F1 Is Back

So the first race of the new F1 season is over. What a race. What a start. The Brawn GP team have come out of nowhere in pre-season testing and carried that pace through to today’s race. Roll back two months and it looked like they wouldn’t even be racing. It was great to see Button take the win, amazing that Barichello barged his way to a second place and even more unbelievable that Hamilton the snail came in third.

It will take a few races to know if the rule changes introduced for 2009 have made a difference but looking at today’s race alone there seemed to be more overtaking and action throughout the whole race. I actually enjoyed the entire race which is fairly unusual. Partly that was down to lesser teams emerging as the new contenders and seeing Ferrari and especially McLaren struggling to cope. Another reason was the overtaking and the failures/incidents right to the end of the race. Maybe it was just that F1 was back on the BBC.

I got up in time to catch the new titles this morning. The Chain is back. I liked the intro and it set the scene nicely. I’m also liking the increased coverage on the BBC and the new presenting team. Even Eddie Jordan started to grow on me once he had crawled out of Richard Branson’s arse. Speaking of Branson, it really started to annoy just how much he was spinning the Brawn win and how they’ve put in money. Yesterday. Yes, big impact they’ve made. Anyway, back to the BBC. For me they kept the good parts of ITV coverage, lost the adverts, added an after race forum which was actually good to watch and also replaced James Allen.

Yep, I’m glad good old James has moved on. I just didn’t like him as a commentator. However, as a journalist and more recently a blogger I’ve become a fan. His blog is regularly updated with insightful commentary on F1 and what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s excellent and a great companion to the TV coverage. Just a shame the TV coverage hasn’t moved on to HD…yet.

So, next stop Malaysia. More Brawn dominance? I’d expect so although I can’t see Hamilton being as lucky. Red Bull, Ferrari, Toyota and maybe BMW all look stronger and all through car failure, rule issues or driver mistakes cleared the way for Hamilton. Assuming the Brawn car is found to be legal and the keep reliable it will be really interesting to se how long the others will take to catch up. This has all the hallmarks of a great F1 season. I can’t wait.

Podcasts A Plenty

I listen to quite a few podcast’s. Some I love while others are still in try out stage. After Chris had posted his round up of casts he listens too it would be rude of me not to do the same. It also clears out another post that’s been sitting in draft for a couple of weeks. Links are to the iTunes store by the way.

  • Analysis – From BBC Radio 4 a half hour episode 26 times a year. Breakdowns a different topic every week and I always find it pretty insightful.
  • Answer Me This – Thanks to Chris for recommending this. Fantastic show – very funny, very rude but a real highlight of the week when a new episode pop’s up in iTunes. If you try one podcast out of this list make it this one!
  • Best Ads on TV – Weekly show which highlights best six ad’s from around the globe. A bit hit and miss but handy diversion when waiting for flights.
  • Best of Chris Moyles – Weekly half hour show with the funny bits from his Radio 1 show. His new TV show sucks and I don’t find him that funny but the half hour with him, the team at Radio 1 and guests can be really good.
  • Best of Today – Daily news analysis from BBC Radio 4.
  • Best of Youtube – Video podcast that does a great job of highlighting Youtube videos. Updates frequently but not enough to be annoying.
  • Channelflip Tech – Video tech reviews which are short, concise and not too fluffy. Prefer this to Stuff.
  • CNET UK Podcast – Weekly tech podcast but UK based so can be more relevant than many f the US based casts.
  • CO-OP – One of the few videogame podcasts I could stomach was The 1UP Show. This came to an abrupt end this year but some of the brains behind that show have started CO-OP. New, some of the ‘comedy’ is not but I like the depth in which they discuss each game.
  • Cranky Geeks – Weekly American tech discussion cast. Slightly more cynical view of the tech world which I find more relevant than many other casts.
  • David Mitchell’s Soapbox – Weekly podcast where David Mitchell spouts off on a pet hate. Been pretty good so far – not sure how many of these he will do though.
  • Fighting Talk – Weekly sports comedy show from BBC Radio 5 Live. Colin Murray plus four other guests. Always guaranteed a laugh with this and it’s a real favourite of mine.
  • Friday Night Comedy – More from BBC Radio 4, a weekly show that is either The Now Show or The News Quiz. Both are excellent shows so you can’t really lose.
  • iFanboy – This is all about comics/graphics novels. American based but the presenters are very knowledgeable and it’s a great 30 min show.
  • Mac Roundtable Podcast – Fornightly cast all about Macs. Cover news and have the usual software pics. Tend to ramble less than Macbreak Weekly.
  • The Mac Show – UK video Mac show. Only done 16 episodes and posting very infrequently but they were a bit more edgy than other tech shows and all the better for it.
  • Macbites – UK Mac news and reviews. Less ‘tech journalist feel’ and very enjoyable but no new content for six months now. There seems to be something about 16 episodes as they hit this mark too then disappeared.
  • Macbreak Weekly – With Leo Laporte and friends. American based and I really used to enjoy this show but with Merlin Mann leaving or at least not taking part it just isn’t the same. Occasional gems on it but can feel like four old guys talking about why there’s no Mac news, what their Twitter names are and how much money they’ve just spent on loads of Mac gear.
  • Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews – More Radio 5 gold. Weekly film reviews but with humour.
  • Out Of The Game – New videogames podcast. First episode was good but pretty long at just under two hours. One to watch although I’d like something a bit shorter.
  • Robert Llewellyn’s Carpool – Now this is different. Robert drives his guest to work, home, shopping etc but films the drive, interviewing them on the way. Really enjoying the series so far – he’s had some great guests and the banter can be very good.
  • ScreenCastsOnline – These are excellent quality screencasts for Mac users that provide in depth reviews and tips for the latest Mac software. However, a six month subscription costs $57 which I can’t justify based on the free shows I’ve watched. However for new users, you get 6 months plus access to the previous 190 odd shows which is a great resource for a switcher.
  • Stephen Fry’s PODGRAMS – Great podcasts from Stephen Fry and one of the few that make use of chapters in podcasts. I wish more would as it makes a big difference. Just wish he did more podcasts.
  • The Talk Show – Mostly Mac talk from John Gruber and Dan Benjamin. I love the show as it’s straight into the pair of them talking – no intro’s, no faffing around. There also two of the more insightful tech pundits around just now. Frequency is an issue – they’ve not done too much lately.
  • Tech Weekly – Tech podcast from the fine folk at the Guardian. Can be a bit light sometimes but I like the length and variety of guests.
  • TEDTalks – TED conference is a yearly conference focussing on Technology, Entertainment, Design. Each week there are 4-5 video’s posted from TED over the last few years. The variety is amazing and there have been some very thought provoking video’s. Another favourite that I’d recommend. If you’ve an iPhone the TED application is well worth downloading too as it let’s you browse and view video’s from your iPhone instead of relying on the podcast release schedule.
  • This Week in Tech – A tech podcast, again American based and one that was enjoyed but is increasingly focussed on Twitter (and the hosts ability to gain members) and tech celebrities rather than actual tech news and discussion. Every so often there is a great episode but this is becoming increasingly rare.

That’s quite a number but I’m always chopping and changing what I listen to. Can’t really find a Mac one that I really like at the moment which is a shame. If anyone has a recommendation then let me know please.

OnLive - A new Era?

GDC is currently in full flow and the biggest story for me has been OnLive. The press conference from GDC is very impressive. New titles available over the internet instantly. No downloading, no patching, any platform. Run on an inexpensive micro-console connected to a TV via HDMI or in a browser using a plugin on low specification Mac’s or PC’s. How?

The game isn’t played locally. You connect to a server and the game is played there. What your seeing on your TV or computer screen is streamed video. The concept just sounds so….wrong. Technically it sounds like an impossible proposition. Lag, key to an enjoyable online game, would surely kill the service.

