rashbre central: November 2020

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Big Sur

I updated my Macbook Pro to Big Sur to see what would happen. Big Sur is a lovely stretch of coastline on California 1 and I love a drive along it. What could possibly go wrong with a Big Sur update? I was chilled enough to think that if a few Apps fell over, then it wasn't my main machine and I could survive.

Little did I know that one of the Apps that didn't work on reboot was Mail.

I tried everything, even reading the user forums. Nothing useful anywhere, although others were asking the same question. I decided it was time to hold down the power button and do another reboot.

Pling. Everything started to work. It wasn't like a typical Apple update though. I had the Windows experience of a few anxiety-inducing moments where I wondered if I'd somehow totalled the machine and was already mentally preparing for another 12 Gb download to put it right. 

Then there are the small vendors jiggling money buckets outside the Citadel. Several of my helpful utilities still needed updates and the fees for those varied from £6.50 to £22.00. Now I need to work out what has changed in the various revised user interfaces.

I have received warnings from a couple of big software vendors too, so I'm holding fire on an update to my main machine, in case there is something that I depend upon. 

Fortunately, the Microsoft stuff and the bits of Adobe that I've tried seem to be working. Same with Evernote, Kindle, and Sonos, so I can still dial-up music from the laptop in the lounge.
Notification has been improved which hopefully means I don't need to remember option-click for DND (Do Not Disturb) during Zoom meetings.

I'm used to updates looking so similar that it takes a while to realise there are extra capabilities, but this one is different. There are changes to the fonts and most of the icons look different. I can understand a designer wanting all of the icons to look similar, but it's like with a car, some of the control surfaces warrant different treatments so that they are easy to find. 

Its become more of a problem with the UX on the iPhone as different vendors have followed the rules and the result is somewhat bland. I understand that it is pleasing to remove the greys and round off the corners of everything, but let's not do so at the expense of usability. Sometimes grey is helpful because it tells you that the screen area isn't important.

Notification Centre is different too, surfacing the long-departed widgets from Macs many releases ago. They seem to have a place to go now, so I guess we'll soon all have stock tickers and photo popups in our eye-line. I suppose that Facebook and every other clickaholic App will also bring forward new little jittery distractors to keep us from the main task. They will probably try to monetise the screenspace, I'm sure.

It is increasingly noticeable how much of the iOS design is being brought into the Mac, but I hope it is not at the expense of usability. Sometimes it does work better now, like the surfacing of the most used System Preferences into the Notification Control Center. So Battery life has better reporting. Although I'm not sure if it gives the theoretical maximum of a battery like coconutbattery does. That's the handy utility where we can see when a battery is starting to fail and instead of recharging to 7200Mah it only goes up to a max of say 4200Mah. (ie it can only charge to 60% of its new value) Somehow I can't see manufacturers wanting that to be too well known.

But, I suppose Big Sur is a tidy-up and holding pattern to get everything across from intel to M1 silicon. That'll be interesting.

Thursday 19 November 2020

I wish I was a spaceman.

There's that bit in movies where we can finally see that one of the principal characters has lost it. 

They try to make him more interesting by introducing a dog, or sometimes a life event - like a new girlfriend/baby/move of location. Boris had the dog, girlfriend, house move, baby, some time ago, which meant the only way he could go was loopy. 

This time its the Star Fleet gambit. Throw money north of the border and hope some of it sticks. We've already got a perfectly good space station down here in the South West. Newquay actually.  
Spaceport Cornwall. 

A snip at £200 million, compared with £16 billion defence spending increase announced by Boris with a procurement process that “has continued to squander billions of pounds, enriching some of the worst corporate looters and corrupting public life via the revolving door of officials/lobbyists”, as Mr Cummings blogged last March. 

 It's like the coolest revenge of Mekon Cummings, after he has already left the building. 

That cardboard box was empty. He used it to bring in a few playbooks to leave around the place by way of sabotage. You know the bit, where he's planted the time-bomb and no-one knows how to cut the wires. I'm sticking with 6th January.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Nanowrimo revisited - The Triangle is now a podcast too!

Well, my original novel from Nanowrimo all those years ago is still going strong, with 376 downloads in the last month! 

I decided to forgo the pleasures of the Nanowrimo experience this year, as I've been working my way through several books during lockdown including Archangel, Raven, Raven's Card, Edge, Edge, Blue and Edge, Red - Oh and Play on, Christina Nott. 

They are all on my Ed Adams Amazon author page! 

 I was recently interviewed about The Triangle for radio, but a particular question stumbled me. I was asked whether I'd made it into an audiobook and all I could do was splutter about the cost of doing so. 

My own estimates come in at around £2k to get it spoken. 

 Undeterred, I decided to convert it to a podcast myself, which is now up on Apple, Spotify, Alexa, Tune-up and the other usual suspects. 

Of course, to do so I had to produce the whole thing myself, so it still has a few charming live errors in it. However, not for the faint-hearted, here it is on Apple Podcast: 


And here's the little badge to get to it: 
Listen on Apple Podcasts 
There's really no end to the possibilities...

  App Icon Apple Podcasts 

Even a quickcode!

Tuesday 17 November 2020


I had an email from HMRC which said that my tax code has changed and would I like to check it? Of course I would, useful to know whether it had gone up or down for example. 

I jumped across to the HMRC Personal Tax website and was greeted with a new message. Instead of using the Personal Tax Gateway, which I'd spent hours taming, I was now asked to use another system called Verify. 

Hmm. Oh well, here goes. I had to enrol in the new system to prove who I was. 

It meant answering various questions on a Post Office website and then photographing an on-screen quick code. Then I had to 'scan' my passport. Both the paper ID page and then the electronic chip inside it - which required me to use NFC - near field communication. For that, I had to pass my iPhone over the front of the passport so that it could pick up the aerial inside the passport to transfer the data. That took me about three attempts.

Then, I was asked to take a selfie. It was like a photobooth though. The actual selfie took about 2 seconds after the button was pressed. So I had to take it again. 

The App then reassuringly informed me that I had uploaded (0) identity documents. I was on an adjacent iMac and so I could cross-check there and the actual documents had been uploaded, so I guess the App was only joking - like the prankster selfie thing.

Another aspect of the design was that the buttons to press when handling the iPhone for scanning and so on were placed in difficult positions on the screen to (a) see the image to be photographed and (b) to take the photo.

It's a bit of a bonkers design really. I decided to see what others thought of it, and I was alarmed to see that most people seem to be struggling to make it work - and some of them, like carers were more in need than I was to see my tax coding.

Monday 16 November 2020

Olympus Zuiko Lenses on modern DSLRs (revisited)

I've spent the last year or so taking most of my photographs on an iPhone. 

It has been an interesting experiment and includes my holiday time in Florida, Sardinia and Iceland. 

The latest cameraphones are pretty good for blog-sized photos and the magnification isn't too bad either.

It is a trade-off between portability (iPhone) and heft (DSLR). I used to use a Trip 35 film camera and that was always reliable for most travel photography, so I guess I'm used to having to deal with the capabilities of the fixed focal lengths. 

The iPhone is wildly more flexible than the old Trip. The iPhone zoom goes from 0.5x to 10x, almost steplessly. I was inside a National Trust property recently and the iPhone could capture rooms better than my wide angle DSLR lens! 

But there's still some things I prefer about a proper camera. I still prefer to look through a viewfinder and when I'm taking any kind of 'show' pictures the DSLR is still usually better and I can manipulate the blurriness/bokeh of the picture instead of cheating afterwards(!)

Some years ago I posted a blog about using old SLR lenses with DSLRs and at the time I was using the lenses with a Canon 5D. The camera was massive and dwarfed the lenses. It worked pretty well, but I've updated recently and am now trying with a $25 Z adapter for Zuiko lenses on a full frame. 

This DSLR camera size is much more in keeping with the lenses, although some of those metal-barreled compact lenses are surprisingly heavy. So far it is interesting because with the Zuikos it is all about the manual settings. 

There's the handy aperture control on the lens (manual) and then the camera-based manual shutter speed and/or ASA settings to contend with. I know I can probably use a computerised zoom to a similar effect, but there's something interesting about working with prime lenses and especially with small primes like the one in the picture. 55mm and f1.2. Crazy. I don't know how much Nikon would sell something electronic for, but I'd guess here would be no change from £1,000. 

I progressively bought the fun lenses on eBay. I think I'm at eleven or more primes now and counting as well as three 35mm bodies by now (hint, the camera kits are often better bids than the individual lenses!) 

The reason I originally went for the Zuikos was that they were originally good lenses, suited for 35mm and nearly all of them were designed to be very compact and to fit a few in a jacket pocket. 

Check out the glass in the 50mm or 100mm and you'll see what I mean. I'll be experimenting some more over then next few days. Using the iPhone, I once more became used to jpeg editing, which isn't as clever as RAW for retaining detail in photos, but has still moved a long way since ye olden days. The jpegs are also consideably smaller. I notice a RAW nowadays can be around 40Mb for a single picture. Decisions, decisions! _DSC0119.jpg

Saturday 14 November 2020


Everyone speculates what is in the box, but like all good redirection, no one has asked about the backpack. And anyway, nowadays it doesn't take long to copy everything to the cloud or a memory stick. Even one on a keyring. Meanwhile the Hollow Men and Women go about their tasks while the floral dance continues. The new Downing Street press secretary Allegra Stratton is married to James Forsyth, the political editor of the Spectator. He works alongside the commissioning editor Mary Wakefield who happens to be married to Dominic Cummings.

Friday 13 November 2020

The Cult of Clowns game is over

It looks like both the clowns and their respective circuses are reaching their endgame positions. In the White House everyone is making plans to quietly slip away. Melania has already mentally redecorated a couple of the alternative Trump buildings and ordered the removals vans. Scaramucci is planning his blockbuster book. A couple of the die-hard dinosaurs are wondering how they ever got into their current situations attepting to defend the indefensible. The legal profession is ready to make some serious money.
Over here, in Britian, people are escaping from the cult of Boris before it crashes to the floor. Lee Cain got out, partially destroyed by his nemesis. Now Cummings leaves, wanting to watch while the girlfriend of the Prime Minister sets policy.
A few of the slippery, leakey ones, like Gove, are lining up other people to blame and to wriggle their way upward. Even the Government's own typeface for Brexit has gone decidedly wobbly.
Blame the public. Allegra Stratton will no doubt have some spin to impart, but it'll be a tough haul unless she can ditch the Prime Minister as well. Watch for the oofle dust,
And then watch Matt Hancock on Newnight attrempting to talk his way out of a very bad day for the COVID numbers. Now he is talking about flying in vaccine to avoid border delays. But he does seem to live in a world of his own.
As we used to say in systems design 'Then a Miracle occurs'
Meanwhile, my clock, installed in September, is still ticking down.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Orange Crush

I suppose that Trump's departure will give Mainstream Media less to report upon, although perhaps the upcoming legal cases could provide an ongoing source of entertainment?

It is rumoured that Melania Trump has said Donny should give himself up accede gracefully at this point. 

I can see the moves. 
  • concede 
  • resign 
  • appoint Pence as caretaker 
  • get Pence to issue blanket immunity for all the Trumpsters from all forms of prosecution 

Or maybe there will be another way? 

I'm reminded of the Comic Strip where Robbie Coltrane playing Charles Bronson as Ken Livingstone defends the old County Hall from being stormed by the military.
Even Amazon's book suggestions are illustrative of the changing fortunes of the orange golfer. 

Let's see: Rage, Disloyal, Compromised, Hoax, Donald Trump vs The United States, After Trump - Reconstructing the Presidency.
I thought I'd take a second look: Where Law Ends, The Useful Idiot, The American Crisis, What Were We Thinking, Unmaking the Presidency, Traitor.
Hmm, it seems pretty universal.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

back once again for the renegade master

So much for Big Data. If the poll of polls by the American pollsters can't even be close, then what's the likelihood that Big Data really works? Look at the election day chart - an 8 point lead on the part of the well-heeled pollsters.
I expect it is useful for managing the law of big numbers, which is another money-making scheme in its own right. It's little better than using the conversion rates when looking at advertising where the median CVR = 2.35%, top-quartile CVR = 5.31%. and top decile CVR = 11.45%. 

But that's the secret of Trumpian logic. Go Big, Go Loud, Get a good backdrop, Say what they want to hear and throw money at the problem. It seems to be working.