Friday, August 30, 2013

Help a friend

Yep - it's another blatant steal from Facebook :

Let's see how many of those where people I know are suffering :

Crohn's - aye. He's a great guy too, been invaluable to us over the past I dunno years I've known him. He hides the constant pain well.
PTSD - someone I know saw something which made him very quiet for a little while after he joined us. But we listened, we helped, we let him talk through it. We treated him like one of the gang. And I think we helped him lift this. If you know someone who you think is suffering from PTSD, don't push - just listen. Pushing can make this problem much worse if the person suffering is not yet ready to come to terms with it.

Anxiety - a very dear friend is suffering from crippling anxiety at the moment. Huge hugs.
Bipolar - this is part of my curse. I'm up, I'm down. I'll get stuck in the down and not know how to get back out of that pit. The only thing I can say here is - enjoy the upside and remember in the downside that you have people who care about you. They want to help you out, they just may not know how.

Depression - this is the massive crippling thing of the modern age. It can be chemical, it can be situational. But - it locks you in to a negative frame of mind that is self reinforcing. What helps me out immeasurably is helping others. It's what I live for. I get a buzz from helping others, even if it's just seeing them smile. And that boost can help me crack my own depressive phases.

Diabetes - I know people with this. People at school had this, one of them nearly killed himself several times due to alcohol induced comas. It's a fairly manageable condition but don't recoil or otherwise embarass the victim when you see them having to take the medication. They're embarassed too, they don't need your negative reaction to make them worse. Support them instead

Cancer - I've had a close relative die from this and it was the inspiration for the Pink Hat cricket thing I did 2 seasons ago. It's not a good way to go. But - it's getting more survivable, even if the side effects are not what you'd wish on anybody.

Again. Support the person suffering. Help them own their illness/condition. It's when the condition owns them that they have a problem, helping them understand it will help them get back in control of it. Sometimes that's just being there and listening to what people have to say.

Let them express it in their own words. And then keep their confidence. That's primarily what this blog is for, it lets me express my own conditions/problems/successes (and the rest) in my own words. I know I have a few regular readers, although I don't know exactly how many. It's only a few but the fact that you take time out to read my random witterings also helps me in my own battles.

(Yep - there's a few patterns that appear in the hit counters and when I see them it's "Oh wow" and a big smile breaks out)

Arthritis - hugs to Purplepixie, I can imagine how much pain you have from a) my occasional joint problems and b) how much of a statue I'd be after first practice of the year !

For me, there's a few things tugging my mental condition back. Since I went back on the vitamin tablets last week, my mood has improved and my skin seems better able to get started on repairs. But I still am prone to inflicting even more damage on it which sets back both the healing and my own mental state. It still feels like I'm locked in, discouraging me from leaving the house. I wear dark clothes because of unsightly marks in embarassing places. The mercy is that on the outside, it's just itchy. There's no pain from the bad bits. Plenty of pain from damaged joints but none on the outside.

There's a whole host of other internal problems that people are struggling to deal with. Situations cause depression as much as medical conditions. And stress on that level can then lead to medical conditions that reinforce the depression. People deserve your support. Sometimes they don't know how to ask. Sometimes the best thing to do is just be a friend and be available to listen when they need to talk. But they would all appreciate :
Although sometimes when I offer a hug, I get the impression that the mental reaction is "AIEEE RUN !"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Let's hear it for the women

They make everything worthwhile don't they ?

I'm watching the England Women play the Aussies at the moment. It's half time and I've just watched Sarah "Squirt" Taylor bash the highest score by an England lady in the Twenty20 format. Oh and she just happens to be one* of the most skillful wicket keepers in the world game at the moment, that's including the men.

*(not many players would beat James Foster of Essex's keeping)

But more of that in a bit.

Back to work today after a long healing weekend. This weekend I started taking the vitamin tablets again in the hope that they help my skin out. I think it's working ... and I feel better (more energised) on the inside too, despite it being allergy season part 2. Let's hope that healing continues as there's a lot of damage to repair.

It was a random encounters day today ...

I saw the Snow Queen again (I owe you a better name my dear!). It always brings out the grin seeing the Snow Queen and we'd love to steal her away from where she is right now so she can come work with us. She became the Heart of my last team due to being a little bundle of Awesome and it always adds a bit of bounce to my step when I can borrow a bit of that Awesomeness.

Even if I'm trying to avoid bouncing too much at the moment in order to help out the healing ... (my skin is very delicate)

Saw Crystal today too. (It's based on a cricketer's nickname). We share a lot of problems me and Crystal. More than you'd think possible. We both suffer from hayfever that hits us early summer and in autumn. We're both suffering from internal injuries that slow us down (although mine are kinda self inflicted, Crystal's definitely aren't). She's a smart girl is Crystal, we were lucky to acquire her for the project when she did because she sorted out a lot of problems that had been allowed to build.

And she's mad about cricket too. So yep. Usually I'd spend my lunch at my desk playing a card game. But I always welcome the chance to escape and have a natter with someone. Today's lunchtime was one of the better.

I'm missing some excellent cricket !!!!!! Just seen an execution of a run out that anyone in the game of cricket would have been proud to pull out of the bag. Arran "Deadly" Brindle - take a bow. Shows that the women's game tends to have more skill in than the men's.

One of our Finance Angel's has turned very dark. As if she's seen a ghost, beaten it up and nicked all the hair colour that the ghost had stolen before.

