All posts by Justin

Moving to Mars

Getting humans to Mars is becoming one of the great challenges of our time. From the spaceships to be used for the 8-month journey to the habitats that people will live in, and from terraforming the landscape to the development of a new society, every detail in this collective endeavour must be designed.

Source: Moving to Mars

Tarutao National Marine Park

You know that thing Win 10 does when it boots up – displays a funky photo for you to enjoy before logging in? This was one of those photos. Thanks Microsoft ūüôā

Covering an area of 1490 km² at the southernmost Thailand, consists of 51 islands on three archipelagos.

Source: Tarutao National Marine Park

NASA’s Opportunity Rover Logs 15 Years on Mars | NASA

The Opportunity rover landed in a region of the Red Planet called Meridiani Planum 15 years ago today yesterday, on Jan. 24, 2004.

The golf-cart-sized rover was designed to travel 1,100 yards (1,006 meters) and operate on the Red Planet for 90 Martian days (sols). It has traveled over 28 miles (45 kilometers) and logged its 5,000th Martian day (or sol) back in February of 2018.

Source: NASA’s Opportunity Rover Logs 15 Years on Mars | NASA

Graphics card upgrade: Hello GTX 1080

Almost four years ago(!) I built a small-ish games machine initially exclusively for playing Elite: Dangerous. Since then my PC games diet kind of exploded and more recent releases such as Far Cry 5 have been pushing the limits of my trusty GTX 970, manifesting as regular brief pauses at really inopportune moments during peggie takedowns.

So I turned to Ebay and found a nice new GTX 1080 8GB card. Oh boy, is this thing smooth at ultra settings? Yes. Yes it is. Smoother than Jackson’s and Alien Ant Farm’s criminals combined. Smoother even than Sade’s operator.

Unwrapping it revealed a sizeable card, fronted with two large fans compared to the 970’s three. But aside from being a few mm taller than the 970, it was pretty much the same form factor. Which was a relief because I’d¬†seen a few questions from 1080 buyers asking if they’d fit in a micro-ITX sized case (mine’s a Cooler Master Elite 120) and it seems that some of these cards might be too big.

But the Elite 120 case is a great small form factor box, and although everything’s pretty tightly packed inside once the CPU cooler and drives are mounted and connected, it leaves the gfx card on an outside edge, so it’s not too painful to swap out.

First thing then, disconnect all cables from the box then get the outer shell off, then¬†before doing anything else, attach an anti-static strap. If you don’t have one, make sure you get a good grip of the chassis to make sure you’re earthed.

But seriously, get a strap – they’re only a few pounds and could save you hundreds.

It’s probably sensible to look at your setup and figure out how the extraction of

your old card is going to go before you start pulling at anything.

I figured mine would lift up then the bottom end would come forward and sit on the anti-static foam from the new card’s packaging. Then I’d unplug the power connectors and job done!

And that’s pretty much how it went. Once I’d remembered to undo the locking mechanism on the back (right hand side in this image) of the PCI-E slot. Also make sure¬†to remove the PCI-E connector¬†cover¬†and the Zero Frozr fan sticker!

The extra height of the 1080 made for a bit of coaxing to get it seated properly, and then the power connectors pressed up against the quick-release lever for the DVD drive, which put some unwanted pressure on the card/mobo interface.

Fortunately the lever was quick to remove and replace with regular screws.

So that’s it – a nice simple swap out and, having already had the Geforce software on the machine, as soon as Windows rebooted (initially in a low resolution mode) it got to work detecting the new card and switched back to regular HD.

I’m only running it at 1920 x 1080 so even¬†with full ultra everything enabled in the games I’ve tried so far I’m getting a rock-solid frame rate, only about two thirds of the VRAM are used and those two fans are barely making any noise.

Best of all, no more missed headshots because of dropped fractions of seconds. Awesome.

Bring on Read Dead Redemption 2!


Broken stuff

I’ve shoved this blog from place to place over the years, and along the way some things broke.

Thing is, I don’t think enough people care to warrant going back over everything and patching it up. So yeah, some stuff is broken. Sorry.


Reasons not to be considerate

It’s Christmas eve. Plans are made for the evening and the few days that follow, and I have a Co-wheels car (one of those social enterprise schemes) booked to ease the pain of getting around during times when there is no public transport, and to allow us to take my father-in-law out and about to see some of the local area.


I made the booking a few weeks ago as soon as I knew that a car would be needed. I haven’t had my own for about four years now, thanks in part to schemes like Co-wheels, and also to my current working arrangements.

A few days before Christmas eve I realised I wouldn’t be able to pick it up at 9am as I had originally planned, and rather than leave it sitting there unusable by anyone else I figured I’d delay the pick-up time so that someone else who needs it could use it.

Needless to say when I arrived to pick it up at the later time, the car was nowhere to be seen.

I called Co-wheels to find out where it was and they told me it had been due back at 11:30 that morning. It’s now almost 3.30pm. Eventually, they contact the person who’s using it only to discover that they’re still in London, claim that they had extended their booking until the 27th, and won’t be bringing it back.

Either they’re lying or Co-wheels’ booking system is broken.*

After much searching (and a walk home in the now chilling afternoon air) Co-wheels set me up with another hire starting later that night, and yet another starting on the morning of the 27th (today).

These bookings almost cover the entire period I had wanted the original car for, with the exception of the afternoon of Christmas eve obviously, but better than nothing, so I’m happy enough.

This morning, Sunday 27th December, I dutifully get up early and return the car I’ve got to its parking spot in town. Someone else has it booked from 9:15am, and I get it there at 9:10. Perfect. Except… where’s the other car that’s supposed to be here? Nowhere to be seen. Again.

So that’s two people who either don’t give a f*%# about anybody else using the same scheme as them, or Co-wheels’ booking system is broken.*


Look how easy it should be

Again, I walk home in the cold, and rainy morning, having waited fruitlessly for half an hour to see if my car would turn up. And worse, to discover that the car I returned remained uncollected.

I returned to the car park later this afternoon, at around 3:45pm. My original car looked like it hadn’t moved since I dropped it off, and the other still wasn’t there either.

I was supposed to be collecting my son this morning, so he could have his Christmas visit with us and we had made a few other plans besides, all of which had to be abandoned. And that’s all because I was mindful of other scheme users.

Sadly, now that I’ve lost confidence in the system, I’ll never make that mistake again. And whether it’s due to the pig ignorance of others and the apparent absence of any kind of deterrent to such behaviour or whether it’s Co-wheels’ borked booking system*, it means that sometimes, whether I need the car at that moment or not, I’ll have it booked out and it’ll be inaccessible to anybody else. Which isn’t how a social scheme is supposed to work, nor is it how I really want to have to behave as a scheme member but I can’t risk this much of a cock-up happening again.

So too bad for everyone else from now on.


*Update: Co-wheels called to explain that they’re investigating the member(s) involved and that their booking system is working properly. So it really does look like it’s all down to the extreme selfishness of others.