Posts tagged 'Reviews'

First Impressions Of Wii Sports Resort


My roommate, Josh, picked up a copy of Wii Sports Resort today and he let me take the first crack at it. Here are my first impressions.


  • Duel – Swing your sword at your opponent and try to knock him off a tall platform American Gladiators style. Pretty fun but too easy. I made it to the Pro status in about 30minutes.
  • Speed Slice – Be the fastest to slice objects in a certain direction. I really liked this mini-game. Requires a lot of focus and quick reactions.

Wakeboarding – Try to get big air while being dragged behind a boat. I haven’t figured out how to tweak the tricks but it’s dull.


  • Frisbee Dog – Throw a Frisbee at a target for points similiar to darts and your dog fetches the Frisbee for you. The controls are really hard to get the hang of. Totally doesn’t feel like throwing a Frisbee.

Archery – Shoot arrows at a bulls eye. The controls feel just like pulling back on a bow using the nun-chuck. Easy to pick up but difficult to master.


  • 3-Point Contest – Take 3-point shots from various places on the court. The controls are a bit awkward as you have to reach down to grip the ball (holding the B button) then you have to do a tricep extension behind your head to simulate a shot while releasing the B button at the right time. My arm started to ache after the first round.

Table Tennis

  • Match – Just like table tennis from the original Wii Sports except you can add spin. It’s not as easy as regular tennis.

Golf – Much expanded from the previous version with 3 new courses, 3 classic courses and an option for 3, 9, or 18 holes. Josh is super excited for golf.


  • Standard Game – Exact same thing as bowling from original Wii Sports.

Power Cruising (Jet Skiing)

  • Slalom Course – The controls are just like riding a bike and are very responsive. The mini-game itself was ok. There’s not much more to it.


  • Speed Challenge – Paddle around the course as fast as you can. The controls are just like paddling a canoe where you have to keep switching sides in order to go straight. Technically it’s a kayak, not a canoe.


  • Road Race – Try to finish first place in a bike race around WuHu island with different types of terrain. It’s just like the Tour de France. You have to manage your stamina as you can quickly run out of breath from sprinting too much. The controls are just like running in other Wii games. You also have to steer but it’s as simple as leaning left or right while pumping your arms up and down to make you pedal. I can see this mini-game being the most challenging of the bunch.

Air Sports

  • Skydiving – As you’re free falling you have to grab on to other Mii’s and rotate your body so a picture can be taken of you smiling. Points are rewarded for the number of smiles captured on film. At the end you make a formation and have to maneuver through rings. This was fun once but then quickly got boring.
  • Island Flyover – You fly around in an airplane trying to fly through information icons. The format of the mini-game is like a treasure hunt. This concept was a lot of fun. Nintendo should make an entire flight game just like this. It was neat being able to zip around above the island doing barrel roles, and loops for 5-minutes. It’s totally free-form and crashing is kid friendly where the plane bounces. Watching this on a big screen can really make you nauseous.

Note: Some sports have other variations that I haven’t unlocked yet, so I left them out of this review.

If you were a big fan of the original Wii Sports game, then this will be a no-brainer for you. The new games are fun and most look challenging, especially for parties.

My biggest frustration was the 3 minute video Nintendo forced you to watch the first time you played Wii Sports Resort. It was akin to an airplane safety video but instead of talking about features of an airplane designed to save your life, the Nintendo video went into excruciating detail on how to attach the MotionPlus attachment to your Wiimote. Hint: It snaps right into the bottom just like the nun-chuck.

The game is $44.95 on and available now.

Review Of Sony MDR-V6 Headphones

Sony MDR-V6 and Sony MDR7502 headphones side by side.

I’ve been using Sony MDR7502 Headphones (right in the image above) for the past six years. They came with my supply kit that I received before my first year at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. For the last two and a half years I have put 2 hours of a day, 5 days a week of use into them as they were an integral part of my commute. The pads started deteriorating and the end of the cable started to fray. But what pushed me to buy a new pair of cans was my new job.

When I was at U.S.News & World Report I had my own office so I could listen to music through speakers. My new job at the Pew Research Center has me in a cubicle, so headphones are a necessity.

My old headphones sit right on top of my ears so after about 2 hours of use, my ears begin to throb. The Sony MDR-V6 appealed to me because they fit over the ear which should be more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.

Sony MDR-V6 headphones fit over the ear for added comfort.

