lovingboth: (Default)
2017-06-20 09:33 pm

Shopping 2

Annoyingly, my Sandisk Sansa Clip Zip mp3 player is dying. I see I got it in 2013, when JA broke the clip that attaches them to your clothing on the Clip+ that she took to Switzerland. Getting the newer model meant getting a proper colour screen rather than the multi-monochrome one on the Clip+, but it still ran Rockbox, the very impressive third party firmware that lets you do all sorts of nice things. Including, if you're silly enough, play Doom on it.

More annoyingly, it's out of production and the successors to the Clip Zip, the Clip Jam and Clip Sport do not run Rockbox. If Sandisk had any sense, they'd have it as the official firmware, but no...

Even more annoyingly, the price for second-hand Clip Zips reflects the fact that they're the last ones that run Rockbox. It's silly money time. Even Clip+'s are over-priced for the hardware compared with the price of a new Jam or Sport: the Rockbox effect again.

Grrr.

At least my ten year old Sandisk e280 still works and it does.
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-06-15 12:19 pm

More thoughts

One of the reasons why I suspect that the recent Grenfell Tower disaster was down to the refurbishment was my late father.

He was a fireman through the 60s, 70s and a big chunk of the 80s. He stayed at the sub-officer level because, unlike the officers, they went out on the shouts. So he'd been to a lot of incidents before health problems meant he shifted to fire safety.

One memory from my childhood is going to the AmDram theatre my mother had been part of when she was younger. We were in the balcony and he was VERY uncomfortable, to the point that we left at the interval.

The place burnt down a few years later. Fortunately no-one was in it, because anyone in the balcony would have been in trouble: the pre-war small theatre had a narrow wooden staircase up to it. It got rebuilt with a wider concrete one. He'd go back then.

For some years, he was at a station responsible for a stretch of the M1. There were types of car he wouldn't go in. (If he could have afforded one, he'd have had a Saab.)

There was one shop in the town centre he wouldn't go in.

Once during a fire alarm, my sister's teacher kept them back until they'd been given their homework. Let's just say they never did that again.

When I lived on the third floor of a house, he checked that there was a ladder escape.

But he never had a problem with going into a tower block. He'd been to fires in them, but he trusted the designs would contain any incident not involving a gas explosion until people could be rescued.

And that's what didn't happen this week.
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-06-15 12:11 pm

Shopping

This PC hasn't locked up in a while, except that it did a couple of days ago and lost a big post here.* This is what I can remember...

Charity shop finds - a few years ago, my (now late and now) step-mother was looking for presents for some of her grandchildren, and decided that some good binoculars would last and be used. I got tasked with doing the research and, for the price, found some Pentax 10x50s. I liked them so much, I later got a pair myself.

They are certainly bright (the 50mm size of the lenses means lots of light gets in) and effective (the 10x magnification) but using [personal profile] purplerabbits's very nice pair (8x42 Eschenbach?) showed me that they are not great. Unlike her pair, there's noticeable colour fringing when there's significant contrast in what you're looking at.

I also usually only barely glance at ones in charity shops. They tend to be rubbish for a start. So it was a very nice surprise to see an 8x42 pair recently that wasn't. They're cold war (or not long after) Russian, built like a tank, and a quick look through them suggested that they were good. A look online showed that some other people thought so too... how much? A tenner? (Less than a poor pair with a brand name they had heard of.) Sold.


* I was using Drivel** to write it, and that doesn't autosave.

** Speaking of Drivel, does anyone know why the number of clients is so low in number and quality? Is it just that LJ and its codebase using sites are no longer where all the hip people like, erm, me and you hang out? I had to get Drivel from an old repository, because even Debian dropped it ages ago.
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-06-12 08:33 am

£5 for $1, sort of

If you're tired of eating free chocolate for the Google Play offer, for the next week, one of the current Humble Bundle deals includes 500 'Amazon coins' in its $1 tier.

If you've not come across these before, they can be used to pay for stuff in the Amazon appstore - a rival to Google's Play for Android devices. The selection is nowhere near as large, and you need to enable third party sources in their settings and install Amazon's own app on your device...

.. but there is some good stuff there, some of it free where it costs on Google (Patchwork is one example), and I find the app very useful for comparison shopping / looking up reviews anyway.

Each coin is worth 1p (in the UK, it's 1c in the US and 1 (different) c in Germany - outside those versions of the Amazon website, this is worthless) but you can't mix and match your payment: if you don't have enough coins in your account, you don't spend them all and pay the rest in real money, it's all real money. I think they have a fairly limited life too.

(Oh, when you redeem the code to get these on Amazon, you're taken to a page that looks like you're about to pay £4.90 for them. Somewhat stupidly, the 100% discount is applied after you've pressed the 'pay' button and not before. It took me about three 'I'm not paying for these!' goes before I discovered this...)

But it's meant I've now got the conversion of Camel Up, normally £3.71 on Google Play (and AppBrain tells me it's never been on sale there) for 369 'coins' that cost me less than a quid.

Other interesting board game ones include the conversions of Glass Road (77), Avignon: A Clash of Popes (80), Ingenious (129), Pickomino (129), Take It Easy (129), 6 takes! / 6 Nimmt! (149), Ligretto (159), Small World 2 (160), Hey, That's My Fish (162), Ghost Blitz (175), Ubongo (199), Abalone (199), Unreal Estate (232), Ticket to Ride (233), Splendor (233), Pandemic (233), Suburbia (238), Kingdom Builder (249), Alhambra (259), Castles of Mad King Ludwig (311), Cafe International (349*), Steam - Rails to Riches (376), Scotland Yard (399*), Carcassonne (399*), Labyrinth (399*), Galaxy Trucker (422), and Brass (499), plus the very good chess engines ChessGenius (300) and Shredder (499).

* = been on sale on Google / elsewhere for considerably less.
lovingboth: ([default])
2017-06-09 09:00 am

'Pretty much as I predicted, except that the Nasty Party lost'

Amongst the losers last night, Lord Ashcroft must wonder why he's spent so much of his money on polling to get it so wrong: "Estimated Conservative majority rises in final Ashcroft Model update" - the lowest majority he was expecting was 52.

He thinks this is down to the number of votes cast...

Meanwhile, gosh, it looks like it was 2010 it was most like, May is toast, and Corbyn toasted.

Annoyingly, there's zero chance of electoral reform with the result, but at least David Davis was talking in the middle of the night that May's UKIP-style hard Brexit might not be such a good idea after all.
lovingboth: ([default])
2017-06-08 10:05 pm

Name stuff

I can remember being pleased to have 'Ian' as a name when I was in infant school: it was very easy to spell and I was not good at spelling.

Hardly anyone gets it wrong. An occasional extra 'i' gets added, especially if they know I have Scottish heritage, but not very often. Even with that, it's still basically pronounced the same.

My surname on the other hand...

... I can remember loudly correcting the deputy head at my secondary school when he got it wrong during an assembly of some sort while I was in the upper sixth form. I'd only been there six years, FFS, he'd been there throughout that time, and there were only about 250 pupils left at that point.*

I am also forever having to spell it out on the phone etc.

Interestingly, Newark is somewhere where this hardly ever happens. It almost certainly helps that a prominent local vet practice is Newman Watters. Their site is by one of the main roads, so anyone coming into town from the northbound A1 sees it.

Fortunately, I am much more attached to my first name than my surname. It was easy for me to agree for JA to take L's surname for example.

* It was a three class per year, i.e about 90 pupils, grammar school that was being converted into the local sixth form college as part of going comprehensive. The year that was two below us was the last grammar school intake, and some will have left at 16.
lovingboth: ([default])
2017-06-08 05:19 pm

A few predictions

I don't know what the election result is going to be. The 'hope for the best, expect the worst' approach avoids some angst when the Leopards Eating People's Faces party wins, but your face is still cat food...

Anyway, here they are:

1. This is Theresa May's last general election as leader

No matter if it goes well (significantly increased majority) or badly (not increased majority) for the Tories, her personal campaign has been absolutely awful. Given the gifts of an enormous poll lead both as a party and personally as PM, she's managed to make a coronation procession into some sort of contest.

