April Fool’s Day Fun Brought to You by the Google Maps App

Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer. Watch the video at this link.

Google really pulled out all the stops for this year’s April Fool’s Day stunt. They launched a Pokémon Challenge recruiting video, suggesting that those who are really good at catching them can simply use their mobile devices, with Google Maps installed, to catch 150 Pokemon scattered around the world. Those who succeed might be recruited by Google!

Do you want in on the fun? This capability only exists on Google Map apps for Android and iOS and is probably quite short-lived. I don’t expect it to last much past today. Simply ensure your Google Maps app is updated and then initiate a search. When you click on the “Search” box, you should see a blue-colored “Press start” button with a Pokéball icon.

The blue icon should be available on your Google Maps app if you have the most recent version. Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.
The blue icon should be available on your Google Maps app if you have the most recent version. Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.

Select the “Press start” button and you will be whisked away to the Pokémon Lab, which is really the Googleplex at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. You’ll be greeted with a bunch of Pokémon on the map. Just tap the monsters, catch them, and they’ll be added and cataloged in your very own mobile Pokédex.

My sons and I are all playing against each other on separate devices that all have Google Maps installed. My sons are much better at it than I am, and one of my sons has even hit the 25 Collected badge as of this writing.

Simply tap the Pokémon and they'll be added to your Pokédex! Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Simply tap the Pokémon and they’ll be added to your Pokédex! Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Catch enough Pokémon and you can earn badges! Because what game is complete without badges! Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Catch enough Pokémon and you can earn badges! Because what game is complete without badges! Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.

Are you playing along? Let us know how you’re doing and where you’re finding them!

What Fictional TV Town Would You Live In?

Jane Levy stars in ABC's Suburgatory. Image: © ABC/Adam Taylor.
Jane Levy stars in ABC’s Suburgatory. Image: © ABC/Adam Taylor.

GeekMom god Alan Tudyk tweeted out the news that Chatswin, the fictional town from ABC’s Suburgatory, was on its way to becoming a real town.

Of course, it was an April Fools’ joke — and an obvious one at that. After all, aside from a few very special episodes, the show’s setting always seemed like sort of a horrible place to live. Chatswin is clean, but it’s got that whole Stepford vibe. After all, isn’t that the whole idea behind the show? So that got me thinking about some of the fictional TV towns that would have me willing to relocate. Here’s what I could come up with:

1) Smallville, Kansas (Smallville). Everyone is nice, pretty easy on the eyes, and seems to support local business. Of course, it has sort of a high crime rate, but hailing from the hometown of one of history’s greatest superheroes would be some pretty cool bragging rights.

2) Mayberry, North Carolina (The Andy Griffith Show). It could be a lot more diverse and it’s even a little cliché. That said, the people are nice and the slow pace is really appealing — even to a tech junkie like myself. And really, if your town’s biggest problems are bootlegging and moonshining, that’s the place I want to be.

3) Pawnee, Indiana (Parks and Recreation). It’s sort of dumpy, but it’s also home to some of the best worst-for-you food I’ve ever drooled over. Sweetums aside, Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America says that vistors can feast on the 9-pound Meat Tornado Burrito at Big Head Joe’s or just camp out at JJ’s Diner, where you can “order waffle toppings as coffee toppings.”

What fictional TV town would you consider calling home?

The April Fool’s Roundup: Jokes Around The Web

April Fool's Day, Google prank
Google Nose!

There are a few you always know to expect, starting with Google and ThinkGeek. Here are those, along with a few others we’ve seen this morning. Happy Don’t Believe The Internet Day! (Except the GeekMoms–we really have moved to this new site. What do you think?)

The iCade Makes Retro Gaming Portable

Photo: ThinkGeek

ThinkGeek is well-known for their awesome but often unfeasible or ridiculous April Fool’s Day ad products. They have gotten so much positive feedback on some of them, however, that a few of them are actually in production for real. Case in point, the Tauntaun Sleeping Bag, My First Bacon, and Canned Unicorn Meat.

