Andy’s Techie Blog

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  • 10 Year Blogiversary

    Posted on October 14th, 2016 Andy Parkes No comments

    Today marks 10 years of this blog!

    This is post number 151

    My output has lowered in recent times, for a variety of reasons but it’s something I still enjoy doing, however often that may be.

    When I first started the whole main idea was just for myself. A personal knowledgebase if you will, as well as somewhere to get various thoughts out of my head.

    What I didn’t realise is where else that would take me. Starting the blog ultimately introduced me to lots of people, both online and offline who I’ve been able to learn from as well as have some fun along the way!

    It’s been an event filled and interesting 10 years that would have been entirely different if I hadn’t decide to carve out my own corner of the Internet

    So if you’ve ever read anything on here, shared it, commented on it, met me in person, or emailed me I just wanted to a thank you!

    And what better way to celebrate than with some decade old clip art! clipart-birthday-RcAbGMecL

  • Command Prompt and the Clipboard

    Posted on September 13th, 2016 Andy Parkes 4 comments

    Filed under “I didn’t know you could do that”.

    Something I discovered recently I thought it was one of those things I’d just missed over the years but after a conversation I had in the office I thought it might be worth sharing here too.

    Normally when working with the command prompt if you want to copy some output you have to switch from the keyboard to the mouse.

    Command

    Which is fine, but if you’re working with the keyboard (because you know, command prompt!) switching between that and the mouse can break your flow, well it does for me.

    Turns out you can redirect output straight to the clipboard by piping to clip.exe

    e.g

    Ping google.com | clip

    The output goes to the clipboard ready for pasting elsewhere.

    This is also particularly useful if the output is long and fills the visible area of the screen.

    This is the output from “DriverQuery”, you’d have hard time copying all of that with the mouse

    Command 2

    Useful thing to know!

    This works in PowerShell too and it’s where I use it most.

  • Hello Kindle Voyage

    Posted on August 30th, 2016 Andy Parkes No comments

    Way back at the beginning of 2011 I agonised over the decision to purchase a Kindle

    I eventually did, loved it and have used it pretty much daily ever since.

    I picked up my second Kindle after my first was stolen and the post I wrote at the time looked at the different models available and went down pretty well.

    Moving onto present day and I was very lucky to receive a Kindle Voyage for my recent birthday.

    My previous device was three and half years old and while it was a little weathered from the constant use, including a couple of dead pixels from an unfortunate “dropping” incident, it was still perfectly usable. However, given how long I had it, and how much I use it, an upgrade was very welcome. It was the birthday gift for me!

    The current range is made up of (in order of price)

    Kindle

    Kindle-Front,-Page---Black

    Kindle Paperwhite

    paperwhite

    Kindle Voyage

    Kindle-Voyage s

    Kindle Oasis

    Kindle_Oasis_device_only_US_Page1_00F_RGB

    The bottom two in the range are perfectly fine devices. The PaperWhite is Amazon’s best selling model and after seeing some of those features that weren’t on my old Kindle it’s not hard to see why.

    The Voyage is a refinement of the Paperwhite with the Oasis the newest model, turning everything up to 11 (as well as the price!)

    So what features make this better than my previous Kindle?

    Screen resolution

    I thought the screen on my old Kindle was decent enough but i was shocked by how much better the newer screen actually is.

    The entry model Kindle is 167ppi whereas all the other models are 300ppi. It makes for a much sharper reading experience and it shows this off really well in the library and the Kindle Store where cover art is is displayed instead of just the titles as it did on my old Kindle.

    Backlight

    The PaperWhite introduced a subtle light for the screen to help with reading in reduced light.

    I didn’t think I’d be too bothered about this. I read with my bedside lamp on and thought that would be the only time I’d really need to make use of it.

    I think I’d underestimated how many different levels of light I read in and it’s made everything much easier to read. What I like is that the light shines on the page, not into your eyes as your phone or tablet lights up. The page sort of “glows” and it looks more like the paper is whiter than it would normally be (the name PaperWhite isn’t a coincidence…)

    The Voyage is the only model that also has an adaptive light which changes depending on the current conditions. Seems useful at the moment! You can turn it off if you want to set a level.

    Page turns

    When I was making the decision last time around I said I wasn’t sure about touching the screen for turning pages and I was happier with the physical buttons on the side of the device.

