My computer (er-geek) life
Global Warming 
Tuesday, May 1, 2007, 12:57 AM - General
I have been quite interested in the global warming polemic since reading Michael Crichton's controversial novel, State of Fear, back in 2005. I have since read and watched several documents regarding the global warming issue. Some of them, like Al Gore's widely broadcasted An Inconvenient Truth, try to demonstrate the relation between modern human development and climate change. Other opposing documents, like Martin Durkin's less known The Great Global Warming Swindle, are clear opposing responses to those claims. An individual with no particular interest in the subject will know -and not just believe- that global warming is caused by humans, as the media does not give significant coverage to the scientists that are not so sure about the CO2/temperature relationship. Climate change is clearly a story of misinformation, deniers are accused of being funded by oil lobbies, while ecologists are themselves funded proportionally to the fear they induce. The road of ecology is paved with good intentions, but it is all too easy to overlook the fact that it also fuels a very powerful economical and political lobby.

I can only encourage people to watch Martin Durkin's documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. It is not without flaws, and clearly not without bias (both of which also apply to Gore's presentation), but it might just spark that little doubt that can make one reconsider what is unfairly taken as granted: even the ecologists' use of the term "precautionary principle" is a hint to the fact that all this is still hypothetical. And regarding the global warming issue and its possible consequences, either by or on humans, believing is simply not enough.

Some, biased, reading for those interested:
- Global Warming: A closer look at the numbers, CO2 impact in the greenhouse effect
- GGWS Questions Answered comprehensive counter-arguments of Durkin's documentary
- ggws.srt properly timed French subtitles for The Great Global Warming Swindle
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The Beautiful and The Daring, part 2 
Sunday, April 8, 2007, 02:17 PM - Gaming
The second game developed a small -but devoted- following. Its peculiarities are numerous: the graphics are on a league of their own, it is both a first and a third person shooter played on rails, the scenario is very complicated yet fascinating, and it is extremely violent in both scenario and language. The game was way too daring to be successful in terms of sales, but Killer7 should not be ignored. Although the gameplay is good, it is far from the depth one would expect from a Capcom release. But the real assets of the game are atmosphere and presentation. The cel-shaded graphics are somewhat minimal but convey both the peculiar style and the grave mood of the game. The rails system, a bit disconcerting at first, quickly becomes very pleasant as it significantly smoothes the flow of the adventure; your characters always proceed smoothly, never perform awkward movements, and the player is always presented with predefined, studied cinematic camera angles. Music and voices are not put to the rest, the tunes are nice and fit every scene (as diverse as they may be) and the voice acting is -simply put- the best I’ve heard in a game. But saying all that misses the most important point: Killer7 is a truly original game that gives a breath of fresh air for those that are ready for it.

The GC days are now behind us and it is quite ironic that up to now, the two games I enjoyed the most on the Wii are those two GameCube’s masterpieces.
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The Beautiful and The Daring, part 1 
Saturday, April 7, 2007, 12:19 AM - Gaming
The Nintendo GameCube failed to impress me in almost its entire lifespan. Except for some very few gems like Viewtiful Joe, Super Mario Sunshine and, to a lesser extent, Ikaruga (as it was a port), GC games didn't match my tastes. I found most games were either too childish, too shallow, or felt like bad ports of XBox and PS2 titles. This was all the more disappointing as the few games I liked on the console were, in both technical and gameplay respects, excellent titles. The graphics were -in my opinion- superior to those of the PS2 thanks to the GameCube's very good anti-aliasing capabilities. The controller also worked wonders for those too few games that actually made good use of its great design. Then came 2005. That very year, two GameCube games stood out of the crowd.

The first was overwhelmingly well received, with literally tens of Game of the Year awards, even though its release date was set in January. Despite the fact that its gameplay style was already mainstream at the time, the way it is implemented is so fine-tuned and thoroughly studied that it puts other games of the genre to shame. This game features among the best, if not the best, graphics of its generation. Every location, every situation, every scene featured just breathes attention to detail. Had this game been on a next-gen system, it would still have been a feat. That game is Resident Evil 4, and it is a masterpiece. My only two tiny rants about it would be that every scene feels like a boss fight (is that really a bad thing?), and that its PS2 and PC ports don't seem to do it justice - but this does not influence the original GameCube version in any way. Let’s hope the best for the upcoming Wii port!

