Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Minecraft 0.6.0 Update

Earlier today, Minecraft PE for Android and iPhone were both updated to 0.6.0 alpha. Included in this update is:
  • Armor (Leather, Iron, Gold and Diamond)
  • Signs
  • New Bricks - Nether Brick, Nether Rack, Pillared Quartz, Chiseled Quartz, Chiseled Sandstone, Smooth Sandstone
  • Mossy Stone and Cracked Smooth Stone Bricks are available, but only in Creative Mode 
  • Several different types of stairs have been added.
  • All Stairs Can Be Placed Directionally
  • Sandstone Slabs
  • Slabs can now be placed either on the top or bottom half of a block
  • Crafting slabs give you 6 now rather than 3. 
  • Clouds (only in "fancy graphics" mode)
  • Baby animals
  • Sheep can be colored with dye
  • Stone block crafting is moved to a Stone Cutter block
  • Sand and Gravel blocks are affected by gravity, 
  • Nether Reactor spawns Nether Rack blocks instead of Obsidian. 
  • Cows drop leather
  • Some bugs related to melon spawning have been fixed
  • An improved D-pad

Steve in Iron Armor in Minecraft 0.6.0 Standing Under A Sign

Monday, January 28, 2013

Siri Would Have Been Part Of Android

There has been a lot of talk around Android communities about the revelation that Siri, the personal assistant and search software that is now integrated with iOS, was slated to become part of Verizon's release of Android before Apple came in and bought up the company that made Siri. Siri Inc originally created the app and made it available for download via the Apple App store and had announced upcoming versions of the software for Blackberry and Android. All efforts for implementation of non-Apple platforms were halted when Siri was acquired by Apple in 2010. And you know what? I'm okay with that. I'm glad Apple got it.

Siri vs Google Voice Search 

Yeah, Siri has a few neat features like being able to call you "Rock God" or whatever, but, overall, Siri seems to rely more on having a personality and being a personal assistant rather than being a reliable search platform. For that, I'm happy with Google Voice Search, even though it doesn't have a catchy name. Not only is Google Voice Search faster, more reliable and better looking than Siri, but it's funnier too. I asked it what my name was and Google Voice Search returned a list of amnesia links. Siri asked me what I wanted to be called.

I doubt that anyone is going to base their decision on buying an iPhone or an Android device based solely upon the comparisons of Siri vs Google Voice Search now. But, if you'd like a quick and easy way to ferret out the differences between them, you can look at it this way: Choose Siri if you want a personal assistant. Choose Google Voice Search if you want reliable results. Me, I want reliable results, so the choice is clear. I'm going with Google Now and Google Voice Search. And, if I want to be called "Rock God", I'll just ask my girlfriend to do it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

JigJab Gangnam Style Starring You

Whenever I'm in the mood to do something creative but I lack the creative spark to think of something cool, I often turn to JibJab for inspiration. It has almost become a tradition for me to insert myself and other friends into JibJab videos so that I can post them on Facebook. Last month, JibJab released a Gangnam Style one, starring you as Psy. You'll see mine below. No go do one yourself.

And, don't forget, you can Save 10% On Funny Birthday eCards from! You don't even need a JibJab promo code. Just follow the link.

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Review of

I'm sure you've seen the commercials by now. (no, that's not a typo) offers to pay cash for your used CDs DVDs and video games. All you need to do is type in the bar-codes of your items, review what Zumu will pay you for them, put them in a box and ship them off. Once all your items are checked in, Zumu sends you a check. Sounds easy enough, right? But how does it work? And is Zumu legit?

I was looking to get rid of a lot of the clutter around my house which meant that I'd be throwing out a bunch of media that I no longer used, most of which had been sitting in my attic for several years. I used the Zumu app on my phone to scan the barcodes, accepted the offers for my items, printed out the shipping label (Zumu pays for shipping up front) and shipped the items off. Four weeks or so later, I got a check for over $30. Not bad for a bunch of old Wii games and obscure movies.

