I’ve moved my hosting back to SiteGround

This week I moved both my websites (this one and SEC digital calendar and lectionary) back to SiteGround.

Just over 48 hours ago I updated the DNS settings and initiated the switch to the new server. Other than a slightly misconfigured Cloudflare CDN everything has gone smoothly. This is in part due to my experience of having done this a couple of times now, and in part due to the excellent and clear controls that SiteGround offers behind the scenes.

Continue reading I’ve moved my hosting back to SiteGround

I’m selling my Psion PDAs

Update (15 August)

My Psion archive has now been sold. This is the first day in 21 years that I’ve not had a Psion computer or book in my possession.

Many thanks to everyone who got in touch regarding these sales, and especially to the lovely Psion enthusiasts who purchased these machines. They gave me a great deal of joy over the years, I hope they serve you equally as well.


Original post

Today, I put my four Psion PDAs up for auction on eBay UK:

Psion Series 7book

Psion Series 7book (Series 7 with netBook personality module)
Psion Series 7book (Series 7 with netBook personality module)

This was the last Psion that I bought—it must have been early 2004. I bought it to take to the US with me on holiday, and for a couple of writing projects I was working on.

It was a Series 7, bought on eBay, and later upgraded to a 7book by fitting a Psion netBook personality module. This made it capable of accepting a wi-fi adapter card (I bought two, one each of the two main chipsets that work well with netBooks).

I’m selling the lot in one bundle:

  • Psion 7book (Series 7 with netBook module)
  • Leathette carry case
  • Psion Series 7 user guide
  • PsiWin 2.3 CD-ROM
  • RS232 serial cable
  • USB to serial adapter (D400)
  • 2 x UK power adapters
  • Psion Series 7 personality module
  • 2 x compact flash cards (one contains the EPOC R5 OS required for booting the first time)
  • 2 x Wi-fi cards (Lucent Orinoco Gold and Buffalo Air Station WLI-PCM-L11GP)
  • DVD containing all the Psion software I collected over the years; I used to sell this online.

See listing on eBay (offers over £80)

Psion Series 5mx

Psion 5mx 16MB and accessories
Psion 5mx 16MB and accessories

I bought the 5mx shortly after moving to Edinburgh, from Inverness in 2003. It was another eBay purchase and was to replace my Psion 3mx.

I just wanted a new piece of kit. It has a 32-bit operating system, a beautiful clam-shell case, where the keyboard slides out when you open it, and a backlit, touch screen. What more could you want from a PDA?

I’m selling:

  • Psion 5mx 16MB
  • RS232 serial cable
  • PsiWin 2.3 CD-ROM
  • Proporta.com hard case
  • 2 x UK power adapter (one with interchangable UK/Euro/USA pins)
  • Boxed Purple Software Chess software (3.5″ floppy) and manuals
  • Palmtop Street Planner 99 software on CD-ROMs and manuals

See listing on eBay (offers over £45)

Psion 3mx

Psion 3mx, with UK power adapter and solid state disks
Psion 3mx, with UK power adapter and solid state disks

This Psion was my workhorse for many years. It’s solid and dependable, and I don’t ever remember the screen cable breaking, which was the most common fault these machines suffered. I did have it fully refurbished a couple of times, though, from the dependable POS Ltd in London, run by Paul Pinnock.

Something I loved about the 3mx is how long the batteries lasted. I could usually get about one month’s use out of a pair of AA batteries.

Included I’ve got:

  • Psion Series 3mx 2MB palmtop computer
  • Series 3mx original user guide
  • Series 3a programming manual (OPL)
  • Programming manual (OVAL) and disk
  • PsiWin 1.1 disks and manual
  • Psion 56k infrared travel modem (with disks and manual)
  • 4 x solid state disks (3 x 1MB and AutoRoute Express software).
  • UK power adapter

See listing on eBay (offers over £65)

Psion Siena 512k

Psion Siena 512k
Psion Siena 512k

Ah! My first Psion.

I saw an advert for the Psion Siena in a copy of MicroMart, I think it was. And I immediately fell in love with it. I pondered buying one for weeks before getting up one sunny morning in my flat and travelling to London’s busy Oxford Street to purchase it at Debenham’s department store.

It immediately became my diary, contacts list, to do list, journal and programming machine. I bought a copy of PsiWin 1.1 (for £80) and connected it to my Windows 3.11 for Workgroups PC (a 386 SX-20).

I used it to write and edit my masters dissertation in 1999.

This includes only:

  • Psion Siena 512 KB palmtop computer
  • User guide
  • A letter from Psion

See listing on eBay (offers over £20)

Programming Psion Computers

Programming Psion Computers by Leigh Edwards (EMCC, 1999)
Programming Psion Computers by Leigh Edwards (EMCC, 1999)

This book was the bible of Psion computing about 18 years ago. I managed to grab myself a copy in Waterstones bookshop on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, for £29.99.

It soon became quite a rare book, and so the publisher, EMCC, made it available in PDF on their website, as well as a zip archive of the CD-ROM that accompanied it. Many years ago, I gave away the CD-ROM to someone who was desperate for a copy of the original.

