All posts by peter

YouTube – First Video

Last year I indulged in buying an action cam. I’m not into spending large amounts of money on gadgets until I know that I will make full use of them, so the GoPro range was out. I wanted to use it mainly for taking videos when out on the mountain bike on some of the single track routes that are common around where I live.

After scanning the internet for reviews, I came across the website of Techmoan. This guy is clearly a lover of gadgets and provides full, honest and down to earth reviews of a number of gadgets and most especially of action cameras. One mini action cam that he rated highly was the Mobius. I’d have to admit that I look forward to his reviews even when they are not something that I would normally take an interest in.

Last year I attached the Mobius to my cycle helmet but the results seemed to highlight the fact that I often don’t travel all that fast. So this year I’ve obtained a chest harness and the results are more pleasing with a greater feel of being part of the action with the handlebars in view all the time, and the action closer to the ground.

Having got some footage that I was reasonably pleased with, apart from what seems like inevitable shakiness given the terrain and the lack of rear suspension on the mountain bike, I tried out some video editing programs (Windows Movie Maker, VSDC Video Editor) and a program that can add speed, altitude and other data to the video – DashWare (all free programs).

The initial result was uploaded to YouTube and was slightly disappointing in that quite a bit of the quality has been lost due to the additional compression the file receives by YouTube. I’m starting to understand why YouTube has to carry this out and why Mountain Bike action on single track through woodland is especially vulnerable.

I’ll be taking a closer look at compression artifacts and video software and trying to find the optimal solution over the next few months.

In the meantime the first video is below …

Strava – New User

I find it hard to believe what remarkably good applications are available for free these days.

Last year, after the cheap speedo/odometer on my bike started to play up, I thought I’d try something different. I’d already indulged in a low cost android smart phone – a Vodafone Smart 3, so I tried looking through the Google Play Store and came across Strava.

Although the interface now looks blindingly obvious, it initially took me a couple of goes before I worked it out. Strava records the co-ordinates from GPS signals a few times per second and uses these to calculate your position and speed. When the ride is over the data is uploaded and you can review the route laid over a google map or satellite image. The route is highly likely to be divided into many segments defined by people who have gone that way before and in each segment you can compare your time against everyone else, or the people you follow or against your own previous times.

Strava awards KOMs/QOMs (King/Queen of the Mountain) ) for the fastest male or female riders over a particular segment. I did hold the KOM for a few months for a segment over which very few – a dozen or less – people had travelled, but these are likely to be way out of my reach. Strava also keeps track of your personal records for a particular segment – I find this highly motivating and often can’t resist trying a bit harder over known segments – especially if there is a chance of the wind giving a helping hand.

At the beginning of this year I changed over to using a Garmin Forerunner 305 to record the GPS data along with heart rate data. The Garmin is like a large watch and much easier to use when I go jogging rather than cycling. When jogging I also need to push myself a bit more and need the pace and heart rate information as I’m going along.

At some point I’ll upgrade to the premium (and paid for) version of Strava. I’ve appreciated it enough to pay something back and being able to compare myself against people in my own age group rather than some serious athletes should give me a better idea of how I’m doing.

In the meantime my last rides/runs recorded on Strava …

Sarsen Stones – Blackwater Valley

Having read the following on the ‘UKeGuide‘ site …

Amongst the attractions found at Farnborough is Tower Hill, Cove where a large accumulation of Sarsen stones exist, of various sizes.

… I asked on Streetlife where these might be as I’d been on Tower Hill road a few times and managed to miss them.  Apparently although Tower Hill was probably once littered with many stones the area is now almost entirely built up and any remaining stones are likely to be on the smaller size and incorporated into garden rockeries.

There aren’t many decent sized stones of any kind to be found in this area so I thought I’d take a few pictures of ones that I have come across near the Deepcut/Pirbright barracks on the Basingstoke Canal side.

Group of Sarsen Stones nr back entry to Deepcut Barracks
Group of Sarsen Stones nr back entry to Deepcut Barracks


Sarsen Stone on a small hill  at lower end of tunnel hill.
Sarsen Stone on a small hill at lower end of tunnel hill.


Sarsen Stones nr entry to Pirbright Barracks (next to railway)

I’d guess that the middle picture is of a Sarsen Stone mentioned in this old but humorous website of a band of cyclists that used to frequent the ‘Old Ford’ pub at North Camp. The ‘Over the Hill Off-Road Cycling Club’. Look under Friday Rides – The Sacred Rock.


Adventure Balloon Trip – June 2007

Very early one glorious summer morning I set off for Alton in Hampshire. Confirmation had been given the night before that the weather forecast was good and a balloon trip was set to go.  The trip was being organised by Adventure Balloons.

As all the travellers arrived, we watched on as the balloon was unloaded.

Balloon Trip Start
Balloon Trip Start

There was a growing sense of anticipation as things began to take shape. We were soon being directed to help with the inflation of the balloon.

Spot the pilot
Spot the pilot

With the balloon inflated we clambered aboard and were up, up and away.

The early morning mist still had to burn off the surrounding countryside.

Early Morning Mist
Early Morning Mist

When the pilot had us safely underway, it was time for the official picture.

Official Picture
Official Picture

After drifting quietly apart from bursts from the burners, distant Basingstoke started to come into view and it was time to think about a landing spot.

Distant Basingstoke
Distant Basingstoke

With lots of little adjustments to catch minor variations in the wind direction, the pilot spotted a suitable small field to land in that wouldn’t involve damaging any crops. After landing safely it was time to crack open the champagne and celebrate a lovely trip before being driven back to Alton.

Champagne Finish
Champagne Finish

Microsoft Training in India – Sept to Nov 2004

Taking MCSD training with Koenig Solutions in Shimla which is situated on a ridge in the foothills of the Himalayas.

A very memorable trip meeting up with other students from the UK and US.

Cheap drinks, cheap food, amazing sights. Most nights spent out on the town with even the best restaurants affordable to someone on the dole- as I was at the time.

Tedious course material from Microsoft and the Indian accents of the tutors could be hard to follow at times.

Met at the airport, personal taxi to hotel. Travel to Shimla via overnight sleeper followed by world heritage mountain railway to a decent hotel with monkeys often racing around.

Everything arranged by Koenig – even a trip of a few days into the real Himalayas. I was pleased to see some of the roads we ventured out to, on the TV series, Ice Road Truckers – Deadliest Roads.


Finland Winter and Summer 2002 to 2003

With the closure of base station manufacture in Camberley, Surrey, I spent a few months in Finland adapting applications for use over there. Initially I had the welcome company of other staff also involved in the technology transfer. Most winter evenings were spent sampling the wide variety of restaurants in Oulu though involved going out in temperatures as low as -30 deg C.

Winter 2002/2003

Summer 2003

Lulworth Cove – Oct 2002

One of the last chances to have a day out with Tom before he moved with his mother over to Australia.

One Summers Day in Cheddar – Aug 2001

A very enjoyable day out in the Cheddar Gorge with Matt, Tom and Nick despite getting caught in a shower.

Skopelos – Greece 2001

Father and son holiday in Greece.
Learning the hard way that choosing a cheap hotel and attempting to sleep in an attic room with no air conditioning puts a slight dampener on a holiday.
Tom was less than keen on the insect life in the hotel room – especially when unable to sleep because of the heat.