Wordpress 2.05

A new update to WordPress is available today with over 50 fixes, mostly bugs. This is a small step towards the bigger upgrade that will be 2.1. As usual take a backup before proceeding of both files and the database. Today’s update was the first time I had to depend on the backup after I messed up during the update of a directory (so that’s what replace means).

I also took the opportunity to move to a new theme – Unsleepable. I liked the simplicity and while I was at it I reduced the posts displayed down to a more manageable number. I don’t have much design skills but this may be my last off the shelf theme in that I might start to hack my own css together in future. Maybe.

Sony closes Lik-Sang

Lik-Sang is a well known Hong Kong company specialising in the import games market. For the last year they have been fighting a legal battle with Sony who were opposed to their importing of PSP’s. Last Friday a judge in the UK found against Lik-Sang and due to the possibility of other legal cases being raised Lik-Sang have decided to close.

Greedy Sony bastards. While I had no intention of buying an import PS3 it’s another example of a huge global player wanting 100% control over everything. Importing wouldn’t be a business if companies:

  • Had simultaneous worldwide hardware and software releases
  • Removed region restrictions – DVD and games follow the same region encoding
  • Sold at a fair price across the globe

Import PSP’s and games could be had cheaper from Hong Kong, including shipment than buying from a UK high street. While Sony is protecting the PSP’s (shrinking) market it also smells of further PS3 delays for Europe and a potentially high cost for games. Rumours are of £60 & £70 price point for PS3 releases which is taking the urine.

Talk about the big boys bullying the small firms! Lik-Sang did have one parting shot, pointing out the Sony exec’s in the UK that had enjoyed their import service.

Furthermore, Sony have failed to disclose to the London High Court that not only the world wide gaming community in more than 100 countries relied on Lik-Sang for their gaming needs, but also Sony Europe’s very own top directors repeatedly got their Sony PSP hard or software imports in nicely packed Lik-Sang parcels with free Lik-Sang Mugs or Lik-Sang Badge Holders, starting just two days after Japan’s official release, as early as 14th of December 2004 (more than nine months earlier than the legal action). The list of PSP related Sony Europe orders reads like the who’s who of the videogames industry, and includes Ray Maguire (Managing Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd), Alan Duncan (UK Marketing Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd), Chris Sorrell (Creative Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd), Rob Parkin (Development Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited), just to name a few.

Goodbye Lik-Sang – a reliable company providing a good service to the UK and Europe that will be missed. Yet another proud day for Sony.

Parallels or Boot Camp?

Switching to Mac was made easier knowing that Boot Camp or Parallels were available so that Windows would never be far away for those 3 or 4 apps that do not exist on Mac that I need to run. However both take different approaches – which one to choose?

Parallels
Parallels is virtualization software that creates a virtual machine into which you can install Windows XP – Windows 3.1, various flavours of Linux, Solaris and even RC1 of Vista. Once you select your guest O/S you then install the O/S using your own media as you would on a normal machine. It’s easy to have many virtual machines and makes backing up fairly trivial – all can be done fromm the Mac without the need to reboot. Installing XP and Vista worked well and installing the included Parallels Tools meant that it was easy to share files through a shared folder and also your mouse would move seamlessly from the different environments without having to press keyboard commands to kick out of each window.

Pro’s

  • Flexibility
  • Good speed even though it’s a virtual machine
  • Ease of use – starting up a virtual machine and using XP without a reboot saved a lot of time
  • Multiple OS’s without much fuss

Con’s

  • No 3d support of graphics card
  • Although performance is good it’s still running a virtual machine meaning it’s slower than it could be and is also taking resources away from OS X
  • USB support – only 1.1 and to get devices to work meant hacking with the Apple library files
  • Still in beta (well release candidate)
  • Peripheral support – no guarantee of compatibility
  • Cost – $80

Boot Camp
Boot Camp takes a different approach, allowing you to install Windows XP SP2 using a drivers disk that is downloaded from Apple and allowing you to swap at boot between OS X and Windows XP. Only a Windows disk that has SP2 files on it is supported so you may have to slipstream an original disk to get a working cd. Once you’ve burned the Apple driver disk you create a partition using an easy to follow gui, insert your Windows disk and the Mac will reboot into the Windows install. Install XP as normal and after a couple of reboots you have a working Windows. Installing the drivers will give you a Windows that supports the iMac’s built in Bluetooth, iSight, graphics card and sound.

