Category Archives: Buttons & Screens

All things tech!

Seeing Clearly with Google Glass

google glass wornGoogle Glass is fast becoming a reality more than just a crazy pipe dream, with Google releasing technical specifications for the wearable computing device this week. Google will start shipping early editions of the smartglasses to app developers this week.
And for once, news of a new techno toy doesn’t excite me. It kinda freaks me out actually. As someone who has to wear glasses to fix eyesight problems, the thought of people choosing to wear them so they can connect with the internet just seems weird.
Do we really need something interrupting our interaction with the world more so than smart devices already do?
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Winter is coming: the premiere of Game of Thrones

game of thronesCold rain has fallen in Sydney this week, signalling the end of summer. Yes, winter has come! And, excuse the terrible pun, so has Game of Thrones!

The most anticipated television show of the year has finally aired, smashing records in the US; not only on the ye ‘olde television set but online as well. With the season premiere shown three times in the one night on HBO, around 6.7 million people in the US watched one of the three airings. This doesn’t include more than one person sitting around the TV, so the figure could very well be more.

In Australia, the show is “fast-tracked” onto Foxtel each week. While this next statement could cause arguments in itself, Australia’s free-to-air television has pretty substantial quality on its own without the need to pay for a cable service.

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An NBN Alternative: The Coalition Prepares Their Rebuttal

PrintThe National Broadband Network – a key policy of both Rudd and Gillard’s Labor governments – has been widely criticised by the Coalition for being too expensive and for taking too long to be rolled out. Malcolm Turnbull, the Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, has been particularly vocal on the topic, but so far the party has been quiet when it comes to an actual policy.

That is until now. Turnbull is expected to make an announcement on the details of the policy the Liberal Party would take to the election this week, with experts tipping it to happen tomorrow.

The imminent announcement looks set to focus on the financial differences between the two policies, with new analysis contained in the Coalition’s broadband policy suggesting the final cost of the NBN roll out could be more than double and exceed $90 billion by the time it is finished. Continue reading

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The Art of Gameplay

Screenshot from "Bientôt l’été", the latest in artful gaming.

Screenshot from “Bientôt l’été”, the latest in artful gaming.

The last few years have seen a steady rise in non-traditional games that push the boundaries of the medium itself. These titles are proving that games are not only an interactive form of literature and storytelling, but are also capable of being considered as forms of art. These games are not only aesthetically stunning are also inspired, thought provoking and incredibly moving.

Like all progressive forms of art, there are those that challenge the idea of video games being classified as art. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert in particular has been vehemently opposed to this notion. In a 2010 he wrote an article titled  ‘Video Games Can Never Be Art’ where he not only argued this claim, but did so whilst admitting that he hasn’t actually played any games that fans consider works of art.

Art is subjective. No one will ever 100% agree on what is and isn’t art, and that’s okay. If Ebert wishes to believe and profess that video games aren’t art, that’s his prerogative  However, to state that an entire medium of expression can never achieve the status of being ‘art’ is incredibly short-sighted. Furthermore, to make this claim without bothering to experience some truly beautiful games is simply an example of poor research.

Some of you out there may not be particularly well acquainted with the world of gaming. Like movies and literature, the gaming medium is home to a vast variety of genres. Furthermore, the games within them range from simplistic and light-hearted, to violent and blood thirsty, to heartbreakingly beautiful. Today I will introduce you to two games that are both highly praised and almost universally considered as art in the gaming world. If nothing else, they certainly have changed the way in which people view game play in general. Continue reading

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The Modern Miss Bennet

Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation.

One may argue that since the release of the iconic Bridget Jones’ Diary, there has been an over abundance of Pride and Prejudice adaptations. To those people, I say “Yes, you’re probably right, BUT GIVE ME MORE.”

My Austen insanity aside, let’s have a quick look at a few of the more recent adaptations:

Bride and Prejudice (2004) – A surprisingly charming Bollywood retelling.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) – A feature film staring Keira Knightley. It’s still too soon for me to talk about this. Just… I can’t.

Lost in Austen (2008) – An Austen obsessed fan gets sucked into the world of Pride and Prejudice, and whilst trying to maintain the story manages to destroy it in every way possible. I thought this was going to be horrible, but it’s actually incredibly clever and hilarious.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009)Pride and Prejudice. With Zombies. This has been adapted into a game, a graphic novel and there have been talks of a feature film. There has also been a prequel, a sequel and various other spin offs.

Austenland (2007)– Yet another Austen obsessed woman travels to a Jane Austen theme park in an attempt to find her real life Mr. Darcy. There is a film adaptation coming out this year.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: breathing new life into an Austen classic.

Last year, Pride and Prejudice made its Vlog debut in the form of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – a modern story where the protagonist, Lizzie Bennet, shares her life with the internet as part of a grad school project.

The show calls itself an “innovative, original episodic video and social media series produced for the web.” In reality, it’s an addictive bi-weekly retelling of Jane Austen’s most iconic tale, in which Darcy is a hipster, Lizzie is a beleaguered grad student and her mother is an aging Southern Belle just as desperate to marry off her daughters as she was in 1813. Oh, and Kitty is an actual cat. LBD is Clueless for the web generation, and viewers experience the story in real time as Lizzie’s videos get interrupted by her sisters, friends – and a certain brooding hero. Continue reading

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SMH’s New Look Smashed By Social Media

smh homepageThe Sydney Morning Herald has relaunched their website complete with a new, and according to Twitter, terrible design. The relaunch of the website coincided with the launch of The Sydney Morning Herald as a compact edition, replacing the overly large broadsheet edition.

