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June 06, 2006

Signing Off

This will be my final entry here. WGA membership is coming up for renewal and I won't be continuing it, so I guess this'll be closed down. I know I haven't written..well..practically anything here over the last year, but starting this thing in the first place was definitely a good idea.

Anyone who wants to continue reading my crazy, and often unintelligible ranting, please feel free to visit www.fractured-reality.co.uk, where I now live (electronically speaking).

To everyone else, goodbye. I hope you enjoy and make use of this rather excellent platform (or maybe soapbox would be more accurate) that Warwick has provided.


April 25, 2006

Pirates vs Ninjas!

This is so good I thought it was worth a brief return to WB to share it with you all.

Picture taken earlier today in Central Park, New York:

Pirates vs Ninjas!


November 12, 2005

What camera?

Here's a question for all you photographer-types. My camera broke earlier in the week (no, not from throwing it across a room), so now I'm looking for a new one. My insurance will hopefully cover me to around £200, and I'm willing to pay a bit more to get something good.

What I'm looking for (and I'm beginning to realise this may not be possible to find) is a digital compact with a decent amount of manual control – focus and shutter speed in particular would be nice – and great image quality. A screen of 2" or more would be a nice plus.

The Pentax Optio SVi seems to have the greatest amount of manual control, and a 5x optical zoom to boot, but I've read not-so-great things about shooting speed and image quality. Many others that I've looked at, such as the Kodak Easyshare V550, Canon IXUS 500, Nikon Coolpix S1 or any of the Exilims other than the EX-Z750 (which seems to have other problems) lack for manual control of one type or another.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Reading so many reviews has started to make my head throb.


November 11, 2005

Extreme Photography

Writing about web page http://cameratoss.blogspot.com/

This is so cool I had to try my hand at it. Or at least at directing it.

(Note: I'm trying not to double-post and at the same time get enough hits on my site that my ego is satisfactorily fed. :-D)


November 03, 2005

Call of Duty 2

Is AMAZING!

I'm sorry but I can't be much more coherent than that right now. You thought Call of Duty was great right? Well, this is like…MORE Call of Duty, but much prettier. And with added…stuff. As i said, lacking coherence. There be Nazis to kill. My hands are actually shaking right now, due to the intensity of it all.

Possibly the first 10/10 game I've played in 3 and a half years.


October 25, 2005

I broke your game

Writing about web page http://www.fractured-reality.co.uk/ibrokeyourgame/

I have the utmost respect for SI Games and the great job they do on Championship/Football Manager every year. But I just did this to Football Manager 2005 (yes, I know there's a new one, but I haven't got it yet).

Silly programmers didn't think anyone would manage to score over 127 goals in a season…


October 20, 2005

F.E.A.R. Kills

I was under the impression that I have a pretty decent gaming PC. It's not cutting edge, but it's certainly above average. I have a Geforce 6600 GT and a 64-bit Athlon 3000+. But F.E.A.R. (or First Encounter Assault Recon: Random Acronym (you've no doubt heard that gag already)) just made my computer cry like a baby, in a way that Half Life 2 never managed.

It is a game with stunning visuals, if you can afford a £400 graphics card. If not, it is a game with decent visuals, which jerks when you try to look left or right. And for something trying to build up an atmosphere of, well, fear, this is a rather large setback. Every time a paranormal event occurs the jumpiness causes annoyance and frustration, obliterating the mood the game tries to build. And of course we all know that small girls wearing blood-red dresses are really scary don't we?

So my first impression is that F.E.A.R. is just another in the long string of PC FPS games – prettier than most (if you can afford it), but following that same old familiar Dark Warehouse setting of which these types of game seem overly fond. Its redeeming feature, and the reason I will keep playing regardless of its otherwise generic nature is the much talked about bullet-time. It's been done before in Max Payne, a game I loved with a sequel whose only let-down was that it lacked the freshness of the idea.

