You guys have no idea how to use a Mac.

I was talking with one of my friends yesterday about how she uses her computer. She has a 13″ MacBook Pro (non-retina). I’ve realized a couple of times that she routinely keeps about 50 tabs open in Chrome, as well as a lot of apps open. Taking a closer look, I also realized that she hadn’t updated to OS X Mavericks (a free update). At this point, I realized that despite her academic brilliance, she’s not really an avid computer user; her routine is basically “flip it open, browse the web, type essays in Word, close the lid. Charge when needed. Realizing this, I asked her if she’s ever turned off her Mac. To my horror, she’s never turned it off after having the machine for over a year. Only when the battery has died has it taken a rest. On top of that, she also doesn’t back up her computer at all. Then it dawned on me: this is perfectly normal for a whole lot of you. This is not good, people. To rectify the issue, I’m going to be giving you all a few tips and keyboard shortcuts for your Mac, as well as why they’re useful. As not to inundate you with a huge list of things you won’t remember, I’ll try and break this up in to three parts (plus this one). I recommend looking back over these when school starts.

LESSON ZERO: Modifier Keys

For most of any of these tips to make sense, you’ll need to know what modifier keys are and how they work. All you do is hold them down while pressing another key (e.g. a number, letter, delete key, or one of the f# keys), and it allows you to complete an action more quickly than if you had moused around to figure out how to do it. You already know the easy ones: Command-X, C, and V for Cut, Copy, and Paste respectively. But there are far more than just those three.

The keys next on the bottom row on the keyboard on either side of the spacebar are your friends. Each of these keys also has an associated icon that represents them in the menu bar.  Here they are from left to right, along with their icons (and a few others):

  • shift (⇧): While not technically on the bottom row, it does serve as a modifier key.
  • ‘fn’ is “Function”. Not too often used, but it does do a couple of things that you’ll like.
  • control (⌃). Note this is not like the ctrl key on PCs.
  • option (⌥). Similar to the ‘alt’ key on PCs, it serves as an additional modifier key. It also allows you to type special characters when combined with a letter (or shift and a letter) such as ⌥0 = º (degree marker) or ⌥X = ≈ (roughly equal to). Give it a try—just press option and a letter.
  • command (⌘): If you’ll notice, Apple took the time to actually print this on the key, which means you have no excuse not to know it. This is the most common modifier, like ctrl on PCs.
  • escape (⎋): It’s good for a couple of things. Plus it has a cool icon.

Armed with that information, let’s see an example of them in practice:

 

SO MANY SHORTCUTS AAAAHH

SO MANY SHORTCUTS AAAAHH

This is the “View” menu in Safari. We can see the icons for Command, Option, Control, and Shift in this menu. If you follow those directions, then the corresponding action to the left will be executed. (Look in your menu bar and give it a try). To let you know that you’ve used a shortcut, the Menu Bar will flash the heading of the command you just executed. So if you press ⌘T right now, you’ll open a new tab in your web browser and see “File” flash quickly in the Menu Bar. See? Cool.

See, that wasn’t so hard. And it’s easy to practice—just do something harmless like Reload [or refresh] the page over and over again with ⌘R to get practice, or start printing things by just pressing ⌘P. It shaves off seconds and helps you to feel more productive. Below are the other topics I’ll discuss with you guys:

1. General Computer things you should be doing (Sneak Preview: Back up your Mac!)

2. Switching Apps Better

3. Special Characters, Cursor Movement, and other Miscellany

Hopefully through this process, I can help you guys (and your computers) to be a bit better at what you do.

What New Characters are left for Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS?

The most important part of any Smash Bros game is the roster. Stages are nice, items are fun, online modes are cool. But at the end of the day, we need to know who we’re going to play. Currently, there are 29 on the roster. On the site, there are 7 empty boxes in the list view (on smashbros.com, if you go to a character and scroll to the bottom you’ll see the boxes), so at the very least, there will be 7 characters announced between now and summer. My guesses, rationale for picking them, and reasons that other characters may not be making a return are listed below. It seems that Sakurai is making a conscious effort to eliminate clones, so that’s reflected in my predictions.

  • Captain Falcon: It’s freaking Captain Falcon. There is no Smash Bros. without the Falcon Punch. Also, he was in Nintendo Land, so Wii U audiences have some semblance of who he is despite the fact that it’s been 11 years since the last F-Zero game. (Sidebar: Make a new F-Zero game, Nintendo). Also: the Knee.
  • Ness: He’s one of the original 12, and he has a unique move set. There’s no need to leave him out. Plus, with Earthbound recently released on Virtual Console, many more in the States have had an opportunity to see him in his natural setting. I’d consider him a lock
  • Ganondorf or Ghirahim: `Dorf’s been in since Melee. However, he’s a Falcon Clone, so that’s a big knock against him. The only clone-like characters in the game now are Link and Toon Link, but the Legend of Zelda brand is popular enough to justify this. Ghirahim would be a much better choice. He’s the excellent villain of the hit Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on Wii, and the moves he uses in the game would translate very well to Smash. Choosing Ghirahim over ‘Dorf also reduces the clone count (though I will miss the Boot).
  • Jigglypuff: One of the original 12. Pink. Wears a hat (or a ribbon). Adorable. Also: Rest and Rollout, the most troll-tastic moves in the game. Besides, who wouldn’t want to face the infamous wall of ‘Puff?
  • Wario: One of the newcomers to Brawl, he has a unique move set so he wouldn’t be cut simply due to his status as a clone. Additionally, Ashley (of WarioWare, Inc.) is an assist trophy and there are other references to Wario Ware already in the game. With “Game and Wario” that was released just a few months ago, I can’t see them leaving him off.
  • Chrom or Lucina: These two are from the recent 3DS hit Fire Emblem: Awakening. Everyone who played the game fell in love (including me), and any way to increase the publicity of the game would be great for everyone involved. The series has had a rotating Fire Emblem spot since Melee [Roy] and again in Brawl [Ike], populated by the protagonist of the most recent Fire Emblem game, so one of these two should fit. Though Chrom is the protagonist of Awakening, I choose Lucina over Chrom for a couple of reasons: 1. to add more gender diversity to the cast—there are no females who aren’t princesses in either a dress or a skin-tight suit. (Yes, I know that Lucina is still a princess). 2) Chrom looks too similar to Marth as it is. 3. Smash has never had a female swordsman, which would lend itself to a slightly different-looking move set.
  • As for this slot, I really have no idea. Surprise us, Sakurai. With only 6 new characters out of a most-likely 36-person roster, I think that this slot goes to a new character, especially if Ganondorf is chosen over Ghirahim. I think seeing Anthony Higgs from Metroid: Other M would sufficiently throw everyone off, but I have no real hopes that he’ll be in the game. He could serve as a spiritual successor to Snake though. Will it go to Pac-Man? Possibly, but I don’t think he’s that cool. Palutena? That would be interesting, and inspire me to get Kid Icarus for the 3DS. Ridley? Too big, and we already have a flying dragon-like creature in the game and two characters who breathe fire. And no, crazy people: it won’t go to a 3rd party character or associate of Sonic or MegaMan. Don’t even try it.

Possibilites:

  • Meta Knight: Way overpowered in Brawl, he was a fan favorite (probably for the aforementioned reason). Kirby titles generally sell well, and many know him, especially given that Kirby had a TV-show in the mid-2000 that featured him—it’s how I was introduced to Kirby, King Dedede, and Dreamland. He’s a good pick to return, but I’d like to see a couple more newcomers.
  • ROB: Armed with a unique move set and origin, he’s a pretty interesting/fun-ish character. I would not be surprised either way.
  • Falco: Everyone knows Falco. Everyone loves Falco. As a Samus player, I hate Falco, but I cannot deny his popularity. Many Melee players would be betrayed if he was left out, but he was a really big clone of Fox, and I don’t know if his popularity can overcome his similarities to an already-confirmed character, especially since there hasn’t been a new Star Fox game since Star Fox Command on the DS in 2006 (though Star Fox 64 was re-released on the 3DS a couple of years ago).

Who misses the cut this time around?

  • Ice Climbers: A curious inclusion in Melee and a returnee in Brawl. From what I’ve seen in tournaments, only their broken/amazing grab combos are generally utilized at high levels of play. I don’t know any serous IC players, nor do I know anyone who’s played an Ice Climber game. Also, there’s only one, and it was for the NES. Yeah, no love lost for them, not to mention that Rosalina and Luma took their tag-team spot with more recognizable characters.
  • Mr. Game & Watch: Also a curious inclusion in Melee and a returnee in Brawl, I know only a couple of Game & Watch players. On top of his low popularity, the Game & Watch device from which the Mister originated preceded even the NES. Yeah, he can go too.
  • Ike: As the most recent inhabitant of the rotating Fire Emblem slot (initially held by our boy Roy), I see little need for him to return. He was a semi-unique fighter, but Lucina would be a much better choice.
  • Squirtle and Ivysaur: once bound to Charizard as the other two of three parts of the Pokémon Trainer, this game’s removal of rotating/midgame character transformations meant that two-thirds of the Pokémon Trainer needed to go. Sakurai made the right choice in leaving these two on the cutting room floor, as the game already has enough Pokémon in the game (especially when/if Jigglypuff returns)
  • Lucas: A little-known Ness clone. Few outside of Japan have even played Earthbound 2 (where Lucas originates), so outside of his mains, not too many would be disappointed if he didn’t make his return.
  • Wolf: A clone of a clone. I’m not even sure why he was in Brawl. I don’t expect his return. If he does return, it will be at the expense of Falco.
  • Snake: The biggest surprise of Brawl’s roster, Snake was a fan favorite. I just don’t think the rights are there to have him back. With Sheik’s Side-B move now a grenade toss in the spirit of Snake’s Neutral-B from Brawl, I think we can retire ol’ Snake to the hospice.

