Part 1 of a 9-part series: Choosing the best Middle Atlantic A/V Rack System for your specific requirements
So you’re here because you’ve decided to take the plunge and build a custom audio/video rack for your home theater or pro A/V system, but you’re not sure which rackmount enclosure is right for you and your particular application. If you’ve never installed a rackmount system before, then hopefully you will find this straight-forward buyer’s guide helpful for deciding on what sort of rack you need, as well as insight into the design and installation of your rack system. Over the coming weeks, we will eventually go over everything you need to know to purchase your Middle Atlantic rack and get started on your installation. Topics will include RSH custom rackmount shelving, power delivery, and protection, cable management, thermal management, and a few others.
Before you can purchase your rack, you should ask yourself the following questions:
Where am I going to install my A/V rack system?
Decide where your system is going to be stationed: basement, attic, cinema room, closet etc…
What style of rack do I need or want based on my environment and equipment?
Middle Atlantic builds many different kinds of A/V racks: slide-out, rotating, stand-alone, and wall mount are just a few of their options
I’ve decided what kind of rack I want, now what height/depth/weight capacity do I need for my particular equipment and location?
Consider the dimensions and cooling requirements of your components. Figure out their height, width, depth and weight.
What about spacing my equipment for airflow or room for future component additions?
Installing a rack that is future-proofed for growth and changes to your A/V rack system, as well as accommodating for proper air flow is important.
How should I mount my equipment? Is my rack going to be seen by people, or sitting in a closet or basement?
Look at the various shelving options, and decide if you want to go with Middle Atlantic’s RSH custom shelves or standard shelving. Maybe standard shelving with a Plexiglas front door?
An Xbox 360 Elite and PS3 mounted in RSH custom shelving
These are the questions that you should be asking yourself or your installer when you decide to build.
Next, lets go over some of the basics about rack mount equipment dimensions.
Rack Mounting Width:
Racks have traditionally come in 19, 23 and 24 inch mounting widths. Today, the 19 inch is the standard for most applications, including A/V systems. All Middle Atlantic A/V racks have 19 inch wide rackmounts. The 19-inch mount is just the internal mounting width from rail to rail. Overall width depends on the kind of rack. For bigger heavy-duty rack enclosures that will need a thick steel frame to hold larger, heavier equipment, or to run cabling down the side you can expect the overall width to be around 22-23 inches or more. For a simple system with 4 or 5 consumer electronic components, you may need a smaller, slimmer rack with as little as 19.125 inches of width. Remember that the width of the mounting shelf or rack ears on the piece of equipment that you are mounting have to be compatible with 19 inch wide rackmounts.
Rack Mounting Height:
Racks are measured and spaced by RMU or “rack mount units” which are always 1.75 inches high. Most commonly, they are referred to by “U” spacing. So for example, a 20U rack will have 20 x 1.75 inch = 35 inches of internal mounting space. Like the external width, the overall height of the rack will be just over the 35, usually not more than a few inches. When you consider your equipment and go to order your shelves, you will need to figure out how many rack units you will need to mount your entire system. When mounting equipment into Middle Atlantic RSH custom shelves, the mounting height of the custom shelf will usually be the next space up from where the actual height of the component is at, unless the next height up is only a few millimeters.
For example: 1U = 1.75 in., 2U = 3.50 in., 3U = 5.25 in.
The Xbox 360 has a height of 3.27 inches. The next space up is at 2U/3.50 in. That isn’t enough space for Middle Atlantic to cut out the frame of the unit and have enough metal going around the border. In this case, the Xbox 360 is bumped up to a 3U/5.25 in. shelf, plenty enough to mount the unit and have a decent outer frame to the faceplate.
On the other hand, the popular Motorola DCH3416 cable box has a height of 2.76 inches. In this case, there is enough room for them to move up the next available space height – 2U at 3.50 inches.
If you have equipment that isn’t listed in Middle Atlantic’s component dimensions database, then you’ll have to either ship it to Middle Atlantic for measurement or submit the specifications yourself. Either way, it is extremely important to make sure that you will have adequate rack spaces available.
We also highly recommend that you pick up Middle Atlantic’s handy rack ruler.
This little gem saves a lot of time and headache by measuring in both inches and rack mount units.
Rack Weight Capacity:
This one is just as important to consider. If you don’t have proper weight capacity for your equipment (ie: frame strength) then you could damage your gear, bend the rack frame or shelving, or if you try to push it to the limits you may not like what you hear later on down the road if it starts to sound rickety as wear from an overweight equipment load occurs over time. All of Middle Atlantic’s racks are highly engineered to have appropriate weight capacity ratings. Their Slim 5 series rack is rated for 400 lbs, and it does hold 400 lbs with perfect ease. Up to this point, the rack will function as described and will stand up to the test of time. If you swap out some components down the road, replacing some with heavier ones, add another here or there and now you’ve got 500 lbs, well that might not go so well. Time to buy a whole new rack to accommodate your updated system.
We also highly recommend that you check out a couple of very useful and innovative software programs that Middle Atlantic has built that help you easily pre-configure your entire rackmount system ahead of time.
The first program is their Rack Tools ® software.
This the software has been around for a long time, and they have made many upgrades and tweaks to get it to the straight-forward state that it is in now. It’s basically a visual layout tool that allows you to plug in your components, and then drag and drop them into whatever Middle Atlantic rack you choose. You can move them around and add Middle Atlantic shelves, filler and cooling panels, power strips, etc..until you get the configuration you want.
The second tool is called Visio Blocks.
Visio Block is a new program that runs along the same lines as Rack Tools but is integrated with Microsoft’s popular Visio® software. They are basically Visio stencils that allow you to quickly pre-configure your entire system. This is a handy tool to have for quickly putting together rackmount system presentations for clients if you are an installer.
So in recap, once you consider where and how you are going to mount your A/V system, make sure that you do sufficient planning so that A. you can accommodate your audio/video equipment, and B. that you think ahead to potential future upgrades and extensions to your system. Choosing a rack with the proper dimensions for height, width and weight capacity to fill your needs is crucial.
Now that you’ve chewed on some of this info we will profile each A/V rack that Middle Atlantic sells, so you can get familiar with the many different options that they offer and decide which is right for your application.
