Byte Lounge now has a new companion blog, part of the Byte Network, that aims to bring you insights on all things guitar! The site is called ThatGuitarBlog, and you can visit it here. Don't forget to add it to your RSS feeds subscription to keep up to speed with the world of music and guitar!
The site falls under the Byte Network, and as such you'll feel right at home with the familiar Byte Lounge-style design and brisk pace of news.
Assassin's Creed is one game franchise that I really like. Apart from the awesome graphics and the intricate detail in expansive worlds, the game has a great storyline to it as well.
And now Desmond Myles is back, this time assassinating in Renaissance Italy through his ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze. The story goes that when Ezio's father is murdered, the hero embarks on a journey of taking revenge on the rival family that committed the crime.
But the cool thing about this game is that, since it's set in Renaissance Italy, the developers have included one of the time's most prolific people - Leonardo da Vinci! The great painter and engineer will be Ezio's accomplice, and according to reports the player will be able to fly in some of da Vinci's flying machines, enabling quick-access to assassination points.
The game will be set largely in Venice, with additional parts in Rome and Sicily, similar to the first installment where Altaïr moved between Jerusalem, Damascus and Acre to conduct his missions.
The game is expected to release on 17 November 2009 in North America and 20 November 2009 in the European Union for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The Windows version will be out in early 2010. (South African gamers should expect to get the console versions around the time of the EU version's release, so that's around 20 November).
To whet your appetite for the game, here's a video preview:
Opera Mini has long been known as the web browser that "democratised" the mobile web. Before its first version was released, the only way to get a decent web experience on a mobile was through an expensive smartphone. "Dumbphones" that didn't have sufficient processing power couldn't even dream of running a competent browser.
Through the years, Opera ASA has enhanced this product significantly with many features that have really improved what is a solid product to start with. There have been minor glitches along the way, but Opera Mini is still the best mobile browser out there at the moment.
Recently, Opera ASA has released a beta version of the next step in Opera Mini's development, and after trying it out I must say that I'm impressed.
Opera Mini 5 now looks just like a desktop browser. The traditional "Start Page" is now arranged in a grid, with a small preview of your favourite bookmarks in each block. There's inline form filling. And you can now copy text from a webpage (if your phone supports copy and paste, that is). The overall interface has been overhauled and the result is a very intuitive web browser that gives you the World Wide Web in the palm of your hand.
One feature that I really like is the new "mobile" view. This view now includes a "mouse" (just like in the standard "web" view) but it supports quick scrolling via the 2, 8, 4 and 6 keys on your phone's keypad. This gives you the power of browsing like on a desktop, but with enhanced speed to navigate around larger pages.
You can also give Opera Mini 5 a go on your phone. Simply navigate to mini.opera.com from your phone's web browser, and click on the "Beta" link.
Recently, I wrote about the changing face of newspapers in today's digital world. Well, the latest insight into this is that Google, everybody's favourite information hoarder, is planning to lead the pack into the digitising newspapers with their latest project, called Fast Flip.
Essentially, what Google has done is struck up an agreement with some of the major newsmakers in the world - e.g. The Washington Post and The New York Times - to collate their headlines into an intuitive interface that sorts and organises stories under relevant "tags", much like how a blog organises its posts.
Of course, being Google, money is definitely involved. Google plans to share revenue on AdSense adverts that are contextual to the content displayed, with the owners of the content. So in essence, Google is not creating the news, they are simply collecting information on one single platform, allowing you as the reader to get definitive reporting from various sources in one single place.
The catch with this project is that many news houses aren't very happy with Google's plans. FastFlip will limit their potential to "own" their own branding and be wholly in charge of their marketing. Furthermore, they'll have to share profits from advertising - one of the largest sources of income in the media world - with Google. Additionally, they're not happy with the fact that their content is being shared and perused by others - in other words, they don't have full control over their readership.
Now you may argue that these media companies should just stick to the print side of the business. But the truth is that the World Wide Web is the future. These companies won't be able to survive only on their print media, because the majority of their readership is moving online and living in the connected digital lifestyle; they're information-hungry and always searching for the latest "new" thing.
Thus, these media houses need to embrace the digital revolution and ride on innovation.
