NiGHTS is on the Backorder list!

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It only happens once a generation: a game gets to represent an entire console. Sometimes that brand can become so successful that it leads to a future unimagined by the creator. The character can become an entire franchise and last for years such as Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog. In 1996 one character, nights, intended to become that franchise character for the Sega Saturn. It was not to be. NiGHTS Into Dreams was released on the Saturn in the summer of 1996 to compete head-on Nintendo’s Nintendo 64, and Super Mario 64.

Compared to Nights, Crash Bandicoot had a more illustrious career. Nights was a short-lived flash in the pan for Sega. But I have always looked at that game and wondered what it would be like to play. I recall the winter, waiting for the holiday season, and anxiously awaiting my Nintendo 64, and my latest dose of Mario. I would stand in Toys “R” Us, playing my Pilot Wings 64 demo, and only glancing curiously at NiGHTS. The Saturn didn’t drive me to it, and I was certainly not alone, but that’s no reason to ignore a game that has been beloved by many, today.

NiGHTS Has developed a cult following years. Now that I’m older and more interested in the games themselves than being a fan for one particular brand, I am excited to get my hands on NiGHTS Into Dreams when it comes out on Xbox Live Arcade on October 5. The game will include all of the original levels but will feature enhanced graphics for the modern high-def era. I’m excited to play it either way, it could have the classic graphics, still I’ve always been interested in how this game works and what drew people to it over games like Super Mario 64. What made Sega choose this as a flagship title? Did they think it was a worthy substitute for Sonic the Hedgehog? Could it compete with super Mario?

I have to play NiGHTS into Dreams to find out what made this a great launch title, paired permanently in my mind with the Sega Saturn. Do people love this game out of nostalgia for the Saturn? Or does the game stand on its own merits? I can’t wait to find out. The backorder is my list of games I should have played but never had time for. This game has been a long time resident on that list. Even though it’s a remake, I am excited to finally get my chance to sit down and play Nights into Dreams.

SSH and Telnet on the go for Windows Phone 7

This week’s app is for the geeks out there. Too much attention is paid to how great Android is for the technophiles. Windows Phone 7 isn’t just for kids. The SSH Client for Windows Phone 7 is a fantastic, fully-featured SSH and Telnet client for your WP7 device. Yes, it even works with the Star Wars ASCII-Mation.

If you aren’t crazy about white on black or black on white, and you need a little more variety in your life, $1.49 will buy you The SSH Client Pro, which allows a richer color palette, custom gestures, the ability to run logon scripts, and a few other special tweaks for geeks!

Outlook sits on "loading" screen forever!

Throughout the business world, you find Outlook to be almost ubiquitous as far as mail clients are concerned. The problem is, even though it has evolved, at it’s core, it’s the same chunk of 15 year old code that was included in Office ’97, and some might even argue the DOS versions of Outlook! You’d be hard pressed to find something different that is widely supported, but Outlook has had its growing pains. So what do you do when it’s won’t open? Here’s one tip.

SYMPTOM: Outlook sits and stays at the LOADING splash screen
(similar to what we show above, but rather than starting, it will probably say “Loading…”)

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING: It’s very likely that your “local copy” of your mailbox has become corrupt. If you use Exchange for your email, and you are in Cached Exchange Mode, it means that your computer keeps a local copy of your mail and only synchronizes the changes since it has last been opened – rather than re-downloading your entire mailbox every time you open Outlook. Somehow (we won’t go into details, suffice to say “it happens from time to time”), your local copy has become corrupted.

HOW YOU ARE GOING TO FIX IT: (this looks long, but it’s VERY simplified, I promise!)

  1. Click Start, then Control Panel (if you’re using Windows XP, click SETTINGS then Control Panel).
  2. Find or search for “Mail” and open that.
  3. Click “E-Mail Accounts” at the top.
  4. Highlight your email account and click Change, just below the row of tabs.
  5. Uncheck the box that says “Use Cached Exchange Mode.”
  6. Click Next, then Finish.
  7. Open Outlook.
  8. At this point it should open, and begin syncing mail.
  9. Close Outlook (you don’t have to wait for it to complete the sync process).
  10. Re-Enable Cached Exchange Mode by following steps 1-3 again.
  11. Click the “Data Files” tab at the top.
  12. Highlight your default mailbox (the one with the check mark to the left).
  13. Click “Open Location” below the tabs.
  14. Rename the highlighted file.
  15. Close the open folder.
  16. Click back to the Email Tab.
  17. Click the Change Button.
  18. Re-Enable Cached Exchange Mode.
  19. Click Next, then Finish.
  20. Open Outlook. Everything SHOULD be working!

