HP Spectre 13 Laptop 13-v001na


  1. WP_20170424_12_21_19_ProWP_20170424_12_22_16_ProWP_20170424_12_24_43_Pro

HP Were kind enough to loan me this rather beautiful device to look at for a couple of weeks and I thought I would share my thoughts on how I got on!

So the first thing I ussually do is have a quick look to see what reviews say accross the web.  I picked out a few here that rang true of my own experiences:

I also spotted this link which appears to be premium second user devices at a reduced cost:



As already mentioned the Spectre has a premium feel largely down to it’s design and the materials used – aluminium and carbon fibre.  Considering it’s svelte dimensions there is very little give in the body and screen and it doesn’t feel like it is going to break under normal use (and for obvious reasons I haven’t gone beyond that!)
The ‘piston hinge’ contributes to the overall sense of quality in this device although I did on occasion try to tilt it back beyond it’s clearly defined limit – so no way is this a ‘yoga style’ device which perhaps is an opportunity lost given todays expanding expectations of new laptops and tablet devices however the range does support the premium test of laptop on lap!


3 USB Type C  ports provide the Spectre with ample opportunities for expansion. One of the ports is used for charging  and the other two for high-speed data transfer (USB 3.1 Gen 2). NB the charging port can also be used for data transfer.  While my knowledge of the latest USB spec is narrow I am aware of the increased opportunities for sharing across these ports, including high speed video, that does not exist with older style USB 1 and 2 devices.


With a Gorilla Glass coating the screen while excellent does suffer a little from reflections, though I never found this a problem indoors it perhaps might prove troublesome outdoors on a Sunny day?  Having said that the quality of the images produced is excellent reflecting the high build quality and perhaps proof that going much beyond 1080p Resolution on a screen this size really does have da diminishing return.  Being used to a touch screen I did find myself reaching for the screen on a number of occasions and personally I think my future devices will need to support touch to completely satisfy – however that is a personal preference and anyone used to using MacBooks will likely feel right at home.



The two speakers are prominently placed either side of the keyboard and coupled with Bang and Olufsen internals this laptop really delivers great sound.  In particular I found that I was able to hear the separation in the stereo channels much more so than on other laptops with stereo sound and it is clear that a deal of thought has gone into the sound design of this laptop.


If you are in the market for this stylish device then you probably should consider the matching accessories from HP at http://store.hp.com/UKStore/Merch/offer.aspx?p=c-Spectre-Offer

A number of bags and cases are available with the premium leather sleeve matching the premium style of the device itself:



  • Premium Feel
  • Powerful Specification
  • USB-C Support
  • Svelte figure (it is very thin!)

  • Desirability!


  • No Touch Points
  • Price

If the style of this laptop is to your liking and you have the necessary funds there should be little to stop you from considering this device.  Personally the lack of touch holds me back but otherwise both my wife and I have been very happy with our respective use of the Spectre over the last couple of weeks  (my wife principally Excel and Word and myself as a developer with Visual Studio)

BT Whole Home WIFI Mesh

BT WHole Home


I live in an old house, not unusually large but it began it’s life in the 18th Century as a small Cottage and has been extended many times since such that now, if I were to be cruel, it could be thought of as being a little ‘higgledy piggledy’ (maybe just ‘quaint’?).

The main issue that has prompted this purchase stems from having some very thick walls between rooms as well as wanting to have a single controllable wifi signal that doesn’t rely on a multitude of repeaters and powerline piggyback units!

The plan is to start with 3 units and cover as much of the area as is possible, if needs be then further units can be added to cover any extremities (it would be nice to have a good signal in both the garage and my own ‘man cave’ beyond it (basically a glorified shed).


Setup is incredibly simple but does require an Android or iOS device (marks lost here).

I used a friends Android device which presented me with the following steps:

1. Connect the first device to your router using the supplied ethernet cable:


Here it is in place:


2. Use the app to determine a suitable location for the second and third units (the app gives you a strength meter to assist you)


3. Once you have your Mesh there are various queries you can run within the App:

“Click on a disc”


“Disc Details”


“See connected Devices”


Meanwhile the menu along the top gives the following options:

“LAN Icon”






(I think those last two sets of menus are pretty self explanatory but feel free to ask any questions)


So perhaps the most important question – How is it and is it better than the hotch potch of relays and repeaters I had before?

