rashbre central: September 2016

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Hey Alexa, play set the controls for the heart of the sun, No Alexa- don't fly there, Hey Alexa Pause #blooper

It's entirely possible that a certain well-known blonde Belgian beer had a part to play in a recent conversation. Would the choice of operating system affect a house purchase in the future? Kind of Mac vs Android.

At our place we already have different areas of the house running on different systems. The hallway has the Google Nest thermostat and if we ever upgrade it, then it would probably also get speech recognition.

The lounge has Apple Home, mainly because of the Apple television with its speech recognition. But come to think of it, there's also an Amazon Fire device, which also has speech recognition.

But no, we don't use the speech because it is generally too random in its responses. As an example, when I recently asked about a lunch stop on the A1M, it gave me a fishing shop location 4,600 miles away in America.

Recent new gadgets for all of this are the cascaded set of Amazon things; Echo, Tap and Dot, one of which arrived through the post today. Unlike Siri, Cortana, the enigmatic Facebook M and even Google MSA, the Amazon system uses a real name, Alexa, to trigger the voice input.

We shouldn't forget the French invoxia system, gamely trying to sell the toy-like Triby to the Americans although now with Alexa input. Although, I must admit I'm not too sure about their main advert strip.

That's not to say that speech can't work. If I go all comic-book Dick Tracy and talk to my watch, such as to make an Evernote reminder, then the speech is almost entirely well-rendered. I suppose I'm using my carphone voice for this, which isn't quite like natural speech. Yes, it gets remarked upon.
It's still easy to fool Siri on the Mac though. If I want music Siri will happily play 'Pop' 'Jazz' 'Ed Sheeran' etc. but if I ask for 'Coffee House' or 'Start the Week' it will get somewhat more haphazard. Maybe I need to update the genres?

The biggest recent change has been the Apple IOS 10, which has started to pull all of the systems together on the iPhone. To my surprise, this latest version has somehow integrated the Hue lights, the fire, the Nest and all the Harmony TV controls including Sky, Apple, Netflix, Amazon so that they are now accessible mainly from a 'card swipe' on the phone. Pretty good actually and I didn't even need to install anything other than the IOS for all of this to start working.

So I guess that's going to be the basis of my theory. It won't be the domestic operating system that dictates; it will be the protocol that somehow binds the disparate systems together to give a single interface, whether its phone, voice or gesture-based.

Not that gesture, Alexa.

Monday 26 September 2016

YTD bike stats and the early mince pie effect

According to Strava I'm currently about 110 miles ahead of 'pace' to reach my year end cycling target. I've also noticed that my year end target is somehow set to 3953 instead of 4000 miles, so something has gone wrong along the way.

It means I'll need to focus because I know that December is usually a duff month for cycling, plus the inadvertent eating of mince pies will eventually start to interfere with the flow.

A few days ago I was in ASDA Gateshead, where I noticed mince pies were already available. They were positioned close to the exit at the back of the store where the staff go around to the unloading area. I wondered if this was a subtle way to remind the staff of the approaching season.

On the other hand, the same store also stocked hot-cross buns and mini creme eggs, so I suppose it's more symptomatic of all-the-year-round grocery offerings.

I sometimes think of the oddest things when pedalling.

Friday 23 September 2016

In the Heights

Towards Granary Square in the evening to see In The Heights at its Kings Cross venue, which is the traverse staging along a couple of the old platforms at the railway station.

It is all high energy dance, with a smokin' Latino backbeat and covers stories of the locals around 180th Street in Manhattan. Washington Heights is largely Dominican Republic and Puerto-Rican and we see how those that came for the American Dream are making out in 2016 New York.

Usnavi is a bodega owner who looks after the aging Cuban lady next door. He pines for the gorgeous girl with downtown tastes working in the neighboring beauty salon and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, Nina, a childhood friend of Usnavi’s, has returned to the neighborhood from her first year at Stanford with bad news for her taxi-firm running parents.

