Book Review – Fun Inc. Why Video Games are the 21st Century’s Most Serious Business

FunCover

Fun Inc. Why Video Games are the 21st Century’s Most Serious Business by Tom Chatfield is an interesting look at the ever increasing importance of video games in our culture and society.

This book is not your typical “video game” book, but rather covers topics such as the history, finances and growth of the video game industry  as well as the impact video games have on various other fields such as economics, epidemiology, education and even  the military.

The book draws interesting comparisons to other mediums, such as film and literature, and illustrates  similar growing pains experienced by these mediums and video games throughout history.

This book also addresses and clarifies numerous misconceptions relating to video games, such as that only males play video games and that video games carry no academic benefits.

I found this book extremely interesting not only from a video game perspective, but also from an economic and general societal perspective. I would really recommend this book not only to people interested in video games, but anyone interested in modern society in general. Fun Inc. is a worthwhile read and defends the place of video games in our culture and society. I wish my teachers could have read this book when I was still in school.

Book Review – Fun Inc. Why Video Games are the 21st Century’s Most Serious Business

Smartphone Camera Accessories

As of late numerous smartphone camera add-ons and accessories have become available on the market. These range greatly in price and quality and come in a variety of different configurations and options. Today we will have a look at some of these accessories, including a variety of clip on lenses, a tripod and a panoramic photo stand. All the items tested were purchased from a store called Typo and everything tested was relatively inexpensive.

First we will have a look at the lenses. All the lenses simply clip on to any smartphone and aligns with the camera. The easiest way of showing what the lenses offer is to take a look at some photos taken using them. As a point of reference all the photos were taken using my iPhone 6S.

Normal Phone Camera6S

Wide Angle Lens Wide

Illuminator Wide Angle LensSelfie Wide

Fish Eye Lensfisheye

Normal Phone Camera6SMacro

Macro LensMacro

Illuminator Macro LensIMG_0263

Illuminator Lens – LED ring light offIMG_0289

Illuminator Lens – LED ring light onIMG_0282

Both the wide-angle and fish-eye lenses deliver disappointing results with black corners appearing in the photos taken with them. This is more tolerable with the fish-eye lens because of the type of photos it produces. In the photos taken with the wide-angle lens the black corners are far more disruptive and generally ruins the photos. The macro lens on the other hand delivers great results. You can get photos of the tiniest things and they look great.

The true surprise was the illuminator lens, which delivered great results. It comes with wide-angle and macro lenses. The wide-angle lens however contains a larger lens than the previously mentioned one and thus suffers far less from the black corner problem. The illuminator lens also attaches to the phone with a much improved clip and can be attached either to the front or rear phone camera without any issues. On-top of all these benefits it also has a LED light ring that can be turned on for taking photos in lower light conditions, which works surprisingly well. Of all the lens attachments the illuminator lens is by far the best of the lenses I tested.

Now let us have a look at the tripod. So to start let me tell you a little secret to taking better photos, well 2 little secrets. There are 2 things that can greatly improve the photos you are taking, firstly getting the lighting right and secondly using a tripod. This is not the greatest tripod in the world, it isn’t even a good tripod, but even so the benefits it offer above not using a tripod is immense.

Lastly we have the panoramic photo stand. Most smartphones these days have the ability to take panoramic photos, however as most people have come to realise you require a very steady hand to take these photos. In the event that you do not posses a rock stead hand rather strange effects can occur in the resulting photos (and by strange effects I mean people looking like monsters from a Guillermo del Toro movie). The panoramic photo stand gives the user a way of achieving a steady base from which to take panoramic photos as well as automatically rotating the phone at a consistent and appropriate rate. This results in professional looking panoramic photos.

These smartphone camera accessories are a relatively inexpensive way of improving the photos taken with your smartphone, and as they are quite compact, and you always have your smartphone with you (as opposed to a dedicated camera) they offer a great opportunity to take some great photos. These accessories and your smartphone will never compete with a DSLR, but they are highly accessible and give a great number of people the opportunity to take better photos. For more photos taken using these lenses please check my Instagram.

Smartphone Camera Accessories

Double Book Review

Today we will have a look at 2 books, both related to video games, so let us get started.

1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die – Updated Edition

1001 games

This is a very hefty book, weighing in just shy of 1000 pages. The book is beautifully printed in full colour on high quality glossy paper similar to what you will find in a  high-end magazine.

As indicated by the name 1001 Video games are covered. The Video games  are categorised and  divided into section based on the decade in which they were released, i.e. the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.

There is a detailed description provided for each game as well as a screen shot.

I really like this book as it triggers nostalgic memories of paging through video game magazines as a child, looking at what the next big release will be. I do however believe that this is not the kind of book you will pick up and read from cover to cover, I for example have limited interest in video games released in the 1970s so I skimmed through this section and found the best use of this book is simply picking it up from time to time and looking up a specific game.

