All posts by Tony Blews

Windows XP – Three Years Dead

Windows XP has now been officially dead for 3 years now. Yes it really has been that long since Microsoft cut off support for the wheezing old grampus. Has the lack of support really changed anything though?

Well, for me at least, no. I still use my aging WinXP machine every day. It may be an aging laptop (DELL Latitude X300) with a wonky screen, iffy keyboard and unreliable battery, but having long ago been re-purposed as a desktop (new screen, keyboard and mouse – total cost £35), it is still working remarkably well. Sure, I don’t play games on it (except a hooky version of WoW on my testing server – but shush about that), but nothing else has changed.

The machine itself is nearly 14 years old, which in today’s fast paced computing terms puts it about on the same level as a car built in the 1950s. And like a certain vehicle made in the 1950s, these buggers were made to last (Land Rover Series I, if you wondered).

Like an elderly car, you can’t expect miracles with a 14 year old laptop running a 15 year old operating system. You aren’t going to set any speed records, or impress anyone, but if you know your limits, you’ll be ok.

I still regard computers mainly as tools, so I enshew the bells and whistles and shiny things that attract idiots. I hated Tablets until I was given one, but thats another story.

So for the tools I use: Context, PuTTY, VB6, PhotoShop CS2, Filezilla, the Arduino IDE, OpenOffice, TightVNC and Firefox, everything works fine.

But surely, you ask, don’t you have problems with viruses? Well, in a word, no. Because I’m not an idiot.

 

Crackpot Brexit Theory

So now its time for my Crackpot Theory – which I formulated while having a crap.

Brexit will fail. Spectaculary. And this is why:

The Tories never wanted Brexit, but the Cambot put it in the manifesto because politicians will tell you any old shit to get votes and they didn’t really expect to win anyway.

Sudden shock, they win. Oh crap, we have to carry out one promise, so lets go ahead with the referendum, because nobody in their right mind will actually go for it.

Teresa May appears in a load of photos supporting “IN”.

Boris the Moron is appointed on “OUT” duties, as he is a total buffoon. Surely nobody could agree with that idiot.

Nobody takes this thing seriously, as those in power think that the public have some common sense.

Lies are told (Syria in the EU, £350 million, etc)

Euston, we have a problem. It seems after all that the British public are a bunch of jingoistic, gullible fuckwits.

Brexit wins by a tiny majority.

Cambot realises that as he was on the “IN” side he has to quit, so he makes a speech, wanders off making “do-de-doo” noises and has a wank.

Much butt-clenching terror within the party as everyone tries to not be leader. By now they are playing a game of pass-the-parcel, and the parcel contains a massive turd

Theresa May (Thatchbot 2.0) ends up with her hands covered in shit and realises that she has to come up with a way out of this.

There is no easy out on this. So now she has to adopt the “OUT” stance. She is commited to commiting economic suicide. And no, I’m not proud of that sentence.

Terms are invented. “Red White and Blue” seems to become a way to describe something other than a flag, and a very good Blues band see their website hit counter go mental.

Bound to Execute Order 66 (or whatever), she does the only thing she can to derail things. She puts fuckwits in charge.

Its a well know practice that if you want something to fail horribly, then you assign the task of sorting it out to complete blithering idiots.

And that is where we are now.

No plan, idiots in charge, an absolute disaster.

An easy out. If its all fucked, we can pull the “didn’t mean it after all card” and actually get back to the business of selling stuff to Europe again.

Well apart from France. Don’t start me on the French Protectionist policy. Just go look up the SCART socket for more details about that.

Yes I said I came up with this on the shitter. No, I wasn’t feeling well that day.

Motorising Corgi OO Gauge Blackpool Trams

This is a guide to motorising the Balloon and Railcoach Blackpool trams made by Corgi, using the motor units made and sold by Connexions2011 on ebay (There is no direct link to the specific unit, as eBay items are ephemeral, so you’ll just have to go by the photo to identify the item you need).

This may seem like nothing more that a re-write of their instructions, but it includes my observations and thoughts on the process as it goes along.  With photos.

What you will need

A Balloon or Railcoach model.

balloonbrush
For this I’ll be using the Balloon tram.

A motor unit

motor-unit
(Photo taken from the eBay page – to help you identify the correct unit)

Some tools

  • 3mm Phillips screwdriver
  • A scalpel
  • A Dremel (or cheap Maplin copy)
  • A straight bit of OO track
  • Milliput
  • Superglue
  • Somthing to keep the bits in – I use a Bold 2in1 detergent box – its the perfect size:2016-10-27-08-48-07-hdr

So here we go…

Start by taking out the screws A, B and C.

balloon-step1a

The lifeguards at the ends should just pull away.  Put everything you’ve removed in the storage box. And assume that from now on you’ll be doing the same with everything you remove.

