All posts by Kevin Schulte

Kevin Schulte is an editor for Techerator. He recently graduated from the University of North Dakota with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Mathematics.

Read E-Books On Your Mobile Phone with Aldiko for Android

E-book readers have changed the way we think about books, but if you own one you probably can’t carry it with you everywhere you go. Cell phones, although they have much smaller screens, are a much more portable option and can serve as an adequate e-book reader for short periods of time. 

Aldiko, available for free in the Android Market, gives you a way to read e-books on your Android device as well as access to thousands of free books.

When you first open Aldiko, you can check out some of the books that come preloaded with the application or browse the list of freely available books available for download.  This free list of books includes classics like The Count of Monte Cristo, Moby-Dick, and Treasure Island. If none of those pique your interest, Aldiko also lets you import your own e-books.

Opening Other E-Book Formats (Including DRM Protected E-Books)

Since Aldiko only supports non-DRM protected ePub books, you might have to do a little bit of work to make books you already own available in the application. If you own e-books in formats other than ePub, Calibre can be used to turn them into an Aldiko readable format. Calibre accepts quite a few formats as input, including PDF, RTF, HTML, and TXT (a full list of input formats can be found here). PDF files don’t always convert nicely, but they’re usually readable.

Scan to download Aldiko

If you want to import a DRM protected e-book into Aldiko, such as most books available through Amazon, you’ll need to work harder still. First convert the DRM protected file to an unprotected format supported by Calibre (here’s the complex process for doing so for Amazon’s AZW format). Then you can feed the resulting file into Calibre to get the ePub file that Aldiko requires.

Once you have the ePub files for the books you want, the next step is to import them into Aldiko. Thankfully, this is a fairly simple process. On your phone’s SD card you’ll find a folder called ‘eBooks’. Inside that folder create a folder called ‘import’. Move all of the e-books you want to import into that folder. On Aldiko’s main page press the Menu button on your phone, than click Import. Click Import again, and Aldiko will scan the folder you just created for e-books and import them into your bookshelf.

Now that all of your e-books have been imported, it’s time to start reading!

Using Aldiko as an E-Book Reader

On Aldiko’s main page you can see some recently read books (you can remove books from this list by long pressing on them and clicking ‘Remove from Reading List’). Click on Bookshelf and you’ll find a list of all books available to read.

Once inside a book, the controls are pretty simple. You can either tap on the right or left hand side of the screen or swipe left or right to turn pages. The brightness of the screen can be adjusted to your liking by scrolling up or down on the far left hand side of the screen.

Even more options, including font selection, bookmarking, and searching can be accessed by pressing the Menu key on your phone. Once you’re done reading, clicking the Back button on your phone will bring you back to Aldiko’s main page, with your place in the book saved for the next time you open it.

Aldiko can be freely downloaded by scanning the QR code above or by searching the Android market for “Aldiko”.

Want to see more?  Check out the video below.

Use AppAware To Find New and Interesting Android Applications

While there are plenty of great applications available for Android, it can sometimes be difficult to find them. The Android Market doesn’t do a very good job of showcasing applications, so you’ll usually see the same twenty or so apps on its front page. If you want to find those buried gems, you’re forced to scroll through an endless list and click on the applications that appear promising.

Thankfully, there’s an application that can help relieve you of this tedium. AppAware tracks all application installations, upgrades, and uninstallations for users who have installed AppAware.  This allows you to view which applications are being installed the most and is usually a pretty good indicator if they are worth checking out.

AppAware is incredibly easy to use. On the main page you can see what applications other people are installing, updating, and uninstalling in real time. A check mark is placed next to apps you already have installed. By long clicking on an entry you can see more options for it, including a link to its Market page.

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Clicking on the bar graph in the bottom left brings you to a list of the most active applications. You can see which applications are being installed, updated, and removed the most in the past hour, day, or week. You can also check out the list of Featured Apps, which estimates the best applications based on the number of installs and removals.

Clicking the Menu button on your phone while on the main page takes you to the settings page where there are a couple of entries worth noting. You can connect AppAware to your Twitter account, which not only allows you to tweet your activity, but also associates all your activity with a profile that others can view.

