Scaffold Gazebo

April 22, 2013

My younger sister came up with an interesting and simple idea.  Her problem was that the standard off-the-shelf gazebo from the DIY shops has no strength, is a bit weedy, won’t last five minutes.

scaffold-gazebo

With the luxury of a few pieces of scaffold and a few scaffold elbow joints, a quick twist of an Allen key and hey presto, one primitive Gazebo. We drilled a few eye bolts into the wall to stop it from wanting to move around, checked the uprights for verticallity and were done.

It all looks a bit primitive in its unadorned state, but once my sister has festooned it with shiny things, windmills and plants in bottles, it will look rather splendid I am sure.

Anything but Wireless

April 15, 2013
Sometime I feel a need to explore something or another. I am not sure if I am trying to relive events in my past, or just try things out for fun. A long time ago I was a communications technician in the Royal Air Force and though my life was filled with, well, life I suppose, I never got around to exploring Amateur Radio.
 I knew of HAMs, and completely understood the technology and equipment they used, the way the ionosphere worked to enable them to get great distances with their Morse code, the mechanics of their equipment, transmitters and receivers, but never found the need to actually get the license and try it.
Now I am retired, I have a reasonable computer system and a spare room. Here in this room I play my days away, tinkering, writing, messing about with wires, servo’s, camera parts,  thing-a-ma-jigs and doo-hickies. I discovered that I can explore the radio spectrum using a long wire to a nearby tree, a radio receiver dongle that plugs into a USB socket on my PC and some free software known as HDSDR.
A ‘HAM’ would have a high quality Receiver, a well balanced antenna system, excellent recording equipment, and a relationship with lots of other HAMs with whom they would communicate as and when the heavens, time and weather allowed them.
I have not taken the exam, therefore have no call-sign as they are allocated post exam, so I am not a part of the club. Yes, I hear Morse code, and decode it to read that SP4DNX had a strong signal at 11:04Hrs, but I cannot share that with him as I am unable to transmit, or even get his  details from the net to let him know I heard his contact.
I hear RTTY (Radioteletype (RTTY) is a telecommunications system consisting originally of two or more electromechanical teleprinters in different…) as well, and decoding that I hear people as far away as Italy, Moscow, Scandinavia are broadcasting in the hopes of learning how far their signals carry, but I hear them and cannot let them know.
I am starting to find other things on the radio waves too, things the ordinary listener maybe never hears and that for me is intriguing. I hope to share some of those things here soon.

On-Line Games and Bad People

April 3, 2013

So I retired from work, that is, retired from sitting at a desk all day staring at computer screens and started to find myself at home, sitting at the computer all day, playing games such as World of Warcraft, Eve-online and others. I got hooked, and found myself playing from first thing till bedtime.
With time on my hands, I was able to invest 10 hours, 14 hours and sometimes 16 hours a day fighting bad guys, planting turnips and pvp’ing my way to oblivion. It’s a strange thought, but I had to tell myself that most of the players were way younger than my sixty odd years.

Many of the other players I interacted with were quite possibly, from the way they used grammar, diction and communicative skills, five years shy of their fifteenth birthday. For  some, the image of a sixty year old player was too much to comprehend and they demonstrated this with vile communications, un-civil manners and stupidity that would earn then them more than a slap if their parents were watching.

I have been a communications technician since I joined the Royal Air Force in 1967, I have built and owned computers since they first became available, and one, a kit called the UK101, had a whopping 1k of memory, one thousand  and twenty four bits, smaller than many cookies in this day and age. Yet other players assumed I was stupid, uneducated, prepubescent and or worse, a target for their own filth and venomous attacks.

I have learned playing on-line games requires a considerably thick skin, the ability to effectively remove yourself socially and the need to ignore anything that interacts with you that you find distasteful. If I had children, I would unplug them and send them outside to play, in the fresh air, with physical, not pixel, toys.
The very best aid to surviving on-line games, is the ability to switch off the ‘game’ and do something else, anything at all, but to tear yourself away from doing whatever it is you are doing at the time.

