* Posts by Steven Gray

41 posts • joined 22 May 2008

Lego quad-copter: your ultimate drone nightmare

Steven Gray

Re: Robust

Well I've just survived this years office Christmas do, and, quite frankly, don't give a fuck. But the camera work was shoddy and should not have been included in the video. So there. Happy Christmas everybody!

Steven Gray


Pretty good - Lego isn't the lightest of materials to build with.

But the video... that was fine until the closing moments where the camera operator consistently fails to zoom in on the 'copter. It's there! The dot! Right there! Zoom in on it, dammit! But no... not until the last moment... sigh.

Review: Apple iMac 21.5in late 2012

Steven Gray

Re: It was two years later I discovered the lead was simply an IEC plug with a flange

It's not as if all other consumer electronics comes with a removable power lead - I've seen plenty DVD players, amplifiers, set-top boxes etc. with tethered mains leads. Why should a computer be any different?

But, yes, it was there was a bit of a 'oh... it's just a kettle lead' moment when it fell ou... er, I mean, when I came to shift it to another room.

Steven Gray


Nonsense. When we got out first iMac - a 2005 G5 - my wife had the thing set up and running before I got home from work. It was two years later I discovered the lead was simply an IEC plug with a flange and not 'tethered' to the unit. The thought that it was removable hadn't even occurred to me. It even stayed in during a house move.

Steven Gray

Re: looks lovely. but keyboard is a no no

@BigAndos - I got a magic mouse to go with our new Mac Mini and TBH it's fine, but I agree it's metal construction adds heft and it seems to have more contact with the desk/mousepad than any other mouse I've used, making it literally a drag to move around. The touch surface is fine... but can't replicate 'middle click' without a third party plugin, meaning I've resorted to a cheap Tesco mouse for Sketchup and Blender... progress, eh?

Review: Apple Mac Mini 2012

Steven Gray

Mine's OK, but...

then I did couple it to a lovely Dell 2412m 1920x1200 monitor (yes, a screen, for computers, not a glorified TV panel) via DisplayPort.

It was the ideal cheap (for a Mac) replacement for our ageing G5 iMac.

A couple of points, though. I did connect it to our Sony Bravia and the image was awful... only not the image, but the rendering of the fonts - icons, graphics, the chrome, all fine. After a quick trawl of the Apple discussion forums, it looks like the Mac senses a TV on the other end and adjusts it's output accordingly. Older versions of OSX had a 'font smoothing' option - alas Mountain Lion has removed that option to save us from ourselves... but the setting can be hacked via the command line, cheers Apple.

Modern TVs, of course, do a fair amount of post processing of the image regardless of the source. Ideally, you should turn these all off or set to 'computer mode' or whatever. I dare say this goes for any computer, not just the Mac.

But yes, disappointing.

Ten technology FAILS

Steven Gray

Re: Laserdisc *is* analogue

@AC Yes, a complete typo - in fact reading it back I'm sure it's been tampered with!

@theodore Actually not worth that much and easily obtained after a quick google :(

@Michael Strorm Thank you for your succinct explanation of how analogue video can be stored in a laser readable format. Of course this is something I could easily have googled... but for years it bugged me I didn't know the precise answer. But when my daughter asks the question some time in the future, I'll be Grampa Simpson shouting 'Maaatlooock!' at the TV...

Interesting discussion nonthelemaaatloooock!

Steven Gray

Re: VCD's

@ThomH I know about Laserdisc - however there was a short lived format called Video CD (not to be confused with VideoCD, which is what the bulk of this thread is about).

Video CD was a 12cm version of Laserdisc, 3 minutes of analogue video with digital sound plus space for a few more CD audio tracks. Presumably you needed a Laserdisc player to watch it.

I have a (apparently rare - I just looked it up) copy of a Level 42 (what can I say? I was young) CD Video single.

It lives in my CD dungeon and no the video track isn't recognised on any modern kit.

