Half-Life 2: Deathmatch

Posted on Sunday, 12 December 2004

Blimey. This is quite some intense action!
In a way it's more like playing Quake than it is Half Life - it feels even more intense than the original Half Life multiplayer deathmatch at least.
It's no Counterstrike:Source though, I am liking that game even more now, especially what with it running at >50fps (my CPU doing SSE2 seems to make something of a large difference over similarly clocked 32bit Athlons)


At last

Today I watched The Lord of The Rings: Return of The King: Extended Edition (bit of a mouthful) and I have to say I am very impressed and it's great to see things like the Saruman confrontation at last.
I've only watched a few of the extra bits, the ones I thought would be most interesting/funny and they were (the stuff about weta digital and post production was great) and I probably won't bother with the rest, it's just nice to have finally closed out the full, extended trilogy at last. I can still remember seeing Fellowship of The Ring quite clearly a few years ago and I've really enjoyed watching it develop since then.
I went for the boxed version, which includes a little model of Minas Tirith, which is very funky and goes with the Argonath from the Fellowship boxed version nicely :)


Goodbye Brighton, Hello Brixton (for one night only)

Posted on Saturday, 11 December 2004

Last night I went to see Groove Armada at the Brixton Academy for marky's birthday. It was a truly excellent show - the performance was really spot on and they have done an excellent job preparing the tour so it's not just a string of set pieces; It was more like an arrangement of their work with the various tracks rolling through each other beautifully. The visuals were funky and the atmosphere was very friendly.
If you have the option of seeing them live, take it. I will be hunting the festival listings next year for their appearances ;)

(and thanks to Simon's parents for letting us stay the night, plus for having awesome cats :)



I've disabled comments because they are filling up with spam. Sucks, but then this is the Internet, where people will take advantage of anything they can, just because they can. I'm not sure why anyone thinks that people reading about poker and fuck knows what else in my comments will make them part with their $$$, but the mentality of spammers is far far removed from that of normal people.


Suck suck suck suck suck

Posted on Monday, 15 November 2004

Suck suck suck suck suck. That's how much a really sucky thing sucks. What sucks more than that is crap like this.
For those who don't read the link, the 4 word summary is "Operation Screw The Iraqis", this time by rewriting their constitution to place all sorts of insane legal restrictions on their agricultural industry and specifically the seeds they are allowed to use. I mean, come on, we've been doing this agriculture thing for thousands of years without needing large corporations to sell us infertile seeds we have to buy year after year.
In my opinion it is sick and amoral to do this kind of thing. I sincerely hope the new Iraqi government overturns insane orders like this, but I don't hold out a lot of hope given the amounts of money people stand to make :-/
As the article makes out, this is all about pleasing the WTO, which is a whole other rant I won't get into now, suffice to say, despite whatever good intentions they have, they suck too.


You Gee Ell Why!

Posted on Monday, 1 November 2004

It's Monday. It's the 1st of November. It's 2004. This means only one thing...

Tonight I am going to an Ugly Duckling gig in London! WOO! More when I've actually been ;)

Update: Wooo! UD rock live! They were unfortunately a little late arriving, so could only play for about an hour, but the set they did was fantastic - funky and funny. I strongly recommend you grab their albums/EPs.



If you are a Michael Caine fan, or like brit movies, or just generally like good old movies (or were young when it was released), you've probably seen the original Alfie, tale of a Jack The Lad character who cares only for himself and slowly becomes aware of the hurt this causes those around him.
Of course, the original is now too old to make any proper bank, so it's time to take a good idea and apply a thick layer of shiny mediocrity and remake it; and so they have, with Jude Law as a modern Alfie.
Law has the charm to pull off the kind of character Alfie is supposed to be, but I felt the film generally was quite hollow. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but it didn't feel like it offered very much in the latter stages of the film - Alfie is learning the errors of his ways, but I just didn't care very much.
Also, the wardrobe people need firing, Alfie didn't have a single suit that was actually big enough for him. Your arms shouldn't bulge out wider than the shoulder pads!


