Harry Winser

2016 - retro

Well, this is now the third attempt at writing this thing. It wasn't until i said "2016 Reto" to my girlfriend did i know how to structure and write this post without it coming across as totally depressing. So, i'm going to write it in the style of a "Scrum Retrospective"*.

For those who are unaware, its an Agile-Scrum management technique. And if that made no sense; in essence we get the team into a room once every 2 weeks, and we go through what went well, what went badly, and what things we could improve on.

So, with those three headers in mind, lets crack on with 2016!

What Went Well (Smiley face)

From a personal point; 2016 was rather good. I met my girlfriend, I learned a load at work, I've moved into my own flat, written a whole load of code, attended multiple tech conferences, traveled around California in a van, saw my big sister get married, tackled my OCD, dungeon mastered a fair number of Dungeon and Dragon games, and a whole load of other things i can't think of right now.

In essence, quite a lot of cool things. Here, check out this cool picture of San Francisco:

Two awesome people stood in front of a bridge.

From a Video Game perspective, things have also been pretty good. Managed to play a few games such as The Flame In The Flood, Stardew Valley, and GTA 5. Oh and of course Pokemon Go, which i wasn't a fan of but it was rather great to have Pokemon be thrust into the public light again.

Films have been pretty great too. Deadpool happened, which no one thought it would and it was fucking great! Rouge One i loved, and glad to have a bit of Star Wars back in my life.

Books wise, i managed to FINALLY finish The Wheel of Time series, which was excellent. And also sneaked in The Martian too (highly recommend).

What went wrong (Unhappy face)

Trump and Brexit are the two obvious ones that come to mind. Brexit has thrown our political environment into total disarray, while Trump has shown that you can be sexist and racist, and still ascend to one of the highest stations in the world.

To me, these two events showed something much worse; how bad we are at communicating, especially when there are parties that are trying to withhold information.

For example, the DailyMail was totally pro-leave, to the point where facts didn't matter. They have now fully shifted into the position "opinion is fact", and should be treated as such. They've given up trying to create a line between the two. And the aren't the only ones to do this.

I think a great example of this was Corbyn. Though I don't agree with him as a party leader, it was interesting to see the media go totally crazy over it. The random and shit articles shared just to try and pursued people that he was "bad". Interestingly, this lead me to believe that social media had more power than was previously though and enabled someone who was so despised by traditional media to rise. This was a double edged sword though, as the concept of the Echo Chamber occurred. For those of you who are unacquainted with the term its the concept where all of your Social Media reflects your own views thus you end up in a sort of "bubble of news". Then of course, couple that with fake news, you've got a recipe for a hyped up collection of people all believing lies and not knowing what the hell is going on. And hence we entered into a "Post Truth" world.

And so Trump. And I'm not going into that mess without at least three shots of Vodka and maybe a couple of car-battery powered jumper cables attached to my nipples. A rusty car battery. And rusty cables.

Games had the standard COD crap that come out every year, as well as the mess that was No Mans Sky. Film wise, we had Batman Vs Superman. It was a mess. Lets not go into it.

On a more personal note, my grandmother died this year. It was rough, and i miss her greatly. Over the Christmas period my Granddad and Dad went out and bought two trees. We dug the holes, and planted them in her memory.

Things to Improve (Determined face)

So, what are the things I'd like to improve on in 2017? This year i've made two New Years resolutions, and hopefully will stick to them.

3 projects only

As my ex-housemate pointed out to me, i seem to pick up a new project every week. New ideas take president over old ones, which is not good as i never get anything finished.

So Instead, this year I'm only going to allow me to work on 3 different projects at any one time. So, what are these projects?

  • Getting Elasticsearch on Docker, which is hosted on a pi. This is mostly to learn Docker, and the ELK stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana)
  • Continue work on HouseKitty. This was a little project i created ages ago, and didn't fully finish. I did release it, but with a crappy front end. I want to get it back up and running again, and fix the bugs, and make it useful for home use first. I'll think about expansion later. I'll do a write up of this, as well as fully release the code and maybe get some open source support for it.
  • Get a working CI / CD pipeline working at home. Currently i don't have one, and i'd like to put one together so i can deploy code as and when i feel like it. I'll do a write up of this too

Those are the 3, plus trying to blog a little more as I've sort of forgotten to over the last 6 months.

Have food in my Flat

I got into a crappy habit last year where I'd not have anything in the fridge, as i had a Sainburys local across the road. That meant i could go out and buy ingredients etc. whenever. I no longer have that luxury. Also, i found that i had less time at home, and less of a reason to be at home. Over the last 9 months, i felt as if I've not spent any time in my own flat. I need that reset time, and i plan to try and get it this year. Organisation is key.

So, that's 2016 in review. While a lot of it was doom and gloom, the world hasn't ended just yet. We should look to the future, and try and make it the best we can. Happy New Year everyone!

*Those of you who actually study Scrum, I'm aware this isn't quite accurate. But it gets the job done and that's what actually counts. No? Ok, process is what matters you Waterfall** loving corporate stooges.

**Waterfall is a software development methodology. Just, so ya know. Learnin' is fun and stuff.

An evening spent playing: Dungeons & Dragons

So a few weeks ago, i gathered a small group of friends to play D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). And here’s how it went.

First, lets set the scene. Twas a rather warm, Saturday night in early August. We’d gathered drinks, food, and were sat round the table in a small flat in Upper Holloway, London, ready to begin our game.

The party consisted of Robbie, Rosie, Liz, and William. These four intrepid adventurers had no idea they were about to embark on a life changing, life affirming, journey through a magical world consisting of goblins, more goblins, some wolves, a Bugbear, and more goblins. Oh and, one character would become intimately aquatinted with a horse.

Anyway, our 4 characters began their journey with little information other than they were traveling towards Phandulin; a town to the south of Neverwinter who's inhabitants had recently rediscovered some old mines. As a result, these 4 found each other on the path to town, and maybe their fortune.

The party walked through the countryside, with the road taking twists and turns, with steep slopes on either side. Rounding a bend two dead horses appeared, riddled with arrows. Clearly not a natural cause of death. William, being of brave heart but soft of mind, decided to go and check them out straight away. Rosie, being equally curious, joined him. Liz and Robbie stayed with the wagons. Smart folk.

Suddenly, four goblins appeared, two sets on either side of the road. Of each pair of goblins, one had a bow, and the other a scimitar, with the latter loping their way down the hill towards the horses. A TRAP!

With the war cry of the goblins (think of the sound of a gobbling turkey, but poorly imitated) ringing loudly in the ears of the party, they sprang into action. Except, they were all startled, and so the Goblins had the jump on our untested party. Would the part collapse under the weight of this sudden attack?

The first of the goblins reached Will. Slicing with it’s Scimitar, it dealt a painful blow to William, causing winces from the rest of the group. Blood poured.

Next, a well place arrow from one of the hill goblins landed in Williams shoulder. Causing another collective wince.

The other running goblin headed into the fray, going for Rosie. Though due to a misplaced since of skill, the scimitar was thrown around wildly but totally missed it’s target.

The final goblin, who may have suffered from a slight and sudden bout of hayfever, fired his arrow into an adjacent tree.

Now it was our turn for our adventurous to fight! Robbie, pulling is bow from his back and nocking an arrow was fluid grace, fired and struck one of the goblins near William. It collapsed into a pool of warty flesh.

Liz, loosening one of her war axes from its belt hook, flung it up the hill. Hit over shaft it span, over and over. Until it laid to rest between the eye and nose of a goblin. It fell, leaking and quivering.

Rosie, rousing herself up from the “surprise”, rounded on the goblin. Heaving her war hammer, she swung. However, the goblin managed to escape from reach, but not without loosing an arm to the hammer.

So far, our party has done well. Two goblins down. One missing a limb, and the other way seeming to be lame of aim.

But what of William?

It’s said a mans bravery can be found in his blood. This could well be true; William had lost a lot of blood. He turned and limped his way out of the battle, towards one of the dead horses. Taking his sword, he sliced a cut through it’s belly large enough to crawl through; he did so.

The battle continued. Robbie, running up the hill where the last goblin archer could be found. Liz, sprinting forward, finished off Rosie’s job. Which left them free to follow Robbie.

