Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

This is my final post of 2010! I would like to wish you all a fantastic festive period, whatever you may be doing, and wish you all the best for the New Year.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

An even longer time ago in a galaxy far, far away

Guest post by John Rivers

Over the past sixteen years one of the biggest areas of expansion in the mythology of Star Wars has been the ancient history of the Galactic Republic, how it was formed and the conflict between the Jedi and the Sith, especially during the first Sith War.

This period is likely to become the focus of even greater attention next year when Star Wars: The Old Republic is launched. RPG specialists Bioware are developing the game having already created the amazing Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic as well as classics such as Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect and Dragon Age. This is the first MMORPG for Bioware, which will have hardcore gamers salivating as well as all wannabe Jedi.

This period of Star Wars history was first explored by Kevin J Anderson and his Tales of the Jedi series first released in 1993. The comic series expanded the ancient universe over the next decade while the books remained focused on the Clone Wars and adventures beyond Return of the Jedi. Then in 2006 Darth Bane: Path of Destruction was released. Focusing on a later period of the Old Republic* the Darth Bane novels tell of resurrection of the Sith and the institution of the ‘Rule of Two’.

This year the Bane novels were joined by The Old Republic series, commissioned to help promote the forthcoming MMORPG, with characters based on those found in the game, for a sneak preview I suggest you check out The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance. Even better is that you can get your Old Republic fix for free too. This year saw the release of Lost Tribe of the Sith a series of free ebooks available to download. The story of a downed Sith ship and a crew desperate to survive, the series is a prequel to the Fate of the Jedi novels but stands out in its own right as a good story in an episodic format.

I also recommend checking out Titan’s new Star Wars Galaxy series available from WH Smiths. As well as telling Old Republic stories, it also focuses on Vader’s hunt for any remaining Jedi following Revenge of the Sith and stories of the future of the Star Wars universe.

So by looking back there’s plenty to look forward to in the universe of Star Wars!

You can pre-order Star Wars: The Old Republic now.

*The Star Wars universe has its own ‘Anno Domini moment’ with the Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the first Death Star. Therefore The Old Republic is set 3656 BBY (Before Battle of Yavin) while Darth Bane: Path of Destruction is set approx 1000 BBY. The Empire Strikes Back is set 3 ABY, you get the idea.

John Rivers is an award-winning digital marketing bod who lives in North London with his cat. A long time movie and TV fan, he writes a rather 'Angry' blog about Doctor Who, while also moderating on Gallifrey Base, the net's biggest Doctor Who forum. In a monster smackdown, he'd be on Gamera's side.

If you would like to submit a guest post, please email.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking on HBO

“If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true…and that is completely unacceptable.” – Carrie Fisher

WISHFUL DRINKING, Carrie Fisher’s hit stage production of the intoxicating autobiographical tale of her life, comes to HBO as a feature-length documentary. Debuting SUNDAY, DEC. 12 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT), the special combines archival footage with her one-woman stage performance, which was taped in June before a live audience.

An actress, screenwriter and bestselling author (“Postcards from the Edge,” “The Best Awful” and “Wishful Drinking”), Carrie Fisher is the daughter of the late singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, known as “America’s Sweethearts” in the late ‘50s. She became a cultural icon at age 19 after starring as Princess Leia in the first “Star Wars” trilogy in the 1970s. Despite growing up with “Hollywood royalty” and experiencing early fame of her own, Fisher’s life had its challenges, as she reveals in this uproarious and sobering account. Combining wry wit and raw facts, WISHFUL DRINKING reveals her own hilarious slant on the not-so-glittering side of being a celebrity. It’s a show where she’s circling the drain singing.

From stardom to divorce, re-marriage to the death of a close friend, addiction to mental illness, Fisher recounts her peaks and valleys with unfailing candor and biting humor, referring to celebrity as just “obscurity biding its time.”

In WISHFUL DRINKING, Fisher details her complicated yet eclectic extended family tree in Hollywood Inbreeding 101, employing a blackboard and wooden pointer. Her father Eddie Fisher’s very public affair with Elizabeth Taylor ended what had been perceived and celebrated as a “storybook marriage,” and she and her brother Todd later watched both her mother’s and father’s “once white-hot bright star of celebrity slowly dim, cool and fade.” In 1973, at her mother’s urging, the 17-year-old Fisher enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London; two years later, her life changed forever when she donned a white dress as Princess Leia in George Lucas’ “Star Wars.”

Besides making her a star, the movie has resulted in Fisher’s image being merchandised as part of the “Star Wars” franchise for the past 30 years. Among the items she has adorned are dolls, shampoo, soap, Mrs. Potato Head and a PEZ dispenser. Fisher hilariously notes that among his many possessions, Lucas owns her likeness, “so every time I look in the mirror, I have to send him a couple of bucks.”

Aside from the strain from the high visibility of starring in one of the most beloved trilogies of all time, Fisher continued to face more than her share of challenges. With extraordinary candor, she discusses her subsequent bipolar diagnosis and the life-changing decision to have electric shock therapy (ECT).

In addition to the first “Star Wars” trilogy, Carrie Fisher’s numerous films include 1975’s “Shampoo,” her feature film debut, and later movies such as “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Blues Brothers,” “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” and “The ‘Burbs.” Among her TV appearances are “30 Rock,” “Family Guy” and the HBO series “Sex and the City” and “Entourage.”

Fisher is also a screenwriter and bestselling author. Her novels, “Postcards from the Edge,” “Surrender the Pink,” “Delusions of Grandma” and “The Best Awful,” were all critically acclaimed, with “Postcards from the Edge” being adapted for an Oscar®-nominated film of the same name starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Her memoir “Wishful Drinking,” taken from the stage show, was published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster, which will also publish Fisher’s novel “Shockaholic” in 2011.

Fisher’s one-woman stage performance “Wishful Drinking” was taped for the HBO special at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) in South Orange, NJ. The play opened in Los Angeles in 2006 and was produced on Broadway in 2009 by Roundabout Theatre Company in association with Jonathan Reinis, Jamie Cesa, Eva Price and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. “Wishful Drinking” is currently touring Australia and will continue to travel to select cities through the end of 2010 and into 2011.

Along with the HBO presentation of WISHFUL DRINKING, exclusive additional material from a director’s interview with Debbie Reynolds will be available on HBO On Demand.

WISHFUL DRINKING producers and directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato have produced a variety of acclaimed nonfiction programming, including 23 documentaries for HBO and CINEMAX, among them “Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal,” “Monica in Black and White” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”

An HBO Documentary Films presentation, WISHFUL DRINKING is written and performed by Carrie Fisher; produced and directed by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey; senior producer, Lisa Heller; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Open Planet Ideas: join the challenge

Sony, the creator of Walkman, PlayStation and Blu-ray disc, has teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for the inaugural Open Planet Ideas challenge.

How can technology be used to make the most of our planet's environment and that's where you come in! Readers of this blog can Join the challenge and Find Out More About Open Planet Ideas.

There's a wealth of proofs of concept, using existing Sony technology, already available and waiting for mashup. How would you use a PSPgo to keep disparate communities in touch?

Sony is investing in engineering and R&D. However, this is not-for-profit and the results of the challenge will be made available to third-parties and benefit the environment, too.

Please get involved in anyway that you can and leave suggestions in comments. I'll update the post with links to your ideas.

Sponsored Post

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

No 'sloppy seconds' for E4's Misfits!

On Thursday I was invited to a press screening of Misfits S2 episode one at the BFI, which was followed by a Q&A, chaired by Jonathan Ross, with the cast and crew.

Alongside BBC Radio 1, I was fortunate enough to attend a pre-screening Bloggers Q&A with the cast, and left struck by their genuine warmth and camaraderie. David Monteith, from Geek Syndicate, had posed a prescient Star Wars-related question to kick things off...