Definitely not coming back ever:

  • Mewtwo. Get over yourselves. Especially with Greninja joining the roster in addition to Lucario instead of replacing him, there’s no more room for Pokémon between the 4 playable ones [Pikachu and Charizard] and maybe Jigglypuff. On the 0% chance that he would return, you could kiss Jiggs goodbye.

Thoughts on the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS Nintendo Direct

Yesterday, Nintendo fans around the world were treated to a Nintendo Direct that detailed the hotly-anticipated fourth installment of the Smash Bros. series. Originally coming out on the Nintendo 64 as “Super Smash Bros.”, it pitted Nintendo All-Stars in a fight to see who could come out on top. Its sequel was the all-time classic “Super Smash Bros. Melee” on the GameCube, a fixture in my top-3 favorite games of all time. It is still played in tournaments all over the world and has recently undergone a renaissance. The third installment is “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” for the Wii, in which the director (Masahiro Sakurai) aimed to move away from the highly competitive and technical Melee to the slower Brawl (which included fun things like spontaneous tripping). For Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS (henceforth referred to as Smash4 together, and SmashU and Smash(3)DS separately), Sakurai has taken a middle ground between the technical, fast-paced Melee and the slow, floaty, ‘fun’ Brawl. I’ll tackle my thoughts on the direct in the order they appeared.

Release Date

As of right now, SmashDS releases this summer and SmashU releases this winter.

I don’t think that anyone was expecting a split release, but it makes sense for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, it avoids cannibalism. Paying for both simultaneously is a larger financial strain than having 6 months post-SmashDS to save up (and anticipate) the Wii U version. With  SmashU coming out around Christmas, Nintendo will be able to increase their console count due to holiday sales and release a Christmas bundle. SmashU gives the Wii U a hit when it will face stiff competition from more-mature PS4 and Xbox One titles. Similarly, a summer release for SmashDS gives Nintendo a summer windfall, which will make investors happy.

3DS Technicality

60 frames per second, including when in full 3D. Excellent. Making Pokémon and Assist Trophies run at 30 fps was a good compromise to ensure that the framerate remains smooth—that’s the number one goal. I find it odd that Sakurai didn’t mention any frame data on the Wii U version, but given that there are still many months to go, he may not have found the right balance on that. The U should have no problems running at 60fps for all on-screen elements and backgrounds (unless literally every item in the game is going off at the same time). If there was a problems with this, I hope they make the same compromise they did with the 3DS.

Differences Between Versions

Same fighters, new stages—I definitely think that’s the best way to handle this, especially since the stages are platform specific. In terms of sharing options, hopefully you’ll be able to share control schemes/customizations between the two. It’s odd that there hasn’t been much 3DS–Wii U exchange yet.

Online Play

Let’s be clear—online play in Super Smash Bros. Brawl was absolute garbage. The new system that they’ve implemented is far better. No more Friend Code bullsh*t (still don’t understand how that arcane system works), as your Nintendo Network ID and associated Mii are now used (no more taunt parties!). Additionally, there are two play modes: “For Fun” and “For Glory”.  “For Glory” This, to me, is an indication that Sakurai has been listening to fans in addressing Brawl’s shortcomings and better appealing to hardcore players (like myself). “For Fun” involves every stage but Final Destination, and all items are turned on for maximum mayhem. In “For Glory”, Final Destination is chosen and no items are used. This is excellent for players like myself who never play with items (I haven’t in years). To eliminate fatigue, Sakurai & Co. have created Final Destination forms of most of the other stages in the game, so that we can enjoy their art and music as well. (I hope that these forms are available for local multiplayer as well; it’s probably the only way I’d play). It is a brilliant idea that really shows that the team thought about the needs of hardcore players while still making things fun for the younger ones who play with all items and on all manner of crazy stages.

There are a couple of drawbacks to “For Glory”, namely the limitation of Final Destination and Timed vs. Stock nature of the matches. What about the other neutral stage, Battlefield? There should be versions of this stage as well, as Battlefield is better than Final Destination for characters like Marth, Zero Suit Samus, King DeDeDe, and more while Final Destination serves as an advantage for characters like Sonic and Samus. If there were varying stage forms with a battlefield-like setup, I would be very pleased.

In tournaments, rounds are set to 4 stocks with an 8 minute time limit on the match. But it seems as though there will be some sort of time limit on “For Glory” matches without it being a stock round, and this poses a problem. When a character gets a kill, the killer gets +1 and the killed receives –1 for their scores. But to win, the killer only needs to have a number greater than the killed, not necessarily kill the other player a set amount of times. Take the following example: Player 1 and 2 have high damage, there are 30 seconds remaining in the match, the score is tied at 0. Player 1 kills 2 with 10 seconds left, making the score +1/–1 respectively. Player 2 still has time to return to the stage and get a kill for the tie. But what happens when Player 1 Self-destructs (worth –1)? The score becomes 0/–1, and now Player 2 has virtually no chance of getting a kill and taking the lead with the limited time remaining. This is why tournaments don’t use time matches, as stock matches encourage survival. Should “For Glory” use time matches instead of stock matches, the phenomenon I gave in the example will lead to “self destruct finishes”. It’s not fair, and hopefully they realize this over in Japan.

