Trackmania Nations

Sam pointed me at Trackmania Nations, a cool and free fast-paced racing game.

Trackmania Nations ESWC edition is a fast-paced racing game involving precision and agility specially designed for competition in partnership with Electronic Sports World Cup and free for download. It’s a high octane, free wheeling game of insanity where players can construct totally original tracks with gigantic jumps, loops and high-speed corners.

There are some screenshots at the Trackmania Nations website on the right hand side and it looks pretty sweet. You can download it by clicking the link above Screenshots (it took me about 5 minutes to find this link).

It seems to be downloading very slowly for me; dunno if this is because the site is under a lot of traffic or just my connection playing up. 

DRM Idiocy

As if we needed more proof of the idiocy of media companies and DRM:

DVDs get Radio Transmitter Chips:

DVDs will soon be tracked with embedded radio transmitter chips to prevent copying and piracy, according to the company which makes movie discs for Warner, Disney, Fox and other major studios.

The technology, which can also be used for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs, will allow movie studios to remotely track individual discs as they travel from factories to retail shelves to consumers’ homes.

Yes, in order to comat piracy, media companies are going to embed chips in our DVDs which will allow them to track where the DVDs are. Presumedly, every time to take a DVD which you own to your friends house to watch, the media company knows.

That is just plain scary and Orwellian.

Zune’s Viral DRM:

The new Microsoft Zune player (their soi-disant "iPod Killer") applies DRM to all the files you move onto it, even the Creative Commons-licened music. The problem is that CC licenses prohibit this.

Thats right, Zune won’t even let you share files properly even if you wrote the song and performed it yourself. That’s just idiotic; if you write a song and perform it and share it with a friend using Zune, they can only listen to it 3 times.

I don’t see quite how this is any better than just allowing your friend to borrow your MP3 player over lunch. 

Additionally, Zune breaks the Creative Commons license by applying viral DRM to CC-licensed music.

DRM has not stopped piracy in the past; it only makes legitimate content purchases less attractive. I have still not got round to buying a single song online because of DRM; I buy music on CDs from WHSmith or Amazon because I can rip it and burn it as many times as I want.

I wish media companies would get a grip on reality. 

BBC Video on Demand, Youtube

The BBC plan to launch a video on demand service, iPlayer, later this year. The service has been previously trialed and allows viewers in the UK to view TV and radio programmes from the last 7 days at any time on their computers. P2P technology is used to distribute the files. The programmes are protected with DRM so they only last for 7 days and to stop them from being shared.

Although Auntie hasn’t launched the iPlayer service, it has been experimenting with video on demand for quite a while. You can listen to programmes from the last 7 days of radio and more recently BBC Two has started putting a lot of their programmes online.

I remember watching the whole series of The Apprentice on the BBC Two website a few months ago. I wrote, "The videos are streamed in Windows Media format at (400×224 pixels) 242 Kbits/second so they’re not fantastic quality but still very watchable."

Whats to watch? 

The must-see is season 2 of Ricky Gervais’ comedy, Extras. It’s shown on BBC Two at 9pm on Thursday but you can watch it again on the BBC Two website.

This week’s episode was fantastic and featured Orlando Bloom slagging off Johnny Depp, Keith Chegwin and Barry from Eastenders hoarding tons of food. If you missed it, check it out in the next few days.

Dragon’s Den is another interesting programme. The programme has some entrepreneurs trying to persuade investors to part with their cash. I remember watching it once a few years ago and loved it but haven’t watched it since. Since its now on the BBC Two website, I’m gonna check it out. You can watch every episode in the current series there.

Also worth investigating, Best of Top Gear

Coolest thing about the VoD service? It’s legal, it doesn’t burn up tons of upload bandwidth, and it’s free. It’s what we pay the license fee for.

Youtube

On the other end of the VoD spectrum is Youtube, the home of people lipsyncing to random songs and tons of pirated video content. I wrote about Youtube before so I won’t babble on again but Youtube really would be nothing without it’s copyrighted content.

Via Slashdot, I saw an article on Youtube being sued by Universal:

Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris said the wildly popular Web sites YouTube and MySpace are violating copyright laws by allowing users to post music videos and other content involving Universal artists.

"We believe these new businesses are copyright infringers and owe us tens of millions of dollars," Morris told investors Wednesday at a conference in Pasadena.

I really do wish that media companies would be more open to video sharing sites like Youtube and rather than sueing them, exploit them for media promotion. 

This is Broken – Blog of the Week

This is Broken is an interesting and amusing blog which describes itself as a "project to make businesses more aware of their customer experience, and how to fix it."

It’s generally updated daily and features some photos and examples of businesses which have got it desperately wrong or broken. This includes stupid McDonalds signs, stupidly placed hotel thermostats, double meanings and amusing BIOS errors.

David Tennant leaves Doctor Who

According to Digital Spy and a certain classy British tabloid, David Tennant is planning on quitting Doctor Who after the upcoming series. He signed a £1 million contact to make a third series (big waste of license fee IMO) but has been inundated with offers from Hollywood so wants to quit to persue them.

Opinion on Tennant and the second series has actually been quite divided. My personal opinion is Eccleston was a lot better as was the first season; with Eccleston you can take the show a little bit more seriously and the first series had much better stories. Season 2 had some really bad episodes – for example the one with Peter Kay. The whole last episode was also way overrated.

Billie Piper: 11th Doctor?

