My new π

I have been running Zonemnder GNU/Linux PC-based servers both for my home and for a few customers for several years. It's worked pretty well too. In fact, my wife and I really like our system. She shares certain cams with her folks back in Hungary. And my mum often checks our garden cam from her flat in Southampton, just to see what the weather is doing here! We watch baby foxes playing in the street, hedgehogs shagging on the steps of my shed. We also caught next door's cat taking a dump in our porch lol ! :-) Even more… Read More ►

Remote shooting using “IP Webcam” software.

Folks considering remote shooting via smartphone may wish to experiment with Pavel Khlebovich's "IP Webcam". Basically it's an amazingly clever and full-featured app that allows you to control the camera(s) on your smartphone with a remote computer, using standard internet protocols. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pas.webcam I initially got into it because it plays nicely with Zoneminder. Thus any of my smartphones can be used as security cameras. I use it quite regularly on my rooted Ulefone 3w. to stream video to our Zoneminder installation. But it actually does way more than that. For a start, it offers several different methods of displaying video… Read More ►

Ulefone 3w ruggedised smartphone

I recently purchased an unlocked Chinese Ulefone Armor 3W. - c/w  Mediatek chipset, 8-core 64-bit CPU, dual unlocked SIM slots, 256GiB TF slot and 10700mAH battery. I have quite a soft-spot for cheap generic Chinese phones. Of course, one has to choose the product quite carefully. One also needs to be prepared to a little work oneself. Because of its high power and relatively low cost, I did not feel particularly scared about experimenting with it via ADB (Android Debug Bridge). If one is successful, then  the device becomes a seriously useful handheld computer at a bargain-basement price. And if… Read More ►

Sliderule – the eco-friendly computer from days of old

Some of my favourite computers require no PSU, no batteries, no RAM, no disks, no upgrades and they are 100% resistant to all known malware. No, I'm not talking about some newfangled Linux. I'm talking about good old fashioned sliderules. :-) Sliderules top to bottom... Top: Darmstadt 304. Despite its German-sounding name, this sliderule was in fact British. 1970's. Middle: Beautifully engineered but rather faded, all-metal (except the cursor) Picket and Eckel N-500-T, from the United states, c/w original real-leather case. Early 1960's. Bottom: The schoolboy's favourite - a British Thornton AD150 log-log slide rule. This example is a bit… Read More ►

Backups: NAS vs external hard disk

Discussion came up on a forum to which I belong whether it is better to use NAS (network attached storage) or external hard drives for backup. My answer is why not use both? Effectively I have three NAS servers. One is a media server. The others are purely backup - though they can quickly be repurposed as a media server if the first one were to suffer a catastrophic failure. I also have a number of external drives too. But in all cases they are devices I have chosen to build myself, rather than buy off the shelf. Here's why...… Read More ►

Home made light modifier

OK, so we are still in coronavirus lockdown here in the UK and I have spent the afternoon playing! :-) I saw the basic idea on a web forum on a photography site, and decided to look around my garage and see if there was any thing suitable to produce something similar. I also took a few quick hand-held snaps of the results. This is my last piece of (rather battered) perforated stainless steel sheet, cut to a roughly rectangular 29cm x 18cm, c/w edge protector (to prevent cutting ones hands on the sharp edges). Excuse the extra hole. It… Read More ►

Virtual backdrops and wallpapers

Freebies to beat those lockdown blues This is a collection of virtual backdrops and wallpapers that you may download, manipulate and enjoy, for free. These images were created by capturing and saving a large number snap-shots of an open source music visualisation application for GNU/Linux called ProjectM - not to be confused with a 2008 computer game with a very similar name. I originally created these as desktop wallpapers for computer systems. A purpose for which they work pretty well, even if I do say so myself. However, as a keen photographer I discovered they could also be deployed as… Read More ►

Roamer Ten

I was 12 years old when I built my first multi-band shortwave radio - a Radio Exchange Roamer Ten kit - as pictured above. After many nights surreptitiously listing to it hidden under the bedclothes so my mum never found out, I soon realised just how insular and generally pisspoor most our media is in here the UK. Back in the day, at least we had a fairly "world class" BBC World Service - which of course has been severely downgraded in recent years since the FO decided not to fund it any more. Meantime, my father read the Daily… Read More ►

Sony ICF2001

The lovely Alexa Allure wearing a cheongsam dress and listening to the world on a 1981 vintage Sony ICF 2001 multiband receiver. Back in the day, Sony used to be one of the market leaders in shortwave radios. Its big selling feature was the continuous AM band that covered all the standard LF, MF and HF frequencies, 150kHz though to 30,000kHz. Thus it received conventional longwave, mediumwave and shortwave bands in a big single band. In addition to standard AM reception it would also handle SSB (single sideband) and CW (continuous wave) transmissions via the switch on the front. It… Read More ►

Shattaf – a healthy solution to the toilet roll shortage

As the coronavirus crisis deepens, seems we also have the deeply undignified spectacle of fully grown adults publicly fighting each other as they snatch and hoard toilet rolls. At the risk of seeming crude, I'd rather wipe my arse on a stinging nettle than squabble with strangers in a supermarket over who takes home the last effing bog roll. However, I'm pleased to report that both my dignity and my bottom are safe, since I dragged-out my "Happy Plumbers Tool Kit" and fitted a shattaf  to our toilets instead... Left: complete installation including toilet, cistern, isolating valve hose, mounting bracket… Read More ►

Safer modelling lights for Chinese flash head units

An interesting question came up a little while back on one of the photography fora to which I belong "I'd be interested in knowing how you swapped the halogen bulbs for led's though waist_it because I have the same problem and as you say those bulbs are hotter than hell, makes using modelling lights with a grid or snoot very fraught?" Well, I had already been down that road in 2015, when I successfully converted all six of my generic Chinese flash heads from halogen to LED modelling bulbs. Firstly, one needs to do a little homework Determine what voltage… Read More ►

What is a WebP image file, and how do I open one?

