Thursday, February 26, 2009

Florida residents come in all shapes and sizes

Real FloridiansImages of Florida show beautiful people in beautiful surroundings, effortlessly enjoying the best that life has to offer. Looks great on TV and in print, but the real life for far too many Floridians is a lot grimmer and grimier than what the chamber of commerce is trying to push.

There are times, when I'm rushing to get to work on the east side near U.C.F., that I stop off at a Burger King on the corner of Alafaya and Colonial to pick up a cheap egg-and-biscuit breakfast. It costs a buck and change, and I can walk in and out with it in about two minutes. This particular Burger King seems to attract its share of homeless. I don't know why, but it does.

Today I ran across two gentlemen (right) who were standing outside enjoying cigarettes and coffee. I went in and got my biscuit, then came out and asked if I could take their picture. I stopped to talk to the taller of the two for about five minutes, then headed on in to work.

The taller, more talkative guy didn't give out his name, but he did give out some interesting details of his life. He'd been unemployed going on nine months. Before that he'd been doing general work where-ever he could find it. Before then he'd been working heavy construction for nearly 40 years in Florida, after he'd lost his job at at steel mill up in Pennsylvania.

His wife had died four years before, a suicide. She'd been a two-tour-of-duty nurse in the Vietnam war, but had been discharged early in her career due to psychological problems. She gotten just enough from the government when he was working so that their combined income allowed the two of them to live in a house. As they got older the medications his wife needed had gotten more expensive. That, combined with his difficulty in finding work as he got older forced her to stop buying and taking her meds. That's when depression really set in and she eventually took her life. I'm no great judge of character but you could tell the loss still hurt him; the emotion was pretty plain in his voice and his eyes.

The whole time I talked to him he didn't once ask for money or try to panhandle in any way, shape, or form. He wanted someone to talk to, someone to take the time and listen. The one thing that struck me most about him was his faith. He repeated, more than once, his belief that what was happening was part of "God's plan". In an age when too many think that being a Christian means you will be rich with money and possessions, his faith stood out as far more real and powerful than my own would be under similar circumstances.

Worldly goods on two wheels

And their possessions seemed to be (literally) tied to their bikes, which is their primary form of transportation. In a world full of carbon-belching cars, they've gone green because they have no other choice.

On the way out of the parking lot and on to work I passed to of Orange County's finest arresting another homeless man. If I'd had the time (and backbone) I'd have circled back around and taken a few photos of that encounter as well. That explains, in part, why I don't see too many homeless in the area. They're probably being legally shaken down and run off. All that in addition to OCSD's running revenue-enhancing speed traps, handing out expensive speeding tickets to well-paid white men driving expensive foreign convertibles in the better sections of town.

Orange County Sheriff Speed Trap

Welcome to Florida.

Update

Florida's unemployment rate is now 8.1%.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My 15 seconds of fame

I've had three of my Flickr photos used in three NowPublic stories. The stories are:You can follow the link from each story or you see a list of the three photos here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Galleria Ghostmall

I'm on travel tonight in McLean, staying at the Tyson Corner Crowne Plaza. I'd traveled from Orlando to Washington D.C. via Reagan this morning, then drove a short distance to company offices where I spent the majority of my day working until 5:30 pm. I finished by driving a short distance to the Crowne Plaza and checking in. Once in my room I grabbed my E-3 out of my luggage, threw on my big fluffy blue down jacket (I'm from Florida, so anything lower than 72 is too cold), and walked across International Drive to Tysons Galleria and Legal Seafood for supper.

I love to eat at Legal Seafood. I was first introduced to Legal in 2005 while working as an SAIC systems engineer on Future Combat Systems (FCS). I was part of an SE team which included members from SAIC and Boeing. Since SAIC has a number of offices in or around the McLean area, we'd all flown up there to conduct a week-long face-to-face planning session. At the end of each day we would go over to Tysons Galleria to find a place to eat and unwind. That's when I first ate at, and then fell in love with Legal.

In those days Tysons Galleria was humming with activity. Legal was so busy you waited to be seated. It didn't matter what night or time you went, you waited (even if it was just a little bit). Tonight when I got over there around 6:30 pm I was immediately seated, no waiting. The restaurant, as far as I could see, was only half filled. The entire time I was there Legal never filled. One group would finish and leave, only to be replaced by a new group. Half-full was the steady state.

