The Haunted House

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Optical and Digital Zoom

Whilst out on the Matlock Bath walk today we saw some rock climbers on the cliff in the distance. I thought this would be a good time to play around with the digital zoom on the new camera (Canon A650). The photos in this post start fully zoomed out.

The picture above is zoomed in fully with the optical zoom. This is a 6x zoom. Then I zoomed in fully with the digital zoom, which is a 24x zoom. This basically just inlarges the particular section of the image. But because the camera is 12mega pixels, you get a lot of milage out of the zoom.

The image is a little noisy, but overall not bad I think. Well it was an interesting test anyway :-)

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Very Steep Walk At Matlock Bath

It's been a busy weekend. On Saturday afternoon we went to a 1st birthday party for a colleagues daughter, and then in the evening we went to Neil and Carolines for a meal. They cooked leak and potato with bacon soup, followed by pot roast guinea fowl. For dessert Neil made a selection of homemade ice-creams. They were strawberry and apple flavored.

The whole meal was really nice, and we got through lots of beer and wine. The next day we all went for a walk. This was made harder with the fact that we were nursing hangovers. We did the Heights of Abraham walk in Matlock Bath. This essentially takes you up a very steep hill. Very Steep!!!!

Because Neil recently got him self a new all singing, all dancing GPS unit, we are going to buy his old unit. Normally the walking books are not that good and it can be easy to get lost, so having a GPS along with an OS map will make things much easier. It will certainly stop Me and Amanda bickering about what the correct route is.

Neil brought his old GPS unit with him on the walk so I could have a go. It tells you your location as well as having a digital compass. You can also record your route and get information about total ascents, descents, distance and speed.


The GPS actually came in good use for this walk as we took a few wrong turns. Although one part of the walk Neil said we had to go up these very steep stone stairs on the 2nd half of the walk. It was very pain full getting up these, but when we were there Neil, quite sheepishly, said we had gone the wrong way :-). Oops. It's ironic really, we had 2 gps units, 2 OS maps, and a normal compass, and we still buggered up the route :-)
Worrying sign in an old landrover window.

After lunch we saw a small cave in the limestone rocks. I went in the cave, although I couldn't see where I was going, I had to take photos with the flash (as seen below) to see where I was going. I only went in about 10 meters though. Not a good idea without a torch.

The total walk was 7 miles, although we felt like we had done 14 by the time we had finished. We drove back to Neil and Carolines house and had a cup of tea and some cake. We needed the sugar to give us some energy.

I am just going to collapse infront of the tv tonight I think. Don't think I have the energy for much else. I certainly feel fitter though with all these walks, so that's a good thing.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Carsington Water

Guess what we did today? That's right, yet another walk :-) We went to Carsington Water for a walk around the reservoir.

I must admit, this morning I wasn't too keen as I had a rubbish nights sleep, but felt much better once we was walking. This walk was 8.5 miles in total. Most of it was flat, but halfway though it did get quite steep.

Including the walks we did in Castleton on Thursday and Friday, and this walk we have done over 20 miles in total. Not bad eh. Better than sitting in front of the tv all weekend.

We are both completely knackered now though. At least I can rest at work tomorrow :-)

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

New Car

Amanda went to pick up our new car today. It's a brand new Fiat Punto hot out of the showroom. It seems a nice car. Neither of us are fussy about high powered cars, we just want something practical and this fits the bill nicely. It even functions as a bluetooth headset for the phone. Although I think it will need a bit of practice to use as Amanda spent a while shouting commands at it to get it to work properly.

The garage even gave us a really good trade in for our old Ford Ka which had 100,000 miles on the clock, fools ;-) The car should get a good run tomorrow as we are going to drive somewhere for another walk.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Walking around Castleton and Tideswell

This afternoon we got back from our over night visit to Castleton in the Peak District. We booked Yesterday and Today off work so we could go away for my Birthday and our Wedding Anniversary.

Wednesday evening we went over what walking routes we would do whilst away. We decided on a walk around Tideswell and Millers Dale for the Thursday, and the hill Mam Tor for Today.

On Thursday morning we set off. Before staring the walk we went to the outlet centre at Rowsley so we could go to the walking shop. They had a sale on, so we wanted to get some new water proof jackets. Once we had got these we carried on to Tideswell.

We started the walk at 11am. The whole walk was around 7 miles. The weather was quite good. Although it kept on changing from warm to chilly quite quickly. At the top of Millers Dale though it was quite windy.

