August 2006

Moving Pictures

Just a short note to point out that I have uploaded a couple of short, silent, jerky and amateurish movie files to my main web site, www.prehistoric.org.uk. They were taken five years ago on August 20th 2001. One shows emergency repairs underway at the top of Silbury Hill and the other is a short walkthrough of West Kennet Long Barrow. For all of their faults, I thought it was worth putting them online to enable people to view them who can’t so easily get to these places.

You’ll need the Apple Quicktime plug-in for the browser and operating system of your choice in order to view.

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Stonehenge Riverside Project 2006

Yesterday (Sunday 27th August 2006) I was fortunate enough to visit the excavations currently taking place around the Stonehenge landscape.

As I had to pass that way, I started my day with a short visit to Avebury. It was my first visit since I bought my wide angle lens, so I wanted to try taking a few wide angle shots of the stones.

south circle stones 2

After an hour or so wandering around Avebury, I made my way down to Woodhenge. On the way I had to pass by Stonehenge, which was an absolute anthill.

stonehenge crowd

At Woodhenge I met up with Pete Glastonbury and watched the excavation in progress. They had two trenches open. One at the southern edge of the post holes and one across the bank at the Southeast of the site. It was amazing to see just how large the post holes were! The concrete markers on the surface are supposed to show the width of the posts and you tend to forget that the holes to take those posts were much wider in order to allow for packing the posts in place.

Woodhenge bank trench

They’ve been coming up with some remarkable finds here, including a chunk of bluestone (the type of rock used for the smaller stones at Stonehenge). You can find out more about this on the Eternal Idol blog, including more bluestone finds at the Stonehenge Cursus.

From Woodhenge we walked down the lane to Durrington Walls, Britain’s largest henge. I had never visited Durrington Walls before, although I had driven right though the middle of it on many occasions without even knowing it was there (as I’m sure hundreds if not thousands do each and every day). I had always been aware of the location of the modern settlement of Durrington, and often when driving down to Stonehenge I would keep my eyes open on both sides of the road for signs of massive earthworks. It was only during a fairly recent visit to Woodhenge that I finally realised where Durrington Walls was and spotted the huge bank encircling the site.

There were several trenches open at Durrington, on both sides of the road. A large trench had been cut right in the middle of the henge. An archaeologist explained that they wanted to conduct a geophysical survey of the central area, but they had to dig away some of the top soil first. The central area is down a hill side and over the thousands of years since the henge was in use quite a depth of soil had built up at the bottom of the hill. The geophysical equipment they wanted to use worked best at depths of up to 1.5 meters below the surface, so they had to remove some of the surface material to optimise their results. They’re hoping for some ‘very interesting’ results from this central location.

Nearby were two other trenches, both of which had yielded Neolithic huts! It was amazing to stand there and know that you were looking at a floor surface which people had walked upon around 4,000 to 4,500 years ago, and to see their hearths.

We were shown a Neolithic flint arrow head which had just been found, pictured below. Apologies for the photo, I had my 300mm zoom on at the time and didn’t have a chance to swap lenses for this shot.

flint arrowhead

I think the most poignant thing I saw during the day were the tool marks left in the chalk by the antler picks used to construct this incredible structure. The marks looked so fresh it was hard to believe that the people who made them had been dead for so long.

chalk tool marks

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A little further down the road

Okay, it has been a while.

A few things have kept me away from my blog. One of these was my Windows machine finally deciding to croak. The only real problem with this was that I was still using it for editing my photos in Photoshop CS2!

Earlier in the year when I first got my Mac Mini I did a few comparisons. I ran the demo of the Mac version of CS2, which isn’t Intel native. Adobe have stated that Photoshop will not be native for Intel Macs until CS3 sometime in 2007. I also tried out Parallels Desktop, a virtual PC solution for Intel Macs, and Boot Camp - the official Apple method of booting an Intel Mac into Windows.

I was used to fairly snappy CS2 performance on my Windows PC, and although the Mac version was usable running under Rosetta (the PowerPC emulation layer employed by Apple to maintain backwards compatibility), well, I couldn’t see much point when I could carry on running it on my PC.

Boot Camp ran the Windows version of CS2 wonderfully. No complaints there. However it is a pain having to reboot from one OS to another and back again every time you want to do a bit of photo work. There was also the issue of having to ‘sacrifice’ quite a large chunk of my Mac Mini’s somewhat limited hard drive space for a Windows partition. This would have to be a fairly large partition to store my photos. I would be able to access the Windows partition from OS X, but I couldn’t access the OS X partition from Windows without purchasing more software. So, although CS2 ran very well - I decided it was too much of a pain.

Parallels looked very promising. I could just start up a Windows PC from within OS X and switch between the operating systems pretty smoothly. However impressed I was, I decided that as I would have to spend money on Parallels and I already had a real Windows PC sat under my desk, I might as well just carry on using it. So I did.

Meanwhile Parallels came out of Beta and the cost of registering the software went up quite a bit.

And then my Windows box died.

I spoke to Adobe about transferring my Windows CS2 license to Mac. Quite easy to do, just send them the invoices / receipts and license codes, along with a cheque for £6 to cover shipping. However, it would mean that I could no longer run Photoshop on my Windows laptop. Their license lets you install Photoshop on up to 2 machines, as long as they aren’t being used simultaneously. There was also the performance issue to be considered, it really felt quite laggy to me under Rosetta, especially after the performance I was used to from my defunct Windows machine.

So, maybe I could just carry on using CS2 on my Windows laptop? Humm, yes, but Linda and Shelly both use that laptop a lot and it would be a pain to either have to stop them from using it or waiting until nobody was using it.

So, back to Parallels Desktop.

It really looked to be the best option. Photoshop ran faster under Parallels than the Mac version did with Rosetta. I could keep all my photos in the Mac file structure and reference them from Windows on the virtual machine via Parallels’ ‘shared folders’ feature, or via normal Windows networking. I could boot into Windows and do a bit of photo work without having to shut down OS X and I could carry on having CS2 installed on the laptop!

So that’s the way I went. It did mean a bit of financial outlay on registering Parallels but I think it’s a good investment. In addition to letting me run CS2 under Windows XP it lets me easily play around with other operating systems with great ease. I’ve had OS/2 Warp 3 running on it, I’ve had various flavours of Linux running on it - and when I get bored I can just zap the virtual machine.

Another bonus of all of this was that I was able to start clearing away all my old PC kit. It took up a lot of room compared to the Mac Mini - well, so do most things I guess! I’ve got a neater, tidier, quieter and just plain nicer environment to work in now. I have space on my desk - yes, I can actually see the wood in places.

So, to bring this rather lengthy post to a conclusion - I’m even more impressed than ever with my Mac Mini. Such a great little box. I can’t recommend them highly enough!

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