DIR-665 D-Link Xtreme N450 is the first D-Link router with N450 label which means the router delivers the speeds of up to 450Mbps (in ideal conditions) by adopting the 3×3 MIMO technology which uses three distinct data streams to enable very fast data transfer rates. Computers which are embedded with 450Mbps wireless adapter enabled, such as the laptops which are integrated with Intel Centrino 2 processor, can experience faster wireless speed and greater network mobility.
The DIR-665 is powered by the latest wireless technology 802.11n. The router includes 4-port Gigabit Switch you can use for connecting the computers with Gigabit NIC adapter enabled using UTP Cat5e standards. High speed wired connection is ideal for high-intensive bandwidth applications such as multiplayer gaming, large file transfer, and video streaming applications.
However, if you just need to build a wireless network for Internet sharing and other simple networking tasks such as print-sharing and document sharing, you do not need this Dir-665 router. You can consider Belkin-Share router that enables you to share broadband Internet sharing and with the built-in USB port – you can enable a USB printer to be accessible by other users on the network easily. Belkin with Print-Gennie app allows you to configure the printer (connected to the router USB port) to share to the network easily.
Selectable Dual-Band and HD Fuel Technology
Unlike its competitor TEW691 wireless 450Mbps Gigabit router which uses single 2.4 GHz frequency band, DIR-665 D-Link Xtreme N450 is powered by dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) you can select. The drawback with the selectable dual-band over simultaneous dual-band is that you can not work with multiple wireless devices which operate in mixed frequency bands (both 2.4 and 5 GHz) in a time. But with a single 5 GHz band in a time, the router provides much clearer band and less interference which is ideal for high-intensive bandwidth applications.
For gaming experiences and HD video streaming, you can select the 5 GHz radio band for device band and less interference (from other wireless devices that are operating in 2.4 GHz band). And with the additions of superior HD Fuel and Intelligent QoS Prioritization technologies, make your gaming and HD media streaming more enjoyable. You can provide prioritization for time-sensitive online traffic, such as smooth video streaming, responsive gaming, and smooth VoIP calls with this Intelligent QoS technology.
Advanced Network Security
DIR-665 D-Link Xtreme N450 router supports the dual firewall feature (Network address translation and Stateful packet inspection) to help prevent any types of internet threats such as hackers. And to allow traveler users to create secure tunneling to your network, the router supports PPTP / L2TP / IPSec Pass-through / Multi-sessions. For wireless connection security, the DIR-665 supports the latest industrial wireless security WPA / WPA2 to helps protect unauthorized access.
DIR-665 D-Link Xtreme N450 is an eco-friendly router which is designed to help conserve energy, reduce waste byusing recyclable packaging to help protect our environment from harmful substances, and other eco-friendly green technology features including:
- The router is designed to detect the ports with no link and bring them down, no power consumed. This helps to save power.
- Each different Ethernet cable lengths consume different power output. Traditionally the system supply the same power to different cable length
- Energy star compliant
Each of the client computers connecting to the network must be configured with a unique private IP address to allow them communicate with each other and to access the internet. Configuring manually each of the computers with a static IP address is prior to the mistyping that can cause the connection problem. However, the router supports the DHCP server feature that takes care of the complexity of providing the IP address automatically to all the client computers in the network. This reduces the administration overhead in providing the IP address configuration to all the computers in the network.
One of the advantages of having the wireless network in home is appropriate, no wires needed. With your XBOX console, you can install a wireless XBOX adapter to allow you to play games at the comfort of your living room without the clutter of the wires. With your laptop, you can surf the internet and read the email messages by your poolside. With DIR-665 Xtreme N450, you can build your high-performance network in homes easily.
Supporting mostly OS including Windows® 7, Windows Vista®, Windows® XP SP2, or Mac OS® X (v10.4), DIR-665 is an ideal solution for high-performance home networking or small business environments.
By Ki Grinsing
If you are passionate about playing FIFA 11 and want to win more matches, then you should improve your defending skills. That’s because even if you are good at attacking play like ‘through ball’, ‘finishing’, ‘free kicks’ etc., you don’t want to lose 5:4, but rather win 2:0 or 1:0.
So give more attention to defending style of play than attacking, but you should be good enough to score goals in the first place because this article is about defending and not attacking.
Defending Style of Play that you must master:
1. Stand your ground and let the opponent make mistake. Because if you stand in his path and don’t give him any room to run, he may do a missed pass or he can panic and shoot early. This doesn’t mean that you should just stand still and do nothing, but instead you have to anticipate your opponent’s move and make your move to go in the line of path of his run.
2. When the attacker is near to you, press B (Note: keys mentioned here are not keyboard settings, but xbox controller keys, so use appropriate keys that you configured for your keyboard) to tackle, here the timing is important. He has to be at the right distance to make the tackle. If you are new and not sure of the timing and everything, then tap B like 2 to 3 times when your opponent is near to you.
3. Follow the attacker by pressing A+RT and press LT at the right time as in the case of previous step. You have to practice and find the right timing for these tackles. But don’t use too much of sprint(RT) + A, or else you may lose too much energy too quickly. So use it appropriately and effectively.
4. You can block your opponents’ moves by pressing LT and RT constantly, which will help you preventing crossing and passes. This is jockeying. This can also be used when you know that your opponent is going to use “through ball”. All you have to do is give control to the defending player who is near to your opponent who has started to make a run ahead, and press LT to catch up with that attacker.
5. You can ask your other defender or player near to you to join you in defending by pressing B and holding it. You have to do it well before your opponent has near you, otherwise the player near you won’t be having enough time to block the attacker. Use this sparingly, because you are making some open spaces by calling other players near you and if you do this wrongly, you may pay the price, as your opponent can use that open space to pass or move towards your goal.
6. Last but not the least, the sliding tackle. It can save your team in desperate moments but again, you have to use it at the right time. Press X to make a sliding tackle. Don’t attack the player and slide on him while doing it. Try to target the ball and anticipate and then make a sliding tackle. As they say, sliding tackle can be spectacular if you time it right, or else you may be looking at referee pointing yellow or red card at you.
That’s it for now. Enjoy defending and play fair games.
You can try using different keys to see how the game responds. One that I found for defending in FIFA 11 works good for me but requires some practice to master it.
