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Showing posts from 2008

Cars cars cars...

Old cars are now rediculously cheap, years ago (1996 / 1997 to be more specific) I remember seeing the new Ford Ka, and thinking, one day I want to own one of them, and now they're £500 in autotrader. Same goes for the Ford Focus, years ago I remember saying, "When the Ford Focus only costs £1k then you just buy one of them every year, what more could you need from a car?", and now they're around £1k (the Zetec engine always had a nice growl, and the seats were comfortable enough for sleep). In a few years the new (BMW) MINI will be a similar price (you can get them for less than £4k now). It makes me think, why not just buy a different car every six months to experience driving these once great cars... here are some I'd like to drive:

Rover 75 - £1k will now buy you one of these spacious, comfortable, retro / stylish looking cars. V6? V8? MG ZT-T? (although admittedly these cost more)

Rover SD1 - available as a V8 but getting rare now so good SD1s will cost signif…

The Mazda Demio - Surprisingly Acceptable

It's not often you get the live out computuer games in real life, but this weekend, the computer game became real as I was able to drive the Mazda Demio from Gran Turismo on the Playsation in real life! It's surprisingly similar to the computer game - it has four wheels, an engine, and moves like other cars, except, just like the computer game, it doesn't want to go there quickly, nor does it want to go round corners at any speed. The Demio features some things in abundance, namely reliability, space, and practicality.

Atari Jaguar - Missile Command 3D

This I guess would almost be considered a fully featured "64bit"* game for the Atari Jaguar - using 3D objects - some with texture mapping and a 3 dimensional environment. The game has three modes - an original Missile Command - with changeable background (choose from a default wallpaper, atari lynx, arcade, or tv set), a 3D Missile command - an updated version of the original but in 3D, and then a "Virtual" Missile Command - which is set under water and is first person - you can fire from one of the cannon towers (at a time), and must protect the houses, other towers and yourself. The game has some horribly irritating background menu music. I prefer the original version of this - seems the quickest - most fun and most playable.

* The games on the Atari Jaguar seem to be very similar to 16bit games of the time (like the MegaDrive and SNES), except with the addition of 3D abilities for some of the games (much like Sega 32X, and the SNES Starfox game).

Sony Ericsson C905 Mobile Phone Review

Important questions that I haven't seen answered anywhere else:

Stereo speakers built in - No.
Video recording - 320x240 MP4, 30fps, 2 channels, 32khz.

WOW - are Sony oblivious to the fact that every other phone and digital camera now offers at least VGA video recording, while the better ones offer HD video recording? And surely stereo speakers built into the phone should be standard practise?

Using the Sony C905 as a digital camera:

So what about photo quality? the biggest appeal of this camera has to be the built in 8 megapixel Sony "Cybershot" camera with "Xenon" flash. Well, the flash definitely helps with photos of people. But one area where camera phones have always been behind in image quality is noise - the basic facts are that the more pixels you cram into a small image sensor, the more noise you're going to get, and mobile phone cameras have the smallest sensors you can get. Have a look at this picture (click above to embiggen) taken without flash to …

Stranded in Cologne...

Long story short - Easyjet flights back to Gatwick cancelled - no alternative other than driving to Calais (via Belgium) to get a ferry back. Then hire a car to get back to Gatwick (although a train would have been possible). From this I have deduced the following about these new cars:

Vauxhall Vectra - despite it's "family car" size, there is not really comfortable space to carry 3 people in the back. Long journeys (2 hours +) are uncomfortable, and rear headroom is poor on the hatcback. The head rests are uncomfortable and in the wrong place for attempted sleep, and the window ledges are too high so that you can't rest your arms on them.

Ford Focus (08 model) - space in the back is plentiful for 2 people. Seats are comfortable enough for sleep on the motorway. However interior feels very cheap, poor quality plastics, manual winding windows even on Zetec model. Noise in the back in excessively loud on motorways.

* Mini pictured above is the Mini I've recently boug…

Philips GC7220 Pressurised Steam Iron

It's full title, according to Amazon, is "Philips Bangkok GC7220 Steam Generator with SteamGlide Soleplate - 3.5 bars Steam Pressure", however I prefer the shorter name of Philips GX7220. It costs £75, or £95 at Tesco. Apparently this is good value for a pressurised steam iron (others are in the region of £150!), it's not much more than other premium brand philips irons. Normally I'm happy buying the nicest looking £15 iron from Argos.

