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Ledger Wallet: a novice’s review

05 Oct

I’ve been interested in Bitcoin for a while as the idea behind it intrigues me. The possibility that it may become a major global currency means I’d like to own a bit on the off-chance it makes me rich. I’ve been using Mycelium Wallet on my Android phone for a while just for small amounts as a test. I fancied something that felt more secure for storage for investment purposes. I ended up with a Ledger Wallet.

Paper wallets are often recommended for cold storage but I worry that they will degrade over time or they’ll inadvertently get destroyed somehow.

Which led me onto hardware wallets. After much research it appears my impression that they all seemed to rely on a third party to use was incorrect. The third party provides a means of using it, but you are not reliant on them to get your coins back. More research seemed to narrow it down to two options: Trezor or Ledger. The Trezor hardware wallet looked good, but at 99 USD (about £70 at time of writing) it seemed quite a lot for my first foray into this arena. Ledger had a few options with the cheapest being their Ledger HW.1 at about £20. This seemed cheap enough to take a punt on, so I ordered.

The Ledger Wallet package

My parcel arrived a few days after order and the box was shrink-wrapped and sealed. Opening it up you get the plastic card which you push the wallet out from. There’s a stylish envelope containing the authentication card and a security thing you write your wallet seed on. You push the wallet out from the card like you would with a mobile phone SIM card, then fold over a flap to thicken the USB plug section. Easy!

Contents of the Ledger Wallet box

Box contents

Next, you need to initialise the Ledger wallet. This must be done on a computer you know to be secure and free from viruses or malware. This is because the wallet seed is displayed on screen for you to copy down. Two main ways of doing this; the first, that I ended up using, is probably what most people will do. You simply install the Chrome app that leads you through everything and does most of it for you. The other way, which is the ideal way to my mind, is to boot the .iso file (downloadable from the Ledger website) from a CD or USB stick on computer that isn’t networked. I couldn’t get this to work at that point (I have since). Running Linux I took a calculated risk that I was unlikely to have anything untoward on my machine that could steal the key.

Ledger Wallet

The Ledger Wallet itself

The Ledger Wallet in use

From the Chrome app, you enter a 4-digit passcode to access the device. Creating multiple wallets on the Ledger is easy. Sending and receiving was blindingly obvious too! To send from the Chrome app, you either use the accompanying Security Card as the second-factor to authenticate, or you authorise it with the Ledger Wallet Android app. This (to me) is a stroke of genius. On first run you use the Security Card to link the Android app with your device, and from then on when you send Bitcoin from Chrome, you get the option to OK it on the Android app. It always requires a separate device (phone or card) to allow Bitcoin to be moved, thus adding to the security. I’m not some security whizz, but this certainly sets my mind at ease for storing larger amounts.

The integration with Mycelium is also good, but you’ll need to be able to plug your Ledger Wallet into your mobile device using USB-OTG. Most modern mobile devices support this now. Once the account is imported into your Mycelium wallet, you can then send using your mobile device. This will need the plastic Security Card as your second-factor to authenticate the transaction.

I personally prefer sending from Chrome and authenticating with Android, as I’m more likely to be carrying my phone than the plastic card. If you’re just using it for longer-term storage though, you may not mind either way.

Regarding recovery of your Bitcoin in the event of the Ledger Chrome app no longer being available, during set-up you are told to record your wallet seed (a series of 24 words). This enables you to restore your wallet to any other software or hardware wallet that supports the standard BIP39 wordlist.

Summary

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with mine, and it does what I wanted it to i.e. store investment amounts of Bitcoin more securely than other options I currently use. They are available from the Ledger website if you’re happy to order direct, or Amazon UK. Links to Amazon do use my affiliate code and earn me a small commission, but they don’t affect the price for you. If you found this review useful, please consider buying using one of my links. Thanks!

 
 

Chicco Next To Me Crib review

30 Aug

I recently became a father for the first time and had the pleasure of learning about a whole new world of stuff that a baby supposedly needs. One of our purchases was a Chicco Next To Me Crib as my wife wanted the little’un to be within reaching distance when she was loafing in bed sleeping. Having used it for a few weeks now I thought I’d share my experiences with it. In short, I’m rather impressed with its design and sturdiness. The fact that it also doubles as a travel cot is not a feature we bought it for. On the odd occasion we’ve travelled with it, it was very easy to do so.

