Monday 31 March 2008

PLAYSTATION®Store to undergo April revamp

Customer feedback drives new design, interface and navigation Updates on hold for two weeks; new-look Store launches mid-April

This April, PLAYSTATION®Store, the online content store on PLAYSTATION®Network, is getting a whole new look and feel – and it’s in response to feedback from the millions of PSN registrants in the PAL region.

The revamp comes in response to a survey last year which showed that many PLAYSTATION Store users wanted a better interface and easier navigation. The new design will deliver a hugely improved navigation system, much greater scope for categorisation and a dynamic new user interface.

Content will be suspended for two weeks while the improvements are carried out but users can look forward to a special update in mid-April.

There will be no weekly content updates between now and the re-launch, although users can still download content from the back catalogue, such as Warhawk™ and Gran Turismo™ 5 Prologue.

The PLAYSTATION Store revamp will not affect PLAYSTATION Network accounts or the virtual wallet system.

Wednesday 26 March 2008


Last night (GMT) I read a tweet by Darren Rowse (whom I'm following on Twitter), inviting his followers to submit their best blog posts from last week! The best of these, as selected by Darren, would be reposted on Darren's Blog Tips to Help You Make Money Blogging - ProBlogger.

This morning I discovered that Darren had selected my submission Cats, Jelly Babies, FeedBurner and an iPhone wallpaper! for inclusion: Re-Tweeted - 73 Top Posts from the Last Week. This has resulted in more traffic to this blog and new Twitter (direct link to my profile) followers! I'm delighted and humbled.

Darren will be running another Twitter-related participatory post next week! Be sure to follow Darren on Twitter (direct link to Darren's profile). Incidentally, Darren is a fellow Mac OS X User and periodically compiles (with the aid of his readers) lists of blog-related Mac OS X applications, which I've found invaluable and hope you do too.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Cats, Jelly Babies, FeedBurner and an iPhone wallpaper!

The last few days have been particularly manic!

Since Friday I've embarked on the process of updating Nick Smith's blog template and publishing his Blogger hosted site to a custom domain name using GoDaddy (you can register domain names from any of a number of different registrars). This is no mean feat when you factor in HTML coding, FeedBurner, AdSense and Google Webmaster Tools amongst others!

Cat City Online
Cat City Online is the weblog of Nick Smith, author of "Scriptwriting: The Secrets Unleashed," "Milk Treading," "The Kitty Killer Cult" and "Undead on Arrival."

Drop by Nick's new and improved site and leave a comment. He's a good friend and a creative chap...

Making further progress with my mother's memorial project! Today Shop@Panasonic, Harlequins Centre, Exeter, pulled through with a Plasma HDTV TH-37PX70, which will be installed at Lucerne House once the refurbishment work on the Alphinbrook Unit is complete! And a Shop@Panasonic staff member recognised me from a Whovian fan site (formerly Unit News)! Always a pleasure to meet a fellow Doctor Who/Torchwood fan!

In addition to the plasma television, we've bought a PC, widescreen monitor and a Nintendo Wii (includes Wii Sports)!

The next steps include researching the needs of each resident and costing the peripherals and software needed to facilitate the highest level of transparency! At this stage, I have no idea of the total cost - anywhere from £300 to £3000 and beyond! I'll give serious consideration to approaching disabled charities, for extra funding, if my mother's memorial fund falls short.

FeedBurner Help Group
Be sure to visit the brand new official FeedBurner Help Group, which launched last night (GMT), where I'm a Community Expert! I'll help out as much as possible along with my fellow Community Expert peeps Improbulus, Charles LaPage, Mathaba and Franklin Tse.

One last thing...

"Peek-a-boo" wallpaper
I was inspired to create a wallpaper for the iPhone (and it looks cool on iPod touch too)!

"Peek-a-boo" is my cheeky homage to the Apple logo and started life as my Twitter avatar!

More wallpapers to follow.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Can't Speak French

Yesterday Girls Aloud unleashed the sultry Can't Speak French EP, the third single taken from Tangled Up! The remix hits the sweet spot coupled with an evocative Marie Antoinette video promo, which recalls Madonna's MTV Music Awards 1990 performance of Vogue!

Sunday 16 March 2008

Wii Fit Generation

Considering what a success the DS and Wii are now it's easy to forget what a risk they have been for Nintendo. Not just the consoles themselves, with their never before tried controllers, but also most of the games! After all who'd have thought that a puppy owning simulator would go on to become the most successful game of the current generation? With Wii Fit though Nintendo are pushing the definition of what a video game is even further, with a game that wants to get you fit as well as entertain you.

