Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Microsoft store dance

Now, I work at Google, and we're not supposed to beat on Microsoft, so I'm not going to say a thing, and just embed this video, state a few facts, and let you make your own decision

All I will say is try to count how many of the customers in the place are paying any attention. And, if you make it to the end, look to see exactly who is clapping - that's right, it's the people who were dancing, and, erm, no-one else.

Also, it's the music from the JK dance song made famous here: 

They can't even do something with their own theme tune? Oh well.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brutal Legend Map

If you've been playing Brutal Legend, which I have a bit this weekend, you'll probably quite like this:


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shadow Complex, Xbox Live and Cheating

I was intrigued to learn that Shadow Complex a) has a bunch of cheats on the leaderboards (oh noes), and also that Microsoft are going to remove some of them from the leaderboard.
Plus, potentially delete their gamerscores.
Plus, tag their profiles as cheaters.


Let's see if they actually go through with it.

It's still not entirely clear to me what constitutes a cheater, but since they're talking about leaderboards, I guess they mean people doing the trials in ridiculously short times, through exploits.

I grabbed this game pretty early on (I think, the day after it was released) and spent most of the weekend playing it. I had a great time - you can see from the gamercard below what I've been up to.


Although, since it looks like you have to log in to get access to that, how about this:
anyway. You get the idea.

Also been playing Arkham Asylum (or at least, I was, before I came on a work trip), and I have to say, it's a freakin' incredible game, if a little short. I tapped the 'net for 2 of the hidden items, but otherwise, it was pretty much a cakewalk. I think I've got most of the achievements, too, without really struggling.
If you have an xbox.com account, I guess you can see them here:

It's a shame you can't publicise those more, uhm, publically, though.
Anyway, I'm just mopping up the combat challenges, which are pretty fun. In fact, the combat in general is pretty awesome - once you get into the rhythm, it's really nice. My only complaint is that counters don't always work as expected.

Much like Tycho, I also grabbed the demo for Section 8. I'd never heard of it, and the intro movie literally left me breathless. I played it a bit, but as with most demos, it was a lot of people running around like headless chickens. I'm tempted to pick it up, though. It's looks like it has legs.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fable II as episodic content

Hello. It's been too long since the last post.
So, rather than apologise, I'm just going to post as if nothing's happened.

No real excuse - just been terribly busy with work.

Anyway, I was reading this with some interest.


Looks like they're going to release Fable II in bits. The first bit for free, and then each area/level/something will be available for paid download. Very intriguing model, which I'll be following closely.

I also noticed that you can download full 360 games on Xbox now (FINALLY!).
I am sorely tempted by Oblivion, but probably shouldn't, because it's summer, and I should get out.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Oh and

Ads. I thought I'd run some ads, and see what happened.


So, uhm.

I bought a SilverStone FM122. They're pretty expensive. And pretty loud also.
It came with a thing to attach it to rheostat, and a rheostat.
So, I attached them.
That's when I found out the fan was noisy.

I was fitting some new Neon to the case over the weekend, when what did I spy, but a switch with the same connector on it, for the neon. Excellent, thought I, a way to switch the fan on and off.
Clearly, Karma was biting me for dropping out of electronics at school.

I ran 12v up the control line, and blew the fan immediately.

Loads of smoke poured out.

I was just glad it wasn't the CPU.

French Military Defeats?

Not sure if you remember the old joke, where you typed 'french military victories' into Google, and hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button.
It returns this as the result

Which doesn't work since we rebuilt the results page, but, well, you get the idea.

Anyway, I saw this video, and it made me think of it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Problems with flash sites

An interesting one came through my inbox today.

A site made entirely of flash, with more or less just the embed/object tags on the page was showing as a different site in Google search results.
The reason is that both sites only had the text "This site requires needs flash" as the only indexable content. No other meta data to set them apart, and both referenced a flash file of the same name.
Google assumed they were the same site and stopped serving one, since there wasn't any text to extract from the flash file itself.

Please take note - if you must use Flash, at least include a unique <title> tag.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New cooler

As previously mentioned, my fan had come off in transit, and I just hooked it back in. Which was probably causing some problems.
So, I went and bought a some thermal paste and put it on. I'd let it bed for a few days but it was still showing the results from the previous post.

Last night, I spent a couple of hours reading up on coolers. There are LOADS of great reviews and benchmarks for coolers out there, and far more variety than I had realised. Which naturally means that there are a few companies looking to cash in - there's a lot of crap out there.

So, I went and grabbed a Noctua NH-U12P from Yoyotech on my way home from work. They're not as cheap as online, but coolers can be heavy (this one clocks in at ~800G with the fan attached), so postage from £10 to £15 meant it was cheapest there. I also looked at the Cooler Master V8, OCZ Vendetta 2, OCZ Gladiator Max.
First, I was going to go with the V8. I was checking out the Hyper TX2, but because I'm easily deceived by shiny things, I ended up focused on that. Oh, and the sphere; but the sphere is just for show, not for overclocking. Shame.
Anyway, the V8. Yeah. A few places really rate it, but most find it mid-range. Better than stock, certainly, but still largely for show. It's £50 at play.com, but they're out of stock, and I'm impatient. The next cheapest place was about £75. That's £60 + £15 postage - it seems only play.com do free delivery on it, so it's hardly surprising it's out of stock. If I was going to spend that much, I might as well spend it on something really good.
So, I went back to budget. I thought long and hard about the Gladiator Max. There are very few reviews of coolers running on AM3 boards, and they're big chips. The Gladiator has a massive contact area, which may have worked in its favour. The Vendetta was out stock everywhere I looked. Again with the impatience. I saw the V10 (v8's big brother) but it's stupidly expensive, and massive, and just, well, not for me. Too shiny.
Finally, I checked out the CoolIt Domino ALC, which reports really well from a few reviews. However, one mentioned that it doesn't send a lot of cooling to the motherboard, and can cause instability that way.
I should really have looked at a Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme, but that requires extra fans, and the whole researching fans thing looked to be much effort. Sadly, I had to ditch Xigmatek for the same reason. Which is a shame, because they create things called Thor's Hammer, and Achilles, which *must* be awesome. In fact, Thor's Hammer is one of the best air coolers around.

