A Few Days With a HUDL 2

Yeah yeah I know I’ve said many times that I’m not a big fan of tablets, seeing them as big phones that you can’t make calls from, dismissing them as useless for not having keyboards, and calling them nothing more than toys.

Fair enough, I can be wrong. It does happen.

So the missus bought me a HUDL 2 for Christmas. Ok, it isn’t the ex-MOD Defender 110  I wanted, but that would have been too much to expect.

Here is a screen-grab of the home screen:

2014-12-26 13.58.30Well I’ve never seen a bunch of VW owners looking so happy. Surely they should all be frantically trying to find where the smoke is coming from, and looking worriedly at the huge puddle of oil forming? And there seems to be an AA low-loader missing from the photo.

Oh, and surfing in a meadow really isn’t going to work (unless it is on the tide of oil leaking out of the knackered van).

Anyway…

So what is a HUDL 2 then?

Well, it is a £129.99 tablet sold exclusively by Tesco. From the info on the box, the important bits are:

  • 8.3″ FHD 1920×1200 IPS LCD anti-smudge screen
  • Intel Atom quad-core processor up to 1.83 GHz
  • Android 4.4.2 Kitkat
  • 16 GB Storage (expandable  by another 32GB)
  • Dual Band Wifi
  • 2GB RAM
  • 1.2MP Front Camera
  • 5MP Rear Camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB ports
  • Weighs 410g

410g might seem a lot, but it is probably how much sugar I consume in a day.

And what is it good for?

Well, I still think it is a bit of a toy, but as Jack Nicholson said, some toys can be “wonderful”. The HUDL is better for watching iPlayer on that an iPhone4 for a start. I can load it up with stuff to watch at work and not have to squint at a tiny screen.

The battery life is fantastic. I got five hours watching stored iPlayer content no problem.

The cameras are ok, but I prefer the ones on the iPhone4, mainly for the ease of physical handling, but also because the HUDL lacks a flash (aha, he saved everyone of us). The automatic Panorama and PhotoSphere functions are cool though.

Bob a Telnet and VNC client on it, fettle your router right and cross your fingers and your can play about on your home machines when you’re on the bus (how come Arriva can provide free WiFi for a ten minute trip into town, yet Virgin can’t for a two hour trip to Preston?).

Blinkbox Books will give you a tenner free credit, which is enough to buy those two Pratchet books that you missed (Unseen Academicals and Making Money in my case).

And what is it bad for?

Well the wifi on it won’t connect to the access point I having running on my Raspberry Pi. Not surprising really, as Android devices in general don’t work with it (and I have no idea why).

It is a little bit big. Far too big to fit in a pocket. Coat makers need to address this. Bring back “poacher’s pockets”!

I find the form factor of the device a little odd. It seems good when used in landscape mode, but it seems a bit too tall when used portrait mode, and a little top heavy too. Maybe it it was about half an inch shorter it would feel better. And its not often that you hear that.

And I still hate touch-screen keyboards.

Would I have bought one myself?

Eventually, yes. It would be as inevitable as death and taxis not turning up on time.

In general I get hold of tech devices for a reason, but in this case I received one before I knew I needed it. So it has caused me to re-start my learning of app writing for Android devices. This may be considered a good or bad thing. Only time will tell.

Could you stock a pub using only Rock drinks?

So, thats the burning question. Can you fully stock a pub using only drinks officially associated with rock bands? Well, let us have a look.

For your regular beers, you can have Iron Maiden Trooper Beer, Status Quo Piledriver, AC/DC Australian Hardrock Lager, Motorhead Bastards Lager, and Elbow Charge. And pretty soon Thunder will be releasing Thunderbrew. So something for everyone there. Except Cider drinkers.

Moving on to spirits, there is a choice of Killer Queen Vodka and Motorhead Vodka.

If its time for wine, then try Motorhead Shiraz, Eddie’s Evil Brew Merlot, Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon and Slayer Reign in Blood Cabernet Sauvignon.

That seems to be a fairly good stock list, and if there is a niche unfulfilled I’m sure Kiss have brought something out to fill it.

I am planning one hell of a party, by the way!

 

Fake News on Facebook

There seems to be a spate of fake news sites going around Facebook at the moment. By that I don’t mean sites that are posting fake news, such as Toytown News, but posts that seem to link to legit news articles but then throw you off to something else.

