Monthly Archives: May 2019

Apple pushes 1 million iPhone 3Gs, 10 million iPhone Apps

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Apple announced this morning that it had sold 1 million 3G iPhones over the weekend since the device's launch on Friday. The device launched in 21 countries (France, one of the original 22 countries, is sitting this one out until July 17) to long lines that lasted throughout the weekend, making this the most successful device launch yet—at least in terms of sales. This was all despite significant problems over the weekend, including unresponsive iTunes activation servers, supply issues, and up-and-down MobileMe service. 苏州美甲

Apple CEO Steve Jobs pointed out that the previous iPhone took 74 days to reach the same milestone (nevermind the fact that it was only sold in the US at that time), "so the new iPhone 3G is clearly off to a great start around the world." Indeed, worldwide adoption of the device appears to have proven doomsdayers wrong, at least for the time being, although the world will be keeping an eye on longer-term trends as the device is rolled out in more countries.

But the iPhone sales are only part of the success story. This weekend, folks hit the App Store like a school of piranhas. According to Apple, over 10 million downloads where clocked in over the weekend for the App Store, the only source for official iPhone applications. Even though some of the apps available are of dubious quality, there are many good applications that are completely free. "The App Store is a grand slam," said Jobs.

Sales milestones aside, there were some other trends that emerged over the weekend. As we mentioned above, lines were a fact of life for those seeing an iPhone in the first 48 to 72 hours after launch. At 6pm Sunday evening, we observed a 30- to 60-minute wait outside the Old Orchard Apple Store in Skokie, IL to get in and purchase an iPhone. That was the case at other Apple Stores across the country. Also, white is not so popular—from our calls to Apple Stores around the country, it became apparent that the 16GB black models were selling much quicker than the white models.

The launch momentum may not continue in the US, but there are still 50 countries that have yet to welcome the iPhone 3G. These numbers are a pretty good indication that, despite some major hiccups all weekend, eager users are willing to forgive Apple's numerous foibles in order to get their hands on the device. Combined with the lower price of entry, updated hardware, and hundreds of available applications, the iPhone makes a compelling mobile communications device for a wide variety of people, even if we don't feel that it's well-suited for serious business users (check out Ars Technica's in-depth review of the iPhone 3G to hear all the gory details). Now, does anyone still doubt that Apple will hit the 10 million mark by the end of the year?

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Apple Bluetooth Headset receives feature reduction

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Apple iPhone Bluetooth Headset then (Dock included), and now (no Dock for you!)

Starting with the Keynote at Macworld Expo 2007, the iPhone Bluetooth Headset never got much attention. That's a good thing, because it sucked. The web page for the headset at the Apple Store was filled with comments about poor reception, static, popping, or just dying after a couple days of use. I experienced many of those issues in the two days I owned one, not to mention disappointment in the lack of volume control or mute, and it goes without saying that the iPhone still doesn't do voice dialing. Finally, the iPhone Bluetooth Headset, including the Dual Dock and Travel Charger, cost an overpriced (even for Apple) $129. Well, the good news is that Apple has dropped the price $30, but the bad news is the Dock was dropped too. 苏州美甲

The Apple Bluetooth Headset now sells for $99 with Travel Charger. An iPhone Dual Dock can be had for $49, but it's for the 2G iPhone, while a Dock for just the iPhone 3G can be purchased for $29. For the math challenged, buying the Apple iPhone Bluetooth Headset and Dock saves you $1 and costs you the best feature: battery notification.

Only the Apple iPhone Bluetooth Headset displays charge levels when paired with an iPhone, a tiny headset icon appearing next to the battery life indicator on the iPhone screen. In typical Apple fashion, this good idea was extended to the charging process. When both the iPhone and headset were plugged into the Dual Dock, a headset image appeared on the iPhone display above the battery image showing charge levels of both devices. It's possible a Dual Dock for the iPhone 3G will be released in the future, but I doubt it. The company seems uninterested in creating a Bluetooth headset solution as refined as the iPhone itself, and as hands-free laws for drivers become ubiquitous, that's a missed opportunity.