Series 2 is off to a strong start with an opening sequence - introducing a new mysterious character - that owes much to Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight. Listen carefully to the soundtrack, and tell me that it doesn't evoke Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, too! However, the pomp is subverted, in Misfits' inimitable style, when a paper airplane pokes Kelly in the eye.

Featuring the revelation of Nathan's superpower, a spurned shape-shifter running amok and a Wall's Cornetto gag, episode one sets things up for a blockbuster second series.

If you're wondering if there'll ever be a Misfits movie, Howard Overman, the series' creator, nixed that idea during the subsequent Q&A. Overman was refreshingly candid. He revealed that there's no deliberate subtext pertaining to the 'disenfranchised' and nor will everything be explained.

In the spirit of transmedia storytelling (a term I learnt from Steve Berry at Channel Four). Follow the Misfits on Twitter @simonmisfits @alishamisfits @kellymisfits @nathanmisfits @curtismisfits and me of course!

Misfits. Thursday 11 November, 10pm, E4. For exclusive content visit However, if you can't wait that long there's iTunes.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Nintendo launches 25th Anniversary Mario Wii

The new model is expected to launch on the 29th of October, ahead of the planned release of the 25th Anniversary Super Mario All-Stars Collection, which hits store shelves on the 3rd of December.

Inexplicably, the European pack-in doesn't include Super Mario All-Stars Collection! Instead there's the obligatory copy of Wii Sports and a digital download of Donkey Kong.

Prior to the launch, there'll be a commemorative Mario DSi package (including a copy of New Super Mario Bros), adorned with icons representing famous Nintendo characters.

Nintendo has yet to confirm pricing, but expect to pay £159.99 for the limited edition Wii bundle.

Is Super Mario All-Stars going on your Christmas wish list?

Monday, 4 October 2010

ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection for iPhone

ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection (iTunes) went live on the App Store last night (GMT) and is cheaper than a budget game from Mastertronic.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was among the first mainstream home computers in the UK, similar in significance to the Commodore 64 in the USA; the C64 was the main rival to the ZX Spectrum in the UK market during the early 1980s - Jack Tramiel, best known as the founder of Commodore, initiated a price war that would culminate in the collapse of a pluralist computer industry, supplanted by Microsoft hegemony.

Load. It seems only yesterday that school friends and me wrestled for control of the Kempston Competition Pro Joystick as we competed against each other in Daley Thompson's Decathlon.

During the European heyday of the ZX Spectrum, UK-based software house Ultimate Play The Game reigned supreme! The Sabreman trilogy Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde and Knight Lore was characterized by innovative game design and replay value. For three consecutive Christmases I was as enthralled by the Sabreman saga as any featuring Hobbits and Jedis! Ultimate Play The Game faded into the ether and became Rare. But, that's another story.

My top ten video games for the ZX Spectrum (in no particular order):

*Knight Lore
*Atic Atac
*Sabre Wulf
*The Hobbit
*Tir Na Nog
*Avalon The 3D Adventure Movie
*Ant Attack

In just a few short years I would succumb to the "breadbox" charms of C64 with its Sound Interface Device (SID), and cancel my subscription to Crash magazine. However, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K marked the beginning of my home computing odyssey...

The inaugural ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection (iTunes) includes gaming gem Chuckie Egg, developed by Nigel Alderton. Elite Systems, a successful UK-based software publisher in the 1980s, promises further free updates.

Speaking about the App, Elite Systems MD Steve Wilcox said, “The media and consumer reaction to the announcement, in late September, of Apple’s approval of ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection has been extensive and enthusiastic. Our concerns now are to ensure that both groups understand that Vol. #1 of the App is a work-in-progress, a rough diamond if you like and that we’re committed to developing the App (eliminating some of its more obvious shortcomings and adding new features) over the weeks and months ahead...

If we're to achieve our goal of offering (and enabling others to offer) access – via mobile and wireless devices – to many of the thousands of fantastic ZX Spectrum games, we need to restore some order to the market and adjust expectations amongst developers, publishers and players."

Aside from the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 (iTunes). Which classic 8-bit home computers would you like to see emulated on the App Store?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Nintendo 3DS gets international launch date

Nintendo has officially announced that its 3DS handheld will be internationally launched in March, following the much-anticipated portable device's debut in Japan a month earlier.

Of all the announcements at this year's E3, the 3DS, requiring no glasses, was the most compelling! Can't wait to play Kid Icarus: Uprising and Resident Evil Revelations. However, it will have to stave off a serious challenge from the iPod touch (4G) (review soon).

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Sony announces Apple TV rival

Today Sony announced a standalone network media player, based on the company's acclaimed BRAVIA Internet Video service, retailing for £120 when it goes on sale next month in the UK.

The SMP-N100 will wirelessly stream LOVEFiLM and catchup channels, including Demand Five, 4oD, ITV Player and BBC iPlayer, anywhere in the home.

DLNA-friendly with access to Sony's video-on-demand service, Qirocity, the SMP-N100 is making a royal bid to dethrone the recently refreshed Apple TV in UK households.

Readers will be familiar with the machine's menu screen. The SMP-N100 uses the same XrossMedia Bar (XMB) as seen on a wide range of Sony's 'house of brands' including PlayStation and BRAVIA.

Given that Sony's latest range of Blu-ray disc players include BRAVIA Internet Video, for as little as £99, the SMP-N100 could be a hard sell unless Sony undercuts Apple TV's £99 price point. Where's Freeview+, which is available on PS3, Sony's other Trojan Horse, via PlayTV?

What do you think? Is the SMP-N100 a worthy challenger to Apple TV and its iTunes ecosystem?

Another contender for the multimedia crown, YouView (formerely Project Canvas), is on the horizon...

Monday, 27 September 2010

Mobile Wi-Fi from Three

Last December I was invited to trial MiFi from Three. Subsequently attending a consumer panel feedback session consisting of fellow bloggers, developers and members from Three's community, marketing and product development teams, in January of this year.

The fruits of that feedback session has resulted in an updated mobile broadband device (Huawei E585), which I collected during a recent event in London; an excellent opportunity to pose questions directly to Three and meet up with Twitter peeps @mahadewa, @jonchoo and @Hands0n.

It's worth noting that Three is proactive within the social media space, unlike many of its competitors.

Mobile Wi-Fi from Three

The updated device retains the diminutive form factor of its predecessor. The pack-in includes help cards, a recharger and USB connector. But, as before, I'd welcome a carry case! Perhaps there's an untapped accessories market?

Plug and play for the win. Gone are the confusing buttons that proved a puzzling challenge worthy of Sherlock, himself. Setup was a breeze (I'm not a fan of reading instructions). It's simply a matter of switching on and connecting multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices with the included password. The password can be changed to something more memorable using dashboard (Dashboard is browser-based and can be accessed using Mac, PC, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad).

In no time at all I was wirelessly streaming music from Spotify to an iMac, watching BBC iPlayer on Wii, Tweeting from an iPod touch (4G), and connected to the PlayStation Network with PSP at the same time.

The device can be used whilst recharging - a critical oversight in the previous model - and Three's broadband coverage has improved since late last year! For example I couldn't use mobile broadband at home as it was a network blackspot at the time. Now it's a viable alternative for home and away. However, it could be prohibitively expensive if used excessively.

Mobile broadband on the move

Three's taken another step towards replacing a fixed broadband connection with an average of 2Mbps throughout the day. I tested bandwidth speed here. Your mileage may vary.

Although the device is on loan for the purposes of testing, and this review, I've unreservedly recommended Mobile Wi-Fi from Three to family and friends. Well worth £49.99 of anyone's money.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Limited edition Luke & Han Stormtrooper Flash Drives

BOSTON, MA, September 21, 2010 -- Mimoco, renowned creator of MIMOBOT® designer USB flash drives, announces limited edition and online exclusive Luke Skywalker and Han Solo Stormtrooper flash drives. Previously released, the Stormtrooper Unmasked MIMOBOT drives are sold as a blind assortment—with Han and Luke’s identity concealed until opened.

