Trap street or typo?

Let’s play… Trap street or typo!

On one of my recent extended runs into the City of London and back, I went along the Strand. I spotted a few things that bore closer inspection via maps, Street View and Wikipedia when I got home. In the process of looking around one particular area, I noticed a tiny alleyway running roughly NW/SE between Maiden Lane and the Strand called Lumley Court. Or possibly… Lupley Court.

 

For whatever reason, I was using a combination of Google Maps and Bing Maps to do my post-run nerdery. And I quickly realised that Google calls this alley Lumley Court, while Bing Maps calls it Lupley Court. As I didn’t know either way who was correct – only that one must be wrong! – I used Google’s Street View to have a closer look and…

Sure enough, the (slightly obscured) sign says Lumley (at both ends, too), so Lumley must be right. (Incidentally, I did also check OpenStreetMap, which also calls it Lumley Court, so that helped as well.)

Looks like it’s one of those narrow alleys that people go and wedge themselves into for a photo:

Ironically, Bing Maps also offers some form of Street View of their own, but for this particular location the quality is… basically unusable – certainly for this purpose:

You can… kind of tell there’s a street there?

Fans of Google Maps are probably aware that it is relatively straightforward to suggest edits to their Maps data. This can take the form of opening hours of businesses, incorrect locations, or changes to names, and other text-related information.

Once you start submitting these corrections with any regularity, you build up a bit of karma with Google Maps, and your edits go from being a) accepted at all, to b) being reflected on the map within days, to c) the edit being made… instantly.

And boy, the first time you make an edit to Google Maps and it appears instantly? Whew, that’s a power trip, I can tell you.

I never quite got into editing OpenStreetMap, and although ethically I guess giving free labour to Google is a bit iffy, it just feels like a helpful thing to do given how many people rely on it.

So, knowing that I have no such karma with Bing Maps, but also knowing their map data is incorrect, I submitted an edit via their feedback option. I know nothing about how they handle this feedback, and I didn’t expect much to happen as a newcomer to their service. But I wanted to try, and see what the process might be like compared to Google, so I submitted the feedback.

That was almost a month ago. After a fortnight I submitted it again, and set myself a reminder to check a week later. Seeing no change, I submitted it again, and then checked another week later. To date, the edit hasn’t been made. 

This tells me one or two things. First, perhaps Bing Maps simply doesn’t have the staff to deal with such relatively minor edits in a timely fashion. And perhaps the situation is worse during these times. And, in fairness, I don’t know how long an edit might take when made by someone new to Google Maps, if it gets made at all.

Or… Maybe it’s a trap street*? Maybe? It seems unlikely. But it’s a fun thought. And it’s such a tiny little minor difference to tuck into a very busy area that it feels like it could be…

I’ll try and update this page if the change ever gets made.

* In short, a so-called trap street is a deliberate typo or extra bit of data shown on a map so that the publisher can tell if someone else has copied their maps. If the fake object turns up on someone else’s map, they must have copied it. It’s kind of like a watermark.


One final point: those Street View images of the Strand, taken in July 2019, and showing so many bodies all smooshed up against each other give my post-pandemic brain the heebie jeebies. Yikes.

But, taking the edge off that anxiety is the realisation that these are no ordinary car-shot Street View images. These were shot by a backpack-mounted Street View camera. And, of course, with all those lovely shiny shop windows to utilise, I couldn’t help but try and find our photographer:

Hi, Street View photographer!

2021 week nine

This week’s headlines: 