A note of miscellany: online voice chat was not mentioned, and with it being Nintendo, I don’t expect it.

Bonus: The Wii LAN adapter apparently works with the Wii U and can help with a great connection. I sense that a lot of these will be purchased soon; I know I’ll be grabbing one. Unfortunately, since it’s over USB, the max theoretical is 10/100 gbps. Ouch, but that may still be better than the Wii U’s Wi-Fi a/g/n.

Global Smash Power

Rather than a simple ranking system #1–#of players, the Smash team has implemented ‘Global Smash Power’. This is a ranking that simply states “you are better than x number of people”, making a larger number more covetable. It’s certainly more easy to rank people this way, as you can create a formula based on events completed/wins to determine definitively what players are better than others without having to crown a #1. It’s a very Nintendo way of doing things.

Items, Pokéballs, and Master Pokéballs. 

I don’t play with them, so they don’t mean too much to me. Glad to know the good ones are there though. I must say, I fist pumped when I saw Dark Samus as an assist trophy though.

Returning Fighters

Zero Suit Samus! Sweet, glad she’s back—even though Sakurai was playing games in the Direct, making it look like she wouldn’t be back for a second. Her jet boots seem to be inspired by the classic “Haloid” short by Monty Oum that came out way back in about 2007(!). The fact that Samus and Zero Suit exist as separate characters is fine with me, as one really couldn’t actively switch between the two characters in-game. (Yes, I know that it is possible to transform from Samus to Zero Suit in Brawl without a Smash Ball, but it was a one-off event.) I may actually want to play with Smash Balls with Samus now that I know I won’t be playing a completely different character after I use it.

Shiek and Zelda, split? It will certainly be a big change for Zelda/Shiek mains, but many Shiek players didn’t play the traditionally terrible Zelda anyway. They will benefit from having a new side and down special, however.

Charizard, I don’t really care about. Interesting that they took out Pokemon Trainer, but that works well for people that only liked ⅓ or ⅔ of the Pokémon Trainer. Alas, that also means that Squirtle and Ivysoar are most likely gone, but I’m sure most would have picked Charizard out of the three to carry the torch.

Yoshi: I really don’t care about him. At least he stands up correctly, as he’s been awkwardly hunched over in the past, just like Bowser. Hopefully they’ll smooth over Samus’ run animation too, but I wouldn’t hold my breath—I’d die before the game even made it to the eShop.

New Movesets: I’m glad that Sakurai went ahead and spelled out the move sets for the new characters (Mega Man, Villager, Wii Fit Trainer). That really takes a load off of the Internet trying to piece it together from videos. Not sure who I’ll like out of them yet.

New character Graninja: No idea who he is, but he looks interesting. I’ll give him a shot. He rounds out the quota for Pokemon, as the last Pokéslot should go to Jigglypuff.

Smash Run

Honestly, I really don’t have much to say about this, other than that it should be an awesome, fun diversion from the main game as well as a way to have more fun with other modes of the game.

Custom Movesets

Custom Movesets came out of nowhere, and I have no idea what to make of it. I’ll have to get some more information. It looks cool, especially since you can play with custom fighters online with your friends (only) in addition to local. I look forward to returning Samus’ missiles to their former glory if Sakurai hasn’t fixed them yet. I suspect that this mode limited to the Wii U, just as Smash Run is limited to the 3DS.

Overall Thoughts and Observations

The biggest thing that I’ve noticed is a reduction in the ‘randomness’ of certain attributes of the game (e.g. no more tripping, and King Dedede now throws Gordos exclusively rather than 8% of the time), and an acknowledgement that hardcore fans enjoy the game differently—but no less so. The “For Glory” mode is very much appreciated, and I look forward to playing online much more often (I’m sick of playing level 9 CPUs, and they don’t lend themselves to player development like playing against humans do). I really appreciate how the game now better appeals to hardcore and casual players, rather than just casual players. At the end of the day, it’ll be the hardcore players who will still be playing the game 10 years from now, just as we’re the ones with GameCubes and N64s still playing Melee and Smash64. By my estimate, Melee is the most popular form of Smash on campus, and I don’t expect that to change for another 3 or 4 years.

There are no GamePad-specific features for the game, so it’ll be all Pro Controller for me. It would reduce a big headache for me if they said “Alright, Pro Controller only” for the control scheme. Naturally and deservedly so, that would raise an uproar, but dealing with Classic Controller Pros, Wiimotes, Wiimote + Nunchuks, Pro Controllers, and GamePads is a massive headache. It’s also easier to explain to newbies when everyone has the same controller.

