Friday, May 18, 2007

Logitech G5 Laser Mouse (revised)

- I've been using a MX518 for the longest time as my primary gaming mouse. I never switched to the "G" series since Logitech did one of the dumbest things ever. They dropped the "forward" thumb button. I'm so use to having that button that it's critical in any game I play. Plus it's quite handy to have the forward button while browsing.
- Finally the G5 has been re-released with a few nice improvements including the missing Forward button. That's right both thumb buttons are back now!
- Braided Cord. Longer than the mx518 too.
- Little weight tray. I like my mice lite so I just leave the tray empty.
- Big feet for one of the smoothest, frictionless mice I've owned. It really does feel great especially on a func 1030 mouse pad.
- Nice clicky mouse wheel.
- Price was crazy expensive. $70 at best buy. I had some reward dollars I had to spend before they expired.
- On the fly sensitivity changing. Everything works fine even without setpoint. FYI setpoint hates KVM's. If you happen to plug in your mouse through a KVM and you switch to a different computer and back you lose th scroll wheel if setpoint is installed. This is not an issue if setpoint is NOT installed. FYI, I do have this mouse plugged directly into a usb port.
- Not a big fan of the cracked blue mud look.
- Nice texture and grip on the sides of the mouse.

This is definitely my new favorite gaming mouse. Highly recommended if you can find this new version of the G5 for say less than $50.

Func 1030 MBA Mousing Surface

If you are serious about your mousing surface take a look at the func 1030:

I have two of the original 1030's. The problem I had with the first one is after about 2 years the rubber frame started to warp and then the surface itself would no longer sit flat.

They came out with the limited MBA (Machined Billet Aluminum) version which of course should never warp.

I've tried everglide, ratpadz, etc. and I always come back to the func 1030 for serious gaming. I just really like the feel of their surface (smooth side).

FYI I think the archtype has now replaced this model. Just whatever you do make sure you get an aluminum frame model. Also, func pads tend to be on the smaller side. So if you like really big mouse pads these are probably not for you.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Halo 3 Beta (XBOX 360)

High Ground: Yeah I suck but I do get in an air melee kill near the end.
(sorry for the crappy shaky cam with even worse audio. I was very short on time.)

- Download size is just under 1GB.
- Lots of good info here. View my embarrassing stats here.
- I only got to play two slayer games so far: one in High Ground and the other Shotty Snipers on Valhalla. I haven't played multiplayer halo 2 in about 2 years so yeah I suck.
- Overall the beta is very polished, game play was very smooth, no real issues at all.
- Matchmaking seemed a bit faster than halo 2 and games lasted 15min each. This was always my main issue with Halo 2 and why I never really got into the multiplayer. It would always seem like it took forever to get into a game (searching for other players.....) and then once in I would get to play 5 min (of mostly dying). Just when I start to figure out the map it would be over. The ratio of waiting to join vs playing was stupid bad. So far halo 3 seems a bit better and more tolerable.
- Graphically it didn't blow me away like Gears or R6 Vegas did. Graphics are clean, ran at a very good framerate, texture detail was mostly good, terrain mesh seemed a bit low still (very halo 2 ish IMO), character/vehicle models were very good, weapon effects are nice, trees eh, water shader is very nice. I'm hoping the campaign will look even better since they often tone down the multiplayer stuff for scaling purposes.
- I like the new weapons. I got to try the beam weapon once. Yeah ummm not so good against infantry. The grav lift is cool. Things seemed pretty balanced to me in my very limited play time. I especially liked how you can pull off the mounted guns and take them with you though I don't recommended it in a Sniper level. Your walking speed greatly drops and makes you a sitting duck.
- Default controls suck! I know intuitively sticking reload/pick up weapons in LB RB made sense but actually playing that way is worthless. Having jump and melee attack on face buttons is just stupid. Those two things you use a lot in CQB and you can't aim when you are using those face buttons. I'll try moving jump and melee attack to LB/RB and maybe the reloads to the face buttons since you usually reload between battles.
- I love the replay movie feature. Basically after every game you just hit back and X to save the entire game which you can watch later at any time. They said camera controls will be in the final version. You can save multiple replays.

Overall it's about what I expected. I was never a big fan of Halo multiplayer (loved the single player), and I'm not sure if this will change my mind. The new weapons, vehicles, and equipment seem cool. I can see myself enjoying this more if I get into a party of friends and jump from game to game. By myself in random games it still has some of the long join times vs shorter play time issues though better than halo 2. I'll try and put in a few more hours to get a better feel.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cingular 8525

