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.