Authors Posts by Gadget Advisor

Gadget Advisor

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64

Mafia MoFoRecently, there has been a lot of activity with online mafia / mobster games, from the problems with Mafia Wars to the launch of Bulletproof, New Mafia, and more.  You may be asking why you would care about yet another mafia game.

Mafia MoFo sets itself apart from the rest in several ways.  Mafia MoFo is not a MySpace game, which generally makes it more easily accessible, without the performance issues associated with Myspace.  However, what really sets Mafia MoFo apart from the rest is the amount of entertaining activities that are available.  Mafia MoFo is miles ahead of the other games in this regard.  Some of the virtual properties and activities available include a pharmacy for buying drugs, real estate purchasing (house and land), equipment shop, pawn shop, black market, point shop, used car lot, bus station, ability to drive to another city (if you have a car), jobs, hire a private investigator, stock market, gambling (lottery, slot machine, and 50/50 game), and more.  Players increase stats by working out in the gym.  Numerous crime jobs are available to increase experience and earn cash.  Of course, fighting is also available, as well as a hitlist.  The game is further enhanced with interactive contests and events that award prizes, such as a medal or other special item.  On top of all that, the job outcomes and other messages displayed throughout the game are humorous and very enjoyable, making the entire game experience pleasant and relaxed.

The game is brand new.  Therefore, it is being enhanced vigorously with new features and improvements.  Soon the game will feature the same fight list style familiar from other mafia games.  Since the game has just launched, new players are all the game really needs to be a big success and highly enjoyable for all players.  Come check it out!  The most important thing to concentrate on in the beginning is performing crime jobs to advance your level and working out in the gym.  By the time you’re ready to battle it out, perhaps the new fight system will already be in place!  So, get started building up your character so that once it is available, you will be ready!  Of course, you can also fight now from any player’s page in the meantime, if you so choose.  On one last note, be sure to check out the "How to Play" tutorial under the Account section.  If contains valuable information all players need to know.  Mafia MoFo is a bit different from the others, but easy to play once you get the hang of things.  Of course, the differences it features are what make the game as great as it is!

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Gadget4All All-in-One Mouse Pad with Speaker and USB HubAre your desktop and/or work area cluttered with adapters, wires, and all sorts of junk? Even if the answer is no, the Gadget4All all-in-one mouse pad can improve organization and offer more functionality for anyone that currently uses a mouse pad.  Combo gadgets are usually a good thing – they save space, offer more functionality, and when they’re designed properly, can be an item of beauty.  Similar to the SourcingMap All-in-One Music Mouse Pad, Gadget4All recently designed a new combo gadget disguised in the form of a mouse pad. Gadget4All’s all-in-one mouse pad consists of built-in speakers, 4 USB ports, a 3.5mm audio port, and a speaker in port so that you can connect your iPod, Zune, or other MP3 player. The roll-up capability makes it perfect for use when traveling.  As already mentioned, combo gadgets are great, but for only $22, this combo gadget should be of particular interest.

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Google Earth's Rome RebornHow did people live thousands of years ago?  The University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities asked this exact same question. As a result, they decided to digitally rebuild the revolutionary city of Rome during the peak of its development (around A.D. 320 – the time of Constantine The Great). They figured this would be the best way to try and understand how humans lived so long ago.

The very first version of the Rome Reborn product went under construction 10 years ago, and the task was finally finished last year. Included in it were 250 highly detailed structures, and a total of over 7,000 structures in all. They used a 1:250 scale model of Rome that took forty years to create (from 1933 to 1973). This smaller scale Rome was actually constructed out of Plaster of Paris. Using laser scanners they scanned the Plaster of Paris model and created the virtual model. The original use of this model was to be utilized in a theater at UCLA. Since last year the Rome Reborn Project has seen many faces, it’s most recent being Rome Reborn 2.0 which improved the detail significantly. Google then joined in and offered to include Rome Reborn in Google Earth.

