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24. October 2015

Recently, I noticed that the different font rendering under Windows 7 broke the layout of the top menu on this blog a little bit – this never bothered me because I had no other operating systems than Windows XP on my computers before I got my new laptop! But because the layout was also a bit wonky under Android, I have fixed this now and also slightly overhauled the top menu. To make room for a long needed Science button, I made the plunge and changed the site logo to BIBRA.EU. This domain has been active for a while and already redirects to the blog, but next year I will move the whole site to the new address. Otherwise, everything is going to remain the same here for the time being, meaning that it’s still going to be my all-purpose blog for everything that does not fit into my other sites.

There’s also something else going on… I completely forgot to mention it here because I was so busy, but I have been building a new website for the WSH Crew Google+ Community this Summer! This means that the old Hangout Schedule Index which I had been maintaining here on the blog is now a part of the new website, but apart from some major layout improvements it is still the same page administrated by yours truly in cooperation with the other WSH Crew admins Nancy Graziano, Hugo Burnham, Silvan Wespi and Jim Meeker. The WSH Crew Community is also the reason I don’t write as much about science and astronomy here on this site at the moment, since we are posting all the interesting news over there, but I will probably still write the occasional article now and then. For everything else, go and join the WSH Crew Community – it’s a nice and cozy place and in addition to lots of space news we always keep everyone updated about which hangouts are happening.

So the changes here are actually not very earth-shattering, but at least I got around to work on the site a little bit. Maybe there will be more improvements along the way sometime!

25. September 2015

For a long time – actually since 2008 – I had been using an old Compaq Evo N610c business notebook as my primary work computer, but in addition to being seriously underpowered nowadays and rapidly losing screen brightness, it has been giving me some other trouble recently as well. Earlier this year, my last large harddrive failed and because 2.5″ IDE drives are nearly impossible to get now that SATA has taken over, I have been reduced to using the laptop with one of the two last 40GB drives I had in reserve. The last straw was only a couple of days ago when it suddely didn’t want to turn on anymore – after removing the optical drive and the battery, the problem suddenly vanished again, but now I fear that this might happen again and the laptop could finally stop working completely.

Because of the difficult harddrive situation, I was already looking for alternatives and found out that the IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad series has already been supporting SATA drives at least since the T60 series, which has become quite inexpensive on eBay recently. Although I had not intended to buy a new laptop this early, the slowly failing Compaq worried me so much that I finally made the decision to do it right now – and last week, I snagged a very nice Thinkpad T61 with a big 15.4″, 1280×800 display, 2GB RAM and a 1.8 GHz Core2Duo processor. It’s not a brand-new machine by any means, but still a huge upgrade over my old laptop. The amazing thing is that I bought it from the same seller I got my Compaq notebook from back in 2008 – a dealer who refurbishes leased computers and gives a one-year warranty on used articles, so I’m on the safe side.

It arrived yesterday and as expected it is in amazing shape – the only signs of use are some small scratches on the lid and otherwise it looks like completely new. The only part I will probably replace soon is the 80GB harddrive it came with, mainly because I want to put something bigger into the laptop, but also because it has a somewhat high power-on hour count. It also came with an unexpected and very welcome surprise: a built-in sd card reader in front of the palm rest, something which I had not expected at all. There was absolutely no driver trouble when I installed Windows 7 and everything works perfectly. I expect that in a couple of days I will have everything up and running again and then I can finally do some work without being interrupted by ageing hardware!

This will only be my fifth notebook, but my first Thinkpad. I guess I should write a retrospective blog post on all those machines that came before it – except one of them, all are still around in working condition! This will be an interesting project for the fall, so stay tuned :-).

