Want to Share Your Steam Game Collection? Beta Starts Next Week!

sharing-is-caringDirect from the horse’s mouth:

September 11, 2013 – Steam Family Sharing, a new service feature that allows close friends and family members to share their libraries of Steam games, is coming to Steam, a leading platform for the delivery and management of PC, Mac, and Linux games and software. The feature will become available next week, in limited beta on Steam.

Steam Family Sharing is designed for close friends and family members to play one another's games while each earning their own Steam achievements and storing their own saves and application data to the Steam cloud. It's all enabled by authorizing a shared computer.
“Our customers have expressed a desire to share their digital games among friends and family members, just as current retail games, books, DVDs, and other physical media can be shared,” explained Anna Sweet of Valve. “Family Sharing was created in direct response to these user requests.”

Once a device is authorized, the lender's library of Steam games becomes available for others on the machine to access, download, and play. Though simultaneous usage of an account’s library is not allowed, the lender may always access and play his games at any time. If he decides to start playing when a friend is borrowing one of his games, the friend will be given a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing.

For more information about Steam Family Sharing and the beta program, please visit http://store.steampowered.com/sharing.

Sound too good to be true? Well, that’s because you didn’t read the FAQ at the above link. Third party games using a unique key or account cannot be shared. Additionally, while you can authorize 10 other computers to share your library, only one, including yourself can actually use a given library at a time. Regional restrictions may also apply. Still, even with the fine print, it is once heck of a wonderful step forward for digital distribution.

Of course, Steam REALLY needs parental controls now!

One thousand applicants will be selected for the beta program starting next week with Steam Family Sharing going live for everyone whenever the heck Valve feels like it.

Review: Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Forgets to Include Terror and Gameplay

amnesiarev3Horror games received a much needed shock to the system in 2010 when Frictional Games, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and forced to self-publish digitally before such things were common, released Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It was a revolution. Amnesia doubled sales estimates as word spread of a new breed of horror game. Rock, Paper, Shotgun called the original Amnesia game “the most successfully frightening game to have been made." Popular opinion agreed. Word spread. The game’s oppressive atmosphere, spectacular sound design, interactive environments, and sanity breaking hallucinations redefined, not horror, but terror in the interactive medium. Horror fans consider having actually finished Amnesia: The Dark Descent as a badge of honor, so harrowing is the experience. It is no small wonder that fans of fright have been eagerly anticipating that classic’s follow-up, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, for some time now.

Those fans of the original Amnesia are certainly in for a scary surprise. A Machine for Pigs (AMFP) isn’t scary, let alone terrifying.

Free and Spectacular! Plants vs Zombies 2 is Out for iOS

I was going to wait until I got through this one and write up a full review but, judging by the player numbers, no one is really waiting for a critic’s word on this one. And you shouldn’t either! At least if you have iOS. PvZ2 will be arriving on all other platforms soon.

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Plant like it’s 2009! Crazy Dave now has a talking time machine and a taco. Upon eating the taco, everyone’s favorite seed supplier wants to take a trip backwards along the timeline to eat it again. With nothing better to do, you’re tagging along for the ride to turn all new mummy, pirate, and cowboy themed zombies into fertilizer. With sharper graphics and phenomenal animation, PvZ 2: It’s About Time delivers that same addictive strategy fun that made it a smash hit with both casual and hardcore gamers alike.

Skeptical of free-to-play titles on mobile? Yeah, you should be. At first blush PvZ2 looks like just another shameless cash grab from EA. Buy buttons featuring outrageous prices are everywhere and a shop offers your old vegie buddies from PvZ1 for several dollar apiece. Folks sensitive to microtransactions are going to pop their corn over this one!

pvz2 endSurprisingly, none of these purchases are required to enjoy the game. There are more than enough new plants to replace the few missing from the previous title. Keys used to access side areas for bonuses and minigames are random (if rare) drops while playing. Coins used for delightfully fun and effective touchscreeny power-up moves like flicking zombies off the screen or pinching their heads drop every time you play. Only the most impatient or time constrained players will ever feel the need to trade moolah for mayhem.

It’s been a long time since the holy trinity of Sunflower, Peashooter, and Wall-nut took on the armies of cosplaying undead and It’s About Time they did it again. The plentiful weeds of cash-nags can’t drain all the nutrients from this garden of delights. Highly recommended!

Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time is available now for iOS and coming soon to anything with a CPU and screen.

Want to Believe? Interviews With British Government UFO Specialist Nick Pope

QAs we’ve examined before, the hype train for mass media productions can lead to creation of interesting and thought provoking productions in their own right.

2K Games has been hitting the media circuits lately in support of their newest game, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. The game is a strategic, 3rd person shooter set in the paranoid laden1960s suddenly faced with an alien invasion. Not content to trot out the regular stable of game producers and PR wranglers, 2K has enlisted the company of one Mr. Nick Pope for the tour.

While Nick is currently a freelance journalist and media commentator, it is his ties to secret government organizations investigating potential alien contact that got him on board. Nick was employed by the British Government’s Ministry of Defense from 1985 to 2006. In 1991, he was transferred to Secretariat (Air Staff) 2a. His duty? Investigating reports of Unidentified Flying Objects.

IGN UK also interviewed Mr. Pope regarding his time with the MoD. The interview starts at the 21 minute mark.

