Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More On The Guitar Hero Debate

More on the Guitar Hero Debate


Review - BBC iPlayer Streaming Beta With Ubuntu and Firefox

As a Linux user the decision by the BBC to use proprietary Microsoft DRM for their iPlayer video downloading service came as very disappointing news. Seemingly many of the several million UK Mac and Linux users agreed with me and kicked up a fair stink over the issue. This lead to the BBC trust mandating that the iPlayer should provide support for all licence payers, not just those who run Windows.
The streaming iPlayer is the BBC's answer to the protesting OSX and Ubuntu devotees who want the freedom to catch up on last weeks Eastenders.
I will be testing it with Firefox 2 running on a fairly decrepit Ubuntu laptop to see if it offers anything for us beardy Linux users left out in the cold.
My first impression is how Mac like it all looks. I find it quite bizzare that BBC Future Media managed to come up with a platform that has the look and feel of an iPhone with an Apple referencing name which was incompatible with the Mac but I digress.
The page opens with suggested highlights you may wish to catch up on and a "Last 7 Days" button which causes a snazzy looking days of the week toolbar to fade into view. From there you can filter the content by network and time of day. The available programmes appear in a grid but unfortunately the interface truncates the title of the programme and doesn't offer the full title in a tooltip when the mouse hovers over the item. The only way to get to the full title of the content or a synopsis of the show is to click on it and open the video. There is no back button so if the content is incorrect you must start the search process again. Strangely if you click the "Last 7 Days" button once you've opened a video it opens behind the video and is effectively no use.
Once you have found your desired episode the interface is essentially a You Tube alike. On the plus side the video is 16x9 and looks relatively free from artefacts and the audio is 128Kbps which is perfectly acceptable for most purposes.
Unfortunately it has a lot to learn from the oft imitated but never bettered You Tube player. The time indication is grey on black and I find it virtually impossible to read. I could put up with the unreadable time code if it wasn't for two painful errors. Firstly the transport controls don't appear to work at all. If you attempt to move the play head it switches to a buffering icon seemingly indefinitely and secondly if you click the full screen icon it claims the feature is unavailable because my Flash player is not up to date when this is not the case. On the two programmes I attempted to watch both played to approximately half way through then faded to black and displayed the not at all helpful message "Something Went Wrong"before refusing to play further.

iPlayer is still listed as being beta software, but with a full launch planned on Christmas Eve it really should be in a better state than this by now.
As it stands the service would appear to be virtually unusable to the Firefox/Ubuntu user though I would be interested to hear what the experience of Windows users has been.

Despite all the problems I can't help thinking that more than just a conciliatory gesture to the Linux/Mac community the streaming player will prove to be the better way of accessing iPlayer content.
Throughout the history of TV the user experience has been that you get your show when you turn on the TV not the next day. If you Bit Torrent a show you have to wait, but at least then you have the option to keep it as long as you want and transfer it to your portable device/burn it to DVD as you require.
The BBC p2p service is rendered obsolete when you can easily download platform agnostic content unburdened with DRM from Pirate Bay. This method has the disadvantage of it dubious legal status, but could you imagine any court in the land punishing a licence payer for getting hold of content they were unable to watch through official channels because the content is crippled with proprietary Digital Restrictions Management.

I look forward to seeing how the service develops and matures over time but for now it simply doesn't function as it should.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Was C4s Mobile Act Unsigned A Con?

This Sunday the finalists of Channel 4's Mobile Act Unsigned were decided.
The four bands who made it to the semi-final were Hijack Oscar, Revenue, The Bad Robots and early drop outs in on a wild card Envy and Other Sins.
Throughout the competition The Bad Robots have been acknowledged as the best song writers and Hijack Oscar as the best musicians and yet Revenue (a band all the judges acknowledged are incapable of writing songs) and a band who were knocked out of the competition early on for being dull end up as finalists.
How did this happen?
Maintaining a sense of community involvement and excitement about the winners requires that the final comes down to a public vote. In the era of the X Factor the audience expect nothing less, but this is the last thing that the label want when they have a million quid riding on the winner.
The answer to this problem? ...

A ringer

Envy and Other Sins were parachuted into the competition the week before the semi final where they performed a mediocre cover of Video Killed the Radio Star. People who haven't been watching from the start probably haven't heard a single song they have written.
Even the public vote to reinstate them was a con. The 6 bands with the highest votes were brought back into contention, but when you consider that this was from a list of 12 with 3 still in the competition and one disqualified you realise that the judges got to pick who to bring back from a list of 6 of the 8 bands who were eligible. The only reason for them to be in the competition is to ensure whoever they are up against wins the public vote.
So why Revenue?
Two moments in the series might provide a clue. The first was when the singer managed to get Lilly Allen's phone number, but perhaps the most telling was the scene in the semi final where Simon Gavin informed the band that they had no song writing ability, but that was ok because he would find them a producer who could help them with that.
Excuse me what?
I thought what producers did was make recordings sound good. I think the what he was trying to say was "We can find you a Guy Chambers style hit maker who can write your songs for you".
So what do we get?
In the absence of a real stand out talent in the competition they have decided to go for a bunch of guys who aren't too smart, but they can guarantee will make it onto the pages of Bizzare in The Sun who they can sign to a shitty no money one album deal and write some hit factory songs for.
I'm hoping some kind of fluke happens and they get stuck with Envy and Other Sins, but I wouldn't put money on it at any odds.

Linky Love - 17th Dec

Rather than over posting with too many links I'm going to try bundling them up in a round up post. Let me know what you think.

I would love this story about an 11th grader at a US school getting detention for using Firefox, but I have the feeling it might be fake.
That said I do know a guy who's kid got computer literacy homework of finding out how to use features in MS Word and failed because they were using Fedora with Open Office!

I also love this story about the porn industry loosing money because of the popularity of adult You Tube variants if only for the fact that I'm imagining the poster for Home Taping is Killing Porn!

Boing Boing
is linking to a superb paper analysing the insanity that lead to Sony BMG installing spyware on users PCs.

Over on TDDO Spanners has been suffering after the dentist saw fit to sew his mouth shut!

Petition for Data Loss Notification = 25 Million Letters in the Post?

A petition has sprung up on the 10 Downing street site asking for mandatory notification if a company looses your personal data.
I think this is an excellent idea. There is nothing better than the threat of bad publicity to keep people honest.
As it stands if a company accidentally spill your data to a bunch of credit scammers their best course of action is just to hush it up.

Link via Boing Boing
Link to Petition

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Xubuntu for EEE PC

I run Ubuntu on my laptop and desktop and though the KDE based distro that came with my EEE PC does have some plus points I do miss that buntu goodness.
I haven't had a bash at installing it myself yet as most attempts I have read about seem to have fallen foul of the non standard WiFi and Screen.
Rather conveniently eeeuser have just released eeeXubuntu which includes some custom tweaks to the Xfce based Ubuntu variant to help it run on the EEE.
Xubuntu is a good choice for the EEE as it is considerably less intensive on system resources than GNOME or KDE based distros.
I'm not going to bite the bullet and install it quite yet, but I'll certainly be keeping tabs on progress with it.
I'm hoping Hardy Heron comes with EEE support built in but until then this looks like the best bet for buntu fanboys with an EEE.

EDIT: It would appear that eeeXubuntu is the work of one oasisbob rather than an eeeuser comunity project.

