Friday, 29 August 2008

Links to break your mouse to

At the end of a busy week (and it has been) what better way to relax than with some noisy, frustrating, nerve-jangling, brain-stretching, adrenaline-pumping online gaming? Well, a nice cup of tea and a book would probably do the trick. But you can't link to them, so browser games it is, then.

And a little YouTubery:

YouTube [Links via VSL].

A balloon floats, from famous movie scene to famous movie scene, right through the history of cinema.

Sweary, satirical, clip-art web-comic Get Your War On is now available in animated form [possibly NSFW].

No food was harmed in the making of this video - Western Spaghetti by PES. More by PES here.


Fantastic Contraption: build contraptions, to get a pink thing to another pink thing. Way more difficult than it sounds...

Paint a small red ball into a corner: Paintball - The Game.

More drawing with the mouse; this time to obliterate blue blocks while avoiding pink ones: Valo.

Batman might be in the cinemas at the moment, but here's a Spiderman-esque side-scrolling puzzler.

The aptly named Irritating Game - if you can keep the balls in the air for more than 15.5 seconds you're doing much better than me (click the Union Jack in the bottom corner, unless you prefer to have your scores insulted in French).

Curveball: not unlike playing Pong in a well, but with spin shots.

How about a game you can play using just the space bar? Onekey - possibly the ultimate game for multi-taskers.

mySQLgame: if you know SQL commands you can play it and look like you're working; for everyone else it probably will be work.

Indulge in Machiavellian plotting and villainy in the interactive fiction of Varicella.

Lastly, another game in which you take sort of an anti-hero role: Arachnophilia, a game of frantic web building and bug trapping.

And finally...

Ever thought Calvin & Hobbes would be funnier with Steve Jobs as Calvin's semi-imaginary friend? No, me neither, but it's still well worth a look: Calvin & Jobs.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Friday links

Yep, after last week's unexplained* absence they're back again - the Friday Links:


The latest educational resource to hit YouTube: The Open University.

TED has some new ways of searching through its extensive catalogue of online talks and lectures. Here are the ones rated most jaw-dropping.

With this site you might want to search streamed web-TV (including 4oD, iPlayer, etc.) for educational content... or probably just the latest episode of America's Got Talent.

Random news stories

Possibly the most spuriously based semi-news story I've ever read. Does that trouser leg even look deliberately rolled-up to you?

In other prison news: possibly the oddest plea bargain ever; and a sheriff sending himself to jail.

It seems even the "aristocracy" are selling their lives on eBay now.

Or for the less well-off, how about part of someone's unwanted life: annastella007 is selling evidence of her husband's infidelity.


Last time we linked to alternatives to; this week, Wired shows you how to access the site from anywhere in the world - while it still exists...

Also in Wired, David Byrne playing an entire building - no, not as a concert venue, as an instrument.

A few sources of free and legal MP3s:

Spiral Frog
We7 (UK-based)

And finally...

Weight Watchers = a Role Playing Game for the overweight? But where are the d20s?

*I could explain... but it would be boring.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

X-bykes and eGovernment

In an effort to stay only about a week or two behind Boing Boing, a few days behind Wired, and probably about 6 months behind at least one disdainful and bizarrely embittered sounding commenter beneath virtually every Wired story I've ever read online, I often read The Guardian's Technology supplement. One regular feature is Newsbytes, a collection of links to disparate techie stuff that didn't really merit a proper story but about which optimistic companies and PR people must have nonetheless sent press releases that week (what industry am I in again?). This is the usual kind of thing:

'Power-assisted X-byke

Powabyke's latest battery-powered X-byke has a compact Lithium Lite 36v battery disguised as a water bottle.>>'

In other words, of limited interest and often baffling - I mean, for one thing, if the battery's disguised as a water bottle where are you supposed to put your actual water bottle? Or are you expected to ride around looking twice as thirsty as other cyclists, despite only doing half the pedalling? Worse, what if you get the two bottles confused? Imagine licking a 9v battery, only four times tinglier - it's a badly-named traffic accident waiting to happen.

And then you click on the link:

'Today more than ever, people are thinking of ways to reduce their carbon footprint'

With an electric bike? Can you imagine that ideas session?

"Yeah, well, OK, we want to, like, create a greener mode of transport, right? So, I know, yeah, why don't we, like, take, one of the most carbon-friendly modes of transport, yeah, and, like, make it electric? Cuz that'll be, like, waaaay less polluting than petrol... Oh, and lets lob an X in there somewhere."

"Yeah, an X! Perfect!!!"

And somehow this made it into production...

Also: X-byke? What was it before?

Anyway, that wasn't the best Newsbyte. This next one, I can only think to describe as the technology news equivalent of a haiku (if you think of haiku writing as being the art of expressing an awful lot in a minimum of words):

'Government guide

MyGuide is now providing online tuition in how to use government (including local council) websites.>>'

UK government websites are so badly designed and written that a website now exists to teach you how to use them... That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? If anything has received more damning criticism than that, I'd really love to see it.

Or actually possibly not, come to think of it.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Return of the links

In which our previously regular Friday links post is retrieved from the haphazard grasps of irregularity.

Unless it isn't.

Tune in next week to find out... (ooh, the suspense!).


Learn to play the Ukulele with The Guardian.

Paris Hilton starring in a satirical video. Intentionally.

A little Monkey magic courtesy of the BBC's Olympics coverage promotional department (and Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn).

A mid-air restaurant in Belgium - maybe the subtle scent of danger makes the food taste better?


