Archive for January 2012

Parish Notice

Posted by on January 31st 2012 in Illness and injury

Due to post-op complications I shan't be online for some time.

If you send flowers, please ensure that they're wrapped in crisp new tenners.

Don't send grapes.

Good luck, stay safe, do some winter-walking for me.

In for a rebore

Posted by on January 25th 2012 in Illness and injury, Just for fun

I'm hoping for a more modern procedure than this, but TBH almost anything's better than nothing.


See you later.

Observing Report 5th-6th December 2011 (Last year’s last cluster )

Posted by on January 9th 2012 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

A belated report from the last observing session of 2011...

The seeing was OK but there was a thin haze of high cloud - hardly ideal conditions for this sort of stuff. Visual observations of Jupiter, Mars, Andromeda Galaxy and several star-clusters. Tried again to image M97 (Owl Nebula), got the settings completely wrong again, dumped the imaging data again. Same story for M95, M96 and C23.

The night wasn't totally wasted though - M50 was a fine sight:

M50 (aka NGC2323), an open cluster in the constellation Monoceros.
Subs: 11 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C, guided with PHD.

A neat little gadget

Posted by on January 8th 2012 in Shiny new kit

Just before Christmas we went into town to collect the pissy-laptop from the menders. They'd done a fine job of cleaning it out and replacing the keyboard, and the bill was surprisingly low considering the state of the thing before they fixed it.

Anyway, while Chris was settling the bill I was browsing the gadgets and noticed a lonely-looking Xenta Wireless Mini-keyboard. What attracted me to it was the rocker-pad and touch-pad arrangement. Duly fondled, it was put back on the shelf and I left empty-handed.

Last week I was back in town so I returned to the shop to give the mini-keyboard another fondle. After a chat about whether the thing would be suitable for my needs I relented and bought the thing for just £15 and some fair words.

Setting it up was a doddle - no faffing with setup CDs, this really was plug 'n play. I removed the USB dongle from it's neat storage place at the back of the keyboard and plugged it into the laptop. XP found and installed the drivers and then told me that it was OK to use. I slapped two "AA" Eneloops into the mini-keyboard, turned it on, and it worked first time (and has done so every time since).

The mini-keyboard has a UK key-set although some of the keys are in unfamiliar places - the "Del" key, for instance. The function keys aren't your standard F1 - F12 things but are assigned various other duties such as controlling internet, email, MCE and multimedia applications. The touch-pad is excellent with scrolling and zooming capability. Left and right mouse-buttons are nicely-placed on the top edge, just fine for two-handed use.

So, with this thing I no longer need a mouse (although I can have both this and my wireless mouse connected at the same time without conflicts), and can control the laptop from a distance of up to 10m. But that's not all... this gadget has one other main benefit for me - I can use the left rocker-pad and various alt-key combos to control my telescope via any of my ASCOM-compliant planetarium programs such as Starry Night Pro Plus. This means that when scoping I no longer have to use the mouse for the laptop and the wireless Rumblepad II for the scope. The Rumblepad II always worked well but there was no way that it would fit in my pocket and the joysticks were all-too-easily activated accidentally. With this new gadget I get all required functionality with minimal more user-friendly kit.


Parlez-vous NHS?

Posted by on January 6th 2012 in Rambling on...

 I just love forms...

especially when they're worded so well...


Now, let me think... would I ever do any of those things for 24 hours? Probably not, but the 24-hour drinking thing sounds interesting. Driving for 24 hours would be a waste of time and fuel seeing as I have no current plans to go anywhere far away. Carrying children as a defence against dizziness does seem to be an extreme therapy so I'm glad that I mustn't do that for a day and a night. Moreover, in the event of impaired judgement it's probable that I wouldn't lend any credence to any of these warnings anyway.

Oh, and the notion that a kettle is a machine is a tad daft, IMO.

Perhaps I'm reading these forms too literally.

Cheap trick

Posted by on January 5th 2012 in A bit of a rant

Well, the WordPress/Jetpack helper monkeys have had a third go at my Annual Report.

