Continuing cosplay

After a break for computer building and a touch of man flu; returned to some cosplay photo processing today; so here are a few more:

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May 3rd, 2017|3 Comments

The world in infrared

Scary animals such as snakes and piranha fish use the infrared spectrum to identify prey. Scary old farts such as Rick@Knees used infrared film to capture a different view of the world. Young chaps such as yours truly have often fancied trying digital infrared photography, but have never quite got round to the process of having a camera converted to the task.

Then I discovered Life Pixel and decided to send off my ancient Panasonic GF1 to be converted to infrared. The process did not start well, their website was broken for ordering my specific make of camera. When I queried with them I got the standard response, designed to infuriate, that “it is working OK here”. So I used a VPN to put myself in America to confirm it wasn’t working OK here. Then it was suggested that there might be a problem with some browsers. So I tested with Safari and Chrome and Firefox on the Mac, and Firefox and Chrome and Edge on Windows. Still nothing. On the verge of giving up they suggested I order a conversion for a Nikon at the same price; because that order screen was working. “But what if my friends see me, using a screen with Nikon on it?” I thought; but proceeded anyway and the order was processed.

After that, it all went smoothly. The camera eventually arrived in the USA, was with them for a week, and arrived back at my door yesterday with no accompanying request for import duty. Popped out this morning to take a few shots.

The results are horrific until you do some processing, then some interesting images emerge. Life Pixel provide a range of training videos which I need to work through, but here is a first attempt:

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May 3rd, 2017|1 Comment

It’s alive!

Thursday afternoon saw the arrival of a large box full of bits; time to build my new machine!

I took it slow, partly because I wanted to get everything right (obviously), but also because I was feeling like shit with the onset of flu. Faced a couple of problems; the first being the stubborn refusal of the main power cable to clip to the motherboard. Off to forums where many other complain of the same problem with that brand of power supply. The solution is to push harder, when it will either clip it into place, or crack the motherboard. Amazingly, I had the happier outcome.

Next problem was with the mounting lugs for the CPU cooler (from the same manufacturer as the power supply) which should sit firmly against the motherboard, but didn’t. Off to the forums and guess what? Common problem. Solution 1 is to ignore it and risk the cooler not seating properly, the CPU overheating, and the computer and probably the whole house being burned to the ground. Solution 2 is to fit some plastic washers behind the motherboard. I didn’t want to reduce my home to ash (she who must be obeyed would complain), and I didn’t have any plastic washers. So as I had a headache and felt like shit, I gave up and went to bed.

Friday morning, I dragged myself to a hardware store and looked for plastic washers, and it was no surprise to discover they didn’t have any. So I bought some metal washers and coated them in liquid insulating material. Worked a treat and I screwed on the CPU cooler nice and tight.

By early afternoon all was complete and it was time for that sickening moment where the beast is turned on for the first time. Outcomes can be variable:

1. It springs into life and off you go, happy into the sunset.
2. It remains dark and lifeless.
3. It remains dark and lifeless with a touch of smoke and an expensive acrid smell.
4. It springs into life, but doesn’t boot.

I have had all of these outcomes in the past, although the first one is a rare occurrence.

So I press the button, lights come and fans whir! Then…. nothing. Oh shit. I believe I have the knowledge to screw these things together, but I have absolutely no idea what to do when they don’t work. But in my weeks and weeks of YouTube research in preparation for this project, I recall some people having problems with booting from both memory sticks. So I took one out, and it worked! In fact it worked with either memory stick, but not with both; would have to work on a solution.

Meantime I installed Windows 10 from a USB stick (remarkably painless) and started updating things and installing required software. Halfway through downloading Photoshop we went out for food; and when we came back the machine was dark and quiet (but not on fire). Oh shit.

Advice from the vendor was that my earlier, now trivial memory problem could be caused by an over-tightened cooler. Long shot; but I dismantled the CPU assembly and then remounted the cooler with less force than before. And it worked again, and this time with both memory sticks. Joy.

Since then it has been stable (everything crossed), the only problems being with assorted pieces of software from the hardware suppliers which refuse to install (this is normal, hardware manufacturers make shit software). And my god it is fast. I loaded one of my favourite games, Falllout 4, which struggled a bit on the Mac.

“Please wait, Fallout 4 is calculating your graphic settings.”
…….
“Your graphics settings have been set to “Ultra”.

But of course.

Here is my new machine:

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The side panel (removed for the photo) has a window so I can gaze adoringly at the top left of the internals. The vertical red lights on the memory sticks pulse at varying speed depending on how hot they are; so if the computer resembles a disco then they are probably too hot. The “Corsair” light on the CPU cooler (top left) will change from red to a garish hue of my choice should it also become overheated. To handle all the heat there are four case fans and two fans for the CPU cooler radiator, all of which run remarkably quietly compared to my previous “who put a 747 in the room” experiences.

