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  • BlackBerry Magnum, Bold with Touchscreen

    Posted on January 29th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    From zdnet.com

    To the gadget readers, I’m sorry for the lack of postings on gadgets. I’ve been slacking in this area for a while, as I generally have been using Twitter for quick thoughts.

    Well, I have a reason to write up a post now. My history comes from Palm Treo’s, you know the original smartphone with both a real QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen. I love that setup. But, due to rules and regs at my employer, I was required to move over to BlackBerry. My first go round was with the Storm 9530 on Verizon. That’s the BlackBerry that was complete touchscreen with the clicky screen. It was supposed to be Verizon’s answer to the iPhone. Due to the click screen and software bugs (to keep this short), the device was a failure, in my hands-on opinion. My use of the Storm lasted a whopping 3 months. Then I moved to AT&T and got the Bold 9000. That was known as the Cadillac of BlackBerry’s, with a large keyboard, hi-res display, WiFi, GPS, and everything you’d expect in a top notch smartphone. Though, it didn’t have touchscreen.

    Now, let me fast forward to sometime in late 2010 or 2011 (ooh, this is some Back To The Future kind of thing).

    There have been FCC reportings of a new BlackBerry that has both a QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen, code named Magnum. Now, a video has surfaced of a working prototype. And, I have to say…I see my next BlackBerry. This device, or as the prototype shows, is exactly the same size and layout as the Bold 9000 (interesting that it’s not the same size and layout as the newer Bold 9700). Possibly, the Magnum prototype was built before the 9700, and we may eventually see a newer prototype that looks more like the 9700.  Though, I prefer the 9000 size and layout.

    This new phone has a couple changes over the Bold 9000, like a micro-USB input, instead of the mini-USB. Plus there is no trackball or trackpad. That means all navigation takes place on-screen, like the Storm.

    Other than those features, there is the obvious touchscreen, which looks to have the clicky screen of the Storm. Touch = good. Clicky = less than good, but better than nothing.

    I’ll embed the video below. But, as far as things go, I’ve been using the Bold 9000 for just under 1 year, and I’d expect the Magnum to make it onto shelves by Christmas 2010 (or maybe Spring 2011). This will likely be my next phone soon after release.

  • PlayStation 3 Hacked & Exploited

    Posted on January 28th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    You may know of my obsessions in games and gadgets.  Some of you know, that I spend my days working in Information Security.  With that, I learn interesting topics that cross the paths of my day job and obsessions.  Today is one of those days. Darknet.org has a post on the PS3, which just today announced that it has been hacked, and exploits are now in the wild.

    Are you interested in learning more? Read on.

    On Monday, when we reported that the prolific hacker geohot had successfully penetrated the previously impervious PlayStation 3 gaming console, readers were understandably skeptical.

    After all, the 20-year-old readily admitted his hack wasn’t reliable, and he provided no evidence he was able to do some of the things modders love to do most, such as run arbitrary code or peel open the device’s synergistic processing elements to take a peak at its most prized internal elements.
    On Tuesday afternoon, geohot finally released his exploit so the world could see for itself exactly what the hack does and doesn’t accomplish

    According to the instructions, it involves compiling and running the kernel module and then pulsing a memory bus on the PS3’s motherboard.

    “Try this multiple times,” his instructions state. “I rigged an FPGA button to send the pulse. Sometimes it kernel panics, sometimes it lv1 panics, but sometimes you get the exploit!! If the module exits, you are now exploited.”

    While the idea is sound, this hack is clearly not for the faint of heart.

    From there, PS3 users get full memory access, including ring 0 access from OtherOS, geohot, whose real name is George Hotz, said here. He’s now turning follow-on work to the PS3 community, directing members to report their findings to the psDevWiki.

    His instructions conclude: “The PS3 is hacked, its your job to figure out something useful to do with it.”

  • Demiurge Studios is Developing Green Day Rock Band

    Posted on January 27th, 2010 Shawn 1 comment

    Green Day Rock Band

    Straight from a post at vg247.com, an interview with Demiurge employee, Adam Rosenfield, spills the beans that Green Day Rock Band has been outsourced from Harmonix (a la Lego Rock Band), and that likely means Harmonix is devoting all its resources to Rock Band 3.

