Review : SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo (PSP)

Anticipation : 7
Expectation : 6
Initial Reaction : 9
Overall : 9
Genre : First/Third-Person Tactical Shooter

 

About a year ago or so I tried out SOCOM for the PS2. The game was simply incredible. But, I never purchased it for PS2. Basically, I just don’t have time to play my consoles.. :( Flash forward to today! PSP.. Best thing ever. I get to play games now! :)

 

Anyways, back to the review. I wasn’t really looking to get this title. It was on my wish list, but only as an interest. Not really a “must have” title. I received it for Christmas and it’s been sitting around since then, waiting for me to open it. (Lots of GTA:LCS play lately) … Well, I took the plunge the other day and I must say, I’m quite impressed. First person shooters on consoles aren’t really my thing. I prefer a mouse and a keyboard. Quick reflexes, ability to spin quickly, etc. But, with a tactical shooter, it’s a little different. It’s definitely a slower pace, so the need to spin around isn’t as prevalent. I wish the reticle in sniper mode moved a little faster, but I can live with it the way it is..

 

Overall I’m pretty happy with the game. The graphics are excellent, the gameplay is smooth, and online play is actually a lot of fun.

 

Speaking of online play. THANK YOU ZIPPER! WPA support. *phew* I didn’t think WPA support was something that was that difficult, and it bothers me greatly that it’s not included in Madden ’06.

Look, I’m a programmer, and as a programmer, I tend to look at things a little differently. I understand the technical challenges that game developers have to overcome, and I understand why some features work the way they do. But, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why Madden does not support WPA. Let’s look at this from an API/framework view. I’m Sony, and I have an API for my PSP. My API has basic features, and an entire network featureset. I include some hooks to make it easier to deal with the network stuff. For instance, I may have a “startnetwork()” routine. I probably have a “senddata()” routine, and so on. In version 1.0, I have support for wireless, and just WEP at the moment. Of course, I’m all about future upgrades, so when 2.0 comes out and I support WPA, I build that into the existing commands, letting all the existing software take advantage of it. Right? Well, maybe. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the PSP’s API, but it makes sense. So why doesn’t Madden support WPA? Good question.. :(

 

But, SOCOM does. So that’s at least one game I can play at home on my WPA protected network. Madden, no. (Not that it matters, EA has my copy of Madden at the moment. Hopefully they send me a “fixed” version soon)

 

Overall I think SOCOM is pretty decent and I’d definitely recommend it. I’m pretty impressed so far, and I’m definitely willing to continue playing it!

21-10

Ok, so it’s not a tech post. But I have to post. I’m pretty impressed and fairly proud. Pittsburg Steelers. 21-10 over the SeaHawks. Not my team, but still. They looked great all season and were just awesome in the big game. Randel El’s touchdown pass was simply incredible. All in all, an awesome game. And for the most part, it was actually close..

 

Congratulations Pittsburg! Live it up! Next year it’s my turn! :)

phpTodo 0.6 Released!

I released version 0.6 of phpTodo last night. There were some minor bugfixes, nothing major though.

 

Added to this release were a few new fields in the database to track creation date, and last modified dates. Future releases may utilize these fields more, but at the moment they’re only being used for the sort stabilizer.. The task modify code was updated to deal with these 2 new fields. Each time a record is created, the create_date field is populated. Every change updates the last_modified field.

Which brings me to another feature I added. I noticed that if you sort by priority, status, or anything other than subject, the entries shifted when you reloaded the page. My initial thought was to just add a behind the scenes secondary sort on id. I changed my mind and decided to give that choice to the user. So, on the preferences screen, the user can choose what field to sort on. This is set to task ID by default.

 

At this point the program is pretty much feature complete. I’m adding in WML support before the 1.0 release, but that’s about it. Besides bugfixes, of course.

 

After the 1.0 release, I have some bigger plans. I read a book by David Allen about todo lists and handling tasks.. Really enlightening stuff. Basically, the idea is to process everything in your inbox (anything you need to do), and determine what the next action is. At that point, you file it away based on when it needs to be done. There’s obviously a lot more to it, and if you’re interested, you can find his book on Amazon.

Based on what I learned, I’m planning on adding a number of features to phpTodo. First, I plan on adding an email module. This will allow the user to email todo items to their list. I’ll be adding some sort of authentication schema to it to ensure the item goes to the correct list. That has yet to be worked out.

I’m also looking at updating the main screen. I’ll break it up a bit to become a dashboard of sorts like the presonalized google homepage. Essentially, there will be an inbox which will consist of un-sorted todo items, an interface to quickly go through those items, the main todo list, and a calendar with appointments.

Since I’m adding a calendar, I want to also add a tickler module that can send reminders via email, sms, IM, etc. The user can choose the method(s) they want to be notified by and the system will alert them when the time comes.

I also want to add group todo lists. In essence, another user that will “share” their list with other users. This will, I believe, add more project management capabilities. Anyone can add a todo list item, and anyone else can take it and work on it. Possibly some sort of notification feature to update all users regarding those items.

