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  • My Top Obsessions of 2008

    Posted on December 31st, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    As we wind down 2008 and wind up 2009, let me recap on the obsessions that have kept me coming back to the blog. In looking over the past 12 months, I’ll highlight the top seven obsessions that have swallowed up all my free time this past year. I’ll also take a look at what obsessions might be cropping up for 2009.

    Here are the obsessions in order of importance to me.

    Picture the ball dropping, and countdown on…
    10, 9, 8…

    7. Death of My Treo Obsession.
    After four dedicated years to the Palm OS and the Treo lineup, and the blog formerly named My Treo Obsession, the obsession that started this blog has ended. I have handed my Treo to my 3 year old son as his new toy phone, and my Treo 700p to my 2 year old daughter for her new toy phone.

    6. New Xbox Experience.
    The Xbox 360 is my console of choice (though do use a Wii nearly as much) and the New Xbox Experience (NXE) was a fun obsession this year. We got to hear the rumors, leaks, and beta testing of a cool dashboard for the Xbox 360, which in November brought new life to the 3+ year old gaming system. I really haven’t played with NXE much since it came out, due to other obsessions taking up much of my time…also, my general rule when it comes to Xbox is, (1) turn it on (2) start Rock Band 2.

    5. Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy.
    Well this is an obsession that has spanned a decade+, and finally came to fruition (well, sort of) in November 2008. Axl Rose, and an entirely new band, finally released Chinese Democracy. So, the hype was of course huge and the album…well, more of a let down to most. But, honestly, something that was hyped for about 14 years is guaranteed to never match expectations. I can say that I have only listened to the CD three times, which either means I don’t really love it, or maybe I just got old in the past 14 years. You decide. None the less, it was a very exciting past few months discussing GNR all over again. I felt like I was back in high school again.

    4. Drumming Stuff.
    You may know that I’m a long time drummer. If it weren’t for Rock Band and all the other rhythm games out this year, I probably would have not talked much about drumming on the blog. But, thanks to Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero World Tour, Rock Revolution, and others, drumming was a big part of the year. From the new kits with the games, to the ION Drum Rocker, to me building (and temporarily failing) a custom Roland/Yamaha kit to work with Rock Band, it was a great year for electronic drumming. I can anticipate that in 2009, this obsession will likely continue. As my Rock Band drum kit recently died (red pad is a goner), and I plan to continue my soldering challenges of building a custom Roland/Yamaha kit to work with Rock Band, 2009 will be a big year for my drumming obsession.

    3. BlackBerry Storm.
    Although the Storm has been on the top of my blog posts lately, it tops out at #3 this year. The hype leading up to RIM’s for touchscreen device was just awesome. The release date flops and “not ready for prime time” OS that it released on, made for great posts and quite an obsession. Now it’s stabilizing, and 3rd party apps are cropping up everywhere. For me, I have enjoyed the Storm since I got it, and continue to love it more every day. Since this blog was founded on gadget obsessions, I’m sure the Storm and BB in general will play a big role in 2009 obsessions.
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    2. Rock Band 2.
    This has taken a big part of my life in 2008. What a game! What a soundtrack! What a fun way to listen to music! On and on. I just love this game and everything about it. Rock Band (and Rock Band 2) has brought me back to gaming, has brought me back to drumming and singing, has brought me closer to friends and family (though my wife would disagree), has given me a way to stay close to people who are geographically far away. I get excited every Friday to hear about the new downloadable content (DLC), and rush home Tuesday nights to play with friends. In 2009, I see this genre remaining big on my obsession list, possibly with focus on new DLC or possibly the rumors of a Rock Band 3.

    1. You, the readers.
    Corny, I know. You may not know this, since I only blog about it once or twice a year, but I spend a lot of time watching statistics of the site. I love seeing what the sites visitors are reading, where in the world they live, and what keeps you coming back for more. As much as I started this blog for myself, it’s built up a few occasional writers (I’m always looking for more writers) and thousands of visitors. In the six months I’ve been using Google Analytics to follow site statistics, I’m happy too see over 5,000 visitors a month and steadily growing. My current target is 9,000 visitors a month by Summer. I’m happy to see some people taking advantage of the Store offerings we added this year (sponsored by Amazon, Best Buy, and Google), and just glad to see that people enjoy reading and discussing the same things that I obsess about. Thank you!

    With that, we’ve come to the end…

    Happy New Year!

    Please share your top obsessions in comments below.

