RANDOM REACTION: iPad mini

The hands in these ads always look fake to me

As I mentioned previously, I was intrigued by the iPad mini because of its lower price and its size. The popularity of Apple’s newest wunderkind meant that I was going to have to hunt for one, but after a few weeks of looking, I finally got my grimy paws on a 16GB white iPad mini last week.

If there is one thing I have learned from owning my Acer Iconia Tab A100, it is that tablets are fairly close to useless without data, so I purchased a model with a cellular modem. I have used my iPad mini for just over a week and I am very impressed with it so far.

I have a friend that used to work at an Apple store. In talking with him about the mini, I found it hard to describe just how different it felt to use the iPad compared to other devices. He wasn’t surprised at that and mentioned that it was fairly common for folks to have difficulty in describing the experience of using one. I took that as a challenge, thought it over and I think I may have found a phrase:

The iPad doesn’t get in the way.

I know that sounds odd, so allow me to elaborate: In using my Android tablet, and indeed, this is the case with many portable devices, the device itself will not work as well as it should. I then have to stop what I am doing to deal with its idiosyncrasies, interrupting my work. For example, while typing, every now and then the keyboard on my Iconia would barf up a bunch of letters instead of what I wanted to type. I would then have to stop and correct the mistake before continuing. In contrast, I can type away on my iPad mini with abandon, fairly confident that the software will catch the overwhelming majority of my mistakes.

Android just feels clunky and half-done to me; a hodgepodge of different bits and pieces glued together to make a Frankenstein of an OS that works…but doesn’t work well.. iOS and its apps, on the other hand, feel more like a unified system. I don’t have to go through a relearning process with each new iOS app I install, and it is very responsive.

While I have no doubt that metaphorical wrinkles and dings will soon appear on my iPad as I get to know it better, I am a very happy owner so far.

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Headlines and Butterflies

Must be a country music fan…

I don’t have a family of my own as of yet, so I spend Thanksgiving with my parents.  I drive down to my hometown, catch up with friends, bake a pie or two, eat lots of Mom’s good food, watch football and maybe do a little shopping.  I also make it a point to read the town newspaper.  I saw the article pictured at right and chuckled to myself, thinking: ‘yeah, its amateur night.’  It also made me think about the time I had applied for a job at that same newspaper years ago.

I didn’t get the gig because I didn’t have any writing samples on me at the time.  I remember being irritated about that after the fact because I have two college degrees and this wasn’t exactly The Washington Post I was applying to.  “How hard is it to write about honor rolls, City Council meetings and the occasional tractor accident?” I probably thought to myself at the time.

I got over it, life went on and I would eventually go on to write other things: short stories, video game reviews, podcasts and this blog.  I never again thought about the snub until I saw that poorly written headline.  As people are oft to do, I started to think about ‘what might have been.’  I quickly dismissed those thoughts to the back recesses of my mind, because I had better things for it to do, like get to work on the two short stories I need to have done by the end of next week.

Among other things, I subscribe to what is called the “Butterfly Effect.”  Simply put, it states that a small change can ultimately have a much larger impact at a later point in time.  “Does the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas,” and all that.  You see the theory mentioned a lot in science fiction, especially where time travel is concerned, and it is also the title of a movie that I’ve never bothered to see.

Thus, I believe that if you are truly happy in your current situation, you cannot have any regrets at all.  Even the smallest decision or event from years ago may have significantly altered your destiny.  So don’t waste your time wistfully thinking about ‘what might have been.’  If you are not happy with your situation, do something about it, even if it is a small step.  Small steps can eventually lead to something bigger and doing something is always better than doing nothing.  On the other hand:

If you are content with your life…

Be happy,

Be thankful,

but most of all, be you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Has Nintendo Jumped The Shark?

Detractors of certain games, genres, and even systems often complain that “all they do is make the same game over and over again.”  As much as I hate to admit it, I’m starting to feel that way about Nintendo.

I first got this vibe when Super Mario Galaxy 2 was released.  I still haven’t picked it up and don’t really have any desire to.  The New Thing in that game was the addition of Yoshi.  Yay.  New Super Mario Bros. 2 was announced and I reacted to the whole “COLLECT A BAJILLION COINS!” thing with a great big “whoop-dee-doo.”

