Tuesday, 30 December 2008
This is a different take on the superhero genre and very much a movie of two halves. The first half is more of a comedy and the second drops the comedy for a darker feel. Each half works on its own, although the first is more successful in my opinion, but they sit slightly uneasily together.
Will Smith turns in a decent performance, the special effects are pretty good and there are some nice set pieces but overall the movie lacks that certain something that makes a real classic.
Friday, 26 December 2008
As always with these graphic novels I struggle to pace myself and tend to race through them (which is always a good indication of engaging content) and I finished this one this morning. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it rates very highly for me within the Hellboy and BPRD graphic novels I have. Recommended.
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
With an excited 7 year old I'm not expecting much of a lie in tomorrow but the look on her face when she opens her presents makes it all worth while!
By the way my avatar and the Hogswatch card on the left are from the hand of the brilliant Paul Kidby who has managed to realise almost exactly the pictures I had in my head from reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. Paul's work is available from PJSM Prints.
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Sunday, 21 December 2008
When I originally heard about Alan Moore's Watchmen I really did wonder what people were going on about. Then I got a copy and read it - only then did I understand. It is a wonderful deconstruction of the super hero genre superbly told and nicely illustrated by Dave Gibbons.
I always have high expectations of comic book movies and was frequently disappointed but recently the movie people have really stepped up their game (of course there have been notable exceptions!). Hellboy, Sin City and 300 were all excellent with the latter two being an almost frame for frame conversion. So I have high hopes for this one!
The original Terminator movie made a real impact on me. I love SF and particularly time travel and both the story and imagery of that movie really hit the spot for me. The sequels haven't quite managed to recapture that initial impact but have been a decent extension of the concept and certainly better than some. I even have a soft spot for the TV show.
Christian Bale impressed me in Batman Begins (but less so in the Dark Knight which was really Heath Ledger's movie) so I'm wondering what his take on John Connor will be.
As a huge fan of the original series this movie could be very, very disappointing. I have some faith in J.J. Abrams through the Alias TV series which I very much enjoyed and the casting of Zachary Quinto as Spock seems pretty promising but have they really "got" Star Trek.
For me the key to Star Trek is the interplay between Kirk, Spock and McCoy combined with an interesting storyline. Spend too much time on the special effects and not enough on the characters and you get Star Trek the Motion Picture. Add too many characters and you get Next Generation (you also need to avoid having any characters that are too annoying!).
Will this one be a success? I'm hoping so but we'll have to wait and see.
Johnny Depp as John Dilinger, Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis and Michael Mann at the helm - this promises to be an interesting movie.
Saturday, 20 December 2008
It is currently in beta test and I haven't had a lot of time to play with it but it installed without a hitch, the downloads are pretty quick and the quality is at least as good as the higher quality streaming. There is a pretty limited selection of programmes available for download for this player as yet but I'm sure this will expand.
It has taken a little time but full marks to the Beeb for supporting a wider range of platforms.
Sunday, 7 December 2008
I wasn't sure what to expect from Iron Man, I had been a fan of the comic book character (not because I didn't like it but simply because I hadn't read any!) and comic book adaptations can range widely.
I needn't have worried as Iron Man turned out to be a decent addition to the genre. Robert Downey Jr. gives a solid central performance as Tony Stark and makes the character sufficiently complex. The special effects are excellent and the story moves along at a decent pace. I thought that the film would have benefited from a few more action sequences and that the climactic conflict could have been handled differently; however, it was certainly a fun time and I will be watching it again.
I'm glad to say that this version was, in my view anyway, a real step up. There were some lovely nods to the TV series (assuming you pay attention!) and the now apparently mandatory Stan Lee cameo along with a decent central performance by Edward Norton. Tim Roth is, as I have come to expect, over the top as the main villain but this is a comic book adaptation! I also liked the various links with Iron Man.
OK so it's not the greatest film ever made but it is an entertaining watch if you like comic book heroes.
The second outing, the Mummy Returns (2001), didn't quite manage to capture the feel of the first film. Possibly because it was really the same again but with a bigger budget.
I managed to get to see the latest instalment, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, on DVD yesterday. It looked promising as they were moving away from Egypt to China and the addition of Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh was a good sign. Maybe my expectations were raised a little too high as the movie was a real disappointment. It's odd really as all the elements were there but they never seemed to come together convincingly. The special effects were good but there was nothing really new. The performances were even more wooden than normal (particularly the O'Connell's son Alex). The plot was a mess and the opportunities offered by having Li and Yeoh squandered.
A real shame.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Anyway, for those cyclists out there - take care it's not just the mad motorists you need to keep an eye out for! Mind you soon it'll be ice....
