New keyboard

Friday, 26 August 2016 13:27
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
I bought myself a new computer keyboard last week to replace the 11-year-old Logitech G11 gaming keyboard that has served me so well. The replacement is a Logitech G19:


Logitech has stopped making them, and the replacements are not only not very nice, but really expensive. So I bought a G19 online from a site still selling them.

It's got a nice soft feel to the keys. The LCD screen can show a variety of things, but I'm using it as a clock. There are 12 programmable keys; I have programmed them to do things like Cut/Copy/Paste/Undo, and to insert text strings like my name or email address(es), all for convenience. The G19 acts as a USB hub too; it has two powered USB 2.0 ports. The keys are backlit, and the colour is configurable. It has big enter and backspace keys, just like I like them.

All in all, damn nice. Let's hope it lasts a decade, like its predecessor.

Celebgate

Thursday, 2 October 2014 11:02
claidheamhmor: (UnderworldEvolution)
My insurance broker popped round last night bearing pizza, and we had a good chat. Something we talked about was Celebgate, with all the leaked nude celebrity selfies. He was saying that people shouldn't be taking nude pictures of themselves, because there's that chance the pics will be leaked.

I'm of a different opinion. If people want to take selfies, that's up to them. If they want to store them on the cloud, fine. Obviously, take a few basic precautions - choose a secure location, enable the phone password, etc.

But there's more to the whole Celebgate leak than just pictures:
  • Apple let those celebrities down, by having an insecure "feature" on iCloud that let hackers repeatedly enter password attempts without blocking access.
  • Many of those celebs, I'll bet, had no idea their phones were being automatically backed up to iCloud.
  • All the focus has been on the nude pictures. That's only part of the story, because what the hackers got were complete iPhone backups. Not just pictures, but email, text messages, contacts, calendar, notes, documents, and more. In other words, if those users had a copy of their bank statement in their email, or any unencrypted passwords typed in, or any personal information, or email addresses or phone numbers of family, friends, or other celebrities, or personal calendar entries, or home addresses... that information has been hacked, and someone has it. That could be a lot scarier than pictures.
To say people shouldn't take nude pics implies that they also shouldn't have any other personal information on their phones (or email, or websites, for that matter). It's possible to live like that, but if you do, why bother having a smartphone? Just get a cheap Nokia.

Personally, I think there's a balancing act between the risk of such information being on your phone, and the convenience and utility of doing so. My opinion: go for it, but take precautions. Use a phone password. Use encrypted password storage apps (like LastPass, Password Keeper, et al). Use secure cloud storage (I use OneDrive and Box). And if your information is more valuable (if you're a celebrity, say), take even better precautions (hey, how about a more secure phone).

Tramp Royale

Monday, 26 May 2014 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Stranger in a Strange Land)
I've been reading Robert Heinlein's books all over again, and they're still eminently readable. I'm not sure why they're so readable; I suspect it's because of the conversational devices he used.

One that I hadn't read before was "Tramp Royale". It was not science fiction; it was the account of the round-the-world trip that Heinlein and his wife Viginia (nicknamed "Tickey") took in 1953/54. The book itself was only published in 1992, four years after Heinlein's death (he died on my birthday in 1988).

Tickey had a fear of flights over water, so they booked a trip mainly via ship, travelling to South America, through many of the South American countries, across the Atlantic past  Tristan da Cunha to South Africa, through South Africa (Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Kruger Park, Durban), Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, before hopping over to Hawaii, then back to Colorado.

It's fascinating seeing a view of so many countries from 60 years ago, not long after World War II. Here's a quick summary:[personal profile] luthiea
  • They loved South America, finding everything very cheap, the people friendly and helpful, and accommodations comfortable and clean. One amusing anecdote Heinlein used in a book a few years later was getting the spelling of their surname of a South American women; the name was pronounced "Hone-ace", but it was spelled "j-o-n-e-s".Heinlein especially admired Uruguay. Even now, Uruguay has possibly the most down-to-earth leader in the world; José Mujica and his wife live on a small farm instead of the presidential palace, they have no staff, he drives an aged VW Beetle, and donates 90% of his small salary to charity.
  • South Africa: this was an interesting one. They loved the wildlife and scenery; however, even then, 6 years after the National Party was voted into power by only around 5% of the population, apartheid was in full swing. Heinlein commented on the terrible policies, and the effect on the black population, and he said he saw no solution for South Africa (thankfully, decades later, that was to change). He mentioned the beautiful houses in Johannesburg, hiding behind high walls and electric fences, owners nervous about being killed by their black staff. He and Tickey went to the Kruger Park, and had to deal with the terrible rail services (still bad), and the stupid bureaucracies of the government. He really, really didn't like Afrikaners, finding them unpleasant and difficult. One thing that came up several times was that people kept asking why the US wouldn't pay more for South Africa's gold.
  • The Heinleins found Jakarta dirty and unpleasant; they didn't stay long. By contrast, Singapore was clean, had excellent service, and some of the best accommodations they'd ever seen.
  • They caught a dirty ship to Australia, and found Australia riddled with bureaucracy. For example, on landing, they had to fill in income tax forms, and on leaving, had to get export permits for their money, including their own traveller's cheques, stamped in a couple of different places. They people, they found, tended to be friendly, but somewhat tactless. Hotels were awful, thanks to stupid regulations requiring bars to run hotels too and a condition of the licence.
  • Next was New Zealand. 
  •  could probably comment on how NZ has changed. Back then, the people the Heinleins encountered were dour, petty, and unhelpful. Hotels were the worst they'd encountered, to the extent that the best hotel they found in Auckland wouldn't have been as good as the average US backwater motel. Food was terrible; the New Zealanders kept the worst of their food for themselves, and destroyed it with their cooking; boiled beef, boiled lamb, boiled mutton, and for breakfast, boiled bacon. Petty bureaucracy was rife, right down to mealtimes; if your mealtime was 1PM to 2PM, you weren't allowed to be seated in the hotel dining room before 1PM, even if the place was empty, and you were obliged to be out by 2. Heinlein and Tickey saw only a bit of NZ's scenery, thanks to more ridiculous transport rules. At the time, NZ citizens weren't allowed to visit the US, and even if they got special dispensation, they weren't allowed to buy US dollars. The only highlight was a helpful zoo manager at the Auckland zoo.
  • NZ was so awful that Tickey was actually prepared to fly back to the US rather than  fight red tape to get a booking on a ship, so they flew (in sleeper berths on a DC-6!) to Hawaii, which they loved, and from the back to the US. 