 

Overall, I think this project is working out pretty well. I’ve learned a lot about php programming and I’m working on solidifying my coding style. It’s helped me a lot with the coding I’ve been doing for work. I’ve put together a complete database system, dsl tools, and the like. Good stuff that I seem to be getting some decent praise for.. :)

 

You can download the latest version of phpTodo from the phpTodo SourceForge page.

Firefox turns to the dark side?

I noticed an article over on Slashdot about a new attribute, ping, that Firefox handles. That is, the development version of Firefox. This isn’t your standard network ICMP Echo Request, but rather an HTTP Request designed to track a users movements.

 

Ok, ok.. Stop screaming about privacy and security. I’ve thought about this a bit and I think Firefox is doing the right thing. The intention, as far as I’ve been able to tell, is to actually put more control into the users hands.

 

Let me explain how this “feature” works. There’s a small writeup on the Mozilla Blog that you can read as well. Tracking the browsing habits of a user is actually fairly harmless, at least in my opinion. The idea is to get feedback about what a user at that site likes to see. Do more people click on links to cartoons? Or perhaps to political information? It’s all about creating websites that people want to see.

 

So, Joe User goes to a website. There he sees a link for a new type of fusion rocket. He’s interested, so he clicks the link. Nowadays, tracking happens one of two general ways. The easy one is that the “real” destination is wrapped up and appended to a link to a tracking site. These links usually have the real destination URL in plain text, but some sites obfuscate the URL so the user can’t bypass the tracking. The other method is to use javascript to change the URL after the user clicks on the link. The user never sees this happen, so, in a way, it’s even worse from a privacy perspective.

 

Either method then directs the user to the tracking site, which tracks the request (and could, by the way, take advantage of any exploits that may exist), and then redirects you to the real site. This takes time, and the user is generally left sitting there with a blank screen.

 

The ping attribute, on the other hand, is much nicer. The owner of the website uses the ping attribute to specify tracking urls. When the user clicks on a link, the browser goes directly to the intended site, and then “pings” the tracking sites in the background. This means that there are no redirects, and no “trickery” to get the user tracking info. It all happens in the background, and that’s where all the privacy concerns come from. But, according to the spec, the browser is intended to have controls to allow a user to decide how the pings are handled. A user can choose to disable them completely, or enable them for some sites, etc.

 

Currently, the development version of Firefox has the bare minimum. That is, it sees and obeys the ping attribute, but there are no fancy GUI interfaces to change settings. Of course, this is the DEVELOPMENT version! They have to start somewhere. It’s not like these new features get a complete GUI, implementation, etc the moment they’re added. This stuff takes time! And it’s enabled by default! Light the torches! Stone the oppressors!

 

Seriously though, I feel confident, based on their past record, that the creators of Firefox will get this right. Sure, it’s enabled by default. But so is Javascript. The “correct” path is not always clear cut. If a feature is disabled by default, the chances of it ever getting enabled are slim. Most users just don’t know how! So, enabling it by default, and then popping up a message stating that the feature is active, here’s how to disable it, etc. is the right thing to do. I’m actually interested in this feature because it will allow the web, at large, to remove some of the trickery currently used to track users. It will allow this information to be up front and not hidden, and I think it will allow the end user greater control over their own security and privacy.

Review – Grand Theft Auto : Liberty City Stories (PSP)

Anticipation : 10
Expectation : 8
Initial Reaction : 9
Overall : 9
Genre : Third-Person Action/Adventure

 

Grand Theft Auto. One of my favorite PS2 games… I’ve been looking forward to this game since it was announced! I initally harbored some reservations about the controls for the game, but it seems that Rockstar did their homework. The controls are excellent and you can *almost* forget that there’s no second analog stick.

 

My first impression of this game was extremely positive. The game loaded just like the PS2 versions do. Cut scenes are excellent. The voices are a little tinny, but not too bad. The graphics are amazing and easily match Grand Theft Auto III. From what I’ve played thus far, it looks like the entire city is virtually identical to Liberty City from GTA3. Rockstar did an incredible job on this game.

 

So, gameplay. So far I’m pretty impressed. There are a few glitches with the camera, but that’s almost to be expected with a “free” camera that follows the character. Camera issues aside, the game is smooth and fun. The first few missions are pretty simple, but engaging. Jacking cars, crashing them all over the place, etc. is as fun as ever. The game seems to flow naturally and keeps the player engaged.

 

Overall, I’m incredibly impressed with this game. And Rockstar has since announced another GTA title headed for the PSP. They claim it’s a new property, so perhaps we’re looking at a completely new city and storyline?

 

I highly recommend this game to all fans of the series.

Review – Ghost in the Shell : Stand Alone Complex (PSP)

Anticipation : 7
Expectation : 6
Initial Reaction : 7
Overall : 6
Genre : First-Person Shooter

 

I’m a big fan of the first Ghost in the Shell movie. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. So, it stands to reason that I would be interested in a game related to the movie.

