Friday 29 April 2005

Beast Machines

ars technica has an in-depth review of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. There's more to 10.4 than simply search. However, Spotlight's genesis can be traced back to BeOS BFS (Be File System). That's no accident. Whilst I await notification that Amazon UK has dispatched my copy (presumably after 6:00PM GMT), there's nothing to stop me from playing with the all-new QuickTime 7 is there?

The latest iteration of QuickTime has undergone an extreme and timely makeover. From improved sound controls to creating multi-channel audio support (up to 5.1 surround sound). It's a bind that Apple insists on charging for the glossy Pro version, but that didn't stop me in 2002. The Batman Begins/Dark Water trailers marked the occasion. Here's a screen capture taken from the H.264 High Definition edition of the fourth Batman Begins trailer. Divine.

You'd be hard pressed to get more 'bang' for your money from the relatively modest outlay of £206.99 RRP (Tiger, QuickTime Pro, iWork and iLife '05). A decade ago anyone interested in non linear content authoring would have had to remortgage or sell the farm!

Woolworths' Revenge of the Sith merchandise has marginally improved. A veritable glut of Republic Gunships has arrived, yet no sign of the coveted ARC-170 Starfighter.

Thursday 28 April 2005

Master And Commander

iTMS turns two today. How's that for alliteration? No sign of an update or the feted Oz debut. Of course Apple could be holding off until next week as not to detract from tomorrow's Tiger launch, which financial analysts predict could gross a $billion in revenue.

Wednesday 27 April 2005

The Apprentice

The OC has become a staple of my television viewing for a multiplicity of reasons, some of which I cannot elaborate on (need to know)! References to iPod and Star Wars are always an indulgent pleasure, but the news that George Lucas is to make a cameo appearance, in the penultimate episode of S2, takes the biscuit! Seth will make a 'choice' that will shape his destiny and the future of the galaxy... No, sorry wrong narrative!

Even the box art is cool.

Success! My site plays nice again with Firefox and its Mozilla Brethern - clear cache - the files were being sent to iDisk as application/octet-stream rather than text/html. By chance I noticed the update icon in Firefox and downloaded the latest Yahoo! Toolbar Beta. This includes a handy new feature called My Web. Grab some online candy.

Tuesday 26 April 2005


Today SCEE announced that 01.09.05 is when PSP officially arrives! Mirroring the US pack-in, the initial offering will be the ubiquitous Value Pack priced at £179 (€249). Spider-Man 2 UMD is a bonus for early adopters. Better start scraping some pennies together.

60 Minutes special 'Star Wars' Goes To Hell was compelling viewing. Scenes of Anakin vs Obi-Wan were amongst the highlights along with a look at Lucasfilm's new offices. Francis Ford Coppola cropped up, not that he's in demand these days! George Lucas has become a billionaire based on a relatively small creative catalogue and has to be admired for his business acumen. He confirmed that there will be two Star Wars television series. The animated Clone Wars is be retooled (in 3D) for 30 minute episodes and a live-action show set between Episode's III and IV. Looks like Kenner's internal promo videos were indeed portentous. Should keep Hasbro busy.

Monday 25 April 2005

Reign Of Firefox

At the weekend a Mac-owning friend (thanks Jim) alerted me to an issue with Firefox 1.0.3 and my site. The browser will no longer access any page other than the splash! Unable to find a successful workaround, I filed a report at Bugzilla. The response suggests that the 'fault' is with the html encoding. However, all other browsers work fine! Further detective work revealed that this is an issue with iDisk, and the workaround is to turn off local automatic synchronization and manually mount - drag and drop files. Fingers crossed.

Sunday 24 April 2005

Mad About You

Yes, Tiger fever has gripped me! Amazon UK promises delivery by May 5th. The big ticket attractions - Spotlight, Automator and QuickTime 7 - are mouthwatering. Xcode 2 will satiate the inner geek. The only fly in the ointment will be third party patches. Brad Oliver assures me that most Aspyr games should work, but even developers will not know for sure as they don't get to play with the GM until retail release. Check VersionTracker throughout the weeks ahead.

Saturday 23 April 2005

Compensation culture

The purported photos of Xbox 360 look cool and it stands to reason that Microsoft Game Studios would derive design inspiration from its SDK platform. The Macintosh.

How long before an ingenious hacker installs Mac OS X 10.4 on one of these? To amicably settle the case of the exploding Xbox, Microsoft should send disgruntled consumers something shiny and new.

Thursday 21 April 2005

Where's my C-3PO cereal?

Needed cheering up, so I purchased a box of Kellogg's Coco Pops Crunchers. Inside special packs promoting Revenge of the Sith you can find 1 of 6 Lightsaber maze games. To my delight Darth Vader's Lightsaber was in the box! The force is strong with this one.

