Thursday, 2 August 2012

Crystal Palace Funpark - until 12th August 2012

I saw a poster for a local funfair (or is it fun fair?) while I was out-and-about yesterday. I thought I remembered enough key details to let me find it online. Alas, I could not find it! If this blog post gets indexed by Google quickly enough, maybe it will help other people find the information they need.

I found another poster this morning and took a photograph of it...

Poster for Crystal Palace FunPark

And here are some key details:-

  • Apparently, it's "Europe's largest mobile theme park" (and by that, I'm assuming it means theme park that moves around, and not a theme park based around phones)
  • It's at Crystal Palace Parade, Top Terrace, Crystal Palace, London, SE19 1UD (I'm guessing they mean in the park).
  • It's there from Wednesday 1st August 2012 to Sunday 12th August 2012, and is open every day from 1pm to 9pm, but it looks like in two sessions.

Sessions? Yep, it's a theme park / funfair / fun fair / fairground / fair ground (all words I was trying to use to find the darn thing) where you pay an entrance fee of £6.99, and then get unlimited rides. However, your wristbands only last for a maximum of a 4 hour session - either 1pm to 5pm or 5pm - 9pm - so time your trip carefully!

No booze/alcohol/drugs allowed.

There's limited information on the rides they have - "Davis's Earth Shaker", "Ghost Train", "Rockrage", "Family Funhouse", "Apple Coaster".
Update: Walked past the fair last night and it looks like they have some good thrill rides. Am definitely going to head in at some point!

Maybe see you there!

Update: This similar poster highlights more rides at a different incarnation of the Fun Park, but there are no guarantees that any or all of them will be at the Crystal Palace version

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Should I get laser eye surgery? (3 months on)

When I wrote my last blog post about laser surgery, I was one month into recovery, and on the fence about whether or not it was worth it. Now I'm over three months in, and have had a further follow-up appointment, plus a boozy Christmas, birthday, New Years, Stag Weekend, and trip to Vegas to see some very good friends get married!

First, the scientific details. I found out at my most recent follow-up (the 3 month one) that the -0.25 prescription in my left eye has now disappeared. This is great news for me, since it means that I don't have to worry about future treatments (at least right now), nor about whether I can see properly! I still have times where one eye is better than the other, but I think that maybe everyone does, and I'm just more aware of it at the moment. I think a lot of it comes down to rubbing eyes (either when awake or asleep), dry eyes, and eye strain. These are all things that are likely to happen more after surgery, and should happen less over time.

So at the stage I'm at now, I can see pretty well. In both eyes, I can see 2 lines lower than the 20-20 line on the optician charts, which is the lowest they had at the check-up. My night-vision doesn't involve haloes so much any more. Some lights seem too big, but I'm still not sure whether they would for non-laser-surgery-patients too. I've now driven at night-time (as well as during the day) and it seems pretty-much OK!

The redness on the whites of my eyes around my pupils is almost 100% gone now. If I look really hard, I can maybe see ever so slight colour variations where the flap was made, but I do have to look very carefully.

I still get dryness, which manifests itself as discomfort or blurry vision. For that, I use eye drops around 3 times a day when required. Ultralase are trying to wean me off them, partly using a night-time gel. This seems to be helping (although if you're going on long flights, or staying in Las Vegas, I'd recommend just using the drops as your eyes will get dry anyway!).

Extreme activities
About a month after the first surgery, I went to a funfair and went on a centrifuge-type ride. It was fun, but I was worried that something bad might happen to my eyes. The "flaps" might open up or something. I've no idea if that's true, and I've since been on roller-coasters and other rides, but it's still something I'm aware of.


I seem to be more confident now in my interactions with people. I'm pretty sure this is at least partly psychosomatic, but I think that it's also partly directly due to not wearing glasses. For people who wear contact lenses most of the time, they probably already get this.
I think that part of it is better peripheral vision; being able to see when people are trying to catch my eye, etc. Partly, it's good that my eyes are more visible, as they form an integral part of non-verbal communication. There's also the fact that maybe I have to deal more directly with the world; not through the "screen" that glasses provides.
I guess maybe it's also a two-way thing in that people who communicate with me are more confident about talking to someone without glasses.

