22nd December 2010

All Systems Go For Santa

Christmas OrbyDespite a flurry of last-minute activity to make sure all of his Seriously Fun Cargo (SFC) was safely and securely loaded onto his sleigh, Santa Claus and his reindeer are expected to leave the North Pole on time and with all toys on board. Transport Canada is pleased to announce that Santa has passed all his required pre-flight tests and is ready to make his deliveries again this year.Santas Village

As part of his preparations, Santa passed the regular medical tests required by all pilots who want to get and keep their licence. According to Mrs. Claus, Santa put on a few extra pounds while working with his elves on the huge amount of toys requested from boys and girls around the world.

“Santa is a wonderful pilot, and as you may know, he has to pass his medical and flight tests,” said Mrs. Claus. “All those late nights and calories in the workshop were starting to add up, and I was concerned that he wasn’t going to be cleared to fly. But all is well as long as he just says no to the cookies as he makes his rounds.”

Happily, Santa also passed the test to demonstrate his flying ability and knowledge. Like all pilots, he must pass this test using a flight simulator or with a check ride. So this morning, at the Transport Canada hangar at the Ottawa International Airport, Santa Claus successfully completed a series of takeoffs and landings with the help of his very fit reindeer.
santa on google earth
Earlier this month, a Transport Canada inspector travelled to the North Pole to inspect Santa’s sleigh and its safety system. The inspector checked the harnesses, landing gear and, of course, Rudolph’s nose. Santa recently installed some newer technologies for added safety, like his updated instrument panel and GPS, so the inspector checked this equipment, too. Santa was also reminded how important it is for pilots to get some rest and to do detailed pre-flight checks that include looking for ice buildup, and informing all crew and passengers about safety measures.

Now that Santa has passed his medical and flight tests, he is once again ready to take to the skies safely. Millions of children can sleep easy knowing that Santa is fully prepared to make his most important trip of the year this holiday season!

Boys and girls can follow Santa as he makes his way across the planet, through the NORAD Tracks Santa website, as well as through Google Maps and Google Earth, which should be easier now that Santa’s secret Flight Plan (PDF) has Secret Flight Planbeen leaked to the media.

According to the plan, the pilot, Captain S. Claus will be flying a bright red sled-like aircraft powered by nine reindeer. Departing on December 24, the flight has many destinations and its route includes stops at the “homes of all the nice children in the world.”

NAV CANADA would not confirm the authenticity of the flight plan but anonymous sources say that an unusual aircraft will carry a huge cargo of brightly wrapped packages and will fly at a tremendous speed. An intense red light flashes at the aircraft’s nose.

NAV CANADA would not reveal the identity of the pilot but an unnamed NAV CANADA spokesman, speaking to rumours that the pilot is over 1,000 years old, confirmed the findings of the Transport Canada inspector, saying that  “he has excellent vision and superior cognitive skills. In fact, he sees you when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake.”

NAV CANADA will be hard at work on Christmas ensuring that the normal air traffic control, flight information and advisory services are provided for this special flight and all other aircraft – with technical operations and engineering support.

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22nd December 2010

Serious Fun and Serious Learning Now And In The Future

games for changeTwo Canadian-made serious games have made the short list for the 2010 Games For Change favourite social impact games. The titles were nominated to the list via Twitter, Facebook and the Games For Change Google Group. Voting is now open to pick the top favourite. The Canadian titles named to the list are Inside Disaster – The Experience about the Haiti earthquake and Phylo – A Human Computing Framework for Comparative Genomics.

Inside Disaster – The Experience was produced by PTV Productions in association with TVO. Funding was supplied in part by the Canada Media Fund, Bell Fund, the Canadian International Development Agency and Ontario Media Development Corporation. Inside Disaster was created to challenge “assumptions made about relief work in disaster areas.” Inside Disaster is not a game in the traditional sense – there is no score; instead, this very graphic and to-the-point experience allows you to work within the parametres of a relief helper, and then experience the outcome of any decisions you commit to. Note – this is not a game for sensitive people. The images are graphic and can be disturbing. Please heed the warning on the game’s site.

Phylo – A Human Computing Framework for Comparative Genomics. Apparently the game isn’t as scary as the name implies. According to its site, the game is “just an interactive game that lets you contribute to science.” Phylo was made with the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, McGill School of Computer Science, McGill Centre for Bioinformatics and the McGill Computational Structural Biology Group.

Discovery Channel Canada has a series of six videos from Popular Science’s: The Future Of…  that looks at innovation in the field of Play. I believe that the videos on Discovery Channel Canada are only viewable via the web for those with a Canadian IP address, so my apologies to our international readers. Here is a link to the show on Discovery.com (US), and a link to Pop Sci’s videos on Discovery.com, which may or may not work for international viewers. These episodes of the show feature information about a mixed reality lets you reach into the computer game and control it with your hands, a smart football that teaches us all how to play sports like the pros, pervasive games take over entire cities and discover siftables: kids’ alphabet blocks on steroids.

Relic EntertainmentTHQ and Relic Entertainment have released a new trailer for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Retribution™, which is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2011. In this latest chapter, which takes place years after the events in Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising™, Retribution allows players to choose their perspective with the first multiple-race single player campaign in the Dawn of War II series. The first race to be revealed is the savage Orks, but no matter which race is chosen players will be taken on an epic journey through each story arc, revealing the answers to many questions left open in previous Dawn of War titles.

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As well as the single player campaign, Retribution will feature new multiplayer units, maps and an entire new playable faction when it ships.

Get Set Games has released Mega Jump for the Android platform. Available free of charge, Mega Jump can be Mega Jump For Androiddownloaded to your Android phone by scanning the game’s QR Get Set Gamescode on the Get Set page.

