Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Heroes of the Storm - First Impressions

I've been fortunate enough to get hold of a beta key of the new Blizzard game, Heroes of the Storm.

Blizzard calls it a "raucous team brawler".  I don't really know what one of those is, but I can tell you that Heroes is good.  For me it's a bit like a real-time strategy, like C&C, but instead of doing all the management bit (the bit that you don't like), you get to control one of the super powerful army units you produce (which is fun!)

The aim of each map is to go and destroy the enemy energy core, which is defended by variouswalls, fortresses, gun towers, all that sort of thing, which are generally hard as nails to kill.  But you're not by yourself.

You are in a team of 5 heroes lined up, and your base also spits out groups of minions periodically, who don't do a huge amount but are quite useful as cannon fodder - many's the time that I was near death, and saved myself by running and hiding behind a pack of minions.

Currently I'm only up to Level 4, and all of my experience has been with Raynor, a "Ranged Assassin" who basically stands at the back and shoots stuff.  And he's very good at it, as a matter of fact.

Each battle is on one of a number of different maps, each of which brings with it its own intricacies.  For example, the Dragon Shire map requires you to control a pair of shrines in order to turn your hero into a ultra-hard dragon with a massive axe to smash apart enemy defenses.

The game is fun, not overly complex, engaging and combines a lot of the best bits of other games.  In some ways it reminds me a little bit of WoW when it was first around.  If you get the opportunity to give the game a try I'd strongly recommend it.

Here I am about to fight.  Beam me up Scotty.

Here's quite a boring screenshot of my team getting ready to kick ass.

And after a lot of fighting, we won.  Go us.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Don't Look With Your Mouth Open

I was on an underground train the other day (go me), travelling from... King Cross to Pimlico I think, when I noticed a woman sat on the train struggling to read something on the wall opposite, probably a tube map. From her expression it was a little bit too small for her to comfortably read, but not so small that it was worth actually standing up and moving closer to the map.

And I noticed that she did something.

She opened her eyes as wide as she could (makes sense), and opened her mouth and bared her teeth.

Now I'm no doctor - or dentist, optician, phlebotomist or other healthcare professional - but I'm willing to come out right here and say that there is no evidence that opening your mouth makes you see better.  Unless your taste receptors perhaps contain some sort of extra sensory perception (but only in a line of sight context).

Perhaps it's part of trying to get closer to the map without standing up - your eyes are being unreasonably held back by your skin (that pesky skin) and so the logical approach is to attempt to push hard enough with your neck to punch straight through your skin to get a few inches closer.

Or you could always just stand up and walk a step or two.  As the kids say - #JustSaying

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Recovering From A Shock

Pardon me, but I'm recovering from a shock.

Today I was in London for a meeting, to this end I had to take the train to get there (I could have walked, but apparently it's 57 hours which is a little long).  So I prepared for the train by spending the two days prior to the trip gathering every coin I could find, in the hope that I might have enough acceptable change for the parking.

When I say acceptable change, I know full well that, depending on the machine, the time of day, the weather, the colour of my shirt and so on, the machine may not accept some of the coins.  The other day I found one that absolutely refused to accept 50p's.  Typically it will be the last coin that it rejects, the one that you need to put in the machine to get to the magic total - which is never a straightforward figure like £6, it's £8.26 and the machine won't give change so you have to ensure that you carry the amount of change a sub-post office typically holds in the hopes that you can get a ticket - so you end up frantically finding a newspaper shop or something and buying a paper to get some more coins.

Now, sometimes you can pay by credit card, or even by phone (although that seems to me faintly aberrant, as if you're calling a premium rate phone number typically found towards the back of a newspaper), but these options are not by any stretch of the imagination universal, which is why I make sure that I have a good five kilograms of change with me at any time, just in case I should have to park a car.  After all, the prices for parking increase repeatedly and the £7.20 of change you've scraped together based on last weeks prices might not be enough this week.

Today, however, today... I was amazed.

The price for parking had reduced.  Yes readers, it had actually gone down, and to a sensible figure - £5 exactly, no need for coppers or tiny 5p pieces.  I was in a good mood.

