Monday, January 28, 2013

accidental webpage

Once upon a time, in a far more innocent era (the late 1990s), I had a personal website on Geocities along with a lot of other people. I'd been introduced to HTML and the web while working for Time Warner's Full Service Network (FSN) in 1996. The irony of that last statement is that Time Warner wanted nothing to do with the web, as they rightfully saw it as the ultimate destroyer of what they were trying to accomplish at the time with the FSN. But I stood up an early copy of Apache (version 1 vintage) on several SGI workstations, and showed management how to use the web and browsers to manage all the far-flung SGI hardware we had to manage at the time. In the end I took those hard-won learned skills with me to another company called MicroClinique and used them to help build a web front end for a project called Theater Telemedicine Prototype Project (T2P2) using Java and Microsoft technologies.

In the mean time I discovered Geocities, and decided to set up a small personal website to play around with. I'd discovered Photoshop 4 while at the FSN as well as a group of 3D artists who were using it and other tools to create some pretty exciting fan art for both Star Trek and Star Wars (which is how I wound up with the Borg cube below). I also learned nascent CSS 1 and XML (msxml version 0.8!) programming, as well as Microsoft's dynamic HTML (DHTML) extensions in Internet Explorer 3 and 4. I tried to make a lot of that work with Netscape Navigator at the time, but NN was just pure crap, especially by the time NN 4 was rolled out.

In the end Geocities was purchase by Yahoo, where I had my email account, and it was made free to use. Then, about teen years later in 2009 Yahoo shut down Geocities and told us all that if we wanted any of the content in our old sites to come and save it, or else it would be lost forever. I'd pretty much stopped working on the site by 2002, having started to blog with Blogger in 2005. In fact, because of Blogger's limitations about graphics at that time I was using Geocities to store heavy images and then linking my blog postings back to them. By 2007 or thereabouts Blogger stopped downsampling images, and I started storing images to support my blog directly with Google. I still link back to my Flickr photography to this day.

Today I found the material I'd pulled off back in 2009 and moved it to the MacBook. I then dropped a copy of Tomcat 7, moved the old Geocities site under webapps/ROOT/Geocities, started Tomcat and finally pointed my browser at localhost. I had to clean out some HTML frame cruft that the old Geocities servers injected inline with my HTML content. As I was looking at the old HTML code I realized just how old and moldy it was; the HTML is littered with font tags, instead of using CSS to define the fonts. That's funny, considering I was beginning to use some CSS in the HTML as well. I suppose if I'd kept it up I would have transitioned everything to "proper" HTML.

As I said I'd spent some time learning how to use Photoshop 4. In the top page I used Photoshop to create the fake coffee ring as well as the shadow on the toast. I used Photoshop to add the Microsoft logo to the side of the Borg cube. And in looking back I used way too much drop shadow on the web page title "accidental webpage." I guess you have to live and learn. I've forgotten nearly all my PS skills; I'd be hard pressed to recreate any of the artwork you see, let alone anything more sophisticated. And the web has so moved on that I don't think I could create anything anybody would want. The creative excitement of the early web is pretty much gone, having been overwhelmed by apps on phones and tablets. And what I see these days is composed of way too much Javascript on very heavy web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and IE). Although my curiosity and some of that old passion has been kindled a bit of late by NoSQL (Neo4J, HBase, Cassandra and MongoDB), middleware ESB (Mule and Apache ServiceMix), as well as Android. All of that is wide open and open source, and can run in the "cloud" as well as locally on your five-year-old MacBook sandbox.

I guess maybe I'm deluding myself thinking I can build something out of all this that's unique and contributes back to the greater whole. But I can at least try. And have a little fun in the process. I spend too much time behind the camera as it is, for somebody who isn't a working pro.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Olympus At ISO 3200: No More Fear

Cannondales
Back in October of last year I wrote about "shooting at ISO 3200 with impunity" with the Sony NEX-5N and its 18-55mm kit lens. I wrote how I didn't feel that way with the Olympus cameras I had at that time. That's now changed.

Friday night, while on a fish taco run to Lime Mexican Grill, I happened to grab the photo above on the way in to eat. After looking at the results I'm here to say that I now feel that same sense of impunity with the Olympus E-M5. Granted, I used the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 prime instead of a kit zoom, but the flip side is that the raw files are especially luscious coming out of the E-M5, and the 20mm has no distortions to speak of, especially compared to Sony's 18-55mm kit zoom. And I like the fact my 20mm prime is still two stops faster stopped down to f/2, than the equivalent focal length on the Sony zoom, 27mm at f/4 wide open). (No, I do not shoot any fast prime wide open unless I have no other choice. Old habits ingrained during my film days will never die).

