Friday, December 30, 2011

Just Chillin'

Been back since Tuesday now and I think I've pretty much got the "only be awake during night hours" thing sorted now.

That's something I seem to be very good at in holiday periods. I seem to work off a daily cycle that works out to about 26-27 hours a day. The day is literally too short for someone who likes to stay up really late in games or forum surfing but still needs 7-8 hours of sleep in the average day. I blame highly addictive games - they don't take anything out of you physically so you just keep on going playing them. It doesn't help when those addictive games are broken up into phases of activity, where "just one more" kicks in ...

It's been a Steam holiday sale period and while I haven't gone berzerk with getting stuff, I've grabbed a few bargains ...

Space Pirates And Zombies - yep. Bought this before from Impulse/Gamestop but I actually bought it again for a couple of £ from Steam. Why ? I remember it being a really good game ... Which it is.

Plus I really didn't want to install the Impulse/Gamestop client on my new machine. Something to do with them insisting on sending over lots of offers which I couldn't do anything with because they were for the wrong market. It's also unnecessary software, which is Bad. Never let software on a machine if you're not intending to get full value out of it. It's not the software you intend to buy that tends to cause issues, it's the baggage that comes with it. Like a certain freebie antivirus program that wanted to install the Yahoo toolbar (no ta) or one of the bits of software that came with the new machine wanting to inflict the Zynga button on me all the time.

Uhhh - sidetracked again ...

Terraria's an interesting little game. It's a sideways scrolling platformer based in a procedurally generated (always different and random but based on rules) persistent world that your character inhabits. Simplicity tends to be King in terms of good game play and this one really hits the mark with ease of figuring out what's going on. Ok, the crafting system and "What do I actually do here ???" need quite a bit of looking up to figure it out but the gameplay proves you don't need killer graphics to make a highly playable game.

In fact, as a Neverwinter Nights addict, I much preferred the simple NWN1 graphics and playstyle to NWN2. I could never get into NWN2, although hardware and software issues (it was the last game I tried on my last machine before realising the Windows XP install on there was terminally broken) didn't help me there.

I'll see how deep I get into Terraria. There's hidden depths there just begging to be whacked at with a pickaxe. Or a hamdrax. Terraria is built as a multiplayer game but also has solo options. I first became aware of it through the TotalBiscuit & OMFGCata series on Youtube. They have an absolute blast streaming that game exploring their world, although they never seem to achieve anything ...

Next up is Mount & Blade - Warband. This one has you riding around on horseback introducing bad guys to pointy objects. It's on a Totalbiscuit recommendation, not that convinced I'll spend that much time in this one but I thought I'd give it a try.

Star Wars Old Republic wasn't from the Steam sale but it's been getting some play time now that it has gone on general release. I like this one, although I've not done much group stuff yet (outside of the beta). The guild we hoped to have just didn't happen so I've been playing solo and so far resisting overtures to get me into Gutted Ewok. I'm just a little choosy over who I band together with. Conversely, World of Warcraft got cancelled. Dunno if I'll miss that, it just doesn't have the same challenge that got me interested in it all those years ago. Too much pandering to the wrong part of the playerbase has made it lose something.

Not spoken to many real people since getting back.

I have ventured outside the house (Wednesday) to go bargain hunting at the Mall. Also needed supplies ... Spookily a song called Communication has just come up on iTunes DJ. I like being around people, although Wednesday was definitely too much of that. The Mall is a very busy place at the moment and the crowding on Wednesday was triggering the "get out of here now" instincts.

So much so that I came home for coffee + munchie instead of hanging around overpriced places at the Mall. Didn't even do a peek in PC World for keyboards (the new one has got the sack after "key hit nothing happened" issues in a second game).

I guess it's not so much being around people in general but being around people you like. Facebook is one tool for keeping in touch with people you like but it's a bit like shouting into a crowd sometimes. That said, I've not put much in the way of status updates on there lately. The typical FB status doesn't tend to fit the Wall Of Text I like to do. I'm missing people but not enough that I want to be back at work yet.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Back again

Tinkering done,

Xmas dinners (multiple) eaten

No presents this year alas (we've run out of things to get), although I'll get myself something with cash from my nan.

Lots of driving (the Volvo is mostly forgiven). 550 miles in mine plus however many we did in the Volvo.

Bit more weight lost (despite the multiple Xmas dinners)

Tired now. Although that won't stop me raiding supermarket and sales tomorrow or Thursday. Kinda missed Tesco today, I don't think it would have been good turning up with only half an hour or so to go until early closing.

Back to the games later, the only game I've had a go of over the last few days has been OpenTTD. That's a rewrite/remake of an old classic, Transport Tycoon Deluxe. I'll head back into SWTOR later when I've caught up on some telly.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hibernation time - almost

Started my Xmas leave today.

It was supposed to be tomorrow but a long period without bugs has caught up with me so I took today off ahead of a few days of travelling 150 mile + each day. Yep - Sleepy's on tour ...

Kinda. It's actually a cunning plan to make sure we have an Xmas dinner.

Trip 1 - up to see the parents. Hopefully the iPod will cooperate and give me tunes all the way. (I'll have the cd player ready if it doesn't)
Trip 2 - pick up munchies for Sunday
Trip 3 - take munchies to Sister's place on the Saturday
Trip 4 - take dog to Sister's place on Sunday morning.

We'll use my car for most of it (more comfy) but Muttley will go in my dad's Volvo, the boot is somewhat bigger. The CT is an awesome piece of machinery, in a cushycomfy kind of way. But ... one of the compromises made for having petrol and electric drive is less boot space than you get in most cars. It's actually not that bad, I should be able to get the cricket bag in there comfortably come next season. Oh - the Cunning part of the plan involves not putting Dog + Xmas Dinner in the same car at the same time. We don't want "Muttley" turning into "Barrel". Not decided when I'll come back yet, although it won't be that long.

Which takes me to :

Diet - this is going ok. I've not gone nuts with weird food, I've just enacted more discipline in what I consume. At work, I'd usually have a teacake in the morning, lunch plus something unhealthy in the afternoon. I still have the teacake (cos I don't have breakfast at home) and lunch but I've managed to cut out the cookie hunt in the afternoon. Biscuits are also lasting a lot longer at home.

I've not dramatically shed weight (that's not the plan, it's unhealthy to lose weight too fast) but I've arrested a trend of gaining and reversed it by losing almost half a stone. We'll see if that continues while I'm away.

Leg - is improving steadily. I still need to give it an occasional dose of the steroid/anti-biotic cream but those are becoming more occasional. And I think the need for it was being driven by a reaction to what I'd been wearing. I.e. my occasionally worn jeans which were last washed with stuff I think I'm allergic to. I have a new pair to test that theory.

The leg still isn't at the point where I'd want to wear a knee pad and therefore isn't ready for cricket, however the skin is all intact now instead of splitting when I walk ... It's in much better shape now and has time before the season starts again. Will the shoulder be ok though ?

Techie tinkering - Thought I had an idea to sort out the sound skip on dvd's being played back through the blu-ray players. Alas, while that's sorted out the sound problem, the video now skips. Oh well. Back to another idea, which is to use my Xbox to play dvd's and blu-ray player to play blu-rays. So far, it's through over an hour of Return Of The King with no audio or video blips.

So yes. I'm away from work for a little while now, time to rest & recharge the batteries ahead of a busy new year. I will definitely miss a few of the people at work though. People like Thelma & Louise (yep - new codenames I didn't think I'd use :-) ), the Canteen Girls who know what I want for lunch before I do and one very special little lady in particular who I'm hoping will stay in touch over the break.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Old games, new games

I have my new PC fully operational now :-)

It still doesn't (quite) have Office on there but that's not something I call completely necessary on my home PCs. All I look for are internet browser and security, games, games, more games and an email client so I don't have to fire up the laptop in the morning. Thinking about it, I could do with a picture manipulation package ... but I have one of those on this laptop.

One thing about Windows 7 is that it is more restrictive about what it will allow to run on it. That's meant the card games my dad likes and the ancient strategy games I like don't want to run. How to get around that ?

Firstly, there's a gem of a piece of software from a company called VMWare. It lets you run a PC within a PC as a virtual machine, up to a point that is. I wrote a while ago about being able to have a Windows XP installation using an old licence inside to be one of those virtual machines. It works pretty well, with a limitation or two. It's great for the card games but while Moo2 works, it's fixed to a 1:1 pixel ratio with no scaling. Translation - postage stamp picture lost on big screen.

So. What to do ... Can't be without Moo2 for long !

Enter Dosbox. This is a PC in a PC again, although a lot less sophisticated than VMWare's applications. I don't think you can Windows (even 3.1) on this although it's spectacularly good for ancient Dos only applications. It'll even run the hardest to run of games like Master Of Magic, which was beyond the means of even some contemporary machines due to certain arcane memory thingys.

Trouble is, it needs familiarity with Dos to get what you want out of it and Dos is dinosaur territory in terms of PC programs. At least its programs weren't written on punchcards.

That's Moo2 back operational :-) Plus I'll have another look at Master Of Magic at some point. You'd have thought that with all the Civilisation clones and retreads, they'd have done a Master Of Magic 2 by now. MoM1 was effectively the Civ city and strategy engine with a fantasy tactical battle engine attached. With spells & stuff.

It's a sad reflection on the new games that I go back to Moo2 so much. This is after trying games like GalCiv (tainted by its developers' attitude on forums) and Sword of the Stars and a collection of other space strategy games. Moo2 has X factor. I'll fire up XCom again too at some point, that's definitely got something special about it. Other games are short term fun but these have a long term addictiveness to them.

I've also been on a new game, Star Wars Old Republic (SWTOR). I've been a Star Wars addict for years, although the depression of the New Jedi Order series of books broke me of the Star Wars reading habit. (SW Empire At War is another game that didn't grab me). SWTOR is a massive multiplayer online, instantly familiar to anyone who's played World of Warcraft. It's basically WoW in space with blasters and lightsabers.

