Playing With The Nikon AF-S 35mm f1.8 g Lens

Today I got he chance to play with the Nikon AF-S 35mm f1.8g prime lens for a few minutes. My first impression is what an awesome lens for the money (£150) if you don’t mind using your legs to zoom. I think this will be the next lens I add to my camera bag in the near future.

A few pictures taken with the lens.

Now TV: My Opinions

I recently acquired a Now Tv box, which is effectively a Roku 3 with a different interface, cheaper remote and restrictions around which apps can be installed. 

The first feature of note is the price. I picked mine up for £25 including three months free subscription to the entertainment pass, giving me channels such as Sky 1, Discovery and Sky Living. The subscription is usually £6.99 per month, amounting to £20.97 for three months, meaning the box only really cost me £4.03. That’s a whole lot of set top box for the money whichever way you cut it. In comparison the Roku 3 is £69.99 direct from the Roku website. I’m still trying to figure out how Sky manage to sell these for the price they do. 

The biggest downside to the Now TV box over the Roku is he restriction on the apps you can install from the App Store. The apps I really wish were available are Plex and Netflix. I understand why Sky prevent the installation of its competitors apps when they are subsidising the box so heavily, but I still think it would make he box more desirable. I subscribed to Netflix as well as Sky’s full TV service for years after all. 

There is a way to side load the Plex app onto the box if you don’t mind doing a bit of tinkering though. It involves putting  the box into development mode and downloading and packaging the Plex app from GitHub. It wasn’t particularly tricky to do but the only Plex app available via this method is the older interface. I couldn’t find the Netflix app to package and sideload though. 

The box performs well and I never find myself waiting for the interface to catch up. I was pleasantly suprised by this. It’s actually more responsive than my 3rd generation Apple TV.  The interface is also very easy to navigate to the point my five year old son was able to pick up the remote and put a cartoon on without any tuition. 

The biggest feature of the Roku 3 that I wish was available on the Now TV box is the headphone jack on the remote. I suspect this was a feature removed to lower the cost of the box so Sky could sell them cheaper. 

In conclusion I’m quite happy with the box and I’m considering buying some more for some other rooms in the house. I still dont think I’ll be renewing the entertainment pass subscription though. 

Laziness, Ingorance & Stupidity Make The Internet Miserable

The internet is an incredible thing. When you really think about how it works, this massive, ever-expanding network of devices all talking to each other is astounding. Like a knife though, it’s both a very useful tool AND very dangerous weapon.

Everything is connected to the internet now and consumers are far too trusting in technologies to make their life easier. What they fail to notice, or indeed care about, are the security flaws in the kettle they can control from their smart phone. Technology companies actively exploit this unearned trust to peddle more cheaply developed crap into the homes of consumers.

What consumers probably don’t realise is that the CCTV camera systems, video door bell, or cheap “smart” light bulbs connected to their wi-fi are incredibly insecure. They are probably a part of a botnet, designed specifically to target Internet of Things devices with known hardcoded passwords or vulnerabilities.  Then they complain when Playstation Network or Xbox Live is offline due to a huge DDoS attack, orchestrated by a douche bag somewhere, commanding their CCTV cameras, video door bell and “smart” lightbulbs to flood the servers hosting the gaming platforms with garbage data.

Of course having your CCTV system used in a botnet to bring down services on the internet isn’t worse case scenario to most people. What about the creepy guy sitting in his stained Y fronts in front of his old CRT monitor with his box of cleanex, watching you sunbathe in your bikini on your own CCTV cameras? Or watching what you and your better half get up to on the sofa via your internet connected, smartphone controlled nanny cam, while the kids spend the night at their grand parents house. Worrying isn’t it?

So who’s to blame for the situation the internet is in at the minute? Is it the hackers? The technology companies? The consumers? In my opinion it’s all of the above.

The hackers are a diverse cross-section of society. Some of them hack people for financial gain, some for fun and some just to be A holes and show off to their friends.

