Friday, 25 December 2009

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Ginza, Tokyo at Night

Ginza, Tokyo at Night, originally uploaded by Billius.

Processing some old photos with DxO Optics Elite - removed some of the lens distortion from this old shot I took from the Gekka Japanese Bar on 41F of Shiodome City Center building, April 2008

Tuesday, 20 October 2009



Ate my body weight in apples at RHS Wisley Taste of Autumn
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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Eddie Izzard (3 of 4)

Eddie Izzard (3 of 4), originally uploaded by Billius.

I cycled to Trafalgar Square today to wait at the finish line for Eddie Izzard to complete his 43rd 'marathon' in 51 days for Sport Relief.

Pretty amazing achievement!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Replacing Seagate ST31500341AS with Samsung HD154UIs

I've had a QNAP TS-509 Pro for several months with 3x Seagate 1.5TB drives (ST31500341AS CC1H).

I've had no failures with this setup - I've been using it for backup, centralized lightroom storage and media streaming to Sonos and PS3. All fine though it is a little noisier than I'd like.

I started to run out of space a little time ago, so I was shopping around for 2 new ST31500341AS

I quickly came across lots of articles on ST31500341AS having problems in all NASes, PCs and other systems. Including Seagate articles on the need to update firmware. (BTW Haven't fully established whether the firmware update fully fixes problems...) Also there are workarounds from QNap and others who turn off write back caching which alleviates failure but obviously degrades performance...

However - its seems that Seagate at any rate says that you don't need to update the firmware if you have CC1H already in this forum


"Note: If your drive has CC firmware, your drive is not affected and no further action is required. Attempting to flash the firmware of a drive with CC firmware will result in rendering your drive inoperable."

BUT, lots of people are still reporting issues with ST31500341AS with CC1H firmware:

It seems that the firmware isn't so relevant here - at least its not the same problem as reported on earlier firmware, but there is in general more failures, clicks of death etc reported on these drives

Anyway, I discovered that all late on Wednesday night and decided that I just didn't want the worry/hassle of these drives in my NAS - so I have decided to replace all of them with 5x Samsung HD154UI new F2 1.5TB 5400 rpm 'eco' drives.

These seem to get good reviews on temperate and acoustics (cool and low noise) plus aren't too shabby in performance either. Also its good to see that some people have them working in QNAP boxes already:

I'm not interested in saving the contents of my existing drives - have a new Windows 7 setup to backup now, so will do a new clean install organized around new system.

Does this all make sense?

So what about the 3 drives I'm taking out (which weren't cheap) ? - I'll probably do some more research on the ST31500341AS and may use them as a secondary backup solution - either stick them in the Synology or probably better to have them as standalone offsite copies.

Any comments, advice or whatever gratefully received - I'll report any problems back here too.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Perseid 120809 0433

Perseid 120809 0433, originally uploaded by Billius.

Managed to capture this shot of '09 Perseid Meteor at 04:33 am

Getting a bit light for the camera - there were some other trails which would have been great if I had been doing exposures longer than 30 sec - this exposure is just 8 seconds

Friday, 17 July 2009

OTT Charging

20090716-WJP_3690, originally uploaded by Billius.

Griffing PowerDock 4
IPhone 3GS
IPhone 3G
IPod Touch
IPod Nano

Wouldn't it be nice if you didn't need to do this everyday?

Monday, 13 July 2009


20090707-WJP_2854, originally uploaded by Billius.

Colour, Water, Light and Pattern

Feedback on iPhone 3GS for Apple

Here's a copy of info I just left Apple at the iPhone Feedback site

Hello. I wanted to provide you with some feedback on my purchase of the latest iPhone 3GS.

I recently upgraded from an iPhone 3G to a 3GS unit (on June 19th)[week 23 production model]. When I first activated and setup my new iPhone I restored from the 3G backup as instructed as was immediately shocked by the quality of the display. I observed the following - when comparing this to my existing iPhone 3G:
1/ screen had a major yellow tint
2/ colours seemed washed out / not vivid
3/ overall brightness was much lower than 3G (at various brightness settings)
4/ increasing brightness to compensate led to poor contrast
5/ polarization of the display made the display brightness and colour drop off very rapidly when viewed at anything but straight on

I called carphone warehouse and O2 in the UK, they said I should return it to apple store - which I visited on 14th day of purchase. Store assistant agreed and acknowledged he could see the issue but no geniuses free so made appointment for next working day.

2nd visit, Genius professed no knowledge of the problem, didn't acknowledge any problem but when pushed, handed me over to the manager - Benjamin in the Kingston-Upon-Thames Apple store in the UK.

Benjamin said 'it was within specification'. I challenged how he was qualified to determine this - his main point was that 'if there had been no recall or notice to the effect that there are acknowledged defects then it must be within specification'.

At the same time I pointed out that within the very same store they were showing iPhone 3GS with screens just as 'bad' as mine, but also some much better and more similar to the brighter, more vivid bluer/cooler display on my 3G.

[BTW the best units on display that day with cooler/brighter screens were all week 22 production units as reported in their serial numbers]

So yes - if it is intentional that you have such a wide variation in the quality and performance of the displays you could make an argument that they are all within 'specification'.

Benjamin said he was 'not prepared to offer an exhange for this unit as the display issues I were reporting were cosmetic and they appeared within specification'

However I repeated I was not satisfied with the quality and use of the display - and I also mentioned some advice given to me by Rory Cellan-Jones (technology correspondent for BBC) - Rory said 'take it back straight away'.

I think my unwavering resolve and name dropping of influentional journalists helped at this point as Benjamin then relented and said that they could get one 'refurb' (probably new at this time) unit out of its box and if I was satisfied with its display they would do an exchange. But they would not keep opening boxes etc. I agreed to this.

So the new 3GS [week 25 production model] I looked at was better. Its still much warmer/yellow than my 3G, and it still isn't as bright - nor are the colours as vivid. BUT it doesn't suffer from the extreme polarization issue. If you look from a slight angle it remains relatively bright.

So... its better than the first 3GS, but still a disappointment compared to the the rest of the device.

I'm hoping that once you have sorted out your manufacturing issues around your LCDs then I will be able to come back to an Apple store and get just a screen replacement. I look forward to Apple formally acknowledging this issue.

Please fee free to look at the relevant discussion threads in the Apple discussion forums - lots of noise in there but also good salient facts - e.g. guy who has bought 10 units and done comparison shots on them.


Bill Pinnell

p.s. you need a 'Feedback Type' for 'hardware issues'

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Links Broken!

So I now have Blogger hosting all blogs.

I have edited the DNS settings with 123-Reg so that there is a www CNAME entry with '' value.

This seems to work HOWEVER - and this was a problem I faced last time I tried to do this -all links which use content from no longer work - e.g.

So it's seems that I have a couple of choices:
1/ edit all links and point them to a new or spare domain - and move my hosted content to that domain too e.g

Actually I could use the 'missing files' option in blogger so that I don't have to edit links

2/figure out how to get to point to google/blogger but keep sub folders still to remain at 123-reg - is this possible?

I'm sure I'm just trying to do this the wrong way - need a web/blogger/DNS expert.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Changes to my blog

Have just moved this to use custom domain setup.

DNS is probably screwed up but might fix itself over next 24hrs. Will check tomorrow.

Test post to my blog

Just wanted to check that my current publishing settings are working.

Publishing via ftp (at least for

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Above the crowds, below the clouds

20090506-WJP_7572_3_4_5_6_7_8, originally uploaded by Billius.

HDR from London Eye

Monday, 30 March 2009

The Right Tools

Ever since we put Ethan into a big new bed which has the head end in an alcove I've been paranoid that if he was to roll out of bed just so he could do himself a serious injury.

