Reset to Factory Defaults won’t work on my Kindle

kindle factory reset screenMy Kindle goes with me everywhere. I spend a lot of time at work (and at home) in front of a computer, so the e-ink screen on the Kindle gives my eyes a rest when I want to read a book. However I have had to factory reset my Kindle twice in the last few months. My wifi Kindle lost it’s wifi connection- it wouldn’t see any wifi networks and didn’t show a MAC address in the settings. This meant I could read the books on it but I couldn’t add any other books or read a book on multiple devices and sync my progress.

The first time this happened I was able to do a reset to factory defaults:

Menu->Settings->Menu->Reset to factory defaults

This resolved the issue. However it happened again and this second time, I couldn’t resolve the issue by selecting “Reset to Factory Defaults” because while it would allow me to navigate to the option, and confirm that I wanted to proceed, nothing happened.

A lot of googling later, I found a passing comment on a forum thread that revealed how to solve this most irritating problem.

To solve the issue of how to reset a Kindle when the?Reset to Factory Defaults doesn’t?work, all you have to do is once again delve into the settings and check the box that says “device password” (it’s on page 2). Set the password to whatever you want, then put the device to sleep. On wake up enter “resetmykindle” as your password (or “111222777” on a Paperwhite from what I’ve read but I haven’t tried this myself). This will start a reset. When I did this, my wifi was working again and I was able to set up and sync the device with no issues!

If this has been helpful for you, you might like to consider adding some kindle books to your now functioning kindle via my affiliate link to the kindle store

Posted in Technology | 159 Comments

My Retropie set up

Retropie running lr-flycast

Running Retropie on a Raspberry Pi is so easy, even my brother can manage it and in a sense that’s a problem. Since it’s so easy to get Retropie up and running, it’s easy to never make it past the default settings. Heck, you don’t even need to put your Pi in a case, just hook it up to a PSU and connect the HDMI to a monitor or a TV set and you’re one controller and some ROMs away from being sorted.

My Retropie set up started life on a Pi 3b+, with a 64GB mSD card that contained the OS and the ROMs, and have now evolved into an overclocked Pi4 in a SmartPi case, with a built in 7 inch touchscreen, some custom themes and bezels sets, and a CRT shader. Oh, and the ROMs sit on a 256GB Sandisk Ultra USB microstick. I’ve got a Logitech Wireless keyboard and an 8bitdo SF30 Pro connected too. Sound comes via an Anker Soundcore Mini. There are reasons behind every choice, and below I’ll run through the hows and whys.

There is absolutely nothing to stop you simply hooking up a Retropie install to your TV or monitor. I choose not to for a number of reasons. A lot of the games I play started off their life in extremely low resolution- some of the arcade games would have lusted after 320×240 (PAL standard definition), and that doesn’t look great on a 60 inch 4K telly, never mind the aspect ratio. The TV also has about a billion devices plugged into it already and is very popular with the rest of the family, if you want something to have a quick blast on, a self contained set up without any of the compromises of a handheld is an ideal middle ground.

Case: SmartPi Touch Pro Case

The Smartpi Touch Pro is a bit of a beast; it’s significantly more bulky than the official touchscreen case but has one important extra that the official case doesn’t- the screen is tiltable. I found the official case to be aesthetically great but almost impossible to get a decent viewing angle from. There are a couple of caveats with this case though, firstly you’ll need to order the 3.5mm extension cable as it doesn’t come with the case (and since the sound isn’t going to a HDMI source with speakers, you’ll need it) and secondly, you’ll need a 6.5mm drill bit (and a drill) to seat the 3.5mm jack on the case as there isn’t a pre drilled hole for it.

Official Touch Screen

Well there’s not much point in having a touchscreen case without the touchscreen to go with it is there? the 7inch rocks a 800 x 480 resolution, so it perfect for everything up to the Dreamcast. The touchscreen isn’t implemented in Retropie but it does work in Raspberian OS, which it’s possible to drop into (more of that later).

Fan Shim

You can run your Retropie set up without additional cooling but to get the best out of the more modern emulators, such as the Dreamcast and PSP, you’re advised to overclock your Pi4. Without active cooling the Pi4 will hit some pretty spectacular temperatures- mine hit 84 degrees before I purchased a fan shim. Some assembly is required and I have to admit I was skeptical about how effective it would be. However some testing showed that an intensive session at Soul Calibur that saw 80+ degree temps was capped at the mid 50s once I installed the shim. Why did I go for a shim over a conventional fan? No need to drill the case to mount it, and given there is already a case fan, it was tasked with simply shifting the hot air towards the case fan which expelled it.

