Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Oh, and Donington was a bit of a disappointment this weekend, eh? And I'm not even talking about the Toseland - just the whole race was a bit non-eventful.

Excited about Assen, though. Woohoo!


Gotta love 'em.

I had a tour of Heathrow Terminal 5 back in October last year. At the time, it was awesome. They showed us the RFID tracking of baggage (so it could never be lost) and the 96 automated checkin desks, along with the 96 bag drop areas too.
Combined with 60-odd security gates, it seemed like we would never have to wait again.
Jump forward a few months, and the T5 opens to baggage-handling horrors.
How does something like this happen? I don't know.

Well, anyway, today I'm in T5, and I realise its shortcomings more and more.
I arrived at 7.00 for a 7.45 flight. I hit the machine at 7.05, to be told that I was too late for automatic checkin, and needed to speak to a person.
10 minutes of wandering around looking for someone, and then another 10 minutes of queuing meant that at 7.25, I was definitely too late to get on board. Had this been any other terminal, it would have taken only a couple of minutes to get this done.
Anyway, the 8.40 was totally full, so here I am in Heathrow waiting for the 1135.

It wouldn't be such a problem, but they've got a fried food embargo going on. Only food which has actually been cooked can be served, so there's a Caviar House, a Gordon Ramsey, and a few others. All eye-gougingly expensive.

It's my own fault, I suppose, for not checking in online yesterday. I just didn't get around to it, and now I'm paying.

Anyway, in other, more important news, the Webmaster Tools now have an API

Right now, it's just account management (add/edit/delete account, and add/edit/delete sitemap), but as they say, this is just the beginning.

I think that if and when the reporting API launches, an enterprising soul might build something to integrate Analytics and Webmaster Tools to give end-to-end reporting.
If this person were really smart, they'd tie it in with the Adwords API as well, to create an automated, self-maximising system.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday night

Before I leave for the weekend, I'd like to note that I think I'm up to 6 unopened games. I have no idea what I'm going to do now, beyond praying for rain all summer.

Calm before the storm

I have a monster headache today. Taken some ibuprofen, though, so I'm sure it'll pass.
I put it down to the fact that the TV last night was stellar, and I got in around 11, fired up Sky+, and then didn't move for 4 hours.
So, no liquids. Hence headache today.
So, yeah, 2 episodes of My Name is Earl, 2 of Heroes, new Scrubs, Cheerleader Nation (the final!), and a re-run of the InBetweeners.
A veritable treasure trove.

A wedding this weekend, in, erm, Wimbledon, or Greenwich, or something. I should probably find out, actually.

Sunday, if there's wind, I'll be out on the kite. Otherwise, I guess I'll get some work done. Or play the DS, or something.


Thursday, June 19, 2008


I guess this is how it happens.
You start a blog with the very best of intentions, and then get constant distractions (games, work, real life, you know), and don't update for a few days.

Since no-one's really reading this thing anyway, it's not such a problem, I guess.
So, what have I been doing? Not a lot. Catching up on telly.
Actually, just working a lot. I'm pretty boring.
I've tried, unsuccessfully, to change the layout of this thing to a dynamic width, but it keeps breaking. I need more than 10 minutes to crack it, I guess.
Maybe tomorrow.

What else? Hmm. I'm going to be tinkering with the YouTube Upload APIs pretty soon, so that's quite interesting. I've also got a load of expenses to do, and have just eaten a delicious yoghurt.
Twewy continues to own me, and I had a parcel delivered this morning which wouldn't fit through the door, which is exciting, although it'll be 48 hours before I can pick it up. Could be another game, I guess. I'm still trying to find Wii Fit somewhere. Not that I'll actually use the thing, but I like the idea of a weight graph over time.

At a wedding on Saturday as well. I have a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I'm supposed to be doing something on Sunday, too, but, well, screw it. I'm just going to go and fly the kite if there's wind, and sleep if there's not. Which probably means I'll be in trouble with someone for not being where I should have been.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


So, yesterday was a writeoff. Managed to tread water on my inbox, but that was about it.
I noticed that Google Earth Hacks is using the API to preview its content. Which is pretty cool.

Friday, June 13, 2008

That'll learn me

Big day yesterday. Fell asleep on the sofa in the middle of heroes, and then again in The Big Bang Theory. What an exciting life I lead.

Went for a swift half after work at the Victoria pub, which smells awful.
In fact, since the smoking ban, lots of places stink of stale beer and sweat, which isn't so lovely.
How can the pub owners not be aware of this? And why won't they do something about it?

