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So I basically have 3 places where I’d like to keep my bookmarks in sync: My home computer, my iPhone, and my work computer. On my home (Mac) and work (Windows) computers I use Firefox; obviously I use Safari on my iPhone.

My home and work bookmarks sync beautifully thanks to Foxmarks, a free add-on to Firefox. But my iPhone is completely unplugged from both of those. And here is where I get pissed off. iTunes, on a Windows computer, can sync with IE, but there is no other browser on OSX that I can sync my iPhone with other than Safari.

If I were a Windows user, I could easily keep my Firefox and Internet Explorer bookmarks synchronized. In turn, iTunes would keep my IE bookmarks synced with my iPhone, and I would always have my up-to-date bookmarks on my iPhone.

But in this case, I actually suffer as an OSX/iPhone user. There is no way – short of paying between $12 and $20 US – of keeping my Firefox bookmarks synced with Safari; so there is no way to keep my bookmarks synced with my iPhone, short of a manual, daily export/import of HTML bookmarks files. This is a fucking joke. Apple, I’ve been a supporter of yours for many years now; I was a Mac user in the days where people looked at you funny, like something was wrong with you, if you were an Apple user. In most respects, being an OSX user and an iPhone user has benefits, but in this case, you’re letting Windows users have more flexibility and freedom when it comes to a major aspect of online surfing due to your desire to push Safari down every OSX user’s throat.

Now I like Safari well enough; it’s a much better browser than IE. But, until you offer even half the features that Firefox does, it’ll never be my primary browser. Stop trying to turn me away from Firefox due to inconvenience; either bring your browser up to the standards and flexibility of Firefox, or let me sync my damn bookmarks with my iPhone.

Note that I’m also a user, and do like that service, but there’s two problems with it; one, their iPhone app sucks; and two, delicious is never going to be as smoothly integrated into my web browser as its own bookmarks. Actually, I use delicious for a lot of my random bookmarking, but what I’m really after here is keeping my bookmarks bar – those dozen-odd links and folders always at my fingertips at the top of my browser – usable across all my browsing platforms.

More than anything else, I should never, never be at a disadvantage in usability as a OSX/iPhone user compared to a Windows/iPhone user. I spend a ton of money on Apple products, 90% of the time with full satisfaction; there are just a handful of small things that dissatisfy me (cut-and-paste/video recording on iPhone, mostly), but this is a pretty major one. Please come up with a way to fix it.

Okay, this is a list of games that scared me personally, not the scariest. I’m aware that there are people who would find the omission of classic horror series like Silent Hill an oversight, but I’ve unfortunately never played them myself, so am in a poor position to judge. So here’s the ones that gave me the tingles, personally.

5) Ico – Yes, I know, this isn’t a scary game. But I don’t recall many other games that created the sense of anxiety and fear I often felt while playing it. Guiding the helpless princess around, those smoke monsters swarming, and her unintelligible cries of alarm as they’d start dragging her down one of those dark holes… very unnerving.

4) Phantasmagoria – Yeah, okay, the game was awful. Bad plot, awful acting, laughable dialogue. But we were all taken up with the then-trendy idea of using real motion video within a video game, so we were all willing to look past that. The game’s murder sequences are still disturbing, far worse than most stuff that draws criticism today (largely because it was acting and special effects rather than CGI), proving that beneath the honey and flowers of King’s Quest lurked a truly sick mind in Roberta Williams. I’m not sure if the trowel or the force-feeding to death was the worst.

3) Bioshock – More creepy than scary, this game still generated a lot of fear in the right moments for me. The opening sequence, when you’re just trying to orient yourself and you’re trapped, motionless in the bathysphere as something half-glimpsed and disturbing begins to crash into the sides of it, is one of the most memorable opening sequences I’ve ever seen in a video game. And the first time you face down a Big Daddy is one of the most intense and stressful moments I’ve experienced.

