Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops - Multiplayer

Call of Duty is always a big seller because of its multiplayer, not its campaign. The series has really exploded since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare which redefined how online multiplayer should be done. If you're a fan of Call of Duty, I don't need to tell you just how fun playing online is.
The new maps are interesting and will take some time to get used to, just like any new Call of Duty. The new maps bring forth some new challenges of obstacles to hide behind, routes to run with the flag, and pots to defuse the bomb.
Black Ops includes 14 all new maps, with some upcoming map packs in the near future. The maps range from small little stages like Nuketown, where you are at the heart of a test weapons neighbourhood and all the cars and manikins are setup for nuclear war testing. If anyone remembers Shipment from COD:MW1, you'll get the idea just how tiny this stage is.

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All the standard gametypes are still available, including team deathmatch, capture the flag, search and destroy, headquarters and more. There is one new gametype addition, "wager match", which allows you to gamble COD cash on games, and if you finish in the top three rankings, you essentially take all the losing players money.
The all new match making system, similar to that of Halo: Reach, allows you to vote on the next map, play the previous stage again or pick a completely random map. A great addition to Black Ops.
Multiplayer - Perks and Weapons
The Call of Duty franchise is known for its great guns, special weapons and hit detection. This game is no exception, as the variety of guns that are unlock-able is massive. All the classes are still there, from assault riffles to bolt action rifles.
You can customize your primary and second weapon with attachments, upgrades and a camouflage pattern. Only playing the multiplayer for a few days, it's easy to see that the guns aren't overpowered or someone can easily snipe you with a handgun from across the stage.
The perk system is something I wasn't too thrilled about in COD:MW2, because there was just so much going on at the one time, a missile, airplane, chopper or something else constantly in the air, keeping you from staying in one spot too long. Black Ops still has a customizable perk system, allowing players to select the perk they want, which is achieved once you hit a kill streak.
Kill streaks start at 3 kills with either a spy plane (UAV) or RC-XD; the remote controlled car that is very annoying in this game, with up to 11 kills, using either attack dogs or a gunship.

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Multiplayer - COD Points and Contracts
Treyarch introduced a new system for getting guns and attachments, where you earn money on completing challenges, finishing matches, or completing contracts. Instead of leveling up and unlocking weapons and attachments, you can now buy them with COD Points. You can still only use one attachment at a time per gun, unless you use the perk that allows you to use two.
With the implementation of COD Points, they have added contracts with a variety of objectives like kill 75 people in 40 minutes, or win 4 headquarters matches in 45 minutes. You select a contract by buying it, and if you complete it, you can double, triple or quadruple your investment. This is similar to the Halo: Reach challenges system, but you need to select which ones you want to attempt.

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Yes, zombie mode is back. You start off with a a pistol against zombies trying to break into the room, and your job is to defend yourself. You earn money by killing zombies or repairing the building and with that you can unlock doors or buy weapons off the wall.

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Multiplayer - Conclusion
Only playing multiplayer for a few days now, it's nice to see that there is some major improvements over World at War, and a couple of minor changes from COD:MW2. The gameplay is still similar to COD:MW1, which is a great thing, something both Treyarch and Infinity Ward should not change. The controls for this game are similar to previous versions of COD, which really helps to get right back into playing the game.
The hit detection is accurate for this game, although I'm sure we've all witnessed some unbelievable headshots, maybe someone will upload a nice collection using the theater system.
  • Gameplay is the same as previous versions
  • Variety of new challenging maps
  • You can buy upgrades for your gun as soon as you unlock it
  • New matchmaking system is great
  • Lag is still an issue with the game
  • Connection issues are still very present
  • Spawn points are horrible, people start right behind you
  • Claymores don't work properly

Hotmail, Yahoo still bigger than Gmail

There's little doubt that in many parts of the world, Gmail has become synonymous with email itself.

Yet according to new data from research firm Compete Pulse, Google's mail service still has some way to go before it catches up to email offerings from Microsoft and Yahoo, at least in the US market.

Compete's data showed that Gmail pulled in 25.1 million unique visitors in September, a figure easily dwarfed by Yahoo Mail's 72.8 million unique visitors. Hotmail clocked in at 48.5 million unique visitors.

