Sunday, October 27, 2013

a new cat in the family

loki
We (meaning the human family) have a new cat. Her name is Loki and she lives with my oldest daughter in Gainesville. I don't know how old Loki is, but I peg her age at around a year. She's an all black cat with a touch of white on her brisket. She's an extremely shy little creature, especially around humans she has no familiarity with, such as myself.
loki
loki

Everything taken with the Olympus E-M5 and Panasonic Leica 25mm at f/1.8. Heavy flaring due to shooting directly into the sun coming in the window (Loki felt safer in that spot, so you go where the cat is). I also set the E-M5 to the gentle sepia (#9) art filter and took everything straight out of the camera, except for resizing.

If you're wondering why she's named Loki, everybody thought she was a he before the vet told them different.

why i've come to hate the internet

While slumming the Internets this morning I came across the wonderful editorial on the New York Times website, "Slaves of the Internet, Unite!", written by Tim Kreider (someone I'll have to start paying more attention to).

In his wonderful editorial I linked to, out pops this one jewel among many:
Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge. I now contribute to some of the most prestigious online publications in the English-speaking world, for which I am paid the same amount as, if not less than, I was paid by my local alternative weekly when I sold my first piece of writing for print in 1989. More recently, I had the essay equivalent of a hit single — endlessly linked to, forwarded and reposted. A friend of mine joked, wistfully, “If you had a dime for every time someone posted that ...” Calculating the theoretical sum of those dimes, it didn’t seem all that funny.
The sad and somewhat hypocritical point to all this is that I, yes I, have just "contributed" to the very same destructive system that Mr. Kreider is editorializing against. I've quoted him and sited him and linked to him in the New York Times. And yet, he won't get a penny from me, even if I could pay for the use of his work. Unfortunately for him and the rest of us, this didn't show up with the Internet. It's been a long time coming, baked into our technological culture for the past century. Let me explain...

In today's world the Internet is deliberately set up with no simple to use, reliable, robust infrastructure in place to "monetize" unique content such as Kreider's editorial and then make sure it goes directly back to the original author (and before you pipe up about in-app purchases or ads in mobile apps, that fails my original premise).

How is money being made? In ads that go back to "content aggregaters" such as Google and in user fees to "internet service providers" such as my Brighthouse Networks or AT&T, to whom I pay hundreds of dollars in total every month just for the privilege of viewing such "valueless" content, and who both want to start implementing data caps so I can pay even more if I cross some arbitrary usage. I mean, God forbid I take too many bits and deprive the starving masses of the world Their Fair Share. We all know how corrosive those bits are to the series of tubes known as the Internet, and how labor intensive it is to make more fragile bits to fill those fragile tubes...

If you're wondering how we got here, you can look back to the start of commercial radio at the beginning of the twentieth century. Radio stations played songs (content) for free, and earned money through advertising (radio jingles). Early radio also had their equivalent of soap operas with one or more prominent corporations who payed top dollar to have advertising about them prominently played periodically during the show on the radio. The majority of the advertising revenue went to the station owners, with a pittance split off for the rest who labored creatively to make the radio station worth listening to and thus valuable to the owner.

As the decades passed radio evolved into a music delivery system, with the soap operas showing up on the-then-new television, and the same cycle basically repeated itself. The owners of the broadcast stations (content delivery) took the majority of the advertising income, with part of that revenue stream peeled off for the content creators. Except in TV things got a bit more complicated, with studios producing shows and unions representing various classes of workers (actors, singers(!), writers, etc). Better perhaps than radio, which still doesn't pay to play songs (sometimes its the other way around: re payola).

During that period if you purchased the right equipment you could make your own personal recording of music or a part of a TV show. I'm sure I broke the laws quite often as a middle schooler in the late 1960s by recording the audio portion of the original Star Trek without permission on a small 3" GE reel-to-reel tape recorder I got for Christmas one year. I would record the audio, making sure to stop during the ads (a hideous crime for sure), and then play them back over and over, with the visual portions only in my mind. I got to the point I could quote every line in every first season episode. But I digress...

Being a simpler time, and being a kid who wasn't trying to sell what I recorded, I had no fear of Hollywood-paid US government jackbooted thugs coming through my door to haul me away to prison. It was a lot of effort to make my recordings, too much effort to sell them if I could, and too much effort on their part to come after me even if they knew. Too much friction as they say...

But here, in the 21st century, where literally everything has been (or soon will be) fully digitized, with nothing in place to really stop you (except for some poorly implemented DRM and insane copyright laws), the ability to "consume" damn near everything has now become frictionless. Mix in generations of passive viewing training where all you needed was to turn on your radio or TV to listen to or watch "free" entertainment, combined with the same frictionless access via the internet, and it's now reached the point where everything is assumed to be free (it really isn't), leaving anybody who wants to do anything creative with no real way to make a decent living.

It's been decades in the making. It's got huge money behind it all to make sure it stays this way. It's going to take a real revolution to change it for the better.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

ubuntu 13.10 + windows 8.1 + vmware player 6.0.1 = success

Ubuntu Gnome (Gnome 3 + Ubuntu 13.10)
Last night my copy of VMware Player 6 automatically updated itself to version 6.0.1. In the process the VMware Tools that are installed on the various virtual machines were also updated, in particular those for the latest Linux distributions such as Ubuntu 13.10.

Under VMware Player 6 the shared directory kernel module failed to compile. Under 6.0.1 the module successfully compiled, installed, and executed, allowing my Share directory on the Windows 8.1 host side to be seen. And of course, as I reported earlier after repairing the version 6 installation, networking out of the VM into the outside world is working just fine.
Gnome 3 showing some of its hidden capabilities
As the picture captions note, this is Ubuntu Gnome, a distribution built up from Gnome 3.8 and Ubuntu 13.10. This combination has resulted in a stable and pleasant distribution. I find it somewhat amusing that two of the more controversial desktops (Gnome 3 and Unity) are now the most polished of the desktops out there. In my earlier Ubuntu 13.10 post I called it a "stellar release." Gnome Ubuntu is equally "stellar."

I'm not "dissing" the earlier community "responses" to these two desktops, such as Linux Mint. I'm just saying that both of these are now top-notch quality distributions with equally good desktops. Combined with Linux Mint and Cinnamon, they come together as an informal trinity, if you will, of alternative operating systems. I haven't seen Linux this good in a long, long time.
Gnome 3 showing some of its desktop effects
There is still one minor issue with shared directories, and I've tested this with both Gnome Ubuntu and straight-up Ubuntu. The VMware shared directory does not automount on startup. The workaround is to simply type 'sudo mount /mnt/hgfs' at the command prompt and it will mount. I suppose I could add an entry to /etc/fstab (or whatever passes for that in Ubuntu these days), but most of the time I just suspend the VM on the Windows desktop rather than shut the VM down. It makes it easier to start it back up later, especially if I've got editors and files open under Linux.

