Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bring me the head of Sleepy

After having some frustration over the weekend, I've been having crazy thoughts.

Heretical thoughts.

Dangerous thoughts ...

Oh and here's a gratuitous shot of an Internet Spaceship.
Bit dark maybe. I thought I should try out what the new monitor and desk arrangements were like. Now my desk is clear, I can go back to a better posture position having the flightstick where the keyboard usually goes and the keyboard on the top deck.

Yep. More roomy.

It does look a hell of a lot better in flight but most of that is down to new monitor factor. Monitors burn out after a while. With the old Cathode Ray Tubes, it was literal burn out where the electrons being fired at the bits that made colour would burn away those bits that made the colour. Now it looks like burning out of the LED backlight. So a fresh backlight makes the colours all rich again.

Very shiny.

It looked great too as I had the ship flying through space towards its destination. The stars flinging themselves past the ship. Actually, not stars because you're in-system at this point travelling from the star to the planets. Perhaps space dust immolating itself on the warp field ? Being burnt away by the influence of the shields ? Little Space Fireflies flying along with you ? A case of overthinking on the behalf of the pilot perhaps ? Someone descending into space psychosis ?

Perhaps. It does look good. If a little less consistent on the frame rates because pushing pixels around at 1440p is tough for a mid level graphics card like what I have.

What are these dangerous thoughts I tempted you about ?

I am considering putting Windows 10 on my Macbook.

I know. Absolute heresy. If the MacFanBois here, they will hunt me down, burn me at my stake and before you know it, my head will be on a pike in front of the nearest Apple Store.

Why would I do this monstrosity ?

It comes from some of that frustration at the weekend. Apple devices are getting notorious for breaking when you put updates on them. They appear to be using this to counter falling sales. It's anti-consumer and Apple haven't figured out that consumers will desert the anti-consumer sellers after a while when the gloss rubs off. Consumers occasionally get smart and ignore the hype and marketing.

Ok :

Causes of frustration - being unable to run games like Darkest Dungeon on the Macbook. Like Elite. Like Planetbase. Like pretty much any game (there are exceptions that run) on the Macbook. The reason is that I keep it on 10.8.5 so I'm not forced into a downgrade of iTunes to version 11+.

And at the weekend it was getting in the way of me watching the Grand Prix, the cricket and World Endurance Championship ... simultaneously. The GP was on the desktop, the cricket was attempting to go on the laptop and WEC was on the telly. Laptop wasn't playing with the cricket particularly well. One reason is Sky using Silverlight, which wasn't cooperating with the Firefox browser. Switching to Safari mostly sorted that but ... unnecessary frustration.

Reasons for changing :
Windows 10 is actually really smooth. I'm impressed. It's stable too, I've only had one BSOD since switching and that's definite oddness (it happened after I tried to put the proper graphics drivers on - there's conflict there somehow). Putting Windows 10 on there would sort out all of the annoying software incompatibility problems.

Reasons for not changing :
Disk space - there is currently 80GB left free on the laptop with all my music ... better not clutter it up more.
Money - I'd need to buy a Windows licence ... these ain't cheap and I'm not a pirate.
It's unnecessary - the laptop's job is not to play games. That's why I maintain a good spec desktop.
MacOS X 10.8.5 is actually still pretty good - it's the upgrades that cause problems.
Pretty sure it wouldn't talk to my camera any more - there's a bit of software called Calmain (Canon Camera Access Library) which I can't acquire.

And the whole thing of it being pretty insane to consider changing the software a laptop runs on. There is so much of the proprietary in laptops that causes problems.

I think there were a bunch more reasons too.

Not those fan bois though. I'll just shout "Your mother uses an iPear !!!" at them and they will run away crying. Or I'll show the pictures of Pear computers that were in something I very vaguely remember (it's an imitation on Nickelodeon) (actually they're real ... wow) and they will run away screaming.
Oh and ... Pretty black Cookie Cutter spaceship.

Which you won't see on my laptop screen due to ... reasons. Which aren't anything to do with me not really wanting to play the game at the moment. I did two trading runs tonight which was probably more than enough. I think I'm kinda burned out on Elite at the moment, it has gone very samey and definitely very grindy where no real progression happens without a lot of work.

That might come back over the next week - I've been feeling burned out in general and next week looked like a good opportunity to take a break.

Hopefully I get some rest, repairs and recuperation in !

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Star Upgrades Beyond

I watched the new Star Wars last night !

Or was it Galaxy Quest (kidding aside, need to watch that movie again, it's a classic). Nope. Battle Beyond The Stars ? Another classic I haven't watched for too long. Fifth Element ? Multipass.

