Musings about Sony’s PS3 backwards compatibility news

I’ll start with a disclaimer. I’m not a fanboy of any console/manufacturer/brand. I’m just a gamer. I currently own an XBox 360, PS2 and a Nintendo DS and have owned an XBox, Gamecube and another PS2 from the last generation of consoles. I’m not considering buying a PS3, but there is a possibility one may fall into my lap, as it were. I do fancy a Wii right now, fnar fnar.

I’ve been following the run up to the European launch of the PS3 with a little interest. Not in terms of the technology, the games or indeed with a view to buying one, but simply to try and ascertain whether or not Sony have really lost their marbles. Amongst the hardcore console gaming community Sony have really been on a downward track in Europe ever since the huge delay in getting the PSP to these shores. Pricing policy has been a sticking point with Euro and Sterling prices not in parity with those in the US and Japan. What’s more Sony’s stance of grey imports has been authoritarian to say the least, and their behaviour over the whole Lik-Sang affair was diabolical.

So the run up to the European launch of the PS3 on 23rd March has been interesting to watch. We’ve had discontent over the fact that despite the initial fanfare of a worldwide launch, we were later told that Europe would get it months later than the US and Japan. Then there has been the pricing issue. In Japan the 60GB version of the console is openly priced, allowing retailers to set their own price. In the US it retails for $599 (£305 with the currently generous fx rate) whilst those in the UK will have to pay £425. This is even slightly more than the rest of Europe (unless you happen to live in Greece in which case you will get royally done over)

However, today news comes about the fact that the hardware Europe will get is actually different to the rest of the world. One of the things Sony have always played up is that their consoles will play games from the previous ones. The PS2 played PSOne games, and the PS3 plays PS2 and PSOne games. They’ve always gone down the hardware route of backwards compatibility. That is, they include the old CPU in the new console. As such, the PS3 contains the emotion engine from the PS2. Except in Europe it won’t.

It appears that Sony have redesigned the chassis of the PS3 to remove the older PS2 hardware to reduce costs and allow them to introduce pricing discounts earlier in the product’s lifetime. They will now take an emulation based approach to backwards compatibility as Microsoft did with the XBox 360. As such, the number of PS2 games which will work on the PS3 is quoted by GamesIndustry.biz as being “a limited range”. Now that doesn’t sound like it is going to be too many to me 😉

Now I don’t happen to think that back-compat is a terribly important aspect of a console. If I had PS2 games I still wanted to play I’d keep a PS2 to play them on. I do also think that it makes sense to do it via emulation and that MS have done a pretty good job of it with the 360. Certainly they took a lot of abuse from Sony fanboys and indeed Sony execs who lauded the seemingly impeccable back-compat capability of the PlayStation. However, what does this mean for us in Europe? Suddenly we are getting a more expensive product that is actually more feature limited than our friends in the US and Japan. Judging by the comments being made on the thread about this on Eurogamer, Sony’s image in Europe just took another body blow.

Lightroom 1.0 – first thoughts

I’ve been spending a bit of time playing with the 1.0 release of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom since the 30-day trial became available on Monday. My hardcopy version hasn’t arrived through the post yet.

Overall I’m impressed with the changes that are in from the 4.1 beta. The most notable change for me is the stacking capability. I have tended towards taking a lot of bracketed shots for later use in HDR and playing around in Elements, not to mention just carpet bombing multiple bracketed exposures in the hope of getting the right one. All this leads to a typically large number of exposures of the same shot which make navigation of the library difficult. Being able to stack all these exposures together really cleans things up.

I’m also loving virtual copies. I find them especially useful for making B&W versions of shots without losing the original colour version from the library which is still useful for browsing.

Spot removal seems to work very well, but does take a bit of playing around with. I’ve yet to try saving it as a preset to be applied to all shots as a form of dust removal. Yes, I do have a persistent dust spot on the auto-cleaning 400D!

The overall interface and speed seem better and more responsive. All in all I’m glad I’ve made the purchase (assuming it turns up) and look forward to using it in real anger once we return from a short trip to Rome next week.

My first photo in print

Yacht fire

Last night a yacht caught fire in the marina we live in. From the comfort of my own bedroom I was able to get about 50 shots off whilst the blaze took hold, the mast collapsed, something caused a small explosion, and the firefighters tackled the blaze. After emailing off 15 of the best to the Daily Echo picture desk, they have selected one of them to accompany their story on page 6 of todays edition. It is already up on their web site with a byline, which the print edition should carry as well. They are paying £30 for the photo.

The boat was empty, nobody was hurt.

Quite chuffed!

Update: I’ve picked up the paper. Page six, four column colour photo as main photo above the headline. Very chuffed 🙂

New site and blog appear in Google and other search engines.

