Categories
General

GeForce Now – it’s kind of a game changer

Last night I figured I would give the Nvidea GeForce Now service a quick bash. All the details about the service are on its website, however it provides you with a cloud gaming computer for free (with a 1 hour play limit per session), or for £5 a month, up to 6 hours playing (plus some added extras).

I have an old gaming PC. It struggles to play anything modern. I don’t really want to spend any decent amount of money getting the components together and building/upgrading a PC.

I have a 2012 mac mini which is my main computer, and a 2017 Surface Pro that I use for general tasks that require windows, in addition to my other iOS devices. Both the mac and the Surface Pro handle the GeForce Now service like a champ. It’s a shame there’s no iOS app at present, but it is available on Android.

To help illustrate this point I loaded up Destiny 2 and used the free GeForce Now service. I sat with the Surface Pro in the living room perched on my lap, Xbox controller connected (because I really can’t play with a keyboard and mouse on a game that I’ve spent years playing both it and its predecessor on a controller) and it worked almost flawlessly. Given it was a wireless connection (but 5Ghz) I had a couple of streaming hiccups – both of which lasted under 1 second and the game (and I) recovered from. This was while watching the launch of the Antares Rocket Cygnus NG-13 live via NASA TV.

We’re living in the future.

I know this won’t appeal to hard core gamers, and possibly not even to streamers because of the bandwidth that will be required, but for me, a filthy casual, it’s perfect. I can now get Destiny 2 at 60fps that’s buttery smooth (and actually loads the menus exceptionally fast). The 1 hour playtime doesn’t bother me just now – but to honest – this is the kind of service I won’t mind paying £5 per month for.

Categories
General

Wedding Website

I don’t post too much personal stuff on this site. I never have. However, I’m getting married this year, and, as is the done thing now, I’ve we’ve decided to have a wedding website.

I’m not going to post a link to it, again – personal, but I am happy to discuss what I’ve done and how I’ve done it.

First off, I had to figure out what the website would be for – there’s the standard of letting guests know about the location, the date, the time, the plan, the food etc – and I wanted it to be custom. I’ve never been one to pick an off-the-shelf product when I can roll my sleeves up and get handy with code.

I also wanted an RSVP system – something fast and efficient that would be easy to use.

I started by looking at other sites. We have a few weddings to attend this year and browsed a few of the sites offered. They all offered the functionality I was looking for but just not what we wanted.

I started off with hosting. As per this post, I’ve now found decent, reliable hosting at a frankly absurd price (£1 per month! – Affiliate link). As long as you have some System Administration and Security know-how – its a cinch to set up.

I’ve also bought myself an email hosting service that was discounted during Black Friday from MXRoute. It came to a total of $10 annually. It also now routes most of my other mail. This is also important as I didn’t want to use the built in PHP Mailer.

Next, I went with the tried and tested versatile can-do-anything site maker, WordPress. I had toyed with the idea of self coding everything but after seeing what was available, there was absolutely no need.

I kept the standard theme from WordPress, Twenty Nineteen and set about making the pages. My next hurdle was the RSVP, and there’s a plugin that’s designed just for that, which I ended up getting direct from the authors site – however it looks like I managed that timing particularly well as they only offer it via the WordPress site now. Functionality looks similar but your mileage may vary.

To keep the whole lot safe I’ve installed a couple of more security conscious plug-ins to stop spray and focused attacks, and replaced the built in wpmail() function with a plugin that allows me to specify my own mail server.

Designing the invites was done via a Wedding stationary company, but for the RSVP code also came in handy. I created a very small snippet that took a selection of letters (with obvious easy-to-mistake letters removed) and set about making unique 3 letter codes for each guest to RSVP. That, coupled with an Excel spreadsheet to get all the data in a nice format meant a bulk upload to the RSVP plugin was easy.

For making the RSVP cards I decided to purchase a small Brother QL-700 – normally £40 but I managed to get a (hardly) used one for £20. 62mm labels with unlimited length came in at a pitiful £5. The Brother software is actually pretty flexible and can take an Excel (or CSV) file as an input database and allowed me to print, to sticky labels. I made use of the append

(C1 & "TEXT" & C2)

function in excel to get all the individual columns set the way I like and the software allowed certain columns to be input as a QR code.

It turned the Excel spreadsheet from similar to this

to this

IMAGE

And allows labels for postage to be printed.

The website will stay the way it is until the day of the wedding, at which point I’ll make the whole thing a PDF document, and remove the site and replace it with any images that are shared with us by our friends and family attending, with an option to download the original in a PDF form.