Upon seeing the adventurers turn and run up the hill, the goblin decided to screw it and run for the hills. Though, most creatures are not fast enough to outrun an arrow. Robbie’s arrow struck through it’s leg, and caused it to collapse. Our the adventurers arrived, and Liz subsequently bonked it in the head putting it out cold.

From here, our party woke up the goblin, reclaimed William from a Horses innards, and went on to discover much more. I guess what I’m trying to say is this; give Dungeons and Dragons a go. Find some friends, make an evening of it, and have a whole lot of fun.

If you’d like to know more, or would like to know what happened next; contact me on twitter. I might be tempted to continue the yarn.

Pokemon Go

So, it finally happened; the Venn diagram of Technology and Pokemon crossed to form Pokemon Go. A game that's caused the world to become obsessed with the little cartoon critters.

10 year old me would be so happy right now. So why aren't i?

Title Artwork

Why does Pokemon mean so much to me?

Lets back up a little bit. Pokemon has been around a long while. I've been a big fan since i was around 8, and i was given a gameboy colour with Pokemon Red for Christmas. It was great! It held everything a kid could want; adventure, freedom, acceptance, strategy, and friendship. It taught me so much.

I guess the one thing that always stuck out from the originals (except some of the terrifying artwork) was that the reason why you beat "Gary" (Or "Buttface" if you're mature) was that you cared about your Pokemon. Stupid, and lame, but when you're 10, this mattered a lot.

I wasn't a big fan of school. Bullies, being out performed by siblings or friends, it just made me feel bad about myself. I remember multiple occasions where i'd be laughed at by my sisters for not knowing a spelling of a certain word. Or i'd fail a test because of handwriting.

I Feel like there's a level of irony here that I'm writing a blog.

But Pokemon didn't care. It was an escape. My friends played it. We'd share tips and tricks. On the rare occasion, we'd trade. I remember one Friday afternoon we all ended up with Mew's, because one friend know the duplication glitch and then traded one to everyone.

It was just a game that didn't care. You'd loose, then go and train your Pokemon more. Winning by the skin of your teeth was one of the best moments. A lucky Thunderbolt hit, or maybe a cheeky critical hit. Oh and the music! Getting you so pumped when facing a Gym leader, or so nervous when trying to catch that super rare Pokemon (fuck you Chansey).

So, what's wrong with Pokemon Go?

I guess i should do a little bit of a disclaimer; i don't dislike the game. It's enjoyable, and finding / catching Pokemon is pretty great.

BUT! There just isn't much to it. Catching Pokemon is easy. There's little to no challenge in it. You throw a Pokeball, it fails, you throw again. Boom; it's yours. There is certainly a thrill stumbling across a Pokemon not in your collection, but it's all down to luck on actually finding the sod.

Gyms are pretty painful too. First, there is little to no tutorial on how to battle (actually, there's no tutorial at all throughout the game), and it seems to be just mashing the attack button. Once you've built up a meter, you can do the secondary attack. Swiping left and right allows you to dodge… sort of? In essence, you tap the screen until something dies. Yay. All that strategy. You don't get the feeling of it being a hard won battle. You walk away bemused, either with or without the gym. I find myself questioning why do i bother with them?

Then, of course, there's the Candy and Stardust form of levelling / evolution. As much as i hated this to start with, it does make some form of sense. It gives you reason to keep catching the same monster over and over again, and strengthens the reason as to why you need to keep wondering around and exploring. Pretty good synergy between mechanics.

Oh and of course; the bugs. Dear god, so many bugs with the app. It crashes all of the time. Failing to catch a Pokemon because you lost internet connection for 5 seconds is lame. Not being able to log in, or Pokestops taking forever to load. Just not fun.

Also, why can't you also collect Pokestops?

Plus, being on different teams doesn't seem to alter that much stuff. If it had more of a bearing, it might actually be a worthwhile mechanic. You can't see how your team is doing, so why do should we care? Will taking this Gym matter for my team? i have no clue.

Yet, i can't be unhappy with it

As i said, 10 year old me would be pretty happy about this game being released. It brought Pokemon back into the limelight. I work in Soho Square which means i see loads of people each lunch time walking around catching Pokemon. Which is awesome. People chat to each other in the street! When did that last happen?!

Plus, all of my outdated knowledge suddenly has a new use. I can easily name the first 150 Pokemon, and wouldn't find it too hard to do the next 100 that came with Gold / Silver. Suddenly this knowledge is relevant again! Yay!!! I think?

So, i can't hate Pokemon Go. At least it's something. Focusing heavily on the "catch ‘em all" concept is a smart move, it's just a shame they've removed all of the skill/strategy that made me love the series in the first place.

That OCD Blog

Some of you who know me in the real realm, may know that i suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And those of you who don't; well, now you do!

I guess i should do some level of explanation as to what OCD is, and how it effects me and my day to day life. Fyi, if you came here for a blog about games or tech, this one ain't gunna be that.

Anyway, what does it mean? A lot of people think OCD manifests a little bit like this;

Which is partially true. Richard O'hara suffers from OCD, and that's how it affects him; two gunshots means he has to stamp is left foot 4 times while counting. But why would one do that? And what does it mean?

I guess it's probably easier to explain from my own perspective.

My own OCD boils down into 2 main areas;

  • Disaster prevention
  • Negative / intrusive thoughts

The above two link together, and feed off each other. Lets start with Disaster prevention.

Each morning, before leaving the house, i'll count the hobs on the stove in a certain order. This order must be right, else i'm over powered with a sense of anxiety that is only sated when i complete this count correctly. The anxiety is caused by thoughts of that A: a family member might die, or the house will burn down, or something horrid will happen at work. And so on. This is where the negative / intrusive thoughts come into it.

But why would i think like this? I honestly don't know. This is not born out of logic. It's just how my mind works in this situation. It's sort of a ritual, a ward, against the day and bad things. Maybe a prayer?

The negative and intrusive thoughts are something that occur at almost any time, and they can be nasty. But actually, these are thoughts most people have. The difference lies in not simply bushing them off, but instead being scared and angry at yourself for having them. I beat myself up about having such thoughts. Not great.

Some of these thoughts skew risk analysis of a typical situation, such as thinking that if i shut this door someone might get trapped inside this building and there could be a fire and angry killer bees! Basically, if the outcome could result in something bad happening, not matter how unlikely it could be, it would result in a whole lot anxiety, and thus a whole lot of checking to make sure it's all ok, and this outcome can't occur.

Times are changing

I've tackled with the above most of my life. I remember being very young, and needing to wash my hands often as i was worried that i'd carry some form of bacteria that could kill someone. Since then, its manifested in a multitude of different ways throughout my life. Yay…

So, why suddenly am i now writing about this? Well, recently I started getting OCD training (therapy?). OOOOoooooo!

What this means is that once a week i have an hour session where I receive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This is basically a mix of looking at how my OCD manifests, and why. It also entails challenges such as leaving the house without checking things to show nothing bad will happen, or wishing ill on my therapist to prove that my negative thoughts have no effect on the outside world.

This has been rather challenging, and there have been times I've failed, but on the whole I'm slowly getting better. I'm learning tools to combat these thoughts and feelings, and ways to manage my anxiety, and deal with it's source.

The two main approaches that work for me are standing up to the thought, or abstracting myself away from it.

Standing up to your own mind is a little bit odd. Almost like two voices. One freaking out like a caged monkey, the other firmly stating that it's wrong, and shouldn't be worried about this. For example:
"OH DEAR GOD CHECK THE TAPS AGAIN YOUR HOUSE WILL FLOOD AND IT WILL COST SO MUCH MONEY"

"I've checked them. It's done. It doesn't matter. If the place does flood, i can solve that. It's not a problem"

"BUT NO! IT WILL BREAK EVERYTHING YOU OWN. YOUR HOUSEMATE WILL HATE YOU. YOU WILL SUFFER!!"

"My housemate wouldn't hate me. It would be an accident. I would forgive him for the same. I've checked it. It's fine."

The abstracting thought process is a tad different. It's more acknowledging the thought, and going "Yeah, that's fine. I'm allowed to have that thought. I'm not a bad person for it. It doesn't matter".

