Bloated...

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Tuesday, December 27, 2005 | Published in

Hope everyone had a good Christmas. I'm still feeling utterly bloated from the amount of stuff I've eaten over the last few days, and I suspect the combined hangover of 3 days worth of getting pissed may take some getting rid of. We've had parties going on in our house for the last 2 nights, but neither of them in our flat (our shared house is split into 4 flats which is good - no arsing around getting to the party, and a short stumble to my bed when I'm ready to fall over) so no destruction to deal with - all in all its been a good few days.
I hope Santa was good to you all. I got a Nikon Coolpix 4600 as my main present, so I've spent a lot of the weekend blinding people with the flash from that. I also got the Hunter S. Thompson Documentries Breakfast with Hunter and When I Die off my girlfriend which I'm looking forward to watching, and a really nice coffee table book about Rome. Also got the usual slippers, chocolate, random odd things, all of which is pretty good. Don't think I actually got anything totally useless this year. Amazing!

Will post some of the pics from my camera when my head stops hurting a bit.... :P

Microsoft acquire Opera, God help us...

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Friday, December 23, 2005 | Published in

I've just read an article on CoolTechZone which says that Microsoft have apparently aquired Opera Software, makers of my browser of choice. Given how totally shite Microsofts own browser is, I dread to think what this means in terms of 'future improvements' for Opera. I can already picture them sitting devising new and more fantastic ways of using it to attract viruses and riddle our computers with malware...

*Edit - According to Slashdot this has been confirmed by Opera as being just a rumour. Good to hear :P

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Top 10 Weirdest Case Mods

Posted by : Rob Stevens | | Published in

If you have an interest in funky alternatives to the standard beige box have a look at this roundup done by Mikael from Fosfor Gadgets. Some fantastic case mods here, and some links in the comments to some more good ones. Well worth a read.

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Faded Signs

Posted by : Rob Stevens | | Published in

Faded Signs

It's pretty interesting to see these. Living in Sunderland I've seen most of them - the Creswell Terrace one is actually at the end of my street, so I see that every day. Nice to see someone taking an interest in these before they disappear. Good Idea for a blog.

The 10 Best Tech Podcasts of 2005

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Wednesday, December 21, 2005 | Published in

Just read this post on the BenBishop.me.uk blog. Anyone who reads my blog may have read the similar post I did a couple of weeks ago, so if you did and you're interested in more info on decent podcasts, have a look at this for some more suggestions on tech related listening.

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Goldeneye Source HL2 Mod

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Tuesday, December 20, 2005 | Published in

Fantastic! Just read about this, and I am really looking forward to playing it. The original Goldeneye game on the N64 was, imho, one of the best first person shooters ever made and I've considered buying an N64 several times just so I could play it. It would be worth it its so good. But now I don't have to. Sweet.

Check out the offical site here.

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Ultimate Spiderman

Posted by : Rob Stevens | | Published in


I mentioned a few posts ago that I'd installed Ultimate Spiderman on my PC. I've had a chance to play it quite a bit now and so far I'm reasonably impressed.
I'm not sure if I like it as much as the first film spin-off game, which had really nice, easy to use controls especially when webslinging, but its ages since I played that so I could be wrong. It's certainly better than the last effort, which was just crap - I finished that and was sat thinking "uh, is that it...?", but again, it had good webslinging. In fact, that seems to be the only area that the newest version doesn't seem to be better in - webslinging in this version seems to be a case of frantic button mashing and with screams of "AH! For fucks sake go in the right direction!" during the chases when control really matters. It's fine if you can take your time, but not too good for high speed keeping up with villains, and results in rather frustrating repeats of levels until you finally manage to keep up with your fleeing villain and not fail the mission. I suspect this will get easier though as the game seems to upgrade your abilities as you play through, and its really not bad enough to majorly effect the enjoyment of the game.
The storyline of the game revolves around both Spiderman and Venom and you switch between playing both characters as the missions progress. Spiderman does his webslinging and a fair amount of gymnastic leaping about, combined with different kick/punch/web combos, whereas Venom can do huge leaps over and onto buildings along with slugging away at people with his fists and tentacles, and also uses his tentacles to eat people and absorb their energy. All good clean fun :P
Progressing through the game itself is a case of having Spiderman bimble around the city completing various time trials (flinging yourself around in 'beat the clock' type races) and combat tours (finding and beating the crap out of miscreants) which, when a certain amount of them are done, unlock the story missions which usually involve chasing around and battling various classic Spiderman baddies, such as The Beetle and Rhino, who've all been given makeovers in keeping with the 'Ultimate' theme. With Venom you go wandering around fighting various goons and munching on innocent bystanders to keep your energy up ("Must Feeeeeed!", etc). These are all pretty fun, but as I've already said, there can be a bit of fairly frustrating repetition sometimes before you can complete the missions. Fortunately it seems to give you checkpoints throughout the missions so you don't have to do the whole thing again if you fail.
All in all I'm enjoying playing this and would definitely recommend it to any Spiderman fan or anyone who wants an action game that's a bit different.

