Friday 31 December 2004

Old Year's Night

Tonight's post is a 'review lite' of the year.

This week's 'flying visit' to East Anglia, home of my Father's family, has left me emotionally 'jet lagged'! Had a fantastic time (tinged with the bittersweet) indulging in retail therapy. Colchester's pace of life is exaggerated by its London commuter belt status. And now I can't wait for 2005 to arrive!

Most of my time has been centered around very serious personal matters. However, highlights of 2004 include (but are not limited to):

*Writing for Inside Mac Games
*Launching Nick Smith's site and blog
*Being featured in Bournemouth University's Alumni Association magazine The Talbot
*Alias magazine
*Classic arcade gaming
*Google AdSense
*Adding new affiliates to my site
*Saying farewell to Friends - could comedy BE funnier?

Looking towards 2005. Bloomberg beckons and Apple may finally launch the missing piece in its 'i' strategy, the 'headless pizza box' iMac, and secure the home Media Centre/Server crown once and for all. I'll be keeping a space underneath my Plasma in eager anticipation of MacWorld - San Francisco.

Friday 24 December 2004

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Last evening's party, in Cornwall, was a resounding success. The only fly in the ointment was continuously interrupted sleep! Last year I was awoken by the sound of the hotel fire alarm (a hoax) and this year it was the turn of a too loud TV left on all night! The dulcet tones of Sarah McLachlan - Afterglow Live - eased my chagrin. The season of goodwill indeed!

ScummVM was updated to 0.7.0 just in time for the holiday. And Atari fans can indulge in some XL/XE/XEGS nostalgia. There was a time, long ago, when I drooled at the prospect of playing Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus! on Atari 8-bit. You too can take on the insidious Jaggies once again.

Tonight, as Mariah Carey emotes festive feelings, I'm adding the finishing touches to an end of year backup image. This will be burnt to DVD before the New Year.

Monday 20 December 2004

Magic & Sparkle

Exeter's Marks & Spencer staff were most helpful during our Christmas shopping excursion for Mum today. Good customer service should always be the objective, and M&S exceeded expectations.

Friday 17 December 2004

O Come All Ye Faithful

I identified a bug whereby in some situations magnetiX would not quit correctly. Jan Schliemann was able to replicate this and issued a very prompt fix. You can download version 1.0.1 now.

Better get back to reading The Bloomberg Way in preparation for my writing test in the New Year.

Thursday 16 December 2004

Joy To The World

Last evening I attended a private party at The Lord Haldon Hotel. Longtime business friends, of Dad's, kindly invited us. The genial atmosphere and high quality seasonal delicacies afforded a memorable holiday experience.

In the mid '80s when not playing scrolling shooters such as Konami's Nemesis, text-based adventures where a staple of my after-school activities. The Hobbit (1983) introduced me to the genre albeit in a bug-ridden fashion. However, Magnetic Scrolls cemented their referential status with the introduction of an Infocom-beating parser. Between 1985 and 1991 Magnetic Scrolls produced 7 titles for both 8 and 16-bit platforms. I vividly recall The Pawn's luxurious packaging, synonymous with Rainbird releases, and enviously eyeing the superlative Atari ST screenshots (by Geoff Quilley). Mac Users wishing to revisit or, indeed, become acquainted with gaming history should download and support magnetiX.

Apple released Mac OS X 10.3.7. The final Panther update for 2004 adds further polish, but Safari 1.3 has yet to materialize!

Tuesday 14 December 2004

Proper Crimbo

Santa's little software helpers are ever industrious at this time of year! Aspyr's Brad Oliver is beta testing a new patch for Jedi Academy (1.01c). This will improve online game play and finesse the dynamic glow of lightsabers in the Mac port. Dark Forces is my favorite Star Wars licensed game and there's a new mod for Jedi Academy based on the classic FPS.

Those fine folks at Cupertino may be releasing Mac OS X 10.3.7 as soon as tonight. A revised version of OpenGL with updated ATI and nVIDIA graphics drivers is just one of the new attractions!

And Aaron Giles (of JPEGView fame) continues to rewrite the Sega System 16 driver for a future release of MAME.

Time to prepare a DVD-ROM archive for 2004.

Friday 10 December 2004

The Santa Clause

Whilst it appears that Spielberg will ultimately set The War of the Worlds in the suburbs of middle America - where else would common man do battle with extra terrestrial invaders? Watching the teaser trailer (a tantalizing montage) still sent chills down my spine. Checkout the trailer.

The War of the Worlds poster art pays homage to its literary roots. The Martian hand, enveloped in red weed, conjures the first big screen adaptation and the conceptual art commissioned for Jeff Wayne's musical version. I'm now far more excited about seeing Tom Cruise vs the Martians then the return of Darth Vader in 2005!

It would be remiss of me not to also draw attention to the freshly unveiled Batman Begins poster (thank you Michael, my erstwhile friend). Richly emblematic of Batman's traumatic genesis and evoking the psychological drama that Revenge of the Sith so confusingly failed to capture. 2005 promises to be a very personal cinematic journey!

