Running a 4k screen using a Radeon HD 5450

I was the lucky recipient of a 4K monitor recently (an ASUS MX27UQ). So the question of how to drive it arose.

In order to run it at its full resolution of 3840×2160, with a 60Hz refresh rate, I assumed I was going to need a new graphics card, so started looking around. I wanted something fairly low powered (I only have a 150W power supply), silent and less than £50.

It quickly became apparent that I would need a DisplayPort 1.2 card, which supports that resolution. The most common HDMI standard at the moment is 1.4, which only supports 3840×2160 at 30Hz. There are very few HDMI 2.0 cards available (which supports 60Hz), and they’re all very expensive.

I wasn’t looking to do any gaming, so didn’t need anything very powerful. I was looking for cheap and quiet. That combination proved elusive though, with most cards either having a fan, not enough resolution, being quite expensive or no longer available.

I was leaning towards a new motherboard as the cheapest option. This MSI board seems to have all the right specs and I almost bought that, except I realised it’s the CPU that’s responsible for the graphics and my G3258, which doesn’t even have a version on its Intel HD graphics, wasn’t going to cut it. I’d need to buy an i3 chip at least, which made the whole bundle way more expensive than a graphics card alone. Continue reading…

Hosting a Site on Google Cloud Storage

This is part of my series of try some alternative hosting options. Next up, I decided to try Google Cloud Storage. Amazon’s cloud platform is probably the best known, but it’s far from the only one, with plenty of competitors, including Google.

Cloud Storage is their equivalent of Amazon’s S3. It’s designed to store files (and there are options about how fast it retrieves them), but can also be used to host static sites.

Getting Started

There’s a free trial, with $300 of credit to use (although it expires after 60 days) which is simple enough to sign up for. The one irksome thing is that it requires you to register a payment method.

I happened to sign up with a Google Apps account and found I was unable to create a project (seemingly required) until the administrator (thankfully me) had enabled the Google Developers Console app. Something to be aware of.

I switched around Google’s official instructions, partly because I had already read these, and partly because it was obvious I wanted to set my site up before I moved my DNS.

You then need to create a Cloud Storage Bucket, with the name of your domain as the bucket name. To do this you first need to verify you own it. You have to do this through Webmaster Tools, which was another app I needed to turn on in my Google Apps console.

Most of Google’s instructions involve using their command line gsutil application, but can also be achieved through the web UI. Continue reading…

Hosting a Site on NearlyFreeSpeech.NET

This is part of my series of try some alternative hosting options. Next up, I decided to try NearlyFreeSpeech.NET. It’s a long-standing pay-for-use service that’s been around since 2002, so has a good history and isn’t about to disappear.

Getting Started

The setup process wasn’t particularly straightforward. First, you need to create a member account. Then a billing account (you can create multiple of these), then a site (again, multiple supported). Note that you have to enter a bunch of name and address details in your account record. You should get a couple of cents to allow a ‘trial’ when you create it.

To run it permanently, you’ll need to deposit some funds. What it costs to run is based on the type of site(s) you set up, as it’s essentially a combination of bandwidth, storage space and ‘Oomph!’ — or CPU+RAM.

When setting up a site, you get the option to pick from the different types of site. Static sites don’t incur a daily base charge ($0.01 for dynamic sites) or a cost for resources (based on a unit of CPU+RAM called a RAU).

Bandwidth starts at $0.25 per GB, but it goes down depending on how longer you have been a member and how much total bandwidth your account has used. Their pricing estimator put me at about $0.50 a month.

As part of the setup process you get an alias — essentially — this is what you need to create a CNAME for if you host your domain name elsewhere. In order for NFS.NET to associate your domain with your account you need to add the domain name as an alias of the site.

They don’t seem to advocate using a bare domain ( but rather the www subdomain ( As most of my static site was setup for the bare version (references to CSS files, etc) I had to add an additional alias to cover this. Continue reading…

Alternatives to Mandrill Reviewed

I’ve been a user of Mandrill for a while, it’s a great service for sending transactional email. I only use it for a couple of personal projects (mainly because Gmail started getting funny when I was sending through them). I just checked my account and I average one email per day. It’s slightly higher than that as I send at least one a day, sometimes more. If I send fifty emails in a month it’s been a busy one.

I took advantage of their very generous free tier that offered 12,000 free emails a month (which got removed last July). I barely made a dent. So their recent announcement that you will soon require a paid MailChimp account to use Mandrill, and to pay for all email sent via Mandrill, meant my days of use were numbered (I wasn’t the only one, it wasn’t a popular decision).

There are plenty of alternatives, so I thought I would check them out and see which best suited me.


My requirements were pretty simple:

  • A free tier (ideally) allowing for 100 or so emails per month
  • A simple web API, ideally with libraries for common languages like Python and PHP
  • Ability to host templates preferred (so I can just load the data I need rather than the entire email) and a simple templating language
  • No requirement to set up a domain (I could do it, but these emails are only sent to me, so spoofing should be fine)
  • Good deliverability (I still need my emails to get through)
  • Good documentation

The Contenders

During the outcry following the Mandrill announcement, a number of options were put forward by the community:

  • Mailgun
  • SendGrid
  • Mailjet
  • SparkPost
  • SendinBlue
  • Maildocker
  • SocketLabs
  • Pepipost
  • Postmark
  • Elastic Email
  • Sendwithus
  • Amazon SES (discounted as no free tier* and reports of poor deliverability)

* Yes, strictly speaking you can get it free for 12 months or if you have an EC2 instance Continue reading…

Front-End Markdown Gallery Script

When I converted one of my sites from WordPress to static, I lost some things. One of those was the ability to easily generate a gallery of images; thumbnails that link to larger versions.

Markdown, which is what my posts are now written in, is great for writing without the overhead of a having to wrap everything in raw HTML or stop to select icons in a WYSIWYG, but it also lacks the ability to generate the code for a simple gallery. So my only option would have been to write HTML in the middle of the text.

Instead, I whipped up a bit of JavaScript to scan the page for lists that consist solely of images (linked or not) and adds HTML to make it easy to style them into a gallery (for example, wrapping the list in a div tag and converting the list items into figures and figcaptions).

You can find an example in this post.

More details and the script itself can be found on Github.