 

Have be been visited by extraterrestrial entities? Nick’s answer is… yes. And we need to begin preparing a global response. Like forming XCOM.

NSA Uses PRISIM to Collect More Internet Activity Than Google

productimage-picture-prism-bricks-30-pc-starter-kit-17389.jpg.436x346_q100_upscaleNumbers are funny things. People like to think that numbers cannot be mutated to twist or distort facts. As any listener of talk radio knows, this simply isn’t true thanks to percentages.

What am I rambling on about? Beats me. Instead, let’s read what the NSA has to say about their Internet-wide eavesdropping PRISIM system. Watch them numbers dance!

“According to figures published by a major tech provider, the Internet carries 1,826 Petabytes of information per day. In its foreign intelligence mission, NSA touches about 1.6 percent of that. However, of the 1.6 percent of the data, only 0.025 percent is actually selected for review. The net effect is that NSA analysts look at 0.00004 percent of the world's traffic in conducting their mission—that's less than one part in a million. Put another way, if a standard basketball court represented the global communications environment, NSA's total collection would be represented by an area smaller than a dime on that basketball court.”

Huh… So maybe the United States government isn’t really checking everything we say. At least not personally. There is no mention of what happens to all that harvested data  that isn’t selected for review. I’m sure they throw it all away. Like Google and their illegally harvested Wi-Fi data gathered while mapping streets.

Still, 1.6% isn’t all that much, right? Let’s see, 1.6% of 1,826 petabytes is 29.21 PBs. Hmm… So, how much data is that? Well, depending on if we’re using binary or not, it is somewhere between 29,210 terabytes and 29,911 terabytes. So… That’s a lot of data, but what does it mean in practical terms?

I think it’s safe to say that we all kinda know and accept that Google has its finger on the pulse of the Internet. For a lot of folks, Google is their search, email, news, photo, AND video provider. Combining all that user data together, Google is estimated to hand about 24 petabytes a day, 5000 terabytes less than the NSA.

That’s still a really big number. Let’s bring it a little closer to home.

  • If you totaled up all the traffic that runs through AT&T, you’d get about 30 petabytes
  • The Large Hadron Collider produces about 15 petabytes of data per YEAR in their quest for the Higgs boson.
  • In 2009, there were 15 billion photos on Facebook. Each photo is automatically resized four different ways for a total of 60 billion images. Total size on disk? 1.5 petabytes.
  • All of the user data from all of the servers in the World of Warcraft fits within 1.5 petabytes.
  • One petabyte is enough to store the DNA of the entire population of the USA - with cloning it twice
  • Your brain is estimated to store the equivalent of 2.5 petabytes in memories.

Happy web surfing!

Review: Ultima Forever (iPhone/iPad)–Quest of the Keymaster

Boy did I oversell this title in a recent post

Ultima Forever 1While Ultima Forever does an admirable job of bringing players back to the long lost land of Britannia, the trip is fraught with the perils of laggy gameplay, repetitive dungeon grinding, and a pay-to-open-lottery boxes-and-hope-you-win scheme so offensive it could only exist on mobile.

Let’s deal with the 50-foot dragon in the room first. Ultima Forever’s (UF) economy runs on one thing: Keys. You got yer copper keys that you’ll find everywhere, silver keys that are created from crafting 18 copper keys into 6 silvers, and gold keys that represent you premium currency. Apparently in you absence from Britannia, the shopkeepers have decided that actually buying and selling items is bad for business. The only way to gain items is via treasure chests that dot every town and dungeon. What type of key you use to unlock the chest determines what loot table you’ll get goodies from. And we’re not just talking one key per chest opening. You’ll need six copper or silver keys just for a chance at mediocre gear or quest required items (yes, really), and a whopping eight gold keys for a pull on the high-roller slots for a shot at the good stuff. Get something you didn’t need or want? Your only option is to put it in the trash. No selling, no crafting, no refunds.

Free Star Trek Online Starter Pack + Cash Shop Giveaways

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Alienware Arena has an offer up for a bundle of Star Trek Online goodies for new and existing players! They’re giving away a special “Holodeck Pack” that includes two sets of batteries, a rare or very rare ground weapon, a 2500 XP boost, and 5000 bits of dilithium.

You'll need to create a free account with Alienware Arena (Spam is minimal and they always have tons of free offers for other MMOs as well), then hit the button on the offer page to get a key. Take your key and head on over to the the STO web page. Log in, go to My Account/Redeem Key. Your new goodie pack will be available in game by going to the C-Store, selecting Items, and finding the Promotional Reward. Click claim and enjoy!

Starting Monday, August 12th and continuing thru August 16th, Star Trek Online will be giving away cash shop items to celebrate to end of their Summer Lohlunat Festival. A new item will be available starting at 10AM PDT and up for grabs until the next item is announced the following morning. Check out this article for more information. And, oh, yes, there will be starships Smile

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If you’re new to the game, feel free to shoot an in-game mail to @ryte2byte for any assistance you may need or if you’d like to join us on The NightWatch, the official Federation/Fed-aligned Romulan fleet of the GUO family.