 

I received GS:SAC as a Christmas present and eagerly started the game. My first impression of the game was pretty positive. It starts out with some story elements and then moves on to the mission map and character selection screens. Character selection is interesting. You can choose from 4 major characters in the movie. Motoko, Batou, Togusa, or Saito. In addition, you can choose one of 4 different Tachikoma to assist you. Think of the Tachikoma as a big robotic spider with 4 legs. You can customize the characters with 3 weapons, and the Tachikoma with up to 5.

 

This is the first FPS I’ve played on the PSP and the controls are quite good once you get used to them. The analog stick is used for moving forward and back, and sliding left and right. The square and circle buttons are used to turn left and right. The right trigger button is used to fire. The D-Pad is used to change weapons, reload, and some other stuff. Overall, I think these controls work out very well despite bad reviews from other sources. I think those bad reviews come from being used to using 2 analog sticks to control the action on the PS2…

 

I’ve played through a few missions thus far and I’m still pretty impressed. The missions, so far, have been pretty short and to the point, but fun nonetheless. I wouldn’t put this in the same category as something like Half-Life or Doom 3, but still pretty fun.

Game Reviews

I’ve often disagreed with game reviews posted on sites such as GameSpot, IGN, etc. So, since I have my own blog now, I figured I’d write some reviews myself. My intention is to rate the games on a few “at a glance” categories, rather than the entire game in one shot. Later on, I’ll add another entry to update my initial review. I think this will allow me to provide a different perspective on the game and maybe give some idea of how a person may enjoy each game over time.

 

The initial reaction categories will be scored on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest. The cartegories are :

 

Anticipation – How much was I looking forward to this game?

Expectation – How “good” did I expect the game to be?

Initial Reaction – My initial reaction to the game (and any gameplay) after the first 15 minutes

Overall – My overall rating of the game *after* I played it the first time. Initial playtime is usually 1-2 hours.

 

I’ll also include the game genre. I’m not going in-depth with details, but more of my feelings about the game, some basic details, and my reactions. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of what to expect. :)

 

I haven’t decided how to do the follow-up reviews yet. Nor have I thought about the final categories I want to rate. When I’m ready to post a final review, I’ll first post how they’ll work.

 

And now, on to reviewing!

phpTodo 0.5 Released!

Yesterday I released the latest version of my phpTodo project. In a nutshell, phpTodo is a todo list manager with RSS feed capabilities. I find it extremely useful, and I hope other are finding it just as useful…

 

Since this is the first entry I’ve written about phpTodo, let me give a little background information. I have things to do. Yeah, so does everyone else. And like most people, it’s hard to keep everything straight. I had my honey-do list at home, a list of stuff that I wanted to accomplish, projects for work, tasks for different projects at work I was working on, etc.. It was all a mass of confusion..

 

So, I decided to start using the todo list manager in Lotus. Well.. it works.. It’s kinda nice, but it’s slow, and a real pain to see everything in one shot. So, I started looking online for a web based one that I could use at home and work. I found a couple, but nothing that allowed me to categorize and view by category, etc. So, since I had wanted to start a sourceforge project, and I like programming, I decided to write one. And I got to thinking.. How could I ensure that I could see my todo list from anywhere? Well, a webpage is a good start, but web pages aren’t always that great on mobile phones.. I happen to have a blackberry that I carry with me, so I looked around a bit more.. I could get RSS feeds on my blackberry, so how about that?

 

And with that, phpTodo was born.. To date, I’ve had over 400 downloads of the software (that’s all vesion combined) .. The previous version, 0.4, had approximately 170 downloads. Not too bad for a piece of beta software.. :) At least, I’m happy with it.. :)

 

This latest version contains a number of bug fixes both big and small. I’ve also added some code to redirect the user properly when the login times out. Essentially, if the user is doing something and times out, it records the current information, redirects to the login page, and then redirects them back to where they left off after they login. Works pretty well… :)

 

Work continues on the project. I’m at 0.5 now and I’d like to get a 1.0 release out pretty soon. So, for the time being, I’m in a feature freeze. At this point I want to ensure that everything works correctly and iron out any bugs that may be lingering around. Once I get 1.0 out, I’ll look at adding some new features.

 

If you’re interested in checking it out, here’s a link to the sourceforge project site. I plan on setting up a formal project site for it, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet…

 

Greetings!

Welcome to my blog! :) This is a bit of a new thing for me and I’ll see if I can’t keep it relatively alive.. :P

My intention here is to post information related to technology, current projects, and the like. Stuff like game reviews, or new technology that I’ve played with or I’m interested in .. That sort of thing. Just a place to share my thoughts, hash out new ideas, etc.

I’m eager to hear any comments regarding what I’ve written as well, so please, leave comments!

Till next time!

PS…  The site layout may change a bit..  I’m still not satisfied with it..  :)