• Book review - Shards of Honour

    Shards of Honour is a space opera about the relationship between Vorkosigan, a military general and Naismith, a biologist. The relationship develops in the context of a clash between their two different human civilisations. Vorkosigan comes from a Machiavellian absolute monarchy with a utilitarian outlook. Naismith comes from a democratic society that can verge on the anarchic at times.

    Naismith is the protagonist of the novel but doesn’t seem as well developed as Vorkosigan. Vorkosigan starts off as a mysterious soldier and develops through the novel.

    The plot starts with a journey through a vividly described planet and accelerates quickly afterwards. The plot isn’t stellar and as a whole is predictable from an early point. world but it is reasonable. There were not too many action parts but what was there was well done.

    The world that Bujold has built is really interesting, there are multiple civilisations at war with their own philosophies. The description of the planet and fauna in the first half of the book is particularly imaginatively done.

    Despite my criticism, the novel is engaging and the world building has me looking forward to reading the other novels in the series.

  • Annual leave

    I’ve just finished a week of annual leave, I planned to spend some quality time with Hugo and Sara and do some other things that need doing. It has been a good week all-in-all, so this is a dear diary kind of post.


    Went swimming with Sara, some a few friends and their kids. Hugo and I had fun playing with balls and surfboards. We then went for a carvery afterwards - swimming always makes me hungry. I enjoyed having a mothers’ meeting :)

    Hugo fell asleep in the car, and when we got back my father-in-law had arrived to spend a few days with us.


    We went to Graves Park first thing in the morning, walked through the park and then up to the animals - Hugo didn’t really like the chickens but was more impressed by the goats. We also had a play on the park and a short journey on the “land” train.

    Hugo went for a nap and I heard playing outside so I went and entertained the 3 year old twins next door. Lots of running around and being mischievous. It was tiring work.

    We went to the Chesterfield medieval market in the afternoon, this was disappointing, there were plenty of neon flashing light ghost trains scattered throughout the town centre, and off to one side, beneath the crooked spire there were three medieval themed stalls (which were all quite interesting). There was also a small battle re-enactment which we missed and a medieval march through time

    In the evening I went for a game of squash, which wore me out further.


    Sara took Hugo to nursery in the morning, which is something I usually do - giving me the chance to have a lay-in until 9am. I dropped Sara off at work and then went into town to catch-up on a few errands.

    My first objective was some business at the bank, unfortunately an ISA transfer needs a specialist member of staff due to how complicated it is, and none were available that day, or the next, or any day that week, for either of the two branches. I’ve had to make an appointment for a Saturday two weeks in the future.

    That sorted out, I’d decided to visit the Chesterfield museum & art gallery as I’d never been. The opening hours have recently changed so that it is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday as well as Sunday, so I’ve still never been.

    I decided to go to the Market pub for a spot of lunch and half of a perry from a keg on the bar while reading The Last Unicorn from the Humble e-book bundle. That finished I got the ingredients for dinner. I spent about 2 hours preparing and cooking a moussaka which turned out disappointing - my fault.

    I got to pick Hugo up from nursery, so got to see him playing and hear about what he’d been up to all day. I much prefer picking him up to dropping him off.


    Hugo and I walked down to play group at the local sure start centre. He did enjoy playing but I think his favourite part was snacking on fruit.


    Hugo and I went for a trip up to Crich Stand, ~300m above sea level, the Easter-most big Derbyshire hill and so affording distant views to the North, East and South. When we got there there was no access to the tower at the top - a notice just said it was due to “Health & Safety” with no further explanation. Therefore the views of eight counties and to the Humber bridge were limited. It was Hugo’s first trig point though.

    A view of green countryside to the horizon
    Crich stand - looking South-ish

    In the late afternoon Sara and I went into Sheffield for a meal at The Italian Kitchen, the meal was tasty and reasonably priced. A short walk up and down Ecclesall Road was needed afterwards before we went to pick Hugo up and then spend an evening with my parents.


    We went swimming, Hugo has never liked lying on his back and especially so when in water. However his recent trick of trying to keep one ear in the water as I pull him around has morphed into lying on his back in the water.

    In the afternoon we had a lovely visit to Northern Tea Merchants for afternoon tea - delicious as ever.


    Hugo and I went to the Peak Rail 1940s weekend. There were steam trains, WW2 equipment on display, 1940s vehicles and a WW2 battle reenactment. Hugo enjoyed sticking his head out of the window on the train (there were only two signs above the window saying no heads out of windows).

    He wasn’t too interested in the battle reenactment. He jumped at the initial loud simulated bomb explosions when other children nearby started crying. Dropping the last quaver did cause him to start getting noisy, thankfully the enactment had finished by then.

    I videod part of the WW2 re-enactment.

  • Reading 2012

    During 2012 I have read 57 novels, which is significantly less than the previous year (83 between 09/10 and 12/11), when I first received my Kindle but still probably more than most other years since I was a child.

