Game Review – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PC)

I have only played the story mode of this game and I can tell you, without  a doubt, this is the best PC game of 2009.  I only say PC because that’s the version I played, but I’ve heard similar raves from console gamers about MW2.  The graphics are incredible, even at lower resolutions.  The gameplay is addictive, even after multiple frustrating deaths by hand grenade. You even get Will Arnett (yes, he’s one of the voices in the game)!

I didn’t play the first Modern Warfare, so I’m a little rusty on the story, but MW2 takes place five years after MW1. There’s a Russian ultranationalist terrorist named Makarov who, like any ultranationalist, wants to bring back the glory days for his country.  When it comes to Russia, the glory days aren’t the days of the Czars.  To do this and rally his country, Makarov stages a terrorist massacre in the Moscow airport.  Unfortunately, you’re one of his team members as a U.S. special ops agent who’s gone undercover to eliminate Makarov.  Even more unfortunate is the fact that Makarov knew you were U.S. the whole team and kills you at the end so America gets blamed for the massacre.

What ensures is pretty much World War III.  The Russians invade, having bypassed our satellite defenses, and attack Washington D.C.  One of my favorite images from the game is during this section.  You’re part of an Army Ranger unit sent to defend the capital from the invasion.  All over the sky, Russian paratroopers drop from transports as they fly over with a smoke-filled sky as a backdrop.  Call me crazy, but I get into invasion storylines like this and the imagery really helps set the tone of the game.

As you probably guessed, you’ll play multiple characters throughout the game.  fortunately, the cut scenes between levels tell you exactly who you are so there’s no confusion. What’s more, while the story mode is pretty quick to finish, there’s plenty of Special Ops levels to complete and unlock achievements in.  Of course, any first person shooter game wouldn’t be complete without multiplayer.  I haven’t tried either yet, but will be getting into the Special Ops missions as soon as possible.

My iPhone Experiment – Facebook 3.1

It’s been over a week since I wiped my iPhone and started fresh. I’ve been going through social media withdrawl ever since. It has now come time to fix this glaring emptiness in my life.

OK, now that you’re all either laughing your heads off or questioning my sanity…

There are four social media outlets worth mentioning, at least here in the U.S. I’ll look at each one individually. First up, the biggest of them all, the one which, with all of it’s members, could form one of the largest countries on Earth. You got it, we’re talking Facebook.

The timing is actually very good as Facebook recently pushed out version 3.1 of their iPhone app. Version 3 was already impressive as it gave you most of the functionality of the website, including chat, comments, and mobile photo uploads. There are many Facebook users who find they don’t even need to access the website due to how well this app works.

With the update to 3.1, Facebook users now two new functions: push notification and contact sync. With push notification, you can now find out instantly when you receive friend requests or repsonses to comments you’ve made. With contact sync, Facebook will sync your contact photos with your iPhone. Note that this will only sync photos with contacts in both Facebook and your iPhone.

The app is very stable and quick. You get updates to your news feed in just a few seconds. You also have the option to view a live news feed, similar to the website. All that remains is to add profile editing and I’ll do all my Facebooking from my iPhone.

My iPhone Experiment – Chase Mobile

Earlier, I showed you the app I use to track my finances, PocketMoney. Now that I’m actually PAYING my bills, it’s time to find apps which will let me do that. One such app is the Chase Mobile app.

If you have a Chase bank account or credit card, this app will come in very handy. You will, though, need to set up a Chase Mobile account online, but it is free and secure to do so. Once you have, you just start the app up and log in. You can then look at your account information and even pay your bill, either by transferring from your Chase account to your Chase credit card, or by setting up Bill Pay with your non-Chase bank account.

I have a Chase credit card and found this app easy to use, especially since my bank’s website does not give me access to bill payin functionality on the mobile version of their site. I’ll be looking for similar apps which will let me pay my bills so I can do so without starting my laptop or netbook.

My iPhone Experiment -PocketMoney

Every two weeks, after I receive my pay check, it’s time to do what most people can’t stand – pay the bills. I’m going to become unpopular very fast because, I must admit, I actually enjoy this little ritual. I always feel a sense of satisfaction as I handle my fiscal responsibility, checking off these items from my to-do list, and knowing how fortunate I am to be able to afford to do this.

For years, I’ve used Quicken, first on the Macintosh, then on Windows, to track my finances. Quicken, however, is not compatible with any iPhone finance apps, at least not to the level I would like. Fortunately, I have found an app which has completely replaced Quicken and allows me to track my finances all on my phone.

