Archive: August, 2003


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Sunday, August 31st, 2003


I’ve been putting my new iSight through its paces over the last week.

As a webcam, it does the job nicely. I’ve been refining how the webcam picture fits in with the overall layout here. It will only appear if the webcam is actually on. I use a some of PHP’s file functions to check if the last webcam picture has been modified in the last 30 seconds and only display the picture if that is the case. I’ve also got an inline refresh going with JavaScript so you don’t necessarily have to open the pop-up window to see the picture update.

Of course, the iSight isn’t primarily intended to be just a webcam. It’s the eyes and ears of iChat, donchyaknow?

My mother was here for a few days and we arranged for a transatlantic chat with Jessica’s family. My mother hadn’t seen Jessica’s mother in about three years. Myself, Jessica and my mother gathered ‘round my iMac here in Brighton while Jessica’s mother and grandmother faced the family’s newly purchased iBook in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

It was very cool.

Weird at first, but… cool.

It’s going to save Jessica’s family a fortune in ‘phone bills.

everyone chatting at their computers

Saturday, August 30th, 2003

Geeks in meatspace

Much fun was had at last night’s Brighton Bloggers meetup. Pete has posted up some pictures. He had the cheek to call me the Alpha geek. Talk about the pot calling the kettle #000000.

It was good fun meeting up with Pete, Dave, Jane, Richard, Josh and others. Josh was throwing out some whacky ideas like combining the spam from your inbox with blogging.

I got an iChat message from him this morning and he had already put the idea into practice: SPAMBlog. If you want to contribute, just forward your spam to

Thursday, August 28th, 2003

Brighton blogging

Eagle-eyed observers will have noticed something new on this site over the last few days: a webcam. That’s thanks to my new iSight and a piece of shareware I’m evaluating called EvoCam.

Well, here I am at the first Brighton Bloggers meetup and I’ve got my iSight with me so if you check out my webcam, you can put faces to some of Brighton’s blogging names.

Now excuse me while I get back to my beer and chat.

Monday, August 25th, 2003

Home again

I’m back and I’m tuckered out.

I’m not sure if it was the transatlantic flight or the bus from Heathrow to Brighton that did me in.

It would be nice to have some time for rest and recuperation but I’m jumping back into the fray with a Salter Cane concert (Brightonians, come on down to The Pressure Point).

I guess rock’n’roll and jetlag must mix reasonably well given the jetsetting lifestyle of most rockstars. I’ll soon find out.

Sunday, August 24th, 2003

Last minute update

This Wi-Fi finder is great for tracking down wireless networks at airports. They’re usually to be found in close proximity to the executive lounges.

Right now I’m at Dulles airport outside Washington DC having spent a wonderful couple of days in Baltimore. There’s a seven or eight hour flight ahead of me, followed by some jet lag. After that, normal posting will resume.

Wednesday, August 20th, 2003

Apple splurge

I’m at an Apple store in Phoenix where my mother-in-law is about to become the proud owner of a brand new iBook along with some other goodies like an airport card, a (free) printer and an iSight.

Needless to say, if she’s going to have an iSight, Jessica and I also have to get one.

This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2003


I just got myself the niftiest little gadget ever: the Kensington Wi-Fi Finder.

Now I no longer need to walk around with my laptop open trying to discover open nodes.

I must remember to get some chalk.

Monday, August 18th, 2003

Feral Google

Sometimes, very occasionally, Google gets it wrong. Trying, for instance, to match up the right picture to go with the financial headlines over at Google News.

a screenshot from Google

Saturday, August 16th, 2003


Swimming is just like riding a bike: life-threateningly dangerous but good exercise.

I’ve been diligently practicing, trying to master the art of breathing and swimming at the same time. I still haven’t managed to achieve this kind of epiphany:

"But I will tell you in all seriousness that swimming provides me with the best trips I’ve had since I was heavily into magic mushrooms almost 20 years ago."

a picture of me swimming in clear blue water

Friday, August 15th, 2003

Canon S200 Elph

I’ve been using my new camera for almost two weeks now so I figured it was time to weigh in with some thoughts on how it measures up.

