Monday, April 14, 2008

Playstation 3

So I'm taking the plunge on my next geek venture and grabbing myself a PS3 this afternoon.
For those of you who know what a hardcore Nintendophile I am you maybe a little bit confused about this so allow me to enlighten you.
I've had a rather nifty HD LCD for about a year and a sad lack of HD content to watch on it and it occurred to me that if someone had been offering a Linux media centre that output 1080p played Blu Ray movies and had 6 (count em) 3Ghz processors for £300 quid I would have bitten their hand off.
Such a beast is a PS3. Having done a bit of digging it turns out that not only can you run Linux on PS3 it is officially supported by Sony and you can boot in and out of Linux from a menu option in the PS3 native OS. The other rather nifty fact is that the PS3 uses a standard SATA laptop hard drive which can be fairly easily replaced by the user to give it some serious media centre drive space.
Under normal circumstances I would baulk at the high price of the films and games, but luckily I have a Love Film subscription which means I can hire them out at will for no more than the cost of a regular DVD.
Anyone else out there in blog land got a PS3?
The deal I'm getting comes with Burnout, GT5 and Army of Two so if anyone fancys some multiplayer goodness let me know.

Finally apologies for those that read my blog as I've been really busy lately and haven't had the chance to update. Hopefully I'll get back to some semblance of regularity over the coming weeks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Man Dies From Cake Poisoning

Sometimes I wonder if this is how I'll meet my end:

This probably ranks right up there with the guy who got kicked to death while trying molest a horse for embarrassing ways to die.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Linky Love - Fun Stuff Round Up - 24 02

Well yesterday was a total geek fest so today I'm going to focus on fun stuff:

I've been meaning to share this for ages so it's likely that you may have already seen it, but I love planethiltron who photoshop celebs back to normality. if all magazines did this we would be rid of eating disorders at a stroke.

This collection of famous poems reworked as limericks is inspired as I proved when I had a crack at doing some myself and failed miserably.

I've heard plenty of great music mashups in my time, but this flash game mash up of Metroid and Megaman is awesome. You get to control Megaman taking on the space pirates on the original Metroid maps. Great stuff!

For those of you interested to know what desktop wallpaper I use on my machine at home you will be excited to know that I have this picture of Haggar piledriving a shark and yes it does come from a site called gay gamer!

This collection of HRD photography from Japan is hyper real. I Love the way that at first glance it appears to be a painting.

Got some time on your hands?
Why not fold yourself a towel monkey.

I haven't got around to downloading this crazy 2D physics simulation game
yet, but the demo video looks just great.

Staying on gaming. Nintendo have announced that they will be putting C64 games on the Wii virtual console. 500 points seems a bit steep though.

Finally this tiny Korean kid playing Hey Jude cracks me up.

Useful Digital SLR Links

A trip to London Zoo a few weeks back made me understand that a lot of people are investing in digital SLRs these days. I got one for Emily for her birthday last year, Although they take great shots in point and shoot mode you need to get to grips with manual mode if you want to get the best out of them.

I have collected together a few photography links from lifehacker that I found helpful:

The rules of photography composition

Master Your DSLR Part one

Master Your DSLR Part Two

Happy clicking!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Linky Love 22 02 08

So many links so little time.
I've been trying to reduce my backlog of links to post, but it keeps growing faster than I can prune it, not to mention that I promised to review my Sennheiser HD600 cans ages ago, but still haven't got around to it.
I'm going to give this entry a geeky flavor and post some funny stuff next time.

Cory Doctorow recently finished podcasting the whole of Bruce Sterlings "The Hacker Crackdown" which is a very geeky, but brilliant book about the history of hacking which couldn't be further than the nonsense peddled in your average Hollywood movie.

I've had this in depth Ars Technica review of KDE 4.0 in my to read list for absolutely ages, but haven't got around to reading it until now.
I've favored Gnome over KDE since I used Linux at uni, but this release looks good enough for me to consider switching. It doesn't seem like it will be worth installing until 4.1 appears in June though.
With Nokia buying the Troll Tech technology that underpins its development and becoming an official patron things are looking great for KDE at the moment. The port to Windows and Mac OSX might also win some converts.

Voz me is a nifty little web site that converts text to Mp3s which means you can make pretty much any document into an audio book. When I was revising 12 hours a day for my uni finals (I'm not a swat I just I hadn't been to any lectures that semester and it was a month till exam time) I had to sit in a dark room fending off migraines every so often and used a speach synthesizer
in conjunction with some Bit Torrented PDF files of the Harry Potter books to stop me going crazy. Whether I would have found them any less crap if Id listened to the Stephen Fry versions rather than having it read to me by a disembodied robot voice is another story.

