So that was 2014

2014 didn’t have the best start for me. Another visit by the black dog over the winter but that did result in me finally getting a SAD light which has helped since and a little better at self care.

My work/life balance got a little tilted towards work. I didn’t have a summer holiday and ended up only taking 20 days holiday, which was a mistake. I have 35 days of holiday in 2015, which I’m determined to take. Much of the holiday I did take was used to attend conferences more or less related to work, another thing to cut back on in 2015. Much of the rest of the time was spent learning new things, mostly via MOOC’s. I’m going to try to be more targeted in 2015, so I can leave more time for other things. September brought a lesson in big company politics, the group I was part of was closed down, so we need to find new roles, lucky I found something and I’m happy on my new team.

It wasn’t all work. I went to the Brighton Tattoo convention and even dragged Mum303 along, which made for an interesting day. Started commuting by boat, which is so much more comfortable than the tube. Went to my first pride and after party, glitter may have happened at some point. Became a person who owns a Television after I think about ten years without one, there is still something about watching a programme at the same time as others and Netflix is just a much better experience.

2014 saw me make better use of actually living in London: I took a steam train on the Underground. Went to two exhibitions at the British Library, Comics Unmasked and Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination. Went to the very fun Hyper Japan.

Wearing dresses also seems to have become a thing. I was refused treatment until I wore a dress by my first Psychiatrist to prove I was serious, so this was a bigger deal than most people realised. I even wore one dress with no back, so my scar was visible, another thing I’m very conscious of.

2014 ended on a sad note, with the death of Leelah Alcorn.

PC Build

This is my first build from a complete blank slate for ten years. Most of my current system is six years old ( I thought it was more like four but I checked, no wonder it feels slow).

I started with the processor, going for a Haswell i7 was the obvious choice. Even if Haswell is a mobile focussed design, they are still the fastest desktop chip. Going for a K series unlocked model also was a simple choice.

The biggest failure with my current system is noise, something I really wanted to address with the new build, lead lead me to looking at the all in one water cooling kits. Corsair Hydro H110 was what I went for in the end but I did look at the H100i. The H100i fits in many more cases than the H110 but produces more noise and has some extra (Corsair Link) which just seem like a waste to me.

Having such a big cooler limits your choice of case, plus I wanted a quiet noise damped one. I initially looked at the NZXT H630 but after reading and watching a few reviews, went for the Fractal Design Define XL R2. If I’d gone for a H100i, the Define R4 would have been a good option.

Moving onto the graphics card, looks like NVidia have a slight edge. I looked at the Titan but then the GTX 780 was released, unless you need double precision support or the extra RAM, there seems no reason to buy a Titan now. The stock Titan/780 cooler is low noise and I had discounted any overclocked 780 as being potentially noisy but the promise of titan level performance for only a few quid more than a stock 780 was too tempting.. After reading all the review turns out many of the overclocked versions are even lower noise. In the end I went for two Palit GeForce GTX 780 Super Jetstream‘s. they are big cards, two and half slots but quiet and with a good boost, another reason for going for such a large case.

I know motherboard audio is decent but I listen to music using my PC, so a separate sound card is something I normally add to a new system. I just went for a Xonar Essence STX, after looking at the Xonar Phoebus Solo but since I mostly use headphones and stereo speaker getting a 7.1 card seemed a waste.

Finding a motherboard was tricky, I needed two 16x slots for the GPUs and then still a clear x1 slot for the sound card. The Jetstream’s coolers ruled out many motherboards but in the end the Asus Maximus VI Hero looks like it should be able to mount the two GPUs and the sound card. I did end up getting an extra 140mm fan for the front of the case just to help pull more air over the GPUs.

For storage, since I have a nice HP Microserver (which a totally recommend as a home server) for bulk data, I only needed an SSD for the OS and applications. I did look at the new Samsung 840 Evo‘s but in the end went for the Samsung 840 Series Pro 512GB, as they have a proven track record for performance and more importantly reliability.

To power all this I selected a Seasonic X-1250. Fully modular of course, so I can keep the cables to a minimum. Rounding off the build with 32GB of Corsair Vengeance (4 x 8GB) DDR3 and a Pioneer Blu-Ray/DVD/CD burner.

Parts List:
1 x Intel Core i7 4770K
1 x Corsair H110 Hydro Series
2 x Palit GTX 780 Super JetStream
1 x Asus Xonar Essence STX
4 x 8GB Corsair DDR3 Vengeance
1 x 512GB Samsung 840 Pro
1 x Pioneer BDR-208DBK
1 x Seasonic X-Series SS-1250XM
1 x Fractal Design Define XL R2
1 x Fractal Design Silent Series R2 140mm

LinkedIn Endorsements

As I noted the other day Mum303 has endorsed me on LinkedIn for OpenGL. I was really not sure if my mother had any idea what OpenGL was, so I asked, this is the transcript of the txt conversion:

Me: Do You know what OpenGL is? :)
Mum303: Not a Clue
Mum303: Industry standard?
Me: Kind of. A Standard way of writing to 3D graphics chips :)
Me: I think I’m going to save these messages to show people at work next week
Mum303: Well did know was to do with graphics
Me: 1/2 a point

This got me thinking, should I ask her for definitions of other technical terms?

