Archive Page 3

23
Aug
07

WiFi Theft – utter garbage

Can you steal a wireless broadband connection service? Apparently, according to Birmingham police, you can. The story covered by the Birmingham Post tells us that ‘Dishonestly obtaining free internet access is an offence under the Communications Act 2003 and a potential breach of the Computer Misuse Act.’. Doh! This has to be the dumbest story I’ve heard for a long while and based on other things going on currently in the news it makes you wonder where this officers priorities might be. Was the owner of the link aware? Did he care? Did it cost him anything extra this month? How was he deprived by this act? At what point was he being dishonest? When asked by the police officers what he was doing, he told them!
If the owner of the access point had wanted it closed, surely he should of closed it?
I’m not legally trained, but surely stealing is the act where you intend to permanently deprive the owner of a possession? But he never intended to take anything, unless it’s possible to filch electrons or direct them illegally.
Based on the logic of this, if you walk past a house where someone is listening to a CD in the garden, then you’re stealing their music? Or if light from a property is falling on your newspaper, allowing you to read it while you wait for the bus, that’s stealing too?
But again I come back to my key point. With gun and knife crimes a major concern, along with terrorism, the effort in the pursuit of someone what is effectively a victimless crime seems inappropriate at best.

23
Aug
07

Are Journalists threatened by Bloggers?

Last week I went to an event called PlayBite, which was to bring Journo’s and various hardware makers together for mutual benefit. There I was able to talk to Seagate, Toshiba, Belkin, ZyXEL and others about current and upcoming products and potentially plan some reviews in advance.
Good stuff. But what was also interesting was the questionnaire they asked me to complete as I left, which seemed to be concerned about the impact of Blogging on us erstwhile hacks!
I know that some people are very worried about this, and I can understand why, but myself I’m not. You see I don’t see bloggers are actually a threat to conventional journalism, but another potential outlet for people with genuine writing skills. By day I’m an ink journalist, meaning my work is printed and distributed, in much the same way that it’s been for hundreds of years. Yes, it’s all composited on a computer, and sent to a computerised press, but it’s an ink and paper deal like it’s been since Caxton.
Luckily I work for a weekly mag, so there isn’t a huge time difference between the actual events we discuss and them going into print. It’s not got the instant appeal of a blog or online mag, but sometimes it’s good to let a little time go by without spouting, to get a better handle on the underlying story.
So will this type of product go away entirely and be replaced by Bloggs? I don’t think so, not in the short to medium term. If you go back in time you’ll find that people predicted the demise of print when Radio and TV was invented, and again when the Internet took hold. But it’s still going, and many of the daily still sell more than a million copies!
Now I’m writing a Blog, and it’s given me a whole new perspective. This is an immediate medium that allows me to talk about things that don’t generally fit into either the readership or interest of the print publications I produce for. It also doesn’t currently pay me anything, but it’s a ‘work in progress’ so I’ll accept that for the moment. At some point, I’ll expect it to pay its way for the time I spend on it, or I’ll reduce the amount I do.
Looking at what other Bloggers are doing, I don’t see anything different from what most journalists do, which is the see an idea or a story and then find their own angle. The Blogs that do well are either written skilfully or have imagination, despite what some think there is no ‘free lunch’ for the Blogger. Those that manage to get large numbers of people reading them have had to work hard to achieve that. There are millions of blogs that are read by few people, and some that will never get thousands of people a day tuning in.
The medium might have changed, but the rules remain the same. If you can produce material that people like or interests them then you’ve got a future, if you don’t you haven’t.
I think those in the printed press that feel the Bloggers are going to consume their occupations, by offering something similar for free are missing the point, I’d suggest.
In the same way that a picture taken with a mobile phone isn’t going to make you Photographer of the year. Those with genuine skills will shine through, irrespective of how they’re labelled.
The interest I’m seeing is that marketing people like the ‘new and exciting’ aspect of commercial Blogs, which they see as easier to influence than the battle-hardened hacks they’re used to dealing with. Once the Web 2.0 world has matured a little, I think they’ll find it isn’t any different, and many of those hacks are the same people they will deal with in a new context.
In the meanwhile, I’ll just keep writing…for any medium that has an outlet.

21
Aug
07

Bioshock demo – yummy!

BIOSHOCK
I’ve just been playing PC demo of Bioshock, and jolly good it is. If you’re not a keen gamer, or a youngster, you might not remember the original SystemShock game, which where all set on a derelict spaceship. This isn’t. Instead the action takes place in a realy weird submerged city, a sort of pre-war styled Atlantis, called Rapture. At the start of the demo you arrive when you’re plane crashes near Rapture, and you take an underwater elevator deep beneath the ocean.
So what makes this FPS different from the standard crop? Two things strike you almost immediately, even within the limited confines of the demo. The first is the level of design work that’s gone into this game, which is astounding. The starting locations are lavish Art Deco, and filled with posters, tiles, signs and statues. It’s like being a movie when they’ve given the art director his head and a massive budget. Having a few locations like this in a game is impressive, but every room, even the toilet are works of digital art.
The second, and somewhat unexpected aspect to Bioshock is the AI of the enemies. While they’re still triggered by you to appear, what they do and how they react is entirely driven by their own individual logic. Once you understand the motivations of the various creatures that infest Rapture you can use that to make them allies or confuse them into helping you. You can also hack the defence systems to ignore you and attack your enemies. Which promises a much more cerebral experience that just running around shooting everything. I feel that approach won’t get you very far in BioShock, you need to be smarter than that.
Previously we’ve seen great demos that didn’t live up to their potential in the full game, but I’m confident that Bioshock will, and might be even better.
Can’t wait for the full game!

You can get the demo here

18
Aug
07

Jurassic Park IV – Dumb and Dumbersaurus

There’s a story running on Bloody Disgusting currently that actually blew my mind, entirely. It’s a report which suggests, get ready for this, that the plot of the next Jurassic Park (IV) will be ‘about the government who has trained dinosaurs to carry weapons and use them for battle purposes.’ Oh, that’s…err…incredible.
If this is true, and a dark side of my personality wants it to be because they don’t make make big budget movies based on such god awful ideas often, then I wish I’d been a fly on the wall when some script guru pitched this to Spielberg and Co…and they went ‘That’s a cool idea…give the Dino’s big guns!’
I’m sorry, either this isn’t the real idea, or those green-lighting this project where dipped in psycho-reactive slime!

But it has inspired me to think up the Ten worst ideas for a franchise sequel.

10. The Bourne mediocrity – Jason Bourne discovers the best way to remain hidden is to master the art of being average, but makes too good a job of it.
9. The Fantastic 4: Baby Boom – The Fantastic 4 become parents, spawning super-powered kids with hilarious consequences. Stan Lee cameos as their paediatrician.
8. Legal Weapon 23: back in a diapers – Yes, they really are too old for this shit
7. Terminator 4: Total Recall – Our heroes must travel into the distant future, create a manufacturing fault in the Skynet factory, and get all the Terminators warranty recalled!
6. Bewitched: Witch and Bewitched – Exactly the same plot as the original, but with someone different playing Darren.
5. Ace-less Ventura – An Ace Ventura Movie without the named character or Jim Carrey(oops..sorry they’re doing that one!)
4. Out for a Quarter Past Under Siege – Seagal…need I say more?
3. Unnamed Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez project
2. Ghostbusters: the Musical
1. Jason vs. Pee Wee Herman – Pee Wee dresses up as a notorious serial killer, with hilarious consequences.

18
Aug
07

Hurricane Dean Update

Well, it didn’t take long over those warm Caribbean waters for Hurricane Dean to turn from a destructive category 2-3 into a solid 4. The last barometric reading was at 6 Zulu time was 930 Mb and falling, wind speeds are now at 150mph with 180mph gusts. Storm force winds extend some 200 miles or so from the storm centre which is currently located 250 miles south of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s travelling westerly at 18 miles per hour, which unless it deviates from it’s current course will track it directly over Jamaica in less that 36 hours.
I just hope the Jamaican authorities are on their toes, because this could be a very dangerous and destructive storm. If it ain’t nailed down soon, by Monday evening it will be gone. Those of you thinking that Hurricane’s pick the poorest countries to ravage, think again, because next on Dean’s tour is Isla de Cozumel. This is a gorgeous and exclusive island off the coast of the Yucatan peninsular, which Jacques Cousteau did many of his early films. It’s also only 25 miles away from the popular resort of Cancun. This area’s seen some big hurricanes in the past, including Wilma and Gilbert.

