Sunday, 29 April 2012

It's blowing a gale

Raining hard outside right now, the wind has been howling around this morning and it's only 4'C. You'll never get frost bite in this weather, but all the same it will suck the warmth from your bones in minutes.

There's something really miserable about this, and I'm so grateful not to live in an age of drafty houses heated by a small fire in the middle - where wet clothes remain wet and clammy for as long as the weather prevents drying them out.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Looks like the TVR owners club have a rally at Silverstone

About 25 cars all just grumbled and muttered their way past the house on trailing throttles. Looked and sounded good.

Trying to choose a graphics card is weird.

In the good old, bad old days, trying to choose a graphics card was easy - you just looked for the fastest card you could afford and then tried to find one a little faster. Playing games (as I was then) was a marginal affair that would push a computer to the limit, and anything that could be done to increase speed helped - when playing mechwarrior, it was not unusual for the system to suddenly slow to about 1 frame a second briefly, while missiles were being fired, and you had to guess at where the target would be.

That was then.

I've not gamed in probably 5 years, but I do manipulate images, and have found recently that as various operating systems bloat, having a browser, email client and full-featured image editor open can bog the whole thing right down. I've been looking at budget cards, but they all (still!) have 64 bit memory bandwidth even though they have 1 or 2Gb RAM onboard. TBH I have no clue anymore what's good, and the reviews are solely interested in gamers it seems, where a budget card starts at about £70.  If I DO buy a card it will be like sticking my hand in a barrel for a 'lucky dip'.

Friday, 27 April 2012

I've never been one for blog stats

and today is probably the first time I was ever interested enough to look. So, from stats for the last month....

There are still more people out there viewing this by Internet Explorer than using Firefox, but only just @ 35% vs 30%. It seems Safari, mobile Safari and Chrome are all more popular than Opera. :-(

Of the computer operating systems used, Windows and OSX were 1 and 2, Android 3 and Linux 4 (at 4%) followed by Blackberry, iPad and iPhone. There was even someone on BeOS (God bless you sir!).

Countries visiting were UK and US 1 & 2, but to my utter surprise Russia was 3rd, Germany 4th and France 5th. Trailing away at the end were Canada, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Australia and India.

Outside of search engines, most people found their way here either through (thank you Sarah) and Harmony Central, followed by, and

Search keywords were mostly predictable: tertl blog and tertl being obvious, but also pompei, bullseye bug and Molyvos turning up. And, bizarrely the phrase "position vagina on saddle" (it must have found all those words separately, since that's not a combination I'd normally use). This was used twice, so it's apparently no coincidence.

I'm reasonably sure google haven't been doing their stats all that long, because I remember that funky little clustrmap that doesn't work half the time now showing in excess of 50,000 page views back in about 2008. The stats I just looked at reckoned there had been somewhere north of 27,000 page views, so I suspect data collection has only been going 5 years (I've dropped to around 400-450 a month now).

Worth noting that referred people here the most on that 'all time' stat, with in second.

Hope that's interesting

Just looked at booking cinema tickets.

Never mind what the film was, basic cost of a pair of tickets for Friday night was £21 or for the seats they put in the place we would normally have chosen to sit when all seats were the same, £25 (plus booking fees). This is crazy - I can go out and have a curry for that. Maybe I'm behind the times, but this is too much money for 2 hours of entertainment. Maybe I need to get an Orange phone contract next year and book Wednesdays in advance.

It makes the large pile of DVDs that's built up in our living room seem good value. Or maybe I have a wrong sense of the right price for this kind of thing?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

If you computed in the 1980s

And many of us did (my first computer use was in 1976) then you should read this article on The Register - look back in ACSII. I know someone who has happy memories of adventure games on the ZX81, getting stuck in a dungeon with no way out except re-loading from the tape (3 tries minimum and a 5 min wait). I don't think we ever actually completed that game.

