Holiday Time

I'm off to Vancouver for a week so I won't be posting here until I come back.

Until then enjoy the view:
Vancouver

Stargate Worlds

Jafa Concept ArtJust a week ago I was mourning the cancellation of the nearly complete FPS game Stargate SG1 The Alliance. Today, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel for SG1 computer games, this time in the guise of Stargate Worlds, a MMORPG being created by Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment.

Details at the moment are fairly sketchy as they are only at the pre-production stage:

"Step through the StargateTM as an SG team of soldiers and scientists, and travel instantly to fantastic worlds in this galaxy and beyond. Players can forge alliances, establish trade, investigate ancient mysteries, and defend Earth from such hostile forces as the Goa'uld and the Ori in an immense multiplayer universe.

Stargate Worlds provides players with a form of ranged combat unique to MMORPG that will take full advantage of modern and science fiction weaponry, cover, and terrain. Players will be able to form squads with their friends or use bots for players who want to go solo. Squad leaders will control maneuvers and objectives through an innovative combat control interface. Players may choose to create characters that are members of either the SGC (the Good Guys) or the System Lords (the Bad Guys). Characters are equipped with varied and mixed skills, with the choice to form such classes as Research, Combat Marine, Medical, Scientific, Diplomatic, Engineering, Archeological, and Exploration. PVP will be possible between the two alliances on many contested worlds, actually swaying the balance of power on those planets, and unlocking hidden content. Cooperative play will also be possible, and players will be encouraged to forge temporary alliances to deal with greater threats, such as the Ori.

The universe evolves as players inhabit and vie for control over alien worlds. Local populations will shift their allegiance between the two alliances. Outside threats, such as the Ori, will conspire to further change the face of these worlds. Players will be able to tip the balance of power on these worlds, beating back the Ori invasion, and swaying the local populations to their side through quests, combat and trade. Whether you are a solitary explorer, master tradesman, or commander of a massive armed force- your every action will alter the worlds of the StargateTM universe."

There is some concept art on the website, but at this stage it's really not giving anything away.

The team in charge looks pretty impressive, from one of the founding members of Electronic Arts (and producer/director for The Matrix Online) Joseph Ybarra as Vice President of Product Development, through Stu Rose as Art Director, previously responsible for Blizzard, Warcraft and Starcraft logos and worked on games such as Warcraft I, II and III, and World of Warcraft (to name a few). Creative Director Chris Lug was the designer for the James Bond 007 RPG and has worked on games such as Strek Trek DSP: Dominion Wars and Duke Nukem: Time to Kill and Jim Brown, Director of New Product Development comes from a Holywood background having worked on Alien, The Abyss and produced special effects for Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek The Motion Picture The Special Edition.

It all sounds very promising and interesting and I'm sure it will have a massive following when it's released. Given the timing I can't help but wonder if MGM decided that this was going to be better than Stargate The Alliance and that they dropped it for this.

Windows Live Messenger Invites Part 3

It looks like the Windows Live Messenger (MSN Messenger 8) beta program is ramping up even more again as I've got 5 invitations again on each of the two accounts I use (so that's ten in total).

Same rules as before: first ten to comment get an invite.

Stargate Game Cancelled

Stargate The Alliance

Just weeks before it was ready for release the enormously anticipated FPS game Stargate the Alliance has been cancelled :(

It was confirmed on the official forums a couple of days ago after rumours and stories started to hit the internet:

"It pains me to say this but unfortunately Stargate SG-1 The Alliance has been canceled.

An official statement is forth coming from MGM and/or perception in the coming days.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the employees of Perception all the very best for the future. Having seen the game first hand I know you guys did a fantastic job and you have every right to feel proud of what you have done.

I encourage all the Perception employees who are hidden members of this forum to let yourselves be known. You should be proud of the work you have done and I encourage all members of the forum here to congratulate the Perception crew and to wish them all the very best.

**adding**
Anyone involved in the focus testing that occured recently is no longer held by the NDA. You are free to talk openly about the game and all you know of it.

If you are one of these people and are unsure of the legitimacy of this, please PM me and I will explain further."

It all seems to stem from a parting of the ways between developers Perception and Publishers JoWooD Productions. Since then, despite several offers from new publishers, MGM (who own the Stargate license and have to approve everything) have failed to respond in any way (so it seems) least of all to actually approve a new publisher.

Eventually Perception ran out of money and had to lay off all the staff and shut down the project.

