Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rope swing

I've just started watching The Bridge to Terabithia, and so far I'm enjoying it. (I see it's based on a book but I never read it.) Solid fantasy story (I'm usually not into fantasy), and all the actors are Ab Fab.

Update: Unlike Narnia and such, most of the story takes place outside of the Magical Kingdom, and I think it's a very good story. When the magical stuff starts to happen though, it has some very kool creatures, and excellent effects to make them. Very nice.

Two kids are using a rope swing from a big tree over a stream, and I was reminded of one we had in our garden. It was over the lawn in our big Weeping Willow, and it was used so much that there was not a blade of grass in a wide circle under it! I think it didn't even have a bar at the bottom for sitting, but it had a very big knot you sort of sit on when you were still a kid and small and light.       :-)

Lord, how much fun that was, just this simple rope. Either when we were a bunch just hanging out and chatting, or when I was alone, just thinking. I remember I would swing in a circle and get to the tree with my legs, and then push off into the opposite circle and get to the tree from the other side and so forth. I enjoyed the precision I could do this with after some practice. As well of course as simply the joy of the movement.

And it was good for something to do while thinking. I am an over-thinker, it's compulsive. My mom said I was "born an adult", I was never the carefree kid. Even at two or three I would stand in the playpen, looking very seriously out at the world through the bars, trying to figure everything out. Haha!

Oh, by the way, another thing I did aaaaall the time was climb. I think I spent more time in tree tops than I spent sitting in chairs.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Very Zon

Very Advanced

Very Advanced! from Eolake Stobblehouse on Vimeo.

Upgrades do it

My blu-ray player died, and I bought a new one. Of course like we know, it's smaller, cheaper, and lighter. But here's what threw me: the picture quality is dramatically better than my old one, which was less than... 18 months old. It was the same disc and the same TV. And yet...

I did not see this coming. I have a simple mind. Who's a geek now? Not me!

Bruce said:
Apparently Blu-ray players are as much computers as they are players. they run Java, and do a significant amount of signal processing of the data they read off the disk, which is then transmitted to the TV. ... 
The quality of what you see on the TV depends on the quality of the signal processing (hardware and software) done in the blu-ray player. I have read some reviews that suggest buying a 3D capable player, even if you don't ever want to go to 3D, because of their superior computer power translates to superior 2D pictures.

Thanks, Bruce. Actually the one I bought happens to be 3D capable, so that may explain some of it.

The one thing that still bugs me about disc boxes is that virtually nobody makes a user-friendly interface for the remote control. You should be able to feel easily where your hand is, and not look at it every time before you press something. And the Stop button should be far from Play and Pause.      :-)

"Return"? To what?

It's funny how old terminology lives on. For example I enter some text in a Search field on my iPad, and then I can click the Return button to activate it. And somebody born after 1980 might well be excused for thinking "return?... return to what? The previous page? The previous app?" They may never have seen a typewriter, with a lever which Returned the paper carriage to the start of a new line.

For that matter, on bigger computers there is often a Return and an Enter key, and they often do the same thing. But then: sometimes not. Huh.

(I'm sure I'll be enlightened and corrected with technical details about this, thanks beforehand guys.      :-)


I've just watched the recent version of A Christmas Carol, and though it did a good job of presenting Dickens' superb story, I feel a bit surprised that Motion Capture films don't seem to me to have the visual richness and detail that most CGI films (such as Pixar's) have. I'm not sure why. Well, it may be related to mo-cap trying to make realistic humans, and CGI movies generally don't, as yet. It's a tough nut I'm sure.

The expanding economy

I think it's a peculiarity that:

1) The economy is expected to expand continually and forever.
2) Many, many companies are in deep doodoo if their market is not growing pretty rapidly.

You'll notice that everybody panics if the growth in a market is less than the growth last year!

Seeing as how there's a limit to the population, it just seems to be a sucker bet to hang your hat on continual expansion. I think it would be more sound having a business which simply has a stronger foundation.

