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Getting away from it all

It looked like a beach from a travel brochure - absolutely gorgeous.

I just got back from a week-long vacation. By most people’s standards it was my first real holiday. I’ve traveled my fair share in the past but usually for work, or with a specific purpose in mind rather than just going somewhere purely for the purpose of relaxation. I don’t even tend to take time off work unless I’m really ill or incapacitated. What can  I say, I love working and being productive. After being so busy at the end of 2013 and going through so much it was time I tried something different. IT was time to get away and reset. I chose to head down to the Blau Costa Verde in Holguin Cuba, booking a last minute deal.

Holguin is a stunningly beautiful place. The people there were very friendly. The whole thing went very well except for a lousy start involving a repeatedly delayed flight, an avalanche of lies and poor treatment by Canjet staff, and an almost completely inedible meal. Actually speaking of the meal, I’m not typically one to complain about airline food (I sometimes even like it) but this was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. After six hours of sleep in Holguin I woke up and chose to move on past our poor treatment by the airline. I was able to really relax at the resort and had a great time. I did have a bit of a challenge finding food and drink low in sugar – even the bread was sweet – but for the most part the food was great for the whole trip.

Being back in Toronto now, spring can’t come soon enough. 

Community Manager Appreciation Day

Today was Community Manager Appreciation Day. I was asked to take part in a chat today about the evolution of gaming communities along with some of my peers (Carter Gibson, Tanya McGinnity, Emily Claire Affan, Gabe Graziani, Casey Monroe, Corey Rollins, and Tanya Short). It was a really fun and insightful conversation. Its always great being able to talk with other Community Managers and hear their perspectives, share war stories, and trade notes. What made this conversation even better was finding out that I had been awarded a 2014 Community Manager Appreciation Day Award; Let’s Take This Offline for being best at activating in-person events.

Whenever I attend events I spend so much time running around and chatting with the community that it can be overwhelming. I often forget to eat and drink because I get so into it. Its really fun connecting with passionate gamers, helping them out, sharing information, finding out about them, and bouncing from person to person. Sometimes it can be a challenge to even have a 2 minute conversation with a community member before someone else comes up to say hi to me and try to strike up another conversation. A little recognition like this tells me that I must be doing something right, and all that effort is appreciated. As much as I love engaging the community at these events, its nice to know that they enjoy it too.

Thanks to CMAD, BTC Revolutions, HootSuite, Meshfire, Nimble and Sprout Social for today, and thanks to all the other community managers for being such an interesting bunch. Most of all, thanks to the gaming community – Every day I am reminded how lucky I am to get to engage such a passionate and enthusiastic community. The gamer community is unique and can certainly be a roller-coaster at times, but we play, we talk, we bond, and we share. The gaming community makes me love my job, my hobbies, and makes me happy to continue to count myself among them.

A Sea Change

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Hello. If you’re reading this you’re seeing a sea change in Ohmpage.ca. I’ve spent some time away from the site, focusing on other projects including my career. I’m working at Microsoft now as the Xbox Canada Community Manager, I am involved in a great relationship, I have some wonderful new friends in my life, many new projects on the go and have been experiencing a lot of change lately in general. I have both new troubles and new triumphs in my life. The time is right to return to Ohmpage.ca and get back to blogging for fun.  I’m still settling on a new visual theme for the site, and playing with content I’ll be publishing here. Feel free to get in touch and let me know your thoughts.

5 Easy Ways to Save Money on your Online Shopping

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Shopping online can yield some great discounts; with many retailers both large and small offering excess stock at low prices. However, you can save even more money by comparison shopping and using handy tools like coupons and social media.

1. Use Coupon Codes

The golden rule of online shopping is always to look for a coupon before you make any purchase. There are multiple websites which aggregate coupon codes, including CouponCabin.com, couponcraze.com, and RetailMeNot.com. Remember that you can search these sites for both products and services. This means that you could potentially find a discount if you search for ” web designers Edmonton“ to revamp your website, and then also find a 2-for-1 offer on shoes if you search for “Nine West shoes.” Another tactic is to stack your coupon codes. Not all retailers allow this, but it’s worth shopping around to find those who will let you enter multiple coupon codes to maximise your savings.

2. Search for Local Businesses Online

In today’s world of global ecommerce, shoppers are spoilt for choice. Yet supporting local businesses is still important, not only to boost your local economy but to yield even greater discounts through comparison shopping. For example, Lululemon is one of Vancouver’s top local retailers rapidly expanding throughout North America. If you live in the area, you can look at the prices in their flagship store and then compare them to the online discounts built into their website design Vancouver. You may find that there are better deals in person than online, or vice versa.

3. Abandon your Virtual Shopping Cart

Have you ever filled your shopping cart up with products only to have second thoughts at the last minute? You are exactly the type of shopper that retailers pay extra attention to. They hope that customers who have come that close to placing an order could be enticed to follow through the next time. As a result, many retailers will send you a discount offer or coupon code after you have abandoned a shopping cart, provided you have registered an email address with them. They may look at where you live and your shopping history to determine whether or not to follow up with a discount, offering extra incentive to local shoppers.

4. Befriend your Favourite Businesses on Facebook

Following your favourite brands on Facebook and Twitter gives you more than photos of their products to drool over. Many brands use their social networking accounts as a way to reward followers with coupon codes, sales, or special online-only deals. It’s also beneficial to sign up for the email lists of your favourite brands, to get rewarded with special offers delivered directly to your inbox. Some even offer discounts simply for signing up.

5. Ask for a Discount

You may have plumbed the depths of the internet looking for a discount to no avail, but sometimes the best way to get a great deal is simply to ask for one. You have a better shot of talking down a price at a small ecommerce store, eBay shop, or Etsy storefront than you would with a large retailer. It never hurts to ask, particularly if you plan on giving that small retailer repeat business. At the very least, you may get your shipping fee waived!

 

Preview: Forza Horizon

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Next week we’ll see the release of Forza Horizon, the latest installment to Microsoft Studios’ Forza franchise on the Xbox 360. This is certainly a departure from the typical Forza Motorsports games, taking us away from the world of motorsports and into a fictional world of the Horizon music and car festival in Colorado to explore consumer car culture and the fun of the off-track open road.

Think of Colorado as transformed into an automotive playground. Forza Horizon takes placed in a fictionalized version of colorado’s beautiful landscapes, full of variety and interest. The roads diverge from reality since they’ve been designed to be fun, not by the civic authorities. They twist and turn through a varied landscape that lets you explore highways, towns, backroads, and even take your car off-road and get dirty.

Forza motorsport has always taken place on the track, where there are clear, defined rules. With Forza Horizon, things a much looser. You’ll find yourself cutting corners and racing dirty. Its much less punishing and technical than the motorsports games, and you’ll spend a lot less time in menus. This game  is about just hitting the road and driving the the pure joy of it. Forza has always attempted to turn gamers into car fans, and car fans into gamers. this is just the next step towards that, making it more relatable and casual.

I mentioned that the game is centered around the Horizon music and car festival. Tunes are a big part of this game. There is a great and varied soundtrack spanning four themed virtual radio stations. It really does add to the game and add to that feeling of being at a great festival. The radio DJs even comment on the festival’s racing events and feel like an integral part of the world. If you’re into driving fast, weaving through traffic with some loud tunes blasting through the stereo then this is certainly the game for you.

Out Today: Just Dance 4

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Today is the big release of Ubisoft’s latest installment to their ever-popular Just Dance series of games. Just Dance 4 is now available for the Nintendo Wii, the PlayStation 3 (with PlayStation Move required), Microsoft’s Xbox 360 (with Kinect required) and will eventually be available for the Wii U too at the end of November.

If you’ve ever checked out the earlier Just Dance games then you’ll already be familiar with the essential basics for Just Dance 4. You and up to three other players can dance along to popular songs in various styles. The game provides a series of choreographed routines which players are to mimic. The dances aren’t super serious and don’t involve particular dancing skill, and are designed more to be casual fun, making the game a great party icebreaker. That isn’t to say that Just Dance 4 is all too easy though either. While you can’t really ‘fail’, its certainly a workout and proficiency is rewarded in due course.

On the Xbox 360 players can enjoy the Just Create feature which lets you record custom choreography so you can challenge both offline and online players to keep up. We first saw this mode in Just Dance 3 so its nice to see it return. On top of that we’ll see a new dance battle mode, an expanded Just Sweat game mode, and on the Wii U we’ll see the new “Puppet Master” game mode.

If you’re having people over, this is a great game to have on in the background. It can be a fun way to get everyone comfortable and socializing with each other. Its the sort of game anybody can play and will get everyone in the room laughing along and feeling friendlier with each other. Of course if you take it seriously, there’s also online leaderboards for the Wii U, PS3, and Xbox 360 versions of Just Dance 4 so you can compare your performance to the rest of the world.

Coming next week: Spy Hunter

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Next week Warner Brothers Interactive is going to release the new TT Fusion developed Spy Hunter game for the Sony Vita and Nintendo 3DS handheld game consoles. If you’re like me, you were a big fan of the original Spy Hunter games in the 1980s. Don’t worry. Warner Brothers haven’t forgotten this franchise’s origins and if anything, this new release is a tribute to that.

This game was specifically developed for these new handhelds so you don’t have to worry about it being a lazy port. Its all newly built this time around. Players assume the role of the eponymous agent driving the beloved G-6155 Interceptor supercar. This ride is heavily armed with crazy futuristic technology to let you hold your own while toppling a global terrorist organization bent on global domination.

This new game will give gamers lots of choice in how their Interceptor transforms and how their loadout and weapons are customized. Thats sure to add a significant amount of replayability to this title so it won’t get stale too quickly. Beyond that, the action camera system gives it that extra splash, giving you some focus on the destruction you reap.

