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* Posts by Martin an gof

41 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

What a whopper, LG: Feast your eyes on this 77-inch bendy TV

Martin an gof
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Some sensible comments above - but then this is The Register.

1: Plasma still beats any LCD screen hands-down for colour, especially off-axis. I have several off-axis tellies at work, and it's getting bloomin' difficult to find plasmas these days. At home? I still have a 23" Sony Trinitron and I'm not replacing it until it expires, unless OLED tellies become available a: at 30 - 40" sizes and b: at LCD prices.

OLEDs used to have very short (compared with LCD) expected lifespans, I wonder if that has changed? Plasma's Achilles heel is screen-burn.

2: lots of pixels (like that silly LG phone I've just read about) are all about "mine is bigger than yours". It would make a much more difference for most people to stay with 1920x1080 and instead up the frame rate. Just going to 100p would make a heck of a difference and probably not use any more bandwidth than 4k@50i. On top of that it would remove the need for all the "interpolation", "frame doubling" and so on processing. We find at work(*) that the quality of the telly's processing that makes the biggest difference to percieved picture quality when viewing video sources.

M.

(*)Most of the tellies at work are showing output from computers, but occasionally they are used for television. Upscaling SD to HD really sorts the men from the boys on units which have similar panels.

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Motorola Moto E: Brill budget blower with one bothersome blunder

Martin an gof

Re: I don't see this as a problem.

Nobody's mentioned the possibility of using a front-facing camera for sign-language. Given that they've skimped on the rear camera (if this one's worse than that on the G it must be awful) they could have put something very basic on the front for a quid or two extra. It's all marketing, isn't it?

M.

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Mae Microsoft yn addysgu Swyddfa, Bing, siarad Cymraeg*

Martin an gof

Re: Gorsaf Station

Or today's fun. I wandered into a supermarket in town:

"Welcome to Morrisons Caerphilly"

"Croeso i Morrisons Bae Caerffili"

Caerphilly Bay? Bring me my sun lounger, I'm off to the beach(*).

Hwyl!

M.

(*)Caerphilly is about eight miles inland from the Severn Estuary, with a dirty great morraine between it and the Cardiff flood plain. Even the local river - the Rhymney - avoids as much of the town as possible.

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Martin an gof

Re: 380Z

That 380Z was in the second science lab built above the new changing rooms of the Aberbargoed site. No fancy names for "blocks" in them days, and of course it is now a primary school.

Showing my age there - I was the first intake to that school in 1982, all 153 of us with 12 teachers. Very interesting then that my eldest son is in the first intake to the new secondary in Caerphilly. 90-odd of them this time.

Hwyl!

M.

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Martin an gof
Flame

Re: Welsh for Office already exists...

OT, sorry. <rant>

There is a subtle difference between mandatory second-language teaching in English-medium schools (which can, I thoroughly agree, appear to be a waste of time), and choosing to send your child to a Welsh-medium school where Welsh is used as a first language.

Yes, some parents probably choose Welsh-medium as a way of avoiding the local sink-school in the same manner that some other parents (in Wales or England) will choose the local Church school in preference. Others choose it because of the whole (largely invented by Victorians) cultural thing, and a few may choose it because it's a fact that you have a lot better chance of a job in the public sector or the media in Wales if you are fluent in Welsh and have already done the "networking" at school. Given that there's not a fat lot else work-wise in Wales at the moment, "every little helps" as they say.

Still others have read the literature from other bilingual cultures around the globe (and there are quite a lot of them) and have realised that being first-language fluent in two or more languages actually conveys cognitive benefits that are simply not available to monoglots. It is an interesting fact that children in Welsh-medium education perform (a little) better (on average) than their peers in English-only schools.

And so you end up with situations such as that in Caerphilly where I live where up until 1982 there were no Welsh-medium secondary schools in the borough. In 1982 a school opened which now has 1,300 pupils, and another one has opened this year which will itself hold about 1,000 pupils (from just three feeder primaries) once it is fully-populated.

At the same time, English secondary schools are being amalgamated or closed. In Caerphilly town itself there were three secondaries. Some ten years ago, one of them closed. The buildings on one site are now a Welsh-medium primary school (see below) and the other site has now been taken over by the Welsh secondary. Further expansion of this site will see one of the other Welsh-medium primaries move sometime in the next year or so.

Of the three feeder primaries in Caerphilly town, one did not exist ten years ago but now has two-form entry (65 pupils entering each year). One moved to a new site five or six years ago and is already full, and the other is moving onto the same site as the new secondary because it also is moving to two-form entry and cannot be accommodated in the existing buildings.

A little way out of town, the primary built by housing developers on a large local development, originally earmarked as an English school, was actually opened as Welsh-medium, and there are plenty more examples.

