Posted by chris on November 23, 2013
I wrote in September about getting Multicast working, this being required for TV over IP channels.
Having proved it worked, I then forgot about it, as the only such channel I can currently get is Sky, which I am not interested in. I just wanted to ensure my kit could handle it should other channels come along in the future.
In the meantime, I hit another problem. My NetGear NAS also doubles as a DLNA server, enabling me to play video and music from my NAS to my bluray player, and therefore through my TV, and my music centre. I use it mainly for music – recent CDs I keep on shelves, but my older CDs are packed away, so if I don’t want to rummage, I have them available as MP3s. Recently I discovered it was no longer working, for video or MP3s. Neither my BluRay or my tablet could see the DLNA server, although my Windows desktop could.
After trying several things, without any success, I tried to cast my mind back tp the last time I could remember it working. Then I logged into my router, and turned off IMGP – the protocol behind Multicast. Suddenly DLNA started working again.
I can’t believe that IMGP is totally incompatible with DLNA – I think I would have read about it by now. So it must be something in my IMGP setup. For now, I am leaving it switched off, and will re-examine it when something interesting becomes available on TV over IP.
Posted by chris on November 7, 2013
I’ve now been using my WorkFit-S sit/stand desk for a couple of weeks, and it is going well.
Most of the publicity shots and videos show this kind of thing plumped in the middle of the desk – that doesn’t make any sense to me. I have mine as far to one side as I can manage, which leaves a good half of the desk available for non-computer tasks. Since the pictures I first took for Facebook, I have moved the device to the left side of my desk, which I prefer; I have also angled it slightly, so it doesn’t feel like it is just sticking out.When sitting, it is a very comfortabe position – the keyboard is actually below and in front of the desk, and it feels very natural. I seem to be leaning forward less, and I believe that even seated, I am in a better posture.
The transition to standing is easy – it is simply a matter of grabbing hold of the support and raising the whole thing. It is counterbalanced so no strength is needed. Mine came already adjusted for a standard monitor and laptop, and I didn’t need to change anything; but there is an adjustment screw that changes the balance. In addition to the whole thing moving, the monitor and laptop also have independent movement, which is useful for someone of my height.I am currently using a little windows app – which is from Varidesk, another standing desk manufacturer, and allows me to set reminders to stand/sit. I currently have this set to standing 10 minutes every hour, and intend to extend this, as I get used to standing. The app allows me to skip transitions or delay them, in case I am in the middle of something and don’t want to be interupted.
My working day consists of many different kinds of tasks, and I have found that some lend themselves to standing, and other don’t. I find that when I am coding, I always want to be sitting; standing is currently a distraction. However, a significant part of my job is using my company’s data mapper, which is more mouse-based – I’ve found that I quite like standing for this activity; also for dealing with email and – of course – phone calls. So I expect that when I get used to this, I will turn the timer off, and choose my position based on the task I am doing.
The downsides? Very few. Because this item clamps to the front of the desk, it moves your seating position back a bit. So folk in small offices or cubbyholes would need to check they have enough room behind them. There are other solutions – the WorkFit-A, which clips to the back of the desk on a big arm – but they don’t offer the low keyboard position when seated.
There is a slight wobble to the monitor when typing, as the whole thing is tied together with metal floating on counter-weights. This is something that will either bother you or not. I worried about it for a couple of days, and now I don’t even notice it. There is no answer for this, with a small gadget like this – the solution, of course, is to go the whole hog and buy a fully moving desk. I may consider this at some time in the future, when I move my home office; but for now, I am perfectly happy.
Of course, now I am using a standing desk, I am more aware of them in the media. I found this article particularly interesting, it seems like I have accidently stumbled into a “next big thing”.
Posted by chris on October 18, 2013
As I have mentioned on Facebook, I have been suffering from lower back pain for the last month or so. I thought it was easing off, and cut back on my medication, but I was wrong.
Having just seen the doctor again, she reckoned that the most likely cause is the long time I spend sitting in front of a computer desk. This is hard to avoid, as I work with computers, albeit from home.
