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New header pix! Headers are chosen randomly from images captured in 2010 in and around Durham and Newcastle (UK, not Canada).

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Aw, hell!

I never met Steve Jobs. And yet somehow he has been a major factor in my life.

I didn’t get on the Apple bandwagon until 1984 when the Mac debuted. Before that I used mainframes, then Commodore machines. the unlamented TRS-80, and the like. After the Mac, Steve’s vision dominated my interaction with computers. In my business life I worked with MS-DOS and later, with Windows, but I never liked the ungainly mundanities. Macs were poetry. Macs were magic. Macs were the way of the future.

As the years have passed, I think that initial assessment has proven true, over and over. True ease of use, the whole GUI and WYSIWYG approach, would, at the very least, have been drastically delayed but for Steve Jobs’ initial push. Xerox Parc may have been the birthplace and early proving grounds for these approaches to computer interfaces and usages, but it was Steve and the Apple Corps who pushed them out into an initially skeptical world and made believers of the Rest of Us.

During the Wilderness Years while he was away from Apple the company stumbled and very nearly died, but he brought it back and led it to new triumphs. So while there are at least seven Macs scattered around my house, there are also a couple of iPads and an iPhone, with iPods resting in honoured retirement here and there. I’m sure there will be more wonderful devices out of Apple, coming from the teams Steve nurtured, but the world is a little dimmer today than it was last week.

Dammit. Just … Dammit.

Lincoln Castle


While I’m on the subject of castles (previous post) this is a view of Lincoln Castle. The walk up to the castle was by way of a stiff climb along a street named appropriately – Steep Hill.

Good exercise – for those who like to walk, and are in good shape!

A brooding castle

One reason I haven’t posted much recently (aside from the continuing WordPress saga) is that I spent three weeks visiting relatives in England during the month of May. I took “lotsa pictures” and, hopefully, one of them will be attached to this post, resized as needed, and online with the article.

This is Hermitage Castle, a small castle in the border region between England and Scotland. It passed a couple of times between the English and the Scots, and while the inside lies in ruins, the castle still has a brooding presence – particularly when the clouds roll in as they did on this day, with a chill rain spattering down from time to time.

This image was sent from my iPad, so the process does work, but I am not sure if the changes which I had to make to the site are safe. I will be watching to see if any glitches show up as a result of the modifications – but eventually I will post more images of the trip (i’m not sure, but that may pass for a threatening remark – don’t say you weren’t warned!).

Alea iacta est

I’ve been putting this off in one way or another for a while – no real reason – but I have now booked a trip to the UK with my father running through the last three weeks of May. Airline has been booked, but we still have to figure how and where we will travel after we land. There are relatives to be seen and old haunts to revisit, but after that, it’s all up in the air.

I spent the first ten years of my life in Leeds, which at the time was a grimly industrial city – or at least it seemed so to me. I’ll be interested in seeing to what extent fifty years has modified that view.

I’m also one of those sad souls who spend time digging into their family history, and I know that much of the nineteenth century was spent knocking about Yorkshire, but with a strong base in York and its environs. I want to visit some of the places which would have meant something to my great-great-greats, and perhaps take a little time to look at the original church records and figure out exactly where the family was in the years prior to 1800.

Finally, having spent my teen and subsequent years in a land where written history is a skin on the deep time of undocumented life, I want to visit some of the places which I have read about, places where written history was being made long before I was born, and where I can reach out and touch something of recognisable antiquity.

More experiments with VR

After building the 360-degree panorama from pictures taken at the Distillery District I decided to experiment further, this time using an application new to me, DoubleTake. Here is the result of stitching 360 degrees of images from the street in front of my house.

This was made without a tripod using a Canon SD600 in pano mode, which allows you to see the previous image and match to one side of it. Pano mode is useful but not imperative – basically you need to keep your camera level and sweep in a horizontal plane (a tilt will mess up the image matching) and overlap by around 1/3 in each image. The DoubleTake site shows a number of examples of stitching panoramas together, and extending them to 360 is fairly straightforward — once all the pictures are loaded into the software and lined up horizontally you select a menu item and the image on one side is duplicated so you can match it up on the other side. You may have to make a few compromises in matching depending on how level your images were, and it’s really best to use a tripod.

Even with a tripod I have image sets which make me unhappy – the tripod wasn’t level to begin with, and the only way I can match the images together results in a strip of images which is ridiculously thin, or which has a lot of white space above and below a tilted horizon. The great thing about digital imaging is that you can experiment – all you lose is time. That’s an investment, I suppose, but easier to spend in most circumstances than cash. I will post more panorama shots soon, and I hope that some of these will be astro-images, or at least, astronomy-related.

Distillery wallpaper

While I was at the distillery I grabbed some images for use as wallpaper on my computer screen. These are free for use, but the clay brick seems to be a better background than the stone, and one image has part of a blue door along the right side which you may wish to trim out. For some reason the hook mounted on the wall really grabbed me….

Click on the images below to get to a larger view which should be more suitable for capture and use. The maximum size is 3504×2336, so you should be able to reduce/select from that to fit any reasonable size display (and if your display is larger than that, I don’t think I want to hear about it!).

Key 1 Key 2

Key 3 Key 4

Red brick Stone 1

Stone 2 Stone 3

Gas prices

It’s fascinating to watch the price of gas over time. You can see the price of gas in various cities across North America and create a graph of prices for each city over the last month, along with a graph of the crude oil price here. Looking at it for recent weeks I see we went from rough parity with Calgary AB to a position where we pay a premium of about 8 cents per litre more than the equivalent price there, all at a time when the current crude oil price has risen – and declined – by a few cents per barrel. [More to come]

A book every two days?

I had promised to do better. Looking over my stack of books I see I managed to bring it down by a mere five books in ten days (and I added six!). I must be getting old…or maybe it’s just too cold to read! Yeah, that’s it. It’s too cold to read. And there’s ice on my glasses!