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Camping Along With Your Portable Gadgets

One of my favorite summer activities is camping. If you’re like me, it can be difficult to detach yourself from your connected lifestyle. But thanks to portable gadgets such as netbooks, smartphones and handheld gaming consoles, it’s easier for one to leave the confines of his (or her) digital hub while enjoying a semi-disconnected sabbatical.

Protecting your devices from the elements is one of the most important things one must consider. Purchasing a waterproof case might be the ideal solution, but it might not be the most cost efficient option. If you already own a protective case for your gadget, why not invest in a $5 box of Ziploc Freezer bags. A well sealed Ziploc freezer bag will provide you with extra protection against the harmful effects of humidity.

Keeping your device powered might also be an issue while vacationing outdoors. Mind you, most campgrounds offer electricity as an option, this privilege is not available to those who choose to camp in the wilderness. If electricity is available, it would be wise to bring along a surge protector to avoid any damages due to voltage spikes. A $20 purchase might save you a few headaches down the road.

If electricity isn’t an option, investing in a car adapter (which plugs into your car lighter socket) or purchasing an inexpensive portable solar charger can be an excellent alternative for keeping your devices powered. A car adapter can be purchased for as low as $9.99, while a portable solar charger will set you back approximately $49.99 if you shop around.

If you desperately need to stay connected, accessing the Internet from your wireless handset might not be the most cost effective way to do so. Cellphone roaming costs could easily result in higher than expected usage charges. With this in mind, disabling your phone’s data roaming capabilities, and using public Wi-Fi hotspots to fuel your connected needs would be the ideal solution. These days, many campgrounds have free Wi-Fi access as an incentive to using their facilities. Local cafes might also offer Wi-Fi access as part of their service. A site, such as http://www.wifi.com will assist you in finding a hotspot in which ever area you are visiting.

These are just a few simple tips for using your favorite devices while vacationing. The most important tip of them all is to simply have fun, while knowing when to leave the gadgets behind. As much as you might enjoy the notion of having access to some of your preferred gadgets, keep in mind that those around you might simply prefer that you disconnect yourself temporarily from your digital routine. Always remember that vacation is defined as a period of suspension of work, study or other customary activities, so make sure your take the time to relax and enjoy yourself.

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Gaming Bandwidth Usage

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Over the weekend I decided to do some online gaming while monitoring my bandwidth usage at the same time. I’ve been interested in doing so for a long time now due to the recent trend of Internet service providers (ISP) capping their bandwidth. I started keeping an eye on my bandwidth needs several months ago in case my own ISP eventually decides to implement its own cap, which has been the rumor now for nearly six months.

After playing approximately five hours online, I noticed that my upstream bandwidth was well over 500MB (the rough estimate was measured using DD-WRT V24-sp1 on my Linksys WRT54G router). I ended up playing a few hours of “NHL 07” on the PlayStation Portable, which was followed with a few sessions of “NHL 09” and “Gears of War 2” on Xbox Live.

Without going into exact analysis, a hardcore gamer playing about two hours of daily online gameplay would end up using about 6GB a month (this is without taking into account the patches and add-ons that are being released on a regular basis). Considering that a 720p movie rental through the Xbox Live Marketplace is roughly 6GB, online gaming isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things. But the bandwidth can quickly add up on one’s ISP account over time.

Now that we are living in a digital world that has HD downloads/streaming, podcasting and online gaming, among others, bandwidth caps don’t make any sense. With the amount of legal HD content on the web, an average user could easily go through their allocated bandwidth before the end of the month, which would lead to additional charges or interruption of service depending on the ISP.

Hopefully one of these major ISPs will eventually wake up and realize that we are currently living in a GB world that’s headed towards an HD revolution, which will eventually hit the half a terabyte range within the next few years.

Expect a follow-up in April as I will be making a full analysis of this month’s usage.

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A Look at Star Ocean: First Departure for the PSP

Star Ocean: First Departure

It’s hard these days to be a PlayStation Portable (PSP) owner. Even if the handheld is selling like hot cakes around the globe, it seems like no publisher or developer wants to commit to releasing titles for the unit. Thankfully, PSP enthusiasts have been receiving their fair share of gaming goodness from Japanese publisher/developer Square Enix. Their latest PSP exclusive is a remake of the popular Tri-Ace developed Super Famicom (the Japanese version of the SNES) role-playing game (RPG) “Star Ocean: Fantastic Space Odyssey“, which never made its way officially to North America (or Europe for that matter).

But is the newly dubbed “Star Ocean: First Departure” worth experiencing?