  • new lens
    • For a while now I’ve been wanting a wide angle lens, mostly for pictures of buildings, churches and just the-whole-scene. I think they might be good for night sky photography, too. Wide lenses do have some flaws in the inherent optical distortion they introduce, but you can get around that to some degree in editing, and they’re always going to look a bit odd if your brain stops for a second to unwrap the fact that an entire church fits into the frame.
    • I picked up a Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM on a good deal from MPB. It’s the second great experience I’ve had purchasing second hand lenses from MPB and I’d recommend them to anyone looking to buy second hand photographic equipment. I got a good deal because this lens was listed as faulty, but the detailed description went on to say that the only actual fault is that manual focus doesn’t work. All other features are working and the lens is in great condition otherwise. This ‘faulty’ status made it about half the price it could have been – MPB themselves state that these ‘faulty’ sales can offer potentially great value. I would agree, on the strength of this purchase.
    • My first run-through was  photographing St Jude’s in Hampstead Garden Suburb (above), and I’ve been blown away by how much the lens fits in at very close quarters. It’s a whole new lens to ‘learn’ (as a photographer I find after enough practice I can reasonably accurately envisage a scene through a given lens before actually framing the shot, but it takes time). I can practically stand at the base of one of the walls and get the top of the spire in the same shot – but things start to look very wonky at such close quarters.
    • I now have a series of lenses which roughly covers the range from 10mm to 200mm, which is pretty decent.
  • new HDD
    • I installed the new 2TB drive into my PC successfully. It’s given me a lot more breathing room, data-wise. It was slightly more fiddly than I had anticipated, due to the aforementioned small form factor PC case, but Lenovo provide useful instructions on the dismantling process, and it wasn’t too tricky. A nice surprise was seeing the Crystal Disk Mark results indicating a speed boost over the previous drive. Same RPM speed, so something else means this newer drive is a bit faster. Nice.
  • James Acaster
    • Having grumbled for some time about not getting to see James Acaster’s show Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 and then grumbling about it not being available to stream or buy and THEN grumbling about missing out on a one-night-only streaming event back in December, the show is FINALLY available to stream via Vimeo and we watched it this weekend. It was so good. He’s got a particular delivery and style which I can see would put some people off, but he has me in stitches, and overall his honesty and openness is just delicious to see. He deftly deals with difficult subjects in a funny-but-not-dismissive way. 
  • bike racing
    • Nice to see more bike racing this weekend, with the Strade Bianche, which I had never watched before – what a final stretch, made both the men’s and women’s races just great to see – and the start of the Paris-Nice stage race (another bike race I’ve never watched before). 
  • Refika’s bitta
    • Having been introduced to Refika’s Youtube channel of Turkish cooking recently by Peter, we followed another of her recipes this weekend, for a “Cypriot sister of focaccia”, bitta. It’s like a lovely bready mass of olives, olive oil, halloumi, sesame seeds and yogurt. We did the dough in the bread machine (which hilariously takes 5h15m instead of the 3h5m it takes to bake an actual loaf), and then followed her recipe for folding in the various toppings/ingredients. It took longer to cook than we anticipated* but the results were delicious.
      • * our oven, we learned this weekend, can only be a fan oven. As in, it is a fan oven. But it cannot be a fan oven with the fan turned off. The options are: fan oven, grill, defrost(?), light only(??) and that’s it. So when Refika’s recipe demands not to use a fan oven, this may be where it took longer and cooked differently. YMMV.
  • Good piece on journaling
    • On a recent wander through scores of new personal websites I found biko’s website, and a series of articles they’d written, including this one on the subject of journaling. I absolutely hoovered it up as they made some really great points about something they consider themselves new to, and which I consider myself very… old? to. It shone light on areas of the whys and wherefores of journaling that I had either not considered or, I guess, had forgotten. It has inspired a few trains of thought on the subject of diaries and journaling and I want to expand on that some time soon, if only as a thought exercise to help me re-understand my own stance on it.
  • Under the Canopy
    • My friend Jessica recently worked on a new BBC World Service series of three programmes about woodland for the Compass strand. It’s a lovely 90 minutes of audio, with her very soothing and curious voice heading things up, speaking to various people with a connection to trees, all the while soundtracked by birdsong and ambient music. I spent a lovely time on Friday walking to and from work listening to the three shows, and I couldn’t decide what made me feel luckier: that I’ve had multiple opportunities to walk with Jessica through woodland she knows like the back of her hand, listening to her describing things in minute, fascinating detail, or that despite having not been able to see her for so long, I now have a BBC radio series in which she does just that, and I can share it with friends. Either way it is a wonderful thing. Here’s episode one.

