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Friday 29 November 2002

Bored of the bings [am]

Guiness has been beeping at me. Intermittently, repeatedly, it makes like Monty Python's machine that goes bing. It crashes Rallisport despite having a moment of contentment on Monday night and I can't work out why. But it does so with a monotone burp. It will beep from the case randomly when it's working, when it's tootling and when it's idling. Beep, it goes, bing. Biddly f'ing bop.

Guiness is unwell.

Now don't get me wrong, it's been a rocking machine. As a 1.2 athlon with a gf3 it'll still play everything bar Comanche with aplomb if not max res. But it's SDR memory, it's marginal cpu-upgradeable, it was more happy with a day that really died when EED still played twitch games. The days when Luxemb0urg was still the capital of a vast egyptian empire.....

So, you know, it's hard not to notice the fast ladies of postcode P4 flashing their silicon petticoats in my direction as the days go by but I don't get their chassis. What on EARTH is going on with the mobo mafia?? I've never seen so many mobo's and memory types in my life.

Will someone with some Intel-igence please explain to me wot is leet?

Wednesday 27 November 2002

Macs, do they really suck piss? [vagga]

I'm sure you're aware we make all kinds of championship manager based football games here at Sports Interactive. One of the more popular is the Mac version. The poor old Mac does not get that many games made for it, therefore the few games that get made and get some attention do ok. We are lucky as we have one of the best 'Mac people' in the business working for us. He has a long past record of converting games for various studios, Black and White being the last before we b0rged him!

The bad side is that I have to test said game. We have a few crappy old iMacs running Mac OS 9 something and we have 2 beasts, one best you can buy iMac and one G4 with more features and ram than the average Cray super computer. Both have been gathering dust this last while, as we have been busy and don't have the time to learn how to use a Mac and get testing on it. But now that the Xbox game has shipped and testing is going ok I do have that time, and feel guilty and we have big blue in the corner of the testing room doing nothing. So I made a step into the unknown the other day and turned the iMac and the G4 on. {Cue oooooo'ing from the audience}

The first thing that struck me was how shite Mac OS X looked! To me it did not look as good as the 2 Linux GUI's and was trying very hard not to be Windows, and therefore changing some stuff, I'm sure they have a 'not windows department' where they look at every aspect of their OS and make it as un Windows as possible to please the bearded sandal brigade! We also use a product called code warrior, instead of Visual C ++. Now I'm only learning to be a programmer, so I can't speak as an authority, but as a user and a tester I like VC++. It does what it says on the tin, and it's easy to use. I donÂ’t know what an uber programmer type person would think. But Codewarrior is the spawn of the devil. Im not going to sit here for days and explain how CM4 is written and how Codewarrior's dev team seemed to have sat down and thought up ways of making life difficult for people on large projects. I can see them now, huddled around a bubbling cauldron {I'm thinking the witches in Roman Polanski's Macbeth here}, 'yea, if we make them have to re-input all the project settings for each page, that will really piss them off {evil cackle} Yea, and we will randomly forget the settings every now and again, that will really piss them off!' But the great thing is that I have no choice and I have to use it. Its typical of the Mac software I have seen, if you are wearing sandals and have a beard its very handy and has lots of good features. If you are a normal human being then you could be in trouble. This, I think, may be why Apple almost goes bust every few years, leaving aside the fact that all their machines look funny, and the horrible one button mouse. They have crap, totally not user friendly software!

I was looking forward to the fact that OS X is built on BSD. Now for those that don't know BSD is a type of UNIX. I have used UNIX all over the place in several previous jobs. To be honest I would rather do most things on the command line than use silly GUI's. I find it quicker to tar and then gzip a file and then ftp it, all via a command line. The great things is that you can open another (or 10 other) terminal windows. In Windows try and zip something and do anything else! But I should have known, they have suitably fecked it up. They have mutilated it, it's almost like they tortured it. Now maybe itÂ’s me, I have not used BSD before, but I presumed it could not be as messed up as Solaris. I have done a bit of reading and they seem to have forced the bit of Mac OS and BSD together, and forget about the consequences. That said I'm quite happy that I can do something on the command line again. Its annoying when I'm on one of the PC's in my test lab having to open Control panel, wait a few seconds, then open this file and that file to get the information I want.