Storage

I’ve still got my Retropie install on microSD card rather than switching to USB for a couple of reasons. My SanDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB microSDXC is pretty fast, certainly faster than the Integral Fusion or the SanDisk Ultra Fit USB sticks I tried. The boot time was terrible when I tried the install on either of the two USB sticks I’ve got, so I stuck with microSD.

With the OS and Retropie on the internal microSD card (which is a pig to swap out from the case- it require 4 screws, and the HDMI ribbon cable to be removed), all the media is stored on a USB micro stick. A 256GB stick comes in at £27, which isn’t too shabby. The microSD card weighs in at a little under half that. The benefit of this particular USB stick (and the Integral for that matter) is they’re mini sticks, so hardly protrude from the USB port at all, making them harder to knock.

8Bitdo SF/SN 30

I’ve had my controllers for a while now and it looks like the SF30 has been discontinued in favour of the SN30. Although not cheap, these are great controllers and 8bitdo has a growing reputation for bluetooth controllers- it’s latest has been reviewed positively against the official Switch Pro controller. As an added bonus, this’ll work with a Switch too.

Installation tweaks

Once you’ve got the hardware set up to your satisfaction it’s time to start tweaking the installation to make the most of what Retropie has to offer. Rather than reproduce what already exists out there, I’m going to link to the tweaks I’ve used, which are as follows:

  • Install the Pixel desktop environment– it can be handy to drop out of Emulationstation into the full desktop environment on occasion (I tend to do it when I want to FTP ROM files over). After running the install, all you have to do is Start->Quit->Quit Emulationstation and then type startx at the terminal. As an added bonus, I tend to ensure VNC server is configured so once it hits the desktop, I can remotely log in. If you’re not fussed about using the desktop, you can always use PUTTY to log in remotely.
  • ROMs stored on USB stick– makes it much easier to add/remove/copy games over
  • The Bezel Project– most of the games you’ll play in Retropie are on a 4:3 resolution (and some arcade games are even narrower as they’re vertical shoot em ups!). The Bezel Project puts game specific art in the black borders around the game. This can take a few hundred megabytes, depending on how large your game collection is.
  • CRT-Pi shader– Retropie uses shaders to compensate for the difference between CRT monitors running at low resolutions and modern higher resolution LCD panels. This is the best one I’ve tried out.
  • Overclock your Pi4– if you want to get the most out of some of the later systems emulated, like the Dreamcast, N64 and PSP, you’ll need to tinker with overclocking but make sure your system is actively cooled!
  • All Killer No Filler batch files– these process the mame collection down to something you might actually have the stamina to play through. Each batch file copies a curated themed selection of games to a sub folder, allowing you to pick a good starting point to dipping into arcade games.
  • Pixel Runcommand Splashscreens– when you load a game, this gives you custom load screen with artwork from each of the systems. It’s a small thing but really makes a difference!
  • Retropie Manager– allows you access to various configs and a system monitor from a browser, handy for monitoring temps on the fly.
  • Install a custom theme– my favourite is probably Phil Doodle’s Retrorama theme
  • Cheat mode enabled– Retroarch has a lot of built in cheats that need activiating before you can use them.

If you’re stuck for something to play, check out racketboy.com , it’s hands down the best retrogaming site on the web, although the focus is on the games, not emulation.

If there’s anything you think I should add, please take to the comments below!

Posted in Other | Leave a comment

That’s not how age actually works

There are plenty of hills to die on online but I never thought I’d get involved in the birthday equivalent of the flat earth society. I was reading a thread about a particular Arsenal player, when there seemed to be some argument about how old the actual player was and somebody then linked to this classic bit of interaction to show that it’s nothing new:

I thought that Graham would be in the majority and that people generally knew how birthdays work but it turns out I was wrong. Very wrong indeed when it came to another ex-player who is currently 26 years and several months old:

If you are wondering who we were talking about, it was Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, who will be 27 on 13 August, which is just over a month away. Hes definitely 26 by pretty much any yardstick

Posted in Other | Leave a comment

PS5 and Xbox One Series X- who’s winning the PR war?

We’re at the end of a console generation and it’s exciting and exceptionally frustrating at the moment to see how things are developing with the drip feed of hype and information about the next generation of consoles.

Both machines are going to be powered by similar AMD systems on chips, both with lead with SSD technology and on paper it looks like the Xbox will have more grunt in the GPU department than the Playstation, while the Sony console will have a faster solid state drive. There are plenty of deep dives into the architecture, The Verge have a good piece, as do Extreme Tech., if that’s what you want to pick over.

