The Research Lab

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Founded way back in 1997, Paul Watson’s art site, The Lazarus Corporation, began life simply as a gallery for his work. In the years that have followed, it’s grown to include articles and work from other contributers, and has a healthy forum community. Recently, Paul has been experimenting with ways of using RSS (see Principia Discordia) to expose his work to new audiences.

The latest project of The Lazarus Corporation is The Research Lab. The main purpose of The Research Lab is to act as a scrap-book for Paul’s ongoing research, but it has become a kind of open blog-wiki hybrid. It functions almost like a blog, documenting Paul’s research with posts displayed in reverse chronological order, but like a wiki it has sustained value as a reference and invites contributions from visitors. The Lab will be left open as a useful resource for those who stumble upon it.

It’s a clever re-purposing of the blogging features of the Drupal content management system, and, naturally, features an RSS feed so that new entries can be viewed from a news reader and even redistributed through other sites.

Upcoming Gigs

Left Hand Red 1 Comment »

It’s going to be a busy couple of months for Left Hand Red. Okay, so we’re not going on tour or anything, but here is our itinery for the rest of the year.

  • Wednesday 16th November – Concorde 2, Brighton (AmEx Battle of the Bands)
  • Saturday 26th November – Polar Central, Queens Road, Brighton (supporting Dead! Dead! Dead!)
  • Wednesday 7th December – Pressure Point, Brighton (Cable Club)
  • Thursday 8th December – Pressure Point, Brighton (Cable Club)
  • Sunday 18th December – Rock Garden, Covent Garden (Battle of the Bands)
  • Saturday 24th December – Good Companions, Peacehaven, East Sussex
  • January 2006 – Pavilion Tavern, Brighton (okay, so it’s not this year, but it’s close!)

We have a few new songs which we’ll hopefully debut along the way.

December 7th is Jane’s birthday, as well as drummer Russell! It’s also the day after guitarist Darren’s, so no doubt it’ll be an extra special occasion. You may have also noticed that we’re doing a Christmas Eve show in Peacehaven. A sneaky Christmas song on the setlist, perhaps…?

Apache Mobile

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I’m due to make a presentation next month, and I’ve recently been looking for some way of taking a web server with me without resorting to lugging a laptop around (might be awkward in the pub afterwards!). I’ve spent the last week or so looking at various types of live CD, which is a full GNU/Linux distribution that runs from a single disc.

The trouble with a Live CD is that, being on CD, you can’t write to it. Also, as the CD contains a compressed filesystem, it’s not like you can use a CD-RW either. This lead me to the painful realisation that I was going to have to recompile my own customised Live CD.

This was a lengthy process, and it left me very frustrated. I was using the excellent Ubuntu distro (that’s geek for ‘distribution’), which had concise and easy to follow instructions for compiling your own version of the Ubuntu Live CD. I was able to install Apache, MySQL and PHP – the Holy Trinity of Open Source webbery – and configure them as necessary. The only problem? I wanted to run my presentation from a USB drive, and due to some GNU/Linux permissions perculiarities, you cannot run PHP scripts from that kind of device. Grrr!

I was about ready to hang up my mouse, when I discovered Apache Mobile. Quite frankly, it saved the day. While it’s not a complete operating system, it allows you to install Apache and PHP on a USB flash drive, and since it’s treated like a hard disk, you can edit the files and configuration to your heart’s content.

To run the server, just plug in your USB device, run the startup batch script, and the server is set to the localhost domain. The only limitation is that you need to be running Windows 2000 upwards. Need more disk space? Just edit the httpd.conf file and point the DocumentRoot to the local hard disk or another storage device. Need an extra PHP module? Edit php.ini and uncomment the relevant line.

Hats off to Apache Mobile’s creator, 17-year-old Belgian, Jorge Schrauwen.

Nintendo’s Gaming Revolution

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May 2005 – at E3, the ‘big three’ games console manufacturers revealed the designs for their next consoles, to be released over 2005-6. While Sony and Microsoft provided technical specs for their machines, and showed running demos of forthcoming games (revealed later not to be running on the actual hardware after all), Nintendo were content (or able) just to unveil the design of their new box, codenamed ‘Revolution’, and also revealed details of it’s backward compatability and the, admittedly rather attractive, possibility to download their vast back-catalogue of games from consoles past. The World frowned cynically.

In September 2005, at the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo revealed the real reasoning for the ‘Revolution’ codename – its new controller.

Nintendo has always led the way in controller design, which in turn affects what’s possible in the games themselves. They’ve pioneered many innovations in console control design – the D-pad, shoulder buttons, ‘analogue’-movement, and ‘rumble’ feedback. All of these devices have since become standard on any joypad. So, trust Nintendo to take the next step. But they haven’t added new buttons, sticks or screens to their pad. They believe that controllers and therefore games are becoming too complicated for the casual player to just pick up and play. What they did, no-one saw coming:

Nintendo Revolution controller

The first thing you think is “Er, it’s a remote control and it only has seven buttons and a D-pad. How on Earth am I going to play modern games on that?”

Well, the answer is this: it’s position and motion sensitive. The hardware calculates the position, direction and movement of the controller to translate the slightest physical actions in to ingame actions. I have to admit, at first it all sounds a little gimmicky and I was wondering how it would work in the context of a real game. However, on seeing the promotional video played at TGS, it all became clear.

The video is from the perspective of a TV set, showing people using the controller to play various games. While it doesn’t show any real software, it does get the viewer using their imagination and dreaming up what you can do with the new control. In each case, it’s easy to tell what type of game is being ‘played’ by the sound effects combined with what the gamer is doing. I can’t imagine that being possible with a joypad! The video shows people ‘playing’ shoot-’em-ups, adventure games, huddling together on the sofa with ‘Mario Party’ style games, and even drumming, fishing and chopping veg! The main advantage of the controller seems to be its flexibility – it could be used as a mouse-style pointing device, sword, gun, steering wheel, fishing-rod, fly-swat, or whatever the game designer can come up with.

It already has its critics, but most people with a bit of imagination are excited about the prospects that such a controller brings with it. It’s not clear how, or even if traditional games will translate to the ‘Revolution’, but do we really care? What we want is new and exciting ways to play, and Nintendo is looking forwards, not back.

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