Monopoly Map

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at 15:34:08

Vaguely following on with the underground map meme, I thought it would be good fun to locate all the Monopoly squares on a map of a London and visit them. A quick google shows that this is a popular pastime and, indeed, a popular pub crawl (perhaps one of the more energetic ones!). But it’s always more fun to piece together your own, so here’s My (well my son’s) stab at pinning the different locations. Of course you can argue over Water Works, Electric Company, Jail, Chance Community Chest, SUper Tax, Income Tax and Free Parking as much as you like. They aren’t specific locations in my book so I don’t care!! But damn the person who put Old Kent Road on the board - one out of the way journey!

Ultra lightweight KAP cameras?

Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58:02

I briefly commented on KAP cameras when looking at the PhaseOne iXU180 - a great medium format camera for medium weight UAV use. But at the lighter end of the market, for use on quadcopters, small fixed wing and kites, what to use?? The key to answering this question is what are the parameters for the camera. For me, they boil down to this:

-low weight
-wide field of view
-big sensor

Low weight is obvious - small UAVs have a relatively low lifting capacity. Wide FoV is generally good as these devices are often relatively low to the ground. And even at a drones maximum licenseable limit in the UK (~120m), that still limits what is visible. So wide is good, as long as the lens is of good quality and minimises distortions. As bigger sensor as is practicable - this maximises light capturing capabilities and so means you’ve got great latitude when flying and specifically, working at an aperture of f8 with as fast a shutter speed as possible.

So what’s around? Well, when I last looked a few years ago there was actually very little choice and somewhat surprisingly that remains the case. For a lightweight camera, fixed lenses (rather than interchangeable) are the best route to go, which means a camera designed for street photography. The limiting factor here being focal length. In terms of sensor there are options around both APS-C and full frame. So my short list currently is:

Ricoh GR2: an APS-C sensor (16MP), extremely light (250g) and a fixed focal length is equivalent to 27mm (for a full frame camera). This is ideal for aerial work. It has an intervalometer which means you can set it to take photos at regular intervals, but no IR port for remote control.

Nikon Coolpix A: also APS-C (16MP), light weight (290g) and wide angle 28mm equivalent lens (this does have an IR port but no intervalometer).

Fuji X70: very new, APS-C 16MP X-Trans sensor (not a Bayer colour filter array and so generally better colour reproduction), 28mm equivalent focal length, weighing in a 340g.

Sony RX1: 24MP full frame sensor with fixed 35mm lens. Its expensive, slightly heavier at 480g but offers significantly better optics, resolution, dynamic range and sensitivity. At a price!!

A conclusion?? Well the comparative review by DPReview finished with a great quote:

a considerable portion of its [Coolpix A] thunder is stolen by the Ricoh GR - a camera that achieves the unusual trick of being a touch better in almost every respect while also being significantly cheaper

Lost London

Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 21:08:22

OK, so it’s another hackneyed take on the well worn tube map meme, but the Londonist’s Lost London is a wonderful trawl down memory lane with the map providing location for those not so familiar with London. It’s history, tourism and discovery all rolled into one and well worth spending 10 minutes looking at. Then go and visit some of the places!

Nik Collection now Free

Friday, March 25, 2016 at 17:36:28

For all you photography lovers out there, a great announcement from Google to say that the Nik Collection is to be made freely available. These are a great set of processing applications (and plugins for Lightroom) to process your imagery. Specifically Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Dfine which basically deal with analogue special effects, colour correction, B&W processing, selective colour enhancement, HDR, sharpening and noise reduction respectively. My goto for nearly ALL my B&W processing is Silver Efex Pro. Really really powerful functions.

As DPReview note:

Nik’s applications put a focus on ease of use and accessibility, compatible with Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture. The company was purchased by Google in 2012, and prior to that each program cost around $100 for a total of up to $500 for the software suite. Google opted to offer the whole bundle for $150, and made it available for all of its supported applications via a single installer.

