Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Jurassic Coast Oestra

Late last evening we returned from East Devon, where we spent the Easter (Oestra) Holiday camping at Salcombe Regis. We've been there before but this was the first time with the new big tent and, regardless of such an early season foray into camping, we decided it needed a good shake down. The site must rate as one of England's best and after getting to know the owners, we think we know why - they have done their research! A family friendly site, it caters to caravans, tourers and tents with lost of open space for children to run around, excellent facilities for showers, toilets, laundry, etc., a shop and, most important of all, close proximity to our favorite beach, Weston Mouth.

The shake down went well and we were subjected to a wide range of weather for our tent, aptly named the Coleman Weathermaster, to master. Friday night was very cold with a heavy dew under a full moon and stars. Saturday was unseasonably hot. Sunday was cloudy but dry. Monday was the same but with the threat of rain. Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. the heavens opened and the rain did not stop all day. So we had a full range of experiences, including striking camp in the rain (ugh!). Some highlights worth recording:

The Weathermaster was easy to set up; the inner bedroom "tents" were already in place. I think we had everything up and in place in about an hour from arriving. The tent itself took about 10 minutes to position and erect.

We still lack a few pieces of camping equipment, even after all these years. This is mainly a reflection of the change from small tent in a warm climate to large tent in a cool climate. For example, we never needed a space heater before Friday night!
We need a new stove for base camp type cooking. Our back pack burners are great but can be top heavy. The selection of camp stoves and grills seems to have shrunk over the years - or maybe it's because of EU regulations?

We are going to try placing our Kelty Tarp over the top and front of the Weather Master to see if we can get better wet weather protection when entering and leaving the tent during a rain storm. Note to Coleman: a second door would be useful so that the existing door could be left as an awning.

Our Coleman Extreme Ice Chest (designed to keep ice for 5 days in 90ºF conditions) works really well in England!

We drank a lot of tea.

And hot chocolate!

We walked down to the beach every day, though on some days we walked much further than that. The area is blessed with a dense pattern of footpaths so we never moved the car until Monday evening. It was a joy to be so far from roads most of the time. The camp site is about 500 feet above the beach so the hike back up is an effort - all the better for increasing our appetites!

At this time of year Weston Mouth is relatively quiet. A few brave Naturists were in evidence on Saturday but none seemed inclined to enter the water. Weston Mouth is Naturist friendly and it is a joy to be able to skinny dip when the water is warm enough (which it was last September).

Another local attraction is the Donkey Sanctuary, a well-endowed charity that owns a farm that is now used to look after retired donkeys saved from all over Europe. Access to the Sanctuary is free and they have provided numerous additional footpaths alongside the various paddocks.

On Monday evening we splashed out on dinner at a nearby pub, the Fountainhead. This establishment is undergoing a change of direction we are told, from spit and sawdust pub to up-market restaurant. Judging by the attitude of some of the nouvelle clientele the locals must be dismayed at the change! The food was good, though, if expensive.

Here are the pictures

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hackers will attack OS X, says Symantec

Sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy when an anti-virus software company starts to spread rumors that OS X will become a target with hackers once its market share increases. Is this just a scare tactic or is there some truth in the idea that if Apple gains market share then hackers will start to hack?

This is my take on the subject. Yes, there may be an increase in attempted hacking and some hackers might do some damage, at least on computers owned by gullible people. What Symantec aren't admitting is that OS X is a rock solid operating system that is more difficult to hack in the first place and even when security issues appear, Apple is very quick to bring out updates and these can be downloaded and installed automatically. Given that hackers appear to like a challenge, it would seem to me that they would have been targeting OS X all along, and not wait until the user base increased from 2% to 5% or whatever the market share is and may become.

