Wednesday, 29 June 2005

D-Link Bluetooth USB dongleA brand new D-Link USB Bluetooth dongle worked out cheaper from Amazon than from eBay too. Instructions included consisted of about six pages for Windows - and 3 lines for OS-X!

ByteStor 512Mb MMC cardManaged to get a new 512Mb MMC card for my Nokia 6230 for less than on eBay, and that included postage and, of course, a warranty. Works fine in the phone - now stuffing it full of MP3 files.

Arrived at work this morning to find that we'd been burgled. A number of LCD monitors, plus one G5 Mac, had been stolen. No sign of forced entry...

"US President George W Bush has said that the sacrifices being made to fight insurgents in Iraq are vital to the future security of the United States. ... "We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed - and not a day longer," he said.

Perhaps me means "beyond the end of my term so that it becomes someone else's problem"?

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Bush says Iraq sacrifices 'vital'

Monday, 27 June 2005

Legendary American IT guru (and general Microsoft annoyer) Bob Cringley made some interested comments in relation to Apple's recent announcment that it was going to switch from IBM PowerPC CPUs to Intel:

"Question 2: What happened to Apple's 64-bit operating system?

OS X 10.4 -- Tiger -- is a 64-bit OS, remember, yet Intel's 64-bit chips -- Xeon and Itanium -- are high buck items aimed at servers, not iMacs. So is Intel going to do a cheaper Itanium for Apple or is Apple going to pretend that 64-bit never existed? Yes to both is my guess, which explains why the word 'Pentium' was hardly used in the Jobs presentation. Certainly, he never said WHICH Intel chip they'd be using, just mentioning an unnamed 3.6-Ghz development system -- a system which apparently doesn't benchmark very well, either (it's in the links).

So is 64-bit really nothing to Apple? And why did they make such a big deal about it in their earlier marketing?

Good point. Is the main bulk of the personal computing world going to move over to 64-bit anyway? It certainly doesn't appear to be in a hurry to do so. I guess given that all the 'Mac' software is going to have to be rewritten (again) to work on the as-yet unnamed Intel processor, they need to make that choice. And if they choose 32-bit, and the market moves to 64-bit, there will need to be yet another rewrite - and we'll all be made to pay again. Except that "we" doesn't include me because I don't have a Mac - and now am even less likely to be inclined to buy one.

"Question 3: Where the heck is AMD?

If Apple is willing to embrace the Intel architecture because of its performance and low power consumption, then why not go with AMD, which equals Intel's power specs, EXCEEDS Intel's performance specs AND does so at a lower price point across the board? Apple and AMD makes far more sense than Apple and Intel any day.

Yes, would make more sense to me too. Using Intel smacks of defeat.

If you're a Mac fanatic, its well worth reading the whole of the article...

PBS | I, Cringely . June 9, 2005 - Going for Broke

Sunday, 26 June 2005

Just completed the galleries from the weekend's shooting of a big polocrosse tournment, hosted by the Liscombe Park club who ran the National Finals for the last couple of years. Fortunately for me the vey hot weather we'd been having all last week had turned to grey skies, otherwise I'd have been burned to a crisp. The sun did come out for the hour or so of the Grade A final and even with a hat, I got a little sunburned - goes to show just how sensitive my skin is.

I'd bought a couple of fast 1Gb Sandisk compact flash cards (via this eBay shop) for the 1D but lack of storage wasn't the issue - it was that the camera's battery couldn't manage more than about 200 frames before dying - even with doing the bare minimum of 'chimping' (reviewing images). Had to return home for an hour each day to recharge - must find a way to recharge in the field...

Saturday, 25 June 2005

"Japan is beginning trials of the newest and sleekest version of its Shinkansen 'Bullet Train' ... The latest model will travel at up to 360km/h (233mph) ... The train, expected to be in service by 2011, is a highly-developed version of the original Bullet, launched in 1964."

