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Friday 30 January 2004

Portable headphone heaven [lurks]

As I mentioned in blog 619 the headphones that come with the Creative Muvo2 are a bit arse. I needed some replacements and a bit of a Google about turned up the Sennheiser PX100. I bought a set for not very much money from Empire Direct. They're absolutely fucking brilliant.
These are the best small headphones I've ever heard. There's also the PX200s for a bit more money but they have a closed-back design and are generally regarded to sound worse than the PX100s.
The case is very nice, the things are band type headphones but they fold up and wind up in the case. I'm not sure how often you'd use it though, I tend to just sort of fold them together and coil the lead around the phones which is a bunch faster - but you might like the case.
At any rate, I thoroughly recommend them for any sort of portable use if you're not the sort that doesn't mind looking daft by cruising the streets with a big set of Hifi cans on the head. Which is probably most of us :) If you're going to splash out money on expensive MP3 players, for the love of God, ditch the in-ear jobs.

BBC cannibalism shocker [lurks]

A senior source within the BBC told Clan EED that the top management of the public broadcaster regularly engage in heinous acts of cannibalism. He went on to say that junior staffers and cleaning staff, often temps from ethnic minorities, have repeatedly gone missing and these reports coincide with special BBC Comedy Club events. These events, our source alleges, are little more than a front for murder and acts of cannibalism!
These unspeakable acts apparently occur in the secret tunnels beneath the archives of Bush House. Clan EED refuses the name the reputable source but assures readers that these are the words of a senior official with the codename of Greggie Poos.
To provide further proof of these startling allegations, this reporter visited Bush house and confronted the BBC Press Secretary, Sir Alastair Preece.

EED Reporter: 'We have evidence that BBC management have been murdering and eating junior staff at the 'Comedy Club' events.'
Sir Preece: 'Lies!'
EED Reporter: 'No, really. Your bosses have been chowing down on the cleaners.'
Sir Preece: 'This is absolutely rubbish, the BBC is the World's finest broadcasting institution and we have vigorous internal regulatory mechanisms to make sure that no one gets eaten.'
EED Reporter: 'We have hard evidence. We have a source. Speaking of which, what sauce do you use? What goes best with HUMAN MEAT?'
Sir Preece: 'This must be some sort of joke. We would never eat the cleaners, they'd taste of bleach!'
EED Reporter: 'Oh come on, you've had a nibble yourself, admit it!'
Sir Preece: 'Absolute nonsense, I protest!'
EED Reporter: 'Why is someone dragging a bloody sack up the stairs over there then?'
Sir Preece: 'That's... um, that's raw meat for um Sir David Attenborough. He prefers his steak rare, you see.'
EED Report: 'Your having a laugh! I put it to you that it's another murder victim and his genitals are destined for autie's cafe!'
Sir Preece: 'Security!'
EED Reporter: 'Is this due to the unique way the BBC is funded?'

So there you have it. What was once the bastion of British journalism is now a degenerative festering cesspit of cronies, standing shoulder to shoulder to defend the most disgusting and evil acts. Ultimately it is us that has allowed this to happen, by funding their perversions with our licensee fee.
Yet Clan EED has lifted the lid on this sordid den of satan-worshipping man-eaters once and for all. You heard it here first.

Creative Muvo2 4GB Review [lurks]