Anyway, moving on. Off to Manchester this weekend. Should be fun.

This is quite interesting. Ebay seem to be really struggling recently. They're trying to diversify, but without any kind of goal in mind, which has got to be tough.
It's awesome that they're actually trying, though. It would be easy for them (if not their shareholders) to simply remain in the auction space and milk the cash cow for a few years more, but their management are at least exploring other areas.
Good for you, eBay!

Thursday, June 12, 2008


How could I forget?

Siralan made the right choice?


So, TV tonight: The Office, an American Workplace.
This is actually much better than I thought.

The original Office made you cringe and cry, so well observed was it.
This one replaces the more serious cringes with laughs, often belly laughs, whilst maintaining the cringe aspect with aplomb.

It's certainly different, but I think it works, really really well. It's much better than a blind copy.
And, they have some genius twists on the plot as you know it.

Oooo, and look what I just found. YouTube and the Office, working together. Awesome.

Anway, other than that, a new game arrived this morning. I've given up opening them, and I've lost track of what I've preordered, so long ago did I do most of them. It's going to be a lucky dip once I get everything set up.

Oh, and still no washing machine man. Seriously, doing that now. £15 per load at the dry cleaners is no joke.

Currently: 2142/73/160/366/--

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Twewy Vid

Damn it. I broke the YT API stuff down below. Fix it tomorrow.

Wednesday morning

What have I been up to?
Played some more TWEWY last night, after leaving work pretty late.
Sky+ had nothing for me - Reaper finished, as previously mentioned, and anyway, that's Wednesday's TV. I'm trying to remember what was on tuesdays. Maybe Big Bang Theory or the Inbetweeners, or something. I have no idea.

Anyway, yeah, reading about Ninja Gaiden II and Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword (DS, geddit?), seems like DS is "better" but shorter. Hopefully, since I *loved* DMC4, NGII will go down well.

The house was painted recently. When this happened, I packed up all the consoles so that things could be painted. Since then, I've been travelling pretty aggressively since work. The consoles (Xbox 360, Wii) are still packed up, and I've now got 4 games still unwrapped that I'm gagging to play.
GTAIV, Lego Indiana Jones, Ninja Gaiden II, Super Paper Mario.
I think there are more coming.
Actually, talking of GTA IV, did you see the Google Maps thing they did?

Oh, and we launched some new Street View stuff. Seems like it's a load of new imagery. I am preparing for the inevitable blogs covering more topless and embarrassing pictures.

Now, some of the links on those pages don't work so well any more - we've got newer imagery, you see!

Wait. What? You don't know what Street View is? Well, take a look!

Still, at least the cleaner comes today. Oh, and I need to ring a man to fix my washing machine. Right, best get on that.

Currently: 2012/70/147/355/--

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The World Ends With You

So, I got home last night around 8pm, with every intention of doing some work (I have an email backlog that would break most mortals), and instead picked up that bloody Nintendo DS again, and played some TWEWY (which is the acronym for The World Ends With You. I'm still not sure I like that acronym, but I digress. It's easy to type, and now you know what it means, so I'm sorry if it upsets you too, but there we are. Suck it down).

What I did manage to do was write a generic thing for the YT API. See the embedded video below in the sound section - it's using the Chromeless player to do some cool stuff. Well, coolish.

So, I said I'd write a review if I got the chance, and between eating two yoghurts and drinking a powerade, which Obi describes as both scary, and bad for my insides, I've got a little time. Not a lot, but enough.
So, first things first, you own a DS. You also like the internets. Perhaps you saw Yahtzee's post on my last mail. If not, here it is again.
He doesn't really like it, but it's funny nonetheless.
For a more rounded view, check metacritic. The review lives here:

So you've had a look at those, and you're still intrigued. What's it all about, Alfie?

I'm glad you asked.

It's a "JRPG", whatever that means. Since it's also, apparently, 'genre-breaking', I guess that means it's not a JRPG, or that it is, but it's better, or something. Anyway, first I'll cover the basics, then I'll say what I like about it.