It looks like the work I did investigating the ins-and-outs of Google and SEO has paid off as the home page for my site and this blog have appeared in Google. As of yet it hasn’t done a full index of my sitemap, but hopefully that will come and I’ll start seeing search hits for individual posts.

As of yet the page rank for these pages is low as it hasn’t picked up any links to them. Again, hopefully that will change as people’s blogrolls get indexed. At the moment the old blog still wins out on page rank for the search term Adrian Spender. The home page appears in MSN Search, and Yahoo has got as far as indexing a few posts.

Southampton Apple Store grand opening

Queue 1

Both Andy and myself were present at the opening of the Southampton Apple Store this morning. Having underestimated the popularity of the event and left my departure accordingly late I was glad that Andy managed to secure an impressive place in an even more impressively long queue, which almost reached down to the exit from West Quay onto the High Street.

After some frankly quite embarrassing staff whooping and hand slapping, they opened up the shutters to let in the hordes. With what seemed like a full complement of staff and of course a huge amount of punters the most immediate impression was that the store itself is, well a little small. I was expecting it to have two floors, as with most Apple stores I’ve been to. The DVD shop which was there before certainly did.

Filing in 2

I spent most of my time wandering around taking photos, some of which are now up on flickr (slideshow here) Andy meanwhile had a mission to spend, and came out with a new toy, but I’ll let him tell you about that 😉

WebSphere related posts Yahoo pipe

I’ve been playing with Yahoo Pipes again, this time for something a bit more useful.

There are a number of blogs from IBMers here in the UK which cover WebSphere related topics at varying degrees of frequency. Some are solely WebSphere related whilst others talk about all sorts of subjects including WebSphere.

The WebSphere related posts from UK IBMer blogs pipe takes the feeds from a number of these blogs and uses the content analysis module to filter only the WebSphere related posts into one convenient feed. It currently takes input from the following blogs:

This is not an exhaustive list of the possible bloggers, but is a start. If you think a blog should be added, let me know. This pipe could easily be cloned to add feeds for other IBM software brands as well.

What would be really nice (if the folks at Yahoo Labs are listening) is if the fetch module could take a URL input that pointed to an OPML file such as the one maintained by Elias Torres. Then you could imagine a configurable pipe with a text input that fed into the filter meaning you could filter on all sorts of topics such as Second Life for example.

Yahoo Pipes UI

Yahoo pipes screenshot

A few years ago I bought my first Apple PowerMac G4 in order to try and get into producing my own music. At the time I was doing a bit of part time DJing and fancied getting into creating bootlegs and remixes. Sadly, a lack of talent let me down. However, one app I did find easy and intuitive to use was Propellerheads Reason. Reason allowed you to link up soft synths, mixers, drum machines and more into a virtual rack. When you spun it around, it displayed the back of the rack panel, complete with patch cables for joining everything together. You could direct an input such as a drum machine into a modulator such as the subtractor and produce all sorts of weird and wonderful sounds.

Propellerheads Reason rack

As you moved cables around and tweaked knobs on the front of the rack, so the output generated changed in real-time. All very impressive and fun.

The Pipes API is very similar and employs a lot of the same concepts. It has the same patch cable type approach to wiring the modules together, and the debugger shows you the results of your actions pretty much immediately. All in all it is one of the most impressive web based UIs I’ve ever seen.

Looking again at Tim O’Reilly’s post about pipes, I notice that Jamie Pitts makes the same connection to Reason in a comment. On his blog, he also references the similarity to Apple Quartz Composer, which I admit I’d not come across before.

David LaChapelle – Heaven to Hell

Warning. Following the link below will take you to a site with some images you might not want to view at work!

David LaChapelle is a photographer, music video, advert and film director whose highly stylised and often controversial work has been at the forefront of modern high-concept art and he is responsible for images and videos which you’d probably find instantly recognisable. His book Heaven to Hell showcases his most recent photographic work and heavily features trademark conceptual shots of a wide range of celebrities in often uncompromising positions. It is vivid, over-saturated, sometimes disgusting but endlessly fascinating. He has an obvious obsession with pornography and fetish which creeps into some of his most well known work such as the Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty video and is certainly highly present in the book. That said, if you can get past that and look at his composition and also the sense of irony that many of his shots portray then you realise his obvious talent.

Looking at his web site, I was also very surprised by the amount of recognisable music videos he has directed, including ones for artists such as Norah Jones and Joss Stone which you wouldn’t have thought at first. However, I personally think he doesn’t excel in this medium to the level of Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham to name but three.

Whilst not a style that I could ever imagine trying to imitate, and I imagine you either love it or hate it, the book is certainly very interesting from a photographic point of view and it is easy to see why he is lauded as one of the most important living photographers. Just don’t leave it around on the coffee table when the parents come to visit!