Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Tech stuff

Android – I have no Desire for thee

A signal a signal my kingdom for a signalFurther to NickM’s post on his Android woes (of the current technology telecommunications variety rather than the future technology anthropomorphic electronic servant one), I was just going to post a comment, but it turned into a bit of a middle-aged-bloke-techno-rant.

Android vs Androids

However, since that is a perfectly valid perspective with a reasonable market share in the blogosphere, I thought I would upgrade it to a full-on blog post. I mean what the hell, it’s only electrons being shoved about isn’t it? – it’s not like they’ve got anything better to do – like holding together the structure of the universe…

So first-things-first, Sorry Nick, but I can’t help you with your problem, but it’s not because I don’t understand either the technology or your perspective (not that my knowledge of either necessarily helps your current predicament), because I have played a very, very minor role in developing the technology that you are currently afflicted with.

In between building hoppers for surface-to-air missile systems that couldn’t hit a barn door if they were holding the handle, I also worked on some of the 2G and 3G mobile phone technology at Marconi Electronic Systems as part of their military communications portfolio. I also sold part of a company based upon WAP and SMS-based message notification, so I’m not exactly clueless or even old-fashioned as far as both analogue and digital phone technology goes.

The problem is that the Motorola RAZRi you are holding in your hands is not really a mobile phone in the accepted sense. You might think it is, it might even be advertised as a mobile phone, but it fundamentally isn’t. What you are coveting in your palm is a piece of “Convergent Digital Technology

It is certainly the way of the future, along with James Tiberius Kirk , his toupée and the Tribbles, but it ain’t a part of the here-and-now.

Now don’t get be wrong, in actual fact it is a wonderful example of technological development, but it has been developed without any fundamental understanding of where it, or indeed the whole field of mobile communications is actually going.

Put simply, Nick’s Motorola RAZRi is about as close to a mobile phone as a Leopard 2A7+ tank is to the Trojan Horse.

One of these is not a Trojan horse

Now I may well be a cynical old sod, harking back to a technological antediluvian era which never really existed, but I tried out some of the 2nd generation Android technology with my last corporate mobile phone (an HTC Desire), back in 2011 and although it was very flashy in everything else, e-mail, contacts, storing data, mobile internet, games consoles, emulators, blah, blah, blah – it was fundamentally a shit mobile phone.

Half the time the call would either never pick up when I pressed “Accept” or if it did pick-up I couldn’t hear what the other party was saying anyway, or I got disconnected or it ran out of power or it just plain froze up on me or etc, etc, etc. You get the picture (unless its by MMS)

Now, I’m sure the technology and the reliability have moved on since 2011, but I was so fucked off with my initial experience of Android (and I expect iPhone’s are no better), that I decided there-and-then that my next phone would be a phone, not one of these fancy multimedia MTC gadgets, but just a phone – i.e. a 10-number keypad and two buttons, one to dial and one to hangup.

Since then I’ve been happy as Larry with a cheap, SIM-only, no contract, dual-SIM (Malaysian and European), battery-life-of-a-week Nokia 108 that I picked up in Penang for a groat (well 140 RM to be honest, but never-the-less cheap enough for me). It has a camera I’ve never used  and about the only accessory I have used on it is the Alarm Clock.

It works perfectly in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Europe and I’ve never (to my knowledge) lost a call or misheard an address.

Maybe the technology has moved on since my failed experience in 2011, but I as a customer, certainly have. When Motorola invent a working teleportation device, let me know – but someone else can be the guinea pig – after all, I’ve read Stephen King’s “The Jaunt”.

Paranoid Android

So, Ray Kurzweil has joined Google (or Skynet) in an attempt to push AI into the Nexus 6 phase or something. I have some thoughts on all this but they are quite complicated and can wait.

Meanwhile back on Planet Nick I’ve got a problem with my Android phone.

I was trying to change my wallpaper to a nice photo I’d taken and got the error:

“Unfortunately, Google+ has stopped.”

My vague understanding is Google+ handles a lot of the multimedia type antics so this is bloody magic. This has happened apropos of nothing I can think of. I really haven’t messed around with the phone which I’ve only had about 3-4 months. It’s a Motorola RAZRi* on the Three network. It’s a nice phone and hasn’t been any hassle. I got it because it was cheap(ish), tough as hell (aluminium, Gorilla Glass, Kevlar) and has a one-touch from dead straight into camera which is cool because I wanted a snap-shot camera (lugging a DSLT and lenses etc being something I only do if I know there is something to photograph). It’s Android 4.1.2. The only app I have installed is Google Starmap and that was a while back and was seamless. It’s free and a pretty good app.

