Categories
Aquaintances aqWiki Imported From Epistula Personal Projects

My Terribly Organised Life II

It’s Been a while since the first one, so some updates.

Operating System

Home is Windows duel booting with Ubuntu, mostly in Windows since the main use for the machine is Games and Web, and since Web is Firefox, Windows means I can do everything, Linux means I have to switch to Windows for games, so it remains in Windows by default. Ubuntu is there when I need to isolate myself from the games to get some work done. But for today, there’s Bioshock.

Work is a Macbook, and so runs OS X. I no longer have a Powerbook at home 🙁

Development

On OS X I use BBEdit. Windows I still – after seven years – use EditPlus. Under linux I use Kate. Under all of the above I use vim also.

I will – I maintain – one day learn how to use vim well enough as a multiple document editor to switch to it full time, Today is not that day.

Email

Email is sent from all the servers I get things at to a collection point on Cenote – my hosted machine – and there forwarded to GMail, which is now my primary email client. Between my phone, work, home and cafés, the main downside of web-applications – that you can’t access them offline – simply doesn’t apply to access to my email at the moment, and once they add Google Gears (Offline storage) to GMail, it’ll be – to a large extent – solved.

Personal Organisation

I never used Google’s Calendar site before, but work tend towards it so I linked up my accounts, and it’s become my primary organisation tool.

GCal syncs with iCal both ways thanks to Spaning Sync – Once Leopard is released, Google will probably start supporting the open Apple iCal Server stuff and this can be done nativly – and to Outlook with the Open Source Remote Calendars addon.

My Phone is an O2 XDA (AKA HDC “Wizard” model) running Windows Mobile 2005 – which doesn’t quite sync to mac yet but will sync to my home Windows machine where it can sync calendars from Outlook. This is overly complicated, and I look forward to the day when I can sync all my devices from one machine, preferably a mac. My iPod also contains my calendars and contacts, again thanks to iCal.

Todo lists live on my phone, they sync with nowhere. This doesn’t work well, and I frequently forget to do things.

Data

I have a Global directory, containing Music, Documents and Projects which is rsynced to a server hosted by Bluehost, which gives 100G of space to play with for not much per month. Since I only got this a couple of months ago, I’m still rsyncing data to it, but eventually I will keep data synced across the external drive on my laptop at work (Music), my home machine (All Directories), Laptop (Documents and Projects), and development & hosting servers (Projects). I also need to add the Photos subdir to that, and automate the rsync process (rsync being done with cygterm (In conjunction with Puttycyg to replace Windows’ gods-awful command line).

If I need to access this – or any – external data, I can mount it over SSH as a drive. On linux with vfs, on OS X using macfuse, and with Windows using SFTPDrive, the latter being something I’m pretty sure should have an open source alternative, but apparently doesn’t, presumably because creating windows filesystems is apparently a headache from hell. All of these allow me to mount an external SSH server as if it were a locally connected hard drive, which is awesome.

Web

Firefox.

Also:

  • Linky – Open Currently Selected Links In Tabs
  • Wesabe – For uploading my bank statements. I’ll have an article about this soon.
  • Firebug – The main problem I have with this now is that I can’t work without it.
  • IE Tab – Until Firefox finally takes over the world and I every site works in Fx, I have this under Windows.
  • Reload Every – Reload current tab every X seconds. Useful when debugging.
  • FoxMarks – Syncs my bookmarks file so they’re the same from all my various browsers. Handy.

    Websites

    I still have an Aqwiki install which runs about a half-dozen sites – like Section.istic.net – including a private auth-only one. Comics are still being managed by an evolution of the same script I was talking about in 2004, which is now at hol.istic.net/comics. I moved from Bloglines to Google Reader a while ago – and have plans to resurrect the Aquaintances project to use Google Reader as a feed database (Meaning it will become an offline-reader for Google Reader, as well as it’s own coolness).

    Also

    OS X

  • Sticky Windows – Turn windows unto tabs at the side of your screen,
  • SSH Agent

    Linux

  • Screen – Under which:
    • IRSSI
    • SLRN
  • Mutt

    Windows

    • Putty – PuTTY makes Windows usable.
    • Ultramon
    • uTorrent
    • AVG
    • Civilization 4
    • Lord of the Rings Online
    • Neverwinter Nights 2
    • City of Heroes
  • Bioshock

    Stuff I’ve never heard of

    Suggestions?

Categories
Computer Games Imported From Epistula

Bioshock – Part One

(This review contains no plot spoilers for anything beyond the first fifteen minutes and the back of the box. It’s likely to be changed/updated when I play more of the game.)