Ok, back to the Noctua. If the Noctua really doesn't let me push over 4.2GHz (my goal), then I'll look at the problem again, and maybe invest in a top end cooler.
The installation process is either fun or terrifying depending on your point of view. I found it great fun, but it took about an hour, from the first moment I went hunting for a screwdriver, to the moment I realised I hadn't plugged in my graphics card power, because the thing wouldn't POST.
Anyway, it seems to be running fine, but they say the thermal paste can take a while to bed in, so I'll be doing some tests over the weekend, to see what's up.

Adventures in Overclocking

So, as you may have seen in previous posts, I've been having problems with my new rig.
First off, when it arrived, the fan had fallen off in transit.
I'm working with a

  • Phenom II X4 955 BE
  • Gigabyte GA-MA790XT-UD4P.
  • 2x2Gig DDR3 1600 RAM.
  • Gelid Silent Spirit Cooler

Then, it appeared that the BIOS hadn't been updated on the board to support the chip they were selling it with, so the thing was running at 800MHz, instead of 3800MHz.
I downclocked it back to x16 multiplier @ 200Mhz Clock and was seeing a very stable 3200MHz.

So, to overclocking.

I'm using Windows 7, release 7100, 64 bit. Almost every report I've read said that 32 bit windows allows much greater overclocks.
Also, benchmarking takes TIME. You'll need to run a new setup for at least 3 hours to make sure they're stable.
Fortunately (or not), problems tend to appear in minutes.

Useful Links
There are a few things I've learnt about this, and a few great articles out there for the beginner.
Overclocking Basics

Monitoring tools:
CPU-Z, Hardware Monitor, Core Temp, Speedfan, GPU-Z
Core temp creates log files, allowing you to see what happened after a crash, or if you were AFK, but all are pretty essential (and free).

All CPU memter

Benchmarking tools:
3dMark Vantage (I bought it - it's pretty awesome, but there's a free version too).

Just overclock me, damnit.
The thing that becomes immediately obvious is that there's no silver bullet for this stuff. No one setting will work for everyone.
That being said, if you want a very simple overclock, whack the multiplier up to x18 if you have a stock cooler.
You'll see very stable performance at 3600MHz, without changing anything else.
To do this, hit enter when your computer boots, and go into MIT -> then just change the multiplier value.

The basics - before you start.
There's a huge amount of reading to do, though. Where do you even begin?
Well, it seems one of the big advantages of the Black Edition Phenoms is that they come 'unlocked'. This means you can ramp up the multiplier in the BIOS to get easy overclocks.
However, before we even do that, you want to optimise your memory. Mine runs at 8x, dual channel. So, 8 * 200 = 1600MHz.
Easy enough. I upped the VDimm (DDR3) voltage to 1.8v, which Corsair recommend for their RAM. I also adjusted the timings manually in the BIOS.
You'll need to find the settings for your RAM, and do the same.

The basics - AMD Overdrive
Many people use AMD Overdrive. I can't get this to run, despite claimed support from AMD for both Windows 7 and the motherboard. Others may see different levels of success. My particular error message was that it couldn't start the service, due to the path not being found. Oh well.
You may have more luck. It's available over at AMD.

Using the BIOS.
Fortunately, all the serious sites didn't really use AMD overdrive, preferring the scary route of the BIOS.
I won't lie. Poking around in your BIOS can be daunting, and if you get something wrong, you can nuke components.
Overclocking (or attempting to) will void your warranty. However, as long as you make small changes each time, you should never run into problems.

So, to access the BIOS, you need to push as your computer's booting, ideally when it's searching for the IDE drives, or when the splash screen tells you to.
Once in there, you want to enter into the MIT section. Most things should be set on auto.

The first thing you want to do is disable AMD Cool'n'Quiet.
Then, you can get going.

My first overclock
The default for the 955 is a multiplire (CPU Clock Ratio) x16, with a clock speed (CPU Frequency) of 200MHz. So, simple maths, 200x16 = 3200.
You'll want to download CPU-Z, which lets you monitor how quickly your processor is actually running.
You may find you need to flash the BIOS on your motherboard, if CPU-Z is reporting 800MHz for your chip.
So, change the CPU Clock Ration to 'x18'. This will take you to 3600.
Then push escape, f10, enter. This will return to the menu, save the bios and reboot.
Next time your computer comes up, it'll be running at 3.6Ghz, which should be stable at stock voltage.

Now, break out your stability test (prime95, for example) and run it for 15 mins. It should kick the bejesus out of your processor. I am running the CPU Meter gadget for Windows vista/7, which shows a very basic bar graph for CPU utilisation. It's sufficient for my needs. You may want to shop around.

If everything is stable after 15 mins on this low overclock, you should be in business.
Now, reboot, enter BIOS, and knock the multiplier up one click, to x18.5. This should give a 3700 operating speed.
Let it boot into windows, and see what happens. Run the stability test.