Anyway London was very nice, the weather was great and while most of the time was spent travelling I did get a opportunity while walking to and from the meeting to take a few snaps:

In Hyde Park I think.  I didn't spot that bird until I uploaded the photo.  I think I've just photographed it at a funny moment, because although it looks as though it's just been shot, I didn't hear a splash.
Another in Hyde Park.  I never realised just how big the park is - it's massive.

On Millbank it appears that a Barclays bike has stumbled into Santander territory.  I didn't hang around to watch what happened to it, for all I know I might have been next.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Hull Internet Creatives

Tonight was the inaugural meetup of Hull Internet Creatives!

Aka three of us in a pub.  I got beer.

It was very nice (and not just because of being able to enjoy a beer on a school night!), we had some great ideas about what to do with the group, it was great to see a real mix of desires, from wanting to understand how to get creations on the internet, to information about web design and SEO.  Plans are to keep on growing the membership, and to perhaps next time do a seminar about blogging.

If you live somewhere near Hull and would like to have a chat about blogging, YouTubing, podcasting, or other internetty stuff, join us!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Secure catering

I was at a conference a little while back. For those that may not have experienced the delight that is a conference, a typical conference is at a decent sized building, where you go, sign a register, get a coffee, maybe a pen and an agenda or other handouts (pen drives are quite fashionable nowadays), sit through a few seminars, eat some lunch (which varies but is usually a buffet which includes sandwiches), a few more seminars, and then an almighty dash for the exit. Quite often attendance reduces as the afternoon goes on as people, scanning the agenda, decide that they can miss the last item or two and get home early.

Conferences are typically supported by the venues management and support staff, and let me be very clear, mainly the support staff.  Management are typically very much in presence for the planning of any events, however when it gets to the day of the event, it will be the receptionists, caretakers, and catering team that handle the high workload which includes:

  • Around a hundred people in suits getting lost
  • People asking where the "Birch Triad Room" is (or some other slightly unusual name - they can never name them something simple like "Room 2")
  • Fixing the toilets after someone dropped a onion bhaji down them
  • Attempting to hook up one of the presenters laptops to the projector - which is never a straightforward process
  • Ensuring drinks are topped up
  • Getting food out
  • Clearing up plates after people have eaten

The list of activities goes on, generally ensuring that the support team are quite slender due to the fact that they haven't stopped moving - even to sleep - for several days.

However, the one I went to recently had different support staff. Every single one of them were suited up (the norm for event support is trousers and polo shirt), complete with security-type earbuds, the sort of thing you'd see on doormen at nightclubs.  This is particularly odd as I wasn't actually at a work conference for once, but instead one for people to attend in their own time.  Not unreasonably the majority of people attending had elected not to wear business attire on their day off, so for once the support staff actually looked smarter than the attendees.

None of them smiled either, and looked fairly well built, making it feel that the Secret Service were taking a day off guarding the President of the United States to hand out sandwiches.  I entertained myself by imagining what was going through the earbuds:

 "Cub One to Wolf King, contact."
 "Wolf King to Cub One.  How many?"
 "We have twenty four, two four, people headed for the main entry point."
 "Acknowledged, Cub One, keep monitoring and providing updates.  Do not engage unless attacked.  Wolf King to Cub Two, you have incoming.  Status?"
 "Pens and agendas at the ready."
 "Wolf King, this is Cub Four.  We have a delay of zero-two minutes on coffee, I repeat we have a delay of zero-two minutes on coffee."
 "Acknowledged, Cub Four.  Wolf King to Cub Two, fumble the pens when you pass them out, is that clear?  We need to buy Four some time."
 "Yes sir, fumbling."

I made sure to get out of that conference a little early, after all if the conference was being catered by a national security service there may well have been some sort of undercover operation going on.  Best to keep out of harms reach, I feel.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Wanting to Travel

I've recently watched Dara and Ed's Great Big Adventure, a three part TV show where two comedians, Dara O'Briain and Ed Byrne, drive along the Pan-American highway for 4,000 miles, from Arizona to Panama, and going through all kinds of experiences on the way, from being wrestled by a Mexican wrestler, to eating iguana.

