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Pinhole Photography Day

Story location: Home / photography / pinhole /

Sunday was World Pinhole Photography Day, where photographers are invited to take photographs using a pinhole camera.

These photographs were all taken over the weekend. Since they were taken on film, it took me a couple of days to develop the negatives, scan them in and prepare them for uploading.


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Chedworth Roman Villa

Story location: Home / Blog /

The final place we visited on our way home was Chedworth Roman Villa. I thought we were never going to get there. We turned off the main road and followed several miles of narrow twisty turney roads. The route to the villa was well signposted but none of the signs gave a distance.

Roman Mosaics

The villa was quite impressive, with some well preserved mosaics. If a villa this well preserved had been found within a city, it would be famous but this one is in the middle of nowhere and seems to be fairly unknown. Even so (and despite the rain) there were a few other visitors while we were there.

Lacock Village and Abbey

Story location: Home / photography / gallery /

Lacock Village would have been picturesque if they hadn't ruined it by filling the high street with cars.

Lacock Abbey was interesting. This was the home of William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the photographic negative, which allowed multiple prints to be made of a single image.


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Story location: Home / Blog /

Rain had been forecast, so we went to Avebury early. The weather stayed decent while we were there.

Avebury Stone Circle

After walking around the circle, taking photographs, we had a look around the museums. We wanted to visit Avebury Manor but it didn't open until 2pm. We were going to drive back to Coventry, stopping at a few other places on the way, so we would be too far away by then.

Stonehenge and surrounding area

Story location: Home / Blog /

First stop was Uffington. Unlike most of the other white horses in the area, this one is genuinely ancient, dating from the Bronze Age.

White Horse

Next was Stonehenge. It was a sunny day so it was predictably busy. You get a good view from the path around the site, and the roped off area means you can get photos without too many people in the way. The audio guide was reasonably interesting. Emma thought that Stonehenge itself was disappointingly small.


Later on we drove through Alton Barnes. The name was familiar but I couldn't remember why. There was a more modern white horse carved in the hillside, but that wasn't why I knew the name. Shortly afterwards, I remembered that I had read about Crop Circles in the area.

We were driving along the A4 and I commented that Silbury Hill was somewhere along this road. We rounded a bend and saw it to the side of the road, impressively huge.

On the way to Avebury, we actually saw a crop circle. It was the first time I had seen one. More information on this circle can be found here.

We drove through Avebury on our way to the hotel. The stone circle was impressively huge from the road, with one large stone almost overhanging the fence. It was getting a bit late. We planned to re-visit first thing tomorrow morning when we had more time.

Instant Pudding

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

The last few times we've made pizza, the yeast has taken a long time to activate and the dough hasn't risen much. This time I thought I'd leave the yeast for a bit longer.

overflowing yeast froth

The overflowing yeast froth reminded me of the 'Instant Pudding' from the Woody Allen film 'Sleeper', where it expands so much it fills the kitchen.

Garden Veg

Story location: Home / Blog / house /

It's vegetable growing time again. Unlike last year, when our herbs got eaten by slugs and our courgettes didn't grow very well, I'm better prepared. The slug pellets are ready to be used, and I've bought some slow-release plant food pellets.

Last month I planted various vegetable seeds: peppers, courgettes, assorted salad veg. They were in a propagator indoors, but are probably ready to plant out now.

I also planted some spinach beet in a trough in the garden. I had to put some mesh over the trough after I found them dug up. It turned out that a neighbourhood cat had used it as a toilet. I used to like cats, but not when they poo in my veg. We've bought some cat repellent now, so we'll have to see if that helps.

21 Today

Story location: Home / Blog /

Ikea is celebrating is 21st birthday, so they have 21% off most items in the shop. We went this morning because we needed to buy some picture frames. We ended up buying a cabinet for the front hallway, which was almost too big to fit into the car. A bit of pushing, shoving and seat re-arranging and we managed in the end. There was a taller version of the cabinet which we thought of buying but decided not to. The reason wasn't anything sensible like 'how will we get it home' but 'we won't be able to reach the top shelf'.