2) Resident Evil 4 – There may be scarier Resident Evil games, but this is the only one in the series I’ve been able to play – the control system in the earlier games was just too frustrating. Not only is RE4 one of the scariest games I’ve ever played, it’s also one of the best. This was the first game where the music score really had the ability to give me the shivers, and the first time I casually and easily dealt with a slow, shambling villager and had its head explode into a grotesque, fleshy, bladed arm which proceeded to decapitate me… classic.

1) Dead Space – Okay, this is a recent game that I’m currently playing, so its inclusion feels somewhat forced to me. It hasn’t had a little time to sit back in the subconscious and prove itself creepy over time with me. But I’ve honestly never played a game that so unnerved me, late at night, with the lights off and the soundtrack pumped. The sound design of the game is a huge part of this – half-heard whispers, ominous creaks, bangs, and groans, and ironically, the frightening lack of sound other than your own suit when you enter a vacuum. The lighting design is the best I’ve ever seen in this kind of title, not too bright but more importantly, not too dark – I don’t feel like I’m constantly peering into gloom. And the critters and gore detail is out of this world, as should only be proper in a game featuring “strategic dismemberment”. It really is the inspiration for writing this list, and as such, deserves the #1 spot on it.

So my gaming attention these last couple weeks was almost entirely directed on two games: Gears of War 2 and Mirror’s Edge. I’ve finished the single player mode of both, and have played most chapters in both games more than once. I’ve not played GOW2 competitively online at all, but I’ve spent a few hours with the Horde mode, and a fair bit on split-screen co-op with my girlfriend.

First, Mirror’s Edge; I know this game has gotten a lot of hassle for the short length of its single-player campaign, but it didn’t bother me at all. The plot of the game is thin and not that well told, especially with the jarring anime style it abruptly cuts to. But that didn’t matter to me. Once you finish the story, unlock all the levels, and begin to explore its race mode, that’s where this game really comes alive to me. Don’t view it as a short 6-8 hour single-player game; think of it as 10 long, detailed and complicated obstacle course tracks.

The game isn’t perfect – the combat is flawed and sometimes awkward, although it does get a lot better with practice. Most people I’ve encountered, including myself, chose to play through on Normal (Hard requires a full play-through to unlock), and most attempted to get the Test of Faith achievement/trophy on the first play-through, which requires you to use only non-lethal combat against the “blues”. This led myself, and I’m sure many others, much frustration trying to deal with large lobbies full of machine-gun armed blues kicking our ass over and over again, until you find that perfect way to move through them disarming, sliding and kicking your way to your objective.

It’s not fair, I now realize, to be as critical of the combat as many were trying to play under these conditions. While hunting the obligatory collectable items chapter-by-chapter, I’d got the achievement so started using the weapons as well, and it makes the game far less frustrating. Still, the controls even with a weapon in hand feel a little sluggish and their power inconsistent.

Despite these flaws, I find the game deeply addictive. Maybe it’s a personality thing – it’s one of those games that require your to play a level over and over and over again, always seeking the best line and use the controls a little better to squeeze a couple more seconds out. Stuntman: Ignition is the closest analogy I can think of. Getting the top time trial or chapter speed run times is extremely difficult, requiring a smooth, flawless navigation of the course along the best possible line. Fortunately, the ability to race the top-tier ghosts on the online leader boards can provide a lot of help in trying to find the perfect line, and the controls and feel of moving Faith is so pleasurable it keeps it fun for a long time. But it’s certainly not everyone’s kind of game; if you obsessed over your Stuntman times and didn’t mind restarting the level 10 times because you’ve dropped too far behind your ghost to catch up 15 seconds into the level, you’ll love it. If that kind of thing drives you nuts, give it a rent, as it really is worth experiencing, and the short campaign will only take up a few hours of your gaming time.

