Nintendo Switch

Thoughts on the SWITCH reveal + things I want IT to do!

I’m a fairly hardcore Nintendo fan stretching back to my original Gameboy Pocket that I received for Christmas 1997. I’ve had every handheld since, and every Nintendo console from the Wii onwards. Nintendo is basically my jam, and I firmly believe that handheld gaming is the one true path for enjoying games. #teamhandheld

Nintendo Switch
Nintendo Switch

Back to 2017, Nintendo released more information on the Switch yesterday and if you haven’t seen it, have a a spare hour, and can tolerate shitty translators then you should watch it. We saw a new Mario game, new Zelda, new Splatoon, and several others I’m less interested in.

Everyone is ragging on how gimmicky the controllers ( joy cons) are. Let’s think about this for a second. Nintendo lives to innovate control schemes. Analog sticks (Nintendo 64), Motion Control, Touch Control. It’s what they do.  This time around we get miniature controllers that detach from the side of the Switch. You can play two player with just those, or can play with them separately (super awesome for some disabled gamers!). They also have something called ‘HD Rumble’ which is a souped-up vibration feature that apparently you tell ‘how many ball bearings’ are rolling around inside your controller. (a minigame from launch title 1-2 Switch).

nintendo-switch-reveal-14-1-630x353
HD Rumble – Count the ice cubes

This get’s me on to the system price: £279.99. Ok, this is fairly steep. If you love Nintendo you’re going to buy it, if you’re on the fence you’ll wait for a price drop. I think it’ll get one for the holiday season in the form of bundled games. I don’t think it’s an outrageous price though, like some of the comments I’ve been reading.

Talking about ‘expensive’, could the internet please stop going on about ‘OMG YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR ONLINE’ and ‘YOU ONLY GET ONE FREE GAME A MONTH’ before we know how much it’s going to cost. Also, it’s not going to be £10 a month. PS Plus is £40 and Xbox Live Gold is the same. Nintendo is never going to charge 3 times more. They might be stupid sometimes, but they aren’t that stupid. Maybe.

(PS. I’ve read about how the free NES or SNES game each month is only free for that month. I know. That goes in the ‘Nintendo is stupid sometimes’ pile)

Going back to my love of handheld gaming.. I travel lots, and lots. This means my WiiU and Playstation get neglected. I play considerably more 3DS than everything else combined. Nintendo basically combining these two separate products is literally exactly what I want from a gaming machine. Play at home, play the same game on the road. Brilliant.

So, to cover the title of this blog post; here are the things I hope the Switch can do. Maybe we’ll get some clarification before March 3rd’s release.

  • Being able to transfer my Virtual Console collection from WiiU (and maybe 3DS).
    • I would even PAY £1/£1.50 per game to do this!
  • Bluetooth compatibility for headphones. The PS Vita does this, and I wish more gaming machines did. No-one wants wires. I assume the controllers are probably using Bluetooth, but so are the PS4’s and they don’t allow any other bluetooth devices
  • Being able to use Wifi with captive portal logins. Pretty much anything that isn’t a laptop, tablet or phone freaking sucks to use with Wifi that requires a portal login.
  • Some form or Trophy/Achievement system. Maybe they could style it after Mario coins or something. I’m a sucker for pointless points.
  • IT MUST HAVE AN ACTIVITY LOG!!!!!
Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey
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iPad Pro Desk Mount – ieGeek Tablet Gooseneck Holder Mount Stand

I recently purchased a new iPad Pro 9.7 and found it awkward to use at my desk next to my main computer. It was far too low to use, so I went searching for a desk mount. I didn’t want to spend a fortune, and I found this one from a company called ieGeek for £12.99. Perfect!

I can now comfortably watch Youtube on the tablet whilst working on my mac, I can keep an eye on IRC without losing my focus and so on. I’m finding it really useful every day. Sometimes I even use it for productive purposes like keeping an eye on my emails…

ipad-pro-1
iPad in Mount

 

The mount has a clamp to fit to most desks and surfaces, and once secured you need not worry about your expensive toy crashing to the desk. The neck of the mount is stupidly strong and I haven’t noticed it drooping at all in the three weeks I have been using the mount. It takes the weight of a iPad Pro 9.7” just fine (444g) so anything smaller won’t be a problem. One Amazon reviewer said they had used it with the 12” model but I don’t have one to try it. If you have, let me know in the comments.

iPad Pro Tablet Desk Mount
iPad Pro Tablet Desk Mount

 

You have free movement of the tablet in the clamp, and it will allow either portrait or landscape depending on what apps you use mostly. The part that actually holds your tablet is on a ball mount so you can swivel it as much as you desire.

