Astra Mk4 Idle Issues After Battery Removal

Recently I had to disconnect the battery on my Astra Mk4 (G) while I was changing to drivers seat in order to make sure the airbags didn’t deploy. Everything went well and the new seat was fitted easily. When I went to take it for a test drive however it was refusing to idle.

Every time I pulled up to a junction, or set of traffic lights, or just anywhere where the car had to idle, the idle revs would fluctuate between 500 – 1000, then after about 20 seconds it would stall. I spent hours looking online and the general opinion seemed to be Astra’s suffer from bad idling when the ERG valve gets clogged. Should be a simple fix or removing the unit and giving it a clean, but it just didn’t seem to sit right. Why was this only happening after the battery had been disconnected?

As it turns out the entire engine, including idle revs of which there is no manual adjustment, is controlled by a magic little device called an ECU (Engine Control Unit). This wonderful unit however doesn’t come equipped with a backup battery to retain any configuration data. This means that it formats itself every time the battery has been disconnected for longer than about 30 minutes.

You can take your car to Vauxhall and for a not so little fee they will remap the correct settings into the unit for you, but there is a better way. In addition to the unit managing your engine it also learns your engine. In order to do this though it needs some data to work with, and that data takes time to collect. Approximately 100 miles.

So the solution is simple. Save yourself some money, put up with having to keep the revs up at traffic lights and junctions for a couple of days and after about 100 miles or so things will start settling down. In total it took around 200 miles for the revs to completely settle. It also seems important that you don’t do this in a single run, or at least if you do make sure to turn the ignition completely off a few times throughout.

Limelight – PC to OSX/Linux/Mobile Game Streaming

Recently I bought a gaming PC to enjoy of all the fruits the supposed gaming ‘master race’ (I’ve yet to be convinced) has to offer. Since it arrived I’ve been interested in getting it to stream a few games to my iMac and MacBook Pro, partly as a technical interest and partly as there is a few games I’d like to be able to play while not in front of my gaming machine. It’s not been easy. The range of streaming services between OSX and Windows is highly limited and when you add a decent level of graphical quality into the mix the choices become almost non-existent.

Today I happened across Limelight and it looks promising. Limelight is essentially a PC/OSX/Windows/Android/iOS port of the Nvidia Shield technology and consequently it only streams from machines with a GTX 600/700 graphics card. Currently the team behind Limelight are focusing development on the Android port, however as of the 13th of January the Windows/OSX/Linux port went into Alpha development.

Currently the system is buggy and the streaming quality is far from playable for all but the lowest graphical quality games, however it is at a level matched by most of the streaming services in current existence, both commercial and non, while still being Alpha. That alone makes it something worth watching. In the tests I preformed playing both FTL and Rust on full-screen mode, FTL was playable although with a very slight delay, Rust however was unplayable due to a second or more delay and poorly pixalated graphics.

All in all in it’s current form Limelight isn’t of a huge amount of use but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on and experimenting with as if this is what they can do with a Alpha release, I’m dying to see what they can produce in the Beta or Release versions.

Check it out here, Limelight On Github

PS4 Wireless Headset Problems

Since the arrival of my PS4 a few days ago I’ve been having countless issues with my Turtle Beach PX5‘s. Everything seemed to be going wrong, and the Turtle Beach Support Site was rather useless as they official state they should work without issue. After many hours fiddling around, I seem to have found a solution, and so far as I can tell a probable cause.

There are two issues apparent. The first was the audio was cutting out due the Turtle Beach controller unit detecting changes in the digital output several times a second, and subsequently switching between pre-processed and unprocessed audio several times a second which results in the audio dropping out for a few milliseconds each time it switches. The second issue was audio crackling and popping but otherwise uninterrupted.

Issue One – Audio Dropping Out

The first thing to check is that you have setup your headset correctly. These are the instructions from Turtle Beach (the ones I followed) and should be applicable for most headsets, however check with your manufacturer as some settings may be different (the Bitstream for example) and could damage the speakers in the headset if setup wrong.

  1. Go to Settings > Screen and Sound > Audio Output Settings > Primary Output Port
  2. Select “Digital Out” [Optical]
  3. Select ONLY “Dolby Digital 5.1ch”
  1. Go to Settings > Screen and Sound > Audio Output Settings > Output to Headphones
  2. Select “Chat Audio”
  1. Go to Settings > Screen and Sound > Audio Output Settings > Audio Format (Priority)
  2. Select “Bitstream (Dolby)”

Assuming you have set things up similar to above and are still having issues there is three potential fixes.

