Tuesday, January 27, 2009

iPod Nano

A number of things conspired to breaking down my iTunes loathing. First was Apple dropping DRM on iTunes, and a couple of other hints recently that they've cleaned up their act on PC iTunes interlockisuckness. The kicker though was the slow disintegration of my cheapass MP3 player finally made it useless for a potential 5 hr cleaning stint at work.

The MP3 player started out Ok. 1/3 the price of an iPod touch with virtually all the features. It was also expandable through a MiniSD port, std 3.5 mm jack for speakers and a pure file system for organizing music, videos or data. There were some things that came to light after playing with it though:

- No bookmarking: This was a big one. I had picked it up almost exclusively for podcasts, but every time it powered down it lost the place in the mp3. For songs that would be Ok, but in hour-long podcasts it was a right royal pain in the ass. In the 10 minute trip home I would sometimes spend 2 minutes ffwding to the right spot. Added to that the touch screen was a little too touchy. If you slightly lifted your finger off the ffwd button and the car bumped or something, you'd tap the ffwd button again and advance to the next song! Aarrgh!!@! After a couple of months I finally found a solution by splitting the podcasts into 10 minute chunks. I'd then be pretty close to one chunk per trip.

- Sloppy controls: Added to the Ffwd button unpleasantries, there was very little tactile feedback on the touchscreen or display. Sometimes you were certain you'd pressed a button and it wouldn't do anything, other times it was way too sensitive. There would be no way you could use it without looking at it, which leads to ..

- Poor screen visibility: In bright sunlight the screen is impossible to see. Even shading the screen barely makes a difference. Added to that, the screen gets smudged from touching it (duh).

- USB dodgyness: On the same USB port it would work sometimes and not others. At least it didn't need a CD to work. Never quite figured out what state caused the error or (better yet) what would definitely work.

- Poor assembly: After ~6 months the metal strip around the player came adrift leaving a rather tacky dishevelled look. The 3.5mm jack also lost amplification somehow. You could still hear it fine through the internal speaker, or through the car audio system by cranking it up, but headphones were useless.

The amp problem was the death knell when I needed it for cleaning. I tried through the internal speaker from my pocket, and then cradling it like a mobile phone, but I knew it just wasn't going to last the distance. I dumped the tools and headed into town to pick up a replacement.

I'd seen the nano's around school, but hadn't really paid attention to them. I really just needed something for podcasts and the size looked right. When I saw it in the store I was surprised how thin it was and that it actually had a proper screen. I knew it had advanced past the original iPod bullet list, but wasn't expecting a screen that could do video. There really wasn't much of a debate about size, the bigger the better, and 16Gb actually opened up the possibility of moving my whole collection to it. The tougher choice was the colour. I'd have loved a dark green one, but the green was a lighter stand-out colour you'd see on a VeeDub. Looked nice, but not my style. The grey was Ok. Not inspirational, but functional.

Now the big test: Putting on iTunes. We had previously loaded iTunes on some of the machines at work for podcast creation, so it went on relatively easy (even picking up some tests from my profile). Podcast searching through iTunes is still abysmal, but at least it's all in one place. I tried to load in some of my older mp3 podcasts, but iTunes failed to acknowledge them as such and dumped them in with the rest of the music. Ahh yes, "my way or else". With little investment into either the current collection or the state of the iPod I managed to fiddle enough to get my main TWiT feeds onto it and a couple of new experiments. With at least 3 hours a day opened up for listening it was going to get a workout.

Initial reactions to the clickwheel was that it, too, offered highly sensitive pickup sometimes and not others. Quickly scrolling down the list is fine, but passing the one you wanted and reversing just one song / track would invariably mean reversing 2. This lead to a comical dance to and fro over the target track. After using it for another week it's either settled down or I'm getting used to how it wants me to operate. I'm guessing the latter.

At home I set up another iTunes station on my main box and went to work figuring out how to sync to 2 machines without wiping out my entire collection off the iPod. It certainly looks easier to do now than before, but is still an uphill battle than just naively syncing to one machine automatically.

Next up were a number of Audiobooks ripped to mp3. On first attempt they came across into the music section like the older podcasts, but after some googling on outdated techniques I found that all you need to do is change the media type on all the files to "audiobook"

While there it's worth ticking the bookmarking option as well as skipping from playlists. I'm pretty sure the media type should preclude it from normal playlists now, but I didn't test it out. There also was a wierd one where Johnathon Coulton's Thing a Week podcast all came over as podcasts rather than being integrated into the song list. Changing these checkboxes on those songs made them visible to playlists regardless of the podcast flag, so I'm guessing the same could be said for audiobooks.

For a week I went to town on the podcasts, subscribing to over 15 streams to get the ball rolling. I'd mostly have a couple spare as well as the Audiobooks to better match my listening mood. I'm glad I can use the headphones again too. I picked them up when passing through Japan on my way to last year's WCG grand final in Seattle and the retractable nature of them has been awesome compared to the mess of cords in my bum bag.

I also made my first purchase, Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog. I'd watched it at Andrew's place and really wanted Sandy to watch it, as well as have it available to indoctrinate others. Actually the screen does a remarkable job for watching it. Very nice even in daylight. Now that I've rewatched it several times I can't get the songs out of my head. There's something inherently more catchy and repeatable about musicals than if it were a normal TV series like Firefly.

So finally some awesome moments from Doogie .. err .. Dr. Horrible. I like his expressions when he's not talking. Great timing.

.. Right! Freeze Ray!
Descent into madness.

GameLog 76

Space Rangers 2 (25h) - Suddenly I'm in the top 10 of rangers, although Veeyar - Space Ranger is still 3 years behind.

Vector TDx (4h) - Picked up from the QGL forums. Good clean TD gameplay.

Kongregate (3h) - More TD

Skate 2 demo (3h) - Fairly impressed by the demo. Definitely gets that skater mentality and you're thrilled pulling off a line that you imagined. First game in a while that the demo's inspired me to buy the game.

PS3 demos (3h) - All sorts of other demos including LotR conquest.

Club Penguin (2h) - Cameron picked up me playing this one for Living Epic and wanted his own character.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where is Bryan Brown?

Bernie sent out an email testing the 6 degrees of separation theory, but in essence it will turn into spam as there is no boundary for the search, and no feedback as to when the search is finished, or even how successful the experiment was.

To this end I've made up a new website ( Where is Bryan Brown? ) to help track the search. It's not going to be perfect, but at least it will provide feedback on the status of the search to anyone that is interested enough to look.

GameLog 75

Lots more time at work cleaning PCs. Needed to grab an iPod to combat the drudgery, so I've been entertaining myself more with podcasts and audiobooks than games recently.

Space Rangers 2 (20h) - More work on Veeyar - Space Ranger. I've gone another couple of years ahead of the storyline now as I needed the game thrill to keep me going. Hopefully I'll write up the story so far, probably in larger chunks.

WoW:WotLK (3h) - BundyBear, 73 Warrior.
Cleared out some of the remaining quests stacking up my questlog down at Scalawag point.

Little Big Planet (2h) - Cameron has been wanting to play it as well as Mum over the weekend. I've filled in the gaps.

TrackMania Nations Forever (2h) - Cameron's request, then I got back in the mood.

Guitar Hero: World Tour - Another game at the request of Cameron. The drums are still away getting replaced, but Sandy and I rocked out another set in campaign mode as Cameron air-guitared up front.

Club Penguin (1h) - One of the recommended games for Living Epic short course.

Runescape (1h) - Another recommended game for Living Epic short course.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

EG Revival

DJWheat, world's loudest cereal, is looking for support to get Epileptic Gaming back going again.

I feel his pain of being on the short end of a company collapse and I truly wish he stays broadcasting at some level (preferably sportscasting).

Monday, January 12, 2009

GameLog 74

Wow, one of the first periods since I started GameLogs where I only played one game.

Space Rangers 2 (36h) - Probably only around 5 hours of gameplay, with the rest of the time spent documenting the journey.

Spending a lot of time in Google Reader catching up on all sorts of reading, and in VGHVI for the Living Epic short course

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gmail advertises spam

When scanning through my Gmail account I usually have a developed blind spot for the ads bordering my mail. Today I noticed one and it made me laugh:

Spicy Spam Kebabs! Here's a recipe you'll love for all the spam you seem to be getting!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Game Addiction in Kids

New book out covering the psychological aspects (both good and bad) in Video Game Play and Addiction

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Reverse interview

Found an interesting interview on Soren's blog where he's the one interviewing the developers of Fall from Heaven total conversion:
A History of Fall from Heaven (Part I)
A History of Fall from Heaven (Part II)

Lots of great insights into what it takes to build a serious mod, how to control a community, reason for contribution and a developer's take on whether it was worth the effort opening it up.

