Saturday, December 30, 2006

Windy problems....

The wind today was something spectacular, at some times it was difficult to stand or walk, great! I decided it would be good to embrace these elements, and go for a walk. I set out in the car down the road towards the beach (the waves are bound to be spectacular too...) but about 1/2 a mile from home my driver side window started to go down of its own accord, and after a few inches dropped instantly out of sight.

This is the kind of "windy" problem I could have done without. Anyhow, I got home, had a quick wrestle with the door/window, and lost. So I decided to cut my losses until daylight, and less windy conditions, and covered the window opening with plastic, and parked the car in as sheltered a spot as we could find.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Vanishing [2003]

This has got to be one of my favorite movies of all time, it is certainly one that has popped into my mind frequently, usually weekly, since I first saw it years ago. Every time SWMBO pops into a petrol station, and does whatever one does in a petrol station that takes longer than it should, I wonder if I'll ever see her again.

It was broadcast again this Christmas, and I PVR'd it and watched it again the other night. It definitely stood the test of time for me, and was a captivating watch once again. Great story, interesting interpretation of a fairly standard thriller storyline.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108473/

Van Helsing [2004]

I muddle my way through a lot of films, but this is an epic and a true work of genius for me. The filming locations, effects, coloring and flow of this film are all excellent. The visual spectacle of this film is captivating, and although the story is barely more than the usual goodie chases baddie storyline it is still one of the best films I have seen in a long time. I can heartily recommend this one, although it is spoilt a little by a slightly overly sentimental ending!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338526/

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It's Christmas time....

This Christmas we decided to do things a little differently. We wanted to spend as much time at home as possible, due to the fact that the kids received a set of drums for their main present. Obviously this present is not as portable as normal, and so rather than traipse around the clan we had the in-laws to ours home for dinner, and then a relaxing afternoon in front of a great fire.

Later we headed over to my folks, and again sat in front of a blazing fire and exchanged gifts.

After that it was off to the family do where we get to see our once-a-year cousins etc, etc, which was actually thoroughly enjoyable.

I know, I know what you're thinking, we didn't do great at the staying at home thing we planned. In fact we did manage to spend significantly longer at home on Christmas Day than we ever usually do. Today, however was different. Usually the vast majority of Boxing Day is spent with the other side of the family. For the first time, we skipped it.


We stayed at home all day, with the exception of a walk on the beach. I was firmly assured that a walk on the beach on a day like today was paramount to madness, however the fun we had there in that hour was unparallelled in a long time. A great Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Turn 'em off

There is no need for you to use your fog lights in this weather*.

I hope that a large percentage of the people who share the roads on which I commute read this blog. Recently the weather has been "foggy." I would suggest a better word would be "mist," which I would define as not as thick as fog.

Now, "fog lights", that all of our cars are equipped with are there to make us more visible to other drivers. This is their purpose.

If I am driving 10 metres (or similar) behind you, and can see the colour of your car, and read your number plate, you do not need to use your fog lights to make yourself more visible to me, or whoever is behind you.

When driving in bumper to bumper traffic, turn those fog lights off. It is actually a hazard to have them on as 1) it can be dazzling to the people behind; they cannot see as clearly what lies ahead
and 2) it hampers the contrast effect of your brake lights, which are designed to draw attention even from the peripheral vision of the driver behind.

Please drive sensibly.

* The exception is if you are the last car in the traffic. In that case it is prudent to use your lights to draw attentation any cars who may catch up behind you. Once a car has caught up however, turn 'em off. The law states that you should turn them on, and off "when required."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Portstewart in the rain


Today we visited Portstewart briefly for some Christmas shopping. Before I became overcome with the shopping excitement, I managed to excuse myself, and pop across the promenade, and snap some pictures of the Sun setting behind the Convent.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More heating work

One of my objectives with the automated heating system was to be able to record how much we use the heating, and so I record all on/off events in a logfile. In order to visualise the data I went looking for a free chart component for c#.

I found ZedGraph, which is a sourceforge project for "creating 2D line and bar graphs" - exactly what I wanted. I spent some time writing code to parse the file into time events, and adding new commands to the server to retrieve the data.

I knocked out a quick GUI, which is not fully functional yet, but it demonstrates what I want to see.

Below is a screenshot of a graph for December so far...


