Hedders' Ramblings

Gaming, home tech, politics, music, whatever really

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TIBO Bond Mini

I have a stereo in the living room. A proper one, as in I-bought-it-from-Richer-Sounds proper. Yes, that does make me old-fashioned, but the kind of music I like wasn’t mixed to sound good on shitty little speakers, and I still like to buy music on CD. So there.

That said, I do have our whole CD library ripped to our Plex server for ease of access from our phones and cars while out and about, and for a while now I’ve had an Amazon Echo Input hooked up to the stereo and used Alexa’s Plex skill to stream music from Plex to the living room stereo.

It works well, but like many people I’ve started to worry about the privacy implications of Alexa technology. So, I started looking around for some alternative streaming solutions, and based on reviews and so on eventually settled on the TIBO Bond Mini as offering everything I needed except voice control, for a reasonable amount of money.

The first thing that struck me when I opened up the box is just how dinky the thing is – it’s little bigger than a ring box. Setup is, according to the quick start guide, a matter of hooking it up to the stereo, powering it on and following the steps in the companion app to hook it up to the wifi network. Simples.

Or so I thought. Here is where I hit my first snag. It seems that the Bond Mini doesn’t support 5Ghz wifi. My home wifi is dual band and uses the same SSID for both, because the mesh system allows 5Ghz devices to fall back to 2.4Ghz in some of the dodgier areas (old house, thick brick walls, therein hangs a tale ….).

Happily it offers an alternative means of setup. You can use your phone to join a temporary wifi network fired up by the Bond Mini and configure it from there.

Except that, of course, my phone is too bloody clever by half, realises that the temporary wifi network doesn’t have internet access, and falls back to 4G. The only way to get around this seems to be to put it into flight mode and then manually re-enable wifi. With that done, the app could at least see the device, but the device apparently couldn’t see my home wifi network and so the setup wizard couldn’t continue.

There is a third and final way offered to configure it, which is again to hook up to the temporary wifi network and then configure the device manually using its web-based interface. Finally, that worked and I was able to get the thing onto my home network.

It then resolutely refused to see my Plex server through DLNA. I even went so far as to give the Plex server a restart. No joy. So, I restarted the Bond Mini, whereupon the control app stopped seeing it and it apparently completely forgot the wifi config and went back to first setup mode.

It being a school night, I gave up at that point. I will have another go this weekend, but I have to say, first impressions are less than stellar.

UPDATE 29/09/19: I’ve managed to get it onto the network reliably. Still won’t see any bloody DLNA servers though. Gah. I’ve contacted support. We shall see.

Very good article on the hubris of “unicorns”

I come across a lot of startups in my work. This article is pretty much everything I could ever want to say on the subject, but expressed far more artfully and concisely than I ever could. Read, enjoy, and possibly get very cross:

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/unicorn-delusion/598465/

FFS Labour

I woke up this morning to read this:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/20/momentum-bid-to-abolish-deputy-leader-tom-watsons-post

Seems those Momentum clowns have decided that purging the party of doctrinal impurity is more important than any of (1) effectively holding the government to account (2) dealing with the national crisis or (3) y’know, actually winning an election so as to start undoing some of the last decade of abuse.

The spin coming out of the bots and the parrots this morning seems to be that this move is all about party democracy and organisation, nothing to do with the person involved. Puh-lease. Frankly that’s about as convincing as the government’s protestations that proroguing Parliament for 5 weeks is necessary to prepare a Queen’s Speech. Or indeed the Gamergaters’ claims that “actually it’s about ethics in journalism”. The fact of the matter is that Momentum won’t tolerate anyone who stands up to Saint Jeremy.

Yes, Watson is a bit of a rent-a-gob who’ll go to the opening of an envelope. He is, after all, a politician. Yes, he gets it wrong sometimes. He is, after all, human. But he is a formidable speaker and campaigner and an effective administrator, and whether or not Momentum likes it Labour will need to win back the moderate centre-left if it is to have any chance of winning an election. Spitefully kicking Tom Watson out of the leadership really isn’t going to achieve that.

GL.iNet 750M travel router

I move around a lot for work, and find myself having to hook up to all sorts of dodgy wifi networks. When all else fails, I end up tethering my phone, which – as any lawyers reading this will know – makes working with iManage like trying to run through a ploughed field in wellies. I need a better solution. One that will insulate me from the vagaries of questionable public wifi, and that will give me a better 4G connection than my resolutely mid-range work phone.

After doing some digging around, I think I may have found that solution in this bad boy.

It’s about the size of a pack of fags, weighs next to nothing, draws 2A from a micro USB power source and is a full-blown 2.4/5Ghz wifi router/firewall. For the untrust port, it can use ethernet, another Wifi network, or a 4G USB dongle (compatibility list here – I have a Huawei E3372 with a GiffGaff SIM and it’s fine).

So far so what, you might think. But this thing has two killer features.

Firstly, it runs on OpenWRT. So, there is a ton of power and configurability there.

Secondly, the GUI makes setting up the untrust port (i.e. Internet connection) an absolute doddle. It’s literally a few mouse clicks. It deals particularly elegantly with those public wifi networks that require you to sign in through a browser before it lets you on.