Star Trek Beyond is another excellent movie from the reboot franchise. Some like the reboots, some hate it. I kinda like what they've done with the place. Beyond borrows from previous Trek (with that much in the Trek universe, you cannot help but repeat some of what has gone before) but presents it in a whole new way.

Yep. I liked it.
I don't want to give any spoilers away though. If you enjoyed either of the reboot Star Trek or Into Darkness, I think you'll like this one.

I reckon the cast do a great job with it too. They're not the same as the legends of the past but they carry off their performances incredibly well. In my opinion.
I do miss that tremendous melodious baritone of the William Shatner though. His voice has a certain rhythm and rumble to it that is utterly unique and if I ever do the Voice Attack accompaniment thing for Elite, the William Shatner voicepack is the one I would get.

Last night wasn't all about the movie though. I went upgrading ... And didn't have enough time between that and film for proper munchies. Oops. Popcorn for tea is bad folks, don't follow my example.
Yes kitty.

Upgrades ? I've been feeling that my monitor has been dimming lately, which is a sign that the backlight is dying. That's the real death sign for a monitor. Oh and I kinda wanted something better too. The Samsung I had before was a bit naff. I've also gone for some new speakers which sound so much better than the portables I had before.

Size matters with speakers, small ones can sound good and the Cambridge Audio ones did. But bigger ones designed for the purpose do so much better with the overall sound.

What did I get ? Did I fall into temptation from salesmen ?
Maybe not, although I did end up spending more money than intended. Oh well. But I do have a better solution for me.

How to choose ? I look up reviews by professional sites but I don't really trust them. The disclosure can be a bit dodgy. Have they given the widget a good review due to placing ads ? Is their opinion swayed by built in What Sony bias ? Do they give the Oh Keep It After The Review freebies higher marks ? Nope. I go by what Amazon customers say. I don't think there is much curation there, or deletion of reviews that are outside the opinion of "buy our stuff", I don't believe Amazon care about that.

So if the Amazon customers give 1* reviews, those are the ones I look at. If there are no 1* or even 2* reviews, that tells me the quality is good enough that the kit won't break early and the performance meets the standard too. If you have a choice between 2 items of the same price, you're going to buy the better one aren't you ? Aren't you ? I hope you are !


Monitor - AOC 25" IPS panel 1440p. That means it's got more pixels than most which will definitely help with those graphic edits, it's smaller than the 27" which means its fits on my desk and the screen goes pretty much edge to edge making it easier to keep clean.

Speakers - Edifier M1380. Pretty standard desk speakers with subwoofer. Sounds good.

And I have a clean desk too for the first time in years. Feels odd. That monitor is super bright too, I may have to turn it down a bit ! I look forward to seeing what it does in Elite and other pretty games.

It didn't go without hitches though, when I first fired it up I got the monitor startup splash screen followed by ... black. Oh dear. I think I know why ... my graphics card has several outputs :

DVI-I - a good connection but not good enough for the 1440p.
DVI-D - looks exactly the same as the DVI-I ... should work, not tried yet.
HDMI - like on your dvd or bluray player. This worked just fine.

Lesson - if it doesn't work right away, there's hopefully a reason. It worked with that different connector for me so ... happy. Tired happy.

Stream is starting so I'm going to close here ...
That goes for you too. Oh and I felt like giving a little salute every time Anton Yelchin, he who played new Chekov, came on screen. I really liked his Chekov, he'll be missed. As will Leonard Nimoy, who has a little tribute in the movie. Apparently there is a tribute to Anton Yelchin too but I missed that ... a cinema large diet fizzy drink has a certain persuasiveness !

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Scorchy, scorchy, shopping and a meme

It's been un(un)seasonably warm here !

I'd show the picture I took of the car thermometer on Tuesday but I really need to dust off the glass cover for the instrument display. Oh and it also shows the car being in Drive when I took a picture. It also shows a speed of 0mph but ... it could get used against me so. No pic !
Ok. Maybe a different pic.

This week, getting into the car to go home from work I have seen temperatures of :
Monday - 25 degrees. Nicely warm.
Tuesday - 35 degrees. Yep. Plus 10 up on the day before. Not right. Definitely not right. English people don't do well with that kind of temperature.
Wednesday (and today) - back to a comfortable 25 degrees again.

We actually have rain now which is taking some of the heat out of the air.

I think the heat got to me on Tuesday because it saw me head off to the Mall to try and spend some money. What did that little green fella say ? Do ... or do not. There is no try. It does help if the shops want to sell you what you want to buy. What was on the list ?

