That’s No Moon…

Posted in Projects, Space with tags , , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by badhex

(Okay actually I tell a lie, this is a moon. Couldn’t resist the title though)

Space is awesome.

Literally awesome. I’ve always be really interested since I was a kid. Not surprising I guess, given the other types of things I really love.

So, this weekend I went back up north where you can actually see stars with the naked eye, and I was having a good peer through the Celestron Astromaster 70AZ telescope we bought for my mum’s partner; As you may or may not know, Jupiter is really bright at the moment, and at 90x magnification I could even see the Northern Equitorial Belt, and the four largest so-called ‘Galilean moons’  Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto (hint: they were discovered by Galileo). I also saw – as one would expect – the moon, which was  extremely clear on the two nights I was viewing. On the second night I managed to get a few photos using my sister’s digital camera (harder than you’d think), one of which is the above, the rest are here on flickr. Pretty impressive stuff.

I also went to see my grandparents that weekend, and my Granddad being very interested in such things, I told him and showed him a few of the photos I’d taken. When I was a kid, and we stayed at my grandparent’s house, I remember frequently pestering my Granddad to get his telescope down from the loft. I used to love it, peering into the lens of this instrument, a window into the vast, black unknown in which reside planets, stars and galaxies of ages and sizes that are hard for us mere humans with our feeble 80-odd year life-spans to comprehend. I truly think experiences like this are instrumental to my love and wonder at the complexities and general awesomeness of the universe in which we live.

Anyway, so whilst talking with my Granddad, he mentioned the old telescope, and basically said he’d been trying to return it to the observatory from whence it came – as it was slightly dilapidated and he hadn’t used it in years – but if I wanted it and could house it, it was mine. I had forgotten but it’s actually better than I remember, a Charles Frank 6″ motorised Newtonian reflector.

I was overjoyed.

He told me it needs the mirror re-aluminising, but other than that, as far as he knew it was in working order. We popped out to the garage to check if the motor was still going, and sure enough it whirred up into life. Amazing. I almost immediately set about looking for places in or near London where I could get the mirror sorted, and found a couple of candidates. (Later still I found somewhere that would do it for about £40 – a very small price to pay for something so brilliant).

So, at some point, I need to convince my parents to bring it down to London for me, but in the mean time I’ve been doing some research. I couldn’t find anything about my specific model although this one is very similar. I did find however, that it’s probably about 40 or 50 years old.  I also found a book written by Charles Frank called ‘Frank’s Book Of The Telescope’, a book explaining telescope basics for newcomers – which I duly bought from Amazon Marketplace for the princely sum of one pence, plus a huge £2.75 p&p.

A quick note – before any of the more cynical astronomers among you start telling me it’s pointless trying to see stuff in London – I know what you’re about to say. However, I’m hopefully going to have this telescope for a long time, certainly longer than I’ll live where I am now. It’s an heir loom, of sorts, and has a history attached to it. Plus, I’ll be able to see some stuff – just not as much – and the further I get away from the light pollution, the more I will see, so it’s an investment for the future.

Here’s to some future stargazing. I’ll leave you with some awesome, humbling, inspiring words from Carl Sagan,  whom I consider a personal hero, and one of the greatest people who have ever lived.

Peace.

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My Samsung NC10 Is Frickin Awesome

Posted in Computing, General Chang, Tech with tags , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by badhex

A year or so ago I bought my lovely little Samsung NC10 netbook and a 2gb RAM stick for it,  and I have to be honest, it is  basically the best £300 I’ve ever spent; I take it almost everywhere and use it most days (and on which I have composed most of this post). It’s amazing.

But  – let me give you a precursor, if I may. When I was at secondary school about 10 or 15 years ago, the first tiny Sony Vaios came out, the one with the separate floppy/CD drive (which infuriatingly Wikipedia and google image search won’t let me find) and I immediately knew what I wanted from a portable computer. Of course, they were incredibly expensive, and there was no way I could have afforded one. (Side track, because I’ve just been reminded – my first computer was a Pentium 133mHz with 16mb RAM, 1gb hard drive and a 1mb VGA card. It was 1996 and it cost just under £1000. Madness.)

So, the principle was there all that time ago, exactly how I wanted. A small, very portable computer that just computes. Seriously, how many times do you actually use a CD drive on a laptop these days, unless it’s the only computer you have? Most applications are either downloadable or can go on a memory stick and let’s face it, the humble floppy disk (sweet, noble floppy disk) – as lovable as it is – was always going to be replaced by something (Zip Disk anyone? No, didn’t think so). So, all you really need is the computer itself and some sort of network connection, and a USB port or two – and it only took 10 years for my wishes to become commonplace and affordable.

Anyway, it’s brilliant, and as far as the variety of netbooks I have seen on the market are concerned, it definitely feels like it’s one of the better ones. It feels sturdy and well manufactured, the keyboard is a joy to type on (although Clare is positively disgusted that the keys are italicised. See what I did there?), the screen is clear, and I much prefer the matt screen to a shiny one. The biggest improvements to be made would be the touchpad being made bigger and a longer battery life (although I am actually more than happy at around 6 hours) – both of which were addressed in subsequent revisions. As far as upgrading goes, it was as easy as you’d expect to pop in a new 2gb stick, and in anticipation of possibly hackint0shing it I’ve also swapped out the MiniPCI-express wifi card for a Dell one. Might even stretch as far as an SSD one day.

So yeah, netbooks are awesome. Love using it, love having the ability to compute on the go, or just crack it out to watch a film on long journeys.

Owning a netbook really is absolutely, totally and utterly joyous. Go out and buy one, you won’t regret it.

Peace

🙂

Reappropriating a LaCie D2 FireWire CD-RW

Posted in Computing, Projects, Tech with tags , , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by badhex

Greetings, fellow Earthlings!

I had a couple of old LaCie FireWire D2 CD-RWs knocking around which had been thrown out from work, and I had put them to one side on the basis that they might prove handy at some point, mainly with a view to cannibalising or reappropriating them. A couple of weeks ago, I finally found a use.

Separately I’d had a growing concern of late about backing up some of my data, and had finally installed my old data drive, a 750gb SATA Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD753LJ, into a Maxxtor USB caddy I had acquired (What?! I’m a kit monster!) and set up my backup schedule, but it occurred to me that I could probably combine the LaCie caddy with the previous previous data drive, a 320gb IDE (not sure of the model without looking, to be honest), and donate it to Clare. What with her having a Mac, the FireWire made perfect sense.

I set about stripping down the caddy, searched through my bits and bobs to find a 3.5″ to 5.25″ mount and put it all back together again. The drive immediately fired up in Windoze, but unfortunately, as a CD-RW. To be expected, I suppose. This rendered the setup useless, as writing to or formatting the disk was impossible. Never happy to be a quitter,  (and secretly excited by the prospect) I decided there may be some way to reprogram the ROM to stop it thinking it was a CD-RW. In this respect I was really lucky.

A couple of searches later, it transpired that the particular FireWire – actually, sorry. I have to stop there to make a point. Okay, quick sidetrack.

FireWire, if you don’t know, is the Apple name for IEEE1394. I’m always torn between giving it what I see as it’s ‘proper’ name, IEEE1394 or even just ‘1394’, and FireWire. I’ve no overt love for Apple, but I do have love for standards, and they did do a lot of the pioneering work for said standard, and paved the way for its creation. Kudos. It’s arguably better than USB in many ways. Anyway, back to the plot.

A couple of searches later, it transpired that this particular FireWire to IDE bridge (which as a generic component, are not that common) utilised one of the most widely used chips of its kind, an Oxford Semiconductors 911FW. Some instructions and a nice utility found in this brilliantly helpful post allowed me to reprogram the configuration information within the ROM to read any IDE device. Bingo. I duly changed the neccessary settings, uploaded them to the ROM, and restarted the system.

It worked like a charm. The drive was up and running, and after formatting it to MacOS Extended, now serves as an external backup drive.

Awesome. Fun, and useful!

Pulsar Is Dead; Long Live Nebula

Posted in Decapods!, Nature, neverbeengood with tags , , , , , on August 27, 2010 by badhex

I’m really sad to inform you that over the last weekend, Pulsar, the smallest of my two crabs, unfortunately died.

