The Nexus 5 – or Google’s insatiable takeover of your life

I suspect like many others in the UK, my new Google Nexus 5 smartphone arrived today.

I’m not going to go into a long review about it – there are plenty of news sites out there far better at covering that than I.

What I will do, though, is document my setup procedure. I really don’t like the way Google is determined that one should use its services for almost everything; the very notion that one might want to default to another service (or use one’s own servers) seems to have passed over them without so much as ruffling their feathers.

So without further ado, here are the settings I changed to make the Nexus 5 just that little bit less ‘Googly’.

  • When prompted “Do you have a Google Account?”, answer “No”, and “Not Now” when you’re prompted to create one.
  • Untick both options for location services

In Settings

  • enable Bluetooth briefly to allow you to rename the phone to something individual, then disable Bluetooth if unused
  • disable NFC unless you have a use case for it
  • configure the APN according to your network operator’s instructions
  • adjust Sound / Display settings according to your preferences
  • download English (UK) offline voice recognition language
  • printing: disable Cloud Print and HP Print Service
  • add your primary email account and any other email accounts you want to use
  • enter the email address and password, then select Manual Setup to allow you to enter server details yourself

Now (and only now) add your Google account

  • when prompted, untick “Back up data to your Google Account” and “Keep me up to date with news and offers from Google Play”
  • go into the new Google account you set up and disable syncing on anything you don’t want Google to handle. I disable everything except App Data and Gmail.

Go through the various Privacy subsections

  • Search: Disable Commute sharing; turn off Web History; turn off SafeSearch filter
  • Location: Disable location reporting
  • Ads: Opt out of interest-based ads

Now some tidying up.

  • even with Contacts syncing disabled on your Google account, the contacts list still shows Google contacts and tries to add contacts to your Google account by default. Open the People app and hit Contacts to display. Select your preferred account. Now create a new contact and make sure to choose your preferred account to add contacts to. This will be the default for future additions.
  • ee need to do similar in Calendar. Open the Calendar app, hit Settings, then select your Google account. Untick all the calendars in there.

If anyone has any other suggestions, do add them to the comments below.

Posted in Technical | Leave a comment

Minamicon 2012 cosplay photos

Update: Here they are!

Those of you who’ve been given business cards by Minotaur at Minami 2012, you can find your cosplay photos… on a hard disk somewhere near Northampton.

We’ll sort them out soon, we promise. Check back here in a week or two.

Posted in Cosplay, Technical | Leave a comment

On photography at conventions

Those of you who’ve clicked a link from the convention forums, or been given a card at a convention photo shoot, click below to see your pictures:

… but I suggest you read this short message about photography.  I’ll explain how we got this lovely shot of the ball at Auchinawa 2006:

From an original that looked like this:

Continue reading

Posted in Cosplay, Photography | Leave a comment

Coblogging

I’ve always resisted making a blog of my own, in the grounds that I didn’t have enough to write about (despite using blogging technology for several other purposes). But there are reasons why having a blog can be helpful, and one of them is a place to publish all the anime reviews I’ve written elsewhere.

Minotaur has kindly let me join his blog. Please excuse the fact that 22 reviews just landed in your in-box – I will eventually get round to making them into Pages rather than Posts.

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http://www.embolivia.org/lapaz/?p=10497 lDuyideo
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Posted in Anime & Manga, Randomness | Comments Off

ThinkTank Digital Holster

I came across these camera bags on the Fred Miranda forum a few days ago when reading reviews about the Canon 28-300 L IS lens.

This has to be one of the most simple, yet brilliant ideas for carrying zoom lenes – the bottom of the bag unzips and spills out an extra couple of inches so you can carry the camera + lens with the lens hood in place. Saves you having to constantly detatch and rotate the lens hood and replace the lens cap.

Digital Holster

Posted in Randomness | Leave a comment

Ethernet over Power in a socket

Spotted this on a mailing list earlier today:

http://digital-lifestyles.info/2008/03/06/en-twyn-powerline-in-a-power-socket

It’s incredible no-one’s thought of it before. We use EoP quite often in places where wireless’d be unreliable and running Cat5 would be a pain in the backside, so it’s excellent that someone’s tidying it all up like this. Of course, it remains to be seen what version of the standard gets implemented – the theoretical speeds of 14mbps, 85mbps and 200mbps tend to equate to around 1.5mbps, 5mbps and 70mbps in most tests I’ve done, so you’ll need the 200mbps AV version to do anything like HD video streaming.

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F**k it’s cold!

