31 December 2014

Books 2014

I don't read as much as I used to, but here are the best:

The Particle at the End of the Universe - Sean Carroll
An account of the confirmation of the Higg's Boson by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in 2012. Carroll makes a crucial and often ignored point about Science when he quotes:
 "My hope for what the LHC will find is 'none of the above'. I honestly think it's going to be a surprise, because I think nature is smarter than we are [...] and we're going to have a hell of a fun time trying to figure it all out".
As it turned out, the theorists were correct. But sometimes they are not, and unlike politicians, economists,  priests, quacks, frauds and the rest they aren't looking for confirmation of what they already believe. They want to be wrong.

Why Nations Fail - Acemoglu and Robinson
The basic thesis here is a simple one. Trying to avoid the conventional Left vs Right axis, the authors coin two terms with less emotional loading, 'extractive' and 'inclusive'. Successful polities they propose are those in which citizens believe that if they work hard they can make money and use it to better themselves. They are 'included'. Extractive regimes by contrast offer no incentives aside from basic survival to most workers.
One example taken is Nogales, a town on the USA/Mexican border. Another is the two Koreas.

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings - Caspar Henderson
Inspired by Borges' famous bestiary, equally extraordinary but nevertheless real creatures become a springboard to all kinds of subjects.

Bird Sense - Tim Birkhead
What is it like to be a bird? Each sense is considered including one humans don't have, being able to detect the Earth's magnetic field.

The Signal and the Noise - Nate Silver 
Having tried various predicting money making schemes - poker, baseball, the stock market - the author found fame by being getting every State right in the 2012 US election. He covers these and other subjects in which we often try to fool others but only succeed in fooling ourselves.

09 December 2014

Another boring committee meeting!

Monthly Moot in Winterfell: Her Bunnyness Miss Eilidh, Beware Hax the CEO of Haxworks a Cosplay costume store and a faun with a waffle.

21 September 2014

Another world

Recently I was persuaded by some Second Life friends to take a look at Inworldz. It uses the same Open Source coding as SL to the point where third party viewers such as Firestorm run OK with it, and indeed it looks much like SL did a few years ago. At present it is in Beta so land is much cheaper - $75 monthly for a Region as opposed to $295 and there are other advantages, uploading is free for example. The devs seem to be making some sensible decisions based on SL hindsight - not renting out small land plots themselves for example which should cut down on land blight.
The obvious snag right now is content, but SL merchants and creators are starting to open up stores ready for the official startup next year. Here's an example of what is being done already, sunrise at the Waking Edge, Castle of Lar.

17 September 2014

TVR - Humax HDR1010

Since I last checked Freesat have put some effort into improving their service in areas where News Corp's bigger budget for Sky can't stomp all over them, such as technology. The latest range of satellite boxes is the result.
This one has "Freetime" a front end for the various TV players that gives seamless access to past programmes via the Internet. Back space on the TV guide and any programmes from the past week that are available are shown.
The HDMI connection is now handshaking properly and outputting Dolby sound. The picture is flawless, software having caught up with the BBC's sneaky tweaking of their signal that messed up HD for many users.
HD channels are now up to 11 on Freesat.
 One neat trick is that the hard disk makes a temporary recording the current program so if you get interrupted you can press Record and it has the whole thing.

The box can play media off the computer, something that Windows 7 blocks by default and then hides permission setting in a nest of menus:
Control Panel - Homegroup - Choose homegroup and sharing options - Show devices on All Networks - Allow All.
Windows Media Player can now be used to set up which folders are accessible to the TVR, which hides them in the 'Humax - Media Share' menu.

14 September 2014

PGP revisited

Since PGP Corp was bought out by Symantic I've not updated my old version which still happily encrypts my sekrit files but no longer works with Email, something blocking it in Win7 I guess.
So I finally got around to installing an Open Source PGP, which seems to be working after the usual installation glitches.
First I needed GNU Privacy Guard for Windows. It's installation wizard rejected my existing key, but it was willing to add it once up and running.
Then I added Enigmail, a plug in for Thunderbird, told it to check my Address Book and there were my security minded friends again:

08 September 2014

Solar Panels - first year

I received £569 in the government pay back scheme. My electric bill is down by £144, so that's £713 savings in total, a 10.5% return on my investment.
The panels have been almost fault free - the circuit tripped out once.

04 July 2014


Ascot 2014

One of our Relay for Life Events - a day at the races! From the left Professor and Countess Eldemar, Admiral Beaumont, the Duchess of Trikassi and Lady Oriella. A fine build by Countess Cassie, except for the green starting gate which my own creation. More pictures at Ascot slideshow

10 June 2014

Android Kitkat

4.4.2 arrived today for the tablet as a direct download. So far so good...

There is apparently a battery drain problem caused by a Google App. That would explain why it says I only have 8 hours on a full charge! Sony has proposed a temporary fix until Google can sort it out:

17 January 2014

Tablet update

At Christmas Sony offered a major update to the tablet, not over wi-fi but via PC. This requires using their 'PC Companion' program to download and then transferring to the tablet using the USB cable that doubles as the charging connection. I guess this is to avoid "Oh noes my internets just died!" problems.

Anyway all went well, Android went from 4.2 to 4.3 and several Sony bits changed. The most obvious change is that the camera interface is a lot easier to use.