Gears of War 2 has been spoken enough about; a certain GotY contender, the game has exceeded even the expectations put upon it since release. If you like shooters, even a tiny bit, this game is absolutely worth your time and money. The story’s gotten far deeper and more interesting since the first, though the dialogue still leaves something to be desired. They haven’t messed with the fantastic combat system of the first, except for a couple of minor tweaks – the ability to use a shield or wounded enemy as portable cover, the gory “finishing moves” which let the timid experience a little of the up-close violence that chainsaw addicts love, and the chainsaw fans get a duel mode when going up against a Lancer-equipped enemy. Nothing major; if it ain’t broke, and all that.

I haven’t really played the competitive multiplayer, other than to run through the bot-equipped training level. The ability to use bots and play the multiplayer modes solo is a boon to those who want to play with them, but don’t want the stress of competitive online games. There’s several modes that are clever and fairly unique, beyond the standard deathmatch/CTF modes.

Horde mode I have a lot more experience with; you and up to 4 of your friends try to survive 50 waves of increasingly difficult enemies on any of the multiplayer maps. This is going to be the real time-sucker for most people, especially those who find themselves frustrated by the competitiveness and difficulty of PvP online. A pure co-op mode, which often requires teamwork and a little luck, as the computer-controlled opponents here tend to be much tougher and smarter than the Locust you encounter in the story mode.

Co-op has gotten even better, as well; while I’ve only played split-screen so far, I love that its split-screen mode is so easy to jump in to, something that’s been missing from too many shooters. If my wife wants to play while I’m playing story, she just has to turn on her controller and log in and we’re playing together. She logs out; I’m back to single-player. Even more impressive is that when setting up a co-op game, players can choose their own difficulty level – and it works surprisingly well. Currently on Act 3 of a play-through with my wife; she’s on Casual, as she’s still learning when it comes to shooters; I’m on Hardcore, and we’re playing incredibly well together, with the low death rate I expect from even Insane on co-op with a good partner is there, but I can die as quickly as I expect, forcing me to play conservatively and well. The high difficulty I expect in taking down the enemy on Hardcore to keep it challenging, and the ease my wife has I’d expect on Casual, is consistent. The only slight problem is that the higher-difficulty player tends to need to ammo hog, but we haven’t encountered any significant problems; ammo conservation has never been a core Gears philosophy anyway.

You might think it’s taken quite a game to drag me away from GOW2 so much, which is more a testament to how much I like the style and gameplay of a game like Mirror’s Edge rather than a suggestion it’s of the same calibre as GOW2. Nonetheless, with two games like these swapping places in my 360 these days, it’s hard to find time to do much else.

So Tim Kring recently did an interview about the problems “Heroes” has been beset by in the past season. My quick impression of his remarks:

“The writer’s strike screwed us up. Our viewers aren’t smart enough to get what we’re doing. Damn writer’s strike. We have absolutely no idea where this is going and are trying to fly by the seat of our pants. Oh, the viewers are fickle. DVRs and Bittorrent have made us confused and scared. We abandoned several characters because we were out of ideas for them. Stupid writer’s strike. It’s all going to get better, even though we have no plan for where all this is ultimately heading. Not that it’s bad, but we realize it needs to get better. Can’t you all just watch it live instead of DVRing it so we don’t look quite so bad to the ratings? We’re going to try to make our incomprehensible plot arcs shorter because we have no overall plan for the series. Did I mention the writer’s strike? Stupid writers, I’ve written the only good episodes anyway. Oh, did I mention that many of our viewers are dumb? Oh, right. Keep tuning in.”

Thinking that I’m done with this show.

