Friday, 29 May 2009

City of Heroes Reloaded

Just when you think you're out, they pull you back in. I have reactivated my City of Heroes account as the result of some light prodding. I look forward to finding out how the game has changed since I last played, and of course I look forward to pretending I'm a butt-kicking superhero too. My two main characters, Dire Sun and Bane Mage, should be waiting there for me to pick up again, but it seems likely that the name "Zombie Slayer" has passed into the reusable pool and been snapped up. I'll have to come up with something a little more original for that plucky young scrapper.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Suggestions are welcome.
PPS - And this occasion may call for a new character too.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Haiku for Plants vs Zombies

On, they had a short competition to give away a full copy of Plants vs Zombies. The only thing to do was write the best zombie-themed haiku in the comments. I entered twice with these elegant pieces:

I have a hunger
Insatiable, ravenous
Demo far too short

The shamblers approach
Unresting, ravenous, dead
Thank God for pea guns

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's fun, but I don't think I'll win.
PPS - But if one of you wants to donate a dollar towards my purchase...

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Tackling big tasks in tiny chunks

When I have a really big task to do, and it can be broken into lots of identical smaller tasks, I get it done by making the smaller tasks part of my routine. For instance, after I had been blogging for about two years, Blogger introduced the labels feature. I wanted my old posts to have labels, but tagging them all at once was a daunting task. Therefore I counted the untagged posts and divided them across one year, which gave me three per day. By tagging three posts per day over the course of a year I got the whole lot done and I never had to sit down and do one enormous, boring task in one sitting.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This comes up more than you might think.
PPS - It may qualify as a kind of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Shopping centre directions as an iPhone app

Whenever I'm using an interactive map at a shopping centre I wonder whether the same thing could be turned into an iPhone application. The main reason is that although I can read maps, I have trouble remembering them, and one I could carry with me would work very well. Unfortunately I don't think you can just hook into the GPS system inside a shopping centre, so you'd need some other solution like "You Are Here" barcodes scattered around the centre that the phone can pick up with its camera.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - In the end, it would probably be easiest just to attach a printer to the interactive maps.
PPS - I'd be surprised if nobody has thought of this before.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Samurai sword umbrella

I want the samurai sword umbrella from ThinkGeek. It's a shame the "scabbard" is just a nylon sheath, but it does have a strap, and since this means the umbrella can be worn across the back, I'm willing to put up with it. I would predict about five minutes before someone calls the police about a sword-wielding commuter, though.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I realise this is the second low-content post for the week.
PPS - I also realise this is the second Thinkgeek umbrella I've linked to.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Suspension of disbelief

I don't like the term "suspension of disbelief", because it's kind of a double negative, and I always have to stop to figure out what it means in context. I usually mentally substitute just the word "belief", or sometimes "gullibility".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It does make the sentences less "active", though.
PPS - But if it's also less confusing, I'll accept that.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Windows 7

Most reports coming in about Windows 7 are that it is fast, shiny, and everything that Vista should have been. Microsoft, I'm sure, would rather you not compare it to Vista, but the comparison is inevitable. With the short time between these major Windows version releases and the striking similarity between Vista and Windows 7, how can we be expected not to do so? Besides, every version of Windows has the previous version as its benchmark.

Windows 7 must achieve in a couple of areas where Vista failed: the netbook market (processor, memory and hard drive demands must be lower than ever) and in business. It seems they've succeeded in the former goal, but who knows whether businesses will adopt it? Eventually they may have little choice.

I've seen a complaint that Windows 7 will cost more, but for most people the cost of Windows is buried in their new computer purchase - all they see is that computer prices keep going up. Now, if Windows 7 adds $300 to the cost of a netbook (when placed against a Linux or even XP machine) someone should perk up and say "why pay more?". For a netbook, when you're trying to run web browsing, photos and maybe a movie, Linux is better. It's the lack of MS Office that will throw most people.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Few people try to run just a web browser on their netbooks.
PPS - I haven't seen a netbook running Windows 7 previews yet.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Facebook quiz

I had hoped to be able to post something amusing about the Facebook quiz "Would You Survive a Zombie Invasion?" today, but when I logged on to take the test, it seemed poorly constructed. The questions are oddly worded, as are the multiple choice answers. I stopped at the following question:

4. What Would You Do If You Were Surrounded By Zombies......
Shoot One With LAst Bullet
Spin Round Shooting Like Hell
Turn Round Run Up And Shoot
Drop YOur Weapon And jump on floor

I have no idea what the last two options mean, and I doubt I ever will, even if I get to talk to the writer of the quiz in person.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - "Run Up" what?
PPS - I guess they can't all be winners. This is Facebook, after all.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Freeview is about limiting your TV capabilities

There are ads currently running on Australian TV about "Freeview" saying that "Only Freeview gives you high-definition television" etc.


Take note: Freeview is just a trademark that signifies compliance with a certain set of features. While some of those standard features are good (160GB hard drive, HD tuners) some are designed specifically to limit the functionality of the device. For instance, to sport the Freeview name and logo, a set-top box MUST apply evil DRM to any recordings in the device and those copied off, and NOT provide any ability to skip ads (but they can skip forward 10 minutes at a time).

