Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Checking out telescopes

So in addition to the SkyScout, I've been looking at telescopes with an eye to upgrading from my current one: a 4"-aperture Newtonian on a very rough Alt-Az mount. Current candidates are:
  1. A plain-old 6" or 8"-aperture Dobsonian: inexpensive at $300-$400 CDN, very easy to set up and use, but bulky (we don't have a lot of storage space), can't track the sky, and the focusser is a basic rack-and-pinion.
  2. An 80mm refractor with high-quality ED glass on an EQ-3 computerized (i.e. Go-To) German equatorial mount, with a Crayford-style focusser, somewhat similar to this one: more expensive at $1099 CDN (though this would have been almost twice the cost 2 years ago), less light-gathering power but much sharper optics, comes with a metal case.
  3. This one looks very nice too, comparable to the previous but a bit higher-end for about the same cost. This is just the optical tube though, not a package deal, so I'd have to sort out my own mount (and mounting rings) and shipping, and that would bump up the cost by a couple of hundred.
One plus with the Dob is that I'd feel comfortable leaving it at the cottage for my nephew and nieces to use (with parental guidance), but then again there isn't much storage space there either.

At the moment I'm tending towards the second (could you tell?)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lego Star Wars II

Brian had a long nap late this afternoon, so he's staying up longer and we're playing Lego Star Wars II (again). Very fun game, with nice simple controls that even a 4.5-year old can handle. Brian has managed to figure out most of it. It amazes me how fast he picks things up.

I see the same team is also working on Lego Bat Man for next year, which should be good.
Preview version (not) available here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pandora podcasts

I'm really enjoying the Pandora podcast series on the elements of music. Ken, you'd enjoy the 2 episodes on drumming. The one on Ska & Reggae also has interesting tidbits on rhythm.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Thinking of getting a SkyScout

Debating getting a SkyScout. Saw one yesterday at the local astronomy gear shop and it's very cool. Interesting article on its design at EE times.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Recently Used Files chooser for Eclipse

Back in March, I posted a Recently Used Files chooser as a possible enhancement to the Eclipse Workbench (aka Platform UI). It shows the 15 most recently opened files in a quick pop-up, similar to the Ctrl+O popup for the Java outline, and supports type-ahead filtering.

To install:
  • download the binary plugin,
  • ensure that it's named "org.eclipse.ui.recentfiles_1.0.0.jar" (I've seen the name get munged by the browser before),
  • put it in your eclipse/plugins directory, and
  • restart eclipse with -clean.
I typically bind it to Ctrl+E, replacing the existing binding to the editor list. See comment 4 for instructions on how to do this.

I use it on a day-to-day basis (currently on Eclipse 3.3 M5, but moving to M6 any moment now). It's particularly useful when you've just closed all your editor tabs (Ctrl+Shift+W) but then want to go back to a file you just had open.

It works well when your working set of files is smallish. If it grows beyond 15, then Open Type (Ctrl+Shift+T) is still your friend.

Note that the Workbench already maintained this list of recently used files. It's the same as shown in the File menu, though the File menu only shows 4 by default. This can be bumped up via the "Size of recently opened files list" entry under Window > Preferences > General > Editors. But I find the convenient Ctrl+E binding, the central location of the pop-up, and the type-ahead filtering make the chooser much more usable.

If you try it, let me know what you think, either here or in the bug report.