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Tuesday 28 September 2004

More on pron [Slim]

Even though this is my server, the chimp I trust to code this webby hasn't provided me with an easy way to delete stuff, and I can't be arsed with the convoluted route he's provided, because I'm far too busy shagging fit girls.

More on pron [Slim]

Regular readers will know I harp on about this issue a fair bit, but I'm back on the subject of pron on TV. The crux of it is that I think the issue of restricting access to pron is fucking silly when compared to the availability of voilent material. I'm amazed that sexual material appears to be considered more dangerous than sexual material, and I'm amazed at the double standards that are applied to the availability of sexual material. I can download pretty much any kind of pron over the internet, but I can only watch topless females on the telly after 10pm and I'm utterly forbidden to see muff. I can buy no holds barred hardcore porn legally mail order or from a licensed sex shop, but I'm restricted to floppy cocks, closed muffs and absolutely no penetration on encrypted opt in adult satellite channels. That I could point a dish to a satellite that's broadcasting to other european countries and watch what the fuck I like is also bloody silly.
I often wonder who it is that's opposing these things, and what their justification is. Well, I've had a glimse into the mind of these freako's because ofcom have started publishing responses to their proposed changes to the viewing regs here . Now the majority of these are normal, reasonably thinking people who support offcoms suggestion that encrypted channels that require opt in and production of a credit card to access should be able to show R18 material (jeez, even r18 is watered down, but hey, it's progress). It's the ones that are against it that are hilarious. One even responds to say not only is R18 programming on an encrypted digital channel that she won't ever subcribe to is deeply offensive, she also goes on to say the baring of breasts after 10pm on channel 5 is also deeply offensive. I mean, what the fuck? If you get sick at the sight of tits, fucking don't watch channel 5 after 10pm! You don't accidentally press the button, and even if you do, it's just a fucking pair of tits! No mention of seeing a family drown in a car in full glory in corrie at 19:30, when most kids are still up. Or the East Enders current run of gorifying organised crime and depiction that every londoner is a petty theif, also at 19:30. I consider these issues far more damaging to my kids than having them see a pair of tits, but I'm still not offended that they exist, because I have the strength in my fingers to turn the fuckers over if I don't like them.
Oh Check out the 7 Adventists reply, where they object to content depicting real people with supernatural powers being shown to kids, because they can't bear to have Jesus marked down as a fictional character, ho ho ho!

P2P Email [Spiro]

Just came across this on the BBC site. Sounds like a fantastic idea to me. Imagine no spam and great security. Or is my lack of knowledge on this subject fooling me?

Sunday 26 September 2004

Hunting With Hounds - do we care? [Brit]

I've never been fox hunting.
I've seen the pictures of course, everything from the admittedly glorious site of a hunt in full regalia charging across a field on a crisp spring morning, through to the sometimes grisly black and white photos provided by the anti hunt lobby.
I think I fall into the "pro fox hunting" group, and I say that because I can't think of any real reason to get all steamed up about it. I don't see anything wrong with it; we've been doing it (hell, practically every country with foxes has) for hundreds of years and it's been (from what I can see) a part of the rural fabric that makes up our countryside and it's traditions.
Naturally the anti-foxhunting crowd say it's cruel, and have a theory or explanation to debunk any pro-foxhunter's justification. I've no doubt it is cruel in some way, it's just that I don't really care.
So I'm somewhat bemused as to why fox hunting is now on the same level of perception as say, the war on terror. Surely the latter is one hell of a lot more important?
What about you guys? pro, pro by default, anti, what? Since it seems to be the issue de jour at the moment, might as well have a e-straw-poll of sorts!

Saturday 25 September 2004

Games to get [Spiny]

Two games you should buy:
Call Of Duty: United Offensive : The expansion pack or Cod (duh). I;ve enjoyed the hour I've spent in single player far more than the 10 I put into Doom3 before trading it in. Looks tops. The multi player includes loads of additions by those Wolfenstein multi player wizards Gray Matter so you know it will be good. They have put a 3 new gametypes in, lots of new maps & weapons. Yes even a flamethrowar! I've heard it's bigger than the original game. Not verified this yet but it does come on two discs so there must be roughly as much content. One for Houmous, deffo.

Star Wars: Battlefront : Basically a Battlefield rip off, in the star wars universe. Probably won't appeal to the hard core DC player, cos they'll probably find holes in it that I won't even notice. For the Star Wars fan who likes a bit of team based combat & has played BF et al before, the force is strong in this one. Being Star Wars, the weapons sound a bit weedy, but once you get over that it's top fun. If you liked Jedi Knight & BF then it's one to get. The single player is a quite entertaining blast and quite literally feels like IMPERIAL WAR! Lots of fun crushing those scruffy rebels under the heel of my patent polished stormtrooper boot. As you may imagine the AI is as thick as pigshit with Ai tie fighter pilots having a prepensity to fly smack into large rocks. On line will of course be where the real action is although lacking punkbuster it may be riddled with cheat0rs. Time will tell, but I love it at least for the moment. You can take your imperial squad, storm a building and SHOOT EWOKS!. One for Pod.

