Hitting a home run in a Chilean Mine.

The capsule carrying a rescued miner arrives to the surface from the collapsed San Jose mine where he was trapped with 32 other miners for over two months near Copiapo, Chile on Oct. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)

(picture from the Big Picture Blog’s constantly updating post)

By now, everyone has seen the awesome pictures of the (currently on going rescue) of the Chilean miners.

The Phoenix capsule, built by the Chilean Navy and partly designed by Nasa is a remarkable feat of engineering. The fact that it works, not just the first time, but the 23nd time and counting is astounding.

As a programmer – where engineering software is my day job – it puts things into perspective.

Very little of what I write works the first time (or the 23nd time, for that matter). I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to engineer something that 33 lives (more if you count the rescuers who went down in the capsule) would depend on, never mind that little intsy bitsy requirement of having to work the first time. The pressure must be immense.

I take off my hat to those engineers.

Earlier this week I listened to Episode 5 of This Developers Life. The episode is entitled simply “Home Run.”

That and these awesome, moving, emotional, heart-wrenching scenes got me thinking.

The home run those engineers just hit out of the park (I’m mixing sports metaphors up here, aren’t I?) with the Phoenix Capsule will be told and retold as if they were Babe Ruth legends.

In truth, it is a feat far, far more awesome.

Picture of the Day: Volcanic Sunsets

The ash cloud (side note: the twitter hashtag was #ashtag – still makes me chuckle) a few months back did more than stop flights and ground passengers the world over. It gave photographers some brilliant sunsets.

Such was my luck that i never really managed to get out and shoot properly those few weeks.

However, I shot this out of my bedroom window, perched precariously on the window ledge.

Heres a wider angle:

From that set, I draw my current iPhone wallpaper as well:

I experimented with some manual focus and I’m sure you’ll agree, the result was excellent.

Feel free to use it too!

On iPhone 4

You know, I’m kinda glad I’ve yet to buy an iPad. The reason being is the emergence of the iPhone 4.

I can just here you think “Roberto has well and truly lost it this time”.  But think about it. In terms of net technology, the iPad adds only a very little. sure it has multi touch and all these, lest we forget, amazing applications. However, much of what i can now do on my laptop and iPhone I could do on an iPad. Hence if one had to do a cost benefit analysis, one would find that the large outlay for the iPad is disproportionate to the net benefit it would bring.

However, I’m not saying I’m not getting an iPad (next time Jeff Jarvis throws his away, he’s welcome to send it to me for “recycling”).

Now, Apple also has what can be rightly termed a mini-iPad, the iPhone 4. It should be said that the iPhone is now a stable plaftorm. We have a core set of features which we will always expect from an iPhone. This means that the majority of the features I already have in my trusty iPhone 3G are in the new model.

The difference is that the iPhone offers one large feature currently completely missing from my life: video. I on’t have a Flip or other camcorder. My old Nokia N74 did have one, but its no where near as good as the one in the iPhone 4. the iMovie app is yet more value added to the package that’s irresistible. So, the cost benefit analysis would find that the outlay for one is proportionate to the net benefit – the addition of video ( and iMovie).

I’m basing this on one hardware feature. There is a laundry list of new stuff to be found in the iPhone 4, not to mention the A4 CPU that’s to be found, or the bump in battery life.

One word of caution here. When I got my iPhone it got more and more valuable as i discovered apps and workflows that worked for me. And I still do discover things, that sense of child-like wonder is still there. The same will most certainly apply to the iPad.

A second post script to add to this: As a budding amateur photographer, I see tremendous value in both of these devices. The iPad is perfect for showing off a portfolio or album. In the media-rich world we now live in, the ability to record video, even just in 720p from the iPhone 4 adds another dimension to my photography. It is a pity that Apple does not let these two devices work together.

Third postscript: Gizmodo ruined the iPhone 4 announcement. Glad they were banned from WWDC. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Designing a new Blog Header

So I’m designing a new blog, as per my previous post.

I’m NOT a graphic designer. But I am a photographer.  And I get the fact that the design of the blog has got be linked to the content.  My point being that a landscape or a nature scène looks out of place when you’re discussing the finer points of programming languages or social networks.

On the other hand, you can’t always predict what you’re going to blog about ( at least in my case), so you want to be general in some way.

If you’re following me on Twitter or Friendfeed, you’ll see that I’ve been posting alot of the stuff I’ve found on web design in general.

So, brimming with inspiration, I’ve gone off and trawled through my photo archives for something relevant.

So here are a few that I’m thinking of using in a big way,  as the header, footer, or both (i.e. cutting the picture in half):




Bright Spark:

All the images you see here are on Smugmug.

Let me know what you think.

Blogging: I need my Mojo back


Blogs still have a very important place in the on going conversation. There is no medium quite like it, not even Friendfeed. Like books, blogs are the long form, the canvas on which we write our longer thoughts. Whether we use it for venting or ranting, commenting or telling or just plain writing, blogs are the corner stone of the online presence.

The one blogging tip I’ve consistently found is the “stick to it” rule: find your subject and stick to it. Which, in all honesty is not something I’ve done very well with this blog. There is so much to talk about and comment on and just plain only chat about that it can be easy to lose your focus :).

This is partly due to the fact that I only joined Twitter and Friendfeed recently, both of which are better for the kind of wide ranging discussion i enjoy.

And its also to do with the fact that, originally, this blog was set up at the drop of a hat, without any thought as to where it would go and what I would be doing online. It was almost an experiment with this newfangled thing that had come along. The whole idea was to witness the internet from the driving seat, rather than from the RSS feeds. This was at the dawn the of the social networking age, before Twitter and Facebook. Before a lot of stuff.