    Rosenfield quote from vg247:

    “Not included in the announcement was the fact that Demiurge Studios was working on Green Day: Rock Band. And I gotta say, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome working on it. I’d love to tell you more, but NDAs, yada yada yada, so I can’t say much else.”

    Demiurge is known to have been involved in developing some of the Rock Band Track Packs, so they aren’t exactly new comers to the Rock Band universe.

  • RB DLC: 1/26/10 – Metal Track Pack Exclusives + B.Ö.C.

    Posted on January 22nd, 2010 Simon 6 comments

    Harmonix has doubtlessly been extremely busy surrounding the recent public beta of the Rock Band Network, and this week they are taking a ‘bye’ of sorts from the weekly DLC releases.  That’s not to say we aren’t getting any new tracks, in fact there are seven new tracks, but six of the tracks are in fact already available to purchasers of the “2009 Metal Track Pack” which we discussed earlier last year.   The final track is an additional song by the legendary prog-rock band “Blue Öyster Cult”.

    For what it’s worth, the letter O with an umlaut (ö) appears naturally in the German, Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish and Crimean alphabets, but in the case of Blue Öyster Cult the symbol represents a diaresis, which is a pronunciation of two adjacent vowels (O and Y).   Scores of other bands would later copy the use of umlauts in their band names, and many of them are even featured in Rock Band 2 (Motörhead, Mötley Crue and Spinäl Tap to name a few).

    • Blue Öyster Cult – “Godzilla”
    • Blue Öyster Cult – “Transmaniacon MC”
    • Hawkwind – “Master of the Universe”
    • I Mother Earth – “Levitate”
    • Motörhead – “Killed by Death ‘08”
    • Nazareth – “Hair of the Dog”
    • Rage Against the Machine – “Bulls on Parade”

    The standout hits are pretty obvious – “Bulls on Parade” by RATM was the first single from their legnedary Evil Empire cd.  Personally I have been waiting for this one FOREVER, it’s one of the band’s greatest songs. “Levitate” from the Edwin era of I Mother Earth (and also one of their earliest singles),  and also B.Ö.C.’s “Godzilla” features some challenging extended guitar solos and even some shouting in Japanese.

    Before you pick up Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” you should probably listen to the re-recorded version beforehand – the song has been updated, the drums, vocals, and even the trademark ‘Talk-Box’ guitar solo is not the same as the version you’ve heard before.  It DOES have lots and lots of cowbell.  Many of the changes are subtle and forgivable, but it was enough to turn me off of the track.   “Killed by Death ’08” is similarly re-recorded and also has notable changes, but if you enjoyed their re-recording of “Ace of Spades” this is actually from the same recording session.

    Next Week’s Prediction:   Les Claypool, H.I.M. and Smashing Pumpkins

  • RB DLC: 01/19/10 – Tom Petty Pack #2 plus Phoenix and Silvertide, RBN Public Beta starts today

    Posted on January 20th, 2010 Simon 2 comments

    Another DLC Tuesday is upon us! This week Harmonix is bringing us the 2nd Tom Petty Pack and the debut of two new artists, Phoenix and Silvertide.

    • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Breakdown (Live)”
    • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “A Woman in Love (Live)”
    • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Century City (Live)”
    • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Jammin’ Me (Live)”
    • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Nightwatchman (Live)”
    • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “The Waiting (Live)”

    This pack features six more tracks from Tom Petty’s recent live cd.  For me the essential cut is “Breakdown” which I was hoping to see contained in the first pack, but all of these songs feature Tom’s trademark ‘Dylan-esque’ vocals and wailing rock solos.  As I mentioned, these are all live versions, but the songs themselves should be very recognizable as each one was a minor hit on 80’s radio.

    • Phoenix – “1901”
    • Phoenix – “Lisztomania”
    • Silvertide – “Blue Jeans”

    This week’s brand new RB2 artists are Phoenix and (now defunct) Silvertide.  Phoenix are an alt-punk band from France and have acheived moderate success touring with some big name bands.  Silvertide are from good old Philadelphia, however their wikipedia entry states that they are on hiatus and all the members have joined new bands. “Blue Jeans” performed decently on the charts and features some unique sounds, but the obscurity of the band coupled with the fact that the band has moved on makes this track a real rarity in your DLC catalogue.  It’s hard to imagine that we’ll see more of them in the future.

