Wednesday 27 December 2017

More PC Power

It's been a few years now since I last had a major PC hardware upgrade - I've had a few minor tweaks here and there, the biggest being the installation of a 1TB Samsung 850Pro SSD a couple of years ago.

The software gets updated all the time - I'm in the Developer chain for Windows 10 and get a new build every couple of months - but the hardware has been left out in the cold for quite some time.

Anyway, all that has now changed with major upgrades to the Motherboard, Processor and Memory in my main system. Memory is frighteningly expensive and I've actually had to downgrade the quantity from my previous setup.


AMD FX8350 CPU (4 Cores/8 Threads over-clocked to 4.0GHz) on an Asus M5A97 LE motherboard with 32GB of DDR3 Memory. There's a AMD radeon R9 200-series graphics card, the 1TB SSD, 2x2TB Hard drives and a 3TB external back-up. A 23" 1080p Monitor and a 49" 4K display finish off the system.


AMD Ryzen 7 1700 CPU (8 Cores/16 Threads over-clocked to 3.7GHz) on an MSI X370 Gaming Plus motherboard with 16GB of DDR4 Memory. The AMD radeon R9 200-series graphics card, the 1TB SSD, 2x2TB Hard drives and a 3TB external back-up, 23" 1080p Monitor and 49" 4K display all stay in place for the new system.

An Improvement?

Absolutely, performance where I need it - video editing, photo editing and panorama stitching is probably 2 to 2.5 times better. I'm amazed that even program loading times and windows start-up have improved further as well.

I don't miss the 16GB of memory I've lost too much, but it is something that I will revisit. I'm also looking at an upgrade to the graphics card. I don't really play games any more, but video editing and Photoshop can benefit from a better graphics processor than the one I have now.

It's also great to have fully working USB 3.1 ports as I'm copying stuff on and off USB memory sticks all the time.

GDPR Software Toolkit

Well, the weather hasn't been great for the last few weeks, limiting my ability to get out with the drone or the camera quite severely. I may edit a couple of timelapses that I've taken into one video and post that soon though.

Fortunately, I have plenty of programming work to be going on with, indeed more that I've ever had to do before. I've been bug-fixing the SimpleShop X2 program code extensively as Watsons Nurseries have now switched to the new system.

I'm also doing a lot of work related to the upcoming requirements for GDPR compliance, a requirement for all businesses, however small. I've been asked to help a couple of organisations get their GDPR compliance in order and have written some software tools to help me make this happen.

Take a look at this page to find out more about what I've been up to throughout December.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Peel Castle With The MiDrone 4K

I had to do some work in Peel for the Manx Wildlife Trust on Friday, which didn't go entirely to plan because we had to wait for some information that we needed. I used some of that waiting time to take the quadcopter down to the castle and have a fly around.

The weather was really nice, calm and sunny, making conditions almost perfect for the flight and resulting in some great footage of the castle and the surrounding area.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Sulby Glen

Another trip out with the Quadcopter, this time into Sulby Glen to try and capture the autumn colours as the trees turn. it was very grey and overcast, so the colours don't really pop as I would like, but still a worthwhile flight I think.

Sunday 1 October 2017

Jurby Shore

A spur-of-the-moment trip to Jurby Beach after work on Saturday because the wind has dropped enough to allow me to fly the quad-copter again. I suspect that the chances to do this will get less and less as the autumn moves on.


Monday 25 September 2017

Two Lighthouses

At last the weather is good enough to take the Xiaomi out for a couple of short flights.


Monday 18 September 2017

Ramsey Harbour

I'm keeping the drone busy while the weather stays calm and clear. Still lots to learn about the limits of the system, but I'm starting to trust the hardware now and I'm happy to leave it in place for a few minutes and just let the action happen around it.

The swing bridge just happened to start opening as I was taking a flight over the harbour, so of course I had to wait and watch it all below me.


Tuesday 29 August 2017

A New Addiction - Mostly Harmless

These Quadcopter things are quite addictive. I've bought another one - a much better one that before.

It's a Xaiomi Mi Drone 4K and like the previous one it has come all the way from China. It must have come on a plane as it wouldn't have made it as quick if it was flying on its own! As it's name suggests, it does 4K recording - although I probably won't use it in 4K as I prefer a slightly lower resolution to get a higher frame rate. The camera on this one is 3-axis stabilized. This means that it tries to keep pointing in the right direction, whatever the drone does to speed up and slow down.

