Monday, February 28, 2011

February Final

Waiting for the train All done
"Waiting for the train"
Olympus E-P2 with M.Zuiko 14-42mm
1/500s, f/4.5, ISO 200, 17mm, +0.7 EV
"All done"
Olympus E-P2 with M.Zuiko 14-42mm
1/125s, f/3.9, ISO 200, 17mm, +0.7 EV

Another month flies by. I close February with these photos. I had to pick my wife up at the local Orlando Amtrak station today. She'd gone to visit a friend down in Hollywood, FL over the weekend. While waiting for the train to arrive from its stop in Kissimmee, I happened to spot this photographer waiting for the train as well. He was carefully balancing on the bench, concentrating on that special moment he had in mind before tripping the shutter on his Canon.

So intent was he that he was oblivious to me and my little E-P2 as I began to take a few photos of him. I felt for sure he'd hear the shutter and turn around, if briefly, but I never registered.

One part of his technique I noticed was his use of on-camera flash. It went off when the train was still fairly far away, and considering it was broad daylight, I have to wonder if it was deliberate or accidental. The E-3 has a fairly powerful on-camera flash, but it wouldn't have helped with today's lighting conditions. In fact, even if I'd had the FL-50R mounted, it still wouldn't have helped with a large train that far away.

As he turned to step off the bench he almost ran into me, which is when he finally noticed I was there.

Gas Prices - 28 February 28
"Gas Prices - 28 February 2011"
Olympus E-P2 with M.Zuiko 14-42mm
1/100s, f/6.3, ISO 200, 18mm, +0.7 EV

And here's today's gas prices courtesy of a Shell station at Mills and Orange Ave. I was down to my last gallon in the Prius (the electronic gas gauge blinks at you when that happens), and I'd stopped here to get a fill-up and a couple of cold sodas for my wife and I. Less than 48 hours ago, a gallon of regular was eight cents cheaper.

Gotta love the intersection of international politics and the commodities markets.

Statistics

This is post #778. I've now published more posts through February (86) of this year than I did for all of 2005 (80), 2009 (82), and 2010 (73). I leave it to my Gentle Readers to determine if the increased output is any better than those three years (i.e. quantity vs. quality).

Here's to the rest of 2011.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alone on a Sunday

Only a Little Bit Left
"Only a little bit left"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/800s, f/3.5, ISO 100, 50mm, +0.3 EV

Alone with the animals this weekend; my wife is visiting friends down in south Florida, while my daughters are elsewhere in Florida. Earlier this afternoon I went out on a small errand and happened to pass both of these spots on Turkey Lake near West Sand Lake Drive.

The first was hidden away on the north-bound side of Turkey Lake before the intersection with Wallace Road. It's fenced in by Turkey Lake on one side, and hedged in by the elevated exit from I-4 to West Sand Lake on the other. There are a couple of large ponds that have gone a bit wild, with rushes growing around most of the edges. When you get close enough you can hear and see red-wing black birds flying and chirping in the rushes. There were several larger whooping calls from birds I couldn't see. It was a nice little bit of nature left over from all the road construction. If I stand at a certain spot and compose in a certain way, you can forget, for a moment, where you're really at. Except for the ceaseless sound of the traffic roaring past on I-4.

The second spot is less than a block south from the first, across the street from a local K-Mart, and next to Spring Lake (in the background). They've mowed down the growth and they're putting in a new spot to buy tires. Next to a lake. Everywhere else you look around Spring Lake, it's blocked by condos and private development.

The Kingdom of Tire Cometh
"The Kingdom of Tire Cometh"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/3200s, f/2.8, ISO 100, 50mm

It's gotten to the point in Central Florida that unless you look at a map and know where you're at, you'd never know about all the lakes, large and small, that pepper the region. And of course we've just got to have a new tire store.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

They don't call us Flori-Duh for nothin'

Mommy, wait for Me!
"Mommy, wait for Me!"
Olympus E-3 with ZD 50-200mm
1/400s, f/4, ISO 100, 200mm
Taken 12 January 2011, Lake Underhill Road, Orlando, FL

I came across this story via the Photography is Not a Crime website (and you should at least give it a passing read). It was originally published on the Florida Tribune website. I'm going to wholesale quote the story here, because it's just so unbelievable and demands the full context of the story.
Taking photographs from the roadside of a sunrise over hay bales near the Suwannee River, horses grazing near Ocala or sunset over citrus groves along the Indian River could land you in jail under a Senate bill filed Monday.

SB 1246 by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, would make it a first-degree felony to photograph a farm without first obtaining written permission from the owner. A farm is defined as any land "cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals or the storage of a commodity."

Media law experts say the ban would violate freedoms protected in the U. S. Constitution. But Wilton Simpson, a farmer who lives in Norman's district, said the bill is needed to protect the property rights of farmers and the "intellectual property" involving farm operations.

Simpson, president of Simpson Farms near Dade City, said the law would prevent people from posing as farmworkers so that they can secretly film agricultural operations.

He said he could not name an instance in which that happened. But animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Animal Freedom display undercover videos on their web sites to make their case that livestock farming and meat consumption are cruel. (emphasis mine)

Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, said the state should be ashamed that such a bill would be introduced.

"Mr. Norman should be filing bills to throw the doors of animal producers wide open to show the public where their food comes from rather than criminalizing those who would show animal cruelty," he said.

Simpson agreed the bill would make it illegal to photograph a farm from a roadside without written permission. Norman could not be reached for comment.

Judy Dalglish, executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said shooting property from a roadside or from the air is legal. The bill "is just flat-out unconstitutional not to mention stupid," she said.

And she said there are laws already to prosecute trespassing onto property without permission. And if someone poses as a farm employee to shoot undercover video, they can be fired and possibly sued.

"Why pass a law you know will not stand constitutional muster?" Dalglish said.

Simpson said he doesn't think that "innocent" roadside photography would be prosecuted even if the bill is passed as introduced.

"Farmers are a common-sense people," he said. "A tourist who stops and takes a picture of cows -- I would not imagine any farmer in the state of Florida that cares about that at all."
The comments from the story on the Florida Tribune are hysterically funny. And I guess I'm a would-be felon with my cow picture above.

As Bugs Bunny used to say, "What a bunch of maroons!"

