Daily Archives: Sunday, 27th May 2007

Mouse calibration

Now this is something most computer users probably never give much thought to: proper calibration of their mouses, err, mice, I mean meeces. Fortunately, there’s a simple test you can carry out without the need to contact your nearest IT person, and I suggest that you give it a try:

Check your mouse here

Goodnight Sweet Prince – David Dickinson

I’m a sucker for a good historical detective story[1], so when I saw this on one of Waterstone’s “3 for 2” tables, I snapped it up. It turns out to be a reissue of the first in a series of six (so far) novels about Lord Francis Powercourt, an Irish aristocrat with friends in high places and a flair for detection. This one was first published in 2002, and has now been reissued in paperback, along with its sequels, which I’ll be reading soon, or as soon as I get round to them, anyway.

The story is one of those devious ones that blends real people and events with carefully crafted fiction. The story revolves around the death of Prince Eddy in 1982. Prince Albert Victor, The Duke of Clarence and Avondale, eldest son of the Prince of Wales[2] is dead. History records that he died of pneumonia. Theorists have linked him with Jack the Ripper. And in this story, it appears that “pneumonia” was a cover story released to conceal the truth: the Prince was brutally murdered in his bed.

Powerscourt, having previously been involved in an investigation into attempted blackmail of the Prince of Wales, is called in to investigate. And so he does. There’s lots of misdirection, and much of Eddy’s seedy past is revealed. Eddy might not have been Jack the Ripper, but his behaviour was, shall we say, less than exemplary. Powerscourt follows the trail backward, and not only learns who killed the Prince, but perhaps more importantly, why.

This leads to complications, as some people would much rather that some truths were kept secret, which leads to more danger for Powerscourt…

This is good stuff, with some strong, believable characters and convincing historical details. Well worth a read, and left me wanting more of the same.

[1] Blame it on early exposure to Sherlock Holmes
[2] Later King Edward VII

Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather DVD

Yes, I’m a wee bit late in getting round to talking about this DVD. It’s been sitting on my desk in the “stuff to babble about” pile for about a month, which is a bit longer than I normally like to leave things there.

So, what can I say that I didn’t say at the time it was first shown on TV? Well, for a start, you get the original two episodes without the numerous advert breaks that Sky One inserted. This takes the original four hours down to just over three hours, which is a quite respectable running time. You get a reminder of what a superb voice Ian Richardson had, and of how much he’ll be missed. And you get a lot of fun. And you get Mr Pratchett himself playing a toymaker. What more could you ask for?

Well, whether you asked for it or not, you get more! There’s the “Making of Hogfather”, which was shown on Sky One around the time of the original showing, which is good stuff, and has more from Mr Pratchett, so you have to watch it. Not only that, but you get the “12 Days of Hogswatch” clips that were first shown on the web only, and the usual selection of deleted scenes and pictures.

Good stuff, should be on everyone’s DVD player. Get it now!

Photoshop CS3: Classroom in a book

Having bought my upgrade to the latest version of Photoshop and had a bit of a play with it, it’s time to actually learn how to get more out of it. While there are lots of nifty tutorials in the ridickerous number of photo magazines that I read, I wanted a more general guide to using this ever-so-slightly complicated software. And while there are some good web resources, I’m the kind of old fuddy-duddy who prefers books, which have the advantage that you can read them when you’re not in front of a computer.

As it happens, there aren’t very many Photoshop CS3 books available yet – lots are due to come out over the next few months, but right now the choice is limited. But as one of the few available books is this rather nice hands-on tutorial, things aren’t all that bad. Much of this book is adapted from the Photoshop CS2 version[1], but it covers the basics of editing, selecting, tweaking, twiddling and a good selection of the newer features.

The bundled CD includes the files you’ll need to work through the exercises, including finished versions so you can compare your efforts with the professionally finished versions. There are also some short QuickTime video demonstrations, which are pretty good.

I got the book a week or two ago, and this afternoon was the first time I had the time and the inclination to start working through it. And having spent around five hours with only the briefest of breaks :coffee: , I’ve worked through six of the fourteen chapters. All of which has given me a better understanding of such useful things as masks, channels and selections, and a much better idea about making better use of layers. And that’s before I’ve even got to the chapters that are more specifically about working with photographs. Not a bad way of spending a soggy Sunday afternoon…

If you’re looking for a detailed reference guide to Photoshop CS3, this isn’t it. I suspect that the forthcoming Missing Manual[2] might fill that role. The title is more appropriate than usual, because unlike previous versions of Photoshop, CS3 comes with nothing more than a “how to install it” booklet. The full text of the manual is in the actually rather good online help, but that’s a bit tricky to read on the bus. But if you’re after an easy to use guide to getting started with the latest version of Photoshop, then this might just be what you need.

Note: I’ve included an Amazon link above, but they don’t seem to have stock at present. As with all computer-related books, you might get better results from those nice Computer Manuals people.

[1] And quite possibly the CS version….
[2] Prehistoric link removed