And at the end of the day, the Judge comes looking for help. I'll always help the Judge as she's been very useful in the past. I think she dropped an email and ran today - I'll see what I can do tomorrow.

We've been blessed to have a lot of very bright women involved with the project over the years. Women provide a different perspective to men when it comes to project work. Men tend to be inspired but scattergun (me definitely!), women tend to be organised, super professional and remember everything that needs to be done. I definitely appreciate them keeping me straight over the years. It's kept me out of trouble.

(I better mention Ms Warpath too in case she's peeking ... at a time when we're losing people, it's good to know there's someone with a good head on her shoulders keeping the ship afloat, backed up by our Apprentice on this end)

Back to the cricket ...

The women don't have the power of the men. It makes it a very different game. Instead of power hitting, we see deft touches to avoid the fielders. Instead of 90mph bowling, the fastest we see is Katherine Brunt pinging it down at 70-75mph. That's about the pace I used to bowl at my quickest. There's some incredible skill in the field.

We've already seen Sarah Taylor get the record score in an England shirt and around that was some great fielding by the Aussies (making up for indifferent bowling). Think full length diving catches. We've seen a smartly executed power throw run out by Arran Brindle.

Hopefully we'll see something spectacular from behind the stumps by Sarah Taylor. I have my fingers crossed.

Today was a good day. I'm hoping tomorrow will be better. (More sleep will help - don't believe I got much last night ...)

And ... while I was doing my "does this make sense ?" check, England take another wicket. Come on England ! Great job so far, looking good.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Feeling spoiled ... and the opposite ...

I don't think we realise how much we're spoiled in this modern technological age.

We have so many things that help us out. So many devices that make it easier to do things (or make it harder to concentrate on the important things like housekeeping !) and so many devices that just make it possible to do things we wouldn't have thought possible 5 or 10 years ago.

It's the little devices that help out most of all. 5 years ago, I used a separate satnav. It started life as a Hewlett Packard iPaq 4150 running the Tomtom software. Good little device, even though I didn't use it much for its prime reason for being. It was a Personal Data Assistant, before phones became powerful enough to take over that job. The only problem it had was the glitches in the Tomtom software.

Even then, we're spoiled. When I started working, satnavs were incredibly rare. We'd plan our routes on pieces of paper (big writing !) and we'd panic when we lost track of the route. Nowadays GPS takes all the fun out of getting lost because it's an ever present thing on everything keeping us in the picture for where we are. GPS used to be a luxury reserved for the military ...

I was watching the Doctor Who prom concert before moving over to the desktop, even there things have improved. Video recorders have been in the home for decades now but digital video recorders make things so much easier. No more hunting through the tape library for the right tape, just look in the list. I could watch that on a stream from the internet too if I missed it.

That's another thing - when I started with Blueyonder, I had 512kbit/s download. Now, I have 30Mbits/s and my upload is faster than that original download.

Where did the inspiration of this post come from ?

Mostly from gaming. I've bought a few things from Good Old Gaming over the past year and barely played any of them. To be honest, it's so cheap there that I've had my money's worth from the goodies (soundtracks, pictures etc) they throw in with the game.

The latest attempt was to have a go at Arcanum. The concept here is awesome. It's a Dungeons & Dragons type setup with orcs, elves, dwarves and magic crossed with technology. Kinda like D&D moved into the Industrial Age. The concept has spectacular potential, the implementation does not. It's ok for the time but is missing things we take for granted like a big sign saying "Go Here To Progress Story". After the intro, I literally had no clue where to go next and the game wasn't helping.

Bit of a pity that.

A lot of the other games were like that too. They would implement more depth into the game (there's dazzling depth possible in Neverwinter Nights, especially when enhanced with the extra character classes) but it's also possible to get lost in the game. Same with the first person shooter games. They had multiple routes and it was possible to get lost.

A frequent complaint against modern games is that they are on rails. The term "corridor shooter" has come into gaming. This is where a game may look open but you're shepherded (often unsubtly) down set pathways. Things like unopenable doors or sidestreets with an invisible wall. Progress is good but often comes with costs.

Another sign of progress - my laptop is currently streaming the music over the network to my hifi. In ages past, I'd be running across the room to change cds. I'd certainly not be picking from a library with 10,000 tracks. I'd definitely be tripping over the audio cables a few times :-)

I can't help feeling that we miss out though. I'm still in hiding mode at the moment but the modern things lead to a more Indoor life anyway. I'm not needing to venture outside for entertainment. I'm missing chatting up the barmaids at the local or propping up the popcorn stand at the cinema.

A modern life is a more lonely life ? Perhaps.

But then again, before the internet came around, I wouldn't have had the involvement in World of Warcraft which led to me gaining lots of good friends from around the globe. Eve counts there too, although the Eve crowd is a bit more geeky than the WoW crowd if you can believe that.

Another inspiration for this post is hearing the comments about the cricketers. When I started my cricket, it was before the ultra professional era. Now, the cricketers are more in the gym than active in the game. They're a stronger bunch, a more powerful bunch. Perhaps I'd have been a better cricketer given more gym time or more practice time ? Definitely if it was directed practice. But I doubt whether my fragility would have supported gym time.

Apologies if this has gone very scattergun ;-).