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Opera

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Wednesday, December 14, 2005 | Published in

I've been playing with Opera 8.5 for about a week now on my Suse box because I was so sick of how horribly sluggish Firefox has become. It seems to take an age to open the browser, and loading pages seems to take longer than any other browser I've tried, apart from possibly Safari on my eMac at work. I've also read lots of not so good stuff about Firefox 1.5 running really badly on Suse - similar lack of speed and irritating extension problems, so I've decided to wait until Suse releases it through YOU before upgrading.
So far I've been very impressed with Opera running on Suse. It's shit-hot - nice and quick to load the program and lightning fast loading up webpages, with no problems showing Flash and Java and a nice plugin that launches Kaffeine whenever I come across any streamed media. Now I just need to get used to the different keyboard shortcuts....
Opera on my work eMac however is a different story. Not too fast on loading either the program or the webpages, frequent screens claiming network problems and functions on some web pages being very flaky, or just not working at all, and it quite often either refuses to show the images on some pages, or shows them as fuzzy corruptions. I really wouldn't recommend it at the moment.
Firefox 1.5 however seems to run very nicely on my eMac - its nice and quick, much quicker than 1.07, and faster than Opera, and doesn't seem to have any problems with the pages that Opera was claiming network problems with.
All very odd. It would be nice to be able to run the same browser on both machines so I only have to be familiar to one set of commands and shortcuts, but never mind, it could be worse. I could be using Internet Explorer :P

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Getting Educated

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Tuesday, December 06, 2005 | Published in

Its the last night of the beginners Linux course I've been going to tonight (run by the North East Association of part time tutors and the Tyneside Linux Users Group). It's all been pretty simple stuff, but I have learned a few things and its gets me a qualification to stick on my CV (something that I'm woefully short on since finishing my GCSE's).
Its all been pretty enjoyable, apart from filling out worksheets and things, which I accept as a neccessary evil when doing courses like this, but I hate doing anyway. This is probably why I've done so little in the way of education since I left school - I really hate writing essays (or in this case diary sheets), I'd much rather do a practical exam to show I can do something, rather than spend hours writing about it.
The course has covered things like installing and configuring linux, basic command line usage, basic samba networking, and editing config files. The group ranges from people like me who already know most of the stuff, through to people who barely seem to be able to use a computer on any level.
Like I say, I've enjoyed it and I hope they do an evening run of the intermediate course as that seems to cover quite a lot of stuff I've never really tried before, but they've only run that during the day so far.

Slipping Already

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Saturday, December 03, 2005 | Published in

Well its been a rather uneventful week. A horrible late shift at work, combined with some really shitty cold weather... Great stuff.
Finished reading the Bourne Conspiracy this week. I'd seen the film before I'd read this, and its vaguely similar, but the book is better by far. Far more detail than the film, and definately worth a read if you like your James Bond stylee secret agent type stuff. I'm about half way through the second book (the Bourne Supremacy) now, and, again, its brilliant. This time however the film (which I'd also seen before reading this) bears no resemblence whatsoever to the story in the book. The book is also much better with this one as well,
I've just installed ultimate spiderman, and it looks like its going to be much better than the last effort, which was shite. Haven't played it very much yet but it looks cool.

VMWare, finally

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Saturday, November 26, 2005 | Published in

I managed to get VMWare Workstation running on my Suse box last night. I've been trying to get it to work for a few days, but it kept telling me that it was incorrectly configured. The version I was using (5.0.something) didn't have the right kernel module included so it was trying to build its own (which I suspect wasn't compiling properly and was probably what was causing my problem), so I had a look on the VMWare site and found they had released 5.5.something, so I got that, ran the installer, ran the config script, and it worked :). I can now run a fullscreen Windows XP system on top of my Linux system, which is nice. Totally unnecessary, but nice :). I think I'll give Solaris a go next - I like playing with different OS's so it'll be nice to be able to do so without fear of damaging other installs on a real machine.

