Wednesday, 30 June 2004

Rolling Stone

RealPlayer 10 Beta for Mac OS X is now available for immediate download. Leveraging Safari and QuickTime technology, this is the best incarnation of RealPlayer on any platform! The new Mac edition also includes a fully featured graphic equaliser and image controls (the Windows edition requires subscription). Kudos.

Having now watched the WWDC QuickTime Keynote stream. Of all the new 'cool' OS X 10.4 Tiger features showcased, Core Image captured my imagination! Core Image provides a plug-in style architecture for accessing filters, transitions and effects packages called Image Units. Image Units provide centralized management for image processing plug-ins that can be shared across all host applications. Adobe Photoshop CS Ultimate Edition!

Tuesday, 29 June 2004

DTS Foxes Dolby

What is a global publishing company to do following the release of single and double-disc DVD editions of its movie catalogue? If you happen to be 20th Century Fox then the answer is to re-release the double-disc set with a re-mastered print that includes DTS audio!

Jurassic Park not only ushered in an era of extravagant CGI it also witnessed the arrival of DTS - Digital Theatre Sound - and Dolby discovered that its monopoly was under palpable threat. Fast-forward to now and multichannel surround sound is taken foregranted both in the theatre and home. Dolby EX and DTS ES continue to clash and, following exhaustive listening tests, I've taken the stance that DTS is 'superior' to Dolby!

The DTS soundstage (encoded at a higher sampling rate) is more spacious, dynamic and fine detail, overlooked in the Dolby mix, shines. In the case of the new DTS release of ID4, with compatible monitoring equipment, warn the neighbours before watching!

Monday, 28 June 2004

Redmond, we have a problem

As predicted Apple announced at WWDC that Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger will be released in Q1 2005. Amongst the new features are Spotlight, Safari RSS, Automator (Workflow assistant) and Dashboard. The Apple Cinema Display line was refreshed, spearheaded by a new titanic 30-inch HD display model. Wonder if movie directors James Cameron and George Lucas had any input during R&D?

Further to the unprecedented release of Real's free Export Plug-in. RealPlayer 10 for Mac is available from Wednesday.

Sunday, 27 June 2004

Get Real?

As a content author I have found it desirable to support as many of the competing audio/video formats as possible (irrespective of personal preference)!

Real Networks recently released a free Real Export Plug-in for Mac OS X. Thanks to a seamless export engine (accessible from within QuickTime Pro 6.x and other supported applications) I can now offer my site visitors cross-platform compatible RealVideo 10 and RealAudio 10 content without unduly impacting the production workflow.

Friday, 25 June 2004

Top Cat

Next week heralds Apple's WWDC 2004 (Worldwide Developers Conference). A preview edition of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger will be unveiled (alongside new hardware including a headless G5 iMac and 4G iPod if pundits are correct).

Where does that leave Mac OS X 10.3 Panther? I can only hope that Apple continues to support Panther (perhaps as far as .8) until Tiger is 'good and ready' to hit the streets. A 4G iPod would also be the perfect time to release the illusive "Home on iPod" update. iCal, iSync and Keynote are in dire need of updating too.

In the spirit of WWDC my Apple-owning history goes like this:

*1995 - Performa 5200 (bought by my parents whilst I was at University and donated to an Uncle)
*1999 - iMac DV SE (purchased whilst working at Dow Jones Reuters and sold to Tom)
*2002 - iMac LCD/JBL Creature speakers (when it hits the resell market Tom gets first refusal)
*2003 - iPod 3G

No doubt the next iteration of OS X will shepherd in an abundance of technological improvements alongside a new version of Safari et al. Tiger is rumoured for release to retail in Q1 2005. Here's to a successful WWDC that looks to the future, but not at the expense of the here and now. My credit card is primed and ready.

My Sennheiser PMX60 order arrived today. After breaking them in, over the weekend, I'll post my observations.

Thursday, 24 June 2004

When The Stars Go Blue

Last Sunday's episode of Alias saw Emmy-winner Ricky Gervais (The Office) cameo as a bomb expert! The episode was followed by a 'making of' feature. It was genuinely amusing watching Gervais 'crack up' every time 'action' was called. This brought to mind many a Media Studies project whereby my friend Mike and me would attempt to record to camera and the inevitable hysteria would ensue! Resorting to listening to a Walkman (behind the camera) did little to resolve the issue. Great memories.

Wednesday, 23 June 2004

Don't Panic!

In September 2004 BBC Radio Four premiere's the continuation and conclusion of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhicker's Guide To The Galaxy (begun 25 years ago). Life, The Universe And Everything; So Long And Thanks For All The Fish and Mostly Harmless (none of which were originally produced for radio), features Douglas Adams himself, thanks to the wonders of digital technology. Douglas always intended to play the part of Agrajag and recorded himself in the part a few years ago.

Douglas Adams chose Dirk Maggs to direct. In 1998 I was hired by Dirk to work on his original family audio drama The Gemini Apes, which starred Christopher Lee. Can't wait.

In 1999 I attended (with friends) a Westpoint concert performed by The Corrs! The sisters are even more beautiful in 'real life' (if that's possible) and I was astonished at how good the group are live! Their most recent studio albums airbrushed out their musicality, so it was a delight to recently discover another live CD release. VH1 Presents The Corrs Live In Dublin. U2's Bono duets with Andrea during the concert and it's an inspired performance.

Tuesday, 22 June 2004

Tom's Diner

Today is new music Tuesday at iTunes Music Store, and it'll be neat to view the latest editions. One of the strengths of the store (and to the chagrin of record labels) is a la carte purchasing! The ability to select individuals songs by artists (not all) is a masterstroke. There are a multitude of songs that I've wanted to add to my collection for years, for example Suzanne Vega & DNA's Tom's Diner and Paula Cole's Where Have All The Cowboys Gone? Now I can.

Audible's audiobooks are easily overlooked in favour of music (and videos). Hopefully it won't be too long before Steven Fry's Harry Potter readings are added!

Audiophiles continue to debate the sonic merits of MPEG-4 AAC (Advanced Audio Coding licensed from Dolby) encoded music, which is favoured by iTMS. However, within a portable playback environment 'studio sound' is not a prerequisite. After extensive monitoring sessions (on Mac and iPod), I'm impressed with the quality versus low bandwidth trade-off.

Now that my iPod is fully operational again, I'll be investing in a pair of Sennheiser PMX60 streetwear headphones to replace my ageing Sony ear buds (purchased with my Super Walkman in 1991). The sound-stage lacked space and dynamic range!

Monday, 21 June 2004

Return of the Saint

The first time I heard Shaznay Lewis' solo single Never Felt Like This Before, I had goose pimples! The unmistakable All Saints sound, which Lewis was largely responsible for crafting, remains unblemished. Her hooks are as tenacious as ever, and I can’t wait for the album release.

The above emotional response occurred when listening to Britney’s beautiful Everytime, a haunting ballad that rapidly became a part of the soundtrack to my ‘imploding’ personal life late last year. Britney secured pole position in the UK charts yesterday.

One of my Godfathers, who is as passionate about BMW cars and bikes as I am about Apple Computer, will be delighted at the news of their strategic partnership! Another inspired iPod brand extension.

Sunday, 20 June 2004

iPod Reloaded

Ever since updating to Mac OS X 10.3 my 3G iPod has been rendered virtually inoperable! I've run the gamut of known problems from iPod/Mac freezes to data loss. In order to avoid an excessive AppleCare repair bill I embarked on a mini odyssey.

Following exhaustive searches on the internet (including Apple's Knowledge Base). I stumbled across a suggestion that encouraged installation of an earlier iteration of OS X! So, I installed 10.1.4, which is positively archaic, and hey presto! iPod mounted on the desktop (an elusive sight) and I was able to reformat and resurrect my beleaguered work of pop art!

