Friday, 23 January 2015

Intentionally deaf

I expect that being genuinely deaf is quite a burden to those with the condition.  I do have some hearing loss and tinnitus, but not enough to warrant a hearing aid, and aside from a few minor difficulties, I get by just fine.

However, there are times when being intentionally deaf is a (private) joy.  Last year I splashed out on Bose noise cancelling earphones.
If you've not experienced the 'noise cancelling' property, do go test some - it's rather amazing. Even when they're not connected to any particular source, the reduction in background noise is wonderful.  They are really useful for eliminating (most) of the background noise on a long haul flight (it was for this reason they were originally purchased).

Aside from time on a large cigar tube at 35,000ft, these earphones are really handy for being intentionally deaf.

I do this most often when sloping off to the pub for a lunchtime pint, alone, works laptop at my side.  Earphones in, power on.... ah, far quieter.... then crank up the music of the moment.
Privacy in a pubic place.  Priceless.

Thursday, 15 January 2015


Just noticed this story over at the BBC:
Production is set to start on a remodelled version of the ZX Spectrum, which will come pre-installed with 1,000 classic game titles.
Whoa... A Spectrum? Really? Beats messing around at car boot sales, tape drives etc.  But, it's not a full blown Speccy.  Shame.

I quite like the idea of getting something old and 'classic' but making it internet connected.
Imagine surfing the web (text mode, obviously) on a Spectrum.  Or opening your super powerful laptop to be greeted with this:

I'd immediately punch in SYS 64738.  If you know what that does, then GeekPoints+ to you.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Dog meets snow

Isla is now 7 months old, and this is her first winter.  She's surprisingly hardy and even when the temperature is hovering around zero centigrade, she's keen to jump in the river - perhaps the Springer in her?

Last nights brief snow flurry was fun, mostly to watch the big mad hound jumping up into the air to catch the snowflakes as they fell.

This morning, our walk was equally amusing.  Isla bounced around all over the place, eating snow as she went.  I haven't told her the golden rule of snow yet, that is, don't eat yellow snow.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Personal Scrum

I've been aware of 'scrum' and 'agile' for a while; partially down to some experience of software development, partially because my current firm claims to be 'agile' but is still going through the adoption process.
A very useful, and free, tool that works well for scrum is Trello.  So much so, I've been running a personal scrum board for some time; so far, so good.

Trello works in the browser and also has mobile apps for iOS & Android; oh, and the basic (and very functional) account is free.

If you have any kind of list to manage, give it a go.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Countdown to the election

It seems only a short while ago that we were all heading towards a general election.  But, that was nearly five years ago.
The election mania hasn't yet started, but it won't be long before the news is nothing but election this, party political broadcast that, debates, hype & hysteria.

I recall the fun that came from candidates fielded by the Monster Raving Looney Party, and not least, their rather entertaining policy statements.  Here's a few from their website:

  • We will reduce the national debt by selling the castles back to the French. (Buyer dismantles)
  • We propose the removal of funding for weather prediction as they seem to get it wrong most of the time anyway. This money would then be redirected into an extensive scientific research scheme to find out what actually came first, the chicken or the egg?
  • The options on the Referendum ballot on our membership of the EU to
  • read–
    • a) In
    • b) Out
    • c) Shake it all about
There have been a few MRLP suggestions that actually became law (via wikipedia):

The OMRLP are distinguished by having a deliberately bizarre manifesto, which contains things that seem to be impossible or too absurd to implement – usually to highlight what they see as real-life absurdities. 
Despite its satirical nature, some of the things that have featured in Loony manifestos have become law, such as being able to vote at 18, "passports for pets", and all-day pub openings

Anyhoo, when the electioneering starts, remember that there is still humour in politics, somewhere.

Sunday, 11 January 2015


A re-post of what I posted to Instagram on August 23rd, 2014.

MUSIC. At times of stress music always provides a space to escape, to think, to relax.
A private safe place. 
My go to track is Hybrid's Stereo 8 remix of Orbital/One perfect sunrise. It's seen me through ten years of hard times, doubt, confusion and fear. 
Track playing. 
Repeat set. 