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

I've been enjoying SWTOR as a Sith Inquisitor called Morrd, hopefully some more of the WoW people will follow me in and make themselves known. I've solo played so far and done fine. Its world is less seamless as WoW, with loads of loading screens breaking up the maps. I'll take that minus as a cost of the story and character progression being so much better than WoW as a plus that more than makes up for the non-seamless world. You're playing a living character, instead of just ploughing through levels.

What else ? I've written a few posts about League Of Legends and while I acknowledge it's a good game, it's critically let down by its players. 9 out of 10 games can be fun but the 10th will be tarnished by offensive idiots. The idiots are what you remember. I've not been back in LoL for a good few weeks now and I haven't missed it. There's no future in that game unless you always play with the same 4 friends so I won't waste any more time on it.

Not been back in WoW either, although I still have the subscription active. Dunno why as the only thing keeping me in WoW lately has been the wonderful guild people. Need to cycle the mailboxes ...

Settlers IV is another one I keep going back to. Surprisingly, it was happier in Win7 than it was in WinXP working straight off the cd instead of needing tweaking. I've had beta invites for Settlers Online. Trouble is that the publisher, Ubisoft, believes in using vicious forms of Digital Rights Management to protect their games. It treats the paying customer as a criminal, acting under the assumption that the honest customer will steal their stuff. My answer to that is to boycott the company. There's plenty of other games out there of similar or better quality and they won't affect the stability of my PCs the way stuff like Starforce did.

Any more ? I've been doing a Mass Effect run again :-) I've got about 80% through Mass Effect 2 after finishing Mass Effect 1. It's the first play throughs on the new machine so I've been collecting the achievements again. These are seriously cracking games. Looking forward to Mass Effect 3, due in 2012.

There's something about Bioware that has them consistently coming out with games I'll play forever. SWTOR is the latest from the stable that brought Neverwinter Nights, KOTOR and Mass Effect. And games like Baldur's Gate which is amazing but which I've never finished. Their competitors are missing something ... perhaps its the ability to resist calls of "Release now!!!" instead of waiting until the game is actually finished. Bethesda games are a horrid example there, Skyrim is still having trouble after a couple of patches and I'll not say anything about their bugridden Fallout 3 games.

There again - I'm avoiding anything spawned by a certain bad software company as I know it will lead to disappointment. DICE (makers of Battlefield 3) are on that list as well now, as are Sports Interactive for releasing numerous unplayable (bugs) versions of Championship Manager (now Football Manager).

Uhoh - ranting detected.

I think I need to get back to Moo2, the Krogan horde are about to be unleashed on the Silicoids who foolishly declared war on me at just the time I was ready to build my first warships ...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Party season

Work's Xmas party today :-)

It's a fairly annual thing, where we will descend on an unsuspecting restuarant in the middle of Bristol before hitting the town. With 66 of us going today, that's quite a few. Mrs Sunshine (organiser from last year) was quite glad not to be organising that number of us again this year. That duty fell to the Snow Queen and the Queen Bee, who adopted the dictatorial (monarchial?) approach of telling us where we'd be going.

They did a grand job today too, despite all our efforts :-)

Last year's was memorable too, with stories from last year still being told today. I'll remember walking through the streets accompanying someone singing football songs :-) Not saying who that was because it might mean tears and I'd hate causing that. All that matters is that she had lots of fun last year and we were enjoying tagging along.

Had fun today, although I had to escape rather earlier than most of us. Think that's a combination of being around too many people and muscles that were one turn or one bop away from Ow. You'd think that lonely as I am at the moment, I'd want to be around people as much as possible. I guess there's such a thing as too much therapy.

I introduced a new person to the blog & the Zombiedwagon on the coach too. She's not been with us that long (feels like ages because she's someone you can get to know quickly but I don't think she was with us last year). No codename yet though. I don't like to talk about people here unless I can hide them behind a codename and inspiration has been lacking ...

Question from the coach was - how many people read this ?
Answer - I know I get about 10 hits a day on average. I know who some of them are but have no clue about the rest. I know I have a few regulars :-) And it makes me smile when I see the signature of a regular appear in the hit counter.

I'm very curious as to who some of you are :-)

Back to party. I felt the deep need to disappear a bit early, which was a shame. It was good to see the Snow Queen enjoying herself as she's another one who's had a very rough time of late. I feel guilty there as if I'd realised how alone she'd been feeling, I'd have adopted a mission of "Let's make SQ smile", with no limit on craziness. I'm feeling a little better too as well, certainly better than the deep well I was in when I wrote yesterday's post.

One of the commonest questions this time of year is "Have you got all your Xmas shopping done?" I actually have none to do ... Although I need to find a card shop. No presents this year, Xmas seemed to creep up on the Craziemob unawares and the family have been giving up on them. With no significant other, I have noone special to buy stuff for. But it's not just that, I enjoy the subterfuge around surprises. A surprise is sweeter if the subject has no idea what's on the way.

I think that's part of what's maintaining the depression cycle - not enough subterfuge happening.

Time to put this post to bed. I have to end on a downer though. One relatively new addition to the wider team is a little ball of feistiness we'll call the Little Warpath. Wouldn't want to get in her way when what she wants doesn't align with what we want. Anyway. The Little Warpath was waiting for news this morning. It was supposed to be wonderful news but has turned out to be a case of the OMG. Desperately sad for their loss. Thoughts are definitely with the family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Get up and ... gone ...

Really struggling at the moment.

I depend on feeling valued and a part of things. If I don't feel either of those, I start wondering what my place is in things. Bit like in the Fear post below (which was supposed to have the "The only thing to fear is fear itself" quote in it). I've been feeling isolated, the opposite of being part of what's happening.

I have a deep seated need to help people and if I'm isolated, then I don't get the opportunity/reason to satisfy that need to help out. And with the team situation at the moment where my old (fantastic) team has been disintegrated and splintered into numerous other teams, that isolated feeling has been growing. The team my section is currently in don't want us there. They see our project and shrug, while we shake our heads at them ignoring the incoming trainwrecks we try to tell them about.

Doesn't help that there's quite a few objectionable characters in there who set a bad tone. Whereas my mini-section escapes them in a few months with the next shake around, I feel bad for those who are being prevented from having the option to escape what is a bad team (with a selected few certain personalities forming some wonderful exceptions). It's strange how the culture of two teams doing the same thing, albeit a few years apart in progress, can be so utterly different.

It also doesn't help that it's gone cold, so as well as the psychological issue there's a physical issue as well with cold related pain coming through.

I don't have a total lack of appreciation, a little "VMT" (very many thanks) from the real boss for helping him out with the info he needs goes a long way. And I don't feel a total lack of value because I know I'm still contributing to the project going ahead. But it's being a strain for that to actually register in that part of my brain that governs my motivation.

I guess it's also tiredness, definitely needing the break over the Xmas period.

What I should be doing right now is getting happily addicted to Star Wars Old Republic (my early access code came through) but all I'm really wanting to do is curl up in a ball. And that's not me. I think I need either a burst of adrenaline or the confidence that would come from someone wanting to know me for my personality, not what they can use me for.

I guess I may be seeing some futility in what I Want to be doing, which suggests I should be looking at doing something different in both personal and professional life instead of what I traditionally do : wait and see what happens. One problem I have is that while I can put Wall Of Text here, I'm usually dumbstruck when it comes to actually saying things out loud.

Doesn't help when you're desperately in need of a hug.

But for the moment, I'll settle for a hot shower in the hope of warming up enough for my back to survive the team(s) Xmas party tomorrow.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gamers behave !

Yep - 2 posts today. The one below is too unfocused to stay at the top :-)

Made me laugh seeing a story around the media about how gamers should be forced to follow the Geneva Convention. The link goes to a short article by Metro, which sums it up nicely. At least the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) spin that came out originally. The original "Red Cross is anti-gamers" article got refuted quite quickly. Here's an MSNBC article.

I'd like to think that the people who play games still know the difference between right and wrong, although there are a bunch of games out there which are just sick. They usually have an 18 certificate on them, so the only way they should be able to get into the hands of impressionable youth of today is if a parent ignores the question "Is this suitable for my child?"

It used to be like that when I grew up, with me being shielded from things like Evil Dead and other video nasties. I watch stuff like it now and I can recognise it for being silly and most important : Not Very Good. Mortal Kombat when it came out originally was infamous for its gore but when put next to the gameplay of other fighty games, it just Wasn't Very Good.

Just because I've played Carmageddon (briefly, it didn't hold a candle to -> ) and Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, doesn't make me into a nutcase on the roads. Hot Pursuit was actually a great laugh, the premise was 1v1 car races on public roads with Police getting involved.

Yep - NFS was a hoot but driving like that on public roads would get you arrested (boring) and cost money (less left for toys).

So - I'd like to think that some sanity is out there, although I know that's not actually true :
Parents keeping the 18 cert games away from children like what used to happen with Video Nasties
Gamers being able to tell the difference between pixels and people
Recognition of what happens when addiction takes hold

I've been addicted to gaming, although I think mine was more a hurting person retreating from a drab uncaring world. I think I'm clear of gaming addiction now, I just fire up the game as "something to do". Heh - I'm probably more addicted to reading forums now (anti-isolation again). I'm not someone who will fire up a game as soon as they get home, with them then being in the game until they go to bed. That's not healthy but I see it happen. It's why the Mercenaries fell apart, people got burned out, didn't recognise that their addictions were making them different people and got into fighting with their friends in game. And I was on the wrong end of that a few times too.

There is a question of trust : can the parent trust the child to know right from wrong or to figure the difference between real world and virtual. Sometimes I'm not even sure the parents know. Remember though that anything you see in a game has usually been done on film and usually even just at 15 certificate. And it's usually more graphic than what the game allows too.