Whilst Google Fast Flip is controversial at this stage, we must take in to account the fact that it's still in Beta testing stage. There's still a lot of work left to do, and in the end I hope we'll be in for a stylish, innovative product that will surely change the way we stay in touch with the world.
A friend of mine recently moved to Mac with a new aluminium 13" MacBook Pro. Being a Windows user for all his life, he told me that the difference in how he used his computer is definitely visible, and wanted to know of a few apps he should get for his new Mac. Now, I have been planning to do a post like this sometime (seeing as I'm a Mac user as well), and so I now have a good reason for which to post this comprehensive list of seven free applications that I use on my MacBook, that I think would benefit any new Mac user out there. Enjoy!
This application is really handy for users who've moved from the Windows world. It allows you to play most popular video and audio formats, such as Windows Media Video (WMV), Windows Media Audio (WMA) and MPEG content. There is a version available for Windows as well, and as such it is a great "switcher" app because many people would be familiar with it, having used its Windows counterpart.
Handbrake is every iPod with video user's dream come true. It allows you to rip DVD movies to iPod, PSP and computer formats, so that you can take your video with you, wherever you go. A Windows version is also available.
One handy application that for some reason isn't on Mac OS X is a Mac counterpart for the Windows Paint application, that allows for simple but reliable image editing. I'm not sure why Apple didn't create a version standard on Mac, seeing as the earlier Mac systems (Mac OS 8 etc) included an app called "MacPaint". Anyway, Paintbrush is a good replacement, and works well. I hardly use it, but sometimes when there's a minor task needed to be done with a particular picture, Paintbrush can be called on to get the job done.
If you're after a little more power with image editing - a la Photoshop, then The Gimp is the best open source, free alternative! This is one amazing application. It allows you to do some incredible stuff with photos, including removing backgrounds from pictures, adding cool rendered effects like blurs and distortions, and even creating logos - apparently the early Google logo was created using this very app.
DrawIT lite is the free version of Bohemian Coding's stylish vector drawing application - these guys won an Apple Design Award for their products, so they're quite good. This application allows you to draw on screen with vectors, creating things like stylish logos from polygonal shapes. I used it to create quite a few cool logos, and it's really easy to learn - just sit down with it for about an hour, and you'll get the hang of it. That's how easy it is!
This stylish Twitter application allows you to stay up-to-date with your tweets. I use it all the time to connect with my followers on Twitter and update my tweets. The only snag is that the free version does prompt you from time-to-time to "upgrade" to the paid version. All in all, though, a really good Twitter client for Mac OS X.
Last but not least is one of my favourites, NewsFire, a stylish and straightforward RSS reader. It allows you to stay ahead with the latest news from your favourite blogs and news sites. I used to use NetNewsWire for my RSS feeds, but since trying out NewsFire, I'm hooked! This is the latest app added to my Mac collection, and so I can't judge it's performance very accurately, but I can recommend it as an intuitive application to help you keep your feeds in check.
Well, that's the list! If you have any comments or more free apps that you think should be on this list, please drop a line or two in the comments section.
But the one thing that has really changed the face of the Internet is the way in which we consume news. The technology of aggregating news has certainly developed to such an extent that we can stay ahead with current affairs from wherever we are.
A significant contribution to this is definitely the power of RSS - Really Simple Syndication, an aggregation technology that allows users to subscribe to blogs and news sites, and receive the latest posts in an RSS Reader.
RSS, and its counterparts such as Atom, have lead to what can be considered the demise of the printed newspaper. After all, who wants to read about something that happened five hours ago in the Evening Post when they could already find out a few minutes after the event occurred?
Thus, the competition between media houses has become far more fierce than ever before. There are new stakes, and they're higher than before. The market is far more crowded and diversified. But more importantly: it's no longer the advertiser and investor that matters - it's the reader that counts the most.
In an age where the average population of the Internet is said to be 6 767 805 208 (2009 estimate), one can say that potential readership is exceptionally high. As such, publishers need to produce content that is eye-catching and captivating, and not necessarily relating the truth at all times. It's become a savage, ruthless world akin to a slick spy movie. There's industrial sabotage, plenty of hard drives crammed with archives of information, and large companies just waiting to be exploited through the vast means of the connected web. Publishers need to gain a strong readership in order for the dollars to start rolling via advertising and investing.
