I wrote a review of Brian Bagnall's brilliant On the Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore to Librarything.
This blog is a way for me to collect interesting stuff into one place. I'm not planning on making this a confession booth of any sort, just post random interesting web sites if I feel the need to comment on them (otherwise I just add them to my del.icio.us page) and comment on other stuff that is worth it (books, TV programs, games, CD's etc).
Knowing myself I doubt I will be updating this too often but we'll see...
Speaking of games, yahtzee's Zero Punctuation column at the Escapist Magazine is by far my favourite games reviewer. Maybe not the most accurate or punctual or factual of them, but definitely the funniest. He also manages to find the actual problems and strenghts of the games he reviews.
Funny how simple ideas can be so interesting. Like guessing the meaning of words and making a miniscule donation every time you get one right.
Free Rice is just that. Every time you know the meaning of an English word right, the organisation donates 10 grains of rice to the developing countries. Doesn't sound that much, does it? But just yesterday the total was about 150,000,000 grains of rice - that's in one day. Total number is now close to 3,5 billion grains, which is quite a lot considering the site opened October 7th.
The game is surprisingly addictive because it adapts to your level, so it's not just random numbers, rather it pushes you to your limit all the time.
Here's how it works: First you get a few random words. Your result with these define roughly your level. Levels are simply decided by how many people get each word right, so the fewer know a word, the higher it's level. Every time you get a word wrong, your level drops by one. If you get three consecutive words right, you rise a level.
My level seems to be about 30, fluctuating between 26 and 35. The only gripe I have about this site is it doesn't "remember" you between sessions, so you can't see you totals. Apart from that this is a great way of having fun, learning AND donating something to the poor. Not a bad effort at all.
You thought the US war in Iraq was going badly? It is actually going far, far worse than that. I knew money was being stolen and everything but I never thought it quite as bad as what this article by the Rolling Stone magazine describes. The worst part is that the Bush administration knows about most of this and they refuse to do anything - in fact they actively try to stop people from exposing it.
I bet Fox News is in no hurry to tell about this...
On a lighter note, I just finished Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and I think this fellow is pretty much bang about his appraisal.
The Virtual Barbershop is quite an interesting experiment on how we perceive sound. David Heron has managed to create a real-sounding environment for headphones. I'm just left wondering why this couldn't be used more. Games tend to have poor 3D sounds if you don't have multiple speakers, especially feeling of distance seems hard to create. Yet many game types would benefit immensly from better sounds. First person shooters come to mind first. Just listening to that demonstration is enough to make you wonder what could be achieved. I can't think of many games that have anything resembling a believable sound environment. It feels like that part of gaming is lagging ten years behind the rest.
Processing power might of course be a stumbling block. The games should consider echoes and obstacles, for instance. My main gripe in Deus Ex - my all-time favourite game - is how you can hear sounds coming from behind walls just like if the wall wasn't there. You can hear footsteps through ten feet of concrete which is completely ridiculous.
Game developers are heading down the road of physics and improving the graphics more and more. Both are nice things, but trying to create a realistic experience requires a realistic sound system. As a matter of fact, it should be quite high in the priorities list because one would think it's much easier to create a good 3D sound environment than to create 3D images on a flat screen.
Of course the demonstration is much easier to make since the head doesn't move and the sounds have been made static - you can't do anything to change how the sounds play. Just the ability to be able to shake your virtual head would make the demonstration a lot harder to pull off. But surely it must be possible, maybe by trying to simulate a human's hearing, i.e. calculating the sounds created in the environment twice with that small difference in location. Echoes etc are a different things altogether, though but maybe a similar system to how lightning is calculated could be used. It could be a lot simpler.
I thinking of splitting the sound spectrum into parts. Say 20-80Hz, 80-200Hz etc depending on what a meaningful split is. Then you would have to define how much each part dampens when it hits each material in the gaming world. This is something similar to how lightning is calculated already. The general rule is, of course, that the higher the sound, the more it dampens, but if this was based on material, the sounds would sound very different in a jungle than in inside a subway station.
But I'm no expert on this so I can't possibly calculate how much processing power even a simple system would require. It could be an interesting experiment in itself, though.
Rate Your Music - a great place for music lovers.
del.icio.us - I put my bookmarks here so I can easily access them everywhere.
LibraryThing - the ONLY place for book lovers. I haven't been paying too much attention to this site lately, though.
MobyGames - for anyone who plays electronic games.
DVDProfiler collection - a good place to store your DVD collection.
ToffeeWeb - a site I started around 1993 and run for a few years. But if it wasn't for Michael the site would have died a long time ago.