Friday, February 05, 2016

Happy New ... Picture ?

No epic wall of text today.

Hmmm ... Whenever I've said that before, you know how it tends to end up ... (oops!)

Random stuff !

Tomorrow could be busy - I could severely do with sleeping in* but there's a few things happening ...

*(travel on a weekend takes its toll on me, mostly because I use my weekends as lazy time to recover from putting all I have into the week, plus I have bugs apparently still).
(click for bigger)

Wotcha think ? I hope it makes people who celebrate Chinese New Year happy. The picture is made up of a few different elements :
Big Chinese Dwagon - courtesy of Google.
Fireworks - are from way back and by way back ? I mean 2004. Bit ropey in quality but not too shabby. They came from a digital compact on no-flash, so there's camera motion blur in there as well as long exposure time.
Font is Zenzai Itacha (a freebie via Google again but they ask for a little credit in the personal use free licence so there it is !)
And there's the message dwagon in there again.

I know one person who I think will be celebrating Chinese New Year tomorrow, hope she has a great day. And then there's Yogscast Kim, who is the big one for spreading the message that it is Chinese New Year. Our Western media isn't too interested in this particular festival.

And I just realised something I meant to add in but have forgotten ! Chinese Lantern ! Hmm - where would it go I wonder ... I do like this one better than what I came out with last year :
That's from earlier days of using the image manipulation program I currently use (GIMP). The text is a bit small. You have to make these things readable from an instant glance. I've also done a bit more on the template to cut out all of the background and make the dwagon copy/pastable into other images. That mostly works, although you have to match up the texturing of source and destination to make it really work.

But that's geeky non-fun work type stuff.

Happy Chinese New Year for tomorrow !

It won't be the Year of the Dwagon (2012, won't come round again until 2024). Here's a bit more from wiki about the festival.

I'm not planning to head out for celebrations tomorrow but I know what I will be doing. Can you call this busy ? Definitely occupied but I'm not sure if I can call it busy !

I switched out the graphics card yesterday over my Working At Home lunch (only took 20 minutes, I reminded myself of the how and what to avoid when switching out the power supply a few weeks ago). The old one is doing pretty well, although I'm not intending to try and games on it. The old one is 4 years old now and for actiony games, that's a bit below par now. Ok, possibly still better than Xbox One and PS4 but not something a PC Master Race person will be happy with.

Status report - the dots are gone ! Hurrah. Actually quite a relief because I've had graphical corruption on a machine before and it was something going horribly wrong in Windows that needed a complete wipe to fix. At least this time it's just a hardware swap.

New one is an AMD R9 380 with 4GB on board. It has 1700ish coprocessors on board aiding 6 main graphics units*. How's that for progress ? My first PC had 4MB of memory, this has 1000 times that just for the graphics. It'll run at around 1GHz, which is ... 15 times the speed of that first PC's processor. I think it's actually faster than that. Oh and it can throw data around much quicker too.

*(parallelism helps a lot with graphics, each unit draws a little bit of the whole picture and by having many units, it can draw many frames of that picture per second)

It should be good for another couple of years I hope. The new one arrives tomorrow so no sleeping in for me. It's curious though - Saturday delivery is £10, compare that to ... actually it's cheaper than driving to the store and back (£20-£25) and saves me 2 hours each way.

How about that being occupied though ? I'm going to be antsy ... Because the machine it's going into will be busy !

Cricket (time delayed cos it starts at 8.30) on the telly.
Rugby on the pooter.

Should be a good day's sport watching, although I'll be itching to get that graphics card put in. I should really get back into gaming to check it out ... I haven't been doing gaming much lately, been too tired and suffering from the bugs. But that energy is steadily returning.

The hype machine is firmly behind a new one called XCom 2 at the moment and I have to admit, it's caught me too (I am balking at the £35 price, I'm not in a rush to play new games and can wait for sales). What is it ?

UFO Enemy Unknown and it's modern remake XCom are tactical games where you have a small squad of soldiers to send in to combat the aliens who plan to take over the world. XCom 2 starts up 20 years after you lost ... badly. Time to take the Earth back !

Yep. Am hyped. Very tempted actually. But I also have a few other games which I haven't given enough play time yet.

Urg - I said at the top I wouldn't go all Wall of Text on you today.

SORRY !

Actually, not sorry. Cos I like doing the writing and I hope you enjoy reading what comes out when I bash the keyboard.

PS In case that Working At Home lunch thing caught an eyebrow - yep. Instead of going off to read the news on that break from ... reviewing/reading work things, I did something technical labourish instead ! Probably more effective at break stuff than reading news things, the mind refreshes better when you turn it to different tasks. And I didn't count the tinkering as work time.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Entitled to ... breakages ?

Two things today.

One is "ok, something broke again" and the other is a bit ... let's say ... controversial.

Money stuff first. Check out this pic :
That's a pic taken of something from the last post ... Looks a bit off doesn't it ? It's actually worse than it looks because I'm getting crazy random flashes of colour and shapes where they shouldn't be and I don't think it's from the coughing fits I've been having lately. Yep. Sneezes long enough that it feels like the walnut that is my brain has been thoroughly battered and that it isn't getting enough air either. Disturbing. But I'm ok apart from that.

Yep. I have been sick (sneezes, runny nose, not quite manflu) but I'll get better. I think my graphics card is thoroughly ill ... This computer is 4 years 3 months old now and the replacement will end up being its third graphics card.

The problem started with just a pattern of dots on the screen in certain videos that went away after not many seconds. (Except for BBC iPlayer which is rubbish and claims HD when it is blatantly not proper 1080p HD). It didn't impact on games to any significance because the dots were hidden in the backgrounds. (Except for Endless Legend which had really crazy texture issues on the card which made it unplayable).