On the positive, there are some good things. I like to listen to music during the day. I usually play them through my Desktop which has a SB Live and a set of Boston Speakers and a Woofer, Gateway style. I basically brought them over from Ireland with me. But with that Machine running CM4 24 hours a day I would rather not run anything else on it. So I took the horrible, frankly embarrassing, round Mac speakers out of the box and hooked them up, since I have a 40 odd gig drive on the Mac, and 3 gig of CM4 stuff and nothing else. Im almost afraid to say this, but I am really happy with the sound from them. I got the 7 CD GTA: VC soundtrack. The sound is crystal clear, and it just plays and then vanishes into the background. I'm well aware that PC apps do the same thing but it's just good that I finally have a use for the Mac :)

With all that being said, I'm not happy with OSX as an OS. But I'm not going to panic, and I will hold my hand up and say maybe I'm jumping to conclusions that I have only been playing with the Mac for a week now. I will do more messing as the days pass and see what the story is.

Snail mail spam getting worse? [lurks]

I got a letter from New Scientist, junk mail basically. You know, trying to get me to sub and stuff. Nothing new there but the only reason I opened this particular junk mail was because it looked damn like a personal letter. My address was written by hand in cursive ball-point on the letter and it had a 2nd class stamp fixed askew.

Well, it wasn't. This is just the latest in a long line of efforts to get you to look at junk mail. Those lottery type ones that try to look like official government business or telegrams I thought were scraping the bottom, and I guess they are worse than what I got today but it doesn't stop me being annoyed about it.

Annoyed because it's just more bits of paper. Groan, rip, in the bin. At least when they look like yet another bloody credit card offer, I can just leave it in the junk pile downstairs which gets periodically taken out to the garbage unopened.

Tuesday 26 November 2002

Evil Internet out for your children [lurks]

I used to like Carol Vorderman. Obviously intelligent and a bit foxy too. However she's found her pet project in life and basically this intails scaremongering about the Internet. She's toned down a little in recent times but in the past she was leading calls for regulation of the Internet and so on. Again fairly typical of people that don't understand the issues.

ITV's Tonight has a big story about various facets of Internet paedophiliacs. Most of it is good stuff but again it's got Carol Vorderman saying the only way your children can use the Internet is by moving the PC into the lounge so you can see what they're doing. Not once did this scarmongering technophobe tart actually suggest it might be a good idea to teach kids about the threats. They even laid into mobile phones as an avenue for your children to meet nasty men in trenchcoats. Unbelievable.

The show finished off by moaning about the 7,000 subscribers in the UK which were found subscribing to some horrible online paedophile service. Naturally for her, these people should be arrested and locked up at the expense of any other police work. It's just so tiring. I really thought the mainstream press w2ould start to get a bit less hysterical about the issue but on the face of this, it appears not.

Of course then people wonder about the low takeup of broadbroad in this country. No wonder since our media is basically selling the Net as a haven for paedophiles. It's good to see the police making inroads against paedophiles but this attitude of vorderman and her technophobe cronies saying ban anything where your children may meet people that aren't their parents, this isn't a fucking solution!

Rallib0rk Challenge [am]

Sigh I dunno you buy a new game, stick in the 3 cd's in turn (sigh and sigh again, what's the point of a dvd if no-one will do the decent thing and release on it), load up the game and arrive at a driver warning screen.

Now I've been caught out before on this. GTA3 refuses to load on my system if I use the most up to date Detonators despite their certification and I've also had, as a secondary problem, some serious issues with my Platinum soundcard and random bursts of noise in 1942. So I ignored it.

Rallisport loads and it has a bit of a movie thang going on for a minute then we're bosh into the first race. Hrm. Number 1 my car is just a black, un-skinned, hulk. Argh. Number 2 - I am back in static noise problems with the Soundblaster - just white noise bursts all over it. Wtf is going on people??

