I Listen To Way Too Many Podcasts

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I’m a podcast addict. Since my first Apple iPhone back in the day, I have found myself listening to a wide-array of these online radio shows. While finding the time to indulge in the plethora of content out there may be harder from some than others, there is certainly something out there for everyone.

Enter my personal podcast playlist. This list changes from time to time, but the core shows tend to remain the same, containing the necessary listening for the gaming and technology focused podcast-listening geek. Hopefully this humble-bundle will put you well on the path to addition.

Everyone

Geek-Focused

Gamer-Focused

  • DLC, Jeff Cannata’s weekly show that covers video and table-top gaming.
  • Garnett on Games, Garnet Lee’s weekly show about the gaming industry.
  • Giant Bombcast, the GiantBomb crew talks about the happening in gaming.
  • Reality Breached, an in-depth look at the Video Game industry and its business practices.
  • Techpedition, technology ramblings and entertainment from the Techpedition pundits.
  • Xbox Live’s Major Nelson Radio, Xbox LIVE’s Major Nelson’s weekly podcast.

Developer-Focused

Defiance — Season 1 Review

The Defiance franchise comes with a lot of baggage in tow, presented as part television show, part video game. Being marketed as such may be something that could bolster the series to popularity, or ultimately be its downfall, especially if one turns out to be an epic fail. The writing may be on the wall for the video game portion, as thus far the game has gotten lackluster reviews. Be that as it may, we will be taking a look at season one of the television series, to see if it can at least hold up its end of the bargain.

In the not too distant future, the Votans, a collection of seven different races, arrive on earth. A planet in which they had previously thought to be uninhabited, or so we are originally told. What first starts off as peaceful negotiations, then gradual colonization, leads to a global war known as the ‘Pale Wars’, which culminates in the Ark fleet exploding, releasing massive terra-forming technology on earth. After the ‘Arkfall’ event, a peace treaty is brokered, resulting in a war-torn earth in which humans and the Votans are forced to co-exist.

In the opening of the series we are introduced to Joshua Nolan (Grant Browler) and his daughter Irisa Nyira (Stephanie Leonidas). But something is obviously different about this father-daughter duo. Irisa is an alien—an Irathient to be exact—and her supposed father is a human who served in the Pale Wars. We later learn they become a duo after Irisa’s village was raided and her parents were killed. But there is more to this girl than meets the eye.

We find that Irisa and Nolan live as nomads, moving from place to place, scavenging valuable items left over from the Pale Wars in order to survive. Their journey eventually leads them to a place called Defiance, which you and I know as St. Louis, Missouri. Once the duo arrive in Defiance in an attempt to make some money from a recent find, they are compelled to stay through an uncontrollable series of events in which Nolan becomes the town law-keeper.

The series plays on the human-alien conflict, the search for valuable artifacts, and an underlying power struggle between Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz)—the newly appointed town’s mayor—and her followers, versus Datak Tara (Tony Curran)—a very powerful but shady Castihan businessman—and his followers. Most of the series follows the antics surrounding these political and cultural differences, in which Amanda is eventually challenged for her seat as mayor by Datak. Not surprisingly the season is filled with a host of secrets, treachery, lies, and scheming from Datak to bolster his cause.

Then there is the search for very powerful artifacts, which are known to be somewhere in the mines of Defiance. Many are willing to kill to get the artifacts, most surprisingly of which is the former mayor Nicolette Riordan (Fionnula Flanagan). It is later revealed the artifacts are the key to a powerful ancient ship.

Throughout the series we see protagonist Nolan keeping the order as much as possible to keep Defiance safe from not only internal power struggle, but from external confrontation as well. Which comes in the from of the Volge, Irathient Riders, and The Earth Republic. Nolan, his deputy-daughter Irisa, and deputy Tommy LaSalle (Dewshane Williams), handle most everything in stride, with the town coming together to aid in extreme circumstances.

As it stands Nolan is pretty much a bad-ass who can handle most any situation, due to his military training and experience in the Pale Wars. As a lawman he’s a likable guy and holds a strong allegiance to the mayor who hired him. Iriza on the other hand doesn’t carry that charm. She is a quiet and very violent person who acts one hundred percent on emotion. As the story unfolds we find there is something special about her that is only starting to unfold by the end of the season. We eventually find the artifact found somehow has something to due with Iriza, and awakens special powers within her.

All in all, for me to say that I’m excited about season two would be a it of an overstatement. And I dare not say the overly used phrase “cautiously optimistic.” I’ll continue to watch this show with the same perspective I’ve had from the start, not expecting a lot, but welcoming the occasional pleasant surprise. The second season of Defiance begins sometime in June on the SYFY channel.

Source: Wikipedia, Official Defiance Website

So, I Watched Flight — Denzel, Planes, and Addiction

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I really, really liked this movie. Flight is not so much the movie said title implies, but one that takes you through the winding road of the ramifications of uncontrolled addiction. And Flight does so in top form.

Flight stars the Oscar-award winning actor Denzel Washington, along with Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadle, Jon Goodman and Kelly Reilly in supporting roles. We see Denzel portraying Whip Whitaker, an alcohol/drug-addicted pilot who has to deal with the fallout of being caught flying under the influence.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been an open and shut case, but Whip’s intoxication only comes to light after he miraculously saves nearly all of his passengers and crew, in the wake of a disaster deemed “an act of God”. All but six survived the disaster, but in the wake of such undeniably grim odds, Whip’s wit, experience, and intuition, enabled him to pull of an almost impossible maneuver. Only after this disaster does the ensuing medical analysis reveal Whip’s aforementioned alcoholic state.

While initially one would think this is movie is about the miracle that was the safe landing of a plane in peril, in reality, it’s all about addition. And the narrative of Whips struggle to overcome what we find is a devastating illness that has not only destroyed his career, but also his family.

In the wake of the plane crash, Whip is initially deemed a hero, the media is all aflutter about the miracle that was. Whip managed to accomplish the impossible. But soon after ensuing investigations, he finds himself in hot water with the Federal Flight Administration about possible criminal charges due to his intoxication while flying.

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This movie is the story of the ramifications thereof. And while to journey to get to the heart of Whip’s problems is great, still the story leaves something to be desired. Greatest of which is that it doesn’t just come out and say why Denzel’s character has become so addicted. The movies alludes that it may have had something to do with his father’s passing, which may have been escalated even more when his wife couldn’t deal with his drinking episodes, which ultimately results in a disconnected relationship with his family, and a son that hates him. I only wish they would have explored this avenue a bit more, giving just a bit more explanation. And maybe this was purposely left as an exercise for the viewer to decide. Even so, it felt a bit lacking. That being said, he does come out and say at some point in the movie that, “I drink because I want to and that is what I like and nobody will stop me.”, but even this seems only to scratch the surface at best.

As far as performances go, Danzel delivers on a believable character that felt very real and raw. This movie only underlines the fact that Denzel plays a great anti-hero, a role I have grown to love seeing him portray. The supporting cast ties to shape him up, doing their best to get him through this ordeal that may not only end his career, but may land him in jail.

Bruce Greenwood plays the role of Whip’s mentor and long-time friend Charlie, a role not too dis-similar from his role in the Star Trek reboot. He is in Whip’s corner, even though Whip doesn’t necessarily want him to be. Charlie is also a union representative. He and Don Cheadle’s character work together to not only save Whip, but clear the airline of all negligence. Rounding out Whip’s corner is John Goodman, who plays his fellow addict friend, and Kelly Reilly, who is a recovering addict turned loved interest.

After the events of the crash, the movie is all about Danzel battling his addiction, while trying not to get thrown in prison.

All-in-all, anyone who loves Denzel would love this movie. He delivers another stellar performance. The pacing of my movie manages to keep you on your feet, even after the major action event of the plane crashing, which takes place early on. The ending is sure to keep you guessing as we are never entirely sure if Whip will change his overly addictive ways to make it though an ordeal that will determine the path of the remainder of his life. If you like Danzel, airplanes, and addition-movies, this may be for you.