Hopefully, MGM will make an official statement to explain what's happened and to provide some hope that this game will see the light of day.

Free eBooks from Apress

Apress have a selection of programming books available for free download in PDF format. The titles available at the moment are:

  • A Programmer's Introduction to PHP 4.0
  • Writing Perl Modules for CPAN
  • Programming VB .NET: A Guide For Experienced Programmers
  • COM and .NET Interoperability
  • XML Programming: Web Applications and Web Services With JSP and ASP
  • Google, Amazon, and Beyond: Creating and Consuming Web Services
  • Practical Common Lisp
  • Dissecting a C# Application: Inside SharpDevelop

e-blue i-phone for Skype

e-blue i-phone

Not so long ago I was called in to work on a Sunday because we had some field engineers at a customer's site in China that needed help. I was most unpleased as we'd advised them not to go, but nevermind. Fortunately the problem turned out not to be too drastic and with no more than an hour or so at work I'd managed to diagnose the problem, create a solution, test it and email the result to our field engineer as well as dump it on the FTP server (just-in-case).

On a previous trip to India the same field engineer had tried to get me some aftershave from duty free on his way back from India for my assistance while he was out there, but unfortunately he couldn't get the one I wanted. This time he said he's try again. Well, I'd already got the aftershave I wanted at Christmas (yes, I have reached that age where all I get for Christmas is aftershave, pants and socks! I am thirty afterall!), so I he asked what I wanted instead. As any geek would I said that anything "nice, shiny and gadgety" would be just fine.

Well, today he returned to the office from his travels and brought back the lovely e-blue i-phone, USB phone for Skype! I've downloaded Skype, fired it up, plugged in the phone and tried it out and it really does work very well. There's some funny thing going on with the handset-based volume control, but other than that it's rather funky. No doubt if you're actually reading my blog you know me well enough to call me, so if you're interested and I'm online my Skype Name is 'derek-lakin'.

 

Flyakite OSX 3 Released

If you like the look of MacOSX, but have a PC then you can get pretty close with the FlyaKite GUIKit.

As reported over on Aqua-Soft:

"We’ve been waiting for this release for over half a year, but the wait was well worth it. This release includes the first ever dynamic boot patcher, which will finally–safely–allow for a progress bar on the bootup screen. Additionally, with programmer herd’s help, flyakite has included a program in this pack that will let you close other programs with the keyboard shortcut Alt + Q, similar to the behavior present on the Macintosh in which pressing Apple + Q will close the application. Additionally, flyakite wrote a sweet macro program which will automatically move the taskbar to the top of the screen, something never seen before (done automatically, that is) in any other transformation pack. flyakite’s website has also been updated. This website, famous among the Aqua community, is a joy to peruse and browse. It pushes the edge in Aqua website emulation!

flyakite said it himself: “this will be the ultimate release. it will put every release I have ever made to shame, and will embarass future releases of mine.” That’s a statement of a pretty high order, but we’re sure it’s true!" 

FlyaKite

I used the FlyaKite GUIKit in it's previous release and loved it. I only stopped using it when Kol's Vista visual style was released.

In addition to the GUIKit itself there is an awesome website too. Just look at the screenshot on the left (click for full size). It has windows with transparency, a working launch bar, menu, iTunes, themes and wallpapers and much more.

The MSN window that is shown in the screenshot is a screenshot of the MSN skin that is included in FlyaKite. There really is too much in this GUIKit to go in to any depth, just try it out for yourself. If you don't like it you can use the uninstaller that's part of the setup (the same as you'd expect from an application) which put you back to where you were before you started.

Yet More WLM Invites!

I logged in again this morning and I've got even more Windows Live Messenger Beta invites to hand out! I guess the team are ramping up on the number of users. I had an extra 5 but I've sent one to poor Philippe who was the 6th to comment on yesterday's post and just missed out.

Same rule as yesterday, first 4 to comment get an invite and please remember to put your email address in your post.

[Update: Because I have two accounts (work and home) I've actually got a total of 9 invites to hand out]
[Update2: I got more invites on one of the accounts, so with the invites I given out and received I've still got 6 left]

Windows Live Messenger Beta Invites

After my initial flurry of inviting close friends I've now got some more invites to hand out for the new Windows Live Messenger (Messenger 8) beta.

First five to comment get an invite.

Windows Live Messenger Beta

posted 05 January 2006 20:35 by Derek Lakin :: 3 Comments
Filed Under:

Windows Live MessengerI just received that all important invitation to join the Windows Live Beta program! w00t!

It needs a reboot after installation, so I guess I'll have to blog more about it later.

AJAX without the Postbacks

posted 24 December 2005 11:48 by Derek Lakin :: 0 Comments
Filed Under:
Note to self: if you're trying to do asynchronous calls in an AJAX way don't use an <input /> element of any type as the trigger for an action as they cause a postback, which defeats the object.

KoL's VistaXP Theme Pulled

This isn't (and won't) be my normal fare on this blog, but I feel that Microsoft have really got it wrong on this subject. First of all what's happened?

Francisco Javier Ocasio Gotay (aka KoL) is one of the best and well-known artists in the theming community and has been for years. 5 months ago he released the first version of his VistaXP theme which mimicked the look of Vista/Longhorn on Windows XP. On Monday he received a legal request to remove the theme from all sites, which he has now done.

The theme was originally released on 17th July 2005 and is arguably the best Vista port to date. The thread here at Neowin generated more than a 1000 comments and had nearly 300,000 visitors. It has taken the company nearly 5 months to contact KoL to ask him to remove the theme. Third party law firm, Seed IP contacted KoL 2 days ago. [source: neowin]

So let's get the legal bit out of the way. KoL's theme did contain Microsoft UI artwork, fonts and images that are subject to copyright, trademark, etc and as such Microsoft have every right to request that the them be removed. However, theming communities such as Neowin, WinCustomize, ThemeXP and deviantART are rife with ports of Microsoft's Vista style to the Windows XP platform either as an MS Style or to the popular WindowsBlinds package by StarDock. Most, if not all, of these Vista themes draw from the same resources that KoL did to produce their themes. So, it would seem that KoL's theme received attention from Microsoft because of it's popularity.

So, a themer got busted by Microsoft for using copyright material, so what? Apple have been doing it for years. What's the problem? Well I think Microsoft are going about it all wrong. Back when Windows XP was released it support themes and Visual Styles, but it only supported 3: Luna, Silver and Olive. Since then Microsoft have only released one extra official theme: Royale. To this day Windows XP does not directly support the addition of user-created visual styles, it requires a hacked uxtheme.dll or an application such as StyleXP or WindowsBlinds.

I think this is where Microsoft got it all wrong. Having provided this great new feature I think Microsoft should have supported easy style switching of user-generated styles and themes. I'm sure they had a good reason for not supporting at launch time, but they've had plenty of time since to work round whatever those problems were. I really hope that Vista won't suffer from the same problem.

Now theming is very popular and exceptional artists, such as KoL, spend a lot of time and effort creating beautiful themes for us all to enjoy (as long as we use a hack or third party software) and there is a definite buzz around the new Vista look-and-feel. People like and are excited about it, that's why thousands of people downloaded KoL's VistaXP theme and continue to download the many other Vista-style skins that are available. So come on Robert Scoble, start talking to Microsoft and let's help the theming community make Windows XP and Windows Vista look good. People are clearly excited by the new Vista look-and-feel, so let's encourage them, not squash them.

Fortunately KoL hasn't been put off by all this corporate attention and will continue to create themes and styles, though no more Vista I guess. You can see KoL's artwork on his website StudioTwentyEight.com.

Virgin Galactic Space Port

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic and the State of New Mexico have announced an agreement to build a 27 square mile $200 million space port in the southern part of the state.

How awesome is that!? A huge great space port from which tourists will be able to visit space and (assuming I don't die prematurely) all built in my life time. No all I need to do is start saving the cash for a ticket!

I've loved the stars, planets and space in general ever since I was a kid and Science Fiction still fascinates me now, but I don't think I ever really imagined that personal space flight would be a reality in my life time. But following the success of the X Prize and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic it looks like this is really going to happen.


Virgin Galactic has agreed to locate its world's headquarters and Mission Control in New Mexico and strongly believes that the new spaceport will offer fledgling astronauts an experience that will be truly out of this world.