XP Recovery Tips from Teh King Of Teh Interweb [slim]

I've just brought my xp pro pc back from the brink of death, the recovery procedure was quite different to getting 2k and nt systems back, so I thought I'd get what I did down here in case it can help someone else. What a benevolent king of teh interweb I am!

First tip comes from Rock - press [F8] on boot for the safe mode menu. I didn't know that, but I suspect everyone else does. doh. Problem is that's pretty much only useful for fixing vid card issues, not much else. My pc died with registry failure, so here's how to fix that...

First you need the recovery console. There's a few ways to do this, but the easiest is to boot from your install cd, and press 'r'. This is a command line interface into your xp system (presuming your on an ntfs filesystem, if your on fat, just ignore this part and boot with a dos or 98 bootdisk) Then you go into /winnt/recover and copy the appropriate registry file back again. I had to do 'system', I backed up the old one first.

This got me back up and running, but my ip was completely fucked. XP unlike older os's doesn't let you remove IP. Gah! So, it has an altertaive, a comman line thingy called netsh. in this case netsh int ip reset restelog.txt will rebuild your tcp/ip stack and get you rocking again. leet!

Monday 25 November 2002

Firemen and teh Army [slim]

Quick one: The firemen might strike, and everyones flapping because the army only have ancient nasty old Green fireengine things. Why, when the firemen strike, don't the army lot just inhabit the firestations and use all the nice swanky kit they have? Anyone tell me?

Friday 22 November 2002

Proper beer = bad knees :( [shedir]

Well after painfull weeks of testing I guess I have mild gout :(
When I indulge in my favourite tin (McEwans Export) next day my knees just fucking ACHE. I've moved to lager in the last week and bosh, no sore head, joints like a rastafarian Whisky was added to this complex medical trial, with beer it didn't alleviate the symptoms. Tonights the charm though. If with Stella Artois and Stewarts I can walk tomorrow, then my liquid future is saved. I'm sure you'll all join me in prayer on this one.

Tuesday 19 November 2002

Dough ray mi! [lurks]

Trying to spend a bit of time doing things other than PCs, games and crap like that - I've been having a bash at something I've not done since I was in highschool. I had this physics teacher called Mr Margets, who was an amusingly sexist WWII ex-pat brit fossil that wore a safari outfit and refused to give up his pipe smoking so the school forced him into retirement.

Uncharitably but predictably, we called this chap 'Maggots'. However he did have a funny vice, he ran a leisure activity (sort of fun subjects which you had to pick one of to do once a week) of baking bread. I enrolled in this class purely because I was out to pull this bird that was in it but nevertheless the bug bit me and I'd make some bread at home from time to time.

So, 15 years on I decided to have another go. My local supermarket has shite bread, well pretty much all supermarket bread is shite but I also can't get the sort of granary loaves I like from my local bakeries. So from my new foray into bakery, I've just bunged my 6th loaf in the oven, this one is a rather ambitious tomato bread number.

After I got the hang of it, I'm surprised at the lack of effort that it really takes. In fact I just whipped up some dough in a big-ass pyrex bowl while I was making lunch. Flour wipes off everything pretty easily and it's difficult to fuck up the cooking of bread. I tell you though, the smell of freshly baking bread is a fundamental truth. Not to mention sawing off a big slice of some just-out-of-the-oven bread to dip into some tomato soup. Mmm!

The best bit is I just tend to whip something up based on a whimsy. Mostly I make sort of lighter granary loaves with a combination of granary mix, white and wholemeal flour. Sometimes chucking in some raisons or doing something outlandish like the tomato and oregano job baking away as I type. Therapeutic for sure. Damn good arm work-out mixing it all and kneading away as well, so Beej need not apply :)

However one thing you don't really do is save money. The rip-off prices of yeast and flour from my supermarket means that it costs about the same to make one as it does to buy one. That's not really the point though is it? Maybe I should get some bulk stuff from an online grocery shop to drive the cost down. Say, I wonder if you can make Lager Bread? :)

Monday 18 November 2002

WFP Is Evil [spiny]

This is one to watch out for. After installing the latest divers for my graphics card & rebooting, I looked in event viewer and found that Windows File Protection had rolled back two of the driver files. I don't know if this is a bug with WFP or with the ATi driver install ( more likeley) but here's what you have to do to get round the problem.

