Bath, UK

Pulteney Bridge and weir

We decided on Bath as a good location for our first wedding anniversary. B had good memories of the place from when she first visited a few years ago and, somehow, it’s one of those places that I never quite got around to visiting. If I’d known quite how pretty it was I’d probably have made the trip long ago!

The back of Pulteney BridgeOne of the nice things about Bath is that it’s compact — almost everything you want to see is well within walking distance. The bad thing, and I’m nit-picking here, is that the place has been photographed to death making any half-way original shots practically impossible. Hence, above you can see a “standard” shot of Pulteney Bridge and the weir. To the left you can see the bridge from the other side1. Not quite as picturesque; you can understand why virtually all of the images you see are from the other side!

Bath Abbey

Not far from the bridge is Bath Abbey. A church has been on this site for over a thousand years but this one “only” dates back to 1499. Bathed (pun intended) in late afternoon light, its sandy textures look amazing. When we passed by earlier in the day there was a large Police presence making sure that a protest against the ongoing military action in Iraq went peacefully.

Protest outside Bath AbbeyThe Royal Crescent, BathStatue looking over Roman Baths in Bath

After the distinctly modern protest we sought out much older sights. Only quite old — just a couple of centuries old — is the Royal Crescent. It’s a large semi-circle of imposing but attractive houses overlooking Victoria Park. If you have to ask how much they cost you almost certainly can’t afford to live in one.

The Roman Baths go back nearer two thousand years. It’s amazing to note that the plumbing still works correctly after all this time. Not that you’d want to bathe in the algae-tinted water right now! It’s an impressive site, not only in terms of what is still visible but also when you think about how sophisticated their bathing habits were all that time ago. Less impressive was the taste of the spring water that appears in a fountains in the “Pump Room.” I think it was the fact that it was slightly warm that made my stomach turn. We decided that a coffee in one of the many cafe’s was a better option…

Overall, a great weekend in a lovely city. I’m sure we’ll be back at some point.

If this has piqued your interest, you might like to have a look at the following sites:

  • Bath City Trail. A very 1996-style web-site, but we vaguely followed this entertainingly written walking tour of Bath’s city centre.
  • Bath on Google Maps. Bath from above.
  1. Click on the thumbnails for a larger view. []

If you want to be a record breaker

Coconut Orchestra

Where were you on the evening of 23rd April? We were in a rather damp and over-cast looking Trafalgar Square clicking together two halves of a coconut in an attempt to break a world record. The record?

The worlds largest coconut orchestra.”

Very silly. And a lot of fun.

(By the way, the title is in reference to the TV series Record Breakers. Apparently it was the 65th Greatest Children’s TV Programme.)

Photo-Book Test: Printing-1

Last year I performed a photo-book group test, comparing the results from three different suppliers, Apple, MyPublisher and PhotoBox. The good news for consumers is that there are always new entrants to the market. This time a company called Printing-11 contacted me and asked for my opinion on their wares. That’s to say, while last years books were paid for out of my own pocket this one was not.

This test follows a similar pattern to last time. This post documents the software and the ordering process; the next will talk about the quality of the finished product. The initial order was placed on the evening of 17th April.

Printing-1 Splash ScreenI started with a visit to their website. Here I found that you have to download an application to build your book. The link to the Windows application leads directly to the installer. Unfortunately the Macintosh one does not work. After some digging around I found that clicking the “Start Creating” link takes you to a download link that does work.

Inside the disk image is an installer. I hate Macintosh installers as they’re just so unnecessary. If an application like Microsoft Office doesn’t need one I have by doubts that one is strictly required for a photo book editor. Nevertheless I continued.

Once complete there’s a myphotobook item in my Applications folder. Inside is a mess of files, one of which is myphotobook.osx which I take to be the executable. It is.

It starts with a splash screen. The picture shows a a smiling woman holding an IXUS at arms-length. Aspirational messages flicker on-screen. At least, I assume they’re aspirational as they’re all in German and languages are not exactly my strong-suit. I click “Create Photobook,” a window opens and takes over the screen.

Along the left are your files, with a directory chooser at the top an a list of thumbnails at the bottom. To the top of the screen are thumbnails of each page in the book, and at the bottom are two tabs, one that allows you to change the type of book and other than changes the layout of the current page. The rest of the screen is taken up with a two page spread from your book. I’ve not seen the real thing but I’m prepared to accept that the screen rendering is accurate, right down to the bar code and logo on the back page.

The default photobook is square and bright red. I’m not convinced about the colour, but when I try to change it the application beach balls for over a minute.

Printing-1 Editing ScreenEventually control returns and I change to a more muted colour scheme. I also decide to try the spiral bound option, something not available with the other suppliers last year2. There appears to be iPhoto integration, which is a nice idea, but it doesn’t really work. Clicking the icon shows a list of folders, but drilling down on a folder caused the application to crash.

I navigate through the filesystem, finding the pictures I want manually, but when I select one the application crashes again. I tried repeatedly but, unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get very far without losing either everything I’d done up to that point or my patience.

Luckily I have a Windows machine available and decided to see whether the application is more stable there.

The installation goes much more smoothly. I end up with a single item in the Start menu and on my desktop (please, one or the other — not both!), which starts first time. It’s not the most responsive of programs but this time I am able to complete the process.

The user interface is more like that of PhotoBox than iPhoto. While iPhoto dynamically picks the most suitable page format once you have indicated how many images you want to see, Printing-1 expects you to tell it. The layouts are less varied but very presentable, and, unlike PhotoBox, it is possible to have pages consisting only of text. You can’t, however, mix portrait and landscape pictures on a single page which meant that I had to reorder some pictures and crop others. Not entirely satisfactory.

The application is fairly fully featured but not as user-friendly as it could be. Many options are hidden in context-sensitive (right-click) menus and it often requires you to click two or three times before it decides to respond. In a similar hidden-functionality vein, the book size options allow you to choose between 24 and 36 pages leading you to conclude — incorrectly — that these are the only sizes. You can add more but the last page gets a large, red X through it. I assume, correctly it turns out, that this will be the back page and that it is not possible to print pictures here. Nevertheless, I am able to drag a picture here. It’s not until I upload the book that I get an explanation.

More worryingly, despite all the photographs being high resolution — mostly six megapixel with a few eight megapixel images for good measure — some appear very pixelated. Sometimes they grow sharper, as would an interlaced image file, other times they do not. I am hoping that this is just as display glitch.

Finally happy with the book I click the order button. The first thing I have to do is register. This generally goes smoothly, except for the fact that it is expecting addresses in German format. Once complete it to starts to upload the book to their servers. It’s a big file and takes a while, but that’s clearly a limitation of my cable internet connection.

Once complete I head over to their website to actually complete the order. The process is straight-forward. The only glitch is that I have to massage my address (I want it delivered to my work address rather than home) into a German format again.

Overall ordering the photobook has been a frustrating experience, even more so when you realise that most of the problems encountered suggest a lack of attention to detail rather than anything fundamentally wrong.

I eagerly await the finished product — hopefully it will be worth it in the end.

  1. They seem to go by half a dozen different names — including myphotobook — and the URL on their website seems to switch between them! []
  2. I note that PhotoBox are planning on launching a similar service shortly. []

Doing Some Good

Sometime when bad things happen all you can do it show your support. That’s what I’m doing here. The first cause is “One Day Blog Silence”:

One Day Blog Silence

This is to honour the victims from Virginia Tech and all those other innocents throughout the world. Given that the “blogosphere” is where many students poured their grief and vented their anger it seems appropriate.

On a smaller scale but just as disturbing is the abduction of BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

Alan Johnston banner

Again, there’s little I can do directly but show my support and add my name to the petition. If you have a web presence, please join in.

Knaresborough and Ossett, Yorkshire

Ossett = Junction 40This Easter we hired a car and zipped through London, from the source of the M1 at Brent Cross right up to Junction 40, which is how Ossett is better known in many circles. This is where I grew up and is where my parents still live.

Easter in the UK is often somewhat hit and miss weather-wise but this time luck was on our side. Bright sun and unseasonably high temperatures — warmer than in Spain according to the BBC news — meant that we had to get out of the house. After consulting the map and discounting Haworth and Holmfirth1, we decided on Knaresborough. I’d been a few times as a kid but I’ve not visited for over ten years. It was good to go back.

The most obvious feature is the river and the still operational viaduct.

Knaresborough viaduct

We wandered by the side of the river and, eventually, gathered the courage to climb the steep hill up to the castle. Some great views over the valley were our reward.

KnaresboroughKnaresborough

Shopping Mall in KnaresboroughFrom the top it was just a short walk into town for some lunch2. Suitably refreshed we ducked into some of the many small book-shops and second-hand record shops. We were highly amused to find vinyl copies of Duran Duran’s “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” and a 12″ of Sinitta’s “So Macho.” Classic.

We gradually meandered back down the hill towards the river. The light was getting lower and warmer, resulting in some beautiful scenes.

Back in Ossett, while waiting for my mums lovely Sunday roast, we went for a quick walk. We decided on an area a few minutes away creatively called “The Fields.” (I’m sure it has an official name but that’s what everyone I know calls it.)

Boat on River Nidd, Knaresborough

OssettWe passed under the M1 and up the hill you see to the left. The idyllic scene you see in the foreground is only slightly spoiled when you learn that the whole area used to be a mine and that you’re standing on slag heaps! The good news is that it’s not very practical to build on, so it should be around for many years to come.

The weekend finished with the drive back down the M1 and through London. Despite dire warnings, the traffic wasn’t too bad and we got home in good time. A peaceful end to a great weekend.

  1. Haworth is “Bronte” country, but would have taken a while to get to. Holmfirth is most famous for “Last of the Summer Wine” but there’s not much there if you’ve never seen the programme. []
  2. On our second attempt. Typical Yorkshire friendliness deserted the waitresses in the first cafe we visited. []

Photography, opinions and other random ramblings by Stephen Darlington