This things big. You fill the bottom half (the stand) with water - switch it on - wait about 2 minutes - then start ironing with the top half. The steam is delivered to the iron through the large flex cord. The ironing - it's fast, damn fast. Wet too, and ironing on a solid surface will leave the surface (and the underside of the clothing) slightly damp, so it's recommended you use an ironing board with a mesh design that will allow the steam to escape.

Setting it up and using it is fairly straight forward, as long as you ign…

t-ka - and maybe a tree will grow out of me - cd review

The album grows on you, with tracks 2 and 3 standing out as the highlights for me. Track 1 gives a poor introduction, and track 10 leaves you disappointed. When the track works, the powerful voice, meaningful lyrics, and almost perfect music come together to form an impressive, (sometimes) moving and enjoyable experience. It's important to give this album the attention is deserves - listen to this album with the correct setup and the powerful bass lines and melodic tunes impress. However it can also serve as pleasing background music for dinner parties. Skip tracks 1 and 10 and you have a great (if slightly short) album. As a guide she often sounds like Annie Lennox, and occassionaly Lisa Stansfield over the top of a jazzy soulful sound. it's available from Amazon

New Dell Vostro 1510 Core 2 Duo Laptop

The Vostro 1510 from - £316 including VAT and Postage (with £50 off, plus a further 10% off). It's very dark in colour, and not very shiney from this angle. After the faulty advent I think I've finally got a bargain of a laptop to replace the Inspiron 1300.

The laptop scores well in Vista, although is let down slightly by the graphics, and 3D graphics scores. Aero is supported, but scores would be higher if a dedicated graphics card was chosen. The Vista experience scores are: CPU: 4.8, RAM: 4.8, GFX: 3.5, 3D GFX: 3.5, HD: 5.1 - giving an overall score of 3.5.

The Dell Vostro 1510 features a 1.8ghz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 250GB HD (WD), Vista Home Premium, DVDRW (slot loading TEAC), 15.4" widescreen, SD/MMC/MS/Pro memory card reader, 4 USB ports, WIFI (plus physical on/off switch), Firewire, a shiney sparkly black lid, a catchless closing mechanism (magnets? weighted shut?), a nice blue circuit board with easy access to the CPU and memory.

Some pros and cons, starti…

Upgraded the gallery again...

Upgraded the gallery again - this time to v1.5.8, and also updated php to the latest version. Only problem is this time I didn't follow my own advice and make a backup first! Luckily I've got a daily backup, so I should just be able to copy the important files back like html_wrap, and the css files. Hoorah it worked*.

* apart from breaking the "latest comments" button, and the random front page image. doh!

More Opera 9.50 bugs...

- Highlight the address bar before the page has finished loading and the right click / copy option is greyed out. Reselect the address bar (url) and copy is enabled.

- Click photos on Facebook too quickly and the album goes back to photo 1.

- text is displayed in white and fonts become corrupted. details and screenshot here.

(This all happens in Opera 9.50, and 9.52)

Portishead - Third

Strange, bleak, dark and slightly unsettling. Haunting vocals as per usual, but none of the commercial friendly drum and bass beats of the earlier Dummy album. More noise - it made me question whether my stereo was faulty. The last couple of tracks turning to rock. Some folk rock sounding stuff, with others (Machine Gun) sounding like it's come straight from one of the early Terminator films.

Making HDR (High Dynamic Range) Images...

Thanks to CHDK (Canon Hacked Firmware), a Canon Powershot SX100 IS, and this guide on how to make HDR images in Adobe Photoshop CS2+ I was able to turn this original image...

...into this image (by taking around 16 shots at different exposures, using the auto exposure bracketing feature of CHDK)...

Click images to embiggen. This would have probably worked better if there was less movement in the picture. However it's impressive how much detail is lost in the original image on the wall and sky, where everything is overexposed and colour is dull and lifeless.

Shiney PC Desk...