Mega Jump on Android is compatible with all phones running Android OS 2.0 and up, and “features the same great graphics, hilarious sounds and action-packed gameplay. It also has the same leaderboards and achievements as the iPhone version – thanks to OpenFeint – so you can compete against your friends who have the iPhone version.”

ParetoLogicParetoLogic’s staff has come together once again this holiday season to provide gifts and charity for those in need. The Salvation Army Christmas Angels campaign and the Mustard Seed food bank have both been long-time recipients of ParetoLogic charity activities. This year, staff managed to up their donation levels, to provide happier holidays for those in need.

The Mustard Seed collects non-perishable foodstuffs for the underprivileged, and feeds over 7000 people a month in the Victoria area. To collect food, an extra-large hamper has been a mainstay of the ParetoLogic offices for the holiday season. The 125-litre bin is full to the rim with donations from ParetoLogic employees and their families.

Marlee Wilson, ParetoLogic’s Office Manager and de facto co-ordinator of charities, was optimistic about donations. “I can tell you that we have a full bin and I’m going to drop this off and hopefully we can fill it again before Christmas.”

The Salvation Army Christmas Angels program collects donations of toys and distributes them to children in need. An estimated 6000 children will receive gifts through the Christmas Angels program this winter. Donators are provided a child’s age and gender, and then pick out an appropriate present. The gift is transferred to the child’s parents, so they may give their daughter or son a happy Christmas. ParetoLogic staff donated 33 gifts this year, for children aged between two and 18.

“Mustard Seed is a charity for life, but the Christmas Angels is a charity for the soul. All children deserve a merry Christmas, and we are delighted to help do that,” said Wilson.

Readers of Canada’s national current affairs magazine can now enjoy Maclean’s at their tech-savvy macleansfingertips with the Maclean’s App for iPad, now available on the App Store. The inaugural issue of Maclean’s magazine for iPad features content from Maclean’s Newsmakers 2010 special issue.

Each issue of Maclean’s comes complete with all the news, commentary, photography and columnists that have made the magazine the country’s most indispensable weekly read for more than a century. The content is beautifully rendered for iPad with an array of enhancements that bring the pages to life: embedded video, photo galleries, digital links, a live letters section, issue-at-a-glance and other navigation tools, and also gives readers the ability to save their favourite articles and share them with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.

The inaugural Newsmakers 2010 issue features:

• an animated video cover
• dozens of beautiful photos/photo galleries
• video of Justin Bieber performing live
• video montage of newsmakers who passed away in 2010
• our regular columnists: Andrew Coyne, Scott Feschuk, Paul Wells and more

“Maclean’s is dedicated to bringing readers relevant and thought-provoking content on today’s latest technology,” says Maclean’s publisher and editor-in-chief Ken Whyte. “With the new Maclean’s App for iPad, our readers can now enjoy everything they love about Maclean’s from the convenience of iPad.”

While the Maclean’s App is available for free from the App Store on iPad, each downloadable issue is priced at $2.99. Maclean’s 6th annual and biggest-ever Newsmakers edition looks at the year’s winners and whiners, heroes and heartbreakers, sinners and saints. Among them: Newsmaker of the Year Sidney Crosby and other Canadian Olympic heroes; Justin Bieber and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford; the arrival of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the election of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president; and the exits of Michaëlle Jean, Simon Cowell, Lloyd Robertson and Cathy cartoons; the dramatic rescue of the Chilean miners, the many setbacks of Barack Obama, the comeback of Conrad Black—and the triumphant return of Betty White.

ABI researchDriven by North American, European and Asia Pacific markets, online gaming continues its steady growth and the latest purchasable study from American-based ABI Research forecasts revenues of slightly more than $20 billion in 2012. Technology developments will mean new opportunities for connected devices beyond the computer.

The Asia-Pac region, especially China, will be the engine behind much of this growth. However, in China, due to generally lower levels of personal PC ownership, the business models are evolving a little differently. According to industry analyst Michael Inouye, “World of Warcraft, for instance, generates significant revenue for Activision in Europe and North America on a subscription basis. But in China, despite a large ‘subscriber’ base, the revenues are far smaller: it’s more of a pay-as-you-go model (prepaid game cards). This also creates a greater reliance on ‘cloud’ or server-based games.”

Another difference in Asia is regulation. “In China, Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere the rules are more exacting in what they allow. Some games for instance, have had to alter their content: using WoW again as an example, the developers had to remove the virtual blood.”

The increasingly varied and range of connected devices will also permit gaming on more platforms. For example Free, a French broadband and IPTV provider, has partnered with Intel to develop a very advanced set-top box (Freebox Revolution). The STB includes an Intel Atom processor, controller with gyroscopic inputs, Blu-ray player, powerline adapters, Wi-Fi, and a game controller. While these games might be more locally- based for now, they point to the potential for opening this up to multiplayer and MMO gaming.

There are challenges, though. Mobile gaming (eg. on smartphones) could be disruptive. The market is fragmented, with proprietary platforms the rule, posing difficulties for developers trying to serve a number of smaller platforms rather than a few big ones. And the growth of cloud gaming demands more and bigger servers and data centers.

ABI Research’s “Gaming in the Cloud” study examines the casual and Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games markets and the potential role for connected consumer electronics. It contains regional revenue forecasts and discusses pressing technical issues and is part of the Digital Living Research Service.

ABI Research provides in-depth analysis and quantitative forecasting of trends in global connectivity and other emerging technologies. From offices in North America, Europe and Asia, ABI Research’s worldwide team of experts advises thousands of decision makers through 30+ research and advisory services.

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