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Friday 29 April 2005

We interrupt this program to bring you a word from our sponsors... [Houmous]

As you all know I look upon EED as my segregate family – you are like my mum and dad, brothers and sisters, children, errrrr very small children etc etc. I’m also well aware that sometimes (but not often) you venture outside, for example when your broadband connection temporarily goes down.
When you do venture outside you may have noticed a big yellow thing in the sky. We call that "the Sun". Now the Sun is a “good thing” as in good looking women wear less when it is out, and a "bad thing" as in it can give you skin cancer which is a "very bad thing".
This is why I want you all to buy the only certified 8 hour life fully waterproof sunscreen that is on the market right now – Prosport - (and the only one you don’t have to apply 30 mins before you go out). You can buy it here. When you have bought it I want you to rub it all over your body twice a day and ensure you keep back up tubes in the car.
If you do this not only will you be able to travel to the sun without burning yourself you will also live for ever, become incredibly good looking and get to beta test Half Life 3 in the Peninsula Hotel bar in Santa Monica for as long as you want. Honest.
p.s. any rumours that this is a company I have started as a sideline in preparation for my alternative lifestyle transition are completely true... errrrrr... I mean untrue hehe

Thursday 28 April 2005

Jacks On The Spot [Spiny]

Kiefer Sutherland, aka our favourite counter terrorist field agent Jack 'fingersnapper' Bauer is an up-coming item for The Independent's "You Ask The Questions" page :)
Questions to or even this blog. (I'm sure must be his homepage)

Tuesday 26 April 2005

Operator emergency! [Shedir]

In the good ol' USA 911 is their emergency services number. Blog 911 couldn't pass without a reference to that.
Did you know that according to this august journal, is 32% evil, 68% good!
Pod's innate goodness must account for the 68% though!

Death to bloatware [Spiny]

If you're an ATi Radeon owner you've probably come accross their control panel replacement that is the "Catalyst Control Centre". Designed primarily for taking up the maximum amount of your system ram, this pointless bloated alternative to the displays control panel provides driver tweakage in a kindergarten oriented graphically OTT .NET based interface. By now you've probably guessed I don't like it much :) Just about the only thing that is any real use in it, is the application profiles.
Fortunateley, if you're after something a bit more sophisticated than the ATi vanilla control panel (which you can get back, just by uninstalling CCC btw) there's other options. I did use Rage3dTweak but always hated the interface, but now the ATi Tray Tool has matured enough to be a better alternative. It supports game profiles, overclocking etc & just sits in the tray not taking up much memory (at least compared to the CCC) It also supports all those other hidden driver settings that you will never use unless you spend your life running 3dMark, and it dosen't take up 16 Slimabytes* of memory. Oh yeah, and it works.
Which is nice.
* 1 Slimabyte = 1024^1024 bytes.

Is justice really served by the legal system? [Shedir]

Another day, another despicable crime by the dregs of humanity.
Take your pick, interfering with children, raping grannys, stabbing mothers in the neck and leaving them paralysed, the list goes on and on.
Our police force now administer fines if you eat an apple while driving, while arseholes wander the city centres stealing at will to feed their habits.
So. Your life has been ruined by a scumbag. You go through the police and whole judicial process and the guy is sent down.
In this example he raped your 18month old baby.
Junkie cunt gets 8 years, 4 for good behaviour.
He's on the sex offenders register.
Most peoples reaction is "not long enough away", followed by "he'll get what he deserves in there".
Why are we relying on lags to give us the sort of punishment in our hearts we believe the beast is due anyway? It's an endemic failure that the penalty for unacceptable behaviour provides no real deterrent, only the other wasters who are locked up provide any real element of threat. Not the sentence.
We may pour scorn on the arab countries, but by christ break the rules over there and you lose the offending appendage. Bit more satisfaction for the victims, if possible depending on the crime, and a long lasting deterrent on said crim repeat offending.
In short, we need harsher penalties on people who perform the worst crimes. Not angermanagement classes and reduced sentances, chemical (or brick) castration for example.
How's the rest of you feel on this? I'm just sick of feeling the only time justice is truly meted out it's not by a paid reperesntative of us. But some inmate who chivs the guy in the showers, or 15 of them who rape him in his bed etc...