In today’s average home there exist many potential sources of digital evidence, from the obvious home PCs and mobile phones to the less common ‘pen-drives’ and PDA’s. All have been subject to comprehensive scrutiny from people involved in the legal process and academics since their properties have been shown to have forensic value. So far comparatively little evidence of investigation into the forensic properties of modern gaming consoles exists, if we consider how they can be utilized in an increasingly ‘PC-like’ manner, this is an area capable of proffering considerable amounts of data with evidentiary value in criminal or civil court proceedings.
Computer forensics is a relatively new discipline combining elements of law and computer science to collect and analyze data from computer systems, networks, wireless communications and storage devices in a way that is admissible as evidence in a courtroom. Gaming consoles now provide the kind of data which can undergo forensic analysis because of the addition of memory (both internal and external) capable of ‘storing’ data beyond mere computer game information.
With the addition of storage capabilities beyond simple game data (i.e. hard drives capable of storing music, video, pictures, etc.) gaming consoles is able to utilise ‘web’ functionality and therefore will likely generate both ‘persistent’ and ‘volatile data’ with forensic value. With an increasing amount of media functionality gaming consoles are becoming ‘entertainment hubs’ within the average household.
The machines most likely to provide usable forensic data are the Xbox360 and PS3 and due to their prevalence in homes (combined sales figures for the UK are around six million units) these are the machines where a pattern of use would be similar to more readily accepted sources of forensic data (i.e. home computers).
Microsoft Xbox 360:
This gaming console can support external memory cards for game data and media storage, however, these are infrequently utilized because of small size (both physically and in terms of data capacity). The most commonly used memory for the Xbox360 comes in the form of a detachable hard-drive ranging in size from twenty gigabytes to two-hundred and fifty gigabytes (allowing vast amounts of saved music, videos, photos, etc.) and is essential in allowing online functionality on the machine. On an unmodified machine, this online functionality refers to ‘Xbox live’, the online multiplayer gaming and digital media delivery service operated by Microsoft. This service allows users to:
• Download content from Xbox live
• Log onto and update social networking and media services such as Facebook, Twitter, Zune and Last.fm
• Add people to ‘friends lists’ for gaming and/or communication
• Send (unsolicited) text/picture/voice messages to other users
Many of the functions performed on the console have a time and date attributed to when the function was performed (or at least when it was last accessed or altered); this could potentially provide corroboration of a defendant’s location at a specified time. The communication possible through use of the Xbox live messaging system can provide evidence of illegal activity as messages are automatically stored for up to 30 days before deletion from the system, however, all messages sent via Xbox live are retained on Microsoft servers and recoverable on any console the user profile is signed into, therefore any mention of a crime in a text or audio message would potentially be retrievable by a skilled investigator.
The functionality of the Xbox360 can be extended by modifying the internals to allow the playing of illegally downloaded software (piracy) or an operating system such as Linux could be installed and allow an Xbox360 to have almost all the functions of a PC (and associated data records of activity)
• Full access to the Internet (beyond mere Xbox live)
• Chat logs
• Pirated games
One important detail to note is that, at least from the outside, a modified console and an unmodified console can look exactly the same. While it is true that some members of the ‘modding’ community opt to apply various case modifications to their consoles, many do not, and therefore the console could be mistaken for a standard device.
Sony PlayStation 3:
The PS3 is similar to the Xbox360 in terms of potential forensic viability. Large amounts of digital media can be stored on its hard drive, and the PlayStation Network (similar to Xbox live) allows users to send messages much in the same way as with the Xbox360.
There are two key differences between these consoles, firstly, the PS3 has full internet browsing capability ‘straight out of the box’, even an unmodified PS3 would contain more usable data in terms of Internet search history, downloads, etc. on both the hard drive and the system ‘data cache’. Secondly, it was possible to install third-party operating systems on the PS3 without any modification to the system to enable it; this is currently in dispute in the US courts as this feature was removed by Sony to help prevent software piracy on the machine. Regardless, installing a second operating system (for whatever purpose) is still possible, now requiring some hard drive modification to enable this function, allowing the PS3 almost all the functionality of a PC.
Motion Control – Move & Kinect:
In the final months of 2010 new functionality was added to the PS3 (Move) and the Xbox360 (Kinect), ‘Motion Control’. Using cameras and motion tracking software the console is able to interpret user body movement and replicate it ‘in-game’. From an evidential point of view, this provides another type of data to be collected from a gaming console, practically this expands the scope of what data stored on these machines can be used for. The cameras are actually used to record the user of the motion control software at certain points of game activity this can be stored, this could be abused and used to send videos of underage children or obscene videos via Xbox live. The videos could also be used to capture suspects involved in criminal activity, with the videos having a date and time attached, analysis could determine a location, thereby corroborating or disproving the validity of a defendants claim as to their location at the time of an offense.
The Nintendo Wii currently boasts higher sales numbers than the Xbox360 and PS3 combined. It is seen as a gaming console for ‘non-gamers’ and has lower technical specifications than both of its competitors, as such it is less of the target for modification, although data with forensic properties can still be extracted from it. The Nintendo Wii can utilize a first-party Opera-based web browser; bookmarks are retained and may be worth noting. The Wii also retains a basic, daily log of system usage, and also keeps a contact list of added friends, as well as the messages those friends have sent. Also worth noting is that images may be sent over the player messaging system, which is then saved to the system flash storage or to an external SD (memory) card. As is true of most modern consoles, various distributions of Linux have been ported to the system (Wii Linux), meaning that it could be utilized in the same way as any desktop PC and should be treated as such.
Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP):
A portable game device can be defined as a gaming system that is small enough to be carried outside of the home and runs on batteries. While not as powerful as a console, portable game devices have made significant advances in power since their early days, and may now incorporate functions similar to PDAs. The PlayStation Portable may be used to access the Internet, store images and movies, and can be modified to run 3rd party operating systems, therefore forensic data is recoverable from the memory and ‘data cache’.
Nintendo DS / DSi / 3DS:
All Nintendo DS units can establish ad-hoc wireless connections to other units to utilize a player to player chat program called Pictochat. Pictochat has been used in the past by predators to lure children to them. The DSi incorporates an SD card reader, which may be used to hide illicit materials. The DSi also incorporates a 0.3-megapixel camera which can store images on its internal flash RAM or SD card.
