Apps to go

usbAges after everyone else has one I’ve finally got round to getting a USB Stick. The Corsair 2GB Flash Voyager is a 2GB stick that recently got the PC Pro award for USB sticks. At £82 I thought that was pretty good value. First step was to split the stick into two 1Gb drives. One drive will have a backup of my XP files – mail, pictures, files, passwords, pdf’s of manuals – that sort of thing. This is a protected drive and also the backup file is protected too – just in case it falls into the wrong hands. The second drive contains some handy apps that will work on any machine without installing and some essential utils to fix a pc. They are:

That’s it for the moment. I’m sure there’s a few more tools that would be handy to carry around but that will do for now – if you think there’s anything else worth adding let me know.

Xbox.com updates

You’ll notice the not so subtle gamertag section has appeared on the sidebar. Microsoft have finally updated Xbox.com in preparation for the 360. One of the updates is to introduce My Xbox. This is where you can view your profile, see your game achievements and also who is currently playing on your friends list.

However you can also see your friends achievements and the Gamer Card goes with you througout Xbox.com. You can easily embed it into web pages too. The full functionality won’t be seen until you play a 360 and the profiles start to update – still a nice early look at the new functionality on offer. Piccies of the friends list and also Messenger integration are on Flickr.

There’s also a chance to get an early look at the 360 in Glasgow:

Glasgow 4th -6th November, The Lighthouse, Gallery 5, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture, Glasgow (Map)

Friday 4th 12.00 pm – 6.00 pm
Saturday 5th 10.30am – 6.00pm
Sunday 6th 10.30am – 6.00pm

More details of the other venues here.

Flock

Hype’s a wonderful thing but when it bares no fruit you feel conned. That’s how I feel after trying Flock. This is the Firefox browser with social networking and sharing built in. Blog from your browser – yep. Flickr integration – woo! Del.icio.us integration of your bookmarks – impressive.

But it’s so SLOW. The blogging GUI is also lacking and for me just doesn’t work very well – I can quickly log into the blog and post from any browser so where’s the advantage. I do like the Del.icio.us integration but I also don’t want the whole world to see my favourites – they are my precious and I want to keep them that way. Did I mention it was slow? Admitedly it’s a very early release with optimisation to come but if this is the best of the Web 2.0 apps then it can flock off – I’ll stick with Firefox thank you very much.

Backwards Compatibility

A lot has been made of the ability of the Xbox 360 to play Xbox games. Too much has been said about it – it HAS to have it, why only certain games, this will put me off buying a 360…blah blah blah. I just don’t see the issue – the PS2 has backward compatibility but I’ve never used it – once I see, hear and play next gen games the immediately previous gen just looks poor.

Now that Sony are struggling with not only a new version of the PS2 but have revealed issues on the PS3 maybe the debate will calm down. It’s not about being backward compatible – what about updating older games. Take Halo2 or Pro Evo4/5 – they’ve lost none of their playability since release – wouldn’t it be nice to play hi-res versions on the 360 or with new maps/teams? There are rumours that Halo1/2 will have hi-res graphics on the 360 – it is nice to think they will be true. Ultimately I would rather MS concentrated on the 360 line up rather than wondering about how we can play the old games on the 360. Will I really want to play PGR2 ahead of PGR3? Then again, an updated Halo2 may be THE only other game worth playing on the 360!

Pro Evo 5

Now that I’ve had to chance to play this properly online I have to say I’m disappointed. It still is the best soccer game and the online play has been improved since last year…but the reality is it’s a lazy conversion and update.

Where’s the widescreen options, why are the graphics still average, the dodgy pitches that make it difficult to see the ball – I could go on with grumbles. Oh – not forgetting that you can’t really use the PS2 pad on Xbox as they stop you swapping the controls round properly – I’m just sticking with the Xbox pad as the controls tweaks brought in for the PSP means only one trigger doesn’t make much difference. 2vs 2 online was promised but only if 2 are on the same Xbox – doh!

Lag has improved but isn’t a thing of the past. Each player now hosts one half which in theory makes it fair – in practice I’ve found the player not hosting plays very defensively for the half hoping that his smooth half will result in goals – not the way it should be played. It’s also difficult to get a random game. From looking at the forums it seems to be because leagues have been introduced – you get points for games you win and then you are allocated into a league – if a player with high points loses against a player with less points then they lose quite a bit more than if they were equal. Pretty sad really but stats still rule the roost.

