Writing again…

For quite a while now, I have been wrapped up in technology, gaming, and so many other modern things… Stay tuned. Thursday’s on the blog may get more interesting, or perhaps I will change the theme of another day, or just do some writing on another of my websites! I have been writing more and more lately, and find a bit of a personal renaissance springing forward. I certainly do not expect to cut the cord and disappear, but I I will be getting away more, to remote areas that remind me of home, where I can find tall grass and much taller trees. Places where honking horns and ties on pavement have never once echoed. Places where a person with a pen can articulate what has what the stow away who has been hidden from sight for their own safety has wanted to say. I am still deciding how to go about this process, and maybe it won’t even end up on this site, but I thought I would mention it and measure some reactions. Let us find out what words are waiting to come out, in the near future!

Podcasts is now available for iOS devices

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The “podcasting app” from Apple was released yesterday. Conveniently named “Podcasts,” the app is designed to help you find new podcasts, manage subscriptions to current podcasts, and really just make the podcast listening and sorting experience a much more natural thing. Rather than digging and sorting through all of iTunes, Podcasts makes it easy for you to look through your existing podcast library, and find something new to listen to.

You can find Podcasts in the app store, as Podcasts!

How to check your hard drive for errors in Windows 7

Sometimes you might get a little worried that the data on your hard drive are getting corrupted. Occasionally, you might be compelled to run a “chkdsk” or “Check Disk” process (or, in Windows 9x terms, a scan disk!). The process is fairly simple. Here is how you do it in Windows 7, and the steps are nearly identical for Windows XP.

  1. Open up Computer (or My Computer) either from the Desktop or the Start Menu.
  2. Right Click on the drive you want to scan.
  3. Click Properties.
  4. Click the Tools tab.
  5. Click the Check now… button.
  6. Check both boxes (if you want to scan the drive itself for defects, rather than just search for corrupt files).
  7. Click Start.
  8. Click Schedule Disk Check.
  9. Click OK, then Reboot!

During the startup process, the screen will have a 10 second count down that you can interrupt if you need to – but after the count down completes the scan process will start. It takes, on average, about an hour. The screen should say that it is on Phase 1 of 5 if you are doing the full surface scan.

2011 – Shael Riley & The Double Ice Backfire – Ultimate Songs from the Pit

Shael Riley and The Double Ice Backfire did a Kickstarter fundraiser in late 2010… and even though my discs may have gotten lost in the mail somewhere along the line, Shael Riley does right by his fans and he was kind enough to toss me a download code to get the album from Bandcamp. And am I ever glad he did.

You may remember Shael Riley from the chiptune band The Grammar Club. One of Shael’s other projects has been the Double Ice Backfire, which is clearly an homage to all things Mortal Kombat, even musically. The band performed a cover of the song Sub-Zero (Chinese Ninja Warrior) (which was from an old album released when the very first Mortal Kombat game was released). The album title references The Pit (a famous level in the Mortal Kombat series) and there is even a song en titled “tip eht fo mottob” – which is a clever reference to a screen in the original arcade version of Mortal Kombat which the hint “tip eht fo mottob” – a clue to a way that you can fight the hidden character, Reptile. The song is a fun trip through the Mortal Kombat universe from Reptile’s perspective.

Not every song was equally geeky. Album opener, How to Fire a Gun is quite sincere and contains much more thought provoking lyrics: “do you believe she’ll never leave you, do you have someone to read to, do you hope you’ll never need to fire a gun?” But don’t worry, if that’s not your scene, then you can rely on songs like Hipster Hoax to bring you back to the world you’re familiar with, of pirates, ninjas, and cats.

While people waited for the album to finish, the band released several covers (many of which were commissioned by Kickstarter contributors), including Here Comes the Hot Stepper (you’d remember Ini Kamoze if your heard it!), Creep from Radio Head, Cake’s The Distance, and even Melanie by “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Head to ShaelRiley.com to listen to the covers for free, and you can head to Bandcampto buy the album for $10.

Xbox Live Gold vs Silver? Gold has its benefits!

I think by now a lot of people still know the benefits of Xbox Live Gold over Silver accounts… the biggest of which involves actually playing games online! But what are some others? Here’s a quick run down of some of the features you only get by going gold:

  • Unlimited online multiplayer
  • Access to Instant Watch apps like Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, UFC, and ESPN
  • Exclusive deal-priced downloads of Games on Demand, Xbox Live Arcade, DLC, and even movies and music
  • Early and exclusive access to game previews and demos
  • Access to music apps like Last.FM and iHeartRadio
  • Voice and video chat with Xbox Live Vision Camera or Kinect


There are loads of other benefits to going gold, so why don’t you follow the steps in the video above to sign up for Gold? If, for some reason the video changes down the road or doesn’t want to play, I won’t leave you hanging! You can always upgrade your silver account to a Gold account by visiting the Xbox.com Manage Subscription page.

Gaming takes me back…

I have been on a strange and fairly pointless kick lately. I have barely turned on my Xbox 360, or even my PS3. I’ve been watching more movies, and playing other games. Games that I’ve missed. Missed in both terms of “never played” – like the games that occasionally show up in my “Backorder catalog, and also missed in terms of “just haven’t played in a while.” I went on Goozex and got a a few games like NES Play Action Football, and Silent Hill for the PlayStation. Two games that I’ve never played, but always heard good things about. I can’t wait to hook up my original NES for a play session.