We definitely have it easier these days. We have access to massive amounts of information that tell us how to do stuff, that helps us out in ways we didn't know existed 10 years ago. We can get cash from a hole in the wall (I vaguely remember ATMs being introduced). We can call people across the world from a device that fits in out pocket.

But perhaps we're getting a little too reliant on the technology. I definitely think a hug is more satisfying than a win in a game.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Watching the cricket talk

I've got the cricket coverage on at the moment and it's sparking a few thoughts.

There's no play, they're talking among themselves because it's raining. This can sometimes be far more interesting than the actual play. (Especially in the current game because it's a 5 day revenue pitch)

The current chat is on bats ... The bat is the most important piece of kit in cricket, at least in terms of something you'll keep around for ages and it'll make a real difference to how you play in a game.

The ball matters too, a bowler will like a hard ball because it does more for them. In nets, I used to pick up the hardest ball I could find and then use that. It didn't have to be Shiny, I'd make it shiny over 10 minutes practice and make it swing round corners. But you don't provide your own match balls and they don't last that long. They make a difference - but you don't keep them.

Here's a pic of some of my bats :
Oh and there's a knocking in hammer and bat gripping tool there too.

The Sky boys have been talking bats this morning and it's actually been interesting. Bats have gotten bigger over the years but they've also changed. One way of getting them bigger has also made them more delicate. They have different thicknesses and different shapes.

I'm not going to say much about bats but I will say a few things :

The modern bat is definitely far more delicate. Of the 3 in the pic, I had the bottom one at school and bought the V500 (middle) in maybe 2000. I got the V1 (top) and ditched it after half a season because it was getting cratered (partly due to my ineptness with it).

You can see how old that bare bat is ... it drank a lot of Linseed oil over the years and I took the labels off because they were getting grotty. It's a Duncan Fearnley bat that gave me many, many years of good service, although a few of those were interrupted by me not finding teams while bouncing round the country and because I had a few forced years off due to tearing up my shoulder.

We customise our kit. The bare bat has a red and black handle because I'd removed the half grip that I put in my bats so I could put it in the new one. Bigger handles make the "feel" of a bat better, I used 2 and a half grips to make mine feel right. Clive Lloyd (a West Indian Legend) used 7.

The feel of our bats was very important. If you're in a sports shop that still lives up to the name, you may see cricketers playing shadow shots with the bats. We're checking out the weight and balance. We want to be One With Our Bat. It's no good if the bat can potentially hit the ball 5 yards further if you always mis hit due to being a fraction late or early all the time.

That's the problem with the newest bat - I stopped using it because I could never get the timing right. That's probably why it looks cratered to be honest. Although it also had a protector thingy at the bottom, which would have only achieved me getting run out. If you tried to slide that bat, it would stop and dig a hole. There was no way to make it slide.

I've rabbitted a lot there.

It's the most important piece of kit we have, we get attached to our bats. But before I close, 2 more pics :

That's the original V12 bat. It's a bit different, the weight is all concentrated in that chunk near the bottom. We had someone at school with one of these.

It was a beast.

Even weedy me could knock it a long way with this and I Wanted One. Trouble is, they came heavy and my arms wouldn't last long with it. Plus as an opening bat (when I got there), I needed to be quick and a heavy bat slowed me down.

The modern V12 is a pale shadow of the original legend. It's normal. Why get it then if it's just pretending to be the legend ?

The last pic is one from ages ago. It's a piece of linen maybe 30 years old that hangs up in my living room :
The laws of cricket are very simple, when you're just going by the important ones :-)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Still laptop hunting

First day of a long weekend for me today. I've been feeling beat up, so I took today off to try and get some equilibrium back.

(I have a clue why - I suspect I'm allergic to the Fairy washing gloop I switched to after the Tesco "this does nothing but make you think it does" stuff ran out)

I'd like to have been playing with a new laptop today, setting it up to how I'd like it. How come I'm not ? There's a few reasons for that. I suspect my inner good sense (it's there, it's just vewy, vewy qwiet) is steering me away from the £500+ offers for £100 cashback at PC World right now. But it's mostly that the laptop manufacturers aren't really offering what I want to buy at the moment.

Let's have a look shall we ? Along the way, I'll hopefully decode some of the jargon for you if you're looking to get a laptop upgrade.

There's only one factor you should be calling Essential when you're looking at a laptop - Usability. This means different things for different people. My mum is really happy with a new 13" cheap ultrabook. It's small and light, which fits needs imposed by frequent arm injuries. I'm looking for something with at least 900 lines on screen. Mum's laptop is Very Shiny but doesn't fit what I want.

But usability is that key factor. Keyboards, trackpads, mice, screens are how we interact with PCs. In a desktop, there's a dazzling array of choice. I've actually gone back to an old cheap Logitech because a relatively new Microsoft wireless keyboard let me down because it kept dropping the signal, leaving me mired and unable to control my character in games. With a laptop, you're stuck with what you bought. So getting that right is crucial.

You can mostly ignore things like hard disc size, memory and processor. Everything you see on the shelves will be more than adequate for 90% of people using a laptop. In fact, far more than adequate. But what does it mean ?

There are two manufacturers who make processors : AMD and Intel. There's a gap opened up between the two now, with AMD not keeping up in the development race. AMD also push their kit harder, so a laptop you buy that does 2000 Squirtles* per second may actually do only 800 Squirtles per second when it's pushed. And when do you want the maximum Squirtles ? When you're pushing the machine hard. If it limits itself, then you've got something that can't be used to the potential you bought. That extra potential may as well not be there.

