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First day in London – UK Trip Day 1

Hi there! I’m writing from my bed in the hotel room. I am completely exhausted, but happy. But let’s rewind a bit and go over how the day has gone so far.

Today started yesterday. It’s been one long day that should have been two. Victoria was quietly freaking out for most of Sunday the 15th, which is of course a little un-calming to be around. So I tried my best to assuage her fears or to simply stay out of her way. Sometimes alternating between her calling out things for me to decide on and me making a decision and then promptly leaving the room.

What? I was NOT playing Portal for XBOX360 while my cutie was trying to pack. YOU were! Nuh-unh! Erm, anyway.

I had already put my things together so we only had to wait for the time to leave. That time came, and Victoria seemed to think taking transit was the best course of action. I wasn’t as sure about this. I had a bad feeling about that plan.

Well, that seems to be for good reason as two cultural festivals had blocked many of the streets on Sunday in Toronto, so we waited at the stop for a street car that would not short turn only to discover that it would never come.

So I hailed a Lyft with the app and waited. Thankfully that option proved much quicker at first. There was a short while where the car seemed to be inching along Lakeshore toward the Gardiner expressway, but we made it to the airport on time.

Usually the part I stress about is the security line but at this point it’s pretty passe. So we got through in less than 10 minutes and settled in for a two hour wait for our plane to leave! Tons of time!

Well I went off to the Tim Hortons to grab us a quick coffee and upon finishing the transaction, I noticed something amiss.

Now if I were to ask you what’s the most important thing to have with you on a flight to London, what would it be? What’s the most important thing you need with you?

A passport? I patted my pocket, and nothing was there. The one spot I always put it no matter what and it wasn’t there!

OH. NO.

I’d like to say that I maintained my composure during all of this but I think we all know that I freaked the heck out.

I power walked over to my airline at the time, and instead of doing anything useful whatsoever, the young Air Transat employee simply re-iterated to me that I’d not be able to get on the plane without it.

Even when specifically asked if there were a lost and found or anything like that he chose to spit in my face by re-iterating to me I’d not be able to get on the plane. Really? REALLY NOW? That’s not the very first thing I knew.

So I went to a WestJet employee and they at least tried to help me. They also pointed me to one of the store staff behind themselves who knew exactly where to go.

So off I ran back to security. “A twenty minute walk,” according to her, but I was much quicker. Possibly quicker still because the Pearson staff who rode carts around offered me a ride. A lifesaver!

I made my way to the security desk, weaving through commuters going every which way, and finally arrived to spot a security person asking if someone had lost a ring.

“Did you find a passport?” I asked. But he didn’t even reply, and I saw it was the wrong line so I had best try the one I came from.

On the way to the security line I had previously used, I spotted a desk in the middle with several staff standing around. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a passport!

Oh, but the boarding pass was one of those printed from the kiosk ones. Not the one I had printed at home. Boo…

Oh, but what’s this? Another passport? I guess this happens more often than I thought.

“Hi! I’ve lost my passport, have you found any?”

They asked my name and apparently it’s the one they had just found. Miraculous!

I received a message just then, “They are asking us to verify our passports!” Victoria had messaged me, so I messaged back, “Found,” while I marched back with speed. Jogging my way through passengers. “I’m at security.”

That little fool had called our passports in for verification immediately after we had the discussion about me having to go back to security to find it. What is wrong with you!? I only took about 5 minutes to get back to the security lines!

Anyway. I made my way back, utilizing the carts again. A Pearson staff had parked for a bit and I asked if I could catch a ride. I made it back to the desk, sweaty and annoyed.

So that part of the nightmare was over, I guess. Now to air out my shirt and hope the stress sweats didn’t stink too much. I just love being sweaty and stinky on a plane.

Pictured: Me

I would like to claim that this is the first time this has happened, but it isn’t. There was the incident when I was trying to leave New York, but that’s a story for another day.

Once on the flight I had an okay time. AirTransat is a fine airline to be on a plane with, but their on the ground staff could use some training. I watched a show about fixing up old cars for people who have let them decay. I wanted to watch it as a form of relaxation the same as watching restoration videos on YouTube, but of course this show put on by National Geographic wants to be “good TV” so they’ve got to get the drama in there somehow. It was nonetheless enjoyable.