All in all, I’m very excited for the game (if you couldn’t tell by the massive blog post). I think it will be what Brawl should have been, and that it won’t cause the great divide in the Smash community that Brawl did and instead serve as a unifying game. I know I’ll be picking up both copies on release day, and that most free moments will be filled by playing the new Smash. Here’s to the future.

What the Wii U needs is a kick in the pants

Making the Wii U Relevant

I’m a big Nintendo fan. Always have been, always will be, and those of you who have read this blog regularly know. But with their latest console—the Wii U—they’ve blown a head start and have already been counted as out of the race by many technology pundits. The Nintendo 3DS started out is the same way, but with a price cut and release of some highly-anticipated games, it’s taken off. The main difference here, however, is that the 3DS never really had any competition (the Vita is a joke). The Wii U can go the way of the 3DS instead of the GameCube (great titles, but not very many customers to enjoy them)—but it’s up to Nintendo to make that decision. Nintendo needs to make some things happen at E3, and beyond.

What Nintendo needs to do for E3:

Bring out the first party heavy hitters—but not Mario
Let me get this out of the way first: no more Mario. We’ve sen a ton of him throughout 2011 and 2012, and Nintendo has plenty of other franchises it can pull from to excite fans and the media. Give us some more information—and release dates— for Yoshi’s Yarn, the next Smash, and the next Kirby. Best of all, throw us all for a loop: let’s see F-Zero.
Many current console owners would be appeased by some new demos to play; we’re impatient, and Nintendo owes us. We bought the console early, and have been let down by no major releases since launch. It’s now April. I think that Nintendo should let us download the first few minutes of Wind Waker HD and give us a glimpse of what Yoshi’s yarn can look like.

“Hardcore” fans need to be addressed, if only because we’re the loudest and can make or break a system’s popularity. We know that Nintendo scored on Bayonetta 2. But what’s it look like? What’s the story? What is the gameplay like, especially for those of us that haven’t played the first one? We’ve gotta see that in action. Nintendo has to deliver on this, and tell us when it will be available—hopefully Summer 2014. Metroid is Nintendo’s first-party hardcore experience, and we’ll all be happy to see a return to Prime shape in Samus’ house. Letting us fly her ship between planets, chase down the Galactic Federation or rival bounty hunter, and switch between first and third person modes I think will be the future for this franchise. I think. Samus should have a voice—Nintendo should have at least one character that isn’t an empty shell—but she need to be written and portrayed well. She doesn’t have to say much. Retro, I think, could handle this balance well.

2. We Need Retro
Arguably, the strongest thing Nintendo has up its sleeve is whatever Retro Studios is working on. Widely and deservedly acclaimed for the Metroid Prime series as well as the Donkey Kong Country Returns reboot, anything they touch is essentially gold. Rumors have their new project to be one of two franchises: Metroid or Star Fox. Though I’m a huge Metroid fan and greatly revere what the team has done in reviving that series, it’s Star Fox that needs the revival treatment. It’s been 8 years since the last installment—interestingly, the same length of time between Super Metroid and Retro-developed Metroid Prime. Also note that both franchises skipped a Nintendo home console. It’s time for Star Fox to get its due. I don’t know what angle Retro can approach the game from, but I know that everyone believes that they know what they’re doing.

3. Third Parties
We need to know that certain third party titles are coming to the platform. We know that Nintendo has never been strong in this regard, but it would certainly be nice to see. Let’s have Nintendo fighting for us in the background: where’s the Mass Effect Trilogy? Where’s Bayonetta 1? Even going back on some last-gen classics would do well with those of us who only one one console—Nintendo’s.

Nintendo is going to have a lot of competition at E3, and new hardware will be all of the buzz. Only top-notch software is going to allow Nintendo to steal the limelight, and boy do they need it.

Long term, the Wii U needs a number things to happen: drop the basic set or include Nintendo Land with it, introduce a serious marketing campaign, and partner up. The basic set is confusing, a poor value, and useless. Make the deluxe available in white or black. I personally wanted a white console, but didn’t want to get ripped off. Additionally, include Nintendo Land with all hardware sold. Nintendo Land helps players to ‘get it’. Nintendo needs as many people to ‘get it’ as possible. I’ve barely seen any ads for the Wii U. Make it clear that this is new, badass, and is a gaming machine. The precious few ads I’ve seen haven’t done that. This is where Nintendo needs to be willing to break the bank: no console sales, no revenue. It takes spending money to make money, and Nintendo has the dough. They just need to direct it in the right way. Lastly, as I’ve said in previous posts, Nintendo’s history is it’s greatest strength. Partner up to allow us to experience this history in new ways. The best example of this is Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Wii U Edition.

If all of this happens (and I hope to God it will), then no one will worry about Nintendo; they’ll be the talk of the town and the industry’s darling. But more than virtually every company (but Apple), Nintendo’s fate is in it7
s own hands.