Games Console Forensics in the Real World:
For illustration purposes here are a few real-world instances of crimes involving gaming consoles, hopefully illustrating the need to investigate gaming consoles just as thoroughly as more traditional computer forensic targets.
An example of gaming consoles being used in the same manner as a PC and providing usable forensic data would be an incident that occurred in August 2010 in the USA whereby an Xbox live user based in Florida was discovered to have been soliciting naked pictures of a 10-year-old boy also using the Xbox live messaging service. Officers recovered the defendants Xbox 360, two computers and a flash drive and discovered sixteen child-pornography images of various boys.
, Folsom Police Detective Andrew Bates stated that “parents should realize gaming systems like Xbox and PlayStation, when connected to the internet, can be used as other technology, such as a computer or telephone; users can speak to one another, text, or send photos, thus making these systems another potential threat.”
Useful data recoverable from Xbox live was found in a case where a man surrendered himself to police after threatening a witness against him in an on-going criminal investigation, he was charged with tampering with a witness, intimidating a witness and two counts of second-degree harassment.
There are documented instances of unsolicited indecent images being sent via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, here a couple were sent a message from an unknown user account, upon opening it discovered it contained an indecent image of a young boy and immediately contacted the police. An investigation would be able to determine the time and date this image was received and whether or not it was solicited by the user receiving the image by retrieving previous communications.
N another incident a PS3 user persuaded an 11-year-old girl to email him nude pictures of herself (which he subsequently forwarded on to contacts in other US states). No other devices were used to commit these offenses and would potentially go undiscovered in an ordinary investigation.
On another occasion a man is accused of grooming several young girls over Xbox live; this was uncovered by the discovery of a mobile phone and recovery of Xbox360 data.
Considering the myriad of ways in which gaming consoles can now provide investigators with usable forensic data it is crucial that the potential rewards of forensic investigation of gaming machines are fully comprehended, and furthermore, that lawyers -whether prosecution or defense – find an expert witness with the necessary skills to support their case. It is possible to commit the types of offenses typically associated with a PC on a gaming machine and it possible to retrieve data of equal significance from a gaming machine. Therefore correct seizure and investigation into of these devices should have equal priority alongside other digital storage and communication devices.
GoPro is the action camera that is used by athletes that play sports, and participate in adventures. GoPro was founded in 2002 by Nick Woodman, who came up with the idea of developing this camera when he was trying to create surfing videos. The difference between a “normal” camera and the “GoPro” camera is the GoPro is the type of camera that makes people say “wow”. It is waterproof, lightweight and is the perfect camera for sports enthusiast that wants to make a first-person video that allows people to share the experience and what it is like to be there all for an affordable price. The GoPro camera is very easy to use and is easily able to be placed on many platforms, for example, such as a skateboard, surfboard or a helmet. The GoPro is a very small camera and the point of view and the quality allows a user to create a video that everyone will enjoy.
One the important key point about marketing is never use automated messaging. GoPro never uses automated messaging when responding to customer’s complaints and reviews. GoPro Support is in charge of responding to customer’s messages, and they have always satisfied the customer by finding a solution to their issue, or by sending a replacement camera that is in the replacement warranty time period. In one response from GoPro Support, they offered a customer to work with a representative that is fluent in Portuguese, because the customer they were responding to lived in Brazil. The fact that GoPro’s customer support took the time to find a representative that is fluent in the same language rather than sending the customer an automated message shows that they are concerned and really want to create a relationship with the customer. When a customer understands what you will do to keep them satisfied it creates customer loyalty.
One customer had a camera that didn’t function properly and after a few emails, they had a new camera sent to them with no issues. This is another key point in marketing that GoPro does an excellent job with listening and talking with customers. GoPro is consistently responding and retweeting to Twitter and YouTube messages while allowing users to upload their own personal videos and sharing them to their four million subscribers. This positive feedback that GoPro’s customer service receives creates relationships with their customers, which leads to another marketing key point: consistency creates relationships.
GoPro started its marketing process by expanding their platform by partnering with multiple professional athletes and becoming the main camera that is used at sporting events, such as the “X Games” and the Olympics. GoPro’s YouTube channel was started by professionals filming themselves skiing, surfing and participating in other sports and now builds momentum every day from their viewers on their website, which is directed from ads on social media websites and from Google.
GoPro generates some of the best commercials, because the footage is filmed in a revolutionary way that is new to the market. GoPro now has its own channel on certain platforms, such as YouTube and Xbox. You can stream between the millions of videos that are offered on the channel, which ranges from someone base-jumping to someone mounting a GoPro on their own pet. GoPro has released updated versions of their cameras in the market every year, by making the camera quality better and the lenses size wider.
GoPro creates some of the most popular photos and videos that are uploaded to Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube page. GoPro allows users with YouTube accounts to upload videos to their account, and they decide which videos will be posted on the official GoPro account page. This method of allowing the customers to upload their own videos helps GoPro create their next products. They listen to the athletes who are sponsored by GoPro and the customers who use the camera and ask what they want in the next camera and GoPro simply creates what the customers want. As stated again, if you listen and talk to your customers, you will have positive feedback.
GoPro has two key factors that set them apart from their competition in the market. First of all, their camera provides a high-quality video that no other action camera can provide. The GoPro has wider lenses and even in the waterproof case, it still records the video in high definition with quality sound. GoPro’s social media is going viral as well. Their YouTube page is the main page where they post videos, as well as their Instagram and a Facebook page. Allowing professional athletes to use their cameras and marketing in sporting events builds momentum in their customer base and social media. This is what another company can do to set themselves apart from other companies in its industry. If you design a product that industry needs and will be different from what is out there, your product will be noticed and become a viral product. If you place that product where others will see the quality and what it does you will soon become a recognized expert, just like what GoPro did by sponsoring athletes and soon became the official camera for multiple sporting events. If your customer service is helpful and you listen and talk with your customers, and continue to satisfy them you will create a customer base that trusts you.
So, between the high-quality videos that no other camera is capable of producing and their social media, GoPro is leading the market today. While dominating and creating momentum in their social media, continuing to listen and talk with their customers, GoPro is creating customer loyalty and relationships that will last as long as the customers are satisfied.