Although the motion control sensing Wii remote has now been accepted by almost all. Wii Fit uses a completely different device for controlling its games. The Balance Board looks something like a set of bathroom scales, but is filled with press sensors that can not only measure weight, but also sense the movement of your body so that it can monitor and track exercises. There are around 40 activities in total, from yoga to press ups and step aerobics, as well as a number of "proper" games including heading footballs, a Super Monkey Ball style marble game and ski jumping. Also included is the Brian Training inspired Wii Fit Age, which monitors your weight and body mass index (BMI) every day and gives advice on your health.

With other companies, including Square Enix, already interested in using the Balance Board as a controller for their own games Wii Fit looks set to become Nintendo's biggest success story yet. It can't be too long before Back to the Future III's hover board enjoys a renaissance to the sounds of Huey Lewis and the News' "The Power of the Love"!

Mario and friends make a spectacular return in this definitive version of Mario Kart, providing the most action-packed, adrenaline-filled racing fun ever seen in the series. Players will have to master a host of 16 exciting new tracks in addition to 16 classic tracks from previous Mario Kart games.

For the first time ever players will have the option of racing with karts or a brand new mode of transport - Bikes. Using bikes as your chosen method will offer up some interesting and different gameplay possibilities such as carrying out a "wheelie", which in turn will give you a small boost that could be crucial and make that all important difference at the finishing line.

Players will also be able to hit the road as their own personalized Mii caricatures in addition to many classic and even some never-before seen characters in Mario Kart games. True to the series, Mario Kart Wii will feature adrenaline pumping racing action, a plethora of power-ups and masses of objects for players to use to slow down their rivals. Also with 10 battle arenas, players are sure to be kept busy between trips around the circuit.

Combining all the much-loved features from the series, Mario Kart Wii also sees a whole host of stunning new tracks, characters, weapons and vehicles. Those however looking for world ranking domination can take on up to 11 players simultaneously worldwide using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service which will offer them the chance to race other players across the globe in a nail-biting contest of speed and skill! Prefer to keep the rivalry a little closer to home? Try the Multiplayer Mode, in which up to four people will be able to challenge each other in the comfort of their own living room, bringing the on screen excitement into a whole new dimension.

In addition to all this a new Wii Channel, the Mario Kart Channel, will also be launched with Mario Kart Wii. Players will be able to monitor their ranking against others with data compiled from races completed online as well as also access and share Ghost Data to download. Why not see if your friends are playing by checking their status or even better still set up a room in which you can chat to them before a race starts? Players even have the possibility to join in on their friends races in progress as a spectator and jump into the race when the next course launches. Through this channel, users will be exposed to a host of new online features allowing them to join a community of racing fans from all over the world as well as participate in special worldwide events organised by Nintendo.

Mario Kart Wii comes bundled with a new and intuitive accessory - the Wii Wheel, which makes it one of the most accessible Mario Kart games to date and allows complete novices to compete with ease and comfort, ensuring no one is left in the dust.

Mario Kart Wii supports five different control options: Wii Wheel, Wii Remote turned on its side, Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination, Classic Controller and even Nintendo GameCube controller. There's a configuration that fits everyone's experience, level and style.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Faster Photo Editing Aperture

After much soul searching, I've decided to switch from Adobe Lightroom to Aperture 2 as my photo editor of choice!

Aperture 2, Apple's groundbreaking photo editing and management software, delivers more than 100 new features that make it dramatically faster and easier to use and even more powerful.

Featuring a streamlined user interface, Aperture 2 provides accelerated performance with its optimized database and new Quick Preview mode for rapid-fire browsing. Thanks to advanced image processing with powerful new tools--such as Recovery, Vibrancy, Vignette, and a soft-edged Retouch brush--you'll get the most out of every image. And thanks to integrated .Mac Web Gallery support, you can showcase your work on the web in minutes.

From importing images to publishing them online or in print, Aperture 2 helps you realize your creative vision.

The price cut made the decision even easier!

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Super Glau

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is to be renewed!

The Sarah Connor Chronicles mines the rich seams of Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (eschewing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which is notable for its brave Planet of the Apes ending).

