Sunday, August 02, 2015

Things That Make Me Happy

Been struggling for Good ideas for posts lately and by Good I mean happy theme posts instead of BEWARE THIS DANGER type posts.

And then I saw ...
Perfect !

But before I dive in to that, yeah - been struggling for post ideas. You don't (at least this is what I think!) want to hear about my adventures in virtual worlds. I watch a lot of Youtube gaming videos which gives me an idea of what's interesting and ... Elite doesn't make for interesting watching. It makes for interesting playing (for me!) but you have to filter heavily what you talk about with it. That's like ... new ships, trading routes (yawn), helping with community goals, getting promotions.

Oh and the Cookie Clipper finally has a suitable name since coming out of mothballs ... She's been rebadged "These Aren't The Cookies You're Looking For". I bet R2 approves from his galaxy far, far away. I wonder if I should call the Space Truck "Centennial Sloth" because of all the special modifications.

Good things ?

Music. Definitely music. I've been listening to 4 new albums lately as I do that thing of listening to individual tracks first before the album to check them out.

Taylor Swift - Red. Great album. Has some excellent tracks. She just keeps giving us great music, long may it continue.
Lucy Rose - Work It Out. Another top album, it's even better than her first.
Steve Gregan's soundtrack for Guild Of Dungeoneering. Has the great mini song tracks that give the game a lot of its charm. Mostly background music though.
Scott Bradley's Post Modern Jukebox. Nah. Won't get any more from these. They have a certain style. Some of their covers are as good, if different, some of their covers (Living on a Prayer) butcher the original. But I don't regret buying it as you have to form your own opinions on these.

And then there's also an excellently boppy Working Girl from Little Boots and more excellence from Taylor Swift with 1969. There's a tonne of great music out there to listen to. Especially if England foil your plans of listening to the cricket on the way home by finishing the game early. Great stuff our boys :-).

Cute pets !
There he is again, our Ben with tail a-wag as per usual. I think that tail wags in his sleep.

Pizza. Oh pizza how I love you and hate you at the same time. I have to pick my moments with pizza, it adds inches to my waist and the acid I make from the cheese makes it tough to sleep but ... it's pizza and I shall love it always. It's just that good.
Computers can be tough to love but they do give us much more contact with the outside world than we would have had before. Hey, maybe we would have been propping up bars to meet people instead of seeing who we see over the bytes and bits.

And then there's the games (some awesome, some poor, some incredibly frustrating due to interminable bugs) and the variation and portability the computer gives me with my music. I listen to far more variety now than before due to those soft rules I have for picking the next album that I'll queue up. Next is Moby's Play, which I'd have mostly ignored without those soft rules but ... it's still a great occasional listen.

Coffee. Coffee is life. And I haven't had any since Thursday. Roughly 4.30 pm I believe. Yep. If you can remember hours without coffee, that's probably a sign of a teensy, weensy touch of addiction.
That kettle is going on right after I hit that Publish button.

Last and most important is that You.

Yes. You. You reading this right now. You're awesome.
It gives me a massive lift seeing the hits coming in here from ... everyone ! But that'd be the regulars in particular. It reminds me that there are great people out there looking after me, looking out for me, being interested in what I write, what I'm doing, where I'm going.

And then there's also the people who make closer interaction than that. Those who hit the Facebook Poke button, those who bounce the messages over to me, people who assure me through regular contact that I'm a part of their lives, people who I help or help me during work. Perhaps that jester on the shoulder part of their life but if I make one person smile or chuckle or laugh in a day, that's a good day.

We can't live this life on our own, it gets supremely better when there are other people around to make you happy, or for you to make happy by making jokes for them or just even being around to be part of their lives too.

See if you can make someone else happy today ?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Man vs Drone

We're seeing tech get ever more into our lives.

That's intrusive tech, invasive tech, playful tech used intrusively ... other things. A common theme there is what people do with the tech.

The latest is an incident in the USA, where someone has taken the law into his own hands to shoot down a drone that was hovering over his (and neighbour's) property.

Here's the info from Register ...

Basically, a group of people were flying a drone over a neighbourhood which was (allegedly) dropping into gardens for a peek. Cue shotgun wielding person to shoot it out of the sky. There was then a confrontation as the people owning the drone came to say hello (+ a bit) and they got threatened with a pistol as they approached Shotgun Guy's property.
Let's see :

The drone was close enough to the house to be hit by a shotgun. This is very bad. You could reasonably assume as the homeowner, that the drone was spying on the daughters or looking for valuables/burglary entry points.

Shotgun guy did what he could to minimise risk to the neighbourhood (he used birdshot ammo which has a low terminal velocity / shouldn't hurt anyone on the way down).

Drone was being used to film someone (I am not inclined to believe this).

A pistol was used to threaten people. This is very bad.

And there's more in the article.

But what makes this just one example of a very bad trend is that these drones are being used for all sorts of mischief. We're seeing increasing incidents where drones are being flown near airports, dangerously close to aircraft. Here's another Register link.

This is very serious. If a drone hits an aircraft, or gets pulled into an engine, that could result in the murder of the several hundred people on board. And I fully mean that term "murder", the act of flying a drone close enough to an airliner to endanger it is a premeditated act.

It's not the tech, machine, weapon or automobile that kills people, it's the people in control of it.

