Spider-Man games: is it just me?

Call it a guilty pleasure, but there is something about Spider-Man games that I just can’t get enough of. Spider-Man games have always had a certain “free-roaming” quality to them. Even the platformers like Maximum Carnage on the Super Nintendo, which was a “Beat’em Up” in the vein of Final Fight or Double Dragon. But you still had the feeling that you could move more freely. And the web-slinging has been down-pat and accurate since Spider-Man debuted on the Atari 2600.

The most modern revisions have tempted me in to playing each iteration. Spider-Man 3 and Spiderman: Friend or Foe gave you a huge sandbox to play in. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows gave the game a darker, grittier feel, similar to the X-Men Origins: Wolverine game. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions allowed you to experience Spider-Man spin-off characters who have never had their own games before. I plan to continue that theme in Spider-man: The Edge of Time before moving on to the latest movie tie-in game, The Amazing Spider-Man.

I, for one, can’t wait to sling webs around giant open worlds, free fall, and catch myself with a quick tap of the trigger. These games are fun, and I spend more time exploring than “playing the game.” Call me crazy, but I’m glad they just keep coming – and, of the titles I’ve played, at least, they just seem to keep getting better!

Windows Phone: hold out hope or abandon ship?

I’ve been holding out for a good Windows Phone. Windows Phone 8, so far, isn’t drastically different from 7.8, from what I’ve seen. Sprint’s lack of Windows Phone 8, or what people are calling poor or sloppy CDMA support from Microsoft, is also killing me slowly. I’m long overdue for an upgrade and have been tempted by the beautiful design of the HTC One, or the refinement of the Samsung Galaxy S4. But I continue to wait. I want to invest myself in a single ecosystem, to be embedded in a platform. I’m not interested in a Mac, and a Chromebook is laughable.

Recent experiences with Windows Phone have put a sour taste in my mouth, and after watching the Google I/O 2013 Keynote, I’m reminded how important it is to constantly be improving your platform. I hear rumors of “Windows Phone Blue” but just a name. More about iOS7 changes being drastic. But Windows Phone? The changes seem like they never come, and even when they do, the poor end users either wait forever or are forced to hack the update onto their phone.

I feel like I’m grasping at straws, anymore. Microsoft talks about how they have 80% of the top 25 apps, and thousands more. But the Windows Phone Marketplace is tiny. And finally getting the apps is different from having had those apps. Seeing the radical improvements in Google Now, even since its launch, just make me wonder what it is that my phone is doing in my pocket all day? It could be doing much more.

I just wonder if I’m missing out on substance, or buying in to hype? I think I’ll see what iOS7 offers up, and wait for some more news on Windows Phone Blue before I commit to this generation of devices… which still seems like a life-time away in the technology-timeline, but it will just have to wait.

Paid Windows Phone apps missing!

About a week ago, I noticed something strange in the Windows Phone Marketplace. The “Xbox Live” banner had disappeared from the Angry Birds game. It was no longer “a few bucks” – it was free. “Interesting…” I thought, “Rovio must think they do better with ad-supported games and released a free version!”

Skip forward to the weekend, I couldn’t find my phone in the last few places I had been, as a security measure (and since I had “Find my Phone” disabled), I connected to the corporate Exchange server my employer runs and sent a remote wipe command to my phone. The good news is, it worked. The bad news? I literally found my phone less than a minute after the wipe. Alright, fine, my mistake. So I started reinstalling apps.

Come to Angry Birds. An app which I had purchased while it was on sale for 99 cents. Alright, so I can’t find it in the Marketplace, but if there’s one thing I learned from Xbox Live, you can use your download history to reinstall games. So I find the Windows Phone Purchase History page and click “more” in the lower right until I find my Angry Birds purchase.


App is no longer published

Are… you… kidding. It’s gone. I can’t get it. This isn’t some questionable app using copyrighted IP that has been pulled from the Marketplace. This is Microsoft’s official release of Angry Birds. An app which I had paid for. Don’t try to tell me that I can switch to the free version. I’m an Achievement addict who lives by Xbox Live integration. It was one of the biggest features, it was a selling point for Windows Phone. And if you’re going to pull the app from the marketplace for future purchases, fine – but to remove the app altogether so that those of us who bought it can’t reinstall it? The free version is not a substitute.

I usually talk about apps, but today I’ve got nothing but frustration. Windows Phone is the 3rd place platform. Having not learned a single lesson from the Xbox Platform and how to manage apps after licensing expires, Windows Phone is going to remain the 3rd place platform. I’m trying my best to wait for a Windows Phone 8 on Sprint, I want to be deeply embedded in the Microsoft camp. But every time I turn around Microsoft is going something else to ruin this for me.

