Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forNovember, 2008 | back to home

30 November 2008
Filed under:Computer Games,Software reviews at1:55 pm

I am familiar with having to wait until near Xmas to get new PC games but this year whether it’s because PC gaming (in my favourite genres) is in terminal decline, because the financial crisis is crushing game companies or just terminal incompetence by game makers, I’ve got practically nothing new to play before the new year.

I grow weary of playing Supreme Commander – good as it is – since it seems there’s little that can be done to beat low tech rushes but the modest expansion planned for it has been cancelled and while a version 2 has been announced there is no info about when it will ship. I really enjoyed Company of Heroes, but there’s only a very minor expansion for it coming – still no sign of an Eastern Front version. I was willing to give Battlefield Heroes a try – particularly as it will be free to play – but it’s been delayed until next year too.

The only minor gaming treat coming my way is a small (but badly needed) expansion for Sins of a Solar Empire – Entrenchment. It won’t ship until 2009 either but at least pre-orderers can join the beta when it’s available.

29 November 2008
Filed under:Gadgets,Personal at3:37 pm

We looked high and low for an MP3 player suitable for a two year old and were only finding ones costing around £30 and over-complicated. Then we found the Sansa Shaker:

Not only is it cutely designed (you can shake it to switch tracks, “shuffle”-like) and simple to use – it has a built in speaker as well as two headphone jacks, runs on an ordinary AAA battery and comes with 512Mb of upgradeable memory (though with only the ability to go back and forth one song at a time that storage is enough for anyone). Best of all, we found it for £10 including postage at 7dayshop – an online store we had not hitherto run across – while other shops were charging £25 and up . It just arrived and appears to be as advertised. Unfortunately for other would-be buyers, 7dayshop no longer lists it for sale. Perhaps their stock’s been bought up by other merchants?

Compare and contrast with the MP3 player I bought five years ago – it had 1/4 the capacity and cost 12x the price!

28 November 2008

Just one good reason to learn to love the European Union:

BBC NEWS | Technology | Europe backs mobile roaming cap.

The rules put a retail price cap of 11 euro cents (9p) on texts sent while roaming – a substantial cut on the European average of 29 euro cents (24p). The ministers backed a cap of 1 euro per megabyte (83p) on the price of downloading data – though this applies only to the charges operators levy on each other.

24 November 2008

I’m busy downloading the demo of Red Alert 3 to celebrate making progress on my thesis and I thought I would try out BBC iPlayer’s streaming video option to watch Survivors at “high definition”. To my surprise the BBC video is quite close to download quality even while I’m downloading the demo at 400Kbps! I was dismissive of the likelihood that people would bother watching BBC TV live on iPlayer but at this quality it would be quite bearable.

And I’m old enough to remember waiting for plain text web pages to load in Mosaic…

PS I am enjoying Survivors so far even though it is hardly sophisticated entertainment…

Filed under:Interesting facts at9:47 pm

Is Urban Loneliness a Myth?

This New York Magazine article takes a long time to say a little but it’s an entertaining read and features one of my favorite Internet researchers Keith Hampton, so it’s worth a look. Basically, it’s better not to live with someone than to live with someone you don’t love – friends can substitute for family in keeping you happy and healthy, big city life is more sociable than small town life because there are other people like you to hang out with and the Internet is very handy for similar reasons. Hurray for weak ties!

23 November 2008

Evernote doesn’t work nearly as well offline as I had hoped – am sticking with it for the moment out of sheer cussedness but it’s less convenient than my old solution. The iPod Touch update that adds podcast downloading wirelessly which I was also looking forward to doesn’t let you automatically add new podcasts you are subscribed to – it only lets you subscribe to new ones or add podcasts manually (and then only if you already have at least one file downloaded for that podcast). The Touch doesn’t have a built in password protection option for files – how dumb is that? (I’m trying out SplashID Lite as a data store for starters). And the new S2 Skypephone which I am thinking of getting as a cheaper alternative to the Nokia 6220 is all very well but as far as I can tell there’s still no way to sync it with one’s address book using my Mac’s iSync (and my memory of the PC syncing software available with the original Skypephone is that it was dire).


21 November 2008
Filed under:Personal at9:52 am

Buggy direction ‘affects child’

“Parents in away-facing buggies talked less to the child and the youngster appeared to be more stressed.”

What the article doesn’t mention is that for the first three (?) months babies can’t really see more than a metre or so away and can’t make much sense of what they do see so direction is not much of an issue at that point. I think we switched at six months or so.

15 November 2008

Evernote, which has had a lot of good press for its note taking/todo application, has finally added offline reading to its feature list for the iPhone and iPod Touch… kind of. It’s feature rich enough that I have switched to using it over the previous work-around I found (using the address book as a todo list) but I’m hoping they’ll upgrade the app more soon.

I was curious to try out Google’s new voice and video chat (though Skype works just fine for me). I was pleased to hear that they had both a Mac and a PC version but when I went to install on my iBook G4 I was told the application doesn’t support PPC Macs. That’s the first time I’ve come across an Intel-only Mac application, though I guess it probably isn’t the last! It’s probably not enough to persuade my wife I need to get a new Mac though…

12 November 2008
Filed under:E-commerce at2:42 pm

I used to use Ocado a lot for my grocery shopping – not least because I got £10 to £20 off coupons for each delivery. Of course they couldn’t keep that up, so to my dismay the amount of the coupons has been shrinking and the minimum purchase to qualify has been rising. Their latest marketing wheeze has been to offer to match Tesco.com on prices of identical branded goods. And now as part of that I have received an email showing me that thanks to this policy lots of products are loads cheaper.

Am I just being contrary in taking away from that email that I’ve been a mug for paying what Ocado used to charge me for all those months and that I would be better off actually going to Tesco.com to get the cheaper prices direct from the source, (plus cheaper own-brand goods and probably more generous special offers)?

It isn’t so simple, of course – Tesco charges a minimum of £4 per delivery while Ocado delivers late at night for free and with more convenient 1/2 hour slots, and Ocado’s Waitrose own brand products may be better quality, so we may continue with them for a while, but their email campaign remains an own goal in my view.

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