Chicco Next To Me Crib, attached to the bed

Attached to the bed

Construction

I’m not generally one for reading instructions, though I did for this as it’s not a cheap item and I didn’t want to break it. I’m glad I did though as it highlights how easy the Chicco Next To Me Crib actually is to use! Two legs, a support that fits onto them, and a mattress. There are also some straps to secure the cot to your bed to minimise the risk of any small arms or legs getting stuck in between. All with a convenient bag to put it in, and despite early struggles, it does all fit in there very neatly.

On ours, the parts all click together securely and smoothly. If anything feels forced, it’s not meant to go that way. Each side is independently height-adjustable with five settings. An advantage of them being independent is that if your child is suffering from reflux, one end can be raised to help gravity fight the upward flow of uncomfortable stomach acids. The front unclips and attaches underneath for use next to the bed. In the up position the clips are covered by the fabric so no likelihood of fingers getting caught. Those arrows on the side indicate you push underneath to release it, rather than on the sides which I seem to keep doing…

The mattress has a (removable) hardboard base. Those of you with a baby monitor with a sensor pad can slip it in without hacking your nice-looking travel cot apart. The fabric is wipe-clean, thick and the stitching is good. No loose ends or anything of mention.

Everything fits where it should with no badly machined parts and it does exactly what I’d expect, well.

In use

I was absolutely amazing at assembling and dismantling the Chicco Next To Me Crib after about three goes. I’ve got it down to less than five minutes, and that’s with using the straps. The straps are a bit fiddly, though that is likely specific to our bed. I have to thread them round the frame and under the mattress. Having to lie on the carpet like a mechanic to connect them also slows me down. Incidentally, they are not permanently attached to the crib so you can attach them to the bed then clip them on.

Chicco Next To Me Crib - Underside view showing straps attached to bed

Underside view showing straps attached to bed

Complaints

To be honest, these are a bit picky:

Wife says the mattress is a bit hard, though doctors recommend a firm mattress. With that in mind, I doubt any baby mattress is going to be much different. In the shops they all seemed similar to the touch to me.

Wife also finds it more difficult for you to get into bed when attached. I would suggest that is pretty much inherent in it being a bedside crib though…

Final whinge is that the Chicco brand sheets to fit this are rather steep in price. Other retailers have obviously noticed this! You can get the DK Glovesheets brand at a much more reasonable price from Amazon UK.

 
 

Rii Mini i8+ wireless keyboard review

04 Aug

I’ve recently been playing video directly from my laptop via HDMI on to our TV. Whilst this works amazingly well, I have found it somewhat irritating to keep getting up to start the video and so on. I’d seen mini wireless keyboards before but with no great urgency in getting one I’d not really looked at what was available. Now I felt I needed one.

After reading many reviews, the Rii Mini i8+ seemed to fit my criteria. In particular, I was looking for something with a UK keyboard and a central touchpad. Backlighting was also a plus point as was cheapness! Rii do several models with a central touchpad but some of them have a split keyboard which I wasn’t sure how well I’d get on with. The i8 and i8+ looked more like a game controller but the keyboard wasn’t split and the touchpad was central. The i8+ also had the added bonus of being easily found with a UK layout AND backlighting! I do think it is ugly, but at only £14 it was cheap enough that as long as it did the job I didn’t care. Here is mine:

Rii Mini i8+ wireless keyboard

There is a small compartment on the back that holds the USB receiver that plugs into your computer. As this is not Bluetooth, it actually works exactly the same as you would expect a wired keyboard or mouse to do so. This means that a large swathe of devices that accept USB peripherals are compatible with this device e.g. TVs, phones, etc.

Consequently, it works exactly as you would hope. I run Ubuntu so I was concerned there may be some compatibility issues but everything works as it should. The only gripe is the Play/Pause button seems a bit ‘sticky’ in VLC, toggling between the two very quickly so it often takes a couple of tries to get it to pause or play again.

The bonuses are numerous however. First up is the fact it is a UK layout. This seems quite difficult to find in these mini keyboards and having the ” and the @ in the right place for us makes it much more usable. The touchpad works well, if a little small, but then I did want the overall package to be quite small so it is somewhat inherent in my requirements. There are mouse buttons on the left side of the keyboard, either side of the touchpad AND multitouch works on this so you can use single tap on the pad for left, or double tap for right.

Backlighting (see image below) hasn’t been as much use as I expected; not because the output is insufficient, just that we don’t tend to watch stuff in the dark. One of the major features I chose the i8+ for over the original i8 is the auto-power off after three minutes. I rarely bother turning the keyboard off now using the slide power switch, as it simply sits there waiting to be woken up with any button press, upon which it powers on and reconnects. Note the touchpad will not bring it out of standby, but this is not a problem as the first button press appears to only wake it up rather than actually registering as a keypress.

