Monday, February 29, 2016

More Tireds

So tired at the moment !

It's frustrating too because I know there is energy in me somewhere, it just refuses to fire. Actually it does, when messages from interesting people come in, I'll perk up, bounce around in excitement for a bit and then try and calm down the Grin enough to give a sensible answer.

Yep. Mostly introvert but I do have a particular hankering to interact with people.

I do know part of why I'm really tired today. I found an iOS game called Best Fiends yesterday and ... drained the iPad battery playing it. That means it's so addictive I'm going to try avoiding it in future because it's really not healthy to get that addicted to something so quickly. Good game though.

Oh and it got in the way of me building ... a rather complicated Nanoblock kit yesterday. (Ha ! Not giving away what it is until the pictures come and they will be spectacular). I've ordered some more nanoblocks actually ...
Yep. They had a dwagon and I had to have it. They have more Pokemon figures actually, I've actually ordered the set but I think I'll be waiting a couple of weeks before they arrive. They're not quite as accessible as Lego is ...

That's weird isn't it ? You would have thought the laws of supply and demand would dictate the opposite of :

Lego - easily available therefore high supply - high price.
Nanoblocks - rare in GB (made in Japan), very low supply - low price.

That'll be the demand side of that law. Everyone wants Lego. Yep. Admit it. You too. You can't go past the Lego in the shop without a little smile remembered from that part of you which is still a child. Never let go of that part of yourself. It's where the Fun comes from.

Nah. Chilling out with music and videos at the moment. That said, there aren't actually that many interesting gaming videos coming out at the moment. If it's not Minecraft (yawn), it's Far Cry Primal (deeper yawn). I'm currently half listening to an XCom 2 video, may actually play that tonight after cracking and buying it over the weekend.

What's XCom ? It's a game from way, way back. You command a squad of soldiers, eventually going up to about half a company in the old game. The old game was very much a grind though, it was much improved (This is HERESY to fans of the old game*) when the original (UFO Enemy Unknown) was remade into XCom Enemy Unknown a few years ago. The gameplay was tightened up, everything that got in the way of enjoyment was stripped out and they came out with an absolute triumph.

*Game fans tend to be very ... energetic with their fandom of games. I probably upset half the gaming video population by saying Minecraft is a yawn. It's the wrong idea - gaming should be about the fun, not the "my game is better than your game" playground antics. Besides, one person's favourite game (Minecraft) is another's insomnia cure. People will think my Most Played Game Of All Time (Master of Orion 2) is an appalling waste of time but ... it wasn't my MPGOAT for nothing ! Hopefully the new one measures up.

While I'm at it - part of my chill out has involved having streams on and one of the better ones is HeyChrissa (who I've linked before). She only has a small audience at the moment and deserves much more. Great style and fun to be around. (@heychrissa on Twitter which will get you to her Twitch channel which has more links). Oh and there's a 20% off code there too which will save you cash on games as well as put pennies in her Get Chrissa A Lego XWing fund.

Oh boy !

I started this one with a general plan of nattering a little before linking a list of music tracks for you all to listen to. I guess I needed to natter more than a little !

Oh - really looking forward to London Comic Con at the end of May (this is partly my habit of immediately thinking of a different Pretty Lady after talking about another and I'll hopefully be escorting said Pretty Lady to London CC). That should be amazing and not just for Pretty Lady's cosplay. I have a ... slightly cheaty idea for a cosplay. Think James Bond. Best idea I have at the moment and it'll look very dapper.

Music ? I guess there's still a little time for some tunes.
I'm getting close to halfway through the library listened to since I reset the playcounts. (This is going to be an excuse to listen to some of the best again). Some tunes are awesome for closing the ears and fading into the music.

Possibly my most favourite track at the moment is Ting Tings The Wrong Club. Great simple song, beautiful singer doing the dancing and a message in the lyrics that I think most of us can relate to.

The last album I listened to was Life by the Cardigans, which is their happiest album with songs like Fine. Guaranteed to get you chair bopping as soon as that bass line starts up and humming along when Nina Persson's voice perfectly complements it.

Next album up is Snow Patrol's possibly finest, Eyes Open with songs like Chasing Cars. Bit melancholy but always a classic.

