|<< April 2013|
Lasted 49.28 seconds on Super Hexagon. It was like time stood still. Contemplating declaring victory and retiring.
Trying out the new Android Studio. Immediate impression is it's just like Intelli-J but dark grey. Second impression is oh, it has the new Gradle build stuff. It's a keeper then.
Clippy.js - Sometimes you look at a piece of software and you just sigh.
Just seen Phillip Schofield off the telly on his way to work on the telly. Whoever was chauffeuring him this morning (did you see what I did there) is a really, really bad and dangerous driver and should find other employment. And be given a good shoeing. I watched him overtake a cyclist so slowly and closely the guy on the bike could have easily collected Schofield's autograph on the way past. Having barely cleared the bike, chauffeur-boy immediately turned left across the cyclist into the This Morning studios. That's the kind of manoeuvre that puts people in hospital.
I’m trying out NewsBlur.
Harry's injured his knee. Please kick my pushy parent arse.
Tried to read an article on cassette tapes - Can not play media
Last Bat-Time, Last Bat-Channel - The strange case of Bill Finger's last Batman story.
Been up since half past four this morning, at work for ten hours, now off to a gig. It'll be FAB!
Think I finally sorted the last kink in the CycleStreets App sat-nav mode yesterday morning. I've set things up so that if you go off track it automatically replans the route for you. Problem was itwas sometimes doing that even when you didn't go off course. Not disasterous, but as the euphemism has it "sub-optimal". I finally realised the calculation I was doing to try and determine how far along the current part of the route you were, the along track distance, was just doing completely the wrong thing. Specifically, I was trying to work out if you were off the end of the current route segment, perhaps because you'd missed a turning or you'd just turned round and pedalled off in the other direction.
I've let the whole thing sit for several weeks, which in the end turned out to be a good thing, because if I'd chased it at the time I would almost have certainly carried on being wrong and probably just go wronger. Yesterday morning, after drawing a few little diagrams and realising some of my test data would give those particular results because the Earth isn't flat, the right calculation was suddenly startlingly clear. Pleasing.
More maps - Greg's Map of undersea cables. There are cables across the Pacific! That's astonishing. Here's West Midlands life expectancy by train station. The station in Moseley closed in 1941, so no idea how long we get to live. Perhaps that's why a former local councillor campaigned so hard to get it reopened?
Mowed the grass. It is my one contribution to garden maintenance. Actually starting to enjoy it. I'm nearly 44 you know.
Email from my son. In full, it reads Thanks for the Merder!!!!!
Just lasted 30.11 seconds on a game of Super Hexagon. It is what "casual games" should be, not yet another tedious Bejeweled variation.
Spark Meet Gasoline (Works in Progress). Kristin Hersh has a captivatingly otherworldly voice, gently more so now than then.
11 Most Absurd Inventions Created By MacGyver - Items: Obedient dog, bottle of sulfuric acid, yardstick, jar. Result: Catapult to launch acid into a position where it can burn binding ropes.
Image Duplicator - I call the assumption that making something BIG makes it Art Lichtenstein's Law. But the more I delve into this, the more I reserve special contempt for the gallerists and dealers who promote this cultural annexation - who are happy to display the results of this kind of copying in places like the Tate, our cathedrals of culture, as pinnacles of artistic excellence that deserve to be lionised.
Judge Minty extended audio - suspected vintage comicbook seller on McMahon Skedway
Email this morning from my online dogfood shop of choice began "Hello Pet Parents!" If their service wasn't so good, I'd go elsewhere immediately.
Going to a gig next week. Haven't been out and about for ages. Excited.
Text from Yodel telling me my package has been delivered to "a safe place". In fact it was dumped on my doorstep. As I opened the door, I saw the van leaving with the driver in deep conversation on his phone.
Super Hexagon - a minimal action game by Terry Cavanagh. Simple. Hypnotic. Fiendish.
Dan solves a problem with Android Preferences' shonky encapsulation. Good work. Nobody likes shonkiness.
Sort algorithms explained through the medium of folk dance. Illuminating.
The leader of Birmingham city council says entire services face the axe, yet Eric Pickles refuses to negotiate. You often get the impression the *only* thing Eric Pickles wants councils to do is collect the bins. Weekly, of course. It's everyman's right to have his bins collected weekly, and every council's duty to do so.