Physically, the Canon S200 Elph is very, very compact and durable. It’s a real boon having a camera that can be slipped into a shirt pocket. That’s a big improvement over my previous camera.

There are even more compact cameras out there, though. I got an email from Mike Davidson telling me about the Pentax Optio S which he keeps in an Altoids tin!

The S200 Elph comes with a measly 8MB CompactFlash card so getting an extra card is pretty much mandatory. Even for someone like me who lugs their laptop with them everywhere they go, 8MB is just annoyingly little. I plumped for a generous 128MB.

For the first time, I have a camera that can also take movies. The quality is surprisingly good, at least in daylight. Sound reproduction is also pretty accurate. If I can figure out the bandwidth issues, maybe I’ll start posting little movie snippets here on the site.

But enough about the added extras. Lets get down to the nitty-gritty: picture quality.

I never had any complaints with the picture quality of my previous camera except that it was near useless in low-light conditions. The Canon S200 Elph is certainly an improvement in that area but I was initially disappointed by the pictures taken in normal daylight.

Whereas my old Fuji always seemed to reproduce colours boldly and brightly, the Canon had a tendency to produce slightly washed out images that seemed shifted to the yellow end of the spectrum.

Well, that was with the default settings anyway. By experimenting with the various settings (white balance, ISO, shutter speed), I was able to get some really good results.

From my experience, having the BW balance set to “cloudy” and the photo effect set to “vivid” enhancess the colours enormously.

I think as a “point and click” camera, it doesn’t really work. But if you invest some time into figuring out which settings affect what, then the camera immediately becomes a lot more powerful.

For example, check out some of the pictures taken during Macworld by a roving O’Reilly reporter with this camera (all the various camera settings are included with each picture).

The Canon S200 Elph kind of falls between stools. It’s definitely not a camera for the complete beginner - too many settings to fool around with. It’s also not a camera for the professional - the resolution and zoom are too limited for serious photography. It is, however, just about right for someone like me. It’s more than adequate for taking holiday snaps and with the right settings, it can come up with some high-quality stuff for commercial web work. And let’s not forget that compact size which is a big advantage when you want to capture candid shots at social gatherings.

I’m happy with it. But don’t just take my word for it. Read what other people have to say about the camera.

If you’d like to see the kind of results I’ve been getting with the Canon S200 Elph (which, by the way, is called the Canon Ixus in the UK), check out this gallery of pictures from Arizona. I’ll probably be adding more pictures as my holiday continues to unfold.

Wednesday, August 13th, 2003

Brighton Bloggers

Even though I’m on holiday and I should be spending all my time swimming, sunbathing and eating tacos, I just couldn’t resist doing a bit of design work.

I’ve come up with a design for the Brighton Bloggers site. Essentially it’s just a simple framework that can accomodate all the clever stuff that’s planned for the site.

For now, though, it’s just a series of static pages. Oh… but you can reload those pages to get a different image in the masthead each time. I thought that was a cute touch.

As usual, it’s CSS and XHTML all the way.

I hope the bloggers of Brighton like the design. If not, I guess I’ll hear about it on the 28th.

Monday, August 11th, 2003

Music in the meatspace of Montana

Contrary to what some would have you believe, the internet is a wonderful thing.

For example: a bunch of musicians, who hitherto have only conversed in the cyberspace of an Irish music website that I run, decided to travel hundreds of miles to Montana to meet up, play tunes and have some fun. They chronicled the whole thing, where else, but on the internet.

Sometimes running an online community can be a royal pain but when stuff like this happens, it’s all worth it.

Just think: these people would probably never have met (much less travelled hundreds of miles to meet) if it hadn’t been for an Irish music website that I decided to put together for fun. I can’t even begin to express how cool I find that.

Sunday, August 10th, 2003


There’s a new picture by Jessica up at The Mirror Project.

It was supposed to be just a shot of Dan, Jessica and myself all together but the way it turned out, it looks like a promo shot for a trashy TV series.

The picture is from Jessica, the smart-ass caption is from me.

Thursday, August 7th, 2003

Wireless Mall

I’ve just made a nifty little discovery: the mall in Sierra Vista has Wi-Fi.

I must remember to bring some chalk with me next time we’re here.

The Mall At Sierra Vista

Budd Blog

Brighton web designer, pal and all-round good guy Andy Budd has joined the blogosphere.

One of us, one of us…

Tuesday, August 5th, 2003

Bad designer, no iPod

It looks like I won’t be getting an iPod after all.

Congratulations to Ronan on creating a crisp, clear design for Ben Hammersley.

I guess my design didn’t cut the mustard. At least, I hope that’s the reason that I didn’t win. The thing is, I never received any confirmation from Ben at all that he even received my submission.

Although Ben listed the submissions he had received, he made no mention of my entry (hence the comment in his blog from me). I sent two emails, the second one being a somewhat worried and nervous plea for a sign of life. Still, I got no response.

Oh, well. I guess he’s a busy guy, what with running marathons and all. But I would like to know if I was even in the running for that iPod.

Now I have to come up with an alternate plan. Maybe I should sit on a street corner with a sign saying "Will code CSS for Apple gadgets".

I Am Camera

On the morning that Jessica and I were leaving Brighton I decided I’d chronicle every step of the way. When we boarded the bus to Heathrow airport I was already whipping out my digital camera.

That’s when I saw that the LCD display was completely white except for the top right corner where I could just about discern a portion of the scene in front of the camera. Trying to use the camera without the LCD display felt like taking pictures with my eyes closed. Of course I could just use the old-fashioned viewfinder but that seems to be "off" in some way and the pictures never come out quite the way I actually compose them.

Time for a new camera.

Luckily, I happen to be in America where electronic items are far cheaper than in England. Generally, you can just swap the dollar sign for a pound sign when you’re comparing American and English prices.

While I was in Baltimore, I took a trip out to the nearest Apple store. They had a good selection of cameras (and other goodies that severely tempted me).

I walked out with a brand new Canon S200 Elph. Dan recommended it highly so if it sucks, I’ll blame him.

It certainly seems to have a lot of powerful features but I think I’ll have to actually RTFM to get it to take pictures exactly as I want them.

I’ll have plenty of time and opportunity to test out the camera. I’m in Arizona now. The light is bright and the scenery is wide.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures from Baltimore. Some of them were taken with Jessica’s Fuji Finepix camera and some of them were taken with Dan’s Canon. See if you can spot which is which.

Saturday, August 2nd, 2003


I’m in the States. Baltimore, to be precise.

The flight over was a breeze. Compared to the usual long-haul to Phoenix, the pond-hopper to Dulles was child’s play. Jessica and I lucked out with the in-flight movies. X-Men 2 and Finding Nemo on the same flight; what are the odds?

Dan picked us up at the airport. We stepped outside into the warm, muggy Washington air - quite a change from the breezy day we had left behind in England.

When we got to Baltimore we headed straight for a diner, the Sip’n’Bite, where I had my first Maryland crab soup of the weekend. It’s a delicious, hearty stock of which the city can be justifiably proud.

Today was spent in tourist mode. Jessica, Dan and I strolled down to Fell’s Point (where I had another Maryland crab soup), hopped on a harbour taxi and took pictures of the Constellation, the Chesapeake lightship and other ships moored in the harbour.

When we stopped off for a refreshing iced coffee at The Daily Grind cafe, I took the opportunity to record Dan’s Baltimore accent - a source of merriment for me.

So, for your multimedia entertainment, I present a picture of me tucking into a cup of Maryland crab soup and Dan saying the words "pickin’ bones" (a phrase unconnected to my ingestion of said soup).

me eating crab soup

Sound File