Brian’s Blog

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Just Another Weekend II

Bestival again! – Somehow or other I was badgered into visiting the Ray-Ban tent. The sound levels were way above my normal threshold but I stuck with it as one of our group had volunteered for a free haircut!

The barbers menu was quite short – somethings along the lines of: Quick Tidy, All Off, Mohican and Barber’s Choice – Madeline, being nuts, ;), chose “Barber’s Choice” and we all stood around watching while she underwent the efforts of a well disguised, professional hair dresser putting on a flamboyant display for the onlookers. She ended up with a few minor tweaks  and a lot of red and glitter spray.

Yours truly was cajoled into joining he queue and bottled it by requesting  a “Quick Tidy”. All was going very smoothly until the end when I too was subjected to the colour and glitter sprays. Goodness only knows what I looked like for the rest of the evening, thankfully I didn’t have to look at it, and the telescope viewing public didn’t seem to care! The good news was that the colour washed out really easily when I got home!

Add this to the “Staring Contest” that I also got dragged into and you’ll understand that this was not a normal night for me.

The end result though was very satisfying. I got a free haircut, won the Staring Contest and picked up a pile of Ray-Ban goodies for my efforts  -thanks guys!

Just Another Weekend

Bestival! – it’s that time of year again and, for the third time, Vectis Astronomical Society were asked to provide telescopes at the Bestival.

Thursday and Friday were very cloudy but, nonetheless, we attracted quite a few interested persons to take a look at our ‘scopes even though the were only directed at cranes and ferris wheels. Saturday was almost perfecto clear though and we had almost flawless vies of the moon.

The 12′ dob attracted visitors and, along with the 10′ Orion allowed visitors good views. There were loads of “oh my god” moments and the smiles on observers faces made it all worth the dust and general hubbub.

I like to think we added something to the Bestival experience for the c 800 people who came to see us over he weekend and hope they all enjoyed their stay on the Island.

Light pollution is always a problem a big events like this and despite the efforts of the organisers, the energy efficient bulbs and the use of fewer large floodlights on the site didn’t really help the overall impact in the Island’s skies. The site is huge and really needs some followup work from us to reduce the effect next time.

I got a bike…

Turns out the Scott was not for me after all, the suggested bike was a bit of a cross between hybrid and mountain and a fair bit heavier than I wanted.

In the end I chose a machine I saw quite early in my musings –  a Giant Roam 1 and I ended up buying it from Cycle World in Southampton. They were very helpful on my first visit and very keen to help on my second, particularly concerning getting a bike frame that fitted my size and weight.
Giant Roam 1

Anyhow, the Giant had its first outing today and I’m pleased to report that both bike and rider arrived back in “set off condition”!

I don’t have any way of measuring distance at the moment, apart from a quick measure on Google Earth, and that revealed a first trip of 9 miles, or thereabouts. Not bad for a first ride in about 10 yrs, and i never stood up once!

I probably don’t look that good/fit in shorts and a hi-viz jacket, but who cares about that, I can’t see myself!

i thoroughly enjoyed the first ride and am looking forward to a lot more miles….

Oh, and I just ordered a cycle helmet to complete the mamil look.

Looking to buy a new bike…

Ages ago, when we left Swindon, I gave my bike away on Freecyle. I’ve regretted that for a while now and recently decided to buy a replacement.

After a fair amount of investigation, I’d pretty much decided on a Boardman MX sport 2014 as it gets good reviews, looks good and wasn’t too expensive. Unfortunately of me, I discovered, they don’t make that model in a frame size large enough for my legs to keep pedalling whilst turning corners! My knees hit the turned handlebars..

To be honest I really wanted to buy a bike from an independent bike shop and not from Halfords, now it seems I have to.

I’m now looking forward to next week and having a proper look at the 2015 range from Scott at a shop here in on the Island in Newport.

Updates to follow…

Katy Curd is World Champion!

Congratulations to Katy Curd (my niece) on becoming the 2014 Elite Women’s 4x World Champion! 2014 4X World Champs Well done Katy! We are all very proud. Links:

All Change!

I thought that after about 5 years with one theme, I’d better drag this blog kicking and screaming into the 21st century ;)

Quadruple Blue served me well (although I did make quite a few tweaks to it) and in some ways I am reluctant to change but this new one (Hemmingway) looks promising. The theme author, Anders Norén has made this and three other themes free at his website.

Anyhow, I’ll no doubt be tweeking this a little over the next few months but if you see anything strange happening, please don’t be shy in telling me about it.

