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I’ve spent a little time today looking at the various turn-by-turn navigation apps available. They are all expensive – the cheapest is $20 and awful; the cheapest decent one is $35, and the high-end apps are $90-$100. While the TomTom iPhone mount is pretty nice looking, even in a bundle with the software you’re looking at as much money as a cheaper standalone TomTom – and with one of those, my phone isn’t occupied with the GPS app.

The real problem seems to me is that all have built-in map support, and up-to-date map licenses are expensive. While I understand the benefits of having built-in maps, they’re what drives the price of these up. And truthfully, the amount of time I’m on roads where I don’t have 3G coverage is pretty rare, and my data plan is practically unlimited.

What I need is a voice turn-by-turn plugin for the standard Google Maps app, or a $5-10 app that uses the Google Maps app and 3G but gives me turn-by-turn directions. Sadly, as far as I can tell, no-one’s talking about the need for one or developing one. And once again I wish I’d learned how to program.

While somewhat amusing to see grouped together, I think this video sort of misses the point.

The real problem is that all these films need to remove the possibility of phoning in help. It’s just a plot necessity. That’s because if you put a character into any classic horror situation the same people who put together snarky videos about plot devices would be saying, “Why the hell don’t any of these characters have cell phones?”

What I mean is, notice how the films are all basically from the past 10 years? It isn’t a plot device or movie cliche, really; in fact, that video clearly shows a range of excuses writers have used to take cell phones off the table in thrillers, and not just the simple “no signal” – though it dominates, of course. It’s just a minor, obligatory scene which lets the writer communicate to the audience, “Yes, of course they have cell phones, but I can’t have them using them. Can I get a little suspension of disbelief?”

So, like many who were at the Penny Arcade Expo ’09,I got hit by H1N1. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, which is why I never got around to doing a wrap-up of the convention.

In brief, it was terrific, and we look forward to going back next year, #paxflu be damned. Outside of the plain fun that was had, especially the concert and any time Jerry and Mike took the stage, it was invigorating to immerse ourselves amidst that many 10s of thousands of people who share your interests. Despite the usual con things like people in full Jedi gear, it was a remarkably… well, through lack of a better word, hip gathering compared to my experience at SF, Trek and comic cons.

I’m cutting my thoughts on PAX short, as upon re-reading my daily posts they already contain most of what I want to say. On a secondary note, this site is getting some attention again. I’ve changed the look of the site again to still keep as much information as before but in a cleaner, easier-to-follow layout.

I decided to shut down Not a Planet Anymore as a collaborative blog sans collaborators is just forces me to split my time between two not-that-different blogs. All my posts that were only put up over on NAPA I’ve copied back over, as I don’t want people having to switch between two similar WordPress sites to read my (admittedly meagre) output in the past year. So if it’s me you’re looking to read, drop your links and feeds to NAPA and sign up over here.

10:57 AM – Minor disaster when Lisa forgot her pass back in the hotel room. But we got wristbands for the Freezepop and Jonathan Coulton concert tonight anyway, which is sweet. Wandered about the exhibit floor again, but can’t see standing in a 3 hour line to play Left 4 Dead 2 for 10 minutes. Currently standing in line to meet Wil Wheaton.

11:30 AM – Wheaton changed plans & wasn’t going to be there until noon, so we bailed & are at the live taping of the G4 weekend Feed.

11:57 AM – According to Adam Sessler, PAX is the friendliest and “least smelly” gaming con. Heh.

2:20 PM – Watching Mike draw the new strip live. Jerry’s not here because his wife gave birth this morning, so Scott Kurtz is with him… (later) Jerry just showed up. I knew these guys were talented, but I had no idea how talented and funny they could be in front of a crowd.

7:25 PM – The Harmonix presentation about the Rock Band Network was astonishing. This is going to be HUGE. With no more than a PC with a MIDI editor – the one they were using to demo cost $60 – and their free software, Magma, and an XBNA membership, bands can get their songs in the RB store with the same level of control as Harmonix. Note charts, of course, but lighting, character animations, automatic lip-sync for the avatars, everything. It’s amazing. And a cottage industry has already started of people doing it for bands who don’t want to learn the software. Bands can set their own prices and get a third of the revenue (Harmonix and Microsoft get the other 2/3). This is more powerful software than Harmonix themselves are currently using for DLC. Peer review process for publishing. Realtime preview of how the note charts will look in-game. This is going to be revolutionary – I thought they were years away from anything like this.

Then Jonathan Coulton performed a song. The HMX guy showed the song in the editor, showed many aspects of how it’s authoured. Then they sent it to the Xbox in the room and people from the crowd performed it, with JC on guitar. Videos of both performances will be on Youtube when I get home.

2:53 AM – Hell of a concert, hell of a day. Changing “My Monkey” to “Wil Wheaton” for the whole song, singing “Still Alive” with 6,000 people were the highlights of Coulton. Bedtime.

12:30 PM – In line for the keynote speech. Internet connecivity is sketchy and I’m not getting gouged for data roaming this trip, so I plan to just write the entry throughout the day and publish when I get back to the hotel.

1:57 PM – Just finished watching Ron Gilbert’s excellent and funny keynote speech. I liked his unicorn poo t-shirt. Mostly he talked about how he got into the industry back in the days when he wrote Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island. Sticking around in the main theatre to watch the Q&A with Gabe and Tycho, one of the high points of the expo for PA fans.

2:06 PM – The sound of this entire room cracking their knuckles at the same instant was… wet.

2:17 PM – Desert Bus is going off again this year, Nov. 20.

4:37 PM – Wandered around the exhibit floor for awhile, but too tired to line up for a game demo at the moment. Met Adam Sessler and talked with him a minute – nice guy, took Lisa’s picture with him.

6:05 PM – Acquired some swag, headed off-site and had some food. Trying to figure out what to do until the Ubisoft demo at 7:30.

8:57 PM – Demo of the upcoming Splinter Cell was excellent, and Assassin’s Creed 2 looks amazing. They really look like they’ve strived to eliminate the issues that brought the first down a bit. Going to take a last wander around and call it a night, it was a long day.

Just a quick note – I’ll be heading to PAX 2009 in the morning, looking very forward to it. I’m going to try to blog about the sessions and so on I plan on seeing, but in our laptop-free house will have to do it from the iPhone, so might just be posting quick thoughts as I go and saving some longer articles for when I’m back home.

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