MapsTD Tower Defense Game on Google Maps

If you have missed the April Fools\’ Day prank of Google Maps, don\’t worry. You can still enjoy the 8-bit version of the map by adding &t=8 at the end of Google Map URL. I think Google will keep it albeit hidden from regular visitors,

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Google Map 8-bit version seems to be a step backward but it actually inspired more innovation like MapsTD which is a tower defense game based on Google Map 8-bit version.

On a side note, did anyone notice that mapstd could be read as mapSTD? I know… who would have thought it is an ambiguous domain name. Anyway, this is a fairly easy game.

You can choose several landmarks all over the world like Buckingham Palace, The White House, The Vatican, Tower of London, Bath Abbey, Taj Mahal, Giza, Eiffel Tower, Hagia Sophia and the Stonehenge. Then, you can drag the tower (map pins) to attack the enemies (moving flag) that are moving along the blue tracks. Different towers have different colors, attack power and range. You don\’t see the towers fire but the enemies life bar are reduced when they step inside the range of the towers defending the track.

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You can select the tower and you can either sell it to get back some money or upgrade it to gain fire power. As you level up, the map coverage will be bigger and wider and the enemies will get faster and faster.

By default it is using the Quest 8-bit map version but you can switch to different maps overlay such as the Map view and Satellite view and even the Moon. Really clever.

I don\’t know how long the game could be but I think it can run forever as long as there are maps in the world and the game developer would support the expansion for more levels. During the course of my play however, I managed to do more than 50 levels of mapsTD and it already congratulated me. I fast-forwarded the game and it only took me several minutes to beat it. If you enjoy this game, tell me what you like about it below the comment section.

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Google Maps 8-bit for NES Is The Best Dragon Quest Homage Ever

If you have been reading my blog for more than five years you know that I like RPGs.  April Fools\’ Day is so fun today for many RPG fanatics because Google released a trial of Google Maps for Family Computer (Famicom/NES). To activate this version you just click \”Quest\” at the upper right hand options of Google Maps.

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The Best Homage to Dragon Quest Ever

Admitting that they have long neglected one of the most popular computer systems ever sold — the NES, Google released their first product for NES and it\’s called Google Maps for Family Computer.

It\’s epic in so many ways.

The logo is a copy of the exact of Dragon Quest title (aka. Dragon Warrior). Google also used the original soundtrack, sound effects and characters. If they used Final Fantasy it could be awesome as well but the point is, Google used all the nostalgic materials that they could use.

Let the hunt begins!

Did I mentioned that there are original Dragon Quest monsters scattered all over the world! I didn\’t know how they were discovered but there is a long discussion in Reddit about 8-bit world landmarks and Dragon Quest enemies.

One of the more interesting hidden enemy in the map is this wizard that when you zoom in more, it will change to a dragon.

In the Philippines, I found a drakee monster lurking somewhere near Masbate island. (If you find more, let me know!)

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This exceeds all my expectations because there\’s so many things you can do with this Google Maps 8-bit version. the 8-bit map itself is rendered in detail and this is the first time I saw the world map in 8-bit glory. If you enjoyed NES graphics in your childhood you have to see it.

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I tried to look for prominent landmarks and tourist spots in the Philippines but it seems that only Chocolate Hills is designed to appear in 8-bit. I couldn\’t find Rizal Park, Mayon Volcano or Rice Terraces.

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In the video Google claimed that to overcome the technical and design hurdles of developing 8-bit maps, they needed to run 100,000 servers. The cartridge is equipped with dial-up technology, too. As part of the April Fools\’ Day prank, you may get  this message that \”Your system may not meet the requirements for 8-bit computations.\”

The obligatory \”blow the cartridge to fix bugs\” is also demonstrated in the video and it pokes fun on how we used to fix the game cartridge if the game doesn\’t start properly after loading.