This time, it should rebuild the OST from scratch – since it won’t be able to find the old OST file. Depending on how much mail you have, this process can take several hours – but it will download “Inbox” then work it’s way to other folders, and you’ll be able to send and receive new mail while it works.

Next week, we’ll talk about what to do when Outlook freezes up before you can open a single email!

2003 – Tokyo Rose – Reinventing a Lost Art

I remember liking this band “back in the day” – and when I was just 19 I had a chance to see them at the Warped Tour. I was blown away by just how much fun the band members looked like they were having. I’d heard a song or two of theirs, but didn’t know just how much I would really enjoy their whole album, at the time. Once I listened to it, beginning to end, I was hooked.

Reinventing a Lost Art was Tokyo Rose’s first “full length” album, and came out when Emo was reaching full force. This is more of the classic “pop-punk” / Post-Hardcore genre we’ve come to appreciate, with some talented vocals over top of quick drums and upbeat guitar riffs. You can’t help but enjoy this album, and they start out the album with a song that gets you in the mood for fun.

Saturday, Everyday, the opening track, begins this chorus with Tokyo Rose’s call for a good time: “So when we rule the world / we’ll put it up to a vote / to make another day / one more like Saturday…” Another track, Weapon of Choice plays off of the old phrase coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” “Enclosed is my weapon of choice,” they sing, as they recall writing letters to friends, family, and significant others as the band toured trying to make it.

You might think I want you to buy the 2007 Tokyo Rose album, Promise in Compromise, because I was one of the early pre-orders who got the select honor of finding our names printed inside the sleeve… cool, yes, but if I really ever expect you to listen to that album, I need to get you hooked on the band first. And to do that? We’ve got to start with Reinventing a Lost Art, the album that really sucked me in and made me a fan of Tokyo Rose.

How to get Open NAT type on Xbox Live

The unfortunate truth about NAT type is that sometimes it is out of your hands. If you’re on a network that you didn’t set up, like some apartment buildings or dorms, it may be hard to resolve. But if this is your home internet connection, you can most likely resolve your issues by logging in to your router and enabling UPnP. The steps for doing this on every router are a little different, but it’s usually fairly simple to find.

Along the same lines, many newer routers also feature an option called teredo tunneling. Enabling that may also resolve your issue.

But Xbox 360 users, fear not! If you’re still having problems after you enable UPnP and teredo tunneling, Microsoft hasn’t given up on you. They suggest some ports you can open as well as other tips to get “NAT type Open” on your connection to Xbox Live.

This became such a huge problem, that Microsoft presented a PowerPoint discussing the issue at Gamesfest 2010, which you can download from Microsoft.com.

Gaming in Windows 8 Part 3: new games, Adera and Taptiles

Two new official Xbox Live-enabled games made their way to the Windows 8 Store recently. However, just like the first round of games, it seems that “more is to come” with an update to each of them. The first one, which should see many updates in the future, is a point and click adventure game (I guess nowadays it would just be a “tap adventure”), which Microsoft has already stated will be episodic in style. Adera tells the story of a female archeologist, who has been in a helicopter crash and needs to regain her bearings before heading off on an adventure… evidently to find a sorcerer’s magical crystal ball. At least, that’s what I gleaned from the cinematic intro. Somebody tell me I’m not the only one here who is having flashbacks to Museum Madness.

It seems to be only a trial version of the game, not even a complete first “episode” of Adera. But, the good news for Xbox junkies like me: the Achievements are live! Most of them, anyway. So go grab yourself a little bit of free Gamerscore from Windows 8. The game itself is quite appealing to look at, mostly still, but the little flourishes of 3D Acceleration make it eye catching.

Next up is Taptiles. This is a Mahjong style game, with the twist being that the puzzle board is a free standing 3-dimensional object which can be rotated. With multiple game types included, I started with “Dash” which is a timed game, where completing a level partially refills an ever dwindling clock. Another mode called Origins is a more traditional type of Mahjong game, and other game types indicate that they’re “coming soon.”

Stay tuned to our ongoing series of posts on Windows 8, and we’ll be sure to let you know when more Xbox Live games make their way to Windows 8.

Is CLEAR starting to muddy the "unlimited data" waters?

Oh how I loathe internet service providers. They have the world’s most precious resource, bandwidth, and they hoarde it to themselves. A few months ago I went ahead cut the cable, 100%, and I now use CLEAR as my primary internet service provider. I purchased a CLEAR Spot Voyager, and have enjoyed it ever since. That is, until this past week.