Firstly restart the system. Do not simply put it into “Standby Mode”, make sure to shut it down completely for some reason the PS4 doesn’t seem to save the settings properly until and complete power-cycle has been completed.

Secondly, if you have completed the first fix and the issue still re-occurs when you go to play and game, or power-on the system, try the following;

  1. Go to Settings > Screen and Sound > Audio Output Settings > Primary Output Port
  2. Select “HDMI Out”
  3. Go to Primary Output Port
  4. Select “Digital Out” [Optical]
  5. Select ONLY “Dolby Digital 5.1ch”

This fix can even be completed mid-game if the audio starts to glitch (as happened several times to me) by pressing the PS Button and going to the Settings page.

Issue Two – Cracking and Popping Interference

After I got the above issue resolved I began to notice some interference appearing while trying to play. After going through everything in the room to figure out what was causing it, the only culprit left was the PS4 itself. This root of this issue is the same as my previous post regarding interference with PS Vita. As part of the PS4′s new Remote Play feature it supports Ad-Hoc connection to the Vita. You can read the reasons you may want to use Ad-Hoc in my previous article. The problem with Ad-Hoc being enabled is that it turns the PS4 into a transmitting and receiving mini-router. This normally might not be a problem but the standard frequency for internet, and only frequency the PS4 supports, is 2.4GHz. The happens to be the exact same frequency Turtle Beach headsets use to communicate with the base unit.

To fix the interference all you have to do is disable Ad-Hoc connections;

  1. Go to Settings > PS Vita Connection Settings
  2. Untick “Connect Directly with PS Vita”

Bootnote

If you’re still having issues but want to use a headset there is a third option, however it will not provide Dolby Surround Sound and does require having some form of Chat Cable connecting the headset to the controller. This should be a last resort but can mean you can go back to gaming at full volume without disturbing the neighbours;

  1. Go to Settings > Sound and Screen > Audio Output Settings
  2. Select “Primary Output Port” and set to “HDMI”
  3. Select “Output to Headphones” and select “All Audio Output”

This will feed all game audio and chat audio through headsets but it will only be in stereo. Better than nothing until Sony issues and fix which may be a long time in coming since this isn’t a major issue and does have workarounds.

PS4 – PS Vita Remote Play Issues

Once I’d got my PS4 up and running and had a play around with some games, I was dying to give the Remote Play with my PS Vita a try. Following the instructions from Sony for the configuration I had it up and running in a matter of minutes, however every time I went to play a game the Vita’s screen would start to pixelate and it would throw up errors about the connection dropping out. At first I thought it might have something to do with PSN’s network having issues (maybe some form of authentication with the network) but after the network came back the issue was still present. The solution lies in the fact that Remote Play has two connection modes; Direct and Wifi.

Direct Connection

If you enable the PS4 to allow the Vita to connect directly, the PS4 sets itself up as an ad-hoc wireless station. Essentially a wireless router. The reason this feature is available is it will provide a much more stable and faster connection for streaming the games if your current home wifi network is a bit on the slow side, or if other people are using it heavily to stream movies/tv/games. A useful feature, but only if you absolutely need it. The problems that can arise with Ad-Hoc networks is that unless you are careful they will be interfered with, or interfere with, your home WiFi network.

WiFi Connection

In WiFi connection mode, the PS Vita communicates with the PS4 via your current WiFi network and router. This is the same way your laptop or desktop communicates with the internet. The only problem here can be if your PS4, or Vita, is in a location with bad reception, or the network is under heavy usage already.

Overall WiFi Connection is preferred and is the solution to our problem, or at least it was to mine. In my case I have a very powerful existing network running right across the frequency range (Channels 1,6,13) which has more than enough bandwidth to handle streaming the PS4 gameplay to the Vita. In this case when I setup the PS4 and Vita to communicate Ad-Hoc it resulted in some major interference to the Ad-Hoc network. The solution is to simply disable Direct Connection mode and connect via WiFi.

Grand Theft Auto V Review

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After breaking the record for sales in it’s first few days with over $1 Billion in takings, it’s hard to dispute the Rockstar North’s latest offering was highly anticipated. That being said, zero-day sales are not necessarily an indication of a good game. So let us get down to it, does Grand Theft Auto V come up to par?