My worry is that the Nik Collection might suffer the same fate as Snapseed which Google also bought. This is a wonderful Android application (also developed by Nik) which has been killed as a desktop application. We shall see…

Nature Futures

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 17:25:08

My colleague Kerry put me onto the rather excellent (and free!) Nature Futures which is a growing collection of science fiction short stories. These are sci-fi in the “real sense” as they are intended to be firmly founded on science but pushing and blurring the boundaries with what is real and what isn’t. As they say:

entirely fictional, self-contained story of around 850-950 words in length, and the genre should, broadly speaking, be ‘hard’ (that is, ‘scientific’) SF rather than, say, outright fantasy, slipstream or horror.


p>And they really are short and focused on a very specific idea. They are often physics based, but there are all sorts of subject areas covered. Some fun reading!!

What are the British Isles?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 16:54:32

A seemingly simple question but one that causes no end of confusion because it is both geographic and political and using it the wrong context can cause no end of upset!!! Is Northern Ireland in Great Britain? Or the UK? Is Jersey? Where does Ireland fit in?

To bring some clarity the EUler diagram (below) from Wikimedia helps considerably and visit the Terminology of the British Isles page. In short its easiest to refer to the British Isles when thinking geographically of all the islands, whilst the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (or UK for short) when talking about the commonly designated political entity.

Too good to be forgotten

Monday, March 21, 2016 at 10:30:46

Too good to be forgotten (from Radio 4 Analysis) talks about “corporate memory loss”, that is the body of knowledge about how a company “does stuff” that is lost when people move companies or move jobs within a company. The brain drain. Now for everyday tasks, or tasks which are heavily prescribed (and often mandated), that is not a problem - have a manual, train people, do the job. But for those “professional” tasks where complex bespoke processing is required, that is usually not possible. And for those tasks that are unusual or “singular”, you learn when it happens the first time. As an individual you can then do it again in the future - but as a corporate?? As the programme notes, for things like recessions, market crashes, cold war…. these collective memories have or are being lost. The programme offers some pointers for how this knowledge might be preserved.

However this is not a new problem and has been around for millennia, although the rise of big business and, in particular, the fast turnover in jobs, makes this more acute. It reminded me of the work of Steve Denning who presented at a TedX event on the knowledge management he introduced at the World Bank called the springboard story. He presents in his book The Springboard. And specifically this was a short, focused, story designed to stimulate energy and enthusiasm, leading to change. This can be used as a leadership strategy or, in the manner originally used at the World Bank, making knowledge available, retaining, storing, managing that information. His strategy for developing the stories follow four steps:

1. True story: factually and authentically
2. Positive: inspire people with a positive story, happy ending
3. Minimalist Telling: not entertainment, stripped down, streamlined, core information
4. Contrasts Before and After: make it clear what the benefit is. This is the “take home”

Sage advice and worth thinking about within the context of your own business or industry.

Social Media for Active Learning

Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 16:09:22

I obviously blog!! It’s not a vanity project, but rather a whole mix of rationales for presenting my thoughts to the general public. Last year, after 10 years of blogging and 1000 posts, I “celebrated” that milestone by commenting on why I blog. And almost all of these reasons are related to learning. It’s an overused phrase, but “lifelong learning” is a state of mind - it means that I want to actively participate in life and not be content with simply going along for the ride. I want to shape my present and future, allowing me to be responsible for my past.Humans have a remarkable ability, unlike (we believe) all other life, to imagine a future so enabling us to try to make that happen, bring it into reality.

So Donald Clark’s blog on Social media as powerful method of learning is a timely reminder that being able to continue to engage with life, take on new ideas, plan a future, enable that to happen and vivaciously participate in the world around us is central to a fulfilling and happy life. Social media are just one form of public engagement and interaction, but as a medium for learning they are extremely useful as they demonstrate an active individual, mind, learner. They show you wanting to participate in the world around you, shape your life, build a future.