At this point I’m happy to assume that the Xbox One Series X is going to remedy the initial launch mistake that MS made with the Xbox one: it simply wasn’t as powerful as the Playstation. Afterall, the One X is significantly more powerful than the PS4 Pro.

The problem is gaming performance is going to be the battleground, PR is and Sony can run rings round MS all day long when it comes to hype and expectation building. This problem is exacerbated by the completely different approach the two companies are taking to the next generational launch.

Sony is ironically going for a very traditional next genration launch. It has a new console which will have new and exclusive games. It has tech demos (who remembers the T-Rex from the PS1 launch?) that looks astonishing and while backward compatibility is there, it’s not full and isn’t at the front of what they’re talking about.

Microsoft is trying something different and will (and arguably already are) suffering for it. Rather than drawing a line like Sony, MS is attempting a generational shift that allows you to bring everything with you, while also continuing and expanding the upgrade process that saw older backwards compatible games look and run better on the Xbox One X. Series One X games will looks spectacular but you’ll still be able to play them on Xbox One/S/X.

Microsoft’s approach is brilliant in that you’ll already have an established library of games that will run better and look better than they did on the older hardware but it has allowed Sony to make the semi valid point that PS5 is going to have exclusives that can only be made on their console that aren’t potentially hamstrung by the need to run on older tech.

Given the overwhelming victory for Sony in the current gen, in terms of both perception and installed userbase, Microsoft need to really hit it out of the park at launch, in terms of games, power and price. They’ve already slipped up in terms of the PR, so have a lot to do to make things right. Fingers crossed they do because I happen to think their approach is the right one; I’m one of those people who have said for years the switch to X86 architecture should lead to iterative upgrades that mean generational improvements without the end user having to repurchase a library of games for no other reason than to line the pockets of publishers.

The problem comes for those who make up the majority of console buyers, not the hard core or experienced gamers but those who will play CoD and FIFA every year and not much else. It will take a misstep from Sony to have these punters change their opinion and pricing is probably the only way that Sony can mess this up. Next gen is going to be expensive, how expensive may be the make or break moment for MS.

Posted in Other | Leave a comment

Breaking news? Broken news

If there is one thing this election cycle has shown us other than how broken our political system is, it is how broken our news coverage system is. This is perhaps something we have imported from America- under any previous President, any one of the thousands of lies that Trump has told would have been an international scandal, but today we rush breathlessly from yesterday’s lies to today’s whoppers without pausing for a moment. As a strategy it appears to work by simply drowning the press in lies to the point where they can’t cope with correcting them. The volume of untruth has also had an effect on the population- they’ve realised the world keeps turning and precious little changes when their President makes up stuff, so they don’t pay attention. The issue comes when Trump tells lies about important things rather than making up figures for who attended his inauguration or whatever. The ability to discern which lies matter and which don’t is difficult because it means each lie has to be taken on it’s merit and judged, and who (aside from Daniel Dale) is going to do that?

Alongside this impairment in the stature of truth, we have an increasing focus on the rapidity of breaking a story, which in the context of the amount of untruth circulating makes the whole thing more complex.

This has been highlighted by a number of issues this week, ranging from Peston and Kuenssberg reporting a Tory spad had been punched when he hadn’t, to C4 circulating a video of Boris which they claimed contained some racism (it didn’t). In both these instances, it is likely that the initial “scoop” was seen by far more people than the correction was- in circumstances like this the damage is done and the repair will only ever be token.

Political TV presenters “breaking” false news on Twitter is simply an extension of the deterioration that 24 hour news brought us. Breaking the news first is now the only important issue; verifying the source, getting confirmation from other parties, fact checking, none of these are “important” now because the cycle begins anew after 5 minutes hand-wringing from a mistake caused by haste.

If these political TV presenters are tweeting in the capacity of their job (which they must be doing if they’re on the trail etc), they should be held up to the same standards as they would if what they were repeating/reporting/speculating on was broadcast on the TV. The phrase “fast moving story” does far more carrying now then it ever used to and covers a multitude of sins.

It’s worse than that though: those accused of propagating “fake news”, like the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson, no longer have to provide a reasoned rebuttal or explanation, they simply have to cast enough doubt on the veracity of the original story that a false equivalence of warring versions of truth is the lingering narrative.

Again, TV news is specifically to blame for this, in the most part it is the BBC and their misguided quest for “balance” that is to blame.