Down from infinity/Up to infinity - First proof that infinitely many prime numbers come in pairs
On Friday they filmed part of an episode of Doctors at our gymnastics club. (Doctors is a daytime soap which, I assume, is a bit like Casualty but with fewer explosions and car crashes. Do they still have explosions on Casualty?) The storyline centres, apparently, around a pushy parent who wants her teenage daughter to be a superstar gymnast. I have been considering recently whether I am, we are pushy parents. Both our kids are decent sportsmen, really quite decent. Daniel's a swimmer. Over the weekend he swam a regional qualifying time in the 200m breaststroke. He trains four times a week. He also plays hockey. At school, he's been running for the school team in the 800m, and in his first competitive race won by about 20 seconds. He's also very keen to try and make the cricket team. Harry does tumbling gymnastics. On Sunday, he qualified in first place for the National Championships. He also trains four times a week. He also plays hockey. He swims now and again too. Both have been taking part in organised sport since they were very small, and clearly they couldn't do that unless we weren't willing to pay for it, transport them around the place, sit on poolside/in a gym for hours at a time. Did we/do we push them? I don't know, but I don't think so. Many of the kids Daniel will race against in the regional championships will be training 15 or 20 hours a week in 6 or 7 sessions. He does about ten hours. Harry too, generally trains around ten hours a week, when twenty is more normal for what are called 'elite gymnasts'. Daniel could have switched to a different club to get more swimming, and was invited to, but he didn't want to. Tumbling clubs are rather thinner on the ground so that option wasn't available, but I don't think Harry would take it if it was. So, from a time-spent-doing-it perspective, I don't think we do fall into the 'pushy' category. Perhaps we're just not quite as pushy. Actually, I don't think most of the parents of the kids doing those hours are pushy. The ones I've met, in both swimming and gymnastics, aren't. Some of them, a minority, are ambitious certainly, but not what I would describe as pushy. But do we facilitate, encourage, enable? I guess we all do.
The largest known prime is 257885161-1. That is quite large - 17425170 digits long.
It's particularly in relation to Harry I think about this. That's not to do down Daniel - it's to do with the nature of their sports. Swimming is a pretty big sport - lots of kids swim, it isn't hard to find a club, there's plenty of opportunity to compete at whatever your level is, you can tune it to suit you, and you can participate right through your life. If your circumstances change, you can drop your training down or even stop, because you can always come back to it again, at any time, at any age, and be able to take part and compete. Gymnastics isn't like that. It's a minority sport, and tumbling is the minority sport within the minority sport. Gymnastics is hard, really hard - it takes years to build up the strength and to learn the skills. If you stop, then that's pretty much it, you can't go back and if you try you probably won't ever return to the level you were at before. Because tumbling is so small, there are only two ways to go - a bit of a laugh or aim for the top.
Incoming awesome shelves - Chris' Toilet Library
The hockey I mentioned - that's two hours on Sunday mornings. That's pretty standard for kids hockey. Some kids are naturally better than others, but they should all be able to play reasonably well. There are no elite hockey players somewhere doing 20 hours a week on the astroturf. Hockey, or rugby, or quite a lot of football, you can do one session a week, be pretty decent and have a good time. By some stroke of something or other, my kids preferred sports take significant time.
These are your legs. Theses are your legs on exercise.
Our gymnastics club only has a small tumbling section and it does shoot for the top. Consequently when Harry was invited to join the squad, we thought about it pretty hard - although a seven year old really isn't able to make an informed decision. Participating in competitive sport is a commitment - a whole family commitment. That's why it's "our" gymnastics club and "our" swimming club. Because we all have to be on board, or it just can't work. Is that pushing? If the kids were in the Scouts, would I be chewing this over in the same way. Or what if they did piano? Learning the piano has "tiger mother" written all over it, doesn't it? Help me here. Maybe the whole thing is amplified by the smallness of tumbling. I know a two kids, one in Birmingham, one in London, who fence. They were both on the fringes of the national squad, and one of them was selected for and took part in an international competion. I don't know any other active fencers. Right now, there are only a handful of 9 and 10 year old kids who can make the qualifying standard for the tumbling championships. Maybe they're just big fish in a small pond? But I still might be pushy. Arg.