Rii Mini i8+ wireless keyboard backlighting

It does feel surprisingly lightweight but sturdy enough. It’s already survived multiple drops from the arm of the sofa, and it’s not something I would want to stand on with my full weight however. The keyboard is perfectly fine to use, no worse than a mobile phone and people seem to get on well enough with them! I’ve even started using it occasionally with my laptop on my lap if the cat wants to lie on my stomach, which suggests it’s good enough for normal use. Battery life I am unable to comment on, other than the fact that it seems to last ages. I charged it when it arrived, and I gave it a little top up yesterday as I believe it’s better for the battery not to cycle it fully every time, and I think that’s around two or three weeks of light use.

Range seems fine for my use across the living room – I’ve not had any concerns about this at all. Some Raspberry Pi users have experienced issues, though this is believed to be due to EM screening on the Pi. They have got round this by using a short USB extension cable which alleviates the problem entirely.

My overall opinion is that this is a spectacular device, and at this price it won’t break the bank even as a whim purchase. Get it from Amazon UK now!

 
 

CBT with Celtic Rider Training

21 Feb

On Saturday 2 February 2013 I did my CBT with Simon Walsh from Celtic Rider Training. This all came about from a rather vivid dream I had in November. Nothing to do with bikes incidentally – I’d actually decided to sell my Mini (which I don’t own) and buy a Fiat Panda 4×4 to cope with the forthcoming snow. While this was all obviously bollocks, it set me thinking about an additional vehicle. I’d already bought my dream car in April, a 1.8i Sport Mk-2.5 Mazda MX-5 and I’m still ecstatic with it. It was pretty much a toy and I’ve got to say it’s fulfilled its purpose as a source of extreme fun!

I’ve always felt rather envious of bikers zooming past me but never considered riding a motorcycle myself as my parents (and numerous other people I know!) held a rather dim view of their safety. Until now I’d never really looked into it but after plenty of research (as is my style…) I considered that there were ways of reducing the risk, so thought I’d give it a go. Now the UK motorbike licensing process is irritatingly involved but I thought I’d at least give it a try to see what it was like.

The first step is Compulsory Basic Training which validates the provisional motorcycle license, allowing you to ride a bike up to approx. 15 bhp and 125cc on Learner plates. There is a strict curriculum set by the Driving Standards Agency, so that’s pretty much a checklist which makes it easy to judge how good the training is. It’s all legally required, but the whole point is whether I understand it and how it’s presented. I’d bought a copy of Pass the Bike Test: (and be a Great Rider Too!) which leads you through the whole process for a complete novice. I’ve found this book absolutely invaluable so far, so if you’re interested in getting into biking I’d recommend buying a copy.

Now I’d had an hour free ‘taster lesson’ with Simon in December to see how I got on and for him to give me an idea of how much training I’d need. If you fancy a free hour yourself without committing to anything, check out the Get On program which will sort you out with an instructor in your area. I was hooked after mine! Being 6’2″ I did struggle on the Suzuki GN125 as my elbows were pretty much on my knees! I understand that 125 cc bikes in general are smaller but the ergonomics on some are more suited to larger riders. Luckily, an amazingly useful website exists that shows how you fit on specific models of bikes. Motorcycle Ergonomics Simulator is well worth a look for those who are trying to find out how they’re likely to fit. With this site’s help I asked Simon if I could use his Honda CG125 instead as the distance between the seat and handlebars was greater so I wasn’t so folded up. I fitted fine!

The CBT was a long day, with good reason. Even though I’ve been driving a car for 15 years, riding a motorbike needs a remarkably different skill set. Some things will come naturally to those who already drive but other aspects need an alternative approach. Quite some time is spent on accustoming you with the controls, especially at slow speed. The rather essential emergency stop is also introduced here. After the instructor is satisfied you aren’t going to be a complete liability on the road (quite a responsibility!) you’re required to spend at least two hours on the road. Understandably I was a little apprehensive, but Simon had obviously done his job well as once I was on the road it was a great deal easier than I had expected.

The whole day was physically rather exhausting as I was using muscles I don’t normally use and I’d also hit it rather hard in the gym the night before… Also, being on a bike you don’t have the protective cage around you that car drivers have. Your only protection is anticipating potential hazards and a state of constant awareness. There is no room for a lapse of concentration if you want to stay on the bike, on the road and out of hospital! Continually assessing the road surface, being fully conscious of all other vehicles around you whilst also getting used to a completely different way of controlling your vehicle requires a level of alertness that is pretty hard-going mentally!

