Friday, 22 December 2017 23:50

Five great games for your phone!

Need a last second holiday gift? Looking for a way to spend that Christmas Google Play or itunes gift card? I have just what you need -- awesome, cheap games for your phone!

 

Everyone has played Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies and Limbo (but if you haven’t you should totally check them out) so I went a different route. Normally I play games on a console or PC, which tend to be more story based than traditional point and click phone games. But it occured to me that many of the story based games I love and play are probably available for your phone.

 

So I checked. And I found some!

 

Here are a few of my favorites presented alphabetically:

 

The Banner Saga 1 & 2: I really love this game. It’s a great mix of storytelling and turn based tactical combat. The art is gorgeous and the story choices are sophisticated enough to keep you guessing. From the website of game designer Stoic Games:

 

“Epic role-playing Viking saga where your strategic choices directly affect your personal journey. Make allies and enemies as you travel with your caravan across a stunningly beautiful, yet harsh, landscape. Carefully choose those who will help fight a new threat that jeopardizes an entire civilization. Every decision you make in travel, conversation and combat has a meaningful effect on the outcome as your story unfolds. Not everyone under your banner will survive, but they will be remembered.”

 

Playing time: Approx. 10ish hours to complete the main quest in Banner Saga 1 with perhaps 15ish hours to complete Saga 2. Additional hour can be spent in game play through Survival Mode - a series of increasingly difficult battles! (I just got killed in battle 32 of 40. Must start over. Arggh!)

Repeat playability: High. Adjust game play to a higher difficulty and try a second Saga or play Survival Mode after completing the main story.  

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.  

Cost - depending on platform: $5 -$10

 

Beholder: A really fun game set in a grim dystopian future where an oppressive totalitarian State controls every aspect of private and public life. And it’s your job to root out anyone who speaks our or acts against the State! Of course you can rage against the State and hide the on going deeds of your tenants, if you wish -- just don’t get caught. Warning - this game is hard! From the Warm Lamp Games game designer site:

 

“You are the State-installed manager of an apartment building. Your daily routine involves making the building a sweet spot for tenants, who will come and go; however, that is simply a faced that hides your real mission … spying on your renters! Your primary task is to covertly watch your tenants and eavesdrop on their conversations. You must bug their apartments while they’re away, search their belongings, and profile them for your superiors. You must also report anyone capable of violating the laws or plotting subversive activities against the State to the authorities.”

 

Playing time: Several hours to finish the main story with an additional 20ish hours in order to unlock all possible endings.

Repeat playability: High.

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.

Cost - depending on platform: Free -$5

 

Heart’s Medicine: Time to Heal: A super charming point and click time management game -- that happens to be a touching medical based drama. What sets it apart from many point and click games is the tender storyline woven between game goals.

 

Game designer Blue Giraffe says:

 

“Heart’s Medicine - Time to Heal is an intense medical drama tied into a casual game this is moving people to tears. The game has a gripping and unique storyline, original singer/songwriter music, highly detailed artwork and animation, cool addictive gameplay and an insane amount of heart … Become a doctor in a romantic medical drama and join the life of aspiring surgeon Allison Heart as she works her shifts at Little Creek Hospital. Experience love, intense action, realistic drama, crazy funny moments and the beauty of celebrating life!”

 

Playing time: Approx. 20 hours.

Repeat playability: Medium. Once the story is over you can repeat gameplay but without the darling story it becomes a standard diner dash game.

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.

Cost - depending on platform: Free -$5

 

The Silent Age: A clever little point and click drama that bounces back and forth in time. This game is more story driven than game driven. Solving the puzzles won’t be much of a challenge for most savvy game players but the story writing is strong and the plot becomes more compelling as it moves forward. The game is downloaded as five separate chapter so make sure you get chapter one!

 

Game developer House on Fire says:

 

“Help Joe as he travels between the groovy present of 1972 and the apocalyptic future of 2012 to discover the truth behind humankind’s extinction - a quest entrusted to him by a dying man from the future. Use your portable time travel device to solve puzzles that bring you closer to answers and saving humanity.  Winner of the 2013 Causal Connection Indie Prize.”

 

Playing time: Approx. 6 hours.

Repeat playability: Low. Once you know the story -- you know the story.  

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.