17
Aug
07

The Bourne Ultimatum Reviewed

Bourne UltimatumGosh, I’m still in a little shock. This summer’s blockbusters, or the ones I’ve seen, have all very much followed a pattern, of being mildly entertaining while not actually delivering on their promise. It’s not like that’s amazing, but the contrast is dramatically enhanced when one comes along that does, and do so in such an in-your-face way. The Bourne Ultimatum delivers on some many levels that it shouldn’t be compared with the Hollywood vehicles it’s competing or even the films that preceded it.
Interestingly, Paul Greengrass directed Bourne Supremac, which I enjoyed but isn’t remotely like this one. Yes it has many of the same characters, but Greengrass has unleashed some sort of directing demon with himself here. For starters he’s had the audacity to make the entire film, for it’s 111minute running time, a chase. Like Jason Bourne, the chase is unforgiving, unrelenting and utterly gripping. From the previous outings we’ve had hints at know how good Bourne is, but in this one we get to see him at his most clinical, tactical and incisive. In many ways it was entirely reminiscent of Ian Flemming’s conceptual James Bond; a person at the peak of mental and physical fitness, able to use the clarity of thought and purpose to achieve almost super-human tasks. Where the Bond franchise left this aspect begin, in Bourne it’s what grounds the movies in a type of hyper-reality where any person is just a split second away from death or serious injury in his presence.
Bourne’s quest, to discover his real identity, is ironically progressed by the same forces that so wish to keep this secret. The more they try to take him down, and the people around him, the more they propel him onwards. I’m not going to spoil the plot for you, and where it ultimately takes us, and him. But the end of a film completes a perfect circle that started with Jason Bourne falling shot from Wombosi’s boat at the start of Bourne Identity.
But along the way we’re blessed with some set sequences of breaktaking action, tension and drama. The reality as presented of a fluid battlefield of intelligence may be nothing like the real thing, but it seems frighteningly real. ‘Assets’ are called into use, positioned chess like, and then ‘activated’. We get to see through Bourne’s eyes the threats around us, and how best to deal with them. Each door or window is a possible escape route, object a projectile, vehicle a means of pursuit or lethal weapon. The movie takes us inside the Jason Bourne mindset and manacle’s us their for the entire running time.
And, in the end I was left desperately wanting more, which is exactly the way it should be. After this episode I can see the studio’s not wanting to let this franchise die, but they’ve now used up the Ludlum source material and entire motivation for Bourne to go on. Their are two other Bourne books by another writer, but the danger is that they’ll carry on until they mess it up. I’d rather they stopped now, while they’re significantly ahead, than produce another inferior chapter.
If you only get to see one movie this year, make it The Bourne Ultimatum.

16
Aug
07

Server Build

Server BuildThis week I’ve been working on building a server, for my friend Mr. Cheng. As with all these things it will also be a feature in Micro Mart. The machine is actually finished now, but I’ve had a few ups and downs along the way. The system uses an embedded Linux solution called NASLite V2, written by a great guy called Tony Tonchev. But when I first built the rig it used a Sapphire motherboard which didn’t pass the drive details on correctly, and the two 500GB SATA drives in there didn’t register! I switched to an ASUS board and it’s all cooking now!

14
Aug
07

Geeking out on Iron Man

Iron ManThis is possibly the last big Marvel character franchise that hasn’t made it to the big screen, but I’m getting all geek about this project already. Yes, I know, I’m going to have to chill because the movie is a 2008 release. But images like the one they’ve just posted on Comingsoon.net aren’t helping. The casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is great, and dovetales perfectly with the persona, as does Sam Jackson as Nick Fury. So until they are proven to have made an entire mess of the execution here, I’m remaining positive. Actually with Jon Favreau at the helm I’m more than optimistic, as I loved both Elf and Zathura which he also directed.
I presume we’ll get a teaser/trailer before Christmas, to feed my addiction.

