Earn free movie rentals with HitBliss

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 3.57.41 PM

HitBliss is a program currently in BETA which pays you to watch advertisements and allows you to use the money you’ve earned to rent movies or TV shows from the service. Once you download and install the app and set up your profile you can start earning money simply by watching the ads. The app will occasionally prompt you to click a button or press enter to ensure you are actually at the computer watching the ads, and if you respond quickly, or respond to the prompts a number of times in a row you “level up” and start earning money even faster.

You can also choose to share your web search history and Facebook and Twitter profiles to earn money quicker as well.

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.20.09 PM

I just signed up for the BETA this afternoon and after watching and responding to about 10 ads I already had $5 to use toward any movies in their library (just over 300 movies in the library right now). There are some new release and hit movies (such as Django Unchained and Saving Private Ryan) and then quite a few movies already available through Netflix.

Once you earn $5 you can no longer earn additional credit until you spend some of that on rentals. It seems like your earnings will always be capped at $5 to prevent you from stockpiling money and never watching ads again. I imagine when HitBliss is out of BETA it won’t be as easy to earn money, I feel like I got over paid, earning $0.50 per minute long ad I watched. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to make so much money watching advertisements, I just feel like they’ll probably scale it down to something like $0.10 per ad. I’m no expert, that’s just my opinion.

The app looks nice and works smoothly and is available for Windows or Mac (I’m running the Mac version).

I hadn’t heard of HitBliss until I stumbled across WordPress user zabelieth’s blog post.

Some screenshots of HitBliss in action:

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 3.59.36 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.00.07 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.00.14 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.02.12 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.08.44 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.09.10 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.09.20 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.09.27 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 4.10.56 PM

Advertisements

Star Trek: The Game…is not that bad

star-trek-video-game-cover-art

Like most I was at first excited about the new Star Trek video game but quickly lost interest once reviews and quick looks started rolling in. Currently the game (360 version) has a 43/100 critic rating on MetaCritic and a 2.5/10 user score. Pretty bad. Despite knowing better, I rented the game from Red Box anyway. $2 a day isn’t that bad, and if it turned out to be terrible I’d cut my losses early.

I’ve invested $6 in the game so far (three days) and I have to say it’s not as bad as I imagined it would be. I started out playing co-op with my girlfriend and the level design and gameplay is ugly right from the start. The game makes it very clunky to get into and out of cover and for someone who isn’t well versed in video game mechanics is guaranteed to have a very difficult time early on. If that weren’t bad enough, oftentimes the game will react in strange ways to your inputs. You can push to jump in one direction and your character will jump off a cliff to his death for no good reason.

There’s a sequence early on where you have to run as a series of explosions chases you. This is a point in the game where I really wanted to put down the controller and take the game back to Red Box. For some reason every time the game starts you off with the camera backward and your character facing in the wrong direction and you have to quickly reorient yourself and get running in the right direction or you’ll die. This was more inconvenient than difficult for me as I quickly realized the game was trying to kill me. For my girlfriend, however, it was incredibly frustrating. When the game isn’t being helpful at all it’s much more difficult for someone who doesn’t play video games often to get oriented and do what you’re supposed to do. What’s worse is doing what you’re supposed to do can get you killed as often as not in this game because of bugs and bad design.

I started playing solo after the first level (with AI controlling Spock) and for awhile this was less frustrating. Until I ran into climbing sequences where it’s almost completely unpredictable where your character is going to jump even if you’re pressing in the right direction. Several times Captain Kirk simply jumped to his death for no good reason. I guess I’d want to end it all too if I were stuck in this horrible game.

Once the action picks up the game plays a little better. Of course I’m playing on easy so I can run and gun, because if I had to rely on the clunky cover system my blood pressure would rise even further than it already does while playing this game. There’s a moderate variety of weapons you can pick up as you go, and it’s satisfying to kill the Gorn enemies. As a Starfeet Captain you’re “supposed” to ‘set phasers to stun’ when facing possessed human enemies, however I find it more enjoyable to simply kill them (not to mention easier). You can only fire off two “stun” shots before your weapon has to recharge and when you’re facing a large number of enemies it’s not practical to stun them all. Furthermore a stunned enemy only remains so for a few seconds and you have to run up to them and melee them to knock them out or they’ll return to shooting at you. Interestingly the achievements reward you for getting X number of kills with each weapon, so again it’s more beneficial to just kill everything.

IMG_0238

Like the movies, there’s lots of lens flare here.

One thing I like about playing with an AI partner is that you can have them perform all of the hacking and unlocking in the game. The mini-games are excessively long and get annoying so it’s nice to just have Spock do everything for me. The co-op doors get incredibly annoying and boring, however. Why can’t I just open the damn door?