When it comes to MP3 players, I like to think that I know a thing or two - on the basis that I've reviewed countless numbers in a professional capacity and I've personally used just as many, stretching all the way back to the first Diamond Rio with it's whopping 32MB and serial connection which took about half an hour to fill it up.
Back in blog 459 I mentioned what I considered to be the finest solid-state MP3 player on the market and I'm still under that impression now. The I-Bead is one of the niftiest technological devices I've ever had the pleasure of using. Yet in the wider MP3 circles, it isn't perfect. 256MB doesn't last long, the battery isn't changeable (which I give Apple ceaseless shit for) and being a USB 1.1 device, it takes a little while to load up despite the anaemic storage.
Creative's Muvo2 hard drive players are based on Hitachi's new 1' hard drives, the same tech you find in compact flash microdrives, which Hitachi inherited off IBM along with the desktop drive business. The latest version of the Muvo2 has the latest Hitachi drive, the 4GB microdrive. So for your money you get a damn small MP3 player, somewhere between the size of a solid state player and a hard drive player.
Specs wise, 4GB of storage, MP3, WAV and WMA compatibility, USB 2.0 connection and a user changeable battery which is the same as the Zen jukeboxs which costs £29. 14-hours of playback (improved from the 10-hours of the 1.5GB unit) claimed and a 98dB SNR and headphone output level of 30mW.
That's the overview, now to the subjective stuff. Firstly, the physical side. I like the form factor, it's ideal for a top shirt pocket although with no headphone remote available (yet), it's rather a lot more inconvenient to pause and skip tracks than the I-Bead. but the same goes for any MP3 player that you put into your pocket. The built-quality is all plastic and not a particularly robust or solid looking plastic either. This is lame given the cost of the thing but this is Creative all over. They've never understood the value of aesthetics and I wouldn't expect them to soon.
The Muvo2 isn't ugly but it's not going to win any awards. The sort of fake-metal shiny plastic thumb cursor thing is particularly nasty. All of the connectors are unceremoniously exposed on the top. A reasonably little case is provided with a hip clip, which you could use if you were a rampant randy bender that thought you looked good attaching things to your belt line (Muz). The USB 2.0 connector is the standard mini USB connector and so any USB host-to-mini lead will work.
The Muvo2 is a little heavier than it looks but it's easily pulled out of a pocket by the headphone lead. The provided headphones are competent but no more. They have a certain boomy bass which many people will be surprised by and probably like but I don't find them as faithful as the I-Bead's superb headphones. They're also oversized and don't fit in the ears properly and easily fall out. Prime candidates for getting replaced by decent headphones.
The good news is the headphone output is absolutely blinding. The 30 solid milliwatts drives even high-impedance hi-fi headphones quite happily, in fact about the best level I've seen from any portable music device so far. Swiftly onto the sound quality. Cor, it's a bit good. I mean really good. Playing digital black WAV with the volume ramped up still yielded zero audible noise even on enclosed hi-fi headphones. That's blinding, no mistake. Not even a hint of noise from a DC-to-DC converter which is so often present on portable audio.
So here's a key point, I have to say that so far this is the best audio quality I've heard out of a portable device yet. Lowest noise, best output into a variety of drivers and highest fidelity. The latter may in part be due to whatever decoder ware is running on the Muvo2. Whatever it is, it's beyond reproach.
Onto practical matters, being as the Muvo2 a USB 2.0 device, you might not expect it to get charged by just jacking it in. Yet it does, actually. USB doesn't deliver much power so it charges at a snails pace and you have to software 'eject' the device to get it to charge. However Creative provide a standard wall-wart PSU which will charge the Muvo2 elsewhere and hell of a lot more rapidly.
You plug in USB and the Muvo2 just automatically turns up as a USB mass storage device. This is an approach mostly favored by solid-state players. Due to the length of time hard drive players would take to catalog vast amounts of content, those tend to use 3rd party software which also updates a stored database of tracks. The 4GB Muvo2 is the largest capacity device to be just a straight mass storage device which I have seen. Even when fully loaded up, the music scan time which happens the first time you power on the unit on batteries after having loaded up the HD, isn't very long at all.
It seems the Muvo2 just scans the hard drive structure and reads MP3/WMA details only when playing that actual track, which is the smart thing in my view. It does mean that playing material on it is accomplished by either using forwards/backwards or a 'browser' function in the menu which enables you to select directories and what have you. This is purely a matter of what you prefer but I have always preferred this system and so I find it a complete winner.
The interesting thing is that you'd really not know there was a hard drive in it. Sometimes there's a bit of a delay on skipping songs but there's no noticeable vibration or noise that I can detect with my ear up to it. Very interesting. It seems to deal with shakes and jars just fine as well.
USB 2.0 shovel speed? I had big problems on a VIA-based Athlon rig and had to update the 4-in-1 drivers before the unit would shovel without disconnecting and seizing up. I blame VIA for that, they've always been shit. With latest drivers it worked OK and I clocked it at just under 2MB/s. Moving the unit home to a proper Intel rig, obviously I need not monkey with drivers and the speed clocked at 3.6MB/s on my home made random music shovelling script. Nice! Versus the 500-odd K/s of the I-Bead, it's particularly nice.
What about the player controls? They're very simple. Up and down changes volume. Left and right goes forwards and backwards. Tapping the sort of multi-function on/off button, brings up the menu where you can find a bunch of settings and which hitting 'browse' and navigating directories is dead easy. It's easier to drive than the I-Bead but the I-Bead is a bit... eclectic in that regard you might say. I will say this though, I could drive the I-Bead with gloves on (a handy feature in the depths of winter) but no chance with the Muvo2 due to the slight action on the cursor pad to use the functions.
Oh and the carry case completely covers the controls so you wont be using that and fast forwarding past a track you don't feel in the mood for. You wont even be able to mute it. Clearly the remote needs to hurry along because right now it's something of an inconvenience.
In the final analysis, in pure specifications terms - the Muvo2 is the best I've seen at what it does. Yet it doesn't do some things which many will find useful such as an integrated FM radio and voice recording. Both of which really ought to be in the device, given it's a heck of a lot bigger than an I-Bead they can hardly cry foul on space. Something must be said of the cost too. It's available for around £240 from Dabs and given Apple have announced the iPod mini at £199, I would say that the Muvo2 ought to drop in price. Probably Apple are subsidizing the iPod to loss-lead the iTunes service but Creative will still need an answer for that price.
I'll be a bit happier when I've got a remote, assuming that Creative come good and release the thing. Also I'm going to have to hunt out some lightweight 'sports' style headphones with a proper head band. The in-ears just don't do this sort of audio quality justice.
Yet for all that, I'd have no hesitation in recommending the Muvo2. I don't believe the iPod mini will be a better device, because it wont just be a mass storage device and neither will it have a changeable battery - in my view both are major pluses in the Muvo2's favor.

