As the week draws nearer to a close, there is no sign of slow-down in Canadian digital media activity. Tonight Scott and Mike will be checking out an event  at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre  hosted by AnnexPro  and Avid , while I’ll be over in Yaletown at a Women In Games Vancouver  board meeting. Don’t forget that our Women In Games March Martini night  (sorry guys, ladies only) is next Thursday, March 24th at Rogue.
Congratulations are due to the Ubisoft Montreal Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood  team, who picked up the BAFTA in the UK last night for top Action Game and to the Bioware team who garnered the Best Game award for Mass Effect 2 .
I keep forgetting to tell you all about the huge Book Drive  that’s been going on in BC, so I left the page open to the site to remind myself because I tend to be forgetful. The next big event is this weekend, March 19 & 20th, at the Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters located at 3833 Henning Drive in Burnaby. Drawing directly from the information on the Book Drive site:
“The Big Book Drive is a two-day event aimed to help the less-fortunate and low-income families so that they may gain a better education in the future. Oftentimes after we’ve read a book, we leave it lying around without touching it for years. This is wasteful of Earth’s resources, and it does not have to be so. These books can be used to help others, so make The Big Book Drive your way of giving back to the community. Our goal is to collect as many books as possible. The books will either be sold at used bookstores to generate proceeds, donated to the charities we’re working with, or recycled to be remade into new books. Either way, 100% of the proceeds will be donated, because we want to help others just as much as you do!“
I hope that if you are able to help out, you can. The organization is looking for textbooks, journals, comic books, novels, children’s books, magazines and catalogues. No adult material, newspapers or eBooks on CD/DVD, though. 
Students in need of software should check out Microsoft initiative DreamSpark . Verified students can gain access to licensed Microsoft products, including XNA Studio 4, Visual Studio, Expression, Robotics Developer and more. You now have fewer reasons to not get out there and create something. Go, go, go!
Microsoft Canada  also offers assistance to small-medium businesses with volume licensing programs  designed to save money and get companies creating. It’s worth your time to check out what is available for you.
On Saturday March 19th, let the games begin as YTV  WOW! Let it rip with non-stop action and adventure with Hasbro’s  Beyblade: Metal Fusion Battle Zone. Beyblade fans can come out to the Real Canadian Superstore at 51 Gerry Fitzgerald Drive in Toronto and battle it out for prizes and gift packs from 10am until 4pm.
Speaking of availability, the Government of Canada has launched its Open Data Pilot Project , which is designed to improve the ability of the public to find, download and use Government of Canada data. You are invited to search the catalogue, download datasets and explore the possibilities of Open Data. This project could go a long way towards helping businesses gain access to research data they may require for such activities as market research or even finding new business partners.
As part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to drive innovation and economic opportunities for all Canadians, the Honourable Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway launched the pilot project for an online Open Data Portal following public consultations on the digital economy strategy which saw Canadians asking for open data to be made available in more usable and accessible formats.
“The Government of Canada is launching its Open Data Portal to make a large amount of data accessible through a single window,” said Minister Day. “With this portal, application developers can reuse data for commercial or research purposes to benefit all Canadians in a variety of ways. We want to continue to make Canada one of the best places to do business by ensuring that Canadian entrepreneurs, researchers, academics and voluntary organizations have access to government data in useful formats to help foster innovation, job creation and community services for Canadians.”
This pilot portal will make more than 260,000 datasets from the following ten participating departments available to all Canadians: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Citizenship and Immigration Canada; Environment Canada; Department of Finance Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Library and Archives Canada; Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada; Transport Canada and the Treasury Board Secretariat. The pilot phase will take place over a 12-month period, during which the government will continue to increase the number of datasets available to users.
I just found out about this service today, when the company began following me on Twitter , so I haven’t really had a chance to look very deep into the site and get all of the details, but Get George , which is based in Vancouver, looks like it may be a program that is advantageous to smartphone users. Get George is a free download in the iTunes and Android shops, and looks like it could end up saving people some serious money – but as I don’t have a smartphone, and haven’t yet investigated the services offered, please be sure to read the application’s FAQs  and service conditions before use.
With the August 23rd release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution  drawing nearer every day, Square Enix  is looking for a location to open another Canadian studio. Personally I’m rooting for Vancouver, but Toronto and a second Montreal location are also in the running. I imagine that the publisher will be looking closely at incentives offered by each province, and while another studio in Montreal would be convenient for the Eidos Montreal  crew, I’m hoping that the proximity of Vancouver to the Square Enix headquarters in Tokyo will give the city an edge in the running. The time line for the new studio looks to be for a 2012 opening, with an initial staff of 100. 
Big Blue Bubble’s  original, award winning and massively fun rhythm game Thumpies is now available in Apple’s Mac App Store . Now Mac owners can test their skills in correctly matching the beat of bouncing Thumpies, and those with the beat skills can progress through songs and the current 15 game levels, unlocking new Thumpies along the way. Suitable for all ages and already available in the iTunes App store, Thumpies uses a mechanic of bouncing in time instead of just a series of notes. The game features a quirky art design accompanied by a unique musical score composed by award winning industry veteran David Kerr sets Thumpies in a genre all its own.
Hoard ™ from Big Sandwich Games  will release via Steam for your PC and Mac on April 4th, and will retail for $9.99USD. Pre-sales will begin on March 21st with a limited time “fire-sale” discount of 25%. In addition, sharing with your friends is rewarded, as a 4-pack of HOARD™ can be purchased for the low price of $28.00. Steam Play is supported, meaning Steam users who own both a PC and a Mac only need buy the game once.
The Steam version includes the same fire-breathing fun as the PS3 console release plus some brand new features. The game has 4 modes, over 35 levels, leaderboards, full multiplayer suites (4-player co-op and competitive), and 100+ Steam achievements. In addition, never seen-before features such as Night Mode (for vibrant fiery goodness), a Winter tile set, and new maps are added as a reward for PC and Mac fans’ patience. Finally, cross-play allows PC and Mac users to compete or cooperate in their quests for gold.
zinc Roe’s  latest release is now live. Created for the Family Channel, Hot Ticket  is a game of musical and economic strategy. Players drag and drop locations onto a map to create “Famburg”, a rocking little town that plays host to shows by a wide variety of fictional acts. “The Temper Tantrums”, “Vagablonde”, and “The Jazz Hands”, are among dozens of hilarious characters created to animate locations like “The Golden Cocoon Mall”, The Hideaway” and “Das Beats Dance Club”. The game features colourful artwork, catchy melodies and an appropriate level of economic complexity for school-aged children. There is a demo version available to try out, and if you like the game, you can register to play the full version. Judging from comments posted on the game’s page, Hot Ticket is on its way to becoming a hit casual title.
D-Box  has announced yet another expansion for this week, citing a new agreement with Germany-based FTT (the company’s first European distributor for its commercial theatre expansion) for two new theatres with Netherlands-based Jogchem’s Theatres known in the market as JT Bioscopen. JT Hoogezand and JT Arnhem will each equip its theatres with respectively 20 and 21 D-BOX MFX Seats. With the introduction of D-BOX at these newest locations, Jogchem’s Theatres will have a total of four movie theatres that offer D-BOX’s motion experience. In addition to the sale of these systems, this deal will also generate licensing fees payable to D-BOX in accordance with the systems’ utilization.
Conservatory Canada  invites piano students from across Canada to put their compositional skills to the test for the first annual Creative Composer’s Competition. Launched as a partnership between Conservatory Canada, Mayfair Music Publishing and Long & McQuade Music Stores, the contest is a unique opportunity for budding composers of all ages to let their talent shine, says Conservatory Canada national executive director, Victoria Warwick.
“There are many students across Canada who love to compose music in all styles,” says Warwick. “We hope this competition will inspire and encourage them in this creative pursuit.”
Piano students of all ages have until May 31 to submit entries through the Conservatory Canada website. Submissions should be written in a contemporary musical style – Jazz, Country, Latin, and Broadway – as included in Conservatory Canada’s Contemporary Idioms Syllabus for Piano.
All submissions will be reviewed by Conservatory Canada examiners with compositional skills, Warwick says. Winners will be announced at Conservatory Canada’s national convocation ceremony in November, and winning compositions will be included in a new Mayfair Music Publication.
“Composition is a natural part of our Contemporary Idioms program,” notes Warwick. “The Creative Composer’s Competition will allow students to showcase their fine work, and by compiling the best-of-the-best in a new publication, teachers and students across Canada will be able to enjoy them.”