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Friday, May 26, 2006

Challenge and honeymoon updates and some common Telkom knowledge

Addiction challenge- week 2
Things are going well so far with my net addiction cut down, and the effect on my productivity has been staggering! To recap, my goals for this week were:
-Check email when I arrive at work, lunch, 4pm and possibly before going home.
-Check RSS streams when I arrive and at lunchas well as while compiling/building. Links may only be followed at lunch, or after work.
-Only check forums and reply at lunch or after work.
-Only IM at lunch and after 2PM.
-Only blog and Flickr at lunch Monday to Thursday, and after 4pm on Friday. During builds preparing posts in a text file is acceptable.
-Update podcasts when I arrive and at lunch. Watch short videos immediately, copy the rest to PSP and listen to/watch them at home.

I've been able to stick to most of these, with the occasional exception when it comes to following RSS links at build time. It turns out those build times are getting really tough to bare. Taking that into account, I'm setting the following goals for this week:
-Check email when I get to work and at lunch and possibly before going home.
-While compiling/building and at lunch. Links may be followed immediately provided reading these articles is limited to actual build time.
-Only check forums and reply at lunch or after work.
-Only IM at lunch and after 4PM.
-Only blog and Flickr after 4pm on Friday. During builds preparing posts in a text file is acceptable.
-Update podcasts when I arrive and at lunch. Watch videos at lunch, copy audio to PSP and listen to/watch them at home.

I think the above is more than acceptable as an adjusted final goal as well, and most importantly, I can see the effect already, not only on my productivity but also in my enjoyment of my work-since I remain focused on issues and have the satisfaction of solving them far quicker.

On a related note I was quite interested in the 'Inbox Zero Challenge' uddertaken by And McCaskey of Slashdot Review this week. His goal is to reach a point where at the end of any given working day there is zero mail in his inbox. Slashdot review is a daily podcast hosted by And in which he reports on some of the top stories from Slashdot for that day. He spends a few minutes chatting about a (sometimes related) topic during each podcast, and this week his discussions have been based around the challenge and his progress in it. While it's not quite the same thing as what I'm attempting, the similarity of making his progress public certainly is noteworthy-and seems to be helping him stick to his goals as well.

ADSL Hearings
This week ICASA held it's latest round of ADSL hearings, in which telecoms users (home and commercial) and providers were given an opportunity to have their say on the state of broadband in SA. The withdrawal of Vodacom, Sentech and the SNO from the hearings was a disappointing turn of events, as they are all important to SA's broadband landscape for one reason or another. Two speculative explanations for this were that they "have either decided that they do not wish to anger Telkom, who they all have to negotiate deals with for international bandwidth, or they do not feel the hearing is worth attending".
Among the comments and suggestions to arise from from attendees (other than Telkom, of course) were that the practice of line capping, which is rare internationally, be scrapped locally; that ADSL pricing in SA is not market related and that it is unfair that Telkom levy a monthly line rental fee to cover infrastructure that has already been paid for (and which was paid for out of public money while Telkom's was still funded by taxes I might add). Of course none of this is new, and it would seem that the powers that be need to be told the same things and shown the same facts a million times over for it to sink into their thick heads.
Telkom, funnily enough, seemed to be incredibly unprepared for the hearings, and seemed to make quite a fool of itself by dodging questions aimed at it and even complaining that it 'could not be expected to answer questions it was not prepared for' despite having been asked the same questions many times before. Only time will tell if this hearing actually leads to anything, or if it is another stall tactic employed by the government (which still earns a healthy dividend from Telkom's operations).

Honeymoon in Croatia: Rijeka
(Photos here)
A week into the honeymoon, and after a relatively tame sunday (and a damned cold nights sleep) we had a simple cereal breakfast and hit the road again. We headed off on the winding little coastal road leading from Crikvenica, through Krajljevica and on to Bakar, which I have wanted to visit since the first time I went to Croatia with my folks. It's a tiny little town nestled on a bay between two montains, with industry lining the bay along both banks. The itself quite poor, and while I doubt it has much on offer in terms of night life it does have an ancient fort as well as an old bell tower, which give it such a distinctive look from the road. The hike up to these is also quite interesting, and the view out on the bay really is something. We had a brief look around and then got back on the road and headed towards Rijeka.

Rijeka is an industrial city about a half an hours drive from Crikvenica on the coastal road. Unlike many of the other cities we visited, there is no part of it that is obviously the old part of the city. The monuments to be seen in Rijeka are quite scattered as compared to other places, and the city is very obviously more industrilized than, say Dubrovnik. We parked our little red Yugo in the public parking area across from the Centar, next to the river running through the city (no, I don't know it's name-but why do these rivers always stink so!?).

We started off our tour by just walking through some of the little alleyways in the centar, and Natalie picking up a fresh bottle of pickles from a supermarket. Guess who got to lug them.. ;) We stopped by at McDonalds for a meal and watched the people coming and going-it's very similar to sitting in a restaurant in a mall at home, and watching people going about their business there. We then headed into the closest thing Rijeka actually has to a mall (in fact the rest of Croatia is about the same)-essentially a multi story flea market, with permanent stalls. Some stores are starting to approach what we might expect to see here, but they really have a way to go. Most of the places were clothing shops, and not even Natz got much pleasure out of that, considering the exhorbitant price of clothing in Croatia. We did spend a lot of time looking through jewellers' stores to try and find the fabled 'moors' at a good price. Apparantly at one point in Rijeka's history, it was aided by the Moors in resisting invasion, and ever since icons and jewellery depicting Moors have been considered good luck, and are classic tourist souvenirs. We didn't really find any, but we did track down a lot of other gifts for the family on the Mall's ground floor.

Once we'd finished in the 'mall' (which didn't take long at all), we headed off to see some sights, which was trickier than anticipated. Between dodging the rain by stopping for a cup of hot chockolate at a Cafe and struggling to actually find some of these sites, it was a little frustrating. We did get to see the City's cathedral. It is an unusual building compared to many we had seen before, and unfortunately was closed to the public when we got there. As we headed back from it, a light drizzle started, and we decided we may as well head 'home'. The drive back was quick and uneventful, we had a quick supper and retired-this time deciding to try our luck in the living room on the pull out couch in the hope that it would be warmer.. it was!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Challenge progress, Sonic and the 360

Addiction progress
To recap, my targets for this week in beating my productivity-sapping internet addiction were:
-Check email when I arrive at work, 10am, lunch, 3pm and possibly before going home.
-Check RSS streams when I arrive and at lunch. Links may be immediately followed. Also read RSS while compiling/building, but don't follow links.
-Check forums when I arrive and at lunch, only post replies at lunch.
-Only IM at and after lunch.
-Only blog and Flickr at lunch Monday to Thursday, and after 4pm on Friday.
-Update podcasts when I arrive and at lunch. Watch short videos immediately, copy the rest to PSP and listen to/watch them at home.

For the most part, I have kept to these really well, the only slip-ups I've had were in not using any instant messaging in the mornings-and only because my Miranda is set to start up aytomatically and someone contacted me. I have now removed Miranda from my startup, so that's sorted. It's been tough, especially in the afternoons when I find focusing on my work most difficult, but it has been worth it. My productivity has absolutely surged, and I can already see those bad habits beginning to crack. The podcast restrictions have even helped to make my drive home more interesting, with at least a Slashdot review podcast to listen to, in place of the usual looped playlist highveld insists on!
My new targets (for next week) are:

-Check email when I arrive at work, lunch, 4pm and possibly before going home.
-Check RSS streams when I arrive and at lunchas well as while compiling/building. Links may only be followed at lunch, or after work.
-Only check forums and reply at lunch or after work. (I have found the "no replying" rule on forums really helps reduce the draw they have, which is great).
-Only IM at lunch and after 2PM.
-Only blog and Flickr at lunch Monday to Thursday, and after 4pm on Friday. During builds preparing posts in a text file is acceptable (I am adding this to my long term targets as well, it seems that RSS streams don't quite cover those super-long rebuilds).
-Update podcasts when I arrive and at lunch. Watch short videos immediately, copy the rest to PSP and listen to/watch them at home.