Taking Law to the Lawless until death - Judge Minty.
Codename MAT. I wonder what happened to Derek Brewster. His was obviously a programmer of some skill. Could string a story together too - he wrote some really solid adventure games.
Caught the 5:50 out of new New Street this morning, serviced by the 390 157 Chad Varah. That's a name that's so wildly outside Virgin's usual practice for its Pendelino's, that despite just wanting to sleep the journey away, I was compelled to look it up. And blimey, the Reverend Prebendary Edward Chad Varah was a fascinating bloke - not inclined to become a priest but made a massive go of it, founded The Samaritans, worked on The Eagle, patron of The Terence Higgins Trust, and on the advisory board of top shelf mag Forum. Not bad.
Went large to avoid the Lichtenstein cup.
You may not know Archie Goodwin's work. You should check some of it out.
Microsoft doesn't sound like a fun place to work.
Weekend was good. Trust yours was too.
Moon Dust From Apollo 11 Lost In Storage For Years. I carried around a few micrograms of lunar regolith in wallet for several years, until I was asked to give it back. Not that it would have been good for anything - we pyrolised the shit out of it. Or would have done, had there been any present.
X-Pac, now performing again as the 1-2-3 Kid, has managed to recreate his relationship with wrestling audiences, at least in Chikara where he gets a storming reception each time he works.
Ouya Teardown: What is inside a cheap Android device? Not a great deal.
Scarborough Station has a Travel Centre, ticket office, touch-screen ticket machines and the Pumpkin Cafe. The main building has a large waiting room. Platforms 3-5 are partly covered, as is platform 1, which features the longest railway bench in the world. Facilities sound great. Rather want to go and sit on that bench. Wait a moment - the most significant thing about the station is relegated to a subclause in the third sentence? A Pumpkin Cafe gets better billing that the longest station bench in the world? It's a pretty decent Wikipedia entry, but guys, c'mon! Rethink your priorities.
Big weekend of children's sport. Fingers crossed, eh?
The Moseley Folk Festival has announced its full line up for this summer and, well, it's a little underwhelming. The undercard appeals, but I'm not getting a buzz off the headliners.
Email from ticket agency to tell me the British Trampoline and Tumbling Championships is the first weekend of July. I've had it in my calendar for months. The question now is do I buy my tickets straightaway or wait until Monday by which time Harry should have qualified? Suddenly all nervous. As a weekend's entertainment it's dead cheap and you'll see things that'll make your eyes pop out, so if you're free do consider it.
The Trocadero Theatre, opened as the Arch Street Opera House in 1870, is a historic theater, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Looks like a good fun venue.
Breaking: Bike infrastructure debate officially over - In Manhatten, segregated bike lanes reduced traffic accidents for all road users by collosal margins, boost retail sales by 50%, smooth traffic flow. What's not to love?
Prepare for 'post-crypto world', warns godfather of encryption. Not that we'll notice. I've been digitally signing my emails for about ten years. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who've sent me signed emails. None of the major webmail providers offer signing. Outlook doesn't do it. It's not baked into the iOS or Android mail client (although at least they no longer choke on signatures). If we aren't routinely or even aware of one of the most useful applications of cryptography (if we signed emails as a matter of course and followed the chains of trust, phishing and probably most spam could be more or less eliminated), then we should we care?
Darryl Cunningham's new comic, about Ayn Rand, is being serialised on Activate. According to Darryl, the correct way to pronounce Ayn Rand rhymes Ayn with Mine.
I think we should care. Start by signing your emails.
A list of the films shown on Alex Cox's Moviedrome. Cox's Bill the Galactic Hero Kickstarter was funded. Fab.
Can you pass Jon's #include test?
To find out about WWW: telnet info.cern.ch
I've got no idea as to the authenticity of this recipe - it may never have been anywhere near the Pacific, let alone its Rim, but it definitely is a curry, a really terrific curry. This recipe comes from Amanda Grant's The Joy Of Vegan Cooking which, despite its slightly hokey title, is one of the few vegan cookbooks I'd recommend. It almost entirely dispenses with the tedious "why you should be vegan" polemic and the almost always dodgy "vegan nutrition" section that are virtually obligatory in vegan cookbooks. Nor does it fixate, like some American authors are prone to, on some wacky additive, dairy substitute, or lean on tinned or pre-prepared ingredients. It has a cheerful tone, presents straightforward recipes that use fresh ingredients to make good food. It was my everyday cookbook for an extended period, and the battered and stained state of my copy attest to its "higher then normal number of recipes that you will actually cook" quotient.