My own first computer was a 'surplus' Apple ][e with green monitor, twin floppy drives and built in keyboard. Appleworks was kind of usable (I wrote my first CV using it - got me another job from people who must have been impressed at a document that was not hand typed). Here I am, typing on an Apple, but cursing it because it always refuses to believe the first time you hit backspace is to delete a character - the key must be pressed twice before it will do as instructed. Not sure whether it's good or bad that they've never managed to make a product that wasn't idiosyncratic in some fashion.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

All experience is good, right?

I have realised, through a good friend that our particular experience has not always been an asset.

People can and do grieve over a who bunch of different things, and we tend to 'spend' our emotions into overdraft, what ever we're doing. Our experience has made me see some people's grief as trivial, and that the things they can grieve over petty and minor instead of being every bit as real and strong as the feelings and turmoil we once had. It may be true that they ARE minor or even foolish, but that's not how things work inside people's heads and hearts.

It just goes to show, you never stop learning. Hope I remember this lesson without it needing to be hammered home.

One gets asked the most interesting questions.....

I've just had an attractive lady of about my age wander in and ask, on behalf of her boss, if I would mind going out to teach the Spanish conjugation technology for a couple of weeks. Cue moderate embarrassment on her part.

Now if she had said "would you go and help them stick different proteins together using nasty chemicals" it would have been so much less amusing.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Maybe I'm not used to it yet

Maybe I'm not used to it yet, but the new blogger controls seem really crappy after the previous set: it's gone all google minus. There may be hidden benefits that I'm unaware of, but all the same tools as before seem present, but just less clearly placed. I hope one can use html in the compose box too.

Lets find out:

More garden visitors

The finches seem to lack the allergy for being photographed that many of the other birds do, although I'm still waiting for a chance to catch the chaffinches that we've seem around occasionally. Anyway, here's a couple more pics.

Mr. and Mrs. Greenfinch

Another couple of Gold finches.

And a 'who do you think you're looking at?' shot.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Now lent is over

and I've stopped 'fasting' from certain websites it's interesting to see how my blogging frequency has dropped off.

Chris commented that I'm spending too much time on Lightbox, and she's correct. Some of that was intentional, making connections in order to become part of what goes on can take a lot of time. Partly too it is simply interesting to look at the kinds of images people from a very broad range of cultures create, to recognise patterns of both creation and appreciation in their work and mine. Posting my pictures to Lightbox has certainly convinced me that I have my own style, at least for content adapted for that format.

Now that lent is over it feels like a particular burden has been lifted and replaced with another. I'm gradually being re-focussed and trimmed away, seeing the need to let some things go and the need to pick up others.

The last few weeks I've been going out several times a week just walking round and praying for the main estate on Heyford park and the church there in particular. I don't naturally have a heart for people outside church, but that's one of the things I think God wants to grow in me, so this has been part of that. There's also a need to pray for and into the church right now too, and so this provides an opportunity for that too.

It's been an interesting time - not like the Chinese proverb/curse - but feeling God talking about things more clearly than He's done in the past, trying to line myself up with that as much as I can. I don't know where it will lead. I see patterns, possibilities (some of which seem impossible, some of which people tell me are impossible) but so much depends on other people also being willing to line up with God that all I can do is what I feel called to and rely on His grace to work things out.

I'm glad lent is over. Now I'm looking forward to pentecost (not that I do seasons, but y'know, CoE church and all that).

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Few things fill me with fear

quite as much as the thought that I might have missed what I've been called to do, and all the struggle has been for nothing.

It is interesting how one can be sailing along, full of faith, then a single conversation comes and tries to take it all away: tells you you're not the man, that you've not really heard right and that it can't work out. And then you have to decide... did God say...... or not? So I'm choosing not to walk according to feelings, but there can come times like you feel you've woken from sleep-walking, found yourself on a tightrope being gently rocked in the breeze and wondering how you take the next step.

Time, very shortly, to take the next step anyway.

More garden activity

Since putting out the niger seed we've been getting plenty of goldfinches and even the odd greenfinch (seen coming in to land in the first image).

More on the goldfinches.