Drones are the latest new toy. People don't think they are subject to the same rules of nicety that society depends on. They think, NEW TOY ! MUST PLAY, without considering that they are causing offence or injury. It used to be rock music being played too loud for the neighbour trying to get sleep around shift work, now it's peeping toms graduating from a camera in a tree to a camera on a drones.

Do I agree with the offended homeowner getting rid of the drone ? Yes.
Do I think they should have used a shotgun ? No. Too much can go wrong with firearms.
How about the threat with the pistol ? This would have you see prison time in UK. USA is a little weird with its gun culture.
What do I think they should have done ? A non-lethal method of taking down the drone.

You don't need a shotgun to take down the drone, frying its electronics should do equally well. Although there is that thing of what happens to the drone when it falls out of the sky.

I definitely think something needs to happen for airport safety. The French had problems with drones being flown around their nuclear plants too. It needs to happen before someone takes down an airliner.

But we also need to remember how to play with our toys. Do it safely. Don't endanger people. Don't do stuff that will earn you a punch on the nose if someone figures out if it was you.

This is a bit of a downer post again - I'm struggling to come up with positive posts !
I use that one a lot don't I ?

I need some good ideas for fun posts. More memes please ! More inspiration !

Ok. Last night had some good inspiration. I went to see Inside Out with the work-ish crew. (CQ, CK and BD) Good movie, Pixar keep coming out with excellent movies and even better shorts before hand. Lava was almost as good as the dog one. We went to Frankie and Benny's before and ... they have a new waitress.

This waitress has that magical combination of pretty-cute, intelligence, a fun manner and a smile to warm your heart. CQ has a picture which may appear on Facebook at some point. And when she asked me what dessert I wanted, out comes a smile, my soul got lost in her eyes and .... sigh. Mind blank.
I know a few more people like that who do that to me too. Hello Pretty Ladies ! Yep. That means you. Reading this. (If you're a lady, I think I have male readers too. You're cool as well).

When I see that smile with a bubbly chuckle, when I get messages that say I'm better than I think I am (low self confidence), when positivity comes my way, when people laugh at me being jokey/goofy, when people say they value my opinion or knowledge, part of me is doing that Sigh - Mind Blank.

You smile, I smile, world is good.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lots of FUD out there at the moment

That'd be Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Although I do prefer this type of FUD :
Philospher Kitteh asks the right questions.

So this Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt ? There's two fairly high profile technology related worries (and a bunch more that aren't so critical) out there at the moment.

First up - anyone with an Android phone (or tablet that can pick up text messages) should be very concerned right now about their device being hijacked. Here's the Register story about it. Basically, there is a critical bug in one of the core bits of software on Android that makes the phone vulnerable to Nasties delivered via text message. The attacker only needs to know the phone number to attack (and our telecoms companies have obliged by leaking all those numbers) and the payload automatically executes from the text message.

This is something that could have been done for years, from the preview pane in your email client. That client is usually actually running something like Internet Explorer code, which is subject to all of the vulnerabilities that has.

The difference this time is that it cannot be readily patched like what you can do with an internet browser. My old Sony Xperia X10i mini was so locked down by the original equipment manufacturer that I couldn't update to later versions of the software. It would have been riddled with security holes.

What can you do about it ? Very little. The attack can be executed to leave no trace, the offending text with the Nastie can be set to self delete.

We'll have to see what the tech companies come up with on this one. I hear that Google's Nexus is already patched, haven't a clue about the other companies. It could be time to give in to that upgrade temptation to get something with newer, fixed software. (Although I'd hold off a month or two for the fix to happen).

The other big one is attacks on the software in cars.
Not that car. Although it is a rather pretty car. Curves are awesome on anything.

Nah. You look at my car and compare it to my first, the only transistors in my first car were in the radio. My current car has a tonne of technology, some of which interconnects :

Drive by wire - throttle and brake all go through a computer. Steering is happily independent, although it is power assisted.
Infotainment suite - radio, satnav, car monitoring Stuff. Loads of technology. It has a DAB radio which sends traffic info to the satnav. It can connect to the internet via a suitable device like my phone.
Electronic instruments - this isn't so bad. Because if they all go dark, you can tell how fast you're going by just keeping those eyes on the road.
Networks in the car to handle lights and all the other bits n pieces.

The scary news from last week was the possibility of using DAB to attack a car's electronic systems. So someone would set up a DAB broadcaster and use it to inject the attack code into a car's systems.

Am I worried about that one ? Should you be worried ?

I don't think so. Cars are designed to fail safe. The possibility of a stuck throttle is a problem that exists on all things with an engine. It's a story from before I was born but my dad gave up motorbikes due to nearly being killed by a bike where the throttle stuck open. That could happen to the Cobra replica above, which could only be fixed by turning the engine off at which point you're in a missile with no power steering, no power brakes and a lot of kinetic energy which promise Ouch.

Different vector of Bad Things Happening, same result. And the drive by wire systems should not be vulnerable to external attack. "Should".

Jeep with their Cherokee are the ones being fingered at the moment and they're already sending out patch fixes. If you have an affected car, the recall notice will be out soon which will offer a free fix.

There's danger in pretty much everything in this world, despite the efforts of many to wrap us all up in cotton wool and mittens and fuzzy things. Hell, the stress of having all that danger on your mind might kill you.