For interest sake, I found this website related to this problem. Isn't it ironic, looking for information on internet addiction on a website?

Speedy recovery
Back in the days when 16 bit consoles were king, and Sega had a aparticularly strong hold on the South African market due to a lack of official Nintendo support, Sonic was the overall videogame icon in this country. As much as any gamer in those days, I loved the sonic games. They were gorgeous for the time, and the speedy gameplay was exhilirating. Since then, the Sonic franchise seems to have taken something of a nosedive, with more recent incarnations being sluggish, having lousy controls, looking outdated or just having a link to the franchise that was tenuous at best. Well is would appear that Sega is finally getting it right again with the Sonic franchise. After watching the extended e3 trailer of Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 I am really excited about this new title. With great next-gen looking graphics, gameplay that seems to return to the series' high-speed roots and a return of the blue speedster himself, this title looks set to sizzle. I'm certainly looking forward to it!

Xbox 360 fund
I was going to write a long commentary on the dust settling after E3, and how Nintendo seemed to coume out the overall winner-but it would just have been a rehash of what thousands of bloggers and journalists have already discussed, so I decided to rather report on my Xbox 360 fund. It's coming along nicely, I have about R1500 from selling off games and books, and I'll be getting another of my boxes of books this weekend that I'm sure will earn me another R500. Add to that the cash I expect to get from my guitar (eventually) and I should have a little over R3000 towards the machine. I'm more than willing to take the remaining R1500 or so for the machine and a game out of pocket, so as soon as that guitar is sold, I should be able to make my order.. Yaaaaay :)

MS SA Hiring for Xbox 360 campaign
And keeping with the Xbox 360, I saw two job ads on the Microsoft South Africa website yesterday that really made me wish (for the first time ever) that I had an MBA. The first is for the position of Marketing Manager - Entertainment & Devices, and the second for Head of Sales & Marketing -Entertainment & Devices. There is also a position for a Developer Evangelist.. now if only they had one for Xbox 360 evangelist, I would have my dream job!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Addiction challenge: some changes

No, no.. I’m not backing out! It’s actually going pretty well and my productivity is significantly higher. I just realized over the last two days that I had forgotten a couple of things when I laid out my addiction-cracking plan.

First of all, I neglected to take build time into account. Any programmer out there knows what I’m talking about: you’re working on a piece of code, make a few changes, end up changing a header file, and then you have to compile the app to test the changes. It doesn’t matter what kind of monster machine you’re working on, compile/build time is time consuming and tedious. As a result, you tend to pass that time reading articles, browsing forums, doing whatever-and of course each of those has the tendency to run over the build time and eat into your overall productivity.

The other thing I forgot was another of my internet addiction elements: Podcasts! For the uninitiated, podcasts are basically episodic media streams. A user subscribes to a podcast, and depending on the software they are using, will automatically receive the newest updates in the form of audio and video files. Now I have a couple of game related casts that I subscribe to, as well as Slashdot Review and the Happy Tree Friends podcast. While downloading them is not a problem, watching/listening to them takes time, but since I enjoy them so much I really don’t want to cut them out.

I have thought about these two ‘issues’ and have come up with additions/modifications to my final and Friday goals.

Friday goals

-In addition to being able to check RSS streams when I get to work and at lunch, I may check them while building/compiling. I may not click on links from them at these times.

-I may refresh my podcasts in the morning when I get in, to give them time to download, but I may only watch short (less than 1 minute) video casts when they complete, others must either be watched/listened to at lunch or at home (by copying them onto my PSP).

Final goals

-In addition to being able to check RSS streams when I get to work and at lunch, I may check them while building/compiling. I may not click on links from them at these times.

-I may refresh my podcasts in the morning when I get in, to give them time to download, but I may only watch/listen to them at lunch or at home (by copying them onto my PSP).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Beating the addiction

In an earlier post I bemoaned my addiction to being constantly 'connected' and to the internet in general. This addiction is really becoming a problem for me as it is chewing into my productive time at work. Now while some people might not be bothered by this, I would much prefer to actually be earning the salary my employer pays me. It also prevents me from really enjoying my online time as much as I could, because I constantly feel guilty. This addiction takes the following forms:
-Constant email monitoring
-Obsessive monitoring of XML based RSS streams
-Following the above RSS streams to further distracting websites
-Forum monitoring
-Instant Messenging
-Time consuming blog posts and Flickr uploads.