Don't give Facebook your phone number

Facebook REALLY wants your phone number. They’ve encouraged you to add it for years, but the latest round of “pop ups” at the top of the page want to remind you that it’s important for your security. I never did it, because in the early days, your phone number was visible to anyone who is your friend. And while you might be “Facebook friends” – it doesn’t necessarily mean you want that person to be able to call or text you. Having your number on Facebook leaves the potential for them to be able to provide it to their advertisers. And now, if you don’t have your permissions set just right, then just by playing a game, filling in a survey, or liking a page, you run the risk of sharing or publishing your phone number with companies you did not intend to give that information to.

To ignore Facebook’s latest plea, and close that annoying banner at the top of the page, simply click the “X” that is hiding out on the left side of the banner (see the picture above). We’re used to looking for the “close” / “X” icons in the right corner, so it’s easy to overlook it. But for now, just click the “X” in the banner at the top of the page, and don’t give in to Facebook asking for your number. They don’t need it. It’s just another data point they can use to find out your location based on area code, your carrier based on the number, and the aforementioned “just giving your number away.”

Carmageddon – FREE today only on mobiles

As part of the Carmageddon: Reincarnation kickstarter project reached its goal and then some, the team has been hard at work at a mobile app release of the original game. The iPad one was released a while ago, and today marks the official release of the Android app.

The game plays just as you remember it, sounds, graphics, and all. The touch controls are new, but they work extremely well. You’ll quickly get absorbed and try to find creative ways to win your races faster. Since I’m traveling this weekend, I wanted to recommend a mobile game for our Friday gaming fun, and to mark the release of the Android version of the game, the Stainless Games folks have not only made the Android app free, but the iOS version as well!

Go ahead and download the classic Carmageddon for iOS, or Carmageddon for Android. Get yourself pumped up for Carmageddon Reincarnation, due out later this year. If virtual vehicular manslaughter appeals to you after the sale is over, just remember to keep it in the games – they’re cheap enough. And if you want the ultimate experience you remember from over 15 years ago, check out the $10 Carmageddon Maxx Pack on GoG.

On{X} – Microsoft improving Android

Your Android experience, especially those of you who have experienced Google Now, is far and away superior to other Smart Phone OS’s. I’ll be the first to admit it, and I’m a Windows Phone user. For those not familiar, Google Now will use everything Google knows about you to make your life easier. Some people find it creepy, some people fin it useful – but a few examples of what it will do are things like notifying you that you need to leave right now in order to make an appointment. It will pop up useful information reminding you what Gate you need to walk to at an airport as you walk in to the airport, because it procured that information from your GMail. But Google allows you to do so much more with the platform and it can enhance your experience even more.

Microsoft’s On{X} app for Android, takes it a step further. You can sign up on their website and create recipes, something similar to IFTTT.com (If This Then That). IFTTT lets you cover multiple platforms together – an example being IF I publish an article on my website THEN post an update to Twitter and Facebook with the link. Taking that idea to your phone, On{X} is a beta program that detects certain events that your create recipes or rules for, and follows through with specific tasks. Example: when you leave work, you can text your spouse to tell them you’re on the way home.

Sure, at first this seems a bit silly, but this could lead to some brilliant family-friendly features for reminding your kids to check in with you, or having their phone send you a note when they arrive at home after school. There are even more features that I haven’t even begun to play with, but it uses Javascripting to interact with the Android OS in a way that you simply cannot do on iOS or Windows Phone. It’s clearly in beta and doesn’t seem to have anything jaw dropping, but it has promise, and I genuinely think it will fill in a few gaps people are hoping for from their Google Now experience. There are a lot of 1 star reviews, but they seem to be coming from quite a few people who hate the thought of Microsoft on Android (forgetting, entirely, that Microsoft is one of the biggest contributors to the Linux kernel).

See what it can do for yourself, download Microsoft’s On{X} for Android.

How to clean up viruses, 2013 (4th edition)

I first wrote an article about malware in 2009. It was for a government funded organization and spread across five counties in Pennsylvania. It has been updated annually since then with my best suggestions. The previous version is still available here, but this year I wanted to do something a little more direct. I have included the usual screenshots of fake programs you should look out for, but on top of that, I wanted to give you some additional programs that I like to use, including at least one I didn’t mention back when I talked about my IT Toolkit.

First, Shut your computer down. You heard me. Continue reading “How to clean up viruses, 2013 (4th edition)”