Classic Lenses

Lucy in her cat tree
"Lucy in her cat tree"
Olympus E-P2 with OM 50mm 1:1.4
1/100s, f/2, ISO 400, Manual

Peek-a-boo
"Peek-a-boo"
Olympus E-P2 with OM 50mm 1:1.4
1/320s, f/2.8, ISO 400, -0.3 EV

We spend too much money re-buying lenses. I will grant you that the art and science of optics as applied to photography has advanced from a technical perspective over the last 30 years, at least on paper. Extra low dispersion glass that does a better job of focusing all wavelengths of light to the same point on a sensor and manufacturing techniques that make it easier, if not cheaper, to create aspherical elements have helped to create lenses that are, under certain circumstances, clearly superior to older lenses from the "film age".

And unfortunately at considerable cost.

Unless you've dropped considerable cash on a large sensor camera body (135mm frame size or higher), and invested considerable time learning the best techniques for achieving the potential such a system is supposed to achieve, then you're wasting your time and money, especially when there are so many older lenses with excellent characteristics on the market ranging in cost from very affordable to free.

OM 50mm on E-P2
"OM 50mm on E-P2"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50mm 1:2
1/100s, f/4.5, ISO 100

I've learned to appreciate the use of old OM Zuiko film lenses on my FourThird and µ FourThird bodies. There are any number of reasons why I reach for the OM 50 1:1.4. The one key reason I keep going to it is that it's a manual focus lens. Regardless of the body, no matter how quickly a lens automatically focuses when you trip the shutter, it will always be slower than a lens that does not. In tricky lighting I would rather set the focus one time, then wait for the right moment (or moments) to trip the shutter and have a better chance of recording what I want. And trust me; if you've got a Pen, then you know how notoriously slow focusing they can become under low light.

Yet, in spite of that, I love that camera for what it can and does do for me.

The other reason is size. It's not just Olympus, it's all the manufacturers. Newer fast primes that autofocus are larger and heavier than their older manual equivalents. That OM 50mm mounted on the E-P2 above is still smaller than the Zuiko Digital 50mm macro used to make the photograph. And the OM is a full stop faster than the ZD.

Older, manual lenses will show their age under harsh circumstances. There are times when you need the automatic lens mated to the digital body, and experience will quickly teach you this. But there are numerous circumstances when an older manual lens in good condition is preferable. Part of the delight of photography is finding out which lenses, and those circumstances.

Friday, February 25, 2011

TGIF Week 8

Gas Prices - 25 February 2011
"Gas Prices - 25 February 2011"
Olympus E-P2 with OM 50mm 1:1.4
1/40s, f/2, ISO 200, Manual

Prices have been boosted at the pump over the last few days as the crisis throughout the middle East and Libya in particular drive up the price of both crude and refined products such as gasoline. Back on January 5 regular unleaded gas was just over $3/gallon. I expect to see gas quickly spike to near $4 before the start of summer and stay there. Just like 2008, only worse. This was taken at the corner of Turkey Lake and West Sandlake, looking eastbound towards I-4 and International Drive. These are the prices that tourists see, which aren't much different than what suburbanites see.

Red Light Running - 25 February 2011
"Red Light Running - 25 February 2011"
Olympus E-P2 with M.Zuiko 14-42mm
1/1250s, f/8, ISO 800, 42mm

Yesterday I wrote about the red light cameras. This is how much it costs to run a red light in Orlando, caught by camera or cop. I should have googled the Internets, because sure enough, a story was written by WESH/2 in July 2008 when the cameras were first installed. The fine back then? $125. The fine has more than doubled in less than 3 years. Talk about inflation.

Jersey Mike's #13 Small
"Jersey Mike's #13 Small"
Olympus E-P2 with M.Zuiko 14-42mm
1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 800, 14mm

Finally, I had lunch at the latest fast-food sandwich shop to open next to my office, Jersey Mike's. Jersey Mike's is another franchise sandwich shop with an emphasis on community involvement and super fresh food. This makes the forth sandwich shop to open within walking distance or work; the other three are Extreme Pita (right next door), Jimmy John's, and Pinera's right across University.

I'm curious to see if all of these shops will survive over the next 12 months. Because in the same area you'll find First Watch (next to Extreme Pita), Pei Wei (in the same shopping center)  Houlahan's (next to Pinera's), Chik-fil-A (next to Houlahan's), Ruby Tuesday, Grill and Greens, Zaxbys (former KFC), Tilted Kilt (former Bennigan's), Azteca (former Uno's), IHOP (former Krispy Kreme), Del Taco (former Fazoli's)...

Just drive up and down University between Alafaya and Rouse and count the number of fast food and general restaurants. As the price of gas continues to climb past $3 on its way to $4 and beyond, and DoD budget cuts take more of a toll on the technical staffs in Research Park, thinning will occur again like it did 2008/2009. I'd say that Extreme Pita will probably be one of the first to fail.

The sandwich I ordered was a #13 "The Original Italian", small, on wheat bread. I got out with a filling sandwich for $5.10. That was with no chips and no drink. Ten years ago in 2001 I could have gotten an entire meal similar to this (sandwich, chips, and drink) for well under $5 at either a Subway's or Quiznos. But times have certainly changed.

The sandwich was quite good. The meat was freshly sliced and instead of mayo they put on oil and vinegar. While oil and vinegar are certainly healthier than mayo, it's also probably cheaper. Unfortunately it's still too much for a regular daily meal. I do better health-wise and budget-wise by taking in leftovers. Places like Jersey Mike's make for a nice occasional diversion.

Low Quality Content

The Google tweaked it's ranking algorithms today to fight against "low quality content" produced by content farms and general web spammers. I'd like to think that I stand a little above that, perhaps ranking as "medium quality content." It will be interesting to see how my little blog's rankings shift. In 2007, at the peak of my pro-Linux writing, my little blog ranked between 50,000 to 100,000. Later, as I grew disenchanted with Linux, my following pretty much dried up and I now sit around 7 million or so. Before I started to parallel my 365 photography project with a 365 blog project, my blog's ranking had dropped down to 10 million or so. As I've continued to post, it's begun a slow rise.

At Work with Linux: Automatic Logins

Password login in a lab setting can be onerous, especially when dealing with lots virtual machines. This simple change to custom.conf under /etc/gdm will automatically log a Linux-based virtual machine into a given login account. Automatic login is one of those small but important features that make working with a system more efficient and pleasant. On a virtual machine, it in essence turns a Linux VM into a meta application.

This, of course, is reasonable in a locked-down lab setting. For systems which are in a less controlled public-facing environment, automatic login may not be the best feature to enable.

