Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gunstar Super Heroes / Gunstar Future Heroes review


In the age of 3D game - where 'photorealism' is a highly sought after 'art', games often fall down on where it matters - the gameplay and pure unadulterated fun. This remake of the Treasure's 1993 classic Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in the US) 2D side scrooling shooter, Gunstar Heroes aims to rectify that.

Thanks to Treasure, many of you kids who has missed out on the glory years of 2D shooters, can now experience such wonderful gameplay that has always been lacking on 3D shooters. This isn't a simple port. It is a remake that bettered the original in almost every other way. Sprites has never looked more wonderful on the Gameboy Advance and the only other game I can think of that has better 2D graphics is Castlevania: The Dawn of Sorrow on the NDS platform.

The original game has stood well against time and with time like wine; the game has aged rather gracefully. However not many people has access to a Sega Mega Drive so the closest you can ever enjoy such a game is getting this. It does not matter because like I said, this version is much better. Forget Metal Slug Advance, this is the most ferocious action pack shooter on the GBA since Astro Boy: Omega Factor (also developed by Treasure). The graphic really does push the GBA to its limit with rotations, scaling and zooming all combined with explosive actions that grace just about every single animated pixel.

The sound is wonderful for a GBA game. But play on the surround equipped NDS and you will notice that it could have been better. That doesn't matter it is still awesome. The game itself is pretty short. You can look at about 1 hour of game time to complete the whole mission with a single character but that isn't the point. I remember replaying Contra and Prince of Persia countless of times and both never bore me. This won't too. Trust me.

You have access to two characters, Gunstar Blue and Gunstar Red. Both are very similar, the only differences are mainly cosmetic as well as some weapons. As well as charged weapons, both can dragon punch and slide kick.


Gunstar Green sprite sheet (more here)


Niggles aside (of which there aren't that many) this is a wonderful handheld game that aims to evoke memories of a time where we do not have to use our left brain. There are no yellow keys to find, no pseudo and cheesy voice over to allow our ears to suffer upon. Put it this way, Gunstar Future Heroes (UK title) is 500% more enjoyable than the last two 3D fps I played on the PC (Quake IV and F.E.A.R.) put together.


The original Gunstar Heroes on Mega Drive. (image source)

The only problem with the game is the rarity. You only have to blame the lack of publicity and the consignment of GBA games at the back of GAME and Gamestation stores (while the PSP section - mostly riddled with UMD films are on the front) for the rarity (in the UK). Even I had to search the local indie store up and down only to find a used cart to boot.

Likes:
Wonderful 2D graphics. The best looking sprites you will ever see
Great gameplay
Lacks depth

Gripes:
Lacks the two-player mode of the original
Lacks depth (but who cares)

8/10

Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas telly

My very very last 2005 post. Seriously. A compilation on what's on terresterial telly.

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I am so glad that the bastards from T4 are far far away in Sydney. May they never return to Britain. Ever.

Christmas Eve

6.25pm Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special (BBC1) Strictly for the oldies only.
9.10pm Little Britain (BBC1) Final episode of the third series.
10.00pm Father Ted (Channel 4) The group of misfit priests finds themselves lost in Europe's largest lingerie department while out Christmas shopping.
11.55pm Carrie (Channel 4)

Christmas Day


12.20pm Tarrant in the Land of... the Polar Bear (ITV1) Chris Tarrant explores the Arctic Circle.
3.00pm Jamie Oliver's Alternative Christmas Message (Channel 4) Watch if you want another reason to hate this attention seeking twat.
3.00pm The Queen's Christmas Message (BBC1) Watch if you want a summary on what happened during the past one year and what the government is going to do about it (locking up people etc. etc. etc.).
3.10pm Shrek (BBC1)
3.25pm The Grinch (ITV1)
4.30pm Toy Story 2 (BBC1)
4.45pm Dances with Wolves (five)
5.30pm Christmas Creature Comforts (ITV1) Aardman Animations' creatures swap mindless pondering with gospel... and more debating.
6.00pm My Family Christmas Special (BBC1) The Harpers has the usual Christmas disaster.
7.00pm Doctor Who (BBC1) David Tennat debuts as the Time Lord in The Christmas Invasion, supposedly filled with anti-war messages.
7.50pm Tsunami: Where Was God? (Channel 4)Mark Dowd questions why god allowed the Asian tsunami disaster while Professor Richard Dawkins rationalised that there is no such thing as god.
8.00pm The Importance of Being Earnest (BBC2) Average remake of the comedy drama based on Oscar Wilde's play. Reese Whiterspoon is hot with her faux Julie Andrews accent.
11.05pm Little Britain: a South Bank Show Special (ITV1) Follow Matt Lucas and David Walliams in a documentary of their Little Britain production with comments by Elton John and Vic Reeves.
2.00am Cube (five) Excellent low-budget sci-fi horror where nerds die.
Muahahaha!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dell Axim x50v DC8XN61

update: item stolen is a Dell Axim x50v with Windows Mobile 2003 SE, service tag: DC8XN61 along with a 2GB Kingston Compact Flash flash card and a 512MB Sandisk Ultra-II Secure Digital flash card.