If you're wondering why I bother, the answers are fairly simple:
  1. I still like Linux for the kind of work I do.
  2. Virtualization removes nearly all issues, especially the issue "Linux won't run [whatever]". I can either run Linux in a VM on Windows, or run Windows in a VM on Linux. I've done both, and it's irrelevant to argue which is superior.
  3. At some point in the very near future I am switching over to a full Linux stack on a new notebook. It will run side-by-side my current Samsung. Paranoia is driving me in this direction. I'm slowly unwinding my positions on the web, dropping accounts (such as my dropping Facebook) and hardening what I have left with strong encryption that hasn't been compromised/back-doored by the NSA.
I would have moved to one of the BSD derivatives (Free and Open come to my mind), but my experiences with the latest FreeBSD distributions (9.2) has been less than satisfactory. The BSD elitists may turn their noses up at Linux, in much the same way the Linux elitists turn their noses up at just about everything else, but if I had to make a choice between just two operating systems, Linux and BSD, I'd choose Linux every time.

P.S. No, I will never buy a system with, or run, Google's Chrome OS.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

my gx1 takes a dive in the parking lot

You're looking at a test shot taken where my wife and I went out for taco Tuesday (Lime Fresh Mexico Grill near my local Whole Foods, if you must know). On the way into the place, while I was carrying my GX1, I somehow fumbled it, and dropped it.

Onto the hard asphalt of the parking lot.

I had the Panasonic 14mm mounted on the body. When the whole assembly hit the pavement the battery cover popped open and the lens cover got knocked off. It picked up a series of little nicks on various corners and part of the metal frame was bent right at the back corner where the flash sits flush with the body.

I've carried this camera all over, including up to Seattle. In all that time I've never had an accident like this until tonight. Before I took it out with me this evening I swapped the 14mm for the 20mm I normally keep on the body. I don't know what I would have done if the 20mm had taken any kind of damage. Maybe use the drop as an excuse to get the new all-metal, all-black version.

So far the camera seems to be working just fine in spite of my best efforts to demolish it. Not bad for a $200 camera. If nothing else I'm impressed as hell how robust this little camera is. The GX1 not be weather-proof, but it was certainly Beebe-proof tonight. I would have had a heart attack if it had been the E-M5 I dropped.


A second test shot. Yes, sometimes I like in-the-dark photos because they're in the dark. So stop reading.

Monday, October 21, 2013

bitter remorse

Stopped by my local Whole Foods to pick up a few supper items; mushrooms, whole wheat pasta, red quinoa. Stuff that supposedly makes you healthier and superior to the folks who shop just down the road at the super Walmart.

On the way out I spotted this odd combination of space kitsch and grocery cart with a red faux space shuttle that's big enough to keep a pair of small children, twins perhaps, imagining they're flying a real space shuttle around the isles while their parents try to fill the cart.

And I flash back in time to when I sat on the upper bunk bed, with my younger brother in the lower bunk of the room we shared, watching on our black and white TV as Neil Armstrong slowly crawled down the ladder of the Eagle to the surface of the moon. And all the books Time published about space, and the beautiful illustrations of all those rockets we'd be building and flying in the very near future. And the first season of Star Trek, when William Shatner was reasonably restrained in his acting. All the memories of growing up through Mercury, then Gemini, then the Apollo series, only to see everything come to an end in 1972, the year I graduated from high school.

And now I read and watch as we put all our remaining shuttles in museums and charge rather hefty prices to see hardware we already paid dearly for with our tax dollars. Just so we could go up and orbit the earth. Or drive out to Huntsville and see a poorly maintained Saturn 5 as it slowly rusts away.

Perhaps there is some hope for us. The movie "Gravity" has spent the last three weeks at number one. Studio bigshots say it's because it's playing on 3D and IMAX screens. But maybe, just maybe, we remember what we had, and deep down inside we're hungry for space. Maybe we don't know all the reasons, but we do know this; we can't spend our lives living in Facebook and Twitter, being "social", and having our freedoms slowly eroded all in the name of security. At least that's the way I feel. Maybe that'll inspire someone new to keep going into space, and not stop like my generation did.

And I feel something else: shame. I grew up during one of the greatest periods this country has ever known, the space race against the old Soviet Union. Once upon a time my imagination was fired with dreams of living and working in space. And then it all ended when I graduated from high school and I let it all carelessly slip past, leaving nothing but imperfect memories.

vm networking problem fixed


Over the weekend I upgraded to Windows 8.1, then discovered that networking for the virtual machines wouldn't work. Then I tried something incredibly simple and fixed the problem.

Checking the system I noticed that three VMware Windows services weren't running; VMnetDHCP, VMUSBArbService, and VMwareNatService. VMware Player allows you to install, remove, or fix an existing installation. I chose to try fixing the installation, and that fixed the problem. The services were re-installed/restarted, and the virtual machines had networking again.

Once network connectivity was established there was exactly one updated file for Ubuntu 13.10, a data file. This underscores how solid and finished the release was this time. Every other version of every other Linux installation I've ever dealt with has always been succeeded by boatloads of updates after the initial installation. But not this time.

Everything is working properly on my notebook. All's right with the world.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

why they aren't here

just visitingThe Fermi Paradox asks, essentially, if the Universe is as vast as it is, and has been in existence for as long as it appears to have been, with all chances for life to appear then statistically speaking why haven't we crossed paths with at least one alien culture?

Where are they?

That question, asked by Enrico Fermi while at lunch with his friends Emil Konopinski, Edward Teller and Herbert York at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the early 1950s, has never been adequately answered since. In spite of how we wish to believe, we've yet to discover any concrete evidence either in the universe or closer to home on any of the planets and moons we've explored.

A number of theories have been advanced as to why we haven't found them yet (conspiracy theorists not withstanding). One of those theories is the it's dangerous to contact us. After reading today's news, and after watching the government shutdown and the idiots who have participated in it, I can see why any space-faring civilization would give us a very wide berth. Consider these two stories that underscore just how sorry a species we really are.