Afterthoughts

I really hope this 8-bit Google \”Quest\” map is not just for April Fool\’s Day. I mean it. This was made possible with the support of Nintendo and Square Enix and I wish that this gem is released somewhere as a separate sub-site. It was mentioned that it will be available in Google Store so let\’s see if they really put it there afterwards.

Enjoy the video below.

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Video Hosting Battlegrounds

This guest post is written by Ruben Corbo from Broadband Expert.

With the prevalence of the Internet in every household, mostly in the form of high speed broadband, content delivery has changed. Video in particular is streamed all over the web. Between broadband and the widespread use of Adobe\’s Flash Player, there are a number of services available for streaming, sharing and watching Flash videos.

The popularity that video sharing enjoys has created stiff competition on the web. It\’s a potentially lucrative slice of the web media pie, and everyone wants a bite. Though many services have come and gone, three in particular have taken positions as leaders in the field. These three are YouTube, Vimeo, and Oculu. Each has their pros and cons, and seem poised to fight on the Internet video hosting battleground.

YouTube is one of the first and largest video streaming sites to hit the web. It\’s well known and is often the go-to site of choice for users. It has a gigantic community that allows any video uploaded the potential to find a massive audience. Free users can upload unlimited videos in high-definition, up to 1 gigabyte in size. While that will make some Internet service providers choke, today\’s broadband can handle it.

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photo credit: thms.nl

YouTube has its critics, however. Because the site is so old and so large, there\’s a virtual flood of videos and it\’s harder for any one to reach the public eye and gain popularity without outside help. Low quality and small videos suffer from compression artifacts that distort it, sometimes to unwatchable levels. YouTube also watermarks their videos. On top of all that, YouTube limits the length of videos that can be posted.

Vimeo became the main YouTube competitor because of exactly these criticisms. Vimeo offers higher quality video playback, without the compression issues YouTube suffers from. It doesn\’t watermark anything and it\’s video player itself is small and unobtrusive. More and more it\’s become the site of choice for independent filmmakers, and you can often find indy work hosted there.

Vimeo is not without its restrictions. Free users are limited to only 500 megs of uploads per week, with only one of them in HD. Anything more requires an upgraded account, which comes at the high fee of $60 a year. Vimeo\’s community is also much smaller, and comes with a lower number of hits on a video than YouTube might accumulate. On top of that, Vimeo doesn\’t allow promotional video, commercials or other content designed to sell. (See notes below)

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photo credit: A.A.

The battle between Vimeo and YouTube is what spawned the third competitor, Oculu. Oculu offers much more than simple video hosting for those whose Internet service providers allow it. It\’s more for professional users than the average person. It offers the high quality video of Vimeo, without the restrictions on promotional content. The only restriction on Oculu\’s video content is no pornography — a limitation shared by YouTube and Vimeo.

Oculu offers much more. They have multiple options for playback, no-advertising hosting, and real human customer support. Search engine optimization isn\’t limited to video tags. You\’re offered detailed video statistics and reports. It even allows you to customize the embedded video player so it matches your website.

That\’s not to say Oculu is the perfect service or the YouTube killer. It doesn\’t offer basic accounts, for one thing. There\’s no free option. To use Oculu, you\’ll have to pay a fee. However, it\’s still the best option when it comes to uploading high quality, high-definition content without the restrictions and limitations imposed by YouTube and Vimeo. Personal choice determines which is right for you, but Oculu is an option.

This is a guest article by Ruben Corbo, a writer for the website Broadband Expert where you can find internet service providers in your area and compare prices on different deals for your wireless internet necessities.

EDITORIAL: As pointed in Twitter, Vimeo is now offering PRO account which lets you promote products or services for $199/year.

 

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Genius SW-G2.1 1250 2.1 Gaming Speakers

Genius SW-G2.1 1250 is a 4 piece 2.1 gaming speaker with 38 watts RMS output. As the name suggests, this speaker system targets gamers. It has an edgy design and the speakers have hot red accents. .