With Rome Reborn in Google Earth, it’s the equivalent of an virtual time machine, which can be used to study the history of Rome and other great cities of the world. If you currently have Google Earth (any version), you can enjoy touring ancient Rome. Not only can you navigate around the structures, but you can also go in them, and enter areas like the Colosseum and even the Roman Senate. With more time, more information will be added researches believe. They also hope that by pioneering this research into the past – other researchers will catch some inspiration and create 3D models of other forgotten cities.

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BulletproofA new MySpace game has recently surfaced that is poised to give Mafia Wars some stiff competition.  Named Bulletproof, the game offers players a number of advantages over Mafia Wars, especially considering the recent frustration Zynga has caused for many of its players. 

With Mafia Wars, you must endlessly get other MySpace game players to become friends with you on MySpace and then request approval to become family members inside the game.  Your player’s strength is greatly affected by the number of family members you have.  Bulletproof does not require this, which gives you a lot more time to actually play as well as preventing all the hassle of working to get all the family members (500).

Since your character in Mafia Wars should have so many family members, you also have to equip each with weapons, defense, and vehicles.  Bulletproof only requires that you look out for yourself and build your own character.

Ability points are more challenging to come by in Bulletproof, which makes them very precious.  This also makes the game more of a challenge, and thus more entertaining. 

One of the best aspects of Bulletproof is how interactive it is.  While Mafia Wars will offer you a special item every once in a while (that is not really beneficial since they are never used when you already have the napalm), that’s about it.  On the other hand, Bulletproof is highly interactive with several special items, competitions with other players to get items better than those you can obtain normally in the game, and more.

Bulletproof offers a comprehensive selection of jobs, investments, and inventory, with more on the way.  In fact, new content will be added on an ongoing basis.

The fight list is structured in such a way that only players within the same level range are able to fight during normal game-play.  This is especially useful for new players, but also high-level players since higher level opponents can typically withstand more hits, and therefore yield more experience.  In Mafia Wars, there are ongoing problems with the fight list that prevent you from facing comparable opponents.

Additional extras not present in Mafia Wars include an armory (which requires a special badge obtained by defeating an enforcer for access), junkyard for obtaining rare items not available elsewhere that are available occasionally by random, ranking system details, and more player information.  Being sent to jail is actually implemented in Bulletproof also.  While you can see a jailed count in the Mafia Wars stats, it doesn’t seem to be used at all during game-play.

Bulletproof is also being actively developed.  Therefore, suggestions and new ideas are being considered, and the game is being improved continuously.  Bulletproof seems to be a better game than Mafia Wars in virtually every aspect.  All it needs is more players.  Join in on the fun!  A support and community chat is also available for the game here.

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Windows 7There’s much anticipation for Microsoft’s next operating system release, Windows 7. Enthusiasts are still speculating on the official launch date, and as of writing, there is no official word from Microsoft. Below is a list of new features that enthusiasts can look forward to enjoying, most of which are confirmed in the current pre-release version that is nearly at a "feature-complete" state.

User interface Features

User interface features affect nearly every user.  While it is not the most important part of an OS, user interface features often go a long way towards the impression of an OS, and will likely draw many comparisons to other Microsoft operating systems.  Windows 7 comes with a stylish end-user interface. You can expect icons to respond with quick animated movements, which is done to enhance the user experience. So far, compliments for the speed and ease of use of the user interface have been dominant for the new OS.

The desktop is clearly much cleaner and better organized, and comes with docking options that are similar to the Mac’s OS.  New applications and improvements to existing applications have been added as well. For example, you will find the calculator to be much improved and more powerful. It supports real life conversions and calculations, like weight and length converters.

If you are in the habit of placing sticky notes all over your monitor and work area, you will surely welcome the new stick notes application that comes with the desktop. You can stick as many virtual notes on your desktop, and delete them as you work. Now your workstation will certainly look cleaner and more organized. You are also saving trees by using less paper!