Now with this limited edition of 500 units each, fans can purchase the character of their choice exclusively at Mimoco’s online store, with the added bonus of an extra cap bundled with the MIMOBOT drive.

Click here for further details.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Star Wars: The Solo Adventures

The Solo Adventures 2D from Daniel L Smith on Vimeo.

Winner of 'Best Animation' from the Star Wars Fan Film Movie Challenge.

I'd rather watch this than official prequel canon such as The Clone Wars. Just saying.

Hat tip @Foomandoonian.

Monday, 13 September 2010

X-Wing Honda Civic with R2

I'm ordering a new car soon and was wondering if my local Honda garage stocks Star Wars X-Wing custom Civics like this?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Do the new iPods deliver?

Pre-order new iPods from and

Guest post written by Andrew Lewin

So Apple have unveiled the most extensive revamp of their iPod range this week. And yet, despite being an Apple fanboi going way back (before iPads, iPhones, iPods or even iMacs) I find myself in an odd fugue state of indifference, topped off with the first early warning signs of anxiety about Apple’s direction and future.

Last year the company unveiled the fifth generation iPod nano, and I was so excited that I had bought one within a couple of days. Far from being a rash decision, I can happily say that I’ve used the nano virtually every day of the year since and certainly never regretted the purchase.

The new nano is the most far-reaching redesign in the 2010 iPod line-up revamp, changing it to a square touchscreen device that continues Apple’s strategy of progressively cascading the ‘touch’ paradigm through its line-up. The touchscreen is clearly the thing to have these days and anything else with physical buttons and sliders is starting to look a bit tired and old hat: users used to iPhones start prodding the screen and wondering why it’s not working, until they reload the old and dated way of doing things back into their brain. And there’s no doubt that the simple clickable scroll-wheel – so effective when first introduced – is now creaking under the weight of finding ways to access all the gazillion new features that have crept onto the iPod since its launch.

So the addition of touch technology brings a little of that Apple glamour and pizzazz back to the nano, and helps stop it being potentially overlooked in a crowded market. But the sixth generation nano’s touchscreen implementation seems a rather halfway house solution, because the screen – while looking at first glance like the iPod touch/iPhone iOS – is purely cosmetic. It doesn’t run iOS and can’t have apps added to it, so it’s a bit of sleight-of-hand that doesn’t really hide the fact that its beauty is barely skin deep, and I suspect this limitation will disappoint as many people as the redesign will delight. In addition, the screen is now rather too small to easily navigate through lots of music, and the touchscreen makes it hard to use when out for a run or any other time you can’t stop, take out the nano to look at and fiddle with.

But the main reason I’m disappointed in the new nano is that it removes video capability. I’m not referring to the video camera/recording per se – I’ve not used that very often on my nano, but on the other hand it does nicely fit a gap in functionality on my old iPhone 3G phone – but I do find the removal of a much-touted fifth generation feature to be a somewhat retrograde step. No, my main complaint on video is that the new iPod nano can’t play video. At all. No more vodcasts, no more watching TV programmes recorded through my Elgato tuner (which I’ve gone a fair amount of over the year.) That’s a real drawback, actually a dealbreaker for me. Why remove that feature? Not being able to pack in the video camera hardware into the diminished casing I can understand, but how can the nano software suddenly lose the ability to play video after all this time?

At least the new nano retains its FM radio, which I was particularly excited about with the fifth generation last year. I actually feared that it, too, would be swept away by the change in physical form, so it’s nice to see it retained. It actually makes me surprised that the revamped iPod touch is singularly lacking an FM radio chip in its latest incarnation. Otherwise, the new iPod touch delivers everything that was expected – in particular the front-facing camera and the Facetime video conferencing capability. This was an absolute top priority for Apple, because establishing Facetime as a video conferencing standard needs it to be on more devices than simply the top-of-the-line iPhone 4, and so this iPod touch brings it “to the masses” – or at least as mass as it’s ever likely to get.

The one thing that surprises me with the iPod touch upgrade is that its appearance looks … Well, pretty much the same as the previous model. Apparently it’s a little thinner, but not by so much as you’d notice. That means the general overall aesthetic is still the same as the iPhone 3G and 3GS, and fairly close to the iPad. What it’s not like, however, is the iPhone 4, and that leaves the iPhone 4 looking like the odd one out: “one of these things is not like the other ones.” As a result, its sleek, metal, sharp-edged design looks rather un-Applelike against the carefully curved other models in the mobile range. Now it could be that Apple just wants the iPhone 4 to remain unique and special, or it could be that the iPhone 4 style simply doesn’t work well with an ultraslim physical form. But by leaving the iPhone 4 looking so different, it does raise the suggestion that someone, somewhere has already decided that it’s not the future of Apple’s mobile devices and that the iPhone 4 design has already been consigned to the “lame duck” category of history.

Because it’s true, Apple do make mistakes when it comes to product design: and you only have to look at the overhaul of the iPod shuffle to see this. The new model is fairly square, with buttons on its front face, while the previous model was longer and thinner with all the controls on the headphone lead. But look a generation back from that, and you’ll find that the 2008 shuffle is squarer, with buttons on its front face … Exactly like the 2010 model. Okay, the new model is thinner, and brings in the VoiceOver technology lacking from the 2008 model, but in all other respects this is one of the clearest examples yet we’ve had of Apple holdings its hands up and admitting “yeah, sorry about that 2009 model, it was a complete dog.”

Having the courage to own up and backtrack is actually quite laudable, but what’s missing here is that Apple seem to be completely out of ideas for what to do with the product than put it back to how it was before they broke it. A first sign of Apple’s design maestros running on empty? Or simply an illustration of how difficult even Apple finds it to deliver striking products to their usual dazzling standard at the low-cost end of the market?

You sense that Apple would love to just do away with the shuffle – that the new iPod nano touchscreen is really where they see this part of the market, being quite small enough (in fact – rather too small, especially for a touchscreen device). But the shuffle is a key part of Apple’s business strategy, its low price protecting the iPod range from the attacking hoards of budget MP3 players that are out there. In the same way, Apple clearly hate having to continue the iPod classic line and would love to get rid of it and have the iPod touch as the unchallenged king of the iPods, but they can’t – 128Gb RAM chips are proving elusive, and so the hard disc technology of the iPod classic is necessary for those music obsessives that need over 100Gb of storage on their device. But for the meantime the classic is a necessary evil, and so it sits in Apple’s product line-up, looking old and tired and neglected – just merely indispensable at the same time.

There were a few other launches at Apple’s September 1 event other than the refreshed iPod line-up: the next iPhone operating system, iOS 4.1, was announced – and top of the list was a fix for using it on the old iPhone 3G hardware. This (even more than antenna-gate, which was massively overhyped by blogs and media) has been a real black mark against Apple of late: when iOS 4.0 came out, the 3G was still part of the current iPhone range being sold by Apple. Even if that was only for a week overlap, there were still people buying a new phone on up to a 18 month contract who instantly could not use the current recommended OS for it without serious performance issues. It’s one thing to remove support and deprecate an out-of-date product, but to make a model obsolete while it’s still in your retail line-up is reprehensible.

There’s also the Apple TV, but outside the US this is rather hobbled by international licensing deals and consequently still feels like a dispensable sideline for Apple. What’s raised most eyebrows about Apple TV in the UK has been the price – the £99 matching the $99, the first time we’ve seen pound/dollar parity. The Apple TV seems a bit of a blip on Apple’s pricing, but other Apple prices are also skyrocketing (the new nano is about 25% more than the old one, for example) and even Apple seem to be getting a little uncomfortable about how this is coming across, carefully adding information to their UK Store pages detailing how much of that is down to sales taxes (VAT) and import duties. While it’s true that the pound has fared poorly on the money markets in the last year, and VAT will be going up to 20% in January, it’s still astonishing just how much Apple are hiking their prices, while all the other IT retailers are slashing prices to nothing (for example, under £300 for a laptop) – but then, Apple sales are exploding despite the price, so maybe it just shows that Apple know more about this than I do. Or indeed most economists do! Apple seem happy shooting for the premium crowd, where “if you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it” – but will this last or prove to be a bubble?