It's still wrong.

But that's OK, apparently, because this time they've included some small print:

That's got to be one of the cheapest cop-outs ever.

Peanuts must be in short supply.

You’re gonna need more monkeys

Posted by on January 4th 2012 in A bit of a rant

According to Wikipedia:

"The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare."

Well, the WordPress/Jetpack helper monkeys have had another go at my Annual Report.

It's different but it's still wrong.

Here's a clickable copy of the latest version:

They'll probably blame the system, the software or the database but we all know that it's a PICNIC error.

Hide and seek

Posted by on January 3rd 2012 in Blog on Site

Being a child of the Sixties meant that I grew up with a minimum of technology. Radios were crackly things, TVs were monochrome affairs with valves, cars ran on 5-star 101-octane leaded petrol. Not much changed when the Seventies arrived - OK, so radios got transistors, TVs got colour and 5-star juice was banned, but we still had no computers, no internet, no GPS.

Navigating in the hills was a test of ability and self-confidence. Armed with just an O.S. map, a sighting compass and an inkling of the magnetic declination it was possible, on a good day, to be able to triangulate a position to an accuracy of about 10 yards. It was enough, and I never got misplaced (until years later when I went walking with a new ice-axe that hadn't been de-magged and which affected the compass-needle more than I'd have thought possible).

The Eighties came and went with no major improvements to hill-nav. New maps, perhaps, but not much more.

In the Nineties there was rumour of something called GPS but it was all tech-speak and military back then.

The Noughties saw the start of the change. Commercial GPS receivers started to become available to folk who didn't drive a Harrier VTOL to work. Just like mobile phones, they started off big and expensive, and gradually slimmed down to something that you could both afford and carry without a back-up crew. GPS was wonderful, occasionally it was as accurate as the old map & compass method, but at least it worked without visual references. The downside was power - if your device ran out you were stuffed if you didn't have a back-up plan. At this point I should perhaps mention that I started to use a Garmin Geko - a basic and functional bit of kit, perfect for my needs. I still carried maps and a compass, though. Just in case.

Internet, GPS and mobile phone technologies eventually slept together and spawned a whole variety of eejut-proof devices that would run GPS routines on things called "apps" (or "programs" if you had a Windows-based phone). With these, you could find out where you were, where you'd been and where you were trying to get to, you could have this served up on a map in "real-time", you could check the weather forecast and choose to ignore it, and you could phone home to tell your loved ones that you wouldn't be home in time for your kippers and Ovaltine.

During this period of enlightenment I upped the stakes and used an O2 Orbit phone, a Windows-based thing that would run Memory-Map software. It was an excellent bit of kit which served me well for several years until I changed my service-provider and got myself an HTC Wildfire. For a while now I've been using an app called "MMTracker" which does pretty much all that Memory-Map ever did, so it wasn't much of a change for me.

Even so, none of these hand-held devices (not even the map and compass) ever pin-pointed my position as precisely as is possible with today's web-based technology. Recently, a friend alerted me to a free service that provides fantastically-accurate positioning, and when I say accurate, I mean it - we're talking sub-metre stuff here.

I must say that I'm really impressed with it. If you want to give it a try, start here.

Lies, damned lies and Jetpack statistics

Posted by on January 1st 2012 in A bit of a rant, Celebrations

The email from WordPress contains hype such as:

"Your Annual Report from"... "Your 2011 in blogging"... "Our stats helper monkeys have been busy putting together a personalized report detailing how your blog did in 2011!"

I'm guessing that everybody who's using Jetpack will have received such an email.

Indeed, a quick Google shows that several folk are including details from their reports in their blogs.

Hopefully those folk will have checked the supplied facts and figures - I'd find it hard to believe that I'm the only user to discover that his report is a crock of 5h1t.

Here's a clickable edited copy of the report prepared for me:

FWIW, my editing is based on the same data that was (and still is) available to those WordPress/Jetpack monkeys.

Happy New Year!

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