Alexa

This week I have taken delivery of an Amazon Echo, a voice controlled speaker. Why did I purchase it? One of my reasons is that I have wanted an entertainment device in the kitchen, the Echo is a hands free streaming radio. The audio quality is good enough for the environment and at half volume is plenty loud enough.

I wanted to time my cooking of a pizza, I set the timer with my voice. The Echo alerted me once the timer expired. This morning I walked in and asked for a weather report, I listened whilst I opened the curtains.

I’m still getting used to calling out to “Alexa” but its suprising how easily it is beginning to fit in to my life. It allows me to multitask in the moments where I have my hands full.

The only limitation so far has been the microphone. It doesn’t pick up well when the kettle is boiling. I’m guessing it generates too much white noise. Microphone pickup is generally good otherwise.

A New Keyboard

Corsair K70 Keyboard Image

Over the last couple of weeks I have been using my new keyboard, a Corsair K70 (Cherry MX Blue Switches, Red Backlighting). I had been eyeing up a mechanical keyboard for some time; putting off the purchase due to cost. Finally one of my considered options appeared on offer and I finally parted with some cash.

My past couple of keyboards have been from Logitech. The MX3100 Cordless Desktop had served me well from around 2004 until the present. I dabbled with a K270 in 2012 but the spongy feel soon caused me to swap back.

The K70 is solid, it doesn't flex or slide across the desk. The back light will take a little getting used to but can be turned off. The MX Blue switches themselves feel lighter to the touch than I was perhaps expecting. This is no bad thing. The clickyness did worry me slightly as I had originally intended to get the MX Brown switches. The click is noticeable but hardly a problem.

Based on some reviews of the Cherry MX switches I purchased some o'rings to fit to the keys (to stop them bottoming out noisily). The sound of the keys bottoming out didn't really bother me. When trying a few keys with the o'rings fitted I found that I didn't like the reduction in key travel and removed them.

On the whole I like the K70. If I get a decade or more usage out of it like the MX3100 I will be very happy indeed.

2012 – The End

It is almost the end of the year so I thought I would have a look back at my Aims for 2012 to see how I did.

Aims for 2012:

Design and have manufactured my own PCB
Build a wireless sensor system for the home
Fit new carpet to one or more rooms in house
Finish loft insulating project
Rid the house of vermin
Rearrange Lounge
Regularly Contribute to an open source project

Success - I have indeed designed and manufactured a pcb. Development on its function continues but it works.
Failure - The wireless sensor system does not exist, but ideas towards it continue.
Success - Carpet has been fitted to one bedroom. More carpet in 2013?
Success - The loft was insulated and there is not much else to report on it.
Success - The house has been rid of vermin as a new kitchen fit allowed their entry point to be filled in.
Success - The lounge was rearranged several times to try different setups and use cases. A usable arrangement has been decided upon.
Failure - I have not contributed to an open source project this year, not a good result.

So 2012 can be seen as mostly a success. What I have failed at are the projects occupying my free time. This is not laziness on my part but just filling my free time with projects not listed at the beginning of the year. I will have to have a think about what I want to achieve in the year ahead.

May and Mailservers

May 2008 has been somewhat uneventful on the traveling front, work has mainly taken my to and from the office (3 miles a day). On the plus side being based at home I have invested some time into trying to setup a mail server. Now setting up a mail server was never going to be an easy task, the fact that I still don't have a working setup after several weeks of attempts is testament to this.

I did discover one solution that may be of use to somebody wishing to setup a headless server. ClarkConnect is a modular server and gateway operating system which can be setup for your needs. There are commercial and community editions available, I tried the community edition. What was obvious for the brief test installation is how polished ClarkConnect is; but you would expect this from an established commercial product. The fact that as a home user I can use this product for free is fantastic. ClarkConnect is linux based but its essentially a highly customised single purpose distribution. You can't for example install a gnome desktop on it, its a headless server and as such is a web interface for the server processes only. If I wasn't wanting to run non-server applications on the same machine as the mailserver then ClarkConnect would be my first choice for a simple and secure home server setup. Give it a try.

When I finally get a solution for my own mailserver setup I'll try to create an install guide, I've not found a good guide yet so I may as well try and create one.

Radio Times

I have been using the Radio Times website for my tv and radio listings guide for some time now. The only thing it lacked was more of the Freeview listings. Not only have they gone and added the freeview channels but they have added a nice customisable interface. Check it out.

Spooks – Series 3

It had crossed my mind how long it was since I had seen an episode of Spooks. So after checking the BBC website, I was plesantly surprised that Series 3 will be screened this October. Not too long to wait now. If the previous series are anything to go by this should be quite entertaining.

Dark Project

A while ago now I was looking around for new icons for my desktop. I added this site to my history folder and just rediscovered it. I recommend you have a look round as its an absolutly excellent looking site, certainly puts this place to shame.

Delta Nova Rating 10/10

LOTR: The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

An absolutly stunning film, better than the first. Gollum is wonderful. Just the right ammount of comic relief. I know these are very short statements but it is hard to describe how bloody good this film is. It is rated as one of the best films of all time, says something doesnt it. This is a must see and definatley see again.

Delta Nova Rating 10/10

This really cant be beaten, I cant wait for the final installment of the trilogy "Return of the King"(Christmas 2003)

Die Another Day

Die Another Day
Pierce Brosnan's latest outing as Ian Flemmings 007 James Bond. This film sees 007 battling against another evil mastermind whos solar weapon is threatening to wreak havoc. A lively action packed film with the right amount of humor and product placement. There are gadgets a plenty to thrill the audience and Halley Berry puts in a stunning supporting performance. However I do feel that the idea of a spin-off featuring Haley Berry wouldn't work.

Whilst following the classic mould of the James Bond films meant it didn't cover new ground such as in xXx, this is 007 after all and why mess with a winning formula.
Besides that it was a good film and i thoroughly enjoyed it.

Delta Nova Rating 9/10

xXx

xXx or Tripple X
I went to see this last night. I was pleasently surprised. Yes it was basically a spy film with a slightly different twist but it was refreshing. A good performance was put in by Vin Diesel and the rest of the cast. Although the vision enhanced binoculars were a bit far fetched the rest of the plot although unlikely was atleast plausable. With its flowing pace and plenty of explosions it was a good film.

Delta Nova Rating 8.5/10