Bertrand Russell and Amputees

Recently I've been analysing and adjusting my beliefs somewhat (which you will possibly hear more about when I'm done) and as a result I have been reading (and rereading) a lot of Bertrand Russell including this thought provoking essay

I've also been reading though I haven't made enough progress with it to formulate much of an opinion just yet.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Homeopathy Cures AIDs (or not)

I've just been reading this article by Ben Goldacre.

I've always considered Homeopathy to be utter nonsense (Homeopathic medicines are just sugar pills and contain no active ingredient) but relatively harmless nonsense that gives the recreationaly unwell something to squander their money on in exchange for a dose of the placebo effect.

Recently however I have discovered that practitioners are recommending that people give their children sugar pills to prevent malaria, or as a substitute to the MMR vaccine (Measles has claimed its first child fatality as a result of the declining immunization rate BTW) and cure AIDs. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that it should be entirely outlawed, or at the very least that practitioners should not be able to refer to what they give as medicine, or a therapy and furthermore that people setting themselves up in a position of authority giving people dangerous health advise should be held criminally responsible for the damage they might cause.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Richard Dawkins Documentary

Link to a fascinating pair of documentaries by Richard Dawkins dealing with spiritualism and faith healing / alternative medicine.

One thing I didn't realize is that Homeopathy is being paid for with tax payers money which I find sickening.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Can Guitar Hero Make You a Better Guitarist? + Free Guitar Game

I just read this article by Rob Walker about Guitar Hero from the New York Times with some interest.

Since Guitar Hero III came out reviewers have speculated that playing might improve your axe skills or give you an advantage if you were to take up the instrument. The consensus seems to be that it doesn't, but I'm not so sure.

The little plastic buttons on a Guitar Hero controller certainly bear no relation to the demands of fretting, but the need for spot on timing is universal.

If you have ever listened to a beginner play guitar the first thing you notice is that they speed up on the easy bits and slow down on the trickier sections. This is the bane of guitar teachers lives and is the reason they bug you to practice with a metronome. Once you start playing with a drummer you suddenly discover that you have to start marching to the beat of another and your kick ass riffs suddenly start sounding a little sloppy. I know plenty of people who can wail on a guitar, but dry up and blow away when faced with recording to a click track.

In an example from my own life. I've been playing guitar for about 13 years (at one point for about four hours a day) but a few years back I was getting frustrated with my playing and needed a change so I started playing drums in a band learning as I went. Gradually my guitar playing slipped and I realized that my Strat had been sitting unplayed in its case for 3 months. When I dug it out something strange had happened. My technique had gone to shit and I found I got cramp after a few minutes, but my phrasing had come on in leaps and bounds and I had made the breakthrough that made me interested in playing the guitar again.

So do I think that Guitar Hero III could make you a better guitarist?

If you are a beginner, or your phrasing gives you grief then I think it can only have a positive effect.

If you are wondering what all this Guitar Hero fuss is about then I suggest you try out Frets On Fire. It's a freeware game which you play holding the keyboard like a guitar and you can get it here .

Orchestral Mario Galaxy Recording

The orchestral sessions for the Gutsy Garden theme from Super Mario Galaxy. A fair chunk of music from the game is recorded with a full orchestra, but you don't get the full awesomeness of it until you hear it being recorded.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Daddy Advent Calender

I'm running an online advent calender over on

I was thinking about cross posting it onto my blog but I'm going to find it hard enough to keep the thread updated let alone keep this place in step as well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Bible Gets Bad Ass

This Article had me laughing so much the missus just came in to ask me what I was up to.

The bible has some really bizarre stuff in it for example:

“And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them” (2 Kgs. 2:23-24)."

but it's the commentary that makes it ultra funny.

Voice of The Underground Sacked

Boo to TFL for not having a sense of humor!

They have done away with the voice of the underground Emma Clarke because she posted some spoof announcements on her website. I think it's a bit of a poor show especially as the clips are really rather funny.

Clips can be found if you follow the link.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The CIA Torture and Call it Interogation

This video by Amnesty features an actor being subjected to a standard CIA interrogation technique.

I don't recommend watching it if you are easily upset by torture.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Review - ASUS EEE PC

If you keep up with the tech news websites then you will have probably heard about the EEE PC which was initially called the $199 laptop although rising prices for LCD screens has put paid to that dream it is now out and if you've read my earlier post about trying to buy one on Tottenham Court Road you will know that they are flying off the shelves by all account.
When you review something it is usually taken as a given that you know what it is.
In this case however the answer is not quite so cut and dried. It looks like a laptop, but it's much smaller than even a subnotebook. It almost fits into the category of Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) which is a type of device that Microsoft and Sony have been investing heavily in but a Sony UMPC runs Windows Vista and costs around £2,000 compared to the £170-£260 that a EEE PC will set you back. Perhaps then it's better thought of as a PDA. It boots into a simple tabbed menu system that allows you to select between web browsing, e-mails, etc, but under the hood it is a real Linux PC and it is quite capable of running XP should you choose to install it.

The fact that it doesn't fit into a niche held by any other device could be a real boon for ASUS. It's what Nintendo called blue water thinking when they came up with the Wii. You leave the sharks to fight in the bloody red water and sneak off to position your product where there aren't any competitors.
I guess I should start by explaining what you get for your money;
A 900Mhz Intel Celeron M processor with 512MB of RAM. 3xUSB, VGA Monitor out, LAN Port, Line In, Headphone Out, 7” LCD screen, full QWERTY keyboard. WiFi, Webcam, 4GB Flash Drive, SD Slot.
What you don't get is a hard drive. The operating system and your data are stored on the internal 4GB flash drive. This keeps the power and size down, but you arent going to be keeping your photo albums or Mp3 collection on here unless you invest in an SD card (it supports cards up to 32GB) or a usb hard drive.
The software is a customized version of Linux made by ASUS and Xandros, but don't let that scare you away. Asus have talked of the EEE PC being an appliance rather than a PC and as such it has been designed with a rather nifty user friendly tabbed interface.
At the top of the screen are a number of tabs labeled internet, work, learn, play, settings and favorites and clicking on these opens a menu with big chunky buttons for each of the functions in that tab.

In the internet tab you have a web browser (Firefox), instant messenger, e-mail, skype
The work tab has the Open office suite of Word, Excel and Power Point alikes (what I am currently writing this article on in fact) along with PDF reader and Mozilla Thunderbird the e-mail app from the Firefox people.
Learn has a few educational apps to help kids with maths and the like.
Play has games (including Linux favs Frozen Bubble and Penguin Racer) and photo, video and music managers.
Favorites and Setting are pretty self explanatory.

Build Quality and Construction
The EEE PC really reminds me of a bigger version of my old Psion 3 from the big oversized hinges with the removable battery slung between them to the style of the icons.
The whole thing has a nice robust feel about it and compares favorably with the frankly rather flimsy Toshiba Portege sub notebook I tried a while back.
The keyboard is very small but it has a positive feel and a decent layout.
The matt finish on the case doesn't pick up finger prints or scratches.
Its about the same size and weight as a large paperback book and though it isn't going to fit in the pocket of your jeans it will go in a large coat pocket or a handbag with ease.
One nice touch is the neoprene slip case that came as a pack in and protects from knocks and dust.

From switch on to up and running takes a lightning quick 15 seconds. For word processing and web browsing everything opens pretty quickly and there is no appreciable slow down when you are running a few apps at the same time.
Nothing I threw at it seemed to phase it at all and even the 3D penguin racer ran ok although the frame rare was nothing to write home about.

Screen and Graphics
The screen is a 7” back lit LCD with a slightly bizarre resolution of 800 x 480.
The screen is crisp and has a very good viewing angle and the colour representation is very good. There is however no getting away from the fact that the screen really could be rather bigger. The 7” screen leaves quite an expanse of unused space on the top surface and though this is used for a web cam and speakers I would gladly sacrifice them for a bigger screen. ASUS have stated the intent to produce one with a 10” screen and I expect they will be able to package this within the same form factor.
The picture from the built in VGA connector performed admirably and supports a variety of output resolutions though I have to date only tried it with my TV which only supports 1024x768.
One minor gripe is that there are no threads provided for the locking screws of the VGA connector this was only really a problem when I was using the EEE on my lap with the monitor output going to the telly. In a desktop situation with monitor mouse and keys I doubt it would be a problem.

Random Things I Love
There are keyboard function keys for switching back to the tabs and for opening the task manager.
The caps and num lock are shown on nifty little on screen buttons.
The touch pad has a scroll slider on the right hand side which allows you to scroll a web page or doc with a slide of your finger.
The fact that they have thought to put 2 USB ports on one side for keyboard and mouse and one on the other for a USB stick.
The chunky feeling of robustness that the unit has.
The very impresive battery life (ive done Birmingham and back on the train today and it's still on half power on the batteries.)
You can turn it into a full KDE Debian install with a couple of Bash commands.

All in all I have been very impressed with the EEE PC in the short time that I have had it, but there are a couple of issues I will bring to the attention of the pedants.
Volume and WiFi are on soft keys which is a concession to space. The keyboard is in the main very well laid out if cramped due to its small size, but the location of the insert key just above the delete key is a total pain and you can easily put your self into the dreaded insert mode.
The machine can go into standby which takes only a couple of seconds, but lacks a hibernate mode, though when you consider that the machine has half a GB of RAM and only 4 GB of disk it is obvious why it doesn't.
The touch pad is small which makes it a bit jittery and a mouse is a must if you are doing a lot of pointer work. I am however an ardent supporter of what I like to call the pointer nipple (becaue I don't know what its propper name is) so you are unlikely to find me singing the praises of any touch pad.
Though it saves the details of your home network you have to explicitly tell it to connect when you boot it up.
Open Office is quite a slow loading app and it would be handy to have a simple text editor like gedit for when you just want to write some notes.
The PC has the all singing all dancing Konqueror file manager but doesn't use it by default.

Techy Stuff
The Linux environment is based on Debian distro with KDE and has all the tools and apps you would expect. The installer for the OS is stored on a hidden partition so you can reinstall if you break it (though I resent the additional disk space that this uses up)
On the more expensive models like the 701 the RAM is socketed and upgradeable however it is soldered in on the cheaper surf models. The guts are accessible though a flap on the bottom of the unit, but rather uncharitably there is a warranty voiding seal which you must break to open it. I am also lead to believe that there is a slot in which an additional 4GB flash card can be inserted to enhance the internal disk and the disk manager application backs this up by displaying a disk 2 not present message (I assume the 8GB model uses this extra slot as standard.)
The machine supports XP and ASUS provide a drivers disk and an app which makes a USB stick into a bootable Windows installer for the device. Pressure from MS has lead to the promise that they will release a version with Windows pre installed for an additional £40 some time next year, though I hope they don't use muscle to make this a replacement for the Linux version.
The machine its self is a pretty standard Intel system on a board set up with integrated graphics acceleration and the ubiquitous Realtek integrated sound also found on my desktop and work laptop PCs. As a result you should have no problem installing another flavor of Linux if you so desire with Xubuntu, Puppy or Damn Small all being good options.
You can also set it to boot up in a normal KDE environment by installing kicker and ksmserver from the command line and from then on you can switch between them freely.

For those of you pondering if you should buy now or hold out you should keep in mind that there will shortly be a number of options added to the list including a 1GB RAM 8 GB disk version, There has been talk of a 2GB, 256MB version but I would steer clear of this as it also has a lower spec battery and the RAM is soldered rather than socketed and therefore non upgradeable.
In the future there is an suggestion from ASUS that they plan to produce versions with a 10”LCD , a 3G wireless data card and perhaps most interestingly upgrade the processor to an Intel Merom based unit which will reduce power consumption by a significant factor.
On a purely aesthetic front the box shows a variety of colours with the green one looking especially fetching..
There is also talk of a desktop model being made available at some point.

This is quite a specialized device and it certainly isn't for everyone although what I will say is that if you want a very portable cheap machine or something that just works out of the box then you really can't go wrong. I also think it could be an option for a very simple desktop machine if you coupled it with a screen and a keyboard and mouse.
While writing this review I have used the machine on the tube and on a London to Birmingham train and compared to the bulky slow booting laptops everyone else was using it has been a breath of fresh air and has had quite a few admiring glances.

Wii Review - Scarface The World Is Yours

As the name suggests “The Word is Yours” is a game based on the classic gangster movie Scarface, but offers an intelligent alternative to the normal movie tie in.

The game starts with you controlling Tony Montana through the final scene of the movie complete with his “Leetal friend” but with his fate in your hands you can prevent his climactic demise. What you can't prevent is the destruction of his empire at the hands of the law and rival gangs.

Back on the street without a penny to his name Tony immediately sets to getting his empire back the only way he knows how. Selling cocaine and killing people. As you progress you can buy all the trappings of a crime lord and tart up your mansion.
The gameplay is what you might uncharitably refer to as a Grand Theft Auto clone with a couple of twists.

Control is as you would expect for a GTA alike with the advantage of the ability to free aim with the Wiimote. An extra mechanic added to the game is Tony's rage which is added to by good aiming, daring stunts, and taunting your enemies. When it maxes out you can enter rage mode moving the camera into first person, making you invincible and giving you a health boost for every person you kill.
Every time you negotiate you have to do a test based around holding down a button and releasing it at the right moment like an old skool golf game. It's a shame the Wii motion controls couldn't have been introduced here.

Playing as Tony you roam around the four districts of Miami getting your turf back in one of three ways: Selling drugs to make money, Wiping out rival gangs to reduce the competition and Buying legitimate businesses to use as fronts.

Clearing out gangs is as simple as driving around till you spot some toughs then gunning them down. Once their leader is dead they will scatter and you have to make sure you kill all of them or they will come back a bit later. Why they have to be exterminated and won't join your gang is not explained..

To do drug deals you phone your contact at any time who sets you up. You always have to do some kind of random mission which involves collecting something, dropping something off or doing someone in to set up the deal. Depending on how big your operation is you progress through making deals with street dealers for a few grams, to distributing through your warehouses to front businesses, finally running your own shipping from Cuba bringing it in by the Kg. This part of the game works really well.

Buying front businesses is the way you progress through the story arc. This involves running some kind of mission for the owner and then handing over the readies. Every so often this results in some kind of set up or story trigger that sees you wiping out a rival gang leader.
This is where the game falls down for me. Only one mission is available at a time and though some of them are great fun some of them are marred with poor mechanics making them virtually impossible to complete. This would be fine if you could pick and choose but the linearity forces you play dreadful missions again and again.

It's a shame some of the missions are so flawed as the actor playing Tony (Hand picked by Al Pacino no less) is excellent and has something to say for every occasion and the graphics are good considering it is a PS2 port, but as it is I can't recommend it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I got me an EEE PC

Woo I've got one!

I am writing this post from my brand new ASUS EEE PC 701 (512MB, 4GB, £219) and dang was it some kind of freaky time getting one.

I saw posters up in one of the shops on Tottenham Court Road (For those of you not familiar with London this is the electrical goods district) while I was in town which reminded me that today was UK release day.
The first shop I visited (at about 1pm) had said they had just got them in but had already sold out of all of the White ones and only had three Black ones left. I really wanted to see a white one before i made a choice so I set off down the road.

I did a quick whistle stop tour of the 15 or so PC shops. 10 had got shipments that morning and of those only three had any left in stock and none of them had any white ones. In just about every shop someone was ordering one, or playing with a demo model. Having played with a White demo unit and deciding that the black one was just dandy
I quickly went back to the first shop (bear in mind only about 15 minutes had elapsed). When I got there I found that he had now sold the remaining three units in stock, but he told me that he also owned the other shop that had them in stock over the road. He phoned and confirmed that they had one left so I paid while he nipped over and got it. While I was paying he rang the shop assistant and told her that in the time it took him to cross the road they had sold it and the didn't have any more, by this time I had already paid so he gave me one that was being held for another customer as I was quite understandably miffed.
While he was bringing it in a woman came in and said she wanted to buy it but he told her he had just sold it to me and it was the last one.
The shop assistant seemed completely confused and said it was only normally like this the week before Christmas.

First impressions are that the build quality and interface are good and it boots very fast. I also can't get over just how small it is (not much bigger than my old Psion 3) but I will do a detailed review ASAP.

Also just because Engadget do it here is some unboxing pr0n:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Nice Box!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Behold Babylon

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
No I'm not a giant, it really is that small.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ubuntu Vs XP Pt1

I was planning to do this part of the story of my switch over to Ubuntu eventually, but hearing that fellow TDDOer Malcolm has had a less than fun time trying to use Ubuntu and had to give up on it I thought I would crack on with it and let you know how it stacks up with Windows. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of Leopard or Vista to hand, but I've spent some time with a decently speced Vista laptop and a fair bit of time on a Final Cut Pro machine which I believe was Panther on a Power PC based G5 Mac Pro so though I don't feel well informed enough to do a comprehensive comparison I will chip in with points where I can. I will focus the first part of the article on core OS features and will talk about applications in the next part.


At the time of installing both of my machines the current version of Ubuntu was 7.04 Edgy and so I haven't had any experience of the new versions installer, but I must say it was an absolute breeze. The PC booted into the Live CD and then during the installation all I had to do was set the time zone and type in my name and that was it.
I must note that two people I know have had problems installing Ubuntu one with a very old machine and the other with a non standard screen in this case there is a text mode installer which is just as easy to use but doesn't look as pretty it's annoying that you have to download this separately and it doesn't detect the problem and switch into text mode.
For more advanced users Ubuntu comes with superb features for making a PC duel boot and repartitioning the disk. While installing my desktop PC I repartitioned my fragmented XP system partition and it worked like a charm without any scares.

XP is the easiest Microsoft OS I have installed, but I have had a few problems with it. The first one is the classic have a cup of tea and leave it going problem. You set it up and leave it to do its thing for half an hour and then come back to find a dialogue box popped up seconds after you left and its done naff all in the time you were away.
I've had XP hang on installation more than once and had to reformat and go back to the beginning and I've also had Windows become confused on a rebuild and recreate all the user folders a second time prefixed by the computer name and a dot.
XP is also blighted by the fact that many vendors don't provide a proper Windows disk and some don't even provide a recovery disk.
Had two of my friends not had a bad installation experience I would have given it to Ubuntu as it is I'm calling it evens.


No registration is required unless you take out a support contract woo hoo! Windows
Initial registration is not hugely arduous and easily circumvented if you are so inclined however I must mention the blight that is Windows Genuine Advantage. This is a special application the job of which is to check you aren't doing anything you shouldn't be with Windows. Having bought my desktop PC and reveling in my first paid for legal Microsoft product since the Postman Pat game I had for my Amstrad in 1985 I allowed the Genuine Advantage app to install its self as an automatic update. My PC then promptly spent the next month flashing up messages that it was pirated and refused to update. I later discovered that Norton Firewall was blocking the connection to the authentication servers online so it had decided to call me a thief rather than give me the benefit of the doubt. What depressed me about this episode is that if I had cracked Windows none of this would have happened so I was effectively being punished for being honest.
Genuine Advantage is one of the things that made me loose faith in XP so it's an Ubuntu win hands down.


Windows XP and Vista
Some of you may not know what I am talking about when I say Crapware, but believe me when I say that this is one of the most significant problems facing the Windows platform today. Crapware is catch all term for the software that you didn't ask for which came preinstalled on your machine usually with some kind of limited trial or some kind of advertising revenue attached. The most common forms of this are Norton Antivirus, pre installed ISP services and the Yahoo toolbar. With my current PC Windows was so broken by this software it would not uninstall correctly that I had to rebuild it.
My mums PC has the same problem, but because it doesn't have a proper rebuild disk and has some proprietary media centre hardware built into the mobo I can't even do a restore!
The fault of this does not lie with Mictrosoft who I understand are very unhappy with the situation, but with the manufacturers. Dell have speculated about having a no Crapware option in there options list, but estimate the PC could cost as much as £50 more as a result.
Ubuntu and Most forms of Linux
Thankfully free from this abomination.
Apple have sensibly avoided this problem and well done to them for not taking the quick dollar at the expense of the user.
Windows in last place all the others are tied.

Hardware Compatibility

XP is the current market leader and it's been around for a while so it's fair to say that if you want to make hardware that people will buy then you make it XP compatible. XP will also run on a few processor types though the Intel x86 is the most common.

A disappointingly large number of companies haven't written any Vista drivers so it is still very likely that an upgrade will stop some hardware working. Companies like Creative make it a deliberate ploy not to write soundcard drivers for subsequent OS because they think you will shell out for new stuff. This will of course change

Ubuntu and Linux in General

Though a lot better than in days gone by you are still likely to find problems with esoteric or very new hardware in Linux however this is getting better all the time and the only bits of kit I have that don't work are the memory card slot in my laptop (the one in my desktop is fine) and some of the 3D acceleration features aren't supported on the esoteric graphics card on my desktop.

The hardware situation gets better all the time. Only a year or two ago Printers, Bluetooth, Multi Monitor set ups and USB WiFi adapters were all known to be problematic, but are now working out of the box.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Skype headsets and Touchscreen support is still pretty poor.

Ununtu gets support for the longest list of platforms supported with: x86, Power PC, SPARC, PS3 and Itanium all being supported.


As Mac increases it's market share more people consider it a must to write Mac drivers. The real bummer is that Apple won't let you put their lovely operating systems on your own PC which is a shame as there boxes are super expensive and the reasoning is purely to maximise profits and keep them exclusive rather than any technical reason. I understand the commercial sense of this decision, but I don't have to like it.

OSX can run on x86 and Power PC, but only on Apple provided hardware without contravening the licencing agreement.


XP is on top here with Vista and Linux in second place and OSX in last place.

Installing Software

This is one area where Ubuntu absolutely shines. You add and remove software from the Package Manager much like Windows, but where it comes into its own is that you can search or browse any of the software that is available for Ubuntu from the package manager, click install and you are all done.

Compared to installing directly from within the package manager having to download zip files, unpack, and then go though an install shield seems positively archaic in comparison.
Ubuntu wins hands down


Ubuntu is in the UNIX family so it has an excellent security pedigree. Ubuntu comes with a capable Firewall, Antivirus is available, but not really needed. Another excellent security feature is Sudo. In Ubuntu you are never really logged in as administrator (or Root in Linux terminology) instead when you need to do something that only admins should do you do a "super do" or sudo which asks you to put in your password to check that you really mean it. This is brilliant because it means that even if malicious code gets onto your machine it can't do anything naughty without your express permission and even then only for that session.
XP gets a bad rap but most of the security problems it has are due to the fact that it's the biggest target, but with a bit of tweaking it is fine. It comes with an adequate firewall which is switched on by default, but doesn't come with antivirus which is a must.
On the downside logging in as an administrator leaves you vulnerable and switching between user and admin accounts, or using run as is a pain in the arse.
Vista has much improved security over previous Windows products, but the obsessive paranoia gets in the way of the user and it seems that their need to prove themselves as super secure has been at the expense of usability.
Mac users are famous for their arrogance about security and that worries me a lot. OSX is also built on UNIX so theoretically it is very secure but there have been a couple of things recently that have worried me. One is that Panther comes with the Firewall switched off by default and is of a poor quality, but the main thing is that Apple's ascendancy is making them a much bigger target and the first commercial hacks are starting to appear.
Ubuntu in first place, despite my worries OSX goes in second place followed by Vista and XP

Boot Time

This one is a bit of a tricksy one. XP gets to the log in screen slightly quicker than Ubuntu, but it's still working furiously behind the scenes. Once you log in it takes quite a while before the PC becomes responsive.
It takes a little longer to get to the log in prompt, but one thing that's really nice is that once you log in and the Window manager starts up you can start working really very quickly.
From switch on to log in XP is a little faster. From switch on to starting to do things Ubuntu wins.


As standard Ubuntu will check for updates once per day. Like XP it checks for updates to the operating system, but the superb thing is that it will also update all of the applications that you install with the package manager. So your automatic updates also make sure you have all the latest versions of, Firefox, Java, etc. Updates are notified with a balloon which pops up to tell you that you have updates and you simply click on it to install them. Reboots are seldom required after updates.
XP also features automatic updates, but unfortunately they are one of the most broken features of XP. A problem I had recently illustrates the point
I logged into my Windows PC a couple of days back for the first time in a while and as well as a balloon popping up to tell me that I needed to update Windows I had balloons from my Java notifier telling me Java was out of date and also one from HP telling me that my printer drivers needed to be updated and another that Avast was out of date. In comparison to the slickness of Ubuntu this looked positively backward.
I was in a hurry and needed to set my PC ripping a DVD then transcoding it into a format for my portable. This is a time consuming process so having set everything up as a batch of rips and codes I left my PC for a couple of hours and came back to find that shortly after I had left to room Windows had decided that it needed to apply a critical security patch and so without consulting me it had installed the patch then rebooted the machine all without any user intervention. Though applying updates as the rule rather than the exception is a good thing this kind of big brother behavior is what has increasingly put me off spending any time using Windows.

Ubuntu by a country mile.


Networking in XP is pretty good. Though settings and preferences are set out in a slightly esoteric manner I have found wireless configuration to be very easy and something that works most of the time.
Apparently wireless networking in Ubuntu used to be a nightmare but since the previous version it is really quite easy. The menus are laid out rather more logically than XP, but the experience is not quite as seamless as Windows. I have had a few minor problems with Wireless my desktop with a USB wireless antenna works like a charm, but my 5 year old laptop would not auto detect the name of my wireless LAN though it connected fine when I typed the name in by hand. I have also had a couple of problems one where Firefox would not recognise that the network had come back for a few minutes if it had been disconnected and another time when after coming out of Hibernate the machine would not connect wirelessly until I did a reboot. One advantage Ubuntu does have is a nice network tools GUI that lets you do ping, netstat, whois, finger lookup. trace root and lots of other handy tools from one interface without having to negotiate the terminal.
I have had less problems with XP networking than with Ubuntu so XP is the winner here


I haven't upgraded a PC from XP to Vista but I have done so from 2000 to XP and though there are some useful tools for maintaining some settings and backing up data it has never worked very well for me and I've always found it easier to just format the disk and start again.
This is another of the areas where Ubuntu works far better than anything else I've ever used. When Gutsy Gibbon the most recent version of Ubuntu came out last month a little icon appeared on my update manager saying upgrade to Gutsy and when I clicked it the machine downloaded all the packages taking about an hour and then installed the updated operating system taking about another hour. Once it had completed everything continued to work seamlessly and all the settings and data was preserved. A new version of Ubuntu is released about every 6 months so you are able to benefit from a continuous stream of updates rather than having to worry about the more substantial shift involved in the 5 years or so it takes MS to get a new version of Windows out.
Ubuntu is far more impressive.

Performance and System Requirements

XP will run on most PCs that aren't ancient. It used to run ok on my 900mhz laptop, but the 256MB of ram made it painfully slow to load applications. On my 3.8Ghz 1GB P4 desktop it ran nice and fast.

Makes my laptop runs significantly quicker though there is still the issue that Firefox is a memory hog (no more than on any other platform mind you). If you have an even more ancient machine than me then you can use Xubuntu which uses a different Windowing manager and runs even faster.
This is one of the area where Vista has been a rod for Microsoft's back. In it's full glory with the Aero Glass interface Vista really needs a modern multicore processor and high spec graphics card to get the best out of it. If you aren't buying a new PC then it probably won't run Vista all that well and even new laptops can struggle if you buy a cheaper one.
Ubuntu is noticeably faster than XP. Vista is so resource hungry it is a serious problem.

That concludes my discussion of the core parts of the operating system.
Next time I want to cover software and who I would recommend to try Ubuntu.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ars Review Ubuntu

The first part of my comprehensive round up of Ubuntu Vs XP will be posted up shortly, but in the meantime here is the Ars Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon review.

All in all it seems fairly positive and I would agree with everything that was said.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The North South Divide

I have recently started reading Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Marconi which is a book which talks about the North South divide from the perspective of a Northerner not so much on the socio-economic differences or geography, but on the defining characteristics of the people.

However though the book is well written and funny as you might expect I can't help, but think that the comparison is being made with a straw man. The first chapter talks about his experiences of the South and I was struck by a definition of the South that encompasses: London, East Anglia, The Midlands, The Home Counties and The West Country (He defines the North as starting at Crewe station).

I feel fairly well qualified to talk about this as I am an East Anglian with a Lancastrian mother who has lived in Suffolk, Birmingham and London and has spent quite a bit of time in Wigan, Liverpool and Manchester where I have family and friends.

I want to avoid making too many rash generalisations, but in my experience people from the North will tend to self identify with the concept of being a Northerner whilst I don't know many people who would describe themselves as a Southerner in any meaningful sense not only because it tends to be used as a term of mild abuse, but because its impossible to give it any meaning other than "Not a Northerner". I would always consider myself an East Anglian over any other geographical description not least because though Ipswich is fairly far south the north Norfolk cost is as far north as Stoke on Trent.

