Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Red after sunset

The sky at the direction of the sunset looked very interesting one evening, 2 Sep 2010, 20:30 local time, Mikkeli, Finland. The colour was very intense, and I was afraid my old Canon would not capture it. It turned out to be quite nice. The photo below has not been "processed" in any way, just RAW -> JPG with Raw Therapee, as neutral settings as possible.

Canon EOS D60, 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 IS, 18mm, f/3.5, ISO100, 1/15s, daylight wb, auto exposure

Friday, 23 July 2010

Search for IRC client on S60 phone

Some time ago I needed an IRC client on my S60 phone, namely Nokia E63 (the inner workings are comparable to E71). I had previously installed a number of useful applications, but now it was time to get my hands really dirty ;)

I've found two applications that "do it":

Before you download either one of them, here is a quick summary of my experiences.


Made for S60 2nd, 3rd and 5th edition (so it's not a Java app). Looks like a real IRC client, with chat window and a line for typing below it. You can customize colours. You can have several active server connections and channels. URLs posted on channels can be picked up from the list (latest first) and copied to system clipboard. Text from the channel can be selected and copied. Logging to text file is possible.

The downside: crashes occasionally, most likely when the mobile internet connection breaks. Also seems to crash when you go to settings while having open session. May run a whole day fine if the connection is stable. But this is clearly the biggest problem: the more you move, the more it crashes. Ironic, isn't it? You'd expect it to be a mobile application!


Java, should run on any J2ME device. This is a bit simpler application, but works very well. You can have multiple channels, but not on different servers. Text is entered using the full screen system editor (while you're typing, there is nothing else on the screen than what you are typing), and you cannot send a line by pressing enter. Those may be a "NO" to an old IRCer. If you're willing to stick to the subject, and don't have S60 phone, this might be it. I don't remember any crashes, though I'm not sure what happens when the connection breaks.


To my understanding, those are the first options on mobile IRCing. I don't have experience on server ircing (ssh or what ever connections, I've just heard about such option) or other client applications, but if YOU do, please leave a comment!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Programming: Unexpected errors

"Unexpected error"... what's that? Lately I've been writing a lot of new code at work, and I've faced the question frequently: "Do I really need an exception handler HERE?? I just added a few around this part..." Yes, usually there is a need and it's a true need. Let me explain: if there is an exception in the program that didn't go through my exception handler (which logs the actual error message in this special case of a remote DB application that nobody is watching), a "refreshing" hit-and-miss operation will be carried out, possibly causing a domino effect creating a number of new bugs and logic faults just because I didn't spot the missing double quote or something similar that caused the original fault.

I'm guessing that the "unexpected errors" in the world largely go to the waste bin. I mean, they don't tell what went wrong to most of the developers, regardless of the fancy hex codes and address pointer values. (This hints that those messages don't tell anything to me, though I don't know if I'm amongst the "most of the developers" or not.)

Someone said back then that most of the computer code is used for checking/validating the (user) input. I think that is true. Especially when the "is used" is replaced by "should be used". But when you cannot really validate the input, write decent exception handlers! Simple as that. Either way, implementing the actual function may not be a big task, but making it fault tolerant, or even user-friendly that tells clearly what went wrong... that is a never-ending story ;)

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Valtakunnalliset Tähtipäivät 2010

Mikkelin Ursa ry on saanut kunniakseen järjestää valtakunnalliset tähtipäivät 17.-18.4.2010. Ne pidetään Suomessa 37. kerran. Mikkelissä ja koko Etelä-Savon maakunnassa tähtipäivät pidetään nyt ensimmäistä kertaa.

Tapahtuma on suuri tähtitieteen harrastustapahtuma, jonne saapuu ansioituneita tähtitieteen ammattilaisia, alan harrastajia, tähtiyhdistyksiä ympäri Suomea sekä runsaasti yleisöä. Päivät koostuvat mm. vaikuttavista tähtitieteen luennoista, mielenkiintoisista esitelmistä ja planetaarionäytöksistä.

Luennoitsijoina tähtipäivillä ovat mm. Turun yliopiston avaruustähtitieteen professori Esko Valtaoja, joka hämmästyttää kuulijoita Universumin ihmeistä ja Helsingin yliopiston avaruustähtitieteen professori Karri Muinonen, joka valaisee yleisöä asteroideista ja komeetoista. Lisäksi päivillä kuullaan useiden asiantuntijoiden esitelmiä supernovista, eksoplaneetoista, meteoreista ja tähtiharrastuksesta. Yleisöllä on mahdollisuus ihastua tähtitaivaaseen planetaariossa ja tutustua havaintolaitteistoon, mm. kaukoputkiin sekä alan erikoisliikkeiden tuotteisiin. Tapahtumassa on ohjelmaa myös lapsille. Tähtipäivät avaa Mikkelin kaupungin kehitysjohtaja Soile Kuitunen.

Lue lisää tapahtumasta Mikkelin Ursan sivuilta:

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Video: timelapse: snow and shadows

Here's one of my first DSLR timelapse videos, and the first time I'm embedding my own video, blogging a video etc. I'm also learning how to do things right with Google buzz. I wanted to "buzz" this to my followers (there's no such option in buzz, right - it's either public or chosen contacts... I don't like that kind of choises!). I didn't want to put this on my public profile. So, if I blog this, it will be buzzed. Right? :)

Definitely not a smooth one, or perhaps not even interesting. I set 1 minute interval because I didn't know how long I would let the timer run, and Canon EOS D60 takes no bigger than 2GB card, and the remaining photos counter displayed "999" when using medium sized high quality JPG setting. I used low FPS to make the video long enough. I did consider the composition, however. The "ditch" is a pathway through our backyard, after some more snow has covered it.
The frame-to-frame flickering caused by auto-exposure is filtered by Temporal smoother (a VirtualDub filter).

