Archive for the General Chang Category

HTTP 204: No Content

Posted in General Chang, neverbeengood with tags , , , on January 28, 2011 by badhex

Well, I’ve been rubbish and not posted anything for ages, aside from the numerous posts I have started. I know, I know. Neverbeengood.

Sorry about that. Anyway, needless to say, I’ve been pretty busy and there’s been a lot going on (plus, Fallout New Vegas. Just sayin’). Normal service will resume shortly, when things have settled down.


I Love Being A Geek: New Techy Projects

Posted in Computing, General Chang, Projects, Robots, Space, Tech with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by badhex

Being a geek is sweet. I get really excited about often quite simple stuff, and moreover stuff that most other people really don’t care about. This usually prompts me to start some sort of techy project, but, alas,  I’m the first to admit they go on a seemingly never-ending, possibly never-completed wishlist. I’d like to change that, and I reckon blogging about stuff might just give me more impetus to make good on my thoughts – if not less time to do them. Irony.

Anyway with that in mind, here’s a couple of mini projects I have on my mind, some in various stages of completion, some merely seeded. Hopefully I’ll do something about them, if I haven’t already.

Reappropriating a LaCie FireWire CD-RW

This little project is now complete, and although really quite simple in the end, it was exactly the kind of thing I love doing.  You can read the full post about the process here.

Telescope Refurb

As per my previous post, I’ve been donated an old Charles Frank 6″ Reflector telescope, which needs a little work. I find any sort of techy work really fun, but don’t get as much opportunity to do much other than computer work, and even that is more limited than I like. This should be a fun little project, once I’ve persuaded my parents to ferry it 200 miles form its current location to my house.

Fitting a hard drive to my old Amiga 600

I’d been thinking about cracking out the Commodore Amiga 600 I’ve owned since being a kid and never got rid of (I still have all the disks!) at some point, possibly looking into a few things I could do to it upgrades wise. I always, always wanted a hard drive for it when I was younger (it was something like 100mb, I think, and external), so I had a little delve. Fortunately for me, it turns out there’s actually a hard drive bracket and IDE connector for a 2.5″ IDE hard drive, ready and waiting inside the thing. Bonus. Thanks to some fantastic resources such as, The Extreme Commodore A600 Upgrading Page and English Amiga Board I’ve prepared an old 1.2gb drive I had kicking around using the awesome but complicated WinUAE and a nice preconfigured Workbench setup called Classic Workbench and now I’m just waiting for the 2.5″ IDE cable, which is taking approximately 17 years to arrive.

[UPDATE: Between writing this bit and posting, the IDE cable arrived – it’s now installed and working. I will write a post about the whole thing soon]

Finding a purpose for new kit

I’ve just acquired a Dell Poweredge 1750 blade server, plus a really gorgeous, well-engineered case with an Intel SE7505VB2 motherboard and dual Intel Xeon 2.4gHz chips, either Prestonia or Gallatin flavour, and I need a purpose for them. I probably need to get a bit of thermal paste for the processors, as the heatsinks had been removed and although I did my best with the paste that was left on, one of the chips is running a good 5°C hotter. I’m really not a  fan (heh heh) of re-using paste anyway, it’s not exactly expensive stuff.

Building a home-made NAS

Easier than you think. I’ve come across a lovely Linux distro called FreeNAS which is brilliant. Extremely easy to install, can live on a bootable memory stick and after a minimum of setup, you can configure the whole thing through a web interface. I’m not really sure why they have a little devil thingy on their logo.

Unfortunately, I’m now of the opinion it might have to wait. Realistically, I can’t really house another box. I’m up to my eyeballs in tech – but then again, I am a kit monster!

Setting up an OSX Server

I acquired a Mac XServe G5 blade some time ago and have been looking for something to do with it. Lovely piece of kit, really just bit too nice to get thrown away. I’ve been thinking of getting some sort of internal web server up and running, at some point – this may be the ideal candidate.

Setting up a Windows Server

See above. Most likely on the Dell, I think. I want to play with/learn Microsoft’s WDS for work, and this would be a great opportunity. I have a couple of spare machines kicking around to act as client machines as well, so I can get the hang of it.

Hackint0shing my Samsung NC10

The original section I started writing here turned into a massive rant/homage to my Samsung NC10 netbook so I ‘ve actually split it off into a new post here. Anyway basically at some point I plan to hackint0sh it. For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about, it means to install Mac OSX on a computer not normally supposed to run it – i.e. not a Mac. Although it’s strictly speaking a bit naughty, I actually own various genuine copies of OSX, so it could be worse.

I’ve done it before to an old Dell, and the principle is the same, so it shouldn’t be too hard. The major issue was that the wifi/network adaptors will not work once OSX is on there, which makes it pretty pointless, but I’ve fixed that by buying and installing a Dell wifi card, which is compatible with OSX.

I currently dual boot it into WinXP Pro and Ubuntu 10.04, and I’ve come across a couple of great articles (gotta love the Tinterweb) about triple booting and hackint0shing the NC10, so with a bit of lateral thinking I think I can meet them in the middle somewhere (read: hope).

Right, that’s it for now, I’ve rambled on for ages, 952 words is enough for today.

Peace out technophiles!


My Samsung NC10 Is Frickin Awesome

Posted in Computing, General Chang, Tech with tags , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by badhex

A year or so ago I bought my lovely little Samsung NC10 netbook and a 2gb RAM stick for it,  and I have to be honest, it is  basically the best £300 I’ve ever spent; I take it almost everywhere and use it most days (and on which I have composed most of this post). It’s amazing.

But  – let me give you a precursor, if I may. When I was at secondary school about 10 or 15 years ago, the first tiny Sony Vaios came out, the one with the separate floppy/CD drive (which infuriatingly Wikipedia and google image search won’t let me find) and I immediately knew what I wanted from a portable computer. Of course, they were incredibly expensive, and there was no way I could have afforded one. (Side track, because I’ve just been reminded – my first computer was a Pentium 133mHz with 16mb RAM, 1gb hard drive and a 1mb VGA card. It was 1996 and it cost just under £1000. Madness.)

So, the principle was there all that time ago, exactly how I wanted. A small, very portable computer that just computes. Seriously, how many times do you actually use a CD drive on a laptop these days, unless it’s the only computer you have? Most applications are either downloadable or can go on a memory stick and let’s face it, the humble floppy disk (sweet, noble floppy disk) – as lovable as it is – was always going to be replaced by something (Zip Disk anyone? No, didn’t think so). So, all you really need is the computer itself and some sort of network connection, and a USB port or two – and it only took 10 years for my wishes to become commonplace and affordable.

Anyway, it’s brilliant, and as far as the variety of netbooks I have seen on the market are concerned, it definitely feels like it’s one of the better ones. It feels sturdy and well manufactured, the keyboard is a joy to type on (although Clare is positively disgusted that the keys are italicised. See what I did there?), the screen is clear, and I much prefer the matt screen to a shiny one. The biggest improvements to be made would be the touchpad being made bigger and a longer battery life (although I am actually more than happy at around 6 hours) – both of which were addressed in subsequent revisions. As far as upgrading goes, it was as easy as you’d expect to pop in a new 2gb stick, and in anticipation of possibly hackint0shing it I’ve also swapped out the MiniPCI-express wifi card for a Dell one. Might even stretch as far as an SSD one day.

So yeah, netbooks are awesome. Love using it, love having the ability to compute on the go, or just crack it out to watch a film on long journeys.

Owning a netbook really is absolutely, totally and utterly joyous. Go out and buy one, you won’t regret it.



Ten Things I Love About Octopodes

Posted in General Chang, Nature with tags , , , , , , on July 8, 2010 by badhex

Well, I was going to write a post called ‘Ten Things I Hate About Entourage’ but then I stumbled across a story about an Octopus named Otto, so what with Octopodes being one of my favourite creatures on the planet, I decided to write this article instead. Before I get to the ten facts, I should tell you the story of Otto.

Otto lives in the Sea Star Aquarium in Coberg, Germany, where one day a mysterious thing started to happen. Staff were dismayed to find that the power to the aquarium was blacking out, stopping all the pumps for the tanks and threatening the very life within said tanks. They were obviously worried about these odd occurrences, and so they took turns sleeping in the aquarium.

Eventually they found the source of the problem.

Otto, the 2 foot 7 inch Octopus, apparently annoyed by a 2000w overhead light had discovered that he could swing himself up onto the side of his tank and bullseye the light with a carefully aimed water jet, extinguishing it and causing the aquarium-wide power outages at the same time.

The crafty little Cephalopod is already known for his mischievous nature, periodically rearranging his tank, throwing stones at the glass and damaging it, and – my favourite – juggling hermit crabs.

What an absolute legend! Stories like this are why I adore my aquatic friends. Anyway, as promised, my ten things, in no particular order:

  1. Octopus arms are commonly referred to as tentacles, although this is not strictly speaking true. The Octopus arm is a muscular hydrostat, much like the tongue of a human.
  2. Over half of their nervous system is in their arms – A severed Octopus arm will still pick up food and push it towards where the mouth used to be.
  3. Although they can use any arm for any job, researchers have found that they have a favourite arm or two, which they will often use in preference.
  4. As of 2009, they are the only invertebrate to have been observed using tools – a trait once only thought to be human.
  5. Not only can they use tools, but have both a short-term and long-term memory, excellent cognitive and problem solving skills – and there are many examples of this behaviour. Opening jars, playing with toys, escaping tanks to eat stuff, and as mentioned above, shooting at lights are all documented Octo-acts.
  6. They are masters of disguise and camouflage, to the point of becoming effectively invisible. They apparently also change colour according to mood. Red means happy.
  7. Most species of Octopus have no bones or shell whatsoever, the only hard part of their body being a beak. this means that they can squeeze through tiny gaps many times smaller than themselves.
  8. The Octopus’s Garden, while it sounds jolly, is actually a collection of bones, shells and spines outside the entrance to the Octopus’s den, the discarded remains of its many meals.
  9. The female Octopus in some species can have a couple of hundred thousand eggs, which it will gather in its arms, and hide in its den, attaching in strings to the roof. It will care for them for about a month, blowing streams of water over them for oxygen, until they hatch.
  10. During the egg-caring period, the mother Octopus will not hunt, instead sometimes choosing to eat a couple of her own arms if she gets peckish. Eventually when they hatch, she will not be strong enough to defend herself, and will shuffle off somewhere to either die or get eaten.

So there you have it. Octopodes are fully awesome. I’ve included a cool video below, plus a couple of other Octopus-related link for your delectation. Something I should point out, by the way: Octopi, Octopodes and Octopuses are all current, allowable plural terms. I prefer the term Octopodes.

Advanced Aquarist – Housing An Octopus

Octopus basics – Keeping an Octopus as a pet

Wikipedia entry

On a final note, I guess everyone who is paying any attention to the world cup will also be aware that “Paul the Psychic Octopus” correctly predicted all of Germany’s outcomes in this world cup, including their defeat by Spain last night.

For the record I think a psychic Octopus is about as likely as a psychic human, dog or blade of grass.

UPDATE: I’ve had lots of positive comments about this post, thanks so much for all your kind words and link backs! I’m really glad everyone enjoyed my article! I’m @badhex on twitter if you want to follow me.

I’ll leave you with one more bonus fact: Octopodes have not one, not two, but THREE hearts. That’s enough love for anyone!


Scrublet Droid

Posted in General Chang, Robots with tags , , , , on July 2, 2010 by badhex

I don’t know if you seen the advert for some L’Oreal product, but in the long-running tradition of inventing bullshit to sell more product, they’ve now created something called Scrublet.
Yep. You heard me.


Ridiculous as this is, it has led to Clare doing me a little drawing of the Scrublet Droid, which I can only assume is the next step in the never-ending march of face-cleaning technology.
It’s awesome having a graphic designer for a girlfriend.

Good Life Advice

Posted in General Chang with tags , , , on June 25, 2010 by badhex

I was having a conversation with the lovely Clare the other day in which I was talking about how perplexing I find it when people throw away cheese that has gone a bit mouldy, and my advice to them. Being that we’re both geeks for design, this led to us talking about the possible motivational posters that could arise to help them.

A few hours later, I received this.

Genius. I know these have been done to death, but I still think it’s awesome.

IKEA’s Double-Edged Customer Service

Posted in General Chang, neverbeengood with tags , , , , on June 24, 2010 by badhex

Yesterday I went to IKEA to help a friend get some stuff for a new flat and grab a couple of bits myself and I discovered a couple of pretty pleasing facts, and also experienced an interesting customer service juxtaposition.

I’ve got to be honest I’m a bit of a stickler for customer service; I tend to think that provided customers are being generally respectful, staff, in particular customer service staff, should always try to make the effort to help. I’ve worked in several customer facing roles such as bars where people can be extremely rude and abusive, and various IT support roles where one can also sometimes be subject to a similar level of venting; my point is that I understand it’s not always cut and dried and I do see it from the staff point of view.

Herewith, the following examples of both terrible customer service and outstanding customer service within 5 minutes from two different IKEA staff members stood not 5 yards apart.

One of my particular reasons for going had been that a few months ago, I was given a couple of LACK shelf units by a friend, but unfortunately they were missing one complete set of screws. I figured this kind of thing must happen regularly and I’d probably be able to buy more screws, so I asked a staff member, who told me to go to customer services behind the tills.

Upon arriving at customer services around 10pm closing time, there was one person being served, but the guy behind the counter brusquely told me that he was not serving anyone else as he was closed which then prompted the following conversation:

“Okay. Is there anyone else I can speak to?”


“Well, it’s only a one minute question, I just…”

“If it’s one minute that will mean I’m here one minute longer, so I’m not answering it”

“Look, I just want to know if you sell spare screws for your products”

“No we don’t”

<pointing to the large range of screws in little trays behind the desk> “You don’t sell more screws?!”

“We will give you more screws but you have to come back another day”

At this point, the chap being served helpfully pointed to some trays containing screws etc that I hadn’t seen, which were self service, and said I could probably look there. I very pointedly thanked him, and turned to the CS guy to point out somewhat ascerbicly that he a) worked here, and b) could have pointed that out instead of being Johnny Jobsworth. I walked over,  and realised that they were all numbered, and I had no idea which I needed, so at this point was going to give up the ghost when I was beckoned over by another CS lady who said to give her a minute and she would look up the screws for me. I thanked her and apologised for it being after 10pm.

A few minutes later she duly looked up the shelf unit’s instructions, pointing out that even if you came back ten years later, the screws wouldn’t have changed (which pleases me greatly from a design point of view), then went off to look for them. She came back and handed me a full compliment of one type, but said she didn’t have a rest of them in, so I should give her my details and she’d order a full set and post them to me in a couple of days!

Mega pleasing.

So, the moral of the story? In these sort of situations, there’s always gonna be someone who is a dick – but every other employee should not be tarred with the same brush, which it is very easy to do when one has been treated unreasonably. I think the fact that they give you the screws/fittings etc for nothing is fantastic – especially as they will post them out if they don’t have them in stock.