10
Aug
07

The Future is a scary place…we’re told

Apparently that’s the overwhelming conclusion of the House of Lords report on the Internet, which they likened to the ‘Wild West’. Putting aside the argument that the notional concept of the Wild West is pure fiction anyway, from the portions that have been reported this document seems to have discovered that the Internet isn’t immune from exactly the same sorts of threats that people encounter every day in ‘reality’. Gosh that’s a revelation! How long exactly did it take them to work that one out?
What worries me the most though isn’t the banal rehash of what’s been true for at least five years, but the assertion that ISPs should somehow be made responsible for what others do with their service. People have been scamming people with letters and phone calls for years, since these mechanisms became widespread in fact. But I’ve never seen the government turn around to Royal Mail or BT and ask them to stump up when some old lady buys shares in a company that doesn’t exist, or hands over her details to a criminal!
This isn’t a new idea though is it, as the whole YouTube and Torrent rows demonstrate. You can’t hold Google responsible for stuff found by their indexing or put by others on YouTube. In the same way that Ford aren’t responsible for letting people drive their cars while drunk. It isn’t Ford’s responsibility to sit outside the pub and stop you driving, and it isn’t the ISPs responsibility to work out which packets of data that are travelling on their network might ultimately upset someone.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see ISPs being more pro-active on killing virus packages and mail zombie data in transit, because I think that’s entirely practical, and it’s something they could actually do. But making them liable is frankly the stupidest thing I’ve heard recently.  As many of them resell services from other providers, like BT, they could share responsibility around, eventually bringing a huge class action against the relatives of Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Alexander Graham Bell, Elisha Gray and Edison  for their contribution to the creation of this highly dangerous facility.
Clearly based on this thinking Elton John is ready for a peerage, which I respectfully suggest is given to him just minutes before the unelected second house is disbanded and replaced by an elected one with people who have more of a grip on modern technology. But then the other elected house doesn’t seem to have any of those, so maybe that’s asking too much.

08
Aug
07

Jack Bauer rings PC technical support…

The Following takes place between 9:18am and 9:21am

Jack: My name is Jack Bauer; I work as an Agent with the Counter-Terrorism Unit. I’m having difficulty with this laptop you sold me, and it’s imperative that it works. It’s a matter of national security!
Support: What seems to be the problem?
Jack: The machine won’t boot, it contains information that might stop a terrorist incident, the chemical formula of a cure for cancer and people’s lives depend on me.
Support: Was the machine dropped or has it got wet?
Jack: I believe it was struck by .762 calibre copper jacketed round at a range of approximately 426 yards by a Lithuanian hit man, named Viktoras Skarbalius. And the bullet is lodged between the F2 and F3 keys. It is also slightly damp, as I left in it an airline locker with the severed head of Columbian drug dealer overnight. Please hurry, lives are at risk!
Support: Do you have your warranty information handy?
Jack: Er…no…is that important?
Support: I’m sorry we need to confirm that the computer in question was under warranty and the software on it was fully licensed.
Jack: Damn it!!!!I haven’t got time for this!!! People will die if you don’t help me – NOW!
Support: We’ve found some copies of the documents, but I’m afraid you’re not covered for attempted assassination or the bleeding of a 3rd party. We can arrange for the computer to be collected and repaired if you can give me your credit card details.
Jack: (silence)
Support: Sir, are you still there?
Jack: (silence)
Support: Hello?
Jack: I’ve traced your location using a re-tasked military satellite. I’ve got your exact position within 20 feet. If you don’t tell me how to get this computer working in the next 30 seconds I’m going to ring the President and get him to order a tactical nuclear strike on your location. Do…you…under…stand?
Support: Must I remind you that our phone calls are recorded for training purposes.
Jack: I don’t care. We have a national security crisis, fix my laptop NOW or DIE!
Support: Ok, but I want immunity from prosecution, signed by the Sectary of State, $10m in untraceable barrow bonds, and a real girlfriend.
Jack: Grrr….DAMN IT!
Support: That’s the deal, take it or leave it!
Jack: Ok, ok…how fast can you get to me? That information is vital in the fight against America’s enemies!
Support: How does 24 hours sound?
Jack: (the unmistakable sound of a semi-automatic pistol being cocked)
08
Aug
07

Alas poor Stinkpad!

