Category Archives: Computing

2010 a year in review

SSDY


Well the last time I updated this blog was for the 2009 review. I think I’ve started three or four blog entries since then and they’ve ended up left as incomplete drafts. Same excuse as before, Twitter is such a quick and simple way of updating. Also it’s amazing that WordPress still haven’t come up with a decent offline editor for iOS devices.

Work

It was a much busier year for the Work IT dept. with several large projects between the two of us. I’ve spent most of the year replacing our old servers with new ones and getting my head around all the new software. It’s certainly been a learning experience, a support company has done our previous server upgrades but this time it was pretty much down to me to upgrade all 10 offices. Overall it’s gone well, there’s still some issues and a couple of mistakes I need to fix but I’m reasonably pleased with what I’ve done, especially as I had no training on installing or using the new software. Once that’s finished (hopefully end of February) we’ll be doing a major replacement of most of the desktops and laptops, with upgrades to Windows 7 and Office 2010.

Back to Mac, the next step.

iMac

This year I continued to be sucked in to the Apple product line. Having been very pleased with my MacBook Pro in 2009, I decided to purchase an iPad, originally I’d not intended to get one, I felt it didn’t offer anything my laptop or iPhone didn’t already provide. However after trying one out at the Milton Keynes Apple Store I ended up walking out with a 3G 64Gb version, such a simple device, hardware wise it’s well put together but as with the iPhone it’s really the software that makes it great to use. Some of the apps are quite brilliant, and offer real innovation and functionality. I often lay in bed watching films, reading books, or just browsing the web and it’s been great at all of that, though I’ve woken myself up several times after falling asleep holding it and dropping it on my face! There’s also no heat build up like a laptop. While on holiday the 3G kept me connected and full screen satnav and great battery life got us around.

Completing the collection as a Christmas present to myself, I bought an iMac, a stunning piece of hardware and the performance compared to my ageing PC is brilliant, I don’t intend to play games on it so have hooked my PC up to it. Unfortunately about 10 days after unboxing it, it broke! A lovely pink line down the screen, it seems to be a well known issue and as it was less than 14 days old they are going to replace it. Just glad I bought the 3 year warranty…

Photography

Had quite a few visits to places this year, we went back to Cornwall on holiday, plus trips to little villages and National Trust properties. A lot of the photos I’ve taken I’ve been happy with, however I’m still not making the time to process and put them on to Flickr. I really want an A4 photo printer this year so that I can get some of them printed out and framed to brighten up the house. Here is my Photostream from Flickr featuring about 3 new photos I took last year, must get some more uploaded!

Gaming

Been a pretty inconsistent year for gaming. While this year I’ve played some of the best games I’ve ever played, quite a few games I was really looking forward to turned out to be total crap.

Stunning games this year have included;

  • Assassins Creed 2, & Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, I’d played the original Assassins Creed on the Xbox and hadn’t really got on with it. However I decided to try AC2 when it was in a Steam sale on the PC, the game just sucked me in, fantastic storyline, brilliant graphics, the cities felt truly alive. I was pleased to discover upon completion Brotherhood was months away, and while it wasn’t superior to AC2 it improved a lot of things including the combat. I cannot wait for Assassins Creed 3
  • Mass Effect 2 was another sequel to a game I’d played and not really got on with. However in my opinion Mass Effect 2 is a much tighter game, the storyline is much clearer, the combat much more flowing and your team much more rounded. So far I’ve played the game through 4 times on both the PC and the Xbox taking nearly 40hrs a time. Just waiting for Mass Effect 3!
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was a bit of a surprise hit, I’d decided to try the multiplayer beta and thoroughly enjoyed the game, visuals where great, sound was awesome on the 5.1, and team play was well promoted. Once I got the game I decided to give the single-player a go expecting not much more than bots in the MP maps, but it actually had a nice little storyline and I really enjoyed going through it.

Disappointing games for 2010;

  • Medal of Honor was a total waste, clearly EA trying to have a piece of the Modern Warfare game market, but it’s just boring, I’ve only played it through once, it had several annoying glitches that would break scripted sequences, the storyline was thin and felt like it had no real meaning. Plus with these kind of scripted games it’s important to constantly push you forward otherwise the game loses it’s immersion as you stand in an empty map, but in MoH there was several times where the instructions weren’t clear and left you standing around unsure if you’d missed something or the game was broken again. The multiplayer was also a let down, though the multiplayer was made by the same people as Battlefield Bad Company 2 it didn’t feel anywhere near as good, far too often I was dying without any idea who killed me or where they were it makes the game really frustrating.
  • Fallout: New Vegas was a crushing disappointment, after thoroughly enjoying Fallout 3 I’d been so looking forward to it, however towards release there were several trailers that looked really naff, the graphics engine was quite old even when Fallout 3 was released but the game played to its strengths. In New Vegas they seemed to have ignored it’s weaknesses and it really shows in the game. Areas that are described in the dialogue as highly populated areas only have 4 or 5 people in as that’s all the engine can handle. There’s also a lot of structures, interiors, and textures from Fallout 3 reused in New Vegas, the map is also mostly empty, it says it all when a point of interest marker leads to a piece of corrugated iron and two sticks holding it up and describes it as somebodies shack! When you look in to the interviews it seems that the game had been in development for less than a year, and for a game of that size that’s just not long enough.
  • Mafia 2 was another total waste, a large city to go around and absolutely no reason to bother doing so. The opening moments are great; as you arrive back at your mothers from the war, there’s snow, people running around the streets, traffic jams steam from drains and exhausts, people talking to you and each other, a couple arguing over their broken car, all while Christmas music carries through the air. Then the next day, nothing! There’s still snow, still cars, but people are just silently walking around, every 30 seconds a person slips over on the sidewalk and completes the same animation to get back up. The city feels completely dead, there’s a railway, but no trains, there’s taxis but you can’t hail them, there’s a few shops but they all have the same identical interior with the same products you don’t need. You start a mission in your flat, you drive to a friends house you pick them up you drive to the mission, you go in you kill everyone, you leave, you drive your friend home, you drive yourself home, you go to bed, you wake up and do the same thing again, over and over until the game ends a few hours later. The biggest insult is a week later the developers start churning out basic DLC which should have been in the game anyway. It seems again the developers were forced to rush the game out and so most of the game world was cut back to only what was required for the missions.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops I didn’t like either. While I bought it for the PC and spent the first three weeks unable to even play it due to poor optimization on dual core processors, the storyline wasn’t as interesting as Modern Warfare, and it didn’t have the polish that MW2 had. Multiplayer was also uninspiring again, preferred MW2 over it.

Quite a lot of games to look forward to in 2011; Portal 2, Dead Space 2, Crysis 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mass Effect 3, Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3, Assassins Creed 3, maybe well even see Half Life 2: episode 3 this year?!

TV & Films

2010 probably wasn’t as good as 2009 for TV & Film.

Film wise there was only one film warranting a trip to the BFI IMAX and that was obviously Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Really enjoyed it but there was always the feeling that this was the setup to the epic final film in 2011. Three other films I saw this year at the slightly revamped Bedford Cinema were Iron Man 2, The A-Team, and Tron: Legacy. All were good; Iron Man 2 wasn’t quite as good as the first but there was Scarlett Johansson so can’t complain. A-Team felt very much like the TV series, a little silly but great fun, and I hope that we do get a sequel. Lastly Tron: Legacy was really good saw it in 3D and while it wasn’t as good as the IMAX 3D it was pretty impressive some amazing visuals and the soundtrack has been looping in my iTunes for 3 or 4 weeks now.

Good TV this year; a much improved Series 5 of Doctor Who, I felt overall the stories were much better, like the doctor and companion, and much more playing around with time this series which I’ve liked, plus at the end not everything had been neatly tied up. The big surprise in 2010 was Sherlock (by the same person behind Doctor Who), which I absolutely loved, even though it was only three episodes long! Other series I got in to in 2009 were Chuck, The Big Bang Theory, and The Walking Dead. I also continued to endure the ever inconsistent Stargate: Universe, after a first series full of criticism, they didn’t listen to any of it and produced another series almost completely the same, it came as no surprise that it has recently been axed. The Inbetweeners seemingly finished this year, however it seems we are going to get at least one film and several TV specials, probably one of only two shows this year that’s had me in tears of laughter. The other show being Mongrels, which was genius, airing on BBC3 it’s a puppet show featuring animals living behind a pub in London. Aimed at “grownups” and featuring some brilliant jokes and one-liners. There’s not much to say, better to head over to YouTube and watch all the clips that people have posted.

Another piece of TV that had me in tears this year was the announcement that Lacey Turner who played Stacey in EastEnders for the last 6 years was leaving the show. It was her character and the unlikely relationship with Bradley that got me watching every episode, and Stacey was the only character in the show that had the ability to make me blub! Now she’s left I’ve not decided if I’m going to carry on watching, the current baby swap storyline is a real turn off.

Life

Things seem to have got a little bit better this year. It looks likely well be able to keep the house after all and so without the need to save all of my money I’ve had some spare to by a few luxury items!

This year saw both my Nan and one of my Uncles die. My Nan had never really fully recovered from cancer; she had a long life though and died in October. My uncle had also been suffering from terminal cancer and died of a complication the day after his birthday in December, just before Christmas. One of the scary things that’s come from these two deaths is how little they’ve affected me. When my gran died a few years ago I was really upset, I still clearly remember sitting in a hospital office crying my eyes out and internally raging at the sky fairy while some poor nurse tried to get on with her work. This time though I’ve felt nothing, when I’ve attended the funerals and the family are recalling their lives, where before this would get to me, now I don’t feel anything, even things on TV where 18 months ago I’d be welling up now I feel very little if anything. It’s quite unnerving, I’ll probably end up losing it with someone at work, I came close to it last year so it’s only a matter of time!

That’s it, next blog post 2011 a year in review to follow!

Back to Mac

MacMiniMini review/observations of my MacBook Pro

Back in the old days I felt that having two PCs was the best way to go. A high-spec PC for my gaming habit and a low spec machine for general day to day web browsing, email, and general apps. That was in 2003 and by 2005 the low spec machine was becoming a painfully slow machine. By December 2005 I’d had 4 years of Windows XP and while it wasn’t unreliable or slow, I was bored of it! It’d still be another 2 years before Vista made an appearance.

I’d seen Macs before and had dismissed them as over expensive, but now there was the MacMini on the market, it was exactly what I wanted, a small low spec machine for general day to day work, this is what it was being marketed as! So after a 30min play around with one in the local PC World I hit the Apple website and plonked down £565 on a 1.42Ghz PowerPC MacMini with 1Gb of RAM and an 80Gb HDD. I was pretty impressed with the hardware, however as it was an alien OS  to me (OS X Tiger at the time) I think I struggled to get on with it. This was in the dark days, before FireFox had really caught on and a lot of websites still used WMV and IE6 compatibility. This caused the little MacMini a lot of problems, any time some intensive Flash kicked in or I wanted to play a WMV file the fans would crank up to maximum and it would grind to a halt. After about 18 months I got sick of it and went back to a single Windows PC just in time for Vista, vowing never to return to a Mac…

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