Becca in Colorado at N.O.A.A.


So my regular visitors (hi mum!) may have noticed the URLs on all of my domains changed a little recently. That’s because I have finally moved to HTTPS by default. There are many good reasons to do this (more secure when logging in to e.g. my blog, less snooping on people by bad actors, better search ranking, probably others), but the one that finally swung it for me was that I wanted to give Let’s Encrypt a go!

If you haven’t heard of Let’s Encrypt, it is a free service that issues SSL certificates (i.e. the bit that puts the S into HTTPS). They have a 90 day lifetime, and there is a bot that renews them automatically on the server.

I have to admit that it took me a little while to figure out how to use it properly – putting all the subdomains on the same certificate took me a while to get. But the actual install process if fairly straightforward as they’ve built a nice tool. Overall I think it is awesome. It has even auto-renewed the first lot I did already. Magic.

.uk ccTLD

Now that the .uk country code Top Level Domain is available I have added this to the list of addresses I own. This means that these pages now live at www.ollyandbecca.uk (i.e. the .co has gone), saving you three whole keystrokes. The same is true for faji.uk too.

HALOGEN goes live!

For the last six months or so I have been working on a project called HALOGEN, this was a venture to bring together various different geospatial data sets into one unified database. By doing this we can start to ask cross data-set queries – something that you certainly couldn’t do when one source is in an Excel file at one university and the other in an Access database at another!

One of the advantages of this approach is that we can then stick a web front end on the database and let the general public look at the data. It is this bit that we launched yesterday. If you head on over to halogen.le.ac.uk and do a query then you should be able to find the derivation of your favourite English place name, or where your ancestors lived during 1881, or even what and where treasure has been found!

New look web pages

As you may or may not notice I have rewritten my entire website. Given that the old version was written when I was just learning HTML4 about six years ago I figured it was time for a bit of an update. It’s also given me a chance to have a play with some of the new HTML5 and CSS3 features as well as move a few things around. Notibly I moved the holidays pages to a blog category – there was starting to be too many.

In terms of the HTML5 stuff, I have employed the new structural tags <header>, <nav>, <footer> for now, with the likes of <section> to follow soon. One of the more noticable things is the use of the new <video> tag, in using this I am slowly converting all my video to Ogg Theora. This does mean that I am not supporting IE in the first instance, I may or may not get around to fixing it someone asks me nicely.

There’s a few other HTML5 bits and pieces around, my favourite may be the new <form> behaviour. They have rewritten it so you can upload many files at once and a lot of the validation of user input is done on-the-fly. I have a nice CMS that I use to manage my photos now with all these implemented 🙂

Obviously there is a nice sprinkling of CSS3 styles around which will work in modern browsers – even IE (if you are using IE9 and have compatibility mode turned off that is).

Let me know if you have any problems with the new style (things not displaying properly etc).

Highlight of the week

So my WASP public archive paper has been accepted and is the highlight of this weeks issue of A&A 🙂 You can see it on the A&A website.

National Astronomy Meeting 2010

And so another N.A.M. has ended – I am writing this on the long train journey home. Luckily I booked my seat long before Eyjafjallajokull started to stir, and ground all the planes (unlike many that could not make it, or get back). The N.A.M. was at Glasgow University, close to the centre of the city, the university is an ancient one with many pretty old buildings that look like they belong in a work of fiction.

My main reason for coming to the N.A.M. was the launch of the SuperWASP public archive. I have been working on this for around a year now, and on Monday it was officially let loose on the public. This first data release has 14 billion data points and over 3.5 million images now available to be queried and downloaded. The general consensus among the people I spoke to about it was that it will be a very useful resource. The trouble I am having is that it is rather difficult to get people excited about an astronomical data base, and then getting them to tell their friends!

As ever with N.A.M.s there was a wide range of sessions to go to, one that I particularly enjoyed was the software astronomy session. In it the chair introduced the term astroinformaticsto me as a way of describing what it is that I do – a much sexier title than archive scientist me thinks 🙂

As you would expect there were a few people rather irate at the open forum which had representatives from the funding councils. One poor guy told us how he had his three year post-doc ended one year in, with one months notice, due to the current funding issues. Needless to say, this is precisely why more and more of my friends are moving abroad.

Besides the conference I did get to do some other stuff – mainly revolving around drinking of some description. The conference dinner was in the Kelvingrive museum, which was pretty cool. And so it is that I am heading back to Leicester with a bottle of double matured lagavulin in my case, and a head full of new ideas…

NOT 09

So I am in La Palma doing my astronomy thing. Or rather not doing my astronomy thing because of the weather 🙁 I am supposed to be using an instrument called FIES on the NOT to do radial velocity measurements with some of the folk from Queens to look for exoplanets, but alas it is too cold.

Sun set from an icy Nordic Optical Telescope

(The rest of my photos are on the photos page.)

Last night we observed until about 1:30 when it got cloudy, and when I say cloudy what I mean is the clouds descended and we were in them. Then tonight we got as far as opening the dome when it got too humid again, so we had to stop. Ordinarily when the humidity drops you can start observing again, but the temperature here is cold, very cold, so everything is freezing. We had to drive down from the telescope to the residence, and we had the support astronomer drive with us – as the roads were frozen. His advice to us when driving down was not to wear our seatbelts so we could jump out of the car if we start sliding towards the cliff edge. Hmmm. Oh well we made it down anyway and am now sitting in the residence. The temperature is rising now though, so we may end up going back to the telescope tonight….

My journey here was fairly uneventful, I came via Madrid (and didn’t lose my luggage), then Tenerife. The only thing that did phase me somewhat was when I saw the tiny little plane that goes from Tenerife to La Palma, it was a tiny little two propellar engine jobbie. Ho hum, it got me here I suppose.

Tomorrow I go back down the mountain in the afternoon, but my flight back doesn’t leave until Sunday, so I have to spend a night in that four star hotel with the indoor waterfall and heated swimming pool.

It’s a tough life this astronomy malarkey.

Server tinkering.

So I have spent most of today tinkering with my server, it now runs php5 🙂 I had to do this as I am thinking about playing with the facebook API and that needs php5.

All the pages on this site are finally valid CSS (including the family tree page – screw you microsoft!). The question now arises of weather I have a go making the whole site xhtml strict instead of transitional.

And who said I don’t have a life?!

My new(ish) web server :)

Well I finally made the leap into true geekishness and got my own server to play with (actually its not my own it’s shared, but you get the idea). After much research (actually I just asked Mike which one he went with) I went with Memset, and for less than £30 p/m I get 15GB to play with on a Debain server.

It took me AGES to get it all set up, but now I think I am on top of it, I am running a couple of domains from it and think I know where everything is, so all is good. Ollyandbecca is now hosted on there, so, in theory, it should be more stable now and so all you lovely people can keep up with my endeveours easier. Enjoy 🙂

Ruby on Rails

The work I’m doing for the schome people in second life has taken a bit of a turn, now they want me to learn ruby on rails so that I can help out with the development of new stuff and also be a backup if our ruby guy falls under a bus. So with less than two weeks to go before the big launch day I have started to read around stuff. It is something I have been toying with doing for a while, so to be getting paid to do it is great. It claims to be the best thing ever, I am dubious but I’ll give it a shot. So who knows, in a few weeks I may have thrown wordpress to the gutter and have written my own blogging engine!

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