I haven’t attempted to do a scientific test comparison but signal strength is both available and stronger in the same locations before and after.  I also feel that over time there will be less maintainence involved (How may times have I done the “powerline runaround”?) as well as more control and a simpler way of managing a single WIFI signal (so I am less likely to drop signals as I roam around the house!)

As I suspected I need another 1 or 2 units to cover the garage and my ‘man cave’ – I will update this post if I go down that road!

How to get Vauxhaul / Opel Engine Diagnostic Codes (without a computer!)

Thanks to a post from the Vauxhaul owners club these instructions allow you to diagnose an engine fault when you are presented with the following engine diagnostic warning light on your dashboard;


Works for Corsa, Astras, Zafiras be they Vauxhaul or Opel derivitives:

NB If you are lucky your diagnostic code will also be shown on the screen (see video below – I didn’t notice this until I watched it back!!)



Getting the diagnostic “The pedal trick”:

So no need for Tech 2 or any sort of code readers ….

  1. When you get into the car you know the key has 3 clicks first on for aftermarket cd player and whatever else and the second one the dash comes on third the starter kicks in
  2. Before you put the key into the ignition Make sure that you Press the Break and the Throttle to the Floor ( max )
  3. Turn the key on until The dash board come on and DONT START THE CAR
  4. Wait 2 seconds and keep the pedals Down to the floor
  5. The service light under the management light should start flashing!!!

Reading the diagnostic:

it will flash 4 times leaving 2 second space representing each number
Zero gets 10 flashes
for exampleP0110
the light will flash ten times Break (2sec Or 1 not sure) then once, (2sec) once again, then ten
if you have more than one code it will stop for a break then gives the next code
however if you don’t have any code stored it will start Flashing and keeps on flashing until you release the paddle.

Interpreting the diagnostic:

Read through the following list of codes until you find a match to the 4 digits you have “read”:

