Monthly Archives: November 2012

I have nothing interesting to post.

So here’s a picture of my dogs sleeping.

Sleeping dogs

Well, I say nothing interesting? I’ve been completing a lab write up (nickel complexes, woo.), getting back into Minecraft (until I get bored and cheat, then quit), finished Professor Layton and the Curious Village (finally!), and fiddling with my new computer. Installing Ubuntu in UEFI mode when Windows is installed in legacy mode isn’t a terribly brilliant idea…. Oh, OpenTTD is back on too. Win.

Talking of Ubuntu.. I’d heard of the new Window Manager (I think? Or is it a layer over gnome? I’m too lazy to look it up now) they’re running. It’s awful. Seriously, what was that? It’s like a diabolical cross between OS X and Windows. Dock bars need to die…


First Impressions of Windows 8

I panned Windows 8’s modern UI when I first saw it, and then again when it finally came out. Now I’ve actually installed it on a desktop PC I’m starting to think differently. It’s actually pretty good and now I’ve played with it for a few hours I love it.

Above is my somewhat customised ‘Start Screen’ that everyone seems to hate. It’s the first thing you learn about Windows 8 and it soon becomes the first thing you hate. Use it for a while though, and it starts to make sense. I have logged into my facebook, twitter and google accounts so the left side of my screen is filled with useful bits of information.

Windows 8 Startscreen

My calendar (using this tweak you can sync more than one google calendar, a limitation of the built in calendar app), email, and facebook/twitter updates all appear without needing to load the websites in my browser (Sounds silly, but it’s handy)
The middle tiles are all custom made using a program called OblyTile along with tile images I found around the internet. The result is quite snazzy I think. The tiles for Microsoft Office are custom too since the automatic tiles are a bit poor (See the chemistry programs a few tiles down).

The modern UI in Windows 8 isn’t bad at all. It just takes getting used to. Learning the keyboard shortcuts is a must on a desktop or laptop without a touchscreen. Win+C opens the ‘charms bar’ which is a context sensitive shortcut bar to everything you’re probably looking for. An example of this bar is seen to the right.

Modern UI apps (or ‘metro’ as they were originally known as) can be stuck to the side of the screen sort of in an aero snap way (like you could in Windows 7). As I am writing this post in Windows Live Writer (which runs in the desktop mode) I can see my Skype permanently stuck to the right-hand side of my workspace. Any modern UI app can be run like this. You can see this below with the standard included weather application.

So far I am really liking Windows 8 (from two weeks ago when I absolutely hated it). My girlfriend is jealous of the social aspect of the start screen and wants it on her laptop. Time will tell if I continue to like it or whether it’ll get in the way when I try and actually get some work done. I will report back in a few weeks.

Metro Sidedocking

WordPress, Lighttpd and Permalinks

For a few months I’ve been putting up with no pretty permalinks on my blog. It looked a bit crap, but now I’ve migrated Tupcast and this blog to a wordpress network I thought it was time to sort it out.

Turns out getting permalinks functioning with Lighttpd wasn’t actually that bad. I ended up with effectively the code found on this blog. He mentions a really good point however, running a php script for every upload isn’t exactly the most efficient especially since I am running on a pretty low spec VPS… I was mainly getting stuck on guides that said to redirect to ‘/wp-content/blogs.php’. This is old and has been replaced in newer versions of WordPress.

‘/wp-content/blogs.php’ in these examples should be replaced with ‘wp-includes/ms-files.php’ if you are following these guides.

The better way is to manually code the ID as shown on the same blog linked. Better for your server, and it probably means pages get loaded faster too. I have had to adjust it slightly to allow for my podcast files to still be accessed directly despite permalinks being setup. If you have any folders that you need, just substitute them in!

