Friday, November 26, 2010

REVIEW: StarCraft II still the best RTS even without LAN

More than 10 years ago, StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood Wars were the all-time best real-time strategy (RTS) games for local area network (LAN) gaming, and are credited for having been among the video games that made Internet cafes “cool". Even as online games took away interest from StarCraft, a few loyal players still held “LAN parties" to play StarCraft.

Fast forward to 2010, Blizzard has launched StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. While it was among the most anticipated games for the year, many old players still wondered if the new game would hold up against other RTS titles that have dominated the market for the past several years. Few sequels actually give the same, if not a greater amount, of fun as the predecessor.

Terran-only campaign

StarCraft II is among these rare sequels that did a lot of justice to the original. However, it does have a few disappointments, including just a Terran-only campaign, but the setbacks could be said to be minor especially since new expansion packs will be released to feature the campaigns of the Protoss and the Zerg races.

First of all, the game has a greatly expanded Terran campaign mode, with long campaigns that really train the player to build an army. All of the campaigns are closely linked together and, just as Blizzard does it with its other games, there are stories to be followed within each campaign.

StarCraft II features a greatly expanded Terran campaign mode. 

Before, when players only had to build an army and destroy the enemy units and bases, there are a few new portions in the game that lets the player choose certain directions instead of just going straight for the enemy base. For instance, the first campaign lets players destroy holographic displays of Terran Dominion leader Arcturus Mengsk, while meeting up with citizens who have been freed from Mengsk's tyrrany. The player gets to feel the story build up while playing each campaign instead of just going through the motions of finishing the enemy base.

Jim Raynor's back

Of course, Jim Raynor, the Terran rebel leader and hero of the first StarCraft game, is the main story. His quest is to bring down Arcturus Mengsk, whom he blames for the apparent death and transformation of Kerrigan into the Zerg queen. Throughout the game, Raynor and his team will try and find ways to outmaneuver Mengsk's army and finally find an end to the Zerg infestation – and perhaps save Kerrigan in the process.

A major change in the game is its role-playing game approach; instead of just using the same units over and over again, Raynor can choose different campaigns that will earn him money, which he uses to buy new units and upgrade existing ones. Only a few old units are back, such as the Marine, Siege Tank and Battlecruiser, though there are numerous new units that have variable attributes. Of course, for the structures, there are still the Armory, Barracks, Bunker, Command Center, and Factory, all of which came from the original StarCraft.

Instead of just using the same units over and over again, you can choose different campaigns to help you buy new units and upgrade existing ones. 

Online multiplayer gaming

But the main aspect of StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is its online multiplayer capabilities. As with other Blizzard titles, StarCraft 2: has been built for gaming. There are different regions where players can compete and these are the US, Europe, and Southeast Asia. This approach allows players to compete against others in the same region, and from an infrastructure perspective, reduce the Internet latency that would otherwise ruin the online multiplayer experience.

It is also here where players can finally choose to play the other two races, the Protoss and the Zergs. Each race has different attributes that could fit the varying gameplay style of different players. For instance, the Terran are still the all-around race with balanced defense and offense. The Protoss are still the most expensive to build but are extremely powerful even in small numbers. Zergs can overwhelm their enemies with superior numbers, though they are still week in smaller numbers.

No LAN, no problem

The absence of LAN gaming isn't exactly a problem. In fact, it's the element of playing against a wide community is what makes the game even better. The level of competition may seem higher, but it is this challenge that would surely make players try and improve their skills.

Online multiplayer capability makes up for StarCraft II's lack of LAN connectivity. 

With all the proper elements in place, as well as additions, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a sure hit among old players of StarCraft. Even when it's compared to other RTS games, StarCraft II can still hold up to the others. What's more, new updates will keep people's anticipation going. - by Benjamin Lhora / TJD, GMANews.TV

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Japanese Man Kills Himself Live Online

Reports from Japan last November 10, 2010 say that a 24 year old man took his life live on the Internet.

