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ggreig: (I Need Dis)

A Harvard University human motor systems test that attempts to guess your age knocked 16 years off me today!

The test is based on how quickly you can click on dots on the screen – it’s a bit like that eye-test where spots of light are shone on the inside of a hemisphere and you have to react to them. I wouldn’t say my reactions are particularly good, so why did I do so well?

I think it’s because I was using a trackball. The basic assumption of the test is that you’re using either a mouse or a trackpad, although it does provide an “other” option as part of a survey after the test’s completed.

I switched from mice to trackballs a number of years ago – not sure how many, but long enough to have had to replace one. People visiting my desk hate using the trackball (so much so that I have a “guest mouse” for when people come by), and adjusting to it was hard. In fact, for the first week, it was physically painful as I got accustomed to an entirely new set of movements. After that first week though, it was full speed ahead and I’ve never looked back. A trackball’s quicker and more accurate than a mouse, and my burgeoning RSI from dragging a mouse around went away.

My trackballs are thumb-driven ones from Logitech; for some reason finger trackballs seem to be more popular, but I wouldn’t have thought they can be so quick and efficient and surely must suffer from some of the problems of mice. The thumb’s a “spare” digit from a mousing point of view, but it’s great for driving a trackball; strong, and capable of fast, sharp and quite precise movements.

If you don’t believe me, give the test a go and see how you do!


Feb. 8th, 2011 10:39 pm
ggreig: (Microsoft)

A quiet evening just chillaxing with the Xbox 360...

...and the Kinect that arrived yesterday )


Sep. 14th, 2010 08:38 pm
ggreig: (Blockhead)

I got back to Scotland from a holiday in California visiting [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem last week. I saw a lot of interesting stuff, so there’s a lot to write about, but based on previous experience – and about 12GB of photos and videos to sort through – it may be a while before it hits the blog here.

Outside the Microsoft Store, Mission Viejo, CAIn the meantime there’s one thing it’s quite easy to write about quickly, so I’ll start with my trip to one of the first Microsoft Stores, at Mission Viejo. There are currently only four physical Microsoft Stores, all in the States, so while the chances of me buying something off the shelf were pretty slim, it was an interesting opportunity to visit and see what there was to see.

The store bears a distinct resemblance to an Apple Store, though a bit more warm and welcoming with varnished wood in place of the sterile lab look. The staff seemed interested and helpful, although being British and just there for a look, I was mostly more keen to dodge them than interact. The hardware was nice to look at, but difficult to arouse much enthusiasm for when I’m not in the market at the moment, either personally or at work, having just got a touchscreen laptop at the start of the summer.

There was one young guy I spent some time chatting to though, who was demoing something I was surprised and pleased to see: Kinect for Xbox 360. If you haven’t hear about it already, it’s due out in a couple of months and it’s a way to interact with the Xbox 360 without a hand-held controller. That’s a big deal for the Xbox, which will help it catch up with other less sedentary game machines such as the Wii, but it’s also a big deal full stop if it’s actually good; bringing sophisticated real-time computer vision into peoples’ homes (also voice control and facial recognition, though those have appeared in home devices such as phones and cameras before). That’s impressive, and – assuming it’s successful – not so much catching up as leap-frogging other consoles.

It’s an impressive technical achievement, but is it really much different in terms of play from a hand-held controller? I’m not really in a position to say definitively, but the difference is that it’s (quote) “full body play” (promotional video). You only need one controller sat in front of the TV screen, and it will track not just the position of your hands or your feet, but can follow facial expressions too. Judging by the promotional video, it can handle two players at once. I don’t know whether more are possible.

I had a quick shot at a ten-pin bowling game:

Ten-pin bowling with Kinect for XBox 360

First of all, you get the machine to recognise you by positioning yourself on a red spot that appears on the “floor” on the TV screen. I had to shuffle backwards slightly to get “myself” on the spot. Once that was done, all I had to do was reach out my arm to the right to pick up a ball; and do what came naturally to bowl it.

I bowled six frames, and had no difficulty picking it up. In fact, in common with my similarly limited experience of bowling with the Wii, it might be a bit too easy; within that six frames I managed to bowl a turkey, which I’ve never heard of before and certainly never achieved in real life. However, it seems there may be room for greater finesse; the demo guy said that once you’ve practiced a bit with it you can apply spin – and all without a hand-held controller!

Six frames of bowling isn’t enough to give a comprehensive overview of Kinect, but it was fun and natural, and I’m quite excited about this development – both as an Xbox peripheral and as a significant achievement for applied computing in the home.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

I played the first instalment of the Doctor Who interactive episode/game yesterday evening, and I did finish it, although it took pretty much the whole evening.

As a game, it’s very linear, as you’re led from one situation to another, but as an interactive episode this is not really a problem. With both titles and scrolling credits at the end, the feel was very much of being immersed in an episode.

The gameplay consists of exploring, sneaking past dangerous situations and solving puzzles. Some manual dexterity is required. The puzzles won’t keep you up at night trying to solve them, but they may be frustrating for the very young. The BBC recommend the game for those of 8 or above.

Both the Doctor and Amy can die, at which point game over, but the save points are frequent and you won’t lose any significant progress.

As I’m not a game whiz, if I can get through it in a (long) evening, it’s not too challenging; but it was certainly enough to keep me interested and engaged.

If you’ve downloaded it early, it might be worth re-downloading after Saturday’s rush is over, as the version available now is apparently a few tweaks short of being Saturday’s official release.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

You wait ages for a Doctor Who post, then two come along at once!

City of the Daleks, the first of four Doctor Who computer games that are also being promoted as being episodes in the current series, is now downloadable free from the BBC web site.

Windows folk, you can go get it now. If you’re afflicted with a Mac, you will have to wait until June the 15th (officially; but then officially this download was meant to be available on the 5th, so it might be worth checking a little early).

The premise of this game is that you (the Doctor) arrive in 1963 to find Earth under the heel  tentacle bonded polycarbide shell of the Daleks. What are you going to do about it? I won’t have time to get it installed before I head off to work, so you’ll have to find out for yourself…

Each game is projected to be around the size of this one, which is 330MB.

ggreig: (Blockhead)

Woohoo! Well done Paddy and co. Here’s the story on the Proper Games web site.


Nov. 1st, 2009 01:44 pm
ggreig: (Unicorn (Modern))

Photos from [livejournal.com profile] qidane's annual fireworks party yesterday evening; and congratulations to Paddy on Flock's BAFTA Scotland nomination. Fingers crossed!

Fireworks 025

More pictures... )


Sep. 6th, 2009 09:27 pm
ggreig: (Robot Maria)

Due to Microsoft’s recent price reduction, and what seemed like a worthwhile deal at Curry’s (an extra wireless controller and a couple of games thrown in for free), I somewhat unexpectedly became the owner of an XBox 360 Elite last weekend.

Not being a gamer, particularly – though I don’t mind having the facility for games thrown in – I’m  more interested in the XBox for its capabilities as a Media Center Extender. In theory, at least, you can store all your digital media on your home network, and watch or listen to it through your TV, by way of the XBox. (There are stand-alone extenders that aren’t also games consoles, but they seem to be less available here than in the US, they cost nearly as much as an XBox, and the massed opinion of the Internet seems to think that the XBox is technically the best media extender anyway, so the choice was fairly inevitable.)

If I want to explore that possibility, then the next thing I need is a home network capable of transferring media information fast enough. Now, I already have Wi-Fi and it might do the job – but video would be pushing the capacity of a Wi-Fi network somewhat, and I’m not especially keen to have to run an Ethernet cable from the office upstairs to the living room downstairs so, remembering some mention of Ethernet through the power cables, I looked it up.

It seems there’s more than one system, but HomePlug appears to be the name to look for. I found a UK company that produces HomePlug products, and ordered a couple of Solwise 200Mbps HomePlug AV Ethernet Adaptor with Simple Connect & Mains Through. Try saying that without your teeth in.

Obviously while part of the appeal of going for something like HomePlug is that it should save the hassle of cabling, another part is that it’s a cool technical toy. Ethernet through the power cables! Obviously that is going to save the planet and stop all wars, instantly!

Unfortunately I have to report that it isn’t so.

The doohickeys duly arrived on Wednesday, and I rushed home to plug them in and enjoy the thrill of watching something that I could perfectly adequately have watched by using the built-in capabilities of the television, but doing so via the network from my PC upstairs! Please contain your excitement.

Today, thanks to a long Ethernet cable I was able to substitute in instead, I arrived at the definite conclusion that the reason that the picture – and the whole network connection with it – inevitably failed after a few minutes of watching was because the HomePlugs, despite being sold as suitable for AV use, couldn’t cope.

Maybe if you want to try them elsewhere, they will work for you, as they do seem to be a wee bit susceptible to “other stuff” on the power supply. Debugging my power supply is a step too far for me, though, so they’re going back. It’s a bit of a disappointment, as I really wanted them to work – obviously, as I was prepared to spend money on them. Looks like I’m back to good old CAT5 cable; I may have to do a bit of DIY to put it in, but it’s a lot cheaper, and it works.

For the moment, that’s it, and I can watch digital TV (which I could do anyway), listen to my ripped music (slightly more convenient now) and watch old movies downloaded from the Internet Movie Archive (not previously possible without burning DVDs); but the nebulous plan is to get a Windows Home Server machine at some point (maybe something like this one), put some real disk space in it and actually reduce the number of DVD boxes I have lying around.


May. 11th, 2009 08:18 pm
ggreig: (Steam Coach)

I’ve been talked into trying a free* online strategy game. It looks quite fun, and if you fancy giving it a go yourself, then I stand to gain a small amount of in-game credit if you sign up by following this link to Travian. Server 5 started this morning, so you'll be getting in fairly early.

You pick whether you want to be Roman, Gaulish or Teutonic (those are in order of difficulty of playing, apparently) and start off with one little village, which of course you want to develop and expand beyond. There will be other players with villages in the area, so at some point violence is inevitable; but you’re protected from attack for the first three days to give you a chance.

There’s a “Questmaster” who will set you quests to get you started, and may reward you for a task completed.

I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with it, as I have a record of giving up on strategy games after a while, either losing interest, or worrying that if I continue playing, I’ll lose the good position I’ve built up already. The second failing can’t apply in this case, as the game continues live all the time, but I may still be prone to the first one.

There's more information on Wikipedia.

* I was a little disappointed, though not surprised, to find that you can convert real money into in-game Gold that can be used to buy some advantages, or a richer user interface. I suppose there has to be a business model there somewhere though!

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

If you’ve read my previous posts about Flock!, you might be interested to know that it’s now available to preorder for the PC, at a no-brainer price. Other platforms no doubt in due course.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

Capcom are now gearing up to actually release Flock next month, the game I mentioned a while ago by Paddy’s business Proper Games.

There’s an article in the Guardian (actually from yesterday) that’s largely about the game and speaks to Paddy and others about its development. Aside from the personal interest, it’s an interesting read.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

Congratulations to Paddy, whose computer games business Proper Games has just announced its first title: Flock!

Screenshot of Proper Games' first title, "Flock!"

Although I'm not a great or frequent player of computer games, Flock! looks gloriously silly. Any game that involves flying saucers stealing sheep from a patchwork landscape has to be a good thing, surely? The promotional video and gameplay video both suggest it could be quite challenging as well as fun. I might very well be tempted by the PC version...

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