Everything Old is New Again


Keep It Simple, Stupid.

I was born into a world before the World Wide Web, and foraged amongst the dreadfulness of early HTML 1.0 and Geocities. A world where you hid behind a “handle” or “nickname” and cultivated an entire persona around it.

Of course, these days most people take that for granted, although a lot of people sail through the web as themselves, assuming that purely because they’re behind a computer, they are invulnerable to attack.

Sometimes, of course, simple is best, and ‘just being yourself’ is a life lesson that really can translate well to the web. This blog has been running on a couple of different domains since 2011 – a couple of different personas. Burning Branches, Synaptic Fire, LiquidElephant. The first two taken from the haunting song Dark Heart Dawning by BT, the last taken from my own bizarre imagination.

But in an attempt to simplify and streamline, to get back to my roots, I’ve just gone right back to my own name. Can’t get much simpler than that!

EdHirst.com has become home to my photography, with this subdomain – blog.edhirst.com – the path to my various witterings.

I left the old posts mostly intact, so if you’re bored this Sunday evening and fancy wandering through a staccato narration of my last three years, go nuts.

BMW, Timing Chains, and Used Car Dealers

Back in June, I had the misfortune to stumble across a car dealership called HS Cars Ltd, in Chichester. In particular the man who ran it: Mark Boyt.

I part-exchanged a lovely BMW Z4 3.0si Roadster for a BMW 120d M Sport Hatchback; ostensibly to save money, get more practicality, etc. What I actually got was months of stress, pain, hassle and expense, a loss of confidence in BMW, and the unpleasant experience of dealing with a man either too stupid to understand and accept his legal obligations as a motor trader, or with his head so far up his own behind that he thought he could try and cheat the law and win.

This will be a long post, but I implore you to read on, if you have ever had an experience with a used car that has left a bad taste in your mouth.

Continue reading BMW, Timing Chains, and Used Car Dealers

Back to Basics

Seven Months.

It’s quite a long time by most standards. Almost enough for a baby to be fully matured and birthed into the cold, uncaring world. It’s also the length of time I haven’t updated this darn website!

The last time I put my thoughts to keyboard I was sat in Wales, seriously considering moving back home and rebooting my career – possibly from the very bottom, all over again.
It’s been said that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you pick yourself up and start again. I was, realistically, nowhere near rock bottom but at the time it sure felt like it. As it is, just a few days after writing those words (which are visible just a few posts down) I got a phone call.

A couple of interviews and six months later, and I am now a Systems Administrator in a small IT team at an aviation firm in Berkshire. Still living in Basingstoke, still doing my usual thing.

I bought yet another BMW – faster and better, despite a significant drop in pay – which I’m about to sell after only a handful of months, and met a lovely lady just before Christmas. Funny how one thing can start to turn life around.

So I’ve been pretty busy, these last seven months. It’s been almost exclusively a very enjoyable ride, and I hope that continues!

I’ve given SynapticFire.co.uk a fresh lick of paint; it’s more content-oriented now, and I aim to try and produce some more regular content.

BurningBranches will be getting a similar overhaul, hopefully within the next few days.

Ciao for now!

The Nu Project

I’m a big fan of portrait photography. People are interesting; a single person can give you a multitude of fantastic pictures, evoke feelings and emotions, in a way that a single, immobile, impersonal object never can. I’m fortunate enough to have photographed four different people so far, each with a different angle / concept / plan in various different locations.

Two had modelled before (one professionally) but I discovered that in any case, being collaborative and throwing ideas into the pot together was a great way to get some great images.

One thing that I’ve always been interested in, is nude photography. We did some nude and semi-nude photography during the Forest Nymph shoot (sorry, that gallery is hidden from prying eyes, only accessible by the subject and those she chooses!) but it wasn’t part of the plan. Beyond expressions, the human body is a fascinating subject for photography and, when you strip away the clothing, you get to work with interesting lines, shapes and contours as well as a sort of ‘stripped bare’ vulnerability that you generally don’t get from ‘normal’ portraiture.

I’ve recently discovered The Nu Project by Matt Blum.

The Nu Project takes normal, everyday women, and gets them naked. The images are simply brilliant. Despite the generally more liberal attitudes creeping into modern culture, there is still a ‘taboo’ over the naked body. What’s more, our perceptions of what a naked person should look like have been greatly skewed and distorted by the modern media, not to mention pornography.

The Nu Project reminds us all what realism is. These are people you could quite easily meet on the street, work with, the actual ‘girl next door’. The way the photography is done feels so … ‘honest’. There is a fantastic creativity and energy in every single shot, and a sort of beauty to the whole thing (indeed, there are several women who I personally find a great deal of attraction in).

Ultimately it’s a gallery of a group of women who are accepting who they are, and being proud to show it to the world. And that in itself is a pretty beautiful concept in the age of plastic surgery, photoshopped advertisements and Hollywood deceit.

Debunking Day

LinkedIn dropped a nugget in my Inbox earlier by Henry Blodget of Business Insider.

I could rip it to pieces, but his argument essentially boils down to “Samsung made a phone with a massive screen and Apple aren’t going to” along with “It looks similar to the iPhone 4(S)”.

Oh, Henry. Henry Henry Henry.

There comes a point in a product’s life where the basic item is mature. Anything entering the market is expected to reach a particular bar before its even considered worthy to compete.
Each new iteration of the product by any manufacturer then needs to improve in incremental steps, until the world is ready for the next innovation.

The purported new iPhone looks similar to its predecessors because it’s predecessors were good products. Whilst competitors have been forced to do something different to attempt to differentiate themselves and/or avoid lawsuits, Apple has carried on serenely racking up massive profits as it incrementally improves its product once a year.

