Friday, 17 May 2013

simcity 3.0

The saga of SimCity continues.

They’ve now issued patch 3.0.  I was hoping that 2.0 represented a significant fix, but it was still pretty messed up after that.  And 3.0 now seems to have actually broken the game - it freezes my entire system.

I really don’t understand what’s going on with the patches, tbh, because the stuff they patch generally hasn’t been an issue for me until they patch it.

I’ll give you a very good example - disasters.  Before patch 2.0 I don’t think I’d seen a disaster, yet everyone else was complaining about disasters happening every two minutes.  So they patched it and suddenly I’m getting disaster after disaster.

It’s like I somehow got the final version of the game and every time they patch it I step back a version.

It’s incredibly frustrating, because if the game would just work better I think I’d probably enjoy it, but then they patched it again and when I played it, it froze my entire machine 4 times in a row and I've started to wonder why I bought the game in the first place.

It’s particularly frustrating because it’s not freezing for the same reason - I was doing completely different things and the game was at a different stage (several hours in and only about 15 minutes in).  It’s also annoying that it’s freezing the entire machine so I have to use the reset button, I can’t just hit ctrl+alt+del and kill it via the task manager.

What’ weird with it is that when I then reload I’ve only lost a minute or two of play.  I’m actually wondering if it’s the game saves that are killing it, but because of how it does it I have no idea if it’s saving related or not.

I actually remember there was big problem with Anno1404, which had a horrible that would cause saves to corrupt so you'd play for hours and lose all of it because the saves had no information in them.  It also had a memory inflation issue that meant you couldn't really play giant maps.  Those took them months to resolve so I’m starting to wonder whether I shouldn’t just put the game on hold and pick it up again in 6 months when hopefully it will be properly patched.

I understand yet another patch has been issued recently, so perhaps that will solve it?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

how much?

I appear to have been the victim of a massive cock-up.

I buy figures directly from Japan. They are expensive things, but the site I use sells them at good value and I’m happy to take the VAT charges on the chin for importing them.

Two figures were recently dispatched to me.  Because they have had to be put in a big box (both are together, where I was originally expecting each individually) they’ve had to upgrade the postage to EMS, which is a tracked service and is quicker, but a lot more expensive.

I mention this because the figures are only about £50 each and the new postage cost is about £30.  I’m obviously converting from yen, but the upshot is that the total cost is about £130.  At worst case we’re talking £150.

This is important because customs charges only kick in for items that cost above £135.  Below that you only pay VAT and even above it they waive it if the charge is less than £9.  I’ve never paid customs charges, only VAT.

VAT is at 20% so I was expecting a charge of around £26 and then the (extortionate) parcel force handling fees would take it up to about £40.

The bill arrived yesterday - it is for £273.68

Thy want to charge me £57.39 for customs and £202.79 for VAT.

Those numbers are bigger than the original value of the items + postage!

I have absolutely no clue how that has happened, but I figure one of a few things might be the source of the problem - the original forms were not filled out properly, so they’ve done the calculations based on wrong numbers, or perhaps they’ve fucked up the yen to pounds conversion, but what is definitely the case is someone's made a huge mistake somewhere.

Unfortunately, this now gives me the horrible problem of having to work out who’s make the mistake, how I get it corrected, who I have to deal with to do that and all sorts.

There’s a form you can download on the customs site, but they want me to send the bits of paper you get with the parcel.  Well, I can’t send those until I’ve got the parcel, and I can’t get the parcel without paying and I’m not paying £275 for a parcel whose contents cost me £130.

Particularly since I can’t afford £275.

Of course there’s an added problem - parcel force say they will only hold onto the parcel for 20 days (and that was about 4 days ago).  Can I get this sorted in 20 days?  Do I think HMRC will even look at the form in 20 days?


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

holiday - dad pc

So after the wedding I had two basic tasks for the rest of my holiday.

Firstly, I had to clear down my PVR a bit.  The PVR had basically gotten to 90% full, and given the last part of the holiday was going to be away from home I needed to clear it down or it would run out of space.

I did okay with this - I cleared off about 40% off, taking it down to 50% full.  If I’d been off the whole week I’d have taken it down further.  And if I hadn’t had the other task to do I would have made more progress too I think.

The other task was my Dad’s PC.

As mentioned before the holiday I made some poor decisions with the money he’d paid for it so I ended up having to split the purchases across multiple cards.  This was particularly annoying since I therefore had to pay multiple postage for everything that was then delivered at exactly the same time in the same van!

In the end I bought the full spec stuff I’d said I would (I could have gone cheaper) with two exceptions: I didn’t buy a separate CPU cooler and I only bought 16gb of the 32gb of RAM.

Both of these would be virtually undetectable to him, though I did own up, although I didn’t give the proper reason that I’d fucked up.  Instead I said I’d forgotten about the cooler and would get it later and that the RAM had been faulty so I’d had to return it.

I will get both of these, but it will be later when I have some money - probably for when I next see him, which will likely by in October or so.

Building the PC took me about a day all told.

I then went down to my Dad’s on Thursday, getting there in the early evening.  I therefore started the installation process on the Friday.  Well, there was a bit of an issue we had to fix first.

