Final Fantasy XIV – Open Beta Phase 4 Screenshots

I’m not going to go into a big article dissecting the game yet, but I will say Final Fantasy XIV is a beautiful MMO and it runs flawlessly on my system.  Nice work, SquareEnix.

Opera Next – First Impressions

Opera-logo

Opera is my day-to-day usage browser and has been for the past several years.  Ever since the first time I used Speed Dial I knew it was the browser for me.  It meant no more hiding my daily stomping grounds in favorites lists but rather having them displayed like windows ready to peek through with a single click.  With Opera Sync I’ve had the same Speed Dial for years – never mind the dozens of OS re-installs I’ve done in that time.  When I’m setting up my PC I know that getting my internet back to the way I like it is as easy as installing Opera, enabling sync, and waiting a few seconds for all my pinned sites, favorites, and passwords to be restored.  Not to mention ‘paste and go’ was the best thing to ever happen to browsers.  And since then what have we seen?  Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft have all copied those features.

So I love Opera.  Always have, even the not so stellar releases.  But this latest release… there’s something unsettling about all of the changes and concessions Opera has made with their next browser.  It still has the same sparse look – even sparser now with fewer tabs, only a single search/address bar, and no side panels – and the same great dashboard.  But it feels less unique and I regret that.

OperaSpeedDial

The main change you’ll find in Opera Next is the entire rendering engine.  Opera used to develop their own tech for this, but now they’re using webkit – a solution used by their competitors in both Chrome and Safari.  While this will have some benefits in helping bring more speed to the Opera browser, it will also mean your Opera experience is more samey.  And considering webkit comprises over 40% of all browsers it will also take away the special snowflake feeling that using Opera used to give – an probably the security of using a browser nobody felt like taking the time to hack.

In the beta Opera sync is also not working.  You can log into the web portal and manually add your saved sites to the speed dial, but it’s not automatic now.  Nor does it retain your previous passwords.  Hopefully this will be fixed in the coming months.

The e-mail client is gone as well.  It was apparently using too many resources – a laughable assertion – so they’ve stripped it to make the browser seem more small and efficient.  For me, using the beta for the past few days and not having my mail instantly pop up while I’m browsing has been a real letdown.  Honestly I don’t know who Opera thinks they’re pleasing with this – I’d bet 75% of Opera users don’t even know the mail client is there.  Why remove something that people can simply choose not to use and is very helpful to others?

OperaDiscover

There’s also a new ‘Discover’ option that pretty much just shows you trendy news and blog posts.  If you feel there aren’t enough services trying to target you with inane articles then I guess you might want to take a look at Opera.

There are some good aspects – Netflix finally works in Opera.  Yay I guess?  And there is one nice new feature that lets you temporarily save a site you want to return to in your ‘stash’ which can be accessed from the Speed Dial.  I haven’t really used it but I can see where it would be convenient for other folks.

OperaStash

With that said, I feel like my special browser is changing and becoming just another run-0f-the-mill Chrome skin.  And I really am worried about how this change will affect the security of the browser.  I don’t see how trying to be more like Chrome is going to get Opera a larger install base, but I do worry that changing and removing iconic features from the software could drive away loyalists. Ah well, this wouldn’t be the first dud that Opera has released, and a few steps back here will hopefully give way to some real innovation in the future.

Hearthstone – Warrior vs. Paladin

I’ve tried really hard not to look at Hearthstone.  I feel like I play enough Blizzard games and another one – a free one at that with low time commitment – would only serve to lock me out of other games I’d like to pick up.  But videos like these make me want to go sign up for the beta…don’t you devour enough of my time already Blizzard?