Even though Tramp Royale was not published until decades later, Heinlein used bits and pieces from their trip in his fiction; one can see signs of his dislike for petty rules in almost all of his books, and bit and pieces obviously relating to Tramp Royale crop up here and there. 

claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
I got BlackBerry OS 10.2.1 on my phone the other day (by sideloading it, actually, rather than waiting for the official download, since it looked like Vodacom was behind the times). Despite the minor version number increase, it's a huge update, with a bunch of nice improvements. The most major, yet least mentioned, is the ability to directly load Android apps; I loaded Snap, which can get apps directly off the Google Play store, and also got the Amazon and 1Mobile Market store apps to get apps from there. So far, I'm slightly underwhelmed; I downloaded Talking Tom, which is amusing, but just about everything else I can think of, I already have a native app for. I did a count of apps the other day; I have 191 on my phone.

The other day I picked up a micro-USB to USB OTG (on the go) cable. This little cable lets me connect a flash drive, external hard drive, mouse, or keyboard into my BlackBerry. Very handy to be able to access flash drive contents.
claidheamhmor: (Aes Sedai)
An interesting little vocabulary test, posted by [Bad username or site: malkhos. @ livejournal.com]

Here's the test.

I got 78%.
claidheamhmor: (Vendetta 2)
Education is failing us here in South Africa.

The most recent stats for last year's matrics (grade 12 school leavers) have been published. 78% of the matrics passed the year. This sounds OK - after all, it's better than previous years - but then you dig a bit deeper.

For example:
  • If you actually count all of the kids starting Grade 1 in 2002 who passed matric in 2013, then the pass rate is only 38%. In other words, on average, only 38% of our youth are successfully completing school.
  • The Grade 9 average maths mark was 14%. Only 3% of Grade 9s got over 50% for maths.
  • Only 3% of matrics got a distinction for maths. Only 40% of them scored over 40% for maths. Only 26% got over 50% (which is the minimum requirement for any science or commerce-based university course). Similar result for science.

In other words, while the overall pass rate sounds good, the vast majority of even those who passed are not actually educated enough for anything but unskilled jobs. Most of those getting into university can't get into the science and commerce courses, and as a result, SA is desperately short of graduates in the science and engineering fields.

Of course, because most matrics are not qualified enough to get decent jobs, unemployment goes up; the unemployment rate for people in the school-leaving age category is around 40%. Without jobs, poverty worsens, there's impact on the economy, and people aren't able to help their own children through school. It's a vicious cycle. :(
claidheamhmor: Z10 Scrabble (Blackberry Z10)
 
My cellphone contract was finally up for renewal; this time, on 20 November, I went for the BlackBerry Z30, which was launched that very day.

I posted about my BlackBerry Z10 back in May. Well, the Z30 is similar, with the following major changes:
  • 5" AMOLED screen (same resolution though)
  • Faster dual-core CPU and a quad-core GPU
  • Dual antennas for better reception
  • Stereo speakers
  • Multiple microphones and speech optimisation for improved voiced clarity
  • Huge battery (not removable)

So far, loving it. The OS version is now 10.2, which carries a number of improvements. 10.2.1 is around the corner, with one huge feature: the ability to install Android apps directly. Beta testers are already able to download and install apps directly from a number of third-party store, like Amazon. I really like the operating system; though new, it's solid and intuitive, and feature-packed.

Areas I think the phone could have been better: the camera, at 8MP, is adequate, but not great. The screen would have been better at 1080p resolution (that said, it's a stunning screen - maybe the resolution isn't necessary). More internal storage would have been nice (still upgradeable via SD card of course).

The showcase feature: the sound. It can go seriously loud, and sounds absolutely brilliant. Better than any mobile device I've ever heard. Second best: a much improved battery life.

Another positive for me: my contract with Vodacom is actually cheaper now than it was, and I get a bit of free data (200MB, which compared to my usual usage is actually trivial). They gave me an 8GB SD card with the phone; I have so many, I have no idea what to do with it.I bought a pouch; no official BlackBerry accessories were available, so I got a generic XXL-sized Swiss Army Gear pouch in (fake?) black leather with red stitching.

claidheamhmor: (Mondeo Ghia)
The traffic here in Joburg is notoriously bad, not to mention dangerous.

