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Diablo 3 review.

Blizzard has big shoes to fill for its sequel to the most successful action RPG ever. Ever since the original developers of Diablo 2 was let go we were all wondering what would come of the franchise. Does Diablo3 live up to the hype? No, it doesn’t.

Diablo 3 is a departure from the Diablo franchise. The developers have thrown many mechanics like Town scrolls, and attribute points out the window. Skills trees have also been removed for reasons unknown. While now you do have more skills than previous Diablo games at the end game there’s no point since most of the abilities are useless and only a select few are actually worth using at the higher difficulties. The overall scaling of the game is flawed, at higher difficulties the only way to progress is to exploit since all the classes immediately fall of after entering act 2. The game overall feels unfinished and actually is. There are several features still missing like PVP and real money auction which was original promised for release but never happened. Those features are coming but may arrive too late as the game as already began to alienate players with the network problems and lack of endgame content. The game did sell well, but that’s because people bought into the promises of features and quality Blizzard never delivered on. The game is fun and retains the feel of an action RPG but not after long the feel of repetition quickly sets in after your first play through. Normal difficulty takes about 6 or 7 hours to complete so it won’t be long until your back at act 1 doing the same thing all over again.  The art style leaves a lot to be desired. There is very little gritty imagery to keep the sense of a demonic invasion present. At times it leaves you feeling like you are going through the same areas over and over even though they are randomly generated. The graphics are also pretty poor even at max settings. Character and textures are lacking detail and become boring after sometime. The cliché deserts, forest and demonic landscapes leave you wanting for something interesting and the act with the most interesting environment happens to be the shortest. The gameplay it ‘self is decent but takes a nose dive once you get into later difficulties as the same kiting routine is going to get tedious and feel like a chore more than a game. The feeling of progression is what is going to keep people playing; leveling and getting gear is satisfying and something that’s done well. When you ding a level a large golden effect occurs and knocks corpses and enemies back and the feeling of getting new gear is almost unchanged accept for one thing, the auction house. Instead of the thrill of getting that desperately needed piece from a drop you are going to find yourself navigating the poorly designed auction house for gear. Starting at a list of items and trying to filter buyouts is nowhere near as satisfying as getting that upgrade from a boss you have been grinding hours to get. Sure it saves time but at the expense of fun and a feeling that a lot of players were expecting to come back to. The later difficulties scaling are so poor that players have no choice but to go onto the auction house and buy new pieces ever 5 or so levels or their progression is going to come to a grinding halt.  The game suffers from the fact it’s a single player game dependent on internet servers. This means if you’re playing hardcore and the game lags you can die and have no way to avoid it. This is a game breaking issue that has plagued Diablo 3’s launch and still causes sporadic disconnects weeks after its release. It’s completely unnecessary and only worked on WoW because it was a completely online game. Single player lag is a regular occurrence and is just frustrating. I understand the argument that this is only going to be around for a short while but the fact it’s ever happened is completely ridiculous. A single player game shouldn’t lag, ever and you shouldn’t have to be constantly online in order to play it. This always online feature comes with some pro’s like the quick drop in drop out and the server side characters but are definitely not worth the issues and the idea that when this game is as old as Diablo 2 the servers might not even be online. I cannot overstate how these should never be faults of a single player game ever.

Looking at Diablo 3 Blizzards steady decline in quality has finally come full circle. The game is unfinished and full of bugs and exploits. Unsatisfying gameplay, casulized mechanics, poor visuals, and sporadic connection issues are something players shouldn’t tolerate. If you have the money and are looking for action RPP torchlight 2 is going to be 20 dollars have more features and Path of Exile will be free and have the greatest skill tree ever. Blizzard’s attempt to set the standard for the genre once again has failed miserably and it looks like we will have to look to the original creators of Diablo, Runic games for possible salvation.