Granted, DxOMark shows that the 5N's overall sensor score is 10 points higher than the overall score of the E-M5. But I'll take that "deficit" and run with it, since the E-M5's overall score is a good 20 points higher than every other 4:3rds and µ4:3rds body olympus manufactured before the E-M5.

If Sony had poured as much ingenuity and manufacturing into affordable NEX prime lenses as they seem to into bodies, I'd be using Sony's near-equivalent 30mm f/1.7 prime on a NEX-6 or NEX-7 and lauding that combination in low light, instead of the Olympus E-M5 with the Panasonic Lumix 20mm.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Olympic Hipsterism

Fifteen Experiments Group 1
When I purchased the OM-D E-M5 I also purchased the Olympus BCL-15mm f/8 body cap lens. At only $50 I figured it was a no-brainer to pick one up to play with. It was about the cost of Holga (Holgas go for between $30 and $50). With all the Pen bodies I have I figured I would leave it on one of them, always at the ready.

The 15mm stays on the E-PL1 and I carry it with the E-M5 plus 17mm or 20mm mounted. Both of them fit in the center console of the Prius with room to spare. And that's a good thing, actually. With Pens I can keep them hidden in the car at all time and not worry nearly as much as I did in the past with the larger DSLRs. In fact the E-PL1 with the 15mm is very pocketable, or at least with the kinds of pockets I have on my pants. And I'm not talking cargo pants.

If you're coming here to look for IQ then you should stop reading and head on somewhere else. The 15mm only has two focus settings, infinity and close focus. At infinity and f/8 it has a a rather profound depth of field. The close focusing position is a bit of a moot point for me.

While I was out and about with the 15mm I used the various E-PL1 art filters; poster color, diorama, and black and white. I could have probably used the vivid color selection and still gotten saturated colors in the photos, but the art filters pushed the photos over the top and added to the photos.

I think what I like about the 15mm with any of the inexpensive Pen bodies is that the whole combination is stripped down to its essential elements; a fixed focal length lens with fixed aperture, shutter release and sensor. And when I get home I hook the camera up directly to the Mac, run Viewer 2 to scale the photos and pull them off the card and then do with them as I will. It's a simple and enjoyable workflow, and a great way to practice shutter therapy.
Fifteen Experiments Group 1
Fifteen Experiments Group 1
Fifteen Experiments Group 1
Fifteen Experiments Group 1
Fifteen Experiments Group 1
Fifteen Experiments Group 1
Fifteen Experiments Group 1

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Minor Skirmish in the Culture Wars

You're looking at a blocked page I encountered on my Nexus 7. I was at a local restaurant, Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza. Anthony's, like so many restaurants in the area, provides an open WiFi point. Unlike other restaurants this Anthony's uses Solid Oak Software's CYBERsitter to "filter" (censor) sites it deems unfit for the general public. In this particular case, it flagged BoingBoing.net as undesirable for one of the possible reasons listed to the left. In particular I found the last reason, about being located in a "blocked country," a bit humorous. A simple WhoIs lookup (via GoDaddy, of all people) shows BoingBoing to be hosted in Toronto Canada. The only thing BoingBoing is "guilty" of is acting as one of the leaders against uncontrolled and blatant Internet censorship and IP fascism.

Solid Oak Software has been, and continues to be, the center of controversy. From its heavy handed censorship to accusing the Chinese for pirating its software and re-marketing it as Green Dam Youth Escort, Solid Oak Software seems to continue to crop up like proverbial palmetto bugs.

As for Anthony's: I've been there twice, once over New Years with one of my daughters for a meal, then a second time, this time with just my wife when I captured this screenshot. I was following BoingBoing (along with many other sites) over the coverage of the death of Aaron Swartz, in particular Cory Doctorow's commentary. And so, while waiting for our meal I pulled out my trusty Nexus 7 to read a bit (my wife had her Nook reader with her), trying to check on BoingBoing, when I ran into this page.

This past Sunday I went out with my wife to check on all the local restaurants we know with public Wifi near our home, to see if BoingBoing was blocked. My method was to stop, get out for a moment, get a WiFi connection, then navigate to BoingBoing. Of all the restaurants and businesses we checked (Chipotle, Barnes & Noble, Panera Bread, Whole Foods, Two Js, First Watch, and Anthony's), only Anthony's had the block.

