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Archive for April, 2006

PSP Games – Worms Warfare and Lumines

I was pondering about games and I’ve decided that I’ll try to get ones that lend themselves to playing in short bursts. I’ve been engrossed with Ridge Racer and have played a bit more of Wipeout Pure, but my hands can’t take much punishment from having to hold the PSP in such a way that I need to use the shoulder buttons constantly.

So to that end I got Worms Warfare and Lumines. I love the previous Worms games and unlike the recent Worms games its not in 3D, but in (pseudo) 2D. By that I mean it is flat sideways scrolling but the background and various other objects are in animated in 3D. I noticed a slight bit of slow down when playing, which I think is down to those detailed backgrounds. 

The idea is pretty simple, you have a team of worms and you take it in turns to blow the crap out of each other. Last one standing wins. The controls are just like the classic Worms games with a cut down selection of weapons, which is good since it had gotten a bit daft in newer games.

What’s really neat though is that the randomly generated landscape options are back. I remember when I was at school we’d pop round to a mates house in between lessons and play a few rounds of the original Worms. We’d be sat there munching on our pack lunches playing it… funny but not much has changed in 10 years. I was sat at my desk at work yesterday eating my buttys and playing it in my lunch hour!

On the downside there aren’t a great deal of modes or options in the single player game. There’s quick game and a series of challenges on predefined levels and thats about it. But for me, the quick game was always the most fun.

Lumines is like Tetris on steroids. I haven’t had chance to play it much since Kate has commandeered it off me. Being a former Tetris addict on the Gameboy she is well and truly hooked, I can see me not playing this much. The idea is pretty simple, you have to match up coloured blocks as the game gets faster. Jay has got this so it’ll be interesting to see what the multiplayer game is like.

Film Review – Serenity

I forgot to mention a few weeks back we rented out Serenity. I’d watched the first 10 minutes of it on some promotional website ages ago and thought that it was worth a look. Funny how first impressions can be wrong.

Its based on a TV Series called Firefly created by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel). So it was has quirky sense of humour like Joss’s previous work but I felt like I was missing something because I’d not watched the TV Series. It was interesting in its own way, but I thought it had a pretty obvious plot and unlike the vomit inducing fanboy review on IMDB, it certainly did not take me on a ride that there’s no turning back from.

The majority of the crew grated with their cheesiness and the only character I gelled with was The Operative played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Mainly because he was pretty damn evil and had a neat way of killing his opponents.

River acting dumb most of the time was annoying because you just knew at some point she’d turn back into ninja and kick the crap out of everyone. The early scenes of the escape from the research facility and in the bar showed what she was capable of. The film was basically a cat and mouse chase with an oh so obvious ending (they all live happily ever after).

I was sorely disappointed and felt that it was over hyped and under delivered.

PSP Video 9

I managed to convert some MPEG files from my digital camera to PSP friendly MP4 format using a free app called PSP Video 9. Its a little clunky looking, but it does the job. On first run it’ll try to detect if your PSP is currently connected and if it is, it will try to create the folders needed on your memory stick.

I’d already created n:\MP_ROOT\100MNV01 but it was able to pick up on it (very odd name for a folder, I would have expected n:\PSP\MOVIE to match the MUSIC and PHOTO folders).

PSPVideo9-1 

Using the One-Click Transcode button on the Convert screen (shown above) I picked a bunch of files to err… convert. They’re weren’t particularly big, a minute max in length, so they didn’t take long to do. It even created the thumbnail files (.THM) for previewing. 

PSPVideo9-2

Once done they appear on the Copy screen (shown above). You then select the converted files on the left hand side and click the Copy Video to PSP button, situated bottom left, and off it goes. Thats all there is to it. Can’t really get any easier! Neat little program.

Apparently version 2.60 firmware has support for MPG and WMV files but I can’t seem to find any documentation on how to get it to read them.

Welcome to Pissy Werld…

Ah dear, good old Weebl and Bob. The Shitty Computer Superstore? I couldn’t possibly say.

Viewing PDF Files on the PSP

So I’ve had my PSP a couple of days now and I’ve been fiddling around with various bits and bats. One thing I really wanted to do was to read PDF files. I found various readers but they require various things to be installed and compiled, which I’m not interested in doing.

But I found a pretty easy workaround to do what I wanted. Using a copy of Adobe Acrobat Professional installed on a machine at work I was able to take a PDF and do as Save As to JPEG. It took a while to convert a 180+ page file but once done I created a folder on my memory stick of n:\PSP\PHOTO (n being the drive letter of your PSP / memory stick) and copied the files into that. Note that the folders have to be in upper case.

I actually created a further subfolder in mixed case containing my book. When copied I used the built in photo viewer. Its not prefect, since I need to zoom in to read them and when changing files it resets the zoom level I was at. Hopefully in a future version of the firmware they’ll sort that. But it does work.

Copying music across is similar, you need a folder of n:\PSP\MUSIC (again in upper case) to which you can then copy pretty much whatever you like over. The player picks them up straight away.