I enjoy 5.1 surround for over a decade already so it\’s hard to switch back to 2.1. The good news is — not everyone wants to buy 5.1 or 7.1 anyway — specially if you\’re on a budget.  Besides, if you will buy this mainly for playing games you don\’t really need 5.1 channels to enjoy the majority of games on PC or otherwise. Virtual surround technology is now available in most sound cards, even the built-in ones, and it gives you the experience to enjoy surround sound without the need for a physical surround system.

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What\’s in the Package?

The 4-piece set is composed of 2 satellite speakers, a sub-woofer and a controller.

Inside the package you\’ll find 2-channel RCA cable to 3.5mm audio cable. This connects the controller to the PC audio output. There\’s also a 3.5mm audio cable that connects the mic output of the controller to the PC mic input. Basically, it serves as an extension so you can connect your mic in front of the controller. Great for quick and easy access online chat for your gaming buddies.

The satellites are magnetically shielded 3\” cones and they deliver 9 watts (RMS) output each. It has a boxy hourglass shape and it has a hole at the back so you can hang it on the wall if you wish. The wire is hardwired at the back of the speaker and it connects to the controller with a male RCA connector. I am pleased because it can produce full mid-range sounds. Even if without dedicated tweeter speakers, the satellites produce clear high frequencies as well.

Genius SW-G2.1 1250 has a powerful sub-woofer as well. It delivers 20 watts (RMS) output and uses a 5.25 drive unit in a very rigid MDF board cabinet. The lowest frequency it can produce is rated at 58 Hz only but its bass is deep and solid. There is a slight distortion if the bass is driven too much specially when you use a custom equalizer. However, after using  a \”flat\” setting (usually the default setting), I didn\’t hear the distortion anymore even if I\’ve set the bass to the maximum. So, to avoid the slight bass distortion at full volume, either adjust the bass level using an equalizer (flatten it or don\’t bump the bass level) or lower the bass level using the bass dial.

What makes this gaming speaker special is the controller. It is not just a separate control box. Usually most inexpensive 2.1 system puts the amplifier inside the sub-woofer cabinet but Genius SW-G2.1 1250 also houses a class AB amplifier inside the controller so it is bigger than usual.  It has a dedicated bass dial and a big volume control which serves as the on switch also. There\’s also a  mic input and headphones output at the front panel and at the back you\’ll find the a standard 3.5mm auxiliary input that you can use for your MP3 player and video game console.

Verdict

I\’m really surprised that these speakers are loud enough to fill a room of about 25 sq. meters. I played StarCraft II in full volume and even my neighbors can hear me nuke Zerglings. I can feel every explosions and ricochet clearly yet the subtle ambient background music do not drown or fade in the background. It really surpassed my expectations. I can easily ditch my entry-level 5.1 speakers with these speakers. The key here is the class AB amplifier inside the controller which is responsible for the high quality sound.

In summary, it delivers crisp full range sound and a solid bass. The separate controller gives you easy access to dedicated bass and master volume control and it also has an auxiliary input for a second device. It has one of best price to performance ratio for 2.1 speakers in the market now.

The SRP is not released yet when I got this but tentatively it is around P2500. Internationally, this is available for about $50, street price For the specs alone, it is a steal already. For local inquires, you may contact Ed Zurbano at [email protected] or you may call 688-3181.

Below is my unboxing video of Genius SW-G2.1 1250 2.1 Gaming Speakers.

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Ozaki WoW 460 2.2 Speakers: A Day Experience

I assembled a new computer last week and one of my goal is to create a multimedia computer that my family could enjoy for watching streaming media and HD videos. I already have a 1080p LCD (LED) monitor before so I just bought an Intel Core i5 2500 Sandy Bridge processor and an affordable Asrock H67M motherboard with 4 GB DDR3 memory and 1TB Western Digital Caviar Blue HDD. The setup is nearly perfect but there is one more missing piece in order to complete my new rig — speakers!

