Friday, 30 July 2004

out and about at the hog's head in Kingston

out and about at the hog's head in Kingston

look's like Mike isn't enjoying the Hofbrauhaus

look's like Mike isn't enjoying the Hofbrauhaus

That Weisbier is pretty evil stuff - especially if you drink 10 Steins

Mike at the Berlin Wall

Mike at the Berlin Wall

Mike and Alan do 'Polish' Woodstock...

Mike and Alan do 'Polish' Woodstock...

All love and peace at 'Polish' music festival - Mike wasn't allowed to bring his AK47

Don't really understand what a Polish music festival is doing in Germany - but I promised I'd just post some of the MMS messages they sent to me (well, all the ones where they have their clothes on anyway)

Wednesday, 28 July 2004

Mike & co. in Bonn

Mike & co. in Bonn

So I'm lucky to be getting lots of picture messages from Mike and Alan on holiday in Germany this week. They've invited me to party with them in Berlin this Friday and Saturday but I don't think I'm up to it after being ill for a week! The other reason is that I'm down to finish clearing the box-room and creating/decorating the nursery... Oh the joys of preparing to be a responsible parent!

Fatter Pipe

Hurrah! BT recently dropped the price for my 512Kbps ADSL line from £29.99 to £26.99. But at the same time they also introduced a traffic cap (15Gbytes per month) - which I thought was a bit cheeky as I used to have an unlimited allowance.

But at the same time they also had an offer to upgrade to a 1Mbps ADSL for £29.99. So as I was used to paying that much anyway I signed up for the upgrade - also it comes with an increased allowance of 30Gbytes per month - which I think I'll manage to stay within.

The good news was that they did the upgrade yesterday. Didn't see a speed increase (using internet bandwidth tester) until I re-booted my router - but then was getting 900Kbps+

The bad news was that they've screwed up the normal voice line at the exchange!

Success with the CipherLab 1000!

Brought the crappy cipherlab 1000 barcode scanner home tonight - thought I'd have another go at getting it working.

So maybe they've improved the downloadable manual (or maybe I just read it better this time....) I'd completely missed the really obvious:-

When you use 'Scan Manager' s/w to 'configure scanner' - and you change lots of settings, then see that they've been changed - then try scanner in Word for the 100th time (only to get gobbledeegook) - maybe its because you haven't configured scanner. A good test of this (which I did tonight) is change the 'beep' frequency on the scanner. Lo and behold - no change when you try scanner.

Hang-on - why does it keep trying to talk to scanner over RS232 when you go 'download settings' - its not connected via rs232 - only via keyboard...?!?

DOH! The only way to 'configure' the scanner from the scanman program is to PRINT OUT CONFIGURATION BARCODES THEN SCAN THEM IN!!!!

Ok - so I'm an idiot for not realizing this earlier - but this is like so 80's tech!

Anyway, set the scanner up to recognize EAN13 barcodes and to convert to ISBN. Works a treat on all my UK books (that either are just ISBN or EAN13 beginning 978...). Haven't quite got it setup for American books yet - but will.

The other nice thing is that it stores its setup in Non-Volatile memory - so you only need to program it once.

Also downloaded latest Microsoft VB.Net Express Beta 1 tools - plan on writing Amazon Web Services application (as the VBA word AWS routing doesn't work on my desktop as I only have old Office 2000 I think)

Monday, 26 July 2004

Back at work

Back at work today. Didn't feel too bad - but was going to take my (stranded for a week at work) bike home on the train. By the time I was ready to go I'd missed the window of time you're allowed to bring bikes on the Waterloo / Dorking / Epsom line - so ended up cycling.

But I'd missed being on the bike - so it was good.

My bike (well this is what it looked like when I bought it - I've now got a SDR seat, XT crank and SLicks 1.2 inch tires on it)

Sunday, 25 July 2004

Amazon Web Services

...So downloaded the AWS Kit, got my developer token. Found some example VBA code which works with Word in Office XP. So then had a manual solution going where you typed ISBN in, pressed a key and it displayed title etc from Amazon. Any problems then you could check you typed the ISBN correctly - if still no luck - make a note of the title against the ISBN and carry on (and put book in box).

Denise was on a mission so did a couple of hundred (and filled two large boxes). I can lift the storage boxes - will be fun getting them into the loft...

Some success with Far Cry + 1st Box of Books

Whilst surfing the web for any hints and tips on getting FarCry working I came across a posting from Vizier on 'The Hardware Guy' Forum. He has same setup as me and had tried to stop FarCry from crashing (including reinstalling Windows XP from scratch and buying a bigger powersupply).

I posted a reply to say I was in the same boat and had he had any further luck. It turns out there was a 2nd post from him in the last two weeks where he claimed 95% success by increasing the AGP voltage to the graphics card from 1.5v to 1.7v.

