Showing posts from June, 2011

The Olympus E-P3 — Too little, too late

Which camera system you buy and use doesn't matter. Don't get sucked into the religion surrounding camera brands as that will only blind you to a camera's true purpose of being your tool for creating interesting photographs.

That's a hard lesson to learn, and an even harder lesson to remember. I've fallen into the religious brand trap  more than once over the decades, starting with my first camera from Yashica and moving on to Minolta and Olympus OM film cameras. I fell into the trap yet again with Olympus' E-Volt DSLR system. I stayed in the trap with the Digital Pens (my current E-P2). But I'm finally out of the trap. For good. Not just for Olympus, but for all the brands for all time.

Over the decades I have spent thousands of dollars on camera equipment. To be fair I've gotten considerable enjoyment out of the investment. I've even had the opportunity from time to time to earn a bit of cash for my photographic endeavours, which has added to the …

Why the Linux netbook really crashed and burned

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (sjvn to his ardent fans) penned a little missive last Friday (24 June 2011) in which he attempted to blame the fall of the inexpensive (read cheap) Linux netbook on Microsoft (and to a lesser extent on Intel). I'd like to take a few hundred or so words and disabuse him of that fallacy.

A Very, Very, Very Brief History

The netbook was the response to One Laptop Per Child XO-1 and Intel's subsequent response, the Classmate PC. The XO-1 was initially targeted to cost no more than $100 for distribution in the developing world. The Classmate PC wound up costing around $250, a benchmark that was to establish the real low-end for the netbook. Both were announced in 2006 and released the following year.

Asus saw an opportunity and released the first official netbook, the Eee 701 in September 2007. It came with 512MiB of memory, a 900MHz Celeron M underclocked to 630MHz, 4GiB SSD, and Xandros Linux. In January 2008 Asus shipped a version of the Eee 701 with Wi…

The Ultimate Review

Occasionally there are products introduced to the marketplace that are so bad they inspire creative genius in the reviewer in order to convey just how utterly bad they are. Such a product is the Energizer Candle, and such a creative genius is Rob Beschizza. Originally recorded with a wonderful soundtrack, the transcription that follows can never fully convey the absolute and utter contempt Rob feels towards the Energizer Candle. Like experiencing Shakespeare in the original Klingon, you must experience this review in the original Beschizza.
In more than a decade as a reporter, technology correspondent, columnist and managing editor of one of the world's most lavishly marketed technology blogs, I've never come across a product quite like Energizer's flickering LED candle lights.

This is the worst consumer electronics product I've encountered in my career.
The possibility that Energizer itself developed this supernaturally useless device is inconceivable.

Someone there wa…


Today's photos were brought to you by the number 28. The OM-System Zuiko 28mm 1:2.8 to be precise. Adapted for use on my E-P2 with the Olympus MF-1 OM-to-4/3rds adapter and the Panasonic DMW-MA1 4/3rds to µ4/3rds adapter.

Photographing cats is a bit like herding them; you go where they want you to go, not the other way around to find a spot to photograph them. When I want to photograph Lucy I grab my camera, set it up in advance, go where she happens to be at the time and then wait for the right opportunity to present itself. The photo above was taken with the 28mm at maximum aperture, hand held. According to the EXIF data the shutter speed was 1/10 of a second, which accounts for a little softness in the photo; motion blur on Lucy's part as well as mine. But hey, that's life.

What's interesting about the 28mm is that the magnification factor of 2 due to the 4/3rds sensor size makes this the equivalent, in focal length, to a 56mm, or slightly longer than a "norma…

A Day of Rest

The price of gas keeps dropping in Orlando, almost as fast as it was trying to go up in the first three months of 2011. I have no idea how low it will go, or if it will reverse and start climbing back up again. This was the Hess station on International and Del Verde Way.