- About 5 days of testing and setting things up.
- So the wife's palm life"less" drive finally died. It wont turn on/charge no matter what. I even got a torx T5 screwdriver, opened it up, did all sorts of contortions of disconnecting the battery and NOTHING. It's completely dead.
- The wife is pretty much lost without her pda so a replacement was needed and quickly. I switched from palm to pocketpc a while back with my awesome HP ipaq 4150 which still works great (runs windows mobile 2003). It's been surprisingly stable and runs all the application I need. So our requirements were nothing related to palm or anything that has to do with that company ever again. The stand alone pda market is pretty much dead. Dell just closed up the axim line. HP still has a few models (but pricey). Then there is the Cingular 8525 3G that runs the full windows mobile 5.0 (touch screen) with a free upgrade to 6.0 later this summer. We've been with Cingular (errr umm I guess AT&T now) for many years. After going to look at it, it was surprisingly smaller than we expected. So with that the wife decided to give this do it all in one device a try.
- Full 3G support UMTS/HSDPA but can fall back to edge and all the way down to gprs.
- Pretty nice flip out keyboard. I wish there was a bit of space between the keys but other than that a very usable keyboard.
- No external antenna!
- Micro SD. I kind of wish they went with mini or just regular sized SD. Either way I dropped in a 2gb (max size for micro). It works formatted in fat or fat32.
- The first thing I did was flash the sucker to the latest version:
(do this at your own risk)
It went fine. This is style WM5 (wm6 won't be out for at least a few more months). One of the nice things it added was Internet Sharing (more on this later). Battery life is suppose to be improved too.
- Make sure you have the latest active sync installed (v4.5).
- We live in a city with great HSDPA coverage so I always saw the little 3G icon. Voice calls sounded great. Even the speaker phone feature is nice and clear. There is almost no need for a blue tooth headset anymore. Kind of sucks that there isn't a standard headphone jack. Instead it goes off of the mini usb jack. A set of headphones are included. There are also adapters you can find that will convert the mini usb jack to a standard 3.5mm stereo audio jack (like this one though I have never ordered form this place).
- The device only trickle charges from usb so it's recommended to use the included AC adapter charger for your everyday charging.
- Battery life has been excellent so far. The battery easily lasted the day with some heavy data activity and some voice.
- Web surfing worked pretty well once things got going. It seems like that initial connection takes quite a long time. But after that initial hit things go pretty fast. I tried using but it didn't make much difference. It was from a recommendation from here.
I'm using WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM (default pw CINGULAR1) and it seems to work ok.
- I avoided xpress mail after reading a few negative posts. I just setup a few of her pop3 email accounts using the built in outlook. I ended up using gmails smtp server (with the ability to have a different reply email) so you can easily send email from anywhere. Another option might be using cingular's servers ( or but I didn't bother trying. Gmail smtp server works just fine. Again, sometimes there is that initial pause when checking email.
- Camera is usable: 2 megapixel, movies shoot in 320X240 mp4 format. The built in flash has a very short range (just a few feet?). Can save directly to micro sd.
- I briefly tested mp3 and divx playback. I used TCPMP (best media player out there). ATI imageon decode video driver caused issues. Switching to just ATI Imageon worked fine. Videos played smoothly.
- Using resco File Explorer you can easily map network shares and copy files back and forth over wifi. This is very convenient.
- Another possibility is making skype calls:
I haven't tried this but supposedly the cpu is fast enough.

Tethering to the laptop over the 3G HSDPA network using Internet Sharing.
Each setup took about 5 min to do. It was really easy! Tests were done against
1) over bluetooh PAN (personal area network) (using built in bluetooth on my laptop).
Start up Internet sharing on the pda. Select blue tooth pan. On the pda make sure bluetooth is on and visible to other devices (both checked from menu|bluetooth settings in Internet sharing app. Click connect on the pda which connects you to the data part of the 3G network.
On the PC View network connections and you should see bluetooth network connection pan listed. Double click and the pda should show up in the available devices list. Just click add and walk through the wizard for exchanging passkeys. After that you will have a 1Mbps pan running.
down/up (kbps)
436 / 336
441 / 331
449 / 290
434 / 350

Not bad. As you have probably noticed this is much better than the old days of tethering using bluetooth DUN over serial emulation with 115kbps cap. Also gone are any complicated dial and connect strings needed to make it happen.

2) over usb.
On the pda run Internet sharing but choose usb this time.
On the pc make sure activesync 4.5 is installed. Just plug in the usb cable. A few drivers will get installed. Check Network connections on the pc and you will see a new Local Area Connection with type: windowsmobile-based internet sharing device running at 10mbps.
1053 358
1047 357
WOW!!! Yeah HSDPA is FAST! WE are talking very close to base level DSL speeds (real world usually 1.2mbps down).

bluetooth pan is very convenient though you loose about half the speed. USB is very speedy! Either way I'm VERY impressed with HSDPA!

From what I understand they probably won't notice if you tether under the cheaper pda unlimited plan as long as you don't go crazy with the bandwidth usage. Use too much bandwidth and they will take notice and charge you so tethering is a risk. The laptop data unlimited tether is like $60 which is nuts. Cingular data plans really are a mess and very confusing. Read about the risks here.

xda-developers (tons of info, forums)
Cingular forums

Applications: (tcpmp) (also installs .net 2.0 compact framework) (best ebook reader!) (nice commercial media player) (nice commercial launcher and other useful utilities) (nice free launcher) (free notepad) (game emulators) (incredible file explorer and a pretty nice launcher bar. This is a must have for the power user).

UPDATE 7/31/07:
- Check out how video looks like streamed over the internet using Orb.