And so, over the last few weeks, I've slowly reduced the OCD tendencies that i have to do on a day to day bases. And it feels pretty good. Don't get me wrong, i'll never be 100% free of anxiety. It won't ever go. But i'm starting to feel far more in control. And i feel far more prepared for the future.

If you think you might suffer from OCD, then go ahead and talk to your GP. They should be able to refer you. Though it won't be an easy process doing CBT, it's worth it and you'll feel better in the long run!

Anyway, a slightly deeper blog post this time. Next one will probably be lighter.

Review: Batman Vs Superman

And here we are; the DC version of the Avengers. First sentence. Shots fired.

I probably should get one thing out the way first; this review is FULL of spoilers. If you've not seen the film, but want to know if you should go and see it, then here's my spoiler free paragraph. Ain't i nice.

“The more you think about the film, the less sense it makes. There is little to no character progression, and at the end you don't feel anything for any of the characters. Probably don't bother with the cinema trip, unless you're a superhero fan and you're jonesing for a fix”

Yeah. I'm not a fan. Anyway, if you don't want any more spoilers, don't read on! For the rest of you; lets crack on with the show!

Story

The story arc is this; Superman broke a city. Batman is not happy as that's a lot of power not kept in check. Which is kinda fair enough. Superman isn't happy because Batman is doing rather hard core vigilante justice (like murder and shit. Remember all those Batman comics where he murders everyone? Yeah. I don't).

So, both kinda valid reasons, though I'm personally siding with Batman on this one.

There's a third wheel to this superhero bromance; Lex Luthor. Lex has decided that he can play Superman and Batman against each other for… Er… reasons. Yep, ‘reasons'. And so he gets the fighting and whatnot.

Ignoring the whole Lex thing for a second (I'll come back to him), the reasons behind them fighting is actually rather sound. And generally felt a little deeper than the standard super villain affair. As a viewer, there was no clear “good” side. However, this all fell over for 3 pretty irritating reasons.

Reason 1: Superman was force to fight Batman because Lex had his mum. Yep, that's literally the reason. As a result, when Batman and Superman clashed, you weren't seeing those two ideals clash, but instead a fight which could have been solved with a small amount of prior communication. So, like a text message, or an email. Or something.

Reason 2: The fight is really short between Superman and Batman. Its about 7 minutes, rather slow, though quite entertaining. It ends once Batman finds out Superman has been blackmailed, and they suddenly become best chums and it's all sorted. Yep. There's little to no dialog. Just sort of ‘BAM! FRIENDS NOW'. Though the reason they become friends is literally that Batmans mum and Supermans Mum have the same name. Dat writing yo.

Reason 3: This whole story arc ends about 2/3's into the film. Yep, it ends. And it's replaced with a Generic CGI Monster number 3. Oh boy. It went from deep, meaningful philosophical debate to giant monster punch up. Because, we've not seen that before, right? RIGHT?!

So, the main story line(s) aren't great. What about the characters?

Ben Affleck as Batman totally nailed it. Batman is in his mid 40's. He's older, tired of fighting, and generally more jaded. He's seen thing man. And Affleck nails this. I had some serious worries he would suck, but he totally steals the show. However, there is no character development. He doesn't change. He doesn't change his view or his outlook. It's all the same.

Superman also doesn't change. He never understands Batman's point of view. Henry Cavill does a passable job, and i can't think of any outstanding moments.

Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is just flat out insane. There's no underlying reason. He's crazy, and wants to see the world burn. It's a little odd, but at least he was entertaining to watch compared to the angry Batman and the angry Superman. An injection of personality. But the fact his whole character/motivations were so flawed from the get go, it's all a bit of a let down. However, Jesse Eisenberg does a great job, and i throughly enjoyed watching him on screen.

Gal Gadot does an decent job as Wonder Woman. However, there wasn't much for her to do at all in this film. I was confused about her role. She just sort of shows up, does her thing, and we as an audience has no idea who she is, what she can do, or really anything about her. A set up film would have been greatly appreciated. It was great seeing her kick ass against the giant CGI monster. But she was sort of relegated to the background through all of this. However, she does have some AWESOME intro music. Check it out here:

Quick side note on Wonder Woman. Before posting this review, a friend of mine pointed out that Superman has NO dialog with Wonder Woman. NONE. Literally nothing. Instead of asking who Wonder Woman in, Superman turns to Batman and asks “Is she with you?”. That's it. That's all the acknowledgement she gets.

All the other characters do great jobs, but once again they are all just sort of 'there'. There's no growth in this film. All the actors do a great job, but the script and the story just isn't there to support them.

Directing / Special Effects

I don't usually do this heading, but this all deserves a special mention. First are the special effects. Throughout, they were pretty solid. However the CGI monster was just that; CGI. It was so obvious, and kinda boring, that as a result i didn't care about it, and also slightly jarring. It had nothing note worthy design wise, and just didn't look at all that great. It had nothing going for it. It was just… weird.

Now, onto the directing. Usually, I don't notice directing, but when i do it's usually for awesome reasons. However, this time it was because it was just a little bit shit. To start with, each scene felt super fast. One thing would happen, and that would be it. Little character reaction, then we'd them be whisked away to something else. Very frustrating, and gave me a sense of disconnect from the story. However, this did improve as the scenes got longer towards the end. So yay.

Wrap Up

If you couldn't work it out from above; I didn't like this film. A storyline that gave up being intelligent to instead become a Monster mash. With no growth of any of the characters, and no real set up for the next films (just one, sodding email) it all sort of resulted in Batman Vs Superman being just a bit of a waste of time. Maybe worth watching when it's released on DVD or Netflix, but nothing more.

Do we expect more from Games?

This Easter weekend, I took a trip back to my home town where i got to see my family and friends. Was rather pleasant, and got to enjoy the country side. Anyway, whenever i meet up with my good friend Nick, we always get into discussing video games and how they've changed, how we've changed, and generally what we like and don't like. This time, he posed me a question; "Do we expect more from games now?" to which i couldn't answer. It's the sort of question that takes a little bit of breaking down first.

So, lets go ahead and break it down!!!

quick note: I'll be talking about consoles mostly. So try and frame the rest of this article that way... Thanks bud!

Things have changed

First, lets all acknowledge that games are not the same as they were 15 years ago. To put how long ago that was, the GameCube has been released (if not, at least announced) and the Dreamcast was on the scene. Games weren't really online, and were either fully solo experiences or local multiplayer affairs.

Jump ahead 6 years, and suddenly Xbox live and Playstation Network became a thing. Games needed to have some form of online offering, and developers were slowly getting to understand how they could leverage the internet in new and novel ways.

And now here we are at present day. Indie games have grown into their own genre in the public eye (they've always been around, but it's now more "a thing"). "AAA" gaming (i hate that term) is now bigger than ever, with larger budgets, bigger game worlds, orchestral music, voice acting, and big ass marketing campaigns.

So, it's undeniable that things have changed, but that doesn't really answer the question; do i expect more?

What do i expect from a video game?

This is a little bit more difficult to define. I guess, above all, i expect to be entertained ("ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!"). I expect to enjoy myself, and come away with either a smile on my face, or a heavy heart after an emotionally weighty scene.

Fun is one of the main reasons why i bother playing video games. A level of escapism that allows me to forget the world around me for a few hours and just enjoy myself. This can vary, but for me it's usually it's narrative driven with some fiendish puzzles and rewarding combat. But this just narrows down what i like. If anything, I've become more focused on what kinds of games I'd enjoy since growing older; bit like with books, movies, and coffins.

"Answer the question!!"

So, games have changed, and i have a pretty solid idea on what i like. Do i expect more from games now?

I guess not. I know what i like, and as a result, i don't think i care if a game has amazing graphics ("Look at the shiny shiny"), or if they have some funky new feature such as jet packs. There are two great examples of this; The Elder Scrolls and The Legend Of Zelda. I'll start with the former.

I got into The Elder Scrolls when Number 4 was released; Oblivion. Which also just celebrated it's 10th birthday this past week. Congrats. I love/loved this game because it painted such a complete world. It had interesting quests. It had a fun combat system. It was just... Somewhere i could escape to and fully enjoy. Fast forward a few years, and Skyrim was released. I didn't buy it for it's graphics (though damn they looked nice; dem dragons yo), nor did i buy it for its innovations (mainly because there wasn't a huge amount), i got it because of the world.