It's much worse now though. Definitely a hardware problem because the problem has stayed happening after a change of drivers. The way graphics cards work is they paint a scene in memory, then throw that scene to the screen. Commonly, they'll build three frames and then throw them at the screen in order. This is called triple buffering and makes things smoother.

There's more to it than that. But without going into too much nasty techie detail, this card has 2GB of memory, some of which I suspect has gone bang. Which means errors in the SETI processing and dots on the screen. SETI has actually given up, the card has degraded that much.

So - two things to do :
Put an older card back in - this is a stopgap which will clear off those SETI thingys
Buy another card.

I do have another temptation though - that Lego XWing is back in stock and ...
Something is triggering the "ME WANT" :-). (It's a Lego Anaconda from Elite made from the Millenium Falcon kit)

Controversy ?

You'd find it difficult to escape the trouble that's erupting over the Oscars and the nominations ... Hence the Entitlement in the title. It does feel like there is a sense of overdone entitlement with the various boycotts that have been announced in a "We aren't nominated so we ain't going."

There are three sides of that to explore :

Who got missed out of the nominations ?
How come black* actors didn't get the best parts ?
Are they really asking for a quota system ?

*(I'm trying to avoid mentioning colour but ... who brought up the colour pattern of the nominations originally ?)

Who got missed out ? I do think they've gotten it wrong. I can't think of many coloured actors where I enjoyed their performance over last year but that's mostly my goldfish memory refusing to recall it. Finn from Star Wars played his part well but I wouldn't call it Oscar Best Supporting Actor material. I'd rather see Rey nominated. Seriously. Well actually no because while I did enjoy SW TFA and thought it was a great film, it isn't Oscar material.

I think The Martian should get a share of Oscars and definitely one in Best Supporting Actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor who was one of the stronger performers, very true to the book character.

Terminator Genesys and Jurassic World were oddly white come to think of it. Should probably be looking at the casting people as to why people weren't given the opportunities there. Spectre has Daniel Craig as Bond at the moment. I have to say that I don't particularly agree with Idris Elba being touted as Bond, I've never really been impressed with what he does (although I did like his part in Pacific Rim but I am silly with that film). His part in Beasts of No Nation is being heralded as Oscar worthy but I'm sorry - if it isn't in the cinema anywhere, it shouldn't be in the Oscars. Shame on you Netflix.

The Rock was typically Rock like in San Andreas. Again, enjoyable movie, not Oscar material.

As for the protagonists in the controversy - IMDB tells me that Jada Pinkett Smith has been in just Magic Mike XXL and Gotham this year. Does she really think that Magic Mike XXL is Oscar worthy ? (disclaimer - I haven't seen the Magic Mike films - not interested) Does hubby think that After Earth was a decent film ? Hubby has done some cracking films actually but I always wonder if it is Will Smith Playing Will Smith or Will Smith acting someone. The key to acting is to play a character, not have a character tailored to who you are.

They should not be nominated for their colour, they should be nominated on merit. And this will be controversial for some but ... I do think there has been a definite sense of the entitlement coming in that is ever more pervasive in modern society, usually backed up by the teddies being thrown out of the pram if the entitled don't get what they think they deserve.

I'll be curious about who wins the various awards that'll be going but I always bear in mind that those critics and awards people really don't like the same movies that I do. I bet that Revenant will sweep the board and that Leo will get Best Actor. I didn't like Revenant but I do think he deserves an Oscar. Not for this one but for Inception ... That was a cracking film.

Time to close before I get a howling mob after me ! I do think the Oscars have got it wrong with the nominations, although the only one I can think of now is Chiwetel Ejiofor who was utter menace and top quality in Serenity. The message for the black actors is : GO ! GET THE BEST PARTS ! There are plenty of quality coloured actors and actresses out there, here's a limited few to mention :

Definitely Denzel. Halle Berry. Idris. Foxx (Jamie, definitely not Megan of the one x). Don Cheadle (not the guy in Iron Man 1, thought that Roadie was a bit off), Forrest Whitaker (does he do films still?), where has Whoopi Goldberg been ? Zoe Kravitz ! (needs more parts)

Not Samuel L Jackson (not on recent performances), Will Smith (always plays self), Jada Pinkett Who. Where are the Asian actors and actresses now ! I was impressed with Rinko Kikuchi in Pacific Rim and I thought she was excellent in 47 Ronin (naff film, great storytelling) too. Not been in anything of note this year though.

Make it count with what you do on screen, not how you behave off it. Stirring up the controversy only tends to have one effect and that's typically something bad for your cause.

It might be controversial but ... it's my opinion, which usually differs drastically from your typical film critic. I do think the Oscars have missed Chietel Ejiofor who genuinely added to The Martian in my opinion. But the rest of the people just seem to be demonstrating entitlement that would only lead to a quota system that would take away from merit and cheapen the whole idea.

I'll close by saying that I don't factor the colour of the actors into whether or not I intend to watch a film. Colour has nothing to do with performance (except when they are validly tackling race like the Compton movie). I choose films based on how I think the actors will pull it off, whether I think I'll enjoy the movie experience.

And that's how it should be.

Although I will admit I usually enjoy films way better in company.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

There and Back Again

Gosh - it's been over a week since the last post.