For consumers of news, the choices of getting the latest information is now endless. From opinionated blogs to up-to-the-minute professional journalism, the average user is hard-pressed to make a decision as to who has the most reliable views.
The answer is that we need to first accept the power of Web 2.0 - the connected Internet. From there on, we must realise that it's us as consumers who can influence even the greatest of news makers, as our actions in reading their stories and becoming "followers" of their news can either make or break these journalling companies. The fact that news has moved into the digital realm means that we can get connected to our world in a far more easier and intuitive way than before, and as such we should take advantage of the digitising of newspapers through blogs and online news sites, and as such embrace the future of the Internet.
Now, arguably, the previous Wii offering of NFS was "OK". The novelty of pseudo-racing with a mock steering wheel eventually wore off, and gamers were left having to deal with a sub-standard storyline. I, for one, was dissapointed with the game as I had been really excited to try out the Wii version.
However, that has been a thing of the past. EA has finally realised the potential of Nintendo's darling console, and as such have dedicated an entire studio, which has had previous (successful) experience with the Wii, to developing a Wii-centric version of the game, titled Need for Speed: Nitro.
Nitro is set to be more "arcade-style" compared to its siblings on the Xbox and PlayStation. It's meant to be exciting, fun and fast-paced - all the elements needed for a good racing game. Here's a trailer of the game. I'm really looking forward to it, as the graphics look far more improved than that of Undercover. The game is coming out on 17 November 2009, around the same time as its predecessor was released last year.
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However, it has been reported recently on the Internet that not many businesses may adopt the new version, resorting to staying with the ageing XP, having not even moved up to Vista. But the real question is this: is Windows 7 ready for you, as the non-business “consumer” user? Would it benefit you to upgrade to it?
The answer: yes, of course.
Let’s face it: Microsoft really created a joke with Vista. The OS was so pathetic, that it actually became the advertising method for Apple to gain a surge in market share. But now is Microsoft’s chance to redeem itself, and it seems like this time, they’re not taking any chances.
To start off, they’ve completely overhauled the technical side of Windows, ironing out all the bugs and flaws of Vista (User Account Control, remember?) and thus aiming to produce a more streamlined OS, in a similar way to what Apple’s done with Mac OS X — although, this is where the two formidable competitors’ similarities in product development stop: where Apple focussed entirely on delivering a smaller, lighter and faster operating system that refined a great deal on its predecessor, Microsoft has gone the same old route of adding new, perhaps unnecessary, features. Although this time, because of the newer and stronger “under-the-hood” coding, those unnecessary features may in fact accomplish what they set out to be: looking just damn cool. Hey, that’s not a bad thing, right?
The biggest change that users will notice in Windows 7 is the new Taskbar. In many ways, it resembles the iconic Dock of Apple’s operating system. However, instead of being the prime place where all your applications can be launched from, the new Windows Taskbar allows you to keep your most frequently-used applications in the bar, enabling quick access to them.
Users will also notice that previously packaged applications, such as Windows Movie Maker, will not be in the new OS. This is all part of Microsoft’s plan of slimming-down the operating system to include only the most essential things its users will need. Movie Maker, along with a host of other “lifestyle” applications, will become available for free under the “Windows Live” branding.
Windows 7 will be available in two versions for retail: Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Business. If you’re currently running a machine with Vista at home, it would be advisable, then, to purchase the Windows 7 Home Premium edition, as this edition would be best-suited to your computer’s hardware configuration and your use of it.
There will be an “Ultimate” edition. However, as with Vista, this version is targeted at the most extreme Windows user who craves power and all the features of 7. It also carries a handsome price with it — so in my opinion, you’d be better-off with Home Premium, or Business (if you’re in a corporate environment).
Overall, from what I’ve been reading about 7 on the Internet, the OS is looking to be very promising. I’m impressed with Microsoft’s testing strategy, by allowing normal users to freely download and test the development (Release Candidate) version of the operating system. But at the same time, I feel that they could’ve taken the successful and simple route that Apple’s done, by releasing one edition of the operating system that has all features incorporated, instead of the myriad number of “home” and “business” and “professional” variants. This would make it far more simpler for the average consumer to purchase Windows for their PC. Furthermore, instead of adding some additional fancy user interface tweaks (like the new Taskbar) they should’ve devoted more time to strengthening the system and making Windows faster and more compatible with the ever-changing face of technology.
