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Thursday 25 January 2007

Martin Lewis saves the day...again [shedir]

I got a farcial bill off Scottish Power, I owed £140 and my monthly bill was rising from £60 to £130! All with no real usage pattern change, other than wifey using the washing machine / tumble drier FAR too often.
So I call em up and query it, turns out the meter guy 'inputted erroniously'. By 40,000 units of leccy. Blessing in disguise as I now had a close look at the bill. I had locked us into a fixed price after watching that End of suburbia documentary.
In the intervening three years electricity with Scottish power had went from 6.873 to 9.810, Gas from 1.243 to 2.497!!! No wonder my bill jumped, I think they were trying to claw back the savings I'd made.
50% on electric and 100% on gas, truly they are robbing bastards of the highest orders. At least dick turpin left your carraige.
energy helpline took my usage details and pricing and spat out that switching to npower will save £560 a year. All without having to leave my precious pc chair, not too bad eh.
But this link was provided by the fantastic

Monday 22 January 2007

World of Warcraft : The burning crusade [shedir]

Well it's out and we've scoured the new continent, now the initial flurry of love has worn off how are we finding the expansion to WoW?
The quests are a godsend in the initial area, so many of them and even a bit of variety in how they're accomplished. Mind you the only example I have is using the griffins as bombers which was an easy quest but at least employed something new.
Using the third dimenion has been overdue and can only hope that there's an instance where you need a flying druid to hit a gong or something ;)
I'm enjoying TBC, xp fairly rattles in and there's no shortage of stuff to do. The 5 man instance isn't overly difficult and completes nice n quickly as well but is still fun.
The new kit is slightly mystifying, at least to me, so I've got loads of stuff and need to evaluate whats best for itemrack usage.
It does seem easy though, solo-ing is possible without too much hassle and thats for a useless healbot like myself. Obviously if you group you churn through stuff nothing new there.
The zones themselves are nicely detailed, with plenty of screenshot material as you travel. Multiple flight points per zone also make a lot of sense and no more SV like trapsing about.
Caught between gaining the levels or pounding the instances for better kit is a concern, but I'm happy enough doing mainly quests and an instance if it pops up.
How's everyone else feeling about the expansion? Glad it's more of the same but tweaked or feeling a bit let down by the lack of change?

Saturday 13 January 2007

Barbershop Inertia [drdave]

I have Barbershop Inertia. I realised this at 8am this morning as I staggered, zombie-like, onto the local mass-transit system in order to travel all the way across south London to get my manly mane trimmed by a familiar face. I had no need to undertake this ill-advised journey of course. I could just as easily have gone to Bev's Barbers down the road, or the inviting looking place with the three jolly Italians around the corner. But I have Barbershop Inertia, so these convenient tonsorial artists are forever out of my reach.
What is it, I wonder, that causes such fervent loyalty to this most generic of professions? I will gladly cast aside a general practitioner when I relocate, and I have no qualms about securing the services of a more local dentist, but when it comes to the subject of my personal coiffeur I am resolutely single minded. I will happily write-off entire mornings, undertake lengthy and perilous Frodo-esque journeys, and hide my secret shame from family and friends in order to avoid the inevitable "you travel how far..? for that...!?" quizzical inquiry.
I could maybe understand it, perhaps, if I was blessed with a more flamboyant head of hair. But barber science has not yet advanced to the stage where anything remotely flighty could be done with my barnet. Indeed, my main success criterion from such a trip is that my hair is measurably shorter when I leave and I have no visible scars. Nothing more. No fanciful highlights, or sculpted peaks and troughs for me, no sir, just a trim and I'll be on me way.
I think my Barbershop Intertia comes from the fact that it is difficult to find a forgiving and ambitionless snipper. One not hindered by notions of rescuing a lost cause, one who is content merely to maintain and not create! schmoosh! or bedazzle! Many a brash young barber has battled for long hours with my curious crown, my wayward fringe and the inevitable parting, thinking that they among their peers would be the one to tame the untameable. All fail though. I believe it is that look of abject disappointment and disillusionment I wish to avoid. The metaphorical sigh, removal of rubber gloves and the exhausted utterance: "time of death: 0915, there's nothing more we can do here".
Am I alone here? Is anyone else inexplicably attached to an inconvenient barbershop?

Friday 12 January 2007

The Komplett Caboodle [Am]

So, as members of the crosshatch mostly know, I am now about a week into my new 'puter which I purchased after christmas in a rush of blood to the head from so I thought I'd blog it up.
Erstwhile clan-leader, bread-product misclassifier and twin-worrier Slim had recommended Komplett as a kit site who have decided as their USP to offer said parts but to also offer their compilation into a working pc for basically nowt extra. How the economics work is up to them but I thought I'd give it a whirl rather than try to once again bribe / con / blackmail previously condusive clannies such as The Lurker and Mugwum into making me up stuff from parts at my gaff.
Given where we are in the big scheme of things, which is to say about 13 billion years into the whole gig or 6,419 years for those of you watching in The Truth Vision (hey! how are you? how are my favourite totally fucking mad people?) or more pertinently just a handful of months since Intel handed AMD their arse in a sling with the launch of the Core 2 Duo, I had one of those - the mid placed E6600. Other kit, to get it out the way, included 2 gigs of Corsair matched DDR2 ram, an Abit AW9-Max mobo, a couple of 320 gig barracudas, dvd drive and an XFX 8800 GTX gpu card. The latter, obviously a bit of a mental purchase but with being on the cusp of DX10 and Vista I decided that it was better to do this than purchase a pretty good card now for say 250 quid (you just *don't* buy a new puter and get a shit card do you? Do you??) and then post dx10 another pretty good card for the same when I could get an 8800 in now and save about a hundred quid. Wrapped it up in a fairly nice Coolermaster Wave case which I can't be arsed to take a pic of since you can look it up on the net and all my clannies will see it at LurkAn fairly soon. Tasteful blue LED stuff which somehow manages to be tasteful without suggesting that you are just one pubescence away from attacking the side of your case with a dremmel and installing neon cabling.
So a week in there's a couple of things worth mentioning. Obviously the Core 2 Duo spanks like nothing else as writ up by The Lurker on this here site. Oh lord is it fast. The 8800 is frankly just fucking mental. Games like Vegas, Oblivion and Company of Heroes have taken on a different quality due to the sheer pig-slaying framerate of the vid card. Vegas in particular is a fantastically atmospheric and enticing game with this sort of horsepower. Also worth a mention is that the normal desktop and photo quality of the imagery on this card is absolutely superb. Feel good about what's to come is my summary.
More than that though there are a couple of really cool things that I'd say about the sys. First off, Komplett themselves did a good job. The online site allows for multiple configurations (about 20 vid card selections for instance and about 6 mobo manufacturers with different mobos). I specced out a machine pretty much EXACTLY how I wanted it and the order tracking and delivery status through DHL Europe (shipped out of Holland) was excellent. Construction is good (especially considering the 8800 is literally the size of a video case and actually overhangs the hard drives) on what is acknowledged to be somewhat of a tight board. The slide out mobo tray on the CoolerMaster helps here. Only minor gripe is that they don't offer different cpu cooler options so it's stock all the way. I imagine this is a liability issue for them - why fit something exotic if, particularly, extra weight and stuff could cause damage in shipping - but big deal really; if you want something different get it in afterwards.
Big-cool thing - the Abit AW9-Max board. Dual gigabit lan, firewire, more usb 2 than you can shake an auditor at and a sexy top-of-the-case door which allows you to plug in headies and mic and some usb stuff too. It's also Quad Core compatible for that CPU upgrade in 18-24 months or so. More than that it has an Windows based utility called uGuru which allows you to overclock and adjust fan settings from within errr Windows without having to fuck with the Bios. 3 default profiles and 3 user profiles allow you to set things up just how you want. After a bit of experimentation and getting slightly annoyed with the cpu fan auto-throttling up and down like someone doing a scale on a demented (but quiet) bumble bee, I discovered that you can reduce the polling-time of the fan checking system to 10 seconds which makes it absolutely tolerable. More than that, for normal desktop work I have set one profile at a slight under-clock allowing for a very quiet working environment with the fan tooling around at about 800rpm (3000 max). For games, I experimented with an air-cooled totally standard fan clock from the standard 2.4ghz up to errr 3.1 ghz without the system appearing to have a care in the world. I haven't pushed it anymore because frankly it seems pointless. But these things just absolutely love it up 'em and don't blink. Fan is still only at about 2200 rpm out of 3.
And so it's a cracking system which I have to say comes in at a considerable saving. Obviously premium fast gaming pc sites are weighing in at high 2 thousands for a system like this. Mesh and Dell specc'd me up something with not such desireable elements in them for about 2,200. Komplett came in at 1,500 (bearing in mind always that the vid card is a big splash in this particular pond at 420 quid). So really it's a very good arrangement. You have to load the OS and all drivers and stuff yourself, so this is not for Retail Johnny but if I can do it, I suspect it holds no terrors for anyone who actually knows the difference between the pieces of kit I've mentioned. I finished off the pile with a G15 keyboard and a G7 mouse both of which have been absolutely great additions.
So end of report; Komplett are on the win for this and for one small temporary blissful period I have bragging rights. It never lasts long of course but I have to say, just for now, it's pretty damn sweet. I hope that Komplett can keep the economics compelling for them as this has been a great find. that that's done, come here and let me put a trilinear 16xFSAA 120fps bullet in your testicles.....

Sunday 7 January 2007

28! (well, in hex, cough) [Spiny]

What else do you do when you reach old chufferage?
Throw a pirate party of course!

Friday 5 January 2007

Name my LAN party! [Lurks]

We have a bit of a problem, my nick doesn't work very well with LAN tacked on the end like the other chaps. I tried anyway by calling it LurkAN. Did you see what I did there? Dropping the L on the end because there's one at the front. Still, most of you think it sucks so...
Let's get a poll going.
This is to name my LAN party in early Feb to be held on the Southern English coast in the house called Stormwind.

Wednesday 3 January 2007

Blast from the past anyone? [Am]

Hey this is a blast-from-the-past-and-a-half. As reported on Eurogamer, anyone fancy a bit of this later on this year? maxiumum rampage acshun
Happy days of 2001!

Monday 1 January 2007

Buying Printer "FUN" [Brit]

Remember Dixons? They were the folk who tried to sell me a USB cable when I was after a Firewire cable, because (in their own words) "USB and Firewire are the same thing innit?".
Anyway, Dixons got replaced with what is now known as Currys Digital - it's exactly the same, albeit they sell washing machines now and things you put sandwiches in.
Yesterday I had cause to pop in there, as we're looking for a bona fide photo quality printer to complement the Nikon D80 camera we've got. Eventually, I settled on the Epson and took the box to the cashier's desk. Here's how it went down:
ME "Hi, can I get this please (the printer) and I'll need to grab the ink cartridges too..." (it is worth pointing out at this stage that the printer takes 6 cartridges).
DRONE (starts the scanning process, reaching up and taking down 5 cartridges from the stand behind her). "That'll be...."
ME "Sorry, but you're a cartridge short. The printer takes 6, you've only given me 5 - you're missing the light blue one."
DRONE (turns to supervisor drone, a Vicky Pollard if ever there was one). "Do we have any of the light blue?"
SUPERVISOR DRONE "If it isn't there we 'aven't got it..." (turns to me).
Now, at this point, it is worth saying that:
a) This is a photo quality printer, that takes 6 cartridges.b) I've been given 5, and have said, I need 6.
ME "Ah ok, well it'll not work with only 5..." (there was some minor expectation at this point that one of the drones would check the stockroom. Foolhardy, I know).
SUPERVISOR DRONE "Yeah it will. It'll work with 5."
ME "How, exactly? It needs 6 cartidges, and there's only 5. We're missing the light blue one."
There is now a pause. New wheels begin spinning in the supervisor drone's head with visible effect. Mouth opens. Eyes become fixed.
SUPERVISOR DRONE "Yeah, it'll probably work with 5. You're not wanting to print out stuff in colour are you?"
ME "Erm, yes. Yes I am. "
I think at this point my expression must have summed up what I thought of drone, supervisor drone, and the question of whether or not I'd want to print anything in colour.
Following this, I put the box back and left - we went to John Lewis and found the printer and all the cartridges there.
Interestingly, they had a suited drone there who when asked if they had any cartridges for the Epson Colour Laser we have at home, picked up a Hewlett Packard laser cartridge, confessed he didn't know anything about it, confessed he didn't know what colour it was, but proceeded to offer it to us anyway.
I had to stand there and point out that the box said "Hewlett Packard" and my printer was an Epson. Pause. Mouth open. Eyes bcome fixed.
Is it just me, or am I expecting slightly too much from store staff these days - and lets be fair, the difference between Currys Digital and John Lewis is cosmic - and as such should simply be contented to live my purchasing life solely online?