March 2007

The Wonders of Wigston

time creeps by

Having lived in Wigston all of my life it seems that I seldom feel like it’s worth taking any photographs there. Indeed the ‘town centre’ of Wigston is pretty unlovely. Just the usual array of modern facias on your average high street stores.

However, today I thought I’d head for a short walk around Wigston with my camera and see what I could find. I headed to one of the places where some of Old Wigston survives - All Saints Church. A wedding was underway at the time, so I couldn’t really wander inside, but I did spend quite a while in the churchyard. I was pretty pleased with the shot shown at the head of this posting. The ivy trailing all over the headstones was irresistible.

Alas, All Saint churchyard is one of those that was ‘re-landscaped’. Years ago all the headstones were moved off to the edge of the churchyard leaving just a wide green swathe of grass with some flower beds. I suppose it makes it easier to cut the grass, but I really can’t understand why this was done. It does spoil the character of the church. And All Saints is actually quite an interesting building from what I remember.

One thing that I ‘remembered’ was that local highwayman, George Davenport was buried here after his hanging. I’ll have to check up on that. I could have sworn that one of the headstones propped up by the wall was that of George Davenport, but to be honest I’ve probably not ventured into this church yard since I was about 13 or 14 years old. A lot can change in 25 years - memories not least! Whatever the circumstances, I spent quite a while scanning the headstones with no luck.

I’ve always been interested in history, and indeed probably more so in prehistory. Today, wandering around some of the older parts of my home town I felt a rekindling of interest in Local History. Is that a sure sign of having hit middle age?


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Photoshop Pricing

For quite a while now I’ve been looking forward to the release of Photoshop CS3. Finally, Adobe get around to supporting Intel Macs - after we’ve all been using them for a year - and how long after Apple announced the move to Intel?

At the same time I’ve been dreading the thought of how much it was going to cost.

I do have a perfectly legal Photoshop CS2 license for the Windows version of the software. Adobe very generously offer the chance to transfer that license over to Mac for just the cost of supplying the media. However, this is something I can’t do as I happen to have lost a receipt for one of my earlier Photoshop purchases. No original receipt - no license transfer. Fair enough I suppose.

So, if I want Photoshop on my Mac I’m going to need to buy the full package rather than the upgrade.

Earlier today I took a look on the Adobe online store and saw that Photoshop CS3, full edition would cost me £569.88. That’s for the boxed version. For some odd reason the download version would cost me £586.85. Humm, so I get to pay £16.97 extra for the privilege of not having a box, a CD or a manual and spending the time and bandwidth to download it?

Putting this oddity aside I went to see how much it would cost in the USA.

The US boxed edition would be $649.00.

Time for a bit of maths. The current exchange rate is 1.96735 Dollars to the Pound (taken from BBC Market Data). This would make the US price £329.89.

So, the exact same product, bought in the UK will cost me £256.96 more?

77.89% more?

Adobe, just what am I getting in return for paying 77.89% more than your US customers? Please do tell me.

Ah, I guess I should take VAT into account. VAT stands at 17.5%. Adobe’s store tells me that’s £485.00 excluding VAT.

That’s still £155.11 more than in the USA - and assuming that the US price doesn’t include any kind of sales tax. I know that for you guys over The Pond that varies state by state.

And it’s not just the UK where these rip off prices seem to be applied. Checking around the rest of Europe shows Photoshop CS3 at €899.00 before any local taxes. That’s $1,201.78 or £610.06 - yikes - even more than the UK!?!

Of course, it’s not just Adobe who are playing this game. Windows Vista will cost you about the same in Sterling as it will in Dollars.

Well, I decided that my Windows usage was going to end with XP - and it has.

Now is it time for me to say that my Photoshop usage will end with CS2?

Right now it appears so. Sure it would be lovely to be running CS3 on my Mac, and I’ve been running the beta for a little while now. Works very nicely. But I still have a Windows PC sat under the desk, gathering dust. Quite a capable Windows PC and one that I have a license to run Photoshop CS2 on.