And there was also the launch of iTunes 10, the latest version of Apple’s media player/manager. Here’s a program that urgently needs a complete reboot – it’s got large, bloated, confusing and disorganised over the years as more and more demands and features have been foisted upon it. For a simple media player, the amount of system resources it hogs these days is astonishing. But instead of tackling all of this, Apple have simply landed it with another whole chunk of stuff to take care of – this time social networking via music, a network they call Ping. I can honestly say that another social network was not something I was thinking as being missing from my life, and while it’s been hailed as “the final nail in MySpace’s coffin” I can’t help but think this is far too little and far too late in the day to be getting into this game. Then again, I’d have said the same about Apple’s clearly doomed attempt to infiltrate the mature mobile phone market just before they launched the iPhone, so if anyone can pull off the impossible then it’s Apple.

However, there are a few things about iTunes 10 and Ping (other than feature-bloat) that make me scratch my head and worry that Apple are starting to falter at keeping all these plates spinning. Early users of Ping have been trying to set up user accounts … And finding that their avatar pictures don’t appear, until they have been “approved”. It’s Apple’s control tendencies showing again, mixed with the same puritanical streak that sees them censor anything remotely smutty or sleazy from the App Store. But having to get an avatar approved by the all-seeing Apple? Even for committed Apple fanbois this is surely a level of central control beyond a joke. And for everyone else, is this a network that you’d be happy joining? Apple clearly don’t have a grasp on social media or understand that it cannot be directed and controlled without killing it off. On just this one piece of early evidence, I have grave doubts Ping will ever make any impact and that it may quickly whither and die, much as its original foray into online communities, eWorld, similarly suffocated and died.

The other point about iTunes 10 is a very, very minor one: they’ve moved the three buttons for closing, minimising or expanding so that they now run vertically like traffic lights – instead of horizontally, as they appear on every other piece of software on the Mac OS. It’s a OS interface constant, a standard, so that everyone knows where the buttons are, what they do, how they work. And Apple have mucked around with this for no good apparent reason, but just because they felt like it. Interface designers know that you don’t monkey around with such things on a whim, so what are Apple playing at?

It is, as I have already admitted, a very minor detail. And yet there is something about it that seems telling to me, where such attention to small detail that used to be the defining characteristic of the company. And it’s in this and in the other parts of the iPod line-up covered in this article, either through highly uncharacteristic carelessness perhaps simply from being overstretched. The volume of output from Apple over the past few years has been astonishing, and we’re talking about a company a fraction of the size of Microsoft – which had been all but inert for years now, God alone knows what all those people are doing up in Seattle. Apple’s “start-up” size has worked for them over the years but now it might be catching up with them, the cracks showing as they take on more than they can carry, and as a result some of the plates can no longer be kept spinning: just look back at the iPhone 4 antenna-gate problem, the early iPad wi-fi problems, the issues with iOS4, the fact that iWorks hasn’t had a major upgrade in two years, and then add the sense that the latest iterations of products frankly aren’t as interesting or innovative as we’re used to from Apple. Too much to do, too little time to allow for innovation and inspiration.

And also … I do wonder whether any of this might stem from Steve Job’s medical leave last year. There’s things here that I wouldn’t have expected Jobs to let go through if he’d been in charge at the time, little slips that would have had him been in a rage and demanding to fix. Maybe the experience has changed him, and that infuriating, dynamic, demanding, contrary, driving, unique, charismatic dynamo at the heart of Apple is no longer the force it was. And if Apple’s core starts to falter, then will Apple itself decline and fall in turn?

Or perhaps this is just a simple blip, and all will be well with the Applesphere next time around. Let’s hope.

Andrew Lewin works for COI, a central government department, as a web developer/project manager/social media advisor and technical consultant. He was creating e-zines before anyone started calling it "blogging", and was setting up Fantasy Formula 1 sites by twisting blogging software such as Movable Type and Wordpress into being content management systems before it became all the rage and standard operating procedure. Andrew can bore for England on all aspects of online accessibility, usability and interface design, and has worked in and around the media for twenty years since starting in production and IT support at the magazine publishers H Bauer. That started a lifelong love affair with Mac-products, with a proudly PC-free computer purchasing history that started with a Mac IIsi in the dark days of Apple without Steve Jobs. Andrew now lives in south west London with a thoroughly modern iFamily of Apple products - iMac, iPhone, iPod and of course iPad: all of whom get on very well together, keep Andrew in line and tell him what to do. Andrew blogs at "Let me think about that..." (where this post originally appeared) and at "motorsport.ind".

If you would like to submit a guest post, please email.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Star Wars on Blu-ray disc and a dark Jedi

During Star Wars Celebration V George Lucas officially announced that Star Wars will bow on Blu-ray disc in 2011!

"Blu-ray is the absolute best way to experience Star Wars at home – in pristine high definition," said George Lucas. "The films have never looked or sounded better."

"We've been wanting to do it as soon as we possibly could, but we just wanted to do it when enough people would be able to buy it and see it," Would it be disingenuous to suggest that Lucas would release Star Wars on a packet of crisps if it meant more money could be made from the franchise?

The original trilogy will be based on the Special Editions released in 1997 and on DVD in 2004; not the beloved first run theatrical releases.

"You have to go through and do a whole restoration on it, and you have to do that digitally," "It's a very, very expensive process to do it. So when we did the transfer to digital, we only transferred really the upgraded version." George Lucas explains without a trace of irony. The billionaire creator of Star Wars is also the founder of THX: a cottage industry dedicated to the preservation and monetization of audiovisual properties. However, the boxset will include unreleased deleted scenes.

Lucasfilm has pulled a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi showing Luke Skywalker constructing a new lightsabre, in a cave on Tatooine, and ignoring Darth Vader's summon, from within his meditation chamber aboard a Super Star Destroyer, to join the dark side of the Force. Notable for its dramatic discordance, symbolising Luke's conflict and typifies the uneven tone of Jedi!

Don't be surprised to see Star Wars in 3D too; if only to shift a boatload of THX-badged consumer products. After all Star Wars became a toy story...

In an interview with the LA Times Gary Kurtz, the producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, sheds light on a darker Return of the Jedi, which was drastically altered due to Lucas' shift towards merchandise-driven creative decisions. "The original idea was that they would recover Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base,"

"George then decided he didn't want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason." What's more, the film would have shown Princess Leia struggling to cope with her new-found responsibilities, and would have ended with Luke Skywalker walking off into the distance as an embittered, Clint Eastwood-style loner.

Kurtz left Lucasfilm during pre-production on Revenge of the Jedi (altered to Return late in production), citing creative differences with George Lucas, and the saga suffered. He produced Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal and you'll note the obvious similarities with Return of the Jedi a year later.

At the age of 11, and a fully paid-up member of Generation Star Wars, I was savvy enough to note the increased emphasis on merchandise (not that I was complaining at the time) and lamented the inclusion of a second Death Star, the Emperor (diluting the conflict between Luke and Vader) and those teddy bears!

The Ewok celebration always struck me as an uneasy denouement given the loss and deception Luke had experienced. But what do you think? Did you like how the saga ended, or would you have savoured a few more flies in the ointment?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Kinect or Move?

During this upcoming holiday season, Microsoft and Sony will both release their belated ripostes to Nintendo's game-changing Wii console. Not new consoles, but add-on peripherals backed by high profile brand partnerships.

