Saturday, 28 May 2005

The Art of Noise

I ventured into the Bang & Olufsen shop in Chiswick today. I need a new phone for home and a new stereo. They do both. And because it's B&O, everything looks amazing and is very user friendly. I especially like the BeoCom 6000 and the BeoSound 3000. The phone is definitely the best cordless handset I have ever tried in terms of user interface. Another really cool concept with B&O is BeoLink which enables you to connect all the systems in the house: computer, television and stereo. You can then access all media sources, such as CD, DVD, radio or digital media on your computer, from anywhere in the house. Nice! Steep price tag though but if you want the best, you've got to pay for it I suppose.

Friday, 27 May 2005

French Consumers Strike Back

A group of French lawyers have decided to introduce the concept of class action to the French public through the web site The first such action is against the movie industry and DVD copy protection. Under French law, any consumer has the right to make a personal copy of those for backup and personal use. Obviously, DVD protection breaks this law.

Thursday, 26 May 2005

One Jag

Last week-end was my sister's wedding, in my home town of Brest, in Brittany. Well, not quite Brest, a small village close to Brest called Locmaria-Plouzané. I had decided to hire a car for the wedding so that I could drive around and pick up guests from the airport or the train station. I decided to hire a nice saloon rather than a cheap hatchback so that we could easily have 4 people plus luggage in it. The price difference wasn't huge anyway. I was meant to arrive at Brest airport on Thursday evening, at 23:00. My brother was arriving at the same airport 30 minutes earlier so I told him to go and get the car while waiting for me. He went to the Hertz reception and his conversation with the guy behind the counter went something like this:

Me washing the Jag

Me washing the Jag Posted by Hello

‘I've got a booking for a car,’ said my brother, ‘here is the confirmation document.’

‘A type E car?’ said the Hertz guy, ‘That's unusual. Is it for a wedding or something?’

‘As a matter of fact, yes, my sister's wedding.’

‘Well, if you want, for the same price, I have a Jaguar X-type. Are you interested?’

‘Yeah! Where do I sign? Can you put me as main driver and my brother as second driver? What about extra insurance? Here's my driving license!’

So by the time I got out of the airport after the plane had landed 30 minutes late and I had retrieved my check-in luggage, I met my brother with a big grin on his face and the key to a Jag that was parked outside.

In the end, we were not the only ones to enjoy the car. My sister, who wasn't sure what car she'd use as the couple's car on the wedding day saw it and decided the Jag was just what she wanted. So I ended up being official driver in addition to being official photographer.

I have to say this car was a real pleasure to drive and I was rather sad I had to give it back on Monday evening. I never thought I'd ever say this of a British car but then again I never thought I'd ever drive a Jaguar.

Monday, 16 May 2005

Sea, Sand, Sun

Altinkum beach

Altinkum beach Posted by Hello

Turkey was absolutely fantastic. I loved Istanbul: the bazaars, the mosques, the people, the atmosphere of it all. Except that it was a bit chilly so going to Didim, near Milas, South of Izmir and North of Bodrum, afterwards was just what I needed to completely relax and enjoy the sunshine. It was warm, the beach was beautiful and there was plenty to see and keep me busy for the week-end. In fact I could have stayed there much longer but my boss might have objected to that. I thought I'd share with you one of the photos I took of the beach, on Saturday, so that you understand what I mean. The guy sprawled on the sand in the bottom left corner is typical of the average tourist there: complete relaxation... until you realise you forgot the sun block.

Monday, 9 May 2005

New Photography Gear

I recently invested in some new gear for my SLR camera so the obvious thing to do was to try it out.

First, there is the new telephoto lens I bought in the USA recently, which prompted HSBC Fraud Detection Department to give me a call. This is a lens that is ideal for wildlife. Luckily, I have the ideal place not far from home, Richmond Park, an old royal park that still has a large population of deer.

Red Deer in Richmond Park

Red Deer in Richmond Park Posted by Hello

You can see two types of deer in Richmond Park: red deer and fallow deer. Red deer are what most people have in mind when they think of deer: large beasts with huge antler, kings of the forest. Fallow deer are what most people have in mind when they think of Bambi: frail, small and white spotted animals.

