As my holidays started this week, I was on high hopes. After all, this is my first proper holiday in … I guess pretty much ever. When you are in the status of a student, you spend all your summers on a summer work, and later, when I started working, I always was pushing some publication or other project until the summer, when I could actually start working (these days, academics’ working hours are all taken up by project meetings and admin work during the “working” season). This summer it will be different: I will have a proper, long summer holiday. And the first week looks already promising: it never stops raining. 🙂 Well, that is good time to do some housekeeping work, and particularly good time to go through your photo collections and do some editing stuff. I have intention to pick up some of the suitable shots, transfer them into monochrome and work with black-and-white photography for a while. There are already some samples (like this tulip) in my Flickr account.
This must be the ultimate way to play Pong the Midsummer Festival style: have the controllers integrated in your underwear. See: Master’s Student Demonstrates Thesis Project in Her Underwear.
Yesterday we got the new car, VW Golf Plus TSI. It should have enough room for us for a while at least, and it is compact enough for city traffic and parking. TSI motor is small, yet quite powerful due to the double turbo/compressor solution. I particularly like the high seats and good views — also at nights: we ordered bi-xenon lights. This is also the first day of my (long overdue) holidays. Still some phone conferences and article writing stuff though, so “soft landing” into the unknown that way. Weather looks fine in Finland and tomorrow is the Midsummer festival: great!
My old (well, almost two years old at least) external hard disk stopped responding, and it looks like its the time to find another backup solution. Since I have a small, personal server running Ubuntu, regular full system mirrors on an external USB 2.0 hard disk should be enough, but I also need to learn more about the various backup procedures. Here are couple of links to pages that I should probably read with care: “Backing Up Ubuntu“, “Howto: Backup and restore your system“. Any further resources are also most welcome.
My article discussing the character and development of digital culture has now been published in a new anthology that is focused on visual culture, titled Toisin katsoen, visuaalisen kulttuurin lukukirja (Gaudeamus, 2007). More on the book here. You can read a draft version of my piece “Viesti, kuva, peli: virtuaaliutopioista pelikulttuurien syntyyn” (in Finnish) here; if you quote, please access the final, printed version though.
The age-old battle between church authority and domains of the popular, the secular and the art takes new forms: the Catholic Church of England is apparently considering of suing Sony Computer Entertainment for use of the likeness of the Manchester Cathedral as a backdrop for a scifi-horror style fantastic battle. See more discussion on this topic in Matteo Bittanti’s blog here: http://www.videoludica.com/news.php?news=639
Remember, this is where you heard it first (playing my mighty ‘insider blogger’ card here): the massively mobile multiplayer game the IPerG consortium is preparing for research has now a news website that you can use to access and follow its progress towards launch (upcoming next fall). Name? Mythical: Mobile Awakening. More: http://www.mythicalmobile.com/
Listening and watching music yesterday evening in my ‘media cave’, I started again thinking about the value of ‘content’ and the current distribution models of music. According to some sources, already 95 % of CD sales in China are pirated, and the online distribution (legal and not-so) continues to grow in popularity (see references as http://cyberextazy.wordpress.com/tag/research-statistics/ http://www.bpi.co.uk/pdf/BPI_UK_Commercial_Music_Piracy.pdf http://www.riaa.com/news/marketingdata/facts.asp etc.). Looking at the ubiquity of mp3 players, the problems people are having with various copy “protected” legal disks and the hassle-free, cross-device use that is associated with non-protected digital music, it is easy to foresee that the strongly protective DRM road is problematic. If, on the other hand, a CD or a media file is more like an advertisement for the artist in the future, than the actual product people are willing to pay for, where the income is going to come from? Clicking through my collection with the Vista Media Centre, one alternative quickly became obvious: the added value of lyrics, high-resolution album cover art, additional media such as music videos and photo slideshows are surely something that would provide rich experiences for those who really become interested in the artist, after listening the music. There are multiple physical services and products that provide additional value to digital music, such as concerts and large-format printed materials, high-quality archive copies in well-produced DVD/Blueray formats that would still provide revenue for the industry and the artists, even if the business models are definitely going to undergo a transition.
My new gaming PC arrived in Friday, and since then I have been trying out and configuring it, those minutes I had available. The most complex challenge is actually hardware related: the system is powerful enough for me, but it is too hot. Meaning that both the motherboard/system sensors and the CPU are constantly around 60 degrees C. For a moderately over-clocked CPU that might still do, but for the system board that is not good. I have tried tweaking the fan software options, made sure that the BIOS settings also support fan controls, but no. I installed an extra fan into the case but it does not appear to be powerful enough. The only trick so far that actually works is to open side of the case and direct powerful airflow from a 40 cm air-conditioning fan directly into this hornets’ nest. That makes sure that even when I tweak the game settings to the top, or play various video music files while driving several background applications the system temperature does not go over 30°C. Now I only need to weld this fan into a gigantic hole that I somehow drill into the case side. Hmm. Need some thought still.
Apart from the heat frustrations, the new system is a beauty – my old gaming/workstation PC had been so long out of date, that having a fast processor, plenty of memory and even some disk space to spare is a thrill. And I actually quite like how Vista works, with its slick Aero things and all. But there are several downsides to this system as well. Its DRM policies are notorious, and the system security messages start to drive me mad. Yes, I do know that I want to run those programs that I asked the operating system to run, thank you. Having four different dialogues popping up when you download and start up a new networking software is sort of overkill even these days, I’d say.
Vista is still missing some crucial drivers, so no hurry if you do not need to upgrade right now. For example, plugging in two Canon digital cameras, the PowerShot S3 IS was recognised and all worked automatically, but Canon EOS 350D required separate driver installations, and it still appears that the OS tool is not capable of downloading pictures from the camera. You need to use a separate tool from Canon to do that.
Apple iTunes and QuickTime do not work yet with Vista either. I have now opted for QuickTime Alternative and Real Alternative to use open, community supported alternatives. The online, streaming videos do not run completely smoothly with these, though. Hopefully the media player and codec situation gets better, soon. But the Vista Media Center was a real delight; you could spend just hours leaning back, clicking through your photo collections while listening to mp3’s playing in the background. The home theatre setup with its wireless keyboard really gets into its proper use now. DVD movies and digital sound work also fine.
And now back into Neverwinter Nights 2, and the world of Forgotten Realms…