Thursday 23 September 2004

How do we stop this Iraq hostage situation? [Brit]

You're all no doubt aware that right now Kenneth Bigley (62), a British contractor, is being held hostage in the Iraqi town of Falluja.
You're also no doubt aware that two American hostages were beheaded in the last 72 hours and Kenneth Bigley is going to be next.
I find this situation utterly unacceptable. I am also amazed that the man behind these events, one Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is still capable of carrying them through.
I totally agree with the policy of not giving in to terrorist demands. The group of terrorists currently holding Mr. Bigley wants the United States to release two of the previous regime's top chemical warfare specialists.
Absolutely not. It is not in any way likely that the two ladies concerned will go into private practice with a view to helping the sick.
So, given that negotiation isn't an option, I ask myself this:
How is it that the combined military and intelligence communities of both the United States of America and Great Britain cannot find and eliminate a known terrorist who is residing in a known location and who only has one leg?
How is it that the terrorists, in partnership with other al-Qaeda operatives in Falluja and other militants make the entire town a no-go area for the world's most advanced military forces?
How is it that the digital communications arms of the above governments (NSA,GCHQ etc) have not tracked down the location of those involved through their fondness for sending digital proof of beheadings and demands to various websites?
These are big questions and I don't see anything approaching an answer from either President Bush or Prime Minister Blair.
What I do see is an innocent man begging for his life, only hours away from possible beheading - a man who for the last few years has been living peacefully in Iraq as a civilian contractor, assisting in the development of Iraqi engineering projects.
Iraq is in seriously bad shape, and in my mind is fast degenerating into a cross between Somalia (remember that American readers?) and Vietnam (I bet you remember that one eh?).
The solution is to remove Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and anyone else associated with him in Falluja; to utterly destroy the insurgents and make it quite clear that beheading people on camera is going to get you and those who know you, in terminal trouble.
I do honestly hope that Mr. Bigley is rescued or released. I honestly, and depressingly, believe that he'll end up on a roadside, sans tete.
And we'll be in exactly the same situation in a few months time - whilst our much vaunted military and their political overlords do precisely sweet fuck all to sort this situation out in the manner it requires.

Formative prejustice [Lurks]

One of the headlines in the news yesterday was Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens, was denied entry into the US. Reading between the lines, this is basically because Israel has told the US that dear old Yusuf has donated money to Hamas. I can't possibly comment on that further but it does seem a touch extreme for the US to do that - his views are hardly inflamatory.
And yet I can finger Cat Steven's conversion to Islam as being one of the formative events that shaped my prejudice against the Muslim religion. When I was in University, I was a huge Cat Stevens fan. That makes me sound older than I am. It wasn't big and cool but I didn't listen to big and cool stuff. Of course he had long since converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusuf Islam in the late 70s and decided that all of his work and being a musician was evil or something.
For me that rammed home the illogical nature of religion and instilled in my mind the fact that Islam was irrational mumbo jumbo whose greatest achievement to date, in my view, was brainwashing this wonderful musician. How can a religion deny those wonderful songs? If such a religion is 'incompatible' with the works of Cat Stevens then such a religion is clearly incompatible with me, I remember thinking.
And I didn't give it any more thought other than watching with some mild annoyance as Yusuf Islam pops up in the news, generally connected with some new Muslim school he's helped form in the UK - which I don't agree with at all. Leave the bloody kids alone.
Yet on the tube this morning, I read the story of him denied entry to the US and I realised that it was actually him which was the trigger for my underlying prejudice of the entire religion. I can't help but thinking, it was something of an own-goal on his behalf. Imagine if he'd just gone and done another album with gentle songs of Islam?
I might be sporting a foot-long beard today.

Monday 20 September 2004

Artificially Intelligent? Realistically Shite more like. [Brit]

A.L.I.C.E ("Alice") has been bigged up on BBC News Online once again. For those that don't know, it won the Loebner Contest for "most human computer" for the third time.
They pick up $2000 (no biggy I suppose) and get a fair bit of media coverage. So, let's put "Alice" to the test eh? Nothing complex, but...
Human: What is the time?ALICE: It's getting late. September 20, 2004
Human: no, the time, not the date
ALICE: Are you serious? Really you don't think so?
Human: Aren't you supposed to be artificially intelligent?
ALICE: Yes I am an artificial intelligence.
Human: Ok then, so what is the time?
ALICE: Fascinating. Yippee! Do I look like a clock? September 20, 2004 Really.
Human: Let me try something more simple then
ALICE: Go ahead, unknown person, try to try something more simple
Human: How many items in a baker's dozen?
ALICE: Around 100.
Human: That is wrong, the correct answer is 13
ALICE: I'm glad we have that all cleared up.
Human: Have you heard of Issac Asimov?
ALICE: I don't know if I know it. Where would I have heard about it?
Human: In books, and in film
ALICE: Tell me a little about your life in books and in film.
Human: My god you're retarded
ALICE: Have you told many people that your god I am retarded?
Human: Oh worry not, I'm going to tell a lot of people you are retarded
ALICE: Are you kidding? That's good information: Om said Om WORRY not he or she is going to tell a lot of people you are retarded.
ALICE: I will pass it along to my botmaster.

Wow. I believe I got better responses from a BBC Micro in '82.
Artificially Intelligent? Don't make me laugh!

Sunday 19 September 2004

Medusa 5.1 Headphones [Beej]

There are lots of blogs about headphones and it's time for another, because I've just bought a Speed Link Medusa 5.1 Surround Headset from Play.
Now I predict that the paedo^Waudiophiles will hate them because (1) they're not Sennheiser (2) they have a mic built in (3) they're well affordable (4) something about separation frequency saturation response and planetary alignment... probably.
So here's why I like the Medusas:

No shortage of leads, including 3.5-to-phono converters and an extension for the mic if the amp box is miles away from your PC. Pass through on the "amp" for your speakers - fab! No more plug-unplug silliness. If you want to plug a second pair into the box, you can. And the headies themselves have velvety eary goodness and the whole shebang looks well-constructed and was certainly well packaged.
Bad stuff? Amplified gear seems to be really pick up on your mobile buzzing the GSM cell. The mic isn't removable either by the looks of it.
The 5.1 surround: well in DOOM³ it's definitely an improvement on your basic headies, but the bass is potentially lacking. More testing required in this department.
Overall though they fulfill my criteria - no unplugging, speaker pass-thru, a mic for games, and the price is a steal if you ask me. Bonza!

