Friday, November 18, 2011

Obscure problems

This has happened to me so many times.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Overheard and unexpected

Unexpected thing to hear when passing a computing lecture:
"41 took their own lives."
Come on now, Oneiric wasn't that bad, was it?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why I might be buying a Kindle

In a previous post I gave my reasons for not buying a Kindle. As it turns out, I may have been hasty. I know how to admit I'm wrong though, so here it is. The new Kindle being sold in the UK is the one without adverts, costing £89 as previous mentioned. However, the cheap American model is the one bundled with adverts, so the comparison wasn't like-for-like. The equivalent model without adverts costs $109 on the American Amazon site, which is around £68. Adding on the 20% VAT brings that to £81.60. Even I can forgive £7 :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mini Server Power Draw

Previously, I showed my new home server build and mentioned that I would give some power draw figures. I have since managed to borrow a Plogg device from work and taken some (quite non-scientific) measurements.

It turns out that, with all hardware set up as it is by default, the server draws around 25 Watts when idle and around 40 Watts when under load. To put this into perspective, my desktop PC draws around 90 Watts when idle and around 145 Watts when I'm gaming. Thus, my server isn't incredibly low power as it stands (though this is partly because I designed it to be able to provide some decent number-crunching ability when needed). The total draw over a year will be around 219 kWh, which should cost in the region of £25 or so if my maths is correct.

Bonus power draws:
  • 21" LCD screen: 40 Watts
  • External hard drive: 10 Watts
  • Speakers (silent): 5 Watts

I will update this post in the near future with power draw figures with alternate configurations (such as running the CPU with a single core).

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Why I won't be buying a Kindle

If you were to go to the Amazon US site today, you would see an announcement regarding the new Kindle models, including the phrase:
There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp.
We are excited to announce four new products: the all-new Kindle for only $79, two new touch Kindles – Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G – for $99 and $149, and a new class of Kindle – Kindle Fire – a beautiful full color Kindle for movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, apps, games, web browsing and more, for only $199.
In summary, they are dedicated to charging customers less, and the new basic Kindle model is $79. All fair and good. However, if you were to go to the Amazon UK site, you would see:
Today, we are excited to introduce our all-new Kindle for only £89.
Wait... what?

Let's do the maths here... US price is $79, which is equivalent to £50 and some change. UK price is £89, which is equivalent to slightly under $139. We have a difference of £39 or $60. Now, I don't have a Kindle currently, but my girlfriend's one has served her quite nicely and I've been considering it on and off for a while, so at £50 I would have bought the new model with barely a thought. At almost double the price though... I don't think I'll be doing that.

I do have to congratulate Amazon on one thing though: they've released the new model at a lower price point than the old one, and still managed to make me feel ripped off. That takes skill.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Unique" Game Characters

Taken from the description for a new free-to-play game on Steam (Rusty Hearts):
Meet Unique Heroes - Angela – a sassy witch specialist of elemental magic. Tude – a mysterious, monstrous past and a clear taste for close range melee weapons. Frantz – a half vampire with mid-range melee weapons and dark magic.

So I have two topics here, and I'd like to put the disclaimer up front that I haven't played the game, and for all I know they've done something amazing with the characters that would make me say "woah, I was not expecting that". Experience has taught me that it rarely happens though. On the other hand, this is not a personal attack on the makers of the game. I'm sure they've put a lot of work in, and you guys should go check it out. It's free, and you never know - you might like it. Instead, this is an attack on the industry's tendency to reuse the same concepts over and over without really thinking about why they're doing it (other than because it worked for product X, Y and Z in the past, so why put dev time into coming up with something fresh?).

Firstly, I suspect that "unique" may be somewhat of an exaggeration there. They've taken a few of the template "cool" characters that are used in almost everything. We have the token sassy woman figure who is good with magic and spends half the trailer giving you views up her skirt, we have the guy with the mysterious past who likes to beat things to death, and finally we have the half-vampire (more on that later) who plays with dark magic and yet for some reason fights on the side of good. I hope there's a very good explanation of why they're hanging out together and fighting evil, because it seems a little tenuous on first inspection.

Secondly, I hate this whole half-vampire concept. I know it allows a cheap injection of drama, but how exactly does it work? I can think up much darker and more dramatic characters than the ones we see if I conduct that exact thought exercise (i.e., put more thought into it than "Kids like vampires these days, right? But he can't be all evil, so how about if he's half vampire? We can work the coolness and angst in but he can still be a good guy."). But it seems that the thought exercise is never quite executed, and rather than a troubled Blade-like character who fits into neither world but still fights for what he believes is right, we end up with "He's half this and half that. Isn't he so cool? See how he isn't looking at that explosion. I bet he doesn't afraid of anything."

I've kept the points short so that it doesn't turn into a rant, so I'll leave it there for now. Let me know what you think. Are character concepts stagnating and being based on "that's cool" rather than "this guy really fits the overarching themes", or am I imagining the whole thing?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Mini Server Build

Last week I finally pushed the button on ordering a small server machine to use at home for various miscellaneous purposes. The spec I settled on was: This should give me a versatile machine which can give me some power when I need it. Initially, I am intending to look at how much I can reduce the power draw. It should be relatively low to start with, but I can underclock the CPU and turn off one of its cores while it's not being used for anything intensive.

With no further waffling, on to the assembly pictures.

