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Friday 29 August 2003

Drinking whilst Drunk, and the perilous dangers therein [brit]

Last night I blew off quite a bit of steam by getting absolutely and utterly cunted at the agency bar. I had no choice really, one of my guys is leaving us for a new life in Morocco (drinks required there), and the power cut reduced homeward-bound travel viability to zero (more drinks then).
Now, we've got our own bar here, complete with Evil Spirits(TM) - and as EED will testify, I'm a fan of sambuca. Flaming sambucas to be precise.
Remember kids, the sambuca gets hot. When it starts boiling, you know it's far too fucking hot to do anything with. Let alone attempt to extinguish in the traditional way...
View the mark of the evil sambuca!

Rewarding your lost customers [slim]

I've noticed that common sense doesn't always govern decisions in business. I've often seen organisations spend so much time chasing new business that their existing customers are ignored and lost. It's a silly thing to do, not only because your existing customers are a source of current income, but it's also significantly easier to sell additional products to current consumers.
My ISP/Telco has finally introduced wires only adsl, which is a fiver or so cheaper than regular adsl. Great, I can hook up to that and save some dosh. But no, they require an engineer visit to take away the adsl wall plate, and replace it with a regular master socket. Then I can plug in some microfilters and I'm away. They'll charge me for this though, £105 quid. Now, the same work, is carried out if I bin the adsl completely, except they won't charge me. Smart. It's also actually cheaper to cancel the adsl, and then order wires only, that comes in at around £60 quid apparently.
The really silly thing is, there's no actual need to do any of this. They don't want the stinray modem back, I don't want adsl in any other sockets, and the face plate is only worth a few quid. Recon that's good practice? Stiffing your existing customer and not your exiting one?

Thursday 28 August 2003

Microsoft's Tilt Wheel [lurks]

I had an interesting thing turn up at work this week. A demonstration gadget for Microsoft's new tilt-wheel mice. This consisted of a little wheel from a regular mouse next to a mock-up of the wheel on their new mouse range which emerges from embargo on September the third. Which is why you wont see any pictures of the mice around. Next week I'll take a picture of the gadget and the diagram in the brochure. So far on the web I've seen some details of the mouse range and this little picture of the wheel which looks like it was lifted from the same brochure.
Basically it's your regular mouse wheel but it also tilts from side to side. The mock-up was nifty and it was instantly apparent how this is going to be a must-have thing in mice in the future. I fired some questions at Microsoft's PR about it such as whether the tilt action is analog or just a couple of switches (left and right etc) but they didn't get back to me before the weekend. I assume it's analog which is going to be very cool for gaming. A couple of examples might be the leaning action in FPS games or the tail rotor in a heli in 1942.
The mouse Microsoft are slapping it in is a cordless too. So presumably a very nice cordless, ball-less mouse like their previous ones with the tilt wheel on it too. That might make us jump from our beloved Logitechs eh?
I'll grab some piccies when back on work on Tuesday.

Monday 25 August 2003

Tron 2 reviewed [slim]

Just had a quick run around the warez version of Tron 2. It's all Very weirdy and computery and true to the style of Tron, which make the fps setting feel quite fresh too, perhaps because the environments aren't trying to follow any real world setting. You've got lighting where it shouldn't be, boxes hanging in the air in odd places, stuff doesn't have to conform, and that makes it pretty interesting.

It feels a bit jedi knight 2 ish too, and a little bit deus ex, as you grow your character as you go in a vaugly RPG way, giving him software updates which bring extra power and abilities. The combat reminds me of Jedi Knight too, the disk is your primary weapon as the lightsabre is in JK2, and it can block incoming and performa variety of attacks. There are other guns but they're all a bit pants compared to the disk, again like JK2 and it's ubar sabre. I like the way the fps pooning things and finding keys mechanic is broken up with light cycle and disk duel competitions too, and am looking forward to trying those out in multiplayer.

It's got a fairly interesting plot, you're searching for corruption inside the computer where a sort of rogue process is causing programs to worship it. It's also a direct follow on from the first movie, which adds a bit of interest for the fans. Voice acting is ok too. The in game actors aren't bad looking, but do kind of overact and wave their arms about in a way that reminded me of Nolf and Nolf2. What is it with Lithtech games and cheesy acting? Also nice is the way you keep in touch with developments in the real world by scanning memory inside the computer for emails, although it feels a bit voyeurish to do so.

[Goes away to play some more]

I'm fucked now, because I had one of those couldn't stop playing it nights and went to bed really late, bah. It is superb even with more play. You collect new abilities by installing subroutines, which can then be upgraded. Your interface can only handle a few of these subs at a time, so you've got to chop and change em depending on what you fancy. Some of these enhance your abilities like give you stealth or a higher jump, others give you items like guns or armour. It's very clever.

Thing is, I love Tron. I loved it when I went to the flics to watch it, and I loved it when I rented it on video. On Betamax video. Now are there many gamers around my age? Are the ones who are younger than me going to know what the fuck all this is about?

Fuck em anyway, it's a top game!