P0030 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit Range/Performance (Bank 1 Sensor 1) C-29
P0036 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit Range/Performance (Bank 1 Sensor 2) C-31
P0100 Mass or volume air flow circuit high input C-10
P0100 Mass or volume air flow circuit low input C-10
P0110 Intake Air Temperature Circuit High Input C-12
P0110 Intake Air Temperature Circuit Low Input C-12
P0115 Engine Coolant Temperature Circuit High Input C-11
P0115 Engine Coolant Temperature Circuit Low Input C-11
P0115 Engine coolant temperature circuit malfunction C-11
P0120 Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) Circuit 1 Voltage High C-09
P0120 Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) Circuit 1 Voltage Low C-09
P0120 Throttle Position Sensor 1-2 Correlation C-09
P0130 O2 Sensor Circuit High Voltage (Bank 1 Sensor 1) C-30
P0130 O2 Sensor 1 Circuit Voltage Low C-30
P0130 O2 Sensor 1 Open Circuit C-30
P0130 O2 Sensor 1 Incorrect Signal C-30
P0134 O2 Sensor Circuit Open (Bank 1 Sensor 1) C-30
P0135 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit High Voltage (Bank 1 Sensor 1) C-29
P0135 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit Low Voltage (Bank 1 Sensor 1) C-29
P0135 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit Open (Bank 1 Sensor 1) C-29
P0136 O2 Sensor Circuit High Voltage (Bank 1 Sensor 2) C-32
P0136 O2 Sensor 2 Circuit Voltage Low C-32
P0136 O2 Sensor 2 Open Circuit C-32
P0139 O2 Sensor 1 Incorrect Signal C-30
P0140 O2 Sensor 2 Incorrect Signal C-32
P0141 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit High Voltage (Bank 1 Sensor 2) C-31
P0141 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit Low Voltage (Bank 1 Sensor 2) C-31
P0141 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit Open (Bank 1 Sensor 2) C-31
P0170 Rich Exhaust C-30
P0170 Lean Exhaust C-30
P0201 Cylinder 1 injector circuit high C-23
P0201 Cylinder 1 injector circuit low C-23
P0201 Cylinder 1 Injector Circuit Open C-23
P0202 Cylinder 2 injector circuit high C-24
P0202 Cylinder 2 injector circuit low C-24
P0202 Cylinder 2 Injector Circuit Open C-24
P0203 Cylinder 3 injector circuit high C-25
P0203 Cylinder 3 injector circuit low C-25
P0203 Cylinder 3 Injector Circuit Open C-25
P0204 Cylinder 4 injector circuit high C-26
P0204 Cylinder 4 injector circuit low C-26
P0204 Cylinder 4 Injector Circuit Open C-26
P0219 Engine over speed condition C-43
P0220 Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) Circuit 2 Voltage High C-09
P0220 Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) Circuit 2 Voltage Low C-09
P0220 Throttle Position Sensor 1-2 Correlation C-09
P0230 Fuel pump secondary circuit high C-07
P0230 Fuel Pump Relay Open Circuit C-07
P0300 Misfire Unidentified Cylinder Detected B-21
P0301 Cylinder 1 Misfire Detected B-22
P0301 Cylinder 1 Misfire Detected B-22
P0301 Cylinder 1 Misfire Detected B-22
P0302 Cylinder 2 Misfire Detected B-22
P0302 Cylinder 2 Misfire Detected B-22
P0302 Cylinder 2 Misfire Detected B-22
P0303 Cylinder 3 Misfire Detected B-22
P0303 Cylinder 3 Misfire Detected B-22
P0303 Cylinder 3 Misfire Detected B-22
P0304 Cylinder 4 Misfire Detected B-22
P0304 Cylinder 4 Misfire Detected B-22
P0304 Cylinder 4 Misfire Detected B-22
P0325 Knock Sensor 1 Circuit no Signal C-27
P0335 Crankshaft Sensor Incorrect Signal C-06
P0335 Crankshaft Sensor Open Circuit C-06
P0335 Crankshaft Sensor Incorrect Signal C-06
P0340 Camshaft Position Sensor Circuit No Signal C-13
P0340 Camshaft Sensor Incorrect Signal C-13
P0351 Ignition Coil 1 High Input B-23
P0351 Ignition Coil 1 Incorrect Signal B-23
P0352 Ignition Coil 2 High Input B-23
P0352 Ignition Coil 2 Incorrect Signal B-23
P0353 Ignition Coil 3 High Input B-23
P0353 Ignition Coil 3 Incorrect Signal B-23
P0354 Ignition Coil 4 High Input B-23
P0354 Ignition Coil 4 Incorrect Signal B-23
P0420 Catalyst Efficiency Above Threshold C-31
P0443 Evaporative emission control system purge control valve circuit shorted C-28
P0443 Evaporative emission control system purge control valve circuit shorted C-28
P0443 Evaporative emission control system purge control valve circuit open C-28
P0460 Fuel Level Sensor Circuit High Input C-14
P0460 Fuel Level Sensor Circuit Low Input C-14
P0460 Purge flow sensor circuit malfunction C-14
P0500 Vehicle speed sensor malfunction B-10
P0530 A/C Refrigerant Pressure Sensor Circuit High Input Air Conditioning System B-05
P0530 A/C Refrigerant Pressure Sensor Circuit Open Air Conditioning System B-05
P0560 System Voltage High Input C-04
P0560 System Voltage Low Input C-04
P0565 Cruise Control SET and RESUME active C-17
P0566 Cruise Control Off Signal Circuit no or Incorrect Signal C-17
P0567 Cruise Control Resume Signal High Input C-17
P0568 Cruise Control Set Signal Circuit High Input C-17
P0571 Brake Switch Circuit Low Input C-15
P0602 Powertrain Control Module Not Programmed C-02
P0602 Security Code Not Programmed C-02
P0602 Vehicle Identification Number Not Programmed C-02
P0602 Variant-Coding Not Programmed C-02
P0606 Control Unit Re-Initialisation C-02
P0650 Malfunction Indicator (MI) Control Circuit High C-36
P0650 Malfunction Indicator (MI) Control Circuit Open C-36
P0700 EOBD Error stored by Transmission Control (TC) Modul B-06
P0700 MIL request from Transmission Control (TC) Modul B-06
P0704 Clutch Switch Input Circuit High Input C-16
P1110 Variable Intake Manifold Signal High C-33
P1110 Variable Intake Manifold Signal Low C-33
P1110 Variable Intake Manifold Open Circuit C-33
P1120 Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor 1 High Input C-08
P1120 Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor 1 Low Input C-08
P1120 Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor 1-2 Correlation C-08
P1122 Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor 2 High Input C-08
P1122 Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor 2 Low Input C-08
P1130 O2 Sensor 1 Signal Out of Range C-30
P1130 O2 Sensor 1 Signal no Activity detected C-30
P1130 O2 Sensor 1 Signal Switching Time Error C-30
P1170 System too rich (Bank 1) C-30
P1170 System too lean (Bank 1) C-30
P1230 Main Relay Circuit Voltage High C-03
P1230 Main Relay Open Circuit C-03
P1326 Knock Control Maximum Spark Limit Cylinder 1 C-27
P1327 Knock Control Maximum Spark Limit Cylinder 2 C-27
P1328 Knock Control Maximum Spark Limit Cylinder 3 C-27
P1329 Knock Control Maximum Spark Limit Cylinder 4 C-27
P1372 Crankshaft Sensor Segment Error C-06
P1372 Crankshaft Sensor Adaption Error C-06
P1481 Fan Relay 1 Circuit High C-34
P1481 Fan Relay 1 Signal Low / Open Circuit C-34
P1482 Fan Relay 2 Circuit High C-34
P1482 Fan Relay 2 Signal Low / Open Circuit C-34
P1500 Electronic Throttle Control Motor Failure C-09
P1500 Electronic Throttle Control Motor Failure C-09
P1520 Powerstage Currentless C-02
P1525 Limp Home Position Error C-09
P1526 Throttle Position Adaption Error C-09
P1526 Throttle Position no Adaption C-09
P1526 Limp Home Adaption Error C-09
P1526 Lower Limit Adaption Error C-09
P1530 A/C Relay Voltage High Air Conditioning System B-10
P1530 A/C Relay Circuit Open Air Conditioning System B-10
P1540 Air Conditioning Pressure Invalid Signal Air Conditioning System B-10
P1540 Air Conditioning Pressure Signal High Input Air Conditioning System B-05
P1540 Air Conditioning Pressure Signal Low Input Air Conditioning System B-10
P1540 Air Conditioning Pressure Open Circuit Air Conditioning System B-05
P1540 Air Conditioning Pressure Invalid Signal Air Conditioning System B-10
P1550 Electronic Throttle Control Reduced Power C-09
P1550 Electronic Throttle Control Forced Idle C-09
P1550 Electronic Throttle Control Power Management C-09
P1550 Electronic Throttle Control Engine Stop C-09
P1551 Engine Torque Always Higher Than Expected C-02
P1555 Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) Load Signal not Plausible with Engine Load C-09
P1600 Reprogram or Replace Electronic Control Unit (ECU) C-02
P1606 Replace Electronic Control Unit (ECU) C-02
P1606 Replace Electronic Control Unit (ECU) C-02
P1606 Replace Electronic Control Unit (ECU) C-02
P1610 Security Code Not Programmed Immobiliser B-07
P1611 Wrong Security Code Entered Immobiliser C-02
P1612 Immobiliser No Or Wrong Signal Immobiliser C-05
P1613 Immobiliser No Or Wrong Signal Immobiliser C-05
P1614 Wrong Security Code received Immobiliser C-06
P1614 Wrong Security Code received Immobiliser C-06
P1615 Wrong Vehicle ID from Body Control Module C-40
P1616 Wrong Vehicle ID from Instrument Control Module C-40
P1650 Service Vehicle Soon Light Voltage High C-37
P1650 Service Vehicle Soon Light Voltage Low C-37
P1700 SVS request via CAN B-06
U2100 CAN-BUS Malfunction C-05
U2101 CAN-BUS Maximum Configuration List not Programmed C-05
U2104 CAN-BUS reset counter overrun C-05
U2106 CAN-BUS no Communication with TCM B-05
U2108 CAN-BUS no Communication with ABS/TC B-08