So bullet-time in first person? Sign me up, for now at least.


October 16, 2005

Oh please kill me now

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4341118.stm

Why? Why would he do this? Why would any "passionate and avid gamer" want a deal with EA, besides money? And it's not like he NEEDS any more.

I forsee 3 cinematic adventure games featuring bad english, bling and EA Traxxxxxx. I can only hope that one of them is base on a plot to cull chavs from the face of the earth, giving the gamer the option to play as their savior or destroyer. I wonder which I'd choose….

I also present you with the true form of Neil Young, head of EA's LA studio.


October 09, 2005

The long wait is over – Serenity has landed

Movie image
Title:
Serenity
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

"People don't appreciate the substance of things" is a line from the final episode of the TV series Firefly, one that was never aired. I can't help feeling that it was director Joss Whedon's way of telling Fox how stupid they were for cancelling the show. But with the release of the follow-up film Serenity this week, all would seem to be right again, and Fox's presence banished. The question that must be asked however, is can one appreciate the substance of Serenity in the wake of Firefly, or for that matter, without its influence?

I cannot answer the latter part. I first watched Firefly back in April, and fell immediately in love with its rich universe, deep characters and snappy dialogue. Obviously the film cannot achieve anywhere near this amount of detail as it lasts little longer than a couple of episodes, so anyone who didn't watch Firefly won't attain the same level of understanding. More to the point, two characters – Inara and Book – appear only in small doses, and their roles are not explained at all. As well as this, Simon's portrayal has changed completely, and the film intro will cause Firefly fans much confusion. Who is this master of disguise indeed?

So maybe I can answer after all. Yes, you can appreciate it if you haven't seen Firefly, but you can't appreciate it as much. If you have watched the series, I fear you will be left feeling a bit disappointed. Serenity was never going to be as good as Firefly, for the reason stated above, but knowing this doesn't stop me thinking that it could still have been a bit better. While there is much in the way of wise-cracking, the banter which drew us into Firefly is a bit on the sparse side. The first 40 minutes were more about action sequences than storytelling - forgivable as a means of attracting a wider audience, but out of place in the context of the series. Equally there is the issue of sound in space. The series had none, as is physically correct, but it appeared (erratically) in Serenity. Once again this was included to make the film more exciting, so I see the reason even if I'd have preferred the silence. Finally, the delivery of the plot point around which the film revolved - the completion of the River storyline - seemed to me to be a bit bland. My thought process at the time was simply "oh", rather than "wow, I never expected that!"

The final worry is that this might be the end. As the film came to a close I was left with a feeling of emptiness, wondering where it can go from here. I only hope that Joss is up to the task of creating new stories as excellent as the old ones (which I'm sure he is), and that he gets that chance. I may have been overly harsh here, but only because I do appreciate the substance of things, and the substance of Firefly is more impressive than that of Serenity. But that is in no way saying that Serenity is bad. It is, in fact, the best sci-fi film I've seen in years.


September 25, 2005

OI! Mat and/or Andy!

Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/sbrent/gallery/the_holiday/

What the hell is that about?

Blast from the past

For some unknown reason I've just stumbled across the documentation I wrote for the CS120 coursework I did a little under 3 years ago. It made me chuckle so I thought I'd share it with you. Feel free to ignore the first section – it isn't that interesting.

DOCUMENTATION

Utilities

I have written this assignment using shell script, awk and sed. While I realise that it is probably easier to implement using Perl, I decided to stick to what I know.

My submission for this assignment is 6 files: league, printout, cluboption, dateoption, ties, and capital. Printout is called by league when the -f option is given, or when no options are given at all. Cluboption is called when -c is given, and dateoption when -d is given. Ties is called by printout and dateoption to detect any ties between athletes, and capital, a sed script file, is called by printout and cluboption in order to solve to case insensitivity problem.

