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:


Privacy Policy


This App does not collect, store or share any personal information, or anything related to your device.  We do not collect any statistics, trends or track user movements.

Sharing Data

The app provides share functionality through the O/S that allows you to share newsworthy information with any third party application. The App allows you to open Web URLs from the application.  The internet urls might be saved by the web browser on your device.  For further information on this consult your web browsers own documentation.

NB This Privacy policy covers your use any app  from “Web Surfaces”

Comparison of Photos with Lumia 950lx vs Lumia 1020 vs Lumia 1520

This is a very simple test comparing the basic snapshot capabilities of these three phones.  All phones were set on maximum resolution and auto shoot using the basic camera app.


So all produced good results with my personal preference being for the 1520 (though I find it difficult to tie down my reasoning?)

Zoomed Compare

Zoomed in to the Daffodils in the first picture the clear winner is the 1020 – that might surprise some as it is such an old device – although those ‘in the know’ will already appreciate the benefits of it’s superior hardware.  (Notwithstanding there is a downside to the higher resolution achieved as the file sizes produced by the 1020 are considerably larger should you wish to shoot at this resolution).



So I was curious to know how well the newer Lumias stack up against the  older 1020 with my personal conclusion being that for straight snapshots the 1020 still has the crown.  Of course it benefits from having more time for the engineers to perfect the cameras’ algorithms and I would expect the 950lx to only improve over time.

I found this an interesting comparison and I might follow up with a similar comparison using some common Android and iOS phones (should I be able to get my hands on!)

NB Full Res images can be downloaded from here:


HTC Vive Hands On

WP_20160824_12_09_31_Pro (3)

So I was lucky enough to try out the Vive this morning, working my way through several ‘experiences’ and ‘hands on demos’.

First things first.  If you have ever looked at a great watercolour or oil painting and thought ‘wow, that is so lifelike’ then you are not far from the same feelings generated by any good VR Headset.  (you might say ‘close but no cigar’). That said, for me, the Vive has come the closest to providing a ‘real life like’ experience.  The unit I tried was connected to a high end PC – which goes a long way to ensuring this like like experience.  For one thing I didn’t feel like I was ‘looking through a mesh windows’ which is the common experience with the otherwise excellent Oculus Rift (DK2).  However, I ‘felt the wires’ a couple of times which also takes one a little out of the experience (one of the advantages of the completely wireless Gear VR Headset from Samsung).

After putting on the headset and headphones I was given the two paddles which consist of a button device and trigger on the underside.

Demo 1


The first demo allowed me to create balloons (colours of my choosing via a spin wheel on the ‘virtual’ button) and launch them off into the surrounding space.  I could hit the balloons with either paddle and their behaviour was very lifelike (I wasn’t able to pop one but maybe that was just because I didn’t have enough time!)



Demo 2


With this demo the paddles became a pallette and brush and I was able to ‘draw in space’ and create what appeared to be solid structures that I could look around and augment from other angles. There were various pens,pencils etc and numerous options to change colours, line thicknesses and textures similar in many ways to those available in a normal 2d style paint package.  The process was very intuitive and I wondered about the possibilities of 3d printing the results (though I am not sure the 3d printers are sophisticated enough to create something that wouldn’t simply fall down in gravity!) 

I’m also not sure what the immediate use of this functionality might be but it proved to be great fun!


Demo 3

This was an amazing undersea adventure in which I could walk around the deck of a sunken wreck while viewing the undersea world around me.  This was the demo that for me highlighted a feature of the Vive that I haven’t seen elsewhere as when I walked over to a physical wall in the real world – a virtual wall appeared within the virtual world to stop me going further.  (For this to work in a home environment you would need to set the sensors – the small boxes shown in the first image – around the ceiling/walls of your own home space).  The whale swims majestically towards you and my immediate inclination was to reach out and pat it (Goodness knows what the people watching thought I was doing!)


Demo 4


This was an interactive demo that required you to pick things up and push various buttons to simulate a typical office environment.  To begin with you are invited to make a cup of coffee which involves picking up a mug, taking it over to the coffee machine behind you, plugging in the coffee machine and selecting your brew!  You then progress to switching on your PC and typing in a simple pin to log in and star work.  Again, a fun demo that suggests the useful potential of simulating real world interactions.



Update: September 2016 – Microsoft stores in the US are currently offering a 15 minute demo of the HTC Vive – I tried it again and found the demos to be even slicker than those I tried back in March – well worth a trial if you get the chance!

Amazon Prime 4K, Triax THC 22 and the Hisense LTDN65K680M3D 65 Inch 4K UHD TV

Following on from these posts dating back a couple of years the Hisense is well and truly bedded in and in use every day.  As explained previously I really bought this TV (strictly speaking a ‘monitor’ as it doesn’t have it’s own TV tuner) for it’s size rather than as simply a 4K TV – the wow factor came from seeing high definition video on a 65” screen – and that still looks fantastic to this day!  That said, I finally got round to getting a regular streaming source for 4k in the shape of the latest Amazon Fire TV Box .



Having used the box in 1080p mode for a couple of weeks I decided to see what was on the market to allow me to stream 4k to the Hisense (which, being a little long in the tooth, only supports HDCP 2).  I found the Triax on the CPC website for under £50. 




The Triax is simplicity itself to set up – simply connect the standard USB Power,the output to the HDMI 1 input on the Hisense and the Input to the Fire box and away you go!

Most of the content made by Amazon is available at no extra cost as a part of their PRIME subscription service including the excellent “Bosch” which is one of my favourites.  As luck would have it season 2 is being made available in 4k tomorrow (11/3/2016) and I am looking forward to binge watching this in 4k!

Picture quality is fantastic – but as I said the wow factor for me was really the 65” screen at 1080p – sure it looks better in 4K but for me 4k is simply a ‘nice to have’.

Netflix?  I haven’t tried the Triax with Netflix but would be confident that it would work just as well as it does with the Amazon streamed 4k content.


NB I have all my sources, including the output from the Triax routed through an Onkyo A/V Amp (built in 4k support)

Where have your apps gone?


I was surprised to find that the tally of apps I have developed over the previous 5 years or so is close to 300 – an average of an app a week over the period.  I have been asked why I spent so much of my time developing these Apps and although I have touched on this elsewhere in my blog I thought it worth revisiting and explaining why I have taken the decision to remove these apps from the store.

After a lengthy period as a contract developer I made the decision for personal reasons, to close down my business.  This gave me the opportunity to learn about App development and at the same time to consolide my existing web and desktop skills.

Having now made the decision to return to a more traditional role I want to clear the decks and focus on the next stage of my carreer. Correspondingly it no longer makes sense to support the many Windows and Windows phone Apps which I am now in the process of retiring from the store.

Of course that doesn’t mean that if you have one of these apps it will suddently stop working and there is certainly no reason why you shouldn’t continue to enjoy any apps you have for years to come!

As ever you are free to email me about any aspect of any apps that you own!