I finished another excellent Legal meal and went out into the Galleria around 7:30 pm. I found the whole mall pretty empty. There were a few idle shoppers walking about, but none of the boisterous business I'd seen in the past. There was a single kid yelling at other end of the mall from where I stood; I could literally hear him echoing all the way to where I was standing. Four years ago that would not have happened because of the much greater number of shoppers and far greater economic tempo. I even found a dark, empty, closed store to take a picture of, but before I could take that shot I was stopped.

A little mall security officer walked up to me and told me I couldn't take any pictures "since 9/11". Yes, the bloody flag of terrorism was waived at this nearly empty mall tonight because of fear induced by a crashing economy. Here I am, a 6 ft 4 inch white 250lb middle-aged balding Floridian with glasses, dressed in a big blue down jacket that makes me look like Shamu's cousin, walking slowly around the mall with my E-3 and 12-60mm lens attached taking pictures. For a good 45 minutes. Stealthy I was not.

I stood there silently for a few moments, staring down at the now-nervous little mall security officer, mulling my options, slowly considering possible actions and their consequences in my mind. I rather reluctantly decided discretion to be the better part of valor. In this day you need to pick your battles most carefully. Besides, I had enough "evidence" in my E-3 so I turned it off, covered the lens, and left.

The unfortunate legacy of this country's officially sanctioned paranoia since 9/11 will take many years to overcome, especially its use to easily hide a host of other sins. Just as it will take many years and tremendous resources to overcome our horrible economic stewardship that has lead directly to collapsing business everywhere, such as in the Tysons Galleria. It's going to be a long tough slog.

Tysons Galleria Jesse
The Jesse Italian furniture store next to Macy's on the top floor of Tysons Galleria. I sat in a chair outside the store for approximately 15 minutes and watched. Not a single customer went into or came out of the store. A great example of the growing collapse of consumerism as we know it.

Tysons Galleria 1Tysons Galleria 2
Tysons Galleria 3Tysons Galleria Top Level
Tysons Galleria PizzaTysons Galleria Top Level

Just a few extra shots from around the Galleria. If you look closely you can see the occasional individual.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Politics as viewed from Florida

The Gift That Keeps On Giving.

Thank you John McCain.

Money

Looks like the Senate passed the the $787 billion stimulus bill. It's now on its way to President Obama for his signature. At the risk of sounding too selfish and parochial, I hope there's enough in there to help with Florida's current $2.3 billion state budget deficit. Florida is currently in third place behind second place Georgia ($2.8 billion) and first place California ($13.8 billion). Additionally Florida's current unemployment rate stands at 8.1%, tied for eighth place with Georgia. And last but by no means least, Florida is #1 in foreclosures; the number of homes in foreclosure stands at 7.32%. So like I said, I hope a little stimulus love flows down to the Sunshine State.

Oh. I got my numbers from this interesting interactive CNNMoney.com Flash page titled "Where does your state rank?" Looks like Florida is pretty rank. A bit like dead-fish-killed-by-red-tide-been-in-the-sun-a-tad-too-long kind of rank.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm from the Government and I'm here to help you (Scam Alert)

From my Google account spam filter.

This must be part of the $790 Billion or so "bi-partisan" Congressional bailout package. I guess I'll be getting my share of it after all.
CBN/ UNITED NATIONS 08/09 SCAM VICTIMS COMPENSATIONS PAYMENTS DIRECTOR.
ATTENTION: VICTIM,
SCAMMED VICTIM/USD$825,000 BENEFICIARIES.
REF/PAYMENTS CODE:06654.
AMOUNT USD$825,000

This is to inform you that through our Global Security Network, and investigations, which reveals that, you have not yet received your long overdue payment yet you have been a scam victim. Please be informed that the authorities in conjunction with the law enforcement agents, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have put in place machinery to checkmate this urgly incident.

I wish to inform you that there is a directive from the Federal Government to pay all outstanding debts owed to beneficiaries. This was resolved in a meeting held between Nigerian Government Authorities and Officials of United States Government in New York last week, as a condition from the International Monetary Fund to support European Union (EU) and United States of America in receiving total debt cancellation or forgiveness from the International Financial Bodies.