I found it all really interesting and enjoyable, and taught me a good deal about a part of the world that I have to confess I have extremely little knowledge about, and it did make me think more about travelling.  I haven't travelled a great deal, but I'd like to one day.

What makes people travel?  Exploration?  Broadening ones horizons?  New experiences?  Perhaps challenging oneself?  It's curious, and I do find it funny how people like to go away on holiday (and I include myself on this) yet they want most of the creature comforts from home - many years back I went to Majorca, and one of the bars I passed was set out as a "traditional British pub", serving pints of Tetleys Bitter, playing Only Fools and Horses on the TV, you could order a Sunday carvery, all that sort of thing.  And it certainly wasn't empty.

Dara and Ed's adventure looked great, and it made me think of a blog I found a while back (which annoyingly I can't find now) where a couple packed up their life in Vancouver, and drove across Canada to Nova Scotia, sleeping in their car - I think that they had an estate car, and basically stuck a mattress in the back.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on travelling - do you travel or not?  And why?  Where would you like to go - Europe and North America are top of my list!

I've surprisingly somehow managed to vaguely link this to a video I've just published on the Travelling Book Project - if you're not aware what the project is, watch the video, or pop over to the project website at

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

It's All About the Plumber and the 2600

Mike Raven did such a wonderful job dragging my blog kicking and screaming into the 21st century that I have decided to pay back the favor by dragging his blog back into the 20th century for a day. Oh I suppose I should introduce myself, my name is Jeremy Fink, but most people know me as Jeremy Crow. You can find all of my ramblings at where I like to think of myself as The Head Whacko in the Whacky World of Whacko blogs. Aside from that let me take a stab at dragging you back a little bit in the technology world.

I remember the first video game console that I got back in 1982 called an Atari 2600. Man that was the coolest piece of hardware any 12 year old could own, and I was the first kid on my street to have one, complete with the fresh off the market copy of Space Invaders. Took me a few weeks to finally get to the point where I could play infinitely. The trick was to drive along the bottom and just wipe out the first two of every row the whole way across. When you finally got bored with it you turn the game off.

I had so many Atari cartridges that by today's standards that whole system was probably worth into the tens of thousands, but somewhere down the road the system just got old. The joysticks didn't work to well anymore. Come to think of it I had pulled the rubber plunger off of both of them and cast them aside. Don't think I ever owned a game that used the paddle controllers, but it's been a while. Activision finally came out with a game called pitfall, and the Atari was almost new again, but I was already making my own games with my Commodore 64, and the time of games was ending.

That was until the Nintendo NES came along, and I lost a lot of sleep because of Super Mario Brothers, and then Super Mario 2 and 3. These were the college years when I should have been doing something more, but I loved that little Nintendo, then the Super Nintendo, then the Nintendo 64. I hate to admit that I never went much further than these, even though I did have a Playstation 2 and an X-Box but only because I had to. Golf and bowling games were about my speed by this time. I would watch my kids play the games that they would play and just be fascinated with how their hand eye coordination was far superior to mine, even when I was their age. Even as my son goes ripping through Assassins Creed Whatever Number on the X-Box 360 today, I just get confused.

Now as I do my writing I miss the days a little bit when the corner store had the game you see up there, Donkey Kong. I am pretty good with the graphics for an old man anyway. I could actually get a half hour out of a quarter, which meant the money I was supposed to be buying school lunch with would get me an hour, maybe a little more chasing barrels with a hammer. At one time I was trying to stop that mean old Donkey Kong from getting away with whatshername. Then Donkey Kong's kid became the good guy and I had some fun with that for a while. Mario the bad, then Mario and his brother started running around together which I had told you about earlier. I really have no video game loyalty yanno? Then the next thing you knew Donkey Kong was running through the jungle gathering bananas and I was all over that game too.

I asked my wife for one of those “old timey” Sega consoles with every single Sega Genesis game on it for under 40$ a couple of Christmas's ago. I thought of how great it would be to play Altered Beast and Gauntlet and all those great games I used to run to the arcade to play. I thought of the hours of entertainment I was going to get out of that thing. She thought it was stupid but went and got it for me anyway. Boy was I going to show her, as I started that unit up and got lost in it forever. She waited with breathless anticipation as I plowed through about a third of the games, only to realize that they suck now, and they probably sucked then, but when you are young and dumb you do things that are young and dumb. I don't know what brand of dumb I am now, but I miss that old Atari 2600.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Personal Qualities

I got thinking about this after watching this video about coolness by Ant - it's interesting how different things are cool, depending on the person and the situation. For me, someone with a PC kitted out with a Nvidia GTX Titan Z graphics card is cool.  For others, it's someone with a leather jacket riding a motorbike. So clearly, someone in a leather jacket riding a motorbike and carrying an Nvidia GTX Titan Z graphics card must be the epitome of cool.

Another quality is being adventurous.  Everyone likes to think that they are adventurous, yet how many of us actually explore - how many of us go on holidays and explore beyond the hotel equipped with all of the comforts (and more) of home, or go to a restaurant and chooses something on the menu that we're not familiar with?

Your Dictionary lists about 90 positive personal qualities, and being the humble soul that I am (and of course totally unbiased), I would put myself down as having about all but perhaps 5 of them, and some of those 5 I don't understand (quixotic, for example?  Something about attacking windmills?).  Of course the reality is that I, like anyone else, would hardly ever show all 80+ positive qualities at the same time (and hopefully I wouldn't exhibit all 90 negative qualities at the same time either), but there are moments in your life that you can recall being one or another of the qualities.  Riding on a rubber ring out into the Mediterranean (being unable to swim) probably counts as being a risk-taker, whilst hopefully there are other occasions - although none come immediately to mind - where I could be classed as sensible.

My YouTube channel has been a bit quiet lately, but I did get a stack of videos recorded over the weekend and published one today - apparently I have an alter ego called Vladimir.  Enjoy.

Lastly, Jeremy Crow has kindly allowed me to guest post on his technology blog, where I talk about how technology is going to change over the next ten years - stop by and say hi :)

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Call Me Vlad

Hopefully you enjoyed the little April Fool blog post, the Fruit Webcam - it was very much spur of the moment!  Rest assured that my fruit is in no danger of losing its right to privacy.

Due to, amongst other things, my current lack of motorised transport (not for much longer - hopefully I will have new car in a week or so) I've been out of the office for a few days.  When I did go in today I noted this image attached to the side of one of my colleagues computers:

Vladimir is watching you work.

Apparently he found some old passport photos and decided to make a decoration for his PC.  In the interests of free access to art, he provided me with a copy of the original to share:


He went on to suggest that Vladimir could be some sort of perhaps dark version of me.  I'm considering doing a video this weekend of Vladimir - unfortunately I don't have the beard at this time, but I do have a selection of stick on moustaches.  Suggestions for the video are welcomed!

In other news, my new group for local web creators, Hull Internet Creatives, was featured in the Hull Daily Mail today which was lovely (thanks to the brilliant Natalie from the HDM who made it happen), I'm hoping that it might lead to getting perhaps half a dozen people together for the first meeting planned in a few weeks. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Exciting News - New Webcam!

I'm happy to announce today the launch of the official Blog of Thog fruit webcam.

It occurred to me that if you, like me, essentially buy fruit twice for month for it to look nice in the kitchen, allow it to age and begin to rot, and then once it has turned to mould then throw it away to make space for more fruit, well this is, to be honest, hideously inefficient.

Of course we accept the need to have fresh fruit in the house at all times - it looks pretty and keeps fruit flies away from your beer - but isn't there a way to save us all money?


We are pleased to be able to offer you realtime pictures of my bowl of fruit - you can stream these to your laptop or tablet and set them up in your kitchen, instead of spending time and money actually purchasing your own fruit.

Here's an example of what you can now see:

Which piece do you think will go off first?  I'm betting on the Chinese Pear just in front of the kiwi.

To go to the webcam right now, click here.

We look forward to being able to offer you more facilities along the same lines - we're currently working on a website where you can virtually stand in a queue.  Once fully functional it will be use your computers location to alter the behaviour of the people in the queue - for computers in Italy the queue will allow queue jumpers, for example, whilst on UK-based computers anyone attempting to queue jump will be set on fire.
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