Monthly Archives: January 2010

100+ Year Old Color Photos and Amazon Kindle Apps Coming

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Aftermath, In Color – A couple of photos taken with an early color photo process have been reassembled (using Photoshop of course) so you can see that the past wasn’t really in black and white.

Amazon Adds Apps to the Kindle – I like my Kindle DX, I like it a lot, but I do not love it. I love my iPod Touch. It is my constant companion and many are the days when I return it home with a battery that is quite drained from use. I can think of many many ways to make my Kindle much better than it is today because the UI often very poor, even for it’s intended use as a book reader. Perhaps this will help it get past some of those problems or maybe it’s just too little too late.

Follow up to the post: Here’s the link to sign up for notification when the Kindle dev kit is released.

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The Best Comic Readers For OS X and Windows

Since some of my most popular blog entries ever were on the topic of comic readers for digital comics stored in .CBZ and .CBR files, I thought I would return to the topic for an update. It has been a really long time since I wrote about it and with one exception I wouldn’t use what I talked about then, it has been completely replaced with much better programs for both Windows and the Mac.

Mac OS X

Simple Comic – This is my current go-to reader. It’s simple, it works, and I like the loupe feature where you can zoom in on details if you need to.

ComicBookLover – This is a new reader that I only discovered when I decided I should compile a new list of recommendations. It seems to have more in common with ComicRack on Windows in that both are ready to keep track of your entire collection of comics as well as do the display of comics for reading.

Windows

ComicRack – I would argue that this is still probably the best choice for Windows users. I recommended it in 2006 and it is still being actively worked on today. Lots of features and a very dedicated developer have produced a really nice piece of work.

CDisplayEx – An open source version of one of the first comic readers I used on Windows. I would generally encourage ComicRack instead, but if you’ve got your heart set on open source, this one looks OK.

… and as a bonus…

Linux

Comix – Comical was never all that good and apparently stalled back in 2006 so it’s good to see that there is a reader out there for Linux that was updated in 2009 (early in the year admittedly but then digital comics aren’t exactly changing constantly). Comix looks like it’s probably a reasonably good choice and it’s open source so there’s at least a chance that it will get updates if it needs them.

5 Fun Board Games You Probably Haven’t Played

If you’re already someone playing the latest designer games from around the world or you live on BoardGameGeek.com, move right along there’s nothing to see here. But if you’re like so many people who think, “Let’s play a board game,” and then proceed to whip out Monopoly, Life, Candyland, Trivial Pursuit, etc. then let me bend your ear for a minute.

Board games have changed a lot in the last 15-20 years. Especially in the last decade or so as tons of cool new games have been released. Here are a few favorites of mine. Most of them are considered staples of the new generation.

Settlers Of Catan – The best known of the bunch with over 600,000 copies sold in the United States according to this recent Wired magazine article. This one pretty much defines how you can still have a competitive game yet not have it be the kind of zero-sum relationship destroyer that Monopoly is. With Monopoly I can’t win unless I first make you lose. With Catan, I can’t win without trading with you (especially in the early game), and we both gain points from stuff we do, but I don’t win by taking points away from you, I win by just being the first one to ten points. You might have scored nine points yourself and the fact that you did can cushion losing and give you encouragement to try again.

For me the only downside to this game is that it doesn’t play well with less than three people and the playtime is the longest of all the games listed here (it can easily be a couple of hours).

Animal Upon Animal – First of all, Candyland and Chutes and Ladders have a place. They are teaching games for colors and counting for little kids. However, once you know your colors and numbers to 100, you are past both of those games and you never ever need to come back to them. If you’re looking for a fun game for a little kid that can also be enjoyed by adults, look no further than Animal Upon Animal. It’s a dexterity game where you stack oddly shaped wooden animals on top of other wooden animals in a big pyramid. First player to get rid of all seven of his/her animals wins.

Little hands are sometimes a bonus rather than a hindrance and even if you knock over the entire pile adding a piece, you only take two pieces back into your collection. The rest go into the box. That keeps it from getting too frustrating for little kids. If you need to further even the odds it’s easy to have a player start with six pieces or five instead of the normal seven so they can more easily win.

Ticket To Ride – There are multiple versions of this train game with maps for different countries and even some slightly different rules. I’m used to the Ticket To Ride Europe version with it’s train stations (an additional piece that I don’t believe was in the original Ticket to Ride). It’s fun, it can be played in an hour or so (maybe 90 minutes at the longest) and it’s a simple game to teach to new players because you only have four things you can do in a turn and most of the time you’re going to only be choosing between two things to do.

Gather up the colored cards you need to claim routes between major cities (using super nifty plastic trains to mark your route) and try to keep the secret the longer routes you are trying to complete to score extra points.

Dominion – An awesomely great card game in a big box. Seemingly endless variety thanks to the fact that in any given game you’re picking a set of ten cards to use out of 25 available cards and different choices can completely change the feel of the game. Easy to teach, reasonably short playtime (often less than an hour), and expansions like Dominion Seaside can give you more variation than you can even imagine.

Carcassonne – You’ll notice a theme to the entries in this list. They’re very easy to explain to new players and they tend to have pretty short playtimes. This one is no exception. The mechanic is a simple one. Draw a tile from a set of tiles and see how you can place it by matching its edges to tiles already played. That part of it only takes a second. Then you decide whether or not you want to put one of your small stock of pieces (seven little wooden people) on the board in order to try to score some points.

There are probably a dozen expansions for this game if you find you like it (as I do) so you can really expand the array of tiles, pieces for scoring, and methods for scoring points to increase the strategy or complexity of the game.

I was lucky enough to get to play all of these except Carcassonne with family over the holidays and everybody had a great time. I finally went to bed at 3am but people kept playing for hours more after that!

Professor Layton And The Completed Game

As I’ve said before, the best feature of the Nintendo DS Lite is its adult-with-other-responsibilities friendly ability to pause a game at any point. But having a feature like that is only good if there are good games and I would call Professor Layton and the Curious Village one of those.

I really wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a game that was based upon completing puzzles, but by the time I finished it I had played for about 12 hours and completed approximately 100 out of the 120 or so puzzles that are available in the game and had definitely enjoyed it. It doesn’t seem like a tedious slog of solving one puzzle after another because it’s wrapped up in an adventure game where you travel from place to place, talk to other characters, search for hint coins, watch videos, etc. In other words there’s lots of meta-game on top of the puzzles so they don’t comprise the whole experience.

I didn’t end up going back to try and track down the last few puzzles I had missed once I finished the game. I definitely felt like it ended at the right time, because I didn’t end up burned out or wanting lots more. If you can, give this game a try and see if it’s for you.