My evenings have been pretty busy over the last week, plus a weekend away. Let's see :

Tuesday and Wednesday were chill out nights, aiming at clearing the box of enough recorded stuff to allow the stuff over the rest of the week to be recorded. That sounds bad doesn't it ... My cable box has enough space to record 80 hours and you'd think ... that's plenty right ? How much could I be watching to fill up all of that ? It's not that bad. I record most of my stuff in HD, which takes up to 4 times the space of everything else. So recording 10 programmes (Killjoys, Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, Occupied, NCIS, Elementary, War and Peace plus more) can take up half of the box.

So that's Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday was spent socialising. It was good fun actually. One of our graduates was moving on and we'll miss her. She's a good character who is smart enough to ask all of the right questions and translate the answers to things that are in her frame of reference. That's really important, you rarely have the same knowledge as other people so to understand them, you have to translate what they're saying to what you have experience of.

Oh yeah, this is also the one who was threatening to do something that might kill me (kidding) - yep. Play badminton again. That said, my outsides are improving to the point where I could do the running around thing again, although I am a bit old and broken to do that to a level where I would be satisfied with my performance.

That brings me to another old age pensioner ...
Hello Ben. Ben says hi back (in slurp form) and was rewarded with many bellyrubs.

It wasn't just Ben though, my dad's birthday was this weekend just gone, which was a good excuse to head over there again. He's in his 70s now and I hope he'll be around for a good while yet. Same as my mum. They're glad they're retired but they still get out and about doing stuff.

And they have little Ben to keep them company as well.
The old puppy is getting on a bit too, so he reserves his energy for when it's needed and then he'll disappear off somewhere quiet and out of the way for a little snooze. He does like to be around his people though, so here he is waiting for bacon scraps.

As the Facebook caption said : "Good morning, you don't want those bacon sandwiches in the kitchen, give them to MEEEEE!"
Whatever could be on that plate that has our Muttley's undivided attention ?

All the Ben pics go on Facebook first, although it can be tough getting decent shots of him because I don't think he's too impressed with cameras. It's rare that you can catch him still enough for a good shot, except for when he's off snoozing and then you wouldn't want to disturb the old fella.

But when meatscraps are involved it's :


Muttley at rest ... and Muttley in motion.
And Muttley hoping for a few more meatscraps.

If only there were something for humans that had the Turn Old Dog Into Bouncy Puppy effect on humans. Oh wait !!!! CAKE !
Lush.
And just out of shot on this one ? Our sunday lamb dinner. With ...
Cook's helper encouraging the cook to use bigger portions. Cos leftovers mean munchies for pooches.

Oh and look at that tail, whenever I get that tail in shot, it's disappearing into motion blur. I like that. A happy dog should have a tail in perpetual motion. It's not always like that though sadly,
This is Ben seeing us getting ready to head out and you can tell he's poised to come with. But sadly (supermarketredacted) and (DIYstoreredacted) wouldn't understand. Pubs are precious about dogs too, even though the dog is likely to be hiding from all the strange noisy people who are otherwise in the pub.

All good things come to an end though and it was time to head back. (I picked up what feels like a quick and messy cold, hence not posting anything last night - if it's from hugging the Ben, WORTH IT)

Yep. Time to say see you in a while :
With Ben doing his equivalent of Goodnight World. The family's getting older but they're still going strong. All 3 of them - mum, dad and the geriatric puppy.

Good night, see you later and I'll leave you with something taking the mickey out of UK's biggest telecoms company which is currently undergoing an out(r)age :
Hey I just met you.
And this is crazy.
But here’s my number.
So wait until the temporary BT phone outage is fixed and call me maybe?
Here's a link to the original. (watch to the end!!!) It's from Carly Rae Jepsen's album Kiss, I think I'll be following her music for a while.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Alphabet of the Human Heart - K and L

It's been a little too long since the last one of these !

I do like these posts, they're inspired from a lovely book (I will link it at the end this time). It's well past time for another and today it'll be K and L.

What's first ?

K is for Karma.

Karma is Sanskrit for "deed" or "act". I'm a firm believer in the "what goes around, comes around" theory. The theory that if you do a kind act, it'll mean something good for someone, something good will happen to you. It's why I send happy or kind messages to people who ... quite probably ignore them (I'm talking about the internet people there).

The reverse also seems to ring true. I'm hearing from the Twitters that someone on the Eurostar train tonight decided that he needed a sneaky fix of his e-cig while on the train and the resulting stoppage has resulted in at least a 3 hour delay, cancellation of that train, cancellation of subsequent trains. All for a sneaky hit of the e-cig. That guy's got a lot of karma to work off now. (It may come to get him when the other passengers find him)

Oh ! Perfect pic to illustrate.
Be good to people. It's a great investment.

K is also for Knowledge - pass it on.

The worst thing in our world is ignorance and everything that flows from it. Like not realising you have hurt someone with your words. Not realising the consequences of your actions. Not helping someone out when you could have made something much easier for them. Seeing mistakes made because you withheld that crucial piece of knowledge.

Passing on knowledge is tricky though. It has to be done in just the right way. You can hit people with knowledge like hitting them on the head with a hammer. They don't appreciate it and it scares them away. I've seen cricketers who had the potential to be extremely good but there were basic flaws in their technique that let them down. Gently guiding them down the path they were going was far more effective at getting the best out of them than "You're doing it wrong, do this instead".

It was far more satisfying to see people come back and learn new and better skills than see them walk away from the game because over zealous coaching made it Not Fun.

