Simon’s Backup Weblog

36″ of fun

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 23, 2007

36" of fun

Inside one of the many domes of the Lick Observatory, on the top of Mount Hamilton near San Jose, the 36″ refractor telescope waits for dark.

Mount Hamilton, California
September 2007


Reflected Volcano

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 23, 2007

Reflected Volcano

Mount Rainier reflected in one of its Reflection Lakes, high up on the Paradise shoulder.

Mount Rainier, Washington
September 2007

Hurrying home for the equinox

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 23, 2007

Hurrying Home for the Equinox

Sunset on a busy San Francisco street

San Francisco, California
September 2007

Nature’s Tuning Fork

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 23, 2007

While up in Seattle, , and I took a trip across Puget Sound to the Olympic Peninsula. The weather was glorious, and we drove through the coastal ranges to Port Angeles before turning inland to the Olympics National Park and the long climb up Hurricane Ridge. It’s a beautiful drive, up from sea level to almost a mile up. We took a stroll along one of the high trails, and saw this dead tree, stark white against a deep blue sky.

Tuning Fork

Absolutely beautiful.

Hurricane Ridge, Washington
September 2007

Looking at the world

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 22, 2007

Looking at the world

This is how Stanford’s DARPA Grand Challenge entry Junior sees the world. It’s a world of edges and motion, a world that changes from second to second as its scanners spin and absorb photons. It’s a world that it’s being taught to navigate and explore.

And this is Junior.

Let's go play in traffic

Let’s go play in the traffic now!

I wrote more about Junior on our other blog


Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 21, 2007

While large chunks of my reading list has been running screaming from spiders this week, I quite pleased, as I finally saw my first wild tarantula today.

It’s the start of mating season up on the Diablo Range and, driving down from the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton this afternoon, I had to swerve more than once to avoid a 3 or 4 inch long beastie crossing the road. However, the closest I got to one was as it wandered around in a trailhead car park. The spider was a good six inches long, with a two or three inch long body. I managed to get a few photographs of it, as it wandered across the gravel.

There were plenty more at the sides of the road, and I suspect there’ll be a lot more up on the trails. Apparently last year was a good year for them (the males only mature after seven years, though they can live for up to thirty…), so this year may well be another one for arachnophobes to avoid the mountains…

Wild Tarantula

Actually, I’m not particularly fond of spiders myself, so it was odd that I got so close to this one. I suspect it just didn’t trigger my spider senses, as it moved very differently from the spiders back home.


Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 19, 2007

I have won a baseball shirt in a raffle here at IDF that’s been autographed by Gordon Moore.

You can’t get more geek cred than that!

A History of British Comics (in three pages)

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 17, 2007

Here’s a link to a scan of Bryan Talbot’s short history of the British comic, originally published in the Guardian’s Guide supplement.

Of course, if you want a longer history of the form (with a lot more thrown in besides), you couldn’t do much worse than read Bryan’s Alice In Sunderland

Hamachi isn’t just for Sushi

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 17, 2007

It’s not easy setting up a new PC when you’re 8 timezones away from your network and servers – especially when your router has decided it doesn’t want to pass VPN packets, and your mail software decides it needs a direct connection to the server as part of its initial set up…

A bit of googling threw up a rather useful piece of software: Hamachi. Now run by the folk at LogMeIn, Hamachi is a cloud-based UDP VPN that needs very little configuration. All you need to do is install the client software (available for Windows, OS X and Linux) on all the machines you want to connect to the network. These build UDP tunnels to the Hamachi servers. You can then define a network name (and password), and your systems can then be connected to each other through your new network. There’s a free version which runs as an application, and a premium paid version that can be run as a service. The free download gives you 30 days of premium service – a good way for LogMeIn to add paying customers!

Sensibly the Hamchi servers issue IP addresses from the 5.x.x.x range, so there’s very little chance of colliding with IP addresses on the local network (something that happens all too often with traditional VPNs which try to map one network’s structure onto another’s…).

It’s not quite the promised zero-configuration VPN – I did find that I needed to open up one set of UDP ports on my home network firewall, but everything else ran smoothly, and I’m back with email at last…

Another tool for the mobile computing toolbox.

Not Dead

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 13, 2007

Though sadly my laptop is…

Some jerk sat in front of me on a flight the other day slammed his seat back into the screen of my trusty tablet, rendering it rather dead. It still works, but only when the screen’s at an impossible angle. However there is a shiny lining to this cloud, as the folk at HP have loaned me one of their really quite lovely new ultraportable tablets. It is, as they say, “teh shiny”. So, after a couple of days of reconfiguring stuff, I’m back on line.

So, Seattle: the weather’s lovely, and I’ve been taking lots of photographs of the mountains in between meetings. We’ve been up the top of the Olympics, and to both high access points on Mount Ranier

Also, in other good news, after many moons of searching I managed to find a green laser pointer for a silly low price in a branch of Frys. ‘s cats are now most exercised. The laser’s 5mW is enough to pump the ruby in ‘s engagement ring – so it’s now an engagement laser in its own right…

I’ve also got my paws on the anti-iPhone, an OpenMoko device. It’s rather lovely, though not ready for the end user yet. I’ll be writing about it for various places, so keep your eyes peeled!

Normal service to be resumed shortly.