Thursday, 2 November 2017

Kids Sponsored Walk with Dads

On Saturday 11th November, my 3 year old is taking on a 3 mile sponsored walk.  We're going from Bushy Leaze woods in the next village of Beech to the Bushy Leaze children's centre in Alton.  Basically, a walk across the town in which we live.  It doesn't sound far but it's a long way for little legs with some steep climbs over rough terrain too.

The idea is to raise funds for the centre and in particular to continue running the dad's group.  The group used to get government funding through the sure start scheme but all this funding was cut last year along with a lot of other funding the centre was able to get.  We're going to our bit to make sure the group can continue to run for future generations.  One of our friends has helped set the centre up as a charity so they can continue as much of their outreach work and things like the breast feeding clinics can continue to run too.

You can read a little more and sponsor us at the following web page https://mydonate.bt.com/events/walkwithdad/450291

Please feel free to share the story and donation link as you see fit.

Thanks!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Moving to giffgaff

Much like moving bank account, it's not very often I move mobile network.  I tend to favour staying with the same provider unless they provide me with a good reason to leave.  My current network, TalkMobile, have just done so by completely shutting down their PAYG service and so are only able to offer me a contract (that I don't want) or a rubbish deal to move to Vodafone (they're a Vodafone MVNO).

I thought I'd write a similar post about my experience moving to the giffgaff network today to the one I wrote about Moving to TalkMobile back in 2012.  You'll see from that link that joining TalkMobile was extremely painful.  However, I'm happy to report I found the network very solid and reliable with what I can only presume is good coverage (there's always black spots, right?) on the Vodafone network.  Getting them to do anything was always painful as there's little option for self-service so it's more or less always a call to their support staff.  The staff are very polite and extremely helpful but the processes and presumably the systems they have to use seem somewhat antiquated today.

So in comparison to my previous blog post about moving to TalkMobile, moving to giffgaff went a bit like this:

Day 1 (yesterday)

  1. Register a giffgaff SIM a friend gave me and create a new giffgaff account all in one simple guided wizard on the giffgaff web site
  2. Request a PAC from TalkMobile
  3. Go through the number transfer process via another simple wizard on the giffgaff web site
Day 2 (today)

  1. Observe a short outage in mobile service as my number was transferred just after lunch
  2. Happy customer

So now I'm looking forward to years of good service from giffgaff until they provide me with a good reason to leave some time in the future.

By the way, if you want to grab a giffgaff SIM then feel free to register via my referral link as we'll both get a free £5 credit if you do.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

New Thinkpad P50

It's been a while, but true to our 4 year hardware refresh cycle, I've just received my latest laptop - a Lenovo P50.  I've been installing it with Fedora 25 since Friday and configuring and copying data over this weekend ready to swap laptops first thing this week.  I'm looking forward to trying out the new machine although I'm not quite sure why as the specs are barely different from the machine I was given 4 years ago.  It's certainly the best indication yet I've personally experienced of Moore's Law coming to a complete halt as well as many of the other specifications not improving a huge amount either.  The two most noticeable differences are likely to be the more powerful graphics chip and the inclusion of an SSD.  That said, there is twice as much RAM in this machine and I had upgraded my previous machine with an SSD as well so that particular upgrade isn't going to be noticeable for me at least.

My previous machine was a W530 and the one I had before that was a T61p (with a T41p before that) and so I'm well used to this particular line of Thinkpad laptops.

Here's the specifications of the machine I've got, as ever there are variants of the P50 so if you have one or are thinking of getting one the specifications could be a little different but will be broadly similar to this:

  • Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-6820HQ CPU @ 2.70GHz (5433.79 bogomips in Linux)
  • 32GB DDR4 2133MHz
  • Samsung MZNLN512 (PM871) 512GB SSD
  • 15.6" 1920 x 1080 IPS (non-touch)
  • 6 Cell Battery
  • Wireless A/C
  • NVIDIA Quadro M1000M 4 GB
  • Front Facing Web Cam, Mini Display Port, HDMI Out, Headphone, 4x USB3, Smart Card Reader, GBit Ethernet, Thunderbold, Fingerprint Reader
So looking at those and comparing in more detail to what I had before it seems my gut feeling was pretty good.  The CPU benchmarks are more-or-less exactly the same and certainly within tolerances of error as well as other performance increases that will effect the benchmarks such as the memory clock speed.  Here's the comparison between the W530 CPU and the P50 CPU:


The same can't be said of the GPU benchmarks though so it looks like GPUs are continuing to gain in power even when CPU speed increases have run out of steam:

The other noticeable difference I hadn't spotted before is the battery size.  That's very apparent when you pick the machine up as it's actually a little bit thinner (probably also due to the lack of DVD/combo drive) as well as not as deep i.e. it doesn't have the big battery sticking out of the back that has been common place on this line of Thinkpad machines over the past decade or so.  I'm guessing (without having done any research on the matter) that this is probably due to improvements in battery technology so I'd think Lenovo have probably moved over to Li-ion or Li-po batteries.

In terms of running and using the machine, it does seem very nice so far as one might expect.  It's running Fedora 25 very nicely and hasn't caused me any issues at all during setup.  I'm not really expecting any either as most if not all of the hardware seems pretty well support by Linux these days.  I think, in fact, Lenovo even offer to supply this machine pre-installed with Linux if you want.  That said, there looks to be one possible sticking point in terms of hardware support at the moment but this is very minor.  That is, the build-in fingerprint reader doesn't seem to have a driver available on Linux yet.  I did some very brief research into this yesterday and it's not clear why vendor support is lacking for the device at the moment although I did find at least one effort that has gone a fairly long way towards reverse engineering it and starting to write a driver so I would guess within the next year we'll see some sort of support for the fingerprint reader too.

All in all then it's a good machine even though it's not a huge upgrade over my 4 year old laptop!