a little more tech

I’ve been longing for some sort of new tech for a while, except that my nearly 3 year old sony vaio remains fabulous. It’s still one of the lightest laptops around (870g), superfast, and excellent graphics. It’s only weakness is that it has a 256GB SSD and I need to explore at some point whether it’s possible to upgrade it. I’ve still got my Nexus 7 (2013) tablet too as it’s still going strong. Instead I have finally gotten round to upgrading from windows 8 to 10. I was happy enough with 8 though ran it in desktop mode not tablet pane mode. Ultimately that was the annoying thing about 8, it had different desktops depending on whether you used it in latop or tablet mode.

Windows 10 seems to have successfully integrated both versions into a single interface. I’ve been playing with it for a week and it’s fun…and works. Search has improved which is important as win8 search felt clunky, whereas win7 was almost right. I think win10 may be the first version of windows where I don’t need to install launchy as well. The upgrade from 8 to 10 was flawless, everything went smoothly and all my bits and pieces survived. Mostly. I had to force it a few times to default to irfanview for image viewing vs its inhouse version but that’s been the only stumble so far. On top of that microsoft seems to be making a lot of the right sort of noises regarding the developer community including bash and releasing their text editor as open source.

The best thing I’m liking about the win10 environment is that it feels more comfortable using the touch screen of my lappy. Win8 in desktop mode wasn’t particularly comfortable for using the touch screen on the vaio. The desktop of win10 seems to have bigger targets and is friendlier to screen touching. I’m starting to return to the joy I had with the ASUS Transformer Prime which fully integrated keyboard and touch screen. The downside was that android didn’t support a full desktop, multi-tasking environment. So I bought the vaio which handled the desktop but windows didn’t really handle laptop keyboard with touch screen. Win10 seems to be managing the marriage of the two.

So far so good.


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aided flying

Listenng to music when you have hearing aids can be a tricky thing. I have a mobile hearing aid loop that can connect via bluetooth to my phone and personal computers…personal as in “belongs to me”, as distinct from the 1980s “Personal Computer“. That means I can hear phonecalls, listen to music on my ipod and listen to youtube videos on my laptop. I have mostly used a rather nice pair of Sennheiser headphones for listening to the ipod and on planes for inflight entertainment.

I rps20160417_190611am slowing coming round to using the hearing aid loop for the ipod though I miss the “loudness” of the headphones. Ultimately that loudness is probably bad for my ears. However I haven’t quite worked out how to use the loop with inflight entertainment systems yet. With the headphones I have an additional connector that handles the double mono connector that qantas uses for their sound system as pictured. Plug the headphones into one end and plug the two plugs at the other end into the sockets on your armrest.

This means I can use my own headphones which provide much better sound than their provided headphones. The downside is that I have to have them really loud which can annoy other passengers. This happened on a recent trip and once I explained I was hearing impaired they were ok. Personally I don’t like causing that sort of disruption for other people in the first place. Though I hate it, I am that person with the loud car stereo.

So I’m looking at other options. I haven’t yet worked out how to use my hearing aid loop to connect to flight entertainment systems. I’m keeping an eye out for some sort of bluetooth connector but no luck yet, or even better would be a direct telecoil connection. Short term I’ll stick with the headphone/connector option but will ask my audiologist about it when I put my hearing aids in for their next service.

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it’s in the mail

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a book or two…or 5 from Amazon. Having heard good things about Jessica Jones I thought I should read the original comics before watching the show. Thankfully, they’re bundled up in an omnibus. Then I thought I should get hold of Gaiman’s new Sandman. And it seemed silly not to throw in a few more things.

a pile of booksWhen I unpacked all my books in the new place a year or so back, I realised I couldn’t find my old, old copy of K&R’s The C Programming Language. I had the pre ANSI (just) edition when I learnt C for Computer Science at Wollongong Uni way back in 1989. 1989 was a really bad year for me as I used to spend 2.5 hours each way commuting from Bankstown to uni. That year, there was a landslide of the railway at Coledale and the line was reduced to a single track for much of the year. My commute increased to 4 hours each way and I ended up failing most of my subjects. I like to blame the commute though part of me suspects I was still working myself out too and trying to find my direction. I eventually took a year and a half off uni, worked on a loading dock at Grace Bros (now Myer) to pay off a car and then returned to uni.

I eventually passed everything I failed that year including C. Ultimately I never quite finished my compsci degree though I did finish all the core components. I never went into programming as a profession though part of me misses the intensity of a good coding session and part of me never wants to return to that single minded focus. I’ve kept most of my programming books, along with Fortran and Pascal, and so forth. Well ok, not Forth :) However, I missed having a copy of K&R C on the shelf, moreso than the books that are there.

So I grabbed a copy…and have been dipping in already. Once I dipped, I started re-reading some of the earlier examples and all of a sudden I’d opened an editor and typed one up. Except I didn’t have a c compiler installed so I’m loading one into cygwin. Oddly, I’m not editing in vi this time and trying out Microsoft’s Visual Code Editor. It’s nice, it has a dark background which has a lot less glare. I’m also liking that the template recognises that I’m writing c and provides colouring for keywords and commands.

And it worked. I also made a couple of changes and they worked too.

NTS: shutdown cygwin while installing new software. The installation went a bit wrong so I had to uninstall cygwin altogether and re-install from scratch. However once all that was done, the c code compiled without errors and worked first go :-)

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drive update

After many years living mostly alone, living with teenagers, aside from the regular challenges of living with teenagers, has some unexpected issues.