I didn’t sleep a wink after that. Not from any kind of stress, although the stress sweats definitely were a thing. I simply can’t sleep on planes at all. Ah well, I guess I’ll spend the day awake until bedtime in London!

Once we landed, the feeling of actually being in London for the first time set in. It was exciting! We purchased cheap data SIM cards so we can keep in touch, and maybe catch a Mr. Mime! Yes, we play Pokemon Go still.

SIM cards
SIM card get!

We also picked up our Oyster cards, and Victoria was visibly pleased by this. She loves to keep them after our trips. One thing we found useful is that since we were spending a week in London, for the price of the Gatwick express train we purchased an unlimited use weekly ticket on our Oyster card. Wonderful!

London Oyster card
The world is our oyster!

Now that we had the means of getting on transit we headed for our hotel. On the train we met a lovely lady who had two assistance animals with her. The fact that she had two, her lanyard about assistance animals, and the fact that one of them seemed to be very inquisitive all spoke to her being a trainer. So I went ahead and asked if she was training those dogs, and of course she was. We had a nice conversation. Everyone on the train seemed very nice.

She remarked that we happened to catch a very old train. It was certainly wobbly, but seemed modern enough to me. I was more interested in the house tops which had those chimneys I had remembered from Mary Poppins, and all of the silly graffiti tags. “Pies”, I feel ya. We’ll have to tell “SPUD”.

(Pies is a UK tag we saw with a multi-coloured rendering and SPUD is a tag we saw a lot of in our own neighbourhood for while.)

Upon arriving in Hammersmith station, we caught our bearings and bought a little sandwich and a coffee at a cute little coffee shop, and I did a little vlog.

View this post on Instagram

London vlog: harrowing journey!

A post shared by Ain Bowman (@eanbowman) on

We then headed for our hotel. It was a decent 10 minute trudge with all of our things to the hotel. On arrival we found they were all old converted townhouses. Beautiful! I wonder what the residents think about this?

When we were given our key card we headed up the creeky plush carpeted stairs a few levels to reach a set of tiny doors. Our room is cozy but our first concern was taking off our boots and having a short rest.

That sorted, we had a nap. We were both completely exhausted.

We woke up around dinner time in London, so to keep our bodies on London time for a while we went out to eat. We found a little Fish and Chips restaurant and had a pretty good meal. We shared one plate and that was the perfect amount of food for us, and only 13 pounds. So about what we would pay for a dinner for us both in Toronto.

Kerbisher & Malt
The fish and chips shop we stopped at.

Now I’m back here in my hotel and we’re getting ready to rest for the night. I hope you found this entertaining. I’ll try to keep up my travel log for this trip, so I should be posting daily for the next two weeks!

Bye for now!

How To Get the Touchscreen Working in Xubuntu Linux on an Insignia Flex 11.6″ Tablet

The Insignia Flex 11.6″ tablet (NS-P11W7100) felt like a great deal at the time. It was about $100 and came with a quad core 1.4Ghz CPU and a paltry, but possibly sufficient 2GB of RAM. Storage is also only 32GB. For Windows 10, this is just crap. So I decided to install Xubuntu Linux to get it to run things faster.

And faster it was! Wow! I can play HD video without stuttering, and many other simple tasks now happen instantly instead of waiting forever for Windows 10 to get around to it.

Only one problem, many of the devices did not work out of the box. So I’m going to share with you today part of my journey: getting the touchscreen to work in Xubuntu Linux!

For now, I’ll skip telling you how to install Xubuntu. There are other tutorials on the Internet for that, but if someone comments asking for a better walkthrough, I’ll certainly give you one. I had success by using Rufus to create the bootable USB key, though. Also you’ll need to set the security setting in your BIOS to off (Del key at the Insignia logo).

Firmware

I was able to obtain the firmware for the Insignia Flex NS-P11W7100 touchscreen by visiting the gsl firmware repository by onitake on Github. There is a thread there where I have also documented my journey.

I have also packaged up all of the firmware I currently am using in a handy file!

You will need to copy this file to /lib/firmware/silead on your own machine.

tar -xvf mssl1680.fw_.tar /lib/firmware/silead/

This will take a while, and once it’s finished, you will have the firmware necessary for your Insignia Flex NS-P11W7100 on your machine. Yay!

evdev

But that’s not all! Now you need to install Xorg evdev. This package seems to work far better than the default. It works for me, so I’m sure it’ll work for you. (Unless Xubuntu changes significantly after I make this tutorial.)

sudo apt install xserver-xorg-input-evdev xserver-xorg-core xinput-calibrator

This will install evdev and xinput_calibrator which will be used in the next step. For now, reboot your machine.

sudo reboot

Calibration

Once you reboot, you should notice your tablet responding to touch! But it’s all wrong! It’s up in the top left of the screen no matter where you touch and it’s upside-down! xinput_calibrator to the rescue!

xinput_calibrator

Now you’ll see your screen is completely taken over by a calibration program. Follow the instructions, pressing first the + at the top left of your screen, then top right, then the bottom two. It may take a few tries before the calibrator accepts your input. Once it does, it will present you with your calibration details and they should look like this:

$ xinput_calibrator
Calibrating EVDEV driver for "silead_ts" id=13
	current calibration values (from XInput): min_x=42, max_x=1946 and min_y=1500, max_y=11

Doing dynamic recalibration:
	Setting calibration data: 50, 1944, 1517, -9
	--> Making the calibration permanent <--
  copy the snippet below into '/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-calibration.conf' (/usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/ in some distro's)
Section "InputClass"
	Identifier	"calibration"
	MatchProduct	"silead_ts"
	Option	"Calibration"	"50 1944 1517 -9"
	Option	"SwapAxes"	"0"
EndSection

Immediately you should notice touch is working much better. If not, try running xinput_calibrator again. If the problem persists, I suggest you read the repository linked above. It has a lot of great info.

Save your changes

But we’re not done yet! That output is telling you something important! You need to save your config in order for it to work next time you reboot. So let’s do that now. Copy the “Section … EndSection” value and open the terminal again to edit the config file.

sudo nano /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-calibration.conf

Now you can paste in the configuration.

Section "InputClass"
	Identifier	"calibration"
	MatchProduct	"silead_ts"
	Option	"Calibration"	"50 1944 1517 -9"
	Option	"SwapAxes"	"0"
EndSection

That’s it! You have configured your touchscreen! Enjoy! Paint a nice picture on your lovely (actually really crappy) touchscreen and share it! 🙂


Bonus round: fix the sound!

I had issues after re-installing Xubuntu for this tutorial. I had no sound! Audio apps couldn’t even find a working audio output. They just froze at 0:00 time. (Both Parole and YouTube in Firefox were tested.)

To fix it, I simply downloaded the whole repository here: https://github.com/plbossart/UCM

Download a zip or check it out. It doesn’t matter. Get the files and copy them over to /usr/share/alsa/ucm/

After doing this I had sound! But it was too quiet. 🙁

The fix was to open up alsamixer, make sure the headphone output wasn’t muted for headphones, and turn DOWN the volumes of the left and right headphones and speakers. The headphone gain seems to be reveresed. The speaker gain seems to shut right off after green. So I just set it to the top green value.

Hope this helps someone!

Meet Sam!

Hi! This is Sam! She’s what leapt out of my imagination this weekend. I hope you like her!

Creampuffs!

My wife writes a lot of great stories, some of which even get published. As her partner, I get to read some first drafts too!

I’m excited she’s releasing one of them on Wattpad, so I can read the final draft too!

Creampuffs is about a nerdy girl who sets out on a new journey to create a gym for people like her! She quickly gets in over her head with shady relatives and their dealings getting in the way.

Thankfully there’s someone cute around to talk to!

Go take a look! The first few chapters are up already and if you like it, share it around! We’d love nothing better than for her stories to be enjoyed by many people.

Have a lovely Wednesday!

Texture Resources for Modelling

Note to self: when in search of textures for my next project, I’ll have this list handy.

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