Showing posts from 2013

Zero Lives - Episode 005: Mass Effect 3

App of the Week: Microsoft Solitaire Collection

Microsoft Solitaire Collection Publisher: Microsoft Platform: Windows Phone Price: Free! What's this!?  The Solitaire Collection again ?  Well, yes...and no.  This time, the collection of popular games (Klondike, FreeCell, Spider, TriPeaks, and Pyramid) have come to the phone.  For the most part everything plays the same with only some minor differences.  And unfortunately, all of those differences are horrible. First and foremost, the game is poorly optimized for the platform.  A single game of Klondike made my Nokia Lumia 920 uncomfortably warm.  Even if I just grasped the edges with my fingers, I could feel the heat radiating off the back of the phone.  And because the CPU is being worked so hard, the battery drains rapidly.  There are reports that it will even drain the battery with the phone plugged in.  There's simply no excuse for that. The other big draw is the advertisements.  Yes, I understand it's a free game, but so was the desktop client.  And that

A Look at the Gods of Smite - Chronos

My review of the god eternal, Chronos, is up at !

A Look at the Gods of Smite - Ne Zha

My review of the Chinese Boy Wonder is up at !

Fix It! Asus Vivo Tab RT's Flickering Screen

Image courtesy of PC Mag. Today I've come across an issue which has apparently afflicted many other owners of the Asus Vivo Tab RT.  After using the tablet all day yesterday without issue, I opened it up today and noticed the screen was flickering.  Nothing I tried would fix it: changing the brightness settings, adjusting power options, rebooting, completely turning off and back on, or removing it from the dock.  Other users reported the issue after applying a firmware update released earlier this year.  My own tablet is completely up to date as far as Windows and Asus are concerned.  Possible solutions included rolling back the nVidia Tegra 3 display driver, upgrading to Windows 8.1, installing any missing updates, or performing a System Reset when all else fails. In my case, I didn't have the option to roll back the driver, I already have 8.1 installed, and my machine is completely up to date.  Rather than set myself back by completely resetting the machine to facto

App of the Week: Nokia Creative Studio

Nokia Creative Studio Publisher: Nokia Platform: Windows Phone 8 Price: Free! Photo editing apps are a dime a dozen.  Or maybe a few hundred for a penny.  I don't know.  A lot of them are free.  So that's why it takes something a little special to stand out from the crowd.   And Nokia has been doing a splendid job of that for Windows Phone.  It's their unending support with top notch apps and incredible build quality that will ensure I continue to buy Nokia headsets. Nokia Creative Studio is a simple, easy to use photo editor.  It offers several editing features that can put a creative spin on your pictures.  Focus and blur allows the focusing of objects by drawing around the subject you want in focus and then drawing a secondary line around the background.  It can be a little cumbersome drawing with your finger to get all the details, but overall, it's a great way of drawing focus to a particular area. Radial and tilt shift is also an option and is fun for

App of the Week: Google Search

Google Search Publisher: Google Platform: Windows 8, Windows RT Cost: Free! When Microsoft decided to integrate Bing Search deeper within the Windows 8 OS, I thought I could get used to it.  After all, I just needed to keep using the search pane rather than the dedicated app.  But as I used it more and more, the strangest thing happened.  I started to miss the Bing app.  I liked having one dedicated app for searching.  Much like the search button on my Windows Phone, I found it easy to use.  But that went away.  And honestly, I'm not a fan of having to sift through the multitude of results for whatever it is I'm looking for.  As much as I grew to like Bing, I knew in my heart of hearts that I'd go back to Google sooner or later.  With the Google Search app for Windows 8 and Windows RT, I'm glad I finally have. For me, the Google Search app picks up where the Bing app left off.  And then it improves on it several times over.  To get the most use out of the app,