There's another case from a year or so ago which is especially poignant today. It's from Nick Hancock of Longest Stay On Rockall Rock Fame. He had been contacted by an individual who wanted to use his Rockpod in an attempt at breaking his record. I advised him to not allow use of the Rockpod (don't enable idiots by making things too easy for them to hurt themselves) but to support them with knowledge. Because he'd have felt absolutely rotten if something bad had happened to the individual if he'd withheld information that later led to Bad Things. Besides, that Rockpod had had a hard time up on that rock, I doubt whether it would have been a good idea to use it again anyway.

(It's poignant due to the death of an explorer who was attempting to cross Antarctica unaided - very sad)

L is for Lisa Miskovsky who has a wonderful voice and I really must get more of her albums. Restless Heart just started purring away in the background.

L is also for Lies.

Lies are horrible. "They toss and they turn inside us, trying to escape, tearing us away from our own deepest truth. If you lie, ask yourself why." "Lies often cover our deepest fears, of being discovered, found out, unmasked; of being seen for who we really are. To be all you can be, tell the truth. It might hurt at first to admit it, but it will truly set you free."

Given that, there is such a thing as too much truth. The truth can really hurt people as much as a lie can. But is truth kinder in the long run ?

I try to avoid lies. They wrap you up in Bad Stuff which is guaranteed to catch you out at some point. Be honest with yourself and others, it's always the best way.

What's worst though are the lies that we tell ourselves. Like me telling myself that my shoulder was ok and I could still play cricket despite crying out in pain when I tried to pick anything up with that arm. (This is way back when the injury originally happened). That probably led to more recovery time (as it happened, I had recovery time due to not having teams to play for).

I used to memorise the letter chart that opticians use, this led to me getting glasses that weren't strong enough. I was honest the last time, said which letters were sharp and which were not and ... these glasses are over ten years old and I'm just about on the verge of needing new ones.

L is for ... you guessed it ... Love.
Yep. Been looking for a chance to use that pic. There's a certain relationship with dogs. They love their people and return all the love you give them. They are very adoring individuals. Cats have their moments too.
True.

Love ? "In life, we lose our youth, our strength, our influence, our memory, even our bladder control. In the end, all we have and all we will be remembered for is the love that we give; not just to one person, but to everyone we meet. Remember this - and you will be remembered."

"What is there to say about love that has not been said before, except : I LOVE YOU".

Yep. You. Reading this post. Those lovely people who stay with me, reading what random thoughts have escaped from my head and fingers today.

I love you all. And you return that love by keeping coming back. Every page-hit that Google tells me about makes me smile. It means people care, it means they (to some degree!) love what I write.

The world is a much better place when we show our love for each other.

PS Oops - forgot something. Here's the book link ...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Shop music

I had a request yesterday - a playlist for a shop ...

I think we'd find it difficult to get a cd over to shop (plus I really don't trust my cd drive !) but it sparked one of those dangerous things ... An idea !
So - shop music ? Depends on the shop really. Some shops want to bring you in and show off what they're selling. Other shops want you to hang around, chill out, empty them of coffee, have a natter. Bars will be similar. Nightclubs want to make your ears bleed. And there's the tunes which will stick in your mind and drag you back to the shop later to buy the album.

Mood is a definite reason for selecting certain music. Whether that's wanting to set a certain mood (coffeechill, hyperdance) or catch the general mood. So at the moment, there are two major moods going in music :

Chill out with Take It Easy by The Eagles;
Set a romantic mood with Absolute Beginners by the genius Bowie;
Go for a bouncy mood with Daft Punk (One More Time ?)

The shops will want to draw you in though and hopefully keep you around. And one way of doing that is by having the good music on. I've been caught by that a few times when the shop has been playing some of my favourite music.

It wasn't Untouched by the Veronicas that got me buying their albums in (that shop ending with a V), it was actually You Ruin Me. But Untouched is the track of their's that catches in my head. I'll stick around for that.

The Pretenders do this too, with songs like Brass In Pocket.

More instrumental styles help too, where conversation is important. Enya will always catch the ear with songs like Evening Falls. One for those candlelit restuarants ?

Some artists are a bit mixed. They do gorgeous songs but the mood isn't right. Duffy's Mercy was a nightclub favourite (haha - what do I know about nightclubs ? very little!) but while most of her other sings are absolutely stunning, they're a bit too sad for shops and bars.

With some songs, it's not about the music. It's where you heard it first. Things like hearing Bear Necessities made me want to buy The Jungle Book.

Wonder if I have any songs about chocolate ...

Haha - the Levellers just started with Far From Home. But their song The Boatman makes me dream of being on that narrowboat. Definitely one to play in the bar/coffeeshops near the boating exhibitions.

Christmas songs are very situational but pretty effective too. Can't beat a bit of Wishing On A Star (Rose Royce) or Baby It's Cold Outside.

I wonder how Yello's The Race would do in a car sales place (depends on the car!) or a betting shop ?

Oh my - Eric Clapton with Wonderful Tonight for that bar. Magic. Most of Seal's stuff too. Although sometimes songs like Killer might ... kill the mood. But if you can start a playlist with something like Alisha's Attic's Wonderful You ? (It's a b-side, probably ultra difficult to find sadly) I'm currently listening to Love from Seal's album 7 and it's a good one.

Fleetwood Mac's You Make Loving Fun - wonder when the last time was that this was played in a nightclub ?

Something I've not watched for far too long - T.V. Carpio's version of I Wanna Hold Your Hand from Across The Universe, which had so many fantastic versions of Beatles songs. Imagine that one coming over the speakers when you have someone with you who you wish was ... holding your hand ? And on that note, there's Lisa Miskovsky (who I really need to acquire more albums from) with Take Me By The Hand.

