Daily Archives: Friday, 29th Jan 2010


Five years ago, two rovers landed on Mars. Spirit and Opportunity were designed to work for just 90 days, but have done rather better than that. While Opportunity is still roving and returning data, Spirit got stuck, and NASA’s engineers have been trying to wiggle it free for a long time now. But this week, the decision was made to stop trying that, and instead to position the rover so it can survive the Martian winter and take on a new role as a stationary laboratory. Phil “Bad Astronomy” Plait has the details, and as he points out, these two vehicles have been incredibly successful.

But xkcd has another way of looking at it:

xkcd: Spirit

xkcd: Spirit

Rather a sweet tribute, I thought.

Weight and Stuff Report – 29 January 2010

Down a wee bit today, but I think it’s still random wossnameness. For the second time this week, I got the bus in[1], as I needed to get in a wee bit earlier. But I did walk in three times, so I’m not doing too badly.

For today’s picture, it’s another bit of fisheye fun and games:

Tyne Bridges - Fisheye

Tyne Bridges - Fisheye

I liked the way the vapour trail (or con trail if you prefer) seems to be trying to form an arch, to match the bridge I was standing on. This is another revisited image – the previous time, it looked like this:



I’ll use a different lens for next week’s pictures. I just haven’t decided which one yet.

One more iPad thing…

I have to blame William[1] for bringing this to my attention. Possibly the silliest use of this video yet. Don’t click the play button if you’re offended by strong language in subtitles, or by the seemingly endless reuse of one little bit of Hitler video.

Embedding has now been disabled. See it on YouTube.

[1] Hi William!

iPad – UK details (sort of)

Following yesterday’s official announcements from Steve Jobs, Apple UK sent me a helpful email pointing me towards the actual iPad information on their site. All very useful apart from one teeny weeny detail:



Yes, slightly vague release dates are available, but pricing isn’t. Are they still working out how many percentage points above the current rate of VAT to add? Waiting for the exchange rate to reach a specific number?

Interesting questions have been raised about the pricing of the no less than six iPad models, which is a lot by Apple’s usually minimal standards. The big question is why there is such a big difference in price between the WiFi only models and the equivalents with 3G. It’s been pointed out that the electronics needed to support 3G are now readily available for not very much at all, which leads to the suspicion that the prices of the WiFi only models are artificially low, and that anyone who buys a 3G iPad will be effectively subsidising the price of the more basic models. The other question is why the base model has just 16GB of storage – that’s seriously low by modern standards, and does make me suspect that it’s been kept low so Apple can advertise it at $499.

Lots of other comments have been made about the perceived shortcomings of the device, some of them sensible, some of them seemingly based on the idea that it’s meant to be a replacement for an actual computer, and some of them just silly.

For instance, it doesn’t support Flash. Oh dear. Given that Flash is such a CPU-hogging, power-eating, diabolical waste of electrons, and even more so in the version that Adobe have inflicted on Mac users, its omission from a portable device that needs to run all day on a single charge seems quite sensible. Websites that rely on Flash to deliver content really should stop it, in my not even slightly humble opinion. Use it sparingly for animations if you must, but not for actual content. That’s what HTML is for.

It doesn’t multi-task. Neither does my iPhone, or my Sony book reader, and that doesn’t actually trouble me. As it’s running a version of iPhone OS, I’m sure iTunes will happily continue to play music while users browse web sites, read books or send email. Some limited multi-tasking may follow in a later OS version. Possibly.

It has no cameras. Good point this one, and I think it is a failing. Stick a moderately useful camera in it, and the iPad would be more attractive. I’m not interested in video conferencing, so I’d have no need for the dual camera thingy some people have mentioned.

Screen resolution – if it’s being marketed as a movie playing device, a widescreen ratio would make more sense. 4:3 is definitely old school, and does seem like an odd choice.

If you want to download images from a camera, you’ll need an optional adaptor. Apple will sell you a camera kit that includes one dongle thingy that can connect a USB cable, and another dongle thingy that can read SD (and presumably SDHC) memory cards. Would adding an actual USB port or two have been too difficult or expensive?

Those are some of the sensible complaints. There are sillier ones, some of which seem to stem from the quite unreasonable expectation that Apple were going to launch a tablet that would be a replacement for an actual computer, and others which simply show the commentators to be very silly. It seems that for some people, the first thing the word “pad” suggests is not a stuck together pile of paper, but a feminine hygiene product.

Leaving that aside, my current thought is that version 1 of the iPad is not something I really need. Maybe the next version will be the one – it wasn’t until the third version that the iPhone became what I wanted.