Choosing a good speaker with my already limited budget proved to be difficult because I\’m coming from a very old 5.1 sound system, Creative Cambridge SoundWorks Desktop Theater 5.1 DTT2200, that I own since 2000 and still sounds awesome. I still can\’t believe that for about 12 years it is still producing the same heart-pounding sounds. The only reason I am not using it now is because I left it on my brother\’s bedroom which we use to share and I do not want to untangle the wires.

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I didn\’t want to break the bank so I settled with 2.1 speakers only.

Enter Ozaki WoW WU460 2.2 speakers. I don\’t really know the Ozaki brand but I gave it a try because the price is really attractive. For only P1900 I get 2 satellites with separate tweeters and mid-range speakers and a wooden sub-woofer with double bass drivers, which they call Woofer of Woofer hence the name WoW. I play bass guitar and I love bass that\’s why I gave it a chance.

I tested it in the shop and I was pleased somehow so I bought it. It was already evening then so I arrived at home, I was only able to listen to softer music. I was still pleased with the quality of the bass. The next day, I tested the speakers with louder music and I noticed that there isn\’t much mid-range but it was okay because the clarity of the high frequency sound and deep pounding bass compensates it.

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Using GrooveShark I streamed several classic rock music to criticize it further. After some time I heard a pop like a balloon exploding. I was puzzled what it was so I turned down the volume. I was clueless so I continued listening to streaming music. I turned up the volume somewhere pass the middle, and I was shocked when I heard another popping sound. This time I saw the left satellite tweeter smoke. I immediately noticed that the satellites lost high frequency response and the volume dropped considerably.

I owned it only for only a day and Ozaki WoW 460 2.2 speakers already broke down. Luckily the store carries standard warranty so I was able to replace it with another speaker. This time around, I opted for a well-known brand.

I replaced it with Logitech Z506 5.1 speakers. Maybe I\’ll review it when I have time, but in general, I prefer it over the broken Ozaki WoW 460 2.2 speakers. The bass is not as deep as Ozaki but I would rather pay for quality rather than double bass.

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To be fair with Ozaki, it seems that the unit that I bought was defective or just a lemon. I would still try a bigger Ozaki 2.2 speaker if given a chance or if Ozaki sends one for review :) but for now I am still wary with the quality of speakers that they are selling.

This is a lesson for those picky speaker buyers like me. Turn up the volume whenever you test your speakers in stores to avoid surprises when you blast your speakers.

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iPad 2: You’ll buy it no matter what we say

\"iPadRumors after rumors, I got tired reading news about iPad 2 but on March 2, Apple finally made iPad 2 official.

Apple unveiled the iPad 2 without giving much hint on its specs so some tech journalists and tablet enthusiasts were disappointed with yet another Apple feature creep.

The new iPad 2 is 33 percent thinner, runs on A5 dual-core processor, has front and rear camera, and comes in white. Despite the lack of other more-awaited features like better resolution, USB support and 4G, Apple boasts that it is more than just a marginal improvement.

Even though this seems like an iPad 1.5 rather than iPad 2, the few feature bump might be enough to screw the competition up. Even Samsung admitted that Galaxy Tab 10.1 features seems inadequate. Even so, the competition is strong against other tablets like Motorola Xoom.

Apple CEO Steve Job\’s keynote on March 2 event ended with an interesting closing remark, saying that \”These are post-PC devices, that need to be even easier to use than a PC.\” This is an oxymoron because all Apple devices are inherently dependently on iTunes, which requires a PC (or a Mac). Why can\’t they just cut the cord?

As Conan O’Brian have said on his night show, Apple is getting cocky about the iPad 2 so they came up with a mock promo video using this slogan — iPad 2: You’ll buy it no matter what we say.

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A Nerdy Tribute to Pi

I know that it isn\’t March 14 yet but someone sent this video to me before and several days ago I posted Google Period Table so I just thought I\’ll post this. I have not celebrated any pi day before and I haven\’t memorized pi pass 3.1415926 but these folks in the video was able to sing a song that they claim to be 3,000 hours long but they have to cut it short to save the sanity of the audience. I find it hilarious.

After the video is an infographic about visualizing pi. Enjoy!

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