Saturday, July 26, 2008

R.I.P. Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, lecturer of The Last Lecture, Died Friday.

If you haven't see either his The Last Lecture or his lecture on Time Management then I suggest you go to his Academic Page and sit through them. As much as students like to moan about how boring lectures are, Randy is one of those pragmatic lecturers who are a delight to hear from. Both of these lectures are inspiring and it is unfortunate that it took a terminal illness for him to come to our attention.

Below is a brief clip of Randy addressing members of Congress regarding funding for Pancreatic Cancer research. I know he will be missed by many people.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Windows Vista's Speaker Room Correction

Very expensive speakers have this feature called Room Correction. This is a calibration system where each speaker plays a test signal and uses a built in microphone to listen to the signal coming from the other speakers. By listening to this signal, delay and room frequency response from a room can be mapped out. This creates an automatically calibrated listening environment that compensates for a lot of room features like furniture and has many advantages over a manually calibrated equaliser system (mainly the fact that it is automated).

Windows Vista has Room Calibration built in. To do a calibration:

1) Connect up a microphone to your computer.

2) Setup your microphone so that your computer can listen through it.

2) Open up Playback Devices window.

3) Open up the properties window for your speakers.

4) Select the enhancements tab.

5) Select Room Correction and then Settings.

6) Follow the on-screen instructions.

I recommend turning your speakers up so that the test signal can be heard by your microphone. And place your microphone in a similar location to where you yourself will be listening to your speakers.

I don't know if this has made my listening experience better because I am not that well trained in these things, but the alterations applied to my system where to add a delay and slightly turn down the volume on my right speaker. This makes sense when you consider that my right speaker is closer to me, than my left. So logically my speakers should now sound better. Although I should add that this is no consolation to not buying a good set of speakers in the first place.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mirrors Edge Developer Commentary Disappoints Me

There are a lot of games where I see some kind of preview of the game and from that little snippet I build-up a picture in my head on what the game will be like to play and how the mechanics will work etc. So I can run through my head what it will be like to play just from seeing a very small preview. Sometimes the finished game surprises me and I am delighted and other times the reality of playing the finished product falls short on my expectations. I am sure you too do this.

The concept of Mirrors edge is that of a very clean line art style set in a city where all communication is closely monitored by the state. Because of this runners are paid to carry sensitive information across the city by hand so that the authorities don't get their hands on it.

The game takes the concept and some of the style of Freerunning into itself. This combined with the Currier missions made me think that missions would be given very much like they where in Thief and Assassins Creed. Where you got missions by talking directly to hidden contacts or by finding clues and markers left for you. However for some reason Mirrors edge features a radio, which for me breaks the whole anti-surveillance thing as obviously the state could listen into the radio. They will probably have a plot point that says that the radio transmissions are encrypted, but to me this is nowhere anywhere even close to being as cool as getting a mission from a set of cryptic symbols on a hidden bit of paper, or getting a mission by meeting someone secretly hoping the authorities doesn't find out.

Plus as much as I love story being feed to me during a mission as I am playing through a level, the crackly radio doesn't fit the visual styling of the game.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Nintendo & Sony E3 Press Conference Impressions

I have finished watching all three conferences now and I thought Sony's was the best. Best in presentation and best in all round content. No big announcements, but what Sony needs is games.

Nintendo's conference left a lot to be desired. That woman (whoever she was) on-stage to me felt as if she was addressing some parents PTA meeting, not the specialist press and other people from the industry. Her presentation style felt very clicky and wooden.
The Wii music game looks as if it will sell very well, but the Drum section that was played didn't sound good at all. And that surprises me because Nintendo has always had such a high quality bar.

As always The 1Up Show had some nail on the head observations, but to sum it up, all the conferences where lacking in one way or another.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Microsoft E3 Press Conference Impressions

Microsoft's E3 press conference was a little dull and very light on news. Three big announcements.

1) Completely new dashboard interface coming this fall. Yet no news on wither that is going to make finding stuff on marketplace easier.

2) XBox360 Miis coming this fall. A direct rippoff translation iteration of one of the Wii's most successful features.

3) Final Fantasy XIII. Not that I care about this, but I expected a proper (i.e not Crystal Chronicles) FF game to come to the 360 a year or two ago. Why did this take so long!?

Update: I almost forgot.

4) And Netflix support. This really is one of the final nails in Blockbuster's coffin.