Riding the Flow

musings from the shire

Levitating Spinner

“Levitron Revolution World Stage

In essence it is a platform and a globe. A globe contains a small magnetic plate which can be removed and placed inside any object of your choice.

The object up to 3oz in weight will then levitate over the platform, rotating slowly and illuminated by several blue LEDs – looking totally awesome :D

Synaptics_ClickPad[1] I think majority of modern laptops use Synaptic touchpad in them. These are capacitive input panels, so naturally they can detect multiple finger presses at once.

Recent Synaptics drivers have a lot of multi-touch gesture functionality in them. However, you will find most of it disabled on many notebooks – I think for marketing reasons (or maybe to avoid aggravating Apple too much ;) ).

However, all multi-touch functionality is present on standard driver, and just artificially “hidden” using registry keys (which are even named like “HideTwoFingerScrolling”, how honest of them ;) ). So, to re-enable missing features just:

  • Download this .reg file, save it somewhere – on your desktop for example. Do not choose “Open” in browser, choose “Save To…”!
  • Click on it to open in Explorer (important! open from Windows Explorer/Desktop only, not directly from your web browser, not from third-party file managers like Total Commander – to make sure it will use correct registry on 64-bit systems)
  • when it asks if you sure to modify registry, choose “yes”
  • go to the touchpad control panel – you should now see new available options like “Two Finger Scrolling” (in the “Scrolling” section) and “Application Gestures”.

This was tested 100% working with Synaptics driver version 13.2.7.3 on Toshiba Qosmio X505.

I fully expect Synaptics to make feature re-enabling harder after everybody starts using this registry trick. So after you confirm that it’s worked for you - I recommend to make working driver version backup, just in case.

A candle-powered lava lamp

872_mathmos_fireflow_candle_lava_lamp[1]

Mathmos Fireflow – the most efficient cordless lava lamp (since it generates heat directly) :)

http://www.mathmos.com/x15042.html

New laptop is here!

 

Qosmio X505 004Well, I’ve took a plunge and went ahead with my original plans for new laptop. Its finally there, took only 2 days to arrive from US. Yep, it’s an import – first of all, I want US keyboard, second, UK models are not being released for another month, and thirdly – even with shipping costs and duty its significantly cheaper.

First impressions of the screen: DPI is alright (18.1”, 1680x945), no need to zoom up anymore. Brightness is about 2x times more than of my old one (Satellite X200). Viewing angles are wider (mainly due to bigger pixel size). White level is very uniform – but, black is not uniform and it’s not very black. Guess you can not have everything (at least until AMOLED laptop screens will arrive ;) ) I guess brightness is more important though – to diminish visible reflections from glossy screen.

i7 quad core is a total beast – 8 CPUs in Task Manager ;). I plan to keep my old hard drive (WD Scorpio Black), it’s same 320Gb, but faster than preinstalled Hitachi one.

Its wide, but quite thin (about 2 inches only), and power efficiency is excellent for such a beast – finally, small 100W power brick, and 3-4 hours surfing on battery! Old one has 1Kg 200W monstrosity of PSU – it’s really a brick ;)

The audio is excellent (when I’ve disabled preinstalled EQ). That’s why I consider only Toshiba laptops lately – can’t really beat Harman/kardon speaker systems they use.

Now busy copying & reinstalling. Preinstalled Windows 7 Home Premium has ton of unneeded crap already installed (and god knows which internal “enhancements” to the registry made by Toshiba). So, as usual, first thing to do – re-format, do a clean Home Premium install. Then I plan to use Anytime Upgrade to purchase Ultimate - I want Bitlocker and Remote Desktop. Fun ;)

Illuminated Sofa

http://www.opulentitems.com/Modern-Sectional-Sofa-Sets.html#

I like the idea, but not the price tag ;)

Preparing for the Rainy Season

Water Repellent on WindscreenJust have finished treatment of all glass surfaces on my car with water-repellent finish. It really works and I find it quite useful.

The idea is to cover car windscreen/windows with invisible oily Teflon-like layer – to which water will not adhere, so it will just roll off. It greatly reduces the need to use wipers – usually water droplets just roll off due to vibration of the car. And when you go at motorway speed – no need for wipers at all – water just literally flies away blown by the wind!

