Saturday, November 24, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Who Made That Emoticon?

Who Made That Emoticon?, article.

You don't think about that somebody has invented something as omnipresent as that, it's like "who invented oxygen?". But Scott Fahlman did it, though he's also a researcher in AI.

By the way, not so long ago a friend misunderstood something I wrote because I used colon-bracket instead of colon-dash-bracket. She simply did not recognize that as a smiley face. And I think the full icon is slightly clumsy to type, what the shift key being used for the first and last character, but not the middle one. So now I have a macro which types a few spaces and then the full smiley face. So I just hit control-right-bracket:    :-)

When I first started on the Net, I was against them as many people are, they don't seem "literary" enough. But heck, most scribbles over the Net is *not* literature anyway, are they? They are more like conversation. And after somebody took a very risky joke literally back in 1997, I started using them.

If you think about it, it's just like conversation. If you are talking to a friend or two who you know well, you can make a tricky joke with a straight face. But if you're talking to a stranger, you aren't familiar with his sense of humor (or not), so you automatically smile when you do it, to show you're joking. The smiley face is exactly that, and it's a brilliant invention.

Camera deals.

[Thanks to tOP]

Excellent Black Friday deals:

Canon S100 at only $229! Wow, fantastic deal.

The best deals from B&H.
(A small sales commission goes to Mike from tOP, he richly deserves it.)
(And the S100 has my own affiliate link. I usually use those, if I remember. But I only ever write my honest opinion of any product anyway.)

In my opinion the only compact which beats the S100 is the Sony RX100, and that one is rather more expensive and slightly bigger.

Switching off your inner pedant

Editors: would you do me this tiny favour?, article.
I am making a new determination right now: I am going to switch off the pernickety, know-better side of my brain whenever I can, and hold my tongue if I can’t. Why? Let me explain. [...]
I’d really love it if I just didn’t notice those errors, but as that’s not going to happen, I will settle for calming the inner voice that wants to get a permanent marker and graffiti my editorial wrath (plus corrections, of course) all over that sign that says “Parking” Strickly for Customer’s.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The living city? and monocycles

The producer from MIB III*: "I treat these vehicles (monocycles**) like they are another character in the story."

You always hear that. People say: "The city is like another character in the story".
What do they *mean* by this? Do they even know themselves what they mean, or is it just one of those cliches people pick up?
What do they do differently if "the city is another character" than they would if it weren't?

*Great fun movie! A more than worthy successor. Good story, great creatures and gadgets.

**It's said in the interview that there is no such thing in reality. Well, there is. Although admittedly it's a bitch to ride and will probably never be a big thing, though modern computerizing might help somehow with the balancing and turning.

Depth of Field, Bokeh, and Why All Cameras Are Not Created Equal

(Note, I feel the content/ad ratio is a bit low in this one.)

John P has some good points here, but I would argue with his arguments against mirrorless cameras. If you get the right lenses, like the fabulous and not-expensive Olympus 45mm F: 1.8, you can get great soft backgrounds.

This 45mm lens from Olympus (90mm equivalent) is really a phenomenon. It has image quality normally only found in much bigger and much more expensive lenses. (It's about $400.) The only concession to the low price is that it's not all-metal, but then that even helps to reduce weight. Olympus' own 12mm 2.0 of similar quality is all metal, but it is twice the price.  And the 45mm is perhaps even more praised.

Electric prodigy

Self-taught teen builds battery to power family home, article/video.

Not to mention his own radio station!

It's amazing. Most of us couldn't even build this stuff given the parts and instructions, but this guy apparently reverse-engineers it and builds it from scrap!

Mr. Winning is back

Just started watching Anger Management, the new Charlie Sheen TV comedy. Man, he seems like he aged ten years in the 1-2 years he's been away. Maybe he stopped taking whatever had him "winning TV".

By the way, this is at least the third show he's been in where his character is called "Charlie". What's up with that? Is he afraid people are going to forget his first name? I just think it's a poor practice, the audience is then not watching a made up character, they are watching CHARLIE SHEEN!

The Duchess photographer

Kate Middleton photographs. I like 'em.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Paprika opening credits

Seems the song is called "Meditational Field", from the anime Paprika. I wanted to play the song for a while, but I couldn't remember its title!
(We've touched on the movie before.)

Here is another song from the movie (composer Hirasawa Susumu), clearly inspired by the main title.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Online video prices

The pressure is clearly on to get us to get all our video by download. For example the new Apple notebooks don't even have an optical drive.

But I think that to achieve this, they need to give a good think to their prices. Many of them are simply well over-priced. Just a movie rental here in the UK is often over $8 (over five Pounds Sterling).

Now, a season of The Simpsons on Blu-ray disk is less than $19, and it includes the artwork and a lot of extras. But a season of the Simpsons on HD for download, without extras, is twice that price on Amazon, and on iTunes it's a balls-shriveling fifty bucks...
It's just nuts. (Though small, shriveled ones.)
(If you buy the episodes one at a time, it gets worse: on Amazon season 23 swoops up to 65 dollars.)

What is the thinking here? "Hurrah, we save the costs of printing and distribution, so we will double the price!" ??

In the ebook world, customers are launching protests movements against books priced over ten dollars. I wonder how that market would go if an ebook were twice the price of a hardcover, let's call it $50. Not many takers, I guess!

Wide-Angle Macro

There's a new ebook about Wide-Angle Macro photograpy.

Great idea to get more of the background included. I wonder why there are almost no wide-angle macro lenses. They say it's because when you get too close you may scare insects away, or cast shadows on the subject. But clearly it can be done otherwise.

The book is cheap, only five bucks, so I think I'll get it just to see what he does for lenses. Perhaps turn around a normal wide-angle lens. It'd need to be good quality of course, and probably it helps if it's not a fast one. The problem is that a lens is always optimized best for a specific range of distances, and normally this is around half a meter to infinity.

With most lenses, if you get much closer than that, the quality suffers greatly. This is of course why we have dedicated Macro lenses. Apart from them also offering closer distance settings without adding special gear. Macro lenses tend to be not super-fast, most often F:2.8. But amazingly, and surely helped by that very fact, despite being optimized for very close ranges, they also tend to be very sharp at long distances, thus making good all-round lenses too. (Obviously they also tend to be a tad more pricey than normal lenses.)

This is the first photo in the book. Kool, isn't it?
(I hope the authors don't mind me showing this off.)

To make pictures like this, it's a great help to have a camera (like the new Olympus E-PL5) which have a tiltable screen which can turn all the way around to be seen from the front.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Scared Away - Shadow of the beat

Shadow of the Beat = Ugress.

I like the song. The video has bloody images from The Evil Dead, but that is apparently where the lyrics came from, so.

"The dark shadows, the dark shadows, moving in the, moving in the, moving in the woods..." 

Power cuts threat as sun storm hits earth

[Update: it turns out this is an old article. (There was no date, except the current date at the top.) So, never mind. I'll let it stand because it has a little background info too.]

Power cuts threat as sun storm hits earth, article.

The solar flare was classified as an X18-category explosion, meaning it can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms.
Although the charged particles present no direct danger to people on the ground, they could have a devastating effect on electrical equipment.
[...]  The result could be widespread power surges and even blackouts...

It seems it may be a good idea to keep important computers turned off tonight if you can, and unplug them. (A big powersurge can easily leap a turned-off switch, I've heard.)

An engineer from a big computer support company told me once that they always have a lot more work on the day after a lightning storm, particularly in the industrial areas, where a lot of devices are running 24/7.

I have installed powerstrips with power surge protection at critical places. Even so those have a limit, so I unplug the machines if an electrical storm comes close (less than several seconds between a lightning flash and the boom).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

One's Self is the bedrock

I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself. 
-- Michel de Montaigne

I think many people may protest against that idea. They'd feel that we are only here to serve others. That what we mean to, and do for, for example our family is everything, otherwise one is just being selfish. 

But I think it has a lot of merit. It does not mean that one should only work for and care for oneself, but that one can only *judge* oneself. One's self and one's connection to higher forces and callings. What others say should be taken into account, but the final judgement and decisions must be one's own, alone. 

Otherwise one is adrift on a sea of opinions, going to and fro as fashions change. Only be evaluating things by the best of one's abilities and then taking a firm stance and working from there, does one have a chance of making progress. 

I think it would be very hard to find anybody who has made remarkable, unique achievements, who has also not at some points been in spectacular disagreement with many of his contemporaries, maybe even to the point of violent attacks.