Bing It On: Taking The Bing Search Challenge

Many Google patrons have attempted to brave the waters of the Bing search engine, and many said adventures have ended in peril. For the avid Google user, even the notion of switching to what many see as the inferior search engine is met with much angst. But to really try Bing—I mean giving a truly honest try—may not end as badly as one might think. Tempting fate without the right amount of providence may be a foolish endeavor for some, but I guess you can call me the fool.

Hands down the most popular opinion around the inter-webs is that Google has the best search engine. By best, meaning that in more cases than not, you will find the information you want very easily, with little to no additional effort. Most of the time your sought after answer is presented on the first page of results. This makes for a happy camper, hence the popularity. And with additional services of high to moderate popularity like Google Mail, Google Analytic’s, Google Ad-Sense, and Google Plus, the ability for Google to bolster their beloved search engine by leveraging these additional services has only strengthened over time.

But what about Bing? First off, I’d like to say that the results just aren’t as good. At least for the type of content I search for in particular. Obviously your results may vary, depending on the type of queries that peak your interest. That being said, I do feel the search results are good enough. Most people won’t be searching on the various nuances of programming languages as I do. Most people will just need basic results for basic things. And in that aspect, Bing is okay. Not great, but good enough.

And I guess it’s worth pointing out that Microsoft has attempted to foster its own Google Plus-like integration by providing integration with Facebook. And it kinda works, but is not all together as seamless as what their counter-part provides. Reason being, Facebook is another service that requires another log-in. Which gets me to my next point. Because Google can levee Gmail, Plus, and most notably Ad-Sense, further enhancing their ability to give highly personalized results is only a matter of pooling the resources. Which is why—more often than not—Google search just feels like it knows what your looking for, because, well, it does.

Do these services provide a huge advantage for Google? Yes. But the story isn’t over yet. Microsoft posses many advantages as well. Though they are vastly different from the service-oriented nature of the advantages Google uses to make their service great, Microsoft’s leg-up consists mostly from the intrinsic value of being everywhere. Microsoft still dominates the desktop market, and will do so for the foreseeable future. And while tablets and mobile devices have started to chip away at their over-all personal computer dominance, it may be a while before—or if—the tide turns.
So, to further elaborate on the last point. Microsoft Windows comes with Internet Explorer installed, and Internet Explorer’s search is set to Bing by default. Microsoft still holds an enormous percentage of the PC market share, and the PC market share versus tablet/mobile market share still holds in their favor.

I guess one could think of Microsoft’s biggest task as keeping the users it already has by default. And again, with Google dominance, this is no small order. Which has led Microsoft to do its best to sully the Google name by launching its “Scroogled” advertisement campaign, which aims to inform users of Google parsing of email to present ads in Gmail. Screwed by Google, get it? And while this campaign is not really going to make anyone who if faithful to Google hop back on the Microsoft bandwagon, it may just in fact keep a good number of users on Bing. The ad-campaign is obviously geared toward promoting fear, no question.

All in all, only you can decide which search engine is right for you. If you’re into the whole Google ecosystem, it’s probably worth-while for you to stick with Google to receive more focused/tailored results. The same can be said of Bing, but to a much lesser extent. Again, Google search is superior to Bing in almost every way, but having faithfully used Bing for almost everything over that last few months, it’s good enough. And maybe that’s all it hopes to be.

Extended Functionality: Hear The Word

For users on the Windows Phone 8 platform, Study The Word now has extended functionality by providing an optional in-app purchase for Hear The Word.

Like our Verse Of The Day in-app purchase item, the name says it all. The new Hear The Word feature provides the user with the ability to kick-back, relax, and meditate on the word as it is reads to you. For a more interactive approach, feel free to follow along with the verses, via a hands-free experience of reading along with your device.

Hear The Word, along with Verse Of The Day, adds additional useful functionality to your favorite free Bible application on Windows Phone.