As instructed by the aforementioned authorities, we are to pay 150 Nigerian 419 scam victims USD$825,000 USD(Eight Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Dollars) each. You are listed and approved in the payment schedule for this payment as one of the beneficiaries to be paid this amount as compensation. As a result of this laudable recommendations, it is imperative to bring to your notice that during the official meetings held at New York, it was alarmed so much by the rest of the world in the meetings on the lose of funds by various foreigners to the scams artists syndicates operating in all over the world today. In other to redeem the good image of our country, the New President has agreed with United States Government, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Financial Bodies to ordered the payment of USD$825,000.00 USD each to the affected victims in pursuance with the U.N. recommendations.
Due to the corrupt and inefficient Banking Systems in Nigeria, the payments are to be made by our Affiliate/Correspondence Bank ( HABIB BANK AG ZURICH) SWITZERLAND Through Online Banking System which you are going to handle by yourself as your Online Checking Account has been already Activated for transfers. Find below the details of your account to start transferring your funds:-
Your Account Login name: KT04573608
Your Login Password: tf368100
Type the number shown on the right /
HBZcram response if enabled:
Secure Key: xx16056

To logon to your account, kindly click on (https://www.habibbank.ae/hPLUS) and enter your information (Account Login name, Type the number shown on the right and Secure Key) to check your current account balance and start transferring your fund.

NOTE: IF THERE IS ANY ERROR OR DELAY DURING THE PROCESS OF LOGING ON FOR TRANSFERRING YOUR FUND PLEASE KINDLY GET BACK TO US IMMEDIATELY WITH THE REQUIRED INFO BELOW TO MAKE THE CORRECTION QUICKLY AND REPROGRAMMED YOUR DETAILS TO ENABLE TRANSFERS INTO YOUR BANK ACCOUNT:-

YOUR FULL NAME AND ADDRESS:
YOUR PHONE AND FAX NUMEBRS:
YOUR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
YOUR INT'L PASSPORT/DRIVER LICENSE NUMBER:

According to the number of applicants at hand, 114 Beneficiaries has been paid, 60% of the victims are from the United States, while about 40% are from other parts of the world. we still have more than 30% left to be paid the compensations of USD$825,000 each. Your particulars was mentioned by one of the Syndicates(One Mr. Robert as he claimed) who was arrested in Lagos, Nigeria as one of their victims of the operations, you are hereby warned not to communicate or duplicate this message to him for any reason what so ever as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) (Motto: No Body is Above the Law) have combined effort with the United Nation Anti-crime commission to alleviate the plight of these victims as well as redeeming the image of my dear country. The U.S. secret service is already on trace of the criminals. Other victims who have not been contacted can submit their application as well for scrutiny and possible consideration. Many Banks, Universal firms! , Companies and individuals have b

Please let us know as soon as possible if you receive this email message and you have successfully transferred your funds into your bank account for good record purposes.

Congratulations!
Yours truly,
Mr. John Wayne.
(Executive Director)
Anti -Corruption Unit
FEDERAL RESERVE TREASURY AUTHORITY
DIRECT CONTACT PHONE: +234-708-4259156
DIRECT CONTACT EMAIL: legalfunds@icpc-gov.org

PS:
Please NOTE that as strictly warned by the office of the Authorities, beneficiaries are not liable to pay C.O.T (Cost Of Transfer),VAT,and Taxes Charges/fee.
Please should in case if any official of any bank should request Cost Of Transfer (COT) from you, please kindly report the person to the appropriate authority (www.fbi.gov)
It has to be the full moon. It just has to be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'm So Special! (Scam Alert)

This hit my Yahoo! inbox today (but it wasn't taken out by their so-called spam filter, unfortunately). This is so unbelievably funny that any description I would attempt could never do it justice, so I'm just going to copy it here in its entirety for your great amusement.
Notification of Bequest

On behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the Estate of late Luciano Pavarotti, I hereby attempt to reach you again. I wish to notify you that Late Luciano Pavarotti made you a beneficiary to His will. He left the sum of Thirty one Million five Hundred Thousand Dollars.($31,500,000.00) to you in the codicil land last testament to his will. This may sound strange and Unbelievable to you, but it is real and true. Luciano Pavarotti was known for his humanitarian work.