With the MGP being on, I don't have much chance to test it at the moment, but here's a short video that I made last week to get a feel for it. I'm hoping it can do more cinematic and above all stabilized shots that are much more comfortable to watch as well as being higher quality.

Monday 31 July 2017

A Quick Walk Up Lhergy Frissel

As always, we finish at four on a Saturday. I used the hour before picking Dad up from the Pub to try and get some exercise.

Leaving the shop at a couple of minutes to four, I was at the Albert Tower in 28 minutes, having walked along the promenade and over the crossing at Ballure Bridge before climbing Lhergy Frissel. at the top I just spent a few minutes taking in the view and snapping a couple of photos. It was quite breezy, but very pleasant. One day I'll have to take the Quadcopter up there and get a different perspective.

I've photoshopped the masts/lighting posts out on this one - I know we need the coverage for mobile and TV, but they are really intrusive. Trying to disguise them as lighting posts doesn't really work either. At least the other masts along the ridge line were made to look a little tree-like. I don't know why the planners dropped the requirement for the ones at the tower.

Sunday 9 July 2017

The Quad-copter Goes Farming

Six full batteries of flying, one minor crash and one forced landing later, here's my first real footage with the Hubsan.

My brother - driving the Claas Jaguar silage chopper - likes watching this sort of thing on YouTube, so, of course, we have to do the same thing for him.

I'm trying to concentrate on the action, but you do get a glimpse of the beautiful Manx scenery in the background.

The first filming session on Thursday was grey, misty and overcast. The footage is a little flat, but there was virtually zero wind and this gave me a chance to try and follow the tractors a bit. The Hubsan really is a bit of a handful, especially when stopping and starting. I'm finding that I have to do a lot in the editing, to cut out the jerky, bumpy bits at the beginning and end of each sequence. It's also, of course, about practice and smoothness. The controller is very sensitive and you actually need a very delicate touch to keep it a bit smoother.

Friday's rain meant that they were still at work chopping and carting on Saturday morning. By the time I arrived on site, they were just about to start the last field so I unpacked quickly and started filming. This time the weather was much brighter, with the sun being full for most of the time. I actually ran all three batteries down completely - including the quad doing an emergency landing when called home at the end of battery three. No damage, just a brief hunt to see where it had landed.

I think I'm beginning to get the hang of the controls by the end. Because the field is on a slope - steep enough for the tractor to get stuck at the bottom when loaded - at times I'm doing all four directions on the controller at the same time. This means having to think about, for example, flying forward, up, moving left and rotating right, all at the same time. It's still a bit jerky and wobbly, but that's what cheap quads are like. I'm still not doing this enough to splash on a quad with a stabilized camera - well not just yet.

Thanks must go to the farmers and contractors for letting me film, managing to ignore the quad as it buzzed around them.

Saturday 1 July 2017

Flying near Ramsey

Russell and I went out with the professional quadcopter this morning, to have a bit of a practice and get used to the camera and the settings. We got a couple of nice photos of the harbour and the swing bridge, but it needs a bit more practice before we'll be happy I think.

Afterwards, I sent my quad up for a quick flight from the promenade. Here's the result. It was a bit windy by this time, so the quad is always on an angle to fight against the breeze. I will just have to get a quad with a gimballed camera!

Here's a sample of one of the photos we took with the bigger drone. They look pretty good, but we do need to practice more.

Monday 26 June 2017

Learning To Fly - A Quadcopter

I've edited together some bits from my first few flights with my new Hubsan H501S quadcopter.

Having used a couple of DJI drones, it does feel more like a toy than they do, but at little more than 200 pounds it is good fun and adding extras like batteries or antennas is cheap and rewarding. You do have to get some of the stuff direct from China, but and other similar sites are safe, reliable and delivery is pretty good.

I've upgraded the antennas on the controller and have a good range of more than 100m now. I've also bought a cheap FPV headset, but not really had much chance to try it for more than a couple of minutes. it also needs a better antenna, to keep up with the range of the antennas on the quad.

