Saturday, December 29, 2007


Vaguely interesting fact of the day

The fear of the number 666 is known as hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Xbox hardware... why?

So I sat down to do some testing to try and work out what was wrong with the wireless networking.

[[The Wireless network adapter (WNA) has 4 states:
no light - not plugged in
red light - working but not connected to wireless network
green light - working, connected to wireless network
red flashing light - broken

1 Plug WNA into all three USB ports in turn on the Xbox. Indicator light defiantly stays off.
2 Plug WNA into Sue's PC - light goes red (which is good) and Windows tries to find the drivers to install for it
3 Plug WNA into all three USB ports in turn on the Xbox. Indicator light defiantly stays off.
4 Plug WNA into my laptop - light goes red, etc.
5 Plug into Xbox again and blasted thing starts working. Can I have the time I wasted back please?

Sue and I can now get down to some serious Carcassone and we are into our third game (which I am obviously going to win) when the Xbox Live network has an outage and we are kicked out of the game! Which means the licenses for the games have not been migrated from the old console to the new. Thanks, guys...



When UPS say "tomorrow" they mean "next working day"...

Anyway, I waiting in all day today and eventually:

Status: Delivered
Delivered On: 10/12/2007 16:50

So a quick test reveals ... {fanfare} ... the external wireless network adapter doesn't power up...

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Friday, December 07, 2007


So close...

After a week of waiting, I see my new Xbox360 has finally been given to UPS to deliver to me.
In a complete reverse of the original delay between UPS delivering the broken Xbox to them and the repair website admitting it had arrived, Xbox support declared last Friday that the repaired console was "shipped to customer" but waited until today before handing it over.

At 3:17am this morning, the parcel left Tamworth for the Abingdon depot (which isn't far from here). Why it was in Tamworth I have no idea as I sent to Havant for repair.
Three hours later at 6:19am the status at changed to "out for delivery" so I was excited that we would have the console back for the weekend. I warned the family at home not to go out and to be prepared for a parcel.
Lo and behold, a parcel arrived! Wrong parcel - luckily I had warned Samantha to stop Sue opening anything to avoid ruining any Christmas surprises.
Checking the UPS site again I see at 5:10pm some terrible news:
I called home and this was news to them too so I contacted UPS who promised to look into it and call back within the hour, which they did. Apparantly the delivery man had tried to announce his arrival and even walked round the back of the house to try and see someone in. Sam was upstairs and Sue was in the study and neither knew he was there. UPS have committed to deliver it Saturday so fingers crossed.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Another year, another MCP

Today in darkest Wokingham, I clicked and dragged my way through the "Managing & Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment" exam which means only a couple more before I reach the big five-oh.

Each year I commit to passing at least one although I have been leaving it a bit close recently - this year and last were December exams. There are a bunch of Windows 2000 exams being retired in March 2008 so maybe its time to pick those low-hanging fruit before the tree is chopped down.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Wish I could give Boots the boot

More tales of woe.
As Christmas is fast approaching we decided to get rid of our slightly ropey 50cm Belling cooker and get something new, a new machine where the rings work properly and the oven doesn't just ignore the temperature. Also, the 50cm cooker is 5cm too narrow for the gap in the work surface so we've always had a problem with bits of food falling down the gaps to feed the mice.
So we found one we wanted online, a 55cm model that wasn't too expensive from Boots (which meant Advantage points on top of the credit card's money-back credit).
Monday came round and so did the cooker... but it was a 50cm model which was only obvious when the old cooker was put on their lorry and the new one completely unwrapped. The paperwork was right, thank goodness, but the cooker had been supplied wrong.
Boots customer care weren't particularly great - today they ordered a replacement but the earliest they could deliver is next week so no particular effort made to resolve their cock-up in a speedy fashion.
And by the time it finally arrives - assuming it's the right model this time - I'll only have a few days left to try it out before the first of the season's family get togethers descends on our house.


Still no Xbox

So the Xbox support site says "Device Shipped to Customer".
The UPS site says "Billing Information Received".
Does that just mean a pickup has been logged with UPS and my console is still awaiting collection?