    I’ll end this update by mentioning that Harmonix have just announced the public launch of creators.rockband.com, the online marketplace that will feature music found only on the Rock Band Network.  There is still no public release date for RBN.  Tommy at RockBandAide has scoured the net for information once again and has dropped the following band names:  Evanescence, Creed, Billy Idol, All That Remains, The Stills, The Shins, Ministry, Flight of the Conchords, 25 Tracks from Sub-Pop, Steve Vai, Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule, Rev. Horton Heat, Stroke 9 and Bif Naked!   The site update should be wrapped up by 5PM EST if you want to see it for yourself.

    Next Week’s Predictions:   New tracks from Locksley, Motion City Soundtrack and the return of Rob Zombie.

  • What Is PAX East and Who Is Going?

    Posted on January 20th, 2010 Shawn No comments


    The question “What Is PAX East?” can be summed up in a paragraph on the creators website:

    PAX East is a three-day game festival for tabletop, videogame, and PC gamers. We call it a festival because in addition to dedicated tournaments and freeplay areas we’ve got nerdcore concerts, panel discussions, and an exhibitor hall filled with booths displaying the latest from top game publishers and developers. Even with all this amazing content the best part of PAX East is hanging out with other people who know their shit when it comes to games.

    If that doesn’t give you a clear enough picture, then go here for a video overview. WARNING: That video is NSFW.

    The weekend of March 26-28 twenty-ten, will have downtown Boston overrun with tens of thousands of gaming geeks. More than 22,000 60,000 tickets have already been sold with the entire event expected to sell sold out during February. So, if you will be in the Boston area the last weekend of March, and want to see what the fuss is all about, get over to www.paxsite.com now and buy some tickets (3-day passes are all gone, only single days for Friday and Sunday remain).

    Who will be there is an interesting question. There will be some gaming famous people, some well known gaming competitive types, some game developers, gaming journalists, related musicians, and unknown enthusiasts like myself.

    To give you a sense of people and events I have confirmed, I’ll post some people on Twitter and their relationship to the event. Some details are below, or you can follow my Twitter list (http://twitter.com/MyGGGo/paxeast) to get a more intimate view of who’s who in the PAX zoo.

    @MyGGGo – That’s me! I run this blog, play lot’s of Rock Band (and a few other games), and mess with gadgets in my spare time. I’ll be at PAX East because it’s cheap, close to home, and a great way to blow off an entire weekend doing something that interests me.
    @majornelson – Larry is the face of Xbox Live. You see him on Inside Xbox videos, he hosts the weekly Major Nelson podcast, and is a spokesman for all things Xbox. Yes, he is an employee of Microsoft.
    @thevowel – e, or Eric, also a Microsoft employee, co-hosts the Major Nelson podcast. He works on the network behind Xbox Live. Based in WA, the Xbox team will be flying into MA for the weekend.
    @Stepto – Again, another Microsofter from WA. Stephen is the Director of Policy Enforcement for Xbox Live. He is the guy who heads up the team that shuts down cheaters, and overall bad people on Xbox Live. He will be leading a talk at PAX East.
    @XanderSliwinski – Alexander is a gaming journalist from the Boston area for www.joystiq.com. His focus is on Xbox 360 games and co-hosts The Xbox 360 Fancast (a weekly Joystiq podcast about Xbox 360 news and banter).
    @HMXCasey – Casey a game designer at Harmonix, the company based in Cambridge, MA known for all the Rock Band goodness we write about here.
    @RockBandAide – Tommy is the person behind the “unofficial” all things Rock Band web site and Twitter account. He’s traveling to MA for the event.
    @RG_Studios – Rock Gamer Studios, is a team of Rock Band lovers that have started one of the Rock Band Network authoring companies. Much of the team will be traveling from NY and PA for the event. This team also hosts a weekly Rock Band event at a pub in NYC. Members of the team include @SaikoSakura, @S1ckH4nds, and @smeeguel.
    @WCG_Prod1gy_X – Robert is a professional gamer, who landed in 2nd place on the reality TV show Ultimate Gamer. He will likely be participating in any gaming event in (and around) PAX East.
    @ElectraFi – Tiffany is a gamer who leads up some online gaming clans in first person shooters, and does some design/development work too. She’s trekking up the East Coast for this.
    NEW! @wilw – Famed actor and gaming geek. Leading the kick off session for PAX East, as he has done for previous events.
    NEW! @lauralollipop – Developer on the Xbox Live team, also a co-host of Major Nelson radio.
    NEW! @mc_frontalot – The epitope of white nerdcore hip-hop.  Has a couple songs in Rock Band DLC, and will be playing live at PAX East.

