Saturday, March 31, 2018

We are Ready and we are Players

Ready Player One

Subtitle: A lot better than expected

Marcus and Agata just paid real money to see the above film.  And at a fancy full price Cinema in Stratford upon Avon: The Everyman

We first came across the novel in 2018 when we bought and listened to this Ernest Cline book from Audible  It is almost a 16 hour listen i.e. pretty long, and the book made copious references to early computer game history,  you know the ones that were around in the 1980's, when Marcus could actually understand and play them.  So I was totally hooked.

For a better explanation of the whole plot of this dystopian future world, set in 2040 something I hand you over to Mark Kermode:

So why were we also quite smitten with this movie

- The unabridged audio book was truly excellent.

- We thought if the movie was just half as good it was worth the punt

- In fact though some quite large plot differences existed it was a wonderful tale of good against evil in simultaneously the physical and virtual world

- In 2018 we do find people becoming subsumed into a computer dominated reality, not VR, not yet, but perhaps this film really is a portent to the future, and as such a prediction, and both a warning, and as a positive roadmap

- This is a film of references.  Here are over 100 of them  (spoiler alert)

Go See It

If you are a 40 something who knows anything about film history, or early gaming this film is a 110% must watch

It's also a feel good film, the good guys win and the bad guys loose

The audiobook does give greatly enhanced detail but I'm pretty sure when we have the BlueRay or online download to analyse frame by frame the gap will narrow.  I'm convinced that many sequences and references need to be watched again and again to unpack.

Thank you Stephen Spielberg for this film.  It was great :-)

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Guest Room

Marcus and Agata's relocation back to the UK has been undertaken with certain compromises.

And our guests who are about to descend on us for the Weekend festivities   (International Hot Cross Bun weekend of course) are about to discover this.

The Guest Room in England is distinctly compromised.  But hey, they are here to see us and engage with our best wit and repartee.

Nevetheless the benefits of one's own Guest Room or even two cannot be denied.

So without further ado I implore you to listen to 

David Sedaris: The Guest Room  (and other dialogs)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Down the Pi Hole

Introducing PiHole

Part of the joy of getting older and just a little bit wiser is that you can say with a sincere smile:

Well I never knew that!

This is an article to advertise first and foremost a Linux Advertisement Blocker called  Pi Hole, and also with a nudge, and a wink, and a we are not worthy bow in homage as Raspberry Pi, yet again comes to the rescue

What is it?
Using a Raspberry Pi computer and a very slickly automated software installation you can create yourself a DNS server (and optionally a DHCP server too) which will help you dramatically reduce the Internet Ads you see whilst using it.

Oh, and reduced Ads will also probably speed up your browsing experience.

Backing Up
Until yesterday Marcus' primary ad blocking was done by installing an Extension into my Chrome Canary Browser.

Adblock Plus is a popular choice of many

But this only blocks ads in the browser of your choice.  What if your embedded application, say on your mobile phone, serves up ads.  Your Chrome extension won't help there.


Pi-Hole sets itself up as a DNS server.  You use it as a primary DNS server.  Any application asking for the name resolution of an ad will have a null response, typically forcing your application to ignore it.

If Pi-Hole thinks however it is a valid request it will send it onto Google or whoever else you configured as your reliable DNS server.


Don't expect me ever to stop being totally and utterly gob smacked by the low price and high functionality of the Raspberry Pi.

Today I went really and disgracefully cheap.  Since I have stopped freaking out the neighbours with my Raspberry Pi powered Christmas tree.  Well I have reused this Zero W,  10 GBP pound computer as the Pi-Hole Server.

I know, I'm going to make a wireless connection from all devices at home to the DNS server, whereas a wired Ethernet would be so much more reliable.  I know.  Well if it proves unreliable I may have to upgrade the PiHole server to a Pi 3 B+ :-)

Meanwhile this little computer will be running

- Full Linux
- lighttpd Webserver
- DNS server and redirector
- Optionally a DHCP  IP server

I know, totally crackers,  and all for 10 GBP hardware plus the cost of a small SD card to hold the Operating System.


curl -sSL | bash

This is the simple and single command line that will guide you through installation.  It is clear that the authors have made this process very smooth and idiot proof.   The highlights for me

A Day later
 I do like a nice clean summary screen showing me what traffic and when and all those block statistics

There is a summary of what is being blocked and what is being allowed

 I can see what machines, or well networks of machines (behind individual firewalls) are making the most requests.

