Category: Reviews

Review of Exherbo Linux (From A User’s Perspective)

by redshift

Exherbo is a Linux distribution led by a small team of opinionated developers. It’s lean, to say the least, but when they give you a solution for something you can believe it’s well engineered and that it does that task well – nothing more.

Technically, Exherbo is most similar to Gentoo. It inherited some of Gentoo’s parts, and a fair bit of the mentality. You get deep configuration and understanding of your system. In fact, it’s required for use. If you don’t understand your hardware and the basic components of a Linux system, you’ll have a hard time getting it running. Don’t let that scare you off, though; it’s an excellent platform for learning.

That said, it’s obviously meant for a subset of users. Let me describe some things about me that led me to Exherbo. I like to understand everything that’s going on at some level of depth. I can’t rest until I understand, and I mean that literally – I’ve been up late most of the week trying to get my wireless working perfectly. I also like a lean system without a lot of moving parts that I didn’t ask for. It’s harder to understand what you don’t know is there. I appreciate performance and stability, like anyone, but I believe they are borne of simplicity.

I’m a long-time Gentoo user, and this reminds me of the early days of Gentoo before the committee. Progress is rapid and parts of the machine are being swapped out as it runs. The developers are passionate about what they’re doing, and if you agree with them, it’s a great place to be. One of the more vocal developers, Ciaran McCreesh, is a good example. He comes off as abrasive, but take his messages without emotion. I usually agree with him and he definitely writes good code. (He’s also a vim devotee.)

If you just want things to work, don’t use it. In fact, until last week, they actively discouraged anyone from using it. That warning has been lifted since I did my install, and they even added some user documentation. (Think of it as crib notes for your install – Gentoo’s handbook run through a compactor.) If you want to learn how your system works, from the hardware all the way to the user environment, give Exherbo a shot.

A side benefit of building a Linux system from scratch (with any low-level distribution) is that you get to see all the amazing work put forth in the free software community.

The Tao is Silent

by redshift

I recommend Raymond Smullyan’s The Tao Is Silent if you want to think about ethics or metaphysics.


by redshift

Highly recommended logic puzzle – the Masyu series by Tootsweet for iPhone. I’ve beaten Masyu Bug and Masyu, and I’m on to Monster Masyu…

A Good AOL Product?

by redshift

I didn’t discover it until finding their iPhone app, but AOL Radio is actually really good. It’s the only online radio I’ve found that has real metal stations.

Mother of All Wii Game Reviews: Part Two

by redshift

And now, for the continuation of part one of the mother of all Wii game reviews…

8. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz: 1/5

This is another easy place to start, because Super Monkey Ball is terrible. For your own sanity and wallet, do not even rent this game.

Super Monkey Ball has two game modes. The first is classic Monkey Ball, where you roll your crazy little monkey down a Marble Madness-esque course encased in a balloon. The only challenge is in trying to master the frustrating controls. Level design is boring, frustrating, or both.

They didn’t even make the Wii remote enjoyable to use in such an obvious avenue for motion sensitivity. The controls were fairly responsive, to the point of oversensitivity, but were not customizable. You have to hold the remote pointing toward the television, as opposed to sideways like an NES controller, which would make much more sense to me. It became uncomfortable after only two levels. On top of the discomfort, your wrist is just not designed to make quick movements in the manner they intend, which could even lead to RSI.

So, let’s ignore the first game mode. The second is even worse. Sad, really. It’s a collection of 50 minigames a la Wii Sports or Wii Play, though shorter, not replayable, and less fun in general. In fact, most of the games don’t even behave as the (briefly shown, opaque) instructions claim. Several don’t work at all. I can only remember two or three of the 50 minigames. My only guess is that the “monkey ball” portion was in development when an executive saw the success of minigame-style Wii titles and insisted on their inclusion. The result is truly painful.

9. Super Smash Bros. Brawl: 4.5/5

Great little fighter. I don’t think Brawl is as expansive as most other reviews say, but there is a lot of content. The main fighting mode is great. There are at least 40 characters and 50 levels, and with the level editor you can make interesting new ones. If you’re new to Super Smash Bros., you might be surprised to find that fights aren’t just melee combat. Levels come alive and present various obstacles throughout the fight. They’re also much larger than in most fighting games and present multiple areas and tiers for variety. Many aspects of the rules of combat can be adjusted to your liking. Some are serious, some for fun, like wearing a flower on your head or breathing fiery curry breath.

On top of standard combat, one of my favorite challenges is the Event mode. There are different events for single player and multiplayer, and there’s a good amount of variety in the goals. One mode involves killing 50 enemies in one loop around the course. Another involves beating all of the original Smash Bros. characters in one round. Another involves beating colored koopa troopas in a certain order. They’re challenging and they offer difficulty levels and trophies to keep you coming back.

There is a single player mode, called Subspace Emissary, but it feels… odd. It’s reminiscent of an old-school platformer with new graphics. Honestly, this is my only complaint about the game, and it’s why I can’t give a perfect 5/5 score. There just isn’t enough unique about this mode to keep my interest. It has its moments – I particularly like the Donkey Kong levels – but there are just as many annoying moments. You can’t pick your characters for a large portion of the mode, and you often get stuck with Pit. Since Pit is a new addition to Brawl, I can understand the reason for this, but he’s also not as polished as the returning characters and tends to annoy.

There are a few other mini-modes, like a coin-shooting game and sticker collection, but they’re not really worth discussing. Feel free to ignore them and enjoy the Brawl and Event modes, which really are classic. Recommended for almost anyone, though I’d strongly advise you play with a friend or three.

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Mother of All Wii Game Reviews: Part One

by redshift

We at Halffull don’t take the easy route. It would be too simple to write ordinary reviews. Let’s up the ante.