Linux Automatic Login Enable
File Location/etc/gdm
File Namecustom.conf
Changes to MakeUnder the section labeled [daemon], add the following lines;
AutomaticLoginEnable=True
AutomaticLogin=username

Because this file is under /etc, you'll need root privileges to modify the file. Username, of course, is the user name you want the VM system to default to. And of course, if it automatically logs into a given username, then it can also kick off a script to start whatever suite of tools or applications you need on that particular desktop.

This feature works on contemporary distributions using Gnome as the desktop environment. I've tried it successfully on RHEL 5 and 6, Fedora 12 and later, CentOS 5, and Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (and Linux Mint derivatives). I can't speak for other distributions as I haven't tried them, but I see no reason why it wouldn't work. There used to be a GUI desktop tool that took care of this, but it changed its location over time, and today I couldn't find it if my life depended on it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Just Another Day in Paradise

Orange County Speed Trap - 24 Feb 2011
"Orange County Speed Trap - 24 Feb 2011"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/320s, f/6.3, ISO 100, 200mm

Orange Counties finest were out again at the intersection of Corporate and Quadrangle Blvds (just like they were on February 10), running yet another speed trap. I captured this on the way from Research Park back to Lake Lynda Drive. It turns out that Orlando is ranked seventh in the number of unique speed traps. This comes from "America's Worst Speed Traps." I whipped up the little chart below showing the top ten cities, and Orlando's unique standing.

Top 10 US Speed Trap Cities (Speed Traps/City)
RankCitySpeed Traps
1Houston, Texas373
2Austin, Texas189
3Las Vegas, Nevada187
4Colorado Springs, Colorado186
5Jacksonville, Florida175
6Denver, Colorado165
7Orlando, Florida165
8Dallas, Texas156
9Chicago, Illinois153
10Los Angeles, California151

The article had this to say about Orlando:
You're less likely to break the speed limit on your daily commute than you are on vacation, where you're in a strange place and don't know the laws or the speed traps, Dornsife says. So, Orlando, home of Disney World and Universal Studios and Sea World, benefits from a steady stream of tourists—and revenue from speeding tickets.

"Orlando definitely has speed traps," said Amy Mariani, a former traffic reporter for Clear Channel Radio. Some of the worst ones, she said, are Colonial Drive (State Route 50), where the speed limit constantly changes, the Beachline (State Route 528) as motorists drive west from the airport (That's right, they get you straight from the airport!) and I-4, especially downtown near the Millenia Mall.

Plus, Dornsife says, Orlando was one of the early adopters for red-light cameras—they were using them even before state laws allowed them to. In the first three months, he says, the cameras here generated 700 tickets.

And, they're tough: One motorist noted on Speedtrap.org that officers on motorcycles often snag motorists in a short school zone for doing three to four miles over the speed limit.
I've seen the state troupers running the speed trap on I-4 around Millenia Mall. And I fell prey to one near Orlando International in 2008. I don't doubt that SR-50 provides all sorts of opportunities for speed traps.

As for the free-wheeling ticketing in or near school zones, I remember in December 2010 when I almost got a ticket; I was driving through a school zone on Dean, at the intersection of SR-50 and Dean, when a sheriff's car showed up on my right side, with the sheriff yelling at me to pull over. His lights were on, but no siren. Since I was in the left lane, next to the turn lane, I pulled into the turn lane and he pulled in after me.

What apparently got the officer so excited was I started to accelerate (according to him) too quickly in the school zone. I sort of sat there in a state of shock, because, well, I wasn't. According to the officer he had "zero tolerance" for speeding in a school zone, "not even 1 or 2 miles/hour over 25."

I apparently wasn't responding in a way he thought appropriate and he insisted on giving me a ticket. I eventually started to function again and explained that I was quite surprised by this (I was), and just kept any additional comments to myself. This apparently calmed the officer down, who then left because he had a "higher priority call" to attend to. I don't know how many years I've driven through that intersection, yet here was the first (and only) incident of its kind.

These are the irritants that will drive people to less than co-operative with a given police force. And the police wonder why, and complain about it.

Update

These are the locations of the red-light cameras I know of. If you know of more, please leave in the comments section.

Orlando Red-light Camera Locations
LocationMap
Wallace Road and Turkey Lake
View Larger Map
Conroy Road and Vineland Road
View Larger Map
West Kaley Street and South Division Avenue
View Larger Map

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Real Spring Flowers

Blue Flower
"Simple Blue Flower"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 50mm 1:2
1/640s, f/5.6, ISO 200

Another very nice sunny day. Out walking to pick up my usual at Jimmy Johns. On the way back  I came across the blue flower above, and then the light falling through the oaks onto the surrounding greenery below. The light, the greenery, the day itself. It was wonderful.

Lights on new growth
"Lights on new growth"
Olympus E-P2 Zuiko Digital 50mm 1:2
1/250s, f/7.1, ISO 200

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sprouting Up like Spring Flowers

More Cranes Go Up
"More Cranes Go Up"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 9-18mm
1/1600s, f/5.6, ISO 200, 9mm

On the way from one office to another at lunch, I passed the latest bit of heavy construction near UCF on Alafaya. They've already built one extensive apartment block (Sterling University Housing) a little further north and closer to UCF, and it looks like they're starting something similar here.

There's other road construction around the area, such as the intersection of Corporate and Quadrangle where the police love to set up their speed traps. I wonder, I hope, they're going to put up a stop light. That intersection really needs one. And maybe put an end to the speed traps.

User Agent Hackery (A Public Service Announcement)

I work for a company that uses a proxy filter on all web traffic within and out of the corporation. One of the tasks the filter has been assigned to do is to check the version of web browsers. If that given browser is not a sanctioned version, then it's blocked from reaching the Internets and the user is shown a warning page. This is because someone is under the belief that regardless of hosting OS, any browsers older than the current sanctioned releases are a security risk. This, of course, has all sorts of interesting consequences:
  • You can't use the old-and-busted browser to fetch one that's more up-to-date, or use the old-and-busted one to fetch a new-and-shiny alternative within the corporate network.
  • Not only does it block older versions, but newer versions, especially betas. For example, Fedora 14 updates delivered Google Chrome 10.0.648.82 Beta yesterday, and sure enough, our corporate proxy blocked it. I've also been running and testing Firefox 4 on my notebook in support of an ongoing project. Same issue.
The problem with a "security solution" such as this is how simply it is implemented, and thus how it can be so easily circumvented. In this particular case, circumvention is easily accomplished by changing the user agent string the browser spits out, because that's what the proxy is checking.

