Autumn Pictures

Here are some nice Autumn pictures I’ve taken this year for a distinctly un-autumnal day.

 

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Fishing Diary Number 3

Tonight I fished for a couple of hours on the Stainforth-Keadby canal at the Kirk Bramwith marina. This is a handy place to fish with easy bank access and parking right behind where you fish. You often fish alone but it can get busier on sunny summer evenings when you might see 4 or 5 other anglers on the bank of about a quarter of a mile.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=kirk+bramwith&sll=53.403801,-1.064644&sspn=0.134065,0.363579&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Kirk+Bramwith,+Doncaster,+United+Kingdom&ll=53.595038,-1.066833&spn=0.001043,0.00284&t=h&z=19

I quivertipped about a third of the way across the canal with a – maggot feeder and a size 14 hook. Bait was maggots of course, red and white, 3 of them on the hook with colours changed every few casts. It started off slow, and with a fairly strong wind I was glad to be behind my umbrella. Eventually though the bites started to show and soon after I caught my first and only fish of the evening –  a small ruffe, well received as I haven’t caught one in a number of years. I usually catch mainly bream on this section of the canal but couldn’t tempt any tonight, although I had a lot of line bites as well as a few drop back bites on the quivertip which might indicate the presence of them.

I stayed till around 7 o’clock and packed up using the tried and tested ‘keep the rod in for as long as possible, pack everything else up away first’ method (surely the method of any sane fisher-person). With the early sunset so different to the ones of late June that I am still used to, and the cold wind hitting around 10 degrees celsius, it’s clear that autumn is not on its way any more, but is whole heartedly here and has unpacked all it’s luggage.

Luke

Fishing Diary Number 2

I fished on the South Yorkshire Navigation Canal at Barnby Dun tonight with my dad. We were a few pegs towards Doncaster from the lift bridge over the canal at Barnby Dun. The weather in the day had been warm, clear and sunny and was mainly still so when we arrived, but seemingly reacting to us being there, as soon as we sat down to fish, a cool wind began to blow from the North.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=barnby+dun&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hl=en&hq=&hnear=Barnby+Dun,+Doncaster,+United+Kingdom&ll=53.5781,-1.074956&spn=0.000261,0.00071&t=h&z=21

I began fishing up in the water as there seemed to be a fair amount of small fish topping in the evening warmth. My first cast found me snagged in the branch of an overhanging tree causing me to snap my line, I decided it probably best to move pegs rather than to be getting in tangles all evening. My dad was fishing with a small swimfeeder with maggots, one peg up from me.

The fish weren’t responding to my shallow approach so I deepened the rig and bottom-fished the remaining time. I managed two small perch, two beautiful (although very small) gudgeon and a nice surprise roach on the last cast as my eyes were straining to see the float.

There was quite a flow on the canal for most of the evening, probably down to the number of boats passing through locks further upstream (although none passed us). It was dark by 8:15 and getting quite chilly by 8. It always feels so much colder when you’re sitting still fishing, although a good catch can quickly take your mind of this.

While we were there, we saw lots of black smoke billowing from somewhere between us and the cooling towers. Later a fire engine drove to the end of long pond and stayed for about 20 minutes, presumably putting the fire out, although it did not have sirens on. We went for a look after fishing to see what had caused the smoke but couldn’t see anything for lack of light, hopefully I’ll be able to see what happened next time I’m down there.

Luke

Fishing Diary Number 1

I fished long pond at Barnby Dun tonight. I arrived at around 6:45, just catching the last of the setting sun above the cooling towers. With only a few hastily dug worms I wasn’t expecting a particularly good session but was just happy to be fishing. I fished just to the left of the tree on the far side of the pond.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=barnby+dun&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hl=en&hq=&hnear=Barnby+Dun,+Doncaster,+United+Kingdom&ll=53.580531,-1.078723&spn=0.000261,0.00071&t=h&z=21

I set up a shallow rig with a size 14 hook and insert waggler float, cast close to any features I thought looked inviting. I caught 4 small rudd in the hour or so I fished for, mostly from close in around the fring lillies, but also had one from half way across the pond.

There was an autumnul chill in the air, especially once the sun had disappeared, and this seemed to reduce the number of fish topping but not dry up bites. The evening is getting noticably shorter now and I would have struggled to fish much past half past 8 for lack of light.

Funnily, just as I was thinking about packing up for the night, I noticed my line wasn’t moving as I would expect while I was reeling. Upon closer inspection I realised that the mainline had snapped at the reel. Luckily the wet end was still threaded through the rod eyes and I was able to bring the rig in by hand. The snapped part of the line had some abrasion signs when I felt it afterwards.

Luke

Things to remember for the garden this year

Last year was the first year I had a greenhouse for growing in. I had been growing things for a few years previously but getting a greenhouse opened up a lot of new possibilities for me. I learnt a lot last year about growing and will document some of those things. So here they are, in no particular order.

