Caught My Eye: Coffee and Black Ops

Caught My Eye: Coffee and Black Ops

Coffee seems to have been in my life a lot recently. Testing coffee in a new business – Brett’s Own Brews (good for a post at a later date), acquiring a new coffee machine and doing some experiments. I’m not talking instant here. And I’m also not talking high street coffee. No, it’s been all about great coffee from various suppliers for different purposes.

Personal Coffee Machine

Like many people I do enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning. Producing a really good cup of coffee can be a real hassle, especially when it comes to the clean up afterwards. Back in my student days I had a great little single cup filter machine. That’s useful – fill it up in the evening and load the filter with some good quality ground. In the morning, just switch it on and a few minutes later there’s a tasty, steaming cup of coffee ready to get you going for the day. Afterwards, just wash the cup and clean the filter and it’s ready for the next cup.

Morphy Richards SAingle cup coffee filter machine.

I haven’t had one of those for years, but I was given one recently and I’ve really been enjoying it. I’m currently enjoying a Rocko Mountain coffee from Monsoon Estates Coffee Company in Stratford upon Avon. In my view it certainly beats the Nespresso hands down.

Contact Coffee Company

I have also been given a bag of “Black Ops” from the Contact Coffee Company. Tried this one this morning, and it is everything it promises. Kick start your day with a mug of this and you will not be dozing off any time soon.

There’s not much “about” the company, but to quote from a search “Contact Coffee is an idea from two military men derived from our passion for Fitness, Military and most importantly, Coffee!”. Good coffee guys!

Coffee Blogger Italy

Rome Coffee Guide

Taking a trip to Rome? I also found this interesting post about coffee in Italy, from a Northamptonshire (that’s nearby!) blogger, Nicole. Now this looks good – I think I need a getaway soon!

Coffee Cups

And before you go, do have a look at the selection of coffee mugs on my site, featuring some of my photos from various places. One of these is my morning coffee favourite. A good solid, interesting mug which is dishwasher proof!

Golden Coffee Mug

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Blue winged butterfly

Linux and Photos – Hi Performance Low Cost

Blue winged butterfly

Linux and Your Photos

Fed up with the need to frequently upgrade your Windows PC or laptop? Stretching the budget to move to an Apple system? Worried about the cost of Photoshop / Lightroom, etc? Give some though to a Linux system.

For a while now I have been acquiring the odd older laptop and installing Linux. It is not hard, and often a damaged hard drive, which has trashed Windows, but is not totally destroyed, is recovered by the installation. Now my computer has to achieve a few things:

  1. My photography – storage, management and processing of photos;
  2. Music – storage and CD writing;
  3. Internet access – pretty standard;
  4. Work – documents and access to VPN systems.

In other words, pretty much what most people want their home computer to do. With possibly a bit more emphasis on the photographic processing.

In its earlier days, implementing Linux required a bit of “techie” understanding of your computer hardware. Nowadays you have the choice of taking a slightly more complex installation route, which does require some basic understanding of your system, or taking the basic “plug in and go” approach. Many computer users would be easily able to install it on their PC, especially if it is an older machine.

Advantages of using Linux

  • It extends the life of the PC. Because it performs more efficiently than Windows older, smaller PCs will often perform well. I recently loaded Mint Linux 16 (latest version) on to a 2 MB ex Windows Vista system. It performs like new!
  • It is FREE. Simply choose the Linux version you want to use, download and install;
  • Current flavours of Linux support highly effective packages equivalent to similar Windows packages. Browsers, Office, Photography, Music – they’re all there.
  • Most application packages are FREE!

Disadvantages of Linux

  • Linux does not, as a rule, run Windows software. To date I have not found a Windows package which does not have an equivalent, highly effective, Linux / Open Source alternative.
  • Installation of “dual boot” (Windows and Linux co-existing on the same machine) often requires a bit of “techie” knowledge. I don’t run any machines like this, so installations are easy, taking about an hour.
  • Apple does not support the Linux environment, so if you are an Apple user. There are ways, but they are tricky. So if you are into iTunes, you will need Apple or Windows at some point.
  • Some TV services, such as Netflix, are not supported. The “front end” of these services is managed via Microsoft DRM (Digital Rights Management) which has not been made available to Linux developers. That said, I have little problem in the UK running the Freeview catch-up services and live streaming.

From a budget photography perspective Linux offers a solid alternative to the Windows / Apple / Adobe option. Well worth thinking about if you, like me, would prefer to spend your hard earned dollars on lenses than on computers.