All aboard the Party Barge! The first round of Tricobalt is on me!

iOS MMO Ultima Forever: Quest of the Avatar Brings Morality Back to Gaming

SkgD8EA Mythic has just launched their latest endeavor to the gaming world in the form of Ultima Forever: Quest of the Avatar. This title is notable for two very important reasons: It is an open world, MMORPG for Apple’s iPhone (4s and newer) and iPad (2nd gen and newer). Secondly, this title, the first RPG bearing the Ultima name in, well, forever, harkens back  to the legendary Ultima IV which put the players on the path not to kill, but to master the eight Virtues and become a shining example to the people of Britannia.

While there is still a good bit of monster thumping to be had, the goal of Ultima Forever is to become a role-model. Mastering the eight virtues of honesty, compassion, valor, justice, sacrifice, honor, spirituality, and humility will take players on a trip around the fantasy world to save folks with traditional ‘hit-with-stick’ methods as well as moral conundrums to challenge your ethics. Your mastery of the Virtues in turn drives character advancement. In Ultima Forever, the path to power lies with being a good person. And free-to-play microtransactions.

It’s great to see an RPG emphasize something other than mayhem and bloodshed. Although the original morality-based goals of Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar originally appeared back in 1985 on another famed Apple platform, the Apple II, its emphasis on being a model citizen rather than a thug is something very, very few games have attempted (perhaps the only recent example being the Fable series).

Ultima Forever is available for free from iTunes.

Indie Soviet Era Paperwork Thriller Game ‘Papers, Please’ Released Today

Working at a border checkpoint is no joke. Working a border checkpoint in a fictional analog to Soviet occupied East Germany with a starving family at home, a book of rules that changes every day, and an endless line of immigrants who will live or die based on your decisions, is downright nightmarish. And that’s before you factor in the human trafficking ring, secret societies, and spies using your booth as a drop point. Enter the world of Papers, Please: A Dystopian Document Thriller. Get ready to leverage your arsenal of rubber stamps, nude scanners, panic buttons, and questionable morality as you confront on of the most original and ingenious game of 2013.

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For more information and a video walkthrough of the beta, check out the Mrs. and myself arguing over whether or not to let a suspected murderer with perfectly valid paperwork cross the border in our Mr and Mrs Otaku Play: Papers, Please feature.

To import your own copy of the final version, head on over to papersplea.se and rubber stamp your choice of Steam, GoG, or Humble Store. *Pro Tip: The Humble Store gets you not only the stand-alone, DRM-free version, but a code for activation of a Steam copy as well.

Pikachu Blows Up in Summer Fireworks Festival

pikachu fireworkThe explosive artists behind the Itabashi Fireworks Festival in Japan popped the top off a celebrity guest star at their 2013 show. This latest show’s finale featured fireworks cunningly created in the forms of Pokeballs and the very familiar visage of none other than everyone’s favorite high voltage rat-thing, Pikachu. Electrifying!

Video: Curiosity Mars Rover’s First Year of Wandering the Red Planet

marspanornew1Guess who enjoys long walks on the beach, collecting rocks, traveling, and just turned one year old? That’s right, it’s been a whole year since NASA’s revolutionary lil’ remote-controlled rover Curiosity landed on Mars. To celebrate NASA has compiled this two-minute video montage of of our favorite little eyes on another sky as journeyed where no man has gone before.

So what do you do when you’re working an average distance of 225 million kilometers from home on your birthday? You forlornly sing Happy Birthday to yourself, of course.

Japanese Robonaut Kirobo Voyages to ISS on a Quest to Keep Humans Company

On Sunday, August 4th, the newest member of the International Space Station blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center.

As opposed to the usual bevy of scientists conducting experiments in microgravity, Kirobo’s mission is to chat up the squishier members of the crew. Measuring less than 14” tall, Kirobo is part of the Kibo Robot Project. The project’s ultimate goal is “To help solve the problems brought about by a society that has become more individualized and less communicative.” They explain that, “Nowadays, more and more people are living alone. It’s not just the elderly – with today's changing lifestyles, it’s people of all ages.” The Kibo Project aims to create a small, mechanical companion for such people.

Kirobo

In an act of indignation that will surely become a rallying call of mechanamen everywhere during the Robopocalyse of 2525, Kirobo traveled to the ISS via a cargo transfer vehicle and will remain packed away until the experiment’s start in November when fleshy astronaut Koichi Wakata arrives.

Behind the Blog: August 1, 2013–Summer Sabbatical

Still kickin’. Not too much to say. I’ve been doubling down on some home improvement projects lately. I REALLY need to schedule big yard work projects for another time of the year. You think I’d learn by now. With traffic having died back down to it being just us for the first time in several years, it seemed like a good time to get off of the constant posting treadmill.

I’ve also needed some time to do a little unplugging. The constant barrage of media coming into my brain via the Internet these days can be overwhelming if not properly mediated. And I do not properly mediate Winking smile Internet press/media has really gone down the tubes (pun!) the past couple years. Internet news used to be good for supplementing mainstream news stories and catering to niche interests. Then it became a replacement for traditional news outlets. Now, every little detail and off-handed Tweet is front page news. Did you know the Playstation 4 will have 4.5 GB of available RAM. I did. You know why? It was front page news of 17 different sites, and not just video game ones. I mean, really guys. I know you feel the need to throw every single scrap of information about anything onto the web as its own article to generate hits (and, hence, ad views) from random search traffic, but things have gotten WAY out of hand. The noise-to-signal ratio of my RSS newsfeeds is so absurd that it’s unreadable most days.