We’ll just have to wait until October 22nd, and while I’m now a Mac user, I hope that Windows 7 will provide the healthy competition to keep Apple awake and ahead of the game, so that, at the end of the day, us as consumers are guaranteed better technology.
Video formats... ah, the formidable foe that is always able to detract even the sturdiest of the techies. The problem is, with the diversity of our portable gadgets and operating systems, coupled with big corporations wanting to cash-in on any and everything, the number of video formats out there is incredible.
Now, to the average PC user, wanting to play that viral video sent via email from Bob the IT guy, there is an inevitable sense of frustration when, no matter how hard they try to get it to work, the damn file won't play. I'll admit that I've been in that situation more than often.
The reason to this is that the most common media players - Windows Media Player, Quicktime, iTunes etc. don't have the necessary codecs installed in order for them to read and understand the file. So, they do what they know best: pop-up a confusing error dialog along the lines of "The file [insert name here] can't be opened" coupled with either some weird numbers or a strange error code.
Today, thanks once again to my cousin Nitesh (big ups to him for letting me know about this and the previous post) I have for you a solution to all your video woes. It's a video codec package called the K-Lite Mega Codec Package (what a name...)
One of the main good things about this package is that, as the site says, it's all about being user-friendly and being able to set you up quickly so that you can watch your favourite films. Furthermore, it is updated frequently, so you can be sure that you're covered in terms of bugs and having the latest codecs.
So, how does this whole thing work? Well, firstly, it comes in a few "variants": basic, standard, full, corporate and mega. For personal use, I'd recommend you get the Basic package. This covers you for all the popular formats that you're likely to encounter; as you're probably not working in the professional film and audio field, I'm guessing you're not gonna want to be worrying about playing VFW/ACM codecs - wait, what? Yeah, like I said, just keep it simple and basic, and you'll be fine.
If, however, you're the mega-crazy techie that's working with a myriad of formats - perhaps even at the same time (if that's even possible!) then you're better off with the Mega package.
Once you've downloaded the variant of your choice, the next step is to run the downloaded file. After following the instructions from the installer, you should be good to go. Along with the package comes an application called Windows Media Classic, and, according to Nitesh, this "one-stop-shop for playing files" was a lifesaver for him.
At this point in time, I have yet to try it, as I'm currently working in Mac OS X Leopard, although I do believe that a release for the Mac system is available with Quicktime codecs. Nevertheless, this is sure to put aside the issues of having to play the million-and-one file formats that we consumers have to contend with daily.
To get the KLM codec package, visit this website. To learn more about it, click here.
Don't forget to drop a line in the comments if you have any thoughts about this.
Back in April, I wrote about a way to download videos to your computer from YouTube. A few days ago, my cousin, Nitesh, told me about an even easier way to do this, and I thought I'd share it with everyone here.
The process is really quick. Visit www.savetube.com and paste the URL of the YouTube video you wish to download in the text box at the top of the page. Click "Go". The page will load, and present you with a similar looking page as the previous one. Now, scroll down until you see the control for "Download". The video will download to your hard drive.
However, the donwloaded file will be in Flash format (.flv). Most computers won't have the correct software to play this, so I've compiled a little list of free .flv players for you to use on Windows and Mac.
- Wimpy FLV Player
To convert the FLV file to a normal format, you can use free software from a site called Aneesoft - there's converters for both Windows and Mac to get your FLV file to a popular format, such as those needed for playing the videos on an iPod or iPhone.
Special thanks to Nitesh for pointing out SaveTube to me - thanks!
Hope this post helped. Don't forget to drop a line in the comments about any other means that you may know of for getting YouTube videos onto a computer.
However, Nokia hasn't done that. Instead, Nokia decided to create "a brand new breed of portable device". According to Nokia's Executive Vice President for Devices, Kai Oistamo, “A growing number of people want the computing power of a PC with the full benefits of mobility."
Netbooks began to rise in popularity a few years ago, when Asus launched the EeePC, a cost-efficient, über-portable notebook that looked (and was) extremely attractive to many on-the-go business users and students. The EeePC instigated the revolution in mobile computing, and from then on, the large computer manufacturers Dell, Toshiba, Sony and Samsung, began marketing competitors to it. The market became flooded with netbooks in ranging sizes, from 8" screens to 10.1".