Its not just what some call “sequelitis,” either. Indeed, the Big N is almost expected to drop new Mario or Zelda games every so often, its what they do. To their credit, Nintendo has kept their franchises fresh by evolving and adding to their gameplay over the years, but I now find myself unexcited and uninterested in Mario’s latest adventures.  It also doesn’t help that the one franchise I wouldn’t mind seeing them drag into the ground (StarFox) hasn’t seen a new game since 2006.

The Wii U is now here and its not even on my radar; I find myself more interested in hunting down an iPad mini.  As much as I hate to admit it, it’s going to take more than just another Mario or Zelda game to get me to drop the cash for a Wii U.

They just aren’t special to me anymore, and there’s something sad about that.

Wii Snooze

zzzzz…

It wasn’t until a few days ago that I realized that the Wii U is being released in the USA this Sunday.  It sneaked up on me the same way like Thanksgiving did.  But whereas I am excited about spending time with family and watching football and eating good food and shopping and a long weekend away from the office, I have virtually zero interest in the Wii U.

I was interested in the system after the Wii U’s debut at Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference.  Like the Wii, it promises to provide new ways to play games.  I even wrote an article discussing the similarities between it and the 3DS for original-gamer.com.  This year’s Nintendo press conference, however, completely let the air out of that balloon.  All I saw was Mario, a bunch of recent releases, and one or two mildly interesting games.  One of which was Lego City Undercover, which should say something.

While I didn’t get a Wii at launch, I did find the idea interesting and ultimately purchased one once some interesting games came out for it.  This time around, though, Nintendo is going to have to do better than dragging out yet another Mario or Zelda game.

My apathy towards the Wii U leaves me feeling a little sad: Part of me is wondering if Nintendo has jumped the shark, but that’s a discussion for a future time.

In Defense of Apple

Despite owning a 24-inch iMac, I’m not a terribly big fan of Apple, OS X or even iTunes.  Its a fine machine, I just find OS X clunky.  That iMac still runs Snow Leopard, and boots into Windows 7 these days.  Indeed,  I seldom find myself venturing into OS X unless I have to.

The iPad was one of the tablets I was considering when I was shopping for one earlier this year.  I decided not to get one because it (indeed, all 10-inch tablets) ended up being too large to type on comfortably, and the price was more than I was willing to pay.  I ended up with a Acer Iconia TAB 100, which is a pretty good device, but its relatively short battery life (5 hours) combined with a lack of charging options (AC charger or nothing) have kept it from getting extended use.

Enter the iPad mini.  It almost sounds like a slam dunk: it does everything its big brother does, is smaller, has great battery life, and is less expensive.  Of course, ‘less expensive’ does not mean ‘cheap.’  Nevertheless, I am contemplating one, because for all the griping I do about Apple, I must admit that there are quite a few things they do right:

  • They make quality stuff:  My iMac is about three and a half years old and it still works as well as it did when I first got it.  The iPad mini may be pricey, but then again, its not made out of plastic, either.
  • Their stuff works together: Since Apple makes their own hardware, OS, and software, the integration between everything is pretty seamless.
  • They know when to say ‘no mas’: As I mentioned before, Apple has no problem ending support for old software; it’s a habit that many companies would do well to imitate.
  • They actually upgrade their software: Apple is good about updating OS X and iOS fairly regularly, and those updates are available to most users.  With Android devices, you are left at the tender mercies of your manufacturer, or even worse, your cell phone carrier.

Finally, as an iTunes publisher, I’m married to Apple whether I like it or not. So why not take that final step?

RANDOM REACTION: Wreck-It Ralph

Thank you, Disney, for finally giving us a really good movie about video games.  Wreck-It Ralph is an homage to all of video gaming, not just the ‘arcade days.’  The best compliment that I can give to it is that you don’t have to know anything about games to enjoy it.  Granted, you’ll get more out of it if you have played video games, but they do a good job of explaining how things work in the world behind the arcade screen.

The video game cameos/references/in-jokes all made sense.  I never got that feeling of “HEY! LOOK! IT’S SO-AND-SO! AREN’T WE CLEVER!” that sometimes comes with movies like this.  Everything just felt right.

Despite being labeled as a kids’ movie, Wreck-It Ralph has some dark moments and is rated PG.  There were plenty of funny moments, and I heard as many adults laughing (including myself) as I did kids throughout.  I am going to gladly watch it a few more times in the theaters and buy the inevitable Blu-Ray release.

YOU’RE GONNA LOVE IT!