The game has been a decent experience so far. It would be nice to actually be able to pilot the Enterprise rather than just play a sort of Space Invaders game where you fend off attacking ships with the Enterprise’s weapons. It’s an okay section, but they could’ve done more with the Enterprise. There are several sections of the game that encourage stealth, however it’s more of a pain in the ass to try to pass by stealthily than it is to simply kill the enemies. There’s also an upgrade system where you can spend XP in order to improve certain equipment, but as far as I can tell the upgrades make barely any impact on gameplay and I’ve stopped bothering even opening the menu.

Lastly, and probably least important, the names of the achievements in the game are lazy and this bothers me. “Beat Helios-1”, “Beat New Vulcan”… They could’ve at least had better names for the story completion achievements. This has no impact on the game, it just really stood out to me.

In the end I would say you should not purchase Star Trek at its retail $60 price tag. I wouldn’t even recommend buying it used until it drops below $20. You’re best off renting the game at Red Box and you could probably complete it in a night if you wanted. I’d say I’m about four hours in and more than half way through the game, I only have three missions left. Overall the game has been decent, but at times it can only be described as terrible. There are just enough good sections to make the bad parts bearable. The voice acting is pretty good (the characters are voiced by the actors in the movies) but at times the dialogue is either repetitive or poorly written. The story isn’t as good as an average Star Trek episode, but it’s not the worst in the world. The game is passable, not memorable, but not as horrible as some people would have you believe.

Control your Mac remotely with your iPad

Oftentimes I’ll connect my MacBook Pro to a TV to watch movies or stream content from the web, and it always used to annoy me that I’d have to get up and go to the computer to type something. I could use my wireless mouse to click anything from the couch, but if I ever needed to search for something I was out of luck.

Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 12.54.44 PM

The first app that solved this problem for me was Air Keyboard, a free app that replicates a Mac’s keyboard and allows you to control your Mac as if you had a bluetooth keyboard (it works over WiFi). You simplydownload the app on your iPad and install the companion app on your Mac and that’s it. You know have the equivalent of a bluetooth keyboard, complete with a touch pad and plenty of other features.

 

 

 

Next up is Splashtop 2, a remote desktop solution. Splashtop 2 is $4.99 for the iPad Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 12.56.44 PM(there’s a separate iPhone version)for basic functionality with two subscription models
for advanced functionality. Splashtop allows you to not only control your Mac remotely, but also allows you to see the screen on your iPad. Therefore you can control your Mac from anywhere in the house. You can leave it on your desk and access it via Splashtop to e-mail a file, or play a movie that’s on your Mac and view it on your iPad in bed. Also you can use your Mac to access websites that require flash from your iPad.

Splashtop only allows you to control your Mac from the same WiFi network. If you’d like to access your Mac from anywhere you can subscribe to Anywhere Access for $1.99/mo or $16.99/yr.

Both of these apps have made my life easier and more convenient. I’ve included several screenshots below that allow you to see the apps in action.

Air Keyboard (FREE)

 

DSC04773

IMG_0213

Splashtop 2 ($4.99)

DSC04772

 

IMG_0216

IMG_0217

IMG_0214

IMG_0218

IMG_0219

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

nick-cave-and-the-bad-seeds6

I recently discovered Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, though I’m not sure how. I think it was from listening to Sirius XMU, but somehow or another I heard the song “We No Who U R” and my jaw immediately dropped. The slow instrumental and deep, soothing yet brooding voice stunned me. It’s incredibly beautiful music with beautiful lyrics. The first two lines of the song are as follows:

Tree don’t care what the little bird sings
We go down with the dew in the morning light

Nick Cave’s lyrics are beautiful and poetic and for some reason they occasionally remind me of T.S. Eliot and at times his sentence structure makes me think of Hemingway. It could be all in my head, it’s been awhile since I’ve studied either.

To my surprise I discovered Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds has been making music since 1983, and their 2013 album Push The Sky Away is their 15th studio album! Talk about being prolific. I have a lot of catching up to do, but as of right now I’m so in love with Push The Sky away it’s hard to listen to anything else. I’m most definitely ordering this album on vinyl, I imagine it’ll sound great on my record player.

Push-The-Sky-Away-PACKSHOT1-768x768

Two of my favorite songs from the album are actually bonus tracks, “Needle Boy” and “Lightning Bolts”. The narrative in these songs and the way they’re sung just leave me in awe.

And the girls from Jubilee Street hang out their windows,
And they wave and ask me how I am tonight,
I say I’m good, I’m all right.

I just love that!

“Needle Boy” is very brooding, it gives me the chills.

Last, but not least, I’ll leave you with “We Real Cool” (love the title!)

Finished Bioshock Infinite

DSC04713

I finished Bioshock Infinite this morning and I have to say it was an awesome experience. The story was quite interesting and every time you think you’ve got it figured it you’ll soon find out you were wrong, right up until the last moments of the game. The world of Columbia is incredibly well crafted and fun to explore. The action is a blast with a nice variety of guns and ‘vigors’ (sort of like spells) that provide a variety of ways to dispose of enemies.

I definitely had a great time, and now I can finally watch this (spoilers obviously):