Thursday, February 28, 2013

The illustrated guide to a Ph.D

The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D by Matt Might is something i enjoyed finding the other day, it is an attempt to explain what a Ph.D is using simple graphics. Although i am "merely" aiming for a masters i could relate to how my knowledge is represented. I am aiming for the horizon though. I am not discounting working on a Ph.D one day but first things first...

It is almost March and that means results month. Hopefully i should find out if i have passed A825 by mid-March and have some guidance as to where i should be going with my dissertation.

Rebuilding the Titanic?

Forget raising the Titanic Australian mining entrepreneur Clive Palmer wants to build a life-size replica of the doomed ocean liner (personally i find building ships to 1:700 scale more manageable than 1:1). Although the ship will be built with an eye for detail with the same style of furnishings as the original and will not have TVs or free WiFi the ship will have some modern refinements such as air conditioning and sufficient life boats!

It looks like the ship is intended to be more a floating theme park rather than an ocean liner built to a retro style. Passengers will be able to dress up in period clothing and party like its 1912. The ship will retain the three separate classes of the original (and classes will not be able to mix) though there could be an option to sample life in all 3 classes. Palmer is hoping the ship, which could begin construction this year, will be ready to recreate the ill-fated Atlantic cruise of Titanic 1.0 in 2016. Hopefully avoiding ice bergs...
Photo from Flickr Commons (State Library of Queensland)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

HMS Caroline

Missed this earlier in the month but HMS Caroline, the last survivor from the Battle of Jutland, has been given a grant of £1 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) for urgent repairs. The cruiser was finally decommissioned in 2011 following decades as a  training ship in Belfast (the ship's home since 1924) and static drill ship but its condition has deteriorated and the future of the ship was in question.

The funds will make the ship water and air tight and will remove dangerous materials like asbestos. The next stage is to transform the Caroline into a floating museum, hopefully for the centenary of Jutland in 2016. The Telegraph have a nice photo gallery.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Saving endangered photographs

Conserving historic photographs is a very complicated business because of the variety of methods used in early photography, and the science itself is a fairly recent development. This fascinating article traces the history of photo conservation and the complications involved. Research into photo conservation was spurred in the 1990s by the explosion in value of historic and artistic photos and the discovery of some frauds.

What astounded me was that there have been over 150 different photographic processes developed in the 187 years since Joseph NiƩpce first took a photograph of the view from his window. The article lists some of these including processes i've heard of like daguerreotypes and also others i hadn't like ambrotypes and kallitypes!
Photo from Flickr Commons, British Officer from Sir William Dixson's collection of ambrotype portraits, ca. 1857-1858, possibly by Thomas Glaister (State Library of New South Wales)

Monday, February 25, 2013


I've always found ancient continents and super-continents fascinating. Now scientists have found evidence of a now lost micro-continent called Mauritia which existed between 2000 and 86 million years ago. Mauritia was located between India and Madagascar but fragmented when India broke away and headed up towards its eventual collision with Asia.

Grains of sand off beaches in Mauritius were analysed (nice place to do some research) which were found to contain ancient minerals. Zirconium, a mineral commonly found in continental crust, were found in the sand and have been dated between 1,970 to 600 million years old.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Return to 110 Format photography

A few years ago i bought a Kodak Instamatic off Ebay and took a number of photos in the venerable 110 film format. Then i dropped the camera in the mud at Plantbrook Nature Reserve and it went a bit funny. For a few years i got sidetracked but earlier this year i decided to finish the film off in that original camera (which i was unsure still worked or not) and also buy a second Instamatic and try some new film (made by Lomography no less).

And i got the results back yesterday and some of the photos are really pretty interesting. Both cameras work fine so i will continue to use both in future. The Lomo film was Lomography Lobster Redscale 110 which gives everything a reddy tinge, it also adds a period feel to photos such as the one of Shakespeare's birthplace below, which looks like it might have been taken in the 19th century but infact was was taken in January 2013! I have a black and white Lomo film too ready for use.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Disappearing surnames

Ancestry is warning that some English surnames are in danger of dying out. They compared names in the 1901 census with more recent records and found names like Hatman, Rummage (love that one) and Temples no longer exist. It says that names like Clegg and Greenwood are dwindling and one day could die out too.

But this is a process that has happened for centuries, names die out and names are also created. Some time ago i found a website (which unfortunately no longer seems active) that could let you map where a surname was common in the British Isles over time. I tracked one of my ancestral names (on my old blog) Genner between 1881 and 1998 to see how the distribution of the Genners changed over time.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Camera C64

Instagram is one of my favourite apps with its ability to add a layer of faux retro-ness to your photos. Camera C64 takes it to the next level. The iPhone app modifies your photos to the resolution and colour depth of graphics on the Commodore C64 with its VIC-II video chip! The app is free though there is an optional (and very cheap) in-app purchase for extra colour filters for green, amber and B&W monitors. They were easily worth 69p to be honest! An example photo is below. Interestingly since i installed this app i have found there is another similar app too.

All very nice, though i never had a C64, i did have a VIC-20 though and still have a C16 somewhere... Here is a photo i took yesterday (of the canal natch).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Inland Waterways 1950 (video)

An interesting film i have found on Youtube. Made in 1950 this film shows a canal boat travelling from London to Birmingham. A very different world to now, back then the canals were used to carry goods but now they carry holiday makers. Its fascinating how much has changed in the last 63 years but in rural areas how much has stayed the same. What i found most interesting was the board which was used to track boat movements and positions.