Some of the things I do, is write blogs, grab the camera and shoot at something, work on the engineering tasks I have in the shed, grab the piano keyboard and wind up the headphone volume, write my php for my text tasks, grab the iPad and sit somewhere nice and chill watching youtube rubbish, even grab the flight simulator and fly my aeroplane across the Rockies to San Luis Obispo.

It does not matter what I do, as long as I severe that connection with rude, childish and ignorant people I found on the web playing games.

The more I stop playing World of Warcraft, Eve-online, Aion, Star Wars et al, the better I feel in myself and the more I enjoy my days.

Remove anonymity from the web?

April 3, 2013

Until the birth of the Internet, privacy was what you made it for most people. Celebrities such as senior politicians, movie stars and sports heroes, their lives spilled over into the media, the media that helped them make their fame. They may have had the funds and opportunity to lead a dual life, a secret life divorced from the media, but for the main, if their lives were hyped up by the media, they sacrificed some anonymity in order to reap financial or other reward.

The average person could walk along any street away from their home, in any town, and unless they made an effort to appear conspicuous, they were as anonymous and private as they wanted to be. It was and still is accepted, that if you make no attempt to force yourself into the public eye, publicity will pass you by as silently as the clouds cover the night-time stars. We accepted that any photograph taken in a public place was as free from restriction, as if the observer was at the point the picture was taken.

Then, along came the Internet and introduced more people to the nasty side of normality. Normal people when talking to strangers were polite. If asked who they were, they could, and still can, tell a lie. It is normal to lie to strangers in order to protect yourself, your thoughts or your intentions. Telling a lie is not a crime for the most part.

If a person approached a total stranger, swore at them, called them nasty names and tried to assault them, that person would feel the force of reprisal, counter-attack or the hand of a police officer, and quite rightly so. Yet, with today’s internet demand for anonymity, that person believes he has a right to be obtuse, offensive and as mean spirited as he wants to be without fear of retribution.

Anonymity on the web is not a right, social values are not swept to one side simply because  the internet occupies the time and space between the offender and the victim. If every person who used the internet did so in the knowledge that they could be held responsible for their foul mouthed unwanted interjections, the web would be a much nicer place.

If you would not say it in front of your aunt, you should not be saying it on the web to total strangers. I read an article on the internet pages of a national newspaper and was unsurprised at the vileness of the comments and the scathing attacks on the correspondent and other contributors.

Facebook and Twitter are laced with off colour remarks and opinions, filth, stupidity, foul-mouthed offensive remarks seem to be the norm in this day and age, civility for many seems to be consigned to the scrapheap. Is it time to remove the ability to be anonymous, and time to introduce responsibility for our words and actions on the net?

Blind man tasered.

October 17, 2012

Some things trouble me for one reason or another, and some things that troubled me at one time, no longer cause me too much concern. The problem with ageing is that perspective changes over time, and our lens on life become a tad more focused on things that really matter. Things that matter as we grow older are for the most part, incomprehensible until we are faced with with the realisation, they are important.

 

To learn that a man, an older man with failing eyesight, reliant upon a white stick when out and about, was taken for a sword wielding hooligan beggars belief. Importantly in this story, the aggressive police officer who used a taser on him for no other reason than the officer felt this slow walking, blind man was a genuine threat to public safety. It was a good job the victim had his back to the officer in question, else the officer would have seen the look of abject horror on the old man's face.

 

In Cyprus in 1974, I had cause to shout at a man to identify himself before I fired a round from my rifle. I warned him I was armed and that if he failed to stop, I would fire. Said in English, and as I was in Cyprus, I used Greek and Turkish words as well. My shouted warning was clear and many people stopped, turned to face the shouting man and gave me time to assess the situation. No shot was fired that time, no man was hurt or worse.

