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Archive for April, 2011

A quiet Weekend without the Royal

Ok, I’ll admit, I have nothing against the royal family and no interest either. They fascinate me about as much as does football, rugby and tennis – which is, well, not.

So today with no chance of getting any serious work done and not one to sit around doing nothing (plenty of time for that when you’re dead) I spent the morning in a futile attempt to resurrect some plants.. when that failed and the weather cooled off (I’m not complaining, it’s still sort of sunny here in the Northeast) I decided that I simply could NOT bring myself to watch the Royal fiasco – and so went off in search of a new challenge – which usually means a new game where one blows away Korean soldiers.

Just as I was starting to look, an email came through from some service I signed up to years ago alerting me to bargains and it was this that led me to take a look at Cities XL 2011.   I’ve been a Sim City fan in the past but then they sort of lost the plot and the SIMS did nothing for me in the same way that Coronation Street does nothing for me… I’ve always wanted something a little more powerful – in fact a lot more powerful – something that would not only let me create entire cities but get in there and drive through them – or sit on a street corner watching my creation unfold like some weekend God enjoying the fruits of his or her labour. Well, I have to hand it to the creators of Cities XL – they’ve done it. I’ve not had so much fun for… weeks.

Essentially Cities XL 2011 lets you start off with a blank canvas, dropping in roads and anything from individual houses to blocks of accommodation for everything from chief executives down to factory workers. You can create farms, office blocks, factories, recreation… I mean – just about anything you need for your average city…

Enough blethering – here’s my first attempt. The original quality was great but due to the utter lack of screen video capture programs out there, I stuck my iPhone 3GS on a microphone stand and videoed the screen so it looks a little like one of those cheap Sunday market copy videos…. but I think you’ll get the general idea – this is serious world-building kit – look around -  cost me under 15 quid – worth it for the fun I’ve had today ALONE..

Unbelievable Weather, unbelievable Adobe

It’s hard to believe the weather we’re having here in the Northeast… it’s been sunny now for over a week – and to keep the gardeners happy and keep the air fresh, it has conveniently rained overnight twice only to return to full sunshine in the morning.

solar lighting experimentI remember “April showers” when I was younger, when it would be sunny with constant drizzling but in recent years the weather has just been PANTS ALL SUMMER.

If this is our share of global warming – bring it on!  It’s giving me the opportunity to do something I’ve not done in a while – play with solar lighting. I’m trying to do a better job than the Chinese do while keeping the cost to next to nothing. So far so good. 2 transistors and a couple of other bits. Just need to stop batteries getting too flat now.

ANOTHER Adobe updateFinally.. is it ME or is Adobe updating that stupid reader 2 or 3 times a week? You’d think by now they’d have it right.. Imagine what the infinitely more complex Windows 7 or Apple operating  systems would be like if they had a many problems – you’d be updating every minute!!!

Jailbreak iPhone 3GS (later model) with IOS 4.3.2

For many years I used Microsoft’s Smartphones and 18 months ago I took the plunge and moved to iPhone, which apart from the odd yearning for Android I’ve never really regretted. The one thing that REALLY gets me annoyed when I think about it is the inability to share my connection from my Orange iPhone – with my laptop – or more importantly, the iPad. With the MS phone it was simply a matter of paying $20 for something called WMWIFIROUTER, a piece of software which shared the connection over WIFI with my laptop.  Turn it on and bingo – the laptop gets a WIFI connection from the phone’s 3G connection. 

I really can’t handle Orange’s restrictive practices on this, helped by Apple who provide the facility to share WIFI then block it so that Orange can charge a staggering EXTRA £10 for the facility to work – and remember I’m paying something like £30 a month to start with for the privilege of limited (something like 3 gig) data on the iPhone.  Come end of contract I’ll be looking to THREE, who offer their MIFI units with “all you can eat” data, WAY more minute and WAY more texts than Orange for only marginally more outlay. Hopefully by the time my contract is out that difference in cost will disappear (the above with THREE is £35 a month – I don’t know if they include tethering).

In the meantime – the iPhone 3GS is now 18 month old, I have a few months left before considering when to upgrade and what to upgrade to.. and so I thought I’d take a look at jailbreaking the phone – which simply means removing Apple’s ultimate control over it.

iPhone with CydiaRedsn0w ( http://blog.iphone-dev.org/ ) will jailbreak all but the iPad2 and so I downloaded the program to my Windows 7 PC after much reading on the subject. Well, of course it didn’t work – turns out you need to use the program in XP SP3 compatible mode – but hey, it’s free – who’s complaining! A simply right-click option on the shortcut did the job.

Minutes later, one jailbroken iPhone – it really is that simple – note the new brown icon in the photo on the right – except – that Cydia, the repository for jailbroken apps – is currently having issues with Amazon who provide their storage…  basically for now it’s bust – Amazon have been unable to provide them with working connectivity for around 3 days now – absolutely amazing.  So I figured I’d have to wait patiently, not something I do well, for them to get their act together so I could go and grab the relevant software to make my phone, once more into a handy source of signal for the iPad and laptop when on the road, however it turns out that you can grab free programs while the service is down – you just can’t get the paid versions.  I’ve grabbed PDANET and within seconds had it sending a password-protected WIFI signal to my iPad. No problem at all. Until the site is up I’m restricted to http: sites and not secure ones but no doubt that’ll be resolved within the next day or so.

Of course, I have a MIFI unit which provides WIFI access – but that’s on THREE – and there are believe it or not times when Orange’s signal is the stronger.. so now I have the best of both worlds. More on this when Cydia is NOT bust.

A New Merc for a new Era

Pete's B-Class Mercedes - BlackThe iPad2 wasn’t the only upgrade this month, yesterday we took my venerable 140,000-miles Mercedes e-class to the dealer in York and exchanged it for a new(ish) black model.

More modern and efficient, it’s not as gadgety as the original would have been in it’s prime but being several years newer and in considerable better condition with black-as-a-black-thing tinted rear windows, it’s a pretty neat upgrade non-the less.

On our way back from the York Merc dealer (via a VERY nice nearby garden centre to which we’ll return) we gave it a hammering at which point I was told to slow down for fear of losing my licence so it has no problems in that regard (diesel but far less truck-sounding than the old gold Merc).

The car already has an auxiliary socket for iPods, meanwhile an iPhone Bluetooth adaptor is on the way, personal number plates being registered and we’ve just sent off for customised floor mats, meanwhile I’ve just discovered where the battery is so I can look at fitting a 250v AC invertor somewhere out of view and a mains socket in a handy location. The next job will be to fit the must-have white LED arrays on the front but that’ll have to wait for a meeting-free weekend.

This one is coming to Spain with us in the summer so it’s important it can charge everything at once!