About Steve

Bio info to go into here

Dead Men Run

It’s Saturday morning, which means that the latest chapter in the serialised podcast novel has arrived in the Decoder Ring Theatre podcast feed. Dead Men Run is a ‘Black Jack Justice’ noir detective novel. Today Chapter 15 arrived.

Black Jack Justice is was a podcast radio drama series in the style of old time radio private that ran on the Decoder Ring Theatre. Greg Taylor wrote two Black Jack Justice novels using the characters from the drama.

Dead Men Run is the second novel and is read, a chapter a week. Each chapter alternates the point of view between private eye Jack Justice and his partner Trixie Dixon, girl detective. Greg Taylor reads the part of Jack Justice and Andrea Lyons reads as Trixie Dixon.“I KNOW WHAT YOU DID” The writer of the mysterious letter could have been talking about any number of misdeeds, some large, some small, some frankly unsuitable for print. … But they will learn the hard way just how serious the sender was, and that in the end, only Dead Men Run.

One thing is for sure Jack is in trouble, more serious trouble than usual. Trixie has no idea what’s really happened to Jack, Jack himself seems little better informed, but the police are hunting for him for a murder he didn’t commit.

Since we are only half way, or less, through I can’t really do a review. However this is a follow up to the earlier ‘Black Jack Justice’ novel which is the origin story for the detective duo. If this novel turns out as well as that did it will be an enjoyable read(listen).

You can hear the novel from the start if you pick up the feed from the Decoder Ring Theatre site. Alternately both novels are available from Amazon in paper back or on Kindle, and Prime members can read them for free. However I’m going to keep listening weekly.

The zoom enhance cliche

Today Netflix launched the Marvel series Titans. Superhero films and TV series need to get you to suspend your disbelief to enable you to get drawn into the story. If they are well written you can temporarily believe pretty much anything. However if they are set in the real world the real world things need to behave as expected. Titans managed this until episode 3 when it fell into the ‘zoom enhance’ cliche trap that so many lazy writers seem to fall into.

When you take video from a fuzzy low detail security camera no amount of zooming is going to reveal details that were never captured in the first place.

The first time I noticed this was in the original Blade Runner movie. They just about got away with it there since it was set so far into the future that it might just about be possible. Since then it has become a trope of pretty much every cop and forensic drama. It’s tired old and lazy now. Time to stop zooming and enhancing.

These are the only people allowed to zoom and enhance

My first computer

Not my actual kit but it was exactly like that – Image from Wikipedia

Back in 1981, it was only possible to buy a ZX81 via mail order. I ordered one as soon as it was advertised. The promised delivery was two weeks, but due to the massive demand Sinclair was late in delivering every one. Whenever you called or wrote to chase the delivery the response was ‘it will be two weeks’.

When it eventually arrived I got my soldering kit out and built the kit. The same evening I had it connected to the portable TV and wrote my first program to check that it worked.

It was amazing, a computer of my own, previous to this I had no access to a PC only occasional access via a teletype to an old system at the college.

It had 1024 bytes of RAM to hold programs, which was enough to learn BASIC (Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), the programming language, and to enter small programs and games.

Again not mine, that’s just a memory – this picture is from wikipedia

After a few months I had expanded the ‘system’ to add a 16K RAM pack a Sinclair ZX printer. The printer was an interesting contraption that worked by burning an aluminium coated paper to produce black characters on a silver background. The noise and smell when printing was fairly appalling.

The Pitch

If you ever watched Dragons Den or Shark Tank, you might wonder how much media manipulation might be taking place. A good proportion of these poor souls are being set up for a fall, just easy meat for entertainment. There have to be a few real contenders they let through, and accidentally they luck out and they happen upon someone like Levi Roots.

There is a podcast called ‘The Pitch‘ that is doing this for real, with real investors and real entrepreneurs. Each episode is dedicated to one entrepreneur’s pitch.

“In each episode, we take you behind closed doors to the critical moment when aspiring entrepreneurs put it all on the line. The Pitch delivers on the high-stakes promise of a live pitch without shying away from the nitty gritty details of what happens after everyone shakes hands and walks out of the room.”

This podcast really takes you behind the scenes, they have run two series of pitch episodes. Currently they are running a series of retrospectives, going back to these early business and seeing what actually happened next. Did they get past the due diligence that the investors required? Have they succeeded, pivoted their businesses, or moved on?

There are some incredible ideas, intense characters and interesting outcomes.

More on how I listen to podcasts

Aside from the technicalities which I wrote about in my previous post, there has also been a change in my approach to listening to podcasts.

Originally when podcasts were a novelty and I followed a small handful of feeds, predominantly science fiction story podcasts, each episode was treated as a treasure. I listened to every one, in the order that they were published, then saved episodes after listening and archived them on external storage. Once I added a few Linux related podcasts to the feeds I only archived the SF stories. However each new episode in the feed was still listened to in the order they arrived.

After a while I found the Podiobooks web site (no longer a thing) which created custom podcast feeds releasing episodes of books as audio. These were also archived after listening.

About a year into listening to podcasts it became apparent that archiving-off the episodes was a bit over the top and unnecessary. The ubiquity of podcast content was finally sinking in.

Once I started using the phone app as my pod-catcher episodes no longer hit my computer, so archiving was no longer even a possibility. In fact initially phone storage was an issue, so keeping any significant backlog of episodes on the device was not possible. I still however listened to every episode.

As time went on I added a significant number of podcast feeds to the pod-catcher and there was a build up of un-listened episodes that I needed to catch up on. A number of the earlier podcasts pod-faded (where no new episodes are released) or the podcasters explicitly ended their podcasts. A few years in and there were more than 40 podcasts I followed, old ones would fade or drop as new ones caught my attention. Eventually there were over 70 podcast feeds subscribed to in the app.

Although from time to time I’ve pruned the list, there still remains 69 feeds in the podcast app. Twenty or so are very infrequent, and one or two remain there in the hope that they will ‘un-fade’. It is no longer realistic to even consider listening to every published episode of every podcast feed that I follow. I now treat the episodes as more ephemeral, and if I haven’t listened to older episodes, I just delete them and mark them as done.

There are a handful of the podcasts that I still listen to every episode of. But in contrast there are also some feeds where I have set it not to download the episodes; for those I will only download an episode if I choose to listen to it.

Guitar fix update

A quick update on my earlier post ‘Creative Clamping’

The bridge reattachment worked out OK. I dealt with the raised fret by making up a levelling bar with a piece of oak superglue and some fine wet and dry paper. Then levelled the frets, re-crowned them with a needle file and polished them. Before restringing I cleaned the fingerboard with a scraper (a new Stanley knife blade), then oiled it.

Once it was restrung and tuned, it needed the truss rod adjusting slightly to get a less wild relief curve in the neck.

My daughter has tested it and it’s a playable instrument again. Not a great guitar, but it never was in the first place. However much better than throwing it away, and if I’m ever inclined to take up the guitar, I’ve something to play. If I come across the right tools to refile the nut slots I might do some more work on the nut and the saddle to lower the action.

Repairable

Today I had to replace the screen on my trusty Dell D820. Coming up on 12 years old only the case and motherboard are original, pretty much everything else has either been upgraded or replaced. The backlight has been failing for a while, this morning it became terminal, so I popped in the replacement I ordered from Ebay a couple of months ago.

The Dell D series laptops were built to last and be maintained, a complete contrast to the Apple I’m currently writing this on. The D820 is still in use on a weekly if not daily basis and provides music and some other services. It’s also my goto machine for running Spinrite to maintain and fix hard drives. I also have a D410 that still runs Debian, but is rarely used.

I somehow doubt that any machine bought today will withstand regular use over 12 years.

Drive the Information age, don’t let it drive you.

It’s easy to be driven by the defaults into becoming a tool of the Internet rather than using it as a tool. Every on line service is trying to grab your attention and lead you down their path, prompting you continually via your digital device; to notify you, to auto play at you, what they think you should read, listen-to or watch.

Increasingly web sites are popping up dialogues asking for permission for push notifications. Almost every phone app by default has notifications, many default to notifying via LED indicators pings, ‘peeking’ and show on the lock screen. YouTube defaults to autoplay the next item, which is often an automatic selection of what the algorithm wishes you to watch.

Don’t be driven by the defaults, go to the settings on your phone, turn off the notifications for each of the apps. Go to YouTube turn off the autoplay. Refuse all offers of push notifications from websites. Take back your control over the Internet.

Crypto-Gram security podcast

Today the Crypto-Gram 15th December podcast episode dropped into my podcatcher. This podcast is a reading of Bruce Schneier’s monthly Crypto-Gram Security Newsletter.

Bruce Schneier is a renowned American cryptographer, computer security professional, privacy specialist and writer. Dan Henage reads the latest newsletter and provides it as a podcast feed as a service to the security and IT community. The newsletter is a monthly summary of all the security topics that have caught Bruce’s attention. So it is a terrific resource to keep up to date on the major security news and topics of the day.

Crytpo-Gram can be found on the Schneier on Security blog and the podcast can be found on Dan Henage’s Libsyn feed.

Time to think

On Christmas break, with time off work, once the hectic preparations and celebrations are through, it leaves more time to think than during the usual hectic daily travails. For instance if you listen to a story, read an article or watch a drama, much of the joy or learning comes through pondering over what’s been experienced.

With the constant ‘on’ of modern life it can be easy to fall into the trap of constant stimulation and give little time to contemplation. Although this drinking (frantic gulping) from the constant torrent of life, might appear to be a constant stream of gratification, it may offer little satisfaction.

There’s a continuum between no time for thought and contemplation, and too much time to think. Overthinking things is not healthy. Some where in midway along the continuum lies sanity and happiness.

Well that’s about enough of that, probably the result of having to much time to think.