Staggering Stories Podcast #40: The Big Four-Oh

  on March 1st, 2009

FireflyShow summary: Andy Simpkins, Adam J Purcell, Fake Keith and the ‘Real’ Keith Dunn talk about Doctor Who: Best and Worst One-Off Characters, games we are playing and books we are reading, Firefly: an overview, find lots of general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically:

  • 00:00 – Intro and theme tune.
  • 00:44 — Welcome!
  • 01:03 – News:
  • 01:22 — Doctor Who: Lindsay Duncan announced as a Special companion!
  • 02:19 — Doctor Who: BBC planning a Stage Show?
  • 03:53 — Doctor Who: Zimbabwe hoarding lost Doctor Who episodes?
  • 05:11 — Sarah Jane Adventures: Ronnie Corbett to star in Comic Relief Special.
  • 05:50 — Dollhouse: Starts off to poor ratings in Friday Night Death Slot.
  • 06:43 — Dead Like Me: Back from the dead via direct to DVD special.
  • 08:22 — Watchmen: Several versions of the film – long, very long and ginormous!
  • 10:21 — Futurama: Possibility of a sixth season, back on Fox…
  • 10:58 — Star Trek: The new film is getting more ‘Rock and Roll’.
  • 12:57 — Pride and Predator: new Jane Austen vs. Predator film.
  • 14:16 — The Shat: William Shatner wants to be Prime Minister of Canada.
  • 16:54 – Doctor Who: Best and Worst One-Off Characters.
  • 40:01 – Games we’re playing and books we’re reading.
  • 45:06 – Firefly: an overview.
  • 62:50 – Emails and listener feedback.* Hit us yourself at
  • 69:07 – Farewell for this podcast!
  • 69:35 — End theme, disclaimer, copyright, etc.

Vital Links:



Staggering Stories Podcast #13: Voyage to the Banana of the Darned

  on January 27th, 2008

Dalek Biscuits as messed up by the Staggering Stories team!  Top is our version, bottom is how it SHOULD have looked...Show summary: Andy Simpkins, Adam J Purcell, Fake Keith and Tony Gallichan talk about Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned, Sam and Max, the PC game Portal, our recent Christmas presents, and a variety of other stuff, specifically:

  • 00.00 – Intro and theme tune.
  • 00.56 — Greetings, yes?
  • 03.34 — Where is Keith?
  • 05.33 – Our Christmas Presents: Fake Keith
  • 08.45 – Sam and Max.
  • 21:50 – Portal.
  • 28.27 – Our Christmas Presents: Adam.
  • 34.40 – Doctor Who – Voyage of the Damned.
  • 63.01 – Our Christmas Presents: Andy.
  • 67.22 – Our Christmas Presents: Tony.
  • 72.33 – Letters and listener feedback.* Hit us yourself at
  • 82.12 — The real Keith sinks without a trace.
  • 84.39 – Goodbyeeeeeeeee!!
  • 85.20 — End theme, disclaimer, copyright, etc.
  • 86.02 — Portal spoilers.

Vital Links:



Portal: Where’s my Cake?!

  on November 17th, 2007

Portal - looking at yourself, sidewaysI’ve just finished the fantastic PC game Portal. One of the best games I’ve played in a very long time – I highly recommend it to all. It’s basically a puzzle game where you play a test subject who has to use an innovative ‘Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device’ (aka the ‘portal gun’) to step from one part of a level to another (or move objects past barriers). That’s not a great description, you really have to play it to fully understand.

The physics of the game are what makes it special. That and the dark sense of humour that pervades it. I don’t want to spoil the ending, it’s definitely worth seeing unprepared, but if you find yourself stuck on a puzzle don’t give up – the ending is funny enough to keep trying!

Just to explain the game concept a bit more, you can think of the Stargates from SG1 or the Jump Gates from Babylon 5. Basically you have two portals that you can cast onto walls, floors or ceilings (with deliberate exceptions). Go into one and you come out of the other. Unlike the Stargates or Jump Gates, you can actually see through the portals. So, if you put two portals on opposite walls you will be able to look into one and see your own back. In fact you will be able to chase yourself through an infinitely recursive series of portals – like looking into a mirror with another mirror behind you.

