Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ken Rockwell on DSLR Sensor Cleaning

Love him or hate him, Ken Rockwell calls 'em they way he sees 'em and I find is point of view refreshing and useful. But this note he wrote on November 29th, 2009 Ken Rockwell, is a just flat out FUD and it's disappointing to see it coming from Ken.

I'd never, ever touch my sensor. I personally know people who really have destroyed $5,000 cameras when they tried sensor swabs or whatever other Hillbilly junk is out there for do-it-yourselfers. If I can't get it off with a Shop-Vac or blower bulb, I send my camera back to its manufacturer.
If you try touching your sensor with anything, you'll just as likely wind up sending you camera to meet its maker in a different sense.
This is the email I sent him in response:
SUBJECT LINE: I clean my senor, yes I do
Actually no, I don't clean my sensor. I clean the glass that sits on my sensor.
I'm sorry to say this Ken, but you really are helping to spread the FUD that surrounds senor cleaning and that is a disservice to your readers.
Are you afraid of cleaning your windows? Do you pay someone $100 to clean one square inch of glass?
I've cleaned my D70 at least half a dozen times with sensor swabs and cleaning solution from VisibleDust ( that I bought at B&H Photo.
You are lucky to live and shoot in a dry climate. But here in the Northeast, I work outside in and around flowing water. It is a moist environment. In this environment, moister and dust combine to make very sticky particles that just will not come off the senor by blowing on it. The moisture essentially welds the dust onto the sensor.
Camera shops love this business, it's basically highway robbery. My local camera shop charges $110 and keeps the camera for a week to clean the sensor. I spent about $50 on cleaning supplies that will last a dozen cleanings. It takes me about ten minutes to clean my sensor. At home. Whenever it needs it. An honest camera shop would charge $15 or $20 and do it while you wait.
I enjoy your site and have learned a lot from it, thank you.
Best regards,
James Fryer
 I received no response which is understandable, he no doubt gets loads of emails everyday. And I don't need a response, what I need is for him to not post any more harmful information.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What photo gear to travel with

Determining the right photographic equipment to bring when traveling can be a painful balancing act. Bring too much and you will not only hurt you back and miss a lot of shots as you juggle lenses, but will no doubt be subjected to the unapproving gaze of your spouse. Bring too little and you are constantly haunted by the shot 'that might have been' had you only had the perfect lens, filter, body, flash, etc.

Nikon D70
Nikon 60mm Macro
Sigma 10-20mm

Nikon N75
Nikon 28-200mm
Nikon 24mm

Nikon FG
Nikon 100mm
Nikon 24mm
I've got it easy, I like wide and macro. I bring only my super wide angle Sigma 10-20mm and my Nikon 60mm Macro (also doubles as a short telephoto, but the 105mm would be better still). If I want to go crazy (and I usually do), I throw in my small and lite 35mm f1.8, a great lens for candid and low light. Actually, a great lens all around and a worthy choice all by itself because it is small, lite, and offers a nice balance of not being too wide or too long.

The conventional wisdom says to just bring the super zoom. Sure, Nikon's 18-200mm has won praise and does seem to have it all. But is doesn't. First: it's huge, second: it's slow - f3.5-5.6 (Okay, for this range that is impressive, but still it's slow compared to primes): third: the wide end has so much barrel distortion that it borders on being a fish-eye. But, it does offer good macro performance.

Another option to make sure your are carrying what you will actually shoot with is get all your favorite photographs into a program like Lightroom or Picasa. Both these programs (and most others) will show you a lot of the detail recorded as meta data in each image. You can look through and see what your most used focal lengths are and that should be a good indicator as to what lenses you should bring.

In Picasa, you can see this data by double clicking on an image (so it fills the window) and then click on the little propeller beanie in the lower right side. In Lightroom, switch to the Library module and expand the Metadata tab on the right. The data might not be available if you have already processed the photo, saving the image will often strip this data from the file.

But maybe you need to go with as little gear as possible, maybe only one lens. That can be a tough call, unless you think outside the box a little. Here's my advice for going lite, find your single favorite lens and pack that. Don't worry if it's a macro or ultra wide angle, or long telephoto. You won't regret taking your favorite lens because, well, it's your favorite lens right? Now, to make up for what ever you are missing, grab your point and shoot.

Yep, it's that simple. Stop worrying about every shot being perfect, you'll get great shots with your big DSLR paired to your favorite lens, you will get the shots you really want and they will be great. For everything else, there will be that small point and shoot that is smaller than even an external flash for your DSLR. It will likely cover a wide range from wide angle to telephoto.

Other benefits of caring that point and shoot:

  • Video: Not only video, but good, easy video. Sure, some new DSLRs do video now, but they don't do it very well unless you have a film (as in motion picture film) degree and a boat load of lenses.
  • Range: Even modest point and shoot cameras have 3 to 6 times zooms, with 8 to 12 times zoom becoming more common. There are lot of compromises in these designs, but again, this is just to catch all the other stuff that is outside you main interest. And most have very good macro modes.
  • Options: Having a second, less expensive and much smaller camera gives you options. There may be times when traveling that you don't want to lug around a big clunky DLSR, or when it is not safe or just not feasible. But you can always slip that point and shoot into your pocket and remember, the best camera is the one you have with you.
  • More Options: There are a lot of water proof and ruggedized point and shoots coming out now. How about that, can your DSLR shoot under water or can you drop it six feet without breaking? What could be worse than a broken camera on vacation? That's a rhetorical question, I really don't want you to answer that.

I have a great little Canon A720 IS. Unfortunately it is no longer available, but Canon has plenty of similar cameras. Its focal range is equivalent to 35-210mm, does great macro, is relatively fast with a maximum aperture of f2.8, and has Image Stabilization to really boost it's low light performance. And shooting at ISO 80 and reducing its resolution from 8 to 5 or 3 mega pixels does help reduce the noise inherent with small point and shoot sensors.

Paired with my Sigma 10-20mm, I have an equivalent range of 15-210mm in much less space than what most people need for the equivalent of 28-300mm.

My point and shoot is also a great companion to the all around 35mm f1.8 (52.5mm equivalent) on my Nikon D70. I can pull it out when I need to go a little wider, or a whole lot longer.

Most DSLRs use the cropped sensor, so the lens length is different on these, but if you are lucky enough to have one of the professional level 'full frame' DSLRs, my favorite travel lens is a 24mm. It is great for architecture and people. I can shoot one person from head to toe, or a group of people without having to move back 30 feet. It lets me stay with them, almost like I'm part of the family and not just the photographer. You know, so I can actually be with my family on vacation. It won't do head shots though. Well, it will, you can get close enough, but you won't like the results. For that, and real low light situations, add a small and lite 50mm. If you still feel the need for the long telephoto, add a point and shoot. The Nikon 24mm is not much bigger than the Nikon 50mm and when paired to an Nikon N75, takes up very little space and needs only a small bag to carry. Yes, that's right, that's a film camera. Guess what, it works great for travel (and it is a lot cheaper than a full frame DSLR). The body is much smaller and so are older prime lenses so your whole kit gets much smaller. Sure, I have to carry around film, but I find it a lot easier to stash a few roles of film on my person than to make room for a big DSLR and its correspondingly huge lenses. And old film bodies are so cheap that you really don't have to worry about them. If they break or get lost, it is not the end of the world.