At the very least, I can attest in this review that is legit. They're not going to scam you and just run off with your used stuff. I will say though, that if you're going to sell used items to Zumu you will have to make sure that you are aware of their policies and that you follow their submission guidelines to the letter. So far, I have no complaints about but I know that there are folks out there who aren't too pleased with them for a number of reasons. If you're wondering whether or not you should sell to Zumu, I've got a list of tips for selling to written below.

Tips for selling to Zumu

  • Don't sell to Zumu if all you have is fairly new stuff. You won't get your money's worth. Sell your newer stuff to Gamestop or and sell you older items to Zumu.
  • They have a pretty strict acceptance policy. If there are any scratches on your discs or any rips and tares in the packaging, Zumu won't accept your item.
  • It states in their terms of service that will not return any items to you that it deems unacceptable. I have no idea what they do with the unacceptable items. 
  • If you're going to take the plunge and sell to you need to find at least 10 items to bundle together. Zumu does not accept shipments of less than 10 items. 
  • Zumu does not use PayPal, so, if you have a successful trade, you'll be waiting a while for your check. I waited about four weeks. No problem. But, I have heard of some instances of Zumu neglecting to send checks or checks getting lost in the mail. At that point, you'll have to deal with Zumu customer service. 
  • Be smart about what you sell. Don't sell an item to Zumu if you think you can get more money for it via eBay or a yard sale or something. 
So, the bottom line here is that Zumu is a legit service that is great for getting rid of those old CDs DVDs and games that are cluttering up the back of your media drawers. If you set out with a mindset to clear out the clutter, you won't be disappointed. If you're looking to make a ton of money from selling to Zumu then you're doing it wrong.

Update 11/25/2013: Due to the number of complaints and scam allegations that have permeated this article, I've e-mailed the folks at and have invited them to respond to the allegations of delayed payments, bounced checks and lost merchandise. I'll post their response if/when it arrives, but I'm not going to hold my breath. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Transformers USB Memory Drive

I picked up a few novelty USB drives late last month to give away as Christmas gifts to various geek friends. Not only do they offer geek-cred, but they're practical too, storing up to 16GB. For folks like me who loved playing with transformers as a kid, this Transforming USB flash drive is a must-have. It transforms from a cassette-looking thing into Ravage, the Decepticon jungle cat.

There's definitely has more than meets the eye here with this particular Transformers USB flas drive, as there seems to be a number of different variations available. Look at the picture I took below and notice that the sculpt of the mouths are different between each Ravage. The one on the bottom seems to have been built sturdier. The Ravage on top lost its tail within 3 hours of me taking it out of the box. One other thing to note is that whichever version of the Ravage USB drive you choose, it's going to be wider than most other drives, so you may end up blocking more than one port when plugging it in. So, if you're going to order your very own Ravage Transformers USB drive, be mindful.

Transformers USB Flash Drive: Ravage.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Skyrim DLC Finally Coming To The PS3

Blessings upon Bethesda for finally releasing Skyrim DLC content for the PS3. Next month, Skyrim fans who play on the PS3 will finally be able to travel to Solstheim, home of Skyrim’s latest add-on, Dragonborn. PS3 players will have an expanded itinerary – with stops at Fort Dawnguard and Castle Volkihar – before heading back to their customized dream home as the Dawnguard and Hearthfire DLC will be released for the PS3 in February as well.

Skyrim fans on the PS3 have been taking Bethesda to task for not releasing the DLC in a timely manner and seemingly favoring XBOX 360 players. Dawnguard was released in September for XBOX 360 and Hearthfire was released in May. Bethesda developers reportedly had major issues porting over the Dawnguard content to the PS3 version of the game, thus causing the delay.