</rant>

To answer the point about teaching Welsh in English schools. I find it sad that people find this a waste of time, but then I personally found being taught football and rugby a waste of time and would rather have spent my time in the Physics lab or twiddling with the RML-380Z. It doesn't help that some of the teachers teaching Welsh have poor Welsh themselves and are merely keeping one step ahead of the class by reading the book the night before.

Of course, the teachers with good Welsh are in demand in the Welsh-medium schools :-)

Hwyl!

M.

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Martin an gof

Re: Roadsigns

Obligatory links:

31 Hydref 2008

31 October 2008

6 July 2009

There are loads more - I found a website full of them the other day but can't find the link now.

M.

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Martin an gof
Happy

Can't leave it alone

Welsh is an interesting language. I recently discovered cynghanedd.com and on it, another of those nice new Welsh words. The word for a USB memory device ("memory stick") is "cofbin". Not unlike my wife's favourite "popty ping" (microwave oven) or the backronym-esque "cryno ddisg" (compact disc).

Hwyl!

M.

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Martin an gof
Meh

Re: Welsh for Office already exists...

There are also Welsh translations for Linux desktops, Open / Libre Office, Firefox and I think (but I don't use Windows) there used to be one for Windows (possibly in 95/98 days). The standard of Welsh (and the amount that is actually translated and doesn't have to fall back to English) is somewhat variable though.

The translation given for this article seems pretty good by comparison.

At work we also have a basic on-line translation service that (I think) is only accessible to public bodies. It's good for single words and short phrases, but it doesn't produce anything remotely acceptable for "official" use, even for temporary signs. For those, we have a translation department.

What used to annoy me at school in the 1980s / uni in the 1990s though was that while there was a Welsh-language word processor available on the BBC Micro (IIRC it was a variant of "EDWORD" called something like "SYLFAEN") and Acorn had gone to great lengths with RISC OS to include the non-standard glyphs y-circumflex and w-circumflex in their fonts (in the days long before they were standardised, in fact in the days before Microsoft even knew what an "outline font" was), even Welsh-language schools such as mine(*) were being "encouraged" to move to DOS/Windows and lose all that.

Hwyl!

M.

(*)For those who may not realise, in Wales it is possible to opt to send your children to a school which operates almost exclusively through the medium of the Welsh language rather than English. In some parts of Wales you don't get much of a choice, in other parts of Wales (such as the south-east where I live), Welsh-language schools are growing strongly while English-language schools are contracting.

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Martin an gof
Boffin

The actual translation

Since no-one seems to have answered the actual question yet, "Microsoft teaches Office, Bing, to speak Welsh” should translate (I'd say) to "Mae Microsoft yn addysgu Office, Bing i siarad Cymraeg". Only one word missing, "i" == "to".

M.

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Martin an gof
Happy

Re: The main point to remember here is...

"My point in my earlier post was that Welsh wasn't standard in places 70 miles apart which is hardly the same as saying that English isn't standard between places 3,000 miles apart (or more)."

ITYM "not standard in places 70 meters apart". Or, yn fy mhrofiad i, 70cm ar wahan.

My own Welsh is an eclectic mix of North, South, West and Valleys due to the eclectic mix of teachers I had in my school years. I work with people who use Welsh first, and in exactly the same way as English, every single one of them has their own dialect.

This is not a bad thing.

Hwyl!

M.

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Google's Nest halts sales of its fire alarm – because waving your hand switches it off

Martin an gof
Stop

Re: I haven't had an alarm triggered by toast for 10 years

"Well the reason it needs firmware updates and connectivity is because it's more than just a smoke and CO2 detector, it's actually a secondary sensor for the Nest thermostat unit which adds additional ability to detect where you are in the house."

A thermostat plus PIR. Where's the need for an operating system? New houses these days are built with zoned heating systems which have separate upstairs and downstairs thermostats and can heat upstairs and downstairs separately and to different temperatures. Difficult to retrofit a zoned system though, and NEST doesn't do zoning.

"Another feature is the CO2 detector can shut down the boiler when it detects high levels of CO2, which is somewhat useful."

No it isn't. If it's actually a CO sensor (*not* CO2) then it might be useful if you have an open flue boiler - e.g. a "back boiler". Very nearly all boilers sold (certainly in the UK) for the last 25 years or more have been "room sealed" which means that if they go wrong and start emitting more CO than they should, it goes outside the house. The sort of person who would want to spend this sort of money on a bloomin' smoke detector is unlikely to have a boiler which dates from the 1960s or 1970s and would probably save *far* more money if they bought a new boiler than they ever would with a £120 thermostat.

The appliances which are liable to excessive CO emissions if badly (*very* badly) maintained are open flame gas fires or cookers, and I have *never* seen one of those controlled by a wall thermostat.

This reminds me of the Tesla Ubuntu thread: WHY???

M.