Surface Book AZERTY to QWERTY

So I just picked up a Surface Book and paid a good price as it has an AZERTY keyboard rather than a UK QWERTY.  I decided I could live with it if needs be but when it arrived I set about seeing what options I had

The first thing I did was set the language options to UK – that way I can type as if I am on a UK keyboard even if the keys themselves are in the wrong place!




So now my on screen keyboard is correct and reflects the positioning of the typed keys (if not their positioning on the keyboard itself!)


I then looked online to see if there were options for replacement keys – I found several companies on EBAY that sold sets of QWERTY stickers that could be stuck on top of the existing keys.  But I didn’t like that option as the backlighting would be impacted and it would probably end up looking a little tacky.

I also found this company who could supply individual keys albeit at a bit of a premium price:


I noticed that there was also a video on their site outlining how to attach the new keys which gave me some confidence that I might be able to remove some of the existing keys:

And so I decided to attempt a basic rejigging of the keys such that they reflect, as far as is possible, a QWERTY layout instead of the AZERTY layout that the keyboard came with.  I found a plastic tool that I already had in my toolkit which proved good at getting under the keys in order to remove them (see pic).

I settled on this – I don’t think I will be purchasing any keys as the guts of what I wanted was already there, just in the wrong order.  (Though it is nice to know that if I wanted to finish the job I can do so for a small premium!)


keyboard azerty


Job (almost) done!

NB If you are trying something like this the trick is to prise off the keys from the top of the key itself (at least, that is the approach I took)

What is behind my interest in VR?

So it’s no secret that I have been following VR since the earliest prototype devices of the 80s (and if you count stereoscopic imagery- then it dates back to my first viewmaster which I had for Christmas way back when I was 8!).  I have tried most of the current crop of VR and AR headsets from the PSVR all the way up to the HoloLens.  In a previous post I outlined my build PC for the Oculus Rift DK2 – I still have that machine – though with graphics card updated to an RX480 and a PIMAX 4k Headset (the subject of a future post?). 

Before the Internet I would travel around photographic auctions and shows looking for old bits of stereoscopic kit – it was always exciting to unearth and research a new piece that I was unfamiliar with and I picked up some of my favourite pieces in this way..  In the early days of the internet I made contact with a few collectors in the US and when I heard reports that the Nintendo Virtual Boy was being ‘sold off’ in Walmart I reached out to a couple of them and bagged a couple for my collection (one to play with and one to keep MIB!)  I also managed to get most of the game cartridges!

Nintendo-Virtual-Boy-Red-Black-ConsoleVirtual Boy 2WOTW

(I always thought the VB looked a bit like a Triffid Death Machine from “War of the Worlds”)

My favourite devices are probably the oldest – I have a half dozen or so of these dotted around my house – just because I think they look great!  (There was a time when you could pick these up quote cheaply) The classic ‘Taxiphote’ is probably my favourite, though there are many variations of the basic model some of which I am still discovering …


Sometimes it’s the unexpected gems that I was able to ‘bag’ that give me the most pleasure.  I used to routinely submit  “blind” low bids to photographic auctions and one time noticed that one lot had ‘a collection of stereoscopic glass slides’ as very much a secondary item included with a lot of two Kodak projectors.  I won the lot with my low bid and was astonished when I went to collect and found the most incredible collection of stereoscopic glass slides taken by a Frenchman on his travels across Europe at the turn of the 20th century.  I still haven’t managed to successfully catalogue the whole collection but it remains one of my most prized items!

A Typical stereoscopic image from my collection (the actual resolution is very impressive given these images age!)


Not content with viewers I also have quite a collection of stereoscopic cameras – again, my favourites are probably the oldest ones in my collection (in my opinion  ‘design classics’)

NB people ask me about the first camera top left – yes, it is a stereoscopic camera but also came with an interchangeable lens for 2d use!

Most of the cameras on the second row fold up inside themselves – the ultimate gadgets of their day!

The 3D craze in the fifties produced a treasure trove of cameras and no self respecting gadget lover would be without a Realist or Kodak, (A small selection of 50’s cameras are shown on the bottom right of the picture).


And just recently I have spent some time setting up a dedicated (albeit limited by my dwindling finances) VR area in my ‘man cave’ – perhaps the subject of another future blog post?

Think twice before selling on Amazon.

AmazonUnhappyLast month I sold an item on Amazon for almost £500 and ended up losing both the item and the payment for it.  I was an Amazon seller (after a number of bad experiences such as this one I no longer am). This post will look at what I did and the circumstances that led to me being out of pocket by so much on a single transaction.  While there is more detail (see below), essentially I had a customer claim for a non delivery that was subsequently shown/proved to have been delivered.  (Amazon refunded the customer while I was in the midst of dealing with the issue with the courier). 

And so my plan is to identify if I have a worthwhile claim for the small claims court and if so, who I should claim against ?

1. The Recipient

I now have proof that the package was delivered the day after it was sent (although the tracking information from Parcel2Go did not show this).  The recipient is still claiming that they did not receive it – though the tracking now shows the date and time (with signature) of the delivery.

2. Parcel2Go.

I sent the package using Parcel2Go, which describes itself as “The Parcel Delivery Comparison Website” .  They consolidate the tracking information from all their couriers and present a uniform tracking view on their web site.  On this occasion the delivery event was not captured, although subsequently found to have been logged by their courier – I believe this was the event that sparked off this issue in the first place . UPDATE: It appears that there was an error in the Parcel2Go system that caused it not to pick up the InPost tracking information.