The suicide occurred after the man - who comes from the city of Sendai - had posted complaints about his job online after being placed on extended sick leave from August.

On Sunday night he broadcast his intentions to kill himself on live streaming service Ustream. He had been discussing his views on life with an audience on the site.

His broadcast received feedback from users with some encouraging him to end his life as he planned.

On Tuesday he resumed his broadcast and he hung himself at around 05h30 in the morning.

The Ustream service stopped the broadcast around half an hour later after receiving reports from viewers. The man's body was found by police later in the morning.

Japan has averaged over 30,000 suicides a year for the past 12 years which is one of the world's highest suicide rates.

Source: News Time

There was a bear enlisted in the Polish Army.

Wojtek or Voytek, was a European brown bear that was enlisted to fight for the Polish army in the Battle of Monte Cassino in World War II. However, rather than making use of the bear's superior fighting abilities, Voytek's duties consisted of transporting ammunition. Thanks to his size, he could carry mortar rounds much more easily than a human soldier. A quarter of a million soldiers died in that battle, but Voytek survived to eventually die of old age in 1963.

According to Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski, "he was like a big dog; no-one was scared of him. He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer – he drank a bottle of beer like any man." There are statues erected in his honor in London and in Ottowa, Canada, and there has been a book written about him as well. You can learn more about this remarkable story in this news article.

Aokigahara Forest in Japan is a popular place to commit suicide with up to 100 suicides per year.

It’s known as “suicide forest” or the “Sea of Trees”. It’s a popular place for Japanese people to commit suicide. Each year there are 50 to 100 suicides that occur in this forest. The problem has gotten so bad that the government has resorted to installing security cameras at its entrances and people have started posting signs with information for suicide counseling (CNN)

Japan actually has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and from 2008 to 2009 the suicides increased by 15%.

Japan has holographic concerts that feature a computerized singer.

Hatsune Miku
The hologram’s name is Hatsune Miku, and she is a product of Yamaha’s “Vocaloid Synthesizing Technology.” Somewhere, deep down, there is a real human vocal recording…but Miku herself is not real and her “concerts” are composed of pre-programmed light and sound. Naturally, she has blue hair. You gotta have blue hair!

Her computerized voice is actually based on a cartoon voice actor’s voice. Real singers weren’t interested in having their voices being used for this. We haven’t the slightest idea how this sort of show ever became popular, and we fear for the future of the music industry. 

Nearly half a billion people in China never brush their teeth.

It is estimated that less than half of the rural population and only TEN PERCENT of Chinese city dwellers have proper dental hygiene! It’s so bad that many people resort to using twigs or green tea to clean their teeth, either out of tradition or out of necessity due to poverty. Even former chairman Mao Zedong is said to have had teeth that were stained green!

Now the Chinese national committee for oral health has been encouraging people to brush and go to the dentist. Currently, for every 60,000 people in China, there is only one dentist.

The whole story from CNN.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dear E-Mail: Die Already. Love, Facebook

The social network is trying to change the messaging game with its new service

 The annals of obsolete communication technologies are growing all the time. There's the telegraph, the answering machine, the fax, and the paper-based letter, all artifacts from an analog era where messages had resonance hours, even days, after getting them. 

Now Mark Zuckerberg wants to add e-mail to that list. In a rollout on Nov. 15 of its revamped messaging system, Facebook's 26-year-old founder declared the age of e-mail over, dragged down by what he called the "weight and friction" of having to remember people's addresses and sort through unwanted messages from strangers. In its place, the social network introduced an inbox that stresses instant communication, mashing together e-mail with instant messages and cell phone texts into a single stream of chatter, customized for the Age of Urgency. "This is a modern messaging system," Zuckerberg declared. 

The new service, which will be introduced slowly over the next few months to Facebook's 550 million members, treats every message like a five-alarm fire, popping up on the Facebook screen to be read and answered immediately. Members will get a address and the ability to send and receive e-mail, texts, and IMs from the social network to people who do not use it. And Facebook will record all of it, preserving every missive (even the trivial "hang on, BRB") for posterity. "Five years from now, you are going to have the full rich history of all the communication you have with each of your friends and the people around you," Zuckerberg said. 