A happy boppy song just started - it's Good Time from Carly Rae Jepsen's album Kiss. Definitely a happy song, it's got me doing the chair boogie that hopefully no one notices you doing. Three albums escaped with me last night, Carly Rae Jepsen's Kiss, Seal 7 and Sia was in there too with We Are Born. I'll be enjoying listening to those bit by bit over the next week or so :-).

Going down my pointers/reminders list I see Glamour Puss (weird video!) by KT Tunstall - one for the clothes and accessories shops ? Also Pretty Woman. Classic.

[cough-splutter] A little further down that list is Lisa Hannigan with Safe Travels (Don't Die). SERVICE STATION MUSIC ! Safe travels on them motorways :-).

And talking of a song that'll stick in your head for days, actually there's a few :
Mindy Gledhill's I Do Adore;
Pretty much anything Nina Simone sings - Feeling Good ?

I'm so tempted to say Ting Tings The Wrong Club, although I'm not sure that's just me seeing it in my list of best songs or whether it's something that might send the wrong message in a shop or a bar. Love the song though and it definitely catches the ear. (Has a swear though!)

I better stop now cos it's going to take a while to catch up with the Youtube links and listen to all these great songs.

Oh - one last one ... This would be a really bad one to have in a Doctor Shop : The Drugs Don't Work by The Verve. Peter Gabriel's Don't Give Up might be better.
Maybe one more. However tempted you are by mischievous feelings, I would advise against playing this song in a shop. Any shop. It's Gorillaz with M1A1 and I nearly chose it as a phone ring tone ...

Last one ! What does a shop want you to do ? Linger ! Here's one by The Cranberries, a group that a Very Special Lady reminded me about a little more than a year ago. Cheers !

Monday, January 18, 2016

The taste of Infamy

I've been quoted on a news report !

True, it's a bit of a minority website but it's one I trust (most of the time) and one that continues to make me chuckle.

Here's the article : "El Reg mulls entering Robot Wars arena". I won't quote any of it apart from my comment because of, you know, copyright and syndication issues but ... here's what I sent that sparked it : "Anyone else hoping that SPB turn their talents to making an all conquering, all destroying, punyhuman enslaving Vulturebot?"

The comment is of course, tailored for the particular brand of gallows humour that is a trademark of that site. I'd never dream of making an all conquering, all destroying, punyhuman enslaving Vulturebot.

Nope. It would be a Dragonbot.
Got you worried for a sec there.

I'd love to do a Dragonbot, designed to crush, burn, macerate and otherwise do Very Nasty Things to other robots.

Hang on a minute - there's a bit of missing context. I was a huge fan of a series called Robot Wars, which ran for a good few series on BBC (we won't talk about the Channel 5 seasons). Contestants would run machines of destruction in the arena, with house robots and various traps to liven things up if the robots became boring. It was spectacular, fun, unpredictable, celebrated robot building creativity, a great series to watch and follow. I definitely miss it. The series is coming back later this year, with shooting happening in March.

So when El Reg ran the story, I had to add in that comment with a hope that the architects of PARIS* and LOHAN** would be able to turn their talents to something more destructive. They're a good mob.

*Paper Aeroplane Released Into Space - a record setter that flew back down from the edge of space.
**Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator - a 3d printed unmanned aircraft that will (when the regulatory people sort themselves out) float up to the edge of space on a balloon before setting off a rocket. Wonder how high it will get.

The March shooting is a little too soon for a good robot to be developed but let's have a look at what it would need :

Communications - you have to be able to control the beast and this is in what you could call a "hostile" environment. Things like a wireless video sender that goes to snow when the microwave is used, interference can happen anywhere from anything, even if the thing causing the interference is only distantly related to what it's supposed to be doing. The Robot Wars arena tends to have all sorts of motors, switching things making electrical noise, plus there's the distance from where the Robot Master stands and the robot itself. Oh and the little matter of making sure the aerial doesn't fall off.

Moving - sounds simple doesn't it, just take a remote control car and use that ? Maybe. Wheels are more reliable because tracks tend to fall off easy but you have to protect the wheels under armour, which can mean the robot beaches. Yep. Wheels, plus I'd design a special motor control system for things like : Turn in place, traction control, boost for pushing. This has certain ... issues though, due to the way motors work, if you're not careful the motors can blow up the rest of the electronics when the robot stops suddenly.

Structure - the best weapon is no good if it only works once. So for the robot design, the robot has to keep its basic shape after being whacked several dozen times. If the frame distorts, it'll jam up the wheels and the weaponry.

Armour - this includes protecting from bashy weapons as well as the flipper bots which were getting very common. Sloped sides have always worked well, their aim is to divert rather than absorb. Skirts are aimed at not allowing the flipper to get underneath where it can do its work. The last consideration with the armour is that it has to allow weaponry ...

Ahhh - the good bit ...
Sadly, the robot wars people aren't allowed to make robots like that. No guns, no grenades, no tasers, no flamethrowers. Boo hiss. (I wouldn't enter a robot like those anyway, those tracks are way too exposed and the weaponry would have trouble attacking a low slung bot).

Weaponry ...

Flippers - effective but boring. These are designed to get the enemybot out of the ring, or on its back where it can't fight.
Hammers - good looking but ineffective. The problem is that the hammer either mistimes or glances off doing little damage. There is little to make the hammer or Pointy Thing pierce the enemy bot.
Saws - similar to hammers, unless you can corner an enemy bot
Piercing claws - there was a stunning robot called Razer, which was too unreliable to be a true winner. But when it did work ... it would tear chunks off any other robot. Leverage + something little = huge damage potential from sheer pressure.

