Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Desperate Housewives season three finale

Whoa... I was beginning to get bored with Desperate Housewives but tonight's C4 broadcast of season three finale was, quite frankly, awesome. What a great set-up for the season four. Here are some thoughts concerning the season as a whole:

Personally I have always thought Susan Myers was the weakest character, and this season didn't prove me wrong. She did take her first step to finally gain control of her life by finally deciding for herself her wedding date, but she needs to prove herself more and stop being a Rachel. Gabrielle's a close second, and I hope, with that shrewd 'it's all about me' personality, perhaps she is finally getting what she deserved. I am indifferent to Lynette and couldn't care less on what will happen to her the next season.



I was glad to see Marcia Cross's returning as Bree for the finale, even if it was only for a couple of minutes of screen time. Her return was pretty much essential as the plot that was revealed in tonight's episode sets up what could be the first half of season four's storyline. Because I was online while watching the episode on the telly, there were plenty of 'WTF' on my Skype messages with Jenni, and 90% of it concerns Bree's scenes. As for Edie... well take a look at the picture above. Nothing moved, not even her feet. She's done. Move on folks.

I would like to congratulate David Grossman for directing this episode and to Marc Cherry, the series creator. Can't wait for season four.

Madeleine McCann's hotel defies physics

The original post I wrote here was pretty nasty, so I decided to tone it down a little bit... Regardless this should still amuse you:

4 May 07

TheGuardian

Portuguese police were today searching for Madeline McCann who disappeared from the family's rented apartment while her parents Gerry and Katie dined at a tapas restaurant 200 yards away.

11 May 07

The Daily Telegraph
The couple claimed they were checking on the apartment every half hour as they dined at a tapas restaurant with friends, only 100 yards away.
29 May 07

This is London (Daily Mail)
Madeleine took the soft toy to bed with her every night and it was with her when her parents tucked her up in bed alongside her brother and sister on May 3 before going out for dinner 40 yards away.
Incredible. By the end of this sorry saga I am sure even the McCanns would believe that they never actually left their children alone and they dined in the very apartment itself.

KER-CHING!



The good news is that the latest in reality thrash television known as Big Brother 2007 is starting tonight, which would at least give me another subject to rant about. It would also mean that the media would give another group of attention seekers misfits some much needed coverage. But don't count on this being the last Team McCann related rant I would subject you guys with, especially if something stupid, like the ironic meeting with a Catholic pontif, happens again.

In other news, five Britons were kidnapped blah blah blah...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hawkins new device prediction (update: Palm introduces the Foleo, a sub-notebook with proprietary Linux OS)

Tomorrow Jeff Hawkins will be revealing a new product for Palm, Inc. Despite him claiming that the product would not be a handheld or smartphone, plenty of people has been making predictions that it would. Knowing Palm's past business practice I highly doubt that the device would be revolutionary, but just to be safe I am going to predict something big.

Remember a few years ago when IBM research announced a mobile PC concept called the MetaPad (then later called the Mobile Computer Core, then later by IBM Japan as the PC Core System)? If not you can read about it here. While the concept never really took off (concepts has been shown by other companies, but I doubt it ever made it into the consumer market, at least not outside Japan), I do hope someone (be it IBM or another PC vendor) would attempt to market something similar. If it is Palm with their new Linux-based OS then that would be awesome, but like I said earlier, I highly doubt they have the ability to do so.

But one of the reasons I am bringing this up was because of Hawkin's assertion that it will be something to do with mobile computing with plenty of storage. UMPCs, PDAs, smartphones, dumphones and mobile internet tablets can all do that, but if Hawkins were to announce a new product that would fit into any of those categories that I just mentioned then I would be very disappointed. Well we will see about it tomorrow.

Update (30/05/07):

Ugh, this is the exciting new product?



A proprietary sub-notebook running on a proprietary version of Linux? The cost is even more ridiculous. US$599 (probably £499 here). If this were to cost say... US$299-399 (depending on specs), then I can think of a reason why people would want one (eg. a permanent and cheap internet only notebook for the living room), but right now most can already sync their Treos/Blackberries/smartphones etc. to a proper Wintel ultra-portable. This would be a pretty exciting product if it was released in 2001, when I still had a desire for a consumer Psion 7 series or a HPC. Corporate ITs may consider the product but I doubt there is a significant consumer market for it.

At least the design of the Foleo notebook looks pretty good. It appears to have a proper keyboard and it does come with a trackpoint/nipple mouse, the best mousey technology ever created. But still...

Cheap legal CDs deemed illegal: consumers are the losers

The High court in London today imposed a £41 million fine to CD-Wow for selling legal (as in original, not pirated) albums in the UK. The catch is the CDs are imported from cheaper regions therefore enabling us the consumers to benefit, therefore according to some weird law, makes it 'illegal'.

The CDs are still legal, aren't region-coded (unlike DVDs and video games) but the British Phonographic Industry, being the prat they are, failed to see the point and decided that us, the consumers, are still required to pay upwards of ten quid per CD. The BPI's main assertion in their offence against consumers is that by buying cheap legal and original CDs we are 'hurting' the artists.

The way some of BPI's arguments are laid out seems to indicate that CDs are sold at a lost in Hong Kong which I seriously doubt. Whether the CDs are sold in Asia or the UK, moolah always make their way back to the original artists (although the majority still remains in fat cats coffers in both regions, that I am sure of). It reminds me of the time when I bought a legal non-censored but published in Asia version of Antichrist Superstar from Malaysia for a fantastic £5 in '98. I am pretty sure Marilyn Manson received the same amount of royalty from the sale in Malaysia as if it was if I purchased it in the UK.

If Britain really wants to claim itself to be a champion of free economy then leave us consumers alone to choose where we want to purchase our goods. It isn't fair that even with the current exchange rate we still have to pay through our noses for shit. Free market my arse.

Until then, thanks to you BPI (and SCEE) the day when even legal consumers get fed up and start researching on this torrent thingy is getting closer.

Monday, May 28, 2007

World Community Grid

Rather than donating money to charity chuggers, who pocket 50% of the monies for 'administrative' and tax purposes, do something better for a change by donating surplus computing power to research institute that can, in the long-run, benefit man-kind. And I know for a fact that everything I donated will be put to good use, unlike that of charities.

For the past month I have been donating computing power to the World Community Grid via United Devices client (you can also use the more popular BOINC client). Because the client only takes up idle CPU time (and it rarely put the processor under stress), electricity consumption is minimal. I only turn it on when I am actually using the computer, rather than leaving my PC on 24/7. Right now there are four projects on WCG, two of which my PCs are crunching for: FightAIDS@home and the Fiocruz Genome Comparison Project.


United Devices client calculating a WU for the Genome Comparison project on Windows XP

There are plenty of distributed computing projects around to suit anyone. CERN's LHC@home would probably suit physics geeks and Einstein worshippers more. Sci-fi nerds would most likely prefer to run SETI@home. Then there's the PS3 - Folding@home does demonstrate the crunching capability of STI's Cell processor.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

TV Review: Paul Merton in China



Five might not be my usual TV channel spot, but Paul Merton in China is an absolute winner in my books. Having never been to China myself, it was interesting to see china in the eyes of a stranger. To see through the eyes of Paul Merton was even better as this guy is one of my favourite Have I Got News for You panellist. Sure he is no Michael Palin (or god forbid Gavin Stamp), but this guy is hilarious. Who else would pass up a visit to the Great Wall ("just a wall of brick") to have a ride on a home made rickshaw robot?

Beneath all the comedy there were serious issues that were raised by a politically confused China. Officially a "Communist" (it never was) state, China's eager embrace of capitalism proved excessive as is highlighted by the visit to a horrifying French ch√Ęteau replica.

The second part of Paul Merton in China is on 9pm bank holiday Monday.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Crumpler beer for bags (bring it over!)

