Friday, April 2, 2010

Mac vs Windows - Round 1

I get people asking me all the time which is better.  My answer like the technology changes by the month.  But in the end I think Bill Gates is the devil incarnate and Steve Jobs is a dick.  With that aside my real answer is - it depends.

In my experience the best computer I have ever owned (and I have had a lot of them) is my current main machine - the Macbook White.  I use it for work, art, most of my browsing, blogging, and, yes, some gaming.  It was the best machine I have ever used for World of Warcraft, especially since the Mac install of the game had a few integrated features for recording in game footage that's not on the Windows install.  I have also successfully installed and played Steam games that are either based on Valve's Halflife engine or coded for the standard Windows machine of 2 years ago or older.  And if you were wondering, yes, there are a lot of great games that do not require an I7 PC to run.  I run my stock pile of old Windows games on Crossover - a Windows wrapper that allows me to run Windows based apps on a Mac.  It is not perfect but has kept me from going on a WoW relapse.

Now I am not really the total Mac fanboy I play up at work.  It definitely has its faults.  I would not suggest to a gamer to invest $1300 CAN in a Mac when there are better ways to spend that money for a gamer.  I, however, can suggest to people who have the $1300 and want a computer solely for productivity in media development, browsing, or coding anything non-Windows that don't want to deal with crashes and to some extent, viruses, that this is well worth the investment.

In Windows defense, the release of their new version, Windows 7, is oddly enough as successful as their XP release in the shadow of Windows Millennium.  Windows 7 is lighter than its predecessor, Vista, and the most stable Windows to date.  My 4 year old gaming windows PC was recently updated to Windows 7 which for once ran better than it did running any OS I previously installed.  Windows, however, despite its improvements still is not fool proof but overall for the stumbling new user is a lot less unforgiving than its predecessors.  If you are a total gamer or want an optimal to best gaming experience possible or are on the fence of computers for games or computers for productivity, I'd say pay Bill (erm Steve Balmer?) his dues and get a well endowed multi-core Windows 7 PC for the same price as my Macbook white.

Pump Up the Volume

Pump Up the Volume
This was a classic teen-aged angst film about finding your voice and speaking out.  Christian Slater plays Mark Hunter - a relocated introvert from the east who out of frustration in his quiet but troubled new neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona turns into pirate radio deejay, Happy Harry Hard-on, every night.  The reluctant hero gains a following of angst ridden teens at his local high school who eventually follow Harry's example in speaking out about the pain and loneliness of growing up with expectations.  His broadcasts lead a young teenager to suicide and inadvertently draw the attentions of angry misunderstanding parents, the corrupt management of his high school and eventually the FCC.  Though, I admit, not Oscar material, Pump Up the Volume will get you thinking about pontificating some hard talk over the broadband for a couple of minutes after which you'll forget about your angst over a cold brew.

Doctor Who Season 5 is coming to the world... then America...

A BBC America trailer that shows more of the new series.

A preview of an episode entitled "Vampires of Venice".

Finally the opening scene of the new series premiering tomorrow... in England...

Torrent engines don't fail me now...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Video Card is Pwned

So the clean up didn't work.  My Windows 7 gaming rig was still intermittently crapping out on 3D processing.  Yesterday I tried updating my video driver and compress-air'd all the dust bunnies and their friends out of my computer and into the neighbors laundry.  I removed a drive which died on me a few months ago and check all the boards for a burn spot.  I found (sorry for over exposed shot) a capacitor had cracked open on my video card which oddly coincides with a loud pop my GF and I heard last week while we were in the living room next to the computer.  So the card was pwned but in a way where it worked until you really made it work.  One of those problems normal people would pay 100$ plus new parts for a techie to fix.  Luckily, I'm not normal...

Last night I spent most of the evening looking for a replacement when I realize the card was an AGP slot - a standard a year or 2 ago but definitely not now.  To my horror upon searching through Futureshop, Bureau en Gros, and Microbytes, AGP was not really being sold anywhere.  I then went to the place everyone goes for old stuff - Ebay.  I luckily found 1 in a few for a quick buy for less than a hundred.  Guess we'll see in a week.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tricks with I-Frames

The I-frame is one of those obscure components that doesn't translate well across browsers.  Web developers use them but sparingly since you always dread that unforeseen combination of platform, browser, and framework where the i-frame just breaks leaving you with irate customers and the mess which originally led you to using an i-frame in the first place.

Recently I have had to use an i-frame to maintain a state of a web mp3 player so that users don't end up having to reset their preferences every time they switch pages.  I created a HTML index page to call a Zenphoto instance into its main content container.  I had a few problems - I had to recode all the URLs to the domain path to the PHP index page since on some servers the domain by default paths to the HTML index over the PHP index.  When it was pathing to the HTML index I was getting an instance of the i-frame inside another instance of an i-frame. 

My second major problem was the site had a patterned background and (of course) since the pattern of the Zenphoto page would most of the time be not aligned to the pattern on the HTML i-frame page there was viewable boundary between HTML page area and the embedded i-frame.  I first attempted to align the backgrounds by using an offset on the i-frame backdrop; however, since the alignment of the backdrop would be affected by the screen width aligning it for every user would be an impossible task.

After a bit of looking on the internet I came across a few articles which basically talked about setting the i-frame background transparent.  I believe it was an old trick used to create backgrounds that did not scroll when the site scrolled.  This solution had 2 steps.  First set the style background-color of the page content of your i-frame to "transparent" instead of a color.  Then set the background-color property of the i-frame to "transparent" as well.  After making the corrections the background of the HTML i-frame page could be seen through the "white space" of the i-frame.  No more background aligning required.