Compete Senior Manager of Internet Marketing Drew Fortin tempered the figures by noting that Hotmail has a decade-long headstart over Gmail, while Yahoo Mail was established seven years before Google entered the email market in 2004.

In another interesting finding, Compete's data showed that overall, visits to web-based email services are trending downward, with an 11% drop in traffic year over year.

The web-based email market could be set for a shake-up on Monday if, as widely rumoured, Facebook launches ''Project Titan''. Touted as a ''Gmail killer'', Facebook's offering is tipped to be a full email service which would provide each of the social network's 550 million users an address using the domain.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Microsoft opens its biggest store, across from Apple

Today Microsoft opened its biggest Microsoft Store yet, and directly across from an Apple Store. This is Microsoft's sixth location, with a seventh planned in Bellevue, Washington on November 18, just down the road from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond.
The brand new Microsoft Store in Bloomington, Minnesota, located inside the Mall of America is 8,600 total square feet, and features all Microsoft electronics and software, including Xbox 360 slim, Kinect, Windows Phone 7, Office 2010, Windows 7 and even Microsoft Surface.
Microsoft's store opening kicked off at 9AM, where thousands attended to witness the opening ceremonies and ribbon cutting. The three-day celebration will feature a performance by Kelly Clarkson today, with Kinect events and prizes tomorrow and Windows Phone 7 available in stores on Monday.
Microsoft also opened a brand new store on Thursday in Oak Brook Mall, in Chicago, Illinois. Celebrations for the Oak Brook store were similar to that of the Mall of America store, which featured performances from Colbie Caillat, and NFL star Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears, and MLB star Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chrome OS smartbooks coming by end of November

Chrome OS is nearly finished and ready to be pushed to the masses. The OS is planned to be put onto "smartbooks," which is a device slightly smaller than a netbook that has the internals of a smartphone; hence, "smartbook." The project is on track to be pushed out on at least one device by the end of November, according to a report by Digitimes.

Three companies are currently working on Chrome smartbooks, two of which will be available in December instead of November. Google will produce an ARM-based Chrome notebook that will be manufactured by Inventec and is expected to ship 60,000-70,000 units initially. The device will not be sold through retail channels, and instead will use a strategy similar to how they sold the Nexus One, according to CNET. When the Nexus One was first launched, it was sold strictly through Google's own website and was a very open platform for developers to experiment on. This similar strategy could help users and developers get excited about Chrome OS and let them see what kinds of potential the platform holds. Allowing a digital "sandbox" to play in first will help allow developers find out exactly what they can do and allow them to better work with the system.
Acer and HP will launch their versions of a Chrome OS smartbook in December to see what type of response the new platform will get. Both of the products will be manufactured by Quanta Computer, while ASUS is going to wait and see if it should invest in Chrome OS. The web store for Chrome OS is also expected to open its doors with the release of Google's Chrome OS notebook.
Google's Chrome OS notebook is on schedule to be available by the end of November, with both Acer and HP's offerings following in December.

iPad takes over tablet market with 95 percent share

Apple's iPad has managed to single handily take over nearly the entire tablet pc market during the last quarter. According to a report released Monday by Strategy Analytics, the Apple iPad has gained a 95 percent share thanks to great sales and positive reviews.
Despite this news, it is expected that many other tablet based devices will be on the market very soon, with the Samsung Galaxy Tab already in stores and running on Google's Android Operating System; though reviews have not been as glowing as they were for Apple's device.
It will, however, be hard for a lot of the tablet based devices to cut into Apple's lead, as Apple has a brand image that is unmatched by any of its competition, despite having more features. This allows Apple the possibility to increase their lead as many people expect the company to have a new model of the iPad on sale by around March of next year.
Apple's iPad launched in April this year and the company has managed to sell over 2 million devices in little over 2 months. Just last month Apple announced that during their last quarter they had sold 4.19 million iPads around the world.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

iOS 4.2 on iPhone 4 - First Impressions

As reported earlier today, developers have been given access to a near-final Golden Master (GM) build of iOS 4.2, with a general release expected soon.

It is highly unlikely Apple would make any changes prior to releasing the updated OS to the public, but not impossible - the Golden Master build of iOS 4.0 featured the Game Center app, while the public version released soon after did not.