  • Xbox 360 120GB Hard Drive ON SALE!

    Posted on December 8th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Are you like me and running out of space on your Xbox 360 20GB hard drive? Too much DLC and now copying games to the drive via NXE getting you very low on space? I’ve got less than 900MB of space left and have to delete old stuff monthly to make more room.

    I have found a fix to that. The 120GB hard drive, is on sale ($25 off regular price) for a limited time at Amazon. For $134.99, I’ll have all the space I ever need (for a couple years at least). Shipping is FREE too! I’ve looked around and have not found a better deal for this. I’m going to pick it up with our Amazon Store link.

    Here’s the quick link to it if you are looking to get more space, and want it at a good price. If not for you, this would make an awesome gift for the Xbox 360 addict in your life.

    Happy Holidays!
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  • Need Some Winter Clothes?

    Posted on December 4th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Xbox Live is now offering free winter clothes (virtual that is) for your avatar.  So, go get on that argyle sweater and mittens.  You look cold.

  • NXE First Impressions

    Posted on November 19th, 2008 Pabel No comments

    Here are some first impressions of the NXE after coming home and updating my console.

    • Took 5 minutes to download the update and restart my box.  I was very impressed/happy as I was expecting it to drag on for a bit.
    • Really like the avatar “starting point.”  Basically, it drops a bunch on your screen that you can work with as a template.  If you don’t see any you like, you just ask for more and another random batch appears.  Overall, there’s a pretty good amount of customization available.  It’s not EA’s Tiger Face, but it’s more than what you get on the Wii (even though that’s the original that M$ is copying).
    • Not sure why, but I was pretty pumped that you could put a wedding ring on your avatar.
    • There’s a cool little extra of being able to pose your avatar for your gamer pic.  Really handy if like me you were going for the looking off far in the distance shot.
    • I came in wondering if themes/backgrounds I purchased before would still work.  Glad to say that they do and are decently incorporated (i.e. you can still see them).  I’m still able to see my Florida Gator paraphanelia on my Dashboard so that’s always good.
    • Noticed that whenever you pop-in a game, a new pop-up comes up telling you how many of your friends are playing that same game.
    • Getting around the UI is an absolute breeze.  The information is much better organized and to me it’s a huge upgrade from the previous blade system.  I have zero complaints about it.

    Now the piece I was eagerly anticipating…..NetFlix streaming.  Overall, I thought it was great.  Only had one real complaint.  Here’s the rundown of my impressions in bullet points.  Sorry for the lack of a thought out review, the Regional Manager just isn’t paying what he used to.  Not to mention, he’s out of the office right now….

    • Activating was very simple.  First you download the NetFlix module via LIVE and then when done, you click it.  On initial setup it gives you an activation code.  You then go to www.netflix.com/activate, log in, and enter the code.  About 2 seconds after you submit, your 360 responds and displays your entire instant watch movie queue.  Very quick and painless.
    • Very impressed with the queue set-up.  It mimics the overall NXE look and feel very well and when you select a particular movie or tv show series in your queue, you have the ability to rate it, remove it from your queue, read actor/director/movie details, and get a quick summary.  Very slick.
    • Tested out the real-time updates of the queue and it was perfect.  About 5-10 seconds after I added a movie to my queue via the website, it popped up and automatically scrolled to it on the 360.  Which leads to my one complaint….
    • You are not able to browse the available instant watch titles from your Xbox.  The only way to peruse the instant watch library and add to your queue is via the NetFlix website.  The only queue functionality the 360 gives you is the ability to remove stuff from your queue.  Luckily, I had my iPhone with NetFlix app and/or full web browser handy so I could do it all from the couch.  Take that Storm-watchers.

    Decided to test the movie/show viewing with 30 Rock which I’ve never seen before.  Side note, that’s a great show.  I watched 3 episodes before I looked up and realized what had happened.  Anyway…

    • With a solid wireless internet connection, I began watching the first episode in HD after about 1 minute of buffering.  Very impressive as it was actually HD quality similar to what you’d get off your cable/satellite box.
    • A little bit into the show, it paused and hung, and then a screen came up saying that my connection had slowed and that playback was being adjusted.  After about 15-20 seconds, it picked up a few seconds before when it had paused and the signal was then in SD.  Still solid and very enjoyable.  I liked that it picked up where it left off and didn’t leave me hanging for a while trying to recapture the HD glory.  I will, however, definitely be upgrading my router.
    • During one of the episodes, my connection got very weak and it did the whole playback adjustment again.  This time it went from SD to YouTube video quality.  Clearly not ideal for movie buffs, but for watching a sitcom, I didn’t really care.
    • It really all comes down to your bandwidth and wireless connection (if that’s how you roll).  I got HD whenever I was at 3-4 bars, SD at 2-3, and YouTube quality at 1.  Overall, I was impressed with the streaming and only had it hiccup twice in an hour and a half.
    • Cool feature for TV Show seasons: it shows which episodes you’ve watched and how far in you got.  I imagine it does the same thing for movies if you have to stop watching for whatever reason, I just didn’t get an opportunity to test it out.

    Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the NXE.  The new interface is slick, it’s easier to get around, and I LOVE the NetFlix piece.  Well done Microsoft, especially since you aren’t charging me one extra penny.

  • November Obsessions Update

    Posted on November 19th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Continuing on our blast of culminating obsessions this month, here’s the update.

    • November 4 – Research In Motion & AT&T released the BlackBerry Bold.  Although it was released several months late, it’s by far the nicest BlackBerry to date…soon to be overshadowed by the Storm.
    • November 6 – Rock Band 2 Bonus DLC was released with little fanfare since it comtained mostly unknown artists and unknown songs.  But, heck, 20 free songs is 20 free songs.
    • November 18 – The weekly blast of Rock Band DLC came out.
    • November 19 – Microsoft will officially released the New Xbox Experience upon the masses (i.e. 14 million Xbox Live subscribers).  This will gives a beautiful update the Xbox 360 dashboard, bring on cool avatars, lot’s of social activities, and the biggie….Netflix streaming capabilities.
    • November 21 – Research In Motion & Verizon Wireless will release the most discussed BlackBerry of the year, the BlackBerry Storm.  This is the first BlackBerry with full touchscreen and amazing media capabilities.  It’s going to give AT&T and the iPhone some serious competition.
    • November 21 – I will be modifying my new (to me) Roland electronic drum kit to work with my Xbox 360 and Rock Band 2.  This will be fun, and the parts are on their way to at my house.  Of course, I need to buy and learn how to use a soldering iron.  That’s a scary thought.
    • November 23 – Best Buy will exclusively release the highly anticipated Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy, which is 15 years in the making.  I’ve seen that soon iTunes will also pick it up.  Hopefully, We will now have it in our store (see the ad to the right).

    Really, it’s going to be a crazy month of new stuff.  Of course, the obsessions don’t end there.  We will be using, abusing, and reviewing everything once we get our hands on it all.

    On the unofficial list, here are some other things coming up.

    • I will officially put the nail in the coffin “My Treo Obsession”.  This was the original title of this blog, and my whole reason for starting this thing up a couple years ago.  You can expect a big article in the next week or two, where I will officially retire both the Treo 650 and 700p, and hand them over to my children to destroy use as toys.
  • NetFlix NXE Feature is Feared

    Posted on November 19th, 2008 Pabel No comments

    In what is clearly a throwback to high school pettiness, it looks like Sony has blocked some of their (or their subsidiaries) moviews from streaming to the Xbox 360.

    “Sony Pictures Home Entertainment subsidiary Columbia Pictures, has flicked previously available titles like Superbad, Bad Boys, and We Own the Night over to “Not available on Xbox” status.”

    While I would categorize this as mildly annoying to movie buffs, I think this speaks volumes about what Sony thinks of the NXE.  While we’ll go into more detail with our NXE Full Review, this could be a sign that the NXE really might begin to turn the console competition into the fight to be the home entertainment center hub.  This was highly touted when this generation first began, but is only now starting to come to fruition w/ the release of NXE and Sony’s little ‘Home’ experiment.

    Personally, I’m of the opinion NetFlix streaming is the biggest piece of news/functionaly in the NXE, and I see Sony’s actions as evidence of their similarly held view.

    What do you think?

  • NXE is up and running on Xbox.com

    Posted on November 19th, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    I really need to get some sleep.  I just got into my Xbox.com account, and noticed a couple new things.

    • My Gamertag image is now replaced with a generic green Xbox image.  Looks like I have to update my GT or create an avatar.
    • There’s a new “My Account” link, which easily organizes a lot of my account/profile info.
    • Now, the good stuff…the Marketplace Home is now available.  I just checked on Rock Band 2, and you can now purchase DLC from Xbox.com, to be downloaded to your 360 when you power it on.
  • Next Week in My Obsessions

    Posted on November 14th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    This is quite a month, and difficult to focus on things outside of my obsessive world.  Between BlackBerry, Xbox 360, Rock Band, and GNR…there is so much that has already gone down this month, and it’s not over yet.  Since (due to work schedules) I may be a little light on posts next week, let me point out some of the biggies that are expected to drop between now and next Friday.