(*A Squirtle is an arbitrary number, doesn't mean anything. Or it might be something cute & watery)

In a desktop, you can get around that because the space is there to pack in cooling. But in a laptop, you've bought something that can only do 800 Squirtles but masquerades as something better. So I avoid AMD for laptops.

But what do all those cryptic numbers for the Intel machines mean ?

You'll see things like Pentium D960/B960 advertised. Avoid those, they're old. Processor speed is fairly irrelevant but you don't want to be ripped off with 5 year old technology. Most of the time it's things like i5-3227U.

i3, i5, i7 means how much silicon is in the processor. i3 chips have less processor cores, i7's have the most. What does that mean ? Not much. The i5 chip in my desktop is very close in potential to the equivalent i7. For a laptop, you're probably better with an i3, because less silicon means less power used, means more battery life (in theory!)

The next number is more interesting, it shows the generation of the chip.
i3-500 was first generation
i5-2500K is my desktop's chip (Sandy Bridge) and is second generation
i3-3227U is Ivy Bridge, or third generation
i5-4000 will be Haswell, or fourth generation.

The letters show that the chips are a little bit "different". For a laptop, avoid the K (it's a desktop chip, bad for laptops) but M and U mean they're better for laptops.

That's digressing though. What you need to remember is - 2000 = old. 3000 = not so old. 4000 = not out yet. Newer is better but any of these will be overkill for a machine that gets used just for iTunes, browsing, email and video streaming.

What of the manufacturers ? I go on trust a lot of the time. I stick with manufacturers that I've had reliable kit from and blacklist those who disappoint me. Where I don't have good info of my own, I'll ask around for info. I'd jump at advice from people I know, I'm wary at information on the interwebs.

Acer - I'd go back to Acer any time. We've had lots of good kit from them. But they don't have the "perfect" laptop for me.
Dell - they have the "perfect" laptop for me (Inspiron 17R) but apparently they have bad wifi and I'm not convinced on their build quality. (The random reboots at work are apparently the fault of Dell hardware). So I'm avoiding Dell.
Asus - Blacklisted. They let me down on features for my last 2 boards and I've had questionable reliability.
Toshiba - positive, my sister's had good experience from Toshiba kit.
HP - has probably been fished out of the bin after breaking.
Sony, Samsung, Lenovo - interesting but I'd only consider if they had a "perfect" spec, which they don't.

Asus is a shame, as they have something close to that perfect spec. But - various letdowns in the past (a SP/DIF that doesn't carry surround sound ? What the hell ?) and early hardware failures mean they're blacklisted. Something adding to that is the board that Luth now has, it didn't come out that long before Vista, yet Asus never bothered making Vista drivers for it. That's unforgiveable.

What is that perfect spec ?

At least 900 lines. This is so I get a decent number of lines in iTunes. It's not really for the definition, there's only so much our eyes can pick out. But if software like iTunes has fixed line heights, it affects what's on there.
An Intel mobile chip.
An SSD or a spare bay for one - the Dell has this and a spare bay would let me sort out an issue on the desktop too. The Asus machines typically have an SSD built in. They speed the machine up a lot.

Why not Dell ? I've said things before about their lack of info about delivery times. It's a shame, as today would have been a good day to accept delivery. There's actually a place that could give me the "perfect" spec, PCSpecialist. They're a custom builder. However ... they have a fortnight leadtime on laptops. Not keen on that.

I'll pick out another laptop at some point but at the moment, the following are on my mind :
Offers are tempting me into spending more than I want to
There is no "perfect" spec out there for me
If I ordered online, I'd need to be in to pick it up
It's a damn shame there isn't a native version of iTunes for Linux

I'll close there but If you're confused about the adverts and would appreciate a bit of decoding, leave me a comment.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ranty with a neat finish

There's a few things that I could get ranty about at the moment ...

One is the tendency of people at work to ignore instructions like "Don't use aerosols!", which occasionally results in our buildings getting evacuated as the fire alarm goes off. Yep. We had another unscheduled 30 minute fresh air break today.

Yep - I'm a little ranty.

Online trolls ! Why are they there ? We're hearing about these more and more these days. The phenomenon (yep - I said that out loud to make sure I got the right number of syllables) is getting more widespread. It's emerging from the gaming world and infesting the various overt and underground social media sites. It used to be on usenet newsgroups (an ancient precursor that's faded away now), where people gave bad advice or just plain abuse.

Twitter seems especially bad for it, from what I see on the Uksnowmap. The UK news is highlighting another social media site right now because comments put there directly led to the suicide of a young lady.

I have only one piece of advice there - if you're being bullied online, walk away. It's not like bullies at school who can chase you down. Trouble is, it can be hard to do that as the bullies not only have access to you, they likely have access to your friends too. In Warcraft, I had a few incidents where I ended up targeted (decisions like kicking idiots out of the guild). I could ignore the player, which meant anything they sent me got a generic "player is ignoring you" response and I didn't see the hateful thing they sent. But it didn't stop them blabbing my name all over the game's capital city saying "Iceangel is leaving WoW and is giving all his money away". Which leads you to getting spammed by beggars. This actually happened once.

So yeah - be careful who it is that is asking you to accept that friend request. Watch your privacy settings. Be aware that what you put on the net can be broadcast instantly by someone else. If you wouldn't want that to happen, don't put it online. I'm always very careful what I put here. I've only mentioned exactly what my work has been once and I refer to work people with codenames.

Codenames which the Snow Queen always guesses instantly. I think I need better codenames. Or someone just knows how my head works, which should scare her - lol :-)

(This was going to be a ranty post wasn't it ? Time to have a go at Microsoft ...)

I'm still shopping for laptops ... But. I don't want a Windows 8 laptop. Microsoft have driven their software into the ground lately. They've gone down very strange design routes. The latest Office is an abomination of unusability. It's an obscenity. And Windows 8 is going a similar route. They tried to inflict similar atrocities on future owners of the Xbox One (a Kinect camera always live, always online ? no thanks no stalking please) but the user base quickly rebelled and the announcements got reversed.

How come business doesn't behave in a similar fashion ? I guess we can't. We're locked into a cycle which we're scared to break because it would mean being incompatible with the organisations we work with. And if we're incompatible, we can't do business.

The perfect thing for business computers would be to have Windows XP, tightened up and made properly secure. Keep it compatible with new hardware. Call it Windows for Business and sell it on an annual licence model. Every time the machine looks for a security update, check the product ID against a database and if the licence isn't valid, lock out the machine. That business model would work.

It's all about the business model. The current model is that you'd pay a one time licence fee to use the software forever. Trouble is, if it's as good as XP originally was, this means you have no reason to buy XP+1. So Microsoft broke XP (noticed how you wait for the hard disc more ?) and refused to make New Shiny Graphics (Directx 10) features introduced in Vista available to XP users. They introduced a hurdle forcing you into buying new software. And new hardware, because the new version has massively higher requirements.

We don't need the shininess that's in Vista or Windows 7. We certainly don't need the hostility which is the Windows 8 interface.

Wait - why don't we ditch Windows and go back to Linux ? Maybe we should.

Another thing about office PCs - we're getting upgraded (and the spec is a "you're missing the point" spec) and one thing we're getting is widescreen format monitors. Ok, I like the Shiny. But. We work on A4 portrait most of the time, not landscape. We'll work with what we're given but it's a bit daft that the requirement has been messed up again :

Desktops with normal hard discs - pointless because all our data is on servers. Give the machines SSDs instead for the same cost and massively higher productivity.
4:3 format (old type) monitors - work well for business use because they have the extra height.
16:9 format (widescreen) monitors - tellies switched to this because it's good for entertainment.

What are these machines for ? Work or entertainment ? Honestly - give me a work machine that lets me get the job done without annoying slowdowns every lunchtime (when they run the virus checker on our machines that don't hold data) and keep the entertainment stuff away - it slows the machines down.

I think that's enough ranting for today. I'm still tempted by a laptop and I know I'm going to end up being forced into Windows 8 territory (unless I spend more than I need to at PcSpecialist or Novatech) but it's a Want Upgrade at the moment, not a Need Upgrade.

Neat finish ?

I've been invited to an event in a hotel in Birmingham in a couple of months. The person inviting me is a beautiful woman. Why am I hesitating ? I could say that it's because there's chance for a trip to Amsterdam with one of the gaming crews. It clashes. But it's more a comfort zone thing.

I think I will head to that event in Birmingham and see if I can break out of that comfort zone. That's been one insidious effect of the skin problem, it's put iron fencing around that comfort zone. Like bars.

But - beautiful lady wants me to go to a hotel to meet up (there will be lots of other people going and her permanent bloke will be joining the throng). How cool is that ? Not had that for a while.

PS If it was the Warcraft gaming crew - I'd be a lot more conflicted. They have the Hot Swedish Girls who sing on the voice comms.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

It'll be an easy job he says ...

Had a mini surprise after coming back from the Mall on Thursday ...

I'm very happy with my current desktop PC in that it stays cooler than the last one. PCs are built around transistors (tiny electronic switches) and every time one of those transistors changes state, it makes a little heat. The processor in my desktop is a Sandy Bridge device, with just under 1 billion of those transistors built into something of only 216mm2 in area.

How big is that ? It's about the size of what's after the last joint in your little finger. It's a lot of heat coming from a very small area.

Why so many ? It's been a while since I've been involved in chip design but a "reliable" source (I googled it - lol) says it takes 64 transistors per byte of cache memory. And there's a lot of memory built into the processors these days to make them faster. There's actually more memory in my desktop's processor than there was in my first PC.

Anyway - heat. My desktop sits at around 63-66 degrees C when it's been doing work for a while. The graphics card was sitting at about 71 degrees C.

2 things there - I keep my desktop doing sums all the time for Seti, Climateprediction and a few other physical and medical science groups. That gives me an idea of the maximum temperatures the machine will be at when it's under load and from that, whether or not it's likely to become toast during a gaming session. The second thing is that I run these temperature monitoring widgets to keep an eye on the machine. They're free from

The heat thing is also why I'm looking to change my laptop and move to an Intel. The current laptop runs an AMD processor which normally runs at 2GHz, except when you push it. When it gets hot, it limits itself to 40% speed. So when I'm watching video on it, it overheats, cuts back to 40% and I get choppy, pixellated playback. That's not good enough.

Going back to the desktop - when I got in on Thursday, the graphics card was running at 90 degrees C, an increase on the norm by 20. That's bad news. What's really bad news is that it crashed in only the 4th World of Tanks battle. When this starts happening, it's usually a sign of Impending Doom. So off I go yesterday to Novatech to buy another graphics card.

