Archive for June, 2007

Open letter to Relentless Software regarding Buzz: The Mega Quiz and 5-8 player multiplayer support

June 29, 2007
Photo 86

(Sent to contact@relentless.co.uk.)
Dear Relentless Software / Buzz design team,

I recently purchased your latest Buzz game, “The Mega Quiz”. A few of the game design choices you have made baffle me and my friends, and I would very much like to hear your rationale for them.

1) The standard Buzz game, which can be played on easy, standard or hard difficulty, does not include all the new game modes. Our favorite, Countdown, is not included.

2) The standard Buzz game concludes with cake throwing, which tends to result in one player (the leader) being singled out for punishment and rapid removal from the round by the other players. Very unsatisfying – the extra 1000 – 2000 points the leader might have before that round typically counts for just one extra life. Compared to the final rounds in the previous games, where the skill of the player was the only factor, this is a big letdown.

3) These two objections to your game design would be less of an issue if we could create our own custom game with just the game modes we want. And we can, but just with 2-4 players – not with 5-8 players. Why?

This is the main issue with Buzz; the same problem affected “The Big Quiz” and frankly, it is difficult to understand why you still restrict some game modes to just four players. Considering that it means the extra controllers are less useful and that the potential of the game is not exploited, this annoys me quite a bit.

I would welcome an explaination for the 4-player limitation, and hope that this problem will be solved in the next iteration of Buzz!

Best regards,

Are Wold
(e-mail address)

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A brief review of the HP 510 laptop

June 2, 2007

Picture of the HP 510
I got a little less time than expected to write this review, so it will be short.

The specifications of the 510 model I have here:
CPU: Celeron M 1,4 ghz
Memory: 512 MB
Disk: 60 gb
Wireless 802.11g
2x USB ports
Sound in/out
PCMCIA slot (at least that’s what it looks like to me)
VGA out
Ethernet plug
Modem plug

I have been using Ubuntu on this machine – as mentioned in a previous article, a few steps are required to get the hardware working correctly.

Build quality: This thing screams plastic. The lid is quite sturdy, though, stiffer than the one on my Macbook. The hinges are quite firm – to open the lid, I have to hold the bottom part of the laptop. The ports seem OK. The keyboard is about average to type on (I’m using it now) – except for a tendency to squeak on a few of the buttons in the middle, I have no objections. The CTRL button is to the left of the Fn key – a plus in my opinion. The squeakiness might be an annoyance for some users (of course, it could be that I was unlucky with this specific machine).

Performance: I haven’t tried anything apart from Ubuntu on this machine. Desktop effects in Ubuntu work and look nice, but slow down performance a bit. Remote desktop over VNC doesn’t work with them on – I can connect, but the image on the remote machine does not update. If I didn’t need VNC functionality I would probably have enabled desktop effects. Overall, the machine feels quite snappy in Ubuntu, though I have not done anything more heavy on it than 10-20 firefox windows, Flash videos, Gaim and OOO Writer.

Noise: The fan starts when I play youtube videos, but isn’t particularly noisy. It is audible, but pretty low frequency.

Heat: I put “laptop” in the title for a reason – I am writing this with the machine on my lap. This works just fine, and that’s probably because of the pretty weak CPU and relatively roomy chassis, allowing for decent cooling. The machine gets warm, but not overly so, and nowhere near as hot as my Macbook.

Speakers: These can play pretty loud, but with distortion. Given the price point, I am happy with them. The sound is tinny. I won’t make any calls on the sound quality of the headphone out – it works and I couldn’t find any immediate cause for complaint.

Screen: This is bright and with a decent viewing angle. It is reflective, in principle like the Macbook screen, but this manages to be glossy without reflecting the surroundings as much as the MB screen. I’m quite happy with it. (1280×800 resolution.)

Battery: The battery lasts about 1 – 1.5 hours with desktop applications and wifi usage. HP sells one with twice the capacity, I believe.

Trackpad: I have never seen a trackpad with this design before. It is just an array of small holes in the chassis. It works well for me, though. Also has a vertical section on the right for scrolling.
HP510 trackpad
The machine also has a dedicated button for wifi on/off.

Overall, this is great value for 3995,- NOK (which tends to be about 400$). It is certainly the cheapest full-featured laptop I have seen, and it is actually usable too. I would have liked a keyboard without any squeaking (maybe it will improve with use?)…. and, well, that’s about it really. Of course bluetooth would be nice, but once you go down that road, you want to have firewire, digital sound in/out, DVI and so on, and that’s not what this laptop is about.

That’s about it, I think. Feel free to add questions in the comments, of course.