"When Burt Rutan and SpaceShipOne won the X PRIZE in October 2004, we knew the new space industry had arrived," said Secretary Rick Homans. "And when Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin would use that same technology to fly paying passengers into space, we realized that our most important job was to convince Virgin Galactic to come to New Mexico and launch the personal spaceflight industry. This announcement is a convergence of dreams and we are proud that Virgin will be New Mexico's anchor tenant at the world's most exciting space tourism location. "

"New Mexico has worked hard to bring us to their exciting new spaceport facility," stated Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic. "The State has several factors that make it an ideal operations base: climate, free airspace, low population density, high altitude, and stunning scenery. Our team was highly impressed by the professionalism and the competitive pitch the state and its advisors developed. We look forward to working together to make the "Final Frontier" a reality for tens of thousands of pioneering space tourists. Our activities will prove the commercial viability and excellent safety technology behind private personal spaceflight and give birth to a new industry in New Mexico."

In conjunction with this announcement Virgin Galactic have also unveiled a new logo (see above) designed by renowned design guru Philippe Starck.

Philippe Starck explains: "The curiosity and adventure of the human spirit exists in the vision of a human eye, from today, through millions of years of evolution, right back to the beginning of mankind. The nebulous iris represents the infinite possibilities of this endeavour and signifies our opportunity to look back at earth from space with our own eyes for the first time. The eye's pupil incorporates an eclipse, the dawning of something new, something unique but accessible. Something far, but near."

Apparently the final design will actually be based on Richard Branson's actual iris. Branson is quoted as saying: "When I look at the logo I am reminded of childlike awe. I believe it represents all those who will watch and be a part of the growth of this amazing new commercial aviation sector. Whether they be six or sixty, all will see and believe that a new chapter in the story of space flight has begun." Like I said above, I'm one of those people that can't wait for this "new chapter in the story of space flight".

Added Flare for FeedBurner Subscribers

FeedBurner recently announced FeedFlare, a new service for FeedBurner users:

FeedFlare is initially launching today with seven simple options, including:

  • most popular tags for this item via del.icio.us
  • tag this item at del.icio.us
  • Technorati cosmos: number of links to this post
  • Creative Commons license for this specific item. This works even if you are splicing, say, a Flickr photo feed into a blog feed and the two parent feeds have different licenses associated with them.
  • number of comments on this post (currently only for feeds created by Wordpress)
  • email this item
  • email the author of this item (particularly helpful if the item ends up spliced into another feed or repurposed on a site).

Shortly after this launch, we'll also integrate a "more like this" option from Sphere which will link to a list of related posts at Sphere.

So, for those of you who are using the FeedBurner feed you'll now found a few extra links at the bottom of each post. I haven't worked out what I need to do to get the "email the author" bit to work yet, but the rest seems to be OK. If you're not using the FeedBurner feed then shame on you! Now you have an even more compelling reason to switch.

IconBuffet Free Delivery

If you have installed one of the Express editions of Visual Studio and signed up for the registration benefits then you may already be aware of IconBuffet as they have provided a large number of free icons.

In addition to this they are now offering a service called Free Delivery. Register and sign-up and every month you'll get a new set of free icons, however, different members will get different sets of icons and to get the ones you didn't receive they have to be delivered to you by another member that did get it:

Once a month, IconBuffet will deliver a free collection of stock icons (a Free Delivery) to your IconBuffet account. These special icons are royalty-free for both commercial and personal use.

Each IconBuffet member may — or may not — receive the same Free Delivery as the next member. In fact, we may release a dozen different Free Deliveries in a given month. There’s no way to tell what you’ll receive each month.

Is there a catch? Absolutely not. Each Free Delivery will contain royalty-free artwork (icons or illustration) that you are free to use on your website, your blog, a client’s website, commercial software, or just about whatever. You’re not required to purchase anything.

With each Free Delivery you receive, you can make five Free Deliveries of your own to friends and colleagues. If they’re already an IconBuffet member, the Free Delivery will arrive immediately in their account. If not, they can create their own free account, and begin receiving — and delivering — icons of their own. It’s that easy.

Oslo AtmosphereI've got the Oslo Atmosphere set and I've got 4 3 2 deliveries left if anyone else would like them in exchange for one of the other free deliveries available this month (something like Shanghai Tech, Shanghai Tech Vector or Oslo Finance would be nice). Just send me your set to derek.lakin <at> gmail.com

Update: I've now got the Shanghai Tech set aswell (thanks Paul) and have 3 deliveries remaining. It looks like you get 5 deliveries for each collection whether you received direct or delivered to you by a friend.

Update 2: The Oslo Finance set has now been added to my collection thanks to RoudyBob. I've got 2 deliveries left for Oslo Atmosphere, 2 for Shanghai Tech and 5 for Oslo Finance.