Right - this was supposed to be a really short post to knock a bad one off the top :-)

Time to get back to seeing how many Human/Alien/Strange Life Form Rights I can wipe my tentacles on, although I won't be giving the Death Star treatment to any planets tonight. I ran out of those over the weekend. (Seriously!)

PS I'm actually going to read a book, with as much incest, sex, violence, human rights abuses and other nasty stuff (Game Of Thrones) as you'll see in most games. It's just presented a different way.

Thinking about - Fear

(warning - long post, lots of rambling! Think I needed to talk through some stuff, not convinced it's all "out there" yet either ...)
There's a lot of "scared" out there ...

I was thinking and wondering about how other people see me. One random outside observation was "do I show fear ?". Yep, true thought. Completely random observation but it got me thinking about stuff ... I think it came from talking about what's happening in the future as work's going through changes at the moment. What happens when the current project work runs out of things to do ?

I prefer to worry only about things that I can change and accept the change that I can't influence, while trying to make the best of what I have. One issue there though is the change that's coming might end up being a change too far. We shall see.

I came to the conclusion that other people probably see me as fearless, as I refuse to allow fear to have any trace of control over me. That doesn't mean the fear isn't there, I've just quantified it, analyzed it and figured out an acceptable risk level. Risk can be fun too.

Talking risk - my fielding in cricket used to be pretty rubbish. I was scared of the ball. It's a reasonable thing, as a cricket ball hurts like hell if you fumble what you're doing around them. I've had amnesia from a broken nose and I've seen someone knocked out by one. I've regularly broken fingers and have a chipped elbow bone from one. I think I fractured my shin last year.

And yet I still play cricket (or I will if my leg recovers fully!). One question I asked myself was "Do I want to be ruled by fear or do I want to have fun?" I enjoy my cricket too much to chicken out. Another fear is the fear of injury, I have a pretty fragile body because I haven't put the training in the harden it. I realised that good technique and preparation is the way to counter that fear of injury (although there is one ground I refuse to play at because it's deadly). If you catch properly, it doesn't hurt. Drop a catch, you'll break something. Warm up and warm down well and your muscles will thank you. Drink fluid to replace what you lose and you'll be less prone to cramp.

There - fear of injury confronted, analysed and accepted. It'll still happen (like accidents) but preparation means the risk is lessened to the point where Fun > Risk.

Actually, I don't think it's a fear of injury, I think it's fear of letting people down. Season before last, I had 2 injuries that took ages to heal : Groin strain plus the shin. The groin meant I wasn't that agile (and it contributed to the shin injury) and the shin injury meant I lost a lot of speed and reaction. But - I managed it so I didn't let anyone down and I did that by fielding even closer than most sane people would ...

Ok. That's enough about cricket. How about other fears ...

I think that fear of failure is what dominates me. I love helping people out, I'll break out of the routine stuff happily if a challenge comes along. But if the answer doesn't come easy, then I'll go nuts banging my head against the question until I figure it out.

Fear of change. This is one of those where I've accepted I can't do much about the incoming changes at work because the people enacting them don't listen to my immediate bosses. So - I figure out where I'm going to fit in and see where I can get best advantage for me and my work.

Fear of being isolated. Being alone is boring. And I hate being bored. But with the team situation at the moment, I feel somewhat isolated. I'm away from the techie side and in with a bunch of people who don't care about the project I'm on. However,  It's great being able to natter to (and hopefully make laugh) people like our wonderful Snow Queen. And there's others on and around the project too who alleviate the sense of isolation. I suspect that's because of helping them out with problems.

I think I'm a herd person at heart. I like being around people. Maybe that's part of the "help people" thing.

There's a few other fears too. I used to be scared of going down escalators. I think I've conquered that one. Same with a sense of vertigo. Not so sure about the "fear of losing control", I had to walk away from an idiot last week who accused me of stealing milk. I think he got an education in manners from the line manager for his temporary placement.

I'm rambling aren't I ...

I think I've conquered or accepted most of my fears and I'm pretty good at hiding the rest. So people may think I'm "fear-less". That said, I still have that fear of letting people down. And I'm pretty wary of the idiocy level on the roads these days, although Fun Of Driving > Fear Of Idiots. I also have a fear of having things stolen, don't we all.

There's a lot of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt out there. Some people even make a trade of rubbing in FUD to make money out of scared people. (I find that abhorrent).

If you have a friend who needs help to work through their fear, don't make fun. What seems funny to you will be very real to them. Fear is paralysis. Help them through it. They'll thank you later.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Spoilt for choice

Cheers Cyberkitten :-)

Had a birthday present from my very good friend and neighbour CK tonight, an iTunes voucher. Now ... what to spend it on.

First up - Edie Brickell has 2 albums out that I don't have in my collection yet, Volcano and a self titled "Edie Brickell". Can't get the second on iTunes so it's just Volcano for now. Hopefully there will be something on there as good as No Dinero from Stranger Things. That's another slow burner that I wasn't sure about at first but it's a standout track from the album. Makes you think of abandoning your cares and just chilling out, ignoring the outside world.

I would like to get the Elkie Brooks collection, which is a semi-discovery from a Driving Songs collection of cds. I'm saying "semi" cos I always knew Elkie Brooks was a good singer, it just took an hour or so of scanning Youtube to find out just How Good. Check this out ... A pity that the compilation is £10 on iTunes (or about £4 on Amazon). Oh well, will restrict the Elkie Brooks just to Fool If You Think It's Over for now.

One thing that's kept me in WoW all these years is hearing the voices over the comms. There's some great people in the guild aka the Hot Swedish Girls. It's not just the accent, it's the attitude. And that accent and attitude came together for quite a few wonderful albums by The Cardigans. They split though, with the lead singer forming up into a new band called A Camp. Their second album (Colonia) is the next purchase.

And while I'm there, the Ping popup in iTunes is Piggin' Annoyin'. Even though I've disabled Ping, it still insists on telling me that it's ready to annoy me.

Oookay ... must not rant :-)

Few random tracks seeing as it's a certain time of year :

Tom Jones & Cerys Matthews - Baby it's cold outside - sure is !
And that's it for the random Xmas tracks. Just listened to Kylie's Santa Baby off Youtube which put me off the idea. Muahahaha
Although having just seen a version of "Fairytale Of New York" sung by Ronan Keating (don't care) and Moya Brennan, voice of Clannad, I'll couldn't resist that.

Another for the "not getting that just now" : Evanescence are back with a self titled album which I'd like to get ... But. £5 for the normal album, £11 for a deluxe version that has 4 extra tracks plus a remix and a video. I could upgrade the normal album with the extra 4 tracks for £1 each but that stinks of profiteering, which is something I go to lengths not to indulge.

What else, what else ... Having a peek through Amazon's recommended feature for ideas and it really wants me to grab that Elkie Brooks collection ...

Just watched the video for Laura Marling's (new artist to me) New Romantic. Love it, tempted. After watching a couple more though, the videos are better than the music and considering I listen to stuff as audio only most of the time, won't get this one for now.

Last one for now will be Snow Patrol's new album, Fallen Empires. Well, it will be if iTunes decides to cooperate ... I need to boost the available credit by a measly 6p before the transaction will go through ...

PS I fixed it by buying more stuff - Emmerdale by The Cardigans has some tracks I already have plus some I don't. I'm the sort of person who likes to have everything done by the bands I consider special, hence one nickname (old) of "Alisha's Addict" after me buying all the Alisha's Attic singles for the excellent B-Sides.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Hairy legs and shiny nails

Oh and bad tech too.

I think I needed somehow to balance the excellent tech buy with the new machine (still rock solid stable). Bestbuy are getting out of dodge at the moment (retail sector's not so good here) so they have a lot of offers on at the moment. Pretty attractive offers too. Good enough to tempt me into a new keyboard and mouse. That's been on my list for a little while now, as it's a pain to move the old ones around if I'm wanting to put the desktop PC on the telly.

So I picked up a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse combination. Oops.

Immediate comments - the mouse isn't up to the job compared to my old MS Razer mouse. I've actually switched back. Intellipoint gives a fair number of customisation options for the buttons but none where it really counts. There's no real option to change the sensitivity or to disable mouse acceleration. I like some sensitivity in a mouse, although that doesn't mean seeing the pointer go crazy across the screen at a twitch. Getting it balanced means I don't kill my wrist overcorrecting.

So I've gone back to my old mouse. The keyboard is similar although I've not fired that yet. They layout is mostly fine but there are little or no relevant markings on the function keys. I'm a touchtyper so I don't like to have to look for some keys. There's also very little definition to the keys, with them being much flatter than the chunky keys I grew up on. Qwerty is ok, function keys are not and you need those for gaming.

Anyone want a keyboard and mouse ? Still, as they're wireless I can use my old ones for gaming and use the wireless ones for Pooter-On-Telly. I have one more bit of the puzzle to go there though, need something for sound.

Getting my leg back :-)

After its wound that wouldn't go away, the red bit is now much reduced. It's still there but the skin looks in much better condition. While it was still healing, the skin would actually split again when I walked which has helped to make healing real slow. The real sign of progress will be when I get a hairy leg again :-). All the hair came off as part of the wound but it's starting to come back as bristles.

Dunno how it got caused, although I have a big suspicion that I was allergic to the washing machine blobs I switched to. I've switched back to what I used before. Weird that my mum & sister developed similar things with our skin at about the same time, can't figure a link there except from genetics.

Hopefully I'll get that hairy leg back soon. Otherwise it's totally ready for speeding across cricket fields, although I need to lose a little weight to get back the speed I used to have.

Last bit. I didn't move fast enough when passing the cosmetic seller stands at the Mall earlier. There was a very pretty young lady asking if I had a minute and while I was going "gaaaa", I got shown how a bit of buffing would make my fingernail very shiny.