I was surprised when someone wrote to me in an online discussion. He was ranting about the continued existence of Mass Media. “Mass Media,” I thought? “Didn’t you know?” I wrote. “It’s dead; and has been for a decade or so.” Adamant in his belief, he chastised me. “No, no,” he wrote. I could tell I was a fool in his eyes. “We still have newspapers and TV. Mass Media will be with us for quite some time yet. He held off being nasty to me, but his message was clear. “You’re an idiot. You don’t know what you are talking (or writing) about.” It dawned on me right then that Mass Media had gone quietly to its grave, lost in the frenzy and confusion of the information age, It grasped at life for a bit, and a few newspapers continue to do wheeze and gasp. But in the end, the era of Mass Media has died.
There was a time when the choice was limited. When one was sure to marry someone from the local tribe or village, become a hunter or farmer; get their news from the local gossip network or the occasional passing traveler. But as civilization progressed so did our choices. And in the modern age, giants such as mass production, mass industrialization, and mass movements lived among us and ruled the day. Mass Media was perhaps the greatest of them all.
In its heyday, Mass Media were those few media outlets in a society where information was funneled to reach “the masses”. The term was coined in the 1920s with the advent of nationwide radio networks, mass-circulation newspapers, and magazines. There was a time when most Americans got their information, news, and entertainment through television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and books. But now those days are forever over. Oh to be sure all those media sources exist. But the global spread of telecommunications has multiplied their numbers 10 X 10,000, and made each of them accessible to “the masses”. Mass Media is no longer a funnel of information to society.
A Kid Growing up in New York
As a kid in New York City I had the following choices for media: Four television stations (NBC, CBS, ABC, and a local channel), radio, three newspapers (New York Times, Daily News, Wall Street Journal), and any books and magazines I could get my hands on. And that was in New York City. Can you imagine living like that now? If you are reading this article online the answer is probably “no”.
Gone forever is the concept of “Mass” as in one point for the distribution of knowledge. A more accurate term is “public media” where the Internet has opened up communications to every individual through electronic and print media. Today there are thousands of media sources available to people:
– On-line social media forums
– Broadcasting, in the narrow sense, for radio and television.
– Broadcasting for radio and television on Internet
– Various types of discs, tapes, or digital output.
– Internet blogs and podcasts, such as news, music, pre-recorded speech, and video
– Mobile phones and other carry devices on three and four G networks.
– On-line (and paper) books, magazines, blogs, articles, chats, and newspapers.
– Video games through PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii.
Any person can now publish materials to every one of these forms of media leveling the playing field with governments or corporate media giants. The same “de-massification” trends will happen in unions, religions, education, politics, etc.
So why is the passing of Mass Media important?
As the means for global communications increases so too does the ability for self-expression and individualism. And that means millions of individuals and small groups make their opinions and presence known to the world. In the future, multitudes of individuals and small groups will bond together for a specific cause (political, environmental, social, etc.) before going their own way again. Enhanced telecommunications and media production is the key to enabling this trend. We have already seen this type of self-expression manifest itself as political and social action in the 2010 Arab Spring revolutions and 2011 United Kingdom riots.
The impacts of the Internet, an expanding global telecommunications infrastructure, and technology are difficult to predict. Only now are we witnessing the effects of instantaneous public communications on political institutions? Nations and non-government organizations will grapple to control regional and global communications to limit, manipulate, or direct the popular will of people. But for governments, limiting Internet will prove exceedingly difficult as global communications become inextricably integrated to economic well being.
Decisions by any government will, more and more, become a decentralized decision-making process. In the United States, the Federal Government will lose considerable decision making power to people, foreign governments, and international bodies. Thus, decisions become micro and macro with a loss of power to the governmental structure in the middle.
The The U.S. is a representative form of democracy. At the micro level, the dispersion (de-massifying) of the media fueled by the Internet provides communication capabilities allowing for direct engagement between the governing and the governed. It allows for the average person to be heard by millions and exert political pressure on the governing apparatus. Our current system of representative government is not particularly well suited to this form of direct democracy. In fact, by design, the framers of the Constitution ensured decision-making processes were slow to make sure emotions of the moment did not drive national policy. The speed of global communications will set in place a high level of friction between politicians and constitutes as the former tries to respond to the instantaneous demands of the latter.
At the macro level, foreign governments, and international bodies are taking a greater role in national decision making. This situation is true not only for war but for environmental issues, political issues, legal decisions, economic and trade issues, business and investment practices, information technology standards, etc. Even today, there is great international pressure against the independent action of nation states. And yet the processes for transnational decision-making are, at best, immature. The world continues to rely on diplomats, global, or quasi-global bodies based on “pre-digital age” organizational structure and processes. There is no construct, process, model, or simulation that understands and integrates nation-state values, global influences, and decision-making practices. The result is that international treaties and agreements go through a time consuming and arduous process of negotiation, analysis, re-negotiation, analysis, recommendation, and approval. This arcane process often outlasts the assignments of those subject matter experts supporting them.
A final goodbye to Mass Media
Internet and the global telecommunications infrastructure of today is quickly evolving to be humanity’s great equalizer. No longer is the case that we are hostage to the giants of Mass Media. The Giants have been laid to rest and humans have risen to fill the void.
We shall forever live in a world where information shall be pervasive in our lives. Our greatest challenge will be to locate our preferred channels for entertainment and to determine accuracy and truth in the quest for knowledge. This latter point may, over time, not bode well for those newspapers, magazines, websites and other media outlets associated with partisan support or a particular viewpoint on issues. Polls over the last few decades show nearly 70% of the American public do not trust the traditional news media. The difference now is that they have a choice. Farewell Mass Media, rest in peace.
The gaming market is monstrous. Right now there are six consoles, three handhelds, and the ever-present PC you can buy games for. That’s 10 different ways you can get your game on, so if you’re someone who doesn’t have the ways or means to buy all 10 platforms and every halfway decent game that arrives for any of them, you’re probably wondering which way you should go to get the most bang for your buck. I’m a bit of a gamer nerd, and so for you, I’ve collected the top five available games (in the stores now) for each console for each particular genre. Based on reviews, user comments, and my personal experience, these are the best ways to go.
