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Showing posts from June, 2012

Seeing 16:9

While I was out today the wife and I stopped by J.C. Penney at West Oaks Mall to pick up some father's day clothing she'd ordered for me. I have this ritual where every other father's day I order new clothing to replace all that I've worn out. This was The Year to make the order.

One of the stores we ordered from was J.C. Penney on-line. Unfortunately the order arrived at the brick-and-mortar store a lot later than expected. The good part of this story is that I tried the clothing there in one of their dressing rooms rather than running home to try it on and then hauling it back to return it. It was a good thing I did, because I didn't like hardly any of the clothing in person, and the one pair of pants I selected to try on didn't fit. I was able to put it all back in the box and return it right there on the spot.

I've been playing around lately with different aspect ratios, one of which is 16:9. While waiting for the order to first arrive I walked around t…

The New Toyota of Orlando

Today was another trip to the Toyota dealership to turn off the "maintenance required" light that lights up every 5,000 miles on the Prius' dash. I have officially put 73,285 miles on the 2009 Prius at this point. It lights up on the Prius for no other reason than for me to drive to the dealership so I can pay to have it turned off until the next 5,000 miles are driven. Which, I suppose, is  a bit snarky; I do have regular maintenance done to the car and it has managed to keep the vehicle in pretty good shape. But the next time it goes off I'm going to follow the directions in the 2099 Owner's Manual, page 365, to reset the light on my own. Total spent this trip was about $68, which is reasonable considering it included an oil change and tire rotation. Rotating the tires allowed my original 40,000 mile tires to last nearly 50,000 (with tread left). I replaced them with Michelins rated at 85,000 miles. I'm hoping I can push those to an even 100,000 miles befor…

Drifting

Lately I've been using a low-cost E-PL1 with a low-cost M.Zuiko 14-42mm II MSC kit zoom. I've gone to this configuration because I want the absolute minimal, lowest cost quality system camera I can own. I want simplification in all things, including my camera.

Back in 2009, at the lowest point in a downturn of the Austin market, Kirk Tuck was writing about how small low-cost cameras such as the Canon G10/11 and the SX10/20 were capable of producing results most of the time that were indistinguishable from far more expensive cameras. There were times when the heavier expensive iron had a place, but for a lot of shots just knowing what you were doing allowed you to create photography from any reasonable camera regardless of cost. The point being, if you could get the same great results from an inexpensive camera like those from a far more expensive camera given the same starting results, then why spend the extra money?

Why indeed? I've discovered that the more you spend as …

Rain and Sunshine

Five long days of rain and wind. That's what tropical storm Debbie brought us in Orlando, and the storm wasn't even close to us the way it was around the Big Bend of Florida. All I can say is how fortunate I was to be down here rather than up around the northern sections of Florida.

Today started out just like all the other days going back to last Friday: dark and very, very rainy. The rain didn't stop so much as it was either light or heavy, but it kept up until I got to work (figures). It stayed long enough for me to get to my office (figures) then it turned darker and started raining again. It kept up until I left to head back home.

Rather than just dive into the Prius and drive off, instead I grabbed the E-PL1 with its 14-42 kit lens, walked over to the retention pond next to the office complex, and stood there watching the ducks swimming around while off in the distance the little squalls of rain poured between the stacked up cloud banks. We've had enough rain in …

Little Debbie

It has been one long weekend, a weekend devoted to driving up to Tallahassee and back to visit my younger daughter. On the surface it should have been a small pleasant trip. Instead, Tropical Storm Debbie made a surprise visit as well.