When I first moved to Birmingham I found it a very alien place to be. The accent could be hard to understand and the cultural reference points and sense of humour were different. It's much the same if I go to Cornwall for a holiday. I certainly don't sound the same as these people or have that much in common with them any more than if I spend a day in Wigan or Sheffield.

In terms of the traits that I could identify as far as I can see the differences between the people from Wigan and the people from Bristol that I've met aren't really that pronounced. Accent is the obvious one which amongst the middle classes doesn't tend to be all that different anyway (the tell tale Baaarth/Bath excepted).
The one that has been pointed out to me on several occasions is that people randomly talk to you at bus stops, but I have been just as aware of that in Birmingham or the East end as I have been in Sheffield or Manchester though I do conform true to type as if I don't have a specific question to ask I hate being engaged in conversation by strangers (Though I think that reflects badly on me not my place of birth)

I must say it has never been something that has any bearing on my life, but I'm interested to know how others feel on the subject.

I shall leave you with this anecdote from freshers week at Birminham University upon being introduced to a new person who was from Macclesfield (I should add this is one of the only times something like this has ever happened to me).
Me: Hello I'm Nick
Them: That's a funny accent, where are you from?
Me: Suffolk
Them: Ah a Southerner, eh I expect you don't want to speak to a Northern Monkey like me then?
Me: Erm
Them: cos that's the problem with Southerners isn't it there not very friendly you don't give people like me a chance you just form opinions about us from the off, I don't know how you get by really. Now with a Northerner they would give you a chance you would be chatting away like old mates by now, everyone is just so friendly, but Southerners are just such miserable bastards you don't have a chance
Me: You're not really giving me a chance now.
Them: Typical (Storms off)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Todays Best Quote

"If things that schoolchildren do in the course of being schoolchildren violate copyright, the problem is with copyright—not with the schoolchildren."
Cory Doctorow

Thursday, November 01, 2007

In The Audience For Later With Jools

I had a pretty excellent day yesterday.
I've been wanting to see Later With Jools being filmed since I started watching it about 10 years ago and yesterday I managed to blag some tickets from Dave at work who knows someone on the production team, but couldn't go. I only found out the tickets were on offer at about five pm on the day of the show so it was a rush and very pleasant surprise.
I had a bit of a worry when I got there because the tickets said no light clothes, or coats and I was straight from work and wearing a daz white shirt. The audience manager said that people in light clothes might have to stand out of the way rather than be with the main audience, but I managed to get away with it with judicious use of keeping my jacket on and standing behind the missus who sensibly dressed in black.
Once we were in having walked straight past the midget like Kelly Jones Emily noted a sign on the table right in front of us saying "This Table Reserved for Robert Plant" which as a fairly obsessive Zep fan you can imagine was pretty damned exciting and lo and behold he sat down right in front of us with Alison Kraus (If you watch the show you should be able to see us standing behind when Jools is interviewing them).
The show was awesome and was filmed totally as live in one take. If you have been despairing about all the fakery in TV these days you can be assured that Jools is totally genuine as you see it on TV.
The line up was: Stereophonics, PJ Harvey, Estelle, King Creosote, The Foals and the traditional world music group who's name escapes me, but were introduced by Damon Albarn and if you want to see it I think it will be shown on Friday in three weeks.
On the way out back through Television Centre I couldn't help but think what a shame it is that soon all of this will be demolished or turned into luxury apartments and the people in the audience who stopped to take a photo of the famous sign reminded me that it is a privilege that I get to work in such an iconic building.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Big Ubuntu Switchover

There seems to be some kind of law that if you stop using Windows and you have a blog that you must at some point write a post about your experiences and who am I to buck that trend.
I recently moved over from using Windows XP to Ubuntu on my home machines and I thought it might be helpful for those considering the switch to read about my experiences. Since the most recent version of Ubuntu called Gutsy Gibbon (no seriously) came out there has been a lot of buzz about how it is great for every day PC users rather than just beardy computer science types so I have decided to write it with a non technical audience in mind.
I suppose that the first question to answer is what on earth is Ubuntu, and why do I use it instead of Windows?
Ubuntu is a type of Linux which is an operating system like Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X. Where Linux differs from the Apple and Microsoft products however is that it is free in two important ways: Free like free beer and Free like speech. Linux is free like beer because there is no charge for using it on your computer and it is free like speech because anyone can look at the program and change or improve it if they like (something Microsoft or Apple would never let you do however much money you had!). As a result lots of people both volunteers and people in industry continuously improve Linux allowing it to keep up with the huge investment made by its commercial rivals. Though you may not have Linux at home you will almost certainly use it every day as it is the most popular way of hosting web pages and powers such Internet legends as Google, Amazon and Ebay and quite a lot of phones and set top boxes also run it.
Lots of people bundle up Linux with a collection of useful bits and bobs in what is called a distribution or a distro. Ubuntu is a Linux distro put together by a company called Canonical who make their money by selling help and support for Linux users. The motto of Ubuntu is "Linux for Humans" and their philosophy is often compared with the Apple Mac mantra "It just works".
Ubuntu is designed to be as easy and friendly to install and use as possible and as a result it is fast becoming the most popular type of Linux with home users.
Now we know what Ubuntu is the next question is: Why did I abandon Windows and start using it? Well to tell you that I suppose I should tell you a little bit about myself.
I am what you might call a techy or a geek. I have a degree in a computing discipline and I work as a technology expert for a living however I would like you to trust me when I tell you that I am in no way a fan of technology for technology's sake. My mobile phone is second hand and exists only to make phone calls and I see gizmos as being only worth bothering with when they make our lives simpler and easier.
Whilst at university I was encouraged to install Redhat Linux on my PC by the department, but having sampled it in the lab I decided that though it had a lot of good things going for it, it was still too arcane at that point and didn't really offer me anything that I couldn't do in Windows 2000.
So what changed my mind?
As a younger person I like many people was not adverse to using software without playing for it, but as I got older I started to feel that if I got use from some software I should pay for it (I'm not judging anyone who feels differently). At the moment I own two computers. One of them is a fairly modern desktop PC which came with a legitimate copy of Windows XP and the other is a rather decrepit by modern standards laptop for which I did not own a legitimate Windows licence. Unfortunately the hard disk in the laptop had to be replaced and this presented me with a problem. The laptop had never run XP very well in the first place as it was rather too old and buying an XP licence when it had already been superseded by the underwhelming Vista was a rather unappealing prospect.
As an avid reader of the excellent Lifehacker (A website dedicated to making life easier and more productive) I kept hearing a lot about a newish and popular flavour of Linux by the name of Ubuntu. This surprised me somewhat as Lifehacker being productivity themed is typically more likely to sing the praises of Macs with their elegant interfaces and well thought out design.

So I had in my possession an old laptop, a virgin hard disk and a free operating system. What did I have to loose except a Sunday afternoon.

Having gone through an old fashioned Linux install as part of an engineering course some years back (Apparently during which if you set the scan rate wrongly it could make smoke come out of your monitor!) I was surprised at how easy it was to install (more detail of how it stacks up against XP in a later post). All you have to do is stick the CD in the drive and turn the machine on and it boots straight into Ubuntu from the CD and lets you poke around and check that you like it. Everything seemed to work and so I clicked the big install button and then other that asking me my name, time zone and the password for my wireless network everything just happened.

