Still alive!

I had to renew this domain name today so thought I would take the opportunity to make a quick post to remind myself that this site is still alive. I use the domain mostly for other things than web but it’s handy to have a little bit of space here.


How to type degrees on OSX

I grew up using PC’s not Macs and when I needed to use a symbol like ° for degrees or Ø for diameter I would use the ALT codes (e.g. ALT-258 or ALT-155 etc). There is a handy list here

But I recently decided to change my main PC to a MacBook… To be honest, its worked fine for me but after 30 years of using PC’s there are a few things that I just dont know without googling. Like how to enter an ALT code. Turns out there is no way to do it! But Apple has thought about it and added some key combo’s to do the same thing. Like to enter the diameter symbol you hold SHIFT-ALT and press O which gives you a nice Ø symbol. Degrees is SHIFT-ALT and 8. I’m guessing they have tried to make the key combo on the key that most looks like the symbol like O for Ø and 8 (Asterisk) for °

I guess it will take me a while to become as proficient on OSX as I am on Windows, but it keeps the old brain ticking over. Linux next…

Winter – again

Looking back on a few posts here and it seems I complain about winter a lot. We had about an inch of snow last night and whilst my kids loved sledging this morning it was -2° and I could feel it! Given all my complaining you would have thought I would have moved somewhere warmer – but no. I’m clearly a slave to northern exposure. Perhaps when I retire I’ll convince the wife we should move to the south of France or something.

In other news I took the bike out for a spin yesterday and decided I am clearly a fair weather cyclist. Roll on March when the clocks go forward.

Oh, I’ve also “Konmaried” all my stuff. Seems to be the in thing at the moment, lets see how long that lasts.

There are worse commutes…

I’m still cycling to work as often as I can (or rather as often as I can build up the motivation for). The mornings are getting darker though and at 6am it’s now pitch black outside. However, silver linings and all that, I now get to see the sun rise, which is motivational all by itself. Only 8 miles to work but had to stop and take a photo with my phone as the beauty of the mist struck me


I could be stuck on a motorway sucking at diesel fumes instead but its things like this that make me realise chasing the dollar isn’t the right way to live your life.

Barn Door Tracker

Spent a happy few hours today knocking together a barn door tracker for astro photography tracking.

very simple device made with two bits of wood, a hinge and a 1/4″ BSW bolt. Hardest part was screwing it all together.

I used two dovetail plates which were already tapped for 1/4″ BSW, one to attach to my tripod head and one to “host” the drive bolt.

barn door 1

barn door 2


I used a spare ball head with a 3/8″ bolt to mount the camera and a bit of plastic to make a handle and thats about it.

A quick and dirty test means I can go from this with no tracking

m45 no tracking 30 second 200mm


To this with tracking

m45 barn door tracking 30 second 200mm

I’m the first to admit i’m not an expert and i’ve not processed these at all, they are just how they came out of the camera. Both are 30 seconds at 200mm f/5.6

With a better polar alignment and a steadier hand I can see it working fine for 30 second shots. My sky wont take much more than 30 seconds unfortunately.




Purchased myself a nice new tripod this week (well new for me)

It’s a Manfrotto 055XB which is the version without the 90° center column. I did think about spending the extra on the bells and whistles but I’ll hardly ever use it plus it adds to the weight of the thing.

The only bit I’m going to miss is the foam on the legs, but I can retrofit some pipe lagging if it’s too much of a problem.

It was a bargain second hand from Ffordes Photographic up in Inverness, only £49 in good condition. Considering Manfrotto want £165 rrp for them and WEX sell them for £113 I didn’t think it was too bad at all.

I’m hoping I can use it for a small telescope as well as my D90 camera. Kill two birds with one stone as it were. Need to find a decent head for it. I’m looking at a nice second hand UA Microstar mount for astro work. Should handle a little 80mm refractor or C6 even without too much of a problem.

Once I’ve had a chance to play with it I might even do a little review, not that there is much to tell, these things are fairly ubiquitous given there excellent price