A phone has not wow’d me in a long time like the Galaxy did!
The first impressions of the Galaxy are impressive. With its big 4-inch, colorful and crispy AMOLED screen, you have a hard time taking your eyes off the screen. Made in a form factor which closely resembles the iPhone, but a little larger but lighter phone just made me want to switch to a Galaxy! After all, it resembles the iPhone!
It’s not just the display. The Galaxy packs a 1 GHz processor inside its tiny, lightweight form factor. Come to think of it, it’s half the speed of my laptop! And I can definitely remember my first computer which was just one tenth the speed of the Galaxy! This phone packs quite a load of computing power into your hands.
Galaxy S was also my first hands on experience with the android OS. And I have to admit, I dispelled most of my skepticism. The Galaxy S comes with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI skinning over Androids native UI.
The UI has a dual home screen concept, which is very similar to what you get on Samsung Wave as well. There is the home screen with the widgets which can span to multiple screens based on the number of widgets. And then there is the application screen, which lists the applications. The widgets sometimes can take up one whole screen based on its size. But the applications screen is very iPhone’ish.
The Galaxy had some interesting Widgets. The ones I particularly liked was the Buddy Messenger and the Twitter client. With back ground services running, this widget can is always upto date, just like a streaming client. I loved this as it no longer required me to refresh the Twitter client to see the latest updates from the tweeps I follow.
The notification bar on the top of the phone, apart from showing the usual notifications for new mails and other application notifications, also has buttons for WiFi, Bluetooth and Silent/Vibration. This is a very handy feature. On the iPhone I use a jailbroken app to get this functionality. But one little irritant I experienced was once you view an SMS, it doesn’t always clear the notification. Seems like a little bug, but confusing nevertheless and somewhat defeats the purpose of the notifications as after a while you tend to ignore the notification.
Calling on the Galaxy was pretty standard. I like the iPhone’ish phone menu. One thing I noticed was the need to keep the answer and end buttons pressed for about 3 seconds to answer and terminate a call. Maybe this is done to prevent accidental call answering and terminating with the unintended touches on the screen. But I am not sure whether this is a smart move or a nuisance. But it sure needed some getting used to.
Galaxy S allowed me to sync up all my four email accounts and 500 odd contacts from my Google Contacts. The email interfaces were very intuitive and thanks to the larger screen, the keypad was also more thumb friendly. One thing I still noticed was the lack of predictive text support while you type. But this phone being an Android, you are able to replace the default keypad with something that does have predictive text support. But I think this is something that should have been enabled out of the box.
And the phone tended to slow down with my mail boxes, contacts and the calendar synced up. Given that it is a brand new phone which was in use for just a couple of days, and also the fact that it is powered by a 1GHz processor, this was something I did not expect. When I researched, I found a few complains on line as well and the answers generally pointed towards the Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. Maybe if it had the default Android UI things would have been better.
One area that the Galaxy really shines is the Camera. It is a pleasure to snap away on the Galaxy, with its 4-inch AMOLED screen. I had more fun taking pics on this phone than I do on my digital camera. It is a pleasure to take pictures on this. With the ability to select the area that you want focused on the picture with a tap on the screen, and the multitude of camera modes, and the decent 5MP camera, if you are a person who carries a digital camera along with you, with the Galaxy S, you can leave your camera at home, during the day. But sadly, due to the lack of a flash, you may still want to take your camera during your night escapades. But the Galaxy gave me pretty decent picture in the night in well lit up spaces.
The other feature that goes along is its video recording capability. With the HD video recording can capture pretty amazing footage. With video playback the Galaxy S shined as well. It supports a multitude of video formats MPEG4, DivX, Xivid being the formats I tried out. According to the specs the Galaxy also supports H.264, H.263, WMV, AVI, MKV formats among others. The audio playback on the Galaxy was decent. I tried it out with a third party audio headset as I was not given the Samsung headset that comes with the Galaxy.
One more handy feature I liked was the radio with auto-scanning and the ability to preset radio stations. This is something I would have used, as I prefer the radio to my own music collection.
My data connection is on my phone is a Dialog Broadband Data package. The Galaxy indicated a little H instead of the usual 3G on my iPhone, which means that the Galaxy supports HSPA, which is a pretty cool feature. I did not try tethering, but it will be a boon for those who want to tether Internet connections.
One limitation I faced was the inability to sync multiple calendars with the phone calendar. This is something the iPhone does beautifully and since I have four different calendars, on four different Google apps domains, I rely on my phone calendar to show me the consolidated view. But I was told by an enthusiastic android fan that there are third part apps that can accomplish this.
One big disappointing factor of the Galaxy S was its battery life. Though the phone packs a ton of features, it drains the battery like a express workout. It hardly lasted 8 hours on a full charge. Of course I had the background (push) services enabled and did a bit of data usage. But I hardly made any calls. It was mainly twitter and emails. It’s awful battery life made me nervous about the phone. I like my phone battery to last a day with me. That means staying alive for at least 12 hours. But the good thing is, unlike in the iPhone, you can swap the battery. So if you are going to use data services heavily you might as well get additional batteries and a stand-alone charger.
On a final note, it is phones like the Samsung Galaxy S that will allow Andriod to gain its market share in the smartphone showdown. It is a well designed phone that will sure win many converts to the android platform.
The first decade of mobile business communication was in the hand of one and only device, the Blackberry. If you were carrying a Blackberry you were a top executive of a company who is travelling around the world very frequently. It’s added Blackberry services together with the secure messaging protocol; it was the best device a businessman could have. The only close competitor that they had was the windows mobile devices but the game has changed drastically since then. With the introduction of iPhone and the ever expanding universe of android devices, it is either live or die situation for Research in Motion (RIM).
RIM, the makers of the Blackberry devices launched its latest operating system recently together with its flagship device, the Blackberry Torch. RIM is expecting the revamped operating system to help Blackberry devices to break free from the issues its previous operating system has. The main issue with the Blackberry devices has being its browsing experience. The new WebKit-based browser is expected to improve the user experience in leaps and bounds. RIM has also reduced the number of menus inside menus together with a powerful search tool. It is also comprised of a social networking tool (surprise, surprise) which enables you to aggregate RSS feeds from any social networking site.
