Monday, September 28, 2015

Mine ... All Mine ...

Gaming can be fairly odd.

I touched on this in the last post where I talked about Warcraft and Needing to get my character up to maximum level, level 100. Staying in the game past the point where it got unhealthy (my neck hates me today).

It's weird when a game hits "need". I went back into Warcraft because I got interested in the storyline again. Ok, it was actually another, similar, game called Wildstar that got my interest up in WoW again and then the storyline got my attention. It's strange ... the last few expansions to Warcraft have had mixed opinions :

Pandaland - people loved this ! But I found it to be very grindy. The charm of the Chinese themed Panda-people didn't overcome the tedium of going through the zones. The story didn't grab me.
Draenor - this one starts with a well crafted ride through a story that puts you centre stage. That strong story does seem to be fizzling out a little too though.

They've been bringing in Farmville type aspects as well. Pandaland had a farm which steadily expanded, Draenor has the garrison. This just increases the addiction nature of the game.

But wait ? Isn't a game supposed to be about the fun ?
Some games have an odd conception of the word fun. Warcraft has improved, although at a cost of a lot of its soul. It's far easier to make money and be prepared for raids than it used to be. Previously, if you did quests at maximum level, you'd get very little credit. Now, the experience you got turns into gold. Makes it easier to make money. However, at the same time, the game has been massively dumbed down from what it used to be.

But that's one game that's been getting it right with the mix between gameplay, story and keeping the player interested. I mentioned grindiness earlier ... I made the grievous error over the weekend of checking out mining in Elite ... I'd done mining before in Eve. The two games are similar ... and different with the job of mining.

Elite and Eve - you bash away at rocks with mining lasers and get minerals from the rocks. In Eve, the rocks go into your cargo hold. In Elite, you use collector limpet drones to pull in the mineral fragments.

Getting them home - When I mined in Eve, I would be running two accounts. One was a miner ... but the mining barge cargo capacity was tiny and you lost way too much time going to the station and back to drop off the goodies. So the second account ran an industrial barge (space truck) and did all the running around. It worked well. In Elite, you don't need the second account plus they haven't implemented any commander to commander trading mechanisms.

(Elite is far from complete for a multiplayer online game).

Safety - With Elite, you can play in solo mode, which stops you getting molested by player pirates. This is the reason I actually bought the game. It is locked to online servers but I don't play games any more to be at the mercy of those who put an unhealthy amount of time in, getting them better Stuff than people with less time. The unhealthy ones then bully the slower players. I think that suggests an unhealthy mindset. As unhealthy as the people who I know will play these games for days, continuously. Get outside ! See the Yellow Face !

Oh - in Eve, you're completely at the mercy of online griefers. In civilised space, there is a police force called CONCORD who blow away griefers. Trouble is, a good griefer will be able to blow up a very expensive mining ship before they got shot by CONCORD and they'll do this in a very cheap ship. The alternative is to be in alliance so you can mine in lawless space, keeping an eye on the intelligence channels warning of pirates entering your territory. If you see the enemy appear in the local system, that's usually too late and they may get you on the way to safety. It's a dangerous universe.

Mining in these games is oddly cathartic though. It's like you're getting cash without much effort, it's just a bit slower. But ...

Where do the proceeds go ?

Elite - you just sell the bits to the stations for a bit of profit and it makes the owners of the station like you a little more. After you sell stuff, it essentially disappears into nothing. Compare that to :
Eve - the players drive the economy. Out in lawless space, no ships get built unless miners get the metals. No ammo gets made without miners. So it's in the best interest of the shooty players to protect the industrial players.

Oh and there's also the difference in how much control you get :
Elite ships are more fun to fly :-).

It does get to feel a lot like a job though. That's a big reason why I left Eve. There were always those players who could put in massive amounts of time. There's an immense learning curve. And then there's its hold on your time while you're doing the Player V Player group stuff. Basically, you go away from keyboard for too long and you'll be left behind, which is when you die horribly. I hear my alliance, Volition Cult, is actually doing pretty well at the moment - good on 'em :-).

It kinda comes back to story.

Warcraft - your character is running through the lore of the land via a series of quests where you are righting wrongs, clearing out the bad guys or in some of the highlights of the Cataclysm expansion, going on Indiana Jones (or Harrison Jones) inspired adventures.
Elite - there's no story in the game, outside of what you imagine for your commander. Ok, there are the stories in the Galnet news but these are somewhat pithy and you don't influence them as a player.
Eve - the players drive 80% of the galaxy. Massive alliances shape the structure. Little players get caught up in that. The political structure is ever changing and the balance is managed by the people who run the game.

I'm actually going back to a wholly single player game for a while. It's called Deus Ex Human Revolution and tells the tale of a near future dystopia where cybernetic implants are making their mark on our society. They help amputees, assist others with enhancements but at a cost, the body rejects the implants. The story opens as one group finds an answer to that problem. It's a pretty decent story too, I've played it through a few times now and still find it interesting.

Not tonight though - I'm on the road tomorrow which means an easy night tonight and I'm already yawning. Will those yawns now translate into quick to sleep later ? I doubt it. That's not how my life is going at the moment. Still not getting as much sleep as I need.

Ok, maybe a little garrisonville ... Cya !

PS A little extra - I'm not trying to advocate either Warcraft, Eve or Elite as games I think you should play. All I will say there is - play what you find fun. Different people get fun from different things. I actually get more smiles from people distracting me from the game, than from the game itself. And if the game becomes more like work than fun ? Find another game, there's tonnes of them out there.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Social Anxiety - I haz it ?

I wonder ... Let's see :

(aside - I just copy/pasted thinking it would get me the pic and it dropped in the blank for Tuesday's Thursday Thirteen. Oops).
I have some of those. Not all of them. But I do recognise them in others. Let's see ... but first ...

Haven't posted much. I don't think I've had that much to post really, although something's coming something about a certain car manufacturer cheating the emissions tests. But only because it involves the strangeness that adding pee to the mix of fuel and air in a car engine ... makes it cleaner. Less emissions and all that. They do it for ships too. Dunno about aircraft. Very strange.

I've been gaming perhaps a little too much, my Warcraft mage is now level 100, although she needs another 1400 gold to build her very own castle. She ? Yeah. My mages are female. It started out as a test of whether female characters in online games get different treatment. They did for a while but then it got pretty much established that a female character in game was probably more likely to be male than female. I know why I keep playing with the female characters, it's the voices.

With the Mass Effect game, I'd much prefer to have Jennifer Hale voicing the character than the bloke. Some games have gender based mechanics but that's thankfully extremely rare now except with character interaction. You hopefully know what I mean there ;-). And then games like Dragon Age Origins came along ... And you could have interactions with characters of the same gender, you could have interactions with 3 characters, one non player character member of your party would even open up interactions with 4 characters ... at the same time. Progress !

And this has kinda gone in the opposite way to social anxiety hasn't it ?

Go to the bathroom to escape - nah. I don't do this. But there will come a point in social interactions where I feel the press of TOO MANY PEOPLE and I have to escape. Sometimes it's just outside, sometimes it's run to the hills and head home.

Feel very uncomfortable without a phone or other crutch - I have to admit, I have internet addiction. I am a loner who has a compulsion to interact with people. I prefer interacting with Special People. Like having messages coming in, looking at the phone and hoping there's no poles nearby to walk into. Or nattering over the interwebs while gaming, to find that I'm ignoring the game and chatting instead.

That's Warcraft at least. Elite is a bit different, because you have lots of off keyboard time in that game where it's flying to stations or docking in stations (I use a docking computer because I'm lazy).

Dwell on a small awkward moment for longer than is necessary - I think I do this, although I can't remember any examples. Perhaps it's the thinking about it long after the moment has gone. Those cogs you hear grinding will be my head thinking of myriad ways that the moment could have been less awkward.

There's a certain mental paralysis ...

Never go to a social event without a person who makes you feel comfortable - I think I'm getting better at this. I never used to go to the cinema on my own, although there's a few times I have done over the past few years. It started with Gravity, where I had a birthday evening to myself. Even had my birthday meal in McDonalds ! The Shame ! (It took longer to get there than it should and I was feeling embarassed about rushing a Wishing Well meal, thought I wouldn't have enough time and it looked packed).

See ? That's a classic example where I've overcome that to a degree but only so far. I still prefer to go see films in the cinema with other people, it's better as a shared experience that you can talk about afterwards.

