Joby Ballhead for gorillapod SLR-zoom

May 1, 2010 3 Comments

The Joby Gorillapod SLR Zoom is a new addition for my camera, and there were a few things I disliked about it. I loved the fact you can cling it to railings, and that was the purpose of my purchase, however I realised whilst shooting the 2010 Virgin London Marathon that it was difficult to pan with it. As I wanted to take shots of the runners as they went past me I needed it to move, so I ended up loosening the screw slightly to act as a makeshift rotator; but everytime I panned on an athlete the gorillapod would loosen itself from the railing slightly, this didn’t leave for very steady panning and I’m sure I easily missed some great shots.


Panning

The second thing I didn’t like about it was the fact it connects straight onto the camera and if you want to separate them you had to unscrew it…annoying when you want to shift from a sturdy tripod point to free hand movement – I ended up have to move the whole tripod, still attached to the camera, to take some of the action shots.

So I was pleased to find that Joby have now released a ballhead attachment, which although it isn’t perfect does compliment the gorlliapod.


Joby ballhead

The main thing I love about the ballhead is that there is a easy release feature to remove the camera from the tripod. The part at the top, with the bubble level, screws directly into the camera and can be released from the ball head itself by simply pushing a button. Though this means you’re walking around with a bubble level stuck to your camera (which actually comes in helpful sometimes) it certainly helps for those times where you need to use both camera as a standalone and the tripod; which would have been perfect for my London Marathon photos.

The main downside is that there is no dual lock mechanism. The ballhead itself freely rotates as you would expect, allowing you to angle the attached camera pretty much however you need to.

They also state the base of the ball head rotates, which gives you a flat 360 degree pivot. Unfortunately, when you turn the knob to lock the device it locks both the ball head and the base. This means once you position the camera angle perfectly, but you need to move the rotation of the camera itself around, you are going to have to unlock both and lose the perfect angle you had while you readjust the base.

Therefore panning still requires a steady hand, but at least the tripod stays mounted to the railing whilst you do so.

Far from an ideal solution, but better than what I had. I note that Joby have now released the ‘Ballhead X‘ which does have this feature, but is also twice the price and a little heavier, which is a shame.


Joby Ballhead with camera

The ballhead device itself isn’t too large and can easily slip into a camera bag as required. It’s also very light so it won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back either.

It’s made out of sturdy plastic but doesn’t look like a kinderegg toy; the bubble level itself being the only part that looks like it may break in some way…but touch wood that doesn’t happen.

The retail price is £34.95 which considering the inflated price you normally pay for camera products is pretty good. I noticed Jessops had it on their shelf and after inquiring as to the price it appeared to be £42 (for some reason the Jessops I went to didn’t have display prices for any of the Joby products).

I picked up mine from Play.com for £29.99 with free P&P which appeared to be the best deal out there. If you’re buying together with a gorlliapod you’re likely to get it a little cheaper also.


Joby Ballhead in use

All in all it’s a nice additon to the gorillapod and adds a little needed functionality. Improvements could easily be made to make this a better, and more competitive, item – especially dual locking. I haven’t tried it on any other tripods but I think it should work okay with a lot of them.

If you have a gorillapod that you regularly use and want to be able to add a little more flexibility to it, you can’t really go wrong with picking one of these up, especially for such a cheap price.


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Domain matters (or do they?)

March 28, 2010 5 Comments

I’ve worked in domain names for around 9 years now. In October 2001 I moved to London and started working with them at that time, initially just monitoring them and reporting names which had been registered for various corporations who wanted to protect their brand. Eventually I moved into the actual management side of them registering names globally and finding out about the technical side of how they work.

However, as little as I knew 9 years ago, it was just before I moved to London when I first became aware of the fact they were more than just something that other people had and used on-line, and were something that I could actually own myself. Nowadays everybody has a domain name, but back then it wasn’t as common, though I was a very slow starter with it.

The first name I registered was on the 27th July 2001. I was working as a recruitment consultant and IT trainer and we were introducing a Dreamweaver course so I needed to learn how to use that particular piece of software, and this made me learn HTML. I decided to buy my own domain name back then and so did a search, probably not via Google at that time, to find a domain name provider. I used a company called Freeola at that time, who were rubbish it turned out, but very cheap – as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. It was around this time I had just upgraded my PC for the first time since 1997 and now had a modem so could connect online – it’s fair to say that I gave up reading books in the evening at this time and started my new life on the Internet.

