Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Why I feel it is time to remake the original Star Wars trilogy

I know, sacrilege right? But just hear me out.

A New Hope is now 37 years old. 37! That's older than I am and, although admittedly they have been 'tweaked' over the years, you've got to admit that they now look their age. The original trilogy was released well before the demographic the films are aimed at were born and if they are expected to use the prequels as their introduction to Star Wars, then NO, that is just wrong. My kid tried to watch The Phantom Menace and couldn't sit through it (it was 'boring' and there was 'no Darth Vader'). To be honest Episode I is enough to put many people off watching a Star Wars film ever again.

There is a danger of a generation growing up only interested in the Lego movie versions of the Star Wars stories. I admit, they are amusing, but they are what? 20 minutes, half an hour long? It's like jumping in at a final chapter and spending half your time wondering who the people are and what the relationships are between them, even if you find it well written and amusing.

Look at the recent reboot of Star Trek and remake of True Grit. It can be done (in the right hands).

Imagine the scenes that could be improved from the original. Fight scenes that are not just lightsabers being swung well away from the actors, and the force can be used effectively by Jedi and Sith as they do in The Force Unleashed (which is set before A New Hope). Then think of all the problems with the plot that could be fixed:
  • Stormtroopers don't ignore a door when it is locked.
  • The Empire doesn't ignore an escape pod when there are no life signs.
  • Luke is 'hidden' from Anakin but keeps the same last name...on Anakin's home planet...with Anakin's family.
  • Remove the 'incest'.
  • Fix the fact that nobody recognises the two robots who played the biggest part in the prequels, R2D2 and C-3PO (especially Obi-Wan, who interacted with them constantly).
  • Leia says she remembers her real mother.
  • Obi-Wan says that Yoda trained him.
  • Obi-Wan says Anakin wanted Luke to have his lightsaber. His whole story doesn't make any sense after the prequels.
  • Luke is trained to be a Jedi in the same time it takes the Falcon to get to Cloud City (Bespin). In the prequels we see even 'young Anakin' is considered too old to start training.
  • The abilities and technologies they have in the prequels is greater than what they have in IV-VI (and Clone Wars, Force Unleashed etc for that matter too).
  • Stormtroopers should be identical if they are clones.
  • When Anakin became a ghost, he turned into Hayden Christensen.
  • Han Solo’s states that the Millennium Falcon “...made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” is just one line that doesn't make any sense and can be changed.
  • The Death Star had to wait to get around a planet to...blow up a planet.
  • Ewoks win. name but a few.

I still prefer the original trilogy to the prequels (that in places were just awful) but with the various inaccuracies and nonsensical plot contrivances that have been highlighted over the years by numerous satire comedies (see Family Guy for example), I get annoyed at the story in places.

I think it's time for a reboot. A better story, better costumes, better acting and action.

Who knows, they might even make it so Han shot first?

Why I'm Blocking All Ads

I am a big believer in the web being free, but one of the main ways in which content on the web stays free is by the use of advertising. It is an obvious conclusion that ad-blockers are hurting a lot of content providers, people who rely on adverts on their websites as their source of income. As such I have used ad-blocking tools sparingly or not at all. This is even though my brain has been trained not to click on ads and unknown links over the years. Some adverts pay on per view, rather than per click, and these have hopefully been helping to fund the good quality content I have enjoyed over the years.

Unfortunately the spreading of malware has become more advanced and this post on the Bromium Labs blog has now convinced me it is time to 'block all'.

I normally try to block or not have Java installed wherever possible (unfortunately some almost essential tools require it) but this malware described in the blog was spread through adverts, allowed by Google, on Youtube. If a site as big as Youtube lets these through then this is extremely worrying.

I have now installed AdBlock Plus and removed the 'Allow some non-intrusive advertising' option. Until I feel that enough is being done to prevent the spread of malware through these means, then this will stay the case.

*You may notice I don't serve ads on my blog. Not only because I probably wouldn't make any money, but because I write this blog because it is something I enjoy. As you can see from the quality over the years, I am no professional and, if someone is, then I agree they deserve to get paid for it. Not everyone will want to, or could afford to, give their time and expertise away for free.

So what is the answer? Paywalls? Who knows where we will go from here?

Monday, 17 March 2014

Ballad of a WiFi Hero

This made me chuckle on a Monday morning.

"In Which I Fix My Girlfriend's Grandparents' WiFi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero," by Mike Lacher. Rejoice!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Google Storage Price Reductions

Google have reduced their prices significantly on added storage options. They have marketed it, and it has been reported, as price reductions for Google Drive. As far as I can tell though, the storage space is spread across Gmail, Drive and Google+ Photos just like before.

Currently I am on a legacy storage plan which I started before Picassa was replaced with Google+ photos. At the time I was approaching the 1GB or 2GB limit for photos and you could get an extra 10GB for $5 a year (now increased to 20GB).

The pay yearly plans were replaced with monthly ones which to me seemed expensive and became increasingly unnecessary when Google kept adding on free storage up to 15GB and (combined with my 62GB on Dropbox and 25GB on Skydrive, now called Onedrive, I had more than enough space).

However, yesterday's announcement makes it very tempting to switch from my legacy plan with monthly costs starting at around £1.20 for 100GB and a whole 1TB for the bargain price of around £6.20 per month.

An alternative to the cloud service offerings is of course to provide your own. This can be done via a NAS drive such as the My Cloud from WD, or using software such as OwnCloud (a helpful how-to on Lifehacker here). People have been able to use network storage devices for years but now, for the home user, they are easier than ever to set up and usually come with a host of mobile applications to access your files and media.

For most people though the big three mentioned above will meet their needs, and the price changes are a big positive.

Google's new prices are shown below.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Recommended Site: bidvoy

I thought I'd share a site I came across recently. Bidvoy searches auctions to show you the average price a product has been going for as well as the trend, so you can see if prices are going up or down, and shortly ending auctions.

If your search has been involved in enough auctions (unlike the Cisco AP above, but like the Nexus 5 below) then the site also tells you the best time to buy and the best time to sell.

What really drew me to the site was how good it looked and functioned on mobile. I think I will be checking this when using ebay in the future.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Google Docs Add-ons

Logging into Google Drive today I found a new menu icon labelled 'Add-ons'.

This could really improve the functionality of docs as this video shows:

Personally I'm really impressed by some of the add-ons capabilities and I'm sure more will become available as it grows the way of the Chrome Web Store. Currently I counted 35 add-ons available and it is tempting me away from my current favourite document app, Evernote.

Wireless Controllers - A quick update (part 2)

This is my second quick blog update about what we are up to from a wireless perspective. You can read some of my previous posts on the subject here and here.

Controllers and Access Points

I can now report we are on a 'safe' controller version after upgrading to The plan is to go to 7.6 as soon as possible (i.e. when we are given sufficient confidence from our suppliers that it won't break).

We have also surveyed fifteen buildings recently in which we are going to deploy a total of 124 access points. At present we can't tell when the upgrade to 7.6 will be, so the 3600 and 3700 access points are on hold. As the infrastructure is going in continuously, we are currently installing the 3502i and the 1262e.

I am going to spend a weekend upgrading switches from the Cisco 2950 to the 48-port PoE+ 2960x to enable wireless in some of our biomedical science areas.

The 3700 and Power over Ethernet

Speaking of PoE on switches, it is worth noting something interesting/troubling in the datasheet for the 3700 access point. This is the one we were most inclined to go for, as it provides 802.11ac without an additional module. However, it does state that if you have regular PoE (802.3af) rather than PoE+ (802.3at) as your source of power then your 4x4 MIMO reduces to 3x3, or 2x2 if using a security/3G or other module.

We won't be able to upgrade all our switches to PoE+. For starters many of the switches that have recently gone in have only had 802.3af and the cost of replacing them all would be in the millions.

Clients per AP

Another interesting note I found in a Cisco document today came from here. I was looking at the differences in Cisco ClientLink versions, to help guide a decision on what access point we should be buying and deploying, when I noticed a rather significant change in the number of supported clients per radio.

Whereas our current deployment of 1142s, 1262s and 3502s are listed as supporting 15 clients per radio, the next releases of access points are described as supporting 128 clients per radio. This is a massive increase (850-ish%, if my maths is correct) and makes a big difference/throws a 'spanner in the works' to current plans for high-density areas such as lecture theatres if this figure is correct. Instead of deploying between 3 and 8 access points in a lecture theatre, this could mean only 1 or 2.

We have planned to have a meeting with some proper wireless experts before thinking about this too much or rethinking any plans.

...and finally

In case you missed it, or don't follow me on Twitter, I sent a link out to a rather interesting blog post:
...another reason why, the more I do wireless networking, the more I hate Apple devices.

Oh, and we have been doing a bit of VoWiFi testing, mainly using Zopier on android (as iPhones kept dropping the WiFi).

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Wireless Controllers - A quick update (part 1)

My previous post, here, was about how we are going to have to rethink our plans for wireless in the wake of the news that a number of software versions have been pulled. I mentioned towards the end about how we required 7.6 to support the access points we were buying, but that there were some problems with 7.6. From talking to various people with similar deployments we have found one of the problems is a potentially big problem.

The feedback going around is that 7.6 does not work with Windows 8/8.1. Oh good, only 9.3% of the market then.

There are also reported problems with broadcom clients when you have WMM enabled and some have reported problems with iOS devices.

So what I think we are going to do for now is get two new WiSM2's and use them to test 7.6 in a lab, see if we can work out the extent of the problems and if how/they will affect us. We may eventually end up running two separate controller versions to support different access points.

Not much we can do for now, so back to the surveying (even though we don't know what AP we are using - which annoys me) and fourteen new access points to set up that were installed last week.