I’ve used the oft-touted ‘iPhone killer’ Samsung S3, whilst disillusioned by the iPhone. All that did was make me want the iPhone back.
– Too big
– Too cheap feeling (yet bizarrely much more expensive)
– Too poorly made
– Amatuerish OS

Sure, the S3 has a bigger screen. The iPhone is better made, cheaper per-GB of internal storage, fits my average-sized hands much better and most importantly, has a better (for my use case) OS.

The whole smartphone war is analogous with the digital camera one. “More megapixels” became the marketers answer, despite the actual fact that cramming more pixels onto a sensor that hadn’t gotten larger made the image quality worse in certain situations.

The iPhone will have a smaller screen than the S3 or whatever. So if you use your phone as a dick-enhancement device, it’s probably the one for you.

But it’ll be manufactured at a much higher quality level. The screen will be so clear it’ll be like reading off paper. The apps you run will be optimised for that screen size, rather than a lot of Android apps that have to shoehorn themselves into one of the fifteen different screen sizes peddled by its various hardware vendors.

Sorry Henry, your arguments just don’t stack up in real world usage.

Oh, he also includes a comparison shot of the S3 and iPhone asking “What would you rather use for 18 hours a day?”

I’ll leave you to figure that one out but finish with one question: who do you know who has 6 hours of sleep, then uses their phone constantly from the moment they wake until they go back to sleep?

That’s right, nobody.

Mommy, there’s an Android under my bed

As anyone who knows me will surely attest, I am a fan of Apple products. As mentioned in previous articles, I am an owner of many Apple devices and services.

It came as some surprise to me, let alone others, when I started considering an Android product, having run iPhone and iOS since the iPhone 3G. It was an even bigger surprise when I bought one.

Here are my thoughts on the whole thing.

Continue reading Mommy, there’s an Android under my bed

Ssssh, it’s a secret

You may have heard in recent weeks about the breach of security at LinkedIn, the ‘business networking’ site that most people these days are a member of (well, those of us who work / are desperately looking for work).

I didn’t bother looking to see whether or not mine had been compromised; the likelihood was that it had, and it opened up an issue which I’d been stupidly trying to avoid for years.

Way back in the day, probably around 1998 or 1999, my friend and I decided to come up with a password for a joint venture. It had to be something we both would know and remember, but would be secure enough (at the time).
We chose a random combination of letters, made it into a ‘sort of word’ and that became our password. It was so effective at being memorable that I’ve used it ever since. For thirteen or fourteen years it’s been my mainstay, go-to password of choice for literally everything. Easy to modify – in the modern world of ‘complex passwords’, capitalising the first letter and adding a number and/or symbol met all the criteria.

I’d known for a long time that one password for everything was massively insecure, but convenience trumped security.

The LinkedIn security breach, allied to my recent email overhaul, put me in the mindset to do something about it.

I’d long been a paid-up supporter of AgileBits‘ fabulous 1Password utility, a brilliant multi-platform password vault with an iOS app and integration into IE, Chrome, Safari and Firefox. I’d been using it for ages just to store the multitude of logins I had for online accounts with various usernames and variations on my ubiquitous password, but I’d never used its password generator, a highly customisable feature.

I knew that I’d have to change my email addresses for zillions of online accounts, so I built a password change into that. For all but the most harmless accounts, I now have a unique, secure password. Because of the browser integration, all I ever really need to remember is my ‘vault password’ or the ‘one password to rule them all’. Thankfully I have an eighteen character password committed to memory which does that job quite nicely.

It’s a little more of a chore sometimes now, logging into certain websites. But it’s a damn sight more secure.

Yo Dawg, We Heard You Like Backups …

My iMac has been making a buzzing noise, so it’s time to take it into the Apple Store and get it checked out. My sister warned me to make sure my data was backed up and, along with a thread I was reading on some forums, I decided to make a quick post about the backup regime I use to keep my data sort-of-safe.

The iMac has a 256GB Solid State Drive, and a 1TB conventional 7200RPM drive.

To begin with, we all know that SSDs aren’t as proven-reliable as a standard spinning disk. To avoid any data loss, as well as the fact that I have a lot of data, I’ve shifted all ‘actual’ data (Pictures, Music, Documents) over to the 1TB disk, and used stubs to point at that information. As far as my workflow is concerned, I just access documents from the same place I always have in the Finder, but they’re on a separate physical disk.

That physical disk is then partitioned. The first partition is 256GB (see where this is going), with the remains of the disk set aside for my documents, pictures, music, etc.

At 3am every day, a fantastic little program called SuperDuper backs up the SSD onto the first partition of the 1TB hard disk. This ensures that, if I boot up one day and the SSD has died in its sleep, the machine will simply boot up from the first partition of the 1TB, and I’ll be away.

On top of that, I then run OS X’s Time Machine to back THAT up to a 1TB laptop drive that’s plugged in behind the iMac. This gives me the facility to roll back any part of the file system with ease, should I so choose, but also to restore the data in case of a hard disk failure.

What I’m lacking in this scenario is any redundancy, as well as off-site backups. As I become more proficient at photography, I’ll definitely want that protected more. Without a decent internet connection to back up 100+ GB of RAW files to the Cloud, an off-site backup solution will definitely become necessary.

10 Green Bottles

Wandering through ASDA yesterday, I came upon a couple of the really cool flip-top Grolsch bottles. Grolsch happens to be my absolute most-favourite lager in the whole world, so it seemed wrong not to pick up a couple of bottles. I sank one last night, and enjoyed the German Grand Prix with the second this afternoon.

Afterwards, I decided to take some pictures. Click here for the gallery!