Monday, 28 February 2005

Information Appliance

Today Jef Raskin, the Father of the Macintosh, died. Without his pioneering vision (along with the Macintosh team) the desktop metaphor may never have flourished. The legacy survives the man. RIP.

Sunday, 27 February 2005

The Mercedes-Benz of fighting games

On Friday I installed Xcode 1.5 (Apple's developer suite bundled with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther) and compiled a test build of MacMAME in parity with the PC version. This was my inaugural Xcode project and, invariably, one is liable to make mistakes. In my case I set the Build Style to Development as opposed to Deployment (has to be set manually). Development culminated in myriad files, but no end user application! A total of 4 hours downtime, but educational nonetheless. Although the majority of developers currently utilize CodeWarrior, Xcode is an investment-free alternative for Mac-based hobbyists.

The ongoing improvements in Sega emulation are tangible and Dead or Alive++ is virtually playable. It was a joy to play as Kasumi (my favorite character) and best my opponents with stunning visual results.



The Dead or Alive franchise is not merely eye candy. However, the casual viewer would be forgiven for thinking so. I've ordered Dead or Alive Ultimate (for XBOX) and will post my review soon.

Thursday, 24 February 2005

Like A Prayer

Along with yesterday's refreshed iPod hardware, Apple updated the software for all models too. After downloading iPod Updater. Switched my 3G iPod to Disk Mode and ran restore. At the prompt I unplugged and reconnected iPod to the Dock (attached to an external power supply). Rebooted and the flash firmware* upgrade task bar ran smoothly (taking several minutes to complete).

iPod automatically restarted and the new menu screen including Music and Shuffle Songs was present and correct. The battery charge icon has undergone a cosmetic change and there's a new shuffle icon. Initially the LCD screen was faint/flickering (as noted on Apple's Discussions forum), but after a few minutes turned a solid black (once energized).

Apple is to be commended for finally updating the entire iPod range past and present. Version 2.3 (3G) appears to have addressed software stability issues inherent in the maligned 2.2. I'll test the battery life and sound (for improvements) and pause when disconnecting the headphones feature. Will the new firmware introduce unannounced functionality in the near future?

Further to my iTiVo post of only a few days ago. Simmering speculation surrounds a possible TiVo takeover bid from Apple. Given the pedigree of both brands and the Media Centre proof of concept, known as Mac Mini, the smart money suggests that an announcement is imminent (or not).

[*Firmware upgrades are always mission critical and should never be interrupted (read all pertinent documentation and/or follow onscreen instructions). Always connect the device to a dedicated mains power supply as an incomplete firmware write will leave you with 'dead' hardware. Once successful, you cannot revert back to the previous firmware version.]

Wednesday, 23 February 2005

The Cable Guy

XBOX owners (circa 2003 and earlier) have been notified of a potential 'fire' hazard. In prolonged use the power supply cable can overheat. Kudos to Microsoft for alerting all registered owners (myself included). I was about to sell mine and am now awaiting delivery of a free replacement power cord. A damages claim from a private buyer would have been undesirable. And I'm now disinclined to part with XBOX as the new Star Wars and Dead or Alive franchise games look captivating!

Atari 2600 VCS fans can now download the latest Mac OS X version of sweet Stella. And if you're an avid Atari fan (and who isn't?) be sure to drop by AtariAge. There's an indepth Atari/Lucasfilm Games feature. This is a startling reminder of how innovative the Lucasfilm Games company was before concentrating too heavily on Lucas' Star Wars property.

Tuesday, 22 February 2005

Us Weekly

Leveraged Pages to create a Freeview channel listing document for use at my Mother's nursing home. At time of writing the application is more of a Public Preview Beta and not ready for prime time! The 'Keynote UI' shares Adobe's signature sensibilities, which it to be applauded. However, it is not as intuitive as it should be and the print icon is grayed out. I've submitted feedback and hope that this 'bug' along with other quirks - setting language in System Preferences is cumbersome - will be addressed in a point update. The finished Pages document was exported as a "Digital Master" PDF file.

Sony Japan is now recalling and replacing 'defective' PSP units. Please note that this does not cover imports. Hopefully SCEE will only release the machine once all reliability issues have been rectified. A May launch would be preferable.

Monday, 21 February 2005

The X Factor

Not since Kenner's Batman The Animated Series action figure line, have I felt compelled to buy so many awesome branded collectibles! The Clone Wars Count Dooku arrived this morning ahead of General Grievous, Asajj Ventress (a character I can't wait to see in ROTS) and cohorts. The supplier even included a freebie from Hasbro's Action Fleet range. Now that scores points for customer service.