A big pillow stuffed into the troublesome gap negated this risk, however I also promised to put some kind of shelf up which would be useful too.

The requirements brief for this project soon escalated as Ethan requested secret draws, somewhere to put Mr Men books, water, box of tissues, Lego Bobba Fett and Indiana Jones etc. As things sounded more complicated the more the start date slipped to the right!

Anyway this weekend we went to Homebase to look for some pre-made storage solutions which I could then modify / build upon. Nothing suitable there so we decided to visit the new B&Q Megastore at Shannon Corner in New Malden.

It soon became apparent that B&Q are taking on Ikea with this store. It's massive. And built on top of two levels of car park. Which though spacious inside is going to cause lots of travel congestion at this already busy interchange on the A3. Anyway the boys loved running around with the wheely shopping baskets.

Found a three tier pine shelf which was narrow enough depth to fit - but would need cutting down length ways.

Wanted to try and fit the selfs around the current alcove frame so considered hacksaw but decided to try and use my Bosch pendulum action electric jigsaw for cutting to fit as well as shaping curved corners. Managed to find it and decommissioned my old Black and Decker Workmate and Dremmel too.

Took most of Sunday afternoon but managed to get something good looking and practical on the wall in time for bed-time. Will post pictures later. Will varnish/wax later too.

Oh, Ethan and I worked out he could still get his head trapped between two shelves with nasty consequences so step b) is to add that woodwork challenging secret pull out Lego minifigure drawer. Meanwhile polar bear serves as an excellent gap filler.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Made it in at last

Day 2 - 2nd attempt to get to work

Cycled to Raynes Park via A3 and caught train to Waterloo - hurrah!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Getting to work - FAIL

So a tail of two bikes....

After an initial abortive attempt to take boys to nursery and get Denise to work we decided to bunker down - nursery was shut, no trains and the back streets near us an ice rink.

Anyway we needed milk so I thought I would test out whether my micro thin fixed gear's tires would get me to the nearest shop. Wow! That was a bit slippery! Interestingly it would have been actually impossible on a normal geared bike - rather than just really hard.

So, getting desperate to go into the office this afternoon I cast about for public transport methods still working. I was happy to find that according to the national rail enquiries live departure boards for both Malden manor and waterloo that the chessington line was still running.

Right so needed a way of getting the couple of miles there so decided to bring my old mountain bike out of retirement - however would require replacing slicks with knobby tires. A while later set off into the snow. 10 feet later noticed puncture on front. Denise thought this was a good sign that I really should give up this madness. No! To quote Ethan (quoting Buzz Lightyear) "Never give up. Never surrender!". 20 mins later - off I went....

Hmm, so it's bad enough slipping and sliding around the road on your own but much worse when there is a car coming up behind you who will squish you flat if you do go over...

Finally made it to the railway station....

Chessington Line open? They lied.

Turned around and now on my way home. Via the pub because I need (just a little) muscle relaxment before heading onto the slippery slopes of Cuddington.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Shiny Fixie

Have done an overhaul on my Condor fixed gear bicycle. New tubes. New Ultra Gator Duraskin gyres. Cleaned whole bike.

And the weather is Pish and my back is killing me - will wait for a better day for recommencing bike commute!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Blew up Joe Blow

On the spur of the moment, decided to cycle to shops rather than walk.

Decided to give Fixie a go - was pumping up front wheel when loud pop and whoosh of air :(

Turned out not to be inner tube but Stupid Joe Blow pump. Bottom plastic surround has cracked and therefore not airtight.

Not to be thwarted I found my trusty emergency hand pump and set to with gusto - unfortunately with a bit too much in this case. Bent and broke valve pin - new inner tube required :(

Having arranged to meet Denise at shops I was desperate to leave quickly - not enough time to change tube - instead got the Grass Hopper out of the grave and pumped tires. Hurrah! Success and off t'shops.