First and more important - mouse. My Roccat mouse was dire. It didn't have the precision plus the scroll wheel was just really, really bad (it went unreliable and the button pressed when you didn't want it to). Roccat are now on my Do Not Buy list. There is plenty of competition out there. I now have a Logitech G402 which feels fairly good and that scroll wheel works well.

I like a good scroll wheel. And I should probably put the right drivers in for the mouse at some point. Dunno. Hasn't seemed necessary yet.

Second - new monitor. I dunno. My Samsung is ok but I can do better. Like a 27" IPS panel from AOC. I have my eyes on New Shinies. But ... the cheaper place (the retail one) does not have one available within 30 miles. Naff. So I'm keeping the Samsung for a bit longer, even with the white light bleed through that it has had on parts of the display.

Third - new speakers. I've been using my portable speakers for my desktop since the last ones blew up and they do a good job. But I would like to return them to their primary purpose of being portable speakers. I have my eye on a pair from Edifier as they have the least bad rep on Amazon.

Amazon is handy for checking out how kit really does as if it is unreliable, people will not hold back on giving 1* reviews with reasons. Turns out the competition with speakers at the £30 ish price point have problems with their kit having an early death or otherwise poor quality.

I had another look today as a "I will order online tonight and collect tomorrow" but apparently the monitors are gold dust. That's a good sign as it means they're probably worth the cash. I'd have gone to see the new Star Trek movie after too.

Oh well. I think I'll be on the cricket watching too. Or rain watching. We shall see !

Meme ? Meme :

Four names I go by:
1. Sleepy

2. Dwagonman
3. Keela
4. Iceangel
Four places I've lived:
1. Bristol
2. Northern Ireland (classified location)
3. Nottingham
4. Ruskington
Four things I love to watch on TV (right now):
1. Dark Matter. Oh yes.
2. Deadliest Catch
3. Cricket !!!!
4. A Town Called Eureka (reruns)
Four Places I have visited:
1. Portsmouth
2. Orlando
3. Kennedy Space Centre
4. Sagittarius A*. Yep. Really.
Four things I love to eat:
1. PIZZA !!!
2. Teacakes
3. Lemon Sherbet Popcorn
4. Hot dogs.
Favorite drinks:
1. Coke/Pepsi
2. Hot Chocolate - although I react to it now.
3. Strawberry milkshake - been a while, I probably react to that too.
4. Actually developing more of a taste for tea too. Cornish brew.

Meme done !

PS Other news :
Me - recovering still but hyperactivity from the start of the week has burned off and my outsides are improving but still frustrate me.
Dad and Ben - no news. Taking this as a good thing but I must give the parents a call soon.
Stellaris - is an awesome game.
Hearts of Iron 4 could be too. Not acquired it yet.
Fingers crossed for England in the cricket tomorrow.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A little problem

It's a good problem, honest. I'll get to it in a bit.

Incidentally, it's probably related to me not posting much ... because I'm happily addicted to one of those games again ... I definitely should be posting another Alphabet post soon so I can finish that series before the next birthday.

Perhaps it's a little bit of wanting to hide from the world a bit, with certain exceptions like a very enjoyable Tuesday evening out. What has been happening lately ?

Over here we have political turmoil with our various leadership parties. Let's see :
Conservatives have been having a wrecking ball in the shape of Michael Gove who's constants are incompetence, idiocy and a tendency to stab people in the back. Or the front. That leadership contest ended much quicker than anticipated with Theresa May taking over from Cameron.

Oh there has been the excitement? of a cabinet shuffle that has seen some hated people kicked out (Gove, Osborne), some curiously incompetent people left in (Hunt) and encouraging signs from a few who will hopefully rebuild the country again after the failure of the austerity economy. Austerity doesn't solve anything, it just has things limping along on life support until they die of neglect.

Labour has been far more exciting. There are three levels of that party. There is the leader Jeremy Corbyn and his close circle. He's a throwback to the socialist Labourism, proper Red stuff, of the last century. Bit obsolete now but some of it has its place. The country is built on the work of the average people, not the elitist jerks who constantly break things. You have the middle level, or the Parliamentary Party or Red Conservatives, who all hate Corbyn and want him out. Then you have the actual party level, where the National Executive is looking to prevent them from voting Corbyn in again.

Labour will give us some amusement over the next few weeks in the manner of "Their people follow them out of curiosity". As in, how are they next going to trip up over themselves. Personally, not as a Labourite but as an observer of them, I think Corbyn will be reelected and this should be followed by a few hundred MP deselection procedures as the Parliamentary Party is totally out of step with what the general party wants.