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Martin an gof
Flame

Re: I haven't had an alarm triggered by toast for 10 years

Agreed - it is the fitting of inappropriate alarms that is the biggest issue. Granted it's a bit more difficult in retro-fit circumstances, but there are many, many different brands offering a variety of sensors, interconnect options (wired / wireless) and remote test / hush controls. Just check out the Kidde units at the top of this page (not particularly endorsing TLC, but I have used them over the years):

TLC-direct

There is a slight cost difference between ionisation and optical, but when we're talking about units that are £12 or £22 (that's with an alkaline backup - Lithium is more) it's hardly a fortune. How much was Nest's smoke alarm? I can't find a price...

And none of them needs connecting to the internet for "firmware upgrades". Why the heck would a simple sensor need a firmware upgrade?

It is something intrinsic to the American Way Of Life? (Off topic) Rather than sorting out the cause of a problem, for example some electrical fires, they cover the symptoms. How? The "arc fault circuit breaker" (not used anywhere else in the world AFAIAA) is there to try to detect high currents caused by loose connections. Why are there high currents and loose connections? Because the standard of US electrical fittings is often very poor.

Cause: inappropriate sensor, or inappropriately located.

Symptom: nuisance alarms

Incorrect Solution: make the sensor so easy to deactivate it could happen accidentally

Correct Solution: fit the correct sensor, or relocate

M.

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Blurred lines: Android e-ink mobe claims TWO-WEEK battery life

Martin an gof
Boffin

Re: It's the radio

It's not the radio - per se - I think. 2G and 3G radios are actually quite efficient, it's all the apps within the phone that are constantly *using* the radio. My wife and I have recently acquired Moto G phones. Our first ever Android devices and we're not entirely happy, *but* my wife can manage 10 days on a battery charge and I usually manage 6 or 7. Not one of the reviewers we read managed more than 2 or 3 and for why? We have turned off (and disabled) all the twittering apps, the tracking apps, the "please tell Google exactly what I'm doing, where, every minute of every day" apps, the apps which tell you when your Facebooking friends(*) upload a new photograph of themselves sitting on the train and the other data-allowance-wasting apps(+).

So these apps are not constantly calling home, or using the GPS, or sucking data from next-door's WiFi, and so the radios (for there are many in a modern phone) can sit idle for most of the time. On top of that the 4-core processor can power down and slow down most of the time, just keeping enough going to listen for genuine communications from real people - i.e. telephone calls and text messages.

We don't make loads of calls, though we do text a fair bit. The main difference between my use and my wife's is probably that I use the web browser a bit more often. We've disabled Chrome and use Opera (yes, yes, I know the latest version is based on the same engine) but at least Opera stays out of your way when you don't want it and can reduce the amount of data per web page. We do take occasional photographs and video.

10 days would be about average for that use on a 2G or 3G "feature phone" - which is what we have always had previously - and while the G obviously does use more power (it's battery is about twice the capacity of most featurephone batteries) it isn't anywhere near as bad as people suggest.

I can't wait for the day when we no longer have to listen to Radio 4 presenters asking us to "tweet" the programme, or "follow it on Facebook" and that day will surely come, just as the day came when it was no longer considered mandatory to have a fax number or (before that) a telex address.

Old fogey? Me?

(*)Come to think of it, I can't actually name any friends who *do* use Facebook, or who tweet regularly.

(+)we have a 250MB monthly data allowance and rarely use more than a fifth of that. I had a phone bill today; £18 (inc VAT) for the two phones. £6 a month rental (+VAT) and a few extra bits.

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Loki, LC3 and Pandora: The great Sinclair might-have-beens

Martin an gof
Thumb Up

Re: One would have been enough

The software behind the Z88 - Pipedream - went on to have modest success in the RISC OS world and (believe it or not) is still available. Colton Software, which produced the RO version of Pipedream (not sure about the Z88 version) and the slightly less confusing Fireworkz, now has the software available for free download on their website: http://croftnuisk.co.uk/coltsoft/ in both RISCOS and (for Fireworkz) Windows form.

I briefly coveted a Z88 but ended up buying a Psion Series 3 and then a 5mx. The 5mx (of course Psion were also a company which owed a lot to Sinclair) is still unmatched. If someone would release a machine with that form factor, that software, that power consumption (*) and update it with a modern touchscreen, WiFi and USB, I'd buy it in a flash. My 5mx currently needs yet another screen cable replacement...

M.

(*) I used mine heavily during 1999 / 2000 while I was undertaking a PGCE. I wrote all my planning, reports and essays on that device (the keyboard was actually very good) and even did some website editing. It connected to an HP colour inkjet for printing and a USR modem (once the phoneline was installed) for internet access. It acted as my alarm clock every morning. If memory serves me correctly I used to get at least a week from a pair of Alkaline AAs, which does seem kind of incredible these days.