The Tories are ruthless if they think they're going to lose and May will be gone after the Brexit negotiations. Even if those are a triumph, which looks incredibly unlikely, someone else will get to win the following election.

2. It isn't Jeremy Corbyn's

It's obvious that the Tories want him as Labour leader. By May making it a contest, enough of the Labour membership will still do too.

3. It probably isn't Tim Farron's

The LibDems have been frozen out of this election. Nick Clegg has been a much better performer than Farron, but even he's been marginal in impact. It'd probably take Farron wanting to stand down and Vince Cable to regain Twickenham for him to go.

4. There are three previous elections that it could be most like:

1983: Someone who's already proved themselves actively harmful to the country is re-elected in a landslide, 'cos big event (Falklands / Brexit) and an opposition leader who plays really badly amongst many voters (Foot / Corbyn) despite being very popular in sections of their party.

2010: Unexpected hung Parliament.

1992: It turns out to be one you didn't want to win because of a disastrous failure to a policy that both Tories and Labour agreed on (ERM / Brexit) and which lead to the party that did win being out of power for over a decade.

The second is obviously the hope (and if it is, for ghods sake, change the bloody voting system! I am sick of living on constituencies where my vote doesn't matter, never mind parties getting working majorities with about 36.8% of the votes - what the Tories got in 2015 leading to this utter mess) but I suspect it's going to be the last one...

.. because Brexit is going to be a disaster and May and the Tories have absolutely attached themselves to it, with no public reservations. Labour would have got into the same mess, not least thanks to having a leader who is really less of a Remainer, but will be able to say 'not our fault'.
lovingboth: (Gromit on moon)
2017-06-05 06:44 pm

Farewell Wallace

It's sad to think that - unless Nick Park is being very quiet about having recorded another soundtrack - there won't be any more Wallace and Gromit films.

All of them have been great: I knew the A Close Shave was going to make it a trio of Academy Awards merely from the response of Gromit to Wallace's line 'We've tried it out on Gromit, haven't we lad?'
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-05-30 09:04 pm

The 'what could possibly go wrong' series

If you haven't been watching it on the US schedule, the third season of Fargo starts tonight on Ch4.

You don't need to have seen the previous two (although I recommend that you do, at some point!) to enjoy it: they're self-contained morality tales.

(CW: people in the series usually find out.)
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-05-17 10:04 am

When you see a URL..

.. contain 'BUNDLE_PRICE_TEST_1M_UK_C', you can tell someone's doing some market research.

If you go to The Guardian's homepage today, what price are you offered if you click on the 'Support the Guardian' banner?

Spoiler?! )
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-05-16 04:16 pm

From a phishing attempt today

Oh noes! Someone's trying to hack an account that doesn't exist!

Unusual sign-in activity
We detected something unusual about a recent sign-in to the Microsoft account 8050303@(me).com
Sign-in details:
Country/region: Romania
IP address: 869.3.58.913


Well yes, that is unusual...

I don't think I'll be biting.
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-05-12 09:14 pm

One thing about doing an OS reinstall..

.. is that it reminds you what programs you're actually using when you can't find them any more.

For updating here, I use Drivel as a Linux client. It's not been updated in years, to the point that Debian dropped it as a package at some point since the release of Wheezy in 2013.

I'm a bit surprised that no-one seems to have done anything better, on Linux at least. Is there one I'm not aware of?
lovingboth: (mini me + poo)
2017-05-11 10:06 am

'Good job you didn't lose anything important, because you have backups of everything that is…'

Someone I know makes a habit of saying that whenever someone has a serious computer problem like a hard drive failure or stolen laptop or…, and wants their help getting data back. Amazingly, I don't think anyone's punched them.

But it's a reminder that you need a good backup system.

I have gone from paper tape (I might still have one with O-Level computer science coursework on!), to floppy disks (urgh), to 120Mb tapes (better, but since someone stole the PC with the reader, I now have some tapes with ancient stuff I can't read), to writeable CDs (good until multi-Gb hard drives became affordable), to writeable DVDs (only slightly better than the CDs), to online offsite backup.