At the first glance, you see that the menu has gone through a cleanup and is more smoothened out in its icons and text. The menu looks bit more elegant and sleek compared to OS 5. The list of menu is a window that slides up from the bottom with a default of four apps in a row which can be changed according to user’s preference. The apps are separated by type such as media or frequent apps so you can just flip left and right to browse through them. Almost everything in the menu is clickable. You can change your sound profile, check messages, network connections and apps. But still moving from place to place can be confusing as you don’t end up where you started if you go back. For who are familiar with Blackberry, there seems to be less clutter in OS 6. The operating system is fairly fast compared to the Storm and other Blackberry devices but if you are running it on a fairly slow CPU it doesn’t help too much to convince us on the operating system. Even if it is not running anything which is CPU intensive it stalls wondering the limits of the operating system.
The best feature that RIM managed sneak is the universal search. This feature allows you to search any item within the device whether it is a text, song or an app. You can set preferences to choose what to search and not to search. This one of the best features that I liked and it is kind of like spotlight in Mac or Google desktop but much faster. Blackberry email and messaging services is the primary strength that RIM has. If you plug into the RIM services the user experience is brilliant. If you are using Gmail as your primary email, you just need to log into Gmail and it will sync in the contacts, the calendar and the spam filters. Searching within the emails is much better with real time filtering.
The new app – social feeds allow the users to combine all your Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging such as AIM, Yahoo and Gtalk and RSS feeds into one place. But this is where it gets ugly. The idea of one place to have them all is brilliant but when you want to view them you actually need to go to the respective app which kind of sucks. So it is kind of a half-baked cake with a nice coating.
The Blackberry browser was the biggest pain for the users. So this browser is not a new version of the old but a completely new one altogether. The pages are coming up reasonably better and the experience is far better. But how does it fair with the other top end smart phones. Not so well. RIM browser is still noticeably slower than browsers in the iPhone, HTC EVO or Palm Pre for that matter.
The media section is much improved. But still it has problems when transferring media files to the phone. I believe they did not really do well with certain media files. The coolest thing in this section is that it allows the user to sync the media wirelessly between the PC and the phone using Blackberry desktop. Although it says on the web that this feature is inconsistent, this is kind of neat.
If you are an app person who wants to get your favorite apps in your new Blackberry, you are in for a shock. OS 6 is not backward compatible which is kind of shocking but I would allow sometime until they sort this one out. If you are a gamer the experience is heartbreaking when compared to the iPhone, Palm Pre and Android the game is experience is nowhere near.
So would OS 6 take RIM to the next generation of mobile phone fist fight? At this stage it is kind of iffy. I should say that it has improved a lot but I’m not sure if has changed enough to stay in the competition. With controversial but successful iPhone 4G release and with Android devices coming out faster than mushrooms this maybe the last straw RIM gets to be in the game. With trouble they are having in the Middle East and India, a mediocre OS would not do any good.
Author: Isuru Wijeyaratne
Isuru Devaka Wijeyaratne is currently a graduate student of Rutgers Business School
studying towards his Masters degree in Quantitative Finance. Isuru is a product of Royal College and D.S.Senanayake College. He is also a graduate of Computer Science and Engineering from University of Moratuwa
. He also carries 2 years of experience as a business analyst for capital markets at Millennium Information Technologies
. He was also the first Microsoft Student Ambassador of Sri Lanka from the year 2004 to 2006 working to develop the technical enthusiasm in students. He is a tech lover and has written regularly to technical magazines. He loves to read DC and Marvel comics and enjoys watching Japanese anime.
Dear Hacker is a collection of readers letters to a magazine called 2600, put together by Emmanuel Goldstein (Eric Corley) who happens to be the editor of 2600. “It’s just a pile of letters written by random strangers to a random magazine with a freaky name”. That can be what comes first in one’s mind, reading the first line of this article. But no. It’s more significant than it sounds. At least for a certain group of people who are well known to be different. Yes hackers.
The word hacker probably doesn’t sound very nice in your ears. If that’s the case you represent the majority. Otherwise you are different. I believe Dear Hacker can be an interesting read for both majority and the different. Read along to find out why.
2600, pronounced ‘twenty six hundred’ is a magazine for hackers started in 1984. Started as a 3 paged news letter it slowly grew in to a magazine which hackers not only loved but also honored. It represented, educated and defended hackers despite all the problems the world had against it. And 2600 did it in a noble way that no one could raise a finger (and get them in troubles, legally) accusing them doing the evil. That makes 2600 stand out of the rest of it’s kind with few others. Emmanuel Goldstein being the editor of 2600, being the man who drove it all through three decades (of course with others help) is undoubtedly honored for the great work he did being on sword tip all the time. Having the fortune of being exposed to 2600 at the beginning of my technical curiosity, I can assure that Goldstein is very capable of wording things a way only a few others would do. Besides all these, the best certificate that 2600 and Goldstein has is being the best for three long decades among hackers, who are never impressed with any sort of lousy work.
With that little introduction about the source of content and author of Dear Hacker, I think it’s time to proceed with more about the book. Dear Hacker, published by Wiley publications in 2010 has the ISBN number 978-0-470-62006-9. When I say ‘details of the book’, you didn’t expect the ISBN number for sure. So why it really is not just a pile of letters? And how it would be interesting to most of you, if not all? Let’s see an excerpt from dear hacker.
Eric Corley aka Emmanuel Goldstein, the editor of 2600
Of course it wasn’t just hackers who took interest in all of this. The mass media, the members of corporate America, law enforcement people and even parents, all wanted to know just what we are getting up to. And then there was this inevitable criminal element who who saw opportunities through hacking to benefit themselves. We got questions from all of these groups, and we did our best to give as succinct and direct a response as we could, regardless of the source or intent of the questioner. Because that’s what the hacker world is all about.