Generally, I have tried to use the simplest ways of solving the problem that I could think of (although it might not always look that way - this program may give you some fascinating insites into how my mind works ;-) ). I have used awk mainly for printing out certain parts of lines, avoiding long scripts and complicated functions. Similarly for sed, I know it is possible to do what I did in the "capital" file in about 5-10 lines, as I have seen examples on the internet, but I did not use this because I was not sure how it worked. I also tried to use tr as oppose to sed as often as possible, as it is simpler to understand.

Other than that, I have used utilities such as getopts (to combine options), grep, sort, cut, and if and while loops in conjunction with test. I feel that these were generally the simplest solutiouns to the problems faced. Grep -n was especially useful, as it prints line number: exactly as required for the postion in the league.

One thing I have used repeatedly throughout my code is while loop with the form:

counter=1
max=`grep -c . temp`

while [ $counter != `expr $max + 1` ]
do

       variable=`awk '{ print $string }' file`

       variable=`echo $variable | cut -f$counter -d ' '`

       ....<em>do some task involving variable</em>......

       counter=`expr $counter + 1`

done

I have used this as a way of splitting up a variable which is initially in the form string1 string2 string.... into seperate variables, one per iteration, which can then be used by grep (for example) as ways of testing if lines with that string exist in another file.

I have also used uniq to solve the problem of ties - as a way of removing all but one occurence of a repeated name from the input file.

Problems

The problems I have encountered while doing this assignment are almost too numerous to mention. Every time I thought I had solved something I found another little fault had cropped up. Even as I write this (at 1 am on Tuesday 11 March), having worked for about 3 and a half weeks on this program, I am in a state of frustration and annoyance at one or two things which I have not solved (I will discuss them later), and cannot solve without rewriting most of my script. Believe me, because about 3 hours ago I was trying to do just that, and found that it was creating even more problems and errors. I decided to stick with what you see now, as it seemed to me that this script contains the minimum number of errors I have been able to achieve.

I think the major problem I encountered was in trying to combine multiple options. This involved rewriting most of my script at one point, if I remember correctly. The problem was getting one option to recognise that another had been run, and to use the data provided by the previous option to create its own output. In the end, this was sloved by having a file called temp being produced by every called script. This way, using the test [ -f temp ] in one script would tell you whether another has been executed. The options' scripts are executed in the order -f, -d, -c, so -f needs no test for the temp file, -d needs to test for it, and -c needs to test for both the temp file, and whether -d has been given, as the form of the temp files created by printout and dateoption are slightly different. Once these tests have been done, it is possible to use the temp file, if necessary, as the input for the script, rather than the raw data from the results file.

Aside from this, most of the implementation was reasonably easy going (for a given value of reasonable). Before I started trying to combine options my code was a lot more consise (believe it or not), it was just in undergoing this process that it turned into the monolith you see now.

Functionality

As I have already stated, I decided to make the options combine successfully. I also chose to run a test to make sure that the date given with the -d option was valid (ie the day must actually exist for the given month, and the month must be 01 to 12).

Testing

I have thoroughly tested this script. Basic tests (league distance, league -c distance, league -d date distance, league -f file distance, league -c, league -x) have been run and given correct output. Also combinations of options have been tested, and in all cases the output was correct. I have also tested bad data if the club file, and in the results file, for various combinations of options, including both together. I have also tested for case insensitivity, and ties, and achieved correct output. The command also gives correct output for the extra white spaces test, but I think I solved this by fluke, and am yet to work out exactly how.

This brings me (regretably) to the last section, which I shall call...

Things which didn't work

I have decided that honesty is the best policy and, as you are pretty sure to find these any way, I might as well put them out in the open.

Firstly, I have only solved the bad data issues for the specific types of bad data given in the automatic test. Any other forms of bad data will likely produce incorrect output. Also, bad data in clubs.dat that does not involve adding an extra line (as in the test) will print out the bad line, but also use it to form the output, (although the output IS in the correct form). Also, the combination of -f with more than one item bad data and another gives bad output and error messages from various utilities used in the script. Finally (I hope) the -f - option does not work properly if there is bad data typed in by the user, or if there is no input by the user for the given distance.