Wait for it to crash. At least, it crashed on mine. So, the next thing is to go back into the BIOS, and up the VCore voltage.
This is the number you can see on CPU-Z and a number of other tools, which should be around 1.3 at stock (possibly 1.35).
You want to bump this up .05V, and then boot to windows. Re-run the stability tests.

If anything crashes, go back and up the voltage again. I got stable results for x18.5 at 1.425V.

Then, once you have stable results for x18.5, go and change again to x19.
Personally, at this point, I had to up the voltage to 1.52 to get it to boot at all.
This meant that my cooler couldn't cool things quickly enough at all, and we hit 64C in a few seconds.
I stopped the tests and decided it wasn't wise to continue.
If I could have made the chip run at lower voltages, I might have been in with a chance, but it falied miserably at any lower voltage.

The Clock Speed
Next, we revert all the settings back to standard.
What? Why? I hear you scream.
Well, now we've pushed the limits of the multiplier, we want to see how much we can overclock the clock speed.
This means that the multiplier will still be x16, but by moving the 200 value, we can still an increase.

This works in exactly the same way.
First, up the Clock Speed value to, say, 210, Then reboot, and run some tests.
At 210, with a x16 multiplier, you're running at 3360MHz.
Please note, this will also increase the speed of your RAM, HT Link and NB frequency.
If your RAM is now operating over its recommended settings, scale back the multiplier. It's always better to be a bit low than a bit high.

I'm still at the very early stages of this process, but I seem to have a stable build on a clock speed 230 at 1.425V, and I want to push it further.

Current thoughts
There are lots and lots of great guides out there, and many many documents filled with scary acronyms.
This is one of the best
but it's pretty hardcore.

I'll update tomorrow with my new findings.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Whaddya know?


Good article about cooling. Seems the bottom of the GTX is where the air is sucked in, and it's pushed out of the side and back.
I should blow some smoke in or something.

This is almost it, I guess.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gaming Rigs, V


Windows 7 RC Build 7100.
AMD Phenom X4 955 Black Edition.
Gigabyte MAXT970-UD4P (F4G BIOS) AM3 socket.

You need to update to the latest BIOS to get this chip to run properly. There are instructions on a previous post.

Quick synopsis: Just download the latest bios from www.gigabyte.com.tw. Create a small (25meg) FAT partition on your disk, unzip download, get the files and stick them in the partition. Reboot, and hit 'f9' at boot screen, to enter QFlash. Select load, find it, wait, and boom, you're done. DO NOT SWITCH OFF during this process. I recommend reading the previous post for full details, though. Flashing BIOS can cause problems if you're not prepared. It's not scary, just important to read the instructions.

Note that Windows 7 has some nice disk management tools, so you can easily create a FAT partition to hold a BIOS for flashing. It just lets you shrink an active partition. This may be in Vista too, but I never used it.

Also, Gigabyte makes it really really hard to get wrong - they have a dual bios feature that lets you roll back if something goes wrong.

The fan had fallen off in transit, as I may have mentioned. This meant I needed to clean the old crap off chip and fan and put some new thermal paste on it. This is really easy. There are plenty of guides on the internet. Here's a video from a nerdy teenager.

The chip's stable at 3700. VCore 1.425.
Everything else stock.
I'm playing with the idea of increasing the northbridge to 2400 or so, to see if I can take chip up 3800. Right now, it crashes even with the voltage up to 1.525, and I'm loathe to take it any further.
Over at forums.amd.com, a couple of really helpful guys have suggested the following settings:

3.8,HTT 200,NB frequency 2600mhz,HT link speed 2400mhz,vcore 1.45v,CPU/NB voltage 1.30v,NB voltage 1.28-1.30v,SB 1.20v.

If you can decode that ; )

The GTX 295 is overclocked to 684/1119/1380.
It runs 3dbenchmark at ~P22k, which is good, although with PhysX on. I need to re-run with it not on.

Drivers, 186.08, just come out (2 days ago, beta).
Overclocked, for Crysis, I get some pretty good benches - 1900x1200, 8xAA, VeryHigh -> 33FPS.
Empire Total War runs with max settings with no problems at all.

Crysis, though (that actual game, not the benchmark) crashes out with the card overclocked.

I've been leaving Speedfan and HWMonitor running in the background. These are both awesome tools. GPU-Z and CPU-Z are also very helpful, so you should grab them too.

Anyway, it seems to be running pretty hot.
I've just ordered a PCI fan cooler, so I'll see if that drops the speed any.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gaming Rigs, IV.

So, I finally worked out what it was.
In case someone needs to find this, I'm going to list the problem parts.

Gigabyte MAXT790-UD4P
Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition (BE)

The BIOS wasn't updated to deal with the chip, and it was stuck at 800MHz.
I upgraded to the latest version, downloaded from http://www.gigabyte.com.tw. Which is pretty weak, considering I bought it from a shop that claimed to have pre-overclocked it. Took me a couple of weeks to diagnose.

There's a great guide here:

It shows you everything you need to know. Read it carefully, and you'll have no problems.
Word of advice - write down your settings before updating - it wipes them.

Now I just need to update the BIOS to overclock it again, because I failed miserably to write them down.
The fan had also fallen off in transit, so I need to put some new thermal paste on it.

I'll let you know how it goes

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gaming Rigs part III


So, uhm, I've done some benchmark running.
You can see some screengrabs here:


If you have a look at this, you'll likely notice that the clock speed on CPU-Z is showing 800MHz
Well, apparently that's a problem with CPU-Z not recognising AM3 socket chips.
DMI Info shows the real deal. 3.8GHz. Woot.