Here are a couple of interesting stats to do with enforcement of traffic law in the Joburg metro area:
  • Over 99% of all fines issues are for speeding, from speed cameras. Almost no moving offences are caught.
  • Only 13% of all fines issues are paid by the infringers.
  • If someone doesn't pay a fine, there are no criminal penalties.
  • There are over R2 billion (just under $200m) in unpaid fines in Joburg and Pretoria.
Those post brought to you in memory of all the people stuck in rush hour traffic this morning.

TV shows

Wednesday, 4 September 2013 08:59
claidheamhmor: (Vendetta 2)
There are a couple of TV shows I've been rather enjoying lately.

 
One is Continuum, about a cop in the year 2077 who ends up coming back to present day to hunt down some terrorists. The lead actors are good, and the plot and villains are complex.



The other is The Bridge, set in El Paso, Texas, about a serial killer working both sides of the US-Mexican border. The main attraction here is the ever-lovely Diane Kruger playing a cop with Aspergers, working with a more relaxed Mexican cop, and it makes for an interesting show.




Saintly

Tuesday, 2 July 2013 10:43
claidheamhmor: (Freudiana)
Book news:

I recently read Lauren Beukes's "The Shining Girls". It's a book about the survivor of an attack by a time-travelling serial killer, and her attempt to track him down. It's interesting, and fairly straightforward; quite a different style from the uncomfortably choppy style in Lauren's previous book, Zoo City. Enjoyable.

Apart from that, I've been nearing the end of Jonathan Kellerman's "Alex Delaware" novels, and after 25 of them, it's getting a little tiring; the plots a a little too complex, and the characters have become rather static.

The most enjoyable books I've been reading lately are Leslie Charteris's "The Saint" series, the series upon which the TV series, starring Roger Moore, was based. The books start back in 1928, and despite the age, don't feel dated. Simon Templar is an amusing character, and the books are surprisingly well written, for what one would consider a lightweight series; Leslie Charteris had beautifully descriptive prose.

BB10

Friday, 21 June 2013 15:05
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
I'm still really enjoying my BlackBerry Z10. Best feature so far: having my home PC listed as part of the file system (along with internal memory, SD card, Box.net, and Dropbox). So I can, anywhere I can open or save or attach a file, browse to my home PC and get it. Basically, 3.5TB of private cloud storage. If I'm on my home wi-fi, I can even play entire movies on the phone (it's a little slow and expensive doing it on 3G!)

I've stumbled across a few really nice apps; I should probably do some app reviews sometime. Maybe get back to my old BlackBerry-focused blog.
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
BlackBerry Z10: a review

 

I got the new BlackBerry Z10 phone a couple of weeks ago, and I've been setting it up and getting everything I like working on it.
 
Rather than provide a long, complex review (there are plenty on the web), I'm just going to jot down things I found relevant, and add a few screenshots.
 
This is coming from a long-time BlackBerry OS user, though I've had an iPhone and I've set up and worked with a number of iPhones and the occasional Android.
 
Hardware

The Z10's hardware is really good. Fit and finish is top-notch, and the materials used feel good. The phone feels durable too, and scratch-resistant.
 
The screen is outstanding. Put it next to an iPhone 5, and it's unquestionably better – not only bigger, but higher-res. User interface elements take advantage of this – the clock, for example, is beautiful. The screen has a much nicer feel to it than my old 9810's screen – maybe it's an oleophobic coating?

The camera is good, but not great; it needs improvement in poor light. I believe there are some software fixes for the camera due out. One thing I do like is that the button-to-picture lag on the camera is very short. The HD video recording is pretty impressive. I like the time-shift camera, but I haven't really used it much.

The input/output capabilities on the Z10 are great. With HDMI-out, I can connect the phone to a TV or decent computer screen and play movies or whatever there. The Z10 has DLNA too, which means I can use my TV to browse the phone and play media off it over wi-fi (and it works really well!). Wireless storage access is available, so I can connect to the Z10's internal storage and SD card over wi-fi; that's very handy. BB 10.1 will add the ability to access network shares from the phone.

Battery life is not bad; I get about 10+ hours on a busy day, more on a weekend. That's better than I got on my old BlackBerry. It does help that I have a really good car charger, the Energizer 2.1 amp dual-port charger; that can get a phone up to usable levels within minutes.
Phone call quality is excellent; there seems to be some good noise cancelling.
 

Function

The BlackBerry 10 user interface works well. It takes a short while to get used to, but after that, phones with physical "home" buttons (and the app in-out in-out paradigm) feel primitive. I love the way the integrated message hub is always only a swipe away, and the way running apps are displayed is cool (especially those designed to show something useful in the minimised app frame – like weather, battery level, album art, etc.). Everything feels quick and very, very slick.

The multitasking is handy; having the apps actually shown on screen makes it obvious. One downside – most of the ported or sideloaded Android apps don't multitask (in other words, they pause when they're not in the foreground).
 

The user interface (more specifically, the icons pages and running apps page) is obviously meant to be used in portrait orientation, but apps go landscape when the phone is turned. 

The distributed real-time multitasking QNX underpinnings to the operating system will probably become more evident over time, as things get refined. I can foresee a lot of opportunity for integration with cars and other systems. The BlackBerry CEO, Thorsten Heins, was quoted last week as saying there may be no need for tablets in 5 years. I think what he means is that tablets as standalone devices may go away. It makes sense to have a larger dumb screen, driven by your single mobile device.
 