Time wise it is without question a incredibly long game, with hours of entertainment. I clocked-in at around 18 hours just having fun exploring the world, which is completely open from the start, before even getting into the main story. If you that to add the main story, and with further exploring and free-play the game could easily reach 100+ hours of play with no sign of getting bored. Additionally, and as with most GTA titles, the replay value is almost unlimited.

Graphics are reasonable good. The outdoor world in the top half of the map makes for some stunning landscapes. The inner-city graphics, however, are of a slightly lower caliber but that is not unexpected with the world being the size that it is. Overall the graphics are good, and as far as GTA games go, they are a major improvement over the previous offerings.

The Gameplay is good at the core. The cars drive nice, with each being distinctly different, the weapons system has been revised since previous titles and is a lot simpler to use, with the ability to carry multiple types of the same weapon simultaneously, but the big change comes with the character interaction. GTA V introduces a unique three character fast switch system. The system works well during the missions, allowing you to chose slightly different perspectives depending on which character you chose to activate, and you can always switch mid-mission. During free-play the system is just as fluid, however I found myself tending to favour one character (Trevor in my case) over the others. This inevitably causes problems, and ends up self-perpetuating as that character ends up with the most money/cars/guns etc. The game semi-addresses this by only allowing some characters to buy some properties, and it does work to an extent. There is a number of “bugs” and design flaws that at points seems to overshadow the positives. These are things like your car often disappearing when either saved in your garage, or just when you turn your back for a second, annoying to say the least, especially when you’ve just spent $70,000 customising it. It’s not a major issue but with nearly every game shipping with a zero-day patch these days, the question is why didn’t Rockstar fix this, and other similar issues in the weeks between going to the printers and arriving on shelfs? Probably cause they were too busy working on the new multiplayer mode, complete with micro-transactions. On top of these “bugs” there a few design flaws, the biggest of which is the money system. It seems exceptionally hard to earn money successfully, and the new Heist missions are at the core of that. The Heists are exceptionally fun to play, but offer too much of a varied a return, with some users reporting only $150,000 between two characters, while others reporting nearly $1,000,000 between them. This would be fine if there were enough Heists available so that if you messed up one you could make it back on another but there simple is not that many throughout the game. Outside of the Heists the only way to make real money is owning businesses and playing the in-game stock markets, however the businesses offer very little return on the initial investment and the stock market can make money but still not enough to make a substantial difference.

The Story is well developed, and each character lends a unique element. The characters have very distinct personalities and each is brought to life beautifully. The story itself is typical GTA style, long with lots of different NPC’s and of course lots of twists and betrayals. Overall each mission is fun, and adds something new, with few missions feeling like a placeholder or filler.

Audio is overall well done. There is enough diversity in pedestrians comments to stop it feeling too repetative. The vehicles all sound good, with each one having a unique sound, the same applies to the weaponary.

Overall the game is good, but not great. It’s a nice addition to the Grand Theft Auto line, but I can’t help but feel it was left unfinished and was possibly rushed, very possibly due to the pending multiplayer release. There are some problems, cars disappearing, money issues, non-drivable trains, but there are also plenty of fun and interesting features, and of course such a huge world to explore. If you do decide to buy however I would highly recommend getting the Official Strategy Guide, as it provides a priceless layout to all the key locations, vehicles, and properties, as well as walkthroughs to all the missions which can be invaluable on the Heists where the payouts can be so varied.

Score: 7.5/10 (not including Multiplayer)

Recommendation: Buy with reservations

Resolve iOS 7 Lag

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I’ve just updated my iPad 3rd Generation and iPhone 4S to the new “mobile OS from a whole new perspective”, in other words iOS 7.

Reserving overall judgement for another time, the first time to hit me was the sluggishness and lag compared to iOS 6. This was almost universal from opening and “pinch closing” apps to surfing and web and typing. After a fair amount of digging, it appears to be an almost universal problem to all iDevices with the exception of devices that shipped with iOS 7 pre-installed, e.g. iPhone 5S/5C.

The solution it turns out is rather simple, and is based on, from an educated guess and lots of programming/systems experince, and glitch in the settings transfer from iOS 6. The solution is to preform a complete reset on your devices settings. Doing so won’t affect your apps, photo’s, music etc, but will delete your chosen background (not the image file, just the choice), any Wifi passwords, lockscreen passcode etc. A small price to pay to mage your device usable again.