You are a kid called Neku, who has been transported to a strange version of Shibuya, which is some famous area in Japan. People who go to Tokyo always tell me how cool it is. Other reviews have claimed how much this game reminds them of the place. I figure now I've played it in this, I don't need to go. Which is nice.
Anyway, you're a kid, in a twilight-zone version of Shibuya. For reasons you will learn, you have a week to solve 7 challenges, one per day. There are some more days to play at the end of the first 7, but I won't say too much more about those for fear of spoiling. Also, once complete, you can replay any day you've already played, so don't worry too much about clearing everything on the first run through.
In fact, you'll find that pretty much impossible.
So, yeah, you're a kid, in a strange place, with an overarching mission broken up into sub-missions. You have a partner, you collect some pins (or badges, as we call them in the UK), and you get to fight monsters (or 'noise').
From time to time, you meet a boss, and the boss kicks your arse for a bit, and then you either get lucky, or work out how to avoid the punishing attacks.

Learning Curve
Let's get this out of the way, then, shall we? Combat is a motherbitch.
It's tough to learn (I'm still trying to work out the best way to do it), and it may prevent you properly enjoying the game.
For more info, check the combat section, but be warned, this is the biggest barrier to entry, and will make or break if you enjoy the game.
Don't forget, though, your partner can be fully controlled by the computer, very effectively, and you'll have a great time.

They're good. Screenshots never do a DS game justice. Ever. Go to youtube, and check some videos.

Awesome. I'm a pussy, and like crap music, but even so, there are some great tracks on here. I'm told it's 'J-Pop'.

You need Flash player 8+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video.

Play | Pause
This is currently my favourite. (you can skip ahead to the good bit, if you like)

Pins are like, and I hate to say this, trading cards. Sort of. I always think I hate trading cards, but then remember that I played Pokemon, and Star Chamber (although I think that was *before* Sony bought 'em). Let's be honest. I love it. I'm just ashamed of myself. Each pin has a different function - slash Neku, slash an enemy, slash empty space, press, tap, repeatedly tap, draw a circle, double-tap, scratch, etc.

Each can to be levelled to max, and may also evolve. Some evolve from combat. Some evolve from shutting down the DS, some evolve from 'mingling', or letting your DS discover other DSs. Don't despair, though. If you're mateless, there are also aliens.

There are literally hundreds of pins, with some of the most awesome names imaginable.

Random Encounters
For the majority of the time, you control when to fight. You activate the scanning pin, and it scans the area, revealing the monsters. You simply press the ones you want to fight, and they'll come to you. If you don't want to fight, you don't scan. Simple!

Two screens. Simultaneous combat. Headfuck.
So, here's the lower screen.

As you can probably imagine, the bottom screen combat is controlled using the stylus. See above for more details on how. Basically, each pin requires a different action, and will trigger a different type of attack. From flames where you press, to gunfire, sword strikes, energy beams, black holes, scatter guns, bazookas, lightning, and so on, the list seems pretty endless. There's definitely something for everyone. Oh, and healing, if you're a pussy. (I'm actually starting to use more healing now, as I hit the endgame).

The upper screen is controlled using the buttons (or, if you're a right-handed freak, the d-pad).
Here's an example of that:

The upper screen is actually pretty straightforward.
Pushing down blocks, and pushing up jumps (generally). Left and right to start a combo, then follow the arrows to complete. You can just push left/left/left/left to attack, but using the more complicated attacks does more damage.
You can set the computer to control your partner, if you don't want to do this, or control them yourself.
As you complete more attacks, you can build stars. Stars work towards the fusion attack, where both players attack both screens at once. The fusion attack has 3 levels, and also heals a bit. Mostly, though it dishes out the hella pain.
One final feature is the multiplier

Note the light puck (big green circle) that passes betwixt your team. This builds the multiplier. Basically, watch the puck, and control the screen it's on, and you'll do ok.

As you can see, combat is actually pretty deep.

Oh, my lord, the items. I have around 200 right now, and there are still many more to get.
Each item has base stats (attack, defense, hp) plus an ability, which is only revealed when you've made friends with the right store owner. Each store has owners which get more friendly as you buy stuff. As they get more friendly, they reveal more information about items, and also sell more items.
As you progress in the game, too, more items become available.
The abilities range from extra stat points to more esoteric things, like puck in play for longer, extra fusion stars, more experience and various resistances.

There are also quest items, which are, effectively, crafting. You need a range of particular items to create others.
At its most simple, you can exchange 'scarletite' for stickers, which increase various character stats. More complicated is trading leather plus silver plus a jacket to make a derivative.
Of course, if you're looking to collect all the items, this'll take a while.

Oh, my lord, food.
You get 24 'bytes' each day to eat food. Each food item takes a number of bytes to digest. Byte == fight. Generally, the better the effect, the more bytes. Food primarily affects your synch rate (the speed at which the puck builds combo), but also has a lasting effect once consumed. For example, the hot dog boosts your synch by 20%, and then, after 8 bytes, adds +1 attack, permanently. How fucking cool is that? Answer: very fucking cool.

There are 4 difficulty levels. Easy, Normal, Hard, and Ultimate. (I'm yet to unlock Ultimate).
Each noise has a chance to drop pins, which is anywhere between 0.5 and 100%. Each noise will likely drop a different pin at each difficulty level.
The max level for your characters is 100.
Here's where it gets interesting. There's a slider (woo). You can drop your level back (which only lowers your HP), and increase the chance of a pin dropping. It's a simple mutiplication, so if you're level 100, and fighting noise with a 10% drop rate, you can push back to level 90, get 10* stars, and increase the drop rate to 100. There's a 'noise report' screen where you can play with all this. It's very clever.

I have OCD, I'm sure. If a game has something collectible, I want to collect it. I also love the carrot of levelling things. That keeps me going.
So, this game has some good stuff for me.
1) over 300 pins. There's, naturally, a scary amount of evolving to do, in order to gain all the pins, at which point, you might want to use the Wikia.
2) When you scan an area, you can also read the thoughts of the other people. Obviously, there's a points system for this, too.
3) collecting all the items.

There are a few things I'd change. Most important is a warning before a big fight. I'm often training pins, and wander into another zone to reset the noise (when all noise is gone from an area, you can leave and come back to respawn), only to find my move has triggered a cut scene, and I now have to fight some insane boss with a load of shitty pins.

Also, the ability to save between fights, or at least skip cut scenes if you've seen them before.
I hate dying, and then having to sit through 5 minutes of chatter before I can have my face dragged all over the park again.

Changing level from the noise report screen, please.

I've just written a bastard odyssey. If you've made it this far, you're clearly interested, so just go and buy the bloody thing.

Finally, I'm going to start leaving my progress at the end of each post, because I'm sad like that. The order is: ESP'er points, Noise Report (number of noise), Pin Mastery (number of pins mastered, not just collected), Item Collection, Final Time Attack

Currently: 1916/69/129/349/--

Monday, June 9, 2008

Monday. Arf

Woke up late. Again. Mondays aren't for me. Let's be honest, mornings aren't for me.

Had some soup and cheesecake, which has made my day lots better.

So, this weekend. I wanted to go kite flying, but the wind never really picked up.
Instead, I crashed a picnic (happy birthday, Libby) on Saturday, played some rounders, read Edge.
I then wasted the entire evening playing The World Ends With You.
As you've probably heard from a variety of different sources
Cool graphics, nice story, great combat (which will SERIOUSLY mess with your head to start off with), and, best of all, a zillion collectibles.

The combat, though, is worth calling out. It's just starting to hit me, 70% of the way through the first playthrough (with only 30% of the pins), that it really does let you customise to exactly what you're after.

I might do a more in-depth review tomorrow, if I get a chance. But, if you like RPG and have a DS, and also OCD over collectibles, this may well be the game for you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My god

I was going to say that this may be the coolest thing I've ever seen, but that's clearly hyperbole.
It's certainly awesome, though.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

REP Standardisation

Well, hello again. 2 posts in one day. What joy this must bring you.
Anyway, the reason for the double post is that we just pushed info on the fact that Y!, MS and G are all working together to provide clear documentation on Robots.txt support. Hurrah!

You can read more in these places:

Day 2

In the big brother house.
Well, actually, on that note, Big Brother UK starts today. I only know because Channel 4 were pimping it in every commercial break last night, including during the series finale of Reaper, which is awesome. If you're not already watching it, well, partly it's too late, because it just finished, but, well, you can catch up. Well, sort of.
Or you can try something else.

So, yeah, anyway, what else?
It looks like we launched some updated stuff for Google Earth. Go fire it up, and search for Disney World. Don't forget to turn on 3d buildings in the bottom left panel.
If you don't have Google Earth, take a look at this
We just launched a browser plugin, which kicks butt.

It took me just under 10 minutes to knock that demo page together (mostly cutting and pasting from examples)- I love how easy our tools are to learn.
Go and have a play, and let me know what you develop.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

First post

Hopefully first of many. Let's see how we get on.

This is my personal blog, in no way affiliated with the company for which I work.
It'll be comments on everything from goats, to cheese, to computer games (and sometimes computer games about goats cheese - if anyone knows any).

I'll try and post every day, even if there's not much to say.

So, here goes