Monday, October 31, 2005

Nip/Tuck : The Complete Second Season DVD boxset

Thanks to Jenni, who gave me this: the Nip/Tuck's Season Two DVD boxset!



* Five DVDs.
* 1.77 widescreen aspect ratio.
* 736 total running time.
* 16 episodes.
* Uncut. Uncensored.
* Dolby Digital Stereo. (no 5.1 sadly - but this is a telly drama)
* No bonus features. Not even chapters! No bonus unaired scenes. (only available on Region One - boo to Warner Bros!)
* Comes in foldable digipak storage, not the crap thin DVD cases that comes in many new boxsets (eg. Desperate Housewives)
* Genuine. Not some taped over the air shit.



You can get it here (non-affiliate).

Am tired now. Thank god for the one extra hour of sleep.

My wish list is still here. ;)

Screencaps from the DVDs (taken via PowerDVD):









Still twenty-something

Got this at Victoria Station on Friday on the way to Brighton. Hei, it is celebration time, so what the hey:







The night before, Jenni made this trifle:



... and this lovely lamb steak dinner:



We had peri peri chicken for dinner at Nando's on Duke Street, Brighton last evening:



Gift time! Starsailor's On the Outside:



...and Ian Brown's The Greatest

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

BT BSoD phone kiosk



This must be the hundredth BSoD BT internet kiosk (this one from Leicester Square tube station) I have seen (although I have seen more BSoD cash machines). Silly of BT to get fleeced by MS. A normal BT kiosk will usually display this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bloggers meet-up

We came a little bit late as Jenni and I took a little bit longer looking around Carnaby Street. The new rucksacks by Crumpler is awesome.

We met at Rendezvous in Leicester Square. I am not a fan of Leicester Square although I do find the cafe quite pleasant. It isn't an outlandishly stylish place. It was sober enough for us.

I won't bore you with details on what happened. It isn't something I tend to blog about. We had fun getting to know each other. Patrick, Ken and Vysia were the only other Malaysians who came. Plymouth must be really boring because three of V's mates came and joined us. We were left wondering whether the elusive and fabulous Jay would make an appearance.

Well it was a small gathering. For what is worth it was rather impressive enough what with the short notice.

And it was a gathering of geeks too. Similar to that other blogger meeting (all bloggers are geeks).

We had dinner in ECapital in China Town (here is a review by The Guardian). Apparently it is the only real proper authentic Shanghaiese restaurant in the whole of Blighty. I don't admit to being an expert on Shanghai food so I will leave it there. Did not really appreciate being 'shooed' out so soon but then it was a snip at £78.

Most of us stuck together till 10pm when we separated after having a drink in Borders at Charing X Road.

Perhaps it was the double espresso that I had which gave me a severe headache on the way back. Firstly I forgot that the Piccadilly Line was close from Hyde Park Corner. Second it was actually faster to walk north up to Tottenham Court Road and taking the Central Line back, rather than walking down to Leicester Square.

We did agree that Plymouth should be our next venue for any meet-up. Okay, anything west of the M25 is pretty much alien to me and Plymouth is as far west as you can ever go in the South West.

-

BTW, a Beeb employee recently published an article which looks into the types of browsers and OS that are used by people visiting the BBC front page webpage (www.bbc.co.uk). It is a rather interesting read.

Mobile devices are now capable of accessing the full BBC website while retaining the proper formatting. Access' NetFront v3.3 Technical Preview adds VGA support for Pocket PC among other things. While it is a crippled version (no Java/Flash - but who cares?) this is by far the best web browser you can get on a mobile platform.




BBC News


The Guardian

Friday, October 21, 2005

Film Review: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is Aardman's first full length feature on the plasticine characters. I have been a big fan of Nick Park productions ever since watching the original Creature Comforts (1990) and ITV's 2003 series. Also the telly ads for PG Tips and Jacobs were also nicely done.