 

My troubled concern tells me now, that somehow I find it hard to believe that a british police officer, could fail to give proper warning before doing something harmful to a member of the public. Thank heavens the officer was not armed with live ammunition. But what of the officers training, was it adequate and comprehensive, do his supervisors know by how much they have failed the taxpayer?

 

As I get a little older, I see more clearly what things matter more, and if I had been there at the time, that officer would have woken up in a hospital.

 

Beeping Carbon Monoxide Detector, SF350EN

December 19, 2011

Hi

last night the carbon monoxide detector you gave us, started to emit a single beep every few moments. I know this means the battery is low. My partner hid the thing so we could sleep and deal later.

I called the given number and listened to an awful lot of stuff before getting to the point, wait for it, you wont believe me here,. but the voice instructed me to find a cocktail stick or electricians screwdriver…

The robotic voice carried on while I searched for the said items and then told me to press number nine. I did so, no effect, wait, yes… I got a dial tone…
Now I had the detector going beep every moment or so and a cocktail stick. I started to poke the cocktail stick in each of its little holes trying to work out why I was armed with a small wooden pointy thing.

I jabbed a number of small holes and then broke the end off the cocktail stick. No problem, I have another stick, and retrieved it. The device still beeps quite alarmingly every moment. Batteries may be flat or not, but this thing refuses to die no matter what hole I jab with cocktail sticks. It’s hard to believe in this day and age of sophisticated electronic equipment, a company uses its help line to promote a magazine for a product I have never used and then tells me to arm myself with a cocktail stick.

Now, we have a beeping carbon monoxide detector and a small pile of broken cocktail sticks, so I tried to call another number, useless, so threw the whole shebang into the waste bin in the kitchen.

It still beeps.

I retrieved it from the waste bin.(but left the broken cocktail sticks in the bin)

I recall that some detectors have toxic metals inside them, I don’t know if they are safely contained or not, I have to assume they ( the toxic metals) are open to the air and are used as part of the Carbon Monoxide detection.

So now, to be more accurate, I have a plastic container, containing toxic metals, sitting on my counter top annoying the hell out of me and beeping in a manner to frustrate.

Please, can you let me know:-
a) How to get rid of it.
b) How to replace it?

Most sincerely Yours

Visiting my younger sister.

September 10, 2011

Decided to visit my sister in her new house. Took the iPad to blog with, but had such a good time, completely forgot to write anything. So posted this picture before set off for home.

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It started as overcast, but improved minute by minute.

Eve-Online confirms they have no space stations.

June 22, 2011

Shoot and destroy

For many years, avid fans of CCP’s On-line game, Eve-Online, have shared in a massive fantasy, richly painted with space ships, armadas of them, planets, moons, suns and asteroid belts. For countless thousands of players, the fictional three dimensional space enabling players to shoot at, and destroy, opposing players space ships, has masked CCP’s inability to actually create something that was not there.

Players get so, ‘wrapped’ up in the imaginative environment, hurtling through space at impossible speeds, passing suns and planets in their static silent orbits, piloting space ships as large as city blocks, or scuttling along on small  space craft no larger than a family car, meeting other pilots on the same team, at  some point in deep space, then sharing nuclear tipped weaponry and descending upon opposing players to shoot, kill and destroy them.

Children from the age of four have been running around the house ‘shooting’ at their brothers and sisters with fingers pointed ahead of them gun style. CCP have extended those fun times to the adults of today, to enable harmless fun of killing other people with no cost, in a sandbox where the players rich imagination have filled in all the missing blanks. Godmodding, had found a home.

Safe Place

Even in a sandbox, things can go wrong. Maybe a player does not want to square up too those wanting to shoot his ships from the sky, so he headed for the safety of a nearby space station, for once in the space station, he could ignore those taunting him to come out and fight.

The player could choose to answer back verbally over the communications systems, or choose to ‘jump’ to another station,  or even log off and introduce another character in another place unknown to his aggressors. The space station was a very real place. You could hang around outside of them waiting for your prey to come out and play, or you could hide in them. They existed for all intents and purposes, and to suggest they only existed in the players imagination, would have conflicted with the ‘sandbox’ medium we have been given to play in.

