Matt Swider

 

The increasingly blurred line between tech, political news

The line between poltical and tech news

My news assignments for this week straddled that increasingly blurred line between technology and politics, with two of the news stories that had President Obama as the focus.

Reporting on the Twitter hack that the company sheepishly revealed in a vague blog post, I discovered a source that concluded it affected only early adopters of the social media network. These 250,000 hacked accounts were all from pre-June 15, 2007, according to the analysis, and may include those belonging to President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House.

The next day, I covered a more positive POTUS-related hacking story: The White House is holding a hackathon in Washington, DC later this month. It’s to help develop the Read and Write API for the petition site that the Obama administration launched, We the People. As I noted in my piece, this should greatly expand the amount of signatures the site receives.

Switching up countries, I wrote about news 6041 nautical miles from the nation’s capital: a South Korean man had a Samsung smartphone battery explode in his pocket last weekend. Reportedly, the battery belonged to a Galaxy Note. Also on my assignment list were Windows 8 vs. Windows 7 sales numbers. The fact that Microsoft’s new operating system is able to keep up with the old one isn’t terrible news, but “on par” isn’t the Apple-like headline the Redmond company needs.

Winter snow storm Nemo NYC

Finally, with everyone tuned into winter storm “Nemo” this weekend, I wrote about how the nation’s top wireless carriers are preparing for the deluge of snow. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile (but not Sprint) offered tips for their snowed-in customers who want to stay connected. I even had an authentic photo (courtesy of Mary Scholz who is on an east coast tour) of a snowy New York City street to go along with my news story – all while comfortably in Los Angeles.

Taking my writing talent to TechRadar.com

Techradar logo

TechRadar, the UK’s most popular technology news and reviews website, opened up a US branch this year and I’m part of the news crew. This has broadened breadth of reporting, with stories about Apple, Google, Android, Blackberry, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, ebay, Netflix, Facbeook, Groupon, and all sorts of tablets.

My reporting beats also now include covering tech-related stories involving the FBI, US copyright laws, the US House’s vote on the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 (yes, there are two Acts in the title), the White House, the FTC, US House Intelligence Committee, and the European Union. And this has only been the first month and a half.

TechRadar belongs to Future plc, the sixth-largest publisher in the UK. My latest TechRadar stories can be seen here.

My ‘Back to School’ features for G4TV.com

Back to School tech

I wrote a pair of Back to School features for G4TV.com this week, just in time for all of the college students out there starting the new school year. The first gave me a chance to play with and talk about my favorite gadgets: Back To School Tech Checklist — What You Need To Survive College Life. In addition to suggesting tech for the classroom (like the LiveScribe Echo smartpen) and money-saving ideas for the dorm (like the Slingbox PRO HD and Boxee Box), I also included “those things you always forget” including batteries. As a tribute to my parents, I ended with a free must-have gadget, LogMeIn, which allows tech-savvy college students fix their parents PC from thousands of miles away.

Video Games That Make You Smarter

My second article, Video Games That Make You Smarter, counts down the 12 games that will help tweak your brain before the semester begins. Originally designed to be a Top 10 list, I crammed in as many strategy, platform and puzzle games as I could so that students can “cram” before moving up to college. I had fun writing this one and creating the minimalist art for both articles via Photoshop. Notice: Professor Oak’s shirt matches the color of the keyword “Smarter” in the graphic.

More G4TV Reporting: Watch MLB Games On Your PS3

MLB.TV on PS3 Review

Watching my Philadelphia Phillies from the comfort of my Los Angeles apartment has been been made easier with the new MLB.TV app on PlayStation 3. I decided to turn this technology experience into another G4TV.com review thanks to the wonderful people in the MLB Public Relations department.

As I point out in my MLB.TV PS3 App Review on G4TV, highlights include being able to hear both the home and away broadcast, and simply listening to the ballpark sounds sans the sometimes-awful commentary. The roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat. Peaceful.

The overlooked details that make Okamiden an interesting reporting topic

Okamiden for Nintendo DS

On its face, Okamiden isn’t the most exciting game to report on, but I was still able to write an exciting preview thanks to the engaging questions I asked during my one-on-one interview and demo with a Capcom developer. I got him to explain to me how the game series is “sort of cursed.” The first game, Okami, was critically acclaimed in 2006, but it came out for the PS2 weeks shy of PS3‘s exciting launch. Okamiden, the Nintendo DS sequel, is scheduled to come out this month, 12 days before the Nintendo 3DS.

Read my preview of this “cursed” video game on Gaming Target.

Reporting on Deus Ex: Human Revolution in Irvine, CA, reviewing a 40-hour RPG for Machinima.com

Xbox 360 debug unit error

Obsidian Entertainment officesIn between writing two reviews for Machinima.com, I drove down to Irvine, CA to test out a pair of games from Square Enix, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Dungeon Siege III. This two day-event marked my third time seeing the highly anticipated Deus Ex game in action — I saw it in Montreal last fall and debut at E3 2010 that summer — but my first chance to go hands-on with the gameplay. Besides a few Xbox 360 debut unit issues (video game industry vets will instantly recognize this common reset screen), this preview build offered a distinct sense of choice and a strong sci-fi narrative.

CAPTIONDungeon Siege III, on the other hand, didn’t strike me as anything special. I did, however, appreciate taking a tour of developer Obsidian Entertainment, the studio behind Fallout: New Vegas. They’re a pretty big name in this area, second only to nearby World of Warcraft-developer Blizzard Entertainment.

I could retire from my hotel room after demo sessions, but I couldn’t stop playing games altogether. I’m also reviewing Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll for Machinima.com, which requires at least 40 hours of dull gameplay! I brought my PS3 console, a controller and the game with me in the car (and a monitor just in case the TV wasn’t HD in the hotel room–it was) just to stay on top of deadlines. Weird looks from the hotel staff on my multiple trips back-and-forth from the car with so much technology? You bet.

Now writing for Machinima.com, too

Hollywood sign in my car's side view mirror on the way back from Machinima

I drove to Hollywood this week to review a game for the YouTube’s leading video game trailers channel, Machinima.com. They had an Xbox 360 debug unit set up at their offices so that I could start playing this game ahead of its release. However, I finished the game in its entirety on PS3 at home this week, as it required more than one sitting to complete and it was out the very next day. Oh well, the tricks I learned on the Xbox 360 debug version let me breeze through the first half on PS3. Plus, there was no use commuting for a second day when the game download was an Internet click away. My review turned out great and is available on Machinima’s site right here.

On the way back from visiting the Machinima offices, I took a photo of the Hollywood sign in my car’s side mirror. As an east coast native, it’s not every day that I see something like this in my car’s mirror.

Still in New York City to report on the Nintendo 3DS press conference, Sony’s LBP2 video game launch event

Nintendo 3DS Press Conference in New York

Nintendo 3DS gameplay demoChange of plans. I didn’t take my flight from NYC to LA after all because Nintendo was having a press conference in the city the week after THQ’s press junket. So I hopped a train to Pennsylvania and stayed with my parents for the three days in between the two events. No use going all the way home to LA just to fly back. There was a Sony event the same night as Nintendo’s morning press conference, so I was able to report on that as well.

Nintendo 3DS games Zelda 3D and Street Fighter IVNintendo’s press conference focused on the 3DS, its glasses-free handheld that I got to playtest in Los Angeles last year. Now we have a release date and a price: March 27 and $250. I published four stories about this small, but Nintendo-executive-filled press conference here, here, here and here. Liveblogging is a must these days, so rapid-fire news posts with a follow-up GamePro.com story afterward is how I covered this event.

Nintendo 3DS Press Conference demo room in New York

JWoww and Pauly D play LBP2 JWoww and Pauly D play LBP2

JWoww posing with LittleBigPlanet 2I took a different approach to reporting on the Sony event, which surrounded the launch of LittleBigPlanet 2 for PlayStation 3 and the end of a 50-hour video game marathon. Three players were involved in this record-breaking stunt and broke five Guinness World Records, including longest platform video game played (50 hours). But how do you report on the climax of a video game marathon when it’s being webcast live and people at proper keyboards can beat you to the punch? Looking for another angle. Since LBP2 is a four-player platform game, a Sony rep I talked to mentioned that they were rotating the fourth chair with various celebrities. Two of the celebrities happened to be from the Jersey Shore, JWoww and Pauly D.

Thus, an exclusive article was born: Sackboy meets Jersey Shore as JWoww and Pauly D play LittleBigPlanet 2 at record-breaking launch event. No one else had this story (but hundreds were reporting on the end of the marathon and, remember, that was being by Sony webcast on top of that) and no one had these great photos.

My three-part reporting duties in New York City have ended. Now to get back to Philadelphia and fly back to Los Angeles. Of course, not before I have to shovel at the old house one more time.

