Windows Taskbar Monitor v0.4

Windows Taskbar Monitor v0.4

Over the years I have had a great many projects, most of which have been chronicled on this blog. The majority of them I leave alone once I have finished with them and never return to.

Windows Taskbar Monitor however is one of the rare tools that I actually still use one a daily basis. So when it stopped working the other day due to a patch in Windows 8 I decided to spare an hour to patch it up.

While I was there I decided to removed the “MEM”, “CPU” and “NET” prefixes from the title bars as they weren’t needed really and just took up more bar space.

I have pushed the source as usual to GitHub, you can grab the release here: https://github.com/mikecann/Windows7-Taskbar-Monitor/releases/tag/0.4

The Trip 2013 – Tyrona to Bucaramanga

Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Tyrona to Bucaramanga. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.

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Continuing on my adventures on the northern coast of Colombia I left Taganga and made my way across to the incredibly picturesque Tyrona National Park.

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I spent one night there with a pair of excellent Irish girls, Lizzy and Leesha

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We slept in hammocks down near the beach. I had never slept in a hammock before and so it was a novel experience. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting but I don’t think I could do a long stay in one.

The site we stayed at was called Arrecifes and was rather quiet though it did have a number of animals wandering around.

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The main reason for us being there was check out the incredible beaches. Unfortunately we couldn’t swim in the sea near our hammocks due to very strong currents in the water..

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.. so we were forced to walk 20-40 minutes to the other beaches. The main beach El Cabo was rather special:

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I was only in Tyrona for a day as I had to return to start my two day Free Diving course.

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I had only recently learnt about the sport of free diving from my two roommates in Taganga, Lisa and Alex. They were avid free divers and their passion inspired me to give it a go.

The sport is split up into various disciplines, some as the name implies involve diving down deep on a single breath others such as ‘Static Abnea’ involve training yourself to hold your breath for as long as you can in a confined water space like a swimming pool.

My instructor was a guy called Carlos who holds a national record in one of the deep diving disciplines. He was a really cool guy and excellent instructor. With his tutorage I was able to up my breath hold personal best of 1 minute 30 up to 3 minutes and 13 seconds which really astounded me.

In the afternoon we hopped into a boat and headed out into the bay of Taganga for some deep diving. My goal was to reach the maximum depth possible for free diving beginners of 20 meters which is deeper than I was diving when I was SCUBA diving. It took several attempts of progressively working my way up (down?) to that depth but eventually I made it!

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Unfortunately soon after that I started having ear and sinus problems forcing me to quit for the day but still I had a great time and great introduction to the fascinating sport.

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After so many weeks at the coast in the baking heat I was ready for a change so I decided to head up to the slightly higher elevations of Minca one hour outside of Santa Marta on the coast. I stayed at the rather excellent Casa Loma:

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The hostel was perched on the side of the hill several hundred meters above the town itself. To get to it you had to climb up far too many steps. With your big heavy pack on your back and small but not light day pack on your font it was a real slog getting up there but it was all worth it when I saw the views.

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The first night there I met a couple of excellent french girls called Angele and Julia, we agreed to meet up the following day and head down and check out ‘Las Cascades’ a series of waterfalls deep in the jungle.

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The walk there was interesting but on the way back it started to rain rather hard. We sook refuge in a restaurant for lunch, unfortunately it seemed like the rain was a little harder than anyone had expected as we were forced to move due to the restaurant flooding.

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Evenings were spent gorging on the excellent food produced by the hostel’s chef Carlos, playing games and drinking copious quantities of Aguila

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Minca for me was an unexpected high point on my trip, and I was sad when I had to leave after just two days.

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But sadly all good things come to an end. I made my way down from Minca then caught a bus back to the coastal town of Cartagena. I loved Cartagena when I was there two weeks previous so was excited to be going back. This time I was travelling with a pair of awesome Germans, Ann Kathrin and Katharina.

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I introduced them to my other German friend Anna (another Ann Kathrin whom I had originally met in Panama and then met up again with last time I was in Cartagena) and Josh (who I had first met in Medellin). We met up in the German / Colombian cultural exchange school then went for some beers in the square.

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I was due to catch a bus to Bucaramanga after two days but due to protests in Colombia which halted the long distance buses I was forced (a real hardship) to stay another night. Annka and Katrina were kind enough to let me stay with them at the beautiful Media luna, thanks guys!

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After spending a few hours burning in the sun at the hostel I made my way to the bus station and caught a 12 hour bus journey to Bucaramanga.

Every time I take a taxi in Colombia I say a quiet word of prayer that I will make it to the destination in one piece. Its not just the drivers’ crazy disregard for general traffic rules and a penchance for driving close to the speed of sound its the other people on the road that worry me.

On this journey alone I saw a boy crossing a busy duel carriageway while playing keepy-uppy with a football, a guy on the back of a motorbike almost loose an arm to a passing bus as he wildly gesticulated / danced and a car completely packed to the roof with bowling balls.

Anyways, I made it to Bucaramanga in one piece I assume by pure luck ready to start my two week Paragliding course.

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Before I left England I knew that one of the things I wanted to do on this trip was to learn to fly, either Hanglide or Paraglide. So when I saw a poster in the hostel in Taganga “Learn to Fly in Bucaramanga” I immediately signed myself up. And im incredibly glad that I did.

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It was hard work and a steep learning curve but totally worth it. When I had my first 30 minute flight after 6-7 days I was on cloud-9. Using your knowledge and skills to keep yourself in the air is such an exhilarating feeling. Never mind the stunning views that the fly site “Las Aguilas” offers over the city.

Over the course of the 14 days I only had one accident. I was attempting to take off in very low to no winds, never a good idea at the best of times. I ran ran ran, hit the edge of the cliff and went over the edge, my legs were in the air but I still wasnt gaining much height when suddenly I hit the ground again with my feet, I slide for a little while until im brought to a rather abrupt stop thanks to my side cracking into a tree stump and the wing crashing into a bush.

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The crash put a dent in my confidence for a while but I got straight back up and did it right this time, remembering to put a small amount of break pressure when taking off in no wind to clear the bushes. In total I flew 25 flights at Las Aguilas with a total air time of about 4 hours.

One of the best flights I did was a 1 hour “Ridge Soar” which is where you stay near the ridge of a hill catching the wind as it is forced up the slope, creating lift. I had enough altitude that I was able to ride it cross country around the top of the mesa passing an inedible waterfall then around until I reached a separate landing site. I was able to fly around performing figure of 8’s for half an hour before making my way back for a safe landing.

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The final day of flying for me saw us all taking a field trip to “The Canyon” at Chicamonca, the second largest canyon in the world (after the grand canyon).

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I was really nervous about flying here. This would be the first time I have taken off anywhere other than at the school site in Las Aguilas. The views were stunning but we were so high that when we were discussing the landing I had no real clue where it was we supposed to be aiming for.

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Well finally it was my turn, I managed to run the short distance to the edge of the cliff before launching myself over the side. Then that was it, I was airborne!

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The ride of the canyon was spectacular. The thermals coming up from the valley were so strong they allowed me to ride hundreds of meters above everything. The view from up there was just phenomenal and the few pictures and video I was only just brave enough to attempt only go a short way towards doing the view justice.

Sadly after an hour of pure exhilaration in the air we had to make our way down due to the winds getting too strong. I wait till last so I could watch where everyone else was heading for the landing. I eventually followed them down to a tiny spit of land next to a river, taking great care to avoid the very strong water and the power lines and trees and other obstacles in my way.

To celebrate and to cool down a little we went to a water park in the canyon.

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I had a phenominal time in Bucaramanga and not just because of the flying. The hostel I stayed at over the two weeks was handily right next to the fly site. It was more of a house than a hostel and had an awesome family atmosphere. Sarita and Sebastian were incredible and made me feel at home at all times.

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The breakfasts Sarita prepared for us in the mornings were incredible and just what we needed before a hard day of flying.

Evenings were usually spent chilling in the flat drinking a beer or two with my fellow pilots or pilots in training.

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Of of my fellow pilots in training, Reed celebrated his 40th birthday with us in Bucaramanga. I probably cant discuss all the madness of that evening but here are a few of the more tame photos.

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I ended my time in Bucaramanga in perfect fashion. Having a BBQ with my excellent new friends, Eric, Erica and Reed. Thanks guys for making my time here so incredible!