    Here is what I read during 2012, in rough chronological order:

    1. Guns, germs and steel by Jared Diamond - Similar to Why the Rest Rules (for now) and equally as enjoyable
    2. Start Small, Stay Small - Rob Walling
    3. A people’s history of the United States by Howard Zinn - Some parts very interesting, some parts dull.
    4. Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley
    5. American Pyscho by Bret Easton Ellis - Enjoyable, but sick, very sick.
    6. Watership Down by Richard Adams
    7. A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin - Reread as a precursor to the latest series being on tv.
    8. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card - Really enjoyed this entire series
    9. Ender’s Shadow: Book One by Orson Scott Card
    10. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
    11. Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott - interesting but not great
    12. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
    13. Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
    14. Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card
    15. Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card
    16. Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card
    17. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
    18. A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin
    19. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - quite enjoyed the first two parts of this fast paced YA series.
    20. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
    21. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut - surreal but ultimately felt like a struggle
    22. Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
    23. A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin
    24. A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin
    25. A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin - really enjoyed, intending to reread to ensure I captured all of the detials
    26. Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett - A discworld novel, I read one from the Guards! series every so often as a short light hearted interlude after an intensive reading session.
    27. Makers by Cory Doctorow - another re-read
    28. The Making of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr
    29. Dune by Frank Herbert - I’d started reading this series before but didn’t remember getting to the end so I decided to re-read. Dune is the best of the Dune series.
    30. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
    31. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
    32. God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbet - It is a dull drag, I stopped my re-read after this novel, previously I read the sequel to this one, but remembered that that too is a dirge.
    33. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - The finale of the Hunger Games series, quite different to the previous two, slightly clumsy but still enjoyable.
    34. A Walk-On Part: Diaries 1994-1999 by Chris Mullin - The first chronologically of the Mullin diaries but the last one I read. The whole series is a really good inside look into British politics from the perspective of an MP/junior minister rather than from the PM or cabinet. This isn’t the best in the series but worth a read if the others were enjoyed.
    35. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton - The first film I saw at the cinema, I enjoyed the book too.
    36. The Lost World by Michael Crichton - Very different to the film, a worthy sequel.
    37. Next: A Novel by Michael Crichton - A dystopian fiction about genetic engineering nad intellectual property. Worryingly close to fact.
    38. Congo by Michael Crichton - The most similar Crichton novel to Jurassic Park. Very enjoyable.
    39. Disclosure: A Novel by Michael Crichton
    40. Airframw by Michael Crichton
    41. The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
    42. Childhoods’ End by Arthur C Clarke - I didn’t realise until I got about half way through that I’d actually read this before, which must have been a very long time ago.
    43. The autobiography of Malcom X by Malcom X - What a remarkable life.
    44. Why The West Rules (for now) by Ian Morris - Re-read. A history of the development of Chinese and Eurasia. Not dry at all.
    45. Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctrow from the first humble bundle
    46. Pump Six and other stories by Paolo Bacigalupi - Several future dystopian short stories - I really wished most of these were full fleshed novels.
    47. The Secret World Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey - The beginning of a series of books partially populated by X-men like superheroes. I really enjoyed this, was most disapointed to find the other books are not yet available as ebooks.
    48. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link - A mixed bag of short supernatural stories. Some are great (the title novel), some are less compelling.
    49. The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. Another Guards! discworld novel
    50. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi - Similar to Starship Troopers, my first Scalzi novel, I intend to read more.
    51. Penpal by Dathan Auerbach - I found this short novel split across several /r/nosleep posts and decided to buy it immediately. A good example of how self-publishing can work.
    52. Final Empire: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson - The start of a fantastic fantasy series. Not sure where I picked up on this from but I’m glad I did.
    53. The Well of Ascension: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
    54. The Hero of Ages: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson - The finale to the series.
    55. The Alloy of Law: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson - Set in the same world as the other Mistborn books, but 300 years later.
    56. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes - An interesting book set in a world where criminals have magical animal familiars.
    57. Utter Folly: A high comedy of bad manners by Paul Basset Davies. A pretty funny farce in the English countryside.

    I started reading War & Peace a few weeks ago, which is obviously going to take a while, I think I’m about 25% of the way through.

  • Raspberry pi audio

    If you are trying to play audio on your raspberry pi over hdmi and it is not working then you need to ensure that the raspberry pi is driving your tv or monitor in hdmi mode and not dvi mode. To do this type /opt/vc/bin/tvservice -s

    If it’s running HDMI it will print something like state: HPD high|HDMI mode|HDCP off|composite off (0x12001a), 1920x1080 @ 60Hz, progressive

    If it’s running DVI it will print something like state: HPD high|DVI mode|HDCP off|composite off (0x120016), 1280x720 @ 60Hz, progressive

    This happens because the raspberry pi asks the monitor about itself and deduces the best resolution from this information. To view this information run: /opt/vc/bin/tvservice -d edid /opt/vc/bin/edidparser edid

    This will then list the resolutions supported for your display device and the id number and the score for each. CEA (hdmi) are in tv format (1080i etc) and DMT (DVI) in screen resolution (1280x720 etc). Note down the id of the highest scoring CEA resolution.

    Open /boot/config.txt and add: hdmi_group=1 hdmi_mode = x # The ID number you noted

    Then save, quit and reboot. and /opt/vc/bin/tvservice -s should include “HDMI mode” as above.

    I assume that including hdmi_drive=2 does the same thing - automatically choose the highest scorign CEA option.

  • Reserving IP addresses with buggy Netgear firmware

    My netgear DGN2000 router has an annoying bug where the IP address reservation refuses to reserve addresses for devices with MAC addresses that don’t begin with 00. This happens when you:

    1. Log onto your router at
    2. Click LAN Setup
    3. Click Add at the bottom of the central frame
    4. Click on the device you wish to reserve an address for
    5. Press Add

    An alert that pops up saying “Invalid MAC Address, please enter again!”

    Half of my devices have a mac address that begins with something other than 00, so this is annoying. Thankfully the validation is only done in javascript so it is very easy to subvert. Simply turn javascript off in your web browser.