In Star Ocean: First Departure you play as Roddick Farrence, who, along with friends Millie Chliette and Dorne Murtough, are members of Kratus’ (a small town on the planet Roak) defense force. Our heroes end up in the town of Coule where they discover that its townsfolk are mysteriously turning into stone. As the intro story progresses, Farrence, Murtough and Chliette meet members of the Terran Alliance reconnaissance team who were dispatched to the planet to investigate its stone turning viral outbreak.

The game’s updated visuals are based on an isometrical graphics engine that uses 2D character sprites displayed on pre-rendered backdrops. The graphic engine is reminiscent of the one used in the 1999 PSone sequel “Star Ocean: The Second Story” (which will be released on the PSP in early 2009). What you get is a game with stellar visuals that still manages to convey a sense of old-school 16-bit gaming nostalgia. To add to its visual beauty, First Departure has also been juiced up with fully voiced animated anime styled cut-scenes designed by the world renowned animators at Production I.G.

The revamped Star Ocean also features an improved action-oriented real-time battle system. When a battle ensues, you get to freely control your characters’ actions (you can switch controlled characters by pressing the circle button), while your team mates automatically duke it out in accordance to your strategic commands. Your attacks are controlled using the PSP’s X button, while the special arts and spells can be attributed to the L or R shoulder buttons. A break in action is initiated with a quick tap of the triangle button which brings up the command circle. The command circle enables you to use items, cast spells, assign tactics or flee the oncoming melee. With all this said and done, the combat system is pretty simplistic and won’t take long to master.

Star Ocean: First Departure also boasts an item creation system as well as an extensive skill system that can be used to bolster your party’s attributes. For example, certain skill sets will enable you to customize or create new items based on materials you’ve amassed in your inventory. These items can then be distributed among party members.

Star Ocean: First Departure is perhaps one of the best old-school traditional sci-fi/fantasy RPGs to grace the PSP. Its $39.99USD suggested retail price is also a bargain for gamers (or parents) living on a tight budget. Overall this is an excellent retooling of the original Star Ocean that will keep RPG fans entertained until the series makes its current generation debut with next year’s Xbox 360 exclusive “Star Ocean: The Last Hope“.

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PSP-3000 Coming This Week

The third version of the PlayStation Portable (PSP) is due to start hitting store shelves today and should be in all major gaming retailers by the end of the week. The PSP-3000 sports an enhanced screen and comes with a built in microphone. The new version of the handheld will first be released as a $199 bundle that includes the system, a copy of “Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters”, a UMD of the movie “National Treasure 2”, a digital download from the PSN store (Echochrome) and a 1GB memory stick duo card.

In other news, Sony unveiled that version 5.0 of the upcoming PSP firmware will include access to the PlayStation Store directly through the PSP.

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Resistance Retribution (PSP) to be Playable with DualShock 3

Sony revealed today at the Tokyo Game show that “Resistance: Retribution” for the PSP will be playable with a DualShock 3 controller. The catch is that a PS3 and a copy of “Retribution 2” will be needed (along with a PSP 2001 or 3001 and component cables) to play with Sony’s famed controller. Rumble will also be utilized with this feature.

Too bad there’s no way we could do this whithout the PS3.

The third-person Resistance: Retribution for the PlayStation Portable will be released next spring.

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Previous News

Peggle on iPhone OS Available for $0.99

The iPhone OS version PopCap Games‘ highly addictive “Peggle” is available for $0.99 through the iTunes App Store. The catch is that you have until midnight on June 14 to make the purchase. Be warned though, you might have a hard time doing anything else but play Peggle on your iPhone/iPod Touch.

All Your Entertainment in One… Xbox

On June 1, 2009, Microsoft announced several entertainment focused add-ons to its Xbox Live Service during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California. Following the keynote, one thing seemed clear, the Redmond Software giant is poised to push its Xbox 360 platform as the media-centric device for your living room. “Our goal has been […]

Zune Marketplace Post on Decabled.com

Visit Decabled.com to view a post of mine that was published pertaining to the recent Xbox Live Entertainment announcements. Click here to go directly to the article.

E3 2009

E3 kicks off in a few days. I’m interested in seeing what will be brought to the table. Surely there will be alot to talk about in the next few days.

Fallout 3: The Pitt Now Available

This one’s for those looking for some extra “Fallout 3” playtime. The Xbox only downloadable content, “The Pitt” is available for purchase through the Xbox Live Marketplace for 800 Microsoft points and weighs in at 492MB . Below is a blurb taken from the XBLA Marketplace: “Pittsburgh was once the industrial center of the pre-war […]

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