Liberator: the untold story of the first British laptop part 2

Steven Gray

I've been following...

...developments in computing since I got a ZX81 in, er, 1981, and I've never heard of the Liberator before. Smashing stuff.

And I say this as someone with both an Epson PX-8 (the HX-20s younger sibling) and an Atari Portfolio (also British)...

Perhaps you can follow this up with a story on Cambridge Computers Z88, another favourite 80s portable.

The hoarder's dilemma, or 'Why can't I throw anything away?'

Steven Gray

A few bits

An Epson PX-8

A dead Apple MessagePad (original)

A Palm Tungsten T3

The Atari Portfolio I'm using to type this post.

(That last one was part truth, part lie)

Christ. A 48k Spectrum w/twin microdrives, a Sinclair QL, an Apple PowerBook 175. A Thomson TiVo. A Panasonic A1 VHS camera and full size portable VHS deck (all working). A Hoover Constellation (not strictly a computer).

Oh and a Cyrix MII 333GP processor which inexplicably lives in the middle drawer of our sideboard.

ScanJet sings number one hit

Steven Gray


We used to have a IIC. It's ribbed exterior (quiet at the back!) was a great dust gatherer.

I loved it's singing voice. Always knew it had potential. Glad to see it's offspring do well.

Now, long gone. Sad face.

It's Lego's 80th birthday party, but only the boys are invited

Steven Gray

Re: Mindstorms...

Apparently RoboLab is written in LabView - I'd forgotten about the fact the Mindstorms (RCX/NXT) systems are based on LabView... might be worth pursuing that to get things working again.

Steven Gray
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Re: Mindstorms...

Thanks for the response - actually, you've reminded me I have LabView experience and access to the software... I'll check for availability of a module to drive the RCX

Steven Gray

Re: Mindstorms...

@MrT I have the Mindstorms RCX 1.5 (circa 1999) but lost the CD... it's extraordinarily hard to find either the CD or a download of said software (ie I have a useless microcontroller, some motors and a collection of Technic parts in the garage somewhere)... I'm open to suggestions for alternatives too, although the simple graphical interface would be ideal for my 6 year old daughter.

Apple Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion review

Steven Gray

Re: @Law

Mine is also a late 2008 MPB - pre-unibody - and it was a refurb with a fair chunk knocked off the RRP..

Best laptop ever.

2.4GHz Core 2 duo, FW800/400, 2xUSB, ExpressCard/34 slot, DVI out, Audio in/out (both optical), 1440x900 matt display (LED backlit), wireless n, bluetooth, gigabit ethernet, backlit keyboard, mult-touch trackpad... the compromise was I guess the 256Mb graphics and relatively small 200Gb HDD... but it's all good and runs ML just fine, though I expect this to be the last major OS update for this unit.

Steven Gray

Re: One Partition

I've not long installed ML on my 2008. pre-unibody MBP and it runs like a champ.

I had forgotten about the Windows partition until I read your post.

Trekkie pays £45,000 for rusty shuttle

Steven Gray

Re: Big mistake

Not floats, but *reaches for Star Fleet Technical Manual* 'Booster Propulsion'.

It's on Technical Order page TO:01:04:80. Just so you know.

ARM creators Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber

Steven Gray
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Great article

I had an Archimedes around 1987 - specifically an A3000, and it's power became apparent running some simple Mandelbrot fractal code in BBC Basic. I had the original code from some magazine listing and had applied it to my A3000s predecessor, a Sinclair QL.

The QLs SuperBasic was as wonderful as it was slow – the Mandelbot set took 24hrs to draw. Even compiled from Pascal code, it still took 8 hours.

The Archimedes? 45 of your earth minutes. Astounding.

Ten... A3 inkjet printers

Steven Gray

I imagine

Lord Vader would find the dark lines of the Brother MFC-J5910DW all-in-one most impressive.

Apple stores getting close to overload

Steven Gray
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And Glasgow has two!

Apple preps TV enabled iMac ahead of own-brand telly

Steven Gray

I agree with the points about what an iMac with a TV built in amounts to - but what about a TV with an iMac built in?

Let's say it has PVR functionality - that's a huge 'if' given Apples' history with the ATV - and let's assume as reported that Siri technology will drive the front end.

The implications could turn the TV industry on it's head.

Me - "Is there anything worth watching tonight?"

TV - "Frozen Planet is on BBC1 at 9pm, also Grand Designs is on at 9pm on Channel 4, and Aliens is on Film4 at 9pm." (Based on collated viewing habits)

Me - "Ok, record the movie and Frozen Planet, and send me a reminder for Grand Designs"

TV - "Ok, I'm set to record Aliens on Film4, Frozen Planet on BBC1 and a reminder has been set for Grand Designs. Would you like me to switch on the TV for Grand Designs?"

Me - "Yes. Cancel the reminder."

TV - "The TV will switch on to Channel 4 1 minute before Grand Designs is due to start. The reminder has been cancelled."

Apple have the technology to do this - they just have to apply it in a way that fits most people's case use for TV and PVRs (ie not streaming IP content).

Sony Tablet S

Steven Gray

I had a go on one at the local PC World and found the UI to have a visible framerate. Reminded me of my HP Touchpad actually.

This weekend: First ever iPADS IN SPAAAACE

Steven Gray

Siri - "I don't know what you mean by 'Open the pod bay doors.'"

Ten reasons why you shouldn't buy an iPhone 5

Steven Gray


...when you got home you had... oh that's right, two batteries to charge sequentially to get back to square one (all while the phone is tethered to the wall, USB, car, whatever). Yep, I can see how that can work... not... and oh yeah, been there, bought two T-shirts...

Nokia ditches letters for all-number names

Steven Gray

Speaking of the 6310i,

I still have one, with it's original battery. It can sit in standby for two weeks - two weeks! - on a single charge. Astounding.

Samsung NC110 matte-screen netbook

Steven Gray

What I don't understand is...

... for years I had a Dell monitor equipped with a flat CRT, possibly a Mitsubishi tube, that - despite being glass and shiny and all that - was /extremely/ resistant to reflections and glare due to the effective anti-glare coating.

Why isn't this old-skool approach utilised in current display technology?

Nissan Leaf electric car

Steven Gray

The title is required, and must contain lettuce and/or widgits.

The interior is designed to have as little thermal absorption as possible to limit the amount of aircon you need on a sunny day - ever noticed how the [black] plastics in cars get really hot under the glass? This still needs cooling even though the air in the cabin is cool.

Also, the Leaf has no rev-counter, no fuel gauge, no engine temperature gauge - it's not gonna be a 'normal' instrument panel, is it?

In addition, it's needs batteries to run and the last time I checked, they were not made out of helium. So, yes, to get the range, it will be heavy. It is still far more efficient than a fossil burner due to less heat and noise energy being wasted by the motor. We just need to build more nuke plants for that 'too cheap to meter' leccy. Oh... wait...

But the back end *is* fugly.

PictureBox Player 1.0.1

Steven Gray
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for watching The City of Lost Children.

Empire Strikes Back director Kershner dies at 87

Steven Gray

Well, according to Mad Magazine in 1982...

...there were supposed to be 12 episodes.

The spoof article is reproduced here:


Monster iPad Case Test: Folios

Steven Gray

brightness control

The iPad has always had a brightness control, under Settings>Brightness & Wallpaper. iOS 4.2 just places a copy on the multitasking bar.

Virgin Media begins 100Mb upgrades

Steven Gray


We're on a *new build* estate on the outskirts of Glasgow, 10 mins drive from the city centre, where the phone system and ergo the broadband has been tacked on to an ancient exchange miles away. There is no cable provision so far.

Not only does this mean that BT could only muster .5mb over their 50 year old copper, the voice call quality alone would have had Alexander Graham Bell himself checking his equipment.

So we, er, 'upgraded' to TalkTalk, and with the addition of an iPlate (ironically, from the BT shop), we have hit the heady heights of 1.6mb on average.

Which is just about sufficient for iPlayer.

Apple Magic Mouse

Steven Gray


Over the years, I've seen a number of mouse newbies that grip the little critter like their life depended on it, then use their entire forearm to move it, and henceforth finding it difficult to get the tip of the pointer /exactly/ in the desired focus 'zone'.

Much better to rest the heel of your hand on the mousing surface and let your fingers do the fine manipulation. Often, all that's required is a tweaking of the tracking speed to get the forearm/fingers balance right.

I'll be visiting my local Apple store this weekend to see if that technique, er, bears fruit.

PS. At work I've been using an original MS Wireless Intellimouse Explorer for years - the size of a Veedub but great nonetheless.

Faster broadband for free?

Steven Gray
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Er, I just got mine from www.shop.bt.com and we're on TalkTalk. £7.07 postage free. Just search for i-plate.

We live in a new estate (4 years and still under construction) 10mins drive from Glasgow city centre. Lack of planning re broadband is astounding. As it happens, we're tacked onto the end of a very long line 3.5km from the exchange as the crow flies, God knows how much copper is involved. Speeds with our previous ISP maxed out at 512kbps - TalkTalks exchange equipment helped boost this to 800kbps.

I fitted the I-Plate this morning. Now we're up to 1.4mbps. Those with much faster BB may scoff, but this is pretty amazing. Thanks to El-Reg for the heads up too...

Hubble snaps fall-out from Jupiter impact

Steven Gray

Wait a minute...

This could be quite alarming if the dark spot turned out to be made of thousands of black monoliths...

Ten of the best... iPhone beaters

Steven Gray

@Ancient Oracle funkie

"I remember the original iPod (yes, I am that old). A lovely looking piece of kit but hampered by DRM issues and a distinct lack of features."

Clearly, your memory is failing. The original iPod - the 5 Gigabyte one with the mechanical scroll wheel - was unhampered by DRM... because, well, DRM didn't exist. The iTunes Music Store didn't exist.

iTunes was a software product that ran under Apple's OS9, and soon after, OS X, and was ostensibly there to manage MP3s on your Mac. It was there to rip your CDs to AAC or MP3 - neither with DRM. AAC tracks and MP3s could be moved to devices that supported them. (IIRC, early versions of iTunes didn't even rip to AAC, hence some of my music is still in it's mp3 format). The 1st gen iPod appeared some time after iTunes was introduced.

Features? Well, autosyncing over 400mb/s firewire was /slightly/ quicker than 12mb/s USB 1.1 (the only option on other players at the time unless you count SD players). I'd say that was a feature. Physically smaller than the competition? Feature. A pleasure to use? Feature. 40 channel equaliser? Er, ya got me there.

Sorry for the history lesson, but it annoys me when people lay the whole DRM issue at Apples doorstep, when in fact it was instigated by the record industry so that Apple (and others) could sell music online. And everyone knows that.

Apple punts batterylicious MacBook Pros

Steven Gray
Jobs Halo


I have the older style Macbook Pro complete with a Windows XP install for, yes, games. One of the many annoyances about Windows that really grinds my gears is the little notification (and this has been touched upon already) that I've just plugged in my headphones. Really? You don't say!

The action of grasping the headphone jack betwixt thumb and forefinger, positioning it in the hole that is the audio out port and pushing it home hadn't quite registered on my brain and I so needed that little message to tell me (which, incidentally, I have to dismiss with a click - however will I do that since Windows already believes that my motor functions have become disassociated with my cognitive processes). It reminds me of Clippy, but with "Hey, you're a dumbass that needs constant reminding!".

I imagine there was a meeting about this in Redmond in 2001:

"Wouldn't it be SO cool to tell the user the OS is, like, REALLY looking after things by notifying them of tiny, insignificant, everyday stuff like, hey, plugging something into the audio port?"

"Hey wow that would be SO neat!"

"Yeah, and it would show how we really know our stuff!"

"And with a footprint of only 30Mb it's a tiny addition the 3Gb install!"*

"I think I just peed myself!"

"Is there a notification for THAT?"

"Oh. My. God. That would be inSANE!"

"Windows could say 'Hey, it looks like you just peed yourself!'"

"And provide a link to an incontinence website!"

"Sweet Lord, Bill and Steve are going to go ape over this! Steve especially."

"High five man!"

"I love you man!"

Did I mention it annoyed me?

* I made that bit up

Toshiba Tecra M10 14in notebook

Steven Gray


I too have a Tecra A9 on my desk - I hadn't thought much about it's retro looks other than, yes, it's a bit chunky.

It does have a rotary volume control however and, most startling of all, no blue LEDs. How quaint.

Apple MacBook

Steven Gray

Steve Jobs should check out the UK Apple store...

So, as far as Steve Jobs is concerned, "Actually, all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2."

Oh really? He should maybe check out his own company's web-store, because out of 8 video cameras listed, 5 of them are miniDV based and almost certainly use firewire as the sole means of getting footage off the device for editing.

Admittedly, two are high-end semi-pro cameras and two are expensive HDV camcorders, but the purchaser of the remaining sub £200 standard def miniDV cam can look forward to shelling out £1400 just for the privilege of editing their holiday footage on a AluMac.

Yes, I'm aware the white MacBook is still available - but the message is clear - or should that be muddled, due to the above availability of new but apparently obsolete equipment from Apple.com.

Netbooks and Mini-Laptops

Steven Gray
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@David Shepherd

I actually bought a Quaderno when it came out - back then the price differential between the Olivetti and 'real' laptops was substantial.

It was great and rubbish in equal measure. Great because it was a real XT-compatible PC in a tiny A5 form factor and as such could run most DOS apps of the day (Wordperfect and DataEase in my case). It had a voice memo recorder which could be operated from the lid-mounted controls. Also, it had a reasonable 20Mb HD AND could run off 8 AA batteries from a filling station if you were stuck.

It was rubbish for many reasons, but primarily because there wasn't an easy way to get data on and off it other than the proprietary serial cable and Laplink (although I think there was some sort of Intel or Microsoft app which allowed a serially linked PC to appear as a 115kbps drive. What fun.) The screen was a CGA-compatible device. That meant 640x480 text-only, or 320x200 graphics (shudder).

The screen hinge eventually broke and I think the screen got cracked so it got thrown out.

Anyway, I do still have an Atari Portfolio, which surely must be the granddaddy of the SCC?

Ten of the Best... iPod rivals

Steven Gray

@tony and everybody else using Windows exporer to manage their music

I think iTunes is good. It lets me sync my iPod in a few seconds without touching keyboard or mouse. Why is that bad?

I can't get my head around why *anyone* would want to use Explorer - of all things - to manage their music.

iTunes is a media database, and as such can do stuff a file system simply cannot.

Take smart playlists. Like a super-simple SQL, it leverages the metadata accompanying the music as well as that generated by your listening habits.

For example, want to make a playlist of stuff you haven't listened to in, say, 6 months? Do it with a few clicks in iTunes. Got 30 gigs of music but only a 16Gb player but absolutely need certain albums on there, the rest a random selection from your library? Again, a few clicks and you're set. Wanna refresh that 1Gb Shuffle with some different choons? 1 click.

Anyone that can't see the benefits of this kind of power over a large media collection needs to leave their cave once in a while.

Also, I can't think of a way you'd achieve any of the above in Explorer.

Christian Bale signs for Terminator trilogy

Steven Gray


You're a heuristic algorithm, right?

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