Domestic Instiki

Since we've got broadband again, I'm finally getting to play with all the nifty things I'd had ideas about, but no way of executing. The first of these is a local Instiki server at home.

I use this all the time in work for note keeping and simple project management. At home, I'm finding a hundred different ways to use it.

Like keeping track of recipes.

I like to try out a whole bunch of different recipes. Nothing too fancy - I don't make my own chicken stock or anything like that - but I do try to go beyond the simple food strategy of meat-and-a-tin-of-sauce. This doesn't always go to plan. The most recent food-related disaster was my attempt at making a chicken maryland, which turned out squishy and odd-tasting. Live and learn.

Using instiki, I threw together a 'web' called "FoodWeLike", where I'm keeping track of the ingredients of the recipes that work for us, as well as simple cooking instructions. This is mainly useful because we have a central repository of ingredients and recipes (instead of trying to remember which cookery book had what), but any web server (or file server) could do this. Instikis is particularly useful because as well as a way to easily edit these, it gives us the ability to easily categorise the recipes any way we like - for example, "We really like", "We occasionally like", and "We don't like". We're also able to organise these into weekly meal plans. And, most usefully, plan our weekly shopping run using a page called "ShoppingList" where we can just paste the ingredients from other pages, or update as we run out of something.

And this is just one a hundred ways Instiki is useful in a domestic environment. Well, our domestic environment.

(By the way, I know this could probably be achieved using any wiki software, but I'm specifically choosing Instiki because of its simplicity of installation and also because, right now, I have a major boner for apps built with Ruby on Rails)

Star Wars →

While I was in UGC, getting tickets for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I figured - what the hell...

Bleedin' Spyware

I'm putting it down to a momentary lapse in concentration.

Esat told us our line went 'live' on Friday, so I spent a while trying to remember what my username and password was. I must have spent a good half hour trying various combinations (It turns out the username goes in the form of $username@iolbb, not @iolbb.ie as the salesman told me).

So when I finally did get the right combination, I was so thrilled at having broadband at home again that I left the laptop for a few minutes to go bop around the room. I must have bopped for less than 10 minutes before I realised I'd left a Windows machine connected directly to the internet.

Too late.

And so, my first few hours of broadband are being spent de-fucking my laptop. It must have five different types of spyware on there, and no one tool is catching it all. Although, loathe as I am to admit it, Microsoft's Antispyware has, so far, been the best, having already caught four things. There are still a couple of other things left on there, if I'm reading windump and 'netstat -ao' right.

I hate the internet.

Land of the Dead →

Being a huge fan of Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead (not so keen on the original Night of the Living Dead, but I love the remake. Go figure), I have to thank 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake for bringing zombie films back into vogue. It's questionable that without those films to lay the groundwork, George Romero's long-awaited Land of the Dead would have been made.

The official site of Land of the Dead went live last night, including the first trailer for the movie. First impressions suggest that it's heavily influenced by the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Very kinetic, and very nu-metal. It still looks fantastic though.

Roll on June 24th.

First steps in Blender →

I've been playing with Blender on and off for a couple of years now, and have only recently become confident enough to use it for showing things to other people. I've found it's an amazingly useful tool to have around, if only for the amount of design work I get asked to do. Recently, I used it to create a pretty swish rocket ship logo, which was eventually scrapped because it was too similar to something a competitor used. (As a side-note, I often wonder if our competitor's rocket was also created as a result of an over-indulgence in Tintin. I guess we'll never know).

Here's the first things I've posted over on Blender's community website elysiun. It's part of a series I've been working on, rendering NES characters in 3D pixels (click for the hi-res version)

Tomb Raider: Legend

Eidos recently unveiled the 'new look' Lara Croft, which was greeted with a mixed response in the gaming community. Some cried "WHERE ARE HER BIG TITS GONE?!!" while others said "Okay, we like where you're going with this. You've got our attention." I think I was somewhere in the latter camp.

My interest in the Tomb Raider Franchise dropped off around the time they made the move to the Playstation 2. The games had lost their way, moving from a 'Tomb Raider' to 'Generic Action Girl'. "Run around the streets of Paris!" the press-release for Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness cried, "Chase across roofs!", "Use stealth!". Well, yes. That's all well and good, but there are a hundred games out there, doing the running-shooting action and stealth thing a whole lot better than a game that was famously rushed by the publisher.

I first played Tomb Raider on the Saturn. One of the few advantages to owning a European Saturn (since we missed out on all the hundreds of fantastic 2D shoot-em-ups released in Japan) was the release of Tomb Raider a full six months before the Playstation version. And it was breathtaking. Even without a lot of the graphical lushness of other platforms, it was still jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Vast levels gave a fantastic feeling of space. The action was spot-on (even if the story wasn't), and the music was unlike anything else in video games at the time.

The recent iterations have been either a diluted mix of the things that made the first game so magical or an unmitigated disaster stemming from the developers try to 're-invent' the 'brand'. Ultimately, the original developers' complete failure to do anything spectacular with the franchise led to the publisher (Eidos) yanking the game from them and giving the task of developing Tomb Raider 7 to Crystal Dynamics - previously known for Project Snowblind and uh.. uh.. The videogame of 102 Dalmations?

Thankfully Crystal Dynamics seem to understand what went wrong with recent Tomb Raider games and are bringing the franchise 'back to its roots' in Tomb Raider Legend by taking the focus off Lara and putting it back on the gameplay. So, Lara's tits are smaller and the levels (looking suitable Tomb-y) are apparently huge and magnificent, and very reminiscent of the early games. And even more reassuringly, they have brought back the music from the original game (if the background music on tombraider.com is anything to go by).

She won't be making the cover of The Face again (because the magazine is gone, but that's beside the point), but there's definitely still life in the old girl yet.

Gamestop to buy Electronics Boutique

According to Yahoo!, GameStop are buying Electronics Boutique, for "only" $1.44 billion (compared to Adobe's purchase of Macromedia for $3 billion, this doesn't seem like a lot).

I can't say I'm thrilled at this. The level of competition in Dublin's retail video game market is already virtually nil. GameStop's arrival last year through the purchaseof Gamezone killed one of the few independent retailers left in the country. Now, since Electronics Boutique own Game, and now GameStop owns Electronics Boutique, it means that GameStop has control of 95% of retail video game outlets in Dublin.

The few places left to buy games (with some value - meaning Dixons and Argos are out) are:

  • Smyths
  • Xtravision
  • GameXchange on Talbot Street (mainly second hand stuff - snes/megadrive)
  • ??

I generally don't like buying games over the internet. I'd like to say it's because of the hassle of sorting out returns if the game is damaged in any way, but the truth is that it's just because I'm an impatient little shit who can't wait a week for delivery when he could pay just a couple of euro more to get it today.

But with GameStop's mark-up fast reaching epic proportions, it's looking like there'll be no choice soon.

UPDATE

After a bit of hunting around, I found this on Yahoo:

"On January 30, 2004, [Electronics Boutique] terminated our services agreement with Game Group initially established in fiscal 1996"

So it looks like there is still a little bit of competition left after all.