So if you build a set-top box that is too functional, it can't be called Freeview. Freeview certification is more about making sure of what the device can't do rather than what it can. Other set-top boxes can be sold without the Freeview name, but if people are only aware of the "only Freeview" campaign, DVD recorders and other useful devices will disappear entirely due to poor sales.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is why the Freeview and "Get Ready" campaigns launched at the same time.
PPS - More details here.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Software for upgrades

We can't always afford to upgrade to the latest and greatest hardware, and we shouldn't have to either. It's expensive and wasteful to change your phone every six months and your computer every two years. Software, however, is far more cheap and flexible, and that is the way to make the best of what you've got.

The other day I mentioned that I have a book in my phone that I can read, and was asked if it was an iPhone. Nope. This is a plain old Nokia running the now-outdated Symbian S40 system. The way people go on about it, you'd think Apple invented running apps on phones, but all your Java games are apps too, running on your older phone.

Your old laptop can be salvaged with Linux or (soon) Windows 7 and your "outdated" iPod can run Rockbox. When the pace of hardware seems to outrun your wallet, look for new software to fill the gap. You'll often be pleasantly surprised. I'd like Google's Android to be able to run on my phone, but unfortunately this seems to be a case of software designed for new hardware.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I have never installed Rockbox on an iPod.
PPS - But since it lets you keep the original firmware too, the risk is not too great.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Reality TV needs sub-genres

I think we need to start sub-categorising reality TV to distinguish one show from another. So You Think You Can Dance and Australian Idol are in a different class to Big Brother, and all three of them are different to The Biggest Loser. BB is voyeur TV, the reality equivalent of a soap opera and just as substantial. Dance and Idol are more along the lines of game shows, the main distinguishing factor being the live-in nature and voting. As for Loser, it's probably a step below that, where the competition is not about skill but character and achievement. I'd call it "competition TV" in the same league as arena game shows. Then there's "documentary TV" like The Recruits where there's no competition at all, but it has the "real people" factor.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The Wikipedia reality TV page states that documentaries are not typically considered reality TV.
PPS - I wonder if that's only certain kinds of documentary.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Free photo shoot that's possibly not free

This morning Deb and I are headed off to a "free" photo shoot. I'm dubious about exactly how free it will be, though I have been assured that one print does come with no charge. My guess, if they are able to promise one free print is that they will print many more in the hope of enticing/guilting me into buying more. We will see.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It helps my self-control that the budget is too tight this week to buy photos.
PPS - Though I guess that doesn't really count as self-control.

Friday, 15 May 2009


I've just finished watching Dexter season 1 with Deb, and I find it quite fascinating. He's a messed-up guy, and always on fairly thin ice, socially, but somehow endearing too. Most of the other killers he targets aren't exactly deep characters, and there's something tickling at the back of my mind about the main villain too, but on the whole I enjoyed the series. I look forward to the next one.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I remember being interested in the show when I first heard about it.
PPS - Then I was too busy when (if ever?) it came to Australian TV.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Plants vs Zombies

Last night, I downloaded and played a demo of Plants vs ZombiesTM and I have to say it's fun. I lost track of time long before the timed demo ran out, which is a common side-effect of fun.

Now I should note that the game was not difficult in any sense of the word - resources were not especially scarce, new weapons were given out at every level and the zombies have a hard time chewing through anything more substantial than a mushroom. But the fun of the game, at least as far as the demo goes, is not in the tower defence challenge, but in watching zombies get shot to pieces by frozen peas.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I had to use my Windows machine, since the game is a download for Mac or Windows only.
PPS - On Linux it kept offering me the Mac download.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Mad Max

I saw Mad Max for the first time on Tuesday and was disappointed. This is supposed to be a "dystopian future", but it looked more like two rival outback gangs and some misplaced guys in suits. The story, such as it was, was hard to follow, mostly because of Johnny The Kid, whose status and origin I was never quite clear on. I may have gotten him and someone else mixed up. The characters were thin and the effects more implied than carried off. The only reason this movie is culturally recognised at all is that Mel Gibson went on to do better things. Anyway, the interesting thing that I wanted to note is when he leaves Johnny The Kid with a hacksaw and his ankle handcuffed to the burning car. Sounds a lot like Saw to me.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Yes, I realise Saw came a lot later.
PPS - I just wonder if Mad Max inspired it, at least in part and subconsciously.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

How to get from Brisbane to Brisbane

If you go to Google Maps and ask for directions from Brisbane, California to Brisbane, Queensland, you will be told to "kayak across the Pacific Ocean". When I first discovered this, I hadn't seen this particular Google Maps Easter egg listed anywhere else, though I am familiar with the older USA-to-UK version that asks you to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. If you search Google for "kayak across the Pacific Ocean", you'll find the other references.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Following the directions, you'll go via Hawaii and Japan.
PPS - You could easily add a stopover in Papua New Guinea too.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Ruined immersion in entertainment

Sometimes I wish I could go back to enjoying some simple entertainment pleasures as they are presented. Now and then, however, my brain does this higher-order recognition thing and brings up an idea like "interesting camera angle" or "the cat is a metaphor" and the immersion is ruined. It's quite frustrating.