For some reason the graph always leaves the first label off the x axis, but thats really only minor in the grand scheme of things!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Another week, another release

Development has slowed considerably on the heating project, but I try to make any small changes go live on a Friday, so that it has the maximum live testing time to show any problems before I leave it with the family on Monday.

This week sees some more tidyup, lots of thread locking code and some other robustness features.

From the users point of view there is one major improvement - it is now possible to set the timed programs from the GUI. Using a graphical week calendar component I picked up at the code project it is just a matter of highlighting the times of the week when the heat should be on, and thats it!
Right clicking on the display for a zone brings up the following screen:
From here it is possible to create "Once" programs, that are deleted after they run, or "Weekly" programs that are saved to run every week.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

DRM is evil

DRM or Digital Rights Management is more than just an annoyance. It is an assult on you as a consumer. Its purpose is to allow -them- to restrict what *you* can do with *your* music which *you* paid -them- for.

With all the recent chat about allofmp3.com, and its imminant closure the options for buying DRM free music are diminishing.

There is no reason why other sites cannot offer DRM free music for a reasonable price. I can buy a CD from cd-wow for £2.99, and apply a £0.50 or £1.00 discount to it, where they probably spend about £0.50 for shipping, leaving about £1.50 - £2.00 for them. Now I'm no businesssman, but I doubt they are making less than £0.50 on the sale, leaving the cost price of the CD at somewhere between £1.00 and £1.50. Why can't I buy the content for that price online? Why do itunes want $0.99 per track for aweful quality, DRM ridden downloads?

Where does the itunes $0.99 go? According to various articles about $0.34 goes to Apple, the rest to the music company, of which about $0.10 goes to the artist. I'd prefer to give the $0.10 directly to the artist...

What if I change player? Perhaps I have bought music from Rhapsody or MSN Music and want to play it on my Zune. Perhaps I buy from Apple and want to play on my random £10 256Mb MP3 player. Stuck? You bet I am! In my opinion this is the one that will bite the companies in the long run, people will revolt after finding that their music libraries are useless except on antique devices.

If you buy content with DRM you are perpetuating the problem and storing up problems for the future, you have been warned. I'll just stick with my 3221 3222 DRM free mp3s, which I get to stream to our 2 PCs, laptop, xbmc and listen to on my iPod at work or in the car. Its great, its almost like I can do what I want with *my* music, a freedom soon to be relinquished from consumers.

DRM is designed to hurt you, don't let it!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tagalog Proverb

Apparently (and I hope this doesn't spoil this for all who will read before attending church in the morning) there will be a reading in Tagalog tomorrow at church. So wifey and I had a google for Tagalog, and it turned up this page from wikipedia.

I thought one of the proverbs listed was particularly appropriate to one of us (I'm not saying who, but she sleeps a lot)(oops) :

"Magbirô lamang sa lasíng, huwág lang sa bagong gising."

Which translates to :

"Joke around with someone who is drunk, but not with someone newly awoken."

Wise words

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wireless networking

When I managed to pick up a laptop that was being disposed of, I decided it was time to go wireless. In my usual manner I went scrounging, and managed to persuade friends at work to lend me a wireless usb adapter, and a PCMCIA card. After fighting with it for a while, I had managed to share the internet connection from the Kitchen PC with the laptop.

I quickly popped to eBay for a more perminant solution, and managed to pick up a wireless router, and a PCMCIA card of my own. Both are the now outdated 802.11b 11Mbps standard, but for a total of around £20 I couldn't complain.

The PCMCIA card arrived quickly, and was a straight swap for the one I had borrowed. The router on the other hand had not arrived. It was coming internationally, and so I left it for a few weeks. Last week I finally contacted the seller and told him it hadn't arrived. He kindly offered a refund if it didn't appear shortly, and it didn't, so he did.

I managed to pick another one up, slightly more expensive, but it arrived in a day, and after a bit of messing it was installed last night.

As I already had an ADSL router I wanted to connect this more as a switch and access point, and this guide at Tom's Networking showed exactly the way to do it. Thanks Tom.

All working now, and much more reliable than the other access point, I'm writing this over the wireless now!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The heat is on

As all you avid readers will know, my initial deployment of the heating system met with difficulties on day 1, but after a quick fix it has been working well ever since.

You will also have noted my lack of blog postings recently. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, there hasn't been a lot happening in these shorter, darker days. Secondly, and possibly the reason for the first, I have been spending most of my free time working at tidying up the heating system software.

