05 December 2013


Another wonderful Aley creation, it's Squareworld! Anyone who can identify the maps on the walls gets bonus points.

06 October 2013

Wireless and useless

The wireless keyboard wasn't working. Oh wait - some keys were, some not.
So I searched the house for PS/2. This is the second temperamental wireless setup I've had, maybe all the other wireless things are interfering. Yes, there were my old gunged up ones, and they worked. Except - why was the mouse running round the screen on its own? Naughty mouse! Could it be... yes, it needed a different surface, light colors but not shiny.
So now all is fine, except for the sticky 'b' key and several unreadable ones that if I don't think my fingers can find by themselves.
Enough of this Mr Tesla, I'm buying a new set with wires.

27 September 2013

Solar Panels

Installed three weeks ago.

The UK has referral websites that promise three quotes. The two I tried were both poor - one got me a single reply with a sales visit but no quote, the second also a single reply with an on the spot quote from the salesman. Neither referral site contacted me again. Based on that experience, you're on your own.

I went for my only quote which matched what I was expecting. Installation took half a day with the only problem being that the original plan for 15 panels had to be amended to 13 as the roof was inches too short. That gave me a capacity of 3.4 Kw.
The panels are connected to an Inverter in the loft that converts from DC to AC and that joins the mains supply next to the existing meter under the stairs. A new meter records the panel output.
Right now (computer on) I'm using 0.6Kw. The panels generate 0.2Kw through thick cloud, 1Kw with thin and a maximum of 2.6Kw with a blue sky.
[added: maximum midwinter is 1.9Kw]
So where are the savings? The Government pays a subsidy for 20 years for every KWh produced, plus a lower rate for each KWh exported to the Grid. And, of course, the electric bill goes down. Estimates suggest a 12% return, ie the system will have paid for itself in around eight years.

One thing I looked into was batteries, but they are not cost effective yet. Like panels the technology is improving, and in a few years it might be worth adding them.

22 September 2013

Privateers Ball

The nearest Saturday to Pirate Day is the Privateers Ball, and here we are on Nepenthe Bridge again.

05 September 2013

World cut off

Sunday, pressed PC ON button, nothing.

So, another good excuse for buying the tablet I thought, activating the Email App.

Tuesday engineer arrived, pressed ON button - fine! Fortunately he didn't assume I was an idiot and as I was paying for an hour of his time tried again, it was indeed a dodgy power supply as I suspected.

29 July 2013


Sony Xperia Tablet Z

The new toy! The Tablet Z is a 10" Android, I have the Wi-fi only version. There are plenty of reviews published ranging from 'good' to 'excellent', this is just a personal impression.

Yes, it's pretty: awesome black, thinner and lighter than an iPad, easy to hold one handed. I bought the Sony docking cradle with it, recharge is slow - overnight is recommended. It will recharge while switched off. There are plenty of cases on Amazon for it, I got this one, a bargain at £10.

It is uniquely for a Tablet waterproof as in "drop in a bucket for half an hour", or in my case "coffee spill alert!" On the minus side, that means the ports are sealed by fiddly plastic bits that I hope Sony have tested for durability. The cradle uses contact points to connect. The glass front is a finger grease trap, but this doesn't interfere with vision. The screen has slightly larger pixels than the iPad but not so much as to be noticeable.

The manual... no manual, just a minimal start up guide. Wifi connected easily to my router, and the Support App links to online help pages.
I've never used Android before, this implementation is the reviews say fairly standard. I soon discovered how to delete the free crap and load up some goodies. It comes with 16GB of memory of which I presently have 9GB free.

Apps synchronised easily with their desktop PC counterparts.

Google Maps said it needed a permission switched on to use GPS and that took a while to find:
Settings/Personal/Location services/ON and GPS on
Settings/Accounts/Google/Location Settings/ON
Once activated however, fine. I now know where I am if I step into the garden.

I've only caused the OS to get confused once, losing the Wifi connection, and a reboot cured that.

A built in universal IR remote was easy to set up. It does its best to be quick to use, and for simple changes it is.

Skype. "Better picture" my first video contact reported, "sound keeps fading though." The microphone is on the top edge, I assume a compromise for the front and back cameras, so tilting affects it. Sony have promised a control with the next update.
Lumiya, a gallant attempt at a Second Life Android Viewer, is a dancing bear. It took several minutes for Ori to work out where she was standing! For checking messages, fine.
Office Suite Pro is an Office substitute.
The Google keyboard is for me simpler than the supplied SonyXperia offering. I tried a Bluetooth keyboard but it keeps disconnecting the WiFi.
SynchMe is a simple folder synchroniser.

13 July 2013

Castle in the Cloud

A fairytale castle in Second Life, built for the Relay For Life charity weekend. We all walk round a big course and do silly things - just like in Real Life!

29 June 2013

Tall Ships Race

Today was the Tall Ships Race, one of the Privateers Weekend Events for Second Life's RFL charity drive. Here the winner receives her Trophy on Nepenthe Bridge in Winterfell, the map shows the course around our islands.

Science based websites

Contrary to what Google Search often indicates, there are plenty of good science based websites and blogs. They aren't however dedicated to making money by selling you snake oil and blue sky, so they don't try to get themselves onto that all important first page. Here's a few:

Blog for veggies

Vaccines, fallacies etc

Various nonsenses exposed


What's the harm in pseudoscience?