That gives you a glimpse of the wide range of people who cared to write to 2600 and the attitude 2600 editors had in answering them. Feel a bit better about ‘hacker world’ already?. Standing for a controversial topic, 2600 attracted many kinds of curious people. So you can expect many typess of letters, some praising their work, some asking for help, some with hidden agendas and so on. But what did Goldstein do to Dear Hacker to make it ‘not just a bunch of letters’ is categorizing them. The letters are categorized under nine well thought categories helping to understand the ‘story’ behind the whole hacker culture thing. Not only that, under each category the letters are lined up by the year. This gives the reader a very good idea how technology evolved and how hacker culture adapted with that over the years. And Goldstein hasn’t forgot to add a brief and some spice at the beginning of each category.
Alright, it’s categorized and ordered by the year. But seriously what’s so great about some letters?. This is a good question I kept not answering all this time. And answering this might look like imposing my ideas on you. Please bear with me. The hacker culture in it’s right meaning is a pretty innocent and (arguably) a good thing. There I said it, “the right meaning”. OK what is the right meaning of the word hacker?. That’s a question that Dear Hacker gives a solid and clear answer for, throughout the book. The book makes you explore, feel and understand what hacker culture is really about. This is why I said that the book has something for the majority who thinks ‘this hacking thing is foul’.
Most the time the letters are written in good, appealing language since they are written by hackers who normally posses good writing skills. However a few will turn boring to read because the content of some letters look totally outdated or out of interest for the particular reader. I too found few such letters. Just don’t let them come between you and the book. And here’s something I forgot to tell you. You are not going to read just a bunch of letters. You read the replies, written by 2600. This is the interesting part. I found it very intriguing to read these neatly worded replies. One thing I noticed on these replies is that they have always been up to the 2600 principals of hacking, encouraging ‘learning and questioning’ and being ethical in the seemingly evil hobby. Since a good portion of letters Goldstein chose represent commonly and frequently asked questions about hacker culture, the replies will give clear and insightful answers to those. And I should mention the sarcasm in some of the replies. It makes reading dear hacker a lot more fun.
Goldstein is clever enough to make the first category (A chapter in a conventional terms) “Questions upon Questions” to be collection of letters and replies that gives a good introduction about hackers, 2600 and whatnot to anyone that reads the book. I see this category as a good foundation that makes reading the rest of the book easy, even for someone who is totally new to the topic. The second category “Tails from the retail front” gives a good reflection of technology becoming widespread with computers coming to the retail stores and how hackers reacted to this. “The Challenges of life as a hacker” is a category that should draw everyone’s attention. Because it shows a side of hackers life which many don’t get to see. Hackers have got bullied, arrested and imprisoned sometimes for just being curious. This category will allow you to peep in that past and perhaps have some sympathy. “Technology” is the love of hackers. And it qualifies as the fourth category of Dear Hacker. This will surely be interesting to someone who is interested in technology. The letters give a good picture of the way hackers think. It might even motivate the reader to think different.
I have only heard of corporate world hating hackers apart from the few moments they invited hackers to penetrate there system just to see what’s wrong. And naturally hackers hated them back. Hackers were so curious about corporate world because they had interesting stuff going under the hoods. Sometimes some unpleasant and evil things too (remember?, we are talking about ‘corporate’ here). “The magic of the corporate world” category has a lot about technology related politics and how hackers dealt with corporate world. There are few letters corporate business addresses to 2600. Some threatening letters too. The category is definitely as not boring as the word corporate sounds. Maybe that’s why it has the word ‘magic’ in it.
The category “Our biggest fans” is not a collection of 2600 fanboys letters as it may sound. Expect some hate mails listed with interesting replies. And also this category has letters from readers being worried about 2600 turning more towards politics than technology. For someone who is still not sure whether hacking is good or bad reading Dear Hacker all this long, this category will give a good balanced view of the matter.
What can a hacker do inside jail? Jail has not been an unfamiliar place to hackers. Hackers got locked up so many times. Including famous Phiber Optik and Kevin Mitnick. And 2600 has always been with them. “Behind the walls” is the category for the letters from or related to imprisoned hackers. You get to see that hackers stay hackers even in jail. Many letters will blow your mind with the details of things hackers did from prison.
Digital Rebels. That’s one way hackers are sometimes addressed. Hackers think radically, so no wonder that the idea of ‘rebellion’ attached on hackers. Hackers didn’t automatically turn in to the kind of rebels they are. The reaction they had from the parties they involved with made them rebellious. The category “A culture of rebels” reveals what digital rebellion is actually about. You will find some letters about hacker adventures. One thing special I noted about this category, there’s a reason why this category dug deep in the book. Because this one might look bad on the eyes of someone who didn’t go through the first categories to get a fair idea of who hackers are.
The ninth category, yes the last of Dear Hacker is again a great placement in my opinion. The name says it all: “Strange ramblings”. You see things that are funny, sometimes way out of topic and sometimes a little too stupid. Enough being serious. Finish the book with some fun reading.
So this is what I think of Dear Hacker. You should have noticed my compassion about 2600, Goldstein and all the ‘hacker’ thing. You can not judge anything without having a fair amount of idea of it. So when it goes to hacker culture, Dear Hacker will give a good insight as I’ve mentioned already. So if you are in ‘majority’, read the book to have a look in to hacker world. If you are the ‘different’ I don’t have to say that, you’ll be happy to have it in your bookshelf.
Dear Hacker: Letters to the Editor of 2600
By Emmanuel Goldstein
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Hardcover; 576 pages
RRP: US $29.95
Available online and at all major bookstores
Author: Chanuke Senevirathne
Chanuke Senevirathne, a SLIIT undergrad, Blogger, Podcaster, tech geek, loves GNU/Linux, believes in Software freedom&dare to be different. And a web junkie too. A co-host of SinhalenFOSS podcast (sinhalenfoss.org).
I first knew about Chris Brogan last year when someone retweeted about Chris shaving his head for charity. Someone new to twitter back then, I thought to myself, this guy is an interesting character to follow. Little did I know about this gregarious individual (back then) and how he ranks in the top list of marketing guru’s (with Seth Godin as God of marketing).
I have been following his blog (http://www.chrisbrogan.com) whenever I get the time (still do) and when compared to some blogs, most of his blogposts are brief and to the point. I guess its one reason why he is so successful in his chosen field.
For someone new to social media and into marketing a particular brand (or oneself), his blog is a goldmine with so many pointers and lists of do’s and don’ts. You sometimes wish there was a book compiled of all his best bits so that you can read while commuting or relaxing where you can just brush through some of the topics that you feel like reading. Well now you can since Chris has been kind enough to publish a book titled ‘Social Media 101’
He emphasizes that his motivation for writing this social media guide book was due to the demand from the people that bought his book ‘Trust Agents’. So in order to cover the areas of social media that exists at the moment, he thought of compiling several posts from his blog while also adding updates and edits. So if you are a big fan of Chris’s blog, its worth investing 20 odd dollars to get this valuable book, it might even turn out into a must have collector’s edition in 5 years time, you will never know!
So as Chris would put it, ‘let’s begin’ with the review of ‘Social media 101’.
First of all, I like the dimensions of the book making it very easy to carry. This can also be seen in books by David Meerman Scott (http://www.davidmeermanscott.com). 320 pages might seem a bit of a bulk amount to read but when you get most of it in point form, it’s more like a guide that you can just dive into at different stages of your life/work. My point is further emphases when comparing the pages to the number of chapters the book contain: 87! So that’s only an average of 4 pages per chapter.
Let’s just highlight a few chapters that caught my eye and is worth sharing to further entice the review readers to go order this very valuable book. Social media starter pack (chapter 16) – What better starter pack than 4 ways to optimize the way social media can be used. Listening, Speaking, Community, Rich media. Let me just touch very briefly on what we can take from his starter pack.
- Listening: With the vast amount of information that’s get into the internet, it’s not easy to keep up with the information. Ways to organize the way you listen to the content is highlighted here.
- Speaking: We put content but will they come? Well they will, if we use a few techniques to increase awareness. Having an RSS feed on our blog is one important task that is a must. Making your url appear in your emails is also important. ‘Make sure folks know who you are, where you are, how to reach you, and what you are all about’, says Chris in his conclusion.
- Community: From Twitter, Facebook to the ning and other social networks, just a few places to increase the followers and build a community of friends.
- Rich media: Just like our magazine, we use various ways to give information. Be it in plain text or a video editorial, we try to connect with our readers to save their timewhile giving them the information they need. Here Chris points out a few of these media to use and what tool to use.
Skipping on a few chapters to 24, and a topic I like ‘Twitter revisited’ – I was shocked and a bit insulted when I read his first paragraph ‘Twitter is the stupidest thing anyone could ever imagine inventing.’ I kept my calm and read on. Phew, he really does know how to keep the reader interested. He goes on to explain how an addictive, time consuming, cross platform accessible application can be used to good use. Twitter is truly a great place to share ideas and build a community. No argument about that at all. In his twitter tips, he adds ‘Instead of ‘what are you doing?’ try asking ‘what has your attention?’, I find the answer is often more useful to others’. Now that is a worthwhile tip indeed.
In Sri Lanka, I find many new blogs being created. But only a few of them really survive. Many times, I see the messages like ‘not enough time to blog’ etc and I wonder whether there was a real reason behind actually starting a blog? Well if there was, then the goal should be achieved. In order to achieve a goal (whether it be about promoting a particular product in a company or just writing poems) chapter 27 titled ‘A sample blogging work flow’ is a very useful chapter for anyone who wants to clearly start a successful blog that could be maintained without stressing about keeping it up-to-date.
Working with a team entails having meetings and a way to effectively manage these meetings is important for any field of career. In chapter 34, Chris breaks down meetings into three types: Announcement, Status, Brainstorm. Mentioned in order of how fast they should run, lets quickly give an idea on what each is about.
- Announcement – When a new member joins the company, when a shift in direction has taken place, these are areas in which an announcement meeting might be a good idea.
- Status meeting – Time is important and ensuring that a good meeting happens rests on the effectiveness of the project manager. The project manager would get the status of each team member in the project and announces it to all. Any action that needs to be taken can be taken offline and dealt with in an individual basis so as to not waste another persons time.
- Brainstorming meeting- This is the one that you can’t really put a time (though you must). Laying out the goals of such a meeting are important to run this type of meeting in an effective way says Chris. Chris also shares a good online social media tool that is useful at brainstorming sessions (the mind mapping tool MindMeister – http://www.mindmeister.com)
He concludes the chapter with tips for all meetings as well.
I should conclude this review so that you can go and grab a copy but let me just add one more chapter which I think you will surely like. I will however keep it to the point and just mention only the topic so that you know its covered. ‘Making a business from social media’, that’s chapter 53 in the book.
This would be a handy reference manual for me for a few years to come I guess (until we hear of unheard new social media being introduced by a 14 year old).
You can purchase the book from (amazon affiliate link): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0470563419?ie=UTF8&tag=socmedempavet-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0470563419
Image of Chris Brogan – http://www.chrisbrogan.com/about
Erik Qualman is a very passionate individual who has been involved in online marketing for over 15 years now. His latest book ‘Socialnomics’ is in essence a timely book and a must read for anyone that has not taken advantage of using social media to leverage in the business field.
Even with his busy schedule, he makes sure he practices what he preachers. After getting hold of his book, whenever I wrote to him on twitter (@equalman), he would always send me a reply and that shows a man with dedication and an understanding in the social media field.
So onto his book which is a pretty easy read, first thing I noticed while doing a speed-read was the methodical way in which he has a summary at the end of each chapter. This book is a fun read and also one where we can learn some tips on improving our ways in which we use social media. So having a ‘key points’ summary really adds value to this book.The first chapter gives us the importance of going from ‘word of mouth to world of mouth’. I like his subtitle on page 9 where he says ‘we no longer search for the news-it finds us’. Five years back I wouldn’t agree with that but how things have changed.
