To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Hong Kong

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Ever since I set up a webcam to take pictures of boats sailing up and down the East Lamma Channel I have been profoundly embarrassed by the fact that every time I check it, there has been a conspicuous absence of "traffic". In fact I may as well be showing a static image.

The irony is, that last Saturday I decided to take pictures of passing boats using my new "real camera", as proof that there really are boats passing, and every other moment I was rushing to pick up and refocus the camera as yet another boat “appeared" and more than once just as I had framed a shot and got it into focus, another boat (out of focus of course) suddenly cut across going the other way.

Anyway a selection of the photos will be on my other blog/flikr account shortly.

It did get me thinking however of my Uncle "Bob" (not a true uncle but a friend of my father's) Uncle Bob I believe worked for Geest and on occasion visited the Caribbean courtesy of the company traveling - yes you have guessed ... by Banana boat (40-50 years ago – the equivalent to taking passage on a tea clipper). As I remember it the banana boats were comparatively small purpose built boats that had in addition to the crews quarters some additional cabins available for company directors, agents etc which for most part were vacant. If you were fortunate enough to get a berth you perhaps dined with the captain in the evening and effectively you went on a cruise albeit without the luxuries of a formal cruise ship.

I found out much later that many cargo boats including container ships have similar cabins and there are specialist companies who can find you a passage between obscure ports (list at end). Michael Palin in his series Round the World in 80 days took a couple of boat trips notably from Shanghai to Yokahama and Tokyo to California (the latter was quite tedious apparently)

Hong Kong was the busiest port in the world; apparently it has been recently superseded by Singapore and Shanghai. This is partly due to fact that the other ports have attracted more traffic and that Hong Kong has lost traffic to Shenzhen. Notwithstanding this there are still a lot of ships entering/leaving Hong Kong waters going to all sorts of exotic places including Europe.

I have touted the idea to my partner of taking a boat trip from Hong Kong to somewhere (she is however resistant to the idea!! kept muttering about typhoons and pirates (they still exist in Asian waters!!) but I live in hope - Just image taking a slow boat down to Darwin via Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia etc. - I need to do some more research in order to sell her on the idea!!

Technical Bit

The original intent was to use a UVC compliant webcam connected to a PC running Linux to stream content to web.

The first problem was that although my webcam worked using UVC drivers under Windows it didn’t work under Linux. (any version of Linux!!) . It then transpires that the current version of the Linux UVC driver and other open source webcam drivers support a limited but growing selection of webcams (but not mine!!). So I reverted to using a Windows based PC

Because this PC is used for other tasks I decided not to load streaming software (I doubt I would have done so anyway ) Instead I loaded Fwink which FTP’s captured images to a third party site (driveHQ.com) This in turns serves the latest image to the web. I have set the capture rate at 5 minutes and date time stamped the images. If the camera is disconnected or PC turned off the last image uploaded is served. It may be viewed by opening the Hong Kong tab below. (unfortunately the quality is poor because the webcam is cheap – I will accept donations !! FYI the picture at top of this post is from a government webcam on Peng Chau overlooking Victoria harbour)

I believe Fwink will work (with a suitable webcam) using Wine under Linux .

Passenger Freighters

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