Sony and Coca-Cola have signed an on-pack deal to promote PlayStation Move. This will appear on 130 million packages of Coke, Sprite and other associated drinks.

Kinect and PlayStation Move will be available in a variety of bundles - some of which may confuse consumers.

Sony has yet to announce a PlayStation Move bundle that includes all the peripherals required to take full advantage of the technology, unlike Microsoft's Xbox 360 4GB console with Kinect.

I'm most interested in replaying Heavy Rain: Move Edition: the gameplay lends itself to an immersive motion control experience. Whether or not that justifies a further investment of £100 (including Move, Subcontroller, Eye Camera and charging station) is open to debate! However, as with Heavy Rain, many first and third-party games will receive downloadable patches to support Move.

Dead Space 2 might just be the killer application to entice enthusiast gamers, and there's the derivative Sports Champions for everyone else.

In view of the ongoing economic crisis, Nintendo Wii's out-of-the-box experience undercuts both rivals by a significant margin. Of the two new platforms competing for your cash: Move, a halfway house between Wii and Kinect, is the easier sell. You'll most likely already own games that are Move compatible. And I haven't touched on the subject of 3D!

Tempted by Kinect, Move or are you apathetic about gesture-based gaming?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Move like Michael Jackson

This November Sony will release a posthumous album containing 10 unreleased songs from the self-proclaimed King of Pop: Michael Jackson.

Frank DiLeo, who managed Jackson during the boom years from 1984 to 1989, told Rolling Stone magazine, "There are a couple of songs we recorded for the Bad album that we had to cut that are just sensational."

"Every time that [Jackson] recorded, he over-recorded. He would record anywhere from 20 to 30 songs for each album," former Sony Music CEO Tommy Mottola told Rolling Stone last year. "Any of them could have been as big a hit as the ones that came out."

A spokesperson for the estate confirms the new record, chosen from more than 100 songs held in Jackson's archive, will be the first in a 10-project, seven-year deal worth $250 million that Jackson estate executors signed with Sony Music bosses in March.

Unsurprisingly interest surrounding the unreleased collaborations with Akon, Ne-Yo and remains undiminished since the superstar's death. has publicly decried Sony's decision to go ahead with a new album. Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, who co-produced Michael Jackson's Invincible (2001), is working on the project.

A brand new official video game will coincide with the album and includes support for Sony's PlayStation Move. Michael Jackson is no stranger to video games and signed a lucrative deal with Sega in the late 1980's, which culminated in a 'Moonwalker' movie tie-in, and various appearances in Sega arcade and home console franchises.

There are rumours that Sony is preparing extended editions of Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Is PlayStation Plus for you?

A few days ago I decided to knix the idea of investing in Microsoft's Kinect platform! An Xbox 360 4GB with Kinect will cost £249.99 (not including a new games library) and that's money I'd rather not spend during the current economic recession. After consolidating my video game console collection. Enter PlayStation Plus!

When Sony announced its plan to introduce a subscription add-on to its free PlayStation Network (PSN) service, I was reticent about signing up! How much added-value would there be for £39.99 per year? The marketing spiel suggests savings of up £200 on selected products, automatic downloads and exclusive betas and demos...

During the first month subscribers could pick up free copies of LittleBigPlanet and WipEout HD Fury! Many gamers, myself included, already own these games. However, they're both enticing AAA titles and suggest that Sony is serious about taking on Microsoft's Xbox Live in the mid-to-long-term.

In its current form PlayStation Plus is difficult to recommend as a "must-have". There's risk involved with any subscription; you can only play free games for as long as you're a member and there's a chasm between the US and European offering. For example US members received an extra 3 months free for signing up to the annual tarif.

4oD will be joining BBC iPlayer on the XMB in the coming months. Sony should consider its brilliant BRAVIA Internet Video as a PlayStation Plus exclusive! This should be in addition to cross-game chat, which has yet (if ever) to be announced.

I'm delighted with free PSOne games (PS3 and PSP compatible), exclusive content, and now toying with the idea of repurchasing a PSP! Despite having a love-hate relationship with Sony's portable gaming platform, PlayStation Plus makes it much more compelling.

The best is yet to come...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Meet Steve The Robot

An amusing viral campaign for i-CAN's Freeview HD and catch-up TV receiver.

(View it larger on Youtube)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

SEGA's Shining Force arrives on the App Store

SEGA's Shining Force (iTunes), a classic turn-based RPG from the 16-bit era, arrives on the App Store with my unreserved recommendation!

SEGA's Genesis/Mega Drive emulator for iPhone has met with controversy from enthusiast gamers, and I've eschewed all the releases until now! Shining Force runs perfectly on my iPod touch (2G). However, is it too much to ask SEGA to release special editions with hi-resolution graphics?

How about Phantasy Star next?

Shining Force should satiate RPG fans until Secret of Mana is released!

US App Store: Shining Force
International: Shining Force

Friday, 23 July 2010

Jedi Junkies

Jedi Junkies, produced and directed by Mark Edlitz, is a one-of-a-kind, feature film about the world’s most dedicated Star Wars fans.

From lightsaber wielding martial arts academies to a filmmaker who built the world’s only life-size Millennium Falcon, from a Monster Garage-esque sculptor whose professional livelihood is building custom lightsabers to metal-bikini wearing dancers who embody Slave Leia, the film offers viewers a rare glimpse into rabid fans’ personal and professional self expression that borders on obsession.

The film also gives viewers the perspective of celebrity insiders including G4’s Attack of the Show host Olivia Munn, Phantom Menace actor Ray Park (Darth Maul), Celebrity Fit Club's Dr. Linda Papodopolis and Blair Witch Project director Ed Sanchez.

See what the critics are saying about Jedi Junkies:

Digital Movie Reviews
"Even modest Star Wars fans will enjoy this documentary. The folks profiled here are extreme in many ways, but they’re also very entertaining. You’ll marvel at them, either out of admiration or out of disbelief."

Clive Young, Author, "Homemade Hollywood"
"Check it out. If you’re a Star Wars fan, or just like gazing at Olivia Munn — you’ll dig Jedi Junkies."

Jedi Junkies is now available to rent or buy on iTunes and Amazon.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Star Wars Subway Car

Improv Everywhere's latest mission was to re-enact the first meeting between Princess Leia and Darth Vader aboard the Rebel blockade runner from Star Wars:

"The white walls and sliding doors on the train reminded us of the rebel ship from the movie, and we thought it would be fun to see how people would react to a surprise appearance by the iconic characters. We spread out the actors along the train line, staging it so they would enter the right car at the right time."

(View it larger on YouTube)
edited by Matt Adams / music by Gustav Holst, arranged by Tyler Walker

Friday, 9 July 2010

Mimoco announces SDCC & Star Wars Celebration Exclusive

(Boston, MA – July 8, 2010) -- Mimoco, renowned for its collection of MIMOBOT® designer USB flash drives, hits the road this summer for stops along their annual tradeshow circuit including the Taipei Toy Festival (July 8-11), San Diego Comic Con (July 21-25), and Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando (August 12-15). In honor of the company’s 5th anniversary, Mimoco will present all new and exclusive MIMOBOT designs to attendees of the tradeshows.

Starting at Taipei Toy Festival this weekend in Taiwan, Mimoco drops their latest entry in the MIMOBOT Artist Series called Monster Molly MIMOBOT. The design is a three-way collaboration between Mimoco, Monster Taipei (organizers of the Taipei Toy Festival) and Kenny Wong, popular Hong Kong-based designer of Kennyswork and the pioneering designer toy collective, Brothersfree. Wong has collaborated with top international brands including Levi’s, Disney and Nokia. His Molly character has appeared in many iterations and now as Monster Molly MIMOBOT wearing a green monster suit to celebrate this year’s Toy Festival theme, “Monsters vs. Toys.” The show exclusive is available in a limited edition of 500 units.