The consumers need to stop looking for the easy solution, and start thinking about the effect their cheap, insecure devices have on their privacy, their neighbour’s privacy, and the impact on the rest of the world. After all, if your CCTV camera is part of a botnet that targets services as big as PSN, you’re partially responsible for the inconvenience caused to millions of people around the world, all because you didn’t change the password to something other that “password” when you set your new gadget up.

Technology companies don’t do enough to secure their products. Don’t get me wrong. I am well aware that some vulnerabilities in devices arise from vulnerabilities found in widely used services and protocols, such as SSL. The main boggle I have with the technology companies is when they release devices with the obvious and simple weaknesses built-in for the convenience of either the consumer or technical support. Things like hard-coded passwords and wi-fi passwords stored in plaintext in configuration files on devices. These shortfalls in security just play right into the hands of the hackers and make their life easy. They are also inexcusable.

I personally believe the problem is only going to get worse unless the technology companies step up the mark and actually start designing products with security in mind. People might say Apple are obnoxious, self-righteous pricks for locking their HomeKit system down and preventing smaller manufacturers from entering the eco system unless they pay apple for the privilege. In reality though, at least they are bothering to do something to try to address the security issues.

The whole top and bottom of the problem is, consumers are ignorant, technology companies are lazy and hackers are stupid. I say stop making product setup workflows as easy as possible and guide consumers through the process of securing their new gadgets by adding steps like mandatory password changes into devices during the setup process. If the technology companies made the effort, and consumers made the effort, then maybe at least some of the script kiddies out there would give up because of the extra effort involved in continuing to make people’s lives miserable.


Boys and Their Bases

Today’s youth is completely different from the youth of my generation. They never seem to want to go out and explore, get up to mischief, play knock and run or put coke bottles in their bike tyres to make it sound like a broken motorbike. Instead they prefer the comfort of their bedroom, communicating with friends over console chat systems and mobile phones.

When I was a lad I’d wake up in the morning and have some breakfast, get dressed, then go to knock on my friend’s door. We’d spend all day in the woods building bases, climbing trees and lighting fires, only returning home when we were hungry, or if we hit the “before its dark” curfew imposed on us by our parents.

I’m not sure if the kids are entirely to blame in this situation though. I think a lot of the blame lyes with the paranoia of parents who watch the news, and the perceived safety concerns around kids these days. That and technology for making it easier than ever to keep in touch with friends without clapping eyes on them for weeks or months.

One of the most memorable bases built by me and my friends was an old, disused, brick mine ventilation shaft. It had been filled in but the concrete ended about six feet below the brick level, with only about one foot protruding from the ground around it. The shaft was roughly 8 feet square inside, with the brick work taking up another foot all the way around.

As soon as we found the shaft we knew exactly what to do with it; build an underground base of course! We used logs and old four by two timbers to cover the top of the shaft, followed by scraps af particle board, plywood and any other sheet material we could lay our hands on. We then threw over a huge plastic sheet, then proceeded to bury the roof over the course of a week with shovels and an old wheel barrow with rust holes all over it.

The door was a simple affair. It was an old “stack and store” box filled with dirt and slid into a hole left in the roof just big enough for the box to slide in, with the lip of the box resting on the edges to prevent it from falling through. Once closed, kicking a little dirt over the lip of the box made our new underground base pretty much invisible unless you knew it was there.

Inside we spent our pocket-money on silver spray paint and battery operated lights from Your More Store. I’m sure at eleven we chose silver because it was cool, but it actually reflected the light from the cheap six volt incandescent lights and made the place seem lighter.

Someday I may take my kids to the site of this base, which is back to being a hole in the ground with a bunch of collapsed timbers slowly rotting back into the earth. Hopefully it might spur them on to go exploring the way I used to when I was their age. Every child should experience an underground base or a treehouse, along with the sheer joy of building it in the first place and the bruises from falling out the tree.

via Daily Prompt: Underground