Still in Ikea: the hand dryers in the toilets are much more powerful than most. They sound a bit like mini jet turbines and force the air through so quickly your hands dry in a few second. When I walked in, the person ahead of me had put his hands under the dryer then let out a squeaky 'ooh' or surprise.

Trying to prevent image theft 2: Watermarking images

Story location: Home / computing /

Yesterday I mentioned using the .htaccess file with Apache to prevent people hot-linking images. That would only be a temporary solution, which would stop current hot-links from working. Any future image theft would involve people downloading images and re-uploading them somewhere else.

See more ....
One way of stopping that is to add a watermark to each image. There are a lot of websites explaining how to do that manually in Photoshop or Gimp, but I needed a simple way of adding a watermark to several hundred images.

I had heard about Image Magick and thought it might have a way of doing it. There are instructions here explaining how to do it.

The images on my website are spread across a lot of directories, so I wrote a small perl script to watermark all the images in a directory (including subdirectories):

# use ImageMagick to add copyright watermark to images

use File::Find;
use strict;

my  = "jpg|png";    # file extensions to apply watermarks to
my /computing = "/images";      # directory holding the images
my  = "/copyright3.png";    # full path to watermark image

sub processFile{
    return if ($_ !~ /.*\.[]/);
    my  = ::name;

    `composite -dissolve 10% -tile  "" ""`;


The /computing and `` variables should hold the full path for the directory and watermark file. You'll need to produce an image with a transparent background for the watermark.

Changing the 10% value gives a ligher or darker watermark, depending on how obvious you want it to be.

Growing Up

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Orna's babies are proper tiny hamsters now, rather than the pink blobs in the original photograph.

We had to be very careful taking the early photos. You shouldn't disturb the nest or touch the babies because if the mother detects a 'foreign' scent, she might believe the babies are under threat from a predator, and she's likely to eat them. We have heard stories of this happening to other hamsters, and we didn't want it to happen to ours.

At about day 11, their eyes started to open and they became more active - although some had escaped from the nest and been exploring before then. Now (day 13), they are very active and leave the nest quite often.

The final photo also has a picture of one of the 3 quail chicks which have hatched so far this weekend.


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Trying to prevent image theft 1: Using .htaccess

Story location: Home / computing /

I've had a problem recently with people stealing images from my website - either hot-linking them or re-uploading them to other sites. My first attempt to stop this was by modifying the .htaccess file on the web server, telling it to only allow image requests from recognised places.

See more ....
This works because most browsers send a 'referrer' value which tells the web server where the request came from. If I display an image on my site, the referrer should be 'mikedowney.co.uk', which would be allowed. Requests from other sites would be disallowed.

This should work with most sites hosted on an Apache server. I added the following lines to the .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?mikedowney.co.uk [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.(\.)? [NC]
RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|gif)$ /image_error.png [NC,R,L]

The first line tells the server we are using the RewriteEngine to change how some URLs are handled. The next 3 lines specify which referrers are allowed to link to images. We have:

  1. Empty referrer. This is because some browsers may not correctly fill in the 'referrer' line when requesting images.
  2. This website - it would be pointless to disallow me from showing my own images.
  3. Any of the google servers - so that the google image search will work properly. The (.)? bit at the end should match different countries, such as google.com or .co.uk etc.

The final line gives the file types this applies to and the file to display if it matches. In this case, an image with an error message.

Watermarked Photos

Story location: Home / welcome /

There has been an increase in the number of people stealing images from this website and re-using them uncredited, as if they were their own pictures. A lot of sites have been 'hot-linking' to the images, so the first thing I did was to stop the site from accepting direct links to images.

To try to prevent people from downloading and re-using images, I have been forced to add a copyright notice as a watermark on all the photographs. It is unfortunate that I've been forced to do this. I don't mind people using my photos as long as they ask permission and I get credited as photographer.

I've tried to make the watermark fairly unobtrusive, to avoid it ruining the appearance of the photographs.