    While I do miss those buttons a little the touchscreen is perfectly fine, even though I do occasionally swipe the wrong way by mistake or sometimes don’t touch the screen hard enough and I need a second attempt. This will be fine once I’ve gotten used to it though (I had a similar thing with the smaller buttons on the last Kindle)

    The Voyage also has PagePress. A little area on the of device that you just give a gentle squeeze for a page turn. You get a nice bit of haptic feedback along with it.

    It’s a nice addition. One I’m not massively using at the moment but it’s something extra the Voyage has none of the other models do.

    GoodReads

    This is something I have been yearning for.

    I’ve been a member of GoodReads for years. It’s Facebook for book readers and I love seeing what other people are reading as well as finding lots of interesting new books to read as well as interacting with authors who are on there.

    So when Amazon announced the purchase of GoodReads I couldn’t wait until it made it’s away to Kindle. Unfortunately my generation of Kindle didn’t get the software update for it.

    It’s standard across the whole range now and it’s working out great for me.

    Unless you’re a GoodReads user it’s not a massive feature but previously I was juggling lists of books across Amazon and GoodReads and switching between Kindle and my phone/computer for posting progress updates, reviews and adding books.

    I’m much happier now!

    Touch Screen

    Also standard across the range now. The five way controller on my old model was fine for selecting books but anything more than that was a chore. Searching for books on the Kindle and in the store or connecting to WiFi were the biggest examples of this. I missed the keyboard from my first Kindle loads when I moved to the second device but the touchscreen makes everything easier.

    Appearance

    The Voyage is a physically sleeker device than the PaperWhite. The actual features between the PaperWhite, Voyage and Oasis are pretty much identical so it’s the case and it’s other physical attributes that are the biggest difference between them

    The Voyage is thinner than the standard model and the PaperWhite with only the Oasis beating it on that front.

    It’s lighter than the PaperWhite and marginally heavier than the standard model with the Oasis trumping all of them.

    The Voyage has a magnesium body in comparison to the plastic of the PaperWhite to which it owes the slimmer body.

    If you stick it in a case though some of this will be negated so the PaperWhite may work just fine (I have similar thing with phones. We spend a fortune on a shiny sleek pretty device only to stick it in a massive cover so it doesn’t get damaged)

    The Oasis is a different beast altogether on this front and looks physically different for an apparently better hand holding experience. It also comes with a leather case that doubles up as an extra battery – not that the others do to bad on the charging front. (weeks at a time!)

    There are a ton of other features that are common across the range (X-Ray, time to end of chapter, wikipedia integration, etc) but this post is long enough!

    So in very quick summary

    If you’re on a budget go for the standard model.

    The Paperwhite is the going to be perfect for just about most people

    The Voyage is for those heavy users who don’t mind investing a little more for that refined look and feel (or getting it as a gift!)

    The Oasis….hard to say. It’s a big jump in price but if you’re a Kindle fan and want the “premium” experience then it’s certainly that

    All in all I was very happy when I received it and I’m looking forward to spending many hours with it.

  • Hello World June 2016.0

    Posted on June 2nd, 2016 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    How are we almost halfway through the year?!

    Just realised I haven’t written anything since the end of January.

    This wasn’t intentional!

    It’s been a particularly manic start to the year and something I learnt long ago is that sometimes you have to stop doing one thing if you want to doing something else.

    But I do miss writing so this is me just trying to flex that muscle again.

    So in terms of big events in the first half of the year…

    We’ve moved house (and I never want to do it again!)

     Capturemove

    I ran the London Marathon (4 hours 26 minutes – raised over £1000 for Meningitis Now)

    MeningitisNowPic

    and my brother got married! (this is us though…obviously. It was an amazing weekend!)

    Capturewed

    And all the other usual comings and goings

    So this is just me putting something back on the page/screen (how do people of a certain age adjust their vocabulary?)

    Carry on….

  • Top 5 Books From 2015

    Posted on January 29th, 2016 Andy Parkes No comments

    I’ve been asked for book recommendations a few times recently so thought I’d share them here too.

    I read some really great books last year but here are 5 that really stood out for me.