3. InPost / UK Mail / DHL

UK Mail is a subsidiary of DHL and my chosen courier on the Parce2Go web site. They actually delivered the package and their own tracking reflected the delivery date, time and signature of the recipient the day after it was sent.  As I write this the process for InPost providing their tracking information to Parcel2Go is not known to me.  As a consequence at this stage I don’t know if they are to blame for Parcel2Go not showing the delivery event on their web site. UPDATE: As it appears that the issue was down to Parcel2Go’s system so I don’t think that UK Mail can be held responsible.

4. Myself.

The recipient contacted Amazon during our ongoing dialog and asked for a refund.  Amazon then contacted me with the following message:

Within three (3) days, please issue a full refund to the buyer or respond to the claim. You can issue a refund, view, and respond to claims on the “A-to-z Guarantee Claims” page in the “Performance” section of Seller Central  

I responded directly  to the buyer within 3 days, but I used Amazon messaging instead of the A-to-Z claims page.  (In my defence this email was received on January first when I was not at my best.  Additionally there were no follow up mails before Amazon debited my account and refunded the recipient – I had anticipated being in charge of doing this myself as had been the case with previous issues when customers had returned goods to me.)

5. Amazon.

In my opinion Amazon showed an inflexibility within their system that is at odds with the real world.  For instance when the recipient contacted them for a refund the very least they should have done is read the messages that had taken place between myself and the recipient to that date.  It would have been obvious to anyone who did this that not only had this dispute only been going for a short time (under a week) but also that it was ongoing.  In addition they showed complete inflexibility when it was shown that the item had indeed been delivered and have compounded my frustration by not answering my emails regarding this issue.

So there are the candidates – I will be seeking advice as to who I should be claiming against in the small claims court although in my view I personally feel most aggrieved by Amazon who’s process I believe is unfair and inflexible to small sellers such as myself. 


What follows is a broad summary of events – each line is backed up by documentation (emails or chat records) which I would be happy to make available should you be reading this and able to offer me any advice (from a legal standpoint) as to whom I should be pursuing and the approach I should be take?

Amazon Issue

Finally I hope that in addition to assisting me in identifying whom I should be pursuing in the small claims court I hope that it will also serve as a warning to anyone becoming a small seller on Amazon to think hard beforehand and ensure that they are fully aware of Amazon processes (which it would appear are very rigid).

Has anyone had similar experiences selling on EBAY?

NB If you think you can help me please leave a comment or contact me via email: rd3d2[at]hotmail.co.uk. 


Amazon CASE ID: 1724695572

UPDATE: 19/01/2016

Thanks for all the feedback on this.  The comments below and on the Amazon Seller Forums suggest that I should be writing to the recipient and giving them 14 days before I pursue a claim through the small claims court.

(I will endeavour to update this post with progress made in case anyone is interested in the outcome)

UPDATE 01/02/2017

I sent this letter (feel free to reuse) and got an answer back saying that the recipient is happy to settle.  ironically they contacted Amazon but got know answer (as did I) so we settled using PayPal.

14 day letter

Facebook for all and a Happy Birthday to my brother Alan!

So my brother had a birthday yesterday and I had been racking my brain trying to think of something useful that I could get for him.  He has MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and also had a stroke a few years ago that have left it difficult for him to communicate.  He now lives full time in a residential care home.  So for his 58th Birthday I decided to set him up on Facebook – but with a difference.


AlanJohnWalkerI know that Alan will struggle to manage a standard Facebook experience – he has never been technically minded and his MS makes it harder to do things than when he was younger so my idea was to provide him with a “read-only” experience of Facebook so that he can see what his family and friends have been posting and feel like he is more a part of what is going on in the outside world!

I began by setting Alan up with his own Facebook Account – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100014462405710


The first thing that occurred to me is that there is a lot of noise on a typical Facebook Page/App.  The content that I would anticipate that Alan will be interested in is that within the red dotted border above (the timeline) – and so one of the things I am looking at going forward is how we might be able to focus on the timeline element itself.  But for now he will have access to everything and I will have to manage it as best I can. 

I only spoke to the Manager of the care home yesterday to sort out any potential issues (internet access being an obvious one and yes he does have potential for access) .  My thinking in terms of how this might work is different to the way that most people would use Facebook::


So how might this work in the first instance?