After performing a clean install of OS X 10.3.4, and updating to the latest iPod software, everything is Funky Dory.

Friday, 18 June 2004

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Referencing his Jazz roots John Williams' captivating score for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was one of the first albums that I purchased from iTMS Europe. Williams' dexterity at composing for franchises knows no bounds and traverses Star Wars to Indiana Jones and now Harry Potter. He weaves complex sonic narratives: from the opening Waltz to Buckbeak’s Flight (a signature theme in its own right, which recalls his work on E.T., Star Wars and Superman). The soundtrack is overflowing with urgency and light is threatened by shadow at every segue.

So, it would be remiss not to see the movie too! Today I ventured with one of my Uncle's to Plymouth's Vue (formerly known as Warner Village). We arrived early and decided on 'chow' from Pizza Hut. The service was excellent and I garnered an extra Pepsi (courtesy of the waitress)! A couple of Hutts (or Vogan look-a-likes) indulged in an all-you-can-eat banquet to the badly suppressed amusement of staff and onlookers alike!

OK. The movie. To my utter delight screen 9 is deserving of the moniker 'giant' screen - a luxurious widescreen canvas that outflanks the Odeon Leicester Square - resulting in retinal overload.

HP3 opens with a franchise flourish: the WB logo transformed into a signature motif that owes a debt to Tim Burton’s Batman. The film oozes oily evil from the outset, the colour palette delineated in black, white and blue. The sets capture the ambience of Anton Furst's production design for Batman.

Azkaban is far removed from the Christmas cheer of its predecessors. Performances are uniformly excellent, culminating in Watson’s Hermione outshining Radcliffe’s leaden Harry! The Dementors are clearly derivative of another literary source, however they are nonetheless chilling.

It is a dark time for Harry Potter full of ambiguous choices and emotions, but not for the franchise. I’ll be booking my seat for the next instalment in advance of 2005.

Wednesday, 16 June 2004

Disturbing Behaviour

I’m an iTunes Music Store addict! So far I’ve downloaded several exclusive albums and soundtrack theme singles, which were effortlessly burnt to CD and DVD (regular backups are strongly recommended because if you lose music due to hardware failure you will have to buy the songs again).

Although the launch range is limited (at present) iTMS is a palpable threat to traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ stores. The Adshel’s appearing around London bus shelters are the personification of urban cool. Further coverage as I try to kick the ‘digital crack’ habit!

The latest patch for World of Warcraft has been released necessitating a fresh 2GB download and installation. This enables open warfare against the Horde and Alliance (Player vs. Player). Begun the Clone wars have...

Tuesday, 15 June 2004

Let’s Get It Started

As predicted Apple Computer has unleashed the iTunes Music Store phenomenon into selected European territories – UK, Germany and France - and announced an alliance with AOL Europe. Account activation is seamless and in seconds I was making purchases for future download. Individual songs start at 79 pence a pop, which is a compelling price point. Although there are competing download music propositions already established in Europe. None has the brand value of Apple. Is Apple the future of music? Discuss, but I know what my answer is!

My friends at the iconfactory unveil their 200th icon set today! Be sure to drop by their site.

With the above events you’d think that I’d be exhausted from all the celebrations! However, today marks 3 years since I returned to web design thanks to my friend Tom Kelly. The site has developed in ways that I never originally envisaged – an online gallery designed to raise visibility and secure job interviews - and has garnered affiliation with Apple Computer, Sony Style and, most recently, Google. Thanks to everyone for your support. Here’s to many more years.

Monday, 14 June 2004


England's defeat at the foot of Zidane's ballistic penalties was deserved! Irrespective of the earlier England penalty (a red card should have reduced France to 10 men) overall our team's performance was well below par! Whether or not there will be a sequel come July...

As I said before. Football (or soccer as it's known over the pond) is not my cup of tea.