Dig in the ribs

Last night I went to Dig in the ribs with a few friends and some 2-for-1 coupons. It's a Tex-Mex restaurant in Brighton's food quarter (a nice way of saying "that road with all the steak and chinese places" ;) that offers a fine array of meats and sauces.
I had a 16oz T-bone and brought a really feeble appetite with me, so I didn't make a very impressive dent in it, but Simon, Simon and Tam put in a good showing and tucked into a big plate of Nachos and sticky desserts too!
Well worth a visit, although the staff could have been a little more attentive, we waited about half an hour to pay the bill; It aids digestion though ;)


Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Posted on Saturday, 30 October 2004

It's scant hours since the release of the latest in Rockstar North's venerable GTA series and we've been giving the game a good bashing; these are my first impressions.
The last GTA game, Vice City, was itself a dramatic improvement on the preceeding titles and Rockstar have continued the evolution of their beautiful engine with a variety of changes and new features that make the game more engaging and sustainable.
Prime examples of this are the attributes of your character, CJ. As you undertake activities your skill at them improves (so shooting more people improves your aim and opens new combat style movements for gun battles, running more improves your stamina). Overall this seems to make the game far more engaging, although attributes such as hunger are more annoying and it seems to be possible to starve your character to death if you don't buy it a burger every so often.
The map is *huge* and in the same way that Vice City was blatantly Miami, this is blatantly LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, the Sierra Nevada desert and some of the coastal stuff, plus a bunch of bits that didn't look obviously like anything I know of. Only one corner of the map is unlocked to begin with, but thanks to some sneakiness at the airport we managed to steal a jet and fly over the rest of the map (getting shot down by the Air Force in the process ;) and it is simply stunning. The Vegas stuff looks particularly good, I expect the missions there will be interesting; San Francisco also looked cool although I kept crashing before I could figure out if Alcatraz is there.
As much fun as the missions are, I still like the odd one-man-army style rampage, so it is most helpful that the weapons cheats are the same as in Vice City. The new and vastly improved aiming/targetting system makes taking on multiple characters much easier than before, but when you start gaining weapons skills the speed and accuracy of your character is amazing, he can fell crowds in seconds. A good way to attract the police, but also a good way of taking them out too.
Being able to recruit gang members is cool, although they have an annoying habit of shooting at other gangs at every available opportunity. Getting shot at by rival gangs all over the place is not cool, but it makes it more interesting I suppose ;)
So, if you liked the previous GTA games, I strongly suggest you take a look at San Andreas, it seems like it is the best of the bunch. If you've never played a GTA game and you can safely detach virtual violence from the real thing, pick up a controller and get shooting/stealing/racing/kidnapping/etc.


Team America

Posted on Tuesday, 26 October 2004

Ok ok, so I slightly downloaded a copy of Team America: World Police. Sue me, I'm gonna go pay my dorrah when it comes out in several MONTHS time and buy the DVD ;)
It is extremely childish and stupid, but it was also hilarious. I can see a lot of people aren't going to like it though and quite a few will probably be offended by it.
The puppets have amazing heads, they're really astonishingly good. The bodies are shit, but it looks like they did that deliberately to make the puppets fight/run really stupidly.
Their charaterisation of Kim Jong Il is absolutely fantastic and I found myself laughing at almost everything he said; Some of the Team America characters were quite annoying though, so it wasn't perfect by any means.
As my flatmate pointed out, they didn't do enough work on the satire really. I'd still recommend it if you're a Trey and Matt fan.


Ubuntu initial impressions

I've been running Ubuntu since a week or so before the launch and so far I'm quite happy with it. It feels mostly like Debian, which is what I was running before I moved to Fedora (for the better 32/64bit compatibility), but has a little more pace to it so far, plus a pretty significant surge of good will and interest.
One thing I am a little disappointed in is that it seems the releases (in this case their first; warty) won't change much beyond security and important bug fixes. They are scheduled for every 6 months though. Personally I still think a rolling-stable approach to the desktop is going to be a killer feature if it happens.
What will set Ubuntu's real course now they have a userbase will be the development of the next release, hoary. There are now quite a lot of people who are want to get involved and want to help. We just have to hope the process shapes itself well and a coherant way of working emerges and works well.
My favorite things about it are really all things about GNOME, especially the automatic digital camera importing. It's fantastic to see the computer become more aware of what is happening to it and behave Correct™ly.
My least favorite is really inherited from Debian - the 32bit compatibility on AMD64 machines isn't great. The good thing is that I can confidently append "yet" to that :)


