Windows 10 Upgrade and another day dribbled away through my fingers

We are sitting in quarantine and now on Day 5.  Not really any different to how we were before we went to France and when we were in France – just different jobs around the house and workshop and zero outside contact other than food deliveries.  (My wife gets very excited at the prospect of seeing the deliveries arrive).

I got fed up with the boot warnings on Fusion 360 that Win7 would not be supported so I decided that I would upgrade to Win10.  My machine is fairly well spec’d so there was no great desire to upgrade to a new machine.  It was i7 based and had 32MB of memory with a 250GB SSD and a 1TB secondary drive.   Both drives were pretty full and into red warnings so I bit the bullet and opted for a clean load.  I bought in a new 500GB for the operating system and app storage and a massive 2TB data storage secondary drive.   Total cost under GBP100 which is staggeringly cheap.

Changing the hardware was simple. I bought in a SATA to USB dongle to allow the old drives to be available for data transfer and this made life a bit easier. 

Loading Win10 and all my favourite apps took over a day.  It is just never simple.  Finding software keys is always a bit  of a problem as some apps hide it away in Registry.   Finding EXE loading files is another frustration.   Why when you buy an app do some providers send you an email link to download direct with a licence key ?   This results in nothing showing in ‘Downloads’ history to refer back to and reload the app.  When you try to use the old email link it downloads the latest version and tells you that your licence key is no longer valid. When you go to their site the version that did everything you ever wanted has been upgraded and needs you to pay to now use the later version.   ‘Hello .. I have paid for version X and I don’t want to pay for version Y thank you very much.  Just give me a download link to restore what I know and love”.  Rant over on that one.

Some weird effects on Outlook transpired.   I have a GMail IMAP account and three POP accounts all loaded on Outlook.   After loading I had an extra ‘Sent’ folder on the GMail folders tree which contained the Sent items from one of the POP accounts.  Spent a lot of time on this and didn’t satisfactorily solve it other than deleting the contents from this duplicate folder.  The messages are still there in the POP folder so not sure what that was all about.

My 3DConnexion Spacemouse loaded across fine onto Win10 but I still had a related exception error window coming up on booting the machine.   This was the same as it had been on Win 7 so clearly something was common mode.  I could click it and the message window would disappear but it was annoying.  After some digging I traced it to Trend Antivirus.  If I put the two 3dconnexions’ Windows folders into Trend as ‘Ignore’ items it all went away.  Progress on that one.

So I think I now have a (mostly) stable Win 10 machine.  I hate all the nanny state Windows ‘fluff’ that stops you getting quickly to things such as System\Hardware like it was in XP.  In an attempt to ease this I have loaded Stardock’s ‘Start 10’ which mimics the old style Start menu and this makes me feel a bit more familiar. 

Hopefully this was all worth doing and things will now go swimmingly along with no crashes and dramatic improvements in productivity …. gosh were those really pigs I saw flying past ?

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France visit with astro photography and Canon camera CHDK hack

Like all responsible citizens we have been in social distancing since March and throughout this time both my wife and I have been concerned about our house in France.   

As infection rates seemed to be easing we decided to make a quick visit to the Dordogne to check all was well.   Normally we take a ferry crossing but we really did not want to risk the exposure this would entail.  Instead we opted to take the Channel Tunnel.  For those not familiar with this route, you drive to the terminal, check in and then get loaded in your car onto a rail transport shuttle train.  The journey through the Tunnel takes around 40 minutes and you off load near Calais in France and head south.  This route offered minimal exposure to others as we were effectively in the car from door to door and not allowed to leave the vehicle on the shuttle train.

We live in the mid south of England so there was the discomfort of a 2 hour journey to the Folkestone to board the shuttle.   Normally we have a 1 hour run to Portsmouth for the ferry.  Once in France at Calais there was a 9+ hour run via Paris (not fun) down to the Dordogne.  It was tiring but with the two of us taking shifts it eased the strain.

All was good at the house and we spent two weeks with minimal human contact and survived on the French ‘click and collect’ food supply services.  We had some very high daily temperatures and some nice wine.

We have a very close friend called John living in France and he knows our house well and envies our Dark Sky location.   He has similar interests in Fusion 360, horology, Arduino, mechanical design and relevant to this instance, astro-photography. August is the peak time for the Perseid meteor shower.  We both own Canon Powershot SX50 HS zoom cameras and he made a comment that it was a shame that these did not have a Bulb setting for the shutter or the ability for us to do time lapse to take some shots of the meteor trails.

Investigating on the internet revealed that there is a group of enthusiasts that have hacked the operating system of the Canon range of cameras.   This is known as CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit).  It allows you to load a firmware update into the camera to expand its capabilities but does not overwrite the default issued code.   The CHDK code is wiped once you switch off and the camera reverts to normal.

CHDK provides facilities for long exposure times and for time lapse routines.  This therefore addressed both the issues we had with the SX50.  It took a while for us to share notes and to get our heads around how CHDK worked and how to set it up.  I managed to get my camera hacked the day before it was time to journey home.   I had one last night of hopefully cloud free viewing to get some images.

Those familiar with all things astro will know that a long exposure time image of the sky will be degraded by the movement of the Earth’s rotation.  The result is ‘trails’ on the stars so they look elongated rather than single dots.  John is developing an Arduino based star tracker but I did not have access to  this but I did have my Celestron telescope.  When the telescope is calibrated and locked it will keep track of the star movement and not leave trails.   

I spent the day devising a mount for the Canon on the telescope and come 10 pm all was ready to run … except the cloud cover was really bad.  I waited and waited and finally I got one run of 4 shots of 3 minutes each looking at the Milky Way.  Given more time these could have been stacked in Registax or similar to enhance the images further.

Milky Way image taken with a Canon HS50 hacked with CHDK to give 3 minute exposures
Milky Way image taken with a Canon HS50 hacked with CHDK to give 3 minute exposures

I accept that the SX50 is far from ideal as an astro imaging camera.  There is too much glass in the light path and the filtering and noise will be poor but this was a first step along the road.  I was pretty pleased with the result.  I now need to compare notes with John on his Arduino based star tracker.  Another project to add to the ever increasing list …..

Next day we made the house secure and departed knowing that we now faced not just a 13 hour journey but also a 14 day quarantine period when we got home.  But of course the upside is 14 days of uninterrupted workshop time.

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