Wednesday 20 April 2005

Online Operatic Society

Press coverage of the Abode/Macromedia merger appears to have overlooked Opera! Opera's rendering engine is licensed by both companies and version 8 was released this week. Coincidence? The Mac version is in beta. Page rendering is faster than Safari 1.3 (still stalls on my machine) and the RSS interface is impressive, although the cross-platform GUI is creative potpourri. In an ideal world it would be preferable to use only one browser (fits all), yet you could do worse than the triumvirate of Safari, Firefox (blogging) and Opera in your applications folder. Incidentally, I've given up on OmniWeb (for site development and testing). The developers find themselves in a cul-de-sac!

Always with an eye for bargains and price reductions, last evening I noticed that Amazon UK had dropped the pre-order price of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger from £89.00 to £74.99. To avoid being over charged (as with iLife '05) I cancelled and ordered at the new lower price. With the advent of Tiger, Apple is making greater emphasis on gaming. Could Microsoft's G5 Xenon Development Kit environment (for Xbox 360) be the catalyst?

Nowadays everyone and their pet has a Yahoo! Group. Here's mine.

Tuesday 19 April 2005

The Dark Knight Returns

Happy Birthday to Hayden Christensen. Only a month to Revenge of the Sith and to bridge the gap I've been watching Fan Films on TFN. Although mostly enjoyable, the majority of the spirited productions would benefit from judicious editing! Revelations suffers from overblown CGI and stilted performances that should have been cut around. George Lucas is always quoted as an advocate of the art of rapid cutting, I'd like to see a Fan Film subscribe to that notion.

Ironically, and I'm not going to engage in prevarication, it is the unofficial use of the Batman license that most impresses on TFN! Grayson, World's Finest and Batman Dead End combine superlative production values with taut direction. Really reminds me of when Michael and I submitted our teaser trailer for Terminator: The Series (1989). I must investigate whether or not that 'hidden gem' can be transferred from VHS, digitally restored and remastered for online distribution. The 'difficult' part will be capturing the raw data from VHS (using a DV camcorder) and the rest will be a piece of cake.

The third teaser poster for Batman Begins elegantly encapsulates gothic grandeur and vampiric myth. Sepia cool.

Monday 18 April 2005

Good Vibrations

Friday's arrival of 10.3.9 moved my DVD archive forward by a fortnight! The update's unsung headliner is Safari 1.3 showcasing new versions of WebKit, WebCore, and JavaScriptCore. This is a welcome primer for 10.4 (already in Amazon UK's sales rank top 10).

Walking along the aisles of Exeter's Woolworths store, Ashley and I literally stumbled upon Revenge of the Sith merchandise (boxed lightsabers were strewn across the floor). An inauspicious debut without the aid of point-of-sale displays (there were none in-store). Woolworths is a far cry from Wal-Mart. Hasbro's new Force Battlers compare very favorably with Mattel's Classic Masters of the Universe range. I had to purchase a 7" Darth Vader. Rarity collectors may want to shop at Epic Heroes.

How long can Quark survive against the combined might of the Adobe/Macromedia Empire - not that Quark has many Mac fans these days? I won't be sad to see the company go the way of the Dodo! I'll join the long queue for a copy of InDesign CS.

Thursday 14 April 2005


Comparing screen shots of Panther and Tiger it is very noticeable that Tiger's GUI is brighter and evokes Windows XP! In a couple of weeks I'll be better placed to make an informed judgment.

My Revenge of the Sith CD has been on repeat play (almost) since Monday. Churlish critics will cite that Williams too blatantly quotes himself. Here, in descending order, are my favorite Star Wars soundtracks:

1). The Empire Strikes Back
2). Revenge of the Sith
3). A New Hope
4). The Phantom Menace
5). Return of the Jedi
6). Attack of the Clones

AOTC ranked lowest because unaltered orchestrations from TPM were inserted late in digital post production; George Lucas can make changes almost up to the minute of theatrical release, John Williams is ostensibly scoring an 'unlocked' print, which may explain the thicker textures to the prequel scores!

Hasbro's ROTS Darth Vader arrived today and is the best sculpture yet!

Wednesday 13 April 2005

Shakespeare in Love

Wasn't Simon Callow the consumate Charles Dickens in last Saturday's episode of Doctor Who? Watching his performance, I couldn't escape the parallels with Sir Ian McKellen! Quite brilliant. And Billie Piper steals every scene she is in.

Tuesday 12 April 2005

Extraordinary Machine

Mark the following diary date in iCal. Apple has officially announced that April 29th is the day Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is unleashed! The £88.99 retail price is highly competitive and, as I'm not yet in the market for a new machine, it'll be fun to play with the newest cat in town sans financial mauling (terrible pun)! Between now and the release I'll be preparing another Über DVD backup and, hopefully, all the major third party developers will have update patches (if required) before the end of the month.

Fiona Apple's (the link was too alluring) difficult third album remains in limbo! The album was presented to Sony in 2003 and has yet to appear on retail shelves - editorial issues. In a sign of the times a 'CD quality' copy can be obtained online via a popular P2P client. Truthfully you're better off listening to Jem's 'Portishead' production sensibility than Fiona!

Monday 11 April 2005

A Cosmic Copland

My first vinyl album was the original Star Wars (1977) soundtrack. Last evening I had the unbridled pleasure of listening to the Revenge of the Sith CD prior to its May 2nd release. What follows is the raw and unrefined first impression of a fan bereft of any objectivity.

01 - Star Wars and The Revenge Of The Sith (7:31)

The signature theme (taken from an existing recording) ambitiously segues early into the battle above Coruscant, and the daring rescue of Senator Palpatine from the clutches of Count Dooku. This is the most compelling transition since The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

02 - Anakin's Dream (4:46)

Anakin’s fate is unknown. In shades of Schindler's List (1993), Across The Stars is performed underneath a viola and harp solo. Portentous strings interrupt this harmonious (and enigmatic) moment and the suite takes a darker direction as an embattled Force Theme struggles to emerge from beneath dissonant orchestrations.

03 - Battle Of The Heroes (3:42)

An emotional and sweeping choral/waltz punctuated by an incomplete rendition of the Force Theme. The opening evokes Danny Elfman’s score for Batman (1989), which was in itself gloriously derivative. A quodlibet to The Phantom Menace's (1999) Duel Of The Fates.

04 - Anakin's Betrayal (4:04)

The balance of the force is in flux.

05 - General Grievous (4:07)

Obi-Wan buys a single day pass to Jurassic Park!

06 - Palpatine's Teachings (5:25)

In a style reminiscent of Trevor Jones’ composition for The Dark Crystal (1982), Williams explores the seduction/deception of Anakin by the Master of the dark side.

07 - Grievous and the Droids (3:28)

Drawn from TPM's Trade Federation leitmotivs.

08 - Padme's Ruminations (3:17)

The Return of the Jedi’s (1983) darkest moments are revisited within the framework of Minority Report's (2002) ethereal female vocals.

09 - Anakin vs. Obi-Wan (3:57)

Starting with a blustering reprise of Battle Of The Heroes, the score reintroduces Darth Vader’s theme (as performed during the Bespin duel). Elements from ESB are interwoven into the new material with chilling and startling results - sonic flourishes shadowing the action.

10 - Anakin's Dark Deeds (4:05)

John Williams joins forces with Howard Shore.

11 - Enter Lord Vader (4:14)

A reflective montage; from the pomp and circumstance of Naboo to Across The Stars, Anakin’s Theme and… Lyrical poetry.

12 - The Immolation Scene (2:42)

Haunting. Williams conjures the atmosphere of the main themes from A New Hope (1977).

13 - Grievous Speaks to Lord Sidious (2:49)

Harry Potter at play.

14 - The Birth Of The Twins and Padme's Destiny (3:37)

Across The Stars is followed by a majestic reprise of Qui-Gon’s Funeral Theme.

15 - A New Hope and End Credits (13:06)

Luke and Leia breathtakingly usher us towards the end of the beginning.

In conclusion. This is, at times, a mildly jarring composition (editorial haste?). John Williams’ ROTS soundtrack lacks the ‘analog magic’ of the original trilogy recording sessions, favoring flawless digital brush strokes inherent in the production of the prequels. But none of this ultimately detracts from what is highly emotive listening.

During the CD listening session (JBL monitors) I referenced a copy of The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith -- The Final Chapter. The diary recording of John Williams' ideological approach to movie scoring informed the listening experience immeasurably.

The sonic saga is complete and will be long remembered. Thank you John (and Mum for buying me that vinyl album a long, long time ago).

Saturday 9 April 2005

Making the World Smile

Revenge of the Sith merchandise is now flooding retail aisles across the globe! Anakin's Jedi Starfighter arrived yesterday and I've already ordered (from Toys "R" Us*) assorted LEGO pieces, BARC Speeder, Grievous' Wheel Bike, ARC-170 Fighter, AT-RT, Monopoly, Risk and Star Wars Trivial Pursuit DVD. Movie Market is now selling gorgeous prints. Not to mention that Battlegrounds debuts on the Mac very soon. Collectors can stay up-to-date here.

In the UK Palitoy distributed Kenner's Star Wars action figures and accessories. When I wasn't playing with toys I drew new ones and sent them to the company's Coalville HQ in Leicester. Although Palitoy could not accept my unsolicited submissions, I was always rewarded with posters and action figures.