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El Reg preps relaunch of Cash’n’Carrion online merchandise emporium

Martin an gof
Flame

Re: Tee shirts

Cotton doesn't harbour bacteria, so long as you wash it at bloomin' 60C rather than 40C or 30C. Cotton can handle this well, it's the badly-transfered logos and things that complain. Higher temperatures may use -fractionally- more electricity (go on, look it up in your washing machine guide) but they also mean you can ditch those daft "biological" washing powders that are necessary to get any kind of cleaning at all at low temperatures and go back to simpler detergent or soap-based powders that are co-incidentally less irritating to sensitive skin.

Can't understand why my boy's school insists on artificial material *rugby* shirts, of all things, which insist on being washed at 40C. Rugby shirts? In Wales? In Winter?

Icon: keeps the utility shed nice and warm too :-)

Hwyl!

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Mosquitoes, Comets and Vampires: The de Havilland Museum

Martin an gof
Thumb Up

Re: Also worth visiting

Must put a plug in here for the museums of the Sunderland Trust in Pembroke Dock. Tiny little things (there are two, separated by a short walk), but the volunteers are brilliant.

http://www.sunderlandtrust.org.uk/

Ok, Pembroke Dock is a bit out of the way for many but it's nice to know that there are people dedicated to preserving the memories of one of the lesser-remembered aircraft of WWII, and there are a couple of other tiny museums nearby:

http://www.guntowermuseum.org.uk/

My dad did National Service as an engine fitter at Pembroke Dock shortly after the war.

During the war, of course, the Suderland was known as the "flying porcupine". Sort of the opposite of the Mosquito I suppose - it was a slow aircraft, but so well armed that the "other side" used to keep clear if possible.

M.

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Ghosts of Christmas Past: Ten tech treats from yesteryear

Martin an gof
Happy

Maplin were selling both the full-size and the junior "new" Big Trak until fairly recently. As someone else mentioned, I think Hawkins Bazzar still stock them. My boys bought a junior version for themselves and still use it. I don't think the trailer was also available this time, but the boys were able to buy a can holder (simple plastic frame that sits on top of either Big Trak) and a "missile launcher" that fires one of four projectiles for each "OUT" command you send.

It was great seeing the boys playing with something I coveted when I was their age :-)

M.

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A14 to become UK's first internet-connected ROAD

Martin an gof
Stop

It's not just TV

There are plenty of other licenced users of unused TV frequencies. At work we pay an annual fee to enable us to operate a couple of dozen radio microphones in these channels. Are our microphones in this database? How do we go about getting remedies for interference?

What happens when they sell off even more of the spectrum for mobile services, squishing the existing TV multiplexes into a smaller pool and leaving even less space for other paid-up users? Who wins?

M.

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Reg readers! You've got 100 MILLION QUID - what would you BLOW it on?

Martin an gof

700MHz

Having just spent *thousands* buying new radio microphones and having old ones retuned to move out of the 800MHz band, I would be utterly narked if the 700MHz band were cleared anytime in the next 10 years.

And leaving aside the problem of having them retuned *again*, if they clear channels down to 52 or 51 or wherever, things are going to be rather congested. Where am I going to find 24MHz for my microphones *then*?

M.

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Lighting bods blind designophiles with LED-powered lounge lamps

Martin an gof
FAIL

Re: I'd like some choice!

It's the power supply that is the problem. You probably do want to change it every time you change a lamp. LEDs may have lifespans measured in tens of thousands of hours, but in my experience (we have a heck of a lot of LED lighting of various types at work) the power supplies are the weak point, often failing well within the lifespan you'd expect for a cheap incandescent. Only this morning I came in to work to find one LED fitting obviously a bit confused and thinking that the lift lobby was a disco. Dead PSU after less than a year.

There are all sorts of "low power" alternatives to "normal" lighting, and we've tried quite a lot of them. The quality of power supplies is a common weak factor and makes a complete mockery of claims of extended lifespans and lower total cost-of-ownership.

We've just bought two "LED" projectors (Panasonic, red and blue LEDs, green from a blue laser shining on a phosphor, DLP imaging unit). They are supposed to have lifespans of 20,000 hours before needing replacing. In our experience Panasonic build things as if they were destined for military service, so maybe, just maybe...?

M.

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Rolls-Royce climbs aboard Bloodhound SUPERSONIC car

Martin an gof
Boffin

Re: I'm not sure what the point it.

Oh, and (sorry for replying to my own post), speaking of my place of work (am I allowed to do that?), we have a "science show" this coming Sunday afternoon (the 19th) by members of the Bloodhound team. Come in droves - it's free entry.

Waterfront Museum: SA1 3RD

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/whatson/?event_id=6387

M.

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Martin an gof
Happy

Re: I'm not sure what the point it.

If you want to see Babs at the moment (for a few more weeks at least) then she is at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea complete with quite a lot of information panels. I walk past her a dozen times a day :-D

M.

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Welsh bureaucrats busted for getting political on Twitter, Facebook

Martin an gof

Re: Beth wyt ti'n meddwl?