Lizard artwork

One could argue that Dragons were a "gimmick", but they were part of the main narrative, and continued with the world building. You had to be careful of them. They were a challenge. They were a puzzle and an enemy rolled into one. That's awesome. Not something i expected, but a great addition. I don't require them in the sequel however.

In the space of a number of years, what i wanted from it hadn't changed, purely that i wanted more storyline, and another world to explore. True; without the additions it wouldn't have been as good. But to me, i wanted another trip to Tamriel. And that takes precedence over any new gimmick.

Lets move onto Zelda; that series that's not changed since Ocarina of Time was released in 1998. True, the graphics have improved, and there are new features and abilities, but mostly it's the same game that's been churned out for years. And yet I'll still buy them. They build such a compelling world (for me at least), with great dungeons and colour characters. It's like playing a fairytale of old. It doesn't get bogged down with politics of today, nor does it try to be anything more than it is; a simple tale of an adventurer trying to overcome insurmountable odds. I love that, and it's one of the reasons i love fantasy and sci-fi.

Dude in field

But do i expect Zelda to be more? I expect it to progress in some respect. I would like voice acting to be a thing, and I'd maybe want a more complete world. And that might be because I make that comparison between Zelda and Elder Scrolls, which is not entirely fair.

What i'm trying to say here is that there is no simple answer. I can't say I expect more from games when I play games that don't change much between iterations. At the same time, i do expect some change when it comes to ideas, and in some respect graphics. I think I'd get a little annoyed if Zelda was still 8 bit, regardless of the gameplay.

Well, that was an unsatisfying answer now wasn't it?

Xbox One Review (With games)

Several years ago, I promised myself that I wouldn't get one of the "new" consoles. And by new, I mean the Xbox One or the PS4. Why? Simple really; I'd just bought a P.C. and had no need for a dedicated gaming machine. Plus, the Big Wigs at Microsoft Xbox division were being so full of themselves that they had started to emulate the frat boys that often promote their brand.

Dat logo

Fast forward to 2016, and here am I writing a review for a console I now own. Deal with it, 2014 me.

A bit of extra background with the setup I have. I have the 1 Terabyte Forza console (which was £10 cheaper for some reason) which basically means when I press buttons on the console I get different noises, and the box itself is also a slightly weird colour blue.

I also have 4 games;

  • Forza (not installed yet because of reasons)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (which will now be known as the "Tomb Raider", because it's actual name is shit)
  • Star Wars: Battle Front
  • GTA5
So, where to begin? Let's go with Graphics.

Graphics

New consoles means better graphics (unless you're the Wii... BURN!). In the case of the Xbox One, this is definitely true. All of the games I've played have looked stunning. Battle Front, Tomb Raider, and GTA all look stunning. Big open areas. Shiny things are shiny. And so on. It's impressive what we can do now considering 20 years ago we were still limited to basic 3d games. Go humans. So this is an instant, but expected, win.

User Interface

The user interface, that thing you spend a lot of your time dealing with between games, is just fuck off awful. I mean just the worst. It's slow, confusing, and downright weird. It's like I'm fighting it to achieve anything. For example, all of your "apps" are located at the bottom of a list. So each time you want to access one that isn't on the list of "last used", you have to wonder on down it. Doesn't sound so bad, but seriously confusing and frustrating. Especially as you can't arrange your apps either.

Next, let's look at the store. Scrolling to the right eventually gets you there. But lord knows how you find shit in there. Imagine a half finished game of mahjong, and you've got what this interface looks like. Tiles. Fucking. Everywhere. It's like someone was playing 52 card pick up and decided the interface should be modeled on it.

Overall, the experience is laggy. Hitting the big "X" button on your controller takes you to the home page. Cool, and useful. Double tapping it brings up a side bar over your game so you can view shit like friends and invites and messages. Also useful. Unfortunately this side bar is as slow as balls, and you spend half your time counteracting your own movements to get to the bit you want.

The layout of this side bar is also confusing, and results in a lot of faffing about to achieve the simplest of tasks.

All in all, it's a crappy experience that, for a company who's been in the computer business for close to 30 years, needs to be fixed and overhauled.

Games

A console is useless if it doesn't have any games or apps. So let's take a walk through the ones I bought.

Tomb Raider

If you remember one of my older posts, I said I loved the first Tomb Raider because it was just silly but very entertaining. This one so far has been more of the same. And you know what, I love it for that! The graphics are stunning. The character performances are all great. And the set pieces are also pretty great too. So I'm very happy with this game. Would recommend (even though I've not finished it yet).

Adventure girl

GTA5

I've only had this a few days, and actually there is so much praise for this game that there's little point me adding to it. Go and buy it. It's pretty great.

Starwars: BattleFront

Ahahahahahahahahahah seriously EA? Battle Front? Ok, yeah you can fuck off right now. This game is nothing like its predecessors. The name Battle Front is nothing but a cheap marketing ploy. This game has NO similarities to any of the battle front games. Let me explain; I was a massive fan of the previous Star Wars: Battle Front games. I played them for years. As did many of my friends. So when I found out there was finally a revival of the franchise, I was super excited. I think me and several friends literally, not figuratively, cheered in unison when it was announced.

So, when the beta was announced, I signed up and played it on my P.C. I was instantly in awe of how pretty it looked and sounded. It was like stepping into star wars. They nailed it.

Snow camels

But very soon, it started to fall apart. "Where's the class system?" "What's with these cards? Why can't I just have grenades?" and "Wait, what the fuck are the tokens?"

Yep. Everything that made Battle front, battle front, had been gutted and replaced.

I have several major gripes. Let's start with the first; ships. In the old games, the ships would be docked in locations where players could jump in and use. Multiple players could use them, and fill out extra turrets etc. This was great! But now, ships have been replaced with tokens on the battle field. They are hard to find (unless you already know where they are) and don't allow for coop at all. The ships themselves are nice to pilot, but other than dog fighting with your opponent ships, you can't do anything else. They can't really attack the ground, as they fly too fast. All in all, a pointless mechanic if you can't influence the ground battle.

My second major gripe is the lack of strategy. The designers went for "action matters" approach. This does work, and it's great fun to blast a load of opponents etc. But, if you want to coordinate, it's impossible. It's just two groups of players mashing at each other. In the older games, the battle field was more open. You could flank. You could hold ground in a defensive spot. There's none of that now, and the longativity of this game WILL suffer because of it.

Ok, I have loads more gripes, but here's one final one; DLC. The game is £50. The "season pass dlc" is another £37. That's £87 for a game. The DLC is maps and a couple of extra modes. Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK. There is NO single player. There is no justification except money grabbing. One day, and I suspect soon, publishers will fall on themselves with this model and video gamers just give up in frustration.

The more astute of you will notice that I was talking about the beta, and quite negatively, but still ended up buying it for Xbox One. Why? One simple, and annoying reason. It's kinda fun.

It's no strings attached fun. It's not deep. It's not clever. It's just... fun. But I don't see myself still playing this in a years' time. And instead over the years I'll probably become more bitter for what EA has done to this franchise.

One final addition; it's really slow to load on XBOX. It's much faster on P.C.

Real game

Wow I wrote a lot about that game. Sorry.

Round up

So, can I recommend the Xbox One? Sure. If you want to play games, and have friends who play then yes this console is for you. Other than that though, I'm not so sure. Maybe it's because I've become so jaded to the whole video game scene that I've just grown bitter. This time around, everything feels so uninspired. Kinda hoping Nintendo pull something out of the hat that makes us all excited again. Or VR actually happens. Either one.

Bonus Round: Amazon Prime Video

The worst app on Xbox 360. Buggy, confusing, and just a crappy interface it's of course on the Xbox One. And although it's not quite as shit as the 360's one, it's still just crap. Come on Amazon. Your website is the most confusing website possible, don't let your new apps fall to the same fate.

Film Roundup 2015

Once a year, I like to do a roundup of games. However, this year I've played a grand total of around 3, with most of them being released a few years before, or a remake. So doesn't make for a great list. However, this year I've seen a truck tonne of films; from Star Wars the Force Awakens, to The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies, to Jurassic World. So this year I thought I'd go ahead and do my top 3, as well as my worst film of the year. This list was actually really hard to come up with. We've had some great films out this year, from the wonderful Inside Out, to loads of good Marvel films, to some awesome (and awful) reboots.