I bet the Japanese engineers have a good laugh at our expense. Just compare how far their trains have advanced in my lifetime (I was born in 1964) to ours. 233mph service speed and its not often we can manage 120.

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | A bullet train... only with ears

Friday, 24 June 2005

The problems I was having getting GPRS to work with my Nokia 6230 were, at least in part, down to GPRS not having been activiated on my account (I assumed it was). I phone their customer services line and it was very straightforwardly enabled, allowing WAP to work that evening. But not only did they provide excellent telephone-based support, they also responded to an email I'd submitted to their website (and tied it to my phone call) but they also called back and, finding my phone off, left a message on my voicemail. Considering I'm not even on an account, I count that as pretty impressive service.

Photo © BBCMy brother is at Glastonbury this year - and is now getting wet. He texts me to say he hasn't taken wet weather gear...

Thursday, 23 June 2005

citischool 2005Was taking photos at the annual citischool graduation ceremony this evening, again finding that Canon's E-TTL flash metering is absolute pants. With +2/3 stop dialled in to both ambient and flash metering, I still set some (not all, because its not even consistant) results like this. Take a look at the levels - how can a professional camera that cost over four grand make such a botch of metering? Here's the full EXIF:

File: IMG_66130.JPG
File size: 1,627KB
Image Serial Number: 000-6130
Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D
Camera serial number: xxxxxx
Firmware: Firmware Version 1.3.0
Owner: Chris Valentine
Date/Time: 2005:06:23 20:12:27
Shutter speed: 1/125 sec
Aperture: 4.5
Exposure mode: Program
Exposure compensation: +2/3
Flash: External E-TTL [ 550EX with StoFen plus CP-E2 battery pack ]
Flash exposure compensation: +2/3
Metering mode: Evaluative
Drive mode: Continuous (low): frame 1
ISO: 800
Lens: 17.0 to 40.0 mm
Focal length: 32.0mm
AF mode: AI Servo AF
Image size: 1648 x 2464
Rotation: none
Image quality: Fine
White balance: Auto
Color matrix 1: sRGB natural-looking hue and chroma

Wednesday, 22 June 2005

"Egg boxes are to return to craft lessons at an East Sussex school after they were banned over health fears.

The head of Wallands Primary School, in Lewes, said he had been enforcing the ban, believing the reason was a risk of spreading salmonella.

Another fine example of the nannying/political correctness that is spreading around this country like, well, salmonella. Sounds like those involved are all backpeddling in this particular case, trying to say that there never was a ban in the first place.

"We have even been advised to put signs on the flat roofs, warning thieves who try to walk on them that they might fall off and hurt themselves."

Yes, this sort of thing is really happening here!

BBC NEWS | England | Southern Counties | Egg boxes return after school ban

"If patent law had been applied to novels in the 1880s, great books would not have been written. If the EU applies it to software, every computer user will be restricted, says Richard Stallman..."

Every computer user with an ounce of sense knows this already, of course. But since when have politicians had an ounce of sense...?

Guardian Unlimited | Online | Patent absurdity

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Useful GeoTagging thread, especially for UK users:

GeoTagging the UK via - New GeoTagging Scripts

Interesting article on grid road systems from a US website.

"Milton Keynes, the English new town 40 miles northwest of London, provides a good example [of grid system roads]. There, planners developed a terrain-constrained grid of high-capacity arterial streets at approximately one kilometer (0.6 mile) intervals. Inside of the grid, streets generally follow the modern suburban style of cul de sacs and loops. Milton Keynes has a very high population density for a new development--at 8,400 persons per square mile, it is 20 percent more dense than Los Angeles or Toronto. Yet, the Milton Keynes roadway design has kept traffic flows comparatively favorable."

Of course whether the roads continue to flow after dipstick Minister Prescott forces in thousands more houses remains to be seen.

The Heartland Institute - Cul de Sacs, Grid Street Patterns Both Have a Role to Play - by Wendell Cox

Finally got the D-Link DBT-120 to work under Windows 2000. It required me to completely uninstall the driver software, then reinstall it, entering some enormous code I had to be sent via email from the D-Link website.