Monday, 1 December 2008
2006 £2,884 up 3.0%
2007 £3,132 up 8.6%
2008 £3,460 up 10.5%
Can you see a pattern developing here? And, of course, the service has got so much better it entirely justifies the rises ... or at least I wish that was what I could say but, in fact, it hasn't. The service is actually that bad, at least compared to the appalling Connex service but it still isn't good and my journey has actually gotten longer over time rather than shorter. But since the alternatives aren't really feasible I don't actually have any real choice...
Sunday, 30 November 2008
Friday, 7 November 2008
Having really enjoyed Casino Royale, I had high expectations of this instalment. The film starts where Casino Royale left off and right in the action with a car chase. The film has its fair share of action sequences but some of them were rather spoiled for me as the editing made them a little frantic. I like the changes of point of view to keep the tension up but there were a couple during which I was rather losing track of what exactly was going on.
Daniel Craig turned in another solid performance as 007 and I continue to see him as the best Bond since Connery. I like my "heroes" to have a dark side. There is little in the way of humour but I happen to prefer that to the slightly camped up Moore incarnation.
As with all Bond films the story leads up to a climactic sequence and it manages to stay just this side of "over the top" which is good. Some elements work less well than others and a couple of the villains are pretty two dimensional but I suppose that's to be expected.
Olga Kurylenko turns in a nice performance as Camile, another of the more modern female roles. Gemma Arterton, as Agent Fields, is pretty much just eye candy though.
The film has a 12A certificate which is a rating I simply don't understand. Either a movie is suitable for 12 year olds and upwards or it isn't. The idea that something like this is OK for younger children if accompanied doesn't make sense to me. There are some pretty violent sequences in this film, albeit not gory, but certainly not suitable for smaller ones IMHO.
Obviously the film lacks the novelty of Casino Royale and focusses much more on action and chase sequences which give the characters less opportunity to develop. But overall it was an enjoyable 110 minutes. I do wonder whether it is an essential cinema watch or whether waiting for DVD would give an equally good viewing experience. There are a couple of larger scenes but nothing that wouldn't translate pretty well to a decent wide screen TV.
Monday, 27 October 2008
The stock market is much of the same. The value of any stock is related more to perception and crystal ball gazing rather than the value or performance of the company. The housing market shows very similar tendencies. I know the "value" of any property is only what someone is actually prepared to pay for it but that is influenced by so many intangible factors as well as real world issues like the availability of mortgages.
So given that golden Gordon seems to have lost his touch will the Tories be any better? I doubt it. People have no respect for politicians, mainly because they don't take any responsibility for their actions. On top of that they mostly seem interested in what they can get from their position rather than thinking of what they can do for the electorate. Unfortunately people don't seem to think there is anything they can do about it. I suppose the main problem may well be that we don't really live in a proper democracy. We do get to vote but only infrequently, the people we vote for are totally out of touch with the voters and there isn't much to choose between any of the main parties. So what to do? After all no Government is going to change the system which got it into power - it would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. But after the performance of "President" Blair it does rather seem like the system is broken.
I think we need a root and branch reworking of our parliamentary system to make it more democratic; however, the starting point needs to be ensuring that anyone we vote for in the future takes responsibility for what they do and tells us honestly what they are doing with my tax money!
Thursday, 16 October 2008
The main things that made up my mind were:
(1) Mail - slow and unreliable. I just found that my other mail services had less downtime and were quicker to respond/update. I also had problems when it told me it couldn't send a message and to try later but actually had sent it - so I ended up sending it twice.
(2) Back to My Mac - won't work with my HomeHub. Ok the initial problem isn't MobileMe - it's the crappy uPnP implementation on the HomeHub; however, the Apple info to allow you to get BtmM working without uPnP isn't exactly easy to find. In the end, after much experimenting with manually opening ports etc., I just gave up.
(3) I can get it all elsewhere for free.
So whilst I liked the way it looked and it was well integrated MobileMe simply didn't perform well enough for me to justify the subscription. I can get other, in most cases as good (or better), equivalent web services for nothing. They may not be integrated but that's something I can live with.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
I sometimes wonder whether I missed the queue for superhuman powers that most people seem to think are now the norm.
Cycling to work today it was clear that a large number of people think that the orange flashing lights at the corners of their cars are only for special occasions now that everyone is equipped with telepathy or prescience.
Other cyclists seem secure in shedding their reflective and high visibility clothing and the lights from their bikes now that infra vision is available to most of the general populace.
