Though if this blog were your guide you might conclude it's the only thing I do, I really have been walking a lot lately. When the weather co-operates, I'm often up at sick o'clock on a Sunday to trample the docile footways of Erewash, when every non-crazy person in the neighbourhood is quite rightly fast asleep. And when life permits, I like to catch a bus into the Peak District or head to the Lakes for moderate exertions followed in the evenings by fish and chips or a piping plate of pub grub. But over the last few months I've been wondering: what's a more ambitious challenge than these spontaneous three or four-hour walks? What achievement can I unlock — at low cost and without needing time off work?

How about my local 105-mile long distance footpath?

My new project: the Robin Hood Way.

Beginning of the Robin Hood Way

The path starts at the gatehouse of Nottingham Castle and runs to the village of Edwinstowe in north Nottinghamshire. Since this is a journey of less than 20 miles by road, directness was not one of the goals of the creators of this route. Along its meandering course it takes in many of Nottinghamshire's green spaces and historic points of interest, such as Wollaton Park, the town of Southwell, Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest.

Of course I'm not walking this in one go. Instead I've devised a plan of attack involving splitting the route into legs that — crucially — all start and end at points accessible via public transport from Nottingham. On paper, this looks like a long distance footpath that's particularly suited to walking in stages with the aid of local buses. In practice? I'll find out.

The local OS Explorer maps feature the Robin Hood Way, and these will be my guide. There's a book called The Robin Hood Walks which serves as the official guide to the route, but it's apparently well overdue for an update; a revised edition is being published 'soon', but until then I'm making do without it. There will no doubt be places where I get lost, or where the 'official' route is not easy to find, but I'm not averse to taking the occasional detour. I'm approaching this walk as an opportunity to walk in interesting places, not to be fussy about seeing every yard of a path; I'm not going to intentionally deviate, but if I find I came to the right spot by the wrong path, I probably won't backtrack.

I'll be carrying a GPS and camera, and I'll make a blog post — including my GPS tracklog — for each leg, starting with leg 1 (Nottingham Castle-Trowell) which will go up sometime this week. Photos will, if I can figure out a workflow, be georeferenced and posted to Flickr. Though I'm doing this more as a personal diary than anything else, I'm going to try to make the posts as informative as possible for people who might want to try this project themselves.

Next post will be the first leg's writeup, then I promise to write something not about walking. Honestly, I'm still a big, desk-bound, lotro-playing, apple-fanboying geek. I don't know what's happened to me — must be all this fresh air and sunlight.

Sundays are for stomping across golf fairways without paying any attention to the risks.

Distance: 5.36 miles
Time: 1h 38m
Weather: cloudy with sunny bits

A short circular walk today, starting from Sandiacre, past the church and over Stony Clouds, then under the M1 and across Erewash Golf Club before wandering through Stanton-by-Dale, uphill across fields to No Man's Lane, then back to the start via Maywood Golf Club, The Nook, and Stanton Road.

Notes:
  • Just a quick stroll around the neighbourhood.
  • If planners get their way a lot of this countryside will be cut up with a new major road. See greensqueeze.org.uk for details.

We </3 Adobe

Adobe have stepped up their war of words with Apple over Flash with a large ad-buy and an open letter from the big guns: the company's co-founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock.

There's been so much written on this that a recap would fill several entries, and I'm not going to do that, but I should declare where I stand. I use Apple products and enjoy them. I use Adobe products and enjoy them. Some Apple products are better than others. Some Adobe products are better than others. And I think both companies have the right to build their products any way they like, on whatever platforms they like, incorporating whatever technology they like, and if anyone doesn't like that, they don't have to buy them.

I should also clarify that I've interpreted the content and tone of this latest campaign as being primarily about Flash support in the browser, rather than about Section 3.3.1 and compiling to iPhone binaries. The material is ambiguous enough to go either way, but because Adobe seem to have publicly drawn a line under the other issue, and don't mention anything about it here, or refute any of the arguments that have been made against it, it's my educated guess that they're now talking specifically about the Web. So that's what I'll do here too, or I'll be here all night.

Here's the ad:

Adobe's Apple ad

"What we don't love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it, and what you experience on the Web."

Whoa there, guys! Bring that rhetoric back here.

Let's go point by point, starting with the last where their case is strongest.

"taking away your freedom to choose... what you experience on the Web."

Funny, I thought people were choosing what they experienced on the Web. (With the freedom they don't have.) It's not as though it's a well-guarded secret that the iPhone and iPad don't display Flash. (And they're hardly unique devices in that regard.) Jobs' unmistakeable lingering on a zoomed blue lego brick during the first iPad demonstration is a guarantee that some people see this not as a deficiency but as a selling point.

But maybe Adobe scores half a point here. Maybe there's an expectation among consumers that of all the many third party plugins that exist, Flash is uniquely privileged to ship as standard on devices. (I don't think it's realistic to insist that mobile browsers support the same installable plugin architecture as desktop browsers — they're right to strip that out — so it would need to ship.)

But I think the only solid cause for complaint about a browser's format support is if it doesn't have a decent implementation of web standards. If the CSS is buggy and layout is broken, then you've been given a lemon of a browser, and that's unacceptable. But if you want third party plugin support, you can't take it for granted. You're going to have to look for it. In two senses of the word, Flash isn't a standard. It's a closed, proprietary implementation. (In the letter, Warnock and Geschke state that 'anyone can make their own Flash player', but I'll let other people tackle that claim.) And it's also an extra — it's not part of the core functionality of the browser.

"your freedom to choose what you create"

What? What have creators' rights got to do with this? Nobody's stopping anybody from creating anything. I genuinely don't understand why this statement is even here or know what to make of it.

"your freedom to choose... how you create it"

And people can choose to create stuff in whatever form they like.

But they have to weigh up the pros and cons. Like some people not being able to see it as intended. This is why so many people are still designing for IE6. Certain choices exclude certain users. Nothing about this problem is new!

I could create something today in VRML if I wanted. It would be stupid, but I'm free to do it. So why is this statement phrased in terms of freedom when the issue is actually that it changes the terms of the equation? It makes Flash less of a viable proposition for web developers trying to reach the largest possible audience.

That's not diminished freedom. That's just change. The Web is a moving target. A few years ago, I thought SVG was the future of web graphics. The Adobe SVG viewer plugin hasn't been updated since 2005. I'm not annoyed, because on the Web, technologies fall out of favour, or just never make it. That's how it works. Ask RealNetworks.

Okay, maybe in a couple of years it's going to start to suck for designers whose only experience is in designing Flash sites. But whose fault is that? Believing that there's a guarantee that your marketable skill is going to be worth a damn tomorrow when your workshop is the Internet is a quixotic activity, to say the least. The Web doesn't owe you a living. Making money off it today doesn't mean it respects your business model.

Adobe are bitchy about this because it undermines a part of their business, and unlike most gradual changes in the landscape of the Web, they have an obvious target to blame. That's fine, they have the right to be pissy. But I do wish they wouldn't make out that there's a threat to anybody's 'freedom' here except their 'freedom' to push their software on everyone.

I've no doubt that Geschke and Warnock truly see Flash as the best hope for a new era of cross platform rich internet applications, or something. I don't think they're being purposefully disingenuous. But this latest salvo has an unpleasant undertone of entitlement, and they're out of touch with many people's experience of their product. Yes, there are people who love Flash. There are also a hell of a lot of people who can barely tolerate it.

We don't need to bury Flash, as it clearly still has its uses. It'll continue to drive brilliant web games for years, no doubt. But the things that it is uniquely good at will be slowly eroded by technologies like HTML5, which are friendlier, more compatible and far more weblike. If, as a result of maturing technologies, unnecessary use of Flash diminishes, how is this not a win for the web? More importantly, if Adobe can't figure out how to make it a win for them, what kind of person do they have steering the ship? Isn't this a gigantic opportunity?

I think Adobe needs to do at least some, and ideally all, of the following things:

  • Prove they can do a good job of a mobile implementation of Flash. From the game they talk, you'd assume their credentials on this are solid. But although they've been arguing with Apple over this for 2+ years, no mobile platform has a full Flash implementation. The one they're working on for Android 2.2 may finally be the fulfilment of this.
  • Stop the pissing match. Apple has every right to do what they did. If Adobe doesn't like it, then hurt them in the marketplace, not with classless and misleading attacks. It gains nothing.
  • Prepare for a shrinking market for Flash. The writing is on the wall in letters fifty feet high. Screaming at the tide isn't productive. Retool Flash (the creation tool) into something which also outputs rich, optimised HTML5.
  • Yield control of the Flash specification to a multivendor standards body on which Adobe sits in a non-privileged role. Open source the Flash player, contributing the source code to projects like Firefox and WebKit. Usher in an era of competitive innovation in Flash runtimes similar to that recently seen in JavaScript interpreters. Rebuild the reputation of Flash. Keep making money from best-in-class commercial authoring tools.

Sundays are for walking until your feet hurt. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Distance: 11.4 miles
Time: 3h 30m
Weather: sunny throughout with only light cloud

2010-05-09 (9 of 46)

A walk from Sawley, down country lanes and across fields and meadows to Great Wilne and the pleasant village of Shardlow. Along the banks of the river to Trent Lock, then back to Sandiacre along the towpath of the Erewash Canal.

Notes:
  • Today's walk was intended to be short. Didn't turn out that way.
  • The challenge of the day was traversing this field of inquisitive bullocks:
2010-05-09 (13 of 46)
  • Fortunately, I know kung fu.
  • The village of Shardlow was an important canal port during the Industrial Revolution, and much of this heritage survives today.
  • Long Horse Bridge, joining the paths along the Trent & Mersey Canal and the river, has been gone for a few years with no sign of a replacement, ruling out a possible shortcut.
  • Tons of activity at the marinas today.
2010-05-09 (39 of 46)
  • It's not just me, right? If it were just the name I'd write it off as a coincidence, but the font as well?
  • The Erewash canal towpath is being progressively resurfaced in no apparent logical order.
2010-05-09 (45 of 46)
  • Coot hatchlings!

As is probably obvious, I took the little camera out with me, so there's a gallery here with a georeferenced map view here.

I'm not a big fan of blogging about life things. In my latest attempt to get back into a habit of updating this site, it's not a direction I want to go in. Bottom line: my life isn't very interesting compared to most. I'm an introvert who lives alone. Not exactly rich subject matter.

However. Since it's been a long time since the last substantive update, and some things have changed in my life, and I may — may — have a couple of readers who don't know this stuff, I think — just this once — it's worth putting all the personal stuff into one post. I'll try to keep the words to a minimum.

Status Report, 32nd year since birth

Since last summer I've been living in a two bedroom flat in this building:

12033_1188604686938_1582967627_489869_3791784_n

which has a history a lot longer than mine:

DCER000033

I took this photo through my living room window:

Sandiacre sunset

It's a pretty awesome place. I found it by accident when I miskeyed the parameters to a Rightmove search. I was viewing it three hours later, and I signed the contract the next day. I think that may be the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me.

I still work full time doing things like this:

Screen shot 2010-05-08 at 16.42.15

some days in the office and some days at home, but my commute to work, instead of an hour twenty of this:

310 - YJ07 VSE

is now (come rain or shine) thirty minutes of this:

St. Giles, Sandiacre

I'm still with the same employer, though we've moved to new locations twice. The original premises, where I worked for three years, now look like this (thanks to Asda):

25480_1429138132939_1367411165_1175725_2379687_n

Living alone I'm learning a lot about cooking:

Stir-Fried Beef with Snap Peas and Red Pepper

and I try to walk as much as I can:

New avatar, full size

but I do sit on my backside a lot too and play games:

ScreenShot00003

and do crosswords, and watch movies, and surf the web.

I'm on here:

where I try to post stuff like this:

Firefox

and I'm on here:

where I try to post stuff like this:

Trent Valley

Squirrel staredown

and, as I mentioned, I plan to post more on here again:

Firefox

but if you look for me on here:

you'll be unsuccessful.

So, yeah. Life's pretty good, all in all. I'm not sure why I thought you would want to know all this, but there it is; now let us not speak of this again.

Okay, let's try something different. (And yes, I'm aware that after a year of no posts, any content is 'different'.)

I like walks. Here's one I did this morning.

Distance: 9.4 miles
Time: 2h 39m
Weather: started clear and sunny, but clouded over with cold wind picking up

A circular walk from Sandiacre, starting down the canal to Sandiacre Lock, then southwest and west along the line of the former Derby canal past Breaston and Draycott. Heading northwest across fields, leaving the canal behind, almost to the village of Ockbrook but then doubling back east for a circuitous farmland route to Risley via Hopwell Hall. Back to Sandiacre along the road.

