A lot of Xbox Live sales right now

The Xbox tip of the Week is usually reserved for something you can use over and over again, but it’s not every day you’re in the midst of one sale and very close to another. The 2013 Spring Sale is going on for another 24 hours or less, and the April 1st, 2013 sale is about to launch. See if there are any deals that you can’t live without!

Ouya's officially on the way

I should have an Ouya console in the mail, and as soon as I have it on hand, I’ll have more information for you!

In an email sent out to Kickstarter backups last night, the retail launch in June is still their goal. But it’s exciting to be part of the Kickstarter preview. This is the first time we’ve started to feel like this is a preview release. Kickstarter supporters always knew they’d get a console, and some kind of service, but it sounds like we might be expecting a bit of a bumpy road, but we may also see so impressive overhauls in the months leading up to the retail release of Ouya. They’re talking about small system updates that are already available on first boot, and reminding gamers of four controller support. They made sure to mention that Final Fantasy III would be among their launch titles, which no doubt thrills those few gamers who’ve shelled out $99 or more on eBay just to own a copy of the SNES title!

“As of 7:59 p.m. PT, there are already 104 published games on OUYA (all still free to try), like Final Fantasy III and some new surprises we think you’ll love: Beast Boxing Turbo, Stalagflight, Knightmare Tower, and even one called Save the Puppies. There are already a few entertainment apps, too. You can watch the TV shows and movies you already own with XBMC and Flixster, or watch games streamed through TwitchTV.

I have no doubt that support for things like Netflix and Vudu will be coming down the pike, and I’m genuinely getting anxious to check my mail and find a console waiting for me. I’ll be giving it a great deal of coverage when it arrives, because it’s not every day something so important arrives in the hands of thousands, before it could potentially sell to millions. I wonder if the NPD is ready to start tracking Ouya sales?

Ping for Windows Phone

UPDATE: Ping appears to have gone missing from the Windows Phone Store as we get closer to Windows 10 Mobile’s launch. I’m unsure where it has gone or why, but in the mean time, I recommend checking out another app with PING and even more features, Network Tools.


Despite the logo, it’s not a Ping-Pong game, just a straight forward ping tool to carry in your pocket. This week, it’s a very simple app, but an app I couldn’t believe I didn’t have on my phone! Suddenly, I needed a simple Ping utility, just like the old command-line tool for Windows, but I didn’t have one on my phone! I forgot all about it! But when I needed the this invaluable tool in my pocket, one app came through in a hurry. Ping on Windows Phone. Easy enough to remember, it shows up at the top of the marketplace when you search. The interface has a place for you type the server address you want to test, and another field to specify a port. 99% of the time, you just want to use port 80, since it does not specify a port for you by default. Then away you go!

Just use the Ping app to ensure you’re getting a response from a server or network device. Quick, simple, convenient. That’s my kind of app. All for the low, low price of free. Everyone’s kind of app. So go download Ping on Windows Phone, you never know when it’ll come in handy!

Chromebook: stop calling it a laptop

Google is so pleased with themselves. They’re seeing success with the recent Chromebook releases. Which made sense, in some form, when it was a few hundred dollars and had an impressive screen and physical design. But the Chromebook Pixel, which starts at $1,299 and goes upwards of $1,599, looks to many people browsing store shelves like a full blown “laptop.”

I will be the first to admit that over 80% of what I do on my computer is within my browser, these days. We live our lives on the World Wide Web, even if we don’t call it that anymore. Email is in the browser, Netflix is in the browser, Facebook, all of our news websites, even the tool I’m using to write this blog (and obviously how you’ll read it!) is all in a browser. Kudos to Google for identifying this. But for those other things? We need computers. Real ones. Not just browsers, or environments that look like Windows but are little more than a browser, like Google’s ChromeOS.

Google can pat themselves on the back all they want, but Google isn’t getting phone calls every day asking them “how do I install Quickbooks on this thing?” They would, except Google has gotten into the market of selling things without support. This was fine when everything was free. So what if GMail is down? It’s free! Or, it’s in beta! These were Google’s favorite defenses. But now they’ve achieved widespread use. They need to offer support. They need to hear the complaints their customers have, because right now, they’re marching onward so damn proud of their Chromebook sales. Meanwhile, every person I’ve met with a Chromebook so far? I’ve successfully talked them in to returning it to the store.