Apple UK issued an image of what maybe box art for Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Is Avadis “Avie” Tevanian a closet fan of Marvel's The X-Men?

Yesterday an Uncle and me setup a Pace DTVA Freeview STB for Mum ahead of the proposed sky multiroom installation. Why wait? BTW last August I posted that our Grundig GDT1500 overheated and was replaced by a sleek Sony VTX-D800U (highly recommended). Today I discovered, via a Google search, that the Grundig suffered from an inherent design fault. I shall never buy anything with the Grundig badge again! Once bitten...

Friday, 18 February 2005

iTiVo

Like FedEx, Apple, Atari and Google, TiVo has joined that rare echelon of companies with names that have become synonymous with their industry. Today, Americans "tivo" instead of "tape," and 2 million TiVo enthusiasts have forgotten what TV commercials look like. Christmas 2000 TiVo fleetingly took pride of place in my home cinema cabinet! To this day the ghost of 'suggestions' remains to haunt its temperamental successor sky+. So, Apple and Sony please release a co-branded media centre/server before next Christmas powered by Cell and featuring licensed software from TiVo. BTW I'll be one of the first in the queue to buy a PS3 if its browser is based on Apple's WebCore.

Wednesday, 16 February 2005

InStyle

iWork '05 arrived yesterday and refreshingly includes printed documents for both Keynote 2 and Pages. Although I've had little time to fully explore Pages, Apple's newest software (from the Keynote team) skews more towards lavish publishing and less towards word processing. In its current 1.0 iteration Pages is no replacement for AppleWorks 6.2. However, users of Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac can rejoice as Pages replaces the absent Adobe PageMaker (now an InDesign CS plug-in) and rivals Publisher. Well worth buying.

The release of Pages is cause to reflect on how far publishing applications have developed. In 1998 my first web site was built using Claris Homepage 3.0 (a free license from Macworld UK magazine). Then I migrated to PageMill 3.0 and, latterly, GoLive when Adobe ceased PageMill support and offered an inexpensive upgrade path. GoLive CS now sports Photoshop's signature GUI and seamless integration too.

Time to produce a competitor for Detour magazine.

Monday, 14 February 2005

New PALz On The Block

Another commercially-fueled Valentine's Day. I hesitate to repeat what I, infamously, said to a friend a few years ago! However, it was a most pleasant surprise to receive Buffy Summers in the post! Albeit in her PALz incarnation. A big thanks to my friend Michael for the belated birthday gift. You do appreciate that I'm now obligated to collect the entire S1 and 2 sets.

Macally's iShock II arrived (at 8:00AM to be exact) courtesy of Apple. Looking forward to Plug and Play fun with MacMAME later today.

Have you seen any of the Revenge of the Sith merchandise? It all looks mouthwatering and I've no idea where to start! Darth Tater, Anakin/Vader or Anakin's Jedi Starfighter? Answers on a postcard.

I'm off to watch Newlyweds. Its depiction of solipsism is addictive.

Sunday, 13 February 2005

The audience is listening

Discovering Dolby NR on my parents' Panasonic Direct Drive tape cassette player embarked me on a lifelong sonic odyssey. From vinyl to DAT and SACD to AAC, I've marveled at and treasured the capture of indelible audio recordings. Late 2004 Sony BMG piloted the DualDisc format to test audiences. In 2005 the CD/DVD hybrid goes mainstream with the release of Rebirth from Jennifer Lopez.

MAME fans can grab 0.92 now, but 0.93 will include Aaron's sound system changes for end user testing. Audiophiles rejoice.

Looks like sky multiroom is coming to my Mum's nursing home soon. Mum adores movies and digital satellite will augment the extensive DVD catalogue that I'm currently building.

I'm not particularly averse to confessing my fandom of Dawson's Creek (S1 - 4) and, by extension, Katie Holmes. And Amazon UK is now offering S2 at a sub £20 sweet spot! I'll complete my collection over the coming months.

Saturday, 12 February 2005

A Galaxy Of Stars

Recently I was contacted by a Star Wars & Doctor Who convention organizer. Their next convention - to celebrate the return of Doctor Who and the release of Revenge of the Sith - is scheduled for April 16th at Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset. At time of writing the following guests have been confirmed:

Star Wars
*David Prowse (Darth Vader)
*Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett)
*Kenny Baker (R2-D2)

Doctor Who
*Colin Baker (5th Doctor)
*Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier)
*Mary Tamm (Romana mark 1)
*Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot)
*Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown)

A stellar role call at no mistake.

During childhood I was a Whovian and visited Longleat's Dr Who Exhibition on more than one occasion. However, my most cherished Dr Who memory is of the 20th Anniversary Convention in April 1983. All tickets had been sold, but Mum worked her considerable charm and we were admitted as VIP guests. Here's the only photographic record of that amazing day.



On the subject of stars. I bought Mum a copy of Tatler magazine. Mum singled out cover star Selma Blair, who resembles my late Canadian Grandmother (in her teens), as my future wife! Wishful thinking.

Friday, 11 February 2005

Shock & Awe

Today I installed Mac OS X 10.3.8 onto my iMac (G4). The fan is quieter (for less CPU-intensive tasks) and the system appears a little more responsive and smoother than the previous update, which is always welcome. As is best practice I performed backup-to-DVD duties and repaired permissions (a legacy of OS X’s Unix heritage) both before and after (there were changes following the update). Forums report that there are issues for some G5 users - excessive fan activity.

Owners of Macally iShock USB game controllers should remove the driver (if installed). The driver is incompatible with 10.3.8 and causes rapid loss of HDD space. According to Brad Oliver iShock is Plug and Play configurable anyway. I've ordered an iShock II for my huge time suck of a hobby MAME.

Aaron Giles has turned his considerable coding skill towards reworking sound cores in MAME. In the future QSound and multi channel speaker output will be supported. JBL feel the love.

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Tool Time

With the advent of Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, Apple heralded Inkwell a proprietary handwriting recognition application built on Apple’s Recognition Engine. Given the initial fanfare, Inkwell has taken a backseat over the past two years. During this time PIXAR developed Sketch Review tool for The Incredibles (2004). Will Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger showcase an improved Inkwell based on PIXAR R&D?

Although iWork '05 has yet to arrive, I've started toying with iLife '05. Apple's killer application suite is now squarely aimed at the prosumer and I’m enamoured! iPhoto 5 is shaping up to be a Photoshop Elements beater as it supports RAW! Whether or not this will affect Adobe's future decision regarding Mac OS support is debatable - allegedly when iPhoto 1 was shown to developers Adobe threatened to cease development of Photoshop and Apple scaled down its feature set. However, I'd argue that iPhoto and Photoshop Elements are complimentary. Here's Adobe's workflow tip. Photoshop remains the de facto standard for icon design.

Mac OS X 10.3.8 was released last evening ahead of expectations.

Wednesday, 9 February 2005

The Cell

Much has been made of the Sony, IBM and Toshiba chip collaboration. Cell. Will it facilitate a paradigm shift, thereby consigning Moore's Law to a footnote in history? Or is it merely a marketing myth unable to deliver on its initial promise - think Sony's Emotion Engine? PlayStation 3 coupled with PSP will reaffirm Sony's dominance in the handheld and home console markets to the detriment of both Nintendo and relative newcomer Microsoft. However, what about Mac OS X 10.4 running on the Cell chip? Now that's really worth getting excited about!

Further launch delays not withstanding, Amazon UK has announced that the PSP will now ship at the end of April. No details regarding package contents.

In the wake of Trek's cancellation the brilliant Battlestar Galactica has been renewed. Can't wait for the remake of The Gun on Ice Planet Zero Part I & II and, no, I'm not joking!

Tuesday, 8 February 2005

The Skywalker Symphony

Fellow Aquarian and composer-extraordinaire John Williams celebrates his 73rd birthday today. Mr Williams' movie scores continue to be the soundtrack to my life.

Monday, 7 February 2005

Fun and imagination

After receiving a refund from Amazon UK (the listed price had dropped prior to dispatch) iLife '05 has finally arrived. The box is compact and bijou. This evening I'll install the updated suite.

Adobe has released free gizmos galore for both Photoshop CS and Elements 3.

Mac OS X 10.4 may bow in March. It has been suggested that the delay was to provide third party developers with plenty of time to upgrade existing applications to coincide with the retail release. Incidentally, Pages allegedly contains code specific to 10.4 - Core Image provides a plug-in style architecture for accessing filters, transitions and effects packages called Image Units. This might suggest that Pages' full publishing power will be unveiled soon.

Sunday, 6 February 2005

Nintendo Nation

In March 1997 I was blown away by Nintendo 64! Mario's richly rendered 3D world literally leapt from the television screen. The lush visuals and innovative gamepad ergonomics culminated in a definitive pop culture experience.

The N64, PSOne and Dreamcast were traded-in for XBOX, PS2 and GameCube in 2002. Although I recently sold all my home consoles due to less leisure time, the DS and PSP portables will ably fill the gap whilst commuting.

Don't miss the iTunes/Pepsi commercials during today's Super Bowl.