    • November 18 – As always, the weekly Rock Band DLC will be out.  We haven’t heard the official list yet, but should within the next couple hours.
    • November 19 – Microsoft will officially release the New Xbox Experience upon the masses (i.e. 14 million Xbox Live subscribers).  This will give a beautiful update the Xbox 360 dashboard, bring on cool avatars, lot’s of social activities, and the biggie….Netflix streaming capabilities.
    • November 21 – Research In Motion & Verizon Wireless will release the most discussed BlackBerry of the year, the BlackBerry Storm.  This is the first BlackBerry with full touchscreen and amazing media capabilities.  It’s going to give AT&T and the iPhone some serious competition.
    • November 23 – Best Buy will exclusively release the highly anticipated Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy, which is 15 years in the making.  I’ve seen that soon iTunes will also pick it up.  Hopefully, we will have it in our MP3 store soon.

    Really, it’s going to be a crazy week of new stuff.  Of course, the obessions don’t end there.  We will be using, abusing, and reviewing everything once we get our hands on it all.

    On the unofficial list, here are some other things coming up.

    • I will officially put the nail in the coffin “My Treo Obsession”.  This was the original title of this blog, and my whole reason for starting this thing up a couple years ago.  You can expect a big article in the next week or two, where I will officially retire both the Treo 650 and 700p, and hand them over to my children to destroy use as toys.
    • I will be modifying my new (to me) Roland electronic drum kit to work with my Xbox 360 and Rock Band 2.  This will be fun, and the parts are on their way to my house.  Of course, I need to buy and learn how to use a soldering iron.  That’s a scary thought.
  • November Rain (When It Rains, It Pours)

    Posted on November 6th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    This is not necessarily about what you think…well, sorta.  I just took a look at recent posts, and realized…WOW, there’s a lot going on in November.  Let’s take a quick look.

    • Rock Band 2 to get 20 bonus tracks for download.  This is supposed to be released this week, still not out.  In the DLC world, that’s ~$20-40 worth of songs to play, for no additional cost.  Very cool, can’t wait to get this playing.
    • BlackBerry Bold and Storm both released in the U.S.  We know the Bold came out this week, and the Storm doesn’t have an official date yet.  It’s likely we will see both of these in November.
    • Guns N’ Roses Chinese Democracy get’s released.  The album 16 years in the making is coming to Best Buy exclusively on November 23.
    • Xbox Live update on November 19, known as the New Xbox Experience (NXE).  Lot’s of cool updates, for Xbox 360 users. Avatars, online parties/playing, and the biggie…Netflix streaming.  The best part, NXE is free and the online features are included to Xbox Live subscribers.
    • Netflix, Starz, and lot’s of network shows straming via Xbox 360 (see above).  This piece only requires the $9 per month Netflix fee.
    • Rock Band AC/DC released in Wal-Mart.  This came out early this week.  We aren’t rushing to get this, but will at some point. possibly when we see it on clearance.
    • Not previously mentioned, but I built a Roland electronic drum kit this month to play Rock Band.  I still need to modify the kit to make it work with the game.  Not sure this will be complete in November.

    For me, the instant pick ups are: Storm, Rock Band DLC, NXE and GNR album.  Going to be a busy month for the obsessions. What about your obsessions?  What would you add?

  • NXE is Getting NetFlix in HD

    Posted on October 29th, 2008 Pabel No comments

    It’s been officially announced that the first streaming HD content from NetFlix will be on the NXE coming to the 360 in mid-November.  This is huge because HD content from NetFlix isn’t available through their PC based streaming or through the set-top Roku player that supports NetFlix streaming.

    This is a huge coup for the 360 crowd, and I’m not exactly sure how we scored it.  Regardless, this makes one of the key features of the NXE even better.  So to tally it all up, if you have Xbox live and NetFlix subscriptions, you get access to all the NetFlix streaming content, some in HD, and access to StarZ programming which NetFlix recently announced they’ll be getting.  It’s been mentioned before, but this is huge, especially since you won’t have to hand over one extra red cent.

    Am I the only one that cares about this? Is this a big deal to any other Xbox users out there?

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