It's like a big vehicle (a bus for example) which would explode if it ever drove slower than, say, 50 miles/hour. Hey, somebody should make a movie like that, I'd call it "Velocity". Could be a hit.

Rollei 35, a classic

I think it was the Rollei 35 which when I saw it in a book in the seventies kick-started my passion for quality compact cameras. And I still think it's one of the most beautiful compacts ever made. Surprisingly heavy too, very solid build.

I just love that you can have a pocket camera which can, within its operating parameters, deliver image quality equal to a big pro camera at four times the size and weight.

Of course the famous Minox 35 is even smaller and much lighter. But in the end it's plasticky and I never felt the beauty of it in the same way.

As a teen I couldn't afford a Rollei 35, but I did have a Japanese knock-off with the same gate-design. Dang, what was the brand? Despite having no focusing aid, it was a really good camera though, I took many pics with it:

Yes Man

Just watched Yes Man with Jim Carrey. Highly enjoyable. And it has Zooey DeWhazname in it, doesn't suck.


In late nineties I heard some wonderful music in a restaurant. I researched what it was, and couldn't believe that it was actually Madonna!
I still think Ray of Light the album is outstanding.

The same happened today, I heard some music on a web site, and I liked it. I used a handy app called SoundHound on my iPhone, it listened to it and told me it was Lady Gaga! Oh no!
But oh yes. So now I've bought her collection/album The Fame Monster over UK iTunes. (Two dozen songs for only five pounds (eight bucks) by the way, good deal.)

Ebert returns

Film critic Roger Ebert returns to TV with facial prosthesis.
Good for him. I have not read or watched all that much of his work (it was not generally exported to Europe), but what I did catch was really good.

Another article.
The show is necessary in today's entertainment world, Ebert says. "Can you think of another TV show that deals with the movies as movies instead of as celebrity showcases?"

I bet.

Hyper and lazy

I have a hyper-active mind and a super-lazy body.
I really wish it were a bit more evenly divided!       :-)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What a misty day today

(Click for big pic)

(Panasonic GH2, 14-140mm, 1000 ISO. No color correction, it seems the light is very blue in misty weather around here.)

Being a student

Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.
           -- George Iles

I couldn't agree more. Learning every day is essential. 

3D by eyeblink

This is making the rounds. I'm sure it is a hoax, albeit a well done one.
There's no way the eyes can blink at 120 Hz, and even much slower it would be very uncomfortable indeed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Playboy Headed to the iPad

Playboy Headed to the iPad, post.

And apparently uncensored. This sounds pretty revolutionary given Apple's previous stance on nudity and even bikini-girls (Playboy has an app, but it has no nudity). I'll see it before I believe it.

super-directional sound

Woody Norris is not the most humble guy in the world, but then has some successes to back him up.
I don't really get how this super-directional sound works, but it seems like it has a lot of potential.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Children self-educating

This is just astounding!

Juice and müsli

Here's a tip if you're trying to cut down on dairy for whatever reason: try juice on the müsli instead of milk. It sounds strange, but myself, I not only got used to it almost immediately, but would never go back now, and it's been five years.

Pure orange juice is too sweet for me, I use one part OJ, one part grapefruit juice, and one part water.

It's just a thought.  I don't intend to start a "religious war" about diet.       :-)

A little iPad tip (updated)

A small percentage of iPads have had their video freeze, even through a reboot. One solution that might work is a "hard reset": hold the Home button and the sleep button for longer than it takes to get the Power Down slider. A few seconds later, it will reboot from scratch.

Also, there is some evidence it may be a hardware issue. But also that it does not happen if you don't leave the app in the middle of a video, but press Done before going to another app.

Why the iPad 2 may have super-resolution screen.

If an app is misbehaving and keeps doing so, it might help to plug in the 'pad and remove the app via iTunes. And then unplug it, and download the app again via the App Store from the iPad itself.

This just solved a problem with a fun app I have called Gravity Clock. As the second hand goes around, the numbers fall off and stack at the bottom. If you turn it around, the number debris will roll around like they are inside a box. Once, while demoing it, gravity was reversed, and they started falling up! And not collecting. Not as fun. But the tip above solved it.

The good ol' film days

Being nostalgic for film cameras and darkrooms is like being nostalgic for outdoor toilets.

LEGO items

Some goodies for the LEGO-heads amongst you, and an amateur takes video from space.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Steve Jobs to Take Medical Leave of Absence

Steve Jobs to Take Medical Leave of Absence, TidBITS article.

I've long been wondering how any mortal could keep of with the drive ("Super-drive") and the schedule Jobs has been running. I mean, nobody here is from Krypton. So it's hardly surprising that his body is going into a protest mode sometimes, as seen in the last couple of years. I wish him well.

eReader book stand

There is now an ereader adapter to the book floor stand.

Carbon fiber tripod (updated)

I just got my first light-weight tripod, a Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber. Just like with racing bikes, carbon fiber models are a premium product. Maybe that will change.
On the photo below I show it in front of my old one, an steel model I bought in the nineties. The main reason I replaced it are weight and that the controls are stiff and awkward (and I actually have broken off a steel knob when turning a control the wrong way! I must be stronger than I realized).

A few things are notable to me about the new tripod:

  • The carbon legs themselves have a beautiful surface shimmer.
  • It's gum-danged light-weight for a full-sized tripod.
  • You can tilt the column 90 degrees in a few seconds. 
  • It is not only as rigid as the steel one, it is more rigid! Surprisingly so, in fact. It feels like one solid piece. 

The one in front is the new one

I didn't get the ball head yet, I had to order it separately. If it were me, I would offer a model which came with a ball head, I'd guess the majority of customers would go for that. Unless a panorama head is as popular, that may be the reason, I guess, video is popular these days.
It also doesn't have spiked feet, you must also buy those separately, I didn't realize that. My first tripod, a Velbon I got in the late seventies, had them as standard. And why not, they are not expensive (unlike carbon fibre). People say they are for outdoors work, but I find that a carpet also reduces stability markedly if there are no spikes.

Weight is an issue for stability and for reducing vibrations, for very critical photography work (big prints of landscape or architecture photos and such). So some people who go hiking with a light-weight tripod hang something from it to weigh it down, like a bag they fill with rocks or dirt on the spot, or a big plastic jar they fill with water.

Update: I got the ball head today. I like it. It is half the weight of my old one. Some say it needs to be big and heavy to suck up vibrations, but this fits better with the portability idea. It's also easier to operate, the old one has a lever for rotation and I often grabbed that one when I wanted the lever to unlock the head. And the new one has a knob for adjusting the friction, a good thing (a heavier camera needs more friction not to flop about when you unlock the head).

iPad/iPhone manuals

I'm not sure why Apple makes some manuals (guides), but then do not let it be widely known. Here is the iPad guide.

And iPhone manuals.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Complex cameras (updated twice)

I love the power of modern cameras, but let's face it, digital camera makers are insane. Cameras are so complex! I was just trying to figure out how to make bracketing work on a camera, and it simply would not work. Finally I found out that somehow I had mistakenly selected "multi-film mode". I have no friggin clue what that even means!

And who needs or wants "film modes"? These are digital cameras, and any effect can be made better later in the computer anyway. And the scene modes too. You can never predict what they are going to do, all they do is confuse people with a lot of options.

The camera has *three* "function buttons". I pressed one by accident, and this again meant that the functions I was trying to set simply did not work, because the camera was set to "Intelligent Auto", meaning "the user has no control". And the big problem is that the button is easy to press by mistake, and beyond a tiny symbol on the screen there is no warning. (The saving grace is that I could change the function of the button so it at least would not f**k anything up if I did happen to touch it.)

My opinion is that they would make much more powerful and useful cameras if they got off this kick of stuffing in as many "features" as they possibly can.

Many years ago David Pogue wrote in a book about a famous movie star he was coaching on using MS Word. The guy got delighted when he found out he could remove menu items he did not want. In the end he only had two left: "bold" and "print"! Love it.