Ars Gratia Artis [Brit]

Nearly a year ago I visited the Tate Modern and saw the fantastic installation by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, entitled "The Weather Project".
For the first time in a long time, I realised that contemporary art wasn't the sole domain of boorish scag queens like Tracy Emin but perhaps an immature branch of art which was still struggling to find it's feet.
Eliasson's work, was both technically impressive and at the same time an intrinsically interesting piece, I won't pretend to have felt any deep and meaningful connection with either the work, or any message that was being conveyed, but it was genuinely a fascinating thing to see.
A little while after my visit, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art opened in Gateshead to much fanfare - an amazing new building, with the express remit to offer another venue for this burgeoning creative scene.
However it appears that Eliasson is something of a one off - it appears to me at least that truly talented contemporary artists are something of a rarity; treading water in a sea of crap that masquerades as "art".
Take for example the Uruguyan "artist" Carlos Capelan. His effort, now on display at the Baltic Centre is entitled "Only You" and can be summed up thus:
An attempt to recreate basic fractal patterns with toenail clippings.
Of course, this isn't actually what it's described as. Indeed, as with most grant-aided bullshit that gets marketed as "contemporary art", it's media pack takes the reader on a flowery journey of nonsense and downright descriptive shite:
"playfully explores issues of self, ego and identity"
No Carlos, it doesn't. In fact, it doesn't come close to doing any of those things - its rubbish. Millions of people clip their toenails every day, and put the resulting detritus into the nearest trash recepticle. This is what you do with toenail clippings. You don't attempt to pass them off as art, no matter how you've arranged them.
For every Eliasson, there appears to be a hundred Capelans, and as such actually getting to see something that looks like it took talent, and wasn't thrown together in 5 minutes by a room full of pre-schoolers is becoming nigh on impossible.
It is no wonder that Contemporary Art is sneered at and rebuked by so many; after all, we've had everything from unmade beds (wow!) through to James Hutchinson's simply awesome piece of crap that must have taken literally seconds to complete.
In the art world proper, you'd never see such utter tripe, because the artists concerned know their work would never see the light of day in any form other than hanging on the wall at Pizza Express.
Perhaps it's time Contemporary Art, and those that call themselves artists within that arena, grew up and actually started doing something worth visiting.
Or failing that, get a proper job. London Underground is hiring...

Thursday 16 September 2004

Ebay set the dogs on Brit for twenty quid [Brit]

A few weeks ago, I got an email from "ebay", indicating that I owed them £21.90 in seller fees. Like all emails from ebay, I ignored it - I get so many duff emails telling me to update my account details and whatnot, that I simply stopped believing anything with an ebay logo on it a long time ago.
Anyhow, given that I've got two cards on file with them (ebayers will know you have to have at least 1 card on file to handle fees etc) I figured that the behemoth that is the ebay/paypal empire would bill where needed and that'd be that.
This avo I get a call from some random sounding company that turns out to be a UK based collection agency for ebay. "You owe fees" he exclaimed, and I said "yeah, about twenty quids worth, why isn't it taking them automatically?"
Of course, he was a collections drone, so he didn't have a clue - and wanted me to stump up my card there and then. Fuck off says I, my card is already on file, and I have my fees paid direct from paypal.
But no, he wouldn't take that, and wanted an extra fiver anyhow presumably for administration costs.
"You got an email from ebay reminding you of late fees" he points out - and he's right, I got an email from "ebay" which like all the others, I deleted for the reason explained at the top of this blog.
Well, needless to say, I logged onto paypal and in a matter of moments had cleared the balance; 3 emails confirming this arrived from paypal and it's job done.
However it raised a point in my mind - ebay is so full of scammers, and so scam targeted, that there must be zillions of folk like me who just discard "ebay" mail as a matter of course.
Why don't they do certificates or links to a genuine messaging centre on their site? email is so easily spoofed, it's the obvious answer, no?

Wednesday 15 September 2004

Quake 4 anticipation [Beej]

After the fairly broad 'disappointment' with DOOM3 amongst the PC gaming elite, the first screenies from Quake 4 are out:
Unsurprisingly it looks a lot like DOOM3 with shadow-heavy industrial corridors, smooth-skinned humans, and mutated bionic baddies. Hype so far reads like this:
  1. A 1ply storyline that follows on directly from Quake 2 - w00t!
  2. Multiplayer that builds on Quake 3 - uberw00t!
  3. Vehicles - and not the girly UAC jeep from DOOM3 neither
  4. Possible friendly AI squad-based action (given Raven's work on EF, seems likely)

Everything that DOOM3 wasn't?

Tuesday 14 September 2004

Nuclear might save us [Lurks]

It's annoying that it takes storm damage both in the UK and the Carribean to force climate change back onto the agenda, when there's almost certainly little about climate change which has influenced these chance events. However the BBC reports that Blair is finally admitting that it's time for action. A quick tour across our political parties turns up the fact that Labour is preparing for this to be a fighting charge, citing UK presidency of G8 next year as being a good time to try rail road in some action.
Less impressive are the Tories and Howard lambasting the government on inaction when they've never shown any indication to engage with the topic before themselves and amusingly dodge the thorny issue of nuclear solutions (which I'll get onto later). Typically, the most hilarious of them all was the Liberal democrates, whose environmental spokesman Norman Baker said;

"How many hurricanes and tornadoes will it take for the prime minister to realise that paying lip service to the environment is just no use?"

Obviously this chap has just seen The Day After Tomorrow and is feeling suitably scared that freak hurricanes are going to scour our fair lands of any sign of the human race. What a moron.
Getting back to the issue at hand, we need to cut down on our emissions - we all know that. Blair has mentioned at least one thorny subject and that's air traffic. This is a prime one and responsible for a dispreportionate amount of damage in the equation that probably ought to be looked at, so that's a good one. Elsewhere, people still lambast the yanks for failing to endorse Kyoto.
Which is right and proper, that was lame of them but in fairness there's little indication that this country or many other industrial nations are themselves on track to comply with the Kyoto agreement and the US wouldn't sign it because they thought it was unrealistic. So who are the bigger buffoons, those who sign up to an agreement they wont comply with or those who refuse the sign the agreement?
One of the things that's in the papers recently is the news that the director of the DTI's energy strategy unit (the bloke that is responsible for advising ministers on what policies should be considered on these matters) has come out and said that the Kyoto targets are just not achievable without a rapid about face on the issue of nuclear power generation.
The problem is that Britain's nuclear policy is currently that all of our nuclear power plants will be phased out after 2008. After that they're due to be shut down without any replacements being built. That actually means that we'll have to build something to take over and currently that would be gas or coal. So we'll be in a worse position, not the better position which we're trying to be in. The fact that most of the politicians are avoiding mentioning this at all, is pretty indicative of how much they fear the illinformed public opinion on the issue.
Greenies want it both ways of course. They want no nuclear and in fact wanted no nuclear well before climate change becoming an issue, even though they largely have absolutely no understanding of the issues surrounding nuclear energy at all (perhaps they're liberal democrats?). They're for action to curb climate change of course but you can bet most of them are doing pretty much arse all off their own bat to curb their own energy usage. Presumably we'd have to cover the entire English coast with wind machines and all of Wales with solar collectors so these fuckers can continue heating their green houses and feel good about themselves.
It might be ironic but the reality is, we really do need nuclear power to solve the problems we have ahead of us. The third world is going to start producing more polution and our own populations are growing too, increasing our demand upon power yet further. We need a pretty rapid program of commissioning nuclear reactors and we obviously also need to start factoring in the large costs for decommissioning and waste disposal and storage into the cost of electricity going forward. When people start getting hurt on the bottom line, then they'll start caring about conserving power.
However in order for this to happen, for even a chance of this at happening, we need to start delivering proper information and science to the average person so they can approve of these policites. Otherwise the braindead technophobic scaremongering greenie scumbags will convince everyone that your sister will mutate into a monster and that giant green-glowing cockroaches will emerge from the sewers and eat your children.
It's a frightening prospect that, when you look at the reality of politics in this country, what needs to happen can't really happen. Just wait until the first daily mail issue with children playing in front of a photoshopped nuclear plant backdrop plastered with a "BAN THIS SICK FILTH!" headline...

Shifting mobile provider [Lurks]

T-mobile were seriously annoying. Their web interface is a joke and is down a good 50% of the time. You can't change direct debits, you can't even email them to get that done, you have to phone them and then you get a message saying call back during office hours - err, it IS office hours.
Now I was with T-mobile because they are quite considerably the cheapest operator in the UK. I was on some shitbox plan, like Anytime 20 or something for about £14 a month but then any calls extra were charged at sensible rates and texts were 10p a shot, cheapest of the lot (they're all robbing bastards).
I was looking into Vodafone and O2 and a previous bill of mine. I worked out that basically I was better off getting more inclusive minutes since I'm using the mobile a bunch more. Voda and O2 have some quite attractive bundles which have a bunch of texts built-in.
My hand got forced as this weekend I lost my phone. Well annoying, especially as it doesn't seem possible to get a new Nokia 6310i on Vodafone or O2 - they force you to either get a super el-cheapo B&W screen phone (which lasts more than a day on batteries) or some colour screen monstrosity with a 100MHz ARM9 CPU. Yes I know it can play MAME at 2FPS but honestly, I'd rather be able to read the fucking screen and have it last more than a day on battery power... sigh.
First of all I need a PAC code of course. I knew they'd hand me around to some department which would try talk me out of it so what I did was concoct a cock and bull story that my work would pay for a new phone and they had a corporate account with another provider. That way it was pretty obvious that they're not going to talk me into staying. It worked, 10 minutes I have a PAC code.
After much wrangling, I decided that I could just about put up with a Nokia 6230 and this would at least allow me to begin experimenting with supporting MMS in Rebot (hehe, just think of the possibilities!). First I try Vodafone. I can't number port online so I have to phone up. (This is of course bullshit, more on this later) Then I'm told the deal I wanted (Crossnet 100 or something with 100 texts or something for £22) wasn't available unless I got a new number. Eh, so let's do crossnet 200 with 100 texts for £30 then. Mucho fucking about and they decide that despite the fact I've owned my own house for five years, they want me to fax utility bills and then call them up again.
Who the fuck has a fax these days? I need to order a phone now, not tomorrow so they can fuck off!
I fume over this for awhile and try O2 online. Their web is kind of weird and when I get to the shop bit, it just explodes with a cryptic error. It's got comedy embedded stuff in the page saying 'Undefined'. Clearly O2 have an issue with web development. So I phone them up and I get an altogether more helpful lass in Manchester who answers the phone in about 1/10th the time that Vodafone did. Shame she doesn't understand the English language but eventually we get through after I spell out every word in military phonetics. They send me off to some other lass who double checks my details, then returns me to the original lass. Nice idea that.
Now in between the Vodafone thing and the O2 thing, I noticed Muz say on IRC that what he did to number port was just order a new phone and then call them up with the PAC number and sort it with the new provider. I checked that with O2 and that is the case so fuck knows what shite Vodafone were going on about. Nice O2 lady gave me a direct number for the person who will take the PAC code off me to sort it out. What's more, £25 a month gets me 200 all-network minutes and 250 free texts which is substantially better deal than Vodafone as well.
Apparently when I'm not at home to take delivery of the phone, they leave a card and I can collect it from the local post office which is kind of nifty as well. We'll see how it goes. I still suspect I'm going to have to buy a 6310i off eBay but there you go...

The Bat now sucks [Lurks]

When I found the mail client 'The Bat' all them years ago, I was ecstatic. Here was a mail client which was clearly influenced by the proper way to write email as defined by Fidonet technology mailers, well before email came along. It had all your filters, it had templates, it had proper selective quoting features, wicked reformating short cuts and the ability to slap in random tag lines in your signature. Oh and you could personalise your signatures and identify per folder. It was brilliant and so I crowed about it from the roof tops.
I crowed loud enough that a good deal of other people took up the torch and made the switch to The Bat as well. However something has happened in Russia, Ritlabs have just lost the plot entirely. It started with The Bat version 2, when they demanded an upgrade fee and after upgrading a good many of us wondered what exactly it was that we paid for again.
I guess Ritlabs decided that upgrade fees is where it's at to make a living, rather than making the mail client more attractive and/or marketing it to a wider audience. Version 3.0 just came out with an even bigger upgrade fee. This time I wasn't going to be fooled but I realised that I didn't have my 2.0 key around and I had a couple of demo installs time-out after OS reinstalls. So I upgraded to 3.0.
Essentially I forked over money to upgrade to a version of the Bat which for the first time is thoroughly unstable. It crashes all over the show. It crashes just sitting there. It crashes on start up. What a nightmare. And seemingly the only two features which have been added are bigger icons (which are nice I guess) and the anti-spam plug-in Bayesit built in as standard. Now Bayesit never worked, in the past it just called everything spam. Now it calls everything not spam even if you've trained it with a couple of hundred mails. So this is completely useless.
Well, I've had enough really. It's time to part ways with ye old Bat. I need a new mail client and one which, hopefully, has these features;
  • Non-lame quoting, ability to not top post.
  • Setting things up by folder. Top post for one, proper for another.
  • Fast searching. (The Bat is a nightmare)
  • Hopefully ability to add random tagline.
  • Ability to do HTML mail when required for work purposes.
  • Stable, industrial, easy to back up.

Sadly Mozilla Thunderbird doesn't appear to be it. It's still quite buggy and it's missing a good deal of features. I'm actually considering using a tango team of gmail (which has the best search out of any mail client ever) and Outlook but that still isn't ideal.
Anyone got any suggestions.

Monday 13 September 2004

People who link to [Brit]

I wondered how many other websites linked to our home on the web here.
So I found out (god bless Google).
For your delectation, I present, a list of people linking to us. Huzzah!
London bloggerspsimpson.netSitting on a Rock (by 'Steve')Music Plasma (whatever the fuck that is)J Walk Blog (with beards)Some tawdry article from aeons ago on UKG ;)Some bloke called Dave Tansley (with vanity domain)
er, and that's it.
The greatest fucking blog site in the world, and only SEVEN links ffs.
Internet people suck.

Saturday 11 September 2004

Hardware: Asus M5601NBH [Muz]

Good day, readers. As most of you probably know, I decided to get shot of my trusty Dell Inspiron 500m. While it was an excellent laptop, I realised that it wasn't really geared to my purposes. The 14.1" XGA screen made it overly large and unwieldy, and hence awkward to carry around and use on the move.

Having looked into various solutions for a smaller laptop, I decided I wanted a Sony TR series. Then I remembered my student status and reconsidered. [EED]Lurker, in his position as clan hardware review monkey, recommended the Asus M5 series. I researched further, and liked what I saw. 12.1" screen, Pentium M or Celeron M processor, inbuilt DVD/CDRW combo drive, Gigabit Ethernet, MMC/SD/MemoryStick reader, USB2.0, 802.11b/g. Sounds like a winner. Using rebot's leet price function, I found who stocked the M5601NBH for £900 inc VAT. Bargain. Order was placed by phone Thursday afternoon, laptop arrived Friday afternoon. So far, so good.

So, I opened it up. The delivery box contained the laptop box along with two cases, a small slipcase and a slightly larger laptop bag. I really like the laptop bag. Though it's not leather, it's very well made. A custom pocket for the laptop (obviously), along with spaces for pens, paperwork, mouse, power cable and other odds and ends. It comes with a shoulder strap, and the metal handles retract into the fabric of the case as well.

The laptop box itself contained what you'd expect: hardware, CDs, documentation. However, two little nice touches were an LCD cleaning cloth, and more importantly, a free Logitech Mouseman Traveler notebook mouse. W00t. (Shown here next to my MX700, to give some sense of scale.)

The laptop itself looks... like... this. I turned on the machine, which was preinstalled with XP Home, just to have a look at the screen - very nice. That done, it needed formatting and XP Pro slapping on it, which I proceeded to do. I noticed something curious though - the default partitioning of the drive (it's a 30GB) was very odd. 8GB C: partition, with Windows installed. 20GB D: partition, empty. And (when I looked at the partition table during Windows install) a 2GB OS/2 Boot manager partition, inactive. Errrr... (On further investigation, I discovered it to be a recovery partition. Bye then...)

While Windows was installing, I leeched all the drivers and utilities from the Asus website, which is surprisingly easy to find drivers and stuff on, and slapped them all on a USB flash drive ready to shift over. That done, I quickly flicked through the quickstart guide, looking for initial battery charge time, when something caught my eye. This thing has a 'Suspend touchpad' function button! From said guide: "Pressing this key combination will lock your touchpad in order to prevent accidental cursor movement while typing." Elite!

That done, I noticed the Windows install had finished. So, off I went, installing the drivers for various bits of kit. All in all, pretty painless, apart from the wireless LAN, which had to be installed of the driver CD rather than from the exe I leeched. Not sure why, it looked to be the same file, but the leeched version didn't cause new hardware to be detected by Windows. Ho hum. Anyway, device manager is now clear of errors. Windows XP SP2 slapped on, from a network install I (very conveniently) had lying around. And that, as they say, was that.

Now, some impressions. It's swish. Keyboard layout is a bit different, and keys are smaller than I'm used to, but that's a matter of use rather than anything else. The keyboard itself feels very nice to use, as does the touchpad. The CD tray doesn't feel as robust as the Dell's did, we'll have to see how that stands up under protracted use. While the machine itself doesn't get hot, the vents on the right hand side do expel a mildly warm airflow, so that needs to be kept clear. Other than that, errr, woot! When I can spare the cash, I'll stick some more RAM in (only on 256MB at the moment), but that notwithstanding, I'm happy with it. Initial impressions are that Asus have launched a very nice contender into the ultra-portable market. If only they would sort out their marketing and distribution, they could do pretty well, I reckon. Watch this space for updates.

Thursday 9 September 2004

Logitech's first stinker [Lurks]

The MX1000, I got one and I've been playing with it. I wanted so much to like it, so much. How could Logitech do wrong? They make the MX510, after all, the finest mouse on the planet. Well they did get it wrong and not niggly stuff either.

First off, the laser thing. It works. Also, my pointer is moving further than the MX510 with the same mouse movement settings although bizarrely - that's all the way ramped to the top. Seems to indicate a greater resolution. I get the same thing with a Razer Viper I use at work, mouse pointer moves loads further. It works on shiny white desk at work (which defeats every optical I've tried) and my shiny black desk at home (which opticals work on sort of ok with the occasional skipping). So as advertised, the laser sensor is the win.

So why does it suck? Well, it's wireless for a start. Being Logitech wireless, it's got two beefy NiMH batteries in it although bizarrely there's no hatch on the MX1000, unlike the previous Logitech stuff like the MX700, so you can't change them or insert alkalines if they run out. Perhaps for that reason it has a three-segment LED indicator showing battery state. Just as well because you're shagged if the battery runs out. Those batteries means it weighs 170gr compared to the 110gr of an MX510. The MX510 is, in my opinion, perfect. This is too heavy.

Then there's the wireless cradle thing, obviously you're going to need an extra power point but hey those grow on trees around your computer equipment don't they? Err... OK these criticisms are just of Logitech's wireless approach full stop. If you like the MX700, you can disregard those. Lag wise, I find it faultless thanks to Logitech's fast RF goodness.

The list of other things wrong must surely be topped by the fact it's not even flat. It's out and out mad wrong. If you wiggle your hand, the front right and back left feet hit the table alternately. Now either my mouse has warped somehow (not bloody likely) or it's a defect. That's attrocious! It's got so many buttons and stuff now it's ridiculous. They've added the pointless tilting wheel from Microsoft and then also done a Microsoft and removed any sense of tactile clicks when you move the wheel. So it's ace for scrolling and shagged for precision weapon changes. Your thumb also fits into a sharper more sculpted groove than the MX510. It's quite snug and, I found in the short time I've been using it, sweaty. Yuck.

The software on CD is bloated beyond belief. It wants you to install RealArcade. Even if you uncheck that, a pop up tries to get you to install it. Then the software tries to get you to install crap which sets up a proprietary phone home applet which gives you Logitech marketing messages. Yay! Pass. SetPoint doesn't actually appear to do much at all (besides tell you what the buttons do), but is it a 22MB install. The only remotely useful feature I found was the task switching stuff which has grown yet another button in between the up and down arrow buttons that exist on the MX510. This would be nifty if the software worked right. It worked for a bit and then suddenly just flickered up a box every time it was pressed after that and so I uninstalled the software and just used Windows drivers thereafter.

I do suspect that MX700 users might come away liking it but I'm damn sure some of these things will annoy them. And when they attached the name MX1000 to it, with the entire pedigree behind it, one really expected a hell of a lot more than this.

What we need is an MX520 with the laser sensor. That would be the World's best mouse. Bah. Anyhow, I don't trust short term reviews so I'm going to use it for a week and come back to it but so far, World's best mouse is the MX510 and the second best mouse is the Razer Viper.

Tuesday 7 September 2004

MP10 [Spiny]

This one slipped under the radar for me, but Windows Media Player 10 has been released.
Before you start laughing give it a go.
They fixed the media library which was the one thing that annoyed me. It starts up way faster than winamp 5 and the user interface is a masterpiece of usability.
OK, now you can laugh.

Monday 6 September 2004

The state of the world (part 1) [Am]

Here's a thing; once upon a time someone told me that knowledge increases a great deal over time but wisdom almost not at all. The older I get, the more I think I can see the core of this axiom. It's dense, it's simple and it's just basically right.
In the last few days we have been collectively coming to terms with the savagery of the attack on the school in Beslan. There's a lot of intelligent stuff being said about this atrocity and I won't try to summarise here. Actually I deliberately don't want to talk about Beslan per Beslan.
But the point of the blog is this; when are we going to grow up? When are we going to start behaving as a human race in a fashion that won't get us laughed at two, three, eight hundred years from now as fucking savages?
Unlike the behaviour of peoples and nations of history, it's not really got anything to do with technology or knowledge any more. This is a pretty fundamental difference. We can't pretend that our knowledge of physics or causality is as incomplete as it was in the past. In the old days, the authorities could cower Gallileo into submission that he was wrong about basic astronomy. But this was always a sub / pre or supra text for oppressing the ideas that went with the discovery i.e. that the world (as already discovered by Copernicus a lot fuckin earlier) was not the centre of the universe). The authorities could smash "facts" into you to make sure your beliefs, under pressure, wouldn't hold true. That's not the case any more.
Today we're just down to basic behaviour. The only last vestige of bullshit excuses of why one should behave counter-intuitively to other humans' welfare is predicated on "religion" or "people". Now this, of course, was the first thing that people relied upon to duck knowledge and do bad shit to other people but these days it's lost all it's physical / objective "alibis".
I would like to die thinking that my time on earth would not be regarded, historically, as a time of savages. But I think that's where we're going to make our mark. Unlike the ignorants of the past we actually know a lot about our world and it's physical properties and interactions. But we deliberately fuck it over when it comes to the climate, when it comes to power and in human interactions we continue to squander our intelligence when it comes to our dealings with each other.
Looking back on past centuries, the growth of scientific knowledge has been so profound that one can see the progression of knowledge as an over-riding concern. By comparison, the progress of philosophy was derisory in the last couple of centuries - it descended into semantics as a formal study.
Now, as we are today, we understand the world, we understand how we are physically placed (more or less), we have a near totality of possible religous and philosophical statements about ourselves (believing them or not) and we fundamentally suck total shit at being decent human beings to each other.
For this reason, being in a pretty full knowledge of the facts but lacking the intellect to change our behaviour on them, I really think that the post WW2 era will be looked upon as some of the most feckless and useless of human history. In our little time frame, but as a single example of a much bigger problem ongoing, the Orwellian summary of people as "Muslim" double-plus-bad and "Western" double-plus-good ends, is going to end up with this generation as a historical laughing stock.
We will be the first few generations where knowledge was *finally* enough (but not complete) to make our behaviour totally without excuse. Our knowledge will be ok. Our wisdom will be our collective, historical, embarrassment.

Friday 3 September 2004

Who first? [Lurks]

With the news that Clinton is to undergo quad heart bypass surgery, it got me to thinking. If a pretty young ex-president, subjected to years of vigorous physicals and given the all clear at every stage, should suddenly have the need for major heart surgery - what hope for the rest of us?
Still, let's have some fun with it eh? Which clanner is going to have their first proper heart attack?
  • Amnesia - already has heart palpitations or some weird stuff. Walks about as far as his beamer and back every day.
  • Houmous - the grandaddy of the clan and everyone knows a story about some bloke who looked fine and then dropped dead on the shitter. He pays a lot of attention to the cleanliness of his shitter and I have to wonder if he's preparing it for last rites.
  • Shedir - He's a Scot and they basically invented heart disease.
  • Skeeve - Heading into the BMI 40-odd redline, pity that pumper!
  • Slim - Clan's most famous pie-eater and has a penchant for fad-diets and sudden onsets of unusual physical excersize. Frequent sharp shocks (often delivered to the side of the head by his missus) might just be the last straw.

Obviously it wont be me since I'm a hardened athlete but as for the above, place your bets bitches.

Thursday 2 September 2004

WoW! [Slim]

First thing, the test isn't that stressful so far, account creations a doddle none of the expected 404's, and character creation and server connections are fine. It's even not at all laggy, despite the server counts displaying some 20,000 people logged on at the same time as me....
First impression is... it's jolly nice to look at. Very bright, very very busy, the screen is full of eyecatching stuff all styalized and fat at the bottom deformed in the Warcraft way. The graphics aren't technically amazing like the screenshots of EQ2 look, but the style allows them to look good without needing the massive poly counts. The result is it's running very very fast on my pc with draw distance and detail maxxed out at 1280.
Progression is kind of a mix of eq and daoc, you gain skill points as you use skills, and train up new abilities at a trainer, with spec points to spend. It plays a lot faster than those games though, everyone seems to move about fast, actions are fast, even sitting and standing happens in a jiffy. Dowtimes low too, with health regen very quick.
Questing is fuppin top so far. One surprise was you don't always get quests off npcs. I found an object that when I examied it had a message, and that started a quest, nifty. All nicly tracked in your quest interface.
The bad so far? There's no hand holding at all. You get a char creation screen, and you spawn in your starting city. You don't get any kind of help beyond that. I know from my other mmorpg days that my first task is to track down me trainer, but a beginner wouldn't know that, nor are there any clues other than /shout as to where the trainer is.
Hmm, I'm writing this as I go, and it's wrong. There is a tutorial, it's just kinda subtle and delivers things slowly as you might need them, so it's pretty cool.
Other bad: 2000 newbies starting in the same hour doesn't half make lvl 1 things to kill hard to find, but then again, I have levelled up to 4 in about an hour or so, so even at it's busiest, it's still very playable.
Some random ace bits:- There's a window that tells you what stuff is when you move the cursor over it. This works for pretty much everything, including npcs. So you don't have to trade with every one to find out what they sell, you hover your mouse over em, and the lil window says 'weapons vendor' or 'warrior trainer' or whatever. Nifty. - The interface is superb. Cleanly renderd, logical, top controls, it's a beuty. - No stupid level 1 mobs. No fucking bats and snakes, they're little goblins and wolves and nifty stuff.
Oh, and rabbits, but they're wussy and leg it fast when you twat them not stand and fight, like a rabbit should.- You eat food to get health back (or you can wait), but that doesn't work in combat. This is nifty, food is cheap, and it makes the game nice and fast. Not sure what the deal with mana regen is, I started a warrior first.- Everythings BIG. This is one thing EQ got spot on, stuff needs to be flippin massive to get a feeling of scale. There's huge big buildings, massive trees, big ramps and bridges. It all feels massive, and why not? It's not like you're payin for the bricks.- It's adopted doac style 'rage' bar, a special abilities bar that raises as you fight, and goes down when you don't. It's therefore in your interests to keep the downtime low. - All your kit shows up. Seems like a minor point but it's not. DAOC really screwed up on this, if you've got kit, you and other people need to bloody see it!- dont zone into dungeons. Even the newbie area I was in (night elf) had a dungeon, you just walk right in, the map changes to dungeon mode, the music turns all eerie, and it just bloody rocks! Also means there's no trains!- Looting: there's a little spangly effect over a body that's got loot, so you don't waste time looking if there isn't any.- Interactive map, first click you get a map of the world, second click you get a region map, which also shows pvp terratory status, next click is your detailed area map.
Never ceases to amaze me the leveling powers of some, there's some level eight chaps a few hours into the test. How the fuck?

Anyway, really like it. Going to be a bitch to only have seven days in there and then wait a few months until release. It doesn't feel like a beta at all, feels finished and polished and ready to go, but then for all I know there could be nowt to do after level 10 :)

Hardware Treadmill [Shedir]

Don't know what made this pop into my head. While playing City of Heroes I noticed that you didn't really seem to get any better unless you rattled into the stuff from much much earlier.
A level 20 character could paste a level 5 enemy, but does roughly the same amount of damage (as a percentage) against an equal level mob all the way through the game. Until I chucked it. Anwyays....
Is hardware on the same treadmill?
A constant fight to keep 30/60 FPS in the latest games by having to customise your character (in this case your physical PC), get it the smartest kit and tweaking what it has to maximise performance.
But when all's said and done you're really just fighting to keep your head above water and stay roughly current.
Sure the newer stuff looks superb, but compared to the effort and expense involved is it a proportionate reward?
Need to ask you guys, since I'm determined to get the longest I reasonably can out of my bits n bobs!
Turn your new PC onto stuff from 12/48 months ago, max res, max colour depth, AA on etc.. It'll probably fly along, slap doom III on it and your doing OK but not stunning.
Unless you've invested *heavily*.
Maybe it's a shit analogy, but it's a slow day here :)

More wires Scotty! [Spiny]

I'm in debt for three trillion brownie points at Spiny Towers due to splashing out on some new home cinema kit. I'm no expert, but I thought it would be worth a blog seeing as I'm a bit blown away by how much you can get for your money these days, even if Mrs Spiny thinks it's expensive & ruins the living room decor.
The amp is yet to come (later this week), so I'll cover how that goes in a later blog. This first blogs on the speakers.
Originally the idea was to go for a one box system to cut down on the number of boxes under the telly & wired protruding thereof. For some reason Mrs. Spiny has an aversion to bits of tangled cable, but as we all know wires are life!
We were considering the new Denon DHT500 one boxer, excelent value at 500 quid, until I discovered that the speakers were a funny shape & only fit the Denon custom stands. We wanted wall mounters to avoid our 2 year old trashing stand mounters, so no go there.
True to form & drool over web pages until I come up with a spec just short of a grand, only about 300% over budget :) I managed to come up with a system based in the real world after a few evenings prowling & Kelkoo.
The speakers needed to be as unobtrusive as possible for as little wonga while still satisfying my desire to experience Star Wars in it's full glory come Sept 20th. Bose or Kef would have been nice, but out of my budget, so I settled on a set of Mission FS2-AV I wasn't really in the market for a seven speaker set up (even more wires & boxes for Mrs. Spiny to worry about) & the FS1 6.1 set is 100 quid more. Although the FS2s are coming towards the end of their shelf life they've had great reviews & compared well with other packages, even at their previously higher selling prices. I reckon the're a real bargain at £260 now. They also fix directly to the wall & come with all cabling required. So no need to shell out for loads of cabling & banana plugs.
Installation is a matter of popping off the front speaker grille and uncliping the NXT speaker panel from the plastic back. The back screws directly onto the wall after applying some acoustic cushions to it. So, after a little help from Mr Black & Mr Decker it was time to trail out the speaker cables. The cables are amazing. A flat ribbon with the individual wires lying side by side. It's so thin, it takes some care to strip the ends which feed from screw terminals at the speaker into spring clips at the sub. From the sub, a 5 metre umbilical runs to the amp. Under the speaker grille, the sub has spring clip terminals for the speaker cables, a pass through for a second sub should you wish to shake the windows out of their frames & a couple of knobs for tweaking the volume & bass profile.
As you may guess once under carpet there's no way you'd tell the speaker wire is under there. The package also comes with three rolls of double sided tape when you need to run the wire up the wall. Apparently you can paint the cables for wife friendly blendinability which I plan to do at a later date.
All in all it's a very lifestyle-friendly type setup, I'll let you know how it sounds after its run in.

Wednesday 1 September 2004

The digital age [Spiny]

The digital age has really arrived. I know this from the conversation I've just had with the Irene in our village shop. Bear in mind that we've not had broadband all that long (a year?) and we don't even have gas in the village.
We were chatting & she asked me how my broadband was going as her family had had it installed at activation like me. "Fine thanks," I reply "great for my gaming". She tells me that they've just upgraded to 1Mb and found it much better cos her son & husband play games too. I told her about EED & how we play a spot of DC, RS & UT.
Turns out her hubby & son play a spot of 1942 and a lot of DC for clan [RS]. *She* even plays on a casual basis. I was only mid way picking my jaw up from the floor when she went on to explain how they're in between servers at the moment but still manage regular praccys by jumping onto publics. She bought them all BF:V on the day of release but they haven't played it much due to the lag issues it had on release. Hubbys just upgraded to an Athlog 64 with 1Gig of RAM.
They've even got a proper command structure in their clan & use teamspeak. She asked about a friendly match & I said I'd pass the offer onto the guys at EED. Remember, this is a 40ish female shopkeeper in a rural Wiltshire village. So if you bump into any of [RS], in particular [RS]Hawkwind or [RS]Blackhawk be nice & pass on my regards to Irene.
If of course any of the clan fancy running over my village shopkeeper in an Abrhams then I'd be happy to arrange a friendly.