Marvel’s Agents of zzzzz….

marvels_agents_of_shield_640_large_verge_medium_landscapeOk, this was going to be a review, but I think my title sums up my opinion pretty quickly. I don’t know about you guys but I find it pretty boring.

It’s great to see Ming-na on screen again, but that’s not enough for me to keep watching. I got through two and a half episodes, but not interested enough to finish the third one.

The stories are pretty simple, there’s little tension and it seems to have little imagination in it. The Fitz-Simmons characters grate and the action man guy is awful. Still I suppose they are supposed to comic book folks, but that doesn’t mean one dimensional these days.

So I won’t be watching it. Still watching Heroes anyway, and there’s no way MAoS compares to the twists and performances in that show.

PS3 PlayTV

When I purchased the PS3 one of the things I thought to use it for was for recording TV. I didn’t have a decent solution for that (except an old VCR) for the digital channels. The PS3 has the PlayTV attachment to allow you to watch and record TV. It even allows you to watch while recording or to play a game while the PlayTV records. 

It’s large for what it does. About the size of three DVD cases piled on each other. It connects to the TV aerial at the rear and to the PS3 USB. This could be a problem on newer PS3 as mine only has 2 USB ports (not sure how many the older ones have) and I was charging the 3D glasses and the controllers on them. 

THe setup is pretty easy and using the free to air channel guides broadcast as part of the digital signal you can get about a week in advance for your programming. Either by the guide or by manually adding times. Recordings can be repeated or extended as required. If a programmed record messes up it will even try to find a repeat to record. Not really successful here, but perhaps in other countries?

I’ve been really happy with it, and with the 500GB PS3 I have been able to hold a fair bit to watch and not worry about space. I did have one movie record with a lot of stuttering but it hasn’t reoccured. It’s hung a couple of times, but mostly its can be slow if you follow up something that uses the HDD with something else that also uses a big chunk off the HDD, for example you delete a movie and immediately try to watch another. The playback or menus might not respond for several seconds as the system finishes one task before commencing the other. It may also be trying to buffer (through??) the PlayTV, up and back on the USB2 port?? not sure of the reasons, but something to watch out for.

I have found a process to copy recordings from the PlayTV to the PS3 and then to an external HDD. However this is limited to sub 4GB files as the PS3 only talks FAT32 to external drives. Even a hour episode at HD quality records at about 5GB. I will need to see if there is a setting to convert HD to SD as it records which may help. The process is fine, as long as your recording is smaller.

If you currently have another PVR solution, I wouldn’t bother. If you have a PS3 with a good size HDD and no PVR, its a good solution. If you have one of the new 12GB PS3, I wouldn’t bother. A HD movie can be 8-9GB. 

Tomb Raiding

I think I noted somewhere that my most favourite franchise after BattleTech is Tomb Raider. I am sure many are aware that the new game was released to pretty good reviews. I’ve been eyeing the prices until I found one I was comfortable and picked it up over the week.

268-tomb-raiderI well remember the hours I puzzled away at the original and the enjoyment I got from it. I do have all of the games since, but have only played bits and pieces of them but due to other commitments, never finished another. I enjoyed what I did see of them.

This one has been no different than that… a lot of fun. It’s early stages is not so much about puzzles and figuring which combinations of ledges to jump to, but I’m hopeful that at least a bit of that will come. This early stages is more about surviving.

It’s tough without her trusty automatics though. Trying to line up a charging wolf with a bow is hard work. I think I’ve died every possible way so far except falling too far. I’ve been choked, mauled, crushed by rocks, burned, shot (arrow and bullet) …  lol.

Having come from a WoW background and the strongest TR memories being the first one in 1997, the graphics have improved… well enormously, lol. On the PS3 the game is very fluid. I hear of some breaks on the PC version, something to do with quicktime events, but I don’t see this on the PS3. The graphics might be weaker, but really I still enjoy the first ones, so graphics isn’t the be all (and never should be).

Compared to my most recent The Walking Dead game, this is a lot more of an action game and less of a choose your story one. Subsequently there is a lot more to do, and Lara is more directly under your control.

I highly recommend it so far. It’s no shoot em up, thankfully, but I do hope things calm down some and I can spend some serious time leaping about caverns and exploring the island, at least for a little bit :)

It’s Elementary, Sherlock.