Managed to synchronise between my Outlook 2003 contacts list and the phone. Some slight complications because the phone's contacts list does not have separate fields for things like Christian and Surname and the individual parts of addresses - so its not strictly adhering to the vCard format (not that Outlook does anyway). You also appear to have no control, when using the Nokia PC Suite software, as to whether the contacts go on your SIM card or just into the phone - it looks like it can only store them on the phone itself.

On the Mac, there is PhoneDirector which enables a lot more control, but its not free and although it can export as vCard, you run into the same data incompatabilities - which I think are basically unavoidable.

"Rail passengers could face congestion charge-style price hikes at rush hour to combat rising passenger numbers."

Looks like I spoke too soon. Rush hour commuters already pay more - sounds like just another New Labour stealth tax. This is actually the same article that I blogged earlier today, but they've updated the story.

BBC NEWS | UK | Rail 'congestion charge' proposed

D-Link DBT-120Fun and games trying to get BlueTooth networking operational between various computers and my Nokia 6230. D-Link DBT-120 USB dongle worked immediately on the Mac (OS-X) with no drivers needed whatsoever. Different story completely under Windows 2000, where even with drivers downloaded and installed from the D-Link website, still cannot see the phone.

"Trains on some rail routes could become very crowded over the next few years, passengers are being warned."

So when can we expect a congestion charge? Just goes to show this government has no sane, thought-out transport policy whatsoever.

BBC NEWS | UK | Rail overcrowding 'to get worse'

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

My officeChuffed to bits, so far, with my Nokia 6230 mobile phone that I bought second-hand via eBay. Very small compared to my ageing Philips C12, its got enough features on it to keep me busy for hours. I've already bought the optional data cable for it and will be getting a Bluetooth dongle and a bigger memory card for it next - its built-in MP3 player is brilliant! OK, so its picture quality is prety naff, but I would never expect much from a camera phone. I went for a Vodaphone pay-as-you-go SIM card as their coverage is (allegedly) the best of all the UK networks, plus they also run a lot of networks in Europe. Next challenge is to move the number from my old phone, which is under O2.

Looks like the feed from AudioScrobbler has recovered - t'was a problem with their server, almost certainly down to the rate at which their service is being taken up by geeks like me.

Still fiddling with RSS feeds of various media from outside sources. Now added a popup window to display my most recent submissions to GeoSnapper but it appears the feed from AudioScrobbler is somewhat unreliable: although the client is stating its sending track data to their servers, neither the webpage nor the RSS feed are showing new tracks played.

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Some more photos taken this afternoon.

Bee on thistleRiver OuzelDragonflyWren

ChurchLets see if this works. Original image uploaded to GEOsnapper. Thumbnail left should go to its own page showing the maps of where it was taken.

Monday, 13 June 2005

"Worried that your 4X4 lacks off-road credibility as you mount kerbs and flatten speed bumps in the city?

A firm from Shropshire reckons to have found the answer - spray-on mud.

Guess it had to come, didn't it?!

Later in the same article, it says "Drivers of large 4X4 vehicles have been coming under increasing attack in cities such as London ... Driver groups have hit back, complaining that they are unfairly blamed for traffic problems, and argue that they are often used to carry a larger number of people."

Often used - what utter tosh?! I see these tanks on the way in to work every day (I car-share) and I don't even recall seeing one with more than the driver in.

BBC NEWS | Business | Canned mud for 4X4 city slickers
An incredible, stunning set of photos from China. I don't have any more information on these yet, but they're well worth viewing (the text is all Chinese).

Wake Our Consciousness

Added Tuesday, 14 June, from a Chinese friend:
These photos "were sent by a friend who has been asked to promote the awareness of the hardship in 'developing China'. There are some photo exhibitions and nationwide contests all the time in China. The photos appear to be collected and published by the web site (a charity web site) from different sources. It is entitled 'Wake Our Consciousness - The Most Shocking Photos 2003'.