So.. After a bit of research have decided to try Topeak/Joe Blow brand again but this time go for what looks a bit sturdier - the Sprint.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Mount in pieces

Got a return authorization from the folks at Astro-Physics Inc.

They suggest sending both motors, GTOCP2 control box and Y-cable to them so they can fix and check all electrics.

It's tempting to get the Declination upgrade at the same time - this includes a spring mounted bracket for the Dec motor as well as lots of other improvements - wouldn't be bad for resale price as mount would be up-to-date with current version.

I think the motors themselves would stay the same - as long as there is nothing wrong with them.

Anyway - I'll look into the postage costs!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Pen is mightier than the mouse

The last Christmas gadget we got is a Wacom Bamboo Fun digitizer pad.

The idea is to allow the boys to draw and paint and interact with the PC with a pen as well as the mouse.

Toby seems more keen at the moment, appearing in the family room saying "drawing!" then saying "no, 'puter!" when I gave him a crayon...

Total Control

Santa was nice enough to bring me a new universal remote to replace
the five units we normally use.

Though it is fair to say that Ethan can operate all the existing
remotes - the rest of humanity don't seem so capable

Christmas Gadgets

Fed up with Ethan telling me "but you've been playing with your dwarf for ages Daddy! I want to look at" - I asked Santa if he could provide us with a netbook for Ethan and Toby to use...

Voilà - Santa came through with one of the best specc'd netbooks on sale at the moment - the Samsung NC10.

Good almost full size keyboard with good positioning and size of shift key etc. (trackpad is a little small but you get used to it)

Clear, large 10.2" screen

160gb hard disk

Best of all - over 6 hours battery life!

After spending a few hours getting the machine patched with hundreds of windows updates then installing complete McAfee suite, I used the supplied Samsung backup utility to create a good baseline complete restore image on different partition.

Now just need to try out the McAfee parental control software to make sure Ethan doesn't watch too many Yoda slicing up the baddies YouTube Lego videos....

Monday, 5 January 2009

No more astro...

For a while anyway.

Have packed up the scope and mount in the wee hours - thankfully before it started snowing.

I'll wait to hear from AstroPhysics Inc. on what I should do about the non-functioning declination motor. Or I should say motor controller as when I swap cables I can drive Dec. motor when connected as R.A. motor (but not RA from Dec control) The options seem to be:

1) send the GTOCP2 control unit for repair
2) upgrade to GTOCP3 unit
3) upgrade one or both of the motors

Could end up pricey but without Dec. motor working you end up pretty limited in what you can do.

Meanwhile I heard from Mike Unsold that new ImagesPlus v3.75 is going to be released at the end of the week which he'll then send so I have a lot of image processing stuff to learn - and try out on those images I got last week.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Astro Image Processing

So I have quite a few good shots of the moon and Orion nebula in RAW .NEF files but I need to do some serious image processing on them to improve image quality

Some obvious steps to do :

Stretching dynamic range

Noise removal - I did in-camera Long exposure noise reduction (NR) on D3 which tends to be considered inferior to PC based NR. Maybe more I can do on pc after stretching though

Gradient subtraction - should be able to remove sky glow and any vignetting by doing some Gaussian frames and subtracting them from images

Stacking - combine multiple shots to improve signal to noise ratio and level of detail.

Registax or ImagesPlus should be able to help with these tasks - Registax v5 is in the works so I'm trying the free v4 on the moon shots - not much of a noticeable improvement so far though. Waiting for my upgrade to ImagesPlus 3.5 to arrive in the post from the US.

Will update blog with progress reports.

Trying out BlogWriter Lite

Though I can email text and photos to my blog easily enough I wanted to try a dedicated blog posting app - especially if it is possible to read and edit posts as well

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Orion Nebula - with some post processing

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Orion Nebula

This is the first shot I have taken with my DSLR in prime focus on Orion. This is from one shot - may try Registax on multiple to see if I can improve it.
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