Tuesday, 30 September 2008

A moral debt of honour

Well done to the judge in the retired Gurkha's test case. He said that the country had a "moral debt of honour" to be repaid, and allowed the 5 ex-servicemen, and one widow to stay in the UK. According to the BBC News site, there are some 2,000 former Gurkhas who may be affected by the decision. Hopefully without the cost of High Court action against the government - who's Home Secretary said "I have always been clear that where there is a compelling case, soldiers and their families should be considered for settlement".

I love seeing politicians being magnanimous after the legal system finds against them.

Full story

Garb of Old Gaul (Bagpipe Music Writer for Windows)

Monday, 29 September 2008

Google Books in Blogs

Will the Google Books code work?

Well, if it does, there'll be something embedded above. More information from Google BookSearch blog and WebWare.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Trip Flare


As it is an overcast day out in the World, and I’m rebuilding the PC and staring at the washing machine (positive healing vibes, positive healing vibes), I dug out the newly arrived Hoya R72 infra-red filter, and set up some wargames figures on the coffee-table. A halogen table-lamp is close-by the right-hand side of the scene, the camera is set to a 15 second exposure at f/5.6 and ISO 200. After some fuzzy shots, I remember to switch off the automatic focus. Not great, but a start.

Best to get these basic mistakes out of the way early…whilst no-one’s around, and in the warmth while supping a cup of coffee.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Now We Are 2

This blog is now 2…and a day.

Surprisingly, there have been 22,126 “unique” visitors since I started using Google Analytics in February 2007. Thank you for dropping by. Sorry that there hasn’t been much of interest in the last year. With two bouts of illness to work and lack of funds keeping me from major trips out. But these things happen, and life goes on.

I wish you all prosperity and long life

It's christmas

It's christmas, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Searching for More Phone Apps

As I get fed up finding that the Symbian s60 (3rd ed) operating system has programs that do not run unless you have a specific Nokia phone, I went looking elsewhere.

If the mobile phone OS can't cut the mustard, why not use the layers above it?

My Nokia 6220 Classic has Flash Lite installed, and after 2 years (article from Sept 2006), there should be a lot of apps for this cross-platform system. Must'n't there be?

I must be missing something. Lots of people have mobile phone. Many have Nokia mobile phones. Many of the Nokia phones have the Symbian OS.

The software is all over the place and poorly advertised (i.e. not at all). If Nokia wanted to push a store similar to Apple's App Store, they'd have a large market in their grasp.

With the current economic crisis, I'm surprised that they are so blasé about this. Heck, when I got the Nokia 6220 Classic, it wasn't even listed within their software pages. It is one thing for a company like Adobe not to mention it (yes, it does come with Flash Lite pre-installed), but silly for Nokia not to.

Perhaps this shows something about the company itself? A market where only the hardware matters. I certainly see how poor the texting interface is on the 6220 in comparison with that of the K800i. The same is true of the camera interface.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the market over the next 17 months. Will battery technology have moved on? Will 3g be available outside the urban sprawl so that mobiles can access the 'cloud' when needed? Will there be anything useful developed from geo-apps? Will we be merely throwing sheep?

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Hebridean Connections

A couple of years back, when I started pulling together some of my family history, the local historical societies on Lewis mentioned that they were pooling resources for posting to the Internet.

A couple of days back, one of my brothers pointed me to this site: hebrideanconnections.com

It seems that what was talked about has now happened.

Looking for MacLeod's in Pairc returns 2117 results. Or I could go and try and fix the washing machine. Hmm, you can also search by location, and it cross-references the data back. Nice database. Oooh, even by fishing boat (there's the island culture showing through), and so the cycle is complete and the source of my middle name revealed in a few dabbling clicks.

Much kudos to those involved.

Friday, Sodding, Friday

Didn't achieve much on Friday. It is a long weekend here in Aberdeen, and plan A was to be out in the Cairngorms, head round to the Geldie, and up to the southernly plateau, and camp out tonight at Loch nan Cnapan. Maybe stay there on Saturday, just relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. Or moving pitches to another loch that I've seen, but never been to.

But no.

I'm still not over the cold. And the walk to the post office, to (finally) post Roger his prize, knocked me sideways when I coughed and sweated my way home. It took me around 15 minutes to settle. I amn't going to risk it. maybe I'm allergic to exercise?

In the post office (2 staff on, and a queue forming), I found myself shifting my weight and fighting the temptation to circle the light leg out. Really enjoying the lessons, and wonder if it will help my balance when I get to clamber over rocks in October.

