Tag Archives: Technology

Tech Support

Buffalo Drivestation hd-lbu2

Ok – Tech Support night tonight.

Trying to setup a 1.0TB Buffalo Drivestation (fancy product name for an external hard-drive) to our Thompson Router as a NAS so that we can share it and I can download all our iTunes Media (music, films, books) onto it so that we don’t have to have the behemoth NAS Linkstation running all the time, only when we need to do a backup.

That’s the theory anyway.

As ever, nothing involving technology is quite so simple as it purports to be – whoever invented the phrase ‘plug-n-play’ had obviously watched too much Star Trek where everything is solved with the discovery of a new type of previously unknown sub-atomic particle – i.e. life just ain’t that simple!

Pancakes

Had a good gym session earlier – cross-training day again and I’m going to do another test run tomorrow to get back onto schedule with the training. I was thankful to have a good session earlier as last night’s swimming was bordering on awful – back to drown prevention – even Zelda was struggling to find ways to encourage and motivate me – I could see that ‘WTF’ look on her face most of the time. Ah well, at least we had a LOL about it as well.

As it was Shrove Tuesday today (the traditional eve of lent using-up-all-ingredients-in -the-larder day) we had pancakes this evening – simple to make, but nothing luxury today – the children have been used to occasionally having what they refer to as luxury pancakes with ice-cream, chocolate sprinkles, honey, maple syrup, yoghurt, etc., so they were a little put out that the traditional fare was not quite as grand as they had been expecting. It was late by the time we finished so maybe that also had something to do with how grizzly they were getting.

Anyway, back to Tech Support.

Popplet and Music

Just found this great application for my iPad!

Music Popplet

It’s a visual / mind mapping type of thing called Popplet, what would be referred to as a ‘productivity’ tool, and it allows you to record ideas, flows of thoughts and notes in a more natural and instinctive way than perhaps a simple notebook would do. I’ve used similar things in the past, but have never really got on with them.

However, I’ve tried this out a few times today and it is incredibly intuitive and easy to use, allows you to insert text or images if you want to make more of a story or gallery out of it.

To illustrate the tool I thought about the music I’d been listening to today, the tunes I could remember anyway :-o. Trying to classify music is sometimes easy and sometimes less so – rock is easy, classical is mostly easy (until you start getting into baroque, early romantic, post impressionist, etc!) but then I always have difficulty with indie and alternative.

I’m not sure that some of the genre classifications on iTunes are that accurate, but then that is just my opinion (and I’m not sure how they all get defined anyway).

If you’re interested, then check out the free app here: – Popplet Lite. There is also a paid version for a £2.99.  That’s the beauty of the Apple App Store, so much available for so little and the key is global distribution – Steve Jobs was a genius.

Do you GPS?

So when you do you outdoor activity, do you take a GPS with you?

One of the joys of running is that you can just slip on a pair of trainers (or not if you are Barefoot Ted) and just go out the door and run.

That is one of the pleasures, the simplicity of the whole activity and the ability to do things without a lot of the paraphernalia that is essential with other activities; you know the sort of thing, cycling needs a bike, and a whole lot more if you want to ‘look’ the part, no offence Bryan :-), swimming needs a pool, football needs a pitch, goals, boots and at least 9 other willing participants to have a game. I’m by no means decrying other people’s chosen exploits, just illustrating a point.

GPS 1 - Timex S&D c.2004

You can run without equipment and that is the pleasure. To experience nature at it’s simplest in a way that the human body was design for (if you believe everything in ‘Born to Run‘, which I do)

However, when you are training or following a schedule for a target race or goal, or perhaps you are somewhere unfamiliar, it is great to have a GPS to hand to ensure your distance and pace are right for the run you are doing, or simply so that you don’t get lost!

My first GPS enabled stopwatch that I had probably back around 2004 was a Timex Ironman Speed/Distance watch which had a separate pack that  I had to where on my arm. It was very temperamental, took a long time to locate the satellites and wasn’t very accurate at the best of times, and was all over the place when in cities or even light foliage Still, it was, the first time I had been able to measure distances and was great for my need to try to be in control for my marathon training back in those days.

The GPS receiver pack which I had with that watch was actually made by Garmin and they obviously saw a niche in their product development, which at that time consisted primarily of mapping devices for marine and aeronautical areas.

GPS 2 - Garmin 405 Forerunner c.2008

So it was in 2008, just after my return from the MdS that I bought my first Garmin 405 Forerunner. Technology had clearly come on a long way in 4 years and it was orders of magnitude better that the Timex in that it was small, self-contained, started quickly, was good for 6-8 hours of running and was rechargeable rather than chowing batteries all the time.