Saturday, 5 February 2005

The Face

Microsoft's Office for Mac suite continues to exclude Access and Publisher! Publisher is a basic page-layout editor. My budget doesn't stretch to Adobe's InDesign or Quark Xpress. Therefore Pages (part of iWork '05) is a compelling substitute at a very affordable £43.99 (including Keynote 2). I'll post reviews of iLife and iWork soon.

John Williams has started scoring Revenge of the Sith with the legendary London Symphony Orchestra. The score should reflect the rich tonal textures of all the previous installments. Williams' work on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has deservedly been nominated for an Oscar.

MAME celebrates its eighth birthday!

Friday, 4 February 2005

Laguna chic

The North American release of Sony's PSP will indeed be a blockbuster package. The PSP Value Pack contains an unprecedented added-value package of accessories and entertainment content, including 32MB Memory Stick Duo, headphones with remote control, battery pack, AC adaptor, soft case and cleaning cloth, movie/music/game video sampler UMD disc including multiple non-interactive game demos, and for the first one million PSP Value Packs shipped, a special UMD video release of the feature film Spider-Man 2 from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

In light of shipping to Japanese and North American markets sans chip capacity. The highly anticipated European PSP launch remains unclear according to Bloomberg (a world class financial news service). Although I'm eager to get my hands on a PlayStation Portable, the 'quality control' problems - from stuck buttons to dead pixels - are an area of concern for a high value product and it's preferable to see these resolved in a timely fashion.

Sony is a vertically integrated global company and can leverage a formidable hardware (electronics) and software (film, music and television) portfolio. Clearly the PlayStation is now an integral part of their business model, which has suffered a fall in profitability with the success of online and a decline in offline markets. The masstige brand is being repositioned as a digital lifestyle product - a concept pioneered by and synonymous with Apple. PSX (DESR-7000) and PSP may intimate Sony's plans for PS3. Doubtlessly there will be future interoperability between the portable and home consoles. Think of the Mac mini and iPod as a good analogy.

Thursday, 3 February 2005

Tomorrow Is Yesterday

The news that Paramount has retired its Star Trek brand lacks any surprise! The formulaic franchise went one sequel series too far with Enterprise! I have no reservation in admitting that S3 was highly enjoyable and evoked the exploits of Kirk's 'Wild West' era with a sprinkling of Star Wars operatics.

To avoid further brand dilution Paramount would be advised to withdraw Trek television and movie properties for at least a decade. However, it is the company's primary source of revenue and dollars dictate as evinced by the lucrative licenses and back catalogue spanning 4 decades. Trekkers remorse as television schedules make way for new Battlestar and the return of Dr Who.

Wednesday, 2 February 2005

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Here's a VoIP client worth downloading! Skype (available in all popular OS flavours) allows users to chat and transmit files across a global network. Amusingly the Skype icon colours vary a la Skittles! Sign-up and if you're ever in the mood for a chat my user name is jrhood. Don't be a stranger.

It's official! I'm now excited about Revenge of the Sith! Last November the teaser trailer met with mixed reaction. It was difficult to muster much enthusiasm after the breathtaking Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yet, today, whilst walking past Exeter's Argos store, a sold-out flyer for Anakin's awesome Jedi Starfighter caught my eye. I've now ordered the Art of Star Wars Episode III and Visual Dictionary. The superlative production values of both book series for Episodes I and II are yet to be surpassed. If you thought the merchandising for The Phantom Menace was extensive, you ain't seen nothing yet. Master Soda please pass me a Pepsi.

Can't wait for Ridge Racers on PSP. Ridge Racer and Battle Arena Toshinden were the first two games I ever played on the PlayStation (Japanese import, 1995). That evening the latter's final boss had deadlocked a group of friends. To the chagrin of all those gathered, in button-bashing style I perfected Gaia twice on my first attempt - the vision of that Demon tumbling off the arena edge, and into fiery oblivion, left an indelible impression on us all. Back at University a disagreeable house mate acquired a PAL console and Sony's seduction was complete.

Sony has yet to announce full plans for the European launch of PSP. Given Nintendo's aggressive price point for DS, hopefully Sony will only offer the "Value Pack" option. I'm not shy to admit that the PlayStation Portable promises to be the most compelling consumer electronics product since the iPod (2001).

Tuesday, 1 February 2005

Touched by the Hand of God

The innovative Nintendo DS is garnering press acclaim and Konami's Castlevania DS (working title), the sequel to Aria of Sorrow, has closed the deal for me! My GBA was bought primarily to play Circle of the Moon, Aria of Sorrow and Harmony of Dissonance. The DS iteration promises a (stylus-driven) rich gameplay experience.



Further PSP musings. Japanese consumers are complaining of 'stuck button syndrome' and are returning machines. Could this be a quality control issue or inherent design flaw?