Tuesday, April 25, 2006


You remember those old Tex Avery cartoons, the ones where if a character did something stupid he'd turn into a donkey? Or at least what I thought was a donkey when I was six. Yup, a Jackass, as I later found out.

Well, that was me last week. A jackass standing on Oxford Street, London, after walking from a local branch of a chain of videogame retailers, appropriately called Game. (Just as well Selfridges is a department store - if they only sold hats I'd have every right to report them to trading standards.)

You see, the other day I had one of those urges to spend some money. On myself. A gadget splurge, so to speak. So, armed with some plastic, I went out to purchase a Game Boy micro.

The Game Boy doesn't need much research: I've had a long acquaintance with the GB ever since it's first inception. From the original (Tetris - yay!), to the GB Color (Harvest Moon, sigh), to the Advance (Advance Wars, word), I've built up a fair size catalogue of great and not-so-great games. With this in mind, and aware of the GBm's small-but-perfect screen, I walked into Game to see what deals they had on. They always have deals on. Like the soon-to-depart-but-inevitably-replaced-by-identical-shop Dixons, you can never buy the thing you want, on it's own. It always has to be bundled with something, supposedly giving you better 'value', even though you end up spending more. (No, I absolutely do not need an extended warranty! It's a Scart lead! What can possibly go wrong with a Scart lead??)

Sure enough, they had the Micro (in pink or silver only.. uhh yeah make mine a pink 'un - it'll go with this) bundled with three games, all for 70 quid. Or was it 60? Anyhoo, I thought, great, that's the one for me - all I need to do is track down a copy of Advance Wars 2 and life would be complete.

Of course, AW2 isn't easily available - I'd probably have to get it on-line. Not to worry, I'd be content with the original AW on the tiny screen.

However, the staff at Game had other ideas. You see, (a helpful oik* pointed out) the total cost of the GBm (with 3 free games) plus the outlay for AW2 would have been the same (99 GBP) as the Nintendo DS plus one (free) game. That free game was Animal Crossing**... the sales chappie offered to swap it for Advance Wars DS (after speaking to his 'manager') and so the sale was complete. I get the latest portable Nintendo, with the latest iteration of the game of my choice, for pretty much the same outlay as the GBm plus said game. Got all that?

And so it came to pass, I walked out with a DS plus game plus 'body armour', an immediately useless plastic housing to 'protect' the DS (whilst simultaneously increasing it's already breezeblock-like dimensions) What am I? 12?

A good deal, so why do I feel like taking people on a ride along Blackpool Pleasure Beach?

Well, the thing is, I already tote around a PSP and half a dozen UMDs. The DS is not exactly the Kate Moss of the handheld gaming world either. More a Nigella Lawson, really. Mmm... curvy... So for full-spectrum portable gaming, I have to lug around two fat-arsed handhelds. And their chargers.

My heart was set on a GBm because of it's diminutive mobile phone dimensions, not to mention the cracking screen, plus (I think) it's ability to charge from USB.

It's been a few days now. I still have the option of taking back the DS and swapping it for a Micro... but I'm starting to warm to the DS. I'm intrigued by it's wireless gameplay which, by all accounts, seems to be better able to work directly with the internet to offer worldwide multigaming. However, I may end up getting the Micro, and putting the DS up on eBay. Watch this space.

*Oik is perhaps a little unfair. He was at least 30.

**I bought Animal Crossing a few days later: stay tuned for an update!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Welcome to Luton Blairport

Ok, so now I'm officially pissed off.

I'm flying up to Glasgow from Luton airport and discovered the office have miss-booked my flight - I should have been here, yup, yesterday.

Now, amongst all the gadgets I lug around with me, one of them is not a time machine. Still, I'm now on a later flight so will hopefully get home tonight at some point.

To kill some of that aforementioned time, I thought I'd watch a DVD on my trusty iBook. Knowing that the battery was nearly done, I found a seat conveniently positioned near a pillar-mounted AC outlet. You can see what's coming, can't you?

That's right, nary a minute had passed before some officious twerp in a high-vis vest came along and asked me to unplug said laptop.

"Why?" I rightly enquired, surveying the Vegas-like illuminations around me.

"Because you might cause a problem and close the airport."

"Couldn't you," I joked, "switch off a few lights, y'know, to make up for the juice I'm using?"

I kid you not - I actually said that.

And, instead of asking WTF? I perhaps should have been backing off slowly.

Anyway he was having none of it, so I duly unplugged the iBook and set about writing this.

Let me get this straight... I can charge my laptop on the express train from Nottingham, but I can't use 0.3 of an amp in a freaking airport?? This is the 21st century, last time I checked. Sorry, wait, this is 21st century Britain. My mistake.

This recently modernised and otherwise OK air terminal can't provide a few simple outlets for laptops and phones? I feel a complaint coming on, methinks.

I'm using the last of my charge to write this (I haven't moved) and maybe the day-glo Nazi has done me a favour. I'm dead hungry and really should get something to eat.

Hmm. There is a TV crew floating around. Do they not have to charge their batteries??

Perhaps my grievance would make good television? Perhaps I might be writing the next installment of this from Guantanamo Bay? With my own shite.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Self Serve

Today I tried Tesco's new self-scan checkout at my local store.

It's a little bit weird... you basically scan in your own stuff, pack the bag yourself, swipe your own card, take the till receipt and leave.

Weird because you can't help think you're doing someone out of a job.

Weird because, well, they pay people to do this and you're standing there like a dummy doing it for them. The bosses at Tesco must be laughing like drains.

Weird, because there is no interaction with a member of staff at any point, so you end up leaving the store feeling like a thief, despite having knowingly paid for the goods. This feeling also applies to pay-at-pump filling stations.

And lastly, weird because you just swipe your card to pay - no pin, signature, DNA sample or retinal scanning required to verify who you are.

Soon, you won't even need to turn up at the store to do your shopping...

What's that, you say? You can already??