Follow said person way too much - I think I've freaked a few people out by paying them perhaps too much attention. I suspect little Kim of Yogscast felt like this, although she still responds to the occasional message of mine over the Twitters ! Hurrah. There's a few more too. I try to give people space now by not badgering them too much over the messages. Maybe. But I do think of other people constantly, a very few very special ones in particular (their names strangely spell ASK ...).

Worry about people beginning to find you obnoxious - oh my yes. My last First Date had someone disappear off for a little while. I thought she'd legged it ! Imagine my relief when she came back. But with the people who I have been in contact with and then contact suddenly ceases (as it has done a few too many times), the dark bits of my mind start telling me I've done or said stuff they didn't like.

And then a message from a good person comes in and those dark bits get banished to a little corner by all the grinning brain cells.

Faking an illness to get out of a social event - maybe, maybe not. Recently it's been my outsides and they have given me that excuse to not socialise. But I think I've managed to hide the damage and the embarassing bits enough to get out the house and into those social events. But then I think back to an incident with Ravenwolf where she was really looking forward to seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Bristol Hippodrome. I didn't really want to go and that came to a head on the night when I was utterly exhausted. We didn't go. I can't remember all the circumstances around that but I think she was going to go with her mum, how come she couldn't get a lift ?

That's in the dim and distant past. I think I've improved enough now to be in proper control of when I go to social events. Things like declining invites with work colleagues (where with one group, it can just end up being a drinking session - meh). Or really looking forward to hopefully seeing Cupid's Gift again ? Maybe when her ankle is improved enough to let her out of the house.

Or if another friend wants to check out Bath Xmas market. Bristol Xmas market is coming again soon ! Bring on that Happy Cookie Place :
Cookies and cakes that are larger than your hands are awesome. Even if you have little hands.

Don't buy anything necessary because the cashier is intimidating - Hmm. Dunno here. I think my grin dissolves most intimidation from cashiers. On the other hand, I'll walk out of a shop if I think the people who work there are being obnoxious. This includes not speaking to me if I'm trying to get their attention or the old classic :

I was hunting for a car to replace my Rover (awful car). I was walking maybe 20 feet ahead of the mob, including my dad, I was obviously checking out what they had. Salesman walked right past me and started speaking to my dad. I took this very personally ... I think he realised his mistake when my dad said it was me looking for the cars. Let's just say we didn't even open the doors of the Mazda MX-3 he tried to point us towards.

I still have some of my social anxiety but I think I'm beating it. A couple of wonderful ladies (Cupid's Gift and LTK) have been helping out my confidence a fair bit over the past year.

If you recognise some of the symptoms above in you, hopefully you find that special friend who will help you with the social anxiety. Someone who will be that shield to keep the anxiety at bay. Someone who will never find you obnoxious. On the contrary, I suspect that person will be highly honoured that you chose them to be that shield. They'll understand ... or you wouldn't have picked them.

Closing ?
Yep. That means you :-). Get out there and show the world who's boss.
And it's ok if you need a friend with you :
They'd be overjoyed that you chose their pokkitz.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Long breaks

It occurred to me earlier that I don't believe I've had an extended break off work for ... many years !

Christmas time doesn't count, although I've managed to wangle a fortnight off every year at that time. Nah - most of the time I've had off has just been single weeks. That's usually enough for me, I start climbing the walls if I'm off for longer.

Thinking a little more, the last time I had a fortnight off in the middle of the year was 2005 and the visit to the States with Ravenwolf and family, which had an ... emotional ... aftermath. Less said about that the better. Ok - I was out there for a fortnight with them in Orlando, they had another fortnight after in Miami and then when they returned, Ravenwolf announced she was leaving. Heart - in tatters.

:-) Enough of that :-).
Some of the old pics are still worth bringing out again.

A couple of things made me think though - I think I had this aura of invincibility at work. Or indestructibility. I'm always there, I'm rarely away with sick days. Even with various stuff, I've not taken more than a day or two at a time to recover. Let's see :

Nose Job 1 - happened on a Thursday, I was off work on the Friday although I had one of the colleagues (Diablo) pick me up to retrieve my car from the cricket ground. I was back in work on the Monday. I had occasional other days off work too for getting the snozzle checked out by doctors. And then there were 2 days having the operation to have it straightened. Nose Job 2 was on the NHS so it's still a little bent, although that's how I see it, other people can't tell.

I was back playing cricket by the end of the season, which was good because it let me face down any potential psychological demons before they had a chance to grow over the off season. Not saying I got any runs (maybe 8) but it saw me facing up to quick bowling.

One important thing here - you may not have many days off sick but, especially with head injuries, there can be long term effects that you don't realise are there. With Nose Job 1, it deeply affected my memory and I think I still feel those effects 12 years later. A once nigh on perfect memory has gaps, where I cannot form a memory. Weird. For 18 months after, I had a mix of amnesia and false memories, where I'd form an actual memory of Doing Stuff that I hadn't actually done. I'd just mentally rehearsed how I'd do it and that would become actual memory.

The really strange thing is that I can remember some details of that day very clearly. Like the layout of the A and E, the depressing feeling of wicket keeper captaining a side that was being run ragged in the field and the shot that caused Nose Job 1. I think I dropped an easy catch behind the stumps too. Memory is a strange thing.

I've actually been hit on the head three times with the cricket. The second time, I was in a helmet and carried on playing during the game, helping our side to a comfortable win. And then I nearly threw up in the changing room after the game.

Three times ? This was really stupid. I was practicing the wicket keeping in the nets and because I was going into batting practice next, I left the helmet off. Cue a freak event ...

Legside delivery (where a keeper standing up is unsighted)
Top edge from the batsman
No time to get the hands to where the ball is now going
Lots of blood. Happily no lost teeth but that's where it hit.

That one probably concussed me for the third time as well, I couldn't feel hunger or lack of it for the next fortnight. Yet I still came in to work the next day, although this was because I didn't want to miss out on an End Of Project meal out in town which I knew Snow Queen was going to. Definitely didn't want to miss that, she was one of the fun things about my last project. I did take the next day off, which I spent in a mental fog. (Wednesday - practice, Thursday - work + meal, Friday - I dunno)

Even with my current and recovering condition with my outsides, I've barely been off work for the maybe 4 years it has been affecting me. I've been lucky there. If it had been serious Psoriasis, this can develop into Psoriatic Arthritis where the condition attacks the insides as well as the outsides. PA is a serious life changing condition with heavy consequences, especially as the treatment involves immuno-suppressants which have their own serious side effects. My joints have been seriously affected to the point where cricket is a distant possibility but I can still run quick if I need to.

Yep. I've been very lucky. Others haven't.

And I'm thinking of 3 people in particular who are fantastic friends :

The one who broke her back, you wouldn't know it. I've been really lucky to be able to count her as a friend and valued colleague over the past year. She's been keeping an eye on me and giving me someone to talk to and lots of encouragement. She's been the knowledgeable ear I've needed to keep me sane.
The one who is suffering from very heavy depression at the moment. Your friends are here for you little lady. I hope you can beat those demons and remember that old strength that made you the Heart of my last team. The one everyone else always looked to for a chat, a chuckle and a little bit of kick ass attitude. You can remember !
And the bubbly chuckly one who is recovering from a broken ankle. Get well soon dear one :-). I have something waiting for you when you're recovered enough to accept visitors who will love to come over to be reassured that you're ok and on the mend.

All three of those lovely ladies have helped me out no end over the past year. My confidence has improved with them showing me bits of my personality that they seem to like, which I wouldn't see in myself. Bits of me that they think are special which I discount as being just ordinary.

That's something very important - even a quiet word, a smile or a happy chat can do wonders for people who are a little lonely.
Do me a favour. If you have a friend that's struggling, keep an eye on them. Don't be too intrusive, that can drive them further into their shell. But keep an eye on them. Reassure them that they don't have to fight those demons alone. That they are loved. I'd have really appreciated this when I got hit in the mouth, I was on my own with that.

Showing that you care for how someone else is doing is the greatest gift you can give. Be generous with it, it costs nothing but gives reward beyond measure.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Randoms

Oh noes ! Monday ! Don't worry, it's nearly finished.
There's still a little Monday left.

I can't quite remember what I've been getting up to this weekend ! Let's see :

More pooter stuff, more on that in a bit.
Rugby watching - England won but weren't exactly setting a Fear US marker for the rest of the teams.
More rugby - it was great to see Japan come from behind to beat South Africa in the dying seconds of that game. True giant killing effort and you know it's hard won in rugby, because that's how the game's played.
Grand Prix "racing" being meh as usual.
Lots of Warcraft, although perhaps not as much as you'd think.
Tonnes of music listening.

Techie stuff first - the decision to get that new router is turning out to be an excellent one. Before, I'd need to power cycle the Little White Box every evening or so, because the music stream would break up. Once it started to go, it wouldn't come back. Now it does ... The audio has coughed a couple of times that I've noticed but it didn't stay broke.

More techie - how does it do this ?
All streaming depends on buffering. The Littlewhitebox audio stream goes at about 1Mbit/s but not always ... It'll stream a little ahead (only a couple of seconds) to account for any difficulties the network may have. If you watch youtube videos, there will be a light grey in the timeline bar ahead of where you are in the video, then a dark bar for the rest. The light grey is where it's buffered some more in to keep a steady video in case of internet wobbles. For mine, the little blips are where it hasn't managed to catch up with the buffering after the network has done something else.

The network is also a bit quicker too. Part of that will be that psychosomatic feeling of "I have spent money on this, it must be better". Come on ... you know what I mean there ! But it's also in quantifiable things like being able to upload pics to Facebook faster, even if the pic is on the desktop and I'm uploading from the laptop. Oh and having Facebook or Twitter loading with Firefox starting up, previously, Firefox would load faster than the wifi connected and would get confused.

I've also got an answer for my Macbook Air wifi troubles. (More info at the link). On mine, 5GHz wifi works fine, 2.4GHz is just broken. It doesn't work and this is across a couple of routers, locations and networks. The solution is to use a USB wifi dongle. Sorted ! And this got tested over a few hours streaming music. I'll use the built in wifi as standard but have an option now for when I'm elsewhere.

So that makes my network gear :
Apple Littlewhitebox Airport Express - I'd thoroughly recommend these if you want to throw an audio stream across the room to a proper hifi using wifi. It'll send high quality (1Mbit/s up from 256/320) audio across the network, which I pipe through to the amp with a digital optical connection. No loss there, the audio is as good as it can get. Better than if I was using a wire across the room.
TP-Link Archer D5 modem/router - very happy with this purchase. Hopefully I'll still be happy with it after a year or so of letting it do its thing !
TP-Link Powerline networking pair - these did their job, although they're partly redundant now. They'll be handy if I upgrade my telly to one that looks for a network connection, or if I add networking to my Xbox 360.
TP-Link USB wifi dongle - I bought this for my old Windows laptop to have it talk to the 5GHz wifi on the old router. Now it gives me an option to get around the problems with wifi on the Macbook Air.

(Disclosure note - no compensation has been given for the recommendations given above, all stuff bought with my own money ! And that does mean no Lego Millenium Falcon for me, definitely no Lego Death Star, see ? Endorsements can be a good thing)

What else ...

Way too much World of Warcraft. What can I say ? The story has my interest. For now at least. That's how it has gone for me in previous expansions to the game and my experiences have been counter to what other people say. Pandaland was seen as one of the better expansions but I have to say I found it fairly meh. This expansion has been seen as fairly poor ... but I'm caught up far more in the story in this one. Not sure why. Perhaps it's the Garrison. I'm happy I came back in, although I know that it won't last.

It can't last because, funny as this sounds, it has a nasty effect on my body. I tense up more, which my upper body doesn't like. Still, there's more variation here than in Elite. I can see me staying in until the next game comes. That'll be No Man's Sky, which has heaps of hype about it.

Talking of hype ...
I'm currently reading Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke but I'm really tempted to dive into The Martian again. Can't wait for that film to come, hopefully it lives up to the expectations I've had for it since reading the book. It has a magic combination of :

Great science
Drama through accident
Accidents having a "yeah, this could easily happen", rather than the stupidity causes in a film like Interstellar
(Interstellar was an amazing film but most of the drama in that was from the stupidity of the characters)
Excellent (sometimes dark) humour
Wonderful characters
Keeps you guessing, keeps you reading.

Yep. I really enjoyed that book and I'm looking forward to seeing the film. I suspect I'll see it a few times with ... the work-ish friends (CK, CQ, BD), a gamer friend (Luth) and Cupid's Gift if her existing arrangement to see it falls through due to her injury.

Heal up soon Cupid's Gift !

PS My healing ? It's continuing. There are still a few awkward spots but the damage is still steadily receding. Completely healed by Xmas ? I hope so.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thursday Thirteening ...

Here it comes again ! Yep - another Thursday Thirteen.

But first ... router report ... Pointy Things Are Better. Proven. After avoiding gaming over the last couple of evenings, I had a good session today. Whereas before, I'd be disconnected sometimes after only 5 minutes or so, it survived a maybe 4 hour session. Ok, the server coughed (and is still fallen over at the moment) once but that's a problem at their end.

Yep. I suspect I need to keep an eye on the addictive part of my personality. It's taken to returning to WoW a little too well, although in its defence, I hadn't played for a few days.

Happy with the techie purchase, I hope the post from yesterday was useful !

Week Two Questions! Copy, Paste, Share & Tag! ?#?Thursday13?
1.What do you think the best invention is?
The pizza cutter. What else could it be ?
2. Are you a pessimist or an optimist?
I have to say optimist. I do make tonnes of back up plans but that's my paranoia saying things can and will go wrong and I better be prepared. But I do look for positive outcomes instead of instantly going to the "It's all going horribly wrong"
3. If you could have one super power, what would it be?
The ability to turn people's frowns into smiles. To cheer people up. To make them happy. Perhaps I'm part way there ? People catch the Grin when they see me smile at them. But it's not proof for everyone. The relationship with Ravenwolf fell apart because I couldn't find an answer to bring her up out of her depression. Work in progress maybe.
4. What do you think your life will look like in 10 years?
Hopefully with someone to share the music, toys and movies with. I have to say I'll still be working, thanks to the Beloved Mr Osborne, I'll not be able to retire early. I'd like to have had my boat built and be living on it.
5. What is the best thing about living in your city ?
The people I know in it. The colleagues at work. The work-ish friends who drag me out to the cinema. The friends who I can send messages over for chat when I'm feeling lonely. The bubbly chuckly Cupid's Gift who brings out huge smiles when a message comes in.
Yep. That's me, hoping there are no poles nearby when a message comes in. From a few people actually !
6. What are your hobbies?
Playing days in cricket are pretty much done now, although I have to say that I won't throw out the boots, gloves or whites just yet. I still watch lots of cricket, I'll watch the motor racing (although Formula 1 is paint drying watching foregone conclusion with the state of the teams at the moment). I watch an unhealthy amount of scifi and read almost as much. And then there's the games ...
7. If you could invent a holiday, what would it be?
Space jaunt.
8. What was the last thing you bought?
Outside of munchies ? That'd be shopping and petrol on Tuesday and the router on Monday.
9. Do you like to cook?
I like to throw things in the oven, forget about them and pop them out in half an hour. That said, I should really learn to cook better so I can choose my own ingredients for increased healthiness. That said, last time I tried eating healthy, my body erupted with all the damage that's almost repaired now.
10. How have you changed since you were younger?
Slowed down a little perhaps. Still indulging in the strange thinking. Perhaps wiser from being older.
11. What was your first car?
The Fiesta doesn't count. My first proper car was an Astra 1.6 Mk1. It had a beard. Yep ! Seriously ! The rust under the front bumper resembled a scabrous growth that Clooney would have been proud of.
12. What is the worst movie that you've seen?
Jupiter Ascending would have come close if it wasn't for Battleship. Jupiter Ascending at least had Mila Kunis attempting to have some fun with it. Battleship had zero redeeming features.
13. If you could meet anybody in history, past or present, who would it be?
Hmm. Tough one. I could say various people who will get irrationally irritated at the person I suggest. It'd make them throw things at the screen. I dunno why people get like that at people they don't know. Although see earlier comment about Mr Osborne.

I think I'd like to meet my ancestors. See what they did. See how they lived. See who they were. Because they are my own personal history.

That's it for this one ! I think this will go on Facebook as well. Soon.
Haha. There's a reason why I use pictures of dragons as my profile pics ...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Three times better

I've worked out that my new router is precisely three times better than the last one. Exactly three. Not two. Not 4.2. Definitely three.

Why ?

It has 3 Pointy Things !
Actually, I can't see any Pointy Things on the last router, which makes the new one infinitely better.

Daftness aside, there is actually a good reason why More Pointy Things Are Good on stuff like this. But first ... I wanted to natter about buying techie stuff. The kind of procrastination I'll go through before parting with money. There is a dazzling array of choice out there for what to buy. Hopefully you'll find this useful and it'll save you money !

