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Goodies and Gadgets

We’re back from our trip to Vero Beach feeling both refreshed and happy to be home. We got a chance to enjoy essentially all of the activities that we’d hoped to while away — lying on the beach, the cool waters of the Atlantic, miniature golf, sleeping in, reading (and in my case, writing), watching movies, and exploring. The weather was about 50/50 thunderstorms and bright sun, which dictated our timetable for us, but allowed us to do a nice mix of indoor and outdoor stuff.

The only bad thing was the food; we didn’t have much luck with the new restaurants we tried, finding nothing to write home about. We did find a Carrabba’s on our way home, though. Next time perhaps we’ll stop there. Yes — we’re chain restaurant fans. In our defense, I’ll say that Apple provides all the home cooking we’ll need — so when we’re out, we like something consistent and predictable.

Anyway, I’m back to work this week, and in addition to my main job, I’ve got two side jobs that are ramping up. I’m doing about 60-90 minutes of work on each one during the weekday evenings, and devoting several more hours to them on the weekend. Neither one looks like a huge, overwhelming job, so this is working out perfectly. I hope there won’t be any snags.

By now, you’re probably wondering where the “goodies and gadgets” are. The first arrived on Sunday, when, after several days of discussion and debate, I decided to trade in my dust-gathering Playstation Portable (PSP) for a Nintendo DS. The DS is technologically behind the PSP by a wide margin, but the PSP’s hardware superiority actually worked against it in my eyes. The reason being that most PSP games that I’ve seen are visually dumbed-down versions of things you could play on your bigger consoles, like the PS2 or PS3. I don’t want that in a handheld. I rarely have my PSP with me, so the portability isn’t anywhere near the biggest selling point. Unique games are. And the PSP just doesn’t have any that I care about. It’s all just slimmed-down versions of console games that I could walk into the other room and play on a much bigger screen with much nicer graphics.

The Nintendo DS, on the other hand, has only the performance equivalence of an old N64. This forces DS game developers to be more creative and yields unique and eclectic games like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Dementium: The Ward, and stuff like that. Interactive novels, point-and-click games, auto mechanic sims, and other stuff is all available on the DS, and there’s nothing else like it on any other system I know (barring some overlap with the Wii). Not only that, but the DS adds additional senses to the experience, with its touch-screen and voice-recognizing microphone.

And, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t encouraged by the fact that Apple herself said she’d enjoy playing the DS too, which is a pretty cool thing for a gamer husband to hear his non-gamer wife say.

So on Sunday evening, after we got home from Vero, I gathered up my PSP equipment and games and traded them all in, cutting the price of a new Nintendo DS Lite in half. I didn’t opt for the new Nintendo DSi — the next evolution of the DS system — mainly because of its price, ugly color selection, and lack of a Game Boy Advance slot. Instead, I picked up a Metallic Rose DS Lite (that color came at Apple’s request). Yeah, it sounds like a girly color, but it’s actually pretty tasteful; it’s not a blazing-hot Hannah Montana pink or anything quite so gaudy. And oh God, now that I’ve said that name on my site, here come the irrelevant Google hits. Hi tween girls! Please go away; there’s no Hannah here.

Apple enjoying the DS
Apple enjoying the DS

We also picked up two games — Brain Age 2 and Animal Crossing Wild World — thanks to a “buy one, get one 50% off” sale at Toys ‘R’ Us. Yes, I stepped foot in a Toys ‘R’ Us, for the first time in a greaaaat many years. It was, somehow, nowhere near as awesome as I remember. But the games were fine.

We’re both having a lot of fun with the DS already. Apple is enjoying toodling around her little town in Animal Crossing, and I myself have been sucked in by the apparently random exploration of this quaint little game. I ordered a custom flash cart and an 8 GB memory stick that will really supercharge the DS later, and allow me to add music and video and even homebrew games to it. Yes, that’s right — you can make your own DS games, if you’re really hardcore. It should be interesting indeed!

In other gadget news, Apple (that’s Apple Computer, not the attractive Asian girl pictured above) today unveiled the new iPhone 3GS, or the official update to the iPhone hardware for 2009. It’s got a much nicer camera with a cool tap-to-focus system, 30fps VGA video recording and onboard editing, a magnetometer (compass by any other name), voice control, 32 GB storage (woo!), slightly improved battery life, support for new HSPA 7.2Mbps networks, and new innards that deliver a much faster overall experience. Combined, of course, with the new iPhone OS 3.0 that’s probably the most exciting part of the whole package. The CPU, RAM and other tech specs were not revealed, which was strange, so I’m going to keep my eye on the blogs to see the first 3GS teardown when they land on June 19th.

Either way, though, I’m aiming to get a 32 GB iPhone 3GS next month — in black, of course. (White is also available). Looks like it will cost me $299 plus $18 “upgrade fee” (pssh) since I am still hanging onto my old iPhone. For anyone who bought their iPhone 3G in the last year, though, you’d be getting hosed — if you buy a 32 GB 3GS, you’re gonna be paying anywhere from $499 to a whopping $699. In other words, it pays to wait.

This, of course, means that Apple gets two sweet toys in the span of a month, because when I get my new 3GS, she gets my classic iPhone. And the new iPhone OS 3.0 works on it, too, which means she’ll get most of the new features, including push notifications, the built-in Thai keyboard, all the new APIs that upcoming apps will take advantage of, and soforth.

Apple also surprised me by inducting their 13″ Macbook into the “Macbook Pro” line, giving it more features of the Pro series, and then cutting the price by $200. Also: The Snow Leopard update to Mac OS X costs just $29! Sure makes the Windows OS upgrade money pit look like the pits. The 13″ Macbook (Pro) may still be a purchase we make yet, as Apple will need a new laptop eventually, and I’d like to try my hand at developing iPhone apps. I have a good idea for a simple one that would be a good self-learning exercise in Cocoa Touch programming, but Mac OS X is required for development, which leaves me out in the cold.

And of course last week was really gadget heaven thanks to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) out in L.A., which is the premier annual event at which video game software and hardware makers show off their wares. There are a ton of new games coming over the next 6-12 months that will be on my must-have list. Most of them are sequels to some of my favorite franchises, like Mass Effect, Bioshock, Forza Motorsport and Uncharted. In the meantime I’m going to replay some of the previous games in these respective series to refresh my memory. In fact, I was planning to start with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune tonight. (The amazing footage of Uncharted 2 that I saw last week really whet my appetite.)

Okay, that’s it — time to save this and go get some gaming in for the night before there’s no more time left.

Coming soon: Another of those “Search For $A, Find $B” posts. Because I know you love it.

3 thoughts to “Goodies and Gadgets”

  1. Sounds a little bit like geek heaven over there! And I mean that in the nicest possible way, since my own latent geek-iness has been showing itself of late. I even entertained a brief thought about wanting that cute little game box 😉 Just what I need – another time suck!

  2. Thanks B.J. for trading all kind stuff for the DS for me. I am enjoying it very much 🙂 maybe take the game (animal crossing) too seriously.

  3. Hey, you are welcome, Apple, I am enjoying it too. 😉 Yeah, don’t let Tom Nook get to you; he’s a blowhard. Soon you’ll probably have enough money to buy his whole shop.

    Mom: Geek heaven it is indeed. And seriously, the brain-teasing games are really good for the graymatter. You could get a DS and the Brain Age game — it has sudoku puzzles, too — and just tell yourself it’s to improve your prefrontal cortex. There’s also a series of games called “Nintendogs” that are virtual pet puppies you can play with…oh wait, you already have real puppies. 😀

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