A new version of Windows Media Center will also launch with this release. New gadgets are being integrated into the Media Center and Windows Explorer. Gadgets are standalone applications that sit on the desktop (some are hosted on another server). There are web gadgets, sidebar gadgets, and sideshow gadgets (run on external displays).

System Performance Features

Windows 7 now offers support for virtual hard disks and boasts improved performance on multi-core processors, improved boot performance, improved SSD support and performance, and improved kernel performance.  Obviously, performance is a key goal for Windows 7.  With the current pre-release version, even at an unfinished state, it appears that Microsoft is doing extremely well in achieving this goal.  The pre-release version tested is remarkably stable and offers noticeably better performance than Windows XP with the latest hardware.

If you visit the control panel, you will find that many new items are added, including Accelerators, Display Calibration Wizard, Gadgets, Recovery, Troubleshooting, and more. Windows Security Center is now known as Windows Solution Center, and it is responsible for maintaining the security of the system.

Unique Features

The touch screen feature is a new and unique feature that enables many interesting touch applications. For instance, you can have a touch app that works exactly like a keyboard. This means you can type an entire document without the use of an additional piece of hardware. You can also use this feature to play the piano or do a painting. The feature is something that has not been previously available in earlier versions of the Microsoft OS.

Other unique features include speech and hand writing recognition. Hand writing recognition technology can help convert human handwriting into digital text.

Developer Features

Developers can look forward to using a new networking API to develop SOAP based web services in native (or machine) code. There are also new features that reduce application install times. Development of installation packages is simplified in the new OS as well.
 

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MvixBox 2-bay NAS and Network Media PlayerThe MvixBox 2-bay high performance NAS / media server is a 3-in-1 solution for storing media files, operating as a media server, and facilitating file transfer. These features are already available in other options, such as the DViCo TViX M-6500A, but the MvixBox is a more affordable solution that also offers the bonus of dual drive bays.  The functionality could also be achieved by buying a home PC, installing a server OS onto it, and connecting it to the network. However, chances are that even if you manage to get this working without problems, it would cost quite a bit more than even the DViCo TViX M-6500A.

Understanding the needs of small businesses and home users, MvixUSA has come up with a very attractive solution. The MvixBox offers many of the features consumers have been asking for in a network media player.  Here are some of the features that the new system offers:

Media server

The MvixBox provides gigabit network speed and large storage capacity, which makes it an ideal system for storing, serving, and transferring media files from one location to another. You can store media files, such as AVI, MPEG, and DIVX movies or MP3 files. From a different room in your home or a meeting room, you can access the content any time needed.

Web Disk Capability

The MvixBox is a Linux-based system, and it comes with what everyone expects Linux servers to include – Apache, MySQL, SQLite, and PHP. To make the server user friendly, a web-disk capability is also provided.  This means the user can drag and drop files between the PC and NAS server. User can launch applications like Windows Explorer, WebDisk Explorer, blog software, RSS reader, Torrent client, and more.  The setup ensures that anyone who knows how to operate a PC in the Windows environment will know how to handle a MvixBox.

Web Server

The web server is perhaps the most interesting feature of all. Since the MvixBox comes with support for Apache, MYSQL, and PHP, you can host web sites directly from the server. There are many different types of sites that you can setup – blogs, wikis, personal home pages, etc. If you don’t want to host web sites, you can even develop scalable intranet solutions using the database support.  This capability makes it one of the most affordable web server solution that the market has to offer for small businesses and home users.

DDNS Server

In order for a web server to recognize Internet domain names, there needs to be a DNS server (or in this case DDNS so that dynamic IPs can be supported). The domain name is mapped to the server IP address, and the DDNS service enables the server to recognize the domain name. Traditional servers supported mostly static IPs. For this reason, you can’t usually operate a web server from home, as most home Internet connections operate on dynamic IPs. Dynamic IPs change all the time, as they are assigned by the ISP. Fortunately, the MvixBox offers free support for dynamic IPs. There is no extra charge for the use of this service.