Don't think about the bad things. Cars are far safer now than when I started driving. I borrowed a Rover Metro (while my horrid 420 was being fixed) which I thought of as a tin coffin. If anything had tapped me on the road, I had the feeling it would fold itself into a bloody Sleepy Sausage. Cars these days have all sorts of impact protection, airbags, other stuff to keep them running right and to allow you to walk away in an accident. Not sure if you'd walk away from an accident in that Cobra.

Our world is becoming a safer place. Believe that. Hold that thought close.

Oh and spare a thought for the engineers and other design people who try to make it that way !
Go on ! Give your pet engineer a hug. And then try to avoid tripping them up when they run away screaming. Or ... give them something shiny to distract them. They'll like that.
Which is pretty much what I think when I jump into a new star system in Elite and see that big glowing ball of fire in front of me which is the new system's star.
Pretty baubles.

Stay safe, think of shiny things and try not to dwell too much on the bad stuff.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Alright Young Man

That's not something I hear too often.

It was in (that big computer goods store) after I finished having a little chat with the Apple fella who sold me my iPad. Not sure if he recognised me* but he got over that little trip quickly to give me some handy info about the Apple TV.

*lots of shop people recognise me after I go back in a few times. Wonder why that is. Perhaps it's the grin and me looking them in the eye when the grin comes out ?
Smiles are awesome.

Respect is too. I think the other reason why the shop people recognise me is politeness and respect vibes that I try to send their way. Retail is tough. Any customer facing job is tough. The assumption is that the customer is always right, even when the customer is being a blithering idiot, swearing and generally being rude to the poor person on sub-living wage trying to get through a day working in probably bad conditions in the shop or eating place.

So I try to pass on good vibes to make their day a bit better. And ... it gets me things like smiles in return (which always cheers me up) and hey ! it sometimes gets me bigger portions. Win.

So how come I was out there at the Mall tonight ? Simple - needed petrol and didn't want to get it from the supermarket this time. Bit too close to when I went shopping last time and I didn't need that much. But I do like to feed the car when it asks. I have maybe 70-80 miles from when the light comes on but it's daft to cut it too close to the bottom of the tank when you don't really need to.

(Snack count = snacks still present in cupboard) (although the popcorn is a little low)

Nah. I wanted to do a little scouting too. I have a couple of items on my techie wish list :

Apple TV. This is an interest thing rather than a big want. It's a device that feeds the telly (or in my case, my AV amplifier) with all sorts of things, like the usual internet TV subs (Netflix) and the rest of those. It also gives a pathway for sending pictures and audio from devices like my Macbook and iPad to the telly. Handy for streaming video, possible replacement for an Apple Airport Express which I think is failing.

I don't think I really need it though.

The other is a keyboard for my desktop. Mine is getting stiffer with age and I've had it for quite a few years now. There are two categories of keyboard :

Standard keyboards are either wired or wireless. Wireless is a complete waste of time for me and I'll actively avoid them. It's not just the need for batteries, it's also signal loss and lack of response from them. I almost put a bug report in on Star Wars Old Republic when I was playing the beta, because my character would just stop doing things for many seconds at a time. It wasn't the game, it was a rubbish and fairly new (therefore no excuse from low batteries) Microsoft wireless keyboard. The only reason to get a wireless keyboard would be for the Macbook or iPad and even there, the screen keyboard and Macbook keyboard are just fine.

I may get a standard keyboard to replace this one. No frills keyboards are what I look for. Elite emphasises that, there's barely enough room for this standard keyboard beside the flightstick.

The other type of keyboard is the gaming keyboard ...
Yep. Silly. These tend to add on extra buttons for macros, extra wrist rest things (non removable). Lots of protuberances that make the keyboard look special (translation - stuff that just gets in the way). These keyboards are too wide to work in the space I have available.

(Says he looking at all the rubbish I haven't thrown away that's sitting on top of the desk).

Oh they also come with mechanical keyswitches and a 0 added on to the price. A few keyboards ago, I had a mechanical keyswitch board and it was outstanding. I may have to look for it, I may still have it.

The big reason why I'll avoid getting a "gaming" quality keyboard is not the weird design or the extra buttons, although I'm tempted by having proper mechanical (noisy!) keyswitches again. No - it's the ridiculous price hike that gets attached to anything premium.

Flashy labels do not make a premium product, although they make the price premium.

Enough about the techie stuff - but I will leave you with a couple of rules there :

Look for function first of all. Does it do the job you want it to ?
Is it superfluous ? If you don't need it, don't buy it. Sounds obvious doesn't it ?
Are you paying too much ? I'm not paying £100 for a keyboard.
Does something else do it better ?
Will it last for you ?
Is it what you want to buy or what they want to sell ?

That last one is a biggie. Ask yourself your motive for spending money, are you being convinced to buy something that isn't the best for your money ? Beware the persuasive salesperson.

Even if they do posess a winning smile, wonderful dimples (this had nothing to do with me switching to Npower a good few years ago - honest) and a charming manner.