    Also, I’d expect CONFIRMED a much larger Harmonix presence at PAX East. I’d guess that CONFIRMED we will get to see (possibly play) Green Day Rock Band too. I don’t expect a Rock Band 3 announcement though.
    As far as musicians, I wouldn’t be shocked to see CONFIRMED the likes of Johnathan Coulton, MC Frontalot, and some of the Harmonix bands show up to play the event. There is an orchestra known for some of the popular game scores too expected.

    If you are not on this list (and want to be uberfamous), leave me a comment or a Tweet and I will update it.

  • Great Music and Help Fund Haiti Relief Effort

    Posted on January 20th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    Some heavy hitters in the current music scene quickly joined up with www.MusicForRelief.org to help raise money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. They organized an album of previously unreleased songs and are giving it away. They are requesting you donate whatever you can to the cause. It’s simple, you provide youe email address, and a link is sent to you with the album to download. Then you have to go back to the site to donate. Donations are completely optional, but might help the cause.

    Linkin Park, Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, Alanis Morissette, Slash, The All-American Rejects, Hoobastank, Kenna, Enrique Iglesias and Lupe Fiasco team up with Music For Relief to aid earthquake victims.

  • Slacker Rock Band Station: Now with more Alice In Chains!

    Posted on January 13th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    [ad#post-banner-ad]
    Our Slacker Radio Rock Band radio station has been updated with this weeks installment of Rock Band DLC. This week you get 5 tracks from Alice In Chains (see Simon’s post for the details).

    Direct link to Rock Band Station on Slacker.com
    [ad#post-banner-ad]

  • RB: DLC 1/12/10 – Alice in Chains Pack #2

    Posted on January 8th, 2010 Simon No comments

    Today Harmonix has announced that the second Alice in Chains pack will be available in the Rock Band Store: “Alice In Chains Pack 02” will be a 5-track setlist and features some fairly obscure and unknown music from Seattle’s legendary grunge band, however fans of the group will be delighted as these songs sound characteristically like core AIC.

    • Alice In Chains – “Grind”
    • Alice In Chains – “Heaven Beside You”
    • Alice In Chains – “Last of My Kind”
    • Alice In Chains – “We Die Young”
    • Alice In Chains – “Your Decision”

    “We Die Young” is the first song on their debut, Facelift, so for many of the fans this song is as essential to the band as any of their other hits.  “Heaven Beside You (Hell Within)” and “Grind” are both tracks from their later, self-titled album.  This was the last original album that Layne Staley would record with the group, the band went into hiatus shortly afterwards. The remaining tracks, “Last of My Kind” and “Your Decision” are from 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue and feature William DuVall on vocals, the latter being the third single from the album.

    All five of these tracks, while not necessarily recognizable on their own, create a well rounded setlist for AIC and RB fans.  It’s interesting that we have yet to experience any of the music from their quadruple-platinum album “Dirt”, but in my opinion this just increases the likelihood that we could see it as DLC in the future, possibly even the entire album. This pack will be available this coming Tuesday, January 12.

    Next Week’s Prediction:  Indie Rock from Eels and OK Go.

  • Rock Band DLC: Post 2009 Roundup

    Posted on January 8th, 2010 Simon No comments

    Welcome back to My Gadget, Game and Gizmo Obsession!  I must apologize for missing the last few weeks of 2009- I confess I was enjoying the winter break, spending quality time with my wife, playing lots of Rock Band 2 ‘other’ games.   Can you believe I still have not aquired Lego Rock Band?  Frankly since I missed out on both of the deals this winter I’m waiting for another price drop.  Yes, the fanboy in me is frequently beat down by the thrifty gamer in me, the turmoil is at times like a bi-polar steel-cage match. It’s probably all the time I spend listening to Cheapy D.