Last blog post for 2005

First of, yesterday was Winter Solstice (blog was posted 22 Dec despite the draft being written on 19 Dec), which was the shortest day of the year. Beginning today day time will begin to get longer.

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Well last Sunday I was having lunch at Nando's, Brighton with Jennifer. And some fucker nicked my black jacket (which contains some personal belongings of great value) from my seat. It was obviously a professional who did it as it was quick and I did not realise anything missing until I stood up to get a refill. I was fuming with rage on Nando's staffs who were apparently reluctant to do anything about anything. Manager? He is downstairs. Call him up! He is busy. On top of that they were casting doubt on whether I had a jacket in the first place. Are you sure you had a jacket? Did you bring it to the washroom? Etc. etc. etc.

Well hello, of course I had a fucking jacket...it's like so warm outside yesterday at the temperature of 0'C! A pathetic attempt to disown any responsibility was made by a waiter who pointed to a warning sign 'Do not let your personal belongings become take-away', which was hardly a disclaimer that meant 'We are not responsible for anything stolen'. So shut up about not owning up to the responsibility of protecting your clients of professional criminals. We pay your fucking wages you idiots. Nando's should hire lawyers who can produce proper disclaimers if they wish to fuck over their customers. A request to see the CCTV footages was also denied although I understand that the low staffs are not allowed access.

I spoke with a colleague of Jennifer on Monday, Kath, who was also a victim when her handbag was stolen on Friday at a pub. Apparently there is a professional gang making headway around Brighton this past few weeks (with three other bags stolen at the same pub that very evening) and they are quite successful in clearing up people's personal belongings. Nine flats near her place had their doors kicked in on the same day!

Anyway within the hour I had the incident reported to the friendly police of Sussex Police. Yes they (the police) were a many times more helpful than the staffs at Nando's. Anybody who purchased the stolen articles knowing or believing that the articles may be stolen (too good to be true, no packaging, etc.) will be committing an offence (Theft Act 1968) punishable by term up to 14 years imprisonment. Even then, purchasing stolen items without knowledge that it was stolen would still mean that those items are still my property (Sale of Goods Act 1979, amended by Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994).

I am pretty calm after what happened. Even then any anger that I possess seems to be directed mainly at Nando's Brighton. I realised what happened to me is nothing compared to the misery of others (Aceh, Iraq, New Orleans). The police have their hands tied doing more serious investigations that are more life threatening than this. I also realised that there is next to nothing I can do to get my stolen articles back but who knows what the future will bring. Weird things happens in this world and the next thing you could find yourself claiming legal ownership of a stolen product at a car boot sale. This is why knowing your legal rights can be helpful should such a situation ever arise.

Related post:
Starbucks: 15 seconds of fame

update: item stolen is a Dell Axim x50v with Windows Mobile 2003 SE, service tag: DC8XN61 along with a 2GB Kingston Compact Flash flash card and a 512MB Sandisk Ultra-II Secure Digital flash card.
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Last night we went to Odean to catch King Kong. I am not really in a mood to write up a review of it but it is okay. I can see where Peter Jackson is going but it all felt too long. My arse was fucking aching!

Unnecessary comic characters were also included. Effects were merely okay, with the dinosaurs looking more like the gawd awful US remake of Godzilla than Walking with Dinosaurs. You don't feel pity for Kong in the end like you do in the original. It is nice seeing the old New York in digital pixels but somehow it all still felt Star War'ish. Watching it, the film felt as though it was rushed ahead to meet its Christmas deadline.

My advise: wait for the Special Edition HD version instead, where hopefully Weta could run through a couple more effect passes.

6/10

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Animal Crossing: Wild World for DS rocks. It is worth paying for a DS and importing AC:WW from the US just to be able to play that game.

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Also, as this should be my last blog post for 2005, I probably won't blog for the next two weeks. So...