  1. Uninstall existing drivers & reboot.
  2. Find all c:windowsinfoem*.inf containing 'ati' (or ' nvidia')
  3. Move these files off to a another directory, say c:tempwfptoss< /LI>
  4. Now find all c:windowssystem32catrootoem*.cat and delete all those with the same number as the INF files in c:temp wfptoss
  5. Delete c:tempwfptoss to clear up
  6. Now install your new drivers

I don't know if this affects nVidia drivers but it's well worth checking.

Saturday 16 November 2002

Tracing your roots with the 1901 Census [beej]

Well, here's a valid use of the internet if ever I saw it - the 1901 Census results online and fully-searchable for the public. Old news? Yes, but the site is actually up and stable and the public hoo-ha is over, and there's been no previous blog about it :-)

So, what's it like? Well let's screw the serious genealogy and find out what 'Benjamin Preece' was doing in 1901 in the UK:

AGE BIRTHPLACE PARISH OCCUPATION ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 4 Staffs Lancashire St Helens 13 Bishops Frome Herefordshire Much Cowarne 13 Liverpool Liverpool C B Toxteth Park 15 Warwick Bham Birmingham Harborne Tube Drawer 23 Stoke On Trent Staffordshire Fenton Potters Tollier 28 Salop Salop Smethcott Navvy 30 Shrop Chester Monks Coppenhall Labourer Boiler Ship 34 Hereford Lancashire St Helens Coal Miner Hewer 36 Salop Salop Madeley Boot Maker & Boot Shop 36 Shrewsbury Liverpool C B Toxteth Park Hydraulic Crane Driver 48 Salop Derby Hartshorne Potters Manager Earth 50 Worcester Worcestershire Worcester Journeyman Baker 57 Bridgenorth Salop Dawley Bootmaker 58 Fleet Dean Hereford St Owen Iron Founder 40 Birmingham Birmingham Cop Wkr ------------------------------------------------------------------------

What an amazing insight into Britain 100 years ago. Let's get serious here, and if you think about, how long ago was 100 years? Not bloody long, I can tell you. And how filled with character are those occupations? 'Labourer Boiler Ship'! I think you'll find in 2001 that's now 'Marine Diesel Propulsion Assistant Supervisor'.

Some technical notes on the site though: Speed is good, just a five second turnaround on presumably a pretty heavweight db. Doesn't appear to be able to refine searches, or export in a data format. Oh, and data discrepancies - you can see quite a few historical problems with the data, such as 'Lpool' and 'Liverpool', and so on.

Looking for things to do with the family at Christmas? Talk about great-great-grandfathers :-D

Friday 15 November 2002

Jamie Oliver and the Rejects [lurks]

Kicking back watching some tele and this show comes on Channel 4. It's a fly-on- the-wall type documentary about Jamie Oliver's new restaurant. Now I caught a tad of PR from this prior and I thought it was just going to be the ups and downs of setting up a restaurant. Interesting but little more.

I didn't realise what he's actually doing is setting up a non-profit restaurant which will train up drop-out dole-scum type people into being chefs. Well, that's quite impressive really. Given the guy has basically put his fortune on the line to back this venture, I've got renewed respect for the bloke. Being as this is the same bloke which has had the piss taken out of him more than anyone else on television.

What gets me though were the losers that he interviewed. Jesus fucking Christ, it was painful just to look at some of these people. They were so unbelievably badly kept, not to mention ugly. That's just getting started, these lamers were absolutely useless in a simple taste test type kitchen interview. No enthusiams, zero communication skills etc.

That's when it hit me how much he really is putting on the line just to give these ugly, talentless ungreatful cretins a chance at a career in the catering industry. I don't really reckon he knows what he's biting off here, he's just in love with the idea of it. Well I guess all power to him. It's quite clever to basically pay for giving these people and his venture a chance off the back of the inevitable public attention the whole thing will get.

