Windows Phone Featured App: Nextgen Reader

NextgenReaderRSS is important for me.  It’s how I stay up-to-date on all my gaming news and gives me the info I need to create new posts for PowerUp.  It’s my morning newspaper with a cup of coffee.  As far as RSS readers go on Windows Phone, Nextgen Reader is easily the best I’ve put on my phone.  The application connects to a Feedly account and gives you access to the feeds that matter on the go.  While I’ll encourage you to support the developer and shell out the $1.99 the full app costs, it does feature an unlimited ad-free trial.

Nextgen Reader

Windows Phone Featured App: Lockmix

LockmixThe lock screen.  The first thing you see on your phone when the screen lights up.  Sure would be nice if it had some important information displayed on it.  With Lockmix, you get the benefit of pinning widgets to your lock screen.  While some widgets within the app do have a price attached to them, some of the most useful ones (like weather, battery life, and calendar) are available for free with the initial app download – which is also free.

Lockmix

Windows Phone Featured App: App Folder

AppFolderSomething included with the Lumia Black update available for Lumia devices on AT&T is the App Folder.  Sadly, Lumia Black isn’t available on Verizon phones – however, the App Folder application is.  I’ve been wanting app grouping on my Windows Phone similar to Windows 8’s app grouping since I got it.  That’s unlikely to happen.  However, having folders for my apps allows me to keep all of the apps I use on a daily basis on my Start Screen while reducing clutter.  You can create folders within the app and pin those folders to the Start Screen.  It does have some cons as it’s not as fast as just launching the app from the Start Screen, but the benefit of keeping things in order is certainly worth the minor inconvenience.

Nokia’s App Folder

Windows Phone featured apps

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While it might not be the largest demographic of smartphone owners, Windows Phone does have a solid presence in the world of mobile computing.  That said, it’s not as heavily covered or supported as the iPhone or Android devices.  There’s still plenty available on the Windows Phone marketplace with, but there’s not nearly as much awareness for what’s out there.  Being the proud owner of a Nokia phone, I do what I can to discover what’s out on the marketplace and have made it my purpose to share my findings with you.  Apps that are deemed useful or just generally awesome by me will be featured in an article with a link to its location in the store for easy access.  I would also like to mention that I have an app currently being certified for Windows Phone devices and will totally feature it out of pure bias for myself and my upcoming web series.  That is all.

No plans for Project Spark on Windows RT

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After (finally) getting an invite to Microsoft’s game creation application Project Spark, I was excited to dive in and start creating worlds with my Surface 2 (as it’s the only computer I own with a touch screen).  After encountering an error when trying to download the game from the Windows store, I contacted Microsoft support regarding the error and was informed that Project Spark has only been announced for Windows 8.1, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.  While this is something I’ve known, I assumed that the “Windows 8.1” part of that would include their tablet OS Windows RT – this is not the case.

In response to my query, Microsoft responded with:  “Project Spark beta is currently available only in Windows 8.1.  Eventually, Project Spark will also be on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.  We have not announced any plans for Project Spark on Windows 7 or RT.”  So, there you have it, Surface RT and Surface 2 owners, there are currently no plans for Project Spark on your tablet.

That said, if you’ve received a beta invite for Project Spark, you can still access the game on a Windows 8.1 PC and will be automatically granted access to the Xbox One beta when that rolls out in February.  Microsoft has assured beta participants that a new set of codes will also be sent out to beta participants for the Xbox One beta release in the event that they gave their beta access to another user.

Feast your eyes on the new The Evil Within trailer

Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami is bringing a new vision of survival horror to consoles and Windows PC next year.  From the trailer below, it looks like it’s shaping up nicely.  In a disgusting and terrifying sort of niceness.

Microsoft acquires Nokia’s Devices & Services business

Microsoft made a bold business move with acquiring their mobile phone partner Nokia. The deal is worth 7.2 billion dollars and includes Nokia’s mobile phone division and a 10 year contract for Nokia’s patents. Said contract can be extended indefinitely.