At San Diego Comic Con and Star Wars Celebration V, Mimoco will make available their first MIMOBOT dedicated to the 30th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, the Lobot MIMOBOT. The dual tradeshow exclusive, a limited edition run of 1,000 units, joins Mimoco’s ongoing Star Wars MIMOBOT Series. The mute Lobot was the chief administrative aide to Baron Administrator Lando Calrissian on Cloud City, over the planet Bespin. His brain was connected to the city's central computer, allowing him to communicate directly with the city's computer network. Now Star Wars fans can connect Lobot MIMOBOT’s brain to their computer via USB, available in 2GB to 16GB capacities at Mimoco’s two San Diego’s Comic Con booths #4938 and #2913M in the Star Wars Pavilion from July 21st through 25th, and at their Star Wars Celebration V booth #312 on August 12th - 15th in Orlando.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Star Wars: The Battle for Hoth

"Just in time for the 30th anniversary celebration of The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: The Battle for Hoth offers an exciting, strategic gaming experience for fans of the original Star Wars series," said Adam Comiskey, Vice President, THQ Wireless.

Star Wars: The Battle for Hoth, a tower defence game, will be released on July 15th.

In the meantime download Star Wars: Trench Run (iTunes)! THQ Wireless is about to unleash Trench Run 2.0, a significant update that uses the iPhone or iPod touch as a wireless controller whilst the player uses a Mac or PC browser to play the game. This will be, controversially, available as an in-app purchase!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Up close and personal with the iPad

Guest post written by Andrew Lewin

So in the end I lasted six and a half days before giving in to the inevitable and buying an iPad. It was inevitably going to happen sooner or later, and six and a half days was only a fraction shorter than I realistically thought I'd hold out for.

So after a week and a half of being the proud owner of an iPad, what are my thoughts?

The short answer is: I really like it. On a deep, emotional level - it truly is a thing of beauty and the definition of an object of desire.

And what am I using it for? Here again the answer is simple, but not particularly illuminating. I use it to check email, to look at Twitter, to go through my RSS feeds and browse a few specific news pages such as the BBC first thing in the morning and last thing at night. If I'm watching TV, then I'll quite often want to know a bit of background information on the show or find out who a specific actor is. And during a Formula 1 event, I'll want timing and live commentary information. I've also been known to transfer TV programmes that I've recorded on
my Elgato tuner so that I can watch them on the gloriously large screen in comfort (on the sofa or in bed.)

All of which might sound a bit underwhelming - "couldn't you do all of that already, using the iPhone?" And of course I could indeed do all of that. But the strange thing is that I didn't; well, I did have a period when I would check email and Twitter in bed first thing in the morning, but I've even stopped doing that recently - a combination of not wanting to run the iPhone's notoriously fickle battery down ahead of a full day, and the mobile screen being just too cramped for it to be truly pleasurable when not strictly necessary because of being on the move.

Safari and Apple Mail are two of my most used apps, of course. For Twitter, I had been clinging strangely to the
Twitter iPhone app even though it shrinks the screen down to a fraction of the full iPad size (or becomes fuzzy if you use the 2x zoom function on it) even though the Mobile Twitter site is pretty good in Safari, and there are a handful of good but not-quite-right iPad apps such as HelTweetica, and Tweetdeck despite the latter app's overwhelming popularity with many folk. So I was delighted when one of my oldest iPhone apps - Echofon - was just updated to work on iPad with exactly the sort of classy, simple but full-featured interface I've been looking for but failed to find elsewhere. Finally, I am happy!

For Formula 1, there's the extremely expensive (but apparently extremely good)
F1 iPad application costing £20 for a full season, but I go for the much simpler free timing application from the Formula 1 site and it was amazingly useful during this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix when it came track as to who was doing what with pit stops.

For all those TV and film queries, there's the
IMDb app which is already iPad-enabled. It's a little quirky in its layout and interface - it didn't seem to be able to do a lot of things initially, but poking around (and even turning the iPad horizontally rather than holding it in portrait mode made a huge difference in functionality) revealed it had a lot more to it than first appeared, and it's very stylishly implemented. It's become one of my favourites as well as most useful apps in the interim.

About the biggest problem I had was finding a decent RSS reader that syncs with Google Reader. On the iPhone, I've been very happy with
Byline, but there's no iPad version of Byline yet and so it's stuck in a very small window on the screen (it scales up 2x very poorly and totally loses the whole iPad experience.) The Google Reader site is also very underwhelming using iPad's Safari, and certainly didn't give me any warm, fuzzy sense of doing anything truly worthy of the iPad.

And then just in time, I found
Reeder for iPad, which is just gorgeous. There's been a version for iPhone for a while that looks (to me) rather like my old favourite Byline, but they've really done an excellent job expanding out to the iPad, using the flicks, sweeps and pinches to their full effect - and all the time in a beautiful interface. At last, reading through my RSS feeds becomes a true joy instead of a chore.

Oh, and I should put in a mention for
iBooks. I always wondered why Apple rather downplayed the e-book functionality of the iPad when they launched the product earlier this year, and I can only think it was because they only had the licensing rights sown up in the US and so everyone else was going to miss out. Fortunately they managed to do a deal for the UK as well at the very last minute before the (delayed) UK iPad launch, and while only a few publishers are on board so far it's surprising how many titles there are. Even better is the selection of out-of-copyright books available - I have several Sherlock Holmes books downloaded, as well as Dracula and a Father Brown from GK Chesterton, as well as the quite beautiful Winnie The Pooh book that Apple lined up as a flagship free download for everyone.

So those are my current uses (and resulting apps) for the iPad. There's nothing really earth-shattering here, or anything new - I suspect I've barely scratched the surface and certainly haven't been adventurous in possible uses of the iPad, and have really only kept in the safe shallow waters of familiarity to date. Nothing that I can point to and say "look, that's truly ground breaking!" And yet when you start using these and other apps, it really does make more of a difference than it sounds in changing your online consumption experience.

There's more to be said about all of this, and I'll do another blog post soon (when I get the chance) to try and delve into why I think the iPad really is a massive game-changing device - even at the same time that it's also incredibly hard to explain to anyone why it's actually different.

But that's for another day.

Andrew Lewin works for COI, a central government department, as a web developer/project manager/social media advisor and technical consultant. He was creating e-zines before anyone started calling it "blogging", and was setting up Fantasy Formula 1 sites by twisting blogging software such as Movable Type and Wordpress into being content management systems before it became all the rage and standard operating procedure. Andrew can bore for England on all aspects of online accessibility, usability and interface design, and has worked in and around the media for twenty years since starting in production and IT support at the magazine publishers H Bauer. That started a lifelong love affair with Mac-products, with a proudly PC-free computer purchasing history that started with a Mac IIsi in the dark days of Apple without Steve Jobs. Andrew now lives in south west London with a thoroughly modern iFamily of Apple products - iMac, iPhone, iPod and of course iPad: all of whom get on very well together, keep Andrew in line and tell him what to do. Andrew blogs at "Let me think about that..." (where this post originally appeared) and at "motorsport.ind".

If you would like to submit a guest post, please email.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Al Williamson: 1931 - 2010

Al Williamson, the award-winning comic book illustrator, has passed away aged 79.

Al Williamson's distinctive style inspired a generation of artists including Dave Gibbons. His legacy lives on in Flash Gordon and Star Wars comics (amongst others).

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Misfits returning to E4 this November

The following press release arrived in my inbox this morning. Hope I get an invite to the screener.

‘This sort of thing only happens in America...’

Filming begins on E4’s BAFTA-nominated smash hit drama series MISFITS II; so strap on your ankle tags and lock up your kids, it’s all about to kick off again.

