Sugru

I was sent a pack of sugru to review the other day. It’s pretty funky stuff – out of the packet it’s soft & pliable and feels a bit like blu-tack. You’ve got about 30 minutes to use it out of the pack and it cures in 24 hours, bonds to pretty much anything and turns into a flexible silicone rubber which is waterproof, heatproof (from -50°C to + 180°C) and really very strong.

The pack I got contained 8 mini foil packs of black sugru – according to the instructions it’ll last for six months at room temperature, longer if you keep it in the fridge). Cost via the website: £11 + shipping, or £1.37 per pack. You can get it in smaller packs too. The sugru store is here: http://sugru.com/buy

I decided to make some custom-fit earbuds, using my very cheap Philips earbuds – they were less than a tenner and a replacement for my beloved Shure SE115s until I can afford a decent replacement set. The Philips ones sound ok, but let outside noise in really badly (unlike the Shure buds).

The fix was pretty easy to do – roll back the outer rubber bit of the earbud, pop a bit of sugru behind, fold the rubber bit back over then stick the earbuds in your ear. Give it a wiggle to get a good fit, take the earbuds out and leave the sugru to set.

There’s a video on the Sugru website:

Tried them this morning, and whilst it’s not a perfect fit, it cuts out a significant amount of background noise, giving a much clearer sound. I might have another go and use a bit more sugru – I was a bit sparing with it, but the little individual packs hold a decent amount. 5g of sugru goes a long way!

I had some left over from the earbud fix, so decided to see what else I could use it for.

The locking ring on my Opinel pocketknife is metal, and can be pretty slippery if you’re trying to open the blade in the wet. I put a small band of sugru around the metal collar and used the back of a key to give it some ridges for extra grip.

Opinel penknife plus Sugru hack

Bonus is there’s now an extra grippy bit when you’re using the knife!

And one final hack using the last bit of the pack (and remember, this is all from one 5g packet), I added a little lump of sugru to the volume dial on my desktop PC speakers. The dial is black, with a tiny black dot indicating the volume you’ve got it set at. Pretty hard to tell how loud you’ve got it set.

Now it’s got a lump where the dot is (should have taken a photo really!) so I can see at a glance how loud the kids have turned up the speakers!
So, all in all, it’s pretty versatile stuff. I’m already looking at other things I can use it for around the house and garden, and the sugru site has some great hacks which I’ll be checking out.

Skyfall – a spoilery review

Right. Here’s my review of the new Bond film, Skyfall.

First, the short spoiler-free version.
Awesome.

What? You want more? Hmm. Keeping it spoiler-free:
The best Bond in the best Bond film, bar none.

Seriously? That’s not enough? Right. You asked for it. Warning, spoilers abound within.
*flexes fingers*

I was serious about the best Bond. I fully admit that I was nervous when I heard that Daniel Craig was going to be Bond, but within 30 seconds of Casino Royale starting, I was sold. By the time we hit the opening credits I knew we were in safe hands.

I *loved* Casino Royale, by the way. More of that another day. I even quite liked Quantum of Solace, though mainly due to Craig’s Bond.

(I’ve had several discussions with people over the ‘best’ Bond. Connery is the popular choice here, though I have a huge soft spot for the Moore era, as that was the Bond I grew up with. Lazenby is highly underrated and Dalton could have done so much better with a half-decent script. I loved Brosnan’s Bond, though not his Bond movies which were sub-par at best. Yes, even GoldenEye. And the least said about the invisible Aston the better. I mean, who on earth wants an invisible Aston Martin? They’re bloody gorgeous!)

Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes, Skyfall.

It was with a little trepidation that I sat down to watch Skyfall. Were we going to get another Casino Royale? Or another Quantum of Solace-esque mishmash of confused plot?

Again, within 30 seconds of Skyfall starting, I breathed a sigh of relief.The old gun barrel opening wasn’t there, but the way Bond appears, stealthily down a darkened passage only to pop into focus in an artfully placed shaft of light?

Bond is back. Properly back. The pre-title sequence is breathtaking, starting with a car chase, then bikes, bikes on rooftops, bikes on trains, diggers! On trains! Piling one thing on top of another, pressure upon pressure, just the way a good  Bond sequence should.

Then that wonderful beat, that glorious split second where Bond jumps down from the digger (on a train!) as the back is ripped away from the carriage. Bond stands as the carriage behind him falls away and, cool and calm as only Bond could be, straightens his shirt cuffs.

I’ll say it again: Bond is back. Properly, properly back.

There’s the theme tune. After Casino Royale’s “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell (which I still rate as a decent Bond tune, though realise that I’m firmly in the minority here) and Quantum of Solace’s theme, which I really dislike with a passion, we get a full-blown Bassey-esque belter, courtesy of Adele.

This is a proper Bond tune, for our proper Bond. One which you can still hum days later. Big, brassy and bold. Utterly splendid, it wouldn’t feel out of place in any of the earlier Bond movies. Easily in my top 5. But that’s for another post, another day.

As for the film itself, it fairly rattles along at a marvellous pace, gleefully referencing Bond movies across the series’ 50 years. We get the classic Aston DB5, complete with gadgets, guns and gizmos. We get Bond escaping from mortal peril by runnning across the backs of komodo dragons, a nice little nod to Live and Let Die’s alligator farm. We get the Moore-esque comedy one-liner as Bond jumps on to the back of a speeding tube train. Brilliant little pieces which are scattered throughout the film like chocolate chunks in a particularly tasty ice cream.

In Javier Bardem’s Silva we get one of the best villains the series has seen for a very long time. Forget card-playing terrorist bankers. Forget media moguls trying to sell newspapers (if only I could). From his entrance in slowly descending Rocky Horror-esque lift, delivering a beautifullly paced monologue (what is it with villains and monologues?) as he slowly walked towards the camera, you just know Bond is in for a bit of a rough time. This is a villain with an actual honest to goodness reason for doing what he’s doing.

That moment where Silva toys with Bond, hand opening his immaculate white shirt, stroking Bond’s chest affectionately gives us one of Bond’s best lines:
“what makes you think this is my first time?”
He is an Eton old boy, after all…

Silva has one thing on his mind though, and it’s not Bond. The movie is all about M. M loses the NOC list – sorry, wrong spy franchise – and Bond has to get it back. It’s why Bond comes back from the dead. ‘Mummy dearest’ M is in trouble, so Bond drags himself out of his Heineken-soaked retirement to save the day. M finally gets the part she deserves in this, along with some brilliant one liners of her own. I loved the “well, you’re not bloody staying here” to Bond after his reappearance in her house.

On an aside, that was one thing which struck me – Silva goes through quite an elaborate series of Proper Villian shenanigans and plots to get to M, whilst Bond waltzes into her house, past lord knows how many alarm systems on a fairly regular basis. He hacks into her computer with a kind of bored ease, something the ubergenius computer hacker Silva appears to struggle with.

Oh, the hacking bits. Love. Especially the moment where Ben Whishaw’s delightful Q realises that Silva has hacked MI6 because he’s been numpty enough to plug Silva’s laptop into the network. Muppet.

I love that Q is back, drinking Earl Grey from his Q scrabble mug. Please, please let us keep him. And they’ve avoided another excruciating turn from John Cleese. Q has another nod to the franchise history with his lovely “what did you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that any more”. Marvellous stuff.

Skyfall is packed with glorious cinematography – the night time neon-lit sniper action in Shanghai is absolutely gorgeous, as are the Scottish highlands (though it’d take some effort to make them look bad). And I loved that the bulk of the film is set around the UK. Well, London and Scotland at least. Bond struggling through the rush hour tube was fun to watch.

As for the Bond girls, we’ve got Eve (the lovely Naomie Harris), who turns out to be more than expected and Severine and of course, M. Can we say Oedipal complex, boys and girls?

Severine was the trickiest of the lot – Bond sizes her up as being a former child prostitute and product of the sex trade, then goes right ahead and shags her anyway. Heartless swine that he is. Then there’s a moment soon after where Silva forces Bond to try and shoot a glass of whisky placed on Severine’s head, with what appears to be a flintlock of some description. The inevitable happens (though at Silva’s hand as Bond refuses to play Silva’s game), and Bond turns to deliver the line “waste of bloody good scotch”. Shocking and callous at first glance. But there was a beat, a fraction of a second where you can see in Bond’s eyes that Severine’s death hit him.

But this is the new Bond, hardened by the death of Vesper in Casino Royale, armour fully in place.

I could go on, but this is getting ridiculously long as it is. Silva is a magnificent Bond villain, and the only one from the series that comes to mind who actually gets what he wants, in the end. A brave move by the writers.

Ralph Fiennes taking over as M at the end of the film feels in a way like it’s the series saying “Right. We’ve cleared the decks. Bond has been set up. Q is here, as is Moneypenny. The old M is gone, the last remnant of the former series. Time for a new story.”

Where will they go next? I can almost see them going back to Doctor No – it’d be fascinating to see Craig and his new, realist, battered, bloodied Bond take on some of the classic Fleming stories.

Have you seen Skyfall? What did you think? Is Craig’s Bond the best Bond ever? Is Skyfall? I would love to know what you think.

My Review of Hackers

Originally submitted at O’Reilly

Steven Levy’s classic book about the original hackers of the computer revolution is now available in a special 25th anniversary edition, with updated material from noteworthy hackers such as Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg, Richard Stallman, and Steve Wozniak. Hackers traces the exploits o…

fascinating

By dakegra from wakefield, UK on 8/26/2010
5out of 5

Pros: Easy to understand, Well-written, Accurate

Best Uses: Everyone

Describe Yourself: Developer

Hackers is a fascinating history of the computer industry from the late 50’s through to the late 80s, covering the birth of the personal computer, the internet and the gaming industry.This is the 25th Anniversary Edition though, so has been updated with a ‘ten years later’ appendix covering the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, and with updates from Gates, Stallman and Woz looking back at what has changed over the last quarter-century.

It’s a great read, and if I had one criticism it’s the jump between the original ending of the book to the ‘ten years later’ piece, when the world wide web exploded into everyday use. That said, I lost myself for several hours in the history – it’s told in an amiable right-in-the-middle-of-things style which I found enormously enjoyable and interesting.

(legalese)

My Review of Getting Started with Processing

Originally submitted at O’Reilly

Learn computer programming the easy way with Processing, a simple language that lets you use code to create drawings, animation, and interactive graphics. Programming courses usually start with theory, but this book lets you jump right into creative and fun projects. It's ideal for anyone wh…

useful introduction to Processing

By dakegra from Wakefield, UK on 7/16/2010

 

5out of 5

Pros: Helpful examples, Concise, Easy to understand, Accurate, Well-written

Best Uses: Intermediate, Student, Novice

Describe Yourself: Developer

This is a short but useful intro to Processing – it starts with the very basics and through a great set of useful and well-illustrated examples takes the user up to a reasonable level of understanding.

It’s not an in-depth book, but as the title suggests, is a perfect ‘getting started’ companion to a first foray into Processsing. It also lightly covers the basics of programming – for loops, functions and so on, so could be a useful primer for someone new to programming.

I really enjoyed working through the book and trying out the examples – it’s left me with a keen interest to try out more things with Processing and apply it to my own projects.

Great fun. Perhaps not ideal for experienced coders, but ideal for beginners and those wanting the basics of Processing explained neatly and well.

(legalese)