  • The shutdown, while it may have been a "two week vacation" according to Senator McConnell, was devastating to American science across the board. From suspended clinical trials to space exploration (the James Webb Space Telescope) to research in the Antarctic that was allowed to essentially wind up being buried in the ice and snow, one major scientific project after another was damaged in ways that will be very difficult, if impossible to recover (the Antarctic studies are an example of this). The shutdown even put public health at risk when a salmonella outbreak occurred during the shutdown and was allowed to go essentially unchallenged during the shutdown.
  • While not a part of the shutdown, poachers in Africa have been slaughtering elephants by the hundreds. The latest story is from Zimbabwe via the Telegraph. There, poachers mixed cyanide in the local waterholes during the dry season, so that the elephants would drink from them and die and then have their tusks removed by the poachers. Not only were adults killed, but so where the young. In addition to killing elephants, when the scavengers came to feed off the dead elephants, they too died, and included hyenas and lions. They've started to round up and prosecute the suspects, but that won't bring back the elephants. And it appears that the slaughter may be even higher than the initial 300.
Is it any wonder that no alien species want to have anything to do with us?

References

The Government Shutdown Was Temporary, Its Damage to Science Permanent - http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=government-shutdown-was-temporary-the-damage-to-science-permanent

Are Republicans anti-science? In this case, yes - http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/18/republicans-antiscience-shutdown-cost

Uncle Sam and Safety – The Unseen and Long-Lasting Effects of the Government Shutdown - http://charlottesville.legalexaminer.com/uncategorized/uncle-sam-and-safety-the-unseen-and-long-lasting-effects-of-the-government-shutdown/

Cameroon increases elephant protection after mass slaughter (August 2012) - http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?205913

Poachers kill 300 Zimbabwe elephants with cyanide (October 2013) - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/zimbabwe/10390634/Poachers-kill-300-Zimbabwe-elephants-with-cyanide.html

blinded by emotion - problems using adapted lenses with the α7

Sony α7R
There are some interesting posts coming out now about the success (or not) of adapting alien lenses to the Sony α7/α7R dynamic duo, in that it might not be what everyone has initially hoped for.

Right now is the honeymoon phase of the Sony α7 releases, where a golden light shines over the universe and the Sony α7 can do no wrong. One of its vaunted features in the minds of its most ardent supporters is that it's a better camera body for every other lens ever made, especially Leica lenses. All you need is an adapter...

Perhaps, and then perhaps not. The first word of caution I read comes from The Online Photographer (yes, those guys) and a post made back last Wednesday titled "Two Reasons..." Give credit to Mike Johnston for publishing both sides of issue, in this case the use of Leica lenses via an adapter on the Sony α7 bodies.

The first reason in the post is a link back to Roger Cicala's article "There Is No Free Lunch, Episode 763: Lens Adapters" at LensRentals. I'd read that post already, and was glad to see it referenced in the post. If you haven't already, go read Roger's post, and pay close attention to the summary in "What Does It Mean in the Real World?" at the end of the article. It's not all gloom and doom, but it's not all sunshine and unicorns either.

The second reason was a comment that Mike elevated into that post, written by Bruno Masset. The key take-away from Bruno's comments are how Leica lenses on the Sony α7 "...hoping to use (for instance) old wide-angle rangefinder Leica lenses using mount adapters, are going to discover how mediocre the imaging performance of such lenses might be on a digital sensor." It comes down to how Sony has tuned the sensor at the corners to work with FE lenses, with a specific flange-to-sensor distance of 18mm, compared to Leica's M-mount 27.8mm distance. Leica has tuned their sensor, especially in the corners, to work with their lenses and their mount. The Leica lens and body are a system. So is the Sony α7. You purchase a Leica adapter to use your Leica lens on your new Sony body, and it won't work well because the Leica lens is now too far away from the sensor by about 10mm.

There's nothing wrong with this, and in the case of the Sony α7 it's vital to have it considering how close a 135mm sized sensor is to the exit pupil of any E mount lens. And therein lies the problem. A sensor with microlenses that are angled to make the best of the 18mm distance between flange and sensor will not work anywhere as well for lenses that are further away from the sensor, especially those on adapters and especially away from dead center.

Sure enough, over on a post by Ron Scheffler, "Sony a7 torture test with Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander rangefinder lenses," he writes and I quote:
My take on the results: I’m hoping these lenses will fare better on the a7R. Results on the a7 are for the most part disappointing. All I can surmise at the moment is that the toppings on the a7′s sensor work against achieving optimal (or in some cases, good enough) results with the rangefinder lenses I had available for this test.
I personally don't think it will be any better (but no worse) on the 7R.

This is not a slam against Sony, but a word to the wise: if you're going to buy Sony then use Sony, not just for best results, but even for good enough. I know there's a bit of pent up anger against Leica over the exorbitant price and mediocre quality of the Leica digital bodies (especially the M-9), but buying a 7 or 7R may not be the right solution. The Sony FE lens selection might be a big thin at the moment, but if you want to get the best from the Sony system, then invest in lenses specifically made for the Sony system.

Reference

Flange focal distance - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flange_focal_distance

ubuntu 13.10 + windows 8.1 + vmware player 6 = some problems


Update 26 October 2013

All of this has been overcome by events (OBE) as noted in this post: http://blogbeebe.blogspot.com/2013/10/ubuntu-1310-windows-81-vmware-player.html
tl;dr - It's all fixed now.

Original

It hardly took any time at all for me to download the Ubuntu 13.10 ISO file and install the latest Ubuntu as a virtual machine on VMware Player 6 running on my shiny new Windows 8.1 system. For the most part it's been error and trouble free. Except for one issue, which I'll get to shortly. But first, all the good news.

I've read the various "reviews" [sic] from the various online tech pubs, most notably Ars Technica, and the general consensus is "meh." There are times where meh is a Good Thing. The one feature (if you want to call it that) about Ubuntu 13.10 is the polish applied to 13.04. Just as Windows 8.1 can be considered a polished Windows 8, instead of a major new upgrade. In the pell-mell rush to release software to stay ahead of everyone else, too much software suffers with regards to quality, especially the user experience. The quality of Ubuntu (which to be fair, was already pretty good) has been pushed up several notches with this release.

The quality of this release is so good that it matches my current excellent experiences with Linux Mint 15 (Linux Mint 15 is a cleaned up Ubuntu 13.04 release). This Ubuntu release has a reasonably current kernel (3.11) and a decent gcc release (4.8) that supports C++11. The Unity desktop is fast and fluid, and I've grown used to its features and organization (I am, after all, a happy Windows 8 user). Ubuntu 13.10 is, in my not so humble opinion, a stellar release. So good, in fact, that it has replaced Fedora 19, and Fedora in general.