Hellboy: Directors Cut

Posted on Monday, 18 October 2004

Hellboy is another release in the recent spate of comic inspired movies riding the dollar wave of Spiderman and X-Men. Unlike some of them, it's actually a pretty good film.
It's pretty standard stuff in terms of a comic action movie, but the performances set the film apart from its peers. Ron Perlman is very amusing as the stone-fisted Ted Danson lookalike "Hellboy", John Hurt is convincing as the doddery Professor (classic comic stuff, a father-like figure who provides moral guidance and then dies somehow) and Karl Roden is sinister as Rasputin.
The effects are quite nicely done - some of the transitions from real people to CGI people are a bit obvious, but these things are still remarkably hard to do right when you are looking at them at DVD or higher resolution (case in point, Matrix Reloaded's effects looked seamless at the cinema, a bit noticeable on DVD and they are just plain obvious on the HDTV version - there's simply so much detail that no computer algorithms currently available can trick your brain into believing it is reality). I guess the sound was ok, but none of the soundtrack sticks in my mind, so it can't have been great ;)
If you like action movies and don't mind them going for humour/style over substance, you might like this.


Could it be?

Posted on Thursday, 30 September 2004

For a while now I've been thinking that it would be a good idea to have a distro that was Debian, but more pragmatic and much quicker to track upstream releases (presumably at the slight expense of package quality)
Ubuntu Linux is a fork of Debian's unstable branch, sid. It includes newer GNOME packages than sid (although they are due very shortly I believe) and appears to have a much more pragmatic approach to distro making. Bad for servers, good for getting a distro that has no release as such, but is just tracking the current stable releases of as much software as possible.
And therein lies the key, making a lot of software available - something that Debian has an incredible history of, with many thousands of packages. Where Debian is limited by being out of date and stable or slightly behind the times and unstable, Ubuntu will hopefully offer more stability and predictability than sid, but still a current desktop (probably where the approach is best suited, since that is where development is happening quickest).
To get lots of software, the Ubuntu guys have been talking about two things.

  • Allow easy importing of packages from sid that compile (which we can reasonably assume to be most of the interesting packages people are going to want)
  • Allow easy importing of user contributed packages

This second item is the real key I think. If it is incredibly easy to submit a source package, have it be autobuilt on all architectures and when that works, reviewed by a project member for inclusion, people will do it. We see on distros like Fedora that people are prepared to put in massive efforts to maintain current software (see, the Dag and other RPM repositories. Their efforts are significantly hampered by the fact that they are unable to integrate their packages into the main Fedora trees, leading to them having to replace Fedora packages with newer versions and other worrying things. A big problem is that the various trees are not necessarily entirely compatible and there is some overlap. On a personal note, I find that having all of the sites that support x86_64 in yum's config makes it incredibly slow (I'd use apt, but it doesn't support Fedora's excellent biarch system).
If this goes well, I would propose formalising the system to a degree by using GPG to allow the maintainer of a package to upload new versions without requiring moderator time. This is obviously another tactic lifted largely from debian, although they require manual verification by a debian developer who are the only ones with keys capable of uploading a new package.
I will be watching Ubuntu closely, and if they do move in the direction I am hoping, it will have to be worth a shot :)