And it's still shiny now ...

What can I say, pretty lady smiles at me I'll pay attention. Although she was pretty in a "OMG IT'S A RUSSIAN SPY" kind of way. Yep, I'm a sucker for a pretty lady but I also have defenses that come up and start to have fun with them in a "how can I drive 'em nuts" kind of way. Or I'll look in a completely different direction to the one she wants me to look in.

Not that I'd object to being at the beck and call of a pretty lady. As long as it's the right pretty lady. Hopefully when I see the next pretty lady who actually has a reciprocal interest in me too, it'll be Third Time Lucky.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ultimamega PC

A little while ago, ok years ago, one of the things I'd do to amuse myself was to see what the other extreme would be to the PCs I could build at the time.

It's only fairly recently that I'd had the spending power to build the PCs I wanted, instead of having to settle for quite rigidly budgeted cost/performance rigs. It actually works out cheaper in the long run, my early PC builds only lasted maybe 3 years before I was forced to upgrade them. This time around, it's been 5.5 years since Godzilla (and its later Shade incarnation) was built and the trigger for the upgrade has been software, not hardware.

That's right, if you have a 2006 era PC with the capability of a 2GHz dual core processor and a graphics card like an ATI 4850 then there's no reason to upgrade. It'll handle World of Warcraft at decent frame rates (admittedly with the graphics options turned down a bit). The only reason to upgrade is Microsoft's decision to force people to change (I refuse to call them an upgrade) to Vista or Windows 7 due to needing newer Directx versions.

Doh - I'm getting sidetracked again. I used to do budget builds for my custom build PCs but possibly as a bit of rebellion, I'd see how expensive I could make a PC. Just one rule, it had to be gaming capable and Not Silly. So triple display water cooled machines would be fine, needing a second case to put a RAID array in would count as Silly.

So what's the build ? Here goes :

Case first. I'd like to say Thermaltake here as, despite me thinking the manual was written by illiterate blind moronic monkeys, the case I have is top quality within its limits. £33 for a top quality case is really good but it loses out on not having multiple 2.5" drive bays (SSDs) or a removable motherboard tray. The expensive Thermaltake cases look a bit nasty though in an Anti-Bling kind of way.
Let's go for an Antec 1200 V3 for £153 (+£120 on what I paid)

Every case needs a PSU, to keep to the "what did I buy?" theme let's look at Corsair. To fit the rest, it's going to need to be big ... A 1200W PSU would cost you £239 (+£185).

Next comes the motherboard and a cpu to put into it. Make it an Asrock Extreme 7 Z68 board for £233 (+£113) and an Intel i7-2700K for £252 (+£84). There's really no point in going beyond the 2700K because you don't really gain anything. Unless there's dual cpu monster boards out there ... There's no real point actually in going beyond the i5 2500K.

Memory, we'll go for the maximum for the board (32GB). Looks like G.Skills, the people who supplied my memory, only go up to 4GB modules so we have to go for Corsair Vengeance memory. That's £465 for 4x 8GB modules, compared to the £45 I paid for my 2x 4GB modules. The difference is the top speed they will go up to, mine are rated for 1600MHz while the Corsair modules are rated for 1866MHz. Both are more than is needed and won't be put under any strain in a system that isn't overclocked.

Cooling is key to any system. Good cooling means great stability (especially in the summer) but you need to be careful to make sure you don't end up with the equivalent of vacuum cleaner noise. Mine's not too bad there with the Zalman cooler. I'm aware of the fan when in the room but not when in bed, which is upstairs a floor. Staying Zalman again, they have an air cooler for £69 (I paid £43). It's worth putting a few extra £ in here but I wouldn't go above what I paid. Watercooling is an option too, although it's harder these days to find the bits as mainstream suppliers like Novatech don't stock them.

Graphics. This is the fun part. I went for price/performance here by buying a single GeForce 560Ti for £185. That's not good enough for the Ultimamega PC, it needs not one but two GeForce 590s for £770 each.

Yes. This is a Silly PC.

Drives make a machine go. I've really appreciated having Pumpkin's Windows on a Solid State Device drive and have made me appreciate that more with this review of the upsized version. Mine's a 64GB version, SillyPC needs 2x 256GB SSDs plus 2 of the biggest conventional drives on the market. The 2 conventional drives get paired up in RAID to keep the data safe. The bill ? 2x £305 for the SSD plus 2x £280 for 2 3TB Hitachi drives. I paid £84 for a 64GB SSD from Crucial and £73 for a 1.5TB drive from Western Digital

Oh - also noticing that SCSI drives (old tech) cost about £1 per GB still. Not putting them in this PC because I really don't see the point of getting an old tech drive that's far inferior to SSD for almost the same price/capacity as an SSD.

That's actually most of the machine now, it's just sundry items to go :
Windows 7 - Home Premium is £80, Ultimate is £155
Bluray drive - I bought a Samsung for £46 (Cyberlink's software bundle is repulsively bloated these days), SillyPC wants a blu-ray rewriter for £70.
Monitors - that's right - plural ! Actually, in the widescreen era having multiple monitors fails the Silly test. 3d monitors are ok though. £530 for a 27" 3d monitor from Acer.

How much is the whole thing ? I'll exclude the monitor as I don't have a good comparison :
My PC - roughly £930 plus or minus a bit
Ultimamega PC (but not really Silly) - £4346 + £530 for 1 of those 3d monitors. And you'd also want a Silly keyboard, mouse, headset and sound system to go with it.

Ouchies. But not as Ouchies as the SillyPCs I was having fun pricing up 10 years or so ago. Those had more stuff in too like DAT tape backup. Does anyone still use those ?

Is it worth paying Silly Money ? No. Definitely not. The only change I'd make from the My PC if money was completely No Object would be to replace the single 560Ti with a pair of 570's and even there, I think I'd just go for a pair of 560Ti's. A lot of the extra cash in the Silly PC is going on stuff that adds no real value past shininess and boast potential. Unless you're going for recording photorealistic 3d rendering in real time that is ... Example - my PC during the SWTOR beta test was using 4.7GB of its 8GB and could run it as maximum detail with no frame drops. Same for WoW, max detail at 1080p with minimal frame drops, including while raiding. Anything beyond 8GB is overkill.

But I have fun indulging myself pricing it all up anyway :-)

PS Just under £1000 is still hefty. But it should last me another 5 years, hopefully more. Which makes it more cost effective than doing what I used to do, which was to spend about £700 on a machine that wouldn't last more than 3.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A long time ago ...

In a galaxy far, far away ...

Classic lines - everyone must know where they come from !

Been beta testing today. That's when you use a bit of software that's just about complete but the developer's not quite ready to unleash it on the world. Started at about 4.30, logged off at 9.30. Didn't even feel hungry, just knew I had to get some munchies inside me sooner or later. Good games can get you like that, they don't take it out of you physically so you just keep on going.

What's the game ? Star Wars The Old Republic.

In a moment of madness, inspired by one Totalbiscuit and a steady diet of Star Wars movies, books and games, I pre-ordered this one. It's expected around Xmas time and I'm now seriously considering extending my leave period to get some more gaming in :-) I won't. I'm not quite that bad plus however good the game is, it's not worth sacrificing being around some of the people at work.

Plus the canteen do great sandwiches. (Yes I have eaten, that's not the pangs talking!)

How's the game ? It's pretty awesome so far. Well, awesome wrapped up in the limitations of beta software and a look and feel that's immediately familiar to any player of WoW. It's heavily story based, far more story based than WoW.

WoW - quests are a way of tying together moving around where the mobs live. Apart from maybe the Cataclysm zones, which had a little more story involved. The story stuff felt very loose and fluffy.
SWTOR - you're playing through a story, the mobs just happen to be in the way.

I played through about 7 levels of Jedi Consular earlier, I'll try out one of the other classes later.

But for now, will head back in game soon and hope to extract myself before the sun comes up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bubble N Hearth

One for the paladins ... We can do it too !

This being from the days when Horde didn't have paladins ...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Something for the weekend

We headed up to Lincolnshire again this weekend - twas Birthday weekend. The "we" is me and my sister, although "we" doesn't really apply because we come from separate directions.

Good weekend too :-) Here's a few of the highlights :

I got to drive a manual gearbox car again for the first time since I changed to my Lexus. Quite pleased that I managed to switch straight back into a smooth driving style with clutch & stick, although I could have done without massive quivers in my left leg ... I blame the cold and caffeine.

Sister's just changed car too, her old MR2 was getting a bit long in the tooth with some big repair bills looming around the corner. She's traded to a Saab 9-3 turbo diesel convertible which definitely ticks all the boxes. She needed something with back seats and something with better mpg for work trips. It passes those tests quite well, we managed to get me & my mom in the back seats. It feels like a normal car with the roof up too. Performance is good, with a high boost turbo that caught me out when the turbo made the wheels spin up when it passed its lag phase.

CTs handle better than Puma's and definitely better than the Focus. There's a roundabout where if I'm lucky, I can test the handling characteristics out. The Puma could hit 60mph over the bump by carrying speed through the roundabout. The Focus never gave enough confidence to carry speed through there and didn't have the engine flexibility to get the acceleration. How did the CT do ? The chassis handled acceleration through the cornering, which is better than what I remember from the Puma.

There we have it - heavy medium 5 door hybrid beats small 3 door sports coupe on performance and handling and utterly thrashes the Focus ST. It got to 60 on that bump without the front wheels lifting up too. When you switch to Sport mode, it keeps its composure incredibly well when being asked to make sudden changes in direction, the Focus would just lean over and say "do I have to ?"

Old programs - there's a company out there called VMWare who make a fantastic bit of software. What it does is make a computer within a computer. Why is that useful ? Because you can run programs on it that won't run on newer machines. Just fire up the virtual machine, throw it some software and you're away. My new desktop and my dad's laptop have copies of it now running Windows XP meaning my dad can run his bridge games again. Those bridge games refused to work on our Windows 7 64bit machines.