And then you have the king of anti robot weaponry - the kinetic disc. The theory of this is that you spin up a heavy disc to 1000 rpm or so, with the disc having lots of kinetic energy. You then ram another robot. And all that kinetic energy goes into the other robot as pure Damage Potential. Oh and because Newton's Laws are cruel, there's an equal shock going back into the other robot.

The best disc robot was Hypnodisc (more at the wiki link). This one was in a class of its own for sheer destructive potential but ... tended to lose out to the flipperbots. The bits that made it go weren't too great (definite improvement potential!) but that disc was a masterpiece ... It was a kinetic disc ... that was a little special. It had weights that went from the inside to the outside. This made it start off light (so it could be spun up again quicker), with the weights making it heavy (with more kinetic energy damage potential) when they went to the outside of the disc.

The Dragonbot would likely be another variant on Hypnodisc. I think I would design it to be flippable, with larger wheels able to operate the robot inverted. The disc itself would be mostly inside Dragonbot.

Wait - this doesn't sound like a fitting type of robot to be called Dragon does it. It's more a Bite Yer Ankles And Chew Em Off bot.

Need flamethrowers !!!!

And more excuses to use the Mad Scientist tag.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Too many gone

It seems like we're losing too many titans at the moment.

Wait ... that's wrong.

If we lose just one titan of the par of David Bowie or Alan Rickman, it's too much. To lose both inside a week, definitely a massive loss. And that's not forgetting the others who have left us this year and at the end of last.

I don't usually mention things like this here, because I prefer to try and keep it to happier subjects. Plus you get to hear way more about it in the general media. This should be different. But I did want to bring out the Twibute Dwagons :
The original line was "By Grabthar's Hammer, you shall be avenged" and it was from a rather good film called Galaxy Quest. I'd recommend seeing it if you haven't already. Alan Rickman stole the show yet again playing a character that owed a little to Spock.

But he wasn't just about Galaxy Quest. He was in so many more films where his excellence in acting, including being able to master different characters (which is a failing in many actors, their characters are written as them) and stealing the show every time. I heard that his part in Robin Of Sherwood (the Costner movie) got watered down a bit because he was just so darn good. (And the movie was supposed to be about Robin, not the Sheriff).

And there are many more too.

Then there's David Bowie :
A little more work went into that Twibute Dwagon. (I feel a little cheap sometimes posting those - the words are mine but it takes so little time to do them now that it feels like I'm not putting enough effort in).

I wasn't a fan of all of David Bowie's work, like I will adore everything that certain other bands have done. But you cannot deny that he was a brilliant genius, flawed by not quite living in the same world as the rest of us. He just saw things different ways. And it was utterly amazing.

And it came out in songs like Starman, Heroes, Golden Years, Life On Mars ... need I go on ? You know them all. I really have to see Labyrinth again. It's been a while since I saw that film but I do remember his portrayal of the Goblin King to be utterly compelling.

And then there's Lemmy too !

Too many gone this year already.

And other bad news too, like finding out that a friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I hope she gets through it. She's a tough little lady so I bet she'll be around for a good long while.

I don't quite know how to end this one ... Except that your life is yours. Live it how you see fit. But live it. Don't miss out. We are not infinite, we need to take advantage of all the time that is given to us.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winning the lottery

Nah.

Not me, at least not lately. Although I have been in the game (so to speak) lately with the added interest we've had here with the big prize up for grabs with lots of roll overs.

But the thought was - what would you do if you won the lottery ? Here's what I think I'd do. (And this will dive off at a tangent half way through !)

I'd pay my debts. I don't have many, my student debt was cleared a long time ago. But I do have a mortgage and finance on the car. I'd clear those. But I don't think I owe anything to anyone else.

Saying that though, I'd help out some very close friends. That's ... extremely close friends. I think I can count who that would be on one hand. Let's see ... (and I'm not saying who they are !) Ok, maybe I'd need a finger or two (or a thumb!) on the other hand as well.

But that's not really money. Money isn't the fix all for everything. Money can get you companionship of a certain kind but would I want that ? No. There's a song with the line "The best things in life are free" (and then it says "I want money" - haha). Back to that in a bit. Companionship should be about the person, not their car or how much is in their wallet.

Money and doing things for people in that way would depend on how much you won. If you won a few million, that might be where you might look into paying off a few people's mortgages. If they would want you to do that. That's an odd thing to say isn't it ? I can say that all I have, I have earned through my own means. I've worked for it. It's mine. Wholly mine. If someone came along and paid off my mortgage, yeah, I'd appreciate it. But it would no longer be wholly mine. I would feel an obligation.

Think about that for a bit - it's one thing working for what you have, it's another thing to get it the easy way. Not much about my life has been "easy", although I did get a good start from family.

But if you're giving someone an opportunity that benefits you both, that's so much better than doing something like "Hey ! I just won all this money, have some and go buy a house/flat." That's a charitable act, it isn't including them in your life. Some people really don't like being charities. I don't think I do.

Back to me - it would be great if I won enough that I no longer needed to work. I'm kinda bored of what I'm working at currently, it's a bit too far distant from the techie stuff I like doing. (I'm working on a solution and I get involved with the techie stuff where I can at the moment). But I would need to be doing something, keeping my brain busy, keeping myself active with goals.

Because I like to have goals. I go stale without them. What I am curious about is the possibility of making the gaming videos. Cos I love gaming and I've been enjoying watching the gaming videos for a few years now while I've been away from the gaming due to lack of energy after work in the evenings. I think I could do a decent job with the gaming videos, although I've observed a few people's output declining drastically lately (Yogscast have really gone off, only Hannah's stuff is worth watching at the moment).