I believe that is it (or at least, this is what I have spotted). So now, for a bit of light entertainment (and please don't mark me down for this), I'd like to include my favourite saying from the last 4 weeks:

"CS120 Coursework - Like kicking a dead whale down a beach"


September 17, 2005

Immaturity

Writing about web page http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=60927

Am I the only one who finds the article title "Widescreen Giz confirmed" highly amusing?

September 09, 2005

This household is in no way addicted to Scrubs

I rest my case.


September 08, 2005

Simon Says

Simon Young:
@ Mat primarily: Can we be a bit "proactive" here if the WGA is supposed to be our association, can you give us the name/email address of the right person to contact to help speed the process up? Perhaps in a nice new entry that all us frustrated graduates can see?

I know it's a less technically satisfactory solution, but if the "staff/students" restriction was changed to effectively "anybody signed in", wouldn't that work too?

Simon Brent:
Here, here!


September 06, 2005

Damn graduate status

Can everyone please stop writing posts where only staff/students are allowed to comment. It's making me sad.

September 04, 2005

CSS: What went wrong?

I direct your attention to the bottom of the page – the left side is doing wierd things and I can't figure out why.

(You have to load the actual post page to see)


September 02, 2005

CSS

There will be more changes when I get off sodding SHARED DIALUP ohgodmyface. Dunno how much/what I'll change but it'll possibly end up looking as much like my website as possible. Of course, this is an opportunity to be a bit creative, so I could go entirely another way. If I can be bothered.

Incidentally, the lovely post-title and post-content spacing seems to disappear if this extra paragraph isn't here. Odd.


August 25, 2005

Love you long time?

Dear ladies and gentlemen, I have just been violated in the mouth. I was poked, prodded, polished and flossed in a violent manner. Yes, i mean flossed.

After this rather painful experience, I had the pleasure of being told that my teeth were fine, and shown a rather patronising video about how to brush them. However my wallet obviously wasn't looking as good as my teeth, so they decided to perform emergency surgery and extracted £50 from it. What the hell happened to NHS dental care??

Note to self: Get a new dentist.


August 17, 2005

Beyond Good & Evil

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Ok so I'm jumping on the game review bandwagon, now that it's here in an official capacity (thanks Mat or whoever was responsible). I'm not going to do a full review, but I want to draw your attention to one of the best games of recent years, and one that was sadly overlooked by so many people.

Beyond Good & Evil is a game unlike any other I have played. While on the surface the game mechanics are similar to those of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (Ubisoft's other much-overlooked Christmas 2003 game), the actual experience is completely different. Beyond Good & Evil is an adventure game – an interactive story about war, propaganda, friendship, and the struggle to expose the truth. As Jade, reporter and photographer for the IRIS network, your job is to do just that. (On a side-note, Alyx from HL2 looks suspiciously like Jade's less interesting sister.)

The game features wonderfully stylised graphics (which obviously look better on a PC than any console), some great set-pieces, and in my opinion, the best music in any game ever.

It isn't perfect – there are times when the controls are a bit annoying, and the PC version can have an annoying bug about half way through – but it comes closer to perfection than anything else I've seen in the last 3 years. That the 2 sequels which were originally announced seem to have been shelved for good is a crying shame, and I would encourage everyone who enjoyed the game to find and sign as many internet petitions requesting these sequels as possible (and there are quite a few). Rarely does a game provide this much innocent pleasure.

9/10 (Yes, 5/5 can = 9/10 dammit)


August 16, 2005

Me Too!

Writing about WGA entry from Dan Lawrence's Blog

I would like to thank whoever it was who set my password to "eagamesrock".

You made me laugh.