It's Been a While

Not posted much recently. A horrible man flu bug has got in the way of things recently but feeling better now. It got in the way so much that my new amp has been here a week now and it’s still not out the box. I picked up an Onkyo 705 to take advantage of the new audio formats now on offer. Looking forward to setting it up this weekend.

Thats assuming I’ve not been blown away – the wind has been pretty bad over the last few days. Just some snow to look forward to now. Joy!

Two weeks left before I start my new job. Can’t wait. Starting to pick up new work already and it’s looking sufficiently different, exciting, new and that’s before I start. Will be coding again when I move jobs and I’ve started to mess around with APEX in my own time – pretty powerful package and you can get a lot done with very little effort, or so it seems.

Weight loss continuing at an OK pace. Lost the Christmas gains and creeping towards 2.5 stones lost since last September. Back on to the badminton also although the calf is tightening every time I play. Not good.

Trying MarsEdit, loving CSSEdit, wondering why I didn’t use 1Passwd sooner, resisting the iPhone with it’s new tariff’s although now that I’m contract free I’m finding it more difficult than ever to resist.

Loving seeing Tory Derek Conway getting caught with his nose in the trough. I can’t understand why we can’t sack MP’s who are obviously abusing the system.

Anyway, another gale’s whipping up. Time for bed (not sleep – got the whistling wind to listen to).

Fixing Mac Batteries

My Macbook Pro is still going strong in it’s second year. Something I have noticed though is that while the battery life is still very good and hasn’t really deteriorated, the reporting of battery capacity has become a bit erratic. On start-up it will say there’s an hour left but after half an hour it will then say there is 2.5 hours remaining. There’s also been a couple of times when there’s been at least an hour left for it to conk out within five minutes. This wasn’t down to capacity but misreporting what charge was remaining. Help is at hand though.

I found a document on Apple’s site that explained how to calibrate your Mac’s battery. It turns out that each battery has a microprocessor that works out how much juice is remaining. However this needs calibrating from time to time to keep your on-screen battery indicator accurate. I ran through the steps a few days ago and I now have a happy battery icon again. Joy. Might be worth running through the steps if your having similar hiccups on your Mac.

New Look

New year, new blog skin. I made some small changes to the wonderful Grid Focus over the weekend, enough to actually roll it out to the blog tonight. There’s still a few changes to make and there’s some rough edges here and there but I’m pleased with how it looks and works at the moment.

One thing I can’t take to is widgets. I’m just never happy with how they work. Some do work well, others enforce there own styling which is difficult to undo. That’s what I love about Grid Focus. You need to edit a few php files to get what you want and it gives me a lot more control over what I want and where it is positioned.

I keep saying it but I’m hoping to spend some time crafting my own blog template for the next update but that’s months away. Anyway, if you spot anything a bit funky then please let me know.

Four Years

It’s been four years since we moved in to our current house. The time has flown by and it still seems very new, at least to me. In that time we’ve made a fair few changes to make it our own but there’s still a lot I want to do. Some are easy, others not so and will cost a fair bit of money but eventually we’ll get there. I think. Looking at some of the guys I work with there always seems to be jobs to do in your house. Most of this years improvements will be mostly decor rather than anything major. Will take time though. We also must do something about the front garden. I think it’s at the top of my ‘niggles me most’ list.

Macworld Thoughts

Leopard sales look to be very impressive but it’s a shame that the new update wasn’t announced or released. Hope that will be out soon.

The iPhone firmware update looks great and wets the appetite for the up coming SDK in Feb and the slew of app’s that will no doubt be released afterwards. While the update to Google Maps looks good the web clipping looked to be the best new feature. Favourite web clips from a custom home page – nice. Not so nice is charging existing iPod Touch users $20 to get 5 app’s that came with the iPhone but not the iPod Touch. New users will get these app’s built in with the Touch from now on but charging for this is just mean.

iTunes movie rentals look to be everything I would want except that it’s not in the UK (yet) and a 24 hour window for watching a movie once started is pretty tight. At least 48 hours would make more sense but I’ve no problem with the 30 day window to start watching a film. It’s great that HD films will be available for rental. Not so great is that they are only available on Apple TV (not syncable to other Macs) and that not all will have Dolby Digital 5.1. It also looks like the price drop for Apple TV is USA only which is poor. $229 for the base model in the USA, £199 for the same box in the UK. At today’s rates the UK price in dollars is $389.76. Robbery.