The N75 and its lenses are relatively large in comparison to a rangefinder and its lenses. If ultra portability is the goal, you really can't beat a rangefinder. But, they don't have any really long telephoto lenses, so if that's you bag, give rangefinders a pass.

And of course, you could just go with a point and shoot. The Panasonic LX3 is, by all accounts, a phenomenal camera, but it has very short range, 24-60mm. There are plenty of other great options these days. It seems like the camera makers have finally stopped with their insane megapixel arms race and are not making some cameras that really are better. Canon has done a nice job with the new G11 and the S90.

There is also a whole new field of cameras with good interchangeable lenses based on the micro four-thirds sensor, the Panasonic Lumix GF1 being my favorite. The Olympus PEN E-P1 being another favorite. Both are significantly smaller than a DSLR. Their sensors are in between a consumer DSLR and a point and shoot, but the image quality is much closer to that of the DSLR. These are essentially the modern version of the old range finders, and in the right hands, I have seen some startlingly good results.

Please, do yourself a favor and don't buy that ridiculous camera backpack. Do your really want to lug that to the top of a mountain, or even a small hill. Pack lite, pack to go, be ready to shoot. Don't waste time switching lenses. Don't risk dropping your prized lenses into a 1000 foot chasm. First and foremost, have fun when you travel, engage with the people around you and use only your single best camera with your signal best lens to get those truly memorable shots. Don't waste time with all the trivial shots everyone else is trying to get. Better to come back with three grade A shots that you print out and hang on your wall than 2000 snapshots that won't every go past your hard drive.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Showing Photographs at Northern Westchester Hospital

My work will be on display at the Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, New York from September 24th 2009 through March 15th 2010.

In response to the call for, "calm, peaceful, joyful, uplifting, colorful, bright, abstract or realistic", I picked several images from my water series and one large rose.

The reception for friends and family is on October 3rd, 2009 from 3pm to 5pm.

Arts & Edibles in Memory of Jonathan D. Pfeffer - 2009

I am participating in the second annual Arts & Edibles Fund Raiser in Memory of Jonathan D. Pfeffer benefiting the Lexington Center for Recovery.

I will have three photographs on display at Spinelli's Italian Restaurant in Mount Kisco on September 13th, 2009 from 2pm to 6pm.

Tickets cost $35 prior to the event and $40 at the door. For sponsorship information, artist participation or to purchase tickets, call (914) 666-0191 or visit the Lexington Center for Recovery web site.

Two trolleys will wind around the trail, making stops at various local restaurants at which attendees may dine on tasty treats. While enjoying the local cuisine, trolley riders can browse and purchase artwork from Hudson Valley artists on display at each location.

Participating restaurants include:

  • A Taste of Jamaica
  • Basilico
  • Big Apple Bagels
  • Cafe of Love
  • French American Bistro
  • La Camilia
  • Lefteris Gyro
  • Lexington Square Cafe
  • Mango Cafe
  • Passage to India
  • Pierros
  • Spinelli's
  • Starbucks
  • Temptation Tea House
  • The Fish Cellar
  • Tuscan Oven
  • Via Vanti
  • Woody's on Main

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cheap hotels and motels are better than fancy five star hotels

I have traveled a lot, both professionally and for pleasure. I have stayed at some complete dives as well as some great places, including five star hotels. Fancy hotels and five star hotels have been OK, from my point of view, worthy of only three stars. The cheap hotels and motels are generally first rate, four or five stars.

When I am traveling, I have simple needs. I want a clean room with a good shower and free WiFi. Nail those things and you get four stars. If your hotel/motel has a great location or the staff is especially helpful and friendly, you get another star.

Now let me pick on a couple of the five star hotels I've stayed at:

Ritz Carlton, South Beach
Sure, it was swanky, but they missed the details and that is what makes the difference between good and perfection. Location was good. But, the bathroom door was broken as was one of the side tables, that's pretty tacky, -1. No free WiFi, super tacky, -1. We checked in late with a tired two year old. We wanted to go straight to bed, but a knock at the door at 10pm wakes the baby. It's a steward with a some late night night complementary snack or something. Hello, we just checked in with a tired two year old! Thanks for waking him up, now get out! -1. Five minus three leaves you with two stars, bravo.

Wynn, Las Vegas
Impressive if odd designed rooms, very, very big, very spacious, totally over the top. The bathroom was bigger than most motel rooms I've stayed at. Not my style, but it is top tier for what it is. We had some trouble when checking in as well as some billing issues, but the staff were very responsive and acted with a great deal of professionalism. They knew they were working at a five star hotel and were more than up to the challenge. Rooms were clean, shower was great. But, no free WiFi, very tacky, -1. Seriously, it costs you next to nothing to offer this to your guests, you offer free HD TVs with free cable, that costs considerably more than free internet access. And the internet access charge was not all that much, so it is not like it's a big profit center, it's just tacky. Tacky, tacky, tacky. That leaves the Wynn as a four star.

Some Nameless Five Star Hotel in Shenzhen, China
I went there in 2000 and only stayed there one night and I just can't remember anything about it other than it cost me a whopping $34, it was beautiful, and the staff were great. I have vague recollection that it did have free (or maybe really, really cheap) wired internet access (2000 would have been a little early for WiFi). OK, fair enough, that really was a five star hotel.

Compared to The Holiday Inn Express in Quakertown, PA
Clean room, free WiFi, friendly staff, and though I have not tried the shower yet, the best lit bathroom I've ever seen. It's like a professional lighting studio. Not only is the WiFi free, it's also trouble free, no stupid sign in screens. I hopped on the network from both my iPod touch and my laptop. It's a little early to be calling this one, but it's at least a four star with a good chance of another star.

See, what is comes down to is, you just have to make me comfortable and happy. Oh, and don't be tacky.

What really annoys me is that all the fancy hotels have free cable TV, but I honestly can't remember the last time I turned on a TV in a hotel room. Yet, the one cheap thing that I really want, free WiFi, I have to pay for. And I have to pay for it each day. The cost is usually $10 to $15 a day. So, in as little as three days, I get to pay the hotel for internet access as much as I pay at home for a whole month!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Texas Furniture Makers Show 2009

Ten years! The TENTH Annual Texas Furniuture Makers Show will be held in Kerrville, TX and run from October 22 to December 5, 2009.

