Windows Phone 7 beta emulator tour

Microsoft released the new Beta of the developer tools for Windows Phone 7.

Probably the most interesting bit for end-users is the Windows Phone 7 emulator, which lets us have a little play with the device. However in the original only Internet Explorer is available but like always the guys at XDA Developers cracked that emulator image to unlock full functionality like they did with the last 2 CTP releases. So if you're curious what Windows Phone 7 will look like check out the video Long Zheng put together earlier.

What I'm excited about is OneNote integration with SkyDrive - something we don't have with OneNote 2010 on Windows Mobile at the moment, it'll only sync with SharePoint. But it looks like with Windows Phone 7, we can sync directly with SkyDrive, which means Gamercast's shownotes can be done out and about now, sweet.

Gaming on a Macintosh, like the PC only worse, much worse*

*Assuming you can find games that even work on a Mac.

The Macintosh gaming scene received a boost earlier this year when Valve announced they were bringing Steam, along with their Source games like Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2 and Portal over to Mac OS X.

I was expecting to see Adam (the only person I know with a Macintosh) on Steam a lot more, and maybe even playing games with me. Before he'd have to boot into Windows and so it was quite rare we'd ever have a game together. I was thinking great, now I'll see Adam on all the time and we can play some TF2. I was wrong however, I haven't seen him logged in on Steam once. Maybe he just doesn't feel like playing games he played on the PC 5 or 6 years ago.

Or maybe there's another reason. Anandtech recently did some benchmarks. Let's just say, the results aren't good for the Macintosh.

On a 2010 MacBook Pro, Half-Life Episode 2 runs 54% faster under Windows than on OS X. Now that's a fairly low-end system. Let's be honest, it's a laptop. Laptop = weak graphics.

How about on a high-end system? Something like a computer with 2 x 2.93Ghz Quad-Core (eight cores in total) Nehalem Xeon processors, 6GB of RAM and a GeForce GTX 285.

Windows destroys Mac OS X in benchmarks

Windows gets, quite literally over twice the framerate at some resolutions. Ouch. Maybe this explains why I've not seen Adam joining the Gamercast weekly TF2 matches, maybe it just runs too slow.

That's not all that's bad with the Mac OS X versions. The graphics are foggy and have quite obvious texture banding in some locations. So not only is it drastically slower, but it also looks worse.

If you wanna play games don't get a Macintosh.

Distortion and fuzzy noise problems with Audigy 2 ZS on Windows 7

In my on going struggle with Creative and their Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS I've now come across a new problem that manifested a couple of weeks ago. I'm not entirely sure why it started happening then, maybe it was the heat? Maybe after 7 or 8 years the card is finally starting to die.

Now sometimes after resuming from sleep, any sound has distortion and noise in it. So far I'm restarting the Windows Audio service to get things back to normal.

There's a couple of ways to restart services in Windows Vista or Windows 7. The quickest way is to open an elevated command prompt by pressing Start, typing cmd right-clicking on the cmd program when it shows up, right-click and select 'Run as administrator'. Alternatively to right-clicking and selecting the option you can also hold CTRL+Shift and click instead, both should elevate.

Once its open, type the following, giving a short pause to allow the system to stop the service:

net stop audiosrv
net start audiosrv

The sound should now be back to normal.

You can also restart the service, by typing services.msc into the Start Menu (you won't need to elevate this), alternatively it can be opened via the Services tab in the Task Manager. Then find the Windows Audio services, right-click and select restart.

Why is the day exactly 24 hours long?

This has got to to be the best question so far, continuing in the questions for "evolutionists" series. It disappoints me such people don't even understand the shape and structure of the very local universe.

Darwinists, if Intelligent Design isn't true, then why is a day exactly 24 hours long?

If by Darwinist you mean biologists, then you're asking the wrong group of people. Try asking some astronomers.

A (solar) day is 24 hours long because we decided to break a day up into 24 segments for the purposes of time keeping. We could have just as easily broken it into 10 hours, or 100 hours. Or even 54 hours!

Nowadays however we know that a day isn't 24 hours long. A single day can vary by around 20 seconds depending on the location of the Earth along its orbit. When closer to the Sun near perihelion solar days become longer as the Earth is moving faster in its orbit and has to rotate further to bring the Sun back to the same position on the sky and vice versa. Over the course of a year it will average out to 24 hours, although due to the Moon the Earth's rotation is decelerating.

There's also the sidereal day to take into account which is the time it takes the Earth to rotate relative to the stars. This is truest gauge of how long the Earth takes to rotate. And it is 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds.