Nikopol : Secrets of the Ancients Review Delayed by PC Fail

So I was pretty excited to play the new game I picked up from Steam but realize late last night that my gaming PC required some maintenance.  I had loaded the game up and it insta-crashed when I hovered my mouse over an interface item.  I noticed the other night too it had crashed unexpectedly on another game I was reviewing.  I assumed it was Steam related but confirmed my wrongness when I got it to crash on the NVIDIA 3D check utility.  When I finally realized it was crashing on graphics intensive processes I figured maybe I had let the dust bunny population go rampant too long inside my PC.  After some quick work with a paint brush on the heat sinks I did a quick 3D test on the NVIDIA utility to confirm my suspicions.  Cull the bunnies. Do it now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Trip to the Liquor Store

Glenfiddich - 12yr Special Reserve
I'm not a scotch aficionado but you don't need to be an expert to appreciate a dram of this stuff.  You just need to enjoy having that occasional drink at the end of a long day.  It's got a nice smooth uncomplicated taste, warms you up, and numbs you a notch down from the shell shocked day you just had.  This nice package was on special at the SAQ with a readily available coupon for 2$ leaving you a modest dent in the pocket for 42$ CAN.

Nikopol: Secrets of the Ancients

I can't stop clicking the purchase button on Steam but this purchase is apparently based on some European graphic novel.  After doing some quick checks on Wikipedia and looking up some game play videos on YouTube I couldn't say no.  Fortunately, this older game costs only 19$ USD on Steam.  I'll have to write more later when I get my first hours run through some game play.  More to come on this soon...

Pure Pwnage TV Show on 3rd Episode

I watched the second and third episodes of the new Pure Pwnage television shows on Showcase Canada over the weekend.  So far the television series is actually a makeover of the original web show but somehow they've manage to make it more watchable by the masses and not totally suck bawls in the eyes of their gamer fan base.  Definitely worth a watch, despite the very gamer oriented humor.  My non-gamer girlfriend even found it funny.

Find links to the on-line cast of Pure Pwnage here.

Doctor Who (2004) Season 1 DVD

Doctor Who (2004) Season 1 DVD
The original series started in 1963 on the day of JFK's assassination.  But in 1989 with the market flooded with Star Trek spin-offs and just really bad sci-fi for the masses the BBC canceled the longest running sci-fi series in television history.  So in 2004 when Judy Gardiner of the BBC decided to bring the iconic show back to the BBC (after a failed American/BBC joint production on of all stations, FOX) they made sure the series got a fitting make over to run in leagues of modern sci-fi television.  Russel T. Davies took over the writing of the Doctor Who legend and breathed a little more humanity into our favorite time traveling alien.  The quite successful return to television was headlined by seasoned actor Christopher Eccelston and accompanied by the the feisty pop-tart, Billie Piper who toned down her notorious bad girl fame for the family rated series.  "It won't be quiet.  It won't be safe.  It won't be calm.  (It's) a trip of a lifetime."

New Order - Substance

This was alternative music back in my day.  Yes the 2 songs played in all the trendy dance meat markets.  Yes, those 2 songs were technically house or dance music. But they and the rest of the songs on this classic compilation of New Order's was a staple to the alternative music ear.  The music itself had catchy synth beats that just made you want to dance to its passably sung, intelligent, yet almost cryptic lyrics.  The newer production of this album has both the white and the lesser known blue play lists and probably can be found in every used CD shop.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" Sucked Bawls

If you watched any of the Star Wars prequels this is a well done and entertaining analysis of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace stretched over 75 minutes and well worth the education. The clip above is 1 of 7 so watch and look for the other 6 on YouTube.

I-Phone App GTA: China Town Wars

Totally worth dropping the 9$ USD at the I-Tunes app-store GTA : Chinatown Wars has the same appeal on the I-Phone as GTA 2 had on the PC.  The main story progression is still free enough for you to explore the same Liberty City from GTA 4 and create havoc on your own time.  The game is still about being a bad ass, stealing cars, and avoiding the long arm of the law.  There are various mini games and side missions which are actually fun and reward you with some worth while resources.  You are also given a few new tools to help you organize your life of crime.  The controls are easy to pick up but driving might take a few hours to master (that is if you care about bumping into the law and the consequent chases).  GTA: Chinatown Wars has definitely earned it's icon space on my I-Touch.

Latest Doctor Who Trailer - Extended

More details than last week's sneak peek.  A note for those watching who are "ER" fans - that blond in the fatigues is Alex Kingston who played Dr. Corday on the NBC hospital drama.  She's actually back on Doctor Who reprising her role as River Song, speculated to be the Doctor's future mistress or wife.

Felicia Day - Actress, Writer, Gamer, and Singer?

Felicia Day and The Guild crew released this video on the eve of their season 3 release of their webisodic series. For those who don't think she's singing and for all you Portal fans:


 Torchlight is a hack and slash single player adventure brought to you by a group of ex-Diablo developers.  Coded on the open source Ogre game engine and going for 20$ USD (and only this week for 5$ USD on Steam) this is definitely bang on for your buck and will cure any impatience for Blizzard's eventual new installment to the Diablo series - OK, maybe for a few hours.  Bonus to those waiting for the Steam on Mac release, it works almost flawlessly on the commercially available install of a Mac windows shell app called Crossover.