Next get the Dremel (or cheap Maplin clone) out, and drill around both of the metal poles between the wheelsets with a 1mm bit. Make a better job of it than I did.

balloon-step1b

You can now prise the base plate off by inserting a thin blade under each end of it, twisting slightly, and dropping the wheelsets on the floor. You’ll be wanting to pick them up.

Now you should have some twisted melted plastic bits stuck to the ends of the poles.

balloon-step1c

By a combination of whittling, grinding, and frantically twisting with a pair of pliers, these should come off an allow the whole tram to fall apart.

balloon-step1d

At this point you might want to do any dressing up of the top deck that you have planned, such as painting the floors, adding seat upholstery and mounting figures. I’m not doing that on this one.

Now you should have the roof unit with two poles sticking out from it.

balloon-step1eThese have to be removed, but take a lot of wiggling to do so. You might want to unbolt the pantograph/trolley pole mounting to avoid damage. If you do so, remember to re-attach it afterwards, just to avoid the screaming later on.

For now put the upper deck diecast part, upper glazing unit and upper seating area to one side. We’ll get back to them in a while.

Take the lower seating deck, and pull out the steps.

balloon-step1f

balloon-step1g

This is where we get destructive. We need to cut out a large area of the lower seating area. This is also where I deviate from the suggested instructions. The suggested idea is to re-mount the outer wheelsets. I’m not doing that, so I’m cutting the mounting points out and running the tram as a four-wheeler. This is in an attempt to get the tram to negotiate a tighter  curve than a 12″ radius.

I’ll get back to that in a moment, but for now let us deal with the upper deck sections, lower deck casing and lower deck glazing part.

Glue them together so that they all fit. Superglue is good.

balloon-step1h

Now we get to the nitty-gritty. We need to make the motor unit fit into the lower seating deck area in such a way that

If you are squeamish about poor workmanship, stop reading now, cos its going to get really ugly.

Cut out enough of the lower deck to fit the motor in:

cutout

Fit the motor from below:

motor-fitted

Now get it in to place to that the wheels are clear of the plastic and its got this much clearance:

motor-aligned

At this point you should be marking out where to drill mounting holes and brackets and things of that kidney. So I just decided to hold the ends in place with lumps of Milliput:

milliput-disaster1milliput-disaster2

These pics also show that the ends of the baseplate and life savers have been refitted.

Now all that there is to do it put the already assembled upper section on top of it, and have a look at it:

balloon-finished1

balloon-finished2

You can hardly tell that there aren’t bogies under there!

And thats it!

Gilneas – The City That Blizzard Forgot

Back in the long long ago, the before time (ok, December 2010), Blizzard released World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and everyone got all excited as they usually do. Then people got upset that their favourite race/class got downpowered, then they became happy that they could fly in the old lands for the first time, and that kept them busy for a while.

Alliance fanboys played rolled up Worgen characters and played their way through the new dedicated starting area.  They were amazed to see an amazing cod Victorian-Gothic land with some fantastic architecture and landscape, and of course, big fucking werewolves.

From the brooding darkness of Gilneas City, to the grandeur of Greymane Manor, the Gilneas starting zone is wonderful. It is a series of well thought out quest chains, stunning cutscenes, and… well then it ends. The character getting shuffled off to Rut’theran Village on Teldrassil, and Gilneas is never spoken of again.

Unlike the Goblin (and later Pandaren) starting areas, which are off on separate islands that can’t be returned to, Gilneas is on the Eastern Kingdoms mainland. You can go back there, but it most will have no reason to. There are no quests, no NPCs, no… anything, except a stunning and forgotten zone.

This makes is idea for roleplaying in, and, if you are in to such things, modifying to add quests and NPCs (but that is a subject for another day).

So… onward…

Get to Gilneas!

Well, to put it bluntly, one does not simply fly in to Gilneas.

Horde characters have a flightpoint at The Forsaken Front in Silverpine Forest, which is just north of the wall. (You might be lucky enough to have the Forsaken Forward Command flightpoint in Gilneas itself, but its not guaranteed).

The closest that Alliance players have to offer is Chillwind Camp in the Western Plaguelands, which is a long flight/run over/though Hillsbrad away.

Because of this faffery, if I were to be modding Cata WoW to add new content in Gilneas, I’d make it suitable for Level 60, as by that level the characters can fly in to it. Or, I’d make portals to get there. But I’m clearly not doing that as it is Against The Rules.

No matter how you get there, get there if you can.

Gilneas City

For now I’m just going to look at Gilneas City itself. The surrounding zone is the subject of another time.

So I suppose we should start with a map.

WorldMap-GilneasCity

The city, as you can see, is roughly circular and split in to five areas, which I’ll look at in turn, highlighting all the usable buildings and other features of note.