Categories
General

My disappointment is immeasurable –

And my day is ruined.

That’s my iPad Pro 11″ 2018.

I’ve always been careful lucky when it comes to my devices and I’ve never cracked a screen or body. I’ve always had my devices in cases and generally use screen protectors.

My iPad Pro was the first I didn’t use a Glass Screen Protector – and I’ve paid the price. Don’t get me wrong – I had one fitted as soon as it was picked up, but the Apple Pencil never worked right with it so I had to take it off.

The iPad is approximately 1 year and 2 months old and I didn’t have Apple Care. That’s important, because if I had Apple Care (an extra £129) the cost of repairing this small mishap would be £39 – a total of £168. I’ve never had any accidental damage so I’ve never needed any type of insurance. However, because of the glass crack I figure it would be better to have it replaced. The cost for what Apple deem an “out of warranty” repair is £496.44 – or about 65% of the cost of a new iPad Pro 64Gb 11″.

I’m now trying to figure out the most cost effective way of having it repaired/replaced.

The joys.

Categories
Equipment General

New Toy(s)

Categories
General

2 years…

Wow. 2 years since my last post. This wont be a long post, or interesting, however I am surprised it’s been exactly 2 years since I last wrote on here.

Funny thing is, I’ve spent the last few hours looking at alternatives for WordPress. No idea why – I think I just fancied a change. Looks like I better write more before I worry about what backend the site uses!

There will be updates. I don’t know when, or have a plan for them, but they will involve my YouTube channel, my PiDashCam project (which is coming along… slowly), my 3D Printer(and the amount of issues it comes with) and other boring stuff that most people will probably not find at all interesting.

Until then!

Categories
General

Installing an SSD

So I decided to purchase an SSD for my Mac mini using some of the Amazon Vouchers I received for Christmas. After much research, I decided on the Samsung 840 EVO 250GB SSD from Amazon UK, which, at the time came in at £85.80. I bought a small fitting kit from eBay for £10.

I’ve uploaded a video to youtube. It is a highly sped-up version of me installing a Samsung 840 EVO 250GB SSD. I run a pretty standard 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7 Mac mini, with 16Gb RAM that I installed as soon as I purchased the machine.

You need an additional kit to fit the hard drive, which I purchased from eBay for £10. Beware however. The kit I purchased came with everything I needed, but the rubber grommets were too stiff and thick! I had to cut one grommet in half which fixed the issue.

All in, it took me about an hour to do taking my time and verifying everything I was doing with the iFixit site.

Before starting, my primary and pre-installed (1Tb) hard drive was showing as the bottom hard drive caddy in System Information.

On opening the mini, the Hard Drive was sitting at the top of the caddy, which, when the mini is sitting the right way up, would make it the bottom drive. The original SATA cable was plugged into the left port as you look at the mini being disassembled, which is the one nearest the bluetooth and Wifi antenna connector.

Eventually I put the 1Tb Hard Drive into the upper bay, transferring the black sheath around the original Hard Drive to the new SSD, and used the new SATA cable for the existing Hard Drive. I then put the new SSD in the bottom part of the caddy and used the existing SATA cable.

I swapped the cables as I read a few stories about read/write errors using third party SATA cables in the mini that only affected SSD drives. Better being safe than sorry!

I have a full video of my installation, including the issue with the grommets.

Before starting, I took a quick video to see how long it took to boot. My start was switching the mini on. The Stop mark was when the TomTom update helper popped up letting me know I had updates flashed onto the screen. I was a few milliseconds slow in stopping the video after the SSD install, but even with the time given, its still an astonishing difference.

Mac mini with no SSD boot time: 3 minutes, 15 Seconds.

Mac mini with SSD boot time: 56 Seconds.

I reckon thats near to a 72% speed increase in the boot time alone.

Generally I keep the mini running 24/7, so boot up times are not all that important, but the difference in software starting is astounding. iPhoto loads lightning fast, as does pixelmator. iMovie also. Other apps don’t even blink!

I’ll give it a few months and measure the performance again to see if it can keep it up.

Categories
General

iOS and Mac App Store

Its been said many many many times that the App store is broken. Several of the podcasts I listen to have discussed it at length. The search is terrible. The ranking system is awful. For new apps, it must be extremely hard to gain any traction.

I’m not an App developer (as much as I wish I was), but from a user perspective both the iOS and the Mac App Store are pretty painful to use.

Don’t get me wrong, if the App has a unique name, its pretty easy to find. It’s even better if its on one of the front pages. Apart from that? Good Luck.