On the train people seem annoyed that I don't have heightened perception of the fact someone needs to get past me when they don't say excuse me or the ability to simply levitate out of their way instantly.
Can someone let me know where the super power late comers queue is? Or maybe how to get people to look at things from someone else's perspective than their own?
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
Any netbook is a combination of compromises. You simply can't have portability without sacrificing other elements like screen size, keyboard size, storage and the like. It's just a matter of deciding which elements are the most important to you. In my case it was portability and battery life which were top of the list. I decided that I could live with a small screen and small keyboard in order to get a machine I could actually use on my train home (with the tiny seat back table) and carry around the house. In the end I settled on the Asus Eee PC 901. Had I been a touch typist (I'm a reasonably fast "hunt and peck") I would probably have plumped for an Acer Aspire One or one of the 10 inch machines. The keyboard can't be too bad as I'm typing this post on it!
I thought the 7 inch machines would be very irritating having to scroll side to side on many web pages so the 9 inch seemed a better option. Whilst the 10 inch machine has a larger screen (obviously!) the resolution is apparently the same as the 9 inch.
My regular train journey is 1.5 hours in each direction and so I didn't want to have to charge the machine up between journeys as I'd have to carry the power brick with me (although the Eee PC brick is pretty small and light). Most of the contenders seemed to have pretty short battery life without resorting to optional larger batteries (it does defeat the otherwise attractive lower price of the Acer Aspire One for example) and the six cell battery coming with the 901 avoids this problem.
I decided I didn't need a Windows machine and the additional storage on the Linux model (20Gb) was attractive so that's the one I decided on.
It will take a little while for me to properly assess the machine but I've been pleasantly surprised so far with only a couple of small issues.
Monday, 22 September 2008
Along come Logitech with the Quickcam Vision Pro. It's basically one of their PC models (the Quickcam Pro 9000?) but with a lot of the software driven features performed in the hardware (which does give you less to play with) but it does work. I picked one up from Play.com who had it at less than RRP but even so £60 is still a lot more than I paid for my old PC webcam; however, on the upside it does have a decent enough lens, autofocus (hardware driven), light adjustment (ditto) which works pretty well in lower light situations and a decent microphone.
It says it has a 2MP sensor but I'm not sure what software will actually use that as I think both Skype and iChat max out somewhat lower than that.
I've just tried it out with Skype and PhotoBooth and it worked well with both although it is exhibiting an occasional problem with the light sensor (the picture goes very dark), resetting it fixes it but obviously that's not ideal. Unfortunately Delicious Library doesn't seem to like it as a barcode scanner (it does provide a picture but won't focus on the barcode - I'm going to try that agin with better lighting conditions to see if that makes any difference).
I'll need to give it a bit more of a "road test" to see how it performs over time (as I'm still in the honeymoon period).
Sunday, 21 September 2008
Now if only I could get Back to My Mac working with my BT HomeHub so that I can support the machine remotely. Her BT Voyager router was no problem but I just can't get the Hub to play nicely at this end. Better go off and practice more Google Fu...
Sunday, 14 September 2008
We drove up to Toys-R-Us to take back some roller skates we bought my daughter for her birthday. Of course they just broke when she put them on (there's product quality for you). So off we go on a hour round trip (I'm trying not to think of the cost of the petrol or the carbon footprint) to swap them for some that might actually get used. Customer services started well, no fight to get them changed and the computer system said they had another 12 pairs in stock. Unfortunately, after 15 minutes of waiting they then told us that they didn't actually have any! But the computer said you had 12 pairs in stock we reminded the chap. Ah, well ... that includes stuff that's been shipped to us by head office but hasn't arrived yet. Sound like a pretty bizarre logistics system they've got but we had to settle for a refund. Of course they didn't have any skates in the right size for my daughter at all, so she ended up buying yet another soft toy (don't get me started on that subject - suffice to say that we shall shortly have to buy them their own house!). Then we get overcharged at the till and back to customer services...grrrr.
Is it just me or are we become more tolerant of shoddy manufacture, poor service and people who just have no basic pride in their work?
I've only tried it for a couple of sites so far and, whilst the preferences sometimes need tweaking to get a site working correctly, it seems to pass the "Ronseal test". You can have it as a dock icon, desktop icon or in the menu bar and all seem to work fine.
I'm currently using it for MobileMe (I'm using my 60 day trial at the moment but more of that in another post) and it find it really useful. I don't often have sites crash Firefox but after the last update it has hung up on a couple of occasions.
With more and more stuff moving to the cloud I think Fluid will end up being very useful. Of course when Google make their new browser Chrome available for Mac I think it will be in for some competition though...
Saturday, 13 September 2008
I already have at least three devices I can surf the net on (my two Mac Minis and my iPod Touch) but each has it's own disadvantages. One of the Minis is attached to the main TV so that's out when it's in use. The other is in the study and, apparently, disappearing in there for hours on end is anti-social? The Touch is nice but whilst the on-screen keyboard is handy for short notes you really wouldn't want to write a long blog post on one. Then there's Skype, media streaming, mobile working ... the list goes on. But, given I don't want a 7 inch display (the 800 wide resolution isn't enough for a number of sites) and I would like a decent battery life or it'll be dead every time I pick it up, I'll need to spend a few quid.
Or is the real answer that I haven't had a shiny new gadget lately and I'm getting withdrawal?
I downloaded the new 2.1 software for my (now first generation) iPod Touch and the iTunes 8 upgrade pretty much as soon as possible. You do have to look hard for some of the UI improvements (particularly on the Touch) but they're there. I'm not sure about the bug fixing for the Touch in this upgrade as recently mine has been pretty reliable. iTunes 8 has a new grid view for album art, which works well for podcasts as it shows you the number of episodes you haven't watched in a circle at the top left of each icon (like the mail notification on the Touch) and it also has Genius. It's this last feature in one guise which I will probably use most as I'm basically lazy and can't be bothered to make my own playlists, in its other guise (purchase recommendations) I can see it getting rather expensive so I may not pay much attention to that one. As to playlists (and this feature also exists in the Touch 2.1 software), Genius creates a new playlist from a specified track using other "connected" tracks from your existing library (or the sub-set on the Touch). I don't know how the algorithum works (and the iTunes implementation supposedly learns from data send up by each user) but it seems pretty decent to me. I've already started listening to stuff I'd forgotten I had.
All in all, not an earth shattering event but some nice polish to some already decent products.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Set in a distopian future where the "Earth is under new management", the book continues the tale of David Valentine, a resistance fighter who, after the previous novel, has rather lost touch with why he was fighting for the Cause.
As with Bernard Cornwell, E.E. Knight writes in a very accessible style and with a similar level of plot and character complexity. I found this instalment a little more predictable than some of the earlier books but it was a decent way to pass a few hours.
As with the previous books (The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman and The Lords of the North) this one also follows Uhtred, a Saxon warrior raised by the Vikings and a reluctant ally of Alfred the Great. Five years on from the previous novel, Uhtred is charged with evicting the Vikings from Lundene in order to secure southern Mercia for Alfred.
If you are expecting intricate plots or overly complex characters you will be disappointed. Sword Song is typical Cornwell with a straightforward story told in an easy to read style. But as with his other books it is very accessible with just enough description to allow you imagination free reign and enough depth to keep you reading. In some ways Cornwell's books do become a little predictable but with enough distance between them they still entertain.
I've just got to transfer the photos and video across to the mac and start sorting that out now.
It also seems we have another mac convert in the family as my mother-in-law seems to be keen to replace her PC with one. At least it will make supporting it easier!
Saturday, 16 August 2008
The book is pretty clearly signposted as having been written from a scientific perspective and Mr Dawkins makes no secret of his own atheism. The book seeks to outline why the existence of a supernatural creator is highly improbable. He certainly manages to highlight many unsavory aspects of the main religions both historically and currently; however, whilst the beliefs of the author and the book's tone may alienate some readers I found it very interesting and it certainly made me re-examine my own views and beliefs.
Some people will probably dismiss this book out of hand but I think that would be a missed opportunity. Whether you approach the book from a theistic, agnostic or atheistic perspective it provides a whole series of challenges which are worth reading for the thought process it provokes and it is written in a pretty accessible style.
I would certainly recommend this book.
Saturday, 9 August 2008
Well, Heath Ledger is as good as everyone says as the Joker, the scenes with him are certainly amongst the best in the movie. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are all good but rather under utilised, in my opinion. But Batman himself has become somewhat two dimensional in comparison with the first movie.
There are some excellent action sequences, some great lines and some lovely imagery but overall the movie feels too long and the story isn't either cohesive or coherent enough to carry the length. This isn't a bad movie by any means but it could have been so much better. I will add the DVD to my collection (but then as I already have the risible Batman and Robin movie that doesn't mean much) but I think it was a missed opportunity as with a few changes it could have been great.
Monday, 4 August 2008
Saturday, 2 August 2008
Frankly these guys really don't get it! Price the stuff competitively and folks like me will buy it. I'm not even talking about deep discounting just keep it competitive with DVD and it would be attractive - until then don't expect me to be buying much...