My Thursday night was spent working on restoring my crashed computer. Until I get another blue screen of death. With a hard drive error code, I've lost faith in it, and ordered a new unit. One terabyte. To be honest, I'm more interested in "cloud computing" - I'll embed the TEDtalk here, as I found they get me thinking about things.

When I got the pc back up and running, the first thing I did was get hooked back up to the Net. At the moment, my pc has antivirus software running, FireFox3, a few important upgrades for the operating system, and Windows Live Writer. Any empty shell. Much of my data is still only on the (disconnected) backup drive. Life is too short to waste on hardware crashes. Syncback handled the automatic backup. Manual backups are rubbish, and automatic backups should be checked regularly to restore user faith in them. I could throw more money at the problem, but I don't have it, and computers are a money-pit.

If systems are so unreliable that home users need to consider some form of RAID technologies to back-up their data, then the world has gone wrong. I have one spare tyre in my car. I don't have a spare car driving around after me in case the first car fails me. Get a grip! Let's see what "cloud computing" can offer us me.

Friday, 19 September 2008

BBC Alba Starts

A few minutes into the launch of BBC Alba, I'm already heuched out as the bands play one after the other in the tardis room in SMO.

Across on the BBC ALBA website, there are now clips to play, with a tantalising link to the BBC iplayer. But there is no sign of the channel on the iplayer,

I wonder if I can access the programmes that my taxes are helping pay for. Or will this be the equivalent of the dead slot? I hope not, but I fear that only 4 people and a dog will be watching if it stays hidden away on a competitor's station and satellite-only. With the credit crunch hitting, especially hard hit are the remote heartlands of the Gael, where fuel and food are dearer than in the central belt, entertainment spending will fall as belts are tightened. Will people buy a new satellite dish to receive the station? Not aye.

I'm in the Spotlight

One of the nice things that has happened this week (and there haven't been many of them) has been the correspondences with the "Blessed" across at Outdoor Bloggers Summit. The result can be seen across at: http://outdoorbloggerssummit.blogspot.com/2008/09/obs-bloggers-spotlight-week-18.html

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!


Thanks for being out there, Jenn, and casting a mirror over my blog. I'd forgotten some of what I'd written - even though the contents come back to me as my brain regurgitates the same feelings.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Even Midges Need a Holiday

Cunning thing midges. As reported in BG!'s blog, with a report from The Scotsman, scientists were going to be testing a midge spray that would cloak the wearer from the wee pests. A big test was run at the weekend's Loch Ness charity run. According to the Press & Journal, "midges were strangely rare" during the event.

Maybe it is like that elephant deterrent I bought for my flat.

Hopefully the scientists glean some useful data.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Sculpture Diaries

Should I be congratulating a supposedly innovative tv channel for making a good series? I'll settle for congratulating the presenter, Waldemar Januszczak, for the 3 episodes in the series. It ended tonight with an unexpected hour about land art. An American-centred feel, but I was left feeling that I wanted more.

Sadly, there isn't more on the Channel 4 website. They merely link to the British Museum...and an exhibition that starts in October. There's always Waldemar's website...where you can buy a copy of the tv program. I can read some of his articles though. Maybe I'll learn something there.

"There are a million stories in the world of sculpture ... this has been a few of them".

Will there be more tales appearing on Channel 4? I fear not.

Police Drama on Jasmine Terrace

Aberdeen. A quiet Sunday afternoon. A quiet Aberdeen Sunday afternoon that would remain quiet for the rest of the afternoon.

View Larger Map

IMG_1703f IMG_7124f

A fire brigade tender blocked the view out from the person inside the ground floor flat. An ambulance crew was on hand, as well as a gas technician.



News gatherers gathered images and words for the news reports.


I checked out other streets for a view of the flat, but walls and vegetation obscured the scene.


As the afternoon drew on, the ambulance crews swapped over.

And then, people started packing up and leaving. Something had happened down the side-street. A peaceable and silent resolution. The ambulance left, unused.


The plain clothed "Crime Management" gents left, one speaking into his 1st generation iPhone. With all the attention on the front, people had been inside and round the back, doing whatever needed to be done. It was interesting to watch the operation, and wonder at what was going on, quite literally, behind the scenes. Professional and methodical.

I'll link to the newsfeed when it appears.


Background - Mike texted me to say that a drama was unfolding outside Morrisons. If the journalists didn't show, I could sell the newspapers photos. I was too clagged up with the flu cold, I also get nervous in urban situations; so he borrowed my dSLR and headed off. After a few minutes, I felt guilty, so grabbed some spare kit, and a point-and-click camera and went after him. Also, if he got harassed for taking photos, I wanted to record the scene.

Drama continues

Drama continues, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Unfolding police drama

Saturday, 13 September 2008

How I Paint

I got some new wargames figures in from Great War Miniatures recently, and took some photos along the production line.


A recent game had shown me that my small collection of Late War WW1 Germans were short on PBI. I had too many special weapons, and not enough rifles. I was limited to manufacturers that work well together, in this case either Renegade or GWM. I ordered a variety of packs from the latter.

Preparation (Saturday morning)

Opening the packs, I used a knife and files to remove the small amount of moulding flash. Then I glue the figure onto a base. For a 'skirmish' game, the figures are based singly. I use a 1 pence piece here, with a small magnetic disk glued to the underside (so that the figures do not move in the metal storage box).


I have to wait for the glue to dry, and then apply more glue to the base and sprinkle on 'ballast'...and wait for that to dry. So I complete the earlier batch of figures on the right-side of the table.

Base Layer (Sunday morning)


With the base dry, I can apply the black undercoat. I use a Games Workshop "Chaos Black". Expensive to use in bulk, but I find it works well.


The figures rest, temporarily, on a 2 pence piece so that the painted edges of the base do not bond with the cardboard working tray.

Mid Layer (Sunday noon)


I now dry-brush the figures with a coat of GW "Codex Grey". This highlights the main areas for painting, giving the figures a more 3D look. All this helps me envisage what I'm painting. I can also see any 'holidays' where the undercoat failed to reach.

I then work on the bases. This is a 3 stage job, painting it in light brown, then applying a darker brown wash, and then dry-brushing in a different shade of brown. I'm aiming for a brown appearance here. During my research stages, I had decided that I wanted to depict the trench warfare stages of the Great War. No grasses or dashing uniforms, but mud and grime. All my Great War figures have the same base colours. Mud reaches up boots, shoes and the legs of horses. HMG crews end up with a 'plimsoll line' of mud and I only paint the parts of the clothing not covered in mud.

And now, Paint (Sunday & Monday evenings)


With the preparatory work done, the figures are now ready to paint. How do I know what to paint? Well, I cheat.

When I first start a new project, I look into the military structure, uniforms, artwork, photographs, movies, re-enactors, and the like. I buy a lot of the Osprey Books (which contain much of the research already), and use the Internet to find images of the period.

I then start building up a painting card, trying out shades of paint that match the image I want to portray. I hate mixing paints as I can never recreate the mix again, so I buy shades of paints. And from different manufacturers too.

And paint some more (early Tuesday evening)


I tend to grab a paint pot and just paint. I tend to work in layers, painting the dark flesh holding the rifle before painting the rifle. that way, if I go "over the edges", the upper layer will mask the mistake.

I'll split up figures into groups. Similarly posed figures will be separated by helmet colours, so gameplay is facilitated and any groups of "camouflaged stahlhelms" don't look too 'samey'. Some of the figures had earlier tunics, so I added the red piping. I used to be able to do that on 15mm tall figures, no I find it fiddly at 28mm scale.

Eventually the figures are completed, and each one gets an inspection to make sure I haven't missed out anything.


From timings, it looks like this batch took about 8 hours of painting. That's approximately 20 minutes per figure. Of course, if I was painting one figure, it would take me longer than that. Economies of scale apply here. If I wasn't enjoying painting them, the task would become a chore, and painting takes longer. So I prefer to strike whilst the iron is hot, and focus on one project at a time. Larry's pie chart shows the sad truth about wargaming projects.

Protection (Late on Tuesday evening)


Figures are transported to the custom-built varnish-spray laboratory, and are coated in a fine cloud of matt varnish. I never liked gloss varnish, but if the heating system in the bathro... custom-built varnish-spray laboratory varies, the matt varnish can end up shining like gloss.


Passing out Parade (early Friday evening)


Each figure is then dusted in a coat of Tamiya Weathering Master Mud, Sand or Light Sand, depending on how random I feel. Above, the figure on the left has not been dusted, but the one on the right has been dusted.

If you need a scale, each figure is just over an inch high. I am not good enough to paint in eyes and other facial details. A poor job is more detracting, and I can argue that at the distance depicted on the tabletop, fine detail would be obscured from view.





Marching Orders

Wargames figures have to be transported around. People have various solutions. I kindly got offered some magnetic strips that I can affix to the underside of the figures' bases. This allows me to use old biscuit tins and the like, and the figures don't move around much. Instead of dividing up the carrying box into small compartments, I can fit more figures into the box.

Job done.


I'll need to make some terrain for them, more trench sections, blasted forests and the like. The last thing I'm concerned about is which rules to use. The look and the feel is more important to me. A visual depiction of some of the hell that these guys suffered through in the service of their Father- or Mother-land, their Republic or Kaiser.