Perhaps not gaming ... which gets me to ...

Where would I live ?

Bricks and mortar property hasn't appealed to me for a while now. The new houses seem to be very small, poor quality on the fitting out and the sites have issues with the builders (this impression coming from multiple people). Houses built on the cheap for profit, not for quality. No, I wouldn't want to move from here to a new house. The neighbourhood isn't bad here but I do live very close to shops where the workers abuse our road as their car park. And we're in for another year of mayhem due to poorly conceived roadworks.

Not sure where else around Bristol I'd want to live actually.

Nope - I still have that crazy idea of living on a narrowboat ...

Yep, I'd have to change my habits with regards storage of all the stuff I should have thrown out a while ago but a narrowboat (preferably a widebeam) has that potential to be very high quality in its fitting out and cosy too. Oh and if the neighbourhood doesn't take your fancy, you can just move to another marina.

But I wouldn't want to do it on my own. My narrowboat would be built with a companion in mind. Even down to things like fittings on the taps. (That matters to some people and I can completely understand). I'd want it to be her place as much as mine.

And a ship's cat or pooch would be good too. I've missed having pooch snuggles.

I think I've rambled enough - targets if I win the lottery big :

Move on to a narrowboat;
Make that narrowboat a mini techie palace;
Put enough kit in to make it understated cosiness;
Interesting toys inside - you saw the Smart Meter post, lots more potential for geeking out with various equipment you could fill a boat with;
Having someone to enjoy it with.

Maybe I'd go off cruising around the country (this is limited by the size of the barge, many canals around Birmingham where they all link up are restricted to the narrower narrowboats). Maybe I'd stay in one place to support what the companion was getting up to. That place would be chosen according to what's convenient for them (My number one choice is the Gloucester and Sharpness canal for access to Worcester for watching cricket in the summer!)

One thing is good, I'm much closer to having my health back. This is another thing about work, we have a very dessicated atmosphere which doesn't do my outsides much good. It dries out my skin such that it starts breaking up again (it has a chance to recover over the weekend). Being out of that atmosphere would do me good. That's just my outsides though, I'd like to regain my energy on the inside too.

On people - I'd like to escape the crush of humanity that seems all the more pressing these days. Whether that be on the roads with the collapse in driving standards, or having to stand your ground while walking or be bounced out of the way by people who do not leave enough space. I wouldn't want to be on my own completely (I need contact with people to keep me out of lonely depression) but I would want to select those who I interact with.

Internet - is all about interaction. But I'd like it to be those who I interact with and on my terms. I do have that addiction to staying in touch though, I go slightly mad(der?) if I'm deprived of that connection to the world. Internet is difficult on a boat - but not an impossible problem considering that mobile broadband access is becoming more widespread.

So yeah ! Win the lottery before May, pay off the debts, sort the house out, head off to Crick Boat Show (end of May) and spend lots on a boat. Live happily ever after.

Sounds like a plan !

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Geeking out with the smart meter

You know me.
Get my hands on something techie and I will want to investigate what it can do. And that goes for various bits and pieces of kit :

Seeing how the pooters behave when I ask them to do stuff.
This isn't particularly geeky or non-sensible, problems tend to happen with pooters when you load them up. When the processor or graphics or memory is busy and things get hot (unless it's Windows, then expect problems at all times). When you're asking them to use parts of them that don't often get used. My pooter isn't actually exercising all of the bits of it that would have made it more powerful than supercomputers of 15 or so years ago. But I do want to know that it won't fail when I'm in a game or something similar. So I exercise it to see how it will do.

When I build a new one, I'll also run the various (free!) benchmarks on it to make sure it's at about the same level as similar machines. I don't want it to be the best (this involves much tweaking for 0.5% better speed), I just want to be sure I've not ended up with something going half the speed it should be.

Enough of that !

Except to say that when you do buy stuff, when you part with cash :

Make sure there's nothing at a similar price that would do the job way better. (And stay doing the job after the cheap stuff breaks!)
Make sure what you bought does what it says on the tin. (VW diesel people will facepalm at this).

Oh and check stuff out to see what it can actually do for you. Use as much of your bits and pieces as you want to but make sure you're not missing out.
So me with the iPad, I'm using it for iOS games (currently Astronest has my attention), I occasionally use it for Facebook and Twitter and Messaging when I'm not doing those on phone, laptop or desktop. I haven't written a blog post on it yet (proper keyboards are better) but I am pondering developing scribbledrawing skills with it. I've also been using it for reading Kindle and Applestore books (shop around, Kindle/Apple can be cheaper than paper books). Reflecting back, I'm glad I bought it.
Oh and it has Siri too, which I've disabled. (If you haven't already, ask Siri what is zero divided by zero)

The latest gadget I've been geeking over is the smart meter smart meter thing. (And the next one will probably be a combi boiler that I suspect I will get fitted at Easter). It has a real time monitor for how much power is being used. And it's quite quick too.

I've been looking at it perhaps a little too much, seeing how the power requirements change with the various bits and pieces that I have. Let's see what I can remember :

Resting state - about 4p/hour.
This is with the pooter doing sums on the processor but not the graphics card (no sums available at the moment). It's with the lowest level of stuff on that I have. So telly's off, music off, fridge on, all the other stuff you keep on as a baseline like alarm clocks, ovens, microwaves in their resting state. 4p/hour seems ok. Wonder what it would drop to if I stopped the pooter from doing sums.

