Monday, April 16, 2007

Axe pics...

Finally got around to taking some pictures of my new guitar. Check them out below! Click on them to see them full size.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Guitar Hero II - It goes to eleven

How much fun can you have playing a video game without killing anything? Amazingly, quite a lot.

Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360 is the latest installment of the popular Guitar Hero franchise. For around $90 you get the game and a plastic Gibson Explorer guitar. Start the game and start jamming! GH2 is a rythym/timing game where notes fly at you and when they cross a certain point, you play them on the guitar. Miss enough notes and you fail the song.

The magic of GH2 is in the music and presentation. The HD video is great, and the music is even better. You get to play such classics as "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath, "Carry on Wayward Son" by Kansas, and "YYZ" by Rush. Freakin' sweet!

In easy mode, you only use 3 of the 5 fret buttons on the guitar, and few, if any, chords (holding down 2 or more buttons at once). In medium mode, you use 4 buttons, and more chords. I haven't gotten past medium mode, so I'm not sure how hard or expert mode fares, but I'm sure it's not simple!

Since I play real guitar, I wondered if this game would feel, well, cheesy. To my pleasant surprise, I actually felt like I was jamming with a band on stage. It's that cool. The whammy bar on the guitar also helps up the coolness factor.

Well, enough of my yappin'. Time to jam.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Paul Reed Smith Sound on a Squier Budget

Paul Reed Smith SE CustomThis beautiful piece of musical art is a Paul Reed Smith SE Custom guitar. It is the first line of PRS guitars which are manufactured (not hand made). PRS is known for it's amazing quality hand made guitars, with beautiful tone, great sustain, amazing looks, and one of a kind fat sound. How does the manufactured SE line stack up?

Well, I'll know soon, since I just ordered this baby. I've played one at Guitar Center, and I must say the sound and feel of this instrument is great. Especially when you look at the price tag. A traditional PRS can run in the thousands of dollars...a bit too rich for my wallet. The SE Custom line goes for around $550. I happened to find a good deal online for $499 shipped. Can't beat that!

I've been reading many reviews on this guitar, and the general consensus is that you are getting a better-than Les Paul guitar for quite a lot less. Ok, yeah, it's not a traditional PRS...but this is as close as you can come without taking out a loan.

So what's the difference besides price? Well, PRS's can usually split their humbucker pickups into separate single coils...the SE least without some modifications :-) Also, as I've mentioned before, the SE is manufactured on an assembly line, and therefore isn't quite as unique sounding (or looking) as a traditional PRS. But from what I've read, PRS personally inspects each and every SE that comes out of the factory to make sure it stands up to the quality PRS is known for.

I'll report more when I get a chance to play this puppy!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I can see clearly now...

These days, you say "Comcast" and many people cringe. I hear horror stories about bad service, bad hardware, etc. Well, I've been a Comcast customer for years, and some of these stories ring true. We once downgraded from digital cable to regular cable because the cable box was so unresponsive that our Tivo had trouble getting it to change channels.

On the other hand, I switched from SBC DSL service to Comcast Cable Internet and couldn't be happier. The speed increase is phenomenal, and the service has been very reliable.

So it was with mixed emotions that I looked at the Comcast High Definition offerings. I've actually waited quite a while before making this move because the HD box is the same Motorola series we used to have that was problematic. Also, I have heard about the rumours that Comcast would be offering the Motorola boxes with the Tivo software, known for it's amazingly simple user interface. The current software on the Motorola boxes is known to be a bit more complex and harder to use.

But we've had a 42" plasma widescreen hanging on our wall for over a year now, and we've only been watching standard definition video on it...truely a crime. Honestly, I was getting tired of waiting for the Tivo/Comcast deal to come through, and I wasn't about to spend $900 on a Series 3 HD Tivo (less now, but still expensive).

What it all comes down to is that after a discussion with some co-workers of mine who have the HD Comcast service and DVR, I came to the realization that renting this box from Comcast will provide me with better TV than I have now, and waiting isn't doing me any good.

So I called Comcast and asked what I needed to do. Basically, for an extra $20-ish more a month than what I was paying already, I could have a dual tuner, high definition digital video recorder, and tons more channels to watch, as well as On Demand access. The DVR still uses the Comcast user interface (though Comcast tells me the Tivo one is a few months away), and it can record two shows at a time. It holds roughly 15-20 hours of HD content, or 60-80 hours of standard definition video.

Suddenly, our TV is brand new. We can see the blades of grass on a baseball field. We can order many free on demand shows, including some Discovery documentaries that we enjoy. So far, I'm very happy. And it was not at all painful.