Cewch pleidlais arall gen i

;-)

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Commentards Ahoy! How about a Petabyte of storage?

Martin an gof
Boffin

Re: 1TB? no problem!

"360 x 20W is 7.2kW, about the same as a somewhat weak electric shower unit, so you'd just have to spread the load over two domestic circuits and four 13A plugs if you weren't sure it would never spin up all the drives at once."

You wouldn't need two circuits; a standard "ring final" in the UK is fused at 32A and 7.2kW is 31A @ 230V. You'd probably need to use three plugs (each fused at 13A) to get the power to the racks, though it would be interesting to try pulling 15A through a 13A BS1363 fuse. I'm fairly certain that it will get warm but not fail, at least, not for a long time.

Of course that's assuming that your 20W at startup is correct - isn't it much more likely to be some kind of peaking curve? Might need to swap your B-curve MCB for a C-curve MCB if the transient is large for any appreciable length of time :-)

For those countries not blessed with the UK's rather "interesting" way of wiring houses I believe standard sockets radials are either 16A or 20A (you can do those in the UK too) so, yes, in those circumstances you would need two at 230V.

110V? Don't even go there.

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This photo slide scanner costs €60... The bundled malware? That's free

Martin an gof
Happy

Re: Strewth,

Would just like to second the recommendation of the Epson Perfection. I have a V700 which has holders suitable for 35mm slides (12 at a time) and various sizes of film (if your strips are cut suitably you could potentially scan 24 35mm negatives in one go). The Epson software on the Mac is ok but does sometimes have problems auto-detecting frames. Have only used it under OSX so can't comment on other OSes.

And as for projected slides... yes a bit of a faff to set up, but I've used some *very* nice video projectors as part of my job and there is just no contest at all. Unless the slides have faded ;-)

M.

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Polaroid plans retail Fotobars to print out your pics

Martin an gof
Meh

Re: Old hat - unfortunately

I can see this might work in a very few tourist hotspots - tourist takes snap of self or family outside (shameless plug) Caerphilly castle, pops into the local Polaroid store, has snap slightly tarted up and printed into a format suitable for use as a postcard. Writes message and pops it into the postbox on the corner. We do something similar on a regular basis, except that we take one of those dye-sublimation(*) 6x4 photo printers on holiday with us - could run from a battery pack but we actually use an inverter in the car.

Fly in the ointment is that there's usually a Boots or something already nearby that can do very nearly the same job. In Caerphilly there is a Boots, and Morrisons also have instant printing facilities though sadly the local independent camera shop closed to make way for a Greg's last year (right next to an independent baker's too. How did *that* get past planning?)

The key would be the marketing as neither Boots nor Morrisons make a big fuss about their printing facilities, and certainly not in relation to tourists. I think there *might* be a market for Polaroid-branded self-service booths actually *in* the tourist hotspots, but these would have to work unattended.

M.

(*)Dye-sub, for the bloke worried about longevity, is said by the manufacturers to be good for 100 years or so. Take that with a large pinch of salt, but in our limited experience so far the prints are vastly better quality and last longer than other home printing technologies.

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ViewSonic Pro 9000 laser hybrid LED projector review

Martin an gof
Meh

Other hidden costs

I like the *idea* of LED or LASER projector "lamps" but I remain to be convinced.

What no-one ever seems to mention about LCD projectors is that the LCD panels themselves also have a finite lifespan. I work in a museum where we have quite a lot of projectors running the "exhibition" and the original-fit LCD projectors had panels with a 4,500 hour rated life, though I've seen documentation that suggests they were sold to the museum as having a 28,000 hour MTBF. I realise that our 7.5 hour a day use isn't typical of a home, but unless you have a normal TV too and only use the projector to watch two or three movies a week, 4,500 hours will creep up on you quite quickly (4 years at 3 hours a day). Looked at another way, if you have to be replacing the LCD panels every second lamp change (lamps are usually between 2,000 and 3,000 hours) then the cost of the lamps becomes a very minor issue. I wonder whether being illuminated by LED or LASER would increase this lifespan?

In practice it's not just the panels but also the colour filters - you will start to notice lower contrast, even with a new lamp, and maybe colour blotching (LCD failure - the blotches are often blue) or a colour cast (filter failure - yellow). We were quoted 5,000 EUR for a replacement "optical block" (3 LCDs, 3 filters and the prism). This was ridiculous when you consider that the projectors were also beginning to fail in other ways (e.g. PSUs not booting back up after a power down - 1,000 EUR or £3 of capacitors to DIY) . Instead we switched mainly to twin-lamp single-chip DLP projectors, the oldest of which are now around 11,000 hours and are (almost) as good as new (really must get around to that 10,000 hour service!). These particular models have lamps that last twice as long as the lamps in the old LCDs and cost significantly less. Twin lamps are a boon for us giving both security (if one fails, the projector continues to run albeit at reduced brightness) and flexibility (one of the projector models has effectively four output modes - both lamps or a single lamp, high power or low power - allowing us to choose brighness and lamp change interval).