This new building has sprung up like mushrooms along Kirkman just south of the intersection with International. It's typical pre-cast wall allowing for rapid construction. Since I go past this at least once/week, I can assume it's been fairly rapid, but I have no idea when it started. The field on which this construction is going up has been empty for quite a few years. It'll be interesting who moves in. It'll also be interesting to see if any businesses move into the completely empty store block next to the Sweet Tomatoes at that intersection. That's the same block that used to have Books A Million and Micheals stores. With the exception of an Orange County police precinct office, there's no…

At Work with Linux: Fedora 14 and exFAT

exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table, also sometimes referred to as FAT64) is a Microsoft proprietary file system developed specifically for large flash devices, such as USB thumb drives and SDXC memory cards. As luck would have it, I have a Sandisk 64GB SDXC card that I needed to access under Fedora 14.

My primary system is a Latitude E6510 running Windows Enterprise 7. The E6510 has an SD slot on the left front for reading cards up to the limit of the SDXC standard and beyond. Because exFAT's Microsoft proprietary, Windows 7 has SDXC card (exFAT) support baked in. Not so with Fedora 14 (or other Linux distributions) as it turns out. What I needed was to copy about 21GB of data from my Fedora 14 system to the card so I could then mount it on the E6510 under Windows 7. The reasons don't matter so much as I needed that capability.

So I plugged the SDXC card into an old SanDisk ImageMate reader, and then plugged the reader into the Fedora 14 notebook. Sure enough Fedora said it…

At Work with Linux: Automatic Timed Logins

In a post back in February I described how to add automatic account login to a Linux installation. Since that time I've had to the need to enable a delayed automatic or timed login, the reason being that some users of virtual machines wanted to select some other account other than the automatic default account. So I went looking around, and as usual, found the answer fairly quickly.

Linux Automatic Timed LoginFile Location/etc/gdmFile Namecustom.confChanges to MakeUnder the section labeled [daemon], add the following lines;
Note that these configuration lines are exclusive to automatic login. You can have one or the other but not both. And that's what timed automatic login is supposed to provide, the best of both worlds. With a value of 60 (seconds) most users have plenty of time to login into a alternate account before the timeout is reached for the default account.

Again it should be noted that the f…

Using E-P2 Art Filters - Pop Art

I'm continuing to (finally) explore the E-P2 art filters. Today it's the pop art (#1) art filter. I'd used that filter when I first got the E-P2 in December 2009, on a Christmas walk-about up International Drive. I discovered that with pop art, a little bit goes a long, long way. I didn't delete them, they're still buried on my Flickr account. You can look them up if you want. It was after that exposure that I decided to stick with using the E-P2 as a regular camera. This time, however, I decided to try out pop art to add some visual zing to a dark interior I knew was going to give me flat images.

In this example I took this photo inside a local Wal-Mart food section with the Zuiko Digital 50mm and the Panasonic adapter. I could have used the 17mm and the total package would have been a lot smaller (the 50mm looks positively huge mounted on the E-P2). But I'd used it for some macro work and I'd left the 50 on the E-P2.

The pop art filter works in this inst…

Using E-P2 Art Filters - Grainy Film Part 2

My route home can take me past UCF south down Alafaya, or east from Corporate across Alafaya to Gemini Blvd, which will carry you past the UCF Arena and the intersection of East Plaza and Gemini. I decided to take the road less traveled through UCF. I turned onto East Plaza, parked, walked around, and snapped a few more photos with the E-P2 in grainy film art filter mode.

Architecture lends itself to black and white because of the large, straight-edged planes that make up building shapes. The drama is enhanced by dropping exposure by -1 EV. For photos that include blue skies, the skies turn an interesting black which enhances the brighter tones and textures of the buildings themselves.

Future Cameras

It's funny I should talk about future Olympus cameras. I'm "invested" in regular 4/3rds and I'm not too happy about Olympus' handling of their regular 4/3rds line. As in mad as hell. Whatever...

I've not been impressed with the µ4/3rds models they've relea…

Using E-P2 Art Filters - Grainy Film

Olympus art filters, first introduced with the Olympus E-30 in 2009, are no longer anything new withing the Olympus brand nor outside in other brands. Canon and Nikon, as examples, have begun to add similar functionality in their latest DSLR offerings.

My E-P2 (as did the E-P1 before it) comes with eight art filters, one of which (number 5) is grainy film. Specifically it's grainy black and white film, heavy on the grain and heavy on the contrast. I don't normally use the art filters because the effects are not tunable and because of the very slow processing that takes place when they're used. For grainy film the amount of time the camera spends on a single exposure can be as much as 10 seconds. It also has a tendency to really chew through a battery charge.