Pogue also once asked: why are simple word processors not selling? Why does everybody want the bloaty MS Word app,  like they want an SUV instead of a useful car? Well, we are addicted to power, even if it's power we will never use.

But maybe there is light at the end of the carpal tunnel: Fujifilm's upcoming X100 camera, a quality camera with simple, physical dials is generating tons of interest, way more than Fuji themselves had expected.

Dave said:
Since I have no interest in studying photography. "Intelligent auto" is the only feature I'd want. Maybe a button that says "Closeup. Really."

Good point. The trouble is you don't know what it will do. I just discovered that in iA mode, my camera (the otherwise excellent Lumix GH2) reduces the resolution of the image from 16MP to 8MP!

I mostly use "P" for Programmed mode. It works almost all the time. The few exceptions are mostly when I want full aperture for a very blurred background, then I use "A" for Aperture Priority. 

In the seventies cameras where either fully manual or had only Aperture priority or Shutter Speed priority. It was a revolution when the first cameras came in the eighties which had both modes as well as the new Programmed mode, where the camera selects both and balances them. 

For very critical use, where ultimate image quality is more important than speed, Programmed mode is not ideal of course.

Update: Adam Engst pointed to this article.
I'm feeling snappish because my wife Daphne's point-and-shoot camera died after only three years of infrequent use, and because I cannot find a sensible replacement. Each "simple" point-and-shoot that I have looked at is more complicated than the next.
[...]  In principle it is possible to ignore many of these "features," but in practice menus often get changed accidentally, either when you try to change some other setting or when you hold the camera in your lap and touch some buttons accidentally, buttons like the "Fn" button on the EX1, which has no evident function save to facilitate destroying images by throwing away resolution.

Metalocalypse backgrounds (updated)

I never understood why Metalocalypse is not simple called DethKlok like the band it's about. It would be much easier to remember and to spell. Why have an extra layer?

Anyway, I'm watching season three, now on Blu-ray, and wow, the visuals! The backgrounds are often just stunning. I mean, real art. Especially when they show landscapes and big buildings and flying vehicles and such.

And of course it's hilarious too.

Look at this. Notice the Sydney Opera House! This is the kind of buildings DethKlok can apparently throw up all the time.
And this fantastic image was shown for just around a second. Nuts. :-)

You can't beat number one?

A marketing guru once said that "you can't beat number one". So don't even try. You know, Hertz and Avis... "We try harder" (but we know we'll always be number two).

But... In the eighties, Nikon was the unchallenged champion of the pro camera market. Then Canon made better autofocus, and for many years they were the Big Number One. But then in the naughties Nikon made better low-light cameras (the D3), and they took the market back!

On the other hand, nobody, not even the mighty Microsoft, has managed to take a good bite of the MP3 player market. Apple and iPod owns it.

I think that what it boils down to is:
You can beat number one. But you can't do it with marketing. You have to have a product which in some important aspects is clearly, demonstrably better, at least to some people. Or in other words, an important niche at least.

That is how Apple made a good living side-by-side with Windows in the Nineties. Everybody else were killed off, but Apple's Macs had some charm and usability advantages which gave it 5-10% of the market, and they lived well, even if they didn't dominate.

So aaaall those companies (50?) making me-too tablets now (2011), they won't make it. Only those who have a unique feature which will make some people choose it over the iPad, will survive. Heck, it's possible one will beat Apple to the number One spot, but it's unlikely. And frankly, who cares? Do you want to beat everybody else into the dust or do you just want to make good products and have a good business? Personally I think the last one must be much less stressful in the long run. I mean, even as number two, Steve Jobs was a billionaire, and how much more than a billion dollars do you really need?

Fashion (not the song by Bowie)

I never got Fashion. Well, I do get it when people make up their own outfits and are imaginative. I even admire that. But I don't get when people are into the "what's in" and "what's out" idea. Can't they see they are just being milked? And the peer-pressure thing, to arrive at a fancy party and being made fun of if you're wearing something in last year's fashion... WTF? I couldn't even stay around an environment like that.