Zune: A music streaming experience

So, the lovely people over at microsoft gave me a month trial of their Zune music service and I gotta tell you, it was really great. And this came as a surprise considering a lot of people had told me it was lame and other such things.

I’ll begin with the computer aspect of the service. This of course runs through the Zune application for windows, which has a pretty swell interface, and just generally looks pretty flashy. With the Zune Pass as it’s called, you get access to every song they have on their database, in a very similar manner to Spotify. And like Spotify, you can download the songs to your computer for offline listening should you need to ever go offline. Which, let’s face it, will never happen unless your net just cuts out. Anyway, another thing I noticed was the quality of the audio was slightly better on Zune than Spotify. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but it just seemed better, though that could have been the software. Another awesome feature on Zune is it’s Smart DJ playlists.This is very similar to how last.fm runs things. For those of you who are unfamiliar with last.fm it’s a service where you can search for an artist and then listen to music that is related to that artists. Well, smart DJ is very similar where you have a main artist and then it creates a playlist with songs from that artist and then similar artists. One advantage to this, is that you can see what is coming up next and can skip straight to a song you know, or skip a couple that you know you hate. It is a great way to find new music.

The next aspect to the Zune Pass involves your xbox 360. Yes, that’s right guys, you can stream the music straight to your xbox and have it play through your killer sound system attached to your xbox. This is a great way to listen to music, as not only does it mean you have it playing on, potentially, the best speakers in your house for the best quality, but it adds a really cool background image for the music. It’s hard to explain, but please enjoy the screen shot that will try and explain it better than my words. The Smart DJ feature is also present on this version of Zune too, which is awesome and means that if you’re having a party, you need not worry about making a killer playlist, let Zune do it for you. That’s what I did, and I turned out just fine. With the xbox version, you cannot save the songs to your hard drive as far as I’m aware, but if you can, that’s awesome, and I need to know how!

The final aspect to the Zune Pass involves your Zune device. That’s right you crazy cat Americans, if you have a Zune device that has the capability of accessing the Zune marketplace you can access this awesome service. And have no fear anyone outside America, you get this service right on your Windows Phone 7 device. It’s pretty awesome. Now, the features of this version are very similar to that of the PC version to be honest, you can search for a song and stream it straight from there, or you can choose to download the song for listening later. You can’t however access the Smart DJ playlists but I’m going to assume that’s to save you on data costs as using your mobile network to stream music can be quite an intensive thing to do. One last killer feature is that you can sync your music from your computer straight to your Zune device, and as most feature the whole new wireless sync dealio, it means you can have seamless access to what you have on your computer, on your Zune device. I can’t figure out if it goes the other way, but to be honest, I’ve downloaded everything to my laptop anyway and then synced it for on the go listening.

In my honest opinion, this is a great media service, though the media database at the moment isn’t as big as Spotify, I can only assume it’s going to keep increasing over time, and for £8.99 a month – $14.99 in the America place that’s over the sea – it’s a real bargain. And even though films aren’t included in the Pass, you can still find them in the same place. Almost perfect media integration! And here’s one more picture for you, if this doesn’t way you, i’ll be hurt!

Sony NGP / PSP 2

Sony today send out a press release announcing their next generation portable entertainment system, which they have chosen for obvious reasons to codename “NGP”. The system will make its debut at the end of 2011, and promises to deliver “the ultimate portable entertainment experience.” At least that’s what sony are saying.. But we may infact be seeing a direct competitor for Nintendo’s up and coming 3DS.

Reading over the press release my first thought was that this could be the heavily rumored PlayStation phone. Fortunately I read on to discover that it is infact basically just the psp2.

The NGP brings wifi and 3g connectivity to Sony’s latest gaming device, promising infinite possibilities for its users to encounter, connect, discover, share and play with other users no matter where they are. The device will also feature various developer built applications that will enhance the devices general experience for users. Taking it past the focus of whatever game you have in the device, a bonus for anyone who gets bored of the same thing easily like me!

One of the most interesting announced features for is the multi-touch pad on the back of the device, as well as the one on the front. This presents a new three dimension-like motion for gamers through touch, grab, trace push and pull movements of the players fingers. Personally this will be the most interesting part to see executed. For a long time touch features on the casings of even iPhones have been desired by users. So to finally see it on a device will be awesome and hopefully a interesting new level of gaming will be achieved, similarly to when touch screen games first came out with the iTouch and iPhone.

 

The NGP combines touch features with the duel analogue stick features that make playing games on the playstation so playable. This will give an interesting new level of non-intrusive touch responsive gaming as your hands are no longer blocking the scree constantly, something that really annoys me when I’m playing Sonic on the iPhone… so to avoid this is great!

Other features noted in the release include:

  • A “Super oval” Design!- Yes they actual use the term “Super”.
  • A live area where users can interact with others, even possibly stalk them through a feature called “Near”.
  • Two cameras! One on the front and one quite obviously placed on the back… Though it woulda been awesome if they were both on the back and made it 3D!!!! But no.
  • A new game medium placing media onto flash memory cards… The latter probably being the feature that will make the NGP more costly as flash memory sizes vary.

 

From the press release this seems like it could be a good portable gaming device from Sony, maybe even something that will allow them to re-contend with the Nintendo DS! But of course we’ll have to see how it comes out first.

 

Ilomilo Review

Here is something i haven’t done, XBLA game reviews. Well, i’m going to kick off with an absolute cracker of a game. Like, seriously, if you have an xbox 360 with live, or a Windows Phone 7 phone, you should get this game. It is AWESOME!!!

