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Wednesday, 30 July 2003

Second Life, the new coming? [drdave]

You probably won't have heard of Second Life (http://www.secondlife.com). There's no surprise there, since I'm not sure it's supposed to be a massively marketed game of the same mould as Everquest or Asheron's Call. Hell, I'm not even certain it is a game as such. There's no Win Condition, very little progression, no competiveness (aside the artistic) and above all, no killing. Okay, there's some killing, but more on that later.
Second Life is what would be produced if you locked a box of Lego, a copy of Neil Stephenson's 'Snow Crash' and a handful of San Francisco hippies in a basement and supplied them with oysters and spanish fly for a month. It is, essentially, the internet's first steps towards a metaverse, an online community where expressionism and artistic flair is King.
Okay, I'm not making myself clear here. Probably because Second Life is so pig difficult to catagorise. Nevertheless, here goes: SL is a persistant online world, much like Everquest. It has places to visit, landscapes and physical laws, much like Everquest. Unlike Everquest, it doesn't have a story, it has no monsters, it has no aim and it has no progression. What is does have, however, is a set of relatively well realised 3D construction tools that are available to everyone in the game. In a nutshell, this is it. 'Players' (or more appropriately, inhabitants) are free to purchase land and create objects on that land. The cash to do this comes in the form of a weekly 'stipend', basically a free cash injection at the beginning of every week. While this is enough to buy you a modest sized land and build a respectable looking log cabin on it, it will fall some way short of allowing you to build and maintain (objects you own incur a weekly taxation) some of the more extravagant sprawling mansions and appartment complexes that are perfectly possible.
This is where the game comes into its own. SL is essentially a shell, much like the real world, which allows for possibilities. The true potential of the game is in the concept of emergent behaviour. That is, the tendancy of patterns or practises to emerge within the framework of a set of rules. In giving the players weekly money, the game's designers have allowed them to go so far but no further. To see what the game is truely possible of, for example, players have had to devise a rudimentary economy.
Using just what they begin with, clever players have carved niches for themselves within the game world. Some players have chosen to manufacture objects, such as clothes, furniture or even weapons, and sell them at a profit, thereby allowing them to plough money into working on their 'projects'. Others offer transport systems to get around the world. Games have even sprung up here and there - there's a tank battle game, complete with scripted tank effects, or a large deathmatch warehouse offering simplistic, counterstrike play. It should be noted that this differs from Tradeskills on EQ et al in that whatever you make and sell is entirely of your own devising. If you want to sell shirts, you have to design the shape and textures, if you want to sell miniture FFVII dolls (as someone seems to be) you have to craft the dolls from simple primitives.
Another example of emergent behaviour was in the almost legendary War Of Jessie Wall, in which a group of perhaps 100 players from World War II Online migrated en masse to SL and proceeded to buy up land in the damage enabled (you can be killed) 'Jessie' part of the world. They then plastered their creations with pro Iraq war slogans and posters, an act that was not taken too well by other players. Eventually, a series of acts of vandalism and graffiti occured, with anti war slogans popping up. Soon, a wall of scripted turrets appeared in Jessie, coded to seek out non-WWIIOLers and the situation descended into a minor militaristic skirmish. Probably not the best example of human behaviour, but an indicator of the kind of felixibility that the SL system allows. For those interested, the 'War' was eventually resolved by a peace summit arranged by SL's in-game journalist (http://secondlife.com/notes/).
With the freedom to create, the world takes on a very surrealistic appearance. When you first enter, you'll be overwhelmed by the myriad of bizzare structures, outlandish avatars (which you can customize to an almost excessive degree, as often as you like) and peculiar offerings. You'll fly around (you can fly) just looking at things, pressing buttons or talking to folk. You might run into the automated japanese styled dirigible has been unleashed on the world, tasked to roam randomly, offering flyers for a section of the world that has been themed (by the players) with Anime-based objects. Or you might see the clever player that has built a UFO that he pilots around the world 'abducting' players here and there. Everywhere you look there are vast granite towers, curved glass domes or just simple wooden huts. There's a weird mini-zoo with tiny penguins tucked away somewhere.
SL is very much a game for those of an artistic bent. Personally, though I'm fascinated by the concept, I find it difficult to express myself with the object creation tools. I look around and see truely majestic buildings and structures, and then look at my four-walls-and-roof creation and can't help but feel frustrated. Even my avatar has ended up looking like a bald, fat bastard. I have no trouble with the scripting side, but whats the point in that when I have nothing to apply it to? Maybe I need to set up a script selling business and have a professional build me a house...?
Another weak point is the 3D engine. SL is a cracking is idea bursting to get out, it just needs a 3D engine capable of doing it justice. As it is, SL looks a bit anaemic visually. It isn't helped by the fact that the 3D is streamed - the client itself is a 10Mb download, and it pushes objects and landscape to you as you encounter them. This has the bizarre effect of making objects pop into being as you're just standing there - a house, for example, will look like a simplistic box when you approach it, but as you stand and watch, furniture, textures and fine details will 'rez' out of nowhere and complete it. Its a strange experience, but one that lessens if you increase your cache and spend a while online.
In short, SL is a fascinating idea. I can't for one minute imagine that a lot of people reading this will give it much truck, because it is essentially a flawed genius. And with an almost vertical learning curve and fetid appearance, it will probably lose more people within five minutes than any other game. Nonetheless, it is only a 10Mb download and comes with 5 days free trial, so you don't lose anything by trying it. What you gain, however, is an insight into a possible future of the Internet, a look at a developing community and a fascinating glimpse at the phenomenon of emergent behavior.