Hasbro purchased Kenner in 1991 (the brand has all but disappeared) and I was interviewed for a Mac-based product packaging designer post (within their interactive division) in 1999. Hasbro's UK office, located in Stockley Park (near to Apple Computer), is plush. I never got beyond the first interview stage (sans Photoshop test), but Hasbro paid my traveling expenses and, believe me, that's rare. In 2001 Hasbro Interactive was purchased by Infogrames (Atari).

[*In the 1980s a Toys "R" Us opened in Bristol (off Junction 17). My first purchase was a copy of Atari's Star Raiders (the pack-in included a Video Touch Pad for the VCS 2600). For some obscure reason my recollection of playing Star Raiders, reading DC Comics and watching Hart to Hart at my Granmother's house are inseparable!]

Friday 8 April 2005

Atari Age

As an avid reader of comics and player of video games, it's a rare treat to discover new ephemera. Yesterday Atari Force came to my attention!

At the height of the VCS 2600's popularity Atari developed, in conjunction with Warner Communications stablemate DC Comics, mini comics that were included as part of game cartridge pack-ins (only in the USA as far as I'm aware). Here's an extract from the press release:

They burst onto the scene with Defender--came together as a team in Berzerk--and soared into the multi-dimensional cosmos in Star Raiders. They are the Atari Force, a daring team of adventurers traveling through time and space, carrying the excitement of Atari into the thrill-a-minute world of comic books.

Grab an issue from AtariAge. I've emailed the editor regarding whether or not they'll make PDF editions available in the future.

Back to pack-ins. As a consumer-savvy kid I always looked forward to opening a new Star Wars or Transformers toy and leafing through the enclosed booklet(s) for forthcoming products. Karl Marx would've demonstrated disdain at my imprudence.

Yahoo! has released a fully customizable beta toolbar for Firefox (1.1 should be in beta soon) and, holy software shenanigans, it's available for Mac OS X! MacMonkies newest desktops got a mention on MacMinute. Loving the limelight.

Thursday 7 April 2005

The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys®

Last night (in the midst of an iDisk outage) I discovered that MacMonkies had posted one of my desktops featuring Batman (1991). Thanks Brad. The ubiquitous site's name got me thinking about Sea-Monkeys®! You know, those amazing 'instant life' pets advertised in American comics from the '60s onwards?

Two decades ago a High School friend and I purchased My First Pet™ (includes 4 sachets, Ocean Zoo® and Million-Bubble™ Air Pump) from Transcience. A quick search on the web and, boom, those petite pets are still a thriving industry. I've an unopened Sea-Monkey® Starter Kit in the attic. Take Water Purifier and just add Instant Life...

Wednesday 6 April 2005

Cold Lazarus

The second episode of the new Doctor Who series, The End Of The World, has cemented my enjoyment. From Michael Jackson and Britney Spears to the 'Photoshop theatre' of the Star Wars prequels, the producers greedily excavate popular culture. The iPod reference was exquisite.

Billie Piper (Rose) continues to be a revelation and Christopher Eccleston captures the dramatis personae inherent in being a cosmic orphan (a knowing wink to Batman?). The look and feel of the series owes much to the Dennis Potter mini series Cold Lazarus (1996) and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. The latter literary luminary worked on Doctor Who and penned City of Death (1979) as David Agnew. The complete series one DVD box set can't come fast enough! And here's a sneak peek (credit: Play).

Monday 4 April 2005

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

This weekend, whilst battling a viral infection, I installed Popcorn. Effortlessly downsampled and compressed a 9GB DVD to 4.7GB. Now will Roxio update Popcorn with the imminent release of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and its built-in H.264 (MPEG4 AVC) codec engine? Sony's UMD (premiered alongside PSP) already utilizes Advanced Video Coding (AVC) and the capacity to transfer a legally purchased DVD to PSP UMD would be a plus. However, commercial companies would prefer consumers to buy their favorite movies ad infinitum. So, here's hoping.

Del Ray Books has published an eBook epilogue to The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith -- The Final Chapter by J.W. Rinzler. It contains spoilers! Fans of John Williams can hear a teaser of "Battle of the Heroes" in this new ROTS TV spot.

Friday 1 April 2005

No April Fools' Joke

Gmail celebrates its 1st anniversary today and is rolling out 2GB of space to customers. A nice birthday gift. Hopefully Apple will release Mac OS X 10.3.9 tonight. Not much else to report other than the fact that I'm suffering from a spring virus (caught from Dad). Roxio's Popcorn arrived this morning, but I'll hold off backing up my DVD collection in favor of a hot Lemsip drink. This weekend I'll be listening to the Revenge of the Sith [unabridged] audio book (Dolby surround) and a soothing commentary from Wendy Padbury! Too bad about Christopher Eccleston...