I think it'll put some years on the lisping cockney by the end of it.

Wednesday 13 November 2002

Simple excel problem [am]

Once upon a time I used to be able to write Visual Basic macros for Excel but I've forgotten in the depths of time. Actually I don't know if I even need a macro but I've got a simple problem I'd like to solve - I've got a huge 3000 item excel list of stock names and a credit rating next to them. In fact there's only about 200 stocks and the rest is line for line duplication (they're sourced off different accounts). What I would like to do is quickly eliminate all the duplicate lines and just be left with one version for each position.

Now once upon a time I could write a quick parser but does anyone know of how to do this easily? Or if it has to be VBA, can someone remind me of the syntax for the language (I was reasonably proficient)? The sheet is just a version of this

Bond Stock Name XXX | Credit AA Bond Stock Name XXX | Credit AA Bond Stock Name XXX | Credit AA Bond Stock Name YYY | Credit B

- All I want to do is delete the dupes and be left with only line 1 and line 4 see. Should be a doddle for blokes with the brains the size of planets. Beer is teh reward!



Tuesday 12 November 2002

UT Tournet Game 1 [spiny]

Me & Rabs played our first round game. Of course being between two EED it was a fantasic spectacle and a damn exiting match. I think Rab must have been shaking when the timer hit - I know I was :o

The game pretty much revolved around control of the projectile weapons health and main shield pack. I gained an early lead which swung back to Rab after 5-10 mins. This swung mback to me in around the same time again only for Rab to recover & lay the Mr Crow suited smack0rage down once more. After trailing for 5 mins & managed a few crafty frags to take the lead by two with 5 minutes remaining. Hiding's for loosers so I didn't take the pussy option of camping out the time limit, instead eating Rab's rockets to level the scores at 17-17 with 1 minute remaining. With the pressure on Rab cracked up the least and hunted me down for a 19-17 victory.

Played Rab. One of the best 1v1's I've had & top fun.

Now, slackers, get & play your games :)

Di a great briton, bullshit! [lurks]

Right, you seen this Great Britons stuff then? It's a good idea. The BBC has made a long running show based on various celebrities advocating figures in history as the greatest Briton. The public votes for it and by proxy learns a bit about history which they probably wouldn't watch otherwise.

Unfortunately they didn't count on one thing. The only people that vote, dial phone numbers, send texts and e-mails in these things are women. So what does this mean? It means that in the top ten along with such unequalled great men such as Darwin, Churchil, Shakespeare and Brunel... we have Lady Diana Spensor. Yes, that's right Di. The woman who never actually did anything besides marry a prince and then publically drag the British monarchy through the wringer as she washed her laundry in public. Oh and she died, this appears to have done her favors and not the other great men in the top ten.

She is FUCKING SECOND in the top ten at the moment ffs. As the second greatest Briton that ever lived! I mean was she a legendary engineer that helped drive forward the industrial revolution? Was she a brilliant, sincere botanist that defined the penultimate theory of evolution? Did she lead Britains victory in the second world war? Was she the greatest playwrite the world has ever seen? Was she responsible for the government of democrasy in the modern world?

No she was fucking not, she did absolutely cunting nothing. These tosspots go on about her campaigning about landmines where as all I can remember was the weeks of flowery horseshit after she died, overselling her contribution to this country and humanity. A week that Mother Terresa also died and got 1/10th the press.

I am speechlessly annoyed. She shouldn't be in the top fucking 100 let alone SECOND among these truly great Britons. No she's second because she represented, for one fleeting instant, the fairy tale fantasy that British women all secretly aspire to.

Let us realise it as such and mentally cross her out from this top ten of genuinely great Britons. Fucking women!

Sunday 10 November 2002

Rebot getting smarter [lurks]

A long time ago, Rebot used to use an A.L.I.C.E bot on a web page. Rebot is pretty much a study of raping just about anything on the web and this was the most interesting. I had set it up to replace any ALICE specific stuff with Rebot. It would pipe up and say spooky things either if you just said rebot without doing a specific command or sometimes just in the course of a conversation since someone said something long enough to have enough content to be worthy chipping in.