Although tonight - the one who left off a conversation with "Alright young man", emphasis on the young :

He can have all my money.
PS Leg check - all good. It's 90% repaired and took tonight's walking around at work and at the Mall in its stride. Not tested it as far as running across the road to dodge unsuspecting cars (who should have been indicating and looking where they were driving) yet.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I needed that pizza, I really did

Honest.
Nah. I needed to test my leg. But before that ...

I've had a couple of away days ! It was actually supposed to be 3 away days but one got cancelled. I'm closely involved with two parts of the team I'm a part of at work. There's a delivery team and another one that looks more after helping out the people supporting the kit we look after.

But yeah, it's all about getting away for a day or two, away from the distractions of the email and the phones and the people coming up with really important things they want you to do. You know, the sort of thing they should have been doing themselves. And then the days are about getting more from each other in the team and how we can work better as a team. Part of that is how we present ourselves, to get more help from the widest parts of our organisation. Because the more expertise we bring in, the better product we come out with. It's so important to admit that you don't know everything. I definitely don't. And in our organisation, keeping people involved helps with :

Approval to do what your project is supposed to do
Money ! For the project.
Assistance with queries on how to use, what it should be, who's using it, how are they trained
Lessons for how to support what we make. Because support is maybe 10 times the cost of buying our stuff. It's really important to get that right.

(And I'm really happy that one of the people who keeps an eye on me and keeps me pointed in the right direction is a support person. And can I have some tea please ?)
Getting back was interesting yesterday. We had heavy rain that was turning conditions on the motorway towards what I'd describe as "Filthy Nasty". Not dangerous, not spiteful but still pretty nasty. Visibility was way down, which is what turned it nasty. But there was no wind tugging at the wheel and no massive puddles pulling cars in odd directions.

But it was quite scary at times with :
No visibility due to being in 40mph traffic (on 70mph motorway) with big vans in front. Can't see much of the road ahead, so you can't anticipate the accident you're about to be a part of.
Daft people making the road go slow for no apparent reason. There were no reduced speed limits for the bits where we went standstill, so why did the road go standstill ? It happens ... and is very odd.

One of the things they had where we visited was a flight simulator rig. This wasn't quite in the region of big fancy moving massive things but it did have 4 (count 'em) Very Large Screens plus a Cushy Fancy Chair and a medium end flightstick. (It was a Saitek X52 Pro).

Kinda glad I didn't get the X52 that PC World are selling reasonably cheap. It wouldn't have fit on my desk. The Thrustmaster one I bought barely fits on my desk and I have to have it and the keyboard at an angle.

But I digress - the flight sim looked awesome and I could actually get it for my machine. It was X-Plane 10, not sure if I'd get that or MS Flight Sim, although I do already own IL-2 Sturmovik, which is a WW2 flight sim. I play Elite Dangerous a lot but proper flight sims are way more difficult and engaging than space sims.

Proper flight depends on how the lift surfaces interact with the air. If they stop going through the air, gravity takes over and the plane takes a liking to the ground. In Elite, I land by positioning the ship over the landing pad and going straight down. I can go left, right, up, down, forward and back freely. Not so in an aircraft.

How did I do ? It was an abbreviated flight because everyone else was legging it to get lunch and I didn't want to miss that. No time to come around in a racetrack to find the runway and set up an approach, just a dirty dirt landing around the airstrip. I landed ! Hurrah. Nasty one though but I'm happy considering it's the first time I've done any sim time in many, many years.

Right - it's getting dark here and I need to stand up to turn the lights on - did I mention testing my leg earlier ?
Yep. Time to go on a mission.

I really need to find something alternate to drink at bars instead of coke. Beer is out because I have a really low tolerance before I get very ill. Coke is what I prefer but it makes me dehydrated, mucking up my mineral balance.

That's really bad because when I go for sleep later, more often than not I'll cramp up. And that happened on Thursday. I have a couple of different grades for cramp :

Light what was that ? cramp - where I can sort it out without getting out of bed.
Medium ouch cramp - where I need to stand up to sort it out
Heavy cramp - where it cramps hard enough to strain or tear muscles.

And I have literally torn muscles in the past due to cramp. There was a time when I could barely walk for a week, due to tearing both calf muscles. One on the way to a fitness test, one halfway round that test. Kept on going of course (no sense, no feeling).

This is medium/heavy. I've gotten away with it - the leg hurts but I can walk on it easily. It just has zero power available for anything more than walking, like dodging cars. I notice that a lot because I got used to having legs with massive sprinting power (also useful for push starting reluctant cars).

The pizza walk was a good test. And I'll be drinking lots of water too as I get back to the home life pattern.

So that's where I've been ! Doing useful things.

Oh ! The iPhone hotspot tethering worked ... In that the Macbook and iPad could talk to the phone. Pity that the phone barely had any signal and that my Macbook Air (late 2013 model) is one of those with dodgy wifi*.

*(technical explanation - 5GHz new wifi works, 2.4GHz old wifi ... doesn't. But it doesn't know that so it annoys me by trying to use the broken wifi anyway)

And I definitely better leave it there before :
I get too techy on you !
The light gets too dim to type.
I trip over unseen clutter on the way to the light switch.

PS They put my Big Internet Spaceship into a garage that's behind quarantine. I was planning to use it again ! Just having to settle for the beautiful Cookie Clipper (purple edition) instead.
Cya !

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Be what you want to be ...

Although sometimes it may be a little naughty.
I'm going to try and avoid the puns today (and there was much rejoicing !).

Spotted a news story that makes you question the sanity of the people making laws these days. It's about copyright ... Here's the Register link to the story. Basically, you know it's illegal to take a cd that you've bought in a shop or online and make an MP3 copy for your phone or other music player. It did become legal for a while but that story is about the high court overturning the legislation that made it legal.

That means that when I bought Taylor Swift's Red album (only £3 in Sainsburys - a steal !), it would have been illegal for me to have iTunes perform its purpose of converting that to MP3 so I can then put the cd on the shelf and listen to it without fear of the cd getting ruined. I also listen to a far more varied selection of music than if I were always swapping cd's.

That's all good under Fair Use terms right ? I've not passed the copy on to anyone (see later for what I think of iTunes Match), I am listening to the music I bought across the devices I own. Actually wrong. It's about as legal to make the MP3 copy as it is for people to do 80mph on a British motorway (yet everyone seems to do it).

What do I do with my music ?

I'll look around to buy it from the best place. Firstly, if I can buy direct from the artist, I will do that. That's a rare choice though, I've been able to do that for maybe 1% of the albums I own. Secondly, I'll get from the cheapest place I can get it from (see comment about Taylor Swift for £3). Thirdly, I'll refuse to buy an album if I think it's too expensive. (That Taylor Swift album is £10 on iTunes)

And then I'll get it into the Macbook's iTunes library and listen to it from there, or via the iPhone into whatever it's connecting to. That's technically against the law, even though it is Fair Use. Let's look more at that, when I bought The Pretenders album collection :

It was an Amazon cd collection with Autorip. Which means that the cds arrived a few days after a copy of the music had been sent to me via the Amazon player. Copy number 1.
Amazon then copies it from their player to iTunes. Copy number 2.
I then back up my Macbook library to my desktop. Copy number 3.
Selected copies go to my iPhone to be played in the car. Copy number 4.

And then if iTunes Match were enabled, it would get uploaded to the cloud (where Apple can then sell it ?) for whatever Apple do with it there. Copy number 5.

I believe Copies 1, 2, 3 and 4 are covered under Fair Use. I'm using the music for my own purposes, just not from the original media. I don't believe Copy 5 is Fair Use, I firmly believe that iTunes Match is wholly illegal (and therefore have it disabled). I have some music that has never been anywhere near iTunes and to upload it there would be an invitation for iTunes to sell it without compensation to the artist that created it.

The music business should be about compensation to the artist, not the publisher/distributor. We need to keep the creators of the music we love in houses and fed so they make more music for us to enjoy. And too many of the good ones are struggling in those basic endeavours.

Yeah - we've had a step back in the way we can freely live our lives. Do I think that anyone will be prosecuted for doing the technically illegal thing of converting a cd into something that can go on their iPod (insert substitute music player!) ? No, I don't think so. Do I think the following pic resembles our lawmakers ?
Yes. In this region of law, the modern world has left them behind and they're still stuck in the 19th century.

Going a little further, I think a little copying helps stimulate the business. Unless it's taken to the extremes of whole albums going into torrents with nothing at all going back to the artists. My music library started exploding after my sister sent me a few tracks. And from there, I have bought all of Goldfrapp's albums, all 3 Bat For Lashes albums and I could go on. The sharing of music to Youtube and recommendations from other friends has led me to collect Massive Attack, Little Boots, The Cardigans, KT Tunstall and a bunch more. That's all music I would have stayed well clear of without being introduced by a copy or a shared video.

But that's not the way our law people see it. They have a point with those who download all their content without paying for it, which just disadvantages the artists and makes them seek paying work instead of making the content we love.

And I think that's me just about all ranted out.

Enjoy your music ! But remember the people who create it. They're the ones deserve your support, not the labels and publishers who cause laws like this to come into being.
Good job the DMCA merchants can't get us when we sing along in the car.

Cya !

Monday, July 20, 2015

A piece of my Asp

Prepare yourself for more really bad puns ! And perhaps some pretty crude ones too. I apologise in advance and am preparing to catch everything that's coming to kick my Asp.

(I did warn you - haha!)

I thought a little more about yesterday's post and how I was talking about being in that virtual spaceship wandering the galaxy. I think that may borrow from some real life urges.

A pic ? Here we go :
Does my Asp look big in this ?

In the virtual world, it's an Asp class explorer ship but it also makes for a perfect long range trader ship. It can shift its Asp all over the place pretty quick, the Asp is just the right size to hold what it needs, although more curves would be pretty awesome in an Asp.

Still in that virtual world, that Asp needs a better name. A name more befitting its current purpose as a trading ship. Profit Aspiration ? I like that one. Journey Aspect ? There's a few more potentials : Aspersions of Infinite Trade.

Definitely better names than Sleeper Shuttler. It's unlucky to change ship names unless it's for a very good reason, so the current ship is stuck with the unaspiring name for now. Until I lose it to especially determined pirates. I don't think that's going to happen any time soon, a few pirates have tried to kick my Asp and they've all ended up as gas.

A pun too far ? Time for a shift back to real life.

I think a sense of wanderlust is awaking in me. Perhaps that as I get closer to being fixed. I'm not there yet, there's still a fair bit of damage to repair. But it's getting closer and ravaged outsides are steadily getting reclaimed to healthy pasty white goodness.