3. July 2015

Well, this happened yesterday… it was actually even a little bit hotter. I can’t remember when we last went over 35°C, but the 36 to 37 were really a surprise. Fortunately it was still dry and later last night we got a much needed thunderstorm which cooled things down considerably. Today it’s “only” about 30°C which feels comparatively cool to yesterday, but for tomorrow the forecasts say somethingf about 36°C again.  So I’m taking thinks veeeeeeeery slowly at the moment and thanks to having both a solid new tablet (more about that later!) and a smartphone at hand, I really have no reason to even think of switching on a computer in this sort of temperature.

I also managed to figure out how to get a smartphone photo right into the blog without having to go through the computer, so making quick article thumbmails like this one are not a problem anymore even though the quality is not the best and I obviously can’t do the round edges I usually do with a pictue frame mask in PSP. Photo processing except for quick smartphone shots is also not really comfortable (yet?) under Android because getting the photos off my camera is somewhat difficult and there are simply no mobile photo editors that really fit my needs. But since I have a LOT of already finished photos ready to post and I’m not in any danger of running out, that doesn’t really matter and the photo posting will continue as usual over on the Photography Blog – and I even might have a movie/dvd-review coming soon over on DVDLog later when the temperatures are a bit more normal again.

So stay tuned, keep as cool as possible and I hope everyone can beat the second mid-European heatwave of this summer!

5. June 2015

A couple of days ago, we were still freezing out butts off and it was so cold at night that we had to turn on the heating – and now the first mini-heatwave of the year has arrived. The temperatures in the image are not exaggerated, the outside balcony thermometer even shows 32°C and compared to the barely over 20°C in the last few days,  this is really warm. So don’t expect any major stuff from me, but I’ll be posting the usual round of photos and I even have an article over on DVDLog ready for the weekend I’ve totally forgotten about later this weekend.

I’ve also had a sort of computer meltdown in the last week when the harddrive of my work notebook began to die slowly. This is an old laptop with IDE interface, so getting replacements is very tricky and the 160GB drive I’ve been using for two years or so was already a used one given to me by a friend as a gift. Now I’m down to two 40GB drives, and that does not leave much harddrive space for photos and other stuff, which I now have to keep on the big computer. The downside in this kind of weather is that I don’t like to switch the computers any more than I have to and the smartphone and tablet are not really good for working on photos – but I have a big enough stash to last for at least two weeks to post anyway.

My plan is to get a slightly newer work notebook this fall – I’m eyeing a Thinkpad T60, which has the advantage that it already supports SATA drives, making the hardddrive situation much less problematic. This notebook is now already in the sub-€100 price range on eBay and I think it will be a nice replacement for my aging Compaq N610C.

I’m actually finishing this post with my tablet on the balcony and it’s actually quite nice with a bit of wind right now – have fun everyone with the nice weather (if you have it too)! :-)

Bibra-OnlineCosmoQuestDVDLogGoogle+Science & Astronomy
4. April 2015

Well, that was fast. It feels like Christmas was just last week and now suddenly it’s Easter again – how did that happen? It doesn’t help much that Easter is very early this year and the weather has been less like early spring and more like late winter, so it really doesn’t feel like the season with the eggs and the bunnies! But at least it’s not as bad as 2013 when we actually had snow on Good Friday. I hope everyone’s having a nice Easter holiday weekend – this year, I don’t have much of a program except some recycled content and some pretty pictures, but I’d still I’d like to wish everyone a nice Easter holiday! This post is just a little roundup of what I’ve been doing lately on the web – so what has everybody else been up to?

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9. March 2015

This is another edition of my now regular articles about the crew changes on the International Space Station – it’s Spring again and that means some astronauts will be leaving soon while others will be arriving later this month. A very successful and exciting Expedition 42 is soon coming to an end, but Expedition 43 is promising to be even more interesting with the arrival of the first two-astronaut crew who will be staying for a whole year instead of just six month on the station. As usual, I just like to keep an overview of who is up in space and I hope to continue these articles with the next one probably due in autumn.