Merchant Square

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Merchant-Square

  • 1-10 denote open doors leading to small single room areas, large enough to hold maybe one NPC and some clutter.
  • 11 is a small graveyard.
  • 12 is the ruined market square.

If I were doing anything here, I’d put traders in the buildings and the square, and maybe a mourner at the graveyard.

Military District

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Military-District

  • 1  leads to a cellar full of cannons and cannonballs.
  • 2 and 3 lead to stair up and over the the roof, connecting to each other.

Greymane Court

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Graymane-Court

  • 1 leads to a tunnel that exits out in the main zone.
  • 2 & 3 are entrances to a small inn like building with a bedroom upstairs.

Cathedral Quarter

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Cathedral-Quarter

This area is a bit dull. There are no buildings to enter, just two large areas full of tents with Alliance banners by them.

Light’s Dawn Cathedral

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Cathedral

The Cathedral is just one large room. Maybe you could stage a rock festival in here, or even a wedding.

The End

So there’s your quick tour of Gilneas City. I’m sorry there are no actual screen shots, but if you want to see it go visit it yourself.

 

 

 

 

Conspiracy Theory Top Gear Brexit Bollocks

OMG!!!!! Did anyone else spot the number plate of the Rolls Royce that Chris Evans drove in the Top Gear episode last sunday? BRX522T!!!! This was clearly an attempt to brainwash the common folk to vote for the Brexit Campaign, even though it was shown three days after the vote! This plate was assigned to the car when it was first registered in Newcastle in 78/79, and Evans has owned it for a few years. This just goes to show how far back the conspiracy goes.

shitstir copy

A non-story started by me, just now… shall we see how it goes?

Model Railway Arduino Signals – Design

As previously explained, I’m working on the use of an Arduino and an old laptop to control the points on my very small N Gauge model railway. Well, I’m also going to control the signals too.

Working on this track plan:

Simplified Garwick Track Plan

I consulted my tame signalling engineer (some say that he once completly ruined the brakes on my MG Montego, and that he spends his spare time writing cod-1950s hard-boiled detective story versions of his work, but all we know is that he’s called The Sig), explaining to him that all the lines were bi-directional. He put on his thinking-trilby, sharpened his crayons, and came up with this idea:

timmy2

(Only the signals inside the box are to be modelled. The ones outside it are off-scene, and therefore just implied to be there and functioning.)

So, 6 signals. As I only had six remaining outputs left on the Arduino, I decided on 2-Aspect light signals.

And, lo, these were on eBay:

z0a

Six of them for £19 incl shipping, actually from http://hezhiqing.com/NSIGNAL.html (yeah, it says 5 on the website, but all the eBay listings show 6 of them).

Nominally they run off 12v but are plenty bright enough with 5v from an Arduino supplied to them. Plus, if you tie the Green line to 5v and the Black to GND, putting 5v up the Red line from the Arduino will switch the signal from green to red. This is counter-intuitive to me, as surely the signals should fail-to-Red, not fail-to-Green?

No, matter, it still make the wiring easier.

sigwires

Eagle-eyes will spot the the lights are the wrong way up.  Ah, well, it’s too late now.

Next… build up the control board for one pair of points, and one signal as a test.

 

Salami Shrinkage?

I bought a Peperami this morning. I shouldn’t really, as the high salt and fat content will make me die. They are smaller now!

12439161_10153958669685992_9094982020698472626_n

Or so it seems…

Quoth feedback@peperami.com:

Hi Tony,

The weight of Peperamis haven’t changed for years. Indeed we are making them shorter and wider, because we are producing another brand (which is shorter and wider, but also 25g) as well and we would like to simplify our production process, but we definitely keep the usual 25 g net weight.
All the best,
Your Peperami Team
So now you know.

Managed Motorways

shoulder2

The problem with this 4 lane running smart motorway guff is that its fine until someone breaks down.

Normally with 3 lanes and a hard shoulder this isn’t too much of a hassle, but with 4 lanes it means that you suddenly lose a 1/4 of the capacity for a short distance causing an instant bottleneck. Sounds brilliant so far. An utter blinder of a plan.

Now imagine this scenario: Poor little old Mrs Thingy in her aged Micra breaks down and gets as far left as she can. The fat controller in the watch-box is busy scratching his knackers and doesn’t spot this hazard immediately. An over-hours HGV driver, distracted by an overdose of Redbull and barnyard pornography also fails to spot the hapless lady in time. Thus her small car is briefly turned into a a metal and flesh death-ball, punted down the carriageway at speeds it has previously never reached. Itchy balls + Redbull + beastiality = dead pensioner.

Can’t possibly happen, right?

Not seen the video of the truck belting down the motorway with a Clio stuck to its front bumper?