Up till recently, Google has been the number one site that people visit but it has been overshadowed by Facebook who topped Google in most viewed sites! Facebook has shown that we don’t have to go searching for the news, the news will come to us with one update from a friend or source. Twitter is a similar tool and having a well planned twitter account with lists can really help filter out the noise from the information that we really need to hear.
This is clearly stated on page 11 where Erik says
‘We have shifted from a world where the information and news was held by a few and distributed to millions, to a world where the information is held by millions and distributed to a few (niche markets)’.
I can’t agree more on this. We encourage full access to our content at diGIT magazine and that is the message that Erik portraits by mentioning that to effectively leverage the social graph, every company needs to understand that they need to make their information easily transferable. We have twitter widgets where people can send a re-tweet about any article that we have and we have learnt something from this book.
He concludes his first chapter by giving a good example about how an idea was sparked and turned into reality and how a business was started without any big marketing plans. What an effect social media tools can do to businesses now and in the future. It’s high time the marketing degrees have one or more courses on the importance of social media. This book could be a recommended reading too!
Chapter two is somewhat short and in gives examples in which big businesses can put that personal touch and control if there is any bad publicity going on. With a simple key word search, a company can check what people are talking inside social networks. The good thing is that something can be done to prevent the bad publicity from increasing. After all, if there is a problem, there is most likely a solution for it. Even in Sri Lanka, we now see big companies like ‘Dialog Axiata’ (@dialogtelekom) getting into the social media field and getting in touch with its customers.
Chapter three says ‘Braggodocian behavior’! What in the world is that all about? Well its simple, it’s all about me, me, me. When on twitter, we want to brag about the cool things we do, we don’t generally tell about the dull day-to-day activities (well there are some who do!). Remember the explosion of ‘reality tv’? Well, things have diminished in that aspect because people are actually living their own lives rather than watching others. Stunning statement to make and something for the tv networks to look into. Moving one step further from emails is the use of social media tools. We used to meet friends after a long time and say ‘long time no see, what have you been upto?’. But now, when we do actually meet them in person, we continue a conversation we had on Facebook or Skype and say ‘so how many more hits has the new game you just launched…’ etc.. Social media has truly changed the way we have conversations online and offline!
So go and grab this book to see what else he has in store for tips and success (I was also fascinated about his vision for online voting becoming a reality as mentioned in chapter 4) on the social media front. As stated on the summary, it’s all about a people-driven economy. Whether you are a businessperson or a high school student, social media transforms the way you live and do business.
You can contact Erik directly via twitter @equalman.
You can get a copy of ‘Socialnomics’ via the following link:
Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business
by Kushan Dodanwala
With the 2010 FIFA World Cup in full swing down in South Africa, this is a good time as any to talk about the latest football game from EA Sports, FIFA Online.
The first question someone may have is why? EA Sports already has the major slice of the football videogame market with its annual FIFA Soccer and FIFA Manager titles plus the seasonal World Cup and Euro offerings. So why bother create another game somewhere in the middle?
Well, the answer is accessibility. According to the EA Sports president Peter Moore himself, “There are 2 billion football fans worldwide, and we sell 10 million (FIFA games) on a good day. Clearly, the other 1.99 billion might be interested in playing a FIFA game, but whether it be the cost of entry, a lack of skill, or any number of other reasons, they’re just not playing. Therefore, with FIFA Online, EA Sports have taken major steps to make the game accessible and enjoyable to everyone.”
The first step is to make the game free to play. That’s right; the game is available as a free download over the internet and free to play as long as you want. Of course, as in any free to play game you can always ‘cheat’ by buying stuff for real money, but EA have assured that those who do pay will not be receiving significant performance upgrades, but rather just a push to move forward in the game faster.
The next step is making the game run on a wider range of PC’s. The game is based on the FIFA 10 game engine and sports FIFA 09 like graphics, most of which have been ported over from the console versions of the game. Even so, the game is very scalable and runs smoothly even on ultra-low end PC’s. So if you have an average PC bought in the past 3-4 years you can play the game comfortably with no lag.
The final and probably the most significant simplification is the game play itself. According to EA Sports, the game can be played competitively by using only one hand! The full range of actions available in the game can be performed with a standard 3-button mouse, making it the ultimate for casual gamers. If you’re a hardcore FIFA fan this may alarm you. Don’t worry though; full keyboard and gamepad support is still available as before. The first time you enter the game, you are given a tutorial on how the mouse control works, and surprisingly, it’s quite good. Its miles ahead of the previous attempts by EA Sports to implement mouse control into their games and you actually can use it to be competitive. However, I prefer to use both my hand so I’m sticking with the keyboard.
As the name suggests, the game is meant to be for online play. You will require to be logged in to the game server to even start the game. However, there’s still a single player mode you can enjoy on your own.
The game download is around 1GB, and it’s basically a stripped down version of FIFA 10. The minor leagues and the excessive reserves have been eliminated, as well as the reward and tournament content. You can select one team for your manager mode and this team can be used in online matchmaking as well. So if you play with Manchester United and your opponent also picks the same team, you can expect drastically different teams depending on which stage of their career each manager is in. The money system has also turned more casual, with you being able to ‘buy’ players fitness back. The player contracts operate in a continuous basis and can be renewed with the money you earn. At the beginning of the career, you are given a choice between a few of your star players who are ready to leave the club, and you have enough money to sign only one of them. Unfair as this may be, throughout the season you win chances of signing new players. At the end of each match, the manager is given certain ‘markers’ to choose from. These can range from cash bonuses, to bonus items to even new players available to sign. Bonus items can be bought using in game cash or real cash to boost player abilities.
The other game mode available in the game is the World Cup mode. You can select your favorite international team and take part in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The number of games that you can play is governed by the number of ‘tokens’ you have. Entry to the world cup costs you 20 tokens and playing with any other team than your career team in online games costs 5 tokens each. You have a free quota of 20 tokens a day and more tokens can be won by participating in community mini games or by purchasing with real money. To summarize the gameplay experience, everything apart from playing the actual game seems to be brought straight out of popular online games in social networking sites down to the last detail, which is rightly so as the game is targeted mostly at the same target crowd. So if you are an avid fan of Farmville or Mafia Wars, then FIFA Online should be right up your alley!
