Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hulu and Cranium Wow

My Fall semester is officially over! Academically, I couldn't be happier that it's over, to be honest. Aside from Network Security and Privacy, I won't really miss my classes very much. I managed all the grades that I wanted, so I'm pretty excited about it. Marketing was lame, OS was a drag, and Vision was just way too difficult. Finance was alright, though I wish I didn't have to take that final (she drops the lowest test and I screwed up my last one). Network Security was definitely a ton of fun though, and I really took a lot away from it. Now I can start my extremely busy Spring Break. I have to start looking at this research project I want to help with, I have to code up an internal professor review feature for the NSC site, and I have to help write a web application to help prepare high school students for TAKS (standardized test). Nice break, huh? Oh well, I prefer it to be productive rather than boring. Plus, I should have a pretty easy time this Spring, which is nice because I want to hit up all the happy hours in Austin.

On to the good stuff. I got my private beta invite for Hulu and I was definitely pleasantly surprised. You can find out a little more about it here. The concept? Basically, your television on-demand from anywhere. It has full-length shows, clips, reviews/previews of games, and feature films. It's a huge step up from Joost, mainly because it's so ridiculously easy to use and very responsive. I eventually stopped using Joost (though I still have it installed) because it was clunky and it always took me forever to find the content I wanted. I really wanted to love it because the videos were high quality and generally loaded pretty fast, but it was a pain to navigate.

Hulu, on the other hand, is like everything I could've imagined in a free, on-demand service. It really lends itself to casual browsing. You can browse popular clips or search for content and then there's a little link below each video to add to your playlist (see the first screenshot). Then, you can just mouseover the playlist link in the top right corner to see a drop-down of the top 5 items and start playing them (see second screenshot). It keeps your history as well so that you can always show your friends videos you saw a week ago. Each video page shows you related videos, lets you submit reviews and rate it, and all that good stuff. What's really neat about sharing the videos is that you can not only e-mail it but embed the whole video or a clip of it. Check out this clip from Friday Night Lights from the second to last episode where Smash Williams is in over his head with college recruiting:

Plus, the ads are unobtrusive. There's occasionally an ad before the video, but they're usually really short and the ad in the top right corner is pretty small also. The video quality is also better than I expected (much better than YouTube), and it's all legal so you don't have to worry about your favorite Family Guy clips disappearing.

I do have a few gripes though. When you browse by show, you can't add episodes to your playlist, which is kind of annoying. You also can't do this from the video itself, only from the home page, popular clips, or a search. You can't mark favorite videos, which would've been nice. You can't tag videos, which would be really good for making search easier. Overall though, it's pretty amazing for being just in beta. There's a ton of content, and I think that the major networks could shut down their full episode players and hand over their content to Hulu. It makes it so much easier than going to each different site for a different show.

Now to switch gears, I want to give a brief review of Cranium Wow. I got it as a birthday gift a little over a month ago, but I've played with other people's sets to so I've played it quite a bit. So what's different about this from the old Craniums? Well, a few rule changes, different die, new games, and movers. The rule changes are pretty minor: the soonest birthday rolls first and I think that's new. When you get to the middle of the board you do all 4 categories in clockwise order and then your opponents pick one more for you to do, which I believe is new. The die has 10 sides for the 4 colors plus purple to fast track to the brains. The new games are Side Show (move a team mate's body to get your team to guess whatever the card says), Team Gnilleps (spell the word backwards, except that the whole team has to participate now), and Mind Meld (everyone on the team writes down 3 things in a category and if 2 people match in 1 item then you win the roll). I think that's it, but I haven't played regular Cranium in a while so there's also Copycat (act like the person on the card) and Odd Couple (pick the 2 things on the list that don't belong) in case that wasn't in original Cranium. The movers are cute and the hair is changeable. There are 12 in all, and your box comes with 4 of them. Oh, and it has 600 cards which appear to be all new and has some more pop culture mixed into them.

So how does it play? To be honest, it's faster and at times can be easier. There are a number of easy cards, and some hard ones. Then again, difficulty is subjective based on who you're playing with. But still, the purple color on the die makes the game a lot faster. You can finish a whole game with 2 teams in under an hour. If you have more teams though or if you get a lot of hard cards the game can take about 2 hours. Despite this though, it's still a lot of fun. I find my friends pining to play it whenever we have out get togethers. I think it really does revitalize the series with great presentation inside and on the outside of the box, and it's a lot better than getting a booster pack if you have an old Cranium set. It's pretty much what you've come to love, plus more. Yeah, it has quite a bit of easy cards, but that doesn't mean your team will get them. I don't regret getting this game at all, and I think it actually doesn't work too bad with small groups (though it's obviously best with larger groups).

Alright, I gotta jet for now, gang. I'll bring you guys another post this weekend!

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