Is Wikipedia Down?

January 5, 2010

I’ve been trying to access Wikipedia all evening Thailand time. I get no response. Other sites are fine.

Fortunately I could access a cached version of the page I wanted from Google’s search engine.

Is Wikipedia down everywhere?

Google Alerts

January 5, 2010

Google AlertsAdd Google Alerts to the list of free Google services I’m using. Alerts are a way to find out if something you’re interested in shows up in a Google internet search.

I set up two alerts:

  • BKKPhotographer
  • My real name, in inverted commas.

So far I have not found anything interesting. My Flickr photostream uses my real name and there are thousands of pictures there so I get an alert if anybody links to one of them.

I share my name with an American soccer player so I get alerts about him too. It would be very strange to meet somebody with exactly the same name.

You can ask Google Alerts to send you email or to create a new item in Google Reader. I selected the latter. I still spend a lot of time using Google Reader.

Frittata Thai Style

January 5, 2010

Frittata Thai StyleSpicy Frittata offered by Black Canyon in its promotional menu.

According to Wikipedia:

“A frittata is a type of Italian omelet, either simple or enriched with additional ingredients, such as meats, cheeses, vegetables and even pasta. It may be compared to a crust-less quiche or, in America, “scrambled eggs.” A frittata is prepared in a frying pan like a traditional French omelet. However, whereas an omelet is cooked on a stove top and served folded, a frittata is not folded and is typically finished in an oven or under a broiler.”

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frittata.

Black CanyonBlack Canyon restaurants have this dish on their promotional menu. Of course it is very spicy, but not too much. This example, which I ate in the branch on Silom Road, Bangkok, near Sala Daeng Skytrain station, was a bit over-cooked. I had a feeling that they’d cooked it previously and microwaved it. But I may be doing their chefs an injustice.

Whatever, I think it is good value at (I think) 120 Baht (about US$3.50).

I was disappointed that Black Canyon do not feature the promotional menu on their web site here.

Dpreview.com Annoyance

January 5, 2010

Dpreview.comI’ve been a registered user of Dpreview.com for years. I believe it is the most detailed and consistent photography review site out there. They also have some well-informed discussion forums and photo challenges.

Today I went to use the site and it said I wasn’t logged in. I guess the cookie expired on December 31st. I went to login with what I thought was the correct email address and password but it refused me.

I clicked the link so it would send me a new password. That didn’t work. Maybe I forgot the email address I used to sign up.

So I tried to register as a new user with my yahoo.com email address. Then I got this error message:

There were the following problems with your registration:

  • Registration with web based email accounts (such as hotmail.com or yahoo.com) is not allowed, please use an ISP account.

It was in red. Not allowed indeed! The person who wrote that must work for the TSA.

Sorry Dpreview, I don’t have an ISP email account! I have Yahoo and Gmail addresses and that is all. If that’s not good enough for you then sorry, I won’t register with your site. I am certainly not being ordered around by you.

I don’t think I need to be registered to read their reviews.

Does anybody use non-portable ISP email addresses anymore? That is so 20th Century. I used to have a concentric.net address but I learned my lesson when I changed to another ISP and lost it.

Grrr.

Mister Fredrickson.

Thailand Voice – Promoting Blogs About Thailand

January 4, 2010

A few weeks ago I noticed that one web site was linking to all the posts on this blog. It’s called “Thailand Voice“. They say:

We are on the Internet every day looking for quality articles and blogs about Thailand. We will post extracts from new stories twice a day. Click on the links to read the full story and for more articles from that author. Our only aim is to help promote blogs about Thailand. You won’t find any advertising on this blog as it is sponsored by the Paknam Web Network.

They only list the first few lines of each post so readers have to go to the original blog to read the whole post.

I guess it’s a good idea and the site seems reputable. I wish they’d asked before linking to me though – that would have been polite.

Many of my posts have nothing at all to do with Thailand – they’re about software or something that’s interested me. Currently there are 30 extracts on Thailand Voice’s home page. Four of the extracts are from this blog.

I cannot see any downside to letting Thailand Voice link to me. Perhaps there would be a problem if it had links to “bad” content like malware sites: guilt by association. I did not see any of those but it could be a danger if the Thailand Voice site is built by a software robot.

As I said, I wish they’d asked first. Perhaps they adhere to the saying attributed to Grace Hopper that we used to use in HP to confound our managers: “It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission”. I think that’s Google’s philosophy too – viz the controversy about the Google Books Library Project.

PS I think Grace Hopper was really cool. I’d have loved to have met her.