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30. January 2015

Google Chrome has really become my favourite browser after Opera completely abandoned its former self and just became a Chrome clone, but not everything’s great and sometimes Google does some incredibly annoying things, like recently… In the last few days, there have been a smatter of complaints about the overhauled and simplyfied bookmarks, ironically called the Enhanced Bookmarks Experiment, which seem to have been switched on after some users upgraded to version 40.

But don’t panic if you are suddenly confronted with a square-y, colourful mess where your good, old bookmarks manager used to be – there is an easy way to go back to the old system. Just go to chrome://flags and search for “bookmarks” – or copy & paste or click the link below:

» chrome://flags/#enhanced-bookmarks-experiment

Here you can set the switch to disabled and bring the experiment to a swift end – if it doesn’t work right away, close all Chrome instances and restart the browser. The “Enhanced Bookmarks” were also previously available as an extension but now seem to have been merged directly into Chrome – if you had the extension installed sometime previously, this flag also switches back to the old bookmarks manager. Your bookmarks will not be deleted or compromised, even if you chose not to sync them with the cloud.

There’s no guarantee that this will work forever, but there has been a pretty strong backlash against the new bookmarks manager and hopefully Google will listen to the users and throw this sorry attempt at modernization away or at least make it usable.

Bibra-OnlineGoogle+Science & AstronomySocial Media
31. December 2014

For the last blog post of 2013, I did something unusual by posting a collection of Google+ circles and for the end of 2014 I wanted to repeat this and make it a regular feature in the future. This is not as easy as it sounds because most of my circles are utter chaos, but once again I chose some of my most important circles to share at the end of this year to highlight and thank all the amazing people I’ve met there. I originally shared the circles yesterday directly on Google+ and this is just a blog article collecting those posts together, but in addition I also included a few of my Twitter lists here in this year’s post because this medium has also become a great source of information and interaction. But before we go on…


Google+ Circles

Photography Essentials – This first one is my “small” Photography circle of people I mainly found in the beginning over two years ago, although the size of this circle has doubled in the last twelve months. These are people whose posts I don’t want to miss even when I don’t have time to look at all the other circles. Don’t be disappointed if you’re not in there – there are two more much bigger photo circles coming up after this!

Photography One – This is the first part of my “big” hand-picked Photographer circles. Everybody from the Essentials circle is also in here, plus everyone I noticed in other circles, who plussed or commented on my posts or who I learned to know through other people. If you’re not in there, either I haven’t noticed you yet or you don’t fulfil my one requirement: you have to post your own work. There are only original photography content creators in here.

Photography Two – The second part of my “big” Photographers circle. I had to split it to be able to share it because of the 500 user limit. This one has already grown almost up to the limit and there will be a Photography Three circle in the future.

Science, Space & Astronomy – One of the other things I try to get involved in, or at least promote, is everything about these three fields and for this reason I have a hand-picked circle with everything about science, spaceflight and exploration and astronomy around. It’s a relatively low-noise group, but everyone from space journalists and scientists from the CosmoQuest & Universe Today crowd, many astronauts and a lot more people are in here. If you want even more, have a look at Fraser Cain’s Super Science Circle, on which my circle was originally partly based on – but it has taken on a kind of life of its own during the last year.

CosmoQuest, Universe Today & Co – This is a slightly more condensed circle and could be called “Friends of”, because in addition to the scientists and journalists working for CosmoQuest, Universe Today, The Planetary Society and Astronomers Without Borders, it also contains all those people who have or have had some connection to them. Most of those people are in the previous circle, too.

Astrophotographers – There is some overlap with the Science circle, but I chose use a separate circle for astrophotography to see all the beautiful images in one place. Credit where credit is due, though: this circle is also based, but not completely similar, to one with the same name originally shared by Fraser Cain.

Twitter Lists

Science & Astronomy – The first three lists are the Twitter companions to the Google+ lists of the same name, only with more and sometimes different people. This is where the conversation and often breaking science news happens – if a supernova goes off, a meteor comes down or something exciting happens in space exploration and science, this is often where you can hear about it first.