Thursday 9 December 2004

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

At this time of year consumers are besieged by an avalanche of advertisements. From print to television media. Here's an example of a press advertisement that I recently worked on.

Drawing on educational experience attained whilst studying Graphic Design at College, I was asked to soft proof and edit the art departments initial proposal. Making suggestions for layout changes and correcting typos (all done in Photoshop). The advertisement appeared in the Cornwall Guardian. Mis-en-scene is something I never tire of no matter the medium.

Wednesday 8 December 2004

All I Want For Christmas

In keeping with the spirit of the upcoming holidays. The following list features all my computer and video game hardware owned to date. Most of which were received as gifts at this time of year!

*Atari VCS 2600
*Binatone Mk6 Game System
*ZX Spectrum 48K
*ZX Spectrum+ (same as above, but with 'improved' keyboard)
*Commodore 64 and 1541 Floppy Disk Drive
*Nintendo Game & Watch (various Mario titles)
*Sega Megadrive (Genesis)
*Atari Lynx II
*Super NES
*Apple Macintosh Performa 5200
*iMac DV SE
*Sega Dreamcast
*PlayStation 2
*LCD iMac G4

Over the years I purchased innumerable video games from The Fuse Box. During my teens the store, an independent brick-and-mortar retailer located in Exeter's Sidwell Street, was a treasure trove - Rescue on Fractalus!* and Koronis Rift, displayed on the in-store monitors, held me spellbound - before its untimely closure and the advent of etailing. Somewhere in the attic of our house is a dusty old cardboard box that contains Atari, Commodore and Spectrum games (cartridge, cassette and diskette formats) in their original packaging! I've no idea whether or not my Commodore 64 still works (1992 being the last time it was used) and the first ZX Spectrum was passed on to a younger relative only to meet an untimely demise.

Watching Back to the Future II (1989) I noticed Nintendo's PlayChoice-10 in the Cafe 80's scene (a veritable advertising blitz). To reiterate comments made in a previous post. PlayChoice-10 provided Nintendo with a platform to profit from the lucrative arcade market, and uniquely showcased NES titles including Mega Man 3, Super Mario Bros II and III before their home cartridge launch. PlayChoice-10 existed for 5 to 6 years and was briefly superseded by Nintendo Super System. MAME emulation of PlayChoice-10 is not yet 100% accurate, but all known titles are available including The Goonies.

nVIDIA is to produce a bespoke GeForce GPU for Sony's PS3 after Microsoft allied itself with ATi. Combined with an IBM PowerPC G5 processor and possibly OpenGL, the PS3 shares APIs with Apple! Curious said Alice. In a contractual twist, that inspires literary allusions to the one ring, IBM will power all three next generation consoles from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Can you say NDA?

*Rescue on Fractalus! was the first time I'd ever seen the Apple ][ logo. Little did I know that years later the Apple Macintosh would have a profound impact on my creative life.

Tuesday 7 December 2004

With candy canes and silver lanes aglow

I've started to decorate the house in holiday style serenaded by music choice on sky. Nothing too ostentatious as Dad and me will be spending the majority of our time at my Mum's nursing home. This will be the second Christmas that she hasn't been able to come home! However, it's going to be special.

Back to the Christmas card writing.

Sunday 5 December 2004

Clash of the Titans

OK the title for this post stretches credibility somewhat. However, Exeter City's FA Cup Third Round draw against, arguably the world's most famous football club and current cup holders, Manchester United is an unmissable calendar event (fires up iCal). And I'll be traveling with relatives to Old Trafford in January 2005.

What an amazing way to usher in the New Year!

Saturday 4 December 2004

Jingle All The Way

The Box of Delights arrived yesterday morning, which witnessed a hard frost in the valley and a beautiful winter sky. I noted, last weekend, that the DVD cover art alluded to The Lord of the Rings. The connection doesn't end there because Robert Stephens played Aragorn in BBC Radio 4's critically-acclaimed adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (a touchstone in audio dramatisation).

The Box of Delights, aside from inherent special effects limitations and a propensity for overlit scenes shot on video, has not lost any of its dramatic power and showcases an enviable cast. Patrick Troughton, famous for his 'cosmic hobo' portrayal of the Second Doctor, excels as the enigmatic Cole Hawlings. The main theme (The First Noël interpolated) is as haunting as I recall in childhood - a flurry of unimaginable wonder tinged with sadness.

The adventures of Kay Harker compares favourably with any featuring Harry Potter, Frodo and Luke Skywalker.

Wednesday 1 December 2004


The holiday season is on the horizon and it's time to dust off the following perennial movie classics:

*Edward Scissorhands
*The Goonies
*Miracle On 34th Street
*It's A Wonderful Life
*Trading Places
*Die Hard
*Home Alone
*The Nightmare Before Christmas

Kelsey Grammer is playing Scrooge in a musical adaptation for US television. The irony!