DLP does have its problems, with fringing probably being the most annoying, but if that's an issue then all you need to do is to look at three-chip DLP or possibly (there are still issues, but they're not quite as bad) one of the DLP models with colour wheels with extra colours or which run faster.

A technology no-one has mentioned yet is LCoS. My warning here is that our five LCoS projectors have not lived up to the hype. When new, the picture was excellent but despite being a sort of hybrid of DLP and LCD with the intention of taking the best from both, the panels fade in exactly the same way as LCD, and at about the same age. On top of that the models we have seem to have "open" light paths and dust gets onto the panels quite easily.

As for the subject of the article I have to agree with others here. Half the price and twice the brightness might make it a good choice, but 1,600 lumen isn't really suitable for any room where you have any amount of stray light, unless the image is small enough that you'd be better off spending money on a nice LCD or plasma telly. At the museum, our lowest output projectors are nominally 2,000 lumen (twin lamp units in single lamp modes) which works, but it works mainly because the projected image is no more than 36" horizontally.

Finally, and I realise again that our use in a museum isn't terribly comparable to home use, it's worth considering networking. All our projectors have network sockets. Most will email a preset address when there's a problem (for example, they will email when the lamps have run for more than a certain number of hours) and all can be started and stopped by network messages (PJLINK). This is a prerequisite for us (who wants to go around manually starting 30-odd projectors?) but could also be useful in a "connected home".

M.

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BT.com blats small privacy bug, ignores GAPING HOLE

Martin an gof
FAIL

Related issue?

When we moved house three-and-a-bit years ago the person who was buying our old house was able to disconnect our BT line without our permission, perhaps a fortnight before the move, simply by ringing a BT call centre. Quite apart from inconveniencing us it made things difficult with the bank, the solicitors, the removal company and the children's school, all of whom had our landline number as first point of contact. Three or four days later our ISP also cut us off because the line was no longer "live".

Suffice to say we took the opportunity to move away from BT for our new phoneline, but despite all our protestations and communications with BT and (eventually) the regulator, the consensus was "these things happen, sorry, here's a month's rental back". This incident strikes me as very similar. With just a phone number and a postcode a third party was able to take all sorts of action against a phoneline that isn't theirs.

Have to say we've had great service from our new phone supplier who seem to have a callcentre somewhere on Mersyside with real people answering the phone who actually know what they're talking about and we now use them for our ISP too. For example, "fixed IP sir? No problem" rather than "what's an IP address? Oh, I don't know about that, I'll have to pass you on to someone else".

M.

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Ten four-bay NAS boxes

Martin an gof
Meh

Superficial testing

I too thought it was odd that the boxes were tested in RAID0. Especially for a 4-bay box, RAID0 is just asking for trouble and - to my eyes - the fact that most of them achieved similar data transfer rates implies that there's a networking bottleneck, but I have also found that speed can vary enormously with the file system in use. It would have been nice to see comparative performance for at least RAID5, which is probably the best compromise at home for a unit like this.

We have two QNAP devices at work, one ARM-based, the other Atom-based. Both have four discs in RAID6 and the difference in processor power really shows, especially on writes. The ARM-based processor quickly hits 95% or more according to the GUI's meter and manages perhaps a third of the throughput that the Intel box does. RAID6 is particularly heavy on the processor because of the need to calculate a second, somewhat complex, checksum.

I built a FreeNAS box at home based on an AMD 450 (seriously considered the HP microserver but was put off by needing to throw out the RAM and wanting to use 2.5" discs rather than 3.5") and for work I built a third NAS based on an AMD A4 chip. That has space for 16 2.5" drives (in some very nice caddies which let you slot 4x2.5" discs into a 5.25" bay) and 16GB of RAM. Parts cost (without discs or case) was about £650 IIRC, but this includes three additional SATA cards and the drive bays. On those terms the hardware was a couple of hundred quid cheaper than the larger QNAP. In terms of read and write speed to its current 8 drives in Z2 (equivalent of RAID6) it wipes the floor with the QNAP devices, but I am having some problems with (I think) the onboard LAN. Should have spent an extra few quid on a nice NIC, but that's something I can do later.

Should be working. Better go :-)

M.

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Raspberry Pi now comes in Firefox OS flavour

Martin an gof
Happy

Re: Ordered the 'B' flavour of Pi yesterday.

15 weeks? Ordered 20 Pis for work last week, shipped this week, though as I'm on holiday at the moment I couldn't tell you if they've turned up yet. RS have had some component supply problems but Farnell (E14) have stock on-the-shelf.

Or did until we wiped them out :-)

HTH!

M.

0
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Korean boffins discover secret to quick-charge batteries

Martin an gof
Boffin

Re: Fast discharge as well?

> Standard in Germany is 3 Phase a´ 63A for a one family house.