It'll be an easy job he says ... it'll take 10 minutes he says ...

First problem - it's about 2cm longer than the old one. Space is tight inside most PCs, this time the card clashed on the disc drives. So the drives get moved.

Next problem - fire it up ... and it can't see the right disc drives. Oops. Cable pulled out. Modern cables go in easier ... which them easier to accidentally pull out. Grr.

And while fixing that, one of the plugs explodes ... It literally breaks in half, leaving one half in one of my disc drives. Cue a hunt for pliers.

It's all gone together ok, a big World of Tanks session showed that it kicks out a 50% increase in frame rate (it's probably getting processor limited) and no crashes. After a day of soaking the heat in, it's at 60 degrees C, 10 degrees cooler than the last one was.

Hopefully this will be the last time I open that desktop up again for a while, although it has put thoughts of changing the laptop on hold for a bit.

PS No blood sacrifice this time around.
PS2 Next time you're looking for something to close out 5 minutes until you want to shut down, open up Task Manager and check the "System Idle Time". You'll be shocked at what it says. This laptop has been on for 2 hours 10 minutes today and the System Idle Time is already at 3 hours 40 minutes today. Waitaminute ... Divide that by 2 for the number of processors and you get 1 hour 50, this laptop has only done 20 minutes of genuine work since it's been on and a lot of that will have been updates.
PS3 For the techies - I've gone from a 560Ti card to a 760 card, powered by an Intel i5-2500K.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Buying ...

... Something old, something new, something discovered, something expensive (not that expensive), something the same.

Got a few things on my To Buy list at the moment. If you'll forgive me, this will be kind of an aide-memoire for me so I don't forget things I want to get !

Something old - already got this one, after hearing Nouvelle Vague on an advert, I just had to get their best of album. It's similar with Daft Punk, I heard their new album running in a shop and ended up walking out with one of their other albums. I want more. It's weird, they've been around for quite a while but I've only just discovered them.

Something new - this will be the Rachel Sermanni album. I've been after this for aaaaages, after hearing Waltz over the iTunes single of the week. Gorgeous. There's also a new KT Tunstall album that I haven't bought yet.

Something discovered - while listening to the Eve alliance tournament, two artists came over the airwaves - Waldeck and Parov Stelar. Both of them rather different to the norm, both highly interesting. Could quite happily chill out to these.

Something expensive (pardon me if I digress here !) - I'll get a new laptop before the end of the month. My current one is suffering due to running out of puff early for video (it overheats) and the keyboard has been a victim of my skin problem with the keys now missing keystrokes. It's done ok for a laptop, it's a good few years old now. But ... I'm looking for something newer and shinier. I have a few points for the new one which are being ... frustrating :

I'd like it to be an Acer but have you tried searching their site for specific laptops ? It's worse than the search system at work (which got disabled if you can believe that).
It could be a Dell - they have an interesting collection on there ...
... But I don't want to be at the mercy of unknown and unstated delivery lead times.
It may well come from PC World, as they have a £100 cashback offer going.
I'd kinda like to ditch Windows ...
... But having iTunes on Linux seems problematic
Not many of the 15" laptops have the display resolution I want.

I'm sure I could get iTunes working correctly, even if I sync devices on my desktop. But there's a few things like Homeshare which I find essential for backing up my library. It seems crazy that Apple don't produce a version of iTunes for Linux, as Linux is much closer to Mac OS X than it is to Windows. By forcing people to use Windows to run iTunes, they keep people locked into their main competitor's product.

I'd have thought Apple would want to try and wean people off Windows by encouraging them to use the cheap alternative to OS X ? Wait ... this is the same company that actively stops people from doing Hackintoshes, despite the typical Hackintosh running off a bought copy of OS X.

Apologies - I'm getting on an old crusade there. The next laptop will be : Intel powered with one of the 3000 chips. It will have over 4GB of memory. I'll hopefully get an SSD speed booster with it. It will be 15" or bigger and it may have a touchscreen.

Something the same ?

There's a lot of music coming very soon from :

Goldfrapp - since hearing It's Not Over Yet, I've been collecting. It's an outstanding cover and the rest of their material equals or betters it. Hoping that Tales of Us is a classic.
Arctic Monkeys - mixed feelings but I enjoy their albums.
Mindy Gledhill - I get the new album on Monday !
Katie Melua - still wondering who's Shy Boy I am. (there's a B-Sides album I want too)
Franz Ferdinand - another of the "curious, not awesome but worth a listen"
Morcheeba have an album coming ? (I'm peekin' at Amazon !)
(I'm sure there's even more I've forgotten)

And I'll leave it there - I hear the Dell and PC World websites calling ...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jar jar

I must watch those Star Wars films again, it's been a while.

Mind you, there's a bunch of blurays that I've bought and not had chance to watch yet (cricket season dominates the telly) so it'll have to wait.

Today saw an Old Friend (actually two, one not so old) come back to work after far too long away. She's been struggling, which is highly understandable because a huge chunk of the foundation for her world has been kicked away.

Things happen to people. Really bad things. And quite often, we need a little help to recognise that it's not the end of the world. As long as we have some of that spark, there's a bit of help. And if we can't see that spark, someone we know will have a metaphorical match to help start it off again although it may not be obvious who that someone might be. There's always hope. Even if it's difficult to see it.

The closest I've come to losing hope is actually quite a few years ago (we won't talk about that) but it's been coming close again with the skin thing. It's tough that it's going one step forward, one step back, with the backward steps usually being my fault for losing discipline.

Relationships hit hard too, in the breaking of them. When my last major relationship broke up, I couldn't see it (and didn't want to show it) but I was utterly numb. I threw myself into the online gaming world and into work. I pursued two utterly doomed attempts at relationships and got incredibly frustrated when they didn't work out.

I was of course kidding myself that there was any chance - but the certain mindset at the time utterly ignored the impossibilities, both in the recognising that it was wasted effort and in the accepting of the inevitable failure. It just led me into a self destructive path which had me descend further into depression. Not entirely sure how I escaped from that - I can't remember.

Ok - that's it for my woes, for now at least.

I wanted to talk about a very special little lady who needs all the reminders she can get right now of how great she is.

I'm talking about the person who was the heart of my last team. She knew her little corner of the project perfectly, we could all trust that everything we sent their way would get done accurately and very timely. (And this is coming from a person who gives few chances and will bypass people when disappointed). It wasn't just the professional aspects though, it was the empathy, understanding and intelligence that kept people (everyone !) coming back for advice.

Yep. If there's one person who we could have happily kidnapped and brought with us when we shifted teams, it's this little lady.

Of course those awesome cakes help too.

So there we have it - we persuaded her to come visit my team today (I bribed her with jars !). She seemed a fragile 3 foot tall when she stepped on to our a floorplate and left an apparent 6 foot tall legend again.

One of the bad things about depression cycles is that it can lock away the ability to recognise the good things about yourself. That's when we need a little help from outside to recognise the value that we have. I hope we helped our little lady with that today, just like the cricket team helped me with it in the last game. I'll be back next year because of the lift they give me.

It helped me out as well today - my muscles have been complaining and it helps me to have a bit of mental fortitude to deal with that. Being able to talk through my issues properly is something I can't do with many people (what I put here is the tip of the iceberg). But being able to share the burden of issues that are actually quite similar help us both deal with them.

I'll leave it there :-)

Today was one of the better days.

PS I just checked - I have 8 more of those jars begging for some paint :-).

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday randomness

I keep getting posts brewing in my head, being all distracting like at all the wrong times. But when it comes to when I have chance to tap them in here, are they still there ? Nope. Empty head.

Let's see if I can remember a few of them ...

Saturday saw me venture out of the house (didn't want too, felt gross) to head off to the Lexus garage. I'd been invited to a sales event ... So I went along, mostly to gain a bit of intelligence. We didn't actually talk numbers in the end. I like Lexus. Not just for their cars (which are special) but you're buying into exceptional customer service when you pay into the club.

It feels very strange to be actively considering changing the best car I've owned, only 2 years into owning it. I'm a big fan of my Lexus CT (I'll say again why in another post some time) but I always knew that it wasn't quite quick enough to keep me totally happy. It's quick up to 20-30mph but then the rather anaemic engine takes over the main duty. I always knew something better was coming "soon". That's going to be the new Lexus IS. Bigger engine, bigger motor, more toys.

Toy count matters.

But yeah - at no time at the Lexus garage was I pressured into considering going into another Lexus CT. I'll be back there in 6 or 12 months and the story might be different. The IS300h costs somewhat more though, which puts a dampener on the enthusiasm.

I've got a new signature habit at work :-)

No - it's not avoiding writing a signature due to my hands wanting to cramp up on me (that's a serious issue), it's the hat. I'm still in the Ashes hat I bought from Lords. I'll wear the hat when I'm outside. It was essential for bus runs because it keeps the rain off. But at least I acknowledge one sensibility, I don't wear it when I'm indoors.

Unlike another person at work who walks through the floorplate with a cowboy hat on. I think it's surgically attached ...

Ashes ! Good day today in the cricket. This game's been one of the better games. The pitch has kept things interesting by allowing help for the bowlers while also giving the batsmen a chance. We've seen a couple of centuries by the batsmen and a few 5 wicket hauls by the bowlers. I wouldn't have bowled well there, it needed a faster, bouncier bowler - I was more of a kiss the pitch swing bowler.

Today summed it up well - we had the Tail End Fun Club come out to play for England. You'll often see cases in cricket where the proper batsmen struggle to do anything while playing defensively. Then the bowlers (the tail end) will come out and smash the ball to all parts. They don't last long ... but they can get enough runs to make a difference.

That's how it happened today, England's Tail End Fun Club pushed a difficult target out into "haha you lose" territory. And then the Aussie batsmen come out and start making it look easy ... Was getting pretty nervous at work. It was a different story when I got home with the shopping, wickets started falling and England won with a little bit to spare.

Yippee !

I have the highlights on at the moment. Nope. I'm not being sad. I just left the telly on the same sports channel and I'm listening to music while tapping this out.

Oh - that's an indication of how gross I was feeling on Saturday. Plan A was to go shopping after Lexus and fill the car up with fuel (400 miles on 34 litres). Plan B was to hide and hope my skin would settle down. I have a critical need to avoid stress right now, as stress leads to me attacking the bad bits. But that said, I'll not hesitate to help out a friend if they need it.

It's what I do.