There is, however, just one little problem.

Upgrading to Windows 8.1 with VMware Player 6 has broken networking with all my virtual machines. This causes two key problems: (1) updates are broken, and (2) I can't use the VMs as networked test machines. I can still do any development that doesn't require networking outside of the VM, and if I need to download a specific application, such as Oracle's Java, I can download it via Windows 8.1 and then drag-and-drop the file into the running VM.

Another problem is that the current VMware tools, that must be built to enable directory sharing with the host machine, won't compile that specific kernel module. Again, with drag-and-drop it's not such a big issue. Working with Ubuntu 13.10, as with Linux Mint 15, is such a pleasant experience I don't mind. This is not a Linux issue, this is a VMware Player issue. Perhaps it's time for me to transition to Windows' Hyper-V.

Haters Gonna Hate

It has been a long time (2007, six years, check the table of contents) since I wrestled with Ubuntu (7.04, 7.10, and then 8.04) before I finally just gave up. I could see the potential, but for me the full potential was never realized.

Time heals all wounds, and technology advances relentlessly to the point where my complaints of six years ago are totally irrelevant today. I attribute Ubuntu's positive advances in part to Mark Shuttleworth's decision to move away from the glacial plodding center of Linux-based distributions. Two examples of this are the Unity desktop and Mir, the display server to replace X. There's been a spat recently over Mir. That's because it's not Wayland, the other officially sanctioned display server to replace X. Reading the reasons and issues, it appears that Shuttleworth is deciding to hew more to what has worked successfully with Android, especially on ARM, as that's where Ubuntu is headed (phones, tablets, personal computers, etc, across multiple processor architectures). Following Android to a certain extent is actually a pretty good idea, as Android is the single most successful Linux-based distribution on the planet, in spite of all its haters.

And those technology advances? Operating systems are no longer an island. Ubuntu's lack of "standard" applications are far less relevant today, especially with such services/applications as Google Docs, which requires a standards compliant browser to use, such as Firefox and Google's own Chrome browser. And Ubuntu is now filling in the "gaps" with its own app store. And I have no doubt that someone, somewhere is going to write the equivalent of BlueStacks for Ubuntu to allow Android apps to run on the Unity desktop (assuming it hasn't been done already; after all, what do I know?)

With the current maturity of virtual machine software, if you really need that Windows application or that Office workflow, then there's nothing stopping you from installing Ubuntu as a host, then Windows as a guest OS with its tools. If you don't need that kind of capability, then you'll find yourself well served with a bog standard Ubuntu (or Linux Mint) installation.

Just remember to ignore the haters (both Linux and Windows) and think for yourself.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

cruzzin' for a bruisin'

lucy looking color
Lucy the guard cat is on the lookout for Ted Cruz.

If you thought the passage of a continuing resolution to fund the government and temporarily raise the debt ceiling at the very last minute meant that idiots like Texas' Ted Cruz (a.k.a. Senator Shutdown) meant would go away, then you're sadly mistaken. If anything, the Retardican party, driven by its Tea Party radical elements, and led by Senator Shutdown, continues to do everything in its powers to subvert real democracy by using the tools of democracy against it. Just this past week, Senator Shutdown put on his Senator Obstacle cap and blocked the nomination of Thomas Wheeler as FCC chairman. Senator Obstacle's excuse was he wanted to question "Mr. Wheeler’s views on whether the FCC has the authority or intent to implement the requirements of the failed Congressional DISCLOSE Act."

Yes, Senator Moron wants to know if the FCC will implement the requirements of a law that failed to pass in July 2012, a campaign finance reform law supported by the senate Democrats that would have forced unions, nonprofits and corporate interest groups that spend $10,000 or more during an election cycle to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more. What's bazaar about Cruz's objection is that the version that failed to pass had the provision requiring sponsors of electioneering ads to have a disclaimer at the end of the ad stripped out of it. And so we have Senator Moron, a.k.a. Senator Shutdown, asking an FCC chairmain nominee about a non-existent provision of a law that failed to pass over a year ago.

My cat Lucy has more sense than Texas Senator Moron.

lucy crouching b&w
Is that that idiot?


References

DISCLOSE Act dies again - http://www.politico.com/blogs/on-congress/2012/07/disclose-act-dies-again-129235.html

DISCLOSE Act - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISCLOSE_Act

Why Senator Shutdown, Ted Cruz, Blocked The FCC Chairman Nominee - http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/17/why-senator-shutdown-ted-cruz-blocked-the-fcc-chairman-nominee/

contemplating the sony α7 release aftermath

Sony α7R
It's been a week since Sony introduced the α7 pair of cameras to a giddy hyperbolic audience of camera gear dweebs. You would have thought it was the second coming of Christ in some quarters. After the dust settled surprisingly quickly, I came to the same conclusion about the camera and system that a number of others hinted at between the lines of their various hands-on previews.

It's too expensive for what the system currently delivers.

That's not to say that, from an engineering perspective, it's poor. Far from it. From an engineering perspective it's something of a tour de force. Sony took its fixed lens RX1, a 135mm sized sensor fixed lens camera, and essentially combined it with the E mount to create the α7. In one fell swoop they asserted their leadership in this specific domain over both Canon and Nikon. But that's just in this one particular domain (a pure mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with a 135mm sized sensor).

The digital camera marketplace is far, far larger than this one type camera, with formidable brands that can produce remarkable results no different from what the α7 can produce right now. And therein lies the problem. By the time you add in the high expense of a limited FE lens selection, along with the high cost of the body, you run up against established camera lines with the same size sensor from Canon and Nikon in the same price range. And both Canon and Nikon have bodies (the 6D and D610, respectively) that will be priced competitively against the α7 on the low end, and even the α7R on the high end, and they will produce far more market wins (purchases) than the α7 pair.

This is the challenge that Sony has to face. Sony will have to realize that their success selling this camera against Canon and Nikon will be spotty at best, just like the current α/Minolta mount SLT cameras, especially in the US market. Where they will gain traction with this camera will be Japan and the far east where mirrorless overall has established a considerable foothold. If Sony is in this for the long haul (and I certainly believe they are), then the α7 is the beachhead from which a hard fought future success will probably come.

For Canon and Nikon, Sony's future success will come at their expense. The α7 isn't the camera Canon and Nikon have to fear right now, but the follow-on generations. Every time I read how the α7 is the "full-frame camera for the masses" I laugh. The camera for the masses doesn't start at $1,600 and up, body only. The camera for the masses sells for no more $800 with kit lens (and in many cases a lot less), and will be the equivalent of the NEX 5N, call it a future α5, with a 135mm sized sensor. When Sony releases such a camera, then you'll see a real shakeup in the camera market. And that's the camera I personally will buy for myself.

