Friday, 18 November 2011

dvd burning

I really need a haircut, but I doubt I'm going to get the chance this weekend.

In fact I know I won't get the chance, as I need to do loads of washing and I do that first thing Saturday, so I won't be able to go to the hairdresser's early, which is my usual slot.  Plus it's a cleaning weekend and that takes up all day Saturday anyway.

I'm a bit sick of this new pattern of doing stuff - it's kinda burdensome.  It was sparked because of my desire to save a bit of money (well, more like not be ripped off so badly) on getting my washing done.  This hasn't worked out too well, because I'm pretty sure my local laundrette charges a lot more for use of washing machines and tumble dryers than the place I used to get my washing done via service wash.

So although I'm not paying for the service wash and I'm able to adjust the payment base don size of load and how much drying it needs, the extra expense of the wash itself kinda wipes that out.

It also has the issue that it now sucks up a total of about two hours of my time on the days I do it.  This is quite a bit of time, and because I'm doing it first thing (so I can get easy access to tumble dryers) it blocks me from doing other stuff.

I've actually considered going and doing it after work or late on - the place is open pretty late, but I dunno.  A big problem there is I never seem to have much time in the evening anyway (I go to bed pretty early) and I've no guarantees it will be any easier.  I'd also be worried about getting finished before it closes.

I think the whole BBC loosing full rights to coverage of all the races may be a blessing in disguise, as it could free up a lot of spare time.

Anyway, that wasn't what I wanted to talk about.  What I wanted to cover was how my adventure with ripping DVDs is going.

Last weekend was actually stupidly busy.  There was all the GP stuff to watch, but I also decided I was going to process some audio books (more on that another day) and see about ripping the DVDs.

I mentioned this a little while ago and I've been investigating options.  The one that I thought I'd try was by slysoft and there are two parts.  Firstly they have a bit of software that allows you to watch any region locked DVD and then there's another bit of software you can use to clone/copy DVDs.

Both are available on free trial, so I downloaded them and gave them a go.

Results were pretty good.  Initially I tried it out on my laptop.  My theory was that this will be a convenient way of doing it - I can position my laptop to keep an eye on the progress of the rip and burn while I watch TV or whatever in the evening.

It worked well.  My laptop DVD isn't the quickest, but it took about 45 minutes to rip and burn a DVD containing a complete series of the show peep show.  I think it took less time burning a film, but I didn't pay attention tot eh time.

There was a problem with one disk I tried, but I didn't experiment to see if this was solvable.  The software has various options and it's very easy to use.  The only difficult is working out what's what ("title 2" doesn't mean anything, but it has a preview thing so you can see what it s).

It wasn't quite as successful when I tried it on my proper PC.  The issue was that it failed to burn at a decent speed, although I've had this problem before and I think it's more to do with the drive itself.  This meant it wasn't any quicker on the desktop, so I think laptop is the ay to go.

As I've said before it's a little daft if you think about it - why not spend that time watching the stuff instead of ripping it?  Well, I can still watch other stuff and it's way quicker ripping than watching - that 45 minutes was for a series with 6 half hour episodes, 3 of which had commentaries and about 45 minutes of other extras, so time wise it's better.

So yeah, I think I may actually purchase this software, with the hopes that it will quickly pay for itself via e-bay selling.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


So what was this mention about Liverpool all about then?

Well, it was a trip for work and it was very interesting.  Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you any details about the reason for the trip and what we did, but what I did want to talk about was the journey.

It was, to be frank, rather horrible.

I basically set off at 8AM and got back at about 9PM.

I went by train and went via London.  This was good in that the journey was simple (single train journey, up the northern line, single train journey) but it did make it slightly longer.  In particular I ended up having to wait at the station on the way up and the way back, adding a good hour to the total journey time.

Getting back at 9PM wasn’t great -  it was a horribly long day and I obviously didn’t get to bed until something like 11PM.  And of course, being Thursday, I went to work on Friday.  I tried to sleep in, but failed, to be honest.

I did, however, go home from work early, but then I was achieving very little at work because I was so tired.

You may be detecting a bit of a negative tone to this post, and that’s really directed at the journey and the day and its aftermath, rather than reason for the trip.  That was very interest, but as I say, it’s not really appropriate for me to talk about.

But also, the negative tone is there because, well, I did really badly with my diet last week, and while it would be wrong to blame the trip, it was a big part of the cause.

I ended up gaining two pounds, which was very disappointing, especially as that was the amount I lost on my holiday.  I was actually a little surprised it wasn’t more, which kinda shows me just how much exercise I had and energy I burnt off with the trip.  The problem was I massively overcompensated.

In particular I ate loads of junk (5 big chocolate bars, for example).  This was because I was just so tired by the time I was heading home, which was when the slide really took hold.  IF I’d managed to maintain some willpower I’d have lost eight, but once I reached that low point I just ate crap in the afternoon and evening and then on Friday I ate crap too.

This was partly because of an effect I’ve noticed before where as soon as my diet slips, I’ll jut keep on “being naughty” until the end of the week.  But also, because, as noted I was shattered on Friday, I just felt like eating lots of comfort food (Another big area of problem of me).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

cod: mw3

Yesterday I mentioned I’d talk about Liverpool tomorrow, because today I’m going to give a few thoughts on call of duty: modern warfare 3.

I went into the weekend wondering what I was going to do, but then MW3 turned up and basically absorbed a whole chunk of my spare time.  MW3 is the third in the modern warfare series and I played through the whole campaign and a few of the spec ops missions over the weekend.