So my answer? To sit in front of a computer for even longer, researching how I can make things better.My chair is a good one, purchased in the last year – I spent a decent amount of money on getting one suitable for my size and weight, and it is fully adjustable. So I am fairly certain that isn’t a problem. The issue is simply the number of hours I spend in it. So, not for the first time, my thoughts turned to a standing desk.
I have considered this a few times, but find it a difficult idea to commit to. I have been on customer sites before where the only option is to stand, and after a few hours, I have found it uncomfortable; although that may be more to do with my fitness than anything. But a desk where I could sit or stand… that’s an idea, especially if it was simply to change during the working day. So I started looking at adjustable desks.
One item I found was the Varidesk. This is a platform that sits on top of a conventional desk, and allows for the surface to be raised by up to 16″ when necessary. I liked the look of it, but I wasn’t sure of it. The fact that any monitors are just free-standing on a platform you are moving gave me concern, and I wasn’t quite sure if the height adjustment was suitable of someone of my height. In the end, the lack of any YouTube reviews (allowing me to look at the thing in action – *real* action, as opposed to marketing videos) ruled this out for me.One of the other companies who seem to be quite prominent are Ergatron. Their WorkFit-D is a full-sized desk, that can be changed from sitting height to standing height quite easily. Again there is the issue of free-standing objects, but this desk appears to be a bit more substantial (and so less potentially wobbly) – also, most of the photos show them mounting monitors on arms bolted to the desk (an optional extra).
Now this option tempted me; and I may be tempted again in the future. However, now isn’t the right time for me to buy a new desk. For the last couple of years, I have been planning to move my home office into a different room. Laziness, junk storage issues, and, yes, my bad back have continued to delay that; and I will be astonished if I achieve anything before 2014, now. So if I am going to buy a new desk, especially an expensive, height-adjustable one, it will be after the move.However, another Ergotron offering was intriguing, the WorkFit-S. A bolt-on to the front of your desk, that has a pillar on which VESA-mounted monitors and keyboard moved with a range of 18″. It looked kind of ridiculous to me, but there were a ton of YouTube videos and reviews, all saying pleasant things about it. It is not cheap, but at half the price of a fully moving desk, it was worth considering. I could quickly set it up in my old office, and simply move it to whatever desk goes into my new office.
So I’ve ordered it. If it can ease my back problems, it will be worth the money – I even went for express delivery from Amazon, so I can set it up over the weekend, ready for work next week. The WorkFix-S comes either with single or dual monitor mount. A lot of my colleagues use dual monitors, but I don’t. However, the Amazon deal includes an adapter that replaces one of the monitors with a laptop fixing, so I have gone for that.
If it works, who knows, I may even go for the full sized desk when I kit out the new office next year.
Posted by chris on September 13, 2013
With my regular walking places being Ferry Meadows (Nene Park) and Bourne Woods, I sometimes forget I have Deeping Lakes Nature Reserve practically on my doorstep. 180 acres of flooded gravel pits is not easily missed; but it is primarily a nature reserve, and only a narrow part of it is open to the public.
Having said that, it has good parking, and a pleasant walking route along the south bank of the main lake, and then looping back along the River Welland. The walk itself is only about a mile long, but there is plenty to see, with benches and bird hides along the way.
Posted by chris on September 6, 2013
The new router arrived in July, but initial attempt to get VPN working to my office with a suitable encryption failed. All I had to do was tinker with it, but I didn’t have time, and couldn’t afford for my work VPN to be down.
Being on holiday at the moment, it seemed a good time to play.
The Vigor 2830 is a nice little box, with plenty of features. This time, I did manage to get VPN working reliably, so work is sorted. It took only half-hour to google how to configure it for Multicast, and I now have access to Sky 1, Sky Living and a couple of other channels (the “basics” package), multicast live over the internet. The picture is excellent. My access to these is temporary, as the free TalkTalk/Sky introductory offer stops in October – and even though it would only cost me £5 per month for these few channels (and more for others, of course), I do not intend to knowingly give money to Sky, I can live without them. I am treating this free period as a test, to check I have multicast working; as Sky is not the only content that will eventually be multicast.
