Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas



Just thought I'd wish any passers by the best wishes for the solstice and upcoming calendar year.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My attempt at stop motion

video

So this may seem a little bland, but it is the very first attempt for myself. I have spent the last few weeks helping the rest of my family with their projects.

The intent is to take the three segments and blend them together, much the way it is done in the 1982 Polish film "Tango".

It's also my first video post here on blogger, let's hope it doesn't take too long to download for you.

Update - Though I had taped down the baseplate and tripod, using the release button on the camera caused the camera to move - there is no cable release for that Kodak. This caused the wobble. I used a regular halogen desklamp for even lighting, the extension ring for the close up lens actually casts a shadow when the on-body flash is used, which leaves the lower left un-lit. Lego is also shiny, and flared horribly with direct flash.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Aardvarks, Beagles and Cheetahs.

This strange sounding menagerie is actually some of the contents of my tool box. They are
such handy tools that I feel I have to blog about them. Actually I only have the Aardvark and Beagle, the Cheetah was more than I needed price and performance wise.


I have spent a lot of time over the last few years working on I2C and SPI interfaces. I always had the luxury of a DSO (Digital Storage 'Scope), MSO (Mixed Signal 'Scope) or LA (Logic Analyzer) to assist me. However even the best LA I had access to was not a protocol analyzer, and could not easily be configured to tell me what transactions were happening. Those who do this for a living know what I'm talking about, you end up counting bits and trying to find ends of bytes, words and packets in a mess of green square waves.

The Beagle allows you to watch what is going on, it is a true protocol analyzer, and for about only $300. The Beagle is a dual mode I2C and SPI monitor. It also can monitor MDIO, which is something I don't yet have to deal with. I2C to 4MHz, SPI to 24 MHz.

The Aardvark is a little different. It can monitor I2C and SPI , but only to 125KHz I2C. Where the Aardvark start to shine is when you want to develop an I2C or SPI slave, the Aardvark can be configured as a master. Here you can drive the bus from your PC, and exercise your target. You can also use it as a golden reference if you are writing the master.

The Aardvark can also drive 8 bits of GPIO, only low speed, but enough to exercise a few inputs on the target board, just what you need to simulate a lot of user input over time. It can also capture about 1000 8bit samples a second.

The software that comes with it is easy to use, and intuitive, even if there are a few funky things in screen refresh cascades (every time data is refreshed all the buttons seem to repaint too). They also provide a full API and code samples in VB, C#, C++, Python, XML you name it.

I actually ended up buying the programmers kit, the bundle with both devices and a few cables, and a developers board. The $500 bundle has already saved me a couple of days work, so it has paid for itself.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blackwings Sketchbook


I stumbled across this blog a few weeks ago, and just want to share it. An interesting variety of sketches.

My Cameras, 1968 to 2007

The above are "my" cameras. Of course being born in 1968 you know I was not shooting from day 1, but almost.

The first is a Kodak Instamatic 104. This was my mums camera. I believe her 21st birthday present. It served well as the families only camera for years. It was used almost exclusively for slide until the late 70's, when colour print became more cost effective/available. I used this camera on my first field trip with school. It took 126 film cartridges, and a 4 shot magnesium cube flash with mechanical ignition. The flash mechanism included auto advance on winding, and would also slow the shutter by mechanically adjusting the tension on the spring. The shutter was a simple shutter which opened then closed across the lens. Its travel was far and fast enough that opposite corners were apparently evenly exposed. This camera was last used on a trip to CA in 1995, shortly after that we could not find cartridges anymore.

The second camera was a Halina 110 cartridge. camera. This was a christmas present when I was about 9. It saw me around Scotland, Wales and France. I was initially excited about the compact form factor, the electronic flash, and the telephoto lens. After seeing enlargements I returned to 126, buying myself a second Instamatic.

Third camera, my very own Kodak Instamatic 100. Bought in a car boot sale for a quid. Unlike the 104, this had an electrical one time flash. The reflector pulls up, and you pop in a bulb. The 24mm 126 format gave reasonable enlargements, and its forgiving lens performed admirable on anything more than 3ft away.

So I went on a photo field trip to Portmerrion (The Prisoner) with my high school friend Simon. He brought two SLRs and a handful of lenses. He lent me his Ricoh for the day. It was great to have so much control. We had a few bonuses that day, the RAF practicing a water rescue in a Sea King 100yds from us, and a "6 of 1" convention meet in the estate, with re-enactments of the TV show "The Prisoner" happening all around us. The result was...

