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Thursday 26 July 2007

Modern times, how far have we come? [Shedir]

OK so we're now in a post industrial UK. Sad as that is. Though glad to see the Clyde yards won the contract to build two new warships.

How do you think attitudes have changed on things between our generation and this?

Most of my mates at home work in construction / manual type work. Welders, sparks etc... Good work/drink ethic top blokes.

Something which I clocked on the news last week was "roughly a third of all food bought is binned, which is creating a massive vermin problem". While I wasn't poor growing up I was strictly told to clean my plate and food was hard to come by.

Now we appear to be a post agricultural UK! Food imported majorly, farms paid to NOT til the fields and grow crops. Hit the supermarket and it's BOGOF this, 33% free that. I still eat the kids leftovers rather than bin them, which doesn't help the battle vs the bulge.

Anyone else still feel like this?

As a society we appear to be so blaise and lax, food hasn't been cheaper or more plentiful. Do we move towards top notch cuisine? Do we chuff, straight to lowest common denominator. Oven/Micro food for the masses. It's bloody depressing. I like cooking, but I dont' make my own sauces or that. Just try and get better quality pre-made ones.

It's sad, but what can you do? I'm trying to get the kids into cooking and they're enjoying it. But they don't eat stuff they don't like most of the time and because food is so cheap I just rattle up something else. But am just left with the feeling this is wrong.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

OLPC why not for us? [Slim]

Looks like the olpc laptop is ramping up to production:

bbc news

£60 quid laptop for third world kids. No moving parts, online, crankable battery, has a reflective lcd so it works in daylight. Superb, but why only for the third world. My kids school is buying macbooks for the kids, at a grand each. but they're short of cash so are buying them very gradually. Meanwhile the ICT Suite is being emptied to make room for another class meaning the kids without a laptop will have trouble getting access to a computer. Why?

Why not buy these, or even cheaper intel based laptops for £300-400 rather than overpriced mac tat?

Monday 23 July 2007

God's Own OS [Spiny]

  • Jesus: Beard, sandals.
  • Linux: Beard, sandals.

Coincidence? I think not.

Gay Men == Animals. In 2 Hours. [Brit]

Sunday night telly is usually shit. Inevitably, you realise you"re watching a re-run of Turner and Hooch on ITV2 or something involving white middle class fat people espousing their tiny brains on Issues Of The Day.
Last night promised to offer something slightly different; "Clapham Junction" was billed as a gay drama set in Clapham (and by this as we saw, they meant "anywhere within 4,000 miles of Clapham, depending on how the Director was feeling") and apparently lifting the lid on modern gayness and attitudes to same.
It took about 15 minutes before I realised this was anything but - its very difficult to describe what exactly was going through the author/director/production team"s mind but I can only assume it was large quantities of meta-amphetamines.
Lets break down the characters, and the message associated with each:
  • Gays play string instruments to hide their sexual orientation! - Skinny violin playing black kid. Looked about 14, and contributed nothing to the entire ensemble other than the vague notion that he was being intimidated by other kids because of his penchant for cat gut and Nigel Kennedy CDs. Appeared twice in the whole two hour production with zero integration with any other character or indeed any individual character development.
  • Gay men are filthy animals with no morals! - Gay couple get married in a civil ceremony in what appeared to be Somerset House. Minutes after exchanging vows, Groom #1 is hitting on a member of the waiting staff. Minutes later, they"re in the pantry snorting drinking champers, snorting coke off pedestal bases whilst Groom #1 goes for the whole "Hows Your Father?". Waiting staff breaks it off and leaves, Groom #1 goes back to Groom #2 who immediately asks for the coke.
  • Gay teenagers suck pens when they can"t suck cock! - Skinny dead-eyed white kid, no older than 15, starts eyeing up some heroin-chic bloke in the school library; a bloke who is clearly double his age. Suggestive biro sucking and glances end in frustration as the older guy leaves.
  • Gay men are mentally unbalanced and ultra violent! - Paul Nichols (don"t ask) meets a skinhead in a club, there is a passing reference to piss and they retire to the latter"s appallingly decorated apartment which looks like seconds from last season"s IKEA bargain basement. Paul Nichols (don"t ask) makes up a lie about his mum and proceeds to batter the shit out of the skinhead and whilst our balding homo lies on the floor all bloodied up, Paul Nichols (don"t ask) takes an enormous piss on him; before saying "I hate the fucking Pet Shop Boys" and leaving.
  • Getting fucked in a toilet is normal, especially for closest homos! - Harley Street Doctor phones wife and says he is going to be late to a dinner engagement. Working late he says, before sidling off to a toilet in Clapham Common and engaging in a spot of glory hole blow-jobbing followed by a violent lubricant free cubicle fuck. He"s clearly working out his issues, and just as things come to a climax the waiter from the wedding comes in.
  • Gay men can"t run! And then get beated up and killed! - Waiter is accosted in the toilets after having a wry smile to himself (he sees the closet homo above in the cubicle as his beau leaves, post coitus. Waiter runs out of the toilets and then bizarrely starts running across Clapham Common. Anyone who knows the area knows that the exit from the toilets isn"t onto the Common, it is straight into Clapham Common shopping area/main road/traffic lights. So he gets teleported, chased down and beaten up.
  • Gay teenagers so driven for sex they seduce paedos! - Biro sucking dead-eyed teenager happens to live right opposite his library co-reader, who also happens to be a paedo and lives in a burnt out flat (what the fuck ??). Teenager pops over, gets into burnt out flat and after a few fags and some Carling Black Label, is busy climbing aboard the paedo-express for a return journey to Sausage City.
  • Gay men are evil and let other gay men die. But not before they"ve robbed them! - Paul Nichols (don"t ask) attempts to seduce yet another fat bald man on a park bench, fails, and stumbles across the waiter who is behind a bush and all bloodied up. Paul Nichols (don"t ask) nicks his ring and then shifts - waiter boy dies in hospital later, following some ridiculous white middle class tete-a-tete during a dinner party.

  • Thats it, in a nutshell. It was pathetic. Indescribably shameful in its approach, delivery and execution. Fundamentally awful at all levels, and so full of utter fantastical bullshit it should have had "Harry Potter And The: " prefixed to the title. The author, the Commissioning Editor of Channel 4, and indeed anyone involved in bringing this heap of crap to life should be taken to Clapham Junction and pushed in front of the nearest GNER service.

Saturday 21 July 2007

Ubisoft sucks [Beej]

Back in 2004 (ish) we the clan of the leet were so frustrated banging our heads against the wall with Ubisoft, that I started but never finished not just a blog but a website about why they were pissing us off so much.
At the time it was their failings in their creation of the PC versions of Raven Shield and the mission pack Athena Sword. We also played Ghost Recon at the time, but now that its 2007 we've got GRAW and GRAW2 and all that funky modern consolesque shiznaz.
So with the release of GRAW2 for PC comes the usual ubisoft laziness. Is that too harsh? Maybe its incompetence then. Either way, its institutional at Ubisoft because as this blog will show, they've been churning out bug-ridden PC games for years.
Strap yourselves in, here we go.


Mitchell is back, and surely this time he's bug free? Ubisoft have been doing these games for years now! Of course not. This game has bugs and whimsical patches just like everything else Ubisoft ever do on the PC. So, the game itself is relatively bug free. But not completely, oh no. We couldn't have that.
  • During co-op multiplayer, when someone (re)spawns, be they Tango or player, they may (at random) be spawned on the wrong team, and will hence start shooting at their buddies with wild abandon.
  • Of course, Aegea PhysX is present once again in all its previous glory. And of course, it handles errors with all its previous aplomb, that is to say none.

However, there is of course a bigger problem. It's the year 2007 right? So, you'd expect that multiplayer via the interwebnet would just work? I mean even the console peons have managed it. Oh no. Let us count the woes:
  • Approximately 20 million ports need to be forwarded if you want to set up a server. (Compare this to say, 1, for a well-made modern game)
  • uPNP, while evil, was supposed to be a way for peons to get around having to know what TCP and UDP ports were - in GRAW 1, uPNP worked. In GRAW 2, it simply doesn't. (Or rather, it looks like it creates a uPNP entry for the game port, but not for the master server polling port?)
  • A clanny couldn't join an internet game that two other clannies had joined successfully - just timed out ad infinitum.
  • If you're playing the SP campaign co-op, then you have up to 10 missions to play, right? So you have 10 mission briefings, during which you'd expect people to be able to join, if there are free slots right? Not so. If you don't join before the first mission, you can't join at all.
  • player names locked in LAN games (nearly forgot this one. It took until patch 1.05 before players could change player names. WHY? IS? THIS? NOT? TESTED? It's laziness, that's what it is)

It just beggars belief that in this day and age, having paid money for a game, it's easier to set up Hamachi and play via a VPN than to go through a games inbuilt hosting/server browser.


Yes, the better-on-Xbox game that came out in 2006 was a resurgence in Ubisoft laziness/incompetence. We were reminded of how dumb we were to buy a game that ultimately punishes you.
  • Won't work with virtual cd software (See Blog 1028)
  • can't select your screen resolution (But it does if you edit an XML file! Lazy shits. See Blog 1028)
  • You will install Aegea PhysX. (You will install it and you will enjoy it. It will sit in your system tray so that you can enjoy the incredible real world physics of a carelessly discarded cans of coke kicked around Zoccalo Plaza by your team of elite operatives in the heat of battle)
  • "Mitchell! Mitchell! We got a Captain down in Zoccalo Plaza..." (if they even tested this game they'd realise that this is tedious after the second or third time, let alone tenth or twentieth)
  • Cameras on a UAV cannot be controlled! (That's right. The US Department of Defense spends millions of dollars on floating trashcan UAVs but you have to cross your fingers that the flying trashcan UAV will actually look in the direction you want it to. Like I dunno, ooooh, in the direction of the frickin' bad guys. It just can't look right now ok? It's looking at that pile of planks. It'll look at your patrolling terrorist by accident if you're very very lucky)

Rainbow Six Raven Shield and Athena Sword

First of all, the really bad stuff that Ubi did all the time, without fail, because they presumably just didn't prioritise it.
  • Patching Athena Sword (This was a nightmare that sapped your will to live. Its a mission pack. But it doesn't like the patch that you're already running on Raven Shield. So you've got to reinstall that. Then you patch Athena Sword, and it does stuff. Then you have to patch it again. And then again. And I think it was again? Ubisoft just didn't care about the end user)
  • the virtual cd fiasco (if you had daemontools or similar virtualcd device driver running, the game would just not start, possibly silently)
  • "please enter your cd key" (The best bug of them all. This lasted for months because Ubisoft just hadn't done any adequate testing of online play. You installed the game, went through PATCH HELL, then every time you tried to play online it would forget your CD key and you had to get the box and type in WTFU-FCKI-NG-AZZ-H0L3S every time. And no, this wasn't fixed until about 5 patches later)
  • playing online with (It hurt a lot. It was awful)
  • no linux server (they just couldn't be bothered, so the game was never as readily available as a Quake/HL server, and its one of many reasons why the online experience died quickly)
  • "please insert the correct CD-ROM and restart the application" (You've paid for the game, installed the game, patched the game, installed the mission pack, patched the mission pack, but that's not good enough for Ubisoft. You are the end user and you will pay for your incompetence)