Notes:
  • Derby Canal was closed in the 1960s and along most of the section I walked, there's little obvious indication it was ever there.
  • Rabbits everywhere between Draycott Fields Farm and Ockbrook.
  • Hopwell Hall is a huge private residence that used to be (and maybe still is) owned by the co-founder of Coldseal.
  • Risley Coppice (private, but skirted by the footpath) was covered in a dense carpet of bluebells, apparently from edge to edge. One of the best displays I've seen.
  • There are at least two geocaches on (or very close to) this route, but I saved them for another day.
The Areas Of My Expertise

Gone

GONE

Hope

After I wrote about reality TV that doesn't suck a couple of weeks ago, The Poisoned Sponge correctly identified the subject of the next post. For this, he wins a 48 hour extension to his normal lifespan, which has been automatically credited.

The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race is a reality gameshow that truly, honestly, doesn't suck. Though it'd been running for 12 seasons when I discovered it late last year, I'd never seen it and only peripherally heard of it, because when it airs in the UK at all, it's buried in the schedules at early hours and on channels I don't pay much attention to. And if you've missed it too, you should get right on the task of watching this excellent show. (Oops! How did that link get in there?)

The premise is simple -- a race around the world for $1m -- but the exact formula is cleverly constructed to make for very compelling television.

First and foremost, the race is between a set of two-person teams, and each team has an existing relationship. This makes for a huge amount of diversity in the contestants -- divorcees, a parent and child, gay partners, work colleagues, best friends, grandparents... all competing against each other. Much of the draw of the series is about how these teams react under pressure, with some working closely and with no interpersonal tension, and others bickering and falling apart through the race. A surprising amount of the show's drama comes not from the artificial hurdles of the race itself but from human relationships becoming dysfunctional under pressure.

Not that the hurdles are bad. Teams encounter various staged challenges between race checkpoints, to be completed by one or both team members before they can receive the next clue. These challenges range from the time consuming, like rounding up sheep or rigging a sailboat, to the phobia-inducing, like hang-gliding or bungee jumping. Some of these challenges are breathtaking, others are funny, and others fill time, but they're not presented in a stagey enough way to detract from the human angle, and in those cases where the contestant is required to face his or her fears, they can really contribute to the narrative the show builds.

The teams follow clues between elimination points, and as well as the planes that take them from country to country and continent to continent, transportation is a mixture of self-drive vehicles provided by the producers, and public transport. It's important to emphasise how much freedom the teams have in many of the legs of the race -- they hop in random cabs, create their own travel itineraries, and often take considerably different routes to their destinations, each team with their own camera guy in constant tow. Though things like the challenges obviously need to be planned in advance, many sections of the show are not set up at all, and it's quite common for a team to make a navigational mistake and get themselves and their (mute) cameraman lost or into some unfortunate trouble. When I was a kid I loved shows like Treasure Hunt and Interceptor, but those were carefully staged, with everything happening to a plan which was not permitted to vary much, even if the contestants or Anneka Rice weren't privy to the details beforehand. Not so in The Amazing Race: teams have a degree of freedom which, while not total (teams may be told they can only fly on certain airlines, for instance) is unlike anything else on TV.

If you dislike fast-paced editing, you're going to have a problem with this show. The average shot length must be about 5 seconds. But (with the disclaimer that I like fast-paced editing) it's very deftly done and not gratuitous. The point of view switches between teams constantly, but somehow, it's still easy to get a feel for the personalties of the players. But as well as speed and tension, the editing is done with a great deal of wit and humour. Source footage which surely amounted to many tens of hours per episode is condensed into tight, satisfying narrative, and ironic cuts abound. I think it's probably the best edited show on television. Each episode must take an age.

There's a lot of Amazing Race out there (13 seasons of the original American version, and three seasons AXN produced for syndication across Asia which are just as good, and much more diverse in contestant nationalities) but I recommend you start at the very beginning (this is the very beginning). The first season of the US show mastered the form from the get-go: diverse locations and challenges, teams you end up loving, teams you end up hating, great strategic play and epic game-ending blunders, teams bonding and teams disintegrating, tension, pathos, schadenfreude, and an ending which could not have been more of a dramatic and satisfying twist had it been scripted.

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