App of the Week: Netflix

Netflix Publisher: Netflix Platform: Damn near everything Cost: Monthly Subscription There's not a civilized soul alive that doesn't know about Netflix.  So much of what I'll say may will probably be old news to some.  However, the changes that the company has been making have only increased the usability of the app, especially on the Xbox 360. First and foremost, Netflix has finally added profiles to the mix!  Up to five profiles can be set up under a single account.  This allows users to custom tailor Netflix to their personal tastes.  No longer will parents be forced to sift through recommendations based on their children's love of My Little Pony .  Profiles can be named and assigned a unique avatar.  Upon launching the app, it will now prompt for a profile.  And for those sharing the account with friends and family, this feature alone may be the greatest addition the app has ever seen. But Netflix has also been tinkering with the look of the app on the X

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

The Force Unleashed was met with generally positive reception from both fans and critics alike despite noted repetition in enemies and levels.  And after what seemed like a death of protagonist, Starkiller, at the end of the game, many were left wondering what route a sequel could take.  Two years later, everyone got their answer with The Force Unleashed II. Clones.  The answer is clones.  Starkiller really did die at the end of the first game, giving everything so the Rebel Alliance could form.  Roughly six months after the end of the first game and just before Episode IV , players find that Vader has been up to his yellow eyeballs in cloning another secret apprentice on Kamino.  After going through countless clones, we meet this latest one who has failed yet another one of Vader’s tests when he refuses to kill an assassin droid with the guise of Starkiller’s main squeeze, Juno Eclipse. As he’s set to be executed, Clone Starkiller breaks free from the cloning facility an

Aurora Lakeland Medical Center's Cheeseburger

Place: Aurora Lakeland Medical Center Location: Elkhorn, WI Ingredients: American Cheese Verdict: While waiting for my son's birth and helping Kim through the labor pains that accompany that, a perverse idea struck me.  I'm going to have to order lunch.  They have burgers here.  I write reviews about the burgers I've eaten on my site!  I should review another hospital's burger! And so my order was placed.  And I waited.  And waited some more.  An hour later, my "Dad Tray" finally came and the smell of the plastic warming cover combined with the overly processed food assailed my senses, causing flashbacks of the kitchen I had worked in over a decade ago.  I guess some things never change. And indeed they don't.  The burger was exactly as I had remembered it.  The bland patty had just enough meat in it to be called a hamburger as it sat between two of the lowest grade bun halves.  While it wasn't horrible, it was just so basic and dishearteni

Photos! Wisps and the Moon

I took this photo about a month ago.  The moon was full and there was a beautiful halo around it.  Now, despite the incredible technology behind the Lumia 920's camera, it is absolute crap when it comes to taking a decent photo of the moon.  Fortunately, my inexperience with taking good photos led me to snapping the picture while exhaling.  Thus, my breath was forever frozen in this moment that I think ended up being a fairly decent photo.

The Game Master

At the end of a long day filled with disappointment in humanity, I found myself at the local Wal-Mart.  Now I understand that Wal-Mart is the lowest common denominator of what humanity has to offer.  But I'll be damned if you can beat the deals and selection of their various wares of questionable quality. As I meandered through the aisles, I naturally found myself in the electronics department, specifically the video game aisles.  I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but it was a habit I had formed, perusing the latest releases and other titles and accessories from prior generations being sold at extortion rates.  I was specifically looking at the latest Skylanders offerings, wondering if I should get a companion for Drobot.  I quickly chastised myself for being a fool.  Drobot is the greatest skylander there is.  Why would I ever need another one?  But..what if I got another Drobot?  Great Odin's raven!  I would be unstoppable! While I was lost in the fantasy o

Photos! The Foggy Graveyard

I'll admit that I'm not much of a photographer.  I have no grasp of composition, lighting, or alignment to take a decent photo.  But as a thick fog has enshrouded the surrounding area and I had some free time, I decided to take some shots at the local cemetery.