Cost - depending on platform: Free -$5

 

This War of Mine: This absolutely gorgeous black and white shaded game is a gut wrencher. A survivalist war game unlike anything I’ve played. After several times (about ten hours game time) I’ve yet to survive to see the end of the war. I’ll let the folks from 11 Bit Studio, the game designers, explain it for you:

 

“In This War of Mine you do not play as an elite soldier, rather a group of civilians trying to survive in a besieged city; struggling with lack of food, medicine and constant danger from snipers and hostile scavengers. The game provides an experience of war seen from an entirely new angle .... The pace of the game is imposed by the day and night cycle. During the day snipers outside stop  you from leaving your refuge, so you need to focus on maintaining your hideout: crafting and trading and taking care of your survivors.At night, take one of your civilians on a mission to scavenge through a set of unique locations for items that will help you stay alive … Make life-and-death decisions driven by your conscience. Try to protect everybody from your shelter or sacrifice some of them for longer-term survival. During war, there are no good or bad decisions, there is only survival. The sooner you realize that, the better.”

 

Playing time: The game is won when the war ends which is randomly decided each time you load a new game. I would say approx. ten-ish hours to finish the story once.  

Repeat playability: High. Each play through will bring completely different challenges.

Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.

Cost - depending on platform: $4-$14.

 

Published in News & Information

Comcast’s cable television, telephone, and internet arm, Xfinity, has entered the mobile phone leasing industry. You can now lease a smartphone from Xfinity Mobile.

The move likely comes as no surprise to Xfinity customers, who provide 16 million public wifi hotspots available to every other Xfinity customer in the United States. And it makes sense for Xfinity to take advantage of its network of public wifi hotspots made available by its customers for their customers.

While there were plenty of complaints from customers whose rented wireless routers were used by the company to broadcast public signals to other Xfinity customers, Xfinity allows customers to disable the public signal, despite how difficult the process might have been in the past. Customers who don’t disable the public signals are basically sharing internet bandwidth for which they pay with their fellow Xfinity customers -- a socialized hotspot network, if you will.  

When you connect to a public Xfinity wifi hotspot for the first time, you’ll be asked to enter your Xfinity email and password to verify that you are a member of the Xfinity party. Your mobile device will then connect to every Xfinity wifi hotspot within range automatically (unless you deactivate auto-connect). This helps Xfinity customers use less data and save money, which was exactly what the Xfinity customer service representative echoed.

“Our plans are designed specifically to save you money,” he said. And I believe him because Xfinity Mobile offers a single gigabyte of data for just $12. It’s website states you could save anywhere from $40 per month when you switch from T-Mobile and $90 per month when switching from AT&T with their $12 per gigabyte of data plan.

According to 20SomethingFinance.com’s Jan. 2017 report, only Freedom Pop offers a cheaper mobile data plan (it’s free up to 500 texts, 200 minutes and 500 MB). Republic Wireless plans start at $15 per month for unlimited talk and text but no mobile data. Republic offers 1 GB of mobile data for $20 per month.

Xfinity Mobile is going to reap the benefits of people pinching pennies due to rising costs for rent, energy and transportation, prescription drugs and health insurance, and cable and internet services. Hell, the newly appointed Republican head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, doesn’t think people need high-speed internet service anymore because mobile data is good enough, making it more expensive for rural America to get online.

Xfinity is attempting to take advantage of a market that’s been underserved -- the poor. Even poor people need to get online, and while many have access to public wifi hotspots made available through their municipality, library or McDonald’s, not all of them have high-speed access to the internet at all times in their own homes. Xfinity Mobile can give them that without a $50-per-month internet bill or $100-per-month cable bill.

Editor’s Note:

I didn’t have much of a choice when it came to internet service providers in my area. Xfinity was the only provider in my area that offered upload and download speeds that would allow me to do what I need to do everyday.

I had a terrible experience having Xfinity internet installed. While I bought my own modem and router, and had the self-installation kit sent to my house, no one bothered to check and see if my cable line was internet ready or capable of receiving a signal. It took weeks to get setup, but Xfinity made it right.

It’s going to be difficult for me to pass up on this deal now that I’m an Xfinity customer. While you can’t bring your own phone to Xfinity Mobile yet, I’m probably due for an upgrade, and since I don’t pay a mobile carrier currently, I’m in the perfect situation to be an early adopter.