Monday, October 14, 2013

sony's pivotal mirrorless move

Sony α7R
I'm a died-in-the-wool technologist, even when it comes to photography. I have always been fascinated with the technology that goes into manufacturing any camera, from the lenses (optics) through the mechanical construction, the electronics involved, and especially the chemistry of the film and the sophistication of the digital sensor. It's amazing that the camera can do all it's asked of it, regardless of manufacturer.

Of all the types of cameras that I've really taken an interest in, contemporary mirrorless (again, regardless of manufacturer) are the most interesting because of the challenging problems the scientists and engineers have had to solve in order to build a compact but highly functional camera. In particular I've followed the sensor advances over the years and watched image quality climb (especially with μ4:3rds) to exceed film and rival one another such that there's very little difference any more as you move from the smaller sensors such as 4:3rds through APS-C up to 135mm sized sensors. And I think that, with the quality of the smaller sensors as good as they are these days (and getting better all the time), Sony's camera division stepped back and decided to do something truly innovative.

And so we have the not-yet-officially-announced Sony α7/7R, nee NEX 7.

All of what I'm about to comment on is taken from the rumor sites, specifically mirrorlessrumors and sonyalpharumors.

Sony's Major Pivot

It should be noted that Sony is a major sensor supplier to its own camera lines as well as to a lot of manufacturers such as Pentax (APS-C), Nikon (APS-C and 135mm) and Olympus (4:3rds). Canon is notable in that it makes all its own sensors, which when ranked on the synthetic benchmark site DxOMark, puts it at a distinct disadvantage to Nikon, Sony, and to a limited extent Olympus (specifically APS-C to 4:3rds). As I said, synthetic benchmarks...

Because of the heated competition, ironically helped in part by Sony's own sensor division, Sony's camera division had to step back and really think about how they wanted to compete in a tightening market. And I think I now see where Sony is headed. Here are my admittedly limited Sony predictions for the very near future.
  • Sony drops the NEX brand name completely, calls NEX cameras α. Sony caused no end of confusion in the market when it released the NEX cameras along with the E mount. Sony already had an A mount camera series that used both APS-C and 135mm sensors. Sony further muddied the waters by using the same APS-C sensor with the NEX series, but shortening the flange-to-sensor distance in the E mount. It then proceeded to release a high-end camera, the NEX 7.

    Sony had inadvertently produced two competing camera lines under its own roof. That's a recipe for failure for both. By comparision Canon and Nikon have their two lines with but one mount. With both manufacturers the APS-C camera lines always get short shrift, especially on the Nikon side. Sony's situation was worse with two separate lens mounts (and having an adapter really doesn't help). Sony can't really afford to support two complete camera systems, and so something had to give; Sony has decided to merge both, centered around E mount, with the best of both lines giving Sony a new direction.

  • Sony drops the pure α line. Even if Sony were to drop mirrors (the SLT system) completely with its next generation of sensors, it would still have a mount and mirror box to support. The cameras would still be large, and the mount would still be an issue. Sony, therefore, is going to phase out the α mount in favor of the E mount. Sony already has an α mount to E mount adapter, and rumor has it a new generation will be introduced with the α7/7R bodies.

    Sony already signaled its intentions with
    α APS-C cameras when it introduced the α3000 E mount camera. Complain all you will about the α3000, but it's the future for Sony APS-C cameras. They're now down to just one mount (E) with APS-C across the board. That leaves 135mm, and that's what the α7/7R bodies are supposed to accomplish; one mount to rule them all. If Sony does continue to make α mount cameras, then it will be a lone successor to the α99. That will be Sony's only α mount camera until the E mount has enough lenses established to replace all the α mount lenses currently in stock.

  • Sony has a real digital back to compete with every other 135mm digital camera manufacturer. The α7/7R pair make a powerful digital back that can, with proper adapters, mount any other 135mm lens out there, even if it's just for manual focus. That means every Leica, Nikon, Canon, old Pentax, Minolta, Yashica, Olympus, whatever, from the original film days to today, can be mounted on those bodies and made to work at their designated 35mm focal lengths. No more funky cropping.

    Leica in particular, with its $7,000 M 240, is going to be hit particularly hard. There are only so many
    folks willing to buy a Leica body when a Sony α7/7R can be had for a fraction of the cost. And I would be willing to bet all sorts of my money that the Sony sensors are going to wipe the floor with the Leica sensors. When Leica is spoken of as legendary, it's the lenses first, then some of the bodies, and it's always the film bodies, not the digital.

    As for Nikon and Canon, this is an official notice that neither can make shit mirrorless cameras any more. As for Olympus and Pentax, I have no idea what will happen, but perpetual cynic that I am, I don't think it's all that good. Having said that I've watched Sony really screw things up in all its product lines. If Sony doesn't screw this up, then Sony will really create a powerhouse with its two new cameras. That's if Sony doesn't screw this up...


  • This marks the official end of the SLR. Curmudgeons and hipsters can and will scream all they want at the mirrorless electronic cameras, but the days of optical viewfinders are officially numbered with this release. And they should be. The arguments about the poor quality of EVFs can no longer stand against current and future releases. If the rumors are true, then the α7/7R will use the same EVF found in the Olympus E-M1, which should be a resounding endorsement of that EVF design and implementation. Every other manufacturer better get on the stick (I'm looking at you both, Canon and Nikon) or suffer the consequences.
I see the same kind of play being made by Sony that Olympus made when it shifted from 4:3rds to µ4:3rds. In Olympus' case it was a long and painful affair, with Olympus just now providing a decent µ4:3rds body, the E-M1, to properly operate all the legacy 4:3rds lenses. Sony hopefully has been paying attention and will have decent operation of α mount lenses on E mount bodies, especially 135mm glass, out of the gate. If the performance is good with these bodies then Sony will be able to retire the α mount as I predicted. If not, then Sony can use the α99 and its follow on as a back stop until the performance is tweaked. But α mount is going away just like 4:3rds did, and for the same general reason. Sony needs a unified camera mount that is scalable across still and video cameras, far lighter and more compact then its current pure α mount, and E mount is it.