When I watch Star Trek I often wonder how much easier the captain's job could be if someone would just design a proper user interface. There are endless little internal interruptions that break my suspension of disbelief (and the phrase "suspension of disbelief often throws me, too, but that's another story). I expect this is fairly common for people whose entertainment matches their expertise to some degree.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My step-sister the doctor is known to complain about House.
PPS - And I frequently laugh when someone has "almost decrypted" a file on a computer.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Not swine flu

I took Friday off work because I had a head cold - lots of sniffling, sneezing and coughing. I felt better on Saturday, but sounded worse, and Sunday was about the same. Now I've come into the office, but I feel like my illness has regressed somewhat. It might just be Monday, but at this stage I'm not at all certain I'll be at work the whole day. While I'm pretty sure I'm not contagious any more, I think I'm still going to be annoying as I constantly blow my nose, sneeze and cough my way through the day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I can't seem to open my eyes properly, either.
PPS - That might also be a Monday morning thing.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Friday Zombie Blogging - Fake Zombie, Real Ambulance

An ambulance crew and fire truck stops at the wrong address, walking onto the shooting location of a zombie movie. They must have been a little confused. Unfortunately, that's just about the whole story right there.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I do hope the cameras were rolling.
PPS - The film was "Silent Night, Zombie Night".

Pre-paid mobile plans better for light users

Considering how few calls I make with my mobile phone, it's possible that a pre-paid plan is better for me. Not for Deb, though: I'm certain that paying $29 for her regular $80 of calls per month is a good deal, but paying $20 for my own $8 a month is silly. Perhaps when my contract runs out I'll switch to a pre-paid plan and see how it goes. If it doesn't work out, I can always sign up for another contract.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This post was triggered by an article on Get Rich Slowly.
PPS - I haven't looked into my options in detail yet.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A different potential career

Sometimes I wonder whether I might enjoy a diversion of work focus. Not into a different area of software, but into designing liveable work and home spaces, like an interior architect or something. I enjoy thinking about that kind of problem - how to make the best use of space - and I would like to be able not only to draw what I think about but to do it as well. Perhaps my temporary place is on Better Homes and Gardens, or perhaps I'm just getting a renovation itch because Deb and I finally have our own place.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or perhaps I'm remembering playing The Sims.
PPS - Anything is possible.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Latest Tech presentation

I got sent a PowerPoint presentation in email called "The Latest Tech", which looked and sounded cool, but some of it was just interior design, and a lot of the rest was concept art, not working products. To me, that doesn't interest me as much as what we can do today. I don't want to see a "compass touch screen phone" that's nothing but a disc of glass with bright blue numbers photoshopped onto the surface if you can't build it and make it work. I don't even want to see the concept art if you haven't thought about how annoying a round glass disc would be as a mobile phone.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Which way up for the earpiece and microphone?
PPS - I guess I'm more interested in its functions than its looks.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Forbidden DVD loans

According to the opening warning, we are technically breaking the law by borrowing Dad's Black Adder DVDs. And I'm sure the phrase is meant to forbid both lending by DVD rental places and casual friend-to-friend loans, because it said both "loan" and "rental" were forbidden. Does that seem wrong to anyone else? Of course they're not going to know, but they have specifically tried to prohibit it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I can't think of a legitimate reason to attempt that.
PPS - Imagine "I can't lend you my DVDs. You'd better buy your own.". Ridiculous.

Monday, 4 May 2009

A cat using a computer

Ooda occasionally sits on my keyboard while the computer is on. This is not that uncommon for cats, so I hear, and the results are usually not that interesting. His random button mashing searches for nonsensical strings in the web pages I'm viewing, or he manages to open a lot more tabs in the browser. Once he managed to turn off the wireless network adapter, and it took me a few minutes and a reboot to figure it out. Most recently, though, he managed to take a screenshot and save it to my home folder:

In case you can't read it there, the file is called "GGGGGGGGGGGGG
G". This is clearly an inscrutable part of some cat plan to take over the world, as are most of their actions. The file name must be some kind of complex code.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Ooda has attempted to sit on this computer twice while I am composing this post.
PPS - No, make that three times.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Eagles raised by chickens and vice versa

There is a story told of an eagle raised by chickens. He fluttered short distances, scratched at the ground, pecked and clucked, never suspecting he was an eagle that could fly. This story is meant to inspire us to reach our unrealised potential.

As I often do, however, I wondered what the story would be like if the whole thing were turned on its head. That is, make it a story of a chicken raised by eagles, in a nest high on the cliffs. When he gets big enough, he takes off from the nest, flutters all the way to the ground and lands there, unable to fly at all. , b

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Believing you are something you are not is never a good thing.
PPS - But some of those situations are less tenable than others.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Scaring children

A Japanese TV show organises a simulated lone zombie attack on a group of three kids. Unintelligible hilarity ensues, though at some points the kids do seem to be distressed.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The kids seem to have organised their defences themselves.
PPS - And it's only unintelligible if you don't speak Japanese.