I’m not sure what exactly was the cause, whether it was stress from attempting to moult, crab battles or just nature winning over. I was quite upset at the time, but I guess it’s just nature. He seemed to be doing much better, but he must have given up the ghost sometime about midday. He will definitely be missed; he was my favourite, the poor little bugger.

What I will do in the future with regards to tank occupants I’m not sure, but I think I’ll have to leave it a little bit first either way.

That’s all for now.

Peace

😦

Being A Crabdad Isn’t As Easy As It Sounds & An Apology

Posted in Decapods!, Nature with tags , , , , , , on August 13, 2010 by badhex

I have to admit, I’ve been a little bit lame with new posts recently. I apologise, but I have been busy! We’re still friends, right? Good. Secondly, I have to assure you that despite this post being about Crabs again, my blog is going to have other things on it too! I promise. I’ve got a couple of gaming related posts to come, and a certain person has promised me a gaming laptop to review – so I really hope that comes through.

Well anyway, after a couple of nail-biting weeks of thrill and suspense, things have started to settle down a bit at Crabby HQ. If you have not read my other recent crustacean related posts then you might be a bit nonplussed, so go read ’em!

Since my last update I’ve most definitely been educated, and it’s been distressing, to tell you the truth. As you know, I was told to leave my new tank to mature for between 2-4 weeks, by several sources. Turns out that was cobblers. As were a lot of other things I have been told. It also turns out, you can’t even trust half of the LFS (Local Fish Stores. See? I’m getting the lingo!), which I guess is understandable (but still not good) given that they just want to sell you stuff. So the internet is full of lies, and supposed experts are full of lies, so what’s a boy to do? Well, get on some good forums (like Fishkeeping.co.uk and Practical Fishkeeping), and find expensive (but knowledgable) LFS, is what.

Basically, after getting them, I noticed a sharp raise in Nitrites (NO2) and Nitrates (NO3), whereas before getting them it was very low level. For those not familiar with the aquarium nitrogen cycle, this is bad. So, I hoped this would be maybe just a little spike, but I turned out not to be so lucky. After consulting said forums and knowledgable LFS, it appeared that my tank had not cycled properly, which means the water quality wasn’t good for my little beclawed friends. In fact, many people have said that keeping aquariums is not about keeping animals themselves, it’s about balancing water chemistry. So having already given them a home, the only option was to wait for the tank to complete its cycle while they were actually in there, doing partial water changes every day, continuing to test and treat the water, and keeping it as clean as possible.

I felt really bad. Some people probably can’t understand this, and might think “Well, they’re only crabs” – but it’s just not the way my head works. I’ve become attached to them both very quickly, they are absolutely fascinating and I have found myself just gazing into the tank for ages, watching them going about their crabby business. I genuinely wish that it were possible to communicate with them.

So during the worry of all of this, I encountered another issue.

Fighting.

I’ve determined recently that they are both male – which does make my writing easier – but has issues of its own. Pulsar, the one with the missing leg, looks at first glance only slightly smaller than Nebula – but that is from a human’s perspective. I really did try to get two that were about the same size, but relatively speaking, the difference is probably more akin to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito. So, inevitably Nebula bullies Pulsar to the point of  having lopped off two more of his legs – a fact I’m not too happy about. Nature is indeed a harsh mistress. The two legs Nebula has taken off are also on the same side as Pulsar has one missing already, so now he’s down to only one leg and a claw on that side. I stayed over at Clare’s for a day, and I honestly was half expecting to come back and find Pulsar belly up with no limbs left, but in this matter (so far at least),  I have been pleasantly proven wrong. In fact, when I got back,  for a crab with 30% of his limbs missing he was doing a remarkably good impression of an acrobat, hanging upside down on the piece of wood I have in there. He also likes chilling in the pretend plant,  opening up his tail flap on the underside of his abdomen. I’m not entirely sure what this behaviour is, but for now I’m just assuming that it’s the crabby equivalent of getting your balls out.

Well, fast forward to last Saturday, and I got my first completely clear reading in terms of NO2 and NO3 in the tank, which was obviously great news. After some rearranging of the tank, there are plenty of places to hide, and it looks a little like Pulsar has learnt to keep away from his bullying big brother. With a bit of luck, Pulsar will get his legs back over time when he moults, a process which is as disgusting as it is amazing.