Ada Lovelace Day – Anita Sarkeesian

As I said last year, I’m a big gamer, videogames have been part of my life since the early 1980’s. Met lots of good friends via gaming. Even spent five years programming them as my day job. Walking into a games shop and seeing an about even gender split (Leaving any discussion about gender binaries for another day) makes me happy. In short, I like gaming and think it something positive.

Some parts of the gaming culture aren’t so nice or worth celebrating. The casual use homophobic and sexist language, especially in FPS’ just makes me avoid play sometimes, plus the narrow choice of player characters in most games (with some notable exceptions via mefi) just don’t represent me. Add to that recent events at Eurogamer Expo. In some ways as games have become more mainstream the culture has moved backwards. I don’t remember it being so nasty back in the early 80’s but then I was only young, so maybe I just didn’t pick up on it.

Anita Sarkeesian has been video blogging about pop culture at Feminist Frequency for a few years. The Lego video really stood out for me. Back in May she started a Kickstarter to help fund a new series of videos covering videogames: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. Then it happened, the part of gaming culture I don’t really like descented in full force, threatening comments on Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter and YouTube, a defaced Wikipedia entry, rape and death threats, which are really indefensible. I was take aback by the sheer hate being posted.

She didn’t back down, which I can’t imagine being the easiest route to take but as a small positive note the Kickstarter raised $158,922 much more than the $6000 goal. As Rock Paper Shotgun noted (via mefi) this year seems to have marked a turning point in the discussions about gender representation in games. Fingers crossed in 2013 things keep improving.

Also the much missed Kathy Sierra and her wonderful blog Creating Passionate Users deserves a mention.

Previously 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Electronic Music Documentaries

On Saturday @lingmops tweeted:

Just spent an hour reading amount Delia Derbyshire and musique concrète thanks to @fireholly99 FACINATING THINGS I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW EXISTED

and then I lost the rest of the day watching music documentaries, so I thought I’d blog the very incomplete list to make sharing easier.

Alchemists of Sound
Looks at BBC Radiophonic Workshop from its inception, through its golden age when it was supplying music and effects for cult classics like Doctor Who, Blake’s Seven and Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, and charts its fading away in 1995 when, due to budget cuts, it was no longer able to survive.

Sculptress of Sound: The Lost Works of Delia Derbyshire
The broadcaster and Doctor Who fan Matthew Sweet travels to The University of Manchester – home of Delia Derbyshire‘s private collection of audio recordings – to learn more about the wider career and working methods of the woman who realised Ron Grainer’s original theme to Doctor Who.

Synth Britannia
Following a generation of post-punk musicians who took the synthesiser from the experimental fringes to the centre of the pop stage.

Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany
Between 1968 and 1977 bands like Neu!, Can, Faust and Kraftwerk would look beyond western rock and roll to create some of the most original and uncompromising music ever heard.

To which I would add a sideorder of Minimum Maximum by Kraftwerk

Pump Up the Volume – The History of House Music
From its early days as NY disco to the massive european (and international) scene it has become, via the major people and clubs who pushed it forward.

The Shape Of Things That Hum
From an 8 Part TV series looking at cult electronic instruments that have shaped modern music: Minimoog, Vocoder, Yamaha DX7, Fairlight, Simmons, Roland TB-303, Roland TR-808 and the Akai Sampler.

and some extra links:

Bassline Bassline
A video essay that investigates the invention, failure and subsequent resurrection of the mythic Roland TB-303 Bass Line music machine in the last two decades of the 20th century.

Can I Get An Amen?
A perspective of perhaps the most sampled drum beat in the history of recorded music, the Amen Break. It begins with the pop track Amen Brother by 60’s soul band The Winstons, and traces the transformation of their drum solo from its original context as part of a ‘B’ side vinyl single into its use as a key aural ingredient of Drum’n’Bass.

The Hip Hop Years
Charting story of Hip Hop, from the streets of the Bronx to taking over the mainstream.

Ada Lovelace Day – Alice Taylor

I’ve been a gamer for a long time but some of my fellow players have a reputation for being less than friendly towards female players. So its great to see someone high profile both as a player (including some time spent as a member of the UK Quake team) and on the development side who is female.

Her Wonderland blog is on lots of people list of gaming blogs worth reading. Her work at the BBC and Channel 4 showing how gaming can be used by a traditional broadcaster both for entertainment and education, all long before the current gamification buzz.

In between all this she also created the avatar service stortroopers, which is still online. Her current project MakieLab, a startup developing customisable, 3D-printed, game-enabled toys, sounds very interesting so far. I can’t wait to see the results.

Skud also deserve a special mention for her tireless work and thoughtful comments in the nymwars.

Previously 2009 and 2010.

Three MiFi Version Two (Huawei E585)

I’ve been thinking about getting some sort of mobile broadband for a while now. Both as a backup for my home connection and to use out and about. My orginal plan was to upgrading my d420 to a netbook with builtin 3G, particularly the samsung n230 but since it does not look like the 3G version will be out in the Uk anytime soon I’ve just went for a MiFi instead on pay as you go.

So the orginal Three MiFi did sound quite useful but the lack of display and being a little fiddlyly to use put me off. So when I heard about the new version having seemed to address most of these problems, that reingnited my interest with two very positive reviews from Hayles and Ian Betteridge.
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