Which is fine by me. Anthony is a bit on the expensive side, and tends to burn the crust of its pizzas black, something I find I really don't care for. The one item they have on their menu that my wife and I truly enjoy are their wings, and that's just an appetizer. But I don't enjoy those wings so much to swallow their censorship along with the food. There are too many other good places around the area that don't have this kind of censorship for me to spend time or money at Anthony's. And now that I know that Solid Oak Software is still out and about, I intend to be ever more vigilant in finding them and pointing out where they're hidden.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

At Work with Linux: Fedora 18 on Fedora 17

Fedora 18 was officially released yesterday after a long troubled gestation period. I downloaded the DVD ISO from the Ga Tech mirror and burned it to physical media before heading home. I also had done the same with openSUSE 12.2. I had picked up a Seagate 500GB 7200 RPM notebook drive for around $70 at a local Best Buy. I was fully prepared to go home and install either one of those on my wife's prior white MacBook 4,1.

After putting in the new drive I first tried to install Fedora 18. It would never boot on the MacBook, instead dumping me out at a raw grub prompt. I tried several different ways to boot Fedora 18 on that MacBook, but gave up and installed openSUSE 12.2 instead.

The openSUSE install was mostly successful, in that I was able to get it onto the hard disk and have it boot afterwords. But after an hour of just moving around in the environment, I pulled out the old Snow Leopard DVD and installed a fresh copy of Mac OS X on the notebook. After picking up all the updates, the MacBook was back at its productive best.

I wasn't too terribly surprised at my failure to install Linux on a MacBook. After all the failures, big and small, that I've suffered installing Linux on various Windows notebooks over the years, I've learned to take my victories where I can. My last few Linux installations on Dell notebooks have been noteworthy in how completely successful (for me) the Fedora installations have been, so I went into this with perhaps a bit overconfidence. The MacBook issues brought back a sense of humility.

In the end I abandoned openSUSE because it didn't have the wireless drives baked into the DVD, and the poor operation of the MacBook's built-in touch pad. Sorry, but after all this time I will not go hunt down a network cable so I can hunt on the net for the necessary wireless drivers, as well as how to fine tune and tweak the mouse pad.

That was last night. This morning I installed both openSUSE 12.2 and Fedora 18 on VMware virtual machines. The installation and operation of both were problem free. The top image is a screen capture of Fedora 18 running in a VM on the Fedora 17 desktop. Fedora 17 in turn is running rather flawlessly on a Dell Latitude E6510. This, of course, leads to my next course of action: install VMware on the MacBook, boost the MacBook's memory, and install Fedora 18 as a guest on the MacBook. There's plenty of hard drive space now on the MacBook, and I've got plenty of experience working in such an environment.

Even though my freshly minted Fedora 18 ISO was less than 24 hours old, I was surprised to find I had to download a good 200 package updates, including a kernel update. The upper photo is what happened when I went to install Cinnamon for my desktop. I installed Cinnamon, cleaned out a lot of packages I didn't want  such as Java (and all its dependent packages), Eclipse, and Tomcat. Java in particular I want to install myself from Oracle, Eclipse I want directly from the Eclipse website, as well as Tomcat, and only very specific Java-dependent packages such as ant and other tools.
While I was still under Gnome 3 I installed Chrome stable. This is what happens when you do a yum install google-chrome-stable. I then installed the Cinnamon desktop so that Fedora 18 would hopefully duplicate Fedora 17's desktop. And then I logged out.
I'd like to complement the developer(s)/designer(s) of the login screen. It's nice, it's clean, and at least with only one account, it's a sight for sore eyes. An excellent login screen is like excellent packaging, in that it contributes to the positive experience of working with the distribution. And before you ask, no, I didn't install KDE. I don't know how I got that.
Logging back in, with a wallpaper of my own choosing, this is what the Cinnamon desktop looks like. I like the transparency touches combined with the minimal window decoration around the main menu.
In playing around a bit with the Gnome System Monitor, I noticed that just running that GUI tool drove CPU usage to 100%. And it's just that tab. I used top to give me a second opinion (toggling over to Processes gave me a clue, but the usage dropped as I watched).

One quirk with Cinnamon that surprised me, negatively, is that I can't change the window decorations any more. I can (and have) with Fedora 17. So I guess I'll be keeping Fedora 17 on the notebook for a bit longer. Or maybe I'll pick up Mate.

What have I learned from this whirl-wind exposure?