Now. I have tried clearing the cache and doing a hard reboot. I haven’t cleared the app data (I saw that suggested but I am loathe because I dunno what that deletes exactly though it’s about 800K so it can’t be too much). I guess I could always just yank the piccies to a computer and do a factory reset but I kinda want to understand what is going on and all that. And I’d have to put all my contacts in again…

Any help gratefully appreciated.

*i.e. a Google Motorola. Ask me Lenovo can’t get cracking soon enough.

Modern Life is Rubbish #2 of 10(-ish)

#2 – Facebook

I don’t have a problem with Facebook per-se. But I do have a specific issue.

Now consider my situation. I am 40 and lots of people I was at school with try and get in touch via Facebook. Now leaving aside the fact we largely haven’t seen each other in 20 years – leaving that aside for good reason what I despise about Facebook can be summed-up in a simple question, “How the fuck do you know who it is?”. Seriously. There are three mammoth probs here (all related).

First. The piccies are passport size – titchy. This is not easy if you ain’t seen the bugger for twenty years. One fella on my Facebook is bald as a coot but he wasn’t when I used to have a pint with him when we were 19. He also clearly took his avatar from the Skype-cam on his lappy in very poor lighting. Fortunately he has a moderately unusual name and no kids.

So why does those things matter? Because it is vastly easier to clock whether a Facebooker is the first person you ever properly kissed if they are a bloke and are therefore vastly less likely to have changed their name due to marriage(s) – alas due to my general heterosexuality this does not apply to me.

This happened to me a couple of years ago. J poked me. Right, I hadn’t seen here since we got our A-Level results in 1992, second, she had changed her hair-style (probs several times being a girl and all that), thirdly she had a scanned passport photo as an avatar but finally she’d got married and changed her surname yet (of course) kept her first name which should have been handy if it wasn’t a very common name.

So I replied to her poke (which is rude anyway) and she got very snotty with me when I asked if she was the same J from my class at school. Very snotty. Well, I’ve kissed girls from multiple continents since and she was nowt special. But what really annoyed me was she seemed to think I should automatically recognise someone I hadn’t seen for 20 years and only snogged once in 1988 as the result of a game of “spin the bottle”. And she was a Brosette at the time (note my point on hair).

There is another thing though. Apart from dreadful images (they don’t help) for obvious reasons (being 40 and all) a large number of folks I was at school with are married with kids. Now I mentioned the surname change but a hubby and kids? Look, nowt against it but within the space of a Facebook piccie 5 people and a dog and a changed surname means it could be anyone.

It narks me.

Snapdo

I have a Snapdo infection on Win Vista on my old Toshiba Tecra M9. I have tried all the spells in the book but it keeps on coming back. Essentially Windows installer just goes round and round when I nix the installed Snapdo and that has to be removed. I’m normally pretty good on this sort of stuff but this is a bastard and no mistake. Any ideas?

The main problem seems to be it just seizes when you try and do any of the sensible things. I couldn’t even get as far as trying to expunge it from the Reg.

And no, I have tons of stuff on this so “nuking it from orbit” is not an option.

Thanks,

Nick.

PS If I ever catch the bastard behind this then it is a case of Mr Soldering-Iron meet Mr Urethra.

Magnifying Specs…

I’m in the market for a pair of them magnifying/ illuminating specs for digging inside computers. Any ideas? If it’s avail. on Amazon that’s grand for I have vouchers.

PS. I just bought a new smartphone from Three. They put it in a bag clearly marked “Three” or in Charver “Mug that guy”. It’s a Motorola RAZRi which suits me. Thanks to all the folks who commented. I have often posted on personal consumer choices here and always been astonished and humbled by how good you guys are. Central Manc-land was panda-fucking-monium this after.

I overheard this gem from some geezer in the Carphone Warehouse. He was trying to flog a high-end Sony to an middle-aged couple…

“Well, it’s waterproof so you can take pictures of yourself under the bath water mind that depends on what assets you have to photo”. I just left. They seemed to think it OK. Yup, the possibility to photograph sodden genitals on 4G and upload to facebook and see if anyone “likes”. Magic. That is precisely what this tech was invented for.