Continuing the uuuber geek theme Neetorama had a rather groovy overview of early computing devices. Good stuff if you like letching over retro techno porn.

If you don't visit Lifehacker you really should. They recently published an overview of all their free productivity software. I use Better Gmail, Better GReader, Better Youtube, but they have a whole bunch of great stuff.

The security of encrypted hard drives received an almighty kick in the nuts this week as some researchers got around it with the aid of a spray can and a thumb drive. It's real James bond stuff.

Finally for todays over long and super geeky installment. If you have been wondering about dabbling with Linux, but can't be bothered with partitioning drives and all that technical stuff then try this easy method to run Linux inside your Windows desktop.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Film Review - Sweeny Todd

Never one to tread an obvious path the latest film by Tim Burton is a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's critically acclaimed 1970's musical about the demon barber of fleet street.

No one who who is a fan of Burton will be surprised to hear that Jonny Depp (switching from Keith Richards to Bowie for his performance cue) and Helene Bonham Carter play the main characters. The plot for those of you not familiar with the story is kind of The Count of Montechristo with the addition of some razor slashed throats. Evil judge Alan Rickman frames Benjamin Barker so he can have his wicked way with his wife and daughter. Fifteen years later he
returns in the guise of Sweeny Todd and begins a campaign of murder aided by the lovesick Mrs Lovett erstwhile pie vendor and sometime human butcher.

The film is up to Burtons usual superb standards and it is safe to say if you are a fan you aren't going to be disappointed, but it's not going to change the mind of critics.

To say the film is gory would be an understatement. It contains more gruesome scenes of closeup throat slashing and blood jetting than any film I've seen except perhaps Kill Bill and that might be a box office problem. I'm not convinced that the musical and extreme gore demographic has that much crossover, (as the difficulty I had finding somewhere that was showing it confirms) but Burton has to be admired for his decision not to go for the soft option and tone it down for a 15 certificate. I just hope that it doesn't tank and deprive the world of more of his surreal masterpieces because for those that do love a jaunty tune juxtaposed with a spurting carotid you will find few finer films.

Linky Love 17 Feb

I know I haven't written any serious content for a while, but I have a stack of links to get out of my GReader Starred list and so without further ado here is todays linky love.

Lets start with a bit of levity. The cast of Spongebob Redub Classic Movies This one has been doing the rounds now for quite some time, but if you haven't seen it you are missing a treat.

Amplive have remixed In Rainbows and after hairy moment where it looked like Radiohead's label would sue it's all kosher and you can get it gratis and at no charge.

With HDDVD dead and EA saying this year will be the PS3's year it's looking like this could be a good year to be Sony (now if only they would bring back Aibo). This Freview PVR add on which hooks up with the BT vision system isn't going to be the killer app, but it's one more
reason why PS3 is looking like the console to have in 2008.

I was shocked to hear that school kids are getting fed unscientific dross about Brain Gyms. The Guardians Ben Goldacre provides a typically excellent expose.

Finally if you want rock power look no further than this 250,000 volt tesla coil based guitar amp. Personally I would love to see what Matt Bellamy could do with one of these things!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

HD DVD is Dead Long Live Blu Ray!

It's official Toshiba have conceded defeat to Sony and have announced the closure of their HD DVD factories. An official statement is expected soon, but for now there is this NHK article for conformation.

After getting dumped on by, Best Buy, Netflix, Blockbuster, Woolworths etc it looked like it was inevitable that HD DVD was doomed, but I must say I'm astonished how fast Tosh have moved on this one.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Linky Love 15th February

First up Happy St Skeletors day alll you love haters out there.

EEE User have a link to a guy at laptop magazine who is trying to use an EEE as his only PC.
If you get external storage and a monitor I think it could make a great budget PC for people who just want to browse and work especially with Xubuntu installed.

Neetorama have a cool article with facts about Edison admittedly I am what my sister calls a "fact head", but I thought it was worth reading.

Some jerk has hassled You Tube into dropping the awesome guitar parody videos that showed up a while back, but Wired have rather excellently hosted them all and you can see them here I think Santana is my fav.

This colour tile illusion from Boing Boing really freaks me out. I love optical illusions and all that jazz.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines Day

I'm making a bit of a bold step this year and not celebrating it at all (and yes the missus supports that stance).

I have never been one for making a big fuss but I usually get some flowers or something.
I think Valentines day is cool, but I think it should be about telling someone you have worshipped from afar how you feel not about couples at all.

Hallmark and the like know that couples are better cash cows and as a result most singletons I know hate it when the day should be for them.