The hard drive on the PS4 was full! We had to delete stuff to add a game.

I’ve never had a full hard drive on a console before. I don’t buy enough games and I tend to play in spurts. Back in the day, I bought a second memory card (8MB per card) for the PS2 just in case, but never used it. The PS3 continues to power on. The Atari’s games are standalone cartridges, no save files whatsoever.

The PS4 has 500GB and Sony have just released an upgraded model doubling the hard drive to 1TB. However, I had heard it was possible to install a new drive yourself and sure enough Sony even provide instructions. Somewhere along the way, I came across someone who had installed a 2TB drive as they figured 1TB wasn’t big enough. Given we’ve filled a 500GB in less than 12 months, they might be right.

On Saturday, I popped down the road and bought a 2TB drive for the princely sum of $175. This thing was about the size of a credit card and as tall as a few stacked. Got home and did a full back of the current drive which alas takes several hours.

On Sunday morning,

  1. I slid the cover off the PS4
  2. undid 5 screws
  3. took out old drive
  4. put in new drive
  5. initialised and installed system from USB
  6. restored backup, which also took several hours

All went well. The instructions were easy to follow and the hardest bit of the drive swapping was finding a screwdriver small enough.

Then I installed the new Assassin’s Creed :)

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a memoir from welly

I nearly bought a bookmark today, remembering when I used to stockpile them; many bookmarks for the many books I had on the go. I saw some nice bookmarks at the market this morning.

This evening, on holidays, I was reading a book of essays I got for my birthday. Admittedly I had already skipped the first two essays, otherwise known as the forward and the introduction. I was not in the mood for reading essays about essays.

Just the essays.

I should have mentioned that this was a paper book, printed on paper. One day the need to explain such will be rare. Perhaps. I finished the first essay and realised there was no bookmark button. No buttons at all. Nor did I have any bookmarks, being away.

So I resorted to the flexible cardboard that had encircled the socks I did buy at the market this morning. And I recalled that, despite having piles of bookmarks, I never had one close to hand to insert between the pages. Scraps of cardboard or paper usually sufficed.

Some things don’t change. Not really.

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coding time

Last November, I played around with some coding stuff and wrote a few perl programs from scratch. That was a successful experience and I was able to modify the programs further to take CSV files from proxy logs, and run some simple regular expressions, to produce monthly reports on usage by a dozen or so user centres. It outputs the data to a screen and I grab the numbers and update another spreadsheet.

I read this article on Library tech pipeline issues today and it addressed a range of things, but two points in particular or rather two approaches to the one thing: how to develop useful coding skills in libraries. The usual answer has been to either do it in your spare time, or go elsewhere eg work for an IT company for a while. The article covers the various issues around the availability and utility of “spare time”. 20 years ago when I was studying computer science, I had oodles of spare time. Afterall I was a single, white male with no kids. Staying up half the night, or all weekend was fine. I learnt lots, did lots, and played lots. These days I’m still a white male but with responsibilities and “spare time” is a very different beast.

image of a tablet running a unix programming environment That coding I did in November, I managed to do at work and it was useful for providing ongoing statistics around remote usage. A question came up this week as to whether I could use the same data to provide some other stats. I went back to the code, made a couple of changes to definitions and it worked on the second attempt. As is ever the case in programming, typos are my enemy :-)

But I’m still not doing much coding and I’m a little rusty on the coding I did last November. It was at least easier to get back into it, having done it once. In that general statistics thang last year, I saw a problem and I was able to use it as a springboard to learn some code. The hard bit for me is finding stuff to make that more regular so that I can keep learning and keep practicing. Finding time is also a problem but that’s another sort of problem.

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on beer

I grew up not really liking beer much. Particularly the basic beers in Sydney. Wasn’t fond of pubs either. I even went to Belgium and had no beer. Afterall, Brugges was the mecca for good chocolate. On my last night there, I had a taste of dad’s beer and was pleasantly surprised. I’ve come a long way since then.

I tend to prefer darker, stronger beers, though I’m slowly coming around to hoppier flavours and particularly good american brown beers. Or at least tasty Australian interpretations of american brown beers. Current favourites in that respect include Perth based Nail and Sydney based Batch.

My favourite beer however is stout: a strong, black beer. The most well known example of which is probably the standard Guinness. I don’t mind Guinness but not fond of the bitter aftertaste. When travelling around Ireland far too long ago, I discovered other irish stouts that I preferred, my favourite of which was Beamish, followed by Kilkenny. Closer to home, I’ve also had a soft spot for Cooper’s Best Extra Stout and recently Batch’s “Elsie the Milk Stout“.

I’ve slowly become aware in recent times, that there’s a subset of stout called imperial stouts, or russian imperial stouts. These are even heavier stouts, with a higher alcohol content (Batch’s Russian Imperial Stout was 8.7%). I’ve been trying these out of late and unfortunately, I really like them. Unfortunate as in they’re very expensive; prices seem to start around $25 or so for a 640ml bottle.

Pouring a russian imperial stout is a little like pouring treacle. It seems to ooze slowly from the bottle to coat the innards of the glass. It takes time to drink and it’s certainly not an everyday sort of beer. But oh so yum. Full of flavour, almost a meal in and of itself.

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