An interesting coincidence has occurred in my viewing. Recently I discovered the BBC short series “Sherlock”, a modern interpretation of the Sherlock stories. Produced as 2 (so far) series of three 90 minute episodes it has Sherlock doing his deduction work in modern day London. Dr Watson is a recovering (retired? reservist?) British Army doctor who has served in Afghanistan. Sherlock is played by Benedict Cumberbatch who we will see as the villain in the new Star Trek movie and is the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit. (Note, the original Dr Watson was also a British Army doctor who served in Afghanistan, as at the time of his novels, that’s where the wars had been in Sir Conan Doyle’s time…. 125 years later and the British Army and others are there again!)

sherlock Then, Channel Ten has started showing “Elementary”. This is a US produced show, with Sherlock doing his deduction work in modern day New York. This time Dr Watson, played by the lovely Lucy Liu, is a Doctor who has given up practicing, who acts as a live in buddy for recovering addicts (who have rich parents). Elementary is broadcast in the standard 45min episodes setup.

PILOTBoth shows are high quality productions, and both have their mysteries wrapped up by the time the credits roll. Sherlock however does have some story elements that carry through the episodes, something that is missing from Elementary. Sherlock also seems to use the original material as a basis for much of some of the episodes, cleverly rewritten to take place in the modern world. The Hound of the Baskervilles episode is a good example of this, quite different plot to the original, yet still the same. Elementary doesn’t seem to be using much of the source material, apart from the lead characters. However I’m certainly no Sherlock aficionado so could well be on the wrong track there.

I am enjoying both, but Sherlock is a level higher than Elementary. Elementary seems like the other shows, like Numb3rs, The Mentalist, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and other crime dramas, where a oddly smart person solves crimes for the police (or as one). While a bit eccentric and very smart, Holmes in Elementary seems not as far different from the other “genius” in the other shows. However Holmes in Sherlock seems to be operating in a totally different world from everyone else, with a level of intellect almost unfathomable.

The longer episodes also lend the BBC the ability to have more intricate puzzles and more twists than the shorter episodes. Carry over characters (Moriaty, Holmes’ brother Mycroft, the landlord, the medical tech) other than just the police contact, Holmes and Watson also let us get more attached to the other people in the Sherlock series.

Overall I enjoy both, and will keep watching them. However I hungrily await the next episode of Sherlock, whilst I watch Elementary when I don’t have higher priority shows to watch (like Sherlock, lol).

Sherlock has 2 series and is confirmed for a third.
Elementary has one series completed but I’m not sure if a second has been confirmed

Walking with the Dead

Steam Sales, aren’t they almost the most evil thing on the planet???

I recently read a few reviews of The Walking Dead game.. I had looked into it before, but was mostly turn off by needing to wait for the other episodes. They’re all out now and the game was on sale in Steam. The final draw card, it’s Mac compatible. Here take my money :)

the-walking-dead-game-bannerI’m not usually a fan of RPGs on the computer, I either find myself lost in the open world wondering what I should be doing or frustrated at the restrictions the game has placed on me. TWD isn’t exactly an RPG though more of a storybook with options (like the old Chose Your Own Adventure or Final Fantasy books), and sells itself partly on the premise that your decisions affect the game.

Let’s look at that for a moment, I can’t think of a single game where that isn’t the case, seriously, even Pong has consequences to your decisions. They might be simple cut and dried obvious ones, but they are there. Is the difference that these consequences might not be obvious and may not come into play until a while later…. Well no, plenty of games are like that, think of Starcraft, your decision not to pursue a tech tree might make it difficult to fight off your opponents later. So I’m putting it down as sales hype.

So skipping the sales talk, I’m enjoying the game. It’s not rivetting, but is an interesting distraction. I do find the controls a little a hard, not because there are a lot, but because it sometimes hard to figure which is going to used in the next bit of the game – and when those zombies grab you or some guy is punching your face, you need to quickly click the right part of the screen. It would be fine if the scroll wheel on my Naga was accepted, but it’s not so I have to use the touch mouse for that, but then it’s slow across the screen making it hard for the time critical clicks so I find myself having to switch mice all the time…. ok maybe this is a problem of my own making!

the-walking-dead-game-2

The game does have some twists and turns and there are definite points where you basically have to choose between two people – one will live, one won’t. Saves only occur at the end of each chapter (There are several in each of the 5 episodes) so be mindful if you have to quit suddenly.

the-walking-dead-game-1

You do bump into people that are in the series as well. I’ve met the asian guy and the old man vet as well so far, but you aren’t playing in that story. You exist in the same world, as one of the other groups of survivors.

