Archives for: "October 2007"

Comet 17P Holmes

Well the skies have cleared at last, so I went outside for a little while to snap some pictures of 17P Holmes, which a few days ago recently brightened by a factor of a million becoming a magnitude 3 object.

Comet 17P Holmes

First up, the view through the telescope. This was taken with the camera at prime focus of my TAL 2M reflector (effective focal length 1200mm) for 10 seconds at ISO 1600.

Comet 17P Holmes, Andromedia Galaxy, Pleiades and the Moon

This was taken with the 18mm lens for 30 seconds at ISO 800. The Moon is in the lower-right, the Pleiades slightly to the right and above, Perseus and 17P Holmes centred, with the Andromeda Galaxy being the faint smudgy looking star at the very top right, although difficult to see in this scaled down image.

Perseus and Comet 17P Holmes

This was taken with the 55mm lens for 30 seconds at ISO 800, by this time the clouds were already starting to roll in. The original resolution area around the comet is included in the bottom right of the image.

The angular size of this comet is absolutely huge, by my rough estimates it's somewhere between a 3rd and a 5th the diametre of the full Moon. It's 1.6 times further away than the Sun is, and even at that distance it makes planets look tiny. This is one major outburst.

Below is an image of Saturn, 17P Holmes and the Moon, these were all taken at prime focus of my reflector, this really gives you a sense of scale. This features a 30 second exposure of 17P Holmes set at ISO 1600, to try and bring out the maximum extent of the comet.

Saturn, Comet 17P Holmes and the Moon to scale

High resolution versions are available on my gallery.

Cameron moving to destroy the country

The Tories self-centred interests are coming into play now, with Cameron moving one step closer to destroying the Union.

David Cameron is to throw his weight behind the most radical shake-up of Parliament in more than a century by endorsing a plan to strip Scottish MPs of the right to vote on English matters at Westminster.

Great just great, turn the UK parliament into an increasingly English affair, which will weaken the Union until it is no more.

No doubt some Tories want to end the Union, as they'll have a better chance of getting elected; nowadays their power base is almost built entirely on English votes, all the Welsh and Scottish votes, typically further left help push them aside.

Unfortunately it was Labour that got us into this sticky situation, and in my opinion the only way to safeguard the Union - which is progressive for everybody, irrespective of class, is to dissolve the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, this I believe long term is best for all involved. In doing this we need a way to preserve the gains that the working class has won in Wales and Scotland, such as free prescriptions and no university fees, and then to get the assistance from Welsh and Scottish MPs to get this through Westminster so it will benefit everybody in the Union.

At the moment this seems completely unrealistic, and the best I think we can hope for is to not drift any further down the road towards separation, Westminster must remain a parliament for the entire Union, and it cannot be transformed into one for England alone.

Macintosh fanboy nonsense

Well these guys couldn't of picked a better time to unleash their Mac mouth-foam session.

Their article opens up with:

Apple has given Microsoft a lesson in software development with the launch of its new Leopard operating system which is faster, slicker and packed with a lot more practical features compared with the slow, underperforming Windows Vista operating system that is prone to crashing or locking-up systems.

Well that's a lot of claims chucked into a small space. Gish gallop?

Leopard huh? Oh yeah that came out today didn't it, funny I haven't seen much about it on the news. On all the news sites I've read it's all been about Microsoft selling 88 million copies of Windows Vista, Microsoft's biggest quarter growth since 1999, and how they blew away Wall Street's expectations by over a billion dollars.

Faster and slicker? Hmmm not according to Wired's Cult of the Mac blog who installed Windows Vista on their Macintosh and reported the following:

Vista really flies on this beast, and feels like it's faster than OS X - it boots faster, folders burst open and apps launch instantly...I'm especially delighted with Vista's "glass" Aero interface, which works in all its glory on this machine...The OS is dark and handsome. It's really quite exciting...Vista's icons are big and colorful, and frankly, a lot more logical and easy to read than some of OS X's, like the intelligible iWeb icon.

The guy then pulls out the whole crashing and locking up systems line, yawn that is so Windows 95, get something new and fresh please. Windows doesn't crash anymore.

With Vista the "Gadgets" have to be stacked in a frame on the desktop. In the Leopard environment they can be placed anywhere.

In Windows Vista they can be placed anywhere. Maybe if you actually bothered to use the thing you'd know that.

Unfortunately that's the trouble with these sort of people, like David Richards, they rubbish this and that without bothering to actually use them, they don't have a clue and their opinions are therefore worthless.

The bottom line is this, Mac OS X - whichever version is a 6 year old operating system, upgraded as often as Apple can with $130 upgrades, the sort of thing Microsoft do for free with Service Packs and applications on their website. Leopard introduces amazing new features that they copied from Windows 95, like the ability to backup your files, although on the Macintosh it is much more limiting requiring you to have a separate hard drive, you can also preview documents in the shell - like Windows XP. Oh dear, Leopard is a damp squid of a release, it’s a flop and a really late flop, Steve Jobs said this thing would ship before Windows Vista, well they're only a year behind at best, in many areas like Media Center and Tablet PC they haven't even started yet.

Mac OS X is a solid operating system and has been for the last couple of revisions, but I don't believe it is in the same league as Windows Vista. What these fanboys don't understand is that their foaming at the mouths and spending 80% of their time attacking Microsoft isn't winning anybody to their cause. Nor is preaching the lies that Steve Jobs come out with, just the other day he said that Windows Vista came 7 years after Windows XP. It is 5 years Steve, as you well know. I however believe that is a good thing. I'm sure the consumer would rather a big jump every 5 years at £120 a pop, than tiny little jumps every 18 months at £120.

Motion LE1700 Tablet PC review

So I splashed out a bit this week and brought a new Tablet PC. After having a convertible style Portege M200 for over two years now, I decided I'd rather go for a slate, it is very rare I use the keyboard on my M200. As Motion this year released the LE1700 a slate machine with a 1400x1050 screen there was really no other choice. 1024x768, or any combination of weird widescreen ratios, just don't do the job.

I've been off and on thinking about getting a new one, thanks to nVidia's terrible support of the GeForce 5xxx on Windows Vista, which has two or three niggling issues despite hours of troubleshooting and attempted workarounds, I'm happy to say the new machine doesn't have an nVidia graphics card.

I ordered it from Mobitech, who specialise in Tablet PCs and the like, they kept me well informed and it arrived the following day.

The Motion LE1700 comes in two basic flavours, one with a Core Solo processor at 1.2Ghz, or with a Core 2 Duo at 1.5Ghz. For price and battery life reasons I went with the Core Solo.

I also threw in a bunch of upgrades like 2GB of RAM (512MB default with Windows XP), and a 60GB hard drive (30GB default), as well as the View Anywhere screen which, although I hear isn't as good as with previous models, really improves the brightness and clarity of the screen, today outside I had no problems reading it. I'm still waiting for the Sun to come out to try it in direct sunlight.

I won't be going into too many details of what ports it has and the specs, you can find that stuff in many other reviews around the internet.

To start of, let's talk packaging. It comes in some simple packaging, it doesn't feel over-packaged like some products so that's good, less stuff to throw away.

Motion LE1700 packaging

Motion LE1700 accessories

Motion LE1700 packaging

You get a note about imaging software and recovery discs, I believe Mobitech included one in the accessories box, and there is also one attached onto the screen.

Motion LE1700 out of the box

As the unit has no optical drive, typically you'd make an image of it over a network, it comes with True Image for that purpose, and then boot from a USB device to restore the image. But first I had a play around with it, mine came with Windows XP, as the Windows Vista version was only available with the Core 2 Duo version, at least from Mobitech.

Motion LE1700 running Windows XP

By default it ships with the screen set to 120 DPI, this is nice, and the more people who start using more high DPI settings, the better support for it there will be. At the Windows default of 96 DPI, some people do have to strain to read the text, remember this is a 12 inch screen at 1400x1050.

Motion LE1700 running True Image

After a few minutes playing with Windows XP on the machine I fired up True Image and made an image over the network. That took about 45 minutes to backup about 10GB over the wireless network to my Home Server ready for installation of Windows Vista, whose tablet features cannot be resisted.

Windows Vista took about 50 minutes to install (clean install), I spent another hour patching it up and installing Motion's software and drivers, then I installed Office, the machine comes with a copy of OneNote 2007, as my M200 did with OneNote 2003. So that's good.

Motion LE1700 vs Toshiba Protégé M200

Comparing it to the M200 (right), which was already quite a small Tablet PC, doesn't look too good from this angle, they are both 12 inch screens. But from the side on, the Motion is much slimmer.

Motion LE1700 vs Toshiba Portege M200

The machine is about 25% lighter than the M200 too, which is all good, I don't have to carry around a keyboard anymore; unless I want to (I'm planning on doing a separate review of the Motion's external keyboard).

I've had it for over a day now, and have been doing my tweaks to get it working the way I want it. Removing the fingerprint software from inside of Windows - don't need that bloat, I just need it for quick logins, undoing the damage Intel's driver did to my menu - I don't want entries to the graphics control panel when I right-click on the background - thanks.

I'm still slowly moving things over to this machine, like favourites and RSS feeds, as well as setting up my documents as offline stores so they can be synced back and forth and so on. I'm pretty much up and running with it now.

Performance wise I am actually really surprised, the machine only scores a WEI of 2.8 due to the Core Solo 1.2Ghz processor, and the 4800 RPM 1.8 inch hard drive was making me nervous but performance is really good considering the specs of this machine and it feels much smoother than the M200 running Windows Vista and it is ready to use straight away after login, the M200's disk would get hammered for a few minutes. I have yet to install World of WarCraft on this machine, the M200 struggled with it, and so it'll be a good test once I can get Catherine playing it again.

The screen is a lot better than on the M200, writing on it feels very smooth. The M200 had a plastic film over the screen which gave it a more papery texture, but also made the whites look slightly off-colour. There is also much less glare on the screen too.

The Motion LE1700 feels solid to hold; the casing is strong and feels like it could take some punishment.

The pen it comes with is also very good quality; I brought one of Wacom's executive pens to use with my M200 because the pen it came with was so cheap and plasticy. I won't need to be replacing this pen.

There's a few software issues I've come across, Motion's dashboard software resets the screen orientation on login to landscape mode - they have however acknowledged this and should be coming up with a fix. The fingerprint reader is by Omnipass and includes a lot of extra bloat I think a lot of people won't need, once that's prevented from running and I removed a lot of annoyingness to the system too - like ugly icons on file menus and the like from the registry things were much better. In the default install Motion don't have a lot of bloat like other manufacturers, but I am not a fan of display drivers wanting to put junk in my menus.

The direction pad can be quite difficult to use sometimes too, left or down (depending on which way around you are) is sometimes hard to press first time as its so close to the edge of the screen. It's also at the top of the machine when in portrait mode (where I spend most of my time), unlike the M200 which had the direction pad on the right-hand side. This is much less of a problem with Windows Vista as you can use pen flicks to move up and down pages thankfully, using Windows XP on this machine in portrait mode could get quite annoying if you do a lot of reading and need to scroll up and down.

Other than these issues, I give this machine 5 out of 5. I'll try and do a follow up review of it after I've used it for a few weeks, and do a review of the Motion keyboard that I brought with it.

Simplify Windows 'Live' Update

So I opened up Windows Update, the first time in a few weeks and what's happened?

Windows Update showing Windows Live

I assume this was due to the new Windows Live Unified Installer. Simplifying the categories into say:

  • Windows Vista
  • Windows Live
  • Windows Ultimate Extras

Would I am sure be much better. Instead of having each Windows Live application listed under their own category, which kinda defeats the purpose of having categories.

HD DVD smashes Blu-ray sales figures

HD DVD has clocked up another new record, with Transformers selling 100,000 units on day one and 190,000 units in the first week. Making it the best selling film for the first week on either HD DVD or its competitor.

I hope the BDA studios take note, and stop this stupid format war once and for all. HD DVD is the successor to DVD and all they're doing is forcing people to wait for a clear winner, and making money out of the confusion.

In other news people in the UK can now get 5 free HD DVDs with the Xbox 360 HD DVD drive (around £115), here. I see on Amazon, you can get 5 free films with Toshiba's players too (around £180).

And better still Planet Earth comes out on HD DVD in two weeks time. David Attenborough + a small corner of the universe + HD = much good.

Selection husting in mid-November

Update: The date for this appears to of been shifted to the 25th of November.

The Yeovil Labour Party will decide their candidate for the next generation election in under four weeks time, on the 15th of November the hustings will be held, and hopefully we'll have the results soon after.

Why am I interested in standing? To give Yeovil Labour Party members a socialist option and if successful to give Yeovil residents something other than the right-wing, pro-business nonsense of David Laws or that Tory bloke. How people can honestly expect to be well-represented by somebody who used to run an international textile company, or a former vice president of JP Morgan is beyond me.

Surely a shop worker, or other selection hopeful Colin Counter, a bus driver can represent ordinary people a hundred times better then these businessmen. Who in my opinion just don't understand the issues ordinary people have to deal with.

I think it's disgusting how this Labour government has continued privatisation, has not reversed Thatcherite anti-union laws, and allows the market to run wild.

Unfortunately many seem unwilling to criticise where criticism is due, and this has allowed the Labour leadership to get away with this for far too long.

Although we have had some successes with the minimum wage, the semi-abolition of fox hunting and peace in Northern Ireland, the failures of the New Labour government can be seen in the invasion of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. The growing gap between rich and poor, and private businesses profiteering at expense of public services.

I want a Labour government that will nationalise manufacturing businesses which are moving their work forces abroad, to defend people's jobs and livelihoods from the anarchy of the market.

I want a Labour government that will re-establish Royal Mail's postal monopoly and end the race to the bottom resulting from competition.

I want a Labour government that will take transport back into public ownership, and pump the money in that it so sorely needs, instead of pumping public money into the pockets of private business.

You get the idea.

Apple the greediest company on Earth?

I cannot believe what I just read; this goes far beyond Apple charging people money to use a song they already own as a ringtone on the iPhone. Or even beyond making people buy the Pro version of QuickTime just to support full screen video.

The free "beta" version of Boot Camp (a fancy marketing buzzword for a boot loader) has been pulled from Apple's website, and replaced by a not found page (very user-friendly).

People who are already using the beta version of Boot Camp, will have it expire when Apple release the next revision of Mac OS X.

The solution? Buy a slightly modified version of Mac OS X, called "Leopard", which has some new features like a backup program, yes, like Windows has had for a decade. Just so you can carry on using a boot loader.

$129 for a boot loader and a couple of extra basic features which have been commonplace on other operating systems for years. Pathetic.

I feel more religious book burnings coming on

Dumbledore, the old guy in Harry Potter is gay. From the BBC:

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has revealed that one of her characters, Hogwarts school headmaster Albus Dumbledore, is gay.

You know it was bad enough with religious fundamentalists in the United States trying to get the Harry Potter books banned (here, here etc), for evil witchcraft and the like, now they'll be at it in full force again.

I can see the headlines now...

"Gay witchcraft - the new threat to Bible-believing Americans".

I give it a week until some fundamentalist nuts call for a ban, or a public burning (Reverend Lovejoy style), or some other crazy thing.

Scoble how is China a communist country?

So Scoble commented on the whole China blocking the main search engines, despite people in China like Blognation's David Feng saying it was not true.

Within his entry he suggests the US pulls out of the Olympics, fine more medals for everybody else, of course it would rob US athletes who in many cases for years have been looking forward to and training for the games. But never mind them, just use them as part of a political stunt, like in 1979 in response to a war you lot started.

He also goes on to say:

The Chinese get to have their cake (our money coming over for everything from toys to paying their top software researchers).

Well actually, China is one of the main countries that have been lending the US all that money in the first place; the US after all is several trillion dollars in debt and is believed to owe China well over $350 billion.

This is a reminder that China is a communist country where the people aren’t really allowed to own things and where businesses don’t really need to play fair.

There are 743 000 privately owned enterprises in China; the private sector dwarfs the public sector.

Businesses never want to play fair, that's capitalism Robert, after all its American and European businesses that are opposed to the new trade union laws that are being drafted in the PRC, ones which would allow collective bargaining by the workers.

You're describing a capitalist country. Where people can't afford to own things, because a minority already own everything and where businesses rule the roost.

You should go and look up the definition of communism. From the Oxford English Dictionary:

noun a political and social system whereby all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs.

And capitalism:

noun an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit.

To say China is a communist country is utterly ridiculous.

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