Pro’s

  • Full driver support of your hardware including 3d acceleration
  • Cost – it’s free and will be incorporated in Leopard.
  • Compatibility with software is greatly increased
  • Performance of Windows using Boot Camp is better than virtualization software

Con’s

  • Switching between OS’s requires a reboot
  • Still in beta
  • Hardware platform is different to normal PC so potential for driver issues
  • Only supports Windows XP SP2

My Choice?
I loved Parallels. Having that much flexibility without having to reboot was a joy. Firing up Visio to finish off some work in XP while iTunes ran on the Mac with Flock running in the background was superb. I also had no crashes during my time with Parallels. I didn’t like hacking with USB files though and I would still consider USB unstable with the latest Parallels release candidate.

Boot Camp while not without issues has performed well. Fast, great XP support, all my hardware now supported and easy to swap between OS X and XP via a reboot. To be honest the reboot was always my issue with Boot Camp but I need access to XP probably at most once a week so I can live with the reboot. The other issue with Parallels is paying $80 now when in spring next year Leopard will have Boot Camp built in. As I’m unclear just what Leopard will offer I’m not prepared to buy Parallels now – I’ll stick with Boot Camp.

As a test I ran Company of Heroes under Boot Camp. One of the latest PC games it plays like a dream and on my iMac looked superb while keeping good speed (this was at 1920*1200 although I don’t think all the nice effects were on). If gaming is your thing Boot Camp is the only answer. If multiple OS’s are your thing then it’s Parallels. If it’s infrequent access to Windows XP then save money and download Boot Camp.

Tangerine

Tangerine is a new beta app for the Mac that has one major aim – to create playlists for iTunes based on the Beats per Minute (BPM) of a track. It also wants to do that quickly while looking good at the same time. First impressions are that it manages all three.

AnalyzeOnce installed and running Tangerine will locate and analyze your iTunes library. There are issues if your library is located on an external drive but mines detected without a problem. The analysis is very quick – Potions website states around 3 tracks every second but obviously the anaylsis will be dependant on your library size and your encoding quality. Once analyzed it’s then down to you to create playlists based on the BPM that’s been associated to the mp3 file.

Playlist OptionsBy using sliders to easily change the criteria it’s easy to make varied playlists – from fast paced workouts to slow burners. Once complete the playlists is displayed and you have the option of saving it in your iTunes library. Another nice feature is the ability to write the BPM values back to iTunes allowing you to use the BPM within iTunes itself.

Completed Playlist

All the basic functionality worked well but there were one or two quirks especially with the BPM analysis. It seemed to mark some real slow tracks with very little beat with a high BPM. However it didn’t mark any of the faster tracks incorrectly so hopefully this can be addressed before official release. The look and feel of the app though is terrific. Once the playlist has been generated it is shown in the Tangerine window along with it’s album art. There are also some nice speech bubbles used to show track info. Playback controls (more accurately playback info) could have been displayed with more clarity though – again something that could be addressed before 1.0 release.

Some features I’d like to see – ability to use a playlist as a source for the newly generated playlist rather than the whole library. I’d also like to pick genre or ratings (you can select use predominately higher ratings) and base new playlists on those criteria. Actually I can pick genre or ratings – you just need to add a rule in the preferences which you can enable/disable to you liking. Nice. I guess the one thing it really does need is a readme…and a help file.

This is a really handy app for gym bunnies or runners that want to tailor there playlists to not only good songs but songs that match their pace. I’ll be using it to generate some game based playlists – high for racing games (or Lumines), low for something like golf. One little point to finish on – the installation screens on Mac are great and Tangerines is one of the best. Enjoy.