For those with privacy concerns, the settings page also lets you disable the sharing of your application activity completely. You’ll still be able to see what others are installing, but your own data won’t be collected.

Scan to download AppAware

AppAware is a free download for Android-based devices and can be found by searching the Android Market for AppAware or scanning the code to the right with the Barcode Scanner application.

Do you know of any other great Android applications? Let us know about them in the comments!

Image credit: AppAware

9 Great Games for Your Android Phone

Android
Creative Commons License photo credit: secretlondon123

While the Android Market isn’t nearly as diverse as Apple’s app store yet, it’s growing quickly and has plenty to offer in the way of games.  I have compiled a list of some of the games that I’ve enjoyed playing.

All of the games I mention in this guide are either completely free or have a free version available, so you have nothing to lose by trying them out!

I’ve also included the QR Code for each game so you can download it quickly. To use the QR code, scan it with a barcode scanning application (such as the aptly named Barcode Scanner, ShopSavvy, etc.) to be taken directly to the the game’s Market page. For the paid games, I used the free version’s QR Code.

NetHack

Price: Free

Scan to download NetHack

If you are unfamiliar with NetHack, I suggest downloading the desktop version first to familiarize yourself with how it works. The Roguelike genre is a niche market with its ASCII graphics and unforgiving gameplay, and NetHack is definitely not for everyone.

In the game you play as a variety of character classes, some familiar (Knight, Rogue), and some not so familiar (Archaeologist, Tourist), in an attempt to reach the bottom of a randomly generated dungeon. Roguelikes are known for the ruthless difficulty, and NetHack is no exception. Some people have been playing NetHack for over a decade and still haven’t managed to beat it.

For fans of the genre, you can now YASD on the go! NetHack for Android is a faithful port (which is no surprise, since it’s compiled from the desktop version’s source), and plays almost exactly like its desktop counterpart. Since NetHack makes extensive use of the keyboard, you’ll need a device with a hardware keyboard if you want to play it. It’s still not as good as a full keyboard, but it’s functional. Better touch screen support is supposedly coming, but as of this writing it isn’t available.

Gem Miner

Price: £1.35, about $2.10

Scan to download Gem Miner

Gem Miner is hands down my favorite game that’s currently available for Android. On paper it sounds silly (dig to collect gems to buy better equipment to dig deeper to collect more expensive gems to buy even better equipment, and so on), but once you actually start playing it quickly sucks you in.

Gem Miner nails the concept of “just one more level” perfectly. The developer has continued to expand the paid version, so it’s definitely worth the $2 to pick it up.

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Kamyran’s Eye

Price: €1.00, about $1.49

Scan to download Kamyran's Eye

This game also falls under the Roguelike genre. Unlike NetHack, it features pretty decent touch screen controls. It’s still best to use a keyboard if possible, but if your device doesn’t have one you can at least still play it.

Also unlike NetHack, Kamyran’s Eye uses a tileset for graphics, so if pure ASCII graphics turn you off you’re in luck.

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Labyrinth

Price: €2.99, about $4.50

Scan to download Labyrinth

Everyone has played those little games with the silver ball where you have to roll it around a maze into a hole, and now you can do it on your phone. Labyrinth uses the accelerometer in your phone to move the ball and has pretty decent physics.

The free version offers ten levels of varying difficulty as well as a level creator, but unfortunately the full paid version (with over 1000 levels) has been “temporarily unavailable” for months.

UPDATE 5-5-10: The full version is once again available for download through the Android Marketplace.

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ThrottleCopter

Price: Free

Scan to download ThrottleCopter

ThrottleCopter is the pinnacle of pick-up-and-play gaming when you need to burn a couple of minutes. This game uses a familiar concept: you navigate a helicopter through a barrier-filled cave by pressing the screen to gain altitude and releasing to lose altitude.

If you also install ScoreNinja, you will be able to submit your scores to an online leaderboard, so you can stare in awe at someone who managed to break 100,000 points.