Finally, the Macbook Air. This looks to be an amazing piece of engineering. Incredibly thin it looks to curve at the edges probably giving the same effect as the latest iPod Nano’s which feel great in the hand. Might worry some but I think losing the optical drive is a good thing. Software delivery, backup’s, file management etc is moving increasingly to wireless and t’internet only. The device won’t suit everyone but the Remote Disk feature allowing you to use a PC or Mac drive in a local PC as a drive on the Air is a great work around and fall back should you need to restore your Mac. Couple of caveats. Can’t replace the battery (similar to iPod) and it is a tad pricey but this is really cutting edge. The SSD upgrade s also ridiculously expensive but again this is new tech and the price over the years will fall. Can’t wait to get my hands on one…but I won’t be buying. Happy with my current Macbook Pro. Just want to see just how light it feels.

I am tempted with an Apple TV though. With all cd’s ripped and so much media on the iMac and external drives, streaming to the TV via Apple TV is making more sense. I’ll hang off for the moment but the new Apple TV software looks pretty sweet and could be tempting once I get the new amp in place. Especially as Connect 360 works well but the 360 is noisy…and the PS3 is quiet but MediaLink is a bit…funky at the moment.

One more thing…who drugged Randy Newman?

Looking Forward

I’m not sure if it’s the new year, the new job at work that’s coming soon or just the fact that it was so grey at the weekend that I had to do something else but I’ve been thinking a lot about the tasks I’d like to do to the house over the next year or so. I didn’t do as much as I hoped last year so that means there’s a lot more to do than usual. I’m also looking at re-doing a couple of rooms as well. Getting a bit bored of the various beige colours used throughout the house.

So I’ve brain dumped into iGTD this weekend and I’ve got a massive list of tasks now – just need to sort them into some sort of order. At the same time I’m thinking of re-doing the blog theme again. Scribbling down some idea’s only at the moment but hope to get something together over the next couple of weeks.

Finally got all the cd’s ripped this weekend too so need to get them boxed and into the attic. That place needs a clear out also – so many boxes and old stuff that I no longer use. Hopefully by next weekend my new amp will have arrived and I can get the old one onto eBay. It’s been a while since I’ve eBay’d anything although there’s probably quite a few things in the attic that could be sold. Mmmmm.

So hopefully you didn’t get too wet this weekend. Our garden gets serious puddles in new places due to the path and grass we put in this year. I was going to try and sort it on Saturday but it was a bit cold. That’s another task for the year ahead. It’s going to be a busy one!

Macworld Predictions

So what will we see this week?

  • Apple TV 2. Bigger hard disk and support for HD. iPhone as remote?
  • iTunes movie rentals…and movies now available in HD.
  • iPhone – new firmware, new features, talk on the SDK but no 3G.
  • Leopard update with some new (small) features and fixes.
  • One more thing…small form factor Mac. Touch screen only. The new features in Leopard are geared for touch although it’s maybe too early to announce this yet.

If it lives up to last years keynote which unveiled the iPhone then it will be something pretty special. But Apple can’t keep the fanboy’s and shareholders happy forever, can they? We’ll find out at 17:00 Uk time on Tuesday. Also looking forward to some new software releases this week. A lot of dev’s keep releases back until Macworld so hopefully there will be some new goodies to play with soon.

Play 07

Finally, following on from Listen 07 and Watch 07, a round up of my favourite games from 2007.

Orange Box
Half Life 2This is really five games for the price of one. Usually a box set is an indication of average games being sold together but all of the content here is AAA. The main meat is provided by Half Life 2 (HL2), HL2 Episode 1 and HL2 Episode 2. While all three are new to the 360 and PS3, HL2 has been out for a few years on the pc. With slightly slicker graphics being the only main change in HL2 I was a bit worried it would feel stale. However the story still feels fresh and it’s been a joy playing through HL2 again. I’ve enjoyed the story more on the console than I did on the pc – I’ve no reason why, it’s just what I’ve found during play. I’ve yet to complete HL2 yet so Episodes 1 & 2 remain untouched but I am really looking forward to them.

PortalPortal is a puzzle game that is unique to Orange Box. Using a portal gun the player creates two portals. Walk through one portal and you appear through the other. Using this simple concept a number of puzzles must be solved eventually enabling the player to escape from the Aperture Science Labs. Gameplay is pretty short coming in well under five hours. However this is a unique and enjoyable gaming experience that I hope everyone will get the chance to try. Portal alone is worth buying Orange Box for – that’s how much I enjoyed it. Even the end credits are pretty special. The game length is also perfectly judged and once completed you get the chance to go for quick times through each of the challenges or try some of the advanced puzzles which are pretty tough. Stunning.

