Category: technology, games and gadgets

Anything technology, PC, phones, gadgets and so on goes here!

Valve and the Steam Universe

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Steam logo

So, the triple-play week of announcements for Valve is done, and we have some things we expected, and some we didn’t. Still no Half-Life 3 though!

I must say, I’m intrigued. SteamOS, combined with a hardware platform (Steam Machine) and an innovative controller, Valve is making an interesting push into the console market. And it’s the right moment, too. I’ve been commenting for a while about how disappointing the “next-gen” consoles are, and how their decision to go with an x86 architecture (except, our outcast, the Wii-U) will lead to almost every game being ported to PC. This is great for me, as I prefer PC gaming, and means I won’t need an XBone or PS4. I’ll stick with my PS3 as 3D blu-ray player and Xbox 360 thanks!

Valve have taken advantage of a weak play by Microsoft and Sony, and can capitalise on something both lack – a great release line up. They’ve clearly been plotting this move for a while, with their gradual move to Linux support and creation of Big Picture mode. It’s all been steps on the way, and quite clever too. When they launch, they’ll have all of their exclusives, Portal, Team Fortress, Counter-Strike and more, as well as the Linux titles. Admittedly, the Linux titles are lacking, for now, but clever collaboration with nVidia have resulted in proper graphical support incoming (see, and with this announcement, all the major players are porting or soon will be.

I’m excited to have an opportunity to beta test the console, controller, or both. Whilst I think that I’m not the target market of the Steam Machine (having a PC already) I’d love to be able to tweak it and play around. The controller looks like a proper development, and it genuinely could be the controller us keyboard+mouse wielders have been waiting for.

Check it out here – – Busy week for Valve – what do you think, worth the go?

– Zuki

Zuki Magic Life Counter launched on Google Play!

Zuki Magic Life Counter Icon

Hey everyone! I’d like to announce the successful publishing of my first (of hopefully many) apps to go onto the Google Play store. Just a simple one to get started, it’s a little Magic the Gathering (and similar) life counter app, that is a bit different to the others in that it is designed to be clear, simple and readable for both players – Zuki Magic Life Counter.

It’s very simple, tap the top of one life total to increase it, tap the bottom to decrease it! There’s a reset button, and a small help button. There’s more features to be added as time goes on, but as the first app I’ve actually gone through the Google publishing process with, I wanted to get things moving!

Zuki Magic Life Counter Screenshot

You can see all my apps at this link:
As you can see, there is a free, ad-supported version, and a 69p version that has no advertising. Either way, I appreciate your support 🙂 so please, download and use the app, and give me whatever feedback / ideas for new versions you want!

– Matt “gyaku_zuki” Leebody

Antichamber – You are not here

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Antichamber - Sometimes condescending
One box or two?
One box or two?

Not since Portal have I had this much fun playing a puzzle game. And there is a distinct feel of Portal going on here, with the clean whites, the clever puzzles, a strange gun, and the outlandish physics.

Is Antichamber just another Portal?

I sound dangerously close there to doing Antichamber a disservice – it’s also got its own unique feel to it, quite apart from Portal – no voices at all for one. In fact, for me it almost gives me a retro feel of sitting with a 2D Amiga puzzler; the days where back story and plot, celebrity voices are gone. This game is just puzzle and BGM, and very nice BGM at that. OK, so graphically it isn’t retro – it uses some kind of cell shading on top of the powerful Unreal Engine. It looks superb. All whites, blues, reds, yellows, greens. Bold block colour that stands out well.

The puzzles range from easy as pie to fiendishly difficult, and the game doesn’t give you clues in as much as it taunts you with a kind of “here’s what you learned” quote after each puzzle. It’s a nice touch – and I’m thankful for a puzzle game that pulls out the difficult mind benders, I know that I’ve often been frustrated that puzzle games just didn’t challenge enough to be satisfying. I’m still working out a few of Antichamber’s 😉 and i guess that’s why they can afford to throw in the difficult ones, because you don’t need to solve them all to reach the end.

Forcefields tend to eat blocks

Progress is through upgrading your ‘gun’ through the colours, in order for you to manipulate blocks. The degree to which blocks can be manipulated increases with higher colour levels, meaning that hard blue puzzles might become really easy with green powers, but that some puzzles must be solved to reach the new colour guns ensures you don’t get too easy a time. You don’t get too these new powers either, at one point I got stuck just because I never realised I could DO something.