I knew most places used .com domain names and that many UK places used .co.uk names; at that time I had no idea all of the other ccTLDs existed so never contemplated them for a second. I think I firstly attempted to secure my surname ‘murphy’ under .com and .co.uk, but found them both to be taken. I had a similar problem when I was setting up my internet connection in that my name was already being used as a username by someone else.

My solution was not very imaginative, I just added the letter Z to my surname.

murphyz was born.

So I did a search for murphyz.com and found that this one was also taken, annoyingly just 6 months prior to my wanting it. And so I settled for murphyz.co.uk, the current home of my forum which was set up about a year later and the domain used for my primary email.

The fact that murphyz wasn’t very common, but murphyz.com was taken would have lit a spark inside someone smarter than myself. They would have thought ‘If not so common names are already being taken on this here internet, I wonder what gems might still be available to me to register as an investment?’

Not me. I was as dumb as they come and it would take me a couple of more years before I realise a $10 registration could have netted me quite a nice profit; it still can if you pay attention to companies that are merging and don’t mind dabbling in that kind of thing. As a moral person and the fact I work with so many law firms and brand owners I stay out of this area, though have seen the potential.

So I settled for murphyz.co.uk and was happy with this; and have since added new domain names to my portfolio along the way.

I always kinda wanted that .com though.

Through my years of working in domain names I spent some time working on domain name acquisitions, where you approach a holder of a name and negotiate to purchase it. Though this process isn’t one I really enjoy compared to other aspects of my work I was quite good at it, and it did often allow me to perform my favourite part of investigating a domain name owner to find out who they are, how much they know about domain names and what kind of life they lead in order to make the right approach and give them the right price. I like to think of it as being a web detective rather than an on-line stalker. Oh yes, if you did not arrive at this page naturally then the chances are I have Googled you.

I approached the owner of murphyz.com many years ago, and did so straight up. I told him my circumstances and that I had an interest in murphyz.com and asked that he be in touch should he wish to sell it. He was pretty certain of himself when he stated he had plans for the name and did not want to sell at any time.

Now some people have plans for the names they own, and some people have ‘plans’. Pretty much anyone you approach to buy a name has ‘plans’ for it, as these ‘plans’ lead to pleas for additional cash when they do sell the name and have to go through the inconvenience of changing these ‘plans’.

I believed this guy though, as not only was the site serving content on older generations of people with the name Murphy, he had also written a book on the subject.

I have many plans for (most of) my names but have never written a book. It takes me all of my time to write a blog post.

I was surprised then when I found out last a few weeks ago that murphyz.com was about to be deleted.

My first thought, of course, was to the best way to secure the name. I knew the registrar it was with so knew which snapback service they would push the name to which meant I was in the best place to get myself in with a chance to either register it once it dropped or at least be in an auction to purchase it so that was step number one.

My second thought was towards the former registrant of the name. Why had he allowed it to drop? Was it recession based, did his plans just change or was he injured or dead? I hope that he is alive and well, and just decided that he had no plans for the name anymore, or that he simply ignored any renewal reminders or forget to get it renewed. I noted another of the names he had registered also lapsed around the same time, this one with a different provider.

Craig, if you ever read this, do let me know.

So, murphyz.com was suddenly about to be deleted and I placed an interest in the name with snapnames.com who was the preferred company that would get this name. On the evening of Thursday 25th March the name dropped and, as expected, was registered by snapnames.

Unfortunately, another person had stated their interest in the name. A ‘maria_jose’ had also placed an order with snapnames, and it was now up to an auction to sort us out.

I knew nothing of maria_jose, and so didn’t know their betting patterns. I was used to facing a guy called Halvarez whenever a name went to auction, but when it was found out last year that Halvarez was an employee of snapnames pushing the price of domain names up most snapnames purchases since have been uncontested – but at least with Halvarez I knew how much I would be expected to contest a 7 letter .com name for. With maria_jose I knew nothing! There were a few things online that showed the person has been around for a good few years but nothing to tie them down to purchases. What I did see looked promising as they appeared to be someone who didn’t really bid more than the base price. As in poker, I enjoy playing against people who don’t want to raise me – a situation like that here would be perfect.

So I was of course left with a decision of how much to bid? Did I really want to spend $1,000 on a name I have lived without and have no real attachment to? Did I want to bid $100 and miss out to someone who was going to bid $110.

I asked myself the questions I ask clients who are wondering how much they should bid for their names. How much can you afford to pay for it? How would you feel if someone else had the name and you couldn’t use it? How much does it mean to include this name in your portfolio? Can you use this name to save costs on the registrations of others name in your portfolio?

I had no answers to any of these questions. I do, however, have a history of bidding on things and ‘winning’ them when winning is a very loose term due to the fact I’ve paid more than I should have just because I like to win. I didn’t want to enter a bidding war here, knowing that I have a very competitive streak and a credit card that sits unused and, therefore, has max credit available. That would just get me into trouble.

The last domain name I was in an auction with ended up with me paying around £300 to win it, so that seemed reasonable enough here for one that is less brandable. I slapped on a max bid of $530 and waited for the auction to kick in – 2days 19hours and 57minutes to go before I would find out if it was mine.

‘maria_jose’ stayed silent for those two days, right up until 5 minutes before the auction was due to end and at the time when I thought I may be lucky and get it for $60.

She came in with a bid of $65, I automatically countered with $70 – automatic as the bid, much like eBay, goes up as long as you have a max amount listed.

Then she came in with a bid of $80, I automatically countered with $85.

Her third bid came in at $110, my automatic counter was $120.

With less than a minute to go she came in at $130, my counter was $140.

Auction extended back to 5 minutes. Sigh. I guess it prevents snipers…right?

No action though, during the 5 minutes, and the auction ended at my winning it for $140.

Hurrah.

Finally, I have the .com of the name I’ve been using for nearly a decade.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with it!

Bachelor Cooking – Chilli Burgers

January 15, 2010 5 Comments

A nice easy recipe to cook a simple burger, excellent in a lovely sandwich. This is a basic recipe and can be added to with other ingredients as and how you require depending on what you like to eat. My personal favourites apart from this one are parmesan and herbs and (perhaps oddly) asparagus and mint if using lamb mince (note that if you make burgers using lamb mince don’t use extra lean mince as the fat will help the lamb bind).

Ingredients:

Mince – I use extra lean and this particular packet was 400g
Chillies – Just take a few of your favourites at whatever hotness you like
Garlic – 2 cloves
Small onion (I only use half of the one shown here)
Paprika
Chives – these ones are dried
Salt and Pepper
Butter (cooking oil will suffice)
For this one I also used a Chilli infused olive oil

1ingredients

How to:
Start by chopping the onion nice and fine, take your time here and make sure you don’t leave any big chunks

2choponions

Now melt a small piece of butter in a pan

3meltbutter

add the finely chopped onions

4onions

While the onions are very lightly frying chop up the chillis

5chillies

Take the onion off the heat and grab a mixing bowl.

Add the mince

6mince

Add the two cloves of garlic crushed (if you don’t have a garlic press crush them with the edge of your knife and then cut finely)

7garlic

Add the chopped chillies

8chillies

Add a sprinkle of chives – a lot if you like them, less so if you don’t

9chives

Season with salt and pepper – this is to taste so as much as you like really, but put in less and see the ‘Quick Tip’ below.

10saltandpepper

Add a helping of paprika

11paprika

Add the lightly cooked onions

12onions

Now comes the fun part where you get to squeeze the mixture together. Don’t use a spoon, you need to get your hands in there. So, wash your hands and simply dive in there and squeeze the mixture together as hard as you can. Imagine you were trying to get every last drop of water out of a wet sponge. mix. mix. mix some more.

There’s no need to be shy here, you have to be a little rough if you want the burgers to hold themselves together during cooking. You’re not making a light crumble here, you’re making good old fashioned burgers.

Squeeze just a little bit more.

Now wash your hands again.

13squeeze

Quick Tip
Fry up a little bit of the freshly squeezed mixture and taste it now. Does it need more salt and pepper? More chives? More Paprika?

If so – add it now and go back to the mixing.

Now comes for the actual burger making. I like a large burger, so the mixture here made two decent sized ones. It makes 3 smaller ones okay, but 4 are a little too small for my liking. So, let’s go ahead and make 2.

Halve the mixture and shape it into a ball in your hands

14rollmeat

Once rolled you need to shape them into the burger. For this I start by slamming it down, not too roughly – as if you were pushing a buzzer on a quiz show, onto a chopping board. I guess the natural gravity in this helps to start the circular shape

15dropmeat

Now push down on the meat to really flatten it out into a burger shape

16pushpatty

Once you’re done you should have something resembling a burger, and about an inch in height. Make sure it’s as even as possible so that it will cook equally throughout

17burgershaped

Looking good. Now transfer to a plate and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Don’t miss that step I just mentioned…it needs to go into the fridge and stay there for 30 minutes. The burger will often crumble when cooking otherwise.

Go watch an episode of Friends, open a beer, or just wash up the dishes you have used so far…but not the frying pan, you’ll be using that shortly!

30 minutes later…

Take some of that chilli infused olive oil and add a couple of teaspoons to the pan. Once heated, add the burger(s)

18heatoil

While it’s cooking you’ll need to flip it a couple of times – try 2 minutes on one side, flip, 2 minutes, flip, 2 minutes, flip and finally, 2 minutes, done.

19flipburger

Finally, serve with whatever you like. Fries and beans? lovely!

For these ones I just had them on a couple of slices of bread with mayonnaise, tomato and cheese.

20serve

21nom

as they say in lolcat land – nom nom nom

Free Photoshop Lightscribe Template

January 12, 2010 10 Comments

What is it?
It’s an Extremely simple Photoshop template for you to use on Lightscribe discs.
This is a simple PSD file with just 2 layers that will allow you to create your own lightscribe labels using Photoshop.

How do I use it?
Easy! Just download the template and open it up in Photoshop…you can get a free trial version from the Adobe website.

The top layer should be kept on top and shows the edges and central circle in white – these do not appear on the CD itself.
The bottom layer, and any more you add under that, is what you will see on the CD once printed.

Simply copy images or insert text onto this bottom layer, or other layers under the top layer, and save as an image.

Open up your Lightscribe software – I recommend the cover designer within Nero 9 – and select a new lightscribe cover using the picture you have just saved.

What are you waiting for? Download the Free Photoshop Lightscribe Template now!

Free Desktop Background – Moon

January 6, 2010 4 Comments

Select your desktop background size from the list below for your free desktop background of the moon.

This image was taken with the Canon EOS 500d on Christmas Day 2009 – Exposure: 0.002 sec (1/500); Aperture: f/5.6; Focal Length: 250 mm; ISO Speed: 200

Free Moon Desktop Background


View Desktop Background:
1024×768
1152×864
1280×1024
1600×1200

Unedited versions of the original image can be viewed on my flickr page here

Going down?

January 2, 2010 1 Comment

The goods lift in my building states that it can take up to 600lbs of weight.

That started me thinking. The average newborn baby weighs 7 1/2 pounds.

Let’s do the math: 600 divided by 7.5 = 80.

That’s 80 newborn babies that should be able to fit in my goods lift without it being overloaded, though I’m not sure how they will be able to operate the buttons or the door if they are in there on their own.

That’s one heck of a surprise for the next person to use it also!

going-down-1956

Formula1 – final race

October 30, 2009 2 Comments

Just in case a place is required to predict results of the final F1 race due to site issues.

New Worlds

October 13, 2009 7 Comments

A few years ago I went out for birthday drinks, and I was introduced to a world that I hadn’t known existed up until that time.

The place we went to was a bar at the end of the street I lived on, and somewhere I had been many times before. It was called the Kick Bar and when I had been there all previous times it felt normal for a themed bar – simply a place that sold alcohol, played music and, for the theme, allowed you to play on one of several fußball tables that they had.

Only this celebratory night it happened to coincide with a monthly tournament that the bar held. I’m okay at fußball, not great by any standards but I guess I would class myself as average, so for fun I didn’t mind entering the tournament – which was actually a doubles tournament and it paired you up with a random partner.

I was partnered with a French guy who said he just plays for fun, and was glad that I did also so he did not let me down or take it too seriously.

It seems we had different ideas on what ‘just for fun’ actually means, as this guy was amazing and could kick my ass with one hand. Still, against the other people in the tournament he was nothing but cannon fodder – they killed us in our first game with their abilities.

It turns out the UK #1 was there along with the European #2, and these guys can do things I never thought was possible with a few men on a pole and a plastic ball – it was amazing to watch (when you could actually see the ball other than a blur) and laughable to play against.

I had no idea such an underground world existed, with their European players, oil, spare handles and gloves to aid in control. It really did blow me away and I was easily outclassed by everyone there. “I play a little” was really translated to “I play a little every day, and have done so for the past 12 years”.

I haven’t been back to the Kick Bar since.

I have been introduced to something else that I didn’t know existed recently, due to the introduction to my life of my significant other. She’s gorgeous, understands what I want and need and, unlike those in my past, she’s always there for me when I need her to amuse, entertain, distract, whatever I need at that time really.

She is my lovely iPhone 3Gs, and recently whilst browsing the App Store I stumbled across Geocaching.

I downloaded the free app as it had a couple of good ratings in some sort of category, and played around with it without really knowing what it was.

If you don’t know what Geocaching is then take, firstly, Geohashing – basically looking at two co-ordinates to establish a location on a grid; you’re likely to use it daily in your life using some sort of GPS system.

Geocaching is the treasure hunter’s equivalent. Basically, someone hides a box, they give you the co-ordinates and a clue, and then you use this information to find the box they have hidden.

Unlike a treasure hunt the caches are not filled with gold, but more than often just contain a tatty piece of paper you can sign your name on to show you’ve found it.

I had no idea that people were secretly stuffing things around the planet for others to find.

I had no idea there were thousands of them in the very city I live in.

I had no idea there were several in between my home and my workplace.

Until a few days ago that is, when I stumbled on this app over the weekend and decided to give it a go. Monday lunchtime I scouted an area that was closest to work where they stated a cache was hidden. I used the GPS on my lovely girlfriend iPhone to find the right area (an area I know well and pretty much walk past daily), and used the clue ‘Lion’s lamp’ to notice a set of 6 street lamps I had never paid attention to before, and even more so the lion faces which were carved into each of them. Being a scouting mission I left knowing I would come back prepared later on so I can do some proper looking for it.

Later on that evening I returned, armed with a pen (to sign a log book) and a workmate (so I didn’t feel like such a twat) and started my investigations. The first lamp was the one the GPS was closest to, and where I started my search. I’ve never done this before, all I knew was that I was looking for a hidden object of quite a small size – that was the extent of my knowledge.

The street lamps were on a concrete plinth, and quite tall, and so I scaled the plinth where possible, cast my hand in amongst the iron into as many crevices as possible and came out empty handed – unless you count the thick layer of black dirt from touching central London scenery that hasn’t been washed – ever.

A little disheartened I moved onto the second lamp, closer to the main road and viewable by more people. Again I climbed the stone plinth and cast my hand in amongst the iron – again I came out empty handed. I didn’t want to repeat this for the rest of the street lamps which were in more awkward places, and so I was going to give up. Then, as I was stepping down from the plinth and giving the iron lamp one last cursive stare I noticed a strange shape silhouetted against the night sky – I knew straight away this was the item I was looking for.

It was by chance I saw it, but by delight that I reached in with my hand for the object and grabbed it. It was a 35mm film case, covered in black tape with a bump on the outside where a magnet was taped, ideal for keeping it held in place against the metal. I opened it imagining the wonderful secrets it held, the trinkets I had read about on the geocaching website, and the stories it might tell of who had been there before.

Out fell 5 strips of worn paper, signed by many people over the last 10 months stating they had been there already; they had found it before me; that there was nothing here left to find.

I didn’t care. I was in a tailspin of delight at finding a treasure I had not know was there. I happily found the last entry in the ‘log book’ that was no more, replaced by a few strips of paper, and put my stamp on finding it.

murphyz 12/10/2009

That’s the date of my first geocache. That’s the date I found the ‘treasure’ hidden near my work, and where I will give a knowing glance everytime I walk past it from here on in.

That’s also the date of my last cache, as I didn’t do any today…but my story doesn’t end there.