More information and entry form can be found at the KACC web site.

The Kerr Art & Culture Center has rounded up another great set of judges for this year's show:

  • Jonathan Binzen of New Milford, CT is a nationally known craftsman, author, contributing editor for Fine Woodworking Magazine and photographer specializing in furniture and architecture.
  • Spider Johnson of Mason, TX is a professional artist, writer, furniture maker, wood marquetry master and musician.
  • Curtis Whittington of Boerne, TX is a professional furniture maker and master craftsman.
Two dozen woodworkers have already been accepted into the show during the early registration period. If you are a Texas furniture maker, hurry to get your entry application in before August 15th.

As in past years, there will be a review with the judges the day after the reception. This is one the the smartest and most valuable programs any furniture show anywhere does.

Also, this year's continuing education will be, "The Contemporary Scene in Handmade Furniture" by show judge Jonathan Binzen.

The reception and awards ceremony will be on November 7th, 2009.

Cash Awards:
First Place - Best in Show: $1000
Best Craftsman Award: $750
Best Design Award: $750
Best Contemporary Style Furniture: $750
Best Traditional Style Furniture: $750
Best Texas Style Furniture: $750
Best Whimsical / Art Furniture Style: $750
Woodcraft's People's Choice: $300
Best Apprentice Furniture Maker: $250
Hill Country Turner's Choice Award: $100

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Google OS

Announced today, Google will create a computer operating system to compete with Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux named Google Chrome OS.

Initially, Google will be making Chrome OS for netbooks, a smart place to start as there are fewer compatibility issues with the simpler netbook computers. It is a good place for Google to cut its teeth on a new operating system. Google is currently working with netbook vendors and reports that Chrome OS will be shipping on netbooks by the middle of next year. After that, the implication from their announcement is that it will work its way up into laptops and then desktops.

Will it run Microsoft Office? Will it run Adobe Creative suite? Will it run games? This question is more up to the creators of those applications than it is to Google. Microsoft, Adobe, and game makers will have to develop their applications for Chrome OS. Will they? This is a very important aspect of Chrome OS to watch, which application developers commit to creating, or porting, their applications for Chrome OS?

Will Chrome OS become a full operating system like Microsoft XP/Vista/7, Apple's OS X, and Ubuntu? It is too early to tell really what Google's full intentions are. They may be only targeting the casual netbook market. That market is both small and vulnerable. It is an awkward market as it sits between ever improving Smart Phones that are much smaller and full on laptops that are much more capable. Netbooks don't generally fill the role as a primary computer, they are secondary machines for convenience. Because of this the whole netbook category may just disappear. And there is a chance that if Google is not quick enough, Chrome OS might slip away with it.

Personally, I am very interested in Chrome OS. I use XP everyday and OS X a couple of times a week. I would use OS X more, except that the applications I use everyday are on XP and, as a web designer, I have to test my work on the most common browser, Internet Explorer anyway. Thankfully I am savvy enough to keep my machine clean without having to run any crushingly awful anti-virus software.

But, it sure would be nice to have a cleaner, faster, and more reliable operating system. There is by no means any guaranty that Google can deliver, I am wary as to whether or not they can deliver. For comparison, their web browser Chrome is great and it is my primary browser. But, I am typing this post out in Firefox because, ironically enough, Blogger (a Google property) does not work well inside Chrome. If Google can't get its own web applications to run perfectly in their own browser, how well are they going to be able to get everyone elses applications to run on their own operating system?

Another interesting question is who does this hurt and who does this help?

On the hurt side, Microsoft is the obvious target. As Rob Enderle said, "This is the first time we have had a truly competitive OS on the market in years. This is potentially disruptive and is the first real attempt by anyone to go after Microsoft." Except, of course, it is not. Rob apparently has not heard of a small company down in California called Apple. Which is funny as he tries to pass himself off as some kind of PC industry expert. I guess Rob has not noticed Apple's ever increasing market share? Or that on several college and university campuses Apple usage is over 20%? He also seems to be jumping the gun a bit here, Google does not yet have Chrome OS out. And their first foray into netbooks is a year away. So, it's not really, "...on the market.." He, and most other 'industry pundits' seem to be missing the story hear, I guess due to their Microsoft bias.

The interesting question is, how does this really effect the market? My best guess is that it has potential to hurt Apple more than Microsoft. This is because people who have a choice in what operating system they use often look for something better, faster, more reliable, and easier to use. Regardless of what fanboys on either side say, that better operating system is OS X. It is easier, it is faster (mostly), it is more reliable. It is my humble opinion that most people who use Windows are either forced to because of business issues, or they just don't know enough to look at something else. Microsoft clearly has a hold on the business community with applications like Exchange, Outlook, and MS Office. At least for the moment, Google Wave may change that. And I think Wave is more of an immediate threat to Microsoft than Chrome OS is because it might open up the business market. If that happens, the operating system people choose to use will be much less important. That, in turn, opens the door for competing operating systems to go up against Windows.

But back to why Chrome OS is bad for Apple. If Chrome OS looks to be a really strong operating system, it might draw away application developers from the Mac platform (OS X). That would be bad, because, as Steve Ballmer once said, "Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers, Developer...." Good developers (who seem to be turning more and more to the Mac) are what drive great applications and that in turn drives the market. If Apple looses developers, Apple is less relevant.

Also, because most Apple users have a choice in what operating system they use, they can switch much more easily. If Chrome OS is as good or better then OS X, then Apple has a real problem. Except that Apple is a smart and creative company that may well figure out a way to be more competitive. Apple's reaction will be very interesting. Google and Apple are quite friendly, and they will both be running on the same core (Linux). Who knows, maybe Chrome OS will be sold on Apple hardware, maybe Chrome OS will become OS 11 (because ours goes to 11)? This is just crazy talk at this point, but with Apple and Google, I don't take anything for granted.

Monday, July 06, 2009


Jeff Reese, AKA, "Solomon Kane" is a cool guy. He is a big guy, an imposing guy, a gentle guy, a sympathetic guy, a caring guy, a giving guy, a thoughtful guy, a trustworthy guy, a religious guy, a philosophical guy, a surprising guy, and a creative guy. Definitely a creative guy.

I met him many years ago when I lived in Houston and had a gallery. I was a little suspicious of Jeff the first time I met him. At the time, I was not used to people being so forthright and it threw me a little. But, thankfully for me, it did not take long to realize what Jeff is, Jeff is true.

He is a cop. He also makes trippy, colorful, crazy, and mind-bending paintings.

The point of my rambling is that I was very happy to see that he has been getting some press lately. Bravo Jeff and good luck.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Google Wave

What is Google Wave?

