Sunday Night Blues

What a lazy weekend. Potentially the only productive output from this weekend is this post. Embarrassing. Especially when this post is just really a thoughts post. A post made up of tweets really. OK, long tweets.

  • Starting on a high, aren’t the Olympics just superb! I’ve spent most of the weekend in front of the TV or the BBC Olympics site watching the Brit’s success. Unbelievable. Usain Bolts run was jaw dropping, Michael Phelps achievements will probably go unmatched for decades, it’s a great games so far. Still a week to go so plenty chance for more British golds. A week before Boris Johnson is handed the Olympic flag. Mind boggling. Seb Coe did joke that 5000 Morris dancers would be used for Britain’s eight minute segment during the closing ceremony but it does make you think – what will we do?
  • iPhone is still causing me grief. App’s have stopped working three times in a fortnight meaning a re-install to get them going. My paid app’s now work as my account history has been restored but if they fail I can’t download them again – I need to buy them again. Apple have assured me that they are trying to fix my issues and that they have noted to get in touch with me again. Cheers.
  • New app that came out on Thursday on the iPhone is Simplify Media which allows you to stream music to your iPhone from your home computer – Mac, Windows or Linux. It’s buggy but when it works it’s superb. Worked well for me over 3G too. You can also invite friends who can listen to your library and vice versa. If they can iron out the bugs and make it more reliable this takes away the size issue of the iPhone. All my music…anywhere. Some screens from the app below.
  • Simplify Media
    Simplify Media

    Simplify Media

  • Weight loss has stalled. However stall is no surprise as I’ve been eating more and doing less exercise. So need to get back to what I was doing as I want to lose a bit more by the end of the year. So it was back in the saddle today with a 19mile cycle. Felt good.
  • Contemplating blog restyle. Again. In fact, contemplating blog and what I should do with it. Again. It’s not really doing what i want and I’m not publishing what I really want to publish. What to do?
  • Last iPhone comment – here’s why I waited for 3G iPhone:

    3g – download – 1.67mps (1666kbps/203kB/s)
    3g – upload – 0.25Mbps (254 Kbps / 31kB/s)

    Edge – download – 0.34 Mbps (340 Kbps / 42kB/s)
    Edge – upload – 0.05 Mbps 949 Kbps / 6 kB/s)

    Quite a difference and the 3G makes it usable, unlike edge which can be pretty frustrating.

  • Everyone seen Dark Knight then? I had a draft post that I couldn’t be bothered finishing off. Basically it said ‘I loved the Dark Knight’ and I’m a Batman geek. It’s dark and very true to the comic featuring many characters and scenes from comics like Hush and Long Halloween. Watching in the Imax was pretty special and the opening robbery scenes and those in Hong Kong were amazing. Heath Ledgers Joker was very impressive and contrasted so well with Batman. Film ended on a muted note but that felt the right thing to do. Loved the real world feel of it all. Using special effects sparingly I think emphasised the fact that Batman is a normal guy – no special powers. Lot’s of gadgets but no powers. Hopefully there will be a third in a few years time.
  • Rangers have made some interesting signings in the last four days. Pity they weren’t three weeks ago when they might have made a difference. Someone needs to be held accountable for why these signings took so long.
  • One last moan. Dog owners especially the one that lets their dog shite at my front gate. Fuck off please. Thanks.

Olympic Thoughts

Day six of the Beijing games are over…my thoughts so far? Dramatic, enthralling, fantastic. When I can I’ve watched, well, any sport really. No matter the sport or the country taking part I’ve been interested. British interest always increases the tension and as Gordon said so well, the BBC add’s to the coverage by framing events so well. But first – that opening ceremony.

It looked and sounded amazing and watching it in HD was pretty special. So many memorable moments and images – The Big Picture photoset captures it beautifully. The manpower and cost, never mind the passion shown during the ceremony makes it almost impossible for London to match but that’s four years away and a different games. During the ceremony the miming and footstep’s in the sky were pretty obvious to spot but took nothing away from the show. That’s all it is – an entertainment show to get the games going. Acts around the world have mimed for years so I was surprised to see so much coverage for this.

