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About Rob LeFebvre

Rob LeFebvre Anchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, Creative Screenwriting, Shelf-Awareness, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef, and send him a cookie once in a while; he'll really appreciate it.

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Holiday cheer as hipsters get hit in face with snowballs

Wow, that looks cold. Photo: Exit 10

Wow, that looks cold. Photo: Exit 10

There’s nothing better than a snowball fight, unless its a snowball fight you can watch from the comfort of your couch and Macbook Pro.

Even better is a snowball (or two!) in the face of a bunch of adorable hipsters from Exit 10, a design studio in Baltimore that put together this ultra-slow-mo snowball massacre for you to enjoy.

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Parody trailer rips into The Desolation of Smaug’s soft underbelly

Oh, you. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Oh, you. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

As we watch the hordes of moviegoers heading out to see the final film in The Hobbit trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies, we can’t help but rejoice a little that this endless epic journey is about to end.

In this parody trailer for the previous installment, The Desolation of Smaug, you can “Rejoin Middle Earth’s other, shorter, less interesting fellowship as they continue their slow journey to Scrooge McDuck’s vault,” as the gravelly-voiced narration actor says in the hilarious trailer.

Check it out below.

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ICYMI: Unique gifts for the Apple fanatic in your life

The holidays are upon us, but never fear: we're here for you with another amazing issue of Cult of Mac Magazine. Cover design: Stephen Smith

The holidays are upon us, but never fear: we’re here for you with another amazing issue of Cult of Mac Magazine. Cover design: Stephen Smith

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us, with Christmas arriving next week and Hanukkah already in full swing.

Our very own Leander Kahney weighs in this week with a fantastic gift guide for all those crazy Apple users in your world. This clever gift guide will help you find that special stuff your fanatic probably doesn’t have.

That, plus a fairly tasty gift guide for the cooks in your family or friend group from resident foodie Lewis Wallace, a quick and easy How To on reformatting your Mac’s hard drive from video and graphics whiz Stephen Smith, and some news on the recent spotlight aimed at Apple’s continued problems with Asian labor conditions.

Be sure to see below for these engaging stories and more. And Happy Holidays!

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Avatar Secrets shows how one woman found wisdom in a video game

Finding love, life lessons, and community in online games isn't as rare as you'd think. Photo: Ramona Pringle/Avatar Secrets

Finding love, life lessons and community in online games isn’t as rare as you’d think. Photo: Ramona Pringle/Avatar Secrets

Can you truly find yourself in a video game? Canadian filmmaker and professor Ramona Pringle thinks so. After her mother got sick and she broke up with her New York boyfriend, she spent a year playing World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

During that time, she found many pearls of wisdom, which she’s condensed into 10 “avatar secrets,” which inform her app-based documentary film of the same name.

Video games are an unlikely place to find wisdom, yet, within them, we can find camaraderie, experience the sting of defeat, and help each other become our best selves. Rather than simple time-wasters, social video games like World of Warcraft and Second Life mirror the human condition.

While Pringle doesn’t log in to WoW much these days, the game had an undeniable impact. “This project very much changed my life, my career and my perspective,” she said during a telephone call with Cult of Mac.

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Caution: Don’t miss out on the best iOS apps of 2014

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users on iOS 8.0.1 could not get a cellular connection. Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Download now, thank us later. Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

The word “app” has always described Apple’s executable programs, but it wasn’t until the App Store appeared in 2008 that the term really took hold as a way to describe the little programs that help make our smartphones not just smart, but also useful and totally fun.

At this point, “There’s an app for that” has become a phrase you’ll hear pretty much everywhere.

We’ve taken a look at our favorite new apps, some of which have been featured on Cult of Mac previously, and chosen the year’s best. Now get downloading!

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Craft adventures with new Minecraft: Story mode

This open-ended world just got its first scripted story game. Photo: Mojang

This open-ended world just got its first scripted story game. Photo: Mojang

Grab your diamond pickaxe and get ready to delve once more into massively successful indie-hit Minecraft, only this time, it’ll be within an episodic, story-based game from Telltale Games, purveyor of such fine episodic video game content as The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Game of Thrones.

Titled Minecraft: Story mode, the game will launch on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Xbox and PlayStation in 2015 and will release episodically, with new characters and typical Minecraft themes, which we assume will be “mining,” and “crafting,” two major components of the in-game world.

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The retro backstory behind Apple’s holiday TV ad

Apple went back to basics to make their touching ad. Photo: Apple

Apple went back to basics to make their touching ad. Photo: Apple

Apple just posted a video on its YouTube channel to explain how they made the most recent TV ad for the holidays, “The Song.”

In the ad, a young woman uses GarageBand to sing a duet with her grandmother’s recording from the past. It’s a touching video that strikes a sentimental chord for many of us with grandparents who came of age back in the 1940s, as well as audio geeks who might remember the technology back then to create records: the audio booth.

Check out the video below for the full story from Apple, including the cool fact that they made an actual record using one of these old audio booths, The Voice-o-graph, for the young woman to sing along with.

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New snail species is so punk, it’s named after Joe Strummer

Rock the snail shell. Photo: Shannon Johnson/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Rock the snail shell. Photo: Shannon Johnson/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

This deep sea snail is covered in spikes, has purple blood and lives in the most extreme ocean environments. So of course the scientists that discovered it had to name it after their favorite punk rocker, Joe Strummer of The Clash.

In a study cleverly named “Molecular taxonomy and naming of five cryptic species of Alviniconcha snails (Gastropoda: Abyssochrysoidea) from hydrothermal vents,” researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute detail five new species of snails, one of which gained the scientific name A. strummeri to honor The Clash frontman.

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Spoiler Alert is the first game you’ll beat backwards

Un-save the princess and un-battle the epic boss in Spoiler Alert. Photo: Tiny Build Games

Un-save the princess and un-battle the epic boss in Spoiler Alert. Photo: Tiny Build Games

You’ve collected all the coins, you’ve beaten all the enemies, and you’ve finally gotten to the right castle and saved the princess.

Now, in order to avoid a nasty time paradox, you’ll have to do it all again. In reverse.

Spoiler Alert, from developer MegaFuzz and publisher tinyBuild Games, is the first platforming game you’ll play backwards, un-collecting every coin and un-killing every monster to make it back to the beginning. This is the first time the game is on iOS, as well.

Check out the trailer below for a quick taste of gameplay.

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9 weird ways to turn your iPhone or iPad into a music machine

Keeping music on iOS weird. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Keeping music on iOS weird. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

If there’s one thing we humans like to do, it’s make music. Seriously, we’ve been doing it since prehistoric times, so it’s no big surprise that we’d find many ways to bring music to our latest tool: the iPhone and iPad.

While there are a ton of different ways to play or make music on your iOS device of choice, here are nine rather weird ones, plus some fantastic videos to hear and see just how its done.

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