The new version of the system, deployed today, is a lot tidier, and hopefully more robust. It is also more
feature-filled with SMS, Web and Yahoo Instant Messenger clients now in operation.

I had a wrestle with the SMS provider, quite a saga really. They provide a free reply-to service - this means I can register for replys, send a text from my account to my phone, and any replies to that message are fed through a URL of my choice. They switched it on and I got this working at once, with a little test program. However, when I came back to my test program this week, it didn't work! After a 15 email marathon, we finally discovered that the SMS folks don't support dynamic DNS. Annoying, but at least we found the solution. Now I have a wrestle with my ISP to get a static IP address :((

Now the completed system is all written, and comlpete, bar a few would-be-nice features, I can rest on my laurels for a few days. Probably means it won't be looked at until Oct 2007 :)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Apache in WinXp

Few funnies when trying to set up .htaccess in Apache for Win32. I was trying to set it up so that all access was allowed for a certain IP address, and any other IP would have a login prompt.

First problem is the .htpasswd file, need to force MD5:
htpasswd.exe -m .htpasswd guest

Then I needed to specify security for the directory in .htaccess, set up password access as normal, specifying the AuthUserFile and require valid-user.

Then comes the clever bit "Satisfy Any" - this instructs Apache to look for *any* of the criteria, rather than the default all. So if the ip address is correct, the user is not challenged for a password.

AuthUserFile "/path/to/htdocs/.htpasswd"
AuthType Basic
AuthName "Madly Secret Stuff"
Satisfy Any
require valid-user

Order deny,allow
deny from all
allow from localhost
allow from 127.0.0.1

Friday, November 10, 2006

What a weird week

I don't normally post about work, because that seems to be a good way of getting fired, but this week has been so bizarre it's worth a mention.

Before I went on holiday I was told I would continue on my current project until mid-November, when I would move onto another project.

Upon my return from a weeks holiday on Monday, I received an expected tap on the shoulder to tell me what I would be working on. I was unexpectedly moved onto another team, where I wasn't sure I wanted to be. However, I suppose I grabbed the nettle to see if it would sting, and it didn't feel that bad.

On Tuesday I was told the opposite of Monday's story, and that it wasn't supposed to be that way. That seemed like good news, no need for me to act, everything was working out!

On Wednesday I heard that Monday's plan was back on. My disappointment told me that I really didn't feel like more nettle-grabbing, and so I penned a note to senior management outlining the fact that I feel underutilised, which is bad for both the company and me.

Thursday brought a very uneventful day, I worked on the same job all day!

Today, however, saw a return to the flux. Good news. I'm not sure if Wednesday's email brought it about, but basically another change followed by the pre-holiday plan, all as it was in the beginning.

Hopefully next week will bring some continuity :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Heating 1, Simon 1

I was going to call it a nil-nil score, but I decided on 1 all.

I finally installed the heating controller downstairs last night to replace the current timer unit. Now the heating in the house is soley controlled by the computer, which monitors settings and switches heat on and off as programmed.

I entrusted my warm water to it this morning, and the upstairs heating, and surely when I woke up (4 hours after going to sleep) the LED was on, and the room and water were warm.

All looked rosey, until mid-afternoon when I received an irate call from another member of our household (who will remain nameless to protect her anonimity). The heating wouldn't go on! 1 point for the heating. My heart sunk. I thought I had done enough testing to ensure this couldn't happen. It was vital that this didn't happen. I spent the rest of my work day distracted, trying to analyse where the source of this problem could be.

When I got home I worked on it for another while, and I believe that problem is solved. I also spent some time tidying the user interface. Now I am happy, and all is working well - 1 point for me. That's 1-all in this round.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Panomagic




A couple of panoramic shots I took while we were out on our walk on Saturday.

The Nerd Test

I am nerdier than 61% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Go on, try it!

My score :
"39% scored higher (more nerdy), and 61% scored lower (less nerdy).
What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:Low Ranking Nerd. Definitely a nerd but low on the totem pole of nerds.
"

Not too nerdy afterall. Need to concentrate harder.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ballintoy to Dunseverick to Causeway Walk

Today we embarked on an epic walk, starting at Ballintoy harbour, walking around the coast to Dunseverick Castle. We stopped there for a picnic, and then continued around the coast to the start of the Giants Causeway. It is a super coastal route, and there are many parts of it we would have loved to explore more, such as the secluded tin house in one of the stony bays. We couldn't put an exact figure on the milage, but estimates vary from 10-13 miles. We didn't walk the exact route we planned, and we took a few small detours for exploratory purposes, but this was the planned route : http://routebuilder.org/ru

Friday, November 03, 2006

More heating progress

After a week of work on the heating controller the software is working great, and I am really pleased with it all. With the software all working, and the hardware working on breadboard it was time to make some real hardware, in a 6th year school project fashion. So I got the drill and file out, and made up the controller. I think it deserves an 'A'.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I hate painting

It has to be done. Got a new coat on the front room today. All ready for the wooden floor. How come there's always another job???

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fireworks!

Another day of our holidays, nothing too exciting, just some painting, and other jobs around the house. In the evening we went to Coleraine where there was a fireworks display on, and it was pretty good. Sometimes these things can be pretty lame, but this one was actually very enjoyable. It was well co-ordinated, and they'd obviously put some serious cash behind it. Taxpayers money well spent :)

Monday, October 30, 2006

More destruction

What better way to start the week than helping out with a little more of the aforementioned destruction. Dad needed some help (although he wouldn't admit that), and so I decided to stay for the day to help.

Through the day there was much kangoing, and after grappling all day with the time change we had the steels in and the wall down. A good day's work.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Things are heating up

As anyone who knows me knows, I can be a bit of a nerd. As such it will come as no surprise that I am in the process of computerising our home central heating system.

At the start of last year I bought a VIOM, which is a computer based relay controller - basically automates the flicking of switches. With that I can write software to control the switching of the heating in the house.

The main goal of the project is a finer resolution of control over the heating, with a view to using less oil. Secondary benefits will be that it would be possible to control the heating from any PC in the house, and hopefully via SMS and IM too.

I bought the VIOM at the start of 2005, and managed to get round to starting the software in October 2005. Well, sometimes these projects need to rest for some time, and so it lay dormant until this week.

I began testing again, and have now got the basic software completed. Just needs some polishing. A lot of polishing.

Destuction!

Mum and Dad have started major work at the house, converting a less than hospitable utility room into part of their new kitchen.

The initial steps in this involve breaking down some of the current walls, to be replaced with new ones.

As it turns out our kids seem to have an apetite for destruction, and they wholeheartedly embraced the demolition of part of the wall.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Church Dinner

This year our church family has been celebrating the 350th anniversary of its life in Dunboe. There have been many, and varied events, such as the Flower Festival and our week of mission. Tonight was the final event, which took the form of a Church Dinner, where we as members of the Church could enjoy a meal together. We held it in our hall, bringing in outside caterers to prepare the meal, and they did a spectacular job. We had about 100 people who attended, and all I heard was praise for the meal. The Bible often talks of feasting and celebration, and that's something I think we don't do enough!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Shopping in Belfast

A relatively uneventful Saturday, we started with our customary late brekkie, and then headed off to Benone to see if the Kiters were having any luck generating pull with no wind, but they weren't.

After that we set out towards Belfast, where we had half a day's shopping (enough said).

See, told you it was uneventful.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A midweek day off!

Yesterday I decided to take today off. So I spoke to the boss and he said it was ok!

So the day starts with getting the kids ready for school, and then onto the bus. After that the day is mine :) .

I spent a while in the "garden" or mud as it actually is, removing stones from the topsoil at the top of the drive. This means it is now ready to be cultivated.

After that I took at trip to Portstewart beach, which is something I had been meaning to do for a long time. I parked up, and set off for a walk, and walked to the end of the pier, which gives a nice perspective on Castlerock, my more familiar walking place.

It was peaceful watching the waves travel and break along the pier, a perfect way to spend the morning. The weather was overcast, but mild, it was just perfect for walking, with an offshore breeze.

Afterwards I took a drive on out round the coast, first stopping at the viewpoint called "Atlantic Circle" in Portstewart. The view over the town was great with the wet roads sparkling in the sunlight which was now breaking through the mist.

As I drove on around the coast, I stopped off briefly at several points, but decided to make Dunluce Castle my final port of call. Seeing the £2 entrance fee, I thought I'd skip the Castle experience, and come back with the family another day. I did however walk down round the path to the cave below the castle, another local attraction that I wasn't even aware of.

Got home in time to meet the chimney sweep, who quickly earned his £25 before we had to go get the kids from school. They were both out at 2pm today, as the parent-teacher interviews were on.