I truly wish them great success.

since when did we send marines to syria? (FRAUD ALERT)

I haven't written one of these in a very long time. First, the little missive that landed in my spam folder this morning.
Dear Associate,

How are you doing my friend, great I guess! Now I know this mail will definitely come to you as a huge surprise, but please kindly take your time to go through it carefully as the decision you make will probably go a long way to determine my future and continued existence. First, let me introduce myself. I am Capt. David Michael, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Syria. I am desperately in need of assistance and I have summoned up courage to contact you. I am presently in Syria and I found your contact particulars in an address journal. I am seeking your assistance to evacuate the sum of $10,570,000 (Ten million Five Hundred and Seventy Thousand USD) to the States or any safe country; as far as I can be assured that it will be safe in your care until I complete my service here. This is no stolen money and there are no dangers involved.

SOURCE OF MONEY: Some money in various currencies was discovered and concealed in barrels with piles of weapons and ammunition at a location near one of President Assad’s old Presidential Palaces during a rescue operation and it was agreed by all party present that the money be shared amongst us. This might appear as an illegal thing to do but I tell you what? No compensation can make up for the risks we have taken with our lives in this hellhole. The above figure was given to me as my share and to conceal this kind of money became a problem for me, so with the help of a German contact working with the UN here (his office enjoys some immunity) I was able to get the package out to a safe location entirely out of trouble spot. He does not know the real contents of the package as he believes that it belongs to an American who died in an air raid, before giving up trusted me to hand over the package to his close relative. I have now found a secured way of getting the package out!
of Syria for you to pick up.

I do not know for how long I will remain here, as I have been lucky to survive two suicide bomb attacks by Pure Divine intervention. This and other reasons put into consideration have prompted me to reach out for help. If it might be of interest to you then Endeavor to contact me and we would work out the necessary formalities but I pray that you are discreet about this mutually benefiting relationship.

For more details please contact me via my private box: capt.davidmichael02@y7mail.com

Respectfully,
Capt.David Michael
United States Marine Corps. SYRIA
A quick Google search for "2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force" turned up this closed thread discussing the same scam from 2009 when "they" were in Iraq. Just substitute Syria for Iraq and President Assad for Saddam Hussein and you're done. Even the sum of money found wasn't changed.

Have fun, children, and remember to play safe on the Internets.

Update

Playing safe means taking what "hard hitting conservative" Mychal Massie has to say about Army troops from Ft. Hood Texas deploying to Syria with a copious amount of salt. You look it up, I refuse to link to it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

hidden dragon

my psychedelic lucy

More phrivolous phun with photography.

I named Lucy after Lucy van Pelt (from Peanuts, because of her attitude) and Lucy (in the Sky with Diamonds). The Olympus Key Line filter gives me a little psychedelica mixed with a cartoon-like line drawing effect. Perfect for Lucy and mixing metaphors this late morning.

I've been asked to "explain myself" as to why I took this photo. So here goes...
  1. People take themselves too seriously with photography. Whether it's putting down the cell phone photographer with their Instagram app or screaming that the only way to make Good Photography is with Expensive Full Frame gear, there are too many amateurs taking themselves too seriously and spending way too much money. I like to explore, to goof around. You learn more that way.
  2. I liked all the warm reds and pinks that popped out of the photo with the use of the Key Line art filter. Especially Lucy's pink nose. The red behind her head and the light orange from where the sun shone through her ears  helped to tied everything together.
  3. I like the way a lot of detail just dropped out of the photo where it wasn't needed, and stayed where I wanted it around Lucy's eyes.
  4. It's fun. I needed a humor break. And my blog did, too.
Olympus E-M5 using Key Line art filter and M.Zuiko 45mm wide open, SooC.

I'll start photographing more dour subjects next week. I promise.

Update

How's this for dour? Spooky? Scary?

a darker character
zombie cat

Same setup, using the Gentle Sepia art filter. Not sure what's so gentle about it, looks a little hard. Whatever. Besides, if the cats are going to lay about all day then they can earn their keep as subjects for my demented photography.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

crouching tyger

crouching tyger
eggssssss...

Time for a bit of silliness. Lulu on the edge of the kitchen table, stalking me as I was fixing breakfast. Little character will just about kill for scrambled eggs. So I grabbed the E-M5 for a quick one. Camera held down at her level and taken with the LCD flipped up. Touch-to-expose. Panasonic 25mm wide open. Post processed in Silver Efex Pro 2, using its Tri-X film effect.

state of my linux

Fedora 19 virtualized on my Windows 8 desktop

It's been a while since I commented about Linux. I've been very busy with my career changes as well as learning a new set of skills associated with that career change, including some travel. My use of Linux has settled down as a super-application that runs on top of my Windows 8 system (running on the Samsung Series 7 Chronos).

I have four distributions installed these days; Fedora 19, Linux Mint 15, CentOS 5 and CentOS 6. The CentOS installations are there primarily as my final testing sandboxes for RHEL 5 and 6, respectively. Otherwise I do my leading testing and development on Mint and Fedora, usually in that order.

Here's a quick rundown of my experiences and observations to date running Linux in this way.
  • Linux Mint 15. By far and away the cleanest and easiest to work with. Its gcc and clang/llvm installations aren't up-to-date with the latest and greatest as the versions installed on Fedora, so if I really need to check out the latest C++11 additions I fire up Fedora and check some things out. Otherwise it's easy, fast, and looks the best of the four.
  • Fedora 19. I would like to live totally in Fedora 19 since it has the latest kernel and C++ tool chain, but I can't. The biggest issue is their decision to include OpenVMware instead of supporting the regular installation of VMware's tools. I've tried to uninstall all OpenVMware packages (successfully) but when I try to install the regular VMware tools, it fails because it can't find C Linux headers, which it needs because the VMware tools are built on the system. Why do I need the regular VMware tools? Because shared directories are broken in OpenVMware and thus Fedora 19. If I want to move files from Fedora 19 to my notebook and back again, I have to stick a USB stick in the Samsung, put all the files on it, then mount the USB stick as an external device to Fedora. Move files back and forth as needed, then unmount the stick. A clumsy workaround, but a workaround. All the other Linux VMs see the shared drive under Windows 8, and so moving files around with them is no issue. That's a big deal when I'm doing some complicated development and testing.
  • CentOS5 and CentOS 6. Both of these are, as noted above, clones of RHEL 5 and 6, respectively. These are fired up when I need to do a full check under a RHEL environment before moving everything over to a "real" RHEL environment. The kernels and C/C++ tool chains are fairly ancient compared to current distributions, so I do no new development on either VM. Their ability to see the same shared drive on Windows 8 means that moving files around for testing is painless and fast.
  • Free BSD and PC-BSD 9.2. I did say Linux, didn't I? Bear with me... I got a wild hair to try to install Free BSD as a VM. It succeeded, but I wasn't at all happy with the final results. I tried to install both because I still have a soft spot for BSD Unix (especially DEC Ultrix), and I wanted to see if I was missing anything. In spite of running four Linux distributions, I'm still living in a Linux monoculture (kernel, libraries, tools are all the same, only the exterior desktops vary in small details). I figured it would be a Good Thing to have a real alternative to both Linux and Windows. But alas, it wasn't to be. After installing both and attempting to customize both (installing X on Free BSD was interesting), I gave up and just deleted both. Of the two I find PC-BSD to be the lesser of the two BSDs. If I go back into this I will install the kind of desktop I want, not KDE. I tried to install X on Free BSD and wound up with TWM (Tabbed Window Manager), which immediately killed Free BSD for me. I have since found instructions for installing Gnome. Free BSD with Gnome 2 looks quite a bit like CentOS5/6, so there may be hope there yet.
All of the Linux VMs are running the latest 64-bit Oracle Java, 7 update 40, as is Windows 8. Other languages, such as C++, are being supported by their various native compilers on all operating systems. Two of the four distributions, Fedora and Mint, are running Apache Tomcat 8 RC3. I develop on the VMs and then fire up a Windows 8 browser (usually Firefox or Chrome) to do the testing. VMware allows for a local notebook-based network, which works just fine for me.

