September 2013 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

  1. January
  2. February
  3. March
  4. April
  5. May
  6. June
  7. July
  8. August
  9. September
  10. October
  11. November
  12. December

Sunday Lunch at The Magdala (29th September 2013)

(More to follow.)

Bicycle Tasks (27th September 2013)

(More to follow.)

Secteur

Blackbird

Done for Secteur 2013-09-20

Cannot:
Wedge lock bracket
Half:
Clean frame
Done:
Oil chain

Done for Ladybird 2013-09-20

Blue Racer Salvage

I’ve started salvaging parts off Blue Racer so it can eventually be scrapped:

To do:

Something fundamentally wrong/weird with that bottom bracket. Brakes are always drifting out of adjustment. Saddle has disintegrated. Everything is now worn out. I never ride it and it takes up space in the tiny front garden.

Time for the great velodrome in the sky, I reckon.

Blood Donation Cancelled (26th September 2013)

Interval Study suspension cancelled my valid appointment made at the venue.

Rush Movie (No Spoilers) (25th September 2013)

Brilliantly well-made, a must-see film for any motorsports fan. You could draw parallels between it and Grand Prix but Rush is leagues ahead in every way.

I knew both had been world champions but wasn’t sure who won it during the year in the movie. Even if you do know, it’s far more about the extraordinary human stories in the spectacular life of Formula 1 and motorsport in general.

Fiona enjoyed it so you don’t have to be a petrolhead!

Great Venue

We saw it at our local Odeon on Holloway Road on Screen 6. Premier seats were less than £3 extra and you can book the seat you want. So I put us in the centre, behind the standard seats, which left us pretty much exactly central vertically to the screen as well.

Unobstructed view, potentially more comfortable seats and nobody else in our eyeline. In fact, nobody within 5 seats of us!

Would definitely do it this way again.

True Story

A well-timed documentary on BBC 4 called Hunt versus Lauda: F1’s Greatest Racing Rivals covers the true story on which the movie is based. We watched the documentary after the movie and it’s surprisingly how true-to-life the larger-than-life characters and events really were!

Wouldn’t watch them the other way round as it would spoil the excitement of the movie to know everything that was going to happen.

Treated Myself to a PS3 (23rd September 2013)

Have decided to treat myself as Autumn is arriving!

The newest and smallest PS3 with the largest HDD is available in a specially branded box with GTA5 and 1 controller. It’ss being sold as a bundle for £200 by Play.com, my favourite e-commerce website. It’s also at Tesco, Amazon and high street stores.

Gran Turismo 5 (brand new and intact) is only £15.50 now!

OK…this is a no-brainer. Sold!

History

My last gaming treat was a PlayStation 2 with GT4 and a memory card. It cost £125 way back in March 2007!!

Think I’m due another one by now.

Future

PS3 games aren’t guaranteed to be on PS4. That streaming system it uses will only start during 2014 and won’t have all titles from the start, if ever.

The next Gran Turismo will be for PS4. It will “probably be called GT7” and is estimated for release in 1.5 years. Although, last time he said that, it took 5 years.

Value of Loyalty Schemes

Already had 81 SuperPoints at Play.com so that knocks 81p off the price.

Used the nectar.com site which says I’ll earn 2 points per pound, so that’s 430 points (£429.38 rounded up to nearest pound) which is worth £2.15.

But I also earn 216 SuperPoints on what I’m spending, which is worth £2.16 on a future purchase (such as Xmas stuff).

Redeem 81p, earn £2.15 (Nectar) and earn another £2.16 (SuperPoints) means I save of £5.12 on £215.50 in total.

That’s about 2.4%! I should buy expensive things using Nectar and Play.com when possible. Play.com is a much nicer site than Amazon or eBay (although not perfect).

Design Exhibition for Free (22nd September 2013)

We were outside it with an American friend when an exhibitor offered us 3 wristbands to get in. He said they were going in the bin otherwise and as it was the last couple of hours before it closed, he might as well let us have them. Great!

(More to follow.) (Photos to follow.)

Refactoring a Website Design (21st September 2013)

I don’t always link and comment other articles. But when I do, I make sure they are awesome.

Ian Storm Taylor writes about Refactoring Github’s Design, drawing similarities with good code maintenance. It’s a bit like realigning instead of redesigning but gives permission for larger changes so long as they reduce and rationalise the end result. With examples.