I don’t even need to make calls or send texts. There are apps for that. But what I’d really like is to be able to use Google Maps with or without an Xfinity wifi hotspot. Hotspots are hard to come by when you’re driving in traffic at 70 miles per hour, and the last thing I want is for anyone to be fumbling with their phone while driving.

One gigabyte of data per month would be just enough to use my smartphone as a GPS and occasionally check email without wifi. That’s all I need, and I’m willing to pay $144 per year for something that cost me $540 per year with StraightTalk Wireless before I dumped them. I was paying $600 per year with Verizon Wireless before that, so mobile data is becoming more available to low-income Americans thanks to Xfinity Mobile.

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If you like this, you might like these GCN talk radio shows: Erskine Overnight, Home Talk, The Josh Tolley Show, The Tom Chenault Show, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Free Talk Live

Published in News & Information
Wednesday, 10 May 2017 16:36

Solving the distracted driving epidemic

It happens almost everyday during my commute to work: someone fondling a phone and not looking at the road while driving. Today was no exception. It’s infuriating, and it’s dangerous.

Distracted driving deaths grew 8.8 percent between 2014 and 2015 -- growing faster than deaths due to unrestrained passengers, speeding or drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In response, many states and even municipalities are enacting distracted driving laws. But it’s impossible for police to enforce every instance of distracted driving.

The City of Chicago made the mistake of allowing distracted driving citations to be enforced like all other traffic citations, forcing police officers to appear in court when drivers attempt to get out of the ticket. What’s resulted is a complete lack of enforcement of the law, with distracted driving ticketing falling 99.6 percent in the city from 2014 to 2016.

There’s never a reason to be fondling a phone while driving, but people do it. So what’s the solution? Well, if you have a newer car with hands-free technology, you already have a solution. But not all of us can afford to buy new cars this very minute. There’s a cheap solution for us, too.

For less than $20, you can equip your car with hands-free technology as long as you have a working 12-volt socket and radio in your car. These Bluetooth devices allow you to take calls with the push of a button, which is the equivalent of changing the radio station. You’ll never fumble around for your phone while driving again, and you can listen to your music library during your commute. I actually own one of these, and they are literal lifesavers.

If you’re one of these people who doesn’t know where they’re going and use your smartphone as a GPS while driving, spend a few bucks on a caddie for your smartphone and mount it to your dash. Even if you enter your destination before you start driving, if you don’t have a caddie for your smartphone, you’re looking down at your phone and not at the road. So put your smartphone in a place where you can still see the road. For less than $30 all told you could potentially save a life.

Both iPhone and Android devices allow for voice activated email and text messaging, too. You can activate “Hey, Siri” when the screen is locked in your iPhone settings, and there’s even a workaround for using “Hey, Siri” when you’re not connected to power. Before starting your car, just hold the home button for a second to enter the Siri screen and don’t say anything. You’ll remain in the Siri screen and will just have to say “Hey, Siri” to go hands-free. On Android devices, the lock screen is even easier to work around. All you have to do is turn on “Trusted Voice” in your Voice settings (unless you have a Nexus 6, Moto X, Galaxy Note 4 or Note Edge).

New drivers are the ones most at risk of being ticketed or lost to distracted driving, though. I hope there’s a focus on that in driver's education courses. Some school districts are just getting around to changing drivers ed curriculum now. Smartphones didn’t exist when I went through drivers ed, but cell phones were starting to become more prevalent. The videos we watched looked like they were created for the first drivers ed course in the 1950s, so I hope distracted driving education is taking place in those courses, because I know these drivers, and they are as dangerous as drunk drivers, or even more so.

If you’re a parent of one of these new drivers, buy them the products mentioned above. You could save their life, and the Bluetooth device makes a great gift, especially if your new driver’s car has nothing but a radio, or worse yet, a CD player. CDs were the distracted driving of my generation.

This isn’t rocket science, folks. It’s not even car science. If you’re still fondling a phone while behind the wheel of a car, just stop it. You’re going to end up killing someone -- maybe yourself. Just take these simple steps to not only avoid a distracted driving ticket, but save your fellow motorists from frustration and harm.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: Free Talk Live, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Auto World, Auto World AM

Published in News & Information