Sunday, 13 June 2004

Suspension of disbelief

Based on the theory of diminishing returns, season three of 24 should be the weakest yet! However, the producers have embraced action cinema as purveyed by James Cameron and John McTiernan! The events unfolding, whilst wildly farfetched, are so compelling that I’m willing to ride this raucous roller coaster.

At the height of its popularity Fox afforded The X-Files a cinematic incarnation. 24 deserves that luxury too.

Saturday, 12 June 2004

The Lost Boys

This morning I met up with a friend at a local coffee house (Costa). We always relish reflection over cappuccino, and the matter of school memories arose (a subject usually off limits due to personal tragedy). However, it was interesting to compare and contrast our respective ‘labels’ during those halcyon (sarcasm) days of secondary socialisation! I was a veritable imp and, when not drawing or writing, conjurer of fiendish schemes! Everyday was Halloween in disguise! Personal ghouls n’ ghosts caught up with me at College (as did academic success), but that’s another story… Run Luke, run!

After the travesty that was Batman & Robin, it was easy to overlook Joel Schumacher's cinematic canon. However, I watched The Lost Boys on five and it still captivates (my obsession with pop culture vampire mythology endures to this day). As does Star (Jami Gertz)!

Friday, 11 June 2004


UEFA Euro 2004 starts this weekend and the only point of interest (for me) is how subservient the football is to the product endorsements! From Sony PlayStation to Big Mac the ads are the game!

My Ford Focus (Zetec model) is due for renewal later in the year. I'm currently mulling over what to get next? Do I change to Audi, VW or stay with Ford? Ford cars now have an impressive build quality and the company invests heavily in R&D. The Ford Fusion+ has captured my imagination, and the Apple PowerBook featured in the brochure too! Incidentally, my Mum's health needs are such that she will now require transportation in an MPV. The new Mercedes-Benz Viano scores highly on the list of possibilities.

Fine-tuned the blog!

Thursday, 10 June 2004

Drop The Boy

Listened to Matt Goss' new single on Capital FM and his vocal performance is reminiscent of George Michael and Michael Jackson!

Wednesday, 9 June 2004

White Flag

Angel ended last night without closure! Whilst some have regarded this as a controversial editorial decision. IMHO it works. Fangs for the memories and lets hope that future movies are a possibility. Joss Whedon's Firefly is the first of his franchises (since the original Buffy) to return to the big screen.

Monday, 7 June 2004

Empire of Dreams

Hyperspace (the official Star Wars Fan Club) has exclusively released the official Star Wars DVD Trailer (QuickTime format). Lucasfilm has digitally restored the original trilogy frame by frame, and predictably included a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX audio mix. Surround EX debuted with the theatrical release of Star Wars The Phantom Menace (1999). Rumours abound that the FX have been further retooled and augmented with brand new material! Controversial? Decide for yourself in September!

Further to my dismay at E4's premature summer hiatus for hit show The OC Media Guardian explains more.

Sunday, 6 June 2004


"Art imitating life imitating art" was the maxim behind Dawson’s Creek. And anyone who knows me can attest to the parallels between Dawson’s obsession (and by extension writer Kevin Williamson) with Steven Spielberg movies and my own!

Set in the fictional town of Capeside, MA, Dawson's Creek is the coming of age story of four friends on the verge of adulthood. The pilot episode features arguably one of the best mythology establishing openings of any show! The Creek at dusk segueing into the John Williams score for E.T. (a movie that still strikes an emotional resonance) as we are introduced to the principal protagonists Dawson and Joey and their interpersonal conflict.

Dawson, Joey, and Pacey are life long friends, whose lives start to rapidly change when a new girl, Jen, moves in next door to Dawson Leery and the foursome start high school. Along the way they are joined by two other newcomers to Capeside, Jack and Andie.

Often characterised by its intelligence, sharp wit, rich and (often) verbose vocabulary, Dawson's Creek was created by Kevin Williamson. It was loosely based on his life, with each character incorporating a different aspect of himself. The show quickly launched the careers of its stars and in the words of The WB, "defined a network."