For the browsers in question I provide the following small table with each browser's method for changing their respective user agent string. These methods have worked since the early days of both browsers, and I sincerely hope their software engineering teams never remove this capability.

BrowserVersionMethod
Chrome10.0.648.82 BetaCommand line: --user-agent="String"
Quotes around String are required. Add as last argument.
Firefox4 Beta 11about:config browser page - general.useragent.override String
You'll need to add this as a new preference.

For String I use the following from Chrome 9 running on my Windows notebook, a version that is officially sanctioned at this point in time:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/9.0.597.98 Safari/534.13
If you ever need a user agent string, there is the site User Agent String.com. It will tell you what your browser's user agent string is, and it contains an extensive catalog of strings for your spoofing pleasure.

The only issue with this? Some outside sites use the user agent to set up Web 2.0 content specific to a given browser and its version. This can cause some sites to malfunction in the browser. For example, using the Chrome user agent string with Firefox 4 on Google Mail results in all sorts of hilarity. But since I can reach Google Mail with a sanctioned version of Chrome, it's not that painful for me.

Remember children, Your Mileage May Vary.

Rationale

Normally I'm not one to advocate security violations. Really, I'm not. But I'm also not stupid, or at least not deliberately so. With all the tasks I have on my plate, the last thing I need is for an IT staff that exhibits a poor grasp of issues and an unwillingness to spend the extra effort necessary for all of us to succeed in our jobs. To put it bluntly, if you become an unnecessary impediment I can and will go around you.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Florida and High-speed Rail

Three Diesel Locomotives
"Three Diesel Locomotives - Downtown Orlando Amtrak Station"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/800s, f/3.5, ISO 200, 169mm

The situation in Florida is getting interesting with regards to high-speed rail. On 18 February an email was sent to me by the office of Senator Bill Nelson (D Rep 9th District) which said, in part:
A bipartisan group of the state's political and business leaders have pursued high-speed rail in Florida for decades, because it means more than $2.4 billion in economic aid, thousands of construction jobs and a modern transportation link between several of the state’s largest cities. That’s why I support it. I’m joined by state lawmakers and many members of Florida's congressional delegation, who also question the governor’s decision to kill high-speed rail. One is U.S. Rep. John Mica, the Winter Park Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee. Also, federal transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican, has expressed disappointment.
It is interesting how a long-time Democratic representative invokes the name of two Republicans in chastising our new Republican governor. Strange times make for strange bedfellows.

But let's concentrate on the quoted sum involved: $2.4 Billion.

On the same date an article appeared in the on-line version of Wired titled "Time To Commit or Quit on High-Speed Rail." In that article it was reported that the Obama administration wants to spend $53 Billion over the next six years. Let's hang on to that figure for a moment.

Another cost figure I keep seeing bandied about is the cost of rail/mile. I keep reading that it costs anywhere from $40 Million to $80 Million per mile. The only citable article I could find with that figure was published in May 2007: "French Engineers Set Rail Record — With a Bullet." In that article is the following interesting paragraph:
High-speed trains and Japanese or German Maglev train systems have been reported to cost $40- to $80-million per mile. Public and private studies show that only Maglev technologies costing under $20 million per mile can be fully self-sufficient. (emphasis mine)
The following table represents a classic back-of-the-envelope ROM (rough order of magnitude) cost estimate of five routes that would make sense to build. You'll note that Orlando is in the middle of most of it. I've also priced out a line between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, since that's actually the shortest route and makes better sense than a route between Orlando and Tallahassee or a north-south route between Tampa and Tallahassee.

RouteLength (in miles)Cost (at $40MIL/mile)
Orlando to Tampa65$2.6 Billion
Orlando to Miami233$9.3 Billion
Orlando to Jacksonville141$5.64 Billion
Orlando to Daytona Beach56$2.24 Billion
Jacksonville to Tallahassee164$6.56 Billion
Total659$26.36 Billion

All these numbers are based on an "optimistic" assumption that high-speed rail cost/mile is only $40 million. Distances between cities were calculated via Google Maps, and is the distance from city center to city center using the expressway system. Pessimistic estimates will automatically double all the figures.

What is bothersome about all of this is the following:
  • The federal government wants to give Florida $2.4 billion for the Orlando to Tampa route. Assuming my optimistic ROM is close to reality, that leaves a $200 million shortfall, which is still quite substantial. I find it hard to believe that local businesses would make up the difference.
  • The federal government wants to spend $53 billion over six years for nation-wide high-speed rail. If Florida were to build all the routes in my table (and I believe those routes are the routes we should build), then Florida's high-speed rail system would easily consume half of that.
  • For high-speed rail to make sense, then a high-speed rail system needs to be built interstate (i.e. between the states) as well as intrastate. I shudder to think the amount of time and money that that would take, even assuming the most optimistic of circumstances. That $53 Billion that President Obama wants to spend becomes a laughably small drop in a very large funding bucket.
  • And once built, it's going to cost non-trivial amounts of cash to keep the road bed, rails and trains up to a minimum standard for safe high-speed transportation. And equipment does wear out and needs replacement. All this adds up to a system that won't be cheap to ride. If you don't believe me, then just ask the Chinese.
Ignoring the politics of the matter, the financial issues surrounding high-speed rail don't look good. Somebody, somewhere (and I'm looking at you, Mr. Obama) really needs to pull together real numbers to support their position in all this. Because until they do, crazies like our own Rick Scott are going to come off like wise defenders of the public trust, which they damn sure aren't. This fight for high-speed rail is beginning to turn out like the loosing fight for the 2010 mid-term elections. If high-speed rail is that important (and I believe it is) then the Democrats and the Obama administration do us all a great disservice with their sloppy, amateurish and unprofessional support of this critical issue.

It's Arty Photo Monday!

Elevator Migraine
"Elevator Migraine"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 9-18mm
10s, f/8, ISO 200, 13mm, +2 EV

Sometimes you just need to do the weird. Like run exposure up a deliberate 2 stops (+2 EV) to make the images overexposed. Blows out the highlights something wonderful. And then there's all the post processing in Lightroom 3 you're not supposed to do because it's ... Just Not The Proper Thing To Do.

Long multi-second shutter speeds. Distorted compositions. Composing for 1:1 or 3:2 instead of 4:3, and loosing precious pixels in the process. Make for lousy IQ, but wonderfully weird photos, which completely swamps the IQ issue.