Richmongo [am]

The other week a few of us arfed off to Richmond to sit amongst the peasants (well middle class peasants) on the river side and talk life, toyz and whose-round-is-it-now-you fecker. Special guests did not include Houmous who showed a spectacular disregard for our invitation and neglected to travel about 4 hours round trip for a drink. Special guests however did include Muz's mate errmmm henceforth known as 'Muz's mate' as well as the usual assortment of reprobates from the crosshatch. Also in attendance Beej, Spiro, Lurks, Muz.
As the afternoon loped lazily on and pints of wife-beater settled in our comfy tums a couple of things unfolded. One, Jay, who was studiously ignoring us despite living only 2 minutes away, eventually turned up and to everyone's complete and utter bafflement brought Jez, his ertswhile 'mate' whom no-one in the clan can errr stand due to the fact he's been a twat to Jay and has an ego which is roughly the same in number of square miles of radience as his IQ which is to say about 85. To put not too fine a point on it, even peddling hard, this boy could not light a 60 watt lightbulb.
Secondly or 'two' for the grammatically correct, Beej who was interested in buying my t68i thought that he would try and engage in a contract negotiation with the Phat Lawyer. All this for about two pounds eighty as he was unwilling to listen to the asking price being twenty quid *plus one pint*. Possibly envisaging himself as some sort of tough-guy negotiator, he made a fatal flaw which was that he mistook me for someone who gives a fuck. After about three attempts to make him understand it was twenty quid *plus one pint* with Beej instead saying 'no Gareth (in that way he has) it's twenty quid' I gave him a short lesson in contract negotiation by hurling the t68i straight into the middle of the Thames.
Suffice it to say Muz's mate (as student scum) was deeply traumatised by this and repeated 'I can't believe you did that' throughout the rest of the afternoon. And just when the laughter subsided, The Lurker decided to send his t68 in to keep mine company. The Bad Value of Electricdeath is strong in this one.
Here's some pics; Richmond madness . See if you can guess which one is Muz's mate contemplating contract-negotiation electricdeath stylee.... also see if you can guess which one is where Am realises that Jay is the brains in the relationship :)

Sunday, 27 July 2003

Counterstrike, meet Real Life(TM) [brit]

Remember those Counter Strike games which just 'clicked' ? where, for whatever reason, things came together in such a way that even Hannibal would be chomping hard on his Montecristo and grinning?
Well Bravo channel have gone one step further, with an amazingly entertaining series (not to mention just downright cool) 'Combat Missions'. Put simply, this is Counter Strike, with real people.
They've spent a fortune on the series; building an entire military compound complete with firing ranges, assault course, barracks, and of course what appears to be an unending supply of helicopters. Two teams (there are four in the series; Alpha through Delta) battle it out for points in real world combat scenarios.
It really is CT vs T in the very real sense; team members are drawn from all over the forces, an example being that Delta team has 1 Navy Seal, 1 LAPD SWAT, 2 Marine Force Recon, 1 Delta and 1 Green Beret.. so it's as much about seeing how these guys with their very different training and skills come together to achieve the mission(s).
Normally, I don't even acknowledge Bravo's existence; it seems full of nothing but Craig Charles' pathetic paranormal rubbish and reruns of Knightrider; but this series is seriously cool - armed with modified real weapons, it's as close to a perfect 'sport' as I can think of.. now of course, I'd pay good money to have something like that started over here.
Reminds me of the time EED owned CS* in such a way that was borderline legendary...
*Term does not necessarily reflect the truth.

Saturday, 26 July 2003

The witch from the Sky [slim]

Fuckign sky right...
Want to reduce my packages, I'm on the lot minus sports at the mo, at some 30+ quid a month. We never watch the movies, they're usually shit, and always end up going for box office if we rarely want to watch a flick. So I ring the 'packages' number out of the sky mag, it announces that it's only for adding packages, not removing. So I phone the main number, get through a couple of menues and the options are:
'if you want to add channels press 1, if you want to discuss changing your package press 2' They never actually say the word remove, and they sneak the little 'discuss' in there as a taster whats to come...
So you finally get a human, who asks what you want, even though I've fucking been through five mins of menu that tells her exactly what the fuck I want, bitch. So I say I want to dump the movies off my sub, and the disney channels. She says, sweetly 'Can you tell me why you want to do that sir?'. 'Because it's rubbish' I says, trying to go for a quick end to it. She's not having that of course 'Do you mean the films aren't to your taste sir?'. I wasn't going to let that lie, how dare she turn it round on me? Typical woman tactic that, it can never be their fault, oh no!
'No, not just that, they're all really old. We always seem to end up paying for the good stuff on box office'. Even as I said it, I regretted it, the bitch is looking at my account, she knows how rarely I buy a box office. She's not going to press that though, she comes back with facts instead, cow.
'We put sixty new films on sky premier every month that haven't been on box office'.
Bull shite. Even if its true, they must be fucking stinkers. She's not done though, and keeps on with a 'It's excellent value if you rent a lot of dvd's'. This fucking mare isn't letting up!
'I'm just not watching it, so it's not worth paying for..' I say desparately. I'm not asking for much, I'm still paying them nearly 20 notes a month for a load more channels I never fucking watch, it's worth that to get this harpy off my back!
She's got another tactic though, 'You pay for your subscription in advance Sir, you've got five days to go on the movies. If you cancel now they'll go off immediately, but if you call back on the 29th you can watch what you've paid for and not pay any extra.'
They've got all this shit worked out eh? They know full well I've been meaning to cancel this sub for months. They've got some kind of wife nag detector in that evil little box under my telly that blinks in red on some massive screen with a map of the UK on it with the title 'WIFE NAGGING TO REDUCE SKY SUB' on the top. This lady on the blower knows that if I put the phone down without cancelling now, I'm a lazy enough shit to leave it for another six months. Besides, she's put the fear up me now, there's now way I'm calling back.
I think the only thing that saved me is that during the conversation, I flicked on to sky premier to say bye-bye. Fucking Crocodile Dundee in LA (IMDB 4.7/10). With that awful stinking turd on my screen to combat her magic, the evil witch was foiled, 'No, just cancel it now please'. It was done, but she wasn't...
'Do you have BT sir?'
Fuck me! Thank pissing Christ I'm not even able to get BT on my little rock, there was no way she could sell me that!
Sky are conning, mind reading, scheming, tossing, clever little shites. And you know what I'm thinking of spending my freshly liberated fiveteen quid a month on? Fucking sky+
Argh!

