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Macs, Movies, Games, Books, etc. The Rants of a Mad Man.

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Apple Australia: Continuing to bite the reseller hands that feed it

April 4th, 2011 by Raj

A recent MacTalk post eagle-eyed a new round of retail job listings for the Victorian postcode 3205 otherwise known as “South Melbourne”. A store here would mark Apple’s first in-roads towards servicing the Melbourne CBD. The news was of course met with a chorused “Huzzah!” by fanboys en masse – the minor sub-plot: a debate waged over whether this meant the demise of any plans for a truly central CBD store.

Should this four digit prophecy prove true spare a thought for Apple reseller Computers Now. Their head office and showroom currently reside upon a corner of Clarendon St, South Melbourne’s main retail strip and what is most likely to be the home of the alluded Apple store. A slight kick in the balls to Comp Now who’d undoubtably see their retail bottom line take a hit with Apple parking their butts a few hundred metres down the road. Salt in the wound when you consider that the two Apple retail stores currently operating in Victoria have also parked themselves squarely on Computers Now’s doorsteps firstly at Chadstone (a store which has since closed) and Doncaster (a whole 100 metres away on the same floor of the shopping centre). Not only have Apple kicked them in the balls but I’d say they’ve fair cut them off too!

None of this would irk me too greatly should I not have, many years ago, ventured in to the realm of becoming an Apple reseller myself and gone through a very tiresome process of choosing a location that needed to be approved by Apple and the powers that be. Dealing with your local Apple Business Development Manager (BDM) my partners and I were given a very lengthy radial berth that we not impede on existing resellers and their business. The technicalities and legalities behind it all could be construed as complex but the general gist was around population density and it’s relation to supporting multiple outlets. At this time you have to remember the iMac had barely seen the light of day and Apple was hardly cash positive so their aim was to cover as much land mass as possible and not cannibalise their rather meagre sales streams. It made sense. It was business wise and between then and now Apple has been forced to recognise that all the good spots have already been taken and it would seem are just muscling the poor bastards out of their way.

Contracts and clauses have no doubt changed in the past eight or nine years, of that I’m sure, and technically Apple aren’t a “reseller” so the rules don’t apply in the first place but I still think it’s a shitty way to say thanks for standing by them while we were selling your crap Quadra 900’s for ten grand a pop once a year and eating tinned soup for dinner.

In closing I should add that I have never worked at Computers Now nor am I affiliated with them in any way. I also have no knowledge of any negotiations Apple may or may not have with the aforementioned resellers should they impose their giant foot on nearby ground. This is purely an opinion piece.

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Photos from the Hockey Championship Trophy, Melbourne 2009

December 11th, 2009 by Raj

Last weekend Melbourne played host to the Championship Trophy. The international men’s hockey tournament consisted of the world’s top six teams including Australia, Germany, & The Netherlands. To be honest I had no idea that it was even on until a friend from Adelaide rang to say he and his hockey club team mates were flying over for it and I managed to grab a ticket from them. I’m glad I went, I really miss playing and for the two days I was there I had a great time.

On the photography front I think I took nearly 200 hundred photos from the crowd, a lot of them useless but some of them pretty fun and catching a bit of action. The fruits of my labour are viewable in the slideshow below. Unfortunately taking photos like this at a sports event only makes me want to go out and buy some ridiculous zoom telephoto lens rather than using a stock standard 250mm lens that came with my DSLR.

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The end of a Canadian Tale

February 22nd, 2009 by Raj

Well ladies and gentlemans of “teh internets” (and yes I meant to write “gentlemans; grammar nazis), I don’t think there is any way I can possibly continue to draw out the chapter of my life that is the “Canadian Tales“. The time has come, one pregnancy term later, to dog-ear the page and put down the book for a well deserved kip.

That’s not to say that I haven’t done absolutely everything within my almighty skinny frame’s power to squeeze every last juicy drop from one poor carcass of an orange that now remains. For instance just one week ago I was once again extending my “working” holiday to the further reaches of Australia’s north, spending five days basking in the glorious humidity of a monsoon season’s grey sky in Port Douglas, Queensland with a friend.

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas

I couldn’t have asked for a better wind-down than the Sea Temple Resort in little old Pee-Dee (Port Douglas). The holiday destination was borderline a ghost town being the rain season and my days were spent lounging around the pool and drinking. There’s something called the Great Barrier Reef up there somewhere, it didn’t come with a free breakfast buffet and mango cocktails though so I can’t say I got to it. I know, I know, sacrilegious, but another day.

This is all fine and dandy but I guess I should get down to the crux of it, which is the fact that my little soirée into the land of Canuck is over and it’s time to get back to the harsh realities of a real life, a new job and living in Melbourne to which I’ve just resigned to for the next 12 months having signed a new lease.

Obviously I’m asked quite frequently on my opinion of both Canada and my personal adventure and I must say excluding its abrupt ending and the ongoing battle I’m having with my travel insurance company (that’s another post altogether), I had an incredible time! Yes I missed everyone dearly and yes I was homesick on more occasions than I care to remember but it was an experience that I’d never take back, if anything it did nothing more than spur on my interest in doing it again!

