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Khürt’s Awesomely Nerdy Blog

February 26, 2024 in focus-on-others by Matthew Brown

Today I would like to introduce you to Khürt Williams and Island in the Net a blog by Khürt.

It has been too long since I did a Focus on Others. I honestly did intend to make this a weekly feature. Long-time readers will know how that goes (case-in-point look at how much of my archive is still missing). Enough about me, let’s talk about Khürt’s blog Island in the Net.

Day Moon · 2 January 2024 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro back camera 6mm f/2 This work is by Khürt Williams and is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Most excitingly for me, Khürt has a /now page. I too have a (out of date) /now page and a sometimes neglected project to automate said page. Ever since I learned about the idea of /now pages, I’ve loved the idea. Any blog (like Khürt’s Island in the Net) that has one is automatically 10% more appealing to me.

There was a lot to see and almost all of it was excellent. I struggled to choose just a few posts to share for each topic. To be honest, I struggled to not add a bajillion topics.

As I ended up using topics to determine which posts I would select, I’m going to cover my favourite posts by topic.

This post’s featured image is a photograph by Khürt. I saw the Creative Commons license which I am fairly confident applies to the image.

Khürt, I love your blog, if my use of your photo offends you, I can take it down and replace it with something generic.

Each specific post link (not the embeds) opens in a new tab/window so feel free to pop over and view each post.

Khürt’s Nature Photography

One of the things I love about Mastodon is that I regularly find nature photography and wholesome content as I scroll through my feed. Which is why I was delighted to find the same on Island in the Net.

I doubt many people know that I am an enthusiastic rank mature photographer. If not for a good friend (and better photographer) I might never get myself outside and taking pictures. Of those images, very few are good enough that I feel like sharing them. I feel I have a lot to learn. Sometimes, looking at other people’s photography can teach ideas no one has given words to yet. Other images are just nice to look at. Khürt’s are both.

Carolina Chickadee or Black-capped Chickadee?

In “Carolina Chickadee or Black-capped Chickadee?“, Khürt shows us a gorgeous shot of a Chickadee with a caption that tells me how the shot was set up. Long zoom anywhere up to 800mm. I think mine caps out at 135mm.

I love the use of depth of field to take attention away from the background but frame and centre of the Chickadee.

I love Khürt’s use of AI (ChatGPT) to identify the type of Chickadee. This is the sort of thing that AI should be used for.

Sidewalk after a rain

Sidewalk after a rain” is a form of photography that appeals to me. Using an angle and perspective that we don’t often take for ourselves.

This photo was taken with an iPhone 11. I have to be honest, I’m surprised about that. The depth of field (stuff in focus) keeps our attention on the reflection in the puddle while the soft-focused background gives us content clues without getting in the way of the focal subject.

Viewing a nature shot (or any shot) via reflections on water is something I am still working on. I usually use rivers or streams but now I have seen Khürt’s photo, I am inspired to try to do the same with puddles.

Grey Catbird Curiosity

I’ve chosen this post not for any technical reasons but just because I loved the photograph.

Incidental Photography

I was going to stop at three photography posts, but when I returned to the front page to decide what tag or topic I would take a dive into next, I found “Incidental Photography“.

In this post, Khürt takes us through the different lenses of an iPhone, the different facial lengths and ISO, and the best uses of each one. I now know that each has a different exposure time. Each one is fast enough to avoid camera shake in even the most wabbly of conditions.

I do love some nerdy attention to detail.

Khürt on AI

I love messing about with AI. AI can be a lot of fun. Take as an example, Jane Sillybottom. Jane was created from a ChatGPT prompt that turns it into the world’s worst and silliest agony aunt.

Inspiration

I’ve long dreamed of selling everything (except my Mac and digital camera gear) and embracing a digital nomad lifestyle.

Khürt Williams

It is like you read my mind. Escaping onto the road like that is something I daydream about a lot.

In “Inspiration“, Khürt used this (and another image) as a jumping-off point to get DALL-E to generate idyllic images of life on the open road.

Experiments with ChatGPT and Fuji Film Simulations

Experiments with ChatGPT and Fuji Film Simulations“, is a post about experimenting with ChatGPT. Khürt asked ChatGPT to create a Fuji Film Simulation recipe for the Fuji X-T3 that simulates Kodak Pro Image 100. If you want to find out how that went, you’ll have to read the blog post.

ChatGPT writes about a horse

One of my hobbies is asking AI to do weird things and seeing how it copes. I have a whole section for that sort of delicious nonsense on my other blog.

In this post Khürt got ChapGPT to write a short story. I’m not going to spoil the post by saying anything about the story. The idea of a Focus on Others post is to get you interested in the website of the person we are focusing on. ChatGPT writes about a horse is a fun little post – go and read it. I’ll still be here when you come back.