App of the Week: Halo: Spartan Assault

Halo: Spartan Assault Publisher: Microsoft Studios Platform: Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8 Price: $3.49 It was only a matter of time before a Halo  title found its way to the new mobile Windows platforms.  And it's a hell of an entry.  Much like Infinity Blade  did for iOS, Halo: Spartan Assault has raised the bar for mobile games on Windows. Acting as a training simulation withing the newly created Spartan Ops program aboard the UNSC Infinity, Spartan Assault chronicles the events of Spartan Davis and Spartan Commander, Sarah Palmer.  The story is spread across six operations containing five missions each.  A rogue group of covenant have broken the peace treaty brokered at the end of Halo 3 and have unleashed hell on another planet containing Forerunner technology.  It's not the most original story, but hits all of the bullet points necessary for a Halo  game.  It's enough to keep the game moving along, but skipping the beautiful drawn cutscenes and pre-

Release Calendar: December 2013

December 09: Peggle 2 (Xbox One) December 10: Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God (PS Vita) December 11: Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise (PC) December 12: Let's Sing (PC) December 18: Jett Tailfin Racers (3DS) December 31: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD (PS Vita, PS3)

F.E.A.R. 3

The F.E.A.R. series has long held a cult following since its initial release.   The third installment promised to provide some closure to the twisted story of Alma and her two sons, Point Man and Fettel.   But does this latest installment provide more of the heralded psychological horror or has it devolved into yet another generic FPS? F.E.A.R. 3 picks up with Point Man being interrogated in an Armacham controlled prison.   The now deceased Paxton Fettel interrupts the intense session and soon the brothers forge an uneasy alliance and escape.   Along the way to the Project Origin facility, the brothers discover that Alma is pregnant following her rape of Sergeant Michael Becket.   She is going into labor and the paranormal activity has driven the local residents insane.   The brothers must fight their way past Armacham soldiers, paranormal monstrosities, and their own tortured memories to their mother. After overcoming all of the challenges before them, the brothers must de

App of the Week: Star Wars: Tiny Death Star

Star Wars: Tiny Death Star Publisher: LucasArts Platform: Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8 Price: Free!   Combining the addictive gameplay of NimbleBit's Tiny Tower with the juggernaut that is Star Wars rewards fans of both with the hybrid Star Wars: Tiny Death Star .  Tiny Death Star is a game of building resources to generate more resources so players can build more resources.  Long story short, it's a classic time sink. Building a Death Star is expensive.  And despite the vast pockets of the Emperor and Lord Vader, it's going to take a little bit more to get this machine of terror built.  That's where the player comes in.  It's up to them to build new levels on the Death Star to attract new tenants, bitzens, to live, work, and shop on the space station.  Levels must be constructed one by one and become increasingly expensive to build.  Once a tenant moves in, they must be assigned a job in the multitude of shops that can be built.  From there, p

App of the Week: Asphalt 7: Heat

Asphalt 7: Heat Publisher: Gameloft SA Platform: Windows 8, Windows RT Price: $1.99 Racing games are a staple on the mobile market.  The bevy of sensors included in the thin portable devices almost makes them ideal for the genre.  Add in the natural ability to "steer" the device by turning it like one would an actual steering wheel and you can check off another box in the immersion category. Asphalt 7: Heat was one of the first racing titles available for Windows 8 that caught my eye.  Granted the game has been available on other platforms for some time now, but that doesn't make it any less fun to play on Microsoft's latest OS.  Especially if that OS is running on a tablet. Visually speaking, Asphalt 7  is a striking game.  I'm floored at the incredible quality of the graphics and that there's no dip in framerate or any pop-in.  There's a great deal of detail in the car models themselves and enough in the environment to make it engaging while b

Game Giveaway!

Thanks to the wonderful deals found in WB's Humble Bundle , I have some spare keys for Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY, Batman: Arkham City: GOTY, and F.E.A.R. 3 .  The keys can be redeemed through Steam.  The first commenter walks away with the game of their choice.  Limit one game per reader.