 

With Nokia being the biggest and inarguably best provider of Windows Phone devices, the move makes sense for Microsoft. The software giant is currently making a push to encompass a more rounded structure that includes devices and having a division for mobile phone development, especially one as highly regarded as the Nokia brand, under their banner will be a huge win for Microsoft.

 

There will undoubtedly be some changes under the new ownership, but I have faith that Microsoft will help expand the brand and Windows Phone’s market share. As a Nokia phone owner and a Windows Phone user, I’m happy to have some confirmation that I’ll be able to upgrade to a new Nokia phone running my preferred OS when upgrade time rolls around.

 

How do you feel about the Microsoft acquisition?

Jobs: An examination of an icon

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I’ve always been a bit of a geek.  I grew up on computers and with the desire to know how to make them work for me.  I went to school to get a better understanding of computers and networking, and I’m currently working with computers.  My brand of computing, however, has always been under the Microsoft banner.  I’m a PC and I will probably always be a PC.  I’ve never really been fond of Macs, but that doesn’t mean I can deny how much of an impact Steve Jobs and the garage band he started had on the world.

I went out to see the film Jobs and felt it appropriate to do more than just review the film, but discuss the impact that home computing and the people who ushered it in had on the world.  When home computing was just a crazy idea, some young radical thinkers saw the future – a future where the world is connected and everybody has a personal computer.  A future we call the present.

jobs_movie_poster_2Being that the movie is the foundation of this article, it’d make sense to discuss that before going into the nerdy history of modern computing.  Jobs details the history of Apple Computer from its humble beginning out of a garage to its industry leading position as a home computing powerhouse.  Centered on the players who birthed the industry on Apple’s side, namely Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the film details, as best a two hour film can, how Apple came to be a computing powerhouse before nearly going under and its rise back up to the position it now holds.

The film is done well enough.  Characters are pretty fully fleshed out with Steve Wozniac being an easy favorite; a man who was in it just for the passion of doing the impossible and putting computers in the hands of everybody.  Josh Gad does a great job in the role by really portraying the passion he has for technology and what his vision of the future is.  There’s usually a shining moment whenever he’s on screen and it’s easy for the audience to get caught up in his excitement for ushering in a new era even though that time, in the real world, has already come and gone.

The real triumph of Jobs, though, is Ashton Kutcher.  I was skeptical when I heard Kelso from That ‘70s Show was going to be filling the role of one of the kings of the modern era, but that skepticism was entirely unfounded.  Ashton Kutcher was an unexpected choice for the role, but he so manages to capture the spirit of Steve Jobs that it’s almost uncanny.  The way he carries himself, his hand gestures, his facial twitches, and even his speech patterns are a near perfect emulation of the late Steve Jobs and it’s truly impressive.  He puts an effort into the role that displays a passion I haven’t seen in a biopic – let alone any film – in quite some time.  I was thoroughly impressed by the performance and Ashton Kutcher deserves every bit of praise for his presentation of Steve Jobs’ character.

The soundtrack is another shining point of the film with period-appropriate rock pieces perfectly complimenting plot progression.  Being a bit of a nerd, it was easy for me to get a little excited when a group of guys looking toward the future were putting together circuitry for the Apple I with some Joe Walsh playing in the background.  I can’t think of a moment in the film when a music selection felt out of place.

MacIntosh_Plus_img_1317The film plays, expectedly, in chronological order and does a good enough job getting the main details out there.  It skips or skims over some important things, but we’ll get to that in a bit.  Some of the nitty gritty details aren’t the priority of the film, instead it tries to successfully tell the tale of the man who built Apple.  Steve Jobs was a complex man – one who can be summed up with a wide variety of adjectives:  a visionary, an innovator, a genius… an asshole – a highly flawed man who unquestionably used people to build an empire.  The film doesn’t shy away from the fact that Steve Jobs wasn’t an easy person to get along with – which was, honestly, a shock to me given the marketing surrounding the film.

It’s an enjoyable biopic and one that is definitely worth watching, especially for those of us who appreciate technology or have a fascination with its history.  Like the man it’s about, it is flawed, but it’s well constructed and moving.  Even though I’m not a Mac head, I appreciate what Jobs and Wozniak did for the modern world and it was fun seeing a dramatization of the events surrounding home computing’s early days.