HAPPY CHRISTMAS
&

HAPPY NEW YEAR
I will be back in London for New Year's Eve. If anybody wants to meet-up for a drink text, e-mail me or leave a comment down here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas shopping

I always hate it when shops lie. You know - advertise something on offer to court you in, then trying to persuad you to get something else because there are none in stock! HMV has been doing it lately and yesterday I forced myself through Oxford Street (god I hate that part of Central London) visiting two of their larger stores - and none had the package I wanted (even though they have large ads for them and empty 'not for sale' boxes! Eventually I had to get it at GAME. The situation is similar to UK's XBox 360 preorder debacle, create a hype but unable to fulfill them.

Speaking of Oxford Street, the Christmas lights this year are much much better than last year's embarrassing and pathetic attempt. There are no longer any Harry Potter mumbo jumbos too thankfully, although Regent Street had character models of the Ice Age film on their lights. A good effort this year but sadly still ugly. Thankfuly I do not shop at the 'worst high street' much.

Oxford Street's eccentric resident religious preacher (or nutter, depending on your point-of-view), as always, was present. Last evening for the first time in years I did not hear his famous 'sinner or winner' catchphrases (eg. be a winner not a sinner)! The man with the megaphone was blurting something else instead. I stood by the side of Oxford Circus tube station waiting for the sinner/winner catchphrase because I kinda missed it - like the Tube map, and golf sales, sinner/winner is embedded in our psychi.

Since everyone is doing it I guess I might as well. I decided to draw up a list of what I really want this Christmas. Nothing clever or pretentious or anything, merely drawing attention to my dependency on consumerism and what I really want.

1. Six Feet Under season 2,3,4 DVD digibox boxset
2. Futurama season 4 DVD boxset
3. Peep Show season 2 DVD
4. Family Guy season 3 boxset
5. Age of Empire III limited edition boxset
6. 4Gb SD card (non generic)
7. Black Nintendo DS with Animal Crossing: Wild World US import
8. New pairs of good quality woolen socks

And for Christmas 2006:

1. Hellgate: London
2. Nintendo Revolution
3. Nip/Tuck season 3 DVD digibox boxset
4. Splinter Cell: Double Agent
5. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
6. New rig
7. American Dad! DVD
8. Bush. Impeached.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Video Game Impressions: F.E.A.R. / Hellgate: London

I recently had a chance to obtain the Director's Edition of F.E.A.R. Dusting up my machine recently hammered by Quake IV, I knew that my rig is just too slow to even consider tearing through Monolith's F.E.A.R. But I did give it a shot. Running at a pathetic 640x480 medium setting resolution my GPU card was just too old to be able to churn out more pixels.


Screenshot from Guru3D

I went to a mate's home and fired it up there. His system, thankfully, was pretty good. I clocked up roughly one hour of gameplay before packing up. That was one scary hour with that girl in red appearing a couple of times. Plus all those good stuff said about the A.I. is true. Those bastards are really clever (as far as FPS games are concern). In open environment some of the little buggers would sneak away and try to ambush me from behind. This is unlike the other 99% of FPS games out there where enemies would all come running at you. At the same time.



For now I am keeping the game wrapped till Christmas when I head off to Brighton where a nVidia 6600 awaits. Hopefully, with soft shadows turned off I could yield a respectable framerate at 1024x768. The graphic engine is terribly demanding with Monolith themselves advising gamers not to run above 1024x768 on current generations of GPUs.


Screenshot from Guru3D

I am also quite shock that Monolith were able to produce such a creepy game. The last PC games I played that was made by the developer was No One Lives Forever 2, which was an outstanding 1960s spoof spy game (NOLF 1 is also good), and the rather appalling Alien Vs Predator 2. It is like being a character in one of those Japanese horror films.

Speaking of PC games, I just can't wait for Hellgate: London to be released. Just check out the screenies here. The level of detail that went into recreating London seems to be extremely well done. Just look at the screenshot below. Yes that is an actual recreation of a present day London street.



And this is a 1992 Tube Stock. The image has been inverted for some reason but you can still read the destination (Epping) and the unit number (91241). A little googling revealed an actual specimen right here.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Boom!" Fuel depot explosion

I was sleeping when at around 6am my bed started to vibrate. I felt the room shake. Thinking it was probably some idiot falling down the stairs or someone has decided to continue construction this early on a Sunday morning, so I went back to bed. I also heard a large bang but merely ignored it because I thought it could be a thunder.

It wasn't until I got up at 10am and switched on BBC News 24 that I found out that a fuel depot in Hemel Hempstead has been hit by a couple of massive explosions. I am now sure that the vibration I felt was due to the fuel depot incident. It was supposed to be a nice day today with the sun cheering us up but right now London has been engulfed in smog. Even Jennifer in far away Brighton felt the tremor. Apparently the south east coastal city is experiencing a hazy evening too.