Stay Tuned, More To Come

Tweaking The Xbox One Game Plan

With the new generation of gaming upon us, the race for console dominance has just begun—again. Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are all geared up to duke it out in what should be a very interesting battle of the boxes.

There is no question that Sony has garnered the hearts and minds of gamers thus far in the console war, capitalizing on each and every blunder Microsoft made early on. And while the gap between the two still feels apparent, all is not lost. There are a few things Microsoft could do to ensure control of their destiny.

Remove Entertainment Apps From Under The Xbox Live Umbrella. One of the top complaints against Xbox is that entertainment apps are under a paid umbrella, in effect making Xbox users pay twice for most entertainment services. This is by far the most egregious of things about the Xbox as a console. Developers have to pay a lot of money to get their apps approved on the console, and then Microsoft is making users pay to use them. Microsoft, stop it.

Include Xbox Music in Xbox Live. Okay, I know Microsoft has already announced free streaming from the console with an Xbox Live subscription, but what it they increased the value of Xbox Live by also offering a full-fledged Xbox Music Pass with your live account. It would not only bolster Xbox Music, but give Windows Phone users extra value on their devices.

Fully Integrate Xbox One and Windows 8 Games. While we wait for the indie-scene to fully come to fruition on Xbox One, Microsoft could really have a true Trojan horse if it implemented Windows 8 Games. I have to admit that thus far the Windows 8 game offerings haven’t been as strong as their phone counterparts, but they are there—and growing fast.

Find A Way To Close The Price Gap. When asked about the motivating factor for purchasing a PlayStation 4 over an Xbox One, the number one excuse is almost certainly the fact that the PlayStation 4 is one-hundred dollars cheaper. And even the most avid Xbox fan has to agree. So in the long run, Microsoft has to find a way to bridge the price gap. And although there is clear argument that you are getting a greater value with the greater price, it doesn’t refute the fact that almost everyone will consider the price gap when choosing a console—especially mothers. And as much as I hate to say it, un-bundling the Kinect may be the only option. Or re-introduce their subsidy pricing program.

In conclusion, looking back at the amount of change the Xbox 360 made over its lifespan, brings a promising outlook on how much the Xbox One and even the PlayStation 4 could evolve over the course of their lifetimes. Of course the most obvious answer that I left out from above was to have great games. Since the hardware is set in stone, software will make the difference, weather is be in the form of games, apps, or services. This will certainly be a great generation, and I for one can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.

Gasping For Air

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Here is something I wrote a while back, with a few tweaks here and there. Sometimes writing is the best way to deal with life.

At wits end. I don’t know what to do. Going forward in love only reaps the same conclusion as when I was ignoring the possibility of reconciliation. Nothing has changed.

Our offspring are levied as your own personal pawn to do with them as you please. By your calculations, placing hate on the other side of the equation balances me out. My feelings and thoughts are not given consideration.

I want a change from this eternal madness that is perpetuated by my own thought that somehow things might be just fine. The foolish thought that love conquers all still lingers in my heart. Maybe the aforementioned thought still rings true, but is absent due to the fact that any love you may have had died a long time ago.

The love you had has been replaced by hate. Spurred on by distant desires and unfulfilled dreams. Dreamy eyes replaced by a buried brow and springtime kisses pushed aside.

Absurd allegations amongst mental calamity has proven fatal for our family. Maybe a happy home was never meant to be. And since that which is asserted is so deafly untrue, it only deepens my sadness as I sit slumped over the missed opportunity. Oh why has winter come to take the joy of fall, the joy of all. Now I lay wounded on the battlefield. Gasping for air. Death is eminent.

But I serve a living God. The same way he prepared a fish for Jonah, he can do for me. No, us. Got to have faith and believe.

Extended Functionality: Verse of the Day

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For users on the Windows Phone 8 platform, Study The Word now has extended functionality by providing an optional in-app purchase for Verse of the Day.