Saturday 23 August 2003

Hot weather tip [lurks]

I have a hot weather tip. You're bound to have electric fans right? Well, you know the guards on them? Remove it and clean the blades. The difference between the amount of air they push with dirty blades and the wire guards is enormous. One tiny little one I've got now shifts so much air I've put it in a window and you can feel the breeze through the whole house. It's quieter too.

The ultimate solid-state mp3 player [lurks]

Some of you may have known that I've been a long-time fan of a solid-state mp3 player from Hong Kong called the Nex II. In fact I liked it so much I dumped an iPod for it. I don't want to (re)start a holy war with iPod users so I probably need to say why I prefer the Nex. It's smaller and lighter but not by much. You basically just plug it into a USB port with the provided cable and it turns up as a drive. The memory it uses is a single Compact Flash card so you can load it with however much you are willing to pay for.

It also runs on two AA batteries which is a very good thing when it comes to high capacity NiMH jobbies. Solid state units suit me because I'm happy to plug them in and either shovel stuff on in the morning manually or run a script to shovel stuff on at random.

However now something has come along which doesn't so much as edge the Nex II out of the running as drop a nuclear warhead on it from orbit. This Korean company you never would have heard of, called I-Bead, have basically rolled in every possible feature I could have wanted and... they've done it in a unit which is only fractionally bigger than those USB pen drives. In fact, the I-Bead 100 is basically a USB pen-drive. You pull the cap off one end and plug it into a USB port or into the USB extension cable thoughtfully provided.

Not impressed yet? Well how about this for starters, it has a high resolution LCD display on it which displays id3 tags and you navigate about the menus with a little thumb wheel (rather like the Nex II). It's also got a built-in lithium polymer battery and it recharges this from the USB port when it's plugged in. Roxor!

Still not impressed? How about the fact it plays WMA as well, it has upgradable firmware and it has a built-in FM stereo radio. Did I leave out the bit about the voice recording facility?

You're hard bastards to please eh? Well about about this then, it's bundled with the best quality in-ear headphones I have ever seen in my life. That includes the iPod. The headphones are also a strange/innovative design where the wire are embedded in a sort of necklace chord which goes around your neck - doubling as a remarkably efficient FM antenna and meaning that the I-Bead can just dangle like a medallion. I prefer it in my top shirt pocket, however.

Oh yes, I also lashed up a script to benchmark it against the USB shovel speed of the Nex II (which was already fuck loads faster than 90% of USB mp3 players). The Nex II clocks in at 521K/s. The I-Bead beat it at 609K/s. It's not much faster but it is faster nonetheless.

I just want to get back to the whole sound thing. It's fucking unreal! I really really really sounds good. Also, despite the fact it doesn't have two fuck off AA batteries, the headphone amplifier is way more powerful than the Nex II's. The Nex II in fact will clip rather nastily if you turn it up too loud, the I-Bead didn't do that and got louder than I was comfortable with even with my club-damaged ears.

The sound quality! It's astounding! It's a combination of just the best in-ear headphones to grace the planet earth (fuck knows who made them for I-Bead) with an excellent headphone amplifier and DC to DC converter and a faultless MP3 decoder. Now OK, a Nex II with 256MB CF is cheaper at £139 compared to the 256MB I-Bead's £169 but the difference in features and performance between the two... I'd say the Nex II is pretty poor value for money in comparison.

You don't get a carry case for the I-Bead, unlike the nifty one that comes with the Nex II, but there's a few accessories available like a car charger, belt case/clip and an arm band version. The only criticism of it so far would be that the menus are a little odd and need some getting used to but get used to it you will. Also it's just a drab grey plastic case which seems to be getting rectified in an upcoming update called the I-Bead 150.

In the mean time, I'm happy as fuck with it and I can't recommend it highly enough. Anyone wanna buy a Nex II? :)

Wednesday 20 August 2003

Church of The Bleedin' Obvious [am]

Ok stupidity alert. One of those blogs where you feel ashamed to be blogging. I've just read a thread which made me slap my forehead audibly really hard. And made me look stupid. And it's not going to put me in a good light. But that's not necessarily the spirit of Electric Death either. It's a bit like this; a few years ago I remember being embarrassed that I had got to past twenty before spotting the word 'breakfast' was literally '' i.e. break your fast of the night.
Well today someone said 'If you were thinking of a band name what would it be? Well it wouldn't be like going to your friends and saying 'I've got an idea - we'll call ourselves The Beetles but to be really clever right, cos we're a pop combon, we'll call ourselves 'The Beat-les' geddit? The Beatles like with a Beat.'
Well in 33 years on the planet, I hadn't spotted that :(
Altogether now...... DOH!

The Darkness [slim]

Why does everyone rave over this bucket of festering shite? What the fuck is it all about? Is it supposed to be funny? Is it supposed to be good? Well it fucking isn't. It's shit, unfunny shite. And it's not Zep. Cunts, the lot of em, mocking rock! How dare they! Rock rocks!