Unfortunately that bot page went down and for a very long time Rebot went back to being boring old Rebot without any AI other than a shitload of ever expanding random switch statements. It was always my goal to integrate the ALICE engine into Rebot properly but the various incantations out there were just far too much hard work.

I decided to sort it out properly. Based on J-Alice, Rebot now has a local ALICE powered brain. This is extremely powerful indeed but it's only as good as the AIML (artificial intelligence markup language) it has for brains. I've basically plonked in the basic Anna bot AIML and tried to remove as many full stops, ums and dumb Atlanta Georgia and Liebner prize specific references as I could and inserted plenty of Rebot's trademark bad attitude. It's a damn big task though and I've only scratched the surface of the AIML.

Rebot logs everything it says and so far it's either talking crap 75% of the time or people are deliberately feeding it with junk to make it say stupid things. Difficult for me to tell without watching Rebot's console 24/7 so I've been working on another instance of it locally instead.

The next step really is to solicit some help to work on the AIML. See the ALICE engine doesn't learn or anything. It's all hard coded in the AIML so it comes down to someone editing it. I was thinking of putting the AIML up on a web interface so it could be communally edited and expanded. Then I remembered what slack fucks everyone is and went off to make a sandwich instead ;)

Anyhow - the ultimate AI goal for Rebot would be to hybrid the ALICE engine with one of the older learning language based chat bots. Then I'd remove all default responses from the ALICE engine (when it doesn't know what to make of the input) and detect that (a default response) and then flip to the backup learning language based AI instead.

That would have the best compromise of having somewhat pre-programmed appropriate responses to lots of content from the AIML files and also picking up fun stuff from IRC at the same time. I've even written a mailing list bot which quotes and posts replies but so far it's talking too much shit for me to unleash just yet :)

I'd also like to do some fundamental work on ALICE because it's missing out being able to register some emotional contexts in the AIML. I'd also like some more output from it based upon those contexts, other than just the text. Then I could do things like create a 'mood' based on how much you were giving Rebot a hard time.

Actually I'd like to spin out the AI stuff to something separate so it could be of use to other people other than the 5 people in #eed.

Scans SC-440sl [spiro]

I have just bought Scans new Slim line DVD player the SC-440SL. So heres a quick rundown on my first days use.



Audio: Dolby/DTS/PCM ready, 5.1 Channel True Sound, DTS output, Digital Audio outputs coaxial and optical.

Video: S-Video, Composite, RGB.

Supported Formats: DVD, DVD-R, DVD-RW, VCD, MP3, CD, CD-R, CD-RW and Kodak Picture CD.

Now including the feet its only 50mm High which is one of its best features. Its finish is silver so works perfectly with my Panasonic VHS and Beej's Amplifier.

First thing I noticed was the remote control, this unfortunatley is no where near as sleak as the player, but I have to admit it feels well built and sturdy. Supplied with the player you have the remote, batteries, twin RCA cable, S-video cable and a Scart lead, so you have the basics to get up and running instantly. Well you would of though so, the scart lead was far to short so I had to place the player closer to my TV. For most people this isn't a problem, but I have no where close to put it.

After moving the TV a little on its stand I'm able to connect it up and move on to the audio. Beejs amp has optical so this is the obvious route to take and finally the power cable.

You are greated by a nice screen saver advertising Scan on your TV. The front panel display on the player is very clear and easy to read, offering information on everything from operating status to the angle indicator. The tray has a nice quiet sliding action and once closed blends in perfectly.

To test the players audio and picture quality I wanted to play Saving Private Ryan's opening sequence, but Beej has left it at work so next best choice is Golden Eye.


Its very quiet, in fact I can't hear a thing. I check the connections between the player and the amp, I've made sure the volume is turned up and still nothing. I've checked the settings on the amp and everything is fine, but still no leet audio. For one of the first times in my life with this sort of equipment I resort to the manual. Sigh, the audio outputs ont he player have to be set in the DVD's internal menu, basically you have to tell it to output digital audio not analogue. Although this is very easy to do its also very lame, so whilst in there I check the other settings I.E. Language, Aspect ratio (gah bloody pan and scan shit), Type of TV (PAL/NTSC), captions and bloody parental control.


