Category Archives: Thoughts

Some of my thoughts, ideas and other text based entries

Two bird sightings on a nice afternoon out

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to have a at least one hour walk of some sort every Saturday and Sunday (unfortunately having a daily one-hour walk isn’t logistically feasible). While I have already failed that resolution for various reasons I’m still trying to achieve that goal when possible. Today I managed 1.5 hours at the Hosehill Lake nature reserve near Theale.

Among many other birds I spotted two birds I don’t think I have taken pictures of previously. I’m not sure if I identified them correctly, if I’ve got it wrong please let me know in the comments. I believe the first one is a Gadwall Duck, the second one I think is a Garden Warbler. As I said, if I got it wrong please let me know so that I can update the post.

(click on the picture for a full-size version)

The drone hit that almost certainly wasn’t

A few days ago the press was full with reports about a drone allegedly hitting a plane (see BBC, Telegraph, Guardian). The reports all called for tighter regulations, more controls, they predicted dire scenarios of planes crashing if nothing was done, yet hidden in the articles it was also is mentioned that the plane was ‘believed to be hit’ and that no debris off a drone had been found. In other words, there was no proof of a hit.

I was sceptical of the reports when they first surfaced for a number of reasons. To start with the reports indicated that there was little or no damage to the plane which contradicts the claims of dire consequences should a plane be hit. Surely if the plane had been hit there would have been damage? Next the reported height of 1700 feet when the plane was hit. While not technically impossible it is quite difficult to reach such heights with a standard consumer drone. The newer models of the DJI Phantom (a picture of which is usually used to illustrate the reports) all have built-in height restrictions below the levels indicated in this report and many other sightings. Admittedly these can be hacked and overwritten, also older models don’t have this restriction. However, the ability to reach and maintain such heights is severely limited by in particular the battery capacity of the drones. If if a consumer drone was to reach these heights it almost certainly would only be able to remain at that level for less than a minute before having to descend or even descend automatically to ensure a safe landing with enough battery capacity.

Then the calls for tighter regulations including an US style drone registry. To start with there is already regulation requiring drone operators to only fly at safe heights and not near any airports. I firmly believe that the majority of people flying a drone will follow those rules, but as with pretty much anything there will always be some idiots will break the rules and ruin it for everyone (just think of the people driving vastly in excess of the speed limit or texting while driving, which in many cases has led to deathly accidents). A drone registry would only be helpful if any identifiable debris of a drone had been found, otherwise what would you look for to identify the owner? In this case nothing had been found so there was nothing to identify.

Now the first reports are starting to surface that the alleged hit might not have happened at all or that the alleged drone might have been a plastic bag. There was no damage to the plane at all, not even a dent. Still no debris has been found. All this indicates that almost certainly there was no strike, most likely not even a drone.

Transport Minister Robert Goodwill in my eyes reacts very sensibly and seems to have a very good understanding of the situation. Tighter rules won’t stop terrorists and will only have a limited impact on reckless idiots (see the earlier mentioned speeding and texting). The technical limitations of a drone (e.g. battery capacity) will make it much more likely for terrorists to use other, simpler means to achieve their goals. Of course there should be continued education about the rules and safe flying for all drone users as well as punishment for reckless idiots, but both of that is already happening as various press reports indicate.

Update on my speech recognition software test

Two weeks ago I wrote that I was testing speech recognition software. Back then I said I was going to report back in approximately four weeks, turns out I made my decision much quicker. As I was pleasantly surprised how well the trial was going I have purchased a full version of Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium now.

While not perfect I’m very impressed how well the software is working and recognising what I am telling it. Of course there are a few problems, especially around place names on Islay (although I managed to teach it to recognise Islay quite quickly) and a few other things, but I’m confident that over time this will improve. Also I feel that I haven’t fully learned and explored the various capabilities beyond just writing text but to operate the computer the software has.

Again and again I’m finding opportunities for the speech recognition software to make my life easier. One example is writing my shopping list: I’m using Google Keep for my shopping list. After creating the blank shopping list I just go into the kitchen, check what I need and dictate the things I need without having to sit down at the laptop to type it.

Writing this entry I’m also hardly touching the keyboard, instead I’m leaning back sipping a Bruichladdich Islay single malt whisky while letting the thoughts flow. Very nice and relaxing.

A quick thanks to vowe, who inspired me to test the software after his positive experiences when he used it to keep writing after breaking his hand.

Testing speech recognition software

Recently I have experimented with speech recognition software on my Android phone. I have only used it for short sentences but found it quite useful. It allowed me to easily write short updates and Tumblr posts.

Encouraged by those small successes I have now decided to try it on my laptop. I have now installed Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium on my laptop (the trial version for now) to see how useful it is on the laptop. I’m actually speaking this entry instead of typing it. I have to make some minor corrections but it recognises almost everything correctly.

I don’t think I am faster than I am with typing but over time I think it will actually be quite helpful. Nevertheless, I’m using the trial version for now, in a months time I will make a decision if I am going to pay for the full licence.

Having only used it for a couple of hours now I’m quite encouraged with how well it is working so far. It’s a different way of writing but I think it could save me time in the long run. While I can type reasonably fast speaking is still much faster. What’s different is that I have to think in complete sentences, when typing I can think in fragments and complete or change sentences later.

That’s all for today, I’ll probably post an update in about a month or so.

Mobile phone users should be more alert

Mobile phone users should be more alert, that’s probably true in many cases (and I include myself here). But I don’t think in the sense as reported in Mobile phone users should be more alert, says ex-security chief.

We could and should all probably be more alert to our surroundings. To notice the little things, may be an animal, or a beautiful view, or a person in need of help. To enjoy life by enjoying the little pleasures of seeing or hearing or smelling what’s around us. To notice others and may be enjoy something with them or help them with something and make their day better.

But I very much doubt it needs to be out of paranoia about possible terrorist attacks. If you just walk around looking out for possible terrorist threats you’ll just make your life a misery.

Oh, and as far as the Munich events (or lack thereof) go, unless there are any confirmed arrests I don’t believe there was anything. If there were any terrorists with bombs ready to attack, surely closing the train stations wouldn’t have stopped them? I should think they would have just improvised and found another busy enough target?