EGU Photo Contest Finalist

Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 19:56:36

It was a great honour this week to hear that my entry for the EGU 2016 Photo Contest (below) made the final cut. Just look at the past finalists to see the quality of the photos that are submitted.

Imaggeo which hosts all the photos is a worthy cause in and of itself (and the photo-contest was in-part started to promote this) as its “the open access geosciences image repositoryof the European Geosciences Union” and is part of their outreach in terms of science photography and highlighting all aspects of that visually. It grows year on year and is an invaluable resource. So I’m happy to use a Creative Commons license for my image.

The final vote is up to attendees at the conference (as per below)… so to anyone attending, go and see the photos as past experience shows you will get to see some great entries. AND VOTE!!

The finalist photographs are printed in large format and exhibited during the General Assembly. Each participant of the Assembly can then vote for up to three of their favourite exhibited photos using voting terminals set up next to the exhibition area. The public voting takes place from 8 am on Monday to midnight on Thursday. The votes are counted automatically and the three photographs with the highest number of votes are the winners. The winning photos are awarded during the lunch break on Friday.

Government Nonsense About Science

Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 16:11:06

Yes, believe it or not the government wants to STOP scientists from influencing Parliament when they have funded research. As SenseAboutScience note:

you will be as worried as we are about the government’s plans to add a new anti-lobbying clause to all public funding, to prevent it being used for ‘activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, Government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action’.

Yes, there is a rationale…

It follows a report in 2014 that government funds go to some groups who use them more to influence policy than to do what they’re intended for. That may be true. But you need only give a moment’s thought to the breadth of this new clause to realise that in an attempt to get rid of a small irritant, the government is causing far more damage. This is not the behaviour of a government at ease with itself. It is defensive and paranoid.

… but it’s daft and not something and open and transparent society should have. So sign the petition, write to the Prime Minister, to your MP and to Matt Hancock, the Minister for the Cabinet Office who is responsible for the clause.

Qualification Levels

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at 13:08:16

Yes, it’s that time of year again - open days!! Applicants and parents trail around the country getting similar accommodation and finance talks, along with more detail on courses, facilities and location. It always surprises how seldom the qualifications framework is explained because it makes understanding university courses that much easier. So, here goes…

  • qualifications in the UK given levels from “entry”, through 1 to 8. A tabular summary can be found here
  • so GCSE (grades A*-C) are level 2, AS/A level 3 and an undergraduate degree 4, 5 and 6 (and for the record, Masters 7 and PhD 8)
  • to gain entry to a university you most commonly need tariff points at level 3, as per the UCAS website. 140 points for an A* at A level, going down in 20 point increments per grade
  • each level at university corresponds to a year (although there are some 2 and 4 year degrees), being worth 120 credit points each. 360 points make an honours degree
  • credit points are notionally transferable between universities as long as the courses are relevant
  • each point is equivalent a notional 10 hours of study, be it lecture, practical, seminar, fieldwork, assessment, reading, thinking, note taking etc
  • so a degree is 3600 hours of study, 1200 per year
  • Kingston has 30 credit modules, but universities operate a wide range of credit points for modules
  • this is reported at UNISTATS, a good source of comparative government information.
  • See our Geography degree and under “Time in lectures” you’ll note around 30% is actual contact

Hopefully that gives a good feel for the overarching structure!


Monday, March 7, 2016 at 07:51:44

Seriously! In Windows 10, create a new folder and give it the following name:


And you have a control panel link to ALL control panel settings.

I am God!!

DJI Phantom 4

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 12:09:58

The rapid development roadmap for DJI continues (see Phantom 3 camera review). Camera improvements continue abate and onboard you’ll find a 12MP stills camera with a 1/2.3-inch (8.8x6.6mm) sensor. ISO goes up to of 1600 for photos and, crucially, records Adobe DNG RAW. This is a BIG step forward for a drone camera as it allows much greater headroom in post processing. The field of view is 94 which is about equivalent to an 18mm lens on a full frame camera (which means wide and with lots of distortion).

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