Archive for the 'General' Category

Blog to return to action

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

It’s been nearly 9 months since the last blog entry here on aag, so it’s about time we got back to action. As well as general musings, we’ll be keeping you informed of work on our upcoming redesign, which is likely to see further integration of the blog into the site. We also have other plans, like a forum migration and relaunch, and we hope you will be interested to see where we’re going with this, and provide feedback both on here and on the board.

I can’t speak on behalf of other writers, but I certainly hope to make posts reasonably regularly, so please stay tuned to the blog.

HD Audio? More like HeaDache Audio.

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

I apologise for the dreadful joke, but this is a subject that has been consistently bugging me for quite some time.

Last year I got a new laptop. It’s fairly decent (by no means high-end, but it has 1GB RAM, a Core Duo T2300 CPU, and an nVidia GeForce Go 7400 – enough to play most games at its native resolution of 1280×800 without any problems). It also has Intel HD Audio. My issue with this comes from two completely different areas.

First up: Microsoft. Microsoft has Windows XP support for the audio system, as outlined in Knowledge Base entry #888111. But wait! What’s this I see?

Note This hotfix is not available for download. To acquire this hotfix, contact Microsoft Product Support Services. For more details, see the “More Information” section.

Oh how very useful. I had to spend quite a long time tracking down a copy of hotfix 888111. Thankfully Windows isn’t my primary OS, and Linux (Ubuntu) just supported it out of the metaphorical box, though on there there’s no audio input.

Secondly (and finally), the audio quality just really isn’t that good. I’m not sure whether the blame lies with the audio chip maker or the laptop manufacturer, or maybe it’s even a driver issue – though I doubt that for most of the issues – but there are a number of issues. For a start, there’s a constant hiss that I can hear, even when audio’s muted; in some circumstances when my laptop’s closed, I get regular clicking and similar quality issues in some circumstances; and finally, audio sometimes seems to get “backed up”, so a whole batch plays quickly after a brief pause, and will sometimes change volume (this one I’m more inclined to believe could be a software issue, but I don’t really feel like testing that).

Now, I know that audio quality on integrated hardware is unlikely to be great, and I’m by no means an electronics engineer, so I also don’t know if it’s technically possible to make a small integrated chip that doesn’t suffer from interference, but the audio quality just bugs me. For contrast, I happily use a Sound Blaster Live! Platinum 5.1 on my desktop, and thats not considered to be particularly high end, so I’m not an extreme audiophile.

(Of course, if anyone from Creative or another audio company is reading, I’ll happily review an ExpressCard X-Fi or other sound card. Or hey, even a USB one. *ahem*)

Three Red Lights of Fail

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

With all the talk on the interwebs of Xbox 360 failures (not that you should believe anything you read online…), I suppose it was inevitable really that my near-launch machine would ultimately fail. And it did so on Easter Sunday.

Tried booting up, and switching to the 360 input on my monitor, but it wasn’t happening. I rebooted the console, and got an output this time – only I got a lot of crackle on the display (which was showing the Dashboard), and a loud whining through the speakers. Another reboot gave the same issue. A further reboot after a few mins to cool down gave the famous ‘three red lights of death‘ – something I now get on every boot, even after leaving it disconnected for half a day.

The particularly interesting point is that it failed while playing Resistance: Fall of Man on the PlayStation 3, which has been sitting next to the 360, with the MS machine being booted up to demonstrate both Gears of War, and what it looked like in HD. Still, I guess sitting the rival consoles next to each other wasn’t the best of ideas… conspiracy theory, anyone?

Like Christmas, Easter isn’t a good time for things to fail, as bank holidays prevail, so I decided to pop off an e-mail to Microsoft that evening so they could reply as soon as possible. They have done, but other than directing me to that same webpage about the lights, they have given me numbers to call “for more help”. Thankfully I can call an 0800 number, and hopefully I’ll soon be sending my machine off for repair… just a pity it’s over 2 months out of warranty (so it’s going to cost me).

Stay tuned to this blog for exciting further progress!

Synergy is great

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

No, I’ve not suddenly started a marketing course, I’m referring to the application called Synergy. The concept is simple, yet so very useful – it lets you share a single keyboard and mouse pair between two networked PCs (note: I consider Macs and various other systems to be Personal Computers – I don’t mean “x86 machine running Windows” here), without requiring the use of any specialist hardware like a KVM. Essentially, it makes the two machines appear to be just one machine with two displays; to give the keyboard and mouse to the other PC, you just move the pointer offscreen in the direction of the other PC’s screen, and as if by magic it moves on to there.

I’m currently using Synergy to play GalCiv 2 on my laptop (booted into Windows), using my desktop’s (booted into Linux, as always) keyboard and mouse, with the audio output from my laptop connected up to my desktop’s sound card’s input. Fun times. Now to see what other games play nicely with Synergy…

IE7 has been released, finally!

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Well, today it was announced that IE7 has been released. Hooray! You may perhaps have noticed that here at AAG, we’re not what you might call the world’s greatest fans of IE6. Which is a bit of an understatement. However, IE7 is quite a major improvement over IE6 (as I noted back in June), even if it’s not as good as things like KHTML, Opera, and Gecko (the engine behind Firefox). Saying that, though, I’ve not yet been able to install the release version of IE7 on my (legit) copy of XP in VMware, so I don’t know how improved the release is over the release candidate that I tried.

Now I can’t wait for legit XP users to semi-automatically upgrade to IE7, slowly eroding the huge mass of IE6 users out there, who are browsing the Web with their outdated 5 year old HTML rendering engine, causing massive frustration to web developers everywhere.

Some…interesting spam

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Recently I’ve found myself getting quite a bit of spam apparently advertising a stock called “ARSS”. Whilst that by itself is humourous to those like me who are the possessors of childish minds, what really lodges an interesting image in my mind is the phrase used in the promotion: “Get ARSS First Thing Monday , This Is Going To Explode!!!”. I’m sorry, but anyone who doesn’t laugh, at least internally, at the mental image of someone warning you that an arse is going to explode has got to have something wrong with them.

Or perhaps they’re just more mature than me.

Looking for a suitable TV card…

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

I’m possibly in the market for a new PCI TV card (and no, TV licensing people, I don’t currently have a TV or TV card), and was wondering if I could get some suggestions. There are three main things I’d want it to be/do:

  1. Be compatible with Linux. This is extremely important. No Linux = no purchase. I don’t mind mucking around with beta drivers, or stable drivers that aren’t included by default, but there has to be a decent level of support available.
  2. Be suitable for playing console games on. This probably means composite video in, and is possibly one of the more difficult requirements, since I can see cards introducing delay into the displaying of images.
  3. I’d probably want the card to do DVB-T (or Freeview, to give the UK brand name, for want of a better phrase).

Oh, and the other requirement is that it can’t cost too much. Yes, I’m severely limiting my options here, I can see, but you never know – someone might actually have a suggestion!

Saint’s Row mobile fun

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

We’re not known for our mobile games reviews (notice our tally of 0 in our reviews database), but we thought we’d start to expand into this increasingly popular platform by taking up an offer to review the Saint’s Row mobile game. After all, it could tie-in to our (currently non-existant, and not planned) coverage of the Xbox 360 title…

Anyway, upon loading the game, a major issue has arisen: I can’t get past the main menu. My 6680 is listed as a compatible device, yet memory issues seem to be hampering my ability to actually get into the game. This is a phone that can do all manner of multi-tasking smartphone stuff, including playing Lumines Mobile while checking text messages, etc. However, Saint’s Row will just not run on it, no matter how many times I reboot the device.

So, any ideas, or will our plans for dominance of the mobile games review sector have to be put on ice?

O2 PAYG GPRS – you suck!

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

So it appears that, after a few hours of trying to get MidpSSH and jmIrc working on my O2 Pay as you Go Nokia 6230, O2 has heavily locked down their PAYG GPRS, blocking all data except that going over an HTTP proxy on port 80. This means no MidpSSH, and no jmIrc without a proxy. Thanks for stopping me from having to pay you more, O2!

UPDATE: As of some time in 2008 or so, O2 PAYG Internet seems to be far less restricted. Thanks O2!

Charts Change, Driver Difficulties (Alliteration Affliction?)

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

As of yesterday’s charts, we’ve switched from the “Full Price” charts over to the “All Prices” charts. Why? Because of games like Liberty City Stories on PS2, and Brain Training. Hopefully this should mean that our charts now give a more accurate view of game sales.

In other minor news, I got a bit of a blast from the past when my new Super (Happy Fun Mega) Joy Box 13 GameCube to USB adaptor arrived yesterday; whilst it’s identified and supported in both Linux and Windows as a standard USB gamepad, to use some of the more advanced features (such as rumble) in Windows it needs a driver. This driver is shipped on a floppy disk. Since it’s probably been a long time since you’ve had to look at one, let me refresh your memory:

GameCube to USB driver disk. Oh yes.

I had a hard time just finding a working floppy drive.

(I don’t get any commission from Console Plus, they’ve just been useful in terms of stocking less mainstream items such as GBA screwdrivers and extension cables for old consoles like the N64.)

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