By applying these technique to GitHub’s new design, it reveals several ways to streamline the design. It uses small tricks to open up fiddly areas. It creates a more generous rhythm. All whilst retaining features!

Some of this can be credited to simply spending more time to come up with a better solution. However, limiting the choises to visual gardening rather than developing a new look and feel is what makes this refactoring a lot like looking after code. This is not creating a new platform: this is tidying up and applying best practice to the existing platform.

A few choice paragraphs below.

That’s a lot of different ways to visualize the same idea. All of those different treatments make the page feel more cluttered. Unless you have a good reason for making visual elements slightly-different from one another, you should default to keeping things consistent.

Inconsistency isn’t limited to appearance either. I often end up with a design with duplicate content that could be combined if I just came up with a better abstraction. A good example of this is the repo’s name and file path:

[…]

There’s no reason we can’t combine the two instances of “analytics.js” into a single path. And then, since we’re working in an interactive medium, we can do things like shrink the font-size for long file paths.

I say “for some reason”, but the reason’s actually obvious: GitHub needed a place to put that button, and the toolbar was right there! Adding an extra button was trivial. But that’s why an interface needs to be refactored every so often, just like a codebase. Quick fixes are great in the heat of the moment, but over time you build up debt that reduces the quality of your product.

Open House Weekend (21st September 2013)

Eye-opening and inspiring trip around some normal homes whose interiors have been transformed into miniature Grand Designs style spaces.

(More to follow.) (Photos to follow.)

Received my PS3 with GTA5 and Separate GT5 (19th September 2013)

It all arrived today from Play.com!

Setting Up the System

Took me a while to add the PS3 to the router’s whitelist as I got confused about the router admin interface. Used the manual connection method on the PS3 so I was to turn off UPnP to match the router. (GTA2 doesn’t like UPnP.)

For a long, long time I couldn’t get HDMI output at 1080p. Eventually I did the system update to version 4.46 in the hope this would help. Told it to shut down after the update was complete and forgot, so was quite confused why the screen went blank at the end! I followed the official steps to reset PS3 HDMI connection and it worked! Whatever happens when you turn the PS3 on this way magically makes everything work, perhaps coupled with the software update. It automatically switched to 1080p which was nice.

Took about 2 hours from getting the box into the flat to having a working XMB with sound, Internet and full resolution. That’s too long, imho.

Gran Turismo 5

Installing

Managed to register BenMillard on PSN for myself! Wewt!

Downloaded all the free add-ons for GT5 using the Playstation Store.

It started by creating a Game Partition 1.1GB big. It then found update version 2.14 and I let it install that right away. It took about 1 hour to install 15 updates. The screen was blank for a long time with the HDD flashing a little at times, a lot at others.

The game started automatically once it had finished. It told me loading times would be faster if I installed 8GB of the game onto the HDD. So I let it do that.

About an hour later it was ready to start! Had to do some setup for the account

1st Race

Chose to do the old Challenge A race as it is for 400PP and 500PP cars.

Won the first race by a few seconds. Immediately have over Cr100,000 and my character reached Level 10 experience! Accidentally kept my 400PP car for the 500PP race! Luckily there were no tyre limits so I used Racing Soft front and rear. Got the 1st place halfway through the last lap.

The last event is for 650PP. Most of the grid was JGTC cars but the front 5 were old Le Mans cars. Way out ahead of everyone by 50 seconds was the Ford GT LM Edition Spec II. Impossible.

(Later in the game I returned to this and completed it with the Pagani Zonda LM Race Car with Praiano’s tune. This car demands respect and punishes over-eager throttle use!)

2nd Race

Changed to the 500PP FR Challenge instead. Engine restricted my Corvette C7 Final Test Prototype, which was free from the Playstation Store.

Rapid Start for B-Spec Drivers

Enter them into the old Season Events called Online Challenge-C but only the race at 650PP. A, B and C are all great in fact and are each worth about Cr500,000 with loads of experience points!

A detuned Mazda 787B dominated the JGTC cars and most of the LMGT1 class. McLaren F1 LM Race Car will take a bit of coaching to get past on some tracks. Pagani Zonda LM Race Car was also a challenge at one circuit, I forget which though.

Grand Theft Auto 5

Installing

It automatically installs 8GB on the first run. It plays a slideshow of the promotional artwork with a movie soundtrack ending credits type situation playing behind it.

It took about half an hour.