Which brings us to the benchmark results.
They're low. Really low. ~9k for the GPU stuff on 3dmark vantage.
It goes even lower when you disable PPU, but I'm not about to do that.

I've been told it might be PSU, but then also been told it might not be the PSU.
So I guess I need to order a new PSU, and see.

Damn it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Gaming Rigs II

So, I went with the Ultima Warlord. GTX 295. AMD Phenom core II (geeeeeeeeeeeek) overclocked to 3.8 GHz or something.
I don't really know.

Funny thing? It still struggles in Total War. Although, to be fair, only when I'm firing 32 rockets at the same time from the very advanced artillery (rocket artillery).
Like this:

And if he can do it, why can't I? Hmmm?

It might be something to do with my running Windows 7, which is actually pretty sweet.
But, the graphics card drivers might not be best supported under it.

So, Sunday is going to spent running some benchmarks, playing with drivers, and generally trying to optimise it.
If that all goes ok. I'll be trying to overclock it.
Why? Because that's what we do. Buy new stuff, and then try to break it.

Oh, and trying to get DOW II to run. Currently, it does not like me at all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pixel City

On a train at the moment, and there's WiFi!
Not fast enough to do any work, which is a shame, but fine for browsing.
Whilst just poking around (something I must do a lot more, it seems), I stumbled across this:

Here's a video, to give you an idea of what's going on.

Essentially, this dude has written a program which generates cool nighttime cityscapes. If you head over to his blog, you'll see, in no small amount of detail, how he's done it, but the video will give you most of what you need to know.
I spent a couple of hours reading all the posts in detail, and if you're a programmer, you may find it interesting.

I guess the key part is that he hasn't drawn anything at all - just given the computer some rules on how to generate these cities.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gaming rigs

I picked up Empire: Total War the other day. It's pretty awesome, if you like that sort of thing, which I totally do.
Been playing on a laptop, but it's a bit depressing.
So, I've been looking at a gaming rig, for around a grand.
A quick bit of reading last night, and a mail to some excellent geek friends, and it became pretty obvious what I needed.

It became pretty obvious that I needed the nVidia GTX 295 was the correct video card choice.
But, which chip? Phenom II is cheap, and more energy efficient. i7 is way faster, but costs more. Which to buy?
I suspect I'll end up with the Phenom.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I alluded last week to having been travelling a lot with work recently.

Before I get going, though, some background. I consider myself extremely lucky to work at Google - it's an incredible place with a great attitude towards the people it employs. Frankly, the free food alone is enough to convince me - getting to work with so many wizards is just an added bonus.

One of the most incredible things about being here is that everyone delivers over and above what's required - "underpromise, overdeliver" is a much used phrase here, and people really do work like that. Basically, don't promise something if it's not going to be ready in time.

So, with that in mind, let me take you back to the very beginning of November 2008. It's not so long ago. We were just winding up our Google Developer Days, with the last one planned for Tel Aviv, in Israel. A few of us had arrived directly from Moscow (we hit 8 countries in 4 weeks, which was pretty awesome overall).

Now, you might not know this, but Israel has its weekend on Friday and Saturday, instead of Saturday and Sunday. Not really a problem. I'm out with some people from the office on friday night, and we're having a few drinks, when one mentions that there's a trip to Ramallah the following day. Without really knowing what that meant, I offered myself as tech support. At least, I think I did. Timbo and I were putting away the vodka shooters pretty aggressively at the time.

Anyway, the next morning, we had a sober chat, and I reaffirmed my offer - to head into the West Bank and meet some technology companies. So, off we went in our armoured car. Yeah. Armoured car.

In the UK, our only mainstream coverage of the West Bank is when there are clashes, so I really had no idea what to expect. Thanks to Wikipedia, I was able to get a bit of clarification.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, getting in was no problem, and once you were past the checkpoint. It was just a regular town, with places to eat junk food, billboards everywhere and construction work going on. Oh, and a starbucks rip-off.

An amazing guy called Omar from DAI had tried to get in contact with people in Google, and had been bounced around for a bit. The email had eventually ended up with one of our directors, who had read it, and decided to do something about it. So, Omar had set up a few meetings with various companies and organisations, like g.ho.st, and PICTI.

So, we met a few companies and learned some things. Like, there are 600k homes in the west bank, but only 60k ADSL lines. 40% of the country is online, though, albeit using dialup. And even though the population can't really leave the west bank, they have a number of high quality universities, who are churning out around 1500 highly qualified computer programmers every year, who are largely fluent in English.

Cool, huh? Well, it is until you realise that there are only around 1300 IT jobs available, in total. So every year, lots of new engineers appear, but are almost guaranteed not to get a job. Unemployment is pretty high, as you can imagine. (Actually, it's even worse in Gaza - around 70%).

As I'm sure you can imagine, they don't really even have the opportunity to start new online businesses easily. This is because to start a new online business, you need space in a datacentre. And there aren't a lot of datacentres in the West Bank.

It struck us immediately that App Engine would be of huge interest to the engineers out there. If you know what App Engine is, you can skip the rest of this paragraph and the next one too. If you don't, well, then, get reading! App Engine lets you write software to run on Google's hardware and infrastructure. I've worked at (and started) and handful of startups, and I can tell you, hand on heart, that this is one of the biggest things Google has ever done. Especially in the current financial doldrums the world is experiencing.

For any startup, one of the biggest costs is building a robust, scalable infrastructure, and hosting it, and deploying servers in advance of predicted load. You need, at a bare minimum, a network architect, a sysadmin/network admin, someone to unpack boxes and plug things in, and, if you're doing anything that requires uptime, a group of people to work on shifts in case something goes down. And then the machines themselves. For a new startup trying to get off the ground, £100k is a pretty decent figure to get up and running in 3 months. And then there are ongoing hosting and staffing costs.

App Engine removes that entire problem, and all the costs associated with it. You simply write software and push it to Google servers, and it runs. There's not even concept of virtual machines, just software processes. We just scale automagically.

Which is obviously pretty awesome, especially in a place where finding startup money isn't easy. With App Engine, you get enough free quota to handle around 5 million pageviews per month, for free.

In addition, we have a massive range of free APIs that let you add cool stuff to websites simply and easily. Like maps, search results, videos, docs, presentations, and more. Check out http://code.google.com/apis for more on that. So, it seemed like a pretty obvious step that we'd try and train some of the students on some of the tools we have available, including, but not limited to, App Engine.

Over the course of the next 4 months, people inside Google went to town on what they do best. There were meetings. There was planning. Cables were laid. Visas were acquired. Hotel bookings were made, and flights were booked. This was also a 20% project. (At Google, we're allowed to spend 20% of our time working on things which are not related to our core jobs, but important to the company. It's an incredibly good way of letting people try out different things, and gain experience outside their job role, and also keep them excited working here. It's another reason I love this place so much.)

I have to admit that I was little to no help when it came to the planning, but it evolved into something pretty major.

The GPalsDay, 2009. Here's the website.
As you can see, it ended up being a 2 day event, focused on 2 separate things. 1 day for the developers, and 1 day for business people and content creators. I was mostly active in the developer day, running the gadgets and opensocial session, and then a hackathon in the afternoon.

The registration opened, and was full within a few hours, which was amazing. The email address associated with the event was filling up rapidly with messages from people as well, wanting to make sure they'd registered, or asking if there was a way they could be bumped to the top of the list.

So, off we flew, to brave Israeli customs again, and then headed over the checkpoint to prepare for the first day.

I can honestly say I've never seen a room of people so excited to be learning about code. You could almost feel the buzz, and everyone was smiling and super-excited for Google to be there.
Now, there's a funny thing about developers. Very few of them will ask questions in front of a crowd. I guess because they don't want to appear stupid. But here, everyone was highly engaged. There were a lot of great questions that showed they'd really absorbed the material presented. In addition, USAID had had a 30 meg intertron connection fitted to the hotel, and we had free wireless for everyone, so people were playing around with the products as they were being presented.

In the afternoon, we ran a 4 hour hack session, where we taught people about OpenSocial and had them write apps. There were also prizes awarded.

Personally, I feel it was one of the best developer events we've ever done - thanks in no small part to the incredible level of engagement of the participants. We're still waiting for the videos to go online, and I'll update this post when they do, but you'll be able to see what a great success the day was, and, more importantly, anyone who couldn't attend can watch the full content in their own time.

On the second day, I presented, at record speed, Webmaster Tools, Analytics and Website Optimiser, which seemed to go down very well.

In the end, 12 people from Google attended, and it was an amazing 2 days. We had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life - students to government ministers - and everyone in between. And it seemed that everyone got something from the day.

And what did I get? The knowledge that the western media really spin the bejingles out of everything. Palestine is much like any other citiy where we've hosted developer days; it's full of lots of people with great ideas and wanting to learn. Oh, and Stones in the centre of town do a great stone-baked pizza.


*Word of warning - Israeli airport security is insane. If you're planning to visit, expect to have your bags turned inside out, and to be waiting for hours at the airport. And that's both entering and leaving. It's all about ensuring safety, so I applaud them for their diligence (and I've seen enough airports for it not to be a big deal), but, well, just warning for those thinking about visiting.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cover music

A bit of pop music, anyone?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nokia profits drop 90%!

I got to travel to Helsinki a few years ago, in December. I want to December 20th, but I'm probably wrong. It was winter, anyway. And it was to visit Nokia. They wanted to have a chat about some of our APIs, and we went and met a couple of agencies there too. I went with Bart, and we had a pretty cool time.

But, it was dark for most of the time. Dark when I had breakfast. Dark on the way to the office. Dark in the cab to Nokia headquarters. It was light for about 20 minutes during the meeting. And then dark again when we left.
I'd heard about lack of sunlight being a depressing so I was prepared, and I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky guy (at least, I think so), but I actually found it properly oppressive and a bit weird. So I can kinda understand how suicide rates go up.

Anyway, all that aside, I saw that Nokia had a 90% drop in profit this quarter. Operating profit down from nearly 2 BILLION euros, to around 500 million, and net profit (the one that counts) was closer to 100 million. Ouch!

Or so I thought. Turns out, their shares actually rallied 9% on the back of this news, thanks to it being better than expected, mostly because everyone had thought they were going to do so much worse!

Anyway, you can read all the details over at Google, thanks to the Associated Press (AP), whose news we've hosted since 2007.

Main site

Oh, and my main site's down, because my credit card was compromised, and, of course, I pay for my hosting on credit card. Should be back up in a few days.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Danny Sullivan is awesome

I try to avoid just re-posting links on this blog. It's not big and it's not clever, and it doesn't really add anything to any discussion.