I’ve completed the first 2 episodes so far. Interestingly, at the end of each chapter they show the percentages of what choices people have made on some of the big decisions that occurred in that episode. So you can see that 54% of people chose X, which may or may not be the same as you etc.

Like I said, an interesting diversion, a good game to have played through.

The Journey Begins – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS… (or nuts)

If you haven’t seen The Hobbit, STOP READING NOW. I’m not certain I won’t have spoilers…

However, if you’ve read the book a bunch of times (or even seen LOTR) there really isn’t a lot of big PLOT spoilers to be spoiled.

The-Hobbit-HERO-2I really enjoyed the movie. Being that he’s made the book into three movies, it stopped about where I expected it too, being the completion of their escape from the Misty Mountains, but before their adventures in Mirkwood.

I watched it in 3D and the new framerate and to be honest, I didn’t think much of it – I mean it still doesn’t seem like either of those technologies significantly adds to the viewing pleasure.

The movie itself – as I said it was good. I already feel like you should watch this series before you watch LotR, but I’m not sure how that will hold up through the trilogy. One of the biggest things I noticed was the omens and portents of what is coming in LotR. They were eventually made clear (to us, not to the characters), however fans would pick up on them a lot earlier. For non fans, they do get explained, but a little later (so the fans can lord it over the others for about 30 mins). As the Lady Galadriel says “Something is moving in the dark and in the shadows.” Saruman already seems a little out of touch, or is he being duplicitous.

It had a lot of humour (but I noticed myself giggling a lot more than most in the cinema, so maybe it was just me) and was overall pretty well paced, with only a couple of moments of boredom. I have read some comments about the songs, but I quite enjoyed the action of “That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates”. 

Uninvited Guests

Uninvited Guests

Dwarves… Ever since reading The Hobbit (think I was about 8, as I know I read LotR later, when I was 10) I have been a huge fan of dwarves. In RPG and computer games, if given the choice I would play a Dwarf. I was always sad that both the LotR book and Jackson’s movies had such small parts for dwarves.

Thinking about it though it does make sense. Dwarves have never really engaged with the world, content as they are to mine and mind their own business. Sauron’s influence on the rings of power didn’t really work on the Dwarven Rings either, certainly not as he had hoped.

But, YAY, three movies of serious dwarf :)

It was a great movie, I can’t wait for the next two and then to watch them all in order….  Hey Lucas, maybe you should have got Jackson (or Tolkien) to pen Eps 1 to 3….

Random Review – Nike+ SportwatchGPS

The Nike+ SportwatchGPS in Blue (this is the one I have)

The last of these running related reviews is the Nike+ Sportwatch GPS. I mentioned at the end of the last review that I had purchased the watch and I’ve been running with it for about 3 or 4 weeks now.

It fits nicely on my wrist, but I recommend anyone with thick wrists try it on first as I am almost on the last hole, and I think my wrists are about average. Its light and comfortable, and not overly bulky. The face is easy to read, even in sunlight or when running.

Functionally as a watch its very basic. It has a clock and an alarm. Enough to use day to day, but if you plan on travelling or you expect multiple alarms you should look elsewhere. However as a running tracker I’ve found it performs great. The GPS reception is as competent as the iPhone that I was using, and because of that, the run tracking is very accurate.  As a fallback, the watch can also link to the Nike Shoe Sensor. It will also link to some heartrate monitors if you have one.

The display cycles through a list of useful stats, distance, time, clock, pace throughout the run. It can do intervals and laps either automatically or by slapping the screen. This slap needs to be quite firm, a simple press like a touch screen phone will not register. The slap is also used in the stopwatch mode to view lap times.

The USB connection at the end of the watchband (and the colour Jolt)

It connects via USB to your PC/Mac and special Nike+ software. The software pushes the workouts to the Nike+ website, charges the watch and also updates the GPS satellite data (the more recent this data, the faster the GPS lock). The software also lets you adjust settings on the watch (interval times, data display cycle). The USB plug is actually at the end of watch band under a little cover. A great idea that does mean that the strap can’t be replaced as you’ll sever the USB cable.