But every once in a while I decide to play with the art filters, if for no other reason than the fact I paid for them and they sit unused on the camera.

Today, as I was out walking to get my lunch, it felt so hot and s…

Father's Day 2011

It was a quiet father's day today. Both girls were gone, and it was just the wife and I along with our two yellow Labs and three cats (two of which belong to my oldest daughter). I spent the day mostly cleaning up around the house. My wife and I had a late lunch and then splurged a bit on frozen yogurt at Tutti Frutti's at the Mall of Millenia.

Father's day gifts were an eclectic collection of items, from the camera cufflinks for my dress shirts to the heavily-marked down remote-controlled electric helicopter to new pajamas to replace the ones I've had so long that the stitching is literally falling away from the seams. My wife is an excellent seamstress, but even she said she couldn't fix them. She told me to quit being so cheap and buy new ones. She uses father's day as an excuse to force me to buy new clothing to replace what I've hung on for too long.

And I loved them all, as I've loved every single gift I've gotten over the decades from my wif…

A Short History of the Personal Computer

While celebrating their 100th birthday last week, IBM raised something of  a stink when they claimed they'd gone and invented the personal computer.

Mr. Cringely pointed out the ludicrousness of IBM's claim in one of his articles. The only problem is Mr. Cringely didn't give all of the details he should have in his article. The truth of the matter is far more nuanced than either IBM or Cringely care to acknowledge.

The simple graphic to the left is my hopeful attempt to put into some kind of chronological order all the interesting 8- and 16-bit microprocessors that were introduced and the personal computers that were built using them, very successful personal computers introduced before the IBM PC.

I chose to limit the timeline's span from the introduction of the Intel 8080 microprocessor to the introduction of the Commodore 64. Missing in this timeline is the introduction, in 1979, of the Motorola 68000. That processor wouldn't be used in personal computers until …

A Correction: Gas Prices in Orlando

I made the prediction back in the first half of this year that gas prices would hit $4/gallon, if not higher. At least in Orlando.

Today, I filled up and paid a "mere" $3.48/gallon at this local BP. I haven't seen prices this low since March.

I made the mistake that too many make, and I should have known better. I took a number of data points, graphed them, saw the trend, and assumed that I could extend that trend forever. And thus I predicted $4/gallon gas, and worse.

That's the same type of reasoning that got us into trouble in the Internet Bubble of 2000, and the Real Estate Bubble of 2006. Except it was for the opposite reason, that everyone assumed the money-generating trends would always be going up. Nothing goes up forever, or down forever.

It's still costing a lot of people a lot of money to buy something as basic as gas. It's already pushed past $4/gallon in other parts of the country.

That cost is impacting everything in the supply chain because we&…

Like a Summer Thursday

It's mid-June and it's a start to summer and the monsoon season here in Orlando. We've had afternoon showers all week, at least around my neighborhood.

This evening I took my wife out to dinner using a Groupon to Cariera's Cucina Italiana here at Dr. Phillips. This is the fourth time we've been there with a Groupon coupon since the start of this year. And this'll be the last.

While driving up to the restaurant we passed, yet again, the fireworks tent set up in the middle of the empty Albertons grocery store at Marketplace. Cariera's is just a store down from the Albertsons.They had just set up it the last few days. There's nothing in it right now, but I suspect that they'll be set up sometime next week to start selling fireworks for the 4th, which is two weeks away.

On the way home I passed by another pile of wreckage from the Great Real Estate Implosion. This wall is all that remains of a dream to build a gated community full of million dollar home…

Cats and Bears

I've been very busy, so busy, I wasn't slowing down long enough to do any photography. So when I came home today I grabbed the E-P2 and put my OM 50mm on it and tried for the low evening light mellow look. Little Lucy gave me one of her patented looks, while the bears were calm about the whole thing.

At Work with Linux: Adding HP Officejet Support to Fedora 14

My Dell D630 may not be the most advanced notebook on the planet[1], but it's good enough for what I need. Tonight I decided to add support for my home printer, an HP Officejet Pro 8500A, for both CUPS as well as HPLIP. My printer is connected through one of the Dell's USB ports. There's not much to say except to follow directions for CUPS here and HIPLIP here. Because HPLIP uses CUPS install the CUPS driver for the HP 8500A then install HPLIP.

