Nikon D5100 DSLR

Product Review: Nikon D5100 DSLR

I enjoy taking photos, and I got good use from my trusty Fujifilm bridge camera, but I decided I wanted something a bit more serious, so with some money from my birthday I got myself a new camera 🙂 Originally I’d been aiming fairly modestly, for a decent second hand DSLR. After a lot of research, and a lot of eBay watching, I’d decided on a Nikon (it helps that a friend has a D3100 which he is very pleased with). I was planning to spend about ÂŁ150-ÂŁ200. Then I found a website that was selling the D5100 with 18-55mm lens kit for ÂŁ295 brand new. So I bought that instead! Good intentions…



First impressions – lots of buttons and switches! This wasn’t my first SLR, I used to love my old Yashica FX-D 35mm, but that was like a pocket calculator compared to a supercomputer besides the Nikon.

I love the fold out screen, mainly, to be honest, because you can fold it back against the camera body to protect it from scratches, but also because I don’t normally use it. As a camera geek I try to always shoot in full manual mode, and have never actually used the live view mode either, so the screen is only used for browsing the menus and reviewing shots after shooting.

Picture quality is extremely impressive, especially if professionally printed, the images look like true film, with no colour noise (a noticeable limitation of my old camera) at all, unless using really high ISO values. A small selection of samples is shown below. Click on the small image to view the full resolution file (approx 6MB each).

 

The supplied lens is nice to use, the 18-55mm zoom gives a decent range of shooting options, from a fairly wide angle to close up. The max aperture at f/3.5 is alright for most conditions. I would like something faster, but smaller numbers cost bigger numbers. My next lens will be the Nikkor 55-200mm AF-s VR II, which should let me shoot better wildlife shots. I personally prefer plants, animals and people (in that order!!) to landscapes, so am looking forward vto getting that. Additional sample images will be uploaded once I’ve got the hang of it.

The menus are quite logical to use. One slight annoyance is that if you switch on the built in HDR mode RAW saving is disabled (fair enough) but isn’t re-enabled again afterwards.

I have’t tried the video modes yet, to be honest I’ve got a perfectly good 1080p Panasonic camcorder, which is smaller and lighter. Ironically the SLR would probably do the job better, with improved sensor size and lens.

All in all this is an extremely nice camera for me. It isn’t the best or newest model, but that’s why it was good value. A full frame camera would give better quality, but the camera and lenses are both significantly more expensive, and I find this one very nice to use.

Medion Akoya E7214

Product Review: Medion Akoya E7214

This is an unusual kind of product review, mainly because it’s for something you can’t buy! This is the official product info, and yes, I did buy it from Aldi, mainly as they offer a 3 year warranty on most electricals.

This is my personal laptop, and has been for four and a half years. That bit is important, because it’s what inspired me to write this review. I’ve just watched a 1hr45m film on my 17″ screen. From DVD, using the four and a half year old original battery. It still showed 19% charge remaining. Frankly I find that incredible! I use this machine an awful lot, all the website work I do is done on it, and I often pull bits of it apart to connect parts from other machines for testing.

It wasn’t a super cheap machine, but was very good value. It cost me ÂŁ500 when new, but for that you got a mobile Core i3 processor (back when they were still very new), along with 3GB DDR3 RAM (ditto), along with 17.3″ LED 1600×900 screen and a USB DVB-T TV tuner. It also has a spare SATA hard drive bay, which for somebody like me who does a lot of data recovery from broken laptops, is an extremely useful feature.

I’ve replaced the standard DVD-RW drive with a Blu-Ray writer, as I’m a film geek, and watch a lot of movies when I’m away from home. I also replaced the standard 32bit Windows 7 installation for 64bit, mainly so I can add extra RAM if I feel the need. To be honest I haven’t yet, because this thing still feels perfectly quick enough in day to day use.

It is quite a big and heavy laptop, mostly due to the big screen, but that doesn’t bother me at all, especially as it means the keyboard is generously sized, and has a proper numerical keypad. There is also plenty of room for ports, with 3xUSB, E-Sata, Display Port AND HDMI, as well as ethernet, ExpressCard and a memory card reader, on top of the proper optical drive and dual HD capability.

I would definitely have no hesitation in buying another Medion laptop. In fact I did just that when asked by my mother-in-law to get her a new computer. In a way I want to have a reason to get a new one, because new toys are always fun, but at the same time I’m very happy with this one.

Website screenshot

nw-gas.co.uk Website completed

Work has finished on a new website for a local plumbing business.
North-west Gas & Heating Services specialises in large scale commercial and industrial gas appliances, whilst also offering a full range of services to home users.

LPG equipment is also supplied, maintained and repaired.

Would you like a website like this for your business? Click here for more information.

