Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bark: Virtual Air Guitar

Best. Thing. Ever.

The Virtual Air Guitar project, developed at the Helsinki University of Technology, adds genuine electric guitar sounds to the air guitar.

Using a computer to monitor the hand movements of the 'player', it adds riffs and licks to match frantic mid-air finger work, reports New Scientist.

I wonder if it does the sounds if you smash the air guitar into the amp...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Byte: Death of a hero

DoomRL (v.0.9.8 (WIN-S)) roguelike post-mortem character dump

Iain, level 6 soldier, killed by a hell knight
on level 16 of the Phobos base.
He survived 104599 turns and scored 25803 points.

He killed 389 out of 489 hellspawn. (80%)

He stormed the Chained Court.
He ventured into the Halls of Carnage.
He fought on Hell's Arena.
He witnessed the City of Skulls.

-- Statistics ------------------------------------------------

Health -2/80 Experience 20832/6
ToHit +3 ToDmg Ranged +1 ToDmg Melee +1

-- Traits ----------------------------------------------------

Ironman (Level 3)
Tough as nails (Level 1)
Son of a bitch (Level 1)
Eagle Eye (Level 1)

-- Equipment -------------------------------------------------

[a] [ Armor ] red armor [4/4] (66%)
[b] [ Weapon ] rocket launcher (4d4) [0/1]
[c] [ Boots ] plasteel boots [8/8] (66%)

-- Inventory -------------------------------------------------

[a] green armor [1/1] (77%)
[b] blue armor [2/2] (91%)
[c] chainsaw (4d6)
[d] double shotgun (6d3)x2 [2/2]
[e] chaingun (1d6)x5 [25/50]
[f] plasma rifle (1d8)x8 [0/40]
[g] BFG 9000 (8d8) [0/100]
[h] 10mm ammo (x100)
[i] 10mm ammo (x100)
[j] 10mm ammo (x100)
[k] 10mm ammo (x40)
[l] shotgun shell (x16)
[m] shotgun shell (x50)
[n] rocket (x9)
[o] rocket (x10)
[p] rocket (x10)

-- Kills -----------------------------------------------------

82 former humans
66 former human sergeants
34 former human captains
45 imps
33 demons
52 lost souls
19 cacodemons
4 barons of hell
10 hell knights
5 arachnotrons
6 former human commanders

-- History ---------------------------------------------------

He started his journey on the suface of Phobos.
On level 2 he battled through a maze of rooms.
Afterwards he fought on Hell's Arena.
On level 3 he battled through a maze of rooms.
On level 4 he found hellish caves.
He then stormed the Chained Court.
On level 5 he battled through a maze of rooms.
On level 6 he battled through a maze of rooms.
On level 7 he battled through a maze of rooms.
On level 8 he found a hellish city.
On level 9 he found a hellish city.
On level 10 he battled through a maze of rooms.
On level 11 he battled through a maze of rooms.
On level 12 he battled through a maze of rooms.
He then ventured into the Halls of Carnage.
On level 13 he battled through a maze of rooms.
He then ventured into the Halls of Carnage.
On level 14 he battled through a maze of rooms.
On level 15 he battled through a maze of rooms.
Then he found the City of Skulls.
On level 16 he battled through a maze of rooms.
There finally he was killed by a hell knight.

-- General ---------------------------------------------------

Before him 4 brave souls have ventured into Phobos:
3 of those were killed.
And 1 couldn't handle the stress and commited a stupid suicide.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Bark: No wonder there's a crisis

Physics is in the news today, because there's apparently a severe shortage of Physics teachers, and it might disappear off the curriculum within 10 years. No wonder there's a crisis when venerable establishments like the BBC can't even get stories about Physics right.

"No equation is anywhere near as recognisable as E = mc2" they say. Shame it's WRONG. That's not Einstein's equation. E = mc2 is a gross simplification of the full equation, made for just the purposes of sounding snappy and sexy.

