I’m not a big gamer. I’ve had a console of some sort for as long as I can remember, but I usually play a game through and then put it down for months. I still enjoy looking at what new games are being released, and look forward to new console launches.
Epic has released a demo of their new Unreal engine running on one of the PS5 dev kits and it looks glorious.
The PS5 is due to be released later this year. If Sony can release it at under £500, with graphics at this level, it becomes very difficult to justify spending £1000+ for a fully specced gaming rig.
In response to Kev, Bob and others who have posted lists of the extensive amount of devices that they use, while wondering aloud if they have too many. I absolutely do have too many, and I accept your judgement.
I’m a late adopter and usually a couple of iterations behind whatever is current, so while it looks like I’ve got the relatively new stuff – I’m just at that point in the cycle. My last phone, for example, was an iPhone 6. My laptop is seven years old, and I can’t see any reason to replace it.
I mean, it does look like a lot. But is it really?
Cal Newport’s second book, Digital Minimalism, is somewhat timely
given the increasing concern about the role of technology in our lives.
In it, he asks us to look critically at the technology we allow into our
lives as individuals and consider whether it adds genuine value, or
whether we use it as a crux to pass time which would be better spent
doing something else.
Top of his hit list is social media, which he argues most people
simply do not need & those that do need it probably need it a lot
less than they think they do ( he says 20 – 30 minutes a week, tops). In
2015 I closed my accounts on the big social media platforms and am
embarrassed to admit how difficult I found it. On reflection it hasn’t
made any meaningful difference to my life. True, there are people that I
have lost contact with, but I still talk to the people that matter and
the level of that contact is more substantial than a ‘like’ or a quick
He goes on to set out the merits of of solitude – being alone with
your thoughts without external interference. We’ve become so accustomed
to filling every spare minute with something: checking social
media feeds, reading emails, listening to podcasts and audiobooks – we
very rarely allow or brains the time to just think. This something that we don’t fully understand the long term effect of.
He also makes a case for analogue activities. Humans are happier, he
says, when they are creating something. We should prioritise demanding
activities over passive consumption and cultivate high quality leisure
activities – things that are meaningful and have defined outcomes.
It’s a good book and there isn’t a lot of waffle in it. It isn’t
anti-technology, it just reminds us that we are the masters of our own
time and need to take responsibility for how we use it. It was
persuasive enough for me to reset my iPhone and ruthlessly cull and lock
down my apps.
We have a weird internet set-up at home, with our connection coming in from a device on our roof
instead of via fibre or ADSL. It mostly works okay, but if the provider
starts to oversubscribe connections then our speed suffers, especially
at peak times. We had some extended periods of poor service when the
service first went live but we stuck with it and over the past year or
two it has worked mostly okay. It’s not stellar, but it’s cheap and
In January we started no notice that we were struggling to stream at
peak times and my wife was having issues browsing on her phone. I
figured that this might be a good time to switch to fibre, it’s around
£15 a month more expensive, but bound to give us a more stable
connection and it would be faster too.
I logged into my router to find out how much data we use so that I
could price up the right fibre package, and noticed something strange:
During a standard month we usually download around 500gb of data, and
upload 50-60gb. In January we downloaded 450gb, but wait, what the.. we
uploaded 807gb. We’ve already uploaded nearly 700gb this month too, in
total nearly 1.5 terabytes of data and more than we’d use in two years.
Something was very wrong somewhere.
My instant reaction was to ask my teenage daughter if she had
anything on her laptop that might be uploading stuff. Torrents? She
offered me a blank look. Then I remembered the torrent client running on
our home server. And there was the problem: three torrents had been
seeding endlessly since the end of December, to the tune of 1.32
terabytes. Whoops. Theoretically uploading shouldn’t affect download
speeds, but I think that my creaky network was saturated by the constant
transfers. Lesson learned.
Anyway, to those lucky people that were able to download a particular torrent 987 times.. you’re welcome.
I’ve been having some fun with a cheap USB FM/Dab radio.
With some clever software this little gadget can do a lot more than it
was designed to do, including decoding pager messages. People really do
still use pagers.. The pager as we know it was invented in 1956 by
Multitone Electronics for use in London hospitals, but it was Motorola
who gave the device a name and introduced it to the masses. The
popularity of the pager surged in the 1980s as it became the must have
gadget of professionals. Teenagers and pop stars jumped on board in the
nineties and it looked like the pager was here to stay, but as pager use
grew so did the mobile phone network which eventually supplanted it.
Mobile phones became more reliable, affordable and feature rich and
usage of pagers dived.
Pagers still have some advantages over mobile phones. Coverage tends
to be better, especially indoors and their battery life can be measured
in weeks rather than hours. They can be used in places where mobile
phones are banned for security reasons, or where they might interfere
with sensitive equipment. Pager messages are broadcast in clear text by
powerful transmitters over FM radio bands. You’ll need a cheap USB DAB/FM radio receiver to decode them. I bought mine for less than a tenner.
A search for ‘sdrsharp pager messages’ should give you give you all
of the info needed to get up and running. For the technically inclined,
the system works by modulating a tone between two frequencies to create a
binary stream. The transmitter alternates these frequencies very
quickly – up to 6400 times a second. Here’s a sample of some of the
messages that I decoded:
0101158 23:39:12 29-07-15 FLEX-A ALPHA 3200 FROM GLOUCESTER POLICE CONTROL ROOM,
HAVE ASKED EVERYONE AND NO POLICE OFFICER HAS THE KEYS THAT HAS BEEN MISLAID. TEL NO
IS 101 IF YOU NEED TO CALL.
0121305 23:01:17 29-07-15 FLEX-A ALPHA 3200 PLS CALL ANNE AT OBSTETRIC THEATRE
ON 458 47``
0118459 23:58:43 29-07-15 FLEX-A ALPHA 3200 20150729 23:57 boc1web03.servstream.
com:conn CRITICAL ALERT
0119043 23:58:45 29-07-15 FLEX-A ALPHA 3200 Room S17 Isolator Z21 Hatch Pressure
BMT 42.5 (Alm:D Lmt:<50.0000 Grp:BMT)
I’m surprised that no effort is made to encrypt the messages because
many of the messages contained personal details such as names, addresses
and phone numbers.
I’m loving my new Android
phone. It’s a real smart piece of technology and I keep finding great
applications for it. One neat application that I have found is the Android Scripting Environment
, which basically does what it says on the tin, allowing you to create
quick and dirty scripts, on the device, which make use of the extensive
One of the example programs that came with the application made use
of the barcode scanner to add a book to Google Books. I’ve adapted this
program to allow you to quickly add a book to your Bookmooch inventory,
just by scanning the barcode on the back of a book.
The original code, along with a load of other examples can be found here
. I’d love it if someone were able to develop this a bit more, if only
to provide a nice exit routine. Sadly that’s way beyond my ability.