I envisage Alan being able to see the Facebook display at all times from his bed and that it is permanently set to show the above page. (At this point I don’t see Alan being able to make use of hands on access – the home is soon to be running an iPad trial which Alan will be a part of – stage 2!)

If someone comes in to Alan’s room they will then have the option of using the Facebook display as a conversation starter with Alan, perhaps spending a few minutes reviewing the most recent posts from his family and friends?

It would also be great if we (friends and family) posted occasionally items on our own Facebook that reflected things that Alan might be interested in (An example is the YouTube posting of someone playing Chopin’s’ Military Polonaise – something that my brother would always request that my Mother played for him on the piano at every available opportunity!)


This is also a good example that highlights the importance of the role that visitors to Alan’s room can play as the piano piece will only be heard if someone touches the play button!

Going forward I can see a number of improvements to this idea which I/we may look at implementing if this initial idea proves to be a success: 

Perhaps a  larger display that was able to focus solely on the timeline and could be operated by Alan using a simple two button remote (“up page”, “down page”’). 

In an ideal world the Facebook display would exist on Alan’s TV as a default channel that he can look at whenever he isn’t watching his TV.  This would need to be a super friendly implementation that goes beyond the current Facebook apps that are often a part of modern smart TVs (although I will take some time to investigate the current generation of Smart TVs to see just how suitable they might be to this purpose).


What does it look like?

Facebook Tablet Idea


Initially I have re-purposed a tablet that was originally part of our home monitoring system (we have just re-jigged our home security so this was freely available).  It isn’t a perfect choice as the screen is a little small though on the positive side the App seems to have a little less noise than the typical Facebook web page and the device itself is quite sturdy (it has a stand built into it’s base) so I am hopeful that I will be able to find a suitable spot in Alan’s room for it.

I drafted up the message to go along with it so that anyone entering Alan’s room (cleaners, social workers etc.) will be able to see what it is about and hopefully be encouraged to highlight any interesting items with Alan.

If you have read this far then thank you.  If you have stumbled on this post on the web and have any ideas for improving this scenario please comment below or email me at rd3d2@hotmail.co.uk.


Many thanks.

Asus T102 – first impressions – Review


As one of the first budget ‘Surface Pro lookalikes’ the ASUS has the dubious honour of being directly compared to a product costing over twice as much – so how does it measure up?

First impressions are good, the keyboard action is pleasing with solid feedback on every keyboard touch.  Likewise, attaching and detaching the ‘surface like’ keyboard is reminiscent of the confidence inspiring ‘clunk’ of a car door.  The overall feel of the product is reminiscent to that of the Surface itself – it feels like a well crafted product, perhaps a little thicker than Surface but with the same overall solidly made feel to it – at least at this early stage it doesn’t feel like it is something that will begin to fall apart after six months of use!


Sideways on the ‘surface look’ continues – happily ASUS have benefited from a few generations of improvements of the Surface design itself and the T102 adopts both the more solid ‘folding back lip’ for the keyboard and the ‘any angle you like’ positioning of the stand – nice!  (As such it will feel like an upgrade to owners of the earlier Surface units that do not posses these features).  And the addition of multiple choices of colour for the keyboards will please those who want to match it with their décor (I am assured such people exist!)

So are there any downsides?  Well I can overlook the lack of Windows hello integration at this price point (and the fingerprint scanner tucked away on the reverse of the device does a similar job).  The device is also a little heavier than I would like, though not so much as would prevent the average person from using it.  It also “maxes out” at 4GB RAM so this is never going to be a power users or developers device (and why would it be – this isn’t the market that Asus is aiming at)

When I looked at this device it struck me as the perfect replacement for my wife’s’ now aging first generation Surface RT device, the price is good, the specifications quite generous for an entry level device and the style draws strongly on the hard work done in the Microsoft camp over the preceding years.

When I say I want a C# developer what I actually want is an ASP.Net developer?

So putting all the XAML stuff to one side (sure that can be web but it is usually referred to as “XAML”) this is an attempt to quantify what it might mean to be a C#, ASP.Net developer today – this is actually an impossible job as these requirements are specific to individual roles and are also in a constant state of flux with prevailing technology changes! (Click on the headings for wider definitions from Wikipedia)

The following five items are probably the “pillars” in terms of requirements to be an Asp.Net developer. In addition a rudimentary understanding of a back end database such as SQL SERVER is a common requirement.


