Listen

A wonderful episode on Doctor Who last night: Listen. Right up there with Blink in terms of plot dovetailing and hide-behind-the-sofa factor. Clara is developing into a nicely-rounded character, and the restaurant scenes between her and Danny Pink were very good in their toe-curling embarrassments, and reminiscent of Moffat’s earlier work in Coupling.

I thought it was interesting that the central idea in Blink was that you must not look away from a Weeping Angel, but that in Listen, you must never look at a Listener; polar opposites, but both equally capable of racheting up the fear factor. And the reveals of the boy in the barn and the barn itself at the end – well, I gasped at the audacity of it.

I liked the way that the central idea of there being listeners hiding under every bed was never entirely resolved one way or the other. Is it all in our imaginations or not?

Classic Doctor Who.

Posted in Television | 2 Comments

Pride

There’s a new film coming out (if you’ll pardon the pun): Pride. It tells the true story of a group of lesbians and gay men from London who went deep into the Welsh valleys to support the miners during the dark days of the miners’ strike in the mid-1980s.

It looks as though it’s wonderful, and will take me back to remembering those times. There’s a good interview with actor Bill Nighy and writer Stephen Beresford here.

Posted in Film, LGBT Politics, Society | 4 Comments

A Romp With Robin

Just finished watching the Doctor Who episode: Robot of Sherwood. My, that was fun! Mark Gatiss writing at the top of his form, with lots of jokes and a serious question of what it means to be a hero. Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman. Tom Riley, et al, delivered in spades. A terrific episode, despite the hasty re-editing to remove a beheading.

Loved it, from beginning to end. Capaldi is going to be one of the great Doctors, mark my words.

Posted in Television | 1 Comment

Nailed?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve been looking at the specifications of the Lenovo ThinkPad 10 (the TP10) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (the SP3) tablets, and trying to decide which of them is the best fit with my needs and usage. It’s been a bit of a saga, beginning back in May, with the announcement of the SP3 by Microsoft. I thought that the specifications of the SP3, whilst impressive in some respects, had some surprising omissions. I concluded that I would probably give the SP3 a miss. I revisited the topic in June, once TP10 models were becoming available, and pricing details were known. At that point, despite the SP3’s negatives, the SP3 model that I was most interested in (with the Intel Core i3 processor) was only slightly more expensive  (€15) than the closest equivalent TP10 available at that time, with its smaller display and less powerful processor. However, my decision was still not clear-cut, so I returned once more to the topic in July when I compared both the TP10 and the SP3 to my current tablet, the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 (the TPT2). I’ve had the TPT2 since January 2013, and it has served me very well. Things were becoming clearer by this time, as a result of both the TP10 and the SP3 getting in the hands of customers, and them posting their experiences and issues in community forums. In recent weeks, the TP10 has started appearing in Lenovo’s online web stores around the world. Interestingly, the models offered include versions with Windows 8.1 with Bing, a lower-priced alternative to those offered with Windows 8.1 Pro (which have, up until now, been the only versions available here in the Netherlands). I don’t need the additional features of Windows 8.1 Pro in my tablet, so that gives me an immediate saving of €130. That means that a TP10 with 4GB RAM, 64GB storage and no WWAN (i.e. the closest equivalent to the Core i3 version of the SP3) is €620 versus the SP3’s €819. I have to say that while the SP3 is an impressive engineering feat by Microsoft, the design has just too many compromises for me:

  • The rear camera is a low-resolution, fixed-focus device, which can’t be used for scanning documents, and which does not support the Panorama feature in Microsoft’s Camera App (despite Microsoft’s SP3 User Guide falsely claiming that it can).
  • There are too many complaints that the WiFi capability does not work properly. Microsoft has admitted that there is an issue, and is working on a fix, but that is not yet available, with no estimate on when it will arrive.
  • In addition to the WiFi connectivity issue, there is also evidence that WiFi performance is poor under certain circumstances.
  • There is no GPS chip in the SP3. Personally, I think that every tablet should have one by default. Location via WiFi triangulation is not sufficient outside of built-up areas.
  • The SP3 is very difficult to repair (that IFIXIT teardown is hilarious, and well worth reading). If something goes wrong, the SP3 really needs to be thrown away and replaced. That doesn’t help my hankering to improve my green credentials.
  • And the big one: the SP3 is not fanless. It uses the Haswell generation of Intel’s Core processors, and their thermal output requires fan-assisted cooling for the most part.

On that last point, it is true that Intel has now managed to produce a version of the Haswell chip that can be used in fanless tablet designs, but it’s clear that the SP3 was designed around the mainstream Haswell chips, and that means a fan is a necessity. All eyes are now turning to Intel’s next generation of chips, code-named Broadwell, and now becoming available under the moniker of Core M. These really do promise to deliver a full x86 platform as well as the performance beyond that of a smartphone or an Intel Atom-powered tablet (e.g. the TP10) in fanless designs. The first Core M-based fanless tablets/convertibles have already been announced by Lenovo (a new Helix model) and HP. They are both larger than the 10.1” form factor of the TP10 (possibly because the Core M chips are physically larger than the current Intel Atom chips?), so it’s quite possible that smaller tablets will continue with Atom-based designs. However, it seems almost a certainty that Microsoft must be at least thinking about a fanless SP4 having the same form factor and size as the current SP3, and such a design would be based around Core M. To sum up. Now that a wider range of TP10 models are available here in the Netherlands, I could get a TP10 (faster, with a better display, and twice the RAM) to replace my existing TPT2 for €620. I definitely won’t be going for the SP3 (at €819) – too many compromises and issues for me. I could also equally continue using my TPT2 quite happily and wait to see what an SP4 has to offer. There’s no rush.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Praise Indeed

David Mitchell’s new book The Bone Clocks is published today. I was knocked out by his Cloud Atlas and by The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, so I’m looking forward to reading the new book with great anticipation. I went down to the local village bookshop last week and ordered my copy.

Today’s Guardian has a review of the book by another writer whom I admire without reservation and trust absolutely – Ursula le Guin. She likes it, so I’m sure I will too.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Photo Metadata – Software for Rights Test

The standards organisation IPTC has just published the results of a test of commonly available software to find out how effective different tools are in writing, editing and reading rights data in an image.

I’m pleased to see that Photo Supreme, the software I use for managing my photos, has come out well.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Photography | 4 Comments

Step Away, Professor Dawkins, Step Away…

One of the reasons why I refuse to use Twitter is because it is impossible to have nuanced conversation and argument in a straitjacket of 140 characters. However, as the saying goes, fools rush in, where angels fear to tread

And so it is with Richard Dawkins, who in response to someone who tweeted:

I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.

responded with

Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

Oh god; *facepalm*. Talk about a hostage to fortune. Ophelia references a discussion between Michael Bérubé (whose son, Jamie, has Down Syndrome) and the moral philosopher Peter Singer. It’s worth reading.  Dawkins, it should be noted is a scientist, not an ethicist or moral philosopher.

Professor Dawkins has a history of opening his mouth to change feet when he uses Twitter. Personally, I think he should stop using it. It’s an embarrassment to all concerned.

Posted in Science, Society | Leave a comment