Next, our old list of things that should work when you buy the game. You'd think. But no, this is Ubisoft, so several patches later and they still don't work.
  • The chasecam doesn't lean (watch your teammate look and fire through a wall)
  • Autopatcher doesn't autopatch (that's right, it didn't work)
  • Two subway maps (was this map mismatches? it may have been. I forget the intricacies of Ubi at work)
  • Crates! (maps full of templated warehouses full of motherfucking crates. Under guard by terrorists. Sigh)
  • watched your handcuffed arse (so playing online, you'd get handcuffed, and then that's it, you spend the rest of the game looking at your arse, in handcuffs. Can't complain about the level of thought that went into testing that eh?)
  • thermal scopes that don't see heat sources, oops! (yes, that's right, when they finally implemented a thermal scope in the series, it was such a bad implementation that hot things weren't hot. Like fires. Or cars. Or in fact, anything except people)
  • L85/SA80 doesn't actually have a burst mode (Yes, that's a Googleable fact. Just implement every single rifle with a burst fire mode like an M16 rifle okay Ubi? No-one will notice in this sort of game I'm sure)

Friday 20 July 2007

Russian attitude to the UK [Lurks]

As of writing interesting things have happened in the ongoing saga ofthe poisoning of Alexander Livinenko and the subsequent escalation oftensions between the UK and British governments. I don't have much toadd to that which isn't self evident by the news coverage but I wastaken by this particularpiece in the English-language Kommersant, a Russian onlinenewspaper which gives a pretty good insight into Russian thinking onthe ground.
I immediately noted this except from the opening paragraph:

"In essence, London has begun an information war aimedat convincing the European Union to voice more decisive support forthe UK in its conflict with Russia."

That's clearly absurd. The British government simply doesn't have theability to mobilise the British press for any such aim, our pressdoesn't work like Russian press does and I think they'd do well toremember that.
Yet for the seemingly out of place headline the whole article ispretty well written and isn't hysterical or overtly toeing someRussian propaganda line. However it does seem to make that commonmistake I see with a lot of commentary out of Russia. Their assumptionis basically that because a particular story is in 'the British media'then it forms the basis of a British campaign, in this case todemonise Russia and obtain sympathy from the rest of Europe to actagainst Russia. It is, of course, complete and utter nonsense. Thereis no united front of British media.
Here's a relevant bit:

"This diplomatic stance by the British authorities iscurious, given that the leaks to the press came from MI6 and the RAF,both government entities. In any case, these leaks achieved at leastone goal: they helped consolidate British publicopinion..."

The central idea here is that if the British press found out about anydevelopment concerning Russia from a governmental agency, then theleak of this information must be the result of an underhand policy ofthe British government. This is of course utter nonsense. We have anactive free press in this country and they have a great many sourceswhich wont be official lines of communication. Of course that doesn'tmean these *weren't* deliberate leaks, but Kommersant infersthat this could only be the case.
I found the article interesting because it seems a pretty well writtenand thought out analysis albeit with one or two common Russianmisconceptions about how things work in the West. Then it seems tohave been sexed up with the hysterical headline (Britain sounds AirRaid Warning) and with a claim that it's all part of a propagandacampaign. You can almost see the copy coming in and then being editedin this way by the newspaper fearful of their position in the tenuousRussian media industry.

Monday 16 July 2007

Fuck Fasthosts. Fuck them. [Brit]

Title says it all. Fuck Fasthosts and their useless pile of shit service.
A while ago they changed the way in which you could cancel domain registrations (you know, usual routine - 30/60 day notice and a link you can click to take you to login and domain management for cancellation etc when a domain is near expiry)... and replaced it with one that was specifically intended to make it more tedious to stop a domain renewal. I'm serious; its a fucking labour to get through and stop this shower of shit billing you yet more.
Anyhow, I put up with that, because its a hassle to move what I currently host with Cretins Inc.. Given today's jolly japes, I'm now changing my mind to "fuck it you utter tossers, I'll undergo the pain if only to get my stuff off your tossing crap-ola systems. Anyhow, I digress...
Earlier this afternoon, their entire operation went off air. I mean the lot; from, to, and not forgetting the 60 or so sites run via 250 so domains I maintain a legacy reseller account for.
The whole lot, gone. Forget logging into any support mechanism, because you couldn't. Indeed, 6 hours on and you STILL can't. Phone support not picking up, customer service department gone home...
They're still fucking down too. Whoopee the tosspot brochureware site is back up, but you can't login - random errors abound all over the place, from SQL to unspecified.
As soon as I get through to some monkey tomorrow (because lets face it, tonight isn't going to happen) I'm cancelling everything.
This is 2007 for fucks sake, not 1807. How fucking hard can it be to keep your systems up and ensure you're communicating exactly what the fuck is going on to the people who like me are chucking you north of £60 a month.
Money grabbing useless motherfuckers! GAH!