The Sideways State of Screens

In the late 90′s and early 2000s, DVDs took off. DVDs, the successor to the CD in the same physical dimensions and capable of holding many more gigabytes of data, soon became commonplace and expected. Every computer started shipping with a DVD-rom drive. At the same time, operating systems started to support DVD playback. To match this, computer monitors started shipping in widescreen to support video at native dimensions. Today, every laptop, desktop, and external monitor is in landscape orientation.

And it’s absolutely terrible.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that 98% of what anyone and everyone does on a screen consists of two things: reading and writing. I watch movies and TV shows on my laptop fairly often, but it nowhere near matches the time that I’m working with documents, reading, or writing. And for working with documents and reading, a taller screen is far, far better.

Look at the iPhone. All models up to the iPhone 5 had a 3.5 diagonal screen. The 5 increased this to a 4 inch screen by adding rows of pixels at the top and bottom. This means more content on screen and less scrolling down lists. I honestly think that computer screens should be re-worked in that way to significantly boost productivity and reduce scrolling.

At my office, I have access to a perfectly square screen, and I absolutely love it.

Here’s what’s available on my widescreen 13.3-inch MacBook:

This is a view that I and many others are accustomed to on their laptop screens.

This is a view that I and many others are accustomed to on their laptop screens.

Compare that to the use of the square external screen in iTunes:

Notice the big difference on usable space: there's more vertical space, and no horizontal space sacrificed.

Notice the big difference on usable space: there’s more vertical space, and no horizontal space sacrificed.

That added space is real. That’s useful. That’s awesome. I use iTunes constantly—not just every once in a while. There are 10 more useful rows of content there, and no need to scroll (notice the lack of scrollbar, compared to the first photo). iTunes isn’t the only application that benefits here. Word Processors, browsers, anything that requires you to scroll (which, I’ll bet, is 95%+ of the applications you use) benefits.

I lament that computer manufacturers moved away from screens with a 1:1 or smaller ratio. I would personally love either a 1:1 screen or something akin to 9:16 that rotated depending on the kind of content that was shown, not unlike our current phones.

I say write all of this to say, if you’re in the market for an external screen, or you get the opportunity to work on a square screen, don’t be afraid. It is conducive to a more productive environment, and allows you to see a lot more of content that you work with all the time, as opposed to video sometimes. Your scrolling hand will thank you.

How do you use items in Zelda Wii U?

With the announcement of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker coming to the Wii U in HD, people all over the world are jumping for joy. Nintendo also announced that development for the next Zelda is underway (surprise!). But how would it work on the Wii U? With Skyward Sword controlled by the Wii Remote, everything made sense. Swing the Wii Remote as your sword. Use it like a whip for the whip. Hold it like a bow and arrow when using said weapon. Throw or roll bombs. It was Zelda perfected.

But with the Wii U and the GamePad, one seems to be taking a step back in control in some respects. You can’t swing around the GamePad and have that work as a sword or hold it up to shoot a bow and arrow. You can use it for something like the Beetle or slingshot that simply requires aim, but not necessarily pull back on a bow. So, what to do? Let’s look at it item by item:

Menu Items: To select items, a radial dial similar to the one used in the TVii remote would closely approximate the fantastic radial dials used to select items in Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword.

Swordplay/Bug Net: Maybe the right stick can control swordplay, but that still won’t offer the 5 directional options that Skyward Sword offered. Using the right stick wouldn’t be very immersive, however. It seems like the best recourse would be to allow the touchscreen to serve for swordplay. This would allow players to run and swing the sword like what was possible in Twilight Princess (and sorely missing in Skyward Sword).

The Beetle: Easy—use the GamePad Gyro to steer and aim it. We could also get a first-person beetle perspective.

Boomerang: Alas, there’s little use for the boomerang in a world with the Beetle, Slingshots, and Arrows.

Bow and Arrow/Slingshot: Aim with the GamePad, knock an arrow with the right stick, just as it is in Nintendo Land.

Gust Bellows: I don’t think that this would work too well. Touchscreen maybe.

Whip: This is tricky. I think tapping on the touchscreen is the best bet for this.

Clawshots: Easy. Aim with the gyro or the control stick (ugh)

Bombs: I don’t see how one could do something other than simply throwing them like what was available in every Zelda other than Skyward Sword (where you could roll). Rolling would have to be accomplished through the use of another action button (like in Wind Waker).

I have no doubt that the team at Nintendo has already thought about this and is already well on the way to do wonderful things. I can’t wait to see what’s in store. Who knows, maybe we’ll see some of this in Wind Waker U!

How to make The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker U Set Sail

Yesterday, Nintendo released a bombshell of information in their latest Nintendo Direct. In my mind, the best news that we heard was the announcement of a new Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker remastered for HD. Wind Waker was my first Zelda game, and the one closest to my heart. I called my brother to tell him the news, and he claimed that it was too good to be true before jumping for joy at my insisting that it was true. Now, there are a number of things that can go either really well or quite terribly for the remake. Below are my thoughts for a good remake and a perfect update.

