Oct 1 2016

GOW 4

Adel Gabot

9:45AM

In this current generation of console boxes, I’ve sided with the Playstation 4, and left Xbox One out in the cold. (Mostly because my TV can only accept 2 HDMI inputs, and I’ve already got the Apple TV plugged into the other—otherwise I think I would have gotten an Xbox One a long time ago—but hey.)

I sold off my old PS3 and my old Xbox 360, as well as their respective games, and put every centavo into my choice of new console. And so far, I’m at peace with it. I love my PS4, its games and simple interface, and while I’ve looked at the Xbox One with envy sometimes, particularly when they have some nice console-exclusive game, I’ve been kinda ok with my choice.

But lately, I’ve been thinking of diving into Microsoft‘s gaming world, mainly because of one game: Gears of War 4.

Not Forza. Not Quantum Break. Not Sunset Overdrive. Not even Halo. (Well, maybe Halo, come to think of it.)

But Gears of War!

I’ve played all of the previous iterations of GOW on the previous Xbox consoles and enjoyed the games greatly, but this is the first time a new version of GOW’s come out that I don’t have an Xbox handy.xbox-one-s-gow-ed-leak_07-13-16_001

I try to rationalize my desire on the fact that there’s actually a new Xbox model out now, the S version (not to mention the upcoming Scorpio), that Microsoft‘s finally dropped their ridiculous home entertainment center campaign, and that they’ve also dropped their insistence on always adding that horrid Kinect to the package, and now’s the time to buy in, but actually it’s just my love for Gears of War that’s fueling my desire for a new Xbox.

I bought into the first version when it first came out years ago, and haven’t looked back since. I love Gears of War. Marcus Fenix, Dom Santiago and the gang against all those horrible alien invaders. Those Gears with their chainsaw-equipped guns and cover-based game mechanic. True, it’s a Third-Person Shooter as opposed to being a First-Person One, my favorite genre, but I got used to it quickly.

Now there is a new GOW about to come out, and I’m SOL. I saw the 20-minute prologue released on YouTube yesterday, and got all excited again.

I’m now actually, seriously considering buying the Gears of War 4/Xbox One S game bundle. And while I’m at it, finally get to try out the new Halo, which I’ve missed playing, and the new Forzas. But that means I gotta figure out how to plug the Xbox One S into my system; probably have to buy myself a multi-HDMI adapter.

But it’s a big decision, something I shouldn’t take lightly. Ah well. Something to think about. Seriously think about.

Meantime, Rise of The Tomb Raider‘s finally coming out in under two weeks for the PS4, after a year-long exclusivity delay with the Xbox One. Tell you the truth, the excitement would have faded and I would have waited for a cheaper, used version later on, but the 20th Anniversary perks got me all worked up again.

But one at a time, Del. One at a time.

 


Aug 23 2016

VR!

Adel Gabot

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1:01PM

Having nothing much to do this morning (despite it being a bit rainy), I went to see if I could still catch the Playstation Virtual Reality demo they’re supposedly having at the Sony Showroom at SM Megamall. I only found out about it from a PS4 thread on the regular Mac users’ forum I moderate, PhilMUG.

I wanted to kick myself for not knowing sooner and getting a chance to try out the VR for myself, but I said, don’t get your panties caught in a bunch just yet, it might still be there.

So I went this morning, and it was.

I was pleasantly surprised. I was half expecting a blocky, pixellated demo with lousy head tracking. Instead what I got was a smooth, flowing, detailed, immersive experience you can actually get lost in. Bravo, Sony. Worth every centavo.

There was a small crowd when I got there, and there was a wildly expressive, demonstrative teenager trying the VR out. You’d think he was on the moon, from his crazy, albeit unconscious antics there on the show floor. I’m sure he felt embarrassed and sheepish the minute he took the headset off.

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I had worked my way to the front of the crowd, and immediately asked if I could try it as soon as the teenager stepped off. The demo guy obliged and asked me to sit down. I took off my baseball cap and was about to remove my glasses when he told me I could keep those on if I wanted. (It was great of Sony to make allowances for us glasses people.) Aside from the visual headset, he made me put on a big pair of cans to complete the picture.

I saw a five-minute shark VR demo, and boy it was fantastic! I was supposedly in a shark tank being lowered into the water, and I saw the various flora and fauna of the deep on my way down. I looked to my right and left, and up and down and around to the back—it was seamless and fluid. The headset tracked my every move. I saw fish, coral, turtles, jellyfish, everything. I really felt like I was there.

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It was like that until I reached the dark deep where the sharks were. Then it became scary. A great white shark loomed out of the depths and proceeded to stalk me, then attack. It bit at the cage and proceeded to tear it apart until I was out there and exposed. The great white prepared to lunge at the now-bare me and then, all of a sudden, it was over, and I had to take the headgear off.

