Suunto Core All Black review

Having failed in my first attempt to replace my Omega with a new watch, I went back to the drawing board and started researching watches again. This time I ended up with the Suunto Core All-Black, which I'm quite happy with. It has one or two minor faults, though, which I describe in this review.

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Ong’s Hat - a fascinating conspiracy game from the early internet

Jed Oelbaum at Gizmodo tells the (long) story of Ong’s Hat, which involves physics, mysticism, inter-dimensional travel and government raids. It was only ever a game but the early internet got hold of it and turned it into a conspiracy.

Any article with this sort of stuff in it is going to be fun to read for me:

According to the brochure, which included detailed, technical descriptions of the scientific activities and day-to-day life at the Ashram, “the spiritual rhythms permeating the place proved ideal.” The group thrived, living in “a scattering of weather-gray shacks, Airstream trailers, recycled chicken coops, and mail-order yurts,” as its experiments grew increasingly bizarre and esoteric, in an effort to train the powers of the mind to manipulate the quantum underpinnings of reality itself. Finally, after some years, they produced “the Egg,” a pod that could actually pierce the veil between parallel universes, enabling travel to other dimensions.

It’s complete tosh of course but what’s interesting is the way these things expand and grow, driven mainly by people who just love to believe a conspiracy.

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Avoid big tech silos for your services

It’s a subject I keep coming back to. If you write content for the web, keep it all under your control. Text, images, code, domains …. the lot.

Colin Devroe writes about how even big, 100m-user sites can just suddenly disappear because they’re just “not worth the bother” to some big tech companies.

On a related note, companies can just change APIs at will too, screwing up some of the services you use. The Red Sweater blog writes about how MarsEdit can no longer support Blogger because Google is shutting down the Picasa Web Albums API.

I helped a friend of mine set up a Wordpress site a while ago and we were up and running with a blog on his own domain name, on a private server within about an hour. That’s all it takes.

I worry when people effectively journal on places like Facebook. They’re just not in control of their data. It seems incomprehensible that Facebook might one day disappear, but why take the risk? Why leave years of journals in a place where you have no real control? Use your own site and simply point to it via social media if you must.

Keep control of your data and back it up regularly.

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Technical frippery

By technical frippery I mean technology and gadgets that really aren't worth the bother. They don't really save a great deal of time or effort. There's a lot of them around these days and I thought I'd muse on the subject for a few hundred words.

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The biggest threats to humanity

Simon Beard and Lauren Holt of the BBC have written an interesting article on what might pose the biggest threat to humanity.

Obviously climate change features, as do volcanoes, diseases, asteroid strikes, AI and similar.

However, I think they’ve forgotten a big one: overpopulation. We simply cannot support the population we have on the planet already and it it is increasing rapidly. When I say we cannot support the population, I mean we do not. Wealth spread evenly may well be able to do so but anyone who thinks that might ever happen is seriously overestimating human nature.

Even if that were to happen there would come a point, with current rates of population increase, where we’d just have too many people to feed and provide for.

We need a turnover of population of course. Put bluntly the old pay for the young until they leave home and then the young pay for the old when the young are working: pensions, medical care and such.

It’s not just the rising population but the rate at which it is rising has gone off the scale in the last few hundred years and, I believe, it’s unsustainable.

But I guess woe betide any government who tries to restrict breeding. The Chinese did it for a while but then again they’ve got a grip on their people that Western governments simply don’t have.

It is noticeable even between the 1970s and now. There are just far more people around and it just can’t go on unchecked.

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Smarter iKettle 3 review

I do like my tea. I probably drink too much of it. But with my old kettle playing up I had the perfect opportunity to upgrade to something interesting and I ended up with Smarter's iKettle 3, which I review here.

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Casio G-Shock Mudmaster GWG-1000 review

My trusty Omega Seamaster went bang after 20 years and I wanted something completely different, so I went for a Casio Mudmaster which is about as different as you can get to an Omega. Anyway here's my review of the watch.