Something really nice about the user interface design is that most navigation elements are at the *bottom* of the screen, making it far easier to use one-handed.

I had some issues getting my data from my old BlackBerry to the Z10, but I think part of this was because of a flaky SD card. One annoying thing was that all of my contacts were saved as local contacts on the Z10, then duplicated the moment I added my email account and synched contacts. I had to remove all of the local ones. A clean setup works much better, especially if you have online contact/calendar sync.

I do like the way you can link various contact records (e.g. email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for the same person, and it's all displayed as one contact, showing interactions with that person (like calls, emails, etc.)

The web browser is stunning – it's faster than any other mobile browser I've seen. In fact, I wish my desktop Chrome were that fast. It supports Flash too. One very nice feature is the Reader mode, which with a click strips out ads and makes an article easily readable.

         
 

Storage handling generally is excellent. There's the 16GB of internal storage, plus your SD card, but if you log in to Dropbox and or Box (where you get 50GB free), you get those too, all shown as part of the filesystem. In other words, anywhere you can open or save a file, you will have Dropbox and Box listed as locations too. This is enormously convenient. The File Manager lets you easily copy/moves files between the various areas.


The Z10's virtual keyboard is brilliant – it's really, really good at predicting text. I've written entire sentences with a single letter and a bunch of swipes. That said, it does need a little more attention than the physical keyboard, and I'm not at the same speed as on physical. On the downside, it's not properly WYSIWYG – it shows uppercase letters all of the time, even when it's about to type lowercase letters.

Sadly, there's just no way of getting some of the efficiencies one has with a physical keyboard, like 20+ single-press speed-dials, or single-press access to most of your apps. It looks like the BlackBerry Q10 will handle those needs for people who value that more than the Z10's screen size.
 

Apps

BlackBerry Maps works pretty decently for navigation. For SA, there's Wisepilot too. I side-loaded Google Maps, but it's a little unstable.

There are plenty of apps available out there. I've been able to easily find either BB10 versions of my favourite apps, or equivalents. I've also side-loaded a bunch of Android apps; there's quite a little cottage industry in sideloaded apps. The ported or sideloaded Android apps, by and large, run very well.

One app I missed from my old BlackBerry was Social Feeds, for providing a single location for Facebook/Twitter/RSS feeds; soon enough I stumbled across Android's Flipboard, which I sideloaded and which works fairly well.


 
 
On my old phone, I used a car maintenance and fuel logging app called Fuel Economy. That's not on BB10, but I found one called aCar, an Android port, which is comprehensive. I spent a couple of hours playing with CSV files and imported 6 years of data into it.

 

Another app I've used for ages is a shared grocery list app, OurGroceries. Initially, there wasn't a BlackBerry 10 app, so I sideloaded the Android version. A few days ago, the BB10 version was released, so I have that loaded now too.

The ported Android app Vivino is quite fun; you can take a picture of a wine bottle, and it has a pretty good go at identifying it and letting you rate it.


 
The Z10's "Remember" app links to Evernote, if you have an account there, as well as to your corporate Exchange server's Notes, and integrates them into a single app. Very convenient. You can of course load Evernote too.

The Last Weather App is brutally straightforward (and surprisingly accurate).


The Compass is pretty

 

Other
The desktop software for synching media, BlackBerry Link, sucks. It's slow and clumsy, and I had to beat it into submission.

"Balance" is a way of separating personal and work data, and it works very well, separating the access to corporate data from your personal stuff, where you may not be so paranoid. Contacts and calendar are integrated, conveniently. One awkward side-effect, however, is that "work" contacts run in the work context; the most visible consequence is that if you tap a contact's address, BlackBerry Maps will load – but in the work area, where it may not have Internet access.

If you have a corporate BlackBerry Enterprise Server, you get even more: you can have separate apps for work and personal profiles, with work apps deployed from the server. In the "work" profile, you can access internal resources, like intranet pages, and you can use apps like Work Files to access data off file server shares.

Data is a problem. With my old BlackBerry, I used about 300MB of data per month on BIS. Currently, it looks like my Z10, doing much the same stuff, is heading toward 2GB per month, which I have to pay for; I have a new respect for BIS's compression. On the plus side, internet access is much faster.

Playbook integration has been gutted. On the OS7 devices, Playbook bridging offered email, calendar, contacts, work browser, internet connection, text messages, phone call display, and remote control. With the Z10, all that's available is the work browser, internet connection (now much faster), and remote control.
 

Best pilot ever

Tuesday, 7 May 2013 09:23
claidheamhmor: (F-111 in the Sky)
I reckon Eric Brown is probably the best pilot in history. I read his book "Wings of the Luftwaffe" in the early '80s, and met him when he came out to South Africa. I'm amazed that he's still around.

 


claidheamhmor: (Fiday)
The Bad Astronomer posted an article mentioning links to Science and Religion surveys. Fairly interesting, especially if you read the stats afterwards.

Here they are:
Science quiz
Religion quiz

I got 15/15 for the science quiz, and 14/15 for the religion quiz (I got the last question wrong).

The Wheel of Time

Tuesday, 5 March 2013 14:35
claidheamhmor: (Aes Sedai)
I  bought and read the final book of Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time" series, A Memory of Light. In many ways it was nice to get to the end of the series (though perhaps I should go and read the last few books again to get to grips with it properly), and I enjoyed seeing what happened to all of the characters, but on the downside, most of the book was about the Final Battle, and all the fighting really did take ages.