VMWave make a freeware app called VMPlayer which really does the business. I really can't recommend it enough. I have to admit I gave up on getting Windows 98 to play on it but it gave a hassle free virtual installation of Windows XP on both machines. It's good to see companies offering trial versions of their software that aren't crippled in critical ways. If you're needing to do Virtualisation in a hefty way (it's handy for separating tasks out), VMWare's VMWorkstation will be the way to go.

(I have no contact with VMWare outside of being really pleased with their software)

From good to bad - Apple software quality has nosedived ...

Yes, I can now plug my iPod into my car and get the music playing on it. No, it isn't at all reliable. I had to resort back to using cd's earlier because the iPod refused to play anything after a leg stretch stop. This isn't an isolated incident either, the iPod forgets what it's been playing and in one instance, it even claimed to have no songs on it despite being connected to its host laptop not too long before. I may resort to an old solution, plugging the thing in with an analogue lead instead of USB.

I refuse to allow iTunes to update itself now because the last 3 times it did, it broke its link to the LittleWhiteBox Airport Express. Would I waste money on an iPhone ? Hell no. Would I buy a Mac ? I'd rather trust Windows.

Erm - was I ranting ? Lol

Mpg - I trust the figures more now :-) As it shows in the Fuelly badge on my sidebar, I've been getting just under 50mpg from my Lexus. That's a bit below the claimed 69mpg figure ... I'm a bit more confident now though, I filled up just outside Newark tonight and until I reached the 70mph parts, I was getting 70-72mpg. That's fairly incredible for a petrol car, although it was mostly in 40mph speed limit areas where the car can occasionally glide along on the battery power only.

Back to work tomorrow. I may actually break a habit and go to bed before midnight cos I am actually feeling quite tired.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Ever feel like you're on the threshold of something about to happen ?

I kinda feel like that at the moment.

Can't really explain it though. I know there's a few changes that are definitely going to happen at work sooner or later, although part of that is inevitable because no project lasts forever. One change has already happened with the car (novelty hasn't worn off yet). That's not it though. I have a feeling this incoming change will be far more wonderful than just mundane things.

I don't tend to deal well with change though. My mind likes a certain amount of stability which extends even as far as preferring other people to be happy instead of me. Even where there's some people I really fancy, if I know they're happy with their partner that adds another little rock for that stability. In a way, I value their happiness over mine. It contributes to an "all is well in the world" feeling.

Tis a little lonely though.

Maybe I've been thinking about relationships (and lack of) a fair bit lately. Maybe I've met my dream girl already but didn't actually realise it. Or I mentally locked out the possibility.

Who knows what the future will hold, what I do know is that there's a certain someone out there who dominates my thoughts to the point where there's barely any room for anything else. And as far as change goes, I have my granite like inertia but as soon as I commit to a change, I commit whole heartedly.

Oh, maybe my brain isn't completely mushed - other stuff going on lately includes :

Birthdays ! Cheers to Bionicdwarf, Craziequeen and Aginoth for much appreciated birthday stuff.
Cakes ! Birthday tradition at work. And with us merging with another team, lots of new people not believing me when I let slip my true age :
Age - people still think I'm at least 5 years younger than I am. They want to know my secret ...
Pooter - it's working well, handling a 10 man Warcraft raid without dropping many frames at maximum detail. Outside of power blips and bad software it has shown Total stability.
Leg - is improving to the point where The Boss looked at it yesterday without her running away screaming (I had lots of fun there with Vampire Eyes after my nose got fixed)
Dvd stuff - I know where the problem is for definite now with those silent audio blips - it's the amp. Meh.
Dvd stuff - Meh turns to more use for Xbox as dvd player :-)
Old games - I have these working again with a solution that I might put on my techie blog at some point.
Health - leg has improved but I've been feeling like I've been hit by a truck. My muscles are also rebelling. Need to figure out what I'm needing to eat to counteract that, it's usually a sure sign I'm missing something critical.

Right - time to hit the shower before a bit of gaming and music before sleep. And despite the theme of the first half of this post, that ain't gonna be a cold shower. My back would never forgive me !

Monday, November 07, 2011

Small, small world

Not many people won't have heard about the big crash on the motorway near where I live. What reminded me that this is a much smaller world these days was the sad news that a friend of a friend lost his life in the incident.

I didn't know him personally but from the love that's been shown via Facebook, he is already being sorely missed.

I doubt we'll ever know the exact cause of the accident and it would be wrong to speculate without knowing facts, although people are blaming fireworks. Assigning blame would also be wrong here, although I believe accepting some collective responsibility is appropriate. Driving standards have collapsed lately (I know I road-rage more than is healthy) as people are getting a sense of invulnerability from modern cars that are built far tougher than when I learned to drive.

People have joked that the best safety device to go in a car would be a spike protruding from the steering wheel, I'd compare that to a Rover Metro loaner car I had. I drove that really slowly ... not because it couldn't muster much pace but because I knew from its swiss cheese construction that it would disintegrate if a juggernaut breathed on it.

What's really sad is that even with reminders of how dangerous the roads can be, people are still :
Driving way too fast,
Saying "70mph is too low a limit for motorways" (badly wrong)
Not driving with any consideration to people around them,
Driving without due care and attention (that goes for those who use mobiles in the car too)
And many more sins shared by drivers these days.

Another sign of this being a small world is that I drove down the bit of motorway where the accident happened just a fortnight before.

Other (happier!) stuff :

Pumpkin* finally has all the bits that will go into making it a fully equipped PC :-) It was missing a conventional hard disc due to the floods in Thailand making hard disc prices go through the roof. A 1TB drive was £45 before the floods, the same drive is now £110, with that going up £5 today. When ultra rapid inflation hits, it's always worth a little bit of shopping around to see if you can take advantage of retailers who aren't keeping up with changing prices.

*(yes - I called it Pumpkin. Seemed fitting for something born on Halloween)

Cue a trip to BestBuy who are sadly closing down in UK. It would have been good to see them stay in retail here to keep PCWorld & Currys honest. (No chance of that with Comet). Anyway, I picked up a 1.5TB drive there for £72 today. More than pre-flood prices and it's an older model but still fits the bill :

It will have plenty of space,
It's not as quick as a current model but still quicker than the 250GB in the machine at the moment.

I can also assign 500GB of it to a Linux drive for playing with later :-). It's been a while since I looked at Linux and I'm hoping it will allow me to run some old Windows games that refuse to work in Windows 7. I just need to have a look at installation options, plus I'll need to move some stuff from the old drive to the new one. But - it means I can do now some of the stuff I was holding off on, like getting cheapie Office programs on the desktop.

Oh - rockets are fun. We had a Crazie fireworks evening on Satuday, with BionicDwarf, Cyberkitten and I all with our Mad Scientists hats firmly stapled to our heads. We also had the Craziequeen in attendance who had locked away her Health & Safety hat for the evening too. (Could have been handy due to bits of firework raining down on us). We literally had a blast, although I suspect we shall be avoiding rockets in the future. Why ?

Most were fine. However :
1 rose very slowly in "Houston we have a problem" style, barely getting to the treeline before going bang. The tree was still smouldering an hour later.
Another had been sniffing the alkyhol. It went up 10 feet, decided it was afraid of heights and promptly exited stage left before exploding in someone's garden. Oops.

Right - time to continue the Mass Effect campaign I started last week :-) But :

Always remember the fallen. Their sacrifice means nothing if we do not learn from it. Drive slower, get there safe.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Nutter magnet

Had a Costa with a difference yesterday.

I'd come back from having a wander through the middle of Bristol and instead of pay more for my parking in the city centre, I went to the Costa near Tesco. All normal, nothing to report. Until the nutters come in ...

3 people to dominate 3 tables, unfortunately choosing the ones next to where I'd settled. (Lesson - it can be better to guarantee who you sit by instead of leaving it up to chance). The kind of people you really don't want sitting beside you. I can handle being included in a conversation by interesting people but people who have trouble stringing two coherent words together - please no. Especially when those people demand you join in with them. I'd have moved to a different table but I'm not quite that rude.

So that's the Costa nutters. I also seemed to be a magnet for the charity people around Bristol (must have been the poppy on display) and to finish that thread, Paintball Guy decides to try his luck at Tesco too. Can't be the appearance, I'm currently doing the impression of a derelict (not shaved for a while cos I'm on leave).

Oh well. People make life interesting but it's good to be able to choose your acquaintainces instead of having them thrust on you.

How's other stuff ?

The new PC build is working great, although the fan noise is currently a little intrusive. Also intrusive are the two blue lit fans inside the box. I get the feeling they'd provide a spooky backlight for horror films seeing as they're behind the sofa. Temperatures of the machine are just fine at 46 degrees C max for the processor and 60 degrees C max for the graphics card. That leaves loads of headroom for the summer.

Apart from the disaster which is Battlefield 3 (and a BOINC issue which I think was due to beta software), it's rock solid stable. It's currently idling away doing lots of distributed computing research under the BOINC umbrella that includes the SETI hunt for aliens, climate prediction and medical research. Doing distributed computing is a great way of seeing if a computer is stable when it's worked hard, as BOINC will make it give maximum potential over a prolonged period of time. It's tougher than game stuff.

Games are shiny. Well. For most of them, shiny = smoother as they can't really take advantage of the better hardware, the extra grunt just gives more frames per second (low numbers there make for jerkiness and bad playability). Warcraft looks about the same, apart from shadows and water. It looks more like a proper world is in there amidst the cartoony stuff. Water effects are incredible, instead of there being a white water wake behind a swimmer, it's proper ripples. Wonder what would happen if you dropped a Goblin Fishing Pole in the water. And they need to put that item back in the game where it belongs.