The other game deserves at least as many praises as Resident Evil 4, because this other gem dares to innovate, and succeeds with brilliance and style. More in tomorrow's post!
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The Wii effect 
Tuesday, December 26, 2006, 03:16 PM - Gaming
I got my PAL Wii console on the European launch day (December 8th 2006), and have been using it quite a bit since. I have mixed feelings about the console.

The Bad
I have to admit that the idea was good and had a lot of novelty to it, but how can people even call this recycled GameCube a next-gen console? The graphics are dated, most launch-lineup games have very little depth to them, the controllers have approximative precision, and most online functions are not available yet. Last but not least, the bill adds up pretty fast once you add the 30€ RGB video cable, your first extra game (60€), an additional 40€ wiimote and its 20€ nunchuk (and I was complaining about the Xbox 360 wireless controller!). It's quite unfortunate, but the Wii does not yet feature games with sophisticated gameplay, except maybe for Zelda. I hope this will change.

The Good
Clearly new. Clearly clever. The effect the Wii has on people is astonishing: everyone wants to at least try the console, and people instinctively gather around it to play and laugh with (at?) each other. I brought the console on Christmas eve and everyone, from four year olds to their parents in the 40s, had a blast. The kind of thing that is close to impossible with another console. In more ways than one, it's an extension of the popular Touch Generations concept than Nintendo is promoting with the DS: most games are designed with simplicity in mind, there are no complex control schemes or prohibiting learning curves to bar players from pure, simple, accessible fun.

The Wii
... is more of a social thing. It's not targeted at hardcore gamers, exactly as Nintendo intended it to be. Of course, "classic" games like FPSs, 3rd person adventure, or racing games feature innovative control schemes; but at the end of the day, I believe that gamers will come back to playing them with a standard controller on a real next-gen console, simply because graphics, sound and depth do matter.
On the other hand, the Wii does an amazing job at making games accessible to everyone. It's also very fun to play, and to watch: it's like a next-gen spiced up board game that really shines at parties and social gatherings.
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Xbox 360 - Next-gen expenses 
Friday, November 3, 2006, 01:41 AM - Gaming
Yesterday, a store close to where I live made a one day discount on toys and video games, giving a 20% rebate on every toy or video game item. So what crazy thing did I do? I went there, and bought a Xbox 360 Premium Pack. While I was at it, why not take the whole shebang? I mean, the Premium Pack is premium... Except for a game to try the console with (Ridge Racer 6, 20€), and a second controller (Wireless Controller, 45€). Upon installing the console I noticed two upcoming annoyances.

The first one being the cables bundled with the pack. The Xbox 360 is currently the video game console that outputs the best, crispest graphics. It can handle all HD formats ranging from 480i to 1080p, and I've seen it boast amazing colors and images on high end televisions. The least they could have done would have been to bundle a RGB cable with the machine, so that even "old fashioned" TVs would be able to get decent video. The pack bundles an old fashioned synch cable (read: faded out and fuzzy images). I admit the cable also features component plugs, but those don't fit most standard TVs. So what's next on the shopping list, an official Advanced Scart AV Cable, 24€. Yep, they knew those would sell.

Second thing, the wireless controllers. As free energy is not yet part of our lives, they need batteries to run. Microsoft has been nice enough to bundle two Energizer batteries with the dearly paid controllers, but once they're out of juice, you have to buy a new pair of LR6. Nobody actually does that: everyone uses rechargeable batteries for these kinds of oft-used electronic appliances. Microsoft also had this novative idea, and now I have to add one or two Play and Charge Kits (20€ each) to my shopping list.

Ok, we're done! Oh no, wait. The console has incredible Internet capabilities thanks to Xbox Live! Let's hook it up to my home router and see how the online service has changed since the original Xbox days. Doing just that requires a 10 meters long Ethernet cable which spans the length of my apartment as the triple core, teraflopping, full-HD entertainment system doesn't feature WiFi. If I wanted to get rid of the copper cord, it would cost me a Wireless Net Adapter, priced at 80€. To top it off, I could potentially have the crazy idea of wanting to play my 70€ games online, but that would require a subscription of around 7€/month.

Let's just hope they don't get HD-DVD exclusive games out too soon...
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