Best Films

3. The Martian

Ah The Martian. I went to this film out of a suggestion from a friend (Shout out there buddy) and really rather enjoyed it! A film about a man being stuck on a Mars for 4 years shouldn't be as funny as it is, yet somehow it had me laughing all the way through.

Ok, that makes me sound like some sadistic arsehole, but hear me out. The whole concept of a man being stuck on Mars is rather scary. And the film could have been about how horrid and rough it really could be to survive there. However, instead of getting bogged down in "Oh god, we left a man there to die", it instead follows a true spirit of not giving up. And as result, you end up with some truly funny moments, as Matt Demon talks himself through 4 years in Isolation.

Of course, this film is based on a book, and apparently the book is much funnier but it's great to see an adaptation embrace its roots and follow in a similar vain.

So, like all of these films on this list, you should totally go and see it!

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Oh JJ. Abrahams, you wonderful man. You managed to do what many thought was impossible; update, reinvigorate, and breathe new life into this amazing franchise. Seriously, if you've not seen it, go! It's got everything, from laughs, to a decent level of fan service. It's not a perfect film by any means, but I loved it.

I will (probably) be doing a write up of it soon. Until then, just go see it in the cinema!

1. Ex-Machina

Ok, it was super difficult to decide on a film. We've had some great ones, but Ex-Machina was one that has constantly stood out as a personal favourite not just of this year, but has been permanently addition to my favourite film list. I've done a complete write up of it here, which explains my view points in depth. But suffices to say that this film is not one you want to miss, even though you probably did.

This film had me on the edge of my seat throughout, and kept me guessing on where it was going to head next. Not many other films this year has achieved that.

So go and watch it right now. Like, seriously, go! The rest of this can wait!

Worst Film 2015

So, what was my worst film of 2015? Oh, dear reader; it was one you weren't expecting. It was...

50 Shades of Grey.

Yep. A film most people wouldn't have expected me to have seen, yet somehow I have. And let me tell you, it was easily one of the most boring few hours of my year. This film fails in almost every single way I can imagine. It figuratively stumbles around, like some drunkard, for its running length (125 minutes!!!) until it eventually just sort of "ends", and you're expected to be looking forward to its sequel.

Obviously, I'm not exactly the target audience. But really, if you ignore the subject matter, this film is just flat out bad. There is NO character progression. There nothing here for the audience to bond with (joke about bondage), and amazingly fails to be at all raunchy. I've seen more on a DAZ advert (though, the sheets in the film were rather "brilliantly white").

So, 50 Shades, you're my Worst Film. The film that made me watch another film after just to wash out the bad flavour of this film. I was DRUNK watching this film, and STILL found it dull.

Have I ranted enough? Yeah? Good.

Anyway, onto a new year with new movies. Films like DeadPool, Captain America: Civil War, Rouge One, Independence Day: Resurgence (yep, this is a thing?!), and Finding Dory (just why?).

Is it weird that the more of that previous sentence I wrote, the less I was looking forward to the Movies of 2016?

Bonus Round

So, the Fantastic 4. I wrote about this a little earlier on in the year, stating how it didn't deserve the stick it has gotten. And I still believe that. Currently it's at 10% on Rotten Tomatoes while in contrast The Last Airbender (categorically the WORST FILM EVER MADE) sits on 6%. Even 50 Shades sits at 25% somehow?

Yeah, sure this film is a mess. But you could see its potential shining through (except the last 20 minutes where you just KNOW some prick in a suit with little to no original thought turned up on set and started changing shit), and had a good movie buried deep within it. It's a shame, and one I hope FOX has learned from.

Who am I kidding? FOX cancelled Firefly. Same again next year, yeah??

Summer Movie Roundup

Ah Summer. You're a bit like Hubba Bubba gum or a new series of Sherlock; great but never hang around long enough. Anyway, so summer is now over, and I've decided to do a movie round up of what I've seen. It's be one mostly fully of Super Hero films (some asked for, others not) as well as remakes. In some cases both! Anyway, let's get on with it!

Oh, slight spoiler warning. If you've not seen the below films probably don't read ahead. Or do. Just, yeah you're old enough to make up your own mind.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

First up, we have a film that was actually release at the start of the summer. Ok, April might be pushing the whole summer thing a little, but sod it it's my blog. Actually, I've already written a review for it, so go ahead and read it here. Basically, I said it was pretty great and worth a watch, though not as good as the original.

However, I will add that I've just bought it on DVD and found it difficult to finish. Just... It's kinda long. Maybe it's me just being a little fussy. Anyway, go read the previous review.

Jurassic World

Holy crap I didn't think this would ever turn up. I remember hearing about this film a good number of years ago, and expected for it to have a permanent place in movie hell.

Dinosaurs and stuff

So, here we are in 2015 and not only has this film been released, it was bloody brilliant! Good CGI, nice throw backs to the previous films, and there's a bit at the beginning where you're flying over the park where you think "Fuck Disney land, why can't this place exist?"

The story had some serious flaws, such as some random Dino team up at the end (Seriously what?!) and one story thread that didn't go anywhere and was subsequently eaten by a Raptor (actually happened, not joking). Of course, no one can talk about this film without mentioning the elephant in the room; the lead characters stilettos! Seriously, she doesn't take them off, yet can run through forest and mud, along with outrunning a T-Rex. I don't know what was going on there. Maybe a 90's throw back of its own kind?

Either way, I highly recommend the film!

Inside Out

Pixar you cruel bastards. You have a direct line to my heart, and once again there was little holding back. A funny, intelligent, and emotional piece of film work Inside Out is easily the stand out film this year.

It speaks to everyone, as pretty much everyone went through similar times in their own life. Joy of being young and not needing to worry. Having imaginary friends. And understanding that all emotions have their right time and place. I think the moment that actually spoke to me most was the part right at the end, where the lead character speaks to a boy in the hockey rink. The little people inside his head just freak out and don't know what to do. This has happened to me too many times in my life to count. And I know other people out there connected to the film in their own way. So well done once again Pixar for making cinema gold. Again. Have you done some weird deal with a demon or something?

Ant-Man

For those of you who know me in the real world, you'll know I love Comic books. And Ant-Man is one of my favourites. Loads of great witty moments, and not afraid to have a an ending you weren't quite expecting. Scott Lang is a screw up. He's not going to suddenly make the right decisions now he's got some magic suit.

Tiny human is tiny

So, does this film deliver? Errr... no. It suffers from a few key issues.

First, pacing. There's a real lull in the middle, and just isn't funny enough to carry it through this stage. Second, one of the key jokes was actually ruined in the trailer. If they could like not do that that would be great. Thanks. Actually, this film tries to ride on humour a lot, but doesn't deliver. It's not a comedy film.

It does have a few saving graces. First is Anthony. How the hell did a film make me care about an ant???? There was also the key, incredibly obvious, love interest. You know the drill; both hate each other, they slowly warm to each other, and bam! They're together at the end. Ok, this is pretty much exactly how this played out. But, its big difference was that I disliked the love interest at first, and grew like her throughout the film. First time where this has actually happened. So well done there! All in all, Ant-Man isn't a bad film. It's certainly no Spiderman or Fantastic 4. Speaking of which...

Fantastic 4

So, you've probably read the crappy reviews. And avoided it in the cinemas. Seriously, who actually asked for this film? No one. But here we are anyway.

You know what? I didn't hate it. I went in expecting to be bored. To be angry that this was made. And instead? I was disappointed. Disappointed because I totally saw what the director was after. I saw the vision that he had; a dark, slightly more brooding version of these characters. And it was totally working up until about... Actually, you want my advice? Go ahead and watch the first half or two thirds. Then just leave. Or turn off your DVD player. Because dear god does it fall off a cliff. You can see the point where some executive came down from his lofty perch, looked around and said "Where's all the action? I ordered an action film didn't I? You, director man! Make me action. People want action!" And so it was said, it was done. And thus there's a real jarring change towards the end.

I can't recommend, but it seriously doesn't deserve the horrid ratings it's gotten.

And so that's it for my round up. Hope you've enjoyed it. On with winter films like Star Wars... And, er... Star Wars!