As noted earlier, the new router didn’t come equipped with WiFi (an oversight in my ebay search), but I connected my FON to the hub feeding my TV and set-top boxes, which itself is fed by Develo mains lan adapers. I now have a better WiFi signal than ever in the lounge, kitchen and conservatory, where I really need it.
Last weekend, my old Hotpoint washing machine broke down. As I have had it for a good few years, and as it seemed to be eating more money, I decided to spring for a new machine. After a bit of research I settled on an AEG Washer/Dryer – with a condenser-dryer, so no need for venting.
As noted elsewhere, I had a few issues with the installation. I won’t go into details here, but it caused me to be fairly negative about the whole experience. However, that got in the way of the really important question, which is – what is the machine like?
So far, it is wonderful. It is simple to set the program and options, with leds and a digital display to show exactly what you have chosen – unlike the rotary dial of my old Hotpoint, where it was far too easy to go one too many clicks and be on a hotter wash than intended. There are a wide range of wash programs, including a super-fast 60 minute wash & dry cycle – limited to a max of 3kg, but I can see that coming in useful when there is a particular item I need *now*. There are two levels of time-saver, reducing a synthetics wash from 1hr 47min to 1 hr 33min to 57min. Again this is useful, as most programs are geared to a “dirty” load, and quite often I am washing a load of “worn-once” t-shirts that really don’t need a full-length cycle.
The dryer side is also easy to understand – having first selected the fabric type (cotton, wool, synthetic), you can either set it by time, like at the launderette, or by level of dryness – iron-dry, storage-dry or extra-dry. Doing the latter initially shows an implausibly long drying time, but there must be sensors measuring the moisture content, as this soon starts coming down. I tried the storage-dry setting, and was initially perturbed that the clothes didn’t feel completely dry to touch when they came out – certainly dry enough to wear, but I am not sure dry enough to go straight into the draw. However, they also came out very hot, and I found that within an hour of being folded into a laundry basket, they were dry, and fairly crease free. So I am not too unhappy with the result.
You can program the washer and dryer at the same time, for a continuous program, or run the cycles individually, should you wish to remove items before the dry cycle.
So all in all, it is a big success. The machine is much quieter than my old machine, to the point that I have gone out to the kitchen to check it was running a couple of times. The drying function is new to me, and while I don’t intend to use it when I have sunshine available to dry clothes outside, it will beat my indoor airing of clothes hands-down.
I was a bit surprised that most the modern machines appear to be cold-fill only (my Hotpoint was plumbed into both hot and cold). On the face of things, I thought that a hot/cold, where the hot was gas heated, would be better than the machine heating everything by electricity. But it seems that in these days of “low temperature” washing, and modern condenser boilers (which run cold before reaching temperature), cold-fill is simpler and has become the norm.
The only minor gripe with my new machine is that the door is so wonderfully big (easy to get at things in the machine), my laundry basket no longer fits underneath it – I have to move it to one side to open and close the door. However, I think I will cope!
It is amazing how sometimes you have technology in your possession and don’t realise it.
I recently spotted this youtube video, which is quite amusing.
Of course, the totally impractical cube is a joke, and part of a viral ad for Samsung’s new Galaxy NX Android DSLR-style camera.
But that got me to thinking how I frequently neglect my DLSR (a CANON Rebel/EOS350) for the inferior cameras in my phone or tablet, just because of their connectivity.
Then I remembered this lead I bought last year. It is a USB OTG (On The Go) cable, which lets you turn OTG-compatible kit from a USB device to a USB host. I bought it when I got my Nexus 10, as a result of reading some negative reviews about the Nexus’s lack of memory expansion. With the OTG cable, I could plug a memory stick in, albeit dangling off the side.
As it happens, I have never had cause to use this cable; although my Nexus 10 has an unexpandable 16 Gb of memory, I have never actually come close to hitting the limit.
But today, I realised that I could use the same lead to connect my DSLR camera to my tablet.
Would it work? I plugged them in, and turned on the camera. Instantly the Android Gallery app came up and displayed thumbnail images of the photos on my camera, categorised by date, and asked me to select which I wanted to import. Once imported, I was able to edit the photos, and upload them to the usual selection of websites (picasa, facebook etc.)