It's really great not to have to wear or carry around glasses and contact lens paraphernalia the whole time. At the moment, I'm carrying around eye drops, but that's not too bad.

My vision is pretty good now! Key moments of wow-ness have generally been while looking at views while on holiday. I recently went to the Stratosphere tower in Las Vegas, and the views while Sky-Jumping and going on the other rides were fantastic, even at night time. I don't think I would have had the same views with glasses (maybe with contacts, I guess?).

What else should you think about?
I think I would rather have done more research into things like halo-ing and starbursts - see this (rather technical) page before the consultation/surgery.
I'd also like to have asked more questions about the recovery process and what I should expect in terms of consistency of vision over the first few months.

Am I glad I had it done?
On balance, yes!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Should I get my eyes lasered?

Please see also the follow-up post here.

I recently had laser surgery to correct short-sightedness and astigmatism. It's now been exactly a month, and since I've had a few people ask me about it, I thought I'd write a blog post!

My prescription wasn't that bad:-
Right eye: -0.75 (sph), -0.5 (cyl), x130 (axis)
Left eye: -0.50 (sph), -1.50 (cyl), x64 (prism)

However, I did need to wear my glasses most of the time (partly because my more-astigmatic left-eye was tending to become lazy otherwise).

I decided to go to Ultralase, since I have many friends who had great experiences with them (I think I know 7 people who have used them!). I went to the Tottenham Court Road centre, partly because it's convenient to get to from home/work. 2 other friends had it done there with great success, and 5 friends went to Guildford (also with the success).

The initial consultation was free. They check your prescription, ask you a series of questions about your health, etc, and also measure the surface of your eye to find out which kind of surgery would be best. There are 2 main distinctions - LASIK and LASEK.
(I might put more detail here later, for the moment, I leave the reader to look at the differences).
I was able to have both LASIK or LASEK. Although LASIK is more expensive, I opted for it as the healing process seemed easier.
There's then the choice (as I write this) of Ultra, Ultra-Plus and Ultra-Elite. Basically, the more expensive options have a higher "success" rate. I chose the most expensive, as it's my eyes and I didn't want to regret the choice later!

Normally, Ultra-elite with LASIK on both eyes would have cost £4,795, but because I had many friends who had recommended me, and because they had kept me waiting 3o minutes for my initial consultation, they gave me a 10% discount to £4,400 approx. You can choose to pay this under interest-free credit up to 3 years, which is what I went for (so £120 a month).
Also, in theory, for any future eye-condition other than reading-glasses, you should get re-treatment for free as long as your corneas are thick enough.

The process itself involves a local anaesthetic being used on the eyes which means you can't feel any of the actual laser cutting or reshaping. However, there is discomfort when they use pressure/suction to keep your eye still. This lasts approx 40 seconds per eye, although it can feel like longer! The whole process is over in less than 20 minutes. There's then a 20 minute rest and you go on your way. After another 20 minutes, the anaesthetic starts to wear off and your eyes do get quite painful. This can last a few hours, and is the only real pain you feel in the whole process! I'd been warned about it, so I'd stayed up late the night before, and then when I got home, I took a strong painkiller and went to sleep. By the time I woke up, I felt fine!

For the first 2 weeks, there are a series of eye drops (not too difficult to apply, but annoying), and you have to tape eye-protectors over your eyes when you sleep. There's a bunch of stuff you can't do for certain periods of time, but the most annoying thing for me was not being able to wash my hair properly (you have to mess around getting your head at the correct angle, with a wash-cloth and eye protectors over your eyes!).

Anyway - your eye sight should be quite a lot better from pretty-much the next day. I was able to get on with most things fairly easily. My eyes did have a tendency to get tired after a while, and you're encouraged to rest them.
You'll have a check-up the next day, then at 1 week, 1 month, 3 months (sometimes, I think), 6 months, and then only if you require it.

The results...
Initially, I was pretty pleased in general! My night vision wasn't great, but that's been getting better. Right now, bright-lights at night time still have a halo; I think that may or may not get better with time. The vision in my right eye is pretty good! My left eye wasn't so good to start off with and I was quite concerned. At my 1 week check-up, they said it was probably dryness and encouraged me to use the artificial-tear eye-drops more. I did that, and my left-eye improved a lot.
At the 1 month check-up, my right eye is fine, but it seems my left eye still has a prescription of -0.25, which is quite disappointing. I expect it may get better with time, and will find out (I guess) at my 3 month check-up.
My eyes are also still bloodshot, although each person reacts differently and I think I just take a while to heal! I'm not concerned - it looks kind-of cool, and I know it will get better.

