Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May Final

May has been quite the month. It opened May 2nd with the death of Osama bin Laden and ends with the crew of space shuttle Endeavour readying a final return from orbit for themselves and their space craft. In between I've watched Japan slowly recovering from the April earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear breach at Fukushima, major flooding up and down the Mississippi, tornadoes and their aftermath in Joplin, the continuing Arab Spring, the rise and collapse of the price of oil and the continuing rise of gas prices, Newt Gingrich announce his presidential run for 2012, only to implode over comments where he labeled Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed budget as "radical" and "right-wing social engineering." Unfortunately he's correct.

Ike Pope

Other news that caught my ear and my eye that was released over the last 48 hours concerns the record amount of CO2 we dumped into the atmosphere and the accelerating economic chaos in Europe, issues that will have an impact on my children, one of whom turned 25 today.

What will my girls face over the next 25 years? And their children? Memorial Day was yesterday. What will we say to all those who died for us if we let everything they made the ultimate sacrifice for go to hell in a hand basket?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Today was the day to remember our veterans, living and dead, who have given a part of themselves in the defense of this country. There'll be plenty of great photography documenting this year's ceremonies, professional and amateur. As for me, I wanted to find some of  those little corners in the smaller cemeteries where, but for a simple headstone or marker, there is no other indication of who they are or the sacrifice they may have made for all of us.

Mike Pope
Ike Pope
Private 1st Class, 124 Infantry, 31st Division
Ike Pope is buried at Powell Cemetery on S. Orange Avenue. I tried to find any records about him on the internet, but only came up with two hits, both of which simply documented he was buried here.

How Long Will We Remember?
U. S. Soldier, Identity Unknown

This photo was taken over a year ago in the Old City Cemetary in Tallahassee Florida. Except for the legend "U. S. Soldier", there was no other identification.

I think I'm going to take on a side photography project to document all the smaller cemetaries around Orlando, and all the veterans buried there. Once I'm finished in Orlando, then move out around the state.

Memorial Day isn't just one day out of the year. It's every day.

Technical

Both photographs taken with the E-P2. The upper photo used the M.Zuiko 9-18mm UWA, while the bottom used the Zuiko Digital 50mm macro with an MMF-1 adapter.

Lakeland Raptors

While in Lakeland I stopped off at Henley Field to see what I might photograph. The park was pretty much locked up, so there wasn't much within that I could. But looking up I discovered several large nests in the lighting, such as the one you see below. And that's when I began to hear the long high cry of birds flying around the lights.

Three Falcons on the Lights

I'm no expert, but based on what I've discovered on-line they all look to be ospreys. It wouldn't be unusual to see ospreys around Lakeland as Lakeland is named for all the lakes in the area. So there should be plenty of fish-filled habitat for the birds to feed. Based on what I saw, I counted at least four ospreys, and possibly five, but I couldn't be sure of the fifth.

Henley Field Entrance

Falcon on the Cellular Antenna

This last photo shows one of the ospreys in a cell tower assembly next to the football field. At the range I was taking this photo I couldn't tell if the bird was resting or if there's another nest up there.

It's time like this I wish I had a longer lens than my 50-200mm, or at least had an extender, like the EC-14 or EC-20 to give the 50-200mm zoom a reach out to 400mm (800mm effective focal length).

Technical

Everything taken here with the Olympus E-3 and the Zuiko Digital 50-200mm zoom.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lakeland Trip

The wife and I decided to take a side trip to Lakeland Florida today. Lakeland is about 50 miles south-west of Orlando on I-4. It's the home of Florida Southern College and Publix, and has citrus, cattle and phosphate mining as industries. Unfortunately, Lakeland currently suffers from an 11% unemployment rate, along with much of the rest of Florida.

The first place we stopped was Florida Southern, primarily to look at the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. One building that caught my eye was the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel.

Frank Lloyd Wright Annie Pfeiffer Chapel

EP290137Frank Lloyd Wright Annie Pfeiffer Chapel

Not all the architecture was by Wright, but appeared to be influenced non-the-less. These recent student dorms were interesting.

Dorm Front Florida Souther College

Lakeland still has a lot of "old Florida" buildings in the city. The Southgate Shopping Center entrance is classic 1960's Florida architecture.