This supposed “balance”, giving two sides of a story is often a false equivalence. If the claim X is investigated, the same level of scrutiny should be given to the claims about Y. But for the BBC the simple fact of having two parties disagree with each other apparently more often than not fulfils their remit of “balance”. The BBC would say that they are presenting the facts for the viewer to make a judgement on but the viewer is often not best suited to making that judgement call in the same way that a trained journalist is. Holding our politicians accountable isn’t partisan, it is essential to a functioning democracy.

As David Allen Green wrote today,

The ultimate problem is that many voters want to be lied to. These voters may pretend otherwise, claiming that they want “honest politicians”. In reality, such voters just want politicians to say what the voters want to hear.

If that sounds crazy, the post mortem to any bad choice on the behalf of voters almost always carries a blame game to assuage the guilt of those who were gulled. This time round, it’s going to be all Corbyn’s fault. Yes, it’s inconvenient that the Tories have lied but a hard Marxist government would have destroyed the country. What? Brexit has destroyed the country? No that’s the right choice, because Boris said so, it’s those of you not believing in Brexit enough that have caused the problem. If that abrogation of responsibility sounds implausible, consider for a moment the abrogation of responsibility from our politicians to tell the truth, no matter how hard it may be to accept or our media to challenge what they know is a false narrative. If we’re exposed to such abrogations on a daily basis, it’s a small step to collaborating ourselves isn’t it?

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Silicon Valley, Ambassadors, and the speculative fiction of Peter F Hamilton

Denmark, we are told, has sent an ambassador to Silicon Valley. Ignoring the fact that in a data first world, the idea of physically embedding an individual in a place famed for it’s technology, seems an anachronism (the parties must be staggering good though), this has some rather scary precedent in terms of science fiction.

I’m currently re-reading Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy, a set of doorstop plus sized space operas that were written in the late 90’s. Hamilton has the rare skill of being able to write face paced stories as well as being pretty on the nail with some of his predictions of where things will go.

By the time he wrote the Night’s Dawn trilogy, Hamilton had already written the Mindstar books, set in a Britain recovering from the damages suffered during ten years of “Marxist-Maoist” dictatorship under the People’s Socialist Party and also the ravages of global warming and collapsing financial markets. I hate so sound pessimistic but that sounds an awful lot like a very possible potential future right now as the Tory party seeks to make itself completely unelectable for at least a generation and a couple of backbench Marxists lead the opposition. Rutland, where a chunk of the books are set, is full of floating villages, with houses on pontoons, and is probably pretty close to where we’re heading now. Impressively prescient for 1993 eh?

Which brings us on to the Danish and the attempts of a smaller country to somehow influence the tech giants of Silicon Valley. In context, Silicon Valley is in California, which has the 5th largest economy in the world (4th if you exclude America, which it’s a part of). California’s GDP is around $3 trillion, against Demarks $351 billion. They’re not even close.

In the Night’s Dawn trilogy, which is set significantly further along the human timeline than the Mindstar books, Hamilton’s human race in peril story has numerous factions and organisations (which is why the final volume, at 470,000 words, is probably the second longest single binding book I’ve read after Tad William’s To Green Angel Tower which weighs in at a ludicrous 564,000 words), spanning Adamists, Edenists, Navies, secret police and special forces and the mysterious B7, a secret police like organisation that looks after Earth’s best interests.

In the final volume we find out that B7 is a consortium of incredibly wealthy individuals whose “financial institutions own a healthy percentage of the human race”. B7 have guided human decision making since the late 21st century, helping to found Earth’s centralised government, embedded themself and their legal aides into every strata of administration and governance on the planet.

Basically, in the mid to late 90’s, Hamilton had decided where Silicon Valley was going, and although the names of Larry Page and Sergi Brin (Google, founded 1998), Elon Musk and Peter Theil (Paypal, founded 1998) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon, founded 1994) wouldn’t have been known to many back then, now is an entirely different story. Throw in Zuckerberg and you’ve got a full set. Two of these Silicon Valley men now operate space exploration companies in SpaceX and Blue Origin, and all of the companies they set up are global entities that governments are finding it increasingly difficult to regulate, let alone rein in.

I still have a soft spot for Hamilton’s work, even if the amount of sex and nymphomania in his earlier books has aged rather badly, the works still stand up to scrutiny and in my opinion, the speculative part of his fiction, the world’s he creates, the motivations behind them, have always been sorely underestimated.

After all, the new Ambassador to Silicon Valley has this to say on his role:

“What has the biggest impact on daily society? A country in southern Europe, or in Southeast Asia, or Latin America, or would it be the big technology platforms? Our values, our institutions, democracy, human rights, in my view, are being challenged right now because of the emergence of new technologies.These companies have moved from being companies with commercial interests to actually becoming de facto foreign policy actors.”

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment