Suck suck suck suck suck

Suck suck suck suck suck. That's how much a really sucky thing sucks. What sucks more than that is crap like this. For those who don't read the link, the 4 word summary is "Operation Screw The Iraqis", this time by rewriting their constitution to place all sorts of insane legal restrictions on their agricultural industry and specifically the seeds they are allowed to use. I mean, come on, we've been doing this agriculture thing for thousands of years without needing large corporations to sell us infertile seeds we have to buy year after year. In my opinion it is sick and amoral to do this kind of thing. I sincerely hope the new Iraqi government overturns insane orders like this, but I don't hold out a lot of hope given the amounts of money people stand to make :-/ As the article makes out, this is all about pleasing the WTO, which is a whole other rant I won't get into now, suffice to say, despite whatever good intentions they have, they suck too.

More Ugly!

I think I've figured out what I'm going to be doing on New Years Eve..... another Ugly Duckling gig! woo! If you're interested (and you should be), check it out here before the tickets run out!


If you are a Michael Caine fan, or like brit movies, or just generally like good old movies (or were young when it was released), you've probably seen the original Alfie, tale of a Jack The Lad character who cares only for himself and slowly becomes aware of the hurt this causes those around him. Of course, the original is now too old to make any proper bank, so it's time to take a good idea and apply a thick layer of shiny mediocrity and remake it; and so they have, with Jude Law as a modern Alfie. Law has the charm to pull off the kind of character Alfie is supposed to be, but I felt the film generally was quite hollow. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but it didn't feel like it offered very much in the latter stages of the film - Alfie is learning the errors of his ways, but I just didn't care very much. Also, the wardrobe people need firing, Alfie didn't have a single suit that was actually big enough for him. Your arms shouldn't bulge out wider than the shoulder pads!

Dig in the ribs

Last night I went to Dig in the ribs with a few friends and some 2-for-1 coupons. It's a Tex-Mex restaurant in Brighton's food quarter (a nice way of saying "that road with all the steak and chinese places" ;) that offers a fine array of meats and sauces. I had a 16oz T-bone and brought a really feeble appetite with me, so I didn't make a very impressive dent in it, but Simon, Simon and Tam put in a good showing and tucked into a big plate of Nachos and sticky desserts too! Well worth a visit, although the staff could have been a little more attentive, we waited about half an hour to pay the bill; It aids digestion though ;)

You Gee Ell Why!

It's Monday. It's the 1st of November. It's 2004. This means only one thing... Tonight I am going to an Ugly Duckling gig in London! WOO! More when I've actually been ;) Update: Wooo! UD rock live! They were unfortunately a little late arriving, so could only play for about an hour, but the set they did was fantastic - funky and funny. I strongly recommend you grab their albums/EPs.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

It's scant hours since the release of the latest in Rockstar North's venerable GTA series and we've been giving the game a good bashing; these are my first impressions. The last GTA game, Vice City, was itself a dramatic improvement on the preceeding titles and Rockstar have continued the evolution of their beautiful engine with a variety of changes and new features that make the game more engaging and sustainable. Prime examples of this are the attributes of your character, CJ. As you undertake activities your skill at them improves (so shooting more people improves your aim and opens new combat style movements for gun battles, running more improves your stamina). Overall this seems to make the game far more engaging, although attributes such as hunger are more annoying and it seems to be possible to starve your character to death if you don't buy it a burger every so often. The map is *huge* and in the same way that Vice City was blatantly Miami, this is blatantly LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, the Sierra Nevada desert and some of the coastal stuff, plus a bunch of bits that didn't look obviously like anything I know of. Only one corner of the map is unlocked to begin with, but thanks to some sneakiness at the airport we managed to steal a jet and fly over the rest of the map (getting shot down by the Air Force in the process ;) and it is simply stunning. The Vegas stuff looks particularly good, I expect the missions there will be interesting; San Francisco also looked cool although I kept crashing before I could figure out if Alcatraz is there. As much fun as the missions are, I still like the odd one-man-army style rampage, so it is most helpful that the weapons cheats are the same as in Vice City. The new and vastly improved aiming/targetting system makes taking on multiple characters much easier than before, but when you start gaining weapons skills the speed and accuracy of your character is amazing, he can fell crowds in seconds. A good way to attract the police, but also a good way of taking them out too. Being able to recruit gang members is cool, although they have an annoying habit of shooting at other gangs at every available opportunity. Getting shot at by rival gangs all over the place is not cool, but it makes it more interesting I suppose ;) So, if you liked the previous GTA games, I strongly suggest you take a look at San Andreas, it seems like it is the best of the bunch. If you've never played a GTA game and you can safely detach virtual violence from the real thing, pick up a controller and get shooting/stealing/racing/kidnapping/etc.