How about fourteen Wii game reviews?!

1. Super Mario Galaxy: 5/5

This is an easy place to start because the game is delightful. It’s a true spiritual successor to Super Mario 64 and is every bit as fun to play.

The addictive elements are there – quick gameplay, content that’s always fresh, beautiful graphics, and intuitive controls. You can play for 10 minutes and feel a sense of accomplishment by getting a star, or you can play for hours and complete whole worlds.

The controls are intuitive, even in a vast 3d setting, and the levels are forgiving if you misstep. Motion controls are used just enough not to be cumbersome. You point at the screen with the remote to shoot projectiles, and shake the remote to spin Mario like a top, which is now one of the main gameplay mechanics.

The game design is classic Miyamoto. You never repeat the same puzzle twice. Each level feels like a new adventure. Visually, you can see the trend towards a younger audience that started way back with the Yoshi games on SNES , but it’s almost endearing. Plus, if you really don’t like the children’s stories, they’re entirely optional. You still get a great game. Highly recommended if you’ve ever liked a Mario title.

2. Warioware: Smooth Moves: 4/5

Reviews of Warioware have been polarized. Metacritic shows generally favorable reviews, but scores range from 56 to 100 and user reviews average 6.5. I assume this is because of the nature of the game – a sort of extreme version of the minigame trend we see with many Wii games.

Personally, I like minigames, whether standalone or baked into full games. They give you an opportunity to try different things at a rapid pace. Warioware takes this to the extreme with just about the shortest games imaginable – 3 to 5 seconds on average. It gives you just enough time to get a sense of what’s going on, then you immediately have to solve the puzzle by moving the remote in whatever seems like the correct way. There are so many microgames that they built a full game on 3-5 second experiences. Sure, it won’t last you as long as Super Mario Galaxy, but it’s the type of game you can return to many times because you definitely won’t remember all of the challenges.

The games are based on a set of controller styles, such as “The Elephant,” which involves you holding the remote straight out from your nose like a trunk, or “The Waiter,” where you balance the remote flat on the palm of your hand. You have to change styles very quickly between microgames , particularly near the end of the game where you’re only given a second or two to change posture. This keeps the energy high and keeps the strange looks coming.

The game was challenging enough to stay interesting for the 3-4 hours it took to beat. (This does not include any time going back and replaying the games.) For the most part, the controls worked as expected, though there were one or two games (out of around 100) that I couldn’t figure out. Recommended if you like minigames and have a sense of humor.

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Laser Magician

by redshift

Magician’s act turns light into a weapon… hard to describe, but worth the couple minutes to watch.

SlimSlimmy Wallet: Thinnest Wallet on Earth

by redshift

SlimSlimmy spreadIf you have back pain, and you normally carry your wallet in your back pocket, you have three options.

  1. Get a thinner wallet.
  2. Carry your wallet in a front pocket. (Or in a European carry-all)
  3. Both.

And boy have I got the answer for you. Enter the SlimSlimmy wallet by Koyono. As the name implies, it’s very thin, and it’s designed to be carried in your front pocket.

There are no money clips to waste space. There are no picture holders. There are no tri-fold wallet wings. There is not one tench of an ounce more material than is required to carry your essentials. There are just three slots into which you tuck your valuables.

It makes you reconsider what you take with you every day. That’s a good thing.

Consider what’s in your wallet right now. Do you have any receipts? Any credit cards you haven’t used in a while? More than one credit card, for that matter? Any pictures? Any coupons? Any hard candy? How is any of this helping you in the daily grind?

It’s not helping you one bit. What it is doing, however, is putting your spine off kilter. You may not notice it, but your spine is slightly curved because you’re sitting on a big hunk of leather with half your ass. It’s not good for you. In fact, the American Chiropractic Association says that wallets can cause back pain if kept in the back pocket.

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Review: The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook

by blue midget

He had me at “toaster ovens.”

It came to me in a similar fashion that it now comes to you; as an unobtrusive note on an unassuming webpage. Now, I have a few passions in life. Among them are (not listed in any particular order) interior design, organization, the new house I just purchased, and food. Seeing as how this little gem encompassed all four, I snatched it up.


Before you dismiss what I am about to say because the closest you get to cooking is watching Iron Chef or you saw the words “interior design” and you figure this is most likely some chick-thing, allow me to present the book’s most curious premise: It was written by a man who grew up on a sailboat, and learned to work in a kitchen the size of an outhouse. So discard all that was learned from snobby haute cuisine shows on Food TV or distressed you by reading Bon Appetit magazines, and sit down with a quick read that Rachel Ray probably wishes she had come up with. The book isn’t for the stuck up foodie or the socialite and their extravagant dinner parties, it’s for people who live in real homes and need to eat.

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Reviews: Blade the Suck. I mean ‘Series’

by blue midget

I sat down intending to write up the news but my “quick” review of Blade the Series got a little out of hand.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been watching a bit more television than I normally do, and I have come to the conclusion that, due to the unbelievable amount of television channels available to the average consumer, networks are desperate for a hit show that will bring good ratings. And I stress the word “desperate”. Over the last few weeks, Spike TV has been heavily promoting their latest creation, Blade the Series. I didn’t want to completely discount the series without watching it first, after all, Joss Whedon recreated Buffy the Vampire Slayer into something above and beyond the comedic-cheese movie that was originally released, and became a huge hit.

It’s a good thing I didn’t go into this with a lot of expectations. We begin the show with the obligatory credits, where it is revealed that our anti-hero is played by a stocky guy with the nickname “Sticky”. Well I’m sorry, Spike TV, but I can’t take any guy seriously whose nickname is “Sticky”. It isn’t very tough, and it brings to mind that someone’s been spending too much time with his one-eyed trouser snake.

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