Since the last computer update is slightly out of date now, I thought I'd update the blog with a picture of the main computer setup. More details can be found on the computers page.

Advent 9117 17" Widescreen Laptop

Advent 9117 17" widescreen laptop, Intel Pentium Dual Core T2310 1.46ghz (x2), 1gb ram, 120gb hd, DVDRW, Windows Vista Home Premium, 1440x900 glossy screen, 3x USB 2.0, TV-out, VGA, Headphone out, mic in, 10/100 Mbit LAN, Wireless lan b/g, multi memory card reader ...some tests run here. At £225 refurb with 12 month warranty I couldn't resist upgrading my old Dell Inspiron 1300 laptop.

Update: this turned out to have a faulty DVD drive, so I had to send this back for a refund. I'll continue to use the Dell for now.

The bionic woman... problems.

- They take over a terrorist group, who are capable of getting 20 odd tankers of bio-chemical weapons, but don't have ANY guns, or defense, and just give in the instant the "good" guys appear.
- Will is about 30 - 40 years old, his dad, for some reason looks exactly the SAME age!
- They loose a usb pen drive (and a person) one episode, afterwards they don't care at ALL!
- The main woman (Jamie) has a fight with the black dude, next episode it's like it never happened.
- Yes, she has a bionic ear, she has super hearing, but does that mean you have to show us her bionic ear canal EVERY SINGLE TIME she hears something far away?!?
- Every episode seems to completely ignore the last, every week a "fresh" terrorist group...
- What happened to the first few episodes story about the first bionic woman, they just pretended she didn't exist anymore, will no real continuation or conclusion of that story line?
- Why does she need to be setup with a mic in one episode?… Opera Bug

"ERROR - Your request could not be processed. Please try again."

I'm getting this error message every single time I create a new post and click publish. I then click publish again, and it goes away. Anyone at Google / Blogger aware of this?!? Been happening for several days now...

Some people having the problem here.

This only seems to happen in Opera (I'm using v9.23, and 9.26), but not Firefox (v2.0.0.12), IE7, or Safari (v3.0.4 PC version)...

Update: this appears to be resolved in Opera 9.5

Cheap driving... petrol vs diesel vs vegeoil

I'm pretty sure I've spent many an hour thinking about cheap cars, and the cheapest way of running a car... mainly in the "bangernomics" region, where you buy the cheapest car possible... but now that you can run your own diesel car on vegetable oil and not have to pay tax on the fuel, which would be the cheaper option? Assuming you're running the car as a second car (because old cars aren't as safe as new cars, and you don't want to potentially explode an expensive car), and assuming you'd do an average of 5000 miles a year...

Option 1 would be the cheapest small petrol car possible eg a Renault 5 1.1, which on average would get you 35mpg with a mix of sensible town/city/motorway driving.

Cost of car: free - £150
Tax /year: £115
MOT /year: £50 basic
Servicing: £50 basic
Fuel (5000miles, 35mpg, 642litres): £674 (@ £1.05/l)
Insurance: £240

Total cost year 1: £1129 (assuming free, alternatively £1279), year 2: £1129

Option 2 would be the cheap small diesel car p…

The VW Scirocco has gone...

The VW Scirocco Scala has gone to a better home. Click to embiggen. Lots more pictures here. Sold for the same price I bought it for, so that worked out quite nicely.

Why I dislike the Nokia N95...

There are some things that are fundamentally flawed on the Nokia N95 :-

1. It's sold as a "Carl Zeiss" 5mp digital camera - yet it can't even take good photos with flash without making all the peoplelook blue. I initially thought that this was because it uses an LED flash, instead of a 'real' flash like on the Sony K800i, but the Nokia N73 uses the same LED flash as the N95, and is capable of taking better flash photos with much more colourful skin tones (although admittedly there is still some blue).

2. Nokia Maps - it's utter rubbish. Navigation should be FREE, there is no way that I would pay to use this software, I would much rather pay for TomTom. On a 5 minute journey, I had to enter / reset the journey from and to points 5 times! The Nokia software update removes the "tracking" feature making Nokia Maps practically un-usable and useless when driving. Nokia make a huge deal about GPS, navigation etc, yet charge you to use it.

3. The volume …