Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Groundhog Day

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Last week was Groundhog Day, and almost inevitably, Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day movie was showing on TV. It reminded me of articles I’d read last year, where the author attempted to work out how long Mr Murray spent repeating the same day over and over, by estimating the time required to learn to play a piano, speak French, etc. Opinions differ, ranging from 8 to 40 years. Either way, this is a seriously long time.

Even at the low end of the scale, I imagine 8 years would be enough time to get over the horror of the situation and accept the new lifestyle. It has it’s advantages for sure. Most importantly, you’re presented with potentially unlimited free time to spend doing whatever you want. Although you can’t take anything physical along with you day to day, knowledge and skills persist, so you can learn to play instruments, speak new languages, learn how to paint. I guess if you can get to an airport, you could learn to fly, too – especially as any fatal crashes are resolved at 6am the following morning.

There’s a ton of things you no longer have to worry about. You don’t have to worry about going to work any more. You don’t have to worry about money – your bank account replenishes every morning and you can always rack up credit cards without worrying about repayments. You don’t have to worry about mortgage payments or utilities. You can eat or drink whatever you want, seeing as your body also resets every morning – yay, no hangovers! You don’t have to worry about illnesses or crime, and you can be secure in the knowledge that everyone you care about is safe because the world resets every morning.

Sounds appealing* when you think of it like that.

Now imagine you’ve spent 8, 10, 20, or 40 years like that, and suddenly you get snapped out of it into a normal timeline. All those worries come back in a flash, and you’re not ready for it. Suddenly, you have no idea what’s going to happen that day, and now your actions have consequences.

I think that’d scare the life out of me. I picture Bill Murray wandering out into the snow covered street after the end of the movie and suddenly realizing, potentially for the first time in decades, that he has no idea what it going on in the town around him.

“Aaaaaaaaaargh!”

* Ok, the downsides might balance this out a bit. It must get pretty lonely after a while when no-one remembers the previous day’s interactions and you can’t talk about anything you’ve been doing without them thinking you’re crazy.

Caprica, disbelief unsuspended.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

I watched the second episode of Caprica last night. This is the prequel to Battlestar Galactica, tracing the development of the Cylons. So far, I’m enjoying it, but in this episode I noticed something that kind of broke the suspension of disbelief.

It wasn’t the appearance of the Cylon prototype. There is something that’s not quite right about the CG animated Cylon; it doesn’t seem to settle in the scene like it’s actually there. I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong, though. Maybe it’s rendered too shiny? Maybe it’s too sharp in contrast to the rest of the scene? Maybe there’s something wrong with the animation – not weighted correctly, perhaps? Maybe the appearance of an eight foot tall battle robot sitting in a teenager’s bedroom is just not right to start with.

But no. The thing that caught my eye was this:

A VGA cable in the back of a monitor in the lab where they’re working on the Cylon.

Elsewhere in the show they have video playing on the interior surface of house windows. They have video playing on a sheet of paper. Super hi-tech stuff. But down in the lab, they have a monitor with a familiar blue VGA connector plugged in the back. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Dell logo on the front.

It brought me right back down to Earth, in all senses of the phrase!

Alright, I’m a nerd.

XBOX 360 Networking

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Recently, I got an XBOX 360 system. Setting it up to access the internet via my wireless router was a lot more hassle than I was expecting. It certainly wasn’t the “plug and play” experience that was mentioned in the blurb.

The wireless network has been up and running for quite some time. A Linksys WRT54G router, running DD-WRT, has been happily servicing connections from a laptop, Nintendo Wii and iPod Touch for nearly a year. None of these needed any special coaxing to get connected; simply select the network, enter the password and off we go.

I naively expected the XBOX to work the same way. Let’s overlook the fact that the wireless network adapter is an “optional” extra, costing $100 (or $30 after discounts from newegg). $100 seems a little extortionate, considering the Wii has this built in as standard, but I said I would overlook this. In the box was the adapter and a driver disk.

Installing drivers on a console seems a little alien to me. The Wii is only other console I’ve had that has anywhere to copy drivers to, and I guess any driver installations/updates have been hidden in system updates on game disks or downloads. Anyhoo, the booklet says to power up the system, insert the driver disk and the installation will start.

I power up the system, insert the driver disk and wait. And wait. And then realize that despite what the manual says, this disk isn’t going to auto-run. Resetting the system with the disk in the drive spurs it into action.

Having installed the drivers, the manual then says to plug in the adapter, and follow the on-screen instructions for setting up the network connection. I plug mine in, and don’t see any of the promised instructions pop up. I have to dig into the console settings and network config options. I select my wireless network and enter the password. It tells me it’s connected. Premature celebrations end abruptly when I realize it’s totally failed to retrieve an IP address from the router, and so can do nothing with the connection.

It’s the only device so far that’s been unable to retrieve an IP address, so I’m not convinced this is a router issue. Regardless, I try resetting the router and reconnecting the XBOX, and still it fails to fetch an IP address. I give up and manually assign it an address and explicitly point it at the router. More success. I can now connect to the internet and see other computers on the network.

I now try to redeem my 12 month XBOX Live gold membership code. Let’s overlook that it costs an additional $50 a year to get online with my $100 adapter, or $30/year if Walmart’s online store is in stock. Apparently, although I’m connected to the internet, I can’t connect to XBOX Live. The test option in the networking options is displaying a little warning sign and it’s telling me my NAT is Moderate.

My NAT is Moderate? It might as well tell me my NAT is purple for all that means.

Googling Moderate NATs brings me to a few XBOX forums, filled with the cries of other people who also apparently have Moderate NATs. Thankfully, amongst the multitude of offered solutions which barely stopped short of chicken sacrifice, the following gems were nestled:

On the router, set up port forwarding to the XBOX:

Port 3074, udp/tcp

Port 88, udp

Once this was done, another connection test revealed my NAT was no longer Moderate, and connection to XBOX Live was now possible.

I’d like to think that from here on out, everything would work happily. Not quite. Whenever I turn the console on and attempt to log into my XBOX Live account, it tells me it’s unable to connect. When I test the connection, it connects without problem, then I can go back and continue to log in, successfully this time. This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s annoying.

Connecting to Windows Media Center on my desktop PC is also troublesome. It works, it’s just unusably slow. Streaming works fine, it just takes maybe 30 seconds or so to react to the controller when navigating the menus. More googling reveals some tweaks to the network settings on the desktop PC. I’ve tried switching the connection speed from “auto” to 100MB full duplex to see if that makes a difference. I’ll try it tonight and see if that helped at all!