February, 2004

Feb 04


Because I’m a little strange sometimes, I’ve been using my mouse left handed recently (I’m right-handed, wouldn’t be all that odd if I was left-handed!). When I worked at SLI I decided for some reason that I needed to be able to use my mouse properly left handed. I’d been doing it for about two months and then I broke my right wrist kiting. Spooky, maybe.

Anyway, here’s a good wee test for your mouse control, sent to me by Andy D, and yes – it does get annoying. My record is 24.746 seconds. Now I can’t seem to beat that right-handed!

Feb 04

KiteATB moves I want to try (but probably shouldn’t)

Last summer kiting was awesome, until I broke my back. Soon I hope to be strong enough to kite again and it’ll be time to think up some new moves again. As I’ve said, the kiteATB scene has, generally, gone for low technical moves rather than big jumps. Having had a long time to think about it, I’ve having to agree that this is the sensible option, but there are a few big air tricks that I haven’t been able to get out of my head, no matter how much I think about my back! Hmmm…

  • Blind Date –

Feb 04

Summer/autumn 04 sporty targets

Now I’ve got more of a handle on what’s what with my back, fitness and so on I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to be up to this summer. Fitness is the key this summer so that as soon as I’m able I can hit kiting hard. Some of these could still be a bit over the top, I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. This post could come back and bite me later in the year, especially the way I’ve been swimming recently!

  • Swim from the Lady Isle to Troon in the summer – the RNLI guys are wanting to give me a lift out and escort me back if I can raise some money for their lifeboat appeal.
  • Manage 60 mile bike rides (on a mountain bike, but on road) without killing myself. Just get generally bike fit again.
  • Scottish islands swimming trip – still to be planned. Basically doing several open water swims on the islands on the west coast.
  • Start kitesurfing again in September, back dependant.
  • Could be dreaming – climb a F7A sport route in the autumn – this is very back dependant and might even have to be on a top rope, if at all.

Don’t think that’s too unrealistic, I might add a couple more later (might end up taking some away though!).

Feb 04

Opera 7.5 Preview 2

I’ve been using Opera 7.5 Preview 2 since it’s release a week ago. This is pre-beta software so bugs and some instability are to be expected. Having said that, I’ve found it to be very stable and I use it as my main browser and mail client. I certainly won’t go into all the features here, just a couple of customisations I’m particularly fond of just now. There are too many skins to recommend any in particular.

The in-built RSS reader will now (sometimes) automatically add a newsfeed to your subscribed list if you click on it. It doesn’t seem to work on this site for some reason so hopefully that will get fixed. Newsfeeds are treated as mail in Opera which doesn’t bother me, but it could be nice to have the option of putting them in their own panel.

Opera is just as customisable as ever. Here is the PHP search engine for you to add (by Virtuelvis). As a map freak, I recently added the Streetmap search engine to my list. I couldn’t be bothered working out how to create a new ‘static’ search engine so I replaced whatever was at number 5 as I never used it anyway. A guide to editing the search.ini file is here. If you’re interested, stick this is in the search.ini file in your Opera profile.

The developer’s menu by Dan Booth is very cool for web developers. Sometime soon I’ll create a mega SC menu or something equally sad.

7.5 works with Aspell, for spell checking in textboxes, emails and the like. It’s a little nippy to install, this should sort you out.

Here are some useful links for doing stuff with Opera:

This is only scratching the surface, no doubt there will be another post about Opera at some point.

Feb 04

SC3 plans

As Mike has pointed out, we’ve been having a major re-think of the entire viewing experience of SC. After deciding to go down the line of massively linking all of our data it quickly became apparent that the current system of categorisation is not really all that ideal. We’re aiming for a system where users browse the site and are constantly presented with links to associated information. This, we hope, will make the site much better for browsing, especially for those who don’t know exactly what they’re looking for.

As well as linking the data we’ve got at ScottishClimbs, I’d also love to have related information from some of the other sites on the net. New routes are the first obvious choice where entering a route on another site would either automatically add it to the SC NRDB or just display it on the site, and vice-versa of course. Weather information would be another excellent resource to bring in from the specialised weather sites.

Of course this relies on the other sites actually wanting to take part in this (the incentive is that we would drive traffic to their site), but I think that aggregating data in this way is going to play a major part in the internet in the near future.

One problem with all this related information is where to put it all! We’re going to need to think hard about how to get everything onto the site without making the site too busy as screen real estate is in short supply. We’ve certainly got plenty to do!

The bare bones of the Admin Panel is nearly done and our focus is moving now to the implementation of the ‘SC Browser’ (or whatever it’s getting called) and the NRDB. I really want us to improve the usability of the NRDB and that’ll be another good challenge.

Feb 04

Top weekend

I’ve just had a great weekend. Managed to ride 8 miles on my bike on Friday before my back started getting really sore (felt great to be back on a bike).Visited my parents on Saturday and went swim training with the East Lothian Triathlon Club. It was really good to swim with other people for a change and I got some good training ideas.

Met up with Colin and Lee in Dunbar at night and got drunk, very drunk. Sunday morning I went back out on the bike and cycled 12 miles without too much pain. I’m super-hyped for getting fit now. Played pool with my Dad in the afternoon, then hooked up with John to check out his new flat in the evening.