Now if the sidereal and the solar day were the same, then maybe you could invoke an intelligent designer to explain why the Earth is a relatively nice place to live, as it would look a little different to how it is now, it would have either fallen into the Sun or remain in orbit with one side boiling and the other freezing while remaining tidally locked to the Sun.

Also, the sun reaches its highest point at noon every day. Why do Darwinists claim this all happened by 'accident' and deny this evidence of intelligent Creator?

The Earth rotates and is angled away from the Sun so it has be at its highest point at some time; we decided to call this the solar noon, which when the Sun crosses the meridian (an imaginary circle crossing between the poles angled at 90 to the local horizon). If by noon you mean 12:00 then this is false. In most countries solar noon will be sometime between 11:00 and 14:00 but due to how large time zones and the fact we like taking hours off and putting them on the solar noon and 12:00 are very rarely equal unless you're stood just in the right spot.

Biologists don't claim this happen by accident. Neither do astronomers. The solar system is a product of the laws of nature. It was put into place as-is by some supernatural intergalactic dictator; it developed from a cloud of hydrogen and dust over millions of years. It seems to be you like using arbitrary names or systems that we came up with to describe the universe as evidence of a designer. The only designer it is evidence for is ourselves.

Windows Live Messenger Wave 4 beta thoughts

I've been using the new beta version of Windows Live Messenger since its release last week. I was originally going to quickly blast out my opinions of it. But I'm glad I've waited the extra few days.

My first issue which didn't manifest itself fully until the weekend is adverts. Now I understand that Messenger requires a fairly substantial server backend to operate. But isn't this going a little over the top?

Conversation window in Windows Live Messenger (Wave 4)

Yes upon opening a Messenger chat window you get a banner add in the actual conversation. Note I did remove it for the purpose of this screenshot. You can close the advert, which I'm sure will generate more accidental clicks on the ad than leaving it open. To answer my question yes this is totally over the top.

The ad in the Messenger contact list view is unchanged from the last version, and with the new expanded social feature you get a bigger ad instead. I actually like the social view and think it'll be one of Messenger's most liked features (when Twitter support is enabled).

I'm also liking that it works properly with the Windows 7 taskbar now, previously WLM would spawn a weird icon in the taskbar with a non-existent window preview. Then if you had the contact list open it would show up as a second preview. Weird. The rest of the program seems nice and fast, ignoring the ads it also looks a bit cleaner. Tabbed conversations is also a nice improvement. I also like being able to have group conversations with up to 40 people now, up from 20 in the last version. Although you can't actually expand groups to see who's a member anymore. I suppose mainly for privacy reasons.

I'm still undecided on the new emoticons. So I'll give them some time.

I am concerned about the fact ink support has been erased, whenever I was on my tablet most of the time I would ink directly into Messenger. This feature being lost is in my opinion a substantial set back. I'd often draw things to get my point across.

All in all its a decent upgrade and I would recommend people check out the beta. It's pretty solid and doesn't seem to have broken anything else. From now until the final version I'd like to see the Messenger team think again about the advertising, how about removing all adverts for Xbox Live Gold subscribers eh? That'll provide some nice value-ad for those Gold subscribers who don't really need it, like myself. Oh and get ink support back please.

You can download it from the beta website and learn more about it from the Wave 4 preview website.

"Magnified" lunar eclipse? I don't think so

The BBC last week ran a story on Saturday's partial lunar eclipse. I have no objections to the BBC coverage lunar eclipses, but I do have problems with non-science writers covering them.

Just a bit of background, for viewers in Asia and the Americas this lunar eclipse would have appeared while the Moon was near the horizon. The Moon is bigger near the horizon right? Kinda.

The article of the title was "Lunar eclipse 'magnified' in US". A pathetic attempt at trying to make it seem more interesting. The article went on to say:

A partial lunar eclipse taking place on 26 June will appear magnified in the US by an effect known as the "moon illusion". [...] According to Nasa, low-hanging Moons look "unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects". The reason for this is not understood.

NASA huh, well you could have just asked your local amateur astronomer and got an answer. The reason for the effect is NOT unknown.

The Moon, or the Sun for that matter (please don't look directly at the Sun), do look larger when they're near the horizon compared to high in the sky. However you can take a simple measurement to show they're the same size regardless of where they are in the sky, about half a degree across.

The effect is an optical illusion created by our brains. Our brains use other objects to estimate the size of things. Trees and houses, things you'd see on the horizon are pretty big. The Moon looks like it's close to them and about the same size or bigger, so hmmm the Moon must be big too. When the Moon is off by itself high up in the sky we have nothing else to compare it to.

Effect not unknown.

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