Coming soon will be Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love. One of the best albums of all time, not just for the commercial oriented songs on side 1 like Cloudbusting and Running Up That Hill but for a side 2 where each song magically flows into the next. Highlight of that - Jig Of Life.

I've been listening to Carly Rae Jepsen's two albums as well. And the highlights of those have to be Call Me Maybe (and I'm chairbopping again) and the track that brought her to my attention, I Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really (ok, maybe not that many) Like You.

Going back a bit, Simon and Garfunkel had their own magic that got you sitting up and listening. I currently have Cloudbusting going on the desktop (sounds mighty fine with the new sound gear too !) and Simon and Garfunkel's He Was My Brother going over the hifi. They are competing for my singing along tendency ! (PS Bridge Over Troubled Water - give it a listen and remember how good they could be)

Back to someone more modern and another Pretty Lady - Mindy Gledhill with songs like I Do Adore. You can't deny the cute.
(Yep, another Pocket Dragon I really need in the collection).

One more ?

Ok. Just one. Alisha's Attic The Incidentals. For one of you lovely readers in particular.

(Gonna hit publish now but I'm going to be back filling in the links to youtube vids as I listen to and vet them)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Construction working

Ok, maybe not working.

Because the term working would imply that it's not firstly for enjoyment. (And that you're getting paid for it !) Don't get me wrong there, it's awesome to have a job where your work brings you genuine enjoyment. I've definitely had a lot of Good Times over the years in my various projects. I tend to get that as a result of seeing something awesome and knowing "I MADE (a bit of) THAT!"

Definitely if you see your stuff on the news.

Work's been fairly hard lately though. I'm keeping up with what needs to be done, it's just ... maintaining the energy is a struggle at the moment. It's as if I'm having trouble unlocking the potential energy that's within me. I know it's there (wiggles tummy), it just refuses to unlock itself.

Next break for me will be Easter and I'm seriously considering having the week before Easter off instead of my more traditional Easter week. Not long left now. There is an ulterior motive for switching the leave date ... Voyager challenge !

But first ... before I talk about that potential Voyager challenge ... thumbnail pic time !
Snowman ! In nanoblocks ! Oh and a Christmas tree too.

I have more nanoblocks to build after they arrived today. But I wanted to practice with something simple and small and the pack above was effectively thrown in free with the other two kits.

I've been enjoying the construction hobby. I'm finding a certain catharsis from putting the blocks together, whether it be Lego or now Nanoblocks.

You're probably wondering what the difference is ? First one is size. I left a 1x1 Lego block off to the left for a scale comparison. Oh there's also the Tie Advanced off in the background but ... there's that foreshortening and scaling effect that comes from a camera lens that close to the capture object. The 1x1 Lego brick is just smaller than 2x2 on the Nanoblocks.

They're about as small as they could be and still be manipulated with fat(ish) fingers like mine. Actually, I don't think my fingers are too fat, although they are thickened up more than average due to all the cricket. Gripping the handle and all that. I have some old tweezers in reserve.

It's much cheaper than Lego. The TIE Advanced was £40 for 355 pieces. The XWing was £70 for 717 pieces. The snowman and tree were £4 for "over 170 pieces". The next kit I do (reveal will come with the pictures !) has 540 pieces for £12 (down from £16) and the one after that is 780 pieces for £23. That said, there's some nifty discounts on the nanoblocks.

So the cold hard "how many kits can I get for my money ?" is vastly in favour of the Nanoblocks. They don't attract the Lego premium and also don't attract the Star Wars premium.

I'm going to enjoy building the next two kits ... and I need to find the ones after that (Pokemon avatars coming soon !)

I don't think they do moving parts though, just the basic bricks. Still gotta go Lego or K-Nex or Meccano for things that move, like engines and wheels.

Here's the thing though. I have a few construction games for PC and I've never really got on that well with them. I think I'm much better when I have a template to work from. I should really open up From The Depths and have a good go at that, I have a series of ship designs in my mind based on the Trimaran hullform :

A trimaran has 3 hulls. One long thin one in the centre, with an outrigger either side. It opens up a lot of deck space, although it can make the internals a bit cramped. It gains you a tonne of speed and efficiency. And the outriggers make it look like it has wings. Dragon theme ! Just need to get with the mouse and clicking and they could happen. Yep - trimaran with lots of guns, missiles and lasers.

