30 June 2009

SA Rugby calendars

If you're like me, you want to know the rugby calendar ALL the time!

Apart from the good old GOOGLE calendar option, there's a nice HTML option for quick access via cellphone or work PC;

29 June 2009

Guitar Hero World Tour Battle of the Bands System Link South African style

This past weekend Kat and I hosted our combined 60th Birthday party and it was a Battle of the Bands (Guitar Hero World Tour style) party.

What a mission to get this baby set up. One would have thought two XBOX 360's could just simply system link and get going, but that is not the case. Add to the mix the South African lack of XBOX Live, and you've got a few more hurdles to overcome. Fortunately, Oltman and I had some deft fiddling skills and we cracked the problem, and managed to have everyone jamming BATTLE OF THE BANDS style for the evening - great fun! This is how you do it...

Basically, you can run the XBOX 360's on the same router, one internet connection. You cannot system link them (but we'll work on that). It requires XBOX Live to do the matchmaking.

What you do is:

  1. Get two XBOX Live GOLD accounts (presently you can get a one month subs for 1GBP, which is a bargain - and we are on the UK server, so you need a UK credit card to enjoy this benefit).
  2. Next, you hook both onto XBOX LIVE in Guitar Hero World Tour.
  3. You then sign in each instrument you intend to use, either with another local XBOX Live GOLD account, or as a guest (in our case, we had Graeme Norval, Graeme Norva(2), Graeme Norva(3), etc. and Brattex, Brattex(2), etc.). We had four signed in on each box, three as guests, and one as the GOLD account.
  4. You then invite your friend to play.
  5. Friend accepts invitation.
  6. You should now see eight names on the roster.
  8. One band will be highlighted a yellow colour (or a different colour, at least) so you can tell one band from the other (although in our case the names gave it away anyway).
  9. Then you need each instrument to select PREFERENCES, DIFFICULTY, and choose their difficulty. In our case, each instrument was a different player with different skill and each round was a different band, so we just had one person controlling on each XBOX and selecting the skills for each player.
  10. For example, the drummer selects PREFERENCES, DIFFICULTY, chooses BASIC, and then hits BACK.
  11. Singer then selects PREFERENCES, DIFFICULTY, chooses EXPERT, and then hits BACK.
  12. Guitarists (one at a time) does the same.
  13. There is ONE cursor for all the players, so as long as a specific instrument changes difficulty, it only affects THAT instrument.
  14. When both teams are set, then someone hits "go to SETLIST" (or whatever it says) and then it randomly chooses one player from either band to choose the song to jam.
  15. ENJOY!!!
Make the controller / singer the one that signs in as the GOLD account, because then at least they can control everyone else quite easily, and just bark out orders to the rest (this works when you have multiple bands playing different rounds).
We managed to quit during a song and get back to the foyer without having to restart matchmaking - at least, I think we did :)

We used two XBOX 360's, full drum sets, WORLD TOUR, two GOLD accounts, and a 4-port ADSL router (and used 38MB for the entire evening). Presumably you can achieve the same feat with a 3G modem hooked up to a laptop running ICS and connected to a hub, or such.

20 June 2009

I've just lost gamer points and achievements!!

Can anyone explain this to me?
(Update: I read http://uk.gamespot.com/pages/forums/show_msgs.php?topic_id=25958198 and it explained why I lost them :()

I hook up my xbox360 to xbox live for the first time in five months, and it asks me to sign up for an xbox live account, so I enter my old one, and it says "do you want to retrieve your gamertag" or something, and naturally I say yes.

Now I see most of my achievements have disappeared as well as my gamer points??

No Civ:Rev score (in fact, not even a record of it), no Bioshock achievements, no Lego: Indiana Jones, what's happened???

Update: I downloaded an old profile that was stored online and overwrote my existing profile. Strange thing is, I never changed xbox 360 consoles!!??

17 June 2009

Blackberry Curve 8900 new GROUP features for contacts

(DISCLAIMER: Anything to do with my new BlackBerry may be old news for some, but since I've moved from an 8707v to an 8900 the leap has been massive. I'm presuming this is all around new stuff, but if not, don't flame me)

Sweet BlackBerry goodness!

When I ran my import from my old BlackBerry 8707v to my new BlackBerry 8900 Curve, I didn't get my mailing lists / groups imported, and to my frustration I had no idea why.

Having attempted to create a new group / list today, I have now got a better idea as to why it may not have worked, and I can assure you it's more for good reason than for bad reason.

When I started my new group, I opted to add a contact, and was very surprised to discover that I could add either their number or a PIN or an email address. That got me thinking, and I tried to add the same contact twice, once with email, and once with a cell number, and voila! It worked!

This means with the new BB OS v4.6 I can have one mailing list, and if I choose to compose an email to the group, it ONLY sends to the valid email addresses, and if I send an SMS, only to the valid SMS recipients, and a PIN only to the valid PIN recipients. What a joy!

Upon trying this out, I noticed that the group SMS service also shows individual progress meters for each recipient of an SMS - so you know who's getting it as they get it - SWEET!

I've now managed to send an email to my group, and it says "not everyone can receive an email" and I click OK, and it sends out the email, IGNORING the SMS recipients. Vice versa for sending an SMS to email addresses in the list.

Some may argue that it should be smart and send it all at once to the proper recipient, but I prefer it this way. Now I can have one mailing list which has everyone's contact details and depending on how I want to contact the people, I can reach them via PIN, SMS, or email. The only snag is that you have to manually capture a single contact multiple times if you want to add their various contact details - not so bad because then at least if they have three cellphone numbers attached to their contact details, you only need to add the one you SMS, and not have the phone think it should SMS them three times (once to each number).

15 June 2009

Webpage typo's that are just ... awkward

Wow, did I just get a fright. I wanted to log on and check the latest score update for the IRELAND vs. PAKISTAN T20 cricket match (go Ireland) and did my usual "cricinfo" ctrl+ENTER and left it to load. Coming back a few minutes later, I discovered something a little less than expected...

Lo and behold. No T20 cricket score. Instead I landed up in

International Circumcision Information
Reference Centre


Now THAT was unexpected.

Tiresome tyres - how to save some cash on your tyres

Buying tyres can be an entirely tiresome task - not to mention costly - BUT it doesn't have to be! Follow my list of tips and you can easily find yourself saving up to 30% off the cost of your replacement tyres! I've always followed this method with great success.

What you'll need:

  1. Access to the YELLOW PAGES (or similar)
  2. A checklist
  3. About half an hour of time (but the satisfaction of knowing you've saved about 30% on each tyre should make up for the time spent)
  4. A basic knowledge of your tyres

What you need to do;

Confirm the size and type of tyre you have. Briefly, a 155/80/13 means it's 155mm wide, has an aspect ratio of 80% of the width for the height from base to hub-cap, and it's a 13" wheel. So a 175/70/13 is 175mm wide, 122.5mm from base to hub-cap, and it's a 13" wheel, and so on. Go check out the car bible site for more information on tyres here.

Armed with the brand, type, and size of your tyres, you can now phone a few tyre places. I just did a trip down memory lane along the old Old Main Road (which is now Josiah Gumede or something), and then looked up the contact details of those tyre places in yellowpages.

First place we contacted told us about R550 for a tyre including balancing but not wheel alignment. REMEMBER TO ALWAYS CONFIRM IF IT INCLUDES VAT!

The second place I phoned gave me about R500. I then phoned a third place, who offered a different brand, but about R400. I then phoned some more, and told each place "so-and-so offered me the same tyre for X, can you help?" and slowly got each next shop (generally speaking) to offer a better price. I didn't make any commitments, and took my lunch break to head over to the cheapest place I could find (you don't need to book an appointment). On the way I decided to stop in at another tyre place and just said to them "I'm on my way to Y and they're doing my tyre replacement for X per tyre... can you do the same?" and they looked it up on their system, and said yes they could.

The end result was a shorter distance to travel, my tyre being replaced at R350 (yes, that's right) and my having saved R200 per tyre since the start of my day.

So, the key with tyres is simple - shop around! There's a whole bunch of tyre shops on Old Main Road in Pinetown and they're all competing with each other; they have to cycle their tyre stock as often and as regularly as possible, so they'll do what they can to secure the deal. It takes about twenty minutes at the most to have the process done, and you can often save a good deal of bucks on it. I'm sure other towns have the same sort of thing as Pinetown, so you should be literally spoiled for choice. As we go up in tyre prices, if I had replaced four tyres for R550 each, that would have cost me R2,200.00 for the whole lot, whereas with my savings, that could have been reduced to R1,400.00! R800 saved! If you can't be bothered about that sort of money, give me a shout, I'll sort out your replacement tyres with my own cash, and you pay me whatever your first quote was :)

A few quick tips of places to phone and ask (and their comparative pricing) to get you started if you're in the Westville or Pinetown area:

Hi-Q 031 7020351
Pinetown Tyre & Exhaust 031 7027386
Wheel 'N Steel 031 7025308

14 June 2009

The sun, as reserved for smoking diners.

Today we spent the afternoon with my mom as part of the closing ceremonies for Kat's 30th birthday weekend.

We attempted to go to Piggly Wiggly's but they were closed, so we moved up the hill to the crest, and popped in at Woodrose.

I love the Woodrose experience. Chill outside in the sun, enjoy the atmosphere, and indulge in a lovely woodrose salad, or maybe a beef curry & rice, or if you're as daring as I am today, both!

The only problem I experienced with our plan, was that the outside area is also the dedicated smoking area. What does this mean for my culinary decadance?

Well, essentially, legislation is in place to protect patrons such as Kat, my mom, and I from being exposed to the cancer-causing effects of the nasty nasal-intruding stench of cigarette smoke. In principle this is great, but practice is a whole different beast: What this means for restauranteers is that by-and-large it's cheaper for them to simply allocate their already established outside area for smokers, and keep the non-smokers inside. It's a cheap and quick *legal* solution, but it does mean the non-smokers (by inference of the non-smoking habit, generally the more considerate of the two categories, but that's a moot point and not worth entering into now) are restricted to dining inside a stuffy establishment, while the *smokers* get to lounge outside in the lovely warm sunshine, and enjoying the "fresh air". Ironic, isn't it? The non-smokers are essentially the more likely to want fresh air, and yet the only fresh air available is now allocated for the smokers, who don't GET fresh air!

Let's think about this, smoking inside a smoking section gives you plenty of "free hits". Smoking outside just spoils the only pleasant air around the restaurant. Why should the smokers be granted the "exclusive use" of the fresh and open air? A smoker may argue that making it a non-smoking area denies them of some proprietary right, but that's not true. Surely it should be a smoke-free area, and if smokers want to enjoy it, they swallow their cravings, and go and sacrifice for a few minutes, rather than the reverse for non-smokers? It makes little sense to me that the non-smoker should be exposed to an element that is out of their control (tobacco smoke) if they want to enjoy the outside dining experience, whereas if the reverse happened, the smoker would be exposed to less harmful elements by having to go cold-turkey for about an hour if they chose to go outside? Essentially, smokers should make the choice - smoke inside, or dine outside smoke-free! The reversal of circumstances would leave little choice for a non-smoker!

That being said, it remains a smoker's heaven at the moment and non-smokers are the ones having to either forego the beautiful outside dining experience for the benefit of clean air, or risk a coughing fit and smelly meal in the comfort of "fresh air" outside.

Regardless, our meal was still great and I still vote the woodrose salad the best meal I've tried on the menu!! Highly recommended!!

09 June 2009

Portable SWF player

I've recently faced the task of setting up our LAB machines to be able to support SWF files for a Mathematica workshop to be held in the forthcoming weeks. The problem is, why should I now deploy SWF support on the LAB machines just for one workshop, and face a lifetime of headaches from kiddies playing their favourite (and noisy) movies ad infinitum? Enter, the portable SWF player...

If you go to http://download.macromedia.com/pub/flashplayer/updaters/9/sa_flashplayer_9_debug.exe you should find just what you're looking for - a portable flash player! Enjoy :)

04 June 2009

The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Wow. I really don't believe it. That game really works!

Check it out:
Kevin Bacon in New York Article on ECR blog

And then check out how the game works:
Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon WIKI

Then see why it works...

You see, the article reads "blah blah blah ... The thief made off with Bacon’s BlackBerry."
Do you see? Do you? Kevin Bacon - like me - has a BlackBerry! How small is this world??

Mmmm... I just realised, I can start a new game - "Six Degrees of the New York thief" ... I bet we have something in common too now ... if only I could figure it out ...