Tangerine Install

Common Sense

Glad to see that a tribunal has ruled that there was no discrimination shown by a school in suspending a classroom assistant who insisted on wearing a veil. While I’m against any sort of veil ban as has been suggested elsewhere, the wearing of a veil in a classroom shouldn’t be tolerated. Not a racist view, or denying anyone their rights…just common sense in my book. I would be uncomfortable seeing any teacher wearing any sort of face cover while teaching kids no matter what religion or beliefs they had. it should also be remembered that it was the kids that complained that the assistant couldn’t be heard that brought the matter to the authorities attention.

The fact that the wearing of the veil (niqab) is debated by Muslim religious leaders makes the issue even more clear cut for me. Unfortunately the assistant at the centre of the controversy is appealing the decision, hence dragging this one issue on a little further. I am concerned about how polarized the debate has become, something touched upon by Roy but surely it’s more important to debate and discuss the issues than brush them under the carpet and hope they never rear their ugly head, no? The main political parties staying away from race and integration issues have only aided the lies spread by parties like the BNP.

Not so Mighty

Everything about the new iMac has been great except for one niggle that turned into a real annoyance which has been solved tonight. That niggle is the Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse. I should probably start by saying that I always thought the mice on Mac’s were a bit strange. One button? Hold a keyboard button to access right menu’s when you click! No scroll wheel’s? How odd when compared to the thoughtful design seen elsewhere with Mac’.

However I was determined to perceiver – I will use the Mighty Mouse and it will be good. Which at first it was.

Then it felt like some grit had got underneath as I was dragging the mouse about. I cleaned it thoroughly but it persisted. Then last night I noticed that underneath the front of the mouse on wither side, roughly were you click a mouse, the plastic had worn and was ‘rough’. That’s what was causing the gritty feel. So it’s gone. I’ve moved back to my Logitech MX-1000 and happiness has been found yet again. Proper right clicks, no gritty desk movement, multiple buttons that don’t need a king kong grip to activate and a scroll wheel that doesn’t clog.

It does make we ponder why Apple mice have always been…different. So has their other hardware but usually to their advantage, but not so with the Mighty Mouse. Never has a mouse been so unfortunately named. It’s almost designed to be different for the sake of it rather than for customer convenience or simplicity. So if you do switch don’t ditch the old mouse…and if it’s a really old mouse you should treat yourself to one of the new Logitech mice – highly recommended.

Gaming Thoughts

A few random thoughts not worthy of a single post…

  • Halo 2. Loved this online since it came out, one of the best multiplayer games on Live and that’s despite the cheating that’s has plagued it. One of the reasons is that the unranked playlists have been great – no one quits early, games are fair as the cheats are chasing rankings and the overall game is so much improved because of it. Imagine the disappointment last week when one of our favourite game modes moved to a ranked mode. Cheating, lagging, leaving – a game mode ruined.
  • Test Drive Unlimited – this is now one of my favourites of the year and surprisingly it’s the single player game that I’m liking the most. Multiplayer is awkward to get going with friends and full of cheats (spot the trend?) if you play with randoms. Despite this it’s easily the game I’ve played the most and got reward from it – still lot’s of challenges left too.
  • Rainbow Six Vegas – looking forward to it lots. One option that looks to lift it is the player customisation. Not only can you use the usual options in game but you can plug in the 360 camera and use it to build a character. This video says it all.
  • A couple of weeks away from the annual Pro Evo Soccer highs and lows. Highs this year – widescreen at last, better graphics, more moves. Lows – online lets it down again? I hope not.
  • PS3. With the delay in Europe and the stream of news coming out now it looks more appealing. Still not convinced of it’s online credentials although the fact that online gaming is free is nice (and makes me think that MS may make that move too). Some of the in game movies look superb though and a notch above current 360 titles. Considering they are a year into developing on the 360 it bodes well for future PS3 titles.
  • Wii sports looks great – again videos say it all. Can’t wait to play it. However there’s nothing else, not even Zelda, that sounds interesting. Ok – Zelda is a bit interesting but I can see me getting bored of using the remote for firing arrows etc. Is £179.99 too much for one game?