YAY Sound, Dolby Kicks in shortly followed by the sub. OOOh now we're talking. This has taken me all of about 20mins (including the relocation of the TV), a bit disapointing to be honest, this should of been a 5min job no more. I have yet to find how to change region, how to set up the repeat or fine tuned the surround settings.

So far this DVD rocks. The problem with the audio would only effect people using digital outputs and to be fair it did work perfectly first time via the scart. As I play with it i'll add more to this blog.

Friday 8 November 2002

palladium good or bad ? [spiro]

Some of the researchers here are thinking of making a documentary on Microsofts Palladium. What do you lot think about it and anyone got any good info/stories about it etc. The show hasn't been commissioned yet, just testing the water.

Tuesday 5 November 2002

Great New Toy [skeeve]

Recently I went out to buy a new hardrive, I did sort of buy a harddrive. The harddrive I actually bought is a 20gb one in an mp3 player from archos called the jukebox multimedia.

The player comes with a rechargeable Li-on battery that delivers at least 8 hours on a single charge when playing mp3s. As an mp3 player this does its job well, it copes the usual range of cbr and vbr bitrates without any problems and the sound quality is very good. As an added bonus this player can also encode directly to mp3 from either the line in or the builtin microphone, but basically the mp3 part of this player is just like many others, so what does it do to merit the multimedia part of its name?

The first thing that leads to the multimedia part of the title is the ability to display jpgs, either on the small lcd screen or onto a tv via the av-out that doubles as the earphone socket. You can use this feature in combination with playing mp3s to create what archos call a multimedia slideshow, but I can't say it would be something I'd use when running on batteries.

So far, we have an mp3 player with a nice little gimmick but I haven't mentioned the device's ultimate gimmick, the main feature that helps this player deserve the multimedia part of its name is that it plays divx movies! You have probably seen those adverts for mobile phones in the future where you can be watching a film on your phone, to those I say no thanks as I can already do that with my mp3 player. :-)

The player cannot play all divx movies, it requires them to be something called the standard MPEG4 SImple Profile AVI and that means they have a max resolution of about 400x300. If you have taken lurker's advice in his excellent divx guide then you will have divx movies of a higher resolution than that. To make it easier to convert your existing files archos have provided a frontend for virtualdub that has been setup to convert to this lower resolution. If you don't want to mess around with any of the settings then its simply a case of selecting the input file, the name of the output file and clicking start, after waiting a while for virtual dub you now have a movie that will play on the jukebox's little screen or via the tv-out.

In addition to all these features archos have more for this device in the form of the addon modules they have released or plan to release. Included with the device are the first two addon modules, they are adaptors for compact flash and smartmedia. These addons allow you to download images from a digital camera onto the harddrive, ideal for anyone who uses their camera a lot and doesn't want to buy a lot of extra memory cards. I can't really say how well this works as I don't own a digital camera, which brings me nicely onto the next addon module. Archos are about to release a camera addon for the player that will act as either a still camera or as a video camera where it will record direct to mpeg4 onto the harddrive with the lcd becoming a monitor. Another addon that is coming from archos is the video module that adds s-video and composite inputs to allow you to record directly from other external sources.

In addition to these addons archos also sell firewire and usb 2.0 cables to supplement the supplied usb 1.1 cable, personally I haven't bought either of these yet as I tend to copy stuff to the device while I am letting it charge up but either of them would be advisable if you intended to change the whole 20gb on a regular basis.

To sum things up, for your money you get a portable 20gb harddrive, an mp3 player and recorder, a portable movie player that has the potential to also become a digital camera, camcorder and video recorder. It doesn't look quite as nice as an ipod and is a bit bigger, however it is a fair bit cheaper before you take into account just how cool it is to watch a movie on the tube to work. There are bound to be more advanced devices in time, but at the moment this is my favourite gadget ever, and thats coming from somebody who works for a company that makes a wireless email device.