I didn't think we'd get a chance to work at the garden again so soon, but it turned out William had borrowed a power harrow, and so we decided it would be worth a go. Turned out we were wrong, made a mess, but I'm glad we gave it a try. That'll wait to Spring then :)

Parent-teacher interviews were great, both teachers were pleased with the little people's progress, with no faults to report.

Friday, October 13, 2006

8 Mile


Today my life started again. It had been suspended for various reasons - lots of things to do at work, busy at church, lots to do in general, no 'leisure' time. Well today was the first day I actually got a chance to enjoy. It was the harvest thanksgiving service at the kid's school, and so I walked part of the way there.

The service was great, everyone did very well and it was very enjoyable. After the service I began to walk down the road. I hadn't really decided where to go, so I just walked. I ended up in Downhill Forest, near downhill.

It was beautiful in all its early-autumn glory. I really enjoyed the forest walk, again surprised that I havn'e been around it before, and I only live a few miles away.

After this I walked home. And for that I now suffer. I have sore feet, knees, and hips. I hope not to move for the rest of the evening. It was around 8 miles in all, the 7 miles after the school can be seen here : http://routebuilder.org/ph

After the walk it was time to start the school runs. After picking up Kate we took the van over to Dads and picked up the boats. When Matthew eventually arrived home we headed to the beach at Downhill. Again this was great, I found I could operate the kayak with a completely different set of muscles, apart from when I fell out. The waves were fantastic, even a bit big for me!

A great time was had by all, and we have now returned home for a quiet night in :)

More pics at : http://picasaweb.google.com/simonmcc/20061013FridayFun

Monday, October 09, 2006

999


This morning started out pretty much like any other, except an hour earlier due to my current overtime arrangements. However shortly after the start of my journey I could see something burning, and as I approached the car park for the Balinrees Reservoir I could see it was a car. It was in full flame when I pulled into the car park, and had clearly been burning long enough for the fire to catch a firm hold. I could see that a rear wheel had been jacked, and so assumed it was a stolen car, burned to destroy any evidence. It was quite close to the trees on the edge of the forest, and so I decided to do the socially responsible thing and call 999. I asked for the fire brigade, and probably gave them relatively poor directions, but I was relatively sure that if they were on the road they would soon spot the huge fire.

We called back past this evening, and it seems to have been brought successfully under control without any damage to the surroundings. A little bit of extra excitement for a Monday morning!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lost Season 3

Lost season 3 started in the US* last night. After the horribly disappointing Season 1 finale, the writers took stock in Season 2, and left us set up for a good 3x01, and we got it!

Standard bizarre season start, seemingly somewhere unrelated to the losties, but soon all is revealed. Here's hoping for a continued good season!

*NOTE Although I don't actually reside in the US, I get to watch this US show. Here's how I figure it (convoluted explanation coming up, you may wish to stop reading now). If I had more money, I would buy a house in the US. On a weekly basis I would travel there for a Wednesday evening, and watch Lost, and then pop back home (private jet, and private airport 2 miles from my house). Perhaps on one of my visits I would pop to my local electrical store and buy a slingbox. I would sign up for broadband in my US house, and use the slingbox to control my TiVo in my house in the US. Slingbox would stream lost to me at home, where I could watch it on my TV in the living room, meaning I could dispose of my private jet, and bulldose my private airport. However, because I am poor I use tvrss.net

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fun in the sun

This afternoon we spent a short time at Downhill beach, kiting, bodyboarding, and generally having fun in the sun! After fairly unsettled weather at lunchtime, the afternoon turned out to be glorious with hardly a cloud in the sky.

Communion Sunday

Today our Church family celebrated the sacrament of Communion. In our denomination we arbitrarily celebrate this sacrament twice a year. I felt it was a particularly enjoyable Communion - sometimes when you're not in the correct frame of mind, or feeling a little off the spirit of the celebration is spoiled.

The minister took a look at the historical institution of the Passover, and how that changed into communion at the last supper, it was a very informative and challenging look at what we were doing.

With my continued wonder at the world around us, and the surrounding universe, I felt freshly challenged by two lines of our final hymn :

'Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;'

Now, there's a thought!

In the evening the text was "What should it profit a man if he would gain the whole world yet lose his soul." (Mark 8:36) outlining the relative importance of looking after your eternal destiny compared with any temporal activities.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On a Mission

Our Church (First Dunboe in Articlave) is running a mission this week, and it started today. Meetings are being held in the Church and Church Hall, and the Rev Alistair Smyth is our guest speaker.