It be like a ghost town round these parts…

Holy shit, it's been way too long since my last post. Like two months. So with renewed vigour, here I am again; filling your screen with semi coherent ramblings.

Actually, I should probably go into why I've not written in a while. Simply, I put myself under too much pressure with writing. I want to be the best (like no one ever was), but I really got to walk before I can run, and remember I do this for fun. So, I'm back again to just write and have fun.

Guess I should talk about what I've been up to these last two months. First off, working real hard! Did a work hackathon which was awesome. Oh and coming up with crazy new ideas and concepts. Speaking of which, if you check out my GitHub you'll find like 4 partially finished projects involving Twitter Streams. I plan to do a write up of that stuff soon enough, so stay tuned (Sneak peek; Python can go suck it!)

I've also been playing around with node.js and Knockout js. Both have been a whole lot of fun, and I plan to try and convert this website over to it. Should give me more freedom than what PHP currently offers. I also really need to put my PHP framework up on Git hub, and let others have fun with it. Need to try and extract it out first, and create some documentation.

Speaking of my website, it could do with a few tweaks and fixes. First, the crazy SSH issue which comes from my self-signed certificate. Yeah, you'll spot that if you check your console. Ha! Yeah, I'll fix that when I convert to Node. I'll also try and make it easier to view Photos and other bits and pieces, as well as optimise for Mobile. Currently it looks a little shit.

Ya'll know I love Movies and Games. I've not only been buried deep code these last few months. Recently bought a copy of Red Dead Redemption, as well as Fallout 3. Both are excellent. I'll probably do some form of Retro Roundup soon enough. Also got to see Jurassic World recently, and thoroughly enjoyed it! Will get around to writing some form of write up before that disappears from the cinema.

When it comes to the random blogs like the "What is code" etc. I've got another piece already in the works about the internet. So watch out for that one!

And now looking back on all I've just written, I've just realised that I've got a lot to do over the coming weeks"¦ But let's be honest, I'd be bored if I didn't!

Oh, and they just added AC/DC to Spotify"...

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Three years ago, one of my all-time favourite films was released; Avengers Assemble. Converging all of the current Marvel film franchises into one super movie (like some sort of Hollywood power polygamous relationship) was one of the greatest movie experiences I'd seen in a long time, as well as being a tight and well written film on its own merits. Avengers Assemble then went on to break box office records, and earn more money than most counties make. So of course a sequel was inevitable. It's business. But how does it stack up? Does Age of Ultron match its predecessor?

Plot

I'll try and keep this spoiler free as possible by the way, but as with all reviews I'd suggest you'd just go and watch it. It's Marvel. It's got what you'd expect. Go see it.

The film opens to the team storming a Castle... somewhere. The actions in full swing. Thor's swinging Mjolnir (his hammer). Captain America is flinging his shield around. Iron Man is being all science-y and flying around. And Hulk is well... Hulking. So, pretty standard affair.

From here we find out they are still after Loki's staff. Once inside they grab it, and return to Avengers tower. Before returning it to Asgard, Iron Man analyses' it and attempts to make an A.I. out of it (as you do). And thus Ulton is born. Things go tits up, and the team end up battling him.

So, all very Sci-fi and action-y etc. And all very enjoyable. The fights are all very well set up. The banter between the team mates is as strong and brilliant as ever, and it totally scratches that super hero itch.

Actually, the banter between the team mates is easily the best part of this film. There's a bit early on where they are all relaxing around a table, and each of them try to lift Mjolnir. Very funny, and ends up being a running gag throughout the film.

There are also some stand out set pieces. The opening fight is one of them, and so is the fight between Hulk and Iron man. (Not a spoiler, it's in like all of the trailers.) Unfortunately, I'd say the final big clash at the end just feels a little muddled. And I think this is down to Ultron's character.

Let me explain. Ulton is an evil A.I. He's witty, dark, and powerful. But, somehow, he's just not got enough bite to be held up as a great super villain. Loki was evil in a Prince Joffrey kind of way. The Joker was just insane. Bane was driven and a badass. Ulton kinda just... isn't. His motives are a touch confusing at times. Don't get me wrong, he's a great character. Especially the creepy Pinocchio reference. But this level of creepy could have been played up so much more, and turned him into something really scary. But instead he just comes across as a weirdly driven robot who wants to murder people. In cinema, that's kinda been done.

Which leads to the ultimate clash between the team and him. The stakes are high, but the whole fight is just a cluster fuck of knowing that what's going on has huge repercussions, but lacking any real "bite".

There are also two new characters who, for the life of me, I can't remember the names of. Ones got super speed, the others got some cool mind control stuff. They are referred to as "Abnormals" and not Mutants. Does FOX own the rights to that term or something? They are both sort of one dimensional characters, and I couldn't really get on board with their plight.

Age Of Ultron

Side characters also make a nice addition. War Machine and Falcon are here, with the former being the butt of the "Not really as cool as Iron Man" joke a lot. It works, and got a lot of laughs with the audience I was with.

All of the cast deliver, with no one phoning it in. In fact Hawkeye, Bruce Banner, and Black Widow all feel much more relevant and engaging this time around. That's impressive as I've always considered them the least interesting of the group.

I guess what you can take away from the story is that it's entertaining, and it set up the next few years of Marvel movies without giving anything away. Except Marvel ruined that by announcing what's going to be released for the next 10 years. Nice going marketing department.

Sound, special effects, and CGI

Maybe it's just me, but I seem to notice CGI in films. Especially when the films in 3D. In my view, CGI should blend seamlessly, and not stand out. Unfortunately, this doesn't quite happen, and it's especially noticeable when it comes to CGI characters. Both Hulk and Ulton look great by themselves, but as soon as they start interacting with someone, you notice that they don't look right. They don't feel real.

This aside, they do look great. Hulk looks greener and Hulkier than ever. While Ultron has cool moving parts you can see whirling and moving as he speaks. Much like with the Iron Man suits.

Ultrons design however confuses me. The way his mouth moves is very "human". Arguably this is the point, as well as helps to convey the emotion of the character. Yet because the mouth moves, to me you lose some of the creepiness of the character. The Cybermen from Dr Who, or even General Grievous from Star Wars had a slit mouth (thing?) that couldn't move. That's infinitely creepier. However, his cheeks slide in and out, exposing the sort of red flame of a throat. This looks amazing, and totally a cool choice.

The set pieces are expertly done. They all look amazing, and the action is well choreographed and performed. The CGI used during Iron Man's and Hulks fight is awesome, with buildings and cars being smashed all over the place. Awesome.

The music is the standard orchestral affair. No real stand out moments, except the opening theme at the start totally got me pumped for the film. Musically, Guardians of the Galaxy this ain't.

Conclusion

Let's be honest here; you're reading this after seeing them film. And if you've not seen it; you know you are.

The weird thing is that above all I've done is tear it down and say it's not very good. That's just not correct. I loved it.

Its action packed, witty, and has some truly wonderful moment. I have a rule though; if I think about my watch and what time it currently is in the cinema I know there's something wrong here. And unfortunately this happened. It's a little bloated and overly long, with motives that didn't quite make sense and a story with so much going on that you forget how cool some of it was.

But I loved it anyway, and would be more than happy to see it again in the cinema. It's an excellent action film, an excellent super hero film, and in some ways a great comedy; the one lines are excellent.

So, if you've not seen it; go ahead and do. It's worth your money. It's worth your time. Come on, what else are you gunna do on a Friday night?

Bonus round: Cinemas (Warning - language)

Seriously, how the fuck do cinemas do it? How are cinemas singularly the best and worst place to watch a film? It's effectively a cave filled with other people and their farts, most of whom can barely go 5 minutes without rustling or coughing.

Ok, maybe I'm just a little bitter. Let me set you the scene of what I experienced.

First, the price; £19 to see it in 3D in Leicester Square. Next; due to my borked eye sight, the 3D glasses didn't fit over my glasses and so had to lean my head back an extra amount just to view the thing I'd spent £19 on. (Alright, my fault on those accounts).

Then, about midway through the film, my legs started to hurt because we were packed in and no room to stretch at all. No one would call me Lofty (I'm 5'10 thank you very much) but even I struggled. (Not my fault here).

