Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Laptop +2 months

I've had my laptop a couple of months (almost) now so it's probably a good time to let people know what I think of it.

Overall, I'm very happy with it and I'm glad I took the plunge when I did instead of waiting for one of the models from this year which sees an Important Feature disappear.
So .... laptop critique and buyers hints if you're looking into laptops.

I acquired an Asus FX503VD-DM080T 15.3" laptop, at the time with a rather hefty discount. (Apparently it's selling without discount at the moment and for much more than I paid ! Woo hoo !) I may have made a slight error because I suspect it has a less good screen than I was expecting. But I'm getting ahead of myself there. Specs ?

As delivered, it has an Intel i5-7300HQ processor. The only things worth knowing there is that when pushed, it's nice and fast ... but not so fast as to be a waste of cash owning something more than you need. Most of the time, a laptop processor won't be doing much. The "HQ" means that it can slow itself down when not doing much in order to give you more battery time.

Other specs - 8GB memory (this should be seen as an absolute minimum)
nVidia 1050 graphics (gotta admit, not actually used this yet !)
A battery that gave about 4 hours of life ... or probably 1 hour if I'd used it for gaming.
A 1 TB conventional disk drive. More on this later.
A camera memory card slot. The newer model doesn't have one of these and I need one to get pictures off my camera. You could do the deed with a USB widget but ... better built in.
No cd/dvd/bluray drive. These are getting pretty optional now and you're honestly better getting a USB drive.

Out of the box, the performance was severely disappointing. As in ... nasty. The problem was that conventional hard disk. I was attempting to copy over the music from the old Macbook Air while the laptop was doing its setting up and updating. Conventional hard discs are a fairly archaic device now which excel in holding lots of data cheaply ... but they're rubbish at getting to that data. They will severely hamper the performance of a machine when you're attempting to do several things at once (or if the machine it attempting to multitask with data).

The answer is to add a Solid State Device drive, which is essentially a few memory chips that still hold data when the power is off. These are lightning fast and totally solve the performance issues. With the addition of a 256GB SSD, the machine is very smooth and I don't notice any slowdowns at all.
Yes computer. Yes you. You're a good boy. (So is my desktop which incidentally is the machine I'm writing this post on !)

Buyer's Tip - do not buy a Windows PC unless you're going to run Windows off an SSD. Running Windows on a conventional drive is pain you don't deserve having inflicted upon you. (Yes our machines at work don't have SSDs - it's nasty).

Buyer's Tip number 2 - you may be able to add an aftermarket SSD (I recommend Crucial SSDs and this one came with a free utility to transfer Windows over) but check the (ALL IMPORTANT) warranty and check whether the laptop supports adding the extra drive. The Asus laptop does but strangely, the retaining screw looks like it's been threadlocked in. Shame on you Asus. The SSD hasn't fallen out yet in two months so ...

Anyway. Super smooth laptop now.

Keyboard is good, although the trackpad suffers when confronted with multiple input. I've disabled tap click because it was being annoying and you have to give it a hand wipe if it gets electrostatic charge.

iTunes runs very nicely, although I've had to adopt a hack application to separate the sound from the laptop from the music that goes to the hifi. The laptop is quieter than I'd like ... but that's a fact of life of laptops. Still, you'd expect to be able to run with the volume not quite at 100%, which is not loud enough. For the music, I'm using a free open source audio routing app to throw the sound over to the hifi via Bluetooth. I'm using a cheap Logitech device that isn't perfect (I can hear occasional break up) but it recovers nicely when disrupted.

What else ?

It's much heavier than the Macbook Air .... but you're comparing an ultralight laptop to a multipurpose gaming laptop. The weight means that it's solidly built. I boycotted HP and Acer because I expected them to have quality control issues. Dell was boycotted due to quality control issues with the screen, which was apparent on the display model at That Computer Store Not-to-be-named.

Windows is annoying. But then you knew that already. Apparently file sharing across the network is broken again. It worked for a little while but I suspect Microsoft have broken something again. What does work is Bluetooth transfer from the phone, this never worked on the Macbook because of ... Apple being Apple.