My current preference of Linux flavours is Mint Linux – simple, easy to use interface with a good software manager.

What’s that got to do with butterflies? Absolutely nothing. The Linux logo is normally Tux, the Linux penguin below, but I didn’t have a picture of my own, so I used the butterfly, which, by the way, was processed in Luminance HDR and GIMP on a Mint Linux system.

Tux: the Linux penguin Copyright Larry Ewing.

Tux: the Linux penguin Copyright Larry Ewing.

Some Relevant Reading

Amazon offers a broad selection of books about the linux operating system, as well as a selection of books about photo processing with Gimp, the favourite Linux photo editing tool.

Buy Blue and Black butterfly prints from Jeremy Hayden Photography

Snapseed – First Try

Interesting! I had to try this! I came across #snapseed recently. What better way to try it but to pick a pretty mundane “I was there” photo. This thing could be fun!

Busy times, so it has been a few days since I shared Otto Münchow’s blog about Snapseed. I have subsequently used it to tweak a number of photos on both an Android phone and found it to be a very useful tool.

From my point of view it’s about being able to edit a photo quickly and easily on either phone or tablet. If I am travelling I like to keep it light. There is little easier than Android with an OTG adapter to load photos from my DSLR, edit them and upload them. Never mind the excellent camera on the Note 4.

The only downside I have found at this stage is the lack of an easy ability to crop the picture. But I have tools for that, so it’s not a problem.

The software has proved effective for all sorts of images, including a mobile scan shot of a precious photo, which needed enlarging. Needless to say it will see a bit of use in the next couple of weeks.

Snapseed is part of the Nik software suite acquired recently by Google, and released free of charge. It’s available on both Android and iOS.

#photography #processing #h1t via Instagram

Working on the iPad

5 Key Travel Hardware Items (Travel Computing Part 1)

Working on the “big” screen in the garden.

Travel Hardware

Travelling? Working on your blog? Processing photos? What hardware do you need? The answer is pretty simple – your travel hardware needs a hybrid, light weight computer like the Microsoft Surface. That will cover everything you need.

BUT does it?

A decently powerful hybrid computer is expensive. Is it the answer if you do short trips? A couple of weeks and long weekends at a time? I would rather be spending my hard earned budget on the trip! Aside from that I have no need of the “travel computer”when I am not travelling. At around £800 for a decent hybrid system that makes it very expensive!

As an IT Manager I am surrounded by all sorts of technology and often called upon to find a build working solutions. Over our recent travels I have made a point of trying out various solutions, generally leaving the laptop at home.

In this, first article, on the subject of travel computing I’ll be taking a look at the other options available, And they may surprise you.

What’s the Point?

In deciding on your travel hardware you need to be clear on what you want to do. Here’s my requirements list:

  1. Process photos, including those on my DSLR, and post them to Instagram, Flickr, perhaps 500px;
  2. Write blog posts, both quick, short posts, and longer ones, and promote them;
  3. Take notes and note locations;
  4. Post and check in on Facebook;
  5. Reply to e-mails, social media and the like;
  6. Play some music;
  7. Read books;
  8. Keep in touch with family on SMS, WhatsApp and the like.

Pretty much everything that most of us want on holiday. Obviously doing all of that needs a combination of hardware, software and connectivity. For now let’s just look at the hardware and come on to the rest in later articles.

My Travel Hardware

My travel kit contains five key pieces of hardware which allow me to do everything in the list above.

1. Smartphone / Mobile phone

Most, if not all, readers of this blog are likely to carry an Apple or Samsung, or other Android smartphone. Both iOS and Android support common apps which will do everything in the list. In fact the mobile phone is the cornerstone of most of these processes, for the simple reason that it is the device which you will generally be carrying. It’s also the device you are likely to be using for a WiFi hotspot for others. Mine frequently has a couple of other devices attached via a hotspot when we are on holiday.

At present my phone of choice is the large screen Samsung Note 4 with it’s stylus. In fact most of the modern phones with their larger screens will match anything I can do on it. The key here is to have as much storage as possible. This is where the Androids score, as they use a micro SD card, as opposed to the bigger cost of the larger capacity iPhones.

In the next couple of articles I will discuss the software and connectivity issues.

2. A 10 inch Tablet

The bigger screen of the tablet simply makes it easier to use. There is another consideration, though. That is battery capacity. Continual use on a WiFi or 4G link does drain the mobile phone pretty quickly, while the tablet will last significantly longer.