  1. Like it or not the best OS for a MacBook is OS X. So I'll live with it. It's (mostly) Unix under the hood, and has a bash shell I can live in.
  2. If I want Linux on a MacBook I'll install VMware on OS X and then run Linux in a VM. I have come to love the power and flexibility of virtualization. It removes the need for hardware support. Let the recommended host OS handle the underlying hardware. Today's virtualization tools, combined with today's hardware (or even five years ago) is more than fast enough.
For the record, the Fedora 18 VM is provisioned with 1 CPU and 1GB of memory with 40GB of disk space. Enough for experimentation. I can use folder sharing to move large datasets around between the host and the client OS. This gives me plenty to work with on my personal machines without getting wrapped around the axle over the "purity" of my computing environment. Besides, variety is the spice of life.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Aaron Swartz

Downtown Construction near Courthouse
Aaron Swartz was 26 when he took his life. That's the same age as my oldest daughter, a truly  frightening contrast for a parent. I knew of Aaron in a detached sort of way, from his exploits and the resultant stories. I never gave him too much more thought until I read of his suicide Friday morning.

I've had a few days to think about Aaron Swartz's short but powerful 26 year life. I've read and re-read just about all that's been written about him since he took his life. I wanted to wait and see what the U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz, the ignorant fool who stripped him of just about everything he ever had before driving Aaron to take his own life. In the end, the government "quietly dropped" all charges against him. Ortiz declined to comment.

It should be noted that the string of trumped up, over-criminalized charges filed against Aaron would have had him facing more prison time than murderers, bank robbers, slave dealers, child pornographers, al-Qaeda sympathisers, or even someone threatening to kill the President. All for downloading public domain data paid for by public funds from JSTOR at a public university, MIT. JSTOR dropped all charges while MIT was deliberately vague, allowing Ortiz to continue with her vindictive, ignorant, and eventually murderous prosecution.

I took the photo Sunday while I was taking the group of photos I used in yesterday's post about the loss of greenspace in Orlando. The MetLife blimp was flying around the area, and I started to grab a series of shots. When I got home this one seemed to resonate with me more than all the others. I played with it a bit, creating a dark analogy of what I was thinking and feeling at the time. A lone bright spark, flying through darkening skies, headed towards a black monolith, our courthouse, leaning ominously towards the blimp.

I'm an old-style hacker. I came of age during the period where you could go just about anywhere in a computer system. Hacks weren't destructive, they were mental puzzles expressed in software, the more sophisticated and subtle the better. They showed you understood not just a language but the whole system, from hardware to OS and on up and out. Aaron was an anomaly, a fresh young spirit from that period somehow living in the 21st century. We're all the poorer for his passing. For all the others that might still be out there, we need to find them, mentor them, and above all protect them from the ignorant and powerful like U.S. attorney Ortiz who have absolute no conscious, no compunction to do them harm in pursuit of their own twisted personal agenda.

Update

Quoted from The Verge: The family of Aaron Swartz pulled no punches in their comments after the 26-year-old's suicide, blaming a "criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach." Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Heymann is one of the individuals that's been named in particular — and it turns out Swartz isn't the first subject of a Heymann investigation that's taken his own life. Buzzfeed reports that in 2008 Jonathan James also committed suicide two weeks after having his home raided as part of Heymann's TJX hacker investigation. James was suspected of being "JJ," an unindicted co-conspirator, but claimed to have had nothing to do with the crimes in question.

"I have no faith in the 'justice' system," James wrote in his suicide note. "Perhaps my actions today, and this letter, will send a stronger message to the public. Either way, I have lost control over this situation, and this is my only way to regain control."

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Swartz's attorney Elliot Peters accuses Heymann of pursuing federal charges against his client in order to drum up publicity. The prosecutor was in search of "some juicy looking computer crime cases and Aaron's case, sadly for Aaron, fit the bill," Peters said, remarking that Heymann thought he "was going to receive press and he was going to be a tough guy and read his name in the newspaper."

Peters accuses Heymann of being particularly hardline when negotiating potential plea deals as well, threatening Swartz with increasingly-long prison sentences if the 26-year-old didn't accept what he was being offered. According to Peters, the prosecutor also harassed several of Swartz's friends into testifying in front of a grand jury.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Little Less Green Space

Downtown Construction near Courthouse
I saw this coming. Back in April of last year I came across a bit of greenspace next to the courthouse, bounded on three sides by North Magnolia, East Livingston and North Rosalind Avenue. It was a small one acre park. It was notable for all of the big old oaks that gave it a lot of cool shade. Unfortunately, it had started to go to seed a bit, and there was a for-sale sign on the Rosalind Avenue side. It didn't look good.

I photographed it, filed it away for later, and continued on with life. Then, sometime around December, when I started to go to RDV for physical training, I happened to spot a crane over the general vicinity. When I got there today I found the beginning of a $63 million 23 story luxury apartment complex. Gone were all the old oaks, all the cool shade.
Former Green Space
The park from April 2012
Downtown Construction near Courthouse
Downtown Greenspace for Sale
There's not much more that I can say that the photos can't convey better than I can write. There is, however, one more important fact to this story. Out of the acre of land on which this apartment is being shoe-horned, the developers are generously donating 0.12 acres (yes, 0.12 acres) back for a "pocket park." Green-washing at its finest.