Who to buy from ?
Listen to people, check out the opinions of ordinary people. Don't go by what selling websites tell you or retail places. Or if you do, go by the opinions of places that are too massive to care. Personally, I look up what I want to buy on Amazon and check out the customer reviews. Ignore the high star ones, they usually say "This did exactly what it said on the tin". Go by the low star ones, these tell you about the shortcomings. Stuff it can't do. Whether you'll be buying a replacement in a few weeks.

Definitely whether you'll be buying a replacement.

Remember what you got before too. I personally will refuse to even look at anything Belkin* make because everything I've bought from them has been poor quality, sub par and just not very good. Things like an FM retransmitter for sending audio from MP3 player to car stereo which ... needed me to take the aerial off the car to work, got jammed very easily, didn't remember its settings because the battery backup failed. Asus are another company on my Bad Stuff list where you will see a lot of their gear on the shelves.

*(Other people's experiences with Belkin may vary - but I've had a few bits and pieces from them and they've all been poor).

Oh and never go by that "Relevance" thing when looking at places like PC World and their list of routers. The only "relevance" there is "what do we want to sell you", you should be going by "what do I want to buy". Buy the best kit, not what is clogging the shelves in the stock room because no one else will buy it.

This time around, I ignored everything else and just looked at TP-Link because I've had good experience with their Powerline networking kit. (Disclosure note - this is not an ad, TP-Link won't have a clue who I am and have definitely not offered me any compensation for saying they make Good Stuff, more's the pity - that cash could go on a Lego Millenium Falcon). Other people :

Philips - made a router which kept blocking the net.
Belkin - see earlier comments about their other stuff.
Netgear - make my Virgin Media Superhub and V+ box which .... aren't good. I would not choose to buy anything from these people (despite their reputation) given a choice.
Linksys - actually pretty good, no complaints with my last 2 routers from them.
D-Link - don't know them.
Asus - previous motherboards have been feature incomplete and unstable. A transformer pad and a laptop owned by the family broke. So that's all their kit that we've been exposed to failing in some way.

Shop around
My last two techie purchases have been from Argos, which amazes me because they were always behind the times with prices. I.e. they didn't keep up with the market, sold old kit at high prices. I bought the TP-Link Archer D5 device for £43, it costs £58 from Amazon, £95 from Maplin and an Archer D2 costs £60 at PC World (they don't do the D5). Admittedly that £43 was reduced from £90 but hey ! If it's discounted and you want/need it, grab it from the cheapest place.

Know what you're getting
If you are an ADSL subscriber (internet through the phoneline), don't get a cable router. Conversely, I could get an ADSL modem router because you can make it work with the cable internet.

What to get ?
The tech specs of these things are horrendously confusing. Ignore anything to do with speed, it's utterly irrelevant. Just done a little speed test on a 300MB file :
From desktop to laptop - 125Mbits/s. Other way - 90Mbits/s
That's actually pretty good and the file copied both ways in well under a minute. If your devices could go any quicker, you'll save ... seconds. And that's on a big file. How often will you handle files that size ? Not often. You need enough speed to handle the broadband connection (mine is 30Mbits/s which is good enough for streaming HD video). So ignore speed, it's irrelevant except when you're doing several things. It's good to be able to stream audio to the hifi and not have it interrupted by transferring photos from laptop to desktop etc.

How many Pointy Things ?
Yep. I started off with that as a joke but it is actually a serious consideration. The £40 price point is where routers with 3 Pointy Thing antennae start appearing. Why does this matter ? An antenna receives and transmits but can only do one of those at a time. It cannot listen while it shouts. So with my audio streaming, Antenna 1 listens, Antenna 2 tranmits it to the hifi, Antenna 3 listens for everything else. Like the wifi jammer that is in the neighbourhood. (Anything operating on the band can and will interfere, poorly made baby monitors and microwaves are notorious for it).

So more Pointy Things are something to look out for. They may not be what you want on display but you're going to hide the thing away aren't you ?

Dual Band
Wifi works off 2.4GHz (old stuff) and 5GHz (new stuff). Not all devices can talk at 5GHz, like my printer and camera. But pick up Dual Band if you can, because phones and laptops will really like it. It's away from all that white noise baby monitor and microwave interference.

Bigger is better - up to a point
The laws of physics are kinda boring but we all have to pay lip service to them. One of them is wave theory (indirectly related to good surfboarding). Every wave has a speed, frequency and wavelength. Speed = Frequency times Wavelength.
Wifi works at the speed of light : 300,000,000m/s.
Frequency : 2.4GHz or 5GHz (2,400,000,000Hz or 5,000,000,000Hz)
This makes the wavelength either 12.5cm or 6cm. To pick this up, the antenna has to be the same length. Or you can cheat and make a "dipole" that's a half or a quarter the length. More about dipoles (warning - it's geeky) at the link. This is why the Pointy Things attached to routers are about 12-13cm, it means they can send and receive the signals. "Folded" and "Short" dipoles are why you can get wifi adaptors smaller than the USB plug they're attached to. Not as strong but still do the job.

Some devices (like phones) hide the Pointy Things inside ... but they're still there.

Sockets - they look like new type phone sockets but are slightly bigger. Get a few of these, mine has four and they're all in use. One goes to the cable modem, one to the desktop, one to my Powerline widget and the other has a long lead to plug Random Stuff (like the work laptop) into.

Security - all devices will have WPA/PSK encryption which you MUST ACTIVATE AND CHANGE PASSWORD ! They will also have a firewall which you should turn on. There will be very little difference in the security offered by different systems but you must remember to use it.

Haven't had me dinner yet so my coherency is starting to escape me but ... Summary ?

Speed - irrelevant
Buy from people you trust
Buy from manufacturers you trust
Check out independent people's opinions
Discount opinions where you think someone's been paid to give it
More Pointy Things Are Good - science backs this up

I hope you've found this useful and not too geeky !
And ...
Cya !

Monday, September 14, 2015

Techie Battles

I've been fighting the tech again today.

Not just at work, although that's a given at the moment. We've just "upgraded" to Windows 7 and AbominOffice and the network has crumbled. Cloud computing is all very good if the network infrastructure is able to handle it. I have my suspicions based on what I see at home and how I see the work machines behave. They freeze often when doing things like simple writing of emails, which suggests that they're phoning home and freezing while waiting for a reply.

Add to that, this Windows 7 desktop will send small data packets (about 10-20kbytes) to the network quite often. You can bet the work ones are doing the same. What are they ? I never found out for this machine. Multiply that by several thousand machines and you get a problem.

But enough about work ...
I've been hunting the techie stuff again ...

But before that - Warcraft. I'm back in the old game again. I dunno - with Elite, I kinda got burned out on it. The trading gets very samey, very quickly, even if you're trying to avoid doing a 2 or 3 station loop. I've never been one to enjoy grinding like that in games, it always felt a lot like work and not fun. Warcraft has felt a lot like that in the past but for some reason, I keep going back to it.

Add to that, my dodgy wrist apparently taking a massive dislike to all that joystick time. Instead of having your hand flat for typing or mousing, the joystick forces it vertical (like if you're holding a mug). Also add in the need to have very fine control over the movement of the stick for when you're flying the space craft. It's that fine control that really kills my wrist, the muscles don't like balancing against each other.

Warcraft is different, I play it with one hand on keyboard doing movement and combat stuff and the other on the mouse. My mouse at home is on an elevated deck which I think is helping that wrist, whereas at work, the mouse is flat on the desk and I believe I strain the wrist by tipping it back. The drawback is that the playstyle hunches me up, tenses me up and my back and shoulders hate that. Wrist happy, back unhappy.

But ... I've been getting frequent disconnects from the server while playing Warcraft. Apparently, that's a problem in my old cable modem (Virgin Media Superhub). These have a few problems, including flawed firmware updates that cause this disconnect problem (it thinks the game is a filesharing piratey thingy). There are other issues like the breaking of my audio stream, which goes through the router. The printer that refused to connect to my desktop (curiously, it now refuses to connect to the laptop). The knowledge that my ISP has decided that they're going to roll out free wifi access, using residential customer routers.

That last point is why I've decided to - grab a new router. That exploitation of my wifi connection is annoying. It comprises my connection. It is not what I'm paying the ISP for. They should be paying me for it ! Not a happy bunny and I am seriously considering moving away from them for this and irritations with my TV system.

Where was I ? The router is what connects all of your devices to the internet. It arbitrates traffic between everything. So my desktop shouldn't see the traffic going between laptop and audio device. It gives security. It doesn't mysteriously decide that your devices are hacking the internet and block them like an old Philips router of mine did.

I've acquired an ADSL wireless modem router from TP-Link. Actually from Argos, which surprises me as they seem to be becoming my go to choice for pooter bits. This is very strange. But it does go to show that you should shop around with no preconceptions as to how much people will charge. Except Maplin. They'll always charge +10%, although you'll get stuff there that you'll struggle to find elsewhere.

What's it do ? It can do two things - either connect to the internet through your phone line or, in my case, connect through a cable modem. Herein lies the first problem. The cable modem will only recognise a device if it's plugged into it when the cable modem is powered up. Just means it needs to be power cycled plus a little wait. Hmm - this post could get long so I shall summarise the various problems tonight ...

Setup disc didn't work. It was dumb and assumed I'd be connecting via the phone. Fix - all routers have an address you can type in that will take you to a configuration page. Something like (That's not what mine is now and it's strictly local addresses only, this is not accessible over the internet). You can set the router up correctly there.

Problem two - the Airport Express didn't want to play nice. It is only accessible over wifi, so part of the prep was to take it off the old Aquarius network that I was shutting down and have it make its own wifi network "Littlewhitebox" (name chosen because it's a little white box). The Airport Express is how I get music from laptop to hifi, so it's ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that it works. It didn't want to answer to Littlewhitebox. Grr. One factory reset later and it connected up right.

My networks have followed a pattern of Artemis, Aquarius and now I needed a couple more names ... The new ones are Athena and Ariadne. I like those. I still get a flash of this lady for Athena :
Name that show ... and for bonus points name the characters who she's doing Mischievous Things to.

So - Macbook connects through Athena, which works off 5GHz. Ariadne works off 2.4GHz. My Macbook has a major problem talking to 2.4GHz but I can work around that. It's fine off 5GHz but my printer and camera are not. They have to talk over old wifi. One point I'm pleased about with the router is that it can separate the old 2.4GHz from the new 5GHz, which keeps the Macbook happy. Now if only it could ...

Talk to the printer. It's an old Kodak printer that used to have problems talking to my desktop. It would talk just fine to the laptop. Now it'll talk to the desktop but not the laptop. Urg. Hopefully the camera will cooperate.

Cue the next problem - I thought I'd test it by watching a Totalbiscuit stream of him playing the new Starcraft expansion beta. And the stream breaks up a lot, causing a very worried SleepyPete. Actually not a problem with the network - it's good in cases like this to have independent devices. My Macbook and Desktop (Win7) run completely different software underneath everything, which is a godsend when troubleshooting. Macbook ran the stream just fine (it was yet another problem with Flashplayer)

Curse you Adobe !

I think things are configured now, although I'm going to give Warcraft a miss for tonight. Hopefully that'll go ok tomorrow. I got home a bit late today after spending a while at the Mall buying stuff (actually just the router) so there hasn't really been time tonight.

Especially as I need to check that last piece of the puzzle ... camera ! It connects over wifi as well. On the old network, it would talk to the Macbook just fine ... and refuse to talk to the desktop. Hopefully that'll be consistent this time. And I have found it, after a "I can't find it!!!" panic. It was where it should have been - laptop bag. Oh and I need to investigate all of the settings for the router. Even the ones I don't have a clue what they mean.

Right - I've rabbited on enough ... One last pic ?
Don't forget your firewalls.

PS I'm hesitant to mention - no dropouts on the audio tonight (but then again, all the bits have only been on for a couple of hours) ... good sign.
PPS TP-Link do Good Stuff ... but their manuals and automatic setup are dire.
PPPS And some head scratching later and flicking the "Client Isolation" switch on and off (it stops  all devices on a network from talking to each other but does let them through to internet), things magically work ... Hurrah !

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thursday Thirteen returns !

This is a meme from way back and I've kinda missed it. I'd usually do them with themes like music, movies, books, things like that. This one is questions :

First weeks questions! Copy, Paste, Share & Tag! ‪#‎Thursday13‬
1. What's a nickname only your family calls you?
Dunno actually ! The family doesn't really use a nickname for me. But with the gamer people, half of them use Ice, some of them use Keela, others use Sleepy and the PA mob gave me the name Dwagonman which is now my Twitter @.
2. Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate. Bad for you but so good. Do I ... smell chocolate ?
(I have that one, should really have snapped a pic of mine instead of being lazy and asking Google !)
3. What is your favorite quote?
Crikey. There must be one of these in my head somewhere, rattling around. And my mind is going to the classic from Andromeda - "At the end of the universe when everything collapses in on itself, there will be three entities left alive. Tyr Anasazi, the cockroaches and Captain Dylan Hunt trying to save the cockroaches."
4. What's a song you secretly LOVE to blast & belt out when you're alone?

There are so many ! Let's see. The Veronicas Untouched is so powerful, 03.45am No Sleep by The Cardigans is dreamy, Shy Boy by Katie Melua sums me up pretty well I think, I will always stop and sing along to Apple Tree Man by All About Eve and I Can't See New York by Tori Amos but ... there's always The Incidentals by Alisha's Attic. Wonderful song.
5. What's one of your biggest pet peeves?

Bad drivers and queue jumpers. They kinda mix together.
6. What was the last thing you ate?

Wispa Bites. Lush. But not as gertlush as Pixie or Snow Queen cakes.
7. If you could change your name, what would it be and why?

I don't think I would to be honest. I'm quite happy with my first and last names, although I've gone by various nicknames over the years. See 1 ! Alisha's Addict is one I went by in the long gone past. I did think about converting to using my middle name at uni but that lasted ... 1 minute.
8. Favorite pizza topping?

Pepperoni !
9. What did you want to be when you were little?
An astronaut ! Perhaps this explains the fascination with Elite ?
10. What's your favorite flower?
Sneeze ! Says the hayfever tending person. There's a person who's struggling right now ... Oh wait, you meant plant ?
11. Which of the 5 senses do you consider to be your strongest?

Hearing. My eyes were pretty good with the cricket but have been fading with ancientness. But my hearing is still good enough to discern between many sounds together and I have that sonar thing that tells me where people are.
12. What's your favorite food that begins with the letter "S"?

SUNDAE ! What else could it be ? Make it a chocolate one.
13. Name the last song you listened to. 
Currently listening to 03.45am No Sleep as I test the link I put above and Heartland by U2 is going over the other speakers.

PS This has been one of those nights where I've started kinda halfheartedly playing a game, in this case World of Warcraft (not actually resubscribed yet but I think I will) with a new Gnome called Nanoice. She'll be a monk miner engineer. I've not done that area yet and I've never done a monk. It'll be new and curious. But ... people are better. And my attention was definitely being drawn to a series of Cute And Fuzzy Animal Pics appearing on Facebook that have definitely brought me smiles :-). And they need something in return :
It's like something I wrote somewhere ... Play game, see message from Pretty Lady, get distracted by messages from Pretty Lady, close game, natter, smile.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Hug ! time

This one's for a very special little lady who is immobilised at the moment due to a poorly ankle.

Now how can we cheer her up ? Actually, this one's for everyone who could do with a little cheering up right now. Yep. You ! Now what do I have in those archives ...

Perhaps ... The blankets have subverted our dear one and that's why she can't get up ?
I hope all her friends can keep her sane.
I tried sanity. It's over rated and boring.

May she have protectors in her hour of need :

 Hopefully she'll enjoy a quieter time for a bit :
Have lots to keep her mind busy :
(she's a smart one, this will take some doing !)
So many worlds to lose ourselves in with the books.

But may it be soon that we can give this little lady what she really, really wants ...
Ok. Maybe not the cookies :
(wait for it, it's worth it !)

Get well soon Cupid's Gift :-)

PS Facebook doesn't seem to want to let me add gif's to send to someone so ...

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Convalescence Care Package

I heard today that an amazing little lady has had an accident and is confined to her bed for the next few weeks ... It's not really bad, it's a broken ankle. So it's bed rest for the Little Lady for the next few weeks. (Virtual Hug).
Ankles are awkward. I've had my share of broken bones and fractures and other mishaps with my bones but I've been lucky that I've still been ambulatory with them. The most serious were a broken wrist (which was put in plaster), the dislocated shoulder (an 18 month injury) and the broken ribs. Can't do much with ribs, except try not to laugh too much and go see a doctor if there's blood (which there wasn't). Oh and I think I stress fractured my back as a teenager and had a micro fracture in my shin.

But ankles and other load bearing bits of the body are awkward. Broken bones like humerus, fibia/tibia, radius and ulna (long bones in arms and legs) heal when put in casts that give them a scaffold to build themselves back up on. But joints are a bit more awkward to heal.