1. C#

“C# is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language.[9] Its development team is led by Anders Hejlsberg. The most recent version is C# 6.0 which was released in 2015”


“ASP.NET is an open-source server-side web application framework designed for web development to produce dynamic web pages. It was developed by Microsoft to allow programmers to build dynamic web sites, web applications and web services.”

3. MVC

MVC (Model-View-Controller) is a software architectural pattern for implementing user interfaces on computers. It divides a given software application into three interconnected parts, so as to separate internal representations of information from the ways that information is presented to or accepted from the user.


Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) is the standard mark-up language for creating web pages and web applications. With Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript, it forms a triad of cornerstone technologies for the World Wide Web. (ASP.Net commonly renders it’s output as HTML)

5. JavaScript

JavaScript is a popular, high-level, dynamic, untyped, and interpreted programming language dating back to the dawn of the web.



 What else am I likely to be expected to know about?

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

Cascading Style Sheets is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a mark-up language most often used to set the visual style of web pages.


Bootstrap is a free and open-source front-end web framework for designing websites and web applications. It contains HTML- and CSS-based design templates for typography, forms, buttons, navigation and other interface components, as well as optional JavaScript extensions. Unlike many web frameworks, it concerns itself with front-end development only.  (It’s principal trick is in providing a basis for a UI capable of adapting to any form factor)


jQuery is a cross-platform JavaScript library designed to simplify the client-side scripting of HTML. It is free, open-source software using the permissive MIT License. Web analysis indicates that it is the most widely deployed JavaScript library by quite a large margin.


Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform JavaScript runtime environment for developing a diverse variety of tools and applications. Although Node.js is not a JavaScript framework, many of its basic modules are written in JavaScript, and developers can write new modules in JavaScript. The runtime environment interprets JavaScript using Google’s V8 JavaScript engine.


Angular is a complete JavaScript-based open-source front-end web application framework mainly maintained by Google and by a community of individuals and corporations to address many of the challenges encountered in developing single-page applications.


Typescript is a free and open source programming language developed and maintained by Microsoft. It is a strict superset of JavaScript, and adds optional static typing and class-based object-oriented programming to the language.


ADO.NET is a data access technology from the Microsoft .NET Framework which provides communication between relational and non-relational systems through a common set of components. 

NB The Entity Framework and Linq  are related aspects of this framework and a basic understanding of operation is a common requirement for jobs requiring MVC.


Dependency injection is a technique whereby one object supplies the dependencies of another object. A dependency is an object that can be used (a service). An injection is the passing of a dependency to a dependent object (a client) that would use it. The service is made part of the client’s state.[1] Passing the service to the client, rather than allowing a client to build or find the service, is the fundamental requirement of the pattern.

The intent behind dependency injection is to decouple objects to the extent that no client code has to be changed simply because an object it depends on needs to be changed to a different one.


AJAX (short for asynchronous JavaScript and XML)is a set of web development techniques using many web technologies on the client-side to create asynchronous Web applications. With Ajax, web applications can send data to and retrieve from a server asynchronously (in the background) without interfering with the display and behavior of the existing page. By decoupling the data interchange layer from the presentation layer, Ajax allows for web pages, and by extension web applications, to change content dynamically without the need to reload the entire page In practice, modern implementations commonly substitute JSON for XML due to the advantages of being native to JavaScript.

Ajax is not a technology, but a group of technologies. HTML and CSS can be used in combination to mark up and style information. The DOM is accessed with JavaScript to dynamically display – and allow the user to interact with – the information presented. JavaScript and the XMLHttpRequest object provide a method for exchanging data asynchronously between browser and server to avoid full page reloads.

Which tools am I likely to utilise?


Visual Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) from Microsoft. It is used to develop computer programs for all common platforms, as well as web sites, web applications and web services.


Powershell is a task automation and configuration management framework from Microsoft, consisting of a command-line shell and associated scripting language built on the .NET Framework. It was made open-source and cross-platform in 2016.

From a developer standpoint it can be useful in many common scenarios:

  • static analysis
  • interfacing with C#
  • embedding PowerShell applications
  • working with XML and JSON
  • interfacing with Excel



GitHub is a web-based Git repository hosting service. It offers all of the distributed version control and source code management (SCM) functionality of Git (command line tool) as well as adding its own features.



Buzz Words

Each role you undertake is likely to have it’s own preferred libraries and methodologies.  Some of the more common requirements are:


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