This walk was very scenic. I would like to do this again on a clear day with blue skies, although that will probably be next year now. :-)

We finished the walk about 4.30pm. Once we had got changed out of our muddy walking gear we drove to Castleton where we was staying at the 'Nags Head Pub'. The room we stayed in was quite large. A lot larger than we expected. Once we had settled in we went downstairs for a few drinks. For dinner we decided to go to the Bulls Head pub for dinner as it is supposed to be quite nice.

Next morning we went for breakfast at 9 whilst nursing small hangovers. Once we had finished here, we checked out and got changed into out walking gear again. We went for full waterproofs today as the weather forecast said it would rain a lot.

We started the walk from the village carpark. About 30 minutes into the walk the heavens opened and it pissed down hard for about an hour. Normally this would have been horrible, but we was well prepared, so it was actually good fun as we stayed completely dry. :-)

Once we got to the top of Mam Tor the view was really good, although quite cloudy. It was very very windy up there.

The walk carried along the top of Mam Tor and back down the other side. We then carried on through fields and the valley called Winnats Pass.

When we got back to Castleton we went back the Nags Head and got some lunch. When finished we drove home. We are both knackered. Early night tonight I think. We are having tomorrow off from walking as Amandas new car is being delivered. We are going for another walk on Sunday though with Neil and Caroline.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

31 Today

Woohoo 31 years old today. I feel like 41 but maybe thats the drinks I had last night :-) It's also Mine and Amanda's 4th wedding anniversary today too. 4 years!!! Can't believe it has gone so quickly. We are off to Castleton today to go walking in the rain and howling wind. We sure do know how to have a good time :-)


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

GPS Routes

After the walk we did the other day to Lathkill Dale, Neil sent me the GPX file from his Garmin GPS system which he was carrying with him during the walk. The system basically stores your position on a fixed timescale so it records your course. Neil uses this for matching up photo's from his camera with GPS locations. Not something I particularly need to do, but I found this cool website that will read the file and plot the course on a google map. Just click on the image above to see the full 8.5 mile route we did on Sunday.

I feel an interesting programming pet project coming on :-)

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Monday, September 17, 2007

New Canon A650 Has Arrived

Today our new camera, the Canon A650 IS, which I wrote about on Saturday turned up at work. I was quite pleased at the end of the day so I could get home to try it out.

Inside the box there was the camera, a memory card (only 32meg though), batteries, cables, manual, and a wrist strap. One thing I really like about the A series is that it has a decent hand grip on the side of the camera. This is also where the 4 AA batteries go. The weight of the camera with the batteries in makes it nice and sturdy in your hand.

Getting the camera ready to use is very straight forward. Once the batteries and memory card are in, the first thing you are prompted for when you power up is the date and time. This is easily set using the thumb pad at the side of the camera.

This camera has a much larger flip out screen than previous A series cameras. The quality of the image on the screen is very good. The screen also has a pretty decent refresh rate, unlike the A95 which was a little slow, not that this really mattered.

I had to wait for it to stop raining before I went outside for a few test photos. But I quickly got some test shots of the hills at the front of Belper. When you put the camera into preview mode you can either view the image full screen or it takes you into a zoom-able mode where you can zoom into the picture to see how sharp it is (as seen below). You also have a mode which shows you a histogram of the image which will highlight any parts of the picture that are over exposed.

The technical specs for the camera can see views from Canons website. The camera is 12.1 megapixels. When the camera is cranked up to full resolution the images are 4000x3000 pixels in size. Out of the few test shots I have done the file sizes, when set to super fine jpeg, range from about 3.5meg to 5.5meg in size. The camera also has an image stabilizer. This lets you take sharp hand held shots in lower light levels. The last shot in this post was taken inside. The camera reported a shutter speed of 1/8th of a second, but the image still came out a lot sharper than a camera without an image stabilizer.

The camera has a lot of shooting modes ranging from point and click automatic modes through to manual, aperture and shutter priority modes. So you can use it as a quick point and click camera or more creativly like an SLR camera.
The rest of the photos in this post are actual shots taken straight from the camera with no touching up in photoshop. To view them at full resolution just click on them. The pictures are not that interesting, I will give the camera a proper test next time I go walking with Amanda.

The shot below was taken across the street with the lens zoomed right out.

This next shot was taken zoomed in fully with the optical zoom.

The following shot was taken with the camera zoomed in full optically and then further zoomed with the digital zoom.

The final shot here was taken inside with no flash. The camera reported a shutter speed of 1/8th of a second, yet it still came out quite well. Obviously the subject in the shot needs to be stationary to get the best out of this.