As I've already posted this link a few days ago.... here is another.... 

... and the original...

I'll start a series of "boring music you probably don't want to hear" shortly... :)

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Petrol vs Electric

Back in 2013 I had two cars - Golf GTI Edition 30 and Land Rover Discovery.  Both cars needed money spending on them; the Golf was at 110k miles and needed some planned but expensive maintenance work, and the Land Rover, at 15 years old, needed lots of things fixing and replacing.
I couldn't afford both and had to choose which one I loved more.  So, the Golf was sold.
In its place I picked up a Citroen C2 VTR, a car intended to do running about and the 222 round trip commute to the office once each week.
In the 603 days I've owned the car, I've logged the figures for each time I've filled up (odometer reading, litres of fuel added, cost of the fuel and price per litre) - yes, I'm a geek and I like the numbers.  I can feel happy that I can come up with numbers like these:

  • Total spent on fuel - £5,725.91
  • Miles covered - 35919
  • Best/avg/worst MPG - 45.38/37.80/31.27


In 2014, fuel has cost me £2,923.  Not a huge amount (not least, compared to what it would cost to do the same miles in the Land Rover), but still, a decent chunk of hard earned cash.

I have frequently pondered whether buying and running an electric car would be "better".  Electric cars need to be charged (vs filled with petrol/diesel) but the cost in tiny.  On the other hand, buying an electric car is at least ten times more than I paid for the Citroen.

Would buying an electric car compare with running the Citroen?

In terms of running costs, then yes, easily.  Charging an electric vehicle ("EV") would be simple using pence of household electricity from the home supply.
According to
A full charge will cost approximately £2 to £3 and will give a typical range of 100 miles. Driving 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car will cost around £12 to £18 in fuel. The cost savings will be greatest when owners have access to an overnight low rate electricity tariff.
So my petrol cost of £2,923 for 2014 (at £3 per full charge) would provide 974 full charges, or, just over 97 thousand miles.  Whoa.
Looking at it the other way round, the 19,004 miles I covered in 2014 would cost around £570 in electricity - 80% saving.

Deducting £507 from £2923 leaves £2,416.  If I add in other costs for the Citreon, such as servicing and road fund license (aka "road tax"), I'd estimate around £500; would £2,916 be enough to buy or lease an EV? Let's assume it's a three year thing - £8,748.
No, not for a new vehicle.  Personal Contract Hire get closer, as the monthly payments would comes in at less than £2,416 / 12.  Bu the deposit is a killer, so not an option.

What about used? Close, but not close enough.  The cheapest vehicles I can find are still over £10k. That's before trying to pull together £10k up front (rather than over three years).

Hey ho.  As much as I like the idea of an EV, it's not going to happen.  At least, not yet.

Friday, 9 January 2015


A couple of years ago (or maybe longer?) there was a minor fad for doing a '365'.  That is, posting one thing per day, for (duh!) a year.
Blog posts, pictures on Instagram, whatever.

So for 2015, I thought I'd give it a shot with a blog post.  It's not the first time I've done this, and the previous run was a few years ago (that blog now long consigned to the great trash can in the internet sky).

This year, I'm struggling.  This post is late and I've got nothing in the bag for Saturday.

Is my life really this dull? Or do the things I like to think about appear massively boring to others so therefore, I don't post them?

Or, am I just too lazy to think of anything 'interesting' to write?

Thursday, 8 January 2015


I was, like, listening to the radio? Last night? And like, the Radio 4 program, was like, all about vloggers?
A bunch of like, relatively, like, young people? Talking, about, like, what they do on YouTube? And like, the things they do? Some of them, like, are, like, doing quite well? And earning money? Like, enough to pay the rent like?

They, like, probably said lots more? But, like, I didn't really focus that, like, well, because of the repeated use of like, them saying 'like', every few words? And like, the rising inflection was like, really irritating?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Raspberry Pi

I'm fortunate enough to have gathered a bunch of computers.  Personal MacBook Pro, work MacbookPro, Chromebook, couple of PC laptops, an Acer netbook, and mobiles/tablets.

However, my current hot favourite is the Raspberry Pi (B+ model, no less).  

If you've not heard of the Pi, here's the blurb from
The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python. It’s capable of doing everything you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, and playing games.
All this from a device that is yours for around £30? Brilliant!

However, the next bit is most exciting for me:
What’s more, the Raspberry Pi  has the ability to interact with the outside world, and has been  used in a wide array of digital maker projects, from music machines and parent detectors to weather stations and tweeting birdhouses with infra-red cameras. We want to see the Raspberry Pi being used by kids all over the world to learn to program and understand how computers work.
This is the fun part; I've been writing code for years, but everything I've written only existed inside the virtual world of the computer I was using.  The Pi's GPIO connectivity quickly and relatively easily provides a way to have the Pi interact with the real world.

Today the camera for the Pi arrived and it takes only a few lines of Python to start capturing images or videos.

Next up is to order the 'cobbler' kit to start using the Pi's GPIO connector and getting busy with switches, LEDs, resistors and breadboard.

If you have any interest in coding at all, consider getting a Raspberry Pi.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

2 factor authentication

Over the christmas period my debit card was compromised.  I have no idea where or how.  At physical establishments (shops, restaurants, etc) I always use chip & PIN - with the PIN only known to me, that shouldn't be the source of the data leak.  I do use my card for many online purchases and subscriptions, so it feels more likely that my details were leaked there.
But how? Payment services aren't supposed to store the card data (especially the security code, aka CVC) so even if they get hacked or have an errant employee, there isn't enough information available to use elsewhere.
Do I trust the online firms? Some of them - Google, Apple, Amazon, Spotify.  But the others? I'm not so sure.
Ideally, I'd like to have two factor authentication for online transactions.  My bank doesn't offer this service (yet?).
But Paypal do, so I may well be using Paypal for my online transactions from now on.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Channel 4 News

Quick poll...

Am I the only person that finds Channel 4 News exceptionally irritating?
Dumbed down and condescending?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Return to routine

Monday tomorrow.  The first working day for many in this country after the festive season (excluding many people, I know).

As I've been stood here, pondering what to write, wondering whether I'll have enough content or thoughts or opinions to post regularly (it's not looking good, is it?) I began to consider slipping, reluctantly, back into the routine.  Early start, walk the dog, work, eat, sleep repeat.
There's only so much you can say about work, as much can't be shared due to the fact it's either terminally dull to outsiders, commercially sensitive or both.

Yeah... only 1343 work emails to plough through.  Meetings for most of the day.

I'd really like to run my day like so:

  1. delete all emails
  2. cancel all meetings
  3. do useful stuff
However, as I'm part of a corporate machine, I don't have that choice.  At least, not until I can break free of that machine.  Bring on the lottery jackpot win.

The small thing that will help the Monday morning blues is that I have my son with me for an additional and unexpected day, so I don't need to worry about this until Tuesday.  Happy days.

Saturday, 3 January 2015


As I write this, I'm parked at a local pub.  Good ale, free wifi and power for the 'kit' with landlord approval.  The music in this establishment is controlled by the staff; it appears to be a huge playlist of online content (MP3, at least) as I've not heard the same thing twice in many months of visits.
However, the choice of choonage doesn't meet with my desires, so it's not uncommon to excuse myself from the surrounding public thanks to Google Play Music and Bose noise cancelling earphones.

I've 'endured' tinnitus for a number of years.  As the condition can manifest itself in a myriad of ways, I'll explain my 'condition' as hearing a high pitched sound - constantly.  If you've ever been to a decent live gig, you may have experienced the same thing, either after you've left the venue or the following day.

I have always wondered about the source of my tinnitus.  Sure, I've been to some local gigs (mostly ropey, but it's good to see that Nuclear Minogue are still doing their stuff) and a few 'proper' stadium performances by the likes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers (WORST. GIG. EVER. in Derby), Muse (x3), Foo Fighters (x2) and a slew of amazing loud performances at the Leeds Festival in 2011.
However, I'm not to be considered a hardcore live music fan and any 18yr old that's been to a festival or two will easily surpass the number of live performances I've seen (although I'll still have the edge on quality, I think).

So why do I 'suffer' this condition?

I did spend a year working behind the bar three nights (9pm-3am) in a nightclub (well, it was what was passed for a nightclub at the time) so maybe that's it?
The NHS were very helpful in identifying exactly where I'm at; yes I have a loss of hearing, but not "that much" (so no hearing aids required), only selected frequencies - annoyingly, the ones that are most useful for hearing speech.  The advice I received was both practical and extremely helpful.  The downside of this 'coping' advice was that it depends heavily on others understanding the issues I experience and taking steps to help, for example, understanding when I don't quite catch the words (I hear the sound, but can't decipher the individual words), and there's little of that understanding forthcoming.  I have pondered getting hearing aids (even in they're dummies/fake) to have people concentrate.
Perhaps there is a reason I conduct much of my business on the phone? (where I can control the volume...)

My answer appeared over Christmas.  Chatting to my 9yo son (geek talk, mostly) he told me that he can hear a noise.  A high pitched noise.   All the time.
Oh.  So perhaps it's genetic.  My son hasn't been to gigs or worked in a club, and although he does like Metallica and the Foo Fighters (that's my boy!) he's not experienced a real live "loud" gig.

The flip side, in father mode, is helping him understand how and why - I've got little to work with.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Maplin, Pi B+, fail

Today I wanted to pick up a Raspberry Pi B+ "cobbler kit".  That is, a 40 pin cable to sit on the B+ GPIO connector, plus a bunch of useful stuff, such as LEDs, switches and resistors.  It's the sort of kit that extends the Pi from a nice little computer to something that can talk to the 'outside world'.

Unfortunately, on Dec 30th, I'd received a call from the Natwest fraud detection team and after a discussion confirming that a) I wasn't an O2 customer (2x£20 for PAYG top-ups) and b) no, I wasn't at a hotel in the USA, we collectively concluded my card details were compromised (or "cloned") and my card was blocked.

Usefully, the Natwest staff helped me extract some old skool 'real' money from an ATM to use until my new card arrived.

But no active debit card means no online shopping.  Or cashless payments, which as I use debit for pretty much everything, meant an alarming realisation of just how much "cash" I spend on food, booze, petrol, etc.

But, I digress.

With no online payment option, I took the chance to stop by Maplin in MK whilst collecting my 9yo son.  I enquire about the Pi Cobbler kit, as described at, to be advised that it's a "web only deal".
Ah, I see.

One of the few things going for Maplin is that they are (one of the few) bricks and mortar stores and thus when you want/need a particular piece of electronic-ery, you can visit, get what you need and get the hell out of dodge.
Unless it's a web only deal.  This is where the "Maplin" proposition falls apart. I can't buy online due to no active debit card, and if I could make use of the 'web only' deal, I'd go elsewhere to another online retailer doing the same kit for less.

Today I realised that with the onward march of everything 'web', there's no little ability to deal in cash.  I'm not exactly sure how I feel about that.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year Resolutions. Or not.

As is traditional for this time of year, I have been considering new year resolutions.
Things I have considered, in no particular order:

  • give up smoking
  • give up drinking
  • do more exercise
  • do something philanthropic, which given limited cash means volunteering, at the local school, maybe
I find that my intentions are significantly stronger when I've had a few drinks, having ditched any concept of exercising and I'm outside enjoying a smoke.  Oh dear.

According to the source of all knowledge (Wikipedia):
A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail
Ah... I've read some Richard Wiseman material and liked it, so I'm going to roll with Mr Wiseman.
If I set any resolutions or goals, I'm likely to fail (88%...!) and therefore, the only way to ensure success in 2015 is to avoid defining any resolutions.

Happy New Year to you.