What I’ve Been Doing – Episode 2

So, more in the ‘what have you been up to?’ segment…

The past couple of summers, I’ve been to a couple of major RC (radio-controlled model) car racing events around Europe, so I’ve been doing a little extra travel as a side-job and reporting for a site called RCRacing.TV

Basically this entails taking pictures, talking to the top drivers at each event, doing various race reports and posting the reports and pictures online. Pretty geeky, yeah, and very few people realize how seriously many of these racers take their racing – most of them pay hundreds of (pounds, Euros, whatever) to drive or fly hundreds of (miles, kilometers) across the continent to race in front of very few spectators for no other glory than to try to do better than they did last year. Those that haven’t paid their way are there because there are companies that actually sponsor them (with money!) to do well and promote their products – the top guys are actually paid a salary to race toy cars for a living – and if the sponsored guys don’t do well, they know their sponsors might be tempted to look elsewhere when their contract is finished. So there’s a lot of pressure involved and it usually means some good racing.

This year I was asked to try to do race commentary, which, if you’ve watched motorsports before, consists of some guy who thinks he’s a know-it-all about the race and the drivers (‘some guy’ being me in this case) and babbling over the practice, qualifying heats and races. It was my first time doing it at the European Championships for electric buggy (there being two classes: 2WD and 4wD), then the following week I was scheduled to announce for the Championships for the much larger and cosmically faster 1/8th scale on-road class.

Here’s the race edit of just the fastest 10 guys (the A Final) in the 2WD electric buggy, with my commentary (the other voice you’ll hear is my friend and colleague during the trip, Mat):

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Film project under way!

So my podcasting partner and I are finally about to start actually FILMING instead of TALKING about filming. Various things like vacations, work/kid/family schedules, etc., have all conspired to make the filming not happen yet, and as it stands we’ll have one weekday night every two weeks to do some filming, then talk about the next bit that we want to do.

So…hopefully we’ll have some videos on YouTube in the next couple of weeks!

Brilliant (I think) Minecraft idea: Minecraft Wars!

I play only survival single player right now but this would definitely get me REALLY interested in SMP. I posted this on Reddit and Something Awful but it’s not getting much traction in either place, so I’ll waste some more space on the internets and post it here.

Here’s the idea:

Groups of people like to build stuff on shared servers

Most servers have a home web forum where members chat and discuss whatever

None of these server members have any way of crossing over and killing each other

So…make a central website called MinecraftWars.com or whatever so there is one site where members of various servers can call out groups on other servers and choose a date for a battle.

This combines several things: FPS combat; building defenses, traps & dungeons; the need for quick, targeted crafting by the attacking team & lots more!

Here’s how I see it working:

  • The group leaders agree terms and a time (after lots of smack-talk of course)
  • For example two back-to-back Capture the Flag battles take place, for a certain amount of time (say 1 or 2 hours max), one battle on each server, one right after the other.
  • Another example couple be a single battle of attack & defense, such as a raid for a hidden block of wool or whatever, once this hidden block is destroyed the game is one, etc. – the possibilities are endless.
  • The server admins are able to allow a certain number of members and a certain number of non-members (like 16 on a side) this is one part I’m not sure about, but there must be a mod that can do this
  • The home group build up defenses, traps, dungeons, towns, whatever, and place a ‘flag’ block in the fortified area, or hide The Block That Must Be Destroyed somewhere
  • The visiting group spawn in an area chosen by the home group, but they are not to be attacked for, say, 5-10 minutes to allow for scouting, crafting, etc. The visitor spawn must be in an unmodified, unbuilt-up area, etc., basically a safe zone. The spawn point must be a certain number of blocks away from the fortifications, for example the maximum draw distance at max resolution, but the attacking team must find the fortress.
  • The terms of the battle could include details on arms & armor that must be supplied by the home group (see below), to speed things along. Once the supplies have been accounted for and the visiting team is ready, the visiting leader announces in chat that the battle is on.
  • Negotiations could be made for respawns in the case of death, etc.: no respawns (hardcore!), 3 respawns, 5, unlimited, etc.
  • The visitors must locate the home group’s fortifications, destroy the block that has to be destroyed or find the ‘flag’ block and get back to the spawn point as quickly as they can
  • Lowest time wins in the case of CTF

