Monthly Archives: February 2006

Fellowship of the Ring – HD vs DVD

This site has a really great comparison of the DVD and HD versions of the Fellowship of the Ring. At DVD resolution, there’s a noticeable difference, but at full resolution, the difference is very large.

Hopefully 1080p LCD screens and projectors will be available in reasonable numbers in time for the PS3 with Blu-Ray arriving in the UK. If so, I may be buying a new TV within the next year.

Improved Date Support for Flight Reviews

Rather than just collecting the month and year of the outbound flight, the airline site now collects day, date and year for both outbound and return flights (where appropriate). Hopefully this will prove interesting and helpful. All the new fields are optional, so it’s not a problem if some one has forgotten the exact details of their flight.

Wikipedia in your Pocket

For the last year or so, one of my favourite mobile applications has been TomeRaider 3. This is a rather nice database reader for various mobile devices (I’ve used both the Palm and Windows Mobile versions).

What lifts TomeRaider 3 head and shoulders above all similar programs I’m aware of, is the availability of snapshots of various Wikipedia versions in the TomeRaider 3 file format. Thanks to the efforts of Erik Zachte, TomeRaider 3 files are available for download and for purchase (if you want the latest version with images in a hurry). He also makes the script he uses to generate the files available, and I can confirm that it works very well.

I originally started with a sub 1Gb version (I used Erik’s script to generate the file myself) of the English Wikipedia on a Treo 600 phone. Having an entire Wikipedia on a phone in your pocket is wonderful. If you’re the curious sort, and read a lot, having a enormous encyclopedia in your pocket means you can never be bored. And it’s great for resolving any questions people raise (usually in the pub). Obviously similar results could be achieved using an Internet connection, but here in the UK, GPRS is too slow and expensive to make this a good option.

I’ve now moved on, and while the text only Wikipedia on Palm was impressive, the sub 4Gb file with images that Erik offers is on another level altogether. I now use a Dell X50v as my reader – the VGA screen and the dual memory slots (SD and CompactFlash) make it almost perfect for TomeRaider and Wikipedia, while still being pocketable.

As the 4Gb file with images will take many days to generate, I now find it easier to regularly buy the latest version directly from Erik. His prices are very reasonable, and he posts the DVD very quickly. As the Wikipedia keeps growing, I just hope that flash memory prices continue to fall, as my 4Gb CompactFlash is already starting to look a little small :-)

Erik deserves a lot of praise for his work, but I’ve also made several donations to the Wikimedia Foundation over the last year, so that they can continue to develop and support the various Wikipedias. If you use any of the Wikipedias frequently, please consider making a donation.

Trial versions of TomeRaider 3 are available, and several full versions of Wikipedia are available for free download, so if you’ve got a Palm or Windows Mobile device with a good sized flash memory card, it’s well worth a look.

Xbox 360 Impressions

Finally managed to get an Xbox 360 just over a week ago. Amazon.co.uk let me down with my pre-order, but I found one available in the Newcastle branch of Virgin (Premium Pack).

I’ve currently got Perfect Dark Zero, Project Gotham 3, Call of Duty 2, and Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (purchased through Xbox Live Arcade). The 360 is connected via a VGA cable to a Sony HS50 front projector (720p native resolution), and is also connected to the Internet over a 2 megabit ADSL link.

Below is a list of my general impressions, positive and negative:

Negative:

  • No 1080p or HDMI support. With support for these becoming more available this year, I think this is going to be a mistake in the longterm
  • Poor legacy support: I tried my copy of Forza Motorsport on the 360 – not good. The emulation was quite jerky. And there’s no support at all for the masterpiece that is Outrun 2. They should have done better here
  • Not that impressed with Perfect Dark Zero. It looks nice, but the controls aren’t great, and the level design is confusing
  • Call of Duty 2 looks like it’s running on a high end PC, rather than anything truly next generation
  • Why can’t I schedule downloads in the background? The box has three core processor capable of running 6 threads – why can’t it multitask properly? With large downloads, I don’t want to leave it on for hours on end without the ability to play games in the meantime

Positive:

  • Despite looking like a high end PC game, Call of Duty 2 is still very impressive on a big screen in high definition. And it’s silky smooth.
  • Project Gotham 3 looks suitably next generation in high definition. It just feels like far more of the environment is actually modeled than previous generation titles
  • Xbox Live works very well with Project Gotham. It’s easy to get into a race, and I haven’t noticed any lag issues. I’ve never had so much fun in a racing game as I have with Project Gotham 3 online
  • Xbox Live Arcade is wonderful. Good games and instant gratification. Demos of everything too. This is definitely the future of games distribution
  • 720p trailers on Xbox Live. More please…
  • Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is the bargain of the decade. Just over £3 for one of the most pure and intense games I’ve ever played. In a dark room, on an HD projector, it’s absolutely stunning. However, much as I enjoy it, I am also useless at it, so my pitiful high score will remain confidential
  • The controller is wonderful. Definitely the best I’ve ever used. Using a PS2 DualShock now feels terrible

In summary, I’m pretty impressed. It’s not perfect, but it does move things on a good way. But to get the best from it, you need a good sized high definition display, the hard disk, a decent broadband connection, and an Xbox Live Gold account.

Changes to the Flight Reviews site

Having not made any significant changes to the flight review site for a long time, I’m making an effort to spend some time on it.

The first two changes are as follows:

  • The “International Flight?” question has been removed. As I already ask for the start and end countries, I can work this out automatically
  • The “Return Flight?” question has been moved forward by one page in the new review process. This is in preparation for some other changes I’m going to make

WordPress 2.0.1

I’ve just completed the upgrade to WordPress 2.0.1 and all seems to be well.

I’ve now been using WordPress for almost a month, and I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with it. The people responsible are doing a great job, and I really appreciate their efforts.