Tuesday, 28 September 2004

Meet Mary-Kate And Ashley!

Yesterday was busy. I attended a Case Conference at Lucerne House, which is scheduled once a month. And missed the launch of ABC1 on Freeview. Showcasing Moonlighting, Ellen, ESPN and 8 Simple Rules, Disney's first foray into DTT could be a license to print money!

I watched the Emmy award-winning Once and Again S1; a series that my Mother adored during its short-lived run on sky one (about the time when sky one entered a brand identity crisis that it has yet to emerge from). Sela Ward reminds me of the Managing Director, from JFL (Judy Farquharson Limited), who interviewed me for an online journalist post at Orange.

My Epson printer went on the blink. Ink is now flowing everywhere, but not on the paper! So, I've ordered a replacement. An Epson Stylus Photo R300. This model was less than half the price I paid for the C80, in 2002, and includes CD and DVD printing. Coincidently Epson announced its EasyPrint utility. Sweet.

During the weekend MacMAME reached 0.87b. Brad fixed a longstanding emulation bug (68ec020 CPU) that prevented Bubble Bobble 2 and Bubble Memories from working. A further revision is expected soon that will include a rewrite of the HID (Human Interface Device) code. I 'dusted off' Street Fighter and found myself yearning for more! Capcom never satisfyingly followed up Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, but instead bled the franchise dry with polished, if not innovative, sequels such as Marvel Vs Capcom. Resident Evil overshadowed any future aspirations for Street Fighter!

Friday, 24 September 2004

Dine-in style

Whilst waiting for MacMAME 0.87a. I went to a Pizza Hut near my Mother's nursing home! I've said it before, but the food and service is always great. Anyway. Whilst there I spotted a Kristin Kreuk (Smallville's Lana Lang) look-a-like!



Charmed S7 sees a cameo from Charisma Carpenter! Could I BE more excited?

Thursday, 23 September 2004

Driving down the 101

Following yesterday's release of the highly anticipated (in arcade emulation circles) MacMAME 0.87. The application is Jar-Jared! Sega gems based on Out Run and Space Harrier hardware no longer work, but Virtua Fighter is sure pretty! A patch is in the pipeline. Here's the official MacMAME forum.

I've started watching the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set. Full review is in the works.

Wednesday, 22 September 2004

Desktop Arcade

The Atari® Flashback™ Classic Game Console has been announced for the holiday season. My earliest memory of owning a games console was the Atari VCS 2600 (introduced in 1977 and distributed in the UK by Ingersoll Electronics). It was an unwanted holiday gift for a cousin. So, my Uncle graciously gave it to me on my Birthday (mint in box)! This was alongside Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter, which has a connection other than purely nostalgia!

After only a few minutes playing Space Invaders, Frogger and The Empire Strikes Back (you see there was a connection) I was hooked! For the next two decades I owned a Spectrum 48K, Commodore 64, Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) and Dreamcast, Atari Lynx, SNES and N64, PSOne and PStwo, and XBOX.



The thread that binded these machines together was the relentless pursuit to acquire games that were arcade perfect. Sega's Mega Drive produced an excellent conversion of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. Yet this was a flawed premise in that a conversion, by definition, is anything but (not to diminish the fun that was had). However, the Dreamcast console was based on the NAOMI (New Arcade Operation Machine Idea) PCB that powered Sega’s coin-ops, which culminated in near-definitive releases Crazy Taxi and Dead or Alive 2.



The first time I heard about MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) was from a former coworker (2001). MAME was started in 1996 by Nicola Salmoria as a means of archiving, and by extension preserving, arcade games that would otherwise disappear forever. For example Star Trek (1983), which is a very rare Sega vector game featuring the voices of the principal cast. Also it allows gamers to experience titles that they may never have otherwise played such as the Japanese-only Gaiapolis, replete with gorgeous graphics, and quirky horizontal shooter Parodius and its sequels, both from Konami.