Think that's it for this totally unstructured laptop review ! It was a worthy upgrade from what I had before and I must check out what its gaming performance is like some time.
Actually after dinner time now !

Monday, October 08, 2018

Book 27 - The Walk of Titanicus

Another book complete !
This one is Titanicus by Dan Abnett, set in the very dark future of Warhammer 40,000. (Attribution for a splendid picture must go to AmazingTrout at the link)

What is Warhammer 40,000 ? For the uninitiated, it is an incredibly dark gaming universe set 38,000 years in our future. When I left it, the Immortal Emperor had been encased for 10,000 years in his Golden Throne on Earth/Terra ever since his body was broken as part of the Horus Heresy which split humanity between the Imperium of Man and the corruption of Chaos.

As a gaming setting, it has everything going for it. Faster than light travel through the warp, which is also where the demons live. Humanity encompasses large areas of the galaxy, although areas are off limits due to the incursions of Chaos, predations of the Orks or the mystery of the Eldar. I gather that there are a few more races joining in now like the Tau, Necrons and they've always had the Tyranids (who ended up owning the Genestealers too for some reason) who are your classic Devouring Swarm.
(The place I got this pic from don't own the copyright, so no attribution for them. This time it's from Pacific Rim)

Oh ! The setting. The Warhammer 40k universe has many worlds, from agricultural, to backwater, to trade to .... industrial hive world. Worlds like Orestes, the setting for Titanicus, have been overtaken by industry. The atmosphere is polluted and everyone clusters together in huge city hives holding millions. The hive spires are above the clouds.

Orestes has several hives, however there are also the slum areas outside the hives. Areas left behind. Areas where the dispossessed and evicted live. The book does a wonderful job of painting all of this, as well as the interaction between the unaltered Imperium society and the mechanically enhanced Mechanicus who work the machines, build the machines, repair the machines.

And this book is all about the machines. And they're big ones ....
Way bigger than that one. (Again, no attribution cos the site I got it from doesn't own the copyright, that'd be the movie, toys and comics people).

Titanicus unleashes the Titans. They are the masters of the WH40k battlefield, standing between 10 metres tall for the scouts, to 23 metres tall for the mainstay Warlords, to even bigger for the Emperor Titans. (I think that scale is wrong but there's wikis for you !)

Picture ? Actual Titans this time ?
There we go. It's from the wiki.

The book does a fantastic job of dramatising an incursion by Chaos Titans onto the world of Orestes. The defenders are vastly outmanned and outgunned, having had their strength drawn away by the eternal wars. To their aid rides the Legio Invictus with their Titans.

The best parts of this book bring out the contrast between the ordinary infantry soldier or tank drivers, going up to the scale of the massive Titans. It's a vastly uneven fight and, be warned, the book does not hold back on the descriptions of what Titan scale weaponry can do to ordinary humans, while the Titan shields barely notice the impact of human scale rifles, with the Titans casually sweeping aside even formations of vehicles.

You feel the terror of the characters involved in the fights and are riding along with them as the explosions and impact of the battles. Dan Abnett is very good at drawing that out in his book. And alongside that, there is the battle going on at home inside the main hive city.

Will Cally and her crew survive ? What will become of the remnants of the tank formation ? How about the engines (Titans) and their crews ? Will the Imperium hold off the forces of Chaos this time ? What will become of the Mechanicus ?

It's an excellent book, although I have to say at least 100 of its 600 pages are lost to a sub plot which distracts away from the main action a little too much. Apart from that and to borrow a phrase from Cyberkitten about the film Battle: Los Angeles, this book is start to finish : Pure unrelenting combat.

Would recommend if you're interested in the Wh40k universe, although probably not for the faint hearted. I read it before a few years ago and enjoyed it as much this time, getting caught up in the ride not knowing whether the characters would survive or if they would face sudden annihilation at the hands on the God Machines.

Next up is The Martian, which I'm enjoying just as much this time as the other times I've read it.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Adventures in Windsor

Thursday saw me heading East. I'd accumulated almost 3 days worth of flexi working credit, so it was time to burn some of that down a bit.

