneous charging of up to six gadgets and has different adapters to accommodate each one. So, you know that guy who’s always tripping over a tangle of cords because he has three phones and an iPod? (I do). Or that girl who's always traveling across the country and complaining about how she has to bring her iPod cord, her phone cord, her Bluetooth headset cord, etc.? Help them out. The Chargepod ($39.95, Callpod.com) comes with one mini-USB adapter and a voucher for an additional adapter. Each adapter after that costs $9.95. Or pick up the Bundle Pack ($79.95, Callpod.com), which comes with six of the most popular adapters and a car charger.

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

Computer Key Cufflinks (Image courtesy of PC World)

Computer Key Cufflinks
Give it to: The social geek

Even geeks need to spend time in polite company (when they get married, for example). But even when they're unavoidably away from their computer at home, geeks can still represent -- if they're wearing these handsome computer key cufflinks ($88, Uncommongoods.com). These sterling silver cufflinks come in two sets: Ctrl/Esc keys and Delete/Help keys. They're handmade in New York and feature power symbols on the back. Go on; give your geek the gift of style.

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

Nintendo DSi (Image courtesy of PC World)

Nintendo DSi
Give it to:
The nonretro gaming geek

The upgraded version of the Nintendo DS, the Nintendo DSi ($169, Walmart.com) is an MP3 player, a camera, an Internet browser and a storage device all in the body of a hand-held gaming device. It features Wi-Fi, two built-in cameras, two 3.25-inch screens and an SD storage slot. How could a geek not lust after it? It's a great gift for anyone who likes Nintendo games, enjoys snapping funny photos, appreciates music or wants to browse the Internet without hauling around a laptop or netbook. Of course, gift givers might want to hold out for the rumored Nintendo DSi XL, which will have a larger screen and may hit stores before the end of 2009.

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

'I'd Hit That' T-Shirt (Image courtesy of PC World)

'I'd Hit That' T-Shirt
Give it to:
The geek with a sense of humor

The "Hit That Nintendo T-shirt" ($22, 80stees.com) is a great way to demonstrate an in-depth understanding both of what cool kids are saying today and of what retro-Nintendo gamers (in this case, disciples of "Super Mario Brothers") have been saying for years. Give this shirt to your favorite Nintendo geek as an expression of how you totally appreciate his, um, video-game prowess.

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

USB Webmail Notifier (Image courtesy of PC World)

USB Webmail Notifier
Give it to:
The e-mail-obsessed geek

Every seasoned Gmail addict downloaded the Gmail Notifier program ages ago. The only problem: It puts a tiny mail notification icon -- smaller than a fingernail -- in the status bar. How are you supposed to check your mail every second if you have to hunt down and squint at such a minuscule icon and to see whether it's lit up? That's where the USB Webmail Notifier ($29.58, Curiosite.com) comes in. This 3-by-1.9-inch envelope behaves like a real-life version of the Gmail Notifier icon, lighting up according to the status of the inbox -- blue when there's new mail, red when the mailbox is full and green when the mailbox is empty. Compatible with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, Outlook Express and ISP with POP3 services, it's an e-mail addict's new best friend. Trust me, true geeks will thank you for giving them something else to obsess over.

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

Samsung CL65 Camera with Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth (Image courtesy of PC World)

Samsung CL65 Camera with Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth
Give it to: The camera geek

If your geek travels a lot and takes a lot of pictures along the way, the Samsung CL65 Camera ($399, Samsung.com) might be the perfect gift. This 12-megapixel model is the first digital camera equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS/Geo-tagging.

The Samsung CL65 allows photo geeks to upload pictures and videos directly from their camera to Flickr, Facebook, Photobox, Picasa and YouTube, as well as via e-mail, over unprotected wireless networks. The built-in GPS tags photos with the locations where they were taken. And Bluetooth capabilities allow you to stream photos and videos or send them to other Bluetooth-enabled devices: phones, computers and even HDTVs. The Samsung CL65 features Smart Face recognition, scene recognition, 5x optical zoom and a 3.5-inch touch-screen display. It's a great gift for anyone who's geeky enough to want Wi-Fi in a camera -- or for anyone who tends to forget where they took this or that awesome picture.

Oddball Gifts for Uber Geeks

Virtual Laser Keyboard (Image courtesy of PC World)

Virtual Laser Keyboard
Give it to:
The geek who likes to show off his gadgets

A virtual keyboard that works best in total darkness is probably useful only for spies and, well, people who don't want CSI teams to pick up their prints. But, it is pretty cool-looking, especially for geeks who like to impress people with their spylike gadgets. Does your geek tout his or her ability to compute from anywhere, with the help of roll-up keyboards and jailbroken iPhones? Well, then I-Tech's Virtual Keyboard ($169.99, Virtual-Laser-Keyboard.com) will make a great gift. You can project this full-size QWERTY laser keyboard onto any surface and it even makes clicking sounds as you type. It's compatible with PCs, Macs and most smart phones, and the physical device is just a little larger than a matchbox (3.5 inches by 1.5 inches by 1 inch). Though you have to set the virtual keyboard up in a moderately dark environment to see the thing, typing e-mail in the gloom of night (or a well-sealed closet) might be worth it for the "wow" effect.





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11.22.2009

The Shield Writer to Pen Underworld 4


Source:Heat Vision
November 20, 2009


"The Shield" writer John Hlavin has been hired to pen Underworld 4 for Screen Gems and Lakeshore.

Len Wiseman, who directed the first two films in the vampire-vs.-werewolf saga, is producing with Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg and Richard Wright of Lakeshore.

The fourth installment does not yet have a director attached and neither Kate Beckinsale or Rhona Mitra have signed to return.

Hlavin said the plot is under wraps, "but I can tell you it's not a prequel." He added, "It will satisfy old fans and excite new audiences, meaning that we don't want to redo the first three movies, so steps are being taken to honor what fans have loved but at the same time introduce fresh elements."






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Peter Iliff to Write American Gladiators


Source:Variety
November 20, 2009


Screenwriter Peter Iliff (Patriot Games, Varsity Blues) will pen the live-action big screen version of American Gladiators, reports Variety.

The story, which will feature the Herculean characters as superheroes, will be based on the TV show that first aired in 1988 and has been broadcast in more than 90 countries, with the format adapted for the local market in 14 of them.

Scott Mednick (upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) is producing, and "American Gladiators" creator Johnny Ferraro is executive producing.

They are targeting a release for 2011.






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