Not tried the newer Deus Ex yet, although I have downloaded it. I have a line on a potential fix for Battlefield 3 (wind down the wick on the graphics card a little) but haven't tried that yet. Maybe later.

For now, I've almost cleared the TV box of recorded stuff ahead of clearing it. It still has bugs with series linking which is why it needs a kick in the "back to factory settings" button.

Oh yeah - fireworks tomorrow. It's birthday season, so a few of us are meeting up to blow a lot of stuff up. Should be a blast :-)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Playtime = frustration

Battlefield 3 = Do Not Buy

Don't touch it with a bargepole. It's crash-to-desktop hell not just for me but for hundreds of other angry people logging into the BF3 forums. Not just nVidia people, it's all of them - AMD cpu's, Intel cpu's, AMD graphics or nVidia graphics, they're all having problems.

Tried a few things so far, none have worked. I think the machine is ok as it ran the 3dMark11 benchmarks successfully. I'm currently downloading League of Legends again (WoW comes later) to get some quality gameplay time in.

Another comment - the Z68 based motherboard I have is supposed to support SSD caching, where the fast disc speeds up the slow disc. I've not been able to enable that so far though, dunno why. I'll check again when I have a new hard disc to permanently keep in the system, the one that's in there now is split up over multiple partitions which could be what's blocking it.

Oh - annual leave day 2 and I'm back to wondering what they're up to in the office. I've already emerged more than I usually do ... Novatech and back yesterday. Not planning to go out much more although I believe supplies will be required soon. I'm almost on my last cookies.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Brought to life on Halloween

Now that it's (almost) complete, I've been wondering if it was a really good idea to bring a new machine to life on Halloween.

It is a night when all sorts of weird things are supposed to come out to play. Oh hell, maybe this is the best night of the year. All the gremlins will be out on the town instead of waiting to creep inside a machine as you build it.

By this point you're wondering : What's he been up to? While my laptop is almost 2 years old now (and starting to feel its age, aka it needs a dustbusting) my main desktop PC was built in April 2006. Even with a graphics upgrade along the way, that's Oooold for a games box. What have I got ?

Cpu - was Athlon X2-3800+ (dual core 2GHz + tricks) to Intel i5-2500K (quad core 3.3GHz +)
Graphcs - was ATi X4850, now nVidia 560Ti (overclocked)
Memory - was 2GB, now 8GB
Storage - was 74GB + 250GB, now 60GB solid state + the 250GB which I'm robbing
Motherboard - was Asus, now Asrock
And the rest is fairly generic : Thermaltake V3Black case, Corsair 600W power supply, Samsung blu-ray drive, Zalman cooler and Windows 7 Home Ed

I've been building my PCs for years and it's always guaranteed lost skin from somewhere. This time, I don't think I've lost any skin (decent case design) but it's definitely broken one build theme : Software install usually takes ages, hardware build not so much. Here's the timeline :

Build start - 17.49 as I have the PC box out of its packaging and I'm looking at the power supply.
Power supply is in at 17.59 after a fight with the case.

The Thermaltake case holds the power supply in quite tightly but has something you need to unscrew to get it in that tight. The instructions supplied with the case are utterly inadequate. As in : "Place the power supply in proper location and secure it with screws." Nothing about unscrewing the widget. And that theme continues with the rest of the build, lots of "ok, how's that supposed to work" when putting things in the case. A shame too, as the build quality of the case is pretty good. I'd like things a little different (the top is riveted on, cutting access) but it'll be a very solid case that will not rattle.

Ok - next is the hard disc, which took 15 minutes to figure out where to put it. More rubbish instructions. It lives on the bottom of the case. It'll be joined by another one later from my old box. Plan A was to get a conventional 1TB hard disc, which is plenty of space. However ... there's been floods around the factories that make hard discs and the prices have hit the roof. A 1TB drive would have cost me £45 a fortnight ago. Last week that was £65, now that drive is £95 and rising. So I went Plan B, which incidentally gets me a quicker machine :

Plan B : steal 250GB hard disc from old machine. Buy 60GB solid state drive (SSD). The difference with the SSD is that instead of taking 1/1000ths of seconds to find Stuff on the drive including moving an arm over to it, the SSD takes under 1/1000th of a second. (Thought it was quicker). As well as the latency being better, the SSD can read many parts of itself at once, which a conventional hard disc can't do. They're just a lot faster. Anyway, 40GB for Windows, 20GB for what's called SSD caching where it will make a bigger conventional drive much quicker.

What's next ? Blu-ray player didn't take long, just 4 minutes. The case has a quick release mechanism here, one for 5.25" drives and 2 for 3.5" internal drives. I then rearranged the power cables a little to get them out of the way for the motherboard to come in.

To make it easier, it's best to put all components into the mainboard before you put that into the case when you have lots of access to all the plugs. Better before, rather than after when you need Tiny Fingers for Tiny Plugs.

Here's where the headaches start. To make chips quicker, they have to make them smaller. There's no pins on the Intel i7 2nd Gen chip, just pads on the bottom. This is held in the socket by something that in no way can be called "Zero Insertion Force". Around the socket goes the heatsink arrangement. There's a plastic surround which bolts on to the mainboard. Mistake 1 was to put the surround on before putting in the cpu. Oops. Nothing broken. I left the rest of the heatsink for a little later.

Memory went in at 18.50, this is easy as it is push-fit. One issue is that my memory comes with heatsinks which protrude upwards a bit. The memory heatsinks almost clash with the cpu heatsink and let to me moving them to the other 2 sockets. (4 sockets, 2 used, 2 spare).

The cpu heatsink I've used is a Zalman CNPS10X Extreme. "Extreme" is no exaggeration, this thing is HUGE weighing in at 920grammes. With domestic fans, bigger is better to a huge degree, as a bigger fan can be run slower. A slow big fan is much quieter than a quick small fan. Installation of these is "interesting" though. There's a bracket that needs to be "just so" before you can tighten it down. That took some adjusting ...

Next step - putting the motherboard in the case. Interesting Times for sure. The Thermaltake case comes with its own spacers for holding the board away from all the conductive case stuff. That mostly works but it took a little swearing and poking to get the board aligned with the screw holes. Board finished going in at 19.52.

Graphics was next. My budget is decent but still modest. I've put money into cpu this time with graphics being "average" instead of "amazing". I've got a Gigabyte GeForce 560Ti card, factory overclocked to 900MHz (10% faster than normal). Curious to see how Shiny that will be. By this point, I was ignoring the case manual which made putting this card in much simpler.

Graphics in at 20.00, side of case on at 20.02, with Squeaky Bum Time (first power up) coming shortly after. Another difference this time is that I could hook it up to the telly, so an opportunity to test in the open before committing it to its hidey-hole. (I need to move the sofa to easily get at the hidey-hole).

From here on, it's almost without incident (eerily). First power up went with no hitches at 20.12. I had a good check of the BIOS (the bit that runs the machine behind Windows) to make sure things were configured ok. This is also a good time in a build to go to "Hardware Monitoring" and keep an eye on the temperatures. It doesn't give "in the green" but stable idle temps of 30 degrees C are Good. You don't want that going up much, it means the heatsink isn't doing its job.

I started off loading Windows 7 at 20.17 and the surprising thing is that it only took 23 minutes from starting to being able to see the internet on the machine. Bit less time to get a Windows screen up but it needed to be told how to see the net.

I decided to call a halt after a bit more temperature monitoring. Was getting hungry and could no longer focus-ignore that ... I'll reconvene tomorrow after moving the hard disc across to the new machine. Then I can see how Shiny the graphics will be.

How about the name ? I went for a Halloween theme name there : "Pumpkin". Although my mind is now thinking along the lines of "Frankenstein" or "Horrifido".

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Face, Sad Face

Life's often contrasts, things make you happy or make you sad in equal measure. I have a few of those at the moment :

Happy Face - my Battlefield 3 preorder came through today
Sad Face - looks like I need new stuff as the box says no Windows XP
(just means I chill out Sunday night and have a huge reason to not be lazy on Monday)

Happy Face - I should get those new bits on Monday for putting together later
Sad Face - I know that Better Stuff will be out by the end of the week
(Just means I go for less expensive bits and save 2 bits for later)

Happy Face - I have all sorts of great toys
Sad Face - no one around to share them with
(I love popcorn but I like hugs more)

Happy Face - I appear to be getting my leg back (the wound appears to be fading at last)
Sad Face - the days of me enjoying running around a cricket field seems like it's in the past
(shoulder and back don't have many games left in them)

Happy Face - Car's great
Sad Face - it doesn't understand me (it's great but not perfect)
(the voice commands have about a 50% success rate at the moment, apart from that the brain of the automatic gearbox is perfectly in tune with what I want it to do)

Happy Face - England annihilated India in the Test series over here
Sad Face - England got annihilated by India at their place
(not much really to say there !)

Happy Face - I'm on leave next week
Sad Face - the house is messy and seeing it will remind me
(I have a lot of cleaning up to do)

Happy Face - work is quiet
Sad Face - it won't be when the printer gets fixed
(work has its successes at the moment plus enough unexpected stuff to keep life interesting and "quiet" has nothing to do with the activity level, just the deciBels at my desk caused by a printer)

Happy Face - I show the car off to more people soon
Sad Face - lots of driving (that's not really a Sad Face though)
(curious to see what mpg I get on the long run)

Happy Face - Tis Birthday season
Sad Face - Amazon's wish list system seems rather broken
(been trying to order stuff for someone, that met with utter failure of the ordering system and their customer services)

Happy Face - Fireworks party next week
Sad Face - you kiddin' ? Tis Explosions !

And on that last, I'll leave it there and head off to my desktop PC for what could be its last gaming session. There can never really be a downside to recreational explosives. Ok, pet owners will definitely disagree there.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sleepy's Gaming : League of Legends Tristana

Can't remember if I've written about this one before which means I probably have and then forgotten ...