App of the Week: Authenticator

Authenticator Publisher: Microsoft Platform: Windows Phone Price: Free! When it comes to security, one can never be too safe.  Having two factor authentication is one of the best ways to ensure everyone but you can't get into your account. Authenticator is Microsoft's solution for its Windows Phone users.  The app works wonderfully with Microsoft, Google, and Facebook accounts.  It's very easy to set up the authenticator in the respective account settings.  Once set up, Authenticator will randomly generate codes to be used in conjunction with the account password.  So if someone tries to log into an account with the password, they'll still be prompted for the Authenticator code which is only available within the app. For the security conscious, this is a fantastic solution to the always growing problem of account security.

The Humble WB Games Bundle

The Humble Bundle is back!  This time, WB Games is backing and supporting the We Can Be Heroes charity. "We Can Be Heroes is designed to raise awareness and critical funds needed to fight the devastating hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa and bring help and hope to eight million people who are in urgent need of assistance.  The campaign is lead by DC Entertainment's iconic characters - Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg.  Since launching the campaign in early 2012, we've helped more than five million people in the Horn of Africa.  The funds we raise through these efforts support the work of the campaign's three humanitarian aid organizations - Save the Children , International Rescue Committee , and Mercy Corps ." To make this a success, WB Games is letting players pay what they want and in return, they receive Steam keys for Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, F.E.A.R. 3, and Lord of the Rin

Release Calendar: November 2013

November 04: Call of Duty:  Ghosts (360, PC, Wii U, PS3)

Happy Halloween!

When the leaves turned and began their slow deathly descent to the ground, that is when they came.  Through the rolling mists and under the encompassing cover of night they came.  We knew not whence they came or their purpose.  We only knew to barricade the doors with strong oaken boards and light the jack-o-lanterns.  Those who failed to heed the warnings would be drug from their homes with horrified wails of unearthly terror.  Terrible talons and gnashing teeth would tear at their flesh and rend it from bone while we listened on. That is where the tradition began.  Those who carved the pumpkins with ancient runes and lit them with the fire of our ancestors were safe.  For hundreds of years we had lived like this.  Beyond this one awful night we lead ordinary, pleasant lives.  But this night always came.  It always returned like a bad dream, wrapping up the village in its brutal embrace. In the week prior, we had carved our ancestral runes into the pumpkin.  It was someth

Lucky Star's Mushroom and Swiss

Place: Lucky Star Pub & Eatery Location: Burlington, WI Ingredients: Mushrooms, Swiss cheese Verdict: I've always loved a good mushroom and Swiss burger.  It's a brilliant combination.  And while Lucky Star gets the burger right, and there's no reason not to, the problem that continues to plague them is the meat used.  It's bland, dry, and uninspiring.  The restaurant showed so much promise when they opened, but the continued cuts to the menu and the increasingly bland offerings are wearing the initial charm thin.  Don't get me wrong, the burgers aren't terrible, but they're just so plain.  There's nothing to them and as such, there's nothing to get excited about when eating them. On the Side: Soggy, un-seasoned fries

App of the Week: Authenticator

Image Authenticator Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. Platform: Windows Phone Price: Free! Security and convenience.  You can have one or the other, but never both.  This is especially true when it comes to online accounts.  Players of any MMO are well aware that there are those who would love to steal their accounts to sell them or turn them into gold farmers.  Fortunately, the developer/publisher for some of the world's best MMOs, Blizzard, has given players the ability to add an authenticator to their account for years now.  There has been an app available for Android and iOS for some time now.  Windows Phone users are no stranger to apps taking some time to see life on this platform, but the wait is usually worth it.  And until now, there have been the keychain authenticators which serve the same purpose.  The Windows Phone app does exactly what it needs to.  It generates unique, one-time use codes that work in conjunction with the account.  That way if so