A Promo Shot of Wind Waker HD

A Promo Shot of Wind Waker HD

A Good Wind Waker:

A good Wind Waker is going to have the updated visuals that we’ve already seen. It’s going to have a triumphant return of the same great tunes. The ocean will have a bit more wildlife. We’re going to be able to play the game on just the GamePad. It’s going to give us a full map on the GamePad when playing on the TV. It’s going to let us take pictures in-game and post them on Miiverse. Everyone will love it, and everyone will buy it.

How to make a fantastic Wind Waker:

Most importantly, orchestrate the soundtrack. Update the tunes tastefully. They’re all wonderful, but put some more oomph behind them. We already have a perfectly great Wind Waker soundtrack available on the original, so feel free to add a little bit more to the game musically. Give voices to everyone but Link. Given that the entire game pertains to islands and sea travel, include a modified version of Twilight Princess’ fishing (and then make it funner, like the option to fish for rupees). Add Skyward Sword’s fantastic stamina system (I don’t see how the series managed to work so well without it).

There are also a number of things that they can do to enhance the art style. Firstly: make the ocean a little bit clearer; let us see to the ocean floor (depending on the depths). Let’s see coral reefs and wildlife and fish—but in the spirit of Wind Waker’s art style. (One example of this is sailing in the Sand Sea in Wind waker: cartoony and cell shaded, yet gorgeous and adding depth and beauty to the game). Regarding the visual direction: enhance it, but don’t over do it. Make the rocks on Windfall rocky, don’t just add color and detail to the flat surface. And looking at the characters, let’s see some fabric and depth and layer to their clothes, not the painted on look that the GameCube used. Skyward Sword did a great job of this. Looking at the photo above, it looks a bit “painted on”.

Additionally, Wind Waker was never truly finished—there were two dungeons that should have been included that weren’t due to time constraints. Give us those dungeons, and allow the “Triforce Hunt” to become the opportunity to look for new items, like the aforementioned fishing rod or rupees. This rewards those who have already played through the game and know where those Triforce pieces are, while allowing the main quest to stay true to its original vision. At the very least, reverse the two: give us the dungeons, but make them optional. This would be a disappointment though.

One thing that would make my day: make the bombs work as they do in Skyward Sword: don’t let them light until after they’ve left Link’s hands! Oh, and let us refill our bomb bag from bomb flowers. Seriously, that was the best thing in the entire game.

Nintendo has really done Zelda fans a huge favor by remaking Wind Waker. They have the opportunity to make it good or to make it great. Hopefully they’ll put the work in and make it spectacular.

The GameCube Controller

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One of the greatest controllers ever built.

When the Nintendo GameCube was announced back in 200, everyone was very excited. It was one of Nintendo’s most traditional consoles, and had a number of stellar games. As as with all games, you interact with them through the controller: and the GameCube has one of the best ones.

While Xbox and Playstation controllers had a standard A-B-X-Y layout, the GameCube controller has an asymmetrical layout that it more comfortable for the thumb: a large green A center circular button, slightly lower, circular B button, and two bean-shaped buttons to the right and above the A button. Odd as it may seem, it was a very comfortable layout—especially the low travel time between buttons and the proximity of the Y button to the A button.

The C-Stick p, primarily used to control the camera in 3D space, was smaller in nature that the thumb stick on the upper-left of the controller. Both were octagonal as opposed to circular. On the lower-left, there is the familiar D-pad, but too small to be used as more than simply another set of buttons rather than a main way to play games. Neither the C-stick or the Control Stick could be depressed as another button.

The triggers (oh the triggers!) were analog; and is still the only Nintendo controller to have them. Above the right trigger is the Z button; oddly enough, there was no equivalent above the left trigger.

With the inclusion of GameCube ports on the Wii, the GameCube controller got more time in the sun than most controllers, lasting through 2 full generations (though Nintendo took off the GameCube backwards-compatibility with the release of the black Wii in 2010). Everyone is familiar with GameCube controllers. They’re comfortable. Familiar. Traditional. When the Wii came out, everyone clutched on to them, especially for games like Smash Bros. Unfortunately, Nintendo also kind of shot themselves in the foot with it too: Wii U owners aren’t happy that their venerable controllers are finally being laid to rest. The biggest complaint I get when people come over to play is “It doesn’t support GameCube games?”

The GameCube controller was good to all of us. We’ll never forget Smash Bros. with it, or Metroid Prime, or Resident Evil 4. Rest well, Cube controller.

🔱 The iPhone 5

It’s been about two weeks since I purchased my iPhone 5. And I absolutely love it.

My previous phone was the iPhone 4. As is the case with most updates to Apple’s products, changes from version A-B aren’t very great, but increase noticeably from version A-C, more so from A-D, and only bears a slight resemblance from version A-E. Given that I was only making a two-generational leap, the differences were notable.