According to the editors, the changes to the site make the site easier to use. It has streamlined content and grouped related topics together. If you’re wanting a crash course in the changes, and what the editors of SMH think of them, check out their piece on it here.

However, many Twitter users weren’t happy with the changes, angrily posting their frustrations, using the hashtag #bringbackoldsmh.

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Leads for Learning – A Short Guide to Some Scientific Sources

study

This week heralds my official return to uni for the year, and my progression from regular student to HONOURS student. What does that mean? Apart from the new privilege of being able to borrow books from university libraries other than my own, it means that this year I am in charge of my own learning, and am completing a research project that will culminate in a fat thesis at the end of the year.

But where does a science researcher get their information from? Sure, they learn plenty from their own experiments and studies, but there’s no point reinventing the wheel – we try and build upon the work of other researchers. When scientists make findings, they will publish them in an academic journal for other scientists to see and evaluate and then use in their own work. But let me tell you, these papers can be super dry and a bit arduous – and that’s even if you do understand all the technical terms. So if you’re not a passionate expert in a particular scientific field but want to see some legitimate science, where can you go? Here are a few suggestions….

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The Rhythm and Hues of Hollywood

Like anyone, I love a good movie or television series.

I was hooked into Lost and Heroes all those years ago. I couldn’t afford any merchandise at the time, being a high school student; but if I could have I am sure I’d still be stuck with figurines and posters. I even named my indoor plant Ando!

Sadly Ando is no longer with us (the plant, not the actor), but it was around to see the Writer’s Guild of America strike occur way back in 2007 and 2008. All of Hollywood was brought to its knees when screenwriters went on strike, demanding better working conditions and ultimately, payment. (As you’ll know, if you’ve watched Lost or Heroes, both of these shows suffered in terms of storyline through the strike.)

It was at this time that YouTube took to the stage. Many television shows created by actors and budding writers in those months came to light through internet distribution. Probably the most notable is Joss Whedon’s Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris and featuring Nathan Fillion. Internet distribution meant that people could keep the world entertained without having to be a “scab” and deal with studios, who were the people not paying the writers who create from scratch the product they make money from. That all sounds reasonable, right?

Wait, what’s that sound?

My DVD collection of Spartacus, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead call to me; heavy with visual effects in every episode. My House Stark scarf is being delivered from the USA as we speak because I’m so in love with the show! I even saw Oscar-winning Life of Pi at the cinema to be sure I got the entire experience.

Yet, I am horribly saddened. The Visual Effects studio that created the amazing CG tiger Richard Parker (above), has gone bankrupt.

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Social Media Supremacy: The Battle of Facebook and Google+

fbvsgplusI think the oldest internet service I use is Hotmail. It is for no reason other than that my email address is like my home address; I just can’t be bothered to change it. Through Hotmail though, I learned that good ol’ MSN Messenger had been ditched by Microsoft in favour of Skype. Which I think is a smart move, Skype is the number one VOIP service.

It made me a little nostalgic, thinking back to nights wasted chatting to friends, so proud that I knew all the emoticon shortcuts by heart. It then led to recalling MySpace and the realisation that, yes, I’ve been using Facebook now for 5 years. Five whole years!

Facebook first fell into my lap in December of 2007. Having just digitised my parents wedding photos from Kodak slides, my sister insisted I join to share them. Once the pictures were up, there was only one last thing left to do: update my status for the first time. After much personal deliberation, I settled on: “(Penelope) is wondering where the ants in her room are coming from!”

Facebook_vs_Google_01

In retrospect, perhaps I should have waited and begun with a simple “Merry Christmas!” on Christmas morning.

Facebook has held the trophy for some years now. Eclipsing MySpace in what felt like a matter of months, Facebook is now a social machine. Many have tried to take a slice of the pie, Google the most notable. And it got me thinking: what is the difference between Google+ and Facebook anyway? A social networking site is a social networking site… aren’t they the same? Continue reading

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Ruby Review: Exploring Adobe’s Creative Cloud

I had a gym membership once. I used for about two weeks before I gave up. I’m not gym material for one, but the other reason I cancelled my membership was to direct my funds to something else that I love even more: the new Adobe Creative Cloud.

My Photoshop skills are entirely self-taught. As a teen, I would spend hours scouring Google for Photoshop tutorials that ranged from learning how to use filters to create lightning, to professional photo touch-up tips. I was unstoppable.

Then I started working and I felt guilty that, now that I could actually afford to buy the software, I didn’t have to… well, “borrow” it from other people.

So when I caught wind of a possible subscription service to some Adobe products I waited…

And waited…

And waited…

Until finally, Adobe released their new subscription service for their new CS6 range. For what used to be about $1,000+ outright, I can now pay AU$62.99 a month to access all of my Adobe products and receive any updates to the programs for free. So when they finally fix that bug that annoys you?¹ You get it for free and you get it straight away.

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