Captains Quarters

Every player has been given a three dimensional space, a room in a space station, with a bed, chair and a filthy ashtray. The player can walk around in the room with a puppet of their design. The room is in the space station, not on board a ship, not in a ‘porta-kabin’ lashed to the outside bulkheads of the station, but  ‘in the station’.

The concept of every player having their own room, set aside for their personal use, on every space station in the game would mean hundreds of thousands of empty rooms waiting for their owner occupier to make use of them. The logistics are mind boggling. Players can have three characters per account, ergo, the number of rooms available to players has to be increased three fold. The numbers become staggering.

For Captains Quarters to exist, the logical place for them has to be on the players computer.  The players computer only has to create the room when the player ‘docks’ in a station, so the room does not need to  exist while the player is in space. This means the mindboggling numbers of captains quarters waiting to be occupied is negated. Space stations don’t have any quarters in them, Captains or otherwise.

The space station is nothing more than a three dimensional externally rendered graphic. We know this, but the illusion was that it was a safe place we could dock, to hide, or trade, or refine ores, or build ships.

Now, the space station, with its huge volume of graphical content, is housed on the players computer. The better the computer, the better the quality of the environment. Simply put, a weak computer means the ‘mirror’ is a bland slab on the wall with no reflective ability whatsoever, but the more expensive powerful computer, can internally render the mirror correctly and fabricate the reflections accurately. Your processing power is needed to create the illusion.

Why have reflections in a mirror?

The only reason for the mirror, is to enable you to see your characters puppet from the front and  the rear at the same time, and what it would look like if it you purchased  the in-game dressing up products CCP are doing their best to cajole you into paying real money for. It is a marketing exercise.

What is the cost?

The cost of rendering the Captains Quarters is borne totally by the end user. It is a huge download and relies totally on the user have the best graphics cards available if they want to experience the immersive reality of the imaginative display. The sandbox is being taken away and being replaced with a storefront where you, the player, are expected to be the customer.

CCP are letting players believe that the Captains Quarters will be a sharable space, and that outside of the quarters, inside the station, will be a space for players to meet each other and interact. Now we have to ask ourselves, on who’s PC will we meet our friends in Captains Quarters?

If my pc is weaker and on a slower connection, the technical cost of hosting the room space for my friends to visit me might be untenable. And do I want to extra traffic as players  send their image to meet mine and then return it to them? If I elect to meet my friends on their pc, then I have to accept the lag and delay caused by sending my image to their PC, and aiting for it to return to be rendered on my pc. This is getting complicated. Too complicated for anything more than one or two players.

Meetings

The concept of a team leader, bringing together twenty or thirty players to meet up in ‘his quarters’ is a technical challenge rarely met even in real world boardrooms. Where countless tens of thousands have been spent on IT infrastructure to enable ‘face to face’ boardroom meetings when players are all over the world.

If the rooms are ‘not’ in the space station, then the space stations are just empty graphics, just as we know they are,  and just the way we want them, little to create on the pc and little overhead in having them there.

If the space stations are going to have substance, space for player to player interaction, (read shops, malls, advertising), then that is two more things to concern players, a larger download, with more bandwidth being used to interchange updates in players positions and movements, and a hosting issue for CCP creating these ‘spaces’ to enable players to find them, and meet in them. Just imagine Jita, currently slowed to  crawl by the large numbers of players ships interacting with each other, imagine that with player models, each with different clothes, shapes, features, all vying for processor time, and each character needing to be constantly downloaded and updated on every pc.

Linden Labs, Second Life.

Linden Labs introduced a workable model described above, in ‘Second Life’ over ten years ago, and to this day still suffers immense lag when multiple players try to interact with each other, and where boundary crossing can cause nightmarish update lag. The sad thing for most players in Second Life, was the huge amounts of data being constantly downloaded in real time. Players in England often found they exceeded their cap limit from their ISP and found the penalty for enjoying ‘Second Life’ was the imposition of strict download limits from their ISP.

