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From The Road: Sony’s Rolly… Not Quite A Robot, Just Barely A Speaker

Sony Rolly (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

After a multi-month renovation my local Sony Store was just reborn as the ‘Sony Style’ store. At the grand re-opening there was the usual hoopla with Sony reps giving demos of various products which gave me my first chance to spend some real one-on-one time with the Rolly. I can’t say I was disappointed, because quite frankly I wasn’t expecting much, but I’m having trouble seeing why someone would pay $400 for one. When you see it rolling it around with the flaps moving about you might think the Rolly was being positioned as a sort of interactive musical companion, but it’s just not. While the Rolly’s dance moves can be synced to whatever music it’s playing (or streaming) or even custom programmed on a PC, that’s about as interactive as it gets. A few store patrons seemed to think it was a robot along the lines of Aibo based on how it was moving about, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

So I guess we should just think of the Rolly as a ‘funky’ set of speakers right? Well unfortunately that was the one area where I can say I was disappointed. The Rolly is about the size of a soda can, so when you consider that has to fit a 5 hour battery, the motors to drive the ‘wheels’ and other electronic components, there’s not much room left for the speakers. As a result I was definitely unimpressed with the Rolly’s sound quality, and I don’t think I’d want to spend 5 hours listening to my music through Rolly’s speakers. As a party gimmick it might be cool for a few minutes, but I think there are far better ways to blow $400.

From The Road: Unplugging

By Luke Anderson

It’s finally warm again here in the Midwest and it is beautiful outside. I realized that I’ve been putting in some long hours in front of my computer for the last few weeks, so I decided it was time to unplug.

One of my favorite things to do is hike, which means I head to one of my favorite state parks. The great thing about this place is not only is the scenery beautiful, but I also can’t get a signal on my phone. That’s right, no matter how urgent the matter is, everyone is simply routed to my voicemail.

It’s been a great day, but unfortunately it’s already time to head back to civilization.

From The Road: Pac-Man Invades A Transit Shelter

Pac-Man Invades A Public Transit Shelter (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’m not necessarily an advocate of graffiti, but when someone manages to turn a regular transit shelter into an awesome retro video-game-themed shelter, I can’t really find a reason to complain. For some reason, whether it be for decoration or to make the glass more visible, the streetcar transit shelters here are adorned with a strip of yellow dots running all the way around. So a local artist (and possibly gamer) added some strategically placed graphics to recreate a scene from Pac-Man.

But this isn’t the first video game themed graffiti I’ve come across here. A few months ago a local artist named Posterchild paid tribute to Valve’s Portal game with a 3D Weighted Companion Cube passing through a couple of buildings. Unfortunately by the time I got back with a real camera to snap a photo, it had already been taken down. But a photographer friend of mine did manage to take a few shots before it disappeared.

From The Road: Wii Fit On Tour

Nintendo Wii Fit (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

For some reason my local mall also happens to be a major tourist attraction, so it’s unfortunately always crowded with out-of-towners who have apparently never seen things like an indoor fountain. On the plus side, the large volume of people traffic means there’s always some kind of over-the-top marketing promotion going on.

This week Nintendo was in town showing off their new Wii Fit peripheral. Now I’m a fan of the Wii, and there have been a few games that have really used the Wiimote controller in new and interesting ways, but I’m kind of undecided on Wii Fit. As a balance board that can be used with skateboard or skiing games it has promise, but at one point someone was using a demo kiosk to do pushups. Did we lose a war or something? How did pushups manage to squeeze their way onto my gaming console? I’m all for innovation, but there’s no high score or secret level that’s worth a round of pushups. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend the next 20 minutes struggling to get up off the couch.

From The Road: Goodbye Old Friend

RIP LaCie (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

I normally enjoy these mobile posts since they give me a reason to leave my office and do a little writing away from home. But unfortunately today’s post has a sombre mood to it. My LaCie CRT monitor has been acting up over the past week, and this is what I discovered with when I powered it up this morning. The display has collapsed to a thin horizontal line that’s almost as bright as the sun. Reading up on the problem it seems this issue isn’t uncommon, but it came at a particularly bad time since the monitor is dangerously close to being out of warranty.