Phones 4 U R Scum [lurks]

Took the missus up the high-street this morning to get her a phone. We'd already decided what was best. A Nokia 8310 on T-Mobile Anyone 50 with 50 extra texts. Runs to £20.50 a month. Good little Nokia, has a radio in it but no colour screen and no wank. Up the high-street we go and I see that Phones 4 U is pretty quiet so we go in there instead of the Carphone Whorehouse further up which will doubtless be packed.
Wife takes a look at the phones, decides that I pegged it right with the 8310. We go to do the deal. They take ages and fuck around for zonks. Have to call T-Mobile credit check wise because someone else at address has a phone. They have the audacity to demand a £250 deposit to unlock the phone for roaming. Eh? I've been on T-Mobile for zonks. Well they aint getting that so decline that, she can use my phone.
Lots more fucking around. I mean really. Slow, fucking around. Then they say 'What price were you expecting'. I assumed it would be free with the contact because it is off T-Mobile's web site. Nope, they want £50. Well, we're pretty skint but either way we're not paying £50 for a mobile we could have just ordered off their web site. Seems this is standard practise, the web is dramatically cheaper than a shop. News to me!
So as we're basically stoked to stroll out, despite the half hour we've been in there at this stage - they start quoting other options. If we want to Anyone 100 (which I was umming and ahhing about anyway) and picked up insurance for 3 months (which I was also umming and ahhing), we could walk out with the phone for £20. I really just wanted to get it done and dusted so we went with that.
It didn't even end there! They decided that the wife's signature didn't look like the one on the back of her bank card. Even though it clearly did and even though we are clearly who we say we are on account of all our cards, bills, photo IDs and so on. Give it some about how the salesman is responsible rah rah, make her writing out signature many times all the time claiming it doesn't look like her card sig - fucking did to me!
I was getting the hump at this point and turning from my efforts of being cheery to saying 'You're really talking the piss now, how much harder and more expensive are you trying to be over a web order?'. At which point they reneged and then printed out all the forms again (thanks to wife's sig x 20 on one paper). Took ages longer. Then try to flog us loads of shit we don't want. Wouldn't give us the documentation of the number to cancel insurance etc until asked.
Meanwhile during this hour long marathon session, the manager (who weighed about 5 metric tons and barely fitted through their cellar stockroom door and at one stage tripped over a phone box, landed on the off foot and shook the entire shop so all the phones rattled!) was flogging a phone to some Canadian guy and was pretty much lying about the roaming capabilities of tri-band phones. Also I heard him say that the T68i for £80 with contract was a bargain as it was a reconditioned phone and for a bit more money he could get more features. My God. You could almost hear his thoughts 'Foreigner, better start scamming!'.
I don't feel too bad about what we achieved because wife is happy we sorted her out a phone on the day we said we would. However we ended up paying more, on a higher price plan with insurance we weren't going to buy and it was an hour of solid fucking around with truly dodgy fuckers.
It was, however, important to go to the shop because you have to pick up the phone you're going to have for a year and check it out. Next time I'll go into Phones 4 U and I'll look at all their phones, maybe get them to get some out of the box. Then I'll say thanks but no thanks and go home and order from the web.
Fucking unreal.

Humans suck [rebot]

Discuss!

Thursday, 24 July 2003

Macs suck! [lurks]

Macs suck. You heard it here first. Well, OK maybe you didn't actually hear it first but I feel it falls to me just to point out what festering piles of shite they still are after all these years. I used to work with them, don't you know. Used in mag publishing they are on account of the fact the run Quark and there's no buttons and sharp edges for the art folks to hurt themselves on.
The thing is, I just cannot use anything on a Mac to write content (my job). The keyboard is stinky, the word processor is stinky, even the screen is stinky. So I wanna use my damn PC right. PC mag, wanna use a PC. It's not rocket science, I've done it for ages in my last publishing job. Only this time things are worse...
First of all, the company's file storage is that Appleshare shite rather than a decent cross-platform file sharing system. As far as I can work out, it's impossible for me to save my copy directly to the shared storage which is being used for the magazines. Despite the fact that the filestore itself is a Win2K box, it's running the lovely one-way appleshare shite.
Worse than this (because there is a long workaround to the former at least), Mac mail clients. They don't MIME-encode. Despite the fact that this is the world accepted standard in sending binary attachments, they don't do it. They decode it, they don't encode it. So I end up getting forwarded press releases which are helpfully reencoded into Binhex shit. Which I have to save out, rename to HQX, hit with Stuff It Expander and then rename one of the forks (let's just not GO there concerning the Mac file system eh) to have the proper extension and it works.
Absolute nightmare. I mean this G3 Mac I have, you hit a key to power it up right. However it just doesn't do anything. For a solid minute it's actually powering up but there's no screen and no noise, nothing. Then you get the little mac thing on the screen and a load of icons appearing telling you that the fucking thing has loaded a dll. Wahey!
Fucking thing runs some scanner thing just to shut down too. Then there's dragging shit to the wastepaper basket to delete ffs. What's the matter with having another mouse button and then having a context sensitive menu so you can quickly select what you want to do with the file. Hell, you could even make the DELETE key delete a file like on proper OSes but nooooo!
Don't even get me started on how stinky they are to multitask. Switching between apps is slow and painful from a performance and a GUI design point of view. Even the uber-app we're all using Macs for in the first place is stinky. Selecting fecking fonts from huge lists, no hot-keyed macros. It takes ages to do anything and there's fuck all in the way of effort saving short cuts.
I hate Macs.

Monday, 21 July 2003

Extracting the French [drdave]

I just emailed the Secretary for Culture, Ms Tessa Jowell regarding this story:
story.news.yahoo.com
In my email I requested the following changes to the english language:
'Café' to be immediately substituted for the more Anglo-friendly 'Food Shack'. 'Deja Vu' to be phased out over a period of six months and replaced by the far more culturally correct 'Spidey Sense'. 'Menage á Trois' shall henceforth be only referred to as 'Daddy Gonna Get Two Bags of Sugar, you dig?'. Au Pair will become 'daddy's afternoon off'.

Sunday, 20 July 2003

New improved houmous and a question... [houmous]

I've just been enjoying one of Sainsburys (yes another fun gun session) new flavoured houmous dips, when I was suddenly hit with a question which has bothered me for years....why underneath the inane pictures that you get on food packaging do they feel the need to put 'serving suggestion'?
Is it because they are worried that, using this packaging as an example, they are going to get people complaining because when they opened up the 4 inch diameter pot there wasnt a big bag of tortilla chips, a blue bowl and a garden lawn in there?

Saturday, 19 July 2003

teleco bastards [shedir]

The saga of my t68i continues. Once again it couldn't make/take calls on Sunday. SIM worked in ye olde 3310. Took it back to fuckfonewarehouse and they said nothing wrong with the phone.

