Monthly Archives: October 2013

Dead Kodak digicams get grand post mortem

Apple Quicktake 100I spent 20 minutes taking a digital camera to pieces last night. It played havoc with my fingernails, but they grow fast and they needed cutting anyway.

I was at Susan Hutchinson’s excellent West Oxford Academy, held at WOCA, and Iain Tullis gave a most interesting talk on the technology of digicams. He bought 16 broken Kodak cameras at a quid a pop and provided screwdrivers and tools to help us all pull the stuff apart.

Kodak, of course, lost the plot on digital cameras and is now selling off its patents as it is in Chapter 11 – not that that helps much the folk in Harrow and in Rochester NY who have lost their jobs.

Techies will know that the choice for manufacturers is between CCDs (charge coupled devices) and CMOS – silicon tech. Iain said that the choice these days is down to fashion and of course to pricing.

After I’d broken my thumb nail, I got down to the circuit board of the Kodak cam I was breaking up. A Zoran chip and Hynix stuff and apparently it’s the Zoran chip that held all the software algorithms and that. All that Zoran stuff is no more, of course, the IP is all over the place.

Iain showed some fab pictures of the first Kodak digicams – in 1986 we had the Steven Sasson 1.4 megapix baby, storing its stuff on an audio cassette. Then he showed the model Kodak tried to sell first – the Dycam model one at a cool $1,800.  Kodak, of course, cobbled together the Apple QuickTake 100 – a 640 by 180 display and that.

So what went wrong with Kodak? Iain Tullis said: “This is MBA fodder.”  We knew it had a problem in the tech industry and the infamous recall didn’t help its credibility in the 1990s.  However, Iain Tullis said that Nikon, Canon and others managed to change.

So which digital camera is the best to buy, one of the audience asked.  The more you spend, apparently, the better the camera, it seems. The 16 corpsed Kodak digicams were collected at the end, for their uncertain fate on a container ship to China.  ♦

Oxfordshire County Council: Paint this pole!

See this pole outside my little house in Mill Street? In the last four days it’s been adorned with this garish yellow sign.

pole
I’ve asked counciller Susanna Pressel – she’s a Labour councillor for both Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council – if perhaps the rusty pole couldn’t be painted or replaced.

She answered that there isn’t enough money to paint the pole. I’d paint it myself, but bugger that for a game of soldiers, I’d probably get prosecuted for vandalism or something.

I don’t drive. The pole is there to warn people that they’ll get nicked if they don’t have a valid permit to park.  Paint it! It’s a site  for sore eyes, an eyesore. 

You can die in Oxford easily, but staffing is hell

Fragment of RewleyLike many another part of Blighty South, the Quality Care Commission (QCC) reported on the state of the Oxford University Hospital Trust a few days back.

The PDF is here. We’re not quite sure why the Care Quality Commissars bung the Care up to the Quality without a space. Marketing, we guess.

It all seems sort of OK until you get to the staffing section in the PDF. There’s an elevated risk related to staff registration. There’s an elevated risk of whistleblowing, whatever that means. Is something wrong, then?

If you’re thinking of dying, it appears that the Oxford University Hospital Trust passes on all points.  There’s no “elevated risk”.

Babel comes to West Oxford

Tower of BabelSusan Hutchinson has run the West Oxford Academy for a few seasons now.  I’ve spoken there myself about The Register, the Inquirer and TechEye and churnalism.

The talks happen at the West Oxford Community Centre, a five minute walk from Mill Street.  It costs two quid and for that you get a 20 minute talk from locals – and a glass of wine.

Last night we were treated to a most interesting talk by Ian Thompson, called The Tower of Babel: the world’s language families. The place was packed.

Ian started off with a comparison of numbers from different languages – it’s the ek do teen char, eka dva tri chatur common to the Indo-Iranian language groups, but there was an anomaly on his slide, with the Basque language not conforming to the pattern.

In fact, said Ian, language is largely based on onomatopeia – and there are four major language groups although there are exceptions. In Gaelic terms, the last Cornish speaker died in 1974 – there still is a tape of Ned Mandrell speaking the language.

He said: “Gaelic speaking people school kids were punished for using their own language until the late 1940s.”  My mum was born in Aberdeen 1915 and had some Gaelic, but my dad was based in Skye during the Second World War, and told me when I was a kid that no-one there understood English and the people spoke the Gaelic. How times have changed.

Interestingly, Ian spoke about the influence of the west on language analysis by academics, where Sanskrit, Greek and Latin were considered pukka languages, while the truth is somewhat different, considering languages like Chinese, and African families of language were, in the past,  undervalued by western academics. Of course many languages are dying or are already dead. Still, when the west “discovered” India, they were also a bit shocked to learn that one Panini had “discovered” the basics of language before the Christian calendar arrived.

The future talks at the West Oxford Academy look most interesting. Next week, we will be treated to a talk by Iain Tullis who will tell us how digital cameras work by taking one apart. Future topics include Oxford’s Dictionary of Medieval Latin on the 12th November and He’s not the Messiah! The dangers of cinema’s depiction of leadership by Jim Hague. ♦

The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing

Just a few weeks ago, Oxford City Council put forward a proposal for the regeneration of the canal the other side of the Oxford Retreat pub on Hythe Bridge Street.

It really is pretty nice over there already, especially in summer, but can be a bit treacherous when the rain decides it is going to freshen up things. It’s also very nice on the Thames.

Durga Devi - drawing (c) Jan BaileyJust a few weeks back,  when the weather was fair, I took a walk, five minutes from where I live on Mill Street, and noticed a little yellow sign on the way to Port Meadow. It is an application for student flats close to Fiddler’s Island, according to a letter by Julian Le Vay, who according to the Oxford Mail, lives in Abbey Road.

The application was withdrawn earlier this year, but Julian writes that it’s been re-submitted.  We are still living with the Port Meadow student block fiasco – see the Ballad of Roger Dudman Way – and probably we have to really stay quite alert because our esteemed councillors don’t necessarily have eighteen heads with three eyes in each head and multiple arms, like some forms of Durga.

Oseney tries to reclaim its past

Oseney AbbeyDOWN HERE in Mill Street,  Oxford,  has something of a reputation, don’t you know?

For example, the Miller’s Tale, in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, is set at the old mill down the end of the road and describes how a student had his wicked way with the miller’s wife.

Then there was Oseney Abbey – pictured – which had its lot when Henry VIII decided he was short of a bob or two and decided to dissolve the monasteries.

And now we get through the post a missive about a “pre Christmas sale” at the “remains of Osney Abbey, Mill Street, Oxford OX2 0AN” on Saturday, October 19th from 08:30 to 13:30. The sale is “in aid of the restoration of the scheduled monument roof”. So be there or be square.