Kayaking, Mapping, and Accidental GeoCaching

Another great weekend of kayaking. We’ve had some evil cold spells recently but happily last weekend we had a some fluffy warm rain clouds over North Wales. As detailed on the trip report , and Adam’s blog, we paddled the Dwyfor on Saturday, and the Wnion on Sunday. Both completely new rivers, except that I do remember paddling the easy bit at the bottom of the Wnion before. The Grade 4 bit coming before that was a pretty awesome highlight of the trip.

Now I had planned to do some whitewater mapping on this trip. I did get GPS tracks on the rivers. This is good for mapping out the waterway=river position more accurately than it was before (traced from low-detail out-of-copyright maps)  And the track looks very pretty shown against the green landsat imagery of the welsh countryside:

Afon Dwyfor trace

And I had also been taking lots of photos to remind me of whitewater grades and other details for the map such as footbridges and power lines which we’d passed underneath, but unfortunately ‘X’ marks the spot where I dropped my digital camera in the river and lost it!

Accidental GeoCache – Pentax Optio W30

It is a waterproof camera.  I dropped it into the river at latitude:52.9394149 longitude:-4.2483416 (well actually about 10 metres upstream from there)   I know this because after spending about 10 minutes wading around in the current trying to find it, I recorded a waypoint on my GPS. I thought maybe it might make an interesting accidental geocache for somebody.

That’s right! If you want a fully functioning Pentax Optio W30 waterproof digital camera, head to those coordinates. However you might need some waders and a metal detector! If you do manage to find the camera I’ll be so impressed I’ll post the battery charger and USB cable to you! …so there’s a challenge

Only trouble is, I notice on the description there it’s only supposed be waterproof for up to 3 hours. My poor camera has been languishing on the river bed for 2 days already. How long before somebody rescues it?!

I bought that camera seven months ago , so not really a very good innings. It’s annoying to have lost it for such a stupid reason. I had it tied to me, but the crappy bit of string was too fat, and the knot evidently untied itself.

But in truth the Pentax Optio w30 is a pretty pants camera. Not a very smart purchase. It was starting to annoy me. I had decided to go for a waterproof one, without testing one in the shop first, thinking surely all compact digital cameras are much-of-a-muchness these days.  At first I was terrified of submerging it because it really doesn’t look waterproof, but actually the waterproofness was fine.  For general use though, it took way too long to switch on and be ready for taking a photo, and it took about an hour to focus in the dark.

Joining CloudMade

CloudMade logoI’ve just had my first week at my new job working for cloudmade. OpenStreetMap has progressed from being an interest, and then a hobby, and then an obsession. Now OpenStreetMap is my job. Maybe that makes me one of those annoying smug people doing the job of their dreams.

But lets not get carried away now. There’s lots of work to be done. I’m going to need to learn the ropes of proper OpenStreetMap coding. No more skulking in the side-lines fiddling with the OpenStreetMap wiki (well OK I’ll still be doing a fair bit of that)

I’m in the process of learning Ruby on Rails, a super-modern agile web development language the likes of which my old “enterprise” clients wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. It’s pretty impressive, with lots of nifty short-cuts around the tedious bits of building a database-driven web-app. I can see why people rave about it. I guess I should remain a little sceptical about just how wonderfully easy it all is, until after I’ve done some real work with it and tried solving my own problems outside of the scripted tutorials. I did scrabble around with some rails “views” before (at the November hack weekend) without really knowing what I was doing. I know a little bit more now, although I may still need to go back and learn Ruby properly. Anyway, it’s fun to be learning a funky new language.

In addition to that, I’m also learning to use Linux as a full desktop OS. Ubuntu comes with some fairly user-friendly pointy clicky GUIs but of course they’re all different from what I’m used to (windows, and my various favourite windows apps) so every little click involves overcoming muscle-memories. The all-powerful linux command line is not completely alien to me, having learned quite a few unix tricks over the years, generally through a putty window running in my (nice familiar pointy clicky) windows desktop. But in general switching to another OS feels like doing everything with one hand tied behind my back. I guess I’ll get over it. No self-respecting open source developer uses windows right?

It’s great to be surrounded by people who are embracing open source and all the newest web technologies. This is the way IT companies should be, and developing for OpenStreetMap, I have a lot of new stuff to learn, but this feels like a job I can get passionate about.

Leaving Green Hat

Friday was my last day working for Green Hat Consulting. I start my new job tomorrow, and this is something I’m very excited about …but more on that later.

I’ve been at Green Hat almost seven years (!) working as an enterprise integration consultant. In 2002 during the dot-com bubble-burst, shortly after I graduated, I was forcibly ejected into a job-seeking situation, and Green Hat Consulting is where I ended up. So it’s not exactly a career path I chose. It chose me. Since then I’ve been sent to work at various different client projects, each of these being very much like starting a new job. Seven years working at the same company almost seems like a lack of ambition in today’s job market, but at Green Hat it’s felt like I’ve done seven or eight different jobs over the years.

I think probably my most enjoyable assignment was the year and half spent working at Alstom in Swizerland, not just because I got to enjoy two full seasons of snowboarding, but because I was able to take a lead within the small team and get stuck into some really juicy development work involving JSPs and applets. But there’s been good times on every assignment, and I’ve met lots of great people.

Back at the Green Hat headquarters I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, so that has been a constantly varying experience over the years too. These days the development of GH Tester is really stepping up a gear, especially GH Tester version 5 which adds some spectacular features for BusinessWorks developers. I wish them good luck with that, and I’m sure Green Hat will continue to go from strength to strength.

2009 etc

I’ve been having a chilled out week back home in Yorksestershire. Fairly subdued New Years celebrations last night, due to many friends choosing to do something different from the usual. “What?? What d’you mean you don’t want to get together and get drunk?”. Bah! Everyone’s getting old. I still managed to guzzle quite a few beers washed down with quite a few glasses of bubbly.

My older sister lost in our little competition for who would be the first to not show up to the family Christmas. Guess that means the world is my oyster next year. I no longer need to feel compelled to be here. But I always enjoy Christmas here. It always involves lots of food, and is usually a reasonably chilled out experience if you ignore the family arguments. This year we brought Grandma up to Yorkshire with us which probably made us all argue slightly less.


luxur kebabs hatsheput  detail abu simbel great pyramids step pyramid snorkelling hurghada desert cairo

Before coming back for Christmas we had a holiday in Egypt. We decided to sneak that one in there since Francine is currently out of work, and we were both feeling the need for some warm sunshine. We had a fair bit of that, plus snorkeling on the red sea, a Cruise on the Nile, and visits to the pyramids and many other ancient Egyptian temples.

We found it to be quite a culture shock dealing with taxi drivers and the people selling stuff in Egypt. Of course you know about these things from reading a description, but going through the process of haggling and the worry of whether you’re getting a sensible price for something was surprisingly stressful. After a while it felt like we got better at it, and almost enjoyed it at times, but at first it was quite unpleasant. The best example of this was a taxi driver who was so determined to demand extra money from us that Francine resorted to flinging open the doors while it was speeding down the motorway to force him to stop while we discussed it! It’s a shame I only studied my wikitravel printout in detail after this happened (excellent information about Cairo taxis)

Luckily we’d booked onto a guided tour for most of the Holiday. I imagine you could have a fairly miserable holiday doing stressful transactions for every meal and every mode of transport if you decided to go it alone, or maybe I’m just not adventurous enough. In any case the guided tours of all the temples were excellent. Two Egyptians talked us through about ten different temples and other sights. They were obviously very knowledgeable (qualified Egyptologists) This was travel talk booked via travelmood.