But I digress.

So what is my focus?? All things technology related. But as you can see, everyone else covers this far better than I ever could. Politics is too much of a heated subject for me blog about. Photography, one of my new passions in life, and programming (the passion), and music (the classical kind) and books (I joined Goodreads the other day).

My online presence at the moment is spread throughout Twitter, Freindfeed, Delicious and Smugmug. I’m seeing more and more people moving to bring these strands together in one site. This is perfectly logical and its the right thing to do.

A new site, a new blog, a new platform seems to be what I need. Sometimes I think setting up a WordPress blog is a little too easy. When you put the time and effort into the creation of something, you regard it totally differently.

So that what I’m going to do – set up a new site, part of which will include my blog.  And it’ll be me on the web, a personal presence tying together all of these desperate strands. Kind of like Austin’s Jet:

So I’m on the lookout for a new platform on which to run it. .Net is the preferred option, mainly because I can code it. I’ve looked at Oxite closely and the more I play with it the more I like it.

Why the effort?? You see, I enjoy writing. I really do. I don’t have English teachers after me for essays, or books to write. So writing a blog is the next best thing (maybe THE best). There really isn’t any other medium like it.

Now this particular blog will remain. No doubt I will find some use for it, but all that info is staying on line 🙂

I will continue posting here till things are sorted out, its probably some time away in any case.

Windows 7 (Part 1)

One question: is it the bees knees??? Yes it is.

At this point every other review is going wax philosophic about how great Windows 7 is, how its what Vista was supposed to be. And then go on to debate whether it should be a Service Pack instead.

I’m going to try avoid all those issues. But I will say this. Microsoft think that it should stand alone as it own OS, and that’s how I’m going to review it.

Its running on a Dell Inspiron 6400, 1.72Ghz dual Core with 1gb RAM.

First off. the problems I’ve had with it have been few and far between.

Now, every time a close the lid and then re-open it, the screen refuses to display the screen again. Its really annoying and requires a restart. The fix is simple – change the power options to do nothing when I close the lid. And it works like a charm now.

Second, IE8 RC wont install here. Don’t ask. But and earlier version of IE8 is installed. No solution as far as I know and I use Firefox anyway.

Third, iTunes runs quite well. Its faster. but not much else. however, it hangs on exit when its saving the iTunes library. And there’s not much choice here but to kill it with task manager.

You can get around this problem, perversely, by running iTunes as an Administrator. I suspect that the UAC tweaks are  the culprit here.

Fourth, every now and again 7 will hang at the shutdown screen (when it says “Shutting down”). This is annoying because you’re not quite sure what’s going on.

Finally, and i don’t know why this happens, the Adobe Bridge Photo Downloader no longer has the “Convert to DNG” option.


Before everyone leaves comment, I have installed all the updates delivered to me. And Adobe Bridge tells me its version Since I convert everything to DNG on import, this is really a disaster.

Most programs, actually run in Windows 7 quite well. I did have a problem with Windows Live and Visual Studio 2008 SP1 but hey, all installed eventually.

The Taskbar

7 is done right in a number of ways. The taskbar is particularly important as its the primary focus of any interaction with the OS.

On first use, telling the difference between pinned and active icons can be difficult. Its a very subtle UI cue there.



The Icons and notifications are better and never become too cluttered. Handling overflow is done particularly well.

At the bottom right of the taskbar, a little area sits on its own, separated from the rest of the taskbar. Clicking on this shows the desktop. However its not immediately obvious what this is for.

The taskbar itself stays transparent even when viewing a maximised window. I’m not sure about this. There is an argument to keeping the Vista behaviour of a solid taskbar when working with a maximised window.

The Start Menu

The Start Menu isn’t visually different from Vista’s. There are subtle UI cues however, that give away further functionality.

Programs that have been used have arrows next to them. Clicking on this arrow give the documents recently used by this program. the time saving nature of this cannot be over stated.


The search box now says “Search programs and files” instead of start search. Its more obvious about the function of the search box, and encourages users to use it more. This is one of my favourite features of the Vista-esque UI ( i.e since Vista)

Taskbar search

The Shutdown button is quite blunt as to what it does, differing from Vista’s Off icon. It is possible to change the functionality of these buttons in the power settings and this always confused me. text makes it so much easier to distinguish  what’s going on.

Paint and Wordpad

Both Paint and Wordpad have the new Ribbon toolbar. this makes them much better as applications.


I tend to use paint quite a lot for situations when its not worth firing up Photoshop or Illustrator. Even in the few times I’ve used it, the Ribbon toolbar makes it so much better to use. and its not crappy old paint anymore either.

A few nice additions include the ability to Zoom right out ( right click to zoom out). This jumped out at me as being new.

Edit: Jordan Hofker pointed out on Freindfeed that its Wordpad not note pad. Many Thanks.


The changing backgrounds have been around for ages in third party programs or as part of the Power Toys stuff. however this time its baked right into the OS.

The themes feature is very powerful. Of course I can still remember how Microsoft offered Plus for windows 95. I was too much of a cheapskate to get it, but the idea of a theme has been around for a while.

This marks the first time (that i can remember, anyway) that themes are actually files you can share rather than an amorphous collection of settings.

Whereas before (pre-vista, anyway) settings and dialogs had to be navigated with a map ( literally), important dialogs such as for the mouse pointers, screen resolutions, screen saver and sounds are literally a click away. This will encourage people to get more out of their computers (even the not so computer literate ones).

More later this week as i continue exploring Windows 7.