Scotland have the SNP which enjoys almost total majority up there. They're happy to set the political agenda up there and the people are very happy to be led around by them.

Oh and then there are the also rans of GB politics like the now obsolete UKIP (who have no objectives now Brexit is happening) and the almost equally obsolete Liberal party who have fallen so far from their great heights into utter obscurity due to failing to honour any of their promises when they were in coalition government.

Uhoh - this wasn't supposed to be about politics. Oops.

I guess that shows that another constant of news is that whatever feels closest to you is what you concentrate on. So with me, my focus has been withdrawing to how I'm getting on. My condition has taken a few big backward steps but I'm encouraged that the little forward steps have almost caught that up again. I really need to catch up on rest though as the lack of sleep is taking a nasty toll.

Then you have the unbelievable events of Nice and equally bizarre notion of a military coup in a country like Turkey. Thoughts are with the innocent bystanders who wanted to enjoy those key national Bastille Day celebrations in Nice or who wanted to have a little peace and leaders they voted in.

Me ?

My attention is on the cricket at the moment. Woo hoo ! England just took a much needed wicket. The England vs Pakistan game at Lords is shaping up to be one of those great games. There have been a few excellent performances by the batsmen but it's a game where the bowlers have a chance. So instead of the draw being the most likely result, this one could go either way.

Come on England.

I have a cricket based post coming up actually, just need to take the pictures that it will depend on. It'll be ... batty :-).

I'm also half watching the gaming videos again (should read the various magazines I have stacked up). It's a game called Stellaris at the moment, which is the problem I mentioned ...

It's a great game !!! And I want to be continually playing it because it is so good.

The problem is one of posture. I need to clear off my cluttered desk and move the monitor forward. It's all the way back at the back of my desk, which means I'm leaning forward when playing the games.

This is having nasty effects on my shoulder and neck ... Oops.

I'm going to try avoiding the temptation of starting off another game in it today while ...

Watching the cricket;
Watching the gaming videos;
Trying to leave my outsides alone so they heal;
Having a generally chilled out time so I can regain some energy.

The gaming videos are mostly on games like Stellaris but another two have caught my attention :

Factorio - you crash land on a planet and have to build up a complex industrial operation to escape. Looks better than it sounds ! Although I don't think I'll be buying this one. The soundtrack is very chilled out though.
Hearts of Iron IV - This is a World War 2 grand strategy game where you can easily go down alternate history routes like Fascist Britain, Communist France, variations like that. Very curious and I've been mostly* enjoying the videos.

*(they can descend into boring setup instead of invasion action).

One curious thing with the gaming videos though, I'll watch a Stellaris video and I'll think I'll be able to do things better than the player. Strategic decisions, things like that. But the gaming videos aren't about that, they're about enjoying the personality of the person making the video. And that's changed for me lately ...

People I like more : Aavak, EnterElysium, Totalbiscuit as always, Heychrissa streaming, Scott Manley when he does an interesting video (they're getting rarer)
People I have very little time for now : pretty much all of Yogscast. Their emphasis changed around Xmas when they started firing some of the old guard. Totally uninteresting now and with people like Kim, whereas I used to watch all she made, not any more. Yawn and actually quite annoying. But she's still better than most of Yogscast.

Back to stuff to be enjoyed ?

Yep. If you find yourself being rather bored by something you were interested in before, change. Don't keep beating your head against the wall. It isn't fun !

Find fun stuff to do instead. It tends to be more fulfilling and it brings the smiles.

Smiles are very important.

Friday, July 08, 2016

A short(ish) note about disclosure

I thought I'd better put one of these notes up again ...
And there's that too but I'll hopefully get some energy back over the weekend.

A topic which ended up being a bit hot on the internets this week which you may have missed is about disclosure. Basically, a couple of youtube people were saying they'd won some fairly valuable game skins on a website which I won't mention here (no advertising for scumbags).

This was really bad because they failed to put any disclosure in and there was a lot to put in :

They own the gambling website where they won the skins;
They rigged the winning of the skins;
And they're basically a pair of scumbags.

And because they're pulling this kind of fraud, it makes it worse for everyone else using the internet to publish stuff. I like a few of those people, I don't want them not producing the content I enjoy because they've been forced off the internet due to the actions of idiots.

I thought I'd better do my own disclosure note, so I can stick it over to the side somewhere in the links list. It gets me off the hook for any questions about why do I recommend the people I recommend.

