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Saturday 25 February 2006

World of warcraft [Rabido]

Having been with EED (albeit in a non-playing capacity) for a while now, I recently feel obliged to play World Of Warcraft. I have yet to buy this game (even though it works with Macs!) and my concern is overwhelmingly how addictive it can be. I used to be addicted to Quake 2 and UT, but addiction would mean maybe a couple of hours a day 3 or 4 times a week. With World of warcraft it seems to have become an obsession for many people, including some of the EED folks. Can a game be that addictive that people play 4-5 hours a day 7 days a week?
Since it's my first foray in to MMOOTTOMRRMRRPGs the other thing that worries me is that I'm going to jump into this game where everyone is at level 99 and has 255 of every item......and you get 0wned every time you respawn. I guess there are safeguards against this....

Monday 20 February 2006

My new mouse got lasers! [alfa]

I have had this Logitech Mouseman Optical for ages, its blue and even has cute blue light, its been great. But due to the pads under it getting lost and the surface becoming increasingly disgusting (after a while the plastic just wont get clean, yeah you know it, its *greasy*) i now had to get it done. The lazy bastard that i am couldnt get the thumb out of my arse so i spent the better part of 2005 trying to figure out what to replace it with. MicrosoftĂ‚´s alternatives are shockingly nonexistant, and if you dont have some fetish concerning the feel of the wheel or something perverted like that i dont really see why you should get one. And as far is i can see there are only two alternatives left, Razor and Logitech. There is a cheap version of this, and thats the Logi 518 or the Razor Diamondback, 1600 dpi and lots of buttons. Of course i couldnt do that, this being the age of pricerunner and all :)
So i tried out the Copperhead from Razor and the G5 from Logitech. It seems strange that some sites claim that the Razor is for the person using the fingertips to move the mouse since the wheel on it is way up in the front, not only that but i wonder how the buttons will work after while, the Diamondback kinda lost clicks after some use at the back end of the buttons. But it does have more buttons than the Logi and its light. The G5 on the other hand has some seriously cool weight stuff going on (which i first thought was so lame my heart almost stopped, a weight cartridge, yeah right) which as it turns out is incredibly useful to get that perfect feel. And its shaped like all the old Logi mice. But something thats *really* useful is that you can see what dpi you are using, it saves time when you running around in games when it counts. Of course being a lamearse Logitech fanboy i got the G5. Then the next problem, these are laser mice, new shit. Mousepads(mats?) dont like em. Do a fancy search and you will find forum posts about how that icemat doesnt work and then a post underneath explaining how it does. Weee, funny how they dont let you take a bunch home to try :)After a fuckload of reading it seemed like cloth ones work, that made me order a Steelpad QCK+. The + stands for rediculous size, its 45*40cm (thats 17.7*15.7in for you in the 3rd world) there is a normal sized one too since this large one is just too big (or so i thought until i tried out some really low sense for sniping). But the important bit: it seems to work flawlessly with the G5.
Now since neither of the laser mice are exactly cheap do i think it was worth it? Fuck yes, the differance from the old one is biblical in its proportions. The ability to change dpi is so useful its scary and the movement is smoother than a freshly waxed ass. That said, i wouldnt get one if i had a 518.

Tuesday 14 February 2006

Skype on your cellphone [Spiny]

This looks a bit cool. Presumably only available to our puritanical ex colony dwellers, but still, very nice all the same.

Sunday 12 February 2006

Telly [Am]

Currently Chateau Amnesia is undergoing a little rennovation in the east, west, south and north wings downstairs. Sad as it may seem and call us bonkers if you will, the tri-partite floral wallpaper, artexed ceilings, economy lighting and the blue flowery carpet had to die. With extreme prejudice.
So there's cables hanging everywhere and shortly some wood floors go down. After that, fuck me, we might get really c-r-a-z-y and buy some sofas. Any sort of shit could happen.
One thing that occurs is the room which many member of 't' Death will think of as the 'Lan Room' is going to get turned into an adult sitting room. Sofas and large vases filled with dildos and lube you say? No, simply the place we retreat to when the family room has been trashed into the middle of next week.
So we need another telly. And obviously if we're gonna do it proper, we're thinking it should be flatscreen on the wall. But I must admit as much as I can look at sites like the european imaging awards site and lust after the Pioneer that won the plasma awards, I'm reasonably baffled by the difference between Plasma and LCD, HDTV and errr not. Would someone like to explain to me what the dickens is going on and any thoughts on a good direction to take?

Thursday 2 February 2006

Islam and cartoons [Lurks]

So in essence, some newspapers published satirical cartoons featuring the prophet mohammed. Islam prohibits any depiction so muslims are up in arms and I mean properly up in arms. Surrounding embassies in the west bank, burning Danish, Norwegian and French flags in Pakistan calling for the death of those nations. Now the Danish paper that printed these cartoons really just didn't comprehend that it would cause such widespread offense. Why should they? They're not in a muslim country. Rightly, they apologised for any offense but that's the limit of it and rightly their prime minister welcomed the apology but said that there's no way they'd censure the paper, they value free speech like any modern civilisation does.
This is all quite bad enough but what is even more baffling to me was that the publisher of a French newspaper sacked the editor for printing a satirical cartoon which was as innocuous as depicting jesus and some other religious figures on a cloud saying "It's alright Mohammed, we've all be satirised too." France is actually one of the most militants countries in Europe about seperating state and religion - hence the furore over religious garments in schools - so this is doubly baffling. Of course the publisher was half Egyption...
No doubt we'll hear all sorts of words about how these people don't represent all muslims etc but I'm actually really growing tired of forcing myself to be sympathetic with this religion. They've always had a humorless austere approach to everything. I'm told it's supposed to be about compassion but where's the evidence of that? The vast bulk of Islamic nations appear to be all about telling people what to think and do. Even within our own country time and time again Islamic groups think nothing of on one hand demanding various rights for themselves but on the other hand advocating the banning of books which they don't personally like.
What we're talking about now is the fact that their religion has certain values which simply are not compatible with modern civilisation. Concepts like equality of the sexes, free speech and so on are framed in our very laws but it seems you're alright to rebel against that by hiding behind some religion. Christianity and all the others have done worse in their times, we all know, but at least they've kind of moved in some kind of attempt to embrace modern values where as Islam increasingly seems to represent a way of thinking that died out in the stoneage.
We're talking about official complaints from their governments to the governments of Europe. Saudi Arabia has recalled their ambassador. This is just HUGELY rich coming from these countries where god only knows what sort of horrendous activities they engage in we object to deeply but don't suddenly start baying for blood and recalling our ambassadors. Perhaps we should?
On the bright side at least some muslims appear to be able to rise above the strict interpretation of their neanderthal religious claptrap. Editor of of a Jordanian newspaper called al-Shihan said:

"What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

Damn straight, you don't see the fuckers up in arms when muslims are committing horendous acts of barbarism in the name of their religion but hey, someone draws an amusing sketch of the prophet and it's a major International relations issue.
Of course the problem with my argument is assuming that logic plays any part in this.

Beard and sandals to go! [Lurks]

Probably the longest running discussion of the relative merits and demerits of any particular genre of product, which I have engaged in on this web site, concerns various forms of broadband router. Cable, adsl, with/without wireless and so on. The problem is, domestic routers just aren't real cut out to do anything than handle a few people web browsing. I literally have a plastic crate full of routers that didn't make the grade. There's units in there that crash in five minutes after running a bittorrent client, there's one that actually crashes if you FTP in (that one is hilarious, it's great otherwise) and many others that will crash or slow to a snail, almost all of them in fact, after a few days of heavy torrents and so on.
Moving out of London, I was faced with dumping my 10mb cable modem (boo!) and picking up yer bog standard 2Mb ADSL. Importantly this is a work connection to, since I work from home, and I was planning for the addition of a proper IP phone. I'll blog that one later. So what I needed was something industrial, something with QoS so I could assign bandwidth to the IP phone so it wouldn't break up when I'm using the net for other stuff.
There's something I probably need to explain first. Cable modems are basically 10mb modems which have a software throughput limiter built-in. This is great because when you load a web page, it often bursts out on all those http fetches at full 10mb speed before the software says woah there jimmy, you're too tight for the full 10mb service, I is gonna cap you to some arbitrary figure your ISP has decided is worth the earth money you have agreed to pay them. ADSL isn't like that. ADSL is a pipe of a fixed width. What this means is that it's not possible to burst some data out to clear the data queue, your data has to wait in the queue until it can be sent - even if in total your throughput is well under your actual bandwidth. What does this mean Captain Manwaring? It means that even though you're only downloading at a speed much less than your total bandwidth, the latency or delay of the data getting through, goes up. It goes up a lot. Don't panic! We'll return to this later.
Getting back to the story at hand, I needed something industrial as I said so I ordered a top-of-the-line Draytek Vigor 2800. I kept my old Linksys cable modem with it's fancy three-way MIMO wireless, and just retasked that to be a wireless access point - thereby attaining the best of both worlds. Now, first thing. The Draytek is good. I mean proper good. It not only does port mapping and stuff, it has port mapping and open port ranges for specific IPs so you'll never run out of anything. It's a proper ADSL2+ router so futureproof also, when BT finally get around to rolling that out nationally. However the big deal is the Draytek has QoS, proper QoS and I mean it's ninja it really is. I defined groups via IP services/ports and groups via IP address, assigned a fraction of the bandwidth to them so the wife's work PCs had their allocation, the office IP phone had an allocation and life should be pretty good.
It wasn't enough. Nothing I could do would make the IP phone work without breaking up even when an upload torrent was going at a measly 30% of downstream bandy. World of Warcraft was 2000+ ms pings and having recently got the wife into WoW, I faced the absurd situation where I have my better half actually complain to me about downloading something because she can't play games. Clearly this would not do. I tore my hair out for some time speaking to the folks at Draytek. In the end I simply came to believe that the Draytek had too large a buffer on the ADSL modem side of things and that QoS ultimately was for nowt. What I needed was a new beast, what I needed was traffic shaping. Y'all go read that link because I can't be arsed to explain it in detail here but in essence, traffic shaping introduces several queues rather than one and you prioritise traffic into those queues based on your own rules. Obviously the most important one goes first.
There are some domestic routers coming onto the market that do this stuff like D-Links gaming router but I was really beyond using some el-cheapo off the shelf solution, vast unsuccessful experience so far (points to the box of domestic routers) proving that basically they'll be some show stopper with this junk. I needed something industrialthat had traffic shaping. What I needed, what I have always needed but been too slack to sort out, is a Linux-powered gateway.
There's a couple of factors which swung me around to this way of thinking, firstly a quick exploration of ebay turned up a number of bargains to be had of older small form factor Compaq desktops which would be ideal for the purpase. The second, and most important factor, there are a number of CD bootable mini-distros which do all this shit off the bat. A by no means comprehensive list but that which I examined in my exploration includes: Smoothwall, IPCop and M0n0wall.
The great thing about these is you can just shove in a CD and give them a whack and if they don't work right or suck a bit, you can just try another one. Paraphrasing a somewhat lengthy investigative period, I settled on IPCop. Smoothwall didn't have trafficshaping functionality built-in, so I would have had to have bought a pair of sandals and a comedy beard in order to hack those onto it. M0n0wall looks pretty good but is a tiny BSD-based distro which boots directly off the images provided rather than installing to the HD of the unit. IPCop won out because it would format the HD and do a full install from a CD boot, had wonder shaper-based traffic shaping built-in and had support for an internal Connexant-based PCI card. That meant I could flog off the Vigor 2800 and have paid for everything and had cash left for drowning my sorrows at having to sink to such depths of geekery.
I tell you now, IPCop is the business it really is. It installs off CD in no time and actually has some nifty other stuff built-in which you may or may not use. However it wasn't all plain sailing. The PC is pretty old and crusty and I intially couldn't get a second NIC or the internal ADSL card to work at all. However being an old PC vet, I remembered what you had to do in order to make PCs work many years back. In essence I just needed to fuck about with the IRQs until it worked. I had a bit of a panic whereby I sort of got the el-cheap ADSL modem recognised and working but not actually working. In the end I sorted it out, mostly by doing your usual stuff involved in making Linux things work in my extremely limited experience, just messing about with stuff until it worked.
In the end it worked and it's really really good. The Compaq box and the ADSL card cost me about Ă‚£85 all inc with postage. I've got the Squid web proxy running on the box and bugger me if web browsing isn't very nippy indeed now, much like it was when I was on the 10Mb cable modem in my old gaff. I've got nifty traffic graphs, proxy graphs, proper logs off the firewall and of course as many goddamn mapped ports and stuff as I want. Most importantly of ALL, I have traffic shaping and I can report that my IP phone has been absolutely flawless since I set this all up.
A victory then. A sort of half-bearded thonged rather than sandaled victory but a victory nevertheless. The box itself is remarkably appliance like. The Compaq wont boot without a keyboard jacked into it but from power-on to the satisfyingly loud activation beep and the (excellent) web interface being available on the network takes just a matter of seconds and a few seconds following that, another beep indicates the ADSL link is up.
I have no hestitation about recommending this to others but I'm not surprised by how few people comparitively do. Arriving at this result came about through tentative glimpses of the odd obscure forum and blog post and a considerable leap of faith without recommendations from trustworthy sources.
So perhaps now the router graveyard will finally grow no further. This should do me for the conceivable future until such time as ADSL2+ comes along and I'll have to figure out how to support that. Most likely with the slightly-less-elegant addition of a NIC and an external ADSL modem but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.