Although there's that Tired thing again. I'm feeling really beat up at the moment. Physically, I'm fairly ok. My outsides continue to heal (slowly) and my insides are sore ... but doing ok. It's keeping the energy levels up that's hard at the moment. It means I throw everything I have into work ... and crash when I get home. It's one reason I'm not learning the new games, because I don't really have that mental energy to invest in them.

I do enjoy watching the videos of other people playing games though. When they're good games and interesting presenters. I've changed who I watch lately, as I got bored with some (most of Yogscast) and found some others to watch (Heychrissa, Enter Elysium). But that's when the games are interesting.

But those are negative thoughts. Wait, curious that I've been enjoying building stuff with the lego and nanoblocks but I've been finding the Minecraft gaming video stuff to be creatively dead and utterly boring. And Minecraft is building stuff with blocks !

Oh back to gaming to finish off. I mentioned the Voyager challenge ... This is a combination of Star Trek and Elite. The premise of the Star Trek Voyager series is that they get grabbed by a being called the Caretaker, who pulls them 70,000 light years away to the other side of the galaxy. And it'll take 75 years to get home. The Voyager challenge is to get an Elite Dangerous ship to the same system ... and race back.
They reckon that with Elite's gameplay systems, you can get back in 40 hours. I wonder ...

Nah. I won't do 40 hours of Elite straight but I may well make my out to the Gamma quadrant wormhole (as seen in Star Trek Deep Space 9) before heading across to Voyager's spot. And then I'd head back, probably on my own time. Cos 40 hours of anything straight is a bit silly, games especially.

Unless it's sleep. I feel like I could do with 40 hours straight of sleep at the moment !

Cya next time and hopefully I'll think of something to post (another A to Z coming "soon"). Been having a bit of blog block lately I think ...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Adventures in Space and ... Time ?


Spot the Doctor Who quote. Although I think it's the other way round in that.

Where has this week gone ? Feels like time has been sped up, it seems to be going faster when you look back and wonder what you got up to. This week seems similarly rushed. Let's see if I can remember.

Monday - late at work, followed by a very late (50+min wait) bus and then I took advantage of zero traffic in the main road off my road to head over to Supermarket with the Harvester. It's tricky to get out of my road at the moment, there aren't many roads out of my part of Bristol and considering that they've closed one of those exits (to build the highly unpopular Metrobus), the traffic is absolutely nuts.

I needed more popcorn anyway. And there happen to be Easter Eggs on offer with a Buy 2 Get 2 Free, on eggs costing £1.50. So I have 3 more eggs waiting in the cupboard. Well, actually 2 because 1 will be going to someone else :-).

Can't honestly remember what happened Tuesday or Thursday evening, save that I didn't bother leaving the house after I got in. Think it will have been video watching and general chilling out.

Wednesday was Deadpool which .... I'd thoroughly recommend for some brainless entertainment. It's rude, crude, nasty, funny, irreverent, topped up with all the references. Definitely not one for the kids because it's a proper Deadpool movie with everything that goes with that, the good, the bad and the extremely adult content. Would I watch it again ? I don't think so. But I did enjoy it the first time. And XMen Apocalypse (Deadpool brings in a couple of XMen) should be incredible. I did think the first trailer for Dawn Of Justice showed off that film better than the weak trailer before Deadpool.

Friday ? Ermmm ... I may have taken advantage of my flexi credit to expand the Fleet ... I must get a picture of the whole Fleet at some point when the next addition is built. Oh and then chilling out to a Heychrissa stream last night while I was so exhausted I could barely keep up with reading a Waterways World magazine after watching the cricket (England disappointed again with their batting and fielding).

And a fair bit of Elite piloting today.

The Fleet ?
The one at the front is one I've had for years. Very ickle, very cute. Little things tend to be very cute don't they ? I know some very cute small people and there's one in particular who I'm hoping can be tempted to go to London Comic Con ... Could well be the first time I've driven into London deeper than the tube stations. Car will work out better I think.

The snowspeeder at the back is a new one and was a little bit of Build Therapy yesterday. I should really dive into the From The Depths game (check out EnterElysium's videos) because that looks like fun.