One of the best parts of building a PC - all of the shiny new parts arrive.

The new case in all its glory. It's a little larger than, say, the ISK series, but it has a 120mm fan and thus should be substantially quieter.

The case in pieces. The item front and center is an adapter for 3.5" hard drives, though I would advise simply going for a 2.5" drive.

The motherboard and accessories. As you can see, the only items you get are the I/O bracket and a couple of SATA cables, though it's unlikely you'd need very much more in a build like this. There is of course also the usual manual and driver disc.

Motherboard plus CPU, cooler, and RAM. This CPU/motherboard combination gives you video, audio, and the usual I/O, so there are no expansion cards.

The motherboard installed into the case and wired up. No cable tidying has been done yet, but I've tried to keep them away from the main flow path from the front fan.

A review of the case and some power draw stats will be coming soon.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Amazon App Store Ripping Off Developers?

A few links follow regarding the Amazon app store potentially being really bad for developers. There are a load of posts that reference each other without adding a huge amount of information, so I've tried to pick a few independent ones. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New PC build

The parts for my new PC should be incoming within the next few days, so I thought I'd share what I ordered:

CaseFractal Design Define R3 (Black Pearl) (link). I wanted to like the Titanium Grey variant, but for some reason I just couldn't.
MotherboardMSI P67A-GD53 (B3) (link).
CPUIntel Core i5 2500K (link). Who would buy something different? Except for Benny of course.
CoolerBe Quiet! Dark Rock Advanced (link).
RAMCorsair Vengeance DDR3 4GB (2x2GB) (link). It also comes in blue, which may have blended in with my motherboard better, but it just seemed a little tacky.
GPUMSI GTX 560 Ti Twin Frozr II/OC (link).
PSUAntec TruePower New TP-650 (link). A nice solid 650W supply. I could have gone for an 850W, but I don't think I'll be straining this one at all.
Hard drive2TB Samsung HD204UI/Z4 Spinpoint F4EG (link). I've found Samsung Spinpoint drives to be very reliable (and quiet).
Optical driveSamsung SH-B123L/RSBP (Blu-Ray) (link).

The total cost was £809.42 after VAT. I set myself a limit of £1000, so I think I did well on part selection. I may end up ordering more RAM (4GB is getting a little tight these days), but other than that I'm quite happy with the selection.

I have now switched the RAM for the following:

RAMCorsair Vengeance DDR3 8GB (2x4GB) (link).

Scan responded admirably quickly to my request (the order was updated within an hour, I'm not sure exactly how long as I forgot to note the time I sent the request).

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Delivery Scoring: The System

Description Points
Each day prior to the estimated date +10 *
Friendly staff +10 *
Providing a delivery estimate to a higher resolution than a day +10 *

Description Points
Each day after the estimated date -10 *
Loading onto the van but not attempting delivery -5 *
Lying about attempting delivery (verbally or by leaving a card without attempting) -10
False information on a card -5
Leaving a parcel in an inappropriate place -50
Apathetic staff -10
Rude staff -20
Losing a parcel -100
Providing a delivery estimate to a higher resolution than a day and not hitting that time -20 *

* Halved (for negative scores) or doubled (for positive scores) between 1st December and 15th January.

Note that the expected score for a company that delivers parcels on time with staff that are neither overly friendly or bad mannered will be zero. This is not a bad thing. Negative scores are bad, positive scores are for companies that do the extra something.

I reserve the right to update this at random. All posted scores for individual deliveries and the companies overall will be updated in this case.

Delivery Scoring (HDN 040711)

I currently have a delivery coming from Amazon. Credit to them, they got it posted out much quicker than I expected. Unfortunately they chose to send it with HDN, and a quick Google search will show you why this is a bad idea (this thread, for example, has posts from 2006 to 2011 all telling a similar story). I have thus decided to start scoring the performance of the companies that deliver to me. The scoring system is described in this other post.

Expected date: 4th July 2011.
4th July 2011Loaded onto van, no delivery attempt made.-5
5th July 2011(One day late.) Loaded onto van, no delivery attempt made.-15
6th July 2011(Two days late.) Loaded onto van. Delivered.-10

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Removing the Ubuntu 11.04 launcher bar

In Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal):

  • Click the far top-left button to bring up the search dialog.
  • Type "login" without the quotes and click on "Login Screen".
  • Change "Select Ubuntu as default session" to "Select Ubuntu Classic as default session".
  • Log out and back in.

Congratulation, you have removed the abomination. Prepare for 11.10 where they will no doubt remove Ubuntu Classic as an option.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sex on TV (and economic collapse)

A few random thoughts for your consideration.

1) Why is it that all new shows based in the past or in a fantasy world are required to show ridiculous amounts of nudity and sex? There are three running at the moment that I've seen at least the pilot of (Borgias, Camelot, and Game of Thrones), and in each case the plot just seemed to be a way of moving from one sex scene to the next. Personally, I blame Rome. That was the first one I noticed that just threw you in with the naked action. I wonder if there's a critical number of breasts per square meter of film after which they have to give in and say "You know what? This is porn."

2) Related to the above: Borgias drags on too much and Camelot is frustrating. Game of Thrones may make it as a decent series if the characters can keep it in their pants for more than one scene.

3) Greggs chicken bakes are still awesome.

4) We might still be doomed.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

WizzAir blatantly conning customers

Linky. I have no idea how companies can get away with this.