The full equation (which the article alludes to, but does not state) is:

E2 = m2c4 + p2c2 (where 'p' is momentum: the product of mass 'm' and velocity 'v')

For most practical purposes, E = mc2 is a useless equation, because very rarely in Physics do you need to calculate the energy of a stationary object. It's just trundled out at regular intervals to show how brilliant Einstein was, and for a degree educated Physicist like myself, it's annoying, because it's portrayed as being the be-all and end-all of our grasp of Physics, when the equation itself doesn't mean anything - it doesn't give you an accurate picture. It's like using Newtonian Mechanics to describe how electrons orbit the nucleii of atoms. It may give the common or garden ignoramus a picture in their minds eye that they can relate to, but it's not right. That's not the way things are. I would go into the details of how electrons exist in quantum probability shells around the nucleii of atoms, but you'd probably just glaze over at this point and say "Physics is too hard".

That's a myth, too, I'm afraid. I'm about as lazy as they come, and I got a decent degree in it. Physics is a subject of staggering importance in people's day to day lives. You wouldn't have non-stick frying pans without Physics. You wouldn't have aeroplanes, computers, cars, electric lights, mobile phones, televisions, digital watches, cyclone-action hoovers, ballpoint pens, the clockwork radio, contact lenses, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging medical scanners, or just about any major invention from the last 4000 years either, dating right back to the catapult and the Archimedes Screw.

There's something fundamentally wrong with the modern generation of kids, if they all want the latest electronic gadgets, but are too lazy or too stupid to be interested to find out science behind how they came to be invented. Whatever happened to childhood curiousity?

If A-level Physics does disappear from our classrooms, not only would it be a tragedy for UK industry, but on a personal level so many more people won't have an idea of not just how stuff works, but *why* stuff works. Learning how stuff works is important, but it's the understanding of *why* it works that leads to further innovation.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Byte: DoomRL

I was trawling around The Home of the Underdogs, my favourite Abandonware site, when I happened upon this rather wonderful bit of Freeware, DoomRL.

It's a remake of Doom, but as a Rogue-like ASCII based hack-n-slash RPG; hence the name, DoomRL. It may sound like an odd concept, but once you learn all the commands and get to grips with it, you'll love it. DoomRL has the same kind of appeal as hack-n-slash classics like Nethack and ZangbandTK. They're not going to graphically set your world alight, but they're lots of fun if you can see past the archaic interface. A definite cult classic in the making, and only a 1MB zipped download.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bark: Thanks, but no...

I'd just like to make a public service announcement.

Can everyone please stop sending me credit card "offers". I already have a credit card that has a £6000 credit limit and a far lower rate of interest than the pre-approved Gold and Platinum cards you'd love to get me into even more debt with.

Please think about the number of trees you're needlessly murdering trying to offer me something I don't want. Your corporate greed is slowly killing us all.

Thank you very much.

Byte: You see? It *is* good for something after all...

Slightly overdue, but my Civilization 4 review went up today. I'm really quite proud of the intense naffness of the opening two lines. I think it's funny anyway, so hopefully I'll get away with it.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm gripped by strategy fever at the moment. Other than a brief stab at Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, I haven't played an FPS in months (Operation Flashpoint: Elite doesn't really count). I'm almost relieved to get Civilization 4 out of the way, because that will allow me to concentrate on UFO: Aftershock, which I ordered last week from Play, after the Cenega PR's reticence to send out a review copy, followed by their temerity to pester us for a review... Not that I'm grumbling about spending the money - it's a title worth buying, so it will be nice to doubly aid ALTAR Interactive's bottom line, firstly by buying it myself, and then writing a review which will hopefully convince other people to do the same.

I've not had much time to devote to it so far (since I was polishing off an Advance Wars: Dual Strike review last night), but what I've played, I've liked. Lots. Some of the presentation is a little raw around the edges, but its got the same depth and addictiveness factor of the UFO/X-Com of old. I can see myself playing this far beyond the time I have alloted to write the review in. It's a massive improvement upon UFO: Aftermath, so should garner an even larger cult following. Look out for my definitive verdict in the next couple of weeks.

Also on the gaming menu at the moment is X3: Reunion. I've not played either of its predecessors, despite picking up X2 in late August (I never quite got around to it). The rather colossal install would portend that you're in for a visual treat, and how. It's *gorgeous*. I know this isn't saying much, given the level of competition over the last few years, but X3 is the sexiest space game ever made. Dressed up to the nines at 1280x1024 on my rig, it makes my CPU and graphics card chunter under the strain. Arguably, it's one of the best looking games of the year. Not only that, it's got a game to back it up as well. First impressions so far indicate that this is the game Frontier: First Encounters wanted to be. Definite staying potential. Again, keep your eyes peeled for a review soon.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bark: One to watch

I don't know if you've seen this yet, but Broken News on BBC2 has been brilliant over the last couple of weeks. It's a fantastic spoof on the 24 Hour News phenomenon. There's a lot of rhetorical and nonsensical dialogue, but the real charm of the program is sheer lunacy of some of the characters: Kevin Day's stockmarket watcher is a real treat, as is the utter hypocrisy of the film critic, plus the concept of an ESN reporter being "embedded" on the International Space Station with NASA.