The game suggests that it is a deeply psychological exploration game, and it feels it sometimes. The goal of the game isn’t really the ‘end’, its to solve all the puzzles, and in that sense, as I’ve said, I haven’t completely done it all.

Sometimes condescending
Sometimes condescending, these messages are your ‘completion percentage’

You can track your progress in this regard by the number of little pictograms / “what you’ve learned” / taunting messages you’ve seen.

The real standout is the non-euclidean nature of the game – the map just doesn’t obey the normal rules of the world. You might turn a corner, look back, and the corridor is gone. You can go up a set of stairs forever. A box open on one side might seem like a Tardis.

Atomic ‘things’ are a recurring puzzle element


It’s mind-bending, but very fun. There IS a map, but it’s not as useful as you might think!

All-in-all, if you enjoy puzzle games, it’s highly enjoyable, cheap on Steam, and will definitely give you those frustrating but ultimately rewarding moments. I think I ‘finished’ it in <5 hours, which interestingly raptr was telling me (at the time, close to release I guess) made me only an hour’s playtime from number 1 player on the service, which I guess meant at first it snuck in under the radar. Good job, Epic. No real flaws, good difficulty curve, good total time, graphics, sound, style. If pushed, I’d struggle for a firm reason to dock the final point, but it feels like a 9 out of 10 for me.

– Zuki

Living in the Nexus

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I recently purchased a new Asus / Google Nexus 7 tablet, and I’m writing this entry on it! It’s awesome, and at a great price, I recommend it to anyone considering a tablet – whilst it is smaller than the iPad, and with a slightly less good screen, its specs measure up well otherwise, and the price is ace. £160 or £200 (depending on storage space) and generous current offers from Tesco Direct for £20 off (see You even get £15 worth of Google Play credit, to spend on music, movies, books and apps.

As I already said, you get a 7 inch, HD screen, covered by Corning Glass (although jury is out on whether it is their ‘gorilla’ brand – some report yes, some report no but with a scratch-resistant coating, some report a so-called ‘gorilla glass v2’). Regardless, the screen is good, clear and durable – I can tell as I already dropped mine! (Actually I think it was a poltergeist – it was sitting on a flat desk yet slid off). As usual, it collects fingerprints like most touchscreens…
The processor, for those interested, is an awesome quad-core ARM Cortex A9 at 1.3GHz, running on an nVidia Tegra 3 platform. This gives it great power both at regular tasks as well as multimedia. It multitasks brilliantly, and thanks to this power as well as Project Butter, transitions are smooth and seamless. It just feels NICE to use, and as an Android user, I admit that has been a problem in the past – but not on the Nexus 7.

One side point, the original release was a bit of a mess, with many more preorders than expected. This high demand led to a bit of a nightmare for Google, with a considerable quantity of preorders arriving late, in some cases after the brick and mortar stores had received them. This is something that Google will need to improve upon if it continues to supply physical devices for sale on its Play Store. Some users who had preordered from the beginning ended up cancelling and walking into stores to get it there. It’s a heavy criticism, mitigated by the much higher preorder numbers than expected.

That aside – I can’t express how happy I am with it. It took all my current Android apps from my phone fine, it took my email accounts, my Facebook, Twitter. Chrome runs beautifully and looks just like my desktop. Battery life is fantastic – definitely the quoted 8 hours of moderate to heavy use it was quoted for. Streaming video and music works great. It feels nice in the hand, perfectly portable, with a nice rubberised feel to its back cover.

So, if you are considering a tablet, whether its for gaming, movies, reading, on-the-go documents, you could do worse than the Nexus 7 – and its worth having a play with while you look at that shiny iPad, and it is a fraction of the price, courtesy of Google selling it at cost.

Give it a look – you might find it to be just what you want!

Troubleshooting: Ice Cream Sandwich Bootloop

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I had a hugely frustrating experience very recently with my Galaxy S II, and whilst trying to find the solution I searched and searched and couldn’t find the answer. BUT!!! I have solved the problem, and I will share it now, in case you ever have such an issue. I’m currently typing with only one thumb (another story – broken thumb), so forgive any missed spelling errors!
TLDR instructions at the end, for the impatient.