Suse 10 is definitely growing on me.

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Rome Journal

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Friday, November 25, 2005 | Published in

I found Rome Journal when I was hunting around looking for just this sort of thing - an blog done by some who's moved to Italy, particularly Rome. I'm interested because that's just what I want to do.
I love Rome. I've been there twice and have left both times wanting to live there. Almost anyone who's ever been to Sunderland can probably appreciate me wanting to flee the place - It's not nice, unless you enjoy cold, wet, grubby, charv infested pits - and Rome is top of the list of places to move to. I don't know why so many towns in the UK are so ugly - you can head across the channel to France and even the little, non touristy towns have nice old stone buildings and a fairly pleasant atmosphere, but here we seem to take great delight in tearing our nice old buildings down and replacing them with glass and steel monstrosities that look pretty crap now, and in 30 years time are going to look appalling. Did we learn nothing from 60's architecture?

In Rome I love how you can wander down the back streets and even the scruffy ones still have nice buildings, and that you can turn the corner anywhere and bump into a random statue or fountain that hasn't been smashed or graffitied or anything, and has stayed that way for a long time. Things like that end up destroyed in minutes where I come from...
I love the narrow streets and lanes that seem to have just been plonked down without any sort of planning, the cafe's and restaurants, and the feeling that you're wandering around somewhere that has some culture, whereas Sunderlands idea of culture seems to be the mould growing behind the nearest kebab shop.

Last time I went to Rome (in March this year) Marie, my girlfriend, and I spent 4 days there. In the mornings we went and did the tourist bit (the forum, the coliseum, etc) and in the afternoon we would wander around the city centre looking at things until we were comletely lost and our feet hurt, and then we would find the nearest bus that would take us back to the main station. It was a great way to explore the place, I just wish we'd had longer to do it. We didn't see much in the way of nightlife because we were so knackered after all the walking around we did, so that's something I want to check out next time we're there, and I'd also quite like to go to one of the outdoor operas.

Hopefully I'll get to move there for a while in the not too distant future, but until then I'll just have to make do with occasional trips and blethering about it on here.

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Podcasts

Posted by : Rob Stevens | | Published in

There's a hand-full of pocasts I've been trying to listen to lately (I say trying because I stick them on my ipod, and then it takes me at least a week to get around to listening to them :P). I quite like the idea of podcasts - find a subject you like, put it on your mp3 player and then slump and absorbe. Much less effort than reading a magazine or whatever (and cheaper in the case of Linux mags which are about £6 a pop at the moment, probably because of the DVD full of crap that I don't want, and could get from the internet if I did, that they insist on gluing to the cover) and quite often covering stuff you wouldn't find in most magazines.
The 2600 shows (Off the Wall and Off the Hook) which talk about communications, technology, hacking and civil liberties, amongst other things. Recently they ran a series of shows recorded by one of their presenters, Emanuel Goldstein, while he was doing a round-the-world trip, without getting on a plane, which was pretty interesting.
Another show I like is This Week in Science (TWIS) where the presenters talk about any science related topics they've dug up during the proceeding week. Topics can range from reports of discoveries of beneficial effects from illegal drugs (things like ecstasy possibly helping people with alzheimer's) through to fish parasites that chew away and then act as their hosts tongue. Lovely eh?
A few more that are worth a mention are This Week in Tech, which as the name suggests, is a run down of the weeks interesting tech related stories, which fairly often seems to turn into a bunch of people trying to talk over the top of each other :P but is generally pretty interesting, The Linux Link Tech Show for more techy goodness, and T.W.A.T. Radio which attempts to put out short daily shows about technology, computers and hacking.
There's lots of crap to wade through in finding decent podcasts (I suppose everything is interesting to someone) but I tend to find something that looks worth listening to every couple of weeks. All I have to do now is get around to listening to them...

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Distro Hopping

Posted by : Rob Stevens | | Published in

I've been playing with a couple of different Linux distro's - I have Suse 10 on my main machine which seems ok, but the sound's a bit flakey (its the second time I've installed it - the first time the sound stopped working unless I ran alsaconf everytime I booted) and I'm not sure I like the package management system as much as apt, which is what I use on the other distro I play with, Mepis. I was using SimplyMepis 3.3.2 before I installed Suse, but after the latest dist-upgrade it started locking up fairly often, which is why I decided to switch for a while. I'm currently downloading the first test release of Mepis 3.4, so I'll see what thats like...

*Edit: Got my sound working ok on Suse - found the solution here

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