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Spawning a New Process: William Aaron Alexander Hanwell

Exactly two weeks ago today my son was born, weighing in at 8 lbs 13 oz and measuring 21 inches long. Louise and I have named him William Aaron Alexander Hanwell, our new addition has been thriving after a bumpy start. I would like to claim first foetal attendee of a KDE conference, getting him off to a brilliant start listening to some great technical talks in Jamaica. I know most people play classical music to their unborn children, but we like to be different ;-) I need to find him a KDE baby grow!

William minutes after being bornWilliam with a teddy and some enormous candy

You can see him in the above photos just minutes after his birth, and a little more relaxed the next day in his hospital crib. Not wanting to be too run of the mill he was consistently breach, delivered by C-section and had his cord wrapped around his neck 2.5 times. Not a problem for that kind of delivery, but it would have been had we had the natural birth we were hoping for. As he was born in the US he also manages to get dual nationality (US by birth, UK from us), whilst his poor old Dad is still waiting to hear back about his H-1B visa...

I think three days prior Carsten's wife gave birth too, and I believe Mauricio will also be growing his family later this year. So the KDE Edu developers all seem to be expanding their families this year, I guess the greater question is whether this was a coordinated effort :-P As with all true geek babies I will be setting him up with his own blog and online photo album, mainly so that our family and friends back home will be able to keep up with him as he grows.

So far I am really enjoying being a new father, although aware that this isn't the only big change over the summer!

Road Trip to Canada

So last weekend Louise and I went on our first big road trip to Canada. Neither of us have been to Canada before, and with Benoit now living in Toronto it seemed like a great opportunity to go and catch up. Back in July 2007 I visited Benoit in Paris during my GSoC where we met for the first time in person. Now, two years on we met for the second time in person and introduced our partners to each other too.

Niagara Falls Canada

We left at around 4pm on Friday, I think we crossed the border at about 9pm and got almost all the way there before getting lost in Toronto. Our friend's GPS failed us once we crossed the border and Toronto is a pretty big place. I think we finally arrived just before midnight, tired after the long drive. The next day we drove back down to almost the border to check out the Niagara Falls, which we had never seen before. It rained almost the entire day but we still had a really nice day out.

As well as checking out Niagara Falls on the Canadian side in the rain, we found some very expensive shops in Niagara on the Lake, I bought some maple syrup and some maple spread (still not quite sure what to do with that). We discovered that if you get bored of the main attraction you can always check out one of the many casinos too.... We decided to forgo the gambling and instead headed back to Toronto.

Dinner in Toronto

Once we had dried off a little we all headed out to get some dinner in Toronto's chinatown. We enjoyed some great Vietnamese food and compared notes on moving continents, life in academia, Google Summer of Code and life in general. It is great to still be in touch with many of the people I made friends with during my Google Summer of Code and I hope others get as much out of it as I did.

On Sunday we lost an hour to daylight savings time, wish we could stop doing the clock change thing twice a year... We decided to head back as Louise was tired (she is conducting a geek cloning experiment for me). It rained for most of the drive back too, we did another border crossing and got back home at around 7pm. I do not think our carbon footprint is looking great for the weekend but it was great to catch up and see where Benoit is living now. My thanks to Benoit and Irene for being such great hosts.

Back to work this week, preparing for a big conference next week. I still love to travel, it was great to avoid the airports for once!

Paris and Hacking in Versailles

Last week I went to Paris for a couple of days to visit my mentor Benoit. It was a great chance to take a quick look around the city as I have never been before. Thanks to bmibaby I was able to get over quite economically and stayed in a nice, clean (albeit a little small) room in a hotel near Place d'Italie in the 13th district of Paris (not sure if they are called districts or something else). It was quite close to where Benoit lives, close to a Metro stop and within walking distance of central Paris.