One of the issues I have with both versions of the Store is the lack of interoperability.

I was looking at the Desk App online, via the developers web site. It looked pretty neat, had what looked like a good feature set, but no price. To see the price, I had to check the Mac App Store.

At the time, I was on my iPhone, and not near a computer (I use a Mac mini, so its not overly portable). Safari on my iPhone detected it was an App Store link, and fired up the iOS store, where I got the ever so helpful “Desk […] is only available on OS X” with no price. There is a handy “Learn more about this App” link, however that just takes me back to the developers website, desk.pm.

This isn’t directed at the developer of the App, but at the App Store itself. It just put off a potential impulse sale until I was back at my Mac.

I completley forgot about the App until just now, when I was using my Mac. I was installing Xcode, and on the main page of the Mac App Store, there was a featured App called Notability, tagged as “App of the Year”. Reading the description, I saw that it was both on sale and that there is an iOS version of the App.

Now, the reason for this whole post. Even though these apps are from the same developer, and will most probably be used together, nowhere in the Mac App Store (or the iOS App Store) does it provide an easy link to view the App for the different platform, nor provide an option to purchase it immediately.

Likewise (and again, I’m not a developer) I’m guessing that App Bundles can’t be used for cross-platform purchases.

It seems like Apple is missing a trick here. And for the record – I still haven’t purchased desk.

Categories
General

New Year, New Toothbrush…

IMG_8316.JPG

Categories
General

Again?

I’m going to give this blogging thing another go…

Categories
Electronics General PHP

A new iPhone?

Well. It’s sort of guaranteed that I’ll be buying the new iPhone when its launched. The announcement is in 4 days, and the Keynote will be streamed live. I hope it’s streamed via the Apple TV again.

Countdown to Apple Event
Countdown to Apple Event

I’m not going to post about the handset or the specifications. That has been done again and again.

My biggest issue when it’s time for me to upgrade my handset is trying to figure out the best plan, and whether its worth purchasing the handset outright and taking a SIM only deal, or taking out an actual contract.

In the UK, we have a number of options for phones. The first (and most common) option is to take out a (now standard) 24 month contract. You pay more per month, but in that monthly payment you pay for the handset and for the service. Taking an iPhone 5S for example, I can grab a 16Gb iPhone 5S on the o2 network with Unlimited Minutes and Texts with 2Gb of 4G data for £43 per month, with no charge for the handset. Thats it. You walk in, get a phone, no payment, and walk out. Alternatively, I can pay £49.99 for the handset with the above options, and pay £38 per month. So, two options already and thats for the same contract. Doing the math and basing it on the average monthly cost, ( (£38 x 24) + £49.99 = £40.08 vs £42) shows the better deal to be £40.08.

Then we have SIM only deals. This is where you purchase the device out right (usually at Apple prices, then its “Factory Unlocked” – gives a greater re-sale value) and then pay monthly just for the plan. Again, you get different deals if you take out a “rolling” 30 day contract, or a 12 month contract. Again, using o2 as an example, the same plan as above would cost £22 per month for a 30 day rolling contract, vs £20 per month for a 12 month contract. Again, doing the math and basing it on the average monthly cost over 2 years, factoring in the price of an iPhone 5S 16Gb ( (£20 x 24) + £549.00 = £42.87) shows the better deal to be £40.08, i.e paying £49.99 for the handset and paying £38 per month. I’ve only included the £20 per month tariff as I’m basing this on a 24 month contract.

So, I have maths. Thats only comparing 1 plan with 3 options. To do this with every tariff available in the UK with the various handsets would take a fair bit of time. To that end, I created a website. WhatPlanShouldIGet.uk. Its pretty simple. Right now, it only allows you to enter a purchase price for a handset. As soon as the new mobile tariffs are announced for the iPhone 6 (or whatever it will be called), I will update the site with the various bits of data required. You will then be able to choose the handset, and the site will give you a nice, already worked-out table for your comparing pleasure!

The above assumes a lot of things. It assumes you have the cash available to purchase an iPhone outright. It does not take into account any interest rates imposed by credit card companies if you purchase the handset on a credit card (although that is a pretty good idea – new feature request!) and it does not take into account any loyalty or other discounts you may be offered.

It’s just a simple, quick and easy tool to work out What Plan Should I Get.

The site itself is written in PHP. It uses MySQL for backend storage, and bootstrap to make it look nice. I’ll post the code at some point, but as its a public facing site, I want to make sure I haven’t left any data destroying bugs (either server or client side) in the code. For more information thought, you can head over to WhatPlanShouldIGet.uk