Book reviews for August 2022

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie



Rising Tiger (Scot Harvath #21) by Brad Thor

Rising Tiger (Scot Harvath #21) by Brad Thor



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ITHCWY Newsletter for August 2022


Catfood WebCamSaver 3.29 is available for download.

UK Update - three things that have changed beyond recognition in the last four years.

Some timelapse: sunset in Wales, milky way in Wales and various sunsets over Waterloo Station in London.

I'm inching closer to actually building this evil calendar to stamp out B2B spam. Does anyone want to help?

HBR gets patent reform wrong.

I said I wouldn't, but here is how to control LIFX WiFi light bulbs from Google Apps Script.

What is Microsoft thinking with Bluetooth settings on Windows 11?

Slow motion video of the One O'clock Gun firing at Edinburgh Castle. ISS over Wales. And a lucky shot of a meteor.


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Time Lapse Settings for GVM GR-80QD and GR-120QD Motorized Sliders

Updated on Monday, August 29, 2022

Time Lapse Settings for GVM GR-80QD and GR-120QD Motorized Sliders

I've been experimenting with a four-foot Great Video Maker GR-120QD slider for timelapse photography. So far I'm impressed with the quality for a relatively cheap device but the controller is a little hard to understand. There are various YouTube videos that explain this at length but I find a quick written explanation more helpful (and as much as anything, this post is for me to refer back to quickly!). These instructions will also work for the three-foot GR-80QD.

The first thing to understand is that you need to recalibrate the device every time you power it on. It's a bit of pain but fast once you get the hang of the Konami Cheat Code style UI. Go to settings, Set Start and then hit the left button to start moving. When you get to the desired start point press the center button to stop the slider, long press the center button to save it and then long press again to up a level in the menu. Do the same for the end point at the right side of the slider. More long presses to get back up to the top menu.

Now the fun part. For timelapse you have Interval, Time-lapse, Stop Time, Photo and Auto Loop and the user guide is silent on what any of those might do.

When shooting a timelapse the slider is going to move, stop for a bit and shoot and then move again.

Stop Time is the total amount of time that the slider stops for each shot (seconds).

Time-lapse is the number of seconds to wait after stopping before the shot is taken. This allows the camera a chance to stabilize after being moved along the slider before a shot is taken. The system enforces at least 0.2 seconds but you probably want this a bit longer.

Shutter time is in the hands of the camera.

So if you have a 1 second shutter speed and want to shoot every 4 seconds you would set Stop Time to 4 and time-lapse to something like 1. The slider will then move, wait 1 second, trigger the shutter, wait 3 seconds (the remainder of the 4 second Stop Time) and will then move again.

If Auto Loop is set to No then the system will stop shooting when it reaches the end of the slider, so you can set Photo to a large number and not worry about it. If Yes the camera will go back and forth until it hits the count of photos in the Photo setting.

The last thing to worry about is how far the slider moves between shots. This is a combination of Interval and the slider speed, which you set when you start the time lapse. The minimum interval is 0.1 - I haven't tried anything else. At 70% speed this takes about 45 mins (based on the 4 second stop time) and shoots almost 700 photos which for me is a pretty decent sequence. This part is not a science so you'll need to experiment to get the result you're looking for.

When the settings all look good, hit the center button and you will go to the time lapse screen. Adjust the speed with the up and down arrows and then hit the right or left button to start shooting in that direction.

Updated 2022-08-29 17:43:

Here is some test footage at 60% speed and 0.1 interval. The video starts siding to the left (camera pans to right) at 1/1000s shutter. The last section reverses direction and has a 1s shutter with an ND3 filter to check for any shake. Both sections are shooting every 4 seconds with a 1 second 'Time-lapse' (or stabilization time) setting.

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(Published to the Fediverse as: Time Lapse Settings for GVM GR-80QD and GR-120QD Motorized Sliders #timelapse #slider #video How to configure Stop Time, Time-lapse and Interval on a GVM slider to shoot timelapse photography (the missing manual). )

Catfood WebCamSaver 3.29.0002

Updated on Saturday, September 24, 2022

Catfood WebCamSaver 3.29.0002

Catfood WebCamSaver 3.29 is now available to download.

