Review: LEGO Bionicle figures

Those of you with keen memories might remember that in January I posted on the return of the Bionicle to this years LEGO range. Well time has passed and we’ve been lucky enough to have been sent a wodge of the sets from LEGO to review:

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The original Bionicle range ran from 2001 to 2010 and was superseded/replaced by Hero Factory, which we’ve had great fun with but it’s nice to see Bionicle return.

As you can see from the photo, the new Bionicles come in two sizes, the bigger sets are styled as the Masters (they more or less replace the Toa in the original run as far as I can tell) and the Protectors, who are smaller, easier to build but still pretty cool to build and play with.

Bionicle has it’s heritage in Technic, and in areas like the gearing and switches in the larger figures you can still see this today. Building them with the boy (8) it was fascinating to see how the cogs and things meshed together to finally make something that has, for example, arms that move when you turn a wheel.

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As you can see from the photos, the figures are fully poseable and their weapons have two different configurations. The kits are easy for an 8 year old to build but they really come into their own once they are built. The boy has played with them as action toys more than literally anything else he has had in the last couple of years. They’re robust enough to not fall apart very often too, which makes them much more “boy” friendly.

The smaller figures are available on places like Amazon for well under a tenner each, the larger ones are about twice that. In terms of value, they’re involved to build but do offer a lot of replay value. There is plenty online surround Bionicle, from the Official YouTube Channel, to games on their official website. It’s nice to have a fully realised world in LEGO that’s not licensed from a movie and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say the boy is currently sitting with a couple of figures on his lap, watching some of the videos on their YouTube channel!

death of my laptop

l didn’t quite realise how much I used my laptop until it pretty much died a couple of weeks ago. It was a ASUS S200e , a touch screen i3 jobbie that cost me a couple of hundred pounds about three gears ago. You sort of don’t realise how used you get to something until you don’t have it any more. Irritatingly the problems with my ASUS seem to be at least partially software related; I constantly get failure to install Windows updates. The various MS tools for fixing this fail to fix it and the recovery partition that all ASUS laptops have on the hard drive to save them shipping a disk with it is corrupted. I took a long deep breath and decided to install Ubuntu on it (Ubuntu 14.04 LTS to be precise), since it’s one of the better Linux flavours that supports touch screens. It more or less works, Chromium is slightly different to Chrome as a web browser and the inherent security in Linux makes enabling Chrome remote desktop a massive faff but overall I’m reasonably happy with the desktop experience. For the most part I use my laptop for web browsing and blogging, so there is no real difference in functionality there. The problem I now how, which makes laptop replacement more and more likely is again probably software- Ubuntu keeps on dropping my wifi connection. It’ll happily connect to my router (or a mobile hotspot on my phone) for differing periods of time but then it will drop. It will see the networks and attempt to connect to them but fail every single time. Unfortunately I don’t know enough about Linux to trouble shoot this properly.

Still the handwriting recognition on my Shield Tablet isn’t so bad, and I’m sure if I went back in time 5 years, it would seem like pure witchcraft as it does a pretty good job of recognising cursive script:

It’s not the same though and I need something with a keyboard I can put on my lap. My typing is a lot faster than my handwriting, more accurate and to be honest, whilst the WordPress app is okay at a push when out and about, it’s nowhere close to the full website dashboard experience. And so I find myself looking for a new computer.

There are a few that I’ve had a look at and don’t look half bad:

  • Asus Zenbook UX305;
  • Surface 3;
  • Surface Pro 3 (i5 variant);
  • Toshiba Click Mini;
  • Dell Chromebook 11.

There seem to be persistent issues with the Asus Zenbook though; the internet is awash with stories of woe with regards to the Intel video drivers and the problem is mentioned in the majority of the reviews. It doesn’t stop the reviewers giving it a very high score but actual buyers seem to think the problem is worse than the reviews do. It’s a software issue but doesn’t seem to have been fixed yet. The Surface 3 looks brilliant for a small screen device but, like the Surface Pro 3, I need to be won over to it’s lap sitting credentials. The Pro 3 is about to be superseded by a newer model, but the newer model will have a lower powered CPU in it. Whether the newer version is quicker remains to be seen but I can’t help think spending money on a lovely bit of kit a month or so before a new model comes out might be a bit daft. Confusingly the Surface 3 (without the Pro bit) is actually brand spanking new. I am seriously tempted with the Dell Chromebook 11 but I do worry about those rare moments where I might need something other than a Google service. This will be ameliorated by A lot of Android apps now working through a Chrome plugin called ARC Welder but I’m not quite sure. At some point, the flexibility of Windows 8.1/10 might be useful. Having said that, the Dell is enormously cheaper than all the other devices, so at the moment I’m a bit torn. I use my laptop an awful lot, and although we’re a bit strapped for cash at the moment, replacing it with something cheap and cheerful would almost certainly be a false economy. I’m leaning towards the Toshiba Click Mini but finding a definitive review is proving to be a bit tricky as it’s very new. There are plenty of hands on reviews from CES but no actual lab test…

Books that I read and enjoyed when I was little

Every book now seems to be either part of some long complicated series with merchandise tie ins, films, cereals and videogames. Sure, there were series I read when I was little but, with the exception of high fantasy (which I got into when I was 10, with the purchase of Dragons of Autumn Twilight, first of the Dragonlance novels), most of the stuff I read was either stand alone or episodic.