I hope she gets back on her feet soon. And before that cabin fever starts sinking in. But I have had a request. I'm calling it a Convalescence Care Package. Lots of music, nothing melancholy. And I'm expanding that into books and movies. Here goes !

If you're having a grey day and need some cheering up, look no further than Mindy Gledhill's album, Anchor. It's a wonderful piece of happiness and joy with tracks like the one which kicks it off, California (better on the album). And it continues the Happy from there. Heavily recommended.

Telly can be good to keep you busy, keep you grinning. I'm looking forward to the Librarians coming back. It's another Noah Wyle programme, whatever he gets involved with tends to be golden and the Librarians was no exception. There's also old stuff like :

The original Men From Uncle;
All the animated series - Ulysses 31, Dogtanian (yes, it's kiddie stuff but that's no reason why you should drop it off the Fun Stuff list if you enjoy it !), must actually watch Mysterious Cities Of Gold sometime too and I have the Dungeons and Dragons series that I've been meaning to watch for ages.

A game to keep you busy ? Has to be laptop or tablet and not too stressful. How about Machinarium ... it's a puzzle game with a super cute robot who is trying to get back to his partnerbot. Magical masterpiece. I've never finished this one, must go back to it. That and The Banner Saga which has recommendations from everybody.

Talking of cheap stuff - run lots of offers, including content for Android and e-book and PC stuff. Their e-book bundle isn't interesting at the moment (Star Wars stuff) but hopefully better will appear when it changes over tomorrow.

Books ? I'd first go to Larry Niven's Ringworld series. Little gritty but it's a ride through the most distant part of the Known Space novels. It's a dangerous place and full of adventure. Most of the Heinlein books too. Usually good fun reads.

I remember the Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders of Pern books being really good too. Not read them for years now. Good books and my favourite character there, Menolly, was forever linked to Julianne Regan of All About Eve. They're a goth band so a bit too melancholy to link here. Beautiful songs though. Their first album was their best with songs like Wild Hearted Woman. I know a few of those, they're fun. (This friend ain't gonna be a stranger for the girl with stars in her eyes)

But we have happier songs than that. I've been impressed with Caro Emerald ever since hearing one of her tracks used for Strictly Come Dancing. That was Dr Wanna Do. Both of her albums (and the live one) have been amazing.

And while I was looking through the library ... I spotted A Town Called Eureka soundtrack. Another wonderful scifi series that was all about the fun. It never forgot that the true purpose of entertainment is to ... entertain. Some of the new series like Walking Dead have been more about the gore. Stay with the fun !

How about a movie or two ?

I really need to watch Spirited Away again. I vaguely remember it from watching it a decade ago and really enjoyed it then. So how come I haven't watched it again since ? I dunno ! They did a cracking job with the recent Narnia films too, shame they didn't manage to film all the books. Anything by Pixar ! And the magic Bolt. Charming film that is one of the few that gets me in the feels. Spot the dog person :-). Robots is another great film, with voice acting from the one of a kind and sorely missed Robin Williams.

And a random neuron just made me think of Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. I'm not that big a fan of the books but BBC did a wonderful adaptation a good few years ago. Here's the theme tune. And a bonus ! Someone's put the whole series up - enjoy while you can ... Wonder if I can find the soundtrack. The 2005 film is a bit pants though.

More music ? Here's a few happy highlights :

Anything by Little Boots. Dancing is her Remedy.
Dubstar's bounciness. Sarah Makes It Better with Stay.
Kate Bush's Lionheart. Fun album.
I always enjoy Katie Melua purring at me with songs like Thank You Stars.
Lisa Hannigan with that picture story book in Lille.
Lucy Spraggan with the very naughty Beer Fear.
Norah Jones knows who her favourite Man Of The Hour is (WOOF!).
River City People burned bright for a short time. Their first album was full of excellent songs like What's Wrong With Dreaming ?

And a few more films to pass the time :
Galaxy Quest - a spoof on Star Trek and a piece of excellence.
Serenity finishing off the excellent Firefly series. Much fun.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
Fifth Element. One of the best scifi films of all time.
All the Indiana Jones movies. Ok, maybe not the last one.
Lilo and Stitch !
The magic of the Princess Bride
A rather different gangster movie in Bugsy Malone.

And I'll close on that ideal film for one who needs to heal. What else could it be ? Who else could it be ? It's gotta be Baymax. And I really need to watch Big Hero 6 again.

I hope it's not too long before this Very Pretty Lady gets back on her feet :-). I hope she is satisfied with her care package :-).

PS Addon - how could I have missed the Discworld novels ? I need loads of those to read. Always funny, always good fun to read.
PPS Missed another - Guardians Of The Galaxy ! Awesome film, great soundtrack. Am Hooked On A Feeling ...

Monday, September 07, 2015

On A Journey

Actually 2 journeys, plus that big long one we call life.

But we'll leave that life one for the philosophers for now.

Mix of very little game (I hope I don't digress!), a bit of real astronomy, a bit of theoretical Stuff and some actual real life travel gripe ...

Game ?

You'll know I've been on that Internet Spaceship game a bit too much. It so pretty. In its own way. So many pretty sparkly objects and gaps that an active imagination can fill in. Right now, my imaginary Starship Commander is propping up one of the bars in Hutton Orbital in the Alpha Centauri system after an epic journey to get there. It's supposed to be a resting time while waiting for Hutton Orbital Mugs to be made, hopefully so his dodgy right wrist recovers and gets less painful.

Too much time gripping the joystick me thinks.

Perhaps he should be drinking with a straw to not pick up those heavy glasses with the bad arm ? All the better to empty the glass quicker and make it lighter. I think my Imaginary Spaceship Commander might be an alcoholic and making up for me barely drinking alcohol at all.

Where is this Hutton Orbital and why has it become such a theme with Elite pilots ?

It's situated in the Alpha Centauri star system. Here's a link to lots of stuff on Wiki about it. At 4.2 light years distant, it's the closest star system to our own and is actually 3 stars linked together by their mutual gravitational attraction. (Detailed info in the link). The first two stars are designated Alpha Centauri A and ... you guessed it ... Alpha Centauri B. They vary in distance apart, closest approach is the same distance as Saturn to our Sun, farthest distance is Pluto.

The two stars are fairly Sol like. Our Sun is a Type G2V star right slap in the middle of the "Main Sequence" almost all stars go through in its life. That means there are millions or billions of years before it turns red, gets huge, eats the Earth and then dims, collapses and explodes into a nova, spreading the elements it has created into the cosmos to become the building blocks of more life. Alpha Centauri A is a G2V as well, B is a K1V which places it a bit further along on the main sequence. The 1/2V refer to the temperature relative to our sun and the V means they are main sequence stars. The actual characteristics are tied by laws of physics.

What's that mean ? It's highly unlikely any planets would form in a system like that. The interplanetary Stuff that organises itself in rings and then coagulates together is pulled apart by the influence of the two suns. It would never form a ring and therefore never form a planet. At least that's what I assume from my limited knowledge of astronomy. There's a cracking series by Prof Brian Cox that explains all this, I think it was Wonders Of The Solar System. Hopefully understandable by us mere mortals.

(They do actually think there's a planet around Alpha Centauri B, which shows how much I know)

So - no planets, no reason to go there ? Not quite. There's a third star in the system, called Proxima Centauri. It's 0.22 light years away from A and B. It's a red dwarf star class M6, which means it's small, dim and almost at the end of the main sequence. If a planet was around it, the planet would be pretty cold unless it was very close.

With current telescope technology, we can't refine our knowledge much past seeing the 3 stars even on a system as close as Alpha Centauri. We think there might be an exoplanet around AC B but it's too close to the star to be of any use (way too hot, hotter than Venus).

This is where the game comes in. For a game like Elite to be succesful, it has to have life. It needs population. It needs a galactic economy for traders to lose themselves in. It needs things to see, places to go. In the case of Alpha Centauri, they've placed a nearly dead planet called Eden around Proxima Centauri and there is a starport called Hutton Orbital in the skies above it.

Here it is, with my heavily armed trading Python the "Mel and Sue ..."
So there is life there, in the virtual domain at least.

If you make the trip to get there ... Hutton Orbital is 0.22 light years away from where you drop into the system. The game has its own form of warp drive to lessen the time taken to get to places. It barely takes any time to get from the entry point to stations maybe 100 to 10,000 light seconds away. This one is 80 light days or 6.9 million light seconds away. That takes 90 minutes to get there ... During which you're not doing very much. Apart from going to the shops for dinner bits, making dinner, having dinner, getting dessert, quick nap, facebook and twitter daily update.

So not many people go there. It's become a hotbed of activity over the weekend though, there is a Community Goal that involves taking scrap all the way to this station. Enough scrap and they make a new Rare Item (something in limited quantities that can only be bought in one place) to be sold here. It'll be the Hutton Orbital Mug.

I want one.

I want one in real life. Come on Frontier ! Make it happen !

So my in game personality is propping up the bar there because I really don't want to make that trip twice to pick up the reward for doing one trip. That suits me fine because the RSI tendencies in my wrist have been waking up with the stick time. (Boo hiss). Maybe I need to play some Shooty Game, that's been good therapy for it in the past. I also have Rendezvous With Rama to read and I've discovered an iPad game called Motorsport Manager which I've been enjoying.

I mentioned real life journeys didn't I ...

They're digging up the roads again. And this time is beyond insanity ... The plan is to make a new Metro Bus route, which will go very close to my place. Why they can't use the existing road system, I dunno. But they're doing widening works which for the short term, will cause havoc. Bristol has a few very strategic routes and exits to the motorways. If one of those routes or the motorway gets clogged, the result is massive gridlock as people get stuck in the traffic, as the traffic stretches back and blocks other strategic junctions, as people use alternate routes.

The other part of the insanity is that they've chosen to do this now, at the start of the school term, instead of starting it off in the school holiday. This is important because the traffic increases exponentially with parents doing the school run. I got into work at about normal time today but that's mostly because I used a Really Alternate Rarely Used Route. Actually never used this one before, won't do again. I went through a station which has extremely aggressive speed bumps.

Yep. Bit of madness from the Bristol city road planners again. We've got used to that over the years. They are actively hostile to road users, whether that be 2 wheel, 4 wheel or truck. You could say democracy has failed us there. We vote for the people making these decisions but if there are no sensible people to vote for, then democracy cannot choose a good leader.

Gripe. Whinge.

I came home by the normal route tonight, which actually went ok. But coming out of the area I live, the traffic was still mental. It all funnels into one big roundabout, which can't efficiently get everyone out of the area.

Virtual Life becomes more fun than Real Life again. Even if the trip in Virtual Life is 90 minutes watching a distance counter click down.

Hopefully tomorrow's trip into work will be better as people avoid the bottlenecks. I can't cos I'm in the middle of them. I won't be doing the virtual trip for a bit, I want to wait for that Community Goal to complete, then I'll have my pilot collect the reward and be out of there. Still a bit burned out on the Internet Spaceships though from the explore trip, although there are Spaceship Commanders coming out of the woodwork at work.

And I really must not continue the virtual journey that a character called Etherice (Iceangel was taken - boo hiss) started yesterday. Yep. I have an active WoW account again, even if it is a free trial 10 day period.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Gravity ... too high ...

Wow - the tireds have hit again.

I feel like I'll be sleeping for a significant amount of this weekend. Or at least I hope I will be. Sleep's still been at a premium lately. It feels like it's been taking ages to nod off again. I suspect that tendency is partly down to keeping on those computer games for a little bit too long at night.
The RSI tendencies in my right wrist and some other upper body issues have definitely been woken up again by a little too much stick time. The Elite piloting position is not exactly ideal. I need to clear off the upper level of my desk again so I can put the keyboard there and have the flightstick in a central position so I'm not twisting my body to do the piloting thing. At the moment, keyboard and flightstick go side by side, so the stick is off the the right. I'm moving around anyway because when I'm doing the piloting, I'm pretty constantly checking over the laptop that's at my 9 o'clock position compared to my place sitting at the pooter.

I also keep a watchful eye on the telly, which usually has the news on mute while my laptop pipes music over to my amp and speakers. (That's done better lately actually - I tweaked some settings in the network that's given a little better Quality Of Service, translation - it's not doing the dropouts much now)

What is happening with the migrant situation ? It seems like we've allowed the situation in Syria to get totally out of control, causing mass migration out of that country. They have the impression that the West is the Land of Milk And Honey, so they're heading here instead of the actually much richer and closer Oil Baron Gulf.

It's amazing how perceptions twist according to the whims of our media services. We now have Help The Immigrants campaigns popping up everywhere, a few months ago a neo-nutter political party called UKIP got rather too much share of the vote here on a manifesto based around kicking out immigrants, partly supported by our media. Yet now the media and the sheep who follow their whims have now gone full circle.

It's curious how the flavour of the month changes isn't it.

I sympathise with the situation the migrants find themselves in but the question I have is for the people saying "Bring them here". Ok. Where will they go. Britain is already overcrowded. Most of Europe is overcrowded. We are still having to struggle under the yoke of austerity. There is no money to house them, feed them, support them. Will everyone signing the Bring Them Here petitions offer up enough room in their house to put an immigrant family in ?

I'll let you answer that for yourselves. What you do is your own business, just think about the consequences of what you ask for. Personally, I need to sort the house out before I'd be happy to have visitors, let alone people joining me living here. I'd actually like that but I'll be the one choosing who it is.

Some of what I've put up there is born out of tiredness making me a bit grumpy. There's that difference between a group of people saddled with the tag "Refugee Immigrant" and the genuinely wonderful singular Person who is looking to make a new home. Like ...

The wonderful bubbly chuckly smiley one who is working so hard to make a success of her talents (not an immigrant herself but from a family that has embraced the English culture).
The tall blonde KFC lady who recognises me when I go in there, asks me how I'm doing and has a truly wonderful smile to go with finding me the bigger bits of chicken.
The possibly Greek group who run the chippie. They start getting my order ready before I've even asked for it.
The group who run our Chinese. People come from far around to go to our Chinese.
That lovely Yogscast girl who was born here but is so well travelled, she's a child of the world.
The Irish Miss L who always looks as if she's going to burst out laughing if she sees me, in anticipation of possible Antics from the Sleepy One. Not spotted her lately, wonder if she's seen me first and kept an eye out for potential Antics from an unseen hidey hole ...
And a few more.

It's what people put back into the society they live in and that goes for people born in the country and those who move in. Too many of the natives are destructive (just look at Bristol drivers). Too many migrants don't want to fit in. But for all of them, there's the ones who contribute so much. Our society integrates around them and hopes to avoid the chav fraternity.

Last bit on the immigrants - it's not their fault. It's the fault of the rest of the world that they're in a position that they have to avoid Crazy People. And that's the people with the lack of political will to send our people into danger to sort out the Crazy People and the people who will most certainly condemn our leaders for doing so. They'd be far better off not emigrating, if the Crazy People allowed them to stay in their native country.

Back to me - when I'm feeling down or tired or frustrated, it's other people who pull me back up again. Like getting the texts in from the bubbly chuckly smiley one. Like getting the messages in that give me so much encouragement. All the smiles and banter from the canteen girls and the canteen daemon.

It's having people (and definitely one in particular who thinks she's a pain in the butt with it !) who communicate, who try and see what I'm up to with the daft messages, the people who make me think I'm part of their world.

You guys and girls give me a massive lift. Definitely something amazing that helps keep me going when my body isn't giving me the energy to feed the hyperactive monkey in control of my brain. To ignore the pain when my body likes to remind me I've been too silly with it over the years. To remind me that I'm not alone when my mind is feeling isolated.

To the person who got this far in my Wall Of Text. You're awesome.

I have a hopefully restful weekend coming up with tonnes of sport on the telly, plus the opening night of Strictly. There's an England cricket match on tomorrow, which will compete for my attention with qualifying for the Grand Prix and an England rugby match. That'll keep the pooter busy too, which will keep me away from the games which my hands haven't appreciated. My Elite pilot is propping up the bar in Hutton Orbital anyway. I'm not planning to move them because I'll have to go back there at some point to collect a Community Goal reward and it is 90 minutes supercruise travel away from the entry point of the system.

And if you look out the window tomorrow and see the Flying Pig Acrobatic Squadron doing a display ? I'll have summoned up the energy to do some tidying up. They're warming up the engines now ... after hitting Publish, I'm going to be putting the washing out to dry ...

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

A Commanders Log

These are the voyages of the starship sleepy pete, her ongoing mission to avoid black holes, seek out new galaxies and to boldly go where no computer ninja has gone before..........

A friend gave me that quote and I thought it was perfect. I think I'm going to have fun with this one, it's going to be very role play. I hope you have fun and a few chuckles too while you read it. Here we go :

Stardate  3301.08.23
This is it ! We're setting off today. My Asp class explorer ship, the "Is This The Right Place For The Shauns ?" is all fitted out, kitted out, stored out and I'm eager to set off on the way, point the ship towards the black and head off in the direction of the Galactic Core. It's a trip every starship commander has to take at some point in their career.

It's a solo expedition with no one but me and Sitana, the ship's personal assistant, to talk to and I'll be pacing myself. I don't know how long I'll be so I've taken advantage of a craze sweeping Imperial Space where society has looked back 1300 years to the beginning of the 21st century. My ship leisure computers are all loaded with the fiction, music and a little bit of the culture too. Hell ! When I'm 1300 light years away, I'll be able to turn the sensors back at the Sol system and see what we were all up to. The scanner will reach that far won't it ? It's a weird feeling in our Faster Than Light society. We can look back along our track and see where we were a little while ago. Eerie.

What am I doing ! Time to get out there. The plan is to head 2,000 light years to galactic clockwise so I don't repeat my track coming back as going there. Then it's straight into the core.

Stardate 3301.08.24
DISASTER ! The hangar monkeys have really let me down. The freezer is bust ... Guess that's me on the backup MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) for the rest of the trip. This is not good. I'll start on the MREs for tomorrow. There's ice cream in that freezer and I'm not wasting it.

We covered good ground today and yesterday. The stellar-nav can plot out to 1,000 light year trips, which works out at 33-36 hyperspace jumps. The heating as you come out and fuel scoop is being a problem. That heating/cooling cycle gets to me and I can manage 4 of those 1,000 light year legs before I need to take a rest and dive into that 20th/21st culture. For the non-pilots reading this, we come out of hyperspace right on top of the dominant stellar object, be that a star or black hole or multiple stars. You really have to be on your toes. If you get tired and the reactions slip, you can easily bounce off a sun while avoiding another one.

That's really bad for the complexion.

Stardate 3301.08.27
You may have noticed I missed a couple of days. I think I had the Cerberus Plague. Special Heike Tea sorted me out. I had some on hand and was planning to use it to celebrate when I got to Sagittarius A*, our supermassive black hole. It definitely wasn't the steak I had which made me ill. It was going to be the last proper meal before switching to the MREs. I've been in my rack trying to stay alive but I'm all good now. Ready to hit the stars and head off again.

Stardate 3301.08.28
Hurrah ! Back in the groove. Another few legs done. We've reached the bulge where stars get far more dense. In populated space, stars are maybe 7 to 10 light years apart. Maybe more. In the core, you have tens/20s of stars all within 1 light year of each other. It's a nightmare for the stellar-nav, it takes ages to plot the next leg of the trip. I've been zipping through most of that with jumps of 30 light years at a time.

Kind of a rush there and back. Definitely motivated by being on those MREs ! And a limited supply of popcorn, plus I want proper coffee again ... It's not the same without milk (also a victim of the freezer/fridge incident).

Stardate 3301.08.29
We're getting really close now. Going to make a big effort to get to Sagittarius A* before I have to hit my rack. I have to say, I'm loving this 21st century music. There are a couple of groups called Alisha's Attic and The Cardigans who are taking the edge off being on my own all this time. I'm really missing the Pretty Ladies Commanders who keep me company chatting over the comms and definitely missing those bubbly chuckles. I think the ships computer is trying to keep my spirits up by saying "Friendship Drive charging ..." (it's actually Frame Shift Drive but there's a huge accent there)

Made it ! God Damn. Staring at a supermassive black hole from just a light minute away is pant wettingly, brown trousery scary.
One thing about this trip, the various sights I've seen have made me look up Wikia Galactica to see the science behind what I'm seeing. Sagittarius A* looks like a globe of deadly nothing. You can see its eye in the picture. It is the abyss. The stars curl around it as you fly by, engines straining to maintain position. That's gravitational lensing. You're actually seeing two images of the star, the direct path of the light plus the light after being bent around the black hole. The science people do really clever stuff with that. Way cleverer than I can understand.

WikiaGalactica has info on the stars too. You can only refuel at certain stars. Old stars aren't kicking out the hydrogen any more. They're no good. T Tauri stars are too young, they're not burning their hydrogen like "Main Sequence" stars. Stars in the middle are just right and you can fuel up at them. It's fascinating the science behind it. We are made of elements only created in stars (and particle accelerators and fusion reactors but those are meh). It's part of the beauty of the cosmos.

See ! Not just a redneck bootneck Commander who wouldn't know a wrench from a socket ! I read too. Been enjoying catching up on my reading and definitely haven't been playing Galaxy Of Goblins in my downtime. And you will never find any evidence of the AgriVille games.

Stardate 3301.08.30
Started heading back from the Core today. The stellar nav is having a massive nightmare. I had to restart it a couple of times to even get 500 light year legs. I'm heading to the Great Annihilator today. It's a system 3000 light years from Sagittarius A*, in the homewards direction. More later.


The engines drop you out only 6000km from Great Annihilator A. That's close enough to still make out the poor unfortunates caught in the time dilation as they got too close. GA A is the first black hole in this system. The engines really don't appreciate this. This is way scarier than the core. You come out a light minute away from that monster. I swore as I banked away, my right arm felt drawn towards it. Gravity ... sucks ?

Great Annihilator has 2 black holes and a few other solar bodies. It's a really scary place. You've heard of Condition Green, Yellow Alert and Red Alert ? Well this is Condition Brown and White Knuckle Alert state. I'll let you guess what the Brown relates to.

Stardate 3301.08.30 ... a little bit later.
There are things more scary than black holes.

There is a spider on the ships canopy. It is looking at me. You'll be relieved to know that after Condition Brown, the no 1 spacesuit is in the wash/recycler and I'm in my spare. I had been feeling a curious itch like my hairs standing on end. I'd put that down to the heating and cooling of fuel scooping. Apparently I was wrong. Apparently I had a hitch hiker in my suit.

(This gap represents text from the audio log which has been automatically deleted by Sitana - it could not have been printed anywhere due its graphic content and repeated use of unprintable colourful dialogue).

I am now in my spare spacesuit as the other cleans. I do not plan to leave this spacesuit until the spider situation is resolved. There is a problem here, as it seems to know how fragile spaceship canopies are. If that goes, you're so dead. These ships can only be flown from the cockpit, they're not big enough to have a reserve flying station. You can escape into the living area but that then becomes your tomb ...

So you can see, a really bad situation as I head back to civilisation. Better make it quick. It's not nice to spill the popcorn down your spacesuit.

Stardate 3301.09.01
Hurrah ! Spider situation has been resolved. I took emergency measures. Have you ever spent 3 solid days inside a space suit ? Trust me, you really don't want to. I'll spare you the details. Remember what I said about the air situation in these ships ? The ships can recycle the air pretty much forever but they don't have that much spare. So I weighed up the options :

Share my ship with a spider that had a talent for getting in really uncomfortable places.
Suit up, SPACE THE BUGGER and sacrifice some of my limited air reserve to the void.

The spider is still out there somewhere.

I dropped it off near a barely hospitable planet designated LV426. That's not going to cause problems down the line. It's not like that canopy is exposed to solar radiation (that's the other reason we wear the spacesuits) that could mutate a spider with an enhanced survival instinct into anything nasty.

Stardate 3301.09.02
Been getting kinda lonely. But it's almost time to rejoin civilisation.

Two stages in the trip today - the first took me to within 400 light years of my final destination. Then I thought I'd better make myself presentable again. Clean spacesuit. Clean Commander. Explorer's Beard consigned to the waste disposal. It wouldn't do to get dragged off and hosed down before turning in all the juicy exploration data.

It is really good to be back home. The Core bathes you in the cosy glow of 1000 million stars (I dunno, that's what it feels like !). As you leave that central bubble, the star field gradually lessens until it's just you, the endless black and your thoughts to keep you company. And Sitana. One of those 21st century films I watched was Moon and I think Sitana was taking notes from the AI guardian in that film. She started flashing up emoticon signs on the displays. I hope the computers survive the last few light years.

Stardate 3301.09.02 a little bit later
Home again ! This entry is being dictated from the Adder And Abacus, a charming little old style bar where I'm really enjoying that first steak since ... oh dear. Bad memory. Pizza later. I really need that decent food again since surviving on the Rat Pack MREs for so long. The next trip will have a backup freezer.

Enough resting ! Time to turn in all that exploration data. Next plan ... This ship has got me through so many light years but I'm definitely feeling the need to paint it black, hunt down where galaxy renowned (and definitely infamous) Disaster Zone are playing their next UltraMetal concert and donate it to the classic Quantum Bomb Star Dive climax. Let's just say they only play in a system ... once.

Commander Iceangel, signing off. For now.