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  • Xbox Live Gold Membership, Price Hikes

    Posted on August 31st, 2010 Shawn No comments

    You may have seen the email today stating that on November 1, Xbox Live Gold memberships will be going up in price. The old/new pricing structure is below.

    Old Price New Price
    1-Month Gold Subscription $7.99 $9.99
    3-Month Gold Subscription $19.99 $24.99
    12-Month Gold Subscription $49.99 $59.99

    You may also remember from an E3 announcement that family plans will be coming this year as well.  If I remember correctly, you can have four Gold accounts for only $99, which blows the new announced pricing structure out of the water. If you have friends or family that you feel comfortable splitting the cost with, go that route.  If you are a loner, hurry up and stock up on 12 month Xbox Live Gold cards before the price goes up.

    Here’s more from today’s announcement:

    With an Xbox LIVE Gold membership, you can play blockbuster games such as Halo: Reach with your friends online, you can also stream movies from Netflix* and music from Last.fm right to your TV. You can even connect with friends near and far on Facebook® and Twitter™. Gold members also enjoy exclusive discounts and early access to game demos. And, this holiday, Xbox LIVE is adding new Gold features, including ESPN and Video Kinect, with Hulu Plus coming on Xbox Live in 2011.
    Because you are a loyal member, we want to give you the opportunity to lock in your current price with an additional discount. Log on to Xbox LIVE from your console to review and take advantage of these limited-time offers.
  • Rock Band 3 Set List Officially Unofficially Official

    Posted on August 20th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    BREAKING NEWS: You may have heard a leak of all 83 songs from the Rock Band 3 set list being confirmed at GamesCom. Well, three of Harmonix’ finest are here to confirm that all 83 songs you may have heard about is completely unofficial. See the video below which confirms all 83 songs are unconfirmed.

    It’s hysterical, and officially unconfirms any confirmation.

    Rock Band 3 Setlist OFFICIAL Comment from Harmonix on Vimeo.

  • Rock Band Slacker Radio: Now with 76 Rock Band 3 Songs

    Posted on August 19th, 2010 Shawn 1 comment

    Rock Band Slacker RadioThanks to the community following all the Rock Band 3 announcements and leaks, I have updated the Rock Band Slacker Radio Station with all of the known Rock Band 3 songs. 76 new songs have been added to the station, based on 2 posts at RockBandAide; this one and this one.

    Here’s the list that has been added (to the already 1,200 songs on the station):

    Confirmed (RockBand.com)

    • Dio – Rainbow in the Dark
    • Huey Lewis and the News – The Power of Love
    • Ida Maria – Oh My God
    • Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing
    • Jimi Hendrix – Crosstown Traffic
    • Joan Jett – I Love Rock and Roll
    • Juanes – Me Enamora
    • Metric – Combat Baby
    • Night Ranger – Sister Christian
    • Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train
    • Phoenix – Lasso
    • Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
    • Rilo Kiley – Portions of Foxes
    • Smash Mouth – Walkin’ on the Sun
    • Spacehog – In the Meantime
    • Stone Temple Pilots – Plush
    • The Cure – Just Like Heaven
    • The Doors – Break On Through
    • The Vines – Get Free
    • The White Stripes – The Hardest Button to Button
    • Them Crooked Vultures – Dead End Friends
    • Whitesnake – Here I Go Again

    Confirmed (E3)

    • Yes – Roundabout

    Confirmed (Comic-Con)

    • B-52′s – Rock Lobster
    • Def Leppard – Foolin’
    • Filter – Hey Man, Nice Shot
    • Foreigner – Cold as Ice
    • Marilyn Manson – The Beautiful People
    • Tears for Fears – Everybody Wants to Rule the World

    Confirmed (GameInformer, MrPope’s Twitter)

    • David Bowie – Space Oddity

    Confirmed (EuroGamer)

    • Bob Marley & The Wailers – Get Up, Stand Up
    • INXS – Need You Tonight
    • Poni Hoax – Antibodies
    • Rammstein – Du Hast
    • Roxette – The Look
    • Tokio Hotel – Humanoid
    • HIM – Killing Loneliness
    • Maná – Oye Mi Amor
    • Slipknot – Before I Forget
    • War – Low Rider

    Confirmed (X-Play)

    • Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – I Need To Know

    Recent Leak (GottGameShows)