Just keep in mind that the game selection is based on the authors’ personal preferences, so there is a chance that your favourite game might not be included in the list. But even considering this, I found this to be a great book and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in video games over the last few decades.

An Illustrated History of 151 Video Games

151games

The first difference between this book and the previously reviewed one is that this is more of a coffee table book. It is also fully colour printed on high quality glossy paper and is beautifully hardbound. The book also divides the games into the decades they were released in, but also focuses on the systems on which they were released.

This book has a much more artistic feel with screen shots, box art and marketing artwork for each game covered as well as information about the game, its history as well as little factoids relating to the games.

I really enjoyed reading this book and although it covers a lot fewer games, found it to be of a more consumable size.

There is also a few pages dedicated to the leading consoles of each decade along with accompanying artwork and information.

I would recommend this book as it is great simply paging through it and looking at the amazing video game artwork over the past 40 years.

Double Book Review

Liebster Award

liebster-award

Thank you to I Old Games! for the Liebster Award nomination.

The Liebster Award is a community driven award, given to bloggers by bloggers. How the award works is once you are nominated by a fellow blogger, you firstly accept the award and thank the blogger who has nominated you, next you answer the questions asked by the blogger who nominated you and then lastly you nominate your favourite blogs and ask them 11 questions.

The purpose of the Liebster Award is to build awareness and give exposure to the blogs you like.

So here are the answers to the questions I Old Games! asked:

Question out of the blue: 3*2+6(5*7)/4=?

58,5

PC or Console? Why?

Console. When I was much younger, during school and university, I played PC games exclusively, but I got completely burnt out with the whole, upgrading the hardware, driver issues, etc. and this eventually took all the fun out of it for me. I also associate sitting in front of a PC with work, when I play games I prefer it to be relaxed on the couch in front of the TV.

What is the last game you played?

Last game I finished was the HD remaster of Heavy Rain and currently playing the HD remaster of Beyond: Two Souls.

Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola

Neither really, I never drink sugary drinks, but if I had to choose probably Coca-Cola.

Which is you favourite video games character?

This is a very difficult question to answer as there are so many great characters. But if I had to choose one I would probably say Link from the Legend of Zelda series of games.

What is the brand name of your smart phone?

Microsoft

In which historical age would you like to live? Maybe only for a couple of days…

During the Renaissance, would try to avoid the disease and war stricken time periods.

I reeeeally love sauces, dips and dressings. What is your favourite?

Tabasco Sauce, the Original.

Which X-Men do you think you could be?

I know everyone is going to say Wolverine here, so I am going to say Gambit, because he is suave and charming.

Favourite song of the Eighties?

Depeche Mode – Shake the Disease

Where will you spend your next holidays?

Nothing planned yet, but will probably be in the United States again.

So I nominate the following blogs:

ashbotandsparki
Leeskine
HexDrag3on
Craig Nicol
elketeaches
Just read
What Rhino Said
Old School Game Blog
Nintendobound
Very Very Gaming
ancientelectronics

And here are my questions to the nominated blogs:

  1. What did you want to be growing up?
  2. What is your favourite video game of all time?
  3. What is the first video game console you ever owned?
  4. What is the first video game you can remember playing?
  5. Batman or Superman? and Why?
  6. If you could be transported 1000 years into the past or the future what would you choose?
  7. Who is your favourite author?
  8. Playstation or Xbox?
  9. What is your favourite movie?
  10. Pizza or Burger?
  11. What is your favourite city in the world? and Why?
Liebster Award

BitCoin Mining

download

I have recently gotten involved in BitCoin mining, after being introduced by a former colleague, and I thought I would give a brief overview of BitCoin mining and related concepts.

To start out let us take a look at what a BitCoin is. BitCoin is a digital currency, also referred to as a cryptocurrency, were encryption techniques are utilised to verify the transfer of funds and regulate the generation of units of the currency, which is referred to as mining or more specifically BitCoin Mining.

A main differentiating factor of BitCoin compared to other traditional currencies, such as the US Dollar, is that BitCoin operates independently of a central bank, which means its value is purely based on market demand and supply.  

The underlying technology used with BitCoin is called BlockChain. In a nutshell, a BlockChain is a distributed database that contains a continuously growing set of data record that is hardened against tampering and modification. A BlockChain is utilised for a public ledger of all BitCoin transactions.

So now that the basic concepts have been explained, let us get started mining some BitCoins.

Firstly you will need a BitCoin wallet to hold your BitCoins. There are various options available, falling in 3 main categories, hardware wallets, software wallets and online wallets. Do some research and see what option suits your requirements best, then set up the wallet of your choice. I used an online wallet called XAPO (www.xapo.com), which has several great features, including the ability to order a debit card linked to your BitCoin wallet. The only negative thing I experienced with XAPO is the very long verification process, which took approximately 3 weeks, before I could use my wallet.