Tried this and it does help - I can now play for 10-20 minutes without it crashing - I've now managed top get to the end of the stage and am up to my neck in monsters and marines on the 'Bunker' level!

Oh... managed to enter in 100 or so ISBNs and fill up the first box to go in the loft.

Sunday lunch at in-laws beckons....

No books moved yet... VBA ISBN Lookup

So didn't get quite as much done on the books as I wanted! Was sidetracked this morning as Mike had returned my copy of FarCry in the post.

I've uploaded the latest 1.2 patch (even though there are some reports that it has been recalled by Ubisoft as it has some h/w compatibility issues). No improvement - the game still randomly crashes to the desktop.

However, whilst looking around to find out whether the 1.2 patch had enabled quick saves or not (it hasn't yet - internally they've done things to enable quick saves but its not complete yet), I discovered that if you start it with -devmode switchn (i.e. F:\Games\FarCry\FarCry.exe -devmode) then you can pull down menu in game with tilda (¬ key) and save with '\save_game name'. So it still crashes but at least I can make some progress...

At this point I was sorely tempted to do some more investigation of why my primary machine is so flaky. I'm getting similar crashes in Toca2, Colin McRae Rally 04, Thief III demo. I have latest ATI drivers for my 9800 Pro, all the latest audio and motherboard flash/rom/drivers. I even looked at power suppy during game - wasn't particularly helpful as ASUS probe doesn't record anything whilst the game is running! Feel like doing a clean XP install - but thats just too painfull to contemplate.

Anyway - back on the books/nursery conversion:- tidied / moved crap from middle of box room so that we can actually get to the book shelves. Then spent hours trying to figure out how to write a application/macro/VB script which would accept an ISBN then display name, author etc (i.e. want to check ISBN before I put book in storage). Got sidetracked by Microsoft's latest Visual Studio 2005 Express tools - downloaded the VB tools (and will probably download C# and web tools as well) - the idea being I use the latest tools plus examples to access Amazon web services.

Whilst I was waiting for tools to download (all 250Mb for VB) I looked through AWS SDK on my laptop and found some example VBA code for Word which didn't take much effort to modify to work for ISBN book lookups!

So tommorrow is the grand ISBN entry day + Sunday lunch + do some work before I go back to office on Monday.

Saturday, 24 July 2004

Getting the ISBN codes off 1000 books

Being able to display book information on the Blog is really the nice end result of having the information in the first place.

I've always wanted to have a definative list of my books (being anally retentive) but have never got round to it. However it now seems the right time to do it:

One of this weekend's chores is to strip out our box room to make room for a nursery...

Some of the casualities in this operation are about 800 books which need to go into storage. I've bought some large plastic containers with lids which look like they'll keep the damp out of any books stored inside - but before I put all my books away I want to capture that list of them.

The easiest way would be do have a barcode reader which I could use to scan the ISBN code on the book - then from the ISBN list you'd then be able to look up any other book details using the Amazon Web Services tools (described earlier). Only snag - barcode readers are both expensive and also really 'old' tech. I bought one several months ago and have had no luck getting the damn thing working with XP/my keyboard.

Its a CiperLab 1000 handheld scanner - it needs to be setup in a 'keyboard wedge' mode - but I end up getting just a load of garbage from it when I try and scan.

Other alternatives were:- use a webcam with some software as a barcode reader - there are some mentions of this on google - but nothing that is recent and very viable.

Other options - how about a clever palm based app that could use the inbuilt camera (which would be perfect on the Sony Clie UX50) - no such application as far as I can tell - lots of addons (in the case of the Sony Clie theres a really nice Bluetooth barcode scanner accessory).

Finally I thought someone might have written an application for a series60/Nokia phone - there is one - but couldn't get it working on book ISBN codes - the free version looks limited to other codes.

So - looks like I can save more effort (maybe) and certainly money if I just type the damn ISBN number in manually - then I'll verify that amazon comes up with a match before the book goes into the storage box.

Then I can learn scripting, XML, SOAP and how to access Amazon Web Services to create a nice library page on my blog (that might not make it into the 'completed tasks' list this weekend...)

All Consuming - creating a book list

All Consuming

I've been looking at this website as a start to list which books I have, what I'm reading and what I've completed.

Seems to be various options - I can use All Consuming to hold the list of books - then use a javascript sample to access that list from my blog, or I can do my own book list using Amazon Web Services directly.

I think I'm going to go for the latter - this means learning some scripting languages though - PHP, Perl or javascript? I've already signed up as a Amazon Web Services SDK developer - you get a token that you use in your call to Amazon so they can track whether you're abusing the service - plus there's rules on how long you can cache data etc.

Re-processed sun spot image

Had another play around with the images I took yesterday. This has tonnes more detail than the previous one - also doesn't have a halo effect. This time I didn't do any lucy richardson filter - just stretched colour histogram, resynthesized colour. Need to figure out how to get rid of dirt smudge (top right)

(c) Bill Pinnell 2004

Friday, 23 July 2004

Sunspot 0652 on my birthday

Here's the processed 652 Sunspot (resized)

Note that the black mark right and down from middle is not another sunspot - its a large bit a dust on the CCD sensor :(

I managed to blow it off later - but there's still other muck in there. This sort of shows that taking lenses off DSLRs and mucking around rigging it up to telescopes is generally a non-camera friendly activity - I can see where the dedicated astro CCD people are coming from...

Not sure what the banding is around the edges - maybe an artifact from adaptive lucy richardson filter or something in original - will check tommorrow.

My Birthday, Spiderman and Sunspots

Its probably psychosomatic but I always seem to be ill on my birthday - probably the shock of being one year older or something. Anyway, this year I was ill all week but actually feel a lot better today! [apart from having a bizarre episode at the doctors where I tried to faint when they took a blood sample!] 

Got taken out tonight for a meal and watched Spiderman II at the cinema 


To cut a long story short - pretty enjoyable - but glad I watched it at the cinema where the effects, sound and big screen made up for some of the plot - though I must say I enjoyed it more than the first film.

Wasn't up to driving to the Lake District for Simon's wedding - instead will have a quiet weekend at home ready to return to work on Monday.

Opened my present from my older brother - it was 'Astronomy Monopoly' - good grief! [how does someone even know to look for this sort of thing?] This means that after 20 years of avoiding playing the game with him, I have no excuse next time he comes over. It's terribly geeky, but I do like the fact that one of the pieces is a Meade telescope (like mine)...

With astronomy on my mind I decided to use my telescope for the first time in 5 months [plus I thought stepping out of the house might be good after a week inside]. I managed to take a couple of photos of the sun through the LX90. Wanted to capture the massive 0652 sunspot region that is currently visible. Will process a couple of the images and post later. Only snag was that I don't have the right mounting ring for the Nikon D70 and I also have a lot of dust/crap in the camera - both on mirror, viewfinder sensor and actual Bader CCD filter - I phoned up Nikon UK in Kingston and they said I can drop it in for a clean next week.

Monday, 19 July 2004

Mike out and about

Mike out and about

Sunset in Cannes

sunset in cannes


Its a couple of months back now - but I took this when I was at 3GSM in Cannes. Decided to use the picture for my test of mobile photoblogging using Flickr from the 6600.

Sick as a dog

Decided not to post any blogs recently as I was either delirious with a fever over 103oF/39.5oC or was just feeling pretty terrible!


Went home from work last Thursday feeling really bad. Turned out I was feverish. On Friday the doctor said I had Tonsilitus.... or Glandular Fever.... or both :(


So I'm hoping that the 'orrible anti-biotics and pain killers will kick in and make me feel better soon (at least the temperature has gone down). If I'm still feeling bad next Friday I'm going in for blood tests.


Meanwhile have had to cancel business trip to St.John's College in Cambridge which is a shame as its a good mix of hard work, catching up with associates and enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the college. I hope I'm better to go to old friend's wedding on Saturday. 


Have started a new fantasy series 'The Black Magician Trilogy' by Trudi Canavan   


Its a bit like Harry Potter - though more grown up and set in fantastical world. It is a bit formulaic but what the hell - I'm ill - I'm allowed to read trashy fantasy novels....

Monday, 12 July 2004

Friday, 9 July 2004

Bumping into an old friend in Amsterdam. Cheers Simon!
(c) Bill Pinnell 2004

Finally got round to processing solar flare pictures from Osoyoos

This is the processed result of a couple of shots taken at Jack Newton's Osoyoos Observatory in June 2004.

This was the first time I had used my new Nikon D70 DSLR in anger. Was really hard to get focus. Tried my best and 'bracketted' the shot using different shutter speeds to get good exposure of the flare and also the main disk.

Then took RAW NEF files and procesed in ImagesPlus before combining in Photoshop.
(c) Bill Pinnell 2004

Beautiful Summer's day in W.Sussex two weeks ago.
(c) Bill Pinnell 2004

Site Update

I've now enabled anonymous comments - so go ahead and comment please!

This is my first posting to my first Blog!

...which of course is totally untrue. I've been trying to get this to work for several hours. Have only succeeded now that I have bought (!) hosting space away from btinternet/bt yahoo which didn't seem to want play ball with Blogger. Anyway - it now works nicely with the domain which I already had on that hosting service.

And once you know it works you obviously go back in and modify your first ('this better work this time') posting to make it more of a landmark - rather than the test message!

Welcome to Bill's Blog