Been enjoying a game called League of Legends lately. I'd been doing what you could call training by playing with bots only. Me plus 4 on my side versus 5 on the other. That got kinda easy after a while though so I started doing what was intended with a game like this, that is playing it with other people. Just against bots again for now, I won't enter Player Vs Player until I earn more levels.

It's one where it's better played with other people because of the variation that offers but the sad thing about the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games is that the community is very badly behaved. I've seen that numerous times already where people descend into calling each other "noob". Yep, the quality of insults starts low and commences digging. So I'm not going to enter PvP until I'm ready for it. I'm more than holding my own in the Player vs Bots battles.

Waitaminute - what's this game I'm talking about ? Here's a few links :
Totalbiscuit plays LoL
Riot Games - these guys make LoL.
And finally - my referral link if anyone wants to give it a go.

So - I'm thinking I'm being effective in this game and through that, I'm avoiding the abuse that can come your way. I suspect I'm helping to squash some of it by carrying some games on my own. I'm using a character called Tristana who has special abilities that I have a lot of fun with. Not so sure about the other characters in the game and I know I have to have another in reserve so I can switch when Tristana gets picked first.

What's Tristana ? Here's another link ...

She's a little sniper champion ... Abilities are :
Long range - the closer she is to maximum level, the further she can shoot. Sometimes this is as far as off the screen (I have a widescreen monitor)
Fast shooting - little bit of extra damage when you need it
Rocket boots - love these. Jump in, go boom, jump away (if you can)
Explosive shots - kill something (in game) and it'll explode and hit things close by
Buster Shot - fires a big cannon ball that knocks bad guys halfway across the map.

So - the main Master Plan is to Rocket Boot ahead of someone and Buster Shot them back to your own lines. Works a charm if you land it right.

It's not just the abilities, part of my reason for this post is to put up a Tristana damage build. What path do I take with items ?

First is a Faerie Charm and Rejuvenation Bead for a little extra health and mana. You can afford these when the game starts and they go towards a later awesome item.
At 920 gold, it's time to head home and pick up the Berserker Boots. They make you move and attack faster.
Next is Tiamat, a damage item that does a few things, the best is to make your attacks splash to nearby targets. Tristana does most of her damage from basic attacks so this item is amazing when given to the little Megling.
After Tiamat I used to use Guinsoo's Rageblade which sped up the attack rate. Not sure this now because it might lead you to hit the maximum attack speed.
Ok, not Guinsoo's, how about the Phantom Dancer. It speeds up attack and movement. Nifty item ...
A Player vs Bot game can sometimes be coming to an end by now but there's still 3 item slots left :
Next on the list is the Trinity Force which boosts everything, the highlight being that it slows enemies when you hit them. Stops them escaping ...
5th is The Bloodthirster, which boosts damage and gives you health back when you hit things. This combines spectacularly with Tiamat which devastates groups of bad guys.
Lastly is the Frozen Mallet, to slow bad guys down.

Right - stats time for the LoL readers who might come by reading this :
Berserkers Greaves : +25 attack speed, Enhanced Movement 2
Tiamat : 50 attack damage, 15 health/5, 5 mana/5, splash damage
Phantom Dancer : 55 attack speed, 30 crit chance, 15 movement speed
Trinity Force : lots
Waitaminute - here's a link again. And another link.

Hmm - I've been typing all this time when I could have been powergaming my build even more. And this is quite enough about gaming for now :-)

PS Very quiet at work at the moment. The colour printer is broken and I am denying all suggestions of sabotage.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Can we get an epic length series again ? Please ?

One thing that's been consistent is that when an interesting TV series gets going, the money people will can it ...

Just been reading about the new V, while it wasn't the best series it was (barely) good enough to deserve the chance to tell its story at least to a satisfactory conclusion. I was watching Chase until I heard it got canned, although I found out it was being canned because I was wondering if there was any point in persisting with it. There's other examples too :

Babylon 5 - lost its fifth season so 2 year's worth of story had to be compressed into one. And that earnt it a fifth season. It's spinoff, Crusade, wasn't so lucky. It was given the axe just as it was building momentum. Same with Firefly and Stargate Universe. Firefly was awesome from day 1, SG:U struggled due to a depressing setting but came out fighting in season 2.

Star Trek original series - was killed off early. Were they right ? The success of Next Generation, the spinoffs and 11 movies (so far) say "hell no". At least the separate Star Trek series had chance to wind down and close themselves out, although Enterprise deserved more of a run.

I was really enjoying Defying Gravity over its short run, it was warm & fluffy entertaining scifi. Outcasts not so much, that got a mercy killing as it really didn't have that much in the way of redeeming features with actors phoning in their performances.

I still think Farscape is the best scifi series to be on telly in recent times, it roared back in style after getting killed off by the networks.

What am I enjoying on telly at the moment ? I have series links going for Buffy and A Town Called Eureka. Buffy's always been good, although I'm not intending to buy the dvds. Eureka is a new one which I looked at because of its links with Warehouse 13. Top, top series both of them. Highly entertaining due to light hearted character interaction. Sanctuary is what Amanda Tapping did next after Stargate and she brought through a lot of what made Stargate great. It's fun to watch while keeping an edge in reserve.

I just think it's a shame that potentially great series get killed off before they get a chance to show off their stories. We have a saying at work for thinking like that : "Risk Averse". Well, if the networks are that risk averse, they'll never get the payoff that comes with all the merchandising for successful series.

So many great stories out there which will never get the chance to be told.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More playing on da interwebs

Yep - it's another car type post :-)

I dunno if it's the interweb growing over the past few years in how much we actually use it these days or something else but I've looked up stuff about my current car much more than any car I've had in the past. Ok, I did end up getting a few magazines when Rover were bringing out their new 200 (the second one) which eventually led to me buying their 420.

I think I would have joined various owners club forums for the Puma when I bought it in 2001 had the interwebs been as active then as now. For the Lexus, before I bought it I was getting lots of very useful information from the CT200hforum and (will be adding links to the sidebar after I finish this post).

Reading around those websites let me get semi-impartial views on my prospective next car. Ok, views from people who have owned Lexus at least but I view those as far more impartial as what gets written in what passes for the motoring media in this country. People like Top Gear can be entertaining but they're as impartial as a football supporter at a game. They have their favourites, everything else is substandard.

The Lexus people are a little different there, they have their favourites but can give detailed examples of why everything else is substandard. From my personal experience, Prius build quality didn't feel as good, Honda salespeople didn't want to sell stuff and the German cars were too common. Being common isn't really a bad thing but it does mean "not special". And I like to have things that are a little different.

I've had my Lexus for a month now and the impression after that month is :

I want to drive it more.

Things like finding excuses to go places in it, like I may well be heading off to a kitcar show next weekend. My curiosity in kit cars has gone up again now I've been introduced to CVT hybrids. They're just a lot easier to drive and the CVT/motor combination gives amazing low speed flexibility. I've said byebye to having to wastefully work the clutch a lot when in stop/start traffic and if I get caught changing up too early on a roundabout or junction, the CVT box takes that in its stride and just Goes. The Focus gearbox had a long gap between 1st and 2nd which meant you were stuffed if relaxed getaway suddenly had to become fast getaway.

Anyway, one of those websites I've found is, which tracks your miles per gallon. Here's a link to the stats that will be building up for my CT. gives a couple of little toys, it lets you compare your economy to what other people are getting. Mine is a fairly low 44mpg on the last stop, although the trip computer said 46.5. We'll see how that works over several fill ups. The accuracy always depends on "where does it think a full tank stops ?" which varies between filling stations. Like if the last station underfilled by half a litre and this one overfilled by the same amount, that gets the mpg of the trip computer.

44-46 is a bit low for what I should get out of the CT, although it's a lot less thirsty in the same conditions than my Focus was. That used to get about 26-28 mpg in city only driving, going up to 36 on motorway trips. I ran up the motorway a bit tonight and was reading 51mpg and rising :-) So that's 50% better for a car that's a lot more refined, has much better spec and is a "I want to drive this car" rather than feeling like a tool to get from A to B.

Fuelly gives badges too :


That's one that's supposed to go on forum signatures (I need to edit the name to something less boring) although it depends on the forum code being smart enough to run it. I've added a smaller version to the sidebar.

Anyway - that's me done for this post. I have a week off coming soon, when I'll look to build a PC capable of playing the latest games. Fingers crossed that Novatech drop their prices in time, otherwise it's mail order again. Kit car show next weekend if it's dry, should be fun.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Star Wars Conundrum

Just finished watching the Star Wars movies again :-)

The blu-ray player "upgrade" (ok, it is an upgrade cos it'll play 3d but I'm not convinced about the engineering) gave me an excuse to acquire the newly released Star Wars blurays. They're definitely an improvement on the dvds :-) George Lucas has played with the content again though, introducing some questionable changes. The sad thing about the tweaks is that the tweaks coming in recently are wholly lacking in any value or meaning. Changing the krayt dragon noise that Kenobi makes ? Why - there's no point. It doesn't add any value and arguably takes value away.

That aside, the blu-ray movies look stellar, showing off the quality of the original prints (probably enhanced a little along the way). It's the best you'll ever see Star Wars, although if they bring out a £d special edition (meant 3d but my finger slipped freudian-like over the shift key) then I'll be avoiding it.

What's the conundrum ? You see there's a long series of Star Wars books out there that pick up the story and run with it. I've not read them all, partly because the New Jedi Order series soured the books for me and I don't buy the books any more due to that. However ... the conundrum comes because 3 authors in particular write Star Wars better than the movies.

That's :

Timothy Zahn with the original Post Movie Trilogy, where the Rebellion has become the Republic. It's not smooth sailing though as the last Grand Admiral of the Empire, Thrawn, has returned from out of shadows wanting to resurrect the Empire in his name.