Release dates for the Skyrim DLC for the PS3 have not been confirmed yet. All Bethesda is currently saying is "February" and that Dragonborn will be released first.  However, as a mea culpa for PS3 Skyrim fans, the price for all the DLC will be 50% off during first week of release for each pack. As a PS3 player who was pretty ticked at the whole fiasco, this deal satisfies me. However, quite a few people are still butthurt over this and are saying that 50% off is not good enough and they are refusing to buy anymore Bethesda games. Some want all the DLC for free. That's obviously not going to happen. Nor should it. Personally, as a huge Skyrim fan, I'm happy just to be able to get the DLC. The discounted price is just gravy.

Talos: 1, Thalmor: O

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 Gets JellyBean

As a late Christmas present this month, the Android 4.1 Jellybean update to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 has finally gone out. I got mine updated earlier this week and have had a few days to play with it. The most obvious features in the Jellybean update are the new voice search (a Siri-like interface that doesn't talk back), the ability to dictate while offline and the introduction of Google Now, which is Google's attempt to predict what you'll need and get it to you before you even realize you need it. The theory is that your device should learn your habits and interests over time and will then be able to offer relevant traffic, weather and point-of-interest information.

Users of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 like myself who have gotten used to having the screenshot button on the dock are going to be a little miffed that the screenshot button has disappeared after updating to 4.1. Not to worry. You still have a few options to get it back. You can still take a screenshot by holding the volume-down and power key at the same time. You can also add the button back by going to your Display settings and messing with your quick launch buttons.

All things considered, the Android 4.1 update for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 has added a lot to the device with a minimum of hassle. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Minecraft: The Temple

I figured I would post some Minecraft PE pictures of some of the things I have built. Over the next few weeks, I'll post some more of the things I have created using Minecraft Pocket Edition. What you'll see below is a shot of a temple I made while in creative mode. It's a pretty simple structure, made primarily out of tree trunks  and wood planks.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Amazon Autorip And Cloud Player

Amazon has launched a new service called AutoRip this week. AutoRip gives customers free MP3 versions of CDs, available through the Amazon Cloud Player, that they've purchased anytime since 1998. What's more is that customers who purchase any AutoRip eligible CD from here on out will receive their digital copy on the Amazon Cloud Player before the actual, physical CD arrives at their doorstep.

Truly, I am surprised at how excited everyone has gotten over this. It's little more than an attempt to lock customers into their CloudPlayer service and keep them in the Kindle architecture while looking like they are giving customers something for free. I am surprised that enough people buy physical CDs from an online store to merit the demand for this service. Further, I'm surprised that people haven't already ripped the music they purchased on their own by now. It's not like Amazon AutoRip is performing a difficult service, as ripping a CD takes little effort.

Unless you own a Kindle Fire, I don't even get why you would want to use Cloudplayer rather than Google Music. That's not to say that it's a bad thing that AutoRip exists. I suppose that AutoRip has benefits for folks who were already using the Amazon Cloud Player. I think that when most of us were ripping CDs 15 years ago, we were ripping them in comparatively crappy quality (128kbps) and Amazon AutoRip gives you much better quality rips.

Really, though, it would be nice if Amazon could AutoRip books to your library as well. These days, even if I want a physical book for my collection, I would still prefer to read the digital copy in most instances. If Amazon would AutoRip books, I would actually consider buying a Kindle.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The End Of Cell Phone Subsidies?

Wireless provider, T-Mobile has said recently that it is planning to do away with its phone subsidy model next year. At the moment, whenever a customer buys a cell phone from a wireless provider, they have the option to have the cost of the phone reduced greatly so long as they agree to a long-term contract. The cost of the subsidy is recouped by the wireless carrier as part of the long-term cost of that contract. T-Mobile ending the subsidy is a risky move. Will consumers accept the higher initial cost of purchasing a phone in favor of a lower monthly contract cost? Or will they drop T-Mobile for forcing customers to pay full price for phones? Of course, when one carrier makes a game changing move like that, all the rest of them are going to be watching. Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon Communication and AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega both hinted that their companies could follow suit if the T-Mobile plan proves to be popular. I, for one, am all for ending subsidized pricing for cell phones.