I recently went on GoG.com and purchased Sim City 2000 when it was on sale. I even went on Steam and loaded up some game expansions that I never completed like Half-Life’s Opposing Forces. I added my original Star Craft CD Key to my Blizzard / Battle.net account. I found a rare game in my parents’ attic called Gunman Chronicles (which you can’t activate on Steam, by the way!). Another victory for Steam, I bought a special sale priced collection of games from id Software, and found myself playing a lot of DooM 3 and Quake III Arena.

I can’t explain why, so suddenly, I have been compelled to play so many classics. But I ran through a few levels of Donkey Kong Country, and even picked up the Virtual Boy I had left in the childhood bedroom where I grew up. Something is calling for me, and I can’t yet tell if it’s something genuinely retro, like my Gameboy, or if it’s something slightly newer. All I know is that right now I long for the days when controllers had wires, and you sat on the carpet about 4 feet from the TV, and you bleeped and blipped your way around a world that looked the way it sounded. I haven’t found the right thing to itch the scratch, but it’s a good gaming Friday, and I think it’s time to start the quest to find what I’m missing.

Windows Phone 8, I'm already ready!

Oh man. I’m pumped. I’m super pumped. Microsoft heald the Windows Phone Summit today and had a lot to say about Windows Phone 8. It’s the piece that ties at all together. One harmonious, Microsoft-based ecosystem. “One Microsoft Way,” as the street address of Microsoft headquarters states. And I’m one of the ten people on the planet who is all for it!

Android fans are rolling their eyes, saying it’s about time. iPhone users… well… they’re keeping quiet as upgrades to iOS are starting to lag behind the game that “big daddy M” is talking about. But when the announcement of Windows Phone 8 came today, I was at the edge of my seat. Microsoft proudly states that the software at the true core of the OS will be a shared core with Windows 8. In other words, it’s fairly straightforward that Windows RT and the Windows 8 Metro experience overtop of the Windows 8 Home and Pro desktop environments, is going to be all of the hard work that the Windows Phone team made come true. Taking the guts out of Windows CE and Windows Mobile, and turning it around to something that is this good was a lot of work, and I really hope the Windows Phone team is reaping the benefits!

Don’t take my word for it. During the very beginning of their presentation today, it was pointed out that Windows Phone 7 is really getting their biggest reward from their users. Somehow it’s still not selling, but the user reviews on Amazon rate seven of the top 9 phones on Amazon… as Windows Phone 7 devices. It wasn’t a joke, it wasn’t an exaggeration – I checked it out myself.

And what is Windows Phone 8 going to bring us? Better software – the same stuff you can get on the Windows 8 Metro store, you’ll be able to get on a Windows Phone 8. 90% of the code used on Windows Phone 7.5 can be ported to Windows Phone 8, there will be almost no effort needed to have all of the apps already in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace will be able to make their way to Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 8 is also going to introduce multi-core support (dual core right away, and more to come – and they’ve already tested it up to 64 cores!). Support for two new higher resolution (720p and WXGA) screens are going to help keep higher definitions coming along, while not causing massive fragmentation along the platform.

MicroSD sounds like it’s “about time” but it is still exciting to know that I’ll essentially be carrying a full-blown Windows device with a memory card in my pocket – it’s not just going to be pictures and ringtones, it is going to be just as useful as an external hard drive on your current laptop. Microsoft made a big deal of their support for NFC, something that sounds convenient when working with multiple devices, and the new “NFC Wallet” type of experience, but that’s not a huge deal for me. Not enough brick and mortar stores that I’ve been to support that. I guess everyone in Seattle and Silicon Valley must have a need for it, but not so much me.

There are a few other benefits that were described, and these really have nothing to do with the real end-user features that Windows 8 will be pushing, but the one they are quite proud of is the more customizable start screen (as seen in the screen capture at the top of the page). Microsoft has decided to take Windows Phone 7 and the Metro UI’s most powerful feature, and make it even more powerful. I can’t wait. This fall, I will have a Surface, I will have a Windows Phone 8, and I will be thrilled. If you want to know more about what to expect from Windows Phone 8, or see it in action, check out the presentation stream from Microsoft’s Channel 9.

How to use Skydrive on your Android: Browser for Skydrive

Update: Microsoft has released an official SkyDrive app for Android. Original article below.

Browser for SkyDrive is a free app for Android which allows you to access files on your Microsoft SkyDrive account. Sounds pretty straight forward, and it is.

Even though Windows Phone 7 and iOS are covered, Microsoft has yet to release an official SkyDrive app on Android. This app takes fills the need, and does so in quite a professional fashion. An easy to use, split screen interface shows your local file system, and the files on your SkyDrive. You are able to quickly navigate and transfer files of nearly any type back and forth. It is easy to trust the application made by a third party with your Windows Live ID password because it actually takes you take a Microsoft logon page where you authorize the app access, rather than just entering your password and letting the app store it however it wants and send it wherever it might. All in all, it’s a very professional, and very well done replacement (or at least placeholder) for an official Microsoft app. I’ve used it a few times and have been quite happy with it.

A small, non-resource-intensive banner ad at the bottom of the application keeps the app free. I click on it from time to time to support the developer. I encourage everyoen to check out Browser for SkyDrive by Bolero on the Google Play Store.