Part 3 is up too, along with Soren's analysis of the mod.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

2008 Game Time

Spurred on by the plethora of 'Best Game of 2008' posts, I thought I'd look back through all the GameLogs to see what I'd been playing over the past year. Here's the list of the top 30 games I played, ranked by how many hours I spent playing it this year:
(Actually I stuck 2 more notable titles down the bottom for comparison)

Football Manager 08


Crusader Kings


warhammer online


TrackMania Nations Forever


Guitar hero III


Team Fortress 2


Dwarf fortress


Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword


Fallout 3






TrackMania Nations


Europa Universalis III


Little Big Planet












Battle of Tiles




Sins of a solar Empire


World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade


Guitar Hero: World Tour


Pirates of the Burning Seas


Space Rangers 2


World of Goo


Mount & Blade






Metal Gear Solid 4




Gratz to Football Manager for soaking up an extroardinary amount of time. I'm a bit surprised it's not bigger than 200 hours as my save game has over 20 days played (~500 hours). 

I'm amazed that Crusader Kings turned up so highly. It was an awesome game and I'd pulled it out again recently when talking about AARs. I think AARs are one of the keys to a long time in the game. Both CK and FM08 were the target of AARs, although Fallout 3 didn't get much higher from its logs. I did put nearly 60 hours in one week playing CK though, that was a record right there.  

A few anomalies in the list:
TrackMania comes in second if you count both TMNF and TMN as the same game (which I would). It never was a priority during the year, but kept being played 2-3 hours a week. 

Guitar Hero III and World Tour combined makes it come in at 3rd. Another one that kept ticking over through the weeks. 

World of Warcraft managed only ~50 hours combined. I used to do that in a week back in the beginning. 

Veeyar - Space Ranger

Got into the mood for another AAR and decided to try it as a blog again. Veeyar - Space Ranger is my latest epic adventure into the world of Space Rangers 2.

One thing I've been struggling with in Andy Preece: Retired is that I'm not sure whether it's better in reverse chronological order like a blog, or chronological order like a book. The Andy Preece one made more sense as a blog because that was part of the aesthetic I wanted. This new one though has more of a story feel to it, so it probably would be better as a book.

Problem is though that it's really hard to set up a blog back in chronological order. A couple of hours googling and experimenting didn't reveal a proper solution. Ideally I'd like the blog to be in chronological order and the blog archive to read like an index of chapters. In the end I found a little trick with modifying the posting dates allowed it to appear as if it was posted on the 1st January 3300. This made the archive behave a bit better too, but every time yo touch the post you need to keep aligning the year as it drops the millenium and century for more realistic values (read: it re-interprets the date as a 6 character string rather than keeping the value as a date or long. Sloppy, sloppy. That's what caused the millenium bug problems.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

GameLog 72 & 73

Spent a fair while away from the PC over the Christmas break here and up in Mackay. Another fortnightly log is the result.

Space Rangers 2 (20h) - Once we arrived in Mackey, Matt's computer room already had 4 PCs set up and no real room for mine or Sandy's. I hopped on Scott's to see what else he had other than WoW and found an old version of Space rangers 2. Great, there goes the holidays of playing games together. Just .. one ... more .... mission.

Recently found a new expansion for it which co-incided with my pang to write another AAR; hence Veeyar - Space Ranger is born. I also reminisced about AARs for Living Epic, so maybe this AAR will be shaped by what I learn in that course.

Mount & Blade (17h) - Greig had bought the beta version about a year ago, but it's fleshed out a lot since then. He was telling me about the changes and it was enough for me to grab the demo for a run around myself. Almost picked up the full version a couple of times, but ~$60 for digital content is basically a full priced game. I'd have been happy with $40. Plays well.

Little Big Planet (4h) - Cameron's go-to game when he wants to spend time with me. He's happy to play a little then give me the controller, and I'm happy to play while he watches.

WoW:WotLK (3h) - BundyBear, 72 Warrior.
Tried to organize a run on Nexus while we were up in Mackay, but it never happened.

King's Bounty (3h) - Digging around for SR2:reboot I found that the Russians had also moved on to develop a remake of King's Bounty, an awesome game from the 90's. Demo seemed a bit sluggish, even on my GTX 260. Not sure why. Definitely something I'd get if I can find it locally or cheap online. For now SR2 will suffice...

Lego Indiana Jones (2h) - Played this up at Matt's on his new 360. I'm firmly of the belief now that LBP has ruined all other platformers for me. The physics and touch applied to the 'lil sackboy is just another level of intuitiveness higher than previous titles.

TrackMania Nations Forever (2h) - Quick fix for boredom.

Dungeon Crawl (1h) - Another quick fix while I download the next demo.

Club Penguin (1h) - One of the recommended games for Living Epic short course.

Runescape (1h) - Another recommended game for Living Epic short course.