Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Prince of Persia HD collection

After playing the first game with all it's lock-ups and sound issues I was almost loathe to continue and indeed it's been some time since I returned to it. Surprisingly the other two don't suffer and I've only had two lock-ups with "The Two Thrones".

The story line is worth playing, but sadly is difficult to relate without spoilers. Simply put in the first game (Sands of Time) the Prince messes up at the beginning and spends the rest of the game trying to correct his mistake. In the second (Warrior Within) the consequences of the first game mean the Prince is being chased by an indestructible monster trying to eradicate him and as such ventures to a mysterious island that may hold the secret of his salvation. In the third (The Two Thrones), once again, the Prince's actions in the second game have major consequences on his home city of Babylon and on himself which spur him to action.

Mechanically the three follow a pattern - the first is a linear mainly puzzle solving layout with the odd spot of combat. The second is more hub-based game with puzzles interspersed and entwined with combat. The third returns to a linear pattern with a more equal conjoining of combat and puzzles.

The second is by far the weaker of the three for many reasons. Unlike the first and third where you could run puzzle sections in isolation and only occasionally needed to clear a room of enemies before you could turn your attention to the puzzle; the second game puts combat in areas where no real puzzles exist and it feels more combat orientated.

Save points in the second are also seriously bad and simply wouldn't get through today's playtesting - in one instance a boss fight occurs followed by running three trapped corridors with the monster behind you each time with a spot of combat in between before you can continue. No save points, no health replenishment, no 'power' replenishment. I had barely any power after the boss fight, and a sliver of health left - not fun!

The hub system is also a problem. It gets spiced up by showing the areas at two different points in time, but it does get repetitious especially having to churn through combat sections.

The third is still more combat heavy than the first, but it makes up for the second outing by introducing "Speed Kills" manage to get behind an enemy and you can initiate one of these for an instant-kill. In modern games this would be a QTE telling you to press circle to grab, X to throw, then etc. This instead is beautiful in its simplicity. Sneak up hit Triangle and the game takes over; at key points the game will switch to black and white and the Prince's dagger will flash blue, hit Square to get stabby and repeat. It means being able to watch the action and best of all failure only means you don't get the instant-kill and just have to fight them normally.

This makes a big difference in that using the Prince's athleticism makes sense. Instead of just dropping into a courtyard and wailing on three enemies the emphasis is on leaping from walls hanging on chains and getting behind the enemy and timing the kills so as to take one down without alerting the others. I still enjoy thinking of the time I took out four guards patrolling a garden without any of the others suspecting.

In terms of longevity the first has a few collectables; the second has loads of extras (too many) and two endings; the third has a few extras, but mainly it's the combat stealth that will bring me back to it.

Perhaps the best way to treat the trilogy as a whole is how most treat "Back to the Future" - a good first, a second that needs to played/watched so as to grasp the plot ready for the triumphant third.

A walk to Bewdley, well sort of.

As mentioned before I had planned on taking the kids up to Bewdley along the river, but that never happened. In the spirit of things my father roused me and offered to walk the route with me; or at least up to Stoney Bottom.

Unlike the 'proper' side of the river the Areley side is overgrown and barely looks like a path there are certainly no signs informing anyone of this at the bridge end. Once past that the dirt trail became more apparent. It is a story in contrasts - at times the path is clearly defined and two people could walk abreast down it; at others it's barely there covered in waist (or higher) vegetation. Good sturdy bridges and gates follow from a section of soft earth that borders a 20-foot near vertical drop straight to the river and again unlike the other side this doesn't even have points for life-saving rings regardless of whether they're occupied or not.

This is the forgotten side of the river with all the money and tidying up occurring on the town side. I can understand why; it's the side that brings in money from rents etc and there's quite literally no room for development on the the Areley side. However one of these days someone's going to fall down that slope and drown and questions will be asked as to why this public footpath wasn't maintained.

Oh and we met three cows close to one of the stiles set up to prevent them travelling - two jumped over it; so those are working well.

With good time we carried on to the Woodman where a car-boot was going on; then headed back. It was a good walk and took us an hour with Bewdley probably being another half-hour further; far too far for the Bratii; though I may take them up this far by car and venture onto Stagborough Hill.