Stroll to your local high street and procure
Put on your pinny. Clear your pets from the kitchen.
Assuming you don't eat it in one sitting, it keeps well, freezes ok (the aubergines tend to fall to pieces a bit), and is excellent heated up for breakfast the next day.
I have a stiff neck, in that muscle that Star Trek:DS9 designers always flared out to indicate nasty aliens. Why do our bodies let us sleep in uncomfortable positions? You'd assume there was an evolutionary advantage in not waking up with a tingly arm or a dead leg, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
On the train home yesterday I overheard a woman negotiating with her husband to be picked up from Birmingham International rather than New Street. New Street, she said, was all changed and is in a bit of dodgy area now. Except for being, you know, in the same place it was before. It's early yet, but I find the new exit rather more pleasant than the old one which, in the evenings, involved running the gauntlet of smokers, drunks, and loiterers. I never saw or personally experienced any argy-bargy nor did I ever expect to, but hitting the wall of cigarette smoke was never nice and I imagine the whole thing could be a little nerve wracking for some.
Microsoft to redesign Windows 8 as PC sales plummet Meh. I doubt whether Windows 8 really has anything to do with PC sales falling. If you need a computer, you need a computer. You can't not need a computer because you don't like the look of the operating system. I suspect, based entirely on nothing except my own observation, that people aren't buying PCs as often as they used to simply because they don't need to. Most people's computing requirements are very modest and that laptop they bought a few years ago is still perfectly adequate. We have a laptop that's at least six years old in daily use. I replaced the harddisk last year, which I accept isn't something everyone would do, but unless it suffers some catestrophic failure I see no reason to replace it. You just don't need today's massively powerful hardware for a bit of web browsing, reading your email, and, erm, that's it. Isn't that the majority use for the majority of people? Computers - laptops or boxes with big screen and keyboards - are a utility purchase, not a prestige one (yes, this also applies to Apple). If the one you've got is fine, you don't need a new one. If the one you don't have won't be more convenient than a phone or a tablet when you're flopped on the sofa or out and about, and it probably won't be, then you won't buy it at all.
Bill Gates predicts iPad and Android users will switch to PC tablets: they can't create documents, they don't have [Microsoft] Office there. Where are all these people that Gates thinks want to create new Word documents or whip up spreadsheets? They're nowhere, because there aren't any. Nobody does that stuff for fun. There are no word processor weenies or spreadsheet nerds, nor will there ever be.
As I write, new New Street is being evacuated. Perhaps that lady was right after all.
Bad build. Shitsticks.
Very diligent train manager (or conductor as they’re properly called). Did a ticket check before we’d even left New Street, and to good effect. Sitting at the end of the carriage was a woman who was not only on the wrong train, but at the wrong station. “But this train is to London?” she queried. It was, he cheerfully replied, but you have tickets from Moor Street Station to London Paddington. “What? How do you know?” she countered - not rudely, she seemed genuinely confused. He gently explained it was written there on the tickets, explained the cost of a new ticket, told her she had plenty of time to get the right train and the directed her to Moor Street. A few minutes later as he did another ticket sweep (in this regard he was by far the most assiduous conductor I have ever encountered on the line to Euston), he turned up someone else on the wrong train having left from the wrong station. He directed him, again cheerfully and politely, to change at Coventry, take the train the Leamington Spa and pick the right train from there. I know train ticketing isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as it could be, but it’s not that difficult. How do people manage to get it so wrong?
Beatsweeper on Museum Street smoking a cigar while emptying the bins. Chapeau.
PDF forms can maintain previous versions of the form data. Who the hell knew that?
I program my own computer. Beam myself into the future.
Nothing gives an epic stack trace like a minor syntax error in a JSP.
Bullfinch. There in the garden.
In sports news, Ipswich Town beat Everton 3-nil in the League Cup. That might only have been in our house though. Daniel scored a hat-trick.
Off to new New Street again tomorrow. I shall be attempting not to miss my train again.