    • The Bronx – False Alarm
    • Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird
    • Beach Boys – Good Vibrations (Live)
    • Tegan and Sara – The Con
    • Riverboat Gamblers – Don’t Bury Me… I’m Still Not Dead
    • The Police – Don’t Stand So Close to Me
    • Steve Miller Band – Fly Like an Eagle
    • Blondie – Heart of Glass
    • The Who – I Can See For Miles
    • James Brown – I Got You (I Feel Good)
    • Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated
    • John Lennon – Imagine
    • Big Country – In a Big Country
    • Primus – Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
    • Echo and the Bunnymen – Killing Moon
    • Dover – King George
    • Raveonettes – Last Dance
    • The Sounds – Living in America
    • Phish – Llama
    • Faith No More – Midlife Crisis
    • Paramore – Misery Business
    • Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows
    • At the Drive-In – One Armed Scissor
    • The Muffs – Outer Space
    • Golden Earring – Radar Love
    • Amy Winehouse – Rehab
    • Elton John – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
    • Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water
    • The Smiths – Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before
    • Hypernova – Viva La Resistance
    • Pretty Girls Make Graves – Something Bigger, Something Brighter
    • Swingin’ Utters – This Bastard’s Life
    • Dire Straits – Walk of Life
    • Devo – Whip It
    • Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
    • Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1

    Direct link to Rock Band Station on Slacker.com
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  • BlackBerry Bold 9000, Too Clicky & Other Shortcomings

    Posted on August 17th, 2010 Shawn 2 comments

    I have used the BlackBerry Bold 9000 as my primary all-in-one converged phone/media device for 18 months. It’s about time I put this device in its place. Let’s get into the issues: keyboard, no touch screen, Gmail integration, limited internal/application memory, and more.

    Don’t get me wrong, as longtime user of smartphones, the Bold 9000 has some excellent features, but I’m going to be the grumpy old man today. Remember, my smartphone history is: PalmOne Treo 650 (Verizon), Palm Treo 700p (Verizon), BlackBerry Storm 9530 (Verizon), iPhone 3G (AT&T), and of course Bold 9000 (AT&T).

    Keyboard: This keyboard first is just too wide for me. The width needs to be trimmed down a smidge. My former Treo devices had the perfect spacing of keys making typing a breeze. With the Bold 9000, my thumbs need to travel further than necessary. “Click, click, click”, says my keyboard as I type. These keys are ridiculously loud. Just try to type on this thing when you are in a meeting without disturbing everyone in the room; or worse, try checking your email while sitting on a public loo. The guy in the stall next to you is bound to count your clicky keystrokes.

    Lack of Touch Screen: There’s not much to say about this. It’s 2010, get with it. Granted, the phone came out in 2008, but still, combined hardware keyboard and touch screen smartphones (Palm OS, Windows Mobile) have been around since 2005. What’s taking RIM so long to get touch screen phones, with a physical keyboard on it? Yes, we can now get our hands on the BlackBerry Torch 9800, but it astounds me that the flagship BlackBerry devices of 2008 and 2009 did not have touch.

    Gmail Integration: Gmail has 26 million user accounts. Presumably, many of them are using BlackBerry to read/send Gmail. So, how is it that the BlackBerry operating system still does not support 2-way synchronization? If I archive a Gmail message on the Bold, it will automatically archive when displayed on the PC’s web browser. Though, if I archive a Gmail message on the PC’s web browser, the BlackBerry OS is not smart enough to automatically sync. In fact, there’s no way to force a synchronization, which requires me to archive the same message twice.

    Also, if using the BlackBerry’s integrated “Desktop” email client, it displays messages from all integrated email accounts; Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, etc. Though, when using Desktop to display messages, there are none of the expected Gmail features, like Archive and Add Star. If you want to use the Gmail features, you have to leave the Desktop and open the Gmail icon to get those features. Simply, it’s a poor and inefficient implementation of Gmail integration and support.

    Application Memory: This device has a whopping 128MB of memory reserved for the OS, installed applications, and running applications. What this means is if you install more than 10 apps, get ready to run out of memory and have the phone lock-up forcing a reboot. Also, if you have more than three 3rd party apps running simultaneously, same story…out of memory, forced to reboot. Even though there is 1GB of on-board storage and up-to 16GB of microSD storage, you are still limited to 128MB for all apps. That’s just crap.