Maybe it’s time for me to look quite seriously into The Gimp? Free vs £570?

Meanwhile, anyone who reads this and thinks that this pricing policy is nuts could do worse than head over to this online petition.

I seriously doubt anything will change. But if US software houses continue to treat European markets with this kind of disrespect then I think they’re going to be finding a lot of people looking for alternatives.

Personally I refuse point blank to pay that much more than our friends in the USA for Photoshop. Okay, I might need to go buy a Big Book to train myself up with The Gimp - but that is going to be so much more cost effective.


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Thick as a Brick

Thick
I’m just back from a rare night out this evening. Jethro Tull were playing Leicester’s De-Montfort Hall for the first time in ooh, 35 years I think. I met up with friends there and enjoyed a great evening of music as the ‘Acoustic Tull’ line-up played to what must have been a full house.

The full line up :-

  • Ian Anderson
  • Martin Barre
  • John O’Hara (keyboards)
  • David Goodier (bass)
  • James Duncan (drums)
  • Anna Phoebe (violin)

Ian seems to be ‘doing good’ for what I guess his age must be now. He seemed just as active on stage as ever and those oh so distinctive vocals rang clear and true. I was very impressed with Anna Phoebe on violin which added a different dimension to many of the well known Tull numbers which had received reworks of varying degrees for the acoustic set up.

Songs such as ‘Living in the Past’, ‘Thick as Brick’, ‘Dun Ringill’ (see the actual Dun Ringill here), ‘Aqualung’, ‘Locomotive Breath’ were interspersed with a handful of Anna Phoebe’s material and the odd Anderson and Barre solo number. It all went together very nicely.

It had been years since I last saw Tull play live. Trying very hard to remember when it was, and I think it was on the J-Tull Dot Com tour, so maybe not as very long ago as I thought. Still several years. It was a real treat to have them play Leicester - previous encounters had involved trips to Nottingham or Manchester.

Time to go get some more Tull onto my iPod!


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Second Post

Two postings on the same day? I think this is a record!

I just noticed a comment left on an earlier posting and decided to follow the link back to the author’s own Blog. I’m very glad I did.

Rich Gift Of Lins‘ by Colin Griffiths presents a series of photographs and ‘musings’ upon them which I found to be a very worth while read.

Here is a person who enjoys his photography and whilst making best use of all that the ‘digital age’ can offer, also appreciates the craftsmanship of traditional methods.

Colin’s use of a Canon Powershot G7 compact camera was also of great interest to me. For a long time I’ve been wishing that I had something small and discrete that doesn’t weigh a ton when I take it up mountains. Don’t get me wrong, I love my DSLR, but something you can just slip into a coat pocket and hardly notice the weight of is very appealing.

I’ve been wanting to produce a little ‘photo documentary’ about my Walking Commute, but there’s no way I’m lugging my DSLR with me when I’m ‘power walking’ to work. A compact is the answer - something I can have in my pocket all the time.

Alas, finances dictate that I’ll have to wait a while before I can treat myself to such a luxury.

However Colin’s Blog reminded me that it’s no use at all having the most wonderful equipment in the world if you don’t have it with you when you need it.

Thanks Colin. Thanks for your comment here earlier, thanks for your Blog and thanks for inspiring me. I’ll be keeping an eye on ‘Rich Gift Of Lins‘!

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I’ve Been a Mac-Head For A Year?

I’ve not written anything here about my ’switch’ from Windows to Mac OS X for a while. Checking back I see that it was March 16th 2006 when my Mac Mini arrived. That’s over a year ago now.

I initially started this blog to record my thoughts as I went through the process of switching systems. After a little while it became clear that I wouldn’t really have much to write about if I limited myself to just that one topic so this became my ‘personal blog’.