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First look at CDV Wii & DS games

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With a number of publishers opting out of E3 this year, many of them are showing off their upcoming titles at smaller press gatherings. Such was the case for CDV, a long-time publisher of PC strategy games, who held such an event in San Francisco this week. However, the showcase was notable this year because it showed off the company's first console games, including several for the DS and one for the Wii, most of which are expected during Q4 2008. 苏州美甲

My Little Baby

This life-sim for the DS left me scratching my head a little. While I get that these games, like Nintendogs, hold a lot of appeal for some people, they never quite did it for me. Maybe it's because I've raised my fair share of puppies (for the record, Nintendo: Dalmatian puppies? Never that calm) and helped change my siblings' diapers when I was growing up, but these games always seem like work to me.

My Little Baby will have players start off by creating parents and selecting attributes like hair and eye color. Once that part is done, the game will generate a baby based on those stats and then proceed to have players parent the wee tot. In terms of mechanics, the game will feature the usual sort of features one has come to expect from the genre: things like playing with, holding, and physical contact with the baby affect how the child grows up and its personality develops (I asked if the kid grows into an unruly teenager who hates its parents and was told the baby will only age to being a toddler). There's a nanny who will pop up and offer advice on what the kid needs, and other factors in the child's development will involve how the its room is decorated; decorating is accomplished by first taking the baby shopping and picking out furniture/toys, then placing them.

Everything I got to see of this title seemed pretty solid, in terms of graphics and gameplay, but nothing really stood out to me as being ground-breaking or fantastic, either. On that note, though, you don't always have to break the mold in order to craft a solid game, which this currently looks like it will be. CDV is hoping to market My Little Baby to young girls, which makes sense, since it isn't a huge leap of logic to go from playing with baby dolls to playing with a virtual baby. As for anyone that's actually had to change a dirty diaper or had a baby throw up on them after a feeding? I'm not so sure My Little Baby will hold a lot of appeal for them.

City Life

City Life is one of those franchises which always seemed to be in a losing battle against the Sim City series of games, mainly because the marketing power of EA managed to overwhelm everything else in the genre. As city-planning games went, I remember City Life actually being a pretty solid title, thanks to a unique economy/social status system that I hadn't seen elsewhere. I was intrigued by the idea of putting a city-management game onto the DS, and it seems like the game will actually be pretty cool once its released.

Even though a lot of the core elements from the original games have continued over into this DS version, there's been a fair amount of tweaking to the gameplay in an effort to make City Life a good handheld title. The social and economic elements are still there, but they're handled in a much simpler way, with six different socio-economic classes making up a player city's populace.

The core goals of the game are centered around maintaining each group's employment and entertainment, which requires a bit of thought. An example I saw was at the beginning of the game, when the only people in the city are lower-class workers: while it's tempting to put in a ritzy opera house, with the idea that it will attract culture-oriented tourists, such a venue will sit derelict because it's not something that holds any appeal for blue-collar factory workers. Put in a baseball stadium in, though, and the place will stay packed most of the time. As the city grows, players have to maintain a balance between all the different social classes or people will start moving out in a search for a better place to live.

The DS seems well-suited to handle the gameplay, too, thanks to some nice stylus-implementation. One of my favorite features was that players can trace out a road layout and the game will place it accordingly. Placing buildings and objects works on a "tap and drop" premise that seemed pretty solid, too. While there are not going to be any online modes for City Life, it will feature a campaign, free-play, and challenge mode which should keep fans of the genre coming back to the game.

I Love Geeks

While the title may be annoying, I Love Geeks has already been released in Europe under the much more appealing titles of Clever and Mr. Physics, but it looks like we're going to get a way-cooler version over here in North America. Essentially, this game is The Incredible Machine for the DS, featuring a number of physics-based puzzles. I'm not sure if this game really qualifies as "edutainment" as CDV claims, but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because it makes players think a lot.

The North American version will feature a story about how a geek in school is harassed by a group of bullies, and he works in a lab for four scientists who give him a series of tasks which form the game's puzzles. At certain points throughout the game, there are a series of "boss battle" puzzles which will let the protagonist gain their revenge against the various bullies. Honestly, this seemed a little over-the-top, but the plot doesn't really detract from the puzzles, so you can take it or leave it.