Still, I'm glad it's done. I will miss the anticipation of what was going to happen with each character though. What an amazingly complex series.
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)

BlackBerry launched their two new smartphones on 30 Jan: the Z10 (touchscreen) and Q10 (QWERTY). This has been a long time coming; RIM (now renamed BlackBerry) knew they had to move away from their old Java-based phones, and they've spent the last couple of years coming out with something really good. While the old CEOs screwed up their long-term strategies and nearly sunk the company, the new CEO, Thorsten Heins, has done an amazing job of keeping BlackBerry going while developing the new devices and OS.

The BlackBerry 10 OS is the key to it all. BB10 is built on top of QNX, a very highly available, highly multiprocessing operating system kernel used as the basis for all sorts of devices where the cost of failure is very high (for example, nuclear power plants, manufacturing systems, high-end Cisco routers and switches, and automotive management and infotainment systems used by companies like BMW, Audi, Cadillac, Jaguar, Land Rover, Acura, and many others). QNX supports 32 or 64 processors or more, even distributed across multiple devices. There are stories of QNX systems running for 15 years 24x7 without a single second's downtime (in that particular case, it was 15 years only because the Pentium 3 PC it was running on got stolen).

QNX is that ultrareliable core. BlackBerry "trialled" it in the Playbook tablets, and Playbook owners can tell how solid it is (I thing I've had to restart my Playbook fewer than 5 times in almost two years). It's ready for plenty of future expandability. Apple's iOS, by contrast, is old and tired, and it's multitasking capabilites (such as they are) are a poor afterthought. Android is being developed rapidly, but it's huge (as a comparison, the Android kernel code runs to around 14 million lines; QNX is only about 100000).

Here's an interesting article: History of QNX and its Implementation in BlackBerry 10

It looks like the BlackBerry developers have done a really good job of building an innovative and productive interface on top, and BlackBerry has done an outstanding job of getting developer support, launching with over 70000 apps (probably a lot more - in just the last couple of weekends, 34000 apps were ported to BB10), including almost all of the big apps needed by consumers.

There are changes, of course, to BlackBerry's BIS infrastructure, and to how things work, but they have an excellent base to build on for the next few software generations.

Here are some links:
If there were a fire, which of Stephen Fry's phones would he take?
BlackBerry 10 Operating System Review & Walkthrough

The only thing missing is that I don't have one; I am going to have to make a plan about that. Maybe I should be given one at work because I need to support them...

Alpine food

Monday, 28 January 2013 15:54
claidheamhmor: (Ladyhawke)
 We were invited by friends to lunch yesterday, to the Alpine Restaurant, in Linden. The restaurant is owned by Bulgerian brothers, and they have a really diverse menu, including a Bulgerian section, and an Abyssinian menu too. The food's excellent, and well presented. Yum.

Clouds

Sunday, 23 December 2012 18:47
claidheamhmor: (EF-111 in the sunset)
I love clouds, especially clouds at dusk or dawn. Here's a pic I took in June, at dusk.
 

School results

Tuesday, 4 December 2012 14:08
claidheamhmor: (Aes Sedai)
It seems that the average maths mark for South Africa's Grade 9 students was 13%. 

That's actually pretty frightening. When you consider that so many issues in the country (like unemployment, productivity, middle class growth, the economy) can only be addressed by a large dose of education, it's shocking. These students are going to be another lost generation - uneducated, and unemployable for anything more than menial labour. And yet the government either doesn't care, or can't be bothered to publicise their educational initiatives.

Hayibo had a cynically amusing take on it.

Windows 8

Monday, 19 November 2012 14:27
claidheamhmor: (AthlonX2)
I bought the online upgrade to Windows 8 yesterday; only $40. Of course, I first did an image backup of my C: drive; after the Windows 8 Preview debacle, I wanted to be able to restore my system easily to Windows 7.

After the download, I saved the install as an ISO file, extracted it, and ran setup. It did the upgrade from Windows 7 quite well, but I did have a few snags after that, and it took a System Restore and some fiddling to get the system booting again. That may have had something to do with some software I'd just installed.

So far...ho hum. The new Modern UI is a bit odd, and I don't see a benefit yet. The loss of the Start button is an irritation. Otherwise, it's much that same. I guess I'll see how it goes.
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
An EDUP Bluetooth music gateway that I ordered from China finally arrived. Now this is neat! What is does is pairs with a Bluetooth device (like my phone, but it could be my Playbook or PC too). The EDUP then has a stereo socket that I can use to plug into my hifi or my car's sounds system. When I play music from my BlackBerry, it plays wirelessly on Bluetooth to whatever I have the EDUP plugged into. So I can wander round the house or have an untethered phone in the car, while playing (and controlling) music from my phone. The EDUP has an internal battery with about an 8-hour play life, and it's rechargeable with mini-USB (and I have a mini-USB car charger). Something quite neat is that when I turn it on, it connects with my BlackBerry, and the BlackBerry automatically starts playing.

 

Atrocities

Thursday, 20 September 2012 11:52
claidheamhmor: (Vendetta 2)

I just finished reading The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities. Fascinating stuff. It starts off chronologically, so in a way it's a history lesson of the most unpleasant times (i.e. most of them), and it covers wars, genocides, man-caused plagues and famines, and the most unpleasant bunch of leaders. It shows a very different side to "civilised" countries too.

