Monthly Archives: January 2007

The Oyster goes regional – happy now?

So, today it was announced that train companies operating services in and out of London would be enabling passengers to use Oyster by 2009 (originally via Londonist, and also this morning’s traditional deadwood press).

For readers who don’t frequent the capital of our fair nation: Oyster is a system whereby you have a cash-chargeable electronic card which you swipe over readers in Tube stations and on buses and trams, removing the need for paper tickets and unifying the travel experience across the network. It’s futuristic, fabulous, and the people demand it! says Mayor Ken (well, that’s the gist of what he says, anyway). It has been around for a few years now. Over the past year, Transport for London has been “encouraging” people to “upgrade” to Oyster, by offering better fares if you use the system and don’t use daily tickets.

I live outside London, and I don’t (currently) work in London throughout the week, and I often need to expense travel. Therefore, I generally buy paper travelcards from my home station. I don’t own an Oyster card.

So, won’t I jump for joy at the prospect of a shiny plastic card replacing these backward paper monstrosities called “tickets”?

Well, no.

For a start, I’ve yet to be convinced of the privacy and security issues. I have recently been told (and I have to admit that I’d never bothered to investigate) that you don’t actually have to register your name and address in order to get a card, they will just issue one. Previously, I’d thought that you had to provide all of your identity date in order to get one. So, if I can use it “anonymously”, should I be worried about surveillance? Well… I’ve got nothing to hide, but I can’t get over the niggling feeling that I don’t want all of this information recorded about me. There are apparently ways to shield the card, so that information can’t leak out, but it won’t stop the network tracking my movements, even if it doesn’t know who I am – not hard to correlate times with CCTV footage, for example, and we know just how much we’re all under the watchful eyes of cameras in the UK these days.

Another thought… I’m sat on a train right now, and the guard has just been through to inspect tickets. Wonder how that will work when Oyster is introduced? I’ll have swiped my card at the mainline station to get through the barrier to get on the train, so naturally I’ll be within my rights to be sitting here. Unless I jumped the barrier, or got on at a smaller regional station. Could be fun. Maybe they could do an iris scan and check my ID card on the way through the carriage. Flashbacks to Minority Report

I suppose this discussion forms an interesting counterpoint to my views on Declarative Living (to borrow James Governor’s term). I do spray information about my location, my listening habits and my daily life around the web on a fairly liberal basis.I listened to a great podcast on the way home last night, where Suw Charman and Stephanie Booth discussed whether or not geotagging and geoinformation is such a good thing, and it got me thinking. I guess the reason I’m more comfortable about my activity information being online is that it feels more “opt-in”. With Oyster, I don’t have a choice about what information is stored, and I have to travel so can’t avoid it; with Web 2.0, I choose whether to run the Plazes or client software at any point in time, controlling both the what and when of the information in question (unless I forget to switch off the client when listening to Shania Twain…). It’s a personal option.

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New Windows, new fonts

I was leaning towards getting a Vista upgrade for our Thinkpad R40 which we use at home. It should cope – we’ve got enough RAM and the processor is pretty beefy. It would totally fall down on the graphics, but we’d just have to live with Aero Basic.

I’d thought about buying a nice new, large hard disk… say 100Gb… although it isn’t clear from the specs whether the R40 can support that size of disk. The plan was to install a clean version of Vista as an upgrade to our existing XP license. Then I read that you can’t actually do that – you can only install the upgrade version on top of an existing install… apparently it will offer to backup your existing Windows installation first… all very well when we’ve currently got a 40Gb disk with precious little space on it! Bah.

OK, OK… I expect Linux (or Mac) people to interject at this point. To curtail that argument: Ola uses Windows at work; I support family members and customers who use Windows; I need to have “hands on” use of it somewhere, much though I might not like the thought of contributing to MS profits; and stuff like Lightroom and the TomTom software doesn’t run on Linux, much though I wish the relevant manufacturers would sort it out. I’m far from being a Windows lover, but I have (what I think is) a realistic view about it. I want to try to have a good knowledge of as many operating systems as I can – it will make me more effective as an IT professional.

Anyway, the upgrade debate is a side issue. The real point of this post is to flag that Windows Vista has some new default typefaces. I’m reading that Times New Roman is no longer the default font in Word. The shockwaves will be felt across the globe!

Those of us remaining on XP can get the exciting new fonts by downloading and installing the MS Office compatibility pack for Office 2007 formats.

I’ve changed my desktop settings to use Calibri for the title bar, and Candara for messages, menubars and icon text. They are quite nice. Calibri at 10pt causes the title bars to squish down to about half the default XP size, but that increases screen real estate a little. Very readable. I’m liking it so far.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom available for pre-order

After a number of beta releases, Lightroom is now available for pre-order and Adobe are saying that it will ship by the end of February.

Although I’ve never been as comfortable with Lightroom as I was with Rawshooter, it is a good tool and I’m looking forward to the full version being made available. As a Rawshooter owner, I should be eligible for a free upgrade; the full version costs $299 and the discounted pre-order price is $199, which I believe compares favourably with Apple’s Aperture software.

I’ve written about Lightroom before, and I don’t have a great deal to add right now, especially since I’m hoping that the various niggles I’ve had might be fixed or changed in the final version. Specifically I’m hoping that they sort out the import of Rawshooter settings; do something more intelligent about export location; allow more zoom levels in the Develop module; and improve the performance… (!)

Film photography is hard

Over Christmas, my grandfather’s old Pentax ME camera emerged from a cupboard at my mother’s house. I’d used it before, a few times when I was a teenager, to take some macro photos of flowers for a project I was working on at school. I never really understood what I was doing in terms of aperture, exposure etc. – I was using the camera in a mainly point-and-shoot manner, and it seemed to just work.

When I picked the camera up again last month, I was so excited – all of a sudden, having used my DSLR, I understood all these settings like aperture, ISO and so on. I could use the camera “properly”!

I loaded up a Kodak ISO 200 film and proceeded to play. The camera came with 28mm and 50mm lenses, an extension tube, some close-up filters, and a flash. I bought a couple more lenses on eBay. I tried shooting into the light tent; took it to Alice Holt Forest; and finished the roll in the British Museum this weekend. I rewound and unloaded the film, but found that the end had got slightly stuck in the end of the door, so I knew I might lose a couple of exposures.

Fortunately, there’s a branch of Snappy Snaps about 100 yards from where I’m working at the moment, so I took the film to get developed this morning, and picked it up at lunchtime.

Out of 24 exposures, only 7 came out.

Those seven are a long, long way from being my finest work.

Most frames seem to be woefully underexposed. Odd, because the camera has electronic TTL aperture priority metering, and I’m used to shooting in aperture priority mode with the Canon EOS 350D, so I assumed I’d have no problems.

I may scan some later, so that people can point and laugh.

It feels like I have a lot – a LOT – to learn 😦

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Mitchell and Webb in UK Mac ads

I know Kelly has previously talked excitedly about the Mac ads.

Last week, I noticed that there were some new ones on Apple’s US site.

This morning, there was a full-spread advert in Metro. It has the same style, but features UK comedians Mitchell and Webb. There are video versions on the Apple UK site. Cool 🙂