“Misfits blazed onto the screen with a terrific sense of humour, self confidence and brio” Daily Telegraph

“..a script that fizzes with wit and invention and a charismatic cast of next generation talent” Time Out

“Misfits is funny, scary, full of emotion and character and…banter that would drop Joss Whedon from a hundred paces” Bleeding Cool

“Misfits is the most brilliantly aimed teen gang adventure there may have been on TV” London Evening Standard

Everyone’s favourite ASBO teens, Nathan (Robert Sheehan), Kelly (BAFTA-nominee Lauren Socha), Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), Alisha (Antonia Thomas) and Simon (Iwan Rheon) are back for a second series of E4’s hit comedy drama Misfits.

So to recap; a freak storm left our posse of social outcasts with slightly crap super powers; Curtis can turn back time, Kelly can read minds, Simon can turn invisible and Alisha can send people into a sexual frenzy with just one touch. Then there’s their two dead probation workers (one is buried under the local environmental monitoring station; the other stored in a freezer in the community centre). And finally, unbeknownst to the others, Nathan is trapped six feet under in a coffin, immortal and very much alive.

But it’s not just the ASBO Five who were affected by the storm. With the super-charged local townsfolk going the way of Gotham City, each week as we head back to the community centre our gang will be faced with a whole new world of weird and wild characters.

And just who IS the masked, hooded stranger who seems to be watching their every move? A force for good? An evil arch-nemesis intent on bringing about our gang’s destruction? Or just another kid in a hoodie?

The 6 x 60 min series will be produced by Clerkenwell Films (Afterlife, Persuasion) for transmission on E4 in November 2010.

Director Tom Green (Misfits I) returns to the helm along with writer Howard Overman (Misfits, Merlin), producer Kate Crowe (Misfits I) and executive producers for Clerkenwell Films Murray Ferguson and Petra Fried. The new series has been greenlit by Drama Commissioning Editor, Robert Wulff-Cochrane.

Monday, 24 May 2010

No objection! Phoenix Wright for iPhone

Capcom has released Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (iTunes) on the App Store!

Capcom has successfully brought its Mega Man, Resident Evil and Street Fighter franchises to the App Store.

Phoenix Wright continues that trend and is almost a direct port of the Nintendo DS classic - including original art assets. Capcom has rightly, in my opinion, eschewed DLC (and micropayments) by including all 5 original cases (internet connection not required) for an incontestable bargain price of £2.99.

Hopefully Capcom will release further games in the Phoenix Wright series and an iPhone exclusive in the future.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Twitter for iPhone

Yesterday Tweetie 2 was removed from the App Store following Twitter's acquisition of Atebits last month. This prompted speculation that Twitter for iPhone (AKA Tweetie 3), the free official Twitter application, would appear on the App Store imminently. According to various online sources it's still propagating on the App Store.

Will Twitter for iPhone (iTunes) witness the demise of third-party applications, particularly as Tweetie was regarded as the best Twitter client for iPhone with high profile support from celebrities?

For the record I have had a love hate relationship with Tweetie, Twitterrific and Echofun! All of which have been halfway houses.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep for PSP

Square Enix has confirmed that Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is coming to North America and Europe this September exclusively on the PSP.

The following is an extract from the press release.

Long before Sora was chosen by his Keyblade, the worlds' safety lay in the hands of true Keyblade Masters.

Three youths — Terra, Ventus, and Aqua — have been training long and hard under Master Eraqus to prove that they, too, exhibit the Mark of Mastery.

But they will soon find themselves in the middle of a crisis affecting worlds far beyond their own — just as another Keyblade Master, Xehanort, goes mysteriously missing.

Three friends, three destinies. Everything will link back to the beginning.

An essential piece to the KINGDOM HEARTS series arrives on the PSP system: From world-renowned creator and character designer Tetsuya Nomura comes the latest installment in the beloved KINGDOM HEARTS series. The vibrant and colorful KINGDOM HEARTS world comes to life in 16:9 widescreen presentation, through stunning graphics made possible by the PSP system hardware

Disney worlds and characters new to the KINGDOM HEARTS series: Disney worlds and characters never before seen in KINGDOM HEARTS, such as Enchanted Dominion (Sleeping Beauty) and Castle of Dreams (Cinderella) will make their first appearances in KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep

Three distinct gaming experiences through the eyes of three protagonists: Unravel the mystery surrounding the origin of the KINGDOM HEARTS saga through the tales of three unique characters — Terra, Ventus and Aqua. The whole story is revealed only after playing through with all three characters

An action-packed combat system with intuitive controls: The familiar action-packed experience that KINGDOM HEARTS fans have come to embrace returns with an enhanced battle system and all-new features such as Command Styles, Command Decks, Shotlocks and Dimension Links. KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep is the most advanced KINGDOM HEARTS title to date

Four exciting multiplayer modes: Experience the excitement and fun with your friends with four brand-new multiplayer modes: Versus Mode, Arena Mode, Command Board and Rumble Racing

New game features: The North American release will include a number of new features including an extra boss, additional multiplayer options, and Crown Stickers: a reward system where players earn prizes by collecting and placing stickers into an album

An outstanding voice cast: KINGDOM HEARTS fans will surely be in for one unforgettable experience, thanks to an impressive voice cast featuring the talents of Mark Hamill, Willa Holland, Jesse McCartney, Leonard Nimoy and James Woods, among others

Looks like I may have to reinvest in a PSP if I want to play the latest instalment in the lauded Kingdom Hearts franchise. How about Kingdom Hearts for iPhone?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Gameloft's "iPhone Happy Hour" on Twitter

Gameloft is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a free iPhone game giveaway each day on Twitter!

Gameloft turns 10 years old this month, and because this is such a special event we’ve decided to launch our “iPhone Happy Hour” to celebrate with all our fans out there. What this means is that for 2 hours every day from May 10th to May 21st (except weekends), one of our iPhone/iPod touch games will be available for free! Yes, you’re reading it correctly, FREE! It’s our birthday but we’re the ones offering you presents – 10 great iPhone games!

Titles have included Castle of Magic, Ferrari GT Evolution and Chuck Norris.

Follow @Gameloft_UK to discover which game and when! I'm off to play Resident Evil Zombie Infection (iTunes).

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

May The Fourth Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day to all my readers. It's almost inconceivable that the first Star Wars movie was released over 30 years ago...

The adventures of Luke Skywalker and friends never ceases to enthrall and captivate generations of fans the world over.

For any readers remotely interested in Star Wars and/or media production, may I suggest the following books from

The Making of Star Wars
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back
Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution
Star Wars (BFI Classics)
Generation Star Wars: Inside the Fan Phenomenon

This blog is tribute to my late mother and a galaxy far, far away.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Glee's social media gleekery

E4's Misfits was a game-changer! The producers embraced transmedia storytelling from the get-go! Read the Six to Start case study here.

Fans of the critically acclaimed US television drama Mad Men had previously leveraged the power of social media and created fictional Twitter accounts for the Drapers and creative folk at Sterling Cooper. But, the network baulked at the idea and tried to close the profiles and blogs down, which was, ultimately, counterintuitive and self-defeating. The fans won a reprieve once the studio understood the positive benefits of raising awareness via the social media space. When there's goodwill, it's a win-win.

It's no surprise to see hit series Glee (Popular meets High School Musical) utilising social media:

Official Glee on Twitter

Official Glee Cast on Twitter
Cory Monteith
Lea Michelle
Amber Riley
Harry Shum, Jr.
Chris Colfer
Naya Rivera
Jenna Ushkowitz
Dianna Agron
Dijon Talton
Kevin McHale
Mark Salling
Matthew Morrison

Official Glee Characters on Twitter
Quinn Fabray
Rachel Berry
Sue Sylvester
Kurt Hummel

Official Glee Cast on Tumblr
Harry Shum Jr.
Dianna Agron
Matthew Morrison

Sue Sylvester is a compulsory follow as suggested by @petehotchkiss. This list is by no means definitive. If I've missed any, please put them in comments or @johnhood, and I'll update. Thanks in advance.

