Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wii Online Play

Firstly let me say that Mario Kart for the Wii is truly fantastic and immensely enjoyable. However, it seems that the Wii doesn't play nicely with routers demonstrated by frequent 'You have been disconnected from the other players', Error 86420 and Error 91010 messages during online play, which roughly translate as 'Argghhh, Nintendo Wii not see internet. Other Wiis not see you either'.

It looks like a problem with negotiating UPnP but Nintendo's advice is to manually set up port-forwarding (of every port, grrrr) which is fine until someone releases a worm for the Wii and I don't know about you but my little Netgear RP614 won't allow additional mappings to other IP addresses after I create this rule.

It's a bit crap though because would your average Joe know what to do here? Or would they just get really frustrated with dropping out of multiplayer games, blame Nintendo and just give up? A quick Google for 'Error 86420' shows I'm not alone.

It can't be that hard to fix. Or at least tie the ports down to a manageable number instead of all of them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Inspiration?

Today was spent at a company-wide event in Earls Court, designed to give individuals a bit of insight into what the rest of the organisation does. As if it makes any difference to me working in IT - I already know that IT is roundly ignored by every business unit - but whatever, I'm out of the office and there was a seemingly endless supply of delicious, mini-lemon tarts.

The event began with a stunning visual and oratorical performance from our divisional head that would have made any Reichschancellor proud. He's a great speaker, but his image projected onto a 50 foot TV screen above his head was a slightly sinister touch. After that came the opportunity to network with various bits of the company - most of whom have no interest in talking to me because I can't pass any business their way, nor am I particularly interested in them, unless they can tell how much bandwidth I'll need to run Malaysia's email from Switzerland.

Anyway, I did the dutiful corporate citizen bit and had a wander around, observed and engaged, sat patiently through presentations and generally busied myself until the school bell rang. Have I learnt anything interesting about how all the different business units work? Well in a way I have, but perhaps my conclusions have been strongly influenced by becoming more jaded with corporate life in general. And my conclusion? We're not so different. All we're after is making money, and that's the only thing that counts around here. Whether you're talking about offshore structured investment vehicles, syndicated lending, retail banking or leasing cars, it's all about the green.

I don't think this should come as much of a shock to anyone, and I would wager that most big businesses are the same. Making money is number one above all else and I doubt this will ever change. Here I'm going to make a perhaps slightly unsuitable parallel to drug dealing and organised crime - did Tony Montana reduce his drive to make more money when he quite clearly had enough? No of course not, the more he had the more he wanted. As is the way with so much in life. Then he got a flash of social responsibility and was rewarded by being turned into a colander by angry Colombians.

Which takes me neatly onto a couple of interesting bits of the day. I had a good chat with our new 'green' team - tasked with promoting energy efficiency, reducing waste and other environmental initiatives. It's refreshing to hear that they're making progress, but their remit and team is small, so they can only deliver by 'selling' the green agenda to the business. A couple of years ago I made a suggestion via our staff suggestion scheme that perhaps we ought to consider carbon-offsetting our flights. All I got in return was some bumf on how good we are at corporate social responsibility and thanks for your idea but no thanks.

I also got a chance to meet with some representatives from Opportunity International, who are actually my own business unit's charitable partner. I didn't know a great deal before about what they do but essentially they provide banking services in regions and to individuals who otherwise wouldn't have access. So we're talking a £140 loan to set up a school in rural Africa, or just somewhere safe to keep their money. Now this is stuff that we should be doing as a company and I just don't see why we don't. Let's put back some of the billions of pounds we made last year into these kind of projects and we're not even talking about zero returns - these are loans and OI boasts a 98% repayment rate. Now that's an awful lot better than from some of the economies in which we invest.

So there we have it, some good news but I left generally feeling a bit depressed about the company I work for. That's why I've put my name down for skills-sharing in Malawi - just in case they need some IT expertise. It's a long shot, but I'm not going anywhere. Yet.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Compact Camera Considerations

So I went to a friend's wedding last weekend and pretty good it was too. I took my little IXUS 800 and took something in the region of 200 pictures or the build up, the ceremony and the debauched celebrations afterwards before drunkenly leaving it in the hotel bar for some scally to walk off with. Gutted. Don't give a stuff about the camera itself (2 years old, worth about £50 now) but I'm quite sickened that even if someone fancies walking off with the camera they couldn't just take the memory card out and leave it somewhere. Buggers. Also I don't know how they propose charging it without the charger...

Anyways, I'm not going to dwell. What I need to do is get a new camera. Normally I'd just go and get a new Canon, one with a lot more flexibility and manual control, and the candidate for that is the Powershot G9. It's fairly ugly as cameras go, but has 6x zoom (35mm-210mm), 1/1.7" CCD sensor, can shoot in RAW, has all the creative modes common on SLRs and an aperture of F2.8-4.8. It comes with decent reviews, as you would expect of Canon, and the image quality is good, but as Digital Photography Review puts it "a small, noisy sensor is a small noisy sensor no matter what kind of tank you build around it or how many 'professional' features you build into the body."

There is another option, but it comes at a price, both in features and financially, and that's the new Sigma DP1. I've been interested in this camera since I heard Sigma were working on it. They took a few years to perfect it and bring it to market but by all accounts the results in terms of image quality are stunning. It uses a Foveon sensor, one of only 2 cameras (both Sigma) on the market to do so. I'm not going to go into the detail of Foveon versus Bayer sensors here, that's what Wikipedia is for, but Bayer filter sensors have long been known to have limitations compared to the way traditional film works. The Foveon sensor was designed to overcome this and I'll leave it up to you to decide whether they were successful. To my un-artschooled eye I reckon they did an awesome job because the images I've seen from the DP1 are out of this world. Take a look at this one from Carl Rytterfalk (a great photography blog that I'm going to keep up with):


Now what's the chances of getting a picture like this, with the shallow depth of field, nice bokeh, dramatic colours and dynamic range normally associated with a full size SLR using a standard compact Nikon and Canon camera? It's possible with the DP1 because it uses an SLR-sized sensor - 7 times bigger than the G9's. Browsing through DP1-tagged images on Flickr was also truely inspiring.

But here's the problem. Lens is good at 28mm effective focal length, aperture is ok at F4 - the DoF above is possible because of the larger sensor and I don't think would be possible even with the F2.8 of the Canon G9 - but there's no zoom, apparently it's rather slow (but this can be mitigated with a few settings) and at around £600 it's double the price of the G9. I imagine I'd be rather precious of it at this price and probably wouldn't be lending it to friends to run off and take a few snaps with.

However, the image quality is stunning and I would finally own a compact camera usable in low light (see here for some ISO 800 shots). I'm truly stuck as to which to go for. Ideally I'd go for both as it seems I've got two different uses for this - great quality shots from when I don't want to lug around an SLR and candid friends/events/holiday snaps. It's tricky. What do you reckon?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Crave

I know it's totally wrong as I have a Vaio TZ at home and this is made for kids, but I'm totally wanting one of these.

What's wrong with me?

I'm even comparing the Eee PC to my Vaio and thinking, "wow, it's lighter, got solid state disks, hmmm. want want want"

Friday, April 11, 2008

It works!


Genius. Although I'd never actually watch this crap on it though....
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Holy Shit

This is fucking awesome. Take that Sony and Microsoft. First Mario Kart, now this. Can life get any better?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

New TV

Well the writers strike curtailed my viewing of Heroes season 2 which has now halted with only a dozen episodes so I've been looking for something interesting to have in its place. And I think I've found it with Underbelly, an Aussie crime drama based on the 95-05 Melbourne Gangland killings. Previous to this I've always been fairly unimpressed with Australian TV, but this far and away exceeds the quality of UK and US series. It's both addictive and well played by the actors, who include Drazic from Heartbreak High!?

Soon to be coming to the UK for those without the internet.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Water

Did you know that if you live in a one bedroom flat and can't get a water meter fitted, Thames Water will cut your bill by about a third?

Ker-ching.