Delusional Stop
"Political Statement"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 9-18mm
1/200, f/5.6, ISO 200, 9mm, +2 EV

Maybe tomorrow I'll take more pedestrian photos. Or not. I now have more lenses than I know what to do with. And I need to really explore what they can produce with the E-3 and the E-P2.

Embrace
"Embrace"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 9-18mm
1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 200, 9mm, +2 EV

Everything today was taken with the Zuiko Digital 9-18 FourThirds UWA zoom. It sits for too long in my bag, along with a lot of other equally capable lenses. It's time to take more with everything, not get into a rut with a single lens. In the case of the E-P2 it's the pedestrian 17mm. Although, to be honest, I've thought of grabbing a copy of the Panasonic 20mm. But not right now. Too much Real Work to do, and my budget is significantly mapped out for the next two months.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lime Fresh Mexican Grill

Chicken Fajita Burrito - Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
"Chicken Fajita Burrito"
Olympus E-P2 with 17mm
1/400s, f/2.8, ISO 200, +0.7 EV

While running around our end of Orlando, the wife and I ate lunch at the latest local eatery to open near us, the Lime Fresh Mexican Grill located in the Whole Foods shopping plaza at the intersection of West Sand Lake and Turkey Lake roads.

My wife is now a member of Groupon, and she'd gotten a $15 off coupon for $7. We both ordered the chicken fajita burrito with sour creme on the side. When they took off the $15 Groupon we wound up owing a little over five dollars. I gave them a ten, then dropped the change into the tip jar. We came out saving four dollars.

In spite of the higher price you might pay over at our Chipotle down the street, or one of the many Del Taco, Toco Bell's, or Moe's, the food you get at Lime Fresh is truly fresh. My wife and I compared it with other Tex/Mex eateries we've been too, and we decided it's comparable to Chipotle's, and far better than everybody else, especially Moe's.

Once we placed our order, we waited a very short time at a table for it to be delivered. Once it arrived, another employee quickly came to us and asked if we wanted to sample some of their salsas. We said yes, and he quickly returned with the small sample platter you see below.

Salsa Sample Platter - Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
"Salsa Sampler Platter"
Orlando Olympus E-P2 with 17mm
1/200s, f/2.8, ISO 200, +0.7 EV

The store is brand new and designed differently from just about every other store we've been to over the past few years. While it has a southwest-style design motif to it, it's wide open allowing outside light to completely fill up the inside of the store. The interior booths, for example, have windows in the walls, adding to the feeling of openness.

Interior - Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
"Interior"
Olympus E-P2 with 17mm
1/400s, f/3.2, ISO 800, -0.3 EV

The food was excellent and the staff friendly and fast. It looks to be a great place to eat for just about every age demographic, although I'd have to say it's aimed more towards the younger patron.

Customers
"Customers"
Olympus E-P2 with 17mm
1/40s, f/2.8, ISO 200, +0.7 EV

We were favorably impressed with Lime Fresh, and intend to go back and sample some of their other meals. While it won't take the place of Chipotle, it is a nice alternative. Good variety is always the spice of life.

A Perfect Sunday

City Of Orlando 17
"City Of Orlando 17"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 9-18mm
1/1600s, f/4, ISO 200, 9mm, -0.3 EV

Today capped a week of perfect weather days, with highs in the 70s and lows in the upper 50s. There was a nice breeze to keep a body cool but not cold. This is the kind of weather that the chamber of commerce prays for; looks like their prayers were answered.

What made today truly special were the light clouds that softened the strong sunlight. The light as a consequence was glorious.

Fallen Leaf Texture
"Fallen Leaf Texture Study"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 50mm 1:2
1/3200s, f/7.1, ISO 800

I have two versions of this blooming tree. The one shown here is what I felt. The second is a more accurate representation you would see in a tree catalog. I don't know what kind of tree this is, but would like to know.

Wild Yellow
"Wild Yellow"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 50mm Macro
1/4000s, f/2.8, ISO 200

The B52s

B52s - Universal Studios 19 Feb 2011
"B52s at Universal Studios 19 Feb 2011"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 40-150mm Mk2
1/60s, f/4.5, ISO 1000, 48mm, Manual

On a night much more pleasant than the Saturday night of a week ago, the wife and I once more headed out to Universal Studios for another dose of Mardi Gras and the B52s.

The B52s is probably the only decent thing that's every come out of Athens, Ga. It's a shame they didn't come out of Macon like the Allman Brothers Band, but I've long since forgiven them their unfortunate place of origin. Although it's hard to believe now, I actually followed the B52s before they showed up on Saturday Night Live in 1980. I was a twenty-something during the latter half of the 1970's/early half of the 1980s, and felt that the B52s were my band. They were a band I discovered on my own, not a band like the Allman brothers that was essentially handed to me by my older friends in high school.

Which was not to say I was particularly enamored with all their work. My wife and girls like to tease me because I can't stand the Doors and the Stones. My music taste runs to the aforementioned Allman Brothers, the Beatles, CSNY, Led Zeppelin, Yes, The Who... When the B52s showed up, they kind of fit into my musical sensibilities, and then at times they didn't. They were a musically 'challenging' band, and I would pick them up, then after a time drop them, then repeat the process. Right now they're back on my 'like' list.

My wife has always liked the B52s, and both of the girls like them as well. Which makes for interesting times when they all get together and gang up on me during our family discussions of rock-and-roll. Oh well...

B52s - Universal Studios 19 Feb 2011
"B52s at Universal Studios 19 Feb 2011"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 40-150mm Mk2
1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1000, 150mm, Manual

Tonights show, like last weekend's show with Frankie Valli, was excellent production-wise and in execution. After experiencing these two consecutive shows at Universal, I have to say kudos to the whole Universal team as well as the acts that play there. There wasn't a bad song in all the music I heard. The B52s kept up a constant well-timed delivery throughout the show.

The crowd was a lot more varied this time, and a lot younger. It was kinda cute to see parents lift their children up on their shoulders to watch the aging rockers up on stage. It was kind of scary to see boyfriends lift their girlfriends up on their shoulders and then watch them slowly swaying to keep from falling down together.

As I wrote earlier, the music was continuous. No sooner would they finish one song, than 30 seconds later they'd launch into the next. The crowd came to listen to B52s music, and the band delivered like a well-oiled, well-tuned machine.

My only complaint was the volume (yes, I have become an Old Fart). I was well back from the stage (I had no choice, really), yet the music was loud enough that for the first time I felt it physically in my chest. I even believe I felt it in the E-P2. I was using the consumer-grade 40-150mm Mk 2 on the E-P2, and I swear I felt the lens barrel vibrate during some of the louder passages. I should have used the E-3 with the 50-200mm, but they seem to get squirrelly out there when you show up using serious gear. Nobody looks at me twice with my little ol' E-P2.

Mardi Gras - Universal Studios 19 Feb 2011
"Mardi Gras at Universal Studios 19 Feb 2011"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 40-150mm Mk2
1/10s, f/4, ISO 1000, 40mm, Manual

This is the second time I've seen the Mardi Gras parade out at Univeral. I tried to capture a little bit of the energy of the parade and the interaction of the crowd with the festivities. I don't know if I succeeded or failed, but I at least like these two. The photo above is of a group passing by on stilts. I just happened to see somebody using their phone to take a photo, and I waited until he was taking his photo before I took mine. I deliberately shot at a slow enough shutter speed to deliberately take advantage of motion blur.

Mardi Gras - Universal Studios 19 Feb 2011
"Mardi Gras at Universal Studios 19 Feb 2011"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 40-150mm Mk2
1/10s, f/4, ISO 1000, 40mm, Manual
This shot was of the police riding by on their motorcycles. Once again, I wanted to show the action and concentrate on how the crowd was reacting to the officers riding by.

Looks like we'll be heading out to Universal Sunday evening for KC and the Sunshine Band. At least that's what the wife wants to do. I'm going out earlier to practice more low-light photography, and to find a better spot to photograph the Mardi Gras.

Lessons Learned

So far, I've learned to really run the camera in manual mode. This means manual aperture and shutter speed, and near-manual focus. When I say near-manual focus, I enable focus long enough to lock it into place, then turn it off and just take photographs. I trust to luck (the luck of finding the right focus point) and then waiting for the right moment to trip the shutter. Practically speaking, the E-P2 is far more responsive in manual mode than any of the automatic modes, and a lot more fun to use when it is in manual mode.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cat in a Hi-Rise

Peek-a-boo
"Peek-a-boo"
Olympus E-P2 with OM 50mm 1:1.4
1/320s, f/2.8, ISO 400, -0.3 EV

In an effort to keep the cats occupied and give them something else to claw besides the furniture, I order a 72" (six foot) tall cat tree from Amazon to keep the little darlings occupied. After just a few days sitting in the middle of the house, two of the three cats have taken to it like ... well ... ducks to water (talk about mixing metaphors).

It's interesting to watch them move about the tree. Both cats (Ellipse, shown here, and Lucy) climb into the upper parts of the cat tree and situate themselves in such a way as to survey the world below them.

Hunting Look
"Hunting Look"
Olympus E-P2 with OM 50mm 1:1.4
1/40s, f/2.8, ISO 400, -0.3 EV

Ellipse is the alpha cat of the three, and it is she who seems to have picked one of the highest pads as her personal 'throne'. Her she's eying Lulabelle as Lulabelle sits on the floor looking up at Ellipse. They play this game a lot.

The cat tree seems sturdy enough, although there truly was "some assembly required". It's a good thing I have some mechanical aptitude; the construction directions, on a single sheet of paper, were nearly useless. But the cats seem quite taken with it and seem to be leaving the furniture alone. I'm hoping this trend continues.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship
"Ghost Ship"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/2500s, f/4.5, ISO 200, 64mm, +0.3 EV

I came across my third blimp of the year at the Executive Airport today. It was white (or a lighter shade of pale), and except for standard aircraft markings in small letters on the lower dorsal fin, there were nothing on the body at all to indicate who owned and/or ran the airship. At least, not from the expressway.

What added to today's interest, besides the nondescript body, was the large ground crew gathered about the blimp; it was being prepared for flight when I stopped by this afternoon to take some photographs.

Ready to Detach
"Ready to Detach"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/2000s, f/5, ISO 200

I tried to walk closer to the blimp, but was quickly intercepted by one of the ground crew before I barely walked onto the grassy surround where the blimp was attached to its mooring. While I walked he came running. He asked, politely but firmly, for me to head back towards the paved area where I'd parked my car. As I turned around and walked back to comply, a guy who looked like a line-backer, dressed in a suit, came up to politely gage what kind of person (threat) I was. A little chit-chat ensued, and he noticed my E-3 with 50-200mm attached was "a really nice camera". He asked if I was a pro, and I laughed and said, no, I was an amateur. I made sure to explain that I'd been out earlier this year photographing the MetLife and DirecTV blimps as well. Since I didn't act crazy or like an immediate security risk, he left. Yes, he was security. Serious security. And he had about five others cohorts (near as I could tell) to help him if the need arose.

Most of this is just speculatation, but I have a few bits and pieces as well as some personal experience to fall back on as to what this flight was about. This looked to be a joint operation between the Navy (which I believe owned the blimp) and the Air Force. The car was carrying a full compliment of passengers. What was interesting were the two in military flight jumpsuits standing at the lower right corner of the photo above, right in front of the guy who's looking my way.

I could go wild and say that the flight was a test of some special system which they'd placed in the car under the blimp, except that it would have probably been classified, and I can't believe that they'd be running a flight with classified gear in the middle of Orlando where any fool with a camera could drive up and start taking pictures.

And consider all the passengers; I count at least seven (six plus the pilot). If this were a test flight of some type using a blimp, then there would be fewer passengers. No, I think this may have been a flight of VIPs to demonstrate the blimp, with the idea of using it in conjunction with another project.

Maneuvering
"Maneuvering"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/1250s, f/5.6, ISO 200, +0.3 EV

And the reason they flagged me away from the blimp is this interesting shot. Although a blimp like this isn't anywhere as big as the old rigid airships, it's big enough. This one was larger than the DirecTV blimp, which did give me a moment to pause and consider its size.

I was watching the blimp swinging about rather interestingly, before the ground crew finally let her go and the blimp flew off. I've read a bit of rigid airship history, and there are documented cases of ground crew being injured and killed trying to handle them. For an historical example of control issues, there's this view of the USS Los Angeles at a nearly vertical angle. Today's blimps might look innocuous, but they can be dangerous to untrained people who aren't bright enough to pay attention and keep out of their way.