Conspicuous by its absence is Mac OS X. Apple's intention of binding the OS to their machines and only their machines has led them to allowing only a direct install or a download from their OS X app store. I think Microsoft is heading in the same direction, although I can easily pick up ISOs of Windows operating systems and install into a VM if I need a Windows sandbox. But with Jobs dead and the kind of artsy-fartsy/process folks now in charge, the idea of real innovation that would allow anyone to work with the OS on non-sanctioned hardware is pretty much dead. I used to love the Apple // because it was just so wide open. But Jobs has truly and finally killed the real heart of innovation, the heart that drives true technology innovations. And building devices with special colors and curves is not what I'm talking about. That kind of tweaking is the technical equivalent of re-arranging the deck chairs on a very slowly sinking ship.

When it's time for me to buy a new machine I'm going to see if I can install hypervisor on the notebook and then all the operating systems as guests, including whatever the latest version of Windows is. I want it for development, but more significantly, I want to create sterile sandboxed systems for going around the web. The NSA revelations have made me re-think personal computing on many levels...

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

we are still the 99

I have kept my comments pretty much to myself with regards to the NSA's Orwellian surveillance systems, letting others far more articulate than I lay out the details and the repercussions of the fine mess we find now find ourselves in. Rather than parrot what's already been written I'd like to point out an interesting feature of this system of systems.

And it is a system of systems for gather copious amounts of information on all of us. Right now we're focused on the top level of this SoS, the NSA. The NSA, over time, has built interfaces into each and every participant for the express purpose of gathering the surveillance intelligence, either directly from participating Internet companies or from the web infrastructure itself.

Everyone is concentrating on the NSA at the center of this surveillance web, because that's convenient for the real owners of the surveillance web. The NSA didn't build it, contractors did, contractors like Booze Allen Hamilton. Government requested it be built, while the security industrial complex did the design and implementation. The NSA winds up being the willing stooges in this drama, paying for it all. All industry has to do is use the same interfaces and protocols, substituting their own control center for the NSA, and then sell the services back to the industry (and the subsequent 1%) as needed.


Why would industry do this? Bear with me a moment as I outline their ulterior motivation. I still remember what happened two years ago during Occupy Wall Street. Overwhelming civilian police force supported by real-time government surveillance was applied to a group of loosely organized, generally peaceful protesters. Because business as representing the 1% was scared shitless. Especially the high-technology businesses that are using their high technology to effectively destroy jobs that require some type of human labor. Whether it's through software (AI) or hardware (robotics, 3D printing), this latest revolution is destroying jobs without providing newer alternatives.

Think I'm crazy? There's an interesting article published by Gartner titled "As the digital revolution kills jobs, social unrest will rise." You should read it, because sooner or later it's going to wipe out all but the highest 1% in this society. And that's when this surveillance machinery that's been built over the last decade will really kick into high gear. And when the protests begin anew (and they will, you can count on it) and the jackboots hit the ground and our heads, then we're going to find out what it's really like to live in a dystopian society, one we've willingly fashioned and slept through the construction of.

Human Need Not Corporate Greed

Sunday, October 06, 2013

an example of my work from 1980

65c802 single board computer, circa 1980
I have carried this with me since I created it, starting in 1980, through my dating with my future wife, our marriage, and on down to my current home in Orlando. It's been sitting in its case in the garage until I went out today, pulled it out, and took these photos of it. It is a single board computer (SBC) designed and built around a 6502 processor, the same processor that wound up in the Apple ][ and the Commodore computers of the era (PET, VIC-20, and C-64).

And believe it or not, I can still power it up and it still works. More or less...
65c802 single board computer, circa 1980
This top-level view gives a better idea of the components and the density of the components. Again, keep in mind that this was built on a proto-board from the company I worked for at the time, Digital Communications Associates (DCA) of Atlanta. I was an engineer working for them (first a customer engineer, then a software engineer, then a field engineer; that last position is how I got to Orlando). It was interesting building this board because DCA used the Z-80 as the core of their SBC, then later, the Motorola 68000. I wanted to recreate, in essence, a cross between the Apple ][ and the C-64.

One reason I hang onto this board is the one lone chip from Rockwell International (you can see the logo on the lower 6522 chip), the conglomerate that made the Space Shuttle. Rockwell also had a chip division, and I picked up a kit of their industrial grade semiconductors back in the day. This board was initially meant for harsh industrial environments, not shirt-sleeve office areas.

Here were the specifications in a nutshell.
  • 4MHz 65C02 (before I put the board away in the garage, I upgraded the processor to a 65C802 and began to dabble with the extended 16-bit instructions).
  • Full 64K decoded address broken up between 48K SRAM, 16K EPROM, with 1K I/O. The SRAM addressing lost 1K to the I/O block.
  • Zero wait state/non refresh memory allowing for full 4MHz performance.
  • Western Digital WD 1770 IBM format compatible single-chip floppy disk controller (long since removed for another project). The Rockwell 6522 provided additional I/O controls on the floppy connector (see far left edge).
  • Phillips Electronics SCC 2692 Dual Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (DUART). These chips came with separate input and output ports as well as full blown UART control pins, baud rates up to 38.4K, quad buffer registers, and timers. I had two on the board at one time, one was taken off for another project.
When it was fully populated with all its parts and running at full bore it was capable of handling up to four 3.5" floppy disks, four separate serial channels, and capable of running with either the kernel and monitor I wrote, or a hacked version of Commodore Basic (yes, I said Commodore Basic) from the C-64. I'd disassembled C-64 Basic with an application called Sourcerer, modified the I/O routines to use my serial routines in my kernel, then loaded it into the SRAM from the floppy drives.

