Author Archives: elialtaras
To say that Take Two Interactive's Rockstar Games has an almost unparalleled record in the video game industry would be a massive understatement. If you have even the slightest interest in gaming, you've probably played, or at least heard of the likes of GTA (Grand Theft Auto), the brilliant LA Noire from last year, Red Dead Redemption, and, of course, Max Payne.
However, Rockstar Games is somewhat a rookie when it comes to mobile (or tablet) gaming. Apart from GTA 3 and GTA Chinatown Wars, Rockstar has steered clear of making games for iOS so far. That may be about to change, however. Rockstar Games has just announced that it will be porting its phenomenally popular Max Payne PC and console game to iOS and Android.
One would reckon that the new iPad's retina display and powerful quad core graphics processor are a perfect match for a port of a game made for consoles and computers. However, Rockstar has announced that the game will be compatible even with the iPhone 3GS, let alone the iPhone 4, 4S, and the iPad 1 and 2. Although there is no support announced for controllers of any kind yet (even for Android tablets), the spacious screen real estate provided by the 9.7 inch iPads should make Max Payne an immersive experience.
The Max Payne iOS port is said to deliver high def graphics, detailed texturing, and exclusive content from Rockstar's Social Club service. Even though the game hasn't actually released yet, there's little to suggest that Max Payne won't be as brilliant a game on mobile devices as it is/was in consoles and computers. Rockstar has timed this port's launch with the impending launch of Max Payne 3 for Windows PCs, PS3, and Xbox in May. The buzz created by the latter should definitely serve the former really well.
The iTunes App Store is incomparable in terms of the sheer amount of content you can get on it. The massive advantage becomes even starker when you compare it to the likes of Google Play Store (let alone the likes of the Zune Marketplace and Blackberry App World). But a frequent point raised by Android users is that iOS apps cost a lot more compared to their Android freemium versions. This article's about 3 premium iPad apps that have been made free as a temporary promo offer this weekend.
This is a fun arcade game that pays homage to plenty of science fiction B movies. You get to take control of a UFO with a retractable claw, and kidnap humans and farm animals, or lift up heavy objects to cause mayhem. In short, you get to be really, really evil in a game for a change! There are thirty missions to get through, and the gameplay never gets boring in the least.
Cradle of Rome 2: HD
A sequel to the incredibly popular match-3 game Cradle of Rome, Cradle of Room 2 HD is an addictive and fun game. You get to recreate the Roman empire from scratch, by matching objects and collecting enough resources to build buildings in Rome. There are a 100 levels spanning 5 chapters in the storyline, so you'll get to add all the touches you want to your empire.
Fribble Jokes and Riddles
This is an entertaining trivia app with a host of ways to while away your time. You get to solve perplexing riddles, which involve a healthy dose of humor, little facts about roadside attractions all over America, and weird book names. With 3 chances per riddle, you'll be using your gray cells and yet be having a great deal of fun!
A Chinese teenager, reportedly named Wang, was said to have sold his kidney to get money for buying the iPhone and iPad 2 last year. With his condition rapidly deteriorating now, five people have been charged in connection with this case.
Until it launched an Apple Store in Shanghai, Apple didn't seem to have China in its list of top priorities as a consumer nation. Apple traditionally launched its devices in China at least a couple of months after its US launch. This gave rise to a grey market that capitalized on impatient Apple enthusiasts willing to pay over the odds for getting a chance to buy Apple's phones and slates as soon as possible. However, Apple doesn't exactly make cheap products by any means, and if you couple that with grey market 'commissions', Apple's products would have an absolutely insane price tag.
Wang is said to be from one of the poorest Chinese districts - Anhui. He is suffering from renal deficiency, which could have a potentially debilitating and life threatening effect on him. According to Reuters' report:
“I wanted to buy an iPad 2 but could not afford it,” said the boy [...]. “A broker contacted me on the Internet and said he could help me sell one kidney for 20,000 yuan.”
One of the five defendants is said to have earned $35000 for conducting the entire operation, and Wang was reportedly given about a tenth of that figure. Apparently, there is a black market for organ trade in China, after it was banned by the government in 2007.
Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, drew a lot of attention for its Face Unlocking feature during the Galaxy Nexus launch event a few months back. Never mind the fact that the presentation was a fail, and a pretty funny one that (check it out here) - it was a genuinely innovative feature that no other OS had seriously implemented before.
via Wikimedia Commons
Apple has been associated with face detection technology for a long time. Indeed, one of the many rumors about the original iPad was that it would utilize a front facing camera to recognize a user and make the iPad interface adapt for different people. This was based on an early prototype of the Apple slate, and was asserted by Wall Street Journal, no less.
Now, Apple Insider claims to have come across a new patent application by Apple entitled, 'Electronic Device Operation Adjustment Based on Face Detection'. The potential applications of this patent go beyond simply unlocking a phone, a la Android Ice Cream Sandwich. In fact, it breaks into the territory that WSJ had referred to - recognizing a user, and adjusting the incoming mail, text messages, and customizing apps in general.
