FM radio bandscan results – including London pirates

This post began life as a breakdown of an FM bandscan and dissolved into thoughts on RDS decoding and possible Raspberry Pi projects. I just wanted to jot down some semi-related thoughts.

Last weekend I popped up to Hampstead Heath to get onto high ground where I played with radios for a bit. One of those radios was my Moto G7 Power, using the built in FM Radio app, which is entirely decent (and I’ve written about using Moto G phones as FM radios before).

screenshot_20200321-143012-4951741-6687029

When performing an auto scan of available stations, the app spits out a nice list of those stations, some with IDs. Unfortunately there’s no default way to convert this to text, but I found an OCR text grabber which did 95% of the work, and then I just monkeyed with a spreadsheet to sort out any oddities, and this is what I ended up with following an FM bandscan on 21/03/2020 at 1425 UTC:

MHz  RDS Station ID
87.8 | The Rock
88.0 | PULSE UK
88.2 |
88.6 |
88.8 | BBC R2
89.1 | BBC R2
89.6 |
90.2 |
90.6 | ANADOLU
90.8 |
91.0 | BBC R3
91.3 | BBC R3
91.5 | MEGA
91.8 |
92.0 |
92.5 |
92.8 |
93.0 |
93.2 | BBC R4
93.5 | BBC R4
93.8 |
94.9 | BBCLondn
95.5 |
95.8 | Capital
96.1 |
96.5 | [Maritime Radio] – no RDS data decoded
96.7 |
96.9 | Cap XTRA
97.1 |
97.3 | LBC
97.7 |
97.9 |
98.5 | Radio 1
98.8 | Radio 1
99.0 |
99.3 | SELECT
99.5 |
99.8 |
100.0 | KISS
100.6 | Classic
100.9 | Classic
101.2 |
101.4 |
101.8 | BiZiM FM
102.0 |
102.2 | Smooth
102.4 | LONDON’S
102.8 | RDYOUMUT
103.1 |
103.6 |
104.2 | -KRAL-
104.4 | Reel 104.4
104.9 | Radio X
105.4 | Magic
105.6 | PLAYBACK
105.8 | Absolute
106.2 | Heart
106.5 | PROJECT
106.8 | RINSE FM
107.3 | REPREZNT
107.8 | -JACKIE-

Where a station ID was decoded via RDS, it is listed. Where I’ve made it bold and italic, it is believed to be a pirate station. The rest are legit local/national FM broadcasts.

Where there’s no station ID listed, it’s simply because the FM radio app didn’t pick one up in time – some of those blank stations may a) be legit and b) indeed have an RDS stream, it just didn’t get logged in time. Either way, it could be pirate or legit.

A couple of them are stations that I knew had RDS data, and what’s nice about the Motorola FM Radio app is that if you tune to that station and it didn’t already have data, it adds it where possible, and this gets added to the overall list as above. This means that after a full scan, if there are gaps in the data, one can simply tune to the first station with a blank name, and let it play for a few seconds until RDS data comes down – if it has any. – and then use the skip button to move to the next logged station.

It only takes a few seconds for RDS data to appear, or for it to become clear that none is being broadcast. Weak signals inevitably mean the RDS data is corrupted, possibly beyond legibility.

Oona Räisänen could probably explain in quite simple terms exactly how RDS data is decoded and why some stations seem to display RDS data quicker than others. In fact, it’s Oona’s RDS projects that make me think that if I really set my mind to it, I’m probably like 90% of the way to creating a pocket-size, Raspberry Pi Zero-based RDS decoder.

What I think I want is a little device that I can pull out, attach to an antenna, run a quick 1-2 minute bandscan, and in that time, the Pi scans the whole FM band, logging as much RDS data as it can grab, plotting it neatly on a little spreadsheet, which I can then inspect later on.

