Saturday, August 21, 2010

A signed novel

[Thanks to Ron]
OK, admittedly there is one or two downsides to e-books...

Nikkor 200mm F:1.8

While we're on lenses, Philocalist brought up this monster. It's not a long tele really, but it's exceptionally "fast", meaning large lens opening, takes in a lot of light. It's huge and it weighs three kilos!

Now if you don't feel manly swinging that thing around, I'm afraid only a Porche can help you.

Silly me, I stand corrected, this is the Canon model. They are eerily similar.
(I guess I'm so brand agnostic now I don't even differentiate between Nikon and Canon! :-)

The Nikon model, discontinued for some reason, sells on eBay for $3-4K, even in awful condition! (Glass fine, but half the paint worn off.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Nikon lenses

Nikon has announced four new lenses. For many, the most interesting may be the new, expensive ($1,700) high-performing 85mm F:1.4 lens for full frame format.

I'm sure it's a fantastic lens. I would get it if I didn't already have the older F:1.8 version. As well as the Canon F:1.2 lens, actually. So I'm OK.

A pity that it does not include image stabilization, though. I wonder if they can't build it into very fast lenses?

Mike J drools a little about this lens today. I like his talent of drooling and making a little fun at the same time, a tightline few can walk. 

Good apps list

[Thanks to Nicola]
If you're looking for good apps for your iPad, of if you don't have an iPad and you wonder what the heck one can do with it (surprising amounts), then this is a good list of paid apps. Many of the apps (My Writing Nook, GoodReader, and Instapaper for example) I can vouch for myself, and others I will try out.

There is a similar list for free apps here.

It turns out that if you're on the beach or a boat or in a steamy kitchen, you can protect the 'pad with a simple sandwich bag, and the touchscreen still works.

Ryno Motors one-wheeler (updated)

I wonder how easy it is to learn.
I guess a one-wheeler can't go too fast, or breaking distance would be an issue, it can't stop too suddenly without just flopping over.

Update: article.

No greens at all?

I guess it's not surprising that the West has an obesity explosion...

I would think that Domino's Pizza is a good indication of what the general public like, after all you don't expand to that size by delivering what they don't like.

I don't eat pizza often these days, which has helped me lose a lot of weight, for which I'm thankful. But today I got a sudden hankering, so I looked at Domino's online menu. I was really hoping they had burgers, but the only things other than pizzas were starters and subs, so I took some chicken bits and a chicken sub sandwich.

Now, here's what amazes me: apart from the token vegetarian sub, none of the sandwiches had any vegetables in them whatsoever! Nothing, zip, zilch, nada, naught, diddley, squat, zero, none. And I did not even find an option for adding any...

After eating my sub I could hardly rise from the chair. My gawd, that is heavy stuff. This is what people eat? Wow. Don't get me wrong, I am far from the healthiest eater in the world, lord knows, but a sandwich with melted cheese as standard, but not tomatoes or lettuce or anything? Dang.

Emptyspaces said:
Here's your solution.
It has both greens and reds!

OhMyGawd!! I couldn't eat one!

The Rosenhan experiment

The Rosenhan experiment, article.
"After admission, the pseudopatients acted normally and told staff that they felt fine and had not experienced any more hallucinations. Hospital staff failed to detect a single pseudopatient, and instead believed that all of the pseudopatients exhibited symptoms of ongoing mental illness. Several were confined for months. All were forced to admit to having a mental illness and agree to take antipsychotic drugs as a condition of their release."

I could believe, say one in five were "just mistakes". But all of them? Wow, that is damning evidence.

Alex said:
That is a good observation for engineering/debugging too. How many times do you latch onto a symptom, and let the evidence fit? Probably is true in legal and crime fighting. Part of it is prejudice where you see a behaviour that looks familiar, the other is a subconscious tendency to deny you many have been wrong in your first diagnosis.

Yes, well said.
I think that probably we all suffer from this in one area or another, I suspect it's part of the "dark side" of being a Human.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Google voice actions for Android

Android has gone from 4% market share to 34% in a year. Holy cow. Battle of the titans, RIM, iPhone, and Android.

Now, I'm not too optimistic for myself since I have not had too much joy with voice recognition, possibly due to my sexy accent, but still I have to say that this Voice Actions thing looks highly promising.

