Mint Eggs

I use Mint for tracking my website visitors (all 3 of you) and it’s pretty fascinating to see the searches that bring people here, people from all over the globe. However I’ve only just realised that there are a number of commands, mostly hidden I think, that allow you to dig into Mint just that little bit more.

Peppermint Tea, a site that pulls together all the latest peppers for Mint has a list of the known commands. Errors and benchmarks are particularly handy for those misbehaving peppers. However it’s the Easter Eggs I loved.


I’m sure someone will see it as a waste of code and that more time should be spent fixing bugs…..pah! Give me an Easter Egg any day. Anyway, some interesting stats for this site. Internet Explorer visits have dropped to 53% with IE7 making up 60% of that total. Firefox is still slowly gaining at 37% and since moving to the Mac Safari has moved from 2% to a whopping 5% – none of that is me by the way. One stat that hasn’t changed is operating systems though – Windows users still makes up the vast majority of visitors at 89%, Mac with 10% and Linux with 1%. I guess that reflects reality pretty well.

The biggest surprise is how many visits are from users with small’ish screens. 1024*768 is the res for 43% of visitors, with 1280*1024 coming in second on 30% although the top stat is reducing quite quickly over time. Maybe I was a bit quick to move to a wider theme?

Final stat’s – 44% of visitors are from the UK, PSP Warez is the most common search and GTA Liberty City Stories – Custom Soundtracks is the most visited post.

PS3 Firmware 1.80

Now this is nice. The latest PS3 update (out tomorrow in UK) add’s some great features.

  • Upscaling of DVDs, PS1, PS2 games up to 1080p on supporting HDTV’s via HDMI
  • Remote Play support on the PSP from anywhere on the internet. Connect to your PS3 from anywhere
  • Support for DLNA devices so that music, photo’s and videos can be streamed across networks
  • Photo printing nonsense with Epson printers

A pretty impressive update that has come out of nowhere. Does this mean I could stream media from my NAS to the PS3 and view that media on my PSP anywhere in the world?

New Clothes

I’ve finally got round to implementing my own site theme. Although I’m not entirely happy with it and it still needs some tweaking on certain pages it had been unchanged for two weeks on the test site and with time looking to be limited over the next month or so I thought it was time to take the plunge.

The main idea behind the theme was to keep things simple, increase white space and drop the graphics. I’m far preferring sites with little or no graphics on them so that was my main aim. At the same time I wanted the theme to be a little wider than most others to take advantage of my desktops and also those of most of my visitors (thanks Mint). Cross browser compatibility was also important as more than 50% of the real visitors to the site are on IE and around 10% on Safari so I wanted to make sure it looked much the same across all platforms (thanks Parallels). It mostly does with some tweaking still to do to suit IE6.

I’ve also dropped the number of plugins I have installed and load times have been greatly reduced. The about page probably takes the most time although a misbehaving plugin has been disabled which helps. I’ve also created a tumblelog site which is acting as a ‘lifelog’ pulling together a number of feeds. I’ve been very impressed with Tumblr and with new functionality being added frequently and paid for features in the pipeline I can’t see me dropping it. Indeed I’ll probably register a new domain just for the lifelog.

So there you are, hope you like it. I can’t promise it will stay for long as I can be pretty fickle about what I like and dislike but it will do for now and at least meets some of the objectives I set out with. Now I just need to resist the temptation to constantly change.

Halo 3 Thoughts

I felt it was worth playing more than a handful of games before commenting on Halo 3 as it takes time to get used to some of the more subtle changes. The most noise on the net at the moment is with the quality, or lack of, of the graphics. I’ve been happy with them but they aren’t mindblowing. I’ve been impressed with the bubble shield, the increased detail on all the maps, the water effects and the higher res that everything is presented in. While it’s a beta I don’t expect them to change much between now and September although the single player may have an extra sheen as seen in previous Halo games when compared to multi-player.

The three maps in the beta are all very different, new and provide fresh challenges. Most disappointing is Snowbound as it’s fairly small with not much detail. The snow effects are nice but there isn’t much cover on the map leading to quick deaths. Still, the Ghost on this map does allow me to mow down folk.

Highground is a fantastic map consisting of a beach, with a main path heading up to an abandoned base. Lot’s of hiding places, multiple routes to the base and also the chance to try the Mongoose. Think smaller, aster more vulnerable Warthog. Great fun. Finally there is Valhalla which is a more traditional Halo map – large with a base at each end and in a valley with undulating terrain and a stream running through it. The water really slows the Warthog down and when you die in the water your body is carried by the currrent and the sound is muffled…a great touch.

First Halo 3 Match

The new weapons are a mixed bag at the moment. The Spartan Laser is very powerful but balance is provided in that it takes 5 seconds to charge. Machine gun turrets are now removable but really slow you down – still makes an effective weapon for mowing down groups. The Brute Spiker is a great new weapon close up – dual wielding seems to be most effective and does a lot of damage.

