In court today.

Today I was in court for the first time ever. Lynda and I used the rather
efficient Moneyclaim site to
claim back what we considered to be unjustified deductions from a deposit on a
rented 1 bedroom flat.

Without going into many tedious details here, we won. Crescent House Group
Limited of Wanstead have been ordered to refund most of the disputed amount.

If you’re looking to rent property in east London, you may wish to check that
it’s not owned by Crescent House Group Limited, 14 High Street, Wanstead,
London, E11 2AJ.

Gravy

Having just attempted chicken gravy for the first time ever, I can assure you
it’s worth the effort.

It’s also self-perpetuating. The chicken you cook today becomes the stock you
use to make the gravy for the next chicken you cook. And so on.

Hardware review: TomTom GO 720

I’ve long been thinking of replacing my trusty 2005 edition of Microsoft
Autoroute with something a little more exciting. So, a couple of weeks ago, I
picked up a TTG 720 from my local Currys. Inside the box you get the unit
itself, a combined charger and USB cradle, a manual, a CD-ROM containing the
TomTom HOME application and a sucker mount to attach to your windscreen.

The unit starts pretty quickly and, in the car park at Bluewater, almost
instantly picked up a couple of satellites, supporting up to a maximum of 12.
The interface is very very intuitive, I’ve not yet had to remove the manual
from its shrink-wrap. Plotting a route is a matter of a few taps on the screen
and the supplied postcode database has been more than sufficient to get me to
almost all of the places I’ve needed to go so far.

I quickly adapted to driving with the unit, the large clear display means you
need to do no more than flick your eyes for a second to see what the road
layout is around you. The supplied voices are more than adequate, spoken
directions are clear and unambiguous. The unit varies the notice it gives you
of a direction change depending on the speed you’re travelling at. At motorway
speeds you’ll be warned of an exit you need to take about 2 miles in advance.
At urban speeds, it’ll start instructing you a few hundred meters away.

Dynamic route recalculation works very well. I deliberately took the wrong
route once or twice, sometimes turning onto a one way street. The unit quickly
recalculated the best route and steered me back on track. When driving on the
M40 in heavy traffic I asked the unit to find an alternative route that avoided
the M40. It directed me off the motorway at the next exit, onto the A404 and
then along to the M4 to continue my trip towards London. You can subscribe to
TomTom’s traffic service which, using your mobile phone, will check for traffic
problems and try to route you around them. I have not yet tested this service
myself.

The TomTom HOME software allows you to update your unit, getting new maps, new
points of interest and map updates from the Internet. I found the version
supplied with the unit to be incredibly buggy. Luckily there was a newer
version available which has fixed many of the issues I noticed. It still does
have the annoying habit of crashing with unhelpful errors from time to time,
this seems to be related to connectivity issues to TomTom’s website.

It’s not totally perfect, there are some interface annoyances. For example,
you can’t disassociate a mobile phone from the unit without first enabling
bluetooth. Overall I’m very pleased with the unit, it does exactly what it
says on the tin.

Game review: Medal of Honor – Airborne

In general I’ve been a big fan of the MoH series of games. I own them all and
they tend to get past my “pirate before you buy” game filtering system.

A word about that, I suppose. PC games are expensive and my expectations from
an expensive computer game are quite high. I’m not going to part with my money
unless I’m certain the game in question is worth every penny. Case in point,
the Splinter Cell series: Splinter Cell, awesome; Pandora tomorrow,
incredible; Chaos Theory, amazing; Double Agent, buggy piece of crap.

SC: Double Agent was a console port that was doomed for several reasons.
Firstly, it required a graphics card that supports shader model 3, secondly,
for many people, it simply didn’t work out of the tin and required hacks to
config files to get it to work. When I did finally get it to even start the
tutorial the game crashed within a few minutes and subsequent restarts resulted
in further crashes, graphics glitches etc. All this fun for £29.99. Have
you tried getting a refund for a computer game recently?

So yes, I pirate before I buy with a few exceptions, one of those being the MoH
series of games.