It just that application procedure is kind of tedious:

  1. wash the glass with glass washer to make sure it clean
  2. wipe it dry, not allowing water drying spots
  3. smear it with water repellent
  4. let it dry – it will make windows foggy and greasy
  5. polish with paper towels to shininess

Good thing there are next-gen repellents already that supposed to last up to a year (!) from single application. Pity I still have to finish the bottle of previous generation repellent that needs re-applying every 2 months or so ;)

Airline Optimizations

lufthansa-completes-takeover-of-austrian-airlines-2009-09-04_l[1] Looks like I will be using Lufthansa for the next visit to my homeland, instead of usual Austrian Airlines. It’s interesting how the situation with airlines changes – just a year ago, Lufthansa’s ticket would have cost me ~500gbp against Austrian’s ~400gbp. Now the roles are completely reversed - ~400 for Lufthansa, ~500 for Austrian.

Not to mention that I can now fly from Birmingham with Lufthansa. Which I reckon is a lot better than flying from overcrowded London Heathrow. Not to mention the need to trundle to Heathrow for 2 hours, against ~40 min drive to the Birmingham International :)

Update: Just have noticed, that, in fact, Lufthansa just recently took over the Austrian Airlines. Now this explains above, I guess ;)

GTX_soft-shell Personally I would prefer one feature-full (and expensive) article of clothing to several “ordinary” cheaper ones for the same money. Save on weight, more usability, durability and comfort.

Cotton shirts and woollen sweaters are soo retro – make way for the elastane, micro-fleece, cordura, gore-tex and other clothely gizmos! I mean, we are living in 21st century, are we? ;)

Still has to find a high-tech jacket that would look as good as leather one though ;) But, that’s what layering for :)

Have an accumulated mini-mountain of unneeded stuff to go in eBay. Yet again ;)

I wish there was an automagic way to put articles on eBay, without the need to photo, host and write articles for every item. Oh well, back to work :)

Edit: Make this - photo, host, check item weight and write articles for every item ;)

Choosing a Pocket Multi-tool

Personally I think pocket multi-tools (as a superset of more well-known Swiss Army knives) are very useful.

You never know when during the course of day you’ll need to cut a package or envelope open, snip a loose thread, open a bottle or unscrew/screw down something. It’s bad when you don’t have proper tools nearby (but even when you do, it’s often a hassle to fetch/put them back).

That’s why it’s extremely good to always have multi-tool in your pocket, especially when it’s small and light enough to be unnoticeable. Obviously compactness comes at the price of less features, it’s always a compromise.

War. War never changes

800px-Fallout-3-point-lookout-pc-005[1]Doing some catching-up on recently released Fallout 3 expansion packs. These packs are quite good value for money.

I’ve finished Broken Steel quite a while ago, and somehow missed release of Point Lookout – but finally got opportunity to play it, along with recently released Mothership Zeta.

Hitting the Town!

car_photo_211110_7[1] Birmingham is reasonably close, so I go there when I feel too much in the countryside and removed from civilization ;)

I’ve used to use trains in the past – and still use them from time to time. Still, with train journey is a little slower, mainly because you have to get to the station and wait for the train. Also, it’s slightly more expensive, at least comparing to my car.

So now I go mainly by car. First step was to find non-congested areas with free parking close to the centre – tricky, but wonderfully done (thanks, Google Earth spy sat shots ;) )

For now I am still evaluating possible alternate routes, since there are plenty, some being:

  • My GPS (bless it – otherwise I would be hopelessly lost after first wrong turn) keeps suggesting me the route that takes me through the south of the city. In theory, yes, this is the best. In practice – its 30-minute drive on single-lane narrow city street, continuously waiting at traffic lights and maneuvering between the parked cars and pedestrians.
  • Google Earth suggested going around on the east side partially via M6 and approaching from the north. This one is sound, and motorway and dual-carriageway mainly, but – there are currently repairs going on M6, so speed limit 40, non-surprisingly its quite congested and slow for a big stretch
  • Another route I still to try is “straight” approach, directly from my direction. It looks the best, but since none of maps suggested this route by default, I would suspect to be at least something with it ;)

I am making good use of city driving practice. Obviously, it’s quite a change from usual rural roads and tiny town streets. The biggest challenge is juggling between lanes on complex multi-layer junctions, especially when it’s not immediately obvious in which lane you have to be. And sometimes you have to plan the whole process 2 junctions ahead. Otherwise you’ll have to count on people generosity to let you switch lanes at the last moment in front of them in panicky fashion. Sorry, good drivers of Birmingham ;)

Funny animations :)

Pacman vs Mario Stumbled upon this site with hilarious clips showing “celebrity deathmatch”-like fights between various iconic fiction (and real) characters.

http://www.tvigle.ru/category/comedy/versus/all

The site itself is in Russian, but don’t worry – you will be able to fully appreciate the humor of the flicks regardless of your native language :)

The curved surface of this dual-sided cutting board allow you to pick up the board easily and helps you guide chopped food into your pan.

http://www.gnr8.biz/product_info.php?products_id=1074

And may I add, we all know how food tend to slide from cutting board in the completely wrong directions ;)

My main target was the service for good personal blogging – mainly to eliminate the need to IM all bits of personal news to all of my friends :) Therefore, some social networking feature were desired too , but they were second to blogging.

