Monday, 29 September 2008


As you may have guessed from the number of blog entries on the subject, I quite like taking photos. With the move to digital I'm taking more photos then I ever did before. For example, we took almost 1500 photos in just ten days on our honeymoon -- the equivalent of 41 rolls of 36 exposure film! There are two problems with this explosion in the number of photos we take: storage and remembering where they were taken. I don't have a solution to the first yet (other than lots of blank DVDs and hard drives) but I've bought a new toy that hopefully will solve the second.

Geotagging involves tagging each photograph with the exact location at which it was taken. Once tagged the photos can then easily be display on a map which is really useful if you are trying to remember where they were taken (you already know the when from the timestamp). I've tried manually tagging some of my photos in the past but it is a very slow and painstaking process. Of course if you have a GPS device then you can know precisely where you are and all you have to do is make use of the information to tag the photos. While many people may have GPS in their cars this isn't a lot of good if you are walking around. To solve this problem what you really need is a very small GPS recorder.

So my new toy is a keyring sized GPS recorder from QSTARZ -- specifically the BT-Q1300 model (which, in the UK, can be bought direct from SuperGPS or if you prefer through Amazon). As you can see from the image it really is only the size of a large keyring and weighs virtually nothing, which makes it very easy to carry around. On it's own it can log up to 200,000 separate locations and with a battery which lasts for about 12 hours should be great for a full day out and about with the camera. Given it's small size it's antenna isn't the most sensitive and so it nearly always fails to get a location fix indoors but I don't really see that as a problem. Apparently (although I haven't tried this yet) as well as logging the journey it can connect to a laptop or PDA via bluetooth and be used, with the right software, as a GPS navigation device as well.

I did have a few problems getting it to work initially. As I said it doesn't seem to ever get a location fix inside (which is where I was when I was first trying it out) and on the day I bought it I managed to crash it. Basically there are two versions of the software on the supplied CD (v3 and v4) which both have slightly different capabilities. As it turns out some of the advanced features found in v3 aren't compatible with the hardware and this combined with the software locking up on my laptop left the device rather confused and I had to wait 12 hours for the battery to go flat before I could re-charge it and get it to respond.

I also, as yet, haven't managed to give it a really good test on a long day out, but I did record my journey to work this morning from Penistone train station right to the department at the university and took some photos on the way. The results of this can be seen on the Google Maps below (or if you prefer you can view it in Google Earth).

One of the main let-downs of the bundled software is that while it will output both KML and KMZ files for viewing in Google Maps and Google Earth respectively only the KMZ output links to the photos and the format the software produces doesn't work properly with Google Maps. Anyway a bit of hacking later gave me a KMZ file that works OKish in both -- expect me to write software that does this better at a later date.

Another Year of Education

Well another year has passed, the students look even younger and the chance of buying a sandwich in less than 15 minutes at lunch time is now quickly approaching zero! At least it has now stopped raining.

Thinking of education though it reminds me, when does scoring 3/10 on a test give you a mark of 50%?

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Cathédrale Saint Andre

Here is the last photo from my short trip to Bordeaux. I did take some others but nothing really worth posting here. Anyway this is the Cathédral Saint Andre taken from in front of the town hall and right next to a café which served excellent ice creams!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Bringing Home The Wine

Having been to Bordeaux I had to bring at least one bottle of red wine home with me. Unfortunately that turned out to be a lot harder than I expected.

Given the number of security restrictions in place when flying I knew that I wouldn't be able to buy wine in Bordeaux and then safely bring it home. I couldn't put it in my case for fear of it breaking and I wouldn't be allowed it in my hand luggage as it would definitely be more than 100ml in volume. So I decided to risk there being good wine to buy in Bordeaux airport after having passed through security.

Fortunately there was a shop after security with a pretty decent choice of French wine from the Bordeaux region. After quite a while I settled on the bottle in the picture. Paying for it, however, was where the trouble started.

I handed over cash and in return was given my wine in a carrier bag to make it easier to carry onto the flight. To me this all seemed reasonable. An hour or so later we arrived in Gatwick where we were due to change onto an internal flight to Manchester. This is where a problem quickly became apparent. To transfer from an international flight with BA to a national flight with BA you have to leave through passport control and security and then re-enter the airport as if you have just arrived at the airport by any other means of transport. This of course means that you have to go back through security and passport control where you cannot take a wine bottle. It turns out that in Bordeaux they should have placed my wine bottle in a clear plastic bag with the receipt clearly visible and then heat sealed the bag with security tape. If they had done that then I could have taken it onboard as hand luggage without a problem.

Fortunately BA were happy to put the wine in the hold so all I (and my boss who had bought two bottles) had to do was securely wrap it. So we traipsed across the check-in area to buy some bubble wrap at the luggage office then back across to check the wine into the hold and then back across again to the slow luggage belt where it was marked as fragile before being entrusted to the baggage system.

Fortunately it survived the short journey to Manchester without incident and was thoroughly enjoyed (with Venison steak) on Sunday evening.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Continental Breakfast

Now I like cooked breakfasts, but being in France I was resigned to the idea of having only a continental breakfast. To make matters worse the hotel in which I am staying doesn't do any food at all.

To get to the meeting we have to catch a tram from one of the main squares, at which there is a very nice patisserie. So breakfast was orange juice, black coffee, pain au chocolat and pain au rasin -- all for just €3.50.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


I'm in Bordeaux (no I'm not swimming in wine before any of you start thinking I'm weirder than I actually am). Yet again I'm away from home in a nice city simply to work. Fortunately we arrived quite early this afternoon so I managed to wonder around a little bit. Among other things I saw the Place de la Bourse and the Mirror D'Eau right on the bank of the river Garonne.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

St. Andrews Bay

This is the view of St. Andrews Bay from the Martyrs' Monument. According to the tourist information board St. Andrews Bay stretches from the broad sands of Tentsmuir Point to rugged cliffs of Kinkell Ness. Wherever you go there are sea birds; beneath sand and swell, there is a wealth of marine life. Stop, look, listen -- and wait; you might catch sight of seals. There's so much to see, if you're patient -- and quiet.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Rufus Bear

Rufus Bear is part of our ongoing customer care programme and he is provided for your comfort and companionship during your stay. Housekeeping carryout a turndown service between 7.30pm and 9.00pm. If you would prefer not to be disturbed then, or at any other time, please leave Rufus outside your door. Should you wish to take one of his twins home, they can be purchased from Reception at a cost of £16.00.

Rufflets Hotel

Whilst I've been to Scotland a number of times before I've never really visited the east coast. That all changed this weekend when we stayed at Rufflets Hotel just outside St. Andrews for a a friends wedding.

We travelled up on Friday and the Wedding wasn't until 4pm on Saturday which meant that we had all of Saturday morning to explore St. Andrews. So expect a few more blog postings over the next few days as I slowly sort through the photographs.

Monday, 1 September 2008

More Small Change

In a previous post I showed you a 1797 George III copper "cartwheel" penny. Unfortunately the specimen I have is so badly worn that seeing any detail on the real thing is almost impossible but on the photo I'd be surprised if you could even tell it was a coin!

So today I can show you a 1797 George III solid copper "cartwheel" two pence piece. To get an idea of it's size you can see it in relation to the most recently issued two pence coin. As mentioned before the coin, when issued, was worth it's weight in copper and hence weighs a whopping 2oz. Whilst it is therefore twice as heavy as the penny it isn't twice the diameter. It is only a little bigger with most of the additional copper being used to make the coin exceptionally thick.

I alluded last time to the remarkable detail of the coins when seen on a good specimen. The intricate detail made it almost impossible for forgers to copy the coins. To show you what I mean have a look at the detail on the ship seen to the left of Britannia on the coin. Given that this coin is now 211 years old the fact that on such a small part of the coin you can clearly see the sails, rigging and gun ports is amazing.