One of those weeks …

This week started really nice with a Bank Holiday on Monday. Another chance to sleep late and relax during the rest of the day. But the universe was already preparing to get back at me. 🙁

It started with a mistake on my part late in the evening. Fixing it required restoring data from the last backup of my server at home. When I was finished it was past midnight which meant that my wife and I would suffer from sleep deprivation the next morning.

And the week had more pleasant surprises in stock for me:

  1. I had to diagnose a Windows problem via phone.
  2. My wristwatch broke.
  3. My bicycle got a flat tire.

As if by a miracle I managed to survive up to the weekend. But I still have to bring my wratch to a watchmaker which is probably beyond repair anyway. And I bet that I’ll have to wait until the week after next week before the people at the cycle centre have time to service by bicycle. 🙁

Super Size Mac Pro

Shortly after Intel introduced Quad Core Xeon CPUs people tried to install them in Apple’s Mac Pro. Because the upgrade worked without any problems it was only a question of time until Apple would offer such a machine.

Yesterday the time had come and Apple officially announced the 8-Core or Quad-Core Mac Pro workstation. Because the CPUs are clocked at 3GHz it should run single-threaded applications as fast as the previous high end model. The home grown Quad Core machine I’ve read about was only equipped with 2GHz Xeons. As a result it was considerably slower in most benchmarks because only very few applications could take advantage of 8 cores.

That raises of course the question who needs an eight core workstation? Well, I don’t … but I would like to have one of those Mac Pros nevertheless. 🙂

Game of the Month: Sonic and the Secret Rings

I recently decided to look for a nice single player game that I could play on our Nintend Wii. I somehow didn’t feel (yet) like playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I had seen a lot of nasty things the game threw at my wife. And it is also one of these very time consuming games. Even if you resolve to play only for a few minutes you lose your sense of time very quickly. A few hours later you realize that you should have gone to bed two hours ago which you will regret badly in the morning.

What I really was looking for was a simpler game that you could play for a few minutes to relax and have some fun. Sega’s new game Sonic and the Secret Rings caught my eye. After reading the test in nRevolution and watching the trailer on the Sega website I decided to buy the game.

The game arrived via mail on Tuesday and I tried it out the same evening. The game is a bit like Cow Run game included in Wii Play. You have to hold the Wii Remote horizontally and tild in to the left or right to move your character Sonic to the left or the right. And you have to run into items (e.g. rings or pearls instead of scarecrows) to succeed. But that’s where the similarities end. You don’t need to tild the Wii Remote forward to accelerate, Sonic speeds up by himself. And he can run really really fast! Breaking and jumping is controlled via two buttons to allow precise manoeuvres like quick short and slow wide jumps. The tricky part is to attack enemies: you have to jump spot-on wait until Sonic locks on the foe (a red mark er appears) and dash into the enemy by quickly moving the Wii Remote forward. It is as tricky as it sounds and takes a bit of time to get used to. Fortunately there are a lot of introduction levels in the Lost Prologue chapter of the game. Each of them teaches you how to use one of Sonic’s skills.

After mastering enough of the introduction levels you are able to play through the first main chapter and things get more difficult. You have to avoid obstacles, collect items, defeat a lot of enemies, manage difficult jumps and avoid getting hit. The goal changes with each levels. Sometimes it’s just good enough to get through. In other levels you have to beat the clock, collect a lot of rings or defeat a certain number of enemies. With each level you play Sonic gains experience points depending on how much he got hurt. After a certain amount of experience point he gains a level and thereby skillpoints and special skills. Special skills increase Sonic’s speed, attack-power and manoeuvrability. And you’ll need all the help you can get if you are up against one of bosses, the extra mean and large monsters.

I really like playing this game. It reminds me of of the good old 1980ies video games: your reflexes and timing are all that you’ve got to save your virtual life. But it’s also much better: nice looking and fast 3D comic-style graphics, cool rock music, a lot of levels and automatically saved game data. You can also retry a level as many times as you want without having to wait for the game to reload. This keeps the frustration at a bearable level if you miss that last just jump … again … or get defeated by the same enemy for the 42nd time :-|. It feels of course really good when you finally give that nasty monster a good beating :-).

I like about the Nintendo Wii: a lot of fun while playing instead of photorealistic high-definition boredom.

Taking comfort in the Unfairness of the Universe