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Rob's Site Blog - February 2008

Back To Basics - A Plan For March - 29/02/08

Right, it's time to get the website back on track with some optimising, then some good quality relevant content that plays to my sites strengths. So the plans for March are to:

  • Make sure all pages have a comment form on - the feedback / questions from visitors has been a huge success.
  • Do Podcast 3 by 15/3/08
  • Garmin Nuvi 800 series article.
  • Garmin Colorado article.
  • Spring '08 GPS Sat Nav buyers guide article.
  • Mio Range explained.
  • Get to know other makes of GPS.

Join My Flikr Group! - 26/02/08

As part of the development of the Podcast (see below) I've also started a related Flikr group, which anyone is free to join.

Access to Flikr is free, and you can share photos, join in group forums and generally feed your enthusiasm for photography.
Anyway, if you're interested, come on over to the GTN Podcast Flikr Group and share some pics!

No Honestly, They Really Don't Make Toys Like This Anymore - 18/02/08

Vinatage Action ManWhen people talk about the best toys of the 1970's in the uk , one that normally comes up is Action Man. Don't confuse this action figure with the sci-fi incarnation of the late 90's, this fella was a soldier, sailor or airman. Vintage Action man or VAM as he is sometimes called wore replica WW2 uniforms. If you bought a German Storm trooper he even had a belt with a swastika on it, unheard of in our modern politically correct times.

The reason I mention Action Man is that I've recently been clearing out the loft, looking for things to sell on eBay, and I came across my old box of Action Man figures, clothes, weapons and vehicles. I checked on eBay and saw that some of those bits were worth a decent amount, so I hunted down the unofficial Action Man Website, which has a great gallery of uniforms and figures. Armed with the ingredients for some costumes I started putting some complete figures together.

As I carefully pulled these delicate 30 year old shirts and trousers onto the old plastic dolls something strange happened. It was like I was being transported back to my childhood. Remembering to be careful with the hands, gingerly snapping the shirt buttons closed, putting the webbing on and tucking some grenades beneath the straps.

Action Man was a boy's doll. He's about 12" high, is highly articulate, but had problems with his gripping fingers snapping and his hair rubbing off. The great thing about VAM was his uniforms, equipment and vehicles. You could dress your figure up as a Nazi Officer, British Commando or dozens of other clothes. He could tote a replica machine gun, bazooka or loads of great killing tools. He could ride a tank, go to the bottom of your bathtub in a Sub, parachute from your top window or do a Steve McQueen with an Army motorbike.

I loved Action Man because it enabled me to play war with replica figures. It isn't like a made-up story, you could base your imagination on fact. Now I'm not saying that at the time I was thinking "hey, I'm learning about World War Two", but it must have sparked some of my later interest in history and in particular WWII.

You just don't get toys like this anymore - can you imagine the outcry if Palitoy came out with an Action Figure dressed in a German Uniform, complete with insignia? You should still be able to buy things like this. Instead of kids playing with meaningless toys, let's have something that might spark their imagination and interest in our history.

Anyway, I've taken a few photos to share, I hope they give fond memories to anyone who used to have an Action Man.

Will I still sell them, I'm not sure. I like feeling nine years old again.

XDA Mini S Back From The Dead... 17/02/08

o2 xda mini sI like my Pocket PC's. Not as much as I like my Psion's, but the little Windows machines are great , especially the phone models with slide out keyboards like my 02 Mini S.

Imagine then my horror when I got my Mini S out from the cupboard, dusted it off, plugged it into the charger, only to find it wouldn't turn on. No lights, no beeps nothing. A brick.

A quick visit to the xda developers website, and I was desperately trying the reset, but nothing. To be honest the fact that the charging light wasn't coming on led me to believe the battery or the whole phone was knackered.

A few of the posts mentioned that the XDA Mini S can't charge if it's too flat... you need to give it a bit of a push! Other people had chopped up usb leads, but I didn't fancy that, and anyway I had another idea. Grabbing the in-car charger lead for my Garmin Nuvi, I plugged it into the car and the Pocket PC, after a couple of seconds the charging light came on and the unit fired up. Hurray!

So if you've got an XDA that has "bricked", try plugging it into a car charger first, it may just revive it.

Oh Oh! I've Seen What Gadget I Want Next! Behringer Podcastudio USB 15/02/08

Podcast KitAt the moment I'm recording my Podcast using the microphone in my digital camera.... and if you've listened you'll hear loads of background noise and the hum of my computers fan.

This little Podcasting kit comprises mixing desk, cables, microphone, stand, headphones and software.

There's a short review here, and a promo video here.

However, if you check out this presentation it shows how to record great quality Podcasts just using a skype headset - especially useful for recording interviews. I guess it depends what sort of recording I'll be doing - use a Skype headset to record interviews over the net / phone, and the Podcast Studio to do solo / group recordings in the same location. Unless of course you could use the Podcaststudio headphones and mics to make Skype calls....

Oh, and apparently it's best to record shows standing up, you sound better and have more energy!


Our Podcast Is Live With Episode 0 - The Pilot - Please Help By Seeing If You Can Subscribe In Itunes... 14/02/08

What's this? A Blog... now a Podcast... I'm crawling into web 2.0 backwards.... so please help me out by seeing if you can subscribe to my new Podcast in itunes (if you've got an ipod) by clicking this link:

Subscribe on itunes.

If you've got another type of Podcatcher software, please use this link:

Subscribe with other podcatchers

Or if you just want to download it as an audio file, click this link:

Download as mp3. (Right click, save link / target as.)

If you run into any problems (apart from the obvious poor sound quality) , or enjoy the Podcast, please contact me using the form at the bottom of this page.

Improvements planned for Episode 1:
- Really need an intro / outro jingle.
- Include date and location.
- Gotta cut down on the background noise....
- Need to improve the show notes.
- Include user questions.
- GPS Price watch - great offers on Top Models.

What do you think I should include? (Please use the form at the bottom of the page).


Qstarz Release New GPS Location Tracker - Navigation Integration AND Photo Tagging! - The GPS Travel Recorder Platinum - 12/02/09

BT-Q1000Just got an email from the guys at Qstarz Intl. about one of their new products - the BT-Q1000 Platinum - a Bluetooth Enabled GPS receiver that can work with your PDA or smart phone (and the relevant software) to turn it into a Sat Nav, and it also can record up to 200,000 waypoints so you can geotag your photographs and display your tracks or route logs.

Geotagging is a great way to share, view and organise your photo's - it's supported by Picassa Online, Google Earth and Flikr. Instead of just watching a slide show of your pics, imagine following the route you took, in 3d on Google Earth, and seeing your images pop up in the location you took them!

The BT-Q1000, unlike the ATP Picture Tracker, doesn't have a built-in SD card slot for "on the fly" geotagging, but it does have a rechargeable battery (hurray!) that should last up to 32 hours and comes with bundled software to match the GPS logs to your photos.

The questions I need answering are how accurate it is (the ATP definitely has some issues) in real life situations, and how easy and fast the process of geotagging has been made. The advantage of this type of device is that it's easy to copy your photos before you tag them, in case of problems.

Sean from Qstarz has promised me some review models, so we can put them to the test, expect a video review and a new online geotagged album soon.

UPDATE: Review is here, and it was worth the wait!


Revenge Against Hedera Variegata - My Own Micro Cache! 11/02/08

Tobys CacheInspired by a (to me) really tough Geocache (see below a couple of posts) I felt inspired to come up with my own tough little challenge - Tobys Cache.

This is a two stage multi, using micro caches, so no swapping, but I think I've made it an interesting test and I can't wait to see who is the FTF (First to find).

If you want to have a go, get over to geocaching.com, register, and look for Tobys Cache ( GC19A0R).



Getting Carried Away With Flikr & Neglecting Site - 10/02/08

Been a bit obsessive with my new S5700 camera, taking loads of images and uploading some of them to flickr, so I haven't been adding pages or answering emails....sorry.

When it comes to photo sharing I started off with Picassa, which is really good if you're into Geotagged photo's, but i've given flikr a go, and it's very addictive, with loads of groups to join, photo's to share and discussions to look at.

I've been trying hard to follow some basic photographic rules:
1) Use a tripod.
2) Follow the rule of thirds to compose pictures.
3) Use a large aperture to reduce depth of field to identify the subject.
4) In landscapes have a foreground, middle and background.
5) Interest is in the detail.
6) Use lines to draw the viewers eyes through a picture.

Anyway, please check out my flickr acount and comment on my pics.



Nemesis Geocache Found. At Last. 05/02/08

I have to admit this Geocache had been driving me mad, but I've finally found it, done a video and wrote a post - Return to Hedera Variegata - and I'm pleased to say it taught me to a better Geocacher.

Now I know that you've got to use your eyes and search the area and not just the pointer on the GPS...



I'm So Excited - New (Second-Hand) PC - Google Earth Now Works! 03/02/08

View of Golden Gate Bridge in Google EarthSo there we were, going round the local car boot sale on a dreary Sunday Morning looking at the usual junk, when I saw an old mini-tower that looked promising - 736mb DDR RAM, Pentium 4 2.40 Ghz Processor, 40gb hard-drive, and 2 usb ports on the front - for £40!

Now I know this PC isn't going to set the world on fire, but when you're used to a Pentium 2 400mhz (I kid you not) which only has 2gb of space left on the hard-drive its manna from heaven. But then I've got the old problems of migrating all my applications, settings and files across- a nightmare at the best of times.

As usual it's best to treat a new PC as an opportunity to only install the apps you really need, reorganise your files and generally become more streamlined. I networked the new and old PC together, so transferring files was easy enough, if slow. My biggest problem was that I'd forgotten some of my email passwords for Outlook 2003, so a big shout has to go out to Nirsofts free password recovery tool for getting me out of that hole.

Having a faster processor now means that instead of using Elements 2 I can install my old full version of Adobe Photoshop CS (I know its old, but it was state of the art in 2003, and that's good enough for me.)

Firing up the new PC, I can now really enjoy the genius that is Google Earth, even with the 3d buildings (which is so cool!). On demand TV from the Beeb, ITV & Channel 4 now actually works properly, and applications are flying along.

The biggest benefit for me is the speed at which this Pentium 4 handles video encoding. Instead of taking 30 minutes to compress a 10 minute clip, it takes 5. Superb. Still got the problem of videos taking forever to upload over ADSL to Google, but that's another story.

Another unseen benefit is the speed that Photoshop handles the big pics that my new Fujifilm S5700 digital camera produces - over 1mb each (2mb at the highest setting).

To give you an idea of how much of a change this is for me, just think about my old HP Vectra PC. It had a sticker on the front that said "Designed for Windows 95"....

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