Thursday

My long challenging weekend started Thursday in the lab. I'd finally gotten the second Dell R610 server prepped and added to the vSphere Cluster. Once that was done I started working on a third virtual machine to host a terrain server we've been trying to set up based on Open Street Map. We'd already gone through two iterations of setting up that terrain server. While it worked, it wasn't particularly performant. With the new server in place I created a third baseline VM with 32GB memory and four cores. This new server has a pair of hexa-core Xeon 5675 processors with 144GB of memory and 4TB of local storage. So when I create a an equivalent quad-core system with 32GB of memory, I was re-creating a five-year-old Dell 690 workstat…

a village for those who dream in color

It's a time of parody. A time of dark lies, a time of grand hypocrisy. I was in a really dark place on the way over. I'd heard on the radio how Florida is "officially" America's most corrupt state. Having lived here since 1984 I can see how that could have happened. Before hitting the road I read that not only is the U.S. responsible for Duqu and Stuxnet, but it's now officially responsible for Flame as well. And it's been working on all three for at least since 2009, if not early. And during all that time the U.S. was warning about "advanced persistent threats" from overseas threats, probably from China.

That's the grand hypocrisy part.

When I showed up at the former Orlando Arena to check out the ongoing demolition I got out with a pair of Pen cameras and walked around like some two-fisted photographic maniac. I was inspired. I was looking for the dark and dramatic. And I found enough to satisfy me, at least for the rest of the evening.

Father's Day 2012

Father's Day was mellow this year, just like it was last year. I called my dad, who will be 80 this year, and we spoke for a few moments. We exchanged pleasantries and give the ritual "happy father's day" greeting to one another. In all the years we've done this I've never quite gotten used to hearing the echo come back across the phone line, separated by 22 years.

Later in the morning I had brunch at a local First Watch with my wife and my oldest daughter. I set some sort of record for the hostess when I ordered three of their pancakes (with blue berries) and ate the whole stack. She warned me they were large (plate-covering) and that maybe I wanted just two. Since it was brunch I was a bit hungry and ordered three. She was impressed when I finished them off.

Outside the First Watch, the former Samba Room is evolving into Rocco's Taco's and Tequila Bar. I haven't a clue what the menu will be like, but it looks to be a fancy Tex-Mex restaurant. It…

Why We Buy from Apple

Last Sunday, a day before Apple's WWDC, we purchased a 13" MacBook Pro from the Mall at Millenia Apple store to replace her dying four-year-old white MacBook. Before we put money down we asked the salesperson if we could return the MacBook if another version came out the following day that was better than what we purchased. The answer was 'yes' as long as we made any returns or swaps within 14 days after purchase. So we made our purchase, transferred the account via Time Machine from the older MacBook to the newer Pro, made some minor tweaks to the Pro, and for the next week my wife was a happy MacBook Pro user.

Sure enough, less than 24 hours later on the west coast, Apple introduced upgrades to the MacBook Pros, including the base 13" model. We waited until today to head back to the Apple store to attempt an exchange. Before we left for the Apple store I made another Time Machine backup of the new Pro, to make sure I had the absolute latest backup.

When we got …

An Open Letter to The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

Dear Sirs

Enough is enough. I am a college professor who has built my professional career on fairness and equality in education and life. In education one of the caveats for maintaining a positive learning environment is the same as in life: if a negative element is introduced in the environment, it is acted upon immediately before it becomes a problem. After that, the incident is not dredged up because such behavior on the part of the person in control is noxious to the situation. To put it in cliched terms "Nip it in the bud" and "Stop beating a dead horse". If your body was privy to information that was germane to the United States Justice Department's inquiry of Armstrong, then your organization was compelled by law to turn over whatever information or tangible proof to that government agency for its inquiry. When the inquiry was dropped, then the question of egregious behavior in Armstrong's past should have put the matter to rest forever. After…

More D600! Mehr Stürm und Dräng!

Read all about it! Looks like there's some photos of the rumored Nikon D600 in a Chinese forum linked to by 1001 Noisy Cameras. The posting, here, looks to be of a fairly cheaply built camera. I say cheap because when you look at the full sized image you should note what seems to be a mold line down the right side of the left hand grip. Of course this could be an artifact produced by the camera that took this image, or perhaps due to some not-quite-fancy Photoshopping. The overall body looks to be a lot simpler, with none of the ports and covers that cover the front and sides of the Nikon D700, or any other FX class camera before the D600.
From what I can tell it looks like nothing that Nikon currently sells, from the D90 through the D7000, D300, and D700. Lower-end Nikons (D5100 and lower) don't have the two buttons on the front near the grip, nor the manual/auto focus switch on the lower right mirror box. If this is a Photoshop fake, then it's a very believable Photoshop …

Weird and Mundane

When you spend a fair amount of your time in a wheeled box, moving and stopping and moving and stopping until you reach the end of a journey so you can exit the wheeled box, you tend to fixate on what you can see out of the wheeled box on your journey. You do that so you don't have to think about why you are spending so much time in your wheeled box.