Friday, 1 August 2008
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is another fascinating read. This time Malcolm Gladwell looks at the phenomenon of the social epidemic looking at such diverse examples as New York subway crime, Hush Puppies, Paul Revere and suicide in Micronesia. He attempts to construct explanations for the dramatic way in which such ideas, trends or behaviours seemingly reach a threshold and then spread like wildfire. Along the way he touches on some very interesting associated topics which go someway to explain phenomena I have experienced personally.
All in all a thought provoking read.
Monday, 14 July 2008
Advent (free) - The Collossal Cave text adventure (for those who remember it)
eReader (free) - an eBook reader linked to eReader.com
Evernote (free) - the iPod client for Evernote
OmniFocus (£11.99) - a GTD application
Remote (free) - a remote control for iTunes
Sketches (£3.49) - a drawing app
Super Monkey Ball (£5.99) - I had to get a game didn't I?
Talking French Phrasebook (free) - I'm going to France later in the year...
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
I downloaded the movie entirely before we started watching, as we had timeos , I can't comment on the select and start straight away approach. The film played flawlessly. The picture quality was fine on our 32 inch LCD and probably equivalent to standard DVD levels. I am disappointed that HD movies are only available on the AppleTV (which hacks off those of us with Mac Mini media centres!) but since our TV is only 720p it's not a huge issue.
I can't say that I thought the 24 hour limitation applied in the States would have been an issue for me (though friends with very small children have said quite the opposite) it was nice to see that we have 48 hours in which to finish watching the film.
So overall the experience was pretty good. It's convenient and it works (no taking back scratched DVDs!); however, the pricing could have been better thought out. As I've mentioned before we have been getting increasingly poor digital reception so are in the market to watch more rented movies. If only the movies were cheaper we would probably be chewing through the available selection at a rate of knots. But with the pricing equivalent to DVD rentals (and without any access to special features etc.) there is a psychological barrier there - it just seems too expensive. If it was 99p for back catalogue films (of which they have plenty - which are showing for free on broadcast TV) I'd probably not worry about paying in order to get the convenience but at £2.49 I can't justify it.
Anyway, overall a good experience but the selection needs massive improvement, the pricing could be better and when are we going to be able to rent TV shows?
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
There are versions for IE and Safari too.
Monday, 16 June 2008
It's been set some time after the others, which fits nicely with Harrison Ford's age, but it does mean that the Nazi's have gone and it's the Reds that are the opposition. Cate Blanchett is a little disappointing as the main baddie but the others make a good fist of it and, whilst a couple of the set pieces are pushing things (even for pulp), the overall effect is very entertaining.
If you set your expectations at an appropriate level it's a fun way to pass a couple of hours.
Saturday, 31 May 2008
It's very easy to use and I've found it coming in handy more and more as capturing elements of the screen is simplicity itself and you can easily annotate them and simply drag them off to the desktop to use elsewhere or post them to the web and send people the link.
It's currently in beta but I haven't had any stability problems with it so I'd suggest giving it a try.
Friday, 30 May 2008
The app allows you to catalogue your movies, books, gadgets and the like which plays right to my latent OCD tendencies. It has a built in barcode scanner which can use your iSight camera (not for me though as I have a Mac Mini - Apple when are you going to bring the standalone iSight back?) but also allows text entry etc. and then searches Amazon to bring up loads of information regarding the item. The interface is the usual iTunesy type but with a representation of a bookshelf with the items on it (there are some nice graphical touches with how it drops in the cover art when you add an item and it "burns" it when you delete one). It can also read the title back to you when you add items.
All in all it does what I was trying to sort out on a database but in a much better, easier and quicker way and when I've finished I'll not only have a searchable catalogue of my stuff but also be able to track it when I lend it out and make backups for insurance purposes. Excellent.
Sunday, 18 May 2008
I'm starting to think quite carefully about FreeSat but, of course, that would mean trying to find a way of getting recordings onto the media centre - which is often a problem from satellite - may be FreeSat will be better? I'm not holding my breath.
Saturday, 10 May 2008
Friday, 9 May 2008
Obviously having the device fail and the time without it whilst Elgato tested it was a real pain - but credit to Elgato for replacing it.
Monday, 5 May 2008
I was worried that the fourth instalment of Indiana Jones would be a problem given that time has moved on and Harrison Ford isn't as young as he was (are any of us?) but the trailer for the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull looks pretty good.
Next on the list is Hellboy II - the Golden Army. I thought Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman made a pretty good job of the first movie so I have high hopes.