Crash Test Dummy Olympics. Nothing to do with the band, by the way. Not that I can quite imagine those lugubrious Mmm Mmm people summoning the energy for athletics...

Dolphin Olympics 2 (are you sensing a theme yet?).

And, yes, yet another tenuously Olympics-linked game: Micro Olympics.


In case your alarm clock wasn't annoying enough already, here's one that shoots rockets.

A (concept) mobile phone for Francophiles.

Proof that fruit can aid memory?

And that Lego can aid vision?

At least one Back to the Future fan clearly has way too much money. Or maybe they'd bought the Sports Almanac from the second film too?

What's the betting the same person owns some of these?

Music stuff

Orbit Downloader: download pretty much anything you want from YouTube, MySpace, Imeem, etc. More details (and slight privacy concerns) at Wikipedia.

For anyone missing Pandora, the personalised internet radio station now no longer available to UK users, you could do worse than Meemix. Still in beta, and a little glitchy, but definitely promising.

And a few more approaches to providing personalised internet radio:


And finally...

If you've ever wondered which famous people look like other famous people, or perhaps even are other famous people - ever seen John McCain's wife Cindy and the Borg Queen in the same room? - here's the site for you: TotallyLooksLike.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Blogging on the radio

Not very exciting, is it, watching people typing, or watching other people read what's been typed by someone else? Which is why blogging is pretty unlikely to feature heavily in a TV sitcom anytime soon.* But on the radio, well, words are everything.

Sadly, the only words that sprang to mind when I first heard Radio 2's On The Blog wouldn't be the kind allowed on radio; much less the ones I spat out recently when stumbling upon Series 2 (Series 2! Seriously?). Based around a central character (or caricature) with whom it's impossible to feel sympathy, and written with an all-pervasive sense of disdain for the two things at the heart of it (not that it really has one) - bloggers and blogging - I can't imagine anyone listening to it without dying just a little inside. Certainly, whichever tiny part of me must have suggested I listen had expired under the weight of its own shame before even the first minute had elapsed. Serves it right.

It was just awful.

Still, after On The Blog, at least the trajectory of blog-based sitcoms could only curve upwards - an assumption which probably explains how The Lost Weblog of Scrooby Trevithick got commissioned. Here's the general idea of the show:

Scrooby is a self-confessed drifter interested in alternative lifestyles, recording his dabblings therein in the form of an audio weblog. He has now gone missing leaving just his web diaries. In an effort to find him, his friends have cobbled together a website and a MySpace page, and edited the diaries into half-hour segments for broadcast on Radio 4. The show also makes a potentially interesting attempt at interactivity: "New information/postings/sightings/suggestions posted on this page will be incorporated into the broadcast radio shows," it says on the MySpace page.

Well, comments are definitely read out at the end of the show - to little comic effect. As for the rest of that claim at interactivity; after the first episode I just wasn't really interested enough to follow the comments on the website, so I can't really tell you - it wasn't terrible; it just wasn't very good.

Which was a shame, because I really wanted to like it: after all, it seemed to be trying something a little different. I even tried to believe that it might overcome having Andy Parsons in the central role: Parsons is a nice affable chap, he just has the kind of telegraphed comic delivery that sucks the life out of even the best material - by the time he's got anywhere near the punchline it's often already old and sprouting hair from strange places. Furthermore, the 'mystery' element sounded like a promising way to drive along both the plot and the comedy. Except, well, aside from mentioning the premise at the beginning and end, not once did the mystery of Scrooby's disappearance enter into the episode's actual plot at all.

Incidentally, look at the show's title again. Scrooby's weblog isn't lost, he is.

Anyway, I didn't give the show another try until I caught the final episode today. Whether the plot (such as it was) incorporated listener suggestions I have no idea, because the comments board isn't working properly - 'See all comments' is apparently an empty promise. As for the disappearance, that wasn't worked in even in the form of clues, as far as I could tell; it was just Scrooby experimenting with lucid dreaming, and, well, you know how dull listening to other people's dreams can be...

Yes, it was almost that dull.

But that wasn't really the problem: ironically, it was the blogging.

And the interactivity.

First, the blogging. It wasn't integral to the show. Not in any way. The only difference from any other sitcom was that we were told that these scenes had been recorded by Scrooby for his weblog. They didn't feel at all as if they had been, and if you'd missed the preamble you wouldn't have had a clue. Blogging seemed to have had no impact on the show or its events at all.

Regarding the audience interactivity. As a device, well, yes, Scrooby's disappearance does facilitate this. But that's all it does. Like the blogging, it's not (or not made to be) essential to the show. What we actually hear as listeners is basically just a series of mildly amusing, blokeish musings on alternative lifestyles. Not only is the mystery utterly disconnected from, and external to this (like I said, the shows don't even seem to feature clues), but it also overshadows what you hear. The fact that he's disappeared is the story, yet we're not being told it.

If a sitcom based around blogging is going to work, or if audience
interaction in sitcoms is going to work (whether it even should is another matter), then it's all going to have to be much, much better integrated than this.

Ultimately, The Lost Weblog of Scrooby Trevithick just doesn't work; it's confused; and a bit broken - much like it's central character; though that probably wasn't quite the effect they were aiming at. But at least it tried something.

And it's not On The Blog... For that much, believe me, we should all be thankful.

*Video blogging, on the other hand, would seem to have many more dramatic possibilities, as already evidenced on the internet by shows such as 2/8 Life, or Kate Modern.