Supracafe in Santa Cruz de La Palma

Well, it would not be unusual for me to mention a good place to get coffee in the Canary Islands. We've recently returned from the island of La Palma, which is a fantastic place. We were walking along the main street of the captial, Santa Cruz and noticed this place called 'Supracafe' (on Calle O'Daly, the main shopping street):

It looked tempting, and the views were pretty nice:

Anyway, we had coffee and cake ... and it was the best:

If you go there, then we'd recommend it. You can recognise the cafe by the mural on their wall:

Both the cake and the coffee were delicious. The coffee was like a mini Flat White or a large Cortado. The Chocolate cake contained a fantastic chocolate and hazelnut mousse and was not too heavy despite the fact that we were given a massive slice.

Apart from that, it was just nice to sit on the street, take a break and watch the world go by...

Elementary OS upgrade

I've just upgraded my old laptop OS (it's a Toshiba Satellite T130, and must be about 5 years old). Previously, I had been running Elementary OS Luna which I found pretty impressive. It had a couple of niggles ... for example the file manager app always seemed to take ages to load. Now that the new version, Freya has come out, I decided to try it. I went for a complete wipe and reinstall.

I am quite pleased with the upgrade. The slow file manager startup time has even gone away, and the whole OS seems even more polished. However, I have had a problem with the pointer getting corrupted if I did drag and drop, which was annoying, I am currently trying this fix, hopefully that will make it go away. Anyway, I celebrated a successful reinstall by going off to the Nasa JPL Wallpapers site and grabbing myself a nice background, so here's a screenshot:

I think that it's still the most visually appealing Linux I have tried and I'm quite happy that I've upgraded to the latest version. It runs nice and fast on my old laptop, and it's nice to have something that looks good without eating all your CPU cycles.

Sinclair nostalgia

A while back, in a fit of 1980s nostalgia, I realised that my place of work is within walking distance of the old Sinclair building in Cambridge. So I decided to walk over there at lunchtime and see if I could still find it. This is how the building looked back in the 80s:

...which is a single frame taken from this YouTube clip, which gives a glimpse of the inside too:

Anyway, this is what I found when I walked over there recently:

I was quite pleased that there was still a small street sign bearing the name "Sinclair" at the entrance. The building looks like it's part of Anglia Ruskin University nowadays.

It's a shame that the big Sinclair logo was taken down. But the building is clearly recognisable, which is pretty cool.

Recovering a slightly broken Vocore

OK, I managed to mess up the network settings on my Vocore. Oh well, it happens. It's not too bad... the device was still booting up and running... but was not accessible by Wi-Fi or by plugging in a network cable. So it's back to a good old serial connection. This is what I have done:

I've used a USB to Serial 3.3v TTL cable that I already had, and then just poked some jumper wires into the right places. Surprisingly it seems good enough. Anyway, in case I need to do this again, I thought that it would be worth taking a photo. I'm using PuTTY on a Windows box as the terminal. The settings I'm using are:

  • Speed: 57600
  • Data bits: 8
  • Stop bits: 1
  • Parity: None
  • Flow control: XON/XOFF

I connected the USB-to-serial cable first, then opened the connection using PuTTY. You then have a blank terminal screen. Then I connect the power to the Vocore, and you get to see all the logging information as the device boots. After a couple of minutes I press enter in the terminal and end up with the usual OpenWrt startup screen. After that you can use the console like normal. Anyway, it's handy to have that written down somewhere, because I'll probably break it again at some point. But I can report that I was able to fix the network config and things are back to normal now. Phew.

New Raspberry Pi 2

So, I ordered a new Raspberry Pi 2 as soon as they were launched last week. When it arrived, I couldn't resist documenting the occasion:

Last weekend I booted it up and started having a play. It seems quite an impressive little computer.

But since I had never bothered to order a B+ model I've only been using the 'original' Raspberry Pi until now, and I had forgotten that I need a microSD card these days. But I did have one lying around, so that was OK. I used a cheap HDMI to VGA adapter to use an older monitor.

The other thing I noticed was that I needed a better power supply. In the past I was using a kindle charger... but I needed to borrow the charger from my hudl tablet to get 5v at 2A. Otherwise, there was a little rainbow square showing at the top right of the screen to indicate that the device wasn't getting enough power. So watch out for that.

By the time I had finished messing around, my workbench looked like this:

1980s Synth Music

I recently watched a BBC programme called “Synth Britannia” … after which I ended up adding a bunch of extra stuff to my Spotify collection. When I was going through the OMD back catalogue on Spotify, I noticed the album cover artwork for their “Dazzle Ships” LP from 1983. And I was pretty sure that I had actually bought that album back in the 1980s. So I had a dig around the house and actually found it. So rather than put it back into storage, I’ve put it on my wall for a bit:

Apparently, I bought the 1987 reissue, which makes sense because I would have been too young in 1983. It’s also interesting, because people say that nobody bought the album when it originally came out anyway. There’s also a wikipedia article, if you’re interested.

A couple of little Chromecast tricks

A neat trick I've been using with a Chromecast is to wirelessly play movies from my iTunes library from my MacBook onto my big TV. All you need to do is enter the following URL into google Chome: file:///users/[username]/Music/iTunes/iTunes%20Media/ (obviously substituting your username where indicated). You'll then be able to browse your iTunes stuff and play what you want inside Chrome ... which makes it easy to watch it on the Chromecast using the normal Chrome plugin.

If you've seen a Chromecast, you've probably noticed that there are some nice background photos to look at. But I've also discovered that you don't *need* a Chromecast to see them. Try pointing your browser to: https://clients3.google.com/cast/chromecast/home and you'll be able to see them on any device...

Phone upgrade: Motorola G (4G)

I've had my iPhone for quite a few years now. It's an iPhone 3GS and for a long time I have not had a compelling reason to change it. But these days I find myself stuck on iOS 6 when lots of Apps now require iOS 7 or later. So I'm getting left out in the cold. It's time to do something about that.

But on the old iPhone I also can't do things like set up a personal wifi hotspot. I can do connection sharing over bluetooth or by a cable, but I find that type of connection is not well supported on non-Apple devices. So I can't use the internet access from my phone on my Andriod tablet (although it works fine with the iPad).

The old iPhone does seem slower than it used to, so getting a new phone with a faster processor would be good too. And it will also be nice to get a better camera. So I've decided to try out one of these phones: Motorola G (the 4G version).

I like the idea of the SD card slot for extra storage and for the price it seems a very good spec. It's a shame there is no way to connect an HDMI cable, but I can live without that. But I was finding it hard to justify the cost of another Apple phone, when I've been quite satisfied with the Android OS recently. I used to feel that the Apple phones were better quality (both in terms of hardware and software). But things have moved on.

After a few days of use, I am very impressed with the Moto G. The only problem I have found so far is with the Android KitKat OS itself. There is a serious bug with the stock e-mail App which has now gone unfixed for nearly a year. That's pretty bad. I'm surprised to see it classified as Priority: small when the effect is that e-mails are deleted from the server when you have told it not to.

So I cannot use the standard e-mail App, and at the moment I'll use the K-9 App instead. It's a shame, because in previous releases of Android the e-mail App was working fine. Even so, I am pretty happy with my choice of phone. I've even started reading some pages on Android development - although it was mainly out of idle curiosity. But you never know...

Linux Voice and Elementary OS

It’s been many years since I’ve regularly read a computer magazine. But I miss those days really, I’ve not got anything against reading computer magazines, but I’ve not seen anything in a long time that catches my interest. But it’s nice to read something and then say to yourself “umm, I’d like to try that out for myself”.

Well, I suppose I do casually read the MSDN Magazine in electronic format, but I’m doing that because it’s part of my work, not because I’m doing it for fun. And I do still read articles on Dr Dobbs.

Anyway, after seeing the Linux Voice magazine mentioned on the Raspberry Pi blog some time ago, I have been reading every issue. This is something that I choose to read for fun, and I continue to look forward to each issue coming out.

But reading this magazine has resulted in me trying out lots of different distros. I have seen that there is a lot more stuff out there that I haven’t tried yet. So my old laptop has taken a bit of a hammering because I keep flattening it and reinstalling something else.

But … for a while, this may have changed. Because I’ve tried Elementary OS. I am very impressed. For me, it hits the right balance between looking really nice, and not hogging all my CPU cycles to achieve it. I can still run it on slightly older hardware and it works fine.

After installing, and without very much hassle, I found myself watching BBC iPlayer in Chromium, listening to music in the Spotify Linux client and writing some notes in the ReText markdown editor. But I was also enjoying the experience. I spend all day switching Operating Systems (every day I use Mac OS, Linux, Windows, iOS and Andriod), but after a few hours on Elementary OS I was thinking to myself “yeah, I reckon I could use this all day”.

So Elementary OS is the first one that I don’t really want to uninstall. I’m comfortable with it. I hope that feeling lasts. I have an old Desktop PC sitting around, I may install it there too.

A pretty neat idea

I've bought myself a new watch, one of these Casio MP-PCGM1-6 ones:

I've decided that I'm one of those people who really does think that the digital watch is a pretty neat idea.

But you need to be careful. The first one I ordered was from one of the Amazon shops and when it arrived I was pretty sure it was a fake. It was very poor quality, the plastic was rubbish and the printing on the dial didn't look right. It just arrived in a jiffy bag with no other packaging. But I was able to get a refund. This time, I ordered from a jeweller, and there's no doubt this is the real deal. It also came in a proper Casio box. Don't settle for a poor quality digital watch...