Better yet might be adding a simple 2-line display (much like a portable radio) where I can see each station being scanned. There are other possible modifications that could be made that would effectively turn it into a usable radio, but I’m thinking more along the lines of a simple logging device.

On the other hand, it might make more sense to do some sort of spectrum grab using SDR where the whole FM band is captured for a few minutes, for later analysis in software. This whole concept blows my tiny mind – and, really, seems less fun than doing actual listening to live broadcasts – though I can absolutely see the appeal and the benefits for logging weak/rare stations when DXing.

2020 weeknote 12 – the week that everything changed

Well this was the week that things really changed, for me and those around me. It’s been interesting keeping abreast of how the spread of the virus and the reactions by different countries has rolled onward, in waves. Interesting and kind of horrifying, when you spend more than half a minute considering what it all means.

It has, in many ways, been good that the upheaval has kept us all so busy. Heaven forbid what will happen when we are all set up with our new routines and we stop for a second to get bogged down in the sheer existential woe of it all – and that’s before even considering the actual health crisis worsening any further, which each day it threatens to on a hitherto-unseen scale.

We have found ourselves unexpectedly buoyed by taping occasional news updates from Chinese state broadcasters in which they describe the recovery process. Life, while not returning to normal, per se, is returning to something approaching it. Or at least a healthy, post-virus world.

At work I have been extremely busy helping as far as I can to get the office set up for home working. A few months ago, working from home on the scale that we soon will be would have been completely unthinkable. But, as with so much of this escalating crisis, unthinkable things are now having to be thunk, and it’s funny what you can achieve when you have to.

In fact, the extent to which we’ve established a working-from-home policy means that it’s only really a few little issues and niggles we’ve found, rather than any flat-out business critical failure points.

We’re lucky in that a lot of what we do isn’t business critical. And where it is, the timelines and deadlines are those we set for ourselves and we are fortunate enough not to be beholden to many authorities or external/market forces. We have a job to do, and we do it however we can. This will not change, but the methods and timescales may.

Meanwhile, anything that isn’t related to work, or keeping ourselves constantly updated on news has, by necessity, been for the purposes of distraction, amusement or entertainment. The rest of this week’s note is simply some of that stuff that has kept me from losing my mind the past few days.


We had the first day of spring, and the weather this week has been cool but increasingly wonderful and bright. There is blossom everywhere, and the spring weather looks set to continue. This does mean that people who ought to be self-isolating are popping out more than they might if it had been tipping down all week, and I am concerned about that. But at the same time, the sight of spring springing is a huge boost.

As well as a brief trip to a nearby park (where I saw the woodpecker above), I also popped to Hampstead Heath on Saturday to get some fresh air. Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people, and I really should have known better. I was able to keep my distance from most people, and I found myself a secluded perch where I spent a happy hour or so playing with radios, and eating cold pizza.

img_20200321_143628587_hdr-2090742-2659339
screenshot_20200321-143012-2231509-6995401

On FM, my elevated position near one of London’s highest points meant stations came booming in loud and clear, and I found a good number of pirate stations giving shout-outs to the shut-ins.

I found that the signal on my little POP Nano radio was decent, but both my Tecsun PL-380 and my Motorola G7 Power logged 58 stations each on the FM band, with the Moto serving doubly useful as not only does it have an RDS decoder built-in, but it also neatly displays all logged stations in one big list, acting as a very useful results page for active stations complete with station IDs, where available.

I’ve written before about the pretty excellent FM radio software on an older Moto G device, and it’s just as good on my current G7 Power. It serves as an effective stopgap between idly tuning around with a normal radio and setting up some sort of portable SDR that will automatically log station IDs in a neat spreadsheet for me.

(A rainy day project I daydream of is a Raspberry Pi Zero-powered unit that I can just switch on, run an autoscan, and log all active stations in a spreadsheet. Might have a little screen and possibly audio out.)

