Posts in This Category: 208

Main

August 09, 2011

Child of Eden

Ladis and gentlemen: if you have the opportunity to buy today's Cairns Post, please make sure you do so, as there's a very important article on page 16.

If you don't... click below!

July 04, 2011

Triple-A Triage and My First Geekly Analysis

My work as Punch On Australia's resident Geek on Three Bucks a Week continues with two new artciles:


  • Geekly Analysis: June 23rd – 29th, 2011, where I break down the second full week of three-dollar geekery in terms of what I got up to, what I could afford and what I actually spent.

  • Triple_A Triage, an article on the hard decisions havign a budget can necessitate with specific regard to the mroe expensive end of the video game spectrum.

Please head over, read and comment!

June 29, 2011

Geek on Three Bucks A Week: Introduction

I've already tweeted and posted about this on Facebook, but I've only just re-gaiend access to the blog, so here's the oficial home base update: The first of what I intend to be a regular column on living geek in the days of global financial crisis has gone live on the website of gaming community Punch On Australia. Please head along and read!

June 26, 2011

How Music Can Make Or Break A Sale

The idea of a jingle – a short sequence of notes intended to catch the attention of a prospective buyer – has been around for ages. It's an advertising cliché. Yet I, who prided myself in basing my ultimate game purchasing decisions on review scores, was stunned to discover recently just how much of my purchase and subsequent enjoyment of a game has been due to its music.

The very first game I distinctly remember selling me, at least in part, with its music was that classic of early nineties PC gaming, Wing Commander. The non-playable demo I got off a floppy disc back in 1990 was more like a movie trailer, with shots of space fighters duking it out to the best soundtrack a SoundBlaster could crank out back then. But as simple as it may seem now, I still remember three pieces of music that really got me going: The scramble music where your player ran to his fighter craft after the mission briefing, the post-landing tune where the tech surveys your bullet-ridden ship and says, “Glad to see you made it back alive, sir.” and, of course, the Wing Commander fanfare.

Continue reading "How Music Can Make Or Break A Sale" »

June 13, 2011

Geeking on a Budget

Here's a modified column proposal I just posted in the Punch On Australia forums in response to a call for a new column:

Look in any paper or read a newsfeed nowadays and you'll easily come across articles about how times are only getting tougher. Electricity's going up thirty percent. The RBA is playing jack-in-a-box with interest rates. Carbon taxes. Disaster levies. The Coles / Woolies supermarket monopoly. All these things conspire to bite into our budget for our little luxuries.

Continue reading "Geeking on a Budget" »

October 10, 2010

Halo: Reach

Sorry the posting here is a little late, but please, head over to cairns.com.au/entertainment check out (and comment on) my review of Halo: Reach for the Xbox 360!

August 27, 2010

I Should Be Writing

It's odd how people can tell you something for years, but until you get to that combination of being ready to hear it and someone putting it to you the right way...

Heaps of people, especially Vickie, have been telling me to just write for ages, especially with regard to Slamdance. But after I sat down late last year and got three chapters into re-writing Slamdance as a stand-alone own body of work, I felt as though I had to do a lot of development work before I continued on. I needed to lay down a framework (write the story bible, do character back-stories, figure the villain's motivations, etcetera) so that I could figure out what came next and make sure it all made sense. Basically, I was afraid of two things: Writer's block and the end result being crap. So I stopped writing again.

Then, at some point, I think it was Wil Wheaton who mentioned a piece of advice Neil Gaiman (yes, I know you're not fond of him, love, but I still like Good Omens) gave: Don't be afraid to suck. But it still didn't feel like a practical piece of advice. It's all very well not being afraid of sucking, but it's still something you should actively avoid, right?

Continue reading "I Should Be Writing" »

August 02, 2010

Vickie's Laptop Upgrade

You know, in the midst of my upgrading frenzy, I forgot to mention Vickie’s Toshiba Satellite A100. Since I bought it for her, Vickie’s had to wrestle with Windows Vista. It’s developed the odd tendency to spontaneously shut itself down, possibly due to overheating even though we bought a cooling pad for it. A while back its screen stopped working; the back-light still works, but nothing appears on the display. Finally, the 110GB hard drive is around 70 percent full.

So once we re-finance, I’m going to take it into a local repair place with the mandate to not only fix the screen but also double the RAM to 2GB, install a larger hard drive and whack Windows 7 on. I might also inquire about netbook options for me in the hope that we can get the lot for a good deal.

As for the cooling issue, we reckon a portable aircon unit will do the job.

July 27, 2010

Not What It Cracked Up To USB

As I was running Zelda back to the vet's to have stitches taken out of her side this morning, I had a later start than usual, so I decided to play some Transformers: War for Cybertron and see whether my Xbox 360 was still in an argumentative mood.

Three lock-ups (one while the game was still loading the multiplayer lobby) and a red light error message (code E 79) in the space of ten minutes gave me my answer.

I did a smattering of homework, and discovered that the E 79 code indicates a problem with the Xbox's hard disk drive. Some folks over on the Xbox World forums suggested playing without it. This evening, I shifted some data from the hard drive over to a USB stick I keep handy, removed the hard disk and joined a session of War for Cybertron's Escalation mode.

I managed to get as far as Wave 6 before Vickie served dinner, but it certainly didn't crash. Still, I did get twice as far before a console freeze not long ago.

Continue reading "Not What It Cracked Up To USB" »

July 25, 2010

Is An Xbox 360 Slim The Solution?

FYI, this is cross-posted from here and here; I want to maximise its exposure, especially as my 360 just locked up for the third time in forty-five minutes.

Well, I just got up and walked away from my Xbox 360 after it locked up twice in the space of ten minutes while playing Transformers: War for Cybertron. I don't get an error message or a red light; it just freezes in the middle of a game and the only button presses it recognises are the tray button and the power switch.

Continue reading "Is An Xbox 360 Slim The Solution?" »

July 19, 2010

What I Want From My PC

After yesterday's whinge-athon about my PC woes, I told myself “harden up, Princess” and decided to start the search for better more appropriately. Here’s what I want to do on my computer and which OSes I’m using to do these things with right now:

  • Write. (Linux Mint)
    • Articles.
    • Short stories.
    • Novels.
    • Web log posts.
  • Call folks via Skype. (WinXP)
  • Browse the web. (Linux Mint)
  • Back my Motorola RAZRv9 phone up. (WinXP)
    • Sync it with a contact list that my e-mail client can access. (Not happening now.)
  • Download, process and archive e-mail. (Linux Mint)
  • Maintain a music and podcast library synced with my iPod nano. (WinXP)
  • Print to and accept scans and faxes from a Brother MFC-465CN printer (ideally across a wireless network). (WinXP)

Bonuses:

  • Play games. (WinXP)
  • Be portable.

I’m after an “at my fingertips” computing experience, where everything I want to do is a handful of clicks and a smattering of seconds away at any given moment. To me, this tends to rule Linux out; I might be willing to do some initial configuration at the start but I’m not interested in being a power user, fiddling with dual-boots or emulation or any such, which if I want to hang onto my game library would seem to rule out a Mac.

Someone pointed out the Alienware m11x gaming laptop yesterday; at under $1,500 for a pretty beefy base configuration and with a funky design and support by Dell, it's looking extremely tempting.

What do you folks think?

July 18, 2010

I Just Want My PC To Work

A little while ago, I wrote about how I'd chucked my Grand Idea of starting my own business doing PC support, and I'm ever more convinced that I made the right decision.

At the moment, I've got a Windows XP / Linux Mint dual-boot set-up. By default my PC starts up under Linux Mint, and it's pretty good. It does the basics well; I surf the web, I organise my e-mail and I write.

But there are certain things I still can't do under Mint:

Continue reading "I Just Want My PC To Work" »

July 11, 2010

Transformers: War for Cybertron Expanded Review

This is sort of an expanded edition of my review of Transformers: War for Cybertron for the Cairns Post, compiled from the 500-word version of that review and various forum posts I've made in the meantime.

Keeping in mind that I wrote that review so as many readers as possible would understand it, let me expand for all you pro gamers out there. For starters, don't buy it expecting anything earthshaking or revolutionary. High Moon set out to make a Transformers game that works, and they've succeeded. It mightn't be an outstanding experience but it's certainly a solid one, which puts it head and shoulders above the two movie games.

You'll probably see a lot that's familiar. Base gameplay is reminiscent of Gears of War, minus the cover system. Campaign battles go in for quantity of enemies over smart AI; things can get a bit repetitive and frustrating, especially the campaign-ending boss battles (for which the winning strategy seems to be "run like hell and hope your computer allies don't get in your way"). Still, I found I did better once I remembered the two special abilities each character gets. The whole thing was pretty fun, although I doubt I'll play it again unless it's co-op with someone.

Continue reading "Transformers: War for Cybertron Expanded Review" »

July 08, 2010

Transformers: War for Cybertron

If you've already read this in today's paper, I'd like to point out that I gave it 3 1/2 stars (the sub-editor must've rounded it up) and that the actual recommended retail price is $79.95, not $109.95 (if it were the latter price I wouldn't have given it more than three stars).

But if you haven't, go buy today's Cairns Post and check out Page 14 of the timeOUT liftout. Or read it on the cairns.com.au website!

Continue reading "Transformers: War for Cybertron" »

July 06, 2010

Metro: 2033

I think this is the first negative review of a game I've written. I tell you what, it's not something I liked doing. There was quite a bit I liked about Metro 2033; it oozed character and its Russian development brought a refreshingly different perspective to gaming.

You could argue that this post-apocalyptic game just wasn't my taste. My usual fare - Halo, Mass Effect, Burnout Paradise, the Guitar Hero games - are pretty cheerful, after all.

Still, in the end, I just couldn't get into Metro 2033. And I'm not alone; the entertainment editor, Jesse Kuch, also received a copy and came away with largely the same impression I did.

You can read our thoughts here. As usual, you'll need Adobe Reader to view this PDF document.

May 06, 2010

New Halo Within Reach

My latest gaming article for The Cairns Post was published today in both the timeOUT lift-out (page 14) and on the cairns.com.au website. It's about the public beta test of the multiplayer component of the upcoming Xbox 360 game, Halo: Reach.

I'll have to find out which Cairns gaming stores are doing the inevitable midnight launch...

April 24, 2010

Stuff This Collecting Malarkey

As you've probably gathered by now, I'm looking forward to the release of Bungie's last game in the Halo franchise for the foreseeable future, Halo: Reach, sometime in Spring of this year. I'm even taking a day off work on May 4th to join the Reach multiplayer beta test (thanks to my purchase of Halo 3: ODST). I'd like to cite some high-handed ideal of helping the game be the best it can, but I mostly want to play the damn thing as soon as possible.

I've been a little apprehensive about the inevitable collector's editions of the game, though. Collector's editions have become quite a rage nowadays. In times gone by, special editions were only made after the game had already sold well (and got good press, hence the frequent dubbing of these editions “Game of the Year Edition”). This tended to frustrate me, though; the Game of the Year Editions I was interested in were of games I already owned, and even when I had more disposable income than I have now I couldn't see the point in buying the whole damned game all over again just for the extra knick-knacks.

Continue reading "Stuff This Collecting Malarkey" »

April 15, 2010

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising

That's right, folks; yet another game review in today's paper! Check it out here OR on the cairns.com.au website!

Next up: Hopefully, the Russian-developed post-apocalyptic FPS, Metro: 2033.

April 13, 2010

That Fresh Taste

Third reason to be cheerful? Continuing on the topic of computers, mine is back up and running properly! I mentioned in my last post that I'd discovered that the solution to some hardware faults is to strip the guts out of the PC and clean the dust and mould off the case interior and every component.

Mould might seem like an odd issue, but these are the tropics and we have just come out of the wet season; moisture is abundant and PCs have plenty of nooks and crannies for it to gather in. Although my case is well ventilated with lots of big-ass fans, I try to teardown / rebuild it every six months, twelve at the outside. Only a couple of rooms in our house are air conditioned, and the computer room isn't one of them.

Continue reading "That Fresh Taste" »

April 12, 2010

Friends Don't Share Viruses

Second reason to be cheerful? My computer-assistance business is taking off! My client, let's call him “Ray,” is one of the nicest, most straight-up and loyal dudes you'll ever meet. He's also rather IT-illiterate; between that and a mate of Ray's, whom we shall call “Ron,” Ray's PC was riddled with viruses when he asked me to look at it. The process so far may prove instructive if you're not the most savvy when it comes to computers.

As far as I'm concerned, the only truly effective way to cure a virus-ridden PC is to reformat the hard drive and reinstall the base operating system from scratch. In Ray's case, this is easier said than done. Ray's PC features a pair of 320GB serial-ATA hard drives connected to a RAID card in one of the motherboard's PCI slots. This means that, to reformat and reinstall Windows XP, you need to load the third-party drivers for the RAID card onto a floppy disc because Windows XP's install program doesn't recognise the card.

Continue reading "Friends Don't Share Viruses" »

April 08, 2010

Interview: God of War III Developers

A couple of weeks ago, the Entertainment Editor at work forwards me an e-mail from a PR company in Sydney. Two developers from Sony Santa Monica, the studio that produced the entire smash-hit God of War series for the Playstations 2, 3 and Portable, were in Australia promoting the just-released God of War III and available for a phone interview.

Would I be interested in handling it, my editor asked?

Continue reading "Interview: God of War III Developers" »

March 09, 2010

New Networks Keep LAN Alive in Cairns

That's the title of my second op-ed piece in The Cairns Post's Tuesday Digital Life section. There's a first here, though; Angelo "DJ A.N.G" Saliba is my first ever interview subject!

And as the article mentions it, I'd be remiss if I didn't link to CairnsLAN.com, the forum through which Angelo hopes to organise the re-ignition of Far North Queensland's LAN party scene.

Download and have a read!

The Cairns Post 6 Mar 10, Page 13

March 07, 2010

Air (Head) Gap

Whoops! Sorry, folks, false alarm. Turns out the cause of the screen-not-displaying problem wasn't my video card or anything else in the CPU case; it was an air gap between the DVI video cable and the screen. I noticed after I dragged Vickie's old PC down from the lot and tried running it, only to have it do the same thing.

So I'm currently re-installing everything under Windows, including Steam and Left 4 Dead, and will get to Ubuntu a little later.

Phew! Talk about an exhausting error-check, though. Getting the old PC down from the loft is a pain...

March 04, 2010

I think my PC just bit the dust.

As you may already know, a few weeks ago my personal PC started behaving oddly. Both my Ubuntu and Windows XP installs began misbehaving in a very similar fashion; windows wouldn't come to the front when clicked on and web links wouldn't go active when moused over. I figured it might've been a virus, but when I tried to reformat and reinstall the problem persisted, so I started thinking hardware fault.

Switching keyboards didn't fix it and it'd been a while since I'd opened up my case and cleaned the components; I began to suspect a short somewhere. The amount of dust and dog-hair I discovered when I removed the side panel was scary, so last weekend I donned a static strap, pulled everything apart, cleaned it off and reassembled. By the time I was done I was pretty tired and not particularly surprised when the PC didn't power on; I figured I'd connected the front panel to the motherboard wrong.

Continue reading "I think my PC just bit the dust." »

MX Vs. ATV: Reflex

Here is my latest game review for The Cairns Post, my second of a game provided by a publisher: THQ's motorcross simulator, MX Vs. ATV Reflex.

This one was definitely out of my comfort zone. The first game I reviewed that I hadn't actually bought was Speed Racer, way back in '07, so I didn't have the anticipation and enthusiasm that kept me playing though Halo 3: ODST, Bayonetta and Mass Effect 2. It's also a strictly real world game, right down to the licensed bike parts and rider gear, so it can't afford to go all arcade-y like Burnout Paradise. Still, all that made for a refreshing, challenging change.

As always, the review is a PDF file, so you'll need Adobe Reader.

Next up: Back to familiar territory with Capcom's pulp-SF jetpack shooter, Dark Void.

March 03, 2010

Piracy Numbers

Continuing on from my link to Tycho's summation of the issue of computer game piracy, here's another well-reasoned article that tries to shine some light on the actual extent of PC game piracy and the effectiveness of measures, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, in stopping it.

February 11, 2010

Still Out of Order

In case you're wondering, yes, I'm still sans computer at home. The realm of the quandary has shifted, seemingly, from software to hardware, as the same issue has manifested itself after reformatting my hard drive. It's unlikely the keyboard, as I've tried two, but it could be the mouse somehow. A USB keyboard may also provide a workaround (both the keyboards I tried had PS/2 plugs) but my suspicions are still settled on a short circuit somewhere within the box. I think I'm just going to have to pull my PC apart, clean every component and hope for progress after reassembly.

This weekend. Between other engagements and cleaning priorities (you know, household stuff).

(Yep, Vickie's gonna kill me.)

Oh, erm. Interesting chatter about the office today regarding my role as game reviewer and the company's expansions into the digital space. More when I feel safe divulging details.

Mass Effect 2

According to Movable Type, this is my 1,000th post. technically, it's not true, as I have a heap of posts I've not yet imported over from the old, manual blog, but what the heck. Happy 1,000th, everybody!

To celebrate, here's my review for the paper of the Xbox 360 and PC game, Mass Effect 2. My editor reckons it's the best I've done so far, and that I'm really getting the hang of writing for an audience that isn't familiar with gaming. I hope you all agree!

February 04, 2010

Mass Effect

I was intending to do a review of the newly-released Mass Effect 2 this week. But the damn thing's so bloody big - it comes on two discs, for crying out loud - that I wanted to spend some more time playing before I penned the review.

Continue reading "Mass Effect" »

February 02, 2010

Time for the Marathon Rebuild

If you have Facebook access, you've probably already seen my latest status update about my PC. Basically, both my Ubuntu and Windows XP installs have suddenly started behaving in a very screwy fashion. I've decided to go ahead and do my long-overdue reformat and reinstall on my PC this weekend; any e-mails you've sent me since Cyclone Olga are likely to be lost.

In the meantime I'm not touching my PC, so you'll have to resort to the dreaded electric telephone if you need to contact me.

January 28, 2010

Burnout Paradise

After my page-dominating review of Bayonetta last week, the folks at The Cairns Post wanted to know if I had one for today. Having pretty much broken the bank with Bayonetta and with Mass Effect 2 not out until today, I had to tell them no - until I had the brainwave of reviewing an older game from the perspective of (a) picking it up cheaply and (b) it being kept fresh by downloadable content.

Thus, today's review of Burnout Paradise. Download (make sure you have Adobe Reader, naturally) and read!