After a confirmation screen, the intro movie starts. This becomes a playable tutorial and it certainly drops you in at the deep end!

Power Saving Ruins Your Game

A couple of times I’ve left GTA5 paused during the very long missions. When I return the PS3 has powered down, losing my progress!

THIS IS A REALLY STUPID CAUSE OF DATA LOSS!!!

Also, YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE POWER SETTINGS while a game is running. There are actually quite a few things which just leave me shaking my head in disbelief at how stupid a version 4.5 system can be.

Also, a few things in GTA5 are absurd – such as trying to kill enemies who strafing beside you at close range.

Fixing the Time

It’s always 1 hour out. Here’s the fix for my out-of-the-box PS3:

  1. Settings > Date and Time Settings > Daylight Saving.
  2. Set to Daylight Saving as it’s Summer.

Zoe’s was also an hour out and Gran Turismo 5 would often complain about it. Nearly all these Date and Time settings had to be corrected as well as a manual tweak to get the minutes right.

Design Junction Exhibition (19th September 2013)

Fiona found out from her designer circles that Design Junction was taking place over this weekend. There’s loads of events like this happening in London at the moment. Think it’s all under the banner of Design Week.

(More to follow.) (Photos to follow.)

42nd Scalextric Club (17th September 2013)

Sports cars (not angle winders) competed over 4 lanes for 4 minutes at a time at this evening’s London Scalextric Club. A bit short on members due to regulars on holiday.

A young lad and his dad dropped by for the practice session.

Brown Lane

Had the fastest car but wasted it!

Fastest Lap 8.72s
Laps: 25.45
Position: Not sure
Crashes 3

White Lane

Seemed to be lacking rear grip. Other racers said the same later in the evening.

Fastest Lap 8.99s
Laps: 24.25
Position: 4th
Crashes 4

Blue Lane

Fastest Lap 8.37s
Laps: 26.??
Position: 3rd
Crashes 3

Yellow Lane

Tremendous race at the end with Rino as our crashes evening out. He just pipped me by half a length.

Fastest Lap 8.66s
Laps: 26.45
Position: 3rd
Crashes 2

Finals!

I got 2nd choice of lane so chose Blue. We raced for 12 laps each time.

Blue Lane

My best ever race! Brilliant drive. Got the hole shot and did a couple of clean laps to protect my lead.

Eased off just a touch and Pete reeled me in. Saw he was very keen to pass and driving a bit wild so let him go by during a few safe turns.

Once he was ahead I returned to my pace, braking early if necessary to keep him in front.

Rino was very slowly gaining on us both, driving like a man possessed! If I stayed behind Pete we would both be caught and only the first 2 go through.

I went back to braking normally. Tried to keep my muscles relaxed and eyes on my car. Pete and I were getting side by by side and he was slow on the power to avoid contact. I felt I had the edge and could nose ahead.

So I went for it.

A very neat lap got me on his tail for the main straight. Even Stevens to the end, where my braking got me alongside. Optimised the nasty turn 1 kink and drove round the outside at turn 2! Yeah!

Great exit from Turn 2 gave me a car length lead which I extended again through the hairpin. By the Esses the move was a clear success and I concentrated on keeping clean through the trick bridge chicane. I was fast through the loop, as before, so had a clear lead down the main straight.

Over the next couple of laps I kept the clean fast pace, firm in the belief I had them beat. A couple of laps from the end I heard Rino crashed our, so I knew a top 2 finish ws mine.

Fastest Lap 8.76s
Time: 1:48.??
Position: 2nd
Crashes 0!

Yellow Lane

Crashed first corner and never got my rhythm back. Hands were shivering and I was cold – that’s my excuse! The occasion got the better of me as well, perhaps.

Crashed every 2 laps so I finished a lap down on the other 3 racers.

Fastest Lap Not sure
Laps: 11 (got lapped)
Position: 4th
Crashes 6

Cotswold Cottage (13th September 2013)

The double bed tucked was tucked in the eaves of the traditional stone cottage with modernised but rustic interior. Fiona’s friend was renting it as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It’s a small village some miles West of Chipping Norton. Sort of place you might expect Bill Bryson to feature in Tales from a Small Island.

Fiona and I used a fast train and our bicycles to get there. Wonderful countryside, great for cycling aside from a couple of rather narrow main roads with lots of fast traffic. Took photos of a few things. The experience of really getting away from it all is beyond mere pictures.

