Saturday, 27 February 2010

Logitech MX518 Optical Gaming Mouse

I have been looking for a new mouse for a while and after a bit of trawling on the internet, decided to purchase the Logitech MX518.

The first thing that I noticed about this mouse is the size of it, it's quite big in comparison to the standard style mouse that ships with most PCs. Approximately 130mm long, 65mm wide and just under 50mm at it's highest point. The mouse is quite light for it's size, but it is the ergonomic shape that seems to fit perfectly into your hand. With some of the smaller mice, prolonged usage can lead to your hand cramping, but this has not happened so far.

The buttons are well positioned, they do not get in each others way and I have not pressed any accidentally whilst gaming. The navigation (arrows) buttons are perfectly placed beside the thumbs resting area, I have found myself using these a lot more regularly for even simple tasks such as browsing. They seem like a design feature and are comfortable to use, unlike a lot of mice where they appear to be stuck onto the side as an afterthought.

This shape could also be a problem; I have small hands and find the mouse extremely comfortable. For users with longer fingers or bigger hands I would recommend that you try before you buy.

The shape also causes a second potential problem; this mouse is sculpted for right handed people only. I tried using it with my left hand, but the navigation buttons became unreachable and it was extremely uncomfortable to use.

The design on the mouse is interesting, it has been shaded to look like it is uneven, but in fact it is super smooth.

The mouse worked 'out of the box', I am currently running Gentoo 64 bit and Fedora 12 64 bit. No issues with buttons etc not working, or searching for alternative drivers.

The speed of 1600 dpi is probably a luxury most people do not need, this can be changed. Although a lot of users have been raving about this mouse for first person shooter (FPS) games, I have found that the extra speed is very useful on real time strategy games like the Command & Conquer series, the extra speed is useful. The mouse has five speed settings to allow the user to modify it as they choose.

In summing up I love this mouse, it is perfect for me; comfortable to use and almost tailor made for my hand.

You should buy this mouse if:
* you are into PC gaming
* you have quite small hands
* you are right handed

if you do not fit all three of the criteria then I suggest you look elsewhere.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Salary Cap: keeps things competitive

Having just finished watching another NFL season, I am particularly over the moon with my favourite New Orleans Saints winning their first ever Superbowl. However with all the talk of the salary cap and player issues which could result in no NFL games being played in 2011 (worse case scenario) I want to raise a point: the football leagues around the world would do well to follow the example of the American Sports.

I want to start by saying that I am not American, nor have I ever been across the pond. I do not think that everything American is bigger and better, however I feel that with the salary cap, they have done something that the european leagues have failed to do: keep the season competitive.

Take a look around the leagues in Europe, the big teams are becoming bigger and each year the leagues are won by the same select few, these are continually getting the big money from playing in the European competitions (Europa (EUFA)cup and Champions League) whilst the others fall behind. Look at the league and be realistic about how many teams can win over the course of the season, Scotland: Rangers and Celtic; England: Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and possibly Liverpool; Spain: Real Madrid and Barcelona; Italy: AC Milan and Juventus; Holland: Ajax, Feyenord and PSV; the list could go on and on.

However look at the teams that have won the Superbowl; out of 44 games the most dominant team, Pittsburgh, has won it six times, these were not six years in a row but spread between 1974 - 2008.

The way the salary cap works is that each team is given a limit that they can pay their players collectively. Imagine the cap was £100 million and you had 25 players to pay out of that, if you spend £60 million on two 'star' players then you are only allowed to spend £40 million on the remaining 23. Some teams tried to work around this by giving the players bonuses spread over several years, however this meant that in these later years you were still paying money for players that were no long at the club or even retired.

This would get rid of several things from the game. It would make the leagues across Europe much more competitive, unless players were willing to take a paycut then they would have to move to other teams that could afford to pay them. Secondly it would give the chance to some of the 'smaller' clubs to win the league, the team success of the teams would not be based on money, instead the level of scouts and the quality of coaching would determine the team that picked up the silverware at the end of the season. Thirdly it may encourage fans to actually support their local teams, Man Utd couldn't simply go out and buy the best, Sir Alex would actually have to prove he was the best coach year after year rather than adding a £70 million player to plug a gap. Fourthly it would give our younger players a better chance of success, with a club only being able to spend big money on a couple of players the younger lads would cost less and also get some match practise.

Whilst I think that this is a great idea, in practise I do not believe it will ever happen. Why? Money. The owners stand to lose way too much, the powers that be would not be happy simply relinquishing the reigns after years of dominance. Do I think there is even a slight chance? Yes but slight chance: 1 in 10000. Football, especially the big teams, are relying on money and the banks grace. Most of the big clubs are hundreds of millions in debt, should the bank decide to call in these accounts, not likely but a slight chance, then many of these clubs could simply have to fold. If we had to redesign the football structure throughout Europe then that would be the only chance of this ever happening. Fair enough, you may think I'm talking nonsense, but consider this: who will be in the Champions League final this year? I'll bet that you would struggle to even count 6 out of the last 16, sadly football glory is exclusively for the wealthy clubs.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Ultimate Edition: does it live up to the name?

I only heard about this distro in the last couple of weeks on the Linux Outlaws podcast, it was mentioned and slagged a bit for the name and general colour, but neither Dan or Fab had actually tried the distro so I thought that I would give it a trial run on my desktop. Specs for those interested are: Dual core 2.8 GHz, 4GB ram, 512MB Nvidia GT6800s Graphics card.

The distro installed fairly quickly using the standard Ubuntu installer. I then encountered my first problem: this distro installs grub 2. Nothing major, instead a minor inconvenience that was soon sorted after a few visits to the online help forums.

The first boot of the distro was very slow, so slow that I actually thought my computer had crashed, but eventually the distro loaded and the default Gnome environment loaded up. The first impressions are lasting: don't look, change the appearance theme. The overall theme of UE 2.5 is black and gold. The desktop background looks dated and the constant black actually makes everything difficult to use, black word processor, black menu, black everything. The mouse pointer is a spinning arrow with a shadow included, this looks very childish and was removed along with this awful theme.

Once past the default theme there is one obvious difference between this and Ubuntu: the number of pre-installed apps. The vast number of apps is quite impressive, if maybe a bit pointless to the seasoned Linux user. Most users have a favourite apps for photos, music, media, games, email, micro-blogging etc so to be presented with a choice of four options to perform a single function may be great for begginers, but I found myself uninstalling a lot of the apps simply to make room on the hard disk.

The hardware was picked up very quickly on my initial boot, with the standard Ubuntu message asking if I wished to use propietary drivers. Compiz was enabling all the effects I desired after a reboot of the system, I did notice that this was considerably faster booting the second time around. The sound card was picked up without any hastle as was my usb webcam with built in microphone, a test call on Skype and playing about on Cheese confirmed this.

One major advantage that UE 2.5 has over Ubuntu 9.10 is that it ships, by default, with the original package manager, great no need to remove Ubuntu's new software centre. The distro runs, as you may expect from an Ubuntu system, debian based backages. The majority of the packages that I tested on the distro ran very well with no obvious performance flaws.

The distro advertises on the website that it comes with KDE, Gnome and XFCE. These can be selected at the login screen. However this was not the case with the DVD image that I downloaded from the official site. It gave me the choice of three Gnome environments, a KDE environment and no XFCE option at all. This feature feels more like an afterthought as the KDE environment is simply a default KDE layout, no customization at all to show that this was the UE 2.5 distro. The KDE environment appeared quite unstable: crashing three times and loading once. The three Gnome options do not appear to differ at all.

To be honest, there is not much to review as an independant distro. It claims to be a fork of Ubuntu and on distro watch it is listed as an Ubuntu based distro. However it is simply Ubuntu with a different theme, one which I had to change very quickly after installation. It has a ton of apps which is great to show the range of programs available to a newbie, but not many newbies will be recommended to go for Ultimate Edition, most would probably go for the stanadrd Ubuntu.

I do not wish to sound too negative. Getting past the awful default theme, gives the user access to a very useable distro. A lot of pre-installed software is included and a lot of the hardware runs out of the box with little need for tweaking. I would highly recommend this to somebody trying out Linux for the first time. For those wanting to try something different to Ubuntu then I suggest that you look elsewhere.