Thursday 29 January 2004

The perfect lounge server [lurks]

Normally I bore you lot with the latest hardware happenings concerning Wench, my lounge server. On the basis that there's a few of us folks that do this stuff so maybe someone might care. On a historical note, my first lounge server was a Cyrix 166 which sat along side a couch, rammed up against it with a couple of pillows on top to try deaden the noise.
The last system, bar the one I'm going to talk about now, was an Asus Pundit. I had a shuttle type thing before that. In essence the whole lounge server thing morphed into the mainstream consumer idea of the media PC. Something shiny and attractive you could put into your lounge and be happy as it sat along side your DVD and amplifier, looking a hell of a lot better than the XBox. That's lovely but, after around a dozen hardware revisions of the machine I still lovingly call 'Wench', I've come to a conclusion about how to do the whole lounge/house server thing properly. It might be obvious to many but I strayed from the path, lured by the gadgety promise of shiny cool things, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that regard eh?
Topically I should mention the Pundit. It's a fine fine machine and it's the closest an attractive compact barebones system has come to being suitable for my purposes. It was a proper Intel job, so it just worked. It had an excellent side panel funnel cooling scheme which was virtually silent and it had bag loads of IO.
The thing is, inside it was cramp with only space for one drive and it had no AGP port so I had to buy a PCI graphics card because the TV out wasn't so hot. Then that left no space to slap in a TV capture card to do PVR sorta duties, connected to my digibox. The external HD enclosure was also a bit dodgy, some cheapo USB 2.0 thing that would freeze if you tried to read and write to it at the same time. Feh.
While I was cleaning out my lair for a weekend eBay session, I found my old PC case - a HUGE old steel thing, and I found a nice PSU too. I walked through to the lounge and surveyed the HiFi set up, dominated by the big Sony TV with a side table loaded with consoles, amplifier and networking shelf. The Pundit was sat to one side, you couldn't really see it. You couldn't see it. Revelation, my friends, revelation.
I ordered a proper Intel Springdale mobo. Constructed a huge PC out of the big old steel case. Slapped all the drives in. Slapped on a very large and quiet CPU fan. Disposed of the Pundit and the external drive case and fitted the video capture card. A repair install took no time, even clocked up the CPU a bit to 2.7GHz (from 2.4).
Finally, the entire beast was placed behind the television up against the wall. It's quieter than even the Pundit was. It's also a fair bit faster, some of that the overclocking but some of it also the Intel dual-channel chipset over the SIS stuff powering the Pundit. It is absolutely superb.
So the question is, why have I been spending money on crap like the Shuttle (PSU fried, took the mobo and CPU out with it) and the Pundit? The perfect server is just a big old PC case put out of sight. The only drawback is you have to sort of lean around the TV to put a disc in but that's not much of a hardship. I'm pretty confident that this machine will march on forever, freed from the burden of exotic cooling as it is.
Bah. That William of Occam bloke was onto something.

Far Cry Demo [beej]

Well the Far Cry Demo is out, and it ain't bad. It's certainly purdy. It is, however, very much Project IGI 3... but that's not entirely bad, as that was a great plot-driven FPS but just not something you'd want to play online.
Good demo this. Worth a squirt.

Amnesia in Mexico, errrrr, you on the terrorist beach

Amnesia in Mexico, errrrr, you on the terrorist beach

Hang on, I've seen this before somewhere...

...but it didn't explode this nicely in HL!

Use your machete with gay abandon. Ooooh the Daily Mail won't like this at all

IL2-FB Online [spiny]

Because I truly rule, I have gone through the pain for you which is setting up Forgotten Battles for on line play, so you don't have to get stuck yourselves.
If you want to play IL2 Sturmovik Forgotten Battles on line, here's what you have to do. You shouldn't be surprised by any of it, as we all know how much UBI suck.
  1. Install the UBI.COM lobby app off the sturmovik cd, let it auto update & login (your RS id & pwd will do). This wouldn't be too bad an app...if it worked. The UI is ok, but last night, NOBODY could join or host a dogfight game as the dogfight room was down. Mine & three others attempts at hosting a co-op game also failed with the UBI app telling the host to click 'Start game'. On doing so it bleeted that 'you've already requested to start a game'. Uh?
  2. Alternativeley, download Hyperlobby. It does a very similar job, but with a pretty shit UI. You will need to read the manual that the install sets up a shortcut for.
  3. Thirdly, you can use good ole, ASE. I'm not sure if this picks up all the severs that Hyperlobby & UBI does tho. Time will tell.
  4. Sort out your network shit like this:
    • Forward ports 21000 (IL2FB) & 40000-42000 (Hyperlobby.ubi) to your machine.
    • Set DetectLocalIP=0 in the FB section of the hyperlobby INI file, if you're using it.
    • On the network tab of IL2SETUP, choose your local IP, not the IP of your router.
We'll do some co-op / dogfight soon.

