So long Robin Williams, thank you

On the day a world famous celebrity dies the Internet fills with countless messages remembering their life, expressing grief and shock at the death. It’s a collective coming together of humanity. Today was exceptional though. I read that grown men were reduced to tears when they read the news. In solidarity, people repeated the same simple catch phrase an alien in the 70′s used in greeting.

Robin Williams and daughter Zelda

Yesterday, Robin Williams died. His Wikipedia page saw a flurry of activity today as the end of his life was documented for future generations to peruse.

I still remember him best as Mork, the alien who crash landed on Earth in an egg but he has a long list of movie and tv titles to his name which you’ll find on Wikipedia, or IMDB.

I knew he had battled substance abuse but had no idea he fought depression. It’s horrible that someone who brought so much laughter and joy to the world should see no alternative but suicide. I can’t imagine how dark the future must seem if this is the only way. I wonder what he’d make of the outpouring of feelings and grief today?

Some links that I came across today, because the Internet will return to normal tomorrow. I hope these don’t rot away with time.

These are dark days for his friends and family in their grief.

Nanu Nanu Mork. RIP.

First Impressions of the Power Up 3.0 Paper Airplane

Ever wondered what it would be like to fly a remote controlled paper airplane?

I backed the Power Up 3.0 Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane last year and received my airplane in the post this morning. Excited? I was, just a bit.

I like the packaging. It comes in a plain cardboard box in a sleeve with a transparent plastic top containing the engine and brains of the device. Inside are a manual, papers for making various types of planes, a charger and a usb cable. There’s also a spare propeller and tail fin.

For my first airplane I decided on the Invader design they recommended. The instructions for making it are simple enough, although all the folding to strengthen the wings makes it more complicated than a regular paper plane.

How does it fly? Well, they’re not joking when they said you’d need around 150×150 meters. For my first flight I used a public grass area at the end of my street that’s maybe 15x15m and the plane flew so fast it had barely left my hand when I had to turn it. It didn’t respond too well to the Android app running on my S4 but that might just be my panic at seeing the thing fly away and heading towards a nearby tree at high velocity!

After a few goes we moved to a larger area that’s on a steep slope. So, up to the top, and there’s a wind blowing. “That’s going to cause havoc”, I thought. I was right. I released the plane and it was flying towards the hedge at the end of the park within seconds. A quick twist of my hand to tilt my phone and the plane changed direction and I cut the throttle. It glided to a stop just a short distance from a fence. Phew. The two kids watching the plane fly were a bit awed I think. :)

Next test will be tomorrow. I think the square in Blarney village is probably big enough..

Photos from Helios XM Anomaly in Dublin

Last weekend I took the train to Dublin to take part in my first Ingress event, the Helio XM Anomaly. All I knew was that both Resistance and Enlightened would be there fighting over portals but not much more than that.

Fights for portals were intense 15 minute battles. It must have made a strange sight watching two groups of adults bent over their phones on a street or park tapping at their phones. The only thing heard were the frequent shouts calling “DEPLOY”, “MOD” or “CUBE” as we shouted what we were doing. Who won? The Resistance of course!

The next (closest) Helios event is in Manchester but if there’s another one in Ireland I’d like to go if I can. Good fun, lots of walking.

Almost 23,000 steps around Dublin

I watched the World Cup too

Watching the World

Many might be surprised to hear that I watched the World Cup. You see, Bob Kerman left his cup of tea in his command module because in the vacuum of space the tea would boil off. Unfortunately for Bob his command module isn’t pressurized to sea level pressure so his cup of tea is taking an age to brew. You know you can’t get a decent cup of tea high up a mountain?

While waiting he decides to go on EVA and watch the World. His cup will wait.

#WorldCup

Retro Gaming at jQuery UK 2013

Just a few photos that have been sitting in my “upload folder” for the last year or so after attending jQuery UK. Look at all those old 90s consoles! Snes and Megadrive machines? There’s another machine there too but I don’t recognise it. I wasn’t a fan of console gaming back then, but if they’d thrown in a C64 I’d have had fun!

It was an amazing conference and best of all, the talks are online. I remember being blown away by Wait, Chrome DevTools can do THAT? by Ilya Grigorick.

Scenic photos of Oxford will eventually make their way to my photoblog at In Photos dot Org.

The root canal that lasted eleven years

Ironically, while we were at the local vet with our dog Oscar having his teeth checked I felt a slight pain in my jaw. Over the next hour it got worse and the next day it was excruciating whenever I bit down too hard on food.

A trip to the dentist and an x-ray showed an infection below the tooth that eleven years ago caused me agony with a painful tooth ache that required a root canal. I was dumbstruck. Of all the bad luck, the tooth was supposed to be dead. My dentist said he only saw this happen 4-5 times a year. It’s very rare apparently.

So, my options are limited. I either have the tooth extracted or have an apicoectomy. That’s where they peel back the gum and “a tooth’s root tip is removed and a root end cavity is prepared and filled with a biocompatible material.” I made an appointment for an apicoectomy this morning.

