My DVD collection has reached the point where I can no longer keep track of what I've got, what I've loaned to other people or what I haven't yet watched. So for the past couple of weeks, I've been slowly loading my entire collection into Delicious Library. A very pretty application, with a number of really nice features (easy to mark an item as "on loan"; export to iPod, so I almost always have a copy of my collection on-hand), but still had problems for me. Most importantly:
Needs a powerful computer to run properly (which I don't have at home)
Needs a fast internet connection to run properly (which I don't have at home)
Last week, I stumbled across Listal. From the website:
Listal is a social website where you can list all the
movies, books, music and games you own and want!
Despite of the lack of a decent "import" feature (right now, you can only import from DVD Profiler), meaning I'm having to enter each one of my DVDs by hand, I'm moving my catalogue from Delicious Library into Listal. Why? Well, there's a few reasons.
I can access (and edit) my catalogue from any computer on the internet, not just my Mac
Thin-client suits my crappy internet connection
The listal server does all the heavy lifting meaning my Clearwire connection remains relatively unruffled.
RSS feeds for every context
Besides the obvious applications of any kind of RSS feeds, it also means I can export my RSS feed to something like iDropper to dump the RSS feed onto my iPod, replicating the functionality of Delicious Library. This will probably get even easier when Listal finally has a "proper" export facility.
User-specified tags, ratings and lists
This is really what sold it for me - the ability to completely tag my collection as I want to. So I can have a whole bunch of movies listed as "hangover movies," "Sunday matinees," "Cheesy horror." You get the idea.
And this is without even touching on the "social" part of the application - being able to see friends' collections, recommend new films and easily arrange loans.
I used to bitch and moan about how videogames have always been misrepresented on TV. And all it would take to make me happy was a bunch of likeable presenters to make a show entertaining even to people who don't play videogames.
Hooray then, for Consolevania. An online video TV show so entertaining that even my non-videogame-playing girlfriend will sit down and watch it.
Anyway, after seven months' break, the new episode of Consolevania was released on Sunday. And it's as funny as ever. If you like videogames, you should download it. Even if you don't like videogames, you should download it. And if you're the maker of a video podcast, you need to watch this and see how it's done properly.
Six years of working professionally as a systems administrator and last week I realised that I really don't know much about the 'theory' behind the stuff I do. I couldn't have told you what a 'sticky bit' was, but I could tell you how to implement one. Making sense? Anyway, so I've spent the weekend getting re-acquainted with low-level Unix stuff. This has mostly involved installed FreeBSD on my laptop and reading man pages for almost every command I've run. Along the way, I wanted to install mackers' o2sms and found out that FreeBSD's default perl doesn't have threading enabled. So I had to recompile perl - something I haven't had to do since 1998.
Never mind OS X which has made my daily computing life a joy, even binary Linux distributions like Ubuntu have made me very lazy. Given a choice between downloading a pre-compiled binary and running that, and having my machine download the source code and waiting 30 minutes while it whittles the software out of 1s and 0s, I'll choose the one that has me up and running as soon as possible.
I want out of computing completely. It's not like I can't do this stuff any more, I just don't want to.
The world just got 35% more amazing. Uses persistence of vision to 'draw' images on your bike wheels. Not only does it look amazing, but it's functional as well - people can't exactly say they didn't see you when you've got 60 LEDs showing Pac-man chasing a ghost on your wheels. And the guy girl who created it has put the instructions on her website so you can make it yourself!
Unfortunately, you couldn't have something like this in Dublin. From personal experience, I've learned that in this city, when people see something cool, they try and break it or take it for themselves.
(Still bitter about my bike being stolen.)
Remember the "Double Life" ad for the Playstation? A marvellous ad, full of the kind of lyrical braggadocio Sony brought to the word of videogames. In that one ad, I believe Sony did more for raising mainstream understanding of the appeal of videogames than all of Nintendo's efforts throughout the previous ten years.
But the ad never really rang true for me. The creepy-cute kid with the lisp telling us how he'd "conequered worlds" seemed like a bit of a lie. The worlds I had conquered had been superficial, cartoon worlds. Even the largest maps in Command & Conquer never really struck me as anything more than an extended game of Cannon Fodder. A loose bit of fun that, ultimately, never made me feel even the least bit heroic. Certainly not as heroic as the games that creepy-cute kid seemed to be playing.
Shadow of the Colossus is the first game that has made me feel like I could be a part of that ad. I feel like I'm finally able to say, with no small amount of pride, that I have defeated giants. Armed with nothing more than a sword, a bow, and an unlimited supply of arrows (ahem), I have beaten... no, I have slain impossible goliaths. Did you hear that? I've actually slain something.
The sense of scale in this game is unbelievable. One level in God of War had you climbing a giant temple carried on the back of Kronos, the last titan. The scale of that one level sealed it for me - God of War was presenting familiar things in a way I had never experienced them and, as such, was one of the best games I'd ever played. Shadow of the Colossus does the same thing, over and over again. Each level (16 in all) has a different colossus, with a different way of defeating them. Some are more obvious than others. Some require more skill and/or dexterity and/or luck than others. But each one has a scope beyond any other videogame I've ever played. Quite simply, it's staggering.