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Fire Helicopter

Price: Free

Scan to download Fire Helicopter

This game comes from the same developer as Abduction! and Gem Miner. It isn’t quite finished yet, but has received several updates recently.

Right now Fire Helicopter’s gameplay is fairly simple: you control a helicopter via the accelerometer and try to put out forest fires (Smokey the Bear would be proud). Compared to how awesome Abduction! and Gem Miner are though, it’s worth keeping an eye on this one to see where it goes.

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Retro Defense

Price: $4.99

Scan to download Retro Defense

The Android Market is packed with Tower Defense games, so if you’re a fan of the genre you have your pick of terrific games. Retro Defense is my personal favorite.

Retro Defense has top notch controls and makes the great decision of doing away with a timer for the next wave, instead letting you trigger it at your leisure. This keeps you from cursing when you suddenly have a tough time making accurate touches and keep accidentally placing towers in the wrong spot.

Other than that, Retro Defense offers fairly standard Tower Defense gameplay. It’s a bit more expensive than most games on the Market, so I highly recommend trying out the free version before making the decision to shell out $5.

Flight Director

Price: $1.99

Scan to download Flight Director

Flight Director has gameplay which is quite common in the mobile games market. You’re given a view of an airport with several runways, and you have to direct planes that come in from offscreen to a safe landing without crashing into other planes.

Flight Director is simple and addictive, perfect for short spurts of time. What sets Flight Director apart from similar games on the Android Market is its above average controls (much better than competitors I’ve played) and the novelty factor of using views of actual airports via Google Earth.

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Abduction!

Price: £1.35, about $2.10

Scan to download Abduction!

One of the most popular games on the Market, Abduction! has you (a cow), bouncing off platforms and collecting your falling animal friends, trying to reach a UFO at the top. The concept is silly but the gameplay is superb, and once again simplicity reigns supreme.

The full version of Abduction! has a campaign of sorts and a series of challenges, and also lets you switch out your cow for various other animals. I recommend buying it to support the developer, but the free version has quite a bit to offer as well.

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Have an Android game you enjoy playing? Tell us about it in the comments!

Fix: Windows XP Gets Blue Screen Error after Windows Update (KB977165)

A recent Windows Update (KB977165) for Windows XP caused many computers to experience Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) errors when the computer restarted after the update.  The cause of the blue screen wasn’t just the update, but rather a rootkit (a form of malware) which had been present on the users’ machines prior to the update.

The specific error is:

PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA

Technical Information:

STOP: 0x00000050 (0x80097004, 0x00000001, 0x80515103, 0x00000000).

This guide will help you get your computer back into a bootable state and get rid of the rootkit. To do this, you will need a Windows XP installation disc in order to access the repair options.

Step 1: Insert the Windows XP disc and restart your computer.  When the computer initially starts, you should see “Press any key to boot from CD” message which you must do.  If you do not see this message, you may need to configure your computer to boot from the CD drive.

When the content on the CD has finished loading, you should be presented with a screen that looks like this:

Step 2: Press the ‘R’ key to access the recovery console. You should now be presented with what looks like a DOS prompt.

You may see multiple options when asked which installation you would like to log into. The one you want should look something like the one in the picture, “C:\WINDOWS”. Enter the password for the Administrator account when prompted. If you haven’t set up a password for the Administrator account, just press Enter.

Step 3: Enter the following command (since Windows isn’t case sensitive, you don’t need to worry about any capital letters):

chdir $ntuninstallkb977165$\spuninst

and press Enter.

Now enter the command:

batch spuninst.txt

and press Enter

Once that procedure has finished, type ‘exit‘ and press Enter to restart your computer, and don’t forget to remove the CD.  When your computer restarts it should be able to boot into Windows. We now need to perform a few final steps to remove the rootkit.

Removing the Rootkit

First we need to download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. Once it is installed, it should update itself automatically with the latest virus definitions. From the ‘Home’ tab, set the radio button to ‘Quick’ and press ‘Scan now’.

The scan might take anywhere from 10-20 minutes (or more if you’re on a particularly slow computer). Once it has finished scanning, it will present you with the option to clean up any items it found. Go ahead and do this, after which you may be asked to restart your computer.