Google Wave is a 'next generation' email system. It takes cues from Gmail and builds a new model for conversation over the web. A simplistic way of looking at it is to say that it is a mash up of an email app, IM client, Wiki, blog, and photo sharing site. A more sophisticated way of seeing it is as email reimaged, or thinking about how one would build a communication system on the web starting from scratch.

Google Wave not only changes how we use email, but also how the nuts and bolts of it work. Resources (like images) are uploaded once and then shared where ever they need to be, in a document, a photo album, a blog, etc... And Wave will allow 'drag and drop' of images (and maybe other files?) into the browser directly from your desktop onto the web.

Instant Message or Email? Yes, both.

Currently, during an Instant Message conversation, each person waits while the other types. No more, as one person types, the other sees each word, indeed each letter, as they are typed. This instant and continual connection is what dissolves the line between what an email is and what an instant message is. Conversations can be conducted as they would in a current email environment, or can be treated like a chat session.

You say 'Conversation' I say 'Wave'

One of Gmail's innovations was the inventions of 'conversations'. In the 'old days', emails would be bounced back and forth between users and would whined up scattered across the inbox. But Gmail automatically consolidated all these emails into on expandable conversation. The new basic unit in Google Wave is simply called a Wave which is basically the same thing as a current Gmail conversation, but on steroids (legal ones of course). A Wave can be replied to like a conventional email, or the recipient can insert a reply anywhere in the original wave, so the reply has context. In addition, the recipient can edit the original email, treating it like a collaborative document.

This free wheeling editing capability could get confusing and downright dangerous if not for a basic feature built into the frame work of Google Wave: a timeline. This timeline can be used to 'roll back' the conversation within the wave to see who added or deleted what and when. It is a simple and intuitive method of tracking changes and makes this whole email thing much more elegant. You can seamlessly flow from a typical 'email' into a collaborative document to a chat and back again, the hole time being able to see exactly where the story started and how it grew.

Bona Fide

If it is not clear just how big of a step forward this is, know that Wave is from the same guys who did Google Maps. Google Maps completely revolutionized online maps. Every other mapping system has been chasing (copying) Google Maps for years. I expect the same will be true of Wave.

Mobile Integration

The developers of Google Wave have worked very hard to make all different kinds of communication seamless. Wave can be used like the email you know and love or like IM. But the developer's zeal for seamlessness did not stop there, they built the system from the ground up to work beautifully both on your desktop and on your mobile phone. There certainly is a difference between the mobile and desktop versions, but the parity between them far exceeds the differences.

For you, for me, it's free, it's Open Source.

Not only is the design and functionality of Wave extraordinary, but so is Google's approach to the platform, they are giving it away. Anyone can download and install Wave on their own server and run with it, no strings attached. The code is open and the dev team has made is easy to create 'extensions' that make Wave do what you want it to do. This is extremely powerful, what we have seen of Wave so far really is just the early iterations of the dev team, but Wave is more a frame work than a final product. I expect that Wave will evolve in many different ways in the coming years and that has the power to solidify it's continued success.

But when a developer takes Wave and makes it his own, that does not leave the developer on his own lonely product fork. Nope, Google Wave is designed to work with variants of itself. You can customize it and still have it play nice with someone else's customized Wave.

Plays nice with social networks

As I mentioned at the top, one of the core ideas is to create the content once and share it where every you want. That means plopping a Wave component down into your FaceBook page, should you be so inclined. Post a 'Wave' to blog? Sure thing, and it retains all its 'Wave like' properties. If you update the Wave, the Blog reflects that change as you change it.

Powerfully extensible

Google not only lets people mess with Wave, they want people to mess with Wave. The Wave dev team created a simple API for creating extensions. By doing this, they have invited a lot of people to the party. Think about how successful Firefox has become, in no small part because that is what they did. There are thousands of extensions for Firefox that let it do all kinds of things from grabbing video from YouTube to notifying you when you have a new email. Google is not staffed by dummies and they are not to proud to take a play out of the Firefox's playbook.

The Wave dev team has built a few of their own extensions to get the ball rolling. One of the most impressive is Rosie that instantly translates Waves into your language, letting you chat (in real time) with someone typing in a foreign language.

Other examples of Wave's extensions are:

  • Integrated with Twitter
  • Play Chess in real time in a Wave
  • (the aforementioned) ability to automatically post a Wave to a blog
And in this corner, from Redmond, Washington...

Wave is in beta now, open only to a select group of developers. It is scheduled to be released at the end of the summer (2009). As it stands, one glaring omission from Wave is calendar functionality. I have little doubt that it will be added in at some point. Maybe it is such a large feature set that it was not ready for the preview. Or maybe that functionality will be added through an extension. Or maybe, just maybe Google did not want to scare Microsoft too much.

I can not know or speculate if Google intentionally targeted Microsoft's Exchange server (that runs most company's email systems) or if the threat that Wave posses to Exchange is just a byproduct of Google's desire to build the next generation internet communication platform. Either way, Wave certainly is the scariest thing to happen for Microsoft since Firefox. In fact, it is significantly scarier.

If Wave proves to be reliable and secure, Exchange will have a competitor like nothing it has seen before. IT departments around the world will have the option of a wildly powerful, extensible, and controllable communications platform in Wave. And it is free. Compared to a buggy, semi-secure, closed, and expensive alternative (Exchange).

Wave lacks two things that Exchange has; Exchange is the leader so it is what IT departments know, and Exchange has integration with Outlook's calendar features. Outlook lets a company know who is doing what, when, and where. It is a massively powerful tool. If and when Wave adds similar (or, based on what we have seen from Wave so far, superior) features, Microsoft will be in real danger of loosing it's grip on the business market and by extension, it's grip on the operating system market. Oh, did I not mention, because Wave is completely web based, it does not matter what operating system people are using to access it, it is all the same. Unless you are running Internet Explorer which was distinctly absent from the list of browsers that Wave will work in. But then, if you are still running Internet Explorer, you have bigger problems...

There is a lot of work still to do on Wave, and a lot of ground it has to cover before it can even be considered a threat to Microsoft. But, in my mind, it is the first real challenge that could be a serious threat to Microsoft as a whole.

And to be frank, Microsoft does not look to be in a position to deal with a serious competitor right now. They look better now than they have for years, they are set to release Windows 7 that may be their first operating system that does not suck since Windows 2000. They recently launched their new search engine, 'bing' that also does not suck. It may even be on par with Google. But, 'not sucking' is no way to compete with a serious threat. And when you release a new product, it can not be 'just as good as', it needs to be better, otherwise who cares?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Third Place

I was awarded third place in the photography catagory for Mega-Mum at this years Katonah art show.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Katonah Art Show

The Women's Civic Club of Katonah is holding the 2009 Annual Beaux Arts Exhibit at the Katonah Library. The show runs from May 18th through the 23rd. The reception will be on Saturday May 23rd, 2009 from 2pm until 4pm.