My device of choice at present is an iPad 3. So i have the best of both worlds – Android on one and iOS on the other! For quick weekend trips the iPad will often stay at home and everything will rely on the mobile phone.

A key requirement of my systems is that everything is sync’d (within reason depending on connectivity). Like many I struggle to sleep on long haul flights, especially being over 6 foot tall. Using the tablet, loaded and sync’d with the phone, I have a couple of days of music loaded. I simply start the music, put on headphones and that soon helps me to drift off. As part of sync, all of my Kindle books are also available.

Using an Android phone to blog

Blogging from a mobile phone, with a view of the sea from a hotel balcony.

3. Bluetooth Keyboard

At this point some of you will have said “you can’t be typing on a mobile keyboard all the time”. Some may have noted the keyboard. The bluetooth keyboard is probably the most important productivity aid in the whole process!

Bluetooth keyboards are not expensive, and there are many types available. I use two:

  • A small, rechargeable keyboard. It’s most useful for short “hand luggage only” trips, though in use it is a bit small;
  • The larger keyboard shown in the photos. Note that it is the same keyboard, just connected to a different device. This one is AAA battery powered, which means that I can pack it in checked luggage – something you should never do with a rechargeable lithium battery device. Its larger size does make it cumbersome in hand luggage.

Compatible with just about any device, the keyboard really takes most of the pain out of using the mobile devices.


4. The “On The Go” OTG Hub

Most of the more recent Android devices have the built-in OTG functionality. Basically this gives the device the ability to access files, such as photos, on an SD card, USB memory stick or external hard drive (with additional power). It’s a quick and easy way to load photos to the device for processing, posting, backup, etc. It’s an inexpensive but incredibly useful add-on to the system.

In my setup the OTG device will obviously only work with the mobile phone. Given the right software (see the next article) that’s not a problem. The iOS world has it’s own similar devices, which I have never bothered about, as My initially investigation of them suggested they were expensive and had limited capability.

5. Power – the Backup Battery

The iPad has sufficient battery capacity that I have never bothered about spare power for it. Any modern mobile phone, when asked to move around, stay connected and run location services, consumes battery capacity quickly. Here’s what I use:

  • A solar battery backup. This delivers about 60% of the full Note 4 charge, and is VERY slow to recharge on solar. It generally is recharged from mains power, but will run the phone directly from the solar panel in a pinch;
  • A second battery, recharged from USB, which delivers around 70% of the charge to the mobile;

On rare occasions both batteries have been necessary, but generally one or the other does the job nicely. Here’s a similar but higher capacity unit:


Other Bits and Pieces

Depending on what you want to achieve there are many accessories available for both the iOS and Android worlds. For example I find a stylus is a vital tool. There are also adapters to let you display the screen on a TV. It is really up to you. These are the five most important pieces of hardware in my kit.

And they are not only limited to holidays. On more than one occasion at work, but out of the office I have used both devices to access spreadsheets, and even server screen using VPN and RDP software. In fact I frequently don’t use my PC e-mail software at work, opting instead to use one or the other or both mobile devices.

Looking to the Future

Typically technology prices come down over time, so it’s worth watching the market for bargains, both in the hybrid computer arena and the tablet space. For the present a fully featured Windows 10 system really needs to be one the better / more expensive hybrid laptops. Having said that, there are a number of lightweight laptops with 2GB RAM and Windows 10 available at low prices. I am cautious as these are very small systems to run Windows. Hopefully, in due course,  I’ll have an opportunity to check out one of those devices. From the specifications, I suspect that their performance will be similar to an iPad or Android tablet. They may be a good alternative to the tablet in this article. Then again maybe not (I am NOT a Windows fan).

To Conclude…

Staying connected, blogging, uploading photos and so on does not need an expensive, lightweight computer. While there is no argument for long term travel – I would haul a laptop along for that, on a short trip that’s not necessary.

In two more articles to come, I’ll cover the software which powers it all and some of the connectivity issues which come up in short trips away.

Please let me have some feedback if you are interested in more on this topic.





At The End Of The Day on a Beach

At the end of the day on holiday on a beach at Sandown on the Isle of Wight a couple of years ago. We found a cafe and enjoyed the last of the daylight on the beach with a couple of drinks.

The photo was a bit of an exercise in low light work, but it still evokes some good memories.

See more from that Isle of Wight trip here.

The watermark betrays one site where it is posted – Source: At The End Of The Day by Jeremy Hayden on It’s also on 500px.

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