X-Mini Speakers

Saturday, 25 February, 2012

Whilst at Heathrow I picked up some X-Mini Capsule Speakers. These are very small mono speakers that plug in to your mp3 player (aka phone) and run of a a small rechargeable internal battery. The volume and bass they generate is remarkable. Getting very close to the point of not needing a laptop - with my 500 albums on a 32Gb card in the phone and X-Mini speaker it makes a good portable sound system for the hotel. The phone obviously does all the comms and a bluetooth keyboard isn’t too bad. Laptop still needed for hitting comms hard…..

PDF to Kindle….

Tuesday, 21 February, 2012

Nice catch from Chris Bullett for converting PDFs to the Kindle native format…. the Kindle does an OK-ish job of rendering PDFs but there are problems. Anyway, over to Chris:

Thought this might be of interest - PDF to ePUB - it’s free (for a limited time), downloadable software which converts PDFs to Kindle format, making them considerably easier to navigate on a Kindle device - tried and thoroughly recommended (though doesn’t work so well on PDFs with multiple columns per page).

First orbiting photo - from John Glen

Tuesday, 21 February, 2012

Great post over at the NASA Earth Observatory on the photo by John Glen, the first human to orbit the Earth. There is something mesmerising about this photo… yes we had had images returned by TIROS and the military CORONA programme, but this was taken by the first orbiting human and there is something personal about it.

What’s in an APN?

Friday, 17 February, 2012

APN, or Access Point Name, allows a data connection for your mobile phone or more specifically (and according to Wikipedia):

“It is a configurable network identifier used by a mobile device when connecting to a GSM carrier. The carrier will then examine this identifier to determine what type of network connection should be created.”

Now that would have been a useful piece of information to know when I was in Sweden…. the story goes back a few months to the merger of T-Mobile and Orange. Now I have a contract with Virgin Mobile who are a virtual carrier piggy-backing on T-Mobile. The merger eventually opened up the Orange network to Virgin customers, however in order to do this you needed to enable roaming on your phone and allow the network to be automatically selected. No problem… easily done and voice and SMS worked fine. Except data didn’t and so I switched my phone to always use T-Mobile.

Fast forward to Sweden trip where I checked the roaming agreements in place in Sweden (and the cost). I landed… turned phone on, switched to auto-select network and voice/SMS worked fine. I purchased 5Mb of data and…. yup, it didn’t work. Now there aren’t that many settings on the phone!! So after spending 10 minutes going over things again and again and ended upon looking at the APN. And, lo and behold, Virgin and T-Mobile were both listed, but T-Mobile was selected. Because my data contract was specific to Virgin I wasn’t being allowed to roam across on to another network, so switching it worked a treat. Which of course now means I can use roaming across to Orange back in the UK.

Travel with SAS……

Wednesday, 15 February, 2012

As a follow-up to that last post, we are pretty well served for flights to Stockholm with Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted all flying out. No surprise that Heathrow has the greatest choice so I ended up going SAS. A faultless, efficient, flight with an online or txt based check in. The online version allows you to choose your seat (would be nice to try that EasyJet…. and if RyanAir did it you know youd have to pay an extra 20 for it!)…. txt based version intrigued me, but I didnt try it. This is actually an important point because you need to print your boarding card out most of the time (although there are a few smartphone apps that allow you to retried it). SAS only allow you to check in 22 hours ahead, which means if you are staying over then you somehow have to print out a boarding card. Often a strangely difficult thing to do!! EasyJet allow check-in 60 days ahead which is far more flexible.

Swedish PhD Defence

Tuesday, 14 February, 2012

Just got back from a PhD defence at the Stockholm University in Sweden. Never having assessed a PhD outside the UK this was interesting as a process, as well as seeing some new research. Unlike the UK, this is a public event held in a lecture theatre. The student (Martin Margold), known as the “Respondent”, gave a short 30 minute presentation before the “Opponent” (Chris Stokes, Durham) spent around 2 hours questioning him. As this is a dissertation by publication (4 papers published, 1 in review and 1 to be submitted), it is “wrapped together” with a short introduction and provides a good structure for questioning. The Opponent is meant to be neutral but provide the context for the student to be questioned and evaluation to be made. After this is complete, the Evaluation Committee (myself, Brent Ward (Simon Fraser) and Henriette Linge (Bergen)) had about 10 minutes each to ask specific questions. They can be a little more probing. At this point questioning is thrown open to the floor, but no one tool the opportunity!

The committee, Opponent, supervisor and faculty representative then retire for a discussion with an outcome of “Pass” or “Fail”. No in-between!

Martin successfully defended his thesis (in photo) and did a very good job too. Many congratulations!

Remote sensing: double news day….

Monday, 13 February, 2012

Well its double news day today…. the European Space Agency successfully launched its new vehicle, Vega, from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana today. This is a significant development as it is currently a hole in ESAs launch capabilities that they have been using Russian ICBMs for. Anyway, apparently there is a 40% success rate on the launch of new vehicles, so its good to see success here (and I bet the 8 missions launched for free were pretty happy as well).

…and on the same day the US has reduced funds to NASA for planetary reseasrch meaning that the plug is pulled on future joint Martian missions. Greater focus on human exploration and space technology.

Sending MMS messages

Monday, 13 February, 2012

I have had a hit ‘n miss affair with sending MMS messages…. sometimes they work sometimes they don’t…. or they just take forever. I’ve more more less given up using them (not least because there are other free alternatives), however they are occasionally useful. The penny finally dropped (or at least I think so) as to why I’d had so many problems….. MMS require a data (3G) connection and as I tend to leave my data connection off, they never send until I am back online. Real newbie mistake…..

Things you probably shouldn’t do in a microwave…..

Friday, 10 February, 2012

Need I say more….

Remote sensing for monitoring EU farmland

Wednesday, 8 February, 2012

Nice article over at the BBC today commenting on the use of remote sensing to monitor farmland across the EU. Those taking my remote sensing classes will know Churn Farm - painfully well. We do a similar classification exercise using NERC ATM data. its an interesting exercise and shows a good application for an operational task. The article also highlights the impact of false positives (so accuracy assessment is important) and the increasing use of drones for smaller scale work.