I’m utterly overwhelmed by the games I want to play right now. Gears of War 2 – a probable Game of the Year winner – has so much of my attention right now, along with Mirror’s Edge, and LittleBigPlanet on PS3; Call of Duty 5 and Resistance: Fall of Man 2 are must-plays for me I haven’t even contemplated yet, and I haven’t even gotten around to considering what I’m going to do about Guitar Hero World Tour and the dangerous proliferation of plastic music instruments I’m accumulating, as Rock Band has grown into a full-time obsession. Along with Dead Space (sci-fi survival horror featuring a combat style known as “strategic dismemberment” is so my bag), Fallout 3 (post-apocalyptic sci-fi RPG), Left 4 Dead – a dream for a life-long zombie fan… not to mention my power-playthrough of Penny Arcade Episode 2 last week… and a handful of others that are strongly on my radar; so far down the list is getting a few rounds of Tiger Woods ’09 in, some FORZA2 and racing wheel time, some Burnout: Paradise without the racing wheel but still mad fun… and did I mention I’m still working on Shadows of the Colossus? They really load the gaming fan down this time of year, hardly have time to catch your breath, let alone grapple with your backlog.

Why is it this way? I mean, it’s not like the video game industry is like the film industry, trying to back-load Oscar bait into the last 3 months of the year. Yeah, Christmas plays a big part, but you release too many games at one time, and some are going to suffer – just look at how the respectable Medal of Honor: Airborne got lost in the shuffle last holiday season. Meanwhile, the spring is often a wasteland for gaming, with maybe one or two major releases – such as the ultimately disappointing GTA4 – dominating the entire landscape.

Ah, well, it is what it is.

I was rooting around though some old text files on my computer, and came up with this price list from when I was shopping for a new computer around my birthday. All prices from May 23, 1990, in Canadian funds:

80386-16 SX 0 Wait States 1 Megabyte Ram Exp. to 16 Megs
40 Megabyte Miniscribe 8015A IDE Hard Drive 28 Msec Voice,Auto
1:1 IDE Host Adapter Floppy Drive and Hard Disk Control 32 K Cache
1.2 Megabyte 5.25″ Floppy Drive
200 Watt CSA Approved Power Supply
Mini-Size Tower Case with Led Display and 5 Drive bays
101 Enhanced Keyboard with Tactile Keyclick
AT Multi I/O ( Serial, Parallel and Game Ports)
Hercules Compatible Graphics Card with Parallel Port
12″ Hires Amber TTL Monitor
One Year warranty on system and Two Years on Hard Disk

****** Price: $1695.00 Plus Prov. Sales Tax

Yikes, not even a colour monitor. I’ve got the full list, which has a long listing of all of their individual component prices too. For the most part, the prices aren’t that different than today’s – but what you get for that price is incredibly different. Pretty dramatic and easily grasped way to see how far technology’s come in the last 18 years. My favourite: a 14.4 kbps modem was over $1,500. The funny bit is, that’s not even that out of line with today’s prices; that modem would last five years, while we’re all paying at least $1,500 every 5 years for broadband.

Full list after the jump:

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As I’m sure most fans are aware by now, last week the BBC published an interview confirming that David Tennant will step down as the Doctor after the last few specials planned for the next year and a half.

We have had many interpretations of the Doctor over the last 45 years; the cantankerous grandfather we first saw, the boyish and slightly spacey Peter Davison, the comically exuberant Sylvester McCoy, the roguish and charming Jon Pertwee, and the most famous, Tom Baker’s sometimes goofy, sometimes frightening, always brilliant Fourth Doctor.

When Chris Eccleston took over the role for the revived series, I was incredibly excited. Already an Eccleston fan from his work in films like 28 Days Later, I loved his take; one of the daffiest, yet one of the most angry and violent Doctors the show ever saw. Only survivor of a Time War in which he perpetuated mass genocide against not only his enemies, but against his own people, he was a Doctor with a lot of issues. Maybe the first Doctor who needed a doctor, at least a head-doctor, which he found in the unlikely personage of a 19-year-old Cockney shopgirl.

