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Tuesday 22 February 2005

Jew boy journalist - back in your box! [Beej]

Ah, glad that subject got your attention. I'm getting sick of this Mayor bashing, and I've not even been watching the News. I don't interpret anything Red Ken said as racist, and good for him for standing by his original decision (wrong or not?) and explaining why he is doing so.
He's being matter-of-fact and candid, a pretty rare thing in these days of Tony's Cronies. Stick by your guns, Newty! He was insensitive, sure. Bit harsh, maybe. Has bought too many fucking buses, definitely. But they're both adults. Better a Mayor with a bit of spunk than a Westminster puppet.
This journalist... I've heard the tape of the "nazi jibe". There was no Nazi jibe. Newt Boy is the mayor, Jew Boy is the journalist. Mayor trumps journo, unless Journo uses the Secret Weapon called "Good Story" to defeat any politician. But no, this journalist seems to be an over-sensitive little puss.
(I for one would find it very amusing if Ken Livingstone changed his name by deed poll to OBERLEUTENANT KENNETH VON LIVINGSTEIN and issued the called-for apology under that name)
It would be a journo who essentially answers to the Daily Mail wouldn't it? If it was a more reputable bunch of people, I might give a shit. It's fucked up enough that on this occasion I'm standing up for a Socialist Mayor. Maybe I've got it all wrong.

Monday 21 February 2005

Ph34r and Loafing [Am]

Pray a moment's silence for one of the great gods of modern culture and gonzo hedonism, Dr Hunter S Thompson who checked out today courtesy of a self-inflicted gunshot wound aged 67. Author of.....oh for heaven's sake you should know better....
In an age of self-righteous moralism, clean living, the approbation of anything vaguely rock and roll, rude or interesting, today's a day for taking a big hit of whatever you're taking or at least for a monday a damn big glass of 100% proof. In one life with no fuckin pansy-arsed rehearsals it's good to remember people like Thompson who called bullshit on polite morals and indeed wolf-like politicians alike....
"He left a wife Anita, son Juan and grandson William, a medium-sized armoury of guns and explosives and the small quantity of drugs he did not manage to take with him."

Friday 18 February 2005

Announcing Etronika! [Lurks]

Remember a web game called Planetarion? It was a basic turn-based galactic conquest game that became surprisingly popular and later turned into a commercial thing and was never seen again, at least not by us.
Well, some bloke did an open source version of it and Brit has been busy adapting it (to work and stuff) and skinning it up to look like the EED web site. I went through and renamed the ships and so on to be a little more amusing 'in genre' for us and tweaked out the mechanics to make things a little more interesting than the original.
This week we're kicking off our first open beta with ticks (turns basically) of just 15 minutes between (rather than an hour or so as normal, meaning games end up taking a month).
Please, sign up and check it out!
You're going to need some help, we're still working on that side of things but here's where you can find the basics and the ship statistics. The game really isn't very complicated though and you should be able to work out most of it by just giving it a bash.
I'm including my guide to combat in this blog which will go up later on on the web site for those a bit more interested in how it all works. You don't need to worry about this too much, have a play around in the game and see what you think.
You can also mark your planet in 'sleep' mode when you go home, take yourself out of it in the morning and carry on (with the HUGE amount of resources you will have), making this the perfect game to play from work.
Please check the Galactic Forum for service announcements.
In depth combat explanation follows:
Galactic 0wnerage combat explained
Combat in Galactic 0wnerage is not complicated but understanding the basics of how a battle unfolds will enable you to understand the 'stats' for each military unit and its value in your fleets. The object of an attacker is to steal roids while the primary goal of a defender is to avoid them being stolen. Therefore the purpose of each battle ultimately hinges on the Leecher, the lumbering hauler that captures enemy roids, assembles a nuclear engine on the surface and thrusts it back towards your home world.
To all intents and purposes, Leechers perform their activity after the rest of a combat round is calculated. During this time, Leechers may be incapacitated or stunned with EMP-equipped vessels or they may bedestroyed. From a strategic point of view, there is little point in keeping a fleet in offensive combat for the next round if all the Leechers have been destroyed in the first round. Unless the goal is to weaken the enemy defences for a further assault, of course.
On the military stat page, you will see a number of columns, here is the key to those columns:
Name of the vessel as it appears in your shipyard page.
This is the basic class of vessel in terms of size. FI is fighters, CO iscorvettes, FR is frigates, DE is destroyers, CR is cruisers, BS isbattleships.
Type of vessel: NORMAL is standard combat vessel designed to destroythe enemy, EMP is a vessel designed for incapacitating the enemy, CLOAK arevessels that do not appear in unit scans and jumpgate warning messages, CAP is capturingunits (only the Leecher), PDS are planetary defense system units and APDSis anti-planetary defence units aka interplanetary Trident III missiles.
This is an important column because it means the type of vessel that thecorresponding unit will fire upon FIRST. Once all these are destroyed, theunit will target the type of vessel indicated in the T2 column.
What class of vessel the unit will fire on when no vessels match T1.
Third vessel to fire upon. Note, if this is blank then it means that theunit will not target any further class of ships. A good example is theStinger. If corvettes and frigates are stunned or there are no more in thefleet, Stingers will have no more effect.
Another important column because this indicates when the ship will fire.The lowest number fires first.
This is the agility of the unit and therefore how hard it is to shoot witha given weapon speed that is attacking it.
The weapon speed of the armament on this vessel. If this is low thenchances of hitting a vessel with high agility are greatly reduced.
The number of weapons that a unit carries.
The shot power of each gun. This only applies to standard armaments. EMPshots have no power and simply incur a chance of disabling the enemy basedupon the resistance of the enemy ship fired upon.
Quantity of armour on the vessel, when armour is zero then vesseldestroyed.
Percentage chance to shrug off the effects of a ship incapacitating EMPweapon blast.
Time line of a typical battle in Galactic 0wnerage
Interplanetary missiles will strike planetary defense system (PDS) unitsbefore any standard PDS or vessels can strike down the warheads. Theexception is the Star Wars Programme which is specifically geared to firefirst and shoot down missiles. That is why Star Wars Programme unitsinitiative is zero.
Concerning standard combat, PDS units get first shot at the incomingvessels. In that case, one particularly valuable PDS unit must surely bethe second level PDS unit, the Laser Platform, since this will first targetfrigate-class vessels and this includes the Leecher, the unit we should beprimarily concerned with.
After all the PDS has fired, the next ships to fire is the mighty Mezzer,an advanced cruiser class EMP-vessel only available if the player takes upresearch in advanced EMP techniques rather than space warfare (which leadsto the mighty Ubernaught). The Mezzer will fire on cruisers, destroyersand frigates with its large number of EMP cannons and represents asignificant threat to the larger ships of an incoming attack.
If the defender has enough Mezzers or there is not enough destroyers andcruisers in the attacking force, it is likely that all of the inboundLeechers will be stunned before any of the attackers got a shot off.Therefore, if the player is attacking an EMP-specialist world, they wouldbe very well advised to send a fleet heavy on Pooners, small corvette-classunits that will target enemy cruisers. Assuming they aren't all stunned bystingers and...
Next to fire is the EMP-specialist Rooter vessel which targets corvetteclass ships and fighters. Rooters can effectively stun the corvettes andfighters. The threat to corvettes is extreme because again, they representthe only chance the attacker has to take out the fearsome Mezzer.
Next the general workhorse EMP unit, the Stinger, fires. This unit is socheap and numerable that corvettes and frigates should be afraid,particularly as the stinger is available to all players regardless of theresearch line they pursue.
It's the turn of Pooners get to join the battle. These are the cheap corvette-class shipwith large slow guns designed to take out to capital ships, namely cruisersand destroyers. Although they are so versatile if there are no capitalships left, such as the early game, they will happily target frigate-classships. Pooners shoot for 0wnerizers and Mezzers and any incoming forceshould treat them as a staple diet of combat.
Now the Devastator is close enough to fire. It is the only ship in the gamewith enough firepower to take down the largest capital ships,battleship-class Nastehs and the all-powerful Ubernaught. If there are no morebattleships remaining, it works its way down through cruisers anddestroyers.
At this stage in the battle, fighter jocks comes into play and the cheapand cheerful hordes of Vipers fly into the enemy defences and let rip uponFrigates and Corvettes. That means they get to fire at Beasters before theBeasters bring their multiple fast anti-fighter weaponry to bear and startchewing through invaders.
This fighter screen provided the perfect cover for those players who havespecialised in Space Warfare to bring up their ultimate set-pieces, theUbernaught. This vessel has 200 fast moving guns and if left unchecked,will rapidly annihilate vast swathes of enemy fighters and corvettes.Players should always be worried about Ubernaughts. They are very difficultto kill, impossible to stun and if not countered early, losses toUbernaughts will rapidly deplete the cannon fodder units and that meansincreased fire upon the expensive and important ships, particularlyLeechers. Beware the Ubernaught!
Things didn't get any better for fighters at this point because now it'stime for Beasters to open fire. This represents a change over the originalPlanetarion, Beasters will now target fighters first so expect largecasualties of Vipers and Stingers in the early game due to Beasters.Likewise you should always build Beasters in the early game to counterrushes of Vipers and Stingers. A unit scan of a planet showing a fleet withplenty of Beasters is likely to make someone think twice about zerging yourplanet with thousands of cheap craft. Unless they want to hand you thesalvage.
Now it's the time for the lineback fighting capitalship cruiser-class0wneriser to steam into battle. It has plenty of powerful guns and if itgets this far, it's going to start inflicting heavy casualties uponBeasters and Pooners and other frigate and corvette-class units such as thehigher-end PDS. If a player gets hold of an 0wneriser before the enemy, itcan effectively neutralise the anti-fighter capability of Beasters quicklyand rack up very heavy and expensive losses upon the enemy.
Cloaked vessels will fire now. These are normally weaker than theirtraditional counterparts and they fire later in the combat round but theyrepresent a nasty surprise to the enemy since they are frequently notexpected to be a part of the battle. Players specialising in cloaktechnology should study the statistics carefully and work out how best tocompliment their standard fleet to pull off the maximum deceptionconcerning the disposition of their forces.
Last of all, assuming they survived and weren't stunned, Leechers 'fire'.Each has a good chance of capturing an enemy roid and returning it andthereby depleting the enemy of the resources to restock their fleet andincreasing the resources of the aggressor.
One thing to remember though. Heavy incoming fleet losses means plenty ofsalvage for a defender and if they're efficient at beating you off, thelosses to your forces and the salvage incurred in the battle will oftenmake the defender better off in the end. Attack only if you're confident ofstealing roids. Roids are all.

Tuesday 15 February 2005

Enermax Acshun [Am]

Now it's widely but, for reasons that will become apparent, only quietly acknowledged in t'Death that I am fabulously technically elite.
So yes I am rather special in this area BUT as a non full time IT / tech bod, I rather magnanimously don't big-up my prowess so as to let the other boys shore up their fragile egos. With that good nature I'm widely recognised for, I've been known to ask the odd deliberately daft hardware, nay software question, just to spread the feel-good factor and allow one of our number to respond in the time honoured fashion...."WTF are you some utter tardbrained twathook or WHAT???!!?".
It took a while to bring them out of their shells, but after the first couple of years of trying to ignore me repeatedly in irc over many repeated reposted lines, they finally appreciated that it was better that I brunged this light into their lives. Bless 'em. It's just a little something I can do.
"You're a good bloke Am to put yourself out like that aren't you?" I can hear you asking. Well, let's not be immodest about this but, yes of course you're entirely right..... I guess that's me all over just trying to give people opportunities to look good in their field. Sometimes I even amaze myself.
To this end, having pre-bought my first modern era PC - Tequila - off Gateway (P3-450 - hold onto yer fuckin 'at), I allowed erstwhile [EED]'er Mugwum to build my next PC - Guinness - a rampant beast of a Athon 1.2 with rip-yer-face off gfx upgrade by way of an original Geforce 3. Of course its RAID configured drives both wiped out taking all of my data and particularly photos with them leading to conversations that went a lot along the lines of "RAID?!?!? WHAT? RAID??!?!?? YOU HAD.....RAID *WHAT*.... WTF????!". But it was a bitching little hardcake machine, (much like the eponymous system builder I understand these days much as he has reduced allegedly) and I lubbed it.
Guinness 2 (p4 2.8 etc etc) came courtesy of Teh Lurker. He came round my Gaff in Sarf East Lahnden under heavy bribery having complained about the possibility of immolation from the burning cars south of the river. His stripping out of wires and kit of the original Guinness case and utter rebuild from the mobo up appeared to be a one man rendition of the goddess Kali (lots of arms) meets the Ferrari formula one pit crew.
Course I could have done it, but I thought I'd make him feel good. All heart see?
So sunday I came into my lair to find suspicious quietness. I poked at Guinness's on-off front panel button and got nothing. I poked some more. Oh dear. I yanked the kettle lead and plugged it into the nearest power-testing device I had which happened (troof) to be a Marshall JCM900 Hi-Gain Dual Reverb 2x12 guitar amplifier. WHOOMP went the dual Celestion speakers. Fuck went I.
Monday - Overclockers I order an Enermax Noisetaker 480w PSU to replace what I'm praying to gawd is a simple PSU failure. Order placed 7.45am (work starts early). I receive an email at 10.30 - order despatched.
Tonight I get home and here's the package. So far so froody. Now I don't want to bust my long-term alibi so I decide to install it in a reasonably inept way just to continue to make the guys feel good.
Rip shit out. Plug stuff in. Turn on. Asus P4C800 startup says "Hardware change no friggin biggy" and off we go. I get into windoze and start typing some stuff about how UNBELIEVABLY silent the PC sounds with the new PSU. About 3 minutes in suddenly there's complete shut down. A faint wiff of heated components.
Now as savvy people you'll have seen what I deliberately did here huh? Bit of a giggle uh? Kind to others aren't I? Well yes, of course, ok, just for a laugh and as a team-building exercise I didn't plug in the CPU fan by intention so as to test ASUS temeperature controller. Told you I only think of others. As I had accurately hypothesised, instead of frying itself into Prince Charles Grey Goo, my p4 had been protected by the auto-cut out on the ASUS board.
So having chuckled a little and readjusted stuff I plugged it all in as it was supposed to be.
What's the side-moral of the story? Well due to my deliberate scenario testing, I got to hear a modern PC without CPU fan with the new PSU on only. Well on that basis the modern Enermax Noisetaker is almost completely utterly silent even in 480w version and comes with all the standard, SATA and PCI-E connect0rs you could possibly want. I would recommend it. It's very very quiet and impressive. But then, of course, I knew that before I set up this chain of events.
So there you have it - Enermax Noisetaker works well. Especially as fitted by expert technicians. I'm glad to have been able to share this with you. So as the night draws to a close, from my electro-techno-digital-skill-hub I wish you goodnight and well dear readers, and remember; positive to positive and negative to the bar.... pip pip!

EED Plays World of Warcraft [Slim]

So we're treehugging again, yay! We're currently Playing our Alliance chars on Runetotem (WoW Europe), here's our character names, if you bump into us, say hi!
  • Slim - [EED]Slim - Night Elf Priest
  • Calodon - [EED]Lurks - Night Elf Hunter
  • Glasgee - [EED]Shedir - Night Elf Dr00id
  • Judge - [EED]Am - Human Warlock
  • Roisindubh - [EED]Vaggabond - Warrior
  • Jania - [EED]pod - Night Elf Hunter
  • Houmous - Houmous - night elf drooid
  • Coins - [EED]Spiro - Paladin
  • Daevus - [EED]Dr.Dave - Dwarf Hunter
  • Wyren - [EED]Meaty - Night Elf Druid
  • Woodbine - [EED]Mistral - dunno
  • Skeeve - [EED]Skeeve - dunno

It's a fucking good game too. You owe it to yourself to play it, finally an mmo game made by people who actually make games properly!
It keeps on throwing things at you that makes you go 'cor'. Two such moments last night:
In Darkshore, just following the quests for my level, there's a 'buzzbox' one that, like the other quests, encorages you to explore a little further afield as you progress through the stages. One stage had me killing Threshers. Well I've no fekking idea what a thresher is, the quest said they were located just off the shoreline. I assumed that was in-land. Searched for a while, found nowt. Walked past a shipwreck, and thought I'd go for a swim to have a peak at it. Turns out the threshers are sea creatures, loch ness monster stylee, and they're swimming around a bunch of wrecks and other bits and pieces on the ocean floor. They've even populated the landscape out to see, wow!
Second wow is the way they have lots of classes doing the same quests. So its very easy to sort out a good pairing ad-hoc for the quest your currently on. I hooked up with a drooid last night to do a series of quests, and it went ace. Just think it's a really clever mechanic, and got a little wow out of me :)

Wednesday 9 February 2005

One for Prince Phillip [Spiny]

I don't usually big-up corporates, especially ones like 'GAME' store who are usually in the region of a tenner more expensive than on line retailers. However, today I'll make an exception.

A few in the clan have taken the treehuggery route while waiting for Battlefield 2 to turn up. Me, I've been playing from the endless stock of stuff I never got round to before & a couple of xmas pressies. One of them is MOH Pacific Assault. It recieved slightly luke warm reviews on release of around 80% and after playing my xmas pressie through I reckon that's about right. It does everything in the WWII shooter department with capability & polish but dosen't advance the genre in the way Allied Assault or Call Of Duty did. It's pretty too, and at times has heaps of enemies on the screen which helps. Now, the real reason for this blog is that GAME have it on sale for only a tenner. That's a lot less than some expansion packs! I guess they wildly overstocked or something.

So, if you were toying with the idea of picking it up I can recommend it. The multi player isn't bad. Basically, it's a jungle themed version of UT's assault mode.

I've just started Men Of Valor too, but I'm having a hard time with that, it's just not engaging & the multi is awful. One to avoid, 50%.

Dodgy Intel: The Pentium M fiasco part 1 [Lurks]

For a company with so many resources to hand, it is quite remarkable how Intel have dropped the ball. Mid July last year the problems were so great that Intel CEO Barrett issued a company wide memo in which he was direct about the failings to that point. "I believe, as you do, that this is not the Intel we all know and that it is not acceptable", he said.
He was talking about a range of delays and failures but I want toconcentrate on one in particular. Potentially the biggest one Intel has ever made and one which is mired in internal politics and single monumental bad decision from the marketing arm which dictating the entire direction of product development in their largest business unit. We're talking about the Pentium 4 here.
You might recall that the Pentium III was topping out at around 1.2GHz or so.Some place inside Intel, a meeting went on where what was discussed was theneed to deliver CPUs that were clocked faster. Not that performedfaster, but were clocked faster. It turns out that the team working on anew processor, the Pentium 4, were going to crazy lengths to get the speedup. It would have a 20-stage pipeline rather than the 10-stages of thePentium III. The reason for a boosted number of stages is that at fasterspeeds, it's progressively harder to coordinate clock signals. It's alittle bit like taking smaller, faster, steps because you can be more sureof your footing.
Meanwhile in Israel, Intel's design team had been working on a notebook CPUfor el-cheapo notebooks called Timna. They concluded that the Pentium 4 Netburstarchitecture (the crazy 20-stage long one) was hopeless for powerconservation. They wanted to get more work done per clock, not less. Timnawas also to have a built-in memory controller and graphics functionality.The project was cancelled however, and some people say this experience iswhy Intel was never again open to an on-board memory controller such asthat found on AMD's Athlon 64 range. Another bad decision.
The Israeli team were then tasked to develop a new processor dedicated tomobiles. They knew the Pentium III architecture very well and so worked withthat to reduce power and improve performance. The pipeline was stretched alittle to around 12-stages (no one actually knows outside of Intel) and animproved branch prediction unit installed. This component minimizes the effect of amispredicted branch - a problem that gets worse the longer a pipeline is.Another analogy, if you've guessed at your turn off and you've driven for 20 milesinstead of 10, before you realised, your journey time is hurt more. You canminimize that by getting a smarter navigator.
What the Israeli team were working on came to be known as the Bania core, aka the Pentium M processor. The Centrino branded notebooks have Pentium Mprocessors in them and it's clear how well they've done - they've all butkicked AMD out of the market in thin and light notebooks.
At the same time, Intel was ramping up the clock speed on the Pentium 4 yetfurther. Up to 3GHz and beyond. The AMD Athlon 64 series has a 12-stagepipeline and is clocked at much lower speeds to get the same work done andhence they introduced the numbering scheme again. Eg the Athlon 644000+ processor which actually runs at 2400MHz. Obviously consumers aren'tsavvy enough to know the difference between these clock speed apples andoranges so the marketing departments have rolled up a number that makesmore sense.
The trouble is, about the time of Barrett's announcement to the company,that the Pentium 4 'Northwood' core was out of steam and the replacementcore, the 'Prescott' was delayed. This would have an absolutely insane31-stage pipeline offset by a branch prediction unit virtually self-awarein it's complexity and to compensate for reduced performance across the board, Intel spent the spare die space (smaller transistors) on a big whack of cache - 2MB of it. It was, justlike all other Intel cores in this lunatic escapade, slower at the sameclock speed than the previous unit. Also despite the fact it's fabricatedon the bleeding-edge 90nm production process (very very small transistors,which normally make things go faster and use less power), Prescott in factused lots more power and was slower. But hey, you can buy it in faster MHzso all is good right?
At this stage, people in Intel must really have been feeling the heat -literally in Prescott's case. AMD wasn't showing signs of slowing down andthe firm had managed to get Microsoft onboard their 64-bit x86 instructionsand the mighty AMD Athlon FX series CPUs were basically faster processorsin everything except for media encoding type applications. The FX serieswas notably a lot faster for gaming than Intel CPUs and that's a badthing because hard core gamers are generally the consumers of the highestend most expensive chips.
Desperation began to show. Back in the Northwood era Intel fabricated aridiculous CPU, essentially a Pentium 4 Xeon with 2MB of cache, and calledit the 'Extreme Edition' and charged more money for this CPU than you cango down PC World and pick up an entire computer system for. Just to beknown as king of the hill once more. It didn't work, it still wasn't fasterthan AMD. Then things got so bad that Intel couldn't shore things up easily any more.
4GHz. AMD had Athlon 64 4000+ on the roadmap. In fact you can buy thosenow and the bigger brother, the FX-55 CPU. Intel was forced to admit thateven Prescott couldn't do 4GHz without heroic measures. What heroicmeasures were those? Well, basically redesigning the entire ATX PC formfactor to place a hoover over the CPU and blow air directly over the CPUfrom outside of the case. The industry largely greeted this developmentwith howls of derision and eventually Intel cancelled the 4GHz Pentium 4.
My God, now we have Intel which has no answer to the AMD's finest andcertainly no answer to AMD's next generation goodies. The 4200+ and theFX-57, due out shortly. What the hell were they going to do?
During this end-game, Intel went back on the whole marketing philosophywhich had lead them down this road. Their branch prediction unit had failedin the most spectacular way and sent the bulk of their desktop CPUdevelopment down a dead end path. Like their outrageous Prescott CPU, theyhad to lumber back a long way to come up with an alternative.
Suddenly clock speeds disappeared from Pentium 4 chips when the move to theLGA socket 775 happened. On the market now; the Pentium 4 530 is a 3.0GHz unit and the 540 is a 3.2GHz CPU. You've really got to ask why they moved to another core designed to ramp MHz up and then promptly remove the MHz ratings? Crazy stuff indeed.
What are they going to do in the future? Firstly, it's widely known thatthe next desktop processor, Smithfield, is going to be dual core.Some people had speculated, mne included, that this was going to betwo Pentium M cores on a single die. That's not correct. In fact Smithfieldis a fairly typical Intel stopgap measure. It appears most likely to be twoPentium 4 Prescott cores in a single package (the physical thing with allthe pins) wired together internally. Heh, that means it's going to be evenhotter than Prescott is and the initial figures of 130W of power appears toconfirm that - being about 15% more than the current Prescott. These willmost likely be clocked slower than the single Prescott CPUs availabletoday.
So ironically once again, Intel will launch a CPU which will be slower thanthe one it replaces. Only this time you'll have to re-write your softwareto be multi-threaded, or run multiple programs, to gain the performanceboost. In fairness, that's not so bad because this change was coming anyway and pretty much everyone designing CPUs is looking at multi-cores for the future.
Intel will really only finally get back on track when they bring out Yonah, a good year away according to the current roadmap. This is a dualcore processor based on Dothan-like (the latest Pentium M, more in part 2) Pentium M cores. This is the culminationin Intel cancelling an entire architecture, dumping the marketing relianceon clock rates and admitting that the Israeli team have produced asignificantly superior architecture. One which you can actually buy todayin laptops but no one thought to ask how it might run on the desktop.
Or did they? Intel would have thought about it but imagine letting thosepesky Israeli's show up their entire North American engineering operations? Unthinkable.It's just as well that no one would get to compare the processors side byside. Just as well no one would benchmark the Pentium 4 Prescott versus thePentium M Dothan right?
Then the unthinkable happened; some Taiwanese bastards went and made adesktop motherboard that took a Pentium M CPU.
Stay tuned for part 2.

Sunday 6 February 2005

How to flashfuck your BIOS [Beej]

As if the naming of nVidia and ATI graphics cards wasn't enough craziness, the mainboard manufacturers are also joining-in on the la-la merry-go-round conspiracy of hardware names.
I have an ABit NF7-S 2.0 you see. Best Socket A mobo there is. Only today I thought I'd address the fact that my nForce drivers weren't working by patching things from the BIOS upwards.
Oh such an assfuckingly stupid idea.
You see, not only do ABit have a NF7-S 2.0, they also have an NF7-S2. And that's a slightly different nForce2 board. With a different BIOS. And, oooh, even if you were to somehow overlook the similarity in names, the ABit Flashmenu tool certainly won't warn you about putting diesel in your petrol tank and then the deed is done.
You can't correct your error and flash the correct BIOS, oh no. It's too late for that Joe User. They won't let you. A one-way street. You have to buy a new BIOS chip or a new motherboard. After all, it was YOUR FAULT NOT THEIRS!
And what do you do in hardware emergencies, even when you know its as bad as catching yourself humming along to Steps? You drive to PC World, because its the only place you can get kit quickly without involving Parcel Force.
Better pass the vaseline, eh?

Billox<I>ymoron</i> [shedir]

Comments up to their usual standard.
Anyway, I was wondering. Is this how you actually look?

EED Summer Drinking - Call To Action(TM) [Brit]

Right my lovelies, as I am sure you're all aware, The Great British Summer is fast approaching.
For those of our readers who haven't experienced this before, it means that over the next six months, we may experience an ambient environmental temperature increase, but we will definitely be seeing lots of rain.
What we need is to explore our great city's wartering [sic] holes with a great deal of aplomb; The CS_Dickens, Richmond.* and the occasional foray into 'Sports' bars are all very well and good, but this festering boil of an urban sprawl has so much more to offer.
To be blunt - we need new venues. The criteria are:
- No stupid prices for beer, lager, champagne, sambuca or those funny fruit/milk based things Pod likes.- Plenty of seating of a comfortable variety (if you've been to Wagammamas and think that's cosy, you're probably going to fail this one)- Outside drinking areas are a bonus- Not, I repeat NOT 4,000 miles away from everyone's place of work
So, start your (search) engines! Lets get some crafty places sourced and may your liver be with you (though not necessarily inside you judging by past experience).
I'm quite keen on going to this rather lovely gastropub near Angel, where for £8 you'll get a truly awesome taste sensation in the form of roasted Springbok.

Friday 4 February 2005

Drink, QVC and fitness [Shedir]

Last Saturday night me n my good lady got a bit blootered and watch a good movie.
All well and good.
Then channel hopping started around 1am. She landed on QVC and we were hypnotised by the Magnaforce 3000!
Walk yourself back to fitness, no excuse to be a flabby bastard. Well, we had a burn of shame and decided to plump for it.
So now, we have the most expensive clothes horse we've ever bought!
The video came showing an incredibly fit looking bird not making sweat for 20 minutes while using it, we'll see how badly my blubbery body soaks the floor when I start using it.

Wednesday 2 February 2005

Magical Majestic [Lurks]

Well, I had my moany blog following on from the horrendous experience of buying el-cheapo wines from Tescos. After that nightmare, I decided to fix this stuff up once and for all and hit Majestic Wines and get a case of decent wine. Or two, as it turns out.
They do nice mixed cases for a start. I went for the Majestic Treats case, which is a bit more per bottle than we normally pay but I thought I'd to push the boat out see what they recommend. Have my faith in wine restored after last night, you might say. I rounded out the order with a case of Australian Favorites.
Now, first of all, Majestic's web site is brilliant. It's every bit as competent as some IT e-commerce outfit. It's dead fast and easy to register, the online stuff is simple as anything and if you're within delivery range of one of their stores then they'll deliver the stuff free of charge. That's the sort of thing that's so often missing from retailers eh?
The best bit is when you place an order they normally phone you up and ask when they can deliver. We've done this before, but not online. They ask how you'd like to be contacted by email or by phone to sort this out. This time I did it online and typed in "any evening is good for us, thank you" into the delivery instructions and left it at that. I was expecting an email or a telephone call tomorrow to sort it out.
Instead, at 7.30pm on the dot, one and a half hours after I placed my order - a nice chap turns up with all the wine and even carries it up the stairs for us. Missus tells him this is all due to us drinking bad wine the night before. Drink more bad wine, says he, much laughter.
What a fantastic company!
Another thing. Because of the cases I ordered, I ended up with four bottles of Rosemount Show Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 from the Coonawarra region of South Australia. In the space of two days, I've gone from tipping away my first bottle of wine through to usurping my long time most favorite wine (Wolf Blass Yellow Label) with this Rosemount Show fella.
This is a story that ended well.

Need Input! [Slim]

The BBCs report on the health risk of the blackberry seems to conclude that the medium of email is potentially worse for your health than txt'ing. Kinda makes sense, more characters, more movement, more chance of RSI. Now there's been a lot written about viable alternatives to text input, and a bit about how new language is developing such as textspeak to make comms a bit easier, but really not much has actually happened to typing in the last few decades.
Take a blackberry, it's a remarkably small gadget that uses a querty keyboard, but that's not particularly innovative is it? Where's the fab new input mechanisms that we heard about? When will I be able to dictate into these things? Seems like we're making things smaller and smaller but not actually making them cleverer. Here's one idea for making txtspeak easier: why not translate it at the recieving end? Typing causes RSI, but reading doesn't. How abut a mobile device that turns 'u' into 'you' and spk into 'speak' when you're reading your messages?
Get your thinking caps on chaps, this tech's old and shit, we need new stuff if we're ever going to jet about in sky cars wearing silver track suits!

Tuesday 1 February 2005

Budget wine tasting night [Lurks]

Well, the blog title is a bit misleading really. It's more like, "let's get stuck into the el-cheapo £4 a bottle" plonk that my dearest wife added to our Tesco online order on the basis of our frugal saving strategy.
Now here's the thing, I'm not that fussy right. I mean my favorite wine can be had for about £8 in a supermarket so I'm not exactly auditioning for Sideways right? So far there's pretty much not been a bottle of wine bad enough that I wouldn't drink it. This evening, all that changed.
We started off with a bit of Californian Ernest & Julio Gallo 'Turning Leaf' cabernet sauvignon. This is not exactly lighting my fire but it's drinkable. Eg it's a red wine which doesn't make you retch and it's got alcohol in it. Bit of a win really. Fine. Let's call this a 4/10.
Then we opened a bottle of something called 35 South, a 2004 cab sauv shiraz blend. I just popped the cork and sat back down with the missus to pour while we're watching the latest episode of 24. I drink, I dunno, maybe half a glass. All the way frowning, unsure if it's the tense plot or the awful wine as to the cause of my stress, initially, but over time it becomes clear. This superb demonstration of au de plonk has the finest distinction of being, as far as I can recall, the first ever bottle of wine which - after some frugal discussions with the better half - we mutually decided to tip our glasses away and maybe use what was left in the bottle for cooking. Let's call that a 2/10. From the back of the bottle:

On the palate, the varieties blend well, both with ripe tannins, medium body, good depth and ferret's piss.

Okay, I made the last bit up.
We've having a laugh by now so we get down the next bottle from the Tescos miser's lottery. This one is a 2000 cab sauv from the Dealul Mare region of Romania called Prahova Valley Reserve. Now we're wine tasting, this time we tip a bit into the glasses and take a whiff of the nose. Now, I'm actually expecting this to be good right. On the basis that I've never really tipped wine away before for being undrinkable and so statisically, at least, this one is bound to be a cracker right? Lurks, you were wrong. (rustling sounds as money changes hands on that bet) The nose on this wine smelt actually 'off' to me. It smelt like surgical spirits and sour milk, if this is possible. I'm sure that I'm getting this wrong so I hestitate for awhile and actually the wife tastes first and declares it bad, nuclear bad. I fail to believe her and take the plunge. This wine, my friends, made the 35 South look like 100 North by comparison. I cannot with words, describe how bad this wine was. This was not fit to scrub our fat-splattered cooker top with. It went straight down the sink and even while it glugged obscenely in transit, I felt sorry for the bacteria around the u-bend. Oh we're talking 1/10 here, no mistake. From the back of the bottle:

The Cabernet Sauvignon has found a natural home in the sunny Sub-Carpathian Hills of Dealu Mare. HEre it produces full bodied wines with aromas of tabacco, green bell peppers and and rancid mouldy-arsed llama carcasses.

Again I made the necessary editorial changes.
On to our third bottle, I found that my taste buds were so insensed by this affront that I couldn't work out exactly how bad the caberna sauvignon shiraz 'Calloway Cross' was. It was bad though, but sort of non-descriptly bad in a way that didn't make me beg to chuck it down the sink but surely there was precious little chance of drinking it now. It got carefully re-corked, okay well truth be told the cheap tin cap was rescrewed, and placed back on the shelf should I ever need to rescue a man on the street with a rare blood discorder that requires immediate transfusion with cheap alcohol in order to survive.
Also on the shelf was another bottle of the Turning Leaf that started this all off. Drinkable, we slunk back to this, tail between legs. Cheap though they might be, for the cost of the two mercifully executed bottles of £4 throat irritant, we could have bought a single bottle of something bloody superb instead.
Lesson learned, I feel although I cannot help but think that I shall have recurring nightmares concerning the real cork that surprisingly came out from the Prahova Valley and the ominous 'Romanian Fine Wines' stamp ironically taunting us from the exposed length.
Next time in order to save money, we shall simple buy one bottle of decent wine and mix one part in two with something less objectionable such as leftover PC water cooling anti-freeze solution.

Antec P160 [Lurks]

I thought I was being clever. How unlike me, I hear you all cry. Bastards. Anyhow, I was being clever because I had a Reserator as previously mentioned and a small mini tower Lian-Li case. The problem is because the pipes coming off the monster water block were one thing but mini towers have the PSU annoying over the CPU and there wasn't enough space. So I had to demolish the PSU and remove the inner cover and the second fan.
This worked well enough but the PSU got hot enough that it really ramped up the single remaining fan speed until it made quite a racket. Then, a few months later, it died completely. Doubless due to dust and overheating. Dammit, said I, I'm going to have to get a full tower case and a new PSU!
I was chatting to a tech ed on one of the UK mags and he said the Antec P160 is the dogs and we both agreed that propably a Zalman 400W quiet fan-based PSU is a better bet than one of the uber expensive completely fanless ones. He also recommended as opposed to those evil forum account deleting bastards at overclockers (no link for you, scumbags!). Both were in plenty of stock, placed order, turned up promptly and I rebuilt the machine last night.
Wow, what a superb case. Of course it would want to be for the ninja dosh it's worth but boy it's well made. Proper internal sideways drive bays with little rubber suspension feed made a good deal of impact on the noisy Raptor 74GB games drive. I love the twist lock handles on the side panel for easy access and the way all the screws and everything you need are provided. Sensibly it also has USB and Firewire ports up top on the front panel, which strikes me as much more sensible since you generally put PCs on the floor right?
The top bezel even has a dual temperature monitor (probes inside the case) that cycles both the temperatures, and it has audio jacks. The interesting thing is the entire bezel swivels to point either forwards or up for even better access. Having a couple of USB jacks exposed like that is great. There's a really big slow moving rear fan provided which is just the ticket for air cooled systems although I left it disconnected because you could still hear it (my rig is silent). There's some sort of naff looking chrome stuff going on with the front panel and some blue LEDs shining on the front vent (washable air filter) but the chrome doesn't look too bad and you can simply disconnect the blue lights.
It does strike me as silly that I have to go for such a large case just to get the damn CPU free of the power supply. I've only got an AGP card, one optical and two hard drives so there's a lot of air in there. The Zalman PSU is seriously inaudible even with a 3.8GHz P4 Prescott belting along with an X800XT in games.
One nifty thing; I took one of the thermal sensors and stuck it to the feed water pipe (flowing into the case) and wrapped a bit of foam about it. So my digital temp mon sensor nicely tells me the temperature of the water flowing from the reserator. The other one I taped to the north bridge where it shows off a hellishly toasty 65C or so (quite normal).
All in all, very nice case and amazingly light for the size. My gaming system is back to being essentially silent and I'm confident it'll go the distance this time around. Might need a bigger car for the next LAN though...

Gyration Ultra Cordless Optical Suite Review [Lurks]

Back on blog 505 we discussed the search for wireless compact keyboard/mouse solutions. The sort of thing you might use with a media center pc in your lounge. For the longest time I drew a blank on this front. There are plenty of IR units around, which are entirely useless as you need to physically point them at the receiver. Others had completely unworking trackballs and so on and so forth.
At the tail of that blog we talked about the Gyration solution. I've got a Gyration Ultra Cordless Optical Suite now and after using it for a couple of weeks I thought I'd tap up a review. First of all, the makers belong to the stupid confusing and inconsistent across territories school of thought when it comes to naming. I've seen this called a few things and they call it the Ultra GT in the US where as it's not here. At any rate, you can get it from Dabs and other shops.
First the keyboard. It's perfect. It's everything we wanted. It's absolutely tiny. Check out the picture with my hand. It's a low travel easy click keyboard, only as big as it needs to be. It's easier to type on than a Logitech Dinovo and it's RF. This is proper RF too with a big whack of a range. Not surprising since Gyration specialise in professional presentation products. The keyboard takes a couple of AAs but I don't quite know how long they'll last. Probably less than a regular desktop cordless keyboard because of the higher RF power but that's rampant speculation.
There's a row of small media controls along the top of the keyboard. Those are fine but I would have preferred to just have the major ones there and larger, since you aren't going to switch the light on in your lounge to scan the buttons for the correct play/stop one etc. At the end though, the keyboard is by far and away the best effort on the market in this respect - it's a cracker.
Next the mouse. Here it gets a bit weird. The mouse is kind of shaped like a cupped hand so the mouse sensor is at the forward bit touching the surface and the there's a large gap behind it so the unit can be held like you might hold a star trek phaser. Here's the rub; the mouse functions as a regular optical mouse but if you pull the trigger then it activates gyro mode and small movements of the wrist will move your mouse pointer. Cool huh? It is but when you hold it like this you're left trying to click the mouse buttons with your thumb. Try double-click with your thumb, it's not happening.
That said it does work when you get used to it, although it works best with the sensitivity up and mouse acceleration (enhance pointer precision, Windows calls it) enabled. It's not the perfect solution though - the thing has an annoying tendancy to go flat if it's just left lying around so it needs to be put back on its cradle and I also find it has a bit of a habit of going to sleep to the point where it needs a good 'whack' to wake up. Odd that. Net result is I found it probably more of a faff than a regular wireless mouse. Bah!
The rest of the package is really nice; the charging cradle is a seperate unit from the wireless receiver. That's a good thing because you might want the charging cradle on the arm of your couch and the wireless receiver over near the PC. The receiver has a small telescopic aerial on it so it's a tad bigger than a combined receiver/charging cradle on a regular PC wireless desktop.
I've kind of gotten used to the running-flat issue of the mouse now and so in all, this is the best wireless compact keyboard and mouse solution I've had so far. Plus, it's definately handy when I'm stood at the back of the room being able to move the mouse around when there's no suitable surface for a regular optical mouse.
At a bit under £80 price wise it's pretty much exactly where you'd expect something of this quality. I give the keyboard 10/10 and the mouse 6/10, giving an average of 8 for the package.