Richard Hammond seriously hurt in accident

The BBC is reporting that Richard Hammond, host of popular car program Top Gear and science program Brainiac, has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident. I’m including an image since people who kind-of-know-who-he-is might recognise his face.

Richard Hammond from Top Gear

He was driving a “dragster-style car” at a former RAF airfield. After admission to hospital and initial treatment, his condition was reported as “stable”.

Update: A followup story on the BBC website includes diagrams of the scene. It also mentions “significant brain injury”, but also implies that he is (hopefully) going to make a good recovery.

Update: Looks like Hammond will be alright. The BBC is reporting that his recovery is “remarkable”. He’s anticipating a ribbing from his fellow Top Gear hosts.

First pay from a new job

I’ve just recieved my first pay from a new job and I’m trying to figure out what to do with it. Not as in “what should I blow it on?”. More as in “what do I feel I should use my money for in general?”.

In my cultural background there is a feeling that what you do with money you first receive (after not having money for a while) communicates who you are and dictates your future directions in both finances and life in general. So you should try to do something good with it. Although I don’t really believe in the spiritual side of this custom, I do think it is based on something of merit. What I spend this money on will communicate (to some degree) what I’m about; Not only to others, but also to myself. It could also provide a vague peek into my future (via reasonably deduction).

Here’s an example. Let’s say that I blow my first pay on video-games (something that only I benefit from). You could infer that at some level I may always be wanting for money (because I spend all that I have on “frivilous” things as soon as I get it). It also communicates that I’m a selfish git, and reflects poorly on me and my family (who presumeably raised me to be this way). Another example: Maybe I could save it, but does that mean I’ll end up miserly? Is it right to hold onto money in case of future hardship even though there are so many people who need it right now? Final example: Obviously going straight to the casino is a bad sign!

Anyhow, (long-story-short) I’ve pretty much decided to donate a reasonable amount of my first pay to various organisations, give some to my family, spend a bit on Heidi and myself, reinvest some into my business ventures, and then put the rest into a new bank account. (I’ll have to wait for my second pay day before buying those games…)

So what would you do with your first pay?

Mod your console for $6600

In order to comply with the new free-trade agreement with the United States (the AUSTA), the Australian government is leglisating to make modchips, and any other Technological Protection Measures (TPMs), illegal. It’s already illegal to sell or distribute devices aimed at overcoming copy control technology, but it will soon (next year) also be illegal to use such devices. Simply having a modchip in your console could attract a fine of up to $6600.

Previously modchips (for the original Playstation) were deemed legal because they weren’t necessarily used for subverting copy protection schemes. In Stevens vs. Sony, Eddy Stevens argued that modchips are also used to play imported games encoded for different regions. The ACCC in particular views region-locking as an artificial anti-consumer practise, and considers that region-locked hardware owners have every right to disable such restrictions. It’s good for business, but bad for consumers. I had my own rant in this article I wrote for Aeropause.

In helping to direct drafting of the new legislation, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (LACA) was asked to consider any exceptions that should be introduced. Its report recommends a number of exceptions mostly focussed on educational uses, archiving, and national security. The proposals that look destined to fall flat are calls for disabling TPMs for making backups, correcting errors in computer program, and (suprisingly) assisting people with intellectual disabilities (apparantly, we still don’t regard them in same way that we regard physically disabled people). Amusingly the report mentions the term “abandonware“.

The consoles typically subject to modchipping in Australia are Microsoft’s XBOX and Sony’s Playstation 2. In order to avoid the same sort of justification for Playstation modchips (playing imports), it seems that both companies are being fairly cautious with their new consoles. Sony is not region-encoding their Playstation 3 games and most of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 games will be region-free. Moreover, Microsoft will be using two separate protection schemes: one for games and one for DVDs. So wanting to remove the region encoding for DVDs cannot be used as justification for also modifying the console to play pirated games.

Aside from games consoles, the generality of the TPM definition could cause significant problems for consumers. I can imagine manufacturers packing all sorts of other restrictions into their TPM chips or software and asserting that consumers can not remove such technology. For example, they could make their TPM “call home” and send a significant amount of personal data gathered from the user’s computer. It could not only be illegal for you to stop this happening, but it could also be illegal for you to try to find out exactly what it is doing (and what information they are gathering).

Information gathered from various sources including this news alert from Minter Ellison via AusGamers via Sumea.

Note: I wonder if I should have posted this to Aeropause? It’s fairly local information and almost more “newsy” than “gamesy”. Plus, I couldn’t really be arsed finding a nice picture to go with this post.

Weird Al resurgence? (Or just a YouTube-induced illusion)

Is it just me or has Weird Al had a bit of a YouTube driven resurgence of late? I mean, check out how many fan-made music videos there are for his song “You’re Pitiful”. Since YouTube is so big… I’m fairly happy to accept that it is just me. I’m also happy to accept that it’s just perseverance and smart marketing. He’s definitely keeping up with current Internet-based promotion with his own MySpace page and topical music (such as “Don’t Download This Song“).