First up - any opinions here are mine and mine alone. Ok, I may have borrowed a few from other people by listening to their arguments and coming round to their way of thinking. But that's part of keeping an open mind about things. Where that gets dodgy is where there is some kind of recompense to changing your opinion.

Like politicians with dodgy relationships with organisations like the NRA.

I don't like advertising and don't believe anyone visiting here should see it. Couple of reasons for that :

1 - third party advertising is hella dangerous. I would recommend you run an ad-blocker on most of the internet, except where you are a regular enough visitor to want to support the site you are visiting. Like I turn my ad-blocker off for Youtube and Twitch. The advertising is dangerous because Naughty People will legitimately buy advertising space and ... seed it with malware that infects your PC. Beware.
2 - I just don't like advertising and don't need the money. Sure, more money would be handy but I would want to have full editorial authority over what I write. One of the sites I look at occasionally has been ruined in my opinion due to being dominated by kit that is sent to them for them to look at. That stuff usually gets their Approved stamp. I don't trust their opinion any more.

So - monetisation. I haven't received any compensation for anything I've posted here. I buy all my own kit from places I trust, because I've been to them a fair bit or they've been recommended.

Advice on where to buy from - shop around. Always shop around. Sometimes places like PC World or Argos will surprise you in being better value than the online places. And they're more accessible. The AOC monitor I have my eyes on is £10 cheaper in PC World than Novatech. The Turtle Beach keyboard I got was available at Argos for similar prices than at Amazon.

So - do your research, the solution that is better for you will not be the same solution as everyone else.

Oh and the thing I've noticed most about advertising is that the more a product is pushed, the worse it actually is. Bad manufacturers (like Asus) will remain successful by attempting to sway the opinions by pure volume. I've added a warning note to the PC build post below this one because of having my older opinions about Asus confirmed by another person's continuing experiences with their boards. (She keeps getting knocked offline on streams and it's partly down to a shoddy implementation on the motherboard she has - I've seen that before from Asus).
I better wrap up !

I haven't taken any money for anything posted here. If the happy situation comes when someone legit does offer money for a hardware review and I can give an honest opinion, I'll put disclosure all the way through that post. But no freebies for me yet.

The opinions I give are based on what I experience, or are informed by what others experience. I'm a fairly lazy old soul, so I try to avoid trouble. If that means picking one hardware group over another, that's what I'll do. If I can get my bits and pieces from somewhere local instead of having to make time for deliveries - you betcha I'll be happy to spend a couple more £. The reason I quote Novatech so much is because they used to have a shop just down the road. Plus they're with Scan and Old-(Pre BT)-Dabs as being amongst the cheapest people on the internet for bits.

I was going to wrap wasn't I ?

No news from up norf, which is good. I'm tired but should improve over the weekend. Having the radio on snooze mode (where it turns off on its own after a while) seems to be helping me get to sleep. My outsides are still very fragile but are steadily improving. My insides hate me but they'll get over it. Mentally I'm pretty beat up but I'm really looking forward to something happening on Tuesday. It'll be awesome.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Checking out the market (again)

I've had a request !!!!

Actually two requests. One of the Chrissa community people is looking to have a gaming desktop built but doesn't know what they should acquire. And then there's my mum, who is looking for a light laptop to replace one that's a little too heavy to be a ... laptop.

But first ...
I may not be able to bring you any more pictures of the lovely Old Ben. When I had a chat to my mum yesterday (Dad's doing fine, recovering nicely and is out of danger), she let me know that Ben was struggling again. Poor lad. His old pain pills have been giving him serious side effects, hopefully the new pills sort him out.

He's an old fella and has been a wonderful little chap to have around but he may not have long left. And like Goldie and Scruff before him, he has his own special place in the hearts of our family and the people who have enjoyed seeing his pictures on Facebook.
Yep. It'll break many hearts when we have to let him go but if they give you a look that says "I hurt too much and don't want to be here any more", that unpleasant job has to be done.

PC Stuff !!!

Let's see what's out there. First up is the desktop. The price range is about £800 but as always, you try and see if you can get top value for less money.

As always, start with the processor because it drives the rest of the machine. I recommend Intel now because they are more efficient, run cooler, run better. They do cost a little more though.

