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.