Consider that it takes me about 45 minutes, one way, to commute from home to work. That means I spend 1.5 hours/day commuting. A little math shows that, ignoring holidays and those days I work from home, I'll spend 5 x 1.5 = 7.5 hours/week commuting. Rounding that up to 8 hours, that means I'll spend about 5 days x 52 weeks/year x 8 hours or 2,080 416 hours/24 hours/day, or roughly 87 18 days, or roughly three month/year three weeks (and change)/year commuting.

Three months weeks out of every year just to drive to work and home again. One year out of four. And I've been at my current job location now for four years.

That&…

Time and Technology

So my wife finally decided she'd had enough with the four-year-old MacBook. In her dear sweet hands it had gone through hell and back. It had been dropped, banged, had soy spilled all over it, traveled across much of Florida and other points in the U.S., and had served up yeoman duty with Microsoft Office 2004. As a retired English professor, my wife is often called upon to practice her English skills in support of those who lack such skills. It was her window on the world. In a pinch it served as a platform for simple post processing for my E-300 and E-3 when we were on travel together.

As good as it was, it couldn't handle the continuous physical onslaught as well as the advancing software that was slowly larded onto the aging platform. Right now it has Lion installed on it, and that was probably a mistake. It was fine with Snow Leopard, but Lion finally placed a high burden on the Core 2 Duo that came with the machine. After one too many freezes, one too many near-perpetua…

Movies

My wife and I went to see "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" staring an ensemble cast composed of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson. And that's just the top of the list. My wife wanted to see this more than I did, based on a pre-screening and positive review from my younger daughter. It's one of those rare Hollywood movies, based on plot and character development, totally devoid of explosions, aliens, and mega-death. Well, OK, Tom Wilkinson's character dies. From a heart attack. And it takes place primarily in Jaipur, India, not some far-away alien planet.

The plot, once you sit through the movie, is a bit predictable (The reactions of strangers (English) in a strange land (India), Indian boy gets Indian girl in spite of Indian boy's mother's disapproval, people find happiness/release/closure/sex). What makes the movie enjoyable in spite of its predictability is seeing a lot of fine acting without the dramatic histrioni…

A Sound of Thunder

Ray Bradbury died yesterday. He was 91. I knew of his death yesterday as well as everyone else did, through the announcements over the internet. I waited a day to let the dust settle a bit, to think about the man and his writing, and to avoid looking like another blog lemming piling on.

I started reading science fiction in elementary school. My dad was an avid reader and I started to read some of his books. In particular I remember reading Isaac Asimov's "Pebble In The Sky." I didn't fully understand the book, but I understood enough that it electrified me. From that point forward I was hooked. Later my dad paid for me to have a subscription to the Science Fiction Book Club. I remember it came with a free gift, a model of the X-15 by Revell. I built it and it eventually disappeared into the mists of time, but the books, especially an anthology and Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy" lasted many years. I still have the "Foundation Trilogy."

Buried in…

17 + 20 + B&W

Based on some comments and a few posts from Wolfgang (starting here) I tried to pick up a few tips and adapt them to the way I shoot and mess with the results (referred to more formally as "the process"). In particular I switched the E-PL1 from sRGB to AdobeRGB. I know what I've read that there's little to no difference between the two, and that some colors (reds and blues interestingly) can get washed out converting from AdobeRGB. Whatever. I just know that I appear to be getting a better range of mid-tones, and in particular, I'm getting the black blacks I want and first saw in Ming Thein's review of the E-M5. My "process" is to do some slight desaturation of the highlights, tweak the sharpening, maybe do some trimming (like the 1:1 image in the middle), then finish processing in Silver Efex Pro 2. Now, more than ever, I'm either selecting underexpose or low key 1 to start and tweaking that as needed.