He was the founder and the host of the 'Pavarotti & Friends' annual charity concerts and related activities in Morena, Italy. There he sang with international stars of all styles to raise funds for several worthy UN causes and charity homes. Late Luciano Pavarotti until his death was a very dedicated Christian who loved to give out. His great philanthropy earned him numerous awards during his life time, late Luciano Pavarotti died at the Age of 71 years.

According to him this money is to support your activities and to help the poor and the Needy including charity organisations of your choice for the good work of the lord, and also to help the motherless and less privilege and Assistance of the widows according to (JAMES 1:27). He took this decision because he does not have any child that will inherit this money. I will like to read more about him on this website. (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0667556/bio)

I must let you know that this transaction is 100% risk free and the nature of your business does not necessarily matter. For assisting this offering Late Mr. Luciano Pavarotti is offering you 30% of the total sum for your good will assistance, 65% is for the charity work & 5% will be mapped out for any expenses that may incurred during the course of this transaction. Finally, all we are demand from you is assurance that you will not sit on this Funds when it finally gets to your personal or company's account in your Country. If this proposal given to you by Late Mr. Luciano Pavarotti is acceptable by you please confirm your interest via Email and we shall forward for your perusal any documentation to satisfy you that this project is a Legitimate one.

NB: We will appreciate your utmost confidentiality in this matter until the task is accomplished as we don't want anything that will jeopardize the last wish of Late Mr. Luciano Pavarotti because we don't want the family and relation or anybody to know about this transaction due to the instruction given to us by Late Mr. Luciano Pavarotti.

Please you should fill the information below for more charities and identification of your Information’s we have here and also contact the lawyer in charge with the email address below so that the process of this transaction can proceed? And he will direct you on how to contact the paying bank for the release of your (money) fund.

1. Full Name.
2. Mobile Telephone number,
3. Age.
4. Contact address/Country.
5. Occupation.

Yours in Service,
ATTORNEY REV KENNETH BROWN (ESQ) (Senior Partner)
ATTORNEY & ASS. Notary Public Solicitor & Legal Practitioner
Advocate Address: 35 Group Middle Levees 87, 12 Emirates Towers Office,
Den Haag, Netherlands.
Tel: +31-644-777-769
Fax: +31-84-759-7673
Fax: +31-84-731- 7621
Personal Email: attorneyrevkennethbrown@live.com
If you want to call all those numbers and send to those email links then knock yourselves out. There are just some email scams that are so over-the-top that they "speak" for themselves.

And to think I can't even carry a tune in a bucket.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Olympus E-3 System 30+ days on

I got the core of my new E-3 system for Christmas (body, two lenses, and flash), so it's been more than 30 days (more like six weeks) since I opened everything up and started to use it. For the most part I've had a wonderful time.

Olympus E-3 Body

Some complain about the size of the body. In my hands, with the HLD-4 battery pack attached, it fits like a glove. I have a camera which for the first time fills my right hand completely and comfortably. The weight is generally not an issue unless I attach the 50-200mm and carry that around for a while.

More complain about the placement of the controls. I'll admit that when I want to change something I still have to stop and look rather than just instinctively touch and move a control. I got used to Olympus camera controls with the E-300, so I wasn't to concerned about control placement on the E-3's body. But it is going to take some more time before it becomes more "finger-tip knowledge". As far as instinctive camera control is concerned nothing will replace the OM series of film cameras. They were brilliantly simple manual film cameras and for me an ergonomic masterpiece. The shutter speed dial was actually wrapped around the lens mount next to the body. That left the aperture ring next, followed by a focusing ring, and for zoom, the zoom ring. Everything was right there in my left hand. That left my right hand to simply wind and trip the shutter. The E-3 is more heavily automated, so shutter and aperture are selected for you based on camera settings. It's those camera settings, or the tweaking of them, that make you pull the camera away from your eye while you make the changes. Once I get more comfortable with the camera those tweaks will become increasingly rare, except for special circumstances. Right now I'm still in that "what does this do" mode of experimentation.

