Friday, October 28, 2005

Day 178

Although the scanning is mind-bogglingly tedious, there are a few interesting things that show up as I look at old pictures (from 15-20 years ago). My father looks so much younger back then; my brother seems to be pouting and looking annoyed in every picture (probably because his younger brother was pestering him with the camera again). It's also interesting to see that some of the themes I often use in pictures date back to twenty years ago: doorways and passageways, landscape photography in general. The spookiest recurrence was this one, taken (I think) in the summer of 1984:
I looked at it and thought: "Hmm, that looks familiar". A few months ago we went away for a weekend in Norfolk. One of the pictures I took then was this one:
Same place, twenty-one years later.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Day 177

Whirr. Clunk. Wheeze. The scanning has begun. Only a couple of hundred scanned so far, and as yet none of them indexed/dated/catalogued. Still, I tweaked my script for processing JPEG files (renames, adds label and copyright, and now can set an arbitrary date and automatically avoid duplicate filenames) so the indexing/dating/cataloguing should be marginally less tedious than it would otherwise be.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Day 176

My first bash at the new gym routine this morning, which wasn't as bad as I'd feared; it does seem to involve a lot of equipment that there is only one of, though, so I'll have to make sure I stick to quiet times at the gym.

I also got back home to find that they'd already attempted to deliver my new scanner, a mere 16 hours after I ordered it. They left a card saying they would try again tomorrow, but as it happened they tried to deliver it again in the afternoon and so I now have a new scanner. So this place seems to be swift as well as cheap.

Spent a fair amount of the afternoon and evening trying to figure out an efficient workflow for scanning all the old negs; in the end I settled on 1200dpi to get the scans done in a reasonable time (around a minute per negative, as opposed to twice that for 2400dpi and more than 15 minutes per negative at 4800dpi). The scans come out at around 1800x1100, which should be enough given that I only ever plan to view them on screen rather than printing them out.

Given that fencing was cancelled this evening, I finally got a chance to try the street dance class at the gym. A bit disappointing in the end; more than half of the class was just a generic chunk of aerobics. The half that involved dance was a bit better, but not exactly sparkling.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Day 175

Had a spot of disrupted internet connectivity this evening, which was a bit disturbing: it made it clear just how much I've come to rely on continuous connection to the filthy internet.

Still, I managed to get in an order for a new scanner before everything went pear-shaped. Given that I'm getting more and more converted to the digital way of doing things, I thought It would be good to go through my old negatives and get digital versions of them. It's not something I'd contemplate doing if I didn't have Copious Free Time, though—I've got around 5,500 ordinary (35mm) negatives, plus another few hundred medium format negatives to convert. A film scanner would be ideal for this, but the ones that can cope with 120 format film are lots more expensive; also, once I've done all the negatives I'd have little more use for a film scanner. Anyway, the latest generation of flatbed scanners are supposed to be fairly good, and I'm not really after top-quality conversions, just to be able to access all my old photos on screen (and besides, I wouldn't have enough disk space for all of the old negs at top quality).

Monday, October 24, 2005

Day 174

Looks like we didn't pick the best day for being in Brighton; kept awake for much of the night by the wind howling past the window, and opportunities for sightseeing and wandering on the beach have been limited all day by the persistent rain and wind. The Pavillion was at least indoors, though.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Day 173

[reading: Neal Stephenson, "The System of the World"]

Trundled down to Brighton this afternoon, to get a couple of days outside of London. We arrived late enough in the afternoon that most of the shops in the Lanes were already closing down, but the pier was obviously still open for business. I signally failed to make the slightest impression on a stack of tin (well, probably lead) cans by throwing balls at them, but at least the Waltzer was fun. There's something euphoric about closing your eyes and letting the centrifual force slosh all the blood around in your brain.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Day 172

I was discussing some folk who are currently selling their house today, which occasioned me to recall the perfidy of estate agents. In common with anyone who's ever sold a house, I remain perenially stunned at the amount of money it costs to have someone who a) has a phone, b) has a window, c) has a collection of hooks for keys.

I'd almost like to know more about the innards and workings of an estate agent, because it seems to me (and I'm sure to many others) that it should be possible to hugely undercut the existing agents and still make a handsome profit. Basically, what we all need is: easyEstateAgent. We need to persuade Stelios to get into the field and to set up little orange estate agents all over London, combined with a really efficient internet booking and listings system. Charge a flat fee or maybe just a much lower percentage (say 0.25% rather than 1.75%), and watch as all the other peculatory bastards fell into a big heap.