I have two photography works in the show:

Flower Kaleidoscope

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Microsoft has dumb customers

Microsoft features 'real' people in their new ads who are looking for laptops and, surprise, they find that PCs running Windows are better for them than Macs.

The first 'shopper' up was the now infamous Lauren who says she is on a strict $1000 budget. Why such a strict budget Lauren? You are driving a VW Beetle that costs a good $10,000 more then a nice little Honda or Toyota. It's a vanity car. I don't know much about clothes, but yours look trendy and expensive. And, in the end, you are 'drawn' to one laptop because of its looks.

So, the idea that you are on a budget, or that you are too smart to get suckered into the Mac simply for its design is flat our ridiculous. In reality, 9 out of 10 Laurens wind up buying a Mac

Second 'shopper' up is Giampaolo. He says he is 'technically savvy'. He drives a Ford Probe, 'nuf said.

Also note that none of these shoppers seem to do any research until they hit the floor at their local Best Buy. That's just dumb.

I'm going on about this because it is really sad that Microsoft just can't figure out how to find an ad agency with a brain.

Oh, and I own a Mac (I got a good deal on it). And I run Windows on it. And I drive a Toyota Matrix. It's not pretty or hip (it is downright ugly) but it was cheap, reliable, and is like a mini truck when I put the rear seats down.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


People are very upset about bonuses handed out to AIG execs. Granted, it is rather shameless for AIG to be continuing down the same seemingly greed driven path they have been on, but let's keep two things in mind. First, we don't know why the bonuses were given. There is a slight chance that these execs made some kind of herculean effort that minimized AIG's loses. Maybe without these people things would be a whole lot worse. I'm just saying it's possible. Second, it's only $165 million. That is just peanuts in the greater scheme of things. No, actually it's less then that, it's peanut shells.

Yes, it sickens me that a bunch of greedy bastards who screwed up royally are getting even more compensation for their irredeemable behavior, but this huge uproar over it is simply a side show we don't have time for. We and out leaders should be focusing on fixing the larger economic problems at hand. Spending this much time over how $165 was used is just stupid.

And, it's not AIG's fault, it was written into law. There was an amendment added that allowed any bonus stipulated before February 11, 2009 to be paid out. So can we really blame AIG for handing them out? Well, of course we can, but the bigger issue here is were did that amendment come from. There is a lot of finger pointing, but no one is fessing up.

This amendment is the much, much bigger breach of ethics then the bonuses themselves, because it is a grotesque use of political power. We need to stop talking about the bonuses and simply have the Senate setup an investigation into who added the amendment. It does not have to be a big show, put just enough people on it to get it sorted out. Once we know who did it, we know who will be resigning. Or, if they are too stupid and cowardly, who will be expelled from the Senate.

It is a bit ironic, but if the White House and Congress would spend even one percent of the time they have spent on this circus on each and every $165 million they spend, we wouldn't be in this mess to begin with.

Friday, March 13, 2009

AdSense Interest-Based Advertising

Over the coming months, Google will be rolling out a new feature to their AdSense system called "Interest-Based Advertising". If you are not familiar with AdSense, scroll down a little and a look in the right hand column. See the light blue box that says at the top, "Ads by Google"? That is AdSense. Ads in that box are automatically placed there by Google. Google scans the content of my site and figures out which ads match that content. I write about photography a lot, so most of the ads are photography related. I get a couple of pennies every time those ads are clicked.

With this new "Interest-Based Advertising" system, Google will change the way it determines which ads will appear. Ad selection will now be, at least in part, determined by a visitor's profile that has been built up over time. What that means is that Google will track your movements on the Internet and determine what you are interested in. Don't get paranoid, it can only track you on Google properties and sites with AdSense. Google requires all participating sites to disclose this in their Privacy Policy. If you look at a lot of photography related sites, Google will think you are a photographer and show you photography related ads. It will not matter too much which site you are on, if the site has AdSense, Google will populate that site with photography ads.

This is the logical path for Google to follow, but I'm not crazy about it and think that, to some extent, it is a bad idea. It too easily pigeon-holes a person into being one type of shopper, in essence, one type of person. Sure, I look at a lot of photography equipment, but what if I decide I want to start scuba diving? If I go to a scuba blog, will I still see ads for photography? Now, it's reasonable to assume that Google will eventually realize I am now a photographer and a scuba diver, but how long does that take?

This may water down the effectiveness of AdSense as there will always be a lag between what Google thinks my interests are and what my interest is at that moment. For instance, if I go to a blog about baby cribs to read up on those for the first time, AdSense may show me ads for photography, because that is what Google has determined my interest to be. Well, I'm not shopping for photo gear, I'm shopping for cribs. Eventually, Google will figure that out, but that is of no use to that first web site I went to. That web site owner won't get any of my clicks because they are not relevant to what I want right now. This, ironically, may hurt the most relevant web sites that show up at the very top of Google search results as you will look at those sites before Google has a chance to figure out that you are now looking for cribs.

Can I turn "Interest-Based Advertising" off?

Yes, Interest-Based Advertising can be turned off. Both as a web site owner and a surfer.

If you are a web site owner, you can go into your AdSense account and opt out of this new system in which case, ads will be served to your site they way they have been. Here is how you turn off Interest-Based Advertising. Though, Google is implying that you may not have access to the same pool of ads because some advertisers may opt to only put ads on sites that are using Interest-Based Advertising.

If you are browsing the Internet and you don't want Google to track your activity for use with this system, you can opt out of the tracking cookie here. If you want to take advantage of this new system, but want more control, you can set your preferences here.

So far, I have only talked about the potential doom and gloom of this new system, but it can be a good thing too. It will allow advertisers to target their audience much more precisely, and most importantly, on an ongoing basis. An advertiser could setup their ads to remember how you have interacted with them in the past. For instance, say I click on an AdSense ad for camera equipment on Amazon has the power now to remember the information for the next AdSense delivered ad I see from them. Maybe I clicked on an add for a specific camera and bought it. Amazon has the ability to then tailor the next ad I see from them to maybe some lens or other accessory for that camera which they currently have on sale. The interaction possibilities are almost endless and may give the consumer more timely and relevant ads. That can be good for the consumer and the web site owner because it means I will be clicking on more of their ads and they get more of Google's pennies.

And, this being Google, they are smarter then I so it is likely that they are at least aware of these pitfalls and are working to minimize them, or make them go away entirely.

I've turned off the Interest-Based Advertising on this site for now, I don't want to be part of the 'beta' project. But I will be keeping an eye on the system and experimenting with it in the coming years to see if it becomes more of a helpful or harmful service.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Buttons = Good

The 2nd generation iPod Shuffle was one of the most beautifully designed mass manufactured products ever (IMHO). Granted, it had the dreaded click wheel, but its size, shape, and the fact that it was basically a clip with a music player built in made it one masterfully designed object. It bordered on being too small to be practical, but it was still large enough so that it was possible to find after you put it down.

