Microsoft may be bastards, but they’ve got one thing right in recent years: MSN Messenger.
All right, so the whole “nudge” thing is kind of annoying, and being able to send massive screen-filling animations to your ‘friends’ is just stupid. But one feature I absolutely love – so much so that I wish it existed on IRC somehow – is the ability to bore your so-called e-friends with what music you’re listening to.
What a great social feature. Everyone suspects their friends are listening to the Spice Girls when nobody else is around, now you can find out if it’s true! Great idea Microsoft.
You may remember that I am banned from Xbox Live. Not only that, but I signed up with a credit card that has now expired, so when I started getting reminder emails from Microsoft about my subscription, I thought it would be quite safe to ignore them. My subscription would lapse and I would lose my account.
The email headed “Your Subscription Cannot be Renewed” just confirmed what I already knew. They wouldn’t be able to take any money from me and everything would be fine. Hooray.
So imagine my surprise when I checked my credit card statement and there was a charge for £39.99 from “Microsoft Online Services” for another year of Xbox Live. Cheeky sods! Even being banned from the service and having an expired credit card on file isn’t enough to keep Microsoft’s grubby paws off your cash, it seems.
In fairness to Microsoft, after a brief phone call and a short argument with the person at the other end over whether the email had said “cannot,” or “might not be renewed”, I got my money back in full, despite leaving it nearly a month between seeing the charge and complaining about it.
And the person on the phone didn’t seem to be able to tell that I was banned – which was a bonus. I didn’t really want a phone lecture on the evils of modchips.
The lesson here? Microsoft = bastards.
We’ve had Murphy’s Law, we’ve had Moore’s Law, now I think we’re ready for some new laws for the modern age. I’ll call them Huzbo’s laws.
- The number of satellite dishes visible in a town is inversely proportional to the quality of nightlife to be found there.
- No matter how carefully you put your iPod away, it will always emerge with the headphones in a hopelessly tangled mess.
- The above is especially true if you are trying to set up your iPod inconspicuously, for instance while about to get off the bus.
- You will only trip over cracks in the pavement, walk into lampposts, or have equally embarrassing accidents when a gang of scallies are approaching.
- You can listen to WinAmp or your iPod on shuffle for as long as you like, and nothing embarrassing will come on until other people are around to heard it.
I think that’s enough for now!
One of these graphics cards (not pictured because the image has been lost – lame!) was an object of desire for a long time and cost me upwards of £200. The other I bought because I needed something that could decode DVDs in hardware. It cost £30.
One of these cards will only handle 3D graphics trickery and has 8MB of video RAM. The other handles desktop graphics, 3D graphics, DVD decoding and more, and comes with a massive 128MB of video RAM onboard.
One of these cards cannot handle much more than Quake very well (although some nutter got it running Doom 3). The other – well, I have no idea. It supports DirectX 9 in theory, but not in hardware, so in other words any DirectX 9 games will be functional but incredibly slow.
One of these cards has a connector on the top to allow you to marry it to another, identical card, doubling its effective power. The other card would outclass such a combination all by itself.
One card is such a cool customer its chips do not even require a heatsink, despite its high-end status when first released. Modern video cards, of course, require onboard fans, and in some cases, separate power connectors for them.
Which is which? The big one is, as you may have guessed (especially if you enlarge the image), the horribly outmoded Voodoo 2. Only seven years old and already a computing dinosaur. Sniff, sniff. You made Wing Commander Prophecy and all other Glide-centric games look beautiful, man. You’ll be sorely missed.
Its compact friend is the ATI Radeon 9250 – only £30 but it does so much more – and it made me relocate my other PCI cards to make room for its heatsink. Welcome to the new graphical age, liberator.
Needless to say, I was super pleased with the success of the Doctor Who revival last year. A second series was commissioned on the strength of the first episode’s ratings; a third off the back of the critical acclaim the series received. People stopped laughing at me. Instead I laughed at them as I poked them with sticks. Things were great.
I hoped this would lead to a revival of science fiction in general – sadly missed in the UK since BBC2 decided to show shite in their 6pm slot instead of the good stuff – and home-grown British science fiction in particular, which hasn’t known great success since Blake’s 7. It doesn’t look like I’m going to be disappointed, because Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood is due to be screened next year.
It sounds like Doctor Who for grown-ups, in other words people exactly like writer Russell T Davies who grew up with the series and now want something a little more substantial. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, here’s a man who knows what he’s doing. His series is going to be ace.
And it’s going to be a “British crime/sci-fi paranoid thriller cop show”. How good is that? If it even approaches being anywhere near as good as The X Files before it went a bit trousers, I am going to explode.
I have a confession to make: I really enjoy science fiction. Oh no, such a social stigma! But wait a moment, please. I’m not talking about Star Trek Voyager, or Star Wars, and especially not those awful books which always start out with a seemingly random premise involving a war, except in space, and progress into the worst pile of pseudo-technological nonsense you’ve ever read. These things aren’t just inextricably linked with the worst aspects of geekdom, they are also often associated with fantasy – and all the stereotypes that invokes – because of an identical “anything can happen” philosophy in their writing.
I’m not interested in dwarves shagging elves, or whatever it is they get up to. I’m especially not interested in the analogue taking place in space, which somehow transforms “fantasy” into “sci-fi”. I’m interested in real science fiction: thought-provoking visions of the future.
You might call me a bit of a pessimistic fatalist, to put it mildly. I like my visions of the future to be rather gloomy, in a “we’re all going to die through our own stupidity” kind of way. And for people living in an age of incredible technological and social advances, nobody did gloomy better than the Victorians.
What led me to make this post today is The Machine Stops, a short story from 1909. If you read nothing else, read this! It’s great and seems disturbingly prescient – will there come a point when we become too reliant on machines? Irony of ironies, I had to look up some of the words on Google as I read.
Other suggestions? HG Wells was a great writer, specialising in unnerving scenarios which seem idealistic on their surface, but unwind into nightmares before the reader’s eyes. In The Time Machine a Victorian gentleman travels thousands of years into an apparently decadent future, to a time when mankind has forgotten either his basic humanity, or all the accumulated knowledge of his ancestors, depending on which side of the utterly divided society he has ended up on. There’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, a scary vision of the consequences of genetic engineering, way before its time. Oh and don’t forget War of the Worlds – not so much destruction by our hands, but a reminder that we – or even Martians – are not all-powerful.
John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids – in which Man creates a plant which eventually takes over the Earth – is a favourite too. It even has a great BBC series.
Read the books or in one case, listen to the musical version – they’re great! Just avoid the terrible film adaptations at all costs, especially The Island of Doctor Moreau. It still makes me cry.
And stop associating science fiction with Star Trek. Please. There is more to it than that.