Wednesday 28 January 2004

Sod the Oscars, EED has THE ROXORS! [brit]

Hollywood may be gearing up for the Oscars, but let's get things in perspective - there is only one annual award worth the e-paper it's printed on, and that's Clan Eat Electric Death's ROXORS!
Rather than have a bunch of ridiculous awards celebrating the ritual tedium that is most back slapping trophy wielding ceremonies, let's cut to the chase. We have three awards, and three only (the trophies are extremely difficult to steal in quantity) so get voting for the following:
Award for best cinema film (none of your straight to DVD shit) 2003. Award for most jaw droppingly stupid person in the media. Award for the best game 2003 (PC or console).
Let's be having you then!

Sunday 25 January 2004

Shameless and why its great to be Britsh [houmous]

I donÂ’t generally go on about it but I'm really proud to be British.
ThereÂ’s the sense of humour thing and the eccentric thing but its our amazing and unique creativity that I really admire - you only have to look at our 'pop music' industry - I donÂ’t know the exact figures but, despite us only being this tiny island, lets say we produce about 50% of decent music (with the US producing the rest ).
Then thereÂ’s our adverts (easily the best in the world ) and occasionally we can produce some damn good TV although I have literally started sobbing watching one new godforsaken sitcom after another which is so crap it makes me want to give up accountancy and start script writing.
Di was therefore entertained last week to me leaping around the lounge for joy yelling things like 'fucking hell a series about people living on a council estate which isnÂ’t full of caricatures, has believable characters , a script that you can actually imagine people saying, doesnÂ’t suffer from excess pathos, is genuinely funny and errrÂ….cutting edge! Mike Leigh move over!! wooot!!'
I'm talking about 'Shameless' Tuesday nights. ItÂ’s the best TV since The Office - give it a go!

Friday 23 January 2004

Why are we alone? [brit]

I've just finished reading a book Lurks lent me some time ago, thats been sitting in the bookshelf staring at me for the last six months, Space by Stephen Baxter.
It's a fairly hardcore science fiction book, dealing with a range of issues - one of the most interesting is the idea that organised religion based around the notion of a omnipotent deity figure would collapse on the arrival of an alien species.
However, it does have an ongoing and somewhat depressing theme which I was incredibly impressed with; the idea that the universe imposes a limit on the expansion and advancement of individual species by initiating a reset every few million years.
If you think about it, it is a theory as viable as any other and actually makes sense. The earth is some fifty billion years old, the universe itself at least ten times that. Mankind in comparison are the new kids on the block, with only one hundred thousand years under their collective belts.
It doesn't therefore make sense that a) we're the only sentient life in the galaxy (let alone the universe) and b) our evolution (especially technologically) is in any way progressing at a normal or enhanced rate. Indeed, for all we know we may well be the least technically advanced species in the Sol system, let alone within our arm of the galaxy.
So the theory makes for a pretty damn depressing idea behind our apparant galactic isolation; though the book is absolutely excellent and if you fancy something that'll bend your mind a notch, I recommend it.

Thursday 22 January 2004

Monday 19 January 2004

A10 ground attack video in DivX [billox] - (12 Mins - 88 megs)
This is a recording of a mission from the sim LOMAC (Lock On: Modern Air Combat) - I believe it's called Lock On: Air Combat Simulator in the UK and Europe because the original title didn't translate too well.
The video shows the mission flown from just prior to the initial attack run, right through to the subsequent (unsuccessful) escape out of hostile territory.
The mission objectives are to conduct an air to ground attack on the oil terminal at Novorossiysk in southern Russia.
A map of the real city can be found here -
The primary targets are tanker ships and containers in the port.
The area is heavily defended by medium range SAMs and AAA, fortunatly the strike team of 2x A10 is assisted by a flight of 2x RAF Tornado IDS who are tasked with suppression of enemy air defences.
After a sucessful strike, the A10s and the Tornados, which are the strike varient, make a
run for it back to Sevastopol on the west coast of the Crimea where they are operating from.
The russians scramble a single SU-27 interceptor which is more than a match for my ickle A10.
The mission was flown using a Logitech Extreme 3D Pro stick and a TrackIR2 headtracker.

The end of an era [muz]

BBC News Online is reporting that NASA are discontinuing maintenance on Hubble. I am sure EED's resident Doctor of Asstrology, DrDave, will have some words to say on the subject, however I was so affected upon reading the story that I felt the need to do a blog myself.
For those of you that don't know, the Hubble is a space telescope launched in 1990 that for the past thirteen years has provided a plethora of data to the scientific community. When I say it's a space telescope, I should really say it's The Daddy of all Deep Space Observation Devices. Among other things, it has gathered data that allowed the calculation of the age of the universe, as well as providing proof of the existence of black holes.
Apparently, this cessation of maintenance is due to the fact that servicing Hubble is no longer possible due to its 'difficult orbit'. Doing so would violate safety protocols enacted after the Columbia disaster. The cynical might say that stepping back shuttle operations and discontinuing maintenance of the Hubble telescope will allow NASA more funds to pursue President George W. Bush's goals of a permanent presence on the moon and a manned mission to Mars. They might also point out that this revitalisation of the US space program could be an obvious ploy to win re-election. Were they very opionated cynics, they might even go so far as to point out that two failed missions out of one hundred and thirteen with an incalculable number of risks to the craft is an enviable safety record, and that data gathered from the Hubble telescope is of infinitely greater scientific value than any collected on the moon. However, I have never been accused of being an opinionated cynic.
In a completely unrelated post script, I would like to say that it is my firm belief that the general public should have no say in forming public policy. Democracy sucks. Long live Stalin.