Most notable is that the pace has dropped slightly. It feels a tad slower than Halo 2 but if anything this has made the game feel even better. One of the early rumours was that the game physics could be altered by the host so that gravity, speed, weapon power etc could be altered so if true it would be easy to adjust running speed. I’m not convinced by offerring these variable options though – every game could feel different, odd even for all those playing apart from the host. I guess this won’t apply to ranking matches if there is such a feature.

Certainly the first 20 or so games for me have been excellent and are a great taster for the full release in September. In an attempt to beat the de-rankers you now have experience point (Ranking Points) which allows matchmaking to be refined and be based not just on your current skill level but also your experience.

After the lack of party features in Gears of War it’s great to form your own party and take your friends into a game. If this was in Gears of War I think I and many of my friends would have played it more. It makes for a great game online when it’s your friends rather than strangers your fighting with. The speech is a little awkward though. By default team speak is off with only proximity chat on. Most games with strangers have been fairly quiet so far. With friends in your team it’s a bit more vocal but I would have preferred that team speak was default rather than a button press.

I guess the most annoying feature is the time limit as the beta ends on June 10th. The last three nights have seen some fantastic online games – mostly close games and a great laugh. Maybe it’s for the best as no doubt we would be tired of the maps by September. I’m in no doubt however that this is another classic that will eat up as much time as Halo 2 did. Roll on Sep 26th – my pre-order has already been made.

Who needs Apple TV?

Nullsoft have update Connect360 to play nicely with the 360’s spring dashboard update. While this is good news as after the update it was a bit buggy the best bit for me is that .mov files are now supported. Well, WMV+WMA, H.264 and MPEG4 are actually supported now which means the 360 alongside Connect360 can playback all my video podcasts plus movies stored on the Mac. Fantastico. I’m sure the Aple TV menu system is slicker and it’s obviously quieter but the 360 makes for a great free alternative which I already own.

Halcyon Gaming

When I think back to older games I always remember my first view of Super Mario World, completing Mercenary, Flyspy and the first time I joined Head with Heels amongst so many others. However two games always stand out and they were from my time at Glasgow Uni. The first game was Descent which was the first proper 3D shooter. Doom got all the press but it wasn’t truly 3D as there was no Z axis really – you couldn’t have objects on top of objects in the first release. A few months later Descent came out and it was superb. I still remember playing against Ricky D with me being chased…I turned into a corridor and dived off to the left. He turned into same corridor and sped by…I moved out and fired a homing missile. I still remember the shout – ‘Bastard…………Descent’ (think Ian Paisley no surrender style voice and you’ve got it). Class.

The second game was Super Bomberman. I remember going shopping with Shakeel and as per usual we were goading each other on with purchases. Something along the lines of if you buy that then I’ll buy this kind of thing. Pretty childish but we still do it today except the purchases can be measured in the hundred’s of pounds and not tens. Anyway, I picked up a multi-tap for the SNES, an extra controller and I already had a free Super Bomberman. 4 player gaming was an instant hit with Bomberman being our game of choice. I’d hate to think how many hours we racked up on that game. Super Bomberman 2 was also purchased which introduced Golden Bomber. I still laugh when I think back to me getting the hand so often on the spinning wheel (no cheating – honest) and David’s insatiable appetite for speedy boots which we all knew would end in tears.

The reason for all this nostalgia? After many screw-ups and tamperfering with a tried and tested formula plus many a rumour, it looks like Bomberman in it’s multiplayer format is coming to Xbox Live. This Joystick article points to Australian certification and also a pretty official looking video. Bomberman, with up to 8 players, online and on the 360 – be still my beating heart.

360 Dash Update

So the update landed today and is universally ‘a good thing’. MSN Messenger integration lets you chat slowly to friends on PC’s, mobiles etc. The dashboard is faster and the marketplace does look better placed in it’s own blade. Small things like seeing what disk is in the drive is also a nice touch. However it’s competition from the PS3 thats driving some of the more interesting updates.

A slew of new video codec’s are now supported meaning the 360 now matches the PS3 for video playback. The codec’s are covered well on Engadget highlighting what works and more importantly doesn’t. Two important factors when considering the 360 as a media player though. One, it can stream over a network which makes for easy downloading, extracting and storage elsewhere unlike the PS3. Two – it’s NOISY. Too noisy to be considered as a media player in my opinion.

Another, almost undocumented new feature is for VGA cable users. As detailed at DailyTech this finally allows VGA users to remove that washed out look that I always felt plagued VGA. It made me smile as I could never understand why people convinced themselves that VGA didn’t look washed out. Hey ho…fixed now.

Just Forza 2 demo and Halo 3 beta to look forward to now.

