Back, sort of

…although with 700 emails and about 3 feet of post to wade through, it’ll be a while before I’m able to do much. But a few quick thoughts:

  • Some enterprising games company should turn the old RPG Paranoia into a console game. Dysfunctional sci-fi with a warped sense of humour… it’d be great.
  • Looks like Glasgow Council has been at it again while I’ve been away: they’re extending their nightclub glass ban to all city centre drinking establishments, so if you’re in a restaurant and fancy taking your drink through to the bar then you’ll have to pour it into a plastic glass. Apparently ver Council also intends to bar sales of wine by the bottle, presumably to battle Cotes Du Rhone rage. Sheesh.
  • Italians? Stylish? Hahahahahahahahah.
  • Girls Aloud gig: decent gig (although I could have done without the appalling musicals medley) ruined by the worst sound I have ever heard at a big gig. Not sure it’s due to the SECC’s legendarily bad acoustics, though, because the nearer to the speakers you got the worse the sound became. Not that I particularly like the soulless cavern that calls itself the SECC, particularly when they adopt a ridiculous no-pass policy that means once you’re in the venue, you can’t leave for any reason whatsoever if you want to get back in. Sheesh, again.

One last inspired spam subject line, then I’m off

This one’s too good to keep to myself.

I am Dislexic of Borg. Resistance is Futile. Prepare to have your ass laminated.

On a more irritating note, spam’s already infesting the blog comments so I’ve switched on an anti-spam filter. Apologies in advance if it traps legit comments in the “must be moderated” queue.

See ya…

Another blog break

I’m away on holiday early on Monday morning and won’t have Internet access for a week, which I’m sure will be a relief to most of you. I know it’s difficult, but you’ll just have to wait until I return for my thoughts on Sunday’s Girls Aloud gig. Sorry about that.

Daring Fireball on Microsoft’s crisis of confidence

Another good article by John Gruber: this time he compares Apple’s current situation with Microsoft’s ongoing crisis of confidence. A few months back I wrote a piece for PC Plus about Microsoft, and concluded that Microsoft’s biggest enemy wasn’t Apple, Google or Linux; Microsoft’s biggest enemy, I reckoned, was Microsoft itself. It seems Gruber is thinking along the same lines:

In the ’90s, to sell copies of Word, they needed to beat WordPerfect, and they did; to sell Excel, they needed to beat Lotus 1-2-3. Now, though, to sell new copies of Microsoft Office, they need to beat older copies of Microsoft Office. Hence the much-maligned ads in which Microsoft casts their own users as dinosaurs simply because they haven’t upgraded to the latest version of Office.

Most of the criticism of these ads revolves around the fact that it’s a bad idea to insult your own customers. But what I found interesting about them is the tacit acknowledgment that Microsoft’s strongest competitor in today’s office software market isn’t OpenOffice, or any other competing suite from another company, but rather the Microsoft of a decade ago.

The article also makes some good points about the new MacBooks, so it’s worth a read even if you’re a committed Microsoft-phobe.

Apple can’t decide what constitutes “legitimate journalism”

Interesting court verdict in the US:

a California appeals court decided against Apple today in the company’s bid to force bloggers to turn over sources who leaked information about the Apple product codenamed “Asteroid”… the appeals court roundly rejected [Apple’s] notions as contrary to California’s reporter’s shield law and the state Constitution, effectively stating that it wasn’t Apple’s place to decide what constitutes “legitimate journalism,” and that Apple could have investigated the leak of trade secrets themselves without drawing the websites into the mix.

You need to buy a new iPod at least once a year

So says Steve Jobs, although he didn’t mean iPod replacement due to faulty kit and what looks like Apple UK’s ridiculous interpretation of the sale of goods act.

It doesn’t matter that iPod lovers can spend up to £300 on their gizmo. Apple operates on the basis that the iPod life expectancy is a year, and that’s it.

I really like Apple kit, but stuff like this really gets my goat. I’m with the Guardian: electronic items, particularly expensive ones, should last more than a year. If your iPod dies just outside its warranty period and Apple won’t repair it for a reasonable amount, I’d seriously consider raising a Small Claims Court action.

Sonic shenanigans

This Place Is Dead linked to this incredible-sounding story:

A yob-busting alarm using ultra high sound to drive teenage thugs from shopping centres has been hijacked to create inaudible classroom ringtones.Techno-savvy school kids are getting away with using mobile phones in class through the creation of ringtones adults cannot hear.

British firm Compound Security has been praised by the police for its Mosquito device which was developed to stop teenage gangs hanging around outside shops.

Once installed on a building, it emits a high-pitched sound, like a constant insect buzzing, to drive the problem away.

It is highly effective because it cannot be heard by most people over the age of 20 but is deeply irritating to teenagers.

Now the youngsters have turned the tables by making high-pitched recordings which allow them to exchange text messages in class unheard.

Known as “Teen Buzz”, it is spread from phone to phone via text message and blue tooth technology.

I call shenanigans. It’s easy to create a tone of a specified frequency in any audio editor, and I can happily hear 15Khz, 17.5KHz and 20KHz tones (20KHz is the usual upper limit of human hearing) despite my advanced age (33), several years of iPod abuse and 16 years of playing extremely loud guitars in various rock bands. I can also hear Teen Buzz fine, despite its frequency of 18 and a bit KHz. That puts it well within most people’s hearing range – but well outside the typical frequency range attainable with mobile phone loudspeakers, which struggle with frequencies above 10KHz.

Sony needs a Wii

Both Sony and Nintendo have announced the price of their forthcoming games consoles: the PS3 will be a “Holy crap! You’re kidding!” £425, while the Wii will cost $249 in the US (so I’d assume well under £200 over here). Meanwhile Xbox 360s are currently selling at £279 for the premium system and £209 for the core system, and that’s bound to drop before Xmas. Which makes me wonder: what the hell is Sony playing at?

Yes, the PS3 is impressive, on paper at least. Yes, there’s a rabid fanbase of PS2 owners. But come Christmas, there’ll be oodles of Xbox 360 games, a stack of Wii games, and about three PS3 games; there’s bound to be PS3 shortages, and that will no doubt lead to retailers taking the piss by only offering bundles. So you’ll have a choice: an overpriced PS3 bundle with a few lacklustre games (and by “overpriced” I mean “overpriced compared to the overpriced PS3 itself”), or for the same cash you’ll be able to get a 360, Halo 3 (possibly), a Nintendo and a few games for that as well. Hmm, tough choice.

Maybe Blu-ray drives offer something utterly amazing, so compelling that games developers will prefer PS3 development to Xbox or Wii development. But I suspect not . Faced with the choice of developing for a next-gen console that’s hugely expensive and won’t be widely adopted for ages, or for a much cheaper console that’s already in millions of homes, making PS3-exclusive games might not be the smartest strategy.

I really wonder about Sony sometimes. From Super Audio CD to its bone-headed refusal to make MP3 players that support MP3, and now its insistence of bundling Blu-Ray to put the cost of a PS3 into orbit, it’s like watching a very slow corporate suicide.