A small request [amnesia]

I don't usually do this but I have to say the following got me off my fat behind. There's a lot of fat behinds in EED - perhaps you might join me on this one;

Dear All,

As many of you may have heard, a Nigerian woman was recently sentenced to death- for having a child out of wedlock. Amina Lawal has been sentenced to death by STONING- she is to buried up to her neck in the ground, after which her punishers will surround her and throw rocks at her head until her skull is crushed and she dies a painful and horrible death.

I'm sure you all feel equal shock and disgust at this sentence, and I want you to know that she has only thirty days to appeal her trial. Please go to the Amnesty International site, letter page and sign the letter addressed to the President of Nigeria. It literally takes only a minute, and could help to save her life, as well as help put an end to this kind of cruel and disgraceful judgment in a country that calls itself a democracy.

Please copy and forward this letter to others in your address book as well.

Please help her! Thanks

Turkey [lurks]

Another country has fallen to the hard-line Islamics. 15-years of relatively moderate coalition government in Turkey was swept aside by the landslide win of the Justice and Development Party (AK). This despite the fact that the leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (apparently a name and not just a random jumble of letters) is banned from politics due to being found guilty of Islamic sedition.

He was one of those militant types that stood up and made lots of speeches about taking up arms against the infidel etc. He appears to have moderated his tone a little in public, insisting Islam will not be foisted on the people of Turkey but I wonder what the reality will be like. The eyes will be on the puppet leader which must be chosen to head the party in his place.

Let's hope the brains behind the operation has genuinely transformed into a more moderate individual or the threat of Islamic militants will grow yet greater with more institutionalized government support.

Friday 1 November 2002

Sexy Sci-fi [spiro]

On lighter note, Bravo have commissioned a series of 13 x 30 minute shows entitled 3001: A Sex Oddity.

The show will be exploring sex in the future, covering topics like Sex in zero gravity, Robot Lovers and Sex with Clones.

The show will be broadcast from 18th November. The VR presenter 'Elektra' is bound to have one or more clan members drooling at the box.

Not so Towering Inferno [spiro]

The broadcasting union BECTU has called on broadcaster and studio staff to implement additional fire risk assessments in preparation of the proposed fire service strikes to avoid studio shows being cancelled.

Studios will have to rely on their own fire safety staff in the event of strike action.

Now a few of the larger studios like BBC and Granada have fire safety staff (who generally are ex-firemen) who can deal with small fire or at least organise the evacuation of the building. But i'm sure that there are several studios like my workplace that don't have members of staff who can organise this sort of operation.

Management here have always in the past organised some sort of fire drill, about once every 6 months and we've had signs and maps up directing you to your nearest fire exit. Fire extinguishers could be located in all technical areas, and you were generally only a few paces from the nearest one.

About 6 months ago we started renovating the building to create a nice working atmosphere and to make the place generally more desirable to come to. All good as far as i'm concerned, not only do I get a nice new work place, but hopefully it will attract more external clients.

Having read the statement from BECTU I started to look around for the extinguishers, exit signs and route maps. I could find none, now I can't remember how long we've been working without these health and safety basics, but its been a while. The building has changed, not massively but it is different and one or two of my exits are blocked at the moment.

I'm absolutely furious, not only with my management, but also with staff members who deal with health and safety. I'm sure that should a fire occure then I would be able to find my way out within a few minutes, but this isn't the point. Just because things are changing doesn't mean they can lay off till its finished and then provide all the essentials. If anything, they should be more aware and provide us with up to date details of exit routes and extinguisher locations.

I mentioned this to the staff health and safety officer and he said he was going to deal with it. I've now been provided with extinguishers and exit signs and given a promise that it'll be updated as the work goes on. But should it of come down to a member of staff have to request the information and equipment ? I don't think so, especially in light of the possible fire service strikes in the next few weeks.

I'm glad to see things are being done, but we shall have to wait and see if they continue to be delt with as things progress. Anyway, whinge over, no roast dragon in the near future .......hopefully :-)