There must be mods that can be written up for this, if they don’t exist already: new server world for each new game, turn off mobs (optional), visitor spawn area for users logging in using a certain ID/password, countdown timer to be shown on everyone’s screen for the safe time at the beginning of the game, the ‘flag’ block, the detection of the flag block in the area of the visitor spawn, etc.

Supply Chest
For the chest of supplies that the visiting group can negotiate for, I was thinking it would have a certain pre-agreed number of suits of armor, swords and basic tools to get started. For example, for a squad of 10 attackers the negotiation could be: 5 shovels, 5 picks, 10 swords, 5 suits of armor, 2 crafting tables – and that’s it.

I can imagine a well-disciplined group of attackers would have everyone with a pre-arranged role right from the start, so like in the first couple of minutes a couple of team members build basic fall-back shelter (a hole with a wooden door) while the others are scouting and the leader is taking in all the info and generating a map (not with a server mod, I mean ‘getting the lay of the land’), then deciding to send scouting parties out to find whatever, etc.

…so, what does anyone think?

Learning Tagalog (Filipino language)

So after online chatting with an RC buddy from California, he convinced me I should try to learn a bit of Tagalog, which is the defacto language for the Philippines (at least the northern part).

He linked me this video on Youtube (which, as random as it can be, is chock-full of ‘how to’ videos like learning various languages):

So here goes some learnin’!

Day Zero Project

So here is something I thought would be cool to take part in: the Day Zero Project.

The idea is to skip short-term, easily done things or New Year’s resolutions and complete 101 goals in 1001 days. That’s roughly 10 days to complete every task, whether it’s climbing a mountain or sharpening all the knives in your kitchen.

So here’s the gist

The Challenge: Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria: Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on your part).

Why 1001 Days? Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple challenges such as New Year’s resolutions or a ‘Bucket List’. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips, study semesters, or outdoor activities.

The official web site for the Day Zero Project isn’t working as I type this, but their Tumbler blog is working OK and has a lot of great ideas to start with.

I added a new page to my website that will compile all the goals I have added, so they’re easier to find than spread out on a bunch of blog posts.

In the market for a new camera!

So my Canon A95 is dying a slow death. Too many drops, I guess.

I was really thinking about getting a nice fat superzoom camera (600mm lens and full HD recording? yes please!) because every now and then I like to get a little more serious about taking pictures – but then slip back into ‘simple mode’ – and sometimes I like to play around with the manual settings. The brand new (as in not yet released) Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 was what had caught my eye recently.

But now I’m thinking a superzoom  will be too big for simple snapshots and possibly not techie enough for when I want to take serious photos (which isn’t that often these days and I’m happy with what I get from the A95). If I wanted to get properly into photography I’d just get a digital SLR, but that’s a minimum £600-700 investment right off the bat for a used 20D body, cheap wide angle lens and halfway decent telephoto lens.

So I’m looking at the ‘prosumer’ top-level  compact cameras, the ones designed for ‘advanced amateurs’ (ahem) and professionals or DSLR owners who don’t want the bulk of their big camera on a trip, but want much of the control of their fully-featured DSLRs.

These are the models I’m thinking of:

  • Canon G11
  • Panasonic LX5
  • Samsung EX1
  • Canon S90
  • Canon Ixus 300 HS

The S90 doesn’t do HD video but is very highly regarded by photographers, the LX5 and I think the G11 have tilt-swivel LCD screen, and they all have loads of manual controls and good megapixel counts.

If anyone has other suggestions or opinions on any of these, let me know!