But an idea cropped up with the pic.
(pic credit to Merrena off Deviant Art, Google sent me to the pic which I've used in the background!)

You know how there was an old fad for Geese on the wall as decorations ? How about 3 snowspeeders ... I know. Silly. This is the thing about having fun. Sometimes fun involves being very silly. That can be the best kind of fun. I know I was having the most fun in cricket when I could be silly while still getting the job done. Things like fielding while standing on your head. Yep, did that once, had the grass stain on the hat. Can't remember if I got close to the run out but I was upside down as part of full commitment to getting the ball fielded and back in.

Gave myself whiplash once too ... If you imagine a clockface with straight ahead as 12 o'clock, I was going full speed to 12 o'clock and had to throw to 7 o'clock and to do so and get leverage on the throw, I had to throw myself backwards. On to my head. Yep, saw stars that time. But it almost got the job done, definitely gave the batsman a fright.

Wonder if there is a bigger Snowspeeder kit ? I vaguely remember snowspeeder toys being very popular so many years ago after Empire Strikes Back had them in the Battle of Hoth.

I've been back into Elite today as well. One of the strengths of that game is the variation in what you can do in it. It's a fairly lonely game but my interest is kept by changing the target for what I'm up to. The priority has gone through :

Building up to bigger and bigger ships - I reached the Anaconda (was biggest ship for a while).
Touring the galaxy trading rare items - started doing this again.
Helping out with Community Goals - where you take items to a station in return for rewards.
Running missions to get rank with the factions.

The Community Goals keep a faint story going too, today's piloting was spent setting up for one of those by working towards getting a bigger ship. Of course I could have gone directly to the place to get the ship but where's the fun in that ? So I meander about doing missions while on my way to the good shipyard.

I did manage to get one run into the latest Community Goal place. I've done things like fetch metals to build shiny ships (Imperial Clipper, still got one of those beauties) ...
... build space stations and the latest involves taking slaves to a planet where they will be freed and given their own colony. Yep, totally not smuggling the illegal items at the moment.

They should put paint jobs like that into the game actually. It's another Gimp product, where I've used its shading/recolour feature and because the front of the ship was Extremely Bright White, it hasn't recoloured. I like the effect as the purple takes over further aft. You can get a Purple Clipper paint job but ... I don't like it. The solid purple doesn't work in my opinion. Plus it's like £5 for a cosmetic item, no thanks.

Gosh - ramble wall of text alert is going off - time to close.

More cricket to watch tomorrow ! Hopefully better results for both the women and the men's teams tomorrow. No more playing cricket for me though. I am tempted now that I'm so close to being fixed on the outside ... but my insides are more battered than ever. I thought I could get away without seeing the doctor about my hip and shoulder but ... the shoulder isn't particularly happy at the moment. Feels like it has loosened up more and it likes to pop into positions which aren't quite right. Yep, numb hands and things like that. I can manipulate it back into where it should be but ... long term solution needed I think.

If I played cricket again, I'd throw myself into it 100% and damage myself more. Hell, even my left shoulder (which wasn't dislocated but was so badly jarred once that I could barely move the arm for a few days) is creaking and grinding now.

Falling apart ? Maybe.

That's where the games come in - they let me enjoy stuff without the physical intensity.

Oh - I mentioned Waterways World up there in the cloudy top of this post - the narrowboat barge life still has my full interest. I'd love to move onto one. There are 3 options for where to keep it :

Centre of Bristol - convenient for town, not so much for car mobility.
North of Bristol - great for motorway and for nipping up to Worcester for cricket watching, bad for non car travel.
East of Bristol - not so good for motorway, excellent for non car travel (nearby stations).

And then there would be the adventures touring the canal system. It'd be great to combine touring with being able to remotely work. Don't think that's a possibility in my current line of work though.

But it is good to read about the temptation that trip reports in Waterways World give. It's a quieter, peaceful, idyllic life, at least how they present it.

Peace is good !

Sunday, February 14, 2016

An Old Love

I better start by saying that this is perhaps not the Valentines Day post you were looking for.

HAHA ! :-)

I mean, you'll have had Valentines Day stuff for ages now right ? And I try to avoid following the crowd by avoiding trendy topics. (Unless it touches a nerve that is).