However, there are times when it's useful (see the post just before this, for example). Normally, once done, I'll write a few original content posts before another simple link/
But, this is too good to pass up.
Danny Sullivan is a big cheese in the world of SEO, which, in case you don't know, is search engine optimisation, or the act of ranking higher in search (Google) results for a particular keyword or words. I work in the webmaster support team at Google, so I see a fair share of black and white hat SEO (bad and good, respectively).
A very old example of black hat SEO is where you'd put words on a page in the same colour as the background, so they were effectively invisible. The words would be a list of words for which you wanted the page to rank.
Over at Google, we consider that spamming (or perhaps cloaking), and we'll take you out of our index for trying to cheat the system. So don't!

Anyway, Danny's the man - very very well respected within the community. So, when he writes something like this, you sit up and take notice.

Here it is.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Google and the Newspapers

I read this, and found it interesting. It's about YouTube and PRS.


In particular, this:

To suggest that Google must accept the deal is to suggest that Google needs to subsidize the music industry simply because it is a profitable company.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Netlog developer day

Hello hello,

I've been travelling like a loon for the last month, with varying amounts of internets, so updating has been, well, awful.
Today, I'm at a Netlog developer day, where they're running 2 streams - in a cinema! It's awesome. They asked me over to present a little bit on OpenSocial (they're a major European partner, so if you're an opensocial developer, you should SIGN UP NOW!), and it's the biggest screen I've ever seen. Pretty cool. And it also means the seats are super-comfortable.

It seems like a great crowd here, but we broke for lunch, and I thought I'd knock out a blog post quickly, to get back into the groove.
On the weekend, I'm going to write up some of the trips I've done over the last few weeks, which have all been really exciting.

It also means I haven't played a lot of games recently, although I spent some time last night with Afro Samurai.
Which is fun, ish. The combat's smooth, graphics great, move list is big, but it's plagued with minor annoyances.
For example, scrolling through your combo list is a nightmare. Some of the jumping challenges are a nightmare. You have a guide (in the form of Samuel L. Jackson, for god's sake), but at the two places where I've really needed him, he's told me to find my own damn way. Which is really annoying.
When you get into the flow, though, it's pretty sweet, and looks amazing. I'd recommend it when you can get it for under £20.
Definitely not worth full price.

I also bought Empire Total War from Steam, because I thought it might be nice to play in hotel rooms in the evening. But a) Google people are too friendly, and don't let you sit in a hotel alone when you're visiting their country, and b) the one time I spent a few hours playing it, it kept crashing, hard. Like, switching-off-the-computer type crashes, not just crash to desktop.
So, I'm not sure I'll pick it up again, which is a shame, because it's had some good reviews, and looks like just the sort of crack I crave.

Well, in the meantime, I'd better go and grab some lunch and be sociable.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Scary peoples

There are some very scary people out there.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Josh from Nine Inch Nails

I'm not that into music, really. I'll listen to anything eclectic. Right now, I'm listening to, uhh, something called 'Track 06' and it sounds like it has a Russian woman in it. I've no idea where I got it from. Probably a random CD I bought in Camden.

I also really REALLY like Mashups. DJ Prince is the one who got me into them.
This , in particular.

In general, though, I can't name many songs, and don't really listen to the lyrics.

However, this is, quite simply, the most genius thing I've ever seen.


Left 4 Dead and other DLC

Probably old news to most of you, but I just grabbed the Mirror's Edge DLC.
In fact, I bought it online at xbox.com from a hotel in San Francisco . YOu buy there, and queue downloads for next time you turn on your xbox. Conceptually, pretty freaking awesome. It didn't work out so well, though.
See the box below? Well, it was like that, only about 25% of the size. And no scrollbars. So I couldn't click on anything.
I tried on Chrome and FF3. Eventually, I had to use IE, which was slow and nasty.

I went to get a screengrab today, and instead of the small box issue, I got the following.
The reason it's on GTA instead of Mirror's Edge is because I wanted to make sure it wasn't happening just because I'd already bought the content.

Either way, it's both confusing and annoying.

Then, when it had downloaded, it said 'registered for a different console'. And I had to download it again, which took far longer than it should, because it kept saying 'no need to download again'.  So I had to muck around a lot.

As you know, I love the Xbox. Brilliant console. But they really don't have very much joined up thinking.

Anyway, all that aside, the DLC is pretty sweet. I like the new levels (well, the 2 I played, anyway), and it's fun trying to find the quickest route through the level.

I also noticed that Left 4 Dead is getting some free DLC, adding a couple of campaigns, and adding a new mode called 'Survival', which seems to be like the Horde mode from GoW2.

So, good times all around.

I also have FEAR2 and Halo Wars waiting to be played.

And Stormrise on preorder, which I think is the end of the pre-order nonsense from this time last year.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009



I'm in MTV today (which isn't, as you might expect, the Music Television Studios) but rather how we refer to Mountain View at Google. At least, I do. Others may not. Whatever.

Anyway, it seems I missed the Gmail outage, thanks to being fast asleep, but have just seen this:

Basically, if you get a gtalk message with a TinyURL link, and you end up on a ViddyHo page, DO NOT ENTER YOUR PASSWORD.

If you have already entered your password, don't despair.
Just log into Gmail, and change it, as soon as possible. Also, remember to change it to something difficult to guess. If you have a pet dog called 'Ernie', don't make 'Ernie' your password.

As a general rule, avoid entering your gmail password on any site which isn't gmail.
There's rarely a compelling need.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fallout 3 Music

The Chinese have invaded Alaska!
Not really, that's just Fallout, and where I choose to locate my post today.

So, 2 slightly sad things to report.
1) Over 200 hours clocked on fallout. That's, like, 8 days of my life.
Worth it though. The game really is awesome.

2) Fallout music. LOVE IT. Going to try and find somewhere I can buy it now.