Friday, 12 September 2008

No To the Spirit of the Law

I watched this clip from the BBC News site: link

As soon as landowners talked about people following "the spirit of the law instead of the letter of the law", I thought "sod that". As I've said in the past, the letter of the law is good enough - these guys aren't "wild campers", they forfeit the right to access as soon as they disobey the law.

Leaving litter, using a heavyweight tent chucked out of a car, lighting fires in an irresponsible way, etc etc. All are handled within the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. I must have said this before, folks: RTFM. These lawbreakers are not wild campers. Education and enforcement are the issues, not the law.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Tense science

The large hadron collider is on and the beam is getting halfway round. It is fun watching journalists on bbc news 24 report on something that they aren't sure about. Without the scare stories, would anyone be watching apart from some science geeks?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

BBC Alba - only on Skye and Freesat

I heard about the launch of a Gaelic BBC channel last year when watching a report from Fort William. Today I saw a trailer for BBC Alba. Oh, no, not that one, but this BBC Alba (SMG news and FAQ). And then I noticed that the trailer (paid for by licence fee money) said that the channel would only be available on Skye ... sorry, Sky. And freesat. A search of news sites told me that ...

BBC ALBA will be available on satellite and cable throughout the United Kingdom, with content also available online. BBC ALBA will be available on Freeview, in Scotland only, after the digital switchover, subject to review by the BBC Trust. (source)

The same source went on:

Donald Campbell, MG ALBA’s chief executive, added: “The launch date for BBC ALBA is fast approaching and it won’t be long now before viewers in Scotland have the opportunity to see new Gaelic programmes every day. .... and over the coming months we’ll be broadcasting a wide range of sport, news, children’s programmes, documentaries and entertainment to appeal to young and old alike.”

So - that is only those people who have paid extra for Sky (a competitor of the BBC) or the recently launched Freesat. Too bad if we hoped it might be available immediately on a freeview channel. I guess they cost too much or are too packed with E4 plus 35 minutes, E4 plus 36 minutes, E4 plus 37 minutes, etc.

Sadly the Stornoway Gazette hasn't picked up on this, and I hope that a gaggle of Gaels don't stay in a week on Friday to watch the launch program. No doubt it will all be repeated after the digital switchover. In 2010. Don't expect a discount on the licence for the next two years when you're paying for (another) public channel that you can't receive.

The FAQ states that:

Is e £14m am buidseat airson 2008/09 – £10m bho MG ALBA agus £4m bhon BhBC. Tha MG ALBA maoinichte le Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus air a riaghladh le Ofcom.

The television budget for 2008/09 is £14million, £10m of this being provided by MG ALBA and £4m by BBC Scotland. MG ALBA is funded by the Scottish government and regulated by Ofcom.

If I'm reading that correctly, £10 million comes from the Scottish taxpayer (with a share coming from England), and £4 million from the BBC (with a share from the licence-fee payer). I do not know how many of the target audience have a way of receiving the programmes for two years. I'd guess that if you have a family, you may have Sky. If you like sports, you may have Sky. Will many people be watching the opening Friday night programmes? Maybe they'll be out playing sports or looking after the kids.

I don't know if there will be any Gaelic programmes on BBC2 Scotland on a Thursday night. It was there that Tir is Teanga was broadcast and grabbed the interest of hikers around the UK. Also histories of the Hebrides and life in times past. A diverse range of programs shoe-horned in to an hour-and-a-half. It would be a shame to lose them for a couple of years.

For me, I get so few channels on Freeview and there is so much drivel on terrestrial that I'm planning on getting a 4m composite video cable to run from my pc across the living room to my tv set and then cancel my tv licence fee. I'd still like to pay for Radio 4 though. No doubt it is illegal, but heck, we taxpayers in Scotland are paying for a service that the majority of us won't be able to access for a couple of years without paying an extra charge to a non-public broadcaster or for even more digital hardware ... and the communication regulators see that as being okay? I just hope someone in the Government does the decent thing and gives the go-ahead sooner for the channel to be available on Freeview.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Beach Front Development

As it takes so long to get to Bennachie, and with the price of petrol being what it is, I decided to walk up to the mouth of the River Don and back (maplink). A couple of hours trek, watching the waves and people go by. 2 1/2 miles there and back, and more experimenting with the camera on the Nokia 6220 Classic mobile phone.



I reckon the camera on the Sony Ericsson K800i was better than it. Certainly a better interface, but the 5 mega-pixel camera holds a lot of promise. I'm just getting tired with having to use the "automatic" feature to get the best from the new phone-camera. The focus on the "landscape" view is poor in comparison.