Since 2002, Crumpler, an Aussie company famous for making hip bags for electronical equipments, has organised 'beer for bags' events. This year the events are being held in NYC and Toronto. The process is simple:

Check their site.
Eye the bag you want.
Buy the brand and quantities requested (soya sauce and ramen are also required for certain trade-ins!).
Go to event and trade the beers in for the bag of your choice.
Drink beer with staff.

You end up actually saving money, obtaining a pricey Crumpler and getting wasted in the process.

Examples:

Thirsty Al (L) = 4 cans of Boddingtons
Skivvy (L) = 1 case of Hoegaarden
Moderate Embarassment = 2 cases of Asahi + 1 packet of Ramen

To those organisers at Crumpler: bring this event to London!

via NBR

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wembley today

Apparently there was some kind of big event today at Wembley. Pictures from the number 83 bus!


LOL!




All those early celebrations for nowt!

Sony VAIO Mouse Talk VN-CX1 Skype/VoIP optical mouse review

Two weeks ago my main wireless optical mouse which I purchased in 2003 gave up. It coughed, stuttered and suddenly it stopped moving. I charged the battery and tried but it wouldn't budge. I changed to another set of batteries and tried to pair it with the receiver, but it still refused to rise from its grave.

So for the past two weeks I have been using a crap wired Compaq mouse (licensed from Logitech) with those ball thingy (the horror), which I had to clean out almost everyday (I don't have a mouse pad), while researching for a suitable replacement. My obvious choice was to go laser.

The Logitech V450 was a target purchase but I could not find a single store that sold it for less than £20. There was no way I would ever pay above £20 for a mouse, not even cutting edge mouse with built-in rice cooker. I decided to prioritise my needs and finally decided that I no longer needed a wireless mouse (the good ones are expensive, the crap ones can barely go beyond 2 metres). Besides the newer mice (like the V450) uses the crowded 2.4Ghz frequency for transmitting. Surrounded by at least ten 802.11b/g access points, various Bluetooth and other 2.4Ghz malarkey, I decided there was no way I wanted another device that would interfere with my wireless connection.

Oh, and I wanted a good nice looking (ie. fashionable) wired mouse that is small enough to throw into my daily bag. I hit eBay. Just an hour later I hit jackpot.

Today my lovely Sony VAIO VN-CX1 arrived. It is a refurbished unit, but apart from the damaged packaging, there were no indications that these were used. It look brand new. These little buggers normally retail at £70 in Sony UK stores (and £55 at on line stores), but as an eBay buying veteran I managed to snag it for only £11.50, which is cheaper than even some generic no-brand optical mouses on the market!


AAA battery for scaling purpose

So what is so special about this cute designer mice that my local Sony Store dared to impose a 70 quid mark-up? Well for one it looks lovely. The black colour is absolutely eye catching and matched well with my ThinkPad's black. The VAIO VN-CX1 has a slim ergonomic shape and is feather light (may be bad for CAD users). Because the shape is symmetrical, it works just as well for lefties as it was for right-handed people. It comes with a standard three buttons and scroll wheel configuration. The high resolution LED provides 800 DPI of optical precision and it glides smoothly on almost every surface I tested on. I am not sure if the CX1 is coated with PTFE like certain VAIO mouses, but it is still smoother than most mouses I played with and should suit non-competitive gaming.

Then there is the built-in VoIP capabilities...

Yep, the CX1 is a convergence phone. When market people speaks about convergence phone, they usually mean integrating phone capabilities into stuff like PDAs or digital cameras. But a mouse? How exiting! The CX1 when used as a VoIP phone opens up like a clamshell mobile (or "cellphone") phone (smaller in size to a StarTac). When receiving incoming calls the LED will flash and the built-in speaker will buzz (configurable on the Skype program).

Now, as a whole, this product is a little bit daft especially if you use this as a desktop mouse. You probably guessed what I mean. Basically when the VN-CX1 is being used as a VoIP phone, you will lose the ability to mousy on the PC, at least on the CX1. Of course geeks are capable of doing majority of their stuff with only the keyboard (mouse are for chums) but for most people, it would be like driving a car without a steering wheel. However if you own a laptop then you can easily switch to the built-in mouse system.

I used the latest Skype 3.2.0.148 to test the VoIP capability. Leaving the Jonathan Ross Show turned on the telly, I test called "echo123" and recorded a message before playing it back. The CX1's echo and noise cancellation works well as it almost cancelled out most of Jonathan Ross' ramblings from being recorded! Nice.



After more test calls (with real humans this time), I can honestly say that the overall speaker quality is above average and on par with most landlines and mobile phones. Your mileage may vary as VoIP sound quality is usually determined not by the hardware, but bandwidth availability and connection quality. As a bonus, the scroll wheel moonlights as a volume control! If you prefer, flipping the lid up halfway would activate the loudspeaker mode, but to me this is a pointless feature as I always prefer to be holding something up my ear when speaking over a phone line! I know I am weird. When receiving calls, the LED on the top of the mouse will lit up and all you have to do is flip the clamshell open and Skype will automatically answer the call.

Despite its obvious greatness, for your £50-£70 inc. VAT, the VN-CX1 barely represent value of money. So unless you are planning to check out eBay and other hotspots for any bargains (I believe £30 is the sweet spot, as that is the price Americans are paying), it is probably a clever idea to invest in a Logitech Bluetooth headset and save the money for a laser mouse. But if you are so inclined you can purchase it here. Personally I am very very happy with the purchase as I am lucky enough to obtain a bargain.

Positives:
Slim and light (67g).
High-res LED for 800 DPI optical tracking means smoother gliding.
Typical Sony high quality construction.
Built-in VoIP.
Scroll wheel can act as volume control.
Works on Skype without driver.
Works on Windows Live Messenger (v8.1) without driver.

Negatives:
Scroll wheel is noisy and 'clicky'.
No mousey function when in VoIP mode.
Typical Sony sky-high price.
Some may find the mouse too light for certain applications that demands precision.

Indifferent:
Mouse can be used as speakerphone.

Things I would like to see in future models: Wireless. Built-in number pad and/or answer/reject key. Laser tracking. Vibrate when receiving phone calls.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Trial by media

You can hear the sound of disappointment as Paul Dacre and Peter Hill approved the headline on their respective dailies. A Briton??? Surely not. After all only dirty scum foreigners would kidnap a child.

Personally I believe the whole bullshit has totally gone out of hand, way way way out of hand. There are more important stuff in this world. Like the Eurovision debate (very important). Now that parts of the media (like a mob), including even Blue Peter, has managed to divert police attention from other possible cases (like the child kidnapping of say... other less cute kids) that they could be focusing, they have effectively destroyed an innocent (possible) man's life. I can already smell a massive libel lawsuit coming up if the man is proven to be innocent (innocent until proven guilty is a myth).

Read also: 450 incidents of young people missing since the apparent kidnapping of Madeleine McCann. No rewards for them I am sure.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sam & Max: Bright Side of the Moon out now

I have just finished downloading Sam & Max: Season One: Episode Six: Bright Side of the Moon and installed on the lappy. Works extremely well in windowed mode despite the old 16MB Radeon M6 card! If there are glitches I will just play it on the desktop. This is the last game in the first season of Telltale's Sam & Max episodic games and I do hope it goes out with a bang (online reviewers seems to think otherwise). Either way it was great to see Telltale finishing up bang on time, quite unlike that of Valve. Going off to play a little bit while waiting for the miserable weather to get better.

If you are a fan of point & click adventure games like Gyakuten Saiban, Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and the old Lucas Arts Sam & Max, you should purchase the game now, especially with the discounted whole season (six episodes) for US$35 (£18). You will get a disc as well (not including shipping). A (more expensive, probably) retail release is planned for August. I hope to have a review summing up the whole season next month, or maybe not.

Ooo... just found out that Eurovision final is on tomorrow evening. Haven't planned any party yet, but I doubt it will be as entertaining as last year's. Still you can't beat Terry Wogan for sarcasm.

And goodbye Tory Blair.

