Dyrham Park is a great place to visit

..as seen on TV

..as seen on TV

Dyrham Park (pronounced “Durham Park”) is presently on the TV screen as one of the locations for the ITV production of Sanditon, a fairly speculative visualisation of an unfinished Jane Austen story. Apparently the "original” story ran out about half way through the first episode. There are 7 more episodes after that and so I think they should have probably added “from an idea by…” to the author credits.

Nevertheless, to my untrained eyes the plot and characters look pretty similar to “proper” versions of Jane Austen texts and we are happily trying to work out which characters are good and which bad and which chap the heroine will end up with. It seems to be boiling down to the “worthy” one or the “smouldering” one at the moment. My bet is on the bloke with the smoke coming out of his ears. Bad news for worthy folk everywhere.

Anyhoo, we didn’t really go to Dyrham Park purely on the strength of a TV tie in, we just fancied a day out in a nice place. In this respect it delivered really well. The location is lovely, the house fascinating, the views awesome, the food in the cafe tasty and we had a thoroughly nice time.

Fun with a fish eye….

Fun with a fish eye….

If you’re in the area you should go and take a look. Whether or not you’ve seen in on the TV.

Astral Chain for Nintendo Switch

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Astral Chain for the Nintendo Switch looks like a very good game. I can say this with confidence because today I spent a good chunk of time watching number one son play it.

There’s a nice mix of fighting, exploring, problem solving and interacting with people. Along with a nicely mind-bending premise. Amazing that such a rich environment can fit into a tiny card that then goes into handheld that you can carry around and play on the bus.

Dead Dot Matrix


Dot matrix printers eh? You leave them standing for a year and then when you go to use them again they don’t work.

In retrospect this was a bit silly. And my joy in finding that I could get complete set of inkjet cartridges for a fiver may have been misplaced as they might have gummed everything up. I’ve narrowed the fault down to the print head or something else. A replacement print head (which may or may not fix the problem) can be obtained for around twenty five quid. So the question is: do I spend the money on a new print head or do I throw the printer away?

Windows Subsystem for Linux on Surface Go


I blogged a while back about how easy it is to install and use the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) on your PC. Today I thought I’d install it on my little Surface Go. I had a spare 15 minutes and I figured that was all the time it would take. I was right.I was very quickly installing the standard applications. I was worried that enabling the WSL and installing the Ubunto operating system would use up a lot of precious hard drive space but this turns out not to be the case. I’ve got the system running and I only seem to have lost a few hundred megabytes of storage.

Just one more reason why the Surface Go is an awesome machine.

Wreckfest Review


One of my favourite Playstation 1 games was Destruction Derby. It was one of the first games I bought for my brand new console and it was really groundbreaking in gameplay and vehicle damage. I really liked the mode when you just had to survive as long as possible with every other car trying to smash your car into pieces.

I reckon Wreckfest is a good spiritual successor to my PS1 favourite. It has car damage, plenty of devious opponents and some seriously wacky races. I’m running it on an Xbox One X and it looks lovely. My favourite level so far (although I can’t do it) is one where you are placed in a Reliant Regal three wheeler and asked to take on 24 school busses in a battle for first place. I’ve only managed to get as far as 11th so far, but I’m enjoying working on it. Apparently I’ve got combine harvesters and lots of other things to look forward to in the future. I’m not a fan of the racing couches though. Very hard to control.

There’s lots of customisation available. The cars in the game are not licensed but it’s pretty obvious what each is modelled on. The only criticism I have is that the loading times are a bit on the long side. I actually started to worry that the word “LOADING” would be burnt into the screen I spent so much time staring at it.

However, the good news is that if you want to restart a race (usually because someone sneakily sent you into a spin or off the track) the restart time (the one you really care about) is pretty much zero.

I’ve not actually gone into a shop and bought a physical copy of a game for a while. In this case I’m glad that I did.

Vinyl Memories


My turntable belt arrived today, so I can now play my records again. I grabbed a few from the loft and fired them up. A few things sprang to mind:

  • you seem to have to do quite a bit just to play a record. There’s a lot of faffing around for 20 minutes of music. This is of course the inspiration behind my difficultifier of days gone by.

  • the sound is surprisingly good for a what a really primitive way of storing and retrieving sound

  • I really need to get myself a record cleaner

Having said all this, it was rather nice to hear all these sounds from the past.

Three displays on a Surface Go. It can be done (although it might not do what you want)

I used my Surface Go for my Dot Net North presentation on Thuesday. And of course it worked a treat.

They were using two large TVs rather than a projector for the audience display but unfortunately nobody had a cable that could be used connect both monitors to one device. The larger monitor worked fine, but I wanted to see if I could get the smaller monitor to work at the same time. So I plugged my trusty Microsoft Wireless adaptor into the TV and connected it to my Surface Go. Voila (as they say in France). I now had three displays, the LCD, the HDMI and the Micracast connection.

I thought I’d cracked it, but it turned out not to be the case. I wanted to put the presentation on all of the devices, so what I wanted was to clone the same display across all of them. In the time I had available (the length of the pizza break) I was unable to find out how to do this.