I’m not going to give any direct links, but Bellingham tributes linking to UKIP hates sites is a particularly vile example.

So, how does this happen? Well to put it simply, when you post a link on Facebook, the site trawls the link to grab a picture and some text details. For example:

fakenews-eg1Note the “WWW.SYFY.CO.UK” text in the bottom left corner of the image. Most people wouldn’t pay attention to it, but that shows what website the post will actually link to.

The good news is that you can’t hide the destination site, but the bad news is that you can confuse people about it.

People don’t pay attention, and generally only scan “unimportant” information, so if the text at the bottom left says something like “news” or “feed” they are inclined to trust it.

So I registered a domain name to test this out.  I figured that it would have to include the word “news”. So, being a bit of a sick puppy (and a Chris Morris fan) I tried to get newsfelch.co.uk. Sadly, it was taken, so I got felchnews.co.uk. (As an aside, I will probably use this to post news articles about a fake village somewhere in the the Staffordshire Moorlands. If I can be arsed.)

Anyway, back to the fake news thing. Nothing makes a fake story looks real like the logo of a reputable news organisation. so I used this:

bbc-newsNext, you need a title. I went with my long held belief that you can use modern cleaning fluids to get rid of a body. Hence: “Cillit Bang Used to Disolve Corpses”, including a deliberate spelling mistake.

Next, some flavour text that will show up under the link. I decided to make it contradictory and nonesensical yet still grammatically valid, so:

According to South Lancashire Police, several corpses have been found completely disolved in Cillit Bang, leaving no traces whatsoever.

Ignoring the fact that there is so such organisation as “South Lancashire Police”, if no traces have been left, then nothing can have been dicovered? Obvious, right? Erm, no. But I’ll get back to that.

So, how does our fake news link look now?

fakenews-eg2It all looks legit doesn’t it, well apart from the “felchnews” bit that nobody pays attention to?

And here is the HTML to do it:

<html>
<head>
<title>Cillit Bang Used to Disolve Corpses</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”According to South Lancashire Police, several corpses have been found completely disolved in Cillit Bang, leaving no traces whatsoever.”>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”According to South Lancashire Police, several corpses have been found completely disolved in Cillit Bang, leaving no traces whatsoever,humor, prank”>
<meta name=”author” content=”News Editor”>
</head>
<body bgcolor=ffffff>
<center>
<img src=”/assets/bbc-news.png” width=1 height=1>
</center>
<center>
<font size=+10>Don’t be so fucking stupid! </font>
<center>

</body>
</html>

Clearly this just links to a site that says “Don’t be so fucking stupid!”, but with a little bit of javascript or the right HTML you can immediately bounce the browser the somewhere else.

I suppose, really, that this post could be condensed down to “be careful what links you click on”, but really, if you haven’t worked that out by now then you have no fucking business owning a PC/tablet/smartphone.

 

 

 

iPhone4 Guitar interface

Apps such as Garageband on the iPhone allow you to record your guitar noodling and play about with various effects. But first you need to get the guitar connected to the ‘phone.

Looking about on t’internet, there are loads of instructions on how to build a guitar interface for the iPhone, but most involve butchering existing cables.

As the cost of the required AV cables is stupidly high, I decided to just buy the bits and have a go at making one from scratch.

So, lets have a look at what we need:

A 3.5mm 4-pole jack – plugs in to the iPhone

4pole-jack

A 3.5mm stereo socket (case mountable) – for headphones

headphone-stereo

A 1/4″ mono socket (case mountable) – for the guitar input

guitar-mono

Some 3 core shielded audio cable. Sadly, Maplin fucked up and sent me 2 metres of the wrong cable, despite them looking totally dissimilar and having completely different catalogue numbers.

Anyway, sod Maplin, I’m prototyping here. I’ll make do with bits from my wires box.

The first thing to do is solder the cable on to the horrendously fiddly 4-pole plug.  Get the most difficult thing done first, that’s my philosophy.

4-pole-wired

The pin out for the plug now looks like this:

plug

  1. Green – (Input)
  2. Yellow – (Ground)
  3. Orange – (Output Right)
  4. Red – (Output Left)

 

Wrap it all up in the casing that came with the plug, and get a “pigtail” lead:

pigtail

Originally I wanted this lead to be about four inches longer, but this will have to do for the moment. (You can insert a joke here if you really want).

