The Only Way is Ethics

Recently I was talking to someone in a pub, and mentioned that I engaged in film photography. They mentioned that they did not personally approve of film photography, as it contains animal products.

This is not something I had previously put much thought into, despite generally agreeing that meat is not a particularly sustainable source of food. Whilst, after a bit of research, I’m mostly at peace with the fact that photographic emulsion uses an extremely small amount of gelatin – primarily as it is making use of a by-product which otherwise would have gone to waste, and in of itself isn’t a driver for meat production. Until meat production is entirely eliminated, I think I’ll be OK with that. I hope by that point, someone will have invented a synthetic replacement for making emulsion – if they’ve not, I’ll happily give up the hobby if it’s what keeping slaughterhouses in business.

However, whilst I’m not going vegan overnight, this caused me to think a bit about whether there is anything else that I’m unwittingly doing that supports broadly unethical practices in a meaningful way …

You’re lacing your shoelaces wrong

In this world of Trump, Brexit and Fake News, you may well be wondering to yourself:

How can I trust anything I used to take for granted any more? I thought I generally had a grip on these things, but maybe not! What else am I taking for granted that’s completely wrong? Am I getting out of bed properly? Am I competent to make the journey from home to work? Are my shoes laced up properly? Am I even real? Why am I talking to myself?

Well, I can’t really help with all of it (you may wish to seek professional help…) – except for one. You’re probably not doing your shoelaces up properly.  

Why I Shoot Film in 2018 📷

Photography is one of my (numerous and disparate) hobbies, and you may be perplexed to learn that I shoot quite a lot of 35mm film. Can you even do that any more? Isn’t that really inconvenient?  As it turns out, yes on both counts, but I quite enjoy it!

I have always been interested in documenting the world around me, and I was given a Nikon F-301 (35mm film SLR) camera as a teenager to learn with.  Almost from the start, I was what might be termed an “aspiring” photographer – more serious than your average “holiday snapper”, and not a professional, but always wanting to improve my skills and images.  I was rarely happy with taking the odd snapshot here and there and was always looking out for opportunities to record how I saw the world.

So this is how it came to be…

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My Headphones

As someone who works in audio, I appreciate a good quality set of headphones.  I am, by no means, an audiophile – I’m an engineer. I want my products to operate within tolerances that are suitable for their purpose – I’m not up for cryogenically freezing my cables or painting my CDs with green pen, or indeed any other magical tweaks to get marginal gains, at best.

But I do want something that will serve me well, and be comfortable doing so.

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🗺️ Recording GPS Tracks with GPSlogger on Android for Realtime Trains 🚆

(featured image is a Class 800 test train set spotted at Paddington shortly before the launch of the Intercity 125 replacements in October 2017, operated by GWR and Virgin East Coast)

As a long time user of Realtimetrains.co.uk , and someone with an appreciation of Open Rail Data (having used it myself), I jumped at the chance of helping their development.  They’ve put out an appeal to record GPS tracks of train services that you travel on with the link to the service on the application.

A lot of the work behind the scenes performed by a small team involves maintaining data relating to train positioning and comparing this with the signalling system outputs we use. This is an entirely manual task involving one of us going out with a radio controlled watch and monitoring the passage of trains through stations and junctions. An area of recent interest for us has been attempting to compute this automatically using other known bits of information.

In order to validate this effort, we either have to do the manual task with a watch or collect a large dataset of GPS traces to compare against our dataset. The more data we have will allow us to improve the end product.

Which is awesome.  I wanted to contribute. I found a suitable app for Android called GPSlogger which seemed to fit the bill.  It has quite a few settings, so I thought I’d write a quick guide on what I’ve used to successfully generate a working track for a service.

Wanting to make sure the data I produced was as useful and error free as possible, I asked @Realtimetrains for some guidance

I have put together some settings that should help achieve these goals using GPSlogger.

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Why I don’t want a Yahoo ID any more

I was at one time, a BT customer.  They had the best deal for FTTC broadband in my area, so it made sense to go with them.  One of the things they offered at the time was a Yahoo account – which for some inexplicable reason you were forced to link to any previous account with the same email address.

I created one – with my usual online moniker of naxxfish.  What a mistake that turned out to be….

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CanterburyMedia Site to Site Link

One of the unique challenges of CSR FM is it’s structure, where it is part funded by two separate universities each with a presence in Canterbury (University of Kent and Christ Church University) and their respective student unions (Kent Union and CCCU).  Student members could be enrolled at either institution, and as such each institution has it’s own radio studio on campus – each of which has an equal chance of being put on air. The station also invites members of the community to participate. 

This has presented a challenge, in that live audio needs to make it’s way from either studio to the transmitter, hosted at the University of  Kent in Eliot College.  From the outset of the CSR project, the route between the two has always been over IP – there was no other reasonable option.  Up until recently, that was realised using a IP Codec – with it’s packets being routed over the institution’s networks.

This is perfectly fine, and for the most part worked very well.  However, recently CSR has had a fundamental infrastructure change to it’s audio distribution (as part of the Student Media Center project), which has made every single audio source and destination available using Axia’s Livewire Audio over IP protocol over their internal network.  This allows fantastic flexibility and allowing studios to route any source to their mixing consoles, as well as increased interoperability with our automation systems and customisable GPIO control.

However, the second studio (Studio Blue) was still connected via an IP codec link, which was not integrated into the system at all and offered limited capacity for routing over the link (only a stereo pair to and from the router).  Unfortunately the link between the two sites, over the academic networks that link the universities, would not be suitable to transport Livewire (for a number of very good reasons, lack of multicast and custom QoS being one).  It was therefore necessary that we provided a Layer 2 link between the two locations to carry this traffic, which we had complete control over.

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Keynestock 2014

Once again, I got roped into helping out CSRfm and this time KTV in getting their OBs from Keynstock 2014 on air.

There were some not insignficant challenges. Our normal network access at Keynes was effectively cut off due to some changes to configuration.  This was quite troublesome, as we had always previously relied on this access to get our signals back to our HQ.  The outlook seemed bleak.  What we ended up doing instead, though, actually seemed to work out rather better.

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PathfinderPC HTTP JSON API

I’ve been helping with the installation of a brand new Axia Livewire network at CSR FM. The network is a bit different to the usual installation – and that deserves it’s own post.  We’ve been using PathfinderPC to do all of the routing control.

It’s all pretty clever stuff – but we wanted to be able to extract information from Pathfinder so that we could do handy things like find out which studio is on air, and use that information to show the right webcam on the website, or use it to add further information to our Now Playing data.  Pathfinder has a way of doing this – using Protocol Translators.  Basically, it’s a TCP listener (or client, or Serial Port) which accepts and sends commands to a remote device.  The protocol is very well documented in the manual, and is very flexible in what it lets you do.

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Betheremin 0.1

My partner, Beth, asked me if I could make her a Theremin.  So I have.  It’s called the Betheremin.

A Theremin is a musical instrument, which changes pitch and/or volume as you bring your hand close to it’s antenna(e).  The way this works is by your hand influencing the capacitance of a resonator circuit, changing the frequency at which it oscillates.  This difference in frequency creates a “beat” frequency against a reference oscillator, which can then be used to create an audible frequency or control a Voltage Controlled Amplifier.

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