Friday, 20 July 2012

Farnborough Air Show

Last weekend I went to the Farnborough Air Show.

I was actually hoping to have put together some pics but I just haven't had time (more on that next week).

Having lived and worked in and around this area for around 13 years I've never been to Farnborough.  Well, I've been to Farnborough, but I've never been to the air show.  In my defence a while back it did become bi-annual.  However, with my imminent switch of profession I figured I should go.

It was really rather good, if long and tiring.  It was pretty good value overall, though - the tickets were expensive (£40 on the door) but you got good value.

I have to say I wasn't expecting it to be so... big.  I've been to air shows before - Biggin Hill in particular - and the focus is pretty squarely on the air displays.  There are usually two types - ones where they basically just fly about and the others where they do proper displays.

Okay, both are proper displays and are planned out in detail, but what I mean is that in the former they run the aircraft through a few things it can do, but in the aerobatic displays they do tricks and put on a deliberately complex "show".  I'm sure you get what I mean.  And of course some of the fighters are able to do clever things, so it's not really a hard and fast line.

There was a nice blend of the two.  In particular there was a focus some of the more unusual and distinctive aircraft for the basic displays and then they had really good aerobatics.  They key was that there was a nice mix of the two.

Particular highlights included the Osprey, which is the new tilt-rotor.  It's really big, which I wasn't expecting and looks weird in either "mode".  When the rotors are up it looks like a Chinook they accidentally built sideways and when they're down it looks like a plane where they forgot to put the wings on.  The rotors are enormous - each blade is more than 30 feet long.

Another highlight was the A380, which is just bonkers huge.  You almost can't believe it will get into the air, but it actually took off in quite a short distance.  It also did a really slow pass where it just seems to defy gravity.

They also had a "functional" display for the Tornado where they pretended to blow stuff up on the runway, but the bangs were really loud and made everyone jump a few times.

The F18 Super Hornet was also quite impressive - I didn't really know much about it before, but it's a really agile aircraft.  And of course there were the Red Arrows who did a full display and were very impressive.  It's been a while since I've seen them do a full display.

But I mentioned it being big - there were a huge number (something like 80-odd) aircraft on display.  I got there pretty early and went around and saw most of them.  This was where I discovered my first cock-up.

When I'd packed my bag I'd done my favourite trick of packing too much so it was heavy.  I therefore dumped a few things and one of these was my spare camera battery.  I'd recharged (or so I thought) them the night before and figured one battery would last.

Trouble was as soon as I started using it the battery reported being almost empty.  As such it had run out and wouldn't take any more pictures by the time I got half way through.

Luckily I had my phone so I used the camera on that to take a few pics, but I therefore didn't bother at all during the air displays.

The other cock-up was wearing shorts and dumping the jumper I'd packed.  It was surprisingly chilly for the most part although, weirdly, I got sunburnt!  I guess the sun was strong when it was out (plus we've not really seen the sun for me to build up any sort of resistance) but it wasn't actually warm.

But as well as the aircraft on display, which took me all morning to go around they had an "innovation zone" and a "space zone".  I paid these brief visits.  The space one was a bit rubbish, but the innovation one looked good, although I realised there just wasn't going to be the time to go around.

Quite how people find the time on the trade days when all the big halls are opened too I don't know.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

the humax you fix with cotton buds

I mentioned before about how my PVR, which is a Humax 9200T, had developed an odd and annoying fault.

To briefly recap the clock would "fail" when it went into standby, which meant that it would then not wake up in order to record programs.  This meant I had to leave the box on all the time.

Doing some digging around I eventually found a forum where lots of other people with this PVR were having the same problem.  Initially there were a few different ideas as to what was happening but eventually one of them had worked out that (in essence) contamination on the surface of the printed circuit board was causing the thing to short.

The solution was therefore to disconnect it and take it out of the machine and clean it.  Cleaning could be achieved using ethanol alcohol, which was most easily found in a reasonably pure form in surgical spirit and cotton buds (the ones you put in your ear but are told not to) were ideal for the actual cleaning.

As such, Saturday morning, after having returned from doing my washing I set about my PVR with a screwdriver and released the PCB.

It was quite a job, actually, as the cables connecting it to the main machine was difficult to get at and disconnect.  There were also a lot more screws than I was expecting.

Having liberated it I set about it with the cotton buds and surgical spirit.  This was quite tedious if I'm honest.  There was one particularly area of the board that the instructions said were key, so I focused there, but I gave the whole board a wipe over too.

A lot of gunk came off, but the instructions also indicated that it wasn't really dirt that was the problem as such.  Also I think a lot of what looked like dirt was actually felt tip pen marks.  I'm assuming these felt tip pen marks were put on when they were wiring and soldering the board up.

I gave the key area several goings over.  In the forum thread a few people had said they'd needed to do it a couple of times before it had worked and I figured better to overdo it than have to take the thing apart again.

I left it to dry a bit (alcohol evaporates at room temperature, so it wasn't really very "wet" and then re-assembled.  I left it for a while again and then switched on.  Initial success was achieved in that nothing blew up and everything worked in terms of showing TV channels and playing back recordings.

And then - the moment of truth.  I put it into standby and... It worked.  The standby clock came on and stayed on.  I switched it on and off a few times.  I left it in standby for a good while.  I set up some recordings, put it in standby and it turned on.

Indeed it has been working like there was never any problem in the first place.

So we have success!

And what's particularly pleasing is that Humax would have charged £30 for the PCB replacement.  This only cost me about £7.00 and that was mainly because all the local boots had was a big bottle of surgical spirit.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

green lantern

Wow, this was terrible.