Dawson's Creek was filmed primarily on location in Wilmington and Raleigh, NC. It spawned spin-off series Young Americans. Not only did the series re-ignite my passion for film production, which had become diluted by cynicism and creative inertia. It re-initiated a cycle of writing that has led to my being published in international magazines as diverse as heat to starburst.

The two-hour season finale was a tour de force underpinned by the themes of death and marriage. The most insightful line was reserved for Joey Potter (Katie Holmes who is starring in Batman Begins). “Writers get to live twice!” Eloquently put. Goodbye Capeside. Fade to black. Cue end titles.

Friday, 4 June 2004

The Edge

On Wednesday IMG posted my review for Worms 3D (ported by Zonic). This has received quite passionate feedback! I awarded the game a respectable rating of 8.0 out of 10! The review process is entirely subjective, but for a game to garner 10 out of 10 would necessitate a "landmark" release. Invariably, there are few titles that deserve such a prestigious accolade. However, for whatever it's worth (not much and not definitive) what follows is my top ten list:

*Super Castlevania IV
*Dark Forces
*Quake 3
*Resident Evil: Code Veronica
*Return To Castle Wolfenstein
*Soul Calibur
*Warcraft 3
*World of Warcraft (based on the breathtaking beta)

Mac Users with a curiosity in OS X development may find the following of interest!

Thursday, 3 June 2004

Custom built Jedi

A couple of weeks ago during an online chat with Aspyr programmer Brad Oliver, I asked whether or not a Software Development Kit (SDK) for Jedi Academy (Mac port) would ever be released? Last evening Brad lifted the wraps off an unofficial Star Wars: Jedi Academy SDK (download link), that allows players to create custom multiplayer (MP) content for the popular Star Wars FPS. You will need to have Xcode installed. For more details. Quake 3 game engine mods are a scarce commodity on the Mac! So, this is a rare treat!

E4 has stopped showing The OC mid season! Considering the buzz surrounding the show, it's a curious scheduling decision. However, previous faux pas included Angel and Alias.

Enterprise is mining, to exhaustion, the Borg/Starfleet battle from Star Trek: First Contact, as it collides with an uncertain future (both figuratively and literally)! However, as I've mentioned previously it's pretty sterling stuff.

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Jurassic Park

My exploits in World of Warcraft continue! Meglos (a Darkspear Troll warrior) has ventured out into the Echo Isles off the shores of Durothar. The game designers appear to have taken inspiration from the Jurassic Park movie franchise; the lush jungle Islands are overrun with reptiles that are clearly Raptors and equally as vicious! Suffice to say that Meglos was maimed during a savage undergrowth battle! I'll need reinforcements to complete this Quest!

In the next few weeks a new Mac OS X WoW beta will be released! This will run exclusively on 10.3.4 and above! Therefore 10.2 users will have to upgrade.

BBC reports that the Buffy animated series is (almost) go! For seven seasons Buffy served-up arguably the most consistent genre show in television history. Fox's decision to continue the franchise, now that the first spin-off, Angel, has ceased production, is an intelligent move.

Tuesday, 1 June 2004

The icing on the GUI

Confession time! To my chagrin Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac is an excellent product. This upgrade goes far beyond new box art! The Mac Business Unit (Mac BU) have finessed the groundwork in v.X and augmented Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage with "added value".

Most compelling is Project Centre - manage your projects more efficiently by accessing all of your project-related e-mail messages, files, notes, contacts and schedules in one convenient place. It's clearly a work in progress. However, future patches will address this. Encarta® as a reference tool is also worthy of note!

Clearly serious R&D dollars have been spent on the retooling of Office 2004 suite and I'd urge power users to consider it. Yes, there are alternatives including AppleWorks and OpenOffice. But each has its own caveats! Compared to Windows and earlier Mac editions this is the most stable yet - no sign of text rendering/refresh issues that were the bane of its predecessors!