The elimination of subsidized cell phones will lead to more affordable devices. Currently, most cell phone manufacturers are marketing to carriers rather than to the customer directly. Because the carriers are acting as cell phone re-sellers, they can saddle the devices with all kinds of bloatware and while masking the true cost of the phones. Also, older hardware often has its price artificially maintained by the carriers at launch level because they have already locked out the competition. Buying the phones directly from the manufacturer would allow for more reasonable rates for older phones simply due to increased competition in the marketplace.

Taking phones out of the hands of the carriers would force the likes of Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T to compete with one another purely based upon their services. This sort of focused competition would lead to better contract pricing and improved service as the carriers will be forced to differentiate themselves based upon quality of service, data speeds, and other value-added services. It's win-win, but, the question is: will the consumer support this? Many people live paycheck to paycheck and would not be able to afford a larger up-front cost even if it will save them money in the long run. So, it remains to be seen how well the plan for T-Mobile to end phone subsidies will work. All we can do now is sit and wait to see how it all plays out.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Walmart Self Checkout Aisle

I don't usually have a problem waiting in line at a fast food restaurant or in the checkout line of a store, but there's a special place in Hell reserved for folks like this who run through the self-checkout with three carts full of groceries. I nearly lost my cool when I was running through Wal-Mart with three items in my hands while these two sub-humans were carting a stockpile of coffee, creamer, teabags and other nutritional staples through the self-checkout.

Wal-Mart policy, I'm told, dictates that no employee shall turn away a customer from a checkout lane for going over the posted item limit. This includes the self-checkout (although there's no posted limit on the Wal-Mart self checkout). And this is a small part of the reason why the rules of civility have been breaking down: because people are coddled so much that they expect that the rules do not apply to them. Because the customer is always right.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm guilty on occasion of running 25 items through the express lane from time-to-time. And, while I may think it's bad form and quite possibly suspicious to use the self-checkout aisle for more than, say 10 items, there's no law saying that I have to get in line behind these idiots. Certainly, a skilled person can zip through a self-checkout aisle if they know what they're doing. However, I get the feeling that these two would spend a good three minutes just wondering where the bar code was on a single tomato.

The Camo Pants Say "Let's Do Lunch", But The Hoodie Jacket Says "You're Buyin'"

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Next Apocalypse

As most sane people expected, the Mayan Apocalypse has turned out to be yet another dud in a long line of failed end of the world predictions. This, of course, begs the question: When is the next apocalypse predicted?

  • Ronald Weinland, founder of the Church of God Preparing for the Kingdom of God has predicted that Jesus will return and that the world will end on May 19, 2013. He refers to Pope Benedict XVI as a false prophet and he himself purports to be the end-times apostle referred to in the predictions of St. Malachi. Weinland was recently convinced of tax evasion and begins his 42 month prison sentence on February 1. Which means he will be in jail during his predicted apocalypse.

  • Jean Dixon predicted that the world would end somewhere between 2020 and 2037 and would be ushered in with Christ's return. Then again, she had also predicted that the world would end on February 4, 1962. The world didn't end then, but country singer Clint Black was born on that day, so, that's almost as bad. 

  •  There remains a 1 in 250,000 chance that the near-Earth asteroid, 99942 Apophis (or just Apophis for short) will impact the Earth on April 13, 2036. Apophis has a diameter of approximately 885 ft, so, if it does impact the Earth, we'd be looking at the equivalent of about 510 megatons. It's looking less and less likely that Apophis will even impact the Earth, much less bring about a global apocalypse

  • According to some Talmudic traditions, the Messiah should come within 6,000 years of the creation of Adam and would be destroyed 1,000 years later with a period of desolation in between. This puts he beginning of the period of desolation at 2240 and the end of the desolation in 3240 

  • Most scientists predict that by 500,000,000 A.D. the Earth will be uninhabitable due to a drop in the world's carbon dioxide level. I hope, if I'm still around for this one, I'll have found a new planet to live on. Barring that, some 4.5 billion years later, our Sun will exhaust all of its hydrogen fuel and begin fusing helium which will cause it to swell so large that it will engulf the entire Earth.