Thought for the Dazed

I've had to give up that Distance Learning course as I was having trouble seeing the teacher.

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Achievement Unlocked – Red Lumia 1520


“Red enough for yah?”

One of my New Year Resolutions will probably be to not buy as many gadgets. But the new year starts tomorrow... Which is just as well, as today I took delivery of a totally shiny red Lumia 1520 phone. I’m going to have to sell a few bits and bobs to pay for it but on first impressions it is worth it.

I got the phone off eBay, not something for the faint of heart, but the price was good and I really, really, wanted a red one. It is an O2 model which has been unlocked for all networks, and with one caveat (see later) it works fine with my EE sim.

When Windows Phone first came out the phone I really wanted was an HTC HD7. This had a huge (4.3 inch) screen and oodles of internal memory. Unfortunately, thanks to the antics of a couple of enterprising students, who managed to pop up town and bag the only two launch devices in Hull, I was denied this device and settled for a Samsung that served me very well. Then I moved into Nokia territory and I’ve been there ever since.

The Lumia 1520 makes the HD7 look tiny. It has a huge 6 inch screen that is quite frankly the awesomest I’ve ever seen. However, it is nice and slim and I find it quite pocketable, although until I get a case for it (coming soon) I of course won’t be putting it in any pockets.

It has a socket for an SD card I’ve managed to put 64G of music and videos (including the whole first seasons of “Freaks and Geeks” and “Veronica Mars”) on there. The battery seems to go on for ever and so I can now properly contemplate watching (and enjoying) proper programs on the device. It’s been a long time since I could put all my music and some films on my phone, and I love it. It always struck me as silly that the flagship Nokia devices were the ones that didn’t tend to have sockets for memory cards.

There are a few niggles. The principle one is with the touch interface, which has a habit of interpreting slide actions as taps every now and then. (if you get this you could try turning off the “double tap to wake up” touch option – which seemed to improve things for me). Apparently this is a known issue and Nokia are working on it.

I had to get new nano-sim to replace the micro-sim that I was using before. This cost me ten pounds at the EE store, but they did throw in a sim adapter which means that I can use the new nano-sim in older devices. There are instructions on the interwebs for converting a micro-sim into the nano size, but these scared me a bit as they involve sanding down the card to make it thinner. And of course if I got that bit wrong I could have wrecked the sim and probably got it stuck in the new phone.

Each time the phone is powered on it presents me with an Access Point choice screen which I don’t really need, but this is probably to do with the fact that I’m using an unlocked phone on the “wrong” network.

If it worked with a Bluetooth keyboard (which at the moment fails to pair) it would be completely awesome as a portable productivity device. I really hope that becomes available at some point in the future.

As of now I love the device. Having the extra column of tiles on the start screen means that I can get to pretty much any of my applications without scrolling. I’ve not found the size a problem yet, although I’ve not carried it around too much as I’m still waiting on that case…..


Nintendo are going to be just fine


Some people are worried about Nintendo. With sales of the Wii U a bit flat and Sony and Microsoft releasing consoles that appear technically more advanced you might be forgiven for worrying about the future of the home of Mario.

I’m not that concerned though. Because Nintendo are still producing great games. Over the holiday I had a chance to play Super Mario 3D World and it is lovely. And today we had a bunch of folks round and spent a happy time playing with Nintendoland. 

For attention to detail and sheer fun appeal the Nintendo brand is pretty hard to beat and I reckon this should see them in good stead for the future.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


There are two kinds of trilogies. There are the ones where the first film is a smashing success and they have to build it out a bit, like Back to the Future, Indiana Jones or, ahem, Star Wars. Then there are films that are naturally structured that way, for example Lord of the Rings (and probably the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when they get round to it). 

The Hobbit would have made a really successful single film. It is a rather thin book and there is plenty to sustain a hundred action packed minutes. But one film means one ticket sale. So it is now a trilogy. The first film did a good job of setting up the characters. The job of the second film is to get them into a horrible mess and the third film will hopefully tie everything together. The good news is that “The Desolation of Smaug” does a good job as the second film.

It is a bit on the long side, but manages to pack in plenty of action, character development and even a bit of romance.  And it leaves things balanced on a cliff-hanger that will have us all go back and buy the third ticket to find how it ends.

Everyone gets into their role with gusto, although Gandalf the Grey seems a bit tired this time out, which is not surprising I suppose as he is quite literally old before his time in this outing of the franchise.

If you enjoyed any of the earlier films you will love this one. It has all you would expect, including helicopter shots of earnest warriors of difference sizes striding over hill tops and running through caverns and over stone bridges with no handrails.


Laser Cutter Purchase Chicken


Ian came around today and we played a kind of “dangerous purchase chicken”, each trying to persuade the other that what we really need in our lives is a laser cutting machine. Turns out you can get these from ebay for a few hundred pounds, which for a device with a 40 watt C02 laser is actually amazing value we reckon.

The one we looked at can cut paper, card, leather and most other non-metallic materials. Including fingers and thumbs I suppose. The vendor page shows a video of the machine happily burning through card, with the lid wide open and presumably all the safety interlocks (which I hope it has) turned off.

It would be nice to be able to precisely cut plastic parts and the device might be a nice complement to Una the 3D printer. But bearing in mind that the thing is water cooled and needs a hole cutting in the wall to install the vent that gets rid of all the nasty smoke,  I think I’ll pass for now.


Donald Fagen and Lego Minifigures


I got a couple of great books for Christmas. It’s really nice when you get things that you like, but didn’t know existed until you pull off the wrapping paper. First up was Donald Fagen, Eminent Hipsters. I’ve been a fan of Steely Dan since forever. They make west coast sounding jazz/rock that number one wife says sounds like “Middle of the Road Music”. Whatever. I think they are great and they are still writing and touring despite being in their mid sixties.

The driving force behind the group, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, studied English Lit. as students and this really comes out in their lyrics and sleeve notes. And now Donald Fagen has published a collection of essays and notes with stories from his childhood, growing up as a jazz geek before the word geek became respectable, and also charting the trials of being a rock star on the road, jetting between five star hotels and sell out concert venues.

You won’t get much insight into the lyrics of the songs they’ve written, and to be honest Mr Fagen sounds like a bit of a grump from time to time. But he really can turn out a splendid phrase or two. A good read if you like well written prose. A truly great read if you follow the band.


When we go up town shopping I usually end up buying everyone a Lego minifigure. As if our house is short of bits of coloured plastic that are hard to dust. Anyhoo, they are fun to put together and always nicely themed.

It turns out that you can get a book about them. Now, I realise that what we have here is really just a brochure/catalogue/marketing thing that is probably a cynical ploy by a steel-hearted multi-national company bent on getting us to buy more bits of coloured plastic from them. But I like the pictures. And I like looking at the images and getting the “I’ve got one of them….” And you do get some more minifigures with the book as well……