The cooling is also helped by the big empty space in the case. “So where is the DVD drive?” I hear you not asking. There isn’t one, they are so yesterday. “But what about the hard drives”, you further don’t enquire. Well, none of those spinning disk thingies, they are so yesterday. But there are a couple of Samsung SSDs on the back.

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The non-windowed side panel covering the SSDs has thick soundproofing, and all the inlet fans have filters (important with a cat in the house). Very impressive case (Fractal Define S); and very happy with how the build has turned out. Going to be a monster for both gaming and photo processing.

A final word about the supplier of all the bits: Invade IT in Hua Hin. It is run by an extremely helpful man by the name of Thomas and I have been buying stuff from him for years. The range he offers is enormous, with most being marked as available “In 1 to 3 days”. All my components had that status. He received my order on Monday morning, everything I wanted was on a truck on Wednesday afternoon and at my door on Thursday. Great communication, and he really knows his stuff (like backing off the CPU cooler tightness to fix memory problems). Very highly recommended.

Anyone want to buy a Mac Pro?

April 29th, 2017|7 Comments

Partial cosplay

Much excitement in Spike Mansions this morning as I await the arrival of a large and expensive box containing computer parts, which will be cobbled together to create my new PC. What will follow will either be a few hours of craftsman-like construction followed by a successful boot screen; or even more hours of swearing, confusion and lost screws, followed by a dead machine and possibly smoke. Previous experiences would indicate the latter.

So cosplay photo processing will be on hold for a while. But here are a couple you can stare at in the meantime:

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And here are some more:

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April 27th, 2017|Comments Off on Partial cosplay

Downtown train

We had our first day in Bangkok planned out. We would arrive around 1100, dump our cases at the hotel, head for the railway station and then walk into China town.

The hotel was the Anantara in Sathorn, and once Rick@Knees had had a little grumble that he couldn’t check in at 1100 (admitting later that he had confused normal check-in and check-out times), we grabbed a taxi and went to the station.

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We then headed for Chinatown and the complaining started.

Are we there yet?
Are you sure this is Chinatown?
I am sick of walking.
I don’t remember this bit.
I do remember this bit, but it was better last time I came.

And so on. Things did not improve when we then spent the afternoon walking around the Cosplay event and finished off having to walk to the hotel from the Sky Train for a total of only nine kilometres. Still, once he is settled with a fag and a couple of drinks, the cantankerous old git is entertaining company so I’ll let him off the constant whingeing while perambulating.

Anyway, back to Chinatown and a couple of shots:

My new king:
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A quick snack:
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Heading for a refreshment, we were hailed by an old chap who demanded we guess how old he was.

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Being polite I suggested: “42”
“96! And where do you come from?”
“England, where do you come from?”
“I am Cantonese but was born in Thailand”.

So much for integration. He went on to explain his longevity. No drinking or smoking, and he swims for an hour every day. Seeing we were impressed, he told us he also did an hour of yoga daily. Warming to his theme he then suggested he did two hundred push-ups before breakfast. We made an excuse and left before he described his no doubt energetic sex life.

“But I bet the old bugger can’t walk nine kilometres” opined my testy companion.

April 24th, 2017|1 Comment

Pop culture

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To Bangkok for three days in the company of Rick@knees to attend Thailand Comic Con, the hope was that there would not be too many comics, but instead an excess of pretty cosplay girls. We were not to be disappointed, and this post serves as a warning that there will be several more photos like this in the coming days:

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I can only apologise.

April 23rd, 2017|Comments Off on Pop culture

Down the rabbit hole

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I built computers; and they were mainly shit.

They (usually) worked, but they ran on abortions such as Windows Vista, and the hardware looked like it had come out of a shed in China, which it usually had. The cases were black metal made from old baked bean cans and the stuff inside looked as exciting as a rusting fairground ride in Stalingrad. The whole induced zero pride of ownership, and it was almost a relief to destroy it with a hammer when either the motherboard exploded and/or Windows expired.

My life of technical disappointment was relieved more than ten years ago when I discovered Apple. First there was a laptop, then there was an iMac, then there was a Mac Pro, then there was another Mac Pro.

This latest Mac Pro has been with me for six years and is still adequately processes photos, and plays games in Windows with reasonable performance. But wouldn’t it be good to view photos in 4K and play games at the highest settings? Of course it would, so I have decided to build a new Windows computer and sell my Mac.

To be clear, I am not interested in replacing my beautiful Mac Pro with a Lenovo Shitabox piece of plastic crap as can be found gathering dust on the shelves of Power Buy. Oh no, gentle reader, we are talking hard core, bleeding edge technology, capable of pushing pixels at warp speed and guaranteed to generate enough heat to be detectable from space.