What do you mean I can’t install Word?. Well, Google offers Google Docs! It’s free! And it looks kind of like Word! But no, you can’t install the program you’re used to. And if your internet ever goes out, your productivity literally, not figuratively, just dropped to zero.

Google still lives in a Google world. Where everyone is a geek, who loves the idea of Google Buzz. Google forgets that there are still non-technical users out there. The people drawn to the iPhone? Are the same people who ask me why Word didn’t come with their new Windows computer. They don’t understand that Word 2007 and Windows 7 are different products. They don’t understand why they have to pay for Office 2011 on their new Mac if they want Outlook installed. They don’t understand that a Chromebook isn’t a computer, it’s a browser. And the people who pay over a thousand dollars? Are expecting a hell of a lot more than a browser.

Maybe I haven’t seen the right use case or product review, but I think the Chromebook, especially the Chromebook Pixel, is a waste of money.

2001 – Undergrads

During my freshman year of college, I stumbled on to a show that was about life… in college. Undergrads only lasted for a season, after originally airing on MTV. It was MTV’s era of trying several new animated shows, but because nobody ever knew what time something was going to be aired on MTV, every single show flopped after just a season. But many of them, like this one, gained cult followings.

Undergrads‘ protagonist is Nitz – we’re never given his real name… even Nitz forgets what his real time is from time to time, never spitting it out. Nitz is the prototypical un-cool kid. He has his clique of friends, likes things the way they are, doesn’t really want to go out and do the things that college kids do. He’s content.

The rest of the ensemble includes Cal, the lady-killer, Rocko, the jock, and Gimpy, the geek. Nitz meets a few new friends at college, and repeatedly bumps in to his high-school crush, Kimmy. As we take the Undergrads crew through their freshman year of college, you can see it laying out plans for at least a 4-year series as the youngsters grow up, learning about life in college, before life on their own.

The show actually does a decent job of portraying life on campus – you can see Nitz struggle with finding a club or organization he wants to belong to, the trouble with the dreaded “freshman 15” weight gain, student loan problems, deciding whether or not to drink alcohol, and the infamous “walk of shame.” And with a great cast of characters, you get to see nearly every side of every argument and make up your mind what works best for you!

Overall, Undergrads isn’t the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, but it has so many great moments I still love to go back and watch an episode every now and then. If you find every ounce of the show completely unrelatable, then you are probably too cool to be watching cartoons at your age!

With Xbox Live Gold, is Netflix Free?

UPDATE: As part of a recent (June 2014) delivering more choices for fans announcement, Microsoft stated that Xbox 360 and Xbox One users will no longer require Xbox Live Gold memberships to use Netflix. Originally, you were required to pay for Xbox Live Gold and have a Netflix subscription (this was not included with your Gold subscription). Now all you need is a Netflix subscription. If you already have a Gold subscription for the other benefits, you can keep it up – but if you are considering letting it expire, at least you can continue to use Netflix on your TV through your Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

The update change is likely to begin around June 9th, 2014. June is all that has been confirmed, but there is a rumored dashboard update for around June 9th that will likely “unlock” these features. From Microsoft: “Coming in June, anyone with an Xbox will be able to access popular entertainment experiences – whether or not you have an Xbox Live Gold membership. This includes great gaming apps like Machinima, Twitch and Upload, popular video services like Netflix, Univision Deportes, GoPro, Red Bull TV and HBO GO, sports experiences like the NFL app for Xbox One, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time, NHL Game Center and more.” If you recently signed up for Xbox Live, specifically to use apps like these, you can read more details about the changes and even request a refund of recently purchased Xbox Live memberships after the update is released in June.

Original article follows.

You may have recently purchased an Xbox 360 to use it as a media player, more so than for gaming. NPD numbers show that 360’s are the top selling console for nearly two straight years, now. But as you’re trying to get this all set up, you learn that Microsoft requires you to buy Xbox Live Gold membership packages, in order to use Netflix. Although I have explained that Gold Status has its benefits, I did not answer a popular question: is Netflix Free with Xbox Live? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Microsoft isn’t double dipping – Netflix is charging their fee, and Microsoft is charging theirs. As seen in the link above, there are other reasons to “Go Gold.” But people who plan to just use the Xbox as a glorified Netflix box, may want to consider the PS3, which currently has no fee. The Wii and Wii U also can access Netflix (though the Wii cannot do it in Hi-Def, and the Wii-Slim can’t access the internet at all, from what I understand). Although those platforms do not currently charge any of their own fees, I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for. I trust Microsoft the most, and since I am taking advantages of the other services Gold level membership offers, I don’t mind. But, a rude surprise for some, is that most, if not all, of the apps available on the Xbox 360 require you to maintain your Gold status membership. The good news is, you can always try to find a discounted subscription card.

