Thursday, November 30, 2006

Indian railways booking website

We are off to India in a few weeks for a wedding and then some travelling. The trains are meant to be very good and cheap in India so I was pleased to hear that you could book tickets online. It has though been an extremely traumatic experience and I can easily declare the the website is the worse I have ever come across. It was difficult to register and there are multiple errors which could only be overcome by sweet talking and tricks. Worse though was that it disconnected repeatedly, was very slow to load and refused to move on. It was also intolerant of reloading the page and heaven forbid pressing the back button. Worse of all it crashed quite a few times when making a payment through the bank gateway which meant that I got charged but did not get the ticket!

After three days of effort I eventually managed to book 8 tickets and reserve one more, but I feel I lost part of my soul in the process. Also the wrong charges are also being refunded slowly. So it looks like it has sorted itself out in the end but I wouldn't wish this process on anyone.

Just want to mention the websites Indiamike which has great handy tips and seat61.

Last.fm streams

As I might have mentioned previously, I have been using audioscrobbler to record what I have been listening to and matching me up with people with similar tastes. Recently though I have got into last.fm streams, which basically pays music based on your "neighbours" taste. Great stuff, try it.

Cycling to work

Well you will be amazed to hear that through a combination that through cycling to work and cutting down on some carbohydrates I have managed to lose rather a large amount of weight. This is great and I want to lose a bit more, but unfortunately tragedy has struck and I have been slowly putting on a bit. The reason is simple, my bike got stolen the end of September.

Rather surprisingly it got stolen from Epsom railway station, behind the barriers underneath a CCTV camera. Even worse was that it was not a great bike at all being my old Raleigh bike which I have had since I was about 12 and too be honest was really not appreciating getting pounded every day. The only reason that I can understand that it was hit was because it had a very wimpy chain. Boo hiss.

What is amazing though that I reported the matter to the police and they have actually done something about it. Not only did they take a statement from me, but they have arressted two people and have warrants for two more. Unfortunately they did not recover my bike but it sounds like they have busted a bike stealing gang and my evidence was only part of the picture. So the police are no where near as useless as you are led to believe. Will be interesting to see whether it gets to court or not.

Modded xbox

Xbox 360? Paaaahhhh ... past generation consoles that is the way forward for cheap expandable fun. Recently I brought an brand spanking new xbox from Game for £70 and included three rather good games (IGN rating):
Splinter Cell - Chaos Theory (9.6)
Unreal Championship 2 - The liandri conflict (9.3)
Need for speed underground 2 (9.1)

Even though my primary reason for buying it was for the things you can do once it is modded, I have been getting into the gaming too. Alice is also having fun on it too, especially with unreal tournament and splinter cell. I have already brought another game off ebay called Pro Evolution Soccer 5 which fills the niche of a football game. The other things I wouldn't mind getting in the future is a football manager game, a fighting game and The Sims. To go along with this I have brought an xbox controller from Hong Kong and ... a dance mat (I haven't used that yet but it should be fitness fun)

As mentioned above the reason I brought the xbox was to mod it. What this involves is fitting another chip to the motherboard, so that Microsoft's restrictions on what code can be run is lifted. Following the information from xbox-scene and command-tab I brought an Xecuter 2.6LE chip and Xapt3r 16 solderless adaptor from Mr modchips. I didn't have the courage to do soldering! Fitting the chip wasn't too bad, but there was some nail biting moments trying to fit these tiny wires into the right holes. After that and flashing the chip with the X2 Bios from bitorrent we were ... freeeeeeee.

There are two main reasons why modding the xbox is so marvellous:
1) Xbox media centre. This bit of software turns the xbox into a media centre PC capable of playing all kinds of media (mp3s, divx, last.fm streamns etc.) over the local network or internet. This is simple amazing stuff and is extremely well done. At the moment I have it streaming stuff off my Mac box upstairs. I also brought a good quality xbox component cable to make full use of my HDTV.
2) Emulators. There are a wide range of emulators available for the xbox which expands the games you play to all the old classics. Of particular note is the N64 emulator which is quite simple beautiful. Current favourite game is the almighty Mario Kart 64. Other emulators I have got installed are for the SNES, NES, Amiga, C64, Megadrive and Scumm (Monkey Island etc.).

My brother got so inspired by the idea of the media centre that he wanted one too and so I have sorted him out one too. Handily he had an old harddrive lying around that was bigger than the 10GB one that comes as standard so he won't have to stram everything.

Bring on the old school.

Gameboy color

Recently I found my Gameboy color that my brother had given to Alice and I for our wedding present and I must say it is marvellous. It is a great little thing with long battery life and great games. The only downside is that the screen does not have a backlight, which means that you have decent background light. What is most amazing though is that the games are so cheap on ebay and in fact I have got a bit addicted to buying the beasts. Here is a list of games I've got:

Bust-a-move millenium
Cannon fodder
Donkey kong country
Kirby tilt 'n' tumble
Warioland 4
Mario golf
Micro machines v3
Woody woodpecker racing
Zelda oracle of ages
Pokemon pinball

Marvellous. My particular favourite I would say is Kirby tilt 'n' tumble, which has a motion sensor in the cartridge and you have to roll a ball around the place. Old games consoles are definitely the way forward for cheap cheap fun! In fact it has inspired me to get a further console (see next post).

I am now on the look out for a cheap Gameboy Advance SP that can play gameboy color games and a whole lot more.