Sometimes having a national-level gymnast living in the house is pretty cool. Sometimes it's a bit of a slog. This week? Bit of both.
Gentlemen may remove their jackets.
Attempting to score 30 Asterix books on eBay. Fingers crossed, eh?
Trebah Garden. Doesn't have a personality the size of Tim Smit to talk it up, so it's while not as well known as its neighbours Trebah is a lovely garden. The Gunnera Passage is particularly memorable.
Wish I'd known about Electromagnetic Wave before today, it looks like a top day out. Look at that programme - it's all over the place while also being entirely appealing. You'd want to go to it all. I imagine the place was jammed out for Tim Hunkin. As a kid, I learned huge amounts from his Rudiments of Wisdom when it ran in the back of The Observer magazine. I still sometimes refer to the collected volume.
I find it hard to express how much I love the sudden appearance of a dirty great bomb, with "DIRTY GREAT BOMB" written on the side. - Neill writes up The Oxford Children's Comics Festival.
Jon lets his three year old son choose his beer. Even though my sons are both well over three, this is a strategy I often use myself. It helps keep your palate limber.
We mowed the lawn. If you haven't yet, that probably means yours is overdue. Unless you keep rabbits. Or a goat.
BY TOUTATIS! Outbid at the last second. Damn sniperbots.
Harry and I were up at the crack (well, more or less) to trundle down to The Oxford Children's Comics Festival.
It was fab.
I did more or less nothing all day except eat pizzas and ice cream. Not together, obviously. One, then the other. The pizza's were especially good - made and cooked in a flash by Secret Pizza Society. They have one of those crazy little three wheeled Piaggio wagons with an actual wood fired pizza oven mounted in the back. Terrific stuff. If you're abroad in Oxford, keep an eye out for them.
Harry spent most of the day reading comics, talking about comics, or watching people draw comics. He had a long and very animated conversation with Lorenzo Etherington about Asterix, and subsequently spent quite a lot of our time there hanging around with Lorenzo and his brother Robin. They are both very patient and rather lovely chaps. And mad keen on comics. They do work in schools and around and about and if they come to your school, the place may well be in danger of exploding with excitement. They surely fired Harry up - once we got home his disappeared off to produce a pile of drawings of pirates, monster trucks, small boys, and all sorts.
Harry's very keen to go and see them again at the Hay Festival at the end of the month. Hay-on-Wye isn't on the obvious route home to Birmingham from Basingstoke, which is where we'll be in the morning, but maybe we can swing it.
For me, it was a pleasure to finally meet my long time comics chum Neill Cameron. Neill is, I can say without exaggeration, is the UK's finest interpreter of dinosaurs, robots, and bananas in comics form. He's worked hard to get there, and he deserves it.
There was more - kids who produced their own comics, Sarah McIntyre (in a lovely hat) drawing a mermaid (in a lovely hat), all sorts.
Just did the oh, it's not working because I'm not running the code I thought I was thing.
The collective noun for frogs is an army.
Nigel Farage - Just an everyday bloke
Got shelves? Got awesome shelves? Got awesome fucking shelves? Prove it.
And this is why people torrent. If you want people's money, they have to let them buy the thing they want.
Felicity Smoak - the coolest character on Arrow.
Quick Tip: DLNA Server on Linux (Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin) - this is what I did, exactly as he describes. Took under five minutes, works like a charm.
To transcode video to something the DVR is willing to play, I'm using HandBrake, wrapped up in this script
HandBrakeCLI -i "$1" -o mpeg.mp4 -e x264 -q 20.0 -a 1,1 -E faac,copy:ac3 -B 160,160 -6 dpl2,auto -R Auto,Auto -D 0.0,0.0 -f mp4 --detelecine --decomb --loose-anamorphic -m -x b-adapt=2:rc-lookahead=50
mv mpeg.mp4 "$newname"
Running it like this
./mp4swiz a-video.avi will, after a while, spit out a file called a-video.mp4. It hasn't choked on anything I've fed it so far. The script uses HandBrake's preset for High Profile H.264 video, with all the bells and whistles. I actually have no idea what that means, but to my eye everything looks fine. Of course if the DVR ran Android ... mutter, mutter
Music By Programmers is electronica created by software developers to raise Ł5,000 for maths workshops at Bletchley Park and a programming club at The National Museum Of Computing.