Oh, there are also some spare hard drives for local copies, but one of the points of an online backup system is that it will survive your house burning down, for example. Plus writeable DVDs and CDs are distinctly fragile! They have a lifespan of only a few years and I have some blank ones that were not blank before. (Fortunately, this has mostly just involved losing some copies of CDs for use 'out and about'.)

As well as having things on Google Drive and Dropbox – fine and free for smaller backups, expensive for larger ones – I've used four online services: Carbonite, Diino, altDrive, and Crashplan.

Carbonite was one of the first and helped set the basic idea: a client on your computer regularly looks at what's changed recently, and automatically backs it up. The less you as a user have to do, the more likely it is that it will happen, and this is much better than only being able to go 'Oh, yes, there has been some important changes since my last backup, I will backup now' as with consumer writeable media.

I might be with them still, but for a few things. They don't have a Linux client for a start, and from 2008 I've quickly gone from working mostly in Windows to barely booting into it. Although you can get Windows to read file systems more usually used by Linux, on Windows PCs, if it's not a local FAT or NTFS partition, Carbonite wouldn't touch it.* At one point, I had /home** on an NTFS partition – "it's not advisable, but it can be done" – to accommodate this, but when Carbonite failed to tell me about a discount for renewing, I ditched them and reformatted /home properly.

Diino had both a Linux client and weren't at all fussy about how your data was stored. In fact, you could install the software on multiple computers on one account. They had a couple of issues with 64-bit Linux back in 2009 – memory tells me that there wasn't a 64-bit version of Java for Linux then, so some workarounds were needed – but those were sorted by the helpful support. They also did versioning better than Carbonite- if you changed a file, you'd always be able to restore previous versions of it.

But then they didn't bother renewing a security certificate which stopped things starting automatically, hmmm. Worse, they announced in October 2012 that they'd be closing – a couple of months after taking an annual renewal fee from me! They got new funding, but it didn't inspire confidence, so I looked for alternatives.

AltDrive was the one picked. It worked ok for a couple of years, and again the support was helpful when needed. (I particularly liked their asides that no-one used some of the neat features they had.) But it stopped working reliably in 2014 and whatever I tried couldn't get it to show me what it had backed up. Erk.

So it was back to Diino. Until last year, when it stopped working reliably for me too and a clearly reduced level of support couldn't fix it.

CrashPlan, another one of the three I looked at in 2012, was where I went. And it's been great! As well as backing up to their servers, their client will manage local backups. Or any other PC that also has the software and gives you permission. Unlike several other services, it doesn't seem to slow you down your data transfer when you use it – the initial backup was quite big, but took as long as I'd expect.

After having some lockups, I recently did a fresh install of Ubuntu MATE as part of working out what the issue is. Having a separate /home partition meant that none of my data was lost, but it did mean that I had to reinstall things that I'd installed over the past few years, like Steam, the Atom editor, youtube-dl, get_iplayer etc etc. And, partly because it's been working away, barely noticeable, I forgot about the CrashPlan client..

.. until I got an automatic email from them yesterday to say that they hadn't heard from my computer in three days, was there a problem? Oops! Reinstalling the client was easy, as was saying 'you know about it already, and you don't need to start the backup from scratch'. Backing up the 500Mb or so of changes in that time took a couple of minutes – sorted!

Yay!

Both Diino and AltDrive closed this year. It looks like Diino did it more gracefully, but online backup is a brutal business to be in. You've got Amazon, Google and Microsoft as rivals for a start, and they have huge advantages of scale. Plenty of backup firms have tried to resell Amazon's storage and been killed off when they changed their pricing.

So I hope it's not a kiss of death to say that all this has reminded me that my CrashPlan subscription is due for renewal later this month and I've got no hesitation in doing so…

* It wants to stop people using a single licence to back up a whole network, but they never could tell me why they insisted you use file systems they have rejected as too problematic themselves – when they asked Microsoft why NTFS was falling over all the time, they were told it wasn't designed to store lots of files! They will now allow you to back up one (only) locally connected hard drive, like a USB connected one, but charge you more for the privilege.

** Where Linux stores virtually all of your data.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (Default)
2017-05-09 11:00 pm

'Ian, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going.'