I expect some of you would probably have seen Chicken Run, Aardman's first feature film. If not then you should. It isn't half as good as this but it is still funny.


Aardman's Creature Comforts

Previously Wallace and Gromit have also appeared in three short films as main characters. Spare me a couple of sentences as I describe them a little bit first. Wallace is an inventor who loves cheese. His partner is Gromit, a dog, and is always mute. In a way Gromit is actually more intelligent than Wallace. They live in a house full of contraptions (some of which are based on real inventions).



Anyhow, in Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wallace (Peter Sallis) and Gromit of the veggie farms protection squad 'Anti-Pesto' has their usual time catching cute little bunnies. This is due to the coming annual local giant vegetable competition. Running out of 'storage' space for the captured rabbits, Wallace devised a contraption to brainwash the furry little things into hating greens.

Without warning sprang the 'Were-Rabbit', a cursed giant monster of a bunny who eats everything veggies during full moons. Lady Tottington (Helene Bonham Carter) pleads with the comic pair to capture the rabbit in a 'humane' way while her suitor, Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) attempts to do it the painful way - by killing it.

The humour is very much adult targeted. I am pleased to see the many nods to classic horror films such as King Kong, The Curse of the Werewolf, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde etc.

I pronounce this the funniest film of the year, and along with Sin City, one of the finest films you should see this year.

Madagascar: The Christmas Caper

Commissioned by Dreamworks Animation SKG, the film was preceded by a animation short, Madagascar: The Christmas Caper, by Dreamworks own in-house animators. Which is a shameful plug promoting their less than stellar Madagascar DVD me thinks. It wasn't as funny and any humour that was in it, was crude and lame in almost every other way.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Quake Mobile review

The original Quake was first released in 1996. I remember playing it vividly on my Pentium II 266Mhz Inspiron 7000 before dumping it for Half-Life which was released in 1998. Still nothing kept me away from Quake when mindless fragging was all that was needed.

I know, Quake II was released the year before, but with only a 8Mb ATi Rage, it was a tad slow. Quake III: Arena was uninspiring with no single player missions. The real sequal to Quake II is Quake IV and has just been released. Sadly with a system requirment that requires me to spend close to a thousand pound in order to obtain reasonable gameplay satisfaction, I think I will just pass on this one till maybe 2007 when prices of current hardware has more than halved.

Still I have been enjoying myself fragging little monsters in the original Quake since Pulse Interactive released an optimized version of the game for PDAs. Graphics are encoded in full VGA glory at around 25fps. Sadly there are none of the original Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) soundtrack to immerse myself in. Gameplay has taken quite a hit because the developers did not implement stylus control (to simulate mouse - just try out Metroid Prime: Hunters demo on Nintendo DS and you will know that stylus is as natural as you can get to playing FPS games on mobile devices) like the original Pocket Quake emulator.


Who needs a PSP anyway?

In other news, I gave Resco Sudoku a try and managed to complete my first Sudoku. Hurrah! I now know why I am so lousy at print Sudoku. It is the paper and constant need to use an eraser to rub around. By the time I am half way through there is nothing left to write on. I won't buy it though, when freewares like this are available.

6/10

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Big Freeze

It won't quite match the Big Freeze but it will still be bitterly cold here. I am already dreading my ninth winter. I was chatting with someone today who experienced 1963. She told me that it was like the freak 2003 blizzard but rather than just a couple of days it was a whole two to three months. My.

And I blame Bush.


Speaking of dreadful weather (what else is there to talk about?) the seasonal October thunderstorm has finally arrived.


image above live from BBC webcams

My cold is all but gone but since been replaced by a hefty sore throat. Damn it. Went to see my NHS doctor who told me to 'rest, drink lots of water etc.' D'uh!

Someone dropped a leaflet today announcing the dates of the third Hampton Court Palace ice rink. From 3 December to 15 January. Also for the first time Tower of London would be hosting a ice rink too from 19 November to 8 January. Tickets are outrageously expensive. Might as well wait for the Thames to freeze over.

I see that Annie has lost her Sudoku virginity. I am still a Sudoku virgin. Yes I have attempted to solve it but I have very little patience and have never completed a game. Let us say the logic totally escapes me and I prefer cross words. Trust those pesky American media to create a mindless game. I mean I rather play Countdown.

But today I happened to download Resco Sudoku. I have not install it yet but am looking forward to completing my first Sudoku game.

On a safer note I also downloaded Resco Table Soccer (football you idiots!) . I rather have this though:

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Malaysian blog gathering London / flu

A quick reminder on this coming Saturday's Malaysian gathering in Central London. We will be free all day so please do come. I am all for anything. Even buka puasa.

Confirmed meeting: Rendezvous, Leicester Square 3pm 21st Oct

-

Two weeks since I caught the seasonal cold virus and two days ago I caught it again yesterday in Waterloo Station. I am feeling very groggy today and may not blog for the next few days.

Sneezing? Check. Runny noses? Check. Watery eyes. Check. Blocked sinuses? Check. Weak body? Check. Paranoid looks from fellow Tube commuters reading about the coming flu pandemic? Check.

The strongest non-prescription medicine I managed to get is Pfizer's Actifed from Boots which is fine compared to the Panadol crap.

A great outcome? I am so not in a mood to even think about food right now. Which is a good thing because I need to lose weight.

-

Nip/Tuck returns today on SkyOne. Crap.

Last I heard is Channel 4 has dumped the series due to 'low-rating'. Well, season two was constantly pushed towards the later slots to make way for craps like Big Brother. The season finale was even broadcasted at 12:40 in the morning no less!

I hope the Beeb picks this up for us terrestrial mortals.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Theatre Review: Guys and Dolls (Piccadilly Theatre, London West End)



Well Jenni and I just got back from West End after watching the Guys and Dolls musical. (Kat: :P)

Won't do a full review this time (read the synopsis by Kat). Excellent singing by Ewan McGregor with similar voices to the one he did in Moulin Rouge. His 1930s American accent was a little off-putting at first with a little bit of Scottish accent creeping out.


The best I could take of the stage during intermission with a camera ban

My favourite scene is the Havana Dance musical number. Excellent and pacy tango gives the musical a boost after a slightly awkward start. The classic number in the sewer scene Luck be a Lady Tonight did not disappoint with Ewan taking the lead.

But the highlight is surely the funny Sit Down, You're Rerocking the Boat number lead by Niall Buggy at the gamblers in the mission scene.

Ending was quite a disappointing. Felt rushed through with no proper climatic finale. Hmm. But overall we enjoyed it pretty much though we agreed that The Producers was funnier and a more satisfying experience.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Simple guide to portable videos

£1.89 per Lost episode? Right...

Why not just get the physical DVD and rip it yourself giving yourself a good quality version for your 30" telly and a portable version for your train journey to Scotland. In glorious Mpeg-4 quality too. Not some Quicktime crap.

What you need:

DVDDecrypter to rip DVDs
XMpeg to encode em
Recommended advance encoder: VirtualDub
Automated: AutoGK

Recommended codecs:
DivX or XviD
LameMP3

Players:
TCPMP for Pocket PC
TCPMP for PalmOS

I won't bore you with a step by step guide into how to get videos from your DVD into your PDA. Just a little guide into what actually works best (IMO) based on my experiences.

1. Rip DVD
2. Encode using XMpeg (in some cases it is possible to encode directly from the DVD itself without ripping)
3. Transfer end files to device

General settings (that works for me):

2-pass up to 1600kbps DivX 6 for Axim x50v, (using hardware optimization) Probably works on iPAQ hx4700 and those nice Archos PMP devices
2-pass up to 1200kbps DivX 6 for Pocket PC VGA devices (no optimization)
2-pass up to 1000kbps DivX 6 for Pocket PC QVGA devices (no optimization)
2-pass up to 700kbps DivX 6 for Palm Tungsten T3 (HVGA 400Mhz - lower bitrate for Sony Clies)

For my previous QVGA devices I used 2-pass 400kbps DivX 5/64kbps LameMP3 setting for widescreen films. For Kill Bill Vol. 1 a file size of 360Mb is achievable. You can push it further for animations by lowering the framerate (okay for television animations). Simpsons/Futurama at 35Mb. No problem.

With DivX 6 I found a 2-pass 1000kbps setting for widescreen VGA films is good enough (I Robot taking only 740Mb). The quality is excellent and equivalent to those nice demos of the Sony PSP I have seen playing Spiderman 2 (which plays from 1.8Gb UMD discs).



There are commercial video encoders out there that aims to 'speed up' the process and make things 'easier' for the end user by 'dumping down'. If you want to try them do so but based on my own experience there are usually problems with the way aspect ratio is handled and also audio/video sync issues so be wary.

I have been using FlaskMpeg/XMpeg/VirtualDub for many years now since the ancient days of DivX 3 ;-) and find them very easy to use. All are easy to use freewares and in the case of VirtualDub, even has moderate editing capabilities.

Good luck.

Food Review: Tootsies, Brighton

Two weeks ago we had dinner in Tootsies, Brighton. I believe our fourth time there. We love the restaurant (also the one in Ealing) but it is too expensive so we dine there during special nights (like our birthdays).

As promised here is the menu for Tootsies:



This was what I had, a Thai chicken burger with spicy peanut sauce:



What Jenni had, a classic baby back rib rack:



Banana and chocolate shakes:

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mirror, mirror on the wall

This morning as I was heading out of my room, my bag caught the 2 meter tall mirror by the side of the door, tilting it forward and resulting in it crashing on my back. Fortunatedly it was not framed so it just smashed up pretty easily, showering my room in scores of tiny and sometimes deadly sharp (and large) broken glasses.



A nice variation into my otherwise rather mundane life.

Monday, October 10, 2005

God of War mini-review


God of War is a rare event in gaming. It is an action game. It is a fun action game. It is a good and fun action game. In fact, it is a bloody fucking good and fun action game. And it deserves all the praises one can heap upon on a computer game.

The gameplay is similar to Devil May Cry in that it is a button masher. Technically it is actually more complicated than that as combat involves strategy unlike most other games within the hack and slash genre. The plot is highly polished for this type of game, which is surprising. Even then the gameplay isn't as difficult as Devil May Cry, and it certainly is far more forgiving.

God of War's storyline is slightly more comprehensive than Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden series, as it borrows a lot from Greek mythology. Gore features heavily in the game and this may put off some people. Unfortunately the game is a little too short and too linear. Exploration is none-existent. But trust me while this game lacks some substance, it excels above all else in providing entertainment to the gamer.

9/10

Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Gloomy

Must be the sick weather. Actually it is fine (13-15C) but I guess I am starting to miss the sun with the damn overcast.

What's this? Robotic fish in London Aquarium. It needs to be manually fed (charged) every five hours! What a waste!

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Music Review: Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better



I never really got into Franz Ferdinand's universally acclaimed hyped-up eponymous album. Call me silly but I am pretty much sick of Take Me Out every time some bastard of a DJ decides to play it on the radio.

Perhaps Franz Ferdinand deserves to be credited of reviving Britain's indie rock scene. Supported by a small label, they managed to climb out of Britain's 2004 rock dump and at the same time giving the less dreaded R&B scene (hiss!) a good kicking. Oh, they also won the Mercury Prize. The industry stood up and took notice. Just look at this year's Mercury Prize nomination.

Anyone with a telly would probably hate Do You Want To by the time you read this. A corker of a single it has been gracing MTV and the such for the past two weeks. Bad/Good news, the rest of You Could Have It So Much Better doesn't disappoint either.

Franz Ferdinand has also been doing a little of experimenting. On Eleanor Put Your Boots On and Fade Together in came piano numbers - a little like listening to a slightly better Beatles. No fear for fans of hard hitting riffing - those are still present most notably in I'm Your Villain.

Like their debut album, I started out disappointed. Yes I was a closet Take Me Out fan (although I think Auf Achse and The Dark of the Matinee are far superior), but it did take a couple of concentrated sittings to sort out the musical melee.

Big on funky and groovy beats coupled with tight guitar riffs, excellent for dancing about if you are a closet pop fan (admit it, you all enjoy Britney Spears - and even dance to them) but want it indie. In fact you probably won't feel as guilty.

Nothing overtly original in this LP. It is pretty damn similar to the debut. And that may be a winner - if you are into songs written for dancing girls. Come on. I know you all do.

Best tracks: This Boy (a superb punk rock number) followed by Walk Away

Software Review: Resco Pocket Radio

I love listening to radio. But the problem with listening to DAB or FM radio is the limited number of stations available. The other problem (at least for me) is whenever I want to record a radio show, I would have to start up my PC and start the WinTV Nova application in order to just record.

Well with Resco Pocket Radio, all I need to do is switch on my PDA, log into a wireless network, launch the app, tune into the many various internet radio channels I want to listen to and press record! Supported file formats include MP3 and OggVorbis (yay!).


This is the default main screen. With version 1.3, a new default skin is installed which, in my opinion, a much nicer looking skin than the bland older keypad style skin.

Here you can assign up to 10 preset channels (favourites). There are three lines of information: a static info on the channels name, a live info (eg. track name) and the connection status.



Various options are available to users including the options to skin the application, map the hardware buttons and location of recordings.


Here is an excellent functionality. With Resco Pocket Radio, recording schedules are permitted. It seems that there are no limits to how many schedules are allowed too.


The Radio Stations contains a list of the various internet radio stations that can be streamed to the device. Here you can import your shoutcast M3U or PLS files as well as manually assigning your own favourite station. You only need the URL.

Some internet stations stream their content at various bitrates and you can select the bitrates should your connection is good enough to cope with higher bitrates.



Unfortunately you can only record tunes broadcasted in MP3 format. Which really isn't a big deal as most of the default radio stations streams in MP3 format anyway.

Now a big problem for me. The non-inclusion of WMA and RM support. Why such a big deal? Because the BBC internet streams are in either of those two formats. Having to resort to using Windows Media Player 10 in order to listen to the BBC causes real headache as WMP10 is really crappy at supporting live streams.

My guess is there may be licensing issues to sort out with Microsoft and Real. Hopefully the next update will include support for those formats.

The program also supports streaming over a GPRS connection. But seriously with GPRS tariffs so expensive (at least in Britain) I can't see how people would want to listen to internet radio over the mobile network. It is crazy.

I love the simple cool look of the player. Unlike other streaming applications I struggled to use in the past, this one is easy to pick up.

Overall I am very pleased with the application. It may not be the killer music application that it could have been (if it only supported WMA and RM) but it actually handles streaming better than WMP10 on my desktop! Weird I know.

Resco Pocket Radio is available for US$19.95 here (non-affiliate).

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Monday blues

Can't view partial eclipse. Too cloudy. No sun. Getting colder. Dry. It truly is Monday.

Great news though. Jenni and I have finally sorted our Paris trip this December. A few niggles to iron out but at least we booked our accomodation. We will be staying in a typical 2 star budget hostel/hotel for five nights. We've booked our overnight coach but we are still debating whether to take the Eurostar...

A couple of people were doing this test so I thought what the hell. Besides I have a bloody cold and can't think of anything to write.

You are a

Social Liberal
(88% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(8% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Socialist










Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test