MoH: Airborne is, as with all this series of games, set of various theatres of
combat in World War II. In this case you play the part of Boyd Travers a
Private in the 82nd Airborne Division. Each level of the game starts with you
aboard an aircraft a few seconds away from your drop point. The jump out of
the plane, your parachute opens and then you pick a landing point and start
with the usual MoH run around and shoot all the bad guys whilst achieving
objectives.

The game play itself is quite reasonable though you will be quick to notice the
AI being both omniscient and skull-smackingly dumb simultaneously. Your squad
mates will cheerfully wander into your line of fire (fortunately without
consequences for you or them) yet, at the same time, use your sniper rifle’s
scope to zoom in on a enemy soldier in the distance and he’ll pretty much
immediately jump into cover and then start taking frighteningly accurate pots
shots at you with an automatic weapon held in one hand and waved randomly over
the top of a wall. Ooooh-kay.

“You have full control from the moment you jump. Steer your parachute and start
fighting anywhere” the back of the box claims. Well that’s not quite true.
For starters you jump from an impossibly low altitude giving you a very short
time to move significantly around the map. Then you’ll aim for a rooftop a
little way away and smack into an invisible wall in the air which pushes you
around to a less favourable landing zone. Not quite what I’d call “start
fighting anywhere”.

Frustration will set in when you die, and you will die many many many times.
When you die you are transported into the boots of another soldier just about
to just out of an airplane. You then land and continue the mission where your
left off, well, nearly anyway. One level is set in an old train yard with
enemy snipers lurking in every awkward location. You’ll spend a long time just
working out where these buggers are, carefully pick them off one by one, die
and….. every single one of them respawns, every single time. Arrrgh.

This is not a bad game, unfortunately neither is it a great game. If you’re a
fan of the previous MoH games then go buy this one, you’ll forgive the
annoyances because of the great atmosphere and attention to detail. People new
to the MoH series will, I feel, not enjoy this so much.

Redundant

I have been made redundant. Fotango have been an excellent company to work for
and I shall greatly miss working with the many highly talented individuals I’ve
met over the past 15 months or so.

I’m actually quite sanguine. This will give me the opportunity I’ve been
looking for to spend more time working on AntibodyMX; there’s a couple of features I’ve
promised clients. I can then have a bit of a break and figure out what I want
to do next.

Sufficiently Advanced Technology

So I had a bit of a surprise earlier today. At the top of my keyboard I have a
row of “media” (for want of a better word) buttons. Under windows they do
things like turn the volume up and down, launch a browser, have your mail
client create a new email and so on. As a long time Linux desktop user I’ve
become used to these buttons doing nothing.

Imagine my surprise today when I jabbed the “Calculator” button by mistake
and…. A CALCULATOR APPEARED. Further experimentation revealed that Kubuntu,
without any fuss, had silently made all these buttons work. Ain’t modern
technology a wonderful thing?

Fotango

I’m getting a lot of personal email asking me about the current situation with
Fotango. At this time I am not able to answer your questions as I could be
putting both personal and professional relationships in jeopardy.

Please direct all questions about Fotango to Gina Jones, European Corporate
Public Relations Manager at Canon Europe on +44 (0) 208 588 8000.

France and an upcoming BBQ

Lynda and I decided to go shopping in the Carrefour near Calais last weekend.
The excuse being that we needed lots of food and beer for our upcoming barbecue
and not that we both enjoy food shopping, mai non.

The trip over was very smooth, we arrived very early for our train (I
way overestimated the time it would take) but we were able to book onto
an earlier train. To get on to the train you drive along a copiously
overmarked road, up onto a bridge and then down onto the platform. Drive along
the platform and then into the train itself. Loading is efficient, we waited
perhaps 10 minutes before the train started moving. If you have a book to read
then the 30 minute crossing passes very quickly indeed.

The Carrefour is part of a huge shopping centre just next to the port. There’s
also a number of shops that’ll be familiar including a Tesco duty free, or
whatever duty free is called these days, beer and wine shop.

After a hectic day of consumerism we returned to the UK with about 20 bottles
of wine, 72 cans of beer, a dozen different cheeses, many different cuts of
meat, including some horse steaks for Bob; we now have quite a full fridge.

This coming weekend is our first event in the new house; a combined barbecue,
housewarming and birthday party for Lynda. We have a lot of friends coming
over from the continent, the house is going to be very full indeed.