And this is currently my biggest concern for the longevity of the watch. The watch has a plasticy rubber strap, and in my experience as you take the watch on and off these kinds of bands eventually snap. Does this mean I’ll need a new watch in six months or a year? In its defence, its been many, many years since I owned a watch with such a band, perhaps they have improved.

The battery life isn’t anything like a normal watch (they can last years), I seem to get about a week out of it. I’m not sure how much of an effect going on an actual run affects this duration as GPS functionality is passive. So a week with three runs of about an hour each.

Overall I’m happy. I can ditch the iPhone again and run with my watch and the little Nano again. And its not bulky and odd looking for use in between runs. I recommend considering it, especially if you use the Nike+ website already.

(oh and it has a run reminder function, but I haven’t used it)

Follow Up Review – Nike+ and Apple

As I mentioned in my recent review of the VFF that I run in, I would be talking about some of the other things I have been experimenting with. This is the Nike+ gear and website and associated Apple products, almost all of which I happen to have anyway.

After I had switched back to the bush running I prefer, I started to get interested in tracking my performance, mostly distance and time. It can be easy to work really hard, feeling like I had done a workout and come back after only 20 minutes and 1 or 2 kilometres. One of my first steps was to spend some time working out some routes on Google Earth to figure out their distances. But with the multitude of trails available to me, it proved difficult to remember all the legs in my head as I was running. Not helpful.

I remembered from the menu on my iPod and from the Apple website that they had some connection with Nike. I did a bit of research and found that my iPod nano 6th gen (that I scored through a product recall of my 1st gen) included the ability to track my pace. I tried this for a little while and also experimented with the Nike+ website. I found the Nano pretty inaccurate and even calibration didn’t really help.

iPod Nano, 6th Gen

For $20 I could get a Shoe Sensor from Nike. Some Nike shoes have a little pocket in the sole to insert these sensors, which then link to various devices and give a much more accurate reading of when the shoe strikes the ground. As you know I don’t run in Nike, I run in VFF. A tip off youtube and I tried just sliding into my shoes on the top of my foot, just behind my toes. Fits snuggly, isn’t annoying and works fine. I found a significant improvement in the accuracy of the iPod with this, but it got me curious about the other options.

Over to the iPhone. Nike has an app that works with the GPS to track your run. I thought the app was a couple of dollars, but it turns out it was free. Not sure if that’s a permanent price though. I had two concerns… how do I carry my iPhone on my run (holding it in my hand just wouldn’t work) and how well would the GPS work in the gullies and bush I run in. The iPhone app also works with the Shoe Sensor, but it will only use one or the other at a time. The iPhone will also track your pace without either should it lose the GPS signal and you don’t have the sensor.

Nike+ Running on iPhone4S

I’ve since done about 7 runs with the GPS and only lost signal on a whole run once. THat’s pretty good considering some of the steep sided gullies I occasionally find myself in.

All the variations of gadgets I’ve tried have voice feedback, describing how far you’ve run, time taken, average pace (instant pace on iPod). These are at regular intervals, I have them set for every 500m. The summary is also read out to you at the end, and occasionally you get a cheer from some one famous encouraging you. You can also see all of this on the screen during the run.

The second part is the Nike+ website. The iPhone can sync over wifi or 3G, the iPod can sync through iTunes. You then get a record of your runs, along with achievements (fastest, furthest, most calories…) and the opportunity to comment or note terrain, weather and what shoe you ran in. If you’ve used a GPS tracker, then the route is mapped, colour coded to pace. Otherwise you get a graph of distance over time, slope (and colour) giving you pace.

It’s a pretty site and reasonably useful. You can compare yourself to some averages, and earn nikefuel (which doesn’t seem to be anything useful, just a tally).

Problems (It hasn’t all been smooth sailing)

-  The iPod was the least accurate, I think because my pace varies quite a bit over the rough terrain I mostly run in. In the worst case, it had a 5.5km run as 6.6km. It can be calibrated but this had better results on an even track or on a treadmill, but I don’t usually run those. Accuracy did improve with the sensor. Still it was pretty out, a few hundred metres over the 5.5km.