Island hopping

Following yesterday’s earthquakes which affected New Zealand (and raised the alarm for potential tsunami), I read a few Wikipedia articles which led me from one subject to another, skipping across a pond like stones.

This is how everyone reads Wikipedia, right? Hopping from article to article?

I started on the Kermadec Islands, as this was near to one of the quakes. They’re a mostly uninhabited arc of subtropical islands about 1,000km from New Zealand, out in the South Pacific. There’s one island with a sometimes-staffed scientific station.

I read this article with interest because, well, it’s kind of a favourite genre of mine: the article about an isolated island(s). Just drop me on a random page about some random islands and I will lap up the Wikipedia article for it. The more fine-grained the history section the better.

On the Kermadec Islands page, this sentence jumped out:

Polynesian people settled the Kermadec Islands in around the 14th century (and perhaps previously in the 10th century),[4] but the first Europeans to reach the area—the Lady Penrhyn in May 1788—found no inhabitants.

Tell me more about the Lady Penrhyn, o oracle. I expected the article to be a single sentence or so. Used my Kindle to look up the phrase Lady Penryhn on Wikipedia*, then opened the page. Turns out, she wasn’t just a random ship: she was one of the First Fleet of eleven ships that took European settlers/prisoners to Australia. Brilliant! The article expands on this, and also details her actions following that first important task – which included stopping in on the Kermadec Islands on a subsequent voyage.

* On recentish Kindles you can highlight a word or phrase, and a box pops up with three lookup options: Dictionary, Translate, and Wikipedia. The dictionary and Wikipedia options are a great way to get a quick overview of the word or phrase you’re checking, if there is an entry at all. And you can expand the Wikipedia description if need be, which just opens the page on the Kindle’s serviceable browser. **

The First Fleet article is great. There’s a lot of detail of all the ships, the passengers and crew, and their immediate actions on settling Australia. My knowledge of Australia’s early European occupation is limited – I know far more about that of New Zealand. One thing implied/not directly discussed in the article that stood out to me was the time between Captain Cook claiming New South Wales for Britain and the First Fleet’s arrival: just eighteen years.

The First Fleet article kept me occupied for some time, but I was so glad to find it so thoroughly written up.

After all that, I went back to the Kermadec Islands page and clicked (tapped?) through to the page on Raoul Island, the occasionally-inhabited one, and found some really interesting stuff, about its longtime caretakers, and about more recent scientific occupants and occasional accidents due to the tectonic instability.

** Although the Kindle browser is sufficient for reading the odd bit of a Wikipedia page, my preferred Wikipedia/Kindle dream team is sending the articles directly to my Kindle using FiveFilters’ Push to Kindle tool. I recently stopped using Pocket and have come to the arrangement whereby an article either gets read (or opened to be read later) on my desktop or phone browser, or it gets sent to my Kindle to be read that evening. Fivefilters’ tool is the best I’ve come across. The above Kindle shot shows how a Wikipedia article gets formatted via the service.


As a side note, I should add yet again that these remote-island-lookup sessions often begin with reading a page from the absolutely wonderful book Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will by Judith Schalansky. It’s just the most gorgeously-illustrated book, and each island covered has one page of text and a facing page showing a map. I regularly pick the book up (it lives by my bedside), read about one island, and then head off down a Wikihole or similar on that island or some related subject.

Fomapan black and white film – my experience

I recently shot some Fomapan 200 in my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s and the results were… mixed, though mostly positive.

When I used my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s last time, I used some Ilford XP2 film with it – this is a black and white film which has the special ability to be developed using the colour (C41) process. You take pictures as normal, and get the film developed anywhere that does colour film, and the photos that come out are black and white. I understand that the form of black and white produced by Ilford XP2 is not strictly black and white – I would guess it is more like how a colour display shows a black and white image, but using RGB pixels. That said, I haven’t a clue if that’s right or not.

The results I’ve had from Ilford film have been great. And the results in general from the Hi-Matic 7s are also really satisfying. It is a nice – if somewhat bulky and heavy – camera to use. And the lens is very sharp. What’s more, the camera allows you to shoot in either aperture or shutter priority, or fully automatically, with the user only having to set the focus. Not bad for a fifty-five year old camera.