In other news I am experiencing some frightening moments playing F.E.A.R.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Film Review: Creep

Recently I had the chance to rent Creep on DVD. (It was released earlier this year in Britain but I didn't have the time to watch it in the theaters.)

The premise that attracted me to Creep was that it isn't only a horror film - it was a horror film set in the London Underground. Being a Londoner who frequently uses the Tube I just had to see it. It also happened to include Franka Potente (Run Lola Run), one of my favourite actresses.

Franka plays a Kate, a German socialite (her status meant it was easy to hate her) who lives in London. Hoping to bed George Clooney (who fortunately did not appear in this film) she attempts to head towards the Clooney party.


Creep (source: themoviebox.net)


Failing to hail a black cab, Kate decides to try her luck on the London Underground. She falls asleep on the platform (Charing Cross station*) and missed the last Tube train. She wakes up and guess what? The station is deserted.

Soon the distress damsel (and others - mainly no names soap actors) are running away from a nasty creature (great make-up) who happens to have skin problems. The creature by the way, did received a tiny hint of sympathy from me.

If there is a problem with the film it would be the lack of information on the loony creature. How did it survive that long? Why did they lock the station when Kate was still inside it? Why did a 1995 stock Northern Line train suddenly turned into a 1972 tube stock or the 1996 stock Jubilee Line into a 1967 tube stock? You know silly logics like that. But I wouldn't worry about that. It is just a fun film after all.

Creep is quite gory (not too much). In the age of "intelligent Japanese horror re-makes by Hollywood studios" it is quite refreshing to see a plain old gruesome film that does not try to be smart. It isn't scary but it isn't the absolute rubbish that some critics had panned it to be.

* If you are interested in the real star of the film (London Underground) then check out
this site for an in depth analysis on the locations of the film

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Video Game Impressions: Quake 4



Some 12 years ago I started killing Nazis in Wolfenstein 3D with my uncle's PC. Then there was the original Doom as well. Where other kids were playing Mario (well I was also playing that) on their NES I had Doom.

But as far as shooter games goes nothing has ever best id's other franchise to date - the Quake series. The first proper 3D fps I played was Quake on the family's Pentium Win 95 PC. Hell I am still enjoying the original Quake on my Pocket PC.

Well after roughly two months wait, Quake 4 retail price has dropped by half. This is probably due to the release of the XBox 360 version as the 'ultimate version'. (Have fun folks.) Quake 4 as some of you may know is the true successor to Quake II. Quake III Arena does not count as it lacks single player mission mode.

My system being a crappy Celeron stuck to a three year old graphic chipset, I had my doubts that it could crunch through. But after tweaking through the system I managed to get a respectable frame rate at SVGA medium setting. I had to disable some effects but I did leave shadows and bump mapping on. Not bad for a crappy system.


Quake 4 as seen through my crappy old system


Sure the quality could have been better but right now I am unwiling to spend hundreds of pounds to frag something. I am amazed that the engine was flexible enough to actually allow a Geforce4 card.

Update: Well I had a blast. I do wish we can do away with those chattering NPCs. It was rather easy even though there were great moments. It was too short. The story did not have the same level of depth that even the original Half-Life did. Visually it was great, but I just can't help thinking that Cormack needs to rethink id's strategy. You can only retell the same story so many times.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

OneLondon pins and stickers

Last week I received a package from the Mayor of London's office. Fearful of a biological attack by someone pretending to be the Mayor of London I carefully opened it. Thankfully the content proved to be more innocent than I initially thought - they were the OneLondon stickers and pins I ordered a couple of months ago.

My excitement soon took over me as I (Danny Wallace style) started pinning OneLondon pins onto every single bag I had. Even my rucksacks. Which I still use on the Underground. All these are a little waste as nobody would be exposed to these. I needed to start plastering those OneLondon stickers all over London.

Unfortunately the stickers given were car stickers (ie. the sticky part is the one being printed on). I couldn't start decorating the high street with this lot. However car stickers has its advantages despite me having not own a car. My car is the tube.

So Friday I boarded the tube to Victoria and started sticking a couple on the windows of a Piccadilly Line train. Apparently plastering stickers all over a tube train is deemed normal because, apart from a few glances from confused tourists, nobody gave a shit. I also gave a couple of pins to tourists who seemed to think they are souvenir pins.

Slightly happier I got onto my National Express coach for Brighton. Before I alighted the coach in Preston Circus I left a sticker behind. Once at Jenni's flat I decided to pin a couple more around her flat.

Now I carry a couple of stickers with me all the time.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Book Review: Banksy - Wall and Piece



As Britain's most wanted graffiti artist, the anonymous Banksy has been responsible for many artistic genius in not only Britain's streets but also in Paris and the Palestinian side of the segregation wall. This book (hardcover) features collections from some of Banksy best street art works including stencilled rats, graffitied farm animals and subversive installation of "Dead rat with spray can" in the Natural History Museum.


Bethlehem (TheGuardian)


As reported here


A stencilled Banksy rat rapper in Brighton (
artofthestate.co.uk)


You can purchase it here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Music Review: Babyshambles - Down in Albion



Before I continue, I would like any The Libertines fans to take note that if you are expecting a repeat to The Libertines of Up The Bracket, then you would be fairly disappointed. Pete Doherty is in Babyshambles now. If would be senseless to compare this band to his former one. Or to talk about his off stage habits and his fascination among the British media.

Having said that it would be stupid not to do some comparison and talk a little bit of Kate Moss. So on to my review.

Down in Albion started out amazingly with Le Belle Et La B├ęte with samples of the lovely Kate Moss. Which followed by Fuck Forever, a crappy remastered grunge number for kids still into that other crappy band called Nirvana. Quite unnecessary really but somehow Pete thought it necessary. Maybe his drug habit screwed him up.

A'rebours followed the continued departure from the stylistic approach that ended in Up The Bracket. Pipedown tried to do another Nirvana halfway through and it failed miserably.



Kilamangiro, as expected, did notdisappointt with this official remixed album version. Pentonville and Sticks & Stones on the other hand has reggae influence. I kid you not. That may be a good thing for some of you but I wanted to break the CD when those two came up.

Albion
on the other hand debuts with acoustic, more in line with Doherty's free online album. And then there was The 32rd December, a very good track by any standard.

So some pretty good tracks hampered with quite some rubbish ones. Quite frankly this album doesn't reach the hype it was supposed to be. The tracks do not feel right together. There is no flow altogether, just a bunch of mismatched tracks; some good, many bad; put together at the last minute.

It is undeniable that Pete Doherty is an excellent song writer. But this album sounded as if he wrote half of them drunk (good) and the other half drunker (bad). In different planets. With his band no where in sight. It was disorientating. Some might even say misguided.

Bloody shambolic.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The BBC and Chinese bloggers / Big Red Bus

I find this article on the Beeb's Weblog Watch to be very interesting. Apparently there are a number of Chinese bloggers who are fed up with the BBC's aggressive approach to interviewing to the point of canceling interviews(!). Another source of anger among some Chinese bloggers is the BBC are always onto the issue of freedom of speech in China.

One of the weblog quoted (with many mistakes) a recent Beeb interview and claimed that such aggressive and repeated questioning as unacceptable.

Excuse me while I laugh out loud. Not only did the blogger in question got some facts wrong but he failed to grasp the true nature of why many British journalists (especially Paxo) act they way they act. This is purely because politicians love to dodge questions. And nobody dodge questions better than senior British politicians (especially in this age of perfecting the art of spin).

Next time switch on the telly and watch a newsreader questioning a politician. Then watch the politician as he or she attempts to side step the question by playing the "before I answer the question, I would like to...". There are reasons why programmes like Newsnight and HARDtalk exist.

Isn't that the whole point of interviews? To get the truth out? Those Chinese bloggers got it lucky anyway. Imagine if Paxo interviewed them (like he would care). I can only hope, can I?

But seriously, I am more inclined to believe that the reason why some Chinese bloggers are opposed to questions on freedom of speech is probably just to protect their blogging 'career'.

Blind patriotism.

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After ITV's The Tube series, a new series on London bus drivers started today on BBC One. Big Red Bus explored on what it takes to be a driver on London's famous red buses.

The first episode features some rather nasty unpleasantness. Terry has to deal with a bunch of kids who attempted to set alight a fire bomb. And CCTV footages revealed a bunch of teenagers who escaped the driver's wrath by fleeing through the upper deck's back window!

Shaftesbury Avenue

We also witnessed Mia who passed the first test en route to becoming a bus driver. More next week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Metro Maps and Architecture of the World talk

Tuesday, me and the guys from Tube Relief (Annie, Stephen, Fimb and Neil) attended the Metro Maps and Architecture of the World talk by Mark Ovenden and Max Roberts at Central Saint Martins College. Annie was scribbling away furiously in her notebook next to me (you can read more here and here). While the talk was mainly on the design and architecture of the London Underground, Mark also covered Metro systems from around the world - mainly those in Western Europe.

The talk revealed a couple of interesting information for my research into European graphic design of the early 1900s. The typography issue is an interesting one. I will have to look more into Parisians' uneasy relationship with different typeface.

