Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Wed, 23 Nov 2005

Half a Life

After my various experiments with Doom I thought I might try something slightly more up to date. As I mentioned before I spent a lot time playing Half-Life back around 1998. I still had the CD in my rack, so I thought I'd see if it could run somehow on Linux. I found a site that details how to do it. I'm obviously well behind the times as the site has not been updated for a couple of years. Basically the game can be run using the wonderful Wine system. It's not exactly an emulator, but it allows Windows programs to run on Linux.

I had a few issues running Half-Life. After installing it I could get into the menus, with sound, but the game itself failed due to problems accessing the CD drive. A bit of tweaking and installing a later game patch (hl1110.exe) sorted this. So now I can relive those days wandering around the Black Mesa Research Facility. In the brief time I've spent playing I have yet to get past the long introduction to the point where everything goes wrong and the aliens appear. The graphics are a big step up from Doom that came five years before, but I expect the current crop are even better. The surfaces in Half-Life are very smooth and there are no curves. If I really wanted to play games I could just get something like the new XBox, but I really ought to do things other than playing games.

My main remaining annoyance with Half-Life on Linux is that when I quit the game my desktop resolution always changes. There's probably some option to prevent this.

In other news I was drumming at Secret Bass on Sunday. I think there were about eleven there this time. There may only be one more session this year. I'm on the search for my own Djembe, but there do not seem to be many places to buy them.

The UK weather has taken a turn to the cold and misty this week. This makes driving slightly more dangerous, but a slight mist is not an excuse for drivers to use their fog lights all the time! Those lights are only for use when others would not be able to see you otherwise. I keep having my retinas burnt by the rear fogs of these inconsiderate people.

[08:53] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Fri, 11 Nov 2005

Mariza at Cambridge Corn Exchange

I first became aware of Mariza when she appeared on Later some time ago. She's a Portuguese Fado singer. Not my normal listening, but I was impressed by her singing, even if I couldn't understand the words.

Friends of ours had tickets to see her, but couldn't go, so they offered them to Tanya and myself. The Corn Exchange was full. It was a slightly older crowd than most gigs I go to. This is the first time I've seen a gig there without any scenery and this worked well as the old brick arches made a great, atmospheric backdrop. The BBC were there with several cameras to film the concert as part of a documentary about Mariza and Fado. I expect it will be on BBC4 some time.

She came on at 7:45 with her band. This consisted of classical guitar, Portuguese guitar, acoustic bass, violin, viola, cello and percussion in various combinations. The sound was great and they used lighting well to set the mood. The songs varied from emotional ballads to up-tempo stuff you could have danced to and which we were encouraged to clap along with. Her voice is incredible. I thought there were hints of Jewish and Arabic music in some songs. At times she almost sounded like she was calling the Muslims to prayer. I don't understand any Portuguese, but the emotion came through clearly.

She was on stage for nearly two hours, including a long encore during which she and the guitarists did one song without amplification. This resulted in a very different sound as she was having to sing so much louder, but she had enough power to pull it off, helped by an audience who almost held their breath to keep quiet. She also did Gershwin's Summertime, but said that some people back home would kill her if they found out. She talked quite a bit about what the music meant to her and seemed to appreciate the reception she got.

The band were also encellent, although the drummer did milk his solo somewhat. The guitarists did an instrumental piece that reminded me somewhat of the Eagles' acoustic version of Hotel California.
[08:56] | [/Review] | Comments | G

Wed, 09 Nov 2005

Doom kaboom!

I found another Doom port to try. PrBoom has the main advantage of actually giving me sound! For those without the original data files it comes with it's own one so you can play it straight away. It's fun in a retro way. There are lots of options that I need to explore. I blasted through the first couple of maps last night, but couldn't remember where all of the secret areas were.

Back in the Amiga days I felt left out of the Doom-type games scene. Then Team 17 released Alien Breed 3D. I spent many hours playing that. The graphics were very basic, but the action was pretty good. Unlike Doom there was no option to save during a level. Instead you got a very long code at the end. I think I did most of the levels. Later I played Doom on the Amiga, but by then it had been souped up to a mighty 33MHz 68040 and 32MB.

Meanwhile, the kids have been playing PlanetPenguin Racer. It's basically just a penguin sliding down an icy hill, but the graphics are pretty good and there are loads of courses to play. This is based on Tux Racer which I tried on previous Linux systems, but I don't think I ever got it fully working. On Ubuntu it was a matter of installing the NVidia driver to make better use of my hardware. Just about everything I have installed on Ubuntu has been a matter of selecting packages from their repositories and most things have just worked. For things like the Doom ports I've had to locate the program files myself to run them as they do not appear in the menu.

[09:04] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Sun, 06 Nov 2005

Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit 4/5

I've been an admirer of Nick Park's work from the days of Grand Day Out and Creature Comforts. A while back they signed a five film deal with Dreamworks. Chicken Run was the first of these and this is the second. Chicken Run was more of a Hollywood type film, this is back to basics with Peter Sallis as Wallace and a few big names like Helena Bonham-Carter and Ralph Fiennes. The look is fairly similar to the last couple of W&G films. I expect more money was available this time to make it all so polished. I see from the IMDB that they used some CGI, but had to tweak it to look like plastecine.

Our heroes are running a pest control operation to protect the town's prize vegetables before the big show. Then an accident with Wallace's new mind control machine creates a monster.

I have to say it's a cracking film. Plenty of laughs and some great action scenes. You have to keep watching for all the sight gags and film references. I hope they do another W&G feature, but I'm sure their other films will be great too.

The main feature was preceeded by a short based around the penguins from Dreamworks' Madagasgar. This was very funny too. I remember when most films in the cinema had a short first, but this seemer rare these days. Pixar do some great ones.

[15:16] | [/Review] | Comments | G

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