New Tripod

I’ve been umm’ing and and ahhh’ing over getting a new tripod for months now and I’ve finally taken the plunge.

The original one I had was kindly donated by my in-laws, but it was really designed to be reasonably cheap and for camcorder use. That means it lacks the stability and adjustability which is preferred when using still cameras. It was also quite small, meaning every time I wanted to use it, the legs were at full extension and I still needed to bend down low to look through the viewfinder. So I went and ordered a Manfrotto 055XProB tripod, with a matching Manfrotto 488 ball head.

It is a truly beautiful piece of kit and absolutely rock-solid. Height is spot-on – even without the centre column extended up high, the viewfinder is perfect for my eye level.

The centre column itself is very clever too. It can be raised and lowered to offer an extra foot or so of height, should you need it. The whole thing can also be flipped round 90 degrees to the horizontal plane so that you can take photos from a whole new angle – very handy for macro shots.

20081231_2192 Indeed, that’s how I got the photo for my previous blog post – put the leaflet on the table and setup my camera above it. From there, I just set ISO to 200, Av mode and set the aperture to f/11. Zoom in a bit to avoid using the lens at the widest zoom setting, while auto focus takes care of getting it right first time.

That keeps everything nice and sharp with the minimum of fuss. This needed a 1.5 second exposure, so use the self-timer mode to avoid needing to touch the camera when the shutter is being triggered.

The photo to the left is how the setup looked – plus it was about 1 minute’s work too: such is the ease-of-use.

Unfortunately, such ease-of-use and stability comes at a price. As far as tripods go, this wasn’t that expensive, which means it is made of traditional aluminium. Now normally aluminium is associated with being lightweight, but the modern alternative is carbon-fibre. These c-f tripods are very expensive – typically double the price of their aluminium counterpart.

So the only problem really is the weight of the thing: 3.2kg, or 7 pounds. If you want to walk somewhere, you need to add to this weight the contents of my camera bag: a Canon 350D, a Speedlite 580EX flash, lenses (x4), and various batteries. That makes my all-up weight when taking my camera out a fairly hefty 8.7kg (about 19 pounds). Even with all that mass though, my camera rucksack still feels good when properly strapped to my back.

The photo below shows a close-up of the setup, which includes the horizontal centre column and the ball head (the bit between the silver plate and the camera body).

Horizontal orientation

We’re visiting friends in the Lake District later in January, which should hopefully give me a few good photo opportunities in the winter sun for landscapes. I’ll report back here.

Knock, Knock, Knocking on my Front Door

I’m working from home today and the Jehovah’s Witnesses have just been round as is traditional at this time of year.

They’re all very nice and just politely gave me a leaflet saying they were handing them out for people to read in their own time. Usual religious stuff: illustration on the front, with a suitably unachievable* headline (“All Suffering SOON TO END“), and several bible quotes inside with explanations for the layman.

Religious pamphletExcept that I glossed over the problem with all of these religious pamphlets: they all have their front covers illustrated by the same bloke who does childrens’ bible story books.

All of them look the same: whether the picture is of peasants in dressing gowns on the streets of Galilee, or wild animals roaming free on the plains of Africa; they all have that drawn-by-the-winner-of-the-last-colouring-in-using-pencils-competition feel to them.

I’ve no idea why this picture is set in the Canadian Rocky Mountains (judging by the snow-capped peaks and the wandering elk). Perhaps that’s where the Jehovah’s Witnesses community would all like to end up.

Anyway, I’ve cast out my sins and put it in the paper recycling bin, rather than just the regular household rubbish.

* Miserable, pessimistic git

Broadband is back!

I’m writing this blog because I can.

On Saturday lunchtime, my broadband died and refused to reconnect. No ADSL sync light, just a router reporting “link down”. Boo! This came only a couple of weeks after my old ADSL router silently died on duty.

The actual route taken to getting things back online is tedious, so I’ll not bother explaining it. At one point though, I was struggling along working from home on 38.6kbps dial-up access. Now that’s not funny for two reasons. Primarily because it takes an age to download even the simplest of web pages, but mostly because ping times to the systems at work were monumentally slow (600-1000ms).

Anyway, all is fixed now, with the magic light suddenly reappearing at about 12 noon today – that’s about 48 hours without broadband.

I’m surprised I’m still alive: the therapy session is booked in for tomorrow.

The Programming Bible

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Now the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved over the earth. And God said “Let there be light”, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and used it to produce the green screen.

And it came to pass that man would begin to program in assembler. But God saw that His deadline included a seventh day for rest and His project would slip. And thus God created FORTRAN in His own image and saw that it was good.

And FORTRAN did begat FORTRAN I. And FORTRAN I did begat ALGOL. And ALGOL did live for a great many years, whence it was a good father – for it did begat CPL and BASIC and PL/I and Pascal. And CPL did give life to portable code in the form of its descendant C. And BASIC did begat many programming careers with the BBC Micro. And PL/I did provide Ian with a career in PL/X. And Pascal did provide many an undergraduate with their first assignment.

Yet ALGOL also did begat Simula, and thus the earth became laid waste with object-oriented programming.

With C, the earth was good, but sin crept in and it did tempt programmers with the forbidden fruit of inexpensive computational power. And thus His programmers became lazy and listened to the serpent Simula and did spawn the devil’s incarnation in the form of C++. Thus God was downcast in their profligacy with their use of expensive runtimes.

Yet man did continue to spurn the Lord and used the evil of C++ to produce Java. And thus man did claim it to be as fast as C, yet the Holy Trinity were blinded by marketing when man re-wrote RPC using XML. And thus Java did begat Web Services.

Here endeth today’s lesson.

Where’s The Catch?

Lucy is now pretty much at full-speed around the house, having got the hang of crawling some time ago. She can make remarkable progress across the floor, despite her small size and inability to walk. Coupled with this ability to explore is also the desire to explore.

Everything which is within reach (and at times some things which aren’t), will be pushed, pulled, chewed and rattled. Our house is just a playground of new stuff to do now she’s got her crawling badge. Unfortunately, we can’t just let her loose in the kitchen cupboards, so we’ve needed to fit child safety catches on all of the doors. These are primitive lumps of plastic which screw to the door, with a corresponding catch screwing to the carcase of the cabinet. Pull the door open about 2 inches, push the plastic bit in slightly, then the door’s released. Easy.

Except these things are driving me nuts.

Each of our floor-level kitchen cupboards have drawers above them. That means the catches couldn’t be mounted at the top as designed. Nor could they be mounted to the side, because everything’s nice and flush-fitting, including the appliances, so there’s no room to get your fingers in. So the only place they could go was on the floor of the cabinet.

So now every time I need anything out of the kitchen cupboards (and that’s many times a day), I need to bend down, articulate my wrist in a monumentally uncomfortable way, pull the door open and then push the catch up into the cupboard.