Remember my bad luck? I was referred to a specialist. I was sitting on his chair when he asked what tooth it was. “Lower left 4″ I replied, having burned that phrase to memory at my previous appointment. He gave me a look, and went on to explain that there’s a nerve from my lower lip going between teeth 4 and 5 and he’d be working very close to that. In very rare cases that nerve can be damaged and the lower left lip can become numb as a result. It could be temporary or permanent. I’m sure he saw the look of horror on my face.

Getting rid of that damned tooth is looking a lot more attractive right now! It’s always had it in for me. The last time it caused me pain was on the Sunday of a bank holiday so I had to wait until first thing on Tuesday morning to see a dentist. This time we were due to drive down to Ahakista in Co Cork for a weekend away. Thankfully my dentist made time to see me that Friday afternoon, antibiotics slowly killed the infection and my wife was a huge help and comfort. She bought Anbesol for me and that worked wonders to kill the pain as I would always accidentally bite down too hard resulting in muttered curses and shaking of my head to dull the pain.

I think the tooth will be coming out.

PS. Oscar got antibiotics and he’s feeling much better :)

Google Cardboard

If you’ve been hankering after an Oculus Rift then Google Cardboard might be something you can use to whet your appetite for virtual reality. It’s basically a cardboard enclosure for your Android phone with two lenses, a magnet and NFC tag. Once assembled you launch the Cardboard app on your phone, put it in the enclosure and use the magnet at the side as a trigger button. Warning, there’s some NSFW language in the video below.

The Tested guys have a blog post with a few more insights and thoughts about Cardboard.

If anything, Google Cardboard brings more credibility to the rumor that Oculus is working with Samsung to create virtual reality goggle frames that can use Samsung Galaxy smartphones as the display. Cardboard’s cheap construction belies its effectiveness–the secret sauce here is in the 40mm lenses and the brilliant magnet-based trigger button.

I’d love to try one out. I wonder if I can get those lenses anywhere nearby?

PSA: Google may penalise you for using Auto-Backup

tl;dr: if you upload a large number of photos Google may stop you uploading new photos to Google Plus. I’m not sure how long the penalty stays in place or if it is lifted at all.

A few weeks ago I decided to use the desktop Auto Backup tool to make a copy of my photo archive on G+. I have over 155,000 photos but I have a relatively slow upload speed of about 50KB/s so I knew it would take a while.

The upload was working fine, Google Awesome started doing it’s #Awesome job making animated GIFs and enhancing photos. Old photos I hadn’t seen in years popped up in stories and animations and I shared some of them too. It all came to a crashing halt last weekend. My photo archive on G+ stands at just over 100,000 images.

First of all the auto backup app stopped working. It did this a few times but by restarting the upload worked again. Not so this time. Then I noticed photos from my phone weren’t being backed up to G+.

I then tried uploading a photo from my photoblog four days ago but that failed too!

Here’s what happens if I try to upload a photo and share it on Google Plus:

Google Plus upload failed

Here’s what it looks like when I try to upload files to the photo uploader:

Google Plus: photo upload server rejected

I did find this post by Brian Rose from 2011 which appears to be the only place a Google employee has discussed these limits. Unfortunately it’s not clear if this is a temporary cool down or permanent ban on uploading.

Hi everyone, thanks for your kindly emails. :-) The original issue reported here should have been resolved in July 2011, but our team has created additional confusion because Picasa uses a generic “Server rejected” error message rather than a more specific error code. There are limits to both filesizes per video (up to 1 GB) and to the number of bytes you upload to your Google account in a certain timeframe. I can’t provide exact details about those limits because they help us address abuse, but the more recent reports I see in this thread look more like what is reported at https://groups.google.com/a/googleproductforums.com/d/topic/picasa/5OVjFio8k54/discussion

That’s also a long thread, so to summarize:
If you’re trying to transfer a large quantity of photos (totaling well over 1 GB) in a short amount of time, you may see our Error 17 or Server rejected errors.
Photos that are uploaded to Picasa Web are saved on your Google account, they do not need to be re-uploaded to Google+. A photo you upload to Picasa Web will be accessible from Google+, and vice versa.
This isn’t related to the amount of free space you have in your storage quota, it’s about the number of bytes you’re pushing to your Google account in a certain timeframe. Deleting photos to free up space shouldn’t have any positive effect.
We’re constantly monitoring how many people hit these server errors and making tweaks to improve the experience for people who regularly share many photos or videos. Since this thread no longer addresses the original issue reported, I’ll lock this discussion to new replies but you can continue discussing this on the thread I linked to above at https://groups.google.com/a/googleproductforums.com/d/topic/picasa/5OVjFio8k54/discussion, thanks.

I found out I can upload files to Google Drive and share them from there but that’s hardly a suitable alternative.

So, why doesn’t the Auto Backup desktop app warn us that this might happen? I’m not the only one to hit this. Comments on this post suggests it might be a temporary ban of 14-30 days but I suspect that’s only a guess.

install-auto-backup

Meanwhile, Google is still trying to get me to use Auto Backup!