27 April 2008

On Mobile Telephony and the Months Ahead

Mbile Telephony

So I've finally picked out my new phone. Amazingly, it's a Sony Ericsson Slider. Why's that amazing you ask? Well, I hate most sliders and I hate most Sony Ericssons. Ironically, the only Sony Ericssons I do like are sliders. Some of the clamshells are okay.

So which one you ask? The W910i. Not really because of the Walkman, I have 3 iPods, but more because as a piece of kit, it suits my needs and it's a good upgrade on the RAZR.

It's a bit of a looker. If I ever end up somewhere with decent 3G coverage, I might even try sticking a 3 Sim Card in it to try and get in on some of that mobile TV love. I really want portable TV. If I need to, I'll buy one of those portable FreeView TVs...Speaking of, someone should put a hard drive in one of those.

Motor Racing

In other great news, Jenson Button came home an awesome 6th from 13th on the grid, setting the 5th fastest lap, reaffirming the point that Honda Racing F1 are back and their car is a quick racer, even if it's ultimate pace (IE, 1 lap pace) is not brilliant. They've shown they can mix it with Renault and Williams. Our faith has paid off. I'm very, very happy.

Multiplayer

On a brief Multiplayer note, we may have a graphics man lined up. Stay tuned. I would however like at this stage to announce that I am partnering with WizzKid, of WizzHack.co.uk, for the development of the Multiplayer Magazine website. WizzKid is a supremely talented web developer and I'm confident he can put together a brilliant package for Multiplayer.

The Months Ahead

GTA IV is released this coming Tuesday. Assuming someone's in to collect my brother's package, expect to hear from me about it - and the Xbox 360 being relocated to my room for the duration fo my brother's exams. He has more time consuming revision etc. than I will.

You'll probably hear from me again the following day when we finally get the final details of our exams and important dates, like when Study Leave starts. From then, expect content to be as normal only until Study Leave, at which stage it will be throttled (Though not, I imagine, shelved) until June 17th. But I intend to provide extensive coverage of my Mac mini's arrival and setup.

As to content in the exam period, I might post my impressions of how the exam went and review the exams themselves, something which I feel is sorely lacking. Exams are sorely in need of criticism. I'm planning to supply it.

After the exam period, I'm considering migrating this blog into a full-blown personal website, featuring pages dedicated to showing what hardware and software I use, an extended bio, dedicated links and contact page etc. I will, after all, have 2 months of free time and a brand new Mac with iWeb on it.

Also, below is the first in my series of music-themed signoffs. Anyone who can guess where each one's from (Song title, artist) gets the standard Jensonb reward.

That is to say, a cookie.

Going crazy and we're out,
Jens

25 April 2008

On Macs

So, recently I've been using the generic "Mac" rather than referencing a specific product when talking about my nex computer. In all honesty, it's because I've been spending a lot of time assessing the pros and cons of the current models and several now defunct ones.

It's no secret that I got pissed at Apple and decided not to spend the money on their MacBook Air. At any rate, my Asus Eee PC is serving me well as a lightweight portable computer, so it would be redundant.

Then I thought about going back to the MacBook for a while, but I scrapped that idea for financial reasons - that is, to free up money for a Halo 3 Xbox 360, which I'll need for once I'm no longer living with my brother.

So then I started thinking about going for a used Mac. I spent a while looking at prices on the old sunflower iMac (Scrapping it for logistical reasons in the end) before focusing on PowerBook G4s. I was very close to deciding for sure on one of them, then I realised I really wanted Leopard, and I wanted it to run well.

So, I thought to myself, how can I get a cheap Mac which will still run Leopard well?

Simple. For just £80-£100 more than I was lookign to spend on a PowerBook, I can get a Mac mini Base Unit. I know what you're thinking, but I've studied the specs and it's perfectly adequate for what I want to do with it. It'll sit happily atop my Windows PC and it's main jobs will be iTunes and making Multiplayer.

That said, it's easy to imagine me switching over to the near-silent Mac mini as my day-to-day computer, only powering up the noisy Windows box for games or watching TV or Blu-Rays. The Mac will certainly be my iPlayer/YouTube box though, thanks to an as-yet unacknowledged bug with Flash Player which prevents full screen FLV playback under Vista (Business) under certain conditions.

In order to finance the Mac, I'll be doing overtime to ensure my next 2 paycheques are in excess of £200. The one coming is already overtimed to about £180, and I've got a £44 overtime shift a week on Monday. Helping out is a £49 tax rebate I'm owed. That's £273 right there. That means I only need to work enough to earn £181 the following month in order to buy the Mac and iWork '08. But I'll probably once again try and push it over the £200 mark to ensure there's a bit of overflow and to prepare for the Xbox - itself necesitating £220. But since my exams will be over by then, I'll be abe to do more overtime.

Well that's the plan as it stands now. I'm eagerly anticipating the move now. I can't wait to pt together an all-new rig. The changes to this one since the Dell was installed are virtually 0, despite adding the Wii. Basically the only changes not related to the devices are the onitor and moving the Hi-Fi speakers.

