Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pixel Hunt Issue 10

The latest issue of Pixel Hunt has just been released. It's Christmas, so why not download it and read all the in-depth features and reviews contained within.

I've got an opinion piece, and two reviews in this latest issue, so go check it out!

You can download Issue 10 from here:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas. Here's more lame jokes for you

These are some lame jokes taken out from Christmas crackers (bon-bons).

Q: What do snowmen wear on their heads?
A: Ice caps!

Q: Why does an elephant wear sneakers?
A: So he can sneak up on the mice.

Q: Do you know how to make a bandstand?
A: Take away their chairs.

Q: What do snowmen eat for breakfast?
A: Snowflakes

Q: Why did the apple turnover?
A: Because it saw the cheese roll.

Q: What do you call a sleeping bull?
A: A bulldozer.

Q: What insect is musical?
A: A humbug.

Q: What did the winner of the race lose?
A: His breath.

Q: Why did the scientist install a knocker on his door?
A: He wanted to win the no-bell prize.

Q: What comes up when the rain comes down?
A: An umbrella.

Q: Why is an elephant large, gray and wrinkly?
A: Because if it were small, white and smooth it would be an aspirin.

Q: What travels around the world but never leaves its corner?
A: A stamp.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Buying a house, and lessons learnt

Audrea and I moved into our new home over the weekend. The house is shaping up nicely, and aside from a few other bits of household items, we're mostly settled in.

But the entire process has been extremely trying and exhausting. And I think we're learnt a number of lessons, which will help if we ever move again in the future.

1) Making the offer, and signing the contract
We made an offer on the higher end of the price range, and perhaps that was a novice mistake. We were afraid that someone else would make a more attractive counter-offer. Making an offer of a reasonable amount to yourself is important.

I also made the mistake of not insisting on including "Subject to finance" in the terms of my offer. This would have given us an exit option, should things not work out. This is particularly pertinent when we were buying off the plan, which would take about 6 months till settlement.

Understanding the penalties is also very important. As I'll share later, we had a hard time securing the loan. And had we defaulted on settlement, we would have lost the house, forfeit our down payment, and paid the difference if the vendor was offered less on the re-sale. We didn't ask about the penalties in greater detail because we were so confident that securing a loan wouldn't be a problem, which in hindsight was a poor decision to make.

2) Not keeping an eye on the house
I think we placed too much trust on the real estate agent, the vendor and the builder to look after us. And as such, we didn't keep as close an eye on the building process as we should have. We didn't insist on being consulted with regards to the internal fixings, or even some of the larger aspects of the building (such as ducted cooling). We were lucky that the builder had a good eye, and picked the colours and materials that we otherwise would have. But we did end up with a couple of things we wished were included into the house.

3) Mortgage, brokers and lawyers
Because settlement was so far removed from the contract signing, we had a bit of time to secure a loan. And because of that, I think we both procrastinated a little bit. This was further compounded when advised by the broker in October that we still had plenty of time to secure that loan. Things did not turn out that way exactly.

The whole process took longer than it should have, taking almost one and a half months before we could confirm our loan arrangements. For some reason, the bank kept requesting for additional documents. And given there was a 6-8 day turnaround with each request, this greatly extended the time needed for the loan. And with our initial submission, we were assured by the broker that we had already provided sufficient documentation, so the constant delays caught us off guard. We only got final loan approval less than a week from settlement.

The lawyer we engaged was a great help to us, because his constant reminders to us emphasised the urgency of the situation. But I think we had different expectations on the services provided. His services were to prepare the required documents for settlement, and in a normal situation, this would have been sufficient. But given our particular scenario, I had assumed that he would also represent our interests in dealing with the broker, bank, and vendor. I guess I had slightly different expectations of what engaging a lawyer entails, so there were moments when I felt quite frustrated by a seemingly lack of assistance from all sides.

4) Stamp duty
One of the biggest shocks we received near the end of the whole process was the amount of stamp duty we had to pay. Buying an off-the-plan property often means a much lower stamp duty than buying an established one. And one is always told that the duty is based off the value of the land. This is close, but not exactly true.

What we've found is that the duty is calculated by taking away the value of the construction from the purchase price. So say that the purchase price is $10, the value of the construction is $4, and the land is $3. The duty is not calculated on the value of the land ($3), but rather on the purchase price minus the construction price ($10-$4=$6). As such, we were hit by a higher stamp duty that we previously assumed, which has left us in a undesirable position.

5) Final inspection of the house
It's important to do the final inspection of the house as early as possible. Because we hadn't secured our loan until the last week, we weren't confident that we would get the house. We found a number of issues with the house, and because it was so close to settlement, there wasn't much that could be done aside from putting a request to have the builder resolve the issues. However, if we had done this earlier, it would have been possible to have these issues resolved before we get the keys. As it is now, those issues are now up to us to resolve.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PixelCast Episode 8: I'm dreaming of a white pixel

Christmas is upon us, and the Pixel Hunt crew gather once again to chat about games, the many seasons of Christmas, and the wonders of multiplayer. This episode, Alex Walker joins in the discussion with Tim, Dylan and myself.

If you listen to podcasts, and you like videogames, you must listen to the PixelCasts. It's a great show for the whole family! No foul language = kid-friendly.

You can download the episode here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm a Beatles; Rock Banding

It was a difficult trek, making my way to Airport West just to pick up Beatles Rock Band for the PS3: An hour round trip from the office, with the game that was unexpectedly heavy. Getting the thing home was another challenge. But the quest was completed, and at a discounted cost of $150, the game (which came with drums, guitar and microphone) was well worth the effort.

Setting up took a lot longer than expected; there were so many parts in that huge box. The drums had to be fixed onto a stand, along with a foot pedal. There were wires, and dongles and assorted bits and pieces. But again... well worth the effort.

Because the game is bloody excellent. Being the Beatles, it doesn't need to be said how remarkable the music is. And the range was impressive, from their early years to their later, more experimental music. It's amazing how many songs I actually know... and how many that I didn't.

I was already familiar with Guitar Hero, so picking up the guitar again wasn't too difficult. Singing on the microphone wasn't too difficult either; I remained mostly in-key and on time. But the drumming was tough. Even though I can play a normal 4/4 beat on a real set, playing the drums in the game wasn't not an easy feat. It really does test one's coordination and timing.

But when you've got 2-3 people playing together, singing Here Comes the Sun... it was gold.

Friday, December 04, 2009

PixelCast Episode 7: Dylan, Ken and Tim on the mics again.

Tim's laptop has recovered from a serious case of blow-upititis, so the crew is back together again for another episode of the PixelCast. This episode, we've got a special guest joining us: James Pinnell from Gamer Limit.

Listen to us talk about Tropico 3, Wipeout HD, Left 4 Dead 2, Brutal Legend, unconventional uses of videogame consoles and the role of game demos.

You can download the podcast here.