Monday, 26 December 2005

The Feast of Steven

Clever title, eh? Refers to the Doctor Who episode (taken from the Dalek's Master Plan) broadcast on Christmas Day 1965.

Although shattered from a busy Christmas Day with relatives, I managed to watch The Christmas Invasion at 1:30AM this morning (sky+ delivered)! A terrific yarn filled to the brim with pop culture and current affairs references - Torchwood has ominous pretensions, transforming the Earth into a Death Star. Even the beauty of snow fall was undermined by its true nature - burning ashes from the destroyed spacecraft.

Unsurprisingly David Tennant and Billie Piper's chemistry remains undiluted by the regeneration and, if anything, the mythology is now taking flight. Tennant is as alien as he is enigmatic and epitomizes Tom Baker's classic line from The Pyramids of Mars (1975) "I'm not a human being; I walk in eternity..."

The series two teaser induced chills and excitement: the return of Sarah Jane Smith, an art deco Cyberman and Buffy's Anthony Stewart Head (surely he's the Master?).

Sunday, 25 December 2005

Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

As gifts are unwrapped and Mac Users await the irony of Intel Inside (I'll be ordering a Mac mini during MWSF 2006). News reaches these shores that Nintendo Revolution gamers can expect Sega's 16-bit classics on the next generation console! What this means for software emulation remains unclear. Incidentally, MacMAME maybe updated next week. If it heralds the long awaited new front-end, I'll post a review. Who knows, Brad Oliver may release it as a Universal binary.

Home for the holidays

Contrary to my earlier post. There was no DS for me today. Play weren't able to send a replacement prior to the weekend festivities. However, Lego lightsabres basked in the neon glow of a fiber optic tree.

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Christmas NiGHTS

In the spirit of the season. Here's The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore:

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Deck the Halls

With the holidays now upon us, regular postings will most likely dry up! Therefore I wanted to wish you all a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and a Festive Festivus.

UK readers don't forget to set your VCR, DVD-R and PVR to record Doctor Who. The Christmas Invasion starts at 7:00PM on BBC1 Christmas Day. David Tennant looks set to eclipse even the brilliance of Christopher Eccleston.

Thank you for reading and please stay tuned via RSS for more pop culture goodness in 2006.

Monday, 19 December 2005

Christmas Decade

This Christmas marks ten years of Mac ownership! Time has flown since I unwrapped the Performa 5200 and took those first tentative steps into new media authoring and WarCraft!

CPU
*CPU: PowerPC 603
*CPU Speed: 75 MHz
*Bus Speed: 37.5 MHz
*Data Path: 64 bit
*ROM: 4 MB
*RAM Type: 72 pin SIMM
*Minimum RAM Speed: 80 ns
*Onboard RAM: 0 MB
*RAM slots: 2
*Maximum RAM: 64 MB
*Level 1 Cache: 8 kB data, 8 kB instruction
*Level 2 Cache: 256 kB
*Expansion Slots: 1 LC PDS, comm, video i/o, TV

Video
*Monitor: 15" CRT (built-in)
*VRAM: 1 MB
*Max Resolution: 832x624

Storage
*Hard Drive: 500 MB
*ATA Bus: IDE
*Floppy Drive: 1.4 MB SuperDrive
*Optical Drive: 4x CD-ROM

Input/Output
*ADB: 1
*Serial: 2
*SCSI: DB-25
*Audio Out: stereo 16 bit mini
*Audio In: mono 16 bit mini
*Speaker: stereo
*Microphone: mono

Miscellaneous
*Codename: Trailblazer, Bongo, Rebound, Transformer
*Gestalt ID: 41
*Power: 125 Watts
*Dimensions: 17.5" H x 15.1" W x 16" D
*Weight: 47 lbs.
*Minimum OS: 7.5.1
*Maximum OS: 9.1
*Introduced: April 1995
*Terminated: April 1996

Here's to another decade of delights.

Friday, 16 December 2005

A Cup of Good Cheer

Nintendo's official stance on dead pixels is far removed from Sony's:

Extremely high precision technology is employed to produce the Nintendo DS LCD screens. The result is more than 99.99% effective pixels with a mere 0.01% of the pixels inactive or always lit. You will find this situation in many LCD devices (PC monitors, televisions, cell phones, etc.). However, this is not a malfunction.

It is important to understand that this issue will remain limited to the pixels you have already noticed. The problem will not get any worse and you should not expect to see the problem in any other areas of the screen.

We suggest you use your system for a few weeks to determine whether this interferes with your enjoyment of game play. If, after using your system for a while, you feel that this tiny dot is too distracting, the Nintendo DS does carry a one-year warranty. We are happy to inspect and, if necessary, fix your system at no charge within the warranty period.

The above information is freely available on the web and reproduced here to illustrate Nintendo's excellent customer care. In any event Play.com arranged free collection and replacement of the defective DS. My thanks to them as always.

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Readers with vision impairment and/or whom would like to 'listen' to RSS feeds can subscribe to text-to-speech recitals here. I'll add a permanent link soon.

My Nintendo DS arrived on Monday and, although it's a holiday gift, I had to charge the internal battery and play test Mario Kart DS! I mean, imagine if it wasn't working on Christmas day? The DS is a joy to use and the must-have list of games includes Castlevania DS and Resident Evil Deadly Silence (DS get it?). The second screen sports a couple of dead pixels, which Nintendo is happy to repair or replace the unit at their discretion.