Team America

Ok ok, so I slightly downloaded a copy of Team America: World Police. Sue me, I'm gonna go pay my dorrah when it comes out in several MONTHS time and buy the DVD ;) It is extremely childish and stupid, but it was also hilarious. I can see a lot of people aren't going to like it though and quite a few will probably be offended by it. The puppets have amazing heads, they're really astonishingly good. The bodies are shit, but it looks like they did that deliberately to make the puppets fight/run really stupidly. Their charaterisation of Kim Jong Il is absolutely fantastic and I found myself laughing at almost everything he said; Some of the Team America characters were quite annoying though, so it wasn't perfect by any means. As my flatmate pointed out, they didn't do enough work on the satire really. I'd still recommend it if you're a Trey and Matt fan.

Ubuntu initial impressions

I've been running Ubuntu since a week or so before the launch and so far I'm quite happy with it. It feels mostly like Debian, which is what I was running before I moved to Fedora (for the better 32/64bit compatibility), but has a little more pace to it so far, plus a pretty significant surge of good will and interest. One thing I am a little disappointed in is that it seems the releases (in this case their first; warty) won't change much beyond security and important bug fixes. They are scheduled for every 6 months though. Personally I still think a rolling-stable approach to the desktop is going to be a killer feature if it happens. What will set Ubuntu's real course now they have a userbase will be the development of the next release, hoary. There are now quite a lot of people who are want to get involved and want to help. We just have to hope the process shapes itself well and a coherant way of working emerges and works well. My favorite things about it are really all things about GNOME, especially the automatic digital camera importing. It's fantastic to see the computer become more aware of what is happening to it and behave Correctâ„¢ly. My least favorite is really inherited from Debian - the 32bit compatibility on AMD64 machines isn't great. The good thing is that I can confidently append "yet" to that :)

Hellboy: Directors Cut

Hellboy is another release in the recent spate of comic inspired movies riding the dollar wave of Spiderman and X-Men. Unlike some of them, it's actually a pretty good film. It's pretty standard stuff in terms of a comic action movie, but the performances set the film apart from its peers. Ron Perlman is very amusing as the stone-fisted Ted Danson lookalike "Hellboy", John Hurt is convincing as the doddery Professor (classic comic stuff, a father-like figure who provides moral guidance and then dies somehow) and Karl Roden is sinister as Rasputin. The effects are quite nicely done - some of the transitions from real people to CGI people are a bit obvious, but these things are still remarkably hard to do right when you are looking at them at DVD or higher resolution (case in point, Matrix Reloaded's effects looked seamless at the cinema, a bit noticeable on DVD and they are just plain obvious on the HDTV version - there's simply so much detail that no computer algorithms currently available can trick your brain into believing it is reality). I guess the sound was ok, but none of the soundtrack sticks in my mind, so it can't have been great ;) If you like action movies and don't mind them going for humour/style over substance, you might like this.

Could it be?

For a while now I've been thinking that it would be a good idea to have a distro that was Debian, but more pragmatic and much quicker to track upstream releases (presumably at the slight expense of package quality) Ubuntu Linux is a fork of Debian's unstable branch, sid. It includes newer GNOME packages than sid (although they are due very shortly I believe) and appears to have a much more pragmatic approach to distro making. Bad for servers, good for getting a distro that has no release as such, but is just tracking the current stable releases of as much software as possible. And therein lies the key, making a lot of software available - something that Debian has an incredible history of, with many thousands of packages. Where Debian is limited by being out of date and stable or slightly behind the times and unstable, Ubuntu will hopefully offer more stability and predictability than sid, but still a current desktop (probably where the approach is best suited, since that is where development is happening quickest). To get lots of software, the Ubuntu guys have been talking about two things.

  • Allow easy importing of packages from sid that compile (which we can reasonably assume to be most of the interesting packages people are going to want)
  • Allow easy importing of user contributed packages

This second item is the real key I think. If it is incredibly easy to submit a source package, have it be autobuilt on all architectures and when that works, reviewed by a project member for inclusion, people will do it. We see on distros like Fedora that people are prepared to put in massive efforts to maintain current software (see, the Dag and other RPM repositories. Their efforts are significantly hampered by the fact that they are unable to integrate their packages into the main Fedora trees, leading to them having to replace Fedora packages with newer versions and other worrying things. A big problem is that the various trees are not necessarily entirely compatible and there is some overlap. On a personal note, I find that having all of the sites that support x86_64 in yum's config makes it incredibly slow (I'd use apt, but it doesn't support Fedora's excellent biarch system). If this goes well, I would propose formalising the system to a degree by using GPG to allow the maintainer of a package to upload new versions without requiring moderator time. This is obviously another tactic lifted largely from debian, although they require manual verification by a debian developer who are the only ones with keys capable of uploading a new package. I will be watching Ubuntu closely, and if they do move in the direction I am hoping, it will have to be worth a shot :)