Southgate Shopping Center

The economic downturn has hit Lakeland as hard, if not harder, than Orlando. This closed Barnes & Noble book store is the first and only one I've seen in the area between Tampa and Orlando. We also found a lot of other closed stores, from service stations to major restaurants like Roadhouse and stores like Staples.

Closed Barnes&Noble

Some of the closed businesses have been re-tasked for temporary tasks, such as this produce market. Tomatoes and fruit are sold between idle gas pumps.

Produce at the closed station

Technical

Everything shown here taken with the E-P2 and the M.Zuiko 9-18mm UWA zoom.

Harsh Realities: Apple vs Android

Let me state up front that my original love for Apple has turned to ashes. I could spend the rest of the post cataloging all the reasons why in excruciating detail, but it wouldn't matter. I'd be falling victim yet again to the old geek flaw that the way I see the world is the way It Should Be Seen by Everyone Else. And the world just doesn't work that way.

There's also the the following incontrovertible facts:
  • Q1 2011: Apple reported revenue of $26.74 billion and profits of $6 billion, or $6.43 per share. Revenue was up 71 percent from a year ago, and earnings were up 78 percent. Analysts were expecting revenue of $24.38 billion and earnings per share of $5.38.
  • Q2 2011: Apple reported revenue of $24.67 billion and profits of $5.99 billion, or $6.40 per share. Analysts were expecting revenue of $23.38 billion and earnings per share of $5.37.
Apple can't make product fast enough to satisfy the market. Even with the Japanese 9.0 earthquake and resultant tsunami Apple's ability to sell product was barely touched. Apple has exceeded Wall Street expectations for the last 20 quarters. Apple's market cap now exceeds Microsoft's, making it the second most valuable company behind Exxon.

Apple, for all practical purposes, is invincible. Even if they started screwing up next Tuesday their momentum is great enough that they could coast for years, if not for decades like Sony and Microsoft, and still make boatloads of cash. And knowing the deep bench that Steve Jobs has built both managerially and technically, Apple won't be screwing up like that any time soon.

I say all of this as a prelude to my comments about an article published by The Street titled "10 Androids That Outmuscle the iPhone". Based on my experience with Android in multiple devices, the conclusions alluded to in the article are a bit optimistic. All the new handsets look overwhelming on paper; dual-core multi-gigahertz processors, lots of RAM and built-in storage, and supposedly the latest versions of Android.

And that's where the supposed superiority of these new handsets is questionable. At best.

I've worked with multiple Android and iOS devices. The distinction, the secret sauce, is the software. And for just about every practical task you care to name, iOS meets or exceeds Android by a comfortably wide margin. And it's iOS, or more specifically, the polish and attention to detail that have been lavished on iOS, that have helped make Apple the multi-billion-dollar unassailable juggernaut it is today.

There will be a lot of customers who'll buy these latest handsets. Many more, however, will walk into an Apple store, try out the latest iPhone or iPad, and walk out with an Apple product. Even if they try out one of the newest handsets first. That's because the real differentiator is the refined quality and consistency of iOS. Android is neither refined nor of consistent quality, especially when handset vendors (such as HTC) are allowed to modify the Android user experience with inferior changes and additions.

Apple has built up a multi-billion dollar formidable position over the last five years with its constant refinements to iOS, not just to the hardware. And until Google and its partners realize this and apply an equal amount of effort to achieve the same level of consistently refined quality then no amount of hardware will help. It's like watching the "Linux-on-the-desktop-overcoming-Microsoft" meme play out all over again, and I already know how that turned out.

Bristol Bus

One upon a time in Orlando there was a successful downtown attraction called Church Street Station. It's heydays were in the 1970's and 80's. Church Street suffered an economic collapse in the 1990s, with most of the attraction going through several owners until today it's little more than a shadow of its former self.

Part of the attractions of Church Street were the double-decker buses. I don't recall how many there were, but recently, for whatever reason, I've re-discovered the location for at least two of them. One of them, a Leyland, I photographed behind Waterford Lakes (408E and Alafaya). This second one, a Bristol, I discovered on the other side of town next on South Orange between Powell Cemetary and a Racetrack gas station. If both were operational when they were sold, then they're in pretty bad shape now. After sitting out in the Florida weather for years, their tires are flat and there's corrosion within and without. It would take a tremendous amount of time and money to get them back into reasonable shape, and that's a real shame.

Bristol Bus Upper Deck

Bristol Bus Hood

Bristol Bus Drivers Side

Bristol Bus Engine

Bristol Bus Fuel Cap

Bristol Bus Folding Doors Wide

Bristol Bus Right Side

Technical

Everything taken with the E-P2 and the M.Zuiko 9-18mm UWA.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Greenwashing

Greenwash

Greenwashing (a portmanteau of "green" and "whitewash") is the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company's policies or products are environmentally friendly. The term green sheen has similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment.
I came across this Escalade Hybrid at a local Publix (in handicap parking no less) and nearly dropped my groceries in surprise. The non-hybrid version of the Escalade, in real world driving, gets between 9mpg city driving to 17mpg on the highway (with a strong tailwind downhill). The hybrid version, if you believe the PR, gets between 20mpg city and 23mpg highway. The cost of the Escalade Hybrid? A mere $74,000 for the base model.

I drive a "real" hybrid, a 2009 Prius. A vehicle 1/3rd the cost and 1/2 the weight of the Escalade Hybrid, a true hybrid that gets at least 50mpg, and on many occasions, 55 to 60mpg.

Why do I call the Prius "real" and "true"? Because the Prius was designed from the beginning, from the wheels up, to be a hybrid vehicle. Not a bastardization like the Escalade Hybrid that's had it's hybrid bits bolted on after the fact. The extra bits and the hybrid badge are there so that SUV-loving drivers can feel less guilty about driving such a beast. It's still a gas and resource hog of the first order, it's just got a new green sheen so it and its owner won't look so ugly.

Friday, May 27, 2011

When Free (as in beer) really isn't Free


The image capture above is what happened when I tried to start Angry Birds Rio today. I downloaded Angry Birds Rio from Amazon using the Amazon App Store application I installed from the Android Market. Truth be told I installed it because I heard that Amazon was offering "a paid app for free every day", and who doesn't like free?

So I installed it, logged into my regular Amazon account, and over the last month installed a number of top-drawer Android apps that happened to be free for a particular day. One of those apps was Angry Birds Rio.

I starting playing Angry Birds on my Apple iPod Touch when I purchased it through the Apple App store for 99 cents. It was a fun game, but most significantly, it had no ads and there was nothing to keep me from playing it, no matter what. That meant that if I was in an area where there was no connectivity and I needed to kill some time I could still play the app.

When I installed the Amazon app, one of the first apps it offered for free was Angry Birds Rio. So I installed it and started to play it immediately. Angry Birds Rio's play on my Android handset was smooth and the display was outstanding, far better than what I experienced with the original Angry Birds on the iPod Touch. And that's the way it was until about three weeks into playing the game, when ads started to show up between sets.

The ads that showed up were for the movie Rio. Yes, my wife and I went to see movie, but we were planning on seeing it anyway. The in-app ads did nothing to convince me one way or the other to see the movie, and only served as an annoyance. Then, today, came the surprise you see above; the Amazon login-to-play dialog.

It looks like the Amazon App Store login times out after a certain period of time, apparently measured in weeks. This is a reasonable security feature (I suppose), but it had an unintended consequence; my so-called free app would no longer run.

It's bad enough to have in-app ads for free aps. That's usually a motivation for me to either buy the app or else get rid of it. This goes one step further. When I refused to login, the app didn't just exit, it reset my phone. When my phone gets reset a lot of other data gets reset, such as the web browser. If I've left the web browser on a page, or have multiple pages open, the browser is set back to a single page and the page points to T-Mobile's Web2Go page. Fortunately, it doesn't drop a call (while on hold, for example). But the behavior is bad enough.

The Angry Birds Rio app is now deleted. I didn't pay for it so nothing's lost, except the time wasted playing it. The Amazon App Store app is gone as well. If I need apps in the future I'll either side-load them or install them from the Android Marketplace.

For this and other reasons, Amazon is no longer my first go-to online store. I've been buying from Amazon since 1996, when I started buying books on-line. After 15 years and all the changes Amazon has gone through, Amazon has evolved into this tentacled monster that's trying to insert itself into my electronic devices, and I won't abide that. If having Amazon means they're surreptitiously a part of my electronic devices, snooping on what I do and when, then I don't want to have anything to do with them. I won't give up my privacy for a free game app, or any other app for that matter. The Google Marketplace doesn't seem to do that, but Amazon surely does.

