Faux oil canvas from photo

January 24th, 2016 No comments

I wanted a picture to hang on the wall in the newly refurbished bathroom. I like to put photos I’ve taken myself on the walls, but didn’t want a full photo quality image. Neither did I want to get one of the usual pictures of lighthouses etc. that you see for sale for bathrooms, so I decided to create my own faux-oil-painted canvas.

The effect I am going to use doesn’t work well on photos with too much detail as you lose the shapes. Landscapes do work well however, so I chose the following photo taken at Sandgreen near Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland and cropped it to a square format. Note, you should allow for an amount of image that will get ‘lost’ as it is wrapped around the side of the canvas frame. (see further down)

Sandgreen Photo

To increase the drama in the finished oil-effect, I also processed it using Google Snapseed (available on both iOS and Android). Obviously use whatever you want here, but generally push the contrast and saturation.

Sandgreen Photo processed

I then used an app called Brushstroke to apply an oil brush stroke effect. There are several options so play around with them until you get the desired result. This is better done on an iPad purely for the size of screen.

Sandgreen Photo Oil Effect

A detailed zoom on the clouds showing the oil paint effect:

oil effect detail

This was then sent it off to Snapmad to be made in to a canvas. I chose a 20″ x 20″ size, but there are plenty of other options available. Snapmad also have some very good help pages to determine image size to fit correctly onto a canvas so you understand what gets wrapped around the edges.

Here is the finished canvas on the wall.

Sandgreen Canvas

It’s a mouse made by who?

May 19th, 2015 No comments

So I plug a USB Microsoft Intellimouse into a PC running Microsoft Windows 7 and of course it recognises it as it already has the driver, errrr well no…
Windows Update for mouse
and then spends a few minutes looking on Windows update. Why doesn’t Windows 7 already have these driver preloaded?

When it’s not OK

May 19th, 2015 No comments

Well, I would if I could…

Outlook Web App missing OK

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Daft UK Rail Ticket Rule

March 14th, 2015 No comments

A relative came down from Glasgow yesterday to attend an event in the middle of Manchester, so had purchased a return ticket to Manchester Piccadilly. Heading home today, she had originally planned to get a train from Blackrod or Horwich in to Manchester to catch her return train. Unfortunately with the current engineering work on the line it meant replacement buses, which even if they actually turn up means a 30 min train journey becomes an hour and a quarter. We therefore decided that a better option was to drive her in to Manchester (a return journey for me that was still quicker than the one-way bus journey).

What is ridiculous though, is that the better solution would have been to take her to Wigan North Western station, as the train she had a ticket for, called at Wigan on the way to Glasgow. National Rail, however, has a condition which reads as follows:

Break of journey
You may not start, break and resume, or end your journey at any intermediate station except to change to/from connecting trains as shown on the ticket(s) or other valid travel itinerary.

Now I can understand that it would be wrong to purchase a ticket and then want to stop off somewhere to carry out some business for a few hours and then carry on, but when you have purchased a ticket for a seat from Manchester to Glasgow, getting on at Wigan (especially when the reason is due to an inconvenience cause by the rail companies in the first place) is not using any extra service, it’s actually less. It would only make sense if the ticket for a shorter journey actually cost more (although nothing would surprise me with the illogical ticket pricing we have in the UK)

Excel – Number of days in a given month

February 15th, 2015 No comments

If you need to calculate the number of days in a given month, then assuming your date is in cell A1, then


will give you this. This basically works by calculating the day part of the zeroth day of the following month which means the last day of the month.

Autumn Colours

November 11th, 2012 No comments

Still Autumnal colours to be seen out there:

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Amazon UK Free Shipping Bug

August 12th, 2012 No comments

Something I’ve noticed on a few Amazon UK Marketplace seller items is the following misleading bug. On the item page, the price clearly states Free UK shipping:

However, when you come to check out, P&P has been added. This is not new – Amazon regularly try this on and default to paid shipping, but in this case there is no option to reject this and select free shipping.

It means Amazon is promoting free shipping when the option does not exist. Not sure whether the marketplace traders realise this. Maybe they think they’re offering free shipping, but Amazon’s bug is putting people off actually placing the order.

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A bug with O2 text messaging

August 11th, 2012 No comments

I’ve recently seen a bug with text messaging that could cause trouble for someone or even be used for fraudulent purposes.

A colleague (on Orange) sent a picture message to myself (on Vodafone) and another colleague (on O2). He sent it as one message with two recipients rather than two separate messages. Nothing wrong there.

In later conversation, the first colleague mentioned what I had said in reply to his picture. What reply? I asked. He then showed me a message on his Nokia 6310 that clearly appeared to have come from my number. I had not sent this message and I could prove it by showing him my itemised bill on the Vodafone website. Looking at the style of the message it looked like it had come from the second recipient which it turned out was the case.

Despite having a Nokia smartphone, this second recipient on O2 has a corporate restriction on receiving picture messages directly on the phone and instead receives a message telling him to visit the O2 website to view the picture. When he did this he sent a reply via this O2 website. Because I had been the first recipient on the original message, the O2 website falsely inserted my number as the sender.

Fortunately, our relationship is good enough to realise who had really sent the message but depending on the content of the message this could easily have caused an argument or bad feeling. This could also be used for fraudulent purposes?

How is it possible for O2 to spoof the sender details?

June/July Dates for your Diary in Horwich Blackrod (2012)

June 7th, 2012 No comments

UntitledThree dates for your diaries on the next few weekends if you live in Horwich or Blackrod.

Horwich Festival of Racing – 17th June

Horwich Festival of Racing will be be held this year on Sunday 17th June.

Various running and cycling races for different ages and abilities, both serious and fun are held on the streets of Horwich and this year’s timetable is here.

A handful of photos from a few years ago are here.

A number of road closures will be in place for the races.

Horwich Carnival & Parade – 24th June

Horwich Carnival will be on Sat/Sun 23rd/24th June with the Parade on the Sunday.

Horwich Carnival 2011 - Red Rose Marching Band

Blackrod Scarecrow Festival – 7th/8th July

Blackrod’s annual Scarecrow Festival will be held on Sat/Sun 7th/8th July. Scarecrows are scattered around the gardens and businesses of Blackrod; you can pick up a map on the day.

Blackrod Scarecrows
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Free Wifi! (or is it?)

March 31st, 2012 No comments

How many times have you seen a sign like the one on the right, standing outside a cafe proudly advertising ‘Free WiFi’? but how many times has it been true?

I’m not talking here about places that while not charging for access, still require you to register first with an email address (such as The Cloud at Pizza Express), presumably to have some sort of identification in case you use the connection for nefarious purposes.

More often that not, this is the sort of thing you will see when you fire up your WiFi settings:

So where’s the free WiFi?

Both the BTFusion and BTBusinessHub SSIDs are secured. The BTOpenzone SSID isn’t but that isn’t free. You either have to buy vouchers or have a contract that allows access.

There is no other SSID present, so the ‘Free WiFi’ claim outside is false, although not necessarily a lie on the part of the cafe owner – I’ll come to that later but I want to talk first about BT Openzone, as I think this lies behind the cafe owner’s belief that they are providing free WiFi.

BTOpenzone isn’t always BTOpenzone

As you can see, my iPhone has connected to the BTOpenzone SSID; As an O2 subscriber at the time of these screengrabs, I had access to the BT Openzone network, but as we will see, not all BT Openzone access points are created equal.

OK, we seem to be connected, let’s browse the web. Oh wait, no what’s this?:

“Sorry your mobile provider doesn’t provide access from this specific hotspot”.

So why did you show the Mobile provider icons?

And here we have the BTOpenzone cock up. When BT Openzone first started, WiFi access points were installed in motorway service stations, hotels, railway stations, airports etc. It is this original network that BT grants access to O2, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile subscribers, something BT refers to as Premium Hotspots.

Unfortunately, when BT decided to create a network of access points using the installed base of BT Home and Business broadband hubs, some not-so-bright spark thought it was a good idea to use the same SSID. The problem is that these pseudo-BTOpenzone connections are only available to BT Broadband customers, not O2, Vodafone etc. customers. Now, fair enough, that is a commercial decision on BT’s part to separate the networks but since my phone has previously connected and used a real BT Openzone access point, it automatically connects to this one (see screengrab), after all why shouldn’t it, It’s the same ID?

After a few years, BT have finally realised this and have started to rename these SSIDs to BTOpenzone-H for Home, but this is far from complete and as we will see, even new connections are still being installed with the old SSID.

So what’s all this got to do with free WiFi?

Anyone looking at offering free WiFi access needs to consider a number of issues:

  • Any connection must only provide access to the internet, it must not in any way allow access to any devices on your own personal network, otherwise you risk a security breach.
  • If bandwidth or data usage is an issue on the connection you intend to share, how will you limit the amount of data used?
  • Any malicious or criminal use of your connection by others could be traced back to you as the account holder. Despite the fact that you would not have been responsible for such actions, cases already brought show that those pursuing claims don’t care that an IP address does not correspond to an individual. Can you afford to have to defend such a claim?

Recently, a cafe owner I know announced that they were intending to provide free WiFi in the cafe. I pointed out the concerns above and asked how they were intending to address these. They said that BT were providing the connection and that BT had said the BT equipment would allow the cafe could provide free WiFi to their customers. Given my experience at numerous cafes as detailed above, I was curious as to what BT were promising.

After BT installed the Business Broadband, there was nothing obvious for customers to connect to, only a Business Broadband SSID (private encrypted network for the owner’s personal use) and the usual low-grade BTOpenzone only available to BT Broadband customers. Note that this is a new install but still displays the same SSID as a premium hotspot.

The cafe owner contacted BT and asked how customers were supposed to get free WiFi. The cafe tell me that they were told to give out their private key to the Business Broadband SSID! This is an incredibly stupid thing to do, exposing the cafe owner’s network to the public, and making them liable for any malicious/criminal activity carried out using the connection. It should be noted that a BTOpenzone connection does address all three of the above issues as it requires registration, and is routed out via a VPN connection, but it is by no means free to the cafe customer using the WiFi. BT have since told the cafe that the only public connection is the BTOpenzone. It’s that or nothing.

Seeing this from the cafe owner’s perspective, I begs the question as to what all those other establishments that promise free Wifi, yet only show BTOpenzone, have been told. Are they being told that this is Free WiFi for customers? Do the sales bods selling BT Broadband to businesses believe that BTOpenzone is the free WiFi because it’s free to BT Broadband customers.

Are you a cafe/B&B/hotel owner? Do you offer free WiFi? I’d be interested in your experiences.