It should now be safe to run Windows Update again, since Microsoft Security Essentials takes care of the virus that caused the problem.

Since there’s probably other malware residing on your system, it would be a good idea to install and run Malwarebytes as well, just in case. Also, make sure you’re running an antivirus program and that it’s up to date.

Please let us know how it works in the comments, or if you have any questions!

BioShock 2: Purchasing Looks Less and Less Appealing Thanks to DRM

BioShock 2 releases in a couple of weeks, and from the way things are going it appears publisher 2K Games is doing everything in their power to keep people from buying it. Previous details about the game’s Digital Rights Management indicated a tight lockdown, but recent statements from 2K Games claim a so-called ‘scaling back’ of DRM measures. Here’s the full release from them:

Over the past two days, I’ve fielded a lot of questions and concerns about the DRM for both the retail and digital versions of BioShock 2. Because of this feedback, we are scaling back BioShock 2’s DRM.

There will be no SecuROM install limits for either the retail or digital editions of BioShock 2, and SecuROM will be used only to verify the game’s executable and check the date. Beyond that, we are only using standard Games for Windows Live non-SSA guidelines, which, per Microsoft, comes with 15 activations (after that, you can reset them with a call to Microsoft.)

What does that mean for your gameplay experience? This means that BioShock 2’s new DRM is now similar to many popular games you advised had better DRM through both digital and retail channels. Many of you have used Batman: Arkham Asylum as an example to me, which uses the exact same Games for Windows Live guidelines as us as well as SecuROM on retail discs, and now our SecuROM is less restrictive on Steam.

I know that the variables of PC gaming can be frustrating and confusing, and when you say there is a problem, we listen, and use your suggestions to make things better. Feedback like this does not go unheard, and while this might not be the ideal protection for everyone, we will continue to listen and work with you in the future when formulating our DRM plans.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but that still sounds pretty unappealing to me. If you purchase BioShock 2 through Steam, you’ll have to go through three layers of DRM before being allowed to play your game. First are the usual checks Steam does before launching a game. Next, checks by the notoriously unreliable SecuROM are run. Finally, once the game has launched, you are required to login to a Games for Windows Live account. This is done every time you want to play the game. Thankfully there won’t be any activation limits imposed by SecuROM, but that feels like a small victory when a ludicrous amount of DRM still remains.

Measures like these are taken to prevent pre-release and release day piracy, but what happens after that? Once the game is eventually cracked, these ridiculous measures still remain to pester legitimate consumers. Thousands of people who payed full price for the game will inevitably have trouble running it, while those who pirate gain the luxury of not having to put up with such restrictive measures.

When will publishers and developers learn that restrictive DRM does nothing but hurt the game industry and frustrate their paying customers? Independent developers like 2D Boy (World of Goo) and Positech Games (Gratuitous Space Battles) have found success with completely DRM free releases, but larger publishers still insist on driving away the consumer.

Why the Kindle Sucks (and What Can Be Done About It)

Over the holiday season, Amazon’s Kindle became the most gifted item in Amazon’s history. On Christmas day, Amazon sold more Kindle copies of books than actual physical books.  Without a doubt, E-readers are the future of the book industry, and the Kindle is leading the way. Or is it?

Unfortunately, it isn’t.  The Kindle sucks.

The Kindle, which was one of the first mainstream E Ink readers and easily the most popular E-book reader out there, allows you to download digital copies of books, newspapers, and other publications for reading on an E-ink display. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, archaic DRM restrictions and totalitarian actions by Amazon have prevented the Kindle from becoming a worthy purchase.

What Exactly Is Wrong With the Kindle?

Since it’s impossible to have an article about the Kindle without talking about the 1984 debacle, we’ll get that out of the way. In July of 2009, Amazon remotely removed titles (including 1984, ironically) from consumer’s Kindles without their permission. Customers were refunded the purchase price, but no immediate explanation was given. It was later revealed that the publisher of the novels didn’t own the rights to publish, but does their mistake grant Amazon the right to digitally intrude into consumer’s devices to correct their mistake? If a bookstore sold paperbacks that were later found to be illegally sold, would they have the right to come into your home and take it back? Of course not, that’s ludicrous. However, Amazon had no problem doing the digital version of just that.