    In no particular order…

    Masters Of Doom: How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture – David Kushner

    I’ve read quite a few books recently about the back story of classic games but was the best of the lot.

    Doom is the most definitely a classic and hearing how the team that put it together came into being as well as the highs and the lows and their eventual split was fascinating. I received this as a gift and could not put it down.

    This was also a real trip down memory lane as like a lot people my age I sunk a lot of hours into playing ID games! If you’ve spent any period of time playing Doom this is certainly a recommendation.

     

     

    Nexus (The Nexus Trilogy Book 1)  – Ramez Naam

    In this story taking a pill can install an operating system into the super computer that is your brain! Imagine the applications you could run, especially if you could network with other people.

    All of this could also be used for much more sinister purposes by shady government agencies and the like.

    What I loved about this is that the story is based on actual research. Technology that may be in the not too distant future.

    The end of book also has a nice section on some of the research that provided the author with inspiration.

    This is the first of the three books and I raced through all of them.

     

    Static Push (The Push Series Book 1) – Richard Horsley

    A decent British Sci-Fi book!

    With a story that covers aliens destroying the earth with some great comedic writing it’d be easy to mistake this as a Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy clone but it’s certainly more than that.

    It also has a great set of characters who really come off the page. I can’t wait for the next one!

     

     

     

     

    Beacon 23 – Hugh Howey

    I think this was my favourite thing from last year. It’s a basically a lighthouse story in space. It’s only short as it was originally released as series of Kindle Singles but it packs so much into it and goes over a whole range of emotions. I loved reading it and when I got to the end I was really disappointed there was no more!

    I recommended it to anyone asked me if I’d read anything decent recently and it’s highly likely I’m go back and read it again.

    I’m a big Hugh Howey fan and can also recommend pretty much everything else he writes!

    Check it out.

     

    The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey

    A Zombie road trip story.

    It’s difficult to talk about this one without spoiling it but underneath it’s a fascinating story about people and relationships and how their moral viewpoints may or may not change when it’s the end of the world.

    The ending also wasn’t quite what you’d normally expect to see either but it made a refreshing change to do something different.

    It’s pretty brutal in parts but this is zombie-fiction so kind of needs to be.

  • 2015, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

    Posted on January 16th, 2016 Andy Parkes 1 comment

    We’re a couple of weeks into the new year and as with previous years (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011) looking back on the previous 12 months is something I really enjoy doing.

    Especially when you have a memory as terrible as mine!

    As always spending as much time as possible with these three girls is my biggest priority!

    10953743_732248196907380_1623217299_n

    As with last year we tried to make sure we filled it with plently of fun and spending time with people who are really important.

    Some of the highlights included…

    Starting the year at Centre Parcs

    Center Parcs

    Eating chocolate!

    10957331_1573093346270098_1613882688_n

    Trying something new

    10958171_990232511006879_1733490016_n10948765_334745273378716_1162343633_n

    Got a certificate in something or other . (move along…nothing to see here)

    Apple

    Got muddy

    avalanche-15_1099308

    Went to a cup final (it’s the taking part that counts right?)

    11084700_382160591978603_1191336990_n

    Visited Harry Potter World (again..)

    11024154_1374683596193023_317762838_n10706873_715525818565099_1623209613_n

    Evie won a prize for writing a poem!

    Evie Poem

    Alice won a singing competiion!

    Alice

    Doctor Who Symphony Orchesta

    11248125_889394894450168_1515625927_n

    Visited Arbury Hall

    arbury

    Got covered in paint

    Colour Run

    Wolf Run with this lot

    wolf

    School Talent Show

    talent

    Trip to Copenhagen

    11313336_487382841412900_803416164_n

    Introduced the girls to Mud Runs!

    mini

    The Just So Festival

    just

    Summer Holiday in Portugal

    port

    More mud runs…

    Finish1

    twilight-0915_1707092 (1)

    wild

    Finish Photo Halloween

    halowe2halowe1

    Walk Off The Earth in Nottingham

    12135193_513288848830248_230747828_n12107426_988979271154883_1087830661_n

    Catch up with these guys!

    karl

    Retro gaming (swiped from Richard!)

    retro

    A very brief visit to Centre Parcs…again!ALice and Evie

    Seeing the new year in

    new

    You get the idea Smile

    2015 was pretty awesome and I’m really fortunate to have some great people in my life.