The other thing with the Forerunner was the ability to upload training details, with heartrate and laps, wirelessly and automatically at the end of a run! Perfect 🙂

So as it happens I am a fan of technology and gadgets for the sake of training, but at the end of the day, it only helps me to get to the start of a race, where the joy of running through trails for huge distances really makes it all worthwhile.

Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be upgrading again – but more on that soon 🙂

Leap Seconds

So there it is. We might be about to lose our leap seconds and disconnect with the age old tradition of correcting for the Earth’s wobble.

Let me explain.

Atomic clocks are accurate. Very accurate. In fact, so accurate that they are used as the basis of the ISO standard definition of a second. If you want the figures (which I know you do) they are accurate to 1 second in every 6 million years.

Leap Seconds - Atomic or Astronomical?

Advances in technology are a bit of a double edged sword though, in that they often show up the inadequacies in older technologies that they were designed to replace. The problem with atomic clocks is that they replaced a system based upon the rotation of the Earth – not something which is likely to become obsolete overnight 🙂

So, because of that we actually have more than one definition of ‘what the Time is’ even before you start to take international time zones into account (things are a lot more complicated that that when you start to get into Astronomy, but I won’t go into that here!)

The most commonly used definition is Universal Coordinated Time, or UTC, the hours, minutes, and seconds of which are kept within a second of the mean solar time, our second definition of time, UT1, at the earth’s prime meridian (zero degrees longitude) located near Greenwich, England.

According to the US Naval Observatory (USNO), one can think of UT1 as a time that the earth’s rotation determines. One has no control over it, whereas UTC is a human invention. It is relatively easy to manufacture highly precise clocks that keep UTC, while the only “clock” keeping UT1 precisely is the earth itself.

Leap Second Captured

Nevertheless, it is desirable that the civil time scale should not be very different from the earth’s time. UTC cannot differ from UT1 by more than 0.9 seconds. A one-second change called a “leap second” is introduced into UTC if it appears that the difference between the two kinds of time may approach this limit. This occurs on average about once every year to a year and a half, but significantly this unpredictable.

So, back to our story of the day. The International Telecommunication Union’s Radiocommunication Assembly in Geneva will shortly debate a controversial proposal to abandon these leap seconds.

The argument in favour of dropping leap seconds is that millions of high-precision computer systems, including many that are safety-critical, such as GPS, maritime and aerial navigation systems as well as telecommunications systems, have to be adjusted manually when an extra second is introduced. This is not only time-consuming but also potentially dangerous.

At first no one would notice the divergence of the atomic and astronomical time but after a hundred years they are likely to be several minutes apart.

All sort of compromises might be considered in this debate, such as delaying the implementation of the leap seconds to give more notice of the changes, or consolidating them into leap minutes.

My view is that this would cause even more of a problem (anyone remember the Year 2000 software debacle – imagine that every 100 year or so!) but the case is not clear either way.  What is clear is that some form of synchronisation has to be carried out, otherwise the problem is just being ignored for future generations and all of a sudden, we’ll find that it is midday and the sun is setting!

Related Articles

New Gadgets

Technology is fantastic!

Just finished my first long run with my new (Father’s Day present) Garmin Forerunner 405 and it is so cool! Have already done a couple of runs with it during the week as well as used it to record my heart rate during a spin session on Wednesday, but every time I use it I am seriously impressed with its ease of use.

For example, my long run today is here on the Garmin site and all this involved, other than wearing an HRM (Heart Rate Monitor) while running, was to set my watch to aquire the network of GPS satellites prior to leaving, which took about 30secs, and then after the run simply turn on my laptop with the wireless stick connected. Download of data from the watch to the computer started automatically, and upload to the online site was also completed in the background, to the information you can see above. Fantastic!

I did a similar run last week, although with a couple of extra miles down the Horsham railway line before returning to Bramley, about 15 miles in total. Today’s run was great apart from the drizzle though – about 13 miles (i.e. half marathon) this week, as I’m on a ‘quiet’ week but in 1:42 which is not brilliant but I’m happy with it with 13 weeks to go to the Berlin Marathon which is what I’ve signed up for on 28th September.

Sometimes the drizzle is very welcome, and it was today, but running through the lush summer grass on the first day of summer (midsummer’s day? – what’s that all about?!) when it is full of dew which then saturates your trainers (and feet) with moisture is not the best feeling.

Still, legs feel strong at the moment, which is good.