Technical

I used the E-M5 with the Panasonic 14mm, the E-PL2 with the Leica 25mm for today's photos. For the older photos I used the venerable E-P2 with the M.Zuiko 17mm.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lake Eola Evening

Lake Eola Sundown
I'd intended to spend the early afternoon tramping a bit around Orlando, but a problem creating a software repository for my primary project forced me to head back on over to my office and correctly re-create it. I spent three hours of a glorious Saturday afternoon in an office without air conditioning (they turn it off on the weekends to save money). By the time I got out it was 5pm and the sun was headed back down again. In spite of only working three hours, it still felt like a regular working day.

I pulled off into downtown on the way home and headed towards Lake Eola. I haven't been there in well over a year. It's a great place for people to meet. The weather here in Orlando, in January, is high 70s to low 80s during the day, and low 60s at night. It's days like today that remind us why we live in Central Florida. The problem is they are far too few. As good as the weather is now it's a good 10 degrees too warm. I fear we're in for a hot dry spring to fall, and the strong possibility of a very bad fire season because of it. I'm reminded of 1998...
Lake Eola Sundown
Beautiful weather, soft evening light. Partly cloudy skies tinted golden by the setting sun and reflecting back down onto the city below. Orlando has a compact city center, with a lot of continuous sprawl, unbroken from the urban edges out through the surrounding suburbs. The lake is beautifully kept and provides large grassy areas for families to sit and enjoy the weather. There are a few activities to enjoy the lake itself, such as these pedal powered swan boats.
Lake Eola Sundown
Lake Eola Sundown
Unfortunately if I walk around long enough I see where societies little signs have gone up, restricting our movements bit by bit. The seats in front of the bandshell on Lake Eola used to be open. It was nice to go and sit alone, and to think. But you can't do that anymore. I don't know when signs like this went up, but it had to have been since the last time I took any photos around here, sometime after November 2009. Signs like this are all over the bandshell now.
Lake Eola Sundown
As I walk around I see more and more of this; couples physically together but mentally and emotionally separate. I don't know what they're doing; checking email, tweeting, playing Angry Birds. It doesn't matter. They're in their own separate little bubbles of reality. Welcome to dating in the second decade of the 21st century.Lake Eola Sundown
I also see the homeless. They're a lot more common than you realize. You have to look, to pay attention. They've discovered the hidden, little out-of-the-way spots to hang out during the day until the homeless shelters open up in the evening. In an ideal world they would have some small day job to go to, but in reality no one will hire them. So they take their possessions with them, usually in a backpack. They've usually got a book they read, and something cheap to snack on.

Or maybe I'm full of it. Maybe this is a regular tourist, taking a break from walking around Lake Eola. After all, he's got a really nice backpack. Sunglasses. And his t-shirt has "Oh Lord, Forgive Me My Zins." But I think not. I think all that was given to him. One big clue is the fact he's just across the street from Saint George Orthodox Church, where many of the homeless were gathering for the evening. All of them old males with stuffed backpacks. I didn't stick around to find out, it was getting late and I needed to head home.

Technical

Using the E-M5 completely now. Getting used to the camera and its many features as well as its quirks. All photos taken with the M.Zuiko 45mm, except Saint George's, which was taken with the Leica 25mm. All photos used with ISO 200 except the last of the man with his backpack, which "accidentally" was exposed at ISO 1000. I say accidentally because I didn't see any difference until I had them all in Lightroom, and I happened to look over at the ISO setting the camera had automatically chosen. Until then I couldn't tell any difference between any of them. This is the first time that has ever happened with any 4:3rds sensor based camera.

Best feature is its stealthiness. Small, dark, innocuous, especially if held away from the face. Nobody at Lake Eola paid any attention. Super-quiet shutter noise. Super-fast reaction, especially when using the touch-to-photograph feature on the rear LCD. Which leads to the biggest annoyance...