Equally, I could do the same with my phone (HTC Sensation), which is even more portable and has 3G as well as WiFi – although not nearly so good for editing, obviously.
For the 3 quid the OTG cable cost me, it is definitely a result. In fact, I may buy a second – one to keep in my usual USB cable box, and one permanently in the camera bag.
Posted by chris on August 21, 2013
I’ve just watched the film Argo. When I first heard of the story, I wanted to see the film, due to its slight connection to genre, and one of my favourite books, Zelazny’s Lord Of Light. I knew the book wasn’t even mentioned in the film, but it amused me anyway.
Then I heard about the various criticisms of the film, how the film greatly distorted the story, while saying it was “based on a true story”. But I still wanted to see the film, so I put off reading too deeply into it, until I had seen the movie.
After which, I read about the changes, and have to admit it knocked the edge off my enjoyment a little. “Why? I thought.
But this post is not specifically about Argo. It is about all films “Based on a true story”, and how I think they should be done. This is probably of interest to only the most pendatic film-goers, like myself.
- If you have a good true story, don’t change it unless you have to.
- Sometime it is necessary to combine minor characters. In which case the film-makers should be bold and honest enough to say “Some characters or events have been combined or changed for dramatic effect.” somewhere in the credits. No shame in admitting it.
- If your major characters carry out important actions in the film that either didn’t happen, or were the actions of other characters, then you may be making a great film which I will enjoy, but you lose the right to say “Based on a true story”.
- If you introduce danger or tension that never existed in real life, then you may be making a great film which I will enjoy, but you lose the right to say “Based on a true story”.
- If you change the nationality of characters, the country the story takes place in *and* the actual events as happened in real life (as was the case in “We Bought A Zoo”), you not only lose the right to say “Based on a true story”, but you shouldn’t even use the real people’s names. Your film may be a great story, but it no longer *their* story; and hey, someone might want to tell the real story someday.
There are so many times I have felt let down when I have encountered such nonsense, either after I have seen and enjoyed a film, or when I have read a factual book, and looked forward to the pending film, and realised that the script was 50% fiction.
If you say “based on a true story”, I expect it to be based, largely, on the true story. If you say “this is a work of fiction, inspired by real events, place and character names have been changed for dramatic purposes.”, I would have absolutely no argument with that, and would enjoy the movie a great deal more.
Posted by chris on August 7, 2013
I’ve been trying to do some stuff with photography and video. The former being mainly attempts at food photography, the latter some basic music videos for YouTube.
The photography thing is a long-term thing – I haven’t done much serious photography, and food photography is a particularly challenging area. I have a learning curve to navigate, but I am enjoying myself.
On the video front, I thought things would be simpler, but I wasn’t getting the quality I wanted, and knew my camera was capable of. It came down to lighting, as my outdoor videos were fine.
So I started looking around for something on eBay. Now, I know there is a lot of rubbish out there, and it is very easy to be sold a pup, especially if you don’t know what you are doing. Reading reviews, I realised that going cheap wasn’t an option, while I didn’t want to waste too much on a hobby that may be a five minute wonder.
In the end, I came across a seller with good feedback. I went to order some lights, and then saw he did a package of lights + a backdrop stand. This appealed, as it could be used to hide a multitude of sins when filming video in my lounge (although Julia Nunes did become famous for having an open loo door in the background of most of her early videos).
Anyway, it arrived today, and I am very pleased. While by no means pro kit, nor is it cheap and nasty. The kit included
- 3 telescoping stands, 3 light fittings, 3 85W halogen spiral bulbs.
- 3 soft white umbrella reflectors, plus one black/silver umbrella reflector.
- Carry case for above.
- 2 telescoping stands (same as the lighting stands) and 2 cross pieces, for a background screen of up to 2m x 3m.
- 3 Background cloths, in white, black and bright green (chromakey, anybody?)
- Again, a carry case for above.
All light and easy to carry, very easy to put together and take apart. Astonishingly, it really does look like the eBay illustration.
I think it’s all going to be useful, and hopefully will see me finally producing something creative.
It also occurs to me that the lights (or at least one of them) would be great to take along to gaming sessions at the pub, where lighting is often an issue.