So, quick search turned out several most known candidates:

Looks like my next laptop!

Toshiba Qosmio X500

http://socialnews.toshiba.co.uk/?ReleaseID=13687

  • Intel® Core i7-720QM (2.8GHz, 6MB L2, 1333MHz FSB)
  • Up to 8GB DDR3 RAM (1066MHz)
  • Up to 1TB HDD (500GB 5400 rpm + 500GB 5400 rpm)
  • 18.4" Full HD TruBrite® LCD screen (1920 x 1080p)
  • 6x BD-RE optical drive (Blu-ray rewritable)
  • nVIDIA® GeForce® GTS 250MNV (1GB)
  • Integrated Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/Draft-N
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • 3x USB 2.0 Sleep-and-Charge ports
  • 1x USB Sleep-and-Charge/e-SATA combo port
  • 5-in-1 card reader

I would much more prefer 17-inch laptop, since 18.4 feels just tad too big – and I will have to find a new laptop backpack too. However on the upside this one looks a lot slimmer than prev-gen X200 and X300 (I have X200 now).

And no alternative to Toshiba brand for me – as far as I’ve seen, only Toshiba makes high-end laptops with truly superb speakers – they on par with proper "mini-theater” dedicated sets.

It gets quite cold in the mornings already. I have to start putting my car in the garage every time I come from work – otherwise following morning the car is completely covered in condensation, and windows start fogging as soon as your breath gets inside. The heater is almost no help – the car is very efficient and wastes so little heat, that heater starts producing warm air almost halfway on the way down to the office ;)

The garages in the UK are generally quite small (unless you live in the huge house)

Still, some people in our block of flats somehow manage to put huge sedans in this every evening. Some have to use open garage on the opposite side to get needed manoeuvre space ;)

Learning to CSS

Learning CSS and refreshing my HTML now – at least on the basic level to do decent job on the blog :)

CSS makes HTML truly clean & separates “visual” from “data” very well. Thanks to Blogger CSS customization you can tweak formatting with ease without changes to blog posts.

Well, to my surprise I’ve found that Microsoft Word <=> Blogger integration is virtually nonexistent. There was a Blogger for Word add-on from Google, but it was discontinued ages ago.

Why can not Windows Live Writer use Microsoft Office spell & grammar checker – I’ll never know (after all, Microsoft Outlook does). I guess, yet another example when they can not even share technologies within the same company. Welcome to the real world…

So, since I really want Word grammar checker, I now:

  1. write a bulk of the post in Word
  2. copy & paste it in Windows Live Writer
  3. do supplementary editing
  4. publish
  5. … it sucks :)

Still, searching around the Web turned out that this is really the best solution available for now...

Blogger has pretty good standalone web editor for blog posts. However, it lacks spellchecking. Also standalone editors a tad more responsive & feature-rich.

It seems that Windows Live Writer is a pretty good offline editor – also quite lightweight and integrates with Blogger.

Update: While I was writing this post, I’ve found that spellchecking is here, but, well, lacking. It’s only a spellchecking, and not comprehensive spell-and-grammar check as found in, say, Microsoft Word.

So I think my next try will be just to integrate Word ;)

Pictures from recent day hike to Malvern Hills – huge panoramic images, taken with Samsung Omnia i900 phone, stitched in free Hugin software. Shows how compositing can produce decent quality and wide angle photos even from mediocre cell phone camera.

Update: I just have noticed that most of these pictures have been accepted for Google Earth Panoramio layer!


Quarry
 
South Peaks
Middle of the Ridge
North of the Ridge, Highest Point - "Worcestershire Beacon"

Just created a blog here :)
Not sure yet if I'll keep it yet though - currently in progress of investigation of several alternative solutions to try to figure out what is best for my needs.

Update: looks like I am here to stay, but I think I need to sleep it over ;) If everything goes well - (more) content is coming :)