Castle Rising Castle… and tearooms

Friday, 31 August, 2007

Whilst on holiday in Norfolk over the summer we stopped at Castle Rising Castle. Whilst not belonging to English Heritage its preservation has been, at least partly, sponsored by them, so its on the “East of England” trail. And a mighty fine castle it is. According to EH:

“One of the largest, bestpreserved and most lavishly decorated keeps in England, surrounded by 20 acres of mighty earthworks. Begun in 1138 by William d’Albini for his new wife, the widow of Henry I, in the 14th century it became the luxurious exile-place of Queen Isabella, widow (and alleged murderess) of Edward II.”

So there you have it. It’s fun to look around, with corridors crudely hacked through the original 2m thick outer walls; done after the collapse of the main hall to allow access to rear upper rooms. The outer earth works provide good views and plenty of areas to wander around, including the original 13th century church which was probably torn down to make way for the castle.

Of course this is less important than the hugely impressive tea rooms in the village of Castle Rising. These are attached to the post office and are quaint and traditional. A definite stop for a freshly made cup of filter coffee or tea, along with a home made cake. Highly recommended!!

OS Benchmarks

Tuesday, 28 August, 2007

The Ordnance Survey have always maintained the trig point and benchmark network for those carrying out traditional ground surveys (leveling and or detail survey). In the past, if you wanted access to the precise co-ordinates of these locations you needed to purchase. With the advent of OS’s use of GPS and active/passive differential GPS network, trig points/benchmarks are either disused or dismantled. Whilst many liked the old survey network, it was expensive to maintain and so something had to give. However the good news is that all the (unmaintained) data is now free to use. Just go to the OS Benchmarks & Trig Archive and browse to your hearts content!

Converting Word 2007 Files

Saturday, 25 August, 2007

Now that Office 2007 is fully upon us, expect to be receiving the DOCX (and equivalent PPTX and XLSX) files from colleagues. These are the new OpenXML file format. And it really is just a plain text XML document in a ZIP wrapper. However I have an old Office 97 installation (meeting all my office needs) and have now converted over to Open Office 2 (which uses its own ODF, Open Document Format, and can read/write DOC files) which currently does not import DOCX (or derivatives). Plenty of people are working on converters or online services, but for the time being support is limited. That said, Novell Open Office does have an importer and this will apparently be fed in to the Open Office development at a later stage. For the time being the closest you can get to a DOCX/ODF converter is using the OpenXML/ODF Translator. It’s actually an MS Office plug-in to allow export, but there is a command line version which does the conversion as well. There are plenty of things it doesn’t support, but for simple documents it’s more than sufficient.

Creating ISOs

Friday, 24 August, 2007

One of the nice things in virtual machines is that you can mount real, or fake, CDs on to the VM. So if you load a CD in to your own system, the VM can access it. Likewise, if you “rip” a CD to an ISO image, you can also mount this. In fact this is the best way to install a Linux OS in to a VM; just download the xubuntu or Fedora ISO image and let things roll.

Virtual Box also has extensions which let you share local folders and so access files on your own system, however it is a bit more fiddly to setup under Linux and doesn’t support all distributions. The “quick and dirty” fix is to actually turn whatever files your want to transfer in to an ISO and mount that as a CD.

Now there are plenty of commercial applications that can do this, but that isn’t good enough. I wanted a GUI based, open source, solution that can run from a USB stick. And I found it in the form of DoISO which is an open source GUI frontend for the opensource command line mkisofs. And it just works.

Virtual Box

Thursday, 23 August, 2007

Well the world of virtualisation doesn’t stay still for long and I have now switched over to Virtual Box. Whilst not open source, the main product is free to use and is lighter and fast than Virtual Server (it also runs on Linux). More importantly, it runs both xubuntu and Fedora Core without any hitches at all. I’m using the former for playing around with GRASS, whilst the latter has been necessitated by using Pulsar for some radar image processing. Virtual Box is very easy to use which is nice. However, the more memory the better and if you have less than 500Mb things will be much slower.

Barratts Shoes and data collection

Tuesday, 21 August, 2007

I was shopping in Barratts shoes recently and paid with my chip and pin card. Interestingly, in this age where everyone is paranoid about card skimming, the sales assistant asked to swipe the card on the POS to complete the transaction. I can only assume that Barratts have installed the new chip and pin system, but their legacy tills still require a card swipe to complete a transaction. This is really very poor and does nothing to assuage customer worries. Of course, the best course of action is to vote with your feet and purchase elsewhere.

FlashEarth

Thursday, 9 August, 2007

I blogged back in May about Flash Virtual Earth which introduced a Flash platform for viewing virtual earth imagery. Well another product, Flash Earth is now available. And this is quite simply excellent. It provides a fully functional virtual earth, allowing you to select between different vendors (Google, Ask, Yahoo etc) to view imagery available. Its minimalist, simple and a pleasure to use. Definitely worth a visit.

…. and Whipsnade respond!

Monday, 6 August, 2007

The board of Directors are looking into a possibility of removing all but disabled badge holder cars from the Zoo but first there has to be a suitable alternative transport system in place. They are still in the planning stages so watch this space for further developments. I think also the problems with bikes were that not everyone stayed on the roads and tracks provided. As they are very quiet when being ridden this is another reason for not allowing them as they can creep up on pedestrians. The wearing of seat belts is not enforced as it’s not a public highway and the speed limit should be only 10mph. Whilst most people do stick to this limit I know there are others who do not.

Whipsnade Zoo

Monday, 6 August, 2007

I was visiting Whipsnade Zoo on the weekend. It’s a fun place to take kids, there’s lots to do and it helps support their wide ranging conservation programme. If you look at the imagery at Live Maps you can see an extensive network of internal roads at the park. You have to pay to take your car in, but it’s very popular in summer. Out of interest I contacted the Park to see if bikes were allowed entry (because I hadn’t seen any). I received the following reply from them:

No bikes are allowed in the Zoo due to Health & Safety implications.

This really did make me laugh, so I replied:

It’s somewhat disappointing that bikes are not allowed in, as the park has the potential to offer an excellent environment for pedestrians and cyclists. I would have thought cars posed a much greater threat to safety, noting the speeds some drivers go at, complete lack of use of seatbelts by many and the absence of footpaths in parts of the park. I do appreciate that it’s an important revenue stream for the park though.

Money rules, even in conservation. Is there anywhere we can actually get the car away from?