Olympus 12-60mm 1:2.8-4 ED SWD

Yes, a long name for a short lens. This mid-teer High Grade lens from Olympus has a solid 5-to-1 zoom range and, when attached to the E-3, one of the fastest autofocus capabilities I think I've ever seen. It's also one of the sharpest lenses I've ever used at every nearly every focal length from wide-open to at least f11. The lens has a near-legendary reputation in the Olympus community, and as far as I can see, it deserves that reputation.

Unfortunately the lens was away for nearly two weeks due to an accident here at the house. It all started one Saturday morning in late January. I was planning on going out with some friends to shoot, so I was in the kitchen putting everything in my bag for the Great Expedition. Unfortunately, Ruby, our yellow Lab female puppy, was in there with me. I set the E-3 with the 12-60mm mounted on the body on the table such that the camera strap was hanging off the edge, getting ready to pack it away. I wasn't fast enough. Either Ruby deliberately grabbed the strap thinking it was something to play with, or else she was bouncing around and whipped her head and caught the strap. Whatever the reason, the effect, unfortunately, was still the same. The camera came down off the table and hit the floor lens first.

I almost started to cry.

The lens had both its front cap and a 72mm Hoya Pro1 Digital UV filter on it. The cap absorbed most of the impact, and the Hoya filter shattered. I stood there in stunned silence, and then started yelling at Ruby. "Bad dog! BAD DOG!" I screamed. Ruby knew she'd really screwed up and immediately backed into the corner of the kitchen that was opposite from me and the camera.

I was able to brush out the filter fragments and to see that the front element was unharmed. Miraculously there were no scratches. I quickly checked out the camera and lens with a number of test exposures and saw that it was still quite operational. I then tried to unscrew the Hoya outer ring and ran into a problem. It was stuck. Hard. Rather than run the risk of another accident, I made the fateful decision to head over to a local camera shop and have them take it off. I called my buddies and told them I wasn't coming with them and why. Then I headed downtown to Colonial Photo and Hobby.

I've known about Colonial for nearly as long as I've lived in Orlando. I've purchased supplies there, gotten film processed there, and had several of my cameras serviced there. I didn't get the E-3 there because their price for the body as a good $750 over what I could get from Amazon. I didn't want to do that, but I managed to save 40% off the entire kit price by buying from Amazon. And that's an awful lot of money save.

When I got there I handed the lens over to one of the staff, who took it into the back and their repair area. After 10 minutes of waiting, the staff person came back with a grim look on his face. He started out by apologizing for the fact he'd damaged the front element trying to take of the Hoya ring. I looked on in shock and growing anger while he calmly and quickly explained what happened while I looked at the nice fresh divot that had been dug right into the center of the front element. He finished the explanation by saying that Colonial would send it into Olympus for me and that they would pay for it. At that point all I had left was my shock.

I almost started to cry again.

Some people will look at a piece of camera gear and say "so what". Some, like me, will quickly grow attached to a particular piece of equipment, such as my 12-60mm, and feel a great loss if something, anything, happens to it. The image quality of the 12-60mm is phenomenal, and to use that lens is to grow in love with glass and metal wrapped in plastic. It's irrational, but then guys with special gadgets have always been irrational about their special gadgets down through the ages.

So I went home, depressed, and waited until I could bring the lens back to Colonial the following Tuesday so they could send it off. When I dropped it off they told me it would take a horribly long 4 to 6 weeks to turn it around. Grumble. In the mean time I switched back to the 14-45mm kit lens that came with the E-300. As good as that lens can be, it was not up to the same level as the 12-60. It was never meant to be.

Then, this Saturday, less than two weeks after they'd shipped the lens, Colonial called to say they'd gotten the lens back. What an incredible surprise. Judy and I were already planning to go to Greek Fest, so when we left the house we made a quick detour to Colonial to pick the lens up. They had daddy's special lens, and they absorbed all costs. Colonial really made good on their promises. The 12-60mm was back in my hands and I was able to use it this weekend. There was such great joy in Beebeville this weekend that I was almost ready to dance like a Greek.

Olympus 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 ED SWD

The 'short' telephoto zoom, and another phenomenal performer. The damage to the 12-60mm and its subsequent trip to the depot forced me to really use the 50-200, far more so than I would have normally. The 12-60 was so good that I was getting into the rut of using it almost all the time. If there was any good from the accident it's that I learned a lot more about this lens and became more rounded experience-wise for it.