UPDATE: I found a preview page at Rhapsody.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fallout 3 DLC: Operation Anchorage

So, as you likely know, I've been playing Fallout 3.
I had downloaded the DLC, but been studiously ignoring it.
At level 14, I felt I was probably ready for it.

It's still pretty easy.

I think I reloaded a couple of times to approach in different ways, but basically, once you've got 75+ small guns skill, it's a breeze (which for some people may be quite early on).

For a challenge, I'd recommend going in around level 5-6.

The graphics, though, are lovely.
It's a sad case of affairs, but I came to a realisation at around 2am last night, when I finally unplugged it.
I don't really look at video games.

Let me explain. It was 1.50, and I was thinking 'must crash soon, but just one more fight' (as you do). Then, for the first time since playing, Fallout 3 crashed. The framerate dropped for about 3 seconds, and then it just hung.

And that's when I looked around the screen at everything that was there.
And it was stunning.

Now, it might just be the Operation Anchorage graphics are "better" (and wow, they're beautiful), or it may be that the blues and whites are just nicer to look at than the browns and greys of the devasted DC area, but, well, whatever it was, it was a real stop-and-gape moment.

I mean, I'm generally scouring the near-middle distance for things to interact with, but (apart from Gears of War) I rarely stop and look around. I'm moving, see the screen in motion.

So, now, I'm going to try and spend some time looking at these things, and enjoying what's been created.

Two for the price of one!

I love the Intertron.

I was in a discussion about form vs function for websites, and it reminded of the spinning/flaming logo IBM ad from, oh, æons ago.

Anyway, here it is.

Sony release new hardware

This is quite rude, so if swearing upsets you, please don't hit play.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fallout 3

I caught up on Penny Arcade over the weekend, and came across this article.
It talks about the fact that maybe, after all, Fallout 3 wasn't the game of the year.

It's funny, actually, because I was of the same opinion, only in reverse.
I bought Fallout last year, I guess when it came out (it was one of the massive pre-order list I created last year), and played it for about 3 hours.
Then went to play other stuff, like Fable2, Gow2, Mirror's Edge, Lego Batman, Bioshock, and even Assassin's Creed.
I picked it back up a couple of weekends back, and I have to say, I am LOVING it.
As previously mentioned, I have a bad habit of looking at guides too much, so I'm actively trying to avoid them.
But Fallout has a great, great Wiki

It's hard not to look at that every time I hit a new area, especially with all the lovely books to pick up.
Damn it.

Android SD Card on computer

This might be really really obvious to everyone else, but it wasn't obvious to me.

In order to access your SD card from your Android phone on your computer, there are a couple of things you need to do.

1) Attach the phone using a USB cable.
2) Open the Notifications bar,
3) Click the USB one
4) Select 'mount' when it asks you if you want to see the files on your PC.

I only put this here because I'd spent a fruitless 30 minutes mucking around in the settings, trying to do this, but nothing seemed to work.

Hopefully, it'll be useful to you.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Well, it's been a while since I wrote about games, so what's up?

I finally got around to finishing Assassin's creed, and getting the last few flags in a couple of districts. I was going to duff up all the Templars, sort of like this

But I got bored looking for them all.
Also, the quality of that video is bad. Apologies, but I also got bored looking for a decent one - it's an old game, and pre-HD on YouTube, so, well, that's all.

Also, if you're here, you probably know I created the Goatmaps for AC. Well, I never finished them, but there are a few similar sites up now.

I then put Mirror's Edge back in, and had a quick crack at that. Good times. I must get the DLC , though.
I haven't embedded that video, since it's in HD over on YT, and you want to see it in HD. Trust me.
(Too many acronyms?)

Then, on to Fallout 3.
Now, my biggest problem has always been that I start looking at guides way too early on, although not because I want to scream through the game, but because I was the in-game help, and it mentioned running.
There's no run button in the game, though,
So, I was trying some stuff out, like wearing no armour, holstering my weapon, and so on.
As far as I could tell, it made no difference (and in fact, holstering my weapon seemed to make me run slower, but that could have been my imagination).

So, I went online, looking for answers. And it turns out that no, there's no run - running is what you do when you're not crouching. Of course.
Some forums have said wearing different clothes (no heavy armour) can increase running speed, too, but I'm dubious.

Anyway, of course I found this on a fallout Wiki, which I left open. I then got confused about a quest, and looked at the same Wiki to find out what I should be doing next, and before I knew it, I was reading about stuff I hadn't even discovered yet. So I stopped immediately.

Last night, I left my computer at work (*gasp*) and just played the game.
It was much nicer without the distraction of looking at the computer all the time to make sure I was doing stuff right, but the voice in the back of my head kept saying "I bet there was a way to get more out of that quest".
Probably there was, but you know what? I'm going to save the guide for my second playthrough, when I'll aggressively mini-max everything (and probably also max big guns. wO_ot).

That is all.

Oh, except that I also had a great time with Fable 2. You should get it now.


Just read a pretty funny article over at Time (the magazine, not the place, despite the location of this post).

Excuse me now while I go and tape up my thumbs and pretend to be a dinosaur.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mirror's Edge

I got sucked into this pretty heavily over the weekend, and started playing the time trials.
The story itself is not good at all, but the time trials are sort of like a racing game.
You find the quickest route through a course, much like racing, only you're a free runner.

Here's the same thing in HD
Which actually looks awesome. Anyway.

It's pretty intriguing, more so if you have a mild case of OCD, like me, and evokes all the same frustration that driving games do when you're trying to beat your Personal Best.
Lots of screaming at the TV and throwing my controller around, which is the best way to spend a rainy sunday.

