Kinect launches in the UK

Kinect, the full-body motion control device for the XBox 360 formerly known as Project Natal, has launched in the UK – and it’s hard to know what to make of it. The consensus around the web seems to be that while it’s a piece of hardware with an awful lot of potential, the launch games aren’t much to shout about. This is to be expected though, if you consider Kinect as a new console launch (which it may as well be), since very few consoles launch with a full complement of brilliant games. The 360 itself was mostly accompanied by tarted up tech demos, as was the Wii, Kinect’s likeliest competitor. The Wii, though, had the advantage of being first on the motion control scene – meaning that tech demos were enough to satisfy the wide-eyed, excited audience. The first time I played a Wii (pre-launch, thanks to a friend who worked for a games retailer) I could barely stop looking at the controllers, never mind the games.

Kinect, of course, doesn’t have controllers to gaze upon in wonderment. You, as the marketing bumf keeps repeating, are the controller. And I suppose the most interesting thing about the launch is that it is mostly being viewed with suspicion by gamers and games critics. We’ve all played with flawed EyeToys and supposedly flawless motion capture cameras before, and found that they can barely tell the difference between the player and the background. But it’s 2010 – and Kinect has like 400 cameras or something. It can probably see into your soul.

I haven’t used one yet, but it is hard to shake the scepticism. The suggestion is that things will get better, but the natural early adopter in me wants to jump in now, if only because the unit itself looks a bit like Johnny 5’s head.

Our Valued Customers

Our Valued Customers is a fun, single-panel comic strip drawn by a guy who works in a comic shop in the US. Anyone who’s ever worked in retail has probably wanted to do this – and even now I often find myself sharing anecdotes with fellow retail/customer service survivors about the stupidest or most self-entitled customers we’ve ever had. I like this one especially because it combines the sneery, elitist attitude of a Randall-from-Clerks with customers afflicted by the same disease.

Via The Daily What

This might be good…

Everyone had one of those Viewmaster things, right? I think I had one with Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles pictures in it (yes, Hero Turtles, not Ninja) to complement my TMHT lunchbox. It was kind of 3D, but it was mostly a case of just looking at a series of pictures like a Victorian animated peepshow for kids.

Anyway, Hasbro have now annouced this beast:

The Hasbro My3D fits over an iPhone and can create 3D images. It doesn’t say where the paper wheels fit in though.

What’s most interesting though is that it can apparently handle augmented reality by involving the iPhone’s camera, meaning that even though it’s a toy there could be some seriously interesting applications.  I’m sure it’ll get hacked fairly quickly.

Via Gizmodo

University Challenged – 8th November 2010

Here begins a record of my ongoing attempt to cover myself in glory while playing along with University Challenge on a Monday night. As this blog teaches me more about, well, everything, I hope to see my score progress at least a little.

I tend to set myself a target of ten correct answers (the rules being that I have to say it out loud before any contestant on the show does) – which does make it a lot of fun. Honest. I’ll generally do well on geography, history, art and literature, meaning that the areas I really need to get better at are things like science – which, while it fascinates me, eludes me now just as much as it did when I was at school. I also tend to tune out as soon as matters turn towards classical music and opera. I simply have no hope there, I’m afraid.  Often, of course, I get a lucky guess in there too.

My correct answers this week, then:

I was correct that the portrait of the queen used on stamps was thought to be the most duplicated portrait in history. It seems simple really, but was much more of a guess than I’d like to admit.

I also answered a maths question correctly despite tuning out almost the entire question. It was to do with a theory that a certain pattern of mathematical operations will always converge on the number one. It was a guess, pure and simple.

There followed a round on the flags used by armies of the world. The only one I knew was the army of North Korea (it helped that the country’s flag made up much of the design – which was not the case for the flags of the British or US armies). I’m pretty good on flags and national colours – largely, I fear, due to football above anything else.

I correctly answered a question about Peru, mainly because the question had involved altitude. I knew nothing else about the content of the question.

I got a science one correct! This was to do with stable metals left after the decay of uranium (the answer was lead) – which, happily, I was reading about only yesterday in Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I wonder how many University Challenge contestants thank their lucky stars that they just happened to have picked something up the day before. Loads, probably.

Later on, following huge swathes of dreaded classic music questions and obscure histories of Italian universities (what course do these people study to learn things like that?!) I would pick up a few more answers. I correctly identified portraits of Napoleon and Joan of Arc, and guessed “Oslo” three times in a round focussing on Nordic capitals. I was right the third time. But at least, I suppose, I knew Oslo was a Nordic capital. Three times.

I knew that the Austrian city of Linz sits on the Danube because I happen to have been there, and guessed the answer to a question about a cemetery in Sydney because the question called for a city in the Southern Hemisphere and Sydney was the first that popped into my head.

So then – 12 questions right and the vast majority of it educated guesswork. It seems to suggest that my general knowledge is exactly that: general and unfocussed. I clearly have work to do.