And the $75 price tag is a bargain considering I would need to wear these for eight hours every work day. I’ve been using them for the past week and here are some take-aways:

  • The bigger cups are a lot more comfortable than headphones that sit right on the ear. They also block out more noise which is a big plus while riding the Metro.
  • My old headphones sound a bit better with a fuller, deeper sound especially for speech like podcasts. To be fair the MDR-V6’s still need a couple hundred more hours to break in properly.
  • The coiled-cord of the MDR-V6’s is a heck of a lot easier to manage than the straight cable of the MDR7502’s. Straight cables tend to get twisted easily. Both headphones have super long cords that can catch on things when walking around. I would tie up the straight cable into a figure 8 with a twisty tie to take up some of the slack. Sony MDR7502 connector and coiled cable
    The coiled cord can be gathered up in my pocket with my Zune without a problem.
  • The plug of the MDR7502 headphones is connected to the cable with a plastic webbing. When the webbing breaks, the connection can loosen which requires a bit of fiddling with to keep the connection sounding good. The MDR-V6 fixes that problem (hopefully) with a flexible, rubber tube at the base of the connector.
  • The MDR-V6’s fold up for easy storage. It doesn’t take much effort to make the headphones collapse and as a result I found them configured in weird positions when carrying them in my backpack. It’s a little annoying to have to untwist and unfold everything before you can use them. Sony MDR-V6 collapsed
  • More comfortable headphones come at the price of fashion. The MDR-V6 headphones are a bit bulky which is a fair trade-off for the superior comfort and build quality. If looking like a DJ on your morning commute isn’t your thing, then studio headphones in general aren’t for you.

Overall I am very happy with my bigger, sturdier headphones. Even though they don’t sound as good as my Sony MDR7502’s they still sound better than most any other headphones out there. I didn’t buy these with sound quality being the number one deciding factor; I bought them for comfort. There are probably much better sounding headphones that cost a heck of a lot more money. The Sony MDR-V6 headphones are great for my everyday listening needs at work and on my commute.

Sony MDR-V6 ear cup

Other Reviews of Sony MDR-V6 headphones:

3 SilverDocs Films In One Day

Line outside of AFI theater for SilverDocs Documentary Film Festival

This past Saturday Kristina and I saw 3 movies that were part of the SilverDocs Documentary Film Festival . My reviews of the films we saw (plus embedded clips from YouTube) are below. But first a bulleted list of one-line summaries for the impatient blog skimmers:

  • Partly Private: Funny movie about circumcision and weird traditions.
  • No Impact Man: Crazy experiment involving no electricty, paper products, other human niceities for one year to reduce impact on the environment.
  • We Live In Public: Josh Harris experiments with the Internet/technology and its wild effect on human behavior.

Partly Private

Partly Private is about the age old question that arises with the birth of every boy: to circumcise him or not? Filmmaker Danae Elon dedicated many years to the question which led her to several countries to discover how circumcision is handled in different cultures. The eye-opening moment for me was seeing how the tradition is handled in Turkey where the operation is performed on boys between the ages of 6 and 9. Families hold celebrations in a place like Chuck-e-cheese’s where the boy wears festive garments resembling a Sultan’s or a King’s dress and ride amusement park rides until it’s time to go under the knife.

The audience was also introduced to such protest groups as Stop Infant Circumcision Society which hold a protest on Capital Hill every spring. I feel like people who are so adamantly against circumcision weren’t hugged enough as a child and have grown up with a chip on their shoulder. In the film we saw a member describe a device used to stretch and pull their on their penis in order to recreate foreskin. Weird.

Overall it was a good film with interesting characters. If you were ever curious about all the kookiness that is circumsion, Partly Private is for you.

No Impact Man

No Impact Man takes living green to the extreme. Colin Beavan wanted to see if it was even possible to live with no impact on the environment for a year. The catch is he lives in a Manhattan apartment. Starting in stages he convinced his family to give up electricity, paper products, any form of transportation that isn’t man powered (including elevators), and even buying anything new. He blogged during the entire experiment which he still keeps up with today (Go figure, he’s a writer.).

For food, Colin resorted to farmers markets and any vegetables he could grow at his urban garden. Laundry was washed in the bathtub by stomping on them (see the clip above) with a mixture of natural cleaners. The TV was discarded, clothes given up, and they even replaced their refrigerator with a cooler. I was surprised his wife even went along with it considering how much of a fashion connoisseur she is.

At the end of the year the husband and wife added a few niceties, like electricity, back into their life. But they were surprised about how many things they actually liked and wanted to keep doing. Colin states that it is totally impractical to expect many to go to the extremes that he did, but if everyone took one or two steps to reduce their impact, the world would be a much better place.

This was Kristina’s favorite film of the festival.

We Live In Public

We Live In Public documents the antics of web entrepreneur Josh Harris. Josh was in early on the Internet boom of the 90’s. He founded high-tech market-research firm Jupiter Communications which is where his money for his other projects came from. was created to be an online television network targeting big media companies like CBS and NBC. In the midst of the dot-com boom, Harris lost interest in He cashed out his share of the company and began work on his next experiment, Quiet.

Quiet was a multimillion dollar month long millennium party in a Manhattan bunker. 100 others were invited to live in a pod hotel while their every move was recorded 24/7. Things didn’t quite turn out as happy as Josh had hoped as people started going crazy from the lack of social structure in the “real world.” That’s OK. Quiet was a pre-cursor for his next project We Live In Public where he broadcast to the net every waking moment with his girlfriend in their apartment. Think of it like an all-access and uncensored version of Big Brother.

The movie shows the effects of technology on human behavior and there were some scary scenes. This was my favorite film of the festival because technology plays such an important role in my life. Plus it was a blast to see some of the big ideas from the dot-com bubble of the late 1990’s. Jason Calacanis had a great quote (I wish it was on YouTube) urging college kids to drop out of school create a dotcom start-up. I would highly recommend checking out We Live In Public if you have the chance.

SilverDocs made for one busy Saturday but it was a lot of fun watching movies that deal with subject matter off the beaten path of mainstream flicks. Kristina and I can’t wait for next years festival.

Adding Your Own Tools To Google Search

This might be a couple years old but I just happened to stumble upon this feature last weekend. Google has always had shortcuts built into it’s search results for things like mathematical calculations (10! / 2 -12), definitions (define: boisterous ), and local weather results (weather 90210). With Subscribed Links, you can add your own custom functionality to specific searches like nutrition data for food items via or a list of the cheapest gas stations in your area by GasBuddy.

This is a neat customization that I’m surprised has n’t changed much since it was brought back nearly two years ago. Adding custom functionality to your searches is kind of like adding custom programs to your command line. My only complaint is they don’t behave like I expect them.

For example, the subscribed links are never near the top. They always seem to be mixed into other results. If I explicitly signed up for added functionality and I need to use a custom syntax like “gas prices 20906”, I expect the add-on to be the first result. The Weather Radar add-on is a bit too small and cramped to be of any real use. It also shows up four items down below Google’s default 5 day weather outlook which comes up on top.


I hope Google has plans to expand these search add-ons. I can only imagine there are heaps of companies that would like to provide an add-on that puts their products and services front and center in the crowded search results.

Move Over Pandora, Hello Grooveshark

I’ve been a long time fan of Pandora, an automated music recommendation and Internet radio service. Users enter a song or artist that they like, and Pandora responds by playing similiar music. The recommendations come from the Music Genome Project, a complex mathematical algorithm to organize songs using more than 400 attributes. You can give a song a thumbs up or thumbs down to help tweak the station to your liking. Pandora has been my sole source of music while at work. Programs like PandoraBoy for the Mac and Open Pandora for Windows turn the web player into a standalone desktop app complete with keyboard shortcuts. Pandora offers it’s own standalone application with higher quality sound and no ads for $36 a year.

While the musical recommendations have been very good, my radio stations quickly become stale. The same songs keep coming up again and again and the only way to rectify it is to create a new station. You also can’t search out a song and play it on demand. You give Pandora a song or artist to use as a seed for generating similiar songs that make up your station.

Compare this with Grooveshark which provides the ability to listen to single songs from the 7-million song catalog on demand, save playlists, and embed both on other sites; all for free. The user interface borrows heavily from the iPhone with sliding menus and a minimalist design. The application is a cinch to use.

Grooveshark interface screenshot

Hovering over a song brings up four small icons: play, add to queue, more info, and embed. The more info menu brings up more options like browsing the artist or song, adding it to a playlist or your favorite list that you can recall later, and a list of similiar songs. After you get tired of looking up every song you can think of, make use of the autoplay feature which keeps the songs coming based on your listening history. You can also like/dislike songs which Grooveshark suggests to further tune your song list. You can see it in action below thanks to ben westermann-clark:

Grooveshark is reminiscent of the golden age of Napster where nearly every song was available at your fingertips only without downloading anything. What’s the legality of Grooveshark? I’m not really sure, but the company claims to have license agreements with a long list of record labels. It doesn’t really matter since you can use the site without signing up, which you only have to do if you want to save songs or playlists.

The only thing Grooveshark is missing is a desktop client with keyboard shortcuts though it sounds like that is coming sometime real soon. In the meantime I’ll just use Fluid or Mozilla Prism with a nice custom icon to complete the effect. It seems crazy to use any other online or offline music client now that I’ve gotten to know Grooveshark.

DriverMax Updates All Of Your Drivers In One Place

A couple of weeks ago I needed to fix a friends computer that suffered from an incurable case of BSoD syndrome. He had all of his data backed up to an external hard drive so the coast was clear to reformat and reinstall Windows. Piece of cake. The problem was how was I going to find all the right drivers to make his laptop useable again? He lost the drivers & utilities CD that came with his laptop. Enter DriverMax.

The main menu of the DriverMax software program.

DriverMax is a free program that scans your system and provides links to the latest version of drivers for the particular hardware you have. The process is straightforward as DriverMax handles downloading and installing the files for you. It can even generate reports of all the hardware devices in your computer as well as what driver version is being used. This handy tool saved me loads of time by not having to scour the Internet for the right driver or figuring out which one is compatible with my system. You can leave it running in the system tray and it will notify you when a driver update is available but for my purposes, once the computer is up and humming along normally, I simply uninstall DriverMax.

Interface for checking which drivers have updates in DriverMax.

The only downside I could think of is you have to sign-up for a free account to their forums in order to download drivers. It worked well for my friends laptop so if you need to do a clean sweep of a PC and you lost the driver disc that came with it, give DriverMax a whirl.

Seesmic Desktop Takes Twhirl To The Next Level

Screenshot of Seesmic Desktop Preview with columns.

Twhirl has been my favorite Twitter client until today when the Seesmic Desktop preview launched. Seesmic, who bought the Twhirl client a year ago, has taken the product to the next level. Taking a few hints from Tweetdeck, this update brings the ability to create groups for who you follow as well as display multiple columns to help cut through the stream of noise. The grouping feature is a nice addition but is a little bit clunky without a way to see all the people you are following in one place so you can easily sort people into groups. The only way to add someone is clicking an icon over their avatar. In addition to people you can also add columns for search terms. People with multiple Twitter accounts will be happy to know that you can manage different usernames from one interface with the option to view them combined or separate.

URL shortners include, (with their new DiggBar),,,, and You can also post pictures but the only service available is the dominant TwitPic.

Like any new release, there are a few things that can be improved. Customization features are sparse. Things missing are the ability to adjust font size and styling (important when you want to optimize scanability) as well as colors of the interface. The notification pop-up (my favorite part of Twhirl) no longer shows a preview of the incoming tweets but merely indicates what type of tweet has arrived (reply, direct message, or “friend update”) and for which account that tweet was sent to. I hope in future releases they add this functionality.

Seesmic Desktop Preview application in a single column mode.

For people who use Twitter as an information fire hose, the Seesmic Desktop client will be a handy tool for managing the information overload. I always liked Twhirl for it’s lightweight memory usage which really turned me off to the sluggish Tweetdeck. We’ll see how well this tool performs after a couple days of usage. And I’ll continue to follow the developments as Seesmic brings their video-conversation service into the mix with Twitter updates. Just imagine how cool that would be to view and respond to video comments Twitter style in a dedicated application like this!

DiggBar Brings Digg Features To Any Page

A screenshot of DiggBar in action.

Finally, a toolbar I might actually use. Digg unveiled their new toolbar/URL shortner today, though it’s not a toolbar in the traditional sense. Instead of downloading an add-on all you have to do is add to the front of the URL you’re currently viewing. How clever is that? The service will take you to a shortened URL, suitable for sharing on Twitter, as well as bringing all the goodness of Digg into a subtle, compact toolbar above the page. From there you can digg or submit a story, view comments from other diggers, bury the story, see related stories or peruse random stories that have already made the front page of Your Facebook and Twitter friends don’t have to be out of the loop since share buttons for the two services are also included. Check out the video below for a demo:

I really like this new feature which aims to take on Stumbleupon and tinyURL at the same time. To make it even easier to use I wrote a bookmarklet that you can use to add to the front of any URL with the click of a button. Just like a real toolbar! To use it drag the link below to your bookmark toolbar.
Update: Nevermind, you’re probably better off using the official DiggBar bookmarklet.

