Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Bl**dy F*r**gn*rs"

So, the Law Lords have ruled on a disabled man who said things he shouldn't have said to three Spanish women who obstructed him while he was on the way home from his local pub on his mobility scooter. My immediate thought on this ruling is to wonder if it will apply to comments made against Americans, or will there be a special exemption? Life in the UK would be very dull if the average citizen could not speak his mind about those Damned Yankees!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

First Official Lightroom Web Gallery

I have been trying out Adobe lightroom's additional features this past week and find the web page generator to be useful, though it has taken a few attempts to customize the set up to my liking. There are still a number of things I am not sure about. If Lightroom is to be really useful the last thing I want to do is to have to go into the code and modify things. So some things I would like to do can't be done from within Lightroom.

The most surprising feature is that the gallery as output from Lightroom is basically a standalone product. Now this is fine if, for example, you simply want to put a separate folder of images with a link that can be e-mailed to a client. But if you want the gallery to be incorporated into your website it is not so easy. So the compromise I have developed is to link from the Focalplane Hub but have the gallery open in a new window. Then there is a comment on each page that informs the user that he/she must close the window to return to the hub. This, of course, will not work if someone accesses the gallery through a link that is not from the Focalplane Hub. There is always the Back Button but I don't think that is very elegant.

I have no doubt that this feature of Lightroom will become more sophisticated in the future. For now it offers a quick way to get a lot of images up on a web site.

I have made the gallery using HTML. I did this because i thought I would be able to easily modify the code. In fact, as i don't want to modify code at all, the Flash version would probably make more sense. Choices, choices. I might switch to Flash later because it is a more attractive interface and it supports slideshows.

Meantime, go to the Focalplane Hub and look for North American Birds under Portfolios. Or, if you want to come back here, use this link.

Later: I've upgraded the gallery to the Flash version. Much better! Go through the Hub or use this link.

Olympic Record?

Today we read that the cost of the 2012 London Olympics is expected to be in the order of £9 billion, four times the estimate at the time the location of the games was "won" by London's Olympic Committee with some help from Tony Blair. Given that there are 5 more years left to run, it is very probable that £9 billion may not be the final amount.

Turn the clocks back to 1984 and the Los Angeles Olympics. By using existing facilities with just the right level of upgrading, Los Angeles hosted a memorable Games with the exceptional extra - they made $250 million profit! The profit went to support youth sport across the USA. The man in charge was Peter Ueberroth. London needs to call him and find out how it was done!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Yet another petition!

This time it's to do with the BBC's iPlayer. All Mac and Linux users need to sign this one as otherwise they will be cheated out of their rights as a TV license payer. More of my comments on this subject can be found back here.

The perfect oxymoron?

Military Intelligence!

Another Single Issue - Photography in Public Places

In a world gone mad there is the single issue petition to at least make you feel better about your position in society.

In this case it is a petition seeking to defend the right of the individual to take photographs in a public place without being hassled and embarassed. The link doesn't go directly to the petition, rather to the sponsor's own web site from which there is a link to the petition for you to sign - if you think this is important.

I have commented on this subject before. There is no doubt that a person holding a camera does have to be careful and the bigger the camera and the longer the focal length of the lens the more dubious are one's intentions perceived to be.

Smiling isn't cool?

A letter in today's Telegraph (no point linking to it, it won't exist 24 hours from now) points out that photos of models on catwalks and publicity photos for bands never show anyone smiling any more. The conclusion is that it isn't cool to smile.

When I renewed my passport recently, I took along a packet of assorted photos I need for visa applications. This was fortunate: the first photo I produced was rejected by the passport office because I was smiling! So it isn't only cool not to smile, it's officially frowned upon.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Get a Mac" 1996 style

It turns out that all those Get a Mac ads have a precursor dating back to the mid 1990s when the Duo 230 existed (and that was a neat computer by the way!)

I have to say that I don't think the modern Get a Mac ads work very well. Perhaps this is because I use my Mac within what is the Windows dominated business environment. If Apple really are only going after the home computing environment, what does this tell the developers of business oriented software?

There is also an interesting contrast between the US guys and the UK guys when it comes to the Mac vs Windows PCs. I really don't like the UK characters; I find the US "PC" a much more amusing character than his UK equivalent who seems to sneer.

The stock market analysts are convinced that Apple's share of computers will continue to rise. There will possibly come a time when Apple will no longer be the underdog it is today (I am not suggesting > 50% market share here, but maybe as large a market share as HP or Dell). When that happens the current ad campaign may look just a little strange.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"One thing I suspect we can all agree is that congestion is bad"

That's quite a long sentence for Tony Blair! But it is symptomatic of his way of telling us that he knows best. I imagine this is how he speaks to his cabinet members, expecting the usual sycophantic responses. I have to say that I admire the honourable member for Birmingham Ladywood more and more for her stand against this Government.