The main PC here has locked up about five times in the past ten days. It normally just doesn't do that.

As it's running the same software (Ubuntu MATE 17.04) as JA's one and the main hardware difference is her's has a slightly slower CPU, I am suspecting a hardware issue. The other difference between the two is that this one is on 24/7 and hers is only on when she's awake at home, and it's possible that a motherboard component is dying. Capacitors are the usual suspect.

As they're nearly four years old and have been great in that time - the AMD APU processors are amazing in terms of how well they can run 3D software without needing a separate graphics card, for example - I would get an updated version in a shot...

.. except there don't seem to be any.

Well, there are two from the makers of these, Zoostorm. One's 'about' JA one's speed, but for the price (£272) I paid for mine (£281). That's just Wrong. The other has a faster APU, but it's also £420. That's just Wrong too. I know evilBrexit has affected the pound's value, but four years of development mean it should be cheaper.

Ah.

It looks like the site I'm looking on's search is A Bit Crap and doesn't show you everything that fits your search. I can indeed have a better one for the same price* or a even better one for that £420.

Hmm...

* Unless I want Windows. Which I don't - I'm quite shocked at the difference the Microsoft tax still makes...
lovingboth: ([default])
2017-05-05 03:25 pm

Play 'casual' video games?

Bundle Stars' Dollar Forever bundle - 27 games, all but a couple running on Linux and Macs as well as Windows, for - in the UK - 95p. Or less than 4p each.

Each one of the Sparkle trilogy is worth at least a quid...
lovingboth: ([default])
2017-04-27 11:25 am

"It's not a question, I'm just assessing the level of stupidity here"

The third series of Fargo started last week in the US - it'll be on Channel 4 at some point.

As with the other two, it's looking very, very good if you like your humour warped. 'What could possibly go wrong?' is not a line that's ever used, but it's what so many people are thinking as they do something not necessarily to their advantage.

And I have missed the accents...
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-04-21 09:45 am

PSA - coming from LJ? Claim your LJ OpenID here

OpenID is a way of saying 'yes, that's them' that has fallen a bit into disuse with the annoying habit of places wanting you to log in via a Google or evilFB account, but LJ and DW are two places that support it.

One thing this means is that DW can go 'Ah, lovingboth@LJ is lovingboth@DW' (or any other DW account I wanted) and change all my comments on all imported posts here, regardless of which DW journal they are in, to be 'from' lovingboth@DW rather than lovingboth@LJ. (If I've ever commented on an LJ post of yours, have a look...)

Doing this is quite simple:

1. Log into LJ, undeleting your account there if necessary.

2. In another browser tab, go to the claim page here and tell it the URL of your LJ account.

3. Using OpenID, it should see that you are logged into LJ.

4. You'll get an email from DW at the address that it has linked to the DW account going 'click here if you are sure you want to do this, you can't undo this'. (It might take some hours to get this, because DW is limited in how much email it can send.)

5. Visit that link.

6. Done!

You can then delete the LJ account again.
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-04-18 11:56 pm

Better Call Saul s3

I am very much enjoying this, partly because of - and not despite of - the pace. It's not afraid to have long minutes with no dialogue or audience hand-holding, typically accompanied by some stunning New Mexico skyscapes.

Spoilers! Up to s3e2... )
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-04-18 07:07 pm

First import, now replace?

I did wonder if there was a problem with the importer for getting LJ content here - it's been about eight years since I last used it - but I can confirm that it does get the comments on LJ to posts that were cross-posted from here, if you wait for all of it to finish, ahem.

What I'd love to be able to do, easily, is replace every public post on LJ with a link to the equivalent one here. I could obviously do it manually, but it's far too much work. Is there an automated tool that does it?

It would help if the 'SomeNumber.html' bit of both URLs was the same, but...
lovingboth: (Default)
2017-04-11 09:57 pm

So farewell, LJ

This will be the last 'me at DW' post with cross-posting to LJ turned on.

I am not surprised at what has happened - an extremely popular social media site in Russia* was always going to be under pressure to do this - but I am disappointed.

If you ever used your LJ password anywhere else, you need to change them.

* Is it still more popular than the differently evil FB there?