Biggest annoyance is the automatic sensor to switch between the eye-level EVF and the rear LCD. If I try to hold the camera at waist level, with the LCD pulled away from the body and pointed up and next to my body, the LCD goes blank intermittently because the E-M5's EVF sensor thinks it's going up to my eye. I finally configured the E-M5 to disable the automatic switch feature and use the button on the EVF to manually switch back and forth, just like with the older Pens with the VF-2 mounted.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Evening Light (Downtown)

Evening Colors
It's been a very busy start to the year.Get up early, straighten up the house a bit before a breakfast, shower, and the morning commute (sometimes I skip breakfast, which is bad). Work all day, then start on the commute home. Because it's winter the sun hasn't come up when I leave in the morning and it's already pretty well down when I leave for the evening. Tonight, knowing I was going to be getting home late because I needed to stop by the store, I pulled off downtown and grabbed about 15 minutes of shutter therapy time.
Dr. Phillips Art Center Construction

It was already pretty dark down in the building canyon, with the sunlight just touching the higher structures like the upper cranes. I come to document the Dr. Phillips Art Center construction because this is probably as close as I'll ever get to seeing the interior. It's going to be a playground for folks far richer than I'll ever be.
Dr. Phillips Art Center Construction

Technical

Using the Olympus E-M5 with the Leica 25mm at the top and the M.Zuiko 45mm on the last two. The E-M5's operation has been fluid and flawless. It's so easy to switch into various operating modes. I tend to switch from aperture preferred to full manual, especially when I'm in high-contrast lighting situations. I can set proper exposure for one area in manual mode and then just compose around as I see fit. And I can see the results on the screen. I think I've heard it called pre-chimping. I love that aspect of this camera.

Biggest complaint so far is I keep undoing the battery cover to pull out the SDXC card, just like on all my other Pens, instead of opening up the side. One day I'll learn without thinking, again.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

It Finally Arrived

Lucy Checks Out Her New Olympus OM-D
It took me forever to finally get this camera. I wanted one all the way back to when it was announced for pre-order in January of last year. Then one thing after another started to get in the way. First my pre-order funds went to something more practical. Then other camera makers started to release interesting cameras. Then the core of my 4:3rds systems was stolen and replaced with insurance money. Then Fotokina showed up overseas in Germany, and I decided to wait for that to finish to see what else the camera manufacturers were going to release.

Of all the cameras that came out last year the two that caught my eye were the Nikon D800 and D600. I knew I could never really be comfortable sinking money into the D800, but the D600 looked like it might actually be something I could purchase. But no. Then Sony came out with their α99 to compliment their α77, an APS-C camera I was also contemplating. Finally, on the last day of the year, I placed an order for the E-M5, an extra battery, and the 15mm f8 body cap lens. And then I waited through New Years for it to be shipped to my waiting hands.

It showed up a week later, 7 January. It was a long day at the office, made even longer waiting for UPS to make the delivery. When I got home I thought how wonderful it would be to open up the box and pull everything out. I had every intention of using the three new Fotodiox LED 312AS I'd ordered the last week of December on a recommendation of Kirk Tuck. I was going to light up all the unboxed gear and take a photograph so beautiful it would make even the most jaded photographer swoon just to see it.

And then Lucy got into the picture, metaphorically and literally.

Lucy is my cat that's been living in the house for the last four years. Lucy is a strange little critter. I'm no cat person, but I think Lucy would confound even the most devoted and understanding of cat people. She's not a bad cat; far from it. It's just that she's a strange cat. She loves me, but she's definitely different. For whatever reason Lucy was all over the new camera gear. She got up and started knocking the boxes around and out of place. I'd put her on the floor and she started to knock on the light stand bases and move them around. When I turned around to shoo her away and readjust the lights, she immediately jumped back up on the table where the gear had been carefully arranged and started rooting around there. After going through this twice I finally gave up. I grabbed the E-PL1 with the 25mm and grabbed this one shot of her and the E-M5 before I turned out the lights, grabbed the E-M5, and went into the other room to sit and read the manual. Lucy followed and sat in my lap, staring at the little instruction booklet with me.

Today was my day to go to the gym and work on the knee. I'm past having to go to PT, so I go on my own now to continue working out to further strengthen the left leg and knee. Of course the E-M5 with the Leica 25mm went into work with me, and it was with me as I was driving home. It was about six, the sun had set, and there were these dark clouds on the sky. So I grabbed the E-M5, pointed, and started to trip the shutter.
Yeah, It's Late
This is certainly no contest winner. But there's a story behind this photo that speaks leagues about the difference between this camera and every other Pen and regular 4:3rds camera I've owned and still owned. First, the autofocus locked onto the sign like a supersonic wolverine and wouldn't let go. It was so fast that I tripped the shutter before I even know it had tripped. When I looked at the raw file I had a lot more exposure range that any other Olympus 4:3rds sensor-based camera I've ever used. I did a bit of post, but only to see what happened when I brought the shadows and highlights back into the display range of the screen. It's grainy due to the ISO 3200 exposure, but so what?

I'm going out to do a lot more night photography with this little beast. I think I'll play around with the Panasonic 20mm next.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Epiphany 2013

Yard Sale
Epiphany can be grand, or it can be personal. Today, for me, it was a personal experience. Today I had a sudden realization that I could produce, with ease, the kind of photography I've been struggling to produce for some time now, and with the cameras I already have. All I had to do was relax and enjoy the moments. And the best way to enjoy the moment is to ignore the fear of negative critical reception. In other words, don't worry about what others may say.

That last bit of advice is hard to follow. In the hyper-connected, hyper-critical world of internet photography, it's hard to ignore the self-appointed critics, especially if they're out to troll you and everyone else they come across. That bit of advice, while certainly easy enough to state, is always difficult to follow.

Today I drove back up to Renninger's Antiques in Mt. Dora to look around and say hello to Pincus the Scotty again. While there I used both the E-PL2 and the 45mm as well as the E-PL1 and the Leica 25mm. And I had a grand old time using both.
The Guitar
In The Basket
Captain "Ace"
Fergus
Pincus he Scotty says "Don't worry, be happy!"
Old Flyer

Technical

I used the Olympus E-PL1 with the Panasonic Leica 25mm and E-PL2 with the M.Zuiko 45mm. Post processing was lightly done in Lightroom 4.3 and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Follow your own muse and be willing to fail.

Update
Coincidentally enough this makes post 1,400, or at least that's what Google says.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

Brass Horses
Today is the eleventh day of Christmas. Tomorrow is the twelfth, and the Epiphany. That word, like the concept of Christmas itself, has been so twisted and abused by a century of American commercialism that it's a wonder any of the real meaning of Christmas is left. According to English tradition I'm supposed to give/get eleven pipers piping, but I've never gotten anywhere close to that, and I probably never will (unless I travel to Scotland some future Christmas). Instead, I get these four brass horses near a Publix on S. Hiawassee Road and Westpointe Blvd (mustn't forget the 'e'). And it's not exactly four horses, either. It's actually a pair repeated twice. I guess they saved some money when this was installed back during the height of the housing bubble here in Orlando.

Normally I'd leave our outside Christmas decorations and lights up until tomorrow, but weather calls for rain this Sunday so I pulled them down today while it was still dry and warm, if a bit cloudy. We've still got the artificial tree up inside the house, and that'll stay up all through January. That's a tradition my wife's family practiced when she was a girl living in Harrisburg Penn. Back then they did it because Januaries were cold, cloudy, wet, and depressing. Having the tree up kept the depression tamped down a bit, and made life a bit more festive. I do it now because I'm tired of walking into stores and seeing all the Valentine's Day items that started to appear the last week of December. I figure if they can lean that far forward with Valentine's Day, I can sure hang back with a bit of Christmas.

Technical

All things go in cycles. I'm back to the E-PL2 and the M.Zuiko 45mm. As much as I like the images that come of the NEX 5N, I prefer the petite size and handling of the E-PL2 with the 45mm. And I like the look I can get out of the 45mm without really trying. Unfortunately, when it comes to subject and composition I'm sure there are many who will say it looks like I'm not really trying. And unlike some critics of handling technique, while I didn't use the VF-2 EVF to frame the photo, I didn't look like I was holding a stinky diaper when I made this photo either.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Faster Than A Speeding Limit

Faster than a Speeding Limit
State Law Enforcement speeder, license plate FWC 3849, on the 408 east-bound
It's been a long time since law enforcement types really caught my attention enough that I wanted a photo of them so I could write about their antics. This morning, someone driving a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission truck (myfwc.com) decided to drive like a real asshole down the 408 east-bound on up 417 northbound. I first picked them up at the 408/I-4 interchange where they started to tailgate me, staying on my bumper up to the 436 exit. Then they whipped past me and continued on at a rather high rate, with me following them until I had to get off at 417 and University. I kept the vehicle in site by trailing the vehicle at a more reasonable distance than they'd used with me. The entire time we were traveling together at 75mph and faster.

I wouldn't say much except I get tired of seeing blue light specials by the side of the 408 or 417 or I-4, where they've pulled someone over, ostensibly for speeding. This morning the roads were absolutely clear of police while Mr. State Law Enforcement blew on down the road. Of course, I can't prove anything since I couldn't include the Prius' speedometer reading along with the vehicle. But trust me when I say that together as I was pacing him we both were a good 20MPH and more over the posted speed limit of 55 on the 408. This isn't the first time I've had to dodge speeding officers who were traveling at a high rate, just for the hell of it. I guess speed limits don't apply to the folks that enforce them, or are supposed to set a decent example by following them. At least not in Orlando.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Barnes & Noble HD+, A Bit More Like HD-

This is going to be a tough one to write. From Christmas Day until New Years Day, my wife and I were owners of the Barnes & Noble HD+, their entry into the 10" high definition table contest. I in particular really wanted this to work, but in the end I deregistered my HD+ and returned it to Barnes & Noble.