About 18 years ago I bought my first PC – a Elonex 386SX clocked at 16Mhz with 4 Meg of RAM and a 120Meg HD. This bugger has (if memory serves) !Gb of working RAM, a 2GHz Intel Atom chip and 5Gb of storage (which is upgradeable by micro SD). The computer cost GBP350 (inc monitor) second hand. The brand new phone cost GBP150. In some bizarre sense I am aware of this progress and it repels me that a salesman might even suggest this wondrous technological advance is great so that a middle-aged man might take sub-aqua pictures of his cock. That and the salesman just sounded a sleazy git.

No matter. The nice lady in the Three shop made no crass sexual comments, was helpful and friendly and I now have more computing power in my top-pocket than a Bond villain had in his volcano. And no I didn’t ask if they’d throw in a Mao suit and a Persian cat. Or the fit birds with up-does, specs, lab coats and clipboards. Ah, well, I guess World domination can wait. I have to clean the bathroom anyway.

Having said all that about my spanky new phone the trip in or out of town on Northern Rail was Asoka. Not for the first time I fare-dodged not through any desire to do but because I simply couldn’t buy a ticket. Having said that I felt Turd World – especially when I entered the bog which was veritably Greek in standards partly because any quantity of junk had been chucked down it because there were no bins. The Dame Judith was… Well, if you’d bottled that Tony Blair would be off the hook over Iraqi WMDs. It smelt like their had been a fucking cholera epidemic localised to one train khazi. It was unbe-fucking-believable. But if Northern Rail can’t be fecked to sell tickets (one wonders what their gubbmunt grunt is?) I can’t be fecked to buy them. Or more to the point I just simply couldn’t. And I had the money on the hip.

Christ almighty! It is dismal. There was no way I could have easily walked-out of the Three store with my phone without paying for it but Northern Rail… Put it this way, which company would you buy shares in?

Site down

Just to let you all know, the site disappearing over night had nothing to do with equipment failing.

Problem description:  While Australia slept the cat knocked the router off the shelf and the cable fell out.

Temporary solution:  Plug the cable back in and leave the router on the floor.

Long term solution:  Shoot cat.

Source of the problem

20130906_105234

Optimus Prime?

I’m in the market for a phone…

Halt Nick here and return to a question I asked a bit back about gen-gapping. My wife tonight said something about reading a book on her phone. How far back would that have seemed like a statement of true oddness like scuba diving with a trombone?

Anyway, I need something cheap, nice(ish), and I don’t really care about the camera. And it has to be PAYG because I’ll be probed up the Gary Glitter by LGM before I sign-up to a 24 month contract for a phone. Just in principle.

Anyhows the LG Optimus L1 II seems to fit the bill. Any ideas?

I had to dig a bit (not much but you know we live in the century of instant gratification*) to get much beyond the blurb…

Stylish design. Rounded contours and easy lines combine to create a form that fits perfectly in your palm.

Quite bizarre how what is essentially a pocket computer with a radio can be described in almost exactly the same tones as a 1950s Hollywood starlet. I mean I’ve stuck my penis into a number of things but I draw the line at getting on the Universal Sexual Bus (yes, even USB3!). Anyway it has wifi. Anyone for teledildonics?. The Pimms shall also be virtual.

But is it OK? I just mean OK and is there anything else at around that price to consider? I like the sound of the Three 321 price-plan BTW. I simply don’t want to spent much on a phone because it’s just a phone and I am not the sort of wanker who queues all night to spend 709 quid on an iPhone5S. I do wonder about the mentality of someone with the thick-end of a grand spending the night on Oxford Street. I do wonder…

*I wish my physics extended to inventing the “time-travel bar” where you could get sex before buying a couple of cocktails. I’d make a fortune in payments to my defunct Northern Crock a/c. I’d need The Doctor’s note (and God knows how the tax would work) to access the funds mind. An accountant in a periwig would probs see most of it in Quatloos.

Politics in it’s old hat.

This started as a reply to Sam’s comment here.