The storylines are simple enough and give room for plenty of dance and original songs, far removed from the juke box musicals of the Wast End.

It's my second time seeing it, this time with an almost entirely different cast and both times strongly delivered.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

more gadgets?

The #FANS show got me thinking about some aspects of the get-ins and the get-outs. All the venues were different sizes and with different house kit, so there was a roadie-like aspect to the shifting of the varied flight-cases of equipment around. Also that moment where the local engineers and the show compared cables at the end to ensure that the right ones left the building.

The wicked flight cases were also part of the staging and so had to be specially sprayed with that Dirty Down spray paint, along with the copious addition of tour stickers. Notice the one case that we borrowed that hasn't been given the treatment?

As well as the live band set-up the show had many lighting and sound cues. It raises all kinds of questions about technology, because only one of the venues had fully moved over to LED lighting, with the rest using conventional bulbs and miles of heavy snake cable.

I'm thinking that the way to go with all of this, technologically speaking, is to move to AES50 digital cabling and pre-programmed DMX lighting control. The lights used were already DMX'd but they still had to be set up at each venue. A better option is to get a DMX Master controller and pre-program the majority of what is needed, to save time during set-up.

We shall see, but it does create the possibility for a whole new range of gadget investigations.

Tuesday 20 September 2016

an orange camera?

We're into the new gadget season now, and there's a few stalking the area like so many undiscovered Pokémon. One that I should logically like is the Orange Leica Sofort camera, which doesn't officially appear until around November.

Reasons I should theoretically like it:

1) It's orange, which, unlike Madonna, is a colour I do like.
2) It's Leica, but priced (for them) inexpensively.
3) It's a camera, with a Leica Lens.
4) Did I mention it's a Leica?


The original promo shots show the camera in its various colours and looking about the size of a GoPro/pack of playing cards.

Then Hannah picks up the camera in the VW camper van and oops, it all looks out of scale.

Of course it's so that the 10-shot instant film pack can be put inside it. The f12.7 aperture means there's no real focusing required and the example shot shows the limited dynamic/tonal range. I'm sure there's a place for it in the world of whimsical fashion shots and location tryouts, but I struggle to see how it earns its 'packing space'? Except when in a camper van, of course. Hannah doesn't mind though, she even goes surfing around the Costa Mesa without a wet suit.

For this type of camera the limits are all part of the fun, but I'll be sticking with the rather more digital Hipstamatic and Instagram. Even if it is all a bit more yellow.

Monday 19 September 2016

I'm with the band (II)

Time to fire up the blog again after a few days away. It's been tricky because I've been using some of the other social media channels (in the name of promotion) and somewhere something has to give.

So the whole #FANS thing has gone brilliantly well. Just about everyone who has seen it has been complimentary, to the extent in one venue I was stopped several times in the street after the show, and in another place someone actually got out of their car to say how much they'd enjoyed it.

And I'm only, as they say, "with the band".

I'll probably back-post a couple of items as well, but for the moment, the picture at the top of this post is, well, the band.

Sunday 18 September 2016

soundcheck for the #FANS

1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink

Throw 'em back, till I lose count

I'm gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist
Like it doesn't exist
I'm gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I'm gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier


Saturday 17 September 2016

Band night

We'd better publish a few pictures of the band as well. We were asked for more by some of the audience and PR shots have already been put up on reviews.
So here's Chris - the Green Day fan who has already seen them eleven times. He's counting sheep but running out, as time ticks by
and still he tries. No rest for crosstops in his mind.
Then Charlie, pop princess who has been through Girl Power, Emo, Indie and always always comes back to the One. Cue "Life is a mystery".
Meghan knows everything there is to know about every genre of music and can quote album statistics and Morrissey lyrics at the drop of a patterned bowler hat.
@pringles4_ playing louder.
Andrew the drumming peacemaker can shake the whole building whilst having a penchant for Manchester Orchestra. Doing the Simpole Math, he Copes with the Hope that can Mean Everything to Nothing.
Oh yes, and they all rock. Find a way to see them and feel the love.