Processor - Intel Skylake i5-6400 (cheapest of the i5's and the older Haswell generation is only £6 cheaper) - £156. This needs a LGA1151 motherboard. I have had mixed results with MSI but they come in with the cheapest Z170 board : MSI Z170-A Pro for £87. The Z bit means it has the faster performing chipset (the glue that holds the system together). This motherboard needs DDR4 memory and this is so cheap, you want a minimum of 8GB these days. The G.Skill memory in this machine has done well, there is a 8GB pair on Novatech for £33. Oh and you'll want to keep that processor cool with something large and beefy (means it runs quieter) like a beQuiet Shadow Rock 2 for £36.

One note there - the coolers have improved but can be scary to mount for the uninitiated.

Processor graphics has improved so much recently but it does help massively to have an external card. I'm pleased with the AMD Radeon R9 380 card I have now and you can get the Sapphire version for £170. You get diminishing returns if you spend more than £200 on graphics cards.

Every system needs storage - I think PCs have moved passed cd/dvd/bluray storage now but you can get a bluray rom drive for £37. I won't include that in the total. For the main storage, you can shave off some cash and complication by using a SATA Hybrid drive (a normal drive with SSD to make it smooth) and Seagate have a 2TB drive for £84. We'll pick that for this but normally, you'd be better putting Windows on a 250GB (for breathing room) SSD plus a 1TB+ conventional drive to put the data and games on.

It all goes in a box, a typical desktop being an ATX mini tower. Watch for cheap ones, they usually have sharp edges that demand a Blood Sacrifice during the build. Antec have the VSK3000 case for £27. DO NOT buy a case with a power supply included, unless that power supply is a beefy enough named brand.

Power supply is very important. If they aren't beefy enough, they will strain until they die. If they're cheap, they will usually fry other components in their death throes. So you buy the power supply from people like Corsair, Antec, EVGA, Cooler Master, Thermaltake. I'll choose the Corsair CX600M for £67 for this build.

How much ?
£660. Wow, didn't expect that, it's cheaper than usual, makes me wonder what I've missed. Boost it a little with a SSD and conventional hard disc combo plus that £37 for the bluray drive.

Also - £80 for Windows 10 Home 64 bit.
Monitor - I am so close to buying the AOC i2369 for £125 (or a bit cheaper from PC World).
Keyboard - I like my Turtle Beach Impact 100 for about £50.
Mouse - no recommendations here except Avoid Roccat, Avoid Saitek/MadCatz.

How much is something similar on PC Specialist ?
I'm going into the "Top Spec Core Computers", not really caring about the box and the rest of the spec is the same as above except for :
Motherboard Asus Z170-P and memory by different people;
Coolermaster Hyper 212 cooler.

And that comes out to £722 or £801 with Windows. A premium of £60 for them to build it is ... probably marginally acceptable and it avoids the chances of breaking stuff when putting that cooler on and having bad bits slip through, because they'll test it before you get it. The motherboard makes a dent in the price and I think the more expensive Asus motherboard is worth it. Sadly I can't link the build :-(.

REVISION - Do not buy Asus hardware. It is usually feature incomplete or contains unpleasant surprises that will annoy the hell out of you later. With me, it was a lack of 5.1 surround sound support in the surround sound socket, with another it is a random disconnect from the internet while the person is streaming because Asus got it wrong with the network port. Also feature incomplete because £100+ boards usually have 2x network ports (or more), this one only has one plus a broken wifi.

How about the laptop ?
Heading over to PC Specialist again, the one that catches the eye is the 14" Ultranote III with an all important weight of only 1.8kg. It also appears to have a very good screen. Other bits of spec to change :
Processor - more cores with an i5-6200U. The i7 chips are an expensive waste of time. The 6200U isn't as powerful as the 6400 above but that U means lots of battery life and it'll still be good enough for things like watching videos off the internet.
Memory - up to 8GB.
Hard disk - a hybrid 1TB drive (the SSD parts speed up the machine a lot and you don't really have the space or weight for multiple drives in a laptop)

And that comes out to £511.

I'm going to scout to offerings from Dell and from PC World but I think we might be putting an order in for that Ultranote.

PS I'll miss Old Ben. He's adorable.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Classics and a bit of the new stuff

Two subjects today !!!

I'm currently watching Top Gear from yesterday and it's got to the segment about reimagined classic cars. Chris Evans is currently driving an MG B Roadster, reengineered to have all sorts of modern touches. To borrow from the TG article, classic cars had a few problems :

Crash and you die;
Weak handling;
No mod cons;
General erosion and rust.

One thing to say about the reengineered cars though, they are no longer original. They have moved away from the classic. I don't think they can lay any claim to being authentic and therefore have no intrinsic value above the cost of reengineering them. It's not a car that would go into a garage, be pulled out occasionally and be admired for its place in history.