Riverting, and highly recommended.




claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
World Wide Worx just completed a survey on mobile phone use in South Africa, and it's pretty interesting.

South Africans and their cellphones
Data dominates SA mobile trends

Some interesting bits:
84% of users are prepaid.
Most popular phone feature: FM radio

Cellphone (not smartphone alone) market shares:
Nokia: 50%
BlackBerry: 18% (up from 4% 18 months ago)
Samsung: 18% (down from 26% in 2010)
iPhone: 1%
(If you're looking at smartphone market share, BlackBerry has just over 75% (and increasing), with most of the rest split between Android and iPhone).

Social Networking:
Facebook: 38%
Whatsapp: 26% (up from 0% in 2010, driven mainly by Nokia)
BBM (BlackBerry Messenger): 17% (up from 3% in 2010)
Mxit: 23%
Twitter: 12%

QNX and car infotainment systems
For those still quick to write off BlackBerry, I suspect a lot of people have forgotten that RIM is not just about BlackBerry handsets. For example, the QNX software that is the core of the BlackBerry Playbook and the upcoming BB10 operating system is running on the infotainment systems of 30 million cars, 64% of the global market. The brands that QNX systems are in include Audi, Acura, Nissan, Toyota Honda, Mazda, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Chrysler/Fiat, and General Motors. Soon enough, you'll be able to download apps from BlackBerry App World for your car.
claidheamhmor: (Witch King EE)
Last year a taxi driver drove on the wrong side of the road, past booms, and onto a railway crossing. A train hit his taxi, killing 10 children and injuring four. He was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder; there's legal precedent for being egregiously reckless and causing deaths.

He was convicted of murder and attempted murder, and got 20 years. Good.

Article


Next up, a drug-fuelled DJ and his friend who were racing each other on a public road, lost control, and ploughed into a bunch of school kids, killing several.

Gadgety news

Monday, 23 January 2012 14:24
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
Some news in the mobile device market:

Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis step down. Thorsten Heins becomes new CEO of RIM. With luck he'll shake a few trees in the organisation. While they may have some good technology, it's not being delivered properly, and communications are poor.

How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work. A really interesting article on technology jobs, the US middle class, and Chinese manufacturing.
claidheamhmor: (UnderworldEvolution)
Absolutely amazing new beauty product! It removes blemishes, it slims, it thickens eyelashes, it removes wrinkles, and gives a healthy glow!

 


Steve Jobs

Tuesday, 17 January 2012 14:37
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)

I recently read Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs. It was absolutely fascinating, and I found myself riveted from beginning to end.

Jobs was a complex man. A genius, certainly, but a horrible human being. For the first part of the book I couldn't decide whether to pity him, or just to be disgusted. For example, he believed his fruitarian/vegan diet obviated the need to bath more than once a week...and he wandered around barefoot in the offices. He believed rules didn't apply to him, so he drove at high speeds, without number plates, and parked in disabled parking bays. When he rejoined Apple in the late '90s, he terminated all charitable donations. (By contrast, the oft-vilified Bill Gates has sunk $28 billion into charitable causes, and is estimated to have saved millions of lives.) 

For a smart guy, he also seemed to be singularly oblivious in some ways. For example, when first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer his doctor was very relieved because it was the rare, easily curable variety. So Jobs avoided medical treatment for the next year, believing his fruit diet would cure it. We know how that ended...

His obsession with detail and his broad visions were his genius; he wanted everything just so. Of course, that meant that anyone who didn't want it that way was wrong - which is why Apple devices are so tightly locked down. I don't personally subscribe to the Apple way; I like my choices.

One thing I found interesting was the amount of emotion around Jobs. For example, there are numerous mentions of Jobs bursting into tears in board meetings or when arguing with people. Not just him either - it seemed to be a relatively regular occurrence with others too. 

I did think there was quite a bit of post facto revisionism in some ways. For example, the book talks about how long Steve Jobs took with the design of the case of the original Apple II, and how beautiful and elegant it was. I went and took a look at pictures of some of the Apple II's contemporaries, and to be honest, the Apple II doesn't seem any better than most (e.g. the early Commodores). The same applies to various other Apple devices mentioned: hailed only as visionary because they became popular.

One curious omission in the book was any significant mention of operating systems. There are a couple of brief mentions, but by and large, iOS, MacOS and MacOS X are pretty much ignored. I don't know why that is, given how tightly integrated the Apple hardware and operating systems are.

Anyway: highly recommended.


claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Чт, 13:59: RT @RichardWiseman: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. There again, so was yesterday and remember how badly that went.
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  • Ср, 13:55: Sandton may be empty, but Sandton City is a madhouse. On the plus side, I stumbled across a whole new wing.
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My tweets

Friday, 16 December 2011 10:32
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  • Пт, 17:54: RT @DrTwittenheimer: Is your nose running? Well, I guess it's as least as qualified as most of the other Republican candidates. #fb
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  • Пт, 07:50: The rain really shows how many people don't understand the correct use of their cars' lights.
  • Пт, 17:54: RT @DrTwittenheimer: Is your nose running? Well, I guess it's as least as qualified as most of the other Republican candidates. #fb

My tweets

Monday, 28 November 2011 14:38
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Sun, 18:18: On urban roads, taxis are a menace. On freeways, it's bakkies: recklessly fast, or barely-mobile bollards. No handling/braking to speak of.
  • Mon, 07:11: UFO Conference's Michael Tellinger: Joburg is where the alien Ananaki first cloned humans in order to mine gold. LOL. Very nutty.