And now Nokia is arriving on the platform, with their reply to the market. Now, as I've said above, I think that Nokia needs to take this step very carefully. Of course, they would've researched the market thoroughly, and this move is calculated. But it could prove costly if it doesn't work out.
So, what exactly is this Booklet 3G? Well, in true Nokia fashion, it features everything - and then some, in a stylish aluminium package. What's notable about the Booklet 3G is its hot-swappable SIM card feature. With this, users can insert their SIM card and use the device as a mobile phone of sorts, or even better, the SIM card of their data modem can be inserted, giving them wireless freedom to connect from wherever there's coverage.
As usual, we will have to wait until the device is out and in the public eye to make accurate assumptions, but from what I've seen, this is going to be great.
Ah, Google. You gotta love those guys. First, they redefined the way people retrieve information - they've been the saviour of many a high school kid having to compile a project at the last minute. They revolutionized email, and from there, the world of Google products just exploded.
Recently (like, about a year ago) Google launched the G1 Android phone, which runs software developed by the search giant. Android was, probably, the first step in a clever plan by the company to gather their services under one banner, to provide a comprehensive product that could redefine the way people do mobile computing.
As ever, Google loves to capitalize on the latest "in thing". In this case, that latest "thing" in the tech world is netbooks. These nifty little notebook computers are rapidly rising in popularity, especially amongst business users rushing around with meetings everywhere.
Google has seen this rise in the netbook market as an opportunity to bolster their savvy image, and at the same time rake in some extra cash - hey, who wouldn't in these economic times? Their reply to netbooks: their very own operating system. It's called Chrome OS (to go with their own browser, the Chrome Browser, of course).
Chrome OS, according to Google, "is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks.". It will be separate from the Android project, and will focus on delivering a connected experience on netbook computers. However, as Google says, the company plans to take it further, and in a few years' time, we may be seeing Google-branded computers and an OS to challenge the might of Apple and the formidable Microsoft.
Now, most people on the blogs think that this is a bit of a shady move by Google. The company has already been under fire for privacy issues in the past, and these opponents are claiming that by using a Chrome OS netbook, Google is practically going to be in charge of your entire computing experience.
While this may hold a little truth to it, I think that it's a great move on their part. Chrome OS will push the big shots (read: Apple and Microsoft) to develop their products for better quality. After all, one more player in the market won't hurt the game - if anything, it's going to provide us consumers with more options to choose from.
Chrome OS is expected to be released sometime next year. I look forward to it.
I am an avid user of Twitter, and as such, I needed a solid Twitter app that I could use when out and about to keep my Twitter updated.
I have mentioned using Twibble, but ever since I've moved to a new Nokia N79, this app hasn't been playing nice with it. Furthermore, Twibble seems to like "deactivating" itself after a certain time period, and it thus requires you to re-download the app.
So after much Internet searching, I've found a little gem of an app that works beautifully on my N79. It's called uTweetMe, and it runs on all Java-compatible phones (sorry iPhone users... but you've got your own set of Twitter apps anyway).
uTweetMe is a very simple application. It doesn't have a fancy interface, and its menus are very straightforward. I guess this aspect is what makes it so good: it's able to run really fast because it doesn't need to be a resource thief.
While it may have a simple UI, this doesn't mean that it compromises on features. On the contrary, uTweetMe is packed with the necessary tools any Twitter user requires on-the-go. The UI is intuitively designed to allow you to blast a quick tweet whilst on the commute to work, with the "New Update" command being the first selectable item when the app loads.
From the main menu, you can navigate the application. What's great about uTweetMe is that it has the ability to save templates, so you can quickly send a pre-written tweet on-the-go. I find myself using this feature a lot to save tweets that I like, especially those with links that I wish to check out when I'm back in front of my computer.
The "Inbox" menu command is where most users will find themselves a lot in. From the "Inbox" menu, you can select Twitter's different Timelines to keep up-to-date with the people you follow, @replies, and the management of your direct messages. You can also initiate searches, and their results will appear underneath the default timelines.
One little feature that I hope makes it into a future version of this app is the ability to follow people. This, as I see it, is the only thing that the app lacks. Otherwise, for a mobile Twitter app, it's great!