Having received some valuable advice from reader Clive and The Son, I disappeared down the rabbit hole three days ago and have only now emerged, blinking in the cold bright light of reality. My research can be summarised in three words: Complicated. Sexy. Expensive.

It’s complicated because there is so much damn choice. I started with looking at cases, expecting maybe a choice of three Chinese shed construction offerings in either black, grey or rust. But the choices at Invade IT extend to more than 300 cases, priced between 1,000 and 45,000 Thai baht. So it was off to the wide wide world of web looking at “best of” reviews to narrow down the options. Home in on a case and watch some specific reviews on YouTube, it’s great! Read the comments under the video; actually, it’s shit. Back to square one. Repeat this process for every single component to be installed inside the case. Arrive at a final list, then discover that some components are not compatible with other components. Start again.

It’s sexy because a tin case with drab internals doesn’t cut it any more. Cases must be sleek, with windows that reveal components in various shades of vibrant colours. And there must be lights. Not just a string of crappy LEDs, but programmable lights on the motherboard, graphics card and memory sticks. Even keyboards have programmable lights. If I wanted to look at a disco, I would don ear defenders and head for the centre of town; so none of the lighting nonsense for me; but I must admit getting caught up in seeking some colour co-ordination in the internals (black with red accents if you want to know, which you almost certainly don’t).

Talking of keyboards, do you favour Cherry MX red, blue or brown key actions? Given the multi-hued extravaganza that is the computer marketplace, you could be forgiven for thinking that this refers to colour options for the keys, but each offer different levels of tactile and noise feedback, and it is of course very important to choose the right one. After an evening of deliberation and confusion I think I am going with brown. Which leads to the inevitable conclusion: what the fuck am I being sucked into….?

Finally: expensive. I remember that 30,000 baht would buy you a capable PC. Not any more. Suffice it to say I will not be investing until after the credit card bill creation date later in the month.

Right, if you will excuse me I must head down the rabbit hole again; I am struggling to decide as to the size of the radiator required for my liquid cooling solution.

April 19th, 2017|Comments Off on Down the rabbit hole

Three out of four ain’t bad

My standard photo shot has as many horse legs as possible avoiding contact with the ground. But this one has a certain elegance which I think means it would not be out of place on the cover of a polo magazine (usual rates apply, contact my agent, no interviews etc. etc.).

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April 17th, 2017|2 Comments

Wulai

After my failed attempt to book us into an onsen in Tokyo, she who must be obeyed’s plan for our Taiwan trip included a day’s outing to Wulai, where we could theoretically insert ourselves into hot, healing water. After three days of walking, my legs were tired and the thought of sitting on a bus, followed by a long soak, was very appealing,; so off we went.

The on-line guides to Wulai are very complimentary, summarising it as a charming town, home to the Atayai aboriginal tribe. And it probably was before typhoons in late 2015 destroyed many of the buildings. Rebuilding is in progress, but surprisingly slowly; perhaps aboriginal areas receive funds less quickly….

We arrived early and most things were shut and the place had a feel of desolation, with dust in the air and the sights and sounds of heavy construction.

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With nothing better to do, we decided to go to the waterfall outside of the town. The online guides advised ignoring taxi touts and enjoying “the pleasant ten minute walk to the waterfall”. There was one taxi and he seemed disinterested in touting, so we dragged our weary legs in the gathering heat up a steep hill for close on half an hour. There used to be an option to take a little train, but that had been wiped out by the typhoon too.

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At the waterfall there was a sort of a village.

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More importantly, there was a coffee shop which sold excellent coffee and had comfy seats where we could relax and look at the waterfall which was much bigger than this photo implies:

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After two cups of coffee and a good chat with the proprietor, we shambled back down the hill and into town. We chose an establishment for our hot spring experience and were given a room with a fine view over the hydro plant.

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There was a tub with a rubber duck on the end of the plug, a TV playing Taiwanese cartoons, and an endless supply of scalding water and/or freezing cold water. After some dicking about we achieved a full tub of almost bearably hot water. I lasted about ten minutes before my ascending heart rate convinced me that soaking in near boiling water was not a good idea. My wife lasted a little longer; a bit of a let down because we had chosen a place that allowed us to stay all day had we wished.

Instead we found a place for a surprisingly good lunch and then caught the bus back to Taipei.

Wulai travel tip: don’t bother until they have finished the rebuild. Good coffee, water too hot.

April 14th, 2017|1 Comment

Taipei street

A selection of images taken on the streets of Taipei. You’re welcome.

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April 13th, 2017|3 Comments