(Cupid's Gift's gift of Aveeno moisturiser seems to be doing Very Nice Things there)

The idea of living on the barge is still with me.
That looks like some pretty amazing countryside doesn't it ? It's from Narrowboatinfo.co.uk. Check it out, lots of pretty pics and info there.

It's not just the great looking interiors and the potential for these things to be built better than modern houses. It's having the option to up sticks, leave the home marina and explore the canal system. You could lose yourself in them for years. I suspect you could spend a decade slowly cruising around the network. (One hidden advantage - where does the junkmail go ?)

As our lives become more electronic, we can disconnect from anchored physical locations. With me, the contact I have with the outside world (outside work) is dominated by texts, email, interweb browser, Facebook and Twitter. You can have all those on the move. I could have the telly coming in through satellite. I could unshackle myself from a set location and just cruise.

And it's not just the canals, it's offshore too. However ... the design of barge dictates where you can go :

Narrowboat - like the one in the picture above. Can go on all canals but wouldn't have the stability to go too far offshore where wind, currents and tides can batter it.
Dutch Barge - is twice as wide as the narrowboat and was originally intended to trading across Europe. (Hence the Dutch part!)

Here's a Dutch Barge :
That's from Dutch Barges.net and is the Katherine Class. Looks pretty doesn't it ? This class of boat is much wider for better living space (imagine a cinema deck by the galley ?), a proper wheelhouse and potential for a canopy deck behind the wheelhouse.

And being the techie/geeky person that I am, I'd look to fill it with lots of technology and mod cons. You can fill these boats with things like :
Hybrid propulsion - electric motors for the engines and big batteries.
Solar panels - ok, that might not be that useful in Blighty.
Underfloor heating - cosy.
Mobile data and telly through satellite - for a connected world.
And more.

Maybe a second career as a video making personality ? This could be perfect. Cruise during the day and when moored at night, work with the computers and upload the videos. You'd need that hybrid engine for that though, so you had power to work without generator noise in the background.

But ... and this is the big but. (See earlier Asp puns ? You see ! This was the perfect match of subjects !)

I still gotta work for a living. And I work in an office. I need certain amounts of mobility to support business trips. If I had one of these in a marina, I could keep the car nearby for getting to work and for longer trips. But if I were cruising, I'd need alternate means of getting to places like ... supermarket for food, pub for ... everything !, cinema for new movies and lots of other things. You can't really take a car with you on a narrowboat, although people have experimented with towing garages on the water for tiny cars.

Yeah - I think that wanderlust feeling is growing but it'll have to wait a while. I'm nowhere near a position where I could give up work. That might have to wait until I retire in ... many more years. And I'd want to find a suitable copilot / helmswoman to share the experience with.

I wonder if who I have in mind would agree ?

And on that mysterious note ... One last pic ?
I've been looking for an excuse to use that one :-) But before I go :

Knock knock !
Who's there ?
Asp.
Asp who ?

(I'm so sorry)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cruising, Dungeoneering, Weeping

Let's start with that first one ...

Cricket's not going that great at the moment. We're currently looking at an almost certain Aussie win to tie the series, unless England can pull off something extraordinary to first survive or something very odd to win. Too many runs ahead and a batting lineup that can do wonders but more often suffers fragility.

In any case, it's potentially a long grind to a draw or a depressing slide to a loss. Unless it rains ! Come on rain ! And the target is going to be a sporting 509 in just over 5 sessions. That's actually doable on runs per session but incredibly difficult because the pitch gets more unpredictable.

Come on England ! I won't get to see the end because I'll be at work tomorrow.

Dungeoneering ? I've been checking out a charming new game.
It's called Guild of Dungeoneering and I've had a few emotions so far :

Laughter - at listening to the opening song (yes, it has an opening song)
Sniggers - at chuckling along to the minstrel narrator
Frustration - at having my dungeoneers die over and over (see later pic)
Yey ! - at finally beating a dungeon
Rejoicing ! - as you name a character "The Minstrel" and kill it

It's a game that has you building up a dungeon, putting rooms in, putting treasure in and adding monsters. Your dungeoneers head towards the best treasure they can see, so part of the challenge is making sure they don't head for the big boss at the end before they're ready. Because this game is pretty hard. But also quite fun and I've been enjoying it so far.

Even if my graveyard after just one session is like :
Oops. I've not been playing that long either. A few people might recognise names there. I have a C-Kitten in my guild as a cat burglar. But I've not killed them yet. I've been looking to use names from people I know but ... I'm really bad at it so far ! I don't want to kill you.

Sleepy's a chump (first character type you get) but I've managed to not kill that one yet.

It's going to be one of my chill out games and ... It'll run on the Macbook too. One thing about the Macbook Air, it's a wonderful little machine but to make it that small and have that much battery life, the processor is wound back a bit in speed. So I wouldn't consider trying to run Elite on it but less demanding games ? Yep, it'll handle those pretty easily.

Cruising ? I just mentioned Elite ...