    Media Playlist Syncing: If you have playlists on the computer in Windows Media Player (WMP) or iTunes, the playlists will only sync to the Bold with the PC installation of the BlackBerry Media Sync application. If you were to use the native WMP or iTunes syncing; music, video, and photos will sync, but no playlists. Stupid, just stupid that RIM cannot use the WMP or iTunes API to get playlists to sync.

    On a good note, that’s about all I can complain about. The Media app is sub-par to iPod or PocketTunes (Palm OS), but it’s usable. The screen resolution is great. The phone, speaker, Bluetooth, and other features are great…but this is my Debbie Downer rant.

  • No more Linkin Park in Rock Band?

    Posted on August 16th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    As we watch the ticker above (Ticker deleted because it got rick rolled.) showing the countdown to Linkin Park’s new album, A Thousand Suns, fans of the band and of the game Rock Band learn that the album is not coming to Rock Band game add-ons (aka DLC) as previously announced.

    In a post from forum moderator Joe on the Linkin Park Association web site, it looks like something fell apart at the 11th hour.

    It appears that Linkin Park will not be featured on any upcoming Rock Band DLC after all, as we previously reported a couple weeks back. This is not going ahead and will not be happening, we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and wanted to keep you guys up to date on the situation. We will keep you posted on any official announcements regarding ATS and video game features / DLC in the future.

    As a giant fan of both Rock Band and Linkin Park this is quite a disappointment. We still only have One Step Closer in the game, and looks like we will have to wait longer before we get something else.

    [Thanks to @toymachinesh]

  • BlackBerry Desktop 6.0 – First Impression

    Posted on August 13th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    Today, I got the push from RIM for BlackBerry Desktop Manager to be upgraded.  This post will talk about the upgrade process and my first impressions of this software that I’m likely to never use.

    Let’s start with the install. It all began with Windows 7 prompting me with a BlackBerry icon in my system tray. Clicking on the link brought up the BlackBerry Automatic Update dialog. Being a “bleeding edge” tech guy, I grabbed a screen shot and clicked “Install”.

    The install was seamless and painless. Basically, sit back and watch. I may suggest grabbing a cup of coffee, as the install took my system about 5 minutes to complete the installation.

    The first bit of interesting change, no longer do we call this BlackBerry Desktop Manager.  Now, it’s BlackBerry Desktop Software. I wonder how much time in R&D was spent on that change.

    The actual layout of Desktop Software is considerably different from the 5.0 version. You now get a navigation pane on the left side, versus icons covering the entire app. What’s great about this change is, you always have visibility into all your navigation opportunities at all times.  Previously, once you clicked an icon, you’d be brought into a completely new screen, with no visibility back to your previous options. Also, take a look what is in the new navigation area, “Media Sync”.  For the first time, it looks like we will get a decent integrated media sync application.  I will explore this in much more detail.

    Initially upon connecting my BlackBerry (Bold 9000) to my Windows 7 computer via USB, Desktop Software did not recognize it. The initial startup screen, “Connect your BlackBerry device”, remained.

    After a minute, my USB port recognized the BlackBerry and so did Desktop Software.  It recognized it in the home screen, followed immediately by a pop-up about adding a new BlackBerry device, following immediately by another pop-up screen about discovered music on my device. Having all this automatic discovery is nice and all, though maybe they could have let me complete one activity before bringing up the next pop-up window.

    The media sync capability appears to be better than what existed in the past.  I will explore it further and see if it compares at all to using iTunes or Windows Media Player for syncing. As of recently, the only reason I have been using BlackBerry media sync is to get my Windows Media Player (WMP) playlists on my Bold.  Using WMP to sync, only brings over the songs, not the playlists. It’s odd, because with the BlackBerry Storm, it would sync playlists with WMP.

    For now, my first impression is overall positive.  The left navigation gives the user a way to easily get back to home or any other place within Desktop Software. The integrated media sync is a great add, plus the media sync screens have a new look to them, giving a sign that RIM is trying to get serious in the multi-media space. Plus, the ability to adjust the size of Desktop Software is a great add.

    Be sure to check out Craig Johnston’s book, “My BlackBerry Curve” at Amazon. Why? He’s on the CrackBerry Podcast, and knows his stuff.

  • Drums on Guitar Hero, Better than Rock Band?

    Posted on August 3rd, 2010 Shawn 3 comments

    I’ve got your attention now. I’m focusing on Expert+ drums (specifically Guitar Hero: Van Halen) versus Expert drums in every Rock Band game (prior to Rock Band 3). The 5 lane + double-bass drum configuration of Guitar Hero, easily trumps the 4 lane + single-bass drum in Rock Band. This is focused on the amount of realistic drums mapped, not on the hardware. I believe the stock hardware for all Guitar Hero and Rock Band drum kits is crap.