(I am wondering why they have a 14-year-old kid demo this in the video? Or am I getting older?)

Update: some people are expecting the Windows Phone 7 to become big based on games.  As to what reasons this writer has for actually rooting for Microsoft, I have no idea, perhaps he has stock.
"It's good to see Windows Phone 7 finally incorporating some Microsoft-exclusive features that could come into play when consumers go to the shelves."

Nikon D3100

Nikon has a new entry-level camera, the Nikon D3100.

Compact and economical it may be, but the word "entry-level" hints at it being basic, and I don't think you can say that, this camera brims with cutting edge features. It might be that the only thing that seriously separates it from its bigger brothers is that it "only" takes three pictures per second, so it's not the choice for sports or wildlife photographers. But otherwise it's hard to see what it can't do well. I've used the D40 a lot, and it's a very capable camera, and it's now, what, a whole three generations older than this I think.

I also think personally that the D3100 is the best looking of all the entry level cameras Nikon has had, from D70 through D40 and forwards.

Feel secure with a case...

I dunno, but this seems a little bit funny to me. A new case for the 'pad makes the device "secure" with a lock. One reviewer wrote: "It looks like something you would find on an international super spy. With a full combination lock it provides security from pesky thieves."
Well, anyway secure from thieves who are not strong enough to actually pick up the iPad in its case and walk away with it...
(And that's apart from it being a two-digit combination lock. Hardly International Super Spy level security.)

Darwinist Consumerism: What’s the most ethical way to buy books?

Darwinist Consumerism: What’s the most ethical way to buy books?, excellent article.

Books are dying. What are you gonna do about it, punk?

Andy Ihnatko really hits the nail on the head with this one. I also love books and book stores. But I also rarely shop there anymore, and post-Kindle/iPad, I actually rarely buy paper books. I wouldn't like a world without book stores, particularly ones with a café, but... ??

I am hoping that this will be one of the times when whatever replaces the thing, though different, is as nice or perhaps even better. 

One of the first comments Andy's article got was:
"An interesting article from a guy who writes books for a living."

...  Apparently trying to pile additional guilt on top of the guilt that Andy already has bravely admitted to in the article. Actually I think that it's to Andy's great commendation that his first and biggest thought is not "how can I save my job" but rather "how can I save this culture I love".

"Assorted Dried Reptiles"

[Thanks to Mark F]
16 Items They Only Sell At Chinese Walmarts, picture post. Pretty startling to a Westener.

Dried Reptiles

Pig Faces

(Dang, once again I can only post one image at a time. I wonder if they are testing the multi-image thingy.)

Submarine looks like a shark

Submarine looks like a shark, jumps 12 feet into the air, article/gallery.

Price: "upwards of $100,000". I would actually have expected more. This is after all a product with a very limited production run, I'm sure, and those don't have the economics of scale to push down price.

Actually, I don't think we generally realize how much economics of scale, mass production, is doing to make things cheap. You can get a DVD player these days practically for the price of a ten-pack of cigarettes. Imagine what it cost to create the first one, and what the price would have been if there was only a market for ten of them.

But we get used to things very quickly, and instead of being grateful for the amazing bounty that industry is giving us, we get pee'd off if we have paid $200 for a digital camera and then see we could have gotten it somewhere else for $170.

"We put two dollars worth of medical insurance in every keyboard we sell. Now, I can tell you, I mean I can buy a keyboards from the Far East vendors today for three bucks."
(From here.)

And this is after they have been shipped around the world!

The Tragic Death of Practically Everything

The Tragic Death of Practically Everything, article.

Quite tongue-in-cheek, examples of how many big technologies have been declared Dead in the past by vigilant and visionary journalists.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Helping autistic children with iOS devices

Helping autistic children with iOS devices, article.
"A large number of apps have been introduced to assist the autistic, and they seem to fall into three categories: those that help with attention span, those that help with communication, and those that help with organization."

TCGirl said:
Good to know that there are people looking for ways to help people with autism and [turn off music] asperger's syndrome.

Mukhtar's birthday surprise

This is very cool. A Copenhagen bus-driver gets a big surprise on his birthday.

The song is the most popular Danish song for birthdays.

It's funny because I think that no matter who you are, and whether you know a single person in the crowd or not, if you were on the receiving end of this, I am sure you could not helped being very touched.