 

Updating Huawei E5776s-32 Firmware

This article describes the steps involved in updating the firmware of the Huawei e5776s-32 4G Router.

The necessary update files for Windows users have been uploaded to my web server, to make accessing them easier. For the paranoid (i.e. sensible!!) user the originals are available at the time of writing at http://consumer.huawei.com/en/support/downloads/detail/index.htm?id=22287 . The files needed are nested several layers deep in Zip files, along with some dubiously outdated documentation. The original Huawei download also includes Mac and SD Card update options, so is much more flexible.

It goes without saying that any attempt to update firmware is at your own risk, and if it went wrong you could render your device useless. You have been warned!

Before you start you need to have available the flash memory password, which can be calculated using this online tool. Make a note of the password, which should be an 8 digit number. Ignore the unlock code – that won’t do anything (including unlocking the SIM)!

Download firmware version 22.265.11.00.00 or get it from the Huawei link above. Connect your router via a MicroUSB cable, and wait a few minutes for the drivers to install. If this is the first time you have upgraded the firmware it might be necessary to install an updated set of drivers onto the router, shown in step one. If you have already done an upgrade (like I had) this won’t be required. The following instructions should be carried out in the order stated. If you get an “Error 10 Find Port Failed” message make sure that you have the drivers and connection software correctly installed, then try again.

  1. Run the file Update_UTPS1.12.00.414_MAC1.12.00.414.exe This will update the drivers that are used to communicate with the router. First the new files are copied to the router, then the router should be recognised as a new device and the new drivers installed on your computer. Let everything finish. A reboot wouldn’t do any harm at this stage. (This file isn’t included in the Huawei download, I got it from the German firmware upgrade package – see original post linked below)
  2. Run the firmware upgrade file E5776_Update_22.265.11.00.00.exe This is the stage that requires the password generated earlier. It doesn’t take very long, and the router will reboot itself a couple of times during the process. This is normal.
  3. Finally, once everything has settled down run the last file, Update_WEBUI_15.100.09.00.03_E5_V7R1_V3R2.exe I don’t think this is essential, but having got this far you may as well. This updates the web interface, and includes a new connect/disconnect button and support for the same feature via the Huawei mobile App

 

Screen shot

Enjoy your new unbranded router. Let me know in the comments if this fixes issues such as losing signal at random. Some things I’ve noticed:

  • The LED display now has extra symbols for when data is being transmitted/received.
  • There is a prominent connect/disconnect button on the router homepage (see below).
  • My data is provided by virtual network Globalgig, I now get their name showing instead of 3, whose physical network they use.
  • The data counter on the LED doesn’t reset after power off.
  • There is a new monthly data counter, you can set billing date and allowance to avoid going over your package limits 🙂
  • Different language options, including Arabic, Chinese and Russian (see screengrabs below for full set and monthly limit setup).

 

Screen shot 1 Screen shot 2 Screen shot 3
One more feature that has been added is support for remote connect and disconnect using the Huawei Mobile app, which may be handy for some people:
Mobile app
Some people in the comments have mentioned signal issues. This isn’t something I’ve come across personally, but an external antennamay help in some situations. These aren’t signal boosters as such, but they can be placed in positions that might help get a stronger signal, eg through a window.

If this info has been of use to you please consider making a small contribution to help cover the costs of running this site. If you don’t want to that’s perfectly ok too! The button below will bill you one pound and reward you with my gratitude (and maybe some extra technical help). Alternatively you could always visit one of my advertisers 🙂





A previous version of this article, detailing installation of firmware version 22.264.07.02.414 is available here.

RĂ©visez Huawei e5776s-32 En Francais!

  1. Télécharger ce fichier et ouvrez.
  2. Visiter ici, entrer votre IMEI et ecrirez le mot de passe* généré.
  3. Reliez votre routeur par USB, puis attendez alors qu’installer les pilotes
  4. ExĂ©cutez Update_UTPS1.12.00.414_MAC1.12.00.414.exe – (nouveaux pilotes)
  5. ExĂ©cutez  E5776_Update_22.265.11.00.00.exe – *mot de passe requis
  6. Update_WEBUI_15.100.09.00.03_E5_V7R1_V3R2.exe
  7. Fin!

