Friday, June 22, 2012

Playstation 3's Parental Control Levels

If I seem to be smacking Sony about at the moment it's because this is the first time I've had to deal with their complete screw-up of their parental control system on the PS3.

I've dealt with how a child will forever remain a child in the eyes of Sony's Playstation Network; and how it's completely easy to bypass said controls. But what if you try to use them?

Sony allows you to set two different scales for watching videos or playing games. This should be fairly easy - set game and film content to 16 and they'll be able to play or watch anything with a 15 certificate or under. Of course Sony don't do that, they use their own scale.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gove to replace exams with exams

In a bold new measure the Education Secretary Michael Gove has decided to change the name of the examinations that secondary pupils sit from GCSE back to O-level in an attempt to make them seem tougher.

An anonymous spokesperson for the Conservative Party didn't say "This is an important move in reconnecting to our core demographic of tabloid readers and the elderly while reinforcing our policies of elitism"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Words with Sony

I recently pointed out the ease with which a child could bypass the Playstation 3 parental controls and the incentive for them to do so.

But simply pointing that out here doesn't really accomplish anything, so I sent an email to the head of Sony UK; sadly he was Out of Office until yesterday, but he's obviously passed it on as I had a personal rather than stock reply from someone one rung down, which I was kind of impressed with.

The short answer was 'You're right - you can't upgrade, but your points are appreciated and I'm forwarding it on for review'

So who knows maybe (soon even) it will be possible to upgrade accounts.

The way around this seems to be to set up a normal account by lying to Sony about his DOB and then setting a PIN on the parental controls for that account. In theory this should restrict him as to what he can see or play, but ironically perhaps not what he could buy (i.e. rent an 18 certificate film from the Playstation Store, but not be able to watch it) or spend.

Annoyingly this could still be deactivated by reseting to factory default which resets the PIN to 0000; though that would be highly obvious.

Still a ridiculous situation that I even need to think about how to do this.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sony Playstation 3 parental control failure

I've already dealt with Sony's stance on updating a PSN sub-account to a master account; but it gets worse.

The responsible adult sets up a PS3 user and associates a PSN account with it; they then create another PS3 user for their child and associate a PSN sub-account with it. They set the parental controls and walk away secure in the knowledge that they can't access the internet or 'adult' games or movies.

That is until the child creates a brand new user on the PS3 and associates that with a different PSN account with a fake birthday in which case they've by-passed the lot.

In there any way to stop this? According to Sony, whom I spoke to directly, no.

So what's the point of the parental controls?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The £100bn bank loan

Our wonderful chancellor has a new wheeze to boost the British economy by handing out money to banks. Wait haven't they already tried this? Well yes but this is a completely new and different approach.

What will happen is that a bank can 'swap' its mortgage assets with the Bank of England for actual cash that can in turn be loaned out again.

This is of course completely different to what happened before when those banks 'swapped' their mortgage assets between themselves for cash in the sub-prime mortgage fiasco in that this time it'll be the Bank of England who will be directly left with all the toxic debt.


A new convert to the PS3 fold

Bratus Major's XBox 360 has been having 'problems' something to do with the hard drive; the outcome is that he can't save his games which is a actual problem. I'm sure this have nothing to do with some bit of stuff he acquired from his best friend; no indeedy it's pure coincidence that said best friend's Xbox has also failed.

So far so what? Well the best friend, whose parents I'm led to believe from accounts seem to belong to the "money>sense" club, have ditched the Xbox route and switched over to the PS3. In order to continue to play with him that means Major is in the market for a PS3 and this has resulted in a dialogue between myself and his father as to what model to pick up etc.

For those coming from the XBox side this is surprisingly easy - there are only two models available and the only difference is the hard drive size which is home-upgradable anyway. In other words go for the cheaper 160Gb model and upgrade to something huge later if necessary. The only downside is the one that came up regarding the inability to upgrade a PS3 sub-account; but that's their lookout.

Of course he's still got a ton of XBox games which he won't be able to play and it's not a case of being able to pass them down to Bratus Minor without a console to match. Fortunately there's a CEX in Worcester which is likely to have more stock and trade-in than GAME, which is getting a little lacking in that department.