Steak 'n Shake's Triple Steakburger

Place: Steak 'n Shake Location: Bourbonnais, IL Ingredients: Lettuce, onion, pickle, tomato, American cheese Verdict: If there were such a thing as a "classic burger", the Steakburger would be the embodiment of that ideal.  And when it comes to a good thing like that, you really can't have too much.  In the case of the Triple Steakburger, may the sun always shine on its creator.  Steak 'n Shake has nearly perfected the "classic" diner with impeccable burgers and rich shakes.  I've not been to one and seen it at less than full capacity.  It's because of their ability to consistently produce delectable burgers. The burger is full of juicy flavor and everything a burger lover should expect.  The toppings are fresh, with the onion adding just enough bite but not enough to overpower the rest.  Each flavorful patty holds grilled perfection within its meaty embrace.  The Triple Steakburger is great at what it does.  If it were any better, it

Fix It! Nokia Lumia 920's Disappearing Screen

Recently, as misfortune loves me, I had the pleasure of figuring out why my Nokia Lumia 920 screen would turn black when receiving a text or phone call.  Anytime a text is received on Windows Phone, it displays along the top of the screen in a toast notification.  This notification also displays on the lock screen. While I would hear the chime that a text had been received, the screen would be dark until I turned it on and unlocked it.  Days later, the problem escalated and began affecting incoming and outbound calls.  I could dial and answer fine, but the screen would go black immediately afterwards.  This prevented me from getting back into the phone until the call was over. As it turns out, this issue is related to a larger problem with the once-flagship Windows Phone.  The Lumia 920 has a notorious problem of dust getting in the front of the phone through a small space just above the camera.  The dust embeds itself in the front facing camera.  I never used the front facing ca

App of the Week: Facebook

Facebook Publisher: Facebook Platform: Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1 Price: Free!     The one glaring omission from the Windows 8 app store has always been Facebook.  It's a service with so many users that itself is tied into so many other services.  Until this co-release with Windows 8.1, Windows 8 users had to either trust third party apps or resort to using the actual site.   The Windows 8 app shares a similar design to the Windows Phone app, which itself bears a strong resemblance to the apps on the Android and iOS platforms.  That's all thanks to the uniform design from Facebook.    So if you've used the Facebook app for mobile platforms, you'll be familiar with their latest release.  Because desktop users will probably still use the actual site, I don't know how necessary the app actually is as it doesn't provide any additional functions.  While the same can be said of Windows RT devices, since RT is only available on tablets, the touch c

Infinite Crisis Giveaway

Some time ago I had the opportunity to play Warner Bros.' upcoming title, Infinite Crisis .  Since then, I've received a few codes for Crisis Coins and Merit Grants.  I feel they should go to players more deserving, but they're first come, first serve. Code #1 (Unknown) ZCMYT232Z4NDT9ADL7QXRE7E9Y Code #2 (3000 Crisis Coins and 9000 Merit) TQQHLWPN32WLX3H49DTHK7NRZ

Fix It! Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 Won't Open PDFs

In my line of work there are what I like to call the "monsters of the week".  These are the problems that have no clear solution and require me to scavenge the bowels of the Internet for an answer.  When I find said answer and its cousins, something else inevitably goes wrong.  This week involved Internet Explorer 10 not opening PDFs within the browser on Windows 8. Now, this was a fresh load of Windows 8 Pro (64-Bit) on a brand new machine.  I went through the usual of checking the add-ons, reinstalling Reader after performing a complete uninstall, checking Safe Mode, running a virus scan, performing a SFC, etc. What ultimately fixed the issue was adding a Registry key.  A reg key that doesn't exist on any other Windows 8 machines that don't have the issue.  The common answer I found was modifying the TabProcGrowth key within HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main.  The default value is 0, but needs to be set to 1. This key also controls IE