First alien contact

Here's an interesting article about what you "ought to do" if you're the first human making contact with aliens.
It's written and presented in a very loud style, but it has some interesting points.
(Note: it's on one big graphic. Your browser might scale it down so it's unreadable, so click on it to zoom in.)

Google Tablet coming?

There are rumors of a Google tablet running Chrome OS coming up in late November. I hope it does, the more the merrier.
This is from the site Dvice, which sometimes is interesting, but often is pretty dumb. For instance in this case they don't say a word about their sources of this rumor. And it seems they have a realistic Artist's Impression image of the supposed device, but they don't say that it is only speculation and not a leaked picture.
Another example is this post, I'm pretty sure this camera is only a design concept, but they present it as if it's a new camera. Also to say that it's a new idea to look down at a camera at waist level is quite ignorant, many many film cameras and a few digital cameras have worked like that and still do. 

"Discover" for Wikipedia

Discover is a new iPad app, and free no less, which presents Wikipedia content in a more visually appealing form, and gives click-access to definitions of any word.

It might seem trivial or even frivolous to some, but I find that it makes the reading much more attractive and enjoyable. Even if we disconsider the eye candy, the readability is better than the web page or the normal app.
A review here.
(By the way, a similar but bigger idea is Flipboard.)

Woa, now I can upload and add several images at once on Blogger... Finally!! I've been waiting for this for five years. The old way was soooo much unnecessary extra clicking and waiting.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Live" animation

Here is another interesting take on "animation".

The Pedlar Lady, or: A New Medium on the iPad?

Oh for a book and a shady nook...
-- John Wilson
Something wonderful has happened.

Comics theory guru Scott McCloud wrote that it's a mistake in digital comics to animate them, because they are no longer a comic, but just a competitor for video, and they can't win.
Now that sounds very sound to me. But something has just happened to make me re-think it. Admittedly it has not happened in comics, but in picture books, but I think these principles should be very similar.

The famous app Animated Alice in Wonderland for iPad did not really attract me. It seemed a bit gimmicky. But today, viewing the "trailer" for the Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross, I got very interested, and quick. I bought it as quick as my little feet could carry me over to the app store, and virtually hyper-ventilated while it downloaded.

And I was not disappointed. This is just amazing. You know me, I don't gush often, but now I must. The story... well, it hardly needs a story when it's presented so well. And I haven't even finished reading it yet, but the story is good. The voice-over is perfect. And the drawings and the animations... well, they are just outstanding, both from an entertainment viewpoint and from an artistic viewpoint. I love 'em.

It has many neat touches. For example, on one page, with a moving rocking chair, the crow walks past, but it walks across the page, seen from above, not across the scenery. And very well done too, both the scene and the "page" and crow seem very real at the same time. 
If these folks can keep up this quality in future books, not only do they have a customer for life in me, but I also predict that this company will become the Pixar of animated e-books.

Now the questions about how this differs from a simple animated video, and the pros and cons of the two media, are many and big, and deserves a whole book of its own. But somehow I feel that it still manages to be a book. It's a much more interactive experience than just watching a video.

And I apologize to all those who are just sick of hearing about the gold-durn iPad, but I must say it: this could not happen on anything else than an iPad. This is a new medium, and the medium is off to a flying start.

In the app, as you might expect, you can turn off the voice-over to read yourself or have a child read it. (If I had made the video, I would have featured this too.)

Update: the man behind this app, Matthew Talbot-Kelly, (who happens to also be the one interviewed in my next post, I didn't realize) wrote to me. A detail he told me that I didn't know is that the app is so three-D that it can, and does, change views on the same scenes when you reboot the app! Frig, it's a whole 3D app running, it's not rendered views. [Update: I stand corrected: Mr. Talbot-Kelly tells me that it is in fact pre-rendered, only with different views created.]

Matthew also told me that the art is based on drawings made for the purpose by Irish illustrator Alan Clarke. I think those drawings are what I like the most about the book, they are just so alive, and so seminal. Although to me they seem superior to what else I have seen of his work, so perhaps the other collaborators had a lot of influence on the art.

Eye of the Tiger

[Thanks to Paul. Like he said: more fuel to the fire.]

These are the instrument apps they used:
Real Drums
Pro Keys
Baby Scratch
Guitar Mania

Wonder women

[Thanks to Joe]
Wonder Woman seems to be getting up there with Bats and the rest. Surely a film must be in the works. Angelina is getting too up there, but how about whatshername from Transformers? I think she's a better actor than she's generally given credit for, I think she could pull it off.

(Isn't the top one gorgeous?)

It strikes me: how come Wonderwoman is wearing American colors? She is not American, and she does not fight for American values. She was born in a hidden island state, and she's a feminist demi-goddess whose goal is to bring peace and an end to male domination. I think. Not exactly "justice and the American way".

Photoshop Express for iPad

Photoshop Express for iPad (and even iPhone!), and for free.
So the 'pad may become a production machine after all.
My feeling is that I couldn't do serious work on this. But then I had the same feeling about making art on an iPhone, and people are doing that. It may be just a question of what you're used to working with. (OK, obviously there are limits, you won't find the thousands of features here that is on the Photoshop for PC and Mac. But how many uses those?)

For a guy like me, it might mean that if I take a week's vacation, I might really need only to bring the iPad, since if it turns out there's a couple of pictures on the site which need retouching or cropping, I can do it. And I'm sure there is or will be other apps in other areas I may need.
It's still early days for the iPad, and I tend to see it as an e-reader. But it may turn out to be much more flexible than we had imagined, it wouldn't be the first time.

Bill said:
I've done exactly what you said: Took only my iPad on a week's vacation. I imported photos every day from my Canon 7D and my Wife's P&S, edited them (I prefer Filterstorm), and blogged each day using Blogpress. I did also have the Apple bluetooth keyboard with me, but everything worked great.

Dolphin bubbles

Two and a half years ago I blogged a video about dolphins make bubble rings. Well, I just found a better video about this amazing phenomenon (thanks Henry). Everything about it is astounding, not the least how they can break up a big ring and instantly have an intact smaller ring.

More Irina Vinnik art

More Irina Vinnik art.
I've posted before about her B/W art, but it was only now I followed TTL's link to her home page with color art.

To me, work like hers is Essential Art, because it's well, artificial. It does not pretend to be nature, or to look like nature. Except that she borrows types of lines from nature, so the familiarity of them draws in the viewer.
(More various here.)

Look at this book she made.  She did everything, art, design, layout, texting. Awesome piece of work.

Pencil lead sculpture

Pencil lead sculpture.
Another entry in the Art Or Sport? category. Some of them are neat.
It seems it takes months to do one. I can't imagine how the heck you do this. I can't even sharpen a pencil without breaking the lead.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Decorating nature" blog

"Decorating nature" blog.

If it was me, probably I would try more for colors maching the surroundings closer. But I think some of these are successful anyway.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The red phone box that has become Britain's smallest library

[Thanks to Obion]
The red phone box that has become Britain's smallest library, article.

Technically it's a book exchange, not a library. I love this. Not the least the "Quiet" sign. 

Boy, 13, Struck by Lightning at 13:13 on Friday 13th

[Thanks to Uncle Ron]
Boy, 13, Struck by Lightning at 13:13 on Friday 13th, article.

It was an early Sunday morning

7 to 7.30 am Sunday 15th August. Camera: iPhone 4.

Dan said: 
Interesting study in everyday texture and construction technology. Food for thought. The images evoke memories of walking the earth in places ranging from Mew Jersey to Houston Street in Manhattan. Interesting that all were captured with your iPhone 4.,.,.Keep Experimenting Buddy - Dan Beyer (Former OMP Mktg Director

... Yes, the iPhone 4 camera is real dang good. Unless it's taken against the light, giving you bad glare, or in very low light, there is virtually nothing to stop you from using it as a "serious camera". Certainly images from it can be put in photo books and such with no decline in quality visible, even if in the same book as pictures taken with much bigger cameras.
(If were are taking 3-foot prints, it's another game, of course.)

Liquid metal

Liquid metal is a special, proprietary form of metal which is very strong, but still can be shaped by mold injection. They say it's twice the strength of titanium, but moldable like plastic.
It has some amazing qualities, watch this demo of its spring effect.
The potential applications are legion.  For example, Lindsey Vonn won Olympic gold on liquid metal skis.
Apple has purchased the company Liquid Metal Technologies (or made an exclusive licence deal). One obvious application would be to make their new uni-body portable devices both cheaper and stronger. But there may be uses and ideas we have no clue of.