As mentioned earlier, the routes to getting your license are overly involved. I want the full licence so I’m not limited in choice of bike. The different classes of license are divided by engine capacity and power, with some extra limitations on the restricted licences by weight and power maximum levels the bike is restricted down from. Hence my desire to get the full version…

To get the full licence you need to take both parts of the practical test on a bike of at least 595cc capacity and a minimum of 53.6 bhp (40 kW). Which basically means taking lessons on a ‘big bike’. So you can go from never having been on a motorbike, to riding a machine (accompanied by an instructor) capable of 0-60 mph in around 4 seconds after only a single day’s training. I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that’s equivalent to having your second ever car driving lesson in a Porsche…

 
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Total Shaving Solution

08 Jan

Tom Murphy from Total Shaving Solution offered to send me a bottle of their shaving oil to review here. Never being one to turn down free stuff I graciously accepted. Here it is!Total Shaving SolutionNow those of you who’ve seen a couple of my previous posts about razors on here, may recall I shave with a safety razor and brush. I use an Edwin Jagger Medium Best Badger brush, mostly with a Palmolive shave stick. I alternate between two razors depending on my mood and how long my stubble is. When it’s longer I’ll go for the Muhle R41 because it’s open comb; if not I’ll use my Merkur 34C. I only use Feather blades if I can help it. As I’d been putting off shaving for a few days until I had time to take some photos, I had a reasonable length of stubble to shave.

Unshaved faceDue to this, I went with the Muhle with a new Feather blade. The instructions say to ‘Generously wet area to be shaved’. I took this to mean ‘wash’ so rinsed my face with warm/hot water for a few minutes until my facial oils felt no longer present and the hair felt softer. I’ve never used any kind of pre-shave but have quite tough hair so have considered it. The bottle stated three drops so three drops it was. Interesting smell; masculine but subtle. Massaged in thoroughly all over then wetted again before shaving, as per the instructions. It says to keep the area very wet and rinse the razor often, so after EVERY pass I rinsed my razor and splashed water on my face.

Starting with the moustache area it seemed almost as if there was no lubricant. As I got onto the main body of my face though I could definitely tell something was there. Now bearing in mind I’m used to lots of thick slippery lather, this felt distinctly odd. It felt like I was using the razor directly on my face, but not. While nowhere near as lubricating as soap, it lubricated ‘enough’.

After shavingI finished my shave and there was no soreness at all. A bit patchy due to the decreased lubrication but my skin felt really pleasant and moisturised. I’d seen on the Total Shaving Solution website that somebody actually used it as an aftershave balm. I was really tempted to try this.

A few thoughts before I wrap up this first instalment. Three drops may not be enough if you have loads of hair to shave away. I’m considering the possibility that I didn’t manage to get enough into the moustache area, or it might need a minute or so to absorb into the hair to soften it. For this reason, I will be continuing this review with a further shave when I only have a day or two’s stubble, and using the more aggressive Merkur 34C razor.

 
 

H. Upmann Connoisseur No. 1

10 Jun

Smoked 20 April 2012. Age unknown; turned up in the post from C. Gars Ltd that morning.

I tried this cigar as numerous people rave about them over on the UK Cigar Forums and I’d not gotten round to trying one yet. My previous experiences with H. Upmann have been less than satisfactory. Over the years I’ve tried the No. 2, the Magnum 46, the Magnum 48 LE and the PC, with only the 46 even feeling worthwhile another go. I was hoping this smoke would be better as the brand seems so popular but I am unable to understand why. No luck this time unfortunately.

While not an unpleasant smoke, it could have done with at least a year or two extra on it as the harsh peppery youth was too much for a cigar with a reputation for such a mild taste. I’d certainly give it another try if I knew the age, but for me this experience was not a signal to buy a box.

The coffee and cream flavours I read/hear about were present but were not as prominent as I’d hoped. A bit of a disappointment in all honesty. I don’t know why I persevere with H. Upmann…

 
 

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

23 Mar

I wasn’t expecting much from this, as the other ‘Planet Of The Apes’ films I’ve dabbled with have left me unengaged. A weeknight in, I thought I’d give it a go on a whim and was pleasantly surprised!