The game starts with you underwater, watching stuff from the plane crash you just survived whizz past you. As the camera looks up, you see the dappled impressionistic maze of an oil fire on the water above, and you’re heading towards a black – and therefore clear – area within it. You surface, gasping, choking, wheezing for air, and then nothing happens for a little while, until your player realities this isn’t actually a pre-rendered cut-scene, the game really does look like this.

I’m not sure if Bioshock is the first PC game to use the new Unreal 3 engine, I know Gears of War uses it for the 360. It is absolutely magnificent. It helps that I’m running on a reasonable spec machine (which, less monitors, was less than £300), but at 1024*768, the game is utterly glorious.

The setting is an art-deco city – Rapture – built under the sea by a man called Andrew Ryan. The city was founded on the values of individualism, self worth and community spirit. Your job is to try to leave, and incidentally find out what the hell is going on.

In doing so, you get three useful things. The first is hardware in the form of weaponry. The second is magic in the form of Plasmids. The third is Adam. Adam works the way you’d expect XP to work in a normal RPG game. Wandering around the level are some apparently little girls, protected by giant monsters. When you deal with them (you don’t have to kill them) you get Adam, which you can spend on upgrading your abilities, like more damage. The bad point is the giant monsters. Nothing in the history of gaming hits as hard as these things do. They will pick you up by sticking a drill bit in you and throw you across the scenery, definitely enemies to clear a large space in the level before tackling. Fortunately, they won’t bother you unless you hit them. The first time you do so by accident (Say, for example, it opens a door and the Rocket Powered Grenade you just fired misses the Splicer and hits it) you will swear.

Also, you face the automated defense systems: turrets and CCTV. Fortunately you can hack into these if you get close enough, by means of a game of Pipemania. I have, in the last couple of days, got very good at Pipemania.

Most of the time you’re facing splicers, however, which are scary. Not in the “We can kill you” kind of way, but in the genuinely creepy kind of way. They come in various types: melee, ranged etc. But they won’t attack you generally unless they notice you, which means you get to observe them in their natural state.

Which is absolutely batshit insane.

They will mutter to themselves, bewail their lot, whistle nursery rhymes, justify themselves. On the minus side, it’s quite creepy to hear the various enemies voices echoing around the level. On the plus side, at least you know they’re there.

It’s faintly annoying that you can lay traps all over the level, change every turret to be on your side, but still when you reach for the Shiny Mcguffin Of Plot, four will have respawned behind you, and another dozen dotted around the level, but it keeps the levels populated with things you can harvest for cash.

So we move on to the story, without telling you anything about it. The story is told by means of the diary entries of inhabitants of Rapture, and by the people who have the frequency of the short-wave radio you’re carrying. You very rarely meet NPCs and never speak to them- the radio is one way – in this way Bioshock takes a leaf out of the Half-life school of design.

It’s a game of new shines on many old ideas. The classic “Kills = XP = Upgrades” from RPG-style games is tacked on, but with the twist of only one type of monster counting towards it (Which don’t respawn, obviously), and a couple of other twists I won’t mention. The upgrade system itself is interesting, you can rearrange which upgrades you’re using of any of the ones you’re purchased. Finding yourself running out of health? Swap a damage for armour. Can’t reach that ledge? Modify your plasmids a bit. You can set up traps, throw people into ceiling fans with a spring, electrocute the pool they’re standing in (And, if they’re not standing in a pool, set them on fire, then electrocute the pool they run to).

It’s not perfect. There’s a loot/inventions system that kicks in that seems distinctly half-imagined, the exact same fuzzy wave of static duration that goes over your vision whenever you pass under a water feature – from dripping tap to full waterfall, a slight apparent tendency to cling to dramatic clichés (balanced somewhats by moments of true surprise in the plot). The introduction of things like Plasmids without explaining what they are (even vaguely). But most of these are minor flaws in an exceptional masterpiece.

Oh, and one major flaw. You remember the thing where I don’t like being treated like a pirate? Bioshock uses the new version of Sony’s Securom technology, which implements DRM on the game I bought in the store. I can – after many people complained to Take2 (who publish the game) – now activate it on this computer Five Whole Times! Unless I upgrade the hardware, which I can also do Five Whole Times. It’s lucky I didn’t spend forty quid on a game that they can restrict what I can do with my computer…

…except, wait…

I need not tell you that the pirates do not have to activate their copies of Bioshock, that they aren’t limited to how they use their computers. Take2 have apparently promised the developers that the activation will be deactivated at some point in the future. Also on the geeky-DRM style of things, various people claim that the Securom 3 system uses a rootkit, take with usual grain of condiment of choice. End technical rant, back to game stuff.