William ShakespeareWednesday is usually the day I get my Micro Mart, which is good because I get then to see what they’ve published, and what I’m going to get paid for. I know that might seem a bit ‘commercial’, but I’m never going to get rich writing and getting what I do in is half the battle.
This is a typical week for my on the Mag, which I’ve written for since 1988. Their are three review, a group test and ‘Logging Off’ which I alternate with Leo. That’s about 13 pages in all, but that’s along way sort of my epic ‘Micro Mark’ issues where I’ve topped 30 pages. I did suggest once, rather stupidly, that I’d like one day to do the entire Mag, including all the news and the Experts sections…so ‘Ask Mark’ for six pages. But thankfully Simon Brew rejected the idea. That’s unusual because he’s usually up for my wackier ideas, like the one I had where I was going imagine I had a time machine, and could send products back through time to have famous people review them. And to prove the concept I wrote a review of the then IBM Thinkpad, crafted in Elizabethan English, in my poor imitation of the style of William Shakespeare….

Here is what I wrote, which explains entirely why I never wrote any more. Apologies to the Bard.

Be thou blest, Mr. Ibm. Ye able courier carried forth thine ‘Thinker Pad’ mechanism some six days past, and I am so full of businesses, I cannot answer thee acutely.

Guidance proffered in ‘Users Manuscript’ made most virtuous companion. Within such wisdom of the ages, cured by the gods, enlightenment and illumination flowed with passion and haste. Delivered on to me the ‘on’ button, and forthwith dispensed its wondrous sanctum entombed within.

What majesty that is revealed in Mycrosoft’s the Orifice is truly a modern wonder, casting word and rhymes on a glowing page like shooting stars upon a winter night. But within its noble heart lies an evil and disturbing sprite, fashioned such as an ill made buckle. As I carried forth my duties tempted it to be summoned, casting ill comment on my very works and purpose. I felt no amusement of it.

By heaven , declining solace I persever thyne compass course. But alas, it did strike again, and again. “I prithee, dost thou fashion a sonnet? Pray you, let me help?”.

This eleven spirit mocks from within the Thinking Pad and would not be dispelled and travel hence.

‘I countenance not thy council, for under god and the Queen my title proclaimed is Bard!’ my protest to such point of rage became me that I swore in the manner known only to bawd women of Bankside. Not till morning fell did I banish the rascally knave, cast away by spells of hiding.

Once cleansed forth of this mischief, and proud with burning light the Thinker Pad did follow my bidding most honourably, and without delay.

Talk of the wonders of the ‘Thinker Pad’ abounded, such that many noble and villain alike descended on my door. As you did prithee, I declined them all audience, though Willaim Caxton did persevere as if driven by the very devil himself.

But alas, contentment quickly passed and travesty, nay! Tragedy beckoned. Taking well fed horses we did set a fine gallop yonder to the fair City of London, and did shout out to all assembled ‘Where set these fine WiFi hot spotteries?’. Witchcraft and dark forces abound in those parts, for we found not one in many hours rode! Close a tavern a mile west from traitor’s gate we stumbled on that oaf Raleigh, attempt to deflower some young maidens. Truly, is he not a lamentable puddle hiding rogue?

On my conscience, thy hand was racked and providence rose to strike him with the Thinker Pad from my noble steed.

Pleasures did soon dispel, for while that foul Jackanapes still warms his bones in mortal flesh, the virtuous Thinker Pad breathes no more.

Alas poor Thinker Pad, I knew him, and his demonic spirits.

William Shakespeare
thebard@globetheatre.co.uk

07
Aug
07

Erosion of faith

Test of Time

07
Aug
07

Bourne…again!

Those nice people at ASUS have invited me to see a pre-screening of The Bourne Ultimatum on the 16th in London!
I’m really excited to see this movie. Possibly more than the other sequels we’ve suffered this summer. The only decision I’ve got to make is should I post my review on here or Den of Geek, or both? I think that will depend on how I feel about it, as if it sucks I’ll probably take longer to write it, where if I’m gushing I’ll want to talk about it first thing on the 17th.

07
Aug
07

XP SATA install without floppy

I know this has been possible for a while, but I’d always worked around it, either by finding a floppy drive or installing to an ATA drive and then cloning it to the SATA when happy with the installation.
But today I decided to grasp the thorn and do it the slick way with a tool called nLite. It worked a dream! I’m so impressed with my own ability to follow simple instructions, I might well turn this into a Micro Mart feature, or alternatively put it here.
The bottom line is that you don’t need a floppy to install XP on SATA! Is this the bitter end for the floppy?

05
Aug
07

Danish – sizzling animation

A friend of mine sent me this as a WMV, but I found the YouTube version. How cool animation work is this?




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