Super Mario Galaxy 2 blasts off in 5 weeks!

6 05 2010

Super Mario Galaxy was a massive hit. We’re talking Quinine in Equatorial countries popular – it was that huge. And now they’re releasing a sequel – makes sense, right? That said, Nintendo have been slightly funny about their bread-and-butter Mario platform titles in recent years, having not released a direct sequel since Super Mario 64 back in 1996 (or depending on how you look at it, Super Mario World in 1991, which was followed by Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, a sequel by name but entirely different in style and gameplay) and it is with baited moustaches that we await this year’s proper sequel, Super Mario Galaxy 2.

The 3D Super Mario platform efforts have all been wonderful in their own right, with 64, Sunshine and the original Galaxy all being massive commercial and critical successes, so Miyamoto and friends really have their work cut out. As it happens only releasing one title per generation of console seems like an excellent way to punctuate the series, allowing the gameplay to largely remain tinker-free (with the addition of some neat touches and added extras to bulk things up) but each new iteration to seem fresh and beautiful on a more powerful and capable nth-generation console. Sunshine was a great game in its own right, but if we’re being honest who wasn’t happy that they basically took the mechanics of 64, spruced up the textures and gave us a new world to have a crack at? Moreover, not only do they have their first same-console direct contest within the series for 14 years to contend with, it’s also following the hugely successful New Super Mario Bros. Wii, the game that reminded us all how wonderful the old days were in a way that was entirely genuine, without a hint of irony, fad or rose-tinted glasses. How do we think they’ll do?

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Halo: Reach BETA is going for silver

6 05 2010

My cousin was being incredibly smug a few days ago. He’s been playing Halo: Reach BETA pretty much non-stop since it launched, and was laughing that I couldn’t play it because I haven’t gotten around to renewing my Xbox Live Gold membership yet. Well guess what – Silver members are going to get their turn! Admittedly, it’s only for a very small window, but between the 14th and 17th of May everyone gets to have a go at the most talked about Xbox 360 BETA title so far. Not so smug now, Gold members!

Thanks to for the tip-off!

PC Plus 295 on sale now!

5 05 2010

Just a quick head’s up – issue 295 of PC Plus went on sale yesterday (4th May 2010) and features two more features from yours truly, as well as loads of great news, features, reviews and tests. It costs £5.99 and also comes with a free disc with loads of great free software.

My articles are:

  • A tutorial on how to protect, roll back and backup your PC with Comodo Time Machine
  • A community feature on scientific research using volunteer computing and BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing)

‘Erasing David’ – Staying under the information radar

5 05 2010

Last night, I watched a very interesting documentary film. I missed the first 20 minutes or so as I’d been out, but my other half filled me in on what had happened to that point, and I was soon quite involved in the tale of David Bond. David, for reasons I missed at the start of the film, decided to conduct an experiment on the nature of our ‘database state’ by trying to disappear for 30 days, while being tracked by a pair of private investigators. In all honesty I think the idea is a fantastic one, I absolutely loved it – I mean, who wouldn’t like the opportunity to play at Jason Bourne without the danger of your girlfriend being taken out by a sniper early into the second movie?

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Marathon running for geeks – the aftermath

28 04 2010

Just a quick update to let you all know how we got on – we did it!

Virgin London Marathon 2010 Medals

The hardest thing I've ever had to do, but the sense of pride and achievement is incredible, and we've raised a lot of money for Cancer Research UK!

Emma and I completed the Virgin London Marathon 2010 in 6:39:50 – we were on target for somewhere between 5 and 5-and-a-half hours after the first 7 or 8 miles, then my left ankle blew out and that slowed us down rather a lot! It’s funny, I’d spent so much time worrying about my pre-existing medical issues (shin splints, dodgy knees) that I didn’t anticipate a different part of my body giving way quite so badly, but we were just very pleased to finish given the number of people on stretchers and disappearing in ambulances on the day. Far better to limp round at a slower pace than to push it and not finish, given how long we’ve spent training, how hard we’ve worked, and how important raising this money for charity is – I would have crawled over the finish line if it had come down to it! You may also have seen two people in bright pink tutus and legwarmers overtaking a smurf on Tower Bridge being interviewed on the BBC – that was us, and we looked damn fetching 🙂

Thanks to everyone for their support, and if anybody is reading this who was in the crowd on Sunday – you were all amazing, and it would have been so much harder without you all. There’s still a couple of months where we can collect money for this marathon effort, please visit

Marathon running for geeks – supplemental

23 04 2010

With the Virgin London Marathon 2010 less than two days away now, what does a geek do to prepare? They’ve finished their hardcore training and have tapered off the effort so as not to cause any damage or pick up any new injuries, they’re stuffing themselves with unfeasably high numbers of carbohydrates and calories to load up on energy pre-event, and sitting around waiting for the day is causing their nerves to shred a teensy bit. So as a result of having some free time, mostly sitting, and looking for a distraction, they play with technology. Geo location technology, to be specific, that is going to track me and my good lady Emma around the Marathon course for friends to follow our progress online.

My Blackberry died yesterday – I got an error stating ‘SIM not provisioned:2’ which turned out to be a faulty chip on the SIM (if you move the SIM to another phone the issue follows it, but the phone will work with a different SIM in). If this happens to you, ring up your provider’s tech support and get them to ship you out a new SIM then transfer your account across – I was without my phone for a day, but having reported it at 2pm yesterday (and making a bit of a fuss at the call centre) they couriered me one out for 9am, and I was up and running by 1 this afternoon. Incidentally, this phone-death put me into a bit of a flap as it was my Blackberry I was intending to use when playing with geo location service Google Latitude, but now with the phone back to health I could put my plan into action. The steps are as follows:

  1. Install Google Maps on your device, either from an app store or by visiting from your handset
  2. From the Google Maps menu, select Join Latitude and sign in with your Google Account (or register for one)
  3. Sign up for a Google Public Location Badge here –
  4. Follow the steps to generate an embed code
  5. You can then paste the embed code into a web page, anything that supports embedding the iFrame html tag will do (unfortunately that’s not, but you can do it on self-hosted blogs). I chose to open a Blogger/Blogspot blog for this, as their blogs are owned by Google and they support the embedding of the app

From there, it will track your location to the best of its ability given the accuracy of the location information provided by your handset. My phone doesn’t have GPS so relies on the mobile coverage for tracking, but still usually tracks me to within a couple of dozen feet even in the wilds of Yorkshire, so coverage in our nation’s capital should be far better and the accuracy will be pretty tight. Please remember though, that if you’ve chosen to enable a Google Public Location Badge through Latitude Apps (and it will warn you of this at great length) that once you’ve created the embed code, the embed code will always exist. If you take down the page with your embedded frame on it, if somebody has chosen to scrape the link of the frame and embed it somewhere else, your location will still be visible. You can go back to the Location Badge page to disable the feature, though, or simply stop sharing your Latitude location from your device.

DIY Google Latitude Marathon Tracker

Tracking my trips to and from work aren't very exciting, but come Sunday 25th April you'll see me running around London from 9.45am!

Thus far, mine has only shown me travelling to and from work (not very interesting) but we’re travelling down to London tomorrow and the Marathon starts around 9.45am. If you want to follow our progress, visit:

And if you want to sponsor us in aid of Cancer Research UK, please visit:

Marathon running for geeks

30 03 2010

If I come up against some kind of challenge, task or obstacle, my first thought is usually “what could I utilise to make this easier?” I find a spoonful of technology makes the world go round, or some other confusing kind of mixed metaphor, but the principle works. If you want to paint a room, use one of those self-cleaning even-distributing electronic paint pods, rather than getting more paint on yourself and your carpet using the traditional tray-and-roller method. If you need information on the move use your data-enabled smartphone, rather than scouting around for an internet cafe, paying £3 an hour and feeling obliged to drink stale filter for the duration. If you’re booking a holiday use the web to find the best price and comparison sites to get real reviews on the destination and hotel, rather than trusting to travel agents who are basically obsolete in this digital age (and will tell you anything to make a sale given the massive amount of business they have lost to the web). What can you use, though, if the challenge is one of pure physical endurance and stamina? How can technology help if the task is simply you, 26.2 miles, and a whole lot of pavement? I’m running the London Marathon to raise money for Cancer Research UK (you can sponsor me by visiting my JustGiving page), but what technology can you utilise to help you get around a marathon? 

The London Marathon

I will be in there (somewhere) come April 25th this year.

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