Each combination of cloning and whatnot always seemed to result in only one of the monitors displaying the slide deck. And at one point I got PowerPoint so disgusted with me that it stopped letting me display anything but the presentation view on one monitor. Oh well. But the fundamental point still stands. You can get three displays by combining Miracast with HDMI. Which in some situations might be rather nice.

Getting out my Top Hat....


I’m doing a talk tomorrow in Manchester for the Dot Net North group. So, of course, today I’ve started my preparations. I was very pleased to discover that the Air Quality Top Hat was actually working properly without me knowing. It had been secretly sending readings into Azure Tables without being asked, which was rather nice. I checked the data tables and discovered that when I’d been showing it off in July it had connected to the WiFi and pushed some data. Scary.

Anyhoo, I’ve got all the bits and pieces working and I’m looking forward to doing the talk.

Hull Makerspace in Hackspace Magazine

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This time last year Hull didn’t even have a Makerspace. Now we’ve got one that is featured in magazines. This month’s “Space of the month” in Hackspace magazine is Hull. Well done folks. I’ve used the Makerspace quite a bit, I’m especially fond of their laser cutter which is where I cut the chassis parts for the air quality sensor.

If you’ve not read Hackspace magazine you really should. I’ve got just about all the issues in printed form even though I could have read them here for free. What can I say? I like having printed stuff. And I really think this kind of publication should be properly supported. Take a look. I think you’ll agree.

Humber Street in Hull is Lovely

There is some rather nice artwork on the buildings

There is some rather nice artwork on the buildings

The weather in Hull was glorious today. We spent a goodly amount of time wandering down Humber Street looking for somewhere nice for lunch. Loads of choices, we went for Bert’s Pizza at the end which turned out to b a splendid choice. If you want to see what the future of life in Hull is really going to be like you should really go and take a look at the Fruit Market area. There’s just so much going on, and it is all nice.

Jelly belts


Number one son has discovered the joys of vinyl records. Today I thought I’d relive some of my youth and got my record deck down from the loft. Turns out that the drive belt has turned into a kind of jelly. Ugh.

Fortunately, through the magic of Amazon it turns out you can still get belts, and even the stylus, for my elderly Panasonic deck. The order went in today. Nostalgia beckons…

Linux on Windows 10 is Awesome


I’m doing some web site work at the moment for Connected Humber. In the process I found about about Grav, which is another nice way to make static web sites that are simple to host, even on sites like GitHub.

I thought it might be nice to have Grav on my machine so I could play with it. Only problem is that it really needs to run on a Linux box. A while ago I mentioned how easy it is to get a Linux box running in the cloud with Azure. It turns out it is even easier to get Linux on a Windows 10 device using the Windows Subsystem for Linux. This procedure here is a good start, but I used this one because it also covers the installation of lots of tools that you will want to use.

Now, to be clear, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is not the same as running Linux on your computer. It is also not the same as a virtual machine running Linux. You start it running and you instantly get a shell command prompt that you use to talk to you “Linux” installation which is really just a process on your Windows PC. There is no graphical interface (unless you are prepared to do a lot of fiddling about) and you would never use this in production. But it is fantastic for development.

You can install all your favourite Linux tools and they will just work. All your Windows drives are mapped into the WSL environment. Network connections just work. You can host websites and services locally and then hit against them from Windows programs and browsers. There is even a plugin for Visual Studio Code that lets you write the code on your PC and then deploy and test it on your WSL.

It has always annoyed me that sometimes I have to scrabble around for a Windows version of a tool that is readily available for Linux. However, with WSL I can just install and use it. In no time at all I had Apache2, PHP and all the underpinnings needed to run Grav. And after a bit of fiddling around with the apache2.conf file I had it running. The lack of a Linux windowed environment is not a problem for me at the moment. Lots of tools, such as Grav and NodeRed (which also works great) are used from the browser, which works a treat.

I’ve been using the Unix command prompt for longer than I’ve been using Windows (what with Windows not having been invented when I started). It’s really nice to be able to use those commands again on my Windows box.

If you want to learn Linux, you should install this and start playing. It’s awesome.

Still time to enter the Humber Care Tech Challenge

I got an email from Kevin today if I was still planning to enter the Humber Care Tech Challenge.

Oh yes.

I’ve just filled in my form. Total cost for spending two days at the lovely Spa Hall in Bridlington, talking to subject matter experts, getting feedback on my ideas and picking up new skills? Zero. And the food you get while you’re there is free too. (I really hope they do the pie again. And the biscuits.)

Some companies spend piles of cash on “staff development” and “team building” events. Why? Just come along to the challenge with an open mind, a bunch of skills that you already have (and perhaps some you want to have a go with with). You never know, you might end up with a prototype application, a bunch of ideas and an implementation plan. After all, that’s what happened last time….

Sign up here.

A picture fit for the living room wall


We’ve had the same picture (Lego superheroes) over our fireplace for ages. Last night, thanks to a time limited 40% saving offer from Photobox, we set about changing this. We’re going for the picture above, which I took way back in 2013 from the Ferris wheel at Hull Fair. We’ve bought canvas prints from Photobox before and they do a good job.

I was feeling very smug about getting the order in before the offer expired and then I found out that they’ve extended the offer…..