CosmoQuest – A further condensed science circle only with scientists, journalists and other people loosely affiliated with CosmoQuest, Universe Today and related organizations.

Astrophotographers – Even more semi-professional Astrophotographers are active on Twitter and that is where they often post their photos

Astromomers – This is actually a link to a Twitter list from Fraser Cain, who put together a great collection of astronomers who are active there.

Astronauts – There are a lot of future, active and retired astronauts on Twitter and I’ve tried to collect them all in this list, which I’m sure is still incomplete.

Astronauts on the ISS – This list has only the Twitter-using astronauts which are currently on the International Space Station – as of late December 2014, half of the crew is actively tweeting!

Spaceflight – Everybody and everyone related to spaceflight in all its forms, from the various NASA accounts to mission project leaders and the private space companies.

And this is the end of 2014 – let’s see what 2015 will bring! :-)

23. December 2014

I’d like to wish all family, friends, regular readers, commenters and all other visitors Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, A Happy New Year or any other holiday greetings you prefer! Myself, I like Happy Newtonmas because Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, but I’m very democratic in that respect and let everyone celebrate the the holiday you prefer.

Last year I basically skipped the year-end retrospective I usually write at this point because I wasn’t feeling very well, but this year I’m a lot better and I’ll do at least a little roundup. Let’s just say that 2014 was a lot better than 2013 – it has been very busy and while I only got around to do a fraction of what I had originally planned to do with the websites, it’s been a lot of fun and especially the interaction over the social networks has reached a whole new dimension.

The Photography Blog, now renamed at least temporarily to GB Photography to give it a proper name, is actually the only one of the three websites I’m regularly active on at the moment. I usually post several photos per day, mainly because I built up such a huge backlog especially of flower photos that I have still enough to go even if I don’t take another photo for weeks. But that’s not going to happen, because I finally managed to snag a new camera on Ebay in November – I wanted a little upgrade ever since I found out in Spring that the camera I bought the previous year has some lens sharpness issues. Next year is going to be even better with the photography and maybe I’ll finally get around to redesign the photography blog and the galleries. But posting the photos on Google+ has been almost as important, because the feedback there has been absolutely phenomenal and the photography community is amazing to say the least.

In contrast to the photography, the movie and DVD reviewing over on DVDLog has been on a bit of a backburner this year, mostly because there was not so much to write about and I didn’t get around to do as many translations of older reviews as I wanted. But I did get some reviews done including a  television five-parter in the fall about Brian Cox’ new series – and I still have a couple of unreviewed discs lying around which I will get to next year. I have to admit that I really can’t keep the one-review-per-week rhythm up any longer, but I will try do get the site going more next year. I’ve also finished switching over everything into English including a new review index, but there is still a triple digit amount of great material to be properly translated – so this site will never die and I’ve never really thought about shutting it down. Just be patient, once in a while I will have something interesting.

This Blog here has also been subject of a slow transformation – it’s still my go-to outlet for everything that is not related to photography, movies and television, but the focus has been mainly on science and astronomy in 2014 because so much exciting things have happened. I usually leave the science reporting to the real reporters, but some things I just had to write about and I’ve made a kind of series out of the postings about the comings and goings on the International Space Station. I have also been very busy supporting CosmoQuest and there is also the Hangouts Schedule which I’ve kept updated ever since August – this will get a slight makeover and a move to a proper page in the new year. I’m also considering moving the whole site to the spiffy new domain I registered this year and there’s also the small, but important matter of making the theme compatible for mobile devices, but I will come to that when I really have some time.

As usual, I will not go completely offline over the holidays, but instead put DVDLog on a winter hiatus until February and slow down the Photo Blog a little bit to maybe two posts per day plus perhaps some collected galleries. Between Christmas and the new year I’ll maybe share some of my circles over on Google+ again like I did last year and then put them in a blog post – it’s certainly time for an update! But other than that, I’ll take a well deserved break and will not be much online until early next year.