January 21, 2010

Getting Sexiness Right in Videogames

While I'm on the subject of Bayonetta, I thought I'd offer a couple of links about the game's most talked-about aspect: its sexy lead character, Bayonetta herself.

Continue reading "Getting Sexiness Right in Videogames" »

Bayonetta

The newly-revamped timeOUT, the entertainment lift-out in every Thursday's The Cairns Post, now sports a page called timeIN, dedicated to having a good time at home.

Okay, you know, I ought to admonish you dirty-minded lot up the back where you think I can't see you having a rude little laugh at the double entendre there - but I can't, really, because my game review in the second-ever timeIN (it would have been the first except Jesse had already queued up a Darksiders review from IGN before he went on leave) is of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 hit, Bayonetta.

Download and read!

January 16, 2010

Help Bungie Help Haiti

In case you're not already aware, Bungie, developer of the Halo series of first-person shooter games, is putting some cash toward the American Red Cross' efforts to aid those affected by the earthquake that struck Haiti a few days ago. They have special T-shirts on sale and are donating revenue from the Bungie Store, but as they don't ship outside the US, they're setting up a way for the rest of us to contribute just by playing Halo 3 and/or ODST:

Continue reading "Help Bungie Help Haiti" »

January 06, 2010

Culling My Gamer Presences

A couple of days ago, I shut my Xbox 360's blog over on 360voice down. The only purpose it was serving was to pat me on the back for playing regularly; I'm sure there are times in the past where I've fired up my Xbox just to make sure the “Happy Xbox” badge stayed on my profile. Although I'd set the site to track a few other folks' blogs, I wasn't really reading them.

Now I'm starting to look at all the other gaming services I'm signed up on and trying to figure out whether they really serve my purposes. Aside from my Xbox Live and Steam sign-ons, I have profiles on Raptr and Xfire (services that track gaming activity and provide instant messaging clients), the Xbox World, Xecutive Order and Dawn of War 2 Community forums, the Gamespot review website and the BigPond GameArena, a review / online game retail site.

Continue reading "Culling My Gamer Presences" »

January 05, 2010

Borderlands

My second review for the paper this year (that's two reviews published in under a week) and third published game review!!

The Cairns Post, Tuesday January 5th, 2010, page 16

You can find more info on Borderlands here.

Next up: Mass Effect 2. And if EB Games have a midnight launch for it I'll see if I can cover that too...

December 27, 2009

Gaming in 2010

While 2009 wasn't a gaming-free year by any stretch of the imagination, I'm really looking forward to what 2010 will bring gaming-wise.

Let's start with computer and video gaming. Vickie mentioned re-installing Neverwinter Nights on our PCs a couple of days ago, which I did last night. We intend to play through the two retail expansions, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark. I also installed the now-free MMO Dungeons & Dragons Online on both our PCs on a whim; I don't know whether we'll do anything with it, but Vickie was impressed by the graphics and it might be a bit of fun after we polish Neverwinter Nights off.

Continue reading "Gaming in 2010" »

November 26, 2009

Modern Warfare 2 Midnight Launch

Here's an article that didn't make it into this Tuesday's The Cairns Post. The editor decided to do a non-gaming article last week to space things out, which meant this article would have ran over two weeks after the event.

Hype, multi-million-dollar budgets and massive sales: All common elements of blockbuster movies and major video games. But there’s another parallel: The midnight launch, an event targeted at an existing fan base that will go out of their way to see/play the object of their devotion as soon as possible.

Retail chain EB Games organised midnight launches of the hotly anticipated action game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 across its Cairns branches on Monday, November the 9th. I decided to check out the one that promised to be the largest, at the Cairns Central store.

Continue reading "Modern Warfare 2 Midnight Launch" »

November 10, 2009

Local Gaming Editorial Content

Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially a published columnist. Click on the link below to feast your eyes on my article on what I like to call "got your back gaming"!

The Cairns Post, November 10th, 2009, Page 15

(Adobe Reader required.)

October 03, 2009

Thought of the Day: 3 October 2009

Is it fair to say that I pre-ordered Halo 3: ODST at EB Games because I'm the kind of person who likes to play with his Johnson?

September 29, 2009

Halo 3: ODST

Here it is, folks: My second published game review, a little over 300 words long. Click on the picture below to download a PDF of the page.

The Cairns Post 29 Sep 09, page 15

The official site for Halo 3: ODST is here.

Massive thanks to Jesse Kuch and The Cairns Post editorial team for the opportunity!

September 10, 2009

The Nerd Report: September '09

Late last year, while talking with Vickie about What I Wanted To Do With My Life, I had the idea of starting up a sideline helping people fix computer problems. I haven't done a great deal with the idea since I suggested it; I put a couple of flyers up and got some sporadic work from a mate of mine, but that's about it. The next stage is to do up some more flyers to be placed strategically in the local area, but I keep putting it off or talking myself out of it; the only real reason is because it seems such a big step outside my comfort zone.

I'm way overdue to do a rebuild of my PC. Windows XP is doing some really odd stuff, and I think the only way to fix it is back up what I need and reformat the bastard. My flirtation with Linux continues, although it hit a speed bump when the latest distribution of Ubuntu (9.04) decided it couldn't play sound. I have no idea why and the bug report I filed hasn't generated any real interest. I want to dedicate a weekend to getting the rebuild (XP, Ubuntu 8.10, then see if the Windows 7 RC1 code I got a couple of months ago is still valid) right, though, and we've wound up with other plans lately – the last weekend I dedicated to it, I couldn't find a critical part until I finally looked in the place I'd put it (which seemed logical at the time). So sometime before Christmas, one hopes.

Continue reading "The Nerd Report: September '09" »

August 24, 2009

Why I'll Never Be Pro

What I heard:

"We are practicing pretty much every single day and practicing around five hours a night..."
- Roy, Major League Gaming: Get Better Fast Player Match Commentary

What I thought:

"Five hours a night? Get fucked!"

Thusly will your pal Rob never achieve professional player status in any game, let alone Halo 3.

August 09, 2009

Heavy Gear On Sale Again

Well, I'm glad to say that my Sorcerer stuff sold for way more than I asked for, which is bloody great, but the Heavy Gear stuff didn't. So I've taken another $50 off my asking price and thrown in both of the Heavy Gear PC games. Again, if you're interested, please make a bid; if you know anyone who's keen, please forward the link to them!

May 06, 2009

Not Quite Working As Intended

With his Xbox 360 Elite with Customer Service (again) due to a DVD drive issue (similar to the one I had with my regular 360 halfway into the warranty period), Karl started getting withdrawal symptoms on Sunday. He called and asked if he could borrow mine for a few days. I said yes; after all, Karl loaned me his while mine was last in repair (although he was also away on holidays) and it'd be a good way to cut down on the gaming time.

But you know what? Instead of playing Halo 3 and Halo Wars on my 360, I've started playing Dawn of War II and Team Fortress 2 on my PC.

I'll just have to go and lift some weights when the Gaming Urge strikes next...

April 25, 2009

A Bit Over Gaming

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for the chance to be involved in the closed multiplayer beta test of Blood Bowl, a computer game based on the Games Workshop board game of the same name (if you've heard of the Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000 franchises, Games Workshop is responsible for those). Mid-last week, I was notified by e-mail that I was in, so I downloaded the beta game and started playing on Friday night.

Now, as being a beta tester imposes certain legal obligations, I can't really talk about the specifics of the game; it's a beta release, so it's not expected to work perfectly, and any images mightn't reflect the final product. Still, what I have to say isn't a criticism of Blood Bowl – from what I've seen, it does a great job recreating the tabletop game – but is more a point about “gaming” in general, using Blood Bowl as an illustration.

Continue reading "A Bit Over Gaming" »

December 30, 2008

Notes from Paradise City

I've been struck down with the Minor Dreaded Lurgi today; rather than push my luck and go into work I'm going to sit at home, eat fruit, chug down Lemsip and water and make sure I'm okay for the Big New Year's Deadline Push tomorrow.

In the meantime I wanted to share an observation with you.

When I finally bought Burnout Paradise mid-this year, I noticed something in my short playthrough before I abandoned it for the then-welcoming bosom of Halo 3: Unlike Burnouts 2, 3 and Revenge, there's no speedometer. It took me until this weekend, when I played it for hours on end on Sunday, to realise why:

In Paradise City, there are only two speeds: Too Fucking Fast and Not Fucking Fast Enough. And if you need a speedometer to tell you which one you're doing, then you're playing the wrong game.

P.S.: I want my Jansen 88 Special.

October 19, 2008

Thinking

Alan took possession of the house on January 1, and paid for it in full by means of an e-gold transfer. He had to do a fair bit of hand-holding with the realtor to get her set up and running on e-gold, but he loved to do that sort of thing, loved to sit at the elbow of a novitiate and guide her through the clicks and taps and forms.

- Cory Doctorow, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

More than this, I don't want to say, yet. Still, I wanted to let you know that something's going on. I choose to be cryptic as I'm not sure how far I'm going to get with it. I'm still a little scared of setting expectations, whether high or low.

October 17, 2008

Someone Smarter Than You

"After the war, cryptographers spent a lot of time thinking about (how Alan Turing cracked the Enigma code). The problem had been that Turing was smarter than the guy who thought up Enigma. Any time you had a cipher, you were vulnerable to someone smarter than you coming up with a way of breaking it.

"And the more they thought about it, the more they realized that anyone can come up with a security system that he can't figure out how to break. But no one can figure out what a smarter person might do."

Cory Doctorow, Little Brother

Last night I was working on a huge post in response to an article I saw on BoingBoing yesterday about how the Australian federal government is planning to force Internet Service Providers to install filtering technology with the intent of preventing Australians from accessing illegal and child-unsafe Internet sites (the initial testing is apparently already complete). The general gist of the article was that, although I admire the Government's intentions, they were blazing a highway straight to hell, laid with flagstones of innocent sites locked off due to false positives, crippled Internet response and money wasted on circumventable blacklists.

Continue reading "Someone Smarter Than You" »

October 07, 2008

Unusual Hard Disk Activity

It’s been a busy past couple of weeks when it comes to computers. It started, as I mentioned on the 24th, when I installed Ubuntu 8.04, a Linux distribution, on Chook’s old PC. I’ve had a good fiddle with it in the meantime, downloading packages and getting a feel for how it does things. I even wound up having to reinstall it twice after I forgot my login password – I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about strong passwords lately and made it a bit to obscure to remember the first time and must have put one special character too many in the second time.

My original plan was to see whether Ubuntu would notice the 170GB of space on my hard drive that Windows was refusing to recognise and install it there. Every time I tried to run the installer on my PC, though, GParted, Ubuntu’s partitioning program, gave me an error message about the logical sector size of my hard drive and the whole installer would hang after that. Thinking the problem might have been with the distribution, I’d downloaded another Linux distro, Fedora 9 – but hit the same trouble as I’d had with Ubuntu.

Continue reading "Unusual Hard Disk Activity" »

September 30, 2008

E-Mail Public Key

Over the last week or so I've started fiddling with a few computer related things, including Linux and encryption. Last night, I set up GnuPG on my PC; tonight, with the help of a handy tutorial, I set an encryption facility up on my e-mail client and created a public and private key.

So if you want to send me an encrypted message, you can find my public key here.

September 24, 2008

A Scary Story

Almost every Tuesday night for the past three months, I’ve been firing up my Xbox 360 and joining the men and women of PMS|H2O Halo 3 Australia for some clan practice. Last night, though, I didn’t.

Do you know what I wanted to do instead? What I actually wound up doing?

I wanted to install Ubuntu 8.04, a Linux distribution.

And so I did. I the downloaded distro to a CD-R, took Chooks’ old PC (which was originally handed down from Vickie) and backed her data up, then installed Ubuntu on it. Had a bugger of a time getting it to connect to the Internet, swapping out PCI network cards until I learned that all I had to do was left-click on something instead of right-clicking on it. I‘m still trying to figure out how to get Ubuntu to see both hard drives.

Does turning down gaming for the opportunity to install an open source operating system earn me any geek cred?

June 14, 2008

Good Things Come...

In the midst of rising interest rates, skyrocketing petrol prices and gross grocery bills, it’s nice when live gives you something to smile about. For starters, publishers have glutted the office with comp copies of new novels, so I’ve been helping out by reading and reviewing some of them. Through this I’ve been introduced to the brilliant work of Scott Lynch; I’ve read both of his novels (so far) in the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, which is fantasy like I’ve never read it – street level, with a Tarantino-esque flair. Not even Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories have as much wit as The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies. Okay, maybe I’m slanging off a master just to get attention, but I really do prefer Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen to Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.

Continue reading "Good Things Come..." »

June 09, 2008

Forsaking the Forsaken for Water

Well, in a bit of an about face from my last big clan-related posting, I decided to quit The Forsaken Ones after all. Karlos got in touch on Saturday; he’d decided to quit the clan for his own reasons. As that meant our ladder team was down to four people, two of whom I couldn’t communicate with due to network conflicts, I decided to pull out as well.

I figured I’d go clanless for a little while – until I started playing some games with a few folks on my XBL Friends list. I’d been keeping an eye on the development of their clan for a little while, and they were friendly, communicated well and didn’t swear – probably because a good portion of them were female.

Continue reading "Forsaking the Forsaken for Water" »

May 26, 2008

Feng Shui Forsaken

It was a pretty geeky weekend. Friday night saw some of The Forsaken Ones getting together for a training session. Karlos had found some neat cubbyholes in the geometries of the Halo 3 maps Guardian and Construct, so we spent a little time getting to know them before launching into a game of Team Oddball using the AussieXbox.net Team Rumble variant. I go into some more detail here, but suffice to say I found out a few things about how my fellow clan members play, especially those who reckon they despise the objective-based gametypes. I’m hoping we can get some more training in this coming Friday evening, and I want to try and give the session some more structure.

Saturday was busy. My former mentee got back in touch a couple of months ago, and Vickie and I have been hanging out with him and his family lately. Mid-last week he called and asked whether I’d like to go and play some laser tag at Crystal Cascades with him and his stepdad; unfortunately, when we got there for the early morning session no one else showed up, so I wound up driving back home a half an hour later. Kid and his stepdad are pretty cool, though, so I had a good chat with them in the meantime!

Continue reading "Feng Shui Forsaken" »

May 13, 2008

Tabletop or Online, Gamers Are All The Same

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Karlos had recruited me into a clan of Halo 3 players, with the intent of competing on a ladder. Well, I went and got all invested in the idea, going so far as to set a Yahoo! Group up and start pestering the others who’d stuck their hands up for the clan idea about getting signed up on the ladder website.

Then we got in touch with another clan, who turned around and challenged us to some 4v4 matches this coming Sunday. Naturally I was all for it, but it’s been a right pain just trying to get not only three other clan members (of nineteen) to put their hands up, but also any kind of training time. Just last night, two of the other three who finally said yes were online at various times; one wound up in a four-person Team Slayer squad of his own, and the other – the clan’s leader and the one who suggested training in the first place – went straight into playing Viva Piñata. If he read the messages I’d sent about training he didn’t bother replying to them.

Continue reading "Tabletop or Online, Gamers Are All The Same" »

May 08, 2008

Cheaper on the PC?

Dan, you bastard, I know you’re going to be gloating.

As is still occasionally my wont, but with much less frequency than it used to be (at least fifty percent of my recent shopping centre visits have not included a browse), I stopped in at EB Games on the weekend to have a look at what was out and what was coming out. DoW: Soulstorm is now on the shelves, but considering that I’ve not touched Dark Crusade in freaking months, why bother? Same with the Guild Wars expansion, Eye of the North; I’ve not even finished any of the Prophecies, Factions or Nightfall campaigns, so no need for the expansion.

Continue reading "Cheaper on the PC?" »

April 26, 2008

36 Rounds - 2 Grenades - 25 Kills - HIKE!

Okay, here’s some unusual linkage of the moment. Now, as should be obvious from the last post, I’ve been playing a lot of the Halo 3 lately, enough that Vickie’s been feeling a bit slighted, so I know I need to put the brakes on some. Still, at the moment, she’s watching A Touch of Frost on Seven, so I nipped upstairs to bask in the glory of my Halo 3 Service Record, all the more radiant tonight as I achieved a Team Slayer Skill of 20 earlier this evening and got promoted straight from Lieutenant Grade 3 to Captain Grade 3! Yay!

Anyway, I also checked the Bungie.net news feed, and at the top of the list was “MLG ESPN Saturday Night Rebroadcast Available Now”. For those of you who, like me, don’t live in the US, the acronyms might need a little explaining. ESPN is, as I understand it, North America’s largest pay-TV sports provider (if the URL is an indicator, they're part of Disney's media conglomerate). While I don’t think I’ve ever known exactly what ESPN stands for (I think I’m safe in assuming the S is for “sport” and the N is for “network”), I do know what MLG stands for: Major League Gaming. That’s right, a major media outlet has dedicated a portion of its resources to covering (and hosting) video game tournaments.

Continue reading "36 Rounds - 2 Grenades - 25 Kills - HIKE!" »

April 20, 2008

I’ve created a monster…

It’s hard to believe that just a scant few months ago, Karlos was of the belief that online play just wasn’t his bag. I’d mentioned Xbox Live to him a few times last year, but he usually responded to any suggestions in the negative. He only had dial up Internet access and wasn’t interested in the extra monthly expense of broadband, and the yearly Xbox Live fee of $89.00 seemed an extravagance.

Continue reading "I’ve created a monster…" »

February 24, 2008

It's Run Forrest Run For The Win!

Yesterday was a busy one. I finally caught up with Karlos for some Halo 3 in the morning, and managed to get my Team Slayer ranking up to 12. He’s been putting some serious hours in lately, cranking his Team Slayer rank up to 22. We played for a couple of hours before I want to the local pub to help the Lions Club with a raffle draw. We didn’t have much luck; since the pub converted most of its lounge area into a restaurant, there’s little room for people to sit and relax, so midday custom has dropped drastically.

After that, Deena, Chooks and I went out for the grand final of our soccer league. Our team won 13 to 10, and we each got a trophy for it! I’m pretty sure it’s the first ever trophy I’ve earned for a sporting event! Ater that, it was straight out to Barlow Park to help out on the Lions Club food van for a couple of hours, raising money for the club through sales of chips, hot dogs and steak burgers to the crowd who'd arrived to spectate the Cowboys vs. Titans charity match.

Line Trouble

After months of the both of us complaining about our dodgy phone line and Internet connection – the phone crackles regularly and our Internet is prone to intermittent dropouts – Vickie finally gave up on waiting for me to call Telstra and gave them a ring herself a week and a bit ago. The contractor came over on Friday to check our connections, and after crawling under the house, replacing some joins and checking as much as he could, he narrowed the problem down to the ADSL filter / splitter attached to our phone line. He didn’t have one himself, so he couldn’t test it, but he was positive he’d eliminated all the other possibilities; nothing else could be causing the fault.

