Archive for June 12th, 2007

Photo Gallery

And it’s now online. http://photos.samuelgordonstewart.com/

Samuel

1 comment June 12th, 2007 at 11:45am

Fireworks

It’s that time of the year again when the debate over whether or not we should allow private use of fireworks in Canberra during the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend manages to rears its ugly head. It’s a debate with extremes, and regardless of the outcome, a large number of people would not be happy.

I’m personally not a fan of fireworks, they don’t interest me and I don’t feel any need to play with them. The mass public displays (such as those seen on New Years Eve) also don’t particularly interest me. That being said, I don’t think banning fireworks is the right decision, many people like fireworks and use them responsibly, it’s the minority of people who don’t that are the problem.

As it happens, most of the concern over fireworks revolve around fireworks which are already illegal. It has been suggested that these fireworks which are illegal here, may be being imported from the Northern Territory where the restrictions aren’t as tight. A black market clearly exists for fireworks, and in my view banning private fireworks outright will only strengthen the black market. The problem may be reduced, but the problem, rather than being mostly confined to a few weeks each year would become a year-round problem.

Of course there is also the issue of people who are using fireworks relatively sensibly, but manage to set fire to nearby grass or bushland. This stretched the fire brigade to the limit on the weekend. A solution has been suggested for that as well, and that is that the government should designate various places (such as public ovals) as firework zones, and ban them everywhere else. You could then have the fire brigade and ambulance on standby at these venues.

The idea has some merit, it would certainly reduce the strain on the emergency services and may even turn the fireworks into a more interesting community event than the current situation where everyone lets off their own fireworks in isolation. The issue with this plan is insurance. The government, by sanctioning places as fireworks zones, would invent an insurance issue, and naturally the cost of insuring such an event would be quite considerable due to the risk involved. Sadly all it would take is one idiot burning their arm or injuring a child and the whole idea would come crashing down.

If you can’t limit the fireworks like that, you could have a public display and ban private fireworks. It solves a lot of problems, much like an outright ban would, but it brings with it the same black market issues. I wouldn’t rule out a public display as an option, but it would be a bit superfluous seeing as banning private fireworks isn’t overly practical.

The option that I like is a better regulated option. Rather than having the fireworks on sale in every business that can be bothered getting a permit, for the entire week before the long weekend, you restrict it to a handful of specialist fireworks importers, and only allow them to sell the fireworks on the day that fireworks will be allowed. Then you restrict the fireworks to one night between 6pm-10pm, and only allow people who have applied for (and received) a permit purchase the fireworks, and then only in regulated quantities. The restrictions may seem onerous, but in my view, it would be the best way to stop the overly abundant abuse of fireworks. You could still have a public display on another night under these circumstances.

The fact of the matter is that for the next few weeks people will continue to let off fireworks, either because they innocently have some left over, or deliberately purchased too many fireworks so they would have plenty left over. Catching these people is nearly impossible due to the fact that once they let off the fireworks they scamper, and the police have no way of finding them.

The current system isn’t ideal, and I don’t think an outright ban is either, but I think the compromise solution I have suggested here would be a reasonable compromise for both extremes of the annual argument.

Samuel

5 comments June 12th, 2007 at 09:19am

Photos

Of all the things that appear on this website, the thing that I receive the most positive feedback about is the photos that I post (I also get berated for delays in posting them) and I have, on multiple occasions, had people suggest that I setup a page specifically for the photos. I agree that this would be a good idea, however there is no logical way to do this (to the best of my knowledge) in WordPress. I could easily setup a category called “photos” and add any post containing a photo to that category, but that would just produce a poorly organised set of pages of photos…it would work, but would be a rather daft way of doing it.

If I jump back to the year 2005 for a moment, prior to setting up Samuel’s Blog I had a photo gallery running on a webserver at home. This was fine at home where I had a direct connection to it, but was painfully slow for anybody trying to access it from the rest of the world as I only had a 256/64k ADSL link at the time.

The photo gallery remained in use when I setup Samuel’s Blog and was my primary image source before Google added image hosting to Blogger, this of course meant that images were slow to load, and didn’t load at all if my Internet connection died. The move to paid hosting in August 2005 made the photo gallery largely redundant as I was able to host the photos myself (along with other files which I was sticking on random servers I had space on until then). The photo gallery remained online and was linked to numerous times during the Spin Starts Here fiasco.

Recently I let the Dyndns domain name pointing at my home webserver expire, and since then the photo gallery has been sitting in limbo. Initially I planned on making a static version of it and placing it in a directory here (surprisingly easy in Gallery version 1 due to the availability of an “offline mode“), and then I started thinking about it, and much like every other project I come up with, managed to turn it in to something much more complex.

In case you haven’t already joined the dots here, I’m moving the live (not static) photo gallery to a subdomain of this website (announcement shortly). I have a few reasons for this.

Before I explain that, I’ll briefly explain the reason I’m moving the photo gallery to a subdomain rather than a subdirectory (such as http://samuelgordonstewart.com/gallery/) is due to security. Gallery requires certain domain-wide settings that WordPress doesn’t, and whilst those settings alone wouldn’t make WordPress less secure, they would provide any WordPress exploit with more scope than they would receive under the current settings. The downside of this is that the photo gallery is unlikely to be archived by Pandora.

The reasons I am re-implementing the photo gallery are quite simple. Firstly, photos take up a heap of screen space on this blog, and as I like to take photos, I have to leave a bit of time between major photo posts to avoid forcing everyone to download a heap of photos (and scroll past a heap of them when they don’t want to see them). Having the photo gallery will allow me to upload a heap of photos to the gallery, select a couple of them for display here and give you a link to the rest.

Secondly, the delays behind me posting photos (especially major photo posts) has more to do with the time it takes me to create thumbnails, rename the photos, upload them, write the posts including all the thumbnails, links to the full size versions, alternative text, then make sure I’ve got it all right before finally posting it, than anything else. This is a time consuming process, and to be perfectly honest, isn’t particularly interesting, especially when I have heaps of photos (for example, The main Underground Cabling Tour post took hours to complete). The photo gallery can take care of resizing, thumbnailing (and even rotating) photos for me.

Thirdly, and you might want to refer to the previous link for this, the photos tend to get posted with minimal text and a lot of photos…it’s pointless to post much text as people tend to focus on the photos and ignore slabs of text, meaning the lengthy photo post is not an ideal format on a blog.

Fourthly, due to all this, I tend to make plans for photographic tours, and then never get around to doing them due to the time I will have to spend afterwards processing and posting the photos.

Fifthly, the gallery would be a logical way of displaying photos for people who only want to see the photos.

The benefits for you will be more frequent photos, less photo deluges on this blog, and less delays in me getting photos online (I might finally get the photos online from my trip to Sydney earlier this year, and possibly even the photos from John Kerr’s lunch in Terrigal last year).

To streamline the migration of the existing photo gallery I have conducted some tests and trials to eliminate any issues running Gallery on this website (which is running on a significantly different (and more up-to-date) configuration to the one I am running at home), and I will migrate the actual gallery later today, after which I will give you the address, and see about a few related cosmetic changes I have planned for navigation of this website.

For those of you who are interested, initially the photo gallery will continue to run on Gallery version 1, and will most likely be upgraded to version 2 at a later stage when it outgrows version 1. At that stage I will decide whether to just make a static version of the existing gallery or go through the upgrade process. That decision will depend on a number of things, and I’ll make that position closer to the date when I’m in a better decision to weigh up the pros and cons of each choice.

Samuel

June 12th, 2007 at 06:30am


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