See listing on eBay (offers over £12)

The end of an era

I’ve been meaning to list these for months, but only just got around to it now while I have my head in the selling-space as part of the divorce settlement.

I feel sorry to see these go, but they are just sitting in a box in my cupboard and I would much rather they went to someone who got some pleasure out of them.

How to activate cheat codes in Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition on Steam

Voivod the Fighter and Imoen the Thief standing in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near Candlekeep
Voivod the Fighter and Imoen the Thief standing in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near Candlekeep

I’m not a big gamer by any standard. I have quite a few computers games but they mostly fall into five categories:

  1. LEGO games—I love these, as do my three boys.
  2. Call of Duty/Battlefield first person shooters—I only play the story-mode versions on easy level for the cinematic experience.
  3. Story/walking simulator style games (Dear Esther, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, Firewatch).
  4. Multiplayer, party-style games for my children (Screencheat, Sonic All-Stars Racing, Mini Motor Racing Evo).
  5. Baldur’s Gate family Dungeons & Dragons’ role playing games.

Apart from the LEGO games—which are part adventure, part puzzle games—for the most part, I enjoy games for their cinematic and story-telling properties. I want escape and entertainment rather than spending hours building an empire or working out some kind of complex strategy.

Cheat / debug mode

So, for the last few years in Baldur’s Gate (in the few moments that I’ve had a chance to play it) I have activated the cheats (or debug mode). This gives me access to the entire game inventory to equip my character accordingly and a better chance to survive the adventure.

Clue: I have never yet completed Baldur’s Gate, despite owning it since about 1999 (I still own my original copy on five CD-ROMs).

Having just reinstalled my PC, I was disappointed to discover that the old way of activating cheat mode (by editing baldur.ini) had changed. This is how I managed it today (on Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, with OneDrive installed).

  1. Locate the folder at Documents > Baldur’s Gate – Enhanced Edition. On my desktop PC this was in the default Windows 10 Documents folder within OneDrive; on my laptop it is in C:\users\<username>\Documents. It will depend on how your computer was set up.
  2. In a proper text editor (e.g. Sublime Text or Notepad++ or TED Notepad) open the file Baldur.lua.
  3. Add the line SetPrivateProfileString('Program Options','Debug Mode','1').
  4. Save and close the file.

Now when you run the game, you can enter the game console by pressing Ctrl + Spacebar. It looks like this, at the bottom of the screen:

Enter your code then press Enter
Enter your code then press Enter

This allows you to enter codes that generate items, amongst other things. For instance this code allows generates a set of Ankheg Plate Mail armour for your current character:

C:CreateItem("PLAT06")

The older versions of Baldur’s Gate used the code CLUAConsole: but this has now been shortened to a single, uppercase C: followed by a colon.

Here’s how my intrepid fighter character started his adventure in Candlekeep:

Armed to the hilt, this fighter can even take on the Ogre Mage on the way to the Friendly Arm Inn,
Armed to the hilt, this fighter can even take on the Ogre Mage on the way to the Friendly Arm Inn,

Download the cheat codes

Feel free to download my full list of cheat codes, arranged by type (clothing, jewellery, weapons, magic, and miscellaneous).

You can look up what each item is on the Baldur’s Gate Wiki.

Baldur’s Gate EE cheat codes (DOCX, 30 KB)

Updated

2017-04-17 Updated the location of Baldur.lua as it was in two different locations on two PCs running Windows 10. It depends, I guess, on whether Windows 10 is told to use OneDrive as the default save location.

Acer ES1-111M-C3CP review

Acer ES1-111M-C3CP
Acer ES1-111M-C3CP

A few months ago I bought a new laptop: the Acer ES1-111M-C3CP. I wanted something small and quiet. I didn’t need anything particularly powerful—that was the point: just something that would allow me to get on with some writing projects while Reuben. Joshua and Isaac hijack my desktop PC to play LEGO computer games.

Specification

The laptop features:

  • Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • Intel Celeron N2840 2.16 GHz
  • Intel HD graphics
  • 11.6″ HD LED display screen (1366 × 768 pixels)
  • Fanless (silent performance)
  • 8 GB DDR3 RAM (upgraded from 2 GB — there’s a guide here on how to upgrade the RAM: Acer Aspire E3-111 Disassembly)
  • eMMC 32 GB (solid state disk)

Setting up the laptop

My plan was to install only a few applications:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (selective sync of only writing projects)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. LibreOffice (a Microsoft Office-compatible office suite)
  6. Scapple (free-form text
  7. Mindjet Mind Manager (mind mapping)
  8. MusicBee (audio player)
  9. VLC media player (for watching the occasional Mpeg-4)
  10. Skype (video and text chat)
  11. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

Out of the box, set-up didn’t take terribly long (once I’d swapped out the 2 GB RAM for an 8 GB module) and I signed into my Microsoft account

I then uninstalled most of the bundled applications (McAfee, Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student trial, a few Acer media/office applications, plus a bunch of Windows Modern UI (Metro) apps and set about the seemingly never-ending task of running Windows Update which pulled in more than 130 updates.