EDIT: As Shawn rightly points out in the comments below, of course the Hi-Matic 7s cannot do aperture or shutter priority – it is either automatic (with both settings on ‘A’), which is how I shot the majority of this film, or you must set both the aperture and the shutter, using the EV numbers in the light meter as a guide. I think I’ve even made this mistake before when discussing this camera! Shows what happens when I use it so infrequently. 

Having shot black and white using a film that wasn’t truly black and white, my inevitable next step was to shoot ‘proper’ black and white film. The results should be broadly the same, albeit the development process is slightly more expensive, or less commonly available on the high street.

Last summer, giddy with the afterglow of having received a nice set of shots back from the roll of Ilford I’d used, I visited Park Cameras and picked up some new film. To my delight, they had a cabinet full of various different 35mm films including Fomapan, a name I’d recently read about.

Fomapan is a Czech manufacturer of photographic supplies, and they have a reputation for being cheaper than your Ilfords, Fujis and so on. This film comes in at about half the price of the Ilford I’m used to, and about a third of the price of some other films.

I picked up a roll of tried-and-tested XP2 as well as a roll of Fomapan 200 Creative.  And then about nine months passed between me loading the Fomapan and me finishing the roll.

You can tell it was a while ago as I’m wearing shorts to load the film!

I guess one distraction was getting a new digital SLR in that time, and so my photographic attentions have been mostly spent on learning the ins and outs of my new Canon 250D. It’s also been lockdown for the majority of that time, and although I’ve had opportunities to go out with a camera in my hand, I feel somewhat guilty when my time tips over from being a walk-with-a-camera to a photowalk or more. That’s just my personal feeling when I’m behind the viewfinder though; I’ve found the sight of other photographers out and about during These Times reassuring and comforting when it is so clearly a solitary, distanced pastime.

Anyway. Five hundred words in which I say: I got my Fomapan shots back recently.

And how do they look?

Well – the black and white is very effective, and I think there is a subtle difference between the scans I get back from XP2 colour process B&W film and the true black and white of Fomapan 200. The Minolta appears to have behaved well, too, with focus just as sharp as I’ve been used to.

Shooting black and white in the Minolta just feels right to me.

It’s probably some silly placebo effect of shooting an old camera and wanting to shoot in B&W. But I’ve preferred the results I get back from B&W film than colour, and I really enjoy the exercise in shooting for tones, shadows and silhouettes that black and white kind of forces you to do. There’s also a sharpness or contrast to B&W film that I would probably find harder to achieve using colour film. I prefer the grain of black and white as it retains a sharpness that can be lost in colour, I think. (I’ve not written off colour film: my next-film-but-one is a roll of Fujicolor C200.)

As I looked through the scans from the Fomapan, though, I started to notice some repeated defects or marks on the images. The next shot suffers from the most of these – as well as being a bit too contrasty, but that’s just the shot itself.

The issues I noticed are: the dark and light ‘blobs’ along the left side of this image (though, actually, these are consistent with the perforations or sprocket holes in the film itself along the long edges of each frame), and the white line running top-to-bottom in this shot.

Ironically, the white line running left-to-right is a plane’s vapour trail and was what drew me in to taking this picture in the first place. It’s funny that there is a white mark of unknown origin which closely matches a vapour trail as rendered in B&W film.

I continued to look at the scans I’d received and, as I had not yet collected the negatives from the lab, I wasn’t sure what might be causing the defects. I could identify one or both of the above described issues on about ten frames in the film, with the ‘sprocket blobs’ coming and going, and sometimes only appearing for a few sprockets’ worth; and the white line was noticeable across a number of shots running in a consistent enough line and angle that you can sort of follow its path along multiple frames.

I asked the lab if they could take a look at the negatives and maybe re-scan if it might be scanner-related. I also wasn’t sure at this point if maybe the Minolta had sustained some damage and was letting in light leaks. I couldn’t work out the physical defect in the camera that would lead to these consistent-yet-inconsistent marks, but that was my biggest fear: a faulty Minolta.

The response I got was helpful and semi reassuring, but semi disappointing: the defects ultimately appear to be in the emulsion of the film itself. The lab tech didn’t think the camera was faulty (phew), but they noted that they’d seen issues with Fomapan films in the past, and they usually recommend Kodak, Fuji and Ilford for this reason.

So I quickly realised that Fomapan, as a cheap film, is unfortunately bound to have some defects from time to time. I have done some digging online, and although I’ve only so far found one other Fomapan film that exhibits almost exactly this defect, I have seen a number of other people querying defects they had discovered when developing their own Fomapan films.

This was initially a setback: what drives me away from film photography and towards digital is consistency and sharpness and clarity and reliability. But whenever I get bogged down in that comparison, I know I’m fooling myself: part of the appeal of film is a little unpredictability.

Sure, professional photographers need to rely on decent, expensive equipment, and pro-grade film that yields predictable results for paying clients. But I’m a hobbyist using decades-old cameras of unknown origin, willfully using film I know to be cheap. I shouldn’t be surprised by small defects or unexpected results – indeed, I should welcome them to a degree.

And so now I think I understand the problem – as well as the fact that I probably just got unlucky and I could probably shoot another ten rolls of Fomapan that come out perfectly! And I can look at the rest of the roll and enjoy the shots for what they are: unique moments of light and shadow captured in the moment on a unique medium using a finicky tool. And I love it.

Once I picked up the negatives I could see for myself the state of the film and the emulsion myself, and it’s clear that all is not well with this roll of Fomapan 200. It’s not hard to spot, on this first inverted scan of one set of frames, and then the true colour photo of the same section below, that there’s almost been a spillage or melting of the emulsion. 

It’s plain to see something isn’t right, though I’m not experienced enough to say if this has happened in the Fomapan factory, or later in storage, or even in the development process. And even if this is a fault with the product itself, I’m willing to bet it is a very uncommon one, and it hasn’t put me off trying Fomapan again in the future.

(And just in case it helps anyone else Googling this, I *think* the batch number for this Fomapan film is 012315-2, with an expiry date in 2021, though not sure what month.)

Either way, it is what is. As long as my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s is still functioning as well as I’m used to, then I’m happy to continue using it, and I’ve got some XP2 in there already, and the aforementioned roll of Fujicolor to go next – hopefully in time for when the Spring colours return.

Anyway, here’s a few more favourites from this roll of Fomapan. There were plenty of doozies to keep me happy, despite any defects. The rest of the roll is up at /photography.

 

2021 week eight

Hello. Another week has gone by and I don’t know how that keeps happening. 

This weekend I managed to run further than I’ve ever ran before in one go. I recently ran just-about-25 kilometres, helped along by my occasional running partner Melanie. Last weekend I did a neat half marathon (21.1km) into the City and back. And then this week I plotted a 25km route, also into the City and back, and managed to clock in 26.2km, which amused me because a full marathon is 26.2 miles rather than KM. I’m enjoying running into the City on the weekends: it’s so quiet at the moment, and having such monumental parts of London to oneself is a wonderful novelty. It also means my route trends downhill for the first part, which I much prefer. I don’t mind running uphill (a little) towards the end of a run. It’s sufficiently distracting running in such distractingly pretty streets.

I also distracted myself the last few long runs I did by listening to James Acaster read his collection of memoirs Classic Scrapes which has been really enjoyable. I love his delivery in this, as it strikes a middle ground between audiobook read and stand-up routine. In the past I’ve enjoyed Acaster’s openness regarding mental health issues – though I’ve still not seen his recent-ish show which deals strongly with that subject, as it hasn’t come to DVD or streaming yet (apart from ONE SODDING livestream which I didn’t find out about until a month or so later). Hopefully that’ll happen, because I, too, have strong memories of the solar eclipse of 1999 and not being In A Good Place.

This long distance running has also meant I clocked up about 150km this month which feels great. I think that’s the most I’ve run in a month – I’ve only recently started using Strava’s 100km-in-a-month challenges to really track this. I do also tag myself into the 200km-in-a-month challenges, but I don’t know how often that’s going to be a possibility.

I am not a competitive, overly ambitious man, but I know that coming home having deliberately run further than I have ever run before made me feel good and made me want to do that again, but more. I don’t know where that will end.


Services subscribed to in the past week or so:

  • Flickr
    • I’ve had Flickr subscriptions for years but a few years ago gave up on it when the service had a fallow period between owners. They then moved from hosting infinite photographs to limiting free accounts to a thousand images (which is fair enough, especially for a service as longlived as Flickr), and I just got into the habit of curating my favourite thousand shots whenever I wanted to upload something new. Over the past year or two, my use of Flickr has increased hugely (in terms of browsing), and this has led to me updating my account again. Ironically, the thousand-limit instilled in me a discipline for pruning older shots, and only uploading the best of the best (IMHO), and so I never felt the need to renew my subs. But I’ve just grabbed a three month subscription to a) not worry about pruning to a thousand and b) to see some stats and live the Pro life for a while, and I guess a little of c) to support the website I use daily.
  • Ordnance Survey / OS Maps
    • Another service I have actively subscribed to in the past when it’s been a useful thing to have on my phone. Insert caveat about relying on electronic devices for wayfinding in the sticks, but god if seeing a GPS dot on an offline-downloaded OS Map isn’t some sweet, sweet piece of 21st century magic. But I let it lapse a while back and then something strange happened… My subscription continued, with the expiry date increasing every now and again.  No idea why, but whenever I checked in to use it, I found my subscription was still active, even though I was certain I wasn’t paying for it. Well, a couple of years on and the jig’s up: I got an email (sent to me and however many other users) saying they’d finally worked it out and would have to cut access. But though the email directly tackled the issue itself, it lacked punishment or judgement – and they offered a year’s subscription for £10 (rather than £23.99, which is still a great deal), and I gladly took them up on that. I’d love to see some numbers on this loophole (and indeed how many have now gone back to an active subscription).
  • Disney+
    • We’ve had Disney+ since Boxing Day and have very much felt like we’ve been getting value out of it. Blockbuster Disney and/or Pixar films new and old, some really enjoyable documentaries and stuff from National Geographic, and having all of The Simpsons on tap are all very big value adds for what is a reasonable monthly fee (albeit one which has recently gone up slightly, though existing members are locked in for six months).
  • Eurosport Player
    • Cycling’s back! The BBC showed some bike race coverage recently and I was pleasantly surprised to see that – Cyclo Cross, even – but there’s nothing else on normal telly for the foreseeable. So, Eurosport it is, and their app is better than I remember it being (this is through the Fire Stick) and meant we could watch this weekend’s two one-day road races of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Both were entertaining, and the mixture of live-but-also-on-demand, as well as a highlights-show-on-demand is ideal for these sorts of events.

On Friday I had arranged to go into the office for the first time in a few months, and deliberately when the office was basically closed so that I could give all the PCs a disassemble, clean, and reassemble. One colleague who had regularly been in the office reported that their machine was making a noise, and knowing that our machines have now basically been on for a year almost non-stop made me concerned that they were quickly filling with dust and could do with a blast of compressed air. Some definitely did, but most were much better than I had expected. Luckily we use all Dell machines which, despite various models and generations, are all easy to disassemble and seem to have decent airflow. It’s regrettable how much I have always enjoyed disassembling and reassembling PCs, and having the goal of cleaning PCs which notoriously get very dusty in an office like ours is a good excuse to do so.

Another excuse to do so is on my own PC at home. My photo library has been heading towards one terabyte for a while, and getting a new camera late last year has accelerated that process: bigger files, and more of ’em. The internal HDD on my PC is a 1TB spinning disk (in addition to my startup drive which is a 240GB SSD), and I have two 1TB external USB drives connected at all times. I should probably think more strategically and have some sort of NAS (network attached storage) but I’m very set in my multiple-disks-both-internal-and-external ways and will continue thusly. So I’ve got myself a new 2TB internal HDD and have been shuffling things around so I can swap them out, with the 1TB drive becoming an archive of the entire photo library to date in a drawer somewhere.

My backup strategies change quite often – which is not what you really want from something that should be consistent, reliable, and forgettable. My photo library (and it is, as far as is possible, my entire collection of digital photographs taken to date) is my biggest collection of data by far that is important to me. A long way distant, but still quite important, would be other files and documents, and my growing collection of audio recordings. I use Adobe Lightroom to browse and edit this vast collection, and it does an admirable job. It also treats files with care: the actual files do not get touched, only viewed, when making edits (the edits being done ‘on top’ via a much smaller database), and although it can be slow to generate thumbnail previews on files rarely looked at, there seems to be no real performance issues to having such a large number of images in a single Lightroom library.

So I’ll swap the hard drives soon, and having opened the Dell boxes at work, I was reminded how useful it would be to have a larger form factor PC under my desk at home. I went for quite a small model when I upgraded from my busted-ass 2008 Macbook about four years ago. It has served me well and I’ve been able to add a PCI graphics card, swap out the boot drive for an SSD (moving the aforementioned 1TB spinning disk to a secondary SATA port and using it for data), as well as doubling the RAM, but I will one day want to get/build a new machine. And it is expandability I will have as quite a high priority, although this neat little Lenovo box has performed admirably.


I seem to have fixed an annoying thing that started happening recently which I think happens to all WordPress sites from time to time: bots attacking the login page. I tried one approach which limited the number of failed logins in a given period, and then blocking the IP address of those which fell foul repeatedly. Interestingly all the attacks came from one specific block of addresses in one country and on one ISP. But even tweaking the settings meant they kept coming, so I tried the other recommended tactic: changing the default URL or the WordPress admin page to something only I know. In reality it’s not a ‘hidden’ phrase or anything like that – it’s just not the default one and that is enough to stop bots trying, apparently.

An unrelated thought, but one that’s come about as I sit at my desk for hours on end hopping between day-job-work and my own projects online: wouldn’t it be interesting to have a website/web presence which has variable hours of accessibility? I’ve come across a small number of websites and online accounts whose availability varies, whether manually via the user’s settings, or due to external/environmental impacts such as the web server being solar powered*.

Some online services like Flickr, WordPress and so on make it easy to perform bulk operations on a huge number of objects – it’s possible, for example, to make your entire collection of Flickr photos completely private, or to reverse that in a click of a mouse, or to do with a subset based on a tag. It’s feasible that you could have a set of objects which are available or not, depending on your own actions at the time.

And of course I grew up with the practice of logging into ICQ, MSN Messenger et al and being ‘visible’ while online. I guess this practice continues with Slack and Facebook Messenger reporting onlineness, but I feel like with phones and apps running in the background, it’s not quite the same.

I realise the novelty of an actual webpage or similar going offline is almost entirely for the owner of the webspace – for the reader/viewer, it could only really ever be frustrating: going to a website to find it is ‘offline’ or ‘closed’ for a period of time is kind of… stupid? And yet the idea of a live presence on the web which is only live while I’m physically near to it is kind of interesting, too. I’ve recently found it quite thrilling to browse someone’s website seeing they had just updated it (or were perhaps updating it while I browsed), and this liveness of something static was exciting. (This thought was also brought to me recently from following someone on Twitter whose sleeping patterns I reckon I could plot with about 96% accuracy based on their incessant updates.)

* Ironically, the last couple of times I went to check this page, I thought the battery level display wasn’t working, but I think it’s because it’s spring now and the battery has been kept topped up by the Spanish sunshine. I first came across the website in deepest mid-winter and delighted at the prospect of a website with a battery percentage, especially one which was occasionally something like 32%, and the very real possibility of the website going offline because the energy had been depleted.

Anyway. I won’t be making paulcapewell.com solar-powered or limiting the opening hours of it any time soon, but I do find the idea intriguing and I might hack together a little project which toys with that notion. My biggest problem – or should I say learning opportunity? – is not knowing how to get computers or servers to do anything automatically at given times or based on variables… Maybe that’s enough of a nudge for me to finally learn what a cron job is.

On a very manually-updated note, there are a couple of new recordings up at /audio – nothing special, but a couple of fleeting notes captured this weekend while out on a walk.