Continue reading "Line Trouble" »

February 05, 2008

Some Good News for February

The rebuild went okay. My system is, I think, quite a bit more streamlined. I’ve installed almost everything I want to put on it, save Transformers: The Game and Guild Wars, the former because I want to find the USB receiver which allows me to connect my wireless Xbox 360 controller to my PC and the latter because we’re at three quarters of our monthly bandwidth limit and updating the client might take a gig or two. Spyware Doctor is working again, thankfully, and I’m browsing the web with little trouble.

There’s one hitch; it’s not bothersome at the moment but it’s something I’d like to fix when the next rebuild comes around. For some odd reason, Windows XP is now insistent that my Seagate Barracuda 320GB SATA hard disk drive possesses only 130GB. The BIOS disagrees with Windows, of course, reporting the full size on its settings screen. But, apparently, the BIOS is a pitiful moron compared to XP’s all-knowing wisdom, even though the last build recognised the drive’s full size. I have the feeling it has something to do with the SATA drivers I used and that I perhaps plugged the drive into the SATA ports controlled by the Intel controller instead of the Gigabyte controller like last time.

Continue reading "Some Good News for February" »

January 30, 2008

Cracked 2,000!

Oh, and I broke the 2,000 Gamerscore barrier! Like I figured, it was by earning the Sniper Expert Achievement in Mass Effect.

New Year's Rebuilding

I’m planning a complete rebuild of my PC this weekend. I think I have some sort of Trojan lurking on my system somewhere. My web-browsing performance has been spotty over the last few months, even when I’m the only person on the network and I’m not downloading anything. A file I sent to Vickie a few days ago got a virus warning. My firewall software switches itself off randomly at startup, forcing me to restart it manually. My anti-spyware software has flat-out not worked in ages. Finally, a safe link I clicked on yesterday was redirected to a URL with a very unsavoury name (thankfully I got a “Page Not Found”). So on Friday night I’ll start backing my vital files up onto DVD-ROM, with the aim of reformatting my hard drive on Saturday morning. I’ll have to get a spare floppy disk drive out, as the setup utility on the Windows XP disc doesn’t natively recognise Serial ATA drives. Once I get the system rebuilt to my preferences, I’ll do a thorough virus scan on my backups before re-copying the data over.

Continue reading "New Year's Rebuilding" »

January 28, 2008

Ten Fantastic Days

It’s been a great ten days off work. Vickie, thankfully, cracked the whip and got me cleaning and tidying up before the arrival of the Cazman and his lovely lady Linda, and we got the spare room looking great for them. Although we weren’t able to spend much time with them as we’d hoped, we just appreciated their company the more. I didn’t know, for example, that Linda was part Chinese, nor that she has a hilarious, trash-talking competitive streak, which came out during a few games of Uno! Speaking of which, I’m starting to think Uno is more fun than Chez Geek.

I fully intend to do a better job of keeping up with these two (ideally using Skype a lot to cut down on those pesky phone bills) and I’m sure Vickie does also. We also (yeah, yeah, I know, but it reads better than “in addition”) must get back in regular touch with Caz’s Mum and Dad. We got a great Christmas letter from them!

Continue reading "Ten Fantastic Days" »

January 16, 2008

Goal-Setting and Planning: 4,000 Gamerscore

Around this time of year, people start thinking about things like resolutions and such. Like most, I have some trouble fulfilling my resolutions, so my first and main resolution for this year is to improve my skill at goal-setting. This has been a problem for me ever since the last year of primary school, especially when it came to assignments. I’d get told to make this big thing in this amount of time, and I got so intimidated that I just shut it out of my mind until it was too late. I need to get good at recognising how to break this huge thing into discrete, easy-to-accomplish chunks and then processing those chunks while still managing my overall progress.

There are a few goals I want to set myself to; paying off the mortgage, determining my ideal job, take Vickie on a trip to Cambodia, play more RPGs, etc. Those sorts of goals, though, are large, long term and / or require someone else to make an opportunity available (not the Vickie to Cambodia one, the job one). I want to get some practice at goal setting with something familiar (so I know whether the goal I’m setting for myself is achievable), something easy to measure, something that requires no additional investment beyond time and effort.

Continue reading "Goal-Setting and Planning: 4,000 Gamerscore" »

January 08, 2008

Watching Paint Dry

The renovation of the spare room has gone much better than we thought. Vickie especially was dreading the removal of not just the wallpaper but also the carpeting. When we did the other rooms, we had a hard time with the glue paper that went between the wall and the paper, and the removal of the carpeting in the computer room revealed a foamy substance (I know it has a proper carpeting name, I just can’t think of it right now) that we had to buy huge scrapers to deal with. That was a nightmare.

In the spare room, though, the carpet came up with no trouble, and the nail strips holding it down came up with just a little chisel-work. The glue-paper was a dream, too; a good spray of water and it just came off in long strips with a razor-blade scraper. Karl undercoated the room and primed over the nastier stains, but he and I shared a lot of the work; puttying holes, putting the top-coats on the walls, sanding after each coat and cleaning up the dust from the sanding. I took to the skirting board, door- and window-frames with the enamel paint. An electrician has taken the old wall lamp fittings over the bed head off and installed the new ones we bought. All that’s left is to clean and sand the floor, then cover it with vinyl tiles. Oh, and move all the bedroom furniture back in from where we have it stacked in our dining room.

Continue reading "Watching Paint Dry" »

December 27, 2007

Crash Party on the 360

It’s been an interesting past couple of days for computers. On the upside, I managed to fix a problem that’s been plaguing Vickie’s PC for about a week; the external LCD monitor for her laptop would go into some sort of power-saving mode after five minutes of inactivity, and nothing short of resetting the laptop would get it to work. Some fiddling with the screen saver and power saving settings in Vista got it back up and working properly, though.

On the downside, the wireless transceiver for my rather expensive mouse was broken – definitely not due to a fault in the manufacturing, so not a warranty replacement – and I went out and got another one. Well, a different model, but a Logitech still. Also, as mentioned in the prior post, Karl’s Xbox 360 Elite decided to shuffle off to Buffalo in a blizzard of screen distortion.

Continue reading "Crash Party on the 360" »

December 02, 2007

Weekend In The Garden

Vickie and I are making progress in getting the garden in better shape. This weekend was intended to be a big blitz, but soaring temperatures at midday gave us baking afternoons, so we've had to get as much done in the morning and evening as we could. That's been quite a bit, thankfully; we've dug up some roots that were interrupting our sewage line, turned the soil in the vege patch over, cleared away a lot of debris (Vickie especially went gangbusters on the fallen leaves).

Of course, I had fewer diversions to distract me. My Xbox 360 has finally packed it in; on Friday night, whilst playing Mass Effect, it froze up, and when I powered it off and on again, the dreaded Red Ring of Death appeared on its front panel. Repeated attempts to resurrect it on Saturday were fruitless, so I called Customer Support this morning and am waiting on the e-mail from them so I can send it in. Actually, if the e-mail doesn't turn up by tomorrow morning I can probably get away with sending it in early; I have the form from last time and the current call log number. Still, best to wait; Microsoft might've changed its contracted repairer in the meantime.

The latest really annoying thing was that today is Karl's birthday, and I was planning to take my 360 over his place, network it to his Elite and have some multiplayer Halo 3 and Burnout Revenge action. So much for that.

Continue reading "Weekend In The Garden" »

November 22, 2007

But Do You Know What Really, Really, REALLY Annoys Me?

My Xbox 360 suddenly deciding to recommence regular operation just as mysteriously as it crapped out, that's what. Late last night, after trying the Xbox twice only to be greeted with the same flashing-power-light problem and calling Customer Support again to no avail (whatever issue had their systems down on Tuesday night was still affecting them last night), my Xbox suddenly decided to work properly, and I got another good hour of Mass Effect in before going to bed. I tried it again this morning, and it still worked fine.

I've decided to take the bastard back to Harvey Norman anyway. I don't want to be waiting for it to stuff up again every time I play, especially if I'm playing online. If I can return it for credit I'm going to fork out a little extra for an Xbox 360 Elite, for two main reasons: One, Microsoft made some changes to the manufacturing process for the Elite which made it a little more heat and crash resistant, and two (Vickie's going to live this), it comes with an HDMI cable, which will eliminate at least one cable from the rat's nest behind the entertainment unit. The bigger hard drive and extra headset are just gravy.

Continue reading "But Do You Know What Really, Really, REALLY Annoys Me?" »

November 21, 2007

Just When I Thought It Was Safe...

This is frustrating, folks. I got my Xbox 360 back from Customer Support mid-last week, and aside from a reset incident after I first plugged it in everything seemed to work fine - it's certainly not argued during the many games of Halo 3 I've played since. Yesterday I picked my pre-ordered copy of Mass Effect up (my local EB told me they got it in a little early) - and after ten minutes of play, my repaired Xbox reset itself, stopped recognising the Mass Effect disc and refused to open the drive tray. Same trouble as last time.

Now, in the hope that this might be an overheating issue, I switched the Xbox off at the power point and left it alone for ten minutes, and even put a pedestal fan to circulate air behind the entertainment unit just in case it did turn out to be a heating issue. When I switched it back on, everything worked, and I had an hour of smooth Mass Effect play before I switched it off and let the family have the TV for the rest of the evening, satisfied that I'd found a solution to my console's problems - it must've just been overheating.

Continue reading "Just When I Thought It Was Safe..." »

November 18, 2007

Star Wars: A New Campaign

It’s been a pretty damned good month so far. Quite a bit of stuff’s been going on; I’ve just not got around to blogging about it yet. An exhausting weekend of garden work and Halo 3 has cleared enough junk out of the way of the writing urge. Let's kick this off with some gaming.

To start off with, I’m GMing a roleplaying campaign. If you’ve been keeping up with my RPG-related posts over the past few years, you’ll have read about my increasing interest in independently-published RPGs and my desire to run titles like Dogs in the Vineyard, Primetime Adventures and Burning Empires.

Thus, it may come as some surprise that I'm running Star Wars: Saga Edition, a game about as un-indie as I can get (it's from the same company that publishes the venerable Dungeons & Dragons). I played it at Spring Revel Down Under at the beginning of October and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’d like to say that I enjoyed the session so much I bought the rulebook except I caved into my gamer-geek urges and bought the bloody thing the day before.

Continue reading "Star Wars: A New Campaign" »

October 30, 2007

360 to 0 in 6 Months

My Xbox 360 has finally decided it's actually having serious problems instead of the odd recurring glitch. On Monday morning I tried playing some Halo 3 online, only to have the console restart itself during matchmaking. On top of that, it refused to open the DVD tray (no matter whether I used the face panel button or the "Open Tray" item on the Dashboard), so I couldn't get the disc out again, nor would the console actually read the disc. Then it started resetting itself repeatedly, as often as once every few seconds; the startup animation would barely commence before the screen went blank again.

Continue reading "360 to 0 in 6 Months" »

October 27, 2007

Heroism in Digital and Tabletop Gaming

I read a couple of posts online recently that helped me put into words some thinking I’ve occasionally kicked around my brainspace in the last year or so.

Via the Burning Wheel forum, I came to a post on the web log of a fellow named James Wallis (the name rings a bell, but I’m not sure from where). Anyway, in this posting James discusses heroism and how both computer/video games and tabletop RPGs treat it. Please, go and read it, even though I’m going to tell you the gist of it, which is that computer/video games have made failure uninteresting and dull, and that the best, most meaningful way to reverse that is to give the player “actual challenge”, which Wallis basically defines as the consequences of risk to more than just the character’s life, to what the character holds dear outside of personal survival.

Continue reading "Heroism in Digital and Tabletop Gaming" »

September 06, 2007

What's My Line? Gaming Edition

I need some help from the IMAGinES readership. I’ve listened to Wil Wheaton’s keynote address to the guests of the Penny Arcade Expo ’07 a couple of times now. By even asking this, I’m probably torpedoing my gaming cred, but I’m absolutely curious – and I’d just prefer to throw it out to the community rather than going to Google. So if any of you know these references, can you whack them into a comment on this post, please?

Okay, here we go:

Continue reading "What's My Line? Gaming Edition" »

August 25, 2007

Okay, Maybe That Does All Fit Down...

I mentioned a while ago that while reviews of the Transformers movie were generally positive, the same couldn't be said of the video game tie-in. Still, of the various versions of the product, the PC version seems to have come in slightly ahead of the others, mainly due to slightly more responsive controls.

A few days ago, I discovered a downloadable demo for the PC version, and naturally downloaded it. I suppose I wanted to find out whether the game was really as mediocre as the reviewers all seemed to hold. I've played through it at least once, and discovered something interesting while I was at it - much like my experience with Grand Theft Auto III, driving a car around is pretty awkward using the keyboard (where touching the keys mapped for "steer left" and "steer right" sends the car into full lock), but if you plug an Xbox 360 controller in (or use a wireless connection device, much as I do), the game suddenly becomes a lot easier to control in either mode (robot or car). The graphics aren't fantastic, but they do the job and they run nicely and smoothly on my rig. Admittedly, the demo only comes with the low-resolution textures, but I didn't find that off-putting - I'm only even more interested to see what the Transformer models look like with hi-res textures.

Continue reading "Okay, Maybe That Does All Fit Down..." »

August 08, 2007

Podcast Preferences

I’ve been sampling the wonderment that is an iPod nano for the past couple of months now. Young Brook’s hand-me-down is now full of Steely Dan, Def Leppard, The War of the Worlds, Flogging Molly and assorted other musics (yeah, okay, fine, including John Farnham). Bu the really great thing about it, especially combined with its iTunes master application, is podcasts. The iTunes service will track podcast feeds via XML and RSS and will automatically download the latest shows of any podcasts I subscribe to. I can take them with me in the iPod and catch up on subjects of interest during my lunch hour, all without bothering Vickie with any annoying voices or accents.

So what am I subscribed to?

Continue reading "Podcast Preferences" »

July 31, 2007

Generally Good, Computer-Wise

Hi folks! Well, my the PC is working once again. I’m enjoying the smoothness that the GeForce 8800GTS is bringing to some of my classic games – except Republic Commando, which has been struck down by what some forum threads claim is a driver conflict.

Vickie’s the PC – well, the laptop – is also now her official home of computeryness. I will say that she is fighting a battle with Windows Vista at the moment, the prize of which is her sanity. There was a lot of talk about making Vista more secure in the face of modern digital threats, but I didn’t really realise what that meant until I observed it in use for an extended period. That OS is paranoid, folks. It double-checks almost every program that you execute, just to make sure that it is indeed you, Joe or Jane User, what is using the laptop and not L4rr3 t3h H4x0r down the road. It’s also a bit prickly with the running of some apps, too. I’m definitely hoping to see a service pack that irons out some of the kinks released soon.

Continue reading "Generally Good, Computer-Wise" »

July 20, 2007

A Highly Complex Endeavour

Today is the first day of the Cairns Show Long Weekend. I've been saving a particular venture for this particular block of time off. This venture is the nigh complete overhaul of the computers of myself, Vickie and Brook, as well as creating an additional PC for Brook's mum, Gemma.

This is a four phase operation:

Continue reading "A Highly Complex Endeavour" »

June 13, 2007

The Upgrade Square Dance

I will say this: Insomnia is pretty good for blogging. Last night I was thinking of writing a post, but just didn’t feel in the mood. I suddenly woke up an hour ago and my brain refused to switch itself off again. I listened to Paul Tevis’ latest Have Games Will Travel podcast for about an hour, then decided the hell with it; I’ll get that post written.

It’s five past five AM as I start this, by the way.

Okay, then. What’s been going on?

Firstly, and most recently, I went on that big computer stuff splurge that’s been in the offing. I had to get some stuff done on the north side of the city on Saturday morning, and stopped off at the local branch of The Good Guys on the way home. I wound up taking advantage of their June stocktake sale, walking out with a Toshiba Satellite A100, an LG Flatron 20.1” widescreen LCD monitor and a 4GB iPod Nano for Brook, as hers had suddenly packed it in. As Brook hadn’t got a decent eighteenth birthday present from us, I figured I’d get her a new, green one (Brook’s favourite colour) at the sale. It turned out that all her old one needed was an update from Apple – so after we cleared all her music files off of it, I inherited it.

Continue reading "The Upgrade Square Dance" »

June 05, 2007

Upgrading and Networking: Help Required

I got my PC back from my IT-business mate today, and he was able to confirm that the problem is graphics-card related. He's tested it in other machines and the same problem happens. I need a replacement and I don't want to lose any grunt. My current graphics card, and the motherboard it goes into, are two or three generations behind, so to maintain performance I don't have much choice but to replace them - which means replacing the CPU also.

I discussed some plans, which also included 2GB RAM and a new hard drive, in my last posting. FamiliaGTX, who weighed in about my horrid luck with PCs, sent me a list of parts for around $250 cheaper than I was originally planning. Vickie also pointed out that I can get a 19" flat screen for around $350 from Big W nowadays, which is also tempting; I'd like to be able to get in closer to my rther cramped desk, and the huge 19" CRT screen I have right now keeps me at an arm-tiring distance.

Continue reading "Upgrading and Networking: Help Required" »

May 30, 2007

Gremlins in the Circuitry

Computers are really starting to give me the gyp lately, if you'll pardon the expression. My PC is still giving me the not-enough-power-to-the-graphics-card warning messages. Vickie's keyboard packed it in sometime between last night and this morning, and Brook's semi-flaky junkyard spec PC (often unwilling to start first time) hung in the middle of a game of The Sims this evening.

It's getting very tempting to put a few grand of the loan towards some new hardware. I'm going to put my PC in with a friend from soccer who runs his own PC business, in the hope that, at the very least, he'll be able to identify which of my parts is faulty, power-wise. I have the feeling it's the motherboard, and that episode with the overheated PSU did more damage than it first seemed, but if that's the case, I'll need not just a new mobo, but a new CPU, a new, PCI-Express graphics card and maybe even new RAM.

Continue reading "Gremlins in the Circuitry" »

May 08, 2007

Nowhere to Hide

As my PC's been a bit flaky lately, what with the power warnings and such, I start fiddling with the Xbox 360 more often. I mean, console hardware, nothing's gonna go wrong there, right?

Fucker freezes on me. Twice in two, maybe three days. Both times playing Burnout: Revenge.

Continue reading "Nowhere to Hide" »

May 02, 2007

In Other News

Evilhayama just cracked 1,000 points on his Gamerscore.