I had an ideal location picked out.
Hello Legoland. I'm going to keep the pictures smaller because there are rather a lot of them (Facebook got 126. Yep. 3 figures worth. Not gonna post 'em all here !), as always .... click for bigger. All of these are taken with my proper camera so there are lots of pixels to see.
Lots of bricks too. The first main ride type area you get to on site is Star Wars and these two are outside. Inside, there are incredible dioramas depicting scenes from the first 6 movies.
They look amazing. And in fact a couple of messages sent to people quite early were along those lines. I was pretty blown away by the dioramas. The site is chock full of them. Some, you might not notice so much.
Check out the fella on top looking to nab your snacks.
Some are a lot more impressive. This fella is highly likely to become an avatar at some point.
And pirates. Quite a few pirates as well. And a Mariachi band. The lunchtime show involved pirates too. Most of the site is targeted at 6 to 12 year old kiddies and their parents but this lunchtime show was fun to watch for me too. Perhaps I am that 6 to 12 year old kiddie in a somewhat older body.

Hell, you should indulge yourself in some harmless fun if you can get away with it. Good for the soul.
Although don't swim. Swimmers might get eaten. Those dragons looked peckish.
Especially that one. Burger Dragon will definitely be an avatar at some point. Lego creations like this were all over the site. Most of the place was theme park, which didn't impress me too much. Too much roller coaster, not enough brick. Saying that though, I didn't actually partake in the roller coaster thing, maybe next time.
Humour too. As I walked past these fellas (and there were more of them), Queen's We Will Rock You was playing.
The really massive treat for me on the site though was Miniland. This had intricate statues inspired by places from all around the globe. USA, Britain, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Russia, China, India and quite probably a few more too. Need to go back to refresh the memory.
We have lift off ? Yep. That is a giant Lego Space Shuttle and launch gantry. There's a crawler transport vehicle too and models representing the rest of Kennedy Space Centre. Definitely fanboyed over that.
Had great weather too, check out that sunshine.
Enough sun for crisp, clear shadows. Erm ... Totally didn't intend for my own shadow to be in shot ! Wear hats if the sun is as powerful as this folks.
The amount of detail was amazing, as was the number of different landmarks. Quite a few from London and beyond.
Wonder if they move the stones when the clocks change ? Couple more before I close ?
If you haven't watched The Mole sketch by Jasper Carrott, you've heavily missed out.
I loved this scene hidden outside the Atlantis aquarium area. That's definitely better visited than on camera (the low light wasn't so good for camera).

Just one more ! Star Wars again, this ... was larger than me.
Here's a video of them building it and ... those are small Lego star fighters dotted around the outside.

Great day. Had fun, enjoyed the visit, when can I go again ?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Book 26 and an Iron Fisted Wraith

Back to books !

It feels like it's been a long time. Quite spookily coinciding with the cricket season and the reactivation of the Warcraft sub.
(Picture unattributed - it's from Pinterest and they don't play nice at all with attribution. Let me know if it's yours, if you'll let me keep it there and it you want a note/link).

To the book ! More natter later.

This one was Iron Fist, the second in the X Wing Wraith Squadron books by Aaron Allston. It picks up on an excellent start from the first book and runs from there. There are new characters to replace those lost in the first book. Not all of the squadron survives this book either ... It's part of why these books have a certain compelling factor to them, you don't know who is going to survive out of the characters that don't have Plot Armour*.

*Plot Armour - a device where certain things have to happen, certain characters have to be in one piece for later. Like Picard could get captured (multiple times actually), Data could have his head blown off ... but they'll be back for the next episode.

Anyway. The story in this one follows the first, where the Republic born from Rebellion is trying to track down and deal with the Warlord Zsinj. He's an elusive one .... with a very powerful and nigh on unchallengeable Super Star Destroyer, the Iron Fist of the title of the book.

Just for chuckles ... Lego Super Star Destroyer build video ! I'd love to put one of these together but ... It's still £550+ for an unopened one on That Auction Site Everyone Knows About.

To the book !