The preform a Reset go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings. After a quick reboot your device should be back up and running as normal, with a few settings needing reconfigured as mentioned above.

Simple.

As a side note, it is understandable why Apple didn’t automatically force a Settings Reset on install as there may be settings you want to take note of before you reset, however it would have been nice if they had mentioned a reset would be recommened, if not essential.

Google Now with Bluetooth Headset

Google Now

For some reason stock Android launches the Google Voice Dialer when you activate the phone through a bluetooth headset. With Google Now available though it makes Voice Dialer look a bit like having your calls routed by a two year old. Unfortunately Google doesn’t give any easy options to enable Google Now as the default choice for bluetooth headsets, luckily there is a simple hack to let us to it.

Firstly I came across this method via a contact on Google+ (Eoghann Irving), and he deserves all the credit.

I’ve tested this extensively and so have a few others I know and it works 100% better than Voice Dialer but not 100%. The only real problem seems to be on occasion you have to press the bluetooth button twice, a minor inconvience compared to Voice Dialer.

Anyway enough talk onto the solution,

  1. Download Bluetooth Launch (it’s free)
  2. Launch it, and scroll down to Google Search and expand it
  3. Enable the sub-option “com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox.VoiceSearchActivity”
  4. Close Bluetooth Launch, (you won’t be needing it again)
  5. Launch Google Now (hold Home button and then swipe up), and press the microphone button.
  6. Access the Menu in the bottom right]
  7. Go to Settings > Voice and enable Bluetooth Headset option if not ticked already
  8. Connect your bluetooth headset and activate the button (Double press on most single primary button headsets)
  9. Android should now ask whether you want to launch via Bluetooth Launcher or Google Search, select Bluetooth Launcher, and Just Once
  10. Test by asking a question e.g. “How tall is the Eiffel Tower”
  11. If all is working repeat step 9 but this time select Always.

Now every time you have a bluetooth headset enabled you can access Google Now. Below are some useful phrases to ask while driving etc.

“How long will it take me to get to Ocean Terminal” – This will give you the current travel time

“Navigate me to Ocean Terminal” – This will calculate directions then launch Navigation app and start Navigation

“Call Home” – Will call the number associated with contact Home

You can also text and email people but those functions will require a touch of the screen to actually send, for example

“Text James Where Are You” – Will compose the message but you’ll still have to press send.

Edit/Bootnote

After some user reports it has came to my attention that this workaround may not work properly on Samsung devices. Without direct access to a Samsung device to test I can only surmise that this is due to Samsung’s heavy customization of Android.

The Last Of Us: Spoilerless Review

The Last Of Us

I’ve just completed The Last Of Us, and clocking in at around 15 hours 33 minutes, it’s by no means a short game, and definitely worth your money.

Time wise, as I said it’s not short, and while my completion time could be shortened, it could also be extended a fair amount playing on one of the higher difficulties (I was playing on Normal, but there is two levels above that). I did skip a few, okay maybe more than a few, of the Collectibles, so it could further be extended if you want to truly explore everything and find all the Collectibles. It also have some replay incentive offering New Game+ which allows you to start a new game on either the same or a lower difficulty (but not higher) with the weapons, upgrades, and skills you had at the end of your previous play through, with the intent of allowing you to finishing upgrading anything you missed the first time round to get truly 100% completion and the associated Trophies or Achievements.

Graphics, are relatively good, with the environment looking stunning in most cases, with a few render glitches from time to time but nothing to really worry about and most of the time will go by unnoticed. The lead characters look amazingly good in-game, with some nice touches, such as the water level on clothing when you come out. The enemies are mostly well rendered, although some finer detail on the infected would have been nicer, and a greater variety, (not in type but in look) would have been good, but it’s a minor complaint. The last real in-game graphically complaint was the blood splatter, which was amazing while shooting or meleeing, however once dead every enemy left an almost perfect circle of blood pool which was often a bit too reflective, again although minor gave a feeling of being a bit rushed. Where I felt let down was in the cut scenes. They felt a little tired and flat, and overall, while good, not great, and not even close to Tomb Raider, which was just outstanding.