Why didn’t I have much to write about? Well, my Mac Mini out-performed all expectations, it still does. Little ‘Lola’ as I christened her is sitting here now, quietly going about her work with a minimum of fuss and bother.

I was reading a blog posting by Robert Peston, the BBC’s Business Editor earlier this evening. The entry is regarding Robert’s experiences with Windows Vista, and to summarise - they’re not good so far. It was the imminent arrival of Windows Vista that made me decide the time was right to move over to a Mac just over a year ago.

After reading Robert’s piece I was left feeling that he probably should have expected the problems he was suffering, especially seeing as how he is the BBC’s Business Editor.

However, it was reading the 300 odd comments to that article which I really lost myself in. So much bashing on about which operating system is better and why, and how MS and Apple are just ripping consumers off left, right and centre. All the usual Mac vs PC wars were going on in those comments.

I very nearly left a comment myself, but honestly, why bother? I’m not interested in ‘O/S Wars’ and what is good for one person is not so good for another. I just know that I’ve been very happy indeed with my own decision to switch. My dear little Mini suits me down to the ground. It’s small, it’s quiet, it’s powerful enough for what I want to do with a computer. And yes, it’s stable and seems to be secure. I’ve not really had any problems with it. I switch it on, I use it, I switch it off again.

Now, this is where I’m going to be sounding like some kind of an Apple ‘fanboi’. I’m not. I’m a ‘fan’ of whatever does the job for me, and I have to say that the Mac Mini has been superb so far. Just not having to worry about anti-virus software, anti-spyware, defragging, updating drivers… it’s hard to believe I used to put up with all of that just to use a computer. I know that when I first got the Mini somehow it felt like there was something missing whenever I used it. The ’something missing’ was all the frustration and wasted time. Now I just use the darned computer rather than spending so long fiddling to find out why something or other wasn’t working properly.

And the whole virus / malware part is the most refreshing. Reclaiming your computer from all the scum who want to infect it / hijack it / steal things from it is just such a liberating experience. As is no longer having to pay ‘Symantec Tax’ just to try and fight a losing battle against the malware writers.

Sales pitch over.

So, no - I’ve not written anything much about Macs for a while, and that is because the process of making the switch was very smooth and relatively painless - for me. Your Mileage May Vary.

So, here’s to ‘Lola’, one year old and going strong.

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Sickness and Diseases

Okay, so here I am doing more to make myself fit and healthy than I have for erm, quite a long time. And as I sit here I have :-

  • a cold
  • sweat rash
  • knackered foot

All this ‘get fit’ stuff is bad for you!

The cold is one of what has seemed like a constant stream of them passed on from my daughter, Shelly this winter. Hard to remember a few days when I didn’t have a cold.

The sweat rash is from all the walking. Try and make a difference to your fitness and get landed with some other horrible disease. For a long time I thought it was just my eczema back again, so I treated it as such. Finally the penny dropped and the various sprays, ointments and general gunk I’m using right now seems to be making a difference.

The knackered foot - I can’t believe this. I was sat using the computer last night, stood up and felt something happen to my right foot. It felt like I’d pulled something, it was pretty minor so I thought nothing more of it and went to bed. This morning I awake to quite a lot of pain in my foot and find that I can just about hobble around. I feel like I should be using a walking stick right now. There’s no way I’ll be able to do my walking commute for a few days, just as last week I only managed one day due to the cold and how it affected my breathing.

So here I am, bursting to get back into my walking, lose some more pounds, stones and inches - and there’s no way I can. I’m frustrated to say the least.

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Another Sign of Shrinkage!

squonk jacket 1

Any of my mates who has known me a while will instantly recognise the jacket pictured above. I bought it when I was about 20 and a friend added the art work a little while later. All taken from Genesis’ ‘A Trick of the Tail’ album sleeve.

This jacket was a part of my identity through my 20’s. People would spot it and come over for a chat at gigs and festivals. It saw a lot of wear and tear and travelled over to the USA when I first went to meet my future parents-in-law. Humm, heaven knows what they made of me…!