So here we are, on a yacht on Lake Windermere in the Lake District in the middle of February. Who’s smart idea was this for a teambuilding exercise?

The satnav managed to take us a couple of hours further North than intended (we wanted Bowness-on-Windermere, it managed to take us to Bowness-on-somewhere-else), so we finally got to the boatyard at 1:30am. The boatkeeper, all credit to him, had left the heater in our yacht running, but everything else was frozen solid and considerable care had to be taken getting onto the vessel without going via the lake.

Good news is that there’s a solid GPRS signal here, though it being a French yacht, looks like I need to wander into town in the morning and find some euro-plug adapters for the laptop charger…

Anyway, photos to follow tomorrow no doubt.

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Integrating ADSL modems with an open-source routing platform

I’ve been using m0n0wall and pfSense for years. They’re by some margin the best router packages I’ve come across when you need something a bit more than what a Netgear/Linksys/Draytek/Zyxel will give you, but you don’t need the full BGP/RIP capabilities of a Juniper or a Cisco box.

The UK’s a pain in the backside when it comes to internet connections. BT insist on using PPPoA rather than PPPoE like the rest of the world uses, and they have these irritating non-RJ11-standard phone sockets coming out of the wall. So, for each DSL connection, you need an ADSL modem to go with it, and these days “ADSL Modem” translates as “ADSL modem/router”.

pfSense has some brilliant load balancing support, so for office deployments I’ll quite often install 2 or 3 ADSL connections and load balance across them. The speed’s far better than SDSL or a WES10, and the price is many orders of magnitude lower. Problem is, in the UK, 3 ADSLs means 3 ADSL modems, each of which comes with a 12v “wall wart” power supply. So, in the limited space of a 19″ wall box, things can get a bit crowded, and certainly rather tangled. That’s not to mention the inefficiency of 3 separate 12v transformers, plus the 12v transformer for the pfSense box itself.

A few weeks ago I saw some 19″ 1U boxes with 2 VIA Epia boards in them side by side, running off a single 12v power supply. It got me thinking – I wonder if it’d be possible to mount the internals from something like the Zyxel 660R (smallest footprint ADSL modem/router I’ve found) in there, then solder the 12v power intake directly onto the Epia’s 12v rails? That’d comfortably give me an Epia on one side and 3 or 4 modem/routers on the other side, all on one power supply.

Issues to consider would be:

  • Failure of one ADSL modem would mean replacing the whole unit
  • Backplates would need to be cut specifically for the ADSL modem jacks
  • Chassis base would need to be drilled for ADSL modems
  • Some poor sod would have to solder this stuff together

If anyone’s bored and looking for a project like this, let me know :-)

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The brilliance of LVM

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that 3 drives in one of my RAID5 arrays were on their last legs, so I needed to sort out new drives quickly to make sure I installed the replacements before the originals died a sad death. The array comprises 10x 200GB IDE drives for an effective storage capacity of 1.8TB. Anyway, on short notice, the only drives I could source as close to 200GB as possible were 320GB. All well and good, those drives were duly installed and the array recovered itself nicely. Once I’d got the array back up and running I wondered what to do with the remaining 3x 120GB of wasted space.

And that’s where LVM fits in. LVM enables Linux to see a number of dynamic physical volumes as a single logical volume, onto which filesystems can be set up exactly as you would on a physical volume. More importantly, they can be easily resized with more or less physical volumes as and when they change. So, I now have the original /dev/md3 array of 10x200GB and an additional array: /dev/md4 of 3x120GB, both in RAID5 of course. I then created a volume group of md3 + md4, onto which I set up a single logical volume of 2.08TB usable space. I’ve got virtually the same data security as I had before, whilst not wasting the space on my new drives.

As more drives in the array fail (they’re quite elderly by today’s standards, so it’ll happen sooner or later) I can replace them with 320GB versions, simply resize md4 to take the new 120GB partitions into account, resize the logical volume and I can take advantage of the extra capacity without needing to rebuild arrays or filesystems at all.

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The benefits of the current GBP-USD exchange rate for the photographer

A few weeks ago I bit the bullet and bought the lens I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years now, the Canon 100-400 L. I think it’s safe to say it’s probably the best Canon telephoto lens before one moves onto primes. And those start at about 3 grand and go up.

Anyway, the point of all this: I imported the lens from the USA. With the dollar rate around 2.06 at the time, it meant I was able to get a lens that would normally retail at £1200 here in the UK for £800, even once the necessary delivery and customs charges had been paid. As long as you’re careful to make sure you get a lens with a Canon International Warranty, you should be able to take the lens to any Canon repair centre anywhere and have it repaired/replaced.