WebOS is a mobile operating system first introduced with the Original Palm Pre. The reason it stood out was because of its native multitasking component and at the time was one of the only high end smart phones on sprint. Needless to say with the competition from Android and the iPhone WebOS ran into tough times and resulted in Palm selling the company to HP. Since its purchase in 2010 HP has attempted to breathe new life to the dying WebOS platform. It never really caught on, with the new devices including the touchpad not picking up much steam with consumers. Some can blame the already well establish tablet and smartphone market with Android and iPhone, and Palm’s ecosystem wasn’t strong enough to be a worthwhile purchase for consumers. The price points were also a brick wall for many, with price points that matched the iPad or flagship Android tablets.  A few months ago HP dropped WebOS and said it would no longer support the software or release new hardware, however it appears its downfall maybe the best thing that has happened to it. With the firesale that HP started consumers started to pick up the discounted Touchpads like crazy. The savings were too good to pass up for any self-respecting techie, and before we could think Android had been ported to the device. For techies looking for a cheap tablet they had come across a high end 500 dollar device selling for a more than reasonable 100 dollars, so they flew off the shelves within days. HP has now announced that they will be making WebOS open source and will be launching new hardware to go along with it. HP has said they will not be making more smartphones but will focus on the tablet market which their touchpad had become incredibly popular in. This is big news because it means WebOS has an opportunity to come back and be a solid operating system to compete with Android and iPhone, and competition is always good. HP hasn’t released any timeframe as when to expect the OS’s resurrection but hopefully after this it won’t need any more. For now fans will just have to watch and wait on HP to deliver. 

Android 4.0

Android 4.0 and the Galaxy Nexus

The night of October 17th was very exciting for techies out there as Google announced their 4.0 “Ice-cream sandwich android update as well as the new Nexus phone the “Galaxy Nexus” by Samsung.

The 4.0 software bridges the gap between the tablet “Honeycomb” and the mobile “Gingerbread” software for android. This means that instead of being 2 separate android entities now if a manufacturer wants to make a tablet and mobile phone they both will use the same version of android. This iteration of Android not only bridges the gap between the 2 software’s but it also enhances what Android can do. The first biggest change is the overall design of Android. The philosophy of the new design is described as “Roboto”. It’s a very edgy cyber techie design with some curves that add a cheerful demeanor to the whole thing. It looks pretty fantastic and definitely won’t be hated by fans of the current Android design. Next up is Facelock, it is a feature that uses your face to unlock the phone after it is put into sleep mode. This means that unless someone is an identical twin or clone of yours then there is no way they are going to be able to get into your phone or tablet. Better keep those evil twins in check people. Next up is the NFC-based Android beam sharing between phones. This is a technology that will allow you to touch your phone to other Android users to send data between each phone. The SDK or software developers kit, will allow developers of apps to integrate this technology into their apps. For example the Facebook app can have a feature that allows you to tap someone’s phone to send them a friend request. It will also allow you to interact with things like signs or billboards that will offer to send you trailers for movies or maybe even coupons for products. This is a really interesting feature because it can lead to a new standard that will make simply walking around potential to have something cool sent to your phone. Next up there is a revamped camera and gallery application. This is an update that many users have been waiting for. The camera application is faster and easier to use. It can also be accessed from the lock screen. Shots taken are registered immediately thanks to zero shutter lag and continuous autofocus with automatic fade detection. Video has also seen an improvement. It received a boost to 1080p video capture, continuous auto focus and zoom while recording. The UI has also been revamped and a more functional digital zoom slider has been added as well as a fantastic panorama feature. The gallery app itself is also getting revamped. There is on the fly photo editing and any edits are saved to a separate picture so you can have the original and edited file. Images can be sorted by location thanks to geotagging or manual sorting.  Along with these features they were shown off on the newest Nexus device the Galaxy Nexus.