My Ricoh XR-P. A PK-P mount lens system (actually RK-P), with a Cobra flash which mechanically did not fit the hot shoe (as I finally worked out 10 years later). The Ricoh took care of most the math. Built in light meters, DX coded film and curve fitting for fastest shutter, greatest depth of field, or general. Manual focus, but with nice focus aids, and good clear indicators in the viewfinder, including idiot guides warning of over or under exposure. A great learners camera. The Ricoh died half way across the North Sea during a helicopter flight to an oil rig. The cost of repair was prohibitive so I bought a Pentax P30.




























This Reliant Robin was photographed using the Ricoh. I scanned the negative and scaled it to fit on my Livespace blog.

The Pentax P30, PKP mount, so I salvaged my two lenses from my Ricoh. What can I say about this? If the Ricoh was a Camry, this was a Yugo. It did the job, but was missing so many of the features I came to expect from the Ricoh. So, I fixed the Ricoh, and travelled with a color and B&W body for a year or three.

The Ricoh started ailing and aging, as did the Pentax. We also had a baby in the house, so I bought my wife an Olympus Stylus, which was a great camera. Sure, no filters would fit on it, but it did give my Pentax a run for its money, ease of use, built in flash, autofocus etc. So the Olympus started to dominate as the main camera. 35 mm, slips in the pocket, and no bag of lenses to tote around.


Of course, this didn't work for me, so I ended up with a new consumer level Pentax body. The ZX-L. It had everything I wanted, I got an auto focus lens, but carried on using my longer lens from the Ricoh. Trouble is, auto focus cameras don't have focus aids in the screen, and I screwed up some interesting shots. Film was becoming more expensive, and I had two young photographers recording everything in the house (carpet, curtain, 20 photos of favourite toy), so I went to Frys and got a bargain on a 4MP Kodak DX7440.

These mushrooms were taken with the ZX-L, on Kodachrome 200, then scanned using a Nikon Coolpix 5000 scanner.




The DX 7440 is a great camera for family. It comes with a printer/charger dock. Part of Kodaks EasyShare. Kodak really do know consumer cameras. We then got a 2X teleconverter for it. This gave an over the lens screw mount for attachments. I found a 38mm to 50mm step up ring, and now I can put all my filters from my SLR onto it. I also got a fresh set of close ups for it from Sunpak. Why do I need an SLR now? The only three things lacking are Manual Focus for close up work, and an off body flash. The latter we get around by using a couple of halogen desk lamps. These are reasonable studio lights for close up work, a little harsh maybe, but distance can accommodate that, and white balance can correct for it also.

The Chester slide show is from my DX7440. As is this collection from my last UK trip

The last camera is my cellphone. It is an LG VX9800, branded for Verizon as "The V". With a 2GB Mini SD card, and a lens with "flower" "mtn" adjust it is adequet for snapping some things. Generally the sort of thing you may blog like "gee I saw a white UPS truck" or for showing those back home what you are looking at in the grocery store. "Is this what you want dear?". The two skies below are from my cell phone.




What's next? A digital SLR, an RGBA or RGBW LED ring light, and close up, macro attachments, lighting tent/diffuser, and that software I was recommended for building deeper depth of field from several images of the same subject. I would probably get a low end stereoscopic lens too.




Update:-
I just added two 126 photos to this blog. They were taken with one of the Instamatics listed ablove

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dhoom


Dhoom Dhoom - Click here for more amazing videos

What I really wanted to share was one of the songs from this film, where the lead bad girl dances in the rain next to her cute little sports car. Unfortunately I've lost my DVD of the movie, and the best I could find on the web was the karoke video of the title song.

I need to see a Bollywood flick soon, I'm getting withdrawal symptons.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Potheads

I just got my highest scoring single word in Scrabble. My opponent started with "Size" starting on the center tile. I was very surprised to see the letters "photaed" in my rack, that's right, all seven tiles could be used. Now how do I fit that in? You're right, I played "potheads" from the top middle triple word score tile to the. 54 points for the word and 50 for using all my tiles. Total 104.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Just when you think this technology is never going to appear, at last a hand held document viewer that seems credible.

I actually had my hands on one in the bookstore today. It felt comfortable, not too heavy, nice thickness, buttons not too easily damaged.