Sunday, December 02, 2007


Dragonmeet 2007

This event caught me out by surprise - I knew Dragonmeet was in December some time but I didn't realise it was on the 1st until a few days beforehand. As usual I emailed my gamer friends and, as usual, none of them were interested in the trek to Kensington.
I put off booking tickets in advance, thinking I'd do it before the deadline ... and failed ... so would have to pay full price. For some reason, though, the organisers put a "£1 off" flyer on their website you could print off and use so I ended up only paying an extra £1 on admission.
Not booking in advance also meant a longer queue to get in which means less spaces in the sign-up sheets for games and more people have had a chance to pick what they want before you. So I ensured I arrived early at Kensington High Street and popped into Boots to buy food and drink. And some shopping for the bathroom. Before I knew it, it was 10 to 10 and I was desperately searching for things to buy to break the "spend £20 and get triple points" barrier. I almost didn't make it even when I thought I had - when I checked the receipt afterwards, the sandwich, drink and snack I bought constituted a "lunch" and £1.69 was knocked off the total. Now I'm 128 points better off, so effectively the snack was free.
At the Town Hall across the road, the queues were getting longer and it seemed to take forever to get in but luckily Matt Nixon's Call of Cthulhu game "Filth" still had a few vacancies. The scenario was set in the "gaslight" period so a few decades prior to the classic Cthulhu period of the 20s but that just affects the flavour of the game - the rules are unchanged. I played the best friend of Arthur who was soon to be married to Alice but mysterious goings on mean all is not as it seems. The scenario went well but was marred by chronic timewasting - the game had to finish by 2pm so players can move on to the next session but we started late and unncessarily long breaks were scattered through the morning. I think Matt should have pushed the initial "what's going on?" portion where the players try to discover the plot along a bit quicker so that the grande finale would have the time to complete that it deserved. Overall a decent game and, as always, greatly dependent on the mix of players that turn up to breath life into the main characters.
So at 2:05pm I dash downstairs to claim the remaining seat at John Wilson's Paranoia game. John is the consumate Paranoia GM and one of the reasons I turn up at Dragonmeet. Again, like CoC, you need a good bunch of players who know the genre - I suppose you could have a group of traditional SF gamers but I am not sure it would work. I can guarantee it wouldn't be as funny. This year we had one guy wearing an orange camouflage jacket and, as expected, he played very enthusiastically. No-one willing to dress like that is going to be particularly normal and we were soon down a few commie clones. We did win the day although my clone did die a long, lingering death from radiation poisoning and we lost some of the Computer's expensive equipment. At least I was able to serve the Computer for the Computer is my friend.
This game had the added bonus of being filmed as part of one of the player's University project of some kind. Apparently he wasn't a gamer himself so I expect he was a bit bemused by the whole thing. I'm glad he joined a Paranoia session as Fun is compulsory. I did overhear him later saying to his friend in the loos "you can see why they do it" and I HOPE he was talking about why we play the games we do and not something else!

Paranoia finished a little earlier than scheduled (was it because of the mini-nuke?) so I wandered around buying some bits and bobs. I am not the sort of customer the trade stands want as I don't splash the cash. I do have a lot of games at home but I don't play them very often. The only RPG I play is Dungeons and Dragons and I try not to pay full price for those books - I can import them from the US for 50% off most of the time. So I don't spend much and I'm looking for bargains on game systems I already own. So I bought some dice - not out of necessity (as I have all the dice I will ever need) but out of a desire to spend, even if it was only a fiver. Did find a surprise Christmas present for someone so not too much wasted time.
While waiting for the charity auction, I wandered round trying to find a demo game to join. The problem is that the trade stands - and therefore the demo games - start to shut up shop as attendees start to drift away home so I was lucky to get a quick game of Pinnacle's Savage Worlds in. The game rules were being applied to a Van Helsing-style tabletop battle where the bad guys (me and one of the trade stand guys) were trying to desecrate a church while the good guys (two other random players) tried to stop us. The table was a lovely cross-layout church surrounded by green flock grass, some trees and a wall. The top half of the church was lifted off during play to reveal the altar, benchs, columns and flooring - all very well made. The approach to the rules was similar to other pseudo-roleplaying tabletop games - a tape measure for movement, a card of personal stats and a number of dice to role depending on what combat or spells you are trying to resolve. A few touches I enjoyed included a "critical hit" system where you re-roll whenever a die comes up maximum (6 on a d6 and so on) so on occasion we had a cascade of 6s as reroll after reroll came up 6. This added a nice amount of unpredictability as games that are basically contested dice rolls can just become wars of attrition where the important factor can be how unbalanced the sides are rather then the tactics employed by the players. Initiative was decided with large playing cards - essentially just like using dice but more visual so a nice touch. One aspect of the game I couldn't really see the point of, though, was the use of Bennies - a sort of luck token supply which could be voluntarily depleted to prevent damage, etc. The game system seemed perfectly adequate without this arbitrary manipulation of dice roll outcomes.
By now the auction was well under way and I sat watching until the end - there was nothing I really wanted (unlike last time) and I am not as charitable (or as rich) as the big bidders anyway. The total raised was over £1,800 so about 10% up on last year.
This only left me to catch the tube and train home. I'm glad it was one stop from Paddington to Reading as the woman sitting next to me was not a particularly pleasant person. Firstly, on a nearly full train she was occupying two seats so she could have a private phone call with some whingy partner (which went on for most of the trip). Secondly, she decided to listen noisely to her iPod at a level normally associated with deaf teenagers.


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