What haven’t I mentioned?

Oh, the sound. The sound is glorious, also. Echoy hallways, reflections of old 40s singles while you fill things full of lead, the whistling of the splicers and the creepy duel-tone singing of the little sisters.

This last paragraph contains a tiny spoiler, but not for the plot, just for one of the weapons you get later in the game. It is there because it’s just too awesome not to mention:

You get the ability to fire bees at people. And they are there, covered in bees. First time I used it, I shot a group of slicers from a way away, switched to my shotgun and killed them while they were swiping at the insects. One of them was carrying a cup of coffee. I like my coffee like I like my first person shooter games.

Covered in bees.

Categories
Fiction Imported From Epistula

Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre

I like this book.

This book is a book where one of the main characters is a geeky Browncoat – tautology, yes – it has a Duke Nukem Forever reference (A game now in production for ten years). And it’s about unsinkable rubber ducks. Well, kind of. It’s about mysticism and science and geekery and provability and people and research and jam and history and woo. Also, it’s funny in traditional Brookmyre style, it’s scottish in tone and language, and it will make you want to kill the author – but in a good way – on no less than three occasions, possibly more.

I like Brookmyre’s books, you should try one to see if you like them too. This is a good one for that purpose. All the characters save one are new – the narrator is a reoccurring from previous books – but you don’t need to know his history, so that’s fine.

Categories
Imported From Epistula linux

Snippit

a=0;for fle in *; do b=`for c in $(seq 0 $a); do echo -n " "; done`; mv "$fle" "$b"; a=$(($a+1)); done

Categories
aqcom Imported From Epistula Projects web development

Re-evolution

Our season of redesigns continues here on Aquarionics dot com with this blatant thef… I mean, homage to iStyle. Coming up later: Making the entry and menu boxes (centre and right) not stand out quite as much.

For the reflections, I’m using a custom solution for two reasons. One, it’s been ages since I mucked around with GD, and two, the Jacascript Reflection Library doesn’t work on backgrounds and didn’t like how I was doing the Flickr gallery to the right. On the other hand, I now have a PHP page which spits out reflected versions of whatever files you put into the query string. You have about two days before I fix the thing so it only works with images on my domain. At that point I’ll release the houn… code.

The fact that this mad rush of development and design has happened shortly after I started doing the Brain Training thing on my new DS is entirely coincidental.

I think.

Categories
Imported From Epistula web development

easy

Given that I work for a company called hotxt (Yes, yes, I’ll explain at some point, but right now? Right now if I tell you what I’m doing, I will be murdered in my sleep. Not even kidding. Well, I might be murdered at my desk) I shouldn’t find the graveyard of exorcised Es to be so funny.

Categories
aqcom Imported From Epistula stories

Evolutionary

Minor design evolution on Aqcom, not that – in the age of RSS readers and Livejournal – anyone ever visits actual websites anymore, but we try to spruce up the place for the occasional search engine visitor. New banner for a couple of weeks – advertising Bioshock, massive surprise – and replaced the “what do you mean, I can click them?” picture navigation down the right with something a little more logical. Still working on how I’m going to integrate twitter onto the main page, I might follow Mr Keith’s lifestream idea by aggregating the content from Stalker.istic (Which I should integrate Facebook into at some point).

One of the things in the new sidebar is a link to my new fiction thing, which went into the world on Sunday. Stuff happens on it weekly, or should do at any rate. I might move the day of the week, because it appears that if you do anything on Sunday it gets lost in the TL;DR effect of getting up to date on a Monday morning.

Categories
Computer Games Imported From Epistula

Bioware

Have played the Bioshock Demo

It is the awesome, and ran perfectly.

Waiting for the weekend with difficulty.

(And not least because I’m on holiday next week)

Categories
Current Affairs Imported From Epistula

Camden

To bring this to your attention, if it didn’t have it already:

For anyone who hasn’t yet heard, an application for planning permission is about to be evaluated by Camden County Council [and has since been granted] in order to demolish Camden Stables market and to build a new complex with high street chains like Topshop and Starbucks.

(You can see the application itself on Camden Council’s website)

There’s a #10 Petition, which I doubt will do any good, it all seems to be too late really.

I’ve signed it anyway, because it’s a nice place that doesn’t deserve to be Starbucked.

Categories
Imported From Epistula web development

Twitterpated

To all people who scan the public timeline on Twitter and subscribe to everyone who flies past:

STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT STOPIT

Please.