I'd gone to the trouble to write 6502 assembly routines to read, write, and manage the floppies using the MSDOS file system. That meant I could use an IBM PC with 3.5" floppies installed (720K only) as an intermediary to set up the floppies, writing files I could read via my SBC. I hated how Woz had created the floppy controller and totally incompatible floppy format for the Apple ][, and I was no fan of the Commodore 1541 floppy drive either. When it came time to add disks to my SBC, it was IBM format compatibility with MSDOS support all the way.

In this age of multi-gigabyte, multi-gigahertz cell phones, something like this limited and slow look ludicrous. But back in 1983 when it was finished it was a decent tool for driving other computers for testing. And when I finally added my modified C-64 Basic to the toolkit, it because even more flexible. It was the computer I wanted, something that was powerful and flexible and anywhere from four to eight times faster than the C-64 and the Apple ][ at that time. But I didn't push to productize it because I already saw the writing on the wall with the 16- and 32-bit processors that were hitting the market. For example, in 1985 I picked up a Compaq Computer 80386 computer as a loaner for evaluation. Just two years after I finished my SBC, and one year after adding a hacked Basic to my SBC. And keep in mind that the IBM PC was introduced back in 1981, and it was based on a 4.7MHz 8088, a 16-bit internal processor with an 8-bit buss.
65c802 single board computer, circa 1980
Just to show you how much a prototype it really was, here's the backside, all wire-wrapped. Yes, I wrapped every wire on every post using a commercial wire-wrap gun.

It's fun to pull out, and I could probably re-create this board with up-to-date parts and probably my old firmware source code reassembled for the new hardware. But that would detract my attention away from the 6502's spiritual descendant, the ARM processor and all the products built with it, like the majority of today's smartphones.

And I'll be writing about that in fairly short order.

what a long strange trip it's been

Ruby Moss Mouth
A ten-week old pup now going on five years
Sometime back in May of this year I passed something of a milestone. blogbeebe turned eight years old. Over those eight years it's managed to accret 1,500-plus posts about subjects ranging all over the map.

If you look over at the category cloud you can quickly find the top four or five topics I've written about. This isn't particularly rigorous as I've never been careful what topics to associate with any given article. But you can get a pretty good idea where my overall thoughts have been over the last eight years.

When I first started this blog I had no idea where I'd be going with it. I had a vague idea it would be a purely geek type of blog, with entries about my encounters with languages (Java primarily) and software systems (Linux primarily). You'll find some Java entries, and some ancillary Java subjects, such as for Netbeans, but nothing quite like I thought I would write. You will find more than a few Linux entries scattered over the last eight years, but Linux entries sit third behind Digital Photography at number 1 and Olympus at number 2. Funny how all that works out.

I could, like some blogs, go through and delete a whole bunch of entries as if I were trying to hide something I did or said. But this isn't some high-volume site and anyway, who would really care one way or the other? The word 'blog' is a shortened form of 'web log', which was intended to be the digital equivalent or a person's personal diary. And diaries were supposed to be a dead-tree way of keeping a daily record or events and our personal experiences. My blog is certainly not daily, although I tried that throughout 2011 and the first half of 2012. Now I've fallen back on bad habits, where I might write one entry/week. Writing, especially quality writing, is a very hard thing to do. Especially if you're writing not just for yourself but for the Internet audience that might be following you. There's that public embarrassment thing again...

The past eight years (and the years that will follow) are a record, however incomplete and skewed, of my view of the world. If you read it from start to finish you'll note how narrowly focused it all is, and how limited its view of the world. I'm a selfish human being, and my blog reflects that.

I have no idea where the next years will go. A lot has happened to me since November of 2011 when I came back from a Detroit business trip and wound up in the ER, what with my knee operation a year later, then earlier in 2013 with my thankfully short layoff, and all the turmoil in between both personal as well as happening in the world, especially with the revelations about what the NSA is doing as well as the current government shutdown. See, I do pay attention.

It's just that I have no really good thoughts to add to the discussion. All too often I read a lot on the web that does nothing more than add to the noise in the Internet echo chamber instead of helping all concerned come to a compromise and a common consensus (I'm looking at you, Fox News). If anything what the NSA revelations have done is caused me to question my involvement on the web in any way, shape, or form. It's caused me to delete my Facebook account a second time. Even if my second Facebook account only had six friends.

As I mentioned earlier the web log/blog was viewed as a digital replacement for the old-style diary. But I've never treated my blog like a diary, but more like my engineering notebooks. My dead tree notebooks were, and still are, a ledger of results of my actions in order to properly document what the results were of a particular experiment or train of development. You documented everything so that you could reproduce it at a later time, either yourself or by others. When I pushed to write daily for eighteen months starting in January 2011, that was actually unusual for me and the blog.

So now what? I'm headed towards a very large, very personal milestone in December, one that I'll write about when it happens. It's as if my life has been shifting course for the past two years. Towards what, I have no idea, although I have some vague ideas. I've come out of the last two years a bit more toughened, yet paradoxically a bit more sensitive to the world at large. My children are in their mid-twenties now, and my wife and I are "single parents" again. We spend more time together traveling, and I've grown closer to my wife in spite of what she might think otherwise.

I'm in this blog business for the long term. And by the long term, until the day I die or the blog dies, whichever comes first. I'm reaching a point in my life where I should be thinking about retirement, but paradoxically (again) I've been thinking about retirement for some time now, with the solid knowledge that unlike my parents, I'll never be able to retire. I'll have to work for as long as I possible can, physically and mentally. That's just the way the world has worked out for me.

Part of it is that the retirement system that took the place of the pensions my parents have was blown up starting around 40 years ago. But a bigger part is what retirement means in this country. It means taking your winnings and going off to play until you finally die. It means walking away from all the problems you helped cause and letting the next generation, your children and their children, deal with them. And I can't do that.

I don't know what I can do so help solve them, but walking away and living the rest of my life in God's waiting room is no solution. I'm going to be creatively contributing to a better world until the day they box my up for my dirt nap. And this blog, God and Google willing, will continue to document that, imperfect a reflection that may be.