It looks as great as ever, although I have to say the basic graphics engine doesn’t seem hugely different to that used across the rest of the series, but then I think there’s a very good reason for that.

You see, the modern warfare series is really one thing in three parts.  The first was done in such a way that a sequel wasn’t essential (presumably in case it was a flop) and so it was actually a bit of surprise that mw2 picked up directly after mw.  Indeed, I wasn’t hugely keen as it had been so long since the first part I felt a bit disjointed.

I don’t know for sure, but the gap seemed smaller this time.  Even if it wasn’t, I was prepared for a direct sequel this time, so I didn’t get that same disjointedness.

But, more importantly, it occurs to me that the call of duty games pre-cod used to have really long single player campaigns.  The campaigns in the mw series have actually been pretty short.  I mean they’re not so short as to not be enjoyable, but certainly I can remember it taking several weeks to get through the campaigns in the old cod series, where the mw series you could play the entire campaign in a single lengthy session if you wanted.

I guess it helps them make he games “bigger” in the sense of being more complex set pieces and stuff, but it’s also a way of getting more cash for the same amount of story.

One thing that the cod series has always used in pre-scripted sequences.  These always work well and I like them, but I will admit they're quite old hat. Also the other thing they do that is very old school is enemy spawn points and waves of enemy.

The idea is you keep moving forward and thereby pass points that switch these off and if you remember that you can lessen the effect, but it’s still very old hat.  It’s also quite old hat that the levels are very fixed, guiding you along a single path through them.  This last one I also don’t mind, though.

Anyway, overall I quite liked it.  I thought the story was a little simpler his time compared to mw2, which actually helped.  It also seemed to come to a pretty solid conclusion, so I’m guessing if there is a MW4 it will be a different story.

So yeah, enjoyable enough, but could have been a bit longer.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

plumbing / heater

While I was away my landlord had a radiator fitted to my room.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before I went, but if not, basically he’s increasing my rent by £5 a month and for that I’m getting a radiator in my bedsit area.  It’s plumbed into my landlord’s heating, so I don’t have any control over it (well, I can turn it on/off and I can adjust the “balance” - whatever that is) but it’s better than an increase and getting nothing in return.

Last week was therefore the first week I’ve been experiencing it and the results are mixed, if I’m honest.

The weather has been quite mild, so it's difficult to know just how much they have their radiators on, but there’s a bit of an “all or nothing” effect.  When the radiator is on, it’s very effective, but it doesn’t really come on when I would have it on.

It’s been okay in the morning (a little later than I get up) but it soon warms the place up when it’s on.  In the evening, it’s on before I come back, so I get back to a somewhat warm flat.  However, it’s a bit unpredictable if it’ll stay on all evening or just for an hour or so.

So some days it turns off and I have to put my own radiator on, other nights it’s stayed on right until I go to bed.

The effectiveness of the radiator is partly a function of its size.  It’s a lot bigger than I was expecting, which means it really pumps it out when it’s on, but it also takes up a heck of a lot of wall space, which I wasn’t expecting.  Indeed, I’ve ended up re-arranging everything and moving my bed across to the other side of the room.

I’ve still got the other radiator of course, and so my bed is up against that, as it’s on the other side of the room.  It’s long winded to explain, but fairly simple in practice.

So yeah, mixed result really - it’s saved me a few quid, but it’d be nice if it was more consistent.

It did also have a weird effect in that it caused me to strain my knee.  Basically my bed is very low down (it’s sort of a futon thing) so I have to get in/out in a specific way.  Well, moving to the other side means I’ve had to do all that in a different way, and I made a mess of it and strained my knee.

The timing of that wasn’t brilliant, as I was off to Liverpool in a couple of days, which I’ll talk more about on Thursday.

Monday, 14 November 2011

abu dhabi don't

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this last weekend.

On previous occasions it’s been horribly dull. Last year it was where the championship was decided and that, to be frank, was mainly because neither Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber nor Lewis Hamilton could make overtakes that they needed to.

As such, I was pretty much not expecting very much from the race.  They’d introduced two DRS zones, both of which were pretty big which was clearly an acknowledgement that overtaking was nearly impossible.  Indeed, they actually extended one of the zones for fear it wouldn’t help.

In the end the race was... okay.

The first third of the race had quite a lot of interest, but once things had settled down there was very little action.  My guess is there was more of interest further down the pack, but we didn’t get to see to much.

So I wouldn’t say it was the worst race this year, but it certainly wasn’t the greatest either.

I’m also a bit worried about the tyre issue.  The teams seem to have  started to get a better handle on them, as you'd expect, but also, Pirelli have been talking about making the softer tyres more durable for next year, which doesn’t bode well.  I was hoping they'd make some decisions that would throw another cat amongst the pigeons.  If they go for more “normal” tyres it could make next year less interesting.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the race actually happened right at the beginning, when Sebastian Vettel seemed to have a puncture (there wasn’t a very good shot of it), which caused him to spin off and by the time he’d gotten back to the pits the back end of his car was trashed, so he had to retire.

This opened things up for a bit of a different result, but it also really underlined just how reliable the Red Bulls have been this year.  I’m pretty sure this has been Seb’s first retirement all year.

Reliability nowadays is remarkable - you very rarely see cars breaking down any more.  Back when I first started watching F1 you regularly used to see more than half of the grid braking down.

Given the extremes they deal with and the levels of precision required, it’s really remarkable.