This release updates the webcam list and includes a selection of new webcams provided by a long-time user.

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15 minutes of terror, or how the UK has changed in four years

15 minutes of terror, or how the UK has changed in four years

Due mainly to Coronavirus I haven't been back to the UK in four years. This time I have three profound changes to report.

The first is that almost every single tourist attraction is selling tickets in 15 minute increments. I'm sure this is pandemic related and maybe it will eventually go away. I'm also used to buying in advance to save some money (sound marketing so I don't get distracted and do something else). I'm also used to everything being part of a network of that place and 100 other places you're not going to visit, so you're constantly being seduced by an English Heritage membership but the next place you go will be British Legacy and then Angligan Birthright and so on until you have no more money.

The problem with 15 minutes is that it's a hard window to hit and so you end up arriving an hour early and then being bored waiting for your slot. And then if you have the temerity to try and do two things in one day, when do you book the next one for? You're either not doing justice to the first one or you're early again and bored waiting twice in one day. And it's not like your 15 minute window isn't shared with 1,000,000 other people who are coughing and not wearing a mask. This made everything 10% less pleasant.

Second up, and maybe also a pandemic thing, all payments are now contactless. Buskers have contactless terminals. Random statues do. Ice cream vans invite you to tap and pay and hope it's configured for £2 and not £2000. Usually one of the first things I need to do in the UK is hunt down a cash machine. This trip I think I only needed cash once. I love it.

Finally, people can't drive any more. Actually my theory is that they never could but a simple change has revealed something profound about motorway (freeway) behavior. I've always had a smug sense that British people drive better than Americans because when working properly a British motorway is a ballet of people overtaking and then moving over whereas an American Freeway is usually people picking a random lane and speed and sticking with it. However, motorways are usually 3 lanes and freeways usually somewhere between 4 and 500. Something magical happens between 3 and 4. With 3 lanes you're always going to have someone overtaking a truck, and then someone else overtaking that truck overtaker and the whole system is going to break down without some consideration. With 4 lanes this no longer holds true and people stop caring about each other. The UK has now widely installed 4 lane 'smart' motorways and chaos has ensued. They should go back to 3 lanes and the US should follow suit.

In case you have never encountered a smart motorway it's a regular one with the shoulder/breakdown lane converted into a traffic lane and a series of signs that say 'slow down', 'seriously slow down something has happened', 'you're going to die a horrible death if you ignore this' and then finally 'never mind, sorry'. What you actually need is 3 lanes, some attention to other people and Google Maps to show you when and where there is an actual problem with traffic.

This is a longer than usual installment of my culture shock on occasionally visiting the UK after having lived in San Francisco for over twenty years. See sweeteners and the Marks & Spencer crisis for more.

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(Published to the Fediverse as: 15 minutes of terror, or how the UK has changed in four years #etc #uk #coronavirus #motorway Contactless payments, 15 minute admission windows, and worse driving - how the UK has changed in the last four years (2022 edition). )

Control LIFX WiFi light bulbs from Google Apps Script


Here is a simple apps script to control LIFX WiFi light bulbs. It turns on the bulbs in the morning until a little after sunrise and then again in the evening before sunset until a configurable time. As a bonus it will also rotate between some seasonal colors in the evening on several holidays.

To get this up and running you need a LIFX access token (from here) and a selector. If you have a group of lights called bob this would be group:bob. It could also be a single bulb ID like id:d3b2f2d97452 (more details here). There are some other settings you probably want to change: Latitude and Longitude (if you don't live in San Francisco for some reason), OnHour and OffHour for the time to switch on before sunrise and off after sunset, DaytimeOffsetMins is the minutes to wait after sunrise before switching off and before sunset for switching on, and then finally default color, brightness and fade time.

In Google Drive create a new apps script project and copy in the following code:

Configure the settings at the top in the code editor. Switch to settings (cog at the bottom of the right hand menu) and make sure the script time zone is correct for your location. Back in the code editor run the function nightSchedule() to check that everything is working as expected. This will print the calculated times and then switch the light on or off. Once you're happy with this, go to the Triggers page (clock icon) and set nightSchedule() to run as often as you like (I use every minute).

The current design of the script will update the bulb(s) every time you run it (so if you manually toggle on during the day the script will turn the light off the next time it runs). It would be possible to store the current state in script settings if you want it to behave differently. You could also add or remove holidays and colors to use to celebrate them. If you have other ideas or enhancements please leave a comment below.

Thanks to LIFX for a well documented and easy to use API. Also to for making a free API that provides sunrise and sunset times for any location.

For many years I had a similar setup using a Philips Hue and IFTTT. Philips pulled support for their proprietary hub and I wasn't about to buy a new one and the IFTTT triggers didn't provide a lot of control over the exact time to switch a bulb on or off. LIFX plus apps script is a much better solution. And it's at least half way towards the build-it-myself smart home philosophy I swore to a couple of years ago.

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(Published to the Fediverse as: Control LIFX WiFi light bulbs from Google Apps Script #software #appsscript #drive #philips How to use Google Apps Script to control LIFX WiFi light bulbs and switch lighting on in the morning and evening around sunrise and sunset (plus special color programs for holidays). )

Windows 11 Bluetooth Usability Crime Report

Windows 11 Bluetooth Usability Crime Report

The new settings interface is beautiful but untouched by any thought for how you might use it.

Like many people I have some bluetooth headphones that have an affinity for the last device they were connected to. Sometimes my laptop and sometimes my phone. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not unique in needing to switch the connection when needed.

On Android this involves a swipe, a long press and a short press. Not my favorite chore but not the end of the word.

With Windows 11 it's an adventure. I need to click the little up arrow to expand my collection of notification icons (yes, I could change that, but even that has got more tedious) and then double click the bluetooth icon. And then there is my device, with a pretty little icon and the last known (almost certainly wrong) battery level. Other than a random historical battery level there doesn't seem to be much to do. It turns out that you can click the tiny three dots at the far right of the device card and then finally there is a context menu that allows you to connect. The context menu has two items. This panel could have been 5% less attractive and 500% more usable with a couple of buttons. Also, would it be possible maybe to have this on the context menu for the taskbar icon?

Random googling suggests this might get better...

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(Published to the Fediverse as: Windows 11 Bluetooth Usability Crime Report #etc #microsoft #bluetooth It takes far too many clicks to connect a bluetooth device to Windows 11, and the context menu to get there is nearly invisible. )

HBR on the Wrong Patent Reform

Patent Reform

The Harvard Business Review has a curious article this week by Paul R. Michel: Big Tech Has a Patent Violation Problem. The thrust of it is that we should not reform patent law to make it easier to invalidate patents because:

"If they succeed in weakening America’s intellectual property system, it could be devastating for thousands of small, innovative startups — with disastrous consequences for the economy as a whole."

Sounds bad, and attacking big tech is a great way to make you look like a populist. But as a small, innovative startup founder and worker I know that this is exactly the wrong way round. Google etc can easily afford to fend off patent litigation and deal with the consequences when a lawsuit occasionally breaks the wrong way. A fine after all is just a price. It's the startups that can't afford to fight off an infringement lawsuit, or pay to file a patent for every other line of code on the off chance that it could become a weapon one day.

So who is Paul R. Michel? HBR says:

"Paul R. Michel (Ret.) served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit from 1988 to his retirement in 2010, and as its chief judge from 2004 to 2010."

But fails to disclose that he's currently listed as a member of the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation and:

"Judge Michel also consults for law firms and their clients in intellectual property litigations, conducting moot courts, mock trials, case evaluations, editing briefs, advising on strategy and providing mediation and arbitration services."

Which doesn't mean that he shouldn't express his opinion in HBR but does color that opinion a little in my view. If nothing else the current system is an all you can eat buffet for IP lawyers.

HBR: please feel free to run this as a counter-argument, the best way to fix the patent system is to stop examining them altogether as I proposed nearly twelve years ago.

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(Published to the Fediverse as: HBR on the Wrong Patent Reform #politics #patents #google Paul R. Michel in the Harvard Business Review proposes maintaining the status quo on Patents. My suggestion is a little more radical... )

Book reviews for July 2022

Links for July 2022

Updated on Friday, July 29, 2022