Now that we have a wallet setup and ready, we can get busy mining some BitCoins. As with the wallet there are a few options available when it comes to mining BitCoins which are contained in 2 main categories, i.e. Mining on hardware you own or Mining in the Cloud. Once again you will have to evaluate which option is best suited for your specific situation. 

There are a vast amount of hardware options available, from relatively cheap to extremely expensive. The main difference between the different options are the different levels of processing power on offer and the efficiency by which that processing power is offered (i.e. Amount of electricity used etc.). The most expensive options thus offer the highest processing power at the greatest efficiency, i.e. at the lowest relative running costs.

Just note, when considering the hardware option keep in mind the cost of the hardware purchase as well as the costs of running the hardware, which include costs such as electricity (which differs greatly between countries and even regions inside countries), as these costs can erode a lot or even all of the potential profits to be made.

For Cloud based mining options you pay to mine BitCoins in a data centre or data centres owned and maintained for by someone else. There are numerous different companies available offering the service of BitCoin mining in the Cloud and each company usually offers a few different packages, usually consisting of monthly subscriptions services to once off fee based packages. I use Genesis Mining (www.genesis-mining.com) and have to date not had any issues.

Once you have selected a mining option or options (you can utilise multiple miners at the same time), remember to link the miner/miners to your wallet so that your mined BitCoins can be stored there.

bitcoinm

All that is left to do now is sit back and wait for the BitCoins to be mined.

It is important to that you realise this is not a get rich quick scheme, do not expect to put in $10 and make $1000 in a year, be realistic. I expect to recover my initial investment in approximately 6-7 months and thereafter I will make a profit.  

BitCoin Mining

E3: The Games that excite me the most

E3

With the recent conclusion of E3 I thought this would be a good time to share some of the games announced that I am the most excited for. Here are the 8 games I am looking forward to the most, in no particular order:

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

Finally a new Zelda game and not just a HD remake! I am extremely excited for this game and from what I saw it looks fantastic. This game looks amazing with an open world, some form of crafting and resource gathering and a lot of freedom.

Days Gone

I will start out by saying I loved State of Decay on the Xbox 360, an open world survival zombie apocalypse game that I got really into during a time where I was binge watching the Walking Dead. And now finally an  open world survival zombie game for the Playstation 4. I can’t wait. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the hoarding in this game, what appeared to be thousands of zombies flowed like water towards the protagonist. Truly astonishing.

Resident Evil 7 Biohazard

Myself along with many others were extremely disappointed when it was announced that Silent Hills was cancelled. The Playable Teaser had caused huge waves and was truly one of the most scary gaming experiences I have ever experienced. Resident Evil 7 took more than a little inspiration from the Silent Hills Playable Teaser, and this is not a bad thing. I have played and completed the playable demo of Resident Evil 7 and although I found it less scary that the Silent Hills Playable Teaser, but it was still great. I can’t wait to see what the full game will be like.

State of Decay 2

As I mentioned earlier I am a huge fan of the original State of Decay, so I am more than a little excited to see more of its sequel.

God of War 4

God of War 4 appears to be vastly different from its predecessors and that is refreshing. I loved all the God of War games, but while playing God of War 3 Remastered on the PS4 I couldn’t help feeling that the gameplay dynamics started feeling rather outdated. This might breath new life into the series.

The Last Guardian

Ico and Shadow of the Colossus were both masterpieces, showing how games can be far more than most people ever expected, some might even say becoming art. After years of delays and falling silent, finally a release date has been given to one of the most anticipated games.

Death Stranding

After the debacle between Kojima Productions and Konami, which resulted in the cancellation of Silent Hills, no one knew what would be next for Hideo Kojima. Now we know and not surprisingly it weird. As with Silent Hills it stars Norman Reedus of Walking Dead fame.

Detroit: Become Human

I loved Quantic Dreams’ previous two games Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, and I am eagerly awaiting their next endeavor. Once again it appears that choice plays a major role, however from the trailer shown it appears that the choices available have significantly been increased, and the consequences of those choices appear to be  vastly different.

E3 this year was great, and we have a lot to look forward to.

 

E3: The Games that excite me the most

Diodes

diode

Today we will look at the last component in our 3 part series on basic electronic components, the diode.

Diodes only allows electricity to flow through them in a single direction, this is achieved by the diode having a low resistance, ideally zero, in one direction and a high resistance, ideally infinite, in the other direction. This does mean that diodes are polarized (they have 2 terminal, an anode and a cathode) and the direction in which they are placed in a circuit is of great importance.

Diodes are extremely important in converting AC to DC though their use in a bridge-rectifier, but that is a topic for another post.

Diodes usually have 2 markings on them, a band to indicate the side of the cathode and secondly the diode type code (for example 1N4148) this can be used to look up the maximum voltage and current the diode allows.

Here is the schematic symbol used to represent a diode:

diodesymbol

Diodes