All the free apps via Amazon App Store are gone. The Amazon App Store app itself is gone. Goodbye Amazon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Daddy's new baby

A pair of hex-core Xeons

Yep, you're looking at a nice pair - a nice pair of 2.8 GHz X5560 Xeon hex-core processors flanked by two banks of 32GiB RDIMMs. 2TiB of storage. All in a single 1U chassis. I get to install VMware Enterprise, then learn how to integrate this with the corporate wide VMware federation of systems in other locations around the country. Then install our Windows and RHEL virtual machines.

A major boost to our little lab. Interesting stuff.

At Work with Linux: Customizing Window Button Placement in Gnome on Fedora 14


When I've spent a long session in front of a computer screen I have a tendency to get sloppy when I reach to the upper right corner of a window to minimize or maximize it; I hit the destroy button instead. This is one of those infrequent annoyances that took a long time to motivate me to finally find a 'fix', but today, after three consecutive 'accidents', I finally did. My solution was to move the destroy button to the upper left corner.

If you want to change the window button position under Fedora 14, you'll need to do so via gconf-editor. Make sure that gconf-editor is installed (check with 'yum info gconf-editor', and install it with 'yum install gconf-editor' if needed.).

Start gconf-editor. In the left navigation pane navigate to /apps/metacity/general/button_layout. The default value for button_layout is 'menu:minimize,maximize,close'. For my use I changed it to 'close,spacer,menu:minimize,maximize'. This puts the close button on the upper left corner, and adds space between the close button and the window's menu button. After the change it was a little odd to go to the left rather than the right, but I'd rather accidentally maximize a window rather than accidentally close a window. But the overall usability has gone up a notch, at least for me.

This also illustrates that Gnome is configurable, albeit a little opaquely. Most of the opaqueness comes from personal ignorance. The rest comes from the design of gconf-editor. Two features that would be nice-to-have would be a search box and a bookmarks panel to remember where certain special configurations are located instead of having to navigate down every time.

Pots vs Kettles

Sigma SD-1
I have been watching with a certain sadistic glee the reaction of Sigma users to the newly-introduced Sigma SD-1 for the shockingly high price of $9,700, body only.

I say shockingly because of what it contains. It contains a Foveon-based, APS-C size sensor. That's right, an APS-C sized sensor that is to be found in essentially every other DSLR manufactured by the likes of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, and many others for $1,800 or less. Sometimes a good deal less.

To add insult to injury Sigma has had the stones to try and convince the world that the sensor isn't really 15MP, but is actually, based on how the color filters are built into the Foveon sensor, 3 x 15MP, or 45MP. And that's why it should cost nearly $10K.

Uh-huh.

They're claiming the SD-1's image quality is equivalent to a medium format digital camera such as the Pentax 645D, which is a cool $10K, body only, and worth every penny.

Uh-huh!

I could at this point spew forth a righteous diatribe about the apparent cluelessness of Sigma's management. Except, you see, I own camera equipment manufactured by another equally clueless camera company by the name of Olympus.

The same Olympus that created the FourThirds standard with a digital sensor ever so slightly smaller in size than your bog-standard APS-C sensor used by every other aforementioned DSLR manufacturer. The same Olympus that has, through it's mismanaged, muddled marketing blueprint [sic], pretty much killed off its regular FourThirds line of cameras whilst failing to successfully transition to its self-announced future µFourThirds cameras.

The only reason I'm even bothering to bring all this up is to illustrate the point that misery loves company. So I say to all my Sigma-using brothers and sisters, welcome. And believe me when I say I know exactly how you feel.

My advice? Buy Canon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Planet of the Cats

I think, therefore I am ... a cat.

This is Lucy. Felis catus. A mix of mackerel and tuxedo, she marched in through my front door nearly three years ago this coming August and settled in to live with us. Since that time she's become something of a character just like the two Labs.

Speaking of the Labs, she is as likely to walk under or over them to get where she's headed as to walk around them. She shows no fear, and they are completely indifferent to her.

If anyone had told me I'd have a cat when I was younger I would have laughed. It took me some 30 years to come to some understanding of the Labrador Retriever. Cats are a total mystery to me. I will never understand them, and that includes Lucy. Especially Lucy.

One Tired Cat
Lucy in her early days

I've got yer back
Parallel snoozing

Daydreaming (30/365)
Zoned out and day dreaming in one of her spots around the house

Technical

Top photo was taken with the E-P2 and the M.Zuiko 9-18mm. SOOC JPEG. E-P2 was set for 6x6 aspect ratio and portrait mode (5) picture mode. The other images were taken with the E-P2 and the E-3.

Once more unto the breach

Replacement

My company uses RSA SecurID two-factor authentication with Cisco VPN products to allow remote login into our corporate network. Because of the sensitive nature of our work, we've been keenly aware of last March's "sophisticated attack that resulted in the theft of secrets related to its [RSA] SecurID two-factor authentication product." According to a press release from RSA:
Coviello said that the company was confident that the stolen information wouldn't enable a successful attack on any SecurID customers, but that it could be used to "reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor authentication implementation as part of a broader attack." RSA is talking to customers about possible attack scenarios and helping them to "strengthen their SecurID implementations," Coviello wrote.
We did perform some actions to "stengthen" our SecurID setup, but better to be safe than sorry, so we're replacing all our SecurID tokens. All of them.

Technical

I photographed this with the E-P2 and the M.Zuiko 9-18mm in a quick-and-dirty fashion. I then attempted to do a little down scaling of the JPEG's size with Rawtherapee before uploading to Flickr. I tried twice, and both times Rawtherapee crashed with a segmentation violation (SIGSEGV/signal 11). From what little the automatic bug reporting tool in Fedora could tell me, it appears to be happening in a supporting library devoted to lists; somebody is either dereferencing a null pointer or a stale pointer while manipulating a list of objects. Finally I uploaded the JPEG directly off the camera. I'm trying to reach a point in my process already reached by Matthew Robertson where your photos go straight from camera to cloud. I'm no where near as efficient as Matthew, but I'm slowly getting a lot more streamlined. I just tried the Linux tools to see what might happen.

Cultural

The title comes from Shakespeare's Henry V, Act III, and Henry V's speech at Agincourt, where I mash 16th century historical theater with 21st century security theater.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Android Rant: What were they thinking?

I have been using my HTC myTouch 4G since mid-February of this year. With its 1GHz Snapdragon processor and Android 2.2.1, it was considered a reasonably up-to-date Android handset. That doesn't mean I'm all enamored with the handset, especially the software running on it.

One annoying characteristic of my handset is its propensity to silently change certain features for unknown reasons. Couple this with the inability to easily find how to change it back, and you have the perfect combination of device-specific characteristics for frustrating end users.

Take as one example the software keyboard on my phone. When I first purchased the phone I was using the Swype keyboard.

Swype keyboard

I didn't bother to try and find out how to change it, and lived with what I had until yesterday, when I downloaded and installed the beta version of Firefox 4 for Android. That's when the keyboard mysteriously changed to the Dragon Dictation keyboard you see below.

Dragon Dictation keyboard

I immediately noticed when the Dragon dictation keyboard was enabled because its look is drastically different from both the regular touch and Swype keyboards. I found it annoying because of its look of lower quality to the fact it had changed without my consent. I can't offer a definitive cause-and-effect that installing Firefox for Android beta changed the keyboard, I can only say that I saw the difference after the installation. I have since uninstalled Firefox for Android, but uninstalling Firefox did not return the keyboard to its former state. For that, I had to finally go rummaging around the web for help because changing the keyboard is totally non-intuitive.

Input method mini-dialog

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 inputing URLs in the browser. And you'd be wrong. Or that you could find equivalent functionality easily enough in the Settings menus under "Settings | Language and keyboard". Again, you'd be wrong.

Instead, after finding the clue on the web, I had to experiment a bit before I found that I could only do this from the Google search widget. Once I finally figured all that out and pressed the Input Method button, I was presented with a simple "Select input method" dialog with the three keyboard selections you see below.

Select one of three keyboards

One big reason I like the regular touch input keyboard is it has a '.com' key on the space bar, as does Dragon Dictation. The Swype keyboard doesn't. Combined with how useless I find the Swype method of text input, I personally find the Swype keyboard the worst of the three. I just wish it had been more straight-forward to find out how to change it.

What happened to me with the keyboard violates in grand fashion the principal of least astonishment, both from how the keyboard changed, to how to explicitly put it back (or determine a better selection). In this case, the keyboard should have never changed, for whatever reason, without explicit action from me, and it should have at least been consistent with the existing system when it came time to explicitly change it at all.

This is the kind of behavior that either drives folks to non-Android competing alternatives (such as Apple, HP, and Microsoft) or drives many others to root their device in an attempt to either install a better working version or to fix it. At this point, I want to root my handset, but I don't know if the latest version of Android (either 2.2.4 or 2.3.4) would be any better. But at least it would get rid of the HTC interface corruptions, which I have truly come to loath, and give me the opportunity to fully open up the device.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2 4 5kp



That relentless photographic machine Matthew Robertson has crossed the 500 personal photograph milestone on his daily photography project 5kp. His two photos above are two of my favorites (so far) from his ongoing series.

I could wax all rhapsodic about why I favor these two, but I'll spare you and simply say I like them because they're fun. Fun to look at, fun to think about. They remind me of future photos of the present. The whole series does this.

I can't wait to see what comes out of the next 500 photos, and the next 500 after that...

Let Sleeping Labs Lie

Blissful

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

I paid to have a skylight put into the roof because it was as dark as a cave in the center of the house, even at mid-day. It had been that way ever since we first moved into the house. The original 'architect' thought that having windows on either side of the fireplace at the back would allow enough light into the interior to avoid plunging the room into darkness, but it wasn't enough. So, when I had the roof rebuilt and brought back up to code late last year I also had the contractor put in the skylight.

It's been a big hit with all the animals.

While the skylight is double-paned to keep the heat out, all the critters still love to nap under the beam during the middle of the day.

The cats in particular love to have their ears in the light, especially Lulu. Since I understand cats even less than I understand Labs, I haven't a clue why they do this.

Lazybones

I guess that's why we have the critters around. They keep us entertained.

Technical

Top two photos taken with the E-P2 and the M.Zuiko 9-18mm MSC UWA zoom lens. The images are straight out of the camera; I only scaled the images smaller.

The bottom photo is taken with the E-1 and the Sigma 30mm 1:1.4.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday's Monuments

These buildings have been sitting mostly empty since there were completed back in early 2009, another monument to the real estate bust. I say mostly, because if you go around to the back corner of the second building you'll find the establishment of Vixen Fitness. Trust me, considering all the money out here, and sitting right next to Universal Studios, it's definitely full of vixens and vixen-wannabes.

Regardless, the front of the buildings provide interesting photo ops for small cameras sporting ultra-wide lenses, such as my E-P2 and the M.Zuiko 9-18mm.

The Long View

Which Way In

Trees

Dead Fountain

Everything taken during the "magic hours" and processed from RAW using Lightroom 3.3.

Why Linux Matters (Why It Is Worth The Trouble)

Executive Summary
If you're a twitter type, then this is tl;dr.

Background
Before I tell you why Linux matters, let me tell you where I've been and where I find myself at this point in time.

Up until about four yeas ago I was an enthusiastic user of Linux, and wrote quite a bit about my experiences using it (or as much as I was allowed given my job's requirements). Then, starting in 2007, I ran into a rough patch (well, more like a washed out section of a bridge, metaphorically speaking). I'd made the mistake repeatedly of taking a working Linux installation and "upgrading" it. What burned me out was the ceaseless upgrade treadmill I kept willingly participated in, and the resulting system that needed yet more tuning and fixing of broken bits, tools that worked just fine in the prior release...

It's been nearly four years since I wrote my October Manifesto. Four years is a long time when software development continues at the rapid pace that Linux (and all other operating systems) has been on. What have I learned in the last four years to overcome my dark mood and to appreciate Linux again?
  1. Time Marches On. All those issues I had with Linux don't exist anymore. Really. Both the hardware and the software have evolved. Carrying a four-year-old grudge over technology issues that have long since been overcome by events is just plain silly.
  2. Just Use Gnome. I've dabbled a bit with the other desktop managers (DMs to you hipsters). I keep with Gnome 2.x because it's familiar, reasonably dependable, and provides all my core needs.
  3. Stick with the release that works. Keep the patches up-to-date. Resist the urge to go to the next release just because you can, just because it's so easy. Right now I'm running with Fedora 14 because Fedora is sanctioned by the company I work for (along with RHEL). It runs just fine on my Dell Latitude D630 notebook, and that includes every feature that matters, such as audio, the graphics card, and wireless. It Just Works.
  4. Use hardware that's fully mainstream. I made the mistake of assuming that anything I can buy on Newegg is mainstream hardware, and it's not. The tower system I built out of expensive parts in 2004 was obsolete and no longer manufactured in 2006. The motherboard manufacturer, which got such glowing reviews and convinced me to purchase a copy, went completely out of business three years after I purchased that motherboard. If you want a system that will work with anything, then buy Dell, or something similar. That's what everybody targets, and so should you.
  5. Loosen critical requirements, or better yet, be honest and drop them if they aren't "real". For example I no longer care about running multimedia content, specifically DVDs and movies. I could go to the trouble to install the necessary bits and have it work, but why bother? I've come to a more fundamental realization with regards to Big Content. Which is, I've had enough. I've watched Big Content over-monetize and over-criminalize all the fair use activities I used to take for granted, to the point where I don't want to have anything to do with them or what they're peddling any more. You may patronize Sony and Universal and Paramount and all the others, but I don't have to. Every time I do, I put more money in their pockets, money that they in turn use to build more walls around computing through DRM means and pass more laws that allow the blocking of content on the Internet, without any due process, in order to protect they're most holy of holy IP. Once that so-called requirement is relaxed or eliminated, then freedom is more easily attainable.
  6. Use Chrome instead of Firefox.
  7. Realize that my needs are not representative of the rest of the user community. This applies as both a consumer of Linux as well as a producer of applications and capabilities that would run on the Linux platform.
Most importantly, relax. I've noted this in other posts, but it bears repeating. Relax. The world is highly diverse. Learn to accept and thrive in heterogeneity. Chill out. When it gets too intense, put it aside and go have a beer.

So why does Linux matter?

Because once you get past all the personal issues, you realize that the Linux platform is fully open. And not just the Linux platform, but the BSDs as well (and others which I apologize for not mentioning). A fully open platform means that I can lift up the virtual hood and tinker with what's there. Open to me means the combination of open standards and open and available source gives me the freedom to understand, repair, and modify the software technology running on my computers. In this age of growing curated computing experience, I want an area I can escape to where there are no artificially imposed limits. Yes, I want to run with scissors because I know how to run with them safely and because I'm adult enough to take responsibility for my own actions.

Linux fits who and what I am, an inveterate tinkerer. I need that outlet, and I need Linux, or something very much like it. It isn't perfect, but neither is anything else I've worked with. A fully open system gives one the opportunity, taken or not, of going in and fixing things up a bit, of adding things for the fun of it, of asking and trying what if...

Win some, loose some

I don't normally keep track of such things, but it looks like I've lost two followers in as many days. I hit the all-time high of 23, and now I'm down to 21. I don't know who left or why, but I won't loose any sleep over it. For those who stick around, thanks. For those who leave, good luck.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday School Lesson

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
KJV Genesis 1:28
And with our clever hands we built many machines and we scraped the earth clean of all life, drove it away or killed it outright.

When they scrapped this section of Orlando near Millennia Elementary clean I saw the remnants of the woods burn for days on the horizon.

Construction Zone #2

Construction Zone #1

Construction Zone #3

And after we scraped the earth clean, we covered it back over with asphalt and concrete and "man's works", and planted little marigolds about as if that would somehow make up for all the violence that went on before.

Marigolds

They talk about an apocalypse as if it will be a predictable singular event, visible to everyone. We've been living the apocalypse for centuries.
Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not...
KJV Jeremiah 5:21

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Live Blog, la Deuxième Partie: The Rapture

  • 5:20pm - We just got back from "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Ian McShane is Blackbeard and chewed up quite a bit of the scenery as he went swashbuckling about the movie. He was, unfortunately, about the only character to show any lively personality; everybody else seemed to be sleepwalking through by-now very familiar motions. With the notable exception of Judy Dench Perhaps they realized the movie would be released on the day of the rapture, and so they decided it didn't matter. Yet another sign of the apocalypse?