Friday 16 September 2016

go large with the guitar and mic

A great and only slightly surprising aspect was just how many audience were prepared to participate in the pictures.
There was also a high number of then that would pick up the guitar or microphone and immediately 'go large'.
They'd pose in the middle of bars, in corridors, outside the doors, even outside the venues.
Most of them living in that rock band moment.
Although, its fair to say, we had a few proper guitarists and singers along as well, but this was all about the pose.
Singer, Singer songwriter, Ultimate-guitar Legend, Emo, Indie, We didn't care. As long as it was fun.

Thursday 15 September 2016

A few of the fans of #FANS

The visitors to the show were terrific. They fully entered into the spirit of it, right from the moment they entered the various theatres.
It was amazing how many were very prepared to pick up a guitar, and/or a microphone, even form bands with complete strangers, and all before they'd even reached the bar.
Heres a few from the collection. There's plenty more on flickr. Click any picture to take a dip into the world of #FANS.

Friday 2 September 2016

#FANS dates and booking FAQ @thesixtwenty

Time for that last minute splurge of tweets and other general advertising for the FANS show, which starts next week in the North East.

The above picture, as shown, would be unsuitable for twitter, because there a particular format that displays better. Kind of 16:9-ish seems to work best.

Although I often use 500x333 as the base.

The Six Twenty is dedicated to creating playful and immersive work that is bold, ambitious and fun. The Six Twenty make theatre that excites, engages and provokes.

FANS on tour

Theatre meets gig. An eclectic and hilarious mix of stories told through raucous live music and verbatim theatre interwoven with fictionalised scripted drama. Based on people’s love affair with music FANS fuses together true stories (and some not so true stories) with real music fan confessions.


Tues 6 & Wed 7 Sept
ARC Stockton @ 7.30PM
Box Office: 01642 525199
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Fri 9 Sept
Alnwick Playhouse @ 2PM & 7.30PM
Box Office: 01665 510785 
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Tues 13 & Wed 14 Sept
Northern Stage @ 8pm (doors 7.30PM)
Box Office: 0191 230 5151
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Thur 15 & Fri 16 Sept
Arts Centre Washington @ 7.30PM
Box Office: 0191 561 3455
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Sat 1 Oct
Pop Recs (Sunderland Stages) @ 7.30PM
Box Office: 0191 561 3455
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FANS has been awarded this year’s Bridging the Gap (an initiative designed to aid the creation of new theatre work within the North East region). FANS is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and has received support from The Sunday for Sammy Trust, which supports creative talent on Tyneside.

PrintSunday for Sammy logo B:W

Thursday 1 September 2016

shake it

A couple of weeks ago I had one of those notifications about a possible hack from Morocco into one of my accounts. Annoying, but stopped at source. It's a recurrent problem for long term userids where we tend to flit around both virtually and geographically.

Asking myself, "What would Taylor Swift do?", I decided to re-run the have i been pwned test to see whether there were any new hacks to report.

All the ones listed were the ones I had previously dealt with, although nowadays there's probably a couple of hundred sites and over a billion accounts listed in their site.

Actually, as well as this list of my compromised accounts, I've also been compromised on LinkedIn.com, but that's via one of my professional userids, rather then my play ones.

Many years ago I used to keep a hotmail account especially for browsing, because that way it could attract all the spam and so on "set shields high" etc. Then all the social media sites wanted to monetise everything, and inevitably the account got linked to something else.

Actually it's one account I don't use at all now, along with a BT account that gets stupid amounts of spam considering I don't even log on to it.

I suppose it indicates that there's still an awful lot of frontier behaviour around the networks.

And yes, I do follow @swiftonsecurity.