These were all taken through the kitchen window, which I suspect is one of the reasons I'm struggling to get good sharp and contrasty images without resorting to lots of processing. There's quite a lot of light reflected on the window, and it really makes a mess (you can see it on the tail of the left had goldfinch, lower image).

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

There was another iTunes update last week.

What's the big deal with that, you might ask?

On Sunday I pulled the Macbook out and Ben commented "your clock is an hour behind", and it was. Weird.

So I reset it, all fine.

This morning, plug in, switch on: the clock is an hour behind again. !?!

OK, no biggie, so I find automatic time setting has been turned off, and when I turn it back on I've been set up as if I'm in Iceland.

What I'd like to know is: why is something that's essentially a media player mucking about with system settings? Of course it isn't really 'just a media player' at all, since iTunes is one of Apple's money-pipes, and the software is tentacular in the way it has become an equivalent of windows explorer, used to move files between devices.

Wonder if it would be foolish to turn off updates (assuming that I still can?) now, before my system becomes remotely obsolesced?

Monday, 9 April 2012

I mentioned some visitors to the garden recently.

Well here's the Reed Bunting female. I know it looks desperately unspectacular, but it's a pretty little bird that's very different from a sparrow:

And another new visitor, courtesy of some Niger seed Chris put out this week - a goldfinch:

and finally, one of our regulars, this collared dove:

Looks like we've got

another 2 years of XP support. Amazing that the OS is still going strong (and is still used by Chris looking after business accounts). Personally I really liked XP, and run Linux to keep the brain working as much as anything, and to provide an alternative.

Some time I'd like to see if Chris would get on OK with Pear/Comice linux, since the OSX 10.5 style interface might feel easier for her than KDE. David T has also been working hard to make stuff 'just work' like it does in Windows (we'll ignore vista) and OSX (well, mostly - the original 10.5 was really flaky when it came to DVD and USB drives and video output).

Thinking back over the last 20 years of computer operating systems, too many people have tried to do 'new and shiny' instead of helping the user just get on and use.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Learning to present photographs in a small(er) format.

Using lightbox has been instructive about the way we perceive images. Any regulars here will know that I have a passion for (generally) natural colours, sharp detail and a minimum size of 1024 X 768 for landscape or 900 X 660 for portrait. i.e. quite large.

Lightbox is designed for smartphone users.

That immediately tells you that the images will of necessity be small and that fine detail and natural colours aren't going to catch the eye or imagination. It took a while to twig. I posted some recent images and they looked dull and boring. Trawling through the files I found some faves and bunged them up, but they just didn't seem to say anything, even at around 700 X 500ish.

So I've had to re-think the way I present photographs. Out went subtlety, in came simple shapes, bright colours. It's like writing a short story instead of a novel with light - there's just a moment to catch the eye or imagination, and you've got to grab and hold it without worrying about how the plot can be developed in chapter 10. I'd not naturally want to do this kind of treatment to large images, but it seems to work for 'post-card' size pictures. It's also been good to see just how much I can 'push my luck' with an image to make it stand out before it becomes unbearable. It's also made me willing to experiment with the kind of stuff I'd run a mile from normally - daft colours & effects, because so many of the other images are photographically 'duff' for me.


Saturday, 7 April 2012

Happy birthday Windows 3.1

A little retrospective from The Register.

Windows 3.1 was overall pretty good, and it's interesting how OSs have developed in the light of this. OSX shares a weakness still with 3.1 (no task bar keyboard commands for program switching is inefficient) and windows 8 metro is about to revert to this state.

Would I go back?

Probably not, but if OS interface development had been halted at Windows 98 I would not have been too upset, though XP was significantly better. I've used Vista a little and 7 a little less and neither bring the user any benefits, other than security, which is no benefit at all in terms of usefulness or productivity, while making unhelpful changes to the interface. OSX is somewhere between windows 3.1 and windows 95 in terms of helpfulness of interface, even if it runs with much more security.