Ou en Anglais

 

Google Analytics – Free Fun For Fact Freaks

A few weeks ago, not long after I set up this new website* I thought it might be interesting to see if anyone actually visited it, so I signed up for Google Analytics. The basic service is free, and seemed extremely comprehensive. You get an account, which is basically just an extension to your existing Google (Android/YouTube/whatever) account and a small code snippet which is added to the site. To work effectively the code is inserted into a section that is accessed on every page load, so you can either manually insert it, or if you’re lazy like me just install a free plugin to do the work for you. I use the cunningly name Google Analytics for WordPress which can be downloaded or simply installed from the WordPress dashboard. In this case you enter your account code and the plugin does the rest.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting much, if anything, to happen. I checked the Analytics site today and was was quite surprised to find that the site had had over 826 visitors and over 1300 page views. OK, I’m happy to admit that most of those will be search engines and spam bots looking for forum sites to promote their crap (I get a lot of spam comments, so setting up Captcha or similar is my next job…).

Now the interesting bit starts. Google lets you break down the visitors in all sorts of graphical formats. My favourite so far is the Geo mode, which breaks down the data by country, like so:

google_analytic

If you hover the mouse over a country it tells you how many sessions came from there, and, depending on the country, if you click on it you can get a larger scale map with regional information too. I was amused by the two visits from Kazakhstan, also one each from Afghanistan and Iran. My site seems very popular with Indonesian search engines, there were 59 visits from there! Map colours represent the number of visitors graphically, a darker shade means more sessions.

Another section that I found interesting was the Browser and OS section under the Technology header:

google_analytic2According to this table almost half of all visits were from Google Chrome based browsers. Whilst this might be correct I am a bit dubious to say the least. I use Chrome on my Android Phone (because the Samsung browser is rubbish) and on my Nexus tablet because it came pre-installed, but I’ve never liked the desktop version, and only ever tend to use Firefox unless I need to test something for cross-browser issues. The bit I found least likely was Internet Explorer in fourth place with only 12% of users. If that is correct I would put it down to the content of my site being interesting only to tech geeks, who, like me, generally avoid Microsoft IE like the plague.

 

 

*(incidentally the old one was created about 5 years ago and was last updated about 4 1/2 years ago – it was getting past it, plus was all hand coded php/html so a swine to modify)

Update Huawei e5776s-32 Archive Version

A few weeks ago I wrote about how to get a cheap 4G mobile broadband router, and I’ve been using it happily. The only thing that bugged me was the EE branded interface. Today I’ve managed to get rid of that, by updating to a newer, unbranded version of the firmware. The strange thing about it is that finding the firmware is REALLY complicated, unless you happen to be German, in which case you can just get it from the German Huawei website (it’s the second item, described as Charger Option). This downloads three files in a .zip archive. One is the instructions, in German naturally, and the other two are programs. The steps to install are fairly simple as long as you do them in the right order.

It goes without saying that any attempt to update firmware is at your own risk, and if it went wrong you could render your device useless, you have been warned!

First, you must have the E5776 connected by USB, and have installed the My Broadband software that can be found when accessing the E5776 as a CD drive. This software includes the drivers that are needed by the update programs.

Secondly you run the two update programs. They must be run in the correct order, starting with the one called Update_UTPS…etc. This updates the drivers and software available when accesing the E5776 as a CD drive. Now run the file called E5776_Update_22.264.07.02.414, or whatever firmware version you get hold of. This is where I ran into a problem, as the update program asks you for a password. This is NOT the admin password for the router, but a special hardware password to protect the flash memory. The following hacking tool is a small download that calculates the flash password from the IMEI of the router (which is conveniently printed on the back!). Enter the 8 digit password into the update program and all should be fine.

After a few reboots the router will come back to life with unbranded Huawei firmware and be generally more up to date and better. My device and the update software were both in English, despite the source of the download. I can now also choose alternative languages for the web interface (but I’m not going to) and access some menus that EE had locked out.

Water, water, everywhere!

As can probably be guessed from the title, I’m going to write about floods. They seem to be the main topic of news and conversation, depending whereabouts in the country you happen to be. Of course I have sympathy for the people who are homeless and have lost possessions, but only up to a point.

This may seem a little harsh, but there are a few very important reasons why the flooding we are currently seeing was not only predictable but inevitable.

The first is all to do with geology. The vast majority of valleys in the British Isles have been formed over millions of years by the effects of erosion, mainly due to either glaciers, or, more commonly by rivers. That little stream wandering through a wide valley didn’t end up there by chance, it built the whole place, changing course and size with the seasons and the climate and as it cut its way through different materials.

A second factor is that we as a people have grown a bit lazy. Settlements used to be built on high ground, for a variety of reasons, including defence, but also because of the dangers of water. Nowadays high concrete walls can be built to contain the water (more on that in a bit), and we no longer need to live in walled fortresses to protect us from marauding enemies. That means we can live by the river, where there is plenty of fresh water, or by the sea so we can trade by ship.

The trouble with living by the sea is that the sea changes. To be fair this wasn’t a known fact in the middle ages. Everything was as it always had been, the sun revolved around the flat world which had been created in six days only quite recently. Now of course we know a little bit more (a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, someone once said!). What is at present a nice piece of flat land with sandy soil  near the coast was at one time the sea bed, and at other times may have been miles inland and/or covered by ice! Sea levels in the past 20,000 years of ice ages have varied by over 120 metres, an enormous amount compared to the estimated 1m rise predicted for the coming century.

Over the population of the world has expanded and people have arrogantly believed they can change nature to suit their needs by draining land, building on flood plains, walling in rivers and barricading out the sea. The Somerset Levels, very much in the news lately, are a perfect example. This area of wetland has been drained by settlers for over 1000 years from land that is at or below sea level. This may have seemed a good idea back when it was believed that we lived in a constant world, but with hindsight we have been setting ourselves up for a disaster. Serious changes to the coastline are not just likely, they are unavoidable, but whilst this has been understood for decades, it has been ignored for just as long as environmentalist propaganda. Towns and cities continue to expand along rivers and low lying coastlines at home and around the world.

When you combine all these factors it is hard to avoid the conclusion that serious flooding and ultimately a redrawing of the map will be the long term result. Personally when I see a new another new housing development being built on nice flat ground near a slow-running river I just think to myself “nice house, but let someone else by that one!”.

People who claim to fight climate change for  environmental reasons are deluding themselves. The planet can cope just fine with anything we can do to it, it was here before us and it’ll still be here when we’re nothing but fossils. What they’re afraid of is losing the way of life they know now.

 

Further reading:

Yale Environment 360

USB 3.0 Fault on a Medion notebook

I spent more of last weekend than planned on setting up a new Medion Akoya S4213 for a family member. I am very glad I had it yo set up, as for a beginner it would have been a very traumatic experience! At first all went well, the machine is really nice to look at, feels well made (apart from a slightly iffy bouncy keyboard), is quick, well specced and cost just ÂŁ315.

The trouble started after the second round of Windows Updates. The laptop rebooted, everything looked fine, I clicked the touchpad to login – nothing happened. That’s weird. I pressed a key, and still no response. At this point I started to get a bit worried. After a quick internet search on a different device I found the suggestion to plug in a USB keyboard and mouse. This half worked, the mouse did the truck but although the keyboard gave the right plug in noises nothing actually happened. With a working mouse I could login using the on-screen keyboard from the convenient Accessibility menu. Once in I looked in the Device Manager and found plenty of yellow exclamation marks. After trying to fix a couple of drivers it soon became clear that the USB system was badly corrupted. With it being a brand new machine and there being no data on it I had no hesitation in doing a factory reinstall. Once an OS has got mangled like that it will never be quite right! Medion use Cyberlink PowerRecover as their disc to disc system and it was very easy to use. They also provide two DVDs including a WINDOWS 8 INSTALLATION DISC and another with applications and drivers. This is a cheap laptop from a budget brand, why the hell can’t other manufacturers do this?

Rant over. After a full clean reinstall everything was back to how it started, and assuming the first fault was just a glitch I carried on a normal. Until exactly the same thing happened again. Actually it was worse because I’d been using the USB mouse from earliecomputers. of the touchpad, and now that driver was screwed too, so I had no input at all. After some intensive Googling I narrowed it down to a similar problem encountered by other people with different brands of new computers. The common element seemed to be they ask had USB 3 ports. After a bit more delving I found an article by somebody who’d manage to resurrect their computer by disabling the (Microsoft provided) USB 3 driver.

Now I was ready to try again! This time, after reinstalling for a second time, the first thing I did was to disable this xHCI driver in Device Manager. Hey presto, since then everything has been working fine, all updates have worked and I’ve done the Windows 8.1 upgrade too. This reenabled the xHCI, but I’m hoping the driver has been updated to fix what seems a common problem. I’ve certainly had no issues since. Please feel free to borrow this advice if you find yourself in a similar position!

Surprisingly decent Acer laptop.

Tonight’s fix-up project has been an Acer Extensa 4220. My friend tried to format the hard drive and reinstall Windows XP, but in doing so he deleted the recovery partition as well as the OS one. He then tried to install from an XP installation CD, but couldn’t make that work either, as the hard drive was not recognised. I was able to realise that the problem was the SATA drive (Windows XP doesn’t have built in drivers). With no floppy drive and no real wish to cook up a custom installation with added drivers, I found a quick easy fix was to edit the BIOS settings to set the SATA controller to use IDE mode. Strictly speaking this isn’t as good as AHCI, which is the default, fully featured setting, but seeing as XP can’t take full advantage anyway it and a small price to pay for making the installation which and easy. It’s a surprisingly quick machine for a Celeron with 1GB of RAM, but then I suppose people used to count memory in megabytes when XP was new!