Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Streak's camera

Micro-review: the camera on the Dell Streak, though it has the same megapixel count, is not at all as good as the one on the iPhone 4. I think the pictures get over-compressed, the details are all... spludgy.

Further review of the Dell Streak.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Earth from above

Yann Arthus-Bertrand has a hit with this theme. I bought an over-sized postcard book with his work a couple years ago, some still hang on my fridge.

Zero History

I'm reading William Gibson's Zero History.  I have a feeling it will be highly regarded. I had that feeling even before it came out. I'm usually right too. Do you get that? I just feel when the time is right for the world to pay attention to a particular artist now.

Gibson may even be on top of his game, word-smith wise. Beautiful, balanced prose, though deceptively simple.

But it is one of the few books where I may give in and read a text version instead of the audio version, the reason being that it's less accessible than usual, he uses so many ten-dollar words. Within a couple of randomly selected pages these words appear: scrimshawed, scimitar, gutta-percha, cartouches, liminal, ferrule... I mean, sure he writes for a literate, perhaps even literary, audience, but geez...     

But then one of the perks of reading ebooks is that looking up a word is quick and easy. In the Kindle app, you just hold your finger on a word, and a definition pops ups instantly.

So it turns out he was making a trilogy (wonder if he knew it), the "Blue Ant trilogy". The first one, Pattern Recognition, was one of my favorites ever. The second one I didn't care for too much, can't even recall the title now. 
And the funny thing is that I can't explain, not even to myself, why my liking for them is so different, I can't point to any concrete differences which would cause it. It's just something in the whole tone or feel... very nebulous.
But i think it may have something to do with whether I like the characters. Whether they feel real, solid. Likeable. Interesting. Somebody I'd like to meet. 

Got my Scottevest (updated)

Got my Scottevest today.
I have only started exploring the myriad of pockets, but it's clear that a lot of thought have gone into this. One small example: the right hand pocket (huge like the left) has a smaller inner change pocket, and an elastic band for holding a water bottle upright.
Also the vest is light-weight and surprisingly comfortable.

A correspondent, an internationally beloved tech columnist, was concerned that the vest might droop unless you carefully balanced the weight in the pockets. Happily, it does not, not even with just an iPad in a pocket (I had that when taking the pictures). Oh, and that pocket is so big (in my size anyway), that the iPad can go into it sideways. It can also hold a full magazine without folding it or it sticking up over the pocket. Very unusual.

(I had to include a pic which showed my self-designed tee-shirt. Egoic, sure, but heck, it's my blog.       :-)

There's not much padding, so one might want to have the iPad in a rubber sleeve or something, which is a good thing generally, makes it better for holding.

More features:
  • Two pockets with transparent fabric, through which you can operate a touch-screen. 
  • A pocket for glasses, which include a cleaning cloth in a clip on a string! 
  • A digicam pocket with a tiny pocket for memory cards. 
  • A system for threading a pair of earphones from a player or phone up to the collar. 
All in all there are around thirteen pockets if you count the pockets-in-pockets. (Update: after careful consultation with the company, I did find all 22 alleged pockets, although as Scott himself says they are "pretty liberal in what they consider a pocket". Meaning some are tiny and hard to notice. This is no dis, it has more than enough for sure.)

The big left hand pocket has a sort of sub-pocket partially segregated with a zipper, so small items don't rattle around.
Oh, when it arrives, all pockets each have a little card which gives examples of their possible use. It's ridic, gotta love it.

I am 193cm (6"4) with a long torso, and around 90 kilos (110 last year). I bought a size XXXL. When I opened the parcel, I thought "my gawd, this is HUGE! maybe I have to return it". And indeed I think I could wear a XXL. (Their size calculator indicated either.) But I like clothing loose, and I think it also makes it less warm, so I don't have to take it off any time I go indoors, is my hope anyway.

Here's more "ridic": both hand pockets go well up inside, a tall space. This means, amazingly, that I can fit my Apple Wireless keyboard in one of them! And since it's only a couple hundred grams, I barely feel the weight either. I had not expected this.

Update: I gave the vest its inaugural journey today, in a little trip around town. It is indeed useful. Not the least the iPod pockets and the earphone channel. I don't need to take the iPod out to operate it, and I no longer need to have attention on the earphone leads so they don't catch on anything, either when I use them or not.
And I bought a Dilbert 2011 calendar. Normally this would have meant need for a bag, but not while wearing this sucker.
Even if it had been a large book, I just found another pocket, a really large one taking up most of the back of the vest. I think you could put a spaniel in there.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Katy Perry too naughty

[Thanks Jim]
It seems this outfit was too naughty for parents of Sesame Street fans, and SS pulled it. Geez. Seriously, can parents like that even take their kids to the beach?

(... "SS". Giggle.) (Nice song by the way.)

Couriers and phones

It's weird to me that courier companies always demand a phone number for the recipient, but they never use it when they can't deliver, in my experience.

Who we wanna be

I stumbled over this comment from F.I. under a 2008 post:

"I always find that my own self-development projects just peter out. [...]
For instance, I have wanted to "be the sort of guy who" does certain things -- gets up early to go for a run; writes a play in his spare time; takes a class in basic life-saving... But I never "end up" doing any of these things."

I have a theory that all those things, those guys that we want to be (for example, I want to be a writer who writes a lot in cafes, but it never happens), if they continually don't appear, may not be What Should Happen, no matter what we believe.

It may be similar to Douglas Adam's hero Dirk Gently's method of navigation in his car: he follows the first car he spots which seems "like it knows where it's going". Dirk says: "I may not end up where I wanted to be, but I often end up where I should be" (or words to that effect).

Most of us feel that it's a good thing to be a Strong, Willful person. And a Strong, Willful person has a very hard time loosening the reins on their fate. Learning to go with the flow. To do things intuitively and follow the Higher Self. But... did Hannibal really get to be a more fulfilled person by forcing an army and elephants across many mountains? Did Napoleon feel happy and satisfied before he died?

Steve Jobs mentioned something on the lines in his well known Stanford speech. He talked about how those seemingly random things he did when he was young did not seem rationally to fit into any pattern or aim, but they ended up in remarkable things.

The Lay Lady Lay hour

... It's The Lay Lady Lay hour, children. Can you say "avant garde rock"? I knew you could.
Try 'em, they are very different, but all awesome. The second one is hard industrial rock, in case you don't know Ministry. (If you like good hard rock, you should.)

Original Dylan version is here.

"Here" did the third one, it's on a fabulous collection called Wish You Were Queer - A Tribute To Ministry (iTunes link) by various bands, so it was inspired by Ministry's cover above, not Dylan's original. (Well, both, actually, since the melody is closer to Dylan's.)

Check out Meg Lee Chin's version of Scarecrow too, amazing.
There is a second similar Ministry tribute anthology, called "Another Prick In The Wall" (Amazon link)... I think the titles themselves are a kind of tribute, to Ministry's typical titles based on excessively lame puns.

More iPhone4 HDR

Here's a snap, with HDR (High Dynamic Range, meaning photography in high contrast conditions), and the auto-saved sample without. It's plain that it does save a great amount of data in the highlights.
It also tends to make the mid-tones kinda flat. But it is tricky processing, and maybe future updates will improve on that. In the meantime it can be helped in the computer.



HDR, adjusted with Curves in Photoshop:

"Curves" in Photoshop is simple on surface of it, you just pull at a tone curve. But it's trickier than one might think, because small curve changes make big differences, and it easily gets to look very odd.

To be original

Another unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before.
           -- Edith Wharton

This is so basic that for most of my life I didn't even think to question it. But it's something one has to get over.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

RSS feed for this blog

I have added a link to the RSS feed for this blog on the right, so it's easier to give the address to your favorite news reader app*.

I've started using RSS a bit more myself, finally, it can be helpful if you do it right. For instance I can get all the newest posts for the couple dozen sites I follow, and just skim them all quickly for any interesting news.

I use NetNewsWire, it's the one I have found with the best interface on the iPad. I'm pleased to see that my own blog turns up perfect in that app on the iPad, even YouTube videos play right in it. (They don't show on my Mac though, oddly, neither in Safari nor in NetNewsWire.)

*Actually if you use Google Reader, it can usually find the feed if you just give it the main URL for the site. It is also a good app/site. Though I only started using it because I had to, since other readers (on iPad) take the subscriptions from Google Reader! I thought that was irritating at first, but now I appreciate it. NetNewsWire on Mac also has an option to synch with Google Reader. 

Sprayed on

[Thanks to Joe]

I'm reminded of spray-on latex clothing, except that really don't hide nuttin'.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New pro cameras

The Pentax 645D, which is high quality, but still much cheaper than most medium format cameras, will finally be sold outside of Japan, they have just announced.

Further, Sigma is releasing a new brutal-looking flagship model, SD1, which has the first major upgrade of the once-promising Foveon sensor, which stacks the color-pixels under each other instead of next to each other, something which should in theory improve sharpness and fidelity a lot. So far it has not gone so far because of low resolutions, but this is really a big jump. It may actually make it the sharpest camera you find in a 35mm-sized form, which would be an impressive accomplishment inded. (It would also demand really spectacular lenses to utilize all that resolution, though.)

So things are moving on, even though for a year or two there, it looked like the global recession had a stranglehold on the camera industry.

Volkswagen's glass-walled factory

What I like is the robotic sleds, very kewl.
Also the wireless power for the tools, coming from induction via the floor. 

Laurie on 'pad

Photographer Laurie visited me today, and like usual we had a grand old time talking gear and all kinds of stuff. Here he is checking out something on his iPad. No wait, it's mine 'cuz it's in my stand. It's the Fellowes Wire Study Stand. It folds flat, and it'll hold the 'pad even if it has a rubber cover on.

It's a Canon S90 in the foreground, and it's photographed with iPhone 4.

I took it with HDR (contrast- reduction), which you see below, but in this case I think the HDR version, though it caught detail in the window, actually suppressed contrast in the mid-tones a bit too much, so I prefer the other one.

Prolong The Life Of Your Battery: Abuse It

Prolong The Life Of Your Battery: Abuse It, TMO article.
The worst thing for your battery is to leave it plugged in all the time.
Conversely, the best thing for your battery is to “abuse it".   By that we mean to use it as erratically as possible. Drain it, charge it, drain it halfway, charge it to 80%, drain it to 30%, charge it all the way up, etc. It’s those use-cases where we’ve seen batteries do their best, believe it or not.

A few qoutes

You try to give away what you want yourself.
           -- Lois McMaster Bujold

We are each responsible for our own life - no other person is or even can be.
           -- Oprah Winfrey

Just because you love someone doesn't mean you have to be involved with them. Love is not a bandage to cover wounds.
           -- Hugh Elliott

Monday, September 20, 2010

Newsday ad

Interesting upcoming Fuji camera

Interesting upcoming Fujifilm camera X100.
It has an optical viewfinder, and is supposed to be compact while aiming at the highest possible image quality. It has a fixed lens, slightly wide, a good choice.
Miserere writes about it.  I haven't read it yet, it's time for my vampire nap, but he knows his stuff, so.

Talk about old-fashioned, witness this current campaign for a cheap film camera, of all things.  Gotta admit, it's insanely cheap.

Aptus back breaks resolution barrier

Aptus back breaks resolution barrier, article.

80 megapixels, holy mama. And the files are almost half a gigabyte each! That's five hundred times the space I had on my first Mac in 1995 for only one file, that's just insane.

I don't need that, methinks, but research into such super-resolutions is bound to have a trickle-down effect into smaller cameras, because they need new solutions to everything (noise suppression etc), every time the pixels get smaller.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A composite photograph

This is a composite picture I photographed (for eReader Joy) and combined in Photoshop, to show an idea of what a Kindle with a color screen might look like. It took a lot of fiddling and skewing to get the perspectives to match, particularly since the photos were of two devices of different sizes.

(Canon 5DII, 50mm F:2.5 macro.)

Cities and Ambition

Cities and Ambition, Paul Graham article.
"Maybe the Internet will change things further. Maybe one day the most important community you belong to will be a virtual one, and it won't matter where you live physically. But I wouldn't bet on it. The physical world is very high bandwidth, and some of the ways cities send you messages are quite subtle."

Highly interesting article about how places/collections of people influence you, strongly.

Funny thing: I got out of Denmark, despite really loving that country, for one reason: it has one flaw, that partly by its taxation and partly by popular mental attitude, it's very down on ambition. Better not stick your head up.

So you'd think I'd move to a place which encourages ambition, like London or New York City. But due to location of friends and "accident", I ended up in a town in Northern England. Hardly the center of ambition. That's different than Denmark, by the way, Denmark has ambition, but suppresses it. Here, there simply is no ambition, so there isn't that tension.

I realize now that that was exactly the point. There are no accidents. I've been feeling for what message this town sends and it seems to me to be: "Relax. Have a pint".

And I didn't know it, but it was just what I needed. As you may pick up from the number of sites I have, I'm woefully mentally hyperactive. (I wish some of that was physical!) Almost painfully so. So imagine I had moved to NYC. I would have crashed! Not kidding. Overheating.

The great message I needed, and still do, is "relax, have a pint". OK, so I don't drink beer, but the tone still works. I used to have only disdain for tea, and drink coffee copiously. But now I find to my surprise I actually drink more tea than coffee. And not even all that much of either. Just a symptom of becoming more relaxed. More contemplative.

Others of course need other things, and we all need different things at different times. And I think we are naturally attracted to the places which give us what we need. If it seems wrong at the time, perhaps what you want and what you need are two different things?


I've had recommended. Looks interesting, and it's multi-platform.
"AlternativeTo is a new approach to finding good software. Tell us what application you want to replace and we give you great alternatives, based on user recommendations."

Update: Maybe it has some holes. For instance it had no recommendations for iPad Safari alternatives at all, despite there being half a dozen browsers for the 'pad.

So I googled for reviews, and found Perfect Web Browser, which seems very promising indeed (my post about it).