He has an odd sort of timelessness to him. I remember his songs (parodying Michael Jackson) from when I was in primary school, but he’s still producing new material with current cultural references. In a world where so many people look to “retro” for cool, he picks things out from right now. That, and he still looks very young (he’s 47 this year). It feels like he’ll never go away!

This is from his new album:

And here is something for all the Star Wars geeks out there:

Man, Weird Al is actually a pretty good looking guy without his old signature long curly hair, over-sized glasses, and thin moustache.

A very good Sunday

Catch up on the news. Jump on a bus into town. Pick up breakfast. Play some pool. Eat some yum cha. Go vigorboarding on a nice steady slope. Pick up some bubble tea. Go to the bowling place (but find that they’re completely booked out until the evening). Work on my website. Hang with Heidi. Go for a bike ride into East Perth. Salmon for dinner. Post to my blog. Watch a few short videos. A little bit of contract work. Off to bed.

Plus, the whole day was made that much better due to the great weather and excellent company. Some photos of the day will probably appear on spinboy’s blog at some point. Oh wait, they’re already there!

So, how’d you spend your Sunday? What’s constitutes a good Sunday to you?

Birthday wrap-up

I had a great birthday the other day. Heidi took the day off work, the weather was great, I ate more than my fill of Mexican food, and I got some neat bicycle stuff including a trip computer and an aerocool cycling shirt.

I really like the trip computer. It’s a small device that acts as a speedometer and odometer for a bicycle. It’s consists of three parts: a magnet, a sensor, and a (removable) display (with mount). You place the sensor on one of the front forks of the bike and attach the magnet to a spoke of the front wheel (so that it passes by the sensor when the wheel rotates). After you input the size of wheel, the computer can calculate how fast and how far you have travelled by using very simple maths. It’s great! I now know that my morning bike ride is around 11km.

The aerocool cycling shirt is my first real piece of cycling clothing, and I’m beginning to understand why so many amateur cyclists go for this sort of gear. It’s really does “pull the sweat” away and keep you dryer and cooler than a normal (cotton or polycotton) shirt. I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to go for the lyra leggings… but I’m not ruling anything out!

I’m writing for Aeropause!

As of today, I’m a writer for the video game website Aeropause!

Aeropause bio shot

I was invited to write via e-mail yesterday morning and we managed to sort everything out for me to start today. Check out the kind welcome from Shane (the editor) and my first post entitled “Nintendo Viral Marketing Conspiracy?

From now on, I’ll tend to post gaming-related stories to Aeropause and all my other thoughts here. I think it’s a good idea to separate the two. Not everyone interested in my Nintendo DS redesigns wants to know about my stolen bike.

It’s some sort of YouTube in-joke

Jack Danyells has put together a sort of YouTube community tribute music video including a song entitled “We Watch Them All on YouTube” sung to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel:

A few of the rhymes and rhythms were a bit of stretch (eg. making Naruto into “Na-ra-yu-to”), but most of the lyrics are gold (eg. “Com-mer-cial for Bra-via, Ron-nie plays har-mon-i-ca”). I’m a little disturbed that I recognise so many of the videos referenced by this video clip. I never thought of myself as such a big YouTube fan… but maybe I am.

Jack clearly put quite a bit of effort into this song and video. I like this sort of participatory internet culture. Back in the late 90’s apathy was all the rage and such efforts would be met with “pffts” and “ur… whatever”s from trendy Generation Xers. In today’s social internet climate he gets praise, respect, and adoration such as this comment from umassbluangel:

you are hot
and this video rocks!

It’s a whole new world and being sullen doesn’t get you anywhere. At least not on YouTube, where emos seem to get panned a lot.

Note: I don’t approve of panning emos, and I really don’t approve of the associated homophobia that seems to frequently come with it.

Buying video games from Perth (including imports)

I’ve put up a page with tips on buying video games as one of my guides.

The main areas of interest will probably be my experiences with various retailers and links to online stores. I linked directly to my favourite store and then also to the links page on the BigKid website. BigKid is rarely updated now, but it was one of the first useful Australian gaming sites and I think they deserve recognition. Also, they’re the only place I found with a decent list of Australian retailers!

Back in the Playstation and Dreamcast days, I imported a fair amount of games and accessories from a store in Hong Kong. As a result, I acquired a fairly good idea of which couriers are good, and how Australian Customs will handle imports. This might be a bit out of date now (with the recent “climate of global terrorism”), so please let me know if you have some tips due to more recent experience.

Note: The title means “buying video games if you live in Perth”, not “buying video games that come from Perth” (that would seriously limit your options!)