Yep. The Wraiths are set up this time as a pirate band, with them even stealing the fighters they use to prey on a star system. The hallmark of these books is clever tactics and strategy, where it's believable that the squad have everything in hand for the plan .... and then react as the plan falls apart around them.

Oh and the characters have a lot of fun throughout the books and you, the reader, are invited to share in that totally free form fun.

I won't put too much more but I'm looking forward to reading the last book of this three and then there's Isard's Revenge if I can find where I buried it in the mountain of books.
I'd say that's me but ..... I suspect Cyberkitten got there first and stole the chair.

Actually no ! The shadow off to the left is Cyberkitten's mountain of books ... towering over mine.

I may acquire more Stuff tomorrow. Legoland ! Looking forward to it. On a school day too. (I have tonnes of flexi credit built up and I need to burn some of it down).

I haven't been posting much lately, the ideas haven't been flowing like they can do. Hopefully another post soon !

Haha, I suspect a Legoland post may appear over the weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

This will likely be very random.

There ! You were warned.

Now let's see what random thoughts are in my head :
Quite.

I've been ... cruising along is probably the right term for it ? Work is busier than usual ... and there's a change coming there too. More on that in the next month or so when we figure out what it's going to be. I'm highly valued where I am at the moment ... but the boss people are actually quite supportive and want to put me in a spot where I'll be happier. Quite where that be depends on what the best fit is ... and that will need a little thought and not rushing into things.

As per usual, I'll set things up so they don't have to chase me (too much) for "Sleepy how do that ?"

That's enough about work though. It's often a challenge (be boring if it wasn't), always fun and there are some great people around in the team who politely laugh when I unleash daftness on them. That can happen a fair bit. Because if I draw out chuckles from them, that cheers me up a lot.

I like being around people who chuckle at the daftness.

Check this daftness out :
Yes.

You are right.

It is an abomination of a race car. TRUE ! I fully admit to that. Stands out though. I've been enjoying playing Motorsport Manager again. It's early days (and I've injected a huge amount of cash to allow me to skip the early game, finish last all the time but grind for money) but at the start of season 2, the team will start to challenge the leaders ...

It's a great game for the strategy person who is also interested in motor racing. The racing side of it seems very nicely done and gives believable (and quite challenging to win) races. The strategy side between races has its contrivances like the money model working per race instead of per month like is usual for things like salaries. The workers don't get paid in the off season ! But outside of that, it is an incredibly sound and accessible racing managing game and I'd heavily recommend it to anyone interested in that. It's a rare game that is harsh and fair at the same time. If you make mistakes in this one, you'll be punished. But the logic behind it is impeccable. The game stemmed from a mobile game, which was simpler but also pretty good.

There will likely be more screenshots from Motorsport Manager but it's one I'll enjoy playing offline.

Roguetech might get another look too, although I'm waiting for patching with that one. The mod requires the current beta patch, which has a few issues.

There will be another video at some point ... all plans to do that in Roguetech were abandoned due to how awkward I found it to set up (self inflicted wounds with a mod).

What's the video about ? I need to open this game again soon ! I kinda want to do that when I can record though, which needs quiet time and enough concentration to be ok with the voice and not make a total hash of it. I will be coming out with Firefly quotes like ...

I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar ... closely followed by :
Did something just fly off my gorram ship ?
(Battery compartment !) Curse your sudden yet inevitable betrayal ...
This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then - explode.
Firefly was an amazing series full of wonderful, interesting characters. It would be wonderful to pay a little homage to it while making a video about a futuristic frontier pilot.

More quotes ! From Serenity courtesy of IMDB and from the Firefly series courtesy of wiki people. Go peek ! I bet you'll be chuckling and laughing within the first few lines.

I've also been spending the time in Stellaris ... The plan for this game didn't start out this way ... but it kinda turned into seeing how long we could go without going to war, while still being strong. We managed 205 years before I got pulled into a war by the other people in the Federation. I actually quite enjoyed that unintentional pacifism, enough to perhaps try an actual Totally Pacifist race ...