The subsequent list generated by the Moto is displayed as you can see to the right: it’s a neat list of station IDs and frequencies and I only wish I could quickly and easily export this data into a spreadsheet. I suspect there’s an OCR capture that could do a half decent job. But even in its present form, the FM radio software gives me a decent overview of what’s around in a given session.

One surprise, beyond the ever-present London pirates, was decent reception of a station apparently broadcasting to Greenwich on 96.5fm. A later dig around uncovered this as Maritime Radio, with the always-helpful mb21 giving more information about where this station broadcasts from. Not a bad catch at a distance of approximately 20km.

It’s hard to tell where the pirate stations themselves broadcast from – obviously – so it’s never easy to known whether you’re getting fabulous reception across a vast distance, or merely being blasted from the nearest rooftop. I suspect it’s usually the latter, though there is usually a good range of signals when tuning in from a high point in north west London, with some sounding stronger and others weaker.

The variability in the tech used by each pirate could give rise to this, of course, but it all makes it feel as though you’re picking up signals from all over London.

On DAB, my position near London’s highest point meant great reception of a huge range of stations. The POP Nano picked up 148 stations without issue, and I noted down that I was getting reception of the following multiplexes on top of those I’d expect to get in London: Kent, Herts Beds Bucks, Surrey NSussex, and Essex. On the one hand, these extra muxes simply bring in local stations or local variants of commercial stations. But it’s still pretty cool to pick these all up along with the ones which are meant to cover my area.

Of note, the Kent multiplex coverage map [PDF] does show parts of Hampstead as able to pick up occasional offshoots of the signal over high ground:

So it’s perhaps not that unexpected, but still vaguely interesting to me.

I also had a scan around on shortwave and aside from the usual national broadcasters who have mastered dominating the waves, I was pleased to pick up two pirate(?) stations on 5780kHz and 6205kHz – possibly Laser Hot Hits and Euro Radio. (This was at approximately 1445 UTC on Saturday 21 March.)

Nothing else really of any note on the radio, although I did spot this new addition to the London Trial multiplex – Health Info Radio, which launched a week ago on various other local muxes, and whose sole purpose is to play a looped recording of coronavirus-related public information.

img_20200321_141226851_hdr-e1584983370637-1346042-9067724

On the YouTube front, beyond the usual tech videos I tend to gorge myself on, the algorithms threw me a wonderful bone in a series of aviation videos by a chap named Matt Guthmiller. I’m not sure what YouTube thought it was doing, but I was absolutely enthralled by this four-part series on flying a 1930s DC-3 from the US to Duxford.

Spoiler alert: it’s not quite as simple as hopping across the Atlantic. In fact, it involves hopping to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland, before hopping down to Duxford.

At times, the serenity and majesty of early to mid 20th century flight is intoxicating, and at others you are hit with the nauseating concept of hurtling through the air in nothing much more than a 1930s bus with temperamental moving parts and a hell of a lot to understand about how to get it airborne and keep it there.

The four parts are available in this playlist, or just watch the first one below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JONkLEx6zeE&list=PLoruKoPAfKKjRtZw78nZC_E-pMmuaJJJ5&index=2&t=0s

Pro-tip: use the ‘Watch later’ button to save these kinds of YouTube clips to a… Watch later playlist.


And finally, I’ve recently seen a few good links to online collections of stuff and wanted to share some and add one of my own.

dp816310-2131993-scaled-3694141

The first, shared by Robin Sloan recently, was a directory of images by Eugene Delacroix. Delacroix is an artist I don’t know a huge amount about, but I stumbled across him years ago doing my degree as it turned out he kept diaries, and really enjoyable ones too. Sloan peppered a recent newsletter with images by Delacroix, all pilfered from this great online collection of his work from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The second collection was posted by the excellent SWLing Post, a great resource for all things radio – with a focus on shortwave and ham radio. They recently pointed to a subset of the Smithsonian’s open access collection of objects which is, quite simply, a bunch of radios you can look at. Wonderful.

nmah-mah-45168a-1041161-7574887

And finally, the National Trust’s ‘Collections’ image database is staggering in its scale – they have photographed countless objects held within their collections at the various properties they look after. You could find yourself lost for weeks on this website, whether searching across the entire collection by keyword, exploring the contents of one particular property, or paging through the works of one artist.