I guess I need much more practice and to get out and about with it a bit more. I want to do some videos of my brother working, and intend to use my action cameras as well to capture the full experience. I might just decide to get a DJI Spark and have a stabilized camera.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Rambling about Rambling

For the first time in many years, I took a walk up to the summit of North Barrule HERE with Russell. We cheated a bit by walking up from the Guthrie Memorial, but we then walked down all the way back to the sea.

Here's the view from the summit looking north. We had hoped to be able to fly the drone from here, but it was a bit too windy to risk it. it was also, as you can see, very hazy and the cloud kept forming and clearing around us as we took a good look around.

The walk up wasn't too bad, but if anything, the return trip down the eastern shoulder of the hill was more demanding. I'm glad we didn't try and go up that way, as it is very steep and any accessible starting point is much lower down.

Here's another photo taken on the way down, looking towards Ramsey and the north. Russell liked the juxtaposition of the rocks in the foreground and the view into the distance. I've even tried running a Neutralhazer filter on this one in Photoshop, but even that can't pierce this much cloud.

We are hoping to go up again and it'd be great to get the drone out from that high up, to give a different perspective on the area.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Video Slideshows

I've been working on a couple of slide-show videos, both taken from My Namibia-Botswana trip. The first shows some of the wildlife we saw during the trip and the second is a look at some of the panoramic landscapes that I photographed as we went along.

They've given me some insights into quite a few new things, 

Making slide-shows is quite time consuming and not something I'm going to do that often, maybe only one or two for each trip like these.

I now know how to do a few more things in Adobe Premiere, particularly the stuff that can be done with animation and movement.

I've found a couple of great sources of freely use-able music to give a little background to videos like these and they seem to be making quite nice stuff available.

Sunday 2 April 2017

Bridging The Gap

I've just added a page describing the trials and tribulations of installing a half-mile wifi bridge to enable some networked CCTV cameras. It all turned into a bit of a marathon, but we've got it sorted in the end. The page is here -

Sometimes things don't go according to your original plans and you have to move to Plan B or make up a new plan and start all over again. Does anyone want to buy a couple of as new wifi dish antennas?

Thursday 16 February 2017

Canvas Travel Prints

I've decided to make some of my panoramic and wildlife photos available as canvas prints. They make a nice addition to any home and include a wide range of subjects and locations across Africa.

If you are interested, then I've put a large link in the sidebar to the right. Take a look if you have the time.

Saturday 11 February 2017

Travel Reports

As I've started to work with the Blogger platform, I've realized that it can be used as a quick way to get some of what I write as I travel online in a way that's more immediate and engaging than waiting for a book.

I'm going to try and put all of my six African Trips online and I've started with the most recent. If you don't want to look through a 200 page book preview, then take a look at the text by following the link below.

I've included a few panoramic photos along the way, but nowhere near the number of pictures that the books contain.

Friday 10 February 2017

Namibia Video - Around Purros Gorge

I'm sort of getting to the end of the video footage I took with the ActionCam during my Namibia/Botswana trip, But I keep looking through it and finding sequences worth the effort of editing.

Take a look at this page if you'd like to know how I did these.

This was one of our shorter drives, a quiet afternoon from Purros down the riverbed and then back out via an alternative route. Not much to report on the wildlife front, the stop in the middle of the video is to look at a few Hartmann's Zebra on the rocks opposite us. The photos I took of them were rubbish, as it was getting dark and they were quite a distance away in the shadows.

Anyway, here's the video on YouTube.

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Putting some content into it

I've added a couple of pages of info, about my books and the camera that I used to take my latest holiday videos.

The book page links to the previews on Blurb who can print and send you a copy if you want one. All the travel books are 13x11 and nicely bound.

The camera page goes into a bit of detail about the reasoning behind the choice of camera, mount and memory, as well as my decisions about the recording quality and choice of editing software. Hopefully someone will find the info useful.

Starting Out


People are always asking if I ever put any of my info online and, of course, I have a number of websites to help showcase what I do. What I don't have, however, is a central repository of all this stuff and this is the idea behind setting up this proper blog.

I've got a few things to do to get started, so I'll keep this post short and simple.

Keep checking back to see what's new and hopefully you'll find something useful, entertaining or just plain fun.