So what do I like about the 360?

I was just considering that I’d had a moan about the 360, but hadn’t really talked about what I do like so far. A lot, basically.

Wireless controllers are probably the biggest improvement. They are comfy, and you just are not restricted to where you sit anymore. Love that. Also with the headset attached (which is far more sturdy that the old one) I can even talk whilst wandering into the kitchen to make an inbetween round cup of tea.

The interface is great, moving between live, the arcade, and playing full games is all pretty seamless and quick to navigate. And the games, well. I’ve only really been playing Project Gotham 3 and Arcade thus far. PGR3 is a wonderful update, hasn’t lost a single thing from the previous version that I miss. Looks better, plays just the same, more features, even a track editor hidden away. Lot of gameplay left there. Have Perfect Dark Zero to try soon as well, plus a visit to some game store on Monday.

First moan about 360 – No wireless drivers for the PC

Only a little moan though, generally still happy with it. However, one of the things that appealled to me about the 360 was that you can use the controller with the PC as well. Well it turns out that is only if it is a wired controller. No worries I thought, I’ve bought the play and charge kit, which has an ordinary USB cable on it. If I plug it into the PC like that, it is a wired controller, surely? No dice. So if I want to do that, I have to buy the inferior controller instead. Great.

Google results a bad influence?

I’ve got a little project on the go at the moment to list all the software I’ve got on all of my machines. I’m using to store the homepages of each item of software, and tagging them with a label for each machine the software is on, and the version number installed. The logic behind this is that if I need to reinstall a machine, I have a checklist prepared for what needs to be installed, and the links to get the downloadable software all in one place. It is a bit of work, but I’m doing it over a few nights, and am getting there.

As I do this, I am searching a lot on Google, and what I notice there disturbs me a little. When I look up VNC or VLC for instance, the first results are paid-for links to sites other than the homepage, but which are offering the software I am after. The first unpaid link is the proper homepage. Now, I know this is how Google works, and being aware of this, I know not to use the paid-for links. How many people don’t? For a relatively low cost, you can hijack the link to a popular piece of software, and if you are somewhat more unscrupulous, have the opportunity to sell "free" software, or even to provide spyware and all sorts of things. These links just shouldn’t be the first results, as they could cause all sorts of issues for Google’s users. Google probably doesn’t mind much as it gets the clickthrough revenue, but it just isn’t very helpful.

Ghost Bus and Ungrateful Cat

A couple of incidents to report. Last night it was extremely foggy, so much so that even walking through the underpass, there was fog forming inside the tunnel. Very eerie walking to the bus. When it arrived, I almost missed it as it was so quiet. It was a really old bus for Oxford, single-decker, with really tall steps. What disturbed me was that it was so quiet, it barely made a sound as it moved. We were travelling fairly slowly due to the fog, but it was odd, something really wasn’t right. To clinch it, the bus driver was incredibly courteous and polite. I thus believe it was a ghost bus, manned by a driver sent back to earth to atone for his bus-driving sins.

Then this morning, waiting for my bus to work, a cat shot out onto the main road, and was clipped by a car. I turned to the noise of a huge screech from the cat, and caught the sight of it somersaulting through the air. It landed in front of a van, the driver of which stopped to attend to said cat. Fair play to him, he ignored the shouts of the other drivers as he blocked the road so he could try and get it to safety. He made some encouraging motions and noises, but the cat circled round a bit limping, then sat down. He then decided to try and pick it up. Big mistake. I heard a screech as loud as the first one, and saw the helpful chap jumping back about 10 feet to get out of scratching distance. I think he learnt a valuable lesson there.

Welcome to

So, this is my new site. Basically the plan is that here I will blog about technical issues here, including my career as a software developer, talk about things I am working on at work and for myself, talk about testing out various technologies and platforms, and generally have a more appropriate home for such issues than my personal blog. I’m also going to have my CV on here at some stage, so it will serve as a starting point to learn more about me and what I do. I have a few things to put up on here that I have developed in the past as well, mainly a few search plugins for Firefox that I wish to give a home to.

Dean’s FCK editor for WordPress plugin

I’ve just started using Dean’s FCK WordPress plugin on this blog. I really am not a fan of the standard WYSIWYG WordPress editor, it is really flakey, and not very intuitive. The FCK editor is a bit more comprehensive, and as it happens, I am also more used to it, as it is in the Infoglue CMS which we use at work.

Thus far, looks a lot better, and editing HTML is a lot nicer as well. Will report later after I’ve used it for a while, but so far very happy with it.

Choosing Software – What if you’re wrong?

During an onerous task today, I think I learnt a valuable lesson in choosing an appropriate software package. We’re moving from a Blosjom-based blog to a WordPress one. Now I’m happy with this change, seeing as this past year I’ve spent so much of my own time using WordPress. The issue we had was moving the content. WordPress supports importing from a lot of different blogging platforms. Blosjom is not directly supported, however WordPress does offer import from an RSS feed, so we were able to import the posts in the main.

However, the comments were unavailable in feed form. So it fell to me to sort this out, and after thinking through some options, the low volume of comments meant that the best way to do this was to just re-enter them into WordPress, and then edit the post dates for accuracy. This was straightforward, but took some times still.

And this was where I starting pondering. We used Blosjom for a year or so, and whilst it was the right choice for us at the time, did we consider what might happen if we wanted to migrate from it? A year on, it still doesn’t have a large user base (to be fair, being Java-based, it wasn’t likely to compete with the PHP/MySQL-style platforms, and being Java-based was one of our requirements at the time). Would we have chosen it if we had considered how easy it would be to leave it?

It happens all the time, with software, with websites, with hardware. Your requirements change, better competitors come along, brand new technology launches. In an ideal world you make your choice and stick with it, but sometimes you are wrong, and other times you are right  until a better thing comes along. Something worth bearing in mind as you chose in the first place is what might happen if you wish to leave. Do the competitors for your database of choice support conversion to their software? Can you import your e-mail contacts from the webmail you want to use into Yahoo Mail, should they suddenly become the bees knees? Is your forum software built on the same base as the majority of its competition, or is it using something obscure? Obviously it is hard to consider every variation, but migration away is well worth considering when you make a choice.

Getting More Done

I’ve started using something approaching a Getting Things Done philosophy for organising myself. I read the book during our Isle of Wight holiday, and it is very useful. I’ve now got a calendar (Google Calendar in fact) in which I am organising all my tasks to do personally, In/Pending/Out trays for all our mail and filing, and some new things put in place at work that I hope are going to make me more productive as well.

I’m going to try and keep them up for a few weeks before I start plugging it as the way forwards, but this weekend I seem to have got a lot of things done around the house, including some decorating, and still had time to relax.