Watching the launch presentation and the lag issue is addressed. Typical video lag is quoted as 500ms. OnLive have developed a system where video lag is 1ms. The service is demo’d and certainly looks quick enough with no lag. There looks to be a little lag during the Crysis demo though. However, remember this is Crysis running on a low end Dell. Admittedly it’s not running at a high resolution or frame rate but none the less it looks extremely playable. The other demo host then joins in a multiplayer game via the micro console. Again a very seamless experience is demonstrated and it certainly all looks impressive. The servers are located 50 miles form where the demo takes place. Not that far away. During the Q&A the developers quoted 1000 miles as being the current maximum distance for the service to remain playable.

One other key difference is how visual the service looks. A great 3d interface. Video streams showing games that your friends are currently playing, something that I’ve wanted for years looks to be finally available. Demo’s that don’t take an hour to download – they start almost immediately. The end to patching. The end of piracy! The end of cheating via patches and add-ons!! Games that you no longer need to buy – renting a game is finally an easy option with no need to download

At this point, taken on face value, this is a game changer. Zero hardware costs to play the latest games on consoles. No more upgrading to the latest 3d hardware on PC’s and Mac’s. I still smell bullshit though. A company can develop this and be in stealth for seven years. Really?

I still have issues with lag and also bandwidth requirements. I really can’t see lag not being a show stopper with this service. The requirements for OnLive are also going to blow many people’s bandwidth cap’s. Playing online with a console or computer at the moment needs just a 1/2Mbps connection. For SD, OnLive requires a 1.5Mbps connection and for HD it needs 5.0Mbps. SD was described as Wii equivalent and HD as 720p, 60fps. A consistent 5Mbps connection would quickly use up VirginMedia’s download limits and hence throttle the connection to make OnLive unplayable and that just an example for one broadband provider. Faster connections are coming but many come with very restrictive download limits with OnLive would need to address.

I also think there will be cost issues. Low cost entry was emphasised but a monthly subscription before games are bought/rented is not everyone’s cup of tea.

The hardware needed to run this must also be massive. They talked about custom chips and virtualisation but to run that many game instances, to decode video that quickly and serve out that much data so quickly. Just doesn’t seem possible as it’s such a leap over what anyone else is doing right now. Surely the video will be compressed and show artefacts. Look at the many HD video that can be downloaded or streamed now as an example. Definitely low par compared to current gaming expectations. What about surround sound which is now standard on console games. Surely a 5Mbps stream couldn’t provide a 720p stream with surround sound audio as well?

It must be bull.

But then look at the companies signed up to the service – EA, THQ, Ubisoft, Take2, Warner Bros, Epic, Eidos, Atari, Codemasters, 2D Boy, Crytek. The games shown weren’t old 2d games either. Crysis, Hawx, GRID, Burnout and many current FPS’s. Then remember the demo’s looked really good.

We won’t have long to find out. A beta launches in America in summer 09 with a launch in winter 09. Disappointing but understandable that it’s America only at the moment. I really want this to work. It could change the games market radically. Based on current knowledge though I can’t see it working. Time will tell and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Tidying Up

I was supposed to be away this weekend but a migraine on Friday soon put paid to that. Instead I spent the weekend tidying up Mac drives, moving data away from MobileMe and getting Dropbox properly set-up. All working well now. Been using Dropbox off and on for the last few months before committing and one thing I like over MobileMe is that the content is held locally on each drive and syncing seems to be quicker and more resilient than with MobileMe. There’s also a change log on who edited a file and when and it’s easy to share folders with other Dropbox users – very handy.

The blog also got a clean-up this weekend. Gone is the sidebar to leave just the post filling the page. Expect to be linking to HD video over time and the wider format will help. This also leaves a cleaner front page. The sidebar which used to list a lifestream has been moved to it’s own page – the Stream. Also finished off updating the About page and added some links at the top of the page. Nothing ground breaking but more to my liking. I did try messing around with some colour but I’ll keep that for another site.

Yes, there will soon be another site but that’s for another day.

iPhone OS 3.0

Twas the night before Christmas and….wrong night. I’ll start again.

Twas the night before yet another Apple announcement and fanboy’s everywhere, especially those surgically attached to their iPhones, were kept awake by the sheer giddiness and excitement of the third software iteration of the Jesus phone. What will Apple announce? Are Apple really worried by the Pre? Are Apple listening to their customers? Where’s Steve?

It would be rude if I didn’t list out what I’d like to see in the next version of the software. Version 2.0 brought the Appstore plus a number of other improvements to the OS so 3.0 should bring quite a bit of new functionality. What would I like?

Background app’s. Over everything else I’d like the option to run an app or two in the background. Yes there would be memory issues but tell we what they would be and let me make the choice about how I want to run things. Chances of happening – Slim.

Cut and paste. Obvious and becoming more and more annoying as i use the iPhone more and more. I will be majorly pissed off though if Apple spend 10 minutes demoing this functionality tomorrow which should have been delivered in OS 1.0. Chances of happening – Strong.

App management get’s a bit crazy after five pages. Too much swishing to move around between app’s. Home button press helped but still not very good. No easy way to group app’s either. Chances of happening – Strong.

Flash. Chances of happening – Strong. I jest of course. It won’t happened and that suits me – I can’t think of anytime I’ve needed it to be honest.

Ability to remove default app’s. No more notes, stocks, weather etc which have all been replaced by better Appstore alternatives. Chances of happening – Slim.

Those four things (ignore flash) would make me very happy indeed. Add in MMS and video recording and I’d be very very happy. Especially as there will be plenty of other new things to ooh and ahh about. I hope.

Victory

I was down in Portsmouth yesterday on work business. It finished earlier than expected so I took the chance to visit HMS Victory. This is the oldest ship currently still in service although it won’t be going anywhere soon.

HMS Victory

After working on the newest ship in the fleet just an hour earlier it was quite a shock to see the conditions on board Victory. It was cramp, dark and I’m assuming people were a lot smaller back then as there was no head room at all. It also carried so much firepower. It must have been an impressive and fearsome sight.

It was quite difficult to photograph inside due to the lights as you can see in the full set. What’s also surprising is that as it’s a serving ship it has a full time crew of 12. If your ever got some time to kill in Portsmouth it’s well worth a visit.

Downside of yesterdays trip wasn’t just working on a Saturday. I woke up with a migraine today which I think is a knock on from lack of sleep or altered sleep pattern. Friends were supposed to visit today but that got knocked on the head. A lost weekend.

Karma

I’ve spent today wrestling with dll issues and builds of Windows XP at work. It’s been frustrating and like looking for a needle in a haystack. By the time work was over I had the feeling the problem i solved but needs some testing. However I was cursing dll’s, the registry and Windows in general and looking forward to a night away form PC hassles.

So I plugged in my iPhone at home to get some podcast updates. After 10 minutes I realised the iPhone was still syncing. That’s not right! So I took a look at the iPhone in iTunes. Ohe feck – that’s definitely not right!

iTunes fecked my iPhone

Why is iTunes uninstalling applications. Then the iPhone rebooted and the sync continued. When t finished I had no third party app’s on the iPhone. I checked the app’s tab in iTunes and all the app’s were deselected. I selected them and sync’d and sure enough they were installed on the iPhone. However they were all in different screens, some had lost their settings and some games had lost their saves.

Drat, drat, drat.

Feck, feck, feck.

This is the first issue I’ve had since the 2.1 update fixed all my previous application issues. I’m hoping it’s a one off. My app’s are all up and running but losing some games saves is a real kick in the nuts. Looking at the Apple discussions on applications it looks like there are a lot of people that still have issues with iTunes and/or applications running properly.

Still, I can’t help but feel this is karma. The revenge of Bill Gates. A reminder that no matter the platform you will get issues from time to time. I just hope that the last lesson for a while.

Edge 200

Edge magazine was first published in 1993. Today the 200th issue popped through the letterbox. For a reason only really known to me I have every issue. I did think about dumping them when i moved house but I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. Despite the arrogance and the twatty writing that can sometimes get in the way of a good review, i still enjoy the magazine and get a lot out of it even in this age of t’internet reviews and Metacritic ratings.

To celebrate, Edge are using 200 different covers for their 200th magazine. Quite a novel idea with no way of anyone collecting every cover issue. However they have published all the covers which I’ve grabbed and loaded into this Edge 200 Flickr set. My fav covers and/or games are listed below.

126 - Head Over HeelsHead Over Heels how I loved thee. This was a great game that I played on my beloved Amstrad CPC 464. Got to love that tape drive.

This was when isometric gaming was all the rage but it was the mixture of graphics, puzzles and pixel perfect jumping that made for such a great game. Isometric Batman was also a great game at the time but nothing compared to Head Over Heels.

A remake was made available for the PC, Mac and Linux. It’s available from this website. Playing the remake now and it’s just not the same though. Slow gameplay and very dated graphics show just how far things have moved on.

148 - F-ZeroI played F-Zero to death on the SNES. This might have been my most played game thinking back. I completed it over and over, chasing times that were published in magazines at the time and beating them.

I can still remember the music even now. Where’s my SNES emulator? Even better, the SNES is in the attic. Might get dusted off this weekend.

Thinking back through all my consoles, surely the SNES was the best overall? Great pad, a real step forward in graphics and some classic games – Mario, Zelda etc.

30 - Space marine - Doom seriesDoom – played the demo when I was at uni. In fact I’ve got my mum to thank for buying the demo. She was at the post office, felt sorry for me and picked up a PC mag which had the 8 or 9 level demo on the cover. One install later and I was on the PC for the rest of the night. I guess it brings back memories of my first multi-player games over at Lewis, Dave and Ricky D’s flat. Descent. Can still hear Ricky shouting it even to this day. In fact I’m sure it was Ahhhhhh Descent ya bastard. Those were the days. Dave’s lucky arse has also just popped into my head. The joys.

85 - BombermanBomberman was the multiplayer game of choice on the SNES where we were at uni. Dave and his speedy boot obsession. Me and my golden bomber obsession. This was a game that never got dull.

Even loved the recent Xbox Live version. Also need to clarify something – I didn’t cheat golden bomber. Honest. I was that good.

A few years ago I went a game’s exhibition in Edinburgh where they had the 10 player version that came out on the PC Engine. I still remember Graham noticing when I was playing even though I was four or five players away from him. Simple game but so much depth, strategy and fun.

150 - WipeoutWipeout – first game on the PS1 and one that sticks in the head even today. Ground breaking visuals, great design throughout the game thanks to The Designers Republic and sound like I’d never heard in a game. The gameplay was solid too. Really did take gaming forward and sold many a PS1.

Roll on many a year and Wipeout HD on the PS3 is still pretty ground breaking. Graphics to die for and solid handling via the much maligned PS3 pad. Good choice of tracks, a good online mode and custom soundtracks had me scouring the internet for all the soundtracks o previous Wipeout games. One of my favourite PS3 games so far.

188 - Halo 3Halo 3. Multiplayer perfection. It’s now served over a billion online games in it’s short life and new maps that have just come out have extended the game even further. I don’t know what it is about Halo that appeals so much to me. Even when I used to do split screen multiplayer with Graham and Roy it was great despite shady Roy colouring his character especially so he could screen watch. Happy days. Happy, happy days. So much of my time on Halo 2 and Halo 3 was spent with Robert aka Foe Real. So many class gaming moments. Will he ever return?

So that’s my fav’s. My subscriber cover will have to do although I may take a spin out to the shops later this week just in case a fav cover is lurking on a shelf. Yep, very sad but I don’t care. So is there anything that you like in the Edge covers that I haven’t mentioned? Any great gaming memories triggered by the artwork? Comment away please!