Archive for March 2011

Mellow Yellow

Posted by on March 29th 2011 in In the garden, In the News

I've been hearing media reports about there being a shortage of Daffodils this year.

There's no shortage here.

We're awash with them - they're in the borders, under the hedges, in the lawn, under the tree...

How does this work, then?

Posted by on March 29th 2011 in Lost in translation, Rambling on...

Teachers of Physics teach physics...

teachers of Music teach music...

teachers of French teach French.

I've been trying to apply the same logic to the following ad, but it just doesn't seem right:

What’s the attraction?

Posted by on March 23rd 2011 in Rambling on...

There's much oddness going on here - over the last five days I've had several hundreds of "Guests" looking at this blog's archive for September 2007, and I've no idea why. No other archives, pages or posts are being visited any more than usual. Any thoughts?

Observing Report 13th-14th March 2011 (Moon and Messiers)

Posted by on March 21st 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

More or less the same as before - more practice with the 1000D. I really could do with getting a Barlow or a Powermate so as to get a better imaging scale for these smaller targets. Oh, and I did a bit of lunar imaging, you might want to click on the pic to see it at the original size 🙂

M102 (aka The Spindle Galaxy, NGC 5866), a lenticular galaxy in the constellation Draco.
Subs: 20 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C, guided with PHD.

As previous, cropped, and enhanced.

M64 (aka The Black Eye Galaxy, NGC 4826), a spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices.
Subs: 20 light @ 300s, dark and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the
6" R-C, guided with PHD.

As previous, cropped, and enhanced.

 The Moon.
24-pane mosaic created with iMerge.
Each pane 50/1000 frames stacked with K3CCDTools3.
DMK mono CCD camera on the
6" R-C, unguided.

Observing Report 7th-8th March 2011 (Even More Messiers)

Posted by on March 21st 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

Usual story... sub-zero, still and clear... out with the baby R-C scope looking at more Messier Objects. Different camera, though - I'd sold a few redundant items and used the proceeds to get a refurbished Canon 1000D body at a knock-down price. Time to give it a trial run.

Imaging-wise the process wasn't much different, with the exception of the need to take bias-frames to counter the read-out signal of the camera's CMOS sensor - this is something that I never had to do with the Nikon D50, as the CCD sensor in it has a very low read-out signal. Still, it's a small price to pay for not having to contend with long-exposure amp-glow - the Nikon had a bit of it, the Canon has none at all. Oh, and I was using different capture software - APT - which turned out to be excellent.

Anyway, I'll let the results do the talking:

M51a (aka NGC 5194), an interacting spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici.
M51b (aka NGC 5195) is the smaller companion galaxy.
Subs: 20 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the
6" R-C, guided with PHD.

 As previous, cropped, enhanced and over-cooked.

M12 (aka NGC 6218), a globular cluster in the constellation Ophiuchus.
Subs: 9 light @ 300s, dark and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the
6" R-C, guided with PHD.

 The Leo Triplet - M65 (NGC 3623, upper-right), M66 (NGC 3627, lower-right) and NGC 3628 (lower-left) - a group of galaxies in the constellation Leo (as if you hadn't worked that out already).
Subs: 15 light @ 300s, dark and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the
6" R-C, guided with PHD.


Methinks I'll get to like this Canon a bit sooner than I thought.

Not so smart now, eh?

Posted by on March 11th 2011 in A bit of a rant, Bargains, Discounts, Shiny new kit

Virgin Mobile are doing free smartphones on discounted tariffs for Virgin Media customers so I decided to get me a HTC Wildfire. Ordered yesterday, delivered today, everything was looking good...

I got the old and the new phones into Bluetooth mode so as to get the contacts and calendar entries shuffled across, they do connect but the data wouldn't transfer due to some incompatibility thing. First fail. No worries, I thought, I can set it up for connection to the laptop and for transfer of contacts and calendar entries...

Second fail was on page 4 of the quick-start guide - "Please make sure to copy HTCDriver.exe from your phone's microSD card and install it to your computer". Easy enough, you'd think, but said file wasn't there. After some effing and blinding I found out that things have moved on since the guide was printed, and the file needed from the card is now HTC Sync_3.0 5422.exe so I started to install that only to be told to temporarily disable all anti-virus software. WTF? That's got to be a bad thing these days. I class it as the third fail. Needless to say it was necessary, so I risked it and managed to get away without letting any nasties.

Then the lappy was suddenly running the HTC Sync software in readyness for the USB connection to the Wildfire. Looking good again.

So I connected the phone and it installed but wouldn't connect to HTC Sync. More effing and blinding until I Googled and found out that "USB Debugging" had to be enabled in the phone. Amazingly, there's nothing in the guide or the handbook about the need to do that. Fourth fail.

Eventually it connected, and I told it to transfer contacts and calendar details from my Outlook 2000 installation, which I'd recently synced with the old phone.

No dice. "Unable to copy contacts from PIM" was the message. Oh, FFS! Fifth fail.

Next option was to export from Outlook to a .csv file, import that into gmail and then use the Wildfire to read-in the info. I fired up Outlook and went through the export routine only to be informed that the import/export facility hadn't been installed and that I'd need the Office 2000 installation disk. Fail six. Took me over an hour to find that, I was beginning to lose the will to live.

Eventually I did the export, I even set up a gmail account, I even got as far as doing the read-in using the phone but it's all gone tits-up - the data looks like it's been chucked in from a distance by a blind troll, hardly any of the names have the correct numbers or email addresses. Fail seven.

The phone may well be smart, but the software's shite and the ensuing jumping-through-of-hoops has led me to the conclusion that most of my free time tomorrow will be spent doing manual entry of data for the 237 contacts in my address book.


Oh, and it occurs to me that I won't be out of the woods even then - Chris and Anna both got new smartphones too, and it's Muggins here who'll have to do all the setting up for them.

The Overcharge of the Light Brigade

Posted by on March 4th 2011 in In the News

As I see it, the problem here isn't so much the stupidity of the M.o.D. shelling out 22 quid apiece for 65p lightbulbs, it's more that they decided to deal with a supplier that doesn't have a "find it cheaper elsewhere and we'll refund you double the difference and lower our price to match" policy.

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