So ... would I recommend it? Hmm, I'm not sure. It's definitely great to not have to wear glasses or contact lenses, but I'm disappointed that my vision isn't "perfect" (even if, technically, I have 20:20 vision). The jury is still out, and I guess I might update this blog-post with my future thoughts...
I would say that there is nothing wrong with going for the initial consultation. Ultralase were very friendly, and will answer any queries or concerns you may have.

If you have any questions, please post them as a comment, and I'll try to answer them when I get around to them.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) crashes on intranet web-sites (Outlook too)

I've recently installed Internet Explorer 8 on both my home and work PC, and find it to be much better than IE7 in the main. However, I do find that IE8 crashes whenever it tries to load a web-site on our work internal network (some of these sites are Sharepoint sites, some are blogs, and some are web-services).
I found a couple of forums where people are reporting similar issues that kind-of hint at the problem being to do with security zones. When I asked the error message for more info, it did say that the fault comes from Urlmon.dll.
I also found that Outlook 2003 crashes when trying to display an email that contains one of the URLs! It's not trying to load anything from a website (as far as I know), just display a link inside an email. I suspect that there's a problem with it trying to figure out whether the URL is "trusted" or not.

Anyway, I realised that some URLs on a particular sub-domain seemed to be causing the problem, but not all. Contrary to the advice in the link above, I found that the URLs that were crashing were the ones that were not included in a trusted zone. URLs that I had set to be within the local intranet loaded fine. So, I experimented and found that any URL I add to the Local intranet zone no longer crashes IE8 - nor Outlook!
My theory is that some code inside the Urlmon DLL (possibly in CheckMappings, if it's the same as the link above) attempts to verify the URL, but bugs out when it tries to use the current Windows Credentials (since the issue does not appear for external sites). This is something that Microsoft should ideally fix, and I expect we'll see a hotfix for it in due course.

The Workaround Fix
Be very careful here - you should not add sites to the Local intranet zone unless you are sure they are within your company intranet. These sites get an elevated level of trust and you would be exposing yourself to security risks if you accidentally whitelisted an external site.

  • In IE8, go to Tools -> Internet Options -> Security tab.
  • Select Local intranet
  • Click Sites
  • Click Advanced
  • Add the offending URL (e.g. ) - or whole domains (e.g. *://* - as per Microsoft's instructions)
  • Click Close, OK, OK.
  • Restart Outlook (IE should be fine)
If you are on a company network, I imagine this can be rolled out by applying policies.

I hope this helps someone!

[Please note: I have turned off comments on this post because I keep getting link spam]

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Resident Evil 5 - screen tearing fix (Xbox 360)

Like many others, I've been looking forward to Resident Evil 5 since being introduced to Resident Evil 4 on the Gamecube! I bought it last Friday (the 13th - ooh, scary!) and have been enjoying it ever since.
The graphics are, in the main, great, but there's one big thing that spoils it for me. Screen tearing. And judging by the number of results when I google for it, it's bothering quite a few other people too!

What is screen tearing?
It's what you get when your TV is trying to display two frames at the same time, overlapping each other. It manifests itself as a jagged line, which stretches across the whole screen and is most noticeable in fast-moving action.

When does it happen?
For me, it only happens in Resident Evil 5, and only when displaying in 1080p (on either 50 or 60Hz). It's most noticeable in some of the (frequent) cut scenes, but also while playing the game. It only seems to happen in the Xbox 360 version of the game.

How can I fix it?
You can't fix it per se, at least not unless Capcom release a patch, but what you can do is implement a work-around. In the Xbox Settings, under video, you can set your console to output at 1080i or 720p (assuming your TV/monitor supports this). This results in a minor decrease in graphical quality, but not a noticeable one (at least for me), and removes the tearing completely!

Further background...
Does this happen on the PS3?
No - the PS3 uses a technique called V-sync (vertical synchronisation) to stop the issue at the expense of showing fewer frames per second. Personally, I would love the option to turn this on on the Xbox - even just to try it out!

