Month: March 2009 (page 1 of 3)

F1 Is Back

So the first race of the new F1 season is over. What a race. What a start. The Brawn GP team have come out of nowhere in pre-season testing and carried that pace through to today’s race. Roll back two months and it looked like they wouldn’t even be racing. It was great to see Button take the win, amazing that Barichello barged his way to a second place and even more unbelievable that Hamilton the snail came in third.

It will take a few races to know if the rule changes introduced for 2009 have made a difference but looking at today’s race alone there seemed to be more overtaking and action throughout the whole race. I actually enjoyed the entire race which is fairly unusual. Partly that was down to lesser teams emerging as the new contenders and seeing Ferrari and especially McLaren struggling to cope. Another reason was the overtaking and the failures/incidents right to the end of the race. Maybe it was just that F1 was back on the BBC.

I got up in time to catch the new titles this morning. The Chain is back. I liked the intro and it set the scene nicely. I’m also liking the increased coverage on the BBC and the new presenting team. Even Eddie Jordan started to grow on me once he had crawled out of Richard Branson’s arse. Speaking of Branson, it really started to annoy just how much he was spinning the Brawn win and how they’ve put in money. Yesterday. Yes, big impact they’ve made. Anyway, back to the BBC. For me they kept the good parts of ITV coverage, lost the adverts, added an after race forum which was actually good to watch and also replaced James Allen.

Yep, I’m glad good old James has moved on. I just didn’t like him as a commentator. However, as a journalist and more recently a blogger I’ve become a fan. His blog is regularly updated with insightful commentary on F1 and what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s excellent and a great companion to the TV coverage. Just a shame the TV coverage hasn’t moved on to HD…yet.

So, next stop Malaysia. More Brawn dominance? I’d expect so although I can’t see Hamilton being as lucky. Red Bull, Ferrari, Toyota and maybe BMW all look stronger and all through car failure, rule issues or driver mistakes cleared the way for Hamilton. Assuming the Brawn car is found to be legal and the keep reliable it will be really interesting to se how long the others will take to catch up. This has all the hallmarks of a great F1 season. I can’t wait.

Happiness

Riceboy Sleeps – Happiness

I love this track. From the album Dark Was The Night which I highly recommend.

Podcasts A Plenty

I listen to quite a few podcast’s. Some I love while others are still in try out stage. After Chris had posted his round up of casts he listens too it would be rude of me not to do the same. It also clears out another post that’s been sitting in draft for a couple of weeks. Links are to the iTunes store by the way.