A Farce

So the Scottish elections have come and gone and the new session of the parliament will resume looking very different. Some quick highs and low for me:


  • Bye bye Tommy Sheridan. No doubt he’ll write a book – Tommy:The Real PinBall Wizard.
  • It was also goodbye to the SSP. No real loss methinks and their implosion last year coupled with lack of impact was their undoing.
  • STV system allowed me to rank the tories at the bottom. Puerile but oh so funny.


  • Having two votes on the same day with two different voting systems was a disaster. Easy to say with hindsight but someone has to take responsibility for this.
  • Over 100,000 spoiled ballot papers. Lot’s of people mocked American elections and how Bush got it – are we any better?
  • Having Alex Salmond for First Minister Scottish National Party on the regional list vote was a great trick by the SNP and undoubtedly won them some votes but I think added to the confusion. In future only party names should be allowed in the regional list vote or we’ll end up with stunts to make sure parties come first in the list.
  • Alex Salmond…first minister? His smugness could reach unprecedented levels.
  • Independents almost wiped out. It was good to hear a voice that wasn’t tied to party lines.

So what now? To get a majority in the Scottish Parliament you need 65 seats. SNP plus the Liberals equals 63 putting the Greens in a very strong position as potential coalition partners. I always favoured the way the parliament was setup as I thought it would encourage politics that represent a wider range of viewpoints rather than one party controlling everything. But now the Greens could get a disproportionate say in the running of Scotland, especially as they polled only 0.2% of the constituency vote (although they only stood in Glasgow Kelvin so this percentage isn’t representative) and 4% of the regional vote. Is that fair? 4% of people have voted for policies that could soon be passed in parliament. I guess it depends on the deals that are done over the next few days.

Despite these failings at least interest in politics has risen, or has it? Lost amongst the voting issues was that turnout was again very low at 51.8%. Just 2.5% higher than four years ago but given the large amount of spoiled papers it can be argued that those elected have the smallest public mandate in modern times. Considering how keenly fought this election was that is disappointing.

Still…interesting and potentially very different times ahead.

Virgin Traffic Management

Virgin media finally revealed details of their traffic management system which they’ve been trialling for the last few months. While it’s no big surprise that it was coming with so many other companies implementing it in some shape or form some of the limits seem a little low.

  • Broadband Size: M – download more than 350MB during peak hours (16:00-00:00) and your connection will be throttled to 1MB download, 128kb upload lasting for four hours from when it was implemented
  • Broadband Size: L – download more than 750MB during peak hours (16:00-00:00) and your connection will be throttled to 2MB download, 192kb upload lasting for four hours from when it was implemented
  • Broadband Size: XL – download more than 3GB during peak hours (16:00-00:00) and your connection will be throttled to 5 MB download, 256kb upload lasting for four hours from when it was implemented

While I’m not against throttling this seems to be a blunt instrument to address the problem. Instead of throttling back torrent and newsgroup ports to a slow speed they are dropping your full connection speed. For those on M & L, those limits are pretty easy to reach. Just one of the podcasts I subscribe to is over 400MB for one file. With some careful management throttling could be avoided but your back to downloading overnight and during the day to keep peak hours free for normal web use, VOIP, gaming etc which can eat into those limits fairly easier.

Put it another way, once 20MB connections are introduced just 21 minutes at full speed would take you over the 3GB limit. Not much, eh? However factor in that after the 21 minutes you are still getting 5MB and it’s not really too bad. It will be frustrating though if your hosting on Live and you pop over your limit, throttling back upload speeds and potentially dropping your friends. Also, does the new connection speed implement seamlessly or is there a drop and re-connect?

I can’t really see me having a problem on XL although I was considering dropping to L once the upgrades were completed. After these changes I’ll be staying where I am.

Customer Service

It’s been one of those days for me. Great customer service x3.

1. Cars in the garage – air con is broke. I phoned on Monday and they said bring it in anytime. How does Wednesday morning sound? No problem sir. Cool – I’ll drop it off around 7:00 if thats ok. Sure – someone will be here to take your keys. Excellent.

Roll on to today. By 12 I hadn’t heard from the garage. I phoned their new service department number – unobtainable. Strange – used that number on Monday. Turns out that from any mobile network the number doesn’t work. Tried from my work phone – after 2 mins of no-one picking up I put the phone down. Tried the number another couple of times but no answer. No other phone number on their website but Yell had another number. This got answered and I was transferred through to the service department. After a couple of minutes of no answer I gave up.

Tried 4 or 5 times before eventually getting through to service department at 14:00. Cars getting looked at right now. Ok, they’ll phone back soon. Roll on to 16:30. Still heard nothing and struggling again to get in touch with them. Got hold off them around 16:40…yes sir, we’re looking at the car just now. We’ll be able to give you an update in 20 mins. AGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I complained, moaned but I got the excuse it must have been the wrong car earlier and they apologized. 30 mins later and I get the call – they might be able to fix it tomorrow, it may cost around £300 but it could be less, could be more. Rest assured however, we’ll keep you informed at all times. Yeah – right.

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