Why do I listen

Podcasts.. PODcasts…

The very name put me off for years. Not the cast part, which had long been associated with broadcasting, but that first part.. the ‘pod’ It was all so Apple focused, many probably thought the only way you could listen to these downloadable audio bites was on an iPod, and whilst I was well aware of the many and various methods that I could use to enjoy these shows I resisted purely on my dislike of all things fruit based.

Of course the only person I hurt by this was myself. I had cut myself off from the , albeit unknown, joys of downloadable audio content. Something had to give eventually and I believe it all started with Google Reader which I have long used for my RSS subscriptions. At some point I haven’t taken the time to research they added an inline audio player for podcasts, and so I could start to pick up on these programmes without even obtaining any specialist software to do the downloading/streaming for me. It was a small start, but it was enough to get me interested and the usual snowball effect eventually found me paying for an application for my BlackBerry which would download and playback the episodes I had chosen to follow.

However all of this is coincidental. These tools and connections would have been totally overlooked if it wasn’t for one fact: Podcasts are an excellent channel of information. You see things have changed in recent years for all of us. We read far less on printed media than ever before and far more via websites and other forms of screen based media. The problem here is that we are training our brains to skim read most of it due to the huge amount of information available. Anything more than about two screens of text and you are likely to skip on to the next article, or not even start to read it in the first place. The is an excellent read over on The Atlantic entitled ‘Is Google making us stupid’ which I highly recommend reading which ironically is long enough for most people to ignore, but it sums up these thoughts perfectly.

So with text based information becoming a quick read where is one to go for that in depth lengthy discussions on the topics that matter to us most? Well of course you can see where I am going here, else I’ve just raised a very good point in a completely unrelated way! Podcasts have become that ‘unskipable’ form of information for me. I can happily listen to a show for it’s entirely, and most of the shows I listen to are 60 minute plus, without ever feeling like it’s taking too long, or wanting to move on to the next thing. Maybe it helps that my interests lie in the technological arena where the idea of pod casting is far more common place, but over the past few months I’ve managed to find myself some truly great shows which now accompany my every car journey, infrequent work out session or pre sleep chill out.. though that can lead to problems when a topic sparks my mind and I have to get up again to draft up a blog post, which is how this very one all started :)

So having said all this, what are these unskipable shows that are now enriching my life? Well let me through a few titbits your way.

First up, in the area on video gaming, which is my most avid interest there are a few shows I would like to mention. Top of the choice are The Digital Cowboys A UK based show hosted by Alex and Tony which manages not only to have a solid base format but also brings in some really great guests to give their opinions on the weeks topics and to answer the famous 8 questions.

Secondly a show I found out about via Digital Cowboys, GameHounds which manages to be wonderfully professional and yet totally independent at the same time. The interhost banter is really fun, and they still manage to actually talk about gaming news at the same time.

Finally for gaming, but by no means least Gamers with Jobs is a show I occasionally used to pick up when I only listened via Google Reader, and is actually responsible for pointing me towards Digital Cowboys.. it’s all rather incestuous really I suppose.. or I guess viral to give it a web 2.0 spin.

Outside of gaming I also pick up a few shows that interest me, such as the BBC’s Material World and Friday Night Comedy and recently I’ve even ventured into the world of video based shows such as the excellent CarPool and to return to gaming CO-OP

I can thoroughly recommend any and all of the shows I’ve linked to here, and you’d do well to add them to your listening lineup, or if you are like I was but a few months back and have never even given a podcast a chance, these happy few should soon see you bitten by the listening bug and reimerced into the in depth world.

Windows gaming fails

Well my success with Windows 7 gaming was short lived. The problem in hindsight was with judging it’s usability for my system with Valve games. You see the Source engine is heavily CPU reliant, and not so on the graphics hardware. I can easily run Half-Life 2, Day of Defeat and Portal etc at 1920×1200 at very acceptable frame rates even on my ageing ATI X1900XT graphic card. And all seemed well under these conditions, however the moment I stepped outside of the Source based games, things started to go down hill fast, with low frame rates aplenty. I double checked the obvious, made sure I had the latest drivers installed and all that Jazz, however one thing stood out.. I couldn’t open, or for that matter, even see the ATI CCC applet that lets you control the graphics cards settings, including the essential, given the age of my card, overclocking.
Turns out my graphics card is no longer on the supported list with ATI, and I’ve since checked in XP also and I can only run pre 9.3 release drivers. Therefore I would never be able to get my graphics card to run at the levels required to allow me to play modern games at decent settings despite it being quite capable of this under XP with the older drivers.

This fact cuts deep though, for these are the very problems console gamers have leveled at Windows gaming for years and I have previously fought off and tsk tsked away as frivolous as any one who knew what they were doing could get these games to play well. But when the very things you must rely on to get this level of control are not even available to me then I’m left without a defence. Had my graphics card have been incapable of playing modern games then I could put it down to a lack of investment in my rig as PC’s will always demand a certain amount of continual money sinking to stay on their game, however knowing I can get this to work fine back in XP frustrates me greatly.

What all this means is that Windows 7 is now gone from my PC, not to return until such time as my current graphics hardware either fails or can no longer deliver an acceptable gaming experience and I replace it with the then current £150 option.

In the meantime it’s back to WinXP for my gaming, and for day to day use I’ve made a return to the warm and inviting shores of a Linux desktop courtesy of the extra friendly Ubuntu distro. 20 minutes to download the ISO file and load it to a USB stick, then another 15 to install and I was up and running with a truly modern looking OS that detected my graphics, monitor native resolution and even the on-board sound and network connections without me lifting a finger :) And I’m even posting this blog entry from newly discovered Drivel, a blogging client for Linux.

Sometime my love for ‘penguins’ is multifold :)

Gaming 7 Heaven?

I’ve not been giving my PC gaming much love recently so I thought I should readdress that balance slightly, in words if not in action.
For a while now I’ve beenn dual booting between WinXP and Windows 7 (beta and now Release Client) however as often happens when I dual boot I get bored of the rebooting each time I think of something new to do. To that end I spent some time last night uninstalling eighty percent of what I had installed on my XP boot, be that general software or games, and installed Steam onto Window 7. In the end I only had time to test out the simple joys of some Mount & Blade, but queued up Half Life 2 Ep 2, Day of Defeat and Portal to give things a good trial over the next few days, should I be able to forgo some XBOX gamerscore for some Steam achievements!

Following the recent upgrades I made to my machine I’m hopeful it will cope, especially with my graphic card’s new found life, which I still need to blog and will involve some public humiliation, so that should be fun.

PS I’ve blogged this from the BlackBery so forgive any spelling mistakes, I haven’t worked out how to get the spell checker working when in the wordpress web pages yet, should probably just type it up in the memopad and copy paste the thing thinking about it!

Dropping a Giant Bomb on my Games

For a while now I’ve had my XFire and XBOX Gamer cards up in the top right of the Blog to show off what I’ve been playing recently rather than creating repetitive blogs about that.

Recently Giant Bomb added the ability to track your gamer points, and WoW characters for those still infected, on their site with the added feature of having each achievement graded in rarity based on your fellow gamers on the site. (Being a US site meant any points in a ‘soccer’ game fared well ;) )

Now they allow you to track your Steam achievements the same way, which for myself who likes to buy any PC game I can on steam is very nice indeed. So I have now replaced my two separate tags with a single Giant Bomb based graphic which is both cleaner for the site, and nice an joined up.. or mashed to be all web 2.0 about it.

Nice work guys, keep on innovating!