Obviously any talk of who will be replacing Tennant is all speculation at the moment. Surprisingly, I would place Billie Piper on the list of possible 11th doctors. In May, Billie Piper expressed her wish to play the Doctor. She reportedly threatened to quit the series if she was not made the Doctor.

Says Billie, "In the next few years I’d love to play a female version of Doctor Who. I know exactly how I would play her – she would be crafty in a clever kind of way." 

The writer of the show told the Daily Star that he’d happily give the role to Billie if they ever needed a new Doctor. In August, it was reported that the lead writer also wanted to give Rose her own spin off series. The series would have been named "Rose Tyler: Earth Defense" and made it as far as being proposed to the BBC. In the end, it was shelved. But this opens up the possibility that Billie Piper could return to Doctor Who as the 11th doctor.  

And of course, in this age of political correctness, it’s inevitable that we’ll be seeing a female Doctor Who soon.

Firefox 2.0 Visual Updates

Firefox 2.0’s visual updates have polarized the community. The visual refresh was one of the most highly anticipated features of the version 2.0 and so far most people don’t seem to be fans. The good thing is the guys at Mozilla have been listening to feedback and made some changes!

I’m not sure exactly what has changed, but this is what Firefox 2.0 looks like on the latest build: 

Updated Theme 

The refresh and home button certainly look different. I really love the new home button; it’s nice and elegant and pretty beautiful. The refresh button departs from it’s normal shape and instead of two arrows, there is now just one. I don’t know whether I like this, but it doesn’t bug me too much.

The tab bar has also had a makeover. It looks much more native and generally looks better. The page icon on the tab looks different too.

I’m quite pleased at the direction this theme is moving in. At the moment, I’d be happy to use this theme everyday but I certainly don’t think it’s any better than the 1.x theme. No doubt there will be more refinements and we’ll have a beautiful new theme for the final version.

MSN Messenger Sign-in Problems

I’ve been experiencing problems signing onto MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger since this morning. Error Id 81000314 and 80072745.

Mess.be offers the following quick fix by adding the following to the hosts file:

65.54.239.80 messenger.hotmail.com
65.54.239.80 dp.msnmessenger.akadns.net 

On Windows XP, you can usually find the Hosts file at C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\DRIVERS\ETC\hosts.

You can remove these two lines after a few days when the issue should be sorted.

Alternatively, you can sign in using Web Messenger.

It’s amazingly annoying when there are downtime issues or other technical difficulties with MSN Messenger. It used to happen all the time but more recently it’s been getting pretty good. I’ve said quite a few times that one should always have another IM program such as Yahoo or Jabber for times like this but it’s really problematic as nobody else has them. 

Anyway, that explains why not many people are online and why you may not be able to connect

Project Euler

Project Euler is a really nice and interesting set of mathematical and programming puzzles. It’s a nice way to practice maths skills, developing algorithms and solving puzzles.

Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems. Please be warned that the problems are challenging and you are unlikely to make much progress if you have no knowledge of programming.

You’ll have to create an account so that the website can track your progress but you can look at the puzzles without registering. There is quite a large range of puzzles – it’ll mainly require maths skills but programming is important.

I chose to develop my solutions in Python even though I have a lot more experience with PHP. I did this for two reasons – I wanted to practice Python and Python is much better suited to doing many of the tasks. For example, Python will happily calculate 1001^1001 and give you the full solution. Other programming languages will probably freak out and give you a partial solution or no solution.

I signed up earlier today and I’ve solved 8 puzzles with a current rating of 3% genius. Let me know how you get on

Windows Sandbox

Sandboxie is an interesting program for Windows which allows you to run programs in a sandbox. Why it is called Sandboxie is beyond me but I presume it’s because IE is so insecure that the chances are most people will be using it with IE

Sandboxie works in a similar way to VMWare – it stops the program from damaging the system by allowing read operations to work as normal (allowing preferences, etc. to load) but intercepting the write operations so the program can’t modify the registry or contents of hard drive files.

The Sandboxie website has a fuller explanation with diagram and all.  It suggests that you could use the program whilst browsing the web as it’ll stop browser hijacking, spyware installation, etc. You could also use it to test programs:

You could also try a new toolbar add-on, browser extension or just about any kind of software. If you don’t like it, you throw away the sandbox, and start again with a fresh sandbox. On the other hand, if you do like the new piece of software, you can re-install it outside the sandbox so it becomes a permanent part of your system.

It’s an interesting idea and it’s a lot cheaper than using a VMWare Virtual Machine (you’ll need an additional Windows license for VMWare). Sandboxie is also a much lighter solution and is more convenient. I haven’t tried the program myself so I don’t know how well it works but it’s certainly worth a try. Still, I wouldn’t recommend catching spyware/viruses even if you are running the program in the sandbox.

Sheep Poo Paper

A welsh company has launched a new environmentally-friendly paper product which helps the environment by recycling the very best and finest materials: sheep shit.

Instead of using the wood and fibres from trees, this paper uses fresh cellulose fibres from sheep poo: 

We take great care to collect super-fresh sheep poo from the beautiful (and rainy) mountains of rural Wales and take it back to the mill, situated in southern Snowdonia. We don’t just make Sheep Poo Paper™ and for our other papers we use waste paper, rag and textile off-cuts and just about anything else we can think of that has good length cellulose fibers in it.

It may sound worrying but don’t worry – it’s sterilized by cooking it in a pressure cooker at 120 degrees using Welsh mineral water.

Perhaps we’re only years away from having a roll of sheep shit toilet paper by toilets throughout the nation.