Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Confluence

Keeping with the informal oriental theme of yesterday. Due to the stress of real world events, I suffered an uncommon migraine and was forced to bed early. Whilst still feeling a little groggy, found time to listen to John Williams' score for Memoirs of a Geisha (Spielberg passed on directorial duties).

A work of beguiling beauty, Geisha effortlessly combines the Orient with Copland flourish. The silhouette of Shindler's List (2003) cast by Itzhak Perlman's arresting violin solos.

This year Williams has completed a stunning quartet of albums from Revenge of the Sith and War of the Worlds to Munich. Next year Superman Returns and so will John Williams' main theme. Watch the teaser trailer, underscored by The Planet Krypton, and tell me that you're not moved by its impressionistic power.

I'd like to welcome Sony PSP users to the addiction known as RSS! Albeit in the bandwidth-demanding form of audio streaming. The latest firmware upgrade, 2.6, was released today.



Sony's move into this 'space' may provide competition for Apple! However, under the tree this year I'll be opening a Nintendo DS Mario Kart Bundle and a copy of Lego Star Wars for GameCube.

Sky is offering an iPod Shuffle to customers who recommend a friend. Any takers?

Monday, 28 November 2005

Manic Monday

Watched the excellent Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003); A young peasant maid working in the house of painter Johannes Vermeer becomes his talented assistant and the model for one of his most famous works. I'm left yearning for an art studio and muse of my own! Scarlett Johansson call me sometime?

When I reflect back on A-Level Fine Art, it feels a life further and further removed. This is a double edged sword given my then estrangement from fellow students (and the established tenants extolled by the art teachers), but burning desire to create. Not since September 2003 have I come close to picking up a pencil and paper! Maybe it's mental exhaustion or the lack of time? A New Year's resolution is in the making...

Another notable movie consumed at the weekend. The Last Samurai (2003). Personally, I've always admired Tom Cruise since Born on the Fourth of July (1989). Here he's at the height of his acting game alongside a standout performance from Ken Watanabe. There are few clich├ęs and the poetic portrayal of Japan is mesmeric. Can't wait for House Of Flying Daggers (2004) to be shown on sky movies.

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Toy Story

You've got to get one of these (subject to availability)!

The Mutants

The wood carving (on the left) was a gift from an Uncle who toured Africa.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Dishing The Dirt

Some Xbox 360 consumers are reporting technical issues with the new console; power cords overheating and system crashes. However, spare a thought for the not-so-Newlyweds Nick and Jessica! An American divorce...

Alias is to end after 5 seasons.



Lost, Battlestar, Doctor Who and Desperate Housewives will fill the void vacated by Sydney Bristow

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

The Ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is...

42 and Happy Birthday Doctor Who. Over four decades ago An Unearthly Child was broadcast in the aftermath of US President John F. Kennedy's assassination. I still have vivid memories of the Sontaran Experiment, Genesis of the Daleks and The Pyramids Of Mars (circa 1974/75)!

It pays to search eBay listings. Early this morning I purchased a brand new 5" R/C Dalek (£29.99 inc P&P)! The 5" model from Character Options is a limited edition and its market value is higher than the 12" R/C. However, whether it is worth £75 is relative.

Character Options will be extending their 5" Doctor Who range to include the following:

*Pack 1 - The Tenth Doctor (in his 'signature' outfit with long overcoat and Sonic Screwdriver accessory.

*Pack 2 - Rose Tyler and K-9

*Pack 3 - Intergalactic Warlord, the Sycorax Warrior complete with two weapons.

*Pack 4 - A double pack of Lady Cassandra and Moxx of Balhoon

*Pack 5 - A Slitheen action figure - with extendable claws that can be slid out from its finger ends.

*Pack 6 - Radio controlled K-9 and Tenth Doctor double pack.

*Pack 7 - TARDIS console room playset. Six buttons control around ten sound effects plus chair, hat stand and lift-out access panels in the floor to reveal the TARDIS mechanisms and circuitry.

The granddaddy of them all, The Emperor Dalek, will be available exclusively from Toys R Us online.

Still wondering whether or not you should purchase the Character Walkie-Talkies? Don't hesitate any longer! The likeness of both the Doctor and Slitheen are superb and eclipse Hasbro's hyped methodology! Go on, you know you want to play with these.

Doctor Who 2005 Merchandise

Pop Princess Rachel Stevens (isn't anyone buying her excellent album?) is rumored to be in the Doctor Who franchise spin-off Torchwood with John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness). Torchwood is described as 'adult', not necessarily a positive connotation. Perhaps BBC PR should seek more articulate adjectives?

Monday, 21 November 2005

Nickelodeon

In this era of digital content distribution, the notion of going to the cinema maybe considered antiquated (not that I'm an advocate). Sky movies offers 9 screens of 'near demand' movie magic. This is what I've been watching:

*Elf
*Underworld
*Freaky Friday (2003)
*HellBoy
*The Bourne Supremacy
*The Last Samurai
*The Matrix Revolutions
*The Cat in the Hat
*Pieces of April
*Two Weeks Notice
*The Stepford Wives (2004)
*Open Water
*Dawn of the Dead (2004)
*Resident Evil: Apocalypse

TiVo has announced that its portable media software will support transfer to iPod and PSP. It'll be interesting to see whether or not a future sky+ update will include such a feature too - otherwise the USB 2.0 port is nothing more than a glorified iPod/mobile phone battery recharger!