In the runup to the announcement, industry blogs such as TechCrunch called the impending service a "Gmail killer"—another salvo in Facebook's battle against Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), and Yahoo! (YHOO) for the hearts, minds, and attention spans of Internet users. While Facebook messaging will no doubt change people's communication habits, it's premature to say the service means instant death for Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or any other e-mail as we know it. If anything, Facebook hopes it'll be more of a long, slow asphyxiation. Facebook will probably have trouble getting an older generation of e-mail addicts to give up their accounts. Messages from the site are sent out with a member's profile picture, which could look silly if the subject is business related. The service also uses its members' lists of contacts to organize their communications. Messages from friends, and friends of friends, appear in a user's primary inbox. That sounds sensible, though it can be inconvenient. If Uncle Sherman isn't on Facebook—or your boss, or the bank trying to flag you about a suspicious ATM withdrawal—too bad; their messages get tossed in with those from various nonfriends in a folder labeled "other." 

Zuckerberg and his colleagues concede that it's unlikely people will abandon their other e-mail accounts. They're betting on the next generation—young people already addicted to real-time texts and IMs, who have already largely written off e-mail. "Facebook is making communication between close friends the priority," says Charlene Li, an analyst at the Altimiter Group, a tech consulting firm.
Facebook's rivals are also racing to build simpler, real-time communication systems. Google has long allowed users to see instant messages and texts alongside Gmail, and recently added a feature called Priority Inbox, which tries to gauge a user's most important conversations and bring them to the top of the pile. Former market-share leader AOL (AOL), now the fifth-largest e-mail provider on the Web, according to ComScore, previewed changes earlier this month that also will integrate texts and IMs, and lets users see images, maps, and other attachments contained in a message in a panel on the side of the screen. Those services are more open than Facebook; for example, their users can link them to corporate mail services like Microsoft Exchange. Facebook isn't there yet. 

One looming challenge for the social network is spam. Those hundreds of millions of new e-mail addresses, which are based on people's public Facebook IDs, could be easily harvested by spammers. Facebook's system is designed to handle this, since only messages from friends go into the main inbox, and the company has signed a multiyear contract with anti-spam specialist Cloudmark, say two people familiar with the arrangement. Still, users can expect plenty of junk in those "other" folders. It would be ironic, of course, if e-mail's oldest scourge ended up adding Facebook's newest feature to the list of endangered communications. 

The bottom line: Facebook's hybrid of e-mail, texting, and instant messages is a bet on younger users addicted to real-time communication.
Stone is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.

A 13-year-old has a condition that makes her look elderly.

Zara Hartshorn
British teenager Zara Hartshorn suffers from a rare genetic disorder called lipodystrophy. This disease removes the body’s natural ability to grow fat cells beneath the skin. This is especially noticeable in a patient’s face, where the skin is wrinkly and causes them appears much older than they actually are. Unfortunately, there is still no known cure - Zara also received a sort of “facelift” surgery which did not produce dramatically different results.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Electric eels are not actually eels.

They actually are much more closely related to carp and catfish! These fascinating creatures can generate an electrical charge of over 600 volts – five times that of a wall socket! Their bodies contain electric organs with about 6,000 electrocytes. These are cells that store power like tiny batteries.

Some electric eels can get up to 8 feet long and weigh as much as 44 pounds! Despite their size and high voltage shocks, electric eels rarely kill people. The most dangerous thing to worry about is drowning after being stunned by one.

You can learn more about electric eels on the National Geographic website.

British pigeons can receive a medal for their military service!

Yes, pigeons have been used to deliver messages during modern warfare. During World War II, 32 homing pigeons received what is known as the Dickin Medal - the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an animal in the service. Recipients included an American pigeon named GI Joe and an Irish pigeon by the name of Paddy.