Reporting on CES 2011 in Las Vegas, then straight to NYC to write about THQ’s 2011 video game lineup

Canadian flag CES 2011 Brother print printing a CES 2011 T-Shirt

Matt Swider playing the Angry Birds toy gameAlmost as soon as I came back from Philadelphia for the holidays, I was on the road again, this time covering CES 2011 in Las Vegas. This was my first time reporting on the annual technology convention because it doesn’t always cater to video games. However, Microsoft had a large presence on the showfloor and a keynote to boot. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave this year’s keynote, which I reported on here, here and here. I also wrote about Tetris coming to PS3 and being integrated into TVs here.

CES 2011 was very different from the eight E3 video game conventions that I have attended. I found E3 to be more cohesive and organized, but that’s just the nature of the video game industry. You’re more aware of the large blockbuster games before stepping foot on the E3 floor and what’s going to be “hot.” At CES, technology innovations are often found in the nook and crannies of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Big players aren’t always the ones that make big news.

WWE Wrestlers speak about appearing in WWE All-Stars

WWE All-Stars arcade stick controller Danny Bilson presents de Blob 2 at a THQ press conference in New York City Danny Bilson speaks at a THQ event in NYC Two days after returning to LA from Las Vegas, I was off to a New York City press junket to write about THQ’s 2011 lineup. It had been snowing pretty badly on the east coast that week, so the van ride from JFK airport to the London hotel took over 90 minutes. Right away, I secured some authentic New York-made pizza and observed a surprisingly empty city. Over the next few days, a bunch of game journalists and I braved the cold to write about Red Faction Armageddon, de Blob 2, MX vs ATV Alive and WWE All-Stars.

The WWE All-Stars presentation was noteworthy first-off because the game is good. The arcade-focused gameplay reminds me of the AKI-developed N64 games from a dozen years ago. Second, THQ brought in WWE all-stars to show off WWE All-Stars: Sheamus, The Big Show, Kofi Kingston and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. I’ve never been into wrestling, but appreciate the grappling system of the games more than most in the fighting genre.

Homefront THQ press junket set up

School bus outside of the London hotel in New York City taking video game journalists to a THQ press junket The final day of the press junket was reserved for Homefront, the first-person shooter and Call of Duty rival THQ has been pushing. In order to get us from the London hotel on 54th Street to the event venue on 34th Street, THQ had us ride in a school bus – something that appears in the first level of the game. I haven’t been in a school bus since 2002, so this was a unique experience that all of the game journalists got a kick out of. “Wait, you didn’t save a seat for me? I thought we were friends?!”

Before heading back to the snow-less coast of California, I had dinner with my parents, who took the train from a station in New Jersey that isn’t too far from our home. We even got a picture in Time Square.

Matt Swider and his parents in Time Square

Visiting home in Philadelphia for Christmas, New Year’s 2010 and bringing my parents up to speed with new tech

Rainy LAX Philadelphia skyline from an airplane

iTouchless TrashcanI took the red-eye from rainy LAX to clear-skies but bitter-cold PHL, and I woke up to the familiar Philadelphia skyline. I spent the holidays in seeing my family at home during Christmas and friends in downtown Philadelphia over New Year’s. This allowed me to bring my family up-to-date with innovative, new technology gifts for the household. The goal qa to make their life a little more hassle-free. First up was a new trashcan, which I know my dad will appreciate, as he always struggles with the bag slipping into the old can. The iTouchless Stainless-Steel Infrared Automatic Trashcan solves that problem with a simple, but effective plastic ring that runs the perimeter of the top of the can, holding the bag in place. As the name suggests, it also takes your hand and foot out of the lid-lifting equation.

Back to Basics Toaster simplehuman touch-free soap dispenser

The next innovative gift was a new toaster – one that toasts four slices of bread or two bagels at once, fries two sunny-side up eggs and heats pre-cooked meat like Canadian bacon or sausage. The best part about the Back to Basics TEM4500 4-Slot Egg-and-Muffin Toaster is that it didn’t cost much more than a normal four-slot toaster. The final state-of-the-art gift was for my sister and her family: The Simplehuman Sensor Pump. My sister has three kids, who may not always be able to reach the top of the soap pump, so this touch-free soap dispenser is an essential home improvement for keeping their life a little more sanitary.

With friends in Philadelphia

I spent New Year’s Eve in downtown Philadelphia, where I got to see friends and watch the fireworks at Penn’s Landing exactly at midnight. I think this is the worthy of a new tradition.