See, I was hoping we could re-use his DVD drive, which isn’t that old.  I’d expected the motherboard would have both connection types (SATA and I forget what the older one is called).  Unfortunately, the board only had SATA and it turned out his drive only had the older one.  We therefore popped to PC World and got a new drive (it was about £30 - probably the same as buying online, taking postage into account).  However, we also had to get a new keyboard, as it turned out the keyboard he had was PS/2 only - I’d guessed/assumed it was USB with an adapter, but it was just PS/2.

There was a bit of a cock up there as he actually had a USB mouse, but kinda forgot - I’d assumed it was part of the same thing (it’s wireless and the receiver was both and it used to be, but apparently he’d gotten a new mouse that was USB, but it was the same make - all very complicated).

Anyway, that afternoon I started and basically installed Windows7 plus all the millions of updates.

The Saturday I installed all the separate applications and the hardware, etc.  My dad was a bit of a pain on this day - it was weird actually, as if he wasn’t expecting it to take so long and was making a fuss to get my attention like a child whose parents are too busy so they start misbehaving to get attention.  He kept getting in the way and of course, ironically, that meant it took longer.

Anyway, Sunday we put the desk and all the bits back away and I gave him a quick tour of the machine.  He seemed pleased, particularly with the speed.  With the old machine he used to turn it on then take the dog for a walk and it would just be ready to log on when he got back.  Then he’d make a pot of tea while it logged on and was ready for him to actually do anything.

The new one you press power on and 10 seconds later (5 of which are the POST checks) it’s ready for you to log on.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

holiday - wedding

I didn't blog last week as it was all a bit hectic.

I had a lot to catch up on having been away for a good chunk of my leave, and having not really paid much attention to things while I was here.

The holiday started with a friend’s wedding (I went to the reception only).  This was the friend whose stag do I went on a few months back.

I was determined not to spend as much money on the wedding as I did on the stag.  This meant booking into a cheap Travelodge that was further away than some of the more expensive hotels.  My intention was to get a taxi there but walk back.  This didn’t quite work.

The problems started with the journey up.  I live in Farnham, which is near Guildford and the wedding was in Chelmsford in Essex.  This meant I had to go around the M25.

I could have gone north.  This would be a lot further and would mean risking the M3 & M4 junctions.  I also know that that stretch is riddled with road works and bits where the speed is always limited.  And as I say, I wanted to save money so going the long way round isn’t a good idea given the cost of petrol.

I therefore went the south way.  This took me through the Dartford crossing.  I wasn’t aware that the cost of the toll had gone up so much - it’s now £2 for a car so any petrol money saved was probably cancelled out.

But the real issue was the time - I set off at 2:00PM.  I had to get some petrol, but the reception was due to start at 7:00PM - that gave me 5 hours and the journey was only 90miles.  Surely even with the tunnel I’d be ahead of rush hour so I’d be okay, right?  I mean 1.5 hours for 90 miles is a reasonable journey time, so double it to 3 hours just in case and that still gave me a 2 hour margin, right?  I could have a leisurely shower and shave and still be there early.

Er, no - it took me 6.5 hours to get there!

The A3 was really busy, the M25 was solid and then the road to Chelmsford (I forget the number) was rammed too.  I took me 5 hours to do 90 miles!  So I had to rush to have a shower and shave and get a taxi there.

The next thing that happened was that the taxi dropped me at the wrong place!  The problem was there are two venues with basically the same name.  When I got there the other issue was that there was another wedding going on, so the taxi driver said “is that them?” and I said “I guess” and got out and paid.

But of course they were just distant figures in wedding gear so it was only as I wandered up that I realised they weren’t my friends!  The actual venue was over a mile away up the road, and of course both were in the middle of nowhere so I had to walk!

When I did get there all the stress and lateness meant I bolted my drinks and got far drunker than I intended.

So then I had my plan of walking home.  This would have worked except for a few things: I’d already walked a mile and a bit.  I was drunker than I should have been.  It was absolutely freezing - having had lots of nice weather it had suddenly turned cold and it was a miserable walk after a while.

I therefore ended up hailing a taxi who took the main roads, so even though we were only about 2 miles from the hotel it cost me £10 (the journey there, which was obviously too short, cost £15) so I think overall I hardly saved anything at all.

I’ll continue with the holiday details later in the week.

Monday, 13 May 2013

spanish grand prix

It was the Spanish Grand Prix this last weekend.

It’s not traditionally a very good race - the circuit isn’t very good for overtaking, but also it’s where they do all the testing so they know it inside out.  The race this weekend was okay - I’ve seen worse, but then I’ve also seen better.

One of the most bizarre things was that the two Mercedes qualified on the front row, but then during the race it was like they’d put the cars in reverse.  They just lost place after place, lap after lap.

Lewis started 2nd and ended up 12th.  It’s bizarre - how does that happen that you can pound in a lap that’s way faster than everybody else on Saturday and then the next day it’s like you have the handbrake on?

There were quite a lot of comments about the tyres.  I’m not sure what I think about this - Pirelli coming in certainly made the racing more interesting, but it’s not good when they’re all making 3 or 4 pit stops per race. It’s confusing and too much, really.  I'm also left wondering how many pit stops there will be in Canada where the surface is such that it usually eats tyres.

Anyway, Alonso’s performance was excellent - he had a really great early race, overtaking everybody left and right (you could actually hear the spectators cheering), but after that early phase the race was quite quiet.

If Ferrari can avoid more races lost through unreliability then it could be an interesting championship - the Lotus's are very reliable and consistent and the Red Bulls are there or thereabouts.