If you ever decide to move to a different company’s E-reader you’re out of luck, none of the books you bought through Amazon will work.Amazon sells E-books in their own proprietary DRM protected format, AZW. Much like the DRM protected music of days past it lets Amazon restrict how you use your purchased material. If you ever decide to move to a different company’s E-reader you’re out of luck. None of the books you bought through Amazon will work. If one day Amazon decides they don’t want you to own a book anymore, as in the 1984 incident, they can go ahead and take it from you. Similarly, the Kindle supports very few formats other than AZW. Of course you can convert from these formats to AZW using external tools, but then you run the risk of losing formatting.

In many ways, Amazon’s business model is similar to that of the digital distribution service Steam. Steam allows you to purchase video games and immediately download and play them. Purchases are tied to your Steam account, which means you can play them on any computer as long as you are logged in to Steam. Many people are fully rejecting Steam’s business model, arguing that Valve can pull the plug on Steam at any time, rendering all of your purchased games unplayable.  In my research I found claims that Valve has said they would release a patch allowing people to play their games offline, but I could find no official statement.

The same could happen for the Kindle, albeit slightly differently. If Amazon ever decides to change the format of their DRM protected books, or for some reason the Kindle stops being produced, your purchased titles are only good for as long as your Kindle lasts. I own books purchased 15+ years ago, but how many people who own Kindles today will still own one 15 years from now? Thanks to the DRM protected books Amazon sells, if anyone decides they want an E-reader other than the Kindle all of their purchased material will become unusable.

One of the advantages of E-books is that they can be sold at a cheaper price than their paperback or hardcover counterparts since there’s no overhead of printing costs. This works great when the E-book you’re buying is in an open format that you’ll be able to keep and use forever, but for something in Amazon’s AZW format it just doesn’t make sense. How long will Amazon support files in the AZW format? What happens to the E-books sold in this format if Amazon decides to move to a different format? As we’ve seen with DRM protected music, this can cause problems such as people not being able to access the content they’ve purchased. About a year ago iTunes finally stopped selling DRM protected music, how long will it take before E-book sellers see the light as well?

There’s Still Hope

Sony Reader

Thankfully, not every company shares Amazon’s archaic views. Sony’s Reader Store recently changed so all of the content sold by them is in the wonderfully open, DRM free EPUB format. Also, four leading magazine publishers are now trying to come up with a DRM free standard to distribute digital magazines.
(UPDATE 1-25-09 – It has come to my attention that the Sony Reader Store does not, in fact, sell their books DRM free. They use the EPUB format, but unfortunately are still protected by a DRM solution provided by Adobe. Looks like we’ll still have to wait for DRM free books.)

At least one author has even found success by selling his book DRM free. David Pogue offered one of his books for sale DRM free for a year and compared the sales of it to the previous year’s DRM protected book’s sales. While piracy of his book did increase, sales also rose over the previous year’s numbers. As was found in the music and PC gaming industries, you can make money even without DRM.

The Future

What does the future hold? What can we as consumers do? Amazon has dominated the E-book market up until now, but 2010 looks to be the year of the E-reader. Everyone is trying to get into the market, and we can only hope that pressure from competitors forces Amazon to rethink their current stance on distribution. Until then, the only thing we can do is purchase E-readers from companies who support open formats, and if you already own a Kindle, protect your investment by converting your legally purchased books into a DRM-free PDF file.

Author’s Note: If you find any factual errors in this article, please let me know in the comments. I did my best to research everything thoroughly, but the possibility for errors still exists.

Review: Fat Princess

Have your cake and eat it too.

Developer: Titan Studios
Genre: Action
Release Date: July 30th, 2009
Number of Players: 1-32
ESRB Rating: T
Platform: PS3

Author’s Note: This review was written after the release of the first patch, using version 1.02 of the game. Since the connection issues from the original release have been almost completely resolved (for me at least), they won’t factor into my score.