Though if you do want an excellent card without paying Hallmark these are fantastic:

Monday, February 04, 2008

Stephen Fry Reviews The EEE PC and Claims Linux Is the Future

In the most recent instalment of Stephen Fry's rather excellent blog he not only gives a very positive review of the EEE PC. He also claims that Linux is the future.

"The two great pillars of Open Source are the GNU project and Linux. I shan’t burden you with too much detail, I’ll just make the outrageous claim that your computer will be running some descendant of those two within the next five years and that your life will be better and happier as a result."

While I'm not as optimistic as Fry I find this very interesting because:

Stephen Fry is a very clever man

Stephen Fry is well known for being an obsessive Mac fanboy.

His blog gets published in the Guardian which is the kind of mainstream exposure that Linux doesn't usually get.

Review - Derren Brown - Tricks of the Mind

I should probably start the review by saying that I haven't been a long term fan of Derren Brown. At the time of his Russian Roulette stunt I had him tarred broadly with the same brush as David Blaine. However I have had his book recommended to me a number of times and was interested to hear that his outlook on life is much like James Randi whom I greatly admire.
Tricks of the Mind is the first book by Derren to be aimed at a mainstream audience (He has previously written a couple of textbooks on close up card magic). It's quite a hard book to nail down into any particular genre other than being a book about the things Derren is interested in, but covers three main themes. Firstly as you would expect it delves into the techniques that Brown uses to perform his tricks on stage. There are sections dedicated to Card Tricks, Improving Memory, Hypnosis and Suggestion, Mind Reading and determining when people are lying to you. To his credit he doesn't fob you off and claim that by reading the section in question you will develop any significant level of skill in the techniques described, but he provides an introduction and background to each technique along with a few examples for you to try that should be sufficient to pique your interest for further study should you be so inclined. One of the most valuable aspects of the book is the extensive bibliography which provides an excellent resource for further study. Intertwined with the first section are semi autobiographical passages that cover the development of his own interest in hypnosis and magic which also chart his transformation from a very devout evangelical Christian to a committed rationalist sceptic. The third theme which makes up the majority of the final section of the book is a scathing attack on alternative medicine, the psychic industry and all other forms of superstition and dogma. He illustrates this section with some excellent examples of how fake psychics and healers can trick you with Barnum statements, Cold Reading and the Placebo effect. People expecting nothing more than a book about mind reading may be surprised by some of the content where he espouses Dawkins and Bertrand Russell. However don't be fooled into thinking this book is a rationalist polemic in the style of Dawkins. Brown writes in a very light and witty style with a sense of whimsy that at its best is reminiscent of Stephen Fry. I laughed out loud at several occasions while reading. The best thing that I can say about this book is that it has started more conversations and requests to borrow than any book that I've reads since Freakonomics and for that reason I whole heartedly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Internet At War With Scientology

There is a very interesting post on thedaddy about the guerilla war being fought against the international scam masquerading as a religion Scientology. Personally I can't believe that it hasn't been banned in the UK.
It is truly an evil organisation.

Check out the thread here

Monday, January 28, 2008

Linky Love 28th Jan

I still haven't got around to writing my review of my Sennheiser HD600 headphones, but rest assured that I will when I get the time.

I'm really excited that Amazon will be selling DRM free music worldwide. I know a few people who have got it to work from the US store, but I can't be bothered with all that. Now if only a store would start selling FLAC files I could stop cluttering my house up with CDs.

Nokia have purchased Troll Tech
. You probably haven't heard of Troll Tech unless you are a total Linux freak (It makes a tool kit that is used to make KDE ), but the interesting part of the story is that Nokia will now be a patron of Linux which is a huge boost to the mission for Linux desktops to attain feature and usability parity with XP and OSX. This is even more interesting with the news that KDE is due to be ported to Windows and Mac. I wonder if the two stories are related.

Lifehacker reported on a free web tool that can convert text into Mp3. I think this is a great idea and I might try converting some of the stories that get recomended on Boing Boing into audio to listen to on the tube.

It looks like the HD format war might not be the protracted battle that we all expected. Ars claim that Blu Ray is surging ahead, while Engadget claims that the death of HD DVD is now inevitable. Sony have also just announced that they have invented a new and improved Blu Ray module and rumours abound that a new and improved 120GB PS3 is on the way.