When it came out that Chris Eccleston was stepping down at the Doctor after only a single season, I was devastated. He had rapidly come to rival any of his 8 predecessors as my favourite. Rose and the Doctor was the greatest companion relationship I’d ever seen; more of a father-daughter kind of relationship, with just a sprinkling of sexual tension from time to time. Rose, while sometimes needing the inevitable rescues, also did her fair share of rescuing. I didn’t think any new Doctor could maintain such an enjoyable balance.

His successor, David Tennant, was someone I’d never heard of before. I mourned Eccleston, and awaited the coming of Tennant with skepticism, sure I’d never enjoy him as much as the 9th Doctor. And how wrong I was. With Rose, the 10th Doctor engaged in the first time we really felt a companion and the Doctor falling in love, and it wasn’t all soapy, or in shocking violation of the rules; it made sense, all the way down. Other companions came and went, but Rose and the 10th Doctor defined the arc of Russell T. Davies’s new series. It also made the show one of the most popular (maybe the most popular) scripted television shows in Britain, and revived the Doctor in the hearts of at least two generations of adults who had lost their interest in the eccentric Time Lord’s adventures as they passed out of childhood.

The 10th Doctor, we came to see, was not only played by a brilliant actor, but the first man who was an unabashed fan of the original series. Tennant, I suspect, began planning how he’d interpret the Doctor from the time he was a child – indeed, he himself has said it was the original series, and especially Peter Davison’s 5th Doctor, who inspired him to become an actor in the first place. He combined most of the best of the previous Doctors. He was the youngest, most roguish and charming Doctor yet; he was also the most frightening, most tragic Doctor ever. His rapid-fire dialogue, his giant shock of untamable hair, his plimsolls… he became my, and many other fans, favourite Doctors of all time, the first Doctor to unseat Tom Baker – whose run ended 25 years ago – as the greatest ever in the Doctor Who Magazine annual poll.

And now he’s going. While he was tempted to stay with Stephen Moffat taking over as head writer – most fans have noted that many of his episodes have been defining points in the series, some of the best episodes the show has seen – he ultimately decided to stick with the 3-4 seasons that most previous actors have stuck with. I was initially very upset by the news, but calmed down quickly. Unlike the one mistake Tom Baker made – staying around until he’d become somewhat old hat – he will exit at the top of his game. I’m sure he much hopes to avoid the problem many previous Doctors have found finding roles after leaving the TARDIS behind them, probably a good career move. But, as any great comedian can tell you, you should leave them always wanting more. He is unquestionably doing that, and I think it will make these last three series all the more precious in my DVD library for many years to come.

So, we will savour these last few episodes all the more, and speculate about how the Tenth Doctor will meet his regeneration, and, more than anything, speculate about whom they might pick to replace him. Several friends of mine have expressed hope it would be Simon Pegg, but while I think he might be good, I think he’s simply to big a star now, especially with his US successes and his upcoming role as Scotty in the new Star Trek film.

My personal choice, rather unsurprisingly, would be John Simm, the man who brought my NAPA namesake to the screen, Harry Saxon. He’s already proven himself a brilliant evil Time Lord; giving him a kick at being everyone’s favourite Time Lord would be a fun twist and a great choice. But, after the terrific choices they made for both the Ninth and Tenth, I’ve decided that I should just put my faith in the creators of the show; I expect that Davies and Moffat will probably decide together, as Davies still isn’t quite done with the show. My only fear; rumblings about a female Time Lord, maybe even Georgina Moffett, the daughter of Peter Davison and seen once as the Doctor’s “daughter” in Series 4. I just am not convinced that a female Time Lord/male Companion dynamic would work as well as the traditional matchup, and fear the show could become a little too Buffy, the Dalek Slayer – though I would welcome Jenny as a companion, the opportunity to see a Time Lord education on screen.

For those of you who still haven’t given the revived series – which stands quite apart from the original series and doesn’t require a familiarity with it – a shot yet, this next year is your time to catch up and say goodbye to the Tenth Doctor when his time comes, and to anticipate – with trepidation and excitement – the coming of the Eleventh.

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