Michael A. Stackpole comes in with the outstanding X Wing Rogue Squadron series. These slot in before the Thrawn trilogy focusing on "how the Republic was won". You see, the events in Return of the Jedi are just one battle in a much bigger war. The Rogue Squadron series follows lesser known characters under the leadership of Wedge Antilles, who was Red 2 from A New Hope and also appeared in Empire and Jedi. In these books, all bets are off as far as the characters are concerned. Body count is high ... which keeps the reader guessing as to what's going to happen.

Aaron Allston brings in the follow up to Rogue Squadron, with Antilles starting up a squadron of misfits. Call it The Dirty Dozen in space. They're not criminals, they're just pilots on their last chances. These are an excellent successor to the Rogue Squadron books, grittier and funnier at the same time.

The thing about Stackpole and Allston is that they keep the humour running through their books. Which really ups the interest level in the reader. They also treat the reader like an adult. It's not adult as in 18 cert, it's adult as in don't insult your reader by treating them like a child.

There are many other Star Wars books than the ones by the authors I mention above. They vary wildly in quality. The Timothy Zahn books are the highlights but some of the others are very poor. The New Jedi Order series in particular is one long epic of depression which I gave up on halfway through.

The conundrum is whether to dig those old books out again to give them another read :-) It actually fits in somewhat with my A to Z, with a few of the books being candidates to fill those empty letters.

Another conundrum is in gaming. In the era of the 486 PC (16 years ago), a lot of PCs were sold by one game, XWing. It was a space combat sim which if you got through the insane difficulty, would let you take on the Death Star trench run. I missed that one but cut my PC gaming teeth on the epic Tie Fighter. Really old games couldn't rely on visuals like the modern ones do, they needed gameplay and cunning level design. Tie Fighter made you feel a part of the Star Wars world.

I don't think I'll dig XWing and Tie Fighter out of the attic though, they need a flightstick to play and getting that to work on a modern PC (through emulators make it playable) would be a major headache. We don't see many space combat flight sims these days, which is a real shame. The X universe is the only contender but I couldn't get into that. Eve doesn't count because you A) are crippled by lag, B) don't have direct control of your ship and C) get lumped with half assed attempts to implement features the gamer base doesn't want.

Ok - that's enough about old games and poor games, time to get back to taking over the galaxy as my all conquering Krogan (I recycled the Mass Effect name for my Moo2 master race)

PS If any of the Bristol readers want to have a look at the T.Zahn, M.A.Stackpole or A.Allston books, lemme know and I'll be happy to lend them out.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tardis blue ?

Commented on Thumper's blog about a little Smart car ...

Here's mine :

Here's the Doctor's blue box :
(copyright on that belongs to the BBC)

Tardis blue ?

Maybe :-) But it's not bigger on the inside than the outside.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Random stuff

This'll make a change, instead of starting on one theme and then going totally random, I'm just going to add random thoughts :-)

Honesty is good. Although too much honesty can upset people if it clashes with the opinions they have of themselves. (I kept quiet with some of the wildlife at the Mall)

Yep - Mall run tonight. The Panasonic blu-ray player works pretty well now that it has room to breathe. It actually says in the spec "Operating temperature range : +5 C to +35 C". For domestic electronics, that's actually pretty low. I'm not saying I'd want to have my living room at +5 C (brrrr) but +35 is very low for kit that is quite likely to be sharing a shelf with something else. For that reason alone, I cannot recommend Panasonic blu-ray players to anyone. Hell, +35 C can be a daytime temperature in high summer.

Car :

Been enjoying the car more. The best analogy I have is that this car feels like something I want to keep driving, whereas the Focus was a tool for getting around in. Some of the first impressions need to be looked at again, because as I've got used to the Lexus, it's answered the questions I had.

Petrol and economy - mpg has been going up :-) Plus I seem to remember issues with filling up at the Cheltenham place in previous cars ... I'm now averaging 45.5mpg on the car computer in town driving. The Focus would have been guzzling at under 30mpg. One of my amusements when driving to work is seeing the mpg figure steadily go upwards while in stop/start traffic where it's running off the electric. I'll be crossing my fingers for better economy on motorway runs.

Driving the auto - one major criticism I have of my dad's Volvo is that the brain in the gearbox always picks the wrong gear for how I want to drive it. Not so in the Lexus, it'll hold lower gearing for longer and make itself ready for acceleration instantly. It has less power than the Volvo (134bhp combined vs 167hp actual, same weight) but feels faster because it wants to Go Fast.

Satnav - not really used this yet but one thing I put in the First Impressions is wrong, there's more than 6 memory slots, there are Many (100+). Just need to figure out if I can use the phone with bluetooth connection to let me pick a destination without being in the car. I think it's possible ...


How's the leg been ? Since I started using the cream it's been steadily improving. To the point where the fella I showed it to today (serves him right for asking - muahaha) didn't run off to the loo to be ill. Heh - it was never that bad and has improved a fair bit. Hopefully I get my leg back soon. Had a short run the other day and the leg as a whole behaved itself.

Music - not done a music post for a while. After resetting the play counts on the library at the start of the year, I've managed to listen to All About Eve's Devil Woman cover 13 times. Recent buys have included Kasabian (interesting), Aimee Mann (luvit), Ani Difranco (meh), Michelle Shocked (8>) but I've left Tori Amos albums (great but inconsistent) and Edie Brickell (too expensive) albums on the shelf.

Furniture shopping.

Hey ! Don't fall over with shock. I was actually inside a furniture shop. Didn't find what I wanted though. I don't want a TV stand (happy with the one I got from Craziequeen) which is all that's on sale. Nope. I'm after a hifi stand to put an amplifier, KeepMeCool blu-ray player and Xbox on. The choice is either £25 rubbish from Argos (it has to carry a 10kg amplifier) or something from PC World costing £53 per shelf. That's expensive overkill.

The reason a TV stand is out is because they are too wide, I want to save a little space with having Amp, Xbox and Blu-ray stacked on a shelf each and a TV stand is too wide with not enough shelves.

Any more random thoughts ?

Given up on Deus Ex for PC as it was making my PC cry. Also have a date for Star Wars The Old Republic (SWTOR) ... it's coming out at Xmas 2011 which puts a drop dead date on my current PC. As in, if I don't upgrade it, SWTOR will kill it. Same with Battlefield 3, after watching a couple of preview Beta test videos, this one is hitting my Interesting list.

Apart from that, I've been hunting for a game to bury myself in. Fairly unsuccessfully. I guess that will be Deus Ex, SWTOR and Mass Effect 3 when they come out.

Right - time to have a look at what Richer Sounds have in hifi furniture :-).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

More Good tech/bad tech

Been playing with the tech again. Which has led me to think of furniture buying ...

Had a fairly long running saga with my blu-ray player, which was a Sony player that didn't really like to play dvds. So I've been looking for a while to upgrade my stuff to bits that are 3d capable. I was already there with the amp and speakers, a 5.1 surround sound set probably does more for 3d experience than the picture does. 3d pictures just makes things jump out at you, 3d sound has the bullets flying all around you.

Anyway - that's getting beside the point. Point is - it's a bit of techie kit that doesn't work completely as intended. It's a victim of a good solution (HDMI) compromised by being meddled with (Anti-copy Stuff aka DRM).

That was the old, what's the new ? Panasonic are currently doing a deal where you buy one of their players and can send off for free Star Wars blu-rays. Hmm. 3d upgrade, free Star Wars, planned upgrade = me buying earlier than I needed to. Oh, it also gave me an excuse to use the car.

Hang on - he mentioned "Good tech / bad tech" ...

Ok. Hook up the new Shiny. Immediate problem - it's too thin to fit properly under my V+ box (think Sky+ or Tivo) so the V+ box is half on, half off the blu-ray player. That wasn't a problem for the Sony but it apparently crippled the Panasonic. Cue lots of screenblinking as that HDMI cable thingy acted up.

Long story short - it didn't want to play Iron Man 2 (loss of picture) until I moved it somewhere it was in the open. I suspect heat sensitivity, which is Very Bad for domestic electronics. If you cram the bits into a box that's too small to fit with other stuff, then you're going to get heat trouble. That's bad design all the way. Make it so it's reliable, which means Total Design, which includes making sure it works reliably as well as looks pretty.

So that's bad tech - an item that does what it was supposed to but only after putting up a fight. Still, it's better than Nasty tech, which is what Belkin specialise in these days.

Impressions of the Panasonic player ? Picture seemed a little sharper but that's small improvements over an already good Sony. Sound seemed better. I suspect both of those are placebo effect though. And I had to fight to get Best quality lossless sound as a default setting makes the player give lossy compressed sound. (Tip - turn Secondary Audio to Off) Picture was jerky during Iron Man 1, however this could have been due to overheating in its cramped location.

Good tech - anything Lexus. Had the car 1 week now and I'm still having the buzz from driving it around. The Focus felt like a tool that you drove because you had to, the Lexus (and the Puma before it) feels special. And anything associated with it just Works, from the iPod integration to the phone integration to the tech that makes it go. It's a very intuitive car to drive, there's no clutch or gearbox ratios to manage. There's an engine to turn on and off but the car does that for you, anticipating what you want.

I thought I was a pretty smooth driver but the Lexus is teaching me stuff there. I'm learning how to make the most of the energy you carry when a car moves, steadily smoothing things out to get the best out of the car. It'll still fly and leave people in the dust at the lights when you want it to but the challenge is more in how efficient you can be. Any brute can floor the throttle all the time but not many will achieve the same results with finesse. And I value finesse over the sledgehammer. It's a rare car that can do both finesse and sledgehammer but the Lexus seems to be managing it.

Doh - I'm rambling again.

Will close out with :
Bad tech - domestic electronics. They do what you want eventually but fight you for it
Good tech - complex stuff presented simply with reliable confidence.
Nasty tech - our IT system at work. Or anything Belkin.