The Galaxy Nexus by Samsung is going to be the new standard for android 4.0 developments. It is also raising the hardware standard for devices. It features a 4.65 super AMOLED display(1,280×720), 1.2ghz dual core processor, 5 Megapixel rear facing camera with LED flash and 1080p video recording, 1.3 megapixel front facing camera,3.5 mm headphone jack, 4G LTE support as well as HSPA + support, a 1,750 mhz battery, 1 GB of ram and a 16 or 32 flash storage capacity. These specs are really something to drool over going leaps and bounds over the recently announced 4S. The design itself is very slick and impressive. It should also be noted that the 4.65 inch screen size is the result of there not being a physical button area so the screen extends down to compensate for the loss. It’s a very fantastic looking device and the only choice for anyone looking to get 4.0 ASAP. It is a Verizon  exclusive in the US and international carriers have yet to be announced.

 

The iPhone 4S

In a very much belated announcement on October 4th, Apple announced its newest iteration of the iPhone. The iPhone 4S,l like the previous model dubbed “S”, doesn’t feature a redesign, but rather an internal hardware upgrade to keep the phone up to par with the high-end smartphones. The specs boast an upgraded A5 processor, 8 megapixel camera, and compatibility with CDMA and GSM on one device. This feature will help avoid a separation of models between the carriers. Speaking of carriers, along with AT&T and Verizon, Sprint has been added to the list of carriers for the 4S, as well as the previous iPhone 4. Along with this slew of hardware upgrades, the phone features the latest iOS 5. This update will be downloadable for all iOS devices this fall.

The new iPhone is said to have 200 new user features, including a revamped notification system that cures the most irritating bubble interruption known to man. We now no longer have to fear receiving a text that ruins our game of Angry Birds. We also have iMessages, which is a universal messaging system similar to Blackberry Messenger, which will be on all the iOS devices. It will also be freeing its iTunes sync requirement, meaning you never have to have the phone synced with iTunes in order to use it. One feature, though, called the Siri Assistant, seems to be the most advanced aspect of this device. It will replace the voice command software and give you the ability to talk to your phone and tell it what to do. We are only a few stone throws away from having a Hal 3000 in our pocket. A little less sinister, though, this Siri Assistant most likely won’t become self-aware and decide to kill you. (For those of you who haven’t seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, go do so right now.) It appears to be innocent, but there is no better way to explain it than by saying if you tell this thing to text your grandmother, it will. All the native iPhone tasks are compatible and we can only expect that developers will begin to utilize this feature if they haven’t already.

There are some disappointments with this upgrade, though. The lack of 4G is shocking, but then again, being familiar with Apple’s early adaptation sickness, it really isn’t. 4G is notorious for draining battery, and the components for the technology are bulky and expensive. The phone has the same design, which features the “antennagate” gap, that can cause your phone to lose signal just because of the way you are holding it. The issue was treated with the Verizon model, it was dulled rather than gotten rid of. We will only really know for sure what we’re dealing with when we finally get our hands on the 4S. The design also isn’t very sturdy. The glass surface is easily shattered, and the stainless steel bands are prone to scratching. However, it is definitely keeping the iPhone line up with the top tier smart phones out there. We know that Apple wouldn’t add a feature unless it was perfected fundamentally, and 4G chips have a way to go before they’re as skinny and efficient as their little brother, 3G chips. To supplement this, AT&T users will be using HSPA+, which is basically a supercharged 3G connection.

All in all, the iPhone 4S is a solid upgrade that is bound to disappoint power users, but the already committed Apple enthusiasts know 4G isn’t ready for the iPhone, and vice-versa. The hardware brings it up to par with the dual core devices that are ruling the roost, and it gives us that cool-looking Siri technology. We only have a few weeks until we can get our hands on the device, but being so far off from the regular WWDC (worldwide developer conference) announcement that takes place in the summer, we were really expecting something revolutionary. I guess we will have to wait and see what next year will bring, but until then I’m sure this will do more than suffice.