Sunday 18 January 2004

Air powered cars [slim]

I'm not a mad nutter greenie, but I do like to try a bit, and me wife tries a lot. We recycle an awful lot, we compost a lot, we feed animals with a fair bit, and I drive a Yaris which is a little bit more efficient than your average car. Mostly we recycle our rubbish because we're a bit remote and they don't collect it as often as they do in town so it collects up and pisses us off, we're driven to recycle not out of brotherly love, but because it makes our lives a bit bettter. This is probably a more realistic motivation for actually getting people to do stuff that's good for the planet. Greener cars have a similar problem, they're available now, but they cost big wonger, and don't actually give you much back in return other than the thought that you might have fended off the next ice age by about five mins.
But how about a car that runs on air? Nice thought eh? The Minicat does. It's french, sadly, but apart from that, it's got a lot going for it. It's apparently going to cost about six grand, looks ok, does 60 mph with virtually no plannet harming emissions. So far so reasonable, but what's in it for me? The designers have two hooks, firstly theres bugger all to it, a couple of compressed air chambers and a very simple motor, so you've got very little in the way of servicable parts. The second hook is that it'll do 125 miles at a compressed air cost of about a quid. Sold!
Course the problem with this kind of thing is that it still needs power to compress the air, so you still have pollution from powerstations. This is true of battery cars too, but at least here you've no heavy degrading acidic batteries filling up landfills. There's also a chance that while your puttering around in your air car, someone might manage to clean up power generation a bit too. At the very least, you're not choking kids in towns, your just choking the ones who's parents can only afford a house near a power plant. Final downer over battery is that it's a cylinder engine, so it's about as noisy as a petrol car.
But for a six grand outlay and less than a penny mile, who gives a fuck?

Wednesday 14 January 2004

Rainbow Six 3 xbox [slim]

I'm a pretty big fan of the PC Rainbow six 3, Raven Shield, so I wasn't sure if the xbox version would be worth the wonga. Well, it was, as it's actually a very different game.
There's a couple of huge differences. First big one is that there's no planning. Nothing at all. The PC version fucked the plannign up a bit, it was very in depth, but completely useless as the supplied plans were pretty close to perfect and you could very rarely improve on em. Now they're just not there at all, fine. Second, the equipment list has been shortened dramatically. Most of it you won't notice, because all the important shit is still there, there's just less of the obscure smg's and stuff that nobody ever used anyway. The deletion that people will miss is the heartbeat sensor gear, the sensor device itself is missing, as well as the goodies that went with it like false pucks and the ole heartbeat blocker. This single change has a massive impact, you spent most of the PC game running around wearing the heatbeat goggles, now you just don't know who or whats in a room before you storm.
So what's new? Well, every map is, athough some of the actual graphics are re-used. The player models have changed, presumably the PC ones were a bit high detail. The maps themselves are nice, and they're already giving more away on xbox live which is nice. An unexpected addition is the lighting effects and heat signature view from Splinter Cell. The lighting is superb, you can now see the long shadows of terrorists cast from a lantern as they walk around, which almost makes up for losing the heartbeat sensor. The aiming reticule's been changed to accomodate the cackyness of playing an fps with sticks, it's now better when it's bigger, with bullets 'homing in'. Odd, but it works. Oh and the games integrated with Live of course and doesn't have that god awful Ubisoft online system.
The final really smart part about r6 3 is the integration with the headset. Game sounds go through your telly, squad comms come in your ear that's wearing the headset. The ai squad also respond to voice comms, point at something and say go go go, and they go go go. Tell em to hold and they stop. It's very, very cool indeed, makes you feel a part of the action far more than the pc version.

Tuesday 13 January 2004

Review of Quake2 clans [billox]
An interesting look back at some of the top Quake2 clans by some guy called Revilla.

Teh laws of teh woman [slim]