Unlike music or film, arcade hardware is expensive and therefore it’s commercially prohibitive to continue production runs over an extended period of time. As a pleasant side effect, one can play game ROMs (dumped from arcade Printed Circuit Boards using an EPROM reader) under software emulation! The notion of playing the original Gauntlet, After Burner II, Out Run and many others was mouthwatering!



In what can only be described as an act of serendipity, earlier this year I wrote a review of Jedi Academy (for Inside Mac Games) and discovered that Aspyr programmer, and fellow Star Wars fan, Brad Oliver was the author of MacMAME! Subsequently, I downloaded 0.77u2a and my ROM searching odyssey began in earnest.



With the release of 0.87, MacMAME has been extensively rewritten and further optimized to be a better Mac OS X citizen. Sporting many enhancements including preliminary support for Sega's Model 1 PCB (i.e seminal releases Virtua Fighter and Star Wars Arcade) and the removal of legacy code. This release requires Mac OS X 10.2 (or higher).



It is worth noting that the legal ownership of ROM images (for the purpose of backup) may be contingent on possessing the original arcade game. However, it is not clear if it is legal for an individual to have ROM images (even if not for profit) for a game they don't own. Please read legal implications on MAME rom usage from Northwestern University Law School before downloading any roms to ensure legal compliance. Do not ask me how ROMs can be obtained. Some ROM images, such as Atari's, are available for legal purchase here.

Monday, 20 September 2004

The Force Forever

The anticipation for the Star Wars Trilogy release will never be equaled in my lifetime! And it was with hyperactive enthusiasm that I collected the DVD set, from the postman, this afternoon. Thanks Amazon UK.



Over the next few days I intend to watch the saga, listen to the Sony soundtrack release and impart my reviews here.

Thursday, 16 September 2004

Club 33

This is my 100th post and it fittingly coincides with an invitation to orkut, which is to Google what Club 33 is to Disney! Orkut was established by a Google employee as a means of social networking or, in marketing vernacular, hot working.

In US TV network parlance; 100 episodes is considered to be the magic number at which point many television series are viable for TV syndication!

Wednesday, 15 September 2004

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

There are already excellent blogs that cover PVR (Personal Video Recorders). However, I want to chime in with my user experiences!

In December 2000 I bought a TiVo machine (manufactured by Thomson) and within a month sent it back! Not because the equipment was flawed, no, I lamented the lack of a built-in decoder and shelf space was at a premium. In early 2001 I interviewed for a TiVo guide editor post at sky. Prophetically, within a few months TiVo decided to withdraw from the UK market (continuing support for existing customers only). And sky focused on its own branded product that lacked TiVo’s signature feature - suggestions.

In 2003 I subscribed to sky+ as part of an upgrade package. However, following the ‘failure’ of two Pace V1 STBs (replaced with reconditioned kit) and ongoing technical issues including crashes, failed recordings and the inability to download recorded content to VCR/DVD – it appears that there may be sky+ software glitches that undermine its reliability - I decided to cancel my subscription. Question to sky: Do you seed software updates to testers during R&D?

As an avid Apple user, I’d welcome a digital lifestyle application that records directly to HDD/removable media along the lines of Elgato’s award-winning EyeTV. Coupled with QuickTime (H.264/AVC) and technology licensed from TiVo, the potential for another Mac OS X killer application is not that far fetched! Perhaps Apple will have the insight to add a TV tuner (included in my Performa 5200) in future revisions of the new iMac and claim the Media Center throne.

Tuesday, 14 September 2004

Firestarter

Regular visitors may have noticed the Firefox plug under Post Editor! This browser, whilst not without flaws inherited from its forebears, works hand in glove with Blogger and is on the eve of reaching a developmental milestone. Give it a whirl and "rediscover the web" as their marketing urges.

On a separate note. Apple has started to seed new developer builds of OS X 10.4 Tiger. This major revision to OS X looks very promising.

