Sunday, 28 November 2010

Why not to use Steam

My wife was never particularly "into" computers. However, once she met me, she saw me playing a particular game and gradually became addicted.

That game was Sid Meier's Civilization. In those days, it would have been Civ II. When we were dating she would quite happily kick me off my computer (the only one in the house in those days) to spend hours on this game.

For those not in the know, Civilization is a turn-based world domination game. Very complex, games can typically take anything up to 10 hours gametime, so its the kind of game one can definitely "get into"!

Anyway, we got married, we moved house, we bought computers. Civilization, too, evolved. Through III, to IV, she bought them all. After the "standard" Civ IV, there were spin-off games, and she bought them all. Two or three years ago, she even bought herself a laptop, for other stuff as well but playing Civ was a big factor.

You get the picture...

Anyway, imagine her excitement when she hears that Civ V was being released! I must admit, I thought I had her christmas present sorted, but she just couldn't wait and went out and bought the game herself. It was then that her problems began. You see, what she didn't realise was that her laptop was not longer a good enough spec to run the new game. Very disappointing.

But still, I quite like Civilization too, and the spec of my computer is good enough to run the game. So, disappointing for Jacqueline, but at least the money wasn't wasted. It could have been her christmas present to me.

Until, that is, Steam get involved. Steam is a software distribution mechanism which is used by Civilization and other programs. And because Jacqueline installed and attempted to play the game, it is registered to her. The only shortcoming of their mechanism is that once registered, it is not possible to de-register - an intentional oversight, perhaps? So, bang go any hopes of registering it to me instead.

This really pisses me off since my wife has bought this dvd, a totally pucker piece of software, complete with totally pucker license to run it, and what she is left with is nothing, nada. She can't even mitigate her mistake by giving the software to someone else. So there's thirty quid just gone.

Ostensibly this is about piracy, but of course it is plain to me that it is just about profiteering. They are forcing people to buy the game from them and from them alone, and completely taking out the second-hand market. I'm sorry but when confronted with such an intransigent attitude all I can say is good luck to the pirates.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

White World

Britain has been gripped over the last few days by a cold snap, lots of regions have had snow and even where we live, normally missing the worst of the weather, there was a smattering of snow last night. I had to drive home in it though, and it was very light - a fraction of a centimetre as opposed to the tens of centimetres that fell elsewhere.

Light snow as seen from our webcam

But it remains very cold - I keep a bike at Waterloo and commute across London on it is hard work at the moment. I don't think I'll be taking the road bike out this weekend.....though I may ride it on the trainer in the lounge.

Work-wise, if you've read other entries in the blog you'll know that I run my own consultancy company, more something I just "do" these days rather than enjoy. I have a decision to make this weekend, for my current clients have offered to extend their contract for another year. I can think of many, many reasons not to do so, but it provides an easy route to generating income for the company, and untimately to me paying the mortgage.

So its a big step to walk, although I have a very good technical skillset and the market is quite buoyant at the moment. My instincts tell me that I am well-placed.

Well, its eight o'clock on a Saturday, and we have no particular plans for the weekend. Jacqueline mentioned visiting Blaskford Lakes if the weather is bright - although the hides there will be cold. Alice meantime has decamped to the sofa where she is watching Spongebob Squarepants - an eleven-year-old. But I am beyond worry, Alice continually makes it clear that when she grows up, the world will owe her a living.

Generally fed up.

Monday, 22 November 2010

First of the year!

Well, in the following entries you'll be able to read about all the woes I've had with my web server, and as a result, with my ability to blog. Consequently, this is the first proper blog, I think, of 2010.

There's not much point in going over what I didn't write about, but I'll try to add detail where it may be necessary.

The weekend was rather quiet, although Alice is giving us jip at the moment. Saturday morning we went into Salisbury, Alice to her tutors, Jacqueline and I into town for a coffee. It remains really nice just to have some "us-time". The only thing is, we've both got new phones at the moment (I got a Samsung Galaxy, and am majorly impressed after upgrading from my painful old Windows Mobile device) so probably spent most of coffee playing on our respective toys.