Sam, you have a point. The older I get the more I realise that politically we are regressing to a bastardized-Victoriana that never really existed. How else would the largest ever proposed engineering project in British history be a railway that George and Robert Stephenson could envisage – literally – it’s George’s gauge metal rails of course. It’s also 50 billion quid jizzed up the wall

It was cutting edge when George and son were building the Rocket but that was nigh on 200 years from an MP idling on the track and getting mown-down by the Rocket to the first paying passenger getting on the “new” HS2. What happened to the Fairey Rotodyne? Political pignorance and bastarding fuckwittery is what happened. There were concerns over noise (Fairey had got it down to the sound of a tube train). The fact the US military wanted loads of ‘em was irrelevant. The fact there was significant commercial interest in a high-speed city to city VTOL aircraft matter nothing if it scared the horses. Literally. The Bellendius Maximus who first championed HS2 was (and is) Lord Adonis. Yes, it does sound like he should be a porn-star. Lord Andrew [which means "manly" BTW] Adonis looks like this…

What mental image do you have of a Lord Adonis? A sort of demi-god who traded blows with Hektor of Troy? Or that piss-poor wankenshaft? He wrote a scholarly history of the poll-tax.

Short version. I did more against that. I simply didn’t pay. Not because I objected nor because I knew it was wrong as such but because I knew I could get the feck away with it and those quids in my pocket were worth more to me than being in the pockets of the cuntcil. At the time, there was, as ever a C19th (perceived as) idea that the community charge was either right or wrong. I just didn’t want to pay. Yes, I was shellfish. I was the full lobster.

So I didn’t pay and they never got me. So, what’s my point? Well, possibly it is Ike’s about “guided missiles but unguided men”. No politricks this last fifty years has moved much beyond WWI. Anywhere.

Look at the lavish expense of HS2 and compare with the dismal spending on Skylon? The first is a C19th solution to a C21st problem and the second is an SSTO aerospace plane that would result in Bristol Filton being re-monikered “Bristol International Spaceport”. Now if that isn’t cooler than making the trip from London to Birmingham 15 minutes shorter I despair. I have been to Birmingham. It’s OK but space!

It is the chronic lack of imagination that gets me about politricks.

And put it this way… 50 billion quid in you or my pocket is much more likely to get us to Mars than any ammount in the poche of the taxman. And that will only get you to Brum.

Which is like OK and all but seriously nothing to write home about.

Birmingham – it’s OK I guess.

Just to clear everything up

CCinZ degraded somewhat in reliability and performance the last couple of years.

However:

Starting upstream and moving down, We now have a new service provider providing three times the bandwidth, a new front end router, a new physical server running a new install of a new host operating system with three times the memory and five times the processing power. We have a new virtual server with four times the memory and three times the processing power, with a new and clean install of the latest FreeBSD, and a clean install of the latest release of WordPress.

And yesterday I installed a new backend router, behind the server, although that doesn’t affect you at all.

Sheesh.

I will be mightily peeved if this system starts acting up any time soon.

Nokia fights back

I am not a fan of Microsoft on smartphones. I am more of a Samsung aficionado, my Galaxy Note II is simply the most useful device I have ever owned, and I will give it up only when it is prised from my cold dead hands…

However, is Nokia on to a winner here?

They have spent the last few years watching open mouthed as Apple and Samsung carved up their market dominance and walked off with it. I thought the Nokia tie up with Microsoft was a mistake, but what do I know?

I have just seen a couple of reviews of the new Lumia 1020, with a 41 megapixel camera sensor, and I am blown away.

Yep, 41 megapixels.

It will save a 38 Megapixel image, which will withstand 3x digital zoom while still retaining detail, and also save a 5 Megapixel image for sharing.

I don’t think this is an Apple beater, but, given how popular smartphone photography has become, I do think it is a Nokia saver.

Now, a Galaxy Note, with this resolution and optical zoom, would cement my love affair with Samsung for life. Be a bit bulky tho.

Update:

Sam Duncan suggested we have a look at this site for smartphone news. Good call.

For an overview of just how comprehensively Nokia have managed to trash their market lead I have read nothing better than this.

That Dashing Young Man and His — WHAT Machine??

Over at Samizdata, Natalie has posted something on the mewlings of a certain Public Intellectual. One thing led to another with the result that Nick (nice-guy) Gray brought up what he calls “mental pollution.” Through the magic of YrsTrly’s wetware, the same found this, which might provide some entertainment for those Kitties who are loafing around rather than occupying themselves properly with Kounting….

There is a short video of this technological miracle in operation at

http://www.computerhistory.org/babbage/

While there, visitors might wish to consult the Site Map.

Sorted – I think

Ok, it has taken me three weeks to get this bloody thing sorted, but here we go.

We have lost all postings since the database corrupted (sorry Julie and RAB), but there were only a small number of them.

Anyway, we are now running on new physical hardware, and the error forced me to do a badly needed complete rebuild of the virtual machine as well. We are up to the latest releases of both FreeBSD and WordPress.

The VM is running with four times the memory, five times the free disk capacity and double the number of processors.

I am sure I will hear about any problems.

Bear with me while I get the theme (look and feel) sorted.

Misery and pessimism

On my recent holiday (cruising the South Seas don cha kno) there were get togethers by people of various interests. One of these was engineers. Anyone on the cruise who had been an engineer of any type was invited to sit in with a group of others, and drink coffee and chat for an hour or two.

On one occasion a question was asked: who present thought that things would be worse for future generations than they are today? A pile of hands went up. Then the same bloke asked: who thought things would be better?

My hand shot up, of course, and that was it. Me. Alone. These were engineers of all types, mechanical, electronic, chemical, production. Men who know how the world works and know how to keep it working – and not one thought their grand children and great grand children would have better lives and higher living standards than they.

Of course, that let to discussions, some people curious why I was an optimist, the sole optimist present, and some not impressed at all. Still, I found this fascinating, every single one of these men had bought into the Malthusian cool aid (yeah, mixing my metaphors).

Anyway, that leads to this article at The Conversation, on the future of space development. The writer is optimistic about the future, even if she has been suckered by the Marxist inspired Space and Moon Treaties, but again, every commentator to the posting – bar one, me – has bought into the miserablist narrative. Space is a waste of money and lets drop the whole thing. Besides, we’re all gunna die anyway.

Sigh.

Can anyone explain why?

There’s a Cr-App for that…

Now what exactly do we need to invent? Better treatments for cancer? Absolutely! Cheap orbital access? For sure! Room temp superconductors? Of course!

But no! Instead human ingenuity has given us this. Behold!

With recent figures showing a huge rise in the number of toddlers being given iPads and other expensive gadgets, the iPotty – a potty with a built in iPad holder, might not be as daft as it first seems.

Yes, it is as daft as it first seems. And why dear Gods are people giving toddlers iPads? I honestly don’t really see the point of iPads anyway. I mean let’s all buy a piss-poor laptop without a keyboard for more money and no HD. Steve Jobs must be chuckling from the grave. If I had a kid (a fair bit above potty training age) I’d get ‘em a Raspberry Pi. I mean I had a Speccy as a kid. I didn’t take it into the bathroom, mind. And I programmed it rather than watched Peppa sodding Pig.

The invention, goes on sale in March from CTA digital for $39.99. [About the same as a Pi].

Some experts have pointed out it shows how easy the iPad is to use.

Experts? It’s not rocket science. It’s playing “Angry Birds” whilst having a shit. I mean for fuck’s sake! I mean I can code. I even recall creating MSDOS 5 boot-disks to get games to play on my 386 (I also recall when this was all trees) and stuff. In short I prefer to write code and batch things rather than the “more human level” shitty little fingers scraping the screen.

‘When the Apple marketing bods said using the iPad was like child’s play, I don’t think they had this in mind,’ said Stuart Miles of gadget website Pocket Lint.

No shit Sherlock!

Give me a Linux system or similar – I still miss AmigaDOS – I’ll take that anyday rather than a (Hamid) Khazi with a load of junk from Cupertino made by the slaves of Foxconn.

I hope you’re all impressed by my avoiding of such terms as “logging-on”.

Typed on a Lenovo S205 running Win7.

In the event of failure

Do you know much about data communications networking structures?

The most common type of network you are likely to come across is is what is called a client-server network. The local device, the phone in your pocket, the computer on your desk at work, register themselves with a big fat central machine, and as the client then make requests that the central machine provide services. Your phone, for instance, along with every other nearby phone, registers with a local base station and asks that that station provide the service of relaying on telephone calls, SMS texts, Internet accesses and so on. As you move around the phone detects which of many base stations have the strongest signal and continually re registers with new ones as you pass them. Of course, when you get out into the wilderness the phone can be stuffed, no station signal strong enough to allow registration or communication.

Thing is, it isn’t just wilderness areas where communications can drop away either. Consider a natural disaster, an earthquake in a city, or a wild fire in the countryside, where the local base station infrastructure can be wiped out; situations where communications are critical but suddenly non existent?

With current client server models you are stuffed.

(more…)

%d bloggers like this: