'Tis the Season for Inexpensive Games!

I posted a few days ago about some uber-cheap closeout game deals at Target.  Black Friday came and several other places have sals started selling games at near-crazy prices; make sure to check out:

Steam's Autumn Sale - Deals change daily at 1PM EST.
I picked up Portal 2 for $10.79 (sale has expired), the Oddworld Box for $3.74 (expired), Orcs Must Die for $3.74 (expired) and Two Worlds 2 for $13.74 (yep- also expired).   Check back after lunch to se if there are any deals you can't pass up... :)

Amazon's Black Friday Sale - Deals on all kinds of games and accessories for the three day weekend:
So far, I found Duke Nuke'm Forever for $6.79 and The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings Digital Premium edition for $16.00; these deals are still rolling as I write this... :)


Kindle Fire

imageI received my Kindle Fire today (I missed the UPS driver yesterday).  It is a fairly nice device: very responsive virtual keyboard, friendly interface and fairly responsive.  The Kindle Fire plays a decent game of Plants vs. Zomies as well…
It is, however, pretty thick- I assume this is to allow for a larger battery- but this can be over looked.
One feature that really annoys the Hell out of me is the lack of physical volume control buttons; I do not like scrambling to find the soft menu volume controls when an app/game volume is much too loud.
I can definitely say that this device will NOT be a suitable replacement for me as an e-book e-ink device; scrolling down a zoomed in page in a magazine is way too jerky- the image tearing reminds me of a video game that has v-sync turned off.
For some reason the Kindle Fire is a 16x9 screen format- and none of the books or magazines in the market are natively this size; makes me wonder why Amazon didn’t go with a 4x3 screen format… I mean this was primarily designed to be an ebook/magazine reader, right?
About an hour after I opened the box, I became bored and figured out how to root it
After that I installed the Google Apps and fixed the Android Market, I installed ADW launcher to replace the Kindle Desktop.
Just for the irony, I also installed the Nook reader…
In summary, the Kindle fire is a decent Android tablet, good for games and web browsing, terrible as a book/magazine reader.  For the $200 price, you will be hard pressed to find a similar device- unless you look to the Pandigital devices. 
Personally I am seriously considering returning my Kindle fire and picking up a HTC Flyer from BestBuy for $100 more…

Apple Airport Express and Comcast

I have been using a D-Link DGL-4500 for a few years as my home router.  I have tried many different models from Cisco, NetGear, D-Link, Buffalo, Belkin and Asus looking for a better router, but the DGL-4500 has been a very solid performer and has features that I want/need- such as DHCP reservations, specific port forwarding and port translations.  Tonight I gave the Apple Airport Express a try- and so far it looks pretty good.

One issue with the Airport Express is that it does not do MAC address cloning- which is fairly useful for carriers such as Comcast that cache the MAC address and tie it to to the provided Internet IP address.

I have a Motorola Surfboard SB6120 cable modem and I found that it has a standard IP address of  Putting this address into a web browser brings up some interesting information about my cable connection- including a ‘Reset All Defaults’ option that should clear the MAC address that is bound to the CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) info for the modem.  I say ‘should’ as it did not appear to actually reset when I tried it.  Instead I found a way to have the modem recognize a new MAC address.

  • Unplug power from the cable modem and the router (Airport Express)
  • Disconnect the Ethernet cable between the modem and the router
  • Plug in both devices, letting them boot independently and complete their startup (look at the lights on the modem/router to see when it is done).
  • After the Cable modem is done, wait another full minute.
  • Plug in the Ethernet cable between the cable modem and the router broadband connection

If all works like it did for me, the cable modem should recognize the new device and use its MAC address for the new CPE.  It takes about a minute to reconnect to the internet, but it should complete.  If not, then you will probably need to call Comcast tech support and tell them you have a new router and they can clear the CPE info remotely.

To setup the AirPort Express, you will need an iPod/iPad or a Mac with the AirPort Utility.  This will be detected in network settings on an iOS device, or it is under Applications –> Utilities under MacOS.  If you are using a PC, you will need to download the Windows Airport Utility from Apple before you start trying to configure this new Internet connection.

I have been fairly impressed; the AirPort Extreme allows for separate private & guest networks, has a decent DHCP reservation system and has a pretty intuitive port forwarding setup.  Fore example, I was able to create a forwarding rule that forwards TCP 80, 21, 3550, 4550, 5550, 5511 and 8866 in one statement (these are used for GeoVision remote monitoring). 

Range seems pretty nice on the Apple device; I will try it out for a few days and see if it is really worth the $180 Apple is asking for it… :)


Closeout Game Deals at Target in Buckhead…

The Target store in Buckhead (on Peachtree) is having another awesome blow-out sale on games they are discontinuing- such as:

  • PS3 – Aragon’s Quest for $7.48
  • PS3 – Hunted: The Demon’s Forge for $7.48
  • PS3 – Iron Man 2 for $4.98
  • xBox 360: Create for $4.98

Several others around the same prices; these are just the ones I picked up.


Bring on the Cybernetics!

I am recently back into the realm of Science Fiction reading and most of the books I have been reading (specifically the Peter F. Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds books) are heavy into human enhancement/augmentation via cybernetic implants that will monitor biometric data.  
In this early part of the 21st century I see we are finally beginning to move towards the very infancy of this kind technology and here are a few of the monitoring devices I have tried:
Hear Rate Monitors: 
imageThe Zephyr Heart Rate Monitor is a Bluetooth enabled heart monitor that can pair with Android device and from there utilize an app to provide a real time heart rate monitor.  One issue is Bluetooth uses a fair amount of power (requiring recharge a few times a weeks) and I have yet to find any gym equipment that utilizes a Bluetooth connection- so data is only available to the Android device it is paired with.
SNAGHTML13645249DigiFit sells a module that connects into the data port of an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad that allows the unit to connect to ANT+ enabled devices (such as heart monitors).  It also allows publishing workouts to Facebook/eMail/ and retrieves data from Zeo sleep monitors/Withings wireless scales/FitBit (coming soon).  ANT+ is a low-power standard for transmitting data and many of the newer gym machines can utilize this protocol.
Polar and Nike+ also offer a WearLink+ heart strap monitor, but it is limited for use with the Polar watch ecosystem plus a few iPod Nano devices (some needing the additional Nike+ module).  One benefit is that it can also utilize the Nike+ foot pods that go in/on your shoe to add a pedometer for pace measurement.
SNAGHTML13658329The FitBit is a clip on device with a digital accelerometer that keeps track of your walking steps.  Additionally, holding the button enters a bedtime mode where it tracks movement during sleep. The charge on a FitBit will lasts about two weeks of use.  It will wirelessly upload the data it accumulates when you are in range of the base/charging station.  One concern for the FitBit is that it is small and doen't have a hard clip; I have lost (and eventually found) this device four times in the past year.
imageThe Jawbone Up is very similar to the FitBit but it comes in a bracelet format (this eliminates my 'easy to lose' problem).  It also has a vibrate notification that can be set via iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app to remind you or to act as an alarm clock (this works very well).  This currently works only with iOS devices and you must plug the Up device into the headphone jack to sync activity/sleep info; Wireless would have made this device a winner.
Additionally, the last few generations of iPod Nano devices and the Nintendo 3DS feature integrated pedometers.  Not much to see here- please move along...
imageThe Zeo Manager is a EEG headband that you wear on your forehead during the night.  There are two flavors; A desktop clock version with a SD card for data storage (i.e. manual upload) and one that utilizes Bluetooth with a connection to an iOS/Android device running the Zeo software.  The headband will monitor and graph the time you spend in deep sleep, light sleep and REM; It is much more precise than the aforementioned FitBit or Up devices as it uses an EEG to monitor electrical activity in the brain instead of relying on nocturnal movements for determining sleep zones.
Withings WiFi Body ScaleThe WiThings body scale is a WiFi enabled scale.  It will post your weigh-in to the WiThings page (also available for viewing via iOS/Android app) as well as post to Twitter or Facebook (if so desired).  It performs additional measurements for BMI, muscle or fat content.  It is pretty accurate for weight as it has four independent feet and it can be required to reset zero before each weigh-in.   It will record your weight in pounds, kilograms or stones...
So far all of these devices are external gadgets that monitor biometric data from external effects.  Hopefully in the next decade or so we will advance in the realms of neuroscience and genetic engineering to be able to directly interface with the body's electrical signaling network.  I am sure the military is already doing such as this- but once it becomes consumer ready (and affordable) I will be one of the first in line for the more advanced sub-dermal augmentations.  :)

Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0

SNAGHTML135a3c0bI picked up the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0 about two weeks ago at BestBuy.  The Galaxy Player is essentially the gutty-works of a Samsung Galaxy phone but without the carrier radio,  using a LCD panel instead of AMOLED screen and featuring lower resolution front/rear cameras.  It is available in 4" (the 4.0 model) and 5" (the 5.0 model).

The device I purchased is running a flavor of Gingerbread and has a single core 1Ghz CPU and 8GB of built-in flash storage.  I immediately installed a 32GB MicroSD to allow for music and other media storage.

The device is very responsive- much more so than any other Android phone I have owned (a list which currently includes the HTC G1, Motorola Droid, HTC Incredible, Motorola Droid X, Google Nexus One, LG G2x and Sony xPeria Play) which is what I have come to expect after trying the Samsung Galaxy and Galaxy S phones in kiosk displays.

This device is designed to be an iPod Touch competitor (even the box it cam in looked eerily familiar to an Apple iPhone package, including white ear buds) and it does a pretty decent job.  The main issue I see with this tactic is the device thickness (to accommodate the large removable battery)- however this shortcoming is readily overlooked when you consider the better cameras, inclusion of a GPS module and microSD expansion.  If you have a mobile hotspot, another sell point is the Galaxy Player makes for a good turn-by-turn GPS device via Google Maps navigation.

The battery lasts about two days when on 'standby' and lasts most of a day when listening to music or audiobooks.  I installed the Audible app and listened to a book for almost 6 hours over Bluetooth headphones and the battery was still over 50%.  Video and CPU intensive games do draw the battery down a bit faster (as anticipated).  Plants vs Zombies looks great on the 5" screen I and playing for 30 mins dropped the battery charge about 8%; if the battery drain is linear, I estimate I could play for about 5h 20m before needing it would offer a low battery notice.

I love the form factor and performance of this device, but for me personally it will definitely be a YADIRDNN (Yet Another Device I Really Do Not Need).  With the upcoming release of the Galaxy Nexus I am sure this device will end up on eBay soon thereafter.

This device is perfect for someone that already has a phone and wants a nice Android device without a service contract.  It makes for a good MP3 player, but I find the iPod Touch to be a little more enjoyable to use- and the size/battery life ratio of a Touch is near impossible to meet.

If you are an iPhone user and you want to try out the Android ecosystem, then this is the perfect device for you.  However, if you are a Android phone owner with a fairly recent device, there is not too much new here- especially if you are a Galaxy S/II owner- and I would recommend looking elsewhere if you are in search of a dedicated MP3 player.


New Stuff this Week

It has been a week of many interesting things...

This morning I opened Google Reader and found it had been updated with a new interface and a tie-in to Google+; the same has happened for Blogger.  I like the new look, but the new navigation & search bars are taking up about 20% of my viewable screen of my laptop (1440x900)- hopefully there will be a way to change/turn these off in a future post.

I found an easy way to root my Verizon Sony xPeria Play (R900x) and I was able to use Root File Explorer to free up some  space by removing the Verizon crap-apps (Verizon Navigator, MyVerizon, Verizon Apps, etc) and my removing the built-in apps that can be moved to SD card once re-installed (Skype, Kindle, etc).  There is a good post on XDA Developers that has info on which apps are safe to remove and where they are located.

I am still waiting on my Google TV update on my Sony NSZ-GT1 player.  I received an email stating that updates will be rolling out 'over the next few weeks', but I want this update now!

It appears that USPS has updated their tracking page; it now looks like it belongs in the 21st century.

I am so ready for the Galaxy Nexus phone to be released on Verizon; hopefully Verizon will not screw me over by charging $200+ more for a subsidized phone with a 2 year contract renewal vs. new subscribers on the same contract.  If this is the case, I will be porting my number over to Google Voice, canceling my Verizon account and coming back as a new user (except that I will loose my 'unlimited' data plan- d'oh!)