Oh, and then we have the worst offenders; other sodding people. I was sat next to some guy that did nothing but cough loudly throughout. And every fucking time, I got a wonderful whiff of his earlier glass(es) of bourbon. Oh and he committed cinema sin; he got up to use the bathroom half way through. Seems that any form of curtesy seems to have been lost. Eh.

Bonus round over. Score: Angry.

The Trials and Tribulations of Online Courtship

Yep. You read that correctly; I'm going to discuss online dating.

Ah dating. The age old ritual that was first invented in 1769 by Richard Von Date, who created the concept to win a girls heart. Back then tea, biscuits, and pistols at dawn were used. Ah, simpler times. Anyway, enough history.

The invention of the internet has brought about many changes; an open forum for the world to share it's thoughts, a place where people can get news, and watch media instantly . So of course meeting and courting people would eventually shift into this virtual, instant realm.

Being an awkward software engineer (fucking nailing the stereotype there), I have little to no luck in the bar scene. Nope, that's jock territory. And as it turns out the library isn't the best place to pick up chicks (who knew?), so I decided to take the plunge into a rather known dating site called Ok!Cupid.

What happens online... Is documented forever and you can do nothing about it.

When you first sign up, you're assaulted with questions about yourself. I'm not particularly narcissistic, and filling out several lines on a self-summary is rather daunting. This is made worse by the sudden realisation that everything about yourself can be summed up in about 300 words, or roughly the length of a standard Tesco shopping receipt.

Next, onto the photos. I first thought this would be super simple but, turns out that past me thought it would be funny to always pull a stupid face (prick). So I'm left with a couple of half decent ones, and blind naive hope a prayer that my "funny" and "witty" 300 words wins the affection of some passing lady.

So, with some trepidation I started messaging people, and started conversations with people from all over the country. Ok!Cupid has the great feature that gives you compatibility score based on the questions you've answered, and for the logical nerd within this was a total plus.

So, how was my experience? Actually, not the nose diving plane I thought it would be.

I've made friends, gone on dates, had some awkward conversations, had some weird messages, and pretty much everything else you'd expect from an online dating experience. Actually, this links in with the title. Once a message has been sent, that's it. There's no hoping the other person didn't hear, or they might laugh it off as a joke. Text is a cruel bitch, and one that doesn't convey tone particularly well.

"Like a kid in the candy store where the candy is flying off the shelves. At your face."

When I signed up, a friend of mine also did. They had a very different experience. Why? Because they are female.

sausage factory cat

Basically, she's inundated with messages from guys. A mix of genuine nice messages, such as "hey, how's it going. " and messages like "Sup babes, sex?". I've read one from a friend where the guy described how their first date would lead to his bed, do the deed, and then they'd cuddle. Definitely not the opening Von Date had in mind for his invention. All jokes aside, how can anyone think that's a valid opening to any conversion, let alone a pick up line?

On a whole, girls and guys have very different experiences.

So, should I just die alone then?

Do not despair reader (especially if you're a girl; it's like a German butchers who care very little for their stock in there) for there is still hope. Like I said, I've made some great friends online. Plus, I've met a lot of people who have gotten together online, and are now in like super committed relationships and stuff. So it does happen.

However, if you want to just cut out the human aspect of the whole process there is always this (or this).

Review: Ex_Machina

Anyone who's been paying attention to the news in the last few months, will notice there's been an unusual amount of chatter about what will happen if/when computers gain sentience (or A.I). The general gist of this news has been that the Human race is doomed, and we should just throw in the towel to our new Robotic overlords now.

However, let's not despair just yet, and perhaps indulge in a not too distant feature where A.I is on the cusps of being a reality. Enter Ex_Machina. True, this isn't the first film to tackle A.I. and the human complications associated with it (See, coincidently, the film called A.I.). So how does it compare?

Story

It starts with Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) winning a competition which takes him to go visit the technological super star Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who also happens to be Caleb's boss, for a week.

Caleb is whisked away to Nathans secluded house in the forest. Before long we learn that this isn't a house or a simple visit to see the boss for a week. It's in fact a super-secret research facility, with one hell of a project that Nathans been working on; Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Ava is an A.I, and Caleb's been brought in to test her.

All sounds pretty simple and harmless, but as the plot unfolds everything starts getting more sinister.

I'm going to quickly talk about the Tech discussed in this film. As a software developer at heart, it was nice to see that not all of this was too farfetched. Nathan is the CEO of a large Internet Search company (*Cough*), and to get Ava to work, he had to tap into everyone's phone across the worlds, and access all the cameras and microphones, and use what everyone was searching to form the base of the A.I. All of this is very close to what we have today, and what could be achieved in a not too distant future. Scary stuff!

It was also very nice to see some real computer code on screen. Something a lot of directors ignore and don't bother with. Really added to the realism of the whole film.

All of the Actors throughout the film (there aren't many) play their part exceptionally well. Caleb lacks any real personality, but it makes it much easier for the view to put themselves in his spot. As a result when he puts questions to Ava, it's exactly what the average person would ask. Gleeson does an excellent job, and it's not a performance I can fault.

The same goes to Isaac. He portrays Nathan to be exactly what you'd expect an eccentric genius to be. However it's Vikander that truly sells the A.I performance. She moves in a way that looks like something attempting to move normally. It's very much what you'd expect for a robot to move like. And no, I'm not talking 80's dancing. Vikander facial expressions are also very clever; a mixture of human and what a robot might interpret as human without being weird, and she totally nails it. Her whole performance if brilliant, and sells the concept and the movie.

Sound / Special Effects

Let's talk CGI. Many of you will have seen the trailer (if not I've added above). Throughout the film, Ava is shown to have her midsection exposed, and displaying Moving parts. Only her face, hands, and feet are actually covered in synthetic skin. The CGI used here I feel is a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes it works, and other times it looks cheap and unnecessary. We know she's a robot. We get it. At times, it looks like CGI, which takes you out of the immersion the writing and acting spend so much time building. Very minor gripe though.

However, the aesthetic of the film is spot on. Everything feels very real. Nathans forest house is subtly futuristic. It's still very much rooted in reality and functionality. The sound is something I should also comment on. Brilliant electro tracks back most of the film (think Tron), which totally add to some of the really tense moments. The sound design can be a little on the nose at times (Nathan's house has classical playing in the background all the time), but for the most part it all adds to the isolation of where house is, and the eerie tone of the film.

Wrap Up

It's rare that I'm still thinking about all the clever moments and choices well after the credits have rolled. But 24 hours later, I'm still coming up with new theories and new thoughts about why certain things happened, and what it all means.

This is Alex Garland's director debut, and he does a stunning job. He's been writing for a while (Beach, 28 days later) and his story weaving skill certainly shines here. I'm very much look forward to his next. This film is easily on the list of best of the year (It's only January?!), and will be one I'll certainly be watching again. It's on my list of favourite films of all time, and it's certainly something anyone with even a mild interest in technology should see.

Game of the Year

Since becoming an "adult" I've noticed I've had less and less time to actually game, which makes my inner child cry a little bit. However I did get to play a few and so thought "Sod it, lets share my thoughts with the 6 bots that scrape my website every few weeks". So I give to you Harry's Game of the Year!

First, some ground rules:

  • As I rarely get chance to finish games (blame my short attention span on MTV, or David Cameron, or the lack of bees, or something) any game I've played for any length of time will make the list/ be considered.
  • The game doesn't have to have been released this year. Blame Steam for this (I'm cheap... Oh and single.)
  • It's not chronological. It's my list. Deal with it.

Assassins Creed: Black Flag

Lets ignore the current shit storm revolving around Assassins Creed 5, and roll back 12 months to a good Assassins Creed game (Don't roll back another year. AC:3 sits on my worst game list). Black flag had everything I wanted from from a pirate game. Rum, pirates, ships, wenches, rum, sword fighting, rum, and of course rum. Sailing the high seas never looked so good, and fighting on the beach or in the jungle was gorgeous while still being functional (See AC: 5).

blackflag

The story was more confusing than our current political system, and would introduce characters who would then do something and then disappeared again for reasons, but was so difficult to notice these flaws when you're broadsiding a ship while yelling "Fire everything!".