In  ‘Second Life’ players could choose all the characteristics of their avatar, height, weight, shape, skin colour, eye colour and in more ways than CCP permit, and with good reason, ‘Second Life’ was about the avatar, Eve-online is about shooting at other players in deep space where ships are the size of city blocks, and the players are in tiny capsules embedded in those gargantuan vessels.

CCP does not need that, Eve-online users do not want that. The marketing guys waiting to sell players all sorts of stuff are screaming out for it so they can showcase their digital goods to tease the customer into parting with their real money.

Eve-online finally has near decent working turrets on the ships flown by capsuleers, and it is a good thing, long awaited and long wanted. Somehow I think the value of the introduction of new turrets is going to be lost while people wonder what happened to their PC as it crawls along limping through megabytes of graphics, in scenes that are dark, dour, prison like and unfriendly in the extreme.

Random Sunshine

June 3, 2011

It is another yet another Friday, the trigger for a million different ways to spend a weekend. This is the first Friday this month, a rare event, and one that cannot be repeated this year. The sunshine earlier in the morning invaded our senses and caused with no undue certainty, for the kitchen door to be opened to the garden, giving both the cat free access and the gentle warm breeze the ability to wander into the house as the muse took it.

I have been engrossing myself in online games of the multi-player style for the last couple months, and as the days have blended together disfiguring the calendar into a grotesque admonishment, an apology for entropy. Now today, I find myself under a shady umbrella beside our garden table, tapping away enjoying a balmy influx of delightful weather. This must be the second best day this year, if we get another warm zephyrs day, it will possibly be a new record for the meteorological office to boast about.

Our small English garden is awash with birdsong, the regular whine of aircraft engines passing overhead to and from Manchester or Liverpool. Missing is the incessant racket of children ‘enjoying’ themselves, telling me the nearby infant level school must be closed for yet another school term holiday.

Our lawn needs cutting again, but that, I remind myself, is now the task of the housing companies gardener teams. The rag-taggle band of guerilla gardeners with a creed to inflict themselves onto the quietness being enjoyed by innocent victims. The come armed with the most noisy encroutriments imaginable. Leaf blowers, strimmers, hover mowers and all powered by raucous petrol driven engines.

But I am enjoying this rare wonderful weather and writing about it. What could be finer?

Summer sunshine finds my garden flowers

April 9, 2011

This weekend is a typical English Summer weekend, for out from nowhere appeared clear blue skies, a gentle breeze and hours upon hours of unending sunshine.

I have taken the chance, to spend a few moments in my greenhouse hide-away to make my first new tech blog. I have a new small camera, and my iPad and a head full of ideas.

The garden is beautiful this time of year with the spring flowers in abundance, sadly, the only ‘fly in the ointment’ is a close neighbour has a radio station playing full blast with electronic screaming, badly rhyming lyrics and a discordant cacophony.

I can hear a Robin nearby declaring his intent to be the noisiest bird on the block and his chirrups, whistles and unabashed song lift me and fill me with a need to start writing.

I have connected the camera memory card to the Apple IPad adapter and plugged same into the slot in the iPad, downloaded the images and have to select one for publication.

Dan de-lion, who’s spectacularly golden head reflects the sunlight vividly among the sea of deep green leaves that form the rest of the plant. Many, including my partner, bless her, feel the humble dandelion to be a weed, an unwelcome invader, and a plant to be removed at all costs. But for me, it is a dazzling celebration of the changing air that tells me winter is past and that apart from wind and rain, the sun has again come to my home. This incredibly powerful plant, simply in it’s design, unchanged for countless millennia, carries so many good things for the pharmacist, for the artist and for those who use the flowers as a year clock, describing each change in season as accurately as any escapement regulated clock on the mantelpiece.

KS

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