Monthly Archives: June 2006

New Canon IXUS 55 and Ubuntu upgrade

One thing I spent most of the weekend in Wales doing was taking photos with my new Canon Digital IXUS 55, which is very funky. It takes some great pictures and it’s dead easy to upload them to my PC.

Practising focusing

When I was looking for a new camera, one of the things that made me doubtful about getting a Canon is that they don’t mount as a harddrive when you connect them to the PC. When Tony first got his Canon PowerShot about four years ago, this meant that you had to install the Canon software onto any PC that you wanted to connect the camera to.

We did use a USB card reader to get around this but the card reader is bulky enough that it doesn’t always fit between the other connectors on the back of the computer. The advantage of the card reader is that it *does* mount as a harddrive. So you can just drag and drop the image files from the card to your PC. Which is nice and easy.

Four years on, though, Canon now supports PTP protocol which means that when you plug the camera into a PC, the operating system goes “Oh that’s a digital camera you just plugged in. Would you like to a) import photos from it, and b) do that every time?”. The camera isn’t technically mounted as a harddrive but your interaction with it is much the same as if it were (though I don’t think you can copy files from the PC back to the camera).

Sunset at Uncle John's

On investigation, the operating systems that are friendly enough to do this are Windows XP, Mac OS X, and…..Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper). As luck would have it, the week I got my new camera was the same week that Ubuntu Dapper was (finally) released. So a quick-ish upgrade on my home PC later and….

…it couldn’t get much simpler: I plugged my camera into my PC with its USB lead, Ubuntu detected it and popped up a dialog asking if I wanted to import my photos. Good eh?

So now the one thing I had against Canon digital cameras is no more. And having played with my new camera quite a bit over the past month, I thoroughly recommend it to anyone else who might be looking. It’s small and sleek so it fits easily into my pocket (my major requirement); it takes pictures as good as or better than Tony’s older Canon PowerShot; the interface is fairly usable – not perfect but easy enough to get the hang of with a bit of playing around (for instance, getting used to the ‘FUNC. SET’ vs ‘MENU’ buttons); the battery charges quickly.

The downside is that even after you’ve paid out for the camera, you still really need to get a case for it (another £20-odd), a larger memory card (another £20-odd for a 1GB MMC card), and I find it useful to have a spare battery so that you can have one-on-and-one-on-charge (yet another £20-odd).

Still, I’m very impressed with it as a camera and am looking forward to many snappy times ahead.

Pompeii Live! (!)

I’ve just been watching Pompeii Live! on Channel 5. The Radio Times describes it as “a two-hour visit to the preserved city, wandering into bits never seen before by the public. Should be gripping.”.

‘Should’ being the operative word.

What a complete waste of an opportunity. Pompeii and Herculaneum are somewhere that I’d really love to go some time. So Pompeii Live! sounded worth watching…though I was a bit dubious about the title…

For a start, why does a programme about Pompeii need to be live? It’s been there nearly 2000 years – what’s going to happen in a couple of hours this evening that can’t be pre-recorded? Short of Vesuvius going off behind Peter Snow’s head while he’s on air. And I don’t think they can count on that.

Peter Snow isn’t too bad, though he doesn’t look very comfortable. Edwina Silver is irritating and patronising; she keeps ‘summarising’ what the experts say (for us dumb viewers) but what she comes out with is less coherent, and her ad libbing is pretty poor. Both of them are overdoing the excitment.

What they’re seeing is exciting, but we don’t need breathless, sweaty, live presenters to get that point across.

Weekend in Wales

Tony finished his job on Wednesday so we took a long weekend and went to North Wales. Which was rather exciting because Tony organised it all and didn’t tell me where we were going until we got there (I obviously got a pretty good idea when we crossed the border from Shropshire and the road signs were in a different language…and the ‘Welcome to Wales’ sign helped…).

We stayed in the Castle Ruthin (Castell Rhuthun) Hotel in Ruthin, about an hour from Snowdonia. Which was very nice. We started off in a pleasant room with a teeny four-poster bed but had to move upstairs to a grander room with no four-poster but with a large Sony LCD TV – which impressed Tony no end. Slightly bizarrely, our room doubled as the emergency exit in case of fire (through the bathroom window and out on to the roof) but, fortunately, wasn’t required to fulfill that capacity during our stay. We were, however, woken each morning by the cries of a very persistant peacock that sounded a lot like our cat Gizmo.

The peacock with his tail up.

We counted about 3 male and 2 female (plus 3 chicks) peacocks, which live in the gardens and among the ruins of the 13th Century Ruthin Castle.

Friday, we drove down to Snowdonia with the aid of trusty ‘Jane’ (Tony’s TomTom), where we went for a ride round Lake Padern on the Llanberis Lake Railway. After lunch we visited the National Slate Museum, which is more interesting than it sounds, and included a demonstration of how they split and shape slates to make roof tiles. In the evening we drove up to Caernarfon for a wander around and dinner.

Saturday, we walked in to Ruthin town and went to the small market in the Ruthin Gaol, then went back to the castle for a leisurely sit in the sunshine in the castle gardens. Later, we visited the Valle Crucis Abbey (the ruins of a 13th Century abbey). There, we looked for some time at a series of small walls…actually there’s more left of it than that and worth seeing if you like that sort of thing.

Today, we came home. The cats have finally come in from the field. They are disdainful and Bailey has ‘lost’ his collar.