I'm realising more and more than one of the reasons I have moved across to Linux running KDE desktop is that it has continued Windows XP *classical* interface development (i.e. not the toys-R-us mess appearing as default that any sensible user immediately switched off). KDE is very XP classic-like in use, even though deep down there are quite fundamental differences. Certainly it won't suit everyone, but as a system to simply sit down and work on, provided everything works (a 'charming' characteristic of Linux) then it's highly efficient.

I have a spare hard drive for the Macbook. It is SO tempting to risk mangling a few more screwheads, swap drives and attempt a Linux install running MS Office under Wine or Play On Linux, maybe under openSUSE or even Pear/Comice 4.

We had a couple of new visitors this morning

To the bird feeding station out the back in amongst the sparrows and tits: a pair of Reed buntings see here and here with sparrow behind. The male hadn't developed the striking black head that they get later in the year, but was a little darker than the female.

I must be looking at (feathered) birds too much, if I can tell the difference between a sparrow, a dunnock and a bunting. Each of them are small, brown and unspectacular, if not un-attractive.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Is Lightbox a Facebook for photographers?

I picked up the lightbox app for my phone a few months back, noticed that it had a neat camera interface that allowed a greater than usual range of adjustment, as well as the usual daft effects, and ignored the rest of it. Then around 6 weeks ago I finally got around to registering on the site, but even after uploading a few images (from the phone) to the site I still didn't see the point - apparently no-one was looking at the pictures.

What's the big deal then?

Currently the site works a little like a reverse of Facebook: everybody's pages are open to everyone, but it's up to you to create links and give people a reason to look at your images. For this to happen you have to let them know you're there, by liking one or more of their images.

I'd love to know how much this approach has affected the way the site runs, and for how long it will last like this. For an internet photo site there's barely any nudity (certainly compared to Tumblr) and I've yet to see any negative comments, even though some of the photography is as poor as you'd expect from a site very like instagram.

Would I recommend it?

I've mixed opinions right now. Some of the photography is stunning, if not always original, while there is quite a bit of dross too. But, just like facebook, it can become a huge consumer of time, just trawling through thousands of images to see a few you like. There are some obvious 'stars' of lightbox, and some of the macro work of insects by Rolly is absolutely stunning. I like this much better than the impression I have of instagram, both from the manner in which images are degraded to give them a psuedo-vintage look, and because of the attitude of the iPhone instagram users, who have taken exception to the new Android posters. And after all, if you want to run a site that carries images to inspire people, what better way to prevent creation of inspiring art than to restrict them to phone cameras, with the output forced through degrading software.

If you want to have a look, my page is here but there's nothing up that you won't have seen before. As time goes by I may strip out some of the less great images I posted earlier and try to keep it to better work only. You can bet there won't be many images from the phone either!

Just priced up the holiday... again.

I can do a self-drive holiday in Biarritz France, staying in 'mobile homes' for about £1400, or I can fly (changing planes 3 times each way!) have a reasonable hotel and a car for 2 weeks for.... £1400.

We really wanted to keep the cost down this year, but everything is working against that. I can fly to Dehli and get 2 weeks in a hotel - a reasonable hotel - for that, and if Chris hadn't got her heart set on going to France again then I'd probably try for a week in Dehli and a week in Jaipur.

Maybe it's time to explore Scotland? Better get a raincoat.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

So we finally saw the Marigold

As in the film "Best exotic marigold hotel" last night.

As much as anything it was great to see some of those places again (we had the best day of our Indian trip in Jaipur last year) and remember a bit of what it's like. The film shows a much cleaner and tidier India than we remember, and of course it can't possibly convey the smell, but otherwise it seemed to capture some aspects of the feel well. I suppose the thing it missed was the sense of desperation and being crushed by poverty that we think we saw in some people, but it is intended to be entertainment.

I'd quite like to go again, but this year we would like to keep costs down and also stay in Europe.

The frost is so hard this morning

that the sheep kept behind our house had frost on their wool.

It will probably be a lovely day later, but this morning looks very cold.