For the purposes of this post, I will simply point you to a collection illustrations and artworks by my man Charles Paget Wade. I have searched and filtered and refined this set so it may be a bit rough around the edges and not sorted in any particular way, but you get the gist.

By the collection’s very nature, this is not a greatest hits, but a snapshot of all that is contained within it: from sketches on the backs of letters, to glorious watercoloured ink sketches like that shown below, of the Great Wall at Hampstead Garden Suburb.

largeimagehandler-12-1631261-2819304

2020 weeknote 11 – Coronavirus, music, old films, and remembering the Fujifilm X10

Golly. Weeks at the moment seem to simultaneously flash past and take forever to wade through, like treacle.

I’ve forgotten what my actual job is at work, and have spent most of my time this week reacting to things.

First and foremost, we have a new boss. This has meant there is a lot to explain and pass on, which is normal in these situations. This has been turned up to eleven by the coronavirus situation meaning we are rapidly trying to establish what we can do from home, and also understand what elements of our work are business critical. Fortunately for us, not a lot of what we do has hard deadlines or endangers life or whatnot if it isn’t done in a timely fashion. Others are not so lucky in this regard.

It’s inevitable that we will be working from home for a time, and our job now is working out what can be done from home and what would require physical access to the office. When your new boss is trying to draw all this up whilst not actually knowing what everyone does… It’s hard work. It’s not unenjoyable, actually. But it is hard work. And it is distracting everyone from their day job.

I think that point is true for basically everyone, everywhere. In the whole world. Which is incredible to consider. There’s also a neat/insane duality to all our business continuity prep which essentially means ‘we can afford to slacken off our work because literally everyone else will be doing the same thing’. These are very unusual times.

Speaking of which, I’ve seen and read about some very sad scenes at supermarkets recently. I’ve not actually come across anything uncivil, although I’ve definitely heard reports. On my brief forays to the shops to get basically our usual groceries – where I’ve strategically tried to buy about 10% extra of most longlife stuff we tend to use – I’ve just seen heightened busy-ness, and empty shelves in some surprising categories and others less so.

At the big nearby supermarket, where loo rolls, hand san and painkillers have been missing (or missing, then re-stocked, then raided again) for a while now, this weekend I noticed some new sections were running low or in fact completely empty, like eggs. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find, on popping into a much smaller M&S very close by, that they were fully stocked on eggs, and in fact a number of the lines the big shop was out of. I guess it’s to do with a bigger shop encouraging people to bulk buy more, and come by car etc.

It’s just… all very strange. But it is for everyone. So it’s just the new normal? Which is very, very strange.


After opining recently that I wanted a neat automated way to see what albums of recent years I had merely streamed and not purchased, I spent a pretty straightforward few minutes paging through my last.fm library sorted into albums by play count for a given period. I started looking at months at a time, then went into whole years at a time, even going back as far as 2012 or so.

It was actually a very interesting process, and gave me the information I was after. I now have a list of thirty or so albums that I would happily pick up and add to my permanent music collection. I don’t exactly plan on popping out and spending £200-300 quid on CDs, but it’s nice to have a go-to list of stuff that I probably want for times when I’m out music shopping or if I’m browsing Bandcamp.

I actually was left scratching my head about where to buy some of this stuff. Partly “where do people buy digital music these days?” and partly “where is the most effective place to buy music in terms of benefit to the artist?” I think the answer to both in a number of cases is probably Bandcamp. Certainly I don’t intend to buy CDs secondhand from Amazon because in terms of benefit to the artist I may as well download it illegally. And I’m not bothered about owning the CD itself – if I can, say, throw a fiver at a band and get 320kbps+ or lossless digital files, I think that’s probably the sweet spot.