What where my favourite books then?

1302578[1]My first literary love I can remember were the Famous 5 books by Enid Blyton. In fact I even had the follow on books written (originally in written in French by Claude Voilier but translated into English) by another author. I cannot emphasise how much of an impact these books made on me; I desperately wanted to be as old as Julian and have adults take me seriously, to be part of a gang and have adventures. I started reading the Famous Five books thanks to my parents signing me up to a book club that would send a special volume hardback containing two of the stories every couple of months. We had recently moved to Hoddesdon from Lowestoft during my third year of infants school and I hadn’t settled in very well at all. These books were a life line to me, pure escapism and I loved them to bits. I read some Secret Seven stories and little other Blyton but for me it will always be the Famous Five I hold dear.

e5b6e5e5b90df23593539325251434d414f4541[1]Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. This was more famously made into an animated film in 1982 and it must have been around that time I read the book as my copy is the film tie in cover. It was however written 11 years prior to this. It deals with a field mouse attempting to move her house before the farmer ploughs his fields. Mrs Frisby enlists the help of some rats who were experimented on and became super smart. It’s a good kids read and due a revival as there is currently a live action film based on it in the works.

sinister scarecrow(Alfred Hitchcock and) The Three Investigators. This was a series spanning over 40 novels, written by a handful of different authors from the mid 1960’s unti the late 1980’s. I had a good stash of the earlier books from the 60’s (although they were 1980 re-prints), and even a couple on audio tape (back in the days when everything was abridged to fit on either two or four sides of a cassette tape and made little sense if you had read the book). The stories followed three lads in Holly wood, Jupiter, Pete and Bob, as they basically did the Scooby-Doo thing without a comedy dog. The books were in a sense pretty formulaic, the lads would get a client who would comment about how young they were (12/13), there would be some intimation of the supernatural and then Jupiter would solve the mystery after a certain amount of mild peril. They were great though and I would have read more of them if the library had more. Apparently they’re excessively popular in Germany which makes no sense to me but there you go.

I was particularly good at reading individual books that were part of longer series without actually realising that there was a lot more I could have read. I must have read and reread Swallows & Amazons a dozen times but it’s only in the past few years I found out there were actually 11 other books in the series. Part of me mourns the fact I didn’t know this when I was little. I haven’t read the remaining 11 as an adult because the magic was there when I was little. I also never realised there was a sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen nor that Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising was the second book in a four book series. But what was apparent was that from an early age I was particularly predisposed to the fantastical. Some of it was no doubt down to my personal circumstances. I wasn’t a popular or confident little boy after we moved and books were a definite form of escapism.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight was a book that changed much for me, it was a gateway into adult fantasy literature, but I have to say I didn’t much enjoy it. Partly I was too young and it was too difficult for a 9 year old me to read. It’s 450 odd pages of what now would be seen as very clichéd fantasy and I struggled but wanted more. It was a couple of years later that I picked up a bright yellow copy of David Eddings Guardians of the West, the first book in his Mallorean series. This began a protracted period of reading his work, the preceding 5 book series called the Belgariad, the subsequent books in the Mallorean, the Sparhawk novels and various spin offs.

But by the time I was in secondary school (1987), Eddings had become, even to my youthful self, far too twee. It was around this period, my first year in secondary school, that I stopped reading kids books entirely (Eddings would probably be classified YA now if such a thing had existed back then). I got into arguments at school in English library lessons because I wouldn’t take kids books out of the school library; I’d bring in the adult books I had borrowed from the public library. The book that triggered it all was Stephen Donaldson’s lesser known fantasy series Mordant’s Need. The first of two volumes weighed in at over 650 pages and it was hard work but much more rewarding than Dragonlance. I ploughed through it, read his Thomas Covenant series and embarked on a phase of not reading anything that could be considered remotely short (aside from a Terry Pratchett addiction that started around the release of Sorcery!). It was complete luck that I picked it up in the public library, it wasn’t on a rack but instead on a display shelf so I decided on the spur of the moment to take a punt. That pretty much changed my reading habit for the rest of my life. I took a detour into horror, most notably Stephen King and Dean Koontz, who often trod the border line between horror and fantasy anyway, but my heart was with the big doorstop fantasy that I still read to this day. In fact I’m currently finishing the tenth and final book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, a full 30 years after I read my first adult fantasy novel.

The election- some thoughts

All of these have been culled from twitter, which lets face it, unless you’re a rabid right wing fascist following other rabid right wing fascists, is for the most part in the UK full of people slightly left of centre. Most of them also come from the last week or so, making them plenty up to date. Enjoy, think, disagree but promise me you’ll do just one thing: VOTE

This one isn’t new, I’ve seen it round various elections but it’s still a goody:

 

It’s funny how hysterical the (non dom owned) right wing press is getting. Difficult to find any actual fact in their news reporting at the moment:

It’s worth taking note this is written by the ex political editor of the Daily Telegraph: