Category: "General"

Get the app, read my blog offline on your phone

As some of have may have noticed over the last few days, there's been a little addition to the sidebar on my blog. Inviting you to download the Paul Smith's Blog application for Windows Phone 7.

What's the deal? Well late last year I started looking at mobile applications for Gamercast, after messing about with the Visual Studio as I always do and copying and pasting various bits of sample code together, I decided to give up. If I did manage to get it working, there was no offline reading, no ability to view comments on entries etc.

So I started looking at other solutions, like AppMakr but didn't like what they had to offer for Windows Phone 7. Then I came across FollowMyFeed who had a much better hub style interface.

After putting together a sample application, and sticking it in the emulator and running it, I could tell this was pretty much what I was looking for.

Paul Smith's Blog mobile application screenshotPaul Smith's Blog mobile application screenshotPaul Smith's Blog mobile application screenshot

The Gamercast application has been available for a week now, check it out if you haven't already and feel free to download the application for my blog too. I just need to find time to write more now.

More Photosynths from the Lake District

As promised a few weeks back here's the last two decent Photosynths from my recent excursion to the Lake District.

First up, a nice view of Hawkshead and the surrounding landscape from the Colthouse Heights. Make sure to check out the highlights on this synth as I spent a fair bit of time working out what all the areas of interest were:

Lastly here's the synth we did while visiting Hawkshead, we actually wound up there twice, hey it happens to have a nice bread factory. This is the view looking east from Hawkshead church, yup that's the church shown in the above synth, this synth was taken on the wall facing us from that view. I haven't done any highlights for this synth yet but will add some when I get around to it. The Colthouse Heights and Latterbarrow are easy to spot:

For those interested here's all the Photosynths placed on a map which really adds some context, you can kind of get an idea of the path we took on one of our little treks.

Some optimisations for Gamercast on IE9

Over the last couple of weeks I decided to do a few quick changes to the Gamercast website to make it a little bit more swish for Internet Explorer 9, which was released in beta form yesterday. With support for border-radius and box-shadow from CSS3 it was really a no brainer to make use of them (if only it supported multi-column too).

Unlike Chrome and Firefox, Internet Explorer 9 doesn't need to use proprietary extensions to make use of these features. Which is why they're not showing up in those browsers properly, standards aren't standards when you're adding -moz and -webkit before everything.

Gamercast as shown in IE9

Simple but effective.

More importantly however was implementing support for Internet Explorer 9's ability to pin websites to the Start Menu or Taskbar. Gamercast has always had a fairly high-resolution icon, so that wasn't much of a problem. You can drag any website you want to the Taskbar, but out of the box it'll behave like a standard shortcut, bar the "branding" differences that will happen to IE9, as per the screenshot above you can see the back and forward icons have taken colour from the icon, as well as having the website's icon displayed to the left fo them. This is specific to websites being launched from the Start Menu or Taskbar, and doesn't happen to websites browsed to more conventionally.

Adding support for jumplists was however pretty easy, and I'm sure with a bit more time I can do something a lot more fancy with this.

As you can see from the screenshot, the pinned website looks like a native application running on Windows 7, with a bunch of options provided in the jumplist providing quick access to subscription options, Twitter, or jumping straight into some content be they videos on YouTube, or just seeing what the latest news is.

For a basic jumplist all you need to do is place the following in the webpage's header:

<meta name="application-name" content="Name" />
<meta name="msapplication-tooltip" content="Text for tooltip" />
<meta name="msapplication-starturl" content="Default URL"/>
<meta name="msapplication-task" content="name=Example;action-uri=/path/;icon-uri=/icon.ico;"/>

For more fancy stuff such as subheadings you can use a bit of script:

<script type='text/javascript'>
function customJumplist() {
window.external.msSiteModeCreateJumplist('Example heading');
window.external.msSiteModeAddJumpListItem('Example', '/examplepath/', '/icon.ico');
window.external.msSiteModeAddJumpListItem('Example2', '/examplepath/', '/icon.ico');

If you're using IE9 head over to Gamercast and drag it into the Taskbar and check it out for yourself.

Some astronomy bits in the Lake District

As regular readers will know in early August Catherine and I went off on a little trip to the Lake District which was largely enjoyable (bar the rubbish Virgin trains and to a lesser extent the rain). We stayed in Near Sawrey a few miles south-west of Windermere.

Of course it was solely coincidence that we would happen to stay under dark skies, in a village where a conveniently placed hill would block any light pollution from Windermere, during the week of the Perseid meteor shower. :-) However as always the atmosphere is out to destroy me, and we probably only got about 90 minutes of clear skies in total, pretty poor for 4 nights.

My plans for photographs of the Milky Way reflected in Esthwaite Water, or magnitude -12 fireballs reflected in the lake never materialised due to the extent of the cloud cover. There was no point in wasting what little clear skies we had trekking down to the lake only to find it had clouded back up, the wind speeds would also have been prohibitive. So we mainly just hung out the front of Buckle Yeat, hiding behind a wall to block the lights.

Nevertheless the clear skies we got were nothing short of brilliant. The Andromeda galaxy easily visible, the Milky Way was positively glowing right the way across the sky with the dust lanes easy to make out. You didn't have to look away to try and make out the details in it like there is in Yeovil, and dream on trying to see it in Aldershot. It was just there, glowing and glowing rather brightly I might add.

What really surprised me the most however was stars close to the horizon were just as brilliant and plentiful as stars near the zenith. As someone who has always lived in a town of >30,000 people we're not used to seeing that much stuff lower down in the sky. The lower 30° is usually a total write-off even on a good night. On the first of my get-up-and-see-if-its-clear checks during the night I took one look out the window hoping to maybe see a couple of stars, and bang the whole constellation of Perseus and dozens of stars behind it were just sat there on the horizon. Within about 10 minutes I counted 6 meteors, and that's just looking through the window at the radiant, and that was on the Tuesday night, the peak was on Friday morning. A couple of dozen more awaited us outside in the 30 minutes or so of clear skies we had that night.

In the brief time we had I did take a few images of course.

Milky Way and the Summer Triangle

First up, the Summer Triangle made up of the stars Deneb, Vega and Altair and of course the Milky Way behind them. And of course a huge lump of cloud. Exposure time was about 30 seconds at ISO1600. The amount of detail that this image picked up is remarkable; this was only a 30 second exposure. Back in Yeovil I'd need almost double that to get as much detail. And of course the entire image would be orange from all the light pollution, not just the clouds.

Star trails around Polaris

The traditional star trails around Polaris image. This was an exposure of about 12 or 13 minutes at ISO200. Again this would have been good reflected in a lake with say an hour's worth of exposure.

And on the Thursday night, the only Perseid meteor that was bright enough and happened to fly in front of the camera. It was clouding over rapidly at this point and this was the last part of the sky to remain clear within about 10 minutes it had completely become overcast. This was a 20 second exposure at ISO1600.

What's in store for the future? Well I'll get the full resolution images over on my gallery at some point. And perhaps next time I'll run some statistical analysis of cloud cover in the region so I can predict the best week to go and we'll forget the meteor showers, and this time I'll take an equatorial mount with me, a 10 minute exposure on the Milky Way under those skies would been awesome.

Photosynths from the Claife Heights

As promised here's a couple more Photosynths from the Claife Heights, basically on top of the hill north of where we stayed at Near Sawrey in the Lake District.

First up this Photosynth was taken just east of Wise Een Tarn, and shows off some of the surrounding landscape quite well. Make sure to check out the highlights on the right hand side which will point you at some interesting places.

Then this one taken on the south bank of Moss Eccles Tarn a bit smaller in scope than the previous but pretty cool anyway.

For those that haven't seen the first of where we stayed at the Buckle Yeat Guest House here it is. With a bit of luck I'll have the last two finished up in the next few days.

Buckle Yeat Guest House Photosynthed

Those following me on Twitter will know I've been away with Catherine to the Lake District for a few days to enjoy the odd walk and bike ride here and there, and also to enjoy the dark (but mostly cloudy) skies and hunt for Perseids.

I'm in the process of going through the photographs I took for use with Photosynth and getting them uploaded. For starters here's Buckle Yeat. Don't forget to press P to toggle through the different point cloud options, press F to make the viewer fullscreen.

We stayed at the Buckle Yeat Guest House in Near Sawrey, approx 4 miles south west of Windermere. More Photosynths to follow over the next few days, including some landscapes.

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