> When the standard in UK is one phase, that would mean you have to run a 10mm² wire to your electric cooker

> and a least 16mm² to your fast water heater. Do i understand that right?

The key word in this part of the discussion that everyone is missing is "diversity" it is "diversity" (or in internet access terms, "contention") that allows individual ratings to total more than the supply is capable of delivering. I'm not sure if 2kW allowance per household is still the case in the UK - I suspect that it is a bit higher than that now, but it is certainly not the 20-odd kW per house that houses with 100A main fuses *could* suck because it is pointless putting that sort of infrastructure in when it will *never* be used.

Standard cable for a cooker (oven, 4 rings, attached socket) in this country is 6mm² which is protected with a 32A MCB (7.3kW @ 230V). It is assumed that everything is thermostatically controlled (so switches on and off all the time) and is not turned on at exactly the same time. Diversity allows 5A for an attached "13A" socket. A 32A MCB will take *minutes* to trip at a small overload - I don't have the tables to hand, but I think it is something like 5 minutes at 36A. Under some circumstances normal 6mm² "twin and earth" can be used under a 40A MCB, which deals with nearly all cookers, and for the others yes, 10mm² would be used.

"Fast water heaters" are not common in this country. Most people will heat domestic hot water using gas or another burnable fuel, and those that don't will use one or possibly two 3kW immersion heaters in the cylinder (ignoring solar).

Showers up to 7kW (not common these days) are wired in 6mm² cable while other showers (11.5kW is not uncommon) use 10mm². Diversity does not apply to "instantaneous water heaters". However, my advice (when I used to do the electricianing) was always that electric showers should be the last resort. If you have a cylinder full of hot water, use that instead. If you have a "combi" boiler it will be rated at 24kW or more - it will be able to heat at least twice as much water as an electric shower, and more cheaply as gas is *still* about a quarter the price of electricity per kWh delivered.

To other commentators - UK houses are almost without exception single phase 230V. Older premises have a 60A "service cutout" (main fuse that belongs to the supply company), a few are 80A and most modern houses (since the late 1980s probably) are 100A. All modern switchgear assumes 100A and more than 100A single phase is not (as far as I'm aware) available domestically. You would certainly have trouble finding a domestic consumer unit ("fuseboard") with more than a 100A main switch and 100A-rated busbars.

M.

0
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Descriptive Camera develops text instead of images

Martin an gof
Boffin

"Anyone else thinking of the Tommorrows World sketch on Not the Nine O'Clock news and the device to let deaf people know when their telephone is ringing!"

Not wanting to bring a downer on what was (mostly) an excellent programme, but deaf people do (or did, in the days before they all got SMS and email and instant messaging) use telephones. For one-to-one conversations there is the textphone (basically a modem with a keyboard and a small display) which can be used directly to another textphone user or via BT's typetalk service. For other things a lot of deaf users used fax machines.

Either of those works a lot better if you know when there's an incoming call :-)

Hwyl!

M.

0
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Third of Blighty stuck on snail-speed broadband

Martin an gof

Not all BT's fault

Anecdotally I find that a good speedup can often be had on ADSL simply by sorting out the internal premises wiring. We live perhaps 3km from the ("rural", BT-only) exchange in a straight line, probably double that by cable as there's a hill in the way. Our ADSL1 sync speed (which of course bears little relation to the actual download speed) is rarely under 6Mbps while neighbours are on 5Mbps or less. The difference? Our modem is connected directly to the master socket using a replacement splitter faceplate. A lesser difference (given that the splitter is good) is that extension telephones are wired in Cat.5 so there's less spurious noise.

An aquaintance was very pleasantly surprised when he moved his modem from the back of the house at the end of standard telephone extension wiring to the front of the house near the master socket. Of course it did mean installing network cable to the computers which stayed at the back, but the well-over 1Mbps sync speed increase was worth it he thought.

M.

2
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Nominet to launch .wales and .cymru

Martin an gof
Boffin

Re: Aliases

Probably most will use this system as many already do, though some use it to set the default language for a site; try www.museumwales.ac.uk and www.amgueddfacymru.ac.uk for example.

M.

1
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Samsung eyes enormofridges for see-through screens

Martin an gof
Thumb Up

Already in production and not *terribly* expensive...

One of our suppliers has already sold their initial stock of these screens. They list both 46" and 22" screens, the 22" having 1680 x 1050 pixels. The 46" is available for around £1,150, which while a bit more expensive than your bog standard LCD TV isn't totally unreasonable. When I first heard about these things (which are, after all, just a standard LCD screen with no case and no backlight) I thought "niche product, it'll be around £5,000)". We have several possible uses...

M.

1
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Elite coder readies £15 programming gadget for schools

Martin an gof

Documentation

> "- and I'm sorry to all those Linux coders out there, but your documentation *stinks* (*)"

> I don't agree. Some Linux-oriented projects have very good documentation, but some do have bad documentation...