They fight to defend themselves ... but the one I'll do will have issues with talking to other people. Could be a good one for the Star Trek Next Generation ship models mod that I have waiting.

Anyway. Stellaris was left last weekend in about 2425, with a War In Heaven about to break out. Not decided yet which way I'll go in that ...
An older map ... My mob are now in a federation with two of the races at the top and we spread into all that empty space over to the right of the map.

Talking of starry things ...
Advent is sorted ...

One last random thought .... I'm up to 3202 tracks listened to so far on the laptop ! A few have been favoured by the random number generator and listened to 3 or 4 times so far. There is still only a 1 in 5 chance (rounded) of a repeat track ... Must get the new Ting Tings album soon. They do great music.

Hmm.

Just listening to the lead track off their coming soon album. Could take some getting used to. Wrong Club is amazing though.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Two mechs enter. One Mech leaves.

Curious isn't it ?

The catch phrases that stay with you and that you keep using sometimes come from really poor sources. In the case of that last one, it comes from Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome where the law is Two Men Enter. One Man Leaves.

A crazy film ... probably the second best of the 3 Mel Gibson Mad Max films. (The second is the best in my opinion). The newest Mad Max with Charlize Theron stealing the show is the best one in a crazy series of super daft movies. Must watch that newest movie again sometime.

I need someone to draw me a MechaSleepyDwagon at some point too :-). Maybe spoilers for why I want it. I have someone in mind .... They're called Alex Foxtrot Whiskey and here's a link to their site. And .... ideal post thumbnail pic !
I was quite chuffed and impressed when the Alex delivered that and its fellows on the big pic.

Just had my tea actually. I don't think there will be any gaming tonight. Pain level has gone into moderate level with occasional yelpy spikes. I'll be ok there, just my body telling me to have an easier night than usual without dipping into the games.

They've been frustrating ... As I mentioned in the last post, I tried checking out the Battletech Roguetech mod. It vastly expands on the equipment available and opens up all sorts of possibilities with the engines of destruction that you control in game. But ....

Modding in the Dragon with Tea icon from the last post apparently irretrievably broke my profile (I got it up and running with a different email address) and that was the start of problems. I eventually did get the mod running but .... got frustrated and tired with it.

A video series on that would have been an utter nightmare.

I haven't been in Warcraft for just over a week as well .... I think I just found other things to play and watch ! Many streams have been on. Oh and the Warcraft playstyle tends to aggravate the pain issues instead of alleviate them.

Other games ? I did really enjoy watching the cricket over the weekend. It's been a classic series where one side seems to be on top. Then they blow their advantage. One side seems to have blown it. And then come out on top of the other team. That's what we need in sport. Predictability leads to boredom. Cricket depends on wickets falling, the mostly unpredictable event. However .... the wickets are usually set up by the bowler out thinking the batsman and coming out with something that's a huge surprise.

That's the plan at least. One of the issues I have with the Battletech game is that almost all of the missions see you outnumbered 2 to 1. Never 4 or 5 enemies facing your 4 mechs. Always 8. Or 9. Or more. Without an ongoing campaign to hook me in, I got bored with that.

I tried out one called Frontier Pilot Simulator. Here's a pic from their site :
I think this one is highly promising. It could well herald a video or two.

What is it ? It's an early access game set on an alternate near Earth planet in a scifi universe.

The game sets you in the pilot seat of an advanced helijet. The engines you see on the wings there rotate forward and back to move you around. But ... you quickly find out that's not a good idea because while they're pushing you forward, they aren't holding you up and you plummet like a rock.

They've also implemented ground effect, which is something we see on today's helicopters as well. As they get close to the ground, the rotors that make lift by furiously pushing air downwards get more effective ... The air being pushed down bounces off the ground and pushes the aircraft up more.

This gets rather tense as you're maneouvring over a landing pad that's raised up from the ground. The differing levels of ground effect lead to the aircraft trying to tip over. It's an early access in development game but it looks like they have a really sound flight model.

And all of that is far better shown in a video. Where of course you will see me pinpointing perfect transits and making landings with no issues.

Oh look ! A pig is flying by the window !