I’m sure I looked as stupid as that teenager.

But I was pretty impressed by the demo. I’m sure in retrospect there were a lot of things lacking, like it wasn’t really that realistically rendered, and the whole tableaux was a bit dark, but I was caught up in the heat of the moment. I was sure the much cheaper and decidedly less advanced PS VR certainly couldn’t match the superior technology of that other major VR gear, the Oculus Rift, but it seemed to me today that PSVR held its own. It was just fine.

And here I was, thinking Sony was releasing the newer 4K PS4 as a way to patch the technological hole left by VR, that the older units couldn’t really handle it reliably and they needed the extra oomph to really make it shine. Yet here it was, running off a first-generation PS4, and it was doing great.

I was sold.

The problem was, Sony was only releasing 100 units in the country this year, and they’ve been sold out for weeks already. Even at the slightly higher price. I could buy it abroad, but it’s also sold out there. I can always get from the gray market, but at exorbitant prices for sure. I left my card with the demo guy just to be sure, but it’s a very long shot.

Hmm. How to do this?

 

 


Jul 1 2016

The Sony “Rolly”

Adel Gabot

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1:32PM

Saw an article on The Verge‘s Circuit Breaker gadget blog recently about the Sony Rolly. It was a look-back article, honoring and paying tribute to recent-but-quickly-rendered-obsolete tech. Nice. I have some experiece with the Rolly too.

Several years ago, I had a client who owned one and showed it off every chance he could get. He was obviously very proud he had one of the new-fangled toys, and he graciously lent me the thing for a week. I showed it off to all the people at my office in ABS-CBN, at the house, and to everyone I could.

Predating the Sphero Star Wars: The Force Awakens BB-8 by a good few years, the Rolly was a vanity project for Sony. It was pretty expensive back then at US$400, pretty rare—and pretty nice too.

It was essentially an egg-shaped wireless Bluetooth speaker that fit in the palm of your hand and had blinking lightbars (or light-rings) around it that changed colors on the fly or if you shook it really hard, two ends (or as Sony calls them, arms) that opened up and flapped like wings and rotating tracks that that moved together or in opposite directions and let it dance around intelligently to the music.

It had 2GB of flash memory and an accelerometer built-in. You synced it to your computer, tablet, phone or MP3 player via Bluetooth, and it would dance around on the floor or on the tabletop with many predetermined routines, with the ends flapping open and closed separately or together in time with the music, zooming and spinning around the room on the two tracks, as if it knew the song it was playing and was actually dancing to it specifically.

While it can dance to streaming music on the fly, it also has a “choreographer” program that can analyze the music tracks and create specific “motion” files for it to dance to. It can even play spoken word files which the arms would flap to and create the illusion that the device was actually talking. But it was much better at dancing.

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And that was all it did. As I said, a vanity project.

I really don’t know what purpose it served. I mean, who wanted a speaker that danced all over the room? It would be nice to watch for about fifteen minutes, but after that it got old real fast.

It’s been discontinued in most outlets, and you’d be lucky to find one in a store or website.

It’s since been superceded by Sphero and a few other companies who’ve created far better and more capable toys than the Sony Rolly, but if I find one of these at a discount store or website somewhere, I’d be sorely tempted to buy it, just for old time’s sake.

And that sums up my brief experience with the Rolly.


Jun 9 2016

A review of my new Bluetooth earphones

Adel Gabot

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3:06PM

I have a hell of a lot of headsets. A hell of a lot. Some of them come from my old days as tech reviewer for Technoodling and the Inquirer but most of them I bought for myself.

I guess I like them because they were an essential part of my old job/career/hobby of being an FM disc jockey. I began using them as a trainee in 1983 in DWRK-FM. and ended as president and announcer of my network in DWKX-FM in 2004. Over two decades of using one headset or another for at least four hours everyday. More if you count my time as commercial producer.

After I began my journalism and publishing career, I still used them, largely just for listening to my music, and stupidly kept buying them. I have around ten pairs now, ranging from elaborate sets that wrap comfortably around your head and envelop your ears in the sound and experience, to simple, inexpensive earbuds for daily use.

I especially loved my old Bluetooth earphones because they did away with the pesky cords. I wore them everywhere I went, listening to music, radio programs, podcasts, anything you could think of, and you couldn’t separate me from my BTs. But I simply used them to death, and now they’ve given up the ghost. I miss them.

Which is why I finally got another pair.

I must admit, it took me over a year to finally buy another set. I made a case for not buying by telling myself that all the headphones are the same, it’s just that some have cords and cables, and some don’t. Since I had a bunch of them already it would be wasteful to get another pair.

But it isn’t quite the same.