The patent application is also said to mention the adjustment of the orientation of an iOS device's screen by determining the corresponding orientation of a user's head. This could potentially be groundbreaking, as the current system of relying on the inbuilt gyrometer can tend to be rather flaky.
Apple could go a long way into easing some familiar problems with devices today if it does integrate the aforementioned facial recognition features into future iterations of iOS. Sharing a smartphone or tablet with a family member can become far safer, for instance, if children access them. Even the inherent danger of having a password, and hence all your data, stolen could be eliminated if face detection gets implemented well.
Apple and Google have had a tense relationship in the recent past, to say the least. The Cupertino giant has launched a proxy war against Android, the mobile operating system that Google created, by dragging OEMs like Samsung into court for patent and copyright violations.
Larry Page, via Wikimedia Commons
A lot was made of Steve Jobs' fatalistic agenda against Android as well - he is famously said to have wanted to go at 'thermonuclear war' with it, and was on a mission to destroy Android. Even after his death, Apple has shown no signs of abating on the legal pressure it puts on Android OEMs.
The sheer extent of the Apple-Google rivalry makes an interview of Google's CEO and founder Larry Page, conducted by Bloomberg Businessweek, rather fascinating. His belief was that, "the Android differences (with Apple) were actually for show." He substantiated this by adding that he had a 'relationship with Steve' that wasn't as hostile as many would think. Jobs is said to have requested to meet Page in his deathbed as well.
Page expanded on his concept of an Apple-Android rivalry 'for show' further into the interview:
"I think that served their interests. For a lot of companies, it’s useful for them to feel like they have an obvious competitor and to rally around that. I personally believe that it’s better to shoot higher. You don’t want to be looking at your competitors. You want to be looking at what’s possible and how to make the world better."
The Google CEO also dealt with the wasteful nature of competition in the tech industry. He argued that companies spending huge legal fees on patent battles could be better served by pumping in that money into research for their own products. He slammed Facebook as well for its Gmail contact importing practices, and had a shot at companies like Apple in general, "I think companies usually get into that when they're toward the end of their life cycle or they don't have confidence in their abilities to compete naturally."
There clearly could be more to the long running (proxy) feud between Apple and Google than meets the eye. But one can only wonder whether going through the trouble that Apple has gone through for its legal proceedings all across the globe, from the US, to Germany to even Australia, would simply be to foster an 'us-against-them' mentality.
This could be fascinating. Anandtech's typically in depth review of the new iPad last month contained a possible reference to Apple working on gaming controllers for its iOS devices. Given the sheer quantity and quality of games available in the Apple App Store, one can only wonder - why not?
Wouldn't Infinity Blade be a whole lot better with a controller? (via Wikimedia Commons)
Apple has traditionally taken a firm stand against any sort of physical interaction with its devices apart from fingers. They may have had a point, given just how insanely smooth and responsive iOS devices are to fingers. But pure, hard core gamers have full right to feel shortchanged by the strict philosophy that Apple has adhered to. Apart from the rather obvious disadvantage of getting lesser real estate to play with while using fingers, the ubiquity of gaming consoles has led to every gamer worth his or her salt intuitively relying on physical controllers to help them do what they do best.
Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech had this to say:
"Although many casual Android/iOS games do just fine with touch, some are certainly better suited for some sort of a controller. While controller support in Android in its infancy at best, it's more than iOS currently offers. I know of an internal Apple project to bring a physical controller to market, but whether or not it will ever see the light of day remains to be seen. As smartphones and tablets come close to equalling the performance of current game consoles, I feel like the controller problem must be addressed."
PatentlyApple even had a feature about Apple's new patents for physical gaming accessories almost exactly a couple of years back here. Apple may just have held off on revamping the entire gaming architecture in iOS devices so far, but with the new iPad's mind-boggling screen and powerful GPU, perhaps it isn't long before Apple reveals its cards here.
Facebook has been infamous for the sheer amount of time it takes to update its official app. A lot of time generally passes by before they choose to implement a much needed feature (or correct an annoying bug) - implementing their new Timeline format for user profiles is a case in point.
via Wikimedia Commons
In any case, within a month of the new iPad's launch, the social networking behemoth has chosen to release a newer version of its official app. There's support for the new slate's almost ridiculously detailed 2048x1536 screen now. Text and images, which have traditionally looked a bit on the shabby side in the Facebook app for the iPad so far, look a lot sharper and clearer.
There are some rather good new features as well. There are a number of new languages supported now, such as Czech, Bokmal, Malay and Turkish. There is also a new ability to go offline in chat now. So far, being forced to stay available for chat when you used the app was an irritating bug that was hard to work around, but Facebook itself has a solution in hand for its users. The other bugs that have been fixed deal with profile names, friend lists, and photo tags appearing correctly.
Strangely though, the new iPad app has no support for the Facebook Timeline profile format. It hadn't taken too long for them to implement the Timeline in their app for the iPhone, which only makes one wonder why they're taking so long with their bestselling tablet. Then again, if they waited till as late as October 2011 to launch their first official app for the iPad, it probably shows that they aren't being targeting the Apple slate as actively as its iPhone.
