Magic Mirror on the Wall…

…what’s the weather like in Plymouth?


I had a glorious week off work to cram in lots of fun. We finished the Claire playthrough of Resident Evil 2 (much faster now that there wasn’t a year long hiatus), and even resurrected Oblivion. As much as I loved the fourth iteration of the Elder Scrolls, it has aged. The problem is Skyrim. Oblivion created an incredibly immersive world with fantastic plotlines and a fun combat system, then Skyrim did it better. That’s exactly what you want from a sequel released five years after the first one. Improved graphics, voice acting, and massively refined mechanics. The problem is retrospectively applying the standards of Skyrim onto the older game.

Playing in 2021, Oblivion looks jagged, the combat feels clumsy, and the dialogue can be really jarring. A well spoken beggar suddenly transitions into a bizarre incongruous pseudo-Irish accent. It’s understandable that corners had to be cut in such an ambitious game, and most of these indiscretions are forgivable and occasionally hilarious, but they do take you out of the world.

Thank you kind sir!

I had a similar experience playing Morrowind, the Elder Scrolls III, after Oblivion. There’s always going to be a significant gap as technology improves and games become more and more ambitious, but Skyrim still holds up fantastically after almost ten years. Who knows what the next iteration will be like, but the gap narrows with every generation as graphics become photorealistic and mechanics increasingly refined.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

A friend very foolishly introduced me to the concept of smart mirrors, and I was instantly intrigued. I had absolutely no need for one (who does, really?) but I wanted one. I had a spare monitor in the attic that was collecting dust, and I wanted to learn a bit of basic woodworking at the same time. A smart mirror consists of a display connected to a Raspberry Pi, mounted in a frame behind a two-way mirror. The mirror reflects light, but also lets a smaller amount pass through so that the display is partially visible. Thanks to Michael Teeuw, the software side is a breeze. Install Raspberry Pi OS (formerly Raspian), then either manually install or use a script to get MagicMirror installed and running. The software is modular, allowing the user to add or remove weather modules, news, traffic and more, and the community support is excellent with new modules being created all the time. You can even develop your own modules if you’re really keen.

Just an example of what you can do with a smart mirror – from khinds10 on GitHub

I ran into one of my first hurdles after setting up a test rig with my older Raspberry Pi 3. It was working fine on a basic Amazon USB adapter, which was ideal given the low profile of the plug, but when the more powerful RPi 3 B+ arrived it started to behave erratically. It was trapped in a boot loop and refused to load the user interface. A quick search online revealed that this is a common problem with generic power supplies or phone chargers. The Pi needs a more reliable power supply so I picked up the official PSU from The Pi Hut which worked perfectly. It did, however, introduce a new issue. The previous USB plug was low profile compared to the bulkier official one and needed a deeper frame. I had planned my original design with a trailing socket inside the frame and the plugs orientated towards the monitor, but now the monitor lead would be pointing in the opposite direction. I allowed for zero tolerance as that’s what worked in the dry fitting but life is never that simple.

The solution was obvious – just rebuild the plug. Automatic wire-strippers and Dremel to the rescue! This obsession with Magic Mirror took me to an expensive place…

More on the treasure haul next time, and my misguided first attempts at joinery.

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