Thursday, April 27, 2006

The console formerly known as Revolution: Wii

I am speechless.

Not that I care though as I will still be getting it. But still. Wii??? WTF!

I don't know what is more baffling, Nintendo Wii or the fact that a fat old git can bed a hot secretary.

Sick



Migraine. Cold. Flu. Sore throat. Coughing fits. This week, summed up. Thank you very much.

Thank god for another bleak bank holiday weekend.

Hardware Review: HTC Wizard (O2 XDA Mini S)

Well, I finally balked and traded in my mobile for a HTC Wizard. After months of juggling around two devices I think I find it best to own a single convergence device like I did when I still had my imate Jam. The problem with the Magician however was its non-existence one-handed OS style which was why I got a traditional mobile instead after a year of usage. However with the Wizard running Windows Mobile 5.0, with its built-in QWERTY keypad and soft keys (something lacking in WM5.0 mobiles like the MDA Compact II and Eten M600), I honestly believe I have found the holy grail of smartphones - that is until Palm works its ass and release a GSM Treo 700w. It isn't as intuitive as a traditional mobile but it is an improvement.

Of course the first thing I did was update the ROM (with Microsoft AKU 2, which brings push e-mail to the Windows Mobile device). This essentially turns the Wizard into a Blackberry like device. Fortunately for me I have no need for such a slaving e-mail solution. The ROM update also sped up the device, although it did bring a couple of feature 'bugs' like the useless battery icon. Still the device worked straight out of the box, and then straight after the update. The new ROM is stable enough that I didn't have to soft reset even after two days of extensive usage. A record!

The Wizard isn't much bigger than my old i-mate Jam. It is notesably fatter, uglier and heavier but it is comfortable due to the rounded shape. While the Jam always felt like slipping out of my hand onto the concreate pavement, the Wizard felt more secure. The battery life is amazingly good for a Microsoft device and close to twice that of the Jam. The screen is the same size as the HTC Magician at 2.8". Even my spare Jam screen protector fits perfectly on this device.

Just when you thought you couldn't see smaller stylus, HTC decided to give the Wizard an even smaller retractable toothpick. Fortunately it is a little thicker than most toothpicks you find in Chinese restaurants. The telescopic stylus is accessable from the bottom of the PDA which makes no sense at least until you flip the mobile side ways into keyboard mode. I also like how the fact that it uses a standard miniUSB cable to charge and sync. I have an abundant amount of these cables lying around literally around my room as does Jennnifer, so at least I don't have to bring my charger to Brighton all the time.


The Wizard and its keyboardless cousin, the Magician (L)


The camera is driven by the usual crappy 1.3Mp CMOS sensor that also powered the Magician. I am sure going to miss the 2Mp K750 camera which was actually useful for a mobile. Until then I will keep my compact digicam handy. The Wizard takes mini SD cards (yet another flash memory format) and came with a 32MB card. I am lucky enough to obtain a 256MB for free so the 32MB is confined to backup duties. My 1GB SD card can now be retired to its permanent home in a digital camera. Regarding the many mini SD's doom prediction, it was not a long time ago when I first got a m505 (one of the first PDA to use SD card). No other device uses them and dooms were predicted for the new flash memory format and now look what happened. The same could happen to the mini SD format.

The Wizard appears to run much faster than a WM5'ed Axim x50v, which is shocking considering that it runs on a 200Mhz OMAP850 processor. The Axim on the other hand has a 624Mhz XScale. Of course the Wizard was built from the ground up to take advantage of WM5.0 including the type of Flash ROM that requires the file system to work properly so it isn't really a fair comparison. With a slower processor however, gaming could prove troublesome to some people. Armed with a DS, I never intended for the Wizard to be a gaming device so I didn't install much games save for Bejeweled!, Gamebox Solitaire, Snails and the F-Zero/Wipeout inspired Flux Challenge.


DS Lite: for pure gaming, Wizard: for things like getting work done

ActiveStink as usual do not work straight out of the box. It took me a while to realise that Zone Alarm was the culprit as ActiveSync 4.x seems to have problems connecting through firewalls. With WM5 devices now connected as a TCP/IP network device, I am sure it will be easier in the future to sync via WiFi or Bluetooth PAN. For now though I just have to shut down Zone Alarm before connecting the device, as it will just block the flow of information, at least until I have time to troubleshoot Zone Alarm.

I wish Microsoft would simplify the sync routine and understand that this is a mobile phone first and a computer second. People do not have the time to even troubleshoot their PC anymore let alone their mobile phone connection. I long for the days when all I need to do to sync was press that little HotSync button on the cradle and it gets the job done.

Update (2 May 06):

I installed ActiveSync 4.2 Beta and while it is faster to sync compared to 4.1, the issue with firewall is still there.

Pros
Improved battery life over the HTC Magician
Speedy enough running normal application (and pretty quick after overclocking)
Retains mini USB sync/charge slot
AKU 2.0 improved speed
QWERTY keyboard
Quad band
802.11g support
Persistent storage

Cons
Pretty ugly
Still uses 2.5mm 3-pin headset jack
Silly telescopic stylus
Only 24MB of RAM available during boot
AKU 2.0 brought a useless 2 bar battery indicator
Near useless camera

Wish list for future product based on similar platform:
Improved camera (or get rid of it altogether and price the device cheaper)
VGA screen
Increased RAM availability (64MB)
5-10 bar battery indicator
A faster processor (540Mhz XScale or 300+Mhz OMAP)
UMTS support
A thinner and maybe slightly more elegent case design

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Toy Review: Nintendo Famicom Controller Keyholder and Super Mario Bros.

Thanks again to Jennifer, here are some pictures of Japan only release, Nintendo Controller Keyholder with Sound. This features a 3D dot graphic version of Mario from Super Mario Bros. and a Famicom controller replica, which emits the sound from the game when pressed. This is the perfect gift for retro gaming fans.









You can import them from Lik-Sang or through most retro gaming and Japanese toy stores in London.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Magazine Review: Playboy Indonesia Issue 01

This is it, my 'review' on Indonesia's first Playboy magazine, courtesy of Jennifer.



Premiere issue - Playboy Indonesia. Out for one week before being removed from the shelves.



Compared to FHM, Playboy is a little bit smaller and 'less sexy'. The bright red does catch your eyes though compared to 'yet another high street honey' cover.



News from Playboy America.



Farhan enjoys reading articles more than seeing pictures of Erika Eleniak. What an idiot.



This joke isn't even funny in the first place. The way the joke was told is funny though.



The nude drawing of Playboy Advisor is gone.



Unlike localised FHM Malaysia, Playboy Indonesia also features original articles written by their local writers. This is an interview with an old man.



It isn't only pictures of semi-nude ladies. Like its more matured Playboy USA, a local political issue should always be featured. Because of Indonesian constitution and red-tape, these poor people are now 'atheist'. What is wrong with that?



Eh?



Alan Moore speaks Indonesian...



The obligatory fashion section.



This picture of a so called Malaysian celeb (that I have never heard of) is the closest to nudity you will find in Playboy Indonesia. I don't know what the fuss is all about - this isn't pornographic! You can probably find sexier pictures in an Argos catalogue.



I present to you Miss April Kartika, Playboy Indonesia's first centerfold and one of the few centerfold pictorials not to feature nudity.

Miss Kartika Oktavini Gunawan turn-ons includes getting a job and presents.



Ad: A baggy version that allows Mr. Happy's head to maneuver easier, giving Miss Cheerful a better sensation. Hmm...

I can't say that I expected much. Much of the articles are recycled from Playboy USA, although for a first issue, it does feature quite a number of original local produced features. The lack of nudity is pretty much expected (they even went on to edit out see through nipples). And after all that they are still at the receiving end of crazy conservative idiots. I can honestly say that this isn't even near pornographic and the only reason we are seeing protests are because of irrational and subconscious negative thought to the brand name 'Playboy'. Uninformed idiots tend to do crazy things.

At most this can be classified as similar to GQ, Esquire or Arena (minus the nudity of course) and is a more 'serious' mag when compared to mid-shelf lad mags like FHM, Maxim or Front. As far as Playboy is concerned, it follows the similar format to Playboy USA with two pictorials (although in this case, there are no nudity) plus jokes, articles, news etc.

I wish them success but knowing S.E. Asia, I believe this publication is doomed from the beginning. The country isn't ready yet. Even Jennifer found it hard to purchase the mag. Over cautious newsagents were wary of putting them on shelves.

But it is a step and at least Indonesia can stand proud and say that they have/had a Playboy magazine. Can't say the same of Malaysia and Singapore.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Brighton sunset



Nothing beats the sight of sunset while strolling on the seafront of Brighton. So... what sorts of stuffs did you do over Easter?

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana mini-review


If you are a fan of RPG games like Final Fantasy or Disgaea: Hour of Darkness then you should consider this. Hell it is already proving a much better game than the last RPG game I played: the good but enjoyableness Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Like Nippon Ichi's own Disgaea (Atelier Iris is published by Nippon Ichi and Koei in Europe, but is actually developed by Japanese outfit Gust - this is their first game released outside Japan), Eternal Mana is hilariously funny. Which is a nice change of pace compared to other serious RPG games like Final Fantasy X.

Characters are made of typical RPG clich├ęd anime style and the plot not providing much substance but at least it provided me with much laughter. The graphics is a throwback to sprite based games from the SNES era but in higher resolution. Exploration for example occurs on a 3D isometric plane similar to Dragon Quest VII and Tactics where as during combat the camera zooms in slightly over a pseudo 3D landscape. Three characters can participate in a battle at any one time, certainly a much reduced number compared to say the six in Final Fantasy VI (III in US). Items can be synthesized in the shops to forge new gears.

Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana is a good game, hampered only by the lack of engrossing storyline. It isn't a game for anybody as the amount of hours put in will demand serious investment, but if you are an old school RPG fan with a penchant for unusual character design, this first available Gust game outside of Japan should be considered over the usual affair of standard RPG outings by mainstream developers like Square Enix or Atlus.

7/10

Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Easter weekend

This latest news on Playboy Indonesia is really a downer isn't it? The issue here isn't about the magazine, but a police chief who is attempting to assert his own demand on a publication. News from Jennifer is that the magazine has now been pulled from the shelfs. But do expect a review sometime next week. I will see if I can escape doing a comparison between Playboy Indonesia and Playboy USA. ;)

Looking at these shots of the developers of Red Steel from Ubisoft playing with the Revolution remote, I can't help but glee with the excitement of little girl. Hurry up already Nintendo!

And have a lovely easter and nice long weekend.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Broadband price war

Are we finally going to see a broadband price war? I surely hope so. One of the reason why I do not have a personal landline (therefore having to hitch on an open WiFi network) was the reliance on BT. No matter who you want your broadband connection to be with, you still have to pay BT for line rental.

Carphone Warehouse' new TalkTalk package pretty much breaks this rule and others. One-off connection fee of only 30 squid (to BT of course) and no more monthly BT line rental charge - yay! For only £21 a month, you get a landline with unlimited local and national call, plus unlimited calls to 28 other countries (using VoIP me thinks), and that broadband access with a 5GB download limit (which won't matter to the majority of surfers like me).

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Monday, April 10, 2006

An (almost) dead Shure

Curse this world and my bad luck. My Shure e2c is halfway through its deathbed, just ten months after I bought it. While walking to the Tube station on Saturday evening, I found that my MuVo was outputting crackling songs. I thought that I was walking too fast and tracks are skipping (it shouldn't happen since it is flashed based). But it the music kept on crackling. While waiting for the Piccadilly Line train to arrive I took my chance to check if there was anything wrong with the Shure.


Which do you prefer? I hate white.


Sweet jesus. How the fuck did it get there? A large tear just below the right earbud. As you can see in the pictures above, the e2c cable is quite a bit thicker than your average buds, but I guess one its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. You see, Shure sound isolating earphones are meant to be worn wrapped through the top and down the back of the ear. I guess all those wrapping gave the part of the cable some pressure. Sure it may thick and durable, but its thickness made it less flexible.

The e2c still works but I need to pull the cable down from time to time for it to work. It works well if I am stationary, so I may yet keep it for those time when I need to chill. But right now I am stuck with the generic Creative buds that came with the MuVo. The sound fidelity is no where near the e2c but at least it is much more comfortable than the cheap throwaway Sony earphones I have (about ten of them). The problem with wearing the Creative buds are they are white. Now I look like a generic iPod wanabee clone.

Right now I am looking for a possible replacement, unless someone here can suggest how I can repair the tear. The Shure e2g looks nice. This is basically a Shure e2c with a black casing (and apparently optimised for gaming). I find the e2c's transparent case wicked, but if I am going to spend more money, might as well get something different right?

Sennheiser recently introduced its first in-ear canal earphone called the CX 300. Unfortunately there aren't any reviews of this unit (which looks awfully similar to the EX71) so I will hold out on getting it.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Advance Wars: Dual Strike review


Okay, this game has been out for quite some time now (since September last year), but as I have just finished of the last of the single player campaign (I am crap!) after a furious late night/early morning session, I felt compelled to write a short review of this amazing game.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike is part of the Famicom Wars series (Nintendo Wars as known in Europe and North America) and is a turn-based strategy wargame. It was developed by Intelligent Systems, the developer who made both the Gameboy Advance games and the original Famicom Wars. For the uninitiated, Advance Wars is a Risk/Chess/Command & Conquer hybrid game. The main difference is with each turn you are able to instruct all your units to move/attack, and of course it isn't in real time.

If you just bought this game you should get moving with the campaign mode. The storyline is reasonable and similar in lines with the Advance Wars series where the Black Hole army is up to their conquering the world mischief again. You control the Orange Star army in repelling the invasion. After you complete the campaign, a hard campaign would be unlocked. Using coins earned in the campaign you can use them to unlock new battlemaps.

A new feature to the Advance Wars series is the introduction of multiple COs (Commanding Officer). This is why the game is called Dual Strike. While you can only control a CO in AAdvance Wars, in Dual Strike you can partner two COs. Each COs has unique abilities so you should select them carefully in each mission. For example you should use Sami in missions that requires a quick capture of towns and bases. If a mission that requires a more direct brute force combat, then use Max.

With two different COs a new mode of gameplay called 'Tag Battles' has also been implemented. Basically once both your COs 'super power' has been charged you can invoke 'Tag Battles' which gives you two turns instead of one. This is crucial in some missions. Like in Advance Wars, the COs has uncanny humour, although I do wish Advance Wars veteran Nell returns to the game. She is the funniest of all. Her younger sister Rachel replaces her as your tutor. The most annoying character I believe is Jake, the first CO you control, and one of the main protagonist. His internet lingo annoys me (eg. We owned you!). STFU!

While most of the missions would only take place on the bottom screen (with the top screen displaying crucial information such as terrain and unit intelligence and other various stuffs), new to Advance Wars are battles that also takes place on the top screen. These battles (called secondary battles) are quite rare but do give some dimensions to the game. Basically you can assign a CO to take control of the top battle. If he or she wins, they can join you on the front battle. You can leave the CPU to take care of the top battle but should you wish to, you can take command as well.

Gameplay remains the same as the original (Western) Advance Wars with some modification to take advantage of the Nintendo DS. You can now use the touch screen to select your units, but personally I find it easier to use the d-pad and face buttons since the map is grid based.

Graphically the game is similar to the Gameboy Advance games. Terrain and units are still 2D sprites, although they are much more detailed. Likewise with the animations. The map is slightly tilted, sort of a 'cheat' to make it 3D like. People who must have 3D in their games would do well to avoid this game, which is a shame as I think the graphic is lovely.

Winning missions is straight forward. You can either capture the enemy HQ or defeat all the enemy units. Some missions deviate slightly and requires you to destroy certain units, but for most of the missions winning is as simple as capturing or defeating.

Because this game came out before Nintendo launched its free internet gaming service, Dual Strike only features wireless local LAN multiplayer. This supports up to eight different players and requires only one copy of the game. Yay!

Advance Wars: Dual Strike is a great direction for the series. If you are a fan of real time strategy, then check out its bigger brother, the under-rated Battalion Wars for GameCube, developed by Kuju London. While it isn't turn based, it is similar to its portable console cousins with its rather unique micro management system.

Either way, Dual Strike is a great war game. If you have Advance Wars for GBA, you may find at first glance that Dual Strike doesn't really offer a significant reason to upgrade. But combined with new units and new gameplay (dual COs, tags, music) and a new campaign, if you are a fan of turn-based war strategy.

War may be bad, but Advance Wars: Dual Strike is great.

8/10

Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

Saturday, April 8, 2006

DVD Review: No Angels series two box set



No Angels has to be one of my favourite Channel 4 adult comedy drama. Featuring four female NHS nurses, the series is raunchy and 'realistic'. Medical series like E.R. is about doctors trying to be heroic - through weekly epic battles. No Angels is about humans working in a hospital and how they deal with their everyday life (through sex).


A typical nurses home in Leeds? Sign me up!

In No Angels, doctors and nurses frequently squabble, fights break out among patients and the politics of NHS wards are highlighted. Watching this, you would just wish the scriptwriters of other so called 'chick-flicks' such as Desperate Housewives would just give it up.


Junior doctor punching someone. Yay!


The final series of No Angels is currently being screened on Channel 4. Since I missed most of season two last year, I thought I would just save myself by getting the season two box-set. Unlike series one (my review here), the second season has less two episodes (eight), although you will still get them over three DVDs. Like most of Channel 4 dramas, the DVDs come in a digibox case along with a very pink slipcover.



The DVD transfer has been done pretty well with colours looking accurate (I believe). Aspect ratio is 16:9 and the audio is only limited to two channels. There are no bonus features apart from a cast interview and photo gallery. And taking a step backwards when compared to the first season DVD, there are no subtitles on this version.



Still, don't let that detract you from checking getting the DVD if you missed it last year (or the repeats). This is an extremely funny British series, which is rare these days with the oversaturated craps that grace our telly.

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Friday, April 7, 2006

Gyakuten Saiban: Yomigaeru Gyakuten / Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney mini-review


One of the best time of my life was when I played this game a few months ago. Three days of non-stop playing, occasionally stopping for food and drink and other of life's essentials - and I finally 'beaten' the game in the early hours of a Sunday morning. It's like reading four detective books. Your eyes will bleed but it doesn't matter because you will want to get to the bottom of the truth.

You will become a recluse as you are sucked into the world where Phoenix, Maya, Ema and Edgeworth lives. When you finish, it's like something good has been taken away. You will understand the frustration that is felt by Harry Potter fans who has to wait for the next book like forever. You may even weep as you try to enjoy it all over again. But it will never be the same as the first time. Same goes with Gyakuten Saiban. It is that good.

Also known as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in the western world, Gyakuten Saiban DS is a remake of the original Gameboy Advance game where you play as rookie lawyer Phoenix Wright. It is easy and yet sometimes frustrating. It is the only world where you are allowed 'five lives' in the court (don't worry you can save). A world that nothing makes sense but when it dawns on you, you will be thinking "duh!". The DS version also contains a bonus case which is almost as long as two normal cases put together. Perfect for investigative adventure game fans, especially for those who remember the days of Monkey Island and Sam & Max.

Any objections?

9/10

Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

Thursday, April 6, 2006

The 'fake sheikh' Mazher Mahmood



Ah, as it is legal now, British based blogs are free to publish pictures of the so called fake sheikh without fear of a lawsuit. The undercover reporter for News of the World; whose journalistic 'skills' include (allegedly) destroying lives, entrapment, selling drugs, faking passports and inciting the kidnapping of a famous footballer and his posh wife; was cornered by Gorgeous George (note, I am not a fan - but do read his amusing blog entry here) when Mr Mahmood attempted to entrap the Respect MP. You can read more at the Guardian.

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British Summer Time

The clock went forward by an hour roughly two weeks ago, and I am still not used to it even after eight years of BST changeovers. That one hour less sleep during the changeover meant that my body clock is truly fucked up. I can easily recover in a day or two from a 8 hours jet-lag, but for some reason BST can screw me up so badly.

The worst thing about BST, apart from losing an hour and then gaining an hour months later, is the confusion it causes. When BST came in the wee morning hours of the 26th, I had no idea which clock to trust. Windows XP automatically took care of the clock but my mobile phone did not. The telly was still displaying the old time. At one point I actually thought that we gained an hour. I was kinda hoping that my Fossil would magically move its longer arm by itself but alas it did not.

And it is not like "British Summer Time" actually mean anything. The evenings may get longer, but it is still chilly! To be fair though, last year I did gained an extra hour of birthday when BST ended.

On a happier note, the postman should be delivering something truly special for me tomorrow. \o/

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Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Video Game Impressions: Nintendo DS Lite & Tomb Raider: Legend

I won't bore you with an in depth review of Nintendo's new DS Lite. Instead here are some pictures and first impressions.


Vs







A reduced-size GBA slot cover is provided


Normal GBA carts protrudes around one cm

Pros:
- Smaller (42% less volume)
- Lighter too
- Amazing screen
- Four level brightness - high level brightness perfect for summer alfresco gaming sessions
- Larger capacity battery
- Inside matte finish
- Still region free
- Longer and thicker stylus slot
- Buttons do not 'click' (may be negative to some)

Cons:
- Reduced-sized GBA slot (a necessary evil, I guess)
- New charging slot
- Outside glossy finish which attracts fingerprints
- OS not updated (still need to reboot!)
- So far only exists as expensive imports (on top of the potential H.M. Revenue & Customs tax)

Playing Metroid Prime: Hunters has never been more satisfying.

Totally unrelated to the DS Lite, but still remaining with gaming:

I also had the chance to have a go with the new Tomb Raider: Legend demo today. Behind the unrealistically glossy new Lara, gameplay works essentially the same as the original Tomb Raider. However playing Legend isn't the same as when I first played Tomb Raider nine years ago on the family computer.


In 1996, playing a scantly clad sexy female Indiana Jones style character while hunting for old relics in exotic locations was a unique and refreshing twist, especially when compared to the many male-centric games

I guess the idea of controlling a semi-nude sexy protagonist isn't that big a deal nowadays. Still as a game title, Legend is pretty good and should satisfy most fans of Lara Croft and the third person platform genre. It isn't a killer title, but if the price drops down to £15, I may just be tempted to play the full version.

You can download the PC demo here or here.

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Dixons no more

Finally, the accursed name of Britain's most pathetic high street electronic chain will be banished. Yes, it is simply a rebrand (replacing them with Currys), but it still matters. Why? Because as my high street has both Currys and Dixons, the consolidation will only mean that in the future, we will have one less crappy store to worry about.

Update: Yes... replace Dixons with Currys.digital... As though that will ever change their reputation of having the worst trained staffs. But at least we can laugh at their new name! Seriously though this venture will fail and Dixons as a brand will be no more. Anyone seen their online store recently? It is laughable.

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Saturday, April 1, 2006

Ben & Jerry's Glastonbury Tour

Got this in my mailbox today:
Hi Jon, get your free helping of our new Glastonberry ice cream on the Orange & Sony Ericsson Glastonbury Tour of the film, which is released across the UK on 14th April.

Kicking off with the London film premiere (April 11), the tour moves to Bristol (April 13), Leeds (April 14) and Glasgow (April 15). Each of the regional events will include a live acoustic set from a Glastonbury act followed by a screening of Glastonbury The Film, which follows some of the festival’s 35-year history featuring acts such as The Scissor Sisters, Radiohead, Bjork and Coldplay plus many more.

You can find out more and win or buy tickets by clicking here.
Can't say that I am excited about it. No more London tickets for the event at Prince Charles Cinema too. But really, the only event I kinda wish I could attend is Leeds (Starsailor) but I would be busy during the time period (more on that later). And no way am I going to sit down and watch a film clip which features Coldplay. Even if the price is 50p under a fiver.

Still no news about their next Sundae festival.

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