Often, I like to listen when I’m out, and having to use a pair with a cord and sticking it to your player and being bothered with it dangling and hanging off your person is at the very least troublesome and irritating. Fine if I’m just stuck somewhere, in the house or in an office and don’t have to move around. Cables are fine then. But what if you’re mobile and out and about?

So I finally got another pair, this time an Awei A920 110dB Smart Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Sports Stereo Earphone Noise Reduction with Mic (Gold), to use its official name. It’s inexpensive, costing a little under a grand, and is made in China. It can connect simultaneously to two devices, has HD audio, noise reduction and has “explosive bass.” At least that’s what it says on the packaging (which is coincidentally very nice and professional looking).

It’s a deceptively simple contraption, and its cord is a bit shorter than I’m comfortable with, but it’s ok on the whole. It’s not as bulky as my late, lamented old pair. It’s basically two (gold) earbuds connected by a cord, and along the cord is a tiny contraption where all the controls are, and the battery. There are buttons for song selections and volume control. You charge it using a microUSB port on the control pod for an hour, and the power lasts for around another four to six, depending on use.

You wear it around the back of your neck, with the control pod hanging off on the right side. The pod has a microphone on it so you can use it talk to people on the phone. The best thing about it is that the two earbuds have a magnet inside each, and attaches to each other when not in use, forming a de facto necklace of sorts and keeping it from falling off your neck.

I paired it with my iPhone, and it works fine, although it’s a bit bassy when you’re playing music (no doubt a function of that “explosive bass” feature). It’s certainly nice and loud. It cuts down on the noise some, but I haven’t really tried it in a very noisy environment yet, so that remains to be seen. Calls are loud and clear, too.

I plan to use it with my iPhone, iPad, iMac, Macbook Pro and Apple TV. So far I’ve just paired it with the phone, but I’ll get around to connecting it to the other devices soon. I’m going to test this thing to death and bring it around with me whenever I go out of the house.

Time will tell if this earphones will last. My experience with inexpensive pairs has been that one or the other bud will fail soon, or it may stop connecting, or the power will gradually shorten until it doesn’t charge at all. I give it three months, and if it’s still fine then, I expect a couple of years of satisfaction with it.

I’m pretty happy with it so far.


Jan 10 2016

Damn, that’s a big haul!

Adel Gabot

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10:35PM

I normally don’t download podcasts/vidcasts these days, not nearly as much as I used to. I guess I’d grown tired of listening to or watching them.

Of course, there are a few I still (sometimes) get, out of force of habit: the MacBreak Weekly vidcast is one, and another is the iMore one. But only when I remember to.

I’ve consciously tried to get back into podcasts, like last year when I tried to listen to Serial, mainly because everyone was causing a fuss about it. (I failed. I only got up to the third episode.) And Serial again recently, with the Bowe Bergdahl thing, though I barely got through the first episode before giving up on it.

What I do religiously is watch CNET’s First Look vidcast though, if only to keep up with one of my chosen fields of speciality, that of finding about new gadgets. To keep my toe in the pool as it were, in case I’d need the information for one of my freelancing jobs.

First Look is exactly what the title says it is: first looks on new gadgets.  I collect the episodes over the week, and watch them all on Sunday morning in one fell swoop, then collect the new ones again for the following week. The episodes are usually just a minute or two long, and the CNET reporters give an overview of a new gizmo, usually a cell phone, but sometimes they’d have laptops or kitchen appliances and other arcane devices.

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Usually over the week, I’d collect eight or 10 episodes, sometimes a dozen. And that’s on a great week. Some weeks there isn’t much, and I’d be lucky to have five or six new ones on those weeks. Some weeks, like during the holidays, they’d have nothing for me to download, and I guess the reporters take their vacations then like the rest of us.

But this past week, I had a humdinger of a haul come in.

Over the week, Monday to Sunday morning, almost 90 new episodes came in! 87 to be precise.

Man, that’s almost two months worth of shows in just a single week!

Of course, it helped that they were all reporting from CES 2016, which was held this week. If there was any hotspot for new gadgets for the coming year, that would be it.

I got everything from cellphones to computers to large 3D printers to scooters and foldable bikes to refrigerators and washing machines—everything under the sun. All of the reporters I’d grown to know and like over the years: Lynn La, Scott Stein, David Katzmeier, Xiomara Blanco, Jessica Dolcourt, Megan Wollerton, Dan Ackerman, Lexy Savvides, Iyaz Akhtar and dozens of others were there. They were out in full force.

It took me almost two hours to watch all of them!

This kind of thing comes twice or thrice a year, usually during consumer shows and other tech extravaganzas, but this year it was especially numerous.

Now I suppose we’re going to sink back into the old grind this week. That is, at least until the next expo.

Oh, well, at least it’s something.