The physics get fun too. Imagine casting a portal onto the floor and another onto the ceiling directly above. Step into the portal on the floor and you fall through the portal above you and then into the portal on the floor and then through the ceiling… Yes, you can fall forever! Other interesting effects happen when you cast onto a wall and the floor, for example. You can look through either portal and the world you see beyond will be at a right angle!

It’s not often that a truly innovative game comes along these days, especially not one done so well. It might be a little short but it is pretty cheap to make up for that. I bought it as part of The Orange Box (Valve’s amazing pack of AAA titles, Half Life 2, Team Fortress 2 and Portal) for £25 from Sainsbury’s (more normally £30 or £35). I bought it mainly for Portal, I heard such great things about it – clearly I wasn’t disappointed. You can also buy Portal on its own for $19.99 (plus VAT for us Brits, taking to about £12, probably) on Steam.

Yes, this sounds like an advert! Not many games are good enough to make me recommend them so strongly. I’m afraid there doesn’t appear to be a demo for Portal but Steam does have a Trailer.

My only reservation is: who got my cake?



The New Computer – “Wanna turn up the heat?”

  on November 8th, 2007

Firebat - The New ComputerFirebat is under construction as I type. Firebat? Yes, that’s the name of my shiny new computer. My first new desktop machine in a good four years or so (Mac Mini not counting, as that’s really just a web terminal in the living room and a chance to play with PowerPC based Linux).

Why Firebat? I try to name my computers after things from some of my favourite old computer games. First there was my Atari ST, named Benson – after the sarcastic computer from Paul Woakes’ amazing Mercenary games of the era. Then came the Atari Falcon, named Benson 2, aka Benson Junior. My first PC, in about 1997, named Benson 3 – can you see a theme here? Benson 3 is still in use today, as my IPCop firewall, but now named Jameson, after Commander Jameson from Elite. Benson 4 was originally a Pentium 2 machine, my first home built machine, but has seen so many upgrades over the years that about the only remaining original parts are the case and floppy drive (and name!) Benson 4, aka B4, is still in good use as my secondary desktop machine and also running Ubuntu Studio to record the podcasts. Benson 5 is, for this second at least, my primary desktop. B5 is the last of the Benson computers. That’s for no other reason than as a reference to Babylon 5 – the last of the Babylon stations. My two laptops are named after Myst objects, the latest being called Kormahn. Finally, my home server is called Threepwood, after Guybrush from the Monkey Island series. There are other machines but they have boring names like Mac Mini and Zaurus. Yes, my electricity bill can be a little high…

I still haven’t explained Firebat, though, have I? I needed another classic game from my past. Something I spent far too much time playing. There are a good few but not many suggested a decent name for a computer. Populous? Civilisation? Quake? Diablo 2? Hardwar? Evil Genius? Black and White? Tomb Raider? None of those leapt out at me as a source for the name. I didn’t want to call my computer Lara Croft! How about Warcraft 2 or 3? Nah, I wanted something more Sci-Fi. StarCraft! Of course! Kerrigan? Protoss? No. Firebat – yes. A silly sounding name but I took an instant shine to it!

So, Firebat is still installing. Windows XP – this is as much, if not more, a gaming machine than anything else. I considered Vista but there appears little or no benefit to DirectX 10 right now, the only possible reason to consider the appalling bloat that is Longhorn. I’ve also got Fedora 8 being torrented down right now, another few hours to go. Coincidentally, Fedora 8 was just released today – perfect timing for dual booting on Firebat.

For the statistics interested people out there, this new machine is running an MSI P35 Neo motherboard, an Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 CPU, 2GB of DDR2 800Mhz RAM, a 500GB SATA HDD and (my favourite bit) a BFG nVidia 8800 GT OC (512MB). I wasn’t sure if that graphics card would hold up the order a few weeks as these new 8800 GT cards are THE card of the moment, high end performance for mid range price. They are selling out quicker than they get in stock at the moment. I got very lucky! I look forward to testing this machine with 3DMark and the like. It should put B5 to shame!

I should also point out that this machine being bought/constructed was not influenced by the Dunn’s recent purchase of a new machine. Really. I just got fed up with B5 freezing up two or three times an evening while I was playing World of Warcraft. Probably just an underpowered PSU, given all the drives I’ve got inside it now, but it was time for an upgrade anyway! Once Firebat is up and running I may fiddle around with B5 and may well end up fixing it. In the meantime I’ll have something a little speedier and, hopefully, rather more stable!

“Need a light?”



MMOOH – MMOs On Hold

  on June 12th, 2007

Staggering Stories PodcastWhere does all the time go? Certainly not into MMOs, not for the past few weeks anyway. In fact it has been 3 weeks today since I sat down and played World of Warcraft on my own. I just don’t have time for messing about with computer games right now. That being the case, I’ve let my City of Heroes account expire. I still have a few weeks left on my 60 day WoW time card and it remains to be seen if I will have located any missing time by that point to resub with a new time card. I suspect it will wait a further few weeks after that, though.

So, where has that time gone? Taking this week as an example, then. Last night, Monday, had me shifting kit and furniture to prepare for a podcast recording. Yes, that recording should be tonight – the first proper Staggering Stories podcast. So that’s tonight, Tuesday. Assuming that happens okay then tomorrow, Wednesday, will see our first attempt to edit together the three audio tracks (each recorded on a different machine, one per podcast host). By rights I should be somewhere around East Grinstead on Thursday but I’ve not heard confirmation of that. That leaves Friday, which is normally the day the gang come over for fun and games! So, not a single evening this week free for MMOs. Okay, there’s the weekend but most of Sunday is normally out seeing the family (I might have an hour Sunday morning and about two hours Sunday evening, time to catch up on a couple of TV programmes from the week). Saturday is the only real time to do anything around the house, for Staggering Stories (not including the podcast, of course!) or any little projects I have (such as the currently languishing Asterisk project) and, of course, the good chunk of the evening that is taken by Doctor Who, Confidential and Totally Doctor Who (from the previous day – I avoid watching it until after the new Who, so I can watch the trailer at the end!) That’s just this week. The previous few weeks have been similarly hectic. Never a dull moment for me!

Back to the podcast preparations. I’ve installed Audacity on three machines (my Mac Mini, running OS X (no, not necessarily ‘of course’, I did have Ubuntu Linux running on there at one point), my laptop running Fedora Core 6 Linux and the secondary desktop from my computer room running the dread Windows XP (it was dual booting Ubuntu at one point – Ubuntu has never quite convinced me and I keep meaning to set this machine up with a dual boot Fedora)). Several gigabytes needed to be freed up on the Mac Mini and the laptop, running out of space would end the podcast pretty quickly! I had to buy an iMic USB soundcard for the Mac Mini as it hasn’t got audio in. Last night I tried to record with my laptop and found the input record levels very low. I don’t know what can be done about that, if anything. I may have to buy another iMic for the laptop but I certainly don’t have time before tonight’s recording (nowhere in town stocks them, not even the local PC World…) I’ve also got some new headsets, ones with only one ear speaker bit, so at least one of our ears is uncovered to hear what the others are saying clearly (that’s forethought!). I picked up a couple of extra clipboards too, just in case the others want to make notes as we go. All in all I think we are pretty much ready on a technical level (laptop concerns aside).

That all just leaves the mental preparation for the podcast! Getting in a decent state of mind and thinking of things to talk about. Those are the tricky bits. I find myself strangely (and pointlessly) nervous about it the closer it gets. We will have about 3 listeners, maybe 6 at a push! At times like this, having listened to so many hundred podcasts in my time, the pressure is on! Fortunately I listened to the first 20 or so minutes of the first LUGRadio episode the other day and that was ropier than scout badge hell! It will take us a while to get in the swing of things too. Plan for the best show we can do, expect the worst show ever!

Back to the beginning, then. No time to play MMOs, no point paying for them at the moment. If I ever do find some free time I also have several non-MMO PC games to play, most notably Tomb Raider: Anniversary. It’s not all over for MMOs, there will always be the free to play ones: Guild Wars, Dungeon Runners and Space Cowboy!