 

 

It goes without saying that most people are very well adjusted to the standard desktop computing experience. Whether you are on Mac or PC you more than likely understand the basic concepts of operating in either OS’s environment. A bottom bar showing programs either running or clickable and a large blank space right above it for shortcuts or an area to resize program windows is the very basic setup we are all really used to that is complimented by the simplicity of keyboard and mouse input. Windows 8 takes a glance at the good ole fashion and spits on it. Windows 8 is a radically different approach to computing. In an age were tablet computers and mobile phones are becoming alternatives to laptops or desktops, many developers are running wild trying to accommodate the entire market.  Windows 8 is giving us an OS optimized for tablet and desktop computing. If you take a look at a Windows Phone 7 then Windows 8’s desktop is going to look strikingly familiar.  It utilizes a “tile” system that integrates information into the icons we use to access our programs. Now this utilization isn’t necessary for every program. The internet browser is still just a picture of the IE icon we are so familiar with. However the real utilization comes in for applications like email or social networking programs that will present the user with helpful information that would save them time or notify them of pushed data. A good example of this is the Weather application which just by looking at it tells you the temperature for today as well as a forecast for the coming days. Developers can utilize this function. For instance a developer can enable the tile for their email client to display the number of unread emails as well as show the subjects of said emails.  Now it’s very important to understand how tablet friendly this OS is going to be.  Touch input is being brought to the frontier of development instead of mouse and keyboard, Microsoft want’s Windows 8 to be a real contender in the tablet marketplace. It is exploiting the weaknesses of tablets in serious computing situations and capitalizing on that with a full-fledged computer operating system, not one that is limited to certain functions due to hardware or software limitations. Now many are concerned what kind of hardware Windows 8 will be running on. Fantastically this OS not only works well on low end hardware but it also compatible with ARM processors. ARM processors are the CPU’s that run a majority of the mobile hardware we see now including tablets and phones so we will definitely be seeing budget friendly Windows 8 devices. There is no official word on mobile phone integration since that’s a separate beast entirely, but Microsoft may announce some information later in development. For those who are curious, Microsoft recently released a developer’s preview, which is a very rough pre alpha cut of the operating system. You can find it online at dev.windows.com for free. There is still a lot that is subject to change but the general reception has been positive. You can still recall to the standard desktop environment so you oldschoolers won’t have to deal with the new tablet interface if you don’t want too. Now the tablet optimized interface has its obvious flaws such as navigating multiple windows and typing on screen, however these are issues that are a foundational weakness of tablet interfaces and shouldn’t really be blamed on the OS itself but rather more on the simple drawbacks of using your fingers as opposed to keyboards and mice. Microsoft isn’t the only developer looking towards tablet computing.  We are seeing Mac OSX Lion introducing many mobile friendly features so it makes us wonder what the future of computing will be. There is no doubt that this will definitely be the biggest change Windows has seen in a while. With full compatibility with Windows 7 programs as well as the sophistication of being a 1st rate operating system Windows 8 is going to be very serious competition in the tablet marketplace as well as be a radical development for the way we can use computers.

A big question on a lot of people’s minds when they are deciding to buy a cell phone from a wireless carrier is “Will the phone actually work in my area?” Today we are being swarmed with ad campaigns designed by wireless carriers showing off maps of the US with their networks coverage. Now this is fine and the information they provide is most likely accurate but Root Metrics wants to change the idea all together.

The Mission

Root Metrics provides one universal coverage map which shows the actual real time coverage of wireless carriers for your area. Instead of the carrier itself dictating the data they present to you on their commercials or website Root Metric’s coverage data is completely user generated. The information that makes it onto the map is the result of direct real time signal ratings of a particular carrier’s wireless signal, provided by users from their smart phones. Root Metrics has an app available on both iPhone and Android so it covers a broad number of users all over the country. The great thing about this is that the information is completely unbiased and accurate. The only thing dictating the data you will see on the map is if people in your area are actually collecting data for the service. It’s a completely user generated database that will give people looking for a wireless carrier a great opportunity to take advantage of a user controlled informative tool. It will help them choose which wireless carriers are best for them in their area and potentially improve the way carriers deal with their coverage problems.

The App

The application itself is the most interesting part of Root Metrics. It is the tool that will help collect your carrier’s data as well as allow you to view your local coverage map.

This screen shows the test that you will run and upload to the database. It will calculate the speed of your carrier’s network in the area.

You will also be able to report other issues that commonly occur with coverage issues.

Finally this is the map that will aggregate the data users in your area have uploaded to the database.

With the combination of the excellent tool Root Metrics provides with the effort of local carrier customers collecting data, the database Root Metrics provides will help inform wireless consumers as well as provide motivation to carriers to improve the quality of their wireless network.

Beforehand I should mention this article is my personal process for choosing a new smartphone. I found it works out really well for me so hopefully it will help you. There is no magical handbook on what’s the best phone, it’s all up to personal opinion and hopefully here you can learn to be better prepared to make that buy.

Probably the coolest piece of handheld technology to come out in the past decade has to be the smartphone. These things are faster, prettier, and smarter than any dinky non-smartphone device. The smartphone market really exploded with the IBM Simon, which was the first phone to offer mobile email and other very interesting technologies never before seen on a phone. Now, it’s safe to say that back then a PDA and phone combined was a pretty big deal. However,  it’s a different story today. Smartphones are almost standard now. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have one. The best definition of a smartphone is a cellphone that has a complex operating system (like a computer, which has windows or mac OSX) that offers the ability to do many tasks that go beyond what a normal talk/text/tetris phone can do. So, when you see someone on YouTube, browsing the internet, or checking their email, you can assume that they have one.

So, you have decided to finally purchase one of these magnificent pieces of human ingenuity. Trust me, you won’t regret it. However, the market can seem very intimidating. Here are some safety facts that are good to know.

  • Carriers will act like they have the best xyz just to sell you something. It’s hard to really trust someone when most likely they are getting paid to be biased. They will point out a phone to you and try to make it seem like an all-powerful being (as long as it’s a smartphone). Don’t be fooled. While they technically aren’t lying to you, they are just sharing their opinion, which often times can be different than someone else’s!
  • Find out which phone is best for you.
  • Find out which plan is best for you.
  • Find out which carrier is best for you.

The last 3 tips are the most important things to know. Walking into a random carrier’s retail store and saying “I want a smartphone” is like going into a car dealership and saying “Hey, you! Show me the best car that I should buy right now.” It really pays off to have a little bit of research done before hand. The first thing you need to understand is where you are. It plays an important role in which carrier will give you the best coverage.

 

Coverage is really important. It is the only way your phone will work. Check out where you are a lot of the time. Where you work and where you often spend your leisure are places that you want to look into. Think about where you would use the phone the most and check out people who may be using a phone on a certain network. If you have one in mind and you see somebody using a smartphone, ask them how the coverage is, and ask them how they like the phone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That is what you are supposed to do.  Just try and make sure they don’t have a uniform with a carrier on it. You might get a biased answer.  Once you have figured out which carrier will give you the best coverage, it’s time to look for a phone.

 

Haha, just kidding. Now we need to look at what plan is best for us. In the long run, the service is going to have more of an impact on your wallet than the phone. It’s very important to be stern with how much money you are going to spend. You might end up wasting more than you have to. All the carriers offer different types of plans. Once you have a carrier in mind, then go ahead and ask a rep or search their website for prices. The standard smartphone plan is a data plan. Its price varies depending on how much data you actually buy a month, but for unlimited data, the price is usually about 40-50 dollars. Some carriers offer a reduced data plan, where you have only a certain amount of data a month. This can be a great option for people who don’t do much more than check email or Facebook. However, your priorities might be different. Understand how much data you are going to use. Ask yourself questions like “Will I be on the web and using data all throughout the day, or will I only be checking it time to time for about 5 minutes a session?” Everyone’s needs are different. If you are getting a smartphone for a job, then your employer will most likely have a predetermined business plan for you (in which case you really won’t have a choice), but for personal use it’s very important to understand what you will be doing. Finally, it’s time to check out the different phones.