Secondary to all this, I found a bunch of albums I streamed several times that I genuinely didn’t remember listening to. I’ve created a Spotify playlist of these to wade through and see if they still appeal. The winners will go onto the ‘to-buy’ list.

Why am I doing all this? I don’t know. But I am getting familiar once again with the local music collection stored on a computer, and I like it. I think running a Spotify account alongside this is fine – it enables me to hear new music for free, and I actually get my Spotify subscription as a bonus to my mobile phone contract. Although the Android app can be quite slow and clunky (this may be a result of my legacy account having a decade of metadata attached to it), the Spotify service is very much worth having, and decent value even when directly paying for it. The arguments against it, from the artists’ perspective, are part of what’s pushing me to want to show my support in a different and more direct way.


I went for a run today, inspired by the BBC’s Sport Relief ‘Beat Beethoven’ gimmick. The basic idea is to stick on a new recording of Beethoven’s Fifth, which lasts about 34 minutes, and run 5k. I managed a run last weekend, and one in the week, but I love a gimmick to get me up and out – and this weekend has been particularly sedentary (thank goodness), so a kick up the bum to run down the road and back was welcome. The bonus was listening to a great performance of a piece of music I don’t think I’ve actually ever listened to in full. Well worth grabbing via BBC Sounds and sticking on if you need an excuse to pop out for a run.


Once again I found myself plundering the depths of someone’s blog and I can’t remember how I found the blog in the first place… But this week it was the blog of a chap named Andrew Roach, and I was drawn in partly by the aesthetic of his blog, and partly by the subjects he covers – he writes about old computers, and using old computers today to do the things he enjoys doing.

my_favorite_brunette-1266253-5453309

He also writes about digging around archive.org and similar places looking for music and films to enjoy anew. One particular post pointed me to a ton of old films on archive.org and wikimedia, and I grabbed a few that seemed to be decent high quality versions of films from the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s, and stuck them on Plex.

This weekend I checked out My Favorite Brunette, a Bob Hope parody/send-up of detective thrillers, which I really enjoyed. I’ve never seen a Bob Hope movie before, or really seen him in anything except… maybe a pastiche of him in an episode of the Simpsons?

While elements of the film felt as fated as you might expect for a film made in 1947, I found lots to love, included gags that felt more like they came from the likes of Airplane! or the Naked Gun series and sight gags, one-liners, looks-to-camera and other things that made the film feel pretty fresh. I recommend it!


A recent post/video from Dan Milnor reminded me that, many years ago, I owned a Fujifilm X10.

It was a camera I fetishised and definitely thought would be the answer to all my photographic gripes about the Canon dSLR I was getting tired of lugging around. The camera looked great – I got the leather case – and it seemed compact and would be something I’d enjoy taking around with me and using more than my old Canon.

In the end I only owned that X10 from January 2012 to August 2012. I took 4,000 pictures on it in that time. Initially it was a gorgeous thing. Looking at pictures of that camera even now, I get joy from the tactility of the knobs and dials. But the camera was just… Not all that nice to use.

20120624-2012-06-24-13-04-24-e1584358908584-2827077-5110841

For one thing, the viewfinder wasn’t great. Getting an SLR replacement with a viewfinder was essential to me. I was so attached to composing my shots through a viewfinder that I had to have one. But this one was just a sort of rangefinder-esque viewfinder where you’re looking through a hole near the lens, but not seeing exactly what the lens sees. It felt kind of removed from the process and I never got on with it. *

* Even while writing this, I managed to mis-remember that this camera had an early LCD viewfinder, but of course it did not, and this was a feature of more high-end cameras of this type at the time, and the technology continues to improve.

