Thursday, July 15, 2010

St Swithin's Day

A pretty reliable indication of the prevailing weather conditions is whether Frank the cat goes out in the morning after eating his breakfast or if he comes upstairs to snooze on the bed instead. This week has mostly been a duvet week, nuff said. If St Swithin is to be believed it could be forty days and forty nights of duvet weather to look forward to as well.

A somewhat frustrating day at work, unpicking a tax calculation for an admittedly unusual case where the entire salary was being deducted pre-tax in month 2. The client was saying that this should have led to zero tax for that month, but because the payee was on a cumulative code this actually results in a small refund. I confirmed the calc manually and via the HMRC calculator with the same result, and trawled the code to check that was OK also. It would have saved over half a day of my time if the client had checked it themselves first, and also if the consultant hadn't done her testing with the tax code set to a Week One/Month One basis instead of cumulative and thinking she was getting a different result. Sigh.

I heard via Twitter today that PC Zone magazine is shutting down after seventeen years. I used to buy it regularly, right from the start - indeed I think I still have most of the first hundred or so issues up in the attic, including all of the giveaway cover mounted cds - but I haven't bought this or any other magazine (apart from an occasional copy of New Scientist) for years. PC Zone's unique selling point for me was the humour (featuring some of Charlie Brooker's earliest appearances in print) and the refreshingly honest games reviews, at least compared to most magazines that only ever rate games on an 80% - 100% scale.

The demos and patches on the cds were useful too, in the days before broadband. I remember the excitement of getting the original shareware Doom on a pair of floppy disks back when 9600 baud modems were blazingly fast, and downloading something would involve dialing up a bulletin board in Texas for several hours at a punitive cost to your phone bill.

Going back even further into the mists of time (cue wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey cut scene effect) 'Computer & Video Games' in 1981 was the first dedicated games magazine that I can recall. Before that, you were lucky to get the odd mention of games in the heavyweight journals like Byte and Computing, and even then they tended towards serious matters rather than anything remotely entertaining. C&VG had a very broad brief in its early days, featuring arcade games, code listings to type in yourself and even pinball on occasions. It was a marvelously illustrated magazine too, as the computer graphics of the time couldn't manage much more than monochrome blobs and so a certain degree of imagination and suspension of disbelief was required to turn them into aliens and monsters.

This raises the question of whether print journalism has any future, certainly for magazines with long lead times and high costs. Who is going to wait a month or more to pay £5 to read a review when you can see it instantly on the internet? Even magazines like Wired where the design of the printed page is an integral part of the experience are heading towards distribution via iPad apps. End of an era, I think.

Sad also to hear of the cancellation of 1vs100 on xbox live. I used to really look forward to the live shows, even if I never actually got to be the One. One of my most enjoyable gaming achievements was getting the top score out of 15,000 people in one round and winning a game for my troubles. I would happily have paid a sub to play this, considering the amount of fun I had out of it. I hope the developers have a chance to produce another massively multiplayer quiz type game on similar lines.

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