I also got annoyed with the BBC emphasising that China had been selective with choosing moments from their past to highlight at the ceremony. What do you expect? In 2012 will we see slavery scenes in London? Pretty silly. Thank goodness Eurosport HD has launched – I watched the majority of the ceremony on Eurosport which even looked slightly better and their surround sound worked unlike the BBC.

As for the sport itself, Nicole Cook was magnificent as was David Florence although the in your face reporting from Garry Richardson was way over the top. It was like David Brent doing the reporting. Favourite events so far have to be from the swimming pool. Rebecca Adlington’s swim was so good as she hauled back a large lead with just metres to go. The most amazing race so far though was the 4x100m mens freestyle. How America pulled back that lead and the reaction from Phelps – image of the games so far. Athlete of the games so far too. In fact, athlete of the games. Can’t think of anyone form track and field that can compete.

From archery to boxing the range of sports covered well on TV has never been better. So sad to see Gail Emms go out today – the interview afterwards was heartbreaking. From BBC HD to the main BBC channels with the fantastic red button service you can see Olympic sports 24/7. Couple that with a great website – I’m like a pig in mud.

Track and field kick off tomorrow and Saturday looks like being the day of the games – so many medals decided and many include potential golds for Britain. One niggle remains though. Should China be hosting the games? For me, absolutely. I don’t agree with how the country is run, the human rights issues, the lack of freedom of speech etc etc etc. How many governments around the world are squeeky clean though? Considering Iraq and Afghanistan should London have been in the running if Beijing is so controversial? There’s a lot of hypocrisy surrounding these games and lot’s of negativity around the blogs. Ultimately the Olympics is about sport but as usual people want to politicalise the games and tell everyone how terrible it is that China are hosting the games and how oppressed the country is. Watch some sport, see the passion from the athletes involved and enjoy it for what it is. You’ll also get to see classic TV moments like this.

Sir Steve gets soaked

iPhone Clusterfuck

I’ve had the iPhone almost four weeks now and thought it was time for an update. Well, that’s bollocks really. Yes I’ll detail how it’s been so far but this week has seen a few screw up’s for my iPhone that have left a pretty bad taste. Seen as a whole the iPhone 3G is turning into a clusterfuck for Apple.

The first three weeks of use were very good. The range of app’s in the store is good unlike their stability. However most of the app’s have now had point releases which has improved stability. There’s still an occasional crash but not nearly as many as was seen in the first week. The Apple app’s have all behaved pretty well but with the occasional slowdown and glitch. Texting for example usually works well but every 1 in 5 texts would see the keyboard input lag terribly behind my typing. Restarting the texting app would sort that problem but it was very annoying. Since the 2.0.1 update I’ve not seen the slow keyboard lag again so not sure if it’s coincidence or if it’s actually fixed. As with most Apple updates they don’t detail exactly what’s been fixed, just vaguely write that it addresses numerous bugs.

Bad AppleSpeaking of updates, iTunes and the Appstore app should keep your iPhones app’s up to date making management of the software on the phone a trivial task. However I’ve had mixed results with these features over the month. A couple of on iPhone updates via the Appstore have went less than smoothly resulting in the phone crashing. iTunes also seems to get it’s knickers in a twist as to how many updates are available. iTunes tells me I have one update available but on checking properly in iTunes it then say’s there are six updates available (there is actually only two updates I need – the rest I already have) and it also lists the app’s multiple times. Looking in the iTunes folder under Mobile Applications I can see that multiple versions of the app’s are stored but they don’t tie up with the number of updates that iTunes wants to download. Very weird. Downloading just one of the application updates removes all the duplicates for that application so it looks like a graphical glitch only.