As with any addiction, I believe the first step to solving the problem is admitting that it exists. I've done that. The next step is decide what is actually acceptable (going out and having a drink with friends is fine, as opposed to working your way through an entire bottle of jack every evening).So I'm going to set some ideal goals for myself, in relation to the above.
-Check email three times a day: when I get to work, at lunch, and just
before leaving (after work hours) IF I don't have something important to get
-Check RSS streams twice a day: In the mornings when I get in and at
lunchtime. Only follow related links at lunchtime (the same goes for links
emailed to me by friends and colleagues.
-Only check forums at lunchtime.
-Only IM during lunch, and after 3 in the afternoon (when I am least
productive anyway).
-Only blog at lunch Monday to Thursday, and after 4pm on Friday.

Of course, going 'cold turkey' is almost impossible unless you're locked away at Betty Ford, with no way to get at your addiction. So I'll take this week by week, setting weekly goals with the long term goal in mind. I'll report progress weekly (on a friday afternoon). I intend to achieve my 'ideals' in four weeks or less. The following are my goals for this week (ie
I have to stick to these limits until friday, when I will log my progress and establish new limits for next week):
-Check email when I arrive at work, 10am, lunch, 3pm and possibly before
going home.
-Check RSS streams when I arrive and at lunch. Links may be immediately
-Check forums when I arrive and at lunch, only post replies at lunch.
-Only IM at and after lunch.
-Only blog and Flickr at lunch Monday to Thursday, and after 4pm on Friday.

For the record I'm posting this at lunch time. Wish me luck, or better yet join me ;)

Monday, May 15, 2006

'Official' wedding photos

We finally had the photos that our 'official' wedding photographer took scanned to CD, why the heck he didn't just use digital to start with is beyond me. One of the downsides of not using a digital camera is that he didn't realise his settings and filters were wrong-hence the appearance that we had our photo's taken at midnight. I've dumped a couple of the best ones on Flickr:

Friday, May 12, 2006

More E3 goodness

And here are a few more E3 items of interest..

Will Wright on a couple of things
GameSpy's Steven Kent had the privelage of interviewing Will Wright over breakfast at E3. He has some interesting things to say, in particular a very telling comment about the Wii which indicates that it's control fidelity differs based on distance from the sensor..

PS3 no longer the slimmer option
Xbox365 is carrying a couple of user created composites comparing the PS3's form factor to that of the Xbox 360-and the mockup shown at last year's E3. It seems it has definitely given up the size advantage, being even bigger than Microsoft's console. The site seems to be extremely overloaded, so you may have to refresh a few times..

She's blonde, can you blame her?
Millionaire socialite and heiress (not to mention impromptu porn and 'reality show' star) Paris Hilton, managed to add many grey hairs to the heads of GameLoft execs when she showed up late for the launch of her new mobile game Paris Hilton's Jewel Jam and mistakenly referred to it as Diamond Quest. What do people see in this brainless anorexic ditz?

No Handheld for Microsoft
Discounting a claim in The Xbox 360 Uncloaked the recen't book by Dean Takahashi, that half of Microsoft's Xbox 360 hardware development team had shifted their focus to develop a handheld console, Microsoft's Neil Thompson instead insisted that they were focusing on mobile (ie PDA and Cellphone) gaming instead

Enough now.. I'm heading home so that's it for this post.

E3 Superpost!

You know if the world we live in had the tiniest scrap of fairness, all gamers would be given this week in the year off and be temporarily granted uncapped 10Mbps broadband connections. Thiswould be so they could actually assimilate the insane amount of cool game related news and info coming out of E3, as well as being able to download and watch all the awesome trailers, gameplay videos and video commentaries from various games journalism sites. I would not be surprised if 'E3 week' is the slowest week of the year in terms of overall productivity in IT companies and in terms of internet performance! Rather than shoot off a post for every little piece of E3 news I come across today that interests me, I've decided to keep TextPad (, what rock have you been living under!?) open and copy in all the interesting bits and pieces for a couple of bumper posts-and this is the first one, enjoy!

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, I cleaned up the sidebar a bit and added a Flickr 'badge' and my Gamertag. I thought since the Gamertag and points system will be heading to PC and Mobile games as well, I had better reserve mine-shouldn't you do the same? :)

PS3 versions clarified
Eurogamer is reporting that SCEA president Kaz Hirai has made an attempt to clarify the differences between the $499 and $599 versions of the PS3 that will be sold, as well as defending the price, saying "I think when you look at what we put into the box - Cell, Blu-Ray, backwards compatibility, the ability to go online - I think it's a very compelling package for consumers. The totality of what we bring to the table makes it a good value for consumers." To be honest, I don't see any difference between what is being reported and the original statements. The features missing from the 'low-end' version will include the larger hard drive, card reader ports and HDMI outputs.

Jack Thompson after a new target
This is not quite E3 news, but it's interesting nonetheless. Famed anti-video game activist and sometimes lawyer Jack Thompson has set his sights on a new target: Bethesda's critically acclaimed The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The game was recently rerated by the ESRB from Teen to Mature because of content added to the PC version by modders. This decision has been widely criticised in the industry as a developer cannot reasonably be held accountable for 'hacks' of their games by third parties. Gamesfirst is reporting that thompson's representatives have requested an appearance on their chat show to discuss this rerating. The interesting part is all the inaccuracies to be found in their request. It's worth reading for a laugh.
(This item shamelessly ripped from Justin Paver's blog, thanks jus ;) )

Molyneaux talks Fable 2 - almost
If you had to ask me who my idol in the games industry is, I wouldn't even miss a beat in answering that it's Peter Molyneaux of Bullfrog and Lionhead fame.

I have loved most of his games, and particularly enjoyed Fable, despite it not quite living up to Peter's typically overinflated promises. So naturally I was excited to see that IGN had a chance to speak to him about the sequel. Unfortunately the interview wasn't much more revealing than the seemingly pointless E3 video for the title.

Super Smash Bros Dojo
One of the few games I really, really loved on the GameCube was Super Smash Bros. Melee, an absolutely insane party game that basically involves smashing your opponents to bits with your selected Nintendo character. It's chaotic and great fun! Well, there's now a video available of the next SSB title, Super Smash Bros. Dojo. There are a couple of new characters-most notably Solid Snake from the Metal Gear series! Do yourself a favour and check it out.

Queue to play the Wii
Have a look at this video from YouTube of the queue of people waiting to check out the Nintendo Wii. If the demand for the machine is anywhere near this level when it hits stores, Nintendo will have absolutely nothing to worry about in the next gen!

Why Wii?
Seattle P-I had a Q and A session with Nintendo's Satoru Iwata and he made one or two interesting comments, including the justification behind the renaming of the Revolution to the Wii:
"I knew people who had hoped for a more game machinelike name would think it was an incompatible name. What I wanted to have happen was that people who didn't know that Game Boy Advance and GBA are the same thing would remember Wii right away because it doesn't need to be abbreviated.
Also, we wanted to express that it was something for everyone. So even if people initially oppose it, if they come to accept the name, we thought it would become a big strength. That's why we decided on it. "

Sony's copycat practices criticised
This news piece is a bit older, but since it's pretty much what I was thinking anyway I thought I'd add it. Ubisoft's Clint Hocking has bemoaned Sony's apparent new tactic of copying it's rivals' innovations instead of coming up with it's own. He also expressed unhappiness over the negative effect the focus on graphics fidelity is having on the industry, blaming it for turning game studio employees into 'factory workers'. I have to say I agree with him on both counts. More at Eurogamer.

WWII is in your hands
Activision has announced that they will be bringing the highly acclaimed World War 2 series Call of Duty to the PSP, in the form of Call of Duty 3. Despite the identical naming, this will apparently not be a direct port of the console version, but rather an original title.

The Aliens are coming! Again!
Pandemic is working on a sequel to the incredibly wacky Destroy All Humans which saw you in the role of an invading alien. This time around you're back with bigger weapons and better powers. IGN has some feedback, screenshots and video. I just wonder if Derek will be working on this one too..

We're not copycats.. promise!
In an interview with, Sony's Phil Harrison has denied that the motion sensing capabilities in the PS3 controller was inspired by/copied from that demonstrated by Nintendo last year for the Wii. He insists it's all a huge coincidence. The interview is reposted on Eurogamer.

Mario Wiining fans
Also on Eurogamer, first impressions of using the Wii controller in Super Mario Galaxy seem to be very positive. This reporter was obviously blown away, and if his comments are anything to go on, we can expect some awesome stuff from the Wii.

WOW, ok I think that's enough for one post. It's lunchtime now so I can format this and send it out into the big ol' interweb! I'll start on another one for this afternoon ;)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Drivenik, Licences and E3.

Wow! I can't believe how I've neglected my blog over the last two weeks! Well I suppose I'd better make it up with a worthwhile post ;) Today's post includes a honeymoon commentary (at last), a bit of a rant, and some geek stuff as well-a real bumper edition!

Honeymoon in Croatia: Another long drive, and Drivenik
Having had a bit of a fitful night's sleep (the room alternated between uncomfortably hot and bloody cold), we were less than enthusiastic about getting up. At least we had a nice big breakfast awaiting us downstairs (where we managed to get kak'd out for sitting at a 'non-breakfast table and had to move.. whoops). After taking our time with breakfast, we packed up our little car and hit the road again, heading more-or-less north towards Rijeka. Once again the highways were a pleasure, and we saw more amazing in-construction bridges and passed through a couple of tunnels, but for the most part the drive was uneventful. Natz cought up on some of the sleep she'd missed the night before, which left me to enjoy the sights (and the speed). A couple of kilmoeters before Rijeka we passed an offramp to Drivenik, and I seriously considered taking it to drop off our luggage, but the distance didn't seem to be much less than to Rijeka itself, so I rather gave it a skip.
Once we got into Rijeka we drove around a bit to get our bearings to see where we'd need to go. We parked in the public parking area just off the old center, and headed into the center to organize our bus tickets and find out where our car rental dropoff point was (having phoned them, and had very little luck other than to establish that they were still open). We stopped for a bite of McDonalds in the square (yummy!) and I headed over to a tourist info spot to find the info we needed.They sorted us out in no time, complete with marking directions on a map of the city, and we went off to book our tickets. From that point we had to rush a bit, since we had under an hour to drop off our car, get back to the bus station and catch our bus. The spiteful buggers at the car rental co wouldn't drop us off at the bus station, despite it being quite clear we had a lot of luggage to haul with us, so we had to hoof it. It's not far, just a mission with all that stuff.

There really wasn't much worth mentioning about the bus trip, except the guy with a cold sitting behind me and sneezing on my neck. Gross! We got off at Crikvenica, where Stanko and Ruza (family friends) were waiting to drive us to Drivenik. It's justa ten minute drive, so we were soon unpacking our stuff and sharing a bottle of wine (and MORE Napolitanke!) with them. We joined them at their place for a welcome supper, and to pick up our new transport-my grandfather's old Yugo. It's definitely not nearly as luxurious as the Citroen, and it guzzles fuel, but hey its a car. Back at the house, we set up for the night (no double bed.. just two singles to push together). Let me tell you, that house was COLD. Not as in 'put on a jersey' cold either. More like have two electric heaters running all night and scavage evry blanket you can find cold! Anyway, that was our first evening in Drivenik, and we were both exhausted so we were soon in dreamland.
The next day we went to church in the village church, which was lovely, but we obviously didn't understand a word of it ;) Afterwards, we were treated to a wonderful lunch at Stanko and Ruza's place which carried on far longer than expected (partially because with the language barruer we couldn't really figure out when it was appropriate to leave!), and from there we headed off to Crikvenica and spent a couple of hours walking on the beach and in the town-and enjoying some good old Croatian ice-cream. It may not sound like we did much that day, but the time certainly flew! That's it for this update-next time, Rijeka :)

Moan, groan, licence renewal time..
On Sunday I realised that my driver's licence would be expiring today, so I decided to go on Tuesday (yesterday) to have it renewed. My head was filled with images of having to redo the damned K53 test! I headed off to the Irene testing grounds early yesterday morning, getting there just before 8. I only realised when I got there that I had taken a REALLY roundabout route. When the doors opened, I requested a renewal form, and realised I'd left my ID book at home. I asked them if I needed my ID to complete the process, and they told me yes, so I had no choice but to head home and pick it up (taking the shorter route this time). When I got back in the queue and started filling out the form, one of the officials informed me that they were not yet equipped to do renewals.. surely something they could have told me when they gave me the damned form!? I asked where the nearest place to get it done was and they directed me to the Midrand testing grounds. Now, while the Irene grounds seemed organised and neat, Midrand is a joke! It takes up two buildings across the road from each other. Enquiries is in the one, and sent me to the other to get my eyes tested and fingerprints taken, I then had to return to the first building and wait in a 40-minute queue to pay, after which I was again sent across the road to sign and fingerprint the form. Now could this not all be done by one individual in one place? Bloody rediculous system they have there.
I thought about it on the way to work (by then it was already 11:15! And all the tasks done there could be done with a single hi-tech kiosk:
-fill in details
-scan barcoded ID
-read fingerprints
-take photos
-test eyesight
One of these kiosks would initially cost quite a bit, but would pay for themselves in six months. Put three or four in each licence department, and everything could be done in 10 minutes! And if that's what I came up with on a 25 minute drive, what great solutions could a room full of gearheads dream up in a day?

E3 Baby!!
It's that time of year again, time for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), arguably the biggest videogame event of the year. This year's Expo (the 11th) has been highly anticipated due to the many questions still surrounding Sony's PS3 and the Nintendo Wii (and of course because we all want to see what Microsoft has in store). The Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft conferences are now over, and there have certainly been some interesting results. For one the Release date and pricing details of the PS3 are now public-the system will come in two flavours retailing at $499 and $599 respectively-$200 more than the equivalent Xbox 360 configurations! The system will hit all major territories in November of this year. The widely despised 'boomerang' controller design showed at last year's E3 has been dropped, and the new system's controller will now look much like the PS2's dual shock controller, with the L2 and R2 buttons moved and reshaped to be more like triggers (this is interesting considering the 360 controller has removed the black and white face buttons and replaced them with dualshock like shoulder buttons, compared with the original Xbox S controller). The controller will also include motion sensing capabilies similar in some ways to the Wii controller, but to accomodate this behavior rumble has been dropped. Overall it seems that Sony has failed to impress, and it will be interesting to see if they hit their target of 6 million units sold by the end of March 2007, I suspect there are enough early adopters in the US alone that will be prepared to pay that price, so I suspect they will.
Nintendo's conference was apparently a lot more colourful and interesting and seemed to focus on how the Wii controller would be used in games. No major news was released regarding pricing and release dates, but a fairly long list of games was announced for the system. In retrospect, I think they should have kept the motion sensitive nature of the Wii controller for this year's E3, as I am more than a little suspicious that Sony's motion sensing controller was only in response to this feature in the Wii. One wonders where this leaves Microsoft in the 'controller wars'.
Which brings us to the MS conference. Since their machine has already been on store shelves for six months, there wasn't really much mystery surrounding it. Their focus this year was on the HD-DVD addon (which I am not too interested in to be honest), new software for the 360 and the introduction of a 'Live Anywhere' system which would bring versions of the much-applauded Xbox live community functionality to players on the PC and on mobiles. In software terms, Halo 3 made an appearance (as was expected by many) and it turns out that Sony has lost it's early launch for GTA games, with GTA4 appearing simultaneously on the 360 and PS3 next year.
All in all, I can't say it's turned out to be the most exciting E3, I suppose because the major players already bared their big cards last year. I'm particularly underwhelmed by what Sony's got on offer-at this stage it looks as if the X360 will still be my first console, and the Wii may follow as my second sometime down the line.


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