Then again, is all this a Windows driven conspiracy? I guess the EU needs to find out!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Outdoor Show at the NEC

Yesterday we spent a great day at the annual Outdoor Show, staged at the NEC, next to Birmingham International Airport. This may have been the first day of Spring as well, and the temperature reached 69ºF in the afternoon. Well, we went with a shopping list and came away with a new tent - a huge Coleman Weather Master. All our other tents (we have three plus a screen shelter, plus a tarp or two) are more suited to Texas deserts and beaches. The new one is a house by comparison. We could have bought a lesser one with thinner groundsheeting and poor quality seams, but Coleman make good tents and good tents cost more. We also got two free sleeping bags thrown in by the vendor, Yeoman Outdoors, as well as a "show discount". Now we are looking forward to a great summer!

What we didn't find there was a new twin burner stove. Seems the one we had in Texas is no longer made due to new regulations (why did we give it away!) and the alternatives are not what we had in mind. Also, April is looking for a set of camping pots that stack so that one pot can be placed on top of another to keep food warm. No luck there either.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Apple Store Bullring Photo has just posted a really good photo of the soon-to-open Apple Store in Birmingham's Bullring. The glass roof over the Bullring mall shows the classic 1960s Rotunda towering over the modern shopping center. As usual, Apple has a good location, hemmed in between Gap and H&M. May is still supposed to be the official opening.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Using an iPod Shuffle

I've just returned from a solo trip to London. I took my iPod Shuffle with me and had the following material downloaded on it:

Chris T and Aerial View from WMFU - 1 hour podcast
Good Food Podcast from KCRW - 1 hour podcast
In-Flight French learn before you Land - 1 hour French lesson downloaded from iTunes
In-Flight Spanish learn before you Land - 1 hour French lesson downloaded from iTunes
Pete Radio #4 - 1 hour podcast
Sounds Eclectic Show (Best of 2004) - 2 hour audio hijack
Sounds Eclectic Show (Elvis Costello live) - 2 hour audio hijack
Sounds Eclectic Show (Inara George live) - 2 hour audio hijack

Eleven hours of listening. I managed 8 hours, most of it either on the train or walking around London. Comments: podcasts have to be interesting from start to finish as you can't fast forward within a "song" on an iPod Shuffle like you can with iTunes on the Mac. Podcasts without music will probably only be listened to once. Music-rich podcasts may have a life beyond one play. In-Flight language tapes are great. Pete's podcast is his best so far with a good variety of music - and that is what playlists and podcasts should be all about!

This afternoon I visited the London Apple Store and spent an hour learning all about iMovie HD. Only thing is, I don't have a movie camera! But I do use iMovie as an audio editing program, so it was still useful. The store was packed. Not a demo Mac was sitting there idle and the theater was full (some people with PC laptops taking advantage of Apple's free wireless network (shame on them for being so brazen!)). Here's a couple of photos (which the security people were quite happy for me to take and that makes for a welcome change!)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Podcasts and iPodder

There's a new word in the English language. Just like weblog a few years ago, podcast has arrived to enrich our language. Podcasting involves the creation of an internet audio program that is archived as an mp3 file and made available for downloading by users who then listen to the program in their own time on either their computer or an mp3 device (such as an iPod).

The key to podcasting is the ability to schedule the downloading of regularly published podcasts, just like a VCR is used to record TV programs that would otherwise be missed. Numerous podcasts already exist (for example KCRW has most of its current affairs programming available) and many more will become available.

Audio Hijacking is slightly different in that the original program is only available to listen to while connected to the internet, unless it is hijacked and recorded. Podcasts are designed to be available without hijacking. This works through the use of an aggregator program that looks for podcasts and automatically downloads them. I have opted to use iPodder, a free download. I imagine that more and more programs will be available as podcasts but this doesn't mean that audio hijacking will disappear. Not all content will be available as podcasts because of copyright and royalty issues.

Podcasting also allows for a new type of media presentation. Just as weblogs mimic journalism, personal podcasts are mimicing broadcasting. Anyone can put together a personal podcast and publish it over the web. Whether anyone else will have time to listen to all these podcasts may be the limiting factor to what is a fast growing phenomenon!