Looking at the Worcestershire site detailing walks around this area the missing information is car parking. Presumably people just appear by magic at the start of these routes. Oh and am I the only one amused that the Ribbesford Circular trail appears not to venture into Ribbesford Woods?

Never rains

So on top of needing an MOT, buying a new tax disc and having the car serviced as part of the warranty all in the same month they found one of my tyres had a staple in it "Oh and it's in the side wall so we can't repair it; we can replace it if you like we'd just need to get a tyre in first"
Recalling exactly how much they wanted to charge, and how long they took last time they'd simply inspected it I declined their offer.

As my usual contact appears to be on holiday I was going to leave it; until this morning it was down two-thirds of its correct pressure. So it's in at Lloyds.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Great Firewall of Britain

Given the average age of MPs hopefully this will be the last crop who'll prove so totally out-of-touch with technology with any newly elected MPs having grown up with it and (hopefully) understanding its complexity. That should mean we'll never see the likes of the Home Secretary entertaining serious discussion over shutting down social networking sites in times of crisis.

Ignoring the legal ramifications of trying to shut down legitimate businesses as and when the government feels like it; or the fact that so many of these sites are hosted in countries not under our jurisdiction - exactly how was this meant to happen?

One would have to install filters at the main access points of the UK internet backbone to deny traffic from certain IP addresses. Which is possible; except it would be also be possible to access an external site not on the banned list that would act as a relay to the banned site in the same way anonymizers work - the data from the banned site is wrapped in the legitimate IP address of the relay.

Another stage of this knee-jerk reaction was to ban messaging services. Most particularly the BlackBerry system which is encrypted. Again this would be possible, but only if they ordered the company to turn it off; oh and of course it would be turned off for everyone which would include most of the current Cabinet who apparently use it.

Update - thank you NewsThump

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stourport by-pass

The topic of a new road routing around Stourport has surfaced once again over at the WFA as a consequence of various postings around the 'net.

As Walkerno5 Jon Cooper points out perhaps one fear is that will indeed by-pass Stourport essentially killing it off. The problem is that we need some form of alternative route as Stourport simply does not have the capacity to deal with the modern day volumes of traffic. I therefore propose some forward planning if we ever managed to get the new bridge something has to be done to keep business alive in Stourport. I've already made some points over at the WFA and I'll expound on those here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Giving vs Taking

A delightful graph from Calamities of Nature showing the amount of taxes paid vs the amount received for US states; handily colour-coded for Republican-leaning and Democrat-leaning.

Be nice if we could do the same for the UK. Half the data is already available from the Communities site; all that's required is how much each council hands over to the government.

Graffiti cleaning

Looks like they're cleaning up the Venom/Bing graffiti from the sub-station on Areley Kings let's see how long that lasts.

Stacking review

Stacking comes from the mind of Tim Schafer of "Day of the Tentacle", "Monkey Island", and "Psychonauts" fame so something fun but weird can be expected and there's no disappointment. You play Charlie the youngest and smallest of a family of Russian dolls in a world populated just by Russian dolls. with your family entrapped by the evil Baron it's up to you to rescue your family.

The mechanism for this is surprisingly simple - as the smallest doll in the world you can stack with any other doll provided that a) they don't see you approaching and b) they're one size larger than you. So stack into a child one size larger then you can stack into an adult one size larger than that and so on. Each doll has a unique ability, some more useful than others, and with these you need to solve the problems that are preventing you from reaching and saving your family.

As can be expected from Schafer the logic in solving some of these puzzles can be a little bizarre at times, but the great thing is that there are multiple ways of solving them some much being more obvious and straightforward than others. That's where most of the fun lies as each puzzle remains in place until all methods of solving it have been found, but provided at least one is discovered the story can progress.

Adding to the length of the game, there are unique dolls that you can find, as well as unique 'family' stacks that need to be collected in order. There are also "hi-jinks" which are challenges such as using a child doll to play Tag with 10 other child dolls. Given that that that the hi-jinks only provide a name for it rather than a full description and that the puzzle solutions don't even provide that reaching 100% can prove challenging.

Cleverly on the puzzle side hints are available from the menu as well as simply listening to what the obstructive characters may say.

In essence this plays close to Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle in terms of screwed up logic, but mostly it reminds me of the Milkman section of Psychonauts. If you enjoyed those, you'll enjoy this.