So the good news is that I'll be able to play games over the 'net with him; the bad news is that he'll now be able to borrow my games and my blu-ray movies and I'll get the same level of "How do you..." I get from Minor.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sony's insane stance on PSN sub-accounts

If you buy a PS3 and want to buy things from their store or play online you need to set up an account. Seems obvious and it's easy, unless you're under 18.

If you are you can't create a normal account; a parent or guardian does that and then adds you on as a sub-account. As a sub-account holder you can't add money directly and they can use parental controls to restrict your actions - this is a good thing.

Until the sub-account holder hits 18, because as it stands it is impossible to upgrade a sub-account to a regular account. So what? Well the only way to get out of the shadow of sub-accounthood is to create a brand new account.

No problem there in itself except you can't transfer your sub-account to this new account either.

Say bye-bye to all your trophies

Say bye-bye to anything purchased using the sub-account

None of these things can be transferred to your new "I'm 18 now" account

It appears that in Sony's universe no-one ages.

Their unofficial advice - lie about your age. Seriously when confronted by a problem and the only response possible is to advise cheating the system I think a serious rethink of said system is in order.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good old national politics

With a vote in the House of Commons on instigating an investigation into whether culture secretary Jeremy Hunt misled Parliament we see politics as usual.

Cameron says it's not necessary thus sending a message to his fellow Conservatives to protect a fellow Conservative.

Ed Milliband is pushing some questions indicating Labour should investigate this Tory.

And the Lib Dems? Clegg has instructed his Party members to abstain.

Yup they don't support it enough to vote for it, but because they're in a coalition they really can't vote against it either. One Lib Dem MP appeared on the BBC's Breakfast news and used a large quantity of words to basically state that had they still been in opposition the outcome would be different.

They're all the same - if it's one of 'ours' caught doing something it's no big deal, but if it's one of 'theirs' they should have the full force of Parliament brought down upon them.

Are we ever going to find a Party who thinks that the rules should apply equally to everyone, even if/when they end up in government themselves?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Monday morning I was flicking through the electronic TV guide for the Viva channel (21 on Freeview) to check if they'd switched to later seasons of South Park from the repeats of the first season. As this was the morning and I couldn't be arsed to use the time jump buttons I simply scrolled through the channel through to 10pm.

It was therefore pure luck that I was paying attention as the word "Daria" flashed past at the 6pm mark. "wait did that say Daria?" Indeed it did and hey now it was the very first episode too. Hell yeah series is damn well linked to record.

I always tried to catch the show when it was on 'normal' TV, but it wasn't well placed and this was before catch-up and recording stuff involved voodoo rituals to work correctly. I could resort to a poor sidebite and say this is "The Simpsons with edge" but that does neither show any justice.

Re-watching it after 11 years how does it stand up? To me it's still as good if not better. It's not a laugh-out-loud show more of a thoughtful smile.

For those who missed out. Daria is a smart non-conformist with a popular dumb-seeming younger sister, a high-powered business mother and a frenetic father. Characters are well-fleshed out including what would be ancillary characters and that's out of the starting gate.

There's so much subtly going on - the self-esteem teacher who can't recall his pupils names. A teacher giving a psychology evaluation test who sarcastically over-emphasises Daria's name when she gets it wrong (Dara) and is corrected before returning to the incorrect version. Daria's mother who upon being informed Daria may have self-esteem issues exclaims "How can you have esteem issues? We're always telling you how great you are what's is wrong with you!"

So much implied at it's simply a show to sit back and enjoy. Oh and we may finally be getting a Region 2 release on DVD

Monday, June 11, 2012

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

In a fit of madness I decided to watch "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" I just wanted something light to watch and for some reason couldn't remember anything about the plot of this movie except something to do with a  magnetic box.

Since watching it again I now realise why I didn't recall much about it - my brain was acting to protect itself.

Just from the first half hour this is what I had to contend with.

Okay I can live with movie physics. Sure a magnetic box will attract gunpowder from metres away and so strongly that it will pull it towards itself before it manages to fall under gravity, but at the same time won't attract the overhead lights, weapons, or crowbars of the people around it until they remove the wooden lid.