The name says it all. The new Verse of the Day feature provides the user with an inspirational verse each and every day they open the application. Verses have been carefully curated from many sources, to provide rich and uplifting verses that will spur the user in their daily pursuit to become closer to God.

Additionally, verses can be shared by holding the verse, which will reveal a number of sharing options, including SMS, Share To Email, Share To Social Networks, Share Screenshot, and Send To Clipboard. These sharing options makes it simple to pass the inspiration on to others in your circle.

Verse of the Day, along with Hear The Word, adds additional useful functionality to your favorite free Bible application on Windows Phone.

Stay Tuned, More To Come

Study The Word 1.5 For Windows Phone 8 Available Now!

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We are excited to announce that an update is available for Study The Word for users on Windows Phone 8 devices. This update provides features such as: inline verse navigation, bookmarks, live-tile support, and in-app purchase options, which include verse of the day and text-to-speech functionality. A lot of under-the-hood work has gone into this release.

Inline Verse Navigation

Prior to this update navigating to a verse would simply place you on a page which contained the verse you were looking for. While this worked, this structure was very rigid and required the user to still ‘find’ the verse on the displayed page. Now, with inline verse navigation, a verse navigated to will always be displayed as the first verse on the page. Display is now more dynamic, and it doesn’t leave the user having to do more work.

Bookmarks

We are extremely proud to introduce one of the most requested features, bookmarks. We wanted to make sure this feature was simple and intuitive. Simply tapping along the left edge of a verse will ‘bookmark’ it, which adds a bar along the left side of the verse, denoting it as bookmarked. An additional tap will remove said bookmark. Simple. Navigating to the main page of the application will show a list of all bookmarks by date. This feature will evolve as time passes and we are able to implement more of the ideas we have in store.

Live Tile Support

Tiles now support Windows Phone 8 flip-tile functionality. A tile will flip to show the last verse you navigated to, or the verse of the day if you have that option enabled. Additionally, tiles now support all three sizes that are available on Windows Phone 8.

In-App Purchase Options

Now, on the Windows Phone 8 platform, Study The Word has a few in-app purchase options. The ‘Verse Of The Day’ option, adds verse of the day functionality, providing a daily, inspirational verse to the application home screen. The ‘Hear The Word’ option, adds text-to-speech functionality, providing a method for verses to be read to you aloud.


What is Study The Word? Study The Word is a simple, but useful, Bible application for Windows Phone. It is designed to be a quick reference to the bible for those looking to partake of the word, on the go.

Features simple navigation, verse text resizing, multiple English versions available via free download, and saves recent history. Due to copyright restrictions, only public domain translations are included. Bible versions like ‘New King James Version’ and ‘New International Version’ are copyrighted works.


An update for Windows Phone 7 devices will be coming in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Looking for ‘Study The Word’ BETA Testers

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First off, thanks to everyone using Study The Word on your Windows Phone. Releasing our first application has been fun, as well as challenging. Feedback–good or bad–from each and every user has been invaluable. Now I must ask you for even more input.

We are on the verge of releasing the next version of Study The Word and are looking for beta testers. If you are willing to install and use the BETA version of Study The Word for a few weeks, it would really help us take a huge step in getting the next full release out for all users. A few of the upcoming features are below.

Direct Verse Navigation — Navigate directly to selected verse as first item on page, this allowing a more fluid and dynamic display of text while browsing the bible.
Improved Search — Search now using an improved search algorithm ,which yields faster results, and also allows for infinite-scrolling of results.
Bookmarks — Bookmark a verse by tapping the space on the left edge of a particular verse.
Sharing — Share a verse or chapter by doing a simple hold gesture.
Verse of the Day — Displays a fresh inspirational verse, each day you open the app. Windows Phone 8 only in-app purchase. Free during BETA.
Hear the Word — Uses the phones text-to-speech capability to read the bible to you. Windows Phone 8 only in-app purchase. Free during BETA.

So, if you would like to participate, please click on the link below and take a brief two-question survey confirming your participation.

Survey Closed, Thank You