On Valentines though, I do hope you had a good one, whether that's enjoying doing your own thing as a single person (cricket and rugby chill out for me and now listening to game vids while tapping this out) or being in great company. I've noticed that online dating has been in the news a lot lately too, I have a post coming sometime on that (positive to the online side) but ... not just yet. For now, if you are looking for people, check it out just be wary (like you would if you were meeting people for the first time anywhere else) and see what's there, not what you want to see.

And I'm also listening to Lucy Spraggan's excellent first album. She's one with the crowd when it comes to singers. She does great, intelligently written songs that literally anyone could sing along to. They're great stuff.

An Old Love ?

What else could it be !!!
Yep. Finished !

Oh wait. That's actually two old loves. Star Wars and Lego. Today is not about the Star Wars though.

That's my new Lego X Wing, I finished building it the other night and as you can see (perched precariously on a couple of boxes and my nasty sofa), it's rather impressive.

It reminded me actually of the old time Lego. Lego and Airfix models were a great way of keeping me occupied way back. It was a staple Christmas present from the parents and they rarely disappointed. I think there were a few Christmas Eve frenzied stressy shops too in the hunt of more Lego for the precocious pre-teen that I was back before discovering the cricket.

Good times.
There it is again in landing configuration with the wings folded up and the landing foot extended. There's a couple more bits too, a landing ladder, a mechanic's trolley and 4 figures. You might be able to spot the pilot there and a mini BB-8 giving a sense of scale.

This puppy is big. Maybe 40cm wingspan, 50cm length. (Those are rough by eye measurements, where did I leave my measuring stick ?). I'm super impressed with it as a kit. Things seem to have improved since way back when I was getting Lego for Christmas presents. The instructions book seems better than I remember and the parts are divided up into bags labelled with numbers that show the order in which they are opened and added to the kit. That's awesome.

And the X Wing makes me want to get more and build more !

Trouble is though, I've been looking at the other kits though and after the XWing, I'm not too bothered about the other Star Wars kit. Maybe the Millenium Falcon (it is an iconic ship after all) and the shuttle but not about some of the prequel stuff and the Imperial stuff. Perhaps the miniatures ? You can even turn the Millenium Falcon kit into one of the big Elite ships.
Gosh, that's an old pic (oops - look at the dust!). It's from my older Lego fleet where I'd put the mini XWing and Tie Bomber on top of my old amp. The XWing is winning in that pic because it has the Imperial ship in its gunsights.

I used to enjoy the Technic models a lot. The engineer in me would put them together and they'd share a lot of genuine engineering principles. They did a technic car which had rack and pinion steering, McPherson strut suspension like in a normal car, double wishbones and engines that had pistons that moved in the cylinders.

If I get more Lego, it may well be one like that.

One drawback though, the pneumatic Lego worked well for a short time but would then stick and freeze up. (Which I remember back to later and realise that it was because it wasn't dry air, the wetness causes problems)

The trainset was another classic. Pretty massive though. If I remember right, the gauge of the tracks was maybe 2 inches, or more than twice as big as the old Hornby OO scale. Is that still used ? I think it is. The advantage with Lego trains is that you'd build the trains and carriages. With Hornby, you'd buy the trains and build the scenery. I was more interested in the trains.

The last ones I can remember are the Lego boats.

These had a big floaty shaped hull underneath and you'd build on the superstructure. I don't think you can get these any more. They floated ! Lego as a bath toy ! How cool is that ?

Yeah. Loved Lego. It was a great discovery finding it again and I can thank my sister for reminding me of it a while ago and a lovely Youtuber/Streamer called HeyChrissa for making me think of getting some now. Here's HeyChrissa's Ghostbuster's car build. I reckon some time she'll be tempted into building the XWing (cash permitting!).

Hmm - quick peek in the archive ... Nah. Can't find it (will post it if I can !)

I had a little spell over 10 years ago where Ravenwolf got me doing the Lego again but to be honest, I had other things on my mind then instead of Lego. That's when the old fleet got built. Let's see - mini XWing, TIE Bomber, AT-AT, AT-ST, 2 pod racers, snowspeeder, mini Falcon, Y-Wing (one can never have too much Lego), mini AWing, mini Slave1. I think I need to find somewhere to pose the Fleet.

I think I've rattled on enough for today though.