I got to Paris on Tuesday evening and Benoit met me at the airport. Once I had checked in to my hotel we walked to a creperie and got a fairly traditional three course meal consisting of different kinds of crepes. I also tried some of the local pear cider. Apparently the crepes weren't as good as they could have been but I really enjoyed them. We chatted about the history of Paris, I made some feeble attempts at French and we also moved onto discussions of my Google Summer of Code project and the bigger goals of the Kalzium/Avogadro project.

The Eiffel TowerBenoit and I after hacking in the Versailles gardens

Tired from traveling I returned to my hotel to get some sleep with plans to visit the Eiffel Tower the next day. In the morning I went to the Eiffel Tower and had a really good look around. Benoit advised me to get off at the Trocadero stop as the walk down to the Eiffel Tower was much nicer and it was a great tip. I spent most of my morning walking around the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, walking up the stairs to the second floor (it was a far shorter queue) and then I got the lift right to the top. It was very crowded despite getting there early - as I left early in the afternoon it had become far more crowded. There are some great views and it is such an iconic landmark.

I met up with Benoit in the afternoon. He showed me around some of the other sites of the city. We walked around Notre Dame and the Louvre before going to the Japanese district to get some dinner. Before dinner we got some hacking done in one of the gardens near the centre of Paris where we discussed the finer points of transformation matrices, 3d geometry and some of my recent changes to the Painter API in Avogadro. We then went to Paris beach near to my hotel and had a few beers by the Seine. After Benoit went home I had a beer in a small cafe near my hotel overlooking Place d'Italie before retiring for the evening.

My final day on Thursday we decided to head out for Versailles. It is an amazing place and the gardens were a great place to get some more hacking done and have a picnic. We hacked on some eye candy, we discussed a month or more ago, for the navigation and manipulation tools to give better visual feedback on what is happening. We haven't committed it yet as I need to finish it off but I think it is really great work and may be something that can be applied to other tools. It also helped me to see the best way to implement ribbon support as a new view which I think will be awesome. Very productive day and some amazing sights!

Benoit was busy on the last evening so I headed back into Paris solo after dropping off my laptop and camera. I had dinner at a traditional (or at least it claimed to be) French restaurant. I tried some frog's legs and was surprised by how nice they were - I wasn't sure I would like them at all. I was lucky enough to sit next to a lovely Australian couple who were out on a tour of Europe. The lady works for IBM and we ended up discussing open source and my work on Avogadro as well as culture around the world and comparing notes on the sights of Paris.

It was a great couple of days in Paris. It would have been nice if Louise had been able to get some time off work to come out. It is our two year anniversary today so I will have to do what I can to make it up to her today ;-) My thanks go out to Benoit for being such a good host and showing me the sights of Paris and teaching me the finer points of the mathematics of 3d visualisation and OpenGL.

aKademy 2007 Was Great

Originally I thought I would just attend the aKademy conference on the weekend and return home after that. I submitted an abstract for my talk on Gentoo and KDE and had hoped to meet some KDE developers and see if we could work with KDE better. Later I applied for my Google Summer of Code project working on the Kalzium 3D molecular editor and was accepted. This caused me to change my plans and stay for the entire week and I am really glad I did

I have been to quite a few open source conferences over the years but I have to say aKademy is my favourite so far. There was a great atmosphere and lots of very intelligent and dedicated hackers present. There were also lots of laughs and humour along with important discussions and debates. I got to meet so many people who work on KDE and whose blogs I have been reading for years. My only regret is that I couldn't get out for a few more beers in the evenings...

I thought it would be a good idea to camp as aKademy was in June and the odds were good that the weather would be fair. In the days leading up to my departure Sheffield flooded and I think it rained every day of aKademy (some days solidly throughout the day). On Sunday evening we came back to a rather large pond at the side of our tent that had previously been a patch of grass with a dip in it. I chose where to pitch the tent well though and the tent remained out of harms way ;-)

Continue reading "aKademy 2007 Was Great"

Dive Holiday in Hurghada - 27th Birthday

Long time no blog... Life has been really hectic and I rarely have time to stop right now. On 23rd January Louise and I along with four friends went to the Hilton Long Beach Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt for a week. As luck would have it my 27th birthday fell in the middle of our week away (on the 26th of January). I didn't think we were even going to make it out to Egypt in the week leading up to our holiday with the fence blowing down, a client's server going down and the car misbehaving but we got there in the end...