The first thing that immediately struck me was the weight. It’s the lightest iPhone yet. It’s almost too light. The first time you pick it up coming from a 4 or 4S (the second-heaviest and heaviest, respectively), your hand will scream in protest. Since i recently got my iPhone 4 fixed, I’ve been handling it on and off and I’m always taken aback at how heavy and dense it feels. Equally surprising is the thinness. Looking horizontally at the iPhone 4 chassis, it’s split into three parts: top glass layer (face), metal antenna, lower glass layer (back). The iPhone 5 removes the bottom layer of glass, stretches the metal antenna around the sides over the back (leaving small glass panes at the top and bottom), then reduces the height of the top glass layer. It’s beautiful and sturdy. At worst. Only a small pane at the top and bottom can now shatter (the phone signals have to get out somewhere) and dents and scratches will appear on the back. Thankfully this isn’t the soft metal that was infamous on the iPods of old.

The front of the iPhone looks a lot better to me. At first glance, it’s hard to see the difference (other than the longer screen). The front facing camera has moved above the earpiece, which looks much better. Unfortunately for white iPhone 5′s, the proximity sensor is still colored black and located to the left of the piece. This detracts from the facial symmetry. Apple has also waxed poetic about the chamfered edges on the corners of the iPhone. It really does soften up the feel and intimidation factor of the phone. The edge reflects nicely on the white iPhone, and I think it enhances the look of the device.

One thing that has thrown me off is the movement of the headphone jack from the upper left to the lower left of the phone. Despite this, I believe that it makes the phone look a lot better. I would hAe preferred that Apple move the sleep-wake button to the other side as it was on earlier models of the iPod touch. This makes for a more comfortable grip for right handed users when pressing the button. (On a similar note, I also think that the volume should switch sides for easier thumb usage.) you lucky lefties.

The iPhone 5 bucks the trend of every iPhone, iPod, and iPad before it by introducing the Lightning port. And boy do I love it. While I lament the fact that I have a plethora of 30-pin cables all over the place that are now rendered moot, I love the reversibility and sturdiness of the connector. It saves enough space in the phone such that Apple could make a bigger battery, bigger speaker, and include 4G LTE. This new Lightning connector is truly Apple’s style in elegance and simplicity. They offer two converter cables that will work for virtually all of the accessories that you’ll throw at it.

The camera is a fantastic over the 4. Richer colors, more detail, better in low light, but most importantly—faster. The time it takes to go from lock screen to taking the first shot has probably been reduced by two-thirds. It’s near instantaneous. The upgrade from 720p HD to 1080p HD is equally nice. The front-facing camera has also become 720p HD, which is a welcome change.

The first time you use 4G LTE, your head will explode. It’s so much faster than what most people are used to, you’ll show your friends and start downloading a bunch of movies. Do so with the knowledge that you still have a data plan. I’ve switched to using Verizon, and their network coverage on LTE is phenomenal. However, the inability to do voice and data is obnoxious to me, as is their byzantine multi-call process. If your someone who makes a lot of calls and group calls, I would recommend AT&T for better call management alone.

While I’ve had Siri available on my iPad, the use-case for needing Siri on my iPad is slim. On the iPhone, however, it’s fantastic, especially while driving. She’s only dropped the ball for me 3 times (out of 100 by now, probably). Every once in a while, I will get a really odd answer for dictation, but most of the time it’s spot on. Once you get used to saying aloud punctuation, it’s very handy (e.g. Text mom hey comma do I need to pick Winston up from school question mark” to get “Hey, do I need to pick up Winston from school?).

A quick note about Apple Maps

The Internet has been all in a tizzy about the Apple’s maps. I ran some tests and had it navigate me to a number of locations, including from my house to my Uncle’s in Jacksonville. It was flawless. Additionally, it sits and continues to update visually on the lock screen, which is wonderful. Turn-by-Turn is exceptionally handy, and should have been here years ago. If it’s really a big deal to you, Google Maps is available on the iPhone, as well as other alternatives. Remember, Apple Maps will only get better the more you use it and report issues. The only awkward thing that happened to me was when it routed me to take a side road around. A roundabout. But remember, no mapping is perfect, and to also use common road sense.

Miscellaneous Notes

• The vibrating motor is different from the AT&T iPhone 4. It’s definitely not as loud, which is a welcome change.
• The buttons feel great. Apple knows how to make lasting buttons.
• While light, the phone feels sturdy. There’s little to no flex.
• The white and silver looks better, in my eyes. Ideally, Apple could increase their options to nc,due a “White and Slate” and “Black and Silver” (my ideal iPhone 5)

Without a doubt, the iPhone is a luxury item. But it’s a luxury item made available to the masses and a competitive and value-laden package. Keeping in mind the strong third party market, availability on all major and some minor US carriers and the nearly one-million apps on the App Store, you really can’t go wrong with the iPhone 5. I heartily give it my full recommendation.