GNU Terry Pratchett

The news is a little old now, but I wanted to acknowledge Terry Pratchett’s passing.

He meant a lot to many of us, and his was the first celebrity death that affected me emotionally. His brand of fiction shaped the way I think about the importance of fantasy to our humanity. That phrase – “where the falling angel meets the rising ape” –  is crucial to the way I see myself, and humanity. If we have the humility to see ourselves as closer to earth than heaven, then we are moving upwards to greatness. That’s a positive message, and gives me hope for myself.

As my own little remembrance, I am offering a little code snippet. Webmasters can all contribute to an ongoing commemoration by setting the following HTTP header: X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry PratchettContinue reading

Review: Kobo mini

I was recently at my local JB Hi-Fi browsing around (as most gadget geeks do) and noticed that the Kobo Mini had reached the impulse-buy price of $50. As part of her due diligence on a similar purchase, P had asked me to look at a bunch of e-readers and tablets and I had confirmed her conclusion that the Glo model was good. For my needs, though, I had stuck with the tablets I already owned (an iPad and a Nexus 7). Still, I figured that $50 would be worth experimenting with e-ink myself.

I’ve been using it for a couple weeks now, and here are my thoughts. Continue reading

Gaming Rig – Finishing Touches

In this final part of the series, I’m going to finish choosing the parts for my new gaming rig. So far, we’ve got CPU, RAM and motherboard. These are very important parts of any computer, but we’re still missing some crucial pieces.

Graphics Card

This is the meat of a gaming rig, isn’t it? At the end of the day, your FPS (or “fips“) and gaming experience are largely dictated by your video card. And the field is huge. If I thought CPU model numbers arbitrary and RAM specs transparent as a battleship bulkhead, then this is the moment I’ve been dreading.

The last video card I bought

Back in the day, life was easy. ATI was only just finding their feet, so I was able to boil the choice down to Nvidia GeForce2 (easy on the wallet) or the GeForce3 (easy on the eyes). The current state of play is much more confusing. It’s still a toss-up between these two brands, but they sell so many models.

With a sigh, I start up the searches again. Once again, it’s Tom to the rescue with “Best Graphics Cards For The Money: June 2012“. Conveniently, this article is organized by price and tests each card against a number of benchmarking programs and games. Continue reading

Gaming Rig – Core components

So, having decided to build my own computer for the first time in almost a decade, I need to figure out what parts I’m going to buy, and how much I’m going to spend on them. In this first part, I’ll choose the three components that I think about when building any machine: the CPU, the memory, and the motherboard.


Let’s start at the heart of any computer. There are only two CPUs manufacturers in the PC market, and they’re probably much of a muchness. I’m going with Intel mainly because they’ve recently released a new line of processors (codenamed Ivybridge).

So far, Intel have only put out a limited range of Ivybridge chips, but I’m sure there will be something that suits my needs.

A nice feature of these Ivybridge chips is that the built-in HD Graphics 4000 module (apparently it’s called “discrete” despite being part of the chip) is quite beefy and supports DirectX 11, which is something my iMac can’t handle. Should I need to stretch my budget, I can take advantage of this by delaying the purchase of the video card. Continue reading

Gaming Rigs

Arcade Machines

It’s been a long time since I really cared about gaming hardware. Indeed, I got into console gaming and Macs partly to get out of the eternal upgrade cycle that comes with PC gaming. But then I got hooked into Lord of the Rings Online, and discovered that my iMac is a decent low/mid-range gaming machine.

I’ve been puttering along for over 12 months, and with a few exceptions, I have been quite satisfied with the performance I’ve gotten. And then, E3 came along with all its demos (which I have been ignoring), but I couldn’t quite pass up news of the Riders of Rohan update for LOTRO. Massively had this to say:

What really shined was how the character was able to roam the rolling fields of Rohan freely. Wherever the character walked, grass, weeds, and flowers reacted and gave way. When the character stepped into the Fangorn Forest, the light shining through the trees was very dynamic. It’s clear there was a strong graphical upgrade from previous versions.

Now, it’s a given that any update to a 5 year old game is going to seem miraculous, but it got me thinking: my iMac is two years old. For most tasks, it’s fine; the most strenuous non-gaming activity I put it through is basic photo work, and it’s more than adequate at that. Also, the ATI HD4670 is getting a little long in the tooth: it doesn’t support DirectX 11, and was kind of old and cheap when I bought the iMac (which was a recent model).

So I asked myself, “Assuming that I have the finances and will, what are my options?” Continue reading