I have to admit, Max's talk on alternative (and usually ripped-off) LU maps was very interesting. Apparently travel guide publishers, mainly from overseas, have their own alternative maps to cater for different cultures. I can't see why they would be bothered - judging by some of the design - nothing I have seen will ever best Harry Beck's iconic diagram.


A very European interpretation of the LU. With many mistakes.

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A couple of weeks ago I was issued with an internal access RFID card. I had misgivings about another RFID card in my wallet as this may interfere with those Oyster card readers on the LU. True enough on Monday when I swiped my wallet on the reader, the system flashed the red 'Seek assistance' notice before the barriers finally opened. A grand total waste of 1.5 seconds. And this morning I had a problem entering a bus before the reader finally accepted my Oyster card after I removed my access card from my wallet.

Anybody else has problems keeping their Oyster card along side other access cards with embedded radio tags?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ice rink at the Natural History Museum

I just happened to be at the V&A today so I decided to pop over across the road and have a look at the much hyped temporary ice rink that opened last week.

A white weekend / Metro Maps of the World

This is early. The Met Office has forecasted that much of Britain will be blanketed with snow from Thursday night. This is inline with early predictions that we will be facing our coldest winter in a decade. But hei, snow is fun. Remember January 2003 when London was brought to a standstill? And I am due in Brighton Friday evening, by coach no less.

And I have also decided to rant against my neighbour who decided to wash his car over the weekend, thus creating a rather frosty and slippery sidewalk.

Source: Yahoo! UK News

Tomorrow I would be (update: they were having trouble with my payment so fingers cross) attending a talk by Mark Ovenden, who is the author of Metro Maps of the World at Central Saint Martins College in Central London. Tickets (£6/£4 concessions) are still available through the London Transport Museum on 020 7379 6344. More details here.

Source: London Underground Tube Diary

Product Review: Sena case for Axim x50v

My Sena case arrived two weeks ago. It came with a red pouch and a box. Opening it up reveals the sweet smell of leather. It isn't as strong as those Vaja cases I once owned in the past though.

The version I ordered was a two tone colour (red and black) version without belt clip (I hate those). As you can see it match quite nicely with my bed spread. :)





Sena has thoughtfully drilled a hole for the reset button down the back.



There is a cut on the top allowing undisturbed access to the 3.5mm headphone jack. This is large enough to even accommodate my Shure e2c.



It fits rather snugly. All buttons are visible. The thin material on the side do worry me a little bit as the large gap down the bottom edge.



Instead of velcro patch or buttons, Sena uses magnetic clips to keep the case close. I love this feature a lot. You can see one of the magnet down the bottom left of the case above the x50v's button in the picture below.



As with most Sena cases, you can sync and charge without removing the case first. And yes that is Quake III: Arena.



There are a couple of grips I had with the case. There are no protection for side impacts especially the bottom edges. And I rather wish Sena would create a case that hide the 'Dell' logo above like the Vaja version does. Despite this I am very happy with the case. It is quite cheap (compared to Vaja) although not quite matching Vaja's level of customisation (colour, choice of leather etc.).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Xbox 360 impression

Yesterday evening I had a chance to have a go at Microsoft's new Xbox 360. Running on it was a demo of Call of Duty 2.

First impression on the console. It is huge. It is almost the exact same size as the original Xbox if placed horizontally. The new white design is easier on the eye compared to the black brick, and with its sleek design, actually looks slimmer, but it is all illusion.

The power adapter is possibly the worst bit of the whole system. At a quarter the size of the 360 itself, it is a complete monster. I could not imagine ever wanting this in my living room.

The new wireless controller is quite comfortable to hold although I did find the analogue stick a tad too responsive. I didn't test the range as the controller was tethered.

Now the game itself isn't that impressive. The graphics aren't as good as Half-Life 2 or Far Cry. Also the graphics has that PC feel to it - very sharp, in fact almost too sharp. Behind my glasses, I was not able to detect any usage of anti-aliasing (smoothing).

The 360 was hooked up to a 21" LCD screen with XGA resolution and the graphics seemed fine for casual gamers. As a former PC gamer I have seen it all, although I am still curious to see how it performs if paired with a high definition screen.

Playing Call of Duty 2 on a joypad proved once again how superior it is that FPS games are on PC, with a keyboard and mouse. It is just impossible to point and shoot with a joypad. This isn’t the fault of the 360's controller as all current consoles suffers the same impracticality. Which is why I can't wait for Nintendo Revolution with the new freestyle remote controller.

Will I get one? No. My next PC upgrade is due in a year and by then it would have surpassed the power of the 360. Also none of the launch title really caught my eye.

I am actually more curious to see the multi-core Cell powered Sony PS3 and Nintendo Revolution in action.

Friday, November 18, 2005

On Christian fundamentalists who cracks me up

Was surfing through a couple of Brit blogs and visited Paul's blog, who left a comment here. The blog entry by Paul on a Christian fundamentalist organisation, The ChildCare Action Project, really cracked me up.

This Christian fundamentalist organisation 'reviews' films and subjects them through a torturous proprietary CAP model, where a films' unsuitability is highlighted based on the model provided by the New Testament. Basically a higher score means it's good.

Not surprisingly, Kevin Smith's Dogma (a favourite film of mine actually) got an eyeful from the reviewer (a pitiful score of 6 out of a theoretical 100) due to a number of blasphemous contents.

Hell even The Passion of the Christ received a rather curious '69'. Eh? Harry Potter and The Lord of the Ring all received condemnation due to portrayal of evil wizardry used for good.

And get this, Toy Story 2 got docked a point because there were "many Barbie(tm) dolls dancing in swimwear while characters ogle at them with sensuous expressions".

I am going to bookmark it. It's so fucking mental, it's bloody hilarious.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

BBC One tonight: 7/7: The Day The Bombs Came

Less than a minute later, Germaine Lindsey detonated his explosive laden rucksack close to where Gill had been standing.

The whole environment changed and suddenly it felt like I was falling in black thick liquid or tar and my immediate sensation or thought was that I was having a heart attack and that I was dying in the Tube. (
via)

If you don't mind reliving the nightmare some Londoners had to go through last summer, 7/7: The Day The Bombs Came will be broadcasted tonight, 9pm on BBC One. The documentary will use recollections by members of the emergency services who helped the victims, as well as news clips, CCTV footages and taped phone calls used by emergency services.

This would be followed by 7/7: Citizen Journalists, on how the victims of the London bombing became 'citizen journalists' and how they changed the way news were played on the media. That would be on BBC Three from 10:35pm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Why I support the Licensing Act for flexible drinking hours

A mate of mine from Germany loves to drink. This is not unusual. She has introduced me to loads of German lagers to the point I wish I could attend the annual Oktoberfest.

And she ain't a yob. She does not vomit all over the place or hit people for no apparent reason. She loves her lagers, I promise you that, but she also drinks in moderation. A habit, she admits, inherited from her country.

I do not think that flexible hours would encourage binge drinking more than the current limit already has. Hell what I am arguing is it may actually decrease binge drinking and public disorder. Flexible hours mean I can choose to go to the local pub at any time I want with my mates, have a nice pint and bugger off at a time of our choosing, while staying sober enough.

The problem isn't with the drink itself - it is people. And right now with pubs being forced to close at 11pm, punters are urged to drink up before being chucked out. Drinking five pints of beer in eight hours is a hell lot better than drinking five pints in three hour.

This legislation, if successful, would reintroduce the pub as a public sphere where people can have decent conversation over a pint without fear of being forced to finish up, is hell a lot of better hordes of drunk kids pouring into the streets at the stroke of 11. Much better than reading about silly fake blog wars, that were created by attention seekers to increase traffic, at 2am.

There will always be binge drinkers and yobs who love to get drunk silly regardless of the outcome and nothing can change that. People like George Best are ain't worth it and unfortunately some people love to emulate other people's desire to destroy their lives.

A tougher punishment against landlords who continue serving the drunks with more than they need to, is also a good idea - but do not punish the majority of us who just want to enjoy a drink. I wouldn't mind any increase in booze duty so long as it returns into helping people.

Longer hours or not, the brewery industry should at least start being responsible by at least owning up to the fact that their products does affect some people. I would love to see a portion of their profit going into local NHS coffers and local policing or even the opening of more help centres for the troubled.

Now if you will excuse me I would just hop down to my local pub for a pint before they close at 11.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Winter and France

Brr. Winter is officially here. It is fucking freezing. London's temperature will finally touch the big 'O' this Thursday night. It will slowly improve from there on but the doom prediction of this year's coldest winter in a decade will probably come true this January. I marvel at the way my flatmate, who works for CNN as a reporter, dresses up non-chalantly in his pressed suit and cycles to work.

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We cancelled our December trip to Paris. All those riot really exposed how corrupt the French elites really are. I am far from anti-frogs - I have loads of mates from France - but politically I am torn. France is half a model socialist democratic country governed by an elite group of people with fascist ideals (much like in the early 1920s). Flame me if you will but I am deeply cynical - you can't be liberal and right wing at the same time.