I not long ago got to the assets level where I could buy a well equipped version of the second biggest ship. The Type 9 freighter, dubbed "The Drugged Sloth". That was surprisingly good in combat, fitted so it was bristling with weapon turrets (and could have done better) so I didn't have to point at pesky pirates to shoot them. But I wasn't enjoying the flying. I wasn't enjoying the trading that much either, as I was following quite an old trading route that wasn't totally accurate.

I think that sums up something about me - I don't like guaranteed success where I'm ploughing a path that someone else has done before. I like new things. I like fresh experiences. Although, I'll also fall into comfortable routine where I don't have to think about what I'm doing.

So with my Elite experience, I like flying around the galaxy doing new things in different places. Imagine if you will, a pilot going from one station to the next and stopping off to see what's unique about that particular place.

So when I logged off yesterday, my pilot was in the Heike system, propping up the bar looking out at the stars. (I logged off in a small outpost, not much to see there). A lot of that is imagination though, it's not in game yet. That may be a good thing because most of the time games attempt to outreach their targets, they mess up badly and make something awful. There's a couple of high profile competitors to Elite at the moment :

X universe - it first tacked on an industrial system to the game where you needed to build networks of factories and refineries to access the best systems and weapons. BORING !
Star Citizen - is promising all sorts of things like walking in stations, landing on planets. All sorts. They're not likely to deliver until at least 2016 and I think the whole project will fail as vapourware because they're trying to do too much.

Elite started with replicating much of what the earlier game great by keeping the systems simple, while expanding the galaxy around it. You can't be an industrial magnate like in Eve, there aren't massive player blocs which dominate where you can go. You're a little fish in a massive galaxy but you can play as you like in that universe.

I like it. And although I'm not addicted to it, so I'm not spending all of my spare time in it and craving it when I'm not in game (been there, that's not something I want to go back to !), I enjoy that experience of going from place to place, getting the best trades and seeing all sorts of new places. There's also a bit of hazard and danger from breaking the trade pattern by doing missions that are ... a tad dangerous. Last night I had the rozzers after me because they heard I was smuggling. They didn't like me legging it.

The Drugged Sloth is in its garage at the moment, while I bounce around the galaxy in :
Sleeper Shuttler.

If you read Iain M Banks, you may recognise that name, although I've changed it a little. This ship may be one that I use to lose myself around the galaxy again. Perhaps. But to do justice to the Sleeper Service name, it'll need to be an Anaconda. The ship in the pic is an Asp, which is designed for exploring. The Anaconda is built for being the biggest, meanest ship in the galaxy that will still fit in a space station (there are bigger ships but we can't fly them) but you can also customise it for going off into the Black.

There's one of the popular Elite pilots on the Elite Dangerous Community who has done the run to the centre of the galaxy in about 16 hours in an Anaconda. That triggers a bit of the "Hey ! I can do that too !" And I might try it.

But not just yet. I'll enjoy my cruising, my dungeoneering, my watching of the cricket and ... Biggest of all :

My smile and yey! when a message comes in. And then I'll break from the game and give that Pretty Lady my full attention as I send a message back.

Because real life is far more important and interesting than games. Especially when Pretty Ladies want to talk to you.

And on that thought - cya !

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bring Him Home

I've been reading again. Hurrah !

Ok, so how come I've been away from reading ? There's a few reasons actually ...

I'm usually reading a lot at work, so when I get home I don't really want to be expending that much mental energy. I'm wanting to relax, cool the brain down and generally be lazy to regenerate that mental energy.

Pain in my wrists. Too much computering and a few too many awkward falls in the cricket have led to wrist pain, mostly RSI, that isn't going away. It's manageable through things like wrist supports and I don't need pain pills but still, holding those books up puts strain on those sore wrists.

And I didn't want to wreck my books. It's only fairly recently that my forearms have gotten so much more intact. They're not healed yet but they're getting there. Before, I'd have a big chance of getting blood on the books. To be avoided ...

But I have managed to get one new book read this week. One reason for that is using the iPad as an ebook reader (via the Kindle app). Firstly the app, I'm pleased with it. The text is easily readable to my eyes (which are in need of new glasses) and I can rest the iPad in my lap without having to tension my wrists holding the book open. Win. I'll definitely get more ebooks to feed the iPad with.

What's the book ?
There's huge potential for spoilers here which may take the shine off a highly enjoyable book but I'll try to avoid those.

It's Andy Weir's first book and I became aware of it after watching the trailer before Terminator Genesys. I REALLY want to watch this film now. I was super impressed with the trailer and the book has just amplified that interest tenfold.

What's it about ?

A massive storm has led to the abandonment of a mission to Mars but on the way to the escape vehicle, the crew of 6 loses a man. Or so they think ... The star of the show, Mark Watney, is left stranded on Mars with little hope of escape and a fraction of the supplies to let him hold out until rescue can come.

But he digs in and figures out how to survive on a hostile world. Along the way, drama, heroics, silliness, humour, comedy, excitement, surprise and more than a few genuine What The Hell ? moments.

It's an excellent book and it had me laughing, giggling and chortling away for page after page. It has that genuine One More Chapter Before Bed pull. The science is top notch, although sometimes the plot is helped by things going fairly deliberately wrong. The alternative to that would be a plain sailing route where all of the ideas worked perfectly. Where's the fun in that ! :-) Some of the more hysterical moments are our boy's reaction and solution to when things go wrong.

It's a cracker and I hope they squeeze even a fraction of its quality into the movie.

Why do we have to wait until October though ! That's way too long to wait. From just reading the book, I think it'll be my film of the year. Perhaps I'm putting too much expectation on and am doomed to be disappointed ? I hope not. If the film is naff, I'll just read the book again and that'll remind me of the chuckles.

Chuckles are awesome.
As are books. And I need to get reading more of them. They are food for the mind. I've been entertained by The Martian and I've learned a few things in there too. I hope Andy Weir comes out with more books.

I've been thinking back to the 2 Mars books by Ben Bova too. I enjoyed those however ... the first of those is dominated by a crisis that lasts for well over 100 pages before they figure it out. The crisis well outlasts its welcome and becomes annoying. In The Martian, the crises happen, are well described, you get the impression of how life threatening they are and then the solution is enacted. The crises in The Martian are dealt with in interesting ways, which also means they don't drag back the narrative. Oh and some of those crisis solutions are so mad they draw out the Mad Scientist tag.

I'd thoroughly recommend this book. But ... I need more !

Chuck me your (fiction please !) recommendations :-).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The 2015 Great Sheep Hunt

That's a title that could bee taken all sorts of ways.

Wrong ways, curious ways, woolly ways ... hungry ways ?

It's an event that I missed out on last time around. The creators of the Wallace and Gromit cartoons, Aardman Animations, hail from the Bristol area and this is the second time they've run an event in aid of local charities. This time, it's children's hospitals.

Here's the link !

The sculptures will bee on show from 6th July to 31st August. Plenty of time to see them if you're in the Bristol area. They'll bee auctioned off after that to help those charities again.

You may have spotted a theme creeping in ...
That's Bee-Dazzled, which is in the centre of the Cribbs Causeway Mall. And ... Oh My God It's Covered In Bees !

I used to play Warcraft with a guild called Covered In Bees. I think they're still going. I wasn't in that guild, my Mercenaries Of Darkness guild raided with them in the earlier days of Warcraft. I think that big Guildlink partnership kept going through the first expansion before falling apart in the face of people wanting to advance through the content. The Bees ended up pulling in their choice of players from the other guilds, which was totally counter to the original ideas of Guildlink. I'd seen what was coming, plus I was very jaded with the whole raiding thing. It was a rocky exit from the Mercs and the Swedish dominated guild, Violence Reborn, took me in. But even there, I was pretty jaded on the whole raiding thing.

But while I'm on that subject, I'd like to pay tribute to 3 special Bees :
Sarai the Overqueen oh how we worship her magnificence. She ran Guildlink and managed to keep having huge amounts of fun with it. Things started going downhill after she started walking away from the game. Groups follow how their leaders are and Sarai was Big Fun. And a bit of mischief too.

There were also Sam (actual character name too long to remember) and Aella. Sam led the raids a lot too and suffered all the frustrations involved. I used to natter to Sam a lot over the whispers and I think that helped him remember the Fun. He did good things. And then there's Suzanne/Aella, who added huge fun, both in messing up and how she was on comms.

I miss those Bees. Those were fun times in gaming and although the exit was rocky at the time, I run into the wife of the Mercs guildmaster I passed on the reins too and have friendly natters and also ran into Souleater a few weeks ago too. He had a sojourn working abroad and he's not long been back. He's a passionate guy (and got affected a beet too much by the gaming mindset) and was one of those angry during the guild breakups. But time passes, people forgive and we're still mates. That's the thing - it's ok to be angry, just try and stay friends. Try not to say stuff you can't take back and don't really mean.

Oh ... bee warned ... there are more bee puns coming. Many more.
That's the Fab-Ewe-Lous sculpture just outside the Mall. As you can see, it was a tad damp tonight ... There was another upstairs in the shop, the Shrek Shaun (no pic).

Tonight wasn't about the start of the Sheep Hunt though. We had a power cut/blip yesterday morning which was the end of my radio alarm. It can still bee-p ... but the minutes button broke quite some time ago. That's pretty baaad when you realise that I set my alarm for half past the hour. Ok, I could have done the engineer's fix of turning it on at half past the hour and just shifting all the times by 30 minutes but ...

I kinda took it apart last night in an effort to fix the rebellious button. It didn't go back together. So I went bee-per hunting tonight to get another alarm clock. The old one has done well, perhaps 25 years plus of service. Can't ask for much more than that.

I'll bee hunting more Sheepies sometime soon. Dunno when, I'll need to arrange some more leave sometime maybe in August and then I can go wandering :-). It'll definitely give me an excuse to do a long overdue Forbidden Planet visit. Good place that. Lots of shiny things.

Time to bee going ? Yep.

Stay beeutiful people. That's all of you reading this, you're my honeys :-) Bee happy. Don't beet me too much in retribution for all the horrifically bad puns.

More puns ?

Keep beelieving, Let It Bee, it's ok to be a Daydream Beeliever. Sting may join you for Bee In The Sahara, Bee clear what situations you get into, bee wary of consequences because bad ones may sting.

And I can hear a buzzing that's starting to get angry ... I'll bee running to the hive now.

Stay sweet my honeys :-)
Definitely a film I'll be looking forward to later in the year, although I doubt that character will be in it. Also looking forward to The Martian, I started reading the book last night and it's a cracker.