Further to my previous post
Opinions on the optimum reading order for the Vorkosigan saga, for three different cases, please:

a) for rather forgetful fan re-reading;
b) for 13 year-old who is allegedly less geeky than us, but discovered her current love The Big Bang Theory while googling Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock.
c) for 10-year-old who only ever seems to read things by accident, wildly age-inappropriate or not.

These things that everyone except me knows
The hardback of Cryoburn came with a CD containing a ton of Vorkosigan-related goodness, including every single one of the novels. That CD -- and all the rest of the Baen CDs -- can be freely downloaded from Baen CD at the Fifth Imperium, and copying for non-commercial use is encouraged.

I'm beyond delighted by this; of course, I'd bought the eBook of Cryoburn already, but I wanted to re-read from the beginning and was hampered due to my EVIL EX-HUSBAND (waves) having nicked the early books in the Great Property Carve Up. And I'm trying to avoid buying tree-related reading material because of the Massive Clutter Mountain.

Geeks on my list -- help with cable spaghetti
OK. So when the dust settles I will have the following kit (pro tem because obviously I need a new amplifier but you know, time, energy and money).

A Sony Bravia Monolith telly, so called because it is a black slab in the ratio 9:4:1 and every set comes with a free ape throwing bones in the air*. It appears to have 4 HDMI inputs, 2 SCART inputs, ethernet, USB, VGA input, aerial, component in, composite in, optical audio (in? out? who knows?), L/R audio

*mine is called Jonathan

A V+ box. 1 HDMI, 1 component, 2 scart, 1 optical audio, L/R analog audio, aerial.

A Sony BluRay player: 1 HDMI output, 1 component output, 1 composite output, coax digital audio out, optical audio out, analogue stereo out, ethernet. I probably should have bought a PS3 instead, which would have solved a number of problems. But there we go.

A Wii, for which I have purchased a component cable.

A PS2. Scart though I think in truth it's composite plugged into a scart adapter.

An aerial on the roof! TV has Freeview HD built in. Obviously everything's on my cable box anyway...

Some sort of streaming solution that allows me to stream any video that I can play on my Mac to my telly. Doubt this is an Apple TV. But I honestly can't see what the problem is -- I basically want something that's like Airfoil except for video -- so that I can just set something playing on my Mac and then beam the picture to my telly. I *think* Apple are about to do this for iPad/iPhone to TV weirdly. But resolution is much smaller than telly.

Airport Express: optical/analog audio out so I can stream iTunes to speakers.

An ancient valve operated av amplifier, with *eight* sets of stereo line in, stereo phono in, 5.1ch analogue audio in, no optical input of any kind and -- steel yourselves for the wonder -- Dolby prologic decoding. The nine inputs are labelled with labels like "Phono", "VCR", "Tape", "Tape Monitor", "Tuner", "VCR Aux" and "Laser Disc". Bless.

Essay question -- how do I cable everything up to maximise video and audio quality, have everything work, make the business of switching between sources as simple as possible, and route all the audio through my 5.1 setup?

What I *used* to do was shove everything into a Scart and audio box (£50 from Maplins) that prioritised the gaming signals over the vcr signal over the dvd signal over the cable box signal. So I just needed to turn on the source I wanted to use and the audio and video routed automatically -- but if I was using DVD source then I switched to the separated 5.1 audio produced by my obsolete but lovely sounding NAD DVD player. Critically it meant that other people could access whatever source they wanted by turning on the source and the TV -- something which appears to not be beyond people.

Oh god I'm doomed.

Free as in Beer
Would any of my lovely friends like a free 28" Sony WEGA Trinitron television? Catch is of course that you have to pick it up quickly from Walthamstow, and that it weighs a ton. Full working order and with remote.

Iced Green Tea
"We have 32Gb iPhones in stock at the Victoria Street branch", said the O2 website. Well, that is but a short walk from my work place, so off I went. And found, as I approached, a burly security guard explaning to approximately one person every three seconds that no, they had sold out this morning.

To console myself, I bought lunch at the sushi shop next door, and also a bottle of fine Japanese green iced tea with nothing added and especially no sugar. And I thought, as I was coming back, that I have plenty of green tea teabags, and could get more green tea, easily enough, and that £1.95 was really quite a lot for what was essentially tea and water.

But how to make cold, refreshing, green tea, using only the tools I have in the office? Google finds lots of arguments. I should add that instant iced teas are available in the UK, but last I saw they all had either sugar or sweeteners, and I am a bitter drinker.

The tools in the office, incidentally, consist of:

A source of nearly boiling filtered water.
A source of chilled filtered water.
Hot and cold taps.
A microwave oven.
A fridge.
A toaster.
A large mug.
A plastic 500ml bottle that once contained green tea.
No sun.