Although the series, currently airing on Virgin 1 in the UK, has yet to truly capitivate me in the manner of Lost or The Big Bang Theory. The ever-enigmatic Summer Glau (best known as River from Firefly/Serenity) is a revelation as a Terminator! Her otherworldy performance, as Cameron, is pitch perfect and scene stealing! The fight scenes are more than a match for the franchises big screen origins!

The intrinsic potential is there, but in the absence of James Cameron and Linda Hamilton...

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Get Your Motor Running - Gran Turismo 5 Prologue™

Additional special features included in the European release: 16-player online racing on PLAYSTATION®Network – a Gran Turismo first! 71 dream cars, High Definition graphics, new physics engine… and a TV channel

Tuesday March 11, 2008 – Attention all driving fans!! One of the games industry’s most legendary titles is about to make its PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3™) debut! That’s right - the real driving simulator that’s already sold almost 50 million units is back. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and Polyphony Digital are pleased to announce Gran Turismo 5 Prologue™, a prequel title showcasing the forthcoming Gran Turismo™ 5 for PS3, will be available both on Blu-ray Disc™ (BD) on Wednesday 26 March for €39.99 (RRP), and as a download from PLAYSTATION®Network on Thursday 27 March. Launching on the same day as the standalone BD version, a PS3 bundle will be available including a PS3 40GB model, a SIXAXIS™ wireless controller and a Gran Turismo 5 Prologue game, all for just €399 (RRP).

Gran Turismo on PlayStation® is one of the most successful global gaming franchises of the last decade – renowned for its realism, quality of design and in-car physics technology. Now, with the power of PS3 behind it, it’s going to be unstoppable. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue features 71 stunning cars – including vehicles by Lotus, Aston Martin, Subaru and, making another striking appearance, Ferrari - for you to race on six seriously realistic tracks: the Eiger Nordwand; the Daytona International Speedway; the London City Track; the Fuji Speedway, Suzuka and the High Speed Ring – all drivable in two layouts and all rendered in incredible High Definition graphics. There’s also all-new driving physics for the most lifelike driving experience ever and new, improved, opponent artificial intelligence for the toughest race challenge yet.

But that’s not all – for the first time in the history of Gran Turismo, you’ll be able to race online. Thanks to PLAYSTATION Network, up to 16 players will be able to go head-to-head on some of the world’s best racetracks – all you need to get racing is a broadband connection and a PS3. Once you’re up and revving, Global Online Rankings will leave the world in no doubt as to just who is the best at Gran Turismo.

And then there’s Gran Turismo™ TV – a dedicated online channel available exclusively from PLAYSTATION Network and packed with some of the greatest content that motorsport has to offer.

And, when you’re done watching live coverage, you can take a more sedate browse through the Gran Turismo museum, where you’ll find virtual exhibits on the history of many of the world-class car marques that have starred in Gran Turismo.

Key Features:

The first ever Gran Turismo title with online racing: drive online against up to 16 other Gran Turismo aces
Race a total of 71 stunning, high-performance cars
Race the Eiger Nordwand, the Daytona International Speedway, the London City Track , the Fuji Speedway, Suzuka and the High Speed Ring - and then race them in alternative layouts
All-new physics engine means true next-generation vehicle handling
All-new and improved opponent AI opponents for a nail-biting race experience
Access to Gran Turismo TV : a world of great motoring TV programming online
In-game museum featuring the history and heritage of the top car manufacturers
My Garage - a personalised homepage feature with calendar, clock and map & weather of major race circuits worldwide
Quick Tune facility allows you to adjust power, tyres, suspension and more
All in stunning High Definition at 1080p
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue Additional Features for Europe:
Drift Mode – The player’s drifting technique is measured based on drift angles, racing lines, and speeds within evaluation zones located at various turns on the course.
In Depth Car Tuning – Players have the ability to adjust the vehicle’s performance, including power, tyres, suspension and the ability for quick tuning whilst racing.
Two-player Split Screen Racing – Allows players to race head-to-head offline.
New Race Events – Online racing fans can join in on a new set of scheduled events and time trials.

The complete Gran Turismo 5 launches in 2009. Until then, there’s enough ultra-realistic, high-speed racing in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue on PS3 and it’s out now! To find out more, visit

Sunday 9 March 2008


Today's Sunday Times Culture section spurred me into researching Amazon's Kindle and establishing another dedicated aStore!

Obviously, as I'm a UK-based blogger, Kindle is out of my reach (unless someone at Amazon would kindly send me review hardware prior to a Pan-European launch)! Have you used Kindle? What's the end user experience like? Is it a viable portable platform when Apple dominates this space?

The Kindle Shop currently carries more than 100,000 books plus newspapers, magazines, and blogs. For your convenience, you can shop the Kindle Shop directly on Kindle or on your PC via Either way, all titles are wirelessly delivered right to your Kindle for free. Amazon pays for the wireless delivery charges so you don’t have to. Buy a book and Amazon will auto-deliver it to you wirelessly in one minute.

The Kindle Shop provides the same Amazon shopping experience you're used to, including customer reviews, personalized recommendations, 1-Click purchasing, and everyday low prices. Check the store often; we're adding new titles every day.

Whether you prefer biographies, classics, investment guides, thrillers, or sci-fi, thousands of your favorite books are available. The Kindle Shop offers more than 90 of 112 books currently found on the New York Times® Best Seller list and we’re adding more all the time. New York Times Best Sellers are $9.99, and you'll find many books for less. Can't decide what to buy? Kindle lets you download and read the beginning of any book for free. This way, you can try it out—if you like it, simply buy and download with 1-Click, right from your Kindle, and continue reading.

Friday 7 March 2008

Digging Duffy's Dimples!

Sitting pretty at number one in the Official UK Charts! The girl to watch in 2008 hit the stage at the Apple Store in London recently and knocked the onlookers nearly three decades back into soul heaven.

Duffy's sassy, love-starved "Mercy" kicks off this four-track EP with her voice spiraling and rising up like a candy-coated Aretha Franklin. The meditative, nostalgic powerhouse of "Rockferry" finds a new vitality, moving beyond the loaded Phil Spector-isms of the studio version and firmly into the here and now.

Duffy - Live from London (iTunes Exclusive) - EP

"Rockferry" is the debut album from Duffy. Written and produced in collaboration with Bernard Butler, the album is a stunning showcase for her voice, which brings to mind such great singers as Dusty Springfield, Lulu and Sandie Shaw. Includes the singles "Rockferry" and 'Mercy".

OneRepublic covered "Mercy" during a recent BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge session! Well worth listening to.

Sunday 2 March 2008

Mothering Sunday

This is the first ever Mothering Sunday sans my mum! She died, last summer (link to obituary notice), under most tragic circumstances culminating in an out of court settlement with the RD&E NHS Foundation Trust Hospital! The Chief Executive apologised for any deficiencies in my mother's care! My father and myself consented to samples of my mother's brain and lungs being retained for teaching and medical purposes. This post will not address medico-legal matters - they were reported, independently, in the online and offline press - but, instead, concentrates on my mother's enduring legacy...

Christmas with Mum & Dad

What follows is a transcript of my article, written for Lucerne House's The Home Front newsletter, regarding the inception of my mother's computer-based memorial (funded by donations from family, friends and business acquaintances).

Margaret’s Memorial
Written by John Hood

At the start of January, Paul wrote to Robin, my dad, and me with the excellent suggestion that the donations, made to Lucerne House Care Centre, in memory of Margaret, my mum, be used to fund equipment for the computer room on Alphinbrook Unit!

In view of my computer expertise, not only will I be able to provide input, with Paul’s support, on suggested computer peripherals to provide assistive technology for residents. But, I will also be able to offer bespoke training to each resident, who wishes to use the computer (including setting up e-mail addresses, etc), over the coming weeks and months… I’ll speak to each resident, individually, about this.

Dad and I have already donated a 22” Samsung widescreen monitor, which I installed in January, with Les’ help, and this can be viewed on Alphinbrook! I’m most certain that Rona - Resident Roving Reporter - will be more than delighted to show-off her superlative Solitaire and creative visual skills on the big screen!

Stay tuned for further updates, regarding the computer-based memorial, in future issues of The Home Front!

I will continue to post further newsletter transcripts. It is my intention to broach the subject of my mother's memorial, at Lucerne House, to the local press, in the hope that they may wish to report on it!

In addition to the memorial. We're also donating a Nintendo Wii to the Young People with Disabilities (YPD) unit! Broadly speaking, Nintendo's interface paradigm opens up a galaxy of interactivity to individuals whom, otherwise, could be precluded from positive gaming experiences.

Saturday 1 March 2008

Wii Got

If, like me, you've patiently waited to buy another Nintendo Wii at £179.98! Fret no more!

Nintendo's diminutive console is back in stock at the Wii Shop! Just in time for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.