May 30, 2007's in the trees...

Night of the Demon is a black and white horror film made in 1957, and based around the story "Casting the runes" by Montague Rhode James. The screenplay was by Charles Bennett (of Hitchcock fame), and the film was directed by Jacques Tourneur, famously known for his other horror film, 'Cat People'. It has gone on to pursue the claim that it is one of the best horror films in movie history (although The Haunting probably equals, if not outdoes, it).

The plot revolves around the eccentric and strangely powerful Julien Karswell, a man who, it is claimed, leads a devil-worshipping cult. The story opens with Dr. Harrington racing to Karswell's house, where he tries to get Karswell to "call off whatever it is he's started". In return, Harrington will publicly announce that he was wrong and that Karswell was right; a refute which Karswell turns down as well. Karswell does not want media attention. A simple letter would suffice. Harrington agrees and leaves, amicably and knowing he has just put off a monstrous death. However, it is too late. Harrington dies the horrible death he tried to avoid.

Enter Joanna Harrington, the niece of the Professor, who begins investigating her uncle's death at the same time as an American professor arrives on the scene, Dr John Holden, who is also investigating, although this time its Julien Karswell and his devil-worship cult.

The two end up together trying to solve the mysteries of the runic symbols found inscribed on a parchment that Karswell has slipped Holden, and why Holden's death is evidently going to happen very shortly.

As the film picks up its pace, its clear that something is haunting Holden. The pages in his diary are ripped out after a certain date - "when a witchdoctor curses his victim, he always let them know well in advance" as Holden puts it to Ms. Harrington. However, that doesn't explain the many oddities of events plaguing Holden.

In an attempt to sway fears, they both head down to Karswell's manor to obtain a book missing from the British Library, entitled "The True Discoveries of Witches And Demons".

It's here that the audience, and Holden, are properly introduced to Karswell, a character supposedly based on Aleister Crowley himself. Karswell and Holden talk about magic and about the human mind - and whether the two are entirely seperate entities.

The film has many wonderful scenes, revolving around the idea of witchcraft and that, perhaps science can't explain everything away.

If the film could have a tagline, it would that of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner (which is also featured in the film):

"Like one along a lonesome road,
Doth walk in fear and dread,
Because he knows a frightful fiend,
doth close behind him tread."

I would heartily recommend this film for anyone wanting a fright. It doesn't have gore or screams but it does have plain old goosebumpy horror.


May 24, 2007

Technically Fun

I haven't written much in this blog recently I've noticed. I definitely haven't written up a movie review for "Night of the Demon" especially. As it's a really good movie, I'm going to have to spend some time doing that soon. And, for reasons that will become apparent later in this post, I'll do it at work.

The initial jubilation at having a macbook soon turned sour when I realised the delete key didn't work correctly. Now, for those of you who have never experienced a Macbook, some interesting comments:

1) The delete key when working from Windows (via Mac's Boot Camp) does not function as a delete key. Instead it is a backspace key. You can trick it into thinking its a delete key by having the FN or Function key depressed.

2) The keyboard itself is completely flat. Or rather, the keys on the keyboard are completely flat. This is something of an unnerving experience (as Elsha found out) as pretty much every PC keyboard has a curve to it so your fingers know where the middle of the key is, so when you depress it your fingers have purchase.

But you can get over those two. You can't get over having a delete/backspace key that you have to HAMMER, to do anything.

Mac Desktop Support is also different to PC/Dell Support. I'm normally used to explaining the situation and booking either an engineer to come fix the issue, send a spare part out for the user to fix or having the computer picked up by courier.

Mac Support said "Oh. Right. You're best off buying another one."

What? Buy another one? What's wrong with this one?

"Well, you just said, it's got a dodgy key."

Yes, but I don't want to buy another one when I can get this one repaired. It's only a keyboard issue, how long would it take to be repaired?

"4 weeks. Give or take a week."

WHAT?!? 4 weeks for an engineer to unscrew the base, remove the connectors between the motherboard and the keyboard plate and then to check/replace the key connection?

"Yup. Or you can buy a new one, and send the old one back in. Since you're on your 14 day 'remorse' period, it may work out quicker."

So that's what I did. Bought a new laptop, had the old one picked up. Total swap out time, 3 days. BUt I still can't work out why it takes 4 (!) weeks to repair a keyboard...

Anyway, laptop is back with me and I've already installed Warcraft 3 on it.

Warcraft 3 is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game where you do some exploring, build things and generally go around destroying other people's bases. Blizzard (for it is their product) have added some unique features into the game, like having Hero Units that can pick up special in-game items that increase their statistics and off-side quests to complete. So your paladin hero might get a quest to go destroy an Orc base but on the way there, he gets a quest to go save little davey from the bad gnolls - upon completion you get rewarded with a special item.

RTS games are a favourite of mine, especially Starcraft, but I still have a hankering for TBS - Turn Based Strategy - games like Laser Squad or Ufo: Enemy Unknown. TBS games differ obviously in that you take your turn by positioning your units, and then the enemy (computer or human) takes their turn, and if anyone moves into your line of sight - *BANG* they're dead.

The difference between the two is that in TBS there is of course no real time requirement. You don't need to pause the game because there's no timer ticking away.

On the other hand, assembling a vast army in, say Starcraft is monsterously satisfying. Nothing beats sending 12 Terran Battlecruisers on an errand of absolute carnage (except perhaps 12 Protoss Carriers or 12 Zerg Guardians).

Finally, I've been doing a bit of background reading - one of the things I love the most about World of Warcraft is its lore. The history and storylines behind the the game make it, in my opinion, a much more immersive experience. It's ok not to know who Medivh or Illidan are, but knowing what they did and the consquences of their actions make the game come more to life.

So I've read The Last Guardian by Jeff Grub and Lord of the Clans by Christie Golden. And just for good measure I did some reading of the Diablo universe - written by the excellent Richard A Knaak, who should be known by every fantasy reader, if not on their bookshelves somewhere.

So, anyway, laptop working correctly, but little or no work to do on it at the moment. I've been browsing various websites, reading up on lore and just generally increasing my knowledge of Small Business Server 2003 in the hope that it may be of some use later but, currently, there is no web testing going on.

I hope that will change soon, I'm so ready to start...! So, in between increasing my knowledge of all things technical, I will try and catch up on some blogging. :)

May 14, 2007

Learning all over again

So, this is what I'm using at work:


That's right, I've been told to use a Macbook. This is because in my new job as Software Tester, I have to test all kinds of websites on different browsers - Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Opera 9.2., Firefox2 - and Safari, the Mac Browser.

Which means that occasionally I have to dip my toes into toes into the tepid waters of the Mac OS. I had a play around with it yesterday and found it ... quite daunting, actually.

Everything is there that is on the Windows version but subtley different. Different enough to actually make you scratch your head and wonder how to get it to work like Windows. And then, of course, you wonder if Mac users have the same problem with Windows - do they sit there scratching their head and wondering how to get it to work like a Mac?

Anyway, day 1 was interesting, to say the least, and I'm ready to go back for more.

* That's not my desk by the way. Mine has nothing on it at the moment.

May 07, 2007

...To Boldly Go...

"Hey , Check this out!"

"Mmm what is it?"

"It's a job where you play computer games!"

"Mmm. It's a job where you have to 'test' websites of computer games."

"You should apply for it mate."

"I have no qualifications in software testing or in any of the listed requirements for that position. Beyond playing computer games, I can't see why they would even want me for an interview."

"You never know unless you apply for it."

Which is why I did apply for it, with a jokey email, never once thinking I may actually get a response.

Imagine my astonishment when I receive a reply email:

"Well, you are correct. You do not meet any qualifications for the listed position, however we are still very much interested in meeting with you. Would you be available for an interview?"

So, I attend the interview, am asked lots of questions like:

"Do you know .Net?"

- NO

"Have you had at least 6 months experience of Linux"

- NO

"have you ever done any software testing?"

- NO

"Have you played World of Warcraft?"

- Err. Is this a trick question?

"No. So have you?"

- Well... Yes. Hasn't everyone?

"No. Have you played Unreal Tournement?"

- The original or the 2003/2005 versions?

"Good enough answer. What other Online games have you played?"

- City of Heroes, Silk Roads Online, The Matrix Online...Phantasy Star Online.

Next day, I receive the email I've been waiting for:

"Congratulations. You have been offered the position of Software Tester."

... Wait.

I've been offered a job based on the list of Online games I've played?!?

Anyway, I cannot go into more details, mainly due to the Non-disclosure Agreement I signed when I said yes to the job. All I can say is I have no idea what the future holds for me.

Hopefully, lots of game playing.

P.S. It's Night of the Demon. Movie review to follow.