It was, however, some of those minor details that kept me from loving this film entirely.  I’m well aware of the fact that Steve Jobs has gone on record to say that Bill Gates was not innovative lacked creativity, something that actually comes up in the film in the one scene that introduces Windows 1.0.  What the film manages to omit, however, is the Xerox Alto.  Not to take away from the accomplishments of Steve Jobs, but the operating system that redefined the world of home computing – the operating system that helped found an empire – was built from someone else’s genius.  At this point in time, it’s pretty much ancient history, but just a decade or so ago there was still chatter going on about how Microsoft stole Windows from Apple.  The Graphical User Interface (GUI) was Apple’s invention and Microsoft was the big bad who stole it – obviously since they have the largest market share of PC operating systems, they have to be evil.  Well, what about the Alto?

Apple’s first PC to be released with a GUI was the Lisa back in 1983 – the Macintosh followed a year later.  Over a decade before the release of the Macintosh to the public, Xerox introduced the Xerox Alto – a computer system with a GUI.  While not a consumer system, the Alto undoubtedly laid the foundation for modern computing with its innovative interface – and Steve Jobs saw potential in the GUI when he was introduced to it by Xerox in 1979.  Xerox obviously didn’t realize the potential of what they had as they basically gave the head of Apple the keys to the future showing him all the ins and outs of the system.  The foundation for Macintosh and its beloved OS was laid on the innovative, forward thinking ideas of the team behind the Alto.  It’s just, to me, ironic that Steve Jobs famously called out Bill Gates for his lack of originality when his groundbreaking system was undeniably built on a stolen idea.

primeiras-cenas-em-que-ashton-kutcher-caracterizado-como-steve-jobs-aparece-com-steve-wozniak-interpretado-por-josh-gad-1358449584412_300x300Again this isn’t trying to detract from the man’s accomplishments.  The film just glosses over some important events and it’s easily misleading.  The one scene with Windows in it only works because the audience, especially those who are ignorant to the history of home computing, because the film presents the creation of Lisa OS as an entirely original idea birthed by Steve Jobs.  It wants you to believe that the GUI was exclusively an Apple idea and that Bill Gates and Microsoft were thieves by building a visual shell for their already existing DOS.  The scene where Steve Jobs damns Bill Gates over the phone works because the film decides to omit the part where Microsoft saved Apple from going under in ’97 by purchasing 150,000 non-voting shares.  The film doesn’t attempt to villainize Bill Gates of Microsoft, but it tries to emphasize that they weren’t interested in innovation.

The film also fails to give a satisfactory transition from Steve Jobs being booted from Apple to his return.  It’s somewhat understandable as, especially to the non-geeky viewers, the film can feel long – and at two hours it actually kinda is.  However, it would have been great to see more than just a snip in a montage about NeXT.  It probably would have caused the film to drag if they threw in more footage than it already has, but maybe trimming some fat from the first two acts could have made room for NeXT.  It feels like a missing opportunity to see where the foundation to the modern era of Macintosh was built.

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Flaws and all, Jobs was a well-made film with some great performances, a lot of energy, and an excellent soundtrack.  Macs and PCs alike should give this film a shot.  It’s not as groundbreaking as the man it’s about, but it was well worth the price of admission.

Jobs:  3.5 out of 5

Amnesia: : A Machine for Pigs available for preorder

Upcoming horror game Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is now available for preorder.  The game is a sequel to 2010’s horrifying adventure game Amnesia: The Dark Descent.  Preorders for A Machine for Pigs are now available on Steam and GOG for $15.99 (20% off the game’s release price of $19.99).  Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs will be released on Windows PC, Mac OSX, and Linux on September 10, 2013.

 

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs on GOG and Steam

Halo: Spartan Assault coming to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 in July

A new entry in the Halo franchise is heading to PC and Microsoft’s mobile platforms this July.  It’s a top-down shooter and takes place between Halo 3 and Halo 4.  Trailer below: