Flash Memory on the Cards

Before the turn of the twentieth century, most computer users wanting to save their work and transport it to another computer had two portable storage options - the exceedingly humble 1.44 MB capacity of the standard 3.5-in. floppy disk or the much higher capacity (700 MB) but somewhat cumbersome (120 mm diameter) CD-ROMs. The answer to everyone's portable storage headaches came in the form of flash memory, actually invented in 1981 by Fujio Masuoka of Toshiba. This new form of non-volatile...

Consider the Aged

Of course, it's perfectly possible to run older versions of well-known astronomical programs such as RedShift and Starry Night and experience the graphics capabilities of older versions of good drawing image manipulation programs such as Corel's PhotoPaint and Adobe's PhotoShop using, say, an early 2000s machine running Windows 98 SE. Such a machine will also be able to link with a PDA through a cable using the Windows ActiveSync program. Perfectly good used computers - with monitor, keyboard,...

PDA Cybersketching

Despite their small screen size, PDAs offer much to the visual observer. They're eminently portable, comfortable to hold in the hand for long periods of time, and have a pretty long battery life. We've seen how astronomical software can be used in the field to plan observations and produce observing blanks and how graphics software is capable of translating stylus strokes on their touchscreens into sound astronomical observational sketches. Button mapping is a useful tool in which individual...

Peripheral Software and Utilities

Lunar Phase Linux Program

Astronomy-related peripheral software includes items such as Meade's Autostar and Celestron's NexRemote telescope control suites, programs for adjusting a monitor's gamma and color to facilitate field observing in dark-adapted mode, GPS software, and CCD imaging software. Utilities of practical use include accurate time displays (both UT and sidereal) for precise timing work, eyepiece calculators, and online weather resources. Astronomy Programs for Planning and Researching Observations Here is...

Deus Ex Machina

Mechanical devices have always formed part of the astronomer's armory since mathematics is essential to understanding and predicting celestial events, the abacus was among the first such mechanical devices because it made arithmetic a great deal easier. Abaci were used in ancient Sumeria more than 4,000 years ago, and the earliest Greek abacus in existence has been dated to 300 BCE. In pre-Columbian Central America, from around 1,000 BCE, the complicated calculations involving the 260-day...

Mobile Phone and PDA Cameras

The first digital cameras to be incorporated into mobile phones and PDAs were of low resolution and very limited in their capabilities compared to even the most modest digicams. Digital cameras were also developed as add-ons to PDAs, fitting into their CF or SD slots. Still, even a low-resolution mobile phone or PDA camera is capable of being used to take afocal images of the Moon of good enough quality to be used as cybersketching templates (Figure 2.36). Pretty good digital cameras, capable...

Blurring and Sharpening

No discussion of the basics of image enhancement is complete without mentioning blurring and sharpening filters. The most frequently used blur effect, called Gaussian blur, reduces an image's noise and detail levels, producing the effect of viewing the original image through a sort of translucent screen. Among its various astronomical cybersketching uses, Gaussian blur can be successfully applied to drawings of nebulous deep sky objects and depictions of vague albedo features on roughly...

Computers Get Personal

Computers are pretty much everywhere these days, and it's fairly safe to say that anyone born after 1980 in a developed country won't remember a time when they weren't around. But it wasn't so very long ago that the idea of having a computer in the home for personal use (perhaps pleasure, even) was pure science fiction. One very early personal computer was a sleek-looking, futuristically styled machine with the equally futuristic name of ZX81, manufactured by the pioneering British company of...

Observational Cybersketching on a Tablet PCUMPC

Tablet PCs and UMPCs may have the advantage of screen size over PDAs, but they are heavier and more tiring to hold over long periods of time. Strapping big folk who work out with dumbbells may be able to hold a tablet PC in one hand throughout an entire observing session without giving it a second thought, but most people may feel slight discomfort after a while if they remain standing while holding the device in the hand. It would be nice if manufacturers incorporated a clip-on hand strap to...

WinCE

Aware of the success of Palm-powered devices, Microsoft was keen to establish a foothold in the growing handheld computing market, and in 1996 they released the first version of Windows for devices with minimal storage - Windows CE (Windows Embedded Compact post version 6.0). Devices using the WinCE operating system appeared later that year, with Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, NEC, and Philips being the major manufacturers. Following the launch of WinCE, two basic forms of device making use...

Graphics Programs for Cybersketching

GIMP (GNU image manipulation program) is a free application with a great deal of functionality. It's well worth downloading even if you already have a full-featured commercial graphics program. GIMP is suitable for a variety of image manipulation tasks, including photo retouching, image composition, and image construction. It can be used as a simple paint program, a high-quality image retouching program, an image format converter, and so on. The program is expandable, designed to be augmented...

The Windows of Change

During the 1990s, Microsoft Windows became the world's most popular operating system (in terms of the sheer number of its users). Windows went through a variety of incarnations, including Windows 3.1 and Windows NT (both introduced in 1992), Windows 95 (1995), Windows 98 (1998), Windows 2000 (2000), Windows ME (Millennium Edition, 2000), Windows XP (2001), and Windows Vista (2007). These operating systems were not without their faults, and critics of Microsoft were (and still are) vociferous....