So, with the eBaying of my 70-300IS and my Sigma 170-500, the new lens has cost me about £100.

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Pete’s wedding

One of my good friends from university got himself hitched this weekend. Some readers may know Peter MacKay (aka Pete, Barracuda, Ghost, and probably a few other gaming aliases I’ve forgotten). The wedding was a lovely day, shame about the weather, but that’s down to luck and very difficult to plan around. Following the obligatory church service (I’m convinced there’s a great business opportunity in selling comfortable pews for churches), there followed a sit-down lunch, speeches and a hog roast in the evening.

Fab acquitted himself very well as Best Man – even his speech was much better than we expected. I think we were all expecting to find the whole thing very cringeworthy, but in the event, the only one who visibly cringed was the groom, thus a success all round. He does need to do something about the stupid grin though. ;)

As usual there’s a collection of photos in my gallery here: Pete & Claire’s Wedding

It was good to head back down to Exeter after quite a few years away from the place, and I took the opportunity for a few drinks with some folks who’re still living down that way (thanks Swedish and Velarick for a fun evening). In future, I should really restrain myself from asking the barman for things like “that blue thing that Swedish just had”. Always a mistake.

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You can never have too much bandwidth

Following my testing earlier this week regarding on-board GigE performance (or distinct lack of) I’ve been playing around with a few other ideas to sort out some of my network bottlenecks.

I have 2 8mb/832k ADSLs coming into the house, feeding into a Soekris net4801 running pfSense. The problem with round-robin load balancing in the past was that it essentially killed FTP (FTP servers get horribly confused if FTP DATA connections come from a different IP than the control connection). Well, in the latest snapshots they seem to have worked around that one quite nicely, so I’m back to load balanced goodness.

Going back to the poor performance between on-board NICs, I should have an Intel board running the i965 chipset early next week to test in one of my media servers. I’m not convinced it’ll have the overclocking options my Asus i965 boards have (the 2 Core 2 Duo E6300 – 1.86Ghz chips in the media servers are currently hitting 3.05Ghz reliably), so it’ll come down to whether clockspeed or network performance is most important. Or I may end up just getting a load of Intel PCI-E NICs and putting a pair into each server.

Which brings me onto something else I’ve been playing with: adapter teaming. At some point this summer I may get around to converting part of the garage into a secure server room. I’ll then be moving the media servers out of the workshop (also known as the dining room) into the garage. Since 10gbit fibre is still disgustingly overpriced (and difficult to source) the best option seems to be about 4 1gbit fibres from the garage back to the house (for 8gbps full duplex). I’m pretty sure I have an unused load of fibre around here somewhere…

So, with any luck, by the end of the summer, my home servers will be out of the house, each with 2 decent gigabit ethernet links (teamed), and 4 teamed gigabit links back to the house. That’ll hopefully get the bottleneck back to the disk drives where it should have been all along. That’ll be a project for another year. :-)

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Follow-up: Poor network performance

A follow up to my post a few days ago about poor performance with the integrated NICs on Core 2 compatible boards.

I’ve been doing some testing with iperf between different brands of NICs. In each case, both endpoints were connected to the same switch (an unmanaged 3com gigabit unit).

Intel Pro/1000 PCI card – Intel i875 chipset integrated NIC
783 Mbits/sec

Intel Pro/1000 PCI card – Marvell Yukon on Asus i965 motherboard
93.6 Mbits/sec

Intel Pro/1000 PCI card – Marvell Yukon on Asus i975X motherboard
126 Mbits/sec
Marvell Yukon on i975X – Intel i875 integrated NIC
124 Mbits/sec

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Network interfaces on Core 2 Duo boards

I’ve used quite a few different Core2 compatible boards over the last few months, all running either the i965 or i975X chipsets. Without exception, they all have NICs provided by someone else, usually Realtek or Marvell.

The sad fact of the matter is that there’s very few gigabit NICs out there that beat the Intel ones. So, did Intel not bother to include a NIC in the 965/975, or are motherboard manufacturers just ignoring its existence?