Catamount Software’s PocketMoney has been around for years on portable devices, starting way back with the Apple Newton. They’ve taken all of their experience developing for mobile platforms and put together a killer finance app for the iPhone. I can track just about any type of financial account (cash, checking, savings, credit) with the app. Entering new transactions just takes a few steps and is made quicker by PocketMoney’s ability to remember frequent transactions and autofill fields for those transactions. When it comes time to balance the checkbook, I can filter my checkbook view to see just the unreconsiled transactions, which I can then compare with my bank statement. I haven’t even gotten to use the robust reporting and budgeting features in the app, but other users rave about them.

When it comes time to backup and/or restore my data, I have two options – send a backup file of my database via email or over wi-fi. The wi-fi option requires a free Java application on the computer called SyncDocs, but works flawlessly with ease. Restores can only be done via wi-fi

My only complaint about the app is that I can’t download transactions from my bank to automatically reconsile my account, something I used all the time in Quicken. It’s a smal quibble, though, as the functionality of PocketMoney is more than worth the $4.99 price tag. I now have my finances at my fingertips and can be fiscally responsible wherever I go.

P.S. No photos of this app as I don’t want to share my finances with the rest of the world.

My iPhone Experiment – Keep Your iPhone Browser Clean

One of the better maintenance tips for computer users is to clear the web browser’s cookies and temporary Internet files on a regular basis. This is very sound advice as your browser stores local copies of the pictures and other website items from the sites you visit in order to speed up load times. I’ve worked with clients who never do this and, when I do it for them, gain back a half a gigabyte or more of hard drive space. What you may not know is that clearing cookies and temporary Internet files (or cache) is something you can also do on your iPhone to keep it running smooth. Safari for the iPhone, after all, is a fully functioning web browser and those files will build up on your phone just like they would on your computer.

Here’s how you clear cookies and cache on your iPhone:

1. Tap Settings

2. Scroll down and tap Safari

3. Scroll down and, one at a time, tap Clear History, Clear Cookies, and Clear Cache.

That’s it! Three easy steps which you can do weekly to help your iPhone run as fast as possible. Note that you will need to log back in to any sites which you normally stay logged into, but that’s a small hassle.

Do you have any iPhone maintenance tips? Share them in the comments below!

My iPhone Experiment – AccuWeather

Billy Joel sang that a Storm Front was coming. Stephen King wrote about The Storm of the Century. George Clooney experienced The Perfect Storm. Right now, I’m getting dumped on with snow and don’t know if any of the above apply to my current situation. Thanks to the AccuWeather iPhone app, I’ll know more than I want to know about the weather happening to me.

The great thing about the AccuWeather app is that you don’t have to do any setup to use it. Just start the app and, on the main screen, tap the target button. The app will use your phone’s GPS to locate you (and will do so automatically from then on), then display your current weather conditions.

There’s much more to the app than current weather conditions. After all, how can teachers anticipate possible snow days without extended forcasts? AccuWeather has you covered. You also get radar, still and animated, video weather reports from AccuWeather meteorologists, weather alerts from the National Weather Service, and risk alerts warning you when the probability of high or severe weather conditions over the next few days is strong. You can also set fixed locations in the app so you can see how warm and sunny it is in Hawaii while you shiver away in Cleveland.

Just so you know, I am currently NOT in a storm front, perfect storm, or storm of the century. Thanks to the AccuWeather app, I DO know that I’ll need to wake up early so I can plow the driveway and get to work on time. Thanks, AccuWeather!

My iPhone Experiment – Slacker Radio

What do you do when you have an iPhone with no music on it? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve found plenty to listen to thanks to the TWiT Radio app and RSS Player, but that’s all currently talk shows. Sometimes you just need to jam out to your favorite 80’s pop tunes while driving to work in the morning. There are a few streaming music apps available for the iPhone, but the one I like the most is from Slacker Radio.

Slacker Radio is an online streaming music service which you can access at http://www.slacker.com. There is a free service which allows you to skip 6 songs per hour and plays ads every few songs. There is also a subscription service which gives you unlimited skips, no ads, and song lyrics. I find the free version more than sufficient for my needs.

When you start the app for the first time, you have the option to log in with a Slacker account or create one. You don’t need to go to your computer to create an account, which is very convenient. The app will remember your login unless you sign out.

Once logged in, you can select from many music stations based on time period, genre, or by similar musical artist. For example, enter Billy Joel into the app and you’ll get a station which plays his music, Elton John’s, and other similar artists. If you don’t like a track or artist, you can ban it from your station or just skip the song. You can also fine tune your stations to play more popular tracks or to go for the obscure stuff.

Since the app plays streaming audio, a data connection is a must. Fortunately, Slacker streams well even on an EDGE connection, which makes it perfect for road trips. You can even stream spoken word tracks like comedy. Just remember to ban Dane Cook.