    2016 has just started and there is loads to look forward to.

    Bring it on!

  • The Martian–Movie

    Posted on October 1st, 2015 Andy Parkes No comments

    the_martian_movie_posterA movie review! Whatever next…

    One of my favourites books I read last year finally has arrived on the big screen so I was very excited to go see it last night.

    ** Note this will be a little “spoilery”  – the book was released in 2011 though! It would also take a seriously sadistic author to give this one sad ending so it’s not hard to figure out the basic plot of the story**

    So the short version

    It’s a really great film!

    There is some really great visuals and they’ve done a great job of making all the tech believable. The book is frequently described as a cross between Apollo 13 and Castaway and it’s pretty accurate. 

    It’s a really good cast and it’s all pretty solid acting wise.

    If you’ve never read the book it’s an enjoyable film that while it’s not going to be in the must-see classic bracket it’s still a good watch.

    If you have read the book…

    It’s a decent adaptation.

    One of the worries when you love a book is how it well translates to the big screen. There is stuff that has to be cut out for a variety of reasons but it can be very frustrating when it doesn’t get anywhere near what you were expecting (I’m looking at you World War Z!)

    It follows the basic structure of the story about 95% of the way and there is actually quite a lot of dialog that is lifted straight from the book.

    If I’m being super critical though here are my gripes

    Some of the  characters didn’t get enough attention

    Mindy Park was a totally marginal character which is a shame, the crew on the Hermes weren’t fleshed out anywhere near enough.

    The rest of the other earth based cast, were great. Specifically Teddy Sanders, Mitch Henderson and Vincent Kapoor were brilliantly played by Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

    This is me being a little selfish though. I loved so many of the characters in the book I wanted them all to get their time on screen. In reality though it worked well enough in the context of a movie. The story wasn’t held back by the reduced roles.

    Cuts Cuts Cuts,

    There were some pretty big parts cut.

    The sandstorm while on the way to Hermes IV, rolling the rover on the final approach to the MAV, rolling the airlock and burning out PathFinder with the drill were some of the most notable omissions.

    Speed!

    For me it felt like the story flew along. Maybe it was because of the cuts and again I can understand this in the context of movie story telling but it didn’t feel like we got a total sense of the amount of time Mark was actually stranded for.

    The rover drill scene is one example of this. In the book this is actually a mammoth task that took many hours as Mark has to drill hundreds of little holes to then chip out. This was condensed into 30 seconds on screen.   

    Likewise the trips out to Pathfinder and later Aries IV were huge amounts of time all cooped up in the little Rover filled with tedium and lots of thinking time. 

    Still happy though!

    Please don’t misunderstand though, I really did enjoy the film but in the context of a book I’d loved and re-read in the days before the seeing the film always meant there were going to be things I’d be wished were slightly different.

    The End

    Having Lewis make the final rescue in the end was a little annoying. From a screenwriting perspective I can understand why that change made though

    That said I was glad of the final ending. The book basically ends as soon as Mark is rescued so having it all wrapped up with everyone back on Earth and being shown what they did next was a great addition.

    That might make it sound like I’m down on the film. I’m honestly not. I’d happily go and see it again.

    If you haven’t read the book you’ll enjoy it.

    if you have read the book you’ll also enjoy, even though you’ll be left wishing it had been a bit more!

    Go see it Smile

  • Linx 8 Tablet

    Posted on July 22nd, 2015 Andy Parkes No comments

    I was recently fortunate enough to win a Linx 8 tablet in a competition the Microsoft UK partner team were running. image

    Up until this point my tablet of choice was an original Surface RT.

    Unfortunately, in recent months I’ve used that tablet more and more just for Office.

    It’s immensely useful for OneNote and Outlook on the go but I’m not really using many apps from the store and the apps I do use aren’t great. The Facebook app for example is so slow and unwieldy I frequently give up on it and just use Facebook in the browser.

    I’ve also had some performance problems with it recently too that made it unusable for extended periods of time.

    So having heard about various low cost tablets running a regular version of Windows 8.1 I was intrigued to see how it performs.

    First off, what is it?

    8 inch screen

    Quad Core Intel Atom Processor.

    32GB Hard disk (with an SD slot to add up to another 64GB)

    1GB RAM

    1 year of Office 365 Personal

    800 x 1280 resolution

    Front and rear facing 2MP cameras

    Micro USB and HDMI ports

    Bluetooth and 801.11 N WiFi

     

    You can pick them up for around £80 so on the face of it that’s a pretty decent package.

    Especially when you consider Office 365 Personal (with 1TB of storage!) itself is worth £59.99

    After a couple of days usage I was pleasantly surprised. I honestly didn’t think 1GB would be usable but as long as you’re not trying to do too much at once it’s nice and responsive. You do need to be realistic though. Running a few demanding apps all at once will become noticeable pretty quickly.

    Also it’s pretty light and I can’t complain on the battery life.

    This doesn’t mean there aren’t any downsides. It’s not really powerful enough for HD video, the screen resolution should make that obvious but as test I installed the BBC iPlayer app and tried to play some HD programs offline. That’s half an hour of life I won’t get back.

    It’s been fine with standard definition stuff though and I’ve had no problems with regular content on YouTube and Netflix.

    I miss the kickstand my Surface has for propping it up. It’s easily rectified with a case but it nice was having it as part of the package.

    You’ll also need an USB OTG cable for connecting USB drives, keyboard, mice, etc.

    None of this is to show stopping though if you’re looking for something relatively cheap for doing some basic tasks.

    All in all as long as you make sure you’re using for what it’s intended for, one or two apps at a time, light web browsing, some Office work, then it’s value for money. Anything more than that and you should be looking at something like a Surface Pro. 

    With a Windows 10 upgrade due in the coming weeks it’ll be interesting to see how this works out too.

  • The Difference Engine–Help Needed!

    Posted on June 8th, 2015 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    imageWay back in 2011 I wrote about the Difference Engine.

    It’s a simple but effective way of adding captions to live performances created by Coventry based Talking Birds.

    In short, a laptop runs the software and over a local wireless network it allows any device with a web browser to view subtitles.

    i.e your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.

    A really simple idea to an age old problem for anyone who wouldn’t be able to hear what was being said.

    It’s intended for live performance but the simplicity of the system means it could be easily and cheaply re-purposed to anything.

    School assembly? Conference? Training Courses? Museum? Art Gallery?

    I could go on and on…

    If it has a script that needs to be followed it wouldn’t take much to plug it into this.

    So many events are run without any thought for the deaf and hard of hearing purely because adding that sort of thing is normally expensive.

    With this system you need a laptop. That’s it.

    Anyone that needs to use the system can use a device they’ll likely have already. You could hook the laptop up to a screen or projector you’d probably be using at the event anyway too. 

    Talking Birds have been working hard to improve the system but as with most small organisations like this they struggle for funding.

    I honestly think they could really make a difference if they can get to the next level.

    So I need your help.

    They have reached the finals of this years Tech4Good Awards.

    To be in with a chance of winning the “People’s Award” they need votes.

    Go here

    http://www.tech4goodawards.com/vote-now/ 

    Enter your email address

    Click on the Talking Birds image

    image

    Put something in the “where you found us” box (maybe mention me!)

    Click the button to submit the vote.

    That’s it!

    It’ll then give you some options for sharing on social media…If you do that too that would be cool.

    If you could take two minutes from your time to do that I’d be ever so grateful!

  • Microsoft Setup Bootstrapper Has Stopped Working

    Posted on May 26th, 2015 Andy Parkes No comments

    I was trying to install Office 2013 Pro Plus recently and was getting this error message

    “Microsoft Setup Bootstrapper has stopped working”

    bootstrap

    If you put that error message into your favourite search engine there are a variety of suggested solutions, the most popular ones seemed to be.

    Use Microsoft Fixit Tools to completely remove Office 2013.

    Backup and then delete the AppCompatFlag registry key

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AppCompatFlags

    In my case it wasn’t any of those.

    Looking at the application log in event viewer showed what the problem was straight away.

    We have a software restriction policy in place that’s used as part of some prevention measures for malware such as Cryptolocker.

    OfficeError2

    In this scenario the options are to either create an exception on the policy or to temporarily stop the Group Policy that applies the restrictions from applying.

    It’s also possible some anti-virus could do this too.

    Once I’d taken the policy into account Office installed without issue.