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December, 2006 articles

Damo Awards 2006*  

Hardware: Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 enjoyed its second year and titles continue to impress although the count is still a little on the weak side. The addition of 1080p output was a great bonus but one many people (myself included) can’t take advantage of without a HDMI cable and nobody seems entirely sure if the 360 can pump out a digital video signal (I doubt it).

On-line support is blooming although can get very expensive if you want all the extras for games you’ve already paid for – come on guys we put £40 down gives a few freebies!

The PlayStation 3 on the other hand is vapour ware here still in Europe and was notably absent from Japan’s premier Sony Building in Tokyo. Online the only people raving about it are those that were raving about it before it came out…

Nintendo’s Wii has been getting a lot of press for being fun (if tiring and occasionally dangerous to your environment) but with the console itself is effectively a reboxed GameCube which didn’t impress 5 years ago and the graphics look very dated on the couple of titles I’ve been able to see. With rumours of a more powerful unit doing the rounds and nothing stopping anyone producing a similar controller for the 360 or PS3 can Nintendo stay a contender or will they go the way of Sega?

With consoles traditionally being loss-leaders for the first few years perhaps Nintendo would have been better off producing controllers and software for the 360 and PS3.

Game: Oblivion

People often rave about how open-ended Grand Theft Auto is but lets be honest here – it isn’t a patch on Oblivion.

Like the aforementioned title you can follow the story or run off and do what you like. The difference here is that Oblivion is truly massive and is filled with interesting people, their stories and ultimately their sub-quests.

The graphics look absolutely gorgeous and show off the Xbox 360 very well – demands on the PC side are beyond what my desktop can deliver.

Surprise: Microsoft Office 2007

Microsoft took a brave step in reinventing the menu/tool bar that has been established for the last 10 years. Sure, the result isn’t a giant leap in terms of innovation but it is a joy to use and a big improvement over the older technology.

Importantly it shows a beacon of hope that there are people at Microsoft prepared to fundamentally change how people use their software for the better and not just deliver to developers (.NET, XML-HTTP).

Web site: YouTube

We were told repeatedly that this would be the year of high-definition yet despite large sales of HD ready equipment the content is still a bit thin on the ground (Sky HD, Xbox 360 and a smattering of HD titles). Sony hit another strike this year as another of their proprietary formats bombed – UMD video for the PSP – although sales of TV shows on Apple’s iTunes seem to indicate there is a market for tiny distinctly non-HD video.

The real winner on the video front has to be YouTube which goes on to show that whilst content is king there’s no reason you need to pay for it to be successful. Grainy, out of focus and copyright infringement seem the orders of the day but nobody cared – at least until a company worth suing brought them out (Google).

Communications: HTC

HTC phones and their branded variants have been popping up all over the web and in techies hands everywhere. Reviews are generally positive although I’m finding my TyTn sluggish in a couple of areas – something I hope the latest firmware will address.

Motorola meantime has been getting bad press over it’s Rokr variants.

Apple’s vapourware mobile phone continues to get insane coverage despite nobody having anything but speculation and rumours to go on. Cisco/LinkSys released an iPhone to which they own the trademark so I guess iChat Mobile is an option.

Web application: Google Reader

Google finally put it’s arse in gear and upgraded Google Reader to something not only usable but actually enjoyable to use. Now if only they could stream out the next 20 articles BEFORE I hit them so I don’t have to wait…

Rojo on the other hand deployed a screwed update and continually failed to pick up feeds complaining they were invalid or couldn’t be contacted despite other on-line tools were working just great. Bye.

With RSS becoming increasingly more popular something has to give and it’s news aggregation sites such as Slashdot and Digg which often reveal to you news you read several days ago and have already commented about at the original source.


* Yeah okay, not a proper award ceremony but a useful ploy to group otherwise unrelated content into a single post.

Envy Code R programming font – preview available for download  

Envy Code R has been updated since this post.

Here is the Envy Code R programming font I’ve been working on as it currently stands:

Envy Code R preview 3 at 10pt illustrating ClearType, standard and no smoothing.
As you can see it looks great at 10pt regardless of what smoothing (or not) you are using. Whilst you can use it at other sizes and it will scale without turning into big pixels there are plenty of other fonts around that will look better at larger sizes/in print.

It is missing a number of foreign symbols and characters, there is no width-preserving bold version to accompany it just yet and there are still issues with the full-widths of @©® symbols as the Windows ClearType renderer insists on squashing them rather than let them potentially touch another character.

I will attempt to address these as best I can as time goes by as well as trying to shave a pixel off the vertical height. It also doesn’t look too great on the Mac but if you want to try anyway use 13pt and be prepared to set the height in terminal to just above 1.0 to stop the letters being cut-off.

Comments are welcome but please bear in mind that Envy Code R is designed to look very close to Envy Code B so deviating from that further is unlikely right now.

Finally please bear in mind that whilst Envy Code R is free-for-use it is copyrighted and as such it must not be redistributed, bundled or modified without permission at this time. Once all the issues are addressed I’ll likely release the whole thing under a free/open licence.

This is simply because I do not wish people looking for this font in the future to be downloading older preview versions.

Download is no longer available, see newer version

If you were wondering what it does look like large:

Envy Code R at 36 point


I have updated the preview font to fix vertical problems on the capital E as well as add a bunch of symbols not yet done (e.g. fractions) and also stuck in a bit-mapped 9pt version for those not using smoothing.


Remote denial of present (DoP) attack via Amazon wishlist  

I placed eleven items this year into my Amazon wish-list for my family and girlfriend to pick from and all were quickly purchased.

A few days later my mother asks if I can put some items to buy because after purchasing one or two the others have now gone.

My brothers don’t have debit cards, my sisters have limited net access my girlfriend claims she hasn’t brought them and nobody else knows about it.

Either I’ve got a secret Santa fulfilling my every Amazon wish or… somebody is executing a remote denial of present attack upon my Christmas!

How it works is simple.

  1. Find the Amazon wish-list of the target
  2. Buy items from the wish-list but ship to your own address
  3. Enjoy the items yourself
  4. Rejoice in knowing the target is deprived of the item now that Amazon believes he will get it

It’s pretty evil.

The only way I can see that Amazon would be able to prevent this attack is to either let you pre-select other Amazon accounts that are able to use your wish-list or to be able to see who brought what.

Ho-ho hum,


BSc (Honours) Information Technology and Computing, First-class  

As anyone who’s been reading this blog for too long will know I’ve been taking a degree in computer science (well, the closest the Open University had) in my spare time since 1999.

Yesterday the results came through for my final year where I managed to achieve a grade 2 pass (which requires 70%+ on both assignments and exam).

Combined with my three distinctions, one other grade 2 and three grade 3 results (hey, sometimes those exams are tough ;-) that means I have managed to achieve a First-class with Honours.


Now I just need to wait until next year to go and pick it up and get my photo taken in a silly hat.