Two “Must Reads” for New Lightroom Users

January 4, 2010

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom BoxI see many posts on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Support forum and the Digital Asset Management (DAM) Forum where photographers are considering Lightroom.

There is almost too much information on Lightroom available on the web. It can be overwhelming. But there are a couple of really good blog posts that summarise the essentials of Lightroom”s capabilities:

I wish I’d read them before I plunged into Lightroom from ThumbsPlus and ACDSee Pro.

WordPress Duotone Theme

January 4, 2010

I’ve been looking at a new theme (visual design) for this blog. WordPress recently released a theme that’s designed for bloggers like me who like to post a lot of photographs. They call it Duotone. You can read about it here.

WordPress Duotone Theme Test

WordPress Duotone Theme Test

Duotone has some differences from the design I was using:

  1. It changes the background colour of the page based on the colours in the first photo on the page. That’s very clever!
  2. It displays the EXIF information (aperture, focal length, ISO speed, shutter speed and camera model) for the photo in a special panel in the margin. This only works for pictures I’ve uploaded to WordPress, not for pictures I link to, such as from Flickr.
  3. It shows one post per page – thus each page can have a different colour depending on the photo.
  4. It puts the widgets I had in the right sidebar at the bottom of the page.

Isn’t CSS wonderful? WordPress themes are an excellent demonstration of the power of separating presentation from content. I did not change any of the content of the blog to use Duotone.

I changed my test blog http://bkkphotographerstest.wordpress.com/ to use Duotone. I posted some pictures in three new test posts to see the colours Duotone would choose. Please take a look and tell me what you think in a comment. Thanks!

By Train to Pattaya

January 4, 2010

SRT LogoI woke up early on New Year’s Day morning. I had nothing to do and I remembered that there is one train a day from Bangkok to the beach resort of Pattaya (พัทยา). On the spur of the moment I decided to take a day trip to the seaside.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) posts timetables for most, but not all, of their services on the web. Here is the timetable for the Eastern Line.

Eastern Line Timetable

Eastern Line Timetable

Ordinary train #283 leaves Hua Lamphong Station at 6:55am (Monday to Friday only). But I did not need to take the Subway all the way to Hua Lamphong. The Eastern Line passes quite close to my apartment as it travels along Phetchaburi Road. It’s the corridor used by the new elevated Airport Express trains.

The train gets to Asoke Station at 7:22am. It was easy to take the Subway two stops to Phetchaburi Station and walk a short distance to the station. Note that the trains stop on the eastern side of Asok-Montri Road after they have crossed it.

In contrast with the modern Airport Express Station above Asoke is a tiny halt. There’s a simple concrete platform next to the single track and a hut for the level crossing operator. Even though Asok-Montri Road is a major thoroughfare the level crossing gate is a simple wheeled affair that the staff push across the road – dodging the cars and motorcycles that try to get by them.

I checked with the level crossing operator and he confirmed that the train to Pattaya was running on New Year’s Day. “Ka-pom!” – so I was fine.

Asoke Station

Asoke Station. The Airport Express line is on the right.

Thai trains “always” run behind schedule and my train was five minutes late even this short distance from its starting point. I do not know why SRT do not update their timetables to be closer to reality. I hoped that the train would be quiet on a holiday and so it was.

Pattaya Train Entering Asoke Station

Pattaya Train Entering Asoke Station

I had my choice of seats in a 10-carriage train drawn by a 1980s vintage Alstholm diesel locomotive. Unfortunately there were some men in the first carriage I chose who were already drunk on Chang beer – that at 7 o’clock in the morning. Maybe they’d been up all night partying. I quietly left them to their party and went to a quiet carriage.

Progress is slow through the eastern suburbs of Bangkok. It passes the newly built Airport Express depot. I saw some of their new rolling stock parked outside. It will be some months before they are in daily use.

Airport Express City Line Train at the Depot

Airport Express City Line Train at the Depot

Like main ordinary trains this one was free for Thai people. Foreigners have to pay the normal fare. The fare to Pattaya was 33 Baht – about US$1. I paid the conductor and he gave me some small blue coupons as a ticket. By contrast the express bus costs 113 Baht (US$3.33).

I didn’t have any breakfast, but I didn’t have to worry. A group of vendors boarded the train at Khlong Tan Station. They had baskets of goodies for sale. I chose fried rice with a fried egg on top plus a bottle of water. That cost me 30 baht (less than  US$1).