Significantly cheaper than the $149.99 price in 2010’s April Fool’s Day ad, the iCade is also now real. I recently obtained one for review. Verdict: Pretty darn awesome.

Photo: ThinkGeek

When I was a kid, I didn’t have the money to hit the arcade like other geeks out there. But we did have an Atari 5200, and I had friends who had the 2600 (early adopters!). I got plenty of video game time on those, but I don’t have the same arcade memories as a lot of you out there. But the few times when I did get to play video games on an actual arcade machine, in an actual arcade, it was a fantastic experience. The iCade duplicates that feeling pretty well, on a slightly smaller scale.

My initial impressions when I unboxed the iCade were these: “Wow, these pieces are really nice! And I get to assemble it myself! Win-win: Not only do I get to put something together, but I don’t have to feel like I have to keep the box around to store it in, since it won’t fit once assembled!” Yes, those are my unedited unboxing notes. The iCade is also very well packaged for shipping. When I received it, it was double boxed with plenty of custom styrofoam, and plastic and foamy sheathing. It also came with the required two AA batteries, and all the hardware required for assembly, including an Allen wrench, ala IKEA. (And if you’re like me, you already have a dazzlingly huge collection of Allen wrenches.) You can also purchase an AC adapter from www.ionaudio.com, if you find yourself running through batteries too quickly.

The iCade cabinet is made of material with real heft. Knowing IKEA furniture as I do, I’m guessing it is laminated particle board. And when you assemble the pieces (which takes about 10 minutes, tops), it is pretty solid. The assembly was fun and simple, and you get to keep the Allen wrench!

The buttons and joystick feel like those from an actual arcade. They’re a little squeaky, but will loosen up as you play. There is plenty of room in the back of the cabinet behind where you set your iPad to store the key mapping diagrams for the various Atari games, along with the instruction manual. You could technically store your Allen wrench in there as well.

Once you have the iCade assembled, you will want to make sure you have the Atari’s Greatest Hits app installed on your iPad. If not, it’s a free download from the iTunes store. One game will be free, the others can be purchased in-app, either in packs of four, or the whole set of 99 games for $14.99. I’m seriously contemplating that one.

Make sure to have your iPad’s Bluetooth turned on (information on how to link your iPad to the iCade via Bluetooth are included in the printed instructions). If you take too long while you are linking them up, like I did, it may take a couple of tries. Then insert your iPad into the iCade, and begin! If you have a cover on your iPad, be it leather and bulky, or even the thin iPad 2 cover, you’ll need to remove it before setting the iPad in the iCade.

I got everything up and running quickly, and started playing my one included free game, Missile Command. I’m just as bad at it now as I was 30 years ago. My 10 year old daughter tried it, and was similarly frustrated. But her frustration turned to addiction as she tried and tried to improve. Her scores increased each time, especially once we adjusted the joystick sensitivity.

One thing I noticed is that your experience will be affected by where you put the iCade. Make sure it is at a good height for sitting, if you want to sit, or a good height for standing, if you want to stand. The cabinet is pretty heavy and likely won’t shift around with even the most vigorous joystick action, though.

In short, for a decently authentic arcade experience, try iCade. The cabinet is smaller than those in an arcade, but how else can you bring up to 99 vintage Atari games, playable with a joystick and plastic buttons, with you somewhere? The iCade is completely portable. And a lot of the games have two player modes.

I’ll likely be purchasing Super Breakout and Asteroids, at the very least, which I spent hours playing in my youth. If this was my sister’s device, however, she’d get Centipede. That was always her favorite.

Note: Purchasing the iCade gets you the arcade cabinet, complete with walls, a roof, buttons, a joystick, directions, screws, hinge hardware, and that all-important Allen wrench. You will also need an iPad along with the Atari app to make it work. I haven’t tried it with an iPod Touch, but since it also has Bluetooth, it might work as well.

The iCade is available from ThinkGeek for $99.99. It would make an excellent holiday gift for any retro game lover on your list.

Note: I received an iCade for the purposes of this review.

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