What, me? Oh, you know, just tw hrndrd n frkn ffty.

Curse that man and his lack of anything else to do...

May 01, 2007

Finding Consolation With My Console

It’s been over a week since my last post, and that’s mainly because I’ve been reticent to go near my PC lately. As I mentioned on the MySpace, it’s started to play up again. Nothing absolutely major, but every time I start it up, my NVidia display drivers warn me that my graphics card isn’t getting enough power. Why this is, I don’t know; it was getting enough when I had a 460-Watt PSU installed and the new one’s a 550-Watt model. I plan to open the case, check the connections and give the insides a good de-dusting very soon.

Continue reading "Finding Consolation With My Console" »

April 20, 2007

Exchanging Addictions

You know, I noticed that roleplaying games seem to be dominating my waking thoughts much less than they used to. I think my last post related to RPGs was, what, mid-March? Strange, only a month, but it seems a long time ago.

As Vickie recently observed, I tended to filter everything social through an RPG filter. If I were organising a get-together, it would be oriented around the local gamers, and although I liked them, it was our common interest in the hobby that I was organising the meet-up around. I’ve been turning that around recently; David dropped over last night for a good chat with Vickie and I (and, I’ll confess, I showed the 360 off), and tonight we’re off to a mentoring scheme get-together and a dinner with some friends whom I met through work. There’re still quite a few folks we haven’t seen in a while and would like to get together with, and some of them are gamers, but the shared interest is only part of why we want to keep in touch (and no longer the dominant part for me, either). Given half a chance, I’d still love to run a Burning Empires campaign, but I don’t, you know, need to. "Successful Gamer" isn't really tied into my self image any more.

Continue reading "Exchanging Addictions" »

April 19, 2007

Living in a Box (Arcade Stylin’ Remix)

What more, I hear you ask? Well, the Xbox Live service doesn’t just offer online gaming, patches and maps; it also offers what’s called Xbox Live Arcade, a mix of recent, web-based casual games like Bejeweled and Zuma and classic games like Defender, Jetpac and Paperboy. Trial versions are available for free, and spending Microsoft Points will unlock the full versions, complete with Gamerscore-increasing achievements and online play. 600 Points will bag a couple of these games, and you can get a thousand points for under $20.

Of the various games on offer, I’m really interested in one: Worms. It’s the classic 2D version, gussied up with cute hi-def (but still firmly 2D) graphics; none of this 3D-accellerated, third-person shit, thank you! I’ve downloaded the demo and am keen to unlock it; I reckon it’d make a fantastic party game!

I’m semi-keen on Alien Hominid HD, and evilhayama hipped me to Wing Commander Arena, a fun looking game due on Arcade later this year.

Living In A Box (Big Money Remix)

This is the first of two posts in which I’m going to get a little silly and tell you what Xbox 360 games I’m keen on getting in the near or not-so-near future. The title outside the brackets is a jab at my current state of mind (living in my Gamerscore and Live Arcade) couched in a semi-obscure music reference; no-prize if you can figure it out.

So what games do I want for the Xbox 360?

Continue reading "Living In A Box (Big Money Remix)" »

April 16, 2007

Gamerscore Is The New EverCrack

I just realised yesterday how clever Microsoft were when they introduced the Gamerscore to their Xbox Live profiles. It’s a neat little mechanism of addiction. If you’ve ever played in any game where you have an improvable ranking, you’ll likely know what I mean. The trick is, the Gamerscore is tied directly into each Xbox 360 game you play. Every game has a list of achievements that you can work toward, and each one you achieve bumps your Gamerscore up by ten-point increments. Nail down a particularly tricky achievement and you can find your Gamerscore has suddenly bumped up by thirty points!

The Gamerscore not only encourages you to play a given game, but it also rewards you for replaying it. Gears of War, for example, gives an achievement for completing each act in the campaign (I think there are somewhere between six and eight acts in total) on each level of difficulty, plus an achievement once you’ve completed the whole game on a given difficulty level. With three difficulty levels, this means that you could quite conceivably play the whole campaign through three times. On top of that, there are various achievements for feats, like five perfect reloads in a row, and high scores in multiplayer games.

Continue reading "Gamerscore Is The New EverCrack" »

April 13, 2007

It Lurks In My Entertainment Unit And Hates Me

Here's a neat little toy for everyone with an Xbox 360 and a Live gamertag: 360voice.com. It uses your Xbox Live profile to generate a web log which appears as if it was written by your Xbox. Mine's here, although as of this writing I've not done enough gaming for it to write about (it seems my Xbox is a classic SF fan, though). In the meantime, check out the blog of the Xbox of evilhayama, the man who hipped me to this site.

April 09, 2007

Frank's Two Thousand Inch TV

It all started on Saturday. We had our three, maybe four-stop shopping trip all planned out. First to Sportscene, for some new joggers for me (the lining of my last ones had come loose and were rubbing against my feet); next to Haven & Space (homewares store) for a browse; then Bunnings for soil and other garden supplies and possibly Melsonrock Garden Centre for some plants and herbs.

Things started to go awry, as they tend to, in Haven & Space. Vickie pointed out the complementary coffee table for our lounge suite (purchased from H&S last year, per the previous comment re: things going awry), which I said we'd think about getting. Then we spotted an entertainment unit nestled under a set of drawers, which went perfectly with our CD cabient in the living room (the entertainment unit, not the drawers). I figured the existing, multi-part, chipboard unit was due to be replaced anyway, and the one-piece looked the goods.

Then Vickie made the fatal mistake of jesting that we'd really need a flat screen TV for it.

And I took her semi-seriously.

Continue reading "Frank's Two Thousand Inch TV" »

March 30, 2007

This Post Brought To You By The Colour Blue

That's right, folks; I'm typing this at you via my very own PC! I'm back up and running again, and all it cost was $200! On top of that, my PC is now glowing more blue than ever! How is my PC blue? Let me count the ways...

  • The original 12cm air intake fan on the front of the case, which glows blue.
  • The additional 12cm air extraction fan I installed on the rear of the case, which glows blue.
  • The 12cm air intake fan on my new CoolerMaster RealPower 550-Watt power supply unit, which glows blue.
  • The power supply monitor panel nested in my case's 3.5" drive bay, which glows blue.
  • ... and, er, the 12" cold cathode tube I bought with the PSU and mounted on the floor of my case (look, it was fifteen bucks, and I was buying the PSU from PC Case Gear anyway, so I thouht, hey, why not). Which. You know. Glows blue.

February 13, 2007

My PC is on FIRE!

Well, it nearly was. Very nearly. You know that freezing problem I mentioned in that last post about the cooling fans I was buying? It didn't go away after I installed them. Instead, it started happening within five minutes of starting or resetting my PC. Every time. I thought it may have been the hard drive for a while, but I decided on Saturday to take my PC apart, clean the contacts and put it back together again - whereupon I discovered the burn marks on the earth contacts of my power supply. I immediately unscrewed it from the case, but I don't have another one of comparable wattage (or greater, as I'm pretty sure the burning was due to an underpowered system) to replace it - so until next pay, my PC is uttterly inactive.

Continue reading "My PC is on FIRE!" »

February 04, 2007

Final PC Quibbles

On a mentoring-unrelated note, we've had a little more trouble with our PCs over the last couple of days. The new fans went into our cases with little trouble, and when I transfer the guts of Karl's PC into his new case he'll have two 8cm blue LED fans, one on the side panel and one on the rear chassis for extraction. However, Vickie's Microsoft Natural keyboard, bought barely six months ago, started not responding to the "Favourite 1" key - then the "X" key - then the "P" key. I tried putting it on my PC, but to no avail. I'm going to truck it back into Harvey Norman sometime this week and see whether they can replace it.

Then my PC, which seemed to be running hotter than it was before I installed the extra 12cm fan - froze, then blue-screened last night. I had a look at the case - and wondered why there didn't seem to be much air coming out of the rear of it. Removal of the side-panel showed the cause - I'd put the new fan in back-to-front, so that it was sucking air (including hot air from the power supply's extraction fans) back into the case. A quick spin of the screw-gun saw the problem fixed, and now my PC case is very cool, literally and figuratively - the larger fan means a larger light, which means I can see my internal components through the side panel now!

January 28, 2007

Rita Coolage

I mentioned in a recent posting that Vickie's and my PCs are suffering in the Cairns heat. Here's what I've ordered to fix the problems and where I've ordered them from.

Continue reading "Rita Coolage" »

January 25, 2007

I'the Heat

Our computers have been suffering a bit lately. Vickie's has had some program instability and even blue screen trouble, while mine managed to lock itself up twice tonight. It's been pretty darned hot lately, which probably explains a lot; in fact, Vickie's CPU fan has been shutting down intermittently. I'm thankful that she's got that whopping great 12cm fan on her case's side panel; I dread to think how worse it could have been without it.

I've got a new CPU fan and heatsink on order. We were expecting it to arrive on Tuesday, but thanks to some warehousing problems and delays with the courier company, it'll be Monday before we actually get the damned thing.

I'm also thinking about upgrading my rear extraction fan from an 8cm to a 12cm fan. I'd like to get another blue-light fan, but I think those are a little hard to get a hold of at the moment (and more expensive), so a regular black fan will do. In the meantime, I've shifted my PC case such that the grille on the side panel is actually open to air, although still out of the main airflow.

January 14, 2007

Oh, Yeah, The New Addiction...

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. Oh, it rocks my socks in a way that no computer game since Dune II/2000 has. All of the skrimish goodness of regular Dawn of War plus a territory-based strategy game. None of this being stuck on one mission in a linear storyline bollocks! Losing is interesting again! I'm playing through as the Imperial Guard at the moment; I've obviously still got to get the hang of the Tau before I get serious with them.

I'm gonna have to get Cam, Gav and Tony back together again for some versus multiplayer...

December 14, 2006

Telstra, We've Had A Problem...

Something screwy is going on in our ADSL modem. Before I left for work yesterday morning, it was working fine; by the time Vickie got up and went to her PC, though, its "always-on" connection had switched off and powring the modem off and on again didn't get it back. It seemed like general network trouble, and the automated phone message Vickie received when she first called BigPond's tech support line mentioend there were problems, but we still couldn't connect after those were resolved.

I spent some time on the phone last night with Telstra BigPond's technical support to no avail; they've kicked the issue up to Level 2 tech support who'll get back to us in the next two business days. In the meantime, the only Internet access either of us has is my work access, which I must be careful with.

So if you don't see either of us on Skype, ICQ, Yahoo! or MSN over the next few days, or your e-mails go unanswered for a bit, we're not ignoring you.

You could, of course, give us a ring if you have our number...

December 09, 2006

Sorry, Chief; We're Hanging with Link Now

Here's something I never thought I'd write: Vickie wants a game console.

Yes, folks, read it again: My wife, Vickie, has actually expressed interest in owning a video game console: specifically, the Nintendo Wii. She mentioned it today, after stumbling across a video on NineMSN showing people playing various games using the Wii Remote. Vickie reckoned it looked like heaps of fun, and frankly, I can't really disagree with her. Much as I'd like to play Halo 3, it's the only reason I'm interested in an Xbox 360 (except, maybe, Halo Wars and Gears of War).

Continue reading "Sorry, Chief; We're Hanging with Link Now" »

December 05, 2006

Portforward.com

I think I might be making some headway in getting the Battlefield 2142 demo to work. After discovering a couple of threads that mentioned disabling your router’s firewall (not likely, chum), I decided to have a look at my router’s settings this morning in the hope of finding an alternative solution. When I saw the “port forwarding” settings, a lightbulb went on over my head. I ran a search for “’Battlefield 2142’ port forwarding” and this little gem of a website came up. I’ve followed its instructions, but didn’t have a chance to try BF2142 before I dashed off to work. I’ll give it a quick whirl this evening, though.

I’m also wondering whether there are any settings that will allow me to Direct Host a game of Dawn of War. Question answered: It does. And I just realised I set up all the port forwards for BF2142 wrong as well - the IP address has to be the static-IP address for my PC, not the router! Duh! Better get that fixed tonight...

December 03, 2006

Rebuild (Mostly) Complete

Well, folks, I bit the bullet and got stuck into rebuilding my PC. I started work on it late Friday night by backing up my documents and other critical files. I also burned a separate disc of "Rebuild Essentials", all those small apps that we use. I swapped "Spybot Search & Destroy" for Spyware Doctor; we had to pay a subscription fee, but it does a better job than Spybot, so we're happy.

Also helpful was the newly-accelerated ADSL plan we've upgraded to (at no extra charge); we're now back with the same speed we had when on cable at Normanhurst. Downloading all the post-Service Pack 2 patches and updates for Windows XP was a snap. Also, Vickie is definitely much less grumpy, although she's still awaiting my rebuild of her PC with baited breath.

Continue reading "Rebuild (Mostly) Complete" »

November 27, 2006

Reformat This Weekend

After collecting various CDs and apps of data, I've decided to reformat my hard drive and rebuild my PC this coming weekend (unless we have some major plans that I've forgotten about, but I think we'll mostly be shopping). The main factor in my decision is that, on December the first, our ADSLconnection will be going from 512/128 to 1500/256 at no extra charge. Seems Telstra, after declaring loudly and at great length that they give no shits about the bush, is scrambling to catch up with RAWNET and other ISPs who have taken advantage of a federal grant to develop regional broadband.

Then again, it's not exactly a difficult scramble. RAWNET has been advertising its upcoming ADSL2+ service for the last six months but its rollout has hit a few snags; the first accounts were originally meant to go live in September/October, yet now, we're getting RAWNET radio ads saying "RAWNET is behind the Cairns Taipans (basketball team)... and behind schedule!" (Yep, this is RWANET's own advertising.) In the meantime, various ISPs have started trumpeting their own enhanced ADSL services, although I've heard that it's basically the same old situation where the companies lease in buk from Telstra.

Regardless, it ought to mean nice, faster broadband for Vickie and I in but a few days' time (and faster broadband means a less grouchy Vickie). So, hopefully, I should be able to re-patch Windows XP SP2 in jig time - and maybe get some consistent play with the Battlefield 2142 Demo, which keeps losing connection to the EA master server in the middle of games.

November 12, 2006

Digital Wrecking Ball

I think it’s been three, maybe four years since I last reformatted and rebuilt the hard drive of either Vickie’s or my PC. During that time our PCs have been almost entirely replaced. Both Vickie’s and my motherboards and main processors were replaced in early 2005, I upgraded both our video cards a few months ago and I’ve replaced my sound card twice. Oh, and I finally got that CoolerMaster Ammo 533 case I’ve been hankering for six months or so ago, too. In that time, our hard drive builds have been ticking along fairly happily. I was expecting them to throw a fit after the mobo replacement, but they took even those drastic changes in their stride.

Still, with all the hardware and concurrent driver changes we’ve done in that time, I think it’s high time that I scrubbed our hard disks clean and rebuilt them from the ground up. Our PCs have been acting rather flaky over the past few months; every now and again, my DVD combo drive tray will close itself immediately after it opens and one of Vickie’s games – her favourite, in fact – suddenly decided to stop working. Also, ever since we got the Epson Stylus RX430 printer and connected it to Vickie’s PC, my PC has refused to recognise it, even going so far as to crash Word should I have the temerity to print a document. There haven’t been any new drivers for it since 2004, so there’s not much I can do, and product support has been useless.

Continue reading "Digital Wrecking Ball" »

November 04, 2006

Confidence Trick

Work’s been picking up quite a bit lately; with the impending seasonal Holiday, we’ve had sales reps out with clients and clients calling in for ad space. Since Wednesday things have been moving at a cracking pace – and I’m rather enjoying it, to be honest.

I think it has something to do with actually trusting myself with the authority I have. It may not seem like much, but a few days ago, while one of my team was asking me to do something, two others approached me for my time. I actually told them “Ladies, I need three minutes.” They both said, “Okay.” and went elsewhere. I got what the first person wanted done out of the way fairly quickly and followed up with the other two. A small thing, yes, but for someone who’s not the best at standing up for himself, it was a significant thing. I’ve been working through the past couple of days with quite a bit more confidence.

Continue reading "Confidence Trick" »

September 28, 2006

Holy Shit - Halo: The Console-Only RTS!

Just found out about this today: Microsoft and Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires) are working on a real-time strategy game set in in the Halo universe, and it's only coming out on the Xbox 360!

But that's not all, it seems: Peter Jackson is getting into the games business. He's started a company called Wingnut Interactive and has announced a project with Bungie that will create "another chapter in the Halo universe".

Intersting times for Halo...

July 25, 2006

Crane, Poole & Guild Wars

The weekend just gone was a long weekend for us up here because of the Cairns Show, which ran from July the nineteenth to the twenty-first. We were semi-planning to go, but Friday continued in the trend of a wet and miserable week, so neither of us felt like poking our noses out of the front door. I think I wound up playing quite a bit of Guild Wars; my Elementalist/Ranger is currently sitting on Level 9. I reckon I ought to take a rest so Dan can catch his Warrior/Necromancer up; some of the quests I’m taking are pretty damned tough, even with a complement of Level 6 NPCs backing me up.

Continue reading "Crane, Poole & Guild Wars" »

July 22, 2006

Tip Of The Day: Disk Cleanup Is A Frag Grenade

Here's a little lesson I learned this morning: If you're going to do some hard drive housekeeping, be sure to run Disk Cleanup's "Compress old files" facility before you run Disk Defragmenter. I spent a few hours last night doing it the other way around - I even left my PC on when I went to bed shortly after midnight so Disk Cleanup could finish doing its thing - and discovered this morning that my previously nicely-organised hard drive had become a sea of red fragmented sectors in Defrag's analysis report.

I mgiht even do two defrag runs just to make sure everything's in good order.

And maybe delete some hefty files.

May 11, 2006

Symbol of an Angel - or Entry to Hell?

"I have seen the future," I say, "and it has become my own."

You stand, casting your eyes over the blasted, desolate plain, and slowly turn toward the sound of my voice. I am there, covered in the wind-driven dust of this lifeless place.

"The visions were incomplete before," I say. "I thought I could avoid my terrible fate. But I have been offered a glimpse into what is truly to come, and there is no escape. I have accepted my destiny."

"Rob," you say, "You are a total sucker. Utter and total. Sucker. You do know it, don't you?"

I cast my eyes downward at the objects in my hands. In my left, like a white stone tablet, is an Xbox 360. In my right, a copy - quite probably the expensive collector's edition - of Halo 3.

"Yes," I reply with a sigh born of centuries of despair, my soul sold of my own free will to a merciless overlord (you might know him as Bill). "Yes, I do."

April 14, 2006

Shit. Yay! Shit.

An Easter Story: Folks, I have passed a milestone, I have endured a rite of passage, I have become, if you will, a man: I changed a tyre all on my own yesterday evening.

I went down into the casino parking lot last night after work to find the car listing over to one side. The back driver's side tyre was flat! (Shit #1.) Now, as I'd only brought the tyres back up to pressure a couple of weeks ago, I assume that there's some kind of puncture somewhere, although I've not checked yet. Anyway, as I was meant to pick Vickie up from the supermarket here in Gordonvale, I called her and let her know about the problem. Amongst other things, she told me to make sure that I tightened the nuts in an X pattern once I'd put the spare wheel on. So, I opened the boot, organised my tools and set to work.

I was getting worried when, after loosening two of four nuts, the third was absolutely refusing to budge; in fact, the handle of the ratchet wrench I was using was actually bending under the strain. Thankfully, Christine, a friend from work whom we will be visiting this Sunday for lunch, happened by, and she had one of those - you know, that tool that looks like an X, and at each point of the X there's a different socket? One of them - which made short work of that last argumentative nut.

After that, it was jack the car up (although I was worried that I didn't have any wheel chocks), remove the flat tyre (during which time Kristin from work, who's moving to Brisbane next week, drove by and asked what was up), put the spare wheel on (after unfastening the bolt that holds it down in the back of the car), tighten the nuts in an X pattern, secure the flat, put everything away again, went back up to the casino ground floor to wash my grimy hands, met Belinda from work who asked what I was still doing there, washed my hands, got into the lift, met Liz from work who asked what I was still doing there, got in my car and drove back to Gordonvale to pick Vickie up. (Yay!) Naturally, I had a nice shower after I got home; I must've left a gallon of sweat on the carpark concrete!

Continue reading "Shit. Yay! Shit." »

February 10, 2006

Nice Vista of the Halo, Chief

Microsoft has announced that the PC version of Halo 2 (Holy shit! They are doing one!) will only run on the latest, yet-to-be-released iteration of Microsoft's PC operating system, Windows Vista.

Continue reading "Nice Vista of the Halo, Chief" »

February 02, 2006

T3h N3ts b3 B4ck

I wound up going to Cairns Battery World, across the road from the Cairns Central shopping centre, after the Tandy there said they couldn't match our ADSL modem's 15Volt/1Amp AC adapter (it seems AC adapters with that high a voltage and amperage are as rare as hen's teeth). I wound up buying a 12V/1A adapter for a little over $20, and it appears to be doing a storming job of powering the ADSL modem.

Odd, but as the modem's ticking along fine with no apparent problems, I'm happy.

January 25, 2006

Sure Sign Vickie Is A Gamer, #12

Right at this moment, my Vickie is playing a game she downloaded from NineMSN, called Jewel Quest. According to her, she's been playing it since half past three today.

She has ignored the Santana CD I bought her earlier today.

She has missed dinner (which I bought for us from Red Rooster).

She is currently missing Judging Amy and may well miss Third Watch.

It'll be confirmed if I wake up tomorrow morning and she's still playing it.

January 06, 2006

Life is Live

I'd just like to direct your attention to a posting by my man Sallidar on his LJ regarding his own post-Xmas splurge. He's gone and bought himself an Xbox, and is considering various methods of connectiong to other players across the Internet. While he was considering Xbox Live, he wasn't really keen on a blind purchase of a 12-month subscription.

Thankfully, I had an unused 2-month Trial Subscription card that came with Crimson Skies, which is now on his way to him. With any luck, he'll be all hooked up with a gamertag by the middle of the week.

Now, I know there are a few of you out there with Xboxes, and I'm pretty sure most of you Xbox owners known to me also have broadband connections. My questions are:

  • Have any of you also subscribed to Live?
  • If so, would you be interested in hooking up with Salidar and myself (just a reminder: my gamertag is "Type 9") sometime soon (but no later than March)?

December 23, 2005

Cleaner and Quieter

The technically minded of you will be glad to know, I'm sure, that Vickie's 120mm fan grill was installed on her PC's side panel with no hitches (the operation was performed with her PC running). You may also be interested to discover, as I was, that it also seems to act as a muffler - her fan, running at full speed, makes roughly 1/3 of the noise it previously did.

December 21, 2005

More Case Options

I put in that order for the fan grille for Vickie's PC and a tube of decent thermal paste for the next time I have to clean the CPU heat sink with PC Case Gear. With any luck, it'll be delivered to our place on Friday. (Probably not, but I'm still hoping.)

While I was on their web site, I'd noticed they'd updated their specials. That GMC case I had my eye on was gone, but they'd replaced it and one of the other two special items with a pair of new cases, both of them intriguing - a 3R Systems Air case going for $80, and an A-Top Gladiator on sale for $90.

Continue reading "More Case Options" »

December 15, 2005

alienscp = imagines_au

I discovered last night that for some unknown reason, my "alienscp" Yahoo! ID has been deactivated. I've created a new ID, "imagines_au", and have re-signed up to IMAGinewS under it (thankfully, I promoted Vickie to list moderator not long after we moved in together, or else we'd all be stuffed). Also, if you Yahoo! Messenger users get a contact list request from "imagines_au", yes, it's me.

What's frustrating is that I don't know for sure why the account was deactivated. I have the feeling, though, that it might be to do with the Aliens-Cyberpunk 2020 conversion I used to have as my alienscp site (hence the choice of user-ID).

Continue reading "alienscp = imagines_au" »

December 14, 2005

Curse You, iTunes!

So I find out via SciFi.com Weekly's letters page that Apple has partnered with several US TV networks in order to allow you to download episodes of TV to your PC via Apple's iTunes service.

The good news is, one of the networks is NBC Universal, the company that owns the SciFi Channel - as a result, the second season of Battlestar Galactica is one of the shows available for download for US$1.99 per episode.

The bad news is, the only customers that Apple allows to download the shows are customers with an American billing address.

So close, yet so far away...

December 10, 2005

Case Options

Well, while having a break from getting ready for tonight's Pre-Christmas Bash '05, I had a browse of PC Case Gear. I'm planning to put an order in for that 12cm fan grille after my next pay, but a couple of other things have caught my eye.

Continue reading "Case Options" »

November 20, 2005

Raiders, Te-en SHUN!

Here they are: the 63rd Riverstone Raiders, my Imperial Guard army paint scheme for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault and some of the hardest bastards to serve the Emperor of Man in the dark and distant future.

Continue reading "Raiders, Te-en SHUN!" »

November 19, 2005

Palm Pilots and Riverstone Raiders

My Palm III is working again, complete with an OS upgrade from 3.0 to 3.3. Its still way behind the modern units, but frankly I think itll do what I need it to which isnt much really just fine. (Turns out there was a serial port on my PC, so now I have a dual-serial-port adapter that I dont need. Ill ask Paul about returning it.) A few Thunderbird plug-ins have allowed me to sync the Palm III with my Mozilla Address Book, so I have names, addresses and phone numbers readily available. Ive also bought some rechargeable AAAs, so hopefully I shouldnt be spending heaps on new batteries every so often.

Continue reading "Palm Pilots and Riverstone Raiders" »

November 15, 2005

They'd better make an Xbox port, null unit.

With major thanks to the lads at Penny Arcade for passing the news on - in musical form, no less - I'd just like to let people know that the sequel to the hit PlayStation 2 game Kingdom Hearts (which successfully merged the worlds of the earlier Final Fantasy games and the cartoons of Disney) will feature a jaunt into the Electronic World, including a guest appearance by none other than TRON himself!

Don't believe me? Check out these photos!

I'll probably wind up camped out in front of someone else's PS3...

November 08, 2005

Dust Busting

I was awaiting the arrival of the new parts for my PC last night with not a little trepidation; I knew that in order to perform the upgrade, I'd have to open up my case and view the horrors lurking within. My fears were right: A whole family of midget dust-bunnies had taken up residence inside my case. Not only that but all of the fans - intake, extractors, power supply, CPU cooling, GPU cooling - were caked in dust (the clear extractor fans weren't clear, they were brown), and there was a thin layer of it across the motherboard. The Bruce Highway might only be two lanes, and we're not living right on the corner of it, but we still get a significant amount of dust from it through the place. (Then there's what the cane mill down the road puts into the air...) I cleaned, brushed and vacuumed my case out (not to mention taking several cotton tips to the various fans) before installing the RAM and SoundBlaster.

Continue reading "Dust Busting" »

November 04, 2005

Crash Boom Bang

I seem to be having some problems with our brand new printer. Aside from some early arguments with PrintMaster, Vickie's had no problem with it.

However, when I fire up Word 2000, it'll crash within a minute to a minute and a half, generating one of those "Microsoft Word has generated an error and has to close" messages. Adobe Reader 7 does the same whenever I try to print from it, and if I print from Word, the whole application simply disappears without even an error message. Just gone.

I've had no luck searching the Internet for similar problems, so I've gone to Epson's tech support site and filled out their customer service form. Here's hoping they can get back to me soon.

October 30, 2005

Slightly Better Day

Took the Netgear wireless game adapter back to Hardly Normal today and got a refund, $20 of which I then spent on 20 metres of Cat5 network cable. We had a big supermarket shopping trip, and got back in about twenty minutes ago. I've ran the cable from the router, down the hall, across the dining room floor, down the steps and behind the TV cbainet. Made it with at least a metre of slack.

Right now, the Xbox is patching itself from the Live servers. (Woohoo!) Interesting that the $170 solution failed when the $20 solution presented no problems. Draw from that what you will.

Sometime very soon, I'll be taking drill and hole-saw to the living room wall and the computer room floor, then crawling under the house with the cable, a hammer and some staples and get that Cat5 cable out of the way.

Plus, the subwoofer's up again. I'm thinking of getting someone in to look at it anyway, but I think the solution is to switch it off at the main switch at the back every evening.

Oh, and I bought Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" on single. That song always cheers me up.

October 29, 2005

Sometimes I Hate Gadgets...

Earlier today, I was thinking today's post was going to be one of those I'm Weak posts, you know, how I'd been swearing off buying something I wanted only to not so guiltily splurge on it after all? Heh. Yeah.

So Vickie and I are on a gardening shopping trip today and I casually mention dropping into Hardly Normal. I'd been playing Halo 2 earlier on, and one of the "while you're waiting" videos that plays when you leave it on the startup screens shows a flash of some cool-looking multiplayer. And The Itch set in. Bugger waiting for the Xbox 360, I wanted some of that cool multiplayer stuff!

Continue reading "Sometimes I Hate Gadgets..." »

October 23, 2005

Xbox 360: No Rush.

And finally tonight: Drawing the Xbox threads from today's previous posts out, I've quickly looked into the sequel console, the Xbox 360. The official website says that the new console isn't due in Australia until early next year. Some of you have probably already heard that it comes in two flavours; the bells-and-whistles flavour and the stripped down, bare-bones flavour, which some are already claiming is a hobbled version of the complete console (somewhat unsurprising, as the basic unit doesn't come with a hard drive).

Continue reading "Xbox 360: No Rush." »

Mysterious Resurrection

Oh, by the way: I don't know whether I mentioned this when it happened - I believe I didn't - but the subwoofer of our Novo speaker set started refusing to work about six months ago, thus denying the satellites power. After letting it sit in the corner for all that time, I decided to try it out again - and all of a sudden, it works! (I dunno, maybe it was working fine all along, or it fixed itself at some time during those intervening months.) Which means we're back with surround sound!

No, I couldn't do a warranty return - Novo, the company that sold (and possibly made) them doesn't exist any more, and neither does the Rock Group, the local distributor.

While the Novo speaker suite was out, I also discovered how to turn Dolby Digital on in the Xbox. Now it's back up, I've started playing Halo through again - and the difference is astonishing.

Also, I've noticed that with the setting on, the "Dolby Digital" light on the Creative DDTS-100 decoder (which turns the signal into analog channels for the speaker set) stays switched on. I've also noticed that it doesn't do the same when I play a Dolby Digital DVD through the DVD player. The difference between the two is that the Xbox is connected to the decoder via a fibre optic cable while the DVD player uses a coaxial cable. Maybe I need to get another FO cable? They're not that expensive...

October 15, 2005

Palm III/Firebird Synch-Up

While we're on the general topic of PDA synchronisation, does anyone know if it's possible to synch a Palm III (yes, yes, old tech, I know) with Mozilla's Firebird and/or Sunbird programs? If so, how would I go about doing it? I've not used my Palm III in over four years, out of frustration with its incompatibilities with Outlook. I'm wondering whether Mozilla is a bit more interoperable.

[UPDATE 15 Oct 05 9:00 PM:] Actually, don't worry about it; I discovered tonight that my PC doesn't have a serial port that I can connect my Palm III's HotSync cable to. I did a quick search, and most USB-to-serial port adapters cost around $60; also, it seems the software that governs them can be a bit finicky. So I'll leave it.

October 08, 2005

Incoming Upgrade

Well, a nice bidder on eBay met my asking price of $200 for the NetRunner cards. I was hoping to get a bit more - especially as the number of people watching the auction went from 3 to 5 to 9 to 12 to 14 and, at one point, all the way up to 15 before dropping back to 14 and holding there until the end of the auction, but no one else put a bid down.

I suppose having the auction end at half past midnight on Sunday didn't help, but still.

So, I've got a little spare cash. A lot of it's going on some fresh veg and seafood this week, but after next pay I'm planning on upgrading my PC from 512MB to 1GB of RAM, plus maybe Winter Assault. (Is anyone else still playing Dawn of War?)

I'm thinking of auctioning off my Feng Shui books to pay for the Serenity RPG and some more dice. (Boy, does Dogs in the Vineyard need lots of dice...)

Continue reading "Incoming Upgrade" »

October 01, 2005

OpenID and TypeKey

I'd noticed this "OpenID" thing suddenly appearing on LiveJournal comment pages a few weeks ago. It was some sort of identity-verifying service for commenting, but as it seemed I might need yet another user-ID and password to get it to work (and I have more than enough of those already), I decided not to bother.

A little more investigation ths morning showed that it was much simpler: a URL-verification system for commenting that only needs the URL in question to link back to an OpenID server - which is intended to be open source freeware. Six Apart have set one up as part of their TypeKey service (which as an MT user I've signed up for), so it means I can my website as an LJ comment user-ID instead of just leaving anonymous comments!

September 11, 2005

The Escapist

Thanks to Allen Varney and EvilHayama for both pointing me in the direction of this online magazine. Allen mentioned it generally on the Paranoia web log a few weeks ago, but Hayama linked me to it via ICQ this morning. It's an online periodical dedicated to examining the computer and video gaming phenomenon as a whole, rather than the usual news/ reviews sites and magazines available.

Surprisingly, several big names of the RPG industry contribute; the latest issue contains the second half of an article on destroying the computer game retail system as it exists, written by no less than Greg Costikyan, and previous issues include articles by such luminaries as Warren Spector and Allen Varney, as well as an ongoing column by John Tynes. It's well worth a read.

September 10, 2005

Spring Assault

Winter Assault, the expansion pack for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, is due to hit stores in a few days time. Now, whether I actually need it is another question. I was playing Dawn of War fairly often a few months ago, but today is the first time I put the Dawn of War disc back in the hard drive since then.

Still, a few of my friends have been looking forward to Winter Assault for a little while, which might prompt a renewal of interest. I also ran into an ex-Dads Army clan member who also likes his Dawn of War, but interestingly enough hadnt heard about Winter Assault.

Continue reading "Spring Assault" »

July 24, 2005

sprintlink.net

Since yesterday morning Vickie and I have been unable to access certain sites that we regularly frequent. Whenever we attemp to browse to them, our browsers sit trying to load, only to be told that "The page cannot be accessed." or "The operation timed out when attempting to contact".

We had a fossick with our system settings, but nothing seemed to work. So I decided to be a little clever and run a traceroute. For those of you who don't know it, it's a program you access via the Windows command prompt. Like the ping command, it measures the time taken to get from your PC to another system. Traceroute (or tracert), though, actually lets you know every router that the Internat packet sent by your PC passes through along the way to its destination. Each site that we couldn't visit seems to go through one particular set of routers before it comest to a screaming, "Response Timed Out" halt, and those routers all belong to sprintlink.net. None of the sites we can get to route through Sprint servers.

Continue reading "sprintlink.net" »

June 18, 2005

Skype

Staying on the general topic of PCs, I just have to say that I quite like the Skype voice-over-IP application that Lauren recommended to me. I dont know whether it works alongside an active game Lauren assures me it does but the overall quality for straight peer-to-peer chat is very good, better than a telephone.

Continue reading "Skype" »

April 24, 2005

Warhammer 40,000: Eldar Miniatures

After playing a little more Dawn of War with Boots today, I started trying to remember some of the elements of the paper game; specifically, which of the Eldar Aspect Warriors don't appear in Dawn of War. I readily remembered the Dire Avengers, a souped-up version of the basic Guardian foot trooper, but couldn't remember whether there were more.

This afternoon, the name "Striking Scorpion" came to me, something to do with close combat. I did a Google search and turned up Peter Kofler's wonderful web page with pictures of almost all the miniatures available to the Eldar. I realised that, not only had I forgotten the Scorpions, but also the Fire Dragons and the Swooping Hawks. Also, it seems that another Aspect has been added since I stopped paying attention to the Warhammer 40,000 army lists some years ago: a vehicle-based Aspect known as the Shining Spear.

Actually, forget all the above blathering; just go and have a look. The paint jobs on these miniatures are fantastic (I have the feeling the pics are scans from Games Workshop books and magazines). While you're at it, check out the other sides from Dawn of War; specifically, the Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines and (it now belongs to da) Orks. (Not to mention all the other sides available in 40K!)

You can see why I was contemplating getting back into 40K before I decided moving to Cairns would be the better idea...

March 30, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies And Dawn of War

For anyone who's interested: My Dawn Of War online match statistics.

Continue reading "Lies, Damn Lies And Dawn of War" »

March 28, 2005

Warriors of the Kara-Thenn Craftworld

Speaking of Dawn of War, I've been doing a little more monkeying around in Paint Shop Pro (with thanks to some instruction from the Relic Entertainment Forums) and have finally come up with a personalised logo and banner for my Eldar army.

Eldar Guardians of the Kara-Thenn Craftworld

Continue reading "Warriors of the Kara-Thenn Craftworld" »

March 15, 2005

Spore

Now, I know there are at least a few Sims-heads on the IMAGinewS group, and probably a lot among you silent several out there. So what do you make of word on the latest game that Wil Wright is cooking up? GameSpy did a whole article on the damned thing, and it seems to be more about custom content than anything else.

Actually, let's be fair here. What it seems to be about to me is more than just skins. It seems to be more about effectively creating your own game, a custom content comcept right down to the very code. This looks very interesting - and if it can be made to work as Wright intends, it looks to be an interesting alternative to the multimillion-dollar budget games we're seeing nowadays.

Continue reading "Spore" »

March 07, 2005

Well, duh.

Finally figured out what was wrong with my copy of Trillian. See, the main Contact List window disappeared a few months ago. My PC was acting as if it was on-screen somewhere - but it wasn't, aside from on the taskbar, and even when I used its taskbar icon to minimise and maximise it, it still wouldn't show up. I tried uninstalling and re-installing, to no avail. I wound up switching back to using the ICQ and Microsoft Messenger clients separately, until the latest version of Trillian came out. Hoping that would fix my problems, I tried installing it. No luck; same problem.

Continue reading "Well, duh." »

February 20, 2005

Moving In: They Glow Blue!

A week after we moved in, I felt confident in actually doing something with our PCs. Vickies son-in-law, Paul, runs a small IT business in Cairns, and loaned us a 17 monitor while shopping for a good price on a 19 for Vickie.

On the day I got the PCs up and running, I left my PC on all day, with a paused game of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War running while we were out. A while after we got back in and I started playing again, the PC crashed and wouldnt even get past the IDE drive search sequence when I tried to re-boot.

Continue reading "Moving In: They Glow Blue!" »

January 07, 2005

In 2005, I Absolutely Avoid Resolving To...

Well, its the beginning of the year, which means resolutions. Ive been thinking a bit about what I want to do with it and myself in it. Im hoping that getting away from some of my troubles down here and moving to a nicer environment will help me focus on what I really want to do; as I (hopefully) wont trying to distract myself from unpleasantness half the time, Ill be able to realise whats really pleasant (like, I hope, hard work).

Being the materialistic sod I am, of course, Ive also been thinking about the things Id like to splurge on should I get some disposable income. These purely materialistic and utterly selfish but god, what fun they are, eh?

Continue reading "In 2005, I Absolutely Avoid Resolving To..." »

December 10, 2004

A Solution to the Surround Sound Stumper?

Interestingly enough, it was a piece of comment spam that hipped me to the little gadget that could be the solution to my surround sound problem. I had around five spams to clean off the web log this evening, and one was entitled "Creative Labs Creative DDTS-100 Decoder". My interest was immediately piqued. If anyone would have an unamplified digital decoder, I figure it would have to be Creative, makers of sound cards and PC surround sound speakers (which are also powered by an amp in the subwoofer).

I cleaned off the comment spam, but immediately went to Creative's web page and started browsing. Sure enough, the dingus exists, and if the online PDF manual is any indication (which it jolly well should be), it does look as though it will accept digital input from several sources and output it to unamplified 5.1.

A few Australian web retailers sell the gadget at around $300-350, which is still $150-200 cheaper than the lowest commercial hi-fi amplifier/receiver/decoder.

So, yeah, Boots: Any chance yould order me one of these with the Netgear wireless bridge after Christmas, mate? Buddy? Pal? Absolutely awesome, y' know, righteous dude? (Is this enough sucking up? I can always provide more...)

November 16, 2004

Busted!

Damn you, Master Chief!

November 15, 2004

Surround Sound Stumper

[UPDATE December 10th:] It looks as though I may have found a solution to this little problem!

We have a slight digital media puzzle that I'm hoping the IMAGinES community could help solve.

As part of our effort to reduce the overall volume/weight of furniture we're hauling to Cairns, Vickie and I recently bought a set of 5.1 speakers. Their overall weight is lighter than the combined weight of our twenty-year-old Marantz speakers and amplifier, and they'll take up much less room once re-packed.

Needless to say, Ive been looking forward to getting surround sound from my DVD player and Xbox for a while. Right after we purchased the set, though, I realised that it doesnt have input ports for digital, just a pair of regular RCA stereo inputs and a set of RCA 5.1 inputs.

This presents some problems.

Continue reading "Surround Sound Stumper" »

November 07, 2004

The Wireless Age

Well, with thanks to Jason for making the money available and to Boots for the expertise, Vickie and I have finally splashed out on a Wireless router. It's a Netgear WGR614, and aside from an IP address conflict during setup (which Boots was able to highlight), it's doing its job fantastically.

Continue reading "The Wireless Age" »

November 06, 2004

What's The Sims (2) For You?

Now, I'd say most of you know that I'm not really a The Sims guy. I bought SimCity 3000 at one point in the vain hope of rekindling my old addiction to the original SimCity, and I enjoy the odd eighteen holes (both building and playing) of SimGolf. But the thought of The Sims never really did it for me. I think I found the general idea a little too daytime soap opera for my tastes.

Continue reading "What's The Sims (2) For You?" »

October 31, 2004

Ooooh, that's a burn!

Yeah, click on this link and scroll down until you get to Rumour #5.

To quote Steely Dan, "All I could say was Ouch!"

October 02, 2004

It's Done.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the gaming (specifically, the Xbox) community: Bungie have announced the completion of development on Halo 2. It still has to go through the Release to Certification process, but basically the game itself is finished.

Which is good, as they have one month and a week to dupe it, manufacture it and distribute it to the US and Australia.

Anyway, on that note I'm off to do some shopping. Dan and the lads will be piling over for the next session of Bubblegum Crisis and we need to get some shopping out of the way first.

And to all our fellow New South Welshmen, enjoy your Labour Day Long Weekend!

September 23, 2004

The New PS2

Sony has just released details of their redesigned, smaller Playstation 2. It appears to be less than half the size of the original design, apparently without sacrificing any functionality.

One wonders whether Microsoft will consider a similar re-design of the Xbox, or even incorporate the idea into its next console?

September 13, 2004

Grand Theft Auto 3 vs. Privateer

NOTE: A slightly different version of this post has gone up on my GameSpot journal.

Many moons ago, back when I bought Grand Theft Auto III, I promised that Id give a report on my impressions. Well, its been what, three four months? since I bought it, and Ive clocked up ten hours on the game in total, if that. Frankly, while I was impressed at first, I round up rather blah about the game quite quickly.

Continue reading "Grand Theft Auto 3 vs. Privateer" »

September 08, 2004

Oh God, do I want this game.

Just read ye GameSpot's review of Burnout 3: Takedown.

August 31, 2004

Evil Genius

Here's a little something (well, I suppose 194 megabytes isn't exactly small) I downloaded and tried this evening. It's the demo for a PC game called Evil Genius. Basically, it takes the course-building gameplay of SimGolf and throws in some Austin Powers kitsch, turning it into SimWelcomeToMyUndergroundLair. You're an Evil Genius bent on global domination, and you just can't bring the free world to its knees without a base to do your plotting and scheming from.

The first stage shown off in the demo quite a bit of fun. Base building is pretty easy, as is minion and henchman management. I had a little trouble with training at first, but fixed that once I made a sizeable training facility. There's a whimsical sense of humour saturating this game - after all, how many other minions include the Moonwalk in their interrogatory repertoire?

Evil Genius hits shelves soonish, and I wouldn't mind gettng my mitts on it. Still, there's also Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, which is doing the rounds with Boots, Dan, Gav and myself at the moment, and Halo 2 on their way. Oh, the agony of a limited budget...

July 15, 2004

Planning for Wireless

I've been planning, on and off, to make some changes to our local network here at Fraser Road for a while. The current networking setup does the job, but not too drastically well; as Vickie's PC is both the pass-through for the Internet connection and the printer share, she takes performance hits on certain applications - most notably, the Java games on Popcap she enjoys playing - whenever I print, and sometimes when I'm surfing also. I've been wanting to take that load off of Vickie's PC for a while, but the money which could have gone toward the re-work has either gone on Madam Lash, bills or other personal fripperies (like Hero System 5th Edition and Knights of the Old Republic, which I have to get back into).

Continue reading "Planning for Wireless" »

July 03, 2004

It's Necromunda meets octaNe. In an UT2K4 Mod.

Seriously. Just look at those screenshots. I mean, when I saw this, I thought, "Now this is the Wastelands of octaNe. But when I saw this, I thought, "Ahh, but these guys look like Goliath gangers from Necromunda. Even the terrain looks like something scratch-built for it!"

Makes me interested in getting Unreal Tournament 2004...

(Thanks to Penny Arcade for the linkage.)

May 26, 2004

Cyclones are cool.

I've always believed that and probably always will; that's why I'm so jazzed at the announcement of Robotech: Invasion for the Xbox and PS2. While it's by the same crew that made the somewhat sub-par Robotech: Battlecry, but the screenies look good (no more of that cel-shaded crap), and the initial reports seem promising.

Well, I take that bit about cel-shading back; it did look very in-genre for the game. I just wish the rest of the package had been better.

May 21, 2004

What Would You Prefer - Yellow Spandex?

I'm sorry, I know this is posting from work, but I just had to let you all know about this thing I found during my lunch break as soon as possible. Once again, mad props go to The 20' By 20' Room for linking to a new gaming blog, Gamethink. I specifically wish to draw your attention to this posting by contributor E. Burns, where he expounds on why the character creation system for the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game City of Heroes is quite simply the best ever for any superhero RPG, whether computer or tabletop, and why it ought to be stole - (ahem) licensed by tabletop RPG companies as the character-portrait part of their computer-assisted creation programs.

You'll see my thoughts on the posting in the seventeenth comment. But look at the character pictures that E. Burns links to. Just look at them! The captions are worth the price of admission!

May 15, 2004

RIFTS on the N-Gage

Some interesting news from E3. There's been talk of movies and computer games based on Palladium Books' RIFTS universe for ages. Now, it's official: A RIFTS game will be published - on the Nokia N-Gage platform.

Very little info is available on the game; no screenies or video just yet. Still, there's GameSpot's E3 interview with Palladium honcho Kevin Siembieda, who's understandably pleased.

May 13, 2004

The Virus Is Spreading

First, there was the PC game.

Then, the mobile phone game.

Next, an Xbox version.

A Mac port.

And now, Tron 2.0 is coming to the GameBoy Advance.

All I can say is, I hope the franchise takes off in a big way!

May 11, 2004

A Guilded Halo

Two interesting pieces of computer game-related news today:

  • A couple of days ago, I made mention of the Guild Wars E3 Trial. It turns out the buggers have decided to roll a day early! That's right; if you've downloaded the Guild Wars client (which is actually very small; you can even e-mail it to friends) you can log on and play the game right now! But you only have until the end of E3, so get in quick!
  • After god knows how much prevaricating, Bungie and Microsoft have finally released a date for Halo 2; the Xbox game will be in stores on November the 9th (no idea whether that's worldwide or just US). Not only that, but they're releasing the game in a limited edition metal box, with an additional DVD with making-ofs, featurettes, art galleries and other assorted stuffs. It's mine, even if I have to pre-order.

May 08, 2004

Guild Wars

I think some of you have already heard of Guild Wars, a new massively-multiplayer game by some of the guys who created and managed Battle.Net, the online service Blizzard uses to run Internet games of StarCraft, WarCraft and Diablo. It's more of a tactical battle game than a roleplaying game, but it does look to have a certain elegant simplicity.

With this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo coming up, the Guild Wars team are offering everyone a chance to hop into the Alpha version of the game for a few days. You have to sign in and download the client, but the client is actually a rather light downlaod; in fact, it seems the meat of the client downloads itself on the fly as needed!

The game will only be available from May 12th to 14th - so, I imagine the evening of May 12th until the evening of May 15th for us OzBods. Anyone interested?

April 29, 2004

Battlefield Australia Website Is Live!

After long and mostly unknown hours of toil, Plunkotica of the Battlefield Australia forum has re-established the official Battlefield Australia web site! Won't you do the clicky thing and check it out?

April 28, 2004

When's [DA]? Wednes[DA]!

I just wanted to use that sometime...

Anyway, if you're online and feel in the mood for some Battlefield 1942, come track Boots or myself down; we'll probably be spending most of our time on the Xtra servers. Or, just look us up on Xfire!

April 27, 2004

First WAN Party [DA] A Success

WAN Party [DA] went off with nary a hitch yesterday (barring a cable drop-out or two in the afternoon/evening). It started slow, with some forgetting to set their alarm clocks and not getting up until ten, which was the start time (well, the approximate start time, anyway). Gaming started with Battlefield 1942, of course, staying mainly on the Xtra servers in New Zealand. TeamSpeak and Xfire yet again proved their usefulness as aids of team organisation, the first being extremely useful within the game and the second invaluable for getting people into the game. It was also nice to actually chat with the people I was playing with. The Cazman came along for a while before he went to work, and brought his mate SuPR@, a.k.a. The Other Rob with him.

At around one thirty things began to tail off a bit as people went to get lunch, and I used the opportunity to set the Unreal Tournament 2004 Demo up on Vickies PC. With my connection it turned out to be a rather handy dedicated server for a small volume of people. Unfortunately, we never had more than five people on we were down to myself, Boots, Gav, Dan and SuPR@ - and that made the team-based modes like Assault, Onslaught and Bombing Run rather unbalanced. Still, it was fun, and I noticed that the high-speed visuals werent making me sim-sick as I was expecting. Im thinking of investing in UT2004 before my birthday, especially as its $20 cheaper than Battlefield Vietnam at retail, but it depends on general interest within Dads Army: Id prefer to be able to play alongside/against people I know, and the [DA] crew are a pretty damned good bunch.

After a couple of hours of UT2004 Demo the same maps over and over get a little boring we switched back to Battlefield 1942. There was some talk about playing some mods fan-developed modifications to the basic Battlefield 1942 gameplay but as some of us either didnt have the mod software (and some of the mods in question were over a gigabyte to download) things started to tail off. I pretty much left when Vickie got back home from work, and Dan dropped by to pick up the Forgotten Hope total conversion mod, which Id burned onto two CDs for him. Still, wed had about six hours of gameplay. Im still trying to figure out whether it was worth the lack of exercise, but it was definitely fun, and Id like to do it again sometime.

Anyway, tomorrow night is Wednes[DA] Night, of course, so if you feel like some more Battlefield 1942 action, look for the users with the [DA] clan tag on Xfire or check out the Battlefield Australia forum.

April 23, 2004

Wednes[DA] and Anzac WAN Party [DA]

It looks as though Wednesday evenings have become the game time of choice for the Battlefield 1942 clan known as Dad's Army. Pretty much every week has seen a fairly regular crew of four to six players join up on a server and kick some arse.

It's actually been quite easy for us to do so and more fun than I would have expected, thanks mainly to two free programs:

Continue reading "Wednes[DA] and Anzac WAN Party [DA]" »

April 18, 2004

If Someone Had Told Tycho And Gabe...

... back in mid-November 1998, when the first Penny Arcade strip went online, that in a little under six years' time, they'd be hosting and running their own industry convention, how do you think they would have reacted?

April 16, 2004

Let's See What The Shouting's About...

The local Electronics Boutique stores are shifting some of their old stock in a 2 for $50 deal. Most of the heavy bargains have probably been snapped up by now, but you might still find something for the PC, PS2, GameCube or Xbox you've had your eye on for a while now going cheap.

As for me, I thought Brook would like one of The Sims' expansion packs. I checked with her, and she doesn't have Superstar yet, so I snagged that - and after humming and hawing over Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (Xbox), Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (Xbox) andd Freedom Fighters (PC), I decided to investigate the cause of all the controversy lately and picked up Grand Theft Auto III for the PC. Yes, I know there's a double-pack of GTA3 and Vice City out for the Xbox, but I got one game for $25 instead of both for $100, and I can always wait for the price to come down on Vice City - assuming I like GTA3 enough. (Heck, I'm already starting to wonder whether I should've scooped Freedom Fighters instead.)

I'll probably post my impressions in a week or so.

March 23, 2004

Remind me to stay the heck away from the Cajun Sausage and Beans.

That was the lesson I took away from the anniversary dinner Vickie and I had at the New Orleans Caf on Saturday evening. I thought I could handle them - Vickie's been slowly upping the spice content in my food for the past three years - but although it wasn't too strong, the sheer quantity of hot stuff in the main course I had was overpowering. Next time, I'll stick with the chicken.

It was a great, relaxing evening out for the both of us, even if the waiter did bring our main out before we'd even finished our entre (he did apologise later). We sat there for ages after we'd done with our food (I say done with, not necessarily finished) and compared notes on the clothing and styles (or lack thereof) of the Saturday evening Crows Nest crowd. I tell you, if someone had told me this time last year that I would soon be able to converse fairly fluently on style and fashion, even with Vickie, I'd have looked at that person blankly.

It's all the fault of that bloody show, you know. Vickie and I positively loeve it to bits, and we loathe most reality shows (although I suppose this is more in the vein of Burkes' Backyard or Ground Force; a lifestyle show). I even own the book, and have given it at least one thorough read-through. I've started using facial cleanser and exfoliant, I went through my drawers and wardrobe, reorganising both (I keep forgetting just how many good shirts I have) and I've even annoyed Vickie with talk of re-arranging our main room (of course, we can't afford the required furniture right now, what with rego and green-slip just paid). It's scary: by the time Aussie Queer Eye gets going (if it ever gets going), I won't need to call on the Local Fab 5 for assistance!

Then again, considering my track record, I might.

Got the Ryobi line-trimmer back from Butler & Smith yesterday; even though it wasn't a warranty fix (we have no idea where the purchase docket is), they put it back together for free. I'll likely be taking to the garden with it this weekend. Did I mention earlier that the Ryobi is our third line trimmer? Our third? Our first oen was a fairly cheap Razorback, which used an odd bump-spool head which was a royal pain to re-spool with new line. The second was a medium-sized Ryobi with disposable spool head, but we suddenly discovered that, while it seemed a bargain when we bought it at the Macquarie Centre, no one stocked the correct replacement spools after a couple of months. So you can imagine our joy and delight when the Big-Arse Ryobi (I mean that literally; it's a large electric job with a hefty motor at the back) suddenly fell neatly into three (the drive-train came spiralling out of the shaft when the head fell off), possibly four (if you count the absent screw) pieces? I'm sure you can, especially if you've ever done a from-scratch installation fo Windows XP, or even Linux in the early days before the fancy GUI distributions, when you were just learning how the command prompt worked. You'd know that wonderful feeling of "Oh, no not again" whenever you witnessed your installation halt with a Blue Screen of Death or kernel compiler error.

My Battlefield 1942 play is picking up quite a bit. Boots and Gav directed me to the forum for the slowly-rebuilding Battlefield Australia clan. We tried, with moderate success, to get together for a couple of games last week; we're having another go tomorrow evening, if there's a server around with enough free spaces and a low ping. I've downloaded a couple of pieces of software at the suggestion of the BFAU guys that come in quite handy when organising and playing games; Teamspeak, which is sort of like Internet Relay Chat with voice instead of keystrokes (it'll even run in the background while your game's up, making co-ordination and tactics so much easier), and All Seeing Eye, a competitor for game-matching programs like GameSpy Arcade that has a free trial version. It's very natty, in that it allows you to queue for an empty spot on any given server.

March 19, 2004

Anyone Want Tribes 2?

I just did a clean-off of the computer games shelf in the computer room, mainly taking down those game boxes I don't need any more (like the double-ups of Neverwinter Nights and Shadows of Undrentide and the boxes for MechCommander and X-Wing Alliance). I also had a look at what games I want and don't want, and as the title of this post indicates, I'm looking to offload Tribes 2. You'll get the full-size original retail box (slightly battered), the original game media and manual, the Official Tribes 2 Prima Strategy Guide and - if you ask nicely - a CD-R with the latest patch update (roughly 90MB) burned onto it.

It's free to a good home, but if you absolutely must offer me fiscal compensation, $15 wouldn't go astray.

March 06, 2004

Warthog Launch

Speaking of Jared Sorensen, I found a link to this addictive little Flash game on his blog. Go play it. You'll like it, especially if you've ever played Halo.

February 01, 2004

Poor Little Bugger...

You'd think that Halo would be one of the more popular games in this household. I'm sure you're as surprised as I was to find out that's not the case.

You see, Vickie likes the Grunts. She becomes quite upset when I run around as the Master Chief, blowing the poor little guys away. The fact they're part of a genocidal alien coalition intent on the destruction of the Human Race makes no difference; they're just those little cute guys who I'm always so mean to.

Ergo, I've found the perfect birthday present for her.

January 31, 2004

Damn You, Murphy!

The Battlefiled 1942.au segment of the IMAGinewS Group isn't having much luck at the moment. Last night, the new power supply had arrived and I was trying to get it into Vickie's PC, get her settings, documents, e-mail history, favourites and applications transferred over/re-installed (don't anyone mention the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard to me; every time I tried to extract the image of Vickie's PC I'd created with it, it "encountered a problem and had to close"), get the 'Net connection up and then, maybe, get a game of Battlefield 1942 in afterward. Trust me, Hell hath no fury like a grumpy Vickie without a PC. Not good for our Rob. ;-)

It was something like 10.30 before I had Vickie's PC in something closely resembling operating status. Gav had dropped over earlier to pick up his RvB DVD, and was back home spoiling for a game. Dan was also keen to connect up. However, for some unknown reason, Dan's installation of BF42 refused to go looking for a list of servers, even with his firewall turned off. By the time we gave up on it and I sent Gav an e-mail (that place he's sharing with EvilHayama must be smack in the middle of a Vodafone blackspot or something; I can barely ever reach him on his mobile when he's there), he was ready to crash out.

I figured I'd catch up with Gav this morning, so I e-mailed him again - and the tray of his CD/DVD drive had chosen this very morning to stick open. Even if he closed it manually, it'd pop back open again. Battlefield 1942 needs one of the game discs in an optical drive before it will let you play it.

And to top it all off, Boots has buggered off to Byron Bay. He'll be back sometime next Friday, I think.

Bugger.

Gav's going to have to call Dell and get their "next business day" onsite response. Then again, he's making noises about an upgrade, so it might be a bit longer before his machine is back in business...

Maybe I'll be able to hook up with the Cazman, if I'm lucky.

I've been getting some action in, though, on the OzForces.com Battlefield 1942 server (203.17.15.220). It's pretty good; a nice low ping and a decent crowd of gamers.

Vickie and I are going to dash up to the Central Coast tomorrow; we have a long-overdue Christmas present to give to some relatives up there.

January 28, 2004

I'm On the Battlefield

Well, just a day after writing that I couldn't find any copies of Battlefield 1942 Reload anywhere, I wandered into the Dick Smith Electronics nearest my work looking for some case fan cables and found a copy (full-size box) sitting innocuously on the shelf.

Needless to say, it is mine. I hope to join the Cazman, Dan, Boots and Gav online sometime soon.

I didn't have any luck with the case fan cable I was after, so I ordered it and a couple of fan filters from PC Case Gear.

Oh, and Gav's and my Red Vs. Blue Season 1 DVDs turned up today. I'm listening to the Director's Commentary - the commentators being Burnie "Church" Burns and Geoff "Grif" Fink, and it's about as funny as the episodes themselves. The dialogue out-takes are great too!

January 27, 2004

Good News / Bad News

Well, the bad news is, nobody seems to have Battlefield 1942 Reload in stock at the moment. So Dan, Boots, Gav, you'll have to wait a little longer before I can join you in some online action.

The good news is that Vickie's new case and hard drive arrived today, the day after I ordered them. I'll be spending most of this evening transfering everything across and seeing whether Windows XP will let me set up a new installation on the 80GB drive.

January 26, 2004

Teh Sh0pp1ng

Yesterday Vickie's PC started acting... weird. It sort of shut itself down, and only hitting the reset button got it working again (that's why I say sort of - had it actually shut itself down, the Power button should bring it back up, not Reset). This morning, I powered it up so that I could log on - and for some unknown reason, it stopped sending data to the screen. The little green power light turned orange, and no matter what I did with the keyboard or mouse, it wouldn't go green again. I wound up holding down the power switch so it would power down, and when it resterted, there were no problems.

I've been meaning to get Vickie a new hard drive for a while (her 20GB is running dangerously low on free space, even the defrag tool's complaining), and as it turns out this month is a regular, two rent payment month (February's going to be the triple-hit), I'm finally going to get around to it - and buy her a new case.

I was tempted to get Vickie a Shuttle XPC kit like I've been talking about since my last big upgrade, but we really can't afford it right now - besides, I have the feeling that the new case, which will have much better airflow than her current one, and a cleanup and dustoff of the parts when I transfer them between cases, will pretty much lick the problem.

And it leaves me some cash to pick Battlefield 1942 Reload for the PC and/or Burnout 2 for the Xbox up this month.

January 04, 2004

Good News Never Made The Papers Sell

I know a lot of the readers of this website and the IMAGinewS group already either read Penny Arcade, play video/computer games or both, but I liked this Wil Wheaton article on the utter lack of media attention on the Penny Arcade lads' Child's Play fund-raiser for the Seattle Children's Hospital (especially when compared to their usual reaming of games and gamers) so much that I'm doing my bit to make sure it reaches a broader audience.

Please pass it on to your friends, and, just as importantly, your (and their) parents.

(With apologies to John Williamson for the theft of his lyrics for the title of this post.)

Continue reading "Good News Never Made The Papers Sell" »

December 21, 2003

Cleaning Keyboards

Afternoon, everyone. It's been a fairly busy morning this morning, especially after a late night last night watching Wonder Boys (great movie, by the way - get it on DVD if you haven't already). Vickie and I took her keys off her keyboard and I cleaned out all the toast crumbs stuck below the keys, and cleaned the keys themselves, while Vickie got stuck into the garden. After the keyboard was re-assembled, I helped out in the garden by sawing off a dead branch of our apricot tree.

Vickie and I have decided that we'll see Harry Potter today and catch Die Another Day, well, another day - the other day in question being tomorrow.

I'm going to buy some case fans for our PCs today. I also want to try out some system tweaks in the latest issue of Australian Personal Computer out of curiosity - maybe I'll squeeze an extra frame per second or a few more 3D Mark points out of it. Not that I've even installed 3D Mark since the last upgrade...

Crimson Skies: First Ever Battle Report!

Brought to you by Coopers Pale Ale and Kettle Chips

Hi everyone. As you know, Boots, Gav, Dan and I have been playing some Crimson Skies lately. I went on hiatus for a while when Vickie and I went to the UK, but Im slowly getting back into the swing of things very slowly, if last nights battle with Dan is any indication.

Vickie took an extra shift to fill in for an absentee last night, so I called Dan to see what he was up to. He popped around with beer and chips; I set up the table and decided to log the battle properly, photo-record and all. (Boots and Gav have taken photos of previous battles, but as they dont have websites, theyve not yet done anything with them.)

Continue reading "Crimson Skies: First Ever Battle Report!" »

December 01, 2003

Just when you thought it was safe to go back near your PC...

No, it's not him.

It's his nephew.

October 20, 2003

Band of Brothers

For want of something to read on the train last week, I picked up a book from the boxful Rog gave to us a few months ago, just before work took him to Melbourne: Stephen E. Ambrose's Band Of Brothers. In case you're wondering, it's what the Steven Spielberg TV series is based on. I wasn't sure what the written experience would be like - I usually prefer fiction to historical texts, I have this prejudice that they're boring reads - but it turns out that this book is very interesting. It directly details the experiences of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne during World War II, from training to Berlin, and it's the personal details of the soldiers, from interviews with the men themselves, that make it such a good read.

I'm sure Boots will be glad I'm reading this, in part because it's getting me keen on Battlefield 1942, but also because I wouldn't mind reading up on some of the broader history of World War II after I'm done with it. I don't really remember high school history in any great detail, and Dad's always been dismissive of a lot of the recent American fiction based on WWII. He reckons he doesn't need to see the US taking the credit for winning the war, but Band Of Brothers paints a picture of a very active US involvement in the European thatre, even if it took the Japanese hitting Pearl Harbour to get America's attention. I want to get some more historical perspective on the matter, and I get the feeling Boots will be only too willing to help, just so he can have yet another person to discuss the War with.

We'll probably have to borrow his DVD set of Band of Brothers sometime.

October 19, 2003

Weekend Wind-Down

Well, another weekend almost over and done with. Aside from further tweaks to Vickie's web site, I've stayed away from posting here; it's a knock-on from that Quantity over Quality posting I did a couple of days ago.

It has, thankfully, been a restful weekend, which is rather ironic when you consider how busy we've been. For starters, it's been a real garden weekend for us both. In between work and Dan dropping over on Friday, I mowed the grass verge and some of the front lawn. Saturday morning saw me finish most of the lawn; I left the edging until today. Vickie spent a good chunk of today hacking away at our bougainvillea in the back yard, with me helping out now and again. It's but a stump of its former self, and the cuttings have been put into two wheelie-bins for pickup on Wednesday. It's a bastard to manage; Vickie's very scratched up from all the thorns on the rotten thing.

... yeah, Dan. He tried to get some Crimson Skies going on Friday night, but Gav had a prior engagement, Boots had been called into work and I, I must confess, wasn't really feeling in the mood for any clicky action, so instead Dan just hung out here for a while. I played some more Red Vs. Blue for him; he only has four episodes left to see.

Continue reading "Weekend Wind-Down" »

October 17, 2003

This was worthy of its own post.

Thanks again be to Wil Wheaton, who linked to this on his website. It's an Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine article where they got pre-teen kids to play some classic video games. It's funny, but tust me; if you're not even out of your twenties, you will feel so very old when you read this.

Whatever Will They Think Of Next?

John T just bought the latest issue of Atomic Magazine, and in the Gearbox section, they had this little gem: a USB cup warmer.

I think this is the gift you ought to get for those people who think that a CD-ROM drive's tray is actually a cup holder.

October 16, 2003

Quantity Over Quality?

Hola muchachos. (That is right, isn't it? I've been watching Episode 19 of Red Vs. Blue again.) I just had a quick look at the website, and noticed that my postings calendar has a bold date for every day since I got this blog running. I think I've put up two rants/editorials this month (the latter of which was going to be a straight news post until it got too long), and on the other days, there have often been two news posts per day. I'm beginning to wonder whether my IMAGinewS members are getting annoyed with the quantity of postings. On the other hand, my news posts back on the old site were often as long as my longer editorials anyway, simply because the annoyance that was updating my site meant I'd only update once per week, and usually less frequently than that, so I had a lot of news saved up between posts. Still, that "quantity over quality" thing is bugging me; I fear that I might start posting for the sake of it (instead of doing things like short stories, etc.) and wind up driving readers off.

Continue reading "Quantity Over Quality?" »

October 12, 2003

Brother, Can You Spare A 350-Watt Power Supply?

Dan's Champions game last night was a good climax to the campaign. Once again, we went up against a giant invisible jellyfish, and once again, Turbine (my character) got put out of the action rather quickly - this time by getting wrapped up in some Spider-Man-Web. This left Magus (Gav's PC) fighting a Teenage Mutant Ninja Croc (as Gav himself said, "Crikey!") and the Huntsman (Rog's character) playing tug-of-war with the invisible jellyfish; the "rope" was the temporarily named non-player character Captain Kangaroo, a Tennage Mutant Gun-Toting Roo whom OzWatch (our superhero team) had recruited after a previous adventure near Uluru (Ayres Rock). Black Hole (John's character) managed to trap two ne'er-do-wells in a Sphere of Darkness, and when Nightshade (Vickie's character) used her powers of illusion to convince the jellyfish that the water around it was boiling (so well, in fact, that the jellyfish was actually hurting) and the Huntsman pinned the Evil Leader to a wall with some spider-web, it was all over bar the arrests and threats of "This isn't over, OzWatch!"

We farewelled Rog a couple of hours ago; he crashed at our place last night after the game. His plane for Melbourne leaves at around one. We hope to see him again before he returns to the UK in early November; with any luck, he may be moving out here to stay some time. Our fingers are crossed; Rog is a quality bloke.

Continue reading "Brother, Can You Spare A 350-Watt Power Supply?" »

September 22, 2003

The Illuminated Name of the Rose is TRON 2.0

Evening! Been a good couple of weeks since the last newspost - you know, this is beginning to sound like "It has been two weeks since my last confession." I think I ought to just step up the pace or shut up. I've also noticed that there's been a fair bit of whinging in my news posts lately. I think there's a rant in there somewhere; it just needs some teasing out.

Anyway. One of the reasons, or excuses, why there haven't been any news posts for the last couple of weeks is the visit of Melissa Resch, a talented artist and poet whom Vickie met up with on the about.com poetry boards. I think I mentioned in the last news post that Melissa is a U.S. native (currently based out of Provincetown, in Massachusets) who was in Perth for four months to expand her palate. She wanted to see Sydney before she went back to the States, so Vickie offered to put her up here for the week. I didn't really know Melissa before she arrived; we only spoken once or twice a couple of weeks before she was due to leave Perth.

So after only a week of shared time, I can safely say Melissa is one of those quality people whom we feel lucky to be able to call friends. She's a very pleasant, easy-going, cheery person, and frankly we wouldn't have minded having her around for the one week of her time that we did have. With any luck, she may be back in Australia on a more permanent basis. I won't say any more for fear of hexing things for her, though.

Continue reading "The Illuminated Name of the Rose is TRON 2.0" »

August 12, 2003

(Not the) Sale of the Century

Evening everyone! I was going to write something on Sunday, but found myself wanting to stay the heck away from my PC after about 5 PM.

I just looked over our bills situation for August. Factoring in the triple-hit of rent, I'm going to have around $80 for the entire month. I want to sink $42 of that into my credit card, and make a token deposit in the Christmas Club. Vickie has to pay around $600 in rates this month for her place in Cairns that she's renting out. This means we're going to be quite stingy this month, especially as we have a guest arriving from Perth on the ninth. Ergo, no computer games, not even Tron 2.0, until October at the earliest (maybe, as we have a trip to Cairns in January to shell out for, not even before January '04). Even the TV aerial, which I was hoping to buy in July, is going to have to wait until September. I thought that I'd have my tax refund in by now, but I've yet to receive any documentation from my various superannuation accounts. It looks like it's time for me to do some phoning.

Continue reading "(Not the) Sale of the Century" »

July 16, 2003

Post-Birthday Spendage

Hi all! Yet another work from home day. I'm using my lunch break to do a little posting and updating.

Well, the shopping trip on Sunday was a success: I picked up those two copies of Shadows of Undrentide and the bonus DVD edition of Steely Dan's new album, Everything Must Go. I had to go to both Electronics Boutique and Kmart for SOU, as EB had only one copy; I also traded Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance in at EB for a discount (I recently found myself utterly disinterested in finishing it). We've played through some of Chapter 1 of SOU, and I've been playing the heck out of Everything Must Go. It's fantastic, and if you like jazz with a little bounce, you'll love this.

Clean-up after the party didn't actually take long (most of the washing up was done by Vickie and the dishwasher the night before). I actually got an e-mail from Notlih on Monday: the bastard clean forgot about the party, so Vickie and I are taking him on a guilt trip. We've yet to hear anything from the other non-attendees; it looks like they're keeping a low profile at the moment.

Continue reading "Post-Birthday Spendage" »

July 08, 2003

God-damned Windows XP...

Evening, all.

I've just had some fun times with trying to get the new hard drive on Vickie's PC. I'd re-formatted the new drive (again) and re-installed Windows XP (again) in preparation for Dan popping over with the driver disc for Vickie's/his motherboard (see my newspost for the 3rd for more detail) and had got as far as activating Windows - when Microsoft told me I'd exceeded the numner of activations allowed on Vickie's product key. I've tried rebuilding her PC so many times recently, it seems I've used all her XP activations up. I don't know whether I get a few back in six months or so, but right now, I don't feel like arguing the point with a Microsoft user. So, the new hard drive has gone to Dan.

Continue reading "God-damned Windows XP..." »

July 03, 2003

Moves, Demos and Drivers

Evening all! My apologies; I was working on a news post on Tuesday, but I got distracted. Only eight days 'til me birthday! Yahoo!

The biggest news in the past couple of weeks is that me mate Gav has moved out of the family domicile in Berowra and into me old mate EvilHayama's place within spitting distance of the CBD. As some (including Gav) have commented, this puts him within half an hour's walk from Games Paradise, which, I am sure, will allow him to keep up the levels of exercise he maintained on the daily trek from his old place to Berowra Station and back. I must claim some credit for this, as it was I who suggested Gav to Hayama when the Evil One was looking for a third housemate (after Evil and Dane's last one moved out). It's been five nights so far and they don't seem to have killed one another yet.

My Tron 2.0 itch has been scratched: Monolith and Buena Vista have released a multiplayer demo, including a single Disc Arena/Tournament level and a signle Lightcycles level. I downloaded all 160 megabytes from Gamespot on Tuesday, and damn I'm glad I did; it looks positively spiffing on my new graphics card and the gameplay is challenging but fun.

Continue reading "Moves, Demos and Drivers" »

May 05, 2003

Like Giving Jack The Ripper a Chainsaw

Morning all. Feeling a little crook today, so I'm staying home. It feels like a dose of the cold; you know, sniffles, sore throat, sore sinuses, etcetera.

Hope you all enjoyed your Mother's Day yesterday, especially you Mothers out there! Vickie and I took Mum and Dad out to lunch at the Blu Water Grill in Hornsby. It was packed with other families celebrating the same occasion, so we didn't get our meals for an hour, but we didn't mind; it was a very pleasant arvo. We're off to the RSL this evening with the family again; it's my Nan's birthday today.

Yesterday also gave me the chance to exercise my new CUA Mastercard, which, despite my request for no credit, has a $2,000 limit on it. As I'm broke at the moment, it covered lunch and a small shopping spree at Electronics Boutique. I bought Vickie a copy of Myst III: Exile, going cheap at $50, and myself a copy of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance for the Xbox. Vickie and I (well, mainly Vickie) made a little headway into Exile with only some minor checking of the Prima Strategy Guide that came with the game. Substance is good, just bloody tough on Normal difficulty (which, I discovered when I actually read the fucking manual, is meant to be for veterans of the prior game; I've since restarted on Easy difficulty).

Continue reading "Like Giving Jack The Ripper a Chainsaw" »

Upgrade Fun Reloaded

Evening Folks! It's looking very much like Dan's/Vickie's/My Upgrade will be going ahead this weekend. I'll be buying processor and RAM from Cameron K tomorrow, and I've put some orders in with A&T Computer and Eyo for the additional parts. In doing so, I'm committing my last Act of Evil with my new CUA MasterCard (as they're shipping me a Visa debit-card, I won't be forced to use a credit limit for things like online shopping); after this, it gets safely locked away in case of emergencies or overseas trips and I'll be paying off credit card debt for the next few months.

So, this weekend will probably be dedicated to getting three PCs up and running. My plans have fluctuated a bit lately, due to two factors - the aforementioned credit limit, which I'm now using to get my mitts on a high-end video card now, instead of September, and the on-switch for the server case Dan gave me to possibly use as his new case. See, Brook's PC includes Vickie's old Hyundai PC case, and during re-assembly, I discovered its power switch had stopped working. The switch for the server case turned out to be an exact fit, so I purloined it for Brook. However, I couldn't find another that matched. Several people volunteered helpful info, and EvilHayama even let me browse his collection of old cases on Tueday night, but while he had some switches that were of the correct size and shape to fit the server case, all were connected directly to his cases' power supply units. I needed a switch that connected to the motherboard.

Continue reading "Upgrade Fun Reloaded" »

May 04, 2003

An IMAGinewS Public Service Announcement

Over the past few weeks, Vickie has been plagued with dialogue boxes that pop up intermittently, advertising ad-banning services, diplomas and (of course) porn. I've been at a loss to figure out what it is; I've tried tightening our firewall, yet the damned things still get through. As the dialogue boxes had "Messenger Service" in the top bar, we at first thought it had something to do with MSN Messenger, but even with Trillian shut down and logged off, the messages kept popping up.

Yesterday, I did a little searching in the web, trying to find whether anyone had identified the cause of the problem and found a fix. It turns out that a few places had; the best explanation of the problem and how to fix it that I've seen so far is at the helpdesk of the University of Birmingham.

I think that if Vickie's having problems (and I think the only reason I wasn't was because I share Vickie's Internet connection, so I'm hidden behind her IP address), some of you folks may also have been having them. The fix above is easy to apply and doesn't harm your system in any way (if you're using a work PC, though, I recommend seeing your tech services department before making any changes).

Continue reading "An IMAGinewS Public Service Announcement" »

April 26, 2003

Oh, Woe Is Us...

A very sad event occurred last weekend - Vickie and I finished off the Neverwinter Nights Campaign. Now we have nothing to play together... at least, not until Shadows of Undrentide arrives in July! (Coincidentally, that's around the time of my birthday... so if anyone's thinking of a natty present for moi...)

Well, that's not entirely true; I downloaded Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne's Penultima campaign yesterday, and we managed to complete Episode 3, Hazard Pay, by the time Vickie had to get ready for work. Of course, there are the various NWN communities out there, but Vickie's too shy; she insists she has no idea what she's doing. Looks like I'll have to add a new phase to my Evil Plan to Turn Vickie Into a Gamer (because I don't know what's good for me and can't stop at pencil & paper and co-op computer gaming): NWN Online... (So if Vickie kills me sometime in the next few months, don't be surprised if the judge rules it justifiable homicide, okay?)

Continue reading "Oh, Woe Is Us..." »

April 13, 2003

Stress-Testing and Playtesting

Morning all! Nice, slow Sunday today - aside from having to mow the lawn again. And washing the car, too; Madam Lash is looking a bit grungy (sigh). But First: a News Post!

I'd like to kick off by apologising for last week's posting; there were several typos in it. At the time, I couldn't be bothered to fix them up; I've left them in since as a reminder to myself. This one shall be thoroughly spell-checked, I promise.

So what's been happening in the last week?

Continue reading "Stress-Testing and Playtesting" »

March 30, 2003

Invitations and Upgrade Plans

Morning all! I think I'm going to have to make a minor change to the way I use names online. Jake has now established himself an online presence, and now that I'm getting advice from PC hardware guru Cameron K at work, I want to avoid confusion between himself and my old mate Cameron. So, henceforth, Jake shall now be referred to by his nom de Net, EvilHayama, whilst Cameron (the old mate one, not the PC guru) shall be referred to as Cazman, or the Cazman, whichever works.

Vickie won a competition! She did, she did! As a donor member of the Art Gallery of NSW, Vickie received an entry form in the e-mail about a pair of competition for some free tickets for movies at Fox Studios' Cinema Paris. Vickie entered immediately - and was notified in short order that she'd won both! She scored herself four tickets, two to see Real Women Have Curves on Tuesday, April the 8th, and two to see Nowhere in Africa on Monday, April the 14th. She'll be taking me along to see both. ;-D

And on the topic of movies, I had a phone call from Gav last night - he was off to see Daredevil at Hornsby and wanted us to go along with him. Not thirty seconds later, Boots, with whom I was chatting via ICQ when Gav called, told us he and Jacinta were off to see Ned Kelly at Hornsby and that he'd like us along! We had to decline both - Vickie has a middle-ear infection, and was feeling especially wonky last night. Instead, we spent the night in, watching the Stuart Little 2 DVD we'd bought at Kmart that day.

Continue reading "Invitations and Upgrade Plans" »

March 18, 2003

A Freelancing Neverwinter DM

Evening all! Sorry it's been over a week since my last newspost. Things have been a little busy.

The guys at Kmart discovered that a gromit on top of Madam Lash's engine had broken, thus the continuing leak. They fixed her up free of charge (as well they should). Vickie took her into a place down the road from us to have the Madam's rego check done - and promptly paid the CTP and rego fees afterward! Thank you darling! (And no, I'm not trying to weasel out of paying you the $500 back.)

We've also spent $400 on two return tickets to Melbourne, so I'm juggling the budget right now. Vickie's grand-daughter Katie is having an Invite a Special Person to School Day on Wednesday, the 3rd of April, and Vickie is (quite obviously, if I do say so, which I do) the Special Person. We'll be nipping down on the evening of the second and coming back on the morning of the fourth. Needless to say, I've taken Friday the fourth off work.

As you know, Freelancer didn't come in on the tenth, and it didn't come in on the eleventh, either; it came in on the twelfth. Those bastards at Microsoft kept me on tenter-hooks for two days. Two whole days, damn it! It was worth it, though. It's definitely a fun game, and it quite thoroughly scratches that Privateer itch I've had these past few years. The demo does a pretty good job of letting you, Joe/Jane Prospective Buyer, know what you're in for, so if you're even remotely keen, download it/buy a computing magazine with it on the cover CD and give it a whirl. Oh, yeah; joysticks are NOT, I say again, NOT necessary - they're not even supported. If you have a keyboard and a responsive mouse, you will be right as rain.

Continue reading "A Freelancing Neverwinter DM" »

February 16, 2003

This Is My Theory

I have this theory when it comes to Neverwinter Nights, and it might well be applicable to D&D in general: When creating a party, do not, I repeat, do not leave home with out at least one dedicated fighter character. As I think I mentioned in my last news post, Vickie and I are consistently getting our posteriors served to us on the family silver (the family in question being the long-established Waterdhavians of, I believe, Waterdeep). We keep crawling our way toward enough experience points to earn a level-up, only to have some big, tough critter and his/her/its minions knock us back down to almost Level 2. Although Perin Nertoppho, my handy rogue, is definitely good for getting at loot in locked chests and disabling traps, his halfling constitution doesn't give him a long combat lifespan. And even though Goldenrod Starkeeper, Vickie's able ranger, is very adept with a bow, fisticuffs isn't quite her game either. I'm thinking of importing one of my other characters, Rente Arnesen, a fighter who's already at something like level 5, thanks mainly to experience on the Frendeer server.

Continue reading "This Is My Theory" »

Back Into It

Good afternoon, everyone! We're back into the old swing of things (i.e. work). There's been a change on my front, though - I've been moved up to the top floor of my building! (Okay, okay, it's only a four-story building, and I was on the third storey beforehand anyway. Lemme have some joy out of this, okay?)

We're still trying to pick up a bargain laptop for Vickie on eBay, but we keep continuously getting overbid. I have the feeling our budget won't be able to cover a laptop, but we'll see how we go...

We finally got back around to Neverwinter Nights last night; we started at around nine thirty and finally finished off at two o'clock this morning! We're now halfway through Chapter 1, and we keep having to respawn (which takes away gold and experience points) when we meet the Waterdhavian creature behind the troubles in each suburb of Neverwinter. Going through single-player must be tough... Apparently Cameron bought himself a copy recently, but he keeps experiencing bugs and performance problems. (He had some with Black & White, too - and he used to knock me for the trouble I had.) I'd invite him to join us, except I can't run an Internet game from my PC with the way our network's set up at the moment (maybe after I get that Linksys hub I have my eye on). We might be playing a little more today, after Gav drops over. In the meantime, I've been exploring some of the servers that are up and running on the Net for NWN, and looking at upcoming games on Neverwinter Connections; I might squeeze myself into a game sometime. As a result I've not done much dev work on the Kingdom of Hyatt module lately.

Continue reading "Back Into It" »

December 29, 2002

Make Regular Backups

On Thursday, Vickie and I went into Hornsby to see The Lord of the Rings and do some post-Christmas shopping. The Lord of the Rings was great, by the way. This is from the perspective of someone who's not read any of the novels (except The Hobbit). The movie was most enjoyable, all the way through its three hours in length. I know there are several nits that can be picked - Dad owns the BBC radio play that was made about twenty or so years ago, and from that I know there are some things that simply didn't turn up in the movie - but it was still a worthwhile and well-executed production. Kudos to all involved, and boy am I hanging out for the next two!

Continue reading "Make Regular Backups" »

December 22, 2002

You'd Better Watch Out...

G'morning, everybody! Three sleeps to Christmas! Looking forward to it?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was good. If you've read the novel, there's very little to surprise you - and on the other hand, I don't think there's anything you can get miffed at the movie-makers for changing. Richard Harris was great, as usual, and although he has a great body of work behind him, his warm and humourous portrayal of Albus Dumbledore will see his memory remain in the minds of the current generation of youngsters for years to come.

It's interesting to see the three stars of the film grow up as they do in the stories, although you start wondering (a) whether Daniel, Rupert and Emma will "out-grow" the shooting schedule, and (b) whether it's good for them to remain on what potentially is a seven-film (if J. K. Rowling keeps to her schedule of seven Potter books) series for their entire adolescence. When will they have time to be teenagers?

Continue reading "You'd Better Watch Out..." »

December 09, 2002

Massively Multi-Poster Online Ranting, Pontification and Gossip

Bloody heck! I go to work for a day and look what happens! Thirty-eight posts on the IMAGinewS list! It looks like there'll be a few people signing up with Optus at Strathfield Car Radios to get a free Xbox. I just followed up Marcus' solid research with a look at the Strathfield web site, and if the ad in their catalogue is any indication, it's the basic set (console, standard controller, composite adaptor cable, no games) with a Controller S either as well as or in place of the standard Controller (that might be bait-and-switch, though, I dunno).

In the middle of all that, though, a discussion on fashion sprung up out of nowhere, followed immediately by a debate on the relative merits of sanity, and then amputation and twelve-year-old-girls somehow crept in. I know we're all crazy as fruitbats, but the nature of the psychoses of some of us is beginning, if you'll pardon the pun, to disturb me.

Continue reading "Massively Multi-Poster Online Ranting, Pontification and Gossip" »

November 01, 2002

Fuzion Frenzy Fun

Let me just say this: With one player, Fuzion Frenzy isn't much cop. With two, it's okay. With three, it's more fun than a whole barrel of fuckin' monkeys. With four players? I really don't know yet, as I only have three Xbox controllers and so far only the opportunity to play it with two other people - but I imagine it'd be one of those "Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On" things. Half of the enjoyment is giggling at yourself and each other as you stuff up horribly. Not all of the minigames are good - it's hard to tell which way you're facing in the whack-an-insect ones - but most are at least fun if you have more players than CPU players.

How do I know all this? Cameron and Linda (Cameron's lady) were just over, and after a big jaw-session where Cameron and I reminisced about High School (a.k.a. The Bad Old Days), Cameron talked Linda into playing some FF. Fun was had. Add this to some FF played with Jake and Komala (where my arse was handed to me, but fun was had nonetheless) and I'd say I have a fair idea of the fun quotient of Fuzion Frenzy.

Continue reading "Fuzion Frenzy Fun" »

October 23, 2002

Rebuilding the Red Dragon

Evening all! Or, I suppose, Morning All would be more appropriate. It's twenty minutes to midnight as I start writing this, and considering the reason I'm up so late, it'll likely be gone twelve by the time this gets posted. Ah, well...

So what am I doing? Re-installing Windows XP on Vickie's PC. For some odd reason - and I have this sneaking suspicion that the "odd reason" was the drivers for the CanoScan FB610 - it kept blue-screening during shutdown or restart, and would automatically reboot, which is annoying, especially if you're trying to turn your machine off. Still, a clean re-install and a careful following-of-instructions when it came to the drivers seems to have fixed the problem. I'm just re-loading all Vickie's documents from my hard drive now.

Continue reading "Rebuilding the Red Dragon" »

October 20, 2002

Bombing Run

Hi everyone! We had a very good night last night. Steve was actually popping over just to inspect the land and figure out what we want to do; he's working on a quote for the goods and labour and should be able to get in to do it in a couple of weeks.

Picked up the new hard drive yesterday morning. There was a small bushfire near Harris Technology; I could see the flames while I was waiting at the lights. Emergency Services were already onto it, so there didn't seem to be any need to dial 000. For all I know, it may have been a controlled burn.

Nick wound up popping over after 4.30; he had a good drool-around at the motor show that morning. It was great having him over; not only was he a great sounding board for Honour and the Regiment, he came up with some wonderful ideas of his own. I'll start working the module out after Black Talon this coming Saturday; I've already made about three pages of notes after our brainstorming session.

Continue reading "Bombing Run" »

October 18, 2002

I know what I want for Christmas.

Check him out.

Just got in after a couple of hours in the city with some work friends. I got dragged off to the Slip Inn by Mary, along with Craig, Kylie and Anthony; we met up with a few others along the way. It was nice to do a bit of socialising, although I did my usual social gathering thing - shut up, stood back and listened. I seem to be pretty good at that. Still, the conversation was by and large about cars and people I don't know, both of which lose me fairly quickly.

It was interesting to go back there; I used to go semi-regularly back between early 1998 and early 2000, when I was still working for Advantra. I don't really think it was my scene then, before I even started drinking socially, and now that I do - well, it's still not my scene really. Too loud, too crowded and, to take a page from Notlih, too Square John. The main redeeming feature was the free alcohol. Between 6PM and 8PM Fridays, the Inn has a list of six beverages which are absolutely free. On the list this evening was Heineken; my favourite beer. Guess how many I had?

Two.

Continue reading "I know what I want for Christmas." »

October 16, 2002

Dust and Echoes

Halo. It's finished.
- Cortana, Halo

On Monday night, after two weeks of on-and-off play, I completed Halo. Definitely well worth the cost of an Xbox. It does have its faults, but thankfully no (or very few) bugs. It's just like I thought it'd be - the Wing Commander of first-person shooters. Cinematic all the way, but not enough that you switch your brain off. You need to be thinking with this one.

So what's next? Well, I could wait until late next year for Halo 2... but there's other fun to be had. As I just played it through Normal difficulty - I've already started through again on Heroic. And then... there's multiplayer, especially the fun of going through the campaign co-operatively. The ideal would be two Xboxes with two TV screens, but as that's pretty much out of the question (especially as I don't know anyone with another Xbox), I'm thankful we've got a nice big 68cm screen so that split-screen mode will still look good!

So - anyone up for the Halo campaign with me? Vickie? Gav? Anyone?

No. I think we're just getting started.
- The Master Chief, Halo

Continue reading "Dust and Echoes" »

October 12, 2002

Geared Up with an Xbox

Morning all! I was writing this last night, when a minor system error convinced me I was up a little late. So, here I am finishing this off Saturday morning!

I think I can officially say my splurge is over. I just bought three new Heavy Gear supplements in two days - Raids & Raiders Thursday, and both the Spaceship Compendia yesterday. All three look like they'll come in handy for the Black Talon Campaign. Heck, Raids & Raiders has stuff in it that I think should have gone into the Black Talon Field Guide (and no, I'm not talking about the Dark Series space Gears)!

I also picked up Dead or Alive 3 for the Xbox at Grace Bros. George Street at 15% off yesterday. Grace Bros. has a sale going at most, if not all, of its stores; 15% off all PC, GameCube, PSOne, PS2 and Xbox games (I bought Halo at Burwood under that deal). It ends tomorrow, so if you want to take advantage, you'd better get your skates on.

Continue reading "Geared Up with an Xbox" »

October 05, 2002

Xbox Pwnz J00

Evening all! The semi-planned splurge for Vickie 'n' me came about yesterday and today. I am now the (slightly) proud owner of an Xbox game console. And before anyone says anything, I will save them the effort: Indeed, I am Microsoft's butt monkey. Whatever. ;-)

I picked up the High Octane Racing Pack (which has Project Gotham Racing, RalliSport Challenge and the book Diary of a Champion by Mark Skaife), Fuzion Frenzy, an extra controller, a Controller S (for those digitally challenged of you, including Vickie), an Advanced AV Cable and, of course, Halo. On top of that, I finally bought The Matrix on DVD and the copy of Neverwinter Nights I've been meaning to buy for Vickie for ages. We'll probably fiddle with that on Monday.

Oh yeah; Halo is fun. I be liking very much so far.

Continue reading "Xbox Pwnz J00" »