Fat Princess is the first title from developer Titan Studios. I’ve heard it described as Team Fortress 2 in a medieval setting, and while that isn’t completely accurate, it does give a pretty good idea of how Fat Princess plays out. Two teams of sixteen players each (a mix of human players and bots) compete in a variety of different game modes, slinging spells and decapitating opponents along the way.

Players are able to choose from five different classes, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Newly spawned characters start as a neutral class with low health and weak attacks. Even this base class has its uses, however, as it’s faster than all of the other classes. Class changes are made by putting on the class’ respective hat. Hats can be found either from hat machines in the player’s base or from fallen combatants strewn about the battlefield. The hat machines can each be upgraded once, providing an alternate version to the respective machine’s class.

review_fatprincess_1The Warrior is your stereotypical tank, having the most health and packing quite a punch. The Ranger has a moderate amount of health and the longest attack range of any class. Healing duties are handled by The Priest, whose presence can turn the tide in a battle. The Mage can unleash a devastating area of effect attack, and can also launch fireballs directly at enemies in a one-on-one situation. The final class rounding out the cast is The Worker. The Worker harvests the game’s two resources, wood and stone. Workers can then use these resources to upgrade hat machines, build structures such as ladders to aid in attack, and construct doors to keep out the enemy.

Players will find themselves competing in five different game types. ‘Rescue the Princess’ is the most popular mode, and probably the one you’ll be playing most often. Each team has the enemy’s princess held hostage, and the goal is to rescue your own princess while retaining possession of the enemy’s. Hold both for thirty seconds and you’ll win the match. While this may sound like a fairly standard Capture the Flag match, a couple of variations keep the formula fresh. Pieces of cake are littered across the map. Carry a piece back to the captive princess and she’ll eat it, growing fatter and harder to move. She’ll get skinnier over time, so you’ll have to feed her a constant stream of confectioneries to keep the enemy from making a clean getaway.

‘Snatch n’ Grab’, another game type, gives you slight variation on Rescue the Princess. In this mode your aim is to rescue your captive princess a total of three times.  Your team doesn’t need to be in possession of both princesses to score.

‘Team Deathmatch’ is fairly self explanatory. The princesses are done away with; instead each team starts with a point pool. Every time a player respawns, a point is subtracted from their team’s pool. Force the enemy team to zero points to score a victory.

review_fatprincess_2Placed around the maps in strategic areas are capture points. Hang around them for a while and you’ll take control of the capture point for your team. Workers can deposit resources here, and your team can also use these points to quickly recover health. In the ‘Invasion’ game type, your goal is to control as many of these points as possible. Each team again starts with a point pool, and if your team controls more than half of the capture points your opponent’s point pool will slowly deplete. Completely drain the enemy’s point pool to win.

The final game type, ‘Soccer’, plays completely different from the previous types. Players spawn on a soccer field, and instead of retrieving hats from machines the hats are randomly spawned around the field. Soccer balls randomly appear on the field, and your aim is to kick it into the enemy’s goal. Like a game of soccer in the real world, you win by having the most points when time expires.

While most of the action takes place online, there are a couple of single player modes. ‘Legend of the Fat Princess’ will take you through basics and let you familiarize yourself with the controls and game mechanics. It can be completed in about an hour, and there’s essentially no reason to play through it again after doing so. The ‘Gladiate’ mode lets you pick one of the character classes and attempt to defeat increasingly difficult waves of enemies without dying. The third and final mode is titled ‘Mess About’, and lets you set up a custom single player game. You’re able to select the game mode, the map to be played on, and the number of bots among other options. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the game’s maps and try out different tactics under controlled conditions.

review_fatprincess_3Getting online is a breeze. You can host your own game if the mood strikes you, or you can let the matchmaker find a game for you. Either way, you’ll be slaughtering Mages and stuffing the princess full of cake in about twenty seconds.

Online matches themselves are hit or miss. If you manage to get into a game with a decent number of human players who can work together you’ll have a blast. The classes are relatively well balanced and each and every one is enjoyable to play. If you find yourself growing bored of healing your teammates, switch over to the Mage and start setting people on fire.