Ever the optimist, I thought Apple would improve the Shuffle by keeping the shape, but replacing the click wheel with discrete buttons that would be easier to find and distinguish by touch. And maybe add a little screen?

Sadly, this was not to be, the new iPod shuffle eschews buttons to the point of sacrificing usability. It is also too small and nondescript. Put it down and I dare you to find it again.

The controls are on the headphones which ties the player to the headphones. Don't like the included headphones? Tough, get used to it. It's Apple's way or the highway.

Why even bother having the headphones plug in? you can not change them, so a more fully thought out design would simply integrate them with the player. There is simply no need to have them as a detachable part. It's an odd oversight for a company known for its design prowess.

Granted, most people will probably still be able to pick it up and just start using it, but there are several features that will be opaque to those who don't read the manual. But, for such a simple product, should there even be a manual?

These hidden features are all based on audio feedback feature of the new shuffle, it now talks to you. I hate the idea of my audio device talking to me, but no one will know they are there, so I guess that it's a wash.

But why build features into a product that people won't use, that people can't use because they don't know they are there.

The hardcore Apple consumers, not the fanboys, but the ones that buy a new iPod every year because they break, or loose, or just want to replace their old iPod don't read the manual. They just want to pick it up and use it, taking the cues on how to use the player from the player itself.

It's just bad design to obfuscate the functions of a product.

Edit: Almost as soon as I published this post, I realized that there are plenty of good reasons to obfuscate functions of a product, especially software. Many products (like Microsoft Word) have huge features sets that only a handful of people use. So obfusscating those features clear up the interface for the average user, but leave them there for the power user.
Now, the iPod Touch is incredible. And now that it works with the Kindle Bookstore, it's even more incredible. I had a chance to have a look at a the Kindle App for the iPhone and, though it was a little small, found it to be a cool and usable eBook reader. Granted, I'm still young enough to set the type to its smallest setting, that does make a big difference. If you can not read it at the smallest text size, it becomes very tedious to flip the page every two seconds. I wonder too if it will also cause excessive eye strain having to constantly go from line to line as you are forced to with such short lines of text.

Talk, Not Torture Wins the Day

"Similarly, it was a relationship-building approach that we used to persuade a detainee to give us information on the whereabouts of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia — information that led to his being located and killed in 2006."

I wonder why no one at the Bush White House thought this was worth mentioning...

From, "Try a Little Tenderness".

Friday, February 13, 2009

Inexpensive Macro Photography

I've moved this post, please head over there to see my newest photography reviews.

I am very much enthralled with the abstraction of macro photography (as seen in my photos) and I'm all about cheap. So, let me combine the two, here is a cheap way to shoot macro. The nice thing about this solution is that it will work on just about any camera, DSLRs as well as Point and Shoots.

Here it is, the Opteka 52mm 10x HD² Professional Macro Lens. This 'closeup filter' attaches to the front of a lens with a 58mm filter thread. Opteka sells this closeup filter in several different kits, each one containing a different 'step down filter adapter' that allows it to fit different lens filter sizes. 58mm is the size of many Canon lenses including the ubiquitous Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS. On this page, Amazon has a boatload of kits to fit just about any DSLR and many point and shoots.

Essentially, adding one of these to your lens is like putting a magnifying glass in front of your camera. The images below show how it compares to a true macro lens, the inimitable Nikon 60mm Micro. The first image is with the 60mm at full extension, at this 'zoom' the 60mm is a 1:1 ratio. That means that image is fully filling the sensor at a one to one scale. The next image is with the Opteka fit on the standard Nikon 18-55mm AF-S VR kit lens at 55mm and focused as close as possible. Following that, is a shot with the same lens, but without the 18-55mm so the impact of the closeup filter and be readily seen. The last image is with the Opteka attached to the wonderful Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF-D.

Click on an image to see the larger, straight from the camera, image.

Nikon 60mm Micro

Opteka on the Nikon 18-55mm AF-S VR lens

Nikon 18-55mm AF-S VR lens without the Opteka

Opteka on the Nikon 50mm f1.8 AF-D

The Opteka brings the 18-55mm quite a bit closer, almost to 1:1. Same goes for the Opteka on the 50mm. The images a softer than the 60mm Macro, but for $30, it seems like a bargain to me. On these smaller lenses at longer focal lengths there is no noticeable vignetting, but there will be on fatter lenses. The 18-55mm will show vignetting as you zoom out, but it works best for macro shots at 55mm, so there is no reason to be zooming out.

The depth of field is noticeably more shallow in the image from the 60mm, this is because the closer you get, the shallower your depth of field becomes. All the images were shot at f14 so it is apparent that a lot of light is needed to make a macro shot work. Unless you want to exaggerate the shallow depth of field, in which case, attaching the Opteka to the 50mm f1.8 really makes things interesting. Even though the 60mm is rated as an f2.8, that is not fixed, the closer you focus, the more it stops down. It is only f2.8 at about 6 feet to infinity, then starts to stop down and ends at f5 at its closest (1:1) focus.

Now, if you put the Opteka on the 50mm f1.8, it does not stop down, it shoots at whatever aperture you want from 1.8 too 22.

OK, so what happens if the Opteka is attached to the 60mm? It does get in closer, but the trade-off of sharpness is, in my opinion, is not worth it. Without the opteka, the 60mm will frame the helmet from top to bottom with a little space, with the Opteka attached, most of the domed head would be cropped out. At that point, the depth of field gets so shallow that a great deal of light is needed to stop down all the way to the 60mm's minimum aperture, f57.

One last note, I've tested the Opteka with the 50mm f1.8 on a full frame FX camera (Nikon N75) and there is no noticeable vignetting there either.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Showing at 2009 KMAA exhibition "Seasonal Shift"

I had two photographs selected for the 2009 KMAA exhibition "Seasonal Shift". The show will be at Ridgefield Guild's Gallery Barn. Show details:

  • March 15, 4-7 PM: Artists' Reception
  • March 22: Gallery talk by the juror, Michael Blakeney
  • March 29: Last day of exhibition . Artists pick up work 4-7 PM
Ridgefield Guild of Artists

