The ravens are looking a bit sluggish. Tell Malcolm they need new batteries.

Monday, July 31


New Fridge*

Arriving tomorrow, cleaning out the old fridge and packing anything I want to keep into a cooler.


Y'know, if I didn't keep things like four different flavours of ice cream, all half-eaten, I could get by with a fridge half this size.

New fridge is, of course, even larger.

* The light went on the old fridge.  Also, the door seals.  Also, one of the feet.  Also, it was leaking...  Something.  Also, it was twenty years old.

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A very angry frog.

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Saturday, July 29


Pixy Is Watching (Summer 2017)

Made in Abyss

I've only started on finished the first episode, but it's definitely worth checking out just for the visuals.  It's gorgeous, sort of half Castle in the Sky and half Hidamari Sketch.

That video will likely self-destruct when the DMCA-bots catch up with it, so just watch the show already.

Episode 2: "I got the stick out."

The writing clunks on occasion, but the characters and worldbuilding are genuinely engaging.  Will continue to watch this one.

Episode 4: Still going strong.  Three giant holes in the ground out of four so far.

Huh.  The guy who's directing this also directed Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi back in the day.  I can see that, though this is much less frenetic.

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Thursday, July 27


Bohemian Rapsody

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USB 3.2

One of the tricks with the USB Type-C connector is that both the plugs and cables are reversible - plug in either end, either way up, and it just works.

They do this by having two pairs of wires and crossing them over in the cable, so whichever way you connect it you are connected to the right pins at the other end.

It's also possible to do this by having a smarter USB controller chip that crosses the signals over itself.  That way you only need one set of wires - or you can use existing cables with two sets of wires and run twice as fast.

The engineers who design this stuff can see the obvious too, and just announced USB 3.2, running at 20 gigabits per second, up from 10 gigabits for USB 3.1 and 5 gigabits for USB 3.0, and roughly 2000 times faster than USB 1.0.

Now if they can just use it to replace SATA cables, I'll be happy.

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Wednesday, July 26


Thank You Hairy Robot

The Mediapad M3 is pretty great, but suffers an odd problem: If you touch the bottom edge of the screen, just above the home button, it opens a Google web page.  Completely useless but immensely irritating if you're playing a game and try to tap on something and BOOM Googled!

SwipeLaunch Disabler by Hairy Robot is an app that does exactly one thing: It turns off that popup.

Five stars.

Speaking of the Mediapad M3, it looks like Nougat (Android 7.0) is finally showing up.  Users in Europe are already getting the update, but it hasn't landed for US devices yet.  (And mine is technically a US device.)

Assuming that Huawei hasn't screwed it up, that will remove my last hesitation on recommending this tablet.  I couldn't be happier with the hardware, but the software needed some tweaking.

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Tuesday, July 25


Good To Know

Apparently a Ryzen R7 1700 with a Radeon RX 480 can run Civilization 6 at 4K at 48 frames per second.

(Tohru has an R7 1700 and an RX 580, which is a few percent faster than the 480.  And a 4K screen.  And I picked up Civ 6 for about $20 in the Steam summer sale.)

That's better than I expected; the RX 580 is marginal for 4K gaming, and I was expecting to have to drop down to 1080p.  Not that that is really a hardship.  But it seems most of the benchmarks are for actiony games that I don't play anyway, and for strategy stuff it does a lot better.

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I also got one of these on the weekend:

Lenovo Ideapad 110S

It's to use as a spare PC for watching TV and arguing on Twitter in the bedroom.  It replaces Potemayo, an old HP laptop running Windows 8.

Cost me $250 on sale - about US $180 $200* - and despite the limitations (Atom CPU, 2GB RAM, 32GB SSD) it's actually pretty good.  The screen is much better than the 5-year-old Potemayo; it's a TN panel, but a good one.  The CPU is faster (though still slow), the memory is adequate, though barely, and the SSD is a thing that exists.  Considering that a Windows 10 license alone is $150, I'm not going to complain.

Mostly, though, it gets a wifi signal.  Potemayo always had lousy wifi, and it's been getting worse as the airwaves get more crowded.  That's what got me out of the house on the weekend to buy a new computer - I wanted to watch some Flying Witch and got the no wifi for you message.

Shana has no such problems, at least so far.

For a device that has clearly been built to a price rather than a performance level, it's surprisingly well-made.  It's light-weight but solid, the keyboard is crisp, the screen is bright and colourful, and overall it's a slim, sleek, and attractive little device.

There's also a 14" model with 4GB ram and a 64GB SSD, which is probably the way to go if you want to use it for anything more than watching anime.  I can see Windows 10's eternal upgrades eventually eating that 32GB SSD even without installing any applications.  

It does have three USB ports and a micro-SD slot for storage upgrades, and I stuck in a 32GB card for my files, but Windows wants its C:.

For 1/10th the price of Tohru, Shana delivers 1/10th the performance, has 1/10th the RAM, 1/10th the storage, and 1/10th the pixels.  About 1/10th the weight as well.  This seems fair to me.

* The Australian dollar did what?  Well....  Good.

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Saturday, July 22



Not this one:

This one:


The Dell Inspiron 27 7000.  The model I'm looking at has a 4k screen, 8-core Ryzen 1700 CPU and 16GB RAM, a Radeon RX 580 graphics card with 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1TB disk drive.

It's 15% off for the next week, so instead of paying a little more for the convenience of an all-in-one system, it's actually cheaper than I could build myself.  Particularly right now with the extinction-level event that's hit mid-range video cards.

Update: Order placed!  I added a three year warranty, three year accidental damage insurance, a speaker system and their fancy Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and it still came out cheaper than the bare system was before.  (The US models ship with the fancy keyboard, but for some reason they went with a cheaper one in Australia.)

Tohru will be a little sister to Taiga, my 2015 Retina iMac.  Yes, tiger and dragon.  No, I didn't specifically plan that.

Update: ETA was two weeks when I placed the order.  It's now two days for the system, which is great...   And two weeks for the keyboard.

Update: Keyboard just arrived.  That was a quick two weeks!

Update: Tohru has shipped!  Keyboard is currently showing an ETA of Sunday...

Update: The keyboard is very good.  Similar feel to Apple's full-size keyboard (not the terrible "Magic" keyboard), but a bit firmer and with a little more key travel.  I paired it with my iMac via Bluetooth and it works fine.  The mouse also works perfectly with the iMac and has proper buttons and a scroll wheel.  This is great because both keyboard and mouse can pair with three devices, so I can have one keyboard for Tohru and Taiga and Azusa and hot-switch.

Dell really needs to make a version of this keyboard with Apple key labels.  It's better than anything Apple currently sells.

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Ninefox Gambit

So, what we have here is a space opera kind of thing set in a universe where dialectical materialism is true.  That is, the laws of physics are (to some extent) what you can convince other people to believe them to be.

As a science-fictional premise this is fine, and the author follows through on his premise pretty robustly.  Most of the characters are idiots, and the society they live in is awful.  But this is because being a charismatic sociopath is the only reliable path to power, so all the leaders - all of them - are of that nature.  They treat their soldiers and citizens as pawns, or less than pawns, because that actually works.

Our heroine, Kel Cheris, is an up-and-coming infantry captain with a flair for mathematics unusual in the army.   She is co-opted into a plot by some of the central political figures in the Hexarchate to do...  Something.  I've finished the first book, and it's still not entirely clear who is trying to do what to whom.

On now to book two, Raven Stratagem.

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