The beauty of the program is in the details: the absurdist items in the headline tickers, the overly brusque reporters, the anchor switching in the middle of sentences, the "standing up news", and many, many more. It's terribly well observed and very funny.

Bark: Grey Paris

My girlfriend and I had the most wonderful weekend in Paris, which (being November) was less "Gay" (as in the happy, jolly sense) and more "Grey" (as in the weather). Let's just say that it was a bit chilly, and I'm now nursing the early signs of a bad cold, which I will be undoubtedly be trying to beat back with the anti-oxidants packed into a bottle of very fine red wine. As the maitre-d of the restaurant we had lunch in yesterday said, you should drink red wine "pour les vitamins".

We had an unaccustomedly early start on Saturday morning: we were out of bed at 6am and out of the door three-quarters of an hour later, in order to get a train in Woking around 7.20am. This gave us plenty of time to check in a Waterloo, and we were on the Eurostar by 9am. Normally on a Saturday at this time, I'd still be tucked up in bed! The Eurostar itself is fabulous: fast (well, at least on the other side of the Channel), smooth and comfortable - if only all trains were like it! A little under three hours later, and we arrive in Paris, just in time for lunch. A half-kilometre hike, and we're soon dropping off our bags at the hotel, before immediately heading back out, walking from Gare de Nord down to the Eiffel Tower, via Opera and the Place de la Concorde, stopping off for lunch along the way (entrecote frites for me, washed down with a couple of glasses of vin chaud).

Paris is a beautiful city just to go strolling around in. It's got a very different feel to London - a similar kind of energy, but much more relaxed and laid back. The roads and pavements are much broader, so it doesn't feel nearly as crowded, either. So we make it down to the Eiffel Tower around 5.30pm, and it's just starting to get dark. We get in line, and wait the forty minutes or so to get to the ticket office. We eventually take the tower leg elevator (which is surely one of the scariest contraptions in existence - think the scenic elevator in The Towering Inferno, when it's coming off the track) up to the second floor, which is about as high as my vertigo would allow (for the record, 149.23m up) and took in the view of the illuminated city. It was a breathtaking view - if only because of the vertigo panic-attacks... Just kidding. It was awesome, though. We could even watch a football match being played in the stadium just down river to the west of the tower. After that, we walked back to Opera and took the tube the rest of the way to the hotel for an early night.

Another bright and early start on Sunday morning, and we're off to Bercy to see the cinema museum, which, amongst other exhibits, included "Mother"'s skull from Psycho, donated to the museum by Hitchcock himself and one of Greta Garbo's dresses. We stopped off for lunch (lamb chops with Provencal herbs) in Bercy before heading back into town to the Latin Quarter, which is one of the hillier parts of town. After an hour's bracing walk (it was quite windy, but no rain, thankfully), we stop off again to rest our feet and cut the crepe, before heading back to Gare de Nord for our return train.

All in all, a very pleasant weekend, if an exhausting one. The only downer being that I forgot to take my camera. I did pick up a disposable camera in the Duty Free at Waterloo, and took some great pictures from the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, I made a rather large schoolboy error and forgot my Physics when putting my bag into the Left Luggage at Gare de Nord on Sunday morning, leaving the camera in the pocket of my jacket as it went through the X-ray machine with my bag. Oops. You can tell I've gotten so used to digital cameras over the last five years. Ah, well, it just gives me an excuse to go back, I suppose. Nothing quite like going to Paris to score major brownie points with your other half, either. The only problem is that from our anniversaries from now on, I'm going to have to up the ante... New York for our 15th, I think. Something to look forward to, anyway. Only five years to go.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bark: Not a bad way to start the weekend...

