Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The Moon and Mercury

Last night I took my first astro photos for a long time. There was a near conjunction of the Moon and the planet Mercury. I set up my Canon 350d and Sigma 70-300 zoom lens in my bedroom, pointing out through an unopenable (and dirty!) window towards a cluttered horizon.

By about half past eight it was beginning to get dark enough that I thought I might see something, but it was only at about ten to nine that the crescent Moon suddenly popped into view. I started taking pictures, one after another, playing with exposure time, focus and focal length in the hope of getting a good shot. I knew Mercury would be to the left of the Moon (thanks to the Planetarium program on my Palm PDA) and that it should fit in the field of view of a 300mm lens, but I couldn't see it in the viewfinder or with the naked eye.

Of all the pictures I took, this is the least worse. Mercury is clearly visible, and it's also the youngest new Moon I've photographed - just 1 day, 7¾ hours old.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Flash fashion

Why oh why oh why are so many websites falling victim to the current mania for Flash graphics? Obviously it's a good way of doing complicated things like the Scrabulous game or the BBC iPlayer, but just what does it add to a straightforward static page, apart from download time and accessibility problems?

The worst example I've been hit by recently is the Dilbert site. I used to visit this every morning, for a useful antidote to another day at work, but then they added so much futile Flash that it's become almost unusable.

However, all is not lost. I've recently started using Google Reader to subscribe to various web sites' feeds (such as the BBC Internet Blog or my internet connection daily usage figures) and have added the Dilbert site feed. This delivers just the cartoon strip, with minimal overhead. Perfect!