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The Trip 2013 – Cartagena to Taganga

Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Cartagena to Taganga. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.

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After 10 days up in the chilly hills I was looking forward to getting down to the coast and enjoying some of the sun and beach again. First up was the ancient colonial town of Cartagena. This place is a dichotomy of poverty and wealth thanks to the large number of western tourists that visit the city.

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The first couple of days I stayed in a party hostel and so spent most of my time drinking and not sleeping. I did take a break at one point though to visit the famous ‘Mud Volcano’.

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Inside of it is a big hole that at the bottom is filled with mud. You ease your self down a mud slicked ladder until you reach the grey goop.

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There were already a load of people wallowing around when I got in. It was almost impossible to move in there so you had to grab onto whatever body part is available to move yourself about.

Apparently the mud goes down for 2km into the earth. The mud was so buoyant that I couldn’t actually go down to see how far it went. I did stick my head under though which in hindsight was a poor idea as my hands were covered in mud too so I couldn’t remove the insidious stuff from my eyes and mouth.

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After the parties I decided I needed to rest for a little while so I shut myself away in a hotel. I spent the days chilling out and exploring more of the city. On the sunday I walked along the wall to watch the sunset and watch hundreds of people flying kites.

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After my days of solitude I was ready to enter the fray again. This time I had chosen a different hostel called the Calamari which turned out to have the nicest dorm room I had ever stayed in.

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In the evening I went out to meet Anna my German friend from the San Blas islands in Panama.

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We went to a German / Colombian film evening and watched a German movie with Spanish subtitles. Seeings as I speak neither German nor Spanish I was able to pick up a fair bit of what was going on.

After the movie we headed to a square where loads of people hang out and drink. We were sat there chatting when a drunk dodgy looking Colombian shuffles over and sits behind us. I had my eye on him so when after 10 minutes he leans over throws some posters over my knee I was expecting something. Sure enough he swipes my camera, throwing it between his legs. I looked at him directly in the eyes and said “NO. Give me that back. NO”, he feigns confusion at first before finally giving me my camera back. Lesson learnt there, always have your wits about you.

The following day I went with two awesome Germans, Andrea and Edhita to the nearest nice beach to Cartagena, Playa Blanca.

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Getting there was a hot sweaty and confusing episode. We did get to see some pretty things along the way but I think we would rather have gone straight to the beach rather than ride around in a boat for hours.

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The following day I took off up the coast to the next large city of Santa Marta. I have mixed feelings about that place, I loved the hostel I stayed at, La Brisa Loca;

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But the city itself was kind of sketchy and industrial. I walked along the beach one day with an American friend I had made called Molly, we saw some interesting things along the way..

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Throughout my time at the baking hot coast I made frequent stops to the inexpensive juice vendors that were scattered all over the city. Theres nothing quite like a cup of ice cold lime juice when you are sweating buckets.

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We stopped for lunch at a small cafe, I decided to go for a ‘scissor kick’ empinada.

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After a few days of heavy partying in Santa Marta I was ready to move on. I had booked to do a three day Scuba diving course in the town just over the hill called Taganga so I headed over there.

My hostel was called ‘La Tortuga’ because of the friendly little reptile that patrolled the premises.

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Taganga used to be a small fishing village before it started to get taken over by tourists.

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Its known as being quite sketchy at night, I didnt have any problems tho I did confine myself to either the beachfront or the hostel most of the time.

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I got my ass whooped in chess by the owner of one of the restaurants one night.

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The main reason I was there though was to take advantage of the excellent and cheap Scuba diving. After one day of training and confined water practice in the pool I was ready to go out into the ocean with my excellent instructor Alejendra.

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We saw some awesome things down there on the reef.

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Seeing all the sea life was great but the thing I enjoyed the most was the freedom of movement that the scuba diving afforded. I couldnt get enough of simply simming upsidown. It got to the point that Alejandra was calling me ‘Trumpet Boy’ as I was immitating the Trumpet Fish so much.

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The evenings were mostly spent chilling at the hostel. I shared my small 3-man dorm with a pair of awesome Sweeds called Alex and Lisa.

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They made my stay at the hostel so much more enjoyable than it would have been by myself. They also introduced me to the rather excellent sport of Free Diving, but more on that in the next post!

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