Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Going green

Posted by Chris @ 5:29 PM

It is all very well the Government telling us we all have to go green and be energy efficient etc, but when the simplest of tasks in the go green agenda is difficult, there are clearly some issues to be addressed.

Allow me to explain. The majority of the light bulbs in our house are energy saving ones, but a couple of rooms weren't, the living room, where the light is on the most, and the dining room, where the light is on the most, 2nd/3rd. So with a few days off work I set out to make us energy efficient by doing the simple thing and swapping them for energy saving bulbs. Only I couldn't.

I went to B&Q, I bought the smallest bayonet 11W (60W in old bulbage) bulb, brought it home, and it wouldn't fit in our uplight lampshade. I tried to chop off the bit of bolt that was stopping it from being installed, no joy. Grr. To top off things I tried it without the shade, and because we have a dimmer switch in the lounge, the switch buzzed, annoyingly so. So since we don't care for dimmer switches much (lights are either on or off) the next day we bought a new lampshade, that would fit our bulb, and a replacement switch. And all is now happily installed and working, and the light is much better, but still, it shouldn't have taken me this much effort or had to have me fork out another £8 for a new lampshade and switch.

As for the dining room, that is one of those four spotlight jobbies, and takes R50 reflector spotlight bulbs. And you've guessed it, no shops I've been into sell the bloody things in energy efficient form. You can get them online, but they'll cost you over a fiver to buy, plus P&P so when you need 4 of them, it is easily over 20 quid, and I'm sorry, that is too much. So for now, they'll stay the energy guzzlers they are (although two aren't working anyway, so that's energy efficient already ;o) If anyone knows of a shop where I can buy R50 energy efficient bulbs do let me know!

In the mean time, in summary, make an energy efficient bulb to replace each type of bulb, and make them available in all shops already selling light bulbs, now, and for less than £2 each!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cycling around Derwent Reservoir

Posted by Chris @ 8:04 PM

On such a glorious day, with the day off work, what else is there to do but go for a lovely bike ride around Derwent Reservoir! Truth be told, having lived in and around Sheffield for 8 years now, the Peak District is still only just really being discovered by Dawn and I, something I'm enjoying immensely, but wishing I had done sooner!

Today's discovery, as you may have gathered, was Derwent Reservoir. Nestling off the A57 (Snakes Pass) next to the more commonly known Ladybower Reservoir is a beautiful area of the Peak District.

Even better we'd been told you could hire bikes there and cycle around Derwent, so that's what we set off to do. It has been ages since I've ridden a bike, but I used to be really good on one, having been a paper boy and enjoying long summer cycle rides along the flat roads of Selby and surrounding areas. And so it was with excitement me and Dawn got our bikes, and headed off. For those interested, it cost £11.00 for a bike for 4 hours, with a £20.00 deposit, which they prefer in cash, but do let you put on your card. It is also worth noting the hirer also needs some ID, like a driving license.

Once we'd got the measure of the gears we were off. The ride is a really nice, 12 miles ride, that took us, at a very leisurely pace, 2½ hours. It has tarmac roads, gravel bridleways (particularly bumpy in places), uphills, downhills and level bits, and all with spectacular views across Derwent Reservoir and its dams. I'm not sure how busy it gets on the weekends, but on a Monday it was great, not busy at all.

All in all we really enjoyed it, and I can't help but be a bit envious of Chris, Phil and Jane now as they make final preparations for their bike ride to Cromer. It has put Dawn and I in the frame of mind to buy some bikes, but given we have nowhere to store them, we'd need to move house, and then get a bigger car so we can drive to great locations to use them, so already owning a bike looks quite expensive ;o)

Anyway, since you've read my drivel this far I shall reward you with a photo and the promise of more photos here! Keep on riding...

Dawn and her bike

Saturday, March 24, 2007

PhotoWall

Posted by Chris @ 7:33 PM

PhotoWall is my latest project, and the reason my blog rate has suffered recently! I've been working on this for a good number of weeks now, but finally I'm happy that it is ready for the masses! So what is it? Well, as usual the best way to find out is to go and try it out, and read the about page, but if you can't be bothered to do that, read this:

PhotoWall is a constantly changing montage of photos taken directly from Flickr (using their fantastic API). It's a great way to view lots of photos at once and discover new photos uploaded to Flickr.

So now you know! From this point onwards I'm assuming you've taken a look at PhotoWall. One of the most interesting things I find is the way the whole feel of the wall changes depending on the feed. For example, recently uploaded photos tend to be people, babies and places, but with similar colour tones and contrast. In comparison interesting photos result in a bright, colourful high contrast wall tending to be of objects and places, rather than people. The time of day also affects the recently uploaded page, which is obvious as to why it happens, but is more noticable that it happens using the wall.

In my opinion this is one of the best web pages I've produced, and I'm very happy with how it has turned out. The use of subtle animations and the clean interface is very professional looking, and I'm proud of it! Thanks also go to Tony for helping me test this, and for suggesting some features.

So what are you waiting for, go enjoy it and explore the millions of photos on Flickr...

PhotoWall

Mam Tor, Castleton

Posted by Chris @ 7:15 PM

Today we have mostly been walking for 3 hours up Mam Tor in Castleton. It was a jolly rewarding walk, but also knackering, with a stiff cold wind to contend with too. But we enjoyed it! On the way back through Castleton we popped in to the Peak Cavern to see what all the fuss was about, and since we had been to Speedwell Cavern before, it would complete the experience. And actually it was quite good, certainly a fascinating history to the place, if you're in Castleton, do go there.

The photos and videos aren't that exciting this time, just a few from the Summit of Mam Tor, but you get the idea, it was a hazy day with some great views!

Monday, March 19, 2007

C'était un rendez-vous

Posted by Chris @ 9:47 PM

Phew, bit of a blogathon tonight, especially after the blog drought I've been suffering from. Anyway on with the good stuff...

Top Gear have mentioned this film a couple of times, and Snow Patrol have used it as the video for their latest single, Eyes Open so I thought I'd go and watch it for myself.

So what have I watched I hear you cry? C'était un rendez-vous by Claude Lelouch, a short 10 minute film that is pretty amazing and scary at the same time. According to Wikipedia this is a cult film, and I can see why. Driving at high speed through the streets of Paris this is a very engaging film, and the soundtrack of that engine (even if it is dubbed as suggested) is magnificent. Don't watch a bit of it, watch all of it, and take time to make sure you can watch it uninterrupted, and make sure you do it with the sound on!

Watched it? Good, now go to this website (make sure you follow his simple instructions), and through the power of Google Maps and the art of the mashup watch it again but this time follow the route the car takes through the streets of Paris, genius!

So, what did you think to it? Have you seen it before, just seen it, did it provoke emotion in you? Let me know...

The best bits from Comic Relief

Posted by Chris @ 9:25 PM

Due to a major update to a system I develop going live on Saturday at work, I was up into the wee hours of Friday night babysitting (from home) some last minute testing of the migration scripts, and so had the chance to watch the entirety of Comic Relief on the BBC. As usual it was the mix of tear jerking stories and comedy, all in the name of charity. As usual most of the sketches were over hyped rubbish!

However, there were some hidden gems, and genuinely amusing bits during the evening, but sadly most of these were after 10:30pm, and in one case, after 1pm, right before the end! So in comedy order, ensure you go and watch, in full, these sketches, and enjoy the best of Comic Relief in little over 20 minutes.

WWTD

Posted by Chris @ 9:08 PM

Tony recently moved from our office to another on the same floor. Having worked next to Tony since starting at SDL (nearly 4 years now) I decided it was a point in time we should mark with something. That and a strict policy on Internet usage had been introduced, so lunchtimes were restricted to using the applications on your machine, namely Adobe Photoshop! So what did I do, I produced the following, printed it out and stuck it on the wall where Tony once sat.

Now here is the fun part, I fully understood the parody I had created by using the acronym WWTD, as did Chris when he first saw it, but that was it! Not a single other person who has seen it has got the joke. I find that amazing! So the question is, do you get it? Try and answer honestly in the comments please, and once you've given your answer click this link to find out what the parody is based on! (And if you still don't get it then there really is no helping you!)

WWTD

Deliver post on a Sunday!

Posted by Chris @ 8:39 PM

I'm sorry, but is this not the 21st century, are we not one of the most powerful countries in the world? The reason I pose these questions? Because I can't get a letter delivered on a bloody Sunday!

Seriously, why, in this day and age is it so hard for our postal system to deliver the post on a Sunday. Yeah, a few people might whinge on about Sunday being a special day to a shrinking few of the population, but I'm sure there will be plenty of posties only too happy to deliver on a Sunday to get a bit extra in their pay packet.

And think of the benefits, no more late Mother's day cards (ahem), letters sent 1st class arriving the next day, whenever you post them, businesses and people alike will no longer be able to use “it's in the post” as an excuse. Moving house might actually be quicker!

I'm seriously considering adding this as a petition to old Tony's online petition website. But that leads me on to a whole new rant. The number of stupid people on there petitioning for Sunday to be a holy day again, and everything to be shut. A bunch of fools, let shops open if they want to, if you don't want to shop on a Sunday, then don't! Luckily the stupid are out numbered by the sensible asking for Sunday trading laws to be abolished. Phew, rant over I think. So in summary, deliver post on a Sunday, and yeah, why not do away with the Sunday trading laws at the same time.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Community speed gun schemes

Posted by Chris @ 5:18 PM

This feels a bit odd, writing a blog post! Been a while but that is because I've been busy, and working on a new bit for the site. That and I've also not had much to say recently, shocking I know.

But anyway, all that is set to change because once again, the fuel for many of my rants, BBC Breakfast came up trumps again today. They were covering a story about how the community (a couple of folk) in a village were using a speed gun to actively monitor the speed of cars passing through their village, then recording the cars details, sending it to the police, and they can issue a warning letter. No prosecution can ever be brought, but still, it is a warning.

Trouble is, the community shouldn't have to be policing the speed limit, the police should. It is all very well the police saying they are working in partnership with the community, but the fact remains they are the professional, impartial keepers of the law, not the emotionally involved members of the community. It is one step away from a vigilante society.

Those in favour of these schemes says it empowers the community, but I say they don't need to hold speed guns to be empowered. Whatever happened to a good old petition, lobbying the council to improve traffic safety, introduce traffic calming measures. Sure that takes longer and isn't as much of a high visibility deterrent as someone with a speed gun, but in the long term the traffic calming will have a much better effect at reducing speed than a speed gun on show a couple of hours a day, when the weather is nice.

I'm sure this issue divides many people, but happily Dawn agrees with me on this one, but what do you reckon, yay or nay to community speed guns?