They are not from a single photographer. Some of them even don't know the photographer.

"A few weeks back Gordon mentioned a new web-based service called Audioscrobbler, which sounded pretty interesting to me. Essentially it builds up a profile of your musical tastes..."

Looking at this as a replacement to Kung Tunes, which is no longer in development by its author. Audioscrobbler offers more than simply listing the music you've been listening to on your favoured computer music player (I'm an iTunes devotee, on Mac at work and Windows at home). The link here is for a script that can take a feed from Audioscrobbler and parse it as RSS (instead of RDF - yuck) via the Magpie script.

Fuddland | Weblog | 2004 | 04 | 27 | Audioscrobbler

Saturday, 11 June 2005

My first (proper) cricket game of the season saw an impressive performance by Aspley Guise at the OU, finishing on over 250.

Friday, 10 June 2005

Relished the opportunity to shoot photos of not one but three local bands last night in a tiny bar at my place of work. Lighting was extremely poor, but it was immediately obvious that flash would be both too intrusive and would completely ruined the atmosphere. So instead I cranked the 1D up to its 'high' ISO setting of 3200, switched the 70-200/2.8 zoom to manual focus and hoped for the best. About a third of the shots were acceptable but of those only one or two could be described as good.

Photo © BBC News"Singing benches let loose in city

Robotic bins that move and chuckle, benches that flock together and sing when the sun comes out, have been unleashed in Cambridge.

The 'interactive' technology will allow the street furniture to respond to members of the public. You'll find that one bench may be particularly attracted to a particular bin. They will chuckle and giggle sometimes or make rude noises.'

How long before we see chatty doors?

"Mr Bogen hopes the cutting edge technology would help keep the bins and benches safe from theft. The project cost £110,000 and was funded by the Arts Council and the National Lottery."

Big dose of reality for Mr.Bogen - stat.

BBC NEWS | England | Cambridgeshire | Singing benches let loose in city

"Action demanded to curb 'happy slapping' mobile phone craze.

Mobile phone mastNew mobile phones should be fitted with technology which blocks their use in schools in an attempt to crack down on the craze for 'happy slapping', an MP said today.

Adrian Bailey, MP for West Bromwich West, ... urged the Government to take immediate action before someone was seriously injured or killed.

Quite right too that he should be concerned, but how exactly are you going to stop phones working in schools? Some kind of signal jammer? What if the school has a dirty great mobile phone mast on the roof? That these incidents are occouring is simply another sign of the increasing lack of discipline in schools today, which is itself typical of the 'nanny state' we find ourselves living in as a result of this Government.

UK Education News & Teaching News - TES - The Times Educational Supplement 2

Thursday, 9 June 2005

"Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is set to outline his plans to use road charges to reduce traffic congestion."

"He has suggested using satellite systems to charge different rates to use different roads - from 2p a mile on country lanes to £1.30 in busy areas."

"The DfT wants to float the idea to gauge public reaction.

I'll give you my reaction - you can shove it where the sun don't shine.

BBC NEWS | UK | At-a-glance: Road charge plans

"Former US presidential hopeful John Kerry did no better at university than his rival George Bush, records show.

'So much for the notion that President Bush is a dunce compared with Senator Kerry,' said the New York Daily News.

OK, so they're both idiots.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Kerry and Bush had similar grades

Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Here's another Blog/photo/GPS crossover service, where people can upload images, together with the GPS location of where they were taken, and some meta data to allow searching. Not clear just yet what the point of it is, though - I guess it might be a little more fun if you could do the whole process with your mobile phone...

GEOsnapper :: GPS Photography

Looks like there have been only limited posts from users in the UK to date. I posted three taken near my place of work and clicking on the link 'View nearby photos' produces a slew from London - about 60 miles away.