But here’s the thing… the laptop only started with 32 GB of hard disk space. On initial startup there is a little more than 9 GB of free space. After the Windows updates only 3.13 GB of hard drive space is left.

Windows updates ate almost 6 GB of hard drive space!?

And that’s after uninstalling the bundled software and running Disk Clean-up to remove remnant update files.

Experience

Over the last couple of months I appear to have performed a factory reset more often than actually using the laptop for the purpose for which I bought it.

The factory reset is pretty good, to be fair. The 32 GB drive is divided into three partitions:

  • 100 MB (EPI system partition)
  • 19.40 GB (NTFS—Windows 8.1)
  • 9.5 GB (recovery partition)

Despite what the Acer factory reset application advises, once you’ve created a USB recovery disk you cannot delete the recovery partition. According to some on various discussion forums, this partition is a Windows Image File Boot (WIMBoot) that is required to run Windows.

Which means that if you find that you’ve installed too large a collection of applications you end up with your C: drive reporting 0 bytes free, as I did for the umteenth time last night.

To try to get around this I attached a tiny Sandisk 32 GB USB 3.0 drive as storage (installation files and music) and onto which I could install applications. But, of course, whenever you install any software on Windows, no matter where, the C: drive is always used.

And so I still managed to overflow the C: drive and had to perform yet another factory reset.

Currently my ambitions are a little less ambitious:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (Modern UI)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

I’ll see how I get on. With those five applications installed I have 2.63 GB free on C: drive. Far from the 9.5 GB that I had expected when I bought the machine.

Conclusion

I can’t help feeling rather disappointed with my first couple of months with this machine. The build quality is really pretty decent for something at this price (£179): the screen is large and bright enough for my needs, the keyboard feels comfortable, and so far I’ve had no issues with the touchpad (though I do prefer to use a USB Microsoft Intellimouse Optical mouse.

32 GB is clearly not enough. I would have happily paid more for double that. 64 GB would have made this gem of a machine far more flexible. Instead I have to worry about installing as little as possible. I can’t simply get on and write, I always have to have an eye on whether Windows Update has run and used up the remaining sliver of hard drive.

(UPDATE: Note that the hard drive cannot be upgraded. It’s an eMMC drive — like flash storage — that is soldered to the motherboard.)

Hey! There’s not even enough free space to keep the trial installation of Microsoft Office 2013 that it ships with—how utterly ill-thought through is that?!

If I’d been using this as a Windows-flavoured ChromeBook-equivalent, relying entirely on web apps and storage, I would probably be delighted with the machine. But as it is, I’m not writing everything in Google Drive and I’ve more or less given up on Microsoft OneDrive due its unreliable file synchronisation for documents. (Something that a friend of mine from St Andrews was also complaining about on Facebook the other day, prompting her move to Dropbox.)

Anyway, I’ll report back here in a couple of months to give an update on how I’m getting on… in the meantime, if you’re looking to buy this laptop yourself be warned that once you’ve done all the updates you’ll have next to no drive space to store anything, let alone run the thing.

My HP LaserJet P1606dn stopped printing duplex—here’s how I fixed it

HP LaserJet Professional P1606dn
HP LaserJet Professional P1606dn

I have an HP LaserJet Professional P1606dn, which has been great. It prints double-sided (duplex) — that’s the ‘d’ in P1606dn — and it connects to the network — that’s the ‘n’ allowing Jane to print wirelessly from her laptop.

The problem

But today… for some reason my P1606dn stopped printing double-sided. The option was still there in the printer properties—on the Device Settings tab, under Duplex Mode both “Allow Automatic Duplexing” and “Allow Manual Duplexing” were both ticked.

Hmm…

I tried changing various settings but nothing seemed to fix it. I checked if the driver had been updated. I rebooted the PC. Again, no improvement.

How I fixed it

I was actually in the process of trying to downloading the HP Smart Install software when I stumbled upon the answer.

If you have this printer, you’ll know that you can also connect to a configuration screen via the network. All you need is the printer’s IP address. Mine is at 192.168.1.73 on my local area network.

Well, lo and behold, under the Settings tab there is a section called Paper Handling, and the Duplex option was set to Off. Changing it back to On fixed things for me.

HP P1606dn network settings
HP P1606dn network settings

At least, it did for the first document. I then discovered that (again for another mysterious reason) the next document’s paper settings were blank. Setting it to A4 restored the option to print double-sided.

So, in summary:

  • Check settings (Control Panel > Devices and Printers > Right-click the printer and select Printer Properties > Device Settings tab).
  • Connect to the printer settings via the network.
  • Make sure the print dialog shows the correct paper size.

At least, that’s what fixed it for me.

Update

Sunday 24 July 2016

I’ve come across the same issue today, but this time I’m not connected to a network, the printer is connected via USB.

To resolve this — I had a couple of Word documents that would only offer the ability to print duplex (double-sided) manually — I changed the page size to anything and then back to A4 and then made sure the margins were set to normal or wide, as I noticed that the document margins were oddly small.