Patience, co-operation, and having to pay attention

So yes babysitting the Bratii last night. I thought I'd start where we were interrupted on Sunday by letting them play Limbo. The idea was Minor started then when he died Major would continue until he died then back to Minor etc. Minor wasn't having that and insisted Major started.

This back and forth went on until Major reached the double swinging mantraps then decided it was a) too frustrating and b) impossible. Minor persisted and worked it out. At this point Major decided he wasn't going to take his turn and would just backseat drive. He was quite happy to work out what to do, and tell Minor, then chastise him for not doing it, but when offered the controller continuously declined it.

We stopped when we reached the double door; they can start from there again next time.

Minor had been talking about YouTube and I decided to show off some of the PS3 abilities they hadn't seen. Shame the connection was so laggy, but Major wished his XBox360 had access to the internet directly and Minor just wished he had a PS3 "How much are they?" he asked. "A couple of hundred quid" I replied. He thought about it.

Onto a board game "Forbidden Island" as I've said in my review this requires co-operation. We did well shoring up areas of the island that we didn't need just to provide extra time for the ones we did. We made good use of the "At any time cards" and managed to retrieve three out of the four treasures before the island sunk on us.

With not enough time left for another game I grabbed a pack of cards and we played Go Fish. A game that requires players pay attention - having just picked up a three who was it asking for them two turns ago? Has someone picked up a card since you last asked them for cards? Both of them seem to enjoy this although Minor keeps forgetting the rules - you can only ask for a card you already have. So I'd ask if he had any Jack's and I'd Go Fish then he'd ask me if I had any Jack's.

We managed to got two hands out of it before they had to go and despite not winning Minor didn't go into a sulk.

So a reasonable evening four hours with maybe only one spent on the television.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Factory reset

The boss managed to factory reset his computer last week, fortunately it backed everything up first. So that's the good news, the bad news is having backed everything up he's no room for me to reinstall anything. Of course in ye olden days it would be a case of just copying the programs over long with any configuration files that Windows requires; these days everything's spread everywhere and the registry is a mess.

So we acquired a 1Tb external hard drive (which he needed anyway) and I set to copying the backup folder onto it. Sluggish, painful and then died a death trying to transfer a large file over. "The file system does not support files of this size" Huh?

The damn thing was formatted to FAT32. Nice that a conversion program is built into Windows.

Copying it's now telling me it has 0 seconds left while the external light flickers on and off - damn piece of crud.

A day at the riverside

Took the Bratii down to the riverside on Sunday. The original plan was to walk to Bewdley, but that was pooh-poohed by their father so we stuck to Stourport. Probably a good idea as 300 yards in I got an "I'm bored" from Minor - joy!

York Street progress?

This time I did get a call from an engineer though there'd been a miscommunication and he started off with the wrong end of the stick. As mentioned before York Street is a filter and merge system. My talk with the engineer added some extra points.

Apparently there's no need for any markings because none of the other filter and merge systems in Stourport (Gilgal, Mitton Street, Lion Hill etc.) have any. So next time you travel on any of those roads remember those white lines you're looking at are a figment of your imagination.

Next there's no need for line dividers as there's never been any there. Well I know there are and hopefully photos will prove me correct.

There is no need for a lane divider as the road is too narrow due to the parking on the left-hand side. Except the road is wide enough for two lanes except at the point where the council moved the parking bays closer to the entrance after the resurfacing and the lane divider was removed.

Next there is no need for a lane divider as they're "advisory" anyway. Interesting as you're supposed to signal when changing lanes; if there are no lane markings are you changing lanes?

Finally - the lack of lane markings increases safety. Hmm well I can see that as cars would slow down because they would have no idea what to do and that would increase congestion. Which apparently is fine as "safety is the highest concern"

"Okay if safety is the highest concern, remove all the cars from the road" I replied "can't get any safer than that"
"But we're just talking about road markings" he spluttered
"No we're talking about road management. If safety is the highest priority remove the cars."

Anyway they'll 'look' at York Street and if it's wide enough add a lane marking. At the very least they should be added the hatching at the entrance and a single extra dash at the end - big whoop.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Riots Part 6 - Perverting the course of justice

For those found guilty of rioting, looting, receiving stolen goods etc. there are variable sentences available and are set down by statute. As to which sentences should be given from those available there are set guidelines made available from the Sentencing Council.