Point taken - I think I probably meant FOSS coders, though I am also known to complain about commercial software, particularly that beast of a system Director (hence the Lingo reference). But then I'm using Director under duress, as it were. Anyone got any hints for something that can do similar things, preferably cross-platform, but is "nicer" to work with?

As for apps that are well documented, well the aforementioned BBC BASIC for Windows is pretty good and one of my other main apps - Xara - even comes with a chunky printed manual!

0
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Martin an gof
Go

Must have a purpose

I, too, grew up on Spectrum and BBC Micro. The problem was what to do with them. The two hardware purchases that "unlocked" the Beeb for me were firstly a disc drive and secondly a printer, but without that *excellent* manual and the community (magazines) I would have been stuck and, as a previous poster has already pointed out, being able to "keep it all in your head" was phenominally useful.

I've recently come back to coding (of sorts(+)) after a <mumble> year gap and so in some ways I can see the problems of kids just starting out - the ecosystems are so vast and complex now that even just getting started is like dropping a weak swimmer off on Flat Holme and asking him to swim to Minehead. He has the basic moves, but he's not going to get very far without a lot of effort. Why bother? Light a fire on the beach and someone will come to rescue you. Need a simple utility to (oh, I dunno) crop a JPEG? Don't code one yourself, five minutes with a search engine and you'll get one already built and tested.

Something simple like this, or the Lego Mindstorms or that mbed thing or an Arduino or a Stamp is great - so long as the system is as well put-together as my Beeb was, and so long as there is an incentive to learn - i.e. a "killer project" that gets you interested.

So the problems I see with a bit of hardware like this are that

- you have to add hardware to it before you can do anything

- so if you're having problems with the ethernet, it isn't in the manual

- if it's running a Linux then it is not simple enough to keep in your head

- and I'm sorry to all those Linux coders out there, but your documentation *stinks* (*)

What it needs, is to look back to the Beeb, or the Psion series 3 or (better, I reckon) series 5 and work out what those systems did that made them such an easy-in and yet so flexible. Personally my favourite things were:

- the Beeb was almost fully documented and there was one official way to do everything

- there was even a circuit diagram in the back of the manual, right next to the memory map

- BBC BASIC (don't laugh) was way ahead of its time and an excellent launch point

- in fact some of my current coding is being done in BBC BASIC for Windows. Love it!

- the built-in assembler with its exceptionally easy integration into BASIC

- OPL's excellent user guide and documented API

- a small OS that is fully modular

- so that you only load up the functionality you need and so that other developers are forced

to assume nothing. It's more than that (I hate the way *ix scatters config files, for example) but

I can't think of a better way to put it

And on-line manuals are no substitue for the printed thing. If you're developing in one window, where's the convenience in having to have another open for the manual? Even my two-monitor setup is a pain, focus-switching being my particular rant.

Better stop and do some real work.

But at £15, even though I don't have an HDMI-capable telly, I'd buy it.

(+) Anyone else ever used Lingo? Talk about fighting to get it to do the simple things...

(*)Particularly (pet hate) VLC. In-app documentation is abysmal and the online documentation, help pages and community pages are so disorganised it's a wonder anyone not directly involved in developing the software can get anything slighly out-of-the-ordinary done with it.

3
1

WTF is... 3D printing

Martin an gof

The Diamond Age

Anyone else read William Gibson's The Diamond Age? I remember thinking when I first met a 3D printed object in 2001 (a spanner) that it sounded just like the first generation of machine that would end up as the "matter compiler" of Gibson's 1995 book...

I know these things take time, but most of the stuff given as examples here doesn't seem terribly far advanced over the parts I met 10 years ago, and it was obviously not new technology then sitting, as the spanner was, in a post-grad's desk drawer up (near) Sheffield...

M.

0
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Martin an gof
FAIL

The Diamond Age

Totally thick, me, I said William Gibson. Should of course have been Neal Stephenson.

Sorry.

M.

0
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Gear4 UnityRemote

Martin an gof

My solution to the macro problem

Well, it's mostly a solution. I have a Logitech 525 and the trick is *not* to use the device "power" command to turn it on. Most of the kit I have will come out of standby if you press (for example) one of the numeric keys on the remote, so on my 525 I tell it to do that instead of sending the power command and that way if the device is already on, it doesn't turn off.

The downside is that for devices which will accept one digit as a valid channel number (e.g. most TVs) you end up switching channel, but that needn't be as much of a problem as it sounds.

In the subject of touchscreens versus real buttons; real buttons every time.

M.

0
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Steve Jobs uncloaks the 'iPad'

Martin an gof

How many bedrooms?

Does the 32G version have one bedroom and the 64G two?

http://www.yournewhome.co.uk/Barratt-iPad-homes_2

http://www.barratthomes.co.uk/About-Us/Testimonials/Joanne-Milne/

M.

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