I've also gone back to using the M.Zui…

At Work with Linux: A Little Cinnamon Spices Up Fedora 17

Earlier today I discovered Cinnamon, an alternative desktop environment for those who are not quite happy with Gnome 3. The site contains instructions for installing the two packages necessary for Fedora 16 and Fedora 17. Once installed I found the desktop much more to my liking. In particular it was nice to have something as simple as the off switch on the main menu panel. I was able to find the icon for Chrome and simply drag it to the left panel side. I was also able to add a desktop switcher.
Cinnamon is configurable and allows for both a lower and upper panel. I tried this classic layout but discovered that the lower panel was inoperative. I switched it back to the simpler single lower panel.

Roaming Around

These are photos taken during the golden hour, after a long day of working outside in the Florida heat and humidity. I've got another day of similar work tomorrow, but I'm going to start that day with an early morning visit to downtown to see how certain sections look with morning light.
The Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center continues to rise into the air unabated. This is the first of the steel structure to go up. The forward section looks to be partially exposed when finished. Its part of the Lobbies that face Magnolia Street. If the structure comes anywhere close to the architect's renderings then this is going to be one helluva structure when it's finished.
During the early afternoon I drove back past the on-going bridge construction on Palm Parkway. This more mundane construction will have an impact on this area non-the-less, allowing traffic to flow across I-4 between Palm Parkway and International Drive. As you can see above the east-side retaining wall is going…

Resurrecting the Dead - beebot

Six years ago I launched a sister site titled beebot. It was meant to be my personal blog investigating cheap personal robotics. I had purchased the original Lego Mind Storms system, and had hacked it with a different ROM so that it would run an application that made it behave like a drunken toy Segway. I'd also gone to the trouble to pick up a bunch of Vex Robotics systems from Radio Shack when Radio Shack decided to get out of selling them and cut their price in half. In the end I picked up three complete kits plus a lot of extras, such as the track system you see to your right bolted onto a regular squarebot construction.

I'd even gone to the trouble to pick up a Gumstix system along with an external I/O board for it. I had all that hardware lying around and I wanted to really build something useful and unique, contributing back to the community.

Well, you can see how that turned out.

I made five entries in that blog, and put everything in boxes on the shelf. I had one thin…

June is here

Out with my wife for supper, I happened to pass by this small rose bush. Nothing special about the bush or the roses, but the combination of an OM 50mm on an E-PL1 with the available evening light produced an image that is, to my eye, more painting than photograph. This came out of the camera as you see it, with nothing more than Lightroom 4.1's standard conversion from Raw to JPEG.

Before supper some pretty heavy thunderstorms had rolled through the area. By the time we went out for supper, around 7pm, the light was soft and the air was fresh and cool. It was a perfect time to just get out.

I have spent a fair amount of time with the E-PL1 up to this point, and I have to say that it is the most practical digital camera for the money I've ever used. Set it up and it gets out of your way. I run it on aperture priority and a fixed ISO most of the time. I run it through Lightroom because I like to see the image far larger than what I can see on the back of the camera, but I do le…

At Work with Linux: Windows 8 Release Preview

Before I left for home Thursday I started a download of the Windows 8 Release Preview ISO, all 3.3GB of it. I wanted to install it under VMware 4.0.3 on my RHEL 6.2 host just like I'd done with the Gnome 3 and KDE 4 Fedora 17 variants. I learned a bit about Windows 8 and running Windows 8 on a RHEL host.

First and foremost, you don't have to install VMware extensions on Windows 8. Everything (mostly) works out of the box, and if you tried to install the extensions they won't. I was able to go in and set the screen size explicitly to 1440 x 900, and the VM window resized accordingly.
I'm no fan of the Metro look, and the more they work with it the less I like it. It's fine for a smartphone, but spread out on a desktop screen, not so much. Fortunately it was a simple matter of clicking on the desktop tile to get to the desktop. It still has the right bottom sensitive corner for bringing up the right edge controls. I needed to get to Settings to configure the network w…