Finally as a bit of light relief after all that techy stuff check out this Italian guy rocking out to the Mario 2 music

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Review - Umbrella Chronicles Wii

Umbrella Chronicles is the latest game in the successful Resident Evil franchise and a Wii exclusive. Rather than taking the story in a new direction Umbrella lets you play through various key scenes from the previous 4 games.
The gameplay is somewhat of a departure from the norm as rather than the traditional 3rd person survival game umbrella is a rails shooter in the vein of Virtua Cop, or House Of The Dead.
At first the rails shooter format seems incongruous with the franchise. The unique aspect of the Resi has always been the need to horde ammo and use it sparingly which would make for a pretty rubbish shoot em up.
Umbrella gets around this in a clever way. Ammunition for your pistol is unlimited, but is pretty much useless against tougher enemies and ammo for heavy weapons is in limited supply and has to be used with care.
At the start of each level you can choose a weapon to take in addition to your pistol and plenty more can be collected along the way. All the Resi favs are here including the sub machine gun, shotgun and grenade launcher all of which have unique advantages and weaknesses.
The game boasts three difficulty levels and even easy is a challenging in places so rest assured there is plenty here for the core gamer to get their teeth into.
The game is also one of a small handful of games currently available that work with the Wii Zapper and this is the control method that I most enjoyed. As with all the best rails shooters it also supports 2 player simultaneous play which is great fun.

Links Crossbow Training & Wii Zapper - Review

Links Crossbow Training is the pack in game with the Wii Zapper peripheral for the Wii.
The Zapper is a plastic shell resembling a submachine gun into which the Wiimote and the Nunchuck clip which costs a pretty darn reasonable £19 for the shell and the game.
Links crossbow training is a game based on the successful Zelda franchise and uses the game engine and graphics from Twilight Princess meaning the graphics are very impressive for a budget title.
Each level contains three stages falling into three categories static target shooting, defending your position for advancing enemies where you can rotate your view by moving the Wiimote to the extents of the screen and an FPS like mode where you can move Link arround with the Nunchuck stick.
Gaining points across the three stages of a level wins you medals which are required to move onto the next level.
The game mechanics are pretty simple levels are timed and you can never die (hits just reduce your score) Ammo is always unlimited, but there is a multiplier that increases on each consecutive shot so accuracy is the key to getting a good score.
Some people have complained that the game is slightly easier without using the Zapper shell, but for me this is missing the point after all a driving game might be easier with a joypad, but using a wheel is more imersive.
There are several games to be released that are compatible with the Zapper including the excellent Umbrella Chronicles and House of the Dead and for the budget price you can't really go wrong.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Headphones, Audiophiles and BS

I have just ordered some rather extravagant Sennheiser HD600 open backed headphones from (Expect a review soon).
Before you condemn me too much for spending £140 on headphones, I was intending to get some 595 or 555, but play have been sold out of them for the past month and as they sell Sennheiser for half the price of everywhere else I decided go up a model rather than pay an inflated price for 595s elsewhere (Of course I could have waited another month, but where is the fun in that).
Naturally being the obsessive maven that I am I had to do vast amounts of reasearch before committing to the pair that I was going to buy and this put me into the whacky world of the "Audiophile".
High end headphones are something that I haven't really delved into before, but it came as no surprise to see quite how much nonsense that people will talk.
On AVforums and it's quite common for people to recommend that you buy a pair of £60 headphones and couple it with a £500 headphone amplifier. In fact it is quite common to see people recommending £2.5K valve headphone amps or portable headphone amps for iPods.
None of this is a surprise after all some audiophiles claims are so ludicrous that James Randi has started calling people out via his million dollar challenge . Where it is a real pain in the arse is when you actually try and get some useful advice on Hi-Fi which despite the ludicrous numbers of magazines and forums on the subject proves virtually impossible. Much of the available information seems to be written with the intrinsic belief that if you can't hear a difference then you must be some kind of philistine.
The only thing I have been able to glean with any authority (Other than that fact that as I suspected Sennheiser are the defacto standard for high end cans) is that many integrated amp manufacturers stick crappy components into the headphone sections of their amps to keep costs down on the basis that people don't audition them when they go to buy an amp. This may well be true, but luckily I have a good quality firewire audio interface attached to my PC which I can use to compare and contrast to my NAD amp in the lounge before I consider a separate headphone amp.
A review written by a sound engineer from Sound on Sound convinced me that the HD600s were a good choice for me, but I would love to find a place where I can be sure of finding decent information about Hi-Fi without all the nonsense.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Linky Love 4th Jan

A great article from Ars about the prospects for Linux uptake in 2008.

A talk from Dr Ben Goldacre discussing the medicalisation of social problems which is worth listening to hear just how little evidence there is for the health benefits of Antioxcidents, Fish Oil, Pomegranate juice etc.

One of the most imaginative games I've played in ages. Your objective is to get to the top of the tower. Your cursor travels back in time after a few minutes and then you can go back through and help yourself out.