Back to writing the first of those two large editorials I mentioned.

Monday, 13 September 2004

Groucho Club

For sometime I have admired the talented writers behind Friends, Seinfeld and Will & Grace! Last night's Funny Already - A History of Jewish Comedy was insightful and entertaining.

From a personal point of view I can clearly see the origins of my Mother's rapier sense of wit, self-deprecation and comedic timing. Priceless.

Saturday, 11 September 2004

9/11

Ate donuts at Sainsbury's and concede that they'll take some beating. Should give Krispy Kreme a good run for their money.

Peace.

Thursday, 9 September 2004

The Dark Crystal

My friend Ashley Thorpe and me go way back, as far as September 1989 to be pedantic. We were both studying Fine Art and he overheard me mentioning Dark Horse's Alien comic to friends! It wasn't until Ashley brought in the official Aliens film magazine that I accepted his 'sincerity'. Alienated, bitter and cynical that's what we all were (and perhaps still are if truth be told). It later transpired that our interests and obsessions converged even deeper.



From Star Wars and Aliens to Jim Henson and even, ahem, taste in ladies too! Here's to those halcyon memories of Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (Whalley Whalley) and Winona Ryder (Oprah it was all your fault; if I hadn't watched your Cher interview at around the time of the release of Mermaids).

I can't wish the following sentiment in person. Ashley's living in Greece and I'm in the UK.

Happy Birthday Ashley. Have a fantastic day.

The quest for the Kaiburr crystal will soon be over old friend! Time for some crisps, cola and another round of Tekken too!

Wednesday, 8 September 2004

Minority Report

The announcement of the second Cruise/Spielberg collaboration, The War of the Worlds, is a compelling proposition. H.G. Wells, alongside authors J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll, enriched my childhood literary experiences and had a profound impact on my thinking. I discovered Wells' opus via Jeff Wayne's seminal "The Musical Version Of" LP - Sony UK is preparing a 5.1 surround sound edition for release in 2005 - belated thanks to Kevin Simpson's Dad, Nick. The first movie adaptation (1953) was a thinly veiled anti-communist subtext, which secured an Oscar for special effects. With Wayne's filmic endeavour suffering from a protracted gestation, Spielberg has an opportunity to revisit The War of the Worlds as post 9/11 allegory.

Don't miss the chance to download the latest single of the week from iTMS (Europe only). Baby (Off the Wall). The sensuous Sirens hail from Newcastle, UK, and their sound echoes the urban grooves of All Saints and the Sugababes with added feistiness!

The last few days have afforded me little opportunity to post! However, over the next few weeks there will be a duo of major editorials concerning a couple of my hobbies.

Saturday, 4 September 2004

Cat Capers

From this evening novelist Nick Smith's web site is now live. I'll be updating it on a regular basis, so please bookmark.

Thursday, 2 September 2004

Glow

Now that the dust surrounding the release of the new iMac has settled. I stand by my assertion that Apple has done the brand a short-term disservice in the choice of GPU!

Last year the nVIDIA GeForce 5200 appeared in the final revision of the iMac LCD. Therefore the GeForce 6600 would have delivered considerably more 'bang' and improved future proofing. Yes, the consumer desktop is aimed at the so-called lower end of the market, but that doesn't preclude it from being a versatile gaming and publishing platform.

And Apple appears to have missed a further trick or three. The new machine has enough urban chic to silence even the most demanding of the style-obsessed! The 20" model should be the jewel in the crown of any digital lifestyle centre. And replace or supplement TiVo and Sky+! Of course Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger may contain further surprises in this regard and kick Microsoft's so-called Media Centers into a cocked hat.

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Pinch Punch

Added a new hit counter as Google has ceased supporting bSTATS.

Aspyr's Brad Oliver has updated the Macintosh edition of his Jedi Academy SDK (download link). This fixes bugs in the initial release.