The weekend finished off with a dose of Stellaris ... The current game is with a race style I don't play much, it's a bunch of goody goody Federation builders ... With suitable ships :
And the Fleet has grown since then.
I nearly quit out of that game but it's developing nicely. The first war I'll carry out will involve invading an enemy's space via a wormhole. Sounds familiar doesn't it ? But a tad reversed .... I don't have to do that yet so I'm watching the enemy while they fight it out with another neighbour. If one gets strong, I'll attack the strong one before they take over the weaker one.

Lots of scope in that game.

It's been too long since I've been in the books too ! I'm still midway through XWing Wraith Squadron - Iron Fist. I may go back to that one tonight.

Later !

Monday, September 03, 2018

In the Stars .... plotting.

I've been getting lost in that Stellaris game again ...

Gaming is good at the moment. On the one hand, I'm enjoying my time in World of Warcraft again with an active guild and fun stuff to explore. That may be a little time limited perhaps though. On the other, I had an epic Stellaris campaign that I took all the way through to fighting the Fallen Empires (brutal campaigns) and an end game crisis.

We need a thumbnail though ! Check this out.
I'm working up to doing a heavily modded Battletech play through using the Rogue Tech mod, plus a little addition of my own. Check out the Company Logo. I haven't started that yet because I may well record the play through, for however long it goes. I'd be heavily editing that, because after a while the battles blur into each other. So I'd be picking out the important parts and wrapping a few battles together.

Looking forward to it.

I said to someone not too long ago that I'd tell them whether I thought the Stellaris DLCs were worth buying ... Here we go :

Apocalypse - gives you planet killer weapons and space pirates. Optional, the space pirate marauders are highly annoying and the planet killer weapons are end game things.
Utopia - buy this one. This expansion opens up a new set of Ascension perks and other mechanics.
Distant Stars - meh. Optional. It opens up new clusters of the galaxy with hidden dangers ... I haven't seen these properly fire yet ... but I'm only in my second game with them in. More buy than not buy.
Synthetic Dawn - buy it. This one allows you to play as machine races, which are an interesting variation on playing as the typical organic. Things like energy being required instead of food and actively needing to build up the population instead of watching it grow naturally.
Leviathans - Optional, it adds in a series of mid level power encounters which are quite varied in nature and level of menace. I enjoy these encounters and I'd miss them.

Ones I don't own (make your conclusions as to whether I recommend them !)
Humanoids, Plantoids - give you new ship models and species appearances. Meh.

On top of that is a vast array of mods that are available for the game. I'm using a few quality of life improvements (like a speed dial feature) and some mods that change and expand on game mechanics. Oh and then there's the ship models :
Click for bigger as per usual ! At this point, the Swarm had 10 fleets of 40k power each. Each of those is a fairly powerful fleet. The game makes you split your fleet up like this and it's a good feature when you get used to it. Each separate fleet can be given attack duty, blockade duty or back to base for upgrades or repairs.

In the above shot, I'd gathered the massed fleets together for an invasion of a Fallen Empire homeworld. My swarm had 10x 40k power fleets, the enemy had a few 60k power fleets plus a hefty space station. A brutal fight but the swarm prevailed.

The mod in this case is the Star Wars Rebel Ships mod and the larger ships are Mon Calamari cruisers forming the Battleship wings. If you zoom in real close, you may be able to make out a mass of Corellian Corvette zooming around.
This was the final fleet action of the game, with 12 massed Swarm fleets advancing on the last vestige of the Machine Contingency which had awoken to sterilise the galaxy with only the Swarm able to deal with them.

It was an intense campaign when it kicked off in the end game. Very enjoyable.

The latest campaign has quite different ships. I've only unlocked the corvettes and destroyers so far. Here they are :
Shiny ! The next game will have Next Generation ships and something must have gone horribly wrong because I'll be playing a machine assimilator race.

Warcraft ? I definitely enjoyed the social aspect of the raid I was involved in on Saturday. We made an attempt at battering the content from the last expansion. The social side was awesome, with lots of fun over the voice comms. But it did remind me of the very fiddly and punishing mechanics that exist in the raid encounters in WoW. A single mistake or misunderstanding of the mechanics is punished very heavily.

