Posts filed under “Reviews”

A cheap Ubuntu-friendly drawing tablet recommendation: XP-Pen Star G640

This is a quick recommendation for the XP-Pen G640 drawing tablet, for those fellow Linux users who like to do a bit of a scribble. It costs a penny shy of £40 as I write this, and it works flawlessly out of the box on Ubuntu 18.04 and 20.04 with no drivers or any other fiddling required. Just plug it in and go.

This is a great little tablet for doodling, whiteboarding in the working-at-home era, pwning noobs on Skribblio and generally messing about. For all I know someone might even buy one of these, download Super Street's car colouring pages[1], fire up MyPaint and burn a few hours in the evening when lockdown gives them nothing better to do.

Hey, I'm not here to judge!

I shall give a necessary disclaimer that I occasionally doodle stuff just for myself (it helps my concentration in read-only tasks, and when I am in deep thought) and that I am not an artist at all. If I was I might want something like a few dedicated buttons for commonly-used operations like undo and erase. And I'm sure that in many other ways, someone using this for actual artwork would find this vastly inferior to things costing several times as much money. But for me, this cheap tablet works great!

[1] Alternative source as Super Street have, for GDPR reasons, blocked the whole of Europe from accessing their site. :(

Lazy reviews (part 1?)

Perhaps this might become a series: lazy one-or-two sentence reviews of things from the Internet's reduced-to-clear aisle that I've watched in the last month. Or it might not! Ratings are out of seven:

The Hunt (2020): somehow all the conservatives who got angry about this film last year didn't notice that the "deplorables" in this film are the good guys. The whole film is basically just Betty Gilpin being a badass, and that's good enough for me ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Layer Cake (2004): didn't finish it, went to bed ⭐

Need for Speed (2015): mehhhh it gets a star because I have a friend who looks exactly like Imogen Poots and that's kind of neat ⭐

Postal (2007): thinks it's a satire, when it's merely a bit shit. Brainless enough to be mildly entertaining every now and then. Might not be the worst video game adaptation of all time (see above). ⭐⭐

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): YOU WILL RIDE ETERNAL, SHINY AND CHROME ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Final Score (2018): good in a "mindless action film with no actual characters" way. Bonus star for the setting ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Gtechniq C4 is magic

Bumper restoration with Gtechniq C4. Before is on the right, after is on the left. The picture speaks for itself.

My original bumpers & sideskirts are from 1987. They are not body-coloured, they were faded and looked awful, and I wasn't sure what to do with them. This being one of the rarest cars in the UK (5 on the road as of time of writing, the bumpers & sideskirts being specific to a subset of this particular generation of 323), I could not risk doing anything irreversible to them, and I wasn't willing to try anything that hasn't been proven to work.

"Back to Black" and everything of its kind does close to nothing when it's gotten this bad. If anything, it makes it somewhat worse, because rather than having tired-looking plastic, you will have tired-looking plastic with a nasty residue that will have to be removed before you give in and spend £20 on a bottle of C4.

Spraying these plastics black (as I did with my mirrors, which were already painted) was not an option. Unpainted plastics are not metal; you will never be able to remove the paint you've sprayed on.

Apparently you can apply heat to black plastics to restore them. Good idea, and this apparently works well, but that is something incredibly easy to get wrong (especially with my clumsy hands) and any getting-wrong on those lines would, again, be irreversible.

I sat on this problem for a couple of years.

At some point I came across Not 2 Grand's review of Gtechniq C4. Chris Pollitt, the author and by all accounts a very nice guy, is someone I trust very much, and is one who is willing to call things toss when they are toss, and at some point not long after that I decided to pick up some.

Again, look at the picture. It speaks for itself. Also, go read Chris's review. This stuff would have gotten you convicted for witchcraft a few centuries ago.

I'll second Chris's advice on making sure that your surface is meticulously clean. C4 will not work if it is not. Your surface must be clean of any dirt, dust or grease. It must also be clean of any lesser detailing chemicals such as "Back to Black".

I gave my bumper and sideskirts a thorough scrubbing with a very soapy mix of water and Fairy Liquid, then rinsed that off with cold water. After that, to be on the safe side, I rinsed the panels with extremely liberal amounts of U-POL System 20 fast-drying degreaser. That degreaser is about £20 on eBay for five litres of it. I used about half a litre, because I had some left over from my bodge rattle-can respray.

C4 seems expensive, at £20 for a small, eyedrop-dispenser-sized bottle. But a little C4 goes a long way; two of these tiny bottles covered my front & rear bumpers and my sideskirts with a little bit left over. Modern cars that do not have acres of unpainted plastic will need far less of it.

The last word goes to Chris:

It might be £20, but £20 for for something that works is better than a fiver here and a fiver there on a load of things that don’t, right?

Lockdown is awful, but on the upside, it is giving me a chance to do all those jobs I haven't had time to do otherwise. Several of those jobs are to sort out all the minor electrical problems, figuring out the intermittent starting fault, sorting out the horn, fixing the sticky centre-diff lock switch. Let's get started!

Just kidding, I didn't get any of those done today. But I did buy a cool steering wheel! 🎉

Driftworks Basics deep-dish steering wheel.

This is a Driftworks Basics 350mm leather steering wheel. It costs a mere £55 as I write this _(2021 update: It's now £80, which I still think is very cheap). You'll need a boss to adapt it to your steering column, which costs somewhat more. This MOMO one works fine for my GTX. I had to do some minor modifications to the horn push (trimming off some protruding plastic) to make it fit into the boss. At half the price of an equivalent Sparco or OMP wheel: I'll live.

Driftworks are willing to put their name on this wheel, so I expected it to be good. It is. It feels nice, it feels solid, and the deep dish is comforting and looks cool. This is a bargain, especially as this costs just a few more quid (in absolute terms) than dangerous tat.

Here's my old steering wheel:

My old steering wheel, looking a little tired and missing the horn push.

It doesn't actually have to look quite this bad. I have the original horn push. But the horn push is missing its badge, and I am unlikely to find another one. Also, the horn push once had the hilarious habit of randomly sounding the horn, usually at 3am, and I'm not sure I will ever trust it again.

This looks way cooler, especially with one of the free Driftworks stickers they threw in, and the simple design and deep dish doesn't look at all out of place with the 80s interior:

Driftworks leather steering wheel in Mazda 323 GTX interior

I know I know, the rest of the interior looks like a dump. It'll continue to look like a dump until I'm mostly done with the rest of the car; there's not a huge amount of point cleaning up in there until I know I'm not going to be in and out of it for any reasons other than driving it.