If you are looking for a neat solution to ergonomically mount your tablet then this will suit you perfectly. I can’t really think of any downsides to this particular mount, it works. It’s cheap. It does what a mount needs to. What else do you need? Buy now.

Anker Powercore 20100mAh Powerbank Review

I like powerbanks. I have loads of them. I got my first nearly three years ago back in 2013 when nobody really knew what they were and everyone gave you a funny look for charging your phone from a weird magic box.

Now powerbanks are everywhere, but they keep evolving. My latest acquisition is the Anker PowerCore 20100 Powerbank, which as the name suggests has a 20100mah battery enclosed within. Some people might say this is excessive? It probably is for most people but having several iPhone charges, some power for my 3DS, and backup reserves for a mobile wifi device is fairly handy.

anker-powercore-1
Anker Powercore 20100 Powerbank

 

I use it most weeks. Recently at a conference I was using my phone as a portable hotspot (as the venue had terrible internet connectivity), and I had my phone plugged into the powerbank all day. When I left in the evening to go out, my phone was fresh at 100% power and my powerbank had dropped to 50% ready to be recharged over night.

Device, Capacity, Number of full charges from Anker Powercore 20100*

iPhone 6S, 1715 mAh, 8 charges

iPhone 6S Plus, 2750 mAh, 5charges

iPad Air 2, 7340 mAh, 1 (1.9)charges

iPad Mini 4, 5125 mAh, 2 (2.8) charges

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, 2600 mAh, 5 charges

New Nintendo 3DS, 1400 mAh, 10 charges

Nintendo 2DS, 1300 mAh, 11 charges

*Taking into account that you will only get ~70% efficiency out of a USB powerbank.

These numbers are rounded down, and are only valid if you only charge that type of device from the powerbank. It does give you a rough idea of how much battery power you can tote around in your bag with you.

anker-powercore-2
Ultra High Capacity Anker Powerbank

The Anker PowerCore 20100 weighs in at 358g, which according to my girlfriend isn’t noticeable in her bag on the days she’s taken it with her. I think this mostly depends on the size of the handbag chosen…

Also, whilst having so much battery charging potential at your finger tips it does seem a bit silly to only include two charging ports. One extra allowing me to recharge phone, 3DS and my watch for example would be quite useful.

Being able to quite literally go away for a weekend and not need bother finding an outlet is amazing. I’m sure I will be using my powerbank extensively on my trip to Scotland in March.

Pros

  • Enough battery power to go away for a few days without worrying about mains power
  • Quick optimised charging for your gadgets

Cons

  • Not the lightest power bank available, but you need to decide where the balance point lies between power and portability. (358g on top of my weekend bag isn’t really a lot though)
  • When it does need charging, you better do it overnight. Due to the large battery capacity, it will take a while to charge.

Buy the Anker PowerCore 20100 Powerbank

Kinivo 501BN Premium 5 Port High Speed HDMI Switch Review

If you want to buy a relatively cheap TV nowadays, you will probably find yourself limited to just two HDMI inputs. You could buy a more expensive TV and get three or maybe four HDMI inputs, but these are usually Smart TVs and out of date within a few years. I’d rather get a dumb television and plug in whichever smart devices I please even if this means a lack of connectivity. The Kinivo HDMI Switch solves this problem.

Kinivo 501BN Premium 5 Port High Speed HDMI Switch
Kinivo 501BN Premium 5 Port High Speed HDMI Switch

 

Switching HDMI cables just isn’t fun, or good for the life expectancy of your input sockets. Between game consoles, personal video recorders like Sky or Freeview Plus, streaming boxes like NowTV, Chromecast, or Fire TV there just isn’t enough plugs. Enter the Kinivo 5 port HDMI switch (they do a three port model, too).

The unit fits neatly underneath my TV. It features five inputs for your devices, an output to connect it to your television, and a socket for the mains connection. Four of the input connections line the rear of the HDMI switch whilst the fifth is on the left hand edge next to the power input (a UK adapter is supplied). The output socket is on the right hand side to connect to your TV.

A remote control is supplied and allows cycling through each port in order, or switching directly to a numbered input. It is possible to flick between the inputs with a button on the front of the switch itself if you lose the remote and need to switch manually.

Resolutions up to 1080p are supported, which I have tested as well as 3D support (which I have no way to test, if you have please let me know in the comments!). I have tested the switch with a Nintendo WiiU, Sky NowTV Box (a rebranded Roku box), EE TV freeview PVR, and Sony PS3 and found that no quality it lost (being HDMI it shouldn’t, and there was no lack noticeable in games)

Buy Now!

Kinivo 5 Port HDMI Switch

Pros

  • I have found Auto Switching works well, even with Chromecast
  • Easy way to extend HDMI connectivity of modern sets with minimal HDMI sockets

Cons

  • LED lights are a bit bright in a dark room (I’ve hidden my HDMI switch behind my soundbar, so this isn’t a problem for me)
  • Requirement for power might be a problem for some people

I tried a cheaper HDMI switch previously that doesn’t require external power, but it froze up randomly. I haven’t had this issue with this HDMI switch in the month that I’ve had it. I haven’t had to disconnect or reconnect any cables at all, and the automatic switching works so well that I’ve not had any reason to use the supplied remote control.

Buy Now!

Kinivo 5 Port HDMI Switch

CLI Apps: Newsbeuter RSS Reader

I use Irssi for IRC, and ocasionally TTYter for twitter so when Google Reader finally died a few months back I had to find a replacement. I was looking for a console based application, and I found one in Newsbeuter. This is a linux console based program to read your RSS feeds with minimal fuss. It runs great on a shell server, and plays nicely with screen.

news1

 

It is configured with a simple text file list of URLs and associated tags (think, folders for your feeds). Once it’s configured simply run the program in your shell and learn the keybinds to get started. Shiftl+R reloads all of your feeds. Press Enter to go into a specific feed, Q to go back. To filter based on tags simply press t at the main screen and select your desired tag. Simple.

news2
Newsbeuter showing a tupcast post

Press ‘n’ to go to the next article, ‘s’ to save them (I beleive you can even set up scripts to add stuff to read it later but I’ve not really looked into it!), and once again ‘q’ to go back. My config file is found at ~/.newsbeuter/config and only has one setting. I tell newsbeuter to use the browser links, rather than my shells default of lynx. It copes with tables and layout much better in a text based environment. This is handy if I am away from my local machines and don’t want to open feed links on a computer that isn’t mine.

browser links

My list of URLs is found at ~/.newsbeuter/urls and is in the format URL tags like this:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/tupcastblog  
http://feeds2.feedburner.com/hackaday/ hack geek technology  
http://feeds.bbci.co.uk/news/rss.xml news uk

In this example Tupcast has no tags set, Hack a day has three tags (hack, geek, and technology) , and BBC news has two. There is a special tag you can use to rename feeds in the program too. This works as follows to rename the ask reddit feed. “~New feed name here”.

http://www.reddit.com/r/askreddit/.rss reddit "~Reddit: Ask Reddit"

The URL file is compatible with comments, just start lines with #. Useful for organising your list.

Putty URL Selection Trick

It is possible to make links easily clickable in Putty. Just go to your connection settings, then Window > Selection. You’ll need to change the colon (:) to class 2. Set this, save your configuration and give it a whirl. When you double click any link, it’ll automatically select the whole thing!

putty
Putty URL Selection Options

Saving mobile data usage with Ziproxy

So, for a month or so I’m stuck using Orange 3G mobile internet. It’s not fun, and there is no other choice where I’m staying. At £12 per gigabyte it’s pretty damn expensive. I figured there has to be a way to economise my internet usage (and that doesn’t mean not using it…) and I found my solution with a piece of software called Ziproxy.

Ziproxy is a proxy server that doesn’t cache your traffic instead it compresses it on the fly to save bandwidth. I installed it on one of my VPS boxes and connect via an SSH tunnel to ensure it stays secure. In just under a week it has saved me 292MB of bandwidth (or almost 1/3 of my £12 allowance)

Raw traffic into the proxy according to the traffic log is 564MB, compressed traffic moving over the mobile link is 272MB. Now this is with most of the settings cranked to the max. Images processed are converted to black and white (Colour is expensive, yo) and between 10-25% JPEG compression. It’s not pretty, but it’s saving me money. The basic architecture is as follows:

Laptop –> SSH Tunnel to VPS over 3G –> [Ziproxy](http://ziproxy.sourceforge.net/) listening on localhost only –> Traffic is forwarded to Squid listening on localhost only –> Internet

To set this up, you’ll need access to a server on the internet that you have root access to. I’ve used AllSimple a UK based host for nearly two years and they are probably the best webhost I’ve ever used. I’m using their £15+vat / year server to run my proxy (alongside irssi, and newsbeuter) and it works great. This is going to be a brief overview so it assumes you have some knowledge in setting up SSH connections and editing config files. I

Once you have the server running, and you can SSH into it. Install Ziproxy using your prefered method. I use Debian, so I just install the package using apt-get install [Ziproxy](http://ziproxy.sourceforge.net/). Now you’ll need to configure it to only listen locally so no-one can abuse your proxy and do naughty things (Like look at porn in the UK…..). This can be achieved by editing the config file found in /etc/[Ziproxy](http://ziproxy.sourceforge.net/)/Ziproxy.conf:

## Accepts conections only from that address. ## WARNING: Remember to restrict the access to Ziproxy ## if your machine is directly connected to the Internet. OnlyFrom = “127.0.0.1”

This makes only respond to requests from 127.0.0.1 which is what we’ll appear to be coming from when we’ve set up out SSH tunnel using Putty. Whilst we’re in the config file, you should consider making the rest of the required changes as follows. Make sure you understand what they do before you copy and paste…

You can set the useragent for all proxied clients. This is helpful when configuring and testing because it means you can be sure the connection is passing through the proxy correctly. Once everything is working, you could disable it but I haven’t bothered

## Replaces the User-Agent data sent by the client with a custom string,
## OR defines User-Agent with that string if that entry was not defined.
## If disabled, [Ziproxy](http://ziproxy.sourceforge.net/) will just forward the User-Agent sent by the client.
## Normally you will want to leave this option DISABLED (commented).
##
## It's useful if you, for some reason, want to identify all the clients as
## some specific browser/version/OS.
## Certain websites may appear broken if the client uses a different browser than
## the one specified here.
## Certain webservers may break completely when an unrecognized User-Agent is provided
## (for example: www.rzeczpospolita.pl).
##
## Undefined by default (leave User-Agent as defined by the client).
 RedefineUserAgent = "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; UltraBrowser/8.1; CP/M; console40x24; z80)"

To save more bandwidth, enable the following

## Whether to try to optimize HTML, CSS and Javascript, thus reducing their size
## ProcessHTML: text/html
## ProcessCSS:  text/css
## ProcessJS:   application/[x-]javascript)
## Although such data may be Gzipped too, optimizing prior to Gzipping normally
## reduces the data size even further.
## The final size depends much on how unoptimal is the coding of such data;
## some sites already present HTML pre-optimized so, in such cases, there won't
## be much gain.
## Note: Due to the higher complexity of such optimization, there's some risk of a page
## being corrupted.
## ****** THESE OPTIONS ARE EXPERIMENTAL ******
##
 ProcessHTML = true
 ProcessCSS = true
  ProcessJS = true

Remove transparency, and de-animate GIF files. Then make images grayscale.

## If enabled, will discard PNG/GIF/JP2K transparency and de-animate
## GIF images if necessary for recompression, at the cost of some image
## distortion.
## Note: Images with useless transparency/alpha data (all pixels
##       being opaque) do not require this option. In such cases [Ziproxy](http://ziproxy.sourceforge.net/)
##       will detect that and remove the useless data automatically.
## Disabled by default.
 AllowLookChange = true

## If enabled, convert images to grayscale before recompressing.
## This provides extra compression, at the cost of losing color data.
## Note: Not all images sent will be in grayscale, only the ones
##       considered worth recompression that way.
## Disabled by default.
ConvertToGrayscale = true

There are more settings including levels of JPEG compression and numerous even more technical options which you can find in the documentation. (man Ziproxy)

To set putty up, go into Connection -> SSH –> Tunnels and set a local port up with a destination of localhost:3128 (the port we’re running Ziproxy on).

 

If you’ve set up Ziproxy correctly, and it’s running when you visit a site that tells you your IP address it should report that of your server rather than your actual IP address. If it doesn’t go through your config and check everything is running correctly. When I visit IP Chicken I see that the header image is being heavily compressed (Yay!) and the user agent is what I set in my Ziproxyconfiguration file. Success!!

ipchicken
Screenshot showing images being converted to greyscale

 

Additionally, I am running squid on my VPS as an upstream proxy to reduce bandwidth to the internet. This isn’t necessary at all, but is easy to add by setting the NextProxy settings in the Ziproxy configuration file. In my set up, Squid is listening on port 3129 (and only on localhost, again this is important to avoid being abused as an open proxy!) so I forward traffic to it using these settings.

  ## Forward everything to another proxy server.
  ## Modifications/compression is still applied.
  ## Default: none (disabled)
   NextProxy="127.0.0.1"

  ## TCP port to be used by NextProxy.
  ## Default: 8080
  NextPort=3129

I think it might be better to run Squid before Ziproxy but I haven’t tested it. The logic being that squid will then cache the compressed files from Ziproxy reducing the server load from not having to recompress regularly accessed files. Maybe a local squid on my laptop to cache the compressed files on my side of the 3G link would make more sense (and save even more bandwidth!). I need to do further testing, but I’m rather happy with saving 292MB of traffic (equivalent to £3.51!)

I sometimes find that pages simply do not load. This is not a common occurence, when it happens I either see if the page is available over HTTPS (These are not proxied), or drop the SSH connection and try again once I’ve reconnected. This usually fixes the issue. Only once have I had to stop and restart both proxies.

This solution also works for android devices. I already use Irssi Connectbot on my tablet (It supports SSH tunneling), coupled with Proxy Droid I can get compressed internet automatically on my tablet/phone whenever I want to. This could potentially be used to avoid censorship as well as just reducing data consumption. As long as you could make an outgoing SSH connection, then remainder of your session is hidden from the local network. Running SSH on port 443 or other well known ports can sometimes get around networks that block port 21.

Episode 2×02 Still Alive

James, Laurence, and Richard chat over Skype proving that we are still making new episodes for Tupcast! Facebook Addiction by Richard Sunny in Bangor! So we’re inside recording Tupcast Holyhead Trip, Dragon Burger, and Mike’s Bites (Region specific PODCAST!! Sorry to everyone who hasn’t been to Bangor before…) New awesome blog (which you’re reading this […]

My Facebook Addiction

Hello. My name is Richard Anthony Morris and I am a Facebook addict.

 

I have been a casual user of Facebook for a few years. I was introduced to it by a friend of mine, as something harder and more fun to the soft stuff I was using for a while from my dealer Tom. And at first it was fun, it was mainly used as a social lubricant making it know that I was up for a party but recently I realised that I was using way more than usual and this was worrying to me.

I would be moderately using on the train to work, at work, on my break and on the way back home through the use of my little Android, constantly notifying me when something new arose and making sure that my interest was piqued throughout the day. At times there was a small buzz in my pocket comparable to a small voice saying in my ear ‘Hey, Richard, psst, are you bored? I’m only asking because you asked me to keep you up to date I’ve just got a hold of something new that you have just got to check out”. This was just during my working day, but, it’s when I got home and I was by myself that the trouble began.

I would be sitting on my laptop, ignoring the phone and for the most part the tablet because I knew that Chrome could get me the instant hit I didn’t even realise I needed. It became so easy I wouldn’t even have to write Facebook anymore, just an F would do and Chrome understood where I wanted to go. It was slowly turning into a bad trip, a social network site that allowed a vicarious life from the comfort of my laptop. Sometimes I would check even though there wasn’t a reason, I found that I checked Facebook with such frequency that separate tabs would be open with the home page where I had forgotten that I had checked it twenty seconds earlier. It became a social tick, an unrelenting curiosity that couldn’t be mollified.

The 4am check is what made me realised that I had a problem, I was addicted and I needed to get my shit together.

And I did, this morning, I pulled myself together and I am now 23 hours sober, and I am going cold turkey. I have to get this monkey off my back and rid my system of it. Its hard it really is, I keep wondering what’s happening with the hundreds of people I barely know and what cool parties are happening at a place I couldn’t possibly get to (nor was I invited), but damn do they look fun. I removed the apps from my phone and I am weaning myself off with a substitute. Twitter is a harmless fun, isn’t it?