Next, solder up the stereo socket. I went for the same colour code for Ground/Outputs.

stersock

Finally, solder-wise, its time to connect up the socket for the guitar input.

Following the same colours from above:

guitarinput

And here it all, all breadboarded up for testing:

breadboard

After buying a small case, I discovered it was too small to mount the 1/4″ mono socket in, so I had to look about for an alternative.

I haven’t found anything handy yet, but you get the gist.

UPDATE:

An old 35mm film container prooved to be the best case I could find. So, now it looks like this:

2014-09-03 22.00.44 2014-09-03 22.00.49

 

So you think you’re having a heart attack

As it is a year today since I had my pathetic little heart attack (if there can be such a thing), I thought I’d put finger to keyboard about my thoughts on a certain bullshit thing thats going around t’internet like a sawn-off broom handle in a convent (since 1999 – but such shit never dies due to Facetube/Buzzspace/Mybook/Youfeed whatever).

I’m not going to link to it, but its called “Cough CPR”, and the idea seems to be thus: Rhythmically coughing while having a heart attack will save your life. This is obviously horseshit. (I will, however link to the Snopes page about it: http://www.snopes.com/medical/homecure/coughcpr.asp).

Should you think you are having a heart attack, and you’re alone, you really have two options. I shall present them here, so you can choose which one you think is the right one.

Option 1:

Sit down and have a cup of tea.

Look on the internet about heart attacks.

Go and have a dump*.

Try and have a lie down, hoping the pain will go away.

Have a smoke. Things are always better after a smoke.

Look on the internet again.

Have another cup of tea and a smoke.

Realise that you can’t stand up properly.

Ring NHS Direct and get kept talking while they sneakily send an ambulance to get you.

 

 

Option 2:

Ring the fucking emergency services right away!!!

And don’t forget to grab your ‘phone and charger, otherwise you’ll be bored shitless.

*Oddly, heart attacks bring on the feeling that you’re about to suffer from diarrhea. This is probably why a lot of people die on the khazi, and certainly why all toilets in hospitals have an emergency alarm nearby.
 

A Minor Gripe With World of Warcraft

While Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is for the most part a well thought out and utterly brilliant game, I have two minor gripes with it. Neither are really concerned with the gameplay, and neither really affect the world. They just annoy me.

So, I’ll start with the first one, as is traditional in this sort of thing…

Technology is not consistant within the world. You can handwave all you like about Gnomes and Goblins being insane and providing lasers, bombs and all that kind of stuff, but as far as I’m concern it doesn’t matter.

Let us look at what the World has to offer:

We have motorcycles:

choppaCars:

gobcar

Aircraft:
planeAn underground mass-transit system:

masstransitRocketships:

rocketWe also have Airships, Submarines, Airbourne aircraft carriers, Speedboats, Tunnelling machines, Tanks, Exo-skeletons, and semi-sentient Robots.

What we dont have is trains. Yes, trains. Good, old-fashioned, steam trains.

But, you might be thinking, why should there be steam trains on Azeroth? Well, because there is a toy one you can buy in Dalaran:

toytrainAnd if there is a toy one to annoy other people with, why shouldn’t there be a real usable one? Maybe from Stormwind to Redridge?

And as for annoying people with a toy… well, this really used to upset people:

But now they just seem to join in and play:

I said two irritations didn’t I? Well the other one is this. There is an item called the Cooking School Bell, which summons your student (Nomi – no relation to the goth comic character Nemi):

cookingbellAs you will see in the following video, it isn’t a fucking bell!

Ranting over. For now

A Rant About Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd have announced that they will soon realease their final album, entitled “The Endless River”.  The album, which takes its title from a lyric in the last song they recorded for “The Division Bell”, “High Hopes”, is reportedly a combination of tracks recorded back in the 90’s along with new additions.

Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason have conjured the ghost of Rick Wright, through the medium of old tapes,  to put together a new album. And people aren’t happy about this.

For example, Mike Portnoy, formerly of Dream Theatre:

What’s this about a new “Pink Floyd” album? Last I checked, Waters is no longer in the band and Wright & Barrett are dead…if these are leftovers from The Division Bell sessions, then just put em on a TDB Special Edition release! It’s disrespectful to Roger & everything he built for all those years! Just do a solo album Dave…

Clearly a man who didn’t know that Barrett left before the 60s were out, and that Waters went after “The Final Cut” in 1984. Until someone told him:

OK, I’ll meet the Gilmour fans half-way and say IMO, the “real” Pink Floyd is BOTH Gilmour/Waters TOGETHER….Piper was a Syd album, The Final Cut was a Waters album and AMLOR/TDB are Gilmour albums…the “magic” was Waters/Gilmour TOGETHER

But what does he know about anything? He’s a drummer.

Oddly, the fact that a similiarly ancient band of old clevers intend to release a new(ish) album of material culled from old sessions, involving a retired bassist and dead keyboard player have passed without notice.

 

 

Vauxhall Astra

So, its Rock Festival season again, and because I’m too useless to own a functioning vehicle and as my Rock-Buddy doesn’t want her precious 3 Series bogged axle deep in a morass of mud, piss and stale Tuborg, its time to hire a car.

After last year’s awful Chevrolet Spark Clown Car, we felt it was time to upgrade to the second cheapest option. A Ford Focus, or a Vauxhall Astra. I think its obvious which one we got.

So, courtesy of the nice people at Enterprise, we got a Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTI SE in, what I think is called, “Ubiquitous Silver”. Really, I’ve seen loads of these on the road, and most are in the same shade of silver that my Dad had our Granada estate re-sprayed to in 1980. Then, it was about it being a nice colour, now its all about silver cars having a higher re-sale value.

From the front, it really is quite a nice looking car.

astraf

The arse end, however, is goppingly awful.

astrab

This has to be the worst arse-end of an Astra since, erm, ever. Even the proto-Astra, the Chevette, had a better back end. And just look at the shape of the cabin. What is it about cars these days and making the roof three feet narrower than the doors? For normal people this probably isn’t a problem, but at 6’5″ there is no way I could sit comfortably in the back.

It is, however,  possible for a normal sized person to do a complete clothing change in the back, without opening the doors or booting the driver in the back of the head while he is trying to negotiate the Old Knotty Way bypass around Uttoxeter.

Driving wise, the six speed box on the diesel version is quite nice, and it has enough umph to get off the A50 Uttoxetter roundabout without having to worry about being killed to death by a Stobart. We didn’t speed test it, but it will happily do the legal speed limit +10mph +10%  in fourth, never mind sixth.

I does have a few features that I’m not a fan of. Eco Stop-Start annoys me, and on the Astra it seems to be a bit brain dead. Once, while parked, it started up when I nudged the wheel, and another time it started up while we were out of the car and leaning on it. You can turn it off, but it doesn’t stay off for long.

The push-button handbrake was similarly confusing until we decided to just ignore it. It does it’s job when needed, but you can’t pull a J-turn in Tesco’s car park with it. Not that we tried.

Is it nice to drive? Yes. So much so that once she got her hands on it, I wasn’t allowed to drive it again.

Would I buy one? No. But if I had the money, I’d go for the Estate version (which doesn’t have such a hideous arse-end).

Is this Post just filler material because you haven’t written anything since the middle of May? Yes!

Know Where You Live

One of the most annoying aspects of my job is having to deal with people who do not know where they live. I don’t mean that I have to deal with people who are so stupid that they can’t remember they’re own address (although that does happen).

I’m refering to people who live in out-of-the-way rural areas in the back end of nowhere, with addresses like “Lancelot Cottage, Upper Camelot, ST20 0NG”.

That postcode is real, even though the rest of the address isn’t.

The problem is that people assume that because their mail gets to them, everyone else will be able to find them too. Because the postie knows where they live, automatically everyone else knows too.

In reality, however, things are a lot different.

Rural postcodes are no use at all for finding properties. The example given above, ST20 0NG, covers about eight square miles and nine roads, six of which don’t actually have names.

This can be a right pain in the arse for taxi drivers, and a threat to life if an ambulance is ever required.

So, what alternatives are there for identifing your address?

Well there is always the good old Latitude and Longitude system, but that seems a bit faffy and involves numbers (which most people are hopeless at remembering – Test: recite your own mobile number now).

An alternative is WhatThreeWords, a thing that gives you an easy three word code to locate your house with 3 metres. For example, the front door of the boozer I use is “firmly.tuna.fixed”, and my favourite curry place is “basket.last.such”.

Another idea would be to register your out-of-the-way cottage with some organisation that could then provide directions to it.

And yes, I’m working on an alpha version of this.

moan, moan, flippin' moan