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Monday 13 February 2017

The "Targus Wireless Bluetooth Presenter Remote Control & Mouse Cursor", model BEU0564C

In an earlier blog here I stated I was going to use a Targus device that combined the functionality of being a wireless mouse, and a wireless remote control for presenting; rare functionality that is exactly what I was after.

As stated... it does work with Linux, but only for short periods of time. Sometimes it can only last for a couple of minutes before it just kind of forgets that it was talking to something else. This makes it completely unusable for presentations, and essentially completely worthless. Reading through the Amazon reviews more thoroughly, it looks like I'm not the only one with this problem.

I realise the device was on the "cheap and cheerful" side but I expected basic functionality, rather than no functionality.

Avoid.

Suggestions for equivalent but reliable devices would be appreciated in the comments.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

"although it's unpleasant, you do want to have nay saying voices involved in any sort of decision that you make"

As a former penetration tester, and sporadic wargamer, I am completely sold on the "red team" concept. For those of you not familiar with the area, I'd describe it as "having someone or something with an adversarial mindset examine your nascent idea or project or hypothesis for flaws from the point of view of sentient opposition, and also to extrapolate the second and third order effects from the implementation of that idea". I am still surprised at how rare this point of view is, although I realise that I might be preaching to the converted.

I'm still working on having the kind of reputation where you can now quote me to your managers and get the resource for the Red Team Department you want to set up... but if I can't help, how about Professor David Dunning? David Dunning is "Professor of Psychology at Cornell University. As an experimental social psychologist, Dr. Dunning is a fellow of both the American Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association. " His full details are here: http://socialsciences.cornell.edu/david-dunning/ , he's most well known for his work on the Dunning-Krueger Effect. I had the pleasure recently of listening to him being interviewed for the "You're Not So Smart" podcast, this was episode 72: https://youarenotsosmart.com/2016/04/08/072-why-we-are-unaware-of-how-unaware-we-are/ - it's well worth your time, and these are a couple of particularly useful quotes:

"There are some helpful points that psychology suggests in order to avoid overconfidence that leads you over the cliff, if you will. The first is that, although it's unpleasant, you do want to have nay saying voices involved in any sort of decision that you make. That is, you want someone to play devil's advocate. Basically to poke holes in what the group or the institution might be thinking about what it wants to do. The reason for that is, having a devil's advocate can help the organization spot when it's being overconfident. Or, sometimes just improve the decision that the institution’s going to do. So you want that."

"Having a devil’s advocate is unpleasant ... but what it does do is it does insulate you against unknown incompetence. And you just know that it’s going to show up sooner or later, you just don’t know where. So you might as well just have these policies that help you address the problems that you can’t anticipatewhen they finally rear up and try to bite you."

Episode 72 was a re-broadcast of episode 36, and these quotes are taken from the transcript of episode 36 of the "You Are Not So Smart: A Celebration of Self Delusion" podcast with some minor editing for clarity. The transcript is here: https://youarenotsosmart.com/transcripts/transcript-interview-with-david-dunning-from-episode-036/

Monday 21 March 2016

Prototype 2

You've somehow stumbled across this blog post because you want to know if Prototype 2 is worth playing. I played it on the Xbox360 and really enjoyed it.

This summary of the game pretty much tells you what you'll be doing:

"Tear your way through the quarantined streets of Manhattan, crushing tanks and ripping apart horrific mutants, with awesome super-mutant powers of your own. You are Sgt James Heller, a soldier and grieving husband, taking down everyone responsible for the murder of your family, and have your revenge!"

If you're wondering whether to spend the £16 or so on Xbox Live to download it, or pick up a second hand copy from somewhere like CEX for £4 the game will suit you if you want:

  • An offline game, no connectivity is required, there's no multi-player options. I think some of the "RADNet" functionality will have gone away if you're offline or buying this game so late that it's been removed from Xbox Live servers, but all you'll be missing are some side quests that mainly involve running across rooftops or throwing barrels into incinerators.
  • A game where you don't have to think that hard... as you can see from the summary above, contrary to my last game, Remember Me, in this case you're definitely in the "I'm a gruff male, and I need to avenge the loss of someone or something by killing everything in range" zone.
  • Hilariously over the top and indiscriminate combat - it would have been interesting to have a penalty for injuring or killing the citizens you're apparently there to protect, but due to the auto-aiming combat system and area effect of the weapons you'll obtain you'll find yourself shredding anything that gets in-between you and your target... whether you want to or not. At the start of the game those civilians will be bystanders you try to avoid, by one hour in they're just wandering health packs.
  • A game that isn't that difficult. I think I'm of about average ability for a video game player, and this game was only slightly challenging on Normal level.

In order to play it you will need:

  • At least 20 hours of time according to gamelengths.com, I'm sure I took longer, maybe 30 or 40.
  • No squick about blood or tendrils, there is a lot of cutting people apart in this game, or literally pulling them to pieces; and you obtain information from adversaries by literally consuming and absorbing them.
  • An acceptance of "game logic", you can evade helicopters chasing you by running around a corner and switching to a different identity, you gain powers by collecting things because that's what happens in video games, there are boss fights because there are always boss fights.
  • No extra cash, the DLC is all essentially optional as far as I could tell.

