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ATPM 14.11
November 2008




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by Mark Tennent,

Less Than Stimulating Simulation?

At last! We thought. Something we should be really good at because we know the real thing inside out. What is it? Feral Interactive’s ToCA (Touring car) based on Honda’s latest Civic.

Yes, we know how sad we are driving a Civic. After many extended test runs and fun with the Type-R, we plumped for the diesel-engine version. It means we can keep our spinal cords from crumbling from the Type-R’s suspension and keep our hearing from impairment by the screaming VTEC—which is actually quite gutless at low revs until the twiddly valves do their twiddling—and get a better all-around drive.

This is the Garrison Keillor, fluffy-bunny turbodiesel from the TV ad. Don’t be misled; acceleration is faster than a 1970s Ferrari. Honda has created nearly a pocket rocket, so be careful at the traffic lights Grand Prix—in case granny and granddad embarrass your car.

When we tried the simulation, it was as similar to the real thing as corporate IT buying decisions are to intelligence. You think there is sense somewhere until IT dishes out Microsoft’s latest version of Office instead of using any of the free alternatives. In the case of the simulation, the car has no brakes and accelerates at the speed of a half-squashed slug. Nothing at all like the real thing. Yet some simulations can, apparently, be good enough for serious work. X-Plane, for example, is so authentic that the Federal Aviation Administration counts it as real flight time.

No Smoke Without FireWire

The other big disappointment this week has been Apple’s new MacBooks. They look great, and their silicon chippery is a big improvement, but the pricing is less so. And where is the FireWire port? This is no case of form following function—rather, more an accountant’s decision overruling the design department. Apple went through this during the 1990s when it produced turkeys such as the Colour Classic II, Macintosh TV, and Performa 460.

Without a FireWire port, many DV cameras are rendered useless. And, there will be no FireWire target disk mode or networking. The fastest hard drives cannot be connected. We use a MacBook to repair other Macs, connecting them to the laptop via FireWire.

There are possible workarounds, such as USB to FireWire converters or a direct connection using the gigabit Ethernet ports, which is useful for migrating from computer to computer. To cap it all, MacFixIt reports that Apple is censoring all discussion on its forums about the lack of FireWire.


Since writing this article, Feral has issued two further demos with three different scenarios. I put my hand up. I was too hasty dismissing the game. OK, I’ll admit it: I’m hooked. My credit card details have been filled into the box at Feral, and I can’t wait for the game to arrive.

I just hope it lasts longer than Call of Duty 4, which I completed in a long weekend, leaving me with a taste for more.

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