 You can see what will be blocked by looking thru block lists

And most importantly I can see and track all the DNS requests being made.  I have already learnt that some Internet of Things devices are making a lot  (I mean over 500 per day each) DNS requests that seem totally unnecessary.   I only found this out thanks to Pi-Hole.

Signing Off

Thanks so much to Richard for recommending Pi-Hole, I am now so happy it is time for me to kick back and relax.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What I learnt from the Huawei P20 Smartphone Announce

Subtitle: Something Meaningfully Different

The backdrop to this article is that Huawei did not launch its premiere 2018 gen Smartphone at Barcelona Mobile World Congress.

Instead they announced their intention to release it on March 27th 2018. And so this is a report on what they announced in context ...

A month of Speculation
In a contest of who could speculate more, drop the journalistic bar lower,  and continue predictions in mindless, pointless, and generally ill informed articles even just 12 hours before launch,  yes the whole tech world Industry really got into the game.

Thanks tech journalists for cluttering up my RSS feeds ad nausea for about a month.  You were not welcome.

The Specifications

Innovation & Highlights (P20 Pro)

= Official Specs

+ There is a Notch

+ Sensible pricing for P20 (649 Euro) and P20 Plus (899 Euro).  By sensible I mean it significantly undercuts the Samsung and Apple pricing models.  Good!

+ 3 rear cameras namely: 40MP f1.8 Colour + 20MP f1.6 Monochrome + 8MP f2.4 Wide Angle with OIS.  DxoMark photo is at 114.

These features set it aside from any competition

+ Front 24MP selfie camera

+ Face unlock using 24MP front camera only

+ 960 fps slow motion

+ 1/1.78" sensor size for the 40MP lens

+ Wifi Supports 4x4MIMO

+ Single and Dual Sim models for sale

+ 6.1 inch, 2240x1010 pixel,   18:8 Format OLED Display  (note the P20 basic model does not have OLED)

+ 6GB RAM and 128GB Storage

+ IP67 Water Resistance

+ 180 grams weight

- Bluetooth 4.x not 5

+ 4000 mAh Battery, fast wired, but NOT wireless charge

+ Android 8.1, no word on Android P support

+ No Headphone Jack,  USB C interface only

Official Launch

From this I learnt that on the live stream it was basically impossible to understand what was being said at parts.

I also learnt that in order to get a fingerprint sensor on the back, i.e. the right place,   I'd have to spend at least 1700 Euros for the Huawei Mate RS (6GB/256GB) instead of 899 Euros for the Huawei P20 Pro (6GB/128GB)

Availability is not before April 12 2018

Marcus Winge Points

- Nobody has ever produced an Electronically Stabilised Image which is anywhere as effective as an OIS (Optically Imaged Stabilisation).    Yet Huawei is saying just that for it's main 40MP lens   (The wide angle 8MP does has OIS)

- Fingerprint sensor on front of Huawei P20 (all models).  Are you shitting me?   This is an even worse position than the sensor of a Samsung S8.

- And with the Physical Home Button/Fingerprint reader on the front, yes you loose that screen real estate.  Again, which idiot thought that up? Only the twice as expensive (no kidding) Mate RS does not suffer this aberration.

- No mention I see yet of the commitment or timeframe to migrate to Android P on this rather ironically named P20 phone.   Huawei?

Some Good News
Huawei has been singled out as untrustworthy by the US Government and this has filtered thru to US retailers.  Result?   These phones will not ship to the USA and therefore there is more of them for Asian Markets and Europe,  and at keener prices.  Hoorah!   Way to go USA.

Overall Then
The camera technology has yet to be shown to work.  But since it was co-developed with Leica, we trust that they (Leica) did validate it to be as good as claimed, before putting their name to it.  (DxOMark is looking good)

The Specs of the phone bar the idiotic location of the fingerprint sensor are superb

Should I Buy or should I Go?
- I'd never advise anybody to buy a phone like this until the detailed reviews, in this case regarding the effectiveness of the camera are in.  That said

- I'd hope that Huawei might clarify the position on Android P support

- Regardless of Android P, if the camera checks out A++  IRL as well as in the lab, then if my principal phone broke, and since I'm camera centric I'd probably would recommend it, and just curse every time I had to unlock the phone with that idiotic front button. And double curse the fact I'm not wealthy enough to afford a Mate RS

Journo Reports
Tech Chap P20 intro
Engadget P20
Recombu P20
XDA Developers P20 Pro
Huawei and DxOMark

Official P20 Pro Website
YouTube Search

PS: Meanwhile Apple just had to choose March 27th as it's Education event too.   I mean another day, oh no! Goto this link since they were not prepared to livestream it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Humanity #1

Ever since I concluded that Ricky Gervais was responsible for the most profound Religious movie ever, and I do stress ever I have began to admire his comedy especially his later works like Derek, and his live / standup 

Ricky has commented that he now feels more comfortable with standup and his latest Humanity 80 minute comedy special is now available on Netflix.