Khürt’s Experience Reports

Khürt is the type of person who goes outside and does things. Some of those things he reports back on. These are his experience reports. A great idea that I may have to borrow.

I love the writing style used to take us on a journey through the experience. You can be sure I have been taking notes to apply to my own writing.

Reconsidering Choices: Reflecting on the Lectric XPremium Electric Bike Experience

In this post, we are gifted a review of the Lectric XPremium e-bike. I’m not gonna lie, I kinda want one now.

Oakflower Brewing in Millington

This post is a travelogue-style report of a visit to a brewery in search of some real ales to sample. I approve. I am a fan of ales. I think the taste for them grew in with my beard.

Khürt makes Oakflower Brewing sound like a must-visit location. I’m kind of jealous and may have to plan a trip to check the place out for myself. By which I mean I will probably spend the next five years thinking and telling myself, “maybe next year”.

Fujicolor Super HQ 200 – Expired

I chose this post as an exemplar of a large collection of experience report posts. These are posts where Khürt uses a specific type of film (or camera) and then reports back with technical details and stunning images.

I was about 19 or 20 when I last used an SLR with film. The experience has left me with a great nostalgia for film and darkroom work. I’ve looked at many a digital photograph and said things like, “in a dark room I would use my hands to block all but that bit and give it an extra minute.” or “This would look great solarised”.

I’m sure there are apps or plugins for apps, to do these things. It is just not the same as getting your hands inside the light to massage the exposure of the paper. Posts like these pressed my “I remember doing this” buttons.

Three honourable mentions to end with

An audiophile kit review

Another example of good use of a zoom lens.

This was when I discovered someone else who still remembers and loves film. Sadly, my budget dictates I stay digital only but I may have to live my love of film photography vicariously through Khürt.

TL;DR: I found a new blog and loved it. You too should go explore Island in the Net.

Keep an eye out for 10 Things I Learned From Khürt Williams’ Blog which I shall start writing after I publish this one. (A link will appear when the post is published).

Geeks overwhelmingly recommend Firefox

February 5, 2024 in the-internet by Matthew Brown

In a Mastodon poll, Firefox took first place with 74% with Vivaldi trailing a distant second at 8%.

The poll attracted 2,212 votes, boosted by 279 accounts, which in my opinion should have given it a good sampling of instances (servers) and communities. The poll was started by @asahi.

Now you know. If your question is “Which Web Browser should I use?” the geek community resoundingly recommends Firefox. Going by the discussions under the poll, the community strongly discourages anything Google Chrome or Chrome-based. Like, for example, Brave which geeks have additional reasons for avoiding.

Why should I use Firefox instead of Chrome?

The geeky consensus on Chrome is that it is more or less spyware at this stage, is horrible for privacy, runs slowly, eats resources (CPU and RAM), and gives an advertising company (Google) too much control over web standards. Furthermore, many other browsers are just chrome with a facelift. The nerds of Reddit are not fans at all.

There is an alternative to Chrome which is lighter, faster, isn’t just Chrome reskinned (like Brave), is not spying on you, is not out for world domination, eats less CPU and RAM, and is far more private. That’s Firefox.

To within a small margin of error, three-quarters (3 out of 4) of the tech-literate social media users say Firefox FTW. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this last point is good or bad.

Which browser do you commend and why?

Convince me to move to your favourite browser in the comments, via ActivityPub, or by WebMention.

Tone-deaf Tory, George Freeman, boohooing that £118,300 is not enough money.

January 30, 2024 in politics by Matthew Brown

Tory MP George Freeman has quit his ministerial role because – get this – he says he can’t pay his mortgage on an income of “only” £118,300. That’s such a tiny amount that any of us would be hard-pressed to… Oh, wait, I meant to say most of us would love your income. Suck it up buttercup.

The median average salary for all workers in the UK is £27,756 Avtinity says which they get from this government source. If George’s outlier income of £118,300 cannot sustain a person then we are all doomed.

I honestly did not make this up

And because my mortgage rises this month from £800pcm to £2000, which I simply couldn’t afford to pay on a Ministerial salary. That’s political economy 2.0.

Why we need a cross-party consensus for long term policy to unlock the value of UK Science, Technology & Innovation., George Freeman MP’s blog (you’ll have to scroll a long way before he rambles into this bit)

George’s grumblings

Is this entitled Tory with no idea about the real world expecting sympathy from us? “Boo-hoo, my life of caviar and six hundred quid bottles of wine is being inconvenienced by the cost of living crisis. Surely, you don’t expect me to live like those filthy working-class muggles?”

George Freeman’s main point is he had to do work to get his money and that was tiring. Yes, George old boy, that’s called being a grown-up. I know real life is a bit of a mystery to you but perhaps you should ask nanny about it. Did you expect to get paid for making no effort whatsoever? Silly George.

Sure, what George might be learning is that working under Tories – any of them – is tiring and depressing. Welcome to reality sunshine – we have had to live like this for years. George, if he is paying attention, may have learned the harsh truth that Tories are happy to crush others under them to get ahead. If you swim with sharks, you may get bitten. George probably still thinks he’s a shark too. Silly George.

George’s other gripe is that his mortgage shot up from £800 to £2000. I hate to break this to you Goerge old boy but that is entirely a mess of your own making. Or at least the making of the party you serve. Between May’s Mini-budget, expensively mishandled COVID, Brexit, and the general bungling of the economy, what else did you expect? Life has consequences, Georgey. You reap what you sow. Silly George.

Tell me this George, how exactly do you and your Tory chums expect the rest of us to get by? Are you going to do the right thing and campaign for a rise in the minimum standard of living? Oh, wait, no. You want a private sector job that pays more money. Silly of me to think a Tory could learn a life lesson here.

Goerges numbers: A breakdown

George Freeman has a net income of £118,300. After tax that would be £72,325 except that MPs can claim exemption for expenses. To keep things simple, we shall just work off the £72k figure.

£72,325 is 2.6x the median average salary before tax. George’s new mortgage rate (which his party is the cause of) is £2000 a month. That’s 24,000 a year – roughly what the average person takes home each year.

That leaves poor old George with just £48,325 to play with. Let’s imagine he has to fork over £20,000 a year to pay his ex-wife for his kids. He then has £28,325 to play with. George is still above the median average salary.

Where is George Freeman doing the food shop such that £28k is not enough? Is he chartering a helicopter to go and witness his food being harvested? Many of us have to use less than that to run our entire lives.

Perhaps George Freeman needs to drink fewer expensive coffees and stop buying avocado toast.

D&D Cantrips in the real world

January 19, 2024 in just-for-fun by Matthew Brown

In my previous post, I told you a story about being offered the use of spells from Dungeons and Dragons but in real life.

Just as a recap, here are the spells and their limits.

level0123456789
slots5433332211
spells5435332211
days 01248163264128256
The higher the level, the longer the recharge time.

These are my picks for the best cantrips to choose. What they all have in common is that they are useful in everyday situations and have a low chance of a monkey paw side effect.

Prestidigitation

Prestidigitation is not the most powerful spell in the game but, in real life, it would be the all-purpose utility.

  • Reheat your dinner and make it taste better
  • Keep your mug of tea hot and your cold drink cold
  • Clean yourself and your clothes in around twelve seconds
  • Light or blow out candles – handy at a birthday party
  • Mark things for an hour
  • Summon slight illusions and harmless sensory effects
  • make things temporarily appear and generally show off

This is a must-take, surely.

Mending

This spell repairs a single break or tear in an object you touch, such as a broken chain link, two halves of a broken key, a torn cloak, or a leaking wineskin. As long as the break or tear is no larger than 1 foot in any dimension, you mend it, leaving no trace of the former damage.

dnd5e.wikidot.com/spell:mending

This would be a wildly useful spell to have in the real world.

You drop your iPhone and smash the screen. Not to worry, cast mending and it is as good as new.

Your favourite T-shirt is getting worn and shabby. You might have to cast it a bunch of times (plus one shot of Prestidigitation to clean it) but you could restore it to glory.

You could easily set yourself up with a workshop and buy broken items from ebay that you mend and list working as new the next day. Or you could run a phone repair shop where you can charge handsomely for “1-hour repairs” that take you 6 seconds.

Become an air/earth/fire/water bender

With Gust, Mold Earth, Control Flames, or Shape Water you can master one of the four basic elements.

  • Air (Gust) is good for surfers, sailors, hot air balloon pilots, lighter-than-air aircraft captains…
  • Earth (Mold Earth) may be good for landscape gardeners, builders, and people who dig tunnels for a living
  • Fire (Control Flames) would be good for a circus act, a fireman, or… erm…
  • Water (Shape Water) could be for a barkeeper, fireman, pond technician, pool cleaner, lifeguard, stage magician…

With the ability to make ice, move water about, and change its colours, Shape Water seems the one with the most real-world application. The ability to make ice at will is dead handy.

Of course, that does mean convincing the entity to allow spells from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything but Light is a good fallback.

Mage Hand

The ability to pick up stuff via Mage Hand that is a bit too far away could be useful in a range of mundane situations. From grabbing the remote to snatching a snack from the table – none of the applications are especially high concept but they might be useful.