Lego - Eveything is Awesome ! (It says so in the movie). And it was an excellent relief after a couple of weeks when the stress was getting the better of me.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Creative Spark

I have something I've wanted to show to more people for a couple of days now.

I've been getting more creative ...

Please. Don't be too scared. I am limiting it to making things of peace that could not harm anyone. (Ok, technically they can like all objects if it hard enough but I'm not planning to do that). Nah, taking over the world is for another day.

So what do I want to show people ?
Yep. I made that. Me. It came about from a comment along the lines of "where is the dragon's cricket bat ?" Red rag. Had to do something for that ! (Especially with she who asked, that's why I've held off posting actually, wanted her to see it before posting it a bit more publicly).

There's a curious thing about creativity. It brings with it a need for approval. Did I do it right ? Is it embarrassing ? Does it meet expectations ? Does it look like something a 5 year old came out with ? (there are some great drawings by 5 year olds) Will people laugh at it and think it's terrible.

I don't have much artist in me (I think!) but I do like to create things. New things. That goes for work, where I'm far more interested in making new stuff than doing things with the old. I'll raid pictures from Google but ... I'd actually prefer to stuff I have already.

And then I go super critical over what I've done, thinking I could have done better. One thing I'd like to use the iPad for is sketches, although there my engineer perfect drawing attitude will fight ferociously with what's appropriate for sketches.

Let's see - from the picture above, it starts out as the Another Monday dragon and in order of how I did things :

Helmet - I don't like the helmet to be honest. It looks a bit too much like one of those melon helmets some sports fans will wear. Does the edging on the brim work ? The edging for the grill is way rougher than I'd like it to be.

Why Pink ? It's remembering back to the Pink Hat season, where I wore a pink cap to remember a colleague lost to breast cancer. I still remember the small smile that The Rose wore, she's still missed. And I have another friend (only seen once but that's enough to remember this lady's character) who is now fighting her own breast cancer. She's in the early days of chemo and if you think that's rough, it's probably going rougher than you imagine. But she's a trooper, is fighting and I really hope that K.E. comes through the chemo and beats the cancer.

Cos we've lost too many good ones already.

Gloves - they look kinda like crayon don't they ? I went with the theme of white batting gloves, didn't get ambitious by adding more colour (although it's there with the green paws poking through) and added on the black from the webbing behind most gloves that keeps them tight.

Pads and the V neck - similar, except that's keeping the angles right.

"Dragon" insignia - England players have 3 lions on their breast, I couldn't resist trying something similar. Looks kinda like someone's sponsor logo isn't it (the one that looks like a crocodile). Not intentional, just shows my lack of drawing skills - haha :-)

As an aside - you're seeing the creative person's tendency to be supercritical of their own work. I follow a few artistic people on Twitter and they all show that self critical, self loathing, self destructive tendency where they cannot see the worth in their own work. I'd like to mention a couple of people there :

Tabby (@tabrakadabra on Twitter) who does super cute drawings. I thought they were good enough to borrow one of them as an avatar for a bit a while ago but I don't think she liked that (I dunno, no feedback!). Look her up, give her commissions. Encourage the talented artist !

Zoey Proasheck of the Yogscast. Love what she does but she's been having confidence issues. She says how she struggles to post videos because she wants them to be perfect. If they don't match up to her expectations, they don't get posted. It shows how the artist's impression of their work differs from the viewer, we love all that she does and the imperfections are part of that. They're what make her stuff lovable.

Back to the dragon !

That bat - oh my. It started out bright yellow and then I aged it down to the brown-ish colour. I was aiming for something that looked like wood. I think it's done ok.

My impression of the finished article ?

I think it looks like something a kiddie would come out with. That's my depressive side talking. I am slightly embarrassed by it but that's my shy side talking. I've shown it to a few people, who say they liked it. And that's what counts.

What do you think ? The little pads and the holding out of the hands as a "Hey ! No nerves !" even though his face is showing "I don't wanna be here" have a certain charm. Although part of that charm is from the genius which was Real Musgrave's talent at making the original pocket dragons.

I think I've nattered enough already !

If you know creative people, encourage them (trying not to patronize because that can be counter productive). Ask if you can use their art. Ask if they'd like to make art for you. Sometimes they need an idea to make more art. In the case of the Cricket Dragon, I borrowed an idea from Cupid's Gift. And it was a good one. That also gave me the all important motivation to create.

I've done stuff for a few other people, although I'm being a little more selective there now. I'd do the doodles for the Yogscast people ... but they're not at all good at giving feedback. Ok, sometimes they do but most of the time it's absolutely nothing. (Partly because they have lots of fans that send them messages, can't reply to them all)

But if it's someone who shows appreciation, that'll keep me buzzing for days.

And making more stuff.

So if anyone wants me to make pictures for them, send the idea along and I'll see what I can do :-).

Of course it may end up looking like a 5 year old's crayon drawing but hey ! I haven't been drawing much lately. Need the practice.

Cya !

PS I was going to post pics of the XWing that's in build at the moment but ... kinda run out of space ! I'm impressed. First Lego I've done for years and ... it's kinda therapeutic. And very high quality. Seems like the quality has gone up. Now to find a place where I can photograph it and show it off (when it's built, 2 more wings to go).

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Hardware Wrecking Ball


Seems like a wrecking ball has gone through my PC over the last week !

I managed to get out to the Mall again today to acquire a graphics card. Sadly made by Asus but that was the choice available. Asus are a fairly well known make but I've come across their shortcomings multiple times already. I would advise you to avoid them if you have a choice. But they are a lot better than some I could mention (like Belkin).

Anyway, after getting home and fitting the thing, I discovered yet another hardware problem. I thought my speakers were ok after testing them in the Macbook but I didn't realise then that one of the speakers was way down on power ... And there was me thinking that the sound card might be damaged on arrival.

I mentioned a distrust for Asus didn't I ? Well the install wasn't what you would call "without flaws". The installer took an ages to decide that the card wasn't there, despite Windows letting me know it was. It needed a reboot to sort that. Surely that should have been part of the install routine ? It usually is and I was surprised that it wasn't.

It's all up and running again now. I've switched to another speaker set, the Cambridge Audio bluetooth thingy that I acquired to supplement midnight car rides. (I still wanna do those !). I'm currently listening to someone playing Darkest Dungeon, which Steamgirl got for me for Xmas and which I really need to have a good play of. I held off until it achieved full release in mid Jan and haven't gone back to it.

What's broken this week ? And bear in mind that we had another power cut off blip in midweek (Wednesday if I remember right) which may have sparked off everything after the power supply :

Power supply ! A few weeks ago but ... unwelcome. At least it didn't break anything else like what certain no name power supplies have done to my machines in the past. If a power supply fails badly, it'll send more voltage around the system than the bits can tolerate, which leads to BOOM. Ok, silent boom but boom nonetheless. That bad power supply in the past took out a dvd drive and damaged a hard disc, I think it did more damage too but that's lost to fuzzy memory.

Graphics card - this has been coming for far too long. I took a piccy of the Bad Dots at Wimbledon last year to illustrate how bad iPlayer is. It has been Slightly Broke for ages and on Wednesday it decided it was going to be Mostly Broke. I didn't want to be without the potential for gaming (the ancient card is somewhat past it) so a AMD R9 380 built by Sapphire arrived yesterday. And ...

The sound broke. I think that's pure coincidence. I've had several graphics cards by Sapphire before and they've been fairly strong. My last machine had a Sapphire card until the end, when I switched back to nVidia for the new machine.

Anyway - first symptom - no sound out of the machine after starting up again. Bad news ... I thought it was the graphics card interfering but no amount of poking the settings fixed that. It was trying to send sound to the speakers but it wasn't happening. I have that Asus sound card now - fixed.

Speakers !

When I got the sound going again, the right speaker was badly down on volume and very tinny as well. Bad news. Left speaker sounded pretty sweet still. So I'm on my Cambridge Audio portable speakers now. The old speakers have done really well, I think I bought them when I moved here over a decade ago giving good sound for maybe £12. If they're still available, I'd consider them again. (Logic3 - recommended).

Picture time !

I did manage to give the graphics a test run yesterday, pulling something out of the hangar :
Yep. Shiny gold ship. I have it rigged for cargo running to medium distances at the moment and it is really well armed to fend off any attackers as well.

I haven't played Elite since they opened up some of the planets to landings. That's more complicated than it sounds but I'll leave that to other people. Too geeky. It is really nice though to be back able to fly into planets and land at the stations. Must peek at more of that.
This is me heading into land. I've slowed down to a quarter of the speed of light here, after shortly before being at Warp 5 on the old Star Trek scale (Warp Factor cubed = multiple of light speed travelled at) and I'm heading into the planet to land. And ...
The destination !

It does look a bit painted on at that height and we can only land on the airless places so far but ... It hails back to an old age where I'd, for kicks, fly into Earth's atmosphere and land at one of the planetary spaceports. Bliss for a technogeek kiddie wannabe astronaut.

Graphics have improved since Frontier Elite 2 was released way back in 1993.

Hopefully nothing more I have breaks in the near future !

Saturday, February 06, 2016

So Frustrating !

I've had one of those days ...

You know - the ones where if something can go wrong, it probably will.
Let's see - graphics card arrived ! Hurrah ! And it works !!!

I haven't checked out how fast it is compared to the old ones yet but ... no dots on screen, no dots on video playback and that game where the textures went mental worked too. But ... and there always tends to be a but ...

Fire up machine after swapping over to the new card - where's the sound. Uhoh.

The first thought (after checking the Googles) is that the graphics card has nobbled the sound. These things come with sound interfaces as well now to send sound over to tellies and monitors with speakers. I don't do the sound that way, I have a pair of external speakers that have given me fantastic value over the decade or two that I've had them.

But ... after much tinkering later I suspect I've managed to break something again ...

The system is trying to make sound ... it just isn't getting to the speakers. System thinks the speakers are plugged in though and knows that it should be sending the sound that way. I've even managed to get sound out of the system through roundabout means ...

Utility time ! Apple brought out a protocol called Airplay, which you can use to send sound and pictures across a network. I use it to send music from laptop to hifi and it's very good indeed at doing that with no audible drop in quality compared to using a wire that I would trip over every time I went past it on the way to the loo.

Oh and I'd trip over it again when returning. THIS IS WHY I USE WIFI STREAMED AUDIO !
Anyway. I come to the point where I decide I need to spend a little more money on an external sound card.

This is something I had been thinking about anyway due to issues finding where to plug things in and a few other annoyances with the basic sound hardware in my desktop.

Off to the Mall !

At just the wrong time. I'd never have believed that places would shut around 6pm on a Saturday when they're open later in the week. Seems a bit daft. Anyway, no sound card today. Sound card tomorrow hopefully. I think that's the long term solution. I am also pondering getting a headset*, as this is fairly essential for multiplayer online gaming.

*(some headsets plug into the same place as speakers - but I'd get one of the USB headsets instead)

But I don't do very much multiplayer online gaming these days (Either not invited in, or not interested in playing with random strangers), so a headset would be a waste of time.

Going back to that Airplay system - most of the time, that's locked into Apple's apps and devices. Itunes to Airport Express, things like that. But ... you can get software that sends the audio from anything to anything else with the right software. I was watching a video on my desktop with the audio going to iPad or laptop. There are two sad things there though :

I was getting stuttering and freezes because I don't think it liked me running the science sums at the same time.
It costs £££ to buy a licence fee;
And it puts excessive noise into the stream after 10 minutes if you don't buy the licence.

I'd rather spend the cash on the perfect solution, instead of an imperfect answer.

It is quite frustrating though. I have a shiny new piece of kit ... that I can't really play with and find out what it's like without the sound to go with the pictures. Perhaps Elite ? Haven't been back into that in months and I suspect I could fly it mute. And it just finished updating ...

I may return shortly with a screenshot.

PS Frustrating day but ... I had messages from lovely people to brighten it up again. Feel better soon lovely little lady ! :-)
PPS Shiny gold spaceship !
I don't go into the microtransactions game that is the usual route for these cosmetic skins but ... if it's free and I have the ship for it ? Shiny !

Friday, February 05, 2016

Happy New ... Picture ?

No epic wall of text today.

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

Random stuff !

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Chinese New Year for tomorrow !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Entitled to ... breakages ?

Two things today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversy ?

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

There are three sides of that to explore :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's how it should be.

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

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

There and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But when meatscraps are involved it's :

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

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

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

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

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

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