My overall first impression of the camera is great. Unfortunately it is raining at the moment so I can't really go out and take more pictures, but when I go walking again the camera will get a decent work out. I have not tried any of the software that comes with the camera. I don't really have any need to. When you plug it into the computer it comes up as a USB storage device so you can just pull the photos straight off without installing anything. Windows Vista makes this a lot easier with its photo downloading software. If you want to tweak the brightness / saturation etc, them vista comes with a photo app for doing this. If you require more power then you could use something like Photoshop Elements , the full Photoshop software, or Lightroom. Or you could use something like Paint Shop Pro or Gimp.
EDIT: It looks like blogger won't let me upload photos at 4000x3000, it seems to have re-sized them to 1600x1200. Oh well, but you get the general idea.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Blast From The Past

I was sent a link by a friend the other day to some screenshots of a game I worked on years ago at Argonaut Software. The game was called Croc - The Legend Of The Gobo's; On the old GameBoy Color handheld console.

My role on the game was as a software engineer. My main task was writing the games editor. This allowed the designer to build the levels out of tiles, set collision zones on tiles and in game characters.

Becuase the GameBoy Color was a ROM based games machines. The game couldn't load up individual files. This meant that my editor had to convert all the tiles/graphics/maps into Z80 machine code. This was a tricky task, but one that was fun to work on.

The graphics were done by my long time school friend Chris Rundell. He worked at Argonaut as a contractor at the time. The GameBoy Color was a very limited machine graphically, but Chris's art style meant he could make the graphics look like they had many more colors than there were.

The game design was done by Anna Larke. She was responsible for designing the levels and building the maps using my editor, out of the tiles that Chris created.

All sound and music was created by Juston Sharvona. After all the testing we did on the game, the main theme tune still makes me shudder. Not because it is bad, but because I listened to it so many times.

It has been good to get hold of some screen shots of this game. This was back in the good ol days of games creation. Back when it was fun. Brings back a lot of memories looking at the old screenshots. I think I still have a copy of the ROM up in the loft. I still remember fondly our arguments with Nintendo and how they wanted us to remove some graphics of up-turned crucifixes from Baron Dante's Castle. :-)
There is an entry for this game on Moby games.

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Walk around Lathkill Dale and Youlgrave

It's been a while since we last went out for a walk. In fact the last walk was with Neil and Caroline about a week before we went to Majorca. We arranged to go for another walk with them today.

Neil picked the walk. It was around Lathkill Dale and Youlgrave near Bakewell. We got up fairly early and made a nice cooked breakfast and then Amanda made our lunches for the walk. She made pita breads stuffed with coronation chicken, a recipe we got off Caroline. It's very nice and not as evil/fattening as normal coronation chicken.

We drove over to their house for 10am, loaded all the equipment into Neils car and set off. We got to the start of the walk, got ready and set off about 11am. The weather today was quite nice. It was warm, yet not to warm. There was also a breeze which made the walk more comfortable as there is a LOT of 'up' on this walk.

About a quarter of the way around the walk there are a load of very steep stone steps going up a hill. Before we tackled these steps we decided to stop for lunch so we had some energy to make it up the steps. Good job we did, they were very steep and I was knackered at the top.

There were lots of nice views on this walk. The camera got a decent amount of action. Good job too as our current camera is being retired this week to make was for the new Canon A650 :-). I can't wait to try it out. The image quality of the new camera should be very good.

When we were walking through the fields there was quite a breeze building up. Well it felt more like a gale, but we were quite high up.

According to Neils GPS unit the total walk length was 8.6 miles. Not bad really. We never intended to do a walk that long to start with, but the original walk we planned has an extension which takes you through Youlgrave, so we decided to do that.

Youlgrave is a very pretty little village, just the sort of place I could imagine myself living. There isn't too much there, a church, load of pubs (the important bit), grocers, post office and a butchers. All that you need. No stinking great big supermarkets. But don't get me on the subject of supermarkets as Tesco are trying to build a large one in Belper (where we live) and no one wants it there. Boo go away Tesco!!!

We finished the walk around 3pm. The end of the walk has a large hill which you have to climb. The hill was horrible. Not the sort of thing you want to do after 8 miles of walking. We were all completely knackered. Good job I can just sleep at my desk at work tomorrow (not really if any colleagues are reading this).

Neil drove back to Belper, but just his luck he kept on getting stuck behind some incredibly slow Sunday drivers. They needed to get back so they could go to the cinema which they had booked.

When Me and Amanda got home we started dinner. We were both starving, but we are now nice and full and will veg out in front of the TV. We have a lot of walks planned for next week. We have booked Thursday and Friday off work for our wedding anniversary and my birthday. Amanda has booked a pub/hotel in Castleton where we are going to stay on Thursday night.

During the day on Thursday and Friday we are going to do some walking. We will have Saturday off to recover and then will go out again with Neil and Caroline on Sunday. Should be good. I need the exercise to burn off the excess holiday weight :-)

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