My Breakfast on New Year's Day

The vendors walk up and down the train all the time shouting for customers. That can be annoying if you’re trying to sleep but it all adds to the local colour. I did wonder how they are organized and whom they have to pay to have the right to sell food on a particular train.

Many more passengers joined the train and by Hua Mark Station it was full. I shared my seats with a Thai family on their way to Chachoengsao.

Once we got outside the city the train speeded up and it got to Chachoengsao on time. For the rest of the journey I had a lot of space. I kept on switching seats in an attempt to photograph each station.

The carriages were second-hand Japan Railways stock. They used to be air-conditioned but the SRT disabled the units and installed fans. The doors and windows were open all the time.

Third Class Carriage Interior

Third Class Carriage Interior. Note the ceiling fans, the open windows and the unused air-conditioning

The SRT are upgrading the Eastern Line to double track. This is mainly to speed freight (goods) traffic to and from the port of Leam Chabang.

Double Tracking on the Eastern Line

Double Tracking on the Eastern Line

The train stopped at many small stations that are not listed on the English timetable. It was good to get out of Bangkok into the country again. Because everything was open my Nikon Coolpix P6000 kept its GPS connection for the whole journey. Thus all my pictures were geocoded by the camera. The train was slow enough that the positions were quite accurate.

Don Si Non Station

Don Si Non Station

The train fell behind schedule as it crossed from Chachoengsao Province into Chonburi Province but we arrived in Pattaya only 13 minutes late at 10:48am. That’s very good for the trip.

Most of the remaining passengers disembarked at Pattaya. The train continues to a place called Ban Plu Ta Luang. As I said, it is the only train of the day. It returns to Bangkok, passing through Pattaya at 14:21 (according to the timetable). That was too early for my day trip. I took the express bus back to Bangkok. In contrast to the 3:30 train ride the bus takes at most two hours and is often quicker than that.

Pattaya Station

Pattaya Station

That’s typical for developing countries where the train is slow but inexpensive. The Bangkok – Pattaya roads are so congested there is a great opportunity to upgrade the railways and provide a true alternative that gets many diesel buses and maybe some cars off the road.

I paused on the to take some photos. That was a mistake. Public transport in Pattaya relies on songtheaw. They are small pick-up trucks (mostly Isuzu DMax and Toyota Hilux Vigo) with two rows of seats under a metal canopy. (The Thai name means “two rows”). They take about 12 passengers at a squeeze. Only one songtheaw met the train and that quickly filled with passengers and departed.

The only songtheaw to town

The only songtheaw to town

I waited around but people shrugged when I asked if another songtheaw would come. I should have pushed my way aboard.

So I had to walk into town. The station is about one kilometre from the main road. Fortunately there was a local map on the wall of the station. I memorized the route and walked all the way to Sukhumvit Road. There I was able to get a songtheaw to Beach Road and the sea.

Fortunately it was not too hot and I found a “108 Shop” on the way to get some water. It was a lesson learned – I shouldn’t have hung around the station being a train-spotter and should have pushed my way onto the songtheaw.

I posted a selection of photos to Picasa Web Albums here with a slideshow at http://sites.google.com/site/thebkkphotographer/home/by-train-to-pattaya.

Here’s a map of the Thai railway network:

Thai Railway Network

ThumbsPlus 8 Available at Last

January 3, 2010

ThumbsPlus LogoI received the official email notification from Cerious Software this morning. They must have been working over the Christmas / New Year break to release it. The Version 8 Release Notes are here. I discussed their long Beta process (8 releases) here.

I really liked ThumbsPlus. I used it as my photo database (Digital Asset Management – DAM to the hi-so) for years. I was pushing its limits and I made the mistake of forsaking it for ACDSee Pro. That was a disaster and I moved to Lightroom 2. I talked about my migration path in one of my first posts on this blog here and discussed my reasons for abandoning ACDSee Pro here.

Sorry Cerious, you were too late for me. I cannot see how they would ever get me back given my investment in Lightroom (time, not money).

For me the biggest advantage of ThumbsPlus 8 is their scalability. You can use it with an external database, for example MySQL. Cerious understands database technology.

That would address my requirement that I want one database for every picture I have ever taken or will take in my life. Thus if Lightroom breaks down on me I may have to go back to ThumbsPlus. Fortunately one of the new features in ThumbsPlus 8 is XMP support. That should mean I can migrate photos easily keeping the keywords and other metadata intact.

I am sure there would be many other headaches. For one, ThumbsPlus has not moved to storing all the editing information in the database like Lightroom. Reverse-migration would be such a pain I don’t want to think about it.

Congratulations Cerious! I wish you success.