It's one of those ideas where I just can't see why it hasn't happened already. Of a similar ilk: why doesn't someone in the TV world ditch these endless karaoke talent shows (X Factor, Fame Academy, Pop Idol) and do a 'battle of the bands' show that actually involves people who can play instruments and write songs? And why is there no TV show that reviews computer games competently? The occasional show that does show up is inevitably aimed at eleven year olds and shown on odd channels at odd times of the night; this seems bizarre given that the computer game market is as big as the cinema market and that large chunks of the consumers are adults.

Maybe someone in the relevant businesses could explain to me why it's not possible, but nobody I've ever discussed any of these things with has thought of any obstacles.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Day 171

[reading: David Flanagan, "JavaScript: The Definitive Guide"]

In recent weeks my gym-going has been starting to tail off: it's always boring, but it's now getting mind-numbingly dull, plus the progression seems to have plateaued. So I got around to arranging for one of the trainers to give me some new stuff to do. At first, he was impressed with what I'd been doing so far, but that was just triggered by the detailed record-keeping I'd been doing. Once we actually started trying out new exercises, I think he was surprised by how feeble I was.

I also tried out a trick I learnt from my brother, which is that gym staff get much more enthused and interested if you tell them your target is something specific, something a little different from the normal "lose weight"/"get fit"/"tone up" stuff (which they pretty much sleep-walk through). In my brother's case, he got a really good routine by asking for something judo-specific; in my case, I asked for stuff to help with fencing. It did backfire slightly, though, in that his top recommendation was to do some boxing cross-training...which would involve a bunch of personal training, oddly enough, and did I want to see some offers on buying a bulk pack of personal training sessions?

Anyway, I've got a bunch of new things to try next week, which I suspect will be rather harder than the things I've been doing so far (more free weights, fewer resistance machines) so maybe things will start progressing again.

I also nipped in a quick fix to the Minesweeper game to get rid of the annoying clicking sound you get when the page up or page down keys are held (I hadn't noticed it because the Palm OS Emulator doesn't have sound, and I've turned off the sound on my Tungsten.)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Day 170

Finally collected my rewired épée blade, and then dropped off my motorcycle for a service. It's only actually done a few hundred miles since the last service, but that was nearly two years ago, and more importantly I now need an MOT. Also, the starter switch has been pretty temperamental for the last few months: it has no effect to begin with, sometimes for minutes at a time (I've been dreading the day when it completely refuses to work and I end up with the bike stuck somewhere).

Sadly, the great guy I always used to take my bikes to (Del Guyver) seems to have gone out of business; rumour has it that his workshop burnt down and the insurance company refused to pay up. So this time round I'm trying someplace different; they'll certainly be more expensive (probably three times what I'd have paid Del) but they seemed like good guys.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Day 169

Tried some more playing with Photoshop today, trying to see if the new graphics tablet I bought on Saturday makes things any easier. So far, it seems to help a lot with brush-related stuff, but not so much with selections (although I think I still need to get used to the thing). I'm also beginning to wonder whether I should have coughed up the extra for the full version of Photoshop, rather than just Elements—most of the information and tutorials on the web seem to be for the full version, and there are some key things (Curves, channel masks) that seem to be hard to access or unavailable in Elements.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Day 167

[reading: Barbara Minto, "The Pyramid Principle"]

"Never bring a mace canister to an Uzi fight"

Played in another one-off role-playing session this evening, which was fun—the scenario was kind of a cross between Cube and Saw. I didn't do so well this time—sort of came third out of four—but I did get to be a lot more involved this time.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Day 165

[reading: Robert Jordan, "Knife of Dreams"]

"Curmudgeonliness is next to godliness"

Grr. It's incredibly annoying how really straightforward things turn out to be very difficult. All I wanted to do was post a letter. It's quite a heavy letter, so I nipped into the post office to weigh it and to check how many stamps it needed. Weighing it was simple enough (83g), but as far as I could tell in five minutes searching, there was no information anywhere about how much it costs to post a letter. In a post office. No leaflets, no posters, no scales with the amounts marked on them. Given the huge queue, in the end I resorted to going home and checking the filthy internet instead. (I should probably have just gone in on a weekday instead, given that I've got Copious Free Time).

Friday, October 14, 2005

Day 164

[reading: Terry Pratchett, "Thud!"]

I'm not usually one for posting links to whatever odd web page is the flavour of the day, but somehow this one really appealed. That's what physics modelling should be for!

I've also turned on word verification for the comment system on this thing. Over the last week or two it seems to have appeared on the radar of some comment spammers; now I get two or three spam comments on every new post. Given that I've had all of maybe two legitimate comments on the entire blog, this doesn't seem like the extra step is going to adversely affect anyone much.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Day 163

[reading: Geoff Ryman, "The Unconquered Country"]

I've been writing the Preferences dialog for my Palm version of MineSweeper today, so now the game is basically code complete—I just have to play with it and weed out the bugs.