Women. Fuck me there's a lot of things that'll piss you off about living with one, but the very worst thing I contend with with are the LAWS OF LIFE ACCORDING TO WOMAN. There's many of these laws, many are known only to Woman herself, but through careful observation and personal experience, I've been able to work a few of them out myself. Here's a couple of the most infuriating, if you've managed to work any others out, please share with a common goal of finding the correct logic to defeat these inflexible laws:
1. Thine telephone conversation shall take priority over any other form of communication. Wifes on a phone call, all other communication must stop. Anything that makes a noise, kids, tv, cats, masterbation, all must be silenced in favour of the phone call, no matter who she's talking to. Logic doesn't work, 'But isn't talking to me as important than talking shite to Aunty Dorris?', 'Why can't I interrupt you talking to your friend on the phone the way you interrupt me talking to my mate in the pub?'. Usually a glare is all that's allowed, for the conversation on the phone cannot be silenced for anything. House can burn down, kids can starve, but the person on the phone cannot be interrupted. For some explicable reason other forms of electronic communication don't appear to share the telephones lofty status. A conversation on IRC or in a game can and will be frequently interrupted, and if you dare to ask her highness to wait while you finish what you're typing a lo! ng 'I know who's more important to you' huff will follow. Voice comms in games is just sad of course, the lowest of the low, nothing at all like a phone conversation, in fact, can you just not do that right now? I'm trying to watch East Enders. One small development in this area is the SMS message, which seems to be gaining ground on the telephone as being more important than anything else that could be happening at the time.
2. Broadcast Television take priority over other uses of the TV. A modern TV is truly the entertainment hub of your house. It'll allow you to watch DVD's, play console games, listen to music and view your digital photographs. But not if she's watching anything via a broadcast medium. There's two people in a room, one wants to play a console game, the other wants to watch something on TV. Nothing in particular, just something. Who wins? The TV viewer. Why? Because it's the Law. 'Why can't you video that show then and watch it when I'm done with me xbox? I'm not that bothered about it, I just want to watch SOMETHING, and I don't want to listen to you swearing at your sad imaginary friends either', sheesh.
3. Environmental Priority in the living room. This one is probably unique to those of us without central heating. Two people in a house, one is in the living room, one is in an adjacent room. The one outside would like the door open so he gets some fucking heat, the other is in the living room and wants the door shut to keep the heat in. 'There's only two of us, why can't we share the heat' says the cold party 'If you want to be warm, you have to come by the fire' says the illogical beast. I dont get it, but of course that's the point.
Anyone come accross any more?

I am C-3PO, but with hair and pubes [brit]

You'll love this :)
Half Man, Half Robot
A rare insight into the mind of a geek!

Monday 12 January 2004

Death to Netjuke [lurks]

You might recall in blog 451 that I had been looking for a good web based system for browsing and streaming music. I settled on Netjuke, a PHP application which took a staggering amount of work to get running. I then wrote a guide and an accompanying archive with all the necessary files to get it up and running. A good many people downloaded that.
Now, awhile ago I had a Slimp3 and swore blind off it. You ran a server on your PC and then hooked this device up via Ethernet and controlled it with a remote control. The server software for it was open source and, because it was fundamentally cool, has been worked on by a number of people and is now a seriously nice bit of software.
This brings me to the subject of the blog. If you go to Slim Devices and download the SlimServer application (completely free and available on pretty much every OS), you get a feel for the software.
But wait, there's more! Essentially Slimp3s - and the sexeh Wifi-equipped successor, the Squeezebox - connect via a shoutcast stream. You can also hook into the server software via any software client capable of playing shoutcast such as the ubiquitous WinAmp.
In essense this software is a proper application that does what Netjuke does only faster, more reliable and without the horrendous difficulty in set up and sorting an SQL server too. Don't take my word for it, go leech it now.
Then just point it at your music and let it go off and scan it. You can keep using it while it scans (sigh, love). The interface in the app is basically just an IE web instance. You can also access it by just going to localhost:9000 and controlling it. Now fire up a WinAmp, hit Control-L and put in localhost:9000
This'll just buffer and say welcome to slimserver or some such. You see you need to control the stream to it. Now go to either the Slimp3 GUI or your web browser, navigate your collection - via id3 tags or directory structure (sigh, love) - and play some stuff. Bosh it'll go out to your WinAmp.
It gets better, you can do this with multiple software players, Squeezeboxes and connections over the Internet. You can rename the IPs that appear as their real names like 'Lounge Server WinAmp' and 'Work WinAmp' etc. There's a bunch of themes but the default one is about the nicest. The settings are deeply wonderful. The app uses a fair whack of memory (about 70MB on my collection) but that's a small price to pay really.
It's a complete and utter Netjuke killer. Oh and it will transcode iTunes AAC, Ogg and shit like that. It wont transcode your regular MP3s though, as far as I can see, so no setting up of a nice low bitrate which you could stream to work I'm afraid. That was never really the idea behind it though.
Oh and the new Squeeze box itself? Wow. If I had a need for it, I'd buy one in a flash. It's everything the original had which ruled and all of the problems fixed up. It plays non-compressed PCM as well as MP3 - so the server software simply decodes Oggs, Flac and shit like that. Then there's the Wifi and a proper box. Even the remote control is a proper one rather than a generic Sony.
I should think all the same uber cool shit of the original is in there too. Like being able to forge a URL request to the server to flash up some text on the fanny VFD display. I used to have Rebot flash up lines of text if someone said my name on IRC :)
Anyhow, leech the server software and be happy. There's a UK crowd selling the Squeezeboxs for a fortune (about £30 more than importing from the US) but there's import duty as well. Houmous will probably buy one because he's a rich cunt. Of course you can buy pretty much the same thing for half the price with the Linksys Wireless-B Media Adaptor but then... the server software fucking stinks on that.