This weekend was always going to be special anyway, given that I'm off to Paris with my girlfriend to celebrate our tenth anniversary as a couple, but now I've been given extra cause to celebrate. My professional manager has just rang me up to tell me that I've been given a four grand payrise, effective from my next paycheck, which will bring in an extra couple of hundred quid a month.

You've got to admit, there are worse ways of starting the day...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Byte: Getting Grumpy

I've been threatening to do this for a while now. The eagle-eyed of you will have noticed a new link at the bottom of my "favourite people" list. It's a link to what I hope will become a collaborative blog that will not only show people the positive side of videogames, but will also go some way to debunking the urban myths about videogames commonly perpetrated within the mainstream media, and address videogames news stories as they happen, with a pro-games/pro-reality spin.

I don't expect to really achieve anything earth-shattering, with this. It's more of a feelgood exercise for gamers - putting out positive messages about videogames, instead of letting them being lumbered with the preposterous burden of being the source of all evil.

A few people I know have expressed a vague interest in being involved with such an enterprise; I hope that you (dear reader) will be able to find the time to contribute as well, as often or as little as you wish. Contact details are on the GOG Blog.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Byte: The Thrawn Identity

I'm watching The Bourne Identity on ITV tonight - which is a far more accomplished film than I expected - and the protagonist's identity crisis has sparked a memory from a little earlier this week: someone called me "Thrawn" on MSN.

I haven't gone by the name of "Thrawn" since, oh, before this blog was born (sorry - couldn't resist that particular reference). It's a very strange thing, being part of an internet community, especially if you assume a "nick" - a name (and/or persona) that you are only on the internet. The internet allows you the luxury of discretionary anonymity, and this can be a very seductive thing. It allows you to be someone different in an online environment to what you'd normally act like in person.

Lord Thrawn of Thrawn, my ex-online self, was a far more abrasive and outrageous version of my real self - spurred on by the knowledge that I'd unlikely meet the people I was treating somewhat less than civilly. I think the problem with being "Lord Thrawn" started occurring when I actually started meeting people in real life whom I'd originally met online. "Lord Thrawn" and me, Iain, gradually started to meld: much in the Leonard Nimoy "I am Spock" sense. The first person I met over the internet and have subsequently come to know in real life (and, indeed, is one of my closest friends) has occasionally identified when I've had "Thrawn moments" during times when I've had him over for curry and a beer, or whatever - and it makes me stand back and think "Is this really me?".

It was even more strange when we'd have forum meet-ups and afterwards people would start calling me "Iain" on the forums: didn't they understand that "Iain" and "Thrawn" were separate people? Evidently not, and as time wore on, the gap between "Iain" and "Thrawn" narrowed until they were essentially indistinguishable - which lead to the whole (terribly regrettable) Mad Iain phase. I'm not a someone overly prone to introspection, but if there's one episode in my life I'd like to erase, it's this one. It was a period where I was singularly uncompromising in my online affairs (mainly because I was using the internet as an escape from a particularly shitty period in my work), and I ended up alienating a lot of people; for which I unreservedly apologise for. I'm not a *complete* idiot: I don't intentionally go out of my way to annoy people - sometimes it just turns out that way...

Over the last year or so, "Lord Thrawn" is a persona that I've increasingly tried to leave behind, but it's hard to disassociate yourself from it completely when it's helped form part of who you are, and how you've come to know people you call friends. I think giving up frequenting internet forums (partly through choice, partly through work pressures, partly through unintentionally managing to alienate the people running the only forums I'd be interested in posting on) has helped restore a lot of the equilibrium.

I'm happy enough, and confident enough, to let whatever I say online stand beside my real name now. I don't feel the compulsion to hide behind an idealised vision of what I'd like myself to be. Grand Admiral Thrawn, in Star Wars lore, is the last of the Emperor's Grand Admirals: an intellectual and strategic genius. It was an identity I assumed (with a Lords of Midnight slant) with the utmost insincerity and conceit. I'm not intellectually shorter than two planks, but I'm hardly Einstein, either. The character of Thrawn simply appealed to my sense of the grandiose, plus I have the wit and articulacy to get away with it, so Thrawn I became. (Barring the blue skin and glowing red eyes - though given my chronic bloodshot, I'm not far off the latter) But as time drew on, the perception of what people saw me as (as opposed to what I actually am) diverged more and more, until things inevitably came to a head, and I had to cut ties - if only to preserve my sanity.