The city, locked down

Posted on Friday, 24 September 2004

I work immediately off the seafront in Brighton, pretty much round the corner from the famous Grand Hotel, and the not so famous Brighton Centre. We are one of the three party political conference cities, so each year we have one of the three main political parties roll into town. Since I've worked in the same place for a little over 4 years now I've seen a complete rotation and it is quite fascinating how they vary.
This year we are "blessed" with Labour, the ruling party. What this means is that security is tighter than for the other two. The Tories have minimal security and the Police send a community liason officer for the Lib Dems ;-)
Since we live in a changed world, where anyone can be a walking timebomb, fear is the order of the day, because those timebombs can strike anywhere. I am not sure where this stops being a reasonable argument and becomes self perpetuating madness, but there is a line somewhere.
Anyway, since Labour's conference starts next week, the Police have been gearing up a major security operation for the last few weeks. I'm sure they would appreciate people not documenting their efforts online, sufficed to say there are large concrete barriers everywhere there should be if you want to stop truck bombs, there is sufficient perimiter security to keep protestors and threats out of the building and a wide ranging reconnaisance has been conducted (remember that the IRA bomb in the Grand Hotel in the 80s was planted weeks in advance). So Tony and his pals can rest safely, knowing that they are disrupting locals quite a lot and costing even more.
Today I was asked for ID to be let near the place to go into the carpark adjacent and I expect that from tomorrow that road will be closed entirely. What doesn't help is that there are roadworks going on on other major roads in Brighton, so traffic will be standing still for most of next week ;-)
Lucky I can park a mile away much cheaper and get a walk along the seafront first thing :-)


GNOME Desktop progress

Craig is right that GNOME is still a way away from OS X for polish, integration and intuitivity, but it's nice that they have their sights aimed in those directions and development is going pretty fast these days - it definitely helps to have Novell bankrolling a lot of the work (hopefully they will be beefing up the Ximian/Linux division development teams a lot).
It's not all as simple as catching Windows/OSX up though, everyone is trading features - Windows's next generation of interfaces are going to be bristling with shiny innovations lifted from OSX and open source apps, I bet ;-)



Movie poster. Hero is a tale of assassins and a lone officer of the law, set hundreds of years ago in China. Jet Li plays the title role, Nameless, a local law official who has defeated several assassins bound to kill the King. He relates his tale in an audience with the King, with interesting consequences.
I can't really say anything else without giving the film away, but the plot is pretty good. What really shines about this film though is the visuals; It's definitely an art flick more than anything else. Colour is used very dramatically to convey a varying sense of reality, which is actually quite crucial to understanding what's happening. You may notice what I'm talking about towards the end.
The action is superb too, with scenes ranging from swordplay on water (a very Crouching Tiger scene) to an archery assault the likes of which you can't even imagine, it's definitely varied and interesting, though it does lean predominantly towards sword fighting. You do have to suspend a lot of disbelief because physics has been utterly sacrificed in the name of visual effect. Also largely done away with is continuity of motion between shots, also it seems in the name of making it look prettier and this felt quite jarring at times.
Overall I can't recommend this film enough - if you liked Crouching Tiger you'll definitely like Hero, and if you didn't then this might have enough frenetic action to keep you interested :-)


Ghost in the shell 2: Innocence

Posted on Thursday, 23 September 2004

Movie poster. I'm going to start with the easy stuff. The soundtrack is excellent, the animation is superb, the 3D rendering is exquisite, the cinematography is great...technically this is a superb film. It does fall squarely into the category of extremely strange Japanese anime though. The original movie was also pretty strange, but it was possible to follow the plot and it made sense; The sequel, however, is an impenetrable fortress of strangeness on the first watch. I probably need to see it a couple more times so I can get the visuals and subtitles all taken in, especially since something was wrong with the subtitles we saw, with the odd phrase being repeated - at times it seemed like one person was having a conversation with themselves in two voices because only one mouth was moving. I'm not quite sure how much of it was the android characters not needing to move their mouths and how much of it was dodgy Internet subtitles ;-)
I'll get this on DVD as soon as they will let me, and update this with a second impression.
Update: Yeah, so the film is way way way better with decent subs, albeit fan subs (which was no bad thing, they included a few translation notes that were very useful, like explanations of opaque Japanese proverbs). Excellent film, if you like anime at all you should see it.


Infernal Affairs

Movie poster. Sam is an organised crime boss and he has a plan. Inspector Wong is the police officer in charge of beating organised crime, and thus Sam, and he has a plan too.
They both want to win and they both know what the other is up to, and that is infiltrating their organisations with moles, so for an hour and a half you're wondering who's going to get found out and if they are actually a good or bad guy. This tension carries right up to the end and indeed beyond it (hurray for films that don't provide ultimate finality).
While there's very little actual action in this film, the suspense, script and acting will keep you engrossed to the end and maybe into the pre&sequels :-)