A few technical details can mar the experience. The most glaring offense is the atrocious bot AI. You’ll frequently find yourself running right past a bot without them even attempting to engage you. They’ll stand there stupidly while you attack them from a distance. The bots have no concept of strategy, and will happily take over a meaningless capture point while the rest of your team is attempting to return the princess. This can become a serious problem, since bots fill the empty spots on a team if no human player is available. Since players can change teams after matches, what inevitably happens is everyone switches to the winning team, leaving a few human players and mostly bots on the other team. An auto-balancing feature would be a very important addition to online matches.

Games will frequently end in a stalemate. If the number of bots in a match far outweigh the number of human players, or if neither team is able to work together to capture the princess, games will devolve into pointless killing matches that eventually end in a tie.

review_fatprincess_4Graphically speaking, Fat Princess delivers. Titan Studios went for a cartoony style reminiscent of last year’s Castle Crashers. Character models and backgrounds are simple but elegant. Character animations are anything but flashy, but do serve their purpose. Deaths are particularly exciting, with plenty of cartoon blood and dismemberment.

A helpful announcer keeps you informed on current events. He’ll keep you up to date on what’s happening (“We have the princess!”), frequently with a comedic twist (“They’re in our base! Killing our dudes!”). Characters speak in high pitched munchkin voices, and the princesses irritably scream for more cake. The musical score is pretty much what you’d expect, with various medieval sounding tracks playing throughout the game.

Fat Princess Shows a great deal of potential. If you check out Titan Studio’s blog for the game you’ll find that they’re committed to making Fat Princess as great a game as possible. They’ve already released one patch that fixes several issues, and they’re hard at work putting together another one. They quite obviously didn’t just release Fat Princess and turn all of their attention to the next project.

Fat Princess can be found on the PSN Store for $15. It doesn’t quite live up to expectations, but still provides solid class based multiplayer gameplay.

Pros:
Great sense of humor
Can be a tremendous amount of fun
Has graphical style
Developer continues to support

Cons:
Laughable bot AI
No auto balancing of teams (yet)
Stalemate endings

Bottom Line:
Fat Princess delivers a good amount of team based fun, occasionally spoiled by technical issues. It’s worth looking into for all PS3 owners, especially with Titan Studios working to improve it even more.

Final Score (out of 10):

7.9

How to Add an OS X 10.5 Computer to a Windows Domain

This article will guide you through the steps required to connect a computer running OS X 10.5 to a Windows domain, allowing you to login using your Active Directory credentials. Since Active Directory is so widely used, it is useful to be able to set up any computers running OS X to authenticate through it.

Step 1: Open the Directory Utility tool, which can be found under Applications -> Utilities -> Directory Utilities or by searching for it through the Finder.

osx_windowsdomain_directoryutility

Step 2: Click on the Services tab, and make sure the Active Directory service is enabled. You may have to click on the lock in the bottom left corner and enter local administrator credentials to be able to make changes. Next, click on the Configure button.

osx_windowsdomain_configure

Step 3: Enter in the address for the Domain you wish to connect to, and a name for the computer you are working on. Under the Advanced Options, you can check ‘Create mobile account at login’ and uncheck ‘Require confirmation before creating a mobile account’ if you want the computer to cache credentials locally, allowing users who have previously logged in to login even if there is no network access. Click Bind and enter proper network credentials. The computer should now show up in Active Directory under the name you gave it.

osx_windowsdomain_domain

Step 4: Ensure that the login preferences are set to require a user to type in a username and password. This can be configured by navigating to System Preferences -> Accounts and clicking on the Login Options tab.

osx_windowsdomain_login

That’s all there is to it! Any user logging in will now be authenticated through Active Directory.

Review: The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Why’s the rum gone?