Water / Light #4

Water / Light #3

A list of the participating artists

  • Sally Aldrich : The Sky is Falling
  • Frances B. Ashfoth : Spring Field
  • Suzanne Ashley : Mill Street
  • Lois M. Barker : The Awakening
  • Deborah Beck : Morning Dew
  • Richard Bennett : Yankee Nightgame & Baseball Grid
  • Edward Burke : Early Spring
  • Sarah Corbin : Oak Spring
  • Ivy Dachman : Untitled43
  • Hilda Green Demsky : South of the Wind
  • Karen Williams Edelmann : The Earth. That is Sufficient
  • Monique Ford : Tropic Improv
  • Marcy B. Freedman : Ten Seconds (How Time Flies)
  • Randy Frost : Metro North - Harlem Division
  • James Fryer : Water-Light-3 & Water-Light-4
  • Michele Gage : Untitled (Mianus River Gorge 4)
  • Julia Goldberg : Lily Pond - Bronx Botanical Gardens
  • Patricia A. Grabel : New England Winter
  • H. Sitki Gulergun : Bullseye
  • June Gumbel : The Orchard in the Spring
  • Nils Hill:  WNY-1
  • Bernie Kessler:  Constitution Marsh, Garrison & Rolling Meadows
  • GG Kopilak : Tree Reflections
  • Barbara Korman : Coming Alive
  • Paul Krause : Crescent Pods
  • Elaine Krause : Lotus Variation
  • Martee Levi : Winter Thaw
  • Annette Lieblein : Transitional II
  • Belle Manes : The Woods are Lovely Dark and Deep…
  • Ronald Meyerson : Illusion #12
  • Bernie Mindich : Spring Forward
  • Nancy Egol Nikkal : Winter Thaw 2
  • Constance Old : Whiskmarks 0107212508
  • Ethel Renek : Edge of the Woods
  • Harriet Sadow:  Four Seasons & The Midnight Wind
  • Renee Santhouse : March Wind on the Bay
  • Barbara Browner Schiller : Joie de Vivre
  • Wendy Shalen : Montalk Dawn
  • Phyllis Sinrich : A New Day
  • Arle Sklar-Weinstein : Message from Waccabuc
  • Ron Topping : Four Seasons
  • John Wagner : Mianus Summer
  • Gabriella E. Wagner : Little Raincloud

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Fusion Essentials Non-Review

I am in the market for a new Web Design application and NetObjects Fusion Essentials looked interesting enough to take out for a test spin.

I installed, registered it (they require an email address and verification - tacky), and started it up.

Then I tried to open a site I've been working on. Trouble is, the site is built with PHP pages, not HTML pages. Fusion Essentials does not recognize PHP files, so I could not open anything on the site.

A 'Web Design' application that can not open and edit PHP files? Seriously? Even Kompozer will open and edit PHP files. Not only that, Kompozer will render HTML markup in its WYSIWYG mode. Heck, even Notepad will at least open PHP files!

Friday, February 06, 2009

JustLooking Image Viewer for the Mac

JustLooking is a nice little application for OS X that previews images and lets you scroll through all the images in a given folder. It acts like Picture and Fax Viewer in Windows XP.

It is a nice free little application I use all the time on my MacBook.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

There is a lot of chatter about Panasonic's new top end point and shoot, the Panasonic DMC-LX3Panasonic DMC-LX3, and it all seems pretty good. And with good reason, this camera looks to be the first time a big manufacturer has put image quality ahead of marketing tricks. Instead of increasing megapixles well beyond reason, Panasonic has capped it at 10MP. Granted, that's still more then is needed, but at least it is a start. For reference, 6MP is a great spot for most people. I have many prints from my 6MP D70 printed at 20x30". That is pretty big.

The constrained megapixels keep the images from being overrun with undesirable color noise that has a big negative impact on images. Because there are fewer megapixels, you can get more images on the memory card. And those smaller images take up less space on your computer. The smaller images are easier and faster to both view and edit on the computer.

But the constrained megapixel count really is only one reason for all the interest. This little camera has a very wide angle lens for a point and shoot. Its wide end is equivalent to 24mm (on a 35mm camera). Most point and shoots are 35mm at best at the wide end. There are a few that go to 28mm, but not many. Most all DSLRs from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony ship with zoom lenses with an 18mm (28mm equivalent) on the wide end of the kit lens.

But, wait, that's not all! In addition Panasonic LX3has a super 'fast lens'. It's aperture is f2 to f2.8! That is just crazy for a point and shoot. The LX3's aperture (a variable iris between the lens and the sensor) opens wider then most lenses to let more light in. That means that it can shoot in low light, but maintain a faster shutter speed. This camera can take better, less blurry and less noisy images in low light. For comparison, the kit lenses for most DSLRs are f3.5 to f5.6, that lets much less light in so it is not as good in low light. This is not to say the LX3 can really compete with a Nikon D40or Canon XSi, but it is starting to encroach in their territory. It is the most serious competition DSLRs have yet seen from the world of point and shoot cameras.

It is important to remember the that 'low light' to a camera is not the same thing as 'low light' to humans. We see in low light much better them cameras. In a typical indoor scene, we humans can see very well, there is plenty of light. But for cameras, this is considered low light. The only time a camera is really happy is outside on a bright day or when it can create its own light by using a flash.

Using a flash is convenient, but not very pleasing. First, with a compact camera, you usually wind up with 'red eye'. But more important, flashes make people look bad, they highlight blemishes and create shadows that exaggerate wrinkles and can often over expose faces and make your subject look like the undead.

So, flash = bad.

Panasonic has three techniques to let you shoot without flash:

  1. Wide f2 aperture
  2. Restrained 10MP sensor
  3. Effective high ISO performance
And for shooters who know there way around photography software, the LX3 has one more trick to eek out the most from low light shooting, it can shoot in RAW. The RAW format is the 'raw' image data that the sensor captures. Then, the camera converts that data into a JPG image file. This is a handy step because it takes that raw data and refines it so the final image not only looks great, but also is easy to print and share.

But, this ease comes at a cost. When the camera converts to JPG it applies a lot of 'enhancements' that it thinks you want and discards a bunch of other image data that you might want. During the conversion, the camera will try and correct the color, adjust the contrast, sharpen the image, and even correct for barrel distortion. Most of the time, for most shooters, this really is a good thing. But, for photography pros, this is not usually desirable.

If you are a pro shooter, you have spent years learning photography and developing a process to capture the image you want the way you want. You, the pro shooter, do not need to leave the 'developing' up to some dumb camera. You can do it better, and with the RAW data, you have more latitude to make the adjustments you want to make.

With the RAW file, the pro shooter has more latitude to push the exposure, color balance, noise, and sharpening one way of the other to really get what she is after.

Now if the last few paragraphs about RAW bores you to tears, no worries, the LX3 takes great shots in JPG. Done.

The natural competitor to the Panasonic LX3is the Canon G10. Some people who have used both, like the image (and movie) quality of the LX3. They generally do bemoan the fact that the LX does not have the nice solid feeling body of the G10, or the G10's dials and buttons that allow direct control of advances features.

The G10 is definitely a beauty, but for me, the smaller size of the LX3 and, more importantly, the better image quality trump the G10.

But then, I've not shot with either of these cameras so don't take my word for it, see what the pros say:

Panasonic Lumix DMC LX3 Unboxing from Scott Bourne on Vimeo.

Scott Bourne's mini review

DPReview's complete review

Friday, January 30, 2009

Don't Buy Used Digital Cameras, Ever.

Don't ever buy a used digital camera. You just never know what you are getting.

Case in point, up until about six months ago, my D70 looked almost new, almost as good as the first time it came out of the box. Since then, it has started to develop some signs of slight wear, but still looks great. I could list this on eBay and honestly say that, cosmetically, it looks like it's in great shape. I could also say that I've taken thousands of shots without any problems. I could also say the the camera's EXIF data indicates 22,113 shutter actuations. I could say all this and it is completely true.
But what is also true is that I've taken over 63,000 shots with it and that several hundred shots came out terribly and that, at one time, I was receiving regular error messages.
A savvy shopper will ask how many acutations the shutter has, but it takes a super savvy shopper to ask how many shutters has the camera gone through. See, the reason I can say that the shutter has only 22,113 actuations is because that's how many are on the new shutter. Yes, my little D70 had it's shutter replaced after about 41,000 actuations.
The number of shutter acutations is shown in the EXIF data embedded in each picture. If you have a Flickr account, the easiest way to see this data is to shoot a low quality small JPG file with your camera and upload it directly to Flickr without any alteration. Editing and saving the image in an editor will cause a great deal of EXIF data to be deleted. Here is a small JPG shot on my D70. I uploaded it directly to Flickr, as a result, you can see a boat load of EXIF data.
The new shutter for the D70 cost about $200, plus shipping and tax, it came out to about $250. As the shutter was failing, it would partially work, but leave the resulting image partially blacked out. That's where the several hundred 'bad' images came from. Also, before the repair, I was getting sporadic error messages. I'm not sure if it was related to the bad shutter, or if something else was repaired during the shutter replacement.
It is common for novices to banter about how camera manufacturers like to say that any given camera is tested to 100,000 cycles. But that's not important, what is important is what the average failure rate was. Sure, Nikon can test the D70 100,000 cycles, but they don't tell you that on average, the shutter fails at about 40,000 cycles. Talking about test cycles is useless unless it's followed by failure rates or by a warranty.
I hope this post helps to illustrate the perils of buying used digital cameras, you just never know what you are going to get. Is it really worth spending $250 on eBay for a used D70 when you can get a new Nikon D40with lens for $410 (and warranty)?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gate Keeper

I have long had a sense that the collaborative process can go very well, or very wrong. I have witnessed a group being led, not by the brightest person, but by the loudest. In my experience, the loudest is usually not the brightest, far from it. I think this behaviour stems from the general rule: when traveling abroad in a country where you do not speak the native tongue, the best way to make yourself understood is to yell louder.

This describes one pitfall for the collaborative process, but there is another for which I have always wanted to express more intelligently then simply saying, "well, the head guy just doesn't get it." That always seemed unsatisfactory to me, because it sounds like whining and a cop-out.

Today I watched a video of a speech John Gruber gave at MacWorld. In it, he nailed the idea that has been floating in my head, he put it in a way that is much more clinical, almost a formula, "The quality of any collaborative creative endeavor tends to approach the level of taste of whoever is in charge."

Monday, January 05, 2009

Picasa for the Mac!

Yes, finally, one of my favorite free photo viewers/editors/organizers is now available on the Mac! I've just installed Picasa 3 Beta for the Mac and it looks great, pretty much the same way it looks on the PC. There area couple of trivial features not available yet on this Mac version, but nothing of consequence.

I will eventually get around to doing a write up of Picasa, but for now, I will just quickly tell you how I use it. It is a really fast viewer and it can view RAW files from many different cameras. Though lacking in detail, here is a list of supported RAW formats. You can make simple adjustments and export to JPG while controlling the size and compression of the conversion. This makes it very easy to quickly share your RAW images.

BUT, Picasa is not the best RAW converter. Any third party application that opens a RAW file has to 'guess' at what the image should look like. Picasa is not particularly good at guessing, so do not use the automated RAW conversion as the final word on the quality the image.

Picasa really shines because of it's speed, it whips through images faster then any other viewer I've seen. For this reason, Picasa is the first step in my work flow. I dump my images into a desktop folder then review them in Picasa. I delete the garbage and move images into either folders for more editing (with Lightroom), or permanent archive folders. All this is done from within Picasa.

One reason I've been so interested in Picasa for the Mac is that, unlike iPhoto, it does not mess with where your photos are stored. Once iPhoto gets a hold of your photos, god alone knows where they end up! I'm old enough to sort my own files, thank you!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

CVS Film Processing

While on vacation in Florida, I have had several roles of film developed at CVS in the Oakbrook shopping center. The results have been very good. Better by far then what I get from Target in Mount Kisco, NY and better then what I got from, and a lot cheaper.

I also had pretty rotten luck with the local mini labs, one at Sam's Photo in Mount Kisco and another at Katonah Photography in Katonah, NY. Katonah left long scratches on the negatives. Sam's had chemical spots and dust on the negatives.

I am sure that not all CVS stores are made the same, but this has been my experience.

What I did not like at CVS was the photo CDs I got, I tried both the CVS CD and the Kodak CD. The JPGs were scanned at about 1200x1800 which is fine, but they were compressed and that left significant JPG artifacts. This makes no sense to me, at 1200x1800 pixles, the images are no where near large enough to fill the CD. It is a dissapointment and a senseless one at that.

Mac Vacation

I have had a MacBook since they came in 2006. I have always run XP on them (I'm on my second one now*) as the primary OS, booting into OS X
only to test web sites or edit video.

When I bought the latest one, I gave a good try to use OS X as my primary OS, but Adobe GoLive was just unusable with OS X's window management. XP gives each program a main 'background' window to segregate it from any other application. OS X does not have this, so I would have several HTML files open in GoLive, plus a browser window, Photoshop, an FTP client, and usually a word processor as well. It was all too hectic and impossible to keep track of the HTML documents in GoLive. So, I went back to using XP as the primary OS for work.

That is too bad because OS X (10.5) is really a joy to use. And if it were not for how I use GoLive, I probably would have switched full time to OS X.

But, now anytime I am not working, I'm in OS X.

I've been on vacation for the past week, so I've been running in OS X for the past week. It is really nice, it boots up fast, always goes to sleep when I close the lid, and lasts for hours on the battery.

So, basically, now I only run XP when I am working and plugged into the external monitor, keyboard, and power cord. Of course, when I go home and back to work, that will be most of the time.

OS X is, at the very least, a nice break from XP.

This post should be in no way seen as a dig at OS X, if I did not use GoLive, I would be in OS X a lot more. If I were a full time photographer, OS X would be my primary OS.

* I got a crazy good deal on a last gen model, no way you will see me with one of the shinny, firewire lacking, new ones!