The Dickin Medal was instituted in the UK in 1943 by Maria Dickin. The award is still presented by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals to this day. This year, a black labrador named Treo received the award for his service as a bomb-sniffer in Afghanistan.

Here's a list of award-winning pigeons.

President James Madison was only 5 feet, 4 inches tall.

Naturally, Madison is the shortest president in American history. We would say that television cameras could make him look a lot taller, but unfortunately the TV had not been invented yet. (More presidential trivia).

This makes Madison an entire foot shorter than the tallest president, Abraham Lincoln. Still, Madison was in good company, since his presidency coincided with the reign of Napoleon, another famous leader of short stature. More on Madison's Presidency. Still, Iran has both the U.S. and France beat on shortest presidents.

Although a typical neutron star is only 20 km in diameter, its mass is 1.4 times greater than that of the Sun.

These bodies are so dense that on Earth a teaspoonful of neutron star would weigh a billion tons! As you would expect, this also comes with a gravitational field far stronger than that of our home planet. A neutron star’s surface gravity is about 200,000,000,000 stronger than that of Earth!

A neutron star is what happens when a star that is 4 to 8 times the size of the sun runs out of nuclear fuel and undergoes a supernova explosion. The central region of the star collapses in on its own gravity so and the protons and electrons are forced to turn into neutrons.

More about Neutron Stars can be found on the NASA website.

Friday, November 5, 2010

President William Taft once got stuck in the White House bathtub.

Weighing in at over 330 pounds, Taft was by far the heaviest president in our country’s history. This embarrassing story claims that six aides were needed to dislodge his massive frame from the tub. They pulled out all the stops when installing a new tub - the replacement was large enough for four men!

He was also the first president to have a car, and was the first and only former president to serve as the Chief Justice on the Supreme Court!

Here's a list of the top ten President Taft facts.

Sharks cannot swim backwards.

In fact, most sharks can't even stay still. They need to be moving forward in order to force water through their mouths and over their gills. Otherwise they'll suffocate!

Some sharks can reach speeds of 20 mph, and can leap 20 feet above the water! While they can move really fast, they can't stop very quickly, or go in reverse.

There's more shark facts in this article from

Black holes are theoretically formed every second.

There are so many black holes in the universe that counting them would be comparable to attempting to count grains of sand on a beach! One out of every thousand stars is large enough to potentially become a black hole, but humans have identified only about a dozen. The nearest of these is a full 1,600 light-years away from Earth!

If you live in the Japanese city of Isesaki, you must shave your beard in order to get a public service job.

This applies to stubble, full beards, goatees, or any other kind of facial hair. Apparently , some citizens find beards unpleasant, so the authorities decided to ban beards for public servants. The ban came along with new rules that lets male employees work without having to wear jackets and ties, so I guess it was kind of a mixed bag.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A dish in South Korea is made of LIVE baby octopuses that are still moving.

This bizarre meal, called sannakji, consists of raw pieces of young octopus that are served immediately after chopping it up! This means that the tentacles must be chewed VERY thoroughly, in order to prevent the suction cups from sticking to the diner’s esophagus, or better keep the still-living octopus from crawling back up!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Have you ever wondered where "breakfast" got its name?

Because breakfast is typically the first meal we eat each day, by doing so we are "breaking" our nightly "fast." And you thought this was going to be complicated...


Wearing sunglasses increases the risk of getting sunburned.

The reason for this is that your pituitary gland only knows how much melanin (pigment that protects your skin from ultraviolet light) to produce from the signals that it receives from the eyes.

If your eyes indicate that it is sunny outside, the gland produces a lot of pigment. However, sunglasses trick the gland into thinking its less sunny, meaning less melanin and a higher risk of burning!


Despite lacking a brain, a jellyfish can detect light.

This is due to sets of specialized sense cells that can be found along the outside ridge of a jellyfish’s bell. The kind that are able to sense light act as a primitive set of eyes that help determine which way is up.

Other versions of these cells include a “nose” that senses chemicals in the water and a kind that helps the jellyfish maintain its orientation in the water.