We Love Katamari

The Gardai have called in a specialist to help clean up the mess on O'Connell Street after the riots on Saturday.

The Prince of All Cosmos!

Video of Microsoft 'Origami' →

Wifi / Bluetooth / Email / Gaming / Remote Control ... is there anything they aren't pitching this as? Good ad though.

Fuck. →

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Originally uploaded by THRILLHO.

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.

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Update (22.05) 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?

Walk the Line

As a promotional tool to shift a boadload of Johnny Cash albums, it's fantastic.

As a way of giving casual fans a context to the songs they're listening to (even if that context is clearly exaggerated), it's pretty good.

As an entertaining movie, it's a load of my hole.

Soft-modded Xbox Media Centre!

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).

Luckily, I stumbled across a bunch of articles last week about soft-modding the Xbox. This meant I could install XBMC without a chip. So on Friday, I gave it a go.

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.

We are gathered here today to get through this thing called "life"

When I was younger, I had such a major crush on Wendy Melvoin, Prince's guitarist in The Revolution. And depending on when you catch me, Purple Rain could be my favourite album and movie of all time, but never anything less than "incredible" to me. Watching the Brit awards, on comes Prince to perform some songs. Random snippets of our conversation here. "Do you think Prince should reinvent himself? He's been playing the same music for years." "He's probably had a ton of work done." "This song is okay. I could do without the Pan Pipes though." "Hey, isn't that his guitarist from Purple Rain?" Wendy and Lisa were back! Looking a little older, sure. Minus their bad-ass huge hairstyles, sure. But my crush kicked right back in immediately. Oh boy.

Oh, and after the Purple Rain medley: "No. Prince shouldn't change his music. He should just keep playing this forever."

ps - fuck the Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabien and Hard-Fi in their stupid fucking asses.

TV recommendations - February 2006 edition

TV Shows I love

Life on Mars

I'll admit that I've never been drawn to 70s British police dramas. Then again, I don't know that I've ever actually seen a full episode of any of them. But Life on Mars is just fantastic. This and Doctor Who have renewed my faith in BBC drama.

Prison Break

When I'm about to head off to bed after a hard day's TV watching, I tend to go for one last flick through the channels. I remember crying whenever I'd stumble across CSI at midnight because it meant I was stuck for another hour without any way of wrenching myself away from the telly. Televisual crack. I was addicted.

I get the same thing with Prison Break, the TV show with the most idiotic setup I've ever seen. It makes me think of that episode of the X-Files where Mulder discovers the TV networks are putting subliminal messages between the frames of TV shows. I don't know why else I can't pull myself away from these breathtakingly stupid shows.

Lost

Actually, I don't love Lost any more. I watched the entire first season over the course of a weekend and was completely hooked but since then, I think I mostly watch it out of some hope that they'll finally start dishing out some answers. So far, they haven't. And now there's talk of dragging this into four seasons, with a feature film finale. I think it's time I cut myself free.

Anything involving people being chastised for being bad parents/children/pet-owners

Yes, they might be lowest-common-denominator TV, but these shows have saved my life on more than one occasion. However, this does not extend to anything presented by Gillian McKeith. She is the devil. A bitter, hump-backed devil

Grand Designs

This has been mentioned before, but I still can't get enough of it. I love everything about it, from the creepy Harry Potter-esque theme music to Kevin McCloud's shameless baiting of the absolute cocks he's showcasing. I wish it had its own channel.

The IT Crowd

Apparently, this isn't being as well received as I would have expected, which is a shame because I think it's one of the best-written, best-acted comedies on TV today (or at least since Black Books went shit). The fact that it's about a bunch of socially inept geeks - thus mirroring my own existence - only makes me love it more.

TV Shows I just can't get into

Battlestar Galactica

I've tried and I've tried and I've tried, but I just can't get into this show. I think this means I have to hand in my nerd badge or something.

Veronica Mars

It's nice to have a female-led teen-oriented drama show that doesn't involve someone being a superhero or a total fucking flake. But I just couldn't care less about this show.

ER

I used to love this show, but I've come to realise this was mostly down to my hetero boner for Noah Wyle. Now, not even John Leguizamo can save it.

Jarhead

As a film, Jarhead was as schizophrenic as the marine mentality it tried to convey. It swung wildly between occasional bursts of brilliant writing into lazy references to other war movies (oh yes, Apocolypse Now and the Deer Hunter, we get it). Sometime beautiful cinematography gave way to murky, uninspired, cliched imagery. Following the same template as countless movies before it, yet structurally, it was a complete mess.

But perhaps this is part of the point it's trying to make and it's done so subtlely as to be barely noticable. I'd like to think so, really I would. But the clunky, heavy-handed way in which it tried to make its other points leads me to believe that the word 'subtle' does not exist for these filmmakers.

Nintendo DS Lite →

Okay, so I should be getting ready for Paris right now, but this is pretty big. After weeks of denying it, Nintendo finally announced that they will be launching a revamped version of the DS in late March. This new version will be two-thirds the size/80% of the weight of the original and the ability to set the LCD to four different levels of brightness (including the option to set it brighter than the original DS.)

As well as this, they've redesigned the case to match the design of the revolution controller!

My poor little Nintendo DS. We've been together a long time. You've seen me through some tough times, some God-awful transatlantic flights, and I've even grown to love your beauty-spot of a dead pixel. But I don't know how much longer you have left.

One Night in Paris →

Well, five nights, to be exact.

Continuing this jet-setting lifestyle that I'm becoming so accustomed to, herself indoors and I are heading off to Paris tomorrow for a few days. This is mainly a way of making up for the fact that I was 5,000 miles away for her birthday earlier in the month, but also as a way of recharging our collective batteries (and it means I'm finally, FINALLY going to Disneyland, having been itching to go since it first opened).

If all goes according to plan, I won't be anywhere near a computer until I come back. So things will be even quieter than usual around here. And it's a shame, because I had so much to talk about. Like my favourite ascerbic journalist, Charlie Brooker, describing Adrien Brody as "a cross between Ross from Friends and a disappointed sundial." Or the new trailer for the Silent Hill movie.

But all these will have to wait. I've got french people queueing up to be rude to me.

Netsource Speed Test →

Netsource Speed Test

Originally uploaded by THRILLHO.

For a little while now, I've noticed that my netsource connection only sucks during the evening, when people are home from work, during which time it's barely better than dialup. In the very late night and early in the morning, the connection is spectacular and actually comes close to approaching the "2MB DSL" it's advertised as.

So, to put my theory to the test, I set up a cron job to wget a 1MB file from ftp.heanet.ie twice every hour. I calculated the average of the two hourly downloads and used that for my result.

And, well, the graph speaks for itself. The connection is best at 7AM, and worst at 6PM. At least this gives me some demonstratable proof of what I'm saying when I speak to Netsource about my connection.

High Concept →

Right, so where was I?

A few months ago, I wrote about Snakes On A Plane, the high-concept thriller about uh... snakes. On a plane. The IMDB has recently updated its information about Sheldon Turner, the writer of SoaP. One of his upcoming projects is called The Breathtaker and its IMDB plot summary runs like this:

A small-town police chief pursues a serial killer who strikes only during tornadoes, brutally killing his victims in the eye of the storm.

Jesus. This guy is really working hard to redefine the term "High Concept", bringing us into "Huge Concept".

Also: I've started visiting Script Sales almost daily now. It always cheers me up to read about scripts whose log-lines describe them as "A monkey spy adventure in the vein of 'The Bourne Identity.'"

...?!