Putting such a highly magnetised on the flatbed of a metal vehicle and not have it attracted to the metal sides and being able to slide it on and off is perfectly understandable.

Wandering off into the Nevada desert rather than tracing the tracks back to the base and, presumably, a working telephone is fine. As is setting off a nuclear detonation so close to an army base filled with whoo-whoo artefacts.

Nothing wrong with surviving such an explosion by getting into a freezer; hey we even know it was lead-lined because the camera stops to show us. Getting out unhurt to share a comedic moment with a gopher is just one of those things that happens right?

However it took just one scene to show me that the writer and director simply didn't care or just weren't doing their damn jobs. Indiana is being questioned by the FBI and is asked if he can identify the women in charge. He responds with

"Tall, thin, mid-30s, carried a sword of some kind, a rapier, I think" 

Hey so what? He's trying to answer the question isn't he?

Well perhaps because Indy worked out she was from the Ukraine by her accent which might have helped narrow the field down a little. Maybe telling them that she boasted about having been awarded the Order of Lenin three times and received the title of "Hero of Socialist Labour" might serve to identify her. Or maybe failing all of that just telling them that she's called Dr Irina Spalko which is how she introduced herself to him at the beginning of the film. But hey at least he was paying enough attention to determine she carried a rapier.

Plotholes I can try to ignore - how did the conquistadors obtain a skull from a room that requires a skull to open it? How did a landmark next a waterfall remain untouched for 7,000 years?

Same goes for lack of information - who exactly attacked Indy in the graveyard and why? Did those inhabitants of the lost city live in those mouldings?

But not paying attention to your own film's chronology during the writing or even editing phase - that's unacceptable.

Sony PS3 7.1 Stereo Wireless Headphone review

As I play games that often require me to be sneaky knowing if an enemy if on my left or right makes a large difference. Given that I've not set my television up with multiple speakers a pair of headphones seemed the logical choice; that and not wanting to disturb my neighbours.

Looking at all the headphones around that advertise themselves as working with the Playstation 3 was an education. So many required connecting wires. Me I don't like loose wires between me and expensive bits of equipment - too easy to forget about them, get up and pull things down. Restricting myself to wireless headsets narrowed the field considerably, even more so when I removed all the single mono headsets and ones without microphones. Pretty much came down to Sony and Turtle Beach.

Trying to buy a San Diego from Orange

I've been having charging problems with my existing phone; it seems to be the actual charging connection rather than the battery or lead. Time for a new phone. I've been holding off until the new Orange San Diego (was the Santa Clara) came out with its price plan. It came out last week so I headed to the Orange Shop in Kidderminster to take a look at it.

Well that was the plan.

With a new phone out I'd expected it to be displayed prominently; at the very least some advertising in the window.

I walked in and there were two staff each dealing with a customer and one person looking around. I went through all the phones to find the San Diego - not in sight.

I waited.

Another person came in and joined one of the customers at which point they started a discussion between themselves, but hadn't finished the transaction.

The other sales assistant was still dealing with a customer who appeared to be having some trouble with her phone. All sorted he then helpfully decided to check if she was due for an upgrade.

I waited. As he stepped away for a second I interrupted him and asked if they had any San Diego's. The response was that they should have some in stock out the back.

I took a booklet and left.

Okay his mind was slightly elsewhere, but I'm inquiring about a phone that they've only just had in and should be advertising to the hilt and this was the lukewarm response.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Skyrim - PS3 first impressions review

I caved in and picked up Skyrim, pretty much because it came with a free guide that included a massive map. Popped it in the console, did the update and watched it install. Over 4Gb of data but went by very quickly; there are multiple ways of installing data and it seems Bethesda has done it the right way.

Started it up and... underwhelmed. Stuck in the back of a cart all I can do is swing my head back and forth to whoever is talking while missing out on all the incidentals that were going on in the background. Arriving at the destination and ordered out of the cart I thought "Oh good I get to take control". More chat and swinging of head and again moved forward for character creation.

Efficiently compacting an Outlook PST file

If you use Outlook and do the right thing by backing up the file store it creates every so often in addition to a main backup you may have noticed just how large it can get.

Some reading this will already know why, but a brief analogy for those who don't.

Imagine a magic warehouse designed to store boxes. A box arrives and is placed in the warehouse and fills it completely. Another box arrives, but the warehouse is full! Not so, the magic warehouse expands to accommodate the new box. Every time a box arrives the warehouse gets larger. This is how the Outlook PST (Personal STore) file works with emails.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The cost of data roaming

It's a standard tale - someone travels abroad and comes back to a massive phone bill. "But" they complain "I hardly made any phone calls". That's as may be, but in the background your phone was probably polling your email, sending those photos you took to be synced up to the cloud and all other things you take for granted working in the background.

While travelling in Europe may 'only' cost you 40p per minute a single Megabyte of data may cost you £3.

But wait didn't the EU get stroppy about all this, didn't they impose some sort of limit? Yes they did. The first thing to note is that the limit is price based at €50; so how much you actually get is dependent on how much your mobile provider is trying to squeeze out of you. At £3 per Mb that's 13Mb a month. Take 7 pictures that autosync to your cloud and that's your monthly limit gone.

Ah but wait

  • Consumers can also select a different cut-off limit if offered by the operator or opt out of this bill shock safeguard entirely.
  • Operators are obliged to send users a warning whey they reach 80% of their data-roaming bill limit. The operator will have to cut off the mobile internet connection once the limit has been reached, unless the customer has indicated they want to continue data roaming.
Interpretation of these two rules is what lets mobile operators off the hook. Go on holiday take a few photos and watch your data limit get smashed and they'll send you a little text asking if you if you want to continue. Well of course you do so you say yes. You have now opted out of the limit entirely not just for this period but forever. As you now have no limit they have no proviso to warn you about your data usage. It's up to you to contact them to have the limit put back in place.

At least they operators offer their own cheaper bundles for data. Yeah great except remember that means you have again opted out of the EU data limit. Exceed your bundle allowance they don't have to tell you and you're back on the £3/Mb tariff.

One final note - recall that £3 per Mb? The EU capped prices at €0.50 or 40p per Mb. Que? Well that's wholesale prices; what you as a "consumer" get charged is up to the provider. That £2.60 difference is all gravy.

The joke is that there's a simple solution - make a consumer opt in every €50 worth of data. If they're using a bundle tell them when they exceed that and revert to the €50 opt-in.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Great British Menu messes up again

I saw the final rounds for the starter and fish dish this week on BBC2's "Great British Menu" and was flabbergasted by the change implemented.

It seems they've cottoned on to the same thing we the viewers have in that some of the dishes being produced aren't up to scratch and therefore it is pointless to waste the judges time by tasting them again.

By itself this might seem a good change, but it comes at a price of the suspension of disbelief for me at least. The two central tenets of the show is that it is a regional competition and that they are choosing a menu. Of course come the final decision they start cherry-picking the dishes, but this codifies that.

If you're going to start picking now, why not pick earlier? I've seen dishes getting perfect marks from the presiding chef judge that the trinity of judges never get to even taste due to poor accompanying dishes letting down the entire menu.

The joke is that this entire 'competition' from the get-go has been set up to determine who has the best menu, who is the best chef, but the end result is about setting out the greatest dishes possible.

To me this final change just rams home how pointless the previous rounds were in regards to the final output.

The end of the Diamond Jubilee

So big whoop. I'm not a monarchist, but I'm not a republican either. I recognise the good job the monarch does in the balance of our constitutional monarchy, but that's as far as it goes.

Watching the coverage though was an exercise in arse-kissing. For me the particularly egregious points was that the Diamond Jubilee was an "achievement" or/and that the Queen should be "rewarded" for it.

Congratulations at a young age you inherited a position that you cannot (pretty much) be fired from that comes with the privilege of the best food, accommodation and medical care money can buy. Managing to last that long with all those 'hardships' is hardly an achievement and most certainly doesn't require rewarding in and of itself.

If you want to hold a celebration do so because of the moderating influence she's had on our government, the apolitical advice she's provided to our leaders from years of experience, but not because she's simply managed to last this long.