We had the usual turnout for our Sunday morning worship, and a larger than usual turnout for the Sunday evening service in the Church. Alistair delivered an interesting and challenging message on both occasions, for both unbelievers and veterans of the faith.

We meet again on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 PM in the hall, Friday at 7:30 in the Church, Sunday morning as usual at 11:30, and in the evening at 7 (I think).

I would urge anyone with access to the Creator to petition Him regarding all who will attend, that the word will not fall on deaf ears. Also we hope that those in the village who received a leaflet through their door will be persuaded to come along and join us!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Relay Racing

For better, or for worse my Dad had talked me into participating in the Lower Bann Canoe Challenge, as part of a relay team. The event was 10km, starting at Drumaheglis Marina, with the first relay changeover at Camus, and the second at The Cutts. The end of the race was between the two bridges on Strand Road, Coleraine.

It was interesting to take part, although it has to be stated that the sit-on-top model of kayak is definitely not designed for this type of venture. However, we didn't come in last, which I suppose was something. In fact, if you only count the relay teams, our two teams were first and second, although I should point out that we were the only two teams entered.

For a map of the race check out http://routebuilder.org/o3

Anyhow, it certainly made an interesting Saturday. Afterwards we took off to Downhill where I attempted to set up my new 4m PKD Buster kite, which proved largely unsuccessful due to hugely blustery wind conditions, and also apparently incorrect kite settings. It did fly well a few times pulling me at speed down the beach, mostly on my feet, but I will admit that my neck, hair and pockets all ended up filled with sand :)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

On the Wee Agivey

This evening I returned to the "Wee Agivey" river where I spent many childhood days creating various dams, bridges, boats, rafts and other feats of engineering. This visit was not entrepreneurial, but rather fun.

After the recent persistant rain the river was swolen by 12-18" so Dad and I took the kayaks down. I was a little nervous about this venture, but I have to say it was a lot safer, and a lot more fun than I had thought.

The water was high enough to clear all the rocks, and parts were flowing nice and quickly. I think I would have preferred a little more of a flood, and I would certainly have liked a longer run. The run we were doing was probably 0.5-1 mile, taking about 5 minutes or so. We managed to get it done 4 times before sunset. Great fun.

For the location see : http://tinyurl.com/ebrw3

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

PKD Buster 4.0 Metres

A short while ago SWMBO and I had a falling out (well, to be accurate, she fell out, but that's immaterial). So if She Who Must Be Obeyed is not speaking, it seems she cannot be obeyed. This seemed to be a perfect opportunity to do something that would normally need approval, without getting approval.

So I ordered another kite. This time its a PKD Buster 4 metre traction kite, a well reviewed budget kite. I managed to pick it up from eBay for about £70, which is a very reasonable price for such a kite.

It arrived last night, and as stated in the eBay description the bridle lines were tangled. About 15 minutes of head-scratching, and string tugging later they were all untangled, and ready to fly. If only it wasn't dark and raining :((

Looking forward to giving it a try, and hopefully not ending up in Traction!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A beautiful September evening

Today was another long day. Recently every day has been a long day due to work stipulating that long days sould occur. That will solve program problems, you see.

This has been a long weekend too, cumulating with getting up a bit earlier today to see Sister-in-law off after a brief stay. Today has been a very peaceful day, we just went at our own pace, very little to do, and dinner made for us at Mums.

Tonight we popped to the beach at Castlerock, because we'd been telling the kids we could, but hadn't gotten around to it.

It was a beautiful evening, one of the nicest of this year, with no wind, hazy sunshine and not a breeze. The kids spent a while paddling in the sea, and digging in the sand, and then we decided it was time to go. On the way up the road we decided to pop over to Downhill to see what it was like there, and while standing on the beach, looking towards Benone, I could see a kite in the distance.

So we went up the road to Benone, and on the beach we could see the kite to the Downhill side, and took a drive down. We stopped, and I thought it was rude to sit and watch without speaking, and went over. Turned out to be a pleasant fellow called Kevin*[1] who had his 4m and 7m kites pegged out. After chatting briefly he offered me a go on the 4m, and it was great! The wind was fairly light, but still enough to pull me along much to the kids amusement - I think I need one of those! We played for a little while, and then drove off into the sunset, past Kevin getting pulled along the beach by his big kite.