However, getting the Preferences dialog up and running did expose a slight problem that I'm still not sure how to solve. The Preferences dialog allows change of board size and number of mines, and for a large, sparse board this causes a problem in the code that automatically exposes connected blank squares: blowing the stack. The straightforward implementation of this code involves recursion, and the default PalmOS stack is only 4k. At the moment, I've stripped the code down so that nothing gets passed as a parameter to the recursive function (it turns out all the state can be kept in static global variables; the return address is the only stacked state needed) and increased the stack size (to a whopping 32k) and that seems OK for all but the most pathological cases.

Given that I'm having difficulty finding a web page that describes how to increase the PalmOS stack size, for future references here's how: add the following resource and make sure the compiled version (something like pref0000.bin) comes before the application binary in the build-prc link line. The line in red is the stack size as a 32-bit integer split into its (big-endian) constituent bytes.
    HEX "pref" ID 0
      0x00 0x00
      0x00 0x00 0x80 0x00 
      0x00 0x00 0x10 0x00

I remember a time, when I first started programming, when I found recursive code very hard to understand; it's interesting to see that this has reversed, and I now struggle to express some things non-recursively.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Day 162

Another Slacker's Lunch, although this time it included an hour or so of strenuous activity (well, actually, playing pool). The place we ended up in seemed to be in the middle of being used for a photo shoot, so we occasionally got illuminated by huge banks of lights. Sadly, the photo shoot seemed to be distinctly lacking in skimpily clad gorgeous models.

I was also hearing about the current state of affair for web app development; it sounds like Ruby on Rails is worth a look as the current best framework for this sort of thing. Things certainly change pretty quick; it was probably only five or six years ago that I lasted worked on a web app, and at the time Javascript + Java applets + servlets + JDBC was about as advanced as it got.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Day 161

The main game logic and display is pretty much done, but I've still got to put together a Preferences dialog and a high scores table. And I've rediscovered the bizarre annoyance in PalmOS development that sometimes UI objects are accessed by an ID, and sometimes by an index—probably another hour and a half lost to that (I'm sure I lost even more time to it the last time round).

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Day 159

[reading: Lovelock & Rund, "Tensors, Differential Forms and Variational Principles"]

Serenity was definitely better the second time through.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Day 157

Experimenting with Photoshop Elements a bit more this morning, and I stumbled across a very useful site; in particular, it's got a download that allows access to the Curves function in Elements.

I also started the first stages of putting together another Palm game. Sadly, it's so long since the last one that I'm pretty much ramping up on the environment from scratch again (but at least this time round I've got some existing source code to copy from).

It also looks like we might get a chance to check out some lycanthropic underground mutton over the weekend, ahead of the official release next week.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Day 156

[reading: Lucius Shepard, "Barnacle Bill the Spacer and other stories"]

One of the advantages of having Copious Free Time is that I get to trundle to an afternoon matinee showing of Serenity, thus getting to see it before anyone else. (Anyone else that's not a jammy git who wangled a ticket to the premiere, that is. You know who you are.)

I was ever so slightly disappointed with the film, though. It felt like they'd stuffed in enough plot for a whole season of Firefly, and as a result had to leave out a lot of the gags and wisecracking that made the original series so good. Plus, they also, er, narrowed the possibilites for future films or series.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Day 153

Drove into town today for a bunch of errands, and I can tell I don't drive regularly these days—my wrists were aching from working the clutch and the brake by the time I got home.

Still, I've got a new épée blade, and more importantly I bought some more whisky. I'd tried Bowmore Dusk and Dawn on holidays and really liked them, but it seems like they're only stocked in airports. Anyway, wandering round London last weekend I happened to find a dedicated whisky shop that stocked them, so I went back with a credit card and a large bag to get some more. Oh, and a new flash bulb (actually two, to allow for future mishaps).

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Day 151

A day for destroying things. On the plus side, dismantling the old shed that came with the house was deliberate; on the less positive side, knocking over my flash head and breaking the bulb while I was trying to play with some photography ideas was less intentional.

On a less destructive note, reattaching the radiator that's leant against the fridge for the last year turned out to be a lot more time consuming than I expected—lots of tweaking of how thick the batons needed to be to get the radiator into the same position is used to be (i.e. where the pipes that feed and drain it still are). I started trying to fill up the radiator after I'd reconnected it, but the pressure dial on the boiler seemed to drop at an alarming rate, so I may have to get in someone professional to deal with it.