So I’m writing this post from my local Purolator depot where I’m shipping the monitor back to LaCie for ‘analysis’. While I’m sure the problem is repairable, I have no idea what it’s going to cost me, or if LaCie is even willing to touch it if it’s actually out of warranty. And since this particular monitor was almost impossible to find 3 years ago (Trinitron tube) I’m pretty sure I don’t have a chance of finding a brand new replacement these days. So it seems I may finally be forced to upgrade to an LCD.

From The Road: The Okami For Wii Cover Art Controversy

Okami For Wii (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

I guess ‘controversy’ isn’t the best way to describe this, but apparently if you look very closely at the cover art for the Wii version of Okami you’ll actually see an watermark in the background. I first read about the discovery on Kotaku last week and I had to check it out for myself. Sure enough, if you find a copy of the game and look exactly where my finger is pointing, you’ll see the logo. It’s pretty faint and easy to miss, but it’s definitely there.

I can only assume that the artist responsible for creating the cover art for the Wii version of the game had a hard time tracking down the artwork used for the original PS2 version from a couple of years ago. And just happened to have a hi-res version of the artwork available on their site. A lot of people think the artist responsible for this should lose their job, but anyone who’s worked in graphic design knows that getting hi-res or vector artwork from a client isn’t always easy. (Even if it was all done internally at Capcom.) There have been too many times when I’ve asked for a print-ready version of a logo only to get a 200px wide JPG taken from a company’s website. So while I’m willing to give the artist the benefit of the doubt, I am kind of surprised they didn’t at least try to hide or blur the watermark before it went to print.

And if you’ve already purchased a copy of the game featuring the offending logo, you can actually request a free replacement sleeve from Capcom via their website.

From The Road: Is This The Most Effective Way To Advertise Your Cellular Service?

Solo Mobile (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

While walking home last night I happened to notice this bizarre truck stopped at a red light. It was your standard cube van, except for the fact that the cube portion featured windows on all sides. And while it’s kind of hard to tell in this photo, inside the truck was someone dressed like an alien on vacation. The rest of the aliens were actually similarly dressed mannequins, but I guess they felt they needed at least one actual person to make it more realistic.

I can’t deny the fact that the truck served its purpose of grabbing people’s attention (I did stop and take a photo after all) but it was really a lame advertising stunt. And I can’t help but feel that other people might decide to arbitrarily boycott this company like I have, because of it. (It doesn’t take much.) If you work in advertising and are reading this post here’s my suggestion on how to improve this idea. You should replace the aliens with a machine that shoots out money, and instead of driving around the city you should just park in front of my apartment building. Then I’ll buy whatever you’re selling.

From The Road: Long Walks Avoided!

Speeding Subway Car (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’ve come to like living in the downtown core of a big city since the (mostly) reliable public transit has allowed me to sidestep the responsibility of owning a car. But as of Sunday afternoon there was the very real possibility of a public transit strike here in Toronto, which would have meant some unpleasantly long walks for yours truly. Normally I don’t mind walking when the weather is nice, but not having the option of catching a streetcar or the subway if it started raining was a bit worrisome. It was obviously a concern for quite a few others too since I saw a lot of people buying bicycles Sunday afternoon. It was also the first time I ever thought a Segway would actually come in handy. Thankfully a tentative deal was reached just in time which meant that the subway trains, buses and streetcars were running as usual this morning.

From The Road: Radio Shack Alternatives

Active Surplus (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

Believe it or not, there was a time when Radio Shack was actually a cool place to visit for electronics enthusiasts. These days the shelves are lined with the same crap that put The Sharper Image out of business, but as a kid I remember them carrying some pretty cool robots (Robie Junior joined our family one year), computers (remember the Tandy?) and electronic components that were actually useful. Those days are long gone but thankfully there’s a much better alternative where I live. Active Surplus is the kind of place that attracts a wide range of people from geeks to hackers to artists, and it’s mostly due to their eclectic stock of merchandise.

Active Surplus (Image property of OhGizmo!)

There’s kind of an ‘anything goes’ mentality at Active and you can find everything from empty Lacie drive cases, to chemistry glassware, to any kind of computer, audio or video cable you can imagine. And more importantly, most of the stuff is dirt cheap. The staff is also very knowledgeable (one thing Radio Shack never had) and while they don’t tend to roam the store (the aisles are pretty narrow) they’re always ready to help you find what you need. After the jump you’ll find a few more pictures I took during my most recent visit.

[ Active Surplus ]

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