I've been collecting the music again ... Adverts have a tendency of selling the wrong thing when it comes to me. I'll ignore the subject of the advert and listen to the music. This time it's Nouvelle Vague with Dancing With Myself. I dunno what the advert was for but a little Youtube surfing later ... Hannah Peel was the same, she's the one who sung Tainted Love on the Corsodryl advert.

And ... the highlights just got to the good bit of the cricket, when England started turning over the Aussies. Post time !

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Blood Sacrifice

That's a hell of a dark title isn't it ?

I've been rummaging inside PCs again ... A mate from work and the gaming world is having issues with his main desktop. It's keeping him out of Eve, which is a game he adores. So instead of it going to a PC repair man who'd rip him off, I'm taking a peek.

Symptoms :

Give it power, nothing happens (except for case LEDs coming on). This is after a period where it was rebooting and shutting down. If a PC reboots without warning, there's 3 main reasons :

It's a work machine and some offensive scumbag has instigated an update that forces a without-warning reboot, losing you the work you've been doing. Or
It's overheating
The power supply can't supply enough Smoke

Our gadgets don't work on electricity. This is a myth propagated by the energy companies to make you buy what they're selling. No. They run on Smoke. Because as everybody knows, if the Smoke escapes from electronics, it will never work again.

It's tough to work on unresponsive PCs. You need clues to be able to fix the problem and no clue = no ideas. The biggest idea that I have on Luth's PC is that a case fan is jammed almost solid, so it will be asking for more from the power supply than it should.

Techie note - when playing with the insides of PCs, remember :

Never, ever take an old telly or monitor apart. The new LCD ones, fine. But not a Cathode Ray Tube display. They work by using massive voltages and have energy storage to help out there. Those two together lead to potentially lethal voltages. Don't mess with that. It can kill you.

Always have the kit earthed. For me, this means disobeying one common rule by having the kit plugged in. (But switched off). 3 pin plugs come with an Earth and using that lead is the most efficient way of earthing equipment. This lets that stored energy drain away safely.

Don't open power supplies unless you really know what you're doing ... They also have high capacity energy storage to make the output cleaner. This is why I can't use the power supply in my 2nd newest machine, as I've modified that unit ... (fan broke)

It's ok to try and turn fans but don't get carried away and spin them hard. The same physics that mean magnets in energised coils become motors also means that turning magnets in coils will generate energy in those coils. Without power, there's nothing keeping the generated charge in check and things can get damaged.

Ok - enough things to remember (am running out of fingers)

I've got something for Luth. Instead of trying to isolate the exact problem (it's going to need a case transplant and a spare power supply to check it out properly), I've put his hard disc in my last PC. It's close to the same power : slightly less cpu, slightly more graphics. And after the usual issues, it seemed happy when I closed it down last night.

Fingers crossed.

Hey ! Where's this blood sacrifice thing come from ?

It seems like every time I play with the inside of PCs, blood is spilled. The insides tend to have unfriendly sharp edges which get sharper over time. It's usually a slice to a finger.

This time ? I'm picking up the box to put in the car this morning and OUCH ! Cut the middle finger on my left hand at the tip. You know - the place that goes on a keyboard. It's ok, the bleeding stopped by the time I got to work. It pretty much stopped before I started driving. It doesn't arf sting though.

However - it did satisfy one of the tenets of PC maintenance. It can truly be a Black Art.

PS The Skylon spaceplane is touching the news again ... Must try one of those in Kerbal Space Programme. Hopefully it will go better than the XK-Wing / ZK-95 Headhunter prototype ... that was truly too horrible to post here.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Tanky, Tanky

I've discovered a new game ...

I should really finish off one of these games sometime shouldn't I ? Maybe. Some games I play to death, some games I'll get to a certain point and stop playing because I hit some kind of wall. Sometimes that wall is a step in the story, a natural break point where you stop and take a breath but don't go back.

I should finish off the Shadowrun game some time, it was well worth picking up and I enjoyed it up to the point where that natural break happened.

The new one is World of Tanks and it's one of those dangerous grind-reward games ... You know, the type where if you just have One More Turn, you'll get closer to unlocking the next shiny. World of Tanks is one of those.

It's an online tank simulator. Think first person shooter like Call of Duty or the other famous name games (which I avoid) but instead of being in an unrealistic body with unrealistic ability to run, jump, twist and otherwise perform spine defying movements, you're in a tank with a very definite rule set for what it can do :

The gun turret can only turn at a certain rate
It takes a while to focus in the aim
There's only so much power in the engine so you may not be able to go up the hill you just came down
You only have limited view

And all sorts of other rules like that. It's 15 a side, with battles lasting a maximum of 15 minutes. Many of the maps offer lots of cover to lurk in and you'll need to hide there to survive to shoot. It's compelling gameplay and I've been enjoying it a lot, even though it can turn into a bit of a grind to get the First Victory Of the Day for all your tanks.

In fact, I've enjoyed it enough to pay a bit of cash on it ... It's a free to play game but you can give real cash for gold which can give you in game advantages or a bigger garage that holds more tanks.

But don't just take my word for it, here's the video that sold me on the game. It's by Duncan of the Yogscast. He's not the best game commentator but it showed how much he enjoyed this one and I wanted to check it out.

If you want to check it out too, I have a newcomers invite code I'm willing to pass on ... (if you're reading this in a month, that code will have surely gone!)

Now ... I need to grind a bit more to get closer to the Panzer IV and legendary T-34.