So how did two men with no past criminal record get four years for inciting a riot that didn't happen?

Perhaps because the magistrates were being advised by HM Court and Tribunal Services. Except here's the problem - did I mention HMCTS at all during my opening paragraph about sentencing? I did not and this wasn't a lapse on my part; because they don't have a say in the matter.

Don't believe me check out what the Ministry of Justice themselves say. Mention of statute sentencing and the Sentencing Council's guidelines. however note that

When sentencing offenders, courts must follow relevant sentencing guidelines unless it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so. So, if a judge or magistrate believes a guideline sentence doesn’t allow the interests of justice to be served, he or she can sentence outside of the guideline. In these cases, the judge or magistrate must always state the reasons for this in their sentencing remarks in open court . 
So if a judge or magistrate themselves believe that they need to step outside the guidelines they can do so provide they state their reasons. Except it seems in case they've been told to do so. By whom?

Well it's not the Sentencing Council who themselves are looking into the harsh sentences; and apparently not the Minster for Justice who's denied all knowledge. This appears to have come from HMCTS itself. So given that they have no jurisdiction over this matter the next question is - why did the magistrates follow such guidance?

York Street an appeal for photographs

Last year I made mention of the single white arrow that had appeared in York Street which I found odd given that York Street is two lanes. I'd been fed up of the lack of action here so enough was enough and I called the Worcestershire Hub. The conversation at the time went like this:

"My understanding is that it's a filter"
"Which means it's two lanes"
"Well they filter"
"So who has priority Lion Hill or Lichfield Street/Mart Lane? If it's one lane you need a priority, if it's two lanes it needs to be marked as such.
"My understanding is there's limited parking on the left"
"Yes but for the majority of the road it's wide enough for two lanes as it's always been except at the entrance and that's only because a parking bay was moved from the created entrance to the new blocks of flats and moves, incorrectly in my opinion, nearer to the entrances."

This went on until I asked
"In the same case who has priority in High Street?"
"There's an island there"
"No. Bridge Street traffic goes straight over the island, but York Street traffic turns right by-passing the island. Is High Street two lanes or one?"

An engineer was going to get back to me. Fast forward to the present and I've contacted them again and amazingly got pretty much exactly the same response namely "It's a filter". However something new was added. I pointed out that York Street once had a lane divider marking that was worn out and never repainted; likewise a cross-hatching at the Lion Hill splitter. The response was "I have no evidence of that"

So that's what I want. Does anyone reading this have any photographs of York Street or of this splitter with markings. My guess we're looking at late 90's early 00's.

[Update - my father's stated there's a load on the I/We Love Stourport Facebook page so I'll check that out when I get the chance]

The Riots Part 5

This just gets better and better. In my first piece I stated "The police allegedly returned the fire of a drug dealer who was shot dead as a result." except the IPCC have stated that the bullet that was proclaimed as evidence that police had been shot at was in fact from a police weapon. Anyone asking the question of exactly how the police managed to shoot one of their own in the radio? Ah yes "One theory, not confirmed by the IPCC, is that the bullet became lodged in the radio from a ricochet or after passing through Duggan." Exactly how close were they to him for that to happen?

Again allegedly he was carrying a loaded gun, but subsequently the language suggests this was found at the scene rather than being "carried" in the sense that most would understand. Where was the gun - in a pocket or the glove compartment.?

Next we'll probably discover is that he wasn't a drug dealer.

Continuing with the riot news is the "get tough" approach that means council-housed looters could be evicted apparently if even only one family member is convicted. Excellent making a group homeless because of the actions of one individual will certainly teach them a lesson and ensure they stay on the straight and narrow - pathetic.


Just been sorting out a contract for something. Filled it in faxed it back, got a call
"It needs dating"
"It is dated, there's only one place it asks for a date"
"There are two places to sign"
"Yeah I'm looking at it now, the DD form is dated and the first page has no place for a date"
I turn to the second page - right at the top "Date" - excellent, well done.


My car will be three years old at the beginning of September and will therefore require its first MOT. Here's the sequence of events:

A car does not require an MOT until it is 3 years old
The tax for a new car that hasn't been taken off road will expire exactly at the end of 3 years.
The next tax period cannot be applied for until the car has an MOT.