1DR now on sale

Mike posted that the dvd of Stirton Production's "One Day Removals" is available for sale via the company's website.

I'll declare an interest here, as I gave some advice on the gear worn by the hiker in the film.

Today's EarWorm

I heard the track on the radio during my morning ablutions, and that fired up the air guitar video from Scrubs in my head. Again and again.

So, in a breach of copyright, but advertising a great track, and a superb tv series, here is my earworm.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas to one and all.

What do you mean, it isn't Christmas? So far in the last week on the re-run that is television programming, there's been Christmas on "Family Guy", "Friends" and "The Simpsons". Probably others that I haven't seen. As television has been getting rapped for telling lies and misleading people recently, I can only guess that my calendar is wrong, and we're in December.

Of course, there's only one appropriate song ... take it away, Mr Wood

Happy Birthday, Google Inc

Google is 10 years old today. Well, the Inc part is. Even the question, "when is Google's birthday" is met with this official answer:

The exact date when we celebrate our birthday has moved around over the years, depending on when people feel like having cake. (source)

Hence the "Inc" part.

To say they shook up the search engine market is an understatement. Unlike JFK's murder, I can remember where I was when I first heard about "Google". I was a fan of Alta Vista at the time, and used Yahoo! as a way to drill-down to find information. A comparison of results showed that Google returned more accurate results. Nowadays I have to bite back the phrase "Google for more information" and tell students to "use a search engine to find more information".

Later the Google toolbar kicked in. Placing a simple search facility into whatever browser I was using. They didn't clutter it up with adverts and the like. Their tenet was rumoured to be "build it first and then figure a way to make money from it". AdSense came in, placing adverts at the side of the search results. Easy to ignore if you weren't looking to buy things.

When the Usenet groups was forced to look for a new home, Google came to the rescue, and so discussion groups became Google Groups. Large email storage and shared documents, Google Earth, their labs facility which allowed you to see and beta test facilities. The movies site which then fed into the purchase of YouTube.

Google Maps and Earth allow people to look for local facilities in a non-text environment. With GPS being added to mobile phones, it wasn't a surprise to see a version of Google Maps available for my Nokia 6220 Classic. Although the phone has its own Nokia Maps, it isn't as good as Google Maps. Less fuss means a happier customer.

After the problems with S60 programs being written for specific mobile phones, defeating the purpose of having a standard operating system, I'd guess that Google Android wouldn't suffer from that problem. It might release more creative use of mobile phones.

Chrome - their new browser. No, not their "new" browser, but their first browser. As they are so integrated in to the Web, again I have to remind myself that this only their first browser.

If you want to see where things might be in the near future, have a look at Kevin Kelly's "Predicting the next 5,000 days of the web". You can bet Google will be near the centre of it all. Will "Google" become synonymous with the naffly-named "Cloud"? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Anyone hear ticking?

Looking through the local paper's website for something else, I was stunned to read that:

During World War 2 it [Aberdeen] was attacked 34 times, earning it the unwanted nickname Siren City.

And now it has emerged that more than 20 live bombs could be buried under the Granite City.

While experts are certain the live bombs are buried beneath the city, no one knows where.

It is though that 10% of the 212 explosive devices dropped on the city are still live. Now they are posing a risk to developers. [full story]

Ah well.

MCoS Statement on Alladale

Robin across at BlogPackingLight pointed me to the Mountaineering Council of Scotland's recent position statement on the Alladale Project (pdf link). They conclude that:

The member organisations of this group find this unofficial, but well-publicised project, as unacceptable as stated. We call for a recognition that the unnatural density, probable artificial feeding and commercial nature shows that this project is a safari park, which would require a zoo licence, and hence is completely different from what it is promoted as which is a re-wilding project. A full project study should be undertaken, followed by an environmental statement stating the legal basis on which this project will be based.

And here's a link to the YouTube version

I wrote some notes earlier on the recent programme shown on the BBC, and then immediately repeated after the 6 episodes were finished showing on BBC Scotland. I didn't post anything about later episodes as I really could not be bothered reporting on the one-sided shallow programme. It was not a documentary. I don't know what it was other than merely following around people on the estate. No attempt was made to do any follow up. Unlike "Trawlermen", the estate and Mr Lister's project is not a sealed bubble, but the programme may have given that impression.

Overall, I find it intriguing that the Scottish Government does not get involved when its own access laws are being challenged, and seems to just wait for people to raise objections, despite the publicity. I find it ludicrous that the MCoS or the Ramblers' Association get involved in court cases when it is the rights of people in Scotland that are being challenged. Maybe I'm missing the point, but isn't that what our government is for?