Furthermore, the lens felt weird to use. It had a good, adaptable zoom lens which rotated to extend. But it didn’t have (or if it did, the way to use it was very unnatural) manual focus. What I love about dSLRs is the way lenses feel on them – the rotation to zoom in and out on zooms, and the solidness of primes. And on both, when manual focus is necessary, it can feel so precise and so lovely. On the X10, despite metal construction and good moving parts, it just never felt nice to use.

And overall, despite some decent baked-in digital features like film effects and good video modes, it just felt too much on the ‘digital point and shoot’ end of things for me, and far too far away from the tactility of using a dSLR. Ten months after buying it I sold the X10 and re-bought a slightly more updated Canon dSLR. I still miss the look of the X10 though, and that leather case was gorgeous.

I took some great pictures with the X10, but nothing amazing. I possibly didn’t use the camera to its full potential but a lot of the time, the images that came out (as JPGs, to be fair) were a bit dull and not particularly exciting.

I still have that Canon today and it’s weird to think that makes it about eight years old now. (In the process of looking through pictures taken with the X10, I was reminded that my bike and my Kindle, both of which I still use, and sometimes almost daily, were also bought in August 2012. My bike rattles and creaks and could almost certainly do with an overhaul but I love it so very dearly. And my Kindle is one of the last (non-expensive) ones with page turn buttons. I can’t believe it still works as well as it does, and I am so worried about the day I will have to replace it for a touchscreen model.)

I guess the danger now is me looking at how far those Fuji compacts have come. And with the likes of Dan Milnor espousing their benefits, I may need to take a look with fresh eyes at the range and see if the gap between the X10 and dSLRs has closed somewhat in the meantime.

2020 weeknote 10 – fondly-remembered films, and digital data retrieval

A week of too much time spent home alone, and too much going on at work to keep up with.

Good things though, too, like re-watching a couple of old favourite films from a couple of periods of my life:

The Mask, which I absolutely knew word-for-word back in the day and which, re-watching it now, it was wonderful how much I could pre-empt and sound out in real-time. In fact, it wasn’t just dialogue, but Foley effects little audio/musical stings, and other snippets. It was also, as it so often can be, quite surprising how risqué some of the jokes were, at least for my young ears:

And then it felt like time for another re-watch of Almost Famous ( or rather the director’s cut aka Untitled*), a film I’ve loved since my first viewing of it stuffed into the TV lounge of the Wellington YHA some time in late 2003. Since then I’ve watched it so many times and it is just such a comforting film to watch. I realise I am also dangerously into the territory of not now being able to watch it with a critical eye, but I don’t think that matters.

* Jesus, I am so sorry you had to witness that.


I shan’t bother going into too much detail with regard to work woes, but we had a bit of a poorly-timed clusterfuck (is there ever a well-timed clusterfuck?) of some issues with our email hosts which, hey, turned out to be a little bit of the host’s fault, and a little bit of ours. As is often the way with these things. But it was a horrible situation for all involved, and came during a week of unusually high tension.


The Amazon re-seller who I returned my POP Nano digital radio to came good and a replacement unit was dispatched in good time. Thanks lads.

It is a brand new unit and is working fine, though I can’t help but notice one of the other buttons feels like 1% softer than the others, and so I wonder if there’s an issue with the buttons on these units – or possibly, if the packaging is to be believed, these units are new old stock from 2013 and perhaps there’s a membrane in the buttons that is degrading over time. We’ll see.

Until then, it’s lovely to have a decent, tiny digital radio again. On a related note, I was reminded the other day of this phenomenally in-depth round-up of various portable digital radios from a few years ago, which I remember helped me last time I was in the market for such a device.


At one point this week I probably looked like a one-man scene from Mr Robot, blasting DJ Shadow, stabbing a screwdriver through a spindle-full of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs before throwing them out.

I certainly hadn’t been able to read them (disc rot is a thing: if you have some old burned DVDs and CDs on a shelf somewhere, you’d be well advised to grab the data off them if you are still able to), but I obviously didn’t want anyone else to be able to either.

So: Stab. Stab. Stab.

It was fun seeing how different discs responded to each stab: some all but shattered, while others kind of just split in a neat single crack from the centre to the edge. The more annoying ones sort of absorbed the screwdriver I was using and just pierced a tiny hole, with the tool needing to be extracted with some force and re-punched again. Anyway. That was a satisfying exercise.


And in other data retrieval exercises this week, I grabbed an old hard drive and copied over my iTunes library circa 2012 with a view to copying some high bitrate album rips across to my phone’s memory. Anything 320kbps or above (or 256kbps VBR) is fair game, and I only want the kind of ‘greatest hits’ of special albums that I can’t be without.

This led me to wondering what albums have been released since then that I have streamed to death on Spotify, but not gotten round to purchasing. I don’t think I’m in the minority in saying there will be a lot. So it would be cool to get last.fm to spit out a list of records I’ve spun from Spotify more than a handful of times, with links for where best to ethically purchase my own copy.

This ransacking of my old iTunes library brought some curiosities. I knew that a handful of my album rips had been done at very high bitrate – whether lossless or 320kbps AAC – and that these had been prioritised by the same criteria as above: albums I couldn’t live without.

I was therefore stumped to find that my copy of Radiohead’s In Rainbows was a 160kbps MP3. 😱! I then got to thinking why this would be and, lo and behold, this was the original format I’d purchased it in on release day:

screenshot_20200305-185705-e1583850736532-5929016-7353453

So that was interesting. In more recent years I’ve listened to this either via Spotify or vinyl, so I don’t feel too short changed at having such a low quality rip of the album on my computer as I just wasn’t using it.

I don’t know now (though a trip to the Wayback Machine would probably answer this) if higher bitrate versions were available as well. I’m sure they were, but I expect you had to pay more (this was, remember, one of the first high profile ‘pay what you want’ digital releases), and I was a Radiohead newbie back then.

In fact, having got swept up in the hype of the impending release of In Rainbows, I listened to OK Computer for the first time the evening before IR‘s release.

Crazy.


And finally, this weekend was mostly doing family things, which mostly meant eating and drinking well, but also meant I did Hampstead Heath Parkrun for the first time in a while, and I managed to get a PB for this route. Very pleased with that – as is so often the case I was not feeling it beforehand, but was merely ‘up for it’, and I still managed to achieve something to be be proud of. So that was nice.

Anyway. Take care of each other. Stop bulk buying things you don’t need. See you next week.

Stuff I’ve seen and read recently: February 2020

As per last month, herewith a list of ‘stuff what I’ve read’ during February 2020.

This recent post from Adam Elkus about the trials and tribulations of running Linux in 2020 was nicely put together. I dabbled with installing Linux distributions from about as early as I had access to a PC and realised they could run more than one operating system. I distinctly remember learning the extremely hard way what formatting a hard drive meant, and spending ages on forums with names like ‘Linux newbies’ searching for and ultimately asking for help with installing a mouse driver or working out why my computer wouldn’t dual boot properly. I am no more eager to try Linux out than I was twenty years ago, but I still find it fascinating to read about from time to time.


This one from benjojo.co.uk describing how a fundamental part of ethernet connections work did the rounds recently. It fits into a weird pigeonhole of ‘fascinating insight into a topic I didn’t even know about before’, and provided good bedtime reading in much the same way as listening to an episode of In Our Time with specialists enthusiastically talking about something rather esoteric.


I spent a bit of time reading through this Ribbonfarm post on blogging and writing and stuff, and it’s been nice to see responses and reactions from others (including this from Warren Ellis) which chime with my own feelings: mostly that the specific examples discussed in the post aren’t perhaps the best, but that there is some truth to it.