Spam comments

Arrrghh, I’ve had almost as many spam comments as real comments :(. What does spamming some poor blog out in the middle of nowhere achieve? Bastids.

Things that bug me – #94382

Its a long list… heh. High up on there is the assumption that companies seem to think someone will always be at home during the week. A prime example are meter readers (e.g. for gas or electric). The gas / electric company outsource the checking of their meters to various 3rd parties and they seem to come doing office hours. Obviously I’m not in, so they leave a helpful note saying We’ll be back at the same time tomorrow. Hmmmmmm… I wasn’t in today, what makes you think I’ll be in tomorrow?! The half sensible ones ask for you to write the reading down and stick it in a window, but stuff like that knarks me. Why not come in the evening?

After much persuading I bought one

A PSP that is… and I didn’t take much persuading. I got the Giga pack which due to some funky special offer at Game came with a free game. I picked Wipeout Pure and a pre-owned copy of Ridge Racer. On a side note, the staff at Game were actually very helpful. They showed an interest in helping instead of just trying to fleece me. I was given a few tips on how to use it and how to update it etc, all very useful.

My initial thoughts, the screen is amazing. For such a small piece of tech its incredibly crisp and bright. I watched the music videos and Spiderman 2 trailer on the demo disc and was seriously impressed. The menu system is very slick and getting it to connect to my new wifi set up was easy. I noticed that it uses wireless B so the range isn’t as good as G, but with my new router, I had no trouble connecting. One problem I did have was that with prolonged use I found it uncomfortable, which I suppose is a good incentive to take a break.

Once the battery had charged up I was able to upgrade to 2.60 firmware and starting fiddling with net access. The web browser is relatively easy to use. The BBC site is excellent for browsing with its low graphics / text option. Gmail was also usable (in HTML mode) but really only for reading, I don’t think I’ll be sending emails! On a couple of sites I got out of memory errors (mostly on eBay) which was annoying. A quick search showed it to be browser tab related (i.e. too many open). I’ll have to read up on how to switch between them and close them. I didn’t even know it had tabs! (If the PSP can manage them, why can’t IE?)

Both games took me back 10 years, and I mean that in a good way. They’re remixes essentially of the best bits from previous games. I had a blast playing Ridge Racer, actually more than with Wipeout. I think thats down to airbrakes in Wipeout. I’ve not quite got the grasp of them yet, where as Ridge Racer is just point and squirt (if you’re on Auto gears). I’m seriously addicted!

The next step is to see if I can get various eBooks and PDF’s converted so I can view them. I’ve copied various photos and mp3s over and they’re very easy to get at. Movies seem a bit of pain since you need to convert them tp MPEG4. Its kind of odd actually since the files I was trying were saved on a Sony camera… you’d have thought it would be able to read files from other Sony devices?

Anyhoo, all in all, I’m well chuffed with it!

Finally, I have a proper wireless network

Yep, I finally replaced my aging P3-450 with its ADSL modem and a Linksys WRT54G wireless hub with one tidy box from NetGear, a DG834G. Within a couple of minutes of unpacking it I had it connected to the net and after 15-20 minutes of tweaking I had it secured down.

YeOldeNetSetup transformed into DG834G

All I had to do was connect a couple of cables and on start up I logged in via IE where it asked if it wanted to autodetect my connection type. I thought Yeah right, that’ll work. But it did (PPPoA apparently). It then asked for my user name and password and it was away. The interface was pretty obvious I was able to change the SSID and encryption method and then went about adding in the various MAC addresses of my machines just to really tighten things up.

The signal strength is damn sight better than the WRT54G with my main machine (up a floor and across the other side of the house from it) getting a couple bars more signal. However the nicest thing about is how it looks. The V2 model has an Apple sort of style to it with its slim curved proportions and white casing. Its currently perched on top of a surround sound speaker until we find it a better home. The only thing I can say against it is that the version 3 firmware seems a little flaky. The box came with version 1 and I upgraded for ADSL2 support, but I’m tempted to downgrade again.

The reason I got the Netgear was because I was annoyed with the constant humming of the PC used to run the old setup thats been tucked away at the side of our sofa for the last couple of years. The PC was always on and connected to the net via a USB ADSL modem and the WRT54G was hooked up to it to allow it to act as a gateway. At the time I bought the WRT54G you couldn’t get wireless boxes that were also ADSL modems. You could get them with cable modems (which the WRT54G is incidentally), but thats a different beast from ADSL. I needed to set up a wireless network due to moving stuff round and that was the only way I could see to do it.

I was tempted to get one of the new Netgear MIMO boxes (DG834PN), but one of the main reasons I picked the DG834G was due to VPN access. Not its VPN access as such, but its VPN passthrough capability. Others at work had tried offerings from Belkin and Linksys but the VPN client we use (from Sonicwall) refused to work with them. With this NetGear box though, it just works and since I work from home on occasion, it is important. The MIMO box may work, but I don’t really need anything that fancy.

You’ll have to excuse me…

…but I was at work this morning and I bought a PSP in the afternoon so I haven’t had time for blog shenanigans. Normal service may resume tomorrow :)

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