Then I tried to use it. It was an unattended demo model on the sales floor of Borders. It was locked up in a state where it said it was starting. It sat there, unresponsive to keys or power switch. I thought it might have been a fake mock up with a label where the screen should have been, but no. I looked and saw the SD card was missing. Was this the problem? Is there no internal RAM? I saw that the dock was kinda mashing some of the buttons, was that the problem? I wrote that off just as a sales kiosk thing, but no, it's actually the charging cradle.

So will I spend $100 on one of these? Trying to hold Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or The First Saint Compendium makes me want a compact e-book viewer. But these things are actually $270 right now (probably without memory), so I'm going to wait. But the time is getting closer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Subtle but amazing

I just encountered a Peterbilt 388 while walking down the street. What's the whoop? The new headlight cluster, that's the whoop. To quote eTrucker "At first glance, the 389 is a 379 with Calvin Klein headlights. "

Peterbilt's 2007/2008 model year truck, from head on, look like their lights are following a traditional styling, but when you get closer you realize that they are an incredible new shape. Unlike most American trucks, the Peterbilt 388 does not have its' light cluster integrated into the fender, but are pods mounted on the radiator assembly, much like an older model truck.

These new lights share the same feline wraparound look as a Freightliners, but floating above the wheel arch. It really is an interesting effect, though not obvious in these pictures.

I want to see how this design looks on a brush truck, if any is still using Peterbilt as a chassis for fire trucks.

All images shamelessly lifted from the Peterbilt website

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pelicans

It's that time of year again.  Yesterday we took a stroll along the waterfront and there were pelicans migrating through.  Normally we see the odd one or two, maybe even half a dozen together.  This time there were probably 100 birds in the air together, then anothr 50 or so joined them.

Pelicans are a peculiar sight.  On the ground they have that funny look about them, big ungainly birds with that big wobbly pouch.  In the air they acquire a certain grace, reminiscent of say a condor.  It is a treat to see them effortlessly pick themselves out of the water, most unlike the frantic sprint of a duck with ambitions of getting aloft.  Then they fly with unhurried stroke with the wind, then turn and hang against the wind, gliding in geostationary orbit.

We are all used to seeing plovers and gulls drop on their prey, but seeing a pelican do this is quite a different experience, the sheer bulk of the bird, and its spectacular grace in doing so. While hanging on the wind, they unfold their considerable necks, and look down over their equally long bill, an very different look to how they look in normal flight.

The flock was being threaded by a smaller group of cormorants.  They seemed busy in comparison with the lazy motions of the larger birds.  Ever beating their shorter wings, head forward, not tucked under, they jogged through the floating pelicans.

In contrast to these divers and skimmers the eagrets or herons on the shoreline seemed stately.  Stood in majestic pose, and reaching down an elegant neck, ready to stab little silver flashes out of the water.  It seemed there was the resident old bird, and a gang of less mature birds, their feathers more downy looking.  Maybe it was one heron surrounded by many egrets. I thought a more romantic notion was a learned bird, and a school young'uns.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Testing Blogs from e-mail

Hi All,

As you may know I have 3 blogs.  I never know which one to post on, so today I am setting up the option to e-mail to my blogs.

If this works, it'll be cool, otherwise it is lame and sucky.

If you get to read it, then it all worked.

Alex

test txt blogging

test txt blogging

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When is your birthday?

So I was born at about 6am, on a Thursday morning, almost 4 decades ago.

I was born during the months when daylight savings is in effect. The country I was born in was the UK. So I was born at about 6am BST, that is about 5am GMT.

I now live in a timezone commonly known as PST, or GMT -8. The practical upshot of this is that when it is 6am BST in the UK, it is 10pm PST of the day before. So, the actual day I was born, it was Wednesday here in California.

Now that I live in California, when is my birthday? Do I take the 24 hours BST from midnight to midnight? Do I take the day that my birth hour falls in? Do I take the calendar day when I was born, even though my birth hour falls outside that day?

Any comments gladly accepted.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Viva Las Vegas!


I was very pleased with the new Las Vegas in Legoland. My Lego Vegas pictures are now online!

There are some great buildings, especially the Venitian. The architecture we know so well from the movies set in Venice, all right there at our knees.

My other favourite was NYNY, probably because I love the Chrysler building. It has that wonderful Art Deco top, all curves and triangles.

Remember though, Legoland has usage policies for photos of the miniature, these are for sharing with my friends, and not for commercial usage.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


What is the point of having a server chock full of photos no one is looking at. These are some SF photos taken back in July 2005.