Focus on the lens is almost as fast as the 12-60mm, and produces tack-sharp results throughout its range and nearly all f-stops, including wide open. If there's a con to the 50-200mm it's the size. It makes the 12-60mm seem petite by comparison. The size also makes me realize that this is the largest lens I'll get for the Olympus. Everything else is bigger and/or costlier; all the lenses in the Super High Grade line are too rich for my budget. But it's good that the 50-200mm is as good as it is. I'm certainly quite satisfied.

Olympus 9-18mm 1:4-5.6 ED

Unlike the first two lenses mentioned, I purchased the 9-18mm on Saturday from Colonial. As far as cost was concerned the price difference between on-line and Colonial was only $50. And they had it there on the shelf. And they let me try it out. That and the fact that Colonial's handling of the 12-60mm restored my faith and trust in the store and its staff. So on the way home from Greek Fest on Saturday I stopped back by Colonial and bought the lens. I do feel better that it was a local purchase with a local store. And they are an authorized Olympus reseller.

Colonial Photo and Hobby test


While I was playing around with the 9-18mm on my E-3 I took a quick shot of three of the staff (and another Olympus customer on the right edge). This was at 9mm. The gentleman on the far left was the individual responsible for personally expediting my 12-60mm repair. He was the one who called on Saturday to let me know it was in. I eventually purchased the 9-18mm from him.

Close up of the back of my 12 to 60


The photo above illustrates two features of the lens. First is the close focusing of the lens. That's the back of my 12-60mm on the counter shot with the lens at 18mm. The front element is mere inches from the lens bayonet. The second is that even at 18mm the lens has noticeable bokeh. I'm no bokeh fanatic (in fact I can't stand the over-emphasis that seems to grip so many forums), and I intend to use the lens so that it never really shows, but I was still impressed by the quality of the 9-18mm even wide open.

The 9-18mm is from the Standard line. That means it's not splash-proff like the 12-60mm and 50-200mm. But it's fit and finish are still quite high and it's compact. Although I've only had a chance to use it for two days, I've shot enough to come to the realization that I made the right choice in getting this lens instead of the costly 7-14mm f/4. The 7-14mm is three times the cost of the 9-18mm. Considering the circus over the nick on the 12-60's front element, I think I'd have cardiac arrest if I owned that lens and something were to happen to it's big bulging front element. No. As wonderful as the 7-14mm may be, the 9-18mm is an excellent performing and quite practical lens, and for me gives excellent value.

Finis

I believe the E-3 system I've put together is the best camera system I've ever owned. I appreciate the quality and the workmanship of every individual piece. I appreciate the output of the lenses as well as the sensors in the body. It's an awful lot of fun to use. I'll never be a pro, and if you have need one then look elsewhere. For me, Olympus is well more than enough camera. I'm going to have a lot of fun learning how to get the most out of system, and if it lives as long as some of my film cameras have then it'll still be a good camera for my girls and their kids.

As for Ruby, I still love her. She still romps around the place and her little psyche doesn't show any permanent damage. But she has certainly learned to avoid the E-3 like the plague.

Watching Orlando Unravel 5

All the empty little stores and shops have begun to merge with the larger failures in the news (Circuit City, for example) to create whole blocks of dark and empty locations. West Oaks Mall in Ocoee Florida is an example of this.

Dead section of West Oaks Mall

One whole section of the mall, consisting of a former anchor tenant (Belk) and a number of surrounding stores have all gone dark. The effect is a moody, foreboding atmosphere with no sound to be heard, not even echoes from patrons in the main part of the mall. The perfect setting for a cheesy SciFi movie staring third-terr character actors.

Other stores in the mall, like this JCPenney, have massive non-stop sales to move merchandise. This one has signs at the entrances proclaiming 75% off.

JCPenney entrance at West Oaks Mall

And then there's the continuing going-out-of-business sale of the rest of the Circuit City stores. There are four at least four in metro Orlando. This one is downtown on Highway 50 at the Colonial Plaza mall.

Circuit City Downtown Orlando 1

That's the stores that had tenants and business. That doesn't include the growing pool of commercial property that's been sitting empty since they were completed, stretching back to 2007. This economy didn't start mid-2008. This economy has been a long time in the making.