You can lift 10 lbs which is fractionally over 4.5 kg. That’s roughly one bag of grocery shopping that can just float along beside you.

Minor Illusion

Minor Illusion just beats out Light (in my mind) as the perfect companion to Prestidigitation to the point that you could now be a special effects wizard, a stage performer, or just a really convincing cult leader.

Applications of Minor Illusion include telling the most amazing stories with full animation to go with it. The utility of this cantrip entirely depends on your imagination.

Cantrips I did not choose

I mentioned light. If water-bending is not your thing, light could be a good replacement. Although Mage Hand and a light switch do the same thing.

I did not select Acid Splash, Frostbite, or Infestation because I’m not a bloody psychopath who goes around maiming and killing. Also, Frostbite and Infestation are not from the Player’s Handbook. The same argument goes for most of the other cantrips. In a game about fighting monsters, those spells might be useful but where I live, hurting other people is generally frowned upon. If actual monsters show up, I’ll have to get creative.

Which cantrips would you pick for real-world use?

D&D wizard spells for real life

January 19, 2024 in just-for-fun by Matthew Brown

An eldrich traveller of realities approaches you. In its hand is a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook. “I wish to offer you a deal,” it says. “Prove to me that this world would be better with magic in it and I will grant you power.”

You’ve seen enough movies to know that the deal could end incredibly badly for you. You make a point of not giving any sign of agreement. “Before I accept,” you say, “what constitutes this proof? Define power. Define better. Define magic… Define everything in exact terms. I’m not willing to take a monkey’s paw deal.”

The traveller lowers his hod and grins a somewhat unsettling grin that is just a little too wide for its face. “I will grant you magic as described in this game book I hold. I will allow you to select spells from the wizard class. You will have access to them under a certain set of limits. Should you honestly be able to claim that your life is better you shall have proven the value of magic here. Likewise, if more creatures affected by the magic would honestly claim improvement than those who claim anything else, again you will have proven and you win. Should you win, I will release magic into this world for all and you shall keep my gift. Anyone naturally able to use magic and willing to study will have access to magical power. You will have five years after which I shall return to pass judgment. Should you fail, this world will remain void of magic and you, a being of magic will be extracted from this world as if you never existed.”

“Wait,” you say holding up your hand. “The wizard class you say? Do I get the feats and other benefits? What level, first or something better? There’s a significant difference, you know.”

“STOP!” The ground shakes from his voice. “I will grant you the spells of a fully realised wizard.”

“Level Twenty?” That’s a lot of power. You find yourself feeling quite excited and just a little bit worried.

“As you say,” says the traveller. “Twentieth level. As per the rules of this game, you will receive five and only five cantrips and the spells of other ranks as given in the wizard levels table.”

“If I’m level twenty,” you say, “I get Signature Spell. That’s two more prepared level-three spells that don’t count towards my limit.”

“Very well,” snaps the entity. “You are starting to annoy me now and that is a poor choice few survive. You will have your extra level threes but there will be a price to pay at the end of this. Now listen without further interruption or I will drag you bodily to the plane of eternal suffering and offer this deal to someone more compliant.”

You nod somewhat frightened by this threat.

Over the next few minutes, the entity describes the rules of this test. A tattoo will appear on the inside of your dominant arm showing the number of spell slots you have available. Used slots will be faded until they return. You may pick the same number of spells of each level as you have spell slots. Plus the bonus level three spells. Cantrips will work as you would expect them to – whenever you want them. The higher-level spells will use up a spell slot.

Spell slots will regenerate according to a different set of rules. First-level spell slots will take a full day to recharge and each level above that will take twice as long.

It shows you a table written in red on a thin leathery page.

level0123456789
slots5433332211
spells5435332211
days 01248163264128256
You see that the entity already thought of the bonus spells. They are right there on the chart.

The entity shows you how to summon an illusion into the palm of your hand. This illusion that only you can see, allows you to select the spell you wish to cast and view the details of how it probably works. You can also cast the spell by saying its name or by selecting it from the view hovering above your palm. Any significant material components – that is those with a gold value – you will have to find for yourself while the “common” ingredients are unneeded.

“Listen to me mortal,” says the entity. “You have three days to choose your spells. Once chosen the spell cannot be swapped out. Do we have a deal?” It holds out what is probably a hand.

You find yourself shaking the hand even though you did not mean to. You wanted to think it over. As soon as you grasp his bony hand you know the deal is set. You have committed to taking on magic from an imaginative world of high fantasy and powerful magic.

The tattoo he promised appears, burning its way onto your skin in black and gold. It hurts like you can’t believe. The deep pain lingers for several minutes. Once the tattoo is in place you find that you instinctively know that you will get to cast one level 9 spell each year. That only gives you time to cast it four times.

What spells do you select?

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