Monday 25 April 2005

HOOAH! [Spiny]

Probably like most of us here I’d tried America’s Army (AA) when it was first released, gone “eurgh!” & moved onto something else quick sharp double time. Half a page in PC Gamer piqued my interest enough to look what the current version was like so I thought I’d better blog, as you do:

V2.3 of AA weighs in at a not inconsiderable 780Mb lump from, and as you might guess has moved on considerably from the 200Mb version 1.0 that we all tried & dishonourably discharged. The first questions I’ve been asked have been of the “don’t you have to do all sorts of boring tests” variety. True, you can’t just install & play but you’ll easily be on line half an hour from clicking the install button. The ‘tests’ in question aren’t particularly onerous & would be no trouble for any of the electric brethren who regularly worship at the church of the Mac 10. There is a quick start PDF available from the AA site, but here’s a brief rundown on what you need to get perforating bad guys:

  1. Create an account on The ‘why’ becomes clear later* & is not just some ubi-a-like attempt to track game usage. Although I guess that does happen.
  2. Do the marksmanship ‘course’. It’s just a session on a firing range where you have to score 23 out of 40 rounds. Easy peasy. (5mins)
  3. Do the assault course. W-A-S-D-in-between-the-white-posts. (couple of mins)
  4. Do the ‘weapons familiarisation’ course (couple of mins). If you’ve ever had dark fantasies about starring in one of those ‘chix’n’gunz’ videos then you’ll love this. Blast off with an M249 and learn to ‘cook off’ grenades, so you can throw them after the fuse has burnt down a bit.
  5. Complete ‘tactical training’: Buzz down some corridors shooting the bad guy cardboard cut-outs whilst sparing the civvies. Good for those ‘kill the cast of Neighbours’ moments.

Then you’re away. Well, then you’re dead. Even FPS vets & Raven Shield supremos will find their chased cam ghostly eyes staring at their team mate’s buts more than usual. Tactics and teamwork count for much more in AA than even those popular favourites above. You’ll find yourself covering doorways while your buddies navigate corridors (and vice versa, without even being asked) as a routine matter of self preservation. This is perhaps AAs greatest strength, it’s literally perform as a team or die horribly, as well as loosing badly. There’s no room for CS kill count whores here. Perhaps because of this & the patience required to do the training, servers seem to be free of ADD whining kids called M45ta|-|k!11A or the like.

Another possible reason is the honour system. It’s basically like ‘XP’ for the lads still swanning around in tights & worrying about things like how many slots their bag has. Although there’s no set of skills to constantly ‘level up’ it’s a pretty good influencing factor on how you approach the game, at least initially. You get more points for doing good things like achieving objectives & killing bad guys. You loose points by contravening the Rules of Engement - killing civilians & damaging team members. TKing is also punished severely with a 140 docked off your score. That’s about 4 rounds of points from achieved objectives in real money. This is important at least initially, because there’s a server settings for min & max honour, letting you find servers free from the purveyors of fucktardery du jour or alternately not dropping you in at the deep end.

Another reason you will want at least 15 points of honour is to play as a Special Forces operative. As well as the experience, you’ll also need to have completed some more training:


  • Perform a parachute jump from a tower
  • Perform a parachute jump from a plane landing inside a target.

Special Forces

  • Pass a vehicle/ weapons ID multi choice test. (Beej pron alert)
  • Do an escape & evasion level. (A Sam Fisheresque Midnight sneak past guards)

Otherwise you only get to play as Indigenous Forces on the handful of SF maps. SF soldiers get to play with more hardware & change their standard weapon layout with more mods.

Something else off limits at the start are the sniper rifles. To qualify for the sniper rifle training, you have to pass the firing range test with at least 36/40 hits. It’s a real bugger to do too, mostly due to the first half of the test. When unloading your fist 20 round magazine from your M16A2, you’ll be in the ‘fighting position’. Standing to you & me. The second half is from prone so much easier. To consistently hit the targets (some at 300m) using your iron sights takes plenty of practice, so here’s a few pointers:

  1. Stand as far forward in the firing pit as you can. As I’m frequently telling the missus, every inch counts :)
  2. Be patient & wait till your character isn’t inhaling or exhaling, so the sights are as steady as possible.
  3. Don’t have more than one shot at any one target. A miss is a miss, you only have 40 rounds for 40 targets so get over it & use the time to compose yourself.
  4. Aiming around the right shoulder of the further targets seems to result in more hits. I’ve heard tell that the firing range models a (constant) windage & bullet drop but not seen this officially confirmed.

Once you’ve passed this, using the sniper rifles to bag a couple of targets in the sniper test is easier than trying to sell pies to the EED collective.

If you’re a real honour whore or just like being popular, you can play as a medic after taking the right tests. You get a nice honour boost for patching up your buddies. I haven’t had the patience to sit through the slideshow & test for that yet (I see enough PowerPoint at work).

PS: The maps are pretty big, needing at least 4v4, preferably 6v6 &up. Wouldn't make a great LAN game I reckon. (RS was bad enough after a few beers at AmLAN)
So, that’s the game, where to the w00t!s & sux0rs! Get dished out? Well, like I said before, this is a game which rewards tactics over l33t madskillz. Most of the time, when you die, you’re not kicking yourself because of someone’s ping or superhuman aim with a railgun. More often than not, you’re cursing because you didn’t think about your game strategy enough or anticipate your opponent’s move. On the rare occasions that your damaged or TKd you can take heart from the pounding that the dumass’s ROE score has taken. You’ll need to learn the maps. Not just the layouts but the danger spots, safer areas & choke points. By & large the maps are huge compared to a typical CS map. Raven Shield players will fell more at home, but only on the urban maps, so this is where I suggest you lot start. “Urban Assault” is a particularly good map for racking up the honour.

A lot of the more open maps play much more like Ghost Recon than CS/RS. Without spending some time on them & using the terrain effectively, most of your rounds will end without a shot fired after hearing a zzzziiiiip sound as an enemy bullet enters your brain case. So, you’ll need patience & lots of wits about you if you’re not going to be going near the uninstall button within a couple of days. If you can shrug that off as the Yin for the Yang of having less spoons on the server then you’ll be OK.

There’s no vehicles, so if you love your Battlefield then you may have to wait for a later version. The devs have been bigging-up Epic & what they’re providing for Unreal engine 3, so I guess a v3.0 next year ish is a dead cert. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they made that the time to add wings & wheels. Insertion by Blackhawk anyone?... I’d expect VOIP to make the feature list pretty soon, even though there’s a more than comprehensive comms system built in already. Your usual hobsons choice of one radio menu receives a boost. Messages can be relayed by Hand signals (silent), whispers (sexy), shouts (domineering), radio (techno techno) or squad radio (more commands for the ever busy squad leader).

Performance is pretty good, I’ve got no problems running at around 50fps with anti aliasing & anisotropic filtering on at 1280x1204. Graphics are not quite cutting edge but still very nice to look at. A big shout out goes to whoever did the player models. Some of the levels are a bit heavily fogged for my tatse, but I expect this is a play balancing issue, rather than a vain attempt to gain a few frames per second. Sound is really well done. Probably the best in game weapon sound effects I’ve heard.

Stability is good but not perfect. I’ve had a couple of crashes dump me out. Both related to weapon mods if I recall correctly. The good news is the good ‘ole unreal engine can dump a bug report straight back to the devs. It looks like they fix em too from the changelog.

Some people have complained about the amount of chest-puffing going on in some of the training maps & game info screens. Get real though, what nation isn’t proud of it’s forces? It’s that pride that’s been turned into the interactive marketing tool that is this free (at least to non US taxpayers) game. Some of it’s interesting, some of it’s unintentionally funny, some of it made me glaze over, but it didn’t really get in the way for me. You can only play as US Army, the opposition always appears as terrorist types. I guess this will only bother you if you have a preference for eastern bloc weaponry or really-really like a full beard down to your waist.

I’d love to compare AA to Operation Flashpoint but that gem passed me by. I may be tempted to pick that up, must only be around a fiver now.

So in summary you will like this if:

  • You’re bored of CS, but not shooters
  • You have patience.
  • You can see further than a kill count.
  • You want a big challenge.
  • You like RS.
  • This is your homepage.
  • Seeing the scoreboard is a chance to plot the demise of your nemesis.

You’ll hate it if
  • You normally carry a BFG
  • You still think CS is ‘hip’
  • Headshotting players across a map with a DE feels right.
  • Rifle is something that you do though your bag, trying to find your 14 point onion of lightning.
  • Your screen is covered in spittle every time you see a scoreboard.
  • Your name is John Rambo or John McLean.

Should keep my war lust going till BF2, now I just have to resist buying themug :)

Edit: Grabbed some dead person chasecam footage here.

FHM Top 100 O'Madness [DrDave]

Once again, the collective low-brow that makes up the FHM readership has been comprehensively furrowed, and the annual (and inexplicable) Top 100 Sexiest Women in the World list has been belched forth. You can see the full mind-bogglingly random list of "lovelies" here, but as an aperitif, sir might like to indulge himself in the following snippet of the apparent cream of our female crop:
  1. Kelly Brook
  2. Cheryl Tweedy
  3. Angelina Jolie
  4. Michelle Ryan
  5. Elisha Cuthbert
  6. Britney Spears
  7. Abi Titmuss
  8. Sarah Harding
  9. Beyonce Knowles
  10. Charlotte Church
Now, I freely doff my cap to these young ladies and admit that they pretty much all fall into the "definitely would" category. Though I can't help but wonder if the likes of Michelle Ryan and Charlotte Church are really the 4th and 10th sexiest women in the world. Clearly they're not. Nor can I explain why the likes of Dunst (48), Knightley (17) and Portman (73) have failed to make the top 10. It do perplex and addle, it do.
Never fear though chums, because we EED, as arbiters of good taste and self-styled fashionistas, can rescue this fine English tradition turned carwreck. We can slay this red-headed stepchild of a list with the Shotgun of Truth. To wit, I suggest we post our own versions of the Top 10. Allow me to commence. Ahem:
  1. Natalie Portman
  2. Keira Knightley
  3. Kirsten Dunst
  4. Elisha Cuthbert
  5. Charlize Theron
  6. Holly Valance
  7. Salma Hayek
  8. Halle Berry
  9. Rachel Stevens
  10. Ziyi Zhang
Troof I say, troof. Speak on...
Edit: after extensive research, Ziyi Zhang ousts Kylie.

Royal Mail Sickies [Lurks]

The sad decline in the great British postal service has been the subject of other blogs here but yesterday this was thrust once again into the lime light by the news that the Royal Mail is offering incentives for workers to show up to work.
Apparently it's working too and attendance levels have risen by 11% but they had to give away 37 cars and 70 won £2000 of holiday vouchers and a further 90,000 were handed £150 worth of vouchers, just to show up.
I'm flabberghasted. What's wrong with the standard "show up to work or we sack you" approach? I also have to ask whether it's a good thing that the dishonest workshy among them are being enticed back to work since I bet this is the same lot, that over the course of the last six months, have liberated three CD orders from Amazon, a wireless card from Dabs and a memory stick from EBuyer from me.
Perhaps the Royal Mail should think about offering additional incentives not to thieve as well? Or perhaps we should close the entire rancid operation and let (competent) private enterprise replace this festering monpolistic reminder of the fall of the British service industry.

Friday 22 April 2005

Iraq's bloody insurgency [Beej]

The recent incident involving a downed commercial helicopter north of Baghdad has resulted in a new insurgent video being released. So we've had decapitations before (and IEDs, and rockets, and so on) and that's, well, pretty fucking shocking to a Westerner. This new video shows insurgents gunning down a helicopter crash survivor in cold blood. They essentially help him up, then tell him to go, then shoot him down.
My beef with this is that I find the footage worse than the whole decapitation thing (for the record, I've chosen not to watch the beheading videos in full). You'd think surviving a helicopter crash would be a bit nifty, but oh no, these fuckers help you up and then riddle you with bullets.
Insurgent videos are an interesting subject. It must be some of the the most powerful media propoganda ever employed by a terrorist or insurgent group. Okay, well you're going to say that the Coalition also turn out their own propoganda, and that's partly true to a much lesser extent; that's about spin and lies rather than uploading videos of graphic killings of your enemy one by one.
I'm hopeful that these Islamic terrorist videos will cause more harm to the insurgency than good. Foreign fighters are an important factor that has probably helped turn the Iraqi people against the Muslim jihadists who have nothing better to do than do what they're told and wage a war in someone else's country.
There's too much media focus on the insurgents' videos; I want to see the real life insurgent confessions syndicated in the UK to even out this little propoganda war.

Thursday 21 April 2005

SWAT Monkey [Beej]

You just cannot make this shit up. It's the best news story ever:

"Send in the SWAT monkey" is not an order police commanders are accustomed to giving, but that could change if an Arizona police department follows through on a proposal to train a capuchin monkey for high-risk police operations.

A Special Weapons and Tactics veteran from Mesa, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, has researched the possibility of landing a $100,000 federal grant to fund a pilot program to train one monkey.

CNN: Risky situation? Call the SWAT monkey

Tuesday 19 April 2005

Neds / Chavs are the new hilbillies! [Shedir]

  1. What do you call a chav in a box? Innit.
  2. What do you call a chav in a filing cabinet? Sorted.
  3. What do you call a chav in a box with a lock on it? Safe.
  4. What do you call an Eskimo chav? Innuinnit.
  5. Why are chavs like slinkies? They have no real use but it's great to watch one fall down a flight of stairs.
  6. What do you call a chavette in a white tracksuit? The bride.
  7. You're in your car and you see a chav on a bike, why should you try not to hit him? It might be your bike.
  8. What's the difference between a chav and a coconut? One's thick and hairy, the other's a coconut.
  9. What's the first question at a chav quiz night? What you lookin' at?"
  10. How do you get 100 chavs into a phone box? Paint three stripes on it.
  11. Two chavs in a car without any music. Who's driving? The police.
  12. What do you call a chav with 9 GCSE's? A liar.
  13. What do you say to a chav with a job? Can I have a big mac please.
  14. What do you say to a chav in a suit? Will the defendant please stand.
  15. What do u call a knife in chavville? Exhibit A.
  16. Why is 3 chavs going over a cliff in a Nova a shame? A Nova seats 4.
  17. What do you call a 30 year old chavette? Granny.
  18. How many chavs does it take to change a lightbulb? One, they'll screw anything.
  19. What do you call 100 chavs at the bottom of a river? A start.
  20. How many chavs does it take to clean a floor? None, "That's some uvver bleeders job innit."
  21. Why did the chav take a shower? He didn't mean to, he just forgot to close the Nova's window in the car wash.
  22. Why did the chav cross the road? To start a fight with a random stranger for no reason whatsoever.
  23. What do you call a chav at college? The cleaner.
  24. A bus full of chavs were driving through Wales. As they were approaching Llanfgogogferrinfourasoch they started arguing about the pronunciation of the town's name. They argued back and forth until they stopped for lunch. As they stood at the counter, one chav asked the blonde employee, "Before we order, could you settle an argument for us? Would you please pronounce where we are ... very slowly?" - The blonde girl leachav over the counter and said, "Burrrrrrrr-gerrrrrrr-Kiiiiing."
  25. Two chavs jump off beachy head, who wins? Society.

Sunday 17 April 2005

Do Ants go to Heaven? [Houmous]

I was recently having a discussion on what we had to do to die happy – a reconciled death so to speak. I presented my case enthusiastically, speaking about the positive effect of life experiences as opposed to material wealth, and waxed lyrical about motorbikes, diving on the Great Barrier Reef, snowboarding off the top of mountains and having sex in airplane toilets etc etc.
My colleague however started to talk about what happens to us after death and what experiences may await us there, which rather caught me unawares. Despite a personal backdrop of having been closely involved in religion in my thirties (I was confirmed when I was 35 but drifted away from religion after I got divorced) I realised, in a blinding flash of clarity, that at no point in my life had I ever seriously thought any thing actually happened to us after our deaths – we just, you know, burnt or rotted.
This is despite believing, in my own way, in God, which perhaps can be neatly summarised by Richard Burton's response to a question on this subject, in his role as Alec Leamas in The Spy who came in from the Cold - "Well I believe that a 91 bus will get me to Chiswick but I dont believe Santa Claus will be driving it" (actually I think he used a different bus route - but I cant find my copy of the book - apologies :-) )
So am I alone in my views or are you all looking forward to popping your clogs so you can get to play Half Life 3 in 3400 x 2400 res on a 9Ghz PC?

Saturday 16 April 2005

The General Election: policies, or personalities? [Brit]

Its that time again; its the General Election.
I'm quite a keen follower of all things political - it seems to be an EED 'thing' to keep abreast of and examine the Witterings of Westminster. I have to say however, that as far as this election is concerned, I really don't see the point of voting for anyone but Labour.
Why? Because its down to personalities, rather than policies (between the Labour crowd and the Tories) and the Liberal Democrats, no matter how they couch it, basically want to tax the living shit out of everything that moves.
Lets face it, Michael Howard comes across as a supremely untrustworthy individual, who I wouldn't give car keys to, let alone keys to the Exchequer. Its like the Tory party are incapable of electing a leader with which you & I might identify.
I also don't think the Iraq war will count for much either - General Elections tend to be about domestic issues more than anything; it's amazing how quickly the international political ripples cease to cause an effect when the ballot boxes are wheeled out.
The key problem is that I don't know who to trust on 90% of the issues I care about: crime, education, economy & jobs, savings, business and transport. Why? because everyone uses a different "authoritative" report or finding to support their cause. Where is the definitive article? there isn't one. So it's all rather pointless eh?
I was actually impressed by the Green Party's manifesto. Until the last point: "Give up all our nuclear weapons". At which point I realised the good intentioned flap-jack eating treehuggers really are most definitely never destined for power in the real world.
My predicition? Labour: re-elected for the 3rd term by a surprisingly large majority (stupid student-based tactical voting fails) Blair quits after 2 years, Brown takes over PM.
This is democracy! But slightly pointless nonetheless.

Friday 15 April 2005

Non-replacable batteries [Lurks]

With my closet-greenie hat on, I just wanted to float an idea I had which I have become convinced is the right thing to do. I'm talking about electronic devices with non-replacable batteries in them but you could argue to extend this to any complex device which is predominently built to be used and then thrown away. Simply put, I think it ought to be illegal to manufacture and sell them.
Why's that? Well, essentially environmental impact. These firms are conning customers into a product with built-in obsolescence. These devices cost massive amounts of resources to manufacture which generates an impact on our environment through CO2 emissions and so on. Then there's the cost of disposal and the environmental impact of disposing of electronics.
The government has already mandated that recycling costs must be built-into the sale of a computer and that consumers should, by law, be able to take their computer back to the retailer for recycling. The sad fact that this is probably the first time you've heard that, demonstrates the ridiculous lip-service we pay to this laudible concept but of course industry and retail aren't going to jump up and down and tell you about their rights when there's a profit to be made.
I'm just saying this should be an extension of that. Of course devices do become obsolete and sadly they are thrown away if they're not (hopefully) sold-on or handed down to someone that can make use of them. However industry does need to be told in no uncertain terms that we won't stand for this consumer con-trick.
Of course the devil would be in the detail. What if the company offers a replacement service and charges an unfeasible amount of money? Will that absolve them of responsibility? I don't know. It needs to be talked about for sure. It's obviously a ridiculous state of affairs that there are tens of thousands of iPods, iBeads and Christ only knows what else being chucked into bins because of our rampant consumerism.

Wednesday 13 April 2005

Return to the PDA [Lurks]

I was a big fan of PDAs when they first arrived. The Psion series 3A back in the Amiga era and later the lovely series 5. I preferred a full keyboard and predominently used them for what you'd do with an ulta-portable laptop today. Then things moved to the sylus model and I tried, oh so very hard, to adapt. An early-model WinCE Sharp and then a couple of the big and powerful iPAQ Pocket PC jobs. All looked great on paper, worth the £300 or so. In reality all languished in a desktop drawer and I came to realise, PDAs are a con. Not just me either, the market for them has basically tanked worldwide.
The last few years I've basically worked from a fixed location and used an old fashioned diary to record upcoming meetings and, I guess as an old-journalist carryover, I continue to use pen and pad to write down notes during meetings.
However now my job has me out and about, I've stuffed up repeatedly in terms of recording meetings. I also work at two PCs, in my proper office and in my home office. It occured to me for awhile that maybe a PDA would be the solution. I thought about these fancy smart-phones but so wary of having spent a fortune on stuff like this before, I was reluctant to fork out the wonga. I also can't convince O2 to sell me an XDA as an existing customer. Bizarre but that's another story.
So I thought about what I really need. I just need to make some notes and I need a calendar. With that in mind, and these extremely light requirements, I took a punt on an extremely cheap Palm Zire 31 for the princely sum of £99 of your Earth Pounds Sterling.
I'm not going to go into a lengthy review because I basically don't use piss all of what the thing is capable of however I am extremely pleased. Firstly, the software is dead basic to install and has something called PalmDesktop which is a collection of the key applications inside one application. It'll sync to Outlook but since I don't use Outlook, handling my notes, calendar, tasks and stuff from PalmDesktop is extremely convienient.
I'm also getting on fine with Graffiti 2, more or less first go. Syncing is fast. The thing charges on USB, which is nice, and the only thing I wish I had was a docking cradle for it since the mini USB thing is a bit of a faff as with all devices using that.
Bottom line is, it's basic but it's cheap and it works very well indeed and if I lose the damn thing in the pub, it wont be the end of the world - I'll just buy another and hit the sync button and bosh, all my stuff is back on it. The Zire 31 is going to be a permanent addition to my pocket from now on.
I might even see if I can transfer my ancient notepad and pen habit onto it too..

Monday 11 April 2005

SWATs up then? [Spiny]

T'death have had a rather long (at least by our standards) love affair with Red Storm's tactical shooters Ghost Recon & Rainbow Six 3. To sate my tactical desires while waiting for RS4 I picked up the just-released SWAT 4 developed by Irrational.

So, how does it compare with RS3? Rather well actually.

The first thing I noticed was that the pace was slower. Yes even slower. The shuffle/run of SWAT 4 is about the pace of RS3s walk as I remember it. Things like your reticule cross hairs come in much slower too. This means that emphasis is placed much more on tactics than any run & gun ability. (Heh, who'd have though that about RS?). Naturally this would kill the gameplay if your squads AI wasn't up to scratch & I'm pleased to report that it's pretty good. Certainly a match for RS3 & probably better. The enemy (or "subject" in SWATspeak) is markedly better. They behave much more naturally, taking cover, running away etc. Although I do miss the comedy value from RS3 of the "whatwasthat?" faux east euro accents. In fact the AI provides one of the most entertaining aspects of the game. I was initially sceptical about a shooter where the object of the game was not to kill the bad guys. The idea is that you get them to 'comply' by yelling at them before cuffing them with zip ties. Sometimes the hostages refuse to comply so you get to blast them at point blank range with a bean bag shotty "ow ow ow ow!", spray them with pepper spray "Arrgh my eyes!" or even tazer them "hey, look at the funny granny dance!"

The interface is really easy to use, although oddly missing the 'on zulu' stuff from RS to synchronise multiple entries to the same room. What you can do though is give orders directly to any team member via a picture-in-picture view from their helmet cam. You get to control the sniper this way too, for long range bad guy head'sploding.

I had a brief multi player session which consisted mainly of me dying - there's a lot to learn here even for old RS hands. Knowledge of the map layout is even more important with the reduced walking and aiming speeds. Most reviews I've seen have been giving > 85% for this, I'd make it a 90% for me but that's probably because I'm a fan of the genre. Once I'm through the single player I'll definitely be up for some co-op (4 to a game). Hou, Pod?

Sunday 10 April 2005

Now why didnt I think of that! [Houmous]

Another in the series of the “why didn’t I think of that” items that I came across recently. The OneClick Intelligent Mains Panel is a multisocket extension that links your computer and up to five peripherals so that when you switch you computer on after three seconds it provides power to the peripherals connected to the panel. It also works in reverse, so when you turn your computer off it turns the connected peripherals off a few seconds later.
For me has been particularly helpful for my Zalman reserator, (which up to now I’ve never turned off in fear of forgetting to switch it on next time) external hard drives (which I don’t like leaving on all the time), and my printer (because I’ve had dry inkjet problems through leaving it on standby) – not forgetting all that electricity I'm going to save haha!

AmLan 2 [Am]

Gentlemen - it gives me very great pleasure to continue the owning of noncy clans what don't have cool homespun Lans and announce;
AmLan 2 - Return of Teh Fucksticks
The date is Fri 19th to Sun 21st of August.
Confirmed attendance list as follows:
  • Am (doh)
  • Lurks
  • Brit
  • Slim
  • Dr Dave
  • Shedir (!)
  • Meaty (!)
  • Lotta (!)
  • Spiro
  • Muz
  • Mugs (!)
  • Skeeve
  • Pod
  • Jay
  • KV
  • Houmous
  • Braddy

  • Beej - pending leave or still in possession of torso
  • Mistral - assuming not surgically attached to Spiny :-)

Stuff that just keeps working [Brit]

Looking around my den, it suddenly struck me that my SONY "Dream Machine" clock radio is now 10 years old. It hasn't stopped working once, never had a problem with it.
My Epson Stylus Colour 880 printer - likewise, nearly 10 years old and still going strong and I've only had to replace the carts three times during that period. It's covered in wax too; big splodges of it - yet print it does, every time.
Then I look at my iPod; no more than two years old and already consigned to the area designated for devices that I really cannot be bothered with trying to keep alive for more than four hours at a time.

Tuesday 5 April 2005

Ipod shuffle review [Slim]

Bloke's 30th birthday here today so we had a collection and got 70 quid. He's always stealing me mp3's so I bought him an Ipod shuffle with it. Was just copying some choons to it now.
As with the biggerer ipods, its got a lot of 'ooh' about it, which is quite an achievement given it does pretty much fuck all. Its very nicely packaged, with stuff like a neck strap, nice white headies, apple stickers, shit like that.
Get it out and you realise just how tiny it is. Most impressive is how thin it is, it's literally no higher than a usb port, just a few mm thick and weighs absolutely fuck all. The slide button on the back for power, play and shuffle modes isn't quite as glossy as the rest of the ipod, but it's not grooved or anything, makes sliding it a bit faffy, but other than that, it works fine. Controls on the front (only five, play, next, back and vol up down) also work fine, and feel nice and solid. Sound qualities fine, although I used me sony headies rather than mucking up the recipients nice new ones with me ear spuds.
Synching is easy as piss. You can use itunes, or i just downloaded an app that shows it up in explorer and you drag the files accross. You can't use the music space as storage space, you have to seperate that up sadly. Just plug it in a usb port and it's charging too.
I'd probably miss the screen if I had one, although it might work well as a 2nd player to a grown up one for taking out on me bike or going fishing. I do like solid state gadgets a lot, always weary of hard disks in mobiles that might get a but of bumpin. I'd like it to be a bit cheaper for that though given there are same size players with screens for almost half the price.
Still, makes a nice gift. Everyone who's seen it has gone 'ooh', which is kind of what ipods are all about.

Monday 4 April 2005

H & B DRX-430 [Slim]

I was getting a bit fed up with nuking stuff off sky+ to make space when I really wanted to keep it. So I splashed out on a DVD Recorder, the H & B DRX-430.

Well, its a little cracker! It does dvd recording, from the sky rgb output, all well and good. Sky+ has this nice thing where you can schedule playback of multiple programmes to spit out to dvd, so that's fine. It just works, great.
But it also does divx playback, which bloody rules too, cos the xbox was always a bit faffy for the wife n kids to use. This you just shove a dvd with divx's on it, it brings a menu up and plays em. Worked flawlessly on everything I've tried it with so far.
It's also got dv input (firewire), so I can plug me vidcam in and write that shit straight to dvd, it'll even do titles and chapters and shit, nice. Means the wife can write dvd's from the cam without using my pc, woot.
Then it's got a usb port, it'll take media off usb memory. It's 1.1 only, and doesn't seem to work with my big maxtor, but it takes stuff off smartmedia just fine, ace for quicly putting camera pics up on the telly.
It's got inputs and outputs galore, component, progressive scan, rgb, svid, all that shit. And its really thin, slinky and quiet. Very chuffed with it.

Saturday 2 April 2005

Slapping the Python [Spiny]

No not that one :) The much loved XBMC can run the Python scripting language & there's some very neat scripts available.

You're first stop should be here. Download the AQTBrowser. This allows you to view all the quicktime movie trailers at Neat. You'll need to have the right codecs though, search the XBMC forums.

That's not all, there's gamespotplus which allows you to view all the Gamespot live and video reviews. R0x0r. There is an error in the script though, see my post here for a fix.

I'm sure it wouldn't be too difficult to write a BBC vid streamer...