We were mostly around the Moscone Center, since they'd moved the Steinhart Aquarium to the City from Golden Gate Park. This was an early outing with my Kodak DX7440 digicam.

These are actually in colour.

Laurie Anderson Lyrics

I would like to say something deep or meaningful. but I'm out of inspiration. So here are some of my favourite lines from songs by Laurie Anderson.

  1. Sun's coming up. Like a big bald head.
    Poking up over the grocery store.

    From Sharkey's Day
  2. You know that little clock, the one on your VCR the one that`s always blinking
    twelve noon because you never figured out how to get in there and change it? So
    it`s always the same time just the way it came from the factory.

    From Same Time Tomorrow
  3. He says: You know, I can see two tiny pictures of myself
    And there's one in each of you eyes. And they're doin' everything I do.

    From Sharkey's Night
  4. OK!  OK!  Hold it!
    I just want to say something.
    You know, for every dollar a man makes
    a woman makes 63 cents.
    Now, fifty years ago that was 62 cents.
    So, with that kind of luck, it'll be the year 3,888
    before we make a buck. But hey, girls?

    From Beautiful Red Dress
  5. And if this is the work of an angry god
    I want to look into his angry face.

    From Love Among The Sailors
  6. It was one of those black cat night
    The moon had gone out and the air was thin
    It was the kind of night the cat would drag in.

    From Poison
  7.  got so excited I ran into my place and i said:
    HEY! Is anybody home?
    Nobody answered but I guess that's not too weird
    Since I live alone.

    From Beautiful Red Dress

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A New Light

How fast does a light turn on?

I was sat on the train a few weeks ago, and around a bend I could see the light for a level crossing. I noticed that the lights were snapping on and off, obviously LED based. I remember the old slow fade on/fade off of incandescents. The old lights were mellow and soothing, the new ones curt and abrupt.

When I turn on my lights at home there is a lag, a second or two while I have to wait to see if I just turned it on, or the "bulb" has worn out. All the lights in my house are now compact fluorescents.

For the last couple of years I've been noticing how certain cars, predominantly from Lexus, have strobing tail lights. The regular red rear lights are LED based, and driven quite bright. To preserve the LED's, protect them from overheating, they are strobed. Where's the problem? Well, when I scan from looking forward to looking in my rear view mirror the after image of the LED taillight manifests itself as a series of discrete red dots. It's quite distracting.

As wax, oil and tallow gave way to gas, and gas gave way to arc lights and incandescents. Incandescents and strip lights are yielding to LEDS, EL panels and compact fluorescents. I wish I was smart enough to perceive what will be next.

Sloughing off on blogging

I've come to the realization that I can blog when I have nothing to do. Trouble is, for the last few weeks I've very much had something to do, so I haven't blogged.

In all fairness, I have been blogging, but over at iVillage. I've also been stealing space and notoriety on other peoples blogs. Anyway, I guess I should show more commitment and keep up my blogs.

Why am I polyblogging? I'm trying to find a home. Since I've been an iVillage member for 8 years I've managed to keep that one the busiest. I'll give this upstart Google thing a try, they might have lasting power too ;-)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Where have all the pay-phones gone?

I was at the airport yesterday and I noticed something different.

In these two photos you see a lot of shiny metal plates on the walls. Each of these plates covers where a pay phone used to be. Where there used to be about 20 pay phones there are now three pay phones, on wheelchair accessible, one TDD and one regular.



There is also a single phone card vending machine, and the white courtesy phones remain. This is all because of the advent of the cell phone. I can remember how these phone lobbies used to be so crowded and noisy. You'd have to stand patiently in line, and make sure you had a pocket full of quarters (or Thatchers in the UK). When I have my cell phone with me I think it's a good thing, but seeing these empty slots makes me think my cell phone is now essential. I wonder how many telephone engineers now work maintaining cell sites and microwave backbones, and how many used to work fixing land line pay phones and copper infrastructure.

As a point of interest, the photos were taken on my cell phone. I could even have posted this blog right there on the spot from my cell phone. If I had stood there trying to tell my thoughts to a passerby they would have thought me a loony, but if I blog it to thousands I'm sane?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Welcome one and all...


Well, this is all very much under construction. I was here before but lost track of my old blog. I promise not to do that again.

I have lofty ambitions for my blog, millions of people will read it, comment on it, and be better for the experience. I intend never saying anything negative, but once in a while I may slip. I just want to share good things with people, I want to bounce ideas around and learn more about my place in the world.

So, after this dry introduction I'll get on with some fun.

Alex