Has this problem been around for long?
Well, some people noticed it in the demo (myself included), but put it down to the fact that it was pre-release code. So it's been around for a while.

Is 1080i better or 720P?
Well, its down to preference. 720P is better for faster moving games. 1080i has fewer updates per second, but is at a higher resolution, so looks nicer for still objects.
I have read that the Xbox 360 mainly outputs in 720P anyway and scales-up to other resolutions, but haven't been able to verify that.
It could well depend on your display - my TV has 1920 x 1080 pixels, so at 1080i there's a 1-1 mapping, which means it looks great. At 720P, it would be scaling some of the pixels so it might not look so fantastic. Your display might be different.
Personally, I haven't decided yet! I'd advise to try both

What other games does this happen in?
I haven't noticed tearing on any of the other games I've played on the Xbox 360. I've heard that Dead Rising had it (another Capcom game), and maybe Ghost Recon Advanced Warfare (GRAW). I have GRAW, and haven't noticed it, but that may be because it doesn't display at 1080p, or maybe it's just more noticeable in RE5.

Why does this happen in RE5?
Well ... lazy programming/product quality. The console is being pushed past its limits in terms of how much graphical information to process, and as a result has not finished processing one frame before another comes along. However, other games have comparable graphics in 1080p without screen tearing.

Is it still worth buying Resident Evil 5?
Hell yeah. Look around for the cheapest price though. It was available for £29.99 (UK) but now the cheapest is £32.99.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Taskbar shows in full screen applications

I have a few applications that show the Windows taskbar when they are supposed to be running in full-screen. A couple of these applications are VLC media player, and Hauppauge WinTV.

I'm running Windows Vista (Home Premium), and have found a couple of workarounds, like auto-hiding the taskbar, or running the programs in a compatibility mode, but these solutions are not ideal, as they either compromise other functionality, or I have to switch them off again afterwards.

The under-lying problem seems to be a bug with Windows (possibly just Vista, possibly other versions too) where if you are running in Large Fonts mode (i.e. DPI-scaling is set to a non-standard value), then the call that gets by certain programs to put the application in full-screen mode does not hook into the functionality to hide the taskbar.
I can "prove this" by setting my DPI-scaling to standard (96DPI), rebooting (changing the DPI-scaling requires a reboot annoyingly) and then observing that full-screen mode (e.g. for WinTV) hides the taskbar ... and then changing it back to 120DPI (large) and doing the same - the taskbar is not hidden.

I did look briefly into how to file a bug report with Windows, but 10 minutes of Googling left me without many options (install Microsoft OneCare or pay $35 to report the issue over the phone - no thanks!).

One interesting thing is that although some applications display this behaviour, not all do. So Media Player Classic displays in full-screen correctly, where VLC does not. I can watch full-screen television in Windows Media Center without the taskbar, but not in WinTV.

I may look further into it later. Perhaps I can use the SysInternals Process Monitor to figure out which Windows API call is being used and figure out a way to patch it. Then I can try to badger someone at Microsoft to listen. Most likely I'll keep using the work-arounds and being mildly annoyed about it every time that I have to...

How do you check the cost of a BT call?

(For anyone reading this outside the United Kingdom, this doesn't really apply - it's only for UK telephone users on a British Telecom line!).

I recently had to make a call to an 0844 number to renew some insurance. I looked it up on SayNoTo0870 and obtained the equivalent national prefix number (0292 something), but wasn't sure which would be cheaper.
I found this tariff guide on the BT website, which mentions that 0845 and 0870 numbers are free for me at weekends. 0844 numbers are generally cheaper than 0870 numbers, so I thought that the 0844 number might be best.

Well, it turns out I was wrong, and I was charged 47 pence for a 10 minute call (grr!). I found this out not by waiting for my bill, but by using a technique I found on this page.

Basically, by entering a special code into the phone before the number you're calling, the call is made and you are immediately called back by the telephone exchange with the duration of the call and the cost.
The code is: *40*number#
(where number is the actual number you are calling - e.g. 084400000000).

This service appears to be free. There are a number of other "access codes" for BT exchanges listed on that page, most of which cost money. I guess there's a chance that even this service costs money, since the list is over 10 years old!