So I don't need an MOT until the 1st September, but my tax disc runs out on the 31st August and I can't get a new one until I have an MOT. So I have to have an MOT prior to my car being three years old which it doesn't need ;-)


Originally on the XBox Network this indie game is now available for the Playstation. A simple monotoned game with only basic controls Limbo goes for atmosphere and slow build-up rather than big spectacle; in its simplicity it reminds me of Rez despite the fact that was a shooting game and this is a puzzle game. In terms of vulnerability perhaps even a smattering of Silent Hill 2.

It's good, everything blends together well to draw the player on though I can see some players would get frustrated even from the very beginning. In this age of hints and hand-holding Limbo instead comes from the Tomb Raider school of puzzles. Either you don't know what will kill you until it does, or you know what will kill you but are unsure what will trigger it until you do. Even the requirement for precise jumping is a requirement. With no tutorial or instructions or even motivation it's a case of learning the game as it's played, but the simple control set aids that instruction.

For all the insta-death check-pointing is frequent although there were times I found myself thinking "Oh not that jump again". Progression is logical, but requires a full set of senses to appreciate (in one instance one action causes an off-screen action that can only be heard to be occurring).

All-in-all it's a beautiful, if sometimes frustrating, game and well-worth the price for anyone who wants to exercise their brain without heading for the purely puzzle games.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why 3D may fail

3D films aren't new they've been around since the 1950's (and earlier) so why aren't all our films now in 3D, why aren't 2D films in the same basket as Black & White? Because as a concept it kept failing.

The biggest excuse is technological. Each studio used their own methods of creating these films and the high costs for the cinemas in acquiring all the equipment and peripherals to display them. But that doesn't explain why it became such a niche market. After all once a cinema has the equipment it's in their own interests to use it and to demand such from the studios.

Perhaps the audience didn't like the equipment they had to wear, the original shutter glasses, the 2-colour anaglyphs; from my own experience I can relate to that. Except polarisation systems existed then and were the main focus of the initial 50's 3D craze.

Perhaps it was the poor 3D, after all we don't just rely on the light received from each eye to determine depth. Given the lack of other visual cues our brains can become the equivalent of motion sick.

So the costs (both for making and displaying), the audience peripherals and the nausea. All good reasons why the technology never took off into the mainstream, but I'm going to add one more - gimmickry. To me it seems that whenever a studio produces a 3D film it just has to, quite literally, throw it in your face. If we consider 3D a new technique then it can enhance a film when used correctly. However watch a made-for-3D film in 2D and make a note of how many scenes have been inserted just to demonstrate the third dimension.

They add nothing to the scene and at times make no sense within context as to why this should be extended from the screen. For me it seems that 3D is still in this phase rather than being used as just another tool in the director's kit. Sure gimmicks are fine, but they don't last, add in all the other problems and to me is seems obvious why this technology splutters along.

Director's need to step back and look to live-action plays as a cue. The actors on stage don't wave swords at the audience or throw things at them (well okay some plays do), but they use the stage space to add to the play - people sneaking up from afar out of the darkness to someone standing at the front etc. Integrate this into films rather than let it be the focus - as a simple example consider how a moving shot through torrential rain to reveal a character would look in 3D over 2D; with no need for raindrops or bits of paper flying out the screen to 'hit' the audience and emphasise how 3D this all is.

They need to learn subtlety otherwise it'll just fade out again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Karl Pilkington's Seven Wonders Of The World

Or as he discovered half way through filming the series "An Idiot Abroad". For those not in the know Karl was a radio producer who worked behind the scenes with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant however he came to dominate their airtime. The podcasts they produced were subsequently animated and broadcast on television.

The premise is that Karl is a moron with both Ricky and Stephen laughing at his ignorance and the misconceptions he has. In "An Idiot Abroad" Ricky thinks it will be funny to send him off to see the (modern) wonders of the world well seven of them anyway they didn't do the Colosseum in Rome.

Tax Credits

For reasons I won't get into I ended up reading the guidelines to filling in the tax credits application form. By and large everything was straightforward and any information that wasn't to hand was obtainable; however one simple question led to a plea for help - how many hours worked in a week.