Overall, I am extremely impressed with uTweetMe. This app goes to show that dynamite does comes in small packages, and it certainly packs a punch. In July this year, when I went to Switzerland, I used the app extensively to provide Twitter updates for the guys back home. The direct approach to Twitter is what uTweetMe does best, and as such it got me connected with the wider world when I was far away from home.
It's available for all Java-based phones. Go here to download it (you'll need to send it to your phone from your PC).
So, the big Apple event for September, and the showcase of everybody's favourite computer manufacturer's music products, has just ended. And while I'm sitting here at my desk all the way in Durban, on the other side of the world, I've been keeping up with the event to-the-minute via the great live coverage by Engadget. (Big ups to the guys over there!)
The first thing that I was very impressed with was the standing ovation for Steve Jobs when he took the stage. It's great to see the man back and innovating! This is a sure sign that we can expect even greater things in the not-too-distant future from Apple.
So, the big news today was the update of the iPod line. I'm quite happy with it, and I think that these updates provide a fresh take to Apple's flagship line of music players.
The Touch is, according to Apple executive Phill Schiller, their fastest-selling iPod to-date. And so Apple has decided to lower the price of the entry model (8GB) from $299 to $199! (Touch fans rejoice the world over). Furthermore, they're upping the capacity to 64GB in the highest-end model, that will retail for $399. The 16GB sticks around at a smooth $299.
The Touch will be receiving a graphics update to be able to run OpenGL-based applications. This means that we can expect some great looking and exciting new games making an appearence on the App Store. Some of the games demoed at the event were Madden 2010 and Assassin's Creed 2!. The iPhone OS software that runs on the Touch has been updated to v3.1 (free update via iTunes).
The Classic gets a basic update to 160GB capacity, and remains at the same price point. Nothing maervelous here, but at least they're still keeping it. This is the 'Pod that I'm eyeing (I'm "old-skool"...;)
The Nano gets the biggest and best update out of the entire line. It will feature a video camera that will allow you to instantly upload to YouTube when your new Nano is plugged in to iTunes. It also receives a new look, with vibrant glossy colours. It also includes, of all things, a pedometer that can link-up to your Nike+ gear, giving you a step-count. I see this as a great feature for all the gym junkies and jogger-holics out there ;)
I'm liking the new 'Pods. However, I feel that Apple could've done better with the Classic, which, after all, is their most definitive iPod ever. I will definitely be considering this particular one, as, like I said, I'm "old skool" and prefer the Classic look and click wheel. Plus, the 160GB capacity looks about right to store my entire music collection, plus my movies and TV shows.
If, like me, you're in South Africa, and are considering updating/getting an iPod, I strongly suggest you wait until the new models arrive at the iStore or other popular computer stores in about a few weeks. This way, you'll avoid the inevitable disappointment if you get an older model and then discover the newer replacement -- I've been in that position, and trust me, it's not a great feeling.
To check out the new iPods, head over to Apple's website (www.apple.com). Also be sure to read the reviews of the new iPods at blogs like Engadget, where their writers are actually at the event, and are getting hands-on time with the gadgets.
Don't forget to drop a line in the Comments section on what you think about the new iPods.
The big hype right now in the tech world is Apple's rumoured Tablet computer. This neat little device is set to complement the portable Mac line-up, and would be the Cupertino company's first all-touch screen computer.
Now while this sounds great, and it's gotten thousands wishing for it, we need to step back for a minute and assess whether this move is a good one for Apple - especially in today's economic climate.
My opinion is that Apple should hold back on the tablet, at least for a few more months (if they're planning to release it in early 2010, for example, then they should roll it out in mid-2010 instead). This would provide them the chance to reduce prices on current Mac computers, and strengthen their current line-up of Macs (portable and desktop) with solid features that can give competitors a run for their money.
Apple has long been infamous for its exorbitant prices, and those wishing to experience a Mac are put off mainly by the price point.
Thus, by not focussing on the Tablet right now, they can reduce prices and propel their current range, and at the same time booster their stocks. This would certainly look good for investors, and at the same time, Apple can begin to gain more market share more quickly.
So, what's your opinion about Apple's Tablet? Should they release it now, and if so, do you think it'd be a good move? Comment away ;)