Yet another sequel is The Dark Knight. The follow up to Batman Begins and the first Batman movie without "Batman" in the title. Whilst not everyone liked Christian Bale's performance in the previous movie, I enjoyed it and it was held together with an excellent supporting cast. I thought the approach in that film was nicely dark (my preferred approach to Batman) and I hope this one continues that trend.
Thursday, 1 May 2008
It's a good thing the RCD tripped as we often run the dishwasher overnight and who knows what could have happened. It just goes to show how lucky we can be...
Monday, 28 April 2008
It's going in the post tomorrow - I'll keep you appraised.
Saturday, 26 April 2008
I tried everything I could think of, switching ports, leads, direct connection, via a powered hub etc. all to no effect. The problem is certainly not the USB ports as my T.264 and external USB hard drive are both functioning perfectly and were quite happy when swapped to the port the eyeTV was on.
I lodged a support ticket with Elgato but have yet to hear back. Needless to say I'm not a happy bunny!
Saturday, 12 April 2008
Thursday, 10 April 2008
Saturday, 29 March 2008
Wii Sports is great fun, though if you're as totally out of shape as I am beware those seldom used muscles! I had Wii shoulder for a little while after playing baseball. And who says that you don't use more energy with the Wii than other consoles? Whoever they are they haven't tried Wii boxing - which for a couch potato like me was pretty exhausting!
Having played Sports for a little while my daughter was keen to get some other games. My wife picked up a copy of Carnival: Funfair Games on spec. Both she and my daughter like it but I can't say that I've been impressed. It is a collection of 25 funfair games which seem to feature all the limited interest and frustration of real funfair games for me! It doesn't have Mii support and the character creation tools supplied are extremely limited. Whilst it is a cheaper option than some of the more mainstream games I wouldn't recommend it.
With this experience of spec purchases (never a good idea in my book) I took it upon myself to do a little research. I spotted a number of games which got consistently high ratings from the review sites but I was keen to get one which was another family orientated game (even with the Parental Controls I'm not sure I'd want a copy of Resident Evil 4 around yet!) and settled on Super Mario Galaxy.
Super Mario Galaxy is an excellent 3D platform style game in the Wii style. This time Mario gets to run around some pretty strange "worlds" populated by all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures. The levels build difficulty steadily and the controls are easily enough mastered for my daughter to pick them up very quickly. Obviously we've only got a little way through it so far but on the basis of what I've seen so far this one is recommended!
Saturday, 15 March 2008
Now I know that both the PS3 and XBox 360 have more processing power and in the case of the X-Box more games but I'm looking at this from a cost per use perspective. I think the PS3 graphics are impressive but the game selection isn't up to much as yet (certainly not for family or kids games) and whilst the XBox also has some pretty impressive titles I think the Wii is simply likely to get more use. It would be very nice to actually use one of the HDMI ports on my telly (the Mini media centre uses the DVI input) but I wouldn't get to play any non-child friendly games until after the little one goes to bed and then I'll be competing with my wife's fix of video vallium (The Street and 'enders) - so the chances of actually getting any real gaming time in is pretty slim.
So ... the play's the thing!
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
I can report back that it's one of the friendliest database tools I have used. It may not have the features of its big brother Filemaker or other Pro tools but for everyday use it's so easy! The user interface is very Mac and integrates nicely with Leopard. It provides themes and templates but creating your own structure is just child's play.
I liked it so much I went off and bought the license key before the 30 day trial was up. If you've got Leopard I'd recommend you give it a look.
Saturday, 8 March 2008
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
Thursday, 28 February 2008
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Having decided to get a second Mac, it was obvious that I would need more external storage and so I decided to get sensible and go for something that would give me a bit of security. After much deliberation (which included extensive consideration of the Netgear ReadyNAS NV+) I eventually plumped for Drobo. I won't bore you with a run down as virtually every podcast and blog has done that to death.
It arrived, earlier than expected, yesterday along with two 500GB drives and I set it up. I've now transferred the first batch of content over to it and everything seems to be working well. The next thing will be to try out streaming from the Drobo to the Media Centre Mac downstairs to see how that works...
Sunday, 24 February 2008
The integration of the Turbo.264 into the eyeTV software was seamless (I have eyeTV 2 rather than the latest version 3). EyeTV simply carries on as normal but when you request an H.264 based conversion, as with iPod and AppleTV, it simply uses the Turbo.264 automatically. The way you know that eyeTV is using the Turbo.264 is that the encoding bar switches to red and a set of pulsing circles appears below it. The Turbo.264 also comes with it's own software application which allows drag and drop conversions - although I have yet to test this.
