Upcycling and old TV to a Smart TV with an Amazon FireTV Stick

Once upon a time, a TV was simply something you plugged into an arial socket and used to watch whatever broadcasters were prepared to show at any given time.
With the rise of streaming, TVs have now become “smart”. Well, smartish. I mean, some of them use really slick software and have lots of Apps that enable you to stream from a variety of sources.
Others are a bit less sophisticated and have limited access to such Apps.
Not only that, the world is now full of the old type of “dumb” but perfectly serviceable TVs.
So, if you want to :

  • Revitalise an old non-smart TV
  • Make a new not-so-smart TV smarter
  • Place a TV somewhere that’s not within easy reach of an arial socket

…then help may be at hand. There are a number of devices you can plug into a TV to beef up it’s smartness.
As these devices are streaming content over the internet, you don’t need an arial to make use of them.
Furthermore, they are a fraction of the cost of buying a new Smart TV.

What follows is an account of how I’ve setup an Amazon Fire TV Stick and used it to access the wealth of streaming content that’s freely available in the UK, as well as some of the main subscription services…
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Extending the range of my Home Network Wi-fi by converting an old router into a Wireless Access Point

The ongoing Ashes series appears to have become all about comebacks.
First of all we had Steve Smith, in his first test since the end of his Sandpaper-gate ban essaying one of the great feats of sporting redemption.
Then we had Ben Stokes dragging England to a preposterous victory target of 359 having been skittled for 67 in their first innings.

Making a rather more modest comeback in this post is an old EE Bright Box 1 router, which has been gathering dust since I got a replacement a couple of years ago.

What follows is one way to adapt this old piece of kit to extend the WiFi range on a current home network.
I want to do this by creating an additional Wireless Access Point positioned away from the main router.

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Geeky Speed Freakery in the Wild (South) West…

After many happy years, we decided to move house.
Deb has always said she wants to live near the sea and, despite it’s many attractions, Milton Keynes is about as far inland as you can get on the UK mainland.
Initially, the idea of a new home conjured up rather different images for each of us.
Deb envisioned a lovely little thatched cottage complete with an open fire around which to warm ourselves on those cold winter evenings.
I wanted a hollowed out volcano.
Eventually we compromised. Deb accepted that her ideal may present something of a fire hazard and, to be fair, so did mine.
That’s how we found ourselves looking around a newly built house in North Devon.
Deb was immediately impressed with the space, the potential…and all those other things that those daytime property programs say you should look for.
I was equally impressed, but for a very different reasons. I had noticed a little white box on the wall in the living room. When questioned, the Sales Advisor had uttered the magic words “Fibre to the Premises”.
Being a mere 5 minutes away from the Atlantic Highway was just an added bonus.

Needless to say we’d found our new home.

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The Rise of AI – A Cautionary Halloween Tale

According to the hype doing the rounds at the moment, we’re all about to be replaced by Robots and/or Artificial Intelligence.
Alexa, Cortana, Siri, we already have computers that are talking to us.
Incidentally, all of these devices seem to have female voices, even the gender-neutrally named Google Assistant.
Deb reckons that this is because everyone understands that, when it comes down to it, women know best.
Whilst I wouldn’t presume to question this assertion, I must confess to being somewhat unconvinced as to the inevitability that AI is about to take over the world.
For a start, there are those automated checkouts that have been in supermarkets for several years now.
Not only are they all rather temperamental, they all have their own individual quirks.
Then there are the Sat-Navs they’re incorporating into cars. What with one thing and another I seem to be spending an increasing amount of my life arguing with other programmers’ bugs…
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Having a mid-life crisis on top-of-the-range hardware

I’ve recently begun to realise that I’m not going to live forever.
“Surely not”, you’re thinking, “look at that young scamp in the profile picture, he’s not old enough to be having a mid-life crisis”.

Well, five minutes ago, that was a recent picture. Suddenly, it’s more than 10 years old. As Terry Pratchett once observed, “Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened”.

Fortunately, with age comes wisdom…or a sufficiently good credit rating with which to be properly self-indulgent.
Now, from what I’ve observed, men who get to my stage in life seem to seek some rather fast machinery as a cure for the onset of morbid reflections on the nature of their own mortality.
In this case however, it’s not the lure of a fast car that I’ve succumbed to. First and foremost, I am a geek. And right now, I’m a geek with a budget.

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Facial Hair and Funky Job Titles – A Personal History of the Internet Age

I had a rare technical issue with my blog recently. My e-mailed cry for help was answered and my problem resolved. The helpful soul at WordPress who aided me in my time of need was Jackie, who rejoices in the title of Hapiness Engineer.

I’d imagine that WordPress must have a novel and somewhat refreshing approach to Job titles.
We could apply this to Deb, for example. As a Health Professional working with the under fives, she could be a Small Human Maintenance Consultant.

There are some similarities between Deb’s job and my own. Whilst I have on occasion dealt with people whose job titles include words like ‘Chief’ and ‘Officer’, I also occasionally have to deal with the aftermath of toys being violently ejected from prams.

At the moment however, I find myself leading a team, all of whom are rather younger than me. This presents a number of challenges.

The realisation that I have children that are older than some of my colleagues is particularly acute when we discuss technological issues.
In computing terms, I grew up before the Internet was the all-pervasive presence it is now.
I learned to touch-type many years ago, in order to reduce the number of typos I made whilst writing code.
This is beginning to feel somewhat quaint with the proliferation of declarative development environments and technologies.

I suppose the point of this post is to wander back through the technologies that influenced my career as a programmer and explain why they are so important in shaping the technological landscape we now operate in.
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HTML 5 and Google Maps for the Milton Keynes Tourist Board

As well as being culturally diverse ( the Welsh enclave is currently painting her toenails upstairs in the bedroom) Milton Keynes does have one or two places of interest.
Yes, there are quite a lot of roundabouts. There are also connections with Formula 1 ( Red Bull Racing has it’s factory here), the birth of modern computing (Bletchley Park), and a crude but effective measure against the risk of disease in livestock (i.e. by making them out of concrete).
Wouldn’t it be handy if I could knock up a web-page with map locations of these and other sites of interest, ready for visitors to our fair city.
I stumbled across something that fits this particular bill when browsing through the HTML5 new features on the W3 Schools site.

One of the really good things about this particular site is that they’ll give you source code to play with and to observe the result of any changes.
The code, shamelessly plagiarised here, is to demonstrate the capabilities of HTML5 in terms of Geolocation – i.e. it works out the current position of your computer and displays the result in the form of a Google Map.
Whilst playing around with this, it occurred to me that you could pass in any co-ordinates of longitude and latitude and produce the desired map.

Currently, I don’t believe that Milton Keynes has a Tourist Board. If they do decide to get one, they might find the following useful… Continue reading