Tuesday 19 August 2003

Waiting for God, it really is the pits. [brit]

Not what you might call a happy blog this one, but nonetheless.
I got a phonecall from my mum this morning, the normal conversational openers replaced simply by her letting out as much emotion as she would allow herself over the phone. Why? because my grandfather is very ill; to the point where the doctors in their wisdom have put a big red mark on the calendar and told the family not to expect him to live past it.
Christmas 2003 will almost certainly be -1 grandparent and +lots of not-so-comfortable silence.
Put simply, at the age of 89, his body is shutting down, powering off, going into permanent standby. His latest blood pressure is 50/90 - which as any medically trained person will tell you is dangerously low. Life threateningly so. As the blood pressure continues to drop (and interestingly, did you know there is no known medical way of raising blood pressure?) his brain will shut down, followed by his heart.
The effects are already present, and marked; ongoing hallucinations and progressive (and rapid) memory loss, severely impaired motor control (and all that entails) and without putting too fine a point on it; speech is rapidly turning into repetitive gibberish. These effects - which affect not only he, but the family as a whole, have rushed into view; two months ago he was still talking and drinking his favourite whiskey and ginger ale...
It's sad, very sad, and demonstrates how cruel life can be; for a man who has been self sufficient for the last 70 years or so, in his final days he is stripped of the one thing he has held onto regardless; his dignity. The man who sunk 4 U-Boats, commanded various ships, hundreds of men, and travelled the world as a Captain in the American Navy has been reduced to a shell; a man who is quite simply waiting for the end.
And frankly, that fucking sucks.
I've often wondered how I'll end up; the big 'C' is fairly prevalent in our family (on the Dad's side) - so chances are I'll probably get to mid 70s and my lungs/colon/bowels/whatever will explode in some malevolent cancerous fusion.. but I do know one thing, I really don't want to end up sitting in a chair, unable to remember the names of my grandchildren (metaphorical, most likely), and unable to even change TV channel.. if this is what they call Waiting For God, then frankly, they can bloody well keep it.

Monday 18 August 2003

Do you suffer from unsightly bulging pockets? [houmous]

Hi all. WhatÂ’s the first thing you do when you get in from work? Reach for the beer? Make love to the missus on the kitchen floor? Hug the dog? Well for me itÂ’s putting my hands into my pockets and emptying my change into my change bowl (thats the sort of exciting life I lead hehe)
The trouble is that while I pick a few bits of silver out in the morning the rest of it builds up and up - and what the hell do you do with it? When I couldn’t even palm it off on my kids any more when they came round (there’s your pocket money love - take £10 out of those coppers) I realised I needed to do something drastic before I drowned in a sea of 2p pieces...
By pure luck I discovered the answer last week while visiting a Sainsburys in Farnham - a change converter machine! Its got a great big hopper which you pour your sack of coins into - works out how much there is,rejects the foreign ones haha, takes 7.5p per pound for the privilege and then gives you a till receipt which you take to one of the checkouts and - bingo! Hard cash in the form of notes are handed to you! sorted!

DVD Movie Review; Jul/Aug 2003! [brit]

Yes, I've been watching rather a lot of DVDs recently; well, it's either that or wank myself to sleep, and I can hardly do *that* at lunchtime...
Star Trek : Nemesis
I was expecting a lot from this film, and it's spot on. This is the last installment of the Star Trek Next Generation franchise, with the Picard 'family' stretching their spandex jumpsuits for the final time.
It is *amazing* to see how they've all changed since the first episode of the STNG series (Encounter at Farpoint) - and this film has a number of good things going for it.
Firstly, it's not directed by Jonathan Frakes (Cdr. Riker) - it's directed by a proper bloke who has brought a fresh pair of eyes to the ST universe. Secondly, it's got a great storyline, which granted is typically ST (Good vs Evil blah blah) but it's rip roaring stuff and the effects are stunning.
7/10 - Grab this, if only to complete your collection.
Johnny English
'The only thing the French should be allowed to host, is an invasion'.
God this is predictable, and purchased for two readily identifiable reasons; #1 I'm in love (utterly smitten) with the Aston Martin Vanquish in the film - and #2, pity. Abject pity that people actually make this stuff.
It's actually quite slick in terms of 'feel' - but really, it's yet another film where the 'jokes' are only made 'funny' by the lead actor's amusing (hur hur) rubber facial features; in this case Rowan Atkinson.
John Malcovich raises a grin with quite the most obviously dismal French accent in the history of celluloid.
4/10 - Grab, if you're desperate.
Our favourite moody mofo (Clint Eastwood) is in what promises to be an interesting crime caper; but let's face it, within 10 minutes you've sussed what the novel plot twist is (trust me, it's about as novel as sliced bread) and it then becomes a tedious foray into detective work and catching the 'evil' villain.
All in all, not exactly worth the effort if only because Bravo chucks out old episodes of Ironside and that thing with Raymond Burr in, and they are at least mentally taxing for longer than it takes to boil a kettle.
4/10 - Grab, if you can't find a copy of Johnny English, and you're desperate.
The Transporter.
This film is fucking awesome. The blokey in it can't act of course, but he doesn't have to - he's a hard as nails 'no questions asked' transporter of goods; and has the icy cool demeanour and er (required I guess) 'military background' to carry it off.
Snappy suits, cracking action (and I do mean cracking; EED will LOVE the overkill-house-destruction sequence) and lots and lots of car orientated chase stuff, and you've got yourself a winner.
8/10 - Yes. Get this. Ask NO questions. Get it now.
Phone Booth.
Mmm, this promised so very much, and in fact delivers about as much as a chinese firework; impressive idea, but fizzles pretty much from the moment he gets caught in the 'booth - nowhere near enough 'get inside the mind of the naughty sniper blokey' stuff, nor for that matter, enough of anything that makes you want to punch the air and scream for joy.
Fairly run of the mill film chucked out by Schumacher, presumably to fill a hole in the studio schedule.. nice to see Forrest Whittaker again though; a much underused actor I feel.
5/10 - Really, its a film that is best described as 'inoffensive'.
Dare Devil.
This film is incomparably shit. Do not buy this DVD.
1/10 - Ben Affleck cannot act. Another Marvel franchise, and it fucking sucks.

Friday 15 August 2003

RSS - teh win! [slim]

I appreciate this isn't new tech, and you're all using this already and laughing at me. But I've just discovered RSS and by lord it roxors!
If you're in the dark like wot I was, it's basically just a standard (I think I've got this right) where websites put their headlines into an xml file. You get an RSS reader that picks the xml up and displays the current headlines/news/forum topics/whatever, and if you see anything you fancy, you click on it and get the page. Simple enough eh? Thing is, because its xml based, and you're only leeching headlines its very fucking fast. I'm using the fabularistic firebird browser, and it has a free RSS extension available that reads RSS from sites in a bookmark folder. As it uses firebirds own bookmark system it means you can set up folders in folders, all that jazz.
Then I found another leet site, newsisfree which is jam packed full of RSS feeds that you just drag into your RSS panel and get headlines soooper quick.
Now, shame you can't filter. I'd love a panel that'll have a settable refresh rate where I can get it to alert me on updates, or keep an eye out for keywords. Someone that's not as slack as me write one please, ta.
Oh, and if anyones been RSS savvy for a while, post up any good xml links, I'm on the hunt!

Small and perfectly formed [am]

Small, compact and perfectly formed, that's me. Well, strictly speaking, unless I get put in a car-crusher or have an attack of Fahey-virus (clinical symptoms; dramatic loss of body mass, tendency to slur after 122 grams of beer, frequent tenderness below the belt area) then I'm referring, of course, to my current loadout of my latest purchase (Jebus forgive me) - a spanko 10.4 inched centrino'd Sony TR1MP.
'Buy now pay later Mr Johnson' said the pe0n in Dixons, Gatwick airport. 'Stop talking dirty you slut and gimme one' said I. Bish, bash and slightly later bosh, I had a saving of some 300 quid off list price and the credit equivalent of the promise of a dose of clap next August.
So having spent a first week with it - here's the blog of first impressions.
For a while I had been bleating in the channel about how I wanted to get a small sub-notebook mostly for ultra-portable word processing, a little music, some wireless net access, a change of personality and a facelift. Despite a minor wobble on channel the other day post-purchase where I was slightly unsure if the TR1MP wasn't too small, I have come to the conclusion it's perfect for what I wanted and given myself a slap for wishing for the impossible. Truth be told I was lusting after portability but also huge mobile gaming performance which, let's face it, I do not need and moreover does not exist in this degree of trade-off. As I said to The Lurker on the channel the other day, this thing does what it does and does it damn well and it's not something else. In other words, if you say you want a cat, go buy a cat and come home to say 'that's a good looking cat', then don't expect to put a saddle on it and herd cows.
So - impressions? Well as the carrot-crunching ten stone weakling I am, it was important to me that the thing was space economical and easily portable. Well the TR1MP nails that down cold. At 10.4 inch screen and thin centrino profile it's smaller than an a4 book. Oh yeah. They called it a TR1MP - very imaginative. Sometimes the ubiquitous Vaio branding (more of which later) can get a bit over-itself. Nut this is not the sort of thing, believe me, which you would typically associate with a Vaio. Anyhoo - on with the blog.
So first impressions part 2 - Styling:- Next to certain titanium macs, this has to be one of the best looking laptops I've ever seen. I thought from photos that the case was in some rather perplexing formica white but in reality, it's a very attractive white-silver metal. It may not stop literally stop traffic, but it's certainly got an 'ooh' out of every single person who's come to my office. I have brokers who could buy this thing out of petty cash salivating out of all dignity and more than one female broker has said 'wow you could just slip that into a handbag and go'. Now granted, these are the sort of girls who'd probably pack a Magnum .50 rather than a Lady Remington .22 but they're more or less right. It's that small. The keyboard, also white, is quite flat in travel but to my fingers is significantly better than most of the loose laptop keyboards I've been trying out in the shops. The control key is where it is supposed to be, not parked in some outpost and because of the overall size, the wrist wrests are simply heel of the palm rests rather than half your arm which suits me and also provides a tactile way of keeping the whole thing anchored on bumpy train rides. When it comes to styling, Sony have got this tapped - of the five brokers who saw it and could afford it like that, five of them said they wanted one.
Next - The screen. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Sony, they have been doing something terribly terribly right in the basement of their development dungeons. Something so right and so simply lush that old man Kogyo would be chortling so hard over his rice bowl that there'd be wasabi all over the place. The technology which Rabido was blogging about the other day briefly and is called 'Black Onyx' is only available on 3 lappies to date. Now aside from the fact that Black Onyx sounds like a be-affroed porn star or some tight-trousered funk band, it translates into a screen that when it's off looks simply just the best looking erm black ever. Sounds stupid. Is true. Like a couple of clan members I guess. But it just is - explain that. Now clearly, looking at blank screens in the off position has limited appeal so on bootup it is worth reporting that it then transforms into a fantastically vibrant and sharp picture. The quality on DVD playback or Photoshop Elements (which comes bundled) is simply superb and is really a different kettle of fish from almost any other laptop I've seen. Only equivalent would, again, be monster expensive G4 Macs. 'Ooh' go the none-techy visitors to my office. 'Splooge' go the techy ones. They're both right. What together with the best-in-class screen on my iPaq 1910, I have inadvertantly become a bit of a screen-queen. And I like it. Although the screen estate is small, that was entirely the point of going for something like this and boy does it do what it does well.
So what to the meat and bones? It's a Centrino load-out with everything under the sun. The 900hz Pentium M is showing fantastic battery life at this point - getting 4+ hours in real-life - they claim 5+ in the spec and the battery icon on full charge promises 6. Put it this way - I charge at work, use all evening wireless and there's still enough for half an hour on the train in the morning and trawling for hotspots over a cappuccino.
USB2 ports? Check. Firewire? Check. Bluetooth? Yup. Wireless Lan? Oh yes and it works to thank you very much missus with the signal marked as excellent all over my house and garden. Both can be activated by a nice little slidey switch on the front edge of the machine which is one of many nice touches. Now, as a slight diversion, I may be preaching to the semi-converted reading this blog (well almost certainly the semi-sentient) but I can't say how impressed I've been with the wireless thang and particularly Lurks and Slim's recommendation of a netgear dg842m router. It was ridiculously easy to set up and I absolutely love being able to plonk myself down on a sofa with this sitting on my lap and do a little surfing while watching telly / doing some writing etc. Responsiveness on my desktops also seems sharper.
Anyway, continuingÂ….Memory Stick slot? Well yes but nevermind it's Sony and it's not like they pretend they don't want to sell you everything interconnected from cradle to grave so you just go with it. And then ignore it. And what else - oh well there's the integrated 370k pixel motion eye camera for stills and video conferencing. The audio speaker is weak but sound is really excellent through the headphone sockets. There's also external mic plug ins and an integrated cdrw-dvd player which is amazing considering how small the chassis is and burns at 4x so fine. There's a Type II card slot, it makes your bed, feeds you chilled beer and arranges for a horde of Buzby Berkley girls to can-can across your den. This thing has a shedload on board. Software bundle is a mix of the useful - like the Photoshop Elements and the Sony bundled total entertainment stuff including a bit of a weird thing called Sonic Stage which as far as I can work out thinks that you want to ignore netjuke et al but only by encrypting your burned cd's into a system which is incapable of distributing the copies to anything else that is not Sonic Stage. It's dressed up as security. To me it sounds like self-justifying monopoly. Anyway the freebies are just that (link to Everquest anyone???) so you bash on Office (thank you work), mIRC, winamp, a few bits and bobs and you're happier than Spiro in a bar.
So finally is there an urk factor? Well the screen estate is small but you basically fiddle with the dpi and use fullscreen and minimal menus. Second nature in a week and it's really ace thereafter. The larger urk generically is 'it's a Vaio' so reputationally there's a healthy level of suspicion with reliability and fall-apartability. Well we'll see. I'd have to say this is a markedly different kettle of fish from the two Vaio's my parents have (yes sigh) and I am hopeful for the future. It's clearly pitched at the frequent traveller and has been built, I think looking at it, with a clear concession to that. It's more pro than any Vaio I've seen by a long way. It's sturdy, it's cool and it's the best looking pc laptop I've seen which does everything I wanted it to. Apart from the impossible like high rate fps gaming and stuff. But as I said before, it's not made for it.
So in summary? Well, leaving aside the impossible, as I said to Kate Moss only the other day, you can feel pretty damn good about making do with a very hot little number in the here and now. You aren't going to be shouting 'look at my TR1MP' but you'll get a fair few looks and feel pretty good whopping it out whenever you like for an instant display of leetness. And that my friends, is the true spirit of Electric DeathÂ….

Thursday 14 August 2003

Punting [beej]

I am realiably informed that when out punting, the punter should punt the puntees not from the flat platform but from the other end. The flat bit is for sunbathing and picnic baskets. Egads!

Wednesday 13 August 2003

Bittorrent = Fileplanet's Nemesis [spiny]

Lurks posted a similar blog previously about BT & what he forecast seems to be starting to happen...
Fileplanet's days are numbered. How do I know this? Well, I've been getting a bit better at flying the planes in 1942 of late & when I saw 'IL-2 Sturmovik Forgotten Battles' in Virgin. I picked it up on a whim along with Raven Shield for a mate in a 2 for 1 offer, 30 notes. Bargain.
That very day the first patch is released, so I truck on over to 3dgamers to leech the zip. All the http & ftp links are saturated with me only getting a measly 3/4k per sec at my end. But 'ho!, what's this?' I cry 'a torrent for the patch too?'. Within seconds I'm saturating my ISDN at 7(ish) k/sec with 11 seeds & 16 peers.
Magic. No subscription fee, no queueing, no retrying busy ftp servers, no slow ftp servers. If game companies start seeding torrents for patches & videos themselves then fileplanet will rapidly become loneleyplanet.
Sturmovik FB's good btw, Looks very nice & you can set the flight model to 'Stuff all that flight sim anal crap, let me just shoot shit out of the sky and stuff rockeys into tank convoys'. It does eat PCs for breakfast though. I'm CPU limited on a 2200 Athlon XP & I've seen frame rates in single figures on some of the demo recordings.
Tata Till next time - Spiny 'Flying Freddy The Fokke Fukka' Norman :)

Netjuke [lurks]

Struck me that I'd quite like to stream some MP3s in to work. In the past I had this wicked Slimp3 which did exactly what I want - a front end to my MP3 collection, browse through it and click to play. Of course it played via the hardware player though - now I want something that I can stream over the LAN and the Net at large.
So I had a bit of a look-see around last night. I turned up NetJuke which is a PHP thing on SourceForge which looks bloody lovely. Although sadly because it's PHP it doesn't actually work of course. This may or may not be something specifically to do with PHP 4 installed on my Xitami web server. I'm reluctant to go banging on IIS purely as a security and bloat issue, I quite like Xitami. I managed to run the installer and set it up on MySQL but now I'm getting 404 errors on PHP pages. Weird!
So anyway, has anyone else seen stuff like this? I'm keen enough on this at the minute that I'll try a few to see how they shape up.

Sunday 10 August 2003

XIII [lurks]

Had a go of this XIII thing. It's an Unreal Warfare engine game which is drawn in the style of a cartoon. It's not cell shaded, exactly. Just the textures are cartoon-like. It's actually quite nice. Of course the morons couldn't resist making shiny things but so far there looks to be a fair few original takes on the genre. I like the animated cartoon speech bubbles. Definately worth a leech. It's buggy as hell mind and setting up the controls is just plain bizarre. It's return to accept your changes (took me awhile to figure that out). And it's ctrl-alt-delete to actually quit out but it's still worth a look.

I'm guessing that since it's from Ubisoft and there's a fair bit of incompetance going on that it's a French game. The full thing might be worth a look anyway.

Best compact digital camera evah! [lurks]

You may recall in blog 466 that I was on the hunt for an inexpensive digital camera. I did get the Olympus C-150 in the end. It's a solid little performer for the money. It's so gratifying to see that pretty much every USB storage device these days, including cameras, just turns up as a drive. It's also very nice that one of XP's default options is just to open the folder in explorer, or in my case Directory Opus.
Anyhow, the Olympus is now being used exclusively by the missus and she loves it. However the things that I found a little annoying prompted me to buy a new camera for myself. The annoying issues were the lack of a zoom, the lack of resolution and the length of time before it's ready to take a photo. It's also too big for the pocket.
Candidates for a new camera included the Canon Ixus range which is popular with EED. I've nothing against Canons but I tend not to like the controls and there are some more modern cameras around. Particularly the Pentax Optio S. Pentax make their own lens system for this, it's a stunning feat of engineering in that three lenses slide up and into the camera when the camera is off. That and the latest miniturisation technology yields a camera which is ridiculously small and thin yet has a 3X zoom lens. Here's it in front of a CD as a size comparison.
This then lead me on to discover the Casio EX-Z3. It uses the same Pentax lens system but the back has a massive 2' CCD on it. The back of the thing is mostly LCD. It also seems to fair a little bit better in the image quality stakes in comparisons with the Pentax. The more I came around to thinking this camera was for me, the more I came to realise that the thing was virtually impossible to buy in the UK.
In the end I found it on Pixmania (which appears to be closed for the weekend), which is a French shop. It was cheaper than anywhere else, in stock and with a bit of googling and a lot of guesswork I ended up guessing a coupon code and had the thing delivered in two days for around £250. Result!
I'll do things in reverse. So far the only things that remotely suck about it are as follows; The lens is a little soft in the corners sometimes. It has a tendency to overexpose light bits although conversely you could say that it tends to bring out dark bits automatically at the expense of light bits so I'm not really sure that's a flaw as such. When shooting movies, the vids are pretty low quality and you hear the clatter of the auto focus if you move the camera around. Comes with only 10MB built-in so an SD card is needed for any use (although you could also say it's nice there's any built-in memory at all).
Now about covering the stuff that rules; The camera is fucking tiny! It weighs fuck all! It fits very easily in a pocket and it has a stunning magnesium alloy case. In fact everything is rounded and recessed, it's designed for the pocket clearly. I also like the fact that there's no nooks and cranies to wipe pocket fluff out of.
The TFT on the back is bloody huge and this really does beat the shit out of squinting at smaller ones on digital cameras. The power-on time is insane. Given that this bloody lens appears out of nowhere on the front of the camera, it's ready to shoot in a second or so and already I've caught lots of pics instantly. It's the fastest-on camera I've ever seen by a long shot.
The controls are the most intuitive I've ever seen. There's a solid little metal power button that toggles on off. Play/record slider. 4 way scroll cursors with a set button etc. Seriously, I've accessed most functions of the camera in 15 minutes of just scooting through them. The menu system is way cool, superimposed on the video. While the cam is basically point-and-shoot, it has dozens of preset modes for types of shot, each with a helpful little picture demonstrating that usage.
It comes with a little cradle. You plonk the cam in the cradle and it charges but there's also a USB button. You whack that and bingo, it turns up as a drive as you'd expect. I like the whole, I wanna charge now, I wanna shovel pics off it thing. Standards default settings for this thing just appear to be the closest to usable I've ever seen. 2048 x 1536 images come out at a bit over a megabyte. The camera doesn't post process much at all by the looks of it, so when you get the images into a paint package they're ready for tweaking.
The image quality is, I would say, about on a par with the mid-sized zoom Olympus cameras I've used before. That is to say, fucking good but easy enough to fuck up with too much movement, not taking focusing into account properly etc. On the other hand, it seems to be impossible to take a completely duff image. I've got a couple of photos which illustrate me whipping it out of a pocket and pressing the button, moving quite quickly and not giving the auto focus any time whatsoever to do it's job. Here and here
The auto focus seems to work in virtually no light. The flash doesn't overexpose on close subjects, it seems designed for that sort of thing. However it definitely likes to pull out detail and overexpose bright bits. As a matter of preference I prefer that over losing detail but you often get some chromatic aberration on the overexposed bits. Image quality certainly isn't in the league as the modern mid-sized zooms like the Canon Powershot S45 or the Olympus C-450 but it's not really that sort of camera. It's a snaps cam, one you'll always have on you at a moment's notice.
The fact I'm even comparing image quality of a cam the size of a fucking credit card with mid-size zooms is just insane. The zoom is physically faster than my old Olympus C-200Z. It's got a full tripod mount on it. The macro on it, as picked up by dpreview and steve's, is absolutely awesome and by far and away the best I have used on any digicam other than a big-lens SLR. See for yourself.
General picture wise, here's a couple of untouched raw images in medium quality out of it of my lair taken from a tripod. Flash fill (auto) and no flash.
In all, it's an object of desire make no mistake. It was a toss-up between this or an Olympus Mju 300 but I reckon I've made the right choice.

Tuesday 5 August 2003

Memories [spiny]

If you're interested in naval history or WWII then this may be up your street, if not, erm, it probably isn't :)
Here is a throw-together web album.
It's all stuff from my dad's photo album while serving with the fleet air arm in the far east. The shots cover 1943 - 1945.
Apologies for the 'unique' design, it wasn't me, it was a wizard :)

Monday 4 August 2003

Galactic DampSquib; the new BF1942 mod [brit]

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, beardy George Lucas invented Star Wars. We all know this; it's writ large in stone (and come to think of it, writ in writs too).. it was magical, cutting edge, and some of the best Sci-Fi ever made; if you could forgive Princess Leia for being allowed any speaking parts at all.
Over the weekend I downloaded the latest BF1942 mod to hit the e-streets; Galactic Conquest. It is fair to say that given it's setting and the proven abilities of the BF1942 engine, this mod has been widely anticipated for some time now - everyone from Starwars Uber Geeks to Lightsaber Wielding Wannabes egged on by nice static shots and the possibility that this mod may let us play Jedi. Cue bass-enhanced asthma inhaler FX overlay.
Put quite simply, I found the play experience wanting. Desperately wanting.
This is Star Wars; this is *it* when it comes to Good versus Evil in the galactic stakes, and frankly it feels like the mod creators were more interested in releasing it than actually making sure it had any of the Star Wars 'magic'. It is, quite simply, BF1942 reskinned.
Perhaps I'm being too judgemental, it is after all an alpha release. Perhaps I'm expecting too much from a freebie mod development team, attempting to recreate something of the Lucas original inside a consumer orientated PC title.
Or perhaps, I've been spoilt rotten by the simply awesome Desert Combat mod, which has (in my view) delivered one of the best mods since Counter-Strike appeared and laid waste to Half Life traditional multiplayer.
Everything (and I really do mean everything) feels slow and clunky, or in the case of the Tie Fighters and A-Wings, not even properly configured - to the point where taking off is a near nightmare.. yes the textures on these craft are extremely detailed in most cases, but if you can't even move about semi-properly once embarked, what be the point?
Bases are given but the most cursory of textural makeovers - if at all. As an Imperial Stormtrooper, I was somewhat taken aback by the fact that practically everything I could see looked so Tribes-esque it was cringeworthy; huge swathes of gray and dirty brown; no feeling that it was the heart of my evil emperor's presence on the planet at hand.. I could barely see my way clear to crushing any rebel scum I was that dejected.
For me, Galactic Conquest has already put itself into a position of Galactic DampSquib.. considering the legacy it has behind it (though I am also intrigued by their legal position) I just feel that it's been thrown together in order to be the first Star Wars mod, as supposed to transporting the player to the Star Wars universe in a way which the BF1942 engine could do so well.
Still, it is their first release; I shall undoubtedly give it another bash when the new version appears on the radar, but until then I'm afraid this StormTrooper has put his boots up.

Too much duck, not enough sauce! [brit]

I'm a big fan of chinese food - there is to my mind nothing better than a 4 pack of Stella and half a peking duck with all the associated pancake orientated paraphenalia..
Yet seemingly, no chinese restaurant can accurately calculate the duck meat to plum sauce equation; throw in the cucumber and spring onion variable and we're facing gastranomic calculus meltdown.
I've found a new chinese delivery service; Four Corners.. swanky menu pops through the door, and it does seriously nice stuff for reasonable prices and best of all, instant card payment (you wouldn't believe how many times I've had to go through the whole 'VISA? whats that then?' debarcle).
Yet even these fellows, with their authentic cooking (it is in fairness seriously tasty) cannot achieve the proper duck to sauce to pancake ratio; half way through my chinese & stella & Blackhawn Down dinner marathon last night, I ran out of sauce!
We can put men on the moon, lay cables across the world's oceans and split the atom, but we can't work out how much plum sauce to deliver.. or alternatively, we end up with an ocean of sauce and a duck which looks more like a charred pigeon carcass..
Is there no end to my torment!?

Sunday 3 August 2003

Lurks uber Laptop! [lurks]

Got me a new laptop, an Acer TravelMate 800LCi. It's your larger style laptop with a 15' display but it's a heck of a lot tinner and lighter than the Dell Inspiron 8000 monsters that Slim and I used I-8.
This is Intel's new Centrino chipset that is designed to be low power and integrates really nifty stuff like Firewire, USB 2.0 and WiFi. So it's got all of that built in, hell it's even got four USB 2.0 ports on the side for Pete's sake. The audio ports are colour coded and better quality than the Dell's and put nicely up the front left and the DVD/CD-RW is on the right hand side. Bloody CD-RW in my laptop!
LAN, phone jack for modem and S-Video out are on the rear along with your docking port connector, VGA out and stuff like that. The front panel has buttons to enable/disable the built in WLAN and Bluetooth. Did I leave that bit out? :)
Oh yes, I probably also forgot to mention what's driving at lovely 1400x1050 TFT panel too. The top of the range ATI Radeon 9000 Mobility. 64MB too! It's a bastard load faster than the Dell. Not just the graphics, the 1.3GHz Pentium-M encoded the soundtrack from a Spooks episode in LAME in 3:30 where as my Athlon XP 1800+ (O/Ced with cranked FSB and memory) did it in 3:09. So it's less than 10% slower.
It came with XP Pro. The software installed on it was appropriate without having too much irritating stuff. The touch-pad doesn't appear to work as smoothly as I remember the Dell's but that could be just me getting used to it. The buttons and surround around the pad are a sort of nasty silver plastic which is the only bit of the machine which looks/feels in any way cheap.
Being as this is a Centrino laptop, battery life is claimed to be in the order of 5 hours or so. I'm expecting 4 odd, going on some reviews but those numbers come from reviews of the faster model so maybe I will get five out of it.
The sound is, well, not so hot as you'd expect but it's fairly surprising that it doesn't sound worse. It has some kind of strange little woofer device on the underside which sits on the tabletop to extend the base a bit. It's all very adequate for sounds but I wouldn't want to play music through it, that's what the headphone jack is for.
The notebook doesn't come with a case, it's modestly packaged without the reams of unbelievable horseshit that comes with a Dell, for example. A case is extra, I bought a nice Dicota. Cost wise, it's available for a shade over a grand plus VAT. So far I think it's a stunning buy given it's less expensive by a good deal than the Dell I bought but the specification is a good deal more and it's a good deal more practical in size, weight and battery life.
Big thumbs up so far. This baby is going down to Houmous' yard for that summer LAN party, mark my words!

Friday 1 August 2003

Working late, and watching buildings burn [brit]

As my fellow clan mates will testify, of late yours truly has been rather quiet on the 'EED scene' - 12 hour days are currently the norm as we approach the launch of a project that has eaten up 8 months of my life.
However, whilst toiling away last night, work was interrupted by the announcement that the rather large office block no more than 100 yards away (and directly opposite) was on fire. Big style. So much so, that the BBC even put a page or two up on their site, plus that photo gallery.
The last time I saw a fire like this, it was on a ship firefighting course in 1997; the flames were literally *pouring* out of the building; climbing up the outside to bypass the concrete (and hence fireproof) floor separators.. in the space of 2 hours it consumed 5 floors.
So, we broke out the beer.. after all, we couldn't leave; 20 fire appliances, 4 ambulances, a rather cool looking fire command unit, and truck loads of police were all outside, and the amount of shit in the air was quite visible..