The Good

First and foremost was the build quality of the table. Compared to my older Nook Tablet and even my Nexus 7, the HD+ is a very well-built table that exudes quality. It never flexed or creaked when handled, especially when it was put into and then taken out of it's book-style cover. The external frame looks to be made of metal (either aluminum or magnesium), with an excellent glass display on the front and non-skid back. From a material and construction viewpoint it stands head and shoulders above everything, including the Apple iPad.

The version of Android used on the HD+ was a customized version of Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with Barnes & Noble's own custom UI overlaid. The UI coupled with the high resolution of the display was gorgeous. The software, at least at the top levels, was responsive and fluid, almost as fluid as Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.1).

The Bad

Barnes and Noble continues to use a custom version of Android, in this case 4.0. That means no access to Google Play, only Barnes and Noble's very limited app store. Because this was running Android 4, the built-in versions of Mail and Browser were limited and still contained bugs that were fixed in later versions of Android; Mail has grown considerably and the built-in Browser was replaced with Google Chrome. Even apps that were available in the Barnes & Noble store as well as Google Play, such as Flipboard, were slow and buggy while running on the HD+. The only positive feature was reading books and magazines; there it was at least decent. But this is a tablet, not just a reader. Every time I encountered yet another bug that I knew was fixed in a later release, I grew more angry and less satisfied with the HD+, until I finally returned it.

Conclusion

The HD+ is physically a great tablet marred by the political/business decision on the part of Barnes & Noble to hobble it with old and limited software and a poor app market. There is no excuse in 2013 and beyond to not allow access to Google Play, if for no other reason than to get proper bug fixes and better applications like Google Chrome that will run on Android 4 and later. Returning the HD+ was, believe it or not, the hardest return I've ever made.

Oh. One more observation. I installed Flipboard on my older Nook Tablet, and it works better on it (running a customized version of Android 2.3).

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Day One 2013

Daughter #2 spent a long weekend with her mom and dad. Because of the state of the 1994 Volvo, she drove a one-way rental down to Orlando. Then her boyfriend came down from Tallahassee for New Years Eve. Today they packed up his car with her all her things and they drove back together. Before they left we all enjoyed a great brunch at First Watch on Sandlake Road. It was a great day and an enjoyable moment in time.
Youngster with the Oldster
While my daughter was in town we went to a movie (The Hobbit) and grabbed a few moments here and there photographing the general area. As she gets older our dual photography sessions are more and more interesting. I look forward her showing me what she took while she was here.

One spot we stopped at was downtown at City Hall and the Dr. Phillips Art Center construction site. I grabbed a few photos and found the old grove beginning to come back.
Cranes and Cantellevers
Shadows and Shapes
Interior Construction
Downtown Orlando
The knee surgery was a time for me to just drop back and chill out, concentrating on physical and mental healing. As I come out of that period I find my mind is a lot clearer. Interesting ideas are beginning to bubble up. Although I know I'll be facing many challenges, I face them more calmly than I would have before November of last year. I have no idea what will happen in 2013, but whatever may come I will find a way over or around them.

Technical

All photos were taken with the Olympus E-PL2 and M.Zuiko 45mm. Everyone has their favorite lens in a given system. For µ4:3rds it has grown to be the 45mm. I certainly like other lenses, such as the Leica 25mm and Lumix 14mm, but I keep reaching for the 45mm and it keeps defining the Olympus system for me. I've made the decision to get an OM-D E-M5 body (just the body) to add to my Pen collection. I stripped everything away that wasn't necessary for me, including the 12-50mm kit lens and the HLD-6 grips. If I need those (especially the HLD-6) then I'll get them later. I already have an excellent collection of lenses to compliment the E-M5 and ideas on how to use it all. We shall see what may come as the year unfolds.

Final Thoughts

Some people write long blog posts about what was good or bad about the prior year. Then they write another making predictions about the coming year, or talk about resolutions they want to make and plan to keep. I've done some of that on this blog already, but in the end I found both efforts a waste of time. All I can say is I spent 2012 in increasing pain because of my left knee, which makes what I remember about 2012 somewhat blurred and chaotic. Then eight weeks ago (2 November) I had the bit that was busted replaced, and spent the following time in physical therapy making it all begin to work again. I look to being more engaged in 2013, in part to make up for some of the problems that developed due to my systemic pain in 2012. All that, and Obama's second term with the increasingly rudderless Republicans, is going to make life interesting. I don't know why specifically but I have a feeling I'm going to have to really be on my toes.