You can now shop for holiday gifts at my T-Shirt Shop.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Scissor Sister

When I first saw the advance poster for Underworld Evolution, the comparison with Edward Scissorhands and the surreal-enthused cinema of Tim Burton was unmistakable.



Whilst Underworld (2003) is far from satisfying and wholly derivative. It's a pleasing antidote to the banal Matrix Revolutions and tiresome Van Helsing. Kate Beckinsale's aloof Alice captured the character's detachment in Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998). Why they didn't ask her to reprise the role in American McGee's Alice is a mystery!

During tonight's Children In Need UK viewers were treated to the first official adventure with the new Doctor and Rose. A scintillating season/regeneration segue. The chemisty between the principles has not lost any of its spark.

Thursday, 17 November 2005

Rebel Base

Jack Frost's at play! This morning looking out of my south facing bedroom window, a mantle of white had conjured a 'Winter Wonderland' dress rehearsal. Cue the incomparable Johnny Mathis or the main theme from The Box of Delights (1984).

Got something you want the world to see? Google Base is Google's database into which you can easily submit all types of content.

You can describe any item you post with attributes, which will help people find it when they search Google Base. In fact, based on the relevance of your items, they may also be included in the main Google search index and other Google products like Froogle and Google Local.

While you pour yourself another peppermint mocha, why not see what I've published onto the database so far?

Looks like Apple will be releasing Mac OS X 10.4.4 before the New Year. Will Quartz 2D Extreme be activated in time for MWSF 2006 and the introduction of Intel hardware?

Battlestar fans rejoice. Series 3 has already been commissioned.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Mars Attacks

Last evening's Autumnal sunset was striking and rendered a Satanic skyline! So, I took this photo in my back garden, or yard as my late Canadian Grandmother would say.

Fall Sky

It could be a missing frame from Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds...

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Hang On

Yesterday I met an Aunt and cousin in town. Whilst loading the car we witnessed another driver reverse into a row of parked motorcycles - knocking them all over accompanied by a resounding "crunch!" Clearly most, if not all, the bikes had sustained some degree of damage. However, the driver sped away before onlookers could stop her! A testament to the self absorbed society that we live in; one where accountability is a rare commodity! Call the lawyers...

I won't be one of the elite gamers opening an Xbox 360 under the tree this holiday. But, I'm impressed by the new console's backwards compatibility - the software emulator (updates can be downloaded for free and burned to CD - surely a boon for hackers?) supports an impressive 200 games and anti-aliasing for a smoother image.

Knowing that this blog has an avid readership combined with Podcast subscribers is most flattering. Glad I made your day Jim and thanks.

Friday, 11 November 2005

Silver Nemesis

For me Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis' creation is second only to Darth Vader. The new droid-like Cybermen are instantly recognizable. The official BBC website welcomes visitors with a metallic klaxon. I can already hear the Earthshock score composed by the late Malcolm Clarke!



Will David Banks (Cyber Leader) and Mark Hardy (Cyber Lieutenant) once again be entombed in cyber armor? Rumor has it that this tale will hark back to the Patrick Troughton era.

The Snowman is an original story idea featuring a solitary Cyberman (see Marvel comics Doctor Who Issues 58-59 Junk-Yard Demon) whom is discovered, deactivated, in the grounds of a country house estate. I had intended producing an audio drama (Bournemouth University 1994) and am considering whether or not to release it as a podcast in the New Year.

My copy of Madonna's Confessions On A Dancefloor has arrived! As I listened to the new album for the first time, I was editing lines of html code and optimizing the blog template! The review will be published next week.

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

Full Throttle

Bloggers the world over are starting to post their holiday lists for 2005!

1). I only ever owned a Paris to Dakar Rally Range Rover R/C and this year's collectible line has been dominated by Masters of the Universe. When I learnt that, Mattel subsidiary, Tyco RC had released a giant Monster Jam truck, it went straight to the top!



*Working suspension
*Air tires
*Authentic, detailed decoration
*Forward, reverse, left and right turn functions
*Requires a 9-volt battery for the remote (not included)
*Includes a 6-volt NiCd battery and charger for the truck

The 12" R/C Dalek from Character Options didn't qualify as it's already on pre-order (shipping in December)! And the 1:6 (Batman Begins) Batmobile is off the list due to poor reviews.

Monday, 7 November 2005

Fire In The Sky

This year's Bonfire Night passed without incident. Unlike 1985 when a high school friend ignited a rocket in my parents kitchen and burned a hole in the carpet (luckily for him we were moving to a new property).

Here's an in-depth look at the new Pace TDS470N.

Connectivity
*VCR A/V SCART – VCR Scart for connection to Video Recorder.
*TV A/V SCART – Provides either composite or RGB and composite video output. Audio volume can also be controlled in software.
*Analogue Audio Outputs – An important addition for users wishing to integrate the set-top box into their home audio system. Volume can be adjusted or muted under software control.
*S-Video Connector – For high quality video connection.
*UHF Modulator – For connection to main TV and optional connection to second TV.
*RS232 – Serial port connector for service and factory use only.
*USB 2.0 – For connection to an array of multi-media devices (iPod and PSP).
*SPDIF – For connection to home Dolby Digital amplifier.
*RF Input – Twin IF inputs to connect to dual LNB at dish.
*RJ11 – For telephone line connection.
*AC Input – For mains power supply.

3rd Generation
The TDS470N is a third generation personal video recorder (PVR) currently deployed by BSkyB in the UK.

Performance
Main processor speed runs at 166MHZ.
Internal hard disk drive (possible option to upgrade HDD size).
High speed data port for future connectivity upgrades.

PVR Features
Twin Tuners – The TDS470N’s twin digital tuners allow the user to:

*Watch one digital channel whilst recording another.
*Pause live TV – Pause a live programme.
*Archive favourite programmes on to VCR.
*Dual Record - Record two programmes simultaneously while watching a programme from disk.

The TDS470N’s Time Shift and Video Recorder functionality allows the user to:

*Store 40-80 hours of programmes (depending on bit rate and set up).
*Use VCR style facilities (FFWD/RWD/Stop/Pause).

Assuming that your satellite dish is installed and correctly aligned. Self installation is a breeze. Before starting I'd recommend switching the mains power off. Interconnect quality is important and I used Monster and IXOS SCART and Toslink cables. Once you've completed this step. Insert your viewing card and turn mains power on. Leave in standby for at least 60 seconds. Switch on and leave it for another 60 seconds. This gives the software time to settle and download channel listings.

The Pace TDS470N shipped with EPG version 1.28d (latest version is 1.30q) and is missing new, but non-essential features (the new PIN restrictions are a nuisance). Go into the menu, system settings and configure the following (not defaults):

Picture > RGB SCART (for a suitably equipped television)

Sound > Dolby D (for a suitably equipped receiver)

Foregoing callback (accessed via 'secret menu' Installer Setup - 4 0 1 Select > New Installation), call customer care to match your viewing card (you will need to go into Service > System Setup > System Details). And that's it! Really, really simple.

Yesterday evening I watched this on sky+! With the exception of Star Trek: Nemesis all scheduled recordings in the sky+ Planner were successful.

Friday, 4 November 2005

Remember remember, the 5th of November

Now settling back into a sky+ viewing pattern. Recorded Big Fish, Star Trek: Nemesis, Spider-Man 2, Matrix Revolutions and The Bourne Identity in order to test the reliability of recordings and, most importantly, see these movies for the first time!

Tomorrow I'll be in Teignmouth and wish all UK readers a safe Bonfire Night.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

Party of Five

Currently watching Party of Five season one. Its signature familial dramas resonate more pointedly than they did a decade ago! Aside from the supernatural sibling synergy and canny casting. Seeing Lost's Matthew Fox, with long hair, requires adjustment. Here's the cover of the new Girls Aloud album Chemisty. Now tell me that Cheryl Tweedy doesn't look like Neve Campbell?



The second single, Biology, is an ambitious melding of backbeat meets Motown and I'm loving it!

The new Pace box arrived this afternoon (well within 24 hours) and eschews the 'bulk' of its predecessors in favor of Apple-influenced design couture. It sports USB 2.0, but I'll go into further detail at the weekend.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Keeping Pace

For the past two years I have taken up sky's "come back" at 1/2 price for 3 months offer. This year is no exception. The holidays are the ideal time to view movies missed at the cinema and Mum benefits from the seasonal Disney offerings, which are copied to removable media for transfer to her nursing home.

Within hours of reactivating the subscription, the sky+ HDD failed (see earlier service diatribes). The reconditioned Pace box was outside its warranty (March 2004) and I may have been facing a costly callout and installation charge of up to £199! However, the customer care representative was genial and arranged a replacement (gratis).

An Amstrad DRX180 (40GB). Not my first choice by any means, but given that sky was under no legal obligation to make such a generous offer I accepted. The contractor cleary had no intention of making sure that the viewing card matched my box and erroneously suggested that I call sky to request a new card - the existing one was faulty! D'oh! I called their customer care number; filed a complaint against the contractor (quoting the job number) and was recording my first programme within minutes! There's a moral to this story...

The new box is slimmer, quieter and doesn't look too shabby. Yet, it's far less responsive than the first generation Pace! Has Amstrad heard of MHz processors? Because it would be churlish to complain and request another box (akin to playing Russian Roulette), I searched eBay and discovered Simply Digital's shop. The prices listed are significantly cheaper than their own brand site and P&P is free (Parcel Force 24). Never one to ignore a bargain I've ordered a Pace TDS470N (160GB) £149.00 with free quad LNB. The same product normally costs £172.95. A sweet deal in any currency. In-depth review to follow.