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Game of Life

Story location: Home / computing /
15/Jun/2013

Here is the ImageJ version of the classic Game of Life which I wrote in an evening, several years ago. I have made a small change since then so the 'Reset' button clears the window and the 'Random' button fills the window with random dots.

See more ...



Mandelbrot Set

Story location: Home / computing /
13/Jun/2013

A few weeks ago I was reading the book The Emperors New Mind by Rodger Penrose and I reached the part where he discusses the Mandelbrot Set. Years ago I used to enjoy exploring this on my computer. I decided to download a mandelbrot program for my mac but couldn't really find one which I liked. This prompted me to have a go at writing one myself. I decided to cheat a little and write it as an ImageJ plugin so I didn't have to handle the display and mouse myself.

See more ...



Not a Little Teapot

Story location: Home / computing /
29/Aug/2012

I was discussing nursery rhymes and similar childrens songs with Emma and we were talking about how we learned slightly different versions of some songs. Neither of us could remember the full words to the song I'm a little teapot so I decided to look them up. Our tablet computer was nearby so I used that, clicking on the voice search and saying the name of the song.

I'm a little teapot
I was a little surprised by some of the suggestions and had to search the old fashioned way, by typing the words instead. When I tried the search using my phone, it correctly recognized what I was saying.

I really have no idea what the computer thought I was saying.



Finding a use for a Tablet Computer

Story location: Home / computing /
22/Jan/2012

Last year, Emma bought an Advent Vega tablet computer. It uses the same 'Android' operating system as many mobile phones but of course with a much larger screen.

The only real problem with the Vega is that out of the box, it doesn't support the Android Market, which makes it a bit difficult to install applications. We installed an updated version of the software which makes the tablet much more useful. Without the Android Market, you are more or less restricted to web browsing and the built-in applications.

After playing around with it for a few weeks, the tablet ended up in the bottom of a drawer for a few months, unused and ignored. We both had new HTC phones which came with Android, so we could do all the same things on our phones, which also had the advantage of being smaller and more portable.

I recently decided that it would be a good idea to get the tablet up and running again. The main idea was so it could be used to read recipes in the kitchen, to save having to either print out from websites or try to use a laptop in the kitchen. So far I haven't actually used the tablet in the kitchen but it is getting used fairly regularly now.

I don't find it as convenient for web browsing as a full laptop because it is a bit slower and the lack of a full keyboard makes it less useful for using forums etc, but it is perfectly fine for reading ordinary web pages.

We have installed a few applications which get fairly regular use. The one I probably use the most is the Kindle app, which turns the tablet into something very similar to an actual Kindle. You can download books from the Amazon website or install them from elsewhere (such as Project Gutenberg). So far I have read a few freely available, out of copyright, books. I had never read any Charles Dickens books or any of the Sherlock Holmes novels so I decided to give them a go. I decided to start with A Christmas Carol (since it was Christmas at the time), then moved on to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles. I am now reading the ebook version of God's Debris, by Scott Adams.

I find reading ebooks or PDFs on the tablet is much easier than on a laptop. The device is much lighter, and the screen is a better shape and size. I have several books queued up ready to read next, including Gulliver's Travels, which I actually downloaded when we first got the tablet but I didn't get around to reading it.

In the last few years, I haven't read as many books as I used to. In the run up to Christmas, I decided that I would spend a bit less time on-line and more time reading, and so far I have been fairly successful. I probably won't be able to keep the pace up and read a book a week but I should be able to catch up on some of the books which I have had for a while but not read yet.



You should never see this string

Story location: Home / computing /
27/Jan/2011

I received an email this morning where the sender had requested I return a 'receipt' when I had read the email. I clicked the button to send it but it didn't work. Instead I saw the following error message:

This is just a placeholder. You should never see this string

I suspect the problem was caused because I was at home but sending an email from my work account, which by default tries to connect to a particular email server. This server is configured to only accept connections from on-site.



Arsebundle

Story location: Home / computing /
16/Nov/2010

I was backing up my laptop to the remote server in work this morning when I noticed the abbreviated directory names...

Arsebundle

When a backup drive is shared between people, the Time Machine/Time Capsule backup system uses what's known as a 'Sparse Bundle' to simulate individual drives for each person. Unfortunate choice of name when the directory window isn't wide enough to display the full filenames.



Correct Spelin

Story location: Home / computing /
25/Oct/2010

Oh the irony. This captcha appeared on my website earlier this evening.

Ironic Captcha



No electricity = no wifi

Story location: Home / Blog / house /
15/Sep/2010

I was using my computer at home this morning when the Internet stopped working. I noticed the wifi icon on the computer was flashing so I thought the router had briefly dropped the connection. Emma pointed out that the electric clock had gone off, so for some reason our power was out. I then noticed that all the neighbouring wifi networks had disappeared from the wifi menu, and I could also hear some nearby alarms going off, so it then became clear that the power had gone down for the nearby area and not just our house.

It's an automatic response to switch on the room lights when we get up, which I immediately did, then suddenly realised how stupid that was.

Our oven has mains-powered electric ignition so I had to light it by hand to bake the baguette for my sandwich. We don't have any long matches or special long lighters for lighting cookers, so I had to reach to the back of the oven with an ordinary cigarette lighter, while carefully turning the gas on. The gas makes a fairly loud 'whooshing' noise, which made lighting it a little scary but I managed without losing too many arm hairs (unlike Emma last week when she lit the grill, and the automatic lighter didn't seem to want to work at the time).