Don’t:

  • Don’t buy the cheapest compost you can find, it can ruin your entire harvest if your plants get a poor start. I found that cheap compost doesn’t hold water well so you have to water plants 2 or 3 times a day to stop them drying out.
  • Don’t sow your seeds too early. About now is roughly the right time for many plants, especially after the cold winter. I used to sow from late January and by the time it was warm enough to move the small plants outside, they had been inside for 3 or 4 months, and I think this hinders their growth.
  • Don’t water plants too frequently. Once or twice in hot weather per day is enough for most, and many don’t like having too much water.
  • Don’t space your plants too close together. This promotes the spread of disease, last year we lost all but 2 or 3 adult tomato plants to blight in the space of a couple of days because they were too close to each other.
  • Don’t use pond water for plants, I’m not sure but have a feeling that this can spread disease.
  • Don’t expect to get an adult plant from every seed you plant, plant more than you need so you have the headroom for some to die.
  • Don’t compost diseased plants.
  • Don’t spray in the greenhouse generally, give each plant attention and water for itself instead.
  • Don’t assume that in the greenhouse, hotter = better, most hot days the greenhouse door should be open for cool air, this also allows more bees in for pollination.

Do:

  • Sow seeds every 2 or 3 weeks to ensure you have a constant harvest. This is especially true for leaves such as lettuce and with most salad plants.
  • Take the time to sow seeds properly, do what the instructions say and mark each pot with a clear label (there’s nothing worse than not knowing what your plants are).
  • Store your seeds properly over the winter, in plastic airtight bags if possible. Make sure you label them.
  • Compost any healthy plants you have at the end of the year.
  • If you are growing peas or beans, plant as many as you have room for, and pick the pods as soon as they are ripe.
  • Look for seeds and seed potatoes/onions in cheap shops like Aldi, Netto and PoundLand.
  • Give the plants the enviornment they want – i.e. don’t put sprouts under plastic in the greenhouse and chillis outside.
  • Use your garden borders as well as the greenhouse and pots if you can.
  • Get exotic seeds, it’s surprising what can grow in a greenhouse or on a windowsill.
  • Cherish the time in early spring when your greenhouse is empty – it will soon be full!

Luke

Windows Phone 7 Series Programming with C#, XNA and Visual Studio 2010 Express

Microsoft have recently released their developement environment for Windows Phone 7 Series. It’s built on Visual Studio 10 and includes XNA studio 4.0 which can also be used on WP7S. It is available here http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=2338b5d1-79d8-46af-b828-380b0f854203&displaylang=en#filelist.

I installed the software on  my machine and had a quick play and I’m quite impressed with the results.

Installation screen

The application took quite a long time to install, although it included quite a lot of extras on top of Visual Studio – i.e. XNA 4.0, Silverlight and the emulation software.

Visual Studio 2010 splash screen.

Visual Studio 2010 welcome screen.

Code samples available for WP7S.

Create new C# project for WP7S dialog box.

Create new XNA project dialog box – now includes WP7S Game and Library options.

This is how a blank C# application runs in the emulator. The three buttons are clickable and there are also options to rotate the phone to see it in landscape or portrait.

The phone has been set to landscape.

The emulator also includes an installation of Internet Explorer mobile. This is available if you click the Windows button while any application is running.

This is the BBC News homepage loaded on the mobile Internet Explorer on the WP7S handset emulator.

Here is the tab view window – BBC News, Amazon and Bing are all displayed here as tabs or currently open web pages.

Microsoft have been saying over and over again how easy it will be to port games over to WP7S if they are already written in C# for windows or Xbox360. It’s already fairly painless to port a game from Windows to Xbox360 if this is the case, and Microsoft seem to have delivered in this aspect on WP7S too.

I decided to try a game on the phone, so loaded up a VS2008 XNA project which is simply a screensaver type screen where there are balls colliding with each other and the sides of the screen. This is by no means a good or well polished demonstration of XNA, C# or my programming skills but it was the simplest thing I could find to try on WP7S in a hurry.

So I loaded up my project in VS2008 and copied my resource for the ball texture into a new XNA game in VS2010. I then copied my code from the original application’s Load, Update and Draw methods into the WP7S game and hit the debug button. To my amazement it all just worked. I literally had to do no adjustment to any of the code, it was a straight copy and paste job.

The game running over the Visual Studio window.

The game running on the WP7S device.

I’ve only had a brief look at the Windows Phone 7 Series developement environment, but so far it has been very impressive. The ease of porting an application from Windows to WP7S is quite amazing, and I’m looking forward to seeing how some of my other XNA projects work out with it.

If you are interested or want to try it yourself, the two projects I made are here but be warned, they are very rough around the edges.

Luke

Whitby Winter Sunset Skyline Photo

I took this photo from the steps leading to Whitby abbey at the end of January this year. The camera used was my fiancee’s Sony A200 with standard 18-70mm kit lens. Click the image to view a larger version.

Card Factory spelling error

I know that Card Factory have to cut corners somewhere to keep their prices low, but I wasn’t aware they couldn’t afford a spell-checker.

Spotted at the end of December in the Card Factory at Preston.

Windows Live Messenger proxy settings for Hull University

After returning from Christmas, Windows Live Messenger seems to have been broken on the University network. I had solved the problem by using Pidgin with custom proxy settings, but having nothing much to do on a Saturday night decided to see if I could get Windows Live Messenger to work again. I succeeded and here’s how:

  1. Open Internet Explorer.
    Click Tools, then Options.
    Click on the Connection tab.
    Click the LAN Settings button.

  2. Tick ‘Automatically detect settings’.
    Tick ‘Use automatic configuration script’.
    In the Address text box type the following: http://slb-config.hull.ac.uk/scache.jsp
    Tick ‘Use a proxy server for your LAN’.
    Click Advanced.

  3. In the top-most text box labelled HTTP, type the following: slb-webcache.hull.ac.uk
    In the text box to the right of it type 3128

  4. Close OK on all the Internet Explorer windows.
    Close Internet Explorer.
    Open Windows Live Messenger.
    Click on the blue Question Mark.
    Select ‘Show the menu bar’.

  5. Click the Tools menu item.
    Click the Connection tab.
    Click Advanced Settings.

  6. The text box labelled HTTP should now contain the text slb-webcache.hull.ac.uk and the text box to the right, 3128. If not, you did not save the details correctly in step 3.
    In the text box labelled Username type yourusername@hull.ac.uk – this is the six-digit number used to log onto the University network e.g. 123456@hull.ac.uk
    In the text box labelled Password type your University network password.

  7. Click OK on all windows.
    Enter your Windows Live account details in the Sign in window.
    Click Sign in.

    The proxy settings listed above should also work for most other applications that need them. Some will get their settings from the system settings (those that are entered in Internet Explorer) – however, others such as Pidgin messenger require you to enter them manually. In this case the proxy details are as follows:

    Proxy auto-configuration script:  http://slb-config.hull.ac.uk/scache.jsp or http://wpad.hull.ac.uk/wpad.dat
    Proxy type: HTTP
    Proxy address: slb-webcache.hull.ac.uk
    Proxy port: 3128
    Proxy username: xxxxxx@hull.ac.uk
    Proxy password: your university network password

    Luke

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 PC Beta

The Battlefield: Bad Company 2 beta from EA is now available to those who have pre-ordered the game or are lucky enough to have won one elsewhere. I was one of those lucky people and have been playing the game for the past few days.

Firstly, I haven’t played the original Bad Company but was a big fan of Battlefield 2 and the earlier battlefield games (although I didn’t care much for 2142). EA finally deciding to bring the Bad Company canon to PC was a wise move in my opinion as Battlefield 2 worked so well and is still very popular.

The PC beta features one level, which is a snowy town with plenty of buildings and scenery to take cover behind and destroy, as well as high places for sniping opportunities. The game mode is point control, the attacking team has to plant a bomb at a number of locations and defend the point until the bomb explodes which unlocks the next pair of targets to attack, while the defenders are trying to stop the bombs being planted or failing that defuse the bomb. The attacking team start at the top of a hill onto which they are dropped and parachuted by a plane. This hill immediately becomes the place for two or three snipers to shoot from in the first stages of the game. The defending team start off in the town area below the hill. To win the game, attackers must destroy all the targets or defenders must keep at least one target safe until a timer expires (similar to the ticket system from Battlefield 2).

This game also features a levelling/unlock system in the same style as Battlefield 2. Perform certain feats and gain so much XP and you will gain ranks and unlock new weapons and abilities. Some of the unlockables are non-class dependant, so you can use an unlock with any class. Onto classes, there are four: Assault, Medic, Engineer and Recon. Most people seem to play Medic or Engineer and some play Recon for the sniping, however Assault appears to be underused. There is still a squad system, letting you spawn near them rather then at a set point, squad chat, and gaining extra XP for interactions with them. One thing that is different from Battlefield 2/2142 is that there is no voice menu, so you can’t shout for ammo or a medic (which may be a good thing).

With regards to system requirements, I have a fairly old machine (3.2GHz Core2Duo, 8800GT, 4GB RAM, Windows7 x64) and the game runs at 25 – 30 fps on medium settings at a 1680×1050 resolution, which is what the game set for me by default. However, the game has destructable environments and when particularly impressive things are happening on screen the framerate does dip considerately.

Finally, one thing I must mention is that the ingame server browser is very poor. You can not see your ping rate and have to manually select each server to find out details such as whether it is full or not. When joining a server, you will typically wait 5 – 10 seconds before finding out whether or not it is full. The Battlefield 2 browser was similar but this one seems a lot slower and less user friendly, hopefully Dice will sort this out.

Positives

  • Large maps
  • Destructable environment
  • Lots of vehicles
  • Lots of unlockables

Negatives

  • Some people have reported bad performance on machines that should be able to cope
  • Poor server browser
  • EA Downloader needed if you buy it from the EA Store

In summary, I am enjoying this game and will probably buy it. However, I will hold back from pre-ordering for fear of none of my annoyances with the game being fixed.

Luke

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