How do you name your computers?

Its a standard geeky question, what convention do you use to name your computers? Some use the names of planets, gods from Greek mythology, comic characters. I used to use the names of Indonesian towns and cities (don't ask).

Of course this is more important and relevant if you are a business with large numbers of computers and there are a number of websites with advice on suitable and scalable conventions. Much of the advice suggests sensible and geographical/functional names which is fine for big organisations but otherwise i think we should use a bit of whimsy.

Recently i decided to start a new convention and re-name my kit, i decided on female names so my computer is Miriam (my old one has retrospectively become Suzy) and my new iPad is Mary-Ann. So it didn't feel left out i decided to name my typewriter too, that is now Dorothy (did try Deborah but she didn't like it).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Reborn Reborn Technology

I've had my Reborn Technology blog for a long time though its remained dormant for awhile. Originally it was a place for general posts about technology, especially where obsolete or retro technology was finding new uses. However it lost a bit of focus and so i stopped posting there.

However i have decided to relaunch it, with a more general focus on technology post old and new. Some technology posts from this blog have been reused (recycling is good yeah?) but there will also be new and original content. Technological memories and a look at whats new and interesting. Why not have a look?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Parkside campus

No i haven't joined the Village People, today i joined a staff tour of Birmingham City University's new Parkside campus next to Millennium Point as part of Birmingham's Eastside regeneration. A very impressive building it looks inside too, there is still a lot of work to be done as you can see from my photographs though mostly fitting out now and construction is ahead of schedule. Classes are due to start here in September.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Greta Garbo's record collection?

There are millions of blogs out there and many of them cover rather strange and wonderfully obscure topics (i have a few myself), but one of the strangest recently that i have come across is Greta's Records by Allison Anders. Its a brilliant blog written by someone who bought the record collection of the late screen legend Greta Garbo in auction and now writes about the records they have found in the collection.

At first glance this might seem an odd thing to do, especially as Garbo's last movie was in 1941 so the records covered might seen rather old and obscure, but Garbo lived until 1990 and lived a private life refusing many offers to make a comeback after retiring at the age of 35.

Garbo is therefore a rather interesting character and her record collection is a lot more contemporary then you might think including the likes of the Beatles and The Byrd's Gene Clark as well as world music. The delightful blog discusses the records in the collection and what they might have meant to Garbo as she listened to them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The rise of the microcomputer

An interesting video from the Open University discussing the rise of the microcomputer in the 1980s and the great variety of machines as computers became democratised and were within the aim of normal people and not just corporations. Some lovely nostalgia as well here, i remember my ZX-80, VIC-20 and BBC Micro well...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Building my first iPhone app

On a rainy Sunday afternoon i finally got around to installing Apple's Xcode development suite on my Mac. My first degree was software engineering and i have done quite a bit of programming in the past (going back to my days on the Sinclair ZX-80!) though i haven't done a great deal in my job in recent years. Nearly all the programming i do these days is Perl CGI for myself, i have an on-line database of my book collection for example.

However i have felt like trying a bit of iOS development, i have vague ideas of an app to help people navigate the canals in the Midlands (canals being another interest of mine). So i installed Xcode then went through a "Hello World" exercise, the result you can see below running on an iPhone simulator. The app is very simple though is quite involved, its a bit more complicated than writing

20 GOTO 10

on a microcomputer in Dixons and then running away...

When i have time i will get around to planning a canal navigation app. Time is the key constraint there.

Getting my references under control?

I'm still in between courses on my History MA (Part 2 does not start until May) but i have made my first step in preparing for the course (which involves writing a dissertation) by buying and installing some software to manage my research.

I have bought EndNote, which works with Apple Pages (which is the word processor i use) unlike some other softwares. Its also a heavy weight application and i got a nice academic discount. Now i shall familiarise myself with the software as much as possible before beginning my research in earnest sometime in March (perhaps).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Trying a bit of e-commerce

You may have noticed that there is a "Store" link in the blog's menubar now, i have added an Amazon aStore  so please feel free to buy some stuff! My music blog also has a store and i might add a few more too, its pretty easy to set up to be honest.

The question of course is, will anyone actually buy anything from them? I've tried Amazon Associate links for a couple of years now and no one has ever bought anything using them so far! Maybe you should buy something and be the first, you won't get any prize though.

I am no stranger to e-commerce though, in fact i wrote one of the first e-commerce websites in the UK for Software Warehouse back in late 1995, that was just a few months after Amazon went live. I had to hand write pretty much everything in Perl and it worked well generating well over a million pounds worth of orders i believe. However while Amazon became a multi-billion multi-national business i am still pretty much where i was so i'm not sure what went wrong there.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rocking in London

Following my Friday trip to Stratford-upon-Avon i went down to London the next day (part of it spent in the other Stratford). I went down mostly to catch some great bands at a gig in East London (you can read the review here on my music blog) but also to check out the hipster area of Brick Lane.

There is some great street art there for sure, my favourite was the statue of a goat. I finished off my Lomo roll of 110 film on my Instamatic camera, it seemed the thing to do.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Stratford 2013 Part 1

On my first day off of the year i went to... well Stratford-upon-Avon of course. I really should count up how many times i went last year so i can see if i beat it! I went for a number of reasons including to take some photos with my newer/older Instamatic, some photos with my DSLR (which you can see here) and visit the model shop where i bought a few more pieces of track. All in all a highly successful trip!