The Toys R Us exclusive 12" R/C Assault Dalek (with Claw) was delivered to the door in a very large box. I'm going to need to put this into hire storage when not 'terrorizing' our beloved cat Leo (obviously joking). The Dalek looks and sounds fantastic and my packaging fetish is satisfied too.

Monday, 12 December 2005

Let There Be Peace On Earth

There has been much hullabaloo since an early beta of Google Earth for Mac OS X appeared on the web! Google Earth puts a planet's worth of imagery and other geographic information right on your desktop. View exotic locales like Maui and Paris as well as points of interest such as local restaurants, hospitals, schools, and more.



In its present form Google Earth's GUI is a mélange of Mac OS X 10.1 Aqua and Windows XP (Preferences includes an OpenGL and DirectX Graphics Mode option. DirectX is a Windows only graphics layer). The application will intergrate with Gmail, but the feature is grayed out. It runs surprisingly smoothly on my aging G4, but requires Core Image and therefore will be restricted to 10.4 Tiger users.

Whilst perusing FeedBurner I stumbled across DropSend, a file-transfer service, and signed-up for a free account. They've included a free desktop uploader tool (10.1 or higher).

Running maintenance scripts can be a chore and most of us don't bother. I tend to run these in Terminal, which is a minefield of dangers for inexperienced users. So, fret not as now this elegant Automator script takes care of everything.

Friday, 9 December 2005

My Favorite Things

Part two of my Review of the Year.

*Album - The Emancipation Of Mimi. After several years in the wilderness Mariah Carey captures R&B magic in a bottle. Runners up: Chemistry (Girls Aloud) and Come And Get It (Rachel Stevens).

*Single - Biology. Those Girls Aloud produce another pop opus. Runners up: You're Beautiful (James Blunt) and Push The Button (Sugababes).

*Movie - Batman Begins. The dark genesis of everyone's favorite psychologically damaged vigilante. Runners up: Revenge of the Sith and War of the Worlds.

*DVD - Lost and Doctor Who Season One Boxsets. This was too close to call! Runners up: Battlestar Galactica and Desperate Housewives.

*Television Drama - Battlestar Galactica. Dangerous and dry sci-fi that avoids the simplicity of the Star Trek franchise. Runners up: Desperate Housewives and Lost.

*Television Sci-Fi - Doctor Who. A slumbering Whovian was stirred by Russell T. Davies, Billie Piper and golden Daleks. Runners up: Battlestar Galactica and Lost.

*Merchandise - 12" R/C Dalek from toy powerhouse Character Options. This year's Buzz Lightyear is the definition of 'must-have'. However, may I direct your attention to the Assault Dalek (with Claw) sold through Toys R Us! This variant is limited to 5000 units worldwide. Runners up: General Grievous Wheel Bike and Transformers Darth Vader.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Walking In The Air

This is the first part of the mandatory Review of the Year. And the prizes go to:

*Web - RSS. Of all the emergent web-based technologies reaching critical mass (despite low consumer awareness). This year RSS has captivated my imagination with many a late night brain storming, and exchanging of e-mails with those Chicago-based coders at FeedBurner, to facilitate an all signing and all dancing, but ultimately transparent, RSS experience. Runners up: Google Reader and Blogger.

*Buzz Word - Podcast. This term is a misnomer, but joins the pantheon of brands TiVo and Google. My iTunes Music Store listing was the crowning achievement. Runners up: VoIP and Blogging.

*Application - Flickr Uploadr. I've honored Flickr with the distinction of best cross-platform social networking tool. Google's photo proposition looks positively anemic and clunky by comparison and gets a zero for the lack of a Mac OS X client. Maybe next year, eh? Runners up: Firefox 1.5 and iTunes 6.

*Console - Nintendo DS. Sony's PSP wins the hardware and multimedia battle. But Miyamoto's masterpiece is 'all about the games': delivered with an inventive quirkiness and wrapped in Game & Watch geek chic. Runners up: Xbox 360 and PSP.

*Video Game - Mario Kart DS. Combines the SNES, N64, GameBoy SP and GameCube iterations with Wi-Fi. Do you need to know anymore? Runners up: Resident Evil 4 and Lego Star Wars.

Stay tuned for Best Album, DVD, Movie, Television series and more.

Sunday, 4 December 2005

Step Into Christmas

The buzz surrounding Mario Kart DS is reaching fever pitch. Reviews are extremely positive with gaming journalists evangelizing that this is one of the greatest games released on any platform. Hyperbole? I'll review Nintendo's portable opus soon. It's worth noting that the DS is now outselling the PSP in Japan.

The first installment in Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia not only looks wonderful, but reviews are very encouraging indeed. Can't wait to see this over the holiday season.

Some of you may have noticed that the sidebar has been tweaked with additions. The podcast link is now more prominent - either subscribe via iTunes or Yahoo! Podcasts - and readers can Skype Me 24/7.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

This will be the third year that my Mother isn't 'home' for Christmas since the diagnosis of Central Pontine Myelinolysis and extra pontine: the neurological damage has left Mum with epilepsy, dysarthria, dyspraxia and requiring 24/7 care! Looking forward to spending the holidays at her nursing home. The family is to be featured in a magazine photo shoot, which will be as much memento as publicity. My hourly rate is not open to negotiation!

Before the holidays

Despite little enthusiasm, I'd better start writing the Christmas cards and moving the furniture in preparation for the decorations (photos to follow).