I hope this works...

Monday, 15 February 2010

Photo: -28C in the morning

When bicycling to work one morning, I stopped to take some photos of the beautiful winter. Here's one. The strongest correction is on vignetting, that cannot be cancelled completely with Raw Therapee.
Canon EOS D60, Canon EF-S 18-55 3.5-5.6 IS, ISO 200, 1/15S, f/3.5.
Mikkeli, Finland.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Cold enough for astrophoto gear?

22th January 2010, Mikkeli, Finland. 10 PM. Temperature -26C. Sky: no clouds. Adequate seeing and temperature for astrophoto gear test!

Cold enough?

Barely, but yes! I don't know what most people really think about this low temperature, so let's cool down and not get into details about weather. I wanted to test my equipment in case I really need to use them in very low temperatures.


- Canon EOS D60- Canon EF 50mm 1.8 II- EQ-1 equatorial mount with EQ-1 Simple Type motor and EQ-1 foto adaptor- Tronic portable battery (12V/7Ah) with 9V output modified as regulated 8V
- YongNuo MC-36b timer (on the PCB there is a text "MC-36C")- Panora 10x50 binoculars- small astronomical lens telescope (D=60 mm, F=415 mm)- some home-made DC cables- headlight, or how do you call it, a fore-head light with red LED

The test

The one purpose of the test was to find out whether the EQ-1 motor runs below -25C or not. EQ-1 runs on a 9V battery, except when the battery loses the power. Previously I had seen that rechargeable 9V block is not enough in -15C. Now I have eliminated the power supply factor by using a bigger battery. Rucksack at my back, smaller camera rucksack in the front, binoculars hanging there somewhere as well and the EQ-1 + telescope in my left hand I walked to the lake. It's just a half a kilometer walk. At the target, on ice, I tried to carry out the normal procedure required when taking astronomical photos on a random location. Just one exception: I really cannot take my gloves off for no longer than, say, 10 seconds at a time. Cold hands are always worse than warm hands with gloves.

Let's fast forward to the test. I was able to fix the camera to the mount, connect the cables etc. with my gloves on. Actually, at first I tried to align the mount by using the telescope with 20x magnification, but I just wasted time. Let's not waste time now by explaining all that stuff. I will eventually cover the EQ mount alignment in another post. Anyway, I replaced the telescope with the camera. Note that not all the equipment and cables had cooled down to ambient temperature during my walk, just close to it. The DC cable was pretty curly when I connected it to the battery. I decided to use the BP-511 battery and not the adaptor for Canon, as I wasn't going to take very many photos.

The EQ-1 motor runs on 8V regulated power supply! Good news. Only changing the direction (swithing to "S" as for "Southern hemisphere") caused bad noise, probably on the motor axle. I switched the direction immediately back to "Northern". Luckily, there was no extra noise with clockwise operation. The electronics did some "curve" at one point, making the motor run noticeably faster for some time. I don't have a good explanation for this. Let's just say the speed control circuit does not always function correctly ;) I eventually had everything set for the actual photography.

Frozen observations

A number of things were different than in warm environment.

1. The declination axle of EQ-1 had some extra friction, but not serious.

2. The declination setting circle that was supposed to be fixed and calibrated at the factory, started to partially move along with the declination axis.

3. The mechanism overall had reduced feel, so I wasn't sure how much force to use when tightening the locking screws. For the first time I had the idea that the wings can be broken by excessive force. They have to be tightened so that neither axis can turn by themselves, and on the other hand, the right ascension will turn by the motor.

4. Breathing. Exhaling to any glassware makes it practically opaque. Be careful.

5. Canon D60. Works very well. The LCD display on the top didn't slow down, and the same goes for the colour display. All the buttons and dials operated like in warm environment.

6. Canon EF 50mm 1.8 II. Works extremely well! I am talking about the auto-focus. I didn't notice a difference in operation between room temperature and serious frost. Very good news for astrophotographer :) Or hobbyist, like me, when talking about gear like this :P

7. Plastic fantastic! Need I say more? The cables can cause problems. Even if you can unpack them, make sure you have plenty of room for them when you are packing! It's almost like dried up spaghetti.

8. The timer obviously had a "southern" type of LCD. I knew about this by previous experience. Although the operational temperature range begins at -20C, at that temperature the cable begins to get stiffer and the display is really slow. You may need to wait for a few seconds to verify what you have entered. However, that was not a big problem, I could still make the changes I needed. The buttons seem to work just fine.

9. When you get back home, don't just run inside with your gear! Moisture will be developed if you do this. I did the easiest thing possible to avoid this: I left the packed rucksacks on the floor of the entrance, close to the front door, away from the radiator. I took the gear to the normal room temperature on the next morning, but still didn't unpack until afternoon.


11.50 PM. Temperature -28C. The test was successful! A bunch of paper tissues needed (next time: remember to pack them!), a mug of warm water and check out the photos later. Good night!