*[1] This caused an argument in the car with a misheard name, there were two votes for Kevin and one for Gavin, so if your name was Gavin, please don't be offended!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Made it! (again)

Another fantastic Saturday. This whole summer we made a decision to *spend* more time, and waste less. As I see it varnishing, grasscutting, weeding and other temporal activities are a sure second to spending time enjoying the beauty of the creation around us, and doing it with our family.

After breakfast we had to do a message in Coleraine and enjoyed a walk along the river. Afterwards we decided to go for a walk around the Convent wall in Portstewart, which disappointingly now sports safety railings - I liked it much better when a 8" high wall was the only protection from the 20' drop. After exploring some rock pools, and playtime in the park we had (expensive!) lunch at Morelli's on the Promenade.

After that the time had come to head towards the beach for another Castlerock to Downhill epic walk, this time with full family in tow.

It was another good walk, however there was a strong wind blowing across the shore which made it a little unpleasant. It was great, we ended up wading through at the same place on the way back again, caught a little by the tide, but still a great experience (and no drowning).

After that we went home for tea, and a rest! The silage was being lifted today, and not wanting to waste the good wind, and large, smooth fields we got the kite and headed up the road to the nearest huge field. The wind was just perfect - strong enough so that the kite would lift perfectly, not so strong that it would abscond with the kids. They both had a couple of turns, Matthew is getting good now, able to twist it two full turns, take it up and twist it back again. I think Kate is getting the hang of it too, but its a bit daunting for her, she makes use of the safety brake lines more frequently.

After we got them into bed I headed out again to see the sunset and high tide. Unfortunately I missed the sunset but I did enjoy a walk on the beach. With the extreme high tide in Coleraine I decided to go there too, and wish it had been daylight, the scene would have been spectacular. The water was level with the banks for a good bit of the river, at the car park in the Water Margin I looked over the fence to see the water *almost* level with my feet. Not so bad as long as it stays on that side of the wall!


Friday, September 08, 2006

Castlerock to Downhill

Anyone who can stand the excitement of following my blog will be aware of my plans to walk around the coast from Castlerock Beach to Downhill Beach tomorrow. Today being the day before the optimum time, I decided to go for a trial run. The tidal data shows the Low Tide today at 0.1m above chart datum, only 100mm above where it is expected to be tomorrow.

And I wasn't disappointed! I got the whole way around the coast, although due to the timing I wasn't there early enough to go as far as I would have liked onto Downhill beach, but nevertheless I managed the walk from Castlerock to Downhill and back, mostly on dry land. There were two places I had to cross water about 12-15 inches deep.

I met two old men on the way round, one said that he had been walking the beach for 60 years, and had ever before witnessed the water receeded so far!

You can see the route we took here : http://routebuilder.org/m2 (Pretty cool tool!). 1.2 miles in total according to that, so a 2.4 mile round trip, that'll help in planning for tomorrows repeat attempt so we can arrive at the optimum time for the tides!

See todays photos here : http://picasaweb.google.com/simonmcc/20060908CastlerockToDownhill

Code like this shouldn't compile

I have just found this code in a code review I am conducting, methods should not be written like this. I have posted it here for your reference. If you find yourself writing code like this, turn your PC off and go home. Compilers should have an extra check to ensure tokens do not consist of check, test, etc and a class name.


/**
* @param obj1
* Object
* @param obj2
* Object
* @return boolean
*/
public static boolean checkObject(Object obj1, Object obj2) {
boolean matches = true;

if (obj1 == null) {
matches = (obj2 == null);
} else {
matches = obj1.equals(obj2);
}
return matches;
}

In the dark

The Plough


I set out for a walk to Mussenden Temple last night to try to get a few snaps of the sunset. It was very poor in the end, and I didn't get anything worthwhile. However on the walk back to the car I looked over to the East to see the Full Moon rising spectacurarly over the horizon. It was beautiful, but unfortunately partly obscured by cloud. See all

The hours around midnight again saw me outside well wrapped, and wielding my camera. As forecast it was a perfect night for the sky, hardly a cloud to be seen.

Again, I was aimed at the moon, but my favorite picture of the night was the one at the top of this post. You'll have to click to get the full effect, but basically it is a 15 second exposure of the night sky, picking up the view towards the sea from our house, and The Plough (The seven brightest stars of the constellation Ursa Major) in the sky.

Best moon picts of the evening below, or click here to see them all


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lunacy!