Live is also still full of sore losers. Why does everyone want to play with the best teams only – missing so much by playing with the same teams over and over. There are also so many people who can’t take a beating. Hello to the guy that beat me on penalties (Chelsea v Arsenal) this afternoon and then when I suggested a rematch with swapped teams he agreed but then picked a better team instead of Arsenal. Made the 4-1 drubbing even sweeter – the language he came out with – I guess me laughing over the headset didn’t help. Child.

Worth the purchase if you intend to play online although 11 vs 11 online seems further away than ever.

HMV - Never again

I’d posted about my bargain buy of Pro Evo from HMV. Ha. They must be laughing now. The day after making the order I got the following e-mail:

As I am sure you are aware, this item was mispriced on the HMV web site at £14.99 for a short period of time. Under the notified terms and conditions on the web site, HMV are entitled to withdraw from any contract in the case of obvious errors or inaccuracies regarding the goods appearing on our web site.

However, as a gesture of goodwill, on this occasion only, we are going to honour order placed for the item, but will be restricting this offer to one per customer.

Excellent – they are honouring their mistake although I didn’t realise it was a mistake. Yesterday was release day and there was still no shipping note. I was becoming suspicious and then this e-mail dropped into my inbox:

Due to stock limitations, we are currently unable to fulfil this order. We have contacted the suppliers, and they have informed us that the initial supply of the Xbox version has been scaled back across the UK, and we are unlikely to receive further stock for at least 4 weeks after launch.

Guff – this has been sent to only those that got the £14.99 price. I would rather they had just said it was an error and we weren’t getting the game for the original price. Instead they pretend they will honour it then delay sending it out knowing most will cancel and pick up the game elsewhere like I did yesterday. Swines. Checking their website shows they expect 7 days delivery, not 4 weeks.

Not only have they lost the sale but they have lost my custom. Maybe an over reaction but I will no longer buy anything from HMV. That’s what they get for trying to save £14.99. Well done HMV.

360 Titbits

Now that the 360 launch is just over 6 weeks away (for which I didn’t pre-order which makes chances of picking one up slim) there is some nice details coming out about the features we’ll see. My Xbox will launch in the next couple of weeks. For the stat whores and just plain nosey this will allow you to see and compare your friends progress in games, what they are playing and their achievements throughout all their games. Some downtime for Live on Monday 24th will see the upgrades take place – we’ll then see just how good the website integration with the Live service is. This is where MS have a big advantage over Sony – it will be interesting to see just how much they push the web and online gaming features over the coming months.

The 360 pad has had great previews so far. What I’d missed until today is that it connects via a standard USB port. Therefore to use it on Windows you just need to download the correct drivers and you’ll instantly have a great pad for the PC. At last.

Finally – gaming servers. The Live service on the Xbox has been good apart from on thing – no server support. This has meant 16 players games as a max, and more than usual only 8 before lag kicks in. Compare that to PC games where 32-64 player games are more the norm thanks to the games being hosted on servers. The 360 looked to be changing that with Call of Duty 2 rumoured to have 64 player support. Alas, it’s 8 player although they won’t stop you hosting more if your connection can take it. Hopefully Perfect Dark Zero will allow for more…even if you have to pay slightly more for the service I would at least like to have the option.

Video Treats

These have all probably done the rounds but they are new to me so I thought I would share.

First up are High Speed Video clips. Sounds pretty dull and the web page is very 90’s but the content is superb. Highly recommended are the face slaps and punches. The jello clip is also eye opening and the paintball shot proves just how sore these shots can be.

Next up is Sabine who spends her time driving folk around the Nurburgring. The video shows just how fast she goes and also how lucky the Scottish passenger is. Dog.

And finally – set phasers tae malky. Enjoy.

Broadband Update

It’s been three days since my 8Meg line was switched on. So far the speed performance has been very impressive – I still can’t get over just how fast my downloads are. Files really are just taking seconds to grab. Mail speed is also excellent and the DNS issues have settled down.

Not so good is that on Thursday and Saturday between 6 & 8pm I got disconnected a couple of times. After some investigating I’m putting it down to the condition of my line and not F2S or the LLU provider Easynet. The key factor is that as the speeds of broadband increase the quality of your line becomes all the more important.
Continue reading “Broadband Update”

Tidy up time

Got into the garden over the weekend – hedge cut, borders tidied and grass cut. Even cleared out the garage of some of the mess thats built up over the last six months and took it to the dump. I’m determined to keep it clear and not let it build up again.

Since the work we had done I hadn’t taken any pictures – that’s now rectified with the results up on Flickr. The surprise wasn’t the difference we’ve made in the last two years but the fact we’ve got a second skylight that we hadn’t noticed before. If it wasn’t for West Wing I’d be in the attic investigating but that can keep for another night.