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Supremely Washable 4.5 Tog Printed Duvet review

I'm so unfailingly lazy that a duvet one doesn't need to extract covers from to wash is always going to appeal. In this case I'm talking about one of Marks' Washable Duvets, which I review here.

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People are nuts about Fortnite

The BBC takes a look at Fortnite hackers and the money they make from it.

I find it all a bit bizarre. Not that Fortnite gets hacked, but that people actually pay money to the hackers. I appreciate the ‘victims’ the BBC interviewed were very young and such things seem disproportionately important to the young, but — and here’s the important bit — it’s a just a game.

When you get young hackers appearing in a documentary about a game with their faces covered like they'd just beheaded someone on the internet, you have to wonder if the world has gone completely mad.

Hacking is a scourge in today’s technological society and the nature of the world’s IT is such that I can’t see it being prevented any time soon, but I believe the authorities will catch more hackers and the punishments will become more severe.

In this particular instance, though, a clearer sense of perspective would help. I find it hard to be particularly sympathetic to the victims of the hacking of a misspelt game.

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Helm Personal Email Server overview

Fancy hosting your own email but don’t want the sysadmin overhead? Maybe Helm is for you and Lee Hutchinson at ArsTechnica has written a fantastic overview of the service.

This definitely interests me as I’m always looking at ways to get away from corporate silos. I currently use Microsoft’s Office365 Exchange service for my email and it’s perfectly fine, but I like to extract myself from the global tech companies as much as possible.

Alas I can’t use Helm at the moment. It doesn’t yet support multiple domains (and I need two) and, crucially, it’s not yet available in the UK.

I’ll be keeping an eye on it though.

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Tenda Nova Mesh WiFi review

I've always suffered from poor wi-fi here, just one room away from the router. That's due to the thick walls in the old building I live in. I've previously used Powerline plugs but I wanted to see if a mesh wi-fi system could handle things. The one I went with was a Tenda Nova MW6, which I review here.

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What do people do at cashpoints?

I must be missing something that goes on at cashpoints. At Sainsbury’s yesterday I was standing in the rain with two people ahead of me in the queue for the cashpoint. Both took an inordinate amount of time to simply withdraw cash and they seemed to press an unaccountable number of buttons.

As far as I can tell it’s card in, then the PIN, which is four key presses (the PIN doesn’t even require enter). Then it’s one key press to select cash only and one key press to select the money you want from the list. So it should really be six key presses and then you’re done. Let’s be generous and say you’re an awkward bastard who doesn’t care about the people getting soaked behind you and you don’t want one of the preset denominations of money. That would be maybe another three or four key presses.

Either way, you’re going to be done in under ten keypresses and less than a minute.

So what in the name of the rain god are people doing spending many minutes and dozens of key presses at a cashpoint? Can you send emails from cashpoints these days? I mean they can’t need their balance or anything like that because we have online banking these days. People can do that from home beforehand, where it’s dry.

Fortunately I have a solution. Cashpoints need a one minute timer that starts when you insert your card. If you exceed that time limit the bank should send a huge bolt of electricity through the cashpoint to fry you to ashes. One of the Sainsbury’s people could then just sweep you up and make the cashpoint available to the people standing in the rain behind you.

I think I’ve found a nice balanced solution to the problem there.

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The hellish Netflix work environment

Rhett Jones at Gizmodo reports on the alleged hell that comes with a job at Netflix:

Kill or be killed seems to be accepted as a mode of operation. One employee expressed the feeling that they live in fear of being fired every day at an executive meeting. A vice president named Karen Barragan was said to have responded: “Good, because fear drives you.” Barragan disputed the account.

Apparently it even stretches to managers being fired for not firing enough people.

Of course an atmosphere of extreme corporate fear is doomed to failure eventually. There is no doubt that fear is a ‘motivator’ of sorts — it’s one of the primary emotions that drives the human psyche — but fear leads to defensive working practices, stifling invention and creativity.

Seriously underperforming staff should indeed be sacked and a little fear is no bad thing, but anyone who cares about their job has a little fear anyway and there’s no need for upper management to instil more.

