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Thursday 30 June 2005

EA are your friends [Lurks]

When EA took over DICE, makers of the Battlefield 2 games, this was a bad thing. Previously they just published the games and so we had a situation where a game developer was making the vital choices about the sorts of things we care about like multiplayer features. Of course maybe EA could have left it alone, shoved hands in air and said "Hey buddy, you know what you're doing"? Nah.
Of course the first thing we get is unskippable intro animations. EA has history of this. This is a pretty minor issue but it probably demonstrates more clearly than anything else that EA isn't about your convienience or enjoyment, they're about their brand and profit. Which, I guess, isn't a surprise from a corporate giant unless you're some lefty communist freak - nevertheless a good many companies manage to do the right thing because they have internal checks and balances.
Picture the guy in a suit at EA HQ. How much do you think he cares that you have to sit through the stupid spinny EA, DICE and NVIDIA logo animations every single fucking time you load the game? Let's just say he's sleeping safe at night because, let's face it, this guy doesn't play the game.
Onto more serious stuff; there's just no doubt at all that BF2 has been rushed out this time. Only conquest mode, what's that about? No single player campaign at all, hell not even the sort of controls you had over setting up an instant battle as before. And Jesus H Christ, what the hell is going on with this partnership with the other evil corporate bad boys of multiplayer gaming, Gamespy? I now need to fuck around to send up two accounts just to play the game online? That's just ridiculous. Why do they need my full name and email address? Who the fuck do they think they are?
Christ, it doesn't even work right. It seems that one of the registrations you do has something to do with the gamespy account (of course they don't tell you this) and you're left groping in the dark or otherwise using some old backup email address to create a new account. What a load of fucking shite.
EA also did an 'exclusive' deal with multiplay to provide Battlefield 2 rented servers. This obviously as part of a marketing deal to coincide with launch activities at the next i-series LAN party. Of course this decision had nothing at all to do with, you know, any fucking exhibited history, competence or size of existing operation in running rented servers. Fortunately everyone appears to have ignored this 'exclusive' deal and done it anyway - at least Game2XS has.
However it appears that only official EA servers are ranked. What the fuck is that about? Means that the official ranked servers are packed to the gills and unranked servers are empty. Suddenly the exclusive deal with multiplay makes sense, probably this is the only way to get a server of your own ranked. This is just plain fucked.
Of course now these scumbags have my address, despite the fact I certainly did not tick the boxes saying they could spam me, they did it anyway. Which is annoying enough but they actually had the gall to describe themselves in this email as "Your Friends at EA".
You are NOT my friends. You are NOT friends of gamers. You ARE friends of shareholders and that is the alpha and the omega of it. Feeling suitably churlish, I even replied to it saying "You are not my friends". Of course I got a nice automated HTML support email back - which is, after all, what your friends would do.

Tuesday 28 June 2005

Bounty Hunters [Beej]

So the unflappable Doug Wood was rescued from the nasty criminals-cum-insurgents a few weeks ago and its a bit of a good PR tale for the Iraqi Army at a very convenient time. No time to dwell on conspiracy theories though, that's not the point of this blog.
Presumably suffering from some sort of insanity brought on by lack of sunlight, our Australian cellar-dweller soon suggests that he may return to Iraq in the future, because, y'know, the money is good and he's got a Thai Bride to look after and all that jazz.
Then at some point, in a move which would not be out of place with EED's very own straight-talking Aussie, the man goes and calls his Iraqi captors arseholes, which quite honestly, is the best statement anyone has every made about this whole goddamn war. Good on you pal, now you're safe at home, let it all out! Stick it to those cowardly bastards! I know I would.
But this isn't the apex of the saga, by any means. You see, Woody was stuck in a cellar for a while with another chap who has been holding his cards closer to his chest. UNTIL NOW THAT IS:

Swede Ulf Hjertstrom, who was held for several weeks with Mr Wood in Baghdad, was released by his kidnappers on May 30. Mr Hjertstrom has since claimed he shared information with US and Iraqi troops about Mr Wood which led to the release of the 63-year-old Australian engineers two weeks ago, after 47 days in captivity.
Now, he wants to find those responsible.
"I have now put some people to work to find these bastards," he told the Ten Network today.
"I invested about $50,000 so far and we will get them one by one."

BINGO! Not just some pussy PI to see who the wife's been shagging, or a low-life ex-bouncer to hit your mate with a brick... but bounty hunters! Now that's a proper fucking plan.

How much do we trust the French? [shedir]

Their record isn't great, is it?
So I was a bit stunned to see this in the bbc news.
The international science community are building a nuclear fusion reactor, japan has pulled out so who is the worlds next foremost scientific power?
Ah yes. France. Famous for....champagne. Oh and mouldy cheese.
I only hope that the build this "star on earth" as far away from me as possible. Assuming the constant sleep and wine breaks mean this thing actually ever starts!

Thursday 23 June 2005

Compact Heaven [Amnesia]

Recently El Spiny del Norman posted a rather excellent, if slightly space-time warping blog due to its inherent size, on his hunt for poontang. When I say poontang I mean, of course, Digital SLRs which, for probably the first time in history reverses in this mention the general trend of sites like to talk about Digital SLRs like they are indeed particularly fine poontang. Or, given the first two letters combined in the site name, shall we say something altogether more engaging and participative indeed.
So one para in I i) remediate a long time imbalance, ii) probably baffle those who haven't hunted enough interweb pr0n with the reference to dp and iii) digress.
So far so AmBlog.
Cameras! That's what we're rootin tootin about! Do keep up. Pointy clicky Who Stole The Soul stuff through the use of lens teknowlogee rather than biggin up one of Public Enemy's finest tracks that is.
Today I was in the shopping empr0nium sorry emporium they call Bluewater tooling around for domestic shit that I could clue you up on if it wasn't for fear that your teeth would fall out thru sheer boredom. Anyway there I was and I went by Jessops, the national camera chain who do a fine line in High Street cameras of the conventional and digital type.
Emboldened by Spiny's blog (the bastard) I was enticed by a number of deals that Jessops were doing which were all actually, to be fair, pretty good - compact body and 2 lens deals on the Nikon d70 which he blogged about as well as stuff for the Canon 350D and the Olympus E-300.
Woooah. Let's have a park-up and quick smoke; my history with digicams to date is as follows (links separate for review insight rather than official descriptions);
Fuji Finepix 3 megapixel thing bought about 5 years ago maybe; Fine 3 megapixel camera perhaps for US or Continental European usage in spring and summer perchance. Terrible terrible smudging in lowish (not to say just medium) light for anyone else. Body was later redesigned by Porsche. Which is to say, put an aluminium spoiler on a turd. Well done everyone.
So pissed off with not being able to take a vaguely evening photo without everyone smearing, I converted to a Canon s45 bought 2 and a half to 3 years ago; this was a revelation - a brilliant 4 megapixel camera which was easy, fast, adaptable and just the deal. I've taken a huge bunch of life and clan pics with this and been delighted with it.
But there I was at Bluewater, slavering over the big handful maximus clickusdickimus SLRs. They are definitely the win if you know what you are doing. Did I? Regular readers will happily yell "shit yes Am" on their in depth knowledge of me but, being the conservative fellah I am, I did as one does, when in a technologically highly resourceful clan (and god knows how many times this has paid off), I phoned Lurks and said "what do you reckon".
For a while we talked out some prices, deals on the SLRs and it was all within the realms of negotiability. Then, as is his wont from time to time, Lurks said "now that stuff's all good but my question on it is are you really going to use it?".
Its a fookin point.
We then proceeded to discuss the merits of being a prosumer / semi-prosumer and a bloke that just wants a bloody good point and click with the option to do wilder stuff if required. Probably most important of all - if you're not mad for photography (and good luck to those that are) are you going to pack whatever it is you buy so it gets used? This is actually a lot more profound question than many to do with camera selection. You have to know yourself. If you will you will. If you won't, a big or even semi bodied camera is a bad economy.
I recognise that the SLRs are the ticket for those who are out to do a proper job. But with a counselling session and a relative handling session in the shop with the above SLRs and also the Canon G6 intermediate step if you like and its compact brethren, I decided to re-introduce myself to my own reality.
So I elected to upgrade my s45 for a s70 powershot from the make I liked and trusted so much - Canon. Of note - newly it comes with a 28mm wideangle lens base setting which is incredibly useful for indoor pics (have you ever tried to take a pic of a room with a digital camera and been pissed off with how much was missing - oh yes) and a 3.8x physical to 15x digi zoom at a res of 7.1 megapixs on the new Sony sensor. It's in a fetching carbon black and I'd say it's the win. What was even more elite was that at a ticket price of £399, one phone call back to Lurks got me a couple of quotes from a french web site and Dabs for 280 and 305 respectively. The conversation with the Jessops people went like this (and this is a true transcript (as best I can remember it) not stylised);
"Ok so I've done a price match with the following results {...} . I guess we now have to do the usual dance about what can you do""Well...""........hang on lets' just do this quick. Yes you've got a shop to run blah blah blah (I said the blah blah blah's and it got a laugh :) ) but I buy a great deal of my stuff wherever is best for me and that generally means online but you've done all the demo and explanation for me today so I'd like to go with you today if you can get somewhere decent to the real price. I'm a geek so I like online, I have no interest in extended warrantees which are a rip off, but you deserve the business. What can you do?"Bloke smiles "I'll go and ask the manager"
One quick shuffle and dance about we do the deal at 305 including a softcase. 399 to 305 inc case! Respect to them. By the way the lowest they will do the camera at is 314. You work out how I did the rest.
Got the camera home. The results are very impressive I think. The s45 is no slouch whatsoever and indeed a great cam. The extra res on the s70 is the luxury of the top of the range and is great and gives what I think is a deeper field of view. If you are in the field for an automatic - this is a top cam.
First few pics are up on

Wednesday 22 June 2005

Google vs eBay [Lurks]

I'm a fan of Google. They've consistently delivered services which are not only useful to me as an Internet user but I admire their business accumen in commercialising some of their key developments while still keeping plenty of surprises in the pot through a solid research and development background.
This is in stark contrast to eBay, who I despise. These guys are everything that's wrong with corporate profiteering including shabby support, acting unilaterally without any resource to customer service concerns and of course, they just get more expensive because they realise they're the only game in town.
With these two rampant opinions stated, it must come as no surprise to learn that one development that would fill me with deep joy would be Google setting up as a competitor to eBay. However there's never really been any indication that they would do that.
However the big surprise came when news started leaking that Google was working on a payment system, potentially something to rival Paypal. Paypal being part of the Evil eBay Empire and another mechanism to skip yet more off the top of anything you sell.
This was kinda puzzling and I had this in the back of my head for awhile... what is Google's interest in payment systems really? Cryptically Google's CEO Eric Schmidt confirmed they were working on a payment system but cryptically denied that it wont compete directly with Paypal. What he actually said was;

"We do not intend to offer a person-to-person, stored-value payments system"

And then went on to say...

"The payment services we are working on are a natural evolution of Google's existing online products and advertising programs which today connect millions of consumers and advertisers"

It might sound cryptic but one of my tasks in my day job is maintaining a commercial Google AdWords campaign so I'm quite familiar with Google's existing business here - meaning bidding on keywords, billing advertisers for clicks and so on. To me the answer seemed pretty obvious.
Google is going to resurrect the concept of micro payments. For those that remember the various shenanigans of the .com boom, micro payments was one of those things that was going to revolutionise the web and make everyone rich. The concept is that everyone is willing to pay a few coppers to visit their favorite web sites and when you total up the gargantuan traffic available on the web, this can turn into a decent revenue stream which can then fund web sites. Basically micro payments is a solid concept and something which is a very good thing for us, users of the Internet. It means that they'll be less of the annoying scams to get you to click on things and ridiculously intrusive advertising since the web's only real income (for editorial sites, let's leave porn out of this for now) is advertising at present and hence sites often have to sell their soul in a competitive market.
So how does Google fit into this? In essence Google is the big brand, the company well regarded enough by consumers, that they could kick off membership scheme. This would appear in the rest of the portfolio of products like Gmail, Google groups and the customisable 'portal' stuff they're just getting into now. You simply load a few quid in and...
Bosh you can go surfing all sorts of web sites with subscription content. This is a brilliant move for Google because, since this content goes behind closed doors, it serves as a sort of lock in on the Google search engine as well! Right now if you use Google news, they have set up agreements to be able to spider content located on subscription web sites. Those sites let Google in so traffic gets driven to them and people sign up.
Now imagine this stuff on the regular web search stuff. You look for something, a hit turns up and it says underneath "Googlepass" needed.
There's a lot of other talk by analysts out there about how they believe Google is going to roll this out to the Froogle price search system. I dunno really, that's an area of the business that has a lot of competition from much more established players throwing the big bucks at it such as Dealtime, Kelkoo and Pricerunner etc. I think the pay-per-click model for e-tail shops listing on those sites is proven and I'm not sure Google can really add something here by tying in a single method of payment. But I could be wrong.
This is probably a case of wishful thinking but I think the micro payments thing is more interesting for us and I think Google is fairly uniquely positioned to do it. If it happens, this will be one of the biggest upheavals of the Web imaginable. In a good way.

Tuesday 21 June 2005

Civic Duty [Shedir]

So, at the bus stop (Ingram Street) last night. Just missed my 20 home by 10 seconds or something. Get the headies out and settle in for the long wait on another.
It's meant to be every 10 minutes, but of course that bears no relationship to "the truth".
Some junky mum sits down beside a young couple in lurve, her brat runs around throwing a plastic bottle of coke off the nearest building and the bus shelter.
I'm listening to the radio.
As time passes, along with every other bus known to man, I notice junkymum's arm making some slow movements. She's about the dip the bag of the lassie she's sitting beside.
I double check then take the headies out. Nick over and tap her on the shoulder, "no". Followed by a stern wag of the finger.
Junkymum gets on a bus, couple of guys are talking to me about it.
Time, and all other busses but mine, passes.
Dancer! A 20 shows up, I head on over.
Then spot junkymum. She'd obviously got off after one stop and decided she couldn't go home until she'd dipped someone. I was on the 20 by then so it was too late to tell her to GTF.
It was only a bit later I thought about other things. Like what if she had junkydad with her, juiced to the eyeballs and kitted out with a knife.
Still, you can't think like a pussy in real time.

Monday 20 June 2005

Bastards [Lurks]

The phone rang was I was doing the last blog.

"Hello sir, I'm ringing from the National Lottery."

I'm still feeling a bit shit from the all day drinking session and U2 gig last night but by golly, this was enough to put the fire back in my belly!
Heart racing, blood thumping in my temples, I gibber that I am indeed the person she is looking for.

"We'd like to invite you to a research event which we're using to gain more information about syndicate managers."

Err, what? You aren't calling to tell me I've won eight million pounds?

"No sir, I'm afraid not. Do you still run a syndicate. "

No... um, fuck, shit, piss. Err sorry! No. We let it lapse, mostly because we didn't win eight million pounds.

"Oh well, sorry to hear that sir but if you don't keep up your syndicate you don't have any chance at all!"

Yes... thank you... goodbye. [click]

Desperate Bordello [Lurks]

A couple of weekends ago I was in Antwerp Belgium as a sort of combined business trip and pleasure. I spent the weekend with my good friend and his partner, and we had a great time wining, dining and partying. At one point we had occasion to walk down the red light district in Antwerp. This is rather like Amsterdam, where the ladies are on display in the windows and so on. Apparently.
Which is all well and good but then we reached the run-down end of the district and one business clearly hadn't fared so well and had closed down. What amused me most was the writing placed on the window in an attempt to drum up business as part of the 'CLEAROUT SALES!' in what must have been the twilight hours of this seedy establishment. Here is the picture.
A sampling for your delight:
  • "Every bordello must go" - What, they sell whole bordellos? Crumbs lads, forget that Spanish villa retirement fund investment, we could have bought into the sex trade for extra peice of mind.
  • "Hire one girl, get two free!" - Hard to see how the business failed with such tempting offers as this.
  • "Share it with your nuns and your priest!" - They can flipping well buy their own!

There's a few other gems I'll let you discover and perhaps you can also make out some of the lines that are tricky to read such as the ones with 'discover life' and 'cop price' in them?

Saturday 18 June 2005

Amazon and the Axis of Evil [Beej]

So, do Amazon ship to the Axis of Evil? Apparently not:

Thanks for writing to
We're sorry, but due to concerns regarding exports to certain countries, we are unable to ship merchandise to this destination.
Because of US State Department sanctions, or other legal reasons, we cannot ship to the following countries:
North Korea (US companies can export here, but only with licenses from the Dept of Commerce)
Thanks for your interest in

Bit harsh on Angola, the civil war has been over for a few years now.
And how do the thousands of American soldiers in Iraq survive without alcohol, pornography, or Poor bastards :)

Friday 17 June 2005

Breaking the mould - gaming innovation [Brit]

A couple of recent blogs, namely Beej's thoughts on various mainstream FPS and Lurks' Battlefield 2 have brought round (once again) the thought that really, mainstream PC gaming is rather a stagnant affair.
As a PC gamer in totalitarium (i.e. I don't own a console/handheld, and probably never will, albeit the PSP looks rather scrummy) I find myself somewhat bedazzled by the unending array of rather mediocre creative thought that pervades this side of the industry.
This cartoon on Penny Arcade sums things up nicely - in that quite simply, it appears that of late there is simply not much in the way of unique and cutting edge creativity happening within the myriad games development houses, who instead concentrate on churning out games that seek to simply enhance the bottom line (fiscally speaking) as opposed enhance the audience mindset.
I'm not suggesting that large amounts of cash should be spent on developing weird and wonderful niche market titles - like Llamasofts audio thingummy - but it does rather seem to me at least that the bean counters are restraining creativity to the point where the only fresh material will come from the advent of World War III.
Its the same (in my opinion) with all current mainstream PC games; whether it be rallycar (yes, you now have transformable fenders and realistic screeches...) or sports (yes, you now have 11,000 real teams as opposed to 10,000 on the previous release) or even MMPORGS (ooh look, you don't have to bother with the tedious job of killing frogs to level up).
Its easy of course to blame the big publishers like EA who are only interested in capitalising on market share - but even so, such conglomerates exist in other industries and yet exciting, often unique creativity is still seen throughout the product/service approach and offering. Except of course those adverts for BidUp.TV which demonstrate that even social retards can get a job somewhere.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I do often wonder where the next big thing is going to come from, and whether or not anyone in the Western World (lets face it, the Japanese have some amazing ideas in terms of games, interaction and experience) will bother to give it a run.
We have ever increasingly realistic 'engines', ever increasingly immersive 'environments' and yet the core concepts behind them all remain static; locked in pre-history when the idea of shooting other players with a bang-stick was new, shiny and incredible.

Battlefield 2 impressions [Lurks]

I'm not best to comment on this since I've only played the demo single-player where as I know others have been playing it loads online. However I have the saving grace of actually being arsed to type a blog, so you're just going to have to make do.
Basically, it's fantastic. It gets to being fantastic by being a cross between the best game you can possibly imagine mixed in with a slight dressing of lame bits courtesy of dumbed-down-by-EA syndrome.
The graphics are unbelievable now and the game seems almost more about the immediate surroundings like, say, Ghost Reccon, than the sort of wide open spartan places designed to be driven/flown over at high speed like its predecessor. It sort of looks like Desert Combat but really it doesn't play much like it. For a start, it's more about infantry. Vehicles are weaker and not quite as well implemented in terms of feeling all-powerful while camped inside one, as good old DC.
That said they drive and handle properly now, much better than '42/Vietname ever managed. At least on the ground. In the air, things have gotten predictably sat. Helicopters can be blown by any bozo with a mouse and no longer will be the sole preserve of the skilled-up elite (us). I haven't spent any time in combat in them, mind, so another clannie will have to comment authoritatively there.
Infantry wise, there's a lot to love. It plays like a proper action game now. You shoot guys, you see where the bullets go, you feel in control. There's also physics in there but it's more rag-doll than realistic. It's still better than the previous games though. There's also classes that make a difference, medics that revive, support that reloads ammo etc. In this respect it feels like it's borrowed from team fortress a little.
I do have some complaints though. I lay prone on top of a building with the M249 and even letting short bursts rip at an enemy at medium range, I was unable to land hits much less kill them. This is somewhat retarded. There's also a heck of a lot of fog of war going on here. A lot of the time you simply aren't going to be able to see. That's not necessarily a bad thing, a couple of smoke grenades and you've cover against snipers for example.
The best thing about it though, is probably the thing I haven't tested at all. The squad combat. You can have a squad in your team in a large battle and share voice communications. There's also a commander class. Now's the time for clannies to pipe up and wax lyrical about this because it sounds like it's amazing.
Oh, for Beej's benefit, out there on the front, I've captured a video to show off some gameplay. It's fairly low framerate since I captured at 1600x1200 by mistake and had to downscale it. Haha. It's still high resolution and should give a feel for what the game looks like.
Of course the damn thing would have to come out on Glastonbury weekend...

Musings on Half-Life 2, Splinter Cell, and Raven Shield [Beej]

Well I feel a few months behind you, but I'm now catching up with my clannies - I'm currently working my way through two ace games on my lappy after work every day.
  • HL2 - now I had managed to play up to the Buggy levels a few months ago, but then I broke my laptop and didn't get a chance to finish it (Acer UK support must die, etc)
  • And I've also been playing Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory which I picked up in mid-May looking for something that would last as a one-player game that wasn't more DOOM.


Coming back to HL2 is just ace. Well, playing through Ravenholm a second time is a bit painful, it takes ages. So first time around I'd got as far as the Buggy about the time that you guys were completing it - and actually, when I came back to work I didn't mind that much because the whole driving around on the sand being attacked by antlions wasn't really turning me on much. In fact, I'd nearly lost faith but then you get to the bit with the crane and you drop Iso/Connex shipping containers on the little soldiers down below and that makes up for it :)
So I've just done the lighthouse, where the dropships come down and drop off squads. That was a really good running battle, enjoyed it. I was quite bemused by the knobbly balls that you come across on the road. At first I thought they were just a distraction, designed to block your view and shake the car, but then they actually seemed to be coming for Gordon and I realised I could use the gravgun to shoot them out to sea (fwunk... splosh... BOOMMMMMMMMM)
Last night I made it to Nova Prospekt, and I like the bugbait used to control the antlions although I think it made the entry to Nova Prospekt a bit easy. The beach defences felt a bit COD, and in fact, I thought the corridor with the red flares in was very atmospheric. I like the radio chatter more and more... its less ambiguous than the original HL1 stuff. Coming up into the Nova compound under the watchtowers reminded me of doing a similar entry from the sewers in HL1, when you're coming back into Black Mesa and kill off a load of Marines around a tank which you have to satchel charge.
So now I'm in the prison, just got to the Big Antlion scene when it breaks through the walls. All good.


One of the reasons I'm really enjoying it, despite feeling like a latecomer to the HL2 party, is that my new lappy is doing a better job than my Athy XP + 9800 desktop was. I got an Asus z71v (badged AJP) which has a widescreen nVidia 6600 which is really very good. I'm running HL2 in 1680x1050, turned the AA off for now but it can handle it okay if you wanted it on.
The z71 isn't so happy about Splinter Cell in 1680, in fact, the frame rate would really drop when anything was happening, even background stuff, so I'm running in 1024 with AA on. It might be a driver issue, I'm on 71.13 and they're about six months old. Will attempt an upgrade to 77.60 in anticipation of BF2.


The first level didn't bode well - a fucking castle on a cliff, oooh, very original for an FPS I don't think. Reminded me of Ghost Recon. But then it picked up, and the second level, on a boat, whips the slitty eyed arse of that Playstation Solid Snake shit which was also on a boat. For Ubisoft, I'm shocked at the menus, they're not at all fucked up. The UI when playing is quite good, although there's no illustration of your speed-cum-stealth posture, which is pretty fucking important but had to figure out for myself was on the mousewheel and isn't displayed. The vision modes like thermal are great, much better than Raven Shield or Ghost Recon. It was refreshing to not be so gun focused as in DOOM3 and GR and RS and the whole caboodle, where the trick is just to use the right weapon for the right situation and not run out of ammo or spray. Dangling off balconies, creeping past guards not killing them, avoiding spotlights, yes, I enjoyed it.
But after the bank level, it feels a bit easy. I made my way past the guards, got on the roof of the bank, killed the power, and what, the skylight has opened by itself and a rope has appeared? wtf? maybe it was the Abseil Fairy :)
The atmos is good, the graphics and lighting are very good, the control system is good. The physics is there, and so I guess really, despite the forumlaic nature, its not a bad game at all considering the sort of trash that Ubi Montreal could have churned out. It's just a bit... easy, creeping up on people and stabbing them or shooting them with a silencer.


I'm wondering if this will be improved by the high standard of SC:CT? I think RS3 doesn't fare well to SC:CT which is really very nice on PC. I'm wary of RS being given more gimmicks, such as that centre screen flash-and-open orders thing (I'm sure I like it any more). What RS needs is maps of the standard of SC:CT, and it needs to be more immersive and let me abseil from a helicopter and shimmy down a drainpipe and to whack tangos with the butt of my rifle from behind. And in RS3, what was the handcuffing shit all about? I point a gun in their face and they still want to raise their gun and shoot back! That handcuffing crap was all a sham, and never made any damn sense.
On the other hand, we don't need the RS series to go the way of SWAT4, which is all when I grow up I want to be a policeman fanboy shit; dressed like you're all specops (yanks getting carried away again!) but all you do is actual handcuff people. Sounds wank thankyou!
Perhaps a future RS could break up the monotony a bit with some sniper only levels (1player obviously), like that bloody great game Hostages. Or could the multiplayer have a bit more effort put in than just a map I've played before with non-randomly placed AI? I say AI, when what I really mean is a drone who stands still, doesn't patrol, and says "whatwasthat?" in a Latvian accent.
If Ubi could get some of Splinter Cell to rub off on Raven Shield, I think that would only be a good thing.

Thursday 16 June 2005

2005 [Am]

You can start a blog with a phrase like ‘the human condition’ and indeed, perhaps I have in the past. At this precise moment in time, frankly, you care less. This I understand. But above and beyond the limping starts of my usual musings, there is something engaging about human reflection, in condition examination and, I like to say, in the general state of thinkology.
What the fuck am I going on about? Who knows. You don’t get value from an AmBlog by asking that sort of trite shit this early on. Back in your box, crisp-boy.
So thinkology of the human condition. Indeed. Well here’s what’s been occuring to me of a Thursday with a glass of fine burgundy....
God – who knows. Next.
Nah I mean really right. I spent 7 years looking for god in fulltime academic study. The sort of thing where you can read up about it inifinitely and still draw no conclusions. I’m basically with free-will non-deterministic and about 30/70 on the existence of versus non existence of. 7 years. I may be wrong (I’m sure I am) but I’m happy to go with it.
The Spirit of Humanity - Don’t make my dog bark. Next.
Science. Marvellous stuff if generally only slightly less pointless than religion. Got to offend Dr Dave lots in the pub the other day by saying the current state of science (particularly in that sense asstronomy) is basically just the current fairy story. 500 years ago we didn’t even dig gravity. To say that what’s “fact” today will be considered so in 500 years from now makes the aforesaid woofer roll-over and piss itself laughing. It is a fact much as these very bright people don’t like it at all. Made Dave’s face go all wrinkly. The evolution of science – amazing. The objectivity of cutting edge science today? Pretty damn stinky.
To whit; human behaviour (see above); absolute raving bollocks at the moment. It truly makes me cringe to consider just how primitive and appalling our society will be seen in centuries to come. I think we’ll be classified something like “emergent industrial primitives”. Really. I consider this to be the biggest embarrassment of living in this age. We have the brain power and social commentary to become an emerging different and difference-making race but our reputation will be in centuries forward for being twats with knowledge due to self-interest. And really murderous nasty selfish twats. As the fairy-stories of religion are fading away as a sociological force, we are really more accountable than any time before. And our failure will look worse for it.
So where are we now? Well precisely wherever you want to be. You are but a proton on an atom on a molecule on a cell on a ohhhh you get the point. All you need to do is act as the selfish little autonomous unit you are because there is absolutely no chance that you matter in the scheme of things at all.
All it seems to me, is that you don’t lose sense of your own sense. So avoid interaction with things designed to test your own credulity. For instance;
CATS:- Totally and utterly without redemption from a design-frame-of-mind. Only invented to make you look like a cunt. Takes affection in, purrs a bit when it suits and then rips your belly open to try and claw its way to your colon when it fancies. I’m not speaking relativistically to a dog a gerbil or anything else. That’s pointless and engages conversation with people who like to have little tapestries up on their walls. So let’s do this; a cat is a cunt who only cares for itself. If you haven’t got this, the world of cats, and many human beings too are laughing at you. Laughing. Like drains. At you.
GMTV:- Now I don’t want overuse the word cunt which is a special word but holy mother of smoking cod what a bunch of cunts! Where the object of nation-information is to work out the lowest common denominator of the telly-watching public and pitch things “just a little bit more sophisticated than that but so they get the drift” you know why the impulse to go all Falling Down has never wrung truer. When we are young we often look up to media celebs one way and another. When you get older and especially if you’ve come across some of these people, you understand just how insanely lethal it is to have this bunch of luvvies in charge of public perception. My people I weep for you.
POLITICIANS:- The ancient Athenians had the right idea – stick all the voting public together and vote for who needs to lead the society. If they refuse, chuck them out of the nation. If someone wants to run for office distrust them immediately and chuck them out the nation. Douglas Adams wrote some great books (but nowhere near as good as the lauding he gets) but the Zaphoid Beeblebrox approach to politics is pretty much the only one that should be in existence.
There’s three to get you going. I won’t say life suck because it doesn’t. Last night I sat out under a huge star-field with a glass of fine wine and revelled in existance. But while we’re at it - what pisses you off and why?

Wednesday 15 June 2005

What the internet is for. [shedir]

I've been leeching documentaries for a while now and trying to avoid traditional media more and more.
My dad has been in a Monetary Reform Society for as long as I can remember. His belief is that the current money system is corrupt and has to change to make society as a whole better.
Cue Conspiracy Central! Picked up a cracking wee documentary off it this week. Phenomenon - Monopoly Men.
Explains quite well how the money system was initally corrupted and how it's being abused now.
The creation of the Federal Reserve bank in the USA is covered and it's implication for all of western society.
Well worth signing up and taking a peek though there for stuff that'll interest you. The Illuminati one is quite good too, but a bit too x-files for my liking.

Friday 10 June 2005

Glastonbury anticipation [Lurks]

How to put the Lurker into a good mood? Post him a set of Glastonbury tickets. I don't think I've quite looked forward to anything so much as I have this. Next year the festival isn't on so this is going to be something very special indeed.
There's two main Glasto sites worth bookmarking:

I'm about to put in an order for a brand new decent tent which should see me through the this and the rest of the festivals beyond.
As to which bands I'm looking forward to, well there's so much! On the Pyramid stages I guess; The White Stripes, the Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, New Order, Keane, Hayseed Dixie (yay!) and Garbage.
On the Other stage; Fatboy Slim, Royksopp, Hot Hot Heat, Kasabian, Athlete and KT Tunstall (yay!).
There's just so many on the other stages too; LCD Soundsystem, Alabama 3, the Beutiful South, Tori Amos and loads more who I'm sure I'll love but I haven't the faintest idea who the fuck they are at the moment. But that's what it's all about!
Rest of my preparation includes trying to get a couple of mushroom kits before the cuntish laws kick in to ban them for good (Christ I hate this country) and to rig up a laser tent finder (text a number and a laser stabs upward from the tent) and so on.
Oh, I'm so looking forward to this!

DSLR Hareem [Spiny]

This is a big one, go & get a cuppa...'re back!

Spiny gets with the program

Just for the record, I'm what the texting generation might call an 'oldskool' photographer. We're talking f-i-l-m here kids. I've done courses, read far too many books & magazines, processed my own film, blacked out the windows, dodged & burned to the wee hours and even made my own developer (Pyro, good stuff, virtually grain free ISO 400 8x10s & hand made from nasty carcinogenic ingredients). I breathe the zone system.

But. [hovers precipitously close to a cro'ism]

Since getting a digital compact a few years ago, my SLR had lain dejected & alone at the bottom of the camera bag, slowly devaluing.   Kids, time, lack of resolution & expense meant I'd forgotten my art and become a compact wielding snapper. Digital photography as you know, dear reader offers a vastly better process with feedback from the moment you release the shutter. Prices have tumbled in the last 18 months so I set out to kit my selfout for the new millennium.

The Quarry

I decided to go for a DSLR (Digital-SLR, duh) as opposed to a 'prosumer' type camera. While the prosumer models offer tons of flexibility, enabling you to live preview your shot with histograms, tilting screens, compact package etc they do suffer from some problems, notably:
  • No option for extra lenses (discounting adapters).
  • Small sensors (they have to turn the gain up on a small sensor to get the sensitivity which leads to high noise levels at anything over ISO200)
  • No really that much smaller than the small DSLRs, still a bit of a fag to lug around.
  • Poor focusing in low light.
  • Slow start up time.
  • Shutter lag (the delay between pressing the shutter & image capture)

There's a  DSLR from most of the major camera manufacturers, but if you want to get in as cheap as possible, there's only a few realistic options (read less than 800 earth pounds). I'd narrowed the candidates down to the following:

I'd rules out other candidates such as the Sigma & Pentax models on brand bias & price (sue me). I excluded the new D50 as a) you can't buy it yet, b) It's v1.0.

Most of the web reviews seem to put the 350D and the D70 very close & mark the E-300 somewhat a disappointment. If you want anal level linkage, these sites are pretty good:

Print reviews seem to back up the web reviews conclusions but with less technical detail as you may expect.

The Hunt

Based on these alone, I would have probably plumped for the E-300. Mainly because on the face of things, it offers better value than the others at . The reviews all mention good build quality. Reports of unpredictable underexposure seem to be negated on the forums with lots of posts claiming this problem has been fixed by a firmware update. Strangely no web reviews have received updates to this effect though. The 8mp image was also tempting the spec whore in me.

As mentioned at the top of the blog I'd got some old FSLR (work it out) kit. Too much of a wuss to ebay it I'd not had a sniff with a couple of other sources. So, bag in hand I wandered down to the town centre where I work (cough Swindon* cough) to hawk my kit round the camera shops in hope of a part exchange. The third place I tried offered me a pretty good deal, so I decided to go with them, providing the prices were OK too. If you're near Sw-Sw-Sw (sorry, I just can't) where I work,  check outGreat Western Cameras.

I tried out the cameras above & was immediately struck by these impressions:
  • 350D    Light, even flimsy. Definitely  built to a price with a very light lens. No spot metering.
  • E-300   Well built, nice ergonomics. Green mode snaps looked underexposed in comparison to the others, even on the LCD back.
  • D70s    Very well built, great ergonomics. Snaps looked OK. 1% spot meter. I felt very at ease with this camera straight away even coming from a Canon EOS 5. All the controls are very obvious, I could have been shooting on manual & tweaking exposure compensation metering & ISO straight away. (Can you guess where this blog is headed?)

The guy also rolled out a Canon10D. I have to say this looked a great camera if you didn't have to lug it around. Build quality was the best of the bunch but the thing was h-ea-v-y. A real big brick of a camera, must have weighed close to 2lbs with no lens. They had it on special for £599 body only (£100 less than Amazon). Tempting, but I decided that it was out of my budget what with no lens 'n' all and it was just too heavy. Still, a great bargain if you want a decent 6mp for shooting landscapes or motor sports, studio or other situations where you're fairly static. It's also over 2 years old, so no doubt in camera image processing has moved on from then.

The observant among you will note the D70 & D70s prices are pretty steep in comparison to the E300, so why was I leaning to those? Well, clearly they were the best cameras. The build quality was the better than Canon & Olympus and if every review I've read was to be believed, image quality was as good as or better.  6mp rather than 8mp didn't bother me as I won't need to print A1 size, 6mp can quite happily deliver a good A2 print at normal viewing distances. Now, as I mentioned I was getting a fairly good trade in for my old kit. Coupled with this, Nikon are currently offering a cash back on the D70 of £100 if you buy the Body + 18-70 lens till the 19th of June. Oh yes, and the starting price at GWC almost as cheap as I found it on the web which would offer no trade in.

The icing on the cake was that the 2.0 firmware update for the D70 brings it within a gnats chuff of the D70s specs, bar the 0.2" increase in LCD size of course. The review of the D70s in Amateur Photography magazine even says that they don't know why Nikon bothered with the D70s as it's nigh on the same camera as the D70.

The Verdict

I'm very happy with my purchase, it's not a point & shoot camera by any means. Some of the scene mode stuff does some dreadful things like focus on the nearest object (... the waiter takes a photo of you at the dinner table, but the bottle of wine is in focus when you aren't). But, you can set the camera up to avoid these & I wanted it for the control the manual modes bring anyway. If I feel brave enough I may link to some of my work sometime.

* Footnote: The local Swindon paper has had several front pages of late on how people bash Swindon & how great it really is. Tell me this though, if the town is so great, why do they have to put posters up in the town centre telling people how good it is?. I'll leave the final words to Empire Magazine: "...unless you live in some culturally unaware backwater, AKA Swindon."

Thursday 9 June 2005

Please say... no! [Lurks]

My Glastonbury tickets failed to show up. The folks handling tickets sent me an email that looked exactly like spam and it was only fluke that I read it and found out that their special courier had apparently failed to deliver and left a card (no they didn't).
This, however, is not a whiney blog about shit courier services. I feel we've covered that subject adequately on the 'Death. It's a whiney blog about something else but I'm not quite done with 'Special Mail' yet. First of all I tried to order a redelivery via this courier's web site. It was pretty basic and I had no reason to believe it had not organised redelivery as it claimed. Only the courier never came.
So I phoned them up to sort it out and I get greeted by an automated voice mail system, as you so often are. However this was the next step of evil beyond that, this was a voice recognition system. Normally these things are about good enough to go 'yes' and 'no' and that's it. However the designers of this particularly master-stroke have apparently decided that they can do away with any sort of human-powered transaction and replace it with a robotic voice speaking in disjointed sound bites.
Press one to arrange a redelivery. So far so good. Please say the courier reference number. Hang on, that's a bloody 16 digit number. I draw breath and begin to say the number slowly and clearly like a British tourist abroad. Was it 297837239734737374? Well, actually not bad you got MOST of them right but no, it isn't. You can begin to see how some career-fuckwit middle manager has come around to believing that technology is up to understanding human speech. Well, you can begin to understand we're less than TEN FUCKING YEARS AWAY! Please try again and say or key the courier reference number. What? You mean I could just fucking type thing thing? Why not say that the first time? You wankers are sat in a fucking basement listening to a live feed, laughing away aren't you? I type the damn thing out and it confirms yadda yadda. Please say your post code. What? Oh for the love of Christ. I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Ennn eeigght ... eeiiight teee gee. Did you mean N8 8BD? No I fucking well did not! Eventually I get it. Hooray! Maybe this shit isn't so bad?
Please say the name of your street. What? You French-born pile of crack fueled cunts I just gave you my fucking post code, that's what it's FOR! I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Toottteeennhaaammm Laaannnee. Etc. However I need to give it the number and the street. I'm nearing the supposed finish, I've almost got this rat-fuck abortion of comp-sci student's wank-fest to finally get what I'm saying for the third time when... I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Please stand by for an operator.
The phone rings and a real human picks up immediately. Arrrggghhh!!! WANKERS! If you pile of rancid slugmonkey donkeyscrotes had a fucking guy sat there ready to take my call in the first place... Arrrgghhh!!!
Course this chap on the phone is apologetic and quite disarming. I ordered delivery on your web site but nothing showed up. I'm seeing nothing on the system sir, can I organise delivery for Friday?
I couldn't help myself so I said. Sorry, I didn't catch that. Very funny sir, delivery is booked for Friday.
The stupid thing is, you know they paid a lot more for that fucking software than to outsource the entire thing to India. One day I shall find out where that basement of cackling boffins resides. I've put an ebay bid on a bread van and I've made a start stockpiling fertilizer.

Tuesday 7 June 2005

Mobile Spam [Lurks]

There's a mobile phone sat on top of my lounge server, jacked into the serial port. It collects SMS texts from us Electric Death bods and does various things from IMDB lookups, sending on fellow-clannie mobile numbers and so on. If it doesn't understand the text, the software posts it to our IRC channel - assuming it's a message from a clannie with some random abuse. A fairly safe bet.
However of late various bits of spam have been pasted into our IRC channel. Also my own mobile phone is frequently being sent 'service messages' from random people and even O2 (my provider) as well. Just now though, the final insult, some fucker on a terribly dodgy phone line (presumably some shitty wireless headset in a dodgy industrial unit in Battersea) tells me that my contract is up for renewal.
He wants to sell me a new one. What the fuck? Why is this wanker allowed to call me and how is it that he knows my contract is up for renewal?
Bad enough being bombarded by commercial messages everywhere you fucking work, live and play but now these cunts are pushing it out to your unignorable mobile phone as well!
Ban this sick filth!