My final code is as follows for (which has a network ID of 2)

$HTTP["host"] =~ "" {
url.rewrite-once = (<
 "^/(.*)?/?files/(.*)" => "/wp-content/blogs.dir/2/files/$2",
 "^/(wp-.*)$" => "$1",
 "^/favicon.ico$" => "$1",
 "^/xmlrpc.ico$" => "$1",
 "^/robots.txt$" => "$1",
 "^/([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?(.*.php)$" => "$2",
 "(?.*)$" => "index.php$1",
 "." => "index.php"

The Emperor’s New Groove & a bit of uni life…

Each week we go to BAWLS (or Bangor Animation Watchers and Lovers Society..) to watch a film or anime show. The first few weeks we watched Akira, Spirited Away, some version of Hellsing that we watched because the My Neighbour Totoro DVD was scratched. The highlight of that particularly week was the hilarious dub.. the cockney accents weren’t the best…

Now we can’t vote directly for new films because of student union rules (the club being an SU club has to obey their rules..) so we get ‘mystery nights’ where they give us a clue and we find out what we’re watching when we turn up.

This weeks clue was ‘groovy’, and ‘if you like disney/pixar films’. I had no idea what to expect, but of course we went anyway.

We watched ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ which was something that I’d missed when it came out in 2000. I wasn’t really sure what I was about to watch, but I enjoyed what I saw. The story was pretty cool, the soundtrack wasn’t bad, and who can’t love a talking llama?

What will we watch next week? Who knows! Maybe I’ll post about it afterwards…

BAWLS is the only university society I’ve joined so far, because my timetable doesn’t permit me to attend the gaming league sessions annoyingly… I’ll join them after Christmas when my chemistry lab sessions don’t take up my Wednesday afternoons.

Skypix Handscanner Handheld Document Scanner Review

Being in halls this year, I don’t have a lot of space. My desk is tiny. I hate tiny desks. This pretty much rules out flat bed scanners completely.

I was browsing Amazon looking to waste money like I normally do when I stumbled across handheld portable document scanners for under £30. ‘Hmm’ I wondered, how could can they possibly be? The answer is pretty good!

The Skypix TSN410 scanner is portable, lightweight, and not bad quality for an amazing price.

Being in halls this year, I don’t have a lot of space. My desk is tiny. I hate tiny desks. This pretty much rules out flat bed scanners completely.

I was browsing Amazon looking to waste money like I normally do when I stumbled across handheld portable document scanners for under £30. ‘Hmm’ I wondered, how could can they possibly be? The answer is pretty good!

The Skypix TSN410 Handscanner is portable, lightweight, and not bad quality for an amazing price.

Skypix Handscanner

Skypix Handscanner

It takes 2 AA batteries (Buy decent ones, the Zinc Carbon ones I got in a hurry lost 1/3 of their charge after about 25-30 scans), transfers via a mini USB cable (Annoying since pretty much everything I own now uses MicroUSB… How things change?) and saves scans to a MicroSD card. (I’m using an 8gb MicroSDHC card I got online for a few quid)

The scanner does feel a little fragile, but it does a really good job. I probably wouldn’t take it with me in my bag, rather just safely store it in a draw except for when I need it.

Included with my scanner was a piece of software called “ABBYY Screenshot Reader” which does a good job of converting the images scanned into editable text. The scanner itself scans to JPEG images at either ‘low’ or ‘high’ resolution. The except spec escapes me… 300 and 600dpi rings a bell though. You can also set it to scan in colour or black and white.

Here are some sample scan of a leaflet that arrived in the post earlier. This is scanned a low resolution because I find the high setting just makes the files ridiculously large without a great deal of benefit.

The Portable Scanner

And the recognized text from the yellow panels: (I haven’t correct the errors on purpose)

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As you can see the quality of the scan is awesome, and the OCR is pretty good too. There are a few errors, but it’s to be expected surely? It wouldn’t take longer than a few seconds to correct them manually. To the left of the scanned image, there is a slight waviness present. The scanner internally adjusts the image if you don’t scan in a perfect straight line. It does a pretty good job, but with the knack of a few scans you get pretty good at pulling the paper/moving the scanner perfectly.

For around £30, I think the scanner is a good investment for students like myself who get handed a ton of handouts that invariably go missing within a week… Now I can store them all in Evernote and not lose them ever.

The Portable Scanner

The Portable Scanner