Publisher: LucasArts
Genre: Point and Click Adventure
Release Date: July 15th, 2009
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E
Platforms: PC and Xbox 360

The Secret of Monkey Island tells the swashbuckling tale of Guybrush Threepwood, a young man on a journey to become a pirate. The game starts with Guybrush arriving on Mêlée Island, somewhere in the Caribbean, and setting out to make a name for himself as a mighty pirate (which he often already claims himself to be). He crosses paths with numerous colorful characters, one of which being the evil ghost pirate LeChuck. Unsurprisingly, LeChuck spends most of his time planning and executing nefarious plans.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a faithful reincarnation of the original title (released in 1990) with enhanced graphics, music, and sound effects and voice acting not present in first release. Three of the voice actors from the series’ most recent release (The Curse of Monkey Island) reprise their roles as three of the main characters.

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Secret of Monkey Island, 1990 version

Other than a few minor adjustments, the game itself plays out almost identically to the original version. The interface has been streamlined, with the verb table and inventory that originally occupied the lower half of the screen being relegated to pop up menus. A hint system has also been added to help make the game less frustrating (more on this later). Fans of the original game will feel right at home, and newcomers shouldn’t have any problems. At the press of a button you can also switch (on the fly) between the updated version of the game and the original version in all its low resolution glory. It’s not exactly necessary, but does serve as a neat trick that lets you see what has been done to update the game.

At its core, The Secret of Monkey Island is a point and click adventure game, along the same vein as most of the LucasArts games released in the late 80s and early 90s. There is no time limit (excepting a few puzzles), so you can relax and play at a leisurely pace. It’s also impossible to die or get yourself stuck in a situation you can’t get out of, so you don’t have to worry about saving yourself into a corner. Most of your time as Guybrush is spent collecting, combining, and using various items to solve puzzles and interacting with the expansive cast of characters. There are a total of nine verbs that allow you to interact with items, other characters, and the environment, giving you a wide range of ways to experiment. If you take the time to explore and try different combinations of interactions you’ll be rewarded with Easter eggs (not literally) and humorous reactions from either Guybrush or other characters.

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Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, 2009

The previously mentioned hint system is a welcome addition to the game. If you find yourself stuck or wondering what to do next you can hit the hint button to receive a nudge in the right direction. If you’re still having trouble you can press it again to get an even more direct clue. Press the button a third time and the game explicitly states what you need to do and a large green arrow appears onscreen pointing you to exactly where you need to be. Considering that a few of the puzzles would be near impossible to solve without at least a little outside help, the hint system is a welcome addition. It’s easy to abuse, though, and I recommend at least putting a little effort into solving the puzzle yourself before resorting to the hint button.

The visuals offer a mixed bag. The environments and characters look gorgeous in high definition, but the animations are clunky and awkward looking. It doesn’t detract much from the experience, but it’s worth mentioning.

Pleasant pirate-themed music serves as an excellent backdrop to the game. The music in the classic version was well done, and the update does a great job of retaining the same quality and feel.

monkeyisland_1After playing some of the games released within the past couple of years, the characters and dialogue in The Secret of Monkey Island are a breath of fresh air. At times subtly humorous and occasionally laugh out loud hilarious, conversing with other characters is a blast. From Guybrush himself to the Fettuccini Brothers to the Men of Low Moral Fiber – every single character in the game is expertly voiced and superbly written. Whether you’re hurling insults at other pirates to win sword fights or haggling with Stan the Used Boat Salesman over the price of a vessel, conversations never feel like a chore. In other games I often find myself just clicking through conversation trees just to get what I need and leave. I never even considered doing this in Monkey Island, and would instead extend conversations as long as possible in order to hear most of the dialogue. I cannot praise the writers enough.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition can be found for $9.99 on the PC through Steam or Direct2Drive, or for 800 MS points on the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Arcade. The game offers an amazing experience for such a low price, and should not be overlooked by anyone who is even remotely interested.

monkeyisland_2Pros:
Fantastic looking scenery and characters
Classic adventure gameplay
Strong music and voice acting
Value pricing

Cons:
Poor animation
Almost no replay value

Bottom Line:
If you are a fan of adventure games, or even slightly interested, I strongly recommend buying this game. At only $10, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a steal.

Final Score (out of 10):

9.4