Lion FishMarcus on the line

We got to the hotel pretty late on Tuesday, just in time to get a little food and some beer before getting some sleep. As usual I didn't manage to sleep on the plane and so was exhausted. Our room was really nice, all our dive gear made it out with us, we packed lightly enough to avoid excess baggage charges and the weather was great.

On the first full day we went down to the resident dive cetre, Pirates Diving (not a very nice web site), my friends signed up for their PADI open water course and we took our dive gear down to the centre and did a beach dive in the afternoon. They kept us waiting around for a few hours until the divemaster finally turned up. I was getting impatient to hit the water, but he got there after a few false starts, we kitted up and jumped in off the jetty. It was a nice dive, warm water at 22 C but the reef was pretty barren and there was a sandy bottom at about 7 m and so no blue to stare off in to.

Continue reading "Dive Holiday in Hurghada - 27th Birthday"

Diving in the Farne Islands With Seals

Last Wednesday evening we drove up to the a place called Seahouses and checked into our bed and breakfast. We then grabbed a quick bite to eat and a few beers before getting to bed for some rest before our first taste of diving in the UK sea. We dove in several locations in and around the Farne Islands with Sovereign Diving. Thursday morning we had an early start out on the boat.

We started off with a wreck at about 20 m just off the side of one of the small islands called Knivestone, and then got a little lunch and after a good surface interval we were at our next dive. This was much shallower at about 6 m on a sandy bank just off a beach. It was called Corrington and there was quite a spread out wreck and loads of life. The highlight of which were the lobsters for me.
Lobster on patrolGrey Seal

We all had a really nice meal together in the evening at the dive operations restaurant after washing our gear down and leaving it to dry. Shared a few tales and took in all the photos of the seals hoping we would be lucky on our second day of diving and meet some seals!

We saw a few seals from a distance on the first dive, but the currents were really strong. Louise didn't feel very good after that dive so she gave the last dive a miss. I buddied up with Mark and Grant on the last dive and that had to be the best of the lot for me. We went through quite a narrow gulley, caught sight of some seals playing around near us. Had a quick look at the wreck at about 12 m and then came up and did our longest safety stop ever whilst playing with the seals. I have put all the decent pictures I got here along with my favourites in the sub album.

All in all a great introduction to UK diving. Shame Louise missed the best dive, I suppose it means we will just have to go back some time. When we got home I had to complete the knowledge reviews for my rescue diver course and had a really long day at TigerDive doing the classroom stuff and pool work. Next Saturday is my first visit to Capernwray to do the open water part of the course.

Jessops Are Truly Terrible - Worst Service Ever

After singing Dyson's praises yesterday I suppose it is only fitting another company makes my blood boil today. I don't think I ever wrote about it but a couple of years ago my wife and I went to Ibiza to spread my brother's ashes with my family. I took my SLR camera and ended up taking about seven rolls of film out there. Louise took them to Jessops in Sheffield city centre near Ponds Forge. We used them a little before that and I actually bought my SLR camera from them about six months earlier.

She asked for one hour processing when she dropped them off on her lunch hour. We went to collect the films at about 16:30ish after work and they weren't ready - in fact they had not even started to process them. The machine wasn't doing anything at the time. They actually lied and claimed that she had asked for four hour processing (we didn't even know they offered that - all that was advertised was one hour or next day I believe). They weren't even ready in four hours. They had a kid with long hair in the back who did the processing and he actually started talking about Louise with the other staff whilst she was stood there - hurling insults at her which she overheard as he wasn't talking as quietly as he might have thought.