The online play sadly is below satisfactory quality to us in Sri Lanka. The game servers are located in the US and UK, which means that the pings are constantly high and you can expect constant latency of nearly 1 second. EA Sports are currently working at establishing servers in the Asian and African regions. Apart from the lag issues, picking up a game is fairly easy as there are plenty of players online.
The game is still in beta testing at the time this article is written, so I wouldn’t want to go into detail with the many minor technical issues that seem to plague the game, such as connection timeouts and errors with adding friends. Expect EA Sports to iron out most of these come the release date on the 4th July 2010. Want to get in the action straight away? Log into http://fifa-online.easports.com/ right now to create your own profile and start playing!
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Apple is making a habit of putting out new versions of their mobile devices every single year. But this year Apple was not able to keep the level of secrecy that it had for its previous versions. Thus Apple’s next generation iPhone was neither a surprise nor a secret. The phone was surrounded by scandals where a prototype was left at a bar by an Apple developer and leaked photos of the stripped iPhone from Vietnam was a nail to the coffin of the iPhone surprises. So before the device was introduced, it was photographed, stripped in and out, man handled enough so that the announcement was just a mere formality.
By now you should know that I’m not a big fan of the Apple products. But finally Apple released an iPhone which looks brilliant from outside. This is exactly what a mobile phone should look like and I hope its followers would take a lesson. Here in United States, it is pretty boring to see all the people carrying the same type of mobile phone. From the 1st generation to the 3rd the iPhone design hasn’t changed much. It is the same slate design with a curved back which was very feminine. The iPhone 4G is much more appealing towards the less fairer sex with its bold edges and minimal curves. It is bit on the heavier side with 4.8 ounces, with a form factor of 115.2mm x 58.6mm x 9.3mm. The plastics and the glass has being replaced by aluminosilicate glass which said to be scratch resistant and also about 30 times harder than plastic.
Enough with the looks; lets dig deep. The heart of the device is the new A4 processor which was also used in the iPad. Even though it is clocks a 1GHz with the iPad, it is said that the processor is down clocked to conserve the battery. One of the biggest marketing points of the iPhone 4G is it is display which is branded as “Retina display”. This is simply adding more pixels to a 3.5inch display to keep a 960 x 640 resolution. This results in a pixel density of 326ppi (pixels per inch) which is much higher than a human eye can perceive. The display uses LED backlight with 800:1 contract ratio. Apple claims this technology is year ahead of its time but I’m skeptical of that statement. The battery life has improved marginally from 5 hours to 7 hours in talk time and 9 hours to 10 hours in 3G WiFi data. The iPhone is capable of 40 hours of audio playback and 300 hours of standby.
Apple has replaced its 3.2 megapixel camera with a 5 megapixel which is capable of capturing 720p video at 30 frames per second. It has two cameras in rear and front and the latter can be used to take self-portraits without much hassle. “Face Time” feature allows the iPhone users to communicate with others visually in real time. Its “backside illuminated” image sensor captures more light but by its choice of the sensor would be tested against Nokia N8 and HTC EVO which boast of much higher resolution. This time Apple has improved upon its compass to include a gyroscope which will be very neat for the iPhone game community.
If you think there is more in the new iPhone, I’m sorry to disappoint. This is not a revolution; it is a simple evolution of the device as they say. They improved its processor, battery life, screen resolution and camera. The biggest impact that it has is on the gyroscope which will enable very interesting games to be developed on its platform. The best features I can say it is design which feels much more solid in your hands. The aluminum frame is actually the antenna which is a beauty of engineering at its best.
So buy or not to buy? With over 600,000 iPhones preordered the last time I checked these features are enough for the public to go gaga for months to come until Apple releases another sugar coated device.
Google is getting bigger for its own good. The web search engine giant is going to have an effect of every single person on the earth even if he or she has a choice or not. The search engine became too popular at its infancy that its name was included as a verb in the dictionary. Then it gave us “Google Earth” that allowed us to locate and get directions destinations and also view the surroundings in a birds’ eye view which gave way to a part of life style we cannot do without here in USA. Android certainly took its time to establish itself as a one of the open mobile platforms used by many big names in the industry. Then it released a simple but very powerful internet browser “Chrome” that has spread among the internet users much faster than an epidemic. Few months back Google announced its intention to release an operating system of its own which it used by many universities and also by many firms around the globe today. Well by now you would think it is about time they took a rest and keep cashing in from their investments. Well guess Google has other ideas.
Google announced its entry to the home entertainment with Google TV last week hoping to tap into the largest consumer market in the world. With over 4 billion viewers worldwide and with $70 billion advertisements in USA alone there is no reason why Google does not want to join the fun.
So what is exactly “Google TV”? The notion behind “Google TV” is to allow both video and web experience simultaneously without compromising on either. It will also focus on search and discovery and personalization of this particular experience. Like any other Google interface, the interface would be search driven, allowing the user to search for content over channels and over the web. But this is not a novel idea. TiVo Premier is one of the most popular experiences of such nature, allowing viewers to use facebook, twitter and other applications while viewing their favorite TV shows.
Of course to have Google TV you need another box which connects between your TV and satellite box. Specs are not crisp but from what we gather it will run on an Intel Atom (yes it will have less complex tasks than your netbook), WiFi and HDMI. For input devices the user can use keyboards or android devices which can act as remotes for your TV (how cool is that?). So this will give way to voice search, share content between your phone and the TV and best of all you won’t be going around for hours looking for the remote. The software platform would include Android 2.1 (big surprise) with Chrome (the coolest browser in history) and Flash 10.1 support. Best thing about it is that you can develop Apps for this platform as well. The SDK will be out early next year but yet any App that is not dependable on phone hardware could technically run on Google TV.
Best thing about Google TV is that it is using the same strategy that pushed Android into the mass population, partners. Google TV is supported by Sony with is going to launch its internet TVs and Blu-ray players together with Google TV, Logitec will launch a set-top box with a Harmony remote and a HD camera, Dish Network will also launch Google TV and Best Buy would come in as a whole sale store.