Flying off
"Flying Off"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/1250s, f/6.3, ISO 200, +0.3 EV

The blimp finally took off and headed south of Executive. I got back in my car and headed home. I don't know what the flight plan was, but I basically paralleled the blimp as I headed south on I-4. I kept seeing it out of the corner of my left eye. When I finally got off near Universal, the blimp had seemingly stopped and was hovering. I hope everybody on board had a nice ride. Sometimes I wish I could ride one of the blimps. It'd make a great platform for photographing the city and surrounding areas.

Notes from the field: MyTouch 4G

I've been on something of an extended rant lately against both Android and iOS. To balance the negative criticisms, I offer this positive note about living with the MyTouch 4G and Android 2.2.1.

One major reason for selecting the MyTouch was its advertised ability to act as an Internet network tether for my notebook. There are some remote work situations where I can find neither wired nor wireless (WiFi) connectivity for my Dell notebook.

With the MyTouch and T-Mobile's latest network offerings, I've discovered that I can achieve Internet connectivity by either enabling the hotspot (WiFi) capability of the handset or by enabling USB tethering (wired). In both cases, the network bitrate is actually quite good, and more importantly, I have nearly full connectivity. To make it really sweet, I can also keep the handset fully charged through the notebooks USB port while it's tethering (wired or wireless).

The only issue I have is I can't run VPN through the handset. That's not that big an issue as I can access all critical corporate resources via web pages. Otherwise, tethering is quite easy to configure and fast once it's set up. Praises to all concerned (HTC, Android, and T-Mobile) for making this capability so dead simple.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Priorities

Road Work
"Road Work"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/200s, f/5, ISO 100, 200mm

We'll spend local tax money (and probably some federal tax dollars as well) to build more sprawling highways and roads through Florida, and everybody embraces it. But when the federal government wants to give us $2.4 billion for the majority cost of a high-speed rail system from Orlando to Tampa, with the rest of the building expense picked up by the companies that would have built it, our chief executive crook Rick Scott rejects it because he fears cost overruns and he's cheered like some hero. In rejecting the federal funds, Rick Scott was heard to utter:
“The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits.”
Rick Scott hasn't the qualifications to make such a sweeping assessment, which makes me wonder who truly bent his ear (yes, I know it was a Libertarian think tank) and how they would financially benefit from such a rejection. Because with this much money floating around, it's always about who really gets the money.

I've reach a point in my life where I'm embarrassed to admit I live in the state of Florida. I thought Charlie Crist was bad, but Rick Scott makes Crist look like a political genius. The only group satisfied by Scott's rejection were his Tea Party backers.

I sincerely hope state Republicans and Democrats unite against Scott, and at a minimum find a way to throttle Scott so as to minimize the damage he will cause to Florida if left unchecked. Perhaps, in due time, they might even find enough collective courage to impeach a man who should have never been elected governor of Florida in the first place.

But I doubt it.

Pilings One
"Pilings One"
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm
1/160s, f/5, ISO 100, 50mm

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Of Talented Pigs and Excellent Barbecue

The Big Pig
"The Big Pig (No Wimps)"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko OM 50mm 1:1.4
1/250s, f/2, ISO 400

Today, for the first time in a long time, I had a great Big Big Pig lunch at Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Q on the corner of Challenger Parkway and Alafaya. The occasion was a little relaxing socialization with a business group before they traveled home.

I've been eating Bubbalou's barbecue since the early 1990's at the Lee Road location. I started eating at the Challenger location when I started working out at the Research Park in the late 1990's. There's a third store I know of close to home at Kirkman and Conroy on Conroy, which is my oldest daughter's favorite haunt. All three have been consistently good places to eat.

While I was there I got to meet the owner for the very first time (first photo). He was a gracious host and a true gentleman. And while I was there I grabbed a few photos of some of the pigs he has scattered about the store. Most of them are of the flying variety, except for the unusual Irish pig that lounges above the bar (the Lucky Pig of the Lucky Pig Lounge; see below).

Irish Pig
"Lucky Pig"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko OM 50mm 1:14
1/320s, f/2, ISO 400, -1.3 EV

One of the best features about the Challenger location (besides the food) are the flying pigs that hang all about the location. I don't know how many are there, but they add a nice touch of merriment to the place. Besides, how many times have I been told that something will only be ready "when pigs can fly"...

Flying in Formation
"Flying in Formation"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko OM 50mm 1:1.4
1/50s, f/2, ISO 400, -1.3 EV

Big Orange Flying Pig
"Big Orange Flying Pig"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko OM 50mm 1:1.4
1/100s, f/2, ISO 400, -1.3 EV
According to what I've read, Bubbalou's has been in business for over 20 years. That's a long time in the restaurant business. After tasting their excellent barbecue again today, I know why.

Why Meego was a NoGo

To hear it from the Open Sourcers, Nokia's abandonment of Meego for Windows Phone 7 (hear-after referred to as WP7) was tantamount to the same level of betrayal that the Open Sourcers felt over the Microsoft/Novell patent cross-licensing agreement of late 2006. The only problem with that assessment is that Meego, and Meego's predecessor Maemo, were an absolute failure in its role as portable device OS for Nokia. Those cries of anguish you hear over Meemo's fate are the cries of sore losers.

My first-hand experience with Maemo was with the Nokia 770. It was a bitter disappointment. I spent nearly $400 in 2006 for a device who's operating system wasn't fit for general public use. My general assessment hasn't changed since then, and if anything, it has only grown worse with time. My negative experience with Nokia was so bad that I've not purchased any Nokia phone since, and swore I'd never buy one again.

Meego, like Maemo before it, wasn't going to help Nokia in the fiercely competitive smartphone market. It wasn't ready, and at the glacial rate of development it was undergoing it never would be. WP7, on the other hand, was ready to provide the professional-level phone OS and supporting ecosystem that Nokia so desperately needed.

The choice was obvious; continue with Meego and wither to complete irrelevancy in the smartphone market, or go with WP7 and have a fighting chance of competing in the smartphone arena. And maybe even regaining relevance in the American smartphone market, leading to the high level of sales that have eluded them up to this point in time.

Although it's a good four years later than it should have been, I'm glad Steven Elop swept the house clean of the group that foisted Maemo on an unsuspecting buying public, and was attempting to do the same again with Meego. The group should have been fired en-mass in 2007, after the Nokia 770 had been released and the world was pointing out what a gold-plated piece of s!!t it really was.

Based on what little I've experienced directly with the HTC HD7, WP7 has the merit to deservedly grow into a powerful third alternative to both Apple's iOS and Google's Android. We need more than a duopoly between Apple and Google in the evolving smartphone market. I may very well purchase another device just to have something to program with. Or perhaps someone will create a WP7 ROM for my still-new MyTouch 4G. I'm not that impressed with Android 2.2, and the bloom is definitely off the Apple rose.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hidden away

Retired Veteran
"Retired Veteran"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 50mm 1:2
1/1000s, f/4, ISO 200

I'm at a different location this week, getting to know how a constructive simulation application works with another constructive simulation; two federates in a simple HLA federation. My car was parked towards the back of the building where the class is being held. As I was leaving for the day I happened to look up and there it sat, a decommissioned F-18 Hornet, tucked underneath some trees..

The F-18 is next to a Navy facility in back of the building where the class is held. This is the second aircraft on the Navy building's campus. I wonder what this particular F-18's history was before it retired to Florida and this shaded spot under the trees.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What's in a name?

What's in a name?
"What's in a name?"
Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 50mm 1:2 Macro
1/13s, f/2, ISO 400, -1 EV

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Developing for Android using the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G - Step 1, Setup

It was only a matter of time before I finally figured out how to connect my T-Mobile MyTouch 4G to my Dell D630 running Windows XP SP3, and began to follow the path of Android development enlightenment. What follows are my notes and general observations about getting my handset connected to my computer.

Step a: Forget about finding anything useful by googling for it on the web. Everything you need to know about connecting an Android handset can be found through Google's Android developer's pages, starting with downloading the SDK.

The page presents various SDK download packages for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. We're talking about Windows development, so we'll concentrate on the two packages you can download for Windows.

Step b: Install the SDK. At this point in time there are two packages, android-sdk_r09-windows.zip and installer_r09-windows.exe, which is recommended by Google. I'm an 'old timer' when it comes to installing the SDK, so I always download the zip file and unpack it where I want it. I can't speak to what advantages there are to the executable installer, but for my uses the zip package is fine. Note that advancement is relentless, and what I write about here will change, especially the package names.

When the zip file is opened it creates a root directory with the name 'android-sdk-windows'. In spite of what you may have read elsewhere (I told you not to go googling off, now didn't I?), you can unzip the SDK into any location on the hard drive. I have a sandbox on my system, 'C:\Java', into which I locate material such as this. It makes it easy to grab a snapshot/backup of all my tools and projects, so that's where i located my Android SDK; C:\Java\android-sdk-windows'.

Step c: Setting up the SDK. There are now some additional steps to perform. Once again, follow teh Google's directions and add additional SDK components. If you've never done this before, or if you've wiped and are re-installing from scratch, then Google provides more elaborate directions to installing the SDK.

Step d: Install the MyTouch 4G OEM Windows drivers. If you've followed directions in order, then you're almost ready to plug in your handset. The final step is to get the OEM drivers. Once again, Google gives complete directions about where to go to download the drivers necessary to hook your handset (the MyTouch 4G in this case) to your Windows machine. For me, I went to the HTC website and downloaded the installable drivers from here. There's one other download on the HTC site, and that's the user guide in PDF format. It would have been nice to have that bundled on the handset or added in some to the package with the handset, but I guess better to have it here than no-where at all.

Step e: Connect the handset to the Windows computer. Once you've installed the drivers you can connect your handset with reasonable confidence that the Dalvik Debug Monitor, or DDM, will find the device once you plug it in. If you plug the handset into the USB port and Windows asks for you for the location of the device driver, then you've made a mistake. You should not see the hardware discovery and installation dialog if you install the HTC OEM drivers.

Step f: Run DDM. Because I've installed the zip, I have to mosey down to android-sdk-windows\tools and execute ddms.bat to bring up DDM. But that's a small price to pay to avoid being completely lazy.

Showing my MyTouch 4G attached and operational.
OS: Windows XP SP3

All this, just to get a screen shot off the handset. To get a screenshot, you can either navigate to Device | Screenshot on DDM, or if DDM is top window and has focus, chord Ctrl S. A new window will appear on the desktop, and a second later will appear a copy of your handset's current screen contents.

And here's where my screenshots start.

Showing all available panels.

I made a mistake while learning about the device. Under Settings | Personalize | Home screen pages, I ticked 'Expand Home screen from 5 to 7 pages'. Once I did that there was no going back. I couldn't untic that selection and go back to 5. This is but one example of how innocent actions can bite you. The only way to go back to 5 pages is to reset the entire device back to factory defaults, which means loosing everything you've set up. Unless, I think, you've backed it up to Google's cloud. I have yet to try out restoring from the backup in the cloud. The may be the next thing I'm forced to try.

The NY Times Android news app.
I have to give a shout out to the New Your Time's newspaper Android application. The last time I tried this app was under iOS 4.2 on my iPod Touch 2G (second generation). On that platform it was slow, crashed often, and cramped with its add at the bottom consuming text area. Under Android, and on the MyTouch, it's a joy to use compared to its iOS version. Part of that is attributable to the outstanding screen of the MyTouch, and part to the power of the handset's CPU.

But not all is wonderful in the land of Froyo. Consider the following screen shots where I upgraded "The Weather Channel" application.
Updating "The Weather Channel"
from Android Marketplace.
Comforting notice.
Reasonable feedback.
Oops! Two versions!
But only one will work.
Going into 'Settings | Applications | Manage Applications | All' only shows one instance of "The Weather Channel". I have no knowledge at this time how to remove the bogus entry under "All programs".

The Engadget Android application.
Engadget's Android application is one of the few that duplicate the functionality of their iOS application, and in fact is one of the very, very few iOS applications that have an equivalent Android application, good, bad, or otherwise. And I show this just to spin up the haters out there who're hating on the Nokia/Microsoft hookup. It's all a bit silly. The market should have more than the Apple/Google duopoly that seems to currently exists. When I was at T-Mobile I almost got the HTC HD7 over the MyTouch. If I'd just a bit more confidence in the Windows Phone 7 software platform I'd have gone down that path instead of Android. The next 12 months are going to be very interesting. I see no difference, business-wise, between Microsoft being the software OEM for Nokia hardware over Google being the software OEM (if you will) for HTC (and others) hardware. The next 12 months are going to be very, very interesting. And if I had to make a prediction, it's that Apple will find itself squeezed between Google and Microsoft.

Final notes: This was written while wirelessly tethering my notebook to handset, using my MyTouch 4G as a WiFi hotspot. Setting up WiFi tethering was drop-dead simple and it Just Worked. Kudos to HTC, Android, and T-Mobile for allowing it to take place at all.