Seems there is quite a lot of buzz about a "new" image format called "WebP"  that is seeing increasing use on-line recently. Although it is attributed to Google, WebP was not strictly a Google invention. It was originally developed by On2 of New York as part of its VP* series "Truemotion" video codecs. Google acquired these technologies when it took over On2. VP8 went on to be the core of Google's WebM video format. WebP is not particularly new either. It was originally released in back in 2010. Whilst the libwebp code library has been freely available under a BSD… Read More ►

Cheap but effective continuous studio lighting

For continuous lighting, one needs a light source that has good colour balance, uses power efficiently, is reasonably robust and does not present a health or fire risk. I am also a tightwad - interested primarily in "bangs per buck". Whilst I love new technology, I am not prepared to pay silly money for it. Choices Incandescent bulbs are power hungry and get very hot. Hot enough to set fire to soft-boxes or cause serious burn injury to one's models. CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) is better in terms of power efficiency but the big CFL's are flimsy, cumbersome and very… Read More ►

Converting inexpensive LED flood lights for use in the studio.

This is how I converted three left-over cheapie (£60 for a box of ten, delivered) 20 watt daylight LED flood lights for use in the studio. The basic tools you need:- Vernier or digital caliper, M10 ISO metric taps. Suitable spanner (17mm AF). Bench vice. Electrician's screwdriver and wire strippers, to make the electrical connections. Every LED floodlight unit will need:- Suitable socket to fit on standard 16mm studio lighting spigots. M10 ISO metric bolt. Some form of electrical connection or junction box.   Firstly, I found some nice solid aluminium 16mm studio lighting type sockets. These came fitted to… Read More ►

Repairing an elderly Tamron 80-210mm lens

Repairing a Tamron 80-210mm lens. End glass removed using special lens tool, available on eBay for about £10. Inside of the lens was a bit foggy. I suspect that oil/grease had evaporated form the zoom mechanism and had re-condensed on the inside of the glass. Anyway, I carefully dismantled it (which is actually pretty straightforward with the correct tools, cleaned it up with my trusty lens-cleaning solution (33% white vinegar; 33% isopropanol; 34% distilled water), cleaned and lubricated the mech with silicone grease and reassembled it.... Close-up repairing a Tamron 80-210mm lens. End glass removed using special lens tool, available… Read More ►

Novatech X16 Pro | Clevo W76TUN review

My first introduction to the Novatech *16 Series was in the Beginning of October 2009 when I bought one for my mum & put Ubuntu 9.10 64 bit c/w Medibuntu multimedia thus saving eighty-five quid (or more) Microsoft Tax. My mum is in her seventies and she really does not like computers at all. Interestingly, she says she prefers Ubuntu to Windows - mainly because she does not have to bother about virus checkers and all those other security annoyances that seem particularly scary for elderly users. She also like the fact that she doesn't have to pay for any new… Read More ►

Novatech/Clevo E16 & X16 Wireless Networking under Ubuntu Linux

This was actually rather annoying. These days one rather expects wireless networking to work "out of the box". Anyway, seems the fix is reasonably simple. These instructions are very specific and therefore need to be followed exactly. They assume you are using the 64 bit version of (K)Ubuntu. I'm also assuming you are using Firefox to download the driver file.which is called:- • rtl8192se_linux_2.6.0010.1012.2009.tar.gz and that you save this file to the default location i.e. your Desktop. OK, here's what you do, once you have downloaded the file onto your Desktop Open a terminal, by clicking the Applications|Accessories|Terminal menu item.… Read More ►

Trying to buy a PC without Windows part 6 – Lenovo

IBM is not one of Microsoft's biggest fans, particularly after it was well-and -truly shafted in the OS/2 fiasco. So it seems very surprising that its subsidiary Lenovo refuses absolutely to provide any refunds for unwanted Microsoft Licenses, thus completely ignoring the Microsoft EULA. 2009-11-26 12:57 Good afternoon Garfield Unfortunately we are unable to advise the cost of the Operating System License as this is a bundle price including our OEM costings from MS. Kind regards Lenovo Sales Team Read More ►
Penguin nil-points graphic

Trying to buy a PC without Windows part 5 – Acer, the most shameful response so far

On 2009-11-26, I wrote to Acer UK to establish what its policy was regarding the Microsoft Tax. This was its response:- Hello, Thank you for contacting Acer. Regarding your enquiry, The value would be £33.95 for vista home premium. This can only be refunded within 30 days of purchase and to get it refunded you would need to send the laptop into the acer repair centre to have the HDD formatted.  This would not be covered under warranty so would cost £51.99.RegardsJonathanAcer Technical Support Team This is one of the most shameful responses so far and justifies raising the matter… Read More ►

Struggling to make Ubuntu look good

Editor's note: This article is old and outdated. Blubuntu was eventually fixed in 2010. KDE4 also went on to be really rather good too. That was until they messed it up again with KDE5, but that is showing signs of being rather good now (2018-12-27) too. Seems that Canonical has woken up to the fact that the basic Ubuntu looks, well, rather turgid. Fortunately help is at hand in the form of a theme called Blubuntu. Now, Blubuntu is a great looking theme - far more attractive than Ubuntu's default dung-like hues. Unfortunately, there is a bug in the package,… Read More ►