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I will point a camera at anything. Usually the results are poor, but I compensate by taking loads of photos.

Tonight I decided the moon would be a suitable subject, given its recent popularity. After many overexposed shots, and noting my clear lack of a camera suitable for these types of shots, I managed to get this shot, which I have to say is poor, but nevertheless much better than I expected.

Anyhoo, thanks to AF for the pointers that led to me standing outside, freezing waiting for the cloud to clear!

File EXIF information (for anyone vaguely interested :)

Filename : Moon 06 Sept 2006 077.jpg
JFIF_APP1 : Exif
Main Information
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ExifInfoOffset : 166
Sub Information
ExposureTime : 1/400Sec
FNumber : F8.3
ISOSpeedRatings : 200
ExifVersion : 0220
DateTimeOriginal : 2006:09:06 23:35:50
DateTimeDigitized : 2006:09:06 23:35:50
ComponentConfiguration : YCbCr
CompressedBitsPerPixel : 34/10 (bit/pixel)
BrightnessValue : EV7.8
ExposureBiasValue : EV-2.0
MaxApertureValue : F2.8
MeteringMode : CenterWeightedAverage
LightSource : Unidentified
Flash : Not fired(Compulsory)
FocalLength : 16.80(mm)
MakerNote : Unknown Format :
688Bytes (Offset:664)
FlashPixVersion : 0100
ColorSpace : sRGB
ExifImageWidth : 2272
ExifImageHeight : 1704
ExifInteroperabilityOffset : 4624
CustomRendered : Normal process
ExposureMode : Auto
WhiteBalance : Auto
DigitalZoomRatio : 0/10
FocalLength(35mm) : 102(mm)
SceneCaptureType : Standard
GainControl : None
Contrast : Normal
Saturation : Normal
Sharpness : Normal
SubjectDistanceRange : Distant view


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

2006 Perigean Spring Tide

This week sees a rather unusual tidal event. Since my recent interest in boating, and continued fascination with the coast I have read a little about tides, and the science behind them.

As you may know, tides are believed to be caused by the moon's gravity pulling on the water that makes up 2/3 of the Earths surface. As the Moon moves around the Earth it attracts the water towards it. This creates two bulges, one at the side of the Earth adjacent to the Moon, and another at the opposite side of the Earth. The Moon orbits round the Earth about once a day.

Another interesting factor in this complex system is the momentum the massive body of the sea, meaning the Moon has a similar effect to pushing someone on a swing, so that the highest tides actually lag a few days behind the new/full Moon. Just as with pushing a swing, it is important that the water is pulled at the correct time and the Moon does this well.

The Sun adds further complication to the equation by itself providing a weak pull on the seas. When the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned twice a month at New Moon and Full Moon the combined force brings a a "Spring Tide", when the ranges between high water and low water are greatest. The Moon is full this month on Sep 7 2006 at 18:44.

The Earth's cycles provide a further input to the tides, with stronger tides being felt at the Equinoxes, in March and September. These tides are referred to as equinoctial tides, and will occur this year on Sep 23 2006 at 04:03.

Due to the eccentric orbit of the Moon, sometimes it is closer and sometimes it is further away from Earth, and therefore tides vary in magnitude. The point at which it is closest to the Earth is called the Perigee. This week it is closer than it has been in the last 413 day cycle. The Perigee will occur on Sep 8 2006 at 3:08 when the Moon will be a distance of 357174 km from the Earth. This month also sees the Northernmost Moon of the century on Sep 15 2006, at 1:27 a.m., and a Lunar Eclipse on Sep 7th

Although the combination of Full Moon, Equinox, and Perigee is not simultaneous, they are sufficiently close together to have a measurable combined effect leading to the largest tidal range for a quarter of a century.

The tide table for Coleraine presented below shows the lowest tide being on Saturday Sep 9 at 14:57 BST, conveniently in the middle of the afternoon.



Apparently when the tide is low it is possible to walk around the coast from Castlerock beach to Downhill beach, so come rain or shine I'll be out around with camera in hand to attempt the walk. Of course a storm with an onshore wind at sea could rise the low tide sufficiently to make it no different to a normal tide, so lets hope that the weather remains temperate. If there are no further posts to this blog please assume that I have drowned.


References :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide
http://www.idialstars.com/pst.htm
http://www.fourmilab.ch/earthview/moon_ap_per.html
http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/scenario/tides101.htm