NAS, Torrent Sharing, and FTP Management

MvixBox offers a simple file sharing feature that provides file encryption when transferring files using HTTP or FTP protocols. You can use the built-in Explorer to transfer files, without having to install additional software.
The system boasts simple and secure administration.

As this is an NAS server, one would expect it to come with simple backup features. The MvixBox does come with easy-to-use data storage scheduling and synchronization. The software is included with the system.

For all the above features, an enthusiast would expect the price tag to be hefty. However, this is not true. The MvixBox retails for around $249.00.  Each unit includes two built-in hard drive bays that are capable of holding up a 1.5 terabyte (TB) hard drive. The hard drives are not included. Therefore, you can buy any size that best meets your needs.  Even with the most expensive hard drive bundled, the entire system still costs just about $600.

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Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 WebcamThere was a time when having a webcam was only for the wealthy.  Those days are long gone.  Today almost every household in the U.S. is able to connect to the Internet.  With the boom of the Internet came social networking, online dating, instant messaging, and even online business meetings. No longer do we have to worry about the low quality, blurry, spherical webcams provided in the past. The future is here, and webcam quality has risen so much in such a short time it’s astonishing, with Logitech leading the way. They released their Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 not too long ago, and we’re lucky enough to be able to give you a quick overview of it.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the camera is the Carl Zeiss lens located on the left side of its uniquely horizontal body. The microphone is located on the right, and you’ll also find a button beside the lens that allows you to take pictures. Around the Logitech logo is an indicatory illuminated circle that lets you know when the QuickCam Pro 9000 is on. It has a very unique, two-hinged support structure that bends in different shapes so that you have the versatility to either secure the webcam to a CRT or LCD monitor or stand it on a table.

Regardless of the features a webcam has, it must be able to transmit great image and sound for it to be a worthy solution. With a 2 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens, Logitech’s new QuickCam quickly put all our other webcams to shame. Everyone that we had a video chat with via instant messaging said the image transmitted was extremely sharp and of astonishingly high quality. Using the high resolution setting on the QuickCam, we were able to enjoy full screen video chat with contacts without image noise. One of the best features of the camera is HD recording, which allows you to record in HD, for those who love to make high quality videos and host them on your PC or online.

The QuickCam Pro can be purchased for about $113, which is affordable for the quality provided. You definitely won’t need another webcam for awhile if you purchase the new Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000.

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Alternate browsers are becoming increasingly popular, even though Internet Explorer still has a stronghold when it comes to market share.  Some of the most popular alternate web browsers available include Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Google’s new Chrome web browser.

Still in beta, Google’s "Chrome" has attracted less than 2% of the Internet browser market at its peak, but Google engineers are working to enhance the software to make it more appealing and useful to its users. One very popular idea for improving Chrome is the addition of an extension system, which will enable third-party developers to produce plugins for any number of add-on features, ranging from browser enhancements to RSS readers, calendar/reminder extensions, etc.Chrome users can then install the plugins to complete tasks that Google did not integrate into the web browser.

Mozilla Firefox, a browser that holds the record for the most downloads in a single day, has the ability to integrate third-party plugins, which has been perhaps the greatest factor in achieving its 20% web browser market share.

One of Google’s developers made the announcement that Google is looking into integrating third-party browser plugins for Chrome. They also released a design document that provided an outline for what needed to be done in order to add plugin support.  This functionality is certainly at the top of the wishlist for most Chrome users, and Google seems to be working on providing the support as quickly as possible.  The first plugins planned for integration include Flash and an ad blocker (ironic), which are some of the more popular plugins for Mozilla Firefox.

Unfortunately, Google has yet to announce when this implementation will be complete, but at least we know that they plan on offering extension support in the near future.
 