It should be easy - hours per day multiplied by number of days. So work 3½ hours a week for 5 days and that's 17½ hours - except there's only two spaces available - whole hours only. So do you round up or down?

At this point the guide really helps - hah! The first example is working a whole set of hours per day multiplied by a number of days. The second example is better as it shows an average 14 hours in one week, 18 hours the next 14+18=32 32/2=16 hours. Gee thanks how about 15 hours one week and 16 the next?

In the end we rounded down, but I'd have expected at least some guidance for non-whole hour work especially given how some places of business operate on half-hourly systems.

Oh and as an aside the name and address were already filled in on the front page, but not the National Insurance number; seriously which of those two are people more likely to be able to fill in easily?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

3D Television types

Last year I tried the Sony system of 3D televisions which require the viewer to wear glasses. These contain LCD shutters that time with the television to broadcast one frame to one eye then the other to the other eye. As mentioned the flickering was simply not bearable for me.

Then I tried the Nintendo 3DS and that uses a parallax barrier, a grill in front of the display screen that selectively blocks light to each eye. The benefit is not having to wear glasses. The downside is that it only works within a 'bubble', that is with the viewers head being within a certain distance from the screen at certain angles. Have multiple people sitting around a television designed like that and it simply won't work. Oh and this too started to give me a headache.

Now for the third type, this time a demonstration from the new combined PC World/Currys. Glasses on, but these use polarisation. They only allow light that's been rotated in the 'correct' manner to pass through the lens. For a movie screen this is easy - two images broadcast on the same screen that have passed through two filters. For a television that emits light two images can't be shown at the same time - a switching filter needs to be placed over the screen and that means flicker.

But it wasn't that bad, I'd even go so far as to say it was quite good. The fact that only the television flickered compared to everything flickering with the shutter glasses certainly helped and given that the technology is inside the television means I can see advances being easier compared to having to sync up to powered shutter glasses.

Even the fact that polarisation cuts light levels from the rest of the world helped, the setup meant I was at the back of the shop facing out towards the doors with all the light streaming in. With my 'sunglasses' on the television still seemed nice and bright. One small point though was that to get the effect I needed to stand in the aisle behind, that is about 2m from the screen. Not a problem and given its size expected, but I am trying to work out why that would be necessary.

Oh and on a final note the clip they showed was set to infinite focus meaning everything was focussed and not just the thing I was supposed to be looking at. So I could refocus on structures 'behind' the main action.

Of the three I've seen polarisation would be my favourite - cheap glasses that don't need new batteries or recharging, wide viewing angle, and as the tech is in the TV if it gets better the current glasses should still work with a new set. Oh and added bonus buy two pairs of glasses with the same polarisation in each lens and one person could see one 2D screen and the second another - split screen games become full screen games.


I watched the film Krull over the weekend I hadn't seen it in a long time. Wow I'd forgotten just how bad it is; and this isn't a 'so bad it's good' type of thing either.

Poor scripting, hammy acting, a McGuffin and deus-ex-machina heavy plot, with both logical and plot-level inconsistencies. But look at who stars in it - Liam Neeson, Robbie Coltrane, Freddie Jones, Bernard Bresslaw, Francesca Annis - just how could it be so bad?

Minecraft - repeaters tutorial plus bug

For anyone trying to lay out long circuits in Minecraft a simple problem will arise - redstone wire will only transmit power for 15 blocks before failing. The solution is to add in a repeater that will retransmit the power over another 15 blocks, however repeaters can do other things too, some of which can be quite odd.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Riots Part 4

A small discussion on the Shuttle has shown me that I need to re-state some of my previous points in a different way. What I've been asking is - why this, now? Why did everything explode at that point and not at a previous point. In that respect I find I need to turn to an old analogy that of comparing society to a pressure cooker.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Riots Part 3

While things seemed to have calmed down a little, no doubt due to the large scale mobilisation of the police that will be unlikely to occur after the cuts, the statement I keep seeing pushed is from Cameron

"If you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishment."
Odd as I don't recall Parliament passing any alterations in the law that would allow anyone of any age to be tried? As it stands anyone under the age of 10 is presumed incapable of committing an offence. Therefore this statement really means: Anyone who is deemed old enough to face trial is old enough to be punished by such. Which is the way things already stand. That would be as if he'd said "If you are old enough to drive a car you are old enough to own one" duh!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Riots Part 2

Following from my initial post other points that keep cropping up are "Rioting isn't the answer*" and "They're not listening to us".