Lucky Star's Bourbon Street

Place: Lucky Star Pub and Eatery Location: Burlington, WI Ingredients: cheddar cheese, bacon, onion strings, and bourbon sauce Verdict: To be honest, I've had this burger twice now.  The first was as leftovers.  It was very good as the bourbon sauce had marinated the beef overnight, soaking into every nook and cranny.  The fried onion strings had gone limp and added nice contrast to the saucy burger.  It was probably one of the best re-heated burgers I've ever had. When it came time to eat the fresh burger, it was another story.  The construction was the same, but instead of a soft, flavorful burger, the fresh Bourbon Street was very dry.  This is something I've noticed with the burgers at Lucky Star.  The meat is drier than most and there is little to no seasoning.  The dryness of the burger stood in stark contrast to the meager helping of bourbon sauce on top of the trimmings. The closest comparison I can draw is to Friday's Jack Daniels burger.  The recip

App of the Week: Reaper

Reaper Publisher: David Peroutka/Hexage Ltd. Platform: Windows Phone, Windows 8, Windows RT, iOS, Google Play Price: Free Trial, $2.99 - $4.99 When purchasing a game for either my phone or tablet, I'm hesitant to purchase games without the Xbox Live moniker.  For reasons I'm not entirely proud of, I like getting the achievement points that come along with playing an Xbox Live game.  But as I perused for something to kill my already non-existent free time, Reaper's intriguing art style caught my eye.

App of the Week: Steam Tile

Steam Tile Publisher: Element26 Software Platform: Windows 8 Price: Free! One of my favorite features of Microsoft's latest OS is the Metro interface (Yes, I know that's not the name anymore, but it stuck.  Deal with it.).  This exploded Start Menu displays all of my applications with beautiful Live Tiles that continually update with new information.  It's as if my PC came alive! Well, I also play a lot of games.  Many of these games are stored within Steam.  Up until now, my only way of accessing these games was to either launch Steam or pin the game launch to the Metro interface with a bland tile. Element26 Software has decided that isn't enough and release Steam Tile .   Steam Tile  connects directly to your public Steam profile and pulls down your game information to add new, attractive live tiles to the Start Screen.  The tiles will update with achievements unlocked and time played.  Opening the app allows users to pin the games of their choice so it

Release Calendar: October 2013

October 01: Assassin's Creed: Ezio Trilogy (360) Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (3DS) NBA 2K14 (360, PS3, PC) Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Trilogy (360) Travel adventures with Hello Kitty (3DS) October 02: Rune Factory 4 (3DS) October 04: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U) October 08: Beyond: Two Souls (PS3) Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition (PC, PS3, 360) Capcom Essentials (PC, PS3, 360) Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (PS3) Dishonored: Game of the Year Edition (PC, PS3, 360) F1 2013 (PC, PS3, 360) Just Dance 2013 (PS3, 360, Wii U, Wii) October 12: Pokémon X (3DS) Pokémon Y (3DS) October 12: Skylanders: Swap Force (PS3, 360, 3DS, Wii, Wii U) October 15: Cabela's African Adventures (PS3, 360, Wii) Hometown Story (3DS) Pinkalicious/Silverlicious 2 Pack (DS) Wipeout: Create & Crash (360, PS3, 3DS, Wii, Wii U) Worms: The Revolution Collection (360) Zumba Fitness World Party (Wii U) Valhalla Knights 3 (Vita) Oc

App of the Week: Game Dev Tycoon

Game Dev Tycoon Publisher: Greenheart Games Pty. Ltd. Price: $7.99 Platform: Windows 8, Windows RT, PC, Mac     There has been a lack of games with impeccable quality for Windows 8.  Certainly there are a few gems, but for the most part gaming hasn't been a huge draw for users of Microsoft's latest OS.  In fact, since acquiring my own Windows RT tablet, I have only installed three games through the Windows Store.  Solitaire had been dominating what time I did spend gaming on the device.  Then I caught wind of a little title by Greenheart Games, Game Dev Tycoon.   Game Dev Tycoon is a brilliant title and incredible first offering from the two man studio.  Putting players in the shoes of a one-man development studio, Game Dev Tycoon  tasks them with surviving the volatile gaming market for 35 years.  Players start in the 80s and their garage.  The storied history of gaming is faithfully recreated as classic consoles are released and partnerships fall apart.  Thos

Release Calendar: September 2013

September 03: Diablo III (PS3, 360) Arcania: The Complete Tale (360) Atelier Meruru Plus: The Apprentice of Arland (Vita) Lego: Legends of Chima: Laval's Journey (DS) Rayman Legends (Vita, PC, PS3, 360) Total War: Rome II (PC) September 10: Killzone: Mercenary (Vita) Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix (PS3) NHL 14 (360) Puppeteer (PS3) The Elder Scrolls Anthology (PC) The Sims 3: Movie Stuff (PC, Mac) Young Justice: Legacy (Wi U) September 15: The Wonderful 101 (Wii U) September 17: Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, 360) Hot Wheels: World's Best Driver (3DS, Wii U, PC, PS3, 360) September 24: Armored Core: Verdict Day (PS3, 360) FIFA 14 (360) Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 (PS3, 360, PC) Puzzle Overload (DS) September 25: Valhalla Knights 3 (Vita) Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsegumi (3DS) September 26: World of Warplanes (PC) September 27: Painkiller Hell & Damnation (360)

Changes to Xbox Live: Points and Family

It's been a long time coming, but I finally received notice from Microsoft regarding two very important items in my household, Microsoft Points and the Xbox Live Family Gold Pack.  Microsoft is doing away with both services this year. In the case of Microsoft Points, all existing points are being transferred over to real-world currency.  This means users won't have to do any mental math to figure out how much a XBL purchase really is.  Any existing points will be converted over and Microsoft has sent out the remaining balances for Xbox Live Rewards.  In my case, I had 110 points that were being held by Microsoft that were deposited in my account.  In conjunction with the termination of the Microsoft Points system, Microsoft is also terminating the Xbox Live Rewards program.  No longer will players earn "free money" for being loyal subscribers. From this point forward all purchases in the Xbox Live, Windows Phone 8, and Windows 8 stores will carry their real-wor

App of the Week: Bing Weather

Bing Weather Publisher: Microsoft Price: Free! Platform: Windows Phone 8 What is the #1 app that everyone must have on their phone?  What is the one topic that everyone can talk about?  If you said anything regarding the weather, you've got a sensible head on your shoulders.  With that in mind, Microsoft has just released their personal weather tracker, Bing Weather. The app is sleek and much like everything else Microsoft is doing these days, beautiful in its simple design.  The live tile gives me the basic information I need with the current temperature, conditions (clear, foggy, rainy, etc.) and the high and low for the day.  Opening up the app brings up a more detailed breakdown of the current weather, including humidity, visibility, barometer, and wind speed.  Swiping right reveals daily and hourly increments which is absolutely fantastic for gauging the day.  There are also a multitude of maps showing everything from temperature, highs and lows, to rain conditions.

App of the Week: OneNote

OneNote Publisher: Microsoft Price: Free! Platform: Windows Phone 8, Windows RT, Windows 8 When it comes to being productive and keeping your life organized, Microsoft has had your back for a number of years now.  OneNote has been included with every major version of Microsoft Office since 2003.  And since the boom of tablets and smart phones have swept the world, Microsoft has made it even easier to keep everything in sync with their free OneNote app. OneNote is a note taking application that allows users to create and curate their own journal, wiki, manual for life, etc.  Users can paste in files, pictures, audio, or even handwritten notes.  Sections make it a simple task to categorize everything and the search feature makes it easy to find anything and everything in the notebook. There's not a day that goes by that I don't use OneNote either for work or at home.  It's a fast, simple, easy way to store my information in a way that's just as easily organize