T-Mobile sent me another SIM but charged £10 for the priveldge, FFS! SCANDALOUS. It's their fucking product and its faulty, probably faulty from day 1.

I can't see how it's the punters fault, but I need to be contactable so paid it. Only a tenspot but annoying none the less. No way you can reason with these people "£120 to cancel the contract sir" doesn't help either. wankers the lot of em. Of course the new sim card is just the same. One rant in crapfonewarehouse later I've been offered it's firmware upgraded. I think this is as far as they'll go before admitting the T68i is allergic to me and offering a change. I really fucking hope so.

Oh I should say after pointing out that a new sim doing the same as the old meant the phone was at fault, they refunded the tenner. So not completely stupid.

Friday, 18 July 2003

Snatch is back, and it's a wee beastie [brit]

Ok, so finally it's sorted. Pissing around with firewalls is SUCH fun.. not.
Clan EED's uber server, 'snatch', is back - currently running Battlefield 1942 with the Desert Storm mod enabled, it represents a haven from weenies and lam0rs, via our patented 'SPEAK ENGLISH!' rulebase.
Find it at 213.219.43.142, or search for 'snatch' in All Seeing Eye.

The PC comes full circle [lurks]

Bare with me readers for I am going to take you on a rollercoaster ride through the history of personal computing. In doing so we shall arrive at the present day with an understanding of how we got there and then contrast the irony of the current trends in PC form factors with that which has gone before.
The first generally available microcomputers, like the CBM Pet were modelled on the only other computers that existed, remote terminals into main frames. They were typically integrated monitors, keyboard and computer - terminals themselves largely modelled on teletext units before computers existed.
Probably the first computers any of us owned - except for folks like Amnesia and Floyd who worked out what PCs were for last year or something - was the 8-bit computers like the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Vic 20.
Little keyboards that had the computer built into them. You slapped them down in front of a tele (to save money over a monitor) and often had an add-on to act as writable storage, there being some sort of cartridge for games. In effect they were games consoles that had a keyboard built into them and a few peripheral ports.
These cheap 8-bit computers co-existed in the same time frame with more expensive business and educational systems. They had already existed but things like the Apple II and the BBC Master had a low enough price that they were becoming more widespread. They also had the keyboard built-in but it slopped to a large thick back. It was so thick because it had I/O cards in it. Floppy disk controller for example (drives were still outbound) and updated graphics cards such as the 80 column card handy for serious business use.
Then came the form factor we're much more familiar with. The desktop case. That way your box with all the cards went under the monitor and they keyboard was detachable. This sort of form tended to be seen in all office and business varieties. Home users were still sticking to integrated boxes such as the updated Commodore and Spectrum machines. Rich folks had Apple IIes and BBC Masters, as did schools still because they already had a body of expertise there.
Back then, people didn't comprehend the whole Moore's Law thing. If you lashed out that much money on a computer, you were going to stick with it for a good few years.
And so it continued to the point that when the 16-bit era came along, home users were still using integrated computer/keyboard units with televisions or monitors (which at that time were basically the same thing). The Amiga and Atari machines looked similar because that was most convenient. Can you surmise this is because the bulk of usage of these systems was people that didn't have a lot of peripherals. Indeed, just adding a hard drive was a cumbersome side-car type device.
Then something really interesting happened. The IBM XT had come along as a bland low-spec business machine but margins were higher and clones were being banged out with lots of competing features. It was also easier to upgrade these systems year on year. The Amiga clung on with desktop case designs and a number of upgrades and a fanatical enthusiast following (including the common and insane practise of removing an Amiga 1200 motherboard and hacking it into a tower case. However the fact is, the thing which enabled them to be so cheaply made in the first place was holding back any real upgrades. It would need the original manufacturer to overhaul the system and they went bust. The integrated home-computer form factor had met it's doom.
The business cross-over had also served the PC platform very well. The PC was becoming a games machine in addition to the excellent business form factor (desktop with monitor). We know the history, the market exploded. Everyone had a desktop computer. The monitors sat on the fat desktop case, you had a detachable keyboard. When you upgraded, you just switched some cards, CPU, plugged extra stuff in the box and your desk stayed neat and tidy. A winning combination.
So it continued for many years with the only refinement that people tended to go for bigger monitors when the price dropped so the tower and mini tower form factor had overtaken the desktop in popularity as a minor physical reconfiguration. It also meant you could put the big box a little out of the way...
Now let's fast forward to last year. The Mini-ITX motherboard standard was introduced since all the big chipset makers had been integrating more and more bits of a PC into the same chips. The result was, the cost of a very small single board computer had fallen and the specification of these integrated parts was largely good enough. Shuttle probably can lay claim to starting the Mini-ITX revolution. The small cube design which crams a PC into a little cube.
Something else was happening, PC stuff hit the main stream, people were spending long periods at their computers. They became proud of their computers for the first time since the 16-bit enthusiast computing golden age. Suddenly it was no longer the hard core nuts at Hard OCP that wanted attractive and small computers. Mini ITX systems began to sell like hot cakes from a mass of different vendors, now basically offering the spec of a full sized tower system in the diminutive form factor.
Even full sized cases... since they were no longer a necessity, consumers are now being offered very attractive cases rolling out of the factory with windows in the side, neon lighting and various types of LCD and LED displays on the front panel. All without taking up a dremel and ordering some neon strips from the US!
Even those that care not so much for the appearance of their machines were asking why they needed a large beige box on their desk. Beyond mini-ITX systems, the cutting edge systems starting to filter out into retail today are the ultra-compact PCs. Computers like the Pelham Sloane PS1500 which has a tiny integrated PC built into a little box on the back of a TFT panel.
This though is integration for the sake of it to a large degree and one does sacrefice a good deal of specification and gains a lot of cost just to get shot of a small (mini-ITX, say) machine.
Then there's something new. I said earlier my history lesson was intended to make current developments seem deeply ironic given the passage of events passed. Now is that time. I present to you the Zero-Footprint PC. Remarkable isn't it. It's also surprising good value, upgradable with standard parts and this is just the first machine to return to the 8-bit form factor roots. I wonder if this isn't just the beginning.

Thursday, 17 July 2003

Elite Display-age [muz]

Having been looking around for a nice phat screen to replace my aging LG 15' Flatron (which now has a home on my mum's desk at work), I purchased an AOC LM919 for a very reasonable £386 delivered from this lot, discovered by [EED]Lurker. Not only is this a leet 19' monitor, it has in-built speakers and a USB hub.
Order was placed at 2PM Wednesday, despatch e-mail received at 3PM Wednesday, kit arrived Thursday afternoon via Initial CityLink. So far so good.
Open up the box, contains power lead, DVI lead, VGA lead, audio lead, USB A->B lead, and of course the monitor and stand.
Assembly was a bit tricky - the ports for all the cables are hidden behind a plastic cover, and two more pieces of plastic need to be removed to run the cables through the base. Not too difficult to do, but not obvious, and not mentioned in the instructions. Minor problem overall.
Behold! The final result! Looks gorgeous running in 1280x1024x75Hz. Speakers are more than sufficient for my needs, sound fine playing MP3s and games. USB ports are very unobtrusive, hidden away on the left-hand side of the monitor, behind the main screen. Dead handy. All in all, a good buy. So... who's going to be the next to buy one? :)

Wednesday, 16 July 2003

1942 or 2003 Top Fun [spiro]

Brit, Beej and Myself have just had a fantastic afternoon of DC, only to be let down towards the end by a team full of plane camping kiddies.
I was having so much fun I actually forgot to take screenshots. I could hear Brit screaming DIE!!!!! whilst shooting down aircraft. Beej pounding the enemy with artillery and laying mines punctuated by a SUCK iT DOWN !!!
Some class team play by [EED] You guys need to get in on this.
Just had a quick fly round the new Battlefield 1942 map 'The Battle Of britain', the germans have to bomb 3 different targets to the ground in order to win. Simple format top fun.
here are just a few screenies.
Ah, the white cliffs of Dover, well not so white. Coastline
Perfect weather for it, what ? Lovley day for it
Radar dish, one of the many targets to be defended. Radar
Here they come, roger, roger, TALLY HO!!!!!!! Germans
A quick Look at the map Map
I'm looking forward to playing a bit more of this.
Get 1942 faggots.

Did Houmous change the course of history? You decide! [houmous]

As most of you know I recently heard that my little seaside town would now be getting broadband following my local campaign. A trigger level was finally given which was 200 and since we had 370 registrations, we got an immediate start to the activation process.
What a lot of you won't know is the rather interesting events over the previous few weeks ...and the question I have for you is did I change the course of history or not? :)
A week or so earlier I received a copy of a letter from BT to my local MP which he forwarded to me. It was dated in mid June when I had well over 300 people registered as interested in broadband on the BT site. This is what it said:
'Thank you for your letter dated 28th April, which enclosed correspondence from your constituent Robin xxxx, who is campaigning to bring broadband to such areas such as Bracklesham and East Wittering in your constituency. I am sorry for the delay in replying.
Firstly you may be aware that the exchange at Selsey has reached its threshold of 350 registrations and is due to be enabled to provide ADSL broadband on the 20th August. This is no doubt due to the hard work of local campaigners like Robin xxxx. BT has worked with over 500 local campaign groups to support them in their bid to bring broadband to their communities, and welcomes their support.
The Bracklesham exchange has not had a threshold level set but it has now had over 200 registrations. We have carried out an evaluation of the exchange, which unfortunately shows that it is not currently viable for broadband upgrade. To set a threshold level we have to assess each exchange individually, as each one has different characteristics such as distance from our core network, space within the exchange, ventilation and air-conditioning. This means that the investment criteria vary from case to case and each exchange is evaluated on its own merits. We will continue to monitor demand levels and costs of enabling the exchange and will review again as the cost model changes.
BT, would, of course, like to make ADSL broadband available to every customer in the UK. However, upgrading a telephone exchange is a major investment involving substantial commercial risk. We have to have a sound business case, not only as a matter of good business practice but also to make sure we meet regulatory and competition law requirements.'
Now while that may be slightly ambiguous that reads to me as 'You are not getting broadband regardless of your registrations - end of story'.
That then led me to fire off this email to the Chief Broadband officer at BT:
'Hi Alison
IÂ’ve received a copy of a letter from BT (Tim OÂ’Sullivan) which was sent to my MP (apparently you got a copy) which while a little ambiguous is causing me great concern!
Please tell me I am mistaken in my interpretation that, based on current technology, we will not get a trigger level regardless of the number of registrations. I am staying calm at the moment on the basis that this not the case. However this will certainly not be so if I learn that I have been wasting what limited spare time I have over the past 5 months campaigning on BTÂ’s behalf and, it has to be said, encouraged by BT all the way.
Do ring me if you prefer – I promise not to yell at you!'
The next day I get this email (and she had tried to ring me):
'Hi Robin - thanks for your e-mail. I'll try and call you later on this afternoon if that's ok. Are you around either just after 1600 or just after 1700?
The letter to your MP was drafted at the beginning of June, and at that point your exchange wasn't seen as currently viable for broadband. As you are aware we continue to monitor demand levels and costs of enabling exchanges, as well as looking at different technological ways of supplying broadband. We are to announce the next 400 triggers later this week and the fact your exchange has such high demand would mean that I can assure you, you will not be left out.
Alison Ritchie Chief Broadband Officer, BT”
Now it seems a bit strange that these were her comments re the letter when there were over 300 registrations when it was written and we finally get a trigger level of 200. It is also interesting to note that our neighbouring exchange was also given a trigger level - of 500!
I'm interested in your views but I believe that when that letter was written it was correct and that Alison Ritchie (and I love her for it!) sussed how well we had done with the campaign and what bad publicity BT would get (she was also aware we had got a grant to get wi-fi broadband) and overrode the commercial considerations and instructed that we get enabled.
If thatÂ’s true, then cynic as I am, I now have new faith in the power of civic action, and will shortly be launching my legalise all drugs campaign....hehe

Tuesday, 15 July 2003

Sky is teh suck [lurks]

