Category: geek

XPDisplay for X-Plane

I’ve been enjoying X-Plane for several months now and figured that since I’m a programmer, it’s time to give something back. I’ve been messing around and have come up with an information display – useful if you have a second computer sitting around (maybe a laptop) that isn’t powerful enough to run X-Plane. It basically displays information useful for a fly-in:

* Time in GMT
* Altitude (relative to ground), speed, heading, etc.
* Moving map display (so you can get an idea of what you’re flying over)
* Basic radar (showing other aircraft)

It’s by no means perfect, but I’ve used it for the last few fly-ins and found it surprisingly helpful.

New Applications for CodeAlchemists

The last few months have been especially busy with the arrival of my beautiful daughter, but I have still managed to find some time to write a couple of new applications for CodeAlchemists.

BabyPatterns is a simple program that displays stimulating high-contrast patterns of the type which occasionally entertain young babies.

Contact Sheets generates a ‘Contact Sheet’ for each folder, showing all the photos in that folder. It’s vaguely intelligent about it, regenerating sheets for folders if they’ve changed, skipping folders that haven’t, that sort of thing. Useful when you’ve built up a large archive of photos, as I have. :-)

Next on the development list is a new version of JDarkRoom.

Blogging on a train

National Express On-Train WiFi

I was on an intercity train this evening, journeying up the East Coast main line from London to Edinburgh; it was my first trip on the new National Express service since they took over from GNER some months ago. They offer free wifi to all passengers, which I was keen to try out with my new Eee 900 PC.

Upon firing up the ‘Wireless Networks’ window, I was heartened to see five hotspots with names like BN06DE, BN06EF and BN06FH. Selecting the one with the strongest signal yielded a WEP key prompt, which I eventually discovered could be bypassed simply by pressing OK. The window then displayed more hotspots named ‘nxecwifi’ and one called ‘Jet Blue hot spot’.

After several futile attempts at connecting to the more-enticing ‘Jet Blue hot spot’, I tried ‘nxecwifi’ … and Bingo! It took 15 seconds or so to acquire an IP address via DHCP, but after that I could ping Upon opening firefox I was immediately redirected to www.nationalexpresswifi.train – hosted on the train’s LAN. The page presents a login box asking for your email address (the password is supplied). After logging in you’re finally online at this point and can type any website address into your browser’s address bar.

Being a geek I now felt compelled to poke around and measure a few things. The network latency was pretty variable – between 500 and 6000 milliseconds, but this still seems remarkable considering you’re hurtling along backwards – in my case – at 150mph through the countryside. Tunnels tend to cause temporary blackouts, however TCP keepalive handles this nicely. recorded my ping time as 1 second, my download rate as 714kbps and my upload rate as 34kbps. There didn’t appear to be any direct correlation between latency and train speed.

Actual browsing seemed fairly slow, but definitely usable. My surfing was at one point redirected back to the train login page, whereupon I had to log back in using my email address, but this only happened once.

So all in all, an impressive service, especially so given that it’s free. One last gem to finish with – the onboard train website has a map showing where you are. And I’ve just passed Berwick-upon-Tweed.