  • Analysis – From BBC Radio 4 a half hour episode 26 times a year. Breakdowns a different topic every week and I always find it pretty insightful.
  • Answer Me This – Thanks to Chris for recommending this. Fantastic show – very funny, very rude but a real highlight of the week when a new episode pop’s up in iTunes. If you try one podcast out of this list make it this one!
  • Best Ads on TV – Weekly show which highlights best six ad’s from around the globe. A bit hit and miss but handy diversion when waiting for flights.
  • Best of Chris Moyles – Weekly half hour show with the funny bits from his Radio 1 show. His new TV show sucks and I don’t find him that funny but the half hour with him, the team at Radio 1 and guests can be really good.
  • Best of Today – Daily news analysis from BBC Radio 4.
  • Best of Youtube – Video podcast that does a great job of highlighting Youtube videos. Updates frequently but not enough to be annoying.
  • Channelflip Tech – Video tech reviews which are short, concise and not too fluffy. Prefer this to Stuff.
  • CNET UK Podcast – Weekly tech podcast but UK based so can be more relevant than many f the US based casts.
  • CO-OP – One of the few videogame podcasts I could stomach was The 1UP Show. This came to an abrupt end this year but some of the brains behind that show have started CO-OP. New, some of the ‘comedy’ is not but I like the depth in which they discuss each game.
  • Cranky Geeks – Weekly American tech discussion cast. Slightly more cynical view of the tech world which I find more relevant than many other casts.
  • David Mitchell’s Soapbox – Weekly podcast where David Mitchell spouts off on a pet hate. Been pretty good so far – not sure how many of these he will do though.
  • Fighting Talk – Weekly sports comedy show from BBC Radio 5 Live. Colin Murray plus four other guests. Always guaranteed a laugh with this and it’s a real favourite of mine.
  • Friday Night Comedy – More from BBC Radio 4, a weekly show that is either The Now Show or The News Quiz. Both are excellent shows so you can’t really lose.
  • iFanboy – This is all about comics/graphics novels. American based but the presenters are very knowledgeable and it’s a great 30 min show.
  • Mac Roundtable Podcast – Fornightly cast all about Macs. Cover news and have the usual software pics. Tend to ramble less than Macbreak Weekly.
  • The Mac Show – UK video Mac show. Only done 16 episodes and posting very infrequently but they were a bit more edgy than other tech shows and all the better for it.
  • Macbites – UK Mac news and reviews. Less ‘tech journalist feel’ and very enjoyable but no new content for six months now. There seems to be something about 16 episodes as they hit this mark too then disappeared.
  • Macbreak Weekly – With Leo Laporte and friends. American based and I really used to enjoy this show but with Merlin Mann leaving or at least not taking part it just isn’t the same. Occasional gems on it but can feel like four old guys talking about why there’s no Mac news, what their Twitter names are and how much money they’ve just spent on loads of Mac gear.
  • Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews – More Radio 5 gold. Weekly film reviews but with humour.
  • Out Of The Game – New videogames podcast. First episode was good but pretty long at just under two hours. One to watch although I’d like something a bit shorter.
  • Robert Llewellyn’s Carpool – Now this is different. Robert drives his guest to work, home, shopping etc but films the drive, interviewing them on the way. Really enjoying the series so far – he’s had some great guests and the banter can be very good.
  • ScreenCastsOnline – These are excellent quality screencasts for Mac users that provide in depth reviews and tips for the latest Mac software. However, a six month subscription costs $57 which I can’t justify based on the free shows I’ve watched. However for new users, you get 6 months plus access to the previous 190 odd shows which is a great resource for a switcher.
  • Stephen Fry’s PODGRAMS – Great podcasts from Stephen Fry and one of the few that make use of chapters in podcasts. I wish more would as it makes a big difference. Just wish he did more podcasts.
  • The Talk Show – Mostly Mac talk from John Gruber and Dan Benjamin. I love the show as it’s straight into the pair of them talking – no intro’s, no faffing around. There also two of the more insightful tech pundits around just now. Frequency is an issue – they’ve not done too much lately.
  • Tech Weekly – Tech podcast from the fine folk at the Guardian. Can be a bit light sometimes but I like the length and variety of guests.
  • TEDTalks – TED conference is a yearly conference focussing on Technology, Entertainment, Design. Each week there are 4-5 video’s posted from TED over the last few years. The variety is amazing and there have been some very thought provoking video’s. Another favourite that I’d recommend. If you’ve an iPhone the TED application is well worth downloading too as it let’s you browse and view video’s from your iPhone instead of relying on the podcast release schedule.
  • This Week in Tech – A tech podcast, again American based and one that was enjoyed but is increasingly focussed on Twitter (and the hosts ability to gain members) and tech celebrities rather than actual tech news and discussion. Every so often there is a great episode but this is becoming increasingly rare.

That’s quite a number but I’m always chopping and changing what I listen to. Can’t really find a Mac one that I really like at the moment which is a shame. If anyone has a recommendation then let me know please.

OnLive – A new Era?

GDC is currently in full flow and the biggest story for me has been OnLive. The press conference from GDC is very impressive. New titles available over the internet instantly. No downloading, no patching, any platform. Run on an inexpensive micro-console connected to a TV via HDMI or in a browser using a plugin on low specification Mac’s or PC’s. How?

The game isn’t played locally. You connect to a server and the game is played there. What your seeing on your TV or computer screen is streamed video. The concept just sounds so….wrong. Technically it sounds like an impossible proposition. Lag, key to an enjoyable online game, would surely kill the service.

Watching the launch presentation and the lag issue is addressed. Typical video lag is quoted as 500ms. OnLive have developed a system where video lag is 1ms. The service is demo’d and certainly looks quick enough with no lag. There looks to be a little lag during the Crysis demo though. However, remember this is Crysis running on a low end Dell. Admittedly it’s not running at a high resolution or frame rate but none the less it looks extremely playable. The other demo host then joins in a multiplayer game via the micro console. Again a very seamless experience is demonstrated and it certainly all looks impressive. The servers are located 50 miles form where the demo takes place. Not that far away. During the Q&A the developers quoted 1000 miles as being the current maximum distance for the service to remain playable.

One other key difference is how visual the service looks. A great 3d interface. Video streams showing games that your friends are currently playing, something that I’ve wanted for years looks to be finally available. Demo’s that don’t take an hour to download – they start almost immediately. The end to patching. The end of piracy! The end of cheating via patches and add-ons!! Games that you no longer need to buy – renting a game is finally an easy option with no need to download

At this point, taken on face value, this is a game changer. Zero hardware costs to play the latest games on consoles. No more upgrading to the latest 3d hardware on PC’s and Mac’s. I still smell bullshit though. A company can develop this and be in stealth for seven years. Really?

I still have issues with lag and also bandwidth requirements. I really can’t see lag not being a show stopper with this service. The requirements for OnLive are also going to blow many people’s bandwidth cap’s. Playing online with a console or computer at the moment needs just a 1/2Mbps connection. For SD, OnLive requires a 1.5Mbps connection and for HD it needs 5.0Mbps. SD was described as Wii equivalent and HD as 720p, 60fps. A consistent 5Mbps connection would quickly use up VirginMedia’s download limits and hence throttle the connection to make OnLive unplayable and that just an example for one broadband provider. Faster connections are coming but many come with very restrictive download limits with OnLive would need to address.

I also think there will be cost issues. Low cost entry was emphasised but a monthly subscription before games are bought/rented is not everyone’s cup of tea.

The hardware needed to run this must also be massive. They talked about custom chips and virtualisation but to run that many game instances, to decode video that quickly and serve out that much data so quickly. Just doesn’t seem possible as it’s such a leap over what anyone else is doing right now. Surely the video will be compressed and show artefacts. Look at the many HD video that can be downloaded or streamed now as an example. Definitely low par compared to current gaming expectations. What about surround sound which is now standard on console games. Surely a 5Mbps stream couldn’t provide a 720p stream with surround sound audio as well?

It must be bull.

But then look at the companies signed up to the service – EA, THQ, Ubisoft, Take2, Warner Bros, Epic, Eidos, Atari, Codemasters, 2D Boy, Crytek. The games shown weren’t old 2d games either. Crysis, Hawx, GRID, Burnout and many current FPS’s. Then remember the demo’s looked really good.

We won’t have long to find out. A beta launches in America in summer 09 with a launch in winter 09. Disappointing but understandable that it’s America only at the moment. I really want this to work. It could change the games market radically. Based on current knowledge though I can’t see it working. Time will tell and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Tidying Up

I was supposed to be away this weekend but a migraine on Friday soon put paid to that. Instead I spent the weekend tidying up Mac drives, moving data away from MobileMe and getting Dropbox properly set-up. All working well now. Been using Dropbox off and on for the last few months before committing and one thing I like over MobileMe is that the content is held locally on each drive and syncing seems to be quicker and more resilient than with MobileMe. There’s also a change log on who edited a file and when and it’s easy to share folders with other Dropbox users – very handy.

The blog also got a clean-up this weekend. Gone is the sidebar to leave just the post filling the page. Expect to be linking to HD video over time and the wider format will help. This also leaves a cleaner front page. The sidebar which used to list a lifestream has been moved to it’s own page – the Stream. Also finished off updating the About page and added some links at the top of the page. Nothing ground breaking but more to my liking. I did try messing around with some colour but I’ll keep that for another site.

Yes, there will soon be another site but that’s for another day.

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