I'd heard it was bad, of course.  But then I've watched plenty of stuff that's supposed to be bad and enjoyed it.  And of course sometimes when things are properly bad you can watch them and enjoy them on that level.

There are obviously some things that you find so terrible you can't enjoy them on that level - I find bad singing / karaoke to be so horrible I can't stand it even though I know other people roll around laughing.  Well, this isn't that.  It's just bad.

Of course part of the problem here is I'm not really a fan of the green lantern comics.  Indeed, I'm not really that big a fan of DC in general.  I dunno, I've always found their stuff a bit dorky - I was always more of a Marvel kind of guy.

I mean even batman - he works, basically, but they managed to give him such a rubbish costume.  I mean, every film adaptation, the first thing they've done is re-do the costume, right?  And he usually ends up some form of black, right?  Because black's cool and grey and navy aren't.

The other part of the problem is that I find the green lantern thing particularly silly.  I mean, let's get to it - it's called the green lantern, yet they wear a ring.  And yes I know they recharge the ring from the lantern, it's just it's that kind of stupid "just because" that marks out bad comic books for me.  Well, it marks out bad story telling full stop, but it just crops up a lot in comic books.

So what's wrong with the film itself?

Well, to start with the hero is not particularly likeable.  He's a good-looking jock and behaves like a bit of a prat.  There's an attempt to make him likeable by giving him a relationship with his nephew, but this just comes across as being forced in to make him likeable.

The film also dumps you right into the mythos of the comics without any real explanation as to what's what.  Well, it has a crack at explaining it, but tbh it's all a bit naff and clich├ęd.  It's also confusing and a bit messy and relies on narrators and all powerful weirdy beards.  Weirdy beards who, by the way, who seem to be stand-offish and meddling all at the same time.

It was also way too long.

It looked quite pretty, though.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

job offer

Well, start at the beginning as they say.

Early last week I received a job offer.  There were 3 jobs still in the pipeline where I'd had one or more interviews and were still waiting to know.  Well, technically there were 4 but one went totally silent on me a while back.

Having received the offer from one (and it is a bloody good offer) I felt confident in pushing the others about where I stood - was I going to get an offer or did they want to see me again or what?  I also said I'd received an offer to help chivvy things along (which can be risky in case they think you're trying to play hard-ball or bullshitting).

Anyway, both of the others came back as a no.

If I'm totally honest I would have put the one that made me an offer at the bottom of the list of the three, but then the two above it didn't want me.

I also needed to think long and hard about this offer.  Not the offer itself, which as I say is very generous, but whether I wanted to go in that direction with my career and how I saw things going.  In particular the job description is a bit different from what I'd originally envisaged when I started looking for a new job.

Also, unfortunately something happened that made the whole situation a bit more complicated.

since I don't want to say who the company is it's very difficult for me to explain this, but it did give me pause for thought, shall we say.

However, having considered everything I have decided to accept the offer.  They've sent me a whole bunch of forms to fill out and they want to vet me so I don't technically have the job yet.

However, I have given them a tentative verbal yes.

My next scary thing to do is tell my boss.  It's a little tricky since I obviously don't have a start date and there's a bit of a chicken and egg situation.

They won't discuss start date until I get the vetting, but I can't give proper notice without a date.  I also don't want to give notice in case I somehow fail the vetting - I'd be out of a job entirely!  However, I need to tell my boss I'm off because part of the vetting is taking up references from my current employer!

What I've therefore decided to do is talk to my boss and explain it all - can't give a firm leave date as they need to vet me before discussing that, and as part of that they will be taking up references so expect a call.

This way it also maximises the preparation time they have for when I leave.  I guess also they may want to make a counter offer, but I'd be amazed if they can afford to better it.

Monday, 16 July 2012

official cereal bar

Well it's been an eventful couple of days, but in order to give me a chance to find some space I thougth I'd post the one I missed last week.

There's three words that tell you everything that's wrong with the modern world.

Nature Valley Cereal Bars are the official Cereal Bar Supplier to the London 2012 Olympics.

Now don't get me wrong here - I'm sure Nature Valley makes a lovely cereal bar.  And if the sports in the Olympics are your bag then I'm sure it's a lovely thing.  If you've got tickets and you're going along to an event then I hope you have a great time.

But why does the Olympics need an official cereal bar supplier?

When the Greeks were wrestling each other, naked and slathered in oil, on top of some mountain somewhere, do you honestly think that the proposition of having an official cereal bar supplier would have made them realise that that's where they'd been going wrong all these years - no official supplier of cereal bars!

Side stepping the issues of the fact the Greeks probably didn't know what a cereal bar was, let alone care, why does the Olympics need an official anything?  Why is the Olympics a brand?  Why does it need marketing?  If it needs those things to pay for it why is it costing us taxpayers a small fortune?

The British Grand Prix doesn't have an official supplier of cereal bars (though I don't doubt Bernie has spent many a misty-eyed moment dreaming of all the extra cash he could rake in if he could just pursued everybody else that what F1 really needs is a bunch of official suppliers of stuff that's irrelevant to the successful undertaking of the sport).  Wimbledon doesn't have an official supplier of cereal bars.

Heck, I don't think even football - the veritable flagship of just how much rampant capitalism can fuck up good things - has an official supplier of cereal bars.  I mean, I'm pretty sure it has sponsors and I would guess it has official suppliers of things like footballs and I know the team's kit is supplied by a sportswear supplier.

But that's my point - sponsorship has an air of "normality" to it (even if it can leave a bad taste in the mouth) and supplying stuff the sport needs makes sense (even if, again, it's a bit capitalist of my personal taste) but having an "official supplier" of something that plainly isn't essential is just not right.

This rant was brought to you by Reebok - the official supplier of trainers to the transperambulation blog.