Browsing the Appstore via iTunes or on the iPhone is pretty easy but they don’t make it easy to see what’s new. There are almost 1500 app’s now available for the iPhone yet the only way I can see what’s new is to visit iTunes, goto the store and view All iPhone Applications sorted in date order. Unfortunately updated app’s are included in this sort which can make tracking down new app’s tricky. Surely it’s not hard to add a category called New Applications that only lists, you know, new apps? I can make use of third party RSS feeds for new app’s but I shouldn’t have to. Also, there needs to be trial versions of software. If it’s free then it’s fine. I delete it if I don’t like it. But for paid app’s I’d like to try before I buy. Twitterrific and Exposure offer free versions supported by adverts so you can see how good (Exposure) or buggy (Twitterrific) is before parting with cash. There’s a few games also taking this route – cut down free versions to hook you in but the reality is you can see what your getting before you part with some cash.

However as a whole the phone has worked really well. The keyboard input for me is a lot quicker than normal phones, e-mail and Safari browsing is superb and I’ve used the internet on the iPhone lot’s over the last few weeks – so much more than on the old k800i. The media playback can’t be faulted. Calling it a phone is selling it short really. It does so much more than my other phone’s and it’s a lot more convenient to check mail and send out a quick e-mail on the iPhone than it is to launch the laptop or desktop for a quick task. I still think battery life is pretty poor though. It needs to be charged every day if you use it at all. Talking to N95 owner’s that’s what they are used to as well but it feels over the top for me. Oh, how could I forget the backup. It takes waaaaaay to long. Those aside, best phone I’ve owned and I can’t see anything on the market to compete with it. However I then had two separate issues this week that have left me unimpressed.

On Monday I tried to update one of the app’s I had paid for and had been updated. On trying to do this via iTunes or the iPhone’s Appstore I would get an error. On iTunes I would get the following nonsense message:

You cannot update this software since you have not owned the major version of this software

Strange. On the iPhone I would get the following different messages. I love that in the first screenshot I’m told to click OK – I’d love to if the button existed.

iPhone App Update ErrorsiPhone App Update Errors

So for this one app it looks like iTunes/iPhone thought I didn’t own it. The app itself didn’t run either but other app’s seemed to run fine. I put it down to a problem with the application itself and left it at that. On Tuesday 2.0.1 came out so I upgraded hoping it would address a number of issues including fixing the app update issue. How wrong I was.

The update took around 30-40 mins and on restarting all looked well. Swapping between screens showed there was a bit of zip like the forums had suggested. I tried a few text input’s and couldn’t see any lag. I then tried updating the app again – same problem. Now there were a few app’s in iTunes available for update – all reported the same ownership problem. Worse, no third party app on the iPhone worked. Not one. They all launched and then crashed back to the home screen with no error message. Nothing to go on, nothing to check. I looked around the forums and could see other folk with the same issue. I also started digging into the updating problem which seemed to be related to de-authorsing and re-authorising your computer in iTunes. I tried this a few times and it made no difference. I rebooted the Mac and the iPhone – still buggered.

I then checked my purchase history in iTunes. All gone. Nothing. I checked I was logging in properly and that my receipts e-mailed to me were using the same account. They all were. I could now understand why nothing was updating. I wanted to get a free update on a purchased app but iTunes/Appstore on checking my account thinks I haven’t bought it. My receipts and credit card tells me otherwise. I logged the issue with Apple who said they would get back within 48 hours. They eventually did to tell me that this was a serious issue that they want to help me with and it’s been passed on to someone else for assistance. We’ll e-mail you once this has been investigated. Nice. No indication of when to expect that e-mail but take comfort, “Apple wants your iTunes experience to be as enjoyable as possible”.

On searching the forums the app’s not launching and the app’s not updating seemed to be two different issues. Some success was had by people doing a restore. I tried this but it made no difference. In fact the restore was a major pain. It took three attempts before the restore fully worked and took the best part of the morning to get back to the point of having app’s and music/video’s back on the iphone. Not slick at all.

The next way of addressing the launching issue was to remove all your app’s then reinstall. Except I can’t reinstall as I need to buy them to install them (well, the paid ones anyway). I tried the buying just in case it was another crappy dialogue box with the wrong button – I’ve now paid twice for an app so expect a refund. However removing and re-installing a free app got it to work. So the solution to getting an app to launch (if your having this problem) is to remove all app’s in iTunes and also removing them all on the iPhone one at a time, syncing the iPhone, then downloading the app again. Ouch ouch ouch. This is like Windows. This is like a typical support line which wants you to use the disks that came with your computer to wipe, format and start again. Checking the forums this morning and there’s an alleged solution from an Apple rep – That’s not a nice solution to work through and I can only hope that the bug(s) that are causing this are being worked on for 2.0.2. I guess it will be hit and miss as to which applications lose saved data. Sigh.

