Computers for 2012 and beyond

Because I got all my computers around the same time, they seem to have aged at same time. This year I plan on replacing all of the general purpose computers in one fell swoop that should keep me going until then next generation.

Here’s what I had at the start of the year:

  • Desktop – a 2008 beasty Dell XPS with two graphics cards and lots of fans
  • MacBook – a 2008 MacBook running Windows 7
  • Phone – a Windows Phone
  • Tablet PC – a 2007 Toshiba Tablet PC running Windows 7 that didn’t get much use

Here’s what I have planned for the end of the year:

  • Xbox – a living room entertainment system, mostly for music and video
  • Laptop – a Windows 8 laptop, probably around the 13 inch mark
  • Phone – a Windows Phone
  • Tablet – a Windows RT* tablet

I hadn’t really used my Toshiba Tablet PC a great deal in the last couple of years, mostly due to the fact I started using Windows 7 full time on my MacBook and the Tablet PC was only really used for drawing with the Wacom screen. Thankfully, I’ve already handed this computer on to a friend of mine who will no doubt make much better use of its capabilities.

Replacing what was essentially a laptop with a general purpose tablet will definitely be beneficial. As well as enabling new forms of mobility I haven’t really had before (yes, I’m totally jealous of my fellow astronomers with their iPads), it will also sync with my Windows laptop so that all the Metro-style applications are ready to go on either machine. I’ll probably go for whatever tablet most takes my fancy before the Windows 8 launch, but to be considered they’d have to be capable of having mobile broadband, GPS and sensors including accelerometer and compass enabling some of the more exciting Metro-style apps that are expected.

Picking a Windows 8 laptop might be a little bit harder, as I have been spoilt by the excellent craftsmanship in the MacBook. I know that manufacturers like HP and Dell should be capable of making such a machine, but deciding which one is a lot harder than simply choosing another Apple. But – Apple are not going to be an option, unless they include all the new Windows 8 goodness like touchscreen and sensors mentioned above – and going by Apple’s history of ‘quality’ Windows drivers, I’m not holding my breath.

As for right now – the Xbox has been a good replacement from my old, loud desktop computer. People who know me will know that I don’t watch television, so getting a TV screen and an Xbox in the living room is not probably not going to make me start wasting vast amounts of time by sitting in front of the screen, it’s more about simplifying what I was doing on my desktop computer: Surfing the web, doing emails, listening to music and watching video. Surfing the web and doing email can be done on either a laptop or a tablet just as well as on the desktop, so it made much more sense for the entertainment uses to take primary focus.

The Xbox is more than capable of looking after the music and video in my flat, and I’ll write up some of my thoughts about this shortly.

As with everything, I’m always trying to simplify. This solution is definitely simpler than previous setups, thought we’ll see if the numbers will eventually go down. I wouldn’t be shocked to be rocking a tablet/laptop hybrid with a docking station in a few years, reducing the number of computers even further.

* Windows RT is the name of what was previously known as WOA or Windows on Arm. Not to be confused with the WinRT development platform. Or something.

Full Moon in May 2012

There was plenty of talk in the news of the “supermoon” phenomenon, which meant that the full moon appeared to be visually larger and brighter in the sky than usual. Here’s a picture of the moon taken on Saturday night in Thorner just outside of Leeds.

As you can see there was just enough cloud to stop a clear shot, and on Sunday night it wasn’t much better.

Though to be honest I didn’t mind the cloud, as I really like these pictures of the full moon rising through them in the distance, as taken from The York Astronomical Society‘s observatory just outside of York.

The problem with the moon being so bright (and orange when rising) is that you don’t get much detail, but by putting the shutter speed down you can pick up much more detail on the surface.

While I was at it, I also directed my camera towards Venus to take this rather cool photo of it directly below Alpha Arietis.

The York Astronomical Society 40th Anniversary

This last weekend marked the 40th anniversary of The York Astronomical Society, and what a weekend it was – action packed with no less than six talks and plenty of fun.

On Friday night we had the company of Dr. Allan Chapman talking about Johannes Hevelius which was absolutely fascinating, then on Saturday morning we had Prof. Monica Grady, talking about how science analyses the materials brought to earth via meteorites to build models on the creation of the solar system, then Martin Dawson shared a brief history of YAS which included lots of information about previous observatories.

Saturday afternoon included cutting of the cake, and three more talks including Paul Money on his favourite images of The Space Shuttle, Nik Syzmanek with some amazing astrophotography and Dame Professor Jocelyn Bell-Burnell on the story of gold. As a space flight fan, my favourite talk had to be Paul’s, however I found all of them extremely interesting.

To finish off the weekend, the faithful returned to the observatory on the Sunday night to do some real astronomy in the cold. I took the opportunity to capture a few photographs of a very impressive looking moon like the one shown above (and more to come!)

I’ve been a member of The York Astronomical Society for a few years now, and I thoroughly enjoyed the celebrations.

Many thanks to everyone who was involved in making it all happen.