The Colossi themselves are strewn across a huge, empty game world. This in itself is a courageous move by the developers. Given the games relative brevity (in 3 hours, I had defeated 7 Colossi, almost half the total amount), it would have been easy to put incidental challenges in your way - the occasional enemy that will pop up out of nowhere and take 10 minutes to defeat (Hello Zelda: Wind Waker!) - thus artificially lengthening the game. Instead, they kept it barren, which only adds to the epic nature of the game.
(Incidentally, I've also noticed that the developers have thrown in cool little spot-details, like an ancient campfire near where you battle a colossus. Not entirely necessary, but adds the overall atmosphere of the game.)
After Shadow of the Colossus, I still don't feel like I've conquered worlds. But I've conquered giants. And that's close enough.
I'm convinced there's a good war-themed horror out there somewhere. What started out as a general disappointment with Michael Mann's The Keep has taken me through The Bunker (awful) and Deathwatch (starts out promising, quickly turns awful). From reading IMDB's message boards, I thought Kong Su-Chang's R-Point would answer my prayers.
It tells the story of a squad of Korean soldiers in the Vietnam war sent to investigate radio transmissions coming from a group of soldiers thought to have been killed six months previously. Which is the same setup as Deathwatch. And that's the problem. Using the plot of Deathwatch as a foundation, R-Point tries to blend a mixture of Platoon, Apocalypse Now, The Blair Witch Project and The Shining, even going so far as to visually name-check some of these films. And among all these heavyweights, the few original things the filmmakers bring seem quite tame and undercooked.
On paper, it's a recipe for magic: war-themed horror mixed with the nerve-shattering tension that Asian filmmakers seem able to tap into so well. In reality, R-Point is a disappointing anti-climax. Oh well, i still have high hopes for Worst Case Scenario
For me, Good Night, and Good Luck fell squarely into the same genre as Downfall: an important movie, but not necessarily a good movie. It ticks a lot of boxes and zipped along at a fair pace but never really engaged me any better than a documentary on the same subject could have. In fact, the chapter about the Murrow/McCarthy feud in John S. Friedman's The Secret Histories did a better job of providing a context for the broadcasts than Clooney's film and remains, for me, more entertaining.
Although perhaps that's because I wasn't being forced to chew down some paper-thin character development for paper-thin characters. I don't know.
I spent 24 hours eating pizza, playing videogames and watching really, really bad movies. Around 2pm, I decideded to take a trip outside the house. Get some air (and some more really, really bad movies). At about 3, I got a text from my girlfriend to tell me about rioting and looting on O'Connell Street. So I took a look for myself.
Dublin is fucked.
First song the in-house band plays on Tubridy Tonight? "I Predict a Riot." Surely I'm not alone in thinking that's in poor taste?
Remember a few days ago, I wrote about the TV shows I love? Well. apart from Grand Designs and the Channel 4-led shame-fest of Supernanny, Brat Camp and It's Me or the Dog, I don't tend to watch much TV on er... TV. The ease of availability of just about any show I want to watch (thank you Uknova and Mininova) means that I find it easier to just download the shows I want to watch. If I wanted to be fancy, I could call this "time-shifting" or something, but let's just call a spade a spade and say "laziness."
This generally means watching them on my computer in work (during lunch, honestly!). I'm not particularly delighted with this. A dodgy CRT with a crappy set of speakers can't really compete with my setup at home. And it also adds another layer of hassle with shows that my girlfriend also wants to watch, like Lost. In these cases, I've got a DVD player that will play DivXs, but is extremely fussy about what kinds of DivXs it wants to play. So I end up
Downloading the file
Using FfmpegX to convert the file (even on my dual G5, this takes 20 minutes)
Burn it to a CD
Bring it homeAnd this doesn't take into account the loss of sync between the audio and visuals that FfmpegX tends to helpfully drop into its newly-converted files. Nor the amount of hassle involved in doing this for multiple episodes. It also means that once I've watched the episode, I'm left with a lovely new CD coaster taking up space on our already-overflowing shelves (visual evidence of overflowing shelves).
What I needed was a media centre. Something that would let me download episodes, bring them home on my iPod and watch them on my TV. Originally, I had planned to use a G4 Powermac with Front Row at home for the media centre but lack of a graphics card with decent TV-out put an end to this idea. I thought about buying myself a mod chip for my Xbox and installing Xbox Media Center (XBMC), but even this struck me as too much work (and in the couple of weeks it would take for my mod chip to arrive, I would probably be bored of this idea already).
I used a hacked save game for Splinter Cell which, when launched from within the game, ran a program from within Linux that did all of the hard work for me. Once I installed the softmod, installing XBMC was simple. Now, I can stream movies (I tried it against .avi, .mov, .wmv - all worked) off that same G4 Powermac and still play Xbox games - even play on-line with Live! And the cherry on top of all this is that these movies look absolutely beautiful on the TV. Way, way better than my converted DivXs ever did.
The total cost to me for doing all this was the princely sum of... nattin. I had all the tools lying around (Xbox, memory card, usb/memory card convertor, media server) and it only took a few minutes to complete. Next up: putting a new hard drive in the Xbox. Let's see if that's as easy.