Posted by chris on July 27, 2013
I mentioned that I had bid on a new Vigor router, to let me use all the facilities of my new TalkTalk YouView box.
It arrived today, and I immediately spotted something wrong. Checking the listing, I could see it was my mistake, and not the seller.
I had determined there were two Vigor routers that would do what I wanted, and had searched eBay for them. Many were 150-175 pounds, but on seeing a used model currently bidding at high 40′s (I got it for 52), I put a bid in.
Only now do I realise that this is the non-WiFi version of the router.
As it happens, I am not too concerned. It is still worth the money, it just means my WiFi will be handled external to the router, rather than built in. I already have a Fon wifi unit, which I keep plugged in mainly to make me eligible to use other Fon units when I travel. In fact, having this positioned in my lounge, rather than the upstairs office might even be an advantage.
However, it is a lesson – don’t let your enthusiasm for a bargain trump your reading skills.
Posted by chris on July 24, 2013
I keep trying to whittle the boardgame collection down, getting rid of stuff that I don’t play.
For this reason, I was quite pleased to trade Cowboys: The Way of a Gun – a game that looked interesting, but never made the table – for Imperial, a game I have played and enjoyed before, and expect to again.
But then I lose the plot and *buy* Power Grid: Factory Manager and Room 25. Where is my willpower? The best that can be said is that they are both played in a manageable time (30-60 minutes), and so are prime candidates for the pub sessions.
Factory Manager is almost a known entity; although it is different from Power Grid, it has similar features and mechanisms. Unboxing it, it struck me as looking like a cross between Power Grid and Puerto Rico, although that is an uninformed observation, having not yet played the game.
Room 25 looks fun. I don’t see it mentioned anywhere, but is surely inspired by the film Cube. One to six players are in an complex of 25 rooms, which are all hidden until explored, and can be moved (like the tiles they are) along rows and columns. Some rooms are safe, but others do things and some kill. The general aim is to make it alive to Room 25, by which the complex can be exited, but there are various scenarios, some competitive, some cooperative.
Posted by chris on July 23, 2013
I have been with TalkTalk for some time, but on their business service, rather than their domestic one. This meant I missed the boat a year ago, when they handed out free YouView boxes – I bought mine instead.
But this year, they announced that they were merging accounts, and I became a TalkTalk Plus customer last week. I promptly applied for my free box, and after some conflicting information (which I won’t go into here), it arrived along with a new ADSL router.
Now I didnt’t think I needed a new router, but it turns out I do, if I want to make the most of the offer.
What TalkTalk offer on their TV service is:
- Freeview and YouView Catchup, like any other YouView box
- Gift TV – various online box sets, which are essentiall more catchup TV, with some interesting (albeit old) complete US series.
- Multicast TV – not a catchup service but Live “broadcast” TV, over IP. Currently this consists of several different Sky TV packages – as a joining package I get 3 months of Sky 1, Sky 2 and 5 other channels for free
It is this last bit that requires the new router, as Multicast uses IGMP (Internet Group Management Protocol) which is a relatively new standard, and not supported by my Vigor 2800. As a result, I can access all the Catchup Services, but not Multicast.
However, I can’t just swap my router, because I am dependent on the Vigor for work – in that it keeps a constant VPN tunnel going between my home network and my office. Yes, I could get by on desktop clients, but it would be inconvenient.
So this leaves me in a silly quandry. I don’t like Sky as a company, and really I could just accept the new Catchup services, and ignore the Sky Multicast. This will also mean I can access everything from my existing (purchased) YouView box, and put the TalkTalk one in a cupboard as a spare (or sell it). The retail box doesn’t (yet) do Multicast, but it will do everything else.
On the other hand, the Sky service is is free, and I know there is stuff there I will enjoy. On the other hand, it is free only for 3 months, and I am unlikely to keep it after that.
On the other hand (doing my best impression of Tevye the milkman) it is shiny, and Sky won’t be the only people using Multicast in the future.
Anyway, I have currently got a bid in on a newer Vigor router that supports both VPN and IGMP. If I get it at a reasonable price, my Vigor 2800 can become a spare – always good to have for someone so dependent on the net.