Right, i’ll kick off with the main idea of the game. It’s a puzzle game where you play as two characters that are trying to find each other in this cuboid sort of world with several different environments. However, you can save these little things at the same time to unlock more stuff in the game. On top of this, there are these collectibles on the floor which help unlock memories which add more depth to the game. As the game progresses, the puzzles get more and more challenging.

Right, so the gameplay itself is very basic, which just adds to how awesome this game is. All there is to do, is:
Move;
Pick up usable items;
Collect memory bits;
Save the little things;
Find your friend.

That there, is the whole game in a nutshell. During the game as well, you can switch which person you are using, adding to the puzzle solving aspect of the game. This means you sometimes have to think a lot about what you are going to so. The usable items are wicked too. So far i have encounter 3 types of them: Fill in a single gap block, extending to fill a bigger gap block and the trap door block. These aren’t the real names, but that’s what they do, so i thought it would be appropriate to put it that way. Another wicked feature of the game are these sections that you can walk onto which changes the side of the block you are on. The whole world seems to move and it looks awesome. The sounds and music in this game are also amazingly cool.

Overall this game is amazing and for 800MSP (XBLA) or £3.99 (WP7), it’s pretty well priced. Especially as it is the most addicting game i have played since Angry Birds. This game gets a staggering 9.9/10.

My dreams are better than feature films!

Quite often I wake up and find myself thinking “That dream was AWESOME!” and  I’d like to say I write them down whilst I remember them… But I’m too fail for that. THAT WAS UNTIL NOW! For now I am going to write down last nights dream! Mainly because I couldn’t shorten it into 140 characters for Twitter.

So for the majority of my dream last night I found that I was running from things, to things and just running for the hell of it. However whenever I run from or to things in dreams I find that for some reason I struggle to run.. Whereas normally it wouldnt be a problem.. Yet if im running away from something that could kill me I run slow and my heart races until I get away / get killed and wake up!

Anyway, last nights dream saw me and a group of friends being hunted down by a group of assassins. I have no idea why we were wanted dead but it was weird. It kinda started back at my old secondary school as they burst in and took some people and I managed to get away after knocking one down and having one of those “im running but cant run WTF” moments. THis was even mocked when someone walked past me faster than I was running in the dream…

So I somehow make it away safe and next thing I remember is being outside a house with Dave, Pj, Laura and 3 random people I didnt know. We’re just sitting outside the house sort of hiding from these people and watching when suddenly there’s a growling and someone is all like “SHIT THERES A BEAR!” and next thing I know my mindset it “Oh yeah.. forgot we were in America.” – How do you forget you’re in a different country?! So we then walk slowly because apparently bears are blind and only respond to movement by sound? and eventually we get into the house where despite the fact there are assassins outside we sleep and this weird butler comes in and kicks the randoms out to sleep in the kitchen because “There’s no carpet there to sleep on” bastard.

Then my dream kinda shifts again and I’m talking to a woman about how her lookalike was killed and how she needs to be careful and how I’m going to assign 2 of my team to watch her. Apparently I now head up a super powered team! But this woman isnt a woman in the dream.. she’s a bottle of sauvignon blanc wine with a female head and dress.

 

I then call someone on my watch which is now all holographic and stuff and get told the assasins are coming and have taken a mixture of people hostage waiting for me including the people I was just with, somehow wine lady, my sister, my nan, pixie lott (The second the gets into my dream I know I’ve taken the joke with her too far), Some old school friends and my car.

The bits I can remember of the rest of the dream are me sneaking up and seeing my car then getting into it and running lots of people over, going all crazy on them and shooting them down saving people until I got shot myself and was like “SUCK IT! IM INVINCIBLE!” Then after saving everyone and getting all of these people into my tiny car which is apparently now like a clown car.. I start the ignition and it blows up.

Then I woke up.

Palm announce event, poetically.

Ok, so here is a break from our normal broadcast to bring you something different

Today, Palm decided to let the world in on a secret, that isn’t so much a secret anymore. They have an event planned for February to show off some of their new technology. Now, this has created a lot of buzz in the palm community, and for me for that matter. I for one will do my best to find everything out about the event for you, but here it is, the lovely poem from Palm to us lovely people about 2011:

“‘Twas the week after Christmas, when all over Palm
All the creatures were stirring, no mouses were calm;
More smartphones are coming in two-o-one-one,
To bring more mobility to everyone;

Designers are nestled all snug in their cubes,
With visions of webOS (a series of tubes);
We’ve read all your tweetering (no need for ALL CAPS),
We all know that this ain’t a time for no naps.
Yes, out on the blogs there has been so much chatter,
You’d think it was truly a death-or-life matter

The webOS update brings goodies like Flash,
And Just Type and stacking (and won’t cost you cash).
More treats that the new year will bring unto you?
(We have heard that you’re feeling they’re long overdue.)

And what to your wondering eyes will appear?
Not a miniature hint now, but never you fear,
We’ll have news to share with you, soon as we can,
I know what you’re thinking: “Just tell us your plan!”

I’m sure that you’ve heard that a tablet is nigh,
And lots more phones, and ePrint, and cool apps, oh my,
“First, Palm Pre! then, Pixi! and, Pre Plus (and Pre 2)!
Next, Whatzis? or Whosit! or, Thingabob? and Yoohoo!”
(Those aren’t the real names! they’re not even the codes!
You’ll have to wait! have to wait! the future bodes!)

But for now I’ll exclaim that unless something leaks,
“Happy newness to all…in the forthcoming weeks.”