Yates's vs. Wetherspoons

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

We were staying in Croydon and were looking for somewhere to eat but Wetherspoons and Lloyd's were both busy and we couldn't find a table in either. We ended up eating in Yates's Bar. The music wasn't too loud when we got there but it got louder and louder while we were there. By the time we had finished eating, the music was painfully loud and we couldn't wait to leave.

We went to Wetherspoon's for a quiet drink afterwards. We managed to find a table where we could talk without having to raise our voices.

Comparison of Yates's and Wetherspoons:

CategoryYates's Wetherspoons Winner:
FoodOk. I had the beer and a burger. Only beer option was Fosters though.Ok. Better choice of beer with the 'beer and a burger' meal.Draw(ish)
DrinkGood choice of bottled beers. Prices ok.Good choice of bottled beers. Excellent choice of real ale. Great prices.Wetherspoons
Busy?Half full. Plenty of tables.Nearly full. Not many tables available.If you're running a business, Wetherspoons.
AmbianceLoud shitty music. Got louder and shittier while we were there.No music. Easy to hold a conversation.Wetherspoons.

I really don't know why bars insist on playing music at painfully loud volumes. I can't see how it can attract people in without also annoying them. You've only got to look at how busy Wetherspoons was compared to Yates's. If you ran a bar which was regularly half empty when a nearby bar was almost full, it would be in your best interest to find out why. You'd have to be some kind of moron to not realise the loud music is driving a lot of people away.

Update 14/04/08 I've since read that the Yates's in Coventry has closed. It was always blaring out loud crappy music - that probably drove away most potential customers.


Story location: Home / photography /

We woke up this morning to find that it had snowed in the night. I took my cameras and walked into Coventry to see if I could find anything to photograph. Unfortunately the snow was melting quite quickly. It was only a thin covering to begin with - it wasn't enough to stick on the roads.


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Previewing Posts

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /

The Blosxom blogging system doesn't have a built in way of previewing posts before making them publicly visible. There are various plugins available but for me they seemed to overcomplicate things.

I have been using the Blosedit post editor which includes a preview option but if any Blosxom plugins are used to alter the page appearance (such as Markdown or photo galleries) then the page won't display correctly.

My solution requires the entriescache plugin to keep track of posted stories. Normally, any stories will only show if entriescache knows about them. I set the delay variable to a high number eg.

$delay = 9999;

to stop the index from being rebuilt unless I say so. This means that I can add new posts without them showing, until I tell it to rebuild the index.

To display all posts, not just those in the index, I made the following change to entriescache:

sub start {
    # Force a reindex
    $reindex = 1 if (CGI::param('reindex'));
    return 0 if (CGI::param('preview'));
    return 1;

Entries are written as normal, then they are viewed by adding ?preview=yes to the end of the URL. If am I happy with the entry, I put ?reindex=yes instead.

This method can also work with the wikieditish plugin too, by adding:

<input type="hidden" name="preview" value="yes" />

to the form in the foot.wikieditish file.

Redd's Beer

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /

A lot of the small shops near us have started selling Polish beers. Some have quite an extensive range. We were pleasantly surprised by the Redd's range of fruit flavoured beers. Last week we bought a can of the Apple beer. We initially thought it was cider (we had already bought a couple of bottles of cider from another shop). It was a bit of a surprise to find it was an apple flavoured beer. Tonight we bought some cans of their other flavours: Sun and Red. The Sun was citrus-y whereas the Red was raspberry flavoured. They would both work well as summer drinks, served chilled. I think I preferred them to the apple version.

Hamster babies

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

I was away at a conference on tuesday morning so I missed the birth Orna's babies. We thought she might have been pregnant because in the last week her size seemed to double and she became much bigger than Mr Orn.

Orna and the smaller Mr Orna

There seem to be 5 tiny pink blobs in the nest. Both Orna and Mr Orn seem to be looking after their kids. Since Orna craves attention whenever she hears one of us in the room, we feared that she'd neglect any babies but that doesn't seem to be happening too much.

Hamster Babies