This round: RPGs. The Japanese RPG market exploded in the 32-64 bit days, blowing out with a new game seemingly every week. You can blame Square for that one, bringing to the stores amazing game after amazing game, which immediately spurned every other company to release whatever dreck they could muster to keep you pumping money into their pockets. Nowadays there are hundreds of options out there, and the Japanese market isn’t the only one around. North American companies have their own answers to the RPG boom and now it’s a veritable flood of options. Here are the top five for each option you’ve got.
PlayStation 2 – The PlayStation brand name has been the home of quality RPGs since PS1 first rolled out with Suikoden and Final Fantasy games in the mid- 90s. This list was hard because there are so many left off. Dark Cloud 2, Final Fantasy X, the Shin Megami Tensei games and many more deserve recognition, but alas these are also long as hell, so if you had more than 5, when would you ever finish them. You may notice I exclude the PS3, but I can’t really offer any PS3 RPGs for you until they’ve actually been created. We’re waiting.
1. Shadow Hearts Covenant – The Shadow Hearts series took on a serious following after this entry, one of the greatest RPG releases of the generation. It takes on the fantasy RPG genre blended into the realms of reality, bleeding over in church and demonology lore. Taking place in the 19th Century and following the legend of a young woman and her unfortunate destiny, it can be enjoyed alone or along with its predecessors Koudelka and Shadow Hearts (I).
2. Disgaea – This is probably the best strategy RPG released for any console ever. Released by Atlus, a brand name that has grown in and of itself of recent years to the respectability that names like Square and Level 5 now carry with their games, Disgaea is about the young prince of hell and his quest to regain his domain after being awoken. With more than 200 hours of gameplay here, count on playing for days on days. And it’s funnier than hell. These are great characters.
3. Suikoden III – The Suikoden series is the cult series. Of course, it’s slowly sliding out of cult status and into the mainstream with releases occurring every couple of years since this one. The best in the series with the possible exception of Suikoden II, Suikoden III tells the story of a huge cast of characters, all intricately entwined with one another. You play through the tale of their war, but as seen through each character’s eyes. Truly epic.
4. Final Fantasy XII – The newest release, released only two weeks before the PlayStation 3’s release, this game redefines the epic scope of prior Final Fantasies, literally reaching for the stars. Each character is fully realized and a part of the action, their story an intricate part of the game. There’s no fluff here, and the rebuild of the decades-old RPG formula was all for the better, working for the complete and total betterment of the game and hopefully the series.
5. DragonQuest VIII – Dragon Quest has always been huge in Japan, but only now did it find the same success here in the US. Dragon Quest VIII is the huge (extremely huge) result of Square Enix’s jump to full 3D glory in their series. The graphics are incredible, the characters hilarious and deeply involving, and the story arresting. The battles aren’t half bad either. And the usual monster catching glory is intact. A long game, it will keep you busy for days.
Gamecube (and Wii) – The Gamecube got shorted on the RPG options, much like its big brother the N64. Nintendo lost a lot of their clout with the RPG crowd when Squaresoft jumped ship in the 90s and they’re still trying to earn it back…so far to little success. But, the future looks bright, as Square Enix is finally producing games for the Big N, and Nintendo’s own work includes more forays into the RPG market. Here’s hoping for more, because the Wii is perfect for the format.
1. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – The newest Zelda adventure, Twilight Princess, is by far the best reason to own a Nintendo Wii. The game is a masterpiece on almost every level, to the point I’m almost willing to call it the greatest game ever made. We’ve heard this a lot, that this game is the greatest. That it surpasses what Ocarina accomplished 8 years ago. And as my own favorite game, it’s hard to ever put anything above Ocarina in terms of scope, depth, and innovation. No need to go into detail. Read my review of it here for more thoughts on why it’s so amazing.
2. Tales of Symphonia – The first really good RPG for the Gamecube, and still one of the only ones really. The newest entry in the hugely popular (in Japan) Tales saga, Symphonia was a huge, fun, well-told game. The characters were fun, the battle system is one of the best around, and the action was fully inclusive and crafted a long game. Symphonia was the Gamecube owning RPG fan’s one saving grace.
3. Skies of Arcadia Legends – Originally released for the Dreamcast, Skies of Arcadia was given a second life on the Gamecube, again fated to anonymity due to the failure of the console. This is a great game. It tells the story of two sky pirates who must traverse the sky ocean and save the world from a shattering war and so on. You attempt throughout the game to build your pirate rank and build up your ship. It was one of Dreamcast’s must-have games and the same for Gamecube. Unfortunately so few actually had it, and now it’s not exactly easy to find.
4. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker – The infamous Wind Waker. Nintendo’s foray into cel-shading and the horrible foray into ocean mechanics. This game is still amazing. It’s Zelda after all, but it’s flawed on more than the basic levels. It’s hard to get around. The ocean is huge, and the game is short. But the parts you play, in between sailing around Hyrule are beautiful and incredibly fun.
5. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door – The Big N rounds out the five with another in house effort. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door was a return to the Paper Mario fun they coined in the N64 days, this time around with the RPG elements the game seems to work best with. Incredibly easy yes, but fun as hell at the same time.
Xbox (and X360) – The Xbox, not surprisingly saw no Japanese development. Every game listed below was produced in English Speaking countries, mostly Canada actually. The style is noticeably different, but the quality is equally incredible. The strive for realism by Western developers can be seen in each of these entries. Although the lack of humor is equally as prescient.
1. Elderscrolls IV: Oblivion – The Xbox 360 has some serious horsepower. Not only is there room to spare, but the graphics output is insane at the time, and what better way to show this off than with an Elderscrolls game. Monstrous, huge worlds in which you can freely roam wherever you want and interact with your environment. This game is huge and intense. Hundreds of hours can be spent just wandering around and completing the main quest. As for getting the rest done. Who knows how long you could spend on there.
2. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Star Wars games were starting to get a bad rap for a while until Bioware arrived with the first full-fledged Star Wars RPG. Built on the click and wait for action of the D&D ruleset games, KOTOR was a brilliant game that took Star Wars fans back a few thousand years to the height of the Jedi/Sith wars. It also had one of the most surprising and amazing endings in any game..ever.
3. Elderscrolls III: Morrowind – And another Elderscrolls game. This one was equally as huge as its sequel and had just as amazing graphics for its time. Elderscrolls truly stretches the imagination in terms of open-world RPG exploration and making a game that will take a long time to finish. A truly wonderful game.
4. Jade Empire – Set in a fictional ancient China, Jade Empire comes from the makers of Knights of the Old Republic, and while not nearly as large in scope or length, the game utilizes an array of different combat styles and elements that make it sheer fun to play. It’s shorter and simpler than the original games from Bioware, but they make up for it with the attention to detail and the battle system upgrades.
5. Fable – Touted as an amazing achievement in world interface, Fable turned out to be a little bit of a letdown. It was smaller, shorter, and less engaging than what was claimed, but it was still a solid, fun game to play. Starting as a bland adventurer you could become either entirely good or entirely evil through the actions committed during a quest. The characters are generic, the quests forgettable, but the options given to play through them all are still fun. The ending, however, leaves something to be desired, and they could have done with a few more reasons to openly explore. For a sandbox RPG, it was surprisingly linear.
Game Boy Advance – Yup, no DS games. I imagine soon, with the release of the new Pokemon game, and the surprising announcement of Dragon Quest IX coming exclusively to the DS, the RPG options there will explode, but for now, your best bet in the RPG realm on handhelds is with the Game Boy Advance. Here are a few of the best.
1. Golden Sun – It’s not a masterpiece. It’s not legendary. But, it’s good solid fun, and for the size and expectations of a handheld console, it’s still pretty fun. I enjoyed it for a few reasons. First off, the gameplay is top notch. The battle system is built around a simple premise and sticks with it, but it’s still fun. The story is nothing special but it reminded me a lot of the 8-bit glory days, keeping me involved without making it impossible to keep up when I have to turn the game off every 20 minutes. Solid play and go action
2. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire – Pokemon has been around for almost 10 years now, a regular entry in the Gameboy RPG market, really the only entry in that market, and a damn good one. By the time this pair was released (the usual duplicate games with slightly different monsters in each), the same gameplay was reused a good four times and starting to get a little old, but it’s still sound gameplay, and who doesn’t like to collect as much of something as they can. I’m older yes, but I still enjoy the mindless capture and battle system of Pokemon. It’s cathartically simple.
3. Final Fantasy IV – It’s technically a port, but a damn good port at that. I loved this game back in the days on the SNES and the idea to bring the 16-bit Final Fantasies to the GBA made me as happy as can be. This was a game I love to play, but feel goofy loading into my PS2 and sitting down to play. It’s a perfect bus play, and it plays just as great as in 1992. The classic tale of Cecil and the Red Knights never fails to capture my attention from start to finish. Of course, when Final Fantasy VI is released, I might have to replace this with that one, as we all know that VI is the greatest of them all.
4. Riviera: The Promised Land – Atlus has been basting the PS2 market with top-notch games for three plus years now, with their fantastic strategy and alchemy RPG games. They bring Riviera to the GBA with the same pedigree, a solid RPG that plays to the GBA’s strengths as well as any. It’s essentially a screen to screen game. You don’t control your surroundings so much as go from page to page within them, but the battle system is amazing and the different options and acquirable immense. The story, like any Atlus game, is the real selling point and actually got me to play through it twice.
5. Final Fantasy Tactics – The portable version of the PSone classic has sucked more time from my life than any GBA game I’ve ever played. The 300+ missions are each 30-60 minutes long and the customization options equal length. This is a long game with a lot of gameplay and a fun little story. You’re Marche, you’ve been sucked through a book into the magical land of Ivalice and now you are a knight. Go!
PlayStation Portable – When the PSP first released fanboys dreamed of amazing ports that would bring their favorite games now out of print back to life in the handheld format. At least one made the leap, but for the most part, RPG development on the PSP has been lackluster, and while Japan gets the Suikoden I and II pack and promises of Final Fantasies, we wait for a decent anything to play. Final Fantasy compilation anyone? Anyone at all?
1. Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth – One of the most sought after games from the PSone days, Valkyrie Profile was an amazing RPG that no one played and then no one could play as it was out of print. Ranging from $100 and up on eBay, the promise of a rerelease for the PSP was a godsend for fans out there always interested but too poor to afford it. It’s a solid game at that. With rebuilt cinematics and PSP controls, this entry leads into the new PS2 game wonderfully and finally lets the rest of us play through Lenneth’s adventure.
2. Monster Hunter Freedom – Never a real big fan of the Monster Hunter games, I can still see their draw. You go and you hunt monsters. Simple as that. There’s little to hold you up, and there’s online play. It’s like Pokemon without the pesky storyline or purpose.
3. Ys: The Ark of Napishtim – A port of a port. This was originally released for the PS2 and before that, the PC, and has been watered down in between. The same classic Ys gameplay is intact, overland map, onscreen battles and fun little characters in a charming, if simple story. It’s good solid fun for a portable and tells a decent story. Even if the controls are a little broken.
4. Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade – One of the launch releases with the PSP, Untold Legends is an overhead hack and slash RPG without a conscious. It doesn’t strive for amazing storyline or gameplay, just simple hack and slashes glory and it does it pretty well. It was fun because it was simple, made in a very short development cycle from the time the PSP was announced. Oddly enough though, the sequel was nearly as good.
5. Tales of Eternia – Alright, technically it still hasn’t been released in America, but you can import it from Europe and play the English language version (or Japan if you speak Japanese). But, it’s a tales game, a pretty good one at that. Technically it has been released here too, as Tales of Destiny 2 in 2000. Unfortunately, it got completely ignored as the gaming world moved on to the PS2. This is a great game though and perfect for the PSP. Complete and intact are the great Tales battle system and one of the better Tales plots. Saving the world from the Great War was never quite so fun as in this one.
PC -The PC has always been a home for the more hardcore of gamers. The cost of constant upgrades and intensity of a PC game are legendary, and only the most hardcore amongst us are capable of keeping up. Accordingly, the games below match that mindset, though more than one of these games managed to break free of the limitations and become monstrous worldwide phenomena. I’m looking at you Blizzard.