Team Fortress 2The final game is Team Fortress 2. This is multiplayer only featuring a totally different set of visuals and sounds. Very cartoony with some great audio and presentation. What differentiates this from the other FPS on the market at the moment are the variety of classes. There are nine options and there is a much larger emphasise on team play to win when compared with Halo or Call of Duty. I’ve only played a few games but they have been lag free (thanks to an update) and great fun. Initially everyone will go for the Soldier or Heavy but over time you realise the importance of Medics, Engineers, Spy’s and Scouts. I think there are only six maps which feels a bit tight but they are pretty large and due to the variety of classes there is a huge amount of replayability in them. Over time I would expect more maps to become available.

So that’s Orange Box. If it was just the Half Life series or indeed Portal alone it would have been in my games of the year but to have all five for the price of one is great value. Even at double the price it would have been in my list. So what’s next?
Continue reading “Play 07”

Bye Bye Facebook

So for the second time I’ve disabled my Facebook account. I’ve also removed myself from LinkedIn. The real reason is that I got no benefit out of these web app’s. Maybe if I had lot’s of online contacts I wanted to keep in touch with then they would be useful, but I don’t. For those that I do want to keep in touch with e-mail, IM, the blog, Flickr and Twitter all do a decent job. I also felt uncomfortable about the amount of personal information that these sites shared amongst my ‘friends’.

The recent furore around Scoble and his removal from Facebook due to running a script raises an important question I hadn’t considered. Who is responsible for my contacts? Is it me or is it Facebook? Facebook have said they stopped a script from running on Scoble’s profile as it was scraping information and they were protecting their users from having their information taken by this script. While that sounds fine in principle why do Facebook want access to my Google, Microsoft, Yahoo contacts when I first sign up? All smacks of double standards. The real reason is to stop you easily moving to another site.

If I worry about my information and who has it online what’s to stop real friends from sharing that information with Facebook, LinkedIn, Google – anyone. I guess nothing really. My contacts on Facebook or in real life have allowed me to store their information making me responsible for it not the application or website that I store it in. Ultimately it is you that is responsible for your information and giving it out to those people or applications that you trust. If your at all worried about it the only person that can really address it is you. It’s a pretty sobering thought, especially when so much of my personal information is easily found on the internet…and that’s mostly down to me. Annoyingly for a lot of the information it’s already too late to clean up. If I could roll back time I would have been a bit smarter in protecting my real life identity online.

Watch 07

Following on from Listen 07, here are my favourite films and TV from 2007. Again, no order to the list.

Hot Fuzz Hot Fuzz

Better than Shaun of the Dead for me, this was laugh out loud comedy at its best spliced with in gag’s and nod’s to the buddy cop films that we all know and love. You have seen Spaced haven’t you?

Bourne Ultimatum Bourne Ultimatum

When the Bourne Identity came out I didn’t hold out much hope for it – how wrong I was. The final part of the trilogy has delivered a great ending, neatly wrapping up the question of who Bourne was and the people that made him who he is today.
A great end to the Bourne series…I hope. Don’t ruin it by taking it one film too far.

Heroes Heroes

My favourite American import this was a great watch from beginning to end although it had a touch of the Lost season 2’s about it in the middle. Season 2 though has been disappointing only picking up pace as it nears the end. Still worthy of watching when the BBC gets their act together and airs it later this year.

Life on Mars Life on Mars

While showing signs of running out of steam compared to series 1, Life on Mars was still a drama highlight. The series finale was a news worthy item and many speculated on what actually happened, including me. A great watch and sadly missed…although Ashes to Ashes starts in Feb on BBC. Time for an 80’s revival?

Blade Runner Blade Runner – The Final Cut

Why is a 25 year old movie in my list of great watches for 2007? Well in many ways Blade Runner still feels unsurpassed even today and the final cut (especially on Blu Ray) is a visual treat. If you have an HD player this is a must buy. While some scenes have been re-shot and some small changes made it’s the fact that they are in HD and re-scanned at a really high resolution that makes the biggest difference. A classic.

There were other highlights well worth catching. Knocked Up and Superbad were pretty funny films and Top Gear was consistently good. I don’t care if they stage all their reviews, challenges, stunts. I enjoy them. Lost also picked up the pace and was back on form. Dexter was a good watch, all the better for being a short series. 30 Rock is usually pretty funny as is Mock the Week (Frankie Boyle being the highlight for me). Finally, try and catch Friday Night Lights – very different to the film but pretty good.

I just hope stalwarts like 24 and Battlestar show a return to form once the writers strike finishes. Especially 24 – it was pants this year.