Iriver Clix – MP3 Done Mostly Right!

Okay bitches, here’s the dealio:

A while back, my slightly-retarded girlfriend bought an Iriver E10. I thought that was a pretty stupid choice. Many of you people – and let’s collectively refer to you as “imbeciles” – disagreed! The nerve!

The question was asked: so if I’m so smart, what would I buy? I mumbled something about a clix and didn’t really worry about it – I was happy with my gf’s unloved Samsung necklace.

Three weeks ago, in preparation for a long international flight on we-don’t-do-in-seat-entertainment-sir United Airlines, I needed some form of entertainment for the trip.

What did I buy? It wasn’t an Ipod… and if you’re not severely learning-challenged, you’ll know what I bought from the title.

Yep, a Clix.

Let’s run through my list of requirements again, this time using the Clix as ma’ ho:

Syncs with Windows Media Player: try and frakkin’ stop it! (YES!)

It integrates so well, it works like a frickin’ bought one. It’s brilliant. It Just Works.

Plays Windows Media DRM encrypted files: PROBABLY!

Honestly, I dunno, I lost them all. Bluntly, if anyone’s going to do DRM, it should be someone likely to still be in existence 99 years from now. Preferably, forever. I lost a bunch of music rights on NineMSN music recently somehow, so fuck them, and I’m scared of using Bigpond Music again for similar reasons (they found no record of one of my album purchases, so credited me an album).

Er, ranting aside, I assume it does the Windows DRM thang, based on the WMP integration and the PlaysForSure* (* – note: may not play for sure) certification thingo.

Has a standard mini USB 2.0 socket for charging and transfer: NO! BUT THE CRADLE DOES!

Noooo! Iriver, you bastards! So close to being perfect, and no mini USB socket.

If you pick up the Cradle, though, the cradle does have a USB socket, plus the cutest little tinny speakers you’ve ever seen. So I charge it in the cradle now, via USB, from the Media Centre (which offers to play the video stored on the clix – how very cool).

Doesn’t require loads of custom software to work properly: YES!

Just Windows Media Player! None of this Plus 3 bollocks!

Well, perhaps a qualified yes – DivX videos didn’t Just Work, I needed to reconvert them to 15fps 384k DivXs before they worked. The tool for the job: a SUPER tool, called SUPER© . Yeah, the name’s totally gay. But it works, says two seasons of The West Wing.

If there’s one complaint I have about it, it’s that it gets fingerprints on it really easily, but that’s a pretty lame thing. The inferface is good, very Media Centre, and everything pretty much Just Works.

So Is It Any Good? YES!

It’s not without its issues, but it’s pretty bloody good. Sound quality is really good, video is okay – the screen is very crisp and bright, the video frame rate is all that leaves a little to be desired. Issues like: the cradle is at just the wrong angle to be put on a tray table on an aircraft (it’d need to be oriented further upwards).

And it’s small – not tiny, but it’s really very small, so I find I have to hold it fairly near my face to recapture that IMAX experience when watching video.

Also, it takes a while to charge, like 2.5 hours-ish, sometimes longer from USB. I got the 2GB model for about $AU200.

All up, very happy with my purchase.

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Xbox 360 Controller and Ventrilo Push-To-Talk

Xanthan asked whether you could configure Ventrilo to use one of the Xbox 360 Controller buttons for the push-to-talk hotkey. He also mentioned a wireless adapter for Windows, which I hadn’t heard of, but sounds way cool if true!

To answer the question: Yep. This is on Windows, natch.

From the Ventrilo Setup page, tick the DirectInput thing, then hit Controller.

The Controller dialog works right-to-left (wtf!?) so the stuff on the right is actually not enabled, you need to Add it over to the left for the button presses to be watched.

OK that dialog back to the setup panel, and click in the hotkey area – it’ll change to Mouse1, but that’s OK – just hit the button you want to use for Push To Talk. I used the Start button, but any button other than the Guide button is workable.

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Newish E10 Firmware 1.03 (UMS)

Still no MTP firmware, oh, the joy, so most of my complaints probably still stand. Did I mention I wasn’t a fan of their website?

But if you’re actually using this good-looking-but-crippled hunk’o’crap, the latest firmware is available here.

Teh Web also has copies of Iriver Plus3 kicking around, which is rumoured to do video encoding. I say rumoured because the official site is in Korean and requires registration for a download, but I spotted other links in the web search that might pan out…

And last up – if you’re coming here for genuine enthusiasm about Iriver media players, you’ve been sadly misled. Try MisticRiver.net instead – that’s where the crazies go to a) post news of new iriver firmware updates and b) hang out and moan about how wonderful their players could have been.

Saints Row Demo Review

The Saints Row demo was definitely worth the 1 Gig download.

And I’m definitely going to buy the game. It’s a lot of fun, the physics are fun to play with (even if the sandpit is a bit limited, space-and-feature-wise in the demo).

I’ll give it an 8 out of 10 so I can bitch about little things that annoyed me.

First up – graphical niggle: the windows on the elevated train you sometimes see in the distance aren’t fogged like the surrounding environment – they’re pitch-black in places.

The framerate drops in places; GTA:SA was also horrendous that way, but graphics are generally better in SR. So it’s nothing major; it didn’t seem to spoil any part of the game.

My big rant: The vehicle controls just don’t seem quite right. I played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and San Andreas on keyboard, and it worked. But there’s an unfortunate choice of controls here:

  • Using buttons (yes, buttons!) A and X for accelerate and brake/reverse (the default), or
  • Battlefield 2-style left-stick only for everything

The advantage of the BF2 model is that it frees up your right thumb for the view/shoot controls, which are active while driving: You can in theory shoot anywhere around your car at any moment. The problem is that you just can’t aim and accelerate or brake at the same time – you just don’t have enough thumbs. Does this mean I’m meant to be using one of those godawful right-hand-down control styles with my forefinger on the right stick and my little finger for the shoulder button and trigger? No thanks!

So, if the button layout isn’t quite right, perhaps the Left Stick driving control will work better?

As it turns out, most of the vehicle control problems I have with Battlefield 2 stem from this overloading of the left stick. It’s very hard to judge where you need to be steering on a short-travel analog stick when you also need to control the up/down-iness of the stick too. Which is a pity, because it frees up your aiming and shooting thumb. So I’m probably going to try to learn left-stick better.

What would I really like? I’d like left-stick aim, triggers for brake and accelerate, button handbrake (PGR3 style) and click the right stick to shoot (or perhaps even the right shoulder button). Yes, just when in the car. Yes, I know it’s inconsistent. That’s what I’d really like. Hey Volition, how about it?

The voice acting is very good – Keith David’s in particular. His encouragement of you being an “unstoppable mothafucka” while you’re taking down rival gangs in the demo’s final mission is amusing. There’s an all-star cast in the full game.

So, again – fun game, the demo’s got a good 1/2 hour of gameplay in it (maybe a bit more if you experiment), and it’s about a gig to download (free, natch) from XBox Live Marketplace.

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Battlefield 2 Modern Combat Review (Xbox 360)

At A Glance

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In several ways, better than Battlefield 2 for PC.

  • Overall: 8
  • Graphics: 7
  • Sound: 7
  • Single Player: 8
  • Multiplayer: 8

Good:

  • frenetic combat
  • single player campaign
  • generally good network play
  • lots of neat graphical touches

Bad:

  • campaign can be inconsistently hard
  • lots of pauses between challenges
  • stupid people that only want to play BridgeTooFar or Backstab online

In Depth

Getting from the Xbox Marketplace demo of BF2MC to actually buying the game took me more than a month. The demo was polished, the online play was fun, and the controls weren’t terrible. Why the hesitation? Because I’d played Battlefield 2 for PC.

Battlefield 2 PC is not my favourite game. I enjoyed BF1942 for a while. I loved screaming “Your country has deserted you, Geee Ayyye!” in a faux asian female accent at my girlfriend when Battlefield Vietnam came out. I got into Desert Combat for a little while.

BF2 was fun for about a week, then the kids cracked it and the sploits started. Then the bugs. As of 1.3, I can’t connect to any servers any more. I’m told it’s not uncommon. Fantastic job there.

So anyway, why is BF2MC better? For starters, it handles the sploit situation completely, because it’s a closed system. Only people with (presumably uncracked) Xbox 360s can play you; everyone uses the same system, software, controllers and so on. It’s good that way. Means that when you’re killed online, you’re more likely to blame the lag/sneezing fit/torrents being downloaded at the same time/crack cocaine than the little bastard hax0rs. That’s a net positive right there.

It’s also a different game, and this works strongly in its favour. The single player campaign isn’t just a series of bot matches using multiplayer maps – it’s a vaguely coherent set of fun – and sometimes staggeringly difficult – missions, vaguely tied together by a storyline, which unlock Challenges with success. An example mission was to set demolition charges at 4 points along a bridge, while coping with oncoming waves of enemy troops and a few helicopters.

Hotswap - the effect kinda needs animation While playing single-player, you can use the X button to warp between soldiers on your team – just point at the guy you want to become, hit X, and you schloop over to assume his body – the same sort of thing happens automatically if the body you’re inhabiting dies. This is a well-implemented feature that expands your options on the battlefield – but don’t think you can get all Operation Flashpoint and order your team to do something specific – they all run to a preset program when you jump out.

The Challenges are a fun series of minigames covering various vehicles, weapons and techniques, at which you can earn between one and three stars, three for a near-perfect score. A combination of stars and medals earn you promotions, and promotions unlock special weapon and ability upgrades. Examples of Challenges: driving a Humvee around a twisting, muddy course in the lowest possible time while collecting the most possible bonus points; going ten-pin “bowling” with soldiers and a grenade; sniping a bunch of people from a helicopter. If there’s a criticism of the Challenges, it’s that the transition times between rounds and after a match can be painfully long for type-A personalities; at least there’s no constant loading screens.

You have a separate Online career in which you accumulate kills and medals to rank up; medals correspond with XBL Achievements. Online, the game ranges from being more fun than just about any other Xbox Live game to a depressing base-rape experience; it largely depends on the quality of people you play with. Some times, you’ll be able to run off and concentrate on trying to earn a medal; others, it’s all you can do to just cling to a flag.

Not every game is ranked – you can elect to join an unranked server and just shoot some people for fun while building your skills up or for warmup, then flick the switch and go postal on a ranked server!

BloodyBridgeTooFar The maps are typically more intimate than BF2 PC. They’re built for a smaller number of players, and this means that the play style is adjusted accordingly. There are two maps that seem to get a disproportionate workout in ranked games – Backstab and BridgeTooFar. BridgeTooFar was the level from the demo version so it’s understandable that there’s a certain fondness for it, but I don’t think I’ve played even a quarter of the maps so far- the kids always want their B levels! (Maybe it’s just an alphabetic thing?)

While there are some neat graphical flourishes – focus is used effectively to create a feeling of depth, explosions have an associated heat plume and flashbangs work nicely – it doesn’t look like a true next-generation game.

The audio is pretty good. The directional audio works nicely, the room shakes when the volume’s turned up, and you can use audio cues to accurately judge what’s happening around you.

The control system is pretty good once you get used to it – the Y button does most of the non-reload, non-vehicle entry/exit buttons, and the right shoulder button is used as a convenient way to switch weapons (hold it, use the view control to pick the weapon from a cross-shaped selection, then release). It’s seamless when you learn how to use it effectively.

Simulation constructed from marketing materials. The vehicle controls are my one noteworthy disappointment – the clunkiness of the PC controls carried over, and you tend to find that they steer entirely in one direction, or not at all; there’s very little finesse available (or if it’s there, I haven’t found it yet). The choppers are a nightmare to control, which makes it all the more humiliating when someone that’s mastered it strafes your spawn point for the seventeenth time, before anyone can shoot him out of the sky!

So, overall, I’d say this is the best arcade multiplayer combat game currently available for the 360.

Choosing between GRAW and BF2 is easy – GRAW is a realism-focused simulation of infantry combat, BF2MC is an arcadey infantry-and-multi-vehicle romp. Pick whichever one you’re in the mood for, and go for it!

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