Tell you what, our install of Sky satellite has been less than smooth for what I consider to be a pretty par-for-the-course residence. The first time a guy turned up, my downstairs neighbor went out and I forgot to get the keys. The install guy refused to climb out my lair window even though I had prepared a ladder (short distance down to the roof of downstairs kitchen) and the guy was going to have to get on ladders and stuff to install a dish anyway!
Next guys who turned up, a good week and a half later (wife took the day off), took one look at the house and exclaimed they couldn't do it. They didn't want to run coax through the house. Widdums! Another appointment booked with some 'high installations' team, since second lazy installer guy decided the cable should go over the roof thereby meaning he could knock off early.
Had discussions with this specialist installer and they agreed a dual LNB would be the best bet. That's basically the receiver bit on a satellite dish, a dual variety has two outputs. Thereby meaning they wouldn't have to attach another dish - one dish would feed my lair (I have a DIY dish set up for digital radio and vid capping purposes of the FTA programs) and the new installation in the lounge.
That was a good result. However the turn up today and exclaim they know nothing about a Dual LNB install, it would have cost loads extra anyway (at no stage mentioned prior) and they'd rather stick the dish on the chimney stack on the roof. IE, they don't want to have to run the cable down the back of the house so they can knock off early.
What's more, they want to charge us £40 for the brace to attach the dish onto the chimney! What?! They want it in advance and reckon I can probably bleat at Sky for a refund based on the dubious information up front. Ordinarily I'd say well goody but I'm not paying extra but since Telewest picked up the analog stuff in the morning, I've no TV at all. So just get it done says I (relayed via mobile to the wife who has taken another day off).
I'll bleat at Sky later to get my £40 back. They've provided a Pace 2600 digibox by the sound of it, that works for me. It'll sure be nice not having all the analog noise on my picture now. Must just remember to downgrade to a basic package next month...

I shall and I must have RDC from work! [lurks]

I'm trying to get an SSH tunnel from work to home through the evil ass firewall. The firewall blocks everything but port 80 so after soliciting some advice from the fellow IT-manager's-worst-fears chaps in EED, I set about a course of action;
1. Moved Xitami from port 80 to 81 on Wench
2. Installed WinSSHD on Wench.
3. Monkeyed around to get WinSSHD to work with ZA.
4. Tested tunnelling using Beej's Penguinet SSH client. A-OK.
5. Tunneled RDC by mapping localhost:5000 to the RDC port of 3389 on the remote machine.
6. Ran RDC client and attempted to connect to localhost:5000

Bingo, we have a problem Houston. Microsoft, in their infinite lameness, have the client on XP refuse any local connections. Even though the port is clearly not the port of the locally running RDC server. A bit of googling turns up a nasty workaround that basically works.
So now I can run RDC and tunnel it. Thing is, it still doesn't work. So taking the advice from the above link, I started to Google around in microsoft.public.windowsxp.work_remotely and came across a definitive statement that it is not possible to tunnel RDC through to a machine which is also running the SSH daemon. In essence microsoft are disallowing any connections from the loopback interface. Microsoft rule.
So that's me fucked. The brute force solutions are;
1. Install Radmin and use that instead *
2. Run another machine on the LAN during work hours which runs the SSH daemon and will forward the RDC request to Wench.

Both of these options suck. Microsoft suck. That is all.
* Radmin runs like a dog on XP for no apparent reason

Monday, 14 July 2003

Death to George Best! [lurks]

I see that George Best football hasbeen cunt is back on the bottle. I reckon they should remove the liver and give it to someone deserving, preferably someone that never played football.

Friday, 11 July 2003

Spiny's Micro ratings [spiny]

Following on from Lurks movie scores thread: here's one for xbox games for the newly consoled up. Feel free to add your own ratings.
Brute Force Nice graphics wrap a standard shooter. Arcadey squad-member setup adds a nice twist but the title is begging for first person viewpoint, a mouse and a keyboard. Avoid: 4/10.
Colin McRae 3 Ignore the sub standard texturing, persist with the first 1/2 dozen tracks & discover a very playable rally sim. Very good handling & sound. Nice tracks. More of a 'simmy' than 'arcadey' so avoid if you like bumper to bumper action with wide tracks. A goodun: 8/10
Halo It may be good, but it's coming to the PC with proper controls, better multi player & more weapons. Avoid: 2/10.
Midnight Club 2 Yo. Bit of a laugh 'The Fast & The Furious - the game' Yo. Surprisingly difficult quite early on. I must be missing a shortcut. Yo. At least you can turn off the disco music. Yo. Yoyo: 7.5/10
Burnout 2 Hilarious cringeworthy balls-out racer / crashing game. Very nice graphics & compulsive gameplay. Would be good with mates & beer, Turbo: 9/10.
Starsky & Hutch Repetitive gameplay redeemed by wicky-wacky guitar & large arran cardigans. Woth keeping & dipping into now & again just for the nostagia factor. Right On: 7/10

Looking for a new keyboard [lurks]

After just a couple of days of using a laptop keyboard in the office, I've come to realise how much they own. I type faster on it, it's quieter, it doesn't make my fingers sore after typing on it for hours either. The reason for that is the very low travel for each keypress and no onus on that clickity type effect which seems to be a selling point for some unfathomable reason on many PC keyboards.
Now, I need an external keyboard for the laptop. Because I want the keyboard closer to me. I want a full sized keyboard too, not one of the cut-down laptop sized ones. Oh and my left hand getting roasted by the heat coming off the left wrist-rest thanks to a 1.3GHz CPU under there somewhere is getting annoying too.
Shinji pointed out a Packard Bell that dixons do that sounds kind of like it. An ultraslim keyboard if you feel like going over there to look it up. Unfortunately it was PS2 only and a Belkin PS2 to USB adaptor runs for around £30 which is about the cost of the damn keyboard!
So the search is on. Anyone seen anything like it or have an opinion on the idea of having a laptop style keyboard for their desktop?

Tuesday, 8 July 2003

getting old [shedir]

Frankly it sucks a cheesy big one. Out with my non wifed mates on Sunday, 8 pints and a goldie and I'm feeling the effects. They're still going strong.

Utter shite. Out of practice I guess but still not fair. Then my 20 mins for a bus home, 20 on it, 20 walking from end of run to house. The cold air had me utterly pished by the time I got home.

Where can I apply to go back to my early 20s? Where I could handle the bevy all day and night, feeling shit hot the next morning. bah.

It Must Be True [spiro]

Most people don't know it, but the blowjob was invented in 1972. It came out of the New York 'swingers' scene. The American government supported the blowjob movement--it was seen as a way to get the average American back to work in a shorter amount of time. Before 1972, America workers spent an average of 80 hours a week in sexual congress with their wives.
The blowjob, although originally invented by bored drug users as another way to kill time, was seen by the government as a tool to increase productivity.
'With the Blowjob, workers spend less time in the sack and more time at their desks,' said Spiro Agnew in his role as the White Houses' first Oral Sex Czar. In fact, it was soon discovered that workers could receive a blowjob while still sitting at their desks, but few workplaces actually implemented this innovation. Agnew, for all his official power, could not get desk-based blowjobs for the hard-working White House staff. (Several senior Senators, however, did manage to find the necessary funds in their budgets.)
Deep in the throat of the cold war, the blowjob was just the lever America needed to topple Communist Imperialism overseas. But what had the five-star generals in the Pentagon quivering, however, was not the expert attentions of the secretarial pool, but CIA field reports of a top-secret Soviet mechanized blowjob machine. The size of a football field, more than powerful enough to relieve an entire platoon of Red Army regulars in under four hours, the Pentagon saw this as the most immediate threat to national security.
General Curtis LeMay famously declared the 'oral sex gap' and a crash program to build an American blowjob machine was begun deep in the Nevada desert under the dual expert guidance of Edward Teller and Dr. Harold Kinsley. Several billion dollars were poured into DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration) but, after three years of trying, DARPA admitted failure when a visiting General LeMay was better serviced in a nearby brothel than by the machine itself. In a final memo to President Ford, LeMay decried DARPA's work as 'better suited for masturbation than oral satisfaction' before committing suicide, fearful that this great nation would crumble under the sated Red Menace.
(After the end of the cold war, several generals from both sides met in Geneva. It was revealed that the 'Blowjob machine' was nothing more than another Soviet maskirovka: empty inside, constructed of nothing more than cardboard; soldiers engaged in congress with the machine were coached on the proper facial expression to affect for the passing U-2s and spy satellites. The DARPA project was never fully shutdown and later became known as the DARPAnet, which was the foundation for today's Internet.)
In America, it was a time of experimentation. Other orifices, such as the ears and nose, were explored for their sexual potential. Ad campaigns and public-service announcements on radio and television tried to attract a skeptical public:
''Blow' is just a figure of speech.' 'The nose knows a good time.' 'Stick it up your nose.' -- a popular slogan until it was appropriated by cocaine users 'Just the wax, ma'am' -- Joe Friday from Dragnet did the ads for Aural sex
Blowjobs became government-supported under the administration of Gerald Ford, who was given the first nationally-televised blowjob during his 1975 state-of-the-union address. 'Wow, that's great!' said an enthusiastic Ford. American productivity shot upward during the Ford administration, in part thanks to hordes of American women who worked hard to keep their men working--and got a government check to boot.
The program lost favor in the Reagan years when it was discovered that gay men could use the technique as well. Reagan's oft-heard stump speech told of a government-supported woman, 'a welfare queen who used her blowjob money to buy cadillacs and even foreign autos.' (While seemingly apocryphal, this story seemed true enough that several Cadillac dealers offered reduced prices to blowjob-givers, to 'keep them buying American.') But the program could never be killed, even under Reagan. Casper Weinberger fought tooth and nail to keep it. 'I'll give government cheese to poor people before I'll give up blowjobs.'
Finally, the government paid out its last blowjob check under George Bush, who quietly closed the program down. The last blowjob in America was given in the waning months of 1989. An era had ended.
By Rob Terrell.

Monday, 7 July 2003

Help with Heli's [spiro]

IÂ’ve been playing Battlefield 1942 since it came out and still love it to pieces. From defending a base in the Conquest mode to driving flat out across the desert with a spitfire up your arse in CTF, this game rocks.
Then you add the Desert Combat Mod and things really get interesting. I play generally as Anti Armour class and to be honest even assault troops donÂ’t really stand a chance, the RPG is a 1 shot kill on all but the most heavily armoured vehicles and infantry donÂ’t stand a chance. The stinger against helicopters is a waste, needing 2 hits to kill, against infantry; itÂ’s a railgun with 100% damage.
Having been killed by helicopters on a regular basis in DC I decided that itÂ’s about time to learn how to fly them. I mean, how hard can it beÂ…..
Well, bloody hard is the answer, rudder, collective and stick to control as well as remembering that it doesnÂ’t respond like a Jet. Taking off is easy, probably easier than fixed wings, you simply raise the collective and up you go. Flight dynamics depending on whether you are hovering or flying forward at speed differ greatly and once out of control its incredible hard to get it back under control.
The mouse keyboard combo just isnÂ’t doing it for me in this situation, I have for a long time believed that they are more than adequate for the job and when flying fixed wings that is true. But I canÂ’t get the hang of choppers and its pissing me off, so I buy the www.logitech.com Wingman Extreme Digital 3D. joystick, its by no way the most expensive on the market but it has everything I need from it.
Spending a few minutes setting up the stick so the collective is on axis 3 (throttle) pitch on axis 1 and roll on axis 2 I practice flying and IÂ’m still having a problem, I have to use the keyboard for the rudder control. This doesnÂ’t sound to bad until youÂ’ve tried flying them, if you rudder left, you rotate left on the rotor axis, but to stop you need to rudder right. So the instance arrives when you need to call for back up or call in a spotting, do you take your fingers off the rudder controls and risk crashing ?
A lot of the people playing DC will not call in sightings if they are flying, theyÂ’ll just try to kill the target. Not a problem if they succeed but if they fail then none of his team will know that there is a threat approaching. So I stuck the rudder control on axis 2 of the joystick, this puts total control of the chopper in my right hand leaving my left to call in sightings and check the map etc.
The difference is remarkable, I can now fly for long periods of time with out crashing and can (most of the time) get from A to B with no problems, hitting targets will come with time. Landing and hovering is more of a miracle than anything else. I have managed once to hover on the spot long enough to capture a base, chuffed to hell I promptly crashed but who cares.
The addition of a joystick has improved my enjoyment of this already amazing game, I would recommend it to anyone.