The quote comes from the automatic response sent out to 1.8 million e-mail petitioners concerning the proposed introduction of road-pricing. Here are a few more snippets (soundbites if I was reading them aloud):

"Our aim is to relieve traffic jams, not create a "Big Brother" society"

"I fully accept that we don't have all the answers yet"

"The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament"

"Yours sincerely, Tony Blair"

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

First Impression. Faster but not a significant advance on Beta 4.1.

Adobe's site is not user friendly, strange for a major software company that their web site should be so counter-intuitive. The upgrade didn't go well and the data base got corrupted. Fortunately nothing was lost, just all the links were broken. I am not the only one to have suffered this. It took an hour and a hlaf to restore all the links.

But I believe it is going be a useful piece of software (I already felt this when using Beta 4.1) and I will be using it to store all my digital and scanned images. The images are now stored on a dedicated LaCie 80GB Rugged portable hard drive, releasing the space on the iPod for more movies. This drive has a FireWire 800 interface which probably helps the speed issue.

There are a few additional effects. A red eye removal tool and a simple clone tool are included. The former seems strange in a professional package while the latter means that Photoshop won't be accessed as much as it would otherwise be. In fact it may well be possible to do away with Photoshop all together if this is the main reason for having that ever so versatile program.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Congestion Charge - Unfair Taxation?

As an occasional visitor to London I find the travel in and out to be tiresome, exhausting even. Public transport is probably better than it used to be, say 20 years ago, but the number of travelers has increased, leading to stressful "I wonder if I will be able to sit down" thoughts as a train, and in particular a tube train, enters the station. There was a time when a ticket meant you probably had bought the right to a seat. Not any more, it seems.

The big news yesterday was that Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, has extended the Congestion Charge scheme to include the wealthy and fashionable areas of West London. There is a certain irony about this expansion into the land of the "Chelsea Tractor" (a.k.a. large SUV or 4x4). For from now on, a resident in this extended area will be able to purchase a weekly pass for £4 which will allow the vehicle to drive anywhere around the enlarged Congestion Charge Zone. For lesser mortals, such as plumbers or delivery drivers who live outside the zone, there will be a daily charge of £8 or £40 for a five day working week.

While in London I usually see the same car (a dark green Bentley) parked in the same parking meter spot. The parking charge at this meter is around £4 an hour, so the annual bill the owner of this car pays to the parking meter must be phenomenal. The car, I am told, costs several hundred thousand pounds to purchase, so I guess this parking charge is small potatoes to the owner.

The bottom line to all this is that the Congestion Charge concept was introduced by a left-leaning mayor (whose nick name is "Red Ken") yet it clearly favors the wealthy at the expense of ordinary working people.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

How to explain why DRM is bad

This article in Wired provides several good examples why digital rights management is getting in the way of a reasonable PEOPLE'S rights management.

Flickr is Compromised

This is what came up this afternoon on both the Focalplane main page badge as well as on Flickr itself. It appears to be a systemwide problem that Flickr is looking into. Some users have had porn substituted for their family friendly images. Not good. Perhaps Flickr needs to shut down the system until it's repaired?

(Update) Well, it was fixed within the hour - a bad cache server at Flickr HQ, apparently.

Sound, no Video on your iPod?

I just finishing a test rip of a DVD (for personal use only!) and synced it to the iPod as a test. Sound only, no video. I checked the settings on Handbrake and everything seemed to be correct. So why no video? Off to Apple's help site and this came to the rescue. The Video Setting is either "In" or "Out" but cannot be both at the same time. Worth remembering!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Carphone Warehouse Wears Me Out!

I do not understand how this company can be so successful. I bought a Motorola cell phone from them a couple of years ago. The battery has never been up to specifications so today I decided to buy a replacement. Except they don't sell batteries.

I guess the whole business plan centers on the idea that when the battery no longer takes charge then it's time to sell you another phone. Thanks but no thanks, I'll buy my next phone from someone else.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The snow has gone!

Well, all those reports of snow in the Cotswolds! But there's no snow left! Not that it's very warm, in fact there stars are shining and a cold wind is blowing. Who knows, maybe more snow tomorrow.

Erica Jong redux

I picked up Sappho's Leap in Bookstop and have read the first half. Fascinating. It's been a while (20 years?) since I read Fear of Flying.

An Empty Plane

For a change I flew on a plane that was nearly empty. Flight AF-31, from Houston to Paris, is scheduled to use a Boeing 777. Last night there were no more than 70 passengers on the flight. Room to stretch but not good for Air France. Just as well their African flights vare always over-subscribed!

Where is the Houston I know?