Are you excited? I am, but not without bit of skepticism. This merger between the internet and the TV is not going to be easy as TiVo has experienced. We are coming to an age where there is a unification of the devices but I’m not completely bought in by the argument that we are in that age now. We still use these devices for separate applications and combining them all together is quite a change in the life style. It is not a huge change but it is a change that the average person has not even thought of. Think of watching part of the morning news on TV and watching the rest of the news while on the train to work but without re-downloading the content to the phone but merely by synchronizing the phone with the TV. Imagine where you can move your call from the handheld to the TV with HD camera without breaking the call. Surely this is an unavoidable technology which will be in our lives in few years. But will Google TV be the pioneer in that? That is to be seen.
By Kushan Dodanwala
Heroes of Newerth is a Real-Time Strategy/Role Playing/Arena/Tower Defense game developed by independent game developer S2 Games. Why so many genres you ask? Well the game is actually a blend of all of them and is based on the Warcraft III mod; Defense of the Ancients. The game is the third by S2 games to feature their trademark Newerth Universe, the first two being Savage: The Battle for Newerth and Savage 2: A Tortured Soul.
For those new to this genre, let’s look at the game that started it all. Defense of the Ancients (DotA) is a custom scenario for Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, based on the “Aeon of Strife” map for StarCraft. The objective of the scenario is for each team to destroy the opponents’ Ancients, heavily guarded structures at opposing corners of the map. Players use powerful units known as heroes, and are assisted by allied heroes played by teammates and AI-controlled fighters called “creeps”. The game is played out in a 3rd person strategy view as in a typical Warcraft RTS game and As in role-playing games, players level up their hero and use gold to buy equipment during the mission. The game was easy to learn, but unless you were prepared to down and get into the roots of the game, it was impossible to master.
DotA being a mod, it carried its fair shares of obstacles and glitches. It also required the original game to be installed and didn’t allow for a player to be reconnected in case of a disconnection. Even though the game is still immensely popular, by now the eight year old Warcraft III engine was beginning to show its age and its limitations could be ignored no longer.
So let’s get to the basics. S2 Games have taken the whole idea of DotA and put it in a new standalone game with better graphics and a gameplay engine, so it’s technically not a brand new game, rather a remake of a classic. The game features a remake of the original DotA map, as well as ports of many favorite heroes from DotA, tweaked to fit into the Newerth Universe. However, the game does feature original content as well, including two brand new maps and new heroes. According to the developers, the new K2 engine used in the game has enough flexibility to accommodate new maps and new map types as well as a number of new heroes and abilities.
The other plus point of the game is that it features dedicated online servers for better gameplay. DotA could only be played online by connecting via a third party LAN client such as Garena. HoN features a number of dedicated servers located around the world to offer players better connection and matchmaking options. However, the game is for online only and doesn’t feature a LAN mode, so you will have to login via the internet to play.
Play HoN with Sri Lankan gamers!Once you log into the game, type “/join clan gamer lk” (without quotes) to connect to the Sri Lankan chat server. Once there you can request an admin to add you to the clan so that you will be instantly notified of any Sri Lankan HoN action!
The best thing about the game is that even though there is over three months for the official game release, you can get your hands on the game right now! HoN had been in closed beta testing for six months and on 31st March, it went into open beta testing. Anyone interested in playing can simply go to www.heroesofnewerth.com and create a free beta account and play by downloading the beta client which is only around 350MB. Your account will be valid until the beta expires and the game is released to retail. The game is available for pre purchase at US $ 30 which is said to be a onetime fee only. This means that all updates/server facilities will be provided free of charge for those who buy the game.
During the beta period, the game has proved to be a massive hit among gamers worldwide. The inherent competitiveness of the genre which made DotA so popular stays true in HoN as well, with many competitive tournaments being carried out even before the game is released. The Sri Lankan gaming community had their own little HoN mini league, GCHL, to test the waters. You can read all about it in the GCHL wrap-up in the local scene section.
As in many remakes, HoN has its fair share of controversies. Many avid DotA players criticize the game for being a rip-off with nothing more than shiny graphics to entice casual gamers. However, it has to be said that many of these claims are baseless and merely outcries of die hard DotA fans who don’t like to accept the fact that there can be a superior remake of their beloved game. Its Agreed that HoN does have its shortcomings, but it’s still in beta testing and expect all glitches to be ironed out come the retail release. From what we see of the beta, HoN takes DotA to the next level by bringing better graphics and physics while retaining the original gameplay and it improves the player experience by adding more variety to gameplay.
Whatever the naysayers may say, one thing is pretty clear. Heroes of Newerth is here to stay! Watch out for a more in depth review of the game closer to the release. Until then visit www.heroesofnewerth.com and start playing now!
||Heroes of Newerth
||Windows® XP / Windows Vista® / Windows® 7 / Linux / Mac
||128 MB GeForce FX, ATI 9×00, OpenGL 1.2 compatible (Linux and Mac)
||256Kbps connection recommended
Mass Effect 2 is the sequel to a game that received the 2007 game of the year award from The New York Times, best RPG awards from IGN, Yahoo Games and the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, and many other awards from the gaming community. I would say that, at least in this area, the Mass Effect lore is comparable to that of Star Wars, but, unlike Star Wars events which happened ‘a long time ago’, Mass Effect is set in the future, the year 2183 to be exact, when destiny reveals its great plans for Commander Sheppard in a universe full of incredible planets and species.
Mass Effect 2 continues after Sheppard faced the extra-galactic threat, and, without spoiling, i’ll tell you the scenario is built in such a way that you’re allowed to benefit from the character you developed in Mass Effect 1 by importing the saves, but also ensuring an equitable beginning for everyone. You’ll also find that decisions you made in the first part will impact what happens in the sequel, sometimes quite seriously, and especially where ex or future team members’ evolutions are concerned. The classes are the same as in ME1 (Adept, Infiltrator, Vanguard, Sentinel, Engineer and Soldier) and you’ll be given the opportunity to change your class even if you imported the saves.