As far as boycott goes I expect loads of people to be cancelling/postponing their trips across the channel. They, the French that is, had it coming. Jennifer had to apply for a Visa to enter the country and twice the French consulate in South Kensington, were rude to her, and in my opinion exhibited racist tendencies. An Iranian colleague of hers who also applied for a Visa some months ago, was told in the face that "you, definitely won't be able to enter" without so much of a glance of his passport.

A shame really because I have always wanted to visit the Sewers at place de la Resistance and the Pere-Lachaise cemetery. Maybe next year to the South of France. Jennifer has a mate there who could probably put us up.

After all that, truthfully, I am actually rather glad. I rather spend Christmas in cold Britannia watching crap reruns (maybe auntie Beeb could rerun Jerry Springer: The Opera) on the telly - than running round Paris trying to figure the Metro (whose maps are baffling compared to Harry Beck's LU diagram) and then having to spent the night in the hotel due to half measure curfews.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Windows Mobile 5.0 upgrade thougths

I finally upgraded my PDA to Windows Mobile 5.0 today and guess what? I 'downgraded' back to Windows Mobile 2003 SE a couple of hours later.

I wanted to like the new OS. But after struggling with it for hours I decided it wasn't worth it being an unpaid Microsoft beta tester.

Persistent Storage

This was supposed to be a good idea. Still is. But the implementation is downright shoddy. The way persistent storage technology is supposed to work is programs and data are all saved into Flash ROM ala traditional mobile phones. This works. But the downside is the whole PDA experience is ruined by a device which struggles even after a hard reset (the 'align screen' applet is so so so slow).

GUI

The GUI is still based on the same one that debuted on the original Pocket PC OS. Apart from some cosmetic changes, nicer colours et al. you would not need to re-learn much. The most significant changes is the implementation of two new soft buttons to mimic (something MS does best) those on mobile phones. A great idea ripped off from mobile phone vendors but done in Microsoft's piss poor half measure manner. The only PDA mobile OS that can be used truly one handed is PalmOS 5.x on Palm's Treo 650.

Bluetooth

Broadcom's excellent Bluetooth stack is gone. With it came Microsoft's own Bluetooth stack. And with it went some truly good functions.

Internet Explorer Mobile

There is now a download progress bar. Hurrah! Why? To demonstrate how slow PIE is when opening websites. Stick with NetFront. Or wait for Minimo (mini Firefox).

Office suites

I haven't had a chance to test the office suites before I uninstalled WM 5.0. I played around with Word Mobile which crashed the first time I started it. It worked after a soft reset. Nothing visible that seemed to impressed me but I am no Office addict so this isn't a question to ask me.

ActiveSync 4.0

I have been using ActiveSync 4.x for a month now and it is alright. Works just like ActiveSync 3.x

But using ActiveSync 4.0 on WM 5.0, which is was designed for, was a nightmare. Firstly it did not connect with my device for the first hour until I figured that it was being shot down by Windows XP. Once I got that up and running I found it to be a tad too slow. It takes 30 seconds just to connect to my device.

I was also forced to sync 2 weeks of worthless past appointments into the PDA and I have no control over the Contacts applet.

I have read that ActiveSync 4.0/4.1 that were shipped with the Axim x50v upgrade and various WM 5.0 devices like the i-mate JasJar, are beta versions. Quite why MS are even allowed to ship beta versions on commercial products that people pay for is beyond me, but nothing surprises me anymore.

Installation/Execution of programs

Taking cue from one of Nokia's Series 60 more bad examples, WM 5.0 now asks whether I should install/execute any 'unsigned' program first. Which is annoying. I understand in the age of virus/worms this may be a good feature but come on - let us turn it off!

Battery

This isn't specifically a WM 5.0 problem. This problem is with Dell me thinks. While WM 5.0 is supposed to increase battery life, it did not for me. Apparently my x50v is chewing through the battery so much that once I removed it from my charger in a few minutes it dropped from 100% to 96%. Wow. The battery also felt hot, which is an indication that the PDA is running at full speed ALL THE TIME.

Conclusion

All in all a pathetic try. A worthy successor to Windows ME as a rushed and lame duck of an OS. I hope MS releases an update to WM 5.0 soon to address the problems - especially the one related to performance. With 624Mhz of processing power, it actually felt like a 206Mhz StrongARM device.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Peep Show

Last night's third season of comedy sitcom, Peep Show (Channel 4) was awesome. Am glad that David Mitchell and Robin Webb has finally returned to the telly as the dysfunctional flatmates, Mark and Jeremy from Croydon.

In yesterday's episode, Mark struggles with an erection problem after being mugged by two Chavs in an underpass while Jez has to make do with a threesome.

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Happy Birthday to my brother, Jeremy, who turns 24 tomorrow.