Right, enough from me. I’ve added more photos to the Crabbage! flickr set, and there are more to come. As usual I can be found ranting away on twitter.

Peace out, crablings.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, I arrived home to find that Nebula has moulted! Now he’s even bigger than he was before! Let’s hope Pulsar catches up soon. Photos in the flickr set.

March of the Crabs!

Posted in Decapods!, Nature, Space with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by badhex

Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve got crabs.

‘Ho ho ho,’ I hear you cry, ‘ever the comedian’. No, not the nasty little ones associated with nefarious ladies of the night of course, but two little Red Claw Crabs,  as previously mentioned. I was originally going to get just the one and name it Nebula, but I didn’t want him/her to be lonely so I got another, called it Pulsar.

I haven’t found out their sex yet, I need to see their underbelly but they’ve not really sat in the right place yet. I really need to find out soon thought because typing him/her every time is a pain the arse, frankly.

Anyhoo, meet Nebula:

I don’t currently have any pictures of Pulsar that I can upload, the crafty little bugger ran off and hid for the whole time I was taking photos.  I think they were a bit stressed from the move, but then they both seemed to liven up a bit after a couple of hours in their new home. Pulsar is a little smaller than Nebula and I didn’t realise till I’d gotten home, but he/she’s missing a back leg – hopefully it’ll grow it back after a couple of molts.

They relished the half a frozen mussel I gave them to munch, tearing it to bits with great gusto. I can’t wait to feed them tonight. There’s also a dry food the shop recommended called Crab Cuisine, but Clare and I keep wanting to call it Crab Crunch, the tasty new cereal for Crabs™. Let’s see how that goes down.

Anyway, there will be more crazy crustacean antics I’m sure, so I’ll keep you updated – and you can also follow me on twitter. I’ve posted a new set on flickr which has about ten photos in so far, and here for your delectation and delight is a video of Nebula eating. I defy you to think he’s not cute!

Laters.

Crustacea Update; Space Is Cool

Posted in Decapods!, Nature, Space with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2010 by badhex

Well, shit.

It looks like I can’t have a crayfish after all. Fear ye not, my blog-reading friends, for I am resolved in my decapod devoted deeds. There will be exoskeletal life in this tank yet!

I’m getting a crab, and I’m gonna call it Nebula.

I’ve done my research, as you would expect, and with pretty minor adjustments to my tank (i.e. making it of a tropical temperature, brackish and semi aquatic) I can get  (ironically) a Red Claw Crab, Pseudosesarma moeshi, AKA Perisesarma bidens.

Turns out these crafty little buggers are just about the right size for my tank, and by most people’s estimations make great pets, albeit great escapologists. Not only that, I can procure one from the pet shop round the corner from me. I’m also looking into the possibility of some little shrimp of some description – being detrivores they’re very good as an aquatic cleaning crew.  That in mind, surely I’ve got to call them Stoppit and Tidyup?!

So my spoiling for the shelled ones will soon be realised. I’m mega excited! Hopefully I’ll get him/her this Saturday, I do need  to get one or two more bits before I do but in general I’m pretty much set.

For those of you who don’t understand the relevance of the name (and all you astronomy lovers), here’s a few factoids:

  1. The Crab Nebula is a nebula formed from the supernova SN 1054 which occurred, surprisingly, in the year 1054 and was named for its crab-like appearance.
  2. The supernova event was seen from earth and recorded by Chinese, Japanese, Native American, and Persian/Arab astronomers. It is believed that the Anasazi recorded the event in a cliff painting called Supernova Platograph
  3. At the heart of the Crab Nebula lies the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star around 12 miles in diameter which rotates about 30.2 times a second. It’s also very pretty.
  4. The Crab nebula is often used to calibrate X-Ray astronomy detectors – as a result, ‘crab’ and ‘millicrab’ are sometimes used as units of flux density. I don’t know what flux density is, but wikipedia gives me the awesome, awesome news that “very few X-ray sources ever exceed one crab in brightness“.

Anyway – enough rambling from me. You’ll no doubt see some photos soon enough!

Peace.