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Showing posts from July, 2010

Accessing the Internet when holidaying in France

Best described as patchy. Free wifi is available in some hotels and campsites plus in many restaurants. McDonald's deserves an honourable mention for almost always having free wifi. There is still a surprising number of establishments charging a silly amount for an internet connection (€6 per hour / €20 per day being examples). Connecting to the net via mobile phone data roaming is still outrageously expensive. This may be more to do with my home carrier than the French carrier but they wanted to charge me 1c per kb. No thanks. The EU has tried to clamp down on excessive mobile phone roaming charges but you can still clock up a €50 bill browsing a handful of web pages before your phone company has to notify you. One very positive and yet frustrating thing was the widespread availability of mobile internet signals both Wifi and 3G in almost every urban area of France. I get the impression that just as in Ireland mobile access through the 3G network is becoming the internet m

Getting away from it all (Not)

Total amount of electrical equipment brought on holiday by family of two adults and two children: 1xLaptop + charger + external mouse 2x Digital cameras+spare batteries+chargers+memory cards and other assorted peripherals including tripod 2x Nintendo DSes plus chargers plus assorted peripherals + selection of game cartridges 2 x mobile phones plus chargers 2 x USB memory sticks 2 x MP3 Players plus headphones plus charging cables 2 x continental plug adapters Estimated weight of electronics: 12kg Total "free" luggage allowance on low cost air carrier: 10kg hand luggage per person. Percentage of free luggage allowance consumed by electronics: 30%


Just back from a very enjoyable two week family vacation in France. We managed to pack in Paris sightseeing, several Loire chateaux, much pool time, quite a bit of fine dining and even a few days in Disneyland. That didn't leave much room for gaming or blogging but a few thoughts did come to mind about the practicalities of being a gamer on the move and I will try to cover them over the next few posts. By the way I struck it very lucky with my choice of holiday reading. Joe Abercrombie's "The Blade Itself" is a great fantasy read and Harold Sinclair's "The Horse Soldiers" turned out to be a terrific piece of historical fiction based on the US civil war. More details here .

Men of War: First Impressions

I bought Men of War having read some reviews which compare it favourably to the Company of Heroes series.  I have only played the first two missions of the Russian campaign but so far these positive reviews seem quite justified. Much of the gameplay in this squad based WWII real time strategy is very similar to Company of Heroes. You direct squads of infantry and vehicles in real time 3D battles with a wide variety of weapons, armour and terrain. There is no resource gathering and base building element.  In CoH you can replenish your forces at a base but in Men of War you must make do with the troops you start out with, any re-enforcements that the game chooses to give you and whatever you can scavenge from the battlefield. Scavenging is actually a major part of the game as it is the only way I have found to to replenish ammunition. Happily every soldier and vehicle has a surprisingly large inventory and just about any soldier seems to be able to carry and use just about any piece of

Overlord: Quick first impression.

One of my Steam bargains was the complete set of Overlord . Having recently tried to play Evil Genius and giving up from boredom after a couple of days trying I wasn't expecting too much from this game. Base building god games have never grabbed me no matter how humorous the subtext.   However the game has surprised me several times so far. First surprise: Its not a base building god game at all really. It is more of a third person action game with minions. Yes there is a base to be built but that is really just a trophy cabinet for all the mission rewards you collect. Second surprise is that despite the "Evil Overlord" theme there are actually moral choices to be made for example whether to rescue hostages or slaughter them. It's not quite good versus evil more evil versus not quite so evil.  I seem to have inadvertently set myself down the "evil" evil route by accidental slaughtering the inhabitants of my local town (a surprisingly easy mistake to mak

Gaming Update

Thanks to the lingering after effects of Steam and other online sales I am vacillating back and forth between several games at present: Left 4 Dead 2: All the goodness of Left 4 Dead 1 with a good deal extra on top. Considerably more challenging too in my opinion. I have completed three campaigns solo and have dabbled in a bit of online co-op on those campaigns. I don't like going multi player on campaigns until I have gone through them first in single player. Bioshock 2 Multiplayer: With plasmid in one hand and machine gun in the other this is great fun. It has a level up mechanic like so many modern shooters but thankfully you only have to advance a couple of levels to get your hands on some decent weaponry. Servers are not terribly busy but I found it easy enough to get into a team deathmatch. Overlord: Play as the Demon lord commanding an army of demons. I am only a couple of hours into this but it seems very imaginative and surprisingly pretty to look at. Men of War: J

I hold the power of the moderators. Fear me!

I got a new allocation of Slashdot moderator points today. Moderator points are the popular tech news site's method of crowd sourcing quality control of their post comments. As a regular reader and occasional contributor in good standing I get randomly allocated five moderator points every few months. Each point allows me to mod a comment up or down using descriptive titles such as "insightful" or "flamebait". Slashdot readers can set a threshold below which they don't see comments (the default is +1 think) so the moderator system works pretty well to filter out spam for most readers.  Today I not only get mod points but I was also asked to meta-moderate! This involves viewing a random selection of comments and voting them up or down and seems to be a way of keeping track on the quality of moderation. I wonder how many layers this system has. Is there a meta-meta moderation? Anyway whenever I get mod points I do my best to pick out  comments on less pop

Laptops now cheaper than desktops

My brother asked me to advise him on the purchase of a new home computer. I generally build my own desktop computers so I am not really up to speed on the market for ready made machines but I did a bit of searching for my brother and was a little surprised at what I found. I guess I knew that Laptops were now more popular but I was amazed at just how much laptops and netbooks have pushed desktop computers off the shelves of high street computer stores. Even more surprising is the fact that a general purpose laptop now costs less than a general purpose desktop of similar specifications. I guess the price of the LCD screen is now a major factor (laptops have smaller screens) and also the economies of scale have swung in favour of laptops as they have become more popular. My brother is adamant he wants a desktop for the larger screen but it seems to me that the era of the desktop home PC is rapidly drawing to a close. The average consumer no longer wants a computer as a piece of furnitu

Stop Making Freaking Iphone Apps Please

Much as I admire Apple's business strategy I hate it. They capture an emerging market with superior product design and marketing and then lock customers in with proprietary restrictions. They did it to the digital music market and now they are doing it to the mobile internet. Except that the mobile internet is too big and too important to let one company control it. Not a day goes by without me hearing yet another organisation proudly boasting that they have "developed an Iphone app" for their service. People and organisations who have no business favouring one companies view of the internet over another, including public bodies and charities are all jumping on the I-phone bandwagon. This morning on the radio I head a surprisingly savvy journalist interview a representative of a public health body who was proudly touting their new Iphone app. "Not everyone has an Iphone" the journalist said "why didn't you develop an app that would work on other pho

Bioshock 2 Finished - and its a good one.

Just finished Bioshock 2 and really enjoyed my play through the game. My concerns about not being powerful enough were completely swept away as I progressed with more powerful plasmids and gene tonics. I opted for the "Drill Specialist" approach for the latter half of the game. This somewhat misleadingly named gene tonic doesn't actually make the drill more powerful at all but it does greatly reduce the EVE requirements of plasmids at the expense of disabling all weapons other than the drill. By combining powerful plasmids with an upgraded drill I was smashing through everything in the game by the end. All the plasmid powers can be useful and it is easy to see that you could select a wide variety of play styles. I used Swarm of Bees extensively with frosty blast to freeze harder enemies while I drilled them to bits. The story lacks the literary pretensions of the first Bioshock but still hangs together well. There are some lovely touches including a sublime segment whe