To deal with the first the follow-up seems to be along the lines that we have a democracy and the voice of the people should come via the ballot box. Excellent I couldn't agree more so let's hold an election right now! Let's elect our MP, our councillor; let's hold a referendum right now! Oh wait we can't we only get to do that when the people currently in power allow us to. Sure there are rules that mean they have to hold one every so often; but we the people never got a say in that and we still don't.

From the other side of the argument is the 'not listening'. Really? Have you tried to make your voice heard? When was the last time you attended a PACT meeting? It's difficult, if not impossible, to justify a case that the authorities aren't listening if you don't attend the meetings set up so they can hear you.

Okay in that latter case I would accept the argument that they'd never heard of these meetings. In our case the notices seem to be buried in the 'and local' section of the newspaper or at the most get a thumb's worth of space amongst the 'real' news. If you didn't already know they existed there's little to tell you they do.
Locally the PACT information for Stourport can be found here which includes the timetable and meeting point. At least they're not being held during weekday afternoons; weekday early evenings when some people may have just got back in from work, but at least not the afternoons.

*I quoted this before, but it's worth doing it again -
"Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?"
"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?" [...] "Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard,  more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Riots

If you're reading a right-wing paper the situation is clear - they're a bunch of hooligans who need to be strung up, bring back the death penalty, blah blah. Read a left-wing paper and it's all deplorable, but understandable given the wealth gap, blah blah.

Rather than try to neatly package these events up to conform to their/our own belief system I want to ask a simple question - why is this happening?

Set aside the current spate of riots up and down the country for the time being and concentrate on the very first event in Tottenham. The police allegedly returned the fire of a drug dealer who was shot dead as a result. It's a rare event in the UK, but not unprecedented. The IPCC was called in as is proper and a peaceful demonstration held on behalf of the family to ask for "justice". Judging from precedent that should have been the end of it. It wasn't.

Following the largely media-ignored peaceful protest* violence erupted. Why? What made this incident into a priming event not only for riots in Tottenham but across the rest of London and the UK? Sad to say the shooting itself probably played little part directly, but acted as the last straw, the tipping point. It's quite possible that any vaguely overt move by 'the authorities' would have started this. As such it's not possible to point to any one thing that has led to this, but instead this needs to be treated as a huge miasma clinging to the people of this country. The large events dominate perceptions, but it's the ever present nagging events that truly create the build-up.

Yes the cuts played their part, but also we see groups such as bankers being rewarded for their mistakes; the constant sniping from the left-wing media about the wealth gap; the constant sniping from the right-wing media about crooks 'getting away with it'; food bills and energy bills going up while the companies proudly announce their staggering profits. Worrying about unemployment while our leaders holiday abroad in five-star hotels. Even 'stupid' things like the constant pressure to be perfect that the glossy magazines and the advertisers bombard us with. The 'silly' things such as bouncing over the potholes newly formed in a road that was only repaired last month. The sheer indifference some people seem to pay to societal etiquette or basic rules.

Everything just builds up until - snap.

"Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?"
"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?" [...] "Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard,  more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."


I've said this before I'm sure, but for me diversions from closed roads should be quite simple to follow - a driver takes the default option along any route unless a sign instructs them otherwise. As such signs should be set up where a turn needs to be made or some possible confusion could arise as to which is the default option (such as at a Y-type island).

So travelling from Dunley Road to Worcester Street following this pattern should see a sign at the end of High Street pointing right, followed almost immediately after by one pointing left, and then another at the top of Vale Road also pointing left.

So why is there one at the Areley Common junction pointing straight on? Traffic isn't being diverted from that turn and who, following a diversion, would make an uninstructed right-turn? Likewise why is there a sign at Raven Street pointing straight on, why one at the top of Bridge Street pointing straight across the island? Why at the top of Vale Road is there one pointing straight on the other side of the road from one pointing left?

If it's a case of placing one at every junction why none at Areley Lane or Harold Davies Drive pointing straight? As these signs are set up in the footpath, one would think that the minimum the better.