 

This is the most difficult area to cover. It’s not as simple as deciding on a carrier or plan. Those are sort of predetermined by your behavior and location. This, however, is completely subjective. It’s impossible to generalize users of a certain phone, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons for each. The first step is understanding the features you will and won’t need. Most of the time this is easy, and almost all smartphones have the same types of features. It’s just how they allow the user to use the device that’s different.  It’s easy to call out phones on simplicity, but below is a list of devices from most complex to simplest, and a brief explanation of each.

  1. Android- By far the most technical of the smartphones out there. Not only is it tethered to a Google account, but you also need to learn its quirks. It has features that aren’t that obvious. Manufacturers also like to put skins over the regular operating system to add features themselves that the default android software doesn’t include. While personally I can’t stand ones that aren’t good, HTC Sense is by far the best of the bunch. If you are ever going to go to Android for the first time, a phone sporting HTC sense will make the process much easier.
  2. Blackberry- For the most part, once you get used to a Blackberry it becomes second nature. I almost get freaked out by users and how quickly they can navigate it. While personally I have never used it, there are some things that make it more business-oriented to where it can confuse you. Google’s Account Sync on their Android phones is actually rather simple, but for  Blackberrys, I have talked to users who can barely check their email. It would be a good idea to realize this is a very business-hardened device. That’s where it planted its roots in the smartphone market. If email, texting, and staying connected to your work is essential, then Blackberry may be your best choice. Just be aware that it takes some getting used to, but is in no way impossible to learn.
  3. Windows Phone 7- unlike Windows Mobile 6, which would have been above Android on this list, Windows Mobile 7 is much more streamlined. Taking some inspiration from Android and the iPhone, the tiles on the menu stream information to you without having to enter pages of apps. This is actually really cool, and makes the whole usage a lot easier than most smartphones. However, for right now it runs a bit dated, lacking multitasking and even standard features like copy and paste, but updates will soon fix those and any other problems there may be. It is the newest operating system on this list.
  4. iOS(iPhone)- To put it simply, a baby can use this phone. You slide to unlock. You see your apps and you touch them. Need messages? Tap messages. Boom. What you see is what you get. It’s almost too simple. Now it isn’t without its flaws like all operating systems, but this is a very good start for almost everyone. Even people who can barely use a computer. Apple really pulled off making a device super simple and easy to use, yet extremely feature packed, as much as any other smart phone out there.

While that covers the most popular software right now, there are others, but these platforms currently have the best hardware going for them that’s why they are recommended. However, we aren’t quite done. The final step is going out and taking a look for yourself. You need to decide which hardware/software is best for you. Do you like big screens or small screens? Need a nice camera? Prelist the features you want, even write them down before you go in to pick out a device. This point is completely about your opinion and all hardware and price points are different.  If you find a device you are interested in take it to the web. There are tons of reviews online that can help you better understand what you are thinking about buying.

I hope this guide helped you out, and now you may go with my blessing to pick out your first smartphone.


Now a reoccurring question I have been getting from people is that, “Will I be able to buy an iPhone on T-Mobile now?” Well, that is a very valid question. However, what you need to understand first is that this deal is affecting more than just the name of your carrier and its iPhone availability. There should be some points made right off the bat.

  • The deal will take about a year from March to actually be completed.
  • There is NO news now on what phones will be working for what or who or why for now. We simply know nothing, and it’s much too early to be asking manufacturers what their plan will be.
  • The deal isn’t 100% at the last minute; everything can change. T-Mobile can back out in a month or 2, even though at this point it seems very unlikely. There is still a slim chance the deal might not happen.  In my opinion, though, it definitely will.
  • T-Mobile is still as of now an independent company and will remain to provide all of its current and future planned services until further notice.

These are just some more details you show know. The project will be merging both carriers’ cellular data technology together. While they both work on the same fundamental type of network (GSM), they still have some nuts and bolts that need unscrewing and re-screwing, and that’s why it is going to take so long for this to happen.  The final cost when all is said and done will be 39 billion dollars in cash and stocks. We will have to wait until next March to see how it all works out. So, sorry T-Mobile users, no iPhone for now.

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