I've dabbled in being interested in kit cars over the years. These are another stage on from the reengineered classics. The redone classics are bound by the original material. The design, the chassis, the stuff that has to stay the same. Anything else is fair game, like engine, mechanicals and all that stuff. I've never had the facilities that would let me dabble in this though, so no Sleepycar for me.

But ... watching that article again makes a few old thoughts resurface. We've owned a classic car and it was beautiful. She was Chloe (from the registration plate), one of the forgotten classics :
(that's not our one, it's from Google a while ago).

That article of automobile beauty is an old Triumph Spitfire. We loved our one for her lines. Can't say that much for the rest of it but that body proved an old adage : Curves are beautiful. But the Spridget and the MG B got all the attention. There was a coupe version too with a bigger engine. But the Spitfire had one massive problem - corner hard and it would probably kill you.

The problem was swing axle back suspension. On a car, you want the wheels to go up and down to soak up the bumps. You don't want them angling off the vertical. On a rear drive car, this means two universal joints per side to get the power to the wheels. The Spitfire only had one, which meant the wheels would swing off the vertical quite drastically at the extents of their up and down travel.
There you go - picture from

Trust me - it's bad and it meant I refused to think about driving the car when I was old enough and had my licence. It had already been crashed by that point so that was kinda academic.

But if I were to rebuild the Spitfire like a modern car ? Here's what I would change :

Remade interior - but still with minimalist dials embedded in a characterful wooden dash. Because these cars aren't about climate control or air conditioning or even the kinds of toys in my Lexus. They're about being one with the car and enjoying the drive.

Beefed up engine - there's lots of room under that bonnet, I bet you could fit in a modern turbocharged 4 cylinder. Perhaps even some of the hybrid parts from my Lexus ? It's quite a bit bigger though and I doubt whether the hybrid bits would fit.

Let's see - turbocharged 4 cylinder around the 2 litre mark. But you would want to get something to match the rear drive. Most modern cars have the engine in front pointing from front wheel to front wheel (transverse). My rear drive Lexus has the engine pointing down the middle of the car (longitudinal). Kit cars sometimes sort this by putting all of the front engine bits behind the driver to make a rear engine, rear drive car. Yep, this would be the awkward bit.

Suspension - the Spitfire came with independent double wishbones at the front (this is a very good thing) and you really couldn't improve something like that. But the back end would need to be completely replaced, preferably with something matched to the new engine. Perhaps a 4 wheel drive solution ? Might work.

It'd be an interesting exercise to look up the possibilities. What would fit, what would work, could you make it even more special by adding hybrid drive mechanics.

This may occupy my thoughts for a while :-).

The other subject ? New stuff ?

I've been appreciating Windows 10, to the point where I'm now calling it an upgrade. I'd recommend it for machines, including those machines on earlier MS operating systems. And there are reasons ... which I thought about earlier today when reading some of the more rabid opinions of a pro-Linux commenter :

Adware and Spyware - do the research, turn them off.
2d Flugly - I actually like this after Windows 7, it's simpler, more readable and doesn't take up any more of your time than it should do. The old Win7 animations seemed to absorb time for no good reason.
Removal of customisation options - shrug. It's a computer, not a scrapbook.
Metro in general - meh ? Windows 8 was an abomination but they seem to have fixed the worst of that in Win10. I can get to my applications easy and the tiles let me set a few easy favourites.
Forced updates - yep, this is a problem. It actually knocked our Chrissa off the net the other day midstream, because it deleted her network drivers. Oops.
High bandwidth update downloads/uploads - again, do the research, turn them off.
Windows Logon - I haven't had to do this and have no intention of using their cloud services.

No clear performances over Win 7 - it's subjective but it feels smoother, faster and I haven't had to restart Waterfox due to resource leaks lately. Memory usage is currently 4.7GB used out of 8GB, it would be up to 6-7GB by now on Win7.
Feature removal - not noticed anything significant.
Start Thing vs Start Menu - I like the new one, allowing you to add most likely to use programs as tiles lets you find them quicker without diving through the Start Menu. Looking back, I don't think I was a fan of the Start Menu.
Customer QA testing - don't be part of the beta testing Insider network ...

Yeah, Linux Mint might be a better OS for web browsing and other activities but ...

You can't run games on it. At least, not a significant number of games. And that makes it totally unusable and unsuitable for someone like me.

I'd put my current hierarchy of OS's for new machines as :
Windows 10 - first.
Linux Mint (chosen due to those rabid commenter people) - second.
Apple MacOS X - sadly a long distant last now. This fails due to Apple moving away from supplying stuff that the customer wants, into a closed ecosystem driven by Apple for the benefit of Apple.