Gameplay, was flawless and where this game really earns it high rating score. The stealth aspects are wonderful, but at the same time are rarely forced with full-on action be available if you chose, (although it will makes things a lot harder). The battle system is superb, with each weapon responding realistically, although sometimes not dealing as much damage as I would of thought.

Story, was a time-old one, which I won’t go into details on to avoid spoiling anything, but still worked and was, in true Naughty Dog style, was very well told. Imagine it a bit like a old story being retold by your favourite author. This has the added bonus of not ruining much if you do by chance read a spoiler. The characters were well rounded, and easy to either dislike or get attached to accordingly. Overall, although I saw the ending coming well before it did, it was still enjoyable.

Audio, was the best kind. Almost unnoticeable, that is it felt perfectly suited and blended into the game excellently. Although that’s almost to be expected with some great voice actors such as Troy Baker (name a game and he’s probably had something to do with it). There is almost some great atmospheric touches, which while playing late at night, in the dark, can cause your heart-rate to increase a few dozen beats.

Overall I would give it 9/10, well worth the money, with replay value or at least once or twice. I disagree however the multitude or reviews the gave it 10/10 and think a lot of people have been jumping on the bandwagon, possible largely due to it being made by Naughty Dog. It definitely sent the Playstation 3/Xbox 360 out with a bang instead of a whimper (most likely being the last major release for PS3, and Xbox 360 before the next-gen consoles), but I still hold that Tomb Raider was the pinnacle of this generation of consoles, but Crystal Dynamics/Square Enix better watch out as Naughty Dog is close on their tail.

Recommendation: Buy It Now.

Java/Android: Convert Unix Timestap to Date

I’ve been trying to figure out the best how to convert a unix timestamp from my server to a actual date in Java for an Android app I’m writing. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of great information out there, with lots of incomplete and badly documented solutions. Turns out it’s really easy.

First you will need to have the following imports

Then here is the main code

Lets take this line by line.

Firstly we need to create a variable for the timestamp and put it in it, I’m taking it from a JSON feed so the assignment may be different for you. Then we must multiply the timestamp by 1000 as date takes time in millisecond but unix timestamp counts the number of seconds from 00:00 1 January 1970 (UTC).

Next we create a date variable and fill it with the timestamp, and create a variable to hold the final result.

This next part isn’t totally necessary but will be need if you want to format the timestamp more than the default. Firstly we create a  SimpleDateFormat and store in it the format we want to use, structured as per Java SimpleDateFormat (Info Here). Next we  actually apply the formatting.

Lastly we need to convert the converted and formatted timestamp back to a string as currently it will be in  SimpleDateFormat

 

Android, iOS and Git: A Love Story

I’ve been working with Eclipse and Xcode a lot recently after my iOS app Memorable got reviewed by Wired and I felt I should really get round to completing the port to Android. I’d worked with Eclipse before but mostly for small projects that didn’t really need backing up, or at least not with repo control.

This time though I wanted to have Memorable for Android backed-up and repo controlled using BitBucket (the service I’d used for a while for my iOS projects due to it’s unlimited private projects). This was problem-some enough with Xcode, as although it officially supports Git repo’s it doesn’t do so smoothly with constant problems.

So when it came to using Eclipse I got all exciting expecting it to support Git much better than Xcode, but discovered it really isn’t. In fact it requires additional extensions to even work. This was starting to drive me mad.

Yes you can use Git with both Xcode, and Eclipse but neither is smooth and both has some annoying bugs and idiosyncrasies. So I decided to try just using Git “old-style” and via command-line. I’m not adverse to command-line tools and when using Linux often have great “fun” diving into things at the cli level but sometimes it just nicer to have a GUI for simplicity and quickness.

Along comes SoucreTree. SourceTree is a GUI client for OSX for Git and Mercurial. In a grand total of 15 minutes, I had it installed, repo’s for both my iOS projects and Android projects linked to BitBucket and sync’d and began working. It also has built-in setup for BitBucket, Stash, and GitHub, all you need to do is enter your username and password and it will pull a list of all your repo’s. From there to sync a product and create it as a local repo at the same time, just drag and drop the project folder onto the the interface, add the remote repo you want to use from the list, commit then push. Done in under 5 minutes.

SourceTree is not only a must have if your using any version control systems, and want to speed up development time by cutting out all the messing around with getting your repo’s to work right, it also free!

Get it here