I think that's made up my mind somewhat on how heavily I'll stay in WoW in the weeks to come. A younger me would have been grinding away to get to the required gear level and I'd have been training myself in raid modes. (I have an idea ... but haven't played that idea for quite some time).

I'd honestly rather play different games now than be subject to those raid mechanics. Like Stellaris !

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Bee-ing Gromit Hunting and .... a video

More Gromit hunting happened ! Oh and I also reopened that video editing thing ...

This was from Friday last week and it completed the tour. Pics ?
That's from the app and the Light as a Feather was the last one to visit. This was a harder trail than the ones before, there is a lot more gradient involved on that side of town. (Or it was a factor of not feeling that great when starting off).
It started off at Clifton Downs, with George Wallace before heading back into the area by Park Street. There are lots of pretty buildings there (and a Forbidden Planet for peeking at the geeky stuff).
If you looks real close, there's a Gromit in the sightline to the door.
Gromit of the day. A very bright Thermogromit. More sights of the day involved the Clifton Suspension Bridge :
Bridge ... and Bristol Hound Gromit.
More Bridge. From a considerably higher up position than the other picture. The bridge took 33 years to actually build in all (with a pause) and was completed after the death of the original designer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Here's more info (click for bigger as per usual).
I wrote after posting the picture for the last one : "What a long strange trip it's been." It's taken me to parts of Bristol I'd never have considered going to but enjoyed visiting, some parts I'll never go to again (bit rough) and some bits I will definitely look to check out more thoroughly in the future. Worth it. Would I do it again ? Probably not. I still have unfinished business with a couple of them where the shop they were in was closed when I got there.

That's the big comment that I've said before about this turn of Gromit Unleashed, a few too many were locked up behind doors after certain times of the day. Previously, access by the public was pretty much guaranteed.

You want the big pic ... There is a big pic ! Here we go :
Click for bigger again. At thumbnail size, it's pretty much just a jumble of random colour. Apologies for the slightly odd resolution, I was aiming for 1080p but for some reason, couldn't remember the other dimension. Oops !

Talking of 1080p ...

I've been in the video game video game again. This time it was a Warcraft video about one of the achievements. I actually quite enjoyed making it and I've been having the thoughts of doing more. The issues with that are varied but first ... the video :
I hope that doesn't autoplay. The last thing I want is that someone visits a website I'm responsible for and suddenly something starts blaring out with the sound.

Hope you like it ! Not sure if I'll make many more videos and definitely won't be giving up the day job as would be required for making one or two daily videos. Why is that ?

Ideas - the one above is pretty much a one-off. I wouldn't want to subject people to levelling videos. I started watching a much better video person than I (Tradechat !) and I couldn't stick with it. Let's play type series are good though, where you talk around the gameplay of a series like Battletech or XCom 1/2. The creativity comes from how you play the game and how you react to what's going on.

Time - this is the big one. For each video, there is a necessary production and set up time. For the 11.5 minute video above, it needed :
10 minutes or so of time around the recording time to get the character in the right place and to manage the recording software.
Multiple bits of software working together. This isn't actually an issue. I use nVidia's Shadowplay to record gameplay video and audio and Audacity to capture audio from my headset mic. I then use Magix Vegas to stitch them all together. I do it this way because it allows me to mute the voice audio when I sniffle or sneeze (v important) and it allows me to tweak the levels for betterness.
(words are being hard tonight)
Editing time - this needs at least the run time of the video, preferably at least double.
Rendering time. This is where Vegas takes what you produced and turns it into something suitable for uploading to Youtube. The 11.5 minute above took 46 minutes to render on my desktop or would have taken 29 minutes on my laptop. So I'd be doing rendering for further videos on the laptop. It's a very heavy cpu activity, so you wouldn't be able to capture more video while a first is rendering.
Upload time. It felt like this took a couple of hours on my 5Mbit/s line. The actual video was 1.45GB for 11.5 minutes.

