Cyborg-in-Chief Involved in Gaming Novel Soundtrack

Warning: Shameless Self Promotion Ahead:

The news is official today, so I thought I’d share it here. Frighteningly-creative composer/musician John Bergin and I have created a soundtrack to Traitor General, the forthcoming Gaunt’s Ghosts novel by Dan Abnett. The Gaunt series takes place in the world of the popular tabletop sci-fi wargame Warhammer 40,000. Along with the regular paperback version of the book, there’ll be a leatherbound special edition with our 73-minute soundtrack included. I’m psyched. I think the CD came out really well.

Check out the Black Library’s News Page for more info and a sample of one of the tracks: “There Are No Miracles (Only Men).”

For the more digitally-inclined gamer, THQ is working on a real-time 40K strategy game, called Dawn of War, using the Relic 3D engine. So far, it looks pretty great and looks like it captures the tabletop experience better than previous stinkers like Chaos Gate and Final Liberation.

The End Of Minidisc…And The CD?

All the press on the Playstation Portable these last couple days has focused primarily on hardware, and while no doubt the specs of the game machine are great with its ability to play Playstation 2 quality games and movies and whatnot, I wonder if there’s something bigger in the announcement: the rise of the UMD.

The UMD, or Universal Media Disk, is what PSP games will be stored on, and Sony’s already looking to get movies and music on them too, for playback on the PSP. But the name itself suggests that there may be even bigger plans for this little disk. If Sony can put its weight behind media distribution on this format of disk it could be the beginning of a new media format for all sorts of portable media playback devices. Holding 1.8 gigs of music or movies, which is 2.5 times a CD and almost twice the capacity of the biggest Minidisc, UMD could easily take over the Minidisc, Microdrive and flash MP3 market, and make a big splash in the new area of portable video playback devices.

Of course, this could all be undercut by Sony’s new adherance to proprietary formats and DRM. The Minidisc never really took off in the US because it couldn’t compete with the speed and convenience of MP3 players that don’t require complicated translation of one format to another. Sony’s decision to limit playback on MD players to only ATRAC3+ encoded tunes instantly relegated the MD player to Betamax status: better technology doomed to the trash heap.

There’s a lot of promise in Sony’s new UMD. To capitalize on it Sony will have to license it broadly and minimize restrictions on playback formats, allowing for manufacturers to use them for MPEGs or MP3s as they like. If Sony decides to do that (which is unlikely) they will surely have a steady revenue from devices and media licenses that will exceed any brief profits they may derive from limiting the disk to playback of proprietary formats only.

Playstation Portable (PSP) Debuts At E3

Sony has taken the wraps off the upcoming Playstation Portable, due for release in Japan in late 2004 and after x-mas in the States. The PSP will use a 333 MHz processor, run games off proprietary mini-DVDs called UMDs, and playback video and audio (ATRAC3+ only?) from the Memory Stick Duo slot or from UMDs (pre-recorded only though). It’ll have integrated WiFi, a 4.3″ widescreen, stereo speakers, USB 2.0 (maybe) with a number of different options, like GPS and camera, and much more. If this costs less than $200, it’ll be a runaway hit, despite stoopid DRM.

Get all the specs and pics and something to wipe that drool off your face at Ferrago.

New Improved Blogger

Blogger, my long-time favorite tool for maintaining personal blogs, has just re-tuned itself a bit, adding some nice new features and a cleaner interface. In addition to the new interface and “user dashboard” Blogger now has better templates for easier blog creation. Most importantly though Blogger now includes support for comments on blog entries right out of the box, and supports email blogging.

Unfortunately, photo-blogging is still not supported. But a thousand words is worth a picture, so you’ll just have to type more!

Sony’s 20 Gig Music Player

Sony has finally released a hard-drive based music player, though for now it’s only in Japan. The device, which goes by the name of VAIO Pocket VGF-AP1, has a 20 gig hard-drive, transfers tunes via USB 2.0, and most impresssively a 2.2″ QVGA+ 320×256 screen, on which photos can be viewed — unknown if it supports video. It’s not quite as slim as an iPod, but at 4.5″ x 2.5″ x 0.66″ it’s pretty close. It also uses a cool-looking control called the G-Sense, which seems to be modelled on one of those rubber things you put in your bathtub. Oh, one more thing. Did I mention that it doesn’t look like it will play MP3?

Like most music players from Sony, it seems the VAIO Pocket only plays ATRAC format tunes, and MP3s have to be translated by the included Music Move software. F’get it Sony. We don’t want your stinkin’ HD player.

Virtual Keyboard Actually Hits the Market!

File under Tech I Never Expected To Actually See: the keyboard-less keyboard. This device actually projects via laser a virtual keyboard onto any flat surface, judging your typing strokes with infrared sensors. It’s only about the size of a disposable lighter, has internal rechargable lithium batteries, connects to PDA or laptop (tablet, most usefully) via USB or data cable, and costs just $99. While it may not be very comfortable on a hardwood table, there’s no reason it can’t be projected on felt, leather, or even a nice big slab of Jello. Mmmmm. Edible keyboards.

Considering this technology was only hinted at less than a year ago, while Bluetooth has been around 10 times longer, it’s surprising to me that we still don’t have a Bluetooth folding keyboard from ThinkOutside.