Dungeon Siege 3 - tactics part 2: abilities

As I mentioned in the first part of this guide the abilities of each character tend to match their stances however the order that the player chooses to unlock them can make a major difference in gameplay particularly when linked to Proficiencies and Talents.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Hotel Hunting

Been helping a friend who is computer-less look up a few hotels abroad for a more unbiased view than appears in the brochures. It just reminds me of how badly some of these are set up.

Here's what we want to know - exact location and prices, followed by some method to check availability and contact them.

The first should be easy - Google Maps provides a method to embed an exact centred map into a website; then it should be a case of zooming in with StreetView (if available) and checking the place out. So far I've not found one hotel's website providing an exact match just an "approximate location" which meant trawling up and down the street hoping to spot the hotel - in one case it would have been impossible as the entrance was on a side street from the one named. In one case I ended up downloading the promo video in the vain hopes that it would show me the entrance so I could attempt to match it up on StreetView.

In terms of pricing about half gave prices; none allowed availability checking. At least all of them provided a telephone number and email.

That is once I'd found their sites. With the number of aggregates out there and the tendency of groups to list their hotels under the group name (which we might not know) it's difficult to tell the two apart. In one case I only found the official website by searching for the hotel on Maps and using their entry there. It didn't show up on a plain search.


Dungeon Siege 3 - tactics part 1: character selection.

Yes I'm still playing this as belying it's outward simplicity complexity lies beneath, particularly at the Hardcore level of difficulty. Given the game's reluctance to provide any information I chose to do so while such is fresh in my mind. As such I'll start at the beginning - character selection.

The Economy

With the current downturn in the markets all sorts are popping out of the woodwork to give their views as to what should be done; some have some qualification in what they're discussing some don't; so I thought "Hey I can do that too" :-)

Friday, August 05, 2011

TJ Hughes

Well we all thought that it might be coming and this morning on the local news the locations of the TJ Hughes stores in our region that were closing were announced. Kidderminster was included amongst their number. Exact closing dates can be found via the Express and Star, but basically it'll be closed by Monday the 15th.

Does this mean another large prominent building is going to remain empty in the town centre in the same way the Littlewoods and M&S buildings were and Woolworths still is?

On a nicer note Smyths the toy store is opening the 27th August on the Crossley site next to where the PC World used to be before it merged with Currys. I've said elsewhere that a toy store (beyond the Early Learning Centre) is the one thing lacking from the town since Playmates in Blackwell Street closed down so long ago.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Telephone system codes

While most are aware of codes such as 1471 and 1571 for last number dialled and the answer phone it seems people are unaware that the telephone exchanges recognise certain other codes - ones that make use of the hash (#) and star (*) symbols that normally see no use at all.

As a service to my many readers [snort] and to myself I'd thought I'd write up a list of  perhaps the most useful and that I know will most likely work regardless of system used:

*#001# - What codes/services are currently active on your phone (note that doesn't tell you what services are available just which ones are switched on at that moment)

*21* (telephone number) # - Divert all incoming calls to the telephone number entered
#21# - Cancel that diversion

*61* (telephone number) # - When not answered divert incoming calls to the number entered
#61# - Cancel that diversion

*67* (telephone number) # - When busy divert incoming calls to the number entered
#67# - Cancel that diversion

Forgot what number you've diverted to? Dial the cancel code with a * first and it'll tell you.

5 - Request ringback when calling a busy/engaged phone
#37# - Cancel ringback

141 (telephone number) - Withhold your number from the person you're calling

There are others, but since all the unbundling etc. most don't work now or if they did still work I consider them to risky to unleash upon the world ;-)

Actually on that note - if anyone calls to 'check your phone' and asks you to input any type of * or # code don't do it!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Minecraft - redstone strangeness

I've already dealt with the basics of how redstone works, but still some oddities can arise.

Let's take a simple system:

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dungeon Siege III final review

On the surface Dungeon Siege III appears to come from the same stable as Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Norrath, Elder Scrolls, and Sacred, however after playing it through a better comparison can be made with Mass Effect 2. Sure the stories and settings are different, but at their heart they both share traits.

Power cuts

I came in this morning to another dead office - we'd had a power cut some time over the weekend (Sunday early morning I've just discovered). So that makes three or four this month. Judging by the clocks they only last a couple of minutes not long enough to tip the alarm's battery; but still it's a touch annoying.