You do not need a Centrino

There has been a flurry of announcement by PC vendors on new product updates this week in regards to the recently announced Intel Santa Rosa platform. Among all these announcements are marketing speak. In 2002 when Intel announced the Centrino branded platform, many consumers were suckered in by Intel's marketing hoopla.

The marketing gurus at Intel were very clever in teaching consumers that they should get a Centrino branded laptop if they want to go wireless. By pulling the consumers legs they succeeded and Centrino as a brand is fairly successful. It's all nonsense of course as I am sure most of you would know by know that Centrino basically mean: an Intel processor (a Pentium-M back then, now Core variants) coupled with an Intel chipset and an Intel branded Wireless card. Truth is you could (or should!) have gotten a laptop with no Centrino sticker and still obtain good WiFi coverage via none-Intel branded cards. IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad enthusiast would know well about this as they almost always choose to configure their ThinkPads with Atheros-powered IBM/Lenovo branded wireless cards.


The sensible thing to choose.

The recently announced Centrino Pro brand aims to extend this, by adding the components required for Centrino branding with another Intel product known as Intel Active Management Technology (iAMT), branded in a non-glamorous vPro. None-vPro Centrinos with Core 2 Duo processors are also rebranded as Centrino Duo. Whether you need vPro/iAMT or not is up to you, but do not be suckered into all the marketing speak and buy into stuff you do not need (vPro is useless for consumers).

AMD is guilty of this as well with their new Turion brand. However to qualify for a Turion sticker all the vendor needs to do is to include one of AMD's low power K8L 64 processors and be free to stick in whatever chipsets and wireless cards into it. To be honest 64-bit processors are kind useless for consumers right now as most PC vendors ship their PCs with 32-bit OS, which means all those fancy 64-bit stuff on the CPU is sitting idle the whole time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Final Fantasy IV DS remake!!!


Just after making us purchase Final Fantasy IV on GBA, Square-Enix is laying out the bait for those wanting a 3D remake. Hook, line and sinker. It will be using the same wonderful engine that Matrix Software developed on Final Fantasy III DS. FFIV is one of my favourite FF games, after Final Fantasy VI and XII, so this will be a day one purchase (or import) for me. I can't read kanji, but I do hope the character design is again being done by Yoshitake Amano. Regardless Dark Knight Cecil looks amazing in his polygonal self and the Octomammoth looks positively adorable!


Next? Remake Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest III, Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI dammit. We DS owners have a urging need for more old school RPG goodness.

Via NeoGAF

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Nintendo hates Europe

Metroid Prime Pinball (a video game developed in the UK) dated. For Europe.

22 June 2007

For comparison purposes:

North America: 24 October 2005
Australia: 1 December 2005
Japan: 19 January 2006

via BGB

Still ain't that bad compared to WarioWare: Twisted! (first released in October 2004 in Japan and May 2005 for the North American market but no release date yet for Europe) or Animal Crossing GCN.

And guys, just import. Cheaper (£13 vs £30) and quicker too.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Confit de Canard

Nothing like having the best of French duck confit without having to set foot in France itself... Thanks Benoit, it was bloody good!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Ken Kutaragi

Last week's news of Ken Kutaragi's departure from Sony Computer Entertainment was greeted with the usual fanboy enthusiasm. Many were glad that the man who heralded the PS3 as 4D to finally step down as chief at SCE. It is a shame because no matter how much you hate Sony (and I don't really like them very much these days), Ken Kutaragi, like former Nintendo dictator Hiroshi Yamauchi, is a rare specimen that will be much missed.

Unlike many industry suits, he at least has inside technology knowledge into what makes a console thick. Remember that beloved SNES of yours? Without the audio processor Sony SPC700 that Ken Kutaragi designed secretly from his bosses at Sony, you would not have classic SNES soundtracks like Final Fantasy VI. Like the rebel he was, he was also critical of Sony's love affair of DRM (way before Steve Jobs jumped on the anti-DRM bandwagon), which many believes was the reason he was demoted from his position at Sony.

Without Ken Kutaragi, consoles would still be viewed as the toys they once were. As a fellow gamer I wish him success in his future endeavours.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Chaos Gate Jingai Makyo Ignis 1/7 PVC figure (Max Factory version)


Just got my grubby hands on Max Factory's Ignis figure, just like every other people. Lovely ain't she?

You can try to get it here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Helmet debate

I was reading the new WMB and they had a panel with a discussion on the validity of wearing helmets while cycling. Despite the myth that not wearing a helmet on road is safer (as in it would not cause an accident), if and when an accident happens you will be sorry if you are not wearing one, especially if your head gets knocked on the kerb. I understand (slightly) if people do not want to wear a helmet because they believe in the myth, but people who do not wear one because "it looks ugly" or "it doesn't look cool" are, well, idiots.

I myself am a slight hypocrite on this issue. 90% of the time I wear one, but if I wanted to nip over to the store less than a mile away I usually don't wear one (though I am mending my ways now). However I always wear a helmet when I go off-road. It just makes sense. But with people happy slapping cyclists I believe it is time that anti-helmet cyclists should rethink their attitude. Helmets are not what they used to be. Modern cycling helmets are not the hideous creatures they once were just five years ago. They look great (even cool), are cheap (Giro has models from £30), have proper ventilation, fits great and some models even protects your hair from nasty bugs. Many manufacturers also have free replacement policies. Trek for example (well on the model I own anyway) would send a (free) replacement helmet if a Trek helmet is involved in a crash. A similar policy exists for Met.

Another thing - cycling lanes are useless, at least those in London. Especially those that are only three feet wide and share the same lane as buses. A safer way to cycling on-road is to cycle in the middle of the lane in front of a car so the driver can see you. This tends to work in Central London as cars barely go quicker than a competent cyclist anyway.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Forget about Vista (for now)

While I am not a big fan of Dell, I have to say good for them on offering Ubuntu to their customers. Personally I would prefer if they offered Fedora Core but I guess with its Red Hat roots, it might seem too nerdy! Plus Ubuntu's awareness is rising. Ubuntu should prove to be a hit - if Dell could market it outside the usual geeky demographic that Linux is usually associated with. I probably won't be a huge problem as some Dell customers has proven themselves to be pretty tech savvy (though not as savvy as an IBM user!) - even managing to force Dell to start offering PCs with Windows XP again rather than Microsoft's newer, sexier but unproven and rather bloated new OS.

Speaking of Windows Vista, I had the opportunity to test the Home Premium edition on some one's new notebook (and also learnt that manufacturers do not give out recovery discs today, even on uber-expensive PCs). As I mentioned one the previous paragraph, the new OS is pretty nice to look at. But strip the glossiness away and what you have is effectively Windows XP with an updated GUI shell and some annoying security 'feature' and tacked XP Media Centre features.

The new Aero interface is a pretty slick but useless feature with no advantage to increasing productivity (that I know of! - although to be fair the GUI is now vector based making everything pretty, even when magnified). Flip 3D (win+tab) which was meant to be a GUI replacement to the alt-tab task switcher is a novelty feature at best. The first thing we did was to strip away all the useless 3D feature and special effects, then found that everything worked much faster. My opinion on Vista is if you have already have XP SP2? Don't buy it, yet. It is too expensive and it doesn't do anything that XP can't do with the right third party applications (eg. Yahoo! Widget). If your new PC happens to come with it bundled and only have 1GB of RAM, tweak it to allow for best performance or get another 1GB RAM stick. If not wait for Vienna due in 2008/09.

Better yet save that extra hard drive space and instead triple-boot Windows XP, Fedora Core/Ubuntu and Solaris.

Before I sign off I want to mention that I am currently watching the Liverpool-Chelsea match on ITV1. First live football match on the telly that I bothered to watch in a long long time (actually I am not watching, but merely leaving the telly on, with the occasional glance). I guess Jose's child-like behaviour tends to get to you. Not a fan of either... but go Liverpool!

God of War II


Awesome stunt aside, I finally got a copy of God of War II. Oh yeah!