15Gb of free on-line storage?

copy.com

There are lots of companies offering on-line storage these days and a lot offer some free space.

I’ve had a Dropbox (4Gb or so) account for a long time and use it every day, but recently I needed more space for some automatically collected data files. To avoid overloading that account, I decided to give copy.com a try.

They offer 15Gb of free space and that is more than enough for the new project, so I signed up. After 2 months of continued use, the service has never been unavailable and is fast and easy to use.

Like Dropbox, copy.com allows me to access the stored data from any device I have, in fact it provides apps for a couple I don’t use: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, Raspberry Pi, and Windows Phone. 

Adverts and Popups

The internet is filled with webpages which are in turn filled with adverts – and a bit like spam, they seem to breed!

Most of my spam problems have now been controlled by setting filters as “tight” as possible on my normal email accounts and forwarding all the junk collected to a gmail account. I then collect my normal email and gmail normally as part of Outlook’s normal mail cycle so that all mail is collected centrally on my main PC and deleted from the mailservers. Any spam getting through after this is neatly mopped up by my old favourite, SpamBayes

When I’m out and about I still collect mail on the iPhone or iPad, but this time the POP collection process is set to leave mail on the server. It seems to work for me!

Anyhow, back to annoying popups and adverts; I’ve tried a lot of ad-blocking software (usually configured as a browser add-on or extension). They work but require updating from time to time and, of course, add-ons slow down the browser. While searching for solutions the other day I saw mention of an open-source solution called Privoxy and decided to give it a try. It’s still early days, but things are looking good!

This might get a little techy but I’ll do my best to keep it simple; Privoxy works at network level outside the browser and therefore doesn’t care which one (or 6!) you choose to use. Essentially, your browser now send requests  to Privoxy, it gets the page, filters out all the stuff you don’t need then forwards the nice clean, ad-free website to your browser.

OK, this does require a couple of small changes to your internet settings, but they are very easy to make. I won’t go into the detail here as the software authors have done a great job in producing all the info you need in a nice understandable manual – in fact everything apart from the small setting change mentioned just works straight “out of the box”.

Privoxy is available for Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, and quite a few other operating systems and once installed it allows you to route all your website requests through it.

For the moment I am using Privoxy on OSX, Windows and Mint Linux machines and all work perfectly – the next step is to “donate” a Raspberry Pi to this little project and put the software on that, which would allow me to remove the individual installations on each machine and route browser requests from any of them through Privoxy on the Pi.

There’s more for me to learn but things are looking good.

Whoops, I should have mentioned that Privoxy is free although, of course, donations are welcome.

Mending Stuff is Good!

Meade 884 Delux Tripod

A friend recently found that her telescope tripod was damaged even though it was properly stored in the supplied case. The tripod in question is a Meade #884 deluxe field tripod (cost about £180 new) but suffers a few design problems which no doubt caused the problem:

  1. The supplied case is too small to easily pack the tripod
  2. The locking wheels/knobs which hold the tripod in the correct position are on the inside of the legs which means they all bash against each other when the tripod is folded for storage, and
  3. The locking wheels/knobs are made of brittle plastic.

The problem here was a broken plastic knob on one of these locking knobs.

Easy to solve eh? Well not quite, a search for Meade tripod spares gave no real results so I had to find out what these things are really called and then find a supplier. It turns out that they are usually called “Star Knobs” or “Handwheels” in the world outside of astronomy and tripods.

GAN4255987H

I found a supplier in Portsmouth who arranged to get three for me, and I collected them earlier today. Fantastic service from Cromwell Tools who even called me to let me know they had arrived. I fitted all three just make the tripod look the part and she now has two spares should the problem happen again.

Anyhow, anyone with a similar problem may be interested to know, the thread is M8 and about 15mm long, the Cromwell part number is GAN4255987H (direct product link) and they cost a paltry £1.50 each inc VAT.

IW Planning Applications

Suburban Milky Way

The Milky Way On My Doorstep – Copyright Chad Powell

A lot of you will know that I have been pretty busy lately with the IW Dark Skies project.

You can follow what we are up to at Darkwightskies.com

Well, I need some help – if you care about this Island, please take a look at our latest post and read about two plans which, if implemented as they stand, will seriously affect our skies.

Feel free to comment on the post there or perhaps you’d like to make your feelings known to the IW Planning Department or the companies concerned.

Whatever you choose, we need your help.

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