Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Martian - The Swiss Cheese of Films

Just a few of my issues with The Martian. Spoilers, obviously.
  1. The version of the human race in the film has had the foresight, ingenuity and money to start a colony on Mars, but they couldn't tie a guide rope between the spaceship and the base, or between each other. You know, like climbers have been doing for centuries. It didn't have to be a low tech hemp rope, it could have been wound kevlar, but no, nothing. And so Matt Damon gets blown away...
  2. But not that far, and yet the rocket takes off and he doesn't get burnt to a crisp. In fact there is no evidence of the rocket taking off at all...
  3. But taken off it has, and then shoots off back to earth. No "Let's hang around for a bit in case he's not dead?" Or "Why don't we just press pause on the return to earth procedure in case we need to go back to Mars?"
  4. The version of the human race in the film has had the curiosity to start a colony on Mars, and yet they are not curious enough to have a look at what might be left behind on Mars, what damage might have been done during the storm, or if Matt Damon was really dead, you know, useful stuff.
  5. Eventually they do have a look, 51 days later. And what do you know? Matt Damon's not dead. It will take over a year to prepare a ship and get it to Mars, so they turn the spaceship around and get back to Mars in just 51 days... no wait, they don't, and so the film continues.
  6. So Matt Damon wants to communicate with Earth using Path Finder, great, lets use our modern radio systems and modern computers to... no wait, we have to *physically* go and find and boot up the old Path Finder machines.
  7. Using hex to communicate through Path Finder. This is *so* inefficient, you're using 16^2 possible combinations for a possible 26 characters.
  8. So eventually they do decide to send the ship back, but wait, it doesn't have enough fuel, everyone is scratching their heads until the stereotypical loner genius has an idea! The slingshot! This is the worst moment of the film. I honestly nearly stood up and screamed "Of course! The slingshot!" The slingshot has been done to cliched death in science fiction and was first used in real life by the Marina 10 probe in 1974. This is probably why no one mentioned it, they all thought it was a bit passée.
  9. There are some women characters, but they still get a lot of patronising mansplaining.
  10. The film ends and Sean Bean is still living.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Camera Repair Quote from Sendean Cameras

Since Yelp appear to hide bad reviews I thought I'd also post my review of Sendean here.

I dropped off a camera at Sendean for a repair quote. The camera would switch on but the lens wouldn't extend fully. The quote I got back was as much as the camera would have been worth in mint condition. When I declined they reduced the quote by a third, but I still didn't think it was worth it so I went to pick the camera up. The first time I arrived at the shop I was told that the camera was still in bits and that I'd have to come back the next day, which I did. However once I had got the camera home it wouldn't turn on any more at all (a strap lug was also missing). I called Sendean to discuss this and the guy's attitude was terrible. He first claimed that they hadn't even disassembled the camera. When I pointed out that I'd been told the camera was in bits the first time I'd come to collect it his attitude got even worse and he said "you started with a broken camera, and you've still got a broken camera." Unbelievable.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Flickr Auto-Uploader for Windows Phone

Flickr Auto-Uploader for Windows Phone will automatically upload pictures and videos from your Windows Phone device to Flickr. You can choose the privacy setting and tags of the uploaded files, any of your phone albums to upload from and one of your Flickr albums to upload to. If you have a Lumia 1020 it can upload the high resolution images for you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Flickr authorisation URL doesn't work on certain browser components

Writing a Flickr app for Windows Phone I was confused as to why the authorisation URL was forwarding the user to instead of the authorisation page after they logged in and I had to detect that and forward them to the authentication URL again. After a while even this stopped working, despite the fact that copying the URL into IE worked as expected, ie, after the user logged in they were forwarded to the authorisation page. For a while I was convinced Flickr must be discriminating by user agent string. The answer was staring me in the face, which was pointed to by an SO answer. Scripts weren't running on the browser in the app, they are disabled by default, you have to enable scripts in the Windows Phone WebBrowser component with IsScriptEnabld.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Manually Fixing Multiple Screens with Different DPIs in Linux

Step 1:

Set the system wide DPI to a comfortable level for your highest resolution screen, using X Resources. There is a DPI calculator here.

Step 2:

With the DPI set in step 1, work out what scaling is comfortable on your secondary screen. You can do this by adjusting the layout.css.devPixelsPerPx Firefox setting or with xrandr, eg:

xrandr --output HDMI1 --scale 1.3x1.3

Step 3:

Update 11-Nov-2016: It appears that you no longer need supply the --fb parameter, iirc the previous symptom was only being able to access a certain area of the lower DPI screen.

Calculate the total screen size for the xrandr --fb parameter. To do this multiply the x and y resolution values of your secondary screen by the scaling factor, and then add the primary value, depending on whether you have your screens left/right or above/below. In my case both my monitors are 1920x1080, my secondary monitor is scaled at 1.3 and I have my primary monitor below my secondary monitor, so my total screen size is 1920 * 1.3 x 1080 * 1.3 + 1080, or 2496x2484.

Step 4:

Update 11-Nov-2016: There is a script here which will do these calculations for you. Obviously you may want to change the scale factor of 2.

Calculate the position of your two monitors. My primary monitor is centred below my secondary monitor. So my secondary monitor is at 0x0 and my primary monitor is at (1920 * 1.3 - 1920) / 2 x 1080 * 1.3 or 285x1404.

Step 5:

Put the above values into xrandr:

xrandr --output HDMI1 --scale 1.3x1.3 --mode 1920x1080 --fb 2496x2484 --pos 0x0
xrandr --output eDP1 --scale 1x1 --pos 285x1404

With thanks to this SE post.

Udate 09-Aug-2017

Step 6:

Out of the blue I started getting:

xrandr: screen cannot be larger than 8192x8192 (desired size 12800x2880)

To fix this I created:


Section "Screen"
        Identifier      "Default Screen"                                       
        DefaultDepth    24                                                     
        SubSection "Display"
              Virtual 12800 12800

This didn't work when it was order after the monitor section.