Alliance for Natural Health

Mostly chemistry

Upbeat stories about how technology can save the planet

24 June 2013

Second tier nonsense

We all know about the quack and fraud industry and its use of the Internet. The front line offenders are regularly debunked and refuted, as Searching on 'mercola fraud' or 'natural news hoax' shows.
Nevertheless they thrive because many people believe anything they agree with.
Backing up the top rankers are a wide network of lesser 'information digest' websites. Below is a selection of them, collected mostly from Facebook friends who posted links to them. This is no reflection on those people, the articles they recommended were generally harmless.
I'm not directly linking to these sites so as not to add to their popularity. Copying, Pasting and looking at them will reveal from their menus that they cover similar ranges of subjects: activism, economy, health food, politics, poverty, rights, GMO, climate, fracking, fluoride, vaccines... you get the demographic. What you won't find is the underlying reality that the quacks hate: critical thinking, basic science, logic and reason.
Some of them appear to be auto-generated, picking up articles from elsewhere and linking to them with no original content. Others are 'citizens' websites, depending on material sent in by others with no editorial oversight. The rest are just unselective, if the content fits it will be printed no matter where it comes from; one of the easiest ways they can be spotted is that they regard the flagship woo sites as reliable sources.
- Reprints from Natural News
- Everything woo in one place
- Mostly quantum woo, just reprints nothing original.
- Mostly OK but no fact checking, includes the GMO rats, super food cures for cancer and vaccine autism court stories
- Citizens Press website, unedited.
- Anti-vaxx, chem trails, fluoride mixed with random science that looks alternative
- General niceness and positivity with woo. Anti-vaxx etc
- Another clone. Anti-vaxx. Gullible, unselective.
- Anti-vaxx
- Health orientated, aggregating.
- Chemtrails, diet cure for cancer, GMO rats again
- References Natural News and Alex Jones, positive, run by gun nut.
- Generalist, quotes Natural News
- Front for homeopathy store

20 May 2013

Being careful with links

You come across a webpage with something useful you want to share so you Post, Tweet or Blog about it on your Social Media of choice. Everyone does this, it's what the Internet is all about.

Yes, but... There always seems to be a "but" doesn't there.

We all want lots of people to visit our webpages - to read good advice, buy our stuff, whatever. To do that they have to find them, and that means Search Engines.
One parameter that Search Engines go by is Links. If lots of people are linking that means they found what they wanted so most likely other people will find that link useful too. Of course they might be saying "I just found this horrible webpage" but let's ignore that one.

So let's suppose you are a conartist, a quack, a fraud, whatever - you are offering something that isn't legit. Your website looks good, you put in all the right phrases like "morphic resonance", "quantum orbs" and "100% natural organic", now you want more traffic. Here's one way - add some pages that aren't nonsense, just general good advice like "eat more vegetables". You don't have to research this stuff yourself you just use someone else's work, with pictures and a video if possible, and maybe put "Source" at the bottom. Like this:
I'm using MSN as a template example. Look carefully and you'll see that the articles come from news agencies or are writeups of information from elsewhere. MSN staff are reporters not scientists, which is fine and good because that's their job. Nevertheless it's always sensible to check the Source out as reporters can slant stories, oversimplify them or simply make errors.

So, I want to find news about Vegetables, I do my Google Search, find what looks to be (and actually is) a rational article and post a link to it. What's the harm in that?

The article was on the website. By linking to it I just helped Dr Evil PhD(Arkham) with his evil plan to stop people vaccinating their kids and buy his homeopathic bottles of magic water instead. OMG. I just killed someone's child!
Now I'm not going to be fooled by Dr Evil and nor (I hope) are you, but those links help more gullible people than us find him. Please don't do it - use reputable Sources for your good advice.

13 April 2013

Where's my Start button gone?

So I power on (me cup of coffee, computer big button) and log in and up comes the background pic but nothing else. Uh, oh... CTRL-ALT-DELETE, black screen. Eek. Manually switch off, reboot, everything's fine.
It turned out to be a video card two screen problem, it looks like the latest update of Catalyst, the AMD control program, has deviously changed something that isn't happy with my switching off with two screens and restarting with just one.

25 January 2013


Here's a simpler word that has also aquired a new meaning that isn't in dictionaries.
We all know what 'need' means, it expresses a requirement for something. Thus "I need a drink" indicates that the speaker is thirsty.

However consider these:

"You need to read this book"
"What you need to understand is that ..."
"You need to be quiet folks"
- which is a less aggressive alternative for the command "Be Quiet!"

The emphasis here has shifted to the speaker telling others what the speaker thinks they need. The shift in meaning has in some cases reached the point where in context the other person plainly doesn't want to comply:
"You need to give me all your money right now!"

06 January 2013


Chatting on the Internet gets one close and personal with language as she is spontaneously typed, including an often ignored factor - the differences between dictionaries and how we actually use words. Here's an example I finally got puzzled enough to look up just now, "smirk".
Online dictionaries agree about this word:
Verb: Smile in an irritatingly smug, conceited, or silly way.
Noun: A smug, conceited, or silly smile: "a self-satisfied smirk".

However when 'real people' are asked to define it the negative content mostly isn't there:
"Smiling very slightly, like you are trying not to. Usually one side of your mouth is smiling more. And it usually means that that person is up to something"

Americans use this word regularly, Brits do not, and dictionaries have yet to notice that its meaning has changed.