Apart from being forced to watch the Hills, obviously.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mirror's Edge

It's a bit like Portal meets Exit. it's growing on me. (phone blog)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From my tellingbone

Mike (who, by the way is genius) has built a blogger app for android. I use it now. Search for A-Blogger and play.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A story of Nokia and the Android contact merge

EDIT (April 2010): A number of people have been leaving comments at the bottom with hints and tips - many are less technical than what I've written, so don't forget to check them too! And thanks to everyone who's left a comment.

I just managed to transfer all my contacts from a Nokia to the G1. It's not too hard. Here's how to do it.

But first, some background. (you can skip ahead if you like)

So, uhh, I used to be a Nokia fan boy.
I loved their menu system, and their sleek designs. And they seemed to fix little things about their OS with each iteration.

And then they released the N70, and the N76. And I started to realise that actually, they had no clue whatsoever.
Why's that?
Well, let me tell you.

The N70 is a really really bad design. Everyone I spoke to agreed on this.
Basically, to lock the keypad, you slide it shut. But, it can easily open in your pocket, and start making calls, and destroying your battery.
Or, it could just hit the camera button, which isn't lockable, and starting taking pocket pictures. Again, destroying the battery.

The N76 isn't much better. It's a clamshell, so at least the keys are protected, but there are 3 'media' keys on the front, for controlling the music player, which can't be locked. So, again, it's in your pocket, and boom, music starts playing. You look around, trying to spot the annoying person on the tube playing loud music, only to realise it's you.

So, when Google gave us all G1s for Christmas, I couldn't have been happier.
Now, there's been a lot of crap in the press about how we've been skanked, because we got a phone instead of cash.
However, I can honestly tell you that for the 3 months leading up to Christmas, all people have been saying is "They should give us all G1s". In fact, if I had shiny pound for every time I'd heard that comment, I'd be a very rich man indeed.

Anyway, on to the problem at hand.

Transferring contacts from Nokia phones to G1.

It's actually pretty easy, but (unless you don't have many contacts) you will need a computer.

Before we begin, be aware that you can just copy them to the Sim card, and then just stick the sim in the G1. But you'll lose a lot of data.

There are 2 options here.
1) Import contacts directly to the Android.
2) Import contacts into Gmail, and let it synch.

Whichever you choose, the first thing you need to do is get the contacts off your Nokia.

Here's a good explanation of that, with pictures. However, don't do all the steps. Stop when you've copied them over.

Basically, if you can't be bothered to click that link (weirdo), you do the following
Go to contacts on your Nokia.
Click options -> mark -> mark all
Click options -> copy -> to memory card
remove the memory card.

Ok, you can pretty much throw away your Nokia now.

Next, if you don't have many contacts, you can just copy them one-by-one into Gmail.
To do this, put the SD card into your Android phone, and then go to menu -> settings -> SD Card -> and tick 'use for USB storage'.
NOTE: Your computer and phone CANNOT talk to the SD card at the same time. You must go into these settings change the tickbox according to what you're trying to do.

Then plug your phone into the computer USB cable. You should see a box that looks something like this

Click 'Open Folder to view Files'.

Then, browser to 'Others/Contacts'.
Open Gmail, go to contacts, click import, and then choose file. Select a vcard file (it'll be something like bill.vcf) and hit ok. The contact will import.

However, if you do have a lot of contacts, this is really boring. So you need to merge the files.
If you have a unix box, you can just type
cat * >> ALL.vcf
If you don't, you'll need a program like this

Once you've merged your files, you'll need to copy the resulting file to the top of your SD card.
To do this, locate the ALL.vcf file you've just created, and drag it to the top level of the SD card.

Then, open gmail, and import this file.
Alternatively, download this app
and do it directly on the Android phone.

Now, there's one last thing. The pictures won't have come across. So, for this, you'll need some jiggery pokery (and a bit of programming knowledge, I'm afraid).

Here's a Perl program I wrote to extract the images from the VCF files.


use MIME::Base64;

$name = "";
$live = 0;

while(<>) {
if(m/N:/) {
@a = split(/:/, $_);
$name = $a[1];
$name =~ s/\r//g;
$name =~ s/\n//g;
$name =~ s/;//g;
$name =~ s/ /_/g;

if(m/X-CLASS/ && $live) {
$live = 0;
$img = decode_base64($base);
open(A, ">$name.jpg");
print A $img;
$base = "";

if($live) { $base .= $_; }

if(m/PHOTO/) {
print "Got $name\n";
$live = 1;

It's not wonderful, but it works. Run it in the directory where the the ALL.vcf file is located with something like
photo.pl < ALL.vcf
This will generate one file for each contact who has a photo, called something like bill_jones.jpg

Then, just edit each contact, and add a thumbnail back in (do this on the phone).
There's probably a quicker way to do this, but it worked ok for me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Home for Christmas

I went home at Christmas to see my Mother.
Here's a picture of her and me.


I'm sticking my tongue out on purpose. I don't normally walk around like that.

We're walking around Rutland water , which, if you emailed me over Christmas, you'd know is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in Europe, and almost certainly the biggest in England. I could probably do some searching to confirm that, but I'll leave it to you to work out.

I did a couple of other things, too, but there aren't any pictures online yet, so I'll write about those when they happen. One was snowboarding in Switzerland, though, which was pretty sweet.

Anyway, I got back to work to around 3100 new emails. Lucky me.
I'm slowly plodding through them.

I'll let you know when I make it out at the other side.