Sunday, 6 July 2003

Root her! [slim]

Got me netgear wireless adsl router thingy at last! Bought it from dabs in the end as I was buying another bunch of stuff that was more expensive on ebuyer, or just not available. Ebuyer.com is still the chepest for these babies though if you're after one.
Anyhow, I'm really fucking impressed. Its very easy to set up, add your user name and password, and off it goes working. I'm also impressed with the firewall features, you can create services, add rules, add rules by schedule which is fucking impressive, allow only certain ip's access to rules, which is top for me coming into my home pc from work. Love the way you can get it to mail you the firewall logs periodically too. There's also a site blocker thingy, which might be handy later on with my kids going online. Teh interweb does seem faster too, which I think is because my old gateway was really a bit shit. You can also get it to sort out your dnydns client too, which saves fucking around with a client app on one of your pc's, top!
I've not tried the wireless range on it yet, and that's the one thing that folks do bleat about this router, but apart from that I@m very chuffed so far. Luberly bit of kit.

Thursday, 3 July 2003

Borderline [spiny]

Borderline. The club in Londinium - that's where I was on Friday night - as correctly spotted by Am on a recent blog. Haven't had time to blog a report it until now. Anyway here's the spill:
On Saturday morning my ears were still ringing. That's how loud the amps were in the basement pub that is 'The Borderline', London somewhere east of my roman town home of Corinium (thats Cirencester history fans).
I was there for a rare chance to see the man-mountain that is Popa Chubby. I'm a big fan of the Blues-with-a-New-York-Twist he belts out. After posting to the ml about it and recieving no response (Am I in your kill file mat?;)) I figured I'd just hook up with a few country mice & hit the smoke. So an early afternoon off work me & the lads rolled into town in Phil's capacious ford galaxy. A vehicle that was designed to carry beer if ever I saw one.
After short taxi ride & we arrived at the Borderline, a basement pub with a bag of atmosphere. Olde pub style oak beams, whitewashed walls, low ceiling. After ordering the first round I picked myself up off the floor (how can you live in a town that charges *that* much for beer?;)) and kicked back to listen to the support band. The band were actually not half bad. They were about 99% bad :) A drummer who couldn't keep time and a singer somewhere south of apalling. Shrug.
9pm sees a recording come over the PA. It's what I can only describe as a tune that resembles the chipmunks on acid playing country & western. For entrance music Popa sure has a sense of humour :) The big man himself follows shortly. My, he IS big. I hate to say this but he looks like he could even eat Am under the table. The guitar looks like a botempti toy slung over his gargantuan frame. Any illusion about the toy/guitar theory is quickly dispelled as he belts out the first number.
From memory, this was 'Daddy Played The Guitar And Mommy Was A Disco Queen', the qualification there is because this was the start of over a two hour set, played virtually non stop. Not a weak song or bum note in the whole 7200 seconds. This man 0wned the small audience crammed into the basement of the borderline for the duration. He took the blues, mixed in some hendrix, stevie-ray, gary moore, & buddy guy influences stirred it up & rammed it down our throats. He may have as well shouted 'THIS IS THE BLUES MOTHERFUCKERS! THIS IS HOW WE DO IT IN NY CITY!!!'. In fact I'm not entirely sure he didn't :) Popped into the mix was a cover of Hendrix's 'Hey Joe', which one of my friends described as the second best live version he'd ever heard. Now he's been around a while and knows his stuff. I didn't ask but I think he meant Hendrix's version.
Without a weak song in the set, it's difficult to pick highlights. It's one of the best blues (or non blues infact) gig's I've been to. The live extensions to the songs blended effortlessly without becoming weary tacked on guitar solos and highlighting just how short some other performers like Robert Cray can fall (technically brilliant but what's the point if you you can't tell your show from the cd?). At one point he even took over drumming duties proving he was no slouch there either. Biggest laugh of the evening was had mid song when he missed a chorus so the audience could chip in. As usual the first response was a bit weak, to which he retorted 'What are you? FRENCH!?' heh.
OK, here's the deal. For some of you London lot I'd recommend jumping on the chunnel & checking out one of the dates in nothern France

Wednesday, 2 July 2003

Radiohead rock Glastonbury! [lurks]

Glastonbury 2003 seemed to go down very nicely this year. Superb line-up. It stayed sunny for more or less the whole thing and the BBC pulled out some nice coverage given the extra air-time they have due to BBC 3. In fact, the BBC, went a little bit mad on the coverage. At least on the web.
Our lads Floyd and Houmous were out there who no doubt will regale us with the war stories shortly. Unfortunately the BBC's television coverage was kind of haphazard. It was excellent when they decided to film something but they made some distinctly odd decisions about what to film and what not to film and the presenters on BBC 3 were so amateur it was painful.
I missed The Music and White Stripes which I really wanted to see. However the BBC did cover the vast bulk of the Saturday night headliner, Radiohead. Although they put it on BBC3, then BBC2 and then back onto BBC3. Didn't show any of the 3 songs in the 2 encores initially but did show the last song from the second encore on the following day.
The performance was stonking and the BBC really excelled. The mixing of the crowd noise in was immaculate, I've heard a *lot* worse live albums than the excellent job they did. I captured the whole thing of satellite and then glued it together to make one big video of the entire gig apart from the encores.
As a bazillion clue-free Radiohead fans bleated about xvid codecs, bittorrent and the fact it was big and they couldn't get it in their modems etc etc - I put up just an mp3 of the entire gig sans the encores. Today I redid all the audio, splitting into tracks with fades, fixed some glitches and then encoded with lame's superb preset standard mode with full id3 tags to make a proper live album.
All this shit is on Bytemonsoon;
  • Video: My 800MB xvid monster rip of the Radiohead concert sans encore.
  • Video: Some other guy's rip of the second encore song, Street spirit.
  • Audio: My initial average quality one-big-mp3 of the gig sans encore.
  • Audio: My ninja high-bitrate 'live album' with tracks, id3 tags and encore.

Can't say fairer. You'd wanna get in now before the Torrents go away. They're all very well seeded at the moment.
So Floyd/Houmous, what was it like in person eh?

Tuesday, 1 July 2003

Spiny spotted in da smoke [am]


Spotted this in Eurogamer Max Payne 2 thread;
spiny 28-Jun-03 17:25:39 Looking forward to this one - gonna play it listening to this guy. Blues NY style. Saw him last night at the Borderline,London. Blew me away.
Is this our own Mr Norman? In da big smoke? Blowing up no-I-can't-come-that-far-for-beer alibi?
I think the people should be told!