The cartoony graphics, it turns out, are thanks to Marc Ecko. As soon as we heard this, we were promised that there wouldn't be any graffiti or plots about social revolution. There are going to be a total of 100 puzzles, but there aren't any plans for puzzle editors (as there were for The Incredible Machine). However, there is going to be a capability for local WiFi games, which will set players against each other in things like time trials. The puzzles I got to play through, though, were lots of fun, and I Love Geeks will offer some great content for fans of puzzle games.

Lawn Games

CDV's first game for the Wii, Lawn Games, is being developed by Mock Science, wasn't actually on display for me to play at the event, but I was able to chat with some of the game's creators and look at a presentation they had put together about their upcoming title. The general idea of Lawn Games is to take the idea of Wii Sports and give it a new series of activities and locations.

Essentially, the game will feature eight games, including bocce ball, horsehoes, tetherball, and badminton, and set them in backyard locales. The environments on display will include "backyards from around the world," which will feature yards from around the US, Europe, and Asia. While players won't be able to import their Miis to the game, they'll be able to create custom characters with unique appearances and adjustable skills. Of course, there will be a bunch of unlockable content in terms of character and yard accessories that will make customization even more thorough. Finally, the game will support WiFi play and feature a tournament system that can be used both locally and across the 'Net, allowing up to 32 players to play against each other in a tournament setting.

I would have liked to see Lawn Games in action, but since I couldn't, the most I can say is that it certainly sounds like a promising casual title. We'll have to wait and see, though, until the game's Q1 2009 release date is closer and a recommendation can actually be made.

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CDV Event: Sacred 2 Preview

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Sacred is one of those RPG series which has managed to sell over 2 million copies since it was released… partially due to the fact that it was a solid action RPG, and partially due to the fact that it managed to differentiate itself from similar games by combining an interesting story with a lot of quirky Easter eggs (the recreation of Tristram and lightsabre were particular highlights). Sure, it wasn't perfect, but it certainly was fun, and its strong sales pretty much guaranteed that Ascaron was going to be developing a sequel. Cut to four years later, when Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is coming out for PC/PS3/Xbox 360 within the next few months, and Ascaron is hoping that it will end up charming its way into even more fans' hearts, which is why it was on display at the recent CDV press event in San Francisco. 苏州美甲

Sacred 2 is actually going to serve as a prequel to Sacred, taking place 2,000 years prior in the world of Ancaria. The only character class to return is that of the Seraphim, and players will be able to choose between playing her or a Shadow Warrior (the tank character), High Elf (magic-user/glass cannon), Dryad (somewhat rogue-ish), Inquisitor (supremely evil), or the mysterious Temple Guardian (a strange cyborg that's still largely unrevealed). Players will also choose their character's alignment (only the Seraphim and Inquisitor have to remain truly good and evil) and what deity they worship; these factors will affect character development throughout the game. Easter Eggs are going to be reappearing, too, as demonstrated by the appearance of rock band Blind Guardian, and we were told that if a player finds all of the band's instruments, they'll perform a song in the game.

The game itself didn't seem like it was doing anything particularly new, but it seemed to be handling things competently when I looked at it. Inventory management is generally what you'd expect from such a title, as is combat (a mix of mouse clicks and hotkeys). There's a branching tech tree for each skillset; when players find complete sets of armor for their character they'll be granted attribute bonuses; there are a number of different multiplayer modes available, and there are a number of different ways to move around the world map in either real-time or instant methods. It certainly isn't the prettiest RPG on the market, but it does look good, and the art style provides a fairly interesting fantasy/Manga look, too. Some details, like whether or not a level-editor for multiplayer games will be available, have yet to be determined; one would assume that these will be decided on relatively soon.

Meanwhile, the Xbox 360/PS3 versions of the game have an interface/inventory management system that uses controller button layouts much like what I've seen done in Oblivion. It requires a little getting used to, but the controls didn't take long to master. Because the console versions are a little further behind their PC counterpart, though, the graphics weren't at the same point of development (though this wasn't really upsetting, since the console editions are due out a couple of months after the PC version).

One of these things is just like the other

Now that we've gone over what the game looks like, I feel obligated to point out something that has been bugging me about Sacred 2 since I saw it at last year's GDC: the titular Seraphim looks almost identical to Angela, lately of the Spawn comics. While this seems like a fairly obscure piece of geek knowledge, the resemblance is uncanny, and the shared angelic background seems a bit much to be labeled a coincidence. Given all the legal issues that surrounded the comic character, one has to wonder if either Neil Gaiman or Todd McFarlane knows about Sacred 2.