UPDATE 4/7/08:
Just upgraded the phone to windows mobile 6

- Worked fine under vista. Just sync and backup everything first. Took all of about 15 min. It was really easy to do.
- After syncing back the data and reinstalling all the applications the only thing that had to be re-setup was speed dialing assignment.
- There is an unofficial tcpmp v0.81 out that works great.
I had to install the ati video patch. Also, make sure you pick ATI IMAGEON (NOT the decode one) and everything will play back perfectly.
- Tried the new google maps. Freaky how it's able to plot your current position pretty accurately without GPS.

Definitely worth doing the upgrade especially since it's free! It's almost like getting a new phone!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Madcatz Wireless Thumbpad (PS3)

- $30 at gamestop
- With the new 360 dashboard release with IM support I figured I'd give this a try.
- Comes with a tiny usb 2.4ghz dongle, the thumbpad, and 2 clear clips (one for the standard six axis controller and another for the madcatz line of ps3 controllers).
- Tested and works on ps3, xbox360, and pc. No drivers needed. On pc it shows up as a standard human interface device (HID).
- Uses 2XAAA batteries (NIMH rechargables work just fine)
- Keyboard goes to sleep after 10min of inactivity. There is also a power on/off switch on the side.
- Standard QWERTY Layout.
- The thumbpad works pretty well. The individual keys have a bit of space between them. It has a full set of function keys. I wish the backspace was a dedicated key instead of a two button combo. No esc key which is a bit odd. It's comfortable in the hands when used standalone. Construction feels fine. No windows key so you can't use any of the messenger shortcuts like windows+M on 360. Also, if you plan to use this with a PC take note that there are NO alt or ctrl keys.
- The clip for the ps3 controller works ok. It's very easy and quick to snap on and is quite sturdy. You can still get to all the controller buttons but it completely throws off the balance. It feels quite awkward with all that weight above the controller. Also, the middle keys are a bit hard to reach with your thumbs since the controller itself kind of gets in the way. For web browsing or maybe an MMO this would work ok but I wouldn't want to leave the thumbpad clipped on for say a game of Resistance.

Overall I'm pretty satisfied with the product. If you need a nice generic/universal thumbpad for you consoles or maybe even an HTPC, this works out nicely. It's something nice and small that could sit on a corner table or something instead of having to lug out a full size wireless keyboard. I plan to just leave it unclipped for the most part so I can just quickly pick it up and do some quick text entry. I'm betting the 360 dedicated thumbpad will be better but it will probably only work on the 360.

UPDATE: 5/15/07
- I've been using it lately on the 360 for IM chat. It works quite well. Here's a tip. If your messenger name is not what you want it to be go here:
And change it there. Using the latest windows client doesn't work but logging in through the web client and changing your display name there works.

UPDATE: 4/8/08
- I purchased another one of these more recently, and I've noticed they changed the design a bit. It's now thinner and has some sort of built in rechargeable battery (usb charging). It doesn't look to be user replaceable. Personally, I liked the older design better.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Afterburner: Black Falcon (PSP)

- Afterburner in the arcades had to be one of my all time favorite games. I easily spent over $100 in quarters on this game. I could finish the game in a single credit. I had every enemy formation memorized. I could sketch out in order the formations that would appear, where on the screen, and all from memory. I own afterburner on sega master system, genesis, 32x, and sega saturn (japanese import). I'm still missing the sega ages version ps2 import (still gotta pick that one up - Sega AGES 2500 Series Vol. 10 After Burner II). I've watched videos of Afterburner Climax the new arcade version (man I so want to try this. PLEASE Sega port this to a next gen console). To say I'm a big afterburner fan is a bit of an understatement.
- What made afterburner great was this core game play of trying to lock on to as many planes as fast as possible, launching your missiles earlier enough to thin out the enemy formation there for reducing the number of missiles in the return fire. Then, with some good timing you could dodge the remaining missiles. You have throttle control to help outrun threats coming from behind. The barrel rolls were almost a gimmick. They looked cool but since you had little directional control during the actual roll it got you killed more often than not. Add big explosions, skies filled with smoke trails, and a rockin soundtrack and that's basically afterburner. It was about survival, pushing deep into enemy lines against incredible odds, and trying to get to the next refuel point to get more missiles.
- This PSP pseudo sequel is now a true 3d game engine (instead of pseudo 3d using scaling sprites) and plays nothing like the original. The guns and lock on mechanic is still there but that's about it. They tried to blend in some other elements, some borrowed from ace combat like buying planes, a weird power up grabbing mechanic, and other stuff like mission objectives to destroy X number of a certain type of enemy that just doesn't seem to gel. The core missile dodging mechanic has been destroyed. Now it seems the only way to dodge missiles is to barrel roll. This is just so completely wrong. The game really lost it's focus and is a bit of a mess. The smoke trails could be more prominent. The explosions could be bigger.
- I've only played a few levels so far but I've already lost interest.
- If you need a portable jet fighting game go get ace combat (a much better game). This game isn't even an afterburner game except in name IMO.

Very disappointed.