And the reason I’ve dragged it out? Well, one of my targets in the whole ‘walk to work’ campaign was to be able to pop on this old leather jacket and zip it up again. Keep in mind that I bought it when I was 20 years old and to be honest, from my mid twenties onwards I wasn’t really able to wear it zipped up.

I tried it on over Christmas. It went on okay, but zip? Erm - no way, couldn’t even make the two halves of the zipper meet up in the middle.

Tried it on today and…. woah… we had zipperage!

Okay, it’s erm, still a little (!) on the tight side, but it bloody well zipped up! I’m staggered.

Only thing is, will I actually wear it? Well, only just to ’show’ a few friends who scoffed at me when I told them my plan regarding this jacket, ‘yeah, yeah, as if that’s going to happen…’. Ah… erm, if you’re reading this - you know who you are and you will soon see that when I set my mind to something I can be bloody stubborn!

All I need to do now is to find some way to get some suppleness back into parts of it (the arms seem particularly stiff) and maybe get some blacking on bits too if possible. I just want to be sure that anything I use on it to restore it doesn’t damage the art work - painted with acrylics I believe. Any recommendation? Be prepared to get shot if your recommendation strips off all the paint though!

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Spring Has Sprung

frog 3

Went for my first visit of the year to Leicester Botanic Gardens today. I started to nab a few photos of the usual suspects, flowers, buds, that kind of thing. And then I got to a pond that was just heaving with frogs. I spent quite a while there with my long lens on, bracing myself against a tree in lieu of a tripod. I managed to get some reasonable results, but I need to head back with the tripod soon - while the frogs are still there.

I can’t remember the last time I saw so many frogs, or so much frog spawn in one place. Also great to see some newts swimming around in there.


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Tanky Smith

tanky smith 3

On Sunday I decided to go for a short walk through Leicester with my camera. There were a couple of things I’d been wanting to shoot, but I so rarely feel like heading in to town.

One building I walk by twice a day on my route in and out of work is ‘Top Hat Terrace’, near the corner of London Road and University Road. The building is remarkable for the 16 carved heads that look down upon passers by.

This short terrace of houses was built by Francis ‘Tanky’ Smith, Leicester’s first private detective, although I suspect not quite on the level of Sherlock Holmes!

The story goes that he received a reward of £1000 for solving the mystery of the missing High Sheriff of Leicester, James Winstanley in 1862. Tanky Smith travelled to the continent and located the drowned corpse of the unfortunate Mr Winstanley in Germany. Upon returning and claiming his reward he decided to spend it on building the houses on London Road. His son was an architect, which I’m sure helped a bit!

There are two theories regarding the 16 carved heads on the building. One is that they represent 16 of the most notorious criminals that Tanky apprehended. The other theory, and taking into account the similarity of all the faces behind the beards and mustaches, I think the most likely : the 16 heads represent Tanky himself in a variety of disguises.

I’d like to know a bit more about this colourful character from Leicester’s history. I keep envisaging a series of short stories, with Tanky based in his London Road apartments (numbers 113 to 117 alas, not 22b). However I would imagine that any such series would have draw more deeply on fantasy than history to make them a compelling read.

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Lunar Eclipse

lunar eclipse 4
Well, they didn’t turn out great, but I took a few photos of the lunar eclipse last night. I was using the longest lens I have, the Sigma 70-300mm APO, so with my 20D that’s an effective focal length of 480mm. Not long enough! The moon is still quite a small object in the viewfinder. I do have a smallish telescope, but alas no way to hook the telescope up to the camera.

The shot above was my favourite, still about a third of the moon in view. This has been seriously cropped down, like I said above, the moon is really quite small at this focal length. The shots I took during totality do show up the red colour nicely, but they had to be quite long exposures, 10 seconds or so, and the moon moved during the exposure of course and made it blurry.

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