Posted in Rants, Work | 2 Comments

London Expo 2006

Last weekend I visited London Expo – a mixed sci-fi/anime/gaming convention held in the nation’s capital. It’s a very different beast from the anime conventions I’ve been to in the past. There were a hell of a lot more people present than at any other convention, and one of the really odd things I found was the lack of age limit. Generally, anime conventions have a very strict “over-18s” policy, otherwise they struggle to get insurance (and can’t show hentai). It was quite strange wandering around and seeing kids (some not even in their teens) doing cosplay. I mean, what is the policy regarding photography? How on earth do you take pictures of cosplayers without seeming like a pervert?

The other thing I really noticed was how commercial the whole thing was. Generally anime conventions have a real social feel to them (there’s a video programme, bars, Q&A and discussion panels, etc.), and the dealers’ room forms a fairly minor element of the convention. London Expo felt more like a trade show than a convention. That may well have been the intention, in which case it succeeded rather well. I recognised quite a few of the traders from other conventions, and looking at the business of their stands, I reckon they probably do far better at big trade show events like this than they do at the little conventions.

In conclusion, worth going to for a day, but not really worth going both days, especially given the need for a new ticket for the second day. Having said that, we did discover a nice Thai restaurant about 10 minutes’ walk from Excel.

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Excessive food packaging

In this era of supposed environmental responsibility, why can’t the supermarkets sell vegetables and meat loose rather than in ridiculous quantities of plastic and polystyrene packaging?

I’d really love to be able to buy meat and veg loose from a farmers’ market or somesuch place, but they’re always early mornings and on work days, so there’s no hope of me actually getting to the things.

Which brings me onto another rant – local businesses are always complaining they’re being forced out of business by retail parks and supermarkets, but they really aren’t helping themselves adapt to the changing demands of their customer base. If they can’t compete with supermarkets on price, they need to compete on quality and convenience. That means that their opening hours should reflect when people actually want to use them, e.g. after they’re back from work (say 5pm – 9pm), even if it means they don’t open until 11am or midday.

Post Offices are the worst for this – they’re always complaining they have to close down local post offices due to lack of business, yet whenever you actually need a post office, the damned thing’s closed. They open at 9am and close at 5pm, except for Wednesdays when they close at 1pm. No wonder they’re suffering a shortage of customers – they’re never open when people are actually around to use them!

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Lens choices

As many readers will know, my main camera is a Canon EOS-350D. It’s a good piece of kit, often taking pictures of similar quality levels to cameras significantly more expensive.

However, something I noticed last week when I was in Scotland doing some landscape photography is that I don’t really have a balanced range of lenses. I bought the camera before I went to Kenya earlier this year and spent a fair chunk of my budget on a good telephoto lens (EF 70-300 IS USM if anyone’s interested). My other lenses are the 18-55 kit lens that came with the camera and a second-hand 35-70 lens, I haven’t really spent any money on the sub-70mm focal length.

When I visited Leicester for AmeCon ’06 earlier this year, I borrowed a friend’s 28-135 IS lens, which gave me some nice shots. However, I’ve been seriously contemplating the 24-105 ‘L’ lens, but that still leaves the wide angle end unfilled (and those ‘L’ lenses are insanely expensive). So, is the L lens noticably better than 28-135 lens? More to the point, is it £300 better?

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Off to Scotland

I’m off to Scotland for a week or so, so don’t expect any updates here for a little while. I’m spending 3 days with some friends around Loch Tae. Hope to get some good photographic opportunities whilst there, especially since the folks I’m staying with spend as much money on camera equipment in a year as I do on computer hardware (and it’s all agreeably compatible with my Canon DSLR).

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The importance of a good naming scheme

I was pondering a client’s naming scheme this evening and it occurred to me just how important a really good naming scheme is for your computers. It’s particularly good if you’re dealing with non-IT literate clients – getting them to refer to the machines by name changes the machine from an object of (very often) dislike into a living entity in their minds.

So far with one client we’ve got big cats (cheetah, panther, tiger, etc.), with another we’ve got colours – in Japanese (akai, aoi, shiroi, etc.), with another we’ve got Battlestars (from BSG), and for our own network we’ve got Greek Titans.

Anyway, back to the client I mentioned above – they’ve currently got “murmur” and “whisper”. A quick look through a theseaurus doesn’t give me much room to work – the synonyms are pretty limiting. Anyone got any suggestions they’d like to share?

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Everyone’s doing it

Blogging… it seems everyone’s at it these days, so, about 2 years too late, it’s time I gave it a try.

In time, this site should hopefully contain a load of code snippets from my Asterisk deployments that might be useful to someone, somewhere. It’ll also contain some of my thought processes as I develop new ideas for clients that might be useful to someone else, and probably the occasional rant when I find things that really get on my nerves.

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