Anti Natal

As someone with the crazy idea that good gameplay design makes a game worth playing over something like a gimmicky way of controlling it I’ve never been convinced by the Wii (and it’s shockingly low average scores for its software aren’t really doing much to support the “gimmicky controller is a silver-bullet solution to F U N” either) and so it was with disdain that I saw both Microsoft and Sony wasting huge amounts of time and money in producing gimmicky controllers of their own.

Whilst Sony admit the effort they presented at E3 is a work-in-progress, Microsoft’s work-in-progress effort is already being pimped as the Second Coming of a revolution that hasn’t proved to be all that revolutionary in the first place. Within days of its announcement various high-profile shows in the US have all shown us how much fun it is to pay $400 (TV not included) to kick a virtual ball around in a virtually unsatisfying way. The notion that spending less than a tenth of the money for an infinitely more satisfying genuine experience seems to have eluded most people. Heck, you don’t even have to limit your movements to standing in a small square on the floor with a real soccer-ball either.

So, it’s with great satisfaction and not a small amount of relief that at least one USA show, The Colbert Report, can tell it like it really is:

The merriment starts at about 1:40 and I defy anyone not to laugh out loud when he pushes that red button when asking if the time is right to invest in Microsoft.



Over a year ago, the always-excellent had a brief article on how using a dark and low-contrast Windows theme may help reduce eye strain from prolonged computer use.

Since then, I’ve become a fan of dark Windows themes and wallpapers. My current XP install sports a desktop theme called Razor2 Final and is accompanied by a suitably subdued wallpaper of wood panelling courtesy of the Dark Wood Wallpaper Pack. It works better than it sounds:

Got wood?
Got wood?

The laptop computer in the other room, which is used far less frequently than my desktop, sports an altogether more vibrant and feline wallpaper called Kyoko:

Kyoko Wallpaper
Kyoko Wallpaper


It’s all about image

Backing up your data is mundane and unexciting but it’s better than the worst-case scenario of losing things like your contacts, emails, personal documents and so on. I speak from personal experience and assure you, it’s not a lesson you want to learn the hard way.

I like to have my PC environment set up in a certain way with certain settings and preferred applications. Doing a full system restore and manually reconfiguring and installing everything would take a day or more.

Imaging saves me a huge amount of hassle.

What is imaging? Well it’s rather like taking a snapshot of your data or system. The main difference comes not in how the data is backed up but how it is restored.

Imagine your system and data is a sheet of paper filled with words. You can write each word individually, one after the other. Maybe correcting a mistake here, crossing out a word there. Eventually your page has all the words on it that you intended. Re-writing the page if it were blanked would take much the same time as you’d have to repeat the entire process again.

Now, imagine that you’ve a page-sized rubber stamp. All the words have been set on the rubber stamp. You’ve been careful to set the stamp up just how you want it and not have any errors in the words or layout. It’s probably taken a little longer to prepare the rubber stamp than it would have done to write all the words on the page individually as described in the paragraph above.

However, when it comes to actually putting those words onto the page, you just push the rubber stamp onto the page and in one brief operation all your words and layout are printed back onto the page. If the page was blanked then putting all those words back onto it would be a simple task of using that carefully prepared rubber stamp again.

And that’s how I’d describe the difference between restoring data / reinstalling a system one part at a time or recovering an entire system from an image backup.

There are a few different types of software that’ll manage this process for you but I think Acronis True Image is the one to go for. I happen to think it’s very user-friendly and feature-rich. If anything, it has more features than I’d want to use in a domestic environment.

As much as I love the software, it’s the principle of imaging that’s the real beauty. If you’re prepared to spend a bit of time setting up your system well, removing junk you don’t need and getting everything fully featured but not bloated and then make your perfect image then your computer is almost bullet proof!

Why spend thirty minutes doing a virus scan that may or may not solve the odd issue that recently appeared on your system when you can do a complete clean-and-restore in under five minutes and eliminate the problem for good? Why let your PC get more and more bogged down as you use it with all the temporary data and indexes that build up when you can flush all the rubbish out and restore to a lean but fully featured system that runs nice and quickly in the same time as it would take you to make and drink a cup of coffee?

Imaging isn’t a total solution for backups. You still want to back up current data like your emails and documents in a state where restoring them won’t send you back in time. But if you’re willing to invest time in preparing a good backup image then you can feel confident knowing that, whatever happens, you can get your system, complete with all your settings, back in a flash.

The 360 round trip

The 360 is back and, after an initial scare, it seems to be ok. The initial scare took the form of an immediate system crash when I first booted with all things plugged in. I unplugged my HDD booted and all was fine – re-did the system setup, re-attached the HDD and tried again. Seems ok!

I know, I know – you’ve all been wondering how it was going. I’m such a tease!