So has my Apple bubble burst? The iPhone is a great piece of technology but it doesn’t measure up to the reliability of the other Apple products I’ve used. iPhone’s OS 2.0 is buggy and really should have been held back for further improvements and testing. 2.0.1 seems to be more stable than 2.0 but it’s hard to see past the problems people are having and think everything is OK. I’ve not even mentioned the issues with MobileMe which resulted in Apple giving all users an extra month free and now the admission from Jobs that MobileMe shouldn’t have launched at the same time as iPhone 3G tell’s me that Apple is stretching itself. What about the reception issues? I know of 2 iPhone 3G owners that have had 3G reception problems that they don’t experience on other phones. What annoy’s the most is that the phone as a whole is great. I can’t see an equivalent on the market that can do all it can despite it’s hardware shortcomings (camera, keyboard etc). The launch issues however are now rumbling into a second month. For customers new to the Apple platform they’ll see this as standard Apple, the way all their products work. Customers that Apple are unlikely to see again unless they get on top of these issues quickly.

I’d still recommend an iPhone but it’s not for everyone and if your in no rush I would wait until nearer Christmas so that the issues can be ironed out. Of course wait until Christmas and you’ll not want to upgrade as there will be a ton of rumours about next years iPhone. So roll on Christmas – maybe I’ll have my iTunes account fixed by then.

Geometry Wars 2

I loved the first Geometry Wars (Retro Evolved to give it it’s full title) which has been out for ages on XBLA. The sequel came out on Wednesday and it easily surpasses the original. Geoms are now dropped by each shot enemy which changes the gameplay ever so slightly. Collect geoms to increase your multiplier. There are also a couple of new enemies. Rockets fire both horizontally and vertically across the playfield which I’m sure is added to stop you rolling clockwise through the game racking up points. Local multi-player has been added but the biggest addition is there are now six different game modes.

  • Deadline: Score as many points in three minutes. You get unlimited lives but if you want a decent score don’t die.
  • King:One life and no bombs. Safety zones appear randomly which enemies cannot enter while the player can only fire and cannot collect Geoms while inside a zone. The zone shrinks and disappears a short time after it is entered, forcing you to move zone to zone. Think strategic chicken.
  • Evolved: Similar in style to Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, score as many points as possible with no time limit. The old classic but with more enemies on screen than before. I think.
  • Pacifism: One life and cannot shoot. Fly through gates to destroy nearby enemies, and earn extra bonus points by flying through gates in rapid succession.
  • Waves: You have one life and must avoid and destroy waves of rockets that fly horizontally and vertically from the edges of the playfield.
  • Sequence: Twenty levels, each with a predetermined pattern of enemies. You have thirty seconds to destroy all of the enemies in each level. If the player loses a life, they are taken directly to the next level, but the game ends if the player loses all of their lives.

Each of these is pretty unique and add’s a depth and variety that the first game didn’t have. Also polished is the graphics and sound. Screenshots are pretty pointless as they don’t show the game in motion. When the screen is busy the game looks amazing. So colourful, no slowdown, all in HD. Sound has also stepped up from the original – each mode has it’s own soundtrack which fit so well, especially deadline.

However Geometry Wars claim to fame was it’s gameplay and that’s been retained…in spades. Even more so with the new modes which only add to it’s charms. There’s also some subtle little touches that add to the game. It supports online scoreboards which can be accessed as usual but while playing each of the modes your friends highest scores, not yours, alongside their name is displayed at the top right of the screen. Just to niggle you that bit more as you try and better them. Genius.

This game is like a drug. Each and every time you have just one more go, each and every time thinking you can better that score. For me it’s as pure a game as you can get. Simple, addictive and great to play. Remember that this only costs 800 gamerpoints…¬£6 or so. Unmissable.