In general the Turbo.264 performed well with eyeTV, allowing me to continue using other applications on the Mac Mini without the dreaded beachball turning up; however, it subbornly refused to correctly convert some eyeTV recordings. Two in particular it simply wouldn't convert more than the first couple of minutes, in one case it dropped out giving a rather unhelpful error message and in the other it just posted a file into iTunes that was only 5 1/2 minutes long. I've no idea why this is occurring on only these two files as the other 6 I have tried (of various lengths) have converted correctly. I plan to reset the whole machine and see if this behaviour continues.
Thursday, 21 February 2008
The new machine arrived yesterday and I've got it set up now. So expect a few posts on my experiences with Leopard and the like!
Sunday, 17 February 2008
So I've dropped a line to Freecom's support people and await their input with interest.
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
The new Mail application allows you to set up a number of email accounts via the settings icon. Yahoo, Google .Mac and AOL are all given automatic setup buttons but there is an "Other" selection which allows you to configure it for other services. It supports IMAP, POP and Exchange services. Once set up your accounts are accessed via the Mail icon which also shows the number of unread emails when there are some. You can set it to check for email and download it periodically or only when you go into the mail app and, obviously, you need to have access to WiFi for all communications with your mail service but all the other email management can be done offline. The layout is typical iPod Touch / iPhone (which is pretty nice IMHO) but doesn't support landscape mode as far as I can see which, whilst you do lose some screen real estate for the keyboard, would make typing easier. The application supports all the standard folders and user created ones on your service but only downloads a configurable number of emails at a time. It also supposedly allows you to view MS Word and Adobe PDF email attachments but I've had problems getting these to download so far. Emails display fine with the .html ones rending nicely too. Now, of course, if your mail service has a web interface you can do all this stuff via Safari for nothing but I've found trying to operate mine that way has been pretty painful and that the Mail app is a huge improvement over that approach. So accepting the limitations of the WiFi baseline I have been pretty pleased with Mail and found it very useful and certainly worth paying for.
The Maps application is a specific implementation of Google Maps for the iPod and iPhone. It allows you to view maps, "satellite" and hybrid images as with the normal online application along with getting directions between locations. Obviously the iPod implementation doesn't have the same flexibility as the iPhone one as it is dependent on WiFi only - so, for example, it couldn't identify my location at home. However, it can get directions and store both the directions and relevant maps for use when you are out of WiFi range. Of course if you deviate from your preplanned route it can't adapt but given the limitations it is still useful. It is also nicely linked with the contacts application, although some of the Google address information is inaccurate which will result in some locations not being found. I think it's a little more limited that Mail but still a useful app.
Notes is a simple note taking application. I would have preferred a full to-do list implementation but the note taker does what it says and is a useful way of capturing information on the Touch.
I do use it but not as much as either Mail or Maps but unlike those it doesn't lose much in the way of functionality when out of WiFi range (not least 'cos there isn't a lot). Having said all that I do like it but on its own it wouldn't have justified the asking price.
Weather is a pretty simple widget which allows you to see a brief 5 day forecast for specified locations. It is very similar to the weather widget available on OS X but strangely didn't support my home location even though the OS X one does.
The biggest drawback of this app is that it is totally WiFi dependent. It doesn't seem to keep any of the data and so if you launch it out of WiFi range it doesn't give you much.
Not a complete waste of time but pretty limited I'm afraid.
Stocks is another widget like Weather. It allows you to select a number of stocks, monitor the changes in price and graph it over a specified period.
Unfortunately, as with Weather it is pretty WiFi dependent. It will retain the stock prices and movements along with the date of the last update but it won't manage any graphs.
Since I don't have much of a stock portfolio it's not something that interested me much anyway - so it wasn't much of a disappointment!
The main additional extra is the ability to customise your home screen by moving icons around and adding web clip icons. Obviously the latter are only available via Safari but it's a quicker way of selecting your favourites without having to enter Safari and select a bookmark. When you have WiFi it makes most web apps feel a little more native but just remember they won't be there when you're on the move. I like the ability to customise the home screen as I can now put my most used icons where I want. It's nice but not essential though.
Overall I think the package of apps is worth the amount Apple are charging. Just don't ask me why they're charging for them as the Sarbanes Oxley argument just doesn't work for me. As to whether they'll be worth it for you - well that'll depend on which ones you might actually use.
Saturday, 2 February 2008
Again there is enough here to keep you watching and Jessica Alba is always easy on the eye but Victor Von Doom is (as with the original) a desperately insipid villain. I liked the conflicted nature of the Surfer and some of the character interaction works pretty well but overall I'd say this was only a slight improvement on the original and doesn't make it to great status.
Overall it is an entertaining movie with some typical blockbuster special effects and new villains; however, I found it difficult to be interested in Peter Parker and MJ's personal life. When Peter's not Spiderman he's just too wet. The portrayal of his "darker" (quite literally in this case) alter ego was more interesting but still a little too light for my preference.
The villains were and major special effects were strangely unsatisfying and in some cases just too unreal.
So whilst Spiderman 3 keeps you nicely occupied for the whole film it drags a bit if you aren't interested in Peter, it has some nice special effects for the Sandman but overall it only falls into the OK category.
Thursday, 24 January 2008
As these are reprints of original 1930's works the style may not be to everyone's taste but to me it is so evocative of a period I am very interested in (and also inspiration for my main hobby - see The Wargame Shed) that I found the two tales enthralling. Of course neither story bears too close inspection in a number of areas as there are some clear credibility issues but then The Shadow is entirely larger than life and in the context of the genre any such issues are to be ignored - just immerse yourself in the language and the two-fisted action!
The range also includes reprints of Doc Savage stories too. I'm off to carry on reading volume 2 of The Shadow: The Chinese Disks and Malmordo...
Sunday, 20 January 2008
Thursday, 17 January 2008
First off, there weren't any surprises, pretty much everything had been pegged by various rumour sites and pundits - even if the mock up shots of the ultra portable machine had been way off.
Secondly, and probably most significantly, there wasn't too much that really floated my boat. Of course the new MacBook Air is cool (who am I to dispute that?) but it's not a device that would do anything for me.
Of course the iPod Touch software was of interest but having to pay for it? Accounting issues apparently - who are they trying to kid?
Movie rentals is a great idea but who knows when us poor relations in the UK will see it - after all we still only have a pretty paltry collection of TV Shows to buy and no movies at all! And we don't seem to have benefited from the AppleTV price drop (given the lack of content for it here I would have thought that might have been worth doing?)
Time capsule might have been interesting if I had Leopard (sorry still on Tiger) and my Mac Mini had 802.11n. (That reminds me is Apple being a little inconsistent with their line up? The Mac Mini has no 802.11n but does have gigabit ethernet and the AppleTV has 802.11n but no gigabit ethernet - you explain it!)
At least I know that I can go off any buy the next stages of my media infrastructure in the safe knowledge that there's nothing new coming out for at least another couple of months (or until 5 minutes after I've bought something!)
Saturday, 12 January 2008
Not only does it make you think about the pure power of the human mind to process data but it also gives you pause when you consider the various ways in which that process can be manipulated.
It's a fascinating read.
Obviously the interface between iTune and the iPod is the main reason most people (me included) plump for an iPod over over portable media players. I've got the iPod syncing with my Mac Mini media centre which has our music library on it. I'm also a big fan of various podcasts (you can see some of them in the links section on the right of the blog) and I have those syncing too. The podcasts I follow are both audio and video and the latter work really well on the Touch's display (although I've had to swap from the highest quality version of GeekBrief as it wouldn't sync). I can heartily recommend all the shows from Channel Flip which has a nice balance of three shows all with excellent presenters and interesting content.
I've already mentioned streaming shows from eyeTV to the iPod over WiFi; however, whilst great in the house it is somewhat limited when I'm out and about. Fortunately eyeTV allows you to automatically export recordings to iPod format and imports them into iTunes after the recording finishes. It's great to come down in the morning, sync the iPod and get the recorded shows from the previous night to watch on the train. The picture quality is very good too.
For other audio sources I was wondering about audio books but hesitated to take the plunge and buy some until I'd worked out whether it was something I'd be keen on. Fortunately I found Podiobooks.com which offers free audiobooks and audio dramas for download including via an iTunes subscription. They have a pretty broad selection of material too.
Friday, 11 January 2008
If you haven't come across The Red Star it's a comic book series set in an alternate reality with parallels to our own. The story clearly draws from history and folklore. It presents a United Republics of the Red Star which is clearly based on Russia/Soviet Union but adds alternative technology and magic to the mix creating a mythic feel.
The main story follows the war between the URRS and Al'istaan which is told in retrospective by a Warkaster (sorceress) whose husband is killed. The story clearly draws on the Soviet conflict in Afghanistan for it's initial inspiration but moves beyond the mundane with some truly inspired imagery of mile long skyfurnaces (flying warships), militarised magic, technology and mythical entities.
The visuals are fantastic and the story involving. If you get a chance I'd recommend checking it out.
Tuesday, 8 January 2008
Tuesday, 1 January 2008
So let me wish you a happy and prosperous 2008!