    Today I’ll fill you in on what you probably already know, and that is the last two Rock Band Tuesday’s track lists and some of my cherry-flavoured commentary.

    Tracks available on December 29, 2009:

    • Kenny Rogers – “The Gambler”
    • Alan Jackson – “Good Time”
    • Jason Aldean – “She’s Country”
    • Cross Canadian Ragweed – “Cry Lonely”
    • Keith Urban – “I Told You So”
    • Martina McBride – “This One’s For the Girls”
    • Shania Twain – “Any Man of Mine”

    Straight up – this week’s lineup was not drafted for me.  This is approximately half of the exclusive tracks that were featured in last summer’s Rock Band Country Track Pack disc, where the other half is sitting currently is anyone’s guess.   I’m glad to see several Canadian country artists represented, we have a massive country scene up here centered in Alberta, but as I mentioned none of these songs really speak to my tastes.  I will pick up “Gambler” before my next RB Party and see if anyone is interested, but the charting doesn’t look terribly exciting.

    Tracks available on January 5, 2010

    • Blink-182 – “Adam’s Song”
    • Blink-182 – “First Date”
    • Blink-182 – “I Miss You”

    Recently reformed alt-punkers Blink-182 are certainly a staple of DLC, evidenced by their 5th Tuesday release, and they also featured track in Lego:RB.   According to the awesome blog Rockbandaide, the band has a small handful of those songs in the top 100 song DLC, so there are plenty of Blink-182 fans out there to warrant another song pack.   This pack features some of Blink-182’s more somber hits from their later albums; “I Miss You” and “Adam’s Song” are noteworthy departures from their traditional, trademark humorous, upbeat and melodic sounds.   I think it’s a safe bet that this is but the first Blink-182 pack of 2010, as the band has already announced a new album for the summer.

    • The Ramones – “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”

    The Ramones first appeared in the original Rock Band 1 setlist, with their mega-hit  “Blitzkrieg Bop”, which was followed by an additional two tracks as DLC, neither of which were as popular as the first song.  This song is quite obscure for The Ramones, and frankly I’m surprised to see this track at all, the band had so many more great hits, not the least of which was titled “I Wanna Be Sedated”.     Over the years, the band has achieved recognition as pioneers of the american punk scene.  In 2002, Spin magazine declared that the Ramones were the 2nd greatest band of all time, right behind the Beatles.  Could you imagine yourself playing Rock Band: Ramones?  I can, and it will be the best 22 minutes of your life.  To put it another way, I once saw this band live in Toronto around 1995, they played non-stop for 30 minutes and played at least 25 songs.   This track has all of the signature Ramones hooks that you would expect to hear (meaning it’s short!), even if it is not a popular song, it is entirely representative of the band’s legendary sound.

    • The Psychedelic Furs – “Love My Way”
    • The Psychedelic Furs – “Sister Europe”

    The Psychedelic Furs are an essential 80’s band, and these tracks are a follow up to their 2008 DLC single “Pretty in Pink”.  Both of these tracks achieved moderate success, the band themselves had a small string of number 1 hits, but to many the Furs will be always remembered as one-hit-wonders who got famous for a movie soundtrack.

    • Paul McCartney – “Band on the Run (Live)”
    • Paul McCartney – “Jet (Live)”
    • Paul McCartney – “Sing the Changes (Live)”

    JET! This is a very sweet surprise for DLC enthusiasts.  This is what Paul McCartney was up to in the 70’s and 80’s – the band was called Wings, and was the only permanent band that any of the Beatles were members of (other than the Beatles).  Wings released five consecutive gold-selling albums in the 70’s, and while they never achieved the notoriety of the former, they did manage to write some very interesting and challenging music.  These songs are all live recordings, so be aware that they will not sound exactly like the radio or studio versions you grew up listening to – particularly “Band on the Run” which has several dramatic and subtle differences from the original.  It’s worth noting that this is the first appearance of a Beatle in Rock Band 2 by name, even though George Harrison played guitar on a Tom Petty track, his name does not appear in the game.

    All of these tracks discussed today are currently available in the Rock Band Marketplace.  I’ll be back later with news of next Tuesday’s DLC.

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