So if you're not bothered about compatibility with games or software like iTunes (again, an example of Apple making software for the benefit of Apple), then go Linux Mint. If you like the occasional game, Windows 10. And for something different, Apple is probably in the last iteration that anyone could recommend. It was the best (except for compatibility) but I think that's past now.

It's your choice though, my mind has been changed though by working with Windows 10 for a little bit and I actually like it. It's convinced me.

But it still won't talk to my camera. Grr.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Sunday Randomness

Is it really Monday since the last post ?

I better do another of those Alphabet posts because I've been lacking ideas to put posts around !
Last week seemed really tough. The first part was worrying about my dad and I think the rest was catching up on the exhaustion that has a hold on me at the moment. It took less than an hour to sort out the plumbing job on Monday but it took most of what I had.

My dad's doing better. He's home now and the sister reports that the damage is restricted just to dragging a leg a bit. Hopefully the nerves relearn what they're supposed to do but it's great news. Far better news than what we were expecting, it sounded pretty serious.

My mum and dad have had some pretty serious stuff happen to them over the last few years and they've come through it really well. Long may that continue.

I've been looking to recover too. I think all of the really nasty stuff in me has gone now but my outsides are still particularly weak and prone to being redamaged. That said, when I do tear new holes in me, they typically repair in the 3 days or so cuts and bruises always used to.

I just have to stop redamaging things. I have some Gunk to help out there too, Fucibet has proved pretty effective for me.

That's one thing I'd pass on to everyone who suffers from problems with their outsides. You will attack the damage. It's basic human nature. But ... you can mitigate the damage that you do to yourself by redirecting it. So for me now, when the itchies hit at work, I've been tackling the source of the problem instead of the symptom. Translation - I've been giving my arms a drink with E45 cream. And it seems to be working too ! Arms are looking a bit better.

I've been watching the sport too.

England have been doing incredibly well in the cricket, the men and the women. It's as if the plans have come together and they work so well as a unit. Cricket is like that, individual performances stand out but it's only when those individuals come together as a team that they win. I've been really enjoying watching the men and women team win lately.

Talking of individuals and team - I've been quietly chuckling at the England football team fumble their way out of this championships. I'll support every England team or individual (make that UK and Republic of Ireland) playing that I see, although there is a kind of hierarchy when they play each other. But ... I'll laugh at the footballers because of a general lack of respect for any footballers. They're a despicable bunch who lie and cheat their way to victory. There is no honour in that and they should be ashamed of themselves. Oh and there's the massively overpay thing as well.

That said, I do moderate that support according to how the other supporters or teams behave. There's a kind of Meh feeling about the Welsh at the moment after them failing to adequately explain away their celebrations at England going out of the tournament. See that comment before about honour. There is no honour in cheering another person's misfortune.

Other games ?

I took a rest from Stellaris over this week, partly through inclination, partly through having the Chrissa streams on the desktop. I'm wanting to pay attention to those. Glad I did on Wednesday because the coverage of the Inside game was golden. Funny, shocking, tense. She does top value streams that one (link on the right and she's replaying Mass Effect 2 at the moment, one of the best games ever).

Oh and my wrist has been acting up too. Makes it sore to play the games and I'd rather keep Good Wrist times for work. Stellaris is on hold for a bit as well at the moment due to the mods I use needing to catch up with the latest patch.

I've been spending the moneys too !

3 have turned up from the Steam sale :
RymdResa - a space exploration game
Convoy - a scifi game where you're battling across the planet to repair your ship
Shadowrun Hong Kong - near future role play game where technology and magic mix

Add to that a few albums :
Bat For Lashes - The Bride - I will buy this lady's albums til the end of time. What a voice.
Garbage - Strange Little Birds - a group that continues to be awesome.
Sia - 1000 Forms of Fear - hmm, great voice, not the best writing. Still enjoyable.

I'm currently enjoying Madonna's album Music while the postmortem of the France vs Iceland game is on the telly (muted because the pundits are a waste of space usually). Great Grand Prix today, followed by a time delayed England Women thumping the Pakistan team. And now Chrissa streaming Mass Effect 2.

I'll try and not leave it a week until the next post !

PS Almost forgot !!! Thursday evening was watching Independence Day 2. A decent, enjoyable movie with lots of scifi action on the screen. I was entertained. But while watching, it felt a bit more like one of those b-movie mockbuster movies where they clone a major blockbuster. Odd.