For those of you that have seen me since my return I think you’d agree that something’s changed upstairs in the old noggin’. I feel free, unencumbered if you will and enjoying life in all its roller costing glory. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been contracting and not confining myself to an office 9 to 5, 5 days a week but I think it has far more to do with my own growth and a sense of achievement in knowing that I can survive out there in the big bad scary world; even if it was only Canada and everyone speaks English. But enough with excerpts from my upcoming novel “I went to Canada and I came back a self-help guru” let’s talk highlights!

Snow: Canada was just amazingly beautiful! I could list of a hundred different locations that were just so breath-taking but nothing compares to the first time I walked out of the office at 6pm and felt that first snow flake gently float through the sky to rest on my cheek. Sure I’ve been to snowfields before but this was just so different. You didn’t have to drive three hours up a mountain to find it all I had to do was go outside and there it was. I used to sit in my bedroom and stare out the window at downtown Toronto and just watch the wind carry and swirl the white dots as it pleased. It was just magical and I crave to see it again.

New York: Sure it’s not even in Canada but it was just a 20 minute flight across the border and boy does that city steal my heart! Having a couple of Lincoln lads there doesn’t do you in any disservice either. There aren’t words to describe the magnitude that is New York City. There isn’t anything you couldn’t find in the city and yet ironically you couldn’t not find anything to do. The architecture is what truly steals my heart though and with each visit I make the journey to “Top of the Rock” to breath in the enormity of the city’s beauty.

The Moose: Whilst it may not seem like a huge deal there’s a lengthy story to go along with it that I’ll now condense into one sentence. I saw a moose whilst simply driving down the road while my kayaking friends, rather desperate in their search for fauna, paddled their hearts out for six hours and saw squat! I win!

I had a truly wonderful time living on the other side of the world and to those who are thinking of going to Canada be it for holiday or work I couldn’t recommend it more. Now that I’m home I miss Toronto much more than I thought I would and I’m resolved to return (albeit most likely in a tourist capacity) to explore areas I didn’t have the opportunity to see such as Montreal and Quebec if not that then to see another NHL game!

Thank you Canada, or more specifically Toronto (and Hamilton) you were very good to me. And thus ends the Canadian Tales.

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The “Canadian Tales” continue… (in Australia)

January 4th, 2009 by Raj

For those of you whom aren’t in the know I have made the journey home to the land of golden soil and wealth for toil. You might think that would mean the ending of my “Canadian Tales” series but until I stop living out of a suitcase I think it’s fair to say I’m still not “home”, well that and the fact I don’t actually have a home to speak of, I’d call it more of a splattering of possessions that spans three different friend’s homes, a storage cage and an attic.

Arriving just before Christmas I spent a week in my old home town of Melbourne crashing in the spare room of good friends. Melbourne was a bit of a blur, every day seemed to be filled with drink and cheer, fitting the season perfectly really, but impeded greatly on the progress of some contract work I’d picked up to tide me over until my working life recommences next March.

Checking on the remainder of my post Ga-RAJ sale home-ware possessions that I’d stashed in the storage cages of my old building’s cafe (with permission from their owner of course, who had unfortunately passed whilst I was in Canada) I was filled with relief to find them still there under the cafe’s new ownership and even more so to find out there was no problem in keeping everything there until my return to Melbourne in 2009.

Life of storage secured and an exponential-increase-in-alcoholic-intake week later I was in Adelaide with family and more friends to celebrate Christmas. It was fantastic to see my family again, it may have only been seven months since I saw them last but with what I’d been through with the attack in Seattle I’ve wanted nothing more to see them all again. I was treated to a wonderful new lens for my SLR and many other great presents but as corny as it sounds being home to see everyone was present enough for me.

Two cities and one major holiday down the only place left to go for the holiday season was Port Lincoln (Plinkin’). My Mum is the only person who lives in Port Lincoln still, my home town, and whilst I saw her on Christmas day when she flew to Adelaide my brother’s Christmas present to her was to tile her house and seeing how I didn’t really have anything else to do until March I, along with my sister and my brother’s girlfriend had all volunteered to help.

Tiling

So that’s where my nomadic life is at the moment. I’ve rung in the new year Plinkin’ style at the local hot spot, my arms feel like lead weights that wont stop tingling from the four hours of jack hammering I had to do yesterday and where I sit in wait of figuring out exactly what it is I’m going to do and where I’m going to live?!?

Lastly for those I’ve not been able to get in touch with directly, a happy new year to you all. I hope you rang it in with style.

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Review: Rock Band (Australia)

October 12th, 2008 by Raj

While the rest of the world enjoys the spoils of Harmonix’s latest efforts with the recent release of Rock Band 2 Australians, whom have yet to see any version of the franchise land upon its shores, will have to be content with the announcement that coming November 7th they too can finally begin their rock journeys with the release of the first iteration, the same version that is now over a year old for everyone else.