-  When the iPhone lost the GPS signal at the start of one run, the iPhone didn’t alert me apart from a popup which I didn’t notice as it was in it’s armband and I didn’t look at it again until I finished the 5km run. It still recorded my pace and gave me timings etc. But no GPS track.

-  I deleted a bunch of inaccurate runs from the website and now my results (fastest, furthest etc) are all messed up. This may fix itself as I surpass those ones.

-  I can’t find a way to match the routes I record on my runs, with the routes I construct on the My Routes page. Neither can I seem to match runs that I’ve recorded with each other, so have to search about to decide which was the fastest run for that route.

But other than that it’s been pretty good.

Future Plans

I still think running with the phone is a bit much and I’d like to go back to the Nano, but it’s widely inaccurate, so I had been considering the Nike+ Sportwatch which can use both the Sensor and its own inbuilt GPS at the same time. I’ve heard fairly mixed reports of the watch, but the local Nike shops can’t seem to keep them in stock so they’re either wildly popular amongst runners here, or there are a lot of “cool kids” buying them because they’re Nike watches….

Nike+ Sportwatch GPS

Last Minute Update – Just purchased the watch today. All set up and ready to run on Monday.

Random Review – Minimalist Running in Vibram Five Fingers

Random, nearly unrelated picture of stuff – morning fog across the Sydney basin… there’s a city of 4 million hiding under this which stretches right to the coast, about 60km away

Ok, first up… this isn’t about WoW (or any computer thing), my girls or my bikes, (breaking my own rules here) but I wanted to review these and this is the best forum I have. It’s also a pretty long post.

So what are they? Vibram Five Fingers are a range of shoes that have no padding in the sole and most noticeably, have pockets for your toes. Pictures will help..

My Vibram KSO Treks (this is the colour scheme I have)

The KSO Trek sole

I’ve never been much into fitness (as Navi will attest) however my employer requires me to maintain a certain standard, office job or not, so running is something I am almost required to do. In my current workplace we have access to several forested areas that really break up the boredom of road running, something that I really don’t enjoy. There’s some photos of the bush further down.

I had been investigating shoe options as I was having trouble with sore feet, heels especially, after my runs. I had read several good articles (a couple of very well balanced ones as well) which started me thinking about these kinds of shoes.

Then I met a work colleague who had some Five Fingers (though not this model) who was very happy with them. Eventually I got into the city where I knew there was a shop so that I could try them on. I described my kind of running, lots of bush, trails and the like and the shop recommended the KSO Trek model as it has a thicker sole and more pronounced tread.

The shoes do take some training and practice before you can get back to your old running distances. Vibram have a lot of detail on this and I expect even the fittest people should pay attention to it. Walk before you run, literally, and make sure you give yourself recovery time at first. Also don’t swap to these shoes a week before some critical run/walk etc. I was limping about for a day with very very sore calves after my first longish run/walk.

6 months later I don’t get sore feet even in some pretty rough bush. I am enjoying my running in them and that’s a big step to ensuring that I keep doing it. You can feel the surface beneath your feet, which is quite a cool feeling. Another advantage is their small size, meaning that with a t-shirt and a pair of shorts I can pack my running gear on trips without taking a lot of space. I also see me using them when travelling as a regular walking shoe.

Disadvantages are mainly cost and smell. They start to smell quite quickly but can be thrown in the washing machine (in one of those care bag things that girls put their bras and expensive knickers). They are also a talking point (which could be an advantage or a disadvantage). They can also be expensive with this pair costing AU$200 retail.

Overall I am very very happy with the shoes. I have run on roads, on treadmills, walked the streets, chased the kids in the park and run the trails that surround my workplace. Here are some photos of the types of trails I’ve run on.

A nice smooth trail here.

Trail along top of the railway tunnel wall.

Trail at Tunnel Gully exit, through old railway cutting

Up to Old Quarry Lookout

I would definitely recommend them for others to consider, though if you were just running on roads, or treadmills, other models may be more suitable. I am planning to stick to them for running, but get a less treaded pair for gym work. I’m still not sure that I am convinced about the whole, its the way we were built to run science, but I find the VFF very comfortable and enjoy running in them.

I apologise in advance, but I’m going to post a review of some Nike+ gear and the website that I have been using to track my running sometime in the near future.