Man, talk about regeneration! At every turn there is a scraper job - meaning that some old and in many cases not so old property has been bulldozed to make way for something new. In two or three years there has been an incredible change. Look at the SW corner of Westheimer and Kirby if you need an example.

Catalan

I am delighted to report that there is a new restaurant in Houston (yes, I know there are plenty there already). Catalan is located at T. C. Jester and Washington and is owned and operated by the same team who run Ibiza on Louisiana in Midtown (a long time favorite). I had brunch there yesterday and the food, atmosphere, wine and service were all excellent. A strong recommendation!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

We don't need no DRM

And so says Steve Jobs on apple.com. A cogent analysis of why digital rights management (DRM) on downloaded music doesn't make a whole of of sense when the same music publishers sell far more CDs with absolutely no DRM encoded on them.

As usual, it's the dinosaurs of the music publishing industry who cannot see the future.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Charlie Booker "hates Macs" - but read to the very end!

The Guardian's Charlie Booker has penned this hilarious article in which he states how much he hates Macs, the new UK Mac ads, etc. etc. But the very last sentence is telling - I quote:

"This week: Charlie watched some episodes of Larry Sanders (on his PC). He played the customised Fawlty Towers map for Counterstrike (on his PC). He listened to the Windows startup jingle every 10 minutes as his PC repeatedly rebooted itself."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The BBC and Mac Users

People who own TVs in the UK (and that's just about everybody) have to pay a license fee to the Government so that the BBC can be funded without commercials. This has been so ever since the BBC was established as a quasi-state broadcasting service with "freedom from governmental influences". Each household must pay an annual fee of £131.50 (that's over US$250) in order to use a TV. The funds obtained are passed on to the BBC in order for them to provide quality commercial-free services and entertainment. Owning and operating a TV without a license is a criminal offence and it is one of the most aggressively enforced items on the criminal code. Households that do not own a TV are considered guilty until they can prove otherwise. Those who own a TV to watch DVDs are considered to be watching TV because the tuning equipment inide the TV is switched on.

Watching TV on a computer, of course, is now possible and streaming of TV signals over high speed broadband is becoming an exciting option. In order to continue to raise funds, the BBC Trust has decided to offer TV downloads, etc., as an alternative to broadcasting them "over the air".

The BBC already has an extensive web service, bbc.co.uk. Many programs are available for viewing and listening, so there is a precedent for what is intended to become a major component in the BBC's mix.

But as MacWorld reports, all users are not necessarily equal in the eyes of the BBC. "Microsoft users", presumably alluding to those with the Windows operating system, will be considered normal users while others, including "Mac users" will be considered second class. So much so that the BBC is running a semi-clandestine survey of Mac users to see how much they (we) want to be treated as equals. You can find the survey here and I encourage you to complete this survey if you are a Mac user and let them know exactly what you think!

I suggest that the message conveyed be simple:

"As a household that pays the license fee we believe that on demand services should not be prioritised to certain computer operating systems. Non Microsoft operating systems must be supported to the same extent as the Microsoft operating system with no delays and additional waiting periods. In addition, support for all computer system users should be to the same standard."

And:

"If non-Microsoft operating systems are not supported, the case for either non-payment or reduced-payment of the license fee will be justified."

Friday, February 02, 2007

More Midday Sun

First, Baffin Island, one of the largest islands on the planet:
Eastern Coast of Baffin Island

Then, across the Canadian Shield. Imagine trying to walk across this terrain!
The Canadian Shield

Next a perfectly formed lake delta:
Delta on the Canadian Shield

Before approaching our destination with a view of the partially frozen Bow River:
Bow River and Deerfoot Trail, Calgary

Bulldozer at 3 a.m.

An interesting observation that I would never expect to see after a snow storm in the UK:

At 3 o'clock in the morning I am awake (jet lag) and decide to look out of the hotel window here in Calgary. There, across the street is a bulldozer scraping away at the frozen snow and ice. It is extremely cold - accuweather.com says the current temperature is -10ºC - and there is this guy running a bulldozer back and forth across, wait for it, a parking lot!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Following the Midday Sun

Yesterday I flew from London to Calgary and was fortunate to have a window seat on the right (northern) side of the plane. Take off at london in clear skies allowed for a few shots of west London, including this one I personally like a lot:
Leave the Car, Take the Plane

This time all of Greenland was covered in cloud but other delights were available. I am uploading several groups of photos with the first three over the middle of the Atlantic, complete with full moon:
Moon Over the Atlantic - 1

The next group will be over Baffin Island and these were taken at what I believe to be an unusually high latitude great circle route. The final approach to Calgary was almost due south, following the Calgary-Edmonton highway. More photos will be uploaded as they are processed.

The weather in Calgary is cold and snowy. The maximum today is supposed to be around -10ºC so I think I will stay in the Plus 15 (covered walkways between downtown buildings) from hotel to office.