(More to follow.)

(Photos to follow.)

New Shower Hose (12nd September 2013)

Bought for a couple of quid from eBay, 2 metres long flexible chrome.

Sadly the fitting is hexagonal while the old one was round so it didn’t fit out shower rail. After some persuasion with a hammer, I tapered the bracket so the fitting wedges into it.

It works well enough to never fall down and the longer hose makes it easy to rinse the entire bath area.

41st Scalextric Club (3rd September 2013)

NASCAR club cars brought a night of thunder to the London Scalextric Club this evening! We used 3 lanes out of 6, with each race lasting 2.5 minutes. We did the races in pairs, moving over by one lane after the first race.

We had a newcomer, Rob, who made the best début I’ve ever seen. His first real laps were high 12 seconds and really consistent. He gradually brought them down to low 12 seconds and then took a break.

When he resumed something had clicked and he got a couple of laps in the mid to low 11 seconds. As the evening went on, he managed 11.08 seconds!

White Lane

A great start! Derek ran close to my times on a slower lane. He was pushing too hard and crashed about halfway through the race.

I chipped away at my lap times and kept it careful, as I had not practiced earlier in the evening.

Fastest Lap 9.73s
Laps: 14.90
Position: 1st!
Crashes 0

Blue Lane

This time Derek drove perfectly. I got the hole shot and had a half second lead for a few laps. But he ever so gradually reeled me in. There were just hundredths of a second between us and he eventually nosed in front.

I was on a faster lane but wasn’t driving accurately and made a small mistake at the end of the straight, ending the close battle. Exciting while it lasted!

Fastest Lap 10.02s
Laps: 14.40
Position: 2nd
Crashes 1

Yellow Lane

Tried using the orange controller but I was already dialled into the other controller. Loads of mistakes as I tried to adapt to it.

Fastest Lap Not sure.
Laps: 13.85
Position: 3rd
Crashes 4!

Red Lane

Fastest Lap 10.12s
Laps: 14.35
Position: 2nd
Crashes A half-spin

Green Lane

Might have been even more than 4 crashes. Tough lane, poor car and bad driving.

Fastest Lap 10.23s
Laps: 12.45
Position: 3rd
Crashes 4?

Brown Lane

Slow car which is stable but that creates a false sense of security. A lot of drivers try to push the car hard to overcome the slow motor but this mades it tip out of the slot or spin out unexpectedly.

Fastest Lap 10.49s
Laps: 13.40
Position: 3rd
Crashes 3?

End of the Road Festival (3rd September 2013)

Another wonderful long weekend. Took some photos which might have turned out well. Oh I should link to the event website: End Of The Road Festival.

Details below compiled primarily from my phone’s calendar and the metadata from the photos I took with it. What did we do before smartphones? Used our memories, I guess.

(More to follow.)

Friday 30th September 2013

5pm

Found our way to the woodland walks. The forest was decorated! We spent a little time throwing small footballs towards buckets in the trees.

Pipes were attached to the buckets so the footballs trundled back to the ground.

7pm

Returned to the tent to add more layers. It was getting cold, especially out in the open with the wind. Really cold!

7:30pm to 8:45pm

Eels on the Woods Stage. Started raining as soon as they got on but it gradually created a perfect double rainbow!

Highlight for me was the “Go Knuckles!” piece for their drummer. Didn’t hear any of their big hits during the set.

9:30pm to 10pm

David Byrne and St Vincent took to the Woods Stage and it was very showbiz. Not really my cup of tea. Fiona was more interested in St Vincent but they were rather secondary to proceedings.

10pm to Midnight

EfferKlang were on the Garden Stage until 11pm. We watched their whole set. Their audience interaction was…well…very Scandinavian.

Saturday 31th September 2013

11:20am

Hat fencing! Fiona won 2–0 in quick succession. The referee suggested “best of 5?”

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Final score? 5–2 to me. Wewt! Hugely silly and equally fun regardless of the score.

12pm to 12:30pm

Rounders!

3pm to about 5pm

The comedy hollow is a small, steep, oddly magical and extremely over-crowded area. Thankfully the ground was dry so we could sit down on the bank and had a good view of the stage.

2pm

Sprawled on the red rug in our little oasis of calm, next to the churn of the Garden Stage area. Saw another peacock, this time a male and quite tame.

Sunday 1st September 2013

Monday 2nd September 2013