Almost but not quite...

Story location: Home / computing /
26/Nov/2009

This morning I received an email claiming to come from Facebook. It claimed that they were implementing new security measures and I would have to update my account.

It all looked very authentic, right up until the bit at the bottom of the message where it said:

This message was intended for xxxxxxxxxxx @ trapperindustries.com.

I don't remember setting up a company called Trapper Industries, which appears to sell deactivated weapons and military hardware. I guess the email wasn't intended for me after all.



Speeding up an old computer

Story location: Home / computing /
31/Oct/2009

I have a Compaq desktop computer which I don't use very often. It used to be my main machine but I now mainly use it to back up data or the scanner which is attached to it.

It has been running infuriatingly slowly recently so I decided to reinstall Windows, using the 'System Recovery' option which replaces the contents of the hard drive with the 'factory fresh' copy of XP.

The computer now runs quite quickly again. Boot-up time has been reduced from over 4 minutes to 38 seconds. The computer had so much software installed, and a lot of rubbish would load on start-up. The desktop actually used to appear after 2½ minutes but it was a further 2 minutes before you could open any windows or run any programs.

Clicking on files and opening windows is amazingly quick now. There used to be several seconds of disk-thrashing and a long wait when the "Start" button was clicked. Now the menu appears pretty much instantly. I had started to wonder whether my old computer had always been this slow, and I only thought I remembered it being fast when new, but no. It is back to being quick and responsive again.



Problems with Open Office

Story location: Home / computing /
06/Oct/2009

I have been an occasional user of Open Office for a few months. Most of the time is seems to be fairly usable but there are a few niggles.

  • Embedding videos into Impress is a bit clunky. I don't know whether it is a problem with my version but they play as soon as the slide appears, irrespective of any pauses or 'on-click' actions I set up.

  • Every time I run Open Office, I get the "R6034" error, informing me that the application has tried to load the C libraries incorrectly. Again I don't know whether this is just my machine or whether it is a common problem. A brief ATFG (Ask The F_ing Google) doesn't help.



The Mysteries of Windows Printing

Story location: Home / computing /
23/Jul/2009

Yesterday I tried to print some documents using the networked printer in the department. The first time I tried this, it was about half an hour before I went to retrieve the print-out. When I got to the printer there was no sign of it, but the document had gone from the printer queue so I thought it might have disappeared due so some sort of error.

Later in the day I tried to print something else. I can see the printer from my office door so I watched to see if the lights on top started to flash. Nothing happened so I deleted the document from the print queue and decided to use the other printer, which is down the end of a long corridor. This other printer worked ok. Nobody else had problems with the first printer so I suspected my computer and thought a re-boot might help.

This morning, after turning my computer off overnight, I tried to print something out using the first printer again. I sent the document to the printer and watched for the flashing lights. The printer leapt into action so I walked over to retrieve my print-out. I was surprised to find it had printed out the missing document from yesterday morning as well as the document I had just printed.

I don't know where this first document was hiding. It can't have been in the printer because other people had successfully used it after me. It wasn't visible in the printer queue of my computer. For some reason it only started to print when I decided to print something else, so it looks like it was hiding somewhere in my machine. Very puzzling.



A few things I have learned this week

Story location: Home / Blog /
06/Mar/2009

I have been using Skype to talk to Emma while she's away for the week. I started by using the USB microphone which came with Guitar Hero but earlier today I found out that my laptop has a built in microphone. I can't find a mention of it in the user manual. For some reason Dell have decided to keep quiet about it.

I saw the Diet Coke advert with Duffy riding her bike and singing. It is an awful pile of !"#*%. Her voice sounds terrible.

A cup of hot chocolate, thickened with cornflour, makes a quick and easy chocolate custard.

And talking of hot chocolate, I tried a chocolate peanut drink, by stirring a couple of spoons of peanut butter into a mug of cocoa. I couldn't really taste the peanuts properly, and since I only had crunchy peanut butter in the house, the lumps didn't fit with the rest of the drink.



The annoying marquee tag

Story location: Home / computing /
11/Feb/2009

I regularly use a few forums (fora?) and one of the other members has started using the <marquee> tag in his signature. It's rather annoying to have text whizzing across the screen while you're trying to read something.

With Firefox it's possible to disable the marquee tag, so the text doesn't move. There is a file called userContent.css which is located in the chrome subdirectory of the Profiles folder, which in turn can be found hiding in the C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\ directory (at least that's where it is in Windows XP).

Load this file into a text editor, or create the file if it doesn't exist. Add the line:

 marquee { -moz-binding: none; }

then restart the browser. The annoying marquee text will no longer move.

Update: On the mac, the profiles folder lives in the Library/Application Support/Firefox subdirectory of the user directory. With newer versions of Firefox, this can be found by clicking on Help->Troubleshooting Information



Funny Google Background Colours

Story location: Home / computing /
26/Sep/2008

I recently changed the default background colour on Firefox from white to grey so that I could check the transparency on some images before uploading them to the site. I didn't bother to change the colours back because I didn't think I needed to. I expected that these days most web pages would define a background colour if they needed one.

The normal google home page looks ok but some of the other pages seem to expect the default white. The Google logo and icons appear with white backgrounds but the rest of the page is defiantly grey.

Google with grey background