Saturday 14 July 2007

Wet With Anticipation [Spiny]

As we bake in the 12 hours that is the traditional British summer, news of this years hot games comes from E3 etc.
  • UT3 (November). It's UT! Shiny Floors! Headshots! New Onslaught!
  • TF2! (and LH2 ep2 ;)). Incredible!(s)
  • Call Of Duty 4. Not WW2!
  • Crysis
  • Bioshock. Cor.
  • Gears Of War. Extra content over the breakbox 360, Windows Live support & all under XP.
  • Hellgate London. Monstars!
  • Clive Barker's Jericho. Scary!
  • Also ran: QW:ET, if it's anything like the beta it's poo. I hope they fix it

What's your hot list?...
(If you say Halo3 I may rupture my spleen laughing)

Friday 13 July 2007

Has man's Inner Nerd hit critical mass [Shedir]

It's not often you can say you were a bit visionary, but I'm surprised how many of my nerdy passions as a wean have been taken onboard by the masses.
Video Gaming is the obvious one, the ridicule I got at school over playing games. I reckon they were just jealous of my Spectrum mind you, never mind my uber activision cartridge space inaders / pong sexy box.
Then there's sci-fi, ffs every other TV series seems to incorporate that now without a second thought. Matrix like films about, all making money at the box office.
Then ultra saddo stuff from my youth fantasy as a genre that was one which got folk a good kicking. Ursula le Guen in your schoolbag and you were going again' the wa' at high speed. Now every kid is into Potter and the parents don't object to seeing it either!
Now I was a pen n paper RPGer too at school, amazing how much time you had to fart about back then, while thats still not mainstream MMORPG's are! EQ/Warcraft etc.., millions of folk enjoying RPG stuff online, never mind the big single player games for PC and consoles.
Then there's comics! Good god, OK comics you didn't really get grief for at school. But walking into the pub for your lasagne and a couple of pints on a sat afternoon is normal. But when I came in with 10 marvel comics and some sci-fi books the initial reaction was one of "ya fanny".
Now all these people are quite happily gobbling up x-men / hulk / bat & spider-man films quite happily.
Of course working in IT was another thing that got odd reactions 20 years ago, "Pete the typist" was my moniker from the pub football team. Most of whom now have PC's and regard me as some tehcno-whizz when I have to recover their shitboxes from their fumblings.
Appreciate your inner nerd and be happy in the knowledge that one day the masses will come to love theirs too.

Friday 6 July 2007

A little Pop Vox [Am]