Transistor

Ah Transistor. I actually wrote a review for this for a friends website, and thoroughly praised it. If you've not played it, then go ahead and do! Both it's sound track and art style are wonderful that I can't bring myself to make any form of crass joke about it (go ahead and quote that Super Giant Games; I give permission).

transistor

It's biggest flaw has to be that I've had no reason to go back to it (except enjoy the soundtrack). This makes me sad, and I loved the world and characters. Bring on the next game Super Giant Games! I'm waiting!!!

Pokemon, Y & Alpha Saphire

This year I've played both Pokemon Y and Alpha Saphire. First thing any trainer notices is how sod off easy these games have gotten. This isn't just calling my younger self a moron (seriously though younger me, get your shit together), but literally anyone can finish this game without an issue (as proven using Twitch and a goldfish). Your team ends up over powered without even trying. It's a real shame that any sense of challenge has been stripped. This, coupled with the a load of new Pokemon I couldn't give two shits about (there's one that looks like a key chain... That's a thing), and forgetful gyms and towns, made for a pretty forgettable journey, in Pokemon Y.

Pokemon

Alpha Sapphire now suffers from the above too. However, it does have the nostalgia factor which initially sold it for me. But holy crap do the towns and overall design feel a little dated now. Why is everything designed for 2 dimensions, yet you can run in three dimensions? But here's the thing though; Pokemon is still great. Characters are still charming. Battling is still irritatingly addictive. And I still get a kick out of bossing a Gym. I'll be buying the next one, and shamefully enjoy it.

Hearthstone

The spawn of Activision's Cash cow "World Of Warcraft", Hearthstone has carved a nice little nieche for itself over this past year. It's one of those weird card games that super easy to pick up, but very difficult to master. Plus as you can play it competitively online, it totally appeals to my narcissistic side.

HearthStone Logo

With now the addition of a tablet version, its rather likely I'll be playing this game well into the new year. Oh and it totally goes with my short attention span!

Far Cry 3

Ok, this one obviously didn’t come out this year, but due to the wonderful invention of Steam I've been able to pick up the gem for very little money.

Far Cry 3

With it's great game play (stalking through the brush with a bow and arrow) and just feeling like a total bad ass through out, of course this game had to make my list.

Honorable Mention

Much like Fry Cry 3, this game was just a who lot of fun to play. Also, it's a great conversation piece. I am, of course, referring to Tomb Raider. Another one not out this year, but thanks to Steam I could play it on the cheap. The line I use to describe it is "it's like a Tom Cruise Movie; you know it's ridiculous but you'll enjoy it". Lara Croft gets repeatedly screwed over, and quite frankly I'm amazed she has any bones left. Oh and that tank top is exceptionally resilient. Pri-mark eat your heart out.

Tomb Raider

There is of course that moment where you face off against a boss, and it's subsequently defeated by a quick time event. Not that I'm bitter about that. Not after all that build up. Nope. Not at all. Oh, it was also one of the games I actually managed to finish this year! Go me!

Overall Winner

The pub on Christmas Eve is a wonderful thing. You get to enjoy some great banter with mates, and make fun of people you've not seen in years... Which for me usually means being the butt of several jokes. I told my friend that I was writing this, and put they question to them. He came back with Shadow of Mordor, which I've not played. Useless friend, I was hoping he'd be able to narrow it down. Basically, I don't have a favourite... Lol JK! It was Transistor. Yes, I know that's all hipster and stuff, but it's a game I'm constantly telling people to buy, and I still listen to the soundtrack. Having said that, everything on the above list was a joy to play, and if you've not played them already; go and play them already! It's good to be a gamer in this day and age.

Merry Christmas all!

Happy New Year

Happy New year everyone. This is the time of year everyone decides to reinvent themselves, and everyone deems it socially acceptable to do so. I now feel old enough that I can partake in this "resolution" stuff, and so this year I'll be attempting two things.

1. Learn how to cook

I can't cook. Like flat out can't cook. I don't have the patients, nor the desire to actually cook. However this year I'm determined to try and gain a leash over the unwieldy beast that is my cooker, a lasso around the mischievous microwave, and a tranquiliser dart into the bemusing blender (damn that's a lot of sexy alliteration). The challenge is to cook a new meal each week. Hopefully by the end of the year I'll have forgotten how to cook 52 different meals.

2. Write more

Easy one really. I've done the odd review over the last year, but I'd really like to do more. This kinda explains the site redesign, as well as the two new posts already! Posts will range from Tech stuff to reviews to whatever really. This is another weekly effort, and hopefully by the end of the year I'll have 52 posts that are badly written and no one's read.

So, bring on 2015. Come at me bro, I'm ready for you!

CakePHP – Working with Linux, Windows, and Netbeans

This website was made using CakePHP, which is a nice MVC PHP framework. It takes a lot of the development time out of doing some of the more basic stuff. It also helps with code reuse and structure. Netbeans has an add-on that allows you to develop CakePHP apps with everything already set up; very useful! This was of course on Windows.

So, after a couple of hours of development I was ready to put this site onto my server and release it into the wild. Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple. Yay issues...

I did a straight copy and paste from Windows to Linux using FileZilla, and found that it just didn't work at all. Not good. So after some faffing about, I got well and truly stumped. So I created this thread on StackOverflow. This yielded some response, and one useful piece of information; folder naming. Linux cares about the case of the Folder names, whereas Windows apparently doesn't. So the straight transfer caused issues. It took me a good number of hours to find this: "app/config/core.php". In Windows, "config" defaults to lower case, whereas Linux requires it with a capital - "app/Config/core.php". This does imply that the Netbeans add-on is a little broken, so watch out for that!

My advice is that if you can't see this mistake, take a break from working for a few hours and come back. It really helps with noticing these silly errors.

"Yes! It's displaying something... Oh wait hang on... Wha... Ah crap" - Me, several hours ago. My next issue was that "/var/www/lib/Cake/Cache/CacheEngine.php" time zone wasn't set. As a result, it was causing a wonderful error to appear on the index page. Adding this "using date_default_timezone_set('Europe/London');" to the file worked wonders. Problem solved! Just add it to the area where you're getting the error. Oh and change the time zone as appropriate (Check the list of timezones here).

I then went on to switch the database over from my local copy to my development machine. Simple config change right? Yep. Errors? Yep. The application wasn't connecting to the database; I needed "mysqlpdo", which is a database driver. More information can be found here.

You can check if it's working by creating a small PHP page in your index of your website that displays all information about stuff using this function: "phpinfo();". On this page, it states if this module is online and working - look for "pdo". This should have driver information. If nothing is there, you'll need to add it to PHP.ini file. Using that page and those instructions, as well as StackOverflow, I finally got the darn thing working.

But that's not quite the end unfortunately. All the error messages were gone, but it wouldn't view any of the other pages, only the index. I'm using a pretty standard Apache2 webserver, so after messing around with the .htaccess files, I found that what I actually needed to do was modify the apache2 configuration file to allow for "AllowOverride All" within the section that outlined where my application was stored. For most this will be /var/www/.

At last, success! I'm not going to lie, I exclaimed very loudly when it finally worked - housemate was a little confused when I went running into his room and demanded a High-five.

I know this isn't the most in-depth guide or anything, but hopefully it might point someone in the right direct in the future/remind me of how I got it set up. Enjoy!
Cheers,
Harry

Final Year project - Part One

I'm currently a final year student, which means I need to do a final year project, plus a 10,000 word report! Joys!

So, for my project I'm "virtualising" a wall mounted pin board, and adding social networking features. One of the key features of this is to present a simple and easy to use user interface- i.e. you actually drag notes and other items onto the board to be pinned. I'll put up an early example soon!

As I continue with this project, I'll post screenshots and more information as I go. Hopefully people will be interested in alpha testing, ad feedback is crucial!

Cheers,
Harry

Yes! First Post!

Hello all!
This is my first post on this site, and hopefully won’t be the last! I keep making new websites, just because I love doing it. Over the years I’ve had so many blogs/websites that I’ve never stuck too. But this time I’m going to stick with this, and just fill it with content.

I’m not 100% what the content will be; most likely random stuff I find, code I write, or just weird stories that happen. Either way, I hope you enjoy reading, and find some use of the content I put on here.

Anyway, I’ll let you guys get on!
Have fun,
Harry