1. World of Warcraft – Okay, so duh right? Well, some of you are probably palpitating over my choosing this above some other MMORPG, but too bad. Everyone plays this one, including myself and it’s just plain fun. Having spent hours of my life in this game and knowing that I can go back whenever I want without fear of being destroyed because of the MMORPG laws of survival (never leave), this is a great pick up and play a game in a genre where that almost never exists. Huge, tons to do, and always fun even when you’re grinding, WoW is still the best.
2. Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn – The Baldur’s Gate games are some of the best RPGs to come out of the PC age of D&D ruleset RPGs. It’s big, it’s long, it’s fun as hell. The challenge of figuring out what to do, how to upgrade your characters and make the game the most it can be was always the number one reasons to play these. The story is pretty awesome too. Don’t forget the Dragon. That dragon is a bitch.
3. Diablo II – Diablo II stole my entire summer in my sophomore year of high school. This game was amazing. It took everything Diablo did and blew it up times ten. The ability to find and receive unique weapons that 1000 of your friends would never find kept you playing over and over again. And it was simple. Click, click, right click. F1. That’s it. Nothing to it. And when you finally unlocked the Cow level, then you were the true God of Diablo.
4. Elderscrolls IV: Oblivion – Many of you probably can’t even play this yet. I still can’t. I only know of it because I have a friend who upgrades his computer ever three weeks seemingly. This game is a beast of the highest order, demanding a lot from your system but delivering even more. Monstrous, huge worlds in which you can freely roam wherever you want and interact with your environment. This game is huge and intense. Hundreds of hours can be spent just wandering around and completing the main quest. As for getting the rest done. Who knows how long you could spend on there.
5. Neverwinter Nights – Another D&D ruleset game, but one of the best no less. It’s huge, monstrously huge. And tack on the expansions and you’ve got 200+ hours of action to play through. The biggest seller on this one though was the ability to craft and write your own adventures as a DM with the toolsets and host them online, ala D&D, but with graphics. The sequel doesn’t quite hold up to the original, but still carries the same weight and fun factor.
Tim has screwed up big time. A mistake is so bad that now he has to rescue his princess from an evil monster. But of course, he has to traverse many different worlds, risking life and limb for the sake of his love. Once you have completed a world new, worlds open up. The story told through a series of books as sort of story pusher before each of the six worlds, relays Tim’s inner thoughts and struggle to eat away at him.
In the Xbox Arcade game Braid you play as this saddened but ever true hero Tim. In this primarily puzzle action game there are many puzzles that are just as hard to implement as they are to solve.
Most of these games don’t have cheat codes because as soon as you figure out how the puzzle works a new puzzle forms in how you plan to execute getting through it. But there are things you can do to see more of the story.
Unlock World 1 and the Epilogue
In the house at the beginning of the game where the level select area is, there is a broken ladder that leads to the attic. These needs are fixed. To repair this ladder, you must find all 60 puzzle pieces that await you at each level, and assemble each world’s jigsaw puzzle in the puzzle mini-game. Once this is done, the ladder will be restored. Now you can climb up. When you go through the door to you will be in World 1. Beat World 1, and you will be taken directly to the Epilogue. You can now return to at any time after its finished by walking left from the title screen, into an off-screen alcove.
Unlock Final Star and secret ending
Throughout the game, there are 7 secret stars. If you collect them all, the 8th and final star will appear in the last level; when this happens, some of the switches in the level will become immune to time manipulation, allowing you to reach the star as well as changing the outcome of the chase.
Hidden Texts in Epilogue
Aside from the last, each room in the Epilogue has at least one object that you can stand behind. If you have the red book on that screen open and the text of it is displayed in the air, standing behind these objects in the proper location will cause a sound to play and the text to change, revealing more information. If you open a green book, the red book will close and the text will disappear, so you will need to use time manipulation to see all 4 of these secret writings.
Now that you know what you need to do and want to find out how to go through the game, and suggestions of how to get all of the puzzle pieces, or how to find all of the secret stars to access the secret ending, but you can find walkthroughs, forums and other hints at Xbox cheat codes.
As modern mobile phones become more powerful and as screen quality improves we are seeing numerous games titles released that really push the boundaries for mobile gaming. One of the ultimate handsets to enjoy a great mobile gaming experience with is the Samsung Galaxy Note thanks to its very large display and powerful processing power. As the demands for games titles increases so does the demand for accessories that enhance the gaming experience. We take a look at the new Gametel Bluetooth Controller that has been released for the Galaxy Note.
As many modern smartphones do not feature any physical buttons the user is often required to use the screen as a controller for the majority of games. The exception to the rule is games that only require you to tilt the phone but there are very few such games available and the ones that tend to be very basic. Even when using a large screen like the 5.3-inch display fitted on the Samsung Galaxy Note when your fingers are occupying some of the display it does not leave much room for you to view the action. This is where the new Gametel Bluetooth Controller can really benefit. At £50 it is not the cheapest accessory that you can purchase but it is an essential piece of kit for anybody who is serious about their mobile gaming. This new controller connects to the device via Bluetooth and features a large control pad with a spring-loaded gripping arm located above it that can hold your phone in the landscape position. When in use the device resembles the kind of set up we experienced with the superb Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. The actual controller features an 8-way directional pad that lets you move your characters or vehicles around the screen and a set of four buttons on the right-hand side that can perform various functions. There are also shoulder triggers located on the top of the controller to enable you to enjoy the type of control that you can experience from devices like the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360.
Connecting this new controller to your Samsung Galaxy Note is a very straightforward task. On the back of the box that comes supplied is a special code that directs you to the official Gametel application in the Android Marketplace. Users then have to download the official application which will ask you to then pair the new controller with your Galaxy Note. After a few seconds of connection time, the devices are paired and the two will automatically connect to one another on all future occasions. The majority of games will automatically adapt their controls to match the new control pad but users should look for titles that boast Xperia Play support if they want to be sure of this. A rechargeable battery is incorporated in the controller and this can easily be charged with a micro USB cable. There is no cable supplied in the box but this should not pose much of a problem for users as they can make use of the one that comes supplied with the phone.
The Samsung Galaxy Note offers the ultimate mobile gaming experience and this is enhanced by the Gametel Bluetooth Controller. This controller offers a similar setup to what you can find on dedicated games consoles and will appeal to anybody who enjoys playing modern games titles on their handset.