Wishing everyone a nice and relaxing winter holiday – see you in 2015!

Bibra-OnlineGoogle+Social Media
8. September 2014

Perhaps some visitors have already noticed those snazzy new icons in the top right sidebar – I put them there last week on all three websites because I thought the links to my social media profiles should be a bit more prominent now that I’m getting more and more involved in those. While my own websites are still my main headquarters and all the important content I post off-site will always appear here too, I’m not scoffing at social media any more and have actually found it enormeously fun and useful. So where can I be found except around here?

Google+ has rapidly become my favourite place on the web to connect to other people and share my content. My main focus there is on photography, but I always share all the links to my other blog postings too. The community and interaction is absolutely astonishing, wonderful and friendly – I’ve met some great people all over the world there. Rumours presist that Google+ is dead or dying, but after almost two years I now have over 4000 followers and over three million views on my posts and if that is not alive, I don’t know what is! Interaction is the key – writing comments, having conversations, joining and sharing circles and taking part in communities is what Google+ is all about. If you circle me on Google+, I will most probably circle you back if you post something interesting in your stream and perhaps give your posts some +1’s or comments.

Twitter was actually one of the first social media sites I mainly joined for fun back in 2011 and I haven’t really done much with it from my side except that I regularly tweet the updates from my websites by way of WordPress and only occasionally talk with people. 140 characters are simply not my thing, but in the other direction it’s almost entirely different – I follow over 300 people and enjoy my daily dose of tweets very much to keep up with everybody. I’m just not very good at this kind of high-frequency sharing myself, although I can certainly see the use of it as a communications tool. I actually have two different Twitter accounts: @guidobibra has the updates from all the websites, while I use @dvdlogger only as a legacy account for the DVDLog website.

Facebook has become more of a necessity than anything else. I have a few followers over there, but those are mainly family and friends who are not on Google+ and I exclusively post my website updates automatically from WordPress – although I sometimes write comments if I have something to say and will answer comments from others. This is mainly because I really don’t like Facebook from a technical standpoint – I hate the web interface, the official Android app is completely unusable and if it wasn’t for some third-party clients I would hardly look at my Facebook feed at all. I don’t intend to get involved into Facebook any more than I have to, so if you really want to interact with me, I would suggest Google+ instead – although I certainly won’t deny any Facebook friend requests or commenting.

Instagram is just a bit of fun for me than anything else. I actually installed the Android app to follow some other people, but because I’ve had a tablet with a very basic camera since last year, I have been posting the occasional crappy tabletcam shot there. It’s nothing really serious, I consider this throwaway stuff and the “real” photography will always appear on my websites. I actually like the Android app, but I have no idea if I will keep this up further because the tablet camera is a bit cumbersome. Although once I get a smartphone with a decent camera perhaps later this year, there could be more silly Instagram shots from me, so even if it’s still boring in my stream there, feel free to add me :-).

The first icon in the row is, of course, the RSS Feed which WordPress is still generating automatically and as long as the software supports it, I will continue to provide a feed. Even with the untimely death of the Google Reader last year, the format is stronger than ever and other services like Feedly have risen to the occasion and filled the gap perfectly. If you add my blogs to your feed, you’ll always get my articles as soon as they’re published here!

Okay, that’s enough self-promotion for now. I’m actually not really good at this sort of thing and I almost threw this article away, but sometimes you just have to toot your own horn :-).

About the Icons: Credit where credit is due – the four in the post logo are from Brainleaf Communications, I just loved that retro look and had to use this free icon pack in this article. The icons in the sidebar are based on a collection called Socialtograms put together by Steffen Norgard Andersen – I was trying to find something simple and was already half through creating some from the app icons, but these really hit the spot and I think they fit well into the websites.