Colorful but Empty

Thursday, February 05, 2009

More updates

openSUSE 11.1

Just as I'd threatened to do a few posts back, I upgraded my openSUSE 11.1 installation's KDE desktop from 4.1.3 to 4.2. Upgrading was simple enough with a one-click link. However, once I completed the upgrade and installation of new packages I could not log out. I had to go to a terminal screen ([Ctrl][Alt][F1]), log in as root, and reboot the system. I could have probably just killed the X session, but but I figured I'd just nuke everything and come up completely clean.

Once it came back up the first thing I noticed was the complete change of desktop themes. Many are gone and those few that are left have changed. My favorite, Elegance, now has a very busy clock face. I really liked the ultra-simplicity of the clock in the older version. The default desktop theme is Aya, which is the first desktop capture you see below. The new Elegance follows.



A personal nit has been fixed. The Desktop panel scales and flows its contents the way you expect, and in real time as you resize it. This is a very nice change. The problem, however, is that after the update it was showing the contents of Home, not the Desktop folder. It took me a few minutes to discover that right clicking and selecting "Folder View Settings" brought up a dialog that allowed me to pick a radio button that showed the Desktop folder.

The Kickstart menu is more sluggish in operation under 4.2 than it was under 4.1.3. Not horribly, but it is noticeable. Maybe there is no change, but to save desktop real estate I changed the window decorations from Plastik back to Ozone.

Based on my initial experiences I expect cleanup point release updates to be coming out in fairly short order.

Olympus E-3

The new Christmas present still continues to impress. Olympus released a firmware update for the E-3 body, which I dutifully downloaded and re-programmed the E-3 with. I can't test the big changes until tomorrow, but it should make shooting action sequences with the 50-200mm a lot easier.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

And what the f*ck is it with you?!?!?

You can tell just how far a world-class celebrity screwup has traveled when it shows up as part of a top-10 list on Wired. "Top 10 Celebrity Rants Caught on Tape" covers Bale, Orson Wells, Michael Richards, Buddy Rich, Shatner, Casey Kasem, Elvis, Bill O'Reilly, Alec Baldwin, David Russell/Lily Tomlin, and Lee Elia. The funny/sad/pathetic thing about this list is I knew about the first eight, up to and including Alec Baldwin going ballistic on his daughter. I don't know what that says about me, but it can't be good.

Yet another sign of the oncoming apocalypse.

Sign, sign everywhere a sign

Sign, sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this don't do that can't you read the sign?
As you drive down roads from your neighborhood to where you work or play or visit, you're bombarded by road signs of every shape, size, color, and message. As I was driving home one weary evening in stop-and-go rush hour traffic due to construction signs moving oncoming traffic from many lanes to fewer, I had a 70's mental moment and I recalled the Five Man Electrical Band's "Signs" refrain. Of course my sign pictures are different from the signs they sang about, but it's essentially the same bloody principal.

I've long since passed the point where I'm a long-haired freaky person (a lot of my hair isn't there any more), but the message in the lyrics still resonates down the decades. In fact there are so many signs along the roads telling me what to do or not to do and threatening me with dire consequences if I refuse to comply that it's a wonder I even bother to get out on the road at all anymore. Couple that with the monetary costs to buy a car, fill it with gas, insure it, and to keep it repaired and in good working order. Then there's the tag and title fees every year and the daily tolls just for the privilege of driving on certain roads in Orlando. And then there's the strategic cost of using foreign oil and the environmental cost of belching unneeded CO2 (my "carbon footprint") from the moment I start the engine until I stop and shut 'er down.

I'll take more as time goes along. I haven't even scratched the surface. And then there's the songs FMEB was singing about. And how about all those massive outdoor billboards...

Right Turn 15 M.P.H.STOPSPEED LIMIT 45
NO LITTERINGNO OUTLETSPEED HUMPS AHEAD
Crossing AHEADSchool Crossing HereDO NOT ENTER
PHOTO ENFORCEDSPEED LIMIT 45RED LIGHT RUNNING FINE
Bus StopCircuit City Going Out Of BusinessROAD WORK AHEAD

Updates

I've gone through a series of notable hardware and software updates so far this year, and it's barely February. In no particular order:

Dell D630 Memory Update

I upgraded the D630 from 2GB to 4GB (2 x 2GB sticks) for a mere $70 total from Dell itself. This was for the company notebook. By the time Windows is up and running I can only 'see' 3.5GB, but it's worth it, and if I need all that memory I can swap around my hard drives and run Fedora 10.

I run Widows XP SP3 primarily. Windows applications include Google Chrome, Google Earth, Visual Studio 2008, NetBeans IDE (6.5 and 7.0M1), Eclipse (3.4.1 and 3.5M5), as well as Office 2007 and Visio 2007 professional. And then there are other project-specific applications (EventStudio System Designer, for example) and testing applications before deploying. It's not unusual for me to hit 1.5GB with everything up in a normal day-to-day workflow, and I was not happy to hit swap on this notebook. So I bumped up memory and everything runs a lot smoother for a lot longer.

Apple iPod Touch Firmware Upgrade

Apple upgraded the Touch's (as well as the iPhone's) firmware to version 2.2.1. In spite of admonitions from certain quarters not to do so. I can attest that Safari is indeed running more stably. Updates also came down the pipe for Google Earth, Declaration for iPhone, Koi Pond, Night Stand, BSkiesLite, and Air Sharing.

The only major problem I have these days is with the NYTimes application. It's gotten to the point where it won't connect to the server and download news, especially late at night (say around midnight). I've installed the USA Today application as an alternate source of news, but I prefer the much higher quality writing of the NYTimes over USA Today.

Java

The Java JDK just bumped up to Java 6 Update 12. It's a bugfix release, but there are a lot of bugs fixed. So it's worth installing this one on Windows and Linux. I'd have said Mac OS X as well, but we all know how lousy Java support is on the Mac (thanks Apple). NetBeans IDE 6.5 was released back in November, and after a few months and a few updates I can comfortably recommend it, if you can stand the long initial startup times. A good alternative is Eclipse 3.4.2. Both NetBeans and Eclipse are busy in their next-release development cycles; NetBeans 7.0M1 was released in January, and Eclipse 3.5M5 was released this past Monday. I tend to prefer NetBeans for personal use, but your mileage may vary.

Google

Chrome, Earth, and to a lesser extent Mail, seem to be on a tear. I've moved over to Chrome because I grew somewhat tired of Firefox's developing idiosyncrasies, especially memory consumption. I may switch back to Firefox 3.1 as my primary browser, but for the time being most of my browsing and browser development I do within Chrome. I'm now in the unusual state of having two 'legacy' browsers, IE 7 and FF 3.

Earth is one of those applications that are fun to play with at first, but once the new and shiny begin to ware a little thin it becomes less used over time. I've been trying to see how I could integrate it with other tools in my work flow, but I haven't found a clean way yet. The free-as-in-beer version seems pretty closed, and in this economic environment that doesn't sit well with many that I serve.

Mail has had a number of interface tweaks since December; coloration of tags, buttons replacing links, and better organization of the whole UI are but three things I've noticed. All of these makes Mail easier for me to use, especially when tagging and moving messages out of my primary inbox. My filters are pretty good, but there are enough mail messages that land in the inbox that need to be tagged and archived that I now appreciate the 'Move to' drop down that tags and archives a message in one simple operation.

KDE

Yeah, it's been a few days since the announcement that KDE 4.2 had been released. I need to carve off some time and upgrade my openSUSE 11.1 system to the latest version. Not that I've been unhappy with openSUSE's 4.1.3 version. Limited it might be, but when all you need out of a GUI is an ability to launch applications, specifically shells, then you don't really expect or need much. Besides, I had my expectations ratcheted down quite a few notches with the original release of KDE 4.0, so they can only go up in my eyes.

Finis

All the updates have been solid if incremental. Nothing shocking. Just good quality work by a lot of very bright folks. I'm hoping that 2009 will be a period of consolidation, cleanup, and polish, especially on Linux. Whether the Linux world realizes it or not Windows 7 poses a much greater competitive threat to Linux (and OS X) than Vista ever did. It will be interesting how Linux and Apple respond to the release of Windows 7 as well as the ongoing economic meltdown. Up-front cost is nothing (even if your upfront cost is nothing); it's the long-term efficiency the OS brings to individuals and organizations that really count.