    As I see it, I've got just 40 minutes left (whoops, just 30 minutes now) before Something Happens.

  • 8:00pm - I've not been feeling well today, almost like a summer cold. Minor headache, joint ache, some nausea, and fatigue. So I sat in my big chair after getting home from the movie and fell asleep. And slept right through the End of the World As We Know It. The channels on the tele are still broadcasting, and there are no breaking news stories about apocalyptic happenings or people being raptured away, no vehicles out of control because their drivers/pilots/whatever were suddenly gone. Just the same old, same old. Which is really bad considering the SyFy channel, the worse cable channel in existence, is still in existence. I would have done just about anything, even partaken in an apocalypse, just to see the SyFy channel fall into the fiery hell it so richly deserves.
Well, off to get some soup or something similar. I have this cold to take care of. Instead of out with a bang, it's off to bed with a whimper.

Live Blog: The Rapture

Since the end of the world won't occur until 6pm local Orlando time, I thought I'd blog my experiences up to that fateful hour.

  • 9:30am - I'm allowed to sleep in this morning. The Labs don't bother me at 5:30am, and Lucy the cat has yet to walk across my chest to let me know it's time to get up. Instead, I awaken to the melodious voice of my beloved wife yelling at me from the living room. She wants to know if I'm going out to get bagels for breakfast.
  • 10:00am - I arrive at the local Einstein's bagel shop to stand in a line about 10 people deep. I'm the last. It's not looking too good at the order register; many of the bagel baskets are empty. When I finally get to the head of the line, I place my order and find that yes, I can have 6 asiago cheese, 4 everything, and three poppy seed. This in spite of the fact I was late to the shop and stood in a long slow line. I got my baker's dozen without any drama. A sign of impending doom?
  • 10:30am - Now I'm at the local Publix, where shopping is such a pleasure. I head to the section where they sell 59 ounce containers of grapefruit juice for the same price as the older 64 ounce containers. I see a special sign next to the Public brand - "2 for $3". So I grab two, head to the checkout, and ask the cashier what the price is. She scans at her register and says "$3 for one container." I tell her about the sign, she sends forth a store lackey to check it out, and sure enough, I'm right. For my reward I only have to pay $1.50 (half of $3), because Publix has a rule that says if I find a pricing mistake I get the second item free. So I get two 59 ounce cartons of Publix brand grapefruit juice for $1.50. Another sign of the coming apocalypse?
  • 11:00am - I'm driving home, past at least four neighborhood garage sales. Perhaps selling everything off before the apocalypse in the vain hope that they'll be able to get top dollar for their used trash. The apocalypse will probably severely depress prices on everything. I'm thinking the apocalypse can't come soon enough. I'm hoping it'll strike all those folks who line the streets next to the garage sales with their poorly parked cars and make it nearly impossible to drive about my own neighborhood. Especially the one idiot who parked their car in a driveway so that the back half stuck out into the street. Perhaps the rapture/apocalypse is a good thing. At least the streets will be clearer of idiot drivers.
  • 1:00pm - Off to see the latest Pirates movie, in spite of its low rating. Perhaps the apocalypse will claim most of the talentless a-hole critics who take such sadistic pleasure in trashing what they themselves can't create. I've invested my time and money in the last three movies, and I'll still like Johnny Depp. No Knightley, no Bloom, yet still watching a Pirates movie as the apocalypse approaches. Truly another sign of the gathering apocalypse.
More to come...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This Ain't Disney

Change of weather today. It's back to being hot and bright. For whatever reason, while driving home from work, I got off of I-4 at South Orange Blossom Trail, then slowly followed 33rd Avenue west  towards the L B McLeod exit off of I-4, stopping along the way to photograph empty business buildings, one of them the old Boat Tree store.

The road ends on CR-423 as it passes under I-4. Turn right and you drive past the Orange County Corrections center (below). I'm going back to the corrections center for more photos, probably tomorrow.

Orlando isn't about Disney, Universal Studios, and the rest of the theme parks that have sprung up in Orlando. It's busted businesses and jails and roads broken in half decades ago when they drove I-4 through the heart of Orlando.

The photos are a mix of the E-3 with 50-200mm and the E-P2 with M.Zuiko 9-18mm.

This Ain't Disney

The Tree

Empty Architecture

Dead Boat Tree