Check your credit card bills
For a company called Shoppers Discount. They act in the following way:

You make a legitimate purchase from a legitimate company. You are then asked if you want to save £15 on your next purchase. When you say yes, Shoppers Discount grabs your details (including, we think, credit card details on a passthrough from the legitimate company). You agree to the t&c, which you probably didn't read, which make it clear that you'll be charged £10/month after the first 30 days. They do email you, repeatedly, but you're probably filtering out their emails. You don't realise it's not the original company until after you've signed up.

Legitimate companies include Pizza Hut, The Trainline, and Interflora.

The good news in all of this is that *I* didn't get caught out, it was malwen, and I *did* check my card assiduously enough to spot it on the very first month. So I feel nice and smug now. And they quickly and efficiently refund your money when you complain (they are clearly making plenty on the people who never notice), so we haven't lost even £10.

But honestly. How is this legal?

Memo to Russell T Davies
spoilers and speculationCollapse )

Things that Annoy Me
So. HP decided that they wouldn't bother to release a printer driver for my printer (Business Inkjet 1100) for Snow Leopard. The printer is fine, still churning out average quality, low cost prints. The alternative open source driver is utter pants; will not duplex, returns no printer information, and finally failed to print landscape in my crunch just before Easter.

So, I'm searching for a new printer. I would, for obvious reasons, prefer not to buy HP again; I believe that not updating printer drivers for your sturdy printers is a Mortal Sin, particularly when I'm buying hundreds of pounds worth of your OUTRAGEOUSLY PRICED INK each year. And remember, boys and girls, this is one of the lowest cost inkjets ever.

So, I want auto duplex, and WiFi; both essential. It must work with Mac 10.6. I have a slight preference for not an all-in-one, as my elderly but high quality scanner still works well and besides, we have another all-in-one (high quality, 'medium' running costs (ie high), CD printing). I certainly don't want fax any more than I want an integral mangle; what *are* these printer manufacturers on?

Low running costs are essential. The difference between 5p and 10p per page for b&w with spot colour would represent £100 on the cost of 100 copies of a 20-page fanzine. So it needs to have high-yield cartridges (only twice the price of fresh human blood, but to be fair, much less likely to clog your print heads), and it needs to not do FUCKING STUPID SELF CLEANING ROUTINES that steal all your ink. Obviously, as I'm intending to print fanzines on it, it needs to be reasonably durable.

I am tentatively coming to the conclusion that the only printer on the market that fits the bill is the HP Officejet 8000 Pro. But I am happy to be proved wrong if you know better. And gosh I'm annoyed.

Bondage and Knitting redux
probably a less exciting post than you would think from the title.

A month or so ago there was a little flurry about the number of bondage items at the Eastercon. I pointed out that the issue wasn't that the number of panels, it was the lack of relevance to SF/fantasy. I suggested that it would be quite wrong to have that many knitting items, and gave the example of a sock knitting workshop as the sort of specialised event that would be quite inappropriate to have at the Eastercon.

I then was informed first that there are in fact as many knitting items as bondage items, and second that there will be a sock knitting workshop at Eastercon. I expressed some surprise at this and was told that items of this kind were there because con members had volunteered them.

Today I was reading, on another site, a thread about knitting at the Eastercon. In that thread a knitter explained that she had been approached to do a sock knitting workshop, but had declined -- and she was glad that the committee had found somebody else.

Sock knitting -- like the specialist bondage ties they're having workshops on -- is not a beginner skill; this isn't a 'have a go and try out something new' workshop, it's a specialist workshop for established knitters to develop their skills.

How many SF/fantasy items do you think you will find at a knitting convention? (There might well be one -- a knit a dalek/tardis/clanger type thing, which the Eastercon is also having and which I think is entirely appropriate).

You know, there is scarcely any fannish programme, fan history programme or fanzine programme at this convention. I've talked to fans who are equally concerned about areas of SF/fantasy that they are interested in and that are under-represented. And yet we have dozens, perhaps hundreds of items on topics that have no relevance to SF other than that 'fans like to do them'. And yet, the same committee members who are ignoring swathes of the core of the hobby are going to considerable lengths to develop programming relating to non-SF hobbies.

We need to take some action here, chaps. This group of people have asked to run the Eastercon again in 2012; some of them are influential in the 2014 Worldcon bid (I should stress that I have no concerns about programme for that convention). This isn't a 'general way for geeks to hang out with agreeable company and do interesting geeky things', it's the National SF convention. We should ensure that it is so; that it reflects, in an ecumenical way, the broad SF/fantasy interests of the membership, and that the non-SF items represent an interesting alternative to the main events rather than the main activity.

Popcap games and Haiti
If you like Popcap's casual games, you might like to buy some today -- they are donating 100% of sales to Haiti relief.



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