I've got to get to work coming up with a complete new setup. Honestly, I expect to need to buy a TV as a second screen. On a bigger desk with more shelf and desktop space. Ths one's already cramped.

Thing is though...Like most men...For me, buying a TV is way awesome.

Jens Out

On Magazines

Updates on The Crowd-Sourced Video Gaming Magazine. Resurrect the Print Media this Christmas.

New and likely final title is Multiplayer Magazine. Still shooting for release around December, but work is not scheduled to begin in earnest until after GCSEs are over, maybe even slightly later than that to allow time for a relocation to Scotland my end (Though partners could easily start work then). I do aim to have a more elegant setup in the North so production will be regular.

By that I mean, when the Mac (More details to follow) is installed here (Shortly after June 13. Likely June 18, 1 day after my final exam), there will be three video inputs going into this monitor, 2 audio and a third audio feed into the Hi-Fi. A month later I need to fit an Xbox in. The move will allow me to redesign the entire setup in line with the number of units. Bear in mind, this setup is jury-rigged from an original standard desktop setup.


Now, although full production on my end is not due to begin until after the move, I will be producing at least one Graphics-free/Layout Only issue before the end of July, labeled as a beta/betas. They will however likely feature screenshots. I'll be hoping to get some feedback on the layout from you guys and if a graphics guy hasn't joined the team by then, hopefully it'll encourage one to.

Now then, some information exclusive to the blog. It's about content. Multiplayer Magazine is Cross-Platform, or Multiformat if you prefer. But it's not multiformat like EDGE or EGM are. It's completely multiformat. Any platform you can play games on living or dead is fair game.

Columns will feature in Multiplayer Magazine. Users can submit Editorials to the Editor for him to Review for Inclusion just like any other content. But I will also be giving recurring slots to people of interest, including website owners, developers or journalists. Anyone who might have a story.

Obviously, some people are going to submit reviews of games which differ and both may be valid. A solution to this is going to be present in the Multiplayer Content Specifications (Little bit more on them in a mo). A system called, uncreatively, Second Opinions will give summaries of other writers' views in a side-panel alongside the main review. Readers who want to will be able to read Second Opinion reviews in full on a special section of the Multiplayer website.

Finally, the Multiplayer Content Specifications. Significant portions will be available to the public for the purpose of ensuring content meets publication standards. Sections which only relate to layout and editing will be omitted from public release. The Specifications will include the review scoring system from the reviewer's point of view, which will also be explained from a reader's point of view in each issue.

Any questions, drop me a line at the usual addresses.

14 April 2008

Xbox LIVE, AOL and the Changing Face of the Internet

And so today brings us news that intrepid geeks have found a way to trick BBC's iPlayer into working on the PS3 - to many a shout of "about bloody time someone did, damned Auntie". And what does this say about the state of the internet. Many would say not much. I say a lot.

As Sony and Microsoft rush to tell us their PLAYSTATION 3 and Xbox 360 are the place for entertainment, the place for internet features...Wii beat them both to the punch by simple virtue of being more friendly. Wii scored a major coup in being the first "Living Room Platform" other than the failed Windows Media Center Standard to get iPlayer support.

But why the Wii you ask? Simple. Microsoft, to address them first, wanted the content, but not the brand. Yes, they want their customers to be able to access iPlayer, but they want it to be called Xbox Media Stream or some such nonsense name as they come up with arbitrarily. BBC said no, Microsoft wouldn't do the deal.

And that kills iPlayer's chances on Xbox LIVE for the time being. Because Xbox LIVE is a subscription based, gated community web service. Does that sound familiar? It ought to.

Exhibit A, the world's foremost dead-in-the water internet boom company. America Online, Inc. AOL's entire business model was a subscription based, gated community web service. Yes, Microsoft has more strings to its bow, as does Xbox alone, but the fact is: Xbox LIVE is AOL.

What then of Sony, with their "open" free web system? Open my ass. iPlayer isn't officially on PS3 because Sony don't want to do the deal. They won't let the BBC open the service to their customers as it stands for arbritary technical reasons.

What the real reason is? I don't know. But face it, it can't be very good.

But Nintendo? BBC said "hey, we have this iPlayer, it's pretty popular...". Nintendo said "What's that Flash? Use 7 and we're there".

Then they got even chummier "if you want, we can work on a Wii Channel for your service, I think our customers would love an iPlayer Channel, our competitors would hate it and it's a good use of our downloadable software platform."

Auntie was like "Hell to the yes."

Nitendo? Totally Firefox (Well, Mozilla).

So who does that make Sony in this second internet war?

Arbitrary technical blocks on service customers want for purely political reasons? Come on, you know this.

They're being Microsoft.

To summarise:

Microsoft's Xbox LIVE: America Online, Inc.'s AOL
Sony's PLAYSTATION Network: Microsoft Web Services (Comprising Internet Explorer, MSN Group etc.)
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection/WiiConnect24: Mozilla (/Firefox)

Jens Out