Co-workers asked me why I wouldn’t just get a tethering plan on my cell phone – but what made CLEAR attractive was their unlimited plan. It would be much like having a regular line through Time Warner – I wouldn’t have to meter my usage or think about it whatsoever. And was I glad I stuck to my guns. Imagine the bill I would’ve gotten if I had a 10GB data plan from AT&T, with my own hot spot or tethering plan, had I ended up my first month’s bandwidth on CLEAR: ~32GB. My second month? ~59.4GB. And my third? Over 70GB.

Yes, I’m a “bandwidth hog.” I have my excuses, and you’ll be happy to know the extreme majority is streaming via legitimate services like Vudu and Netflix, grabbing ISO’s of Linux builds, Microsoft products from Technet, games from Steam and Xbox Live, PS3 Firmware Updates, or downloading music from Amazon MP3 or streaming from Google Play… yes, the whopping majority of my bandwidth is going to legitimate use – surprise surprise. But regardless of where the bandwidth is going, it’s what happened next that surprised me most.

Last week I had a large 2 day download, accumulated a total of about 15GB in two days. I’ve been moving quite a bit of data. But shortly after that, my internet connection became complete garbage. The first day, I chalked it up to some nasty weather passing through the area. Living life wirelessly may have some challenges, I began to think. It’s certainly not satellite, I would’ve expected it to handle some dark clouds and heavy rain – but I still didn’t think much of it. But as my poor connection dragged on and on, with more and more buffering of Netflix, and not being able to upload 10MB to my website without having to reboot my CLEAR Spot Voyager – something as afoot.

After several days, I had had more than enough of my patience used up “waiting” for it to correct itself so I called clear support, around 8 PM on 9/18/2012. I worked with a friendly support technician who, I believe, said his name was “Shane.”

After some basic troubleshooting, we ran a series of speedtests using the famous SpeedTest.net. My pings were average for a WiMAX device, in the 145MS range; my downloads were, as advertised, hitting around 4.5Mbps. But here was the kicker. Uploads were floating around .08Mbps. Pitiful. Tie that with the high latency, and it explained why I was having such a hard time buffering and even web browsing. My speeds in the past have averaged .5 or higher for upstream, and I should know. Every time a friend of mine asks me how my Voyager performs, I do a SpeedTest.net test to the local server here in Rochester, NY. I’ve been quite the CLEAR evangelist. Until this very moment.

The technician pauses, makes a few key strokes, and tells me to try again. My speeds shoot up – downloads over 5Mbps, uploads back around .46 – not the fastest ever, but about 8x what was seeing seconds before. I shook my head, and was going to let it drop, until he said this: “as it looks like you are a power user, I would advise you to download less, this will keep your speeds in top shape.”

I stopped him from concluding our call. “Wait a moment. I pay for the unlimited data plan. I was under the impression that there were no limits, and that I would not be throttled after any certain usage quantities. When I called you, my upload speeds were at .08 – now they’re .45. Was I being throttled? And if you need to escalate me to a supervisor, I’ll hold, you don’t deserve to be chewed out, but if I’m being throttled and I have your unlimited data plan, I need to know right now.” I was then placed on a 2 minute hold.

The same support technician, again, I think the name given was Shane, came back on the line. He politely explained there was nothing more he could do – that I already had the unlimited plan. I concurred, but pushed a little further: “When we began our call, my upload was .08 – after I spoke with you, .45 – what did you do? Can you confirm I was not being throttled?” He would not use the word “throttle” – but simply stated that how I chose to use the bandwidth was up to me, CLEAR only advertises 3-6Mbps down in 4G areas and .5-1Mbps upstream. He said that he only “refreshed” things on his end, that he made no changes to my connection details or my modem device itself. I politely concluded my call, but I’m left with this strange feeling.

I had a slow connection, I call support, and now my connection is mostly healed; I’m given what can only be interpreted as a ‘verbal warning’ about being a power user. It’s left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’ll wait to see how things go, but as far as right now? I’m starting to feel that my CLEAR Spot’s “unlimited” plan may have its limits.

AccuWeather for iPad

What a beautiful app. But will it be a beautiful day? This app can tell you. It’s AccuWeather for the iPad. It’s my weather app of choice for iPad (with RAD Now! still taking the cake on Windows Phone 7).

What I really love about is the hour-by-hour break down that lets you swipe and see the time of day, and the expected conditions for that hour. Do you need to wear a jacket on your way to work? Need an umbrella at lunch time? Sun glasses for the drive home? (If you said “yes” to all three, you must be living off of the Great Lakes). The multi-day forecast works in the same fashion, and it’s quite nice to get a glimpse ahead. And if you’ve never heard of “AccuWeather” then you haven’t been paying attention, because my local news networks growing up were members of the “AccuWeather” nationwide network of Doppler radars. Their weather predictions are just as accurate as anybody else’s.

If you want something that’s fast and easy to read, look no further than AccuWeather for iPad.