I hope you like the video ! One person watched it and the feedback was "You need to make more videos". And that came from the person who got me caught on watching Twitch streams. Coming from the lovely HeyChrissa (link on the right), that comment gave me a huge happy feel.

Maybe more videos again at some point. I quite enjoyed making a video again and was looking for excuses to make more.

I've been buried in Stellaris for the long bank holiday weekend though (outside of a couple of Photoshop/Gimp projects!) and Stellaris was objecting to the Shadowplay capture software ... just pics from that.

But that's for another post ... First :
Building with pointy roof !

Monday, August 20, 2018

Gromit Hunting Laptop Taming Lego Jetting

Back at work now !

And feeling like I could do with another holiday. Let's see :

Thursday - I'd given up on getting the laptop working with my old Airport Express so I went out Gromit Hunting, with an objective of acquiring a Bluetooth based widget after finishing up the Gromit Hunting.

Success !
Champion indeed.

I'm up to 55 out of 67 Gromits, Feathers and Wallaces now and I'm hoping for cool, clear skies on Friday to finish them off. I've enjoyed hunting them down, although some are in odd places this time. Definitely places I won't be interested in going anywhere near if this event happens for a 4th time. Bristol has some very rough places. Not so rough obviously ... but places that you suspect could turn very rough if you visited at the wrong time. (I live in a good area).

More Gromits !
Or Feathers even.
There we go. That's the Marshal, keeping an eye on an idyllic setting at Chew Magna lake.

Yep. Not many more Gromits to go before I see them all. That's Friday afternoon's plan. Did I mention music ?

I'd previously used an Apple Airport Express to stream music from laptop to hifi across the network. A good bit of kit, it worked pretty well although it needed the network gear resetting occasionally because it would lose the connection.

Things got a lot worse with it last week, where it would drop the connection and the audio stream after a few hours play. Efforts to fix it (updated firmware and moving it to a socket where it had more air for cooling - it runs warm) were in vain and I started looking for an alternate solution. I actually had that solution in mind already and acquired a Logitech Bluetooth audio adaptor. (Disclosure note - I paid for it, it was not a freebie). I'd thoroughly recommend it. Sounds good, so easy to set up that they barely give you a manual (if you've set up anything on Bluetooth, you don't need a manual for this) and it's been rock solid. Ok, there have been one or two minor glitches in the audio but these are very infrequent and last less than a fraction of a second.

Yep. Recommended. It is a standalone bit of kit that picks up the audio from Bluetooth and routes it to any sound device via headphones or RCA phono cables.

A while ago, I read a hifi mag report on wireless speakers and I was very disappointed at the time. It didn't have anything that could turn your existing hifi into a wireless receiver. It just covered stuff that was massively overpriced and was pretty much a second hifi. They didn't cover the Bluetooth adaptors ... and didn't cover that Apple Airport Express. Hifi mag very interested in having you buy the kit that comes from the people who advertise with them and Logitech and Apple don't advertise with them much.

Be wary of the motives of people who tell you to buy certain things ... have they given that proper disclosure note to show their motives. I add short ones because a disclosure note is an FCA required thing ... at least I think it's FCA. It's required in any case. I might even need to add "#ad" somewhere.

Anyway. Laptop is mostly tamed. I just need to :

Acquire a decent email client as the standard Microsoft one is utter garbage. I would rather pay for a new one than use that for much longer. The big issue with it is that I can't see where to set up a series of archive folders. I'd routinely pop invoice emails into a "Business" folder and new account set up things into a "Computing" folder. And similar. There doesn't seem to be a clean way of archiving stuff you want to actually keep.

More picture !
Gosh this build turned into a bit of a marathon. Can you tell what it's going to be from that ? The undercarriage set up may give it away.

Lots of moving parts in this one, including an undercarriage that goes up and down plus an F35-like lift fan with doors above and below that open up. The canopy also lifts up and the twin tails go left and right.

It took a while (maybe 10 hours) and here it is :
A comment : "Wow it's huge !". Yep. It's a big unit. Sadly back up to full price now too ! (I got it for £30 off).

And I now have the craving for more lego. Haha !