The music has always stood out for Spy Hunter too. It famously made use of the Peter Gunn theme song to add to that great spy feel. Its one of the most classic, and memorable video game theme songs. For this title they’ve modernized things a bit. They still make use of that iconic Peter Gunn tune but giving it a modern remixed sound to amp up the energy level.

Race over highways, off-road, over water as a speedboat , and even make use of the new aerial support drones as you hunt down your enemies in an action-packed high-speed pursuit. Spy Hunter is out on October 9.

Does Gaming Lead To Violence?

Nope

It’s common belief in moms, wives and well almost every woman that playing violent video games can lead to violence outside of the virtual world. With all the shootings that happen in the world today, it’s easy to try to put the blame somewhere. It’s easy to answer some questions about video games, such as where did all the kids riding bikes and playing out side go but, is it really gaming that is causing violence? The 2 students involved in the Columbine shooting both played violent video games, but can you so easily connect the dots between video games and the shooting? It’s been seen before, comic books used to be the blame for violence back in the ’50s, but it’s a lot more than just finding a scapegoat, as violence has increased from teenagers over the past years. Since video games have only been around for about 20 years, it’s hard to find some empirical evidence to reach a complete conclusion. However, studies are constantly being undertaken to find out the truth. Games have come up on everything, from PCs such as a Dell and mobile devices and video game systems.

So what is the truth so far? Studies have made leaps and bounds in finding what playing violent video games leads to. For one thing children that play video games have an increase in physiological signs of aggression. Their blood pressure and heart rate increase, and they experience an influx of fight or flight hormones such as adrenaline. And the more realistic the game, the more the increase. Children who played more graphic games saw an even bigger increase in physical arousal.

Another study shows that children who play violent video games have an increase in aggressive behavior whether on a Dell PC or game console. The study took children and had half of them play non-violent video games, and half of them play violent video games, and then immediately following there would be a reaction test. Whoever won the reaction test got to send an audio blast to the opponent. The kids that won who played the violent video games sent louder and longer audio blasts to the opponent. Another study had half the kids play a racing game and the other play a first person shooter. They then scanned their brains and found that the kids who played the first person shooter had lower activity in the lobe that handles inhibition and self-control and an increase in the lobe that handles emotions.

Do these studies prove that violence and video games go hand in hand? Not exactly, which is why it’s still up in the air. However people are taking steps to keep the youth safe, like not sell video games rated M to people under 18.

Security Part I: Your home computer

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Keeping your home computer secure can be a daunting premise to a lot of users. These days it can be very easy though and there are lots of solutions available at different price ranges, and to fill different needs. It might seem confusing with so many options but it doesn’t have to be. Lets take a quick look at some possibilities and the basics of getting your home computer secure.

Passwords

This is your basic first line of defense when looking at home computer security. It may seem like a hassle to password protect your computer but its important. It can discourage unauthorized access to your data and give you much more peace of mind. You want to try to use different passwords whenever possible. Using the same password for everything is the security equivalent of keeping all your eggs in one basket.

You’ll also want to try to avoid using words or phrases with personal significance, as these can be guessed by people with a little research. Adding numbers, letters, uppercase and lowercase letters helps create a very strong password. The longer it is the better too. You’ll want to make sure its something you can remember though, since writing your password down is another bad idea. Many people keep their passwords on a sticky note next to their computer, at which point you have to wonder, why have a password at all?

Updates

You also want to make sure to keep up to date with software patches and updates. Often when security vulnerabilities are discovered, a software update is released to patch that hole. It only helps if you make sure to install that patch. Making sure to always install updates when your computer notifies you that one is available will help keep you more secure overall.

Locks

If at all possible you should physically lock down your computer too. If you can secure your computer to your desk or something else relatively immobile it will be much more difficult to steal in the event of a robbery. Remember, if your computer is stolen it’s not just some electronics, it is also all the information you had on there.

Online Gaming Secutiry

With the rise of people turning to the internet for their online gaming needs, the rise of security also becomes extremely important. Online Fraud cost internet users in 2012 a huge £3.5bn loss, with 11% of the online public, becoming a casualty of fraud. Online casinos are a huge example of how the public can be targeted as personal details such as bank information and home address details can be hit. Spin Palace Canada is an online casino which abides by the high security practices; with its great reliable software you will be sure to feel safe playing a game of roulette.

Software

There are a lot of different security software packages available for your home computer, and many do a lot more than basic security functions, going beyond to help you maintain your computer in general. The better software packages automate as much as possible and can be fairly user friendly, so you won’t need to have any technical insight. Just install the software and for the most part, it will take care of everything for you so long as you don’t ignore it when it has something to say. A good software package will stop viruses, spam, help protect you from identity theft, malware, and spyware.

Yes, you need to worry about this stuff on a Mac too.

Overall with strong passwords, up-to-date software, physical locks, and modern security software, you’ll be in pretty good shape. Once its all set up it doesn’t take much maintenance on  your part to keep it secure over time either. Its worth spending a little time now taking care of it just for that piece of mind since otherwise by the time you realize you need better security it will be too late.