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Sunday 30 January 2005

Skys the limit! [Houmous]

I signed up to Sky along time ago. It’s hard to imagine but it was a time without Broadband. It was a time when I had never heard of the word “Bittorrent”. It was a time when you only really leeched at LAN parties ( you remember logging off to find that sleeping bag at about 4 am and “there are 17 users connected to your PC – do you wish to close this connection” came up - YES!).
All of this meant that at the time I not only paid my subscription to Sky – I actually watched it too!
This, of course, has now all changed and I recently realised that I’m now paying £51 a month for something I never use – we either watch film DVDs from Screen Select, *stuff* from my PC, or DVD sets of series (Sopranos, West Wing etc) which I buy and then sell again on Amazon when we have finished. The only things we watch now on the TV are series which we record, such as Shameless, which inevitably are on BBC1, 2 3 or 4.
But – what’s the alternative? My first port of call was Freeview. The Freeview site assured me that my post code could not receive Freeview which I knew had to be utter bollocks because I have line of site (across the sea) to the transmitter on the Isle of Wight. Borrowing a friends Freeview box quickly proved this to be case (nice one Freeview marketing people!).
OK so far so good – but what about my Sky dish etc that would now be sitting forlornly on my roof? Well a bit of trawling around the forums lead me to find about a closely kept secret by Sky – the one off £20 payment freeview Sky card! A call to the special secret Sky number was answered immediately by a man who sounded like he had been asleep. He seemed delighted to have had a call and indeed a sale (I imagined a dark room – covered in cobwebs at the end of the corridor at Sky Towers without a name on the door) and the card arrived the next day. Broadly you get the same sort of channels as Freeview with a few different ones thrown in. So what to do?
I found the answer in the shape of aFortec Diamond FSCI 5100 De Luxe. This neat little box lets you plug in your Sat receiver and your freeview aerial and gives you both sets of channels (without any card being required – not even the Sky freeview one) – sweet! It works a treat and comes pre-programmed with all the relevant channels. The radio side works well and because it gives you a readout on the front of the box you don’t need to switch the TV on set a radio station to listen to. It will also take Top up cards if needed. Sorted!
Ringing Sky to cancel my subscription was a joy to behold. These guys must go on week long training courses to deal with this type of situation. We had the lot – pathos – Oh Sir you have been with us since the beginning – surely you don’t want to go now!. Awkward – Oh well if you do want to cancel I need to put you through to another department, they are very busy right now – do you want to ring back? After a 5 min wait to be put through they then tried Greed – Oh well if you stay we can offer you a £21 package for £13 Sir! I was resolute though and I am now … of Sky!
Things got even better when my Ebay auction for my Paice Skyplus box finished where it went for over £100 - somewhat amazing when you can get them for £99 – but heyho its therefore virtually paid for my new box!

Friday 28 January 2005

Auschwitz - to remember, or forget? [Brit]

According to a government statistic I saw in the paper yesterday, 60% of people under 35 have never heard of Auschwitz.
Personally I'm a tad suspect of such throwaway numbers, but if its even half true, thats a pretty staggering thought.
Yesterday Europe, Russia and the USA (pretty much) remembered the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz; a place where over one million prisoners were systematically exterminated. International media coverage was extensive, and I find it hard to get my head round the idea that such a large chunk of the population should not know why, or where, or who.
Do we not teach history (especially when it is of such importance) to kids these days? I'm not suggesting that we allow the likes of the Simon Wiesenthal center to get involved, but for a generation to not learn of what happens when folk come up with "a final solution" is dangerous, surely?
Of course, knowing about something is one thing - learning from it is a completely different kettle of fish. Just look at Rwanda, the Balkans (you would have thought they'd have learned the quickest) and Somalia...
There is a school of thought that given that this all happened so long ago, and that barring a few 85 year old ex-Nazis hiding in Argentina (supposedly) we should simply move on; and presumably forget. In my view, that's a school of thought that needs to go back to school; nobody operating on all cylinders would equate today's German citizen with those engaged in such atrocities - yet there is I feel a need to remember, to teach, and to learn.
History is unpleasant in some ways, that doesn't make it any less valid...

Bloody usless ticketmaster [Vagga]

U2 tickets went on sale this morning. The only place you can legally get them is pretty much ticketmaster. Yes yes, there are smaller websites prolly selling them, but ticketmaster is the only ‘offical’ outlet for them. As expected they sold out about 6 shows around the country in about an hour. I remember the Chilli Peppers last year sold out their first hyde park gig in about 10 minutes. Most of these tickets are sold via ticketmaster. I remember when tickets for the U2 gig in slane in 2002 went on sale, about 10 minutes before the tickets went on-sale they were sold out. But ticketmasters website fell over. It was down for the whole weekend with people trying to access it. There was such a mess about it at home the government met during its summer break to pass a law to let them have a second gig, and pass a low allowing ‘quickie’ planning permissions if its for a public event.
Yet still whenever there is something big happening ticketmaster’s website rolls over with its legs in the air!
Maybe my expectations are too high and maybe the Internet cant cope or something, but its all too much for me. Its pretty much all they do is serve a website that sells tickets. When no other fucker is on the site it’s a really good service. I go to more than my fair share of gigs so I use it a lot, but every time there is a massive event some part of their website falls over.
What usually happens is you go to and you either cant get there or you get an annoying message saying “website busy, page will automatically reload in 5 seconds”
But at 9am this morning when tickets went on sale, I got into their site. I saw the tickets, and I actually got to the page where you pick how many you want. Crikey – its working I think.
But no, their e-commerce backend fell over this time. “unable to connect to …” and we have a url like ‘” or whatever.
To be honest its not the U2 tickets, I don’t like the new album at all, and I know someone with 4 who owes me big time as I got him spurs arsenal tickets this year so I will get one there, but for fuck sake, all those cunts to is provide a website to buy tickets for gigs and it ALWAYS falls over :(

Thursday 27 January 2005

Dell on crack [Lurks]

Recently interviewed Dell CEO Kevin Rollins. Most of this is full of corporate zombie speak but when pressed on the success of the Apple iPod, he let rip with this gem:

Well, those things that become fads rage and then they drop off. When I was growing up there was a product made by Sony called the Sony Walkman - a rage, everyone had to have one. Well, you don't hear about the Walkman anymore.

Haha, could any single man have less of a clue? This guy is in charge of the the biggest PC manufacturer in the world. Frightening isn't it?

Monday 24 January 2005

Best UK computer mag? [Lurks]

Could it be that publisher on the south coast has made the ultimate computer magazine and no one has noticed?
As some of you know, I've been doing computer mags for a good many years now. These days I sit on the other side of the fence so that instead of sitting next to the annoying sales guys making loads of noise as they try to sell adverts to some poor computer manufacturer, I'm the poor guy that they call up and flog ads to.
So over the last six months I've been looking critically at the UK computer magazines. I must confess, I haven't really bought any myself for a good long time. Probably because, as I'm sure you're all aware, I know everything so I don't need to buy a magazine innit?
With an office full of magazines, one of the things that struck me was just how stuck in the mud computer magazines are. They all look the same, they all use the same sort turns of phrase in language and they even seem to all use the same review criteria where this frequently isn't in line with the needs of their readership. Looking the same means drab as hell, in stark comparison to the gaudy games mags which have worked out long ago that in order to stake out their market they need an individual look and feel.
Enter this mad little title called GigaHz. This magazine is being published by Paragon/Highbury and is being edited by a chap who has a background in editing a small poxy mag (a running theme with Paragon by and large) called PC Home. So it ought to be shit. It isn't though, it's great.
For a start, it's huge. The latest issue is 178 pages. The vast bulk of this is written by freelancers or is bought-in content from the likes of ZDnet. It pitches itself as 'Maximum Performance Computing' and sadly is choosing to demonstrate that by whacking graphics cards on the front cover but actually inside there's quite a lot of good stuff. Features are given room to breathe and the mag is spending more on photography than anything you've seen.
If they review a bit of expensive high-specification kit, they take proper ninja pictures with a real photographer - usually out there in the real world - and ... well, it looks great. There's also a lot of gaming in the mag, as well there should be since what else do you want all that lovely computer gear for.
I'm not saying GigaHz is the panacea of computer mags in the UK but it is a genuinely good effort and if you were to pick one up, you'd get a few train journeys out of it rather than read it cover to cover between a couple of stations like much of the other titles on the shelf.
I also happen to know it's not selling that much. Some of which is their own fault because of the poor cover billing which you just cannot afford in this competitive market but it deserves to succeed if only to edge out some of the older drearier competition and inject a little bit of fresh enthusiasm and youthful good looks.
Anyhow, grab a copy and check it out. They might very well fail but in the mean time it's a lot of mag for a fiver and it's got pictures in it too.

Thursday 20 January 2005

Wireless hax0ring [Lurks]

Cranfield University came up with or exposed, however you want to look at it, a new concept for a wireless network attack. It's so simple and so profound, I wondered why I didn't think of it before much less the legions of black-hat scumbags out there.
The simple idea is this, one just sets up a computer to be a wireless access point with an appropriate SSID which makes it seems kosher. The wireless access point could masquerade as one of the well known commercial hotspot providers or it could be something which otherwise makes people think they're onto a good one having discovered a full-Internet access hotspot for free.
To all intents and purposes, it looks like you get an Internet connection. You do, I mean. You can read your mail, you can browse sites. There's nothing to arouse suspicion. The thing is, if you visit something like paypal, ebay, online banking or something like that, then the black hat's proxy stops forwarding you over the real internet connection and redirects you to a fake.
So the carefree wireless Internet user happily chucks in their ebay, paypal or online bank passwords and whallop, those are captured and some form of generic error which arouses no suspicion is displayed. Then the black hat goes across to one of the services and fleeces your account dry of course.
It's not a hard concept to understand but it makes you think. I like to think I'm no fool but I've certainly connected to free wireless access points and read my email. I've never had occasion to log into my online banking and with the benefit of hindsight I'm saying I probably wouldn't but really... might I have done that?
Shit yes, I might have as well as the legions of people out there who are far less security concious and just got wireless as a shiny cool thing on the new notebook they bought at PC World.
The message here is clear. Even if you think you're on some legitimate wireless network, really you'd be a fool to do anything sensitive. You don't know if the network is a clever fake or maybe the whole thing is being sniffed anyway (easy given that these free wireless access points are unencrypted).
You can't really trust wireless Internet unless you're just doing some general browsing. Even checking your email might seem innocuous but you could be handing someone to means to check your email when they like.

Tuesday 18 January 2005

The Authoriteh [Am]

To clear up some misunderstandings, I'd like to draw to your attention that as I work for an investment bank that in fact I have subdjugated my entire fucking personality to it.
It's only fair that you should be aware of what this entails. In taking a non-existant oath to serving a money institution I have engaged in a neverending undertaking to uphold and publicise some middle class vaguely centric point of view about anything whatsoever including but especially over anything which conflicts with my personal points of view. Whenever I have a deeply held personal point of view this will be squashed because of where I work. As long as you judge me in accordance with where I work rather than my own views, this will be fair.
In particular, I'd like to highlight that I *do* think that I'm better than you and that whenever you express some point of view into an argument, my silence is not respect for your insight but purely time spent thinking about how I can get back at you. Just because you have a view doesn't mean that it isn't something I can't ridicule due to my nazi-financialism.
I look forward to engaging with you throughout the year on a number of issues on which I feel a deep personal conviction but which I then thoroughly bury and refute due to my job. It should be obvious that I cannot possibly have a personal conviction because of the place I earn my wages. I'm sure all the other members of the crosshatch enjoy the same experience.

PC sound systems [Lurks]

I thought it would be quite fun to find out what people are doing for PC audio on their main desktop systems. I guess I had better come out with mine although the purpose of this blog isn't to brag, honest. I'm interested in what people use. Maybe folks don't use the PC for as much music as I do, that'll be interesting too.
Anyhow, I use the sound card built-in on the Asus P4C800 motherboard driving to a Marantz PM80 amp that I got on disposals at Richer Sounds. This is used as much as a headphone amp to a set of Sennheiser HD580 cans as it is to drive the speakers. As I mentioned before, I was able to pick up a pair of Tannoy 609 Mark II dual-concentric speakers off eBay in pretty much pristine condition.
Oh and I use Plantronics DSP500s connected via USB if I'm going to use a headset for games. Undoubtedly sucks up CPU power and maybe harms my 3D positioning in games but having clear mic input in those instances seems more useful.
I do have a lounge computer-driven set up too. That's based on the Logitech Z-5500 surround sound set. That's alright for music but really it's a thumpy sub-driven home cinema set up than anything else.

Saturday 15 January 2005

(Im)Mobile [Shedir]

Oot on the sauce last night and my mobile was lost, a z600 which I was looking to dump soon anyway.
Call 02, got a great scouser to help!
Stopped phone straight off, but offered an upgrade as I was due one in Feb anyway.
I said nah, Voda is doing 100mins and 50 texts for £15. He said nearest they could do is 100mins and 100 texts for £25.
"I'll see what I can do".
30 secs later, I'll give you 100/100 at £15! Fucksake. I said fine, started listing shite phones. I said nah, 6230 please just like Voda are doing.
Again "hmn thats £99......pause.....OK I can do that".
So a shit morning turned into a nice wee result.
Just got to wait patiently for the postie now :)
Shows the fucking markup vs original price mind you.

What I am going to need tho is software as good as Float was for the z600 and an easy way to transfer my contacts from floats files to the 6230. anyone got any good links for that sorta shit?

Friday 14 January 2005

Microsoft is the centre of the world [Lurks]

You hear about how Microsoft does all sorts of strange localisation things to get their products out there in the rest of the world without irritating the locals and putting them off forking over their hard earned cash. Yet one of Microsoft's new products is the increasingly ubiquitous Windows Media Center. Do they spell centre correctly in this country? No, they do not. Why?
In the latest chapter of the marching illiterate distortion of the language which carries the name of our entire fucking country, they are fobbing off this spelling on the rest of the world regardless of the fact that much of the rest of the world speaks English properly.
The only way to stop this is to go to the UN and demand that they stop calling whatever it is they're fucking speaking as English. Let them speak American from now on. Just as the Champagne district in France gets upset when people start lashing that name around any old bottle of cheap bubbly and famous cheese and sausage manufacturing regions in this country are known for doing the same - we should stop them doing it with our language!

Thursday 13 January 2005

Haiku [Slimbo]

Anyone fancy some Haiku? Japanese poetry where the first line is five syllables, next line seven syllables, and last line five syllables, eg:
Mac Mini sucks piss
Want to shit on its sleek case
buy a cheaper box

What is with mac mice?
Do they think I have a hoof?
Where's the fucking wheel?

Yeah, not great I know. Can you do better? Anti Mac themed!

Wednesday 12 January 2005

Central heating a go-go [Lurks]

When we returned from holidays to South Africa, the transition of 35C in Cape Town to 3C in London was a hard crash back to the dreary, wet and cold reality of the British Isles. To make matters exponentially worse, as soon as we got home our boiler packed up. It's an older sort that uses a pilot light and there's a problem where it blows it out and refuses to relight.
We've had this problem before and had some general servicing but it was made clear to us that it is on the way out. We weren't looking forward to the replacement job but by God, we need heating and need it now.
I did find out something interesting while doing boiler-replacement research (which is not as much fun as other forms of Internet research I might be doing...) and that is that as of April 2005, an amendment to the Part L Building Regulations will come into force which stipulates that all new boilers must be of the high efficiency condensing type. Interesting, we like high efficiency being the closet greenies that we are and so I looked into it.
Yer regular old gas-fired combination boiler that most of us here in Blighty use to survive the long and terrible winter, burns gas to heat water. Surprised? You learn something every day on ed.coM! Okay... you may have noticed the jet of hot exhaust gasses chucked out the side of your house. This is mostly super hot water vapour and carbon dioxide. You can steal some extra energy from the gas burning by using those exhaust gasses a little more efficiently, say passing them through some longer metal pipes etc, before chucking them out the side.
This does, however, present a bit of a bind. You see if you keep the exhaust gasses until they cool down a bit, the water vapour will condense. Not by itself a huge problem, although it means condensing boilers need to be plumbed in because a fair bit of water comes out of them, but the water vapour combines with other exhaust products and generates a sort of corrosive liquid that would make short work of ordinary metals. So the condensing bit has to be made of sturdier stuff and that carries with it a bit of a price hike. We're talking about an extra 200 quid on the cost of a boiler as we found.
However if you nip over to (you're all hot and bothered now aren't you?), you find that you save 200 odd nicker a year in fuel. At least. So that's not a big put off and that's a lot of extra gas you didn't have to burn.
The other side effect is that once the water has condensed, it's basically a cloud and so you get a big warm cloud eject from the boiler rather than the hot air of the old-type (which would dissipate and the water vapour usually wouldn't be visible except on very cold days). Not such a big deal but if you're in a terraced house like us, you've got to consider the folks who live next door.
Hang on, the folks who live next door are council tennents and are probably paying two quid a week rent. Stuff them!
The clowns who converted our house into flats also couldn't be bothered to put in a thermostat so we had to use the human equivalent. IE, you're starting to sweat and so would dash to the boiler cupboard and switch it off. That's a bit crap. The new boiler will not only have a thermostat but also thermostatic valves on three of the key radiators in the bedroom, lounge and my lair. That way they can be turned down when not being used.
Our gas savings with a much more efficient boiler without a pilot light, central thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves should be rather spectacular and we have the added bonus that it will actually work too.
Sadly they found the clowns who did the work used the wrong sort of flue and the gas main is the wrong gauge so my lounge is an absolute building site at present and all this crap is going to cost us three grand to have done. Which is decidedly unwelcome but at least I can feel cosy and know that we've done a little bit to cut our energy usage.

Friday 7 January 2005

Tsunamis, Africa & Secular Humanism [Brit]

We really are a funny bunch.
As everyone knows, large numbers of people are dead or missing due to a tsunami event off the coast of Sumatra - and the global response has been phenomenal. If we ignore the political positioning and limelight seekers that such tragic events attract by default, we are still left with an outpouring of solidarity the likes of which are unsurpassed in recent memory.
The public response to the current disaster has been a sight to behold - at every corner, in every shop, and on every media outlet we are asked to contribute - and contribute we have - to the tune of £100m in the UK alone. Issues of politics, religion, and race have been literally ignored as those unaffected race to help those in need. Issues of practical need backed by round the clock facts & figures and underpinned by hard science are being addressed at an astonishing rate.
Are we witnessing the start of a new revolution? A global acceptance that people in need are people in need regardless of what they might believe in, or the colour of their skin? Are we indeed witnessing an unwitting adoption of the principles of secular humanism?
This is of course something to be applauded and encouraged, and in a twisted way has added a highlight to the new year already - 2005 will be remembered as the year that saw mankind react positively and swiftly to assist its own.
Yet I cannot help but wonder why it takes a Hollywood style disaster to galvanise us into such generosity - when you think about it, such acts should come naturally and not require the overnight obliteration of 250,000 people and the displacement of millions more. Yes tsunamis on this scale are rare, and yes the tragedy was just that, but let me ask the obvious - what about Africa?
Millions of people die in Africa every year from diseases and conditions that appear as if straight from Dante's pen. We watch the documentaries, we listen to the politicians, and we attend the concerts, yet here we are decades later still watching Africa and her children die by the truckload. Of course, there are those that have struggled to get a tsunami style response to the African condition for longer than I've been walking the earth - I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to watch the world unite behind an appeal for aid, only to watch your appeals go unheeded.
Why is this? is it because the type of disaster suffered by South East Asia was so shockingly out of the ordinary that we feel compelled to act? Have we become so comfortable with the demise of Africa that we are happy to ignore her plight? How do we balance the goodwill and assistance seen in the last fortnight with the abject long term disaster sitting a few thousand miles away?
Of course, this is a new year and with such comes new hope. The UK takes over the leadership of the powerful international elite; the G8 group this year and regardless of your political persuasion, we must acknowledge that using that opportunity to massively reduce or altogether eradicate third world debt is a significant step in the right direction.
If we can move this quickly and help those who fell in a tsunami, we can move and help those who have needed us for generations.

Wednesday 5 January 2005

Gmail invites [Lurks]

I've got 18 gmail invites now! If anyone wants one - post your email addy as a comment. I'll delete your comments later so your email wont linger for robots to spider up.

Replacement for the Dickens [Lurks]

Almost as old as the clan, The Dickens has been the London pub of choice for our traditional Friday-night piss ups. This venue was chosen simply because I worked opposite St Katherine's Dock on PC Gaming World all those years ago. Those first meetings we used to sit around and talk about Quake, can you imagine that?
The thing is, The Dickens isn't terribly easy to get to for anyone, save perhaps Amnesia, and with the beer costing north of three quid a pint I think that perhaps our new year's resolution should demonstrate that we as a clan are capable of moving on, and we should find another spiritual home that will take us in and nuture us with the finest ales available to mankind.
So let's all pitch in and find us a replacement. Remember, the most difficult thing to do is find some place where we can reasonably get space on a busy Friday evening. I think we're willing to sacrefice our just-after-work table and wait for a bit until they empty out a little before getting seated but no worse than that.

We'll break it in this Friday. Perhaps we should phone ahead to warn them?
Note: Some place where you can actually get food might be nice...

Tuesday 4 January 2005

Electric Death... Recruiting [Am]

Ok, gawd knows we haven't done it for a while and there was all the problems previously with the security agencies and the posting of bail but it turns out, in the fullness of time, here and now as we bowl into 2005 like a malevolant tumble weed of piss-taking lethal tequila cocktails, well...
Clan Eat Electric Death are recruiting...
[Removed content of blog as it's now in the proper form - Lurks]
The Application Form is here.

Monday 3 January 2005

Devastation [Slim]

Boredom does terrable things to a mans mind. Disgusted with the tedium of the three sunday blues of this new years weekend, I took a roll of bin liners to my beloved den. First to fall was the boxes of all the gadgets I'd been hoarding, no biggie. Next I boxed up all my CD's, since mp3 I never listen to em, although the process of clearing out uncovered about sixty of the buggers that havn't been mp3'ed yet, woot!
Then my gaze settles on all my old pc games, in cardboard boxes taking up shitloads of room in my tiny den, out they go passing the ebay search dialog box on their way to the bin. Only one that appears to have value was an unopened copy of Discorld 2, which shifts for up to 30 notes on t'bay, woot 2!
I'm three bin bags in, next victim is my bit box. SCSI cables bite the dust, floppy disk drives wave goodbye to the world, two iomega zip drives gone, countless transformers for gadgets long died hit the bag and are instantly forgotten. I've no woot to report here sadly, and I even displayed weakness by keeping loads of cat 5 cable despite being wireless and happy.
Then a shitload of kids plastic toys I'd promised to fix but hadn't. Decided they've got enough shit that it's not worth the effort, woot 3!
Next, a box of psx games originals and copies, and yes, in the bin goes my faithful old chipped psx itself, it's drive having given up some years ago, it's only now I can find the strength to chuck it. Not all the psx games went though, I kept a few of the originals that I'd kind of semi forgotten about to run through on the ps2. First in was Wipeout, the first psx game I bought. Euw it looks a bit shit and controls like a dry vag, out it goes. Next in goes Vib Ribbon, its vector graphics look ok still today, and the weirdy jap music sounds pretty cool too. I get about 30 seconds into the first level, look around and find myself surrounded by kids, hypnotized by the thing. They whip the controller off me and play the thing for the next hour, woot 4!
So here I am, sat in an almost empty den. I've still got dvd's that should really go, they're never going to get another watching, and there's a bunch of pc games in dvd cases that should probably hit the bin too, like the multiple everquest disks and shit like that.
My thought as I near the end of the shitfest is that I'll never have to throw out my Half Life 2 box when it's old, I can just press delete. Woot 5!

Sunday 2 January 2005

The Electric Death Awards 2004 [Lurks]

Being a new year, I thought I'd do a quick poll of the clannies and come up with the first annual Electric Death Awards beginning for the year ending 2004. The main categories are Best Game Evar (sic) 2004, Worst Game Evar 2004, Best Album Evar 2004, Best Electronic Thinggy/Gadget/Toy Evar 2004 and a selection fo random comedy categories.
Without further ado, the results are as follows;
The Best Game Evar of 2004 Award goes to: Half-Life 2.
This was a unanimous verdict that probably echoes the PC gamers worldwide. A truly wonderful game although Slim admitted he hasn't finished it yet. It wasn't a bad year for games, all told, but Half-Life 2 simply eclipsed the competition to such an extent that this was the only unanimous category in the 2004 awards. One nominee, one winner, well done Valve.
The Worst Game Evar of 2004 Award goes to: Doom 3.
Clearly not the actual worst game of 2004 but this category also means the most disappointing game and on that front, Doom 3 let us all down with a lame effort from id that left us wishing that id had the slightest clue about game play to back up the eye candy. How the mighty have fallen.
The Best Film Evar of 2004 Award goes to: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
This was a close fought category since 2004 was a solid year for films but the Jim Carry starring ESofSM narrowly beat out Lord of the Rings - Return of the King, voted for by the more easily pleased of the Electric Death judging pannel. Man on Fire also was awarded a nomination but the genius of Eternal Sunshine was finally recognised by the high brow majority of the clan.
The Best Album Evar 2004 Award goes to: Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand.
Who'd have thought Glaswegians could make good rock music, let alone know the bloke wot got murdered to cause The Great War? The jocks surprise us on two fronts in this category to take out the Best Album Evar award. This category also, however, surprised in terms of the deeply suspect nominations from some of the more taste-limited members of the clan including Kings of Leon's latest and Kasabian. Aww bless.
The Best Electronic Thinggy/Gadget/Toy 2004 Award goes to: The Samsung 213T 21.3-inch TFT monitor.
A classic case of the stampede to buy the latest super-duper bit of expensive high-spec kit that yours-truly says is the the mutt's nuts, the Samsung 213T saw at least two other clanners pick one up for nearly eight hundred quid a shot, which goes to show - screens like this aren't for girls, right? Not all clanners could stretch to these heights though, the pauper contingents also nominated the thoroughly naff Sony Ericsson K700i mobile phone, some weird Thompson PVR thing no one has even heard of and perhaps most laughably of all, the bloody 12-inch Apple iBook. Ha!
And now for the comedy categories, of which there are plenty.
The "Biggest Waste of a LAN party seat" 2004 Award: Houmous (who played HL2 single player the whole weekend!)
The "I couldn't really give a shit but how could you be annoyed at me with such a puppy dog shitfaced smile on my face" 2004 Award: Lurks (After cross wiring Cat5 at AMLan whilst under the influence)
The "Best use of a regional accent to annoy the neighbours whilst intoxicated" 2004 Award: Sheddir, and everyone else for their subsequent impression of Shed (Glasgee!!! Ya fcukin bamma!! Hadaway n shite etc etc etc)
The "Being a Spoon and Coming to a LAN with no Intention of Bringing a PC" 2004 Award: Jay (Automatic winner for 2005 onward)
The "Worst alcohol-related suggestion" of 2004 Award: Amnesia for his "Let's pour bottles of Smirnoff ice into perfectly good pints of beer" suggestion.
The "Electric Death International Diplomacy" 2004 Award: Brit
The "Electric Death Stalker" 2004 Award: Billox (award to be discontinued after repeat category wins)
The "Electric Death Most Barking Mad Visitor to Web Site" 2004 Award: That bloke for steamrolling the laws of physics in the pursuit of the development of VTOL electric aircraft.
The "Best Dressed Gout Sufferer" 2004 Award: Amnesia
The "Most Contrary Cunt" 2004 Award: Skeeve (Also liable for discontinuation after repeat category wins)
The "Stop Shouting Cock" 2004 Award: Tied winners of Slim and honrary clan member/spouse Bloomers for her broadcasted views of our favourite "fucking little dick" via Teamspeak.

Saturday 1 January 2005

Slug [DrDave]

Desktop computers are so last century man. Oh sure, they're great for playing games and knocking up a quick letter and that, but these days they're just pure overkill 90% of the time. I'm finding more and more that my desktop machine is just a warm wrapper for a large amount of storage, or a BT server. I literally use it for nothing else other than keeping my music and videos and streaming these to my xbox, laptop or ipod. It is a stupid waste of power, and an extremely noisy one at that. I'm sick of having to power it down whenever we have guests, or finding that it isn't powered up when I want to watch a movie on the xbox. Frankly, its days have been numbered for a long while.
So I've been shopping around for a network storgage server for ages now, and finally settled on the LinkSys Network Storage device (link). This is a linux based, stripped-down server with an ethernet port and two USB ports. Out of the box, it is capable of nothing more than serving up files from connected USB hard drives or flash devices to your network as Samba shares. It is moderately competent at what it does, albeit with a fiddly web based administration service. Its big problem is that it is fairly slow (about 4Mb/s), even when accessed through wires. This is perfectly good for streaming movies or music, but no good if you want to fling large files around. However, it is extraordinarily small:
The NSLU2 (or slug, as they've become known) is the thing in the middle, standing next to a 250Gb Maxtor external USB drive on the right, and my watch for size comparison on the left. Despite the size, if that was the end of the slug's capabilities, I'd be somewhat reluctant to recommend it.
Luckily, the slug is capable of considerably more than this, but has been typically hamstrung by LinkSys.
See, the slug is nothing less than a Linux server running embedded linux on an Intel IXP420 cpu. It has about 32Mb of memory, most of which is used up when the root filesystem is copied into it at boot up. The key thing about it is that it has a Telnet interface exposed (off by default) which you can use to login and look around. This has triggered the sudden emergence of a slug user group (link) and the development of a complete replacement Firmware for it.
The replacement Firmware is easy to install and modifies the operation of the slug so that it no longer runs from memory (freeing up 10Mb) but from one of the connected HDs. So any OS changes are now persistent. It also allows you to install software onto the slug using "ipkg". The list of software is hardly massive, this is not redhat, but it covers everything you'd need from a Linux server.
My slug currently runs an ssh daemon (for access from work and port forwarding), an ftp server, a mail server, a web server. It operates as an iTunes server, allowing me to access MP3s across the network through iTunes. It has BitTorrent libraries installed and a command line BT download utility. And I've only just started playing around with it.
The USB ports are the real potential in this thing though. In its original state, the slug can only use USB HDs or flash drives. But there's nothing to stop you using any USB device once you free up the linux inside and start installing drivers. Webcam, printer, bluetooth dongles... or even connect to a USB hub so that you can massively increase the number of devices you can connect.
Basically, it is a miniature linux box that uses up hardly any power, makes no noise and is only 50 quid. Goodbye desktop.