It offers other features too, like Cloudflare DoH, OpenVPN support (although to be candid I have yet to get that working properly), and file sharing off of a MicroSD card. Quite what you would use that last one for, I don’t know. Ad hoc collaborative working, perhaps.

Either way, for 75 quid this little gem is an absolute bargain. My only criticism, and it is a mild one, is that it does seem to take a while to start up, like 5-7 minutes. Of itself that’s not a deal-breaker – my practice has become to plug it in when I arrive in a hotel room, and then to let it boot up while I unpack etc.

So, yes. Two thumbs up from me.

Commodore 64!

Thanks to the tremendous skills of Mutant Caterpillar Games, the breadbin 64 given to me by a colleague lives once more!

This is another one of those machines that I didn’t have as a kid, and really really wanted. That sound chip … man, it still sounds good today.

I’ll update this post with some pics and whatnot once I have decent daylight.

Meantime, I’m going to go play Armalyte.

I need a new project

Sooooo … I’m bored. I have no right to be, but I am.

I have a great job. It’s really well-paid, I work more or less when I want to, where I want to, on what I want to. My team are amazing.

I have a great family. My wife is a wonderful woman and I love her to distraction. My children are clever and funny and brilliant and adorable.

I am in the fortunate position of being able to indulge my hobby. I have literally every retro computer and console I could possibly want. I’ve built a really great home network, with Plex, and pi-hole, and great telephony, and mesh WiFi, and the fastest broadband available in my postcode.

And I’m bored. I need something else to work on. I need a project.

Christ, what an ungrateful shit I am. Aaaargh.

A few nice retro pickups

In order to force myself to calm down a bit on the political ranting, I figured I would do one of these. Here for your delectation are a few choice retro pickups from the last few months. Apologies for the bad photography.

First off, there’s this bad boy:

A slightly blurry picture of a Psion Series 3.

A friend of mine had one of these when I was a kid, and I was always oddly fascinated by it. I mean, honestly it’s little more than a socially ambitious PDA, and is oddly less usable than the Cambridge Z88 which predates it by several years, but it’s small, it’s interesting, the hinge is really cool (those icon buttons rotate down into the case as you close it) and I’m having fun getting it to talk to my Amiga. Because reasons.

Second up, I’ve finally got a Saturn light gun again:

A blue light gun for the Sega Saturn, with a copy of Virtua Cop 2.

I never had Virtua Cop 2 back in the day; my Saturn lightgun escapades were limited to House of the Dead (a darned good port as it happens, but stupid expensive now). So far the gun is a lot less accurate than I remember – or maybe I’m just getting old and slow.

Finally, we have this pleasingly batshit action RPG for the Nintendo 64:

A boxed copy of Hybrid Heaven for the Nintendo 64. Slightly tatty.

This is a deeply weird game. I can’t work out if it’s actually good or not. There’s a video about it here that’s worth watching.

So, that’s it for now. I’ll probably post some more retro pickups as and when I have something interesting to show.

Eton Mess

I am not Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest fan. Not at all. I have a whole ribcage’s worth of bones to pick with him, on subjects ranging from his apparent tolerance of anti-Semitism in his party to his utter uselessness at the dispatch box. Rarely has Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition been so thoroughly ineffectual at holding government to account. Corbyn is a formidable campaigner and there is no denying the devotion he elicits in some quarters, but I would much, much prefer that the Labour Party I have voted for all of my life were led by someone who can manage people as well as inspire them, and who can get things done as well as protest about them. Someone like Yvette Cooper or Tom Watson. Hell, someone like Ed Miliband would do (although I still think the wrong Miliband brother won that contest, and I still think that a lot of the reason we are in this situation comes down to Ed looking a tit while eating a bacon sandwich).

Nonetheless, right now I would roll out the red carpet and hang up the bunting at the prospect of a Corbyn government, because it would mean an end to this inept, obnoxious, divisive, vicious and ever-shrinking cabal that is all that remains of the once proud Conservative and Unionist Party.

It comes to something when a former Conservative prime minister is so strongly opposed to the policy of a current Conservative prime minister that he actually seeks judicial review of that policy. Yet that is exactly what John Major is doing.

When John Major and Jeremy Corbyn are on the same side of an argument, you know something is up. When the Prime Minister deliberately sets himself on a collision course with the House of Commons and its Speaker (another Conservative, as it happens), you know these are not normal times. When a sociopathic SPAD threatens every Conservative MP with deselection if they try to stop the government proroguing Parliament in order to prevent it averting a national disaster that the government is hell-bent on pushing through for no reason that anyone can really remember any more, we are really in unprecedented territory.

A colleague told me on Friday about a restaurant he went to recently, where on their dessert menu they had renamed “Eton Mess” to “Brexit”. Rather apt, I thought.

Anyhow, floreat Etona. And fuck everyone else, apparently.

Crashed out doggo

He’s a ludicrous creature, really, but I do love him. He’s like a living breathing teddy bear:

He seems to like nothing better than cuddling up with me on the sofa. Comes with bonus floof at the moment due to dog groomer being on hols.

TFW …

… your wife and children are off on a lovely camping holiday by the sea, and you’re scrubbing dogshit out of the dining room carpet. For the second time in as many days. That.

(Srsly, poor doggy is clearly not in a good way. Can’t get him to a vet until tomorrow though. Hmph.)

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