And that’s another reason why I’m not posting much. It’s becoming harder and harder to find the interesting little niche stuff amongst all the pop culture buzz. Did I mention the PS4 will have 4.5GB of available RAM? Zzzzzz.

Anyhow, things are doing fine here. I haven’t quit or forgotten this place. I just need a little less Internet for a while. In the meantime, there are THOUSANDS of cool goodies lurking in the bowels of GUO waiting to be rediscovered. If you find yourself craving a little of the good ol’ bloggy-bloggy, click around and see what you find.

As always, we send our love to your and yours.

Thanks for reading!

3D Printed Tardis Prime Transformer is More Awesome on the Inside

I think it’s fair to say that Andrew Lindsey is possessed of a level of awesome most mere nerds can only aspire to. Inspired from a tee-shirt design on DeviantArt, Linsey’s latest project sees him firing up the Delta-style 3D printer he built himself to create a toy robot in disguise. But not just any Transformer! This time and space jumping robot is none other than the mighty Tardis Prime, complete with bow tie!

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Proving that Tardis Prime is a ‘bot of the people, this design can be downloaded for free from Thingiverse. Blog posts detailing the creation along with many more pictures of this sci-fi wonder can be found on Andrew’s blog.

Now Robots are Taking Jobs Away from Dogs Too

The future is fast approaching where everyone’s job will be taken by some form of machine leaving us all to unemployed and unable to afford robots to do our work for us. But it is not just mankind who stands on the edge of obsolescence. Check out this footage from New Zealand where man’s best friend has been usurped by man’s second best friend; The remote control car.

You Can No Longer Use iTunes to Build Nuclear and Biological Weapons. Really.

mzl.qrpcvugb.320x480-75Apple has once again updated the end user license agreement (EULA) for iTunes. According to section (g) of the new rules, you can no longer apply your vast collection of music and movies toward the goal of creating nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Wait… What?!

“You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, missiles, or chemical or biological weapons.”

Check it out for yourself at Apple.com

I guess it’s time to cancel my subscription to War Crimes Weekly Podcast…

PSA: Add Money to Your Steam Wallet, Get Banned From the Community Market

steam_banSmiles over the latest Steam Summer Sale were turned upside-down at the GUO offices this weekend as half the staff found themselves barred from buying or selling items on the Community Marketplace for a full seven days. The culprit? Adding money to Valve’s “Steam Wallet.”

Surprisingly, adding funds to your Steam Wallet using a credit card number that has not previously been used to do so blocks your ability to buy and sell items in the Community Marketplace. The Marketplace, which requires funds to be deposited in Steam Wallet, is used by members to barter virtual goods, such as Valve’s recently introduced trading cards. While the transactions used to deposit money in Wallet had been verified as approved by relevant financial institutions and said cash was immediately available for use on the Steam store itself, the actual Market itself remains off limits for a full week. A representative from Valve told GUO that this ban on user transactions is “to protect user accounts and the Steam Economy.”

How a check-style hold achieves this is, of course, is anyone’s guess.

steam market ban

So, to buy stuff on Steam’s Community Marketplace, you must first deposit funds into your Steam Wallet. After depositing funds into Steam Wallet for the first time with any given credit card, your account is banned from buying stuff on Steam’s Community Marketplace for seven days. You can spend that money anywhere else on Steam, just… not on stuff that requires the use of Steam Wallet. Why? To protect the Steam Economy.

And you wonder why these people haven’t been able to put together a new Half Life game in the past six years…

When GUO inquired as to why one of our affected accounts, an account in good standing for more than eight years with a verified transfer of funds, had been banned and if this situation could be rectified, we received the following reply:

“Our trading system is designed to protect user accounts and the Steam Economy. Recent changes to your account information have restricted certain features of the Steam Community for a limited time. As a result, some items (ed. ALL items, in our experience) may temporarily (ed. SEVEN DAYS in all affected accounts) not be tradable or sold on the Community Market. Once this restriction expires, you will be able to trade items and use the Community Market once again. Steam Support cannot remove this restriction from your account. These security features cannot be bypassed.”

Geez, you’d think we had mailed them a check. This is completely unacceptable in the age of instant online transactions. More so when a sale coincides with an event that heavily utilizes the Market feature.

Beware, trading card collectors and TF2 hat junkies! Give Valve your money and face a week long, irreversible ban.

Steam Summer Sale Started

steam saleThe Steam Summer Sale is once again upon us. While this year’s prices are more inline with what Steam sales have looked like recently rather than the epic must-see deals that made Steam the biggest PC, Mac, and Linux game store on the web, there are still some bargains to be found. And some of the lightning deals are still amazing!

Update: I take it back. This Summer Sale has been great!

Topping our list of recommendations is, of course, Scribblenauts Unlimited which can be had for a mere $5 (watch us play). FTL, still one of the greatest space games of all time at any price, it’s on sale for $2.50 (read our story-review and strategy guide). Finally, while many Indie titles are on-sale for three or four bucks, the real treasure for bargain hunters is McPixel for a lean $0.99.

What’s McPixel? It’s a game I recommended that costs a buck! What more do you need to know?

shot9Sheesh, alright… McPixel takes old-school point-n-click adventure gaming and throws it at you in rounds of six 20-second, rapid-fire microgames. Something is going to explode and you only have a click or two to save the day. While focused more on trail and error than logic, McPixel is crammed full of toilet humor and frequently makes less sense than a rubber-chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle means finding all the ways to fail in McPixel is more fun than completing the challenges.

Dungeons-of-Dredmor-2011-07-26-11-12-07-60_thumbUpdate: I also need to add Dungeons of Dredmor to my little recommendations list. It seems odd I haven’t mentioned it more around here considering it has become my favorite Rogue-alike in the past couple years. DoD takes the traditional turn-based dungeon plunge formula and adds a bit of MMO-styled interface niceties, crafting, unique skills (Vegan, Battle Geology), and 4th wall breaking comedy sprinkled with pop culture references. The game is a steal at its regular $5 price, but at $1.24, it’s a must have. The full bundle with DLC (one of which is free anyway) will set you back a whole $2.49. And for those scared of traditional Rogue-alike permadeath, there’s an option to turn it off. You wussy. Add in Steam Workshop support for 1-click mods, and you’ve got a game that will give back for years. Probably in lutefisk, but, hey, whatever.

The real disappointment of the formerly amazing Steam sale is, once again, the lack of any gaming activities. Once a showcase of special game modes and scavenger hunts, this latest Steam sale sees Valve stinking to a new low with their Trading Card system that encourages users to buy and sell achievements (yes, with real money and, yes, Steam takes a cut of all user transactions) for functional client upgrades like an expanded friends list or more widgets on their profile page. Way to go at making Microsoft look classy!

Still, with dang near everything on sale for prices at least on par with their daily specials and community selected lightning deals every 8 hours, there’s sure to be something you can save a few bucks on. Check it out at store.steampowered.com

Apple’s 5th Anniversary of the App Store Means Free iOS Apps and Games for You

5 Years of the App StoreIn case you hadn’t heard yet, Apple is giving away software for a couple more days. Click on over to this link and pick up five apps and five games in celebration of five years of destroying all concepts of what software should cost.

Inside you’ll find great stuff like How to Cook Everything, Day One Journal, and Barefoot World Atlas. If you’re feeling twitchy, there’s a selection of highly praised games like Infinity Blade II, Tiny Wings, and Sword & Sworcery. Some of these apps go for big money (in app store terms), so even if you don’t have the space to download them all now, it’s a good idea to let the download fail so they get tagged as purchased on your iTunes account and you can try them out when you get around to deleting some stuff or get a bigger iOS devices.

Online Gaming Now Illegal in Florida

illegal-pokerSince you wouldn’t believe me if I told ya, here’s Yahoo News (by way of HuffPo) with the scoop:

“Got a laptop or an iPhone in Florida? You could be violating the law.

In an attempt to ban Internet cafes in the Sunshine State, legislators may have been a bit too broad in their language, resulting in what some legal experts say is a law that inadvertently makes it illegal to own a computer or a smartphone.

The bill, which was signed into law by Florida governor Rick Scott in April, was meant to shut down cafes, some of which have been tied to illegal gambling in the state. And shut them down it did: over 1,000 cafes were immediately closed.

But it's the wording that's problematic, as it defines a slot machine as "any machine or device or system or network of devices" that can be used in games of chance. Turns out the Internet is full of gambling sites, which is where the definition runs into some problems.”

Get Your Cola REALLY Cold With Bottles Made of Ice

Coca-Cola is testing a new method of bottling its bubbly beverage in Colombia with bottles made out of ice. A silicone band keeps these frozen drink containers cooling your soda while saving your fingers from frostbite.

While these new ice bottles are being spun as being eco-friendly, critics (ie. crybabies who don’t know how to have fun) point out that the electricity costs needed to ensure the bottle remain solid until sold outweighs any ecological savings gained.

Any Port in a Storm

Scenes from the Mrs’ garden:

frog in watering can

A week of rain and this frog decides to park his butt inside a watering can. Meet the amphibian otaku!

Behind the Blog: July 1, 2013-No, Really, I’m Listening

So, quiet back end of the month. It’s hard to put forth the effort to write up stuff when what you’re interested in has become mainstream and is being broadcast around the clock by thousands of others. Seriously, what more could I add about Microsoft’s Xbone of a show at E3 or NSA’s Prism program? Thus, I decided to take it easy for a while. It’s nice to take some time off. Also good for recharging the creative batteries. I hope Winking smile

It’s going to continue to be quiet for a bit. The Mrs’ just started some well deserved vacation time. This means I’ll be called upon at all hours to perform such strenuous tasks as moving or acknowledge that I’m being spoken to. Hard work! Speaking of the Mrs, the last batch of heath tests came back good and clean. Finally! I gotta tell ya, things have been pretty tense over here the past few months. It’ll be nice to get that stuff off our minds.

In the content arena, we has a comic come out. Nada Nerd is one I almost didn’t publish. I thought it might have been a little.. well, easy joke. I also think the Simpsons did it. Response was good though.

I really liked the latest Star Trek Online article. It is an interesting story from an entertainment media perspective. Imagine playing an MMO where you only had the last half. Then, three years later you get the first part. Odd, indeed! I knew I would end up doing something about STO’s expansion. Little did I know that the thing that really resonated with me would not be one of their mainstream features.

The Mrs. finally put fingers to keyboard once again and wanted to chat about Natsume’s Book of Friends. She’s got a knack for finding these secret little anime treasures.

That about does it for me. Not a lot of stuff to talk about. At least not without ranting Winking smile We all hope July finds you happy, healthy, and fine. We love you!

Thanks for reading!

Hands On With NASA’s Robonaut

CNet’s Always On went hands on with NASA recently turned on hands of their robotic astronaut.

Down With The Magical Cloud!

Jacada_NoCloudGraaaagh! As a technically inclined individual, it drives me no small amount of bonkers when marketing terms start to get bandied about by folks who think they actually mean something. Usually I have Apple to blame for crap like this (‘Retina’ display!!!), but this time it is Microsoft that has done pissed me off to no end with their harping on the ‘Power of the Cloud’.

While far from the only offender of citing Clouds as a magic bullet that will change the way we work and play forever, MS’ claim of The Magical Microsoft Cloud increasing the ‘power’ (another ambiguous term that means nothing) of their upcoming Xbox One home entertainment system by 3 to 10 times is certainly the most egregious.

Without any facts or data, the media began to dream up their own ideas of what The Cloud would mean. I’ve heard improbable theories ranging from AI computations to graphical rendering being offloaded to virtual servers in MS datacenters. The truth would be far more possible and a good deal less impressive.

Titanfall was unveiled as being one the debut titles in this new age of Cloud powered gaming machines. The fact? Dedicated multiplayer servers. Yep, decades old PC gaming technology dusted off and republished under a shiny new banner of Cloud Computing.

PCmag defines what Cloud means quite elegantly as “A communications network. The word "cloud" often refers to the Internet.”. Then they totally drink the Kool-Aid and ramble off into nonsense like “However, the term "cloud computing" refers to the services that have enabled the cloud to become so prominent in everyday life.” Man, magazine writers have it easy these days…

If you can’t substitute the word Cloud for Online or Internet and have it make sense, be suspicious. Cloud storage makes sense; You’re using an online server to store files. Cloud computing is a stickier wicket, but in the modern sense refers to utilizing an online server to do work like running an application. Web apps like YouTube or Google Docs are good examples of cloud computing.

The claim that a device will “Harness the power of the cloud to make it better” is marketing FUD and is best left ignored. Or mocked.

Team Fortress 2 meets Surgeon Simulator 2013

The folks over at the studio that made Surgeon Simulator released an update yesterday for free that gives you a new mission to enjoy. This mission is a scene from Team Fortress' Meet the Medic video where your the Medic and your mission is to take Heavy's heart and turn it into the Uber-Charged Heart.


Get Torchlight Free from GOG.com Until Thursday

Indie darling Diablo-killer Torchlight is now free for the next couple days as part of GOG.com’s #noDRM Summer Sale. This is a great pickup for everyone who is looking for a little clicky-clicky, looty-looty dungeon bashing action. Torchlight even sports a netbook mode for those stuck on machines that are a little less than state-of the art.

While you’re there, check out the more than 500 titles discounted in GOG’s Summer Sale (Get starbase sim Startopia, evil dungeon overlord sim Dungeon Keeper 2 , or the greatest strategy game ever, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, for $3 each!) or grab some more free games like Beneath a Steel Sky or Ultima IV.

Out of Disk Space? Visualize Your Hard Drive With WinDirStat | Tech Tips

What’s using up all my hard drive space? Data storage may be big and cheap, but it still hasn’t reached a point where we can dismiss the limits of our physical media storage quite yet. While working on a recent project, I found myself, once again, bumping up against the limits of my PC’s storage capacity. But what was taking up all those ones and zeros? I didn’t feel like my free space quite jived with what I had installed even after deleting some old programs and data.

WinDirStat, a free utility for Windows PCs, to the rescue!

WinDirStat crawls your storage devices and catalogs every folder on your computer, sorted by the amount of space it’s using. It also creates a graphical representation of your entire directory structure allowing users to easily spot what files are the biggest binary hogs.

Using WinDirStat I was able to identify at a glance storage gobbling folders that would have taken considerably longer to track down manually. 55GB of iOS apps? Time to clean the house iTunes built! Oops, guess I forgot about that 60GB I used to backup my music before it lived on a server in the cloud. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Blu-ray rips of Blade Runner costing me 34GB. Time to die! I even uncovered 16GB worth of forgotten video from Planetside 2 in which I spent a night trying to part a tank on top of Brandon’s drop ship. It didn’t work. Do I really need a 16GB reminder of my failings? I mean, isn’t that why I have a blog? Winking smile

WinDirStat is available for free at windirstat.info and works on everything from Windows 95 to Windows 7 (and, probably, Windows 8). A recommended alternative for Mac computers is Disk Inventory X or GrandPerspective while Linux users should apt-get their butts over to KDirStat.

Sony Xbones Microsoft Over Online DRM

Three news briefs later and I still have questions over the online DRM issues and workarounds for giving away my old Xbox One games to friends. Fortunately, Sony produced this instructional video so I wouldn’t have any questions about how to handle my PS4 discs.

Natsume's Book of Friends: A delightful journey | AniMaiden'd

I have just finished watching a very charming anime series called Natsume's Book of Friends (Natsume Yujin-cho).

. This show has a very warm feeling to it and a very likable cast of characters.

It starts out with a young boy named Takashi Natsume who has a disconnected past from his immediate family. He inherits a strange book that was owned by his grandmother, Reiko Natsume. In this book, she had collected the names of all the youkai (spirits) she had met in her life. Reiko had forced them to give her their names so she could bind them in servitude to her.

Takashi is not comfortable with this and begins to give these names back to their owners. While doing this, he comes upon Madara, one of the youkai that was bound to his grandmother. Madara becomes a mentor and protector to Takashi. Madara does not not hide the fact that he is really interested in getting the Book of Friends for his own use. He is only protecting Takashi from other youkai that might kill Takashi before Madara can.

Madara, who is called Nyanko Sensei by Takashi, provides a humorous side kick in his disguise as a very chubby lucky cat. He is constantly eating and loves to drink too much sake.
He seems to be a very aloof cat only interested in his own comfort and entertainment – but when real trouble arises, he changes form into a much more formidable spirit and saves Takashi many times.

Each episode covers another adventure for Takashi and Nyanko Sensei as they meet more youkai and learn their stories. As the series progresses, we are shown small pieces of Takashi's past life and how he has moved from home to home without a real family.  We also learn more about his grandmother.  Both Takashi and his grandmother can see youkai.  This makes them different from everyone else and they have both  been outcasts as young children. 

This show moves forward with the lives of Takashi and his new youkai friends at a pace that allows us to see, in a very natural way, how Takashi grows and learns about friendship and family. We follow his discoveries about his own family and how he is not as alone now as he has believed he is.


Natsume's Book of Friends tells a very touching tale and does it gracefully and beautifully. You can watch is streaming at Crunchyroll.com or get the DVDs from Amazon.com.  

Contest Abuse Leads to Epic Kung Fu Beer Commercial With Jackie Chan and Shokotan | Weekend Watchlist

Kirin breweries ran a contest called Nodogoshi Yume no Dream that invited “Ordinary Joes” to submit their dreams for a chance to make them come true. The result was a series of commercials that featured winners fulfilling said desires and becoming a fashion models, rock stars, and dining with sumo wrestlers for use in a series of commercials promoting Kirin’s new Nodogoshi Draft beer.

Kazuo Ishida dreams big. Not content to enter a single request, Ishida submitted a series of 39 dreams that outlined his vision of staring in a kung fu flick (Dream #1) where he faced off against his “buddy from university” (Dream #4) along side Hong Kong cinema legend Jackie Chan (Dream #2) and the Internet’s “New Queen of the Blogs” Shoko Nakagawa (Dream #3).

Kirin took up the challenge. The cast from Ishida’s dreams was assembled and flown out to Shanghai to produce this 6-minute, kung fu epic featuring everything you’d expect from the genre: Wirework stunts, fights using furniture and vegetables, a training montage, Chan’s traditional outtake reel during the end credits, and even heroic theme music to cheer on Kazuo Ishida in his darkest hour.

At the premiere of the featurette, Shokotan reportedly burst into tears and bowed to Ishida. As fate would have it, the production fulfilled not just this Ordinary Joe’s dream, but a dream of the Japanese idol as well. Shoko had always dreamed of working with Jackie Chan.

What follows is Ishida’s original 39 dreams:

North American Hospitals Adding Robots to the Medical Staff

EVA_Robot_3-prvWe’ve looked at telepresence robots before. These remote controlled, video conferencing doo-dads allow users to kick back on the ol’ sofa while still giving the appearance of working. Is it any wonder that this technology would be picked up in short order by American doctors, one of the laziest castes of professionals around?

iRobot, makers of your little floor sweeping buddy, Roomba, received FDA approval for the deployment of the RP-Vita. Now, seven hospitals in the North America have deployed the outrageously overpriced iPads on wheels (Thank you insurance companies!). Dignity Health, Sacramento, CA; Hoag Memorial Hospitial Presbyteria, Orange County, CA; Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, CA; Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA; St. Mary’s Medical Center, Huntington, WV; Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH; and Instituto de Salud del Estado de Mexico, Toluca, Mexico have all signed up to allow these video laden Roombas free reign of their hospitals.

So what does the RP-Vita do for patients? Much like your normal doctor, very little. It makes you wait while it autonomously cruises the halls, compliments of thirty sensors to keep it from getting in the way of the people actually working. Upon reaching the patient, a camera sporting 120x zoom allows doctors to read the patient’s chart (provided it is properly hung up for everyone to see), look into their eyeballs (provided the patient can open them enough and hold still), then cruise out to tell nurses and technicians to do the real work. RP-Vita has no appendages or tools and is not equipped with any form of medical analysis sensor.  What it does do is allow doctors to pinch-and-zoom their way around to look at stuff, tell patients to take two aspirin and quit smoking, then roll off to berate the staff. The difference is that this is now possible without your doctor putting down his coffee cup, leaving the golf course, or having to be around those yucky sick people! Hallelujah!

Dr. Paul Vespa, director of neurocritical care at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, explains the importance of RP-Vita in this UCLA press release:

"Consumers nationwide are facing long delays in medical delivery, largely because the health care system can't provide enough physicians in enough locations. We need new technologies that revolutionize physicians' capacity to see more patients and greatly expand patients' access to specialized care."