This is just one of a number of new services that allow you to upload a combination of photos and GPS data to share with others. Generally they appear to be a bit of a cludge, often using Google's mapping service indirectly. I guess Google will launch a service like this of their own before long and all these third-party sites/services will disappear.

gMapTrack: Your Locations, Trips and Trackers with Google Maps

Blogging this purely because its another group of people interested in getting GPS position data from mobile phones, which is what we were doing with Lorenzo's Everest audio blog. The new AGPS system developed by the mobile phone companies shows promise but at the moment, there's no way to access the data.

geobloggers: Garmin handheld GPS is dead!

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Apple Mac lovers around the world (or at least those who tune in to Steve Job's annual state-of-the-Apple-nation broadcast) were stunned to hear they are switching to Intel processors.

"The news ... could spell a period of confusion for consumers, some analysts are warning. The first Apple computers with Intel chips will be on the market next year. But Graham Barlow, editor of MacFormat magazine, said some people may not buy a new Apple machine knowing that a new processor was coming out next year."

My immediate thought is: since OS-X is basically Linux, why should I pay the premium for Apple hardware when I can run Linux on a PC? I reckon this move could well turn out to be the beginning of the end of Apple computers.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Apple Intel move 'could confuse'

Sunday, 5 June 2005

"Although California has the largest population of the United States, in terms of carbon intensity, it is atypical. Whereas national annual per-capita greenhouse-gas emissions average 20 metric tons, Californians per-capita emissions average 12 metric tons, according to the California Energy Department."

A very interesting article that shows not all Americans have George Bush's attitude to the environment.

California, low-carbon leader

"Greenpeace activists have been taking part in a series of protests across the UK aimed at disrupting sales of four-by-four vehicles."

In their defence, Mark Foster, spokesman for Land Rover stated:
"Most of the vehicles we sell are diesel and the best seller is a Freelander which does 37mpg and its CO2 emissions are just the same as a Mini Cooper".

From their websites:
Freelander TD4 Diesel - 37.2 mpg combined and 205 g/km CO2
Mini Cooper S - 40.9 mpg combined and 166 g/km CO2 Mr.Foster isn't far off.

However, lets now compare the current Range Rover (the model featured in the BBC News photo) and a Mini Cooper S and look specifically at their urban figures which, lets face it, is where most Chelsea tractors get used:
Range Rover - from 12.6 mpg (supercharged petrol) to 19.6 mpg (TD6 diesel)
Mini Cooper S manual - 29.1 mpg

Now lets compare weight:
Range Rover - 2570Kg (that's two and a half tonnes)
Mini Cooper S - 1215 kg

I read recently that a child hit by a Chelsea Tractor at 30mph is twice as likely to be killed as by a 'normal' car.

And lastly, their comparative CO2 emissions:
Range Rover - 299 to 376 g/km
Mini Cooper S - 166 g/km

All this data is from the makers' own websites. Not such a rosey story there. You've had to be pretty arrogant (or Jeremy Clarkson) to not be able to accept that Chelsea tractors are pretty unfriendly to the environment.

BBC NEWS | UK | Greenpeace demos at 4x4 dealers

Today's motocross event at Toddington produced a fairly decent crop of images including this one of #56 Pete Chapman, who I have nicknamed Hot Dog.

Just days after my friend Lorenzo nearly met his death near the summit of Everest "a 21-year-old student has climbed into the record books by becoming the youngest Briton to reach the top of the 'seven summits'."

Famous British explorer Ranulph Fiennes was also forced to abandon his attempt on the summit.

BBC NEWS | England | Bristol | Student climbs into record books

An absurd new 'pay-as-you-go' road toll scheme is being proposed by the Government. The plan is intended to reduce the use of cars but, as usual, no suggestion has been made that an alternative to using cars would be provided. And the toll would not penalise gas-guzzling vehicles, unlike the current petrol tax.

Congratulations to Katie, a neighbour's daughter, on the birth of a son, Max.

Saturday, 4 June 2005

"An atlas of environmental change compiled by the United Nations reveals some of the dramatic transformations that are occurring to our planet."

Someone make sure Bush gets a copy.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Changing planet revealed in atlas