To set the scene, my phone is the Samsung Galaxy S II, a fantastically powerful and capable phone that very recently got the upgrade to Android OS 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich). This was mostly trouble-free, however I have had probably slightly more phone crashes since the update, probably because the OS is relatively new and needs a few bugfixes. My phone features a large internal app space in contrast to many phones, having a full 2 GB of app space. It also has an SD card capable of up to 32 GB. Why do I tell you this? It will become relevant later.

So what happened exactly? Well, I was minding my own business, on my phone, late on Thursday trying to cure the broken-thumb-induced insomnia, and I have a facebook message from a friend who has changed his number. I want to copy his new number into his contact, so I click the hyperlinked number in his facebook message, and it dutifully opens my dialer and fills in the number. I highlight it, and go to press the copy button… and nothing. The system seems to have locked up. This isn’t unheard of, as I said I do encounter these, and usually they resolve themselves pretty quickly, usually at the expense of whatever program is running. So, I wait, tap the screen a bit to see if it frees up, and suddenly, I get the swirly video indicating my phone rebooting. “Crap” I think, but I don’t worry, this has happened and I get ready to just try again. So I wiat for my phone to reboot, not a long process. My background comes up, my pattern lock. I put in the pattern… and suddenly gone again, reboot. Once more, I don’t panic, I just assume that maybe my dialer app got fucked by the process, and wait.

Again. Again. Again, each time a short but variable amount of time after boot. Longer after a cold boot. Clearing my cache in recovery fixed nothing.

Now, I am rooted, and I knew I’d very recently updated to a slightly newer firmware. I pondered whether it was blowback from that update, although I was at a loss to explain why. I knew I could easily reflash using ODIN, but didn’t want to have to go through the rooting process for something I didn’t believe was at fault. I notice that the problem SEEMS to only occur once the mobile signal kicks in, so I try to boot without my SIM, to no avail.

I give up, and give in to the reflash. NOTHING!

By this point I begin to worry a little. I start going through scenarios; a data / factory wipe being most likely to bring success, but my inability to get in and run a backup to save all my shit making that daunting, and with the loss of root to the reflash I can’t do deep diagnostics or backups. I start wondering, what did I install recently? I had installed a load of FlipFonts recently, as well as a few apps updating themselves that day. I wonder if a corrupt font might be causing it, but I get no time to try and uninstall them before the reboots.

I start thinking about what I can backup – most of the stuff being in the internal storage space and therefore largely inaccessible. I take out my SD card and use my card reader to check what I can get off it before resigning myself to a data / factory restore. On an impulse, I turn on my phone without SD card. And what do you know, it works! So basically, the phone is stuck in a bootloop when the SD card is plugged in!

It becomes clear, the reboot occurs during the initial SD card media scan on boot – giving me a method of diagnosing the problem. First thing I try is to check the SD card for errors using Windows. No problems. I justifiably assume the problem isn’t MP3 files or video. The only other thing on the SD card? The “.androidsecure” folder, used to store apps that have been moved to the SD card. I rename the folder, and the problem is gone!

I go back into the folder and being to search for anomalies – I find one file that has an erroneous size of 0Kb which doesn’t solve the problem. Eventually I give up trying to isolate which it is, most apps on the SD card where installed there by default because they are big games, and I know I can easily redownload. I delete about half of my SD apps, and the problem is gone. I can only assume that one of the apps that updated itself earlier became corrupt.


I have to reroot, and clean up some of the mess I made, like settings etc that were lost, but well I couldn’t sleep anyway, and that would have bugged me all night.


Summary – Whilst there can be many reasons for a bootloop on an Android device, if your device only exhibits the problem when your SD card is plugged in, this may be your problem.

Take your SD card, remove it and plug it in using a card reader.

Locate the folder “.androidsecure”. It may be hidden.

If you know which apps changed recently, delete those ones and try putting the card back in. Otherwise, just rename or delete the folder.

If it works, hurrah! Redownload any apps you want and you are good to go.

If it does not, this is not your problem, sorry!


UPDATE: The problem happened again, and this time I noticed that on both occasions, the free game “Tanked” was updated, which was one of the SD card apps. Removing it instantly solved the boot loop. So there you go!


Hope I helped!

Matt (gyaku_zuki)