Sunday, September 23, 2007

Free GOOD Science Fiction

If your looking for some good reading material, you should check out theBaen CD's at the Fifth Imperium It a collection of free CD Images, containing books published by various BAEN authors. There are half a dozen full books freely availiable in html on each CD. If you don't want to download the full CD Images you can view there contents and read them online via the site an example of the format and layout can be seen with the Honorverse CD as seen in the
Honor Harrington Index Page.

The books tend to be by a range of rather good SF authors so well worth a read if you don't mind doing so off a computer screen or have enough paper to print the books out.

What I'm up too currently

I've spent the last 4 weeks or so doing paid work for my supervisor while waiting for my thesis to come back. Kind of fun, research is alot more enjoyable when your being paid to do it rather than paying to do it. Also knowing that at 5pm that's it for the day, and not having to worry about is it enough to get the thesis done makes a major difference. At this point looks like a mix of my work and some by a couple of his previous students will result in a paper which I'll be helping to right in the next few weeks, which would be rather good! Also the pay is nice and having something to do 4 days each week is good. Have also just restarted demonstrating with first year labs as they restart for the final term of the year. A fun set of lab's spent 2 afternoons this week at Travis wetlands and the Bromley oxidation ponds, helping students ID birds and making sure they don't loose any of the departments gear or do anything stupid. Also a nice chance to take the odd photo (See bottom of post), though of course the weather did the biology field trip thing and was rather bad both days (on Friday it clouded up just as we arrived there).

Apart from that have been doing a bit of reading and a decent bit of computer gaming so far have played:

  • Knights of the Old Republic - A rather impressive bioware starwars RPG would rate it an "A+".
  • Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords - Another good RPG by Obsidian, and a somewhat different focus the the previous one, not yet finished but think I'd rate it an "A" or "A-".
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Interesting semi RPG/FPS, good fun and rather spooky in parts "A-"
  • Bioshock - Not yet finished but a rather good FPS with some RPG elements, I don't think it's quite as good as every thinks though "A-"
  • StarLancer - Fun space opera/sim game, enjoyable but the inability to save during missions makes it rather Hard "B+" (not yet finished)
  • Fallout 1 - Older (1997) GURPS derived (You are "SPECIAL") post nuclear war RPG, with a 1950's style, lots of adult humor and rather violent but a bloody good game (both figuratively and literally) "A+" If you haven't played it you should runs on both Mac and PC.
  • Fallout 2 - Larger more complex, and less tightly woven than the orginal still lots of fun though I haven't finished it yet (A-)
  • Half Life 2 ep 1 - Also played abit of the first episode for HL2, all right but not amazing (B+)

Also been reading a bit, if your looking for some very good epic fantasy, I'd highly recomend "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. Also any thing by Alastair Reynolds, Neil Asher, or Richard Morgan if you prefer SF.

Any way that is about it for now, I'll leave you with a few pictures, more can be found at my flickr account.

Introducing - The New Zealand Scaup
Originally uploaded by Falcdragon

Scratching - New Zealand Scaup
Originally uploaded by Falcdragon

The New Zealand Scaup
Originally uploaded by Falcdragon

The Oxidation Pond
Originally uploaded by Falcdragon

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Vista: The Good and the BAD!

Thought I might as well stick up a few thoughts about Vista as I've been using it a bit on my laptop while slowly configuring my linux setup and waiting updated version to come out:

The Good -

Vista's Built in search - By default it's selected when you press the win key or click on the start menu, so type in the first few letters of the app or something from the document you want to open, and it brings it up in a second then it's just a matter of hitting enter to start it, or the down key then enter if theres a couple of apps with similar names. For starting apps I'd say it's pretty close to gnomes deskbar tool though it lacks the useful plugins deskbar has for web, calculator etc.
Also as a search engine it seems pretty decent, though maybe not quite up with Googledesktop in some areas such as text preview.

System speed - It's pretty good, vista finally utilizes all available ram to cache apps and other stuff of interest in a manner similar to linux, as a result the system is rather snappy. At least on laptop with 3GB RAM.

Sidebar - A widget system that seems to work fine a little slow starting, and some what RAM hungry (70MB for 6 applets one of which has my address book loaded) but CPU lite. Also could do with a few more applets and a hot key to bring them to the front ie F9.

Security - Requesting permission to make system changes is good, still not with out it's share of problems check out the BAD.

File System Layout - The new file system layout with /users makes more sense than the old /Documents n Settings. Also placing the various media, catagory and search folders at /users/username/ makes more sense than the old /Docs/username/My Documents/.

Windows network center - Nice clear layout of how and what your connected to.

The OK

3D desktop - Somewhat RAM hungry (100MB 9 apps open + sidebar) but again fairly CPU lite when used with a dedicated 3D card (10% single core when moving a video window round while it's playing). The 3d switch app mode is alright but nothing great, much prefer the linux cube, wall, or OSX expose.

Appearance - Not bad not brilliant either, far, far better than XP's though if your computer can handle Aero. The new icons are nice and the file previews and folders showing previews of there video or image content is nice.

Windows Defender - Spyware/malware protection, useful but hard to know how effective it is.

Windows Mobility center - Quick access to laptop specific settings.

The Bad

Security - Permissions can get out of hand to create a folder and rename it in a section of the drive you don't have full permissions too requires 4 confirmations!
1) Warning you will need permission to create the folder
2) Permission
3) Warning you will need permission to change the foldername
4) Permission
That's 4x you need to click continue in an admin account! UAC really needs a cooldown period or something similar like linux, ie once you give your self permission you have admin permissions for that Window and it's contents until you close the Window.
It also needs some method of saying hey I trust this app this can be run as admin as long as it doesn't change with out me being asked to confirm it each time!

Compatibility - Some games are quite mucky to get set up and some of the vista security options can result in odd things happening to them. Compatibility mode + Admin permissions has worked so far for me though.

Performance - For gaming at least seems somewhat slower than expected, this may be due to still fairly early drivers for vista and current generation hardware.

Settings - The settings have been rearrange somewhat, not sure why but compared to windows XP sometimes things aren't where you expect to find them.

Size - An operating system with out any applications appart from basic email, internet and IM shouldn't take 8+ GB HDD space!

Overall I think vista is a nice upgrade from XP if your computer is fast enough to handle it properly and if you don't have too many legacy programs.

Windows Vista, with a few changes.

My previous linux desktop.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Any one with a facebook account may want to read this...

Facebook to show profiles to search engines | The Register

For those who care about online privacy you may want to make the changes in the account settings recommended by the article when they become available.

360° Light Field Display

Rather Awesome semi hologram!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Doomsday Machine?

Did the Soviets really build a "doomsday machine"? - By Ron Rosenbaum - Slate Magazine

An interesting article well worth reading, which reminds us that while the cold war as such may have ended many of the decisions made during that period may still threaten us.

The possibility that such a Doomsday system may exist is rather disturbing to say the least, and reminds me of far to much disturbing Nuclear war SF that I've read. Especially with the recent reactivation of Russian Nuclear bomber flights.