Landsat 5 Decommissioned

Friday, December 21, 2012 at 18:45:46

It is with great sadless that we learnt of the passing away of an old friend today. At the grand old age of 29, Landsat 5 was put out of its misery due to lack of capability and, well, simply being too old. Younger and better models are snapping at its heels and it just can’t cope any more - with its eyesight failing and a general lack of energy, the cold solar winters, no fuel allowance, and increased welfare maintenance, enough was enough. However it was a start that burned long and bright - Landsat 8 won’t replace you, just take over your duties.

Or as NASA would say:

“Now in its 29th year of orbiting the planet, Landsat 5 has long outlived its original three-year design life. Developed by NASA and launched in 1984, Landsat 5 has orbited the planet over 150,000 times while transmitting over 2.5 million images of land surface conditions around the world.”

KindleFirmware Update: 3.4

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 14:45:18

Kindle updated the firmware for its keyboard (and other) ebook readers to version 3.4. Amazon have always been good with long support and incremental improvements to stability (a rare thing in the “I can top that” IT industry). Whilst this latest firmware was trucked out with barely a mention it is worth noting that there are some significant changes:

improved font for reading
parental controls (Apple please note)
support for latest Kindle ebook format
support for picture/comic books
sync of audio books

These are are hugely worthwhile, however, for me, the biggest update isn’t mentioned at all:

better PDF reading

OK, its still not perfect, but now we get the option to exactly pick the part of the page to zoom to rather than the slightly botched “left-page” and “right-page” views. What would be even better would be support for user-defined zoom levels - this would allow sizing of the PDF page for the landscape screen. I can live and hope, but credit to Amazon for genuinely improving the user experience.

Non-sense about science

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 18:33:36

Yes, The Express is at it again; that bastion of Britishness, source of high quality news stories that just might make The Sun look like evidence based journalism has decided that to sell more copy it needs to advocate alternative treatments for cancer. Sense About Science, who I’ve blogged about before, try to make sense prevail and as they say:

Lots of you got in touch when, last week, The Express carried a terrible article advocating alternative cancer treatments. Sile spoke to them. They refused to change it. Cancer Research UK wrote a letter. They refused to print it. Oncologists and other experts responded in our For The Record.

The editor responded that the science view will have a chance to put forward its side at some future point. We asked whether, if the doctor prescribed him useless medicine and gave him the wrong advice, he would be satisfied to know that some weeks later someone else would be given good advice and the right pills. No joy there. Exasperated that they refused to edit the online version which was being linked to from many web discussions, we did it for them:

The corrected version has been viewed thousands of times now, and if you can link to it from further blogs and websites that would be great.

Benugo Waterloo: great location, good product, service…..utter FAIL

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 08:49:14

What can I say, Benugo have a fantastic location at Waterloo for a coffee bar. For a station, its relaxing and peaceful, however can they get their act together to deliver their core product? No. Last week, one person ahead of me to pay for coffee, three people ahead of me waiting for coffee…. how long did it take? Ten minutes and in the process serving two people behind me in the queue. This isn’t a one off and clearly they haven’t got a clue how to deliver a rapid service in such a location. Maybe their restaurants are better, but at this location they are a complete failure. Go downstairs to Costa where they know their product, clientele and service.

London buses and mapping

Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 17:17:04

I have been exploring the use of London buses a little more recently and so naturally started looking at routes and timetables to see how accessible different parts of London are; for instance, did you know that the number 188 runs from St Pancras to the O2 Arena? No, neither did I. OK, its not going to replace the tube as it takes well over an hour, but even so, some routes have surprisingly good connectivity. However Beck-style route maps become a horrible tangled heap of spaghetti once you have more than a few routes and you need no better example than London buses - here are all things maps and the map of central London shows that they don’t even try to represent it because it’s so horrible. What you need to do is break the route down in to “where am I” locations and then provide routes from there, such as this example from St Pancras. However an interactive map is the most obvious solution and TfL do provide one using the Google Maps API. It took me a while to figure out how it worked (OK, I’m not quick!), but it’s actually rather pleasant to use (you NEED to maximise the map)!! Like the PDF maps, you type in “where I am” and it then presents your location with a legend showing ALL the buses that pass close to you. If you click on the bus route in the legend it then shows it on the map. Fantastic….you can now peruse routes from your location. Two things are missing here though:

1. It would be nice to see all those routes live on the map and then click on single routes to highlight them. I appreciate this could get spaghetti like in certain areas but interactivity would help this.

2. Please provide approximate transport times for each route - at the moment you don’t have a clue how long it takes (and again I appreciate rush hour will be much slow - maybe a fastest/slowest time range?) and need to go to the detailed Journey Planner and make sure you only select buses and then enter your start and end point. A big faff!

RGS Children’s Lecture

Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 20:21:44

Christmas sees a proliferation of lectures and meetings with, increasingly, many aimed at children (perhaps exemplified by the Royal Society). Not to be out done, the Royal Geographical Society holds their own Children’s Christmas Lecture…. and an excellent event it was this year. Chris Lloyd, author of the What on Earth books brought along his giant wall map and gave a spell binding talk on the history of the universe and everything in 55 minutes, with the able assistance of his 14 pocket coat and an enthralled group of 500 children. A great mix of comedy, history, science, performance and language - a real tour-de-force in allowing kids to explore and see an overall structure to understanding the universe so that when they delve in to bits of it later on they understand where it all fits. This was followed by some dinosaur themed activities and a giant map of the world which transfixed my daughter. A brilliant afternoon, so keep your eyes peeled next year.


p>Giant Map, Royal Geographical Society by mike48 ) on
Giant Map, Royal Geographical Society by mike48

EPoD - be stunned by nature

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 09:08:30

I stumbled across NASAs Earth Science Picture of the Day a while back after doing some research around another of my favourite RSS feeds, NASAs Earth Observatory Image of the Day. This is arguably better (but maybe I’m just used to satellite imagery now!), in part because the imagery is far more varied and therefore the accompanying discussion fascinating. I learn a huge amount from the variety on display here with often stunning photography. And as a sometimes keen photographer it is interesting to look at the metadata for the imagery to see how they were shot.

Top of Page