Headdies [spiny]

My Plantronics headset died, well out of warranty. After a sniff around I settled on a pair of Sennheiser PC130s which turned up today.
Initial impressions are that they are quite flimsy & nowhere near as well built as the plantronics. (A big) But (for me) is the warranty on them is twice as long as the Plantronics which died. Enough of an incentive to give them a go. Time will tell I suppose.
In use they're fairly comfortable, being on-ear rather than over-ear. They'd probably be a bit hard on the lug-holes after a day+night lanparty sesh. In hindsight, I'd probably should have shelled out the extra 20 for the PC 150s.
One great feature for me is that the boom mike swings both ways, so you can wear it either side of your head. This means I can simultaneously bleat in TS, drink and still have mouse control. The left-only plannies got on my tits for this reason. Most games can swap l/r speakers to adjust but I haven't found a driver switch in the creative drivers yet.
Oh and MP3s & movies sound pretty good although nowhere near proper cans.
£30 squid from here.

Saturday 10 January 2004

Investment advice [lurks]

The wife and I get paid into a joint account and the balance of this has been growing steadily as our little nest of savings. The thing is, it's just a working account so it pays zero interest and the fact it's there - makes it pretty easy for us to go spend on our joint cards and eat into the savings. What's needed is some proper savings and I've had a sort of cursory look around in order to get a handle on things. Normally you'd see an independent financial advisor but basically the last one I saw wasn't very independent at all and I'm thinking since we have this Internet thing and a bunch of people who must be in the same boat, maybe we can have an actual useful blog discussing the subject. Novel eh?
I think what I need is basically an ISA and this is what I've managed to work out so far; An ISA (investment savings account?) is a governmental scheme to encourage saving and hence it's protected from tax up but has limits on how much you can invest to stop rich bastards from using it as yet another way to dodge paying their share. There's a mini ISAs and maxi ISAs. The minis can be either shares, life insurance or cash. You can have one of each from the same or different companies. They've got limits in how much you can pay in, the cash and share mini ISAs are £3K per year each, the insurance one is £1K a year.
Or you can have a maxi ISA which appears to be all three rolled into one, with the same limitations. Where it gets kind of confusion is that you can just open a cash one and slap dosh in it yourself or you can go maxi and pay in a regular amount and specify a sort of investment portfolio - normally you'd just pick a pre-packaged sort of one to save doing your head in, ranging from fucking risky through to safe as houses.
So I thought I needed just a plain ISA but I'm thinking, it'd be foolish not to just get a maxi one and pay in a regular amount into a share investment scheme and then shift any spare disposable into the cash component as I see fit. That sort of makes sense to me.
Of course... my original plan was to get some joint savings with the missus but I think all this is basically for individuals and I don't know if there's any way to do this with a joint account. This isn't a show stopper but really we were planning to put this money away so we could slap down a phat deposit on our next house or something. Nothing to stop us from doing this individually I suppose, if necessary.
Firstly, have I got the above right? Secondly, are there any flaws with my reasoning? Thirdly, what are you lot doing?

Thursday 8 January 2004

Black Listed Airlines - the UK publishes! [brit]

Choice. Everything these days is about choice.
As millions of Britons pack their bags this summer and jet off for sunnier climbs, they are doing so having made a choice as to the carrier and route they want to take. Well, up until today, kind of.
You see dear reader, we live in a world where any two bit government can slap a sticker on an ailing DC10 and call it a national airline. Unsurprisingly, bits tend to go awry with these veteran airframes, to the point where they kill lots of people all in one go.
So Aviation Authorities ban them from the relevant national airspace. Up until now, this black list of evil plane operators has been, incredibly, secret. You book a flight on a carrier and you expect to be given the choice of an approved one, or one which dropped half it's undercarriage on takeoff before winging it over to some el-dodge airplot before spewing fuel everywhere.
Anyway, the list of operators banned by the UK are: All airlines operating from Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Liberia and Tajikistan. The others on the blacklist are Sierra Leone's Star Air and Air Universal, Cameroon Airlines, Albanian Airlines and Central Air Express, from DR Congo (Source: BBC News Online)
Hardly any major surprises in the list eh? '2 tickets on Air Tajikistan' can't be something heard very often :)

Sunday 4 January 2004

Looking for a DECT phone [lurks]

Looking to replace my shitty cordless phone/answering machine thing at home. I've got some Philips thing which has been rebadged as BT. It's bloody terrible. It's difficult to retrieve messages and the sound on the handset is far too low. I popped into Dixons thinking they might have one on sale and it'd be good to look at them physically.
They had a variety and most of them look appalling apart from the BT branded ones which all suspiciously looked like the Philips one.
Anyone actually got a decent DECT unit they can recommend? One that looked interesting was the Panasonic KXTCD 735 but a review on amazon mentioned some looniness about retrieving messages and stuff.

Friday 2 January 2004

Sven Co-op 3.0 [beej]

It's okay ashually. Pick up and play no-sneaky kind of braindead action - Half-Life but co-op and with lots of very hard-arse marines and ninjas in PVC. Think Serious Sam. You pick up some guns, you run to where the action is, then you shoot lots of bullets. Lots of 'em!