Here’s hoping a breakthrough comes to cure that problem. If only we lived in a world where everyone carried a wireless computer in their pocket with video conferencing capabilities… If only…

Rejoice, Klingon Warriors, for We Are Noobs At Last! (Star Trek Online)

Character advancement in RPG games tends to follow a predictable pattern. You start out as a lowly level 1 scrud and begin the hero’s journey of learning the ropes and climbing the ladder. You accrue fame, fortune, and delight in the dopamine drip of seeing that level indicator climb ever higher. Once that level counter tops out, players clamor for ever more levels and ‘end game’ material in the form of raids, PVP, and daily missions. At least, that’s how it usually goes. Strangely, members of the Klingon Defense Force (KDF) in Cryptic Studios’ Star Trek Online (STO) have spent the past three years asking for the exact opposite: More content designed for lower and lower level characters.

The Klingon Empire, along with their allies the lizard-like Gorn, telepathic Letheans, surly Nausicaans, and the too-sexy-for-their-shirts Orions, have been part of the Star Trek Online experience since the game’s original launch in 2010. Sadly, some players might never have noticed. The original release revealed the KDF faction to be more of a marketing bullet point than a feature. Klingon gameplay only became unlocked after having put considerable time in playing STO’s Federation faction. Should someone tear themselves away from the Fed side long enough to check it out, they didn’t find much. Klingon missions were in short supply and the faction as a whole was widely regarded as only fun for players looking to engage in player-versus-player combat. To compensate for this lack of content, Klingon characters began the game at a much higher level, side-stepping the leveling problems incurred by a lack things to do but making the game half over before it even started. Many players weren’t buying it. Even the allure of flying a Bird of Prey, one of Star Trek’s most iconic starships (masterfully recreated in STO to provide an experience completely unique from every other ship in the game), was not enough to pull players to the other side for long. Developers would add new missions, ships, and end-game content to the faction over time, but the experience based cost of entry and a, not undeserved, reputation for being unfinished kept players away. Fans of the bumpy-headed baddies cried out for the rights most RPG gamers take for granted: To begin at the bottom.

All that changed in May of 2013 with the release of Star Trek Online’s Legacy of Romulus expansion.

Yes, Star Trek Online’s massive upgrade added a slew of new features (Upgraded graphics, a flattened interface, new equipment categories, additional multiplayer missions, raids, and challenges, the Romulan Republic faction, etc.) but it is sci-fi’s favorite space samurai who have the most to celebrate. As new and returning players bask in ever richer loot on the quest to level 50 and beyond, the fiercest warriors in the galaxy finally get their wish: Starting at level 1.

While undoubtedly overshadowed by by the titular new faction of the expansion, Legacy of Romulus made dreams come true for the beleaguered members of the KDF. The varied races of the Klingon Empire finally take their place on every player’s character creation screen beside their Federation and Romulan counterparts. No strings attached. No prerequisites required. No head starts. New missions, ships, and a fresh coat of paint plugs the final gap in the KDF’s early game content. Gone is the tedious walking tour of Qo’noS’ First City that passed as a tutorial. In its place is a new, voice acted adventure that had your character climbing the ranks to captain Klingon-style during a prisoner transfer gone wrong. In addition to new missions, earlier ones have been rewritten, rescripted, and generally overhauled to provide more drama and better fit with STO’s newly expanded expanded-universe fiction. Freshly indoctrinated lowby characters will soon find themselves at the helm of a B’rel class Bird of Prey, a design most widely recognized from Kirk & Co.’s rechristened HMS Bounty in Star Trek IV and formerly only available as a $20 top-tier ship. The opening act has fledgling warriors teaming up with Worf and Alexander to thwart a conspiracy to destroy the House of Martok. Need more? You got it! What’s the best companion in any RPG? Yup, KDF captains are getting a dog! Well, jackal-mastiff. Sliding down the power curve has never been so appealing.

It is one of the strangest stories in gaming. A player base given a free ride to the top clamoring for ever more low level content. Now, after three years of incremental upgrades, the virtual armies of the Klingon Defense Force can hold their heads high and sing, “Noobs at last! Noobs at last! Thank you, Cryptic! We are noobs at last!”

Behind the Blog: June 1, 2013–Down, Not Out

Hey there, Ho there, Otakuteers! ‘Tis I, your ever humble host. It’s been a little quiet around the GUO offices of late. Time to bust out the party poppers and wake this here lil’ corner of the Innertubes up! You’ll have to forgive me for the recent lack of updates. I twisted up my right arm pretty badly and had a rash of small painful blisters on my hands the past week or so. Ah, the joys of yard work… Typing even now is a bit of a bother (i.e. painful and annoying) , but I figured I should try to get something posted. There’s also been a massive update to Star Trek Online, so… ya know, you guys can shove off when that happens Open-mouthed smile. I seem to be light on staff, but was afraid to ask what was going on with that. I’ll get the personnel department to check into it Winking smile

Anyway, even though we might have seemed short by article counts, we sure didn’t skimp on the word count! Three reviews, a live stream, a shopping guide, and console launch packed full of prose all made their way to the front page last month. As is customary, I’ve got a few things to say about a few things I said.