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UMID Mini-NetbookIn size its rival would be the Nintendo DS, but in function it can rival some decent laptops. With 1GB of RAM, a 1.3 mega-pixel webcam, a mini-USB port, wireless connectivity (WIMAX, WiBro, HSDPA), and a card reader, the UMID is a formidable netbook.  It probably would not be considered a netbook, though.  Like the IMOVIO iKIT handtop computer, it’s more of a mini-netbook.  You could almost call it a pocket-sized laptop.  It’s screen is 4.8", touch screen enabled, and runs at 1024×600 resolution.  The device is powered by Intel’s Atom processor @ 1.33 GHz. It packs quite a punch for such a small device. Some sources on the Internet claim the mini-netbook can support Linux, Windows XP, and even Windows Vista.

The casing looks great, even though there hasn’t been any word on the exact dimensions. It almost looks like the new PDAs or stylish cell phones, but a little bigger. It’s not available outside of Korea yet, but we’re just excited as everyone else. Pricing information should be available soon.
 

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Basics of the Game

For those not familiar with the game, Mafia Wars is a Myspace game, produced by Zynga, that has garnered massive popularity since its inception.  In Mafia Wars, you are the leader of your family.  You build up your family, equip them with attack and defense items as well as vehicles, and fight with other families in the game, building your character up as you go with stronger attack, defense, health, energy, and stamina.

A players level, attack, and defense stats determine if they win a given fight compared to their opponent.  With each fight, your health is lowered, and if you run out of health, your character dies, which then requires a visit to the hospital or waiting for health to build up little by little.  Each time a player instigates a fight, stamina is used.  When stamina runs out, the player can no longer initiate a fight until either the next level is reached or the player waits long enough for more stamina to build up.

Energy is used for performing jobs.  At present, there are five categories of jobs, ranging from Street Thug Jobs to Underboss Jobs.  Higher level categories require more energy to perform, but yield more experience and money.

 

Recent Change Causes Massive Disappointment and Hostility

The hitlist has developed into an important part of the game.  Players can add any other player to the hitlist, which typically results in the target being taken out.  When a player is taken out from the hitlist, experience is lost, and the character is left weak.  However, for stronger players, being on the hitlist offered an advantage.  Until recently, fights won on the hitlist resulted in experience being gained.  Therefore, even though you took damage while being on the hitlist and stood the possibility of dying, you still could at least advance in experience.  However, Zynga has now changed the system in such a way that players no longer gain experience from fights won through the hitlist.

This widely unpopular change has resulted in several things:

  1.  Players are added to the hitlist and constantly attacked with no benefit whatsoever.  If the player is strong, hitlist placement could be maintained for days, with constant attacks, requiring continual attention and limiting what else can be done in the game.
  2. Many players enjoy fighting from the hitlist.  It does not possess some of the inconveniences that the fight section does, and makes for a fun way to build your character.  However, since this change, the hitlist is quite bare since no one wants to be on the hitlist or added to the hitlist in retaliation.
  3. It takes much longer for a character to advance to the next level.  Previously, if your character was almost to the next level, but you were out of stamina and energy, you could count of being on the hit list to help get you to the next level.  Since this change, massive time is required to advance to the next level, which is very discouraging to many players.

In fact, since many players have invested considerable money into the game to build their character via Godfather Points, the level of action from players ranges from petitions and names being gathered for those who support changing the hitlist experience gathering back all the way to individuals considering a class action suit against Zynga, since the game is no longer what they invested money into.  Needless to say, the majority of players, especially those that play the game the most, are not happy with this change, and in fact, a large number of players have even abandoned the game due to this change.

Whether or not Zynga takes action to reverse the charge could well determine if the game remains popular at all, and the future of the game itself.

 

Update

Zynga responded to the dissatisfaction of players by changing the hitlist back to generating experience. However, they also introduced several new limitations and restrictions both to the hitlist and other aspects of the game.  In the meantime, we have done an extensive evaluation of the new Bulletproof MySpace game and the Mafia MoFo game, and feel that they are superior games to Mafia Wars, even before the hitlist change. We highly recommend that you check them out!

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