How to get it working:
  1. Install Steam [FULL][CS flavoured]
  2. Install Sven Co-op [mirror1][mirror2][mirror3]
  3. Let the installer run its course. It looks like its screwing up, but as long as it has found your Steam install, there are no probs. It asks for your original Half-Life as an option - skip this for now, you get maps with it.
  4. Check your key config. It's WASD, but bind the command button (eg. Q)

Thursday 1 January 2004

Almost The best PC Gamepad Evar [spiny]

My Logitech Wingman Cordless gamepad died. A loss I still mourn, but I'd be buggered if I was going to shell out another £30 on one, so here's the little recipie I cooked up:
  • 1 Xbox Controller Extension Cable
  • 1 USB lead (I picked mine up from the bargain bin in PC world)
  • 1 Soldering Iron With Solder
  • Electrical Insulating Tape
  • Some thin wire
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Electricity (For Soldering Iron)


  1. Lop the Xbox end off* the extension cable & remove a few cm of the sheath. Peel back the shielding layer.
  2. Cut four of the wires to staggered lengths and strip each wire a few mil. The fifth wire (yellow) cut back to the length of the outer casing. It won't be going anywhere any more. Staggering the lengths of the individual wires ensures your less likeley to get a short accross them and it'll make the resulting cable neater.
  3. Lop off the USB A end of your cable (The PC spade connector end) and stagger & strip the wires inside.
  4. Tin the ends of all wires with your solder & iron then solder red to red, white to white etc.
  5. Wrap each one in insulating tape.
  6. Wrap the whole bundle in tape.
  7. Fold back any shielding you have.
  8. Cut a length of aluminum foil to the length of your join and wrap two or three times round the cable.
  9. Wrap a some wire the length of your join round the foil. The foil & wire replaces the shielding you destroyed in making the join. It stop your cable being a big ass antenna.
  10. (Optionally) Wrap the rest of the aluminuim foil round your head & the heads of your family & pets. This stops the aliens probing your feeble human minds.
  11. Wrap the lot up with bags of tape.
  12. Download the driver & setup utility from here
  13. Connect up & at the prompt to install a driver for 'XBOX Game Controller, do 'Specific location', 'I'll install', 'Have Disk' and point it at the driver you downloaded.
  14. You'll also get an second install prompt for a HID compliant game controller. Just go with all the defaults for that.
  15. Calibrate & go and kick ass.

Works great, rumble effects & everything. You can turn these down in the setup utility, where you'll also want to select the 'enhanced analog sticks' checkbox to get better deadzone operation.


Best Racing Game Evah [slim]

MSR was a fucking good racer, with two problems... Firstly it had a progression system that was innovative yet fatally fucked up. Second it was released on the Dreamcast, which no fucker bought. Thank shit that wasn't the last of it though, the bizzarely named Project Gotham on the Xbox which turned out to be MSR 1.5. The faults had been fixed, the graphics were beefed and it was released on a platform which people actually owned. Top. In fact it was so top, that when Project Gotham 2 came out, I couldn't be fucked to buy it. I mean, what on earth could make it better? But one weak moment in Tescos later, and I'm hooked. This is the best racing game ever.

What makes PGR2 the best racing game ever? It's made about the same leap in refinement from MSR to the first xbox game. Big changes are the removal of the 'betting' on the results to gain more Kudos points, instead you have stepped challenges. Thats cool, often you'd waste time judging the difficulty of a challenge before placing a reasonable bet. They've also added to what makes you earn the Kudos points, not only do you get them for driving like a nutter, you now also get them for driving like a racing driver, with points for following the correct racing line, which is is now subtly marked with skiddies on the track. The penalties aren't as cuntish as they were either, if you crash in the middle of a combo, you lose the last few additions instead of the whole combo. The style challenges have gone, replaced with cone challenges which allow you to get good medals without pissing around, although the top points still require a complete drifty combo nutter lap. They've also added a fuckload of courses, there's now loads of cities instead of just three and a shitload of new cars, woot! The result is a slightly easier, more forgiving game, but it's still bastard hard to unlock the new highest level platinum medals for the challenges.

All of that would only make it a very good racing game. What makes it the best is the cunning way Bizzare have weaved the online Live stuff into every part of the game. It's got the bit you'd expect, you can race other people and call them wankers over xbox live when they cut you up. But online is everwhere else too! Complete a challenge, an arcade race or a time trial, and you see the worldwide scoreboard for that section, it also uploads your score to Live so people can laugh at your puny attempt. Wonder how the fuck that guy could get so many points in a puny Cooper S? You can download his ghost car, and watch the fucker do it! Ooooh, he got a million points for drifting then passed on the last bend, aaaaah! The whole thing feels more like an mmo game than a racer, the joy of redoing a challenge and jumping from a worldwide rank of forty thousand and something into the top five thousand pushes you to get better. You get recorded kudos on Live too, kind of like xp in an online RPG, your ranks displayed. You use that rank to put yourself against players of a similar skill, so you know your going to get a good race. There's a slight downer in that if you haven't unlocked the fannytastic cars, you are going to get hammered online, but that does give you a good reason to unlock the fanny cars too. Besides, you can always host a game and lock the car selection to something you do have for a far race.

So, an utterly superb single player game, a top and easy to use online feature, and a brilliantly integrated online scoring and ranking system. Best racer ever. Who wants some?