That’s the first weekend for ages where I feel like I’ve been doing stuff. I love life when it’s non-stop and there’s loads to do. What’s even better is that I’m starting to feel spring in the air. It’s not here yet, but definitely on way. I’m bored of winter now (even if it has been a half-hearted attempt at bad weather!) and am really looking forward to long days and plenty of stuff to do.

EDIT: today (17th) it is six months since I broke my back!

Feb 04

Kitesurfing in gusty wind

A water post for a change this time, a gusty wind land kiting post will follow at some point when I’ve thought more about it. There are loads of advantages that kitesurfing has over windsurfing – need much less wind, don’t really need waves to have fun and the kit is easier to lug around. While I can’t see all that many people taking up windsurfing over kitesurfing in this country, sticking a pole on a board does have benefits over kiting in certain conditions. I’ve never windsurfed so this is just the impressions I get from watching and what others have told me – please correct me if this is wrong.

When I was in South Africa a few of drove up from Scarborough to Eland’s Bay, an excellent and semi-remote village a few hours north of Cape Town. It is home to a very famous left-hand point break and is loved by surfers. When we arrived it was nice and windy so a couple of us tried to go kiting despite being only a few hundred metres downwind of a tall cliff. Predictably it was a gusty nightmare and it was almost impossible to keep the kites in the sky nevermind get in the water. However there were a fair few windsurfers riding the break very sucessfully (and seriously pissing the surfers off because they could catch the wave so much further out!).

When I was in New Zealand I headed to a famous windsurfing area called Taranaki. This place isn’t all that popular with kiters, probably because of the very rocky beaches and big swells. The week that I spent there saw only ESE/SE winds which meant riding at a break called Kina Road in fairly offshore conditions. Although there weren’t any large cliffs around, the wind was very gusty and riding upwind was extremely difficult. The windsurfers were really struggling to get out past the initial breakers as there was a pocket of light wind. Once they got out back though, none of them had any bother at all while I was getting ripped off the water every few feet just trying to ride along.

The reasons why they were succeeding where we couldn’t are fairly obvious – bigger, floatier boards and their sails simply don’t feel the effects of gusty winds as much as they aren’t on the end of 30m lines (kite can shoot about in the window showing the effects of gusts and lulls more). Actually, as I’ve never windsurfed, this second point is guesswork as much as anything else but seems sound enough. In situations like Eland’s Bay with it’s very tall cliff upwind the commonly proposed solution to gusty winds, using longer lines, may actually make matters worse as it gives the kite more space to play and the air is still turbulent higher up anyway. Perhaps the solution in these situations is actually to use much shorter lines and put up a bigger kite, thereby emulating the sail effect of windsurfing a little.

This is really only a massive problem at wave-riding spots where you’d like a little bit of offshore and sometimes the lie of the land isn’t overly friendly. Unfortunately wave-riding is the best part of the sport in my opinion. Gusty winds are the bane of kiting and are why windsurfing will not die.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to test any of this out until my back’s better. Comments encouraged, the more info I can find about this the better.

Feb 04

Open water swimming

I’ve been getting back into swimming recently to strengthen my back. In the last couple of sessions I’ve started to feel better and am really enjoying it. When I was younger I swam competitively for eight years but stopped because it was starting to get boring for me (I think I’d ‘burnt out’, or something). Just before I went to uni I did a few triathlons but didn’t continue my swimming after that as I got heavily into rock climbing.

I used to much prefer the short 100m and 200m races over the longer distances but am starting to get more into longer distance stuff now and am starting to train a bit better over middle distance sets. My real aim at the moment is to build up my distances enough to be able to do some longer open water swims once the water round here warms up a bit. There are some really good looking swims around East Lothian that I want to do to get me used to the open water because in the summer I’d really like to swim things like Mull to Iona, the Kyles of Bute and the mainland to Skye. There is even talk of trying to raise some money for the lifeboat appeal over at Troon but I’ll need to get some real training done before that.

Although I have done a little open water swimming from triathlon, my experience is pretty limited so I’ve done a little research and found this excellent article which seems very comprehensive. Ideally I’ll find someone who actually wants to do this with me so that I don’t find it quite so intimidating, but knowing my luck that’ll be unlikely!

Feb 04

The Slashdot Effect and SC search queries

This post reminded me to write something about the Slashdot Effect. I hadn’t heard of this until a couple of weeks ago when ScottishClimbs was down for a couple of days because of it.

The Slashdot Effect is where a very popular site, like Slashdot, links to an article on a much smaller site which is unable to handle the sudden large increase in traffic. We’re on shared hosting so (unfortunately!) that downtime wasn’t actually caused by us.

I’ve also had a good nosey through the stats for SC and the blogs. Nothing particuarly amusing to report for SC I’m afraid. This site has been getting loads of visits from searchers of “broken back”, “css transparency” and “css blog”. I can understand the broken back thing, but there must be many more relevant sites than this one about CSS transparency. I’m still not sure why blogs get such good search results in Google, maybe I’ll look into it sometime. Yesterday someone got to the site by “cock up” which I thought was a strange thing to search for!