Topics Covered Include

Children, Hampstead,  Dogs, Fame, Trans People, Allergies, Balls,   Post Truth,  Popularity,  Stupidity, Twitter,  Rape, Animal Cruelty, Ageing

Quote From Twitter
Your scients,  won't help you when Satan is raping your British ass. I'll be laughing.

There is much adult and offensive content, but then I'd argue we are all offended by different things, and the point of the comedy special, to me at least, is to get you to think, oh and to laugh.

That Netflix
So currently you have to either go to a Ricky Gervais concert or watch it via Netflix.


Humanity Clip #2

Monday, March 26, 2018

Oversupply, Manufacturing and Wowcher

This article is not about Apple or Wowcher and believe me I am not being endorsed to recommend either,  it is really about Manufacturing.

For years consumers have been led to believe that

- New Products are Better than Old
- That New is Faster, More Reliable and with many more Features and Facilities
- And modern manufacturing has never been better at providing us with more stuff and less cost

But in 2018

- Many new products are only slightly better than their old counterparts
- We may be only using a fraction of that products capabilities anyway, a last gen product may still be in reality more than we actually need.
- New may not any more Reliable
- They are nearly all made in China, and often in reality designed there in part or majoritavily too.
- The cost of some new, Apple being a great example, is very high, even for the quite wealthy

And Wowcher Exists
Traditionally there was no easy way to deal with a retailer for second hand goods.   You could goto eBay or other second hand marketplaces.   But you are buying sight unseen and usually without warranty.

Enter stores like Wowcher which is just one example from the UK, our new home, back from a decade plus living in Switzerland.  What is the difference?

- UK based mail order store
- New goods at very low prices
- Refurbished goods at even lower prices.  I invite you to search for Apple iMac and Apple iPhone
- They offer a warranty!

Of course like most 2018 UK mail order they sell a multiplicity of goods and you have to remember (hard) not to fill your house full of low cost, possibly high quality crap.   Self control is necessary, especially at these low prices.

In Summary
For years consumers had difficulty getting rid out outdated electronics, except perhaps for free to family members and special friends.

But today several mechanism exists to recycle items and now firms like Wowcher sell both new products at low prices but also refurbished recycled electronics.

Especially for high end brands like Apple this gives the consumer new flexibility to actually spend less and help stem the monstrous exponentially expanding manufacturing cycle and actually reuse technology.

Well done Wowcher.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday Sermon: Peter Brock, Crystals and Cars

Subtitle: The Energy Polariser, it makes a shithouse car good.

This week I'd like to highlight a charming article from Jalopnik which talks about Peter Brock, an Australian racing car driver.  

From 1987 every Holden HDT Director car was fitted with a box called and Energy Polarizer.  This was a plastic box containing 2 magnets and some Crystals held in place with Epoxy Resin.

The Polarizer uses Orgone Energy and lets the vehicle

- absorb road shocks more completely
- reduce overall vehicle noise
- allows use of Low Octane 92 fuel to an engine that otherwise requires High Octane fuel

This is a fascinating story so please do take 5 minutes to read all about it :-)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Undefendable

Subtitle:  A Game or the End Game

By any measure it has been an almost surreal whirlwind of events from Pornstar Revelations,   Resignations,  Electoral Manipulations, and raising the US 1.3 Trillion  (I'm not kidding) Spending Bill.

Primarily, Going with Resignations:

Meanwhile some Hiring

diGenova on Fox News

Youtube search Joseph diGenova

So, Let's Recap

BBC: In the Firing Line

Whatever next.  

Wait ... How about this :-(

We are not even at the end of the week yet.

See Also (NSF)
Restoring Dignity

Chief in Brief
Another Shooting

Friday, March 23, 2018

Should You Delete Facebook

Quartz: Should I delete

Subtitle: No!

Do you remember that awkward / strange / weird family who lived down the street when you were growing up many years ago.  The ones that refused to buy a TV.

Or more recently that family who believed that Smartphones were not necessary and on balance quite harmful and evil and so banned them

Or in 2018 the muppets who in a knee-jerk reaction deleted their Facebook account.

A Limited Facebook User

Marcus would rate himself as a minimal necessary Facebook user.

- It is a useful platform to broadcast messages to friends.

- Agata and Marcus have many friends who we don't see regularly and are often in other parts of the world.  Physically visiting them is not an option.  Facebook really helps us understand what is going on in their lives and we reciprocate and tell our Friends about ours.

- Unlike (that awful) WhatsApp application it's a one to many broadcast.   WhatsApp is great for one to one messaging, but not really suited to broader interactions.  I'm especially cynical of Brian Action, the cofounder and his irresponsible comments.

- Facebook is not a serious medium.  I never have and don't expect to have a deeply meaningful conversation there. I don't raise issues about Politics, Mumbo Jumbo or Religion there.

- I personally don't use Facebook for Games and never use Facebook logons to other WebApplications like Spotify etc.  Example, I'd generate my own Spotify userid, to be doing otherwise compromises security more than I'd like.

- I don't use Facebook for News, I read a Newspaper and Aggregator online

- In general I restrict my use of Facebook to Social Media only, you know, it's original design purpose!

- I'm forced to use Facebook for messaging because now everybody does  (and they don't typically use Skype or an.other company messanger).

The Way Forward

Computerphile: Social Media Data

- If you are lazy and go with the cop out plea of Facebook/The Government/God or basically anybody other than yourself is responsible for protecting me and my data.  Well you know, to be safe, just delete your Facebook account, and stop using the Internet, and any Technology you don't understand and trust: that  probably includes items like your digital watch and your car.  You should go and live in a Hut.

- If you are IT professional who does not understand Facebook security, then do some research to understand it and take action / control.

- If you are an IT professional who after researching still does not understand. well you are not a very good IT person are you?, goto #general dumbass section

- If you are old and claim this as an excuse for not understanding Facebook find a young person friend and get them to help you check your Security settings

CNET: Limiting Facebook

- If you are a general dumbass who can't read one of a bzillion web articles written in simple language but is still concerned, then go and see an IT person friend who is not lazy and who is knowledgeable.

And now I'm going back to Facebook.  I have some important posts to make

And finally from devRant to FaceBook or maybe to my more technical audience on Google+ ?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Millennial choice: House or Smartphone?

David Pogue: iPhone

To clarify, this is a message to any person under the age of 25, meaning that you were born 1993 or later. My claim is this:

You have a stark choice

a) You can start saving money and put it towards large purchases chiefly

- repayment of student loans
- a car for transport
- a home to live in

b) You can believe the Hype and take that disposable income, and spend it on short term gratifications principally like a new Smartphone

Unfortunate Truths

- House prices have risen astronomically

- Money is cheap, but only to the few.  Those few include Governments &  Highly Paid Professionals,  the sad irony being two groups to whom it should be expensive.

- You might not need a Car anymore.
This might seem like an advantage, but saving for a car, used to be an individuals first large purchase, the one they could not make straight for cash, but via a loan that was repaid over time.   With out this training, jumping straight to a house purchase is a mental jumpt too large for some

- When I bought a PC
Back in the day you might save just a little to buy a PC.   You know something with a screen and keyboard and mouse, and a system unit sitting on the ground.

You might buy one and then keep it for at least 5 years. Or if you were an enthusiast maybe 3 years. You would never considering replacing it every year because a newer model came out.

Cycle Times
Somehow the Smartphone Industry has convinced us all that our lives will be so much more wonderful if we replace our phone every 12 months.  Indeed, the update cycle of the major vendors like Apple is an updated product every 6 months.

And Geronimo, there is almost something wrong with me if I decide to keep my phone for 3 years, and I would almost have to hide my phone away from public display should it be 5 years old.

Inertia Pressure
The current conspicuous consumer economy pushes hard for you to maintain your most obvious status symbol, something you might use in public tens or hundreds of times a day

== your Smartphone

Manufacturer Mo Money

I am not sure how proud Apple are to have the accoldade of the first volume shipping Smartphone in excess of 1000 GBP for sale.

But wait: Samsung is at it too

Allowing 35 GBP for your dataplan this phone will cost you 919 GBP over its 24 month term.  (Not ideal since after 12 months you will want a new phone right?)

A Way Forward

We all deserve a little something special now and then, but a Smartphone costing 1000 GBP especially if it replaces a barely 1 year old Smartphone you already own does I venture, not fall into this category.

Sometimes we need to think about long term needs and our financial independence.   Just think hard whether that new Smartphone is really going to do it for you.

As Uncle Steve once said:  It's only a Phone :-)