My tweets

Sunday, 27 November 2011 12:00
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  • Sun, 10:55: RT @simondingle: Belgium has gone for 578 days without a government. This is an experiment I think we should try in SA. Without the debt ...

My tweets

Friday, 25 November 2011 12:00
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  • Fri, 07:38: RT @DrTwittenheimer: FUN FACT: If you squeeze a clown's balls, they make that funny honk-honk sound. Seriously. Try it!
  • Fri, 08:05: Seriously nutty conspiracy crackpot on radio with @702JohnRobbie. "We all have ET origins." Illuminati, 2012, coverups, etc. etc. LOL.

My tweets

Wednesday, 23 November 2011 12:00
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claidheamhmor: (Conan)
Interesting selection from this article:
10 Modern Must-Read Sci-Fi Masterpieces

Any discussion of science fiction invariably begins and ends with the masters of the genre. Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, Frank Herbert, Jerry Pournelle and so on. But what do all of those authors have in common besides their sci-fi prowess? They all did their most significant work before 1980. Ironically for a genre that’s so much about the future, much of our discussion of the great work done within it seems to center around things written in the distant past.

People didn’t suddenly stop writing science fiction novels in 1980. In the past thirty-years a new group of science fiction authors has risen to make their mark on the genre, with their own masterpiece entries into the sci-fi genre. This list is dedicated to those writers, the modern masters who haven’t quite yet taken their place in the pantheon of sci-fi icons, but probably should. If you’re serious about science fiction, or just looking for a great book to read without all the baggage of something written in a long since bygone era, make sure you own a copy of these must-read modern sci-fi masterpieces.

The Dark Tower (1982 – 2004)
Written by: Stephen King
King is best known as one of the modern masters of fantasy and horror but The Dark Tower series is as much science fiction as it is anything. It all started with the publishing of The Gunslinger in 1982, a story which opens with these unforgettable words: “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” He followed through seven epic books on a journey across dimensions and time and space. The gunslinger is named Roland and he’s a cowboy, sort of, from a dimension which is sort of like our medieval past merged with a Clint Eastwood movie. His world was destroyed by an evil force, and he’s on a mission to find a mythical place called the Dark Tower, which he believes is at the nexus of everything. He picks up companions along the way, and they develop a relationship with each other (and in the process the reader) that goes beyond mere words. Filled with violence and misery, and heart-wrenching beauty and joy, it’s one of the most emotionally moving works on this list. Read all seven books, and say thankee-sai.

Neuromancer (1984)
Written by: William Gibson
William Gibson created the cyber punk genre with Neuromancer. A story about a dystopian future where Henry Case is caught as a thief, has his brain interface with the virtual reality world of the “Matrix” removed, and is now a drug addict desperate to find a cure for his problems. What follows is a story of hackers going to battle, the effects of technology on mankind, and an exploration of what exactly defines reality. What really matters in geek culture is that Gibson developed the notion of the cyber punk world with this novel. The idea of AI constructs taking on humans, technology as a drug, virtual worlds where battles can occur, are all either originated or defined clearly within Neuromancer. The novel also established the noir tonal quality of the genre. Of course Neuromancer is most known as the blueprint for The Matrix, but has always been regarded as a seminal work in the sci-fi world.

Ender’s Game (1985)
Written by: Orson Scott Card
There’s never been anything quite like Ender’s Game, before or since. Not even the sequels. Orson Scott Card’s masterpiece tells the story of young children whisked away to a battle school for gifted minds where, humanity hopes they’ll be able to transform one of them into the military genius the world needs to save them from an impending alien invasion. It’s about kids but it’s not a book for kids. What happens in that battle school is brutal and brilliant, full of strategic thinking and mind games played the way they can only really be played amongst untested genius intellects. In the end all the kids involved are left warped, changed, and screwed up, but none worse than Ender. In a sense Ender’s Game is about how saving the human race ruined one little boy’s life.

The Liaden Universe (1988 – 2010)
Written by: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Agent of Change was the first book published (though not the first chronologically) in what would eventually become known as the Liaden Universe. The series contains nine books in all, all set in the same fictional future, but each book completely different from the other. Agent of Change, for instance, is an intimate spy novel focused on a small handful of characters engaged in a complex game of cat and mouse , set on a single planet. Balance of Trade, my favorite of the series, is the story of the crew aboard a massive, intergalactic merchant ship, making their way from one planet to the next. Others are romance novels and political thrillers, all set in the same fictional world. Best of all, it somehow all fits together. They aren’t random stories but larger parts of the same whole, each told in their own way and from their own angle.

Hyperion Cantos (1989 – 1997)
Written by: Dan Simmons
The Hyperion Cantos is actually four books. The first two, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion tell one part of the story. The second two, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion tell a completely different part. Together they form one, contiguous whole, the story of a future where man believes he has conquered the universe, but really hasn’t. It starts with the story of a few pilgrims, journeying to a strange planet called Hyperion. There they’ll encounter an impossible and seemingly all-powerful being called The Shrike, who captures travelers and impales them on his tree of pain (which is every bit as horrible as it sounds). Rarely has anything more thoughtful, imaginative, and emotionally wrenching ever been written, outside sci-fi or in it. Dan Simmons’s story challenges the very nature of humanity and the universe, while delivering serious sci-fi adventure.