As has been widely reported, iOS 4.2 is primarly aimed at bringing the iPad up to speed, features-wise, with the iPhone and iPod Touch families, adding a bevy of features including multitasking, printing and content streaming.

However, that doesn't mean other iDevices have missed out.


While iPad users have been calling for the ability to print from their ''magical'' tablet since day one, iPhone users - with the exception of the iPhone 3G - also gain the ability to shoot documents to a shared printer. Printing is available from Safari and the Photos app, but not from Notes, and uses a simple pop-over menu.

Once iOS 4.2 is installed, iTunes also prompts the user to enable AirPrint, and will warn you if it is enabled without any shared printers available. Apple has promised that AirPrint will require no configuration, drivers or additional software and I was able to successfully print to an older Canon printer connected to a Windows 7 laptop.

Lock Screen Bug

A widely reported bug which provided an easy way to bypass the security code on any iPhone appears to have been fixed - following the steps to reproduce the bug now drops the user back to the lock screen.


It has been reported that MobileMe setup on iDevices now asks for an Apple ID. MobileMe logins were previously seperate to Apple IDs.
In-Page Text Search
Under iOS 4.2, iPhone users can now search for words or phrases in webpages within Safari. In-page texts searches use the existing search box in the top-right of the screen, with in-page results appearing below the usual Bing, Google or Yahoo results. Users can then flick through matching words or phrases, which are highlighted yellow.

Font changing in Notes

Purely a cosmetic change, but it is now possible to choose between Chalkboard, Helvetica and the default Marker Felt fonts in the Notes app. Changing font affects all new and exisiting notes, and it isn't possible to use more than one font in a note.


As Daylight Savings came into effect several weeks ago in Australia, I was unable to test if the DST bug was present in iOS 4.2.
Apple has notified developers that they may begin building and submitting iOS 4.2 apps for review, using an updated version of the iOS Software Development Kit. The release of iOS 4.2 will mark the first time the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad families have been able to run the same version of iOS.
As always with a major iOS update, iOS 4.2 will require an iTunes update to 10.1, a minor bump from the current version 10.0.1.
Update: A new volume bar has also been added to the multitasking menu on capable iDevices, accessed by swiping to the right past the iPod controls.

Use Hotmail without changing your email address

Hotmail has been on a roll this summer releasing updates for their current 350+ million users. Some of the updates included push mail, contact & calendar in Exchange ActiveSync, shipping tracking, Facebook Chat, attachment upgrades, more video support, subfolders, and security improvements.
Starting this week, Hotmail is begin rolling out another update that allows users to use any existing email address (non-hotmail and live) accounts on Hotmail. The update will take some time, as other Hotmail updates do, but once the rollout is complete, users will be able to send up to 10GB of photos in one message, use Messenger inside your inbox, and many other great Windows Live Hotmail features.
To get started, make sure you marry your existing email account to a Windows Live ID. Once you have confirmed your Windows Live ID account, login to Windows Live Hotmail and follow the activation steps.
As previously mentioned, the roll out is still taking place and may take some time to reach every customer, but once it does, you'll be prompted with the activation steps. For now, some users may see this warning when trying to activate their email:

Flash content on the iPhone, iPod and iPad - seriously!

One of the downfalls of the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad is Adobe Flash support. Apple has made it very clear that they won't be supporting Flash on any iOS devices. That is, until one startup company found a solution to bringing Flash onto any iOS device, and yes, it was approved by Apple.
The startup company called Skyfire, has been working hard with Apple to bring a brand new browser to the mobile phone that supports Flash video. Skyfire will use a revolutionary technology that they have been developing for the past few months that downloads video onto their servers and converts the flash video into HTML5, which will then be streamed to your iOS device.
There wasn't any mention on CNN if there is any delay between the conversion, but nevertheless, it is Flash video on your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. There are some setbacks to the application however; Skyfire won't be able to convert flash-based games or non-video content and of course you'll have to use the Skyfire browser.
Skyfire's CEO Jeffery Glueck said two or three websites have opted out of the technology, including Hulu, because of their business model to charge customers on mobile devices to play video.
Skyfire will be available for the App Store this Thursday at 9am and will sell for $2.99.