Lord Thrawn ceased to exist in all but my MSN name, and I have to say that I'm happier for it. I don't think it's something that will disappear completely from what makes me what I am: it was far too important a part of my life for far too long for that - plus there are still a few lingering regrets about the way I handled things when I still went by the name of Thrawn. Would State not have gone under had I stuck to my guns and not relinquished control? I guess we'll never know, but there's no sense living in the past. As the cliché goes, all good things must come to an end, even if it's an ignoble one. Besides, the time investment versus the reward of running the place must go down as one of the greatest examples of diminishing returns in history, so maybe putting the forum down was an act of mercy. I don't know...

Ah, well; this is probably the final entry in The Chronicles Of Thrawn. The Annals of Iain, however, will continue for the foreseeable future. If I have anything to say about it, anyway. Here's hoping you'll stay tuned.

Bark: Anniversary

It's the 10th Anniversary of the beginning of my relationship with my girlfriend today. TEN YEARS. That's a staggeringly long time, and all the more incredible when you think that for about half that time we were actually in a long distance relationship, and sometimes didn't see each other for months on end.

A ten year anniversary is obviously a special occasion, so to celebrate it I'm treating her to a weekend in Paris. Right in the middle of the worst rioting and civic disorder in France for the last 40 years. You have to smile at the timing. Still, it should still be very romantic, having dinner by the flickering light of torched cars, and rushing back to the hotel just in time for the curfew...

All we need now are bombs on the Eurostar, but I suppose I shouldn't tempt fate. She's a fickle bitch.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Byte: We're gonna game like it's 2001

Busy time for me at the moment. Not only am I back at work trying to get my Information Warehouse project off the ground, my editor at Pro-G is keeping the games coming thick and fast.

My Nanostray review finally went up this week (since it gets its UK release in the next week or two), plus I've got quite a few other things going up in the next week or so. Over the last week I've mainly been playing the excellent Operation Flashpoint: Elite, and my review of that should go up on the site tomorrow.

I don't want to pre-empt the review too much here, but it rates as one of my favourite titles on Xbox; which should be no real surprise, given that I absolutely adored the PC version. Flashpoint on the PC is still, in my opinion, the definitive version, however. A few too many compromises have been made to sustain the frame rate for my liking. The most damning of these is the narrower field of view, as it leaves you far more vulnerable to being flanked and gives you almost a tunnel-vision effect, when what you need is a greater situational awareness of your environment. Bohemia would have been far better off dropping the fancy lighting effects and motion blurring in favour of giving you superior peripheral vision. The added graphical effects are simply window dressing and can't really disguise the fact that the game's running on a five year old graphics engine. Flashpoint can't (and never did) compare graphically to the latest games, and to be honest, it doesn't need too: it's more about the experience than the eye candy.

The analogue movement and aiming with the pad feel just right. Aiming in particular feels just as unwieldy as trying to use a real rifle, where finesse is more important than speed of movement. Likewise, the addition of vibration support adds to the sense of immersion, especially in vehicles or with the weapon recoil. These additions take the sting out of the dumbed down AI and the sloppy graphics: the old Flashpoint magic is still there, and in spades.

There really isn't any other game like it. If you don't have a PC, or if you found the PC version just too damned hard, check out Flashpoint: Elite, because even though it was released about 3 years too late, it's still one of *the* great videogame titles.

Anyway. I should get back to writing this Civilization 4 review...

Byte: You know you've been playing videogames too much when... Top 10

10) ...the sight of a Lego set makes you break out in a cold sweat.

(Game played too much: Meteos)

9) stick to the shadows when walking down the street.

(Game played too much: Thief)

8) try to powerslide around corners in a front wheel drive car.

(Game played too much: Project Gotham Racing 2)

7) strafe around the corners of corridors.

(Game played too much: Doom)

6) use words like "verily" in polite conversation.

(Game played too much: Baldur's Gate II)

5) go "Huht!" whenever you jump.

(Game played too much: Unreal Tournament)

4) say "Oh no... 4. Is. Down!" whenever someone sits down.

(Game played too much: Operation Flashpoint)

3) go through the entire day without saying a single word.

(Game played too much: Half-Life)

2) hire a cleaning maid, just so that you can try to seduce her.

(Game played too much: The Sims 2)

1) ...before you start conversations, you do J.C. Denton's spastic double-arm karate chop gesture.

(Game played too much: Deus Ex)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Bark: Broken Film

My girlfriend and I went to see Broken Flowers at the cinema last night. I'm a big fan of Bill Murray, but I do wish I'd put my foot down and insisted we see Corpse Bride instead, because it's one of the most insipid films I've seen in quite a while. Fleur liked it, but I was bored senseless.

Literally half the film is spent with the camera close up to Murray's face with him giving his trademark bored, deadpan look. As a character drama, it focusses far too much on Murray's character, who doesn't even want to be doing what he's doing in the film (going on a road trip to visit several old flames to see if he can discover if they're behind an unsigned letter telling him he has a son) - everyone else being reduced to cameo roles. As a road movie, it doesn't go anywhere, as its a journey he doesn't even want to be on, and the ultimate destination is right back where he started. As a comedy, it doesn't work either, because there's very little comedy in the film. Besides, Jim Jarmusch is far too busy giving us shots of the wing mirror of Bill's car, or close-ups of Murray staring whistfully into space.

It's DULL, DULL, DULL. The symbolism in the film is so desperately heavy-handed it's insulting your intelligence on almost every level. Murray's character is called Don Johnston (cue half a dozen "Don Johnson? Really?" jokes) and in the opening scene (where he's unceremoniously dumped by Julie Delpy) he's watching Don Juan on TV. Don Juan. Don Johnston. He's a serial womaniser. Oh, I can't contain myself. I never would have figured that one out in a million years. Even worse, the teenage daughter of Sharon Stone's character (one of Don's old flames) greets him at the door in a dressing gown, walks in front of him stark naked and is called "Lolita". No, I'm struggling to find the reference, too.

The characters are all tiresome and one-dimensional - the film's a complete waste of celluloid; and of Bill Murray. Avoid.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bark: Training

As you'll have noticed, I've been rather quiet this week. This is because I've been in Reading for most of it on a Lotus Domino training course, and I haven't had time for cavorting around on the internet.

The course itself has been fabulous: the pitched level was absolutely perfect for me, and I've learnt a hell of a lot over the last three days. It also represents the only classroom training course that I've managed to drag (kicking and screaming) out of IBM in the five years that I've been working for them; so a seminal week indeed.

The week didn't start out very auspiciously, despite completing Civilization 4 sometime late on Monday evening. Overnight between Monday and Tuesday, I fell victim (again) to The Mother Of All Stomach Bugs, and consequently spent pretty much the whole day in bed, missing out on a visit to the Official Xbox 360 Magazine in London, which I'd been trying to arrange for weeks. A total waste of a holiday day, as well, which was most unfortunate.

Things didn't get much better first thing on Wednesday morning, as I was still feeling a little groggy, and consequently got lost in Reading's labyrinthine one-way system, got very stressed, and almost exchanged bumpers with some poor chap dropping off his daughter to school, in my haste to make a three-point-turn and get back on the right track. Several minutes worth of profuse and abject apologies later, I made it to the training facility with about three minutes to spare.

As I said, the course itself was brilliant - perfect technical level, a low number of students (so plenty of instructor help) and a very good structure. Unfortunately, my Wednesday went even further downhill when I went to the toilet during the mid-morning "comfort" break and my trouser zip suffered a Janet Jackson-style "costume malfunction". I spent most of the rest of the day with my legs firmly thrust deep beneath my desk, trying to conceal my damaged flies with my shirt tails... Plus I got lost AGAIN going home, thanks to picking the wrong lane again in the absolutely nonsensical one-way system. Not exactly a day to remember.

The rest of the week has been okay, barring the traffic getting in and out of Reading (on Thursday it took 45 minutes to travel the two miles from Reading Station to the junction of the A4 and the A329(M) - I could have walked it quicker!). If I ever do a training course there again, I think I'm going to park up the car at Blackwater or Sandhurst and just take the train. The traffic's almost as bad as Central London and Reading town centre has very little to otherwise redeem it, either.

But the course was great (did I mention that already?) and should really make my life a heck of a lot easier over the next few weeks as I build the Notes front-end for this Information Warehouse that I should be doing next at work. I'm almost looking forward to going back to work on Monday. Almost. In the meantime, I have about half a dozen reviews to write... Civ 4 is the definite pick of this week's releases, by the way. Expect to see my review on Pro-G in the next week or two.