E4, an independent commercial network in the UK, even went as far as using #glee4 during television trails for Glee S1. That's a masterful mashup of old and new media marketing.

Purchase Glee merchandise from, and iTunes.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Ridge Racer Accelerated for iPhone

A few months ago I purchased Ridge Racer Accelerated (iTunes) from the App Store and was disappointed by the control scheme and DLC - so much so that I hastily deleted the game! Aside from PlayStation nostalgia, there was nothing to recommend this mobile port!

Namco has released a significant free update that redresses the issues with the control scheme and has improved the game's responsiveness.

Now if only Namco would rethink its DLC strategy and eschew a nickel and dime philosophy. Otherwise, this is the Ridge Racer we knew and loved on the PlayStation in the palm of your hand.

Gamers looking for a richer racing experience should consider EA's Need for Speed: Shift (iTunes).

Friday, 23 April 2010

Avatar: Blu-ray disc review

This afternoon I forgo sunshine to watch James Cameron's Avatar, which arrived courtesy of those fine folk at

How would Cameron's ocular opus translate to home cinema and the limitations of 2D? Rather well as it, unsurprisingly, turns out!

No still image will ever do the transfer, framed in the director's preferred 1.78:1 aspect ratio, justice! Colour, contrast and deep, deep, blacks culminate in a striking image that is the new benchmark for 1080p. There are no noticeable motion artefacts, which is most likely due to the high bit rate (Avatar's footprint almost takes up an entire 50GB disc). I didn't see any artefacts on my Panasonic VIERA LCD TX-37LZD800. Your mileage may vary.

Then there's the glorious DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix to underscore the abundant eye candy. By turns nuanced, subtle and bombastic when the action goes into overdrive. This bests Terminator Salvation's surround workout, which I use as a reference disc when showcasing the merits of Blu-ray to family and friends. Plaudits to Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory (PHL), a creative partner on James Cameron's most technologically ambitious project to date, and THX.

OK, there are no extras on this disc, but James Cameron hasn't pretended that this would ever be the definitive release. Double dipping, later this year, for the win.

James Cameron raised the bar on home video with his lauded special editions of The Abyss and Aliens (even the booklets, masterclasses in film production written by the man himself, were worth the price of admission alone): in doing so creating a cottage industry that has been exploited by less visionary directors.

As in digital 3D cinemas across the globe. Avatar's Blu-ray disc bow is reference material and will sell complete home cinema systems at savvy retail locations worldwide - even without the allure of 3D or the impending 2010 FIFA World Cup. However, make sure that your home cinema is properly calibrated before returning to Pandora!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Chaos Rings only for iPhone

Square Enix has released Chaos Rings (iTunes) a new IP exclusively developed from the ground up for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

About Chaos Rings, from Square Enix:
"The story revolves around a tournament where combatants fight for their lives: the Ark Arena. Upon choosing a pair of characters, one male and one female, you will then have to fight against the other pairs. Each pair has their own story, and the truth behind the Ark Arena will not be revealed until each story is completed."

I've only played this opulent and luxurious RPG for a few hours and it evokes the excitement of playing Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation. This is a premium franchise that redefines the RPG genre on a mobile device. Chaos Rings is a sign of things to come! Bring on Kingdom Hearts...

To celebrate Chaos Rings. Square Enix has slashed the price of the following titles for a limited time:

Final Fantasy I (iTunes) £3.99
Final Fantasy II (iTunes) £3.99
Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes - Encore (iTunes) £4.99
Hills and Rivers Remain (iTunes) £2.99
Sliding Heroes (iTunes) 59p
Vanguard Storm (iTunes) £2.39
Crystal Defenders (iTunes) £3.49

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

International iPad launch delayed until May!

Apple has just announced a delay to the international launch of the company's popular iPad, originally planned for a late April release in the UK.

The company has sent out the following press release blaming unprecedented demand in the US for the delay.

"Although we have delivered more than 500,000 iPads during its first week, demand is far higher than we predicted and will likely continue to exceed our supply over the next several weeks as more people see and touch an iPad. We have also taken a large number of pre-orders for iPad 3G models for delivery by the end of April."

"Faced with this surprisingly strong US demand, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the international launch of iPad by one month, until the end of May. We will announce international pricing and begin taking online pre-orders on Monday, 10 May. We know that many international customers waiting to buy an iPad will be disappointed by this news, but we hope they will be pleased to learn the reason - the iPad is a runaway success in the US thus far."

Didn't see that coming. Not.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Entertainment Weekly Strikes Back

Has it been 30 years since Imperial Walkers first strode across alien snowscapes and Darth Vader's revelation, which became one of Hollywood's defining moments?

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Entertainment Weekly has published a special commemorative issue.

If that's not enough to satiate the most ardent fans amongst you. The Making of The Empire Strikes Back (Hardcover), foreward by Ridley Scott, is released in the Fall.

Pre-order from or

Thursday, 8 April 2010

iPhone OS 4.0: Game Center a DS & PSP killer?

Apple has revealed upcoming features that will be included in this summer's iPhone OS 4.0 update, at a special event, today.

Amongst the 100 new features announced: multitasking, Folders, iBooks for iPhone and iPod touch, Game Center and iAd.

Game Center maybe the most exciting with Apple crowned as the new king of portables (a view I've extolled for sometime)! This will leverage social networking and prove difficult for both Nintendo and Sony to combat in the mobile gaming space.

Yes, the PlayStation Network (PSN) is available on the PSP, but Apple's vertical integration is peerless, and Nintendo's DS looks dated in comparison no matter what Reggie Fils-Aime would have you believe.

Although my iPod touch (2G) won't benefit from multitasking in OS 4.0, I'll be sticking with it as my money is going on an iPad.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Zenonia 2 arrives on the App Store

I've just received the following press release announcing the immediate availability of Zenonia 2 (iTunes link).

ZENONIA 2: The Lost Memories Now Available on App Store
Rebirth of ZENONIA, the Benchmark of Classic Action RPG

LOS ANGELES, CA - March 29th, 2010 - GAMEVIL®, a leading mobile games publisher and developer, today announced that the highly anticipated sequel to its classic action role-playing game, ZENONIA™ 2: The Lost Memories is now available on App Store.

ZENONIA 2: The Lost Memories features four distinctive classes including the new range type classes; Paladin, Shooter, Magician and Warrior. Character customization has also improved with millions of costume combinations and thousands of items within the game. Each character has an epic storyline with 152 different maps and 98 quests. Finally, the game provides three different modes; normal, hard and hell mode along with an asynchronous online PvP arena to challenge your friends.

"The original ZENONIA has been a huge success on App Store and we've done our best to meet the high expectations that were already set. This time, it is bigger and better", said Kyu Lee, Head of GAMEVIL USA. "We've added a lot of new rich features to enhance the user's experience by leveraging the capabilities of the device."

ZENONIA 2: The Lost Memories (iTunes link) is available for $4.99 from the App Store on the iPhone and iPod touch.

For more details, please visit

GAMEVIL is a premier mobile game publisher located in Seoul, Korea and Los Angeles, USA. Established in 2000, GAMEVIL has earned a reputation as one of the best companies in the mobile games sector by crafting award winners in a diverse portfolio of games. GAMEVIL is well known for revolutionizing the sector with its original and innovative mobile games, backed by unparalleled expertise in advanced mobile technology. As a world class leader in mobile games publishing, GAMEVIL continues to lead the sector with a commitment to establish mobile as the definitive mass market entertainment platform of the world. GAMEVIL is currently listed on the KOSDAQ Market (Ticker: 063080, Bloomberg: 063080:KS, Reuters: 063080.KQ)

GAMEVIL® and ZENONIA™ are trademarks or registered trademarks of GAMEVIL Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.

Follow the Twitter feeds at and Facebook Pages at