In my motor, my planet killing motor what tools up and down between the seaside and the smoke on a five sevenths a week basis is a cd thing. The cd thing has 6 flavours of music onna disc wiv a laser. Innit.
So I thought I'd possibly precee what's going on in the 15 hours a week I spend en chariotte and the sounds I listen to at the moment. Frequently I am driven there, to the CD selection, by the endless misery of the agenda of Radio 4; nicely presented sure enough but also depressingly so. As an aside - John Humphries - you are an intelligent enough bloke for a media-type (which is to say if you're bright, you don't generally end up as a presenter - sorry luvs!) but listening to you being cynical to *everyone* you interview even when, frequently, you attack people representing *both* sides of an argument, gets too depressing. Impartiality is a journalistic pre-requiste hopefully - but adopting the other side's arguments and trying to put them across as a devastating Paxmanesque argument when you've just done exactly the same to the opposite side makes you sound like some bipolar manic you want to pour half a pint of gin and tonic inside of. Ahem.
So. Music. Currently my line up looks like this. John Coltrane - A Love Supreme, CSS - Cansai der Ser Sexy, The Twang - Love It When I Feel Like This, Manic Street Preachers - Send Away the Tigers, Biffy Clyro - Puzzle, Stone Roses - Best Of.
The short form follows;
John Coltrane - it's a classic. The lack of compression or mastering can produce some nasty spikes in listening volume but it's a classic. Love or hate, it's all done. Listen and stroke your goaty while clicking your fingers at the cool cats you are leaving in your right-hand-lane
CSS. A very very interesting proposition at close listening. It's almost gloriously wayward between fantastic and fairly errr *what*. If you sequenced the best four tracks on this album in order, I think you'd think you had come across some *seriously* good new combination of Talking Heads, indie cool-chick chic with a little Bjork voice and some fantastic song writing. Once inna generationally good as it were. I'm thinking Patins, Let's Make Love from Above, Off the Hook, Alcohol. However, other tracks can be fucking awful which suggests to me a talent finding its way. They are very young and brazilian which must argue for a hell of a fight to get international recognition. Don't be surprised if they either zero or blow up HUGE on the next album. Outside bet - a very significant band in the making.
The Twang - what a funny album. It's a band with schizoid tendencies. The first two tracks have a serious debt to The Edge, all echo-back guitars and pretty good vocal hooks. Reminds me of a band with an 18 year old guitarist who is SO comprehensively ripping off his idols it's really quite blush-worthy. But then the rest of the album starts getting quite interesting. The band is fairly, let's make that TOTALLY, confused in song-writing styles in a way that record labels didn't used to let happen. It's sort of U2, then a bit Hard-Fi but which is really only then a staging post to Mike Skinner i.e. The Streets tales of fucking and fighting with a healthy dose of Happy Mondays / Stone Roses vibes thrown in. Weird. Might end up quite liking this or hating it. I'm really surprised they made it out without a record company A&R chopping it to pieces. On reflection, despite this being a hit and miss affair, that variation is probably a healthy barometer of A&R approach these days in some shops.
Manic Street Preachers. Oh dear. This is Manic by numbers. I mean, your average Manics album can hit you like a Chinese takeaway - a good idea at the time, decent on the menu, appetising to the eye but then curiously leaving you hungry shortly thereafter. This isn't even that good. Bassist Nicky Wire said it's a "glossy punk album". It's not - it's Manics sounding tired apart from when Neena from the Cardigans picks them up on the single. The second track repeats 'this one's for the freaks' for all the hardworn Manics fans. If they'd done it aged 21 with Richie writing the lyrics it would have been ok. As a bunch of mid to late 30's sounding pissed off with a very lame melody and unconvincing Bradfield vocal delivery and the usual (sorry - *always* very very average drumming from Sean), it's frankly embarassing. This band used to say they wanted to make an 'Appetite for Destruction' killer. This wouldn't make your granny cough.
Biffy Clyro. I have a love affair with nearly-great bands. A perennial weakness for veeringly challenging the almost fantastic.... The first track here has a full orchestra, full choir and massive guitars with a great hook line and the old Nirvana / Pearl Jam half-speed chorus trick. This track is the epitome of the fine line between great and stupid and teeters right on that line like no other I've heard in recent history. It's stupid-great :) . The rest of the album is variable. The band are studiously 'not playing the game' as you can see on their youtube vids with big beards despite being lean and not bad looking. Oh well lads - up to you :) . You do realise appealing to the girls could make the difference between Quite Nice and Kwik Fit in your late 30's right?
Stone Roses - Best Of. I think this is a real classic. Funnily enough I bought the original Stone Roses the week it came out and hated it aged 17 I believe. Hating an album seems to me to be a decent minority barometer of the fact I might absolutey love it later. What a shame John Squire had a wank-fest-noodle over the whole of the Second Coming album; if you listen to it thinking 'if he didn't solo over all the singing, this could be quite good' you'd be exactly right.
So that's the listening in the car reet now. Listening in the motor is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you are going to get next, whether it's going to be a caramel delight or a lemon cream and whether, old chums, it'll get smeared all over your sticky face at 90mph......