After banging on about I'd been driving my TV from a cheapo Android tablet and how TVs should be coming with Android installed, I went out and bought a DVR. Downloading light murder mysteries is all very well, but it takes an age and you're never quite sure what the video quality will be like, and what-not. A box that can sit in the corner and quietly capture broadcast quality murder mysteries simply by sucking them out of the air seemed like a handy thing. So I bought one.
It should absolutely be running Android too.
A DVR - digital video recorder, aka a PVR, a personal video recorder, aka TiVo, Sky+, etc, etc is, by modern standards a pretty straightforward bit of equipment. Team up a big fat harddrive - 320Gb is considered on the small side, 1Tb seems to be the standard - with a FreeView tuner or two and tie it together with a bit of software. Most seem to be net enabled - the one I bought has WiFi. On powering up, it ran through the quick scan to find the TV channels, hooked into the WiFi, downloaded a software update and was ready to go.
I'm pretty pleased with the box I bought - a Philips of some description. The WiFi connection is excellent - the room it's in is on the edge of my coverage at the moment, and it can stream HD video without problems. Other devices in the same room struggle with that. It has two tuners, so if they're a murderathon on I can record two things at the same time. It's pretty easy to tell it to record every episode of Murder, She Wrote it can find. It's got a DLNA client so it can stream audio and video from the server upstairs. It does iPlayer, YouTube, and Netflix if you want. It also does, oddly I think and I haven't tried them, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace(!), and Skype, although I assume you'd have to rig up some kind of camera and microphone for that. And it wasn't wildly expensive. You could put something like this together yourself, but not for the price.
But the user interface is a right old pig's ear. Each piece appears to have a different heritage, has different conventions, different typefaces even. Some bits have a very flat presentation, some parts are all bezelled and 3D looking. The TV guide highlights by changing the background colour, the timer (I think it is) highlights by outlining. It's all over the shop. The iPlayer client, for instance, is pretty excellent. You can easily browse by channel, date, or category. The search function is straightforward and works well even though you're typing text with a remote control. When you want to watch something, it plays it. Yay! The YouTube client, on the other hand, is really quite painful to use. Searching is cumbersome, and the way you enter text is completely different from iPlayer. Watching a video full screen involves a succession of additional key presses, each accompanied by a loud ding. The DLNA works like a charm, right up until you want to play a video in a format it doesn't recognise. Which is often. It also seems to determine format by file extension, which is just crap.
All of this could have been done away with by replacing whatever OS its running with something based on Android. I haven't had the covers off, but I'm willing to bet it's running an ARM processor. Philips could provide a new skin and some custom apps for recording, tv guide, and so on and then leave the rest to the existing Android ecosystem. Happy with iPlayer, but would like ITVPlayer too? Just install it. Want to stream outrageous media formats like gasp ogg vorbis audio or mkv video? Just install MoboPlayer - there isn't a video I've thrown at that thing that it hasn't played. NetFlix - install it. Twitter - install it. Some service which isn't part of small Philips selection - Clubcard TV, maybe, perhaps your email, or even just normal webbrowsing on what is obviously quite a capable device for webbrowsing except for that fact that I don't think it has a webbrowser. Whatever - you could install it. Want your TV to display all your appointments for the day while you're parked on the sofa eating your cornflakes. You could, and it'd be much more comfortable and convenient that trying to use your laptop or tablet at the breakfast table.
Operating all that off a remote control would be a bit of a pain in the arse, but the DVR could provide its own virtual keyboard. That would at least make things consistent across all apps. For next to no cost, they could even bung in Bluetooth so you could hook up a wireless keyboard and trackball (which, as a sensible manufacturer they'd also supply with it). Then you'd be laughing.
I guess what I'm really asking is for the manufacturers to acknowledge that what they're selling us is a computer - a normal general purpose computer - that happens to have a bit of special purpose hardware attached, rather a specialised piece of kit that happens as part of it's operation to use a computer except we pretend it isn't there. I don't think that's an unreasonable request. Some of the computer peripheral manufacturers have caught onto this - particular the home NAS manufacturers - and benefitted from it in all kinds of ways. The TV and DVR people could too.
|<< April 2013|