Jurassic Park (1990)
Written by: Michael Crichton
Long since eclipsed by the still great 1992 Steven Spielberg based on it, Michael Crichton’s original novel is still worth a read. It’s by far the best work the rockstar-level famous author has ever done and, if you read it you can seem smart in front of your friends when they’re talking about the movie. The plot actually deviates from the movie in some pretty key places, though it’s still about a billionaire who builds a park with live dinosaurs in it, which invariably goes wrong when “nature finds a way”. All the familiar characters are there, but the whole thing gets taken even further, beyond the special effects budget of even a Spielberg movie. Crichton’s book is far more dark and dire than the film too, filled with even more violence and a lot more things blowing up. Spielberg’s movie is the better version I suppose, but Crichton’s book is good enough to be worth a read in its own right. It’s a cultural touchstone which deserves its place in the pantheon of iconic modern science fiction.

On Basilisk Station (1992)
Written by: David Weber
On Basilisk Station is the first book in author David Weber’s expansive Honorverse series, but I’m not going to recommend the entire series. Start with just this one book and stop reading them when its right. The first book is the best of the bunch and the quality dwindles as the series goes on, but that’s fine, because On Basilisk Station works even as a standalone novel. It’s about a female military commander named Honor Harrington and her ship, the Fearless on assignment, and in the heat of battle in a remote part of space where they’re the last line of defense against invasion. Weber’s depiction of Honor is one of the strongest female literary characters you’re likely to encounter anywhere, and his detailed yet entertaining grasp of strategy and tactics used in outer space is unmatched.

The Time Ships (1995)
Written by: Stephen Baxter
In The Time Ships, a critically acclaimed follow-up novel authorized by the Wells estate to mark the 100th anniversary of The Time Machine, British author Stephen Baxter explores the paradox unwittingly created by the original story. Picking up where the Wells classic leaves off, the Time Traveler returns to the future to save the girl he left to die at the hands of the Morlocks. Along the way he notices that time has changed. He stops to investigate and learns that he’s polluted the timeline and the future he left never existed. In trying to repair the timeline, he only makes it worse, even to the point of threatening his very existence and that of the human race. It’s a complex, thought-provoking adventure in true Wells tradition, questioning the moral obligations to one’s future and past. Baxter seamlessly slips into a nineteenth century “Wellsian” writing style while remaining as relevant to modern steampunk audiences as to fans of the classic Wells.

A Deepness in the Sky (1999)
Written by: Vernor Vinge
You can’t really go wrong with any of the books in Vernor Vinge’s “Zones of Thought” series and most people would probably put the older A Fire Upon the Deep here, but I’ve always been partial to Deepness. Both books are standalone novels, despite being set in the same universe, so pick either one and you can’t go wrong. A Deepness in the Sky is the story of what happens when an intelligent alien species is discovered on a planet orbiting around an anomolous star which causes their entire race to go dormant for long periods of time every couple hundred years. The story’s told both from the perspective of the humans in orbit, and from the perspective of the alien species as they prepare for their planet’s big freeze. It’s a great story, but it’s particularly noteworthy for it’s complex depiction of a completely alien species, the best I’ve read since The Mote in God’s Eye. Vinge’s approach is, however, completely different than the one used by Niven and Pournelle in Mote, instead he attempts to translate their completely alien thoughts and life into human terms… and it works.

Ready Player One (2011)
Written by: Ernest Cline
This is the novel that defines modern geek culture, and the impact of video games on our world. Although author Ernest Cline goes far beyond just extolling the greatness of classic video games, it’s within a virtual world that we get to love the oldies once again. Told from the perspective of 18-year-old generic everyman, Wade Watts is a kid who lives in a crime infested trailer park. He spends most of his time hiding out in a junkyard jacked into a school computer where he attends classes virtually. The novel mostly takes place within the virtual world of THE OASIS, a game that becomes so pervasive by the start of the novel in 2044 that it’s not just an online world but is really the whole Internet. Good versus evil, geek references to everything from Gundam to Ghostbusters, and a healthy dose of intrigue and action make Ready Player One not only a good bit of fun, but also this decade’s must read sci-fi novel.

Source: Giant Freakin Robot
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  • Вс, 09:47: RT @FakeScience: Despite the spelling, objects that are "inflammable" are just as fun as ones that are "flammable." #fb
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My tweets

Thursday, 17 November 2011 12:00
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My tweets

Tuesday, 15 November 2011 12:12
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  • Tue, 05:06: RT @ThisIsTrue: Going Around: "I use proper grammar on Twitter. I am the 1%."
  • Tue, 08:36: I bought petrol with FNB Ebucks this morning. That's like getting a tank of petrol for free. :) #fb
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  • Сб, 12:30: It's so hot today that even the ice rink isn't cool. #fb
  • Сб, 12:32: So...are douchebag outfits a requirement for being able to skate well on hockey skates? It seems to go with the territory. #fb
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  • Пт, 06:21: RT @DrTwittenheimer: Always being well prepared is the sign of a true professional who is not good enough to wing it. #fb
  • Пт, 07:33: My little ginger tabby cat, Pyre, died this morning. Hit by a car, I think. :( #fb
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