I complained to the manager, he was pretty spineless and didn't do anything about this rude employee. He offered us the processing for free, but then when he realised how expensive it would be backtracked and offered it to us half price. We stood there and waited whilst the kid who was so rude continued to process the film. In the end (after about 45 minutes) we got our photos and I let the manager know again just how unhappy I was. I also wrote a letter of complaint to their head office and got a reply back basically saying we're sorry and not a lot else.

Then yesterday I was placing an order with Club 35 whom I have found to be very good over the last year or two. As I was looking at the negatives I noticed that the photo I wanted an enlargement of has had its edge sliced off. Looking through the other negatives quite a few of them are like this. Now Jessops is supposed to be an award winning photo processor (part of the reason I paid more to use them) but I also remember him slamming the blade down as he was chopping up the negatives. To me that is just gross incompetence or possibly even malicious. I prefer to believe incompetence but I suspect it was malicious.

That guy didn't have a clue how much or how little those photos meant to me or my wife. Hopefully the guys at Club 35 will be able to make an enlargement from the negative anyway, but I really just wanted to write this post to express my sheer anger. Jessops should discipline their staff if they behave in such a manner, it upset my wife and that guy has damaged the negatives to my pictures from an event that will only ever happen once. It also reminds me how much trust you are forced to put in strangers and how it is so easy to let you down...

Great Holiday in Malta

Just a quick note to say we had a great holiday in Malta in the end. The diving improved greatly in the end and Aquaventure showed us some great sites. Unfortunately they never managed to get us out to the Camino caves which would have been great to see. I did go on four really nice wreck dives though to the Rozi and the Um El Faroud - doing some penetration into the engine room of the Um El Faroud. Louise and I also went to the much older wreck of the HMS Maori on our last dive of the holiday which was excellent and he even found us a sea horse which I got a few shots of.

I have put up the digital photos here but have not had chance to improve the colours and stuff yet - some of them look much better with a little tweaking. A lot of the wreck photos also look amazing in black and white. I don't think I have any prize winners yet but they are a great set of pictures for my first diving holiday with the camera (in my opinion at least). I would love to hear what other people think of them. I really have the bug for diving now too so I am hoping to get into the UK diving scene a little over the Summer too. Some of the videos I made are really big, they play fine under Linux for me but Windows seems to have issues on friends systems...

We also went horse riding while we were away, it was Louise's idea and we both really enjoyed it. The weather wasn't great and the food didn't improve at the hotel at all but we had a great time in the end. I also got quite a nice tan. The Internet over there was so amazingly unreliable and slow too with the wireless taking up to 20 attempts just to associate with the router sometimes. Good to be back in the UK where things like this work a lot better ;-)

I am packing again this morning though as I am on a residential course out at Lake Windermere for a week with the UK GRAD programme. Cut off from civilisation again... Then I can play with my photos a little and get my SLR photos developed too - I have quite a backlog now. Great holiday though and I am about ready to get back into my work now - get that thesis written up!

Got to Malta and Did Our First Dive Out Here

We got to Malta safe and sound. It was really hot at the airport but got really cold by the time we got to the hotel. When we got here it was like the hotel time forgot - it seems to be stuck about forty years in the past which is why so many old people are here I guess :-D It is nice enough but quite basic for a four star hotel - the Mellieha Bay Hotel.
Sea slugSea urchin

We went on our first dive today with Aquaventure who are at the beach in our hotel complex. I have been looking forward to going on another dive for a good few months now but I was disappointed I am afraid... It was the shortest dive I have done so far at only 34 minutes, the shallowest at a max depth of 7.6 m and an average of about 4 m. It was also the coldest (15 C) and the one where I had the most air left at the end. I came up with just under 130 bar... There were very few photo opportunities in Slugs Bay too - I will put a few up with this entry though such as the sea slug I found.

It was nice to finally get to use all this new equipment though. My underwater camera enclosure seemed to work well, although the woman who sold it to me just told me I need the fibre optic kit to get rid of back scatter... If she had told me that when I asked at the dive show I would have bought one there and then. Never mind - I will get the best photos I can with what I have available. Even though the water was cold my wet suit kept me warm. Louise gobbled through her air - she only had 80 bar left but she gets a lot more nervous.

We have arranged a car for the next four days (three full days) and have two dives booked on Friday, one on Saturday and one or two on Monday I think. Hopefully I will get a few wreck dives in next week too as well as some caves. I really hope the diving does get better - I think we were spoilt in the Red Sea!
Mellieha Bay Hotel

Lousie managed to beat me this morning too - she pasted me at Scrabble whilst we were sat at the side of the pool. Back to the evenings entertainment anyway...

Just Finished Reading Going Postal by Terry Pratchett and Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

On my recent trip to Baltimore I read my second Discworld novel - Going Postal. I have to say that I enjoyed this book much more than Thud! It is a very clever book and it appealed to me on many levels. I especially enjoyed the Clacks and the parallels my mind drew with areas of modern life and some of the practices of the operators of the Clacks. Moist was a fun character if not a little predictable, all in all a great read in my opinion.

However Dan Brown's Digital Fortress was a big disappointment to me. It was predictable and terminology was used in a clumsy and in some cases incorrect fashion. He made the common mistake of calling crackers hackers and tried to dramatise the breaking down of a firewall in a way that really did not work for me. If he really did consult with ex-NSA agents I fear for the security of the NSA! I thought it might be a fun read but it really wasn't. I may yet read the Da Vinci Code but after reading this book I am in no rush to get it.

So a bit of a mixed bag. I found Dan Brown's writing pretty simplistic with silly amounts of twists at then end that were almost funny but not really. Whereas Going Postal was a really fun book that had me amused all the way though. I have bought Night Watch and Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett - both were recommended by friends.

I also bought The Art of Diving on a friends recommendation as his friend Alex Mustard did all the photography. I have to say the photos are amazing and I can only hope to take pictures approaching that quality whilst I am in Malta. I also bought An Essential Guide to Underwater Photography by Michael Aw and Matthieu Meur when I was at the London Internation Dive Show (Amazon doesn't seem to have this) and got it signed by the author (first book I have ever had signed). Hopefully that will help me to take some nice pictures - I tested out my underwater camera enclosure and strobe yesterday ready for the holiday ;-)

Back From Baltimore

Well I am back from Baltimore now. Louise joined me on Thursday and as there were no relevant talks on the last day of the conference we went to the aquarium for the day on Friday. That was really fun and it is a pretty good aquarium. We saw the dolphin show twice as I really like dolphins and went around the Australia exhibit they are currently showing.

We had a really nice meal that evening at the Capitol Brewing Company and I found one of the nicest beers I have ever tasted! It was called Fuel and was made from coffee and chocolate among other things. It was quite strong but very nice, I couldn't find any to buy to bring home though... Saturday we took the train down to Washington DC for the day.

We paid for a day pass on the tour bus and started off at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. I was amazed that is was free entry, but the queues were long and slow. Once in I had to put my bag through a security scanner, I asked the security guard if it was film safe and he didn't listen at all but took my bag off me and pushed it through. I will find out when I get them developed I guess. Continue reading "Back From Baltimore"

Finished Migrating My Gallery to Gallery 2 on the New Server

I have finished moving my old Gallery 1 site from my old server to the new one, and took the opportunity to migrate over to the newly released Gallery 2. Everything seemed to work really well and the migration went across without too many issues. I had been testing the betas and rcs anyway, but it was great to see the final product. I think my gallery looks much better now. I did see another Gallery 2 site with the year as a big heading, and the albums taken in that year in that section which I really liked.

Anyway I am really busy and am going to have to shoot. I took the opportunity to add all the photos from my trip to Japan, stag week in Tenerife, our wedding and some of the honeymoon photos. Hopefully I will get time to add more later. I am very impressed overall, but I would really like the photos in the random photo and when you are looking at individual photos to be centred. I will have to see if there is an easy way to do that soon.


I just wanted to share my discovery of Digikam with you all. It is such an amazing program that does all the stuff I had been wanting after rediscovering my love of photography and getting my new Fuji F10. I have also found a good processing lab that will scan my 35mm films to CD for a reasonable fee for the shots I take with my Nikon F80.