I'm totally new to Android but am impressed with the applications available for it. I'm a fan of Ordnance Survey mapping software called Memory Map, and at the weekend I even found an application which will read their maps on my new phone. To be honest, it was being able to use Memory Map which made me keep my Windows phone for so long. Ah......gadgets!

The new phone has come in useful, though. I went out on a short bike ride yesterday [I should probably explain that back in June I got myself a Trek road bike which I adore more than my family. During the summer I went out riding at every opportunity, mostly in the New Forest, and even managed to crash at the end of August and break my collar bone, although obviously I'm all better now], along a route I'd never ridden before, took a wrong turn, and used Google Maps to get me back on track. Brilliant.

Another gadget of mine is a Garmin cycle computer, whose hi-tekkiness resulted in this output from yesterday's ride. Don'tcha just love technology? The point of this ride was to climb Dean Hill, which defeated me a month or so ago. This time I climbed it no problem, although I should say that the ride I did a month ago was far longer and comprised several climbs before Dean Hill. But now I've done it once, there's no further excuse!

What else? Well, Saturday afternoon I went out to the local Garden Centre and spent a whopping £38 on stuff for the garden birds over the winter. This included a massive tub of peanuts, a couple new feeders (the ones I've used for the last few years were on their way out) plus a couple of new nest boxes which I need to hang out at some point. I have to say that the garden looks something of a mess, though, since because of my collar bone I never got any important gardening done - where I would normally clear stuff, I spent September just gone in a sling.

Of course, the other major activity this weekend was launching this blog. Transporting my old entries across has proven to be quite labour-intensive, I'm having to go through every one of the old posts and am actively having to correct things like web links. Of 419 entries to start, I'm now down to around 325 to go, I think. Going back in time (my first blog entry appeared in November 2003), this equates to going back as far as mid-2007. But because of the intensiveness, I can only really import 25 entries per session, say, so I think it'll be a few weeks before all is sorted. On the plus-side, though, last week I moved my broken web site to new, hosted, hardware, and everything apart from the blog has gone extremely smoothly.

One last thing. Yesterday's ride was also used to try out some new winter kit from Assos - some gloves and some bib tights. Very expensive kit, but sooooooooooo good. I was lucky enough to get the bib tights off eBay (even on eBay they cost £150!), but I had to buy the gloves from a bike shop. What can I say? This stuff is just the best. Off the back of the ride last night I bought a couple of pairs of Assos winter socks, and am going to ask Father Christmas for a Body Insulator top. Superb kit.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

An explanation....

Six months ago I managed to squeeze out a blog entry from my dying web server, and it turned out to be the last.

As someone who works in IT, I took the decision way back in 2002 to host my web site on my own web server, and followed this up in 2003 with a self-authored blogging application. Well, several years later, the blogging app still worked well, but the server was on its knees. Unfortunately over the years my enthusiasm for anything technical has now waned somewhat, and it has taken me this long to start to do something about it.

Originally, I thought I would just replace the server, and indeed a twin-processor blade server sits idle in my garage, where it has been for several months. My motivation is so low that I've now concluded that the only way to get my stuff up and running once again is to pay someone else to host my site. This is great for the web site, but the blogging application seems to be sufficiently complicated that my basic hosting service can't support it.

So, another decision, to move the blog onto And here's the result. Over the coming weeks and months I'll gradually populate my back-catalogue of blog entries, but over the 7 years I've been blogging, this amounts to over 400 entries. I'm planning on checking each entry to make sure it looks ok on within the environment, so this is going to take some time.

So, when you hear me talk about server problems, blog problems, etc. in posts which pre-date this, I'm probably talking about all my old kit which is now, alas, defunct.

On the plus side, fewer servers make wifey happy!