The set-up is very good with the actual story trickling in subtly. I enjoyed all the characters in it, and found it quite easy to identify with them. The only one who irritated me was Dodge Landon (the primate enclosure keeper’s son) who is meant to be unpleasant, so I say job well done Tom Felton (Malfoy from the Harry Potter films no less).

I may be well behind in noticing this but technology has definitely reached a point where animated characters, on the small screen at least, have become every bit as real as their ‘real-life’ fellow human actors. The monkeys were good and at no point did it look unconvincing. Caesar, the main chimp, is very emotive in his expressions and at this rate we won’t be needing real actors for much longer… I realise they are modelled using humans but it probably won’t be long before even they aren’t needed.

While I complained about Tintin having an unsatisfactory ending, though this finished almost leading into the next one it didn’t bother me at all. This felt like a complete story and left me excited for the next installment. I haven’t read up on the original Planet Of The Apes films or about any sequels for this, but I’m suspecting it’s one of those trilogy things here. This makes a very worthy first part if that’s the case!

 
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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

21 Mar

I’ll warn you now, I’ve given up trying not to put spoilers in these posts, so I’m just going to give my thoughts as they spill out of my brain through my fingers.

I had high hopes for this film as I had enjoyed the books and the animated series as a child. The advert looked tempting enough on TV so I thought I’d give it a go.

I’m really not sure what I was expecting but Tintin’s voice was the first disappointment for me. He just sounded like he hadn’t gone through puberty yet. Not really befitting someone who is an international journalist who carries a gun, to my mind.

Certain scenes dragged on far too long. The animated series from my childhood managed to fit get the balance just right: not dwelling on any one section too long while still giving enough to each to actually give the full story. The sea sequences in the film bordered on tedious for me. Maybe they won’t for other people but they can write their own review…

Then, the end was left wide open for a sequel. Now I realise this is commonplace now, but surely they should at least try and make the film a complete story? It does my head in.

To sum it up, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. Too violent for kids. Too tedious and half-hearted for anyone else.

 
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Attack The Block

07 Mar

I’m not sure what first attracted me to this film but I’d written it down in my phone as something I wanted to watch. The basic premise seems to be chavs versus aliens. I didn’t think it could go wrong really!

This was written and directed by Joe Cornish of Adam & Joe fame, which probably explains why the script amused me so much. The Adam and Joe Show didn’t really tickle me that much at the time, but either Cornish’s humour has matured or he’s taken to writing better than performing!

The film revolves around a gang of teenagers in London who start the film by mugging someone. Now the language really annoyed me at first as I just can’t get on with ‘gangsta speak’, but I soon managed to get past it and got absorbed into the story.

The first alien was pretty weedy, but subsequent ones were pretty mental. They were worthy opponents for the gang and I liked the picture I built up in my head around various characteristics they had. If you watch it, see if you think the same thing I did about their ‘roar’.

There were a few other side characters with their own little plots going on, like the middle-class white boy weed smoker and the local top boy who inevitably ends up with some kind of score to settle.

IMDB gives this an overall score of 6.8 which I personally think is a little low, but I’m no mega film buff just someone who likes watching good stuff. It wasn’t particularly challenging to watch but was great fun for a Friday night in. I loved it, so I’d recommend you give it a go!

 
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H. Upmann Magnum 48 Limited Edition 2009

07 Mar

Smoked 1 March 2012. In humidor since 5 March 2010; box code unknown but obviously 2009 vintage.

Every single one of these I’ve smoked so far has been disappointing and irritatingly, this was no exception. Whilst there were some flavours noticeable, it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience.

Considering I’ve had this in my humidor for nigh on two years now, I was expecting them to have settled slightly. When something heavyweight like a Bolivar Royal Corona becomes tolerable (some may say beautiful!) to smoke pretty quickly, I kind of wonder why these are so impenetrable to my tastebuds.

Perhaps they need some serious aging as the flavours are so light? Dunno…

Anyway, there were what I would describe as pretty typical H. Upmann cream and coffee flavours present, but soon after lighting it became incredibly peppery. I got about halfway through and decided to give up. As I thought it might be rude to chuck it into my host’s back garden right in front of his face, I left it in the ashtray to dispose of later. As it was, when I left I picked it up and took it with me and decided to relight it in the car on the way home. Despite common advice never to relight a cigar that has been out for over an hour, I did. It was still just as unpleasant…

Now you may be able to gather that I don’t get as much chance to smoke cigars as I used to, solely from the frequency of my posting on here. So it really annoys me when my opportunities are wasted with crap like this. It will be at least a year before I try one of these again!