Thursday 31 December 2015

Not A Good Day To Die Hard

"A Good Day To Die Hard" is the fifth instalment in the Die Hard series of films, an engaging set of action packed movies, so should you watch this one?

TL;DR - no, don't watch this film.

If you're after a good film - it just isn't. There's no real suspense, the characters aren't engaging, the actors are capable of much better performances, and the interesting twist isn't enough to save it... and for an action film, the action is disappointing.Check out IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes for similar but more comprehensive reviews.

If you're after a mindless action film - don't watch this, the actions sequences are somehow boring... there's armoured personnel carriers barrelling through the streets of Moscow, there's helicopters on fire, and I didn't care. Maybe it needs a large screen and surround sound, but the dramatic events just didn't engage me, and there's a lot of "but that wouldn't happen", "why is that character doing that?", "why has there been no police response at all", and "maybe we should just fast forward through this bit".

If you're after a "good bad" film - I will blog more about these in future, as myself and a few friends are fans of "so bad they're good" films... but this film isn't in that class, it isn't that kind of bad; it's just perplexing and confusing.

The only reason to watch this film for me - so I could watch the "Everything Wrong With" episode afterwards - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA42PExrg3g

Monday 21 December 2015

Remember Me

You've somehow stumbled across this blog post because you want to know if Remember Me is worth playing. I played it on the Xbox360 and really enjoyed it.

If you want a spoilerific summary there's this, or keep this in mind as something to watch after you've completed the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxsxCPwYHFw

Otherwise there's a nice summary of reviews at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remember_Me_(video_game)#Reception ; or the description on the XboX website is: "Break into people’s minds and steal memories" ...

Neo-Paris. 2084. Personal memories can now be digitised, bought, sold and traded. The last remnants of privacy and intimacy have been swept away in what appears to be a logical progression of the explosive growth of social networks at the beginning of the 21st century. The citizens themselves have accepted this surveillance society in exchange for the comfort only smart technology can provide. This memory economy gives immense power over society to just a handful of people.

Remember Me™ is a 3rd person action adventure where players take on the role of Nilin, a former elite memory hunter with the ability to break into people’s minds and steal or even alter their memories.

If you're wondering whether to spend the £19.99 on Xbox to download it... bear in mind that the game will suit you if you want:

  • An offline game, no connectivity is required, there's no multi-player options.
  • A different kind of protagonist and therefore a different drive for the story. It's enjoyable to have the reason behind your actions in the game be something different from "I'm a gruff male, and I need to avenge the loss of someone or something by killing everything in range".
  • Scenery that looks good. Even on my Xbox360 I sometimes just stopped to look around.
  • A relaxing time - apart from some difficult fights, a lot of time you are progressing through what is essentially an interactive movie. While there is a lot of leaping around to do, it just involves directing the main character, Nilin, to the correct location and pressing the jump button, rather than having any specific aiming or timing requirements for the leap; so it's engaging rather than taxing.

In order to play it you will need:

  • About 8 to 16 hours of time according to reviews on line, most notably this site http://www.gamelengths.com/games/playtimes/Remember+Me/ . I'm an averagely skilled player, and while the game doesn't tell me how long I played it for, I'm pretty sure it was over 16 hours.
  • Some suspension of disbelief, the AI can be ropey and predictable, the "hit people to regain health" idea doesn't survive scrutiny... but it's just a game, to me the world was so well built I found it easy to go with the flow rather than be thrown out of the game by a "fridge moment".
  • Patience for some of the boss fights. I mostly found them challenging rather than insurmountable, although a couple were in the "I'll try again tomorrow" class; and there's plenty of advice online on how to defeat particular opponents.
  • No extra cash, the DLC is all essentially optional as far as I could tell.

Sunday 13 December 2015

The Message podcast

The best description of this podcast is from its website on http://themessagepodcast.com/.

The Message is a new podcast following the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.

Each week she’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in starting with Episode 1.

The Message is a co-production between Panoply and GE Podcast Theater, unlocking the secrets of healing with sound technology.

I'd be surprised if it's not quite different to what you usually listen to, whoever you are, so it's recommended if you want a break - my subscriptions are mostly around information security, with the occasional Radio 4 comedy and sports podcast thrown in, and quite a lot of Nerdist interviews... this was definitely a change of pace.

To listen to them all you'll need just under two hours and probably a mild suspension of disbelief as I'm not sure about some of the science on radio and audio and biology; but I'd be interested to hear thoughts from anyone knowledgeable in that area.

I loved it, I found it really gripping and interesting, especially in a "what would I do in that situation?" kind of way, which to me is always the sign of an involving drama. It's very much whatever the podcast equivalent is to a "page turner", so maybe save it for a long flight or similar where you need to lose two hours all in one go ...