On arrival at Richmond Park, I found a group of red deer in the shade. I came close but not too much and started shooting. I did most shots with the zoom fully extended to 400mm so as to fill the frame with the animals. Even in the shade, the lens focused extremely fast and very accurately. The resulting photos are crisp and sharp, better that what I would have managed with the old lens.

I then found a large group of fallow deer grazing in the sun. As they are so used to humans, if you keep still, you can get within very close range. I had one grazing about 5 metres away at one point. Then part of the group decided to make a runner and I thought it'd be the ideal situation to try out the continuous shooting mode of my camera, as I had never had a lens that focused quick enough to use it before. However, when I got the photos back, I realised the first one was in focus but not the other ones. Then reading the manual, I realised that if I wanted the camera to keep focusing while shooting, I should have also set the focusing mode to AI Servo, as opposed to the default of Focus Once. Doh!

Another piece of kit I bought recently is a ring flash that I found second hand in my local camera shop. A ring flash is meant for macro photography and fits at the end of a macro lens rather than on top of the body. It means that you can light the subject properly even if you are very close, which is the whole point of macro photography.

Close-up of a flower

Close-up of a flower Posted by Hello

So I decide to go to Kew Gardens. I shot a few pictures there but as it was windy and I didn't have anything to deflect the wind, it very quickly became a chore. I managed a few good shots but decided I had had enough and I'd try with subjects that I could control better. Fortunately, my flatmate had been offered flowers for her birthday so I decided to use them as experimental subjects. I put the vase on the coffee table in living room, the camera on its tripod and started shooting. One thing I discovered about macro is that the depth of field is really small. Well, I sort of new but it's only when doing really close shots that you realise. In fact, it is another reason for having a ring flash because you can then set a very narrow aperture and rely on the flash for producing the light rather than rely on ambient light. Well, that's the theory. I only tried with the flash as complement of ambient light and with a wide aperture. The results are interesting even though it can take time to realise what the picture is about.

Sunset in Brittany

Sunset in Brittany Posted by Hello

then I went to France for a long week-end, to my home town of Brest, in Brittany. Now, Brittany is famous for its sunsets that can take all the colours of the rainbow and can be very, very dramatic. So when looking out to the garden of my parents' house and seeing the black lines of trees with a bright pink cloud on a dark blue background, I had to take the camera out and take a shot. The resulting picture is very simple, with big splashes of colour.

Since then I have also bought a power booster and a new tripod that is much more sturdy and versatile than my old one. I haven't really tested those yet but I reckon my sister's wedding in 2 weeks time, or the trip to Turkey this week will provide ideal testing ground.

Sunday, 8 May 2005

The Fully Air-Conditioned Sound Of Speed

Peter Moore, who is definitely my favourite travel writer, has just started his own weblog, the fully air-conditioned sound of speed. It is full of interesting and random thoughts that don't really belong to hiw official web site: a good read. Speaking of the web site, has been revamped as well. I like the new design: it is clear and simple but with all the information you need. It also has some cool tips about travel writing.


I had an unexpected surprise on Thursday. I was torturing my brain cells at work by debugging some fairly convoluted code when I was asked to join an informal meeting in our CEO's office, aka the fish bowl. At the end of it, it was agreed that I would be the one to go to Turkey next week with our favourite salesman, Jason, to support him at a technical level. It normally is the responsibility of pre-sales to do this but it so happens that, next week, I have less to do in the office so it is more sensible to send me. I was supposed to be there from Tuesday night to Thursday night but I thought it'd be nice to stay the week-end so I took Friday off and I will be flying back to London on the Sunday night. I have never been to Turkey so it should be an interesting experience. My assumption is that it will be like a mix between Mediterranean Europe and the Middle East but I am sure they have other wonderful peculiarities. Of course, I will take my camera with me.


Last night I helped a friend, Cecilia, to celebrate her birthday and she reminded me that I hadn't updated my blog for weeks. She also said that now that I had an audience, which I wasn't aware of, I should really update it regularly. I promised I would do so. It's true that sometimes I'll post several entries a day and at other times I'll post nothing for weeks. This usually reflects how busy I am. However, it's true that I don't necessarily have to write a novel each time so it shouldn't take too long. That's a promise, I'll write more often. Thanks you Cecilia and happy birthday!