How smartphone users see each other


Seems pretty bang on. I’m a former iPhone user turned Android user (HTC Desire, since you asked – I’ll be writing a piece soon on my first 3 months using it) and I can’t help but be a little pleased to be free of Apple domination. Having said that, the iPhone 4 is clearly brilliant and every now and again I get a twinge of regret that I never upgraded from my 3G.

The Blackberry thing is right though – even the new ones look ancient to me.

Via Gizmodo and C-Section Comics.

This might be good…

But who knows? I, like most people in the world, use a lot of Dell stuff at work. I like my mega-widescreen rotating monitor, but most of their hardware is firmly in the dull and functional category.

The Inspiron Duo, though, looks a bit exciting – with a lid that flips over to become a tablet. Tablets are everywhere at the moment – but this one seems to offer something a bit special.

Dell released a little teaser vid today:

Word is they’re going to have it out by the end of the year.

The Manifesto

…because every blog must begin with one.

So here’s the problem. I like a lot of geeky stuff. Always have. Ever since my dad brought home an Atari ST sometime in the early nineties, or when my little brother and I shared a NES on Christmas Day 1991 – or maybe when I first saw Back to the Future, Short Circuit, DARYL, Flight of the Navigator, Batteries not Included or even the little-known Too Much (a robot movie I’ve only ever seen in a long-defunct video shop in Rochdale), I’ve loved technology. It was computers at first, I think, then video games and robots and science in general.

I’ve always loved nerdy humour, too. Red Dwarf was my favourite sitcom for a long time, and these days I’ll chuckle at a ridiculous bit of ironic leetspeak or even a bloody LOLcat. I know what a LOLcat is. These are all important indicators.

I know who Steve Jobs is. I even watched his recent keynote speech in which iLife ’11 was announced – and watched all ten minutes of the iPhoto ’11 demonstration. I recently bought a 4GB memory stick just so I could install Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat onto my Samsung netbook. I’ve had my Kindle 3 for just over a month now, and it’s one of my favourite things in the world.

So the indicators are all there. I’m a bit of a nerd, right? Well yes – a bit of a nerd.

But not a proper one.

There’s loads of reasons why not. I love (and am “good at”) computers – at least by the standards of most normal people and a lot of my friends too; but I have no idea how they really work. I downloaded Ubuntu, yes, but I’m about ten seconds away from turning my back on it. I’m a bit scared of “code” and “terminals” and words like “sudo” and basically all the things Randall Munroe likes to joke about on XKCD. See? I even like XKCD, but I admit I only understand about 60% of the comics.

Other things that exclude me from the nerd/geek/techie world? Well, I don’t really like comics. I’ve tried – Christ knows I’ve tried – and I even work in the industry that brings graphic novels to the shops. But mostly I can’t be bothered with fantasy, monsters, guns, aliens and the like – and (Watchmen aside) I struggle to see depth in books you can read in half an hour. I don’t like a lot of sci-fi. I don’t like horror. I despise zombie movies. I hate Star Wars.

I love video games – but I mostly play platform games (badly) and football games (pretty well). I can’t be doing with first-person shooters, RPGs (FFVIII circa 97/98 excepted, of course) or survival horrors. Too scaredy, too impatient and too cackhanded, in reverse order. I have no understanding of role-playing games – I’ve never played anything involving a die with more than six sides and I’ve never painted a toy soldier. I tend to walk past Games Workshop with a mixture awe and affected disdain.

You see, I’m not dismissing any of this stuff. I’m just bemoaning the fact that I don’t understand it. I long for appreciation, for obsession, for devotion and to be part of of some supremely uncool subculture. Alas, I am doomed to be an outsider. My more mainstream fans see me as a bit of a nerd. But my nerd friends are so, so much better at it than me.

Hence, then, Nerdmirer. If you’re a proper nerd (and you probably know if you are) I admire you. I envy your understanding of Perl scripts, Linux tweaks and, well, maths. I am utterly in awe of your ability to pwn n00bs and you Steel Legion Assault Corps. I just don’t understand it.

So that’s what this blog is for. It’s partly a tech blog where I can post cool stuff I’ve seen (mostly gadgets I covet) and to review the ones I’ve used or acquired. It’s also a place for me to learn more about Stuff I Want to Understand. I want to learn how computers work – how the internet works. I want to learn more about science, which, while I’ve read a few Richard Dawkins books and could probably have a decent stab at discussing the Second Law of Thermodynamics, I am still woefully undereducated in.

You see, it all started out so promisingly. I was a nerdy little kid, crap at football, loved his (dad’s) PC. I read books about robots and watched Back to the Future over and over again. Then, somehow, probably through being innately shite at maths and science, I end up doing an art degree and winding up working in publishing – and writing occasional articles for a football blog. Something changed.

So Nerdmirer is here for me to admire the nerds of the world, while trying harder to identify with them. If the idea is of interest to you, then cool. If you think you might also be a nerdmirer, get in touch. We can try and work out Ubuntu together.