Category: Blog

  • A Sea Battle Update?!

    “Sea Battle” was a casual 2D real-time strategy game that I put together in a few days back in 2010, and documented in a series of blog posts at the time. It’s lain dormant ever since, but I picked it up again today while bored and made a couple of tweaks.

    Six years on, it’s obvious how much my coding style has changed—not only is the formatting dubious and commenting sparse, there’s also a lot of inefficient loops and abuse of global variables. I may change all that in a big refactor at a later date, but for now all I’ve done is a few minimal changes on top of the existing code.

  • Made in Shenzhen: One Week with a Weird Chinese Phone

    I’ve held onto my Galaxy S5 for 2½ years, until at last the battery has stopped holding more than 8 hours’ charge, the compass no longer works, and the “metal” paint is starting to peel. I had two requirements for a replacement: it must be the same size or smaller, and its battery must last significantly longer. Ideally also: cheap. Unfortunately, most popular manufacturers seem to have stabilised on 5.5 inches as the ideal screen size, having long forgotten how the tech media mocked the Dell Streak as a “phablet” for its ridiculously huge 5-inch screen, a lifetime ago. (2010.) Most smaller phones fit into major manufacturers’ “budget” lines, with poor specifications, including the all-important battery size.

    After some investigation, it turned out that plenty of companies are churning out 5-inch and smaller phones with big batteries, mostly for less than £150—here’s 309 of them—only problem is, most of the world has never heard of them.

  • The Open Source Disadvantage

    Three years ago, Google shut down its popular RSS reader web application. The decision angered many users, and I penned a long rant about how horrible proprietary services are as they can be taken away from the users at any time without their consent.

    I found the News app for OwnCloud, installed in on my own server and never looked back.

  • How I Blog Now

    It’s fifteen years today since I first posted something—specifically, terrible teenage poetry—on what would become my blog. Back then my website was a purple-and-black exhibition of my poor teenage sense of humour, and I started posting snippets of poetry to it under the category of “Thoughts”.

    Mad Marmablue Web Portal, circa 2001

  • Despatches From the Isle of Skye

    When we were told, months ago, that we’d be spending much of October playing with boats off the western coast of Scotland, our expectations for the weather were less than perfect. We packed our foul weather gear fully expecting two weeks of strong winds and pouring rain.

    When we arrived, we drove down Loch Ness in glorious afternoon sunshine. Green leaves were just giving way to yellows and reds, bright in the sun, and we knew for a while that there was no better place than this to enjoy the colours of autumn.

  • Pokemon Going

    Bournemouth Gardens is packed on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Shoppers bustle past, teenagers play on the grass, but today more than usual their gaze is directed downwards at their phones. Kids, adults, old and young; cyclists, bus drivers and big hairy bikers all alike. In a parallel universe, the place is dotted with spinning cubes and buried under a thick drift of cherry petals.

    Pokemon in the Gardens

  • Brexit, Stage Right

    Alternately, “Brexit, Pursued by a Bear.” [1]

    When I was born, thirty-one years ago, the UK was in the middle of some tough economic times. The value of the pound was low, and interest rates were high. But in the intervening years, despite the recession at the end of the 2000s, the overall trend was up. People were getting richer, quality of life was increasing, and the country was cooperating ever more with its neighbours.

  • The Constructorium Story

    “Hackerspaces”, or “Makerspaces” are very much an idea whose time has come. The analogy I liked to use most was that of a “community garden shed”—they are places run by the community, where any member can come along and work on their personal projects and collaborate with others.

    This is the story of the Dorset Constructorium, a hackerspace that never quite made it.

  • The Long, Slow Death of Facebook

    “Facebook has a big problem”, the tech media breathlessly cries. Despite using it every day, I’m not a fan of Facebook, and so am drawn to these articles like a moth to a flame. Let’s all enjoy guilt-free schadenfreude at the expense of a billion-dollar business! So, what’s Facebook’s problem this week? People are sharing more web pages and news stories, but fewer “personal stories”—plain status updates that relate to their lives.

    A while back I complained of a slightly different problem: a lack of customisability of the news feed:

  • A Base Hardware Set for USV Control

    Here’s a thing that I don’t have, wouldn’t have time to use, and really shouldn’t buy. But a thing that I really want anyway. It can do 40 knots.