For anyone that has played Guitar Hero, Rock Band is going to be of familiar territory. The game revolves around the usual rhythm formula of coloured “notes” flowing down the screen that need to be hit when crossing a particular point. The more notes you hit in a row the more your score multiplier increases and should you not hit enough you bomb out of the song to the boos of a disappointed virtual crowd. Where Rock Band differentiates itself is that you not only have the option of playing the guitar portions of the songs but you know have a complete “band” of instruments to play (and sing) including lead guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals. Think of it as Guitar Hero meets SingStar with a drum kit.

Rock Band provide two primary modes of gameplay, a “Solo Tour” mode and “Band World Tour” mode, which requires at least two players. The solo mode follows the same tried and tested formula of performing a few tracks on your desired instrument (excluding bass, which is only available in Band World Tour mode) until you’ve done enough to unlock the next venue and the new tracks that come along with it whilst growing in difficulty to play/sing. Depending on which instrument you choose to use the track list changes order due to the songs being of different difficulties for the individual mediums.

Band World Tour mode breaks the regular mould of linear track progression. Requiring at least one other person in the room rocking out with you, the World Tour mode challenges you to create a band poised to take over the world, earning fans, money, and accolades throughout your bands evolution. Starting with gigs in your hometown your band will go on to earn vans, tour buses and even private jets to play in any of the 41 venues in over 17 cities around the globe. You can even choose to play benefit gigs that earn you a larger fan base but no monetary reward all the time creating your own set-lists to accommodate your next gigs fans, introducing what Harmonix refers to as a “risk versus reward” system into the game, requiring a dedicated thought process behind your decision making somewhat similar to a real life band progressing through their musical career.

One of the decidedly major advantage the Rock Band franchise has over its competitors is its comprehensive track listing and music store. I love the loaded tracks in Rock Band, more so than any offering from Guitar Hero or even the US released Rock Band 2. Classics such as Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Stone Temple Pilots “Vaseline” are just the tip of the iceberg of this rock monolith’s 58 playable tracks, 51 of which are master recordings.
The in built music store allows further expansion buy allowing users to download new “track packs” or individual songs at a price of 160 Microsoft Points (US$1.99) per song. Currently there are over 250 tracks available for download from the Rock Band Music Store but it is unclear at this stage if all we be made available upon the Australian release, nor if their pricing will differ.

The Instruments
Guitar/Bass – The Rock Band guitar is by no means an evolutionary step in musical peripherals. In fact its quite the opposite as are all of Rock Band’s instrumental ensemble via their USB tethers. Connectivity aside the guitar unit is modeled against the famous Fender Stratocaster and, in my opinion, a far more recognizable shape of rock guitaring that most are more likely to identify with than that of Guitar Hero III’s Les Paul knock off. Unfortunately for Rock Band that’s pretty much where the praise ends. The guitar feels cumbersome, there’s little to no feedback when it’s fret buttons are depressed and the strum bar feels as though you’re pushing it through a pool of super glue. The familiar “click” when strumming on any of the previous Guitar Hero units is completely absent leaving me unsure as to whether or not I’ve actually played the note at all! It’s of general Internet consensus that the included guitar is rubbish and many are applauding Harmonix for the new upgrade with Rock Band 2 but unfortunately that’s not what Australia’s getting.

Drums – Harmonix received a lot of flack over the supplied drum kit when they first released Rock Band in the US. Complaints of the foot pedal snapping in two were more common than not and they went on record as to saying some of their initial units were admittedly faulty. Providing your foot pedal stays in one piece I can honestly say banging away on the drums is by far the most rewarding, and realistic, experience of Rock Band (for me). They’re loud, and housemates who aren’t joining in will quickly alert you to that fact, don’t think banging away on plastic pads is any less annoying than a real drum kit. You’ll also need to find a brick to put in front of them as the whole set up tends to move forward with each fervid kick of the foot pedal but boy is it a hell of a lot of fun. Be prepared to work a little on the drums too, if you’ve never drummed before teaching your mind to separate your three limbs (you generally only use one leg) to work independently is a challenge and one that’s not quickly mastered.

Microphone – I am most definitely not one for any form of karaoke. I know I can’t sing to save myself and I don’t see how forcing others listen to my hideous pitchless screams can be fun for anyone that isn’t deaf. I’d much prefer to bounce around the lounge room with a plastic guitar than sound like a fool singing! That said, in the spirit of gaming journalism I have (in solidarity) tried “singing” a tune or two. Fortunately as with pretty much every karaoke-like game available Rock Band calculates your performance on the ranging pitches your voice takes and not on you actually singing anything at all. It’s quite simple to get through a song with nothing more than a well controlled hum and whilst that may not be in the spirit of the game it was a most welcome relief for me.

For those tossing up between Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour (which is basically Rock Band with different tracks) I have to recommend Rock Band for its track list and music store, but ideally I’d want the hardware from Guitar Hero and the game from Rock Band. Even though this game is over a year old for the majority of the video game world you will find its popularity no shorter than ridiculous in Australia. What’s fantastic about Rock Band is that it has such a wide appeal including those whom want to rock their nights away pretending to be the latest Dave Grohl to that of the karaoke junkie; this game appeals to you all and what’s more you can now play together! Yay! One big happy family!

Related Links:
Rock Band Official Website
Rock Band track list
Downloadable tracks for Rock Band

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