Music and telly - up to about 7p/hour.
This is how I'm like most of the time. Modern tellies don't actually take much power. I have a surround sound amp, so there's lots of individual power amplifiers in there which consume the electricity. But not as much as :

Electric heater on - adds on about 17p/hour.
Although that's when it's running. The instantaneous readout will jump up when the heater is heating and fall back to 7p/hour when it's having a break.

Kettle - adds on a whopping 35p/hour.
Crikey - that's a lot isn't it ? But bear in mind that the kettle isn't actually going to be on for long.

There's a bunch of confusing units for energy, which all come from pretty much the same source. Pure energy is measured in Joules, with Joules/second being the unit of power, otherwise known as the Watt which you'll be familiar with. That's then turned into another unit for energy consumption, the kWh. I.e. how many 1000s of Watts have been used in an hour. It's just Joules by another name.

The thing to remember though with Energy use is that it's the kWh or Joules which matter. Yep, the kettle uses 5 times the power of everything else but it's only on for a very short time, so it consumes far less energy overall.

And it makes a nice cuppa.

It does help having things like energy saving stuff, if only because it means far less changing of light bulbs. (Haha - I rarely change my living room light bulb now, it used to blow far too often with old tungsten bulbs). But don't begrudge that occasional cuppa for the energy it'll consume. In the big scheme of things, it's not using that much and you get a good cuppa out of it.

(I'm still kicking out this cold and some thick soothing hot chocolate is going down extremely well at the moment.)
Watch out for nasties. Having that heater going and keeping warm will hopefully keep you healthy :-).

And ...
Cya !

(Hopefully this is a better post than the ones I've come out with lately - it's not just the cold, latent depression has been getting me down too)

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Bring on the Mini Eggs

Think I need 'em.

This is going to be one of those "How did your day go dear ?" posts where the person asking the question instantly regrets having asked it ...
Phew ! Found a thumbnail pic which was better than what I nearly used :
It has been that kind of a week so far since coming back into work. Work's been fine, it's just :

Bugs;
Recovering from bugs;
Really unhappy ankles from breaking in new shoes;
Super unhappy legs that are complaining at me for walking them around;
(the muscles think they're being overworked - it's a symptom of bugs)
Silly day today.

I had to take a day off work today to support a visit from the electric people who wanted to switch me over to smart meters. Good idea for them, totally ambivalent to it from my point of view.

So today was pretty much wasted due to waiting for someone who turned up at about 4pm in a window of 12pm to 6pm. And I needed to be around. I wouldn't even have been able to do ballcock fixing because with me up in the attic doing that, I'd never hear the guy tapping on the door. (B+Q didn't appear to want to sell me what I needed anyway, still need parts).

Ok - stress.

These bugs have been way more noticeable this week than last. Perhaps because when I was being lazy, I wasn't pushing for strength that wasn't there cos of the bugs. Back at work tomorrow again and I have two secret weapons ... Coffee and Mini Eggs !
Yep. A fix for anything.

Including disasters happening at the same time as the meters were being changed ...

Disaster number 2 is easier - I need to stop procrastinating and get the boiler man in ! It won't relight after the pilot light was extinguished for the meter change. Urg. It's done this before, I suspect the thermocouple that tells the boiler that it's safe to light (not overheated) has burned up again. Had that boiler for a while.

Disaster number 1 is fixed but it'll get me talking about PC bits and pieces. Tonight's disaster was the power supply to my desktop going *pop* almost as soon as it was turned back on. It was a Corsair CX600 (600W capacity, decent for budget, good make) that was 4 years and a couple of months old. I don't think it was being particularly stressed. My desktop now has three hard discs and just one moderate power graphics card. Yet the power supply goes bang anyway.

When stuff goes Bang inside a PC, it can be tough to figure out what. The first thing to do is see if anything twitches, anything at all. That means fans trying to start up, lights on the mainboard, things like that. In this case, it was stone dead. (I was also able to test it on an older PC which made noises and shone lights with its own supply).

I've had to buy another Corsair supply (a 750W which may support a second graphics card if I ever do that) because that's all PC World have but they're definitely off the recommended list now*. When there's equally high quality competition, you can afford to blacklist certain suppliers if they let you down. And a power supply should not go bang after just over 4 years.

*(a day later and a correction - I'd still buy a Corsair supply, this one failed gracefully. I've had 2.5** power supplies fail including the Corsair. A no name one went *pop* and took down several other components with it. The protection circuits in the Corsair apparently kept the other bits in my desktop ok. Thumbs up)
**(the 0.5 was where a fan failed and stuck. These things happen ... I resurrected that supply ... but would definitely not recommend opening up a power supply to fix it unless you know the big dangers of electrocution that it exposes you to.)

I'm also blacklisting Roccat. I bought a new mouse from them sometime last year to replace one which was wearing out. I think this one is failing already ... the middle mouse button (the wheel) seems to be loosening up, I suspect I'll be mouse shopping again this year.

The last of the current blacklist is Saitek, these people make flightsticks. Trouble is, their quality has declined severely over recent years. That seems to be the way, a company gets a great reputation and then trades on it for years after while quality declines. I used a Fly.5 from Saitek, which inherited the unwanted yaw problem too many people suffer (It turns hard right when you want to go straight). Other people complain about buttons falling off and throttles failing. The Fly.5 was also very difficult to handle precisely around the middle.

Yep. Today has been way tougher than it should have been. But ...

Desktop PC is now resurrected with a new power supply;
A few regiments of the Dust Bunny army have been exiled from said desktop PC;
Boilerman visit was overdue anyway;
I have Mini Eggs.

PS It's always a wise idea to start up a PC somewhere accessible before closing it all up. Guess who had to pull it out of its hole again in order to put in a power lead that had come out ...