Based on what I got to see and experience, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel looks like it's going to be a solid addition to the library of anyone who's a fan of action RPGs. It definitely has an interesting premise, what seemed to be competent gameplay, and a lot of replay value. The PC edition is due out this September, and the PS3/360 versions will hit shelves in November.

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Living under a giant parasol: geoengineering the climate

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Any option of controlling anthropogenic global warming without cutting back on carbon dioxide emissions is attractive in the sense that it will allow us to continue to rely on cheap fossil fuels for economic development in the near future. Construction of a huge sunshade between Earth and the sun would control the amount of energy that reaches Earth; it's an idea that was originally proposed in 1989. Specifically, it involves an enormous shield that stays at the first Lagrange point between Earth and the sun. Once launched, it will combat global warming by partially blocking sunlight. Estimates are that it could be constructed in about 25 years at a cost of a few trillion dollars. 苏州美甲

The impact of any plan to artificially engineer the environment should be thoroughly assessed before it gets implemented, and this space-based sunshade is no exception. In a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters on June 25th, Dan Lunt and colleagues from the University of Bristol in the UK use a climate model to study the global effects of partially blocking sunlight before it reaches Earth.

Their study represents progress over several previous efforts. The preceding work carefully examined the effects of artificially reducing the sunlight on the atmosphere one process at a time using simplified models that have, for example, static oceans and prescribed moisture movements. The new study is the first to couple the atmospheric circulation to fully dynamic oceans so that their interactions can be studied once they're under the influence of a giant, space-based parasol.

Lunt et al. study the effects of the space sunshade by comparing three different scenarios. The first studies the pre-industrial environment to ensure that their model can reproduce past climates. The second sets the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at 1120 part-per-million by volume (ppmv), approximately four times the pre-industrial level, to study the warming caused by the greenhouse effect. According to the IPCC projections, this high CO2 concentration level might be reached as early as the year 2100. Then, in the third scenario, they keep everything the same as in the second case (4x pre-industrial CO2 concentrations) except that they dim the sun.

They find that, when the CO2 concentration is four times higher than the pre-industrial value, the sun needs to be dimmed by 4.8 percent to keep the global average surface temperature equal to the preindustrial climate; however, their results also show that the cooling effect of the sunshade is not evenly distributed across the globe, and reveals that maintaining a pre-industrial average temperature by itself is not sufficient to stop global climate change.

The study shows that the sunshade can effectively cool the tropics, but its effects are more moderate in the polar regions. This is because the tropics receives more sunlight than the higher latitudes, so reduced sunshine has a bigger impact near the equator than at high latitudes, where the warming by the sun is relatively small to start with. The sunshade, then, is not enough to keep the polar region from warming, and it would not stop the melting of the arctic sea ice.

As the sunshade cools the tropics more than the poles, it would reduce the equator-to-pole temperature difference, which would make the seasonal cycles more moderate. On Earth, the equator-to-pole temperature gradient drives seasonal weather events, and the reduced difference caused by the sunshade is expected to shift the precipitation patterns, most notably causing a reduction of tropical rainfall; however, this change does not seem to reduce the intensity of tropical storms, compared to the pre-industrial climate.

While the study illustrates that maintaining a pre-industrial global average temperature would not stop the global climate from changing, the world under the sunshade is much more livable than the one that would result from an unchecked global warming, where extreme droughts and intense hurricanes would occur more frequently. The authors, however, do not recommend the sunshade as a solution to global warming, because it does not solve the problem of ocean acidification. Also, the new study still does not include the effect of vegetation on the climate, so the interaction between the atmosphere, ocean, and biosphere still needs to be carefully examined.

A space-based sunshade is an extreme solution to a serious problem. Given the scope of the issue, it is worth considering all possible solutions, and a giant space sunshade does indeed fit the bill, even if it seems to be something out of a SciFi movie. The new study by Lunt et al. illustrates that anthropogenic global warming can be moderated through this sort of device but that this will not restore a pre-industrial climate. It could make a good last-ditch plan to save the planet, but I certainly hope that we will not be the last generation of humankind to grow up under an undimmed sun.

Geophysical
Research Letters, 2008. DOI: 10.1029/2008GL033674

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