The Virtual Revolution – BBC2

Just watching “The Virtual Revolution” on BBC2, excellent program about the birth and meaning of the Web. Looking forward to the next 3 episodes.


Mars and Moon conjunction

Last night was an very clear (and very cold!) night. The moon was full and Mars very bright. I didn’t get a chance to get the ‘scope out but the conjunction looked great. I can imagine there would be lots of great photos on the forums. Makes me wish we had more clear nights!

Ambermile AzTech Mount

I have been one of the lucky first owners of the new Ambermile Aztech mount my version of which arrived by courier first thing this morning. I’ve spent the last hour putting the mount together and gaining first impressions of the thing. The mount is very similar in design to others, including the Williams Optics EZ-Touch, the Teleoptic Giro II and the Bray Tablet. However the load capacity of the Aztech and the price makes it a cut above the others. The Aztech is priced at £350 Inc VAT and delivery.

I need to apologise for the graininess of the images as I have accidently left my D70 set to ISO1600 from the last long exposures I was taking….

First impressions of the Aztech were very good. The thing is a nice size and looks very very solid. It comes with a modified synta EQ5 SS tripod and looks very good. I had a choice of colours for the anodizing and chose black to match the rest of my gear. Arthur thinks that mounts shouldn’t be black and I think that the other colour choices of gold/red or blue would look equally nice. I just prefer black……. Sorry Arthur.

I didn’t have a can of lager to hand for scale so my lunch will have to do! The flat top does make a useful little platform for eyepieces though and there’s hints that it might be used in the future to house a motor in the next version…..

I weighed the whole thing and it comes to a hefty 9kg. This isn’t massive but does put a little dent in the grab and go aspect of the mount. However the solid engineering means that the mount can support dual C8’s and not break a sweat. The Alt axis is made from 25mm thick stainless steel and this is the “weak” point in the mounts load capacity. In fact looking at it I would guess that the tripod would probably go before the mount head does.

Without the spreader plate the whole mount is very compact, and as I’m using the mount just for my little ED80 I doubt I will need the tripod spreader plate and will likely put it into storage and use the setup without. 

The machining is first rate as with all Ambermile products as is the anodizing. There were a few little scuffs on the mount head but they were so small as to be unnoticeable unless looked for. I’m expecting this mount to gain a lot more scratches in its expected long life. This thing is built to last and would probably survive a tank running over it.

Without a scope the Azimuth bearing is very very smooth. The large internal shaft makes for great smooth movement. The Altitude bearing at first confused me as when adjusting the tension i found that the shaft was either locked or not locked with very little control. The Alt tension screw uses a brass bush to provide pressure against the shaft whilst the Az tension screw uses a (Teflon?) plastic bush. The plastic bush seems to provide a lot more control than the brass bush but i discovered that when there is a scope mounted and there is some weight on the arms this stops being a problem. Also you NEED a lock on the alt axis to stop things moving when you are in position so actually this is a design feature not a fault.

I mounted my modified ED80 onto the aztech using the very nice Ambermile dovetail saddle. This is much more secure than the standard drop forged saddles found in synta mounts as it has 5 points of contact with the dovetail rail all of which can be tightened for safety. 

I discovered that balance is MUCH more important in this type of mount and it takes a little bit longer to find the right balance point for my scope than it did on an EQ mount. This is the nature of the beast though and not something at fault. If the scope is slightly out of balance then it tends to flip objective down or focuser down depending on your out of balance situation. Whilst you can lock the alt axis to stop this, obviously when in exact balance the scope is much nicer to use. I did discover that when changing from a heavy eyepiece to a light eyepiece that the scope needed a little bit of re-balancing to keep things working nicely. This could be a pain but I’m already thinking of using the second dovetail saddle for a sliding counterbalance that I can move forward or backwards to counter the eyepiece I’m using at the time. If it works it could be a useful accessory.

I have yet to use the mount in anger under dark skies but when I get first light I’ll add to this review and let people know my experiences of using the mount for both wide field scanning (my intended purpose) and high-power tracking of stars (I can’t try planets just yet as there are none in my sky this time of year!)

I also hope to add to this review after I’ve used the mount for a good few months to give a longer term opinion.

All in all my first impressions are good and I would recommend this mount over similar designs due to its capacity, looks and ease of use.

Ebook Readers – redux

Well I finally caved over Christmas and purchased myself a Sony PRS-300. I have to say, I was dubious at first, but after using it for about two weeks I’ve already read about 3 novels and a number of short stories on the device so have a good feel for it.

I have to say it’s changed the way I read books. No mean feat.

First it’s a near instant download meaning no waiting for the postman, or missing him and having to take a trip to the sorting office. Choose a book, and there it is, start reading immediately.

Second, adjustable font sizes! Who would have thought such a simple feature would be so useful? Especially in poor light.

Third, the ability to store 100’s of books on the device means I can easily swap between novels when I get bored of one (and bookmark my place for when I return). Yes you can do this with paper books, but not on a train! At first I was considering the PRS-600 as the lack of an SD card slot on the PRS-300 put me off, but really, it’s not a concern.

Fourth, battery life is amazing. Listed as 7000 page turns I don’t think I’ve had to charge my device since I’ve had it. Yes, paper books dont run out of battery, but unlike other electronic devices, I truly haven’t had to think about charging the device, and thats how it should be.

Highly recommended.