Digg Toolbar

Neat Receipts Keeps Me On Top Of My Receipts

I’ve detailed how I organize my bank statements before. But sorting through a month’s worth of receipts at once has become a real burden. Back in December, the one item a day shopping site, had a Woot-off where a succession of products are available for an undisclosed period of time. A Neat Receipts scanner came up and I took the bait. But it wasn’t until last week that I actually started using it.

And boy am I sorry that I didn’t start using this product earlier. It is a snap to scan a receipt, have the software read the contents of the receipt using OCR, and file them away in a database. In the box you get a USB-powered scanner, the software that does all the heavy lifting, a calibration card, a carrying case incase you take the scanner with you on the go, and a stand for propping the scanner up when you’re not using it (see below).

My Neat Receipts scanner in its case on the handy desk stand.

Setting up the scanner was a snap. First install the software and scanner driver then connect the scanner to your computer using the included USB cable. The first time you run the Neat Receipts software it will ask you to calibrate the scanner using the calibration card. Between when I opened the scanner box and the time I actually started using the Neat receipts system I had lost the calibration card. Luckily it’s not vital. You can print out your own replacement card using a standard inkjet printer. During first scan I put the receipt in face-up. When I saw the result, I was confused as it was completely white. It turns out you have to scan the receipt face down. The scanning processis really snappy as demonstrated in this video.

After you scan a receipt, the software will analyze the text and fill in the appropriate fields like vendor, date, sales tax, and price. The accuracy was pretty spot on. I only had to correct info for a few receipts. One problem I ran into is the software doesn’t share info from other receipts. For example you can enter address information from the receipt into the database. If you always shop at the same grocery store, NeatReceipts doesn’t automatically fill in this information from the first time you entered it. This seems like it would be a no-brainer to implement.

The software is clunky but fairly easy to learn. The main functions include viewing your scanned receipts, fields to enter information about the receipt, folders to categorize your receipt collection, and a search field for finding specific receipts.

 Screenshot of Neat Receipts 3.0 software

The folder organizer works just like any file system: drag and drop. I don’t really understand why you might need more than 3 folders or so. One of the real advantages is the receipts are fully searchable. Any receipt can instantly be brought up with a simple search. This is the main advantage of the whole system.

If you need to export your receipts you have multiple formats. Any receipt, or group of receipts, can be exported as a PDF, Excel spreadsheet, or Quicken/QuickBook/ TurboTax file. I was hoping you could easily export all of your scanned receipt images to Quicken to embed with the appropriate transactions. Both programs know the date and how much the transaction was making it a snap to match up. But alas, exporting to Quicken only includes the financial information to enter as transactions. This is useless to me as my financial transactions are automatically downloaded from my bank over the Internet. Exporting the receipt info to Excel is easy with their spreadsheet mapping tool which lets you match which fields go to which columns in your spreadsheet.

It is important to backup your database with their backup tool which lets you save a single file to a safe location. One of the downsides of the Neat Receipts scanner is all of the information is stored in a proprietary .nr file. This means you will need to keep a copy of the software around if you ever want to view it later. This certainly isn’t a problem now, but 10 years down the line it might be.

So after getting everything up and running the Neat Receipts scanner has made my life much easier. Every night Instead of throwing my days receipts into an envelope I scan them into my computer. If I ever think I might need the phyical copy I’ll stash it away, otherwise my receipts end up in my trash can. After stapling my receipts to my bank statements for the past two years, I realized I’ve never needed to go back to one. This way I have everything saved and searchable in digital space rather than cluttering up physical space. Add the fact that I can pull up any receipt with a simple search query and I’ll never go back to organizing little papers by hand. Is Now

In June I wrote about a great little mashup from that takes a tracking number and plots the points on a Google map. It’s a great way to see where your precious cargo is during transit. My favorite part is you can grab an RSS feed so you can track the shipment from your feed reader. Screenshot

Apparently the tool has been so successful that it got spun-off as The site got a clean visual refresh making it easier to see where your package is at and the RSS feed for a tracking number is still there. Perfect for keeping on top of all those Cyber Monday orders!