    I’m a Rock Band fanboy, as well as a real world drummer. It’s taken me this long to realize that the GH drum technology beats Rock Band, because I rarely play GH (though typically play RB 10-15 hours per week).

    Last night I played GH: Van Halen drums for the first time. I immediately started on Expert+ to get the best feel of the whole experience. Then quickly switched over to RB2 and fired up some of the new Avenged Sevenfold DLC on Expert. Both had copious amounts of double-bass drum in the original tracks, and lot’s of cymbals.

    As far as the GH:VH songs go, you get 5-lanes (1 snare, 2 toms, 2 cymbals) plus a bass drum line, charted to include double-bass drums. The separate orange pad for crash/ride cymbal brings some drumming realism, where you don’t reuse the same pads for toms and/or cymbals. Having the yellow pad also dedicated to high-hat/crash is also a plus. That leaves red always for snare, and blue & green always for toms. The one thing I wish the GH layout offered was a third cymbal, so that yellow could remain dedicated as high-hat, like a traditional drum set. For the bass drum, having a song with a double-bass drum part which is actually charted for the double-bass drum is as real as it gets. I played Killswitch Engage’s “The End of Heartache” (yes, in a Van Halen game…which in itself is very odd).

    One very obvious thing I noticed is the timing windows in GH:VH is much looser than any Rock Band game.  That means you can be a micro-second early/late to a beat but still get credit and not break your streak. I appreciate that loose window, especially as calibration isn’t always perfect, and that wiggle room makes for a less frustrating experience. 

    Now, for the not so good part of GH drums. The charting overall appears inferior to RB charts, in my opinion. Many times (I’ve noticed in GHWT, GH:M, GH:VH) high-hat notes were under and over-charted, which means there were times where I can hear a high-hat note but it’s not charted; or high-hat notes are charted but there is no corresponding sound in the audio track. That lack of quality control really turned me off on GHWT and GH:Metallica, making me a stronger RB fanboy.  Though, the extra orange cymbal and double-bass parts are making me reconsider.

    As for Rock Band drums, all current iterations of Rock Band have remained the same, as far as drum charts. The Expert level gives you 4-lanes (1 high-hat/tom/snare, 1 snare/tom/high-hat, 2 tom/cymbals) plus a single bass-drum line. The reuse of the four pads in Rock Band definitely takes away from the realism of a real drum set.  Though the implementation of add-on cymbals in Rock Band 2 introduced a level of accuracy. The thing that I continue to be critical of after playing RB for 2+ years is the under-charting of double-bass drum parts. It’s a real pet peeve of mine to hear a bass drum part, but not be able to play it in game.  In fact, if you attempt to play a double-bass drum part, in any RB game, you will break your streak and potentially fail the song (if repeated enough).

    Most of this is expected to be rectified in RB3 Pro Expert mode, as there will continue to be a 4-lane setup, but special icons will denote when you must hit a cymbal versus a pad. This will officially turn the RB drums into a 7 pad setup (1 snare, 3 toms, 3 cymbals). Though, the double-bass drum part is still unclear.  I’ve read blog posts and seen video editorials (RockBandAide and CenasCorner) and still do not have a clear understanding if double-bass drum parts will be in RB3. If they are, I will likely concede that RB has matched (possibly surpassed) GH drums.  Though, until then…

    To wrap-up, the 5-lane and double-bass drum parts in GH drums brings more realism than the 4-lane and 1 bass drum part in RB. The charting overall in RB is more precise and accurate to the original songs in RB over GH. Both have strengths and weaknesses, though I am coming around to really appreciating the dedicated cymbals and double-bass drum setup in GH…and will be playing more of GH:VH and possibly pick up GH:M (in a bargain bin). As for GH5, I truly dislike the on-disc setlist, and have no interest in purchasing GH DLC.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shawn has been a drummer for 30 years, and a gamer for 25. Rhythm gaming has become a major past-time and passion as it brings his two hobbies together, like chocolate and peanut butter. Shawn currently plays a custom electronic drum set made up of Yamaha (TMX) and Roland (KD8 kick, VH11 hi-hat, PD7 pads, PD9 pads, MDS9 stand) equipment connected via MIDI to a GHWT kit on Xbox 360.

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