Prank Test Drive

I saw this a few weeks ago. Some of it is obviously set up (it goes without saying, “professional driver, closed course”). And I’m sure that even the dealership had to at least have some inkling that something was going to happen. But I genuinely can’t tell if the guy in the test drive is an actor or just some poor car salesman who had no clue what to expect? Either way, it’s a decent watch – even for something that’s just basically a commercial!

Are you a completionist?

For as long as people have kept track of things, completionists have existed. I find that many people are completionists, but it’s only a question of to what degree? Today, I’m curious about gaming completionists, of course.

The first game that I knew of that really kept track of your progress was Super Mario World. There were secret methods, like the color of the level’s “dot” on the map, to find out if there was more than one exit. To top it off, the game actually let you earn up to ★96. I thought I was on a quest to achieve 100%, but we only needed to find enough secrets to earn a score of 96. Then came Donkey Kong Country. I thought I had 100%, but you could earn 101%! Keeping with tradition, Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3 allowed you to earn 102 and 103%, respectively. In my life, Nintendo carried on the tradition, by having a completely unpredictable number of stars in Super Mario 64. I had thought I beat the game when I was younger, then a friend told me that you could actually get 120 stars, I was on the hunt to find what I was missing, and eventually found them all, without the help of guides or the still “GameFAQs-less” internet.

These days people are more obsessed with Gamerscore on their Xbox 360 – the guys at Achievement Hunter hate when they don’t have every Gamerscore Point out of every game. If there isn’t a game with a perfect score on their list, they obsess over it, and will go back and play it until they can get a perfect 1,000 out of 1,000, or 1,250/1,250. On the Xbox 360, I was just about having a high gamerscsore number, how I obtained it and whether or not I “100%’d” a game didn’t matter to me, I just liked earning achievements. I lived for the achievement unlocked sound!

Perhaps it’s a form of OCD, but now that I’m conscious of these possible scores, I find myself going directly for them when I play classic games. For example, recently popped in Super Mario 64 and started playing from a brand new game file, from the beginning. I wouldn’t move on from a level until I had achieved every star in that level. When I wanted to finish playing, I had a hard time turning off the system until I at least cleared the level I was on. I’m playing to remember the good ol’ days, but also to challenge myself. I remind myself that I did this when I was 12 years old, without any cheats, or guidebooks. I can do it again. I can find the secrets, and can move swiftly throughout the game. In one my first sitting back I had already unlocked 42 of the 120 stars, and I’m excited to give the game another go soon.

So what games do you remember obsessing over? Anything in particular that you had to play without putting down? What’s the first game you remember coming to the realization that it was keeping track, and you had to prove yourself to it? Feel free to leave a comment.

Kickstarter, don't fail me now

I have only backed a few things on Kickstarter, so far. All of them geeky. Not only was one of them Ouya, but another upcoming gaming “console” has reached funding, this time in the form of the Gamestick.

Although their fundraising goals were not as ambitious, and they were not overfunded by 800%, Gamestick still shows promise. It is a device that plugs into your television via HDMI port, is powered by the HDMI port, and plays games via a wireless controller where the HDMI stick rests when not in use. While I don’t genuinely believe that either of these new consoles is going to disrupt the current marketplace, I am excited to see that they are ushering in a new era of gaming. Ultra portable, far more independent, and not tied to any old traditional methods.

Although we may not remember either Gamestick or Ouya in ten years (or perhaps they will surprise us all and come to dominate the market), I will be proud to have these first consoles of a new generation. I keep thinking that this should be tomorrow’s gaming post, but really I just want to talk about the future. I’m very excited that this is happening while I’m here to witness it. I don’t know if inexpensive consoles, with annual hardware refreshes is really the future. I also don’t know if indie development is really going to take off in a way that supplants and replaces the current need for high budget studios. But even if both of these consoles end up on the shelf next to my Virtual Boy, as a rare collectible in geek history, I’m going to be very proud to know that I was there, and an active supporter of something new.