Like Craig Mod in one of his recent email newsletters (they’re always a good read), I am also a tweet deleter. I just always feel like tweets should be ephemeral and time-limited and should just fade away after a given amount of time. For me, that’s about a month. And so I use a free service called Tweet Delete to handle this automagically for me.

Phil Gyford chimed in on this subject as well and feels similar. Like Phil, I find this an interesting thing to consider as I am also a bit of an archivist/hoarder at heart, but tweets just feel like something that should fade away. Not everyone feels this way, though, and some are beginning to treat Twitter like people used to treat blogging. Between both Craig and Phil, they make the extremely salient point of (in Phil’s words):

“Think of all the old bloggers lost to Twitter.”

Amen.

When I see multi-tweet threads which could add up to 500 words or more, I just wish the author had bothered to write a blog post instead. Thank goodness Twitter has added better threading functionality (and I quite often use it for 2-5 tweets), but anything more than that just seems like such a waste of words. Le sigh. (The above Ribbonfarm post also talks about Twitter threads if you’re hungry for more.)


Nice piece in the Guardian from Anna Hughes about cycling across France, a subject which is close to my heart having done a small slice of this last August and which left me very much wanting to do more of that sort of thing. It reads well, but felt like it had been edited for length, and I hoped to find a link to the full piece elsewhere as sometimes happens, but alas.


Harriet Thompson has begun a new project with an associated blog which aims to explore, amongst other things: “the influence of the electric telegraph on nineteenth-century literature and culture.”

Sign me up! That’s another RSS feed added to my feed reader.


This piece called ‘How blogs broke the web’ was an oddity – I don’t quite understand the M.O. of the website that posted it but it was a really nicely-written (and illustrated!) piece of nostalgia for blogging and the old web, a subject I am increasingly finding myself only too happy to wallow in.


Another bit of nostalgia/old web stuff here, this time from Ana, whose blog I recently found via the Indie Web/Homebrew Website Club…. portal? Website? Directory?

Anyway, Ana confesses to – in her words – overthinking my nostalgia (hi!) and it made for a nice read.

My teenage years weren’t amazing but it wasn’t all bad. And whenever I think about them I think about a couple of things only: discovering music and building fan sites. During these years I developed one of my core personality traits: I build websites. It was my only hobby. I would spend hours learning and experimenting without judgement.


The Guardian again, and an interesting piece on the subject of men losing and making friends in their thirties which, well, hi.

Ironically and/or charmingly, I came across this link via Jamie Adams’ weeknotes and we had just previously exchanged an email or two pretty much down to the fact that we are both men in that category who run blogs and whose email addresses are visible with an open-door policy on people saying hello.

Hello!


I found this post from Robin Rendle amusing, talking about the writing of Robert Macfarlane, a nature writer whose books I enjoy. Rendle wrote of Macfarlane’s Underland:

For the most part I enjoyed it, yet every so often I found myself wincing and bracing for impact because—out of absolutely nowhere—the writing slips into obnoxious rambling.

The quoted example in his post is actually a pretty good one and, although I enjoy Macfarlane’s writing immensely, I have definitely come across passages in his books where I mentally have to insert some sort of algebraic brackets or commas so that I can break down a lengthy paragraph. It’s obviously a fine line though, because I find myself highlighting a lot of (often lengthy) passages in Macfarlane’s work as they so often just work perfectly.


Finally, there is a soft spot in my heart for Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, a PlayStation game I was first introduced to at a family friend’s house and which seemed so much deeper and more fleshed-out than other platformers of the time. It just seemed so delightfully, well, odd, and I’ve always remembered it with fondness, occasionally replaying it for a short session just to make sure it still seems singularly strange even many years later.

Turns out, as this video interview with the game’s chief creative officer Lorne Lanning shows, there’s even more to Abe than meets the eye – and that’s saying something.

These ‘war stories’ interviews with the creators of significant games by Ars Technica are really well made, and I’ve found myself enjoying them even if the game in question isn’t one I know very well.