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. 

Don’t Piss Off Your Developer(s)

Most developers enjoy their work, whether they are part of a development team, a free-lance developer or a single, in-house developer for some company somewhere. Developers are usually very clever and creative people, solving complex problems never solved before and coming up with new innovative ways for people to do things more efficiently.

The one thing developers don’t do particularly well is read the minds of the people they develop solutions for. This might seem an obvious observation, but most developers will tell you of the people they deal with that expect them to be mind readers.

The first problem is that most people struggle to convey their thoughts and requirements in a meaningful way to the developer, expecting the developer to instinctively know how you want a certain solution to work or behave. This isn’t the case. Work with your developer before they start work on your solution to make sure they understand what you want. Create a statement of requirements to outline the key features you want, how you want them to work, and how you want user interfaces to look, even if it’s just a rough drawing to show layout and some crayons to show the colour scheme required. Your developer will thank you, trust me.

Secondly, don’t try to pretend you know all about development when dealing with the developer, even if you do. You might well be, or have been, a developer yourself, but at the end of the day each developer does things their own way and you trying to tell them how to do it just gets their back up. Don’t forget, you are asking the developer to create something for you, not paying them to listen to how you would do it.

Another way to piss a developer off is to provide a statement of requirements, and then proceed to change your mind once the developer has started working on the delivery of your requirements. It doesn’t matter that you are paying the developer for his or her time, changing a software solution half way through development usually involves deleting code that the developer has spent a lot of time writing, and always leads to delays in delivery. It might mean more money for the developer, but what if the developer has booked his or her time out to another project or customer and your “tweaks” means they are unable to start the next piece of work.

Now you might be thinking why you should care if your developer is pissed off if you are paying for his time. I’ll tell you. A pissed off developer is a stressed developer, and a stressed developer makes more mistakes in the code, leading to bugs. This isn’t a deliberate act of vengeance for all the times you did successfully piss your developer off, its simple psychology. When people get stressed, they try to get out of the stressful situation as quickly as possible. This can lead to lapses in concentration and even corner cutting to get the job done quicker, meaning more bugs in the end product.

Don’t get me wrong, bugs happen. It’s impossible to write software without bugs (except maybe print(“Hello World”);). All I’m saying is there is an increased probability of bugs if you piss off your developer.

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.