The sort of environment described can succeed for a while, particularly if high salaries tempt people to put up with it, but it won’t last. In the long term there’ll be a lack of innovation and, as the corporate reputation spreads, people just won’t want to work there.

All of which says nothing about the people at the top who drive these sorts of working practices. I have no idea how they sleep at night knowing their modus operandi is to scare people shitless during the day. There are other qualities a ‘good’ person needs beyond making their company a corporate success. It sounds like someone's obsessed with trying to prove they're a hard-nosed corporate leader.

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Apple's Reminders app needs two features

I find Apple's Reminders app frustrating. It could so easily turn from something that's a bit 'meh' into an app that's central to everything I do. It feels unfinished at present and I hope it's something Apple will address in the future.

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Companion phone released by Japanese firm NTT Docomo

There are two ways you could look at this.

The first is that we already have ‘companion’ devices anyway. The iMac’s companion is the MacBook, whose companion is the iPad, whose companion is the iPhone. All we’re doing is continuing the succession with a ‘cardphone’, for want of a better phrase.

The second is that we’re getting into a ludicrous Russian doll-style situation here and we can expect a phone the size of postage stamp next, then one the size of a flea and then one the size of molecule. If we see things this way, the world has clearly gone bonkers and it needs to stop spinning for a moment so we can all get off.

I'd be surprised if this idea catches on, although stranger things have happened.

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Wilkins Cider Farm, Mudgley, Somerset

I had the pleasure of visiting Wilkins Cider Farm a few weeks ago, which is excellent. I recommend a visit if you're ever in Somerset.

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Coda review - nearly the perfect code editor

Despite no longer coding professionally, I still code for my own purposes. It's mainly web-based coding and I need some sort of code editor to help me out. In this article I review Coda, which is one of the main code editors in my toolbox. Over all, it's a great app but it suffers from a couple of problems.

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Apple's 12 September 2018 event

Personally, I couldn’t be less interested in what was announced. It’s all phones and watches, neither of which I use in any high-tech manner. I have an iPhone 6 I completely forget about unless it rings, which is once a fortnight on average, and I just want my watch to tell me the time.

I do however appreciate that phones and watches float the boats of a lot of people and if you want a decent summary of what went on at Apple’s 12 September event, Recode’s article is pretty good (because it’s mercifully brief).

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Phone addiction

The Huffington Post asked some of its staff to see if they could do without their phone whilst watching television in the evening. It wasn’t easy for some of them.

Connor Parker, an intern, concluded:

I might have managed a few hours without my phone – but it was so unenjoyable that doing so affected my whole viewing experience.

Ashley Percival, the Entertainment Editor concluded:

Abandoning it for those big ‘event TV’ moments would also be hard. For me, the thought of watching something like ‘Strictly’ or ‘Love Island’ without commentary from Twitter is unthinkable - it adds so much value and enjoyment in a way we couldn’t have anticipated 10 years ago.

Not everyone completely hated it. Sophie Gallagher, a reporter, concluded:

The unexpected benefit of this is that by the end I actually feel like I’m winding down for bed rather than gearing up for a Twitter debate. This alone is good enough reason to try this again (despite my initial frustrations).

Am I the only person who’s worried about this?

I think the title of my article is probably a misnomer. The phone is just a tool and it’s the social media on the other end of it that people are addicted to.

But it’s completely inconceivable to me that a phone and the social media it connects to would be so addictive, and an addiction it clearly is. I struggle to remember to take a phone out with me and I only notice it in the house if it rings. You could take my phone away for a month and I’d barely notice.

I see this inability to concentrate on one thing as a serious problem. Life must just be a series of distractions for some people.

I suppose I should consider all sides here. Maybe this is just what society is now. When televisions themselves were invented, I'm sure a lot of people thought they were the distractions and couldn’t understand why people struggle to get through an evening without staring at an electric box in the corner of the room.

I can’t help thinking the addiction to phones and social media robs us of some things, though: our ability to simply concentrate on one thing and to live in the moment.

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