The iTunes app store link to download the new Facebook app is this.
In a survey conducted by Glassdoor.com, Apple's current CEO (and successor to Steve Jobs), Tim Cook, has been rated as the most popular CEO in the US. Cook garnered approval ratings of a whopping 97% on the employer reviewing site, which makes him not only the most liked CEO in the tech sector, but in fact, in all sectors combined.
via Wikimedia Commons
Glassdoor uses surveying techniques to create an aggregate of approving posts in favor of each CEO. The 97% figure that Tim Cook has obtained means that all Apple employees, save 3%, look upon him favorably.
There is a bigger surprise in all this though. In succeeding Apple's legendary CEO Steve Jobs, many considered Cook's situation to be thankless, as barely anyone could be expected to live up to Jobs' charisma and wild popularity. But if you take Glassdoor's approval ratings for Jobs (in his final year as Apple CEO) and compare it to Tim Cook's ratings for his first year in charge, Jobs actually falls short of Cook's figure by 2%!
Apple's new CEO has hardly been playing safe in the time he's been in charge. He has overseen the launch of the iPhone 4S and new iPad - both of which were marked departures from Apple's devices before them. They had dual core processor, fantastic cameras, LTE connectivity (albeit only in the iPad), brilliant Retina displays, and a lot, lot more. Their sales proved to be incredible too, proving that Cook could hold his own even after controlling a company in a post-Jobs era. Moreover, Cook's rather un-Applelike decision to give dividends to Apple's shareholders (even after Apple share prices zoomed past an unbelievable $600) proved to be a phenomenally popular step as well.
Tim Cook has proved to be more than adept at handling the pressures that come with a company as big and as high profile as Apple. He may not possess the magnetic personality of Steve Jobs, but he has proved to be intelligent in a strict business sense, as well as in his handling of sticky issues such as the Foxconn mess.
There has been no end to the hearsay regarding the so called iPad 'Mini' in recent times. A number of industry watchers were expecting Apple to release a miniature version of its best selling iPad, along with the new iPad, in the media event held on the 7th of March. The screen size of the 'Mini' was expected to be 7.85 inches, making it the death knell of the likes of the Kindle Fire and other Android tablets in the 7-8 inch screen size range.
via Wikimedia Commons
The actual Apple event earlier this month turned out to not even remotely acknowledge the existence of the iPad Mini. The new iPad hogged every headline it possibly could, but now that the initial euphoria has passed, new rumors about the iPad Mini are resurfacing.
The Japanese blog, Macotakara, reports that Apple is working on a 5 inch device with a Retina-grade display.
"The product which has 5-inch Retina Display is expected to be released in 2013, and resolution of this LCD will be 1,600 x 960 pixel (800 x 480 by legacy majour) or 1,280 x 960 pixel (640 x 480)."
With a purported launch date of 2013, Apple doesn't look like it's in any hurry to show its hand to the world yet. But a cursory glance at the few details that Macotakara has managed to come up with can only make one wonder - isn't this rather similar to Samsung's incredibly divisive Galaxy Note? It's a 5.3 inch phablet (phone+tablet). It has a gorgeous Super AMOLED Plus display with a pixel density of nearly 300 ppi, making it Retina-quality, at least on paper.
The most important point though, is that despite the reservations many of its critics had about its size and impracticality, the Galaxy Note has done extremely well. 5 million devices sold is quite a number for an Android phone, and one as niche-y as the Note. Maybe Apple is onto something here after all! Now only Apple can answer the inevitable fallout of using an Android device's success as a template - what would it do about the obvious fragmentation problems accompanying a high res 5 inch iPad Mini?
If reports are to be believed, Alfred E. Neuman may soon be asking you the question he's asked his followers perennially on the Retina display of the iPad - 'What, me worry?"
via Wikimedia Commons
What makes the entire matter even more amusing is that it may just be an elaborate hoax befitting the legendary grin of everyone's favorite ginger. The launch of MAD Magazine's first iPad issue is scheduled for Sunday, the 1st of April, or April Fools' Day, as it is better known.
Since its launch in 1952, the popularity and circulation of MAD Magazine has ebbed and flowed. Years of critical and commercial success, peaking in the 60s and 70s, have been interspersed with complaints of a general decline in funniness and poor sales. Nevertheless, the magazine remains iconic till date, with its amusing (to the point of being often uproariously hilarious) spoofs of pop culture and the affairs of the world in general.
The MAD Magazine's first iPad issue is expected to include fan favorites such as Sergio Aragones' MAD Marginals. Aragones, described by many as the the world's fastest cartoonist, and brilliant too, has made the Marginals a trademark throughout his prolific work for the magazine. With the incredibly smooth pinch-to-zoom of the iPad and its vivid Retina display, each detail of the (often tiny) Marginals will be brought to life.
The MAD Magazine is expected to be available as a free app in the iTunes store. Current issues of the magazine will be available for purchase within the app for $4.99. The archived issues, on the other hand, will be available for purchase at a significantly lower $1.99 per issue.