I clicked on the ‘Found It!’ link beaming at me from my iPhone, expecting a congratulatory tune and perhaps a message stating I must be the last in a long line of pirates or explorers and have finally found my calling.

Instead I was left with the initial search page I had been on, with a nice tick against the cache I had found, and two non-ticks – let’s call them ‘challenges’ – on the ones that remained hidden from me.

One of them, I saw, was 0.1 miles away.

Well…that’s just around the corner!

And so off I went, following the GPS to the new location around the corner in search of my next treasure.

Now, the next one wasn’t as obvious as the first. The clue was a cryptic one – something about ‘In between black and blue Rain, eye level’. I found that I stood in front of a couple of buildings – one with a black door, one with a blue door – bingo! Rain I didn’t understand, though eye level was obvious. The only things at eye level were a few bushes, and a good dig around those resulted in nothing. I looked back at my iPhone to find that the GPS hadn’t really triangulated properly – if that’s what they do – and I had overshot the mark, so I retreated back down the street and found a couple of buildings, one black, one blue – not the doors this time, the whole building was this colour. In between them was a drainpipe. Of course! Rain = drainpipe. I thrust my hand behind it at eye level and immediately touched the concealed 35mm film case which was hidden there – again this one was full of the worn paper of people who had already found it before me.

Searching around these places gave me a guilty pleasure (also a feeling of acting suspiciously as if I were hiding drugs) – but I was hooked.

Since finding these I’ve had a look on the website today and it seems there are over 800,000 of these hidden worldwide. I don’t expect to get them all, of course, not even a tenth of them; but I only have 2 so far so can happily get more.

It does make me imagine back to last month though, when I was forced to go to Copenhagen and spent a few hours wandering aimlessly around; or a couple of years ago when I was forced to go to Prague and had a weekend to do nothing. I dislike travelling, even more so when travelling alone, but with a treasure hunt in store no matter where I go surely this gives it some purpose in the future. No matter where I am, what language is spoken, I can look at a map and a clue and find things that have been hidden away just for a few people to find.

As with the fußball, some people seem to take it too seriously for my liking. They have their own stickers, or ink stamps, to place on a cache showing they have been there. For those placing these caches in secret locations you can buy rocks, which aren’t really rocks but fake ones with a space to hide the log book and a little trinket.

It’s fun though.

When mentioning it to people over the past few days I get the same response as when I mention a love of riddling. The vacant look, the not understanding, the ‘what’s the point?’ attitude.

I enjoy these things. There is something extremely satisfactory in solving a riddle that someone else has created. There is a sense of deep joy in figuring out how someone elses mind works when they think of something that is meant to challenge you, not in a life changing or meaningful way, but in a way that makes you think differently to how you normally would, to come at things from a different angle, and to look at a lamp or a drainpipe as you walk past it and smile a little inside as you know that it is hiding something.

Something of no great significance to anyone, I agree, but something secret all the same.

Weirdest Spam…ever.

April 20, 2009 3 Comments

This has to be the strangest spam that I’ve ever received – just this image and nothing else:

What the huh?

I can’t decide if it really is an image of a retarded Chinese choir, or if it’s just that they’ve all just figured out the sum in the middle after days of struggled logic.

Answers on the back of a postcard/dead squirrel to the usual address.

The best-laid schemes

April 13, 2009 2 Comments

So much for a nice relaxing yet productive Bank Holiday weekend.

Plan:
Thursday – Leave work, go for a quick drink with workmates (2 pint max), return home and chill for the evening.
Good Friday – sleep in, go to work for a few hours to get things done, return home, cook, work on websites.
Saturday/Sunday – spend as a normal weekend, write a long overdue blogpost for one particular site, reformat old PC, cook a nice Sunday lunch of some sort.
Monday – play poker.

Reality:
Thursday – Leave work, go for drinking session, get home at 7am.
Bad Friday – get out of bed at 3pm, put kettle on, things start to spin, go back to bed.
Saturday – spend day in bed watching Season 2 and 3 of How I Met Your Mother.
Sunday – venture out to shops to find Waitrose is closed. Retire home to eat bananas and bagel.
Monday – still plan to play poker in a few hours.

Happy Easter and all that.

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