Digikam screenshot

I committed bumps to media-gfx/digikam-0.7.4, media-plugins/digikamimageplugins-0.7.4 and also added the corresponding 0.8.0_beta1 versions to p.mask. The betas seem to be working really well though, and it is much snappier due to using sqlite I think amongst other improvements. The screenshot shows the main UI in action with some of my honeymoon snaps.

Add in the digikamimageplugins package, along with the kipi-plugins and you have a really powerful application that can catalogue all of your photos, edit them, touch them up, prepare backups, CDs and print them. I think it is really starting to come into its own with 0.7.4 and 0.8.0_beta1 having many more image manipulation plugins and a pretty amazing feature set. Just emerge digikam digikamimageplugins kipi-plugins to get all the photo editing goodness :-)

Got Married - Great Honeymoon in Sharm el Sheikh

Well we got married on Friday 29 July and everything went really well. It rained all day Thursday and they predicted thunder storms for Friday but it was dry all day. The photos should be really good, I should be able to collect the proofs from the photographer today or tomorrow I think he said. I think everyone there had a great time, and it was really good to see so many close friends and family gathered in one place.

We stayed over at Worteley Hall and set off for Gatwick Saturday, stopped in a Holiday Inn near the airport overnight and flew out the next morning. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel in Sharks Bay which was a really nice hotel. Occupancy was down to about 65% due to the bombings the previous week in the area, but the staff was great and the resort was beautiful.

We went diving and snorkelling with the Sinai Dive Club which had a center in our hotel. I got my PADI Open Water Diver, and my Advanced Open Water Diver certifications. Louise got her Open Water Diver and Adventure Diver qualifications as she has a little trouble with her ears.

We had a great time diving in the Red Sea, it really is amazing out there. The sea water was 28-29 C the whole time we were out there, the house reef was really nice and the reefs out in Ras Mohammed were even better. We saw a really old leather back sea turtle swimming past the house reef as well as big Napoleon fish, Nemos, trigger fish, a giant moray eel out hunting (and lots lurking in their caves) and big shoals of unicorn fish, tuna and way more too numerous to mention. We also did a deep dive out at Ras Mohammed. Our instructors Karen and Tati were both great and I can't wait to go back out!

We also made it up to Cairo for a few days. We saw the pyramids, went round the museum and I rode a camel outside the great pyramids which was really fun and a little scary. Cairo was a nice place to visit but two days was more than enough for me. We said next time it would be good to go on a Nile cruise and visit Luxor.

Unfortunately after the wedding and honeymoon and all the other travelling I did before that we are now broke... So we have to come back down to earth and get some serious work done if we are ever going to afford a holiday next year. I also finish my PhD next year and need to find a job! I am sure it will all work out in the end.

All these new toys

I have gotten so many new toys in the last few weeks. My credit cards are feeling it, but I think it is worth it. In my quest for the ultimate office I managed to get two LG L1710B 17" TFT screens for my office! They are great too, I got the nVidia TwinView stuff working in Linux really nicely - although it wasn't as easy as I had thought.

One is coming from DVI, and the other from VGA. I am using Xinerama, and thanks to the excellent AMD64 nVidia driver both displays are still hardware accelerated and perform very well. I also got Dual View working in Windows, but rarely use that any longer.

Then I also got an NEC 2510A Dual Layer DVD writer. It is very good, and fully supported under Linux too. Wrote a few backups of all my photos, all my data files and when I get chance I am going to make one with all my ripped MP3/OGG tracks as it took ages to scan them all in!

Then Louise surprised me too, and had saved up to get me an SLR camera! I didn't expect that at all, but I have been after one for ages but never thought I could spare the money for one. She got me a Nikon F80 with the 28-100 mm and 70-300 mm G lenses. From the first roll of film it all looks great - and we are going down to London this weekend too. That should give me a chance to really get some good shots out of it hopefully.