You can, of course, become ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by increasing your paragon or renegade levels (which don’t necessarily exclude each other). This happens automatically depending on what decisions you make and how you navigate through conversations. The innovation here is that being paragon or renegade not only unlocks special conversations options (e.g. persuasion or intimidation) but now also allows you to take instant action as events unfold, provided you notice the window of opportunity and use it before it disappears. Additionally, the level-up screen is changed from ME1 and it may seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, but it’s actually a nice and proportional representation of your progress. Each ability requires more and more points for you to be able to reach its next level, so, at times, if you want to improve a specific ability before the others you might have some extra points you won’t be able to spend. It’s up to you to figure out a balance between being good at everything and being good at something in particular, and the way you do this should also take into account what class you’ve chosen. In case you’re not satisfied with how you distributed your points, at some moment in the game you’ll have the possibility to invest in a specific research project that redistributes them, in a lab on Normandy (your ship).
Fig. 1 – The level-up screen
Talking about research projects, we get to the economic aspect of the game. There are, of course, credits, which allow you to do most things, but as a new element ME2 introduces the ships ability to mine for certain metals or materials (Palladium, Iridium, Platinum and the rare Element-Zero) through specialized probes which can be launched by the ship when situated near planets. Scanning for these resources is done manually, from orbit, and sometimes anomalies might be discovered, even leading to special missions.
Fig. 2 – Scanning a planet for resources
Various quantities of these resources can be spent to unlock research projects, which improve your fighting/tech equipment or your ship. Even choosing what research to invest in will have repercussions later in the game, so think strategically
As in ME1, you gain your team members’ loyalty by accomplishing missions usually related to their status prior to meeting you. Depending on how you fight, what decisions you make and which missions you accomplish, you’ll receive achievements (as medals) which you can view in the captain’s cabin – your own private place on the ship where you can do all kinds of leisurely stuff. This brings me to the improved sense of realism the game has. For example, a subtle detail but with a very immediate feel to it is seeing coffee machines on tables. Even the mini-games used to hack datapads or gain access to various rooms are surprisingly realistic towards their purpose: to bypass security you work on an actual circuit and to hack code you match actual snippets of code. There are other mini-games and puzzles spread throughout the game, some tied to non-essential assignments but some vital to the mission.
Fig. 3 – Bypassing security
Fig. 4 – Hacking code
The combat system is kind of new in ME2, although you can use powers in the same way: you now need thermal clips instead of your weapon just cooling down on its own – the heat generated when you fire your weapon goes into those clips. This is another realistic part because sometimes you might run out of them in mid-battle, so you’ll have to spot some and avoid enemy fire until you get there; or you can change weapons. When you get cover, if you’re crouched and your cover isn’t very tall you can jump over it taking advantage of a pause in enemy fire. Jumping to the unrealistic part, you can also revive your teammates by using the Unity power, but that’s no reason to complain However, it can be fun to measure up alone against your opponents. Controlling your squad’s position can be done individually now, so you can either put them out of harm’s way, use them as a vanguard or place them strategically depending on how you want to engage your enemy (sometimes luring them out of their original location is a good tactic).
Fig. 5 – Evil robots from outer space? They’ll never know what hit them…
The DLC (downloadable content) system is pretty interesting itself. Some DLCs are available as add-ons and offer extra missions:
● Zaeed Massani offers a new character with the same name, adding to the game missions and stories
● Firewalker gives you an assault vehicle that allows you to hover over the battlefield, and it includes a few missions for you test it out
These are available as part of the Cerberus Network, which also includes extra weapons and assault gear. The Cerberus Network is a new kind of DLC portal that allows you to download its content for free as long as you’re subscribed to it. Retail purchasers should already have a network card with the Cerberus redeem code in it, otherwise (e.g. buying used games) redeem codes can be purchased separately as well. There is another DLC called Kasumi – Stolen Memory which appeared in April. It features a new character (Kasumi, an enigmatic thief) and a loyalty mission which is pretty cool, but short. It’s not available as Cerberus DLC, but separately, and costs 560 Bioware points (you can buy 800 points with 10$). What this game seriously lacks though is multiplayer functionality. Even if it will be added through an add-on later, it won’t spark all the hype a built-in one would have. Maybe this is something they’ll consider for the 3rd installment.
As you progress you’ll notice which missions look ‘more final’ than others. Before you embark on the journey towards the final battle be sure you invest into research as much as possible, recruit all the characters, make them loyal and explore all the planets, otherwise outcomes of certain situations you’ll be put in will ‘sting’, even if you’ll be able to go on in the game. In any case, keep your savegames, you’re going to need them . Once you’re done with the game, keeping your savegames will also be good for Mass Effect 3, which will probably allow for importing as well. If you’ve played ME 1 you’ll know that you’ll grow attached to some of your team members and the same thing will happen now. If you haven’t played ME 1, play it, you’ve got some catching up to do
Characters are more profound than filling positions on the Normandy reveals about them. Not only are their personalities thought-through, but the art & animation department, as well as the voice cast, are incredible. I like to see who voices the characters when i finish the game as the credits roll so i won’t spoil it for you, but i’ll say there are a lot of celebrities among the cast. Some you will have recognized even before you finish the game. Speaking about personalities, when you revisit important planets try to choose different squads – there are some meaningful places where you can talk to them and they share insights and opinions. For example, some of the landscapes in this game, not just the pre-rendered ones, are simply spectacular.
Even if the year isn’t over, Mass Effect 2 has already received its own awards: Best RPG of E3 from GamePro, IGN, GameSpy and others. Bioware, one of the industry leaders, is also working on what is probably one of the most anticipated games: Star Wars: The Old Republic, a ground-breaking MMORPG. Given all this history and the promise of the future itself, Mass Effect 3 should prove one of the best games ever, and, furthermore, EA and Bioware will have reasons to support this franchise for a long time to come.
- some of the images are from Mass Effect Wiki and YouTube
- Mass Effect official site
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