Not only did the machine work like a charm without me configuring anything (I've lever had to use a terminal for anything unless I wanted to) but I actually found my laptop now ran pretty fast and was very easy to use. soon I pretty much stopped using my well speced XP desktop except when I absolutely had to.

The two things that turned me from a dabbler to an advocate came when my other half who is as non techy as can be and had previously only really used XP asked if she could borrow the Ubuntu laptop I was using rather than use the XP machine because she found it easier to use and another occasion when I was showing a Youtube vid to a friend and he asked if my machine was Vista because it looked much nicer than his XP machine at home.

After this I soon changed the XP machine into a duel boot Windows/Ubuntu machine (I had paid for the XP licence so it seemed silly to delete it) and I have never looked back.

Next time I hope to do a feature comparison between the two so you can make your own mind up if you are considering making the switch.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monkeys Kill Mayor

The deputy mayor of the Indian capital Delhi has died a day after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys.

Who thinks we should club together and smuggle some Monkeys into David Camerons office.

Free Verve Music

The verse have recently reformed and have released a free 15 minute MP3 of the first sessions of their new album via NME.

Check it out if you are a fan.

EDIT: I've just been having a listen and it really is a jam session, which is pretty interesting if you are interested in the process a band goes through to develop a song.

Arsenals of Folly

An excerpt of this excellent book has been made available on the Random House website.
It is the third part of a non fiction trilogy about the development of nuclear weapons / power and the ensuing cold war arms race the first part of which won the Pulitzer prize.

After reading the chapter I immediately bought the first book from Amazon though I had to import it from Canada as it is no longer in print!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tiny Laptop for £169!,39030092,49293507,00.htm

Asus have released a super mini laptop that only costs £169!

It's 7" so half way between a laptop and a PDA and it runs on flash memory rather than having a hard disk so it has a really good battery life as well as being super light and it starts up in 30 seconds.

It's fairly low powered so it runs Linux rather than Windows, but the good thing for non techies is that it has been designed to work as an appliance (Like some Nokia phones which also run Linux) rather than a PC so it is set up to "just work" like a Mac with all the things you need like web browsers and word processing on big simple buttons. They do plan to release an XP version. (Which will probably be £50 more and probably run quite a bit slower!)

I'm really excited about this.
The great thing about this is that Asus have done what Nintendo did with the Wii and ducked out of the arms race of power and graphics and produced a device that does the things that really matter like being small and light and cheap and having good battery life and it will almost certainly be more responsive than a much faster PC running Vista.

I'm quite tempted to get one especially as it would probably be a trivial task to install Xubuntu which would be pretty awesome!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Simian Mobile Disco - Attack Decay Sustain Release

At last a new rave album that actually is ravey (rather than just indie with keyboards and glowsticks).
Some good scratchy bleepy noises perfect for us venerable pop music pensioners who enjoyed acid house the first time around.
Like all good dance music the album is named after some knobs that can be found on a synthesizer.
I was a bit sceptical when I downloaded this that it was going to be all hype and no content as the group are flavour of the month due to their association with The Arctic Monkeys (remember Dustins Bar Mitzvah… ergh) , but I was very pleasantly surprised.
It's available on e-music so if you have an account get and download it, and if you don't then get an e-music account then download it!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rick Rubin Gets It

Link to an excellent NYT interview with Rick Rubin. Rather awesomely he is now one of the heads of Columbia records.

It makes for some very interesting reading. It is refreshing to hear someone who now represents a major label acknowledging that much of the problem of the record industry is that they use their clout to strong arm crap onto people. It sounds so obvious to say it, but it takes someone like Rick to make them understand that quality = sales.
He also supports the all you can eat for a flat fee model of music which is prevalent in the tech industry, but anathema for the majors.

Rick is one of my heroes anyone who could have kick started the careers of: LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Slayer, RHCP and renewed Johnny Cash is alright by me.

I'm now expecting the Gossip to go far if Rick is taking an interest. You heard it here first.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Gottlieb Pinball Classics - Wii Review

Billed as the most accurate pinball simulator of all time this PS2 port was one of the launch titles for the Wii.

The RRP of the game is a quite staggering £40 which to put it in context is £10 more than the magnificent Resident Evil 4 and the same price as Zelda Twilight Princess.
Much as I love pinball there was no way I was going to shell out that kind of cash for it. Luckily came to the rescue selling the game for a much more reasonable £17.99 which is the point at which I decided to make my investment.

The game features exact emulations of 11 tables from the history of the famous pinball manufacturer focusing on tables that are either historically significant, or favored by pinball enthusiasts. Unfortunately licensing restrictions prevent many of the classic games making an appearance so there is no Streetfighter II or Mario pinball to be found which is a shame.
The play of the tables is to some degree a touch hit and miss. Some of the tables notably Black Hole and Victory are great tables with lots to do and keep you entertained. Unfortunately some of the tables have been chosen because of their appeal to competitive pinball players which equates to them being exceptionally hard rather than fun, though fortunately this is only the case for a couple of the tables.

As a pinball simulator the game doesn't make huge use of the Wiimote, but the buttons for the left and right flippers are on the Wiimote and Nunchuck which makes it feel more like a real table than holding a gamepad and you can nudge left and right by shaking either hand.

As a PS2 port the graphics are pretty much as you would expect and though clear and smooth the textures aren't that sharp and don't do anything to dispel the 2 Gamecubes taped together myth put about by Wii haters.

The game is a very full package featuring voice over histories of each game with promotional material and strategy guides and offers a nice 4 player tournament mode, but does have a slightly weird system whereby you have to play tournament games until you earn credits to play games in the arcade which you can then unlock for freeplay by attaining challenge goals. This kind of thing seems to be all the rage in games these days, but personally I would rather just be able to freeplay all the tables from the off without jumping through any hoops.

All in all if you want a realistic pinball simulation then this is the game for you, but make sure you don't pay the frankly insane full price for it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is It affecting or am I lame?

I just watched this video on M2 and I found it strangely affecting. I'm not sure if it is because it is poignant, or it's late and I'm feeling a bit grumpy. Still I don't normally like emo, but this seems better than most.


This is really weird.
I have been getting really pissed off lately with the amount of junk I keep getting from Facebook and Myspace etc much of which comprises of pointless notifications from the dubious applications that people have installed. Facebook have apparently stopped apps from forwarding themselves to everyone in your address book automatically virus style, but regardless the crap flood is relentless.
Just as I was pondering this unwelcome phenomenon I saw this on Boing Boing:
It's not Spam, but it's not welcome, it's BACN!

I wonder if the term will catch on.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Suggest Challenges For A Pointless Voyage

I thought I would give some cross posting love to Ewan and Gill (or Malcolm and Kelly if you are a TDDO daddy such as myself) who are embarking on what seems to becoming an annual foot powered voyage of insanity.

After an epic trek betwixt York and Edinburgh last year, this year they are planning to walk from York to London undertaking random tasks on the way which can be set by people posting on their blog.

Check it out here and you can also support some good (and bad) causes

Monday, July 09, 2007

Live Earth - Music Review

I'm not going to even bother trying to describe the event just the music. Might do the event at a later date. Watched the event back on TV on Sunday was interesting how different some of the bands sounded on telly which I will mention when relevant.