In all the years I've used Linux, I've never had trouble with adding printer support. I've had lots of trouble with other subsystems (graphics and audio are the two most troublesome areas), but printers have always worked for me.

Note: I didn't do anything magical, I just followed directions. Running HPLIP was wonderful to watch, since it fully automated everything, including a lot of command-line driver compilation.


[1] I got it three years ago. It's powered by a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core Duo T7700 w…

At Work with Linux: Installing Fedora 14 within VirtualBox on a Windows 7 host

It was only a matter of time before I tried this; hosting Fedora 14 via Virtual Box on a Windows 7 host. The version of Virtual Box I decided to use was version 4.0.8, Windows 7 was Win7 Enterprise, and the hardware platform was a Dell Latitude E6510 with a quad-core Intel i7 processor and 4GiB of ram.

To make it a little more interesting (quirkier might be a better adjective), everything, the software, the VM disk image, everything was installed on a 64GiB Sandisk SDXC card. The E6510 comes equipped with a SDHC/SDXC slot on the left front corner for holding a card, so I ordered a card and then installed VirtualBox 4.0.8 on it, followed by running VirtualBox and installing Fedora 14 in a VB virtual machine on the same card. Let me repeat that: VirtualBox software and the virtual machine files all reside on the SDXC card, not on the E6510's SSD.

The Fedora VM configuration was fairly straightforward; 2 'processors'[1] dedicated to the virtual machine, 1GiB memory, 40GiB vir…

Android Rant Modification

In an earlier rant post I vented my spleen documented inconsistencies in how Android 2.2.1 expects end users to modify the input method for text boxes. In that post I wrote

What I discovered was that in order to change the keyboard I had to press my finger into an input text box and hold it down long enough for an "Input Method" dialog to appear beneath the input box as shown above.

You'd think that you could do that in any text box, such as the text box for inputting URLs in the browser. And you'd be wrong.

Well, it turns out I'm partially wrong. As you can see in the handset capture to the left, I'm able to select the input method in the browser's navigation bar. When I went looking for this capability the first time, I couldn't make it work no matter what I did, which is why I had to exit back to the Google search bar on the handset's top-level panel.

And from what limited testing I'm able to do you can perform this input method selection fr…

At Work with Linux: Chrome 12 and Shaun the Sheep on Fedora 14

Google released Chrome 12 yesterday (it came rattling down the tubes onto Fedora 14 before it hit my Windows 7 boxen). There was the usual coverage from the usual suspects (The Inquirer and Ars Technica, with Ars, as usual, being superior). And there is, thankfully, a page demonstrating one key feature of Chrome 12, GPU accelerated 3D CSS transforms. I love Shaun, having fallen in love with Aardman Studios and Wallace and Gromit years before. I didn't discover Shaun until I watched a number of the episodes on Netflix last year. Love it all. Anyway...

The demo uses GPU acceleration, CSS, and all the other goodies under the Chrome hood. All these application captures were made on Fedora 14 using Chrome 12.0.742.91. The Dell Latitude D630 has an nVidia Quadro NVS 135M video card, and the nVidia drivers are installed providing good hardware video acceleration.

I was quite pleased when the demo executed without any drama; no crashes, no odd artifacts (as compared with the Windows versi…

At Work with Linux: Chrome and Firefox and Java, oh my!

One of the capabilities I need on Fedora 14 64-bit is the ability to execute the Oracle Java 6 plugin (when called for) within Chrome (major version 12 at this point in time) and Firefox 4. Installing Oracle Java 6 installs the plugin, but doesn't enable it for the browsers. In order to enable the Oracle Java 6 plugin for both Chrome and Firefox, the alternatives command needs to be executed after installing Oracle Java 6 (update 26 at this point in time). All of this is done as root.

Steps to Enable the Java Plugin for Chrome and Firefox on Fedora 14 x86-64Step 1Install Oracle (née Sun) Java 6 (update 26 at this point in time)Step 2alternatives --install /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins/ /usr/java/default/jre/lib/amd64/ 1Step 3alternatives --config 1
Once installed you should type 'about:plugins' in the browser's address bar (Chrome)/location bar (Firefox); the command works for both browsers, and you…

The Naming of Cats

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.

But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can she keep up her tail perpendicular,
Or spread out her whiskers, or cherish her pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.

But above and beyond there's still one name…


Ars Technica has an article stating that the current carbon emissions "dwarf" those the last time the Earth experienced such emissions 56 million years ago. According to the article, while the total quantity matches what was released, the rate of CO2 emission today is 10 times greater than what it was during the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM. The article's conclusion is the most interesting: "we are altering our environment in an unprecedented (and unpredictable) way."

I think the results are going to be predictable in the sense that our world is going to change so rapidly and drastically over the next few decades into a world that it will make the world we were living in before the twentieth century look like paradise. We already live in empty sprawling environments where all that's left at our feet is concrete, asphalt, and the litter of our society. In spite of the current economic mess we're in, our numbers and our corrupting civilizat…

It's good to have a job

The 2011 hurricane season started June 1st. The Florida fire season is running full tilt; I can smell the smoke from the burning in the morning as I get ready to head into work.

The days are typical Florida summer days, where the humidity matches the temperature, and both are in the low 90's.

The fence around Partnership 2 and 3 now extends around the IDE in Research Park. When I walk in these days the gate is still open but there's a security guard standing there now. I can understand having a security fence around the IDE, but the Partnership buildings have the UCF logo emblazoned on their sides. Tends to dampen the feeling of open education around these parts, but then I'm a bit old fashioned anyway.

I get to sit in a nice conference room, in air-conditioned comfort, with my rear planted in a Herman Miller Aeron chair (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). I remember a decade ago when having an Aeron chair was a high point of geek chic. Now everybody has them it seems.



Bleak and grim are the overwhelming emotions at the moment. Rather than sit and let them stew, I'd much rather try to channel them into something creative. As I get older I'm beginning to view the world in a more apocalyptic manner. Like in these photographs.

The HTC smartphone camera's bleak effect suits me right now. I usually apply it as the second and last effect to another effect, such as saturation. I've discovered that bleak works best with lots of black (dark shadows, dark details, etc). After fighting noise and grain all these years I'm beginning to embrace it, photographing scenes that will bring out the 'flaws' of the sensor.

Why the Honda Insight was a disappointment to me

There's an interesting story on CNN Money about the 10 cars that are a disappointment to their manufacturers for 2011. The list of 10 disappointments for 2011 are:
BMW X6Mercedes-Benz R-ClassFord Flex/Lincoln MKTMercedes-Benz Smart fortwoToyota TundraNissan QuestMercedes-Benz MaybachHonda InsightAcura ZDXSubaru TribecaThe car that caught my eye on that list was the Honda Insight. I used to want to own a Honda Insight, but not anymore. CNN Money had this to say about my former automotive infatuation:
The Insight went on sale in March 2009 in the U.S as a 2010 model with prices starting at $19,800, making it the least expensive hybrid vehicle available in the United States. That should have boosted sales but didn't. Blame part of it on a drop in gasoline prices of over one-third over the past year that eroded demand for fuel-efficient cars. Blame the rest on excessive enthusiasm for cost-cutting. Embarrassingly for Honda, the more expensive Prius continues to beat Insight like a …

Second Lakeland Trip

We drove back to Lakeland again today to pick up some more produce and to purchase $20 worth of lilies that Judy saw while we were there last Sunday. She wanted to purchase them last Sunday, but I wanted to see if there were for sale here in Orlando. Unfortunately they weren't so we traveled back to the same spot and picked up eight to be planted around the house. We also found, at the same spot, a yellow and an orange hibiscus. I've seen orange before, but I've never seen yellow. The plants were large and healthy and pretty cheap.

On the way back to Orlando we drove through the historic section of Lakeland, and I stopped at a few points around Lake Mirror to photograph some of the views. Lakeland is an old Florida city, and a lot of the architecture around Lake Mirror is from the mid-20th century and earlier. I also noticed that Lake Mirror was full of birds, from ducks to cranes to ibis and even seagulls. The shores were thick with the birds, and they knew no fear of hu…