Sound is quite muddy, Musicianship is polished, but not all that exciting. Phil Collins inexplicably provides the first "Fuck" of the day at 11am. Sounded a lot better on TV.

Jonny Borrel flounces around in a girls top and makeup plays two hit singles and has the crowd on his side and then flounces about complaining about the sound before playing an obscure album track which looses the crowd totally.

Snow Patrol
First two tracks are pretty decent then they play Chasing Cars and for the first time hands fly into the air and people start singing along. Gary Lightbody looks stunned and overwhelmed by the volume of Wembley singing back at him. Didn't come across as well on TV.

Damian Rice David Grey
Not my cup of tea, but David Grey come across as pretty charismatic.

Best band so far, absolutely blow the roof off. Tom stomps about like the stadium belongs to him and the audience seem to agree. Set finishes in style with a wicked drum solo and lots of feedback

Paulo Nutini
I have some time for his records, but as when I saw the Glasto coverage of him he hunches his back like he has spinal problems and mumbles into his shoes in a weird Golum type voice. Played far too many songs considering much better artists played less. The biggest low point so far.

Black Eyes Peas
Not my cup of tea but get a great response getting everyone moving and sound powerful

John Legend
Generic soul ballad. I find my attention waning and then discovering the song has finished.

Duran Duran
Gamely soldier on despite technical hitches but sound indistinct and all over the place. A band I was looking forward to but proved to be a bit disappointing.

After a really long break band come on sans Kleidis and jam for a bit. The he comes on and they play a song talk in jokey nonsense and have long off mike conversations on stage. Rhythm section are predictably awesome, but not as good as I was expecting.

Bloc Party
Very good sound tight and funky, get a good response

Corrinne Bailey Rae
Missed most of it cos I was having a wee, but sounded pleasant enough.

I'll freely admit that I don't like Keanes music, but Tom has got some pretty awesome pipes on him and is looking loads healthier since he stopped being a bit drug dustbin. They play it like a real stadium rock band and it is one of the pleasant surprises of the day.

Everything steps up a gear. Metallica play like bastards, crowd go apeshit, moshing breaks out everyone knows all of the words. You can really tell that this is a band who play Stadiums this size every day of the week.
Much better than the last time I saw them when they were really off form.

Spinal Tap
So awesome to get the chance to see the tap. Stone Henge is hilarious, middle song a bit rubbish, but then "Big Bottom" featuring bass players from every single band so far is an awesome experience not to mention a kick ass song.

James Blunt
Inexplicable scheduling strikes as James blunt breaks up the rock section of the evening with his piss pour whining. Gets lots of boos really dull, by the end several members of the audience have blood spurting out of their eyes and resort to eating their own children (I'm exaggerating, but not much).

Beastie Boys
Awesome from start to finish. Start off MCing over Mix Master Mikes turntable awesomeness then bring the house down playing as a band with Sabotage which can only be understood by imagining tens of thousands of people all shouting "LISTEN ALLA YALL IT'S SABOTAGE!!!" as loud as they can.

Pussy Cat Dolls
Once again inexplicably scheduled really late in the day for a band that ain't all that famous and are playing in the middle of a load of rock bands. Warble along to a tape while prancing around. The set seems to be much longer than anyone else's. Most of the crowd seem to go from the Beasties jump fest to standing about with arms folded looking pissed off with the occasional "Get Yer Tits Out" yelled out. All of the songs at some point switch into eurodisco and the girls do jiggly aerobics to disguise the fact that all their songs are shit. I was surprised that an act based on girls in lingerie could be this rubbish.

Foo Fighters


Played it like they were headlining their own show rather than being a turn at a bigger show. People go predictably nuts. Manage to out do Metalica at the stadium rock thing which is no mean feat. Best act of the night by far.
Many exhausted people don't even stick around for Madonna.

First song is a rubbish new Live Earth tribute thing which features a school choir and sucks ass in a horrible way.
With that done we get Ray Of Light rocked up with Madonna rocking out on a Les Paul and having a good swear. Isla Bonita with an inspired cameo, by Gypsy Punks Gogol Bordello and finally a body popping version of Hung Up.
I would never play £150 for a ticket to one of her shows, but seeing this I now know why people do.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Microsoft Wants To Sue You For Using Linux!

How dare you not pay the Microsoft Tax unbeliever!

Microsoft has been prevented from bullying Linux distributors into paying them protection money. So the next move seems to be door to door intimidation of regular Joes who want to use Linux.

Microsoft seem to be erring towards criminalizing the consumer possibly inspired by the model of the record industry, cos that's clearly worked out really well for them so far hasn't it?

I've been reading Fortune a little bit recently and there is some great stuff on it like this story about how MS is threatened by web apps

By the way I'm not a Microsoft hater just someone who believes that the Open Source movement is one of the only examples of a Utopian ideal that has been successfully implemented.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I am Sparticus Online

As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know I am not the worlds biggest fan of Digital Rights Management.

After spending billions of pounds and two years developing the stupidly restrictive copy protection system for HDDVD the encryption was broken in a few days by a consumer angry that he couldn't play back the DVD that he had legitimately paid for in the way that he wanted to.

The key to decrypting every single HD DVD is a short string of hexadecimal numbers namely: 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0

The heavy handed AACS promptly sent 7000 takedown notices to people who had even mentioned or linked to the story threatening their favorite action of making ordinary content consumers like you and me into criminals.

Digg was a primary target of their ire and their clearly worried management started deleting any posts which included the code. The Digg community reacted by ensuring that every single post on the front page included the code and bloggers worldwide posted the number on their sites a google search shows 1.2 million hits and counting!

To me this is a wonderful thing and shows the web community is willing to stand up and be counted. If we all stand together and say "I am Sparticus" then the fat cats who want to drain our pockets at the expense of our freedom can't touch us. The spin doctoring suggests that people who break DRM are marginalized criminal fanatics with links to terrorism who want to undermine the foundations of the music and Film industries, but this reveals the truth that we are a small but ever growing minority of people who are sick of being told how to use the content that we have legally paid to buy.

you may be thinking this is an over reaction to people wanting to protect their interests and revenue stream, but I would refer you to my post on the horrible crippled media features in Vista which are only the tip of the iceberg for how our digital freedoms are already being exploited.

See here for the BBCs take on the story

Or here for the story from Boing Boings Fantastic Cory Doctorow

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What is the point of Organic food?

I bought some apples yesterday.

Normaly I don't bother with buying organic stuff because it is well pricy, but they only had organic apples and no English ones available either so I think "It's ok because it's a bit of a treat cos they probably taste nicer if they have been grown naturally like ones of the apple tree in the garden at my old house".
So I get home and decide to have an apple and it's woody and tasteless (Imagine eating a raw potato) so I think to myself "well at least I'm doing my bit for the environment" and then I notice that the apple has come from America so any benefit that could have been gained from not spraying pesticides has been ruined by burning stacks of hydrocarbons shipping it over from the US.

Then I see this sugesting there is no proof that it is any better for you:

And finally I hear an interview on the radio where a scientist was pointing out that if all farming was organic we wouldn't be able to feed the worlds population due to the lower yeild so organic food is not an atainable goal it's just a two tier eletist system where the rich eat better and push food prices up while the poor have to eat pesticide covered crap.

So I'm starting to think what's the point of buying organic?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Crazy Esher Style Pictures