So... very... tempting...
but I must resist! I think I can afford to wait for version two. ;-) Now if the industrial design was new, that'd be another case entirely. =)
but I must resist! I think I can afford to wait for version two. ;-) Now if the industrial design was new, that'd be another case entirely. =)
I'm not entirely sure what planet Sony execs were on when they actually believed that the UMD was a viable stand-alone video platform. A year later, it's official, UMDs a proven bomb.
I tell ya they would have done sooo much better if they had just bundled the stupid things with their DVDs and maybe charge 2 or 3 bucks more per title. Who the heck wants to pay full price for a disc that you can only play on the PSP? PSPs are nowhere near being prolific enough to warrant such confidence in the platform. If they had bundled it with DVDs they would also have driven PSP adoption. Win/win in my book. Bleh, but Sony always seems to lean towards making a buck above all else so not surprising really.
I think the most interesting thing about this article was finding out that the US currently has no official language. Although I suppose just about everybody assumed that it was English. Anyway, I guess count me in as amongst the 84% that support making English the national language.
A funky lil' site that will transform your website HTML into a graph. Not particularly useful I suppose but very cool to watch in action. Reminds me of the sticks and balls we used to have in chemistry class to create molecules.
Possibly the best character to come out of Late Night with Conan O'Brien in quite awhile. Easily voted the best new character of the show in 2006, it's...
the EVIL PUPPY!!!!!
I wonder how they have him so sedate in their skits. Aren't puppies (especially goldens) supposed to be more energetic? I guess maybe they just tire him out before the show starts.
Apparently American fashion news is a bit behind the times. Gee, cute Japanese things popular throughout the world? You don't say.
Although I wouldn't really equate cute with cool though. Cute is just... cute. And not for everything. I wouldn't like my gadgets to be cute.
The quote they had from Yuri Ebihara was a little freaky though:
"If someone doesn't find me cute, I want to know why because then I'll work on it to get better at being cute."
I like things that are just inherently cute. You shouldn't have to work to be cute.
I'm not sure what it is with credit card companies and their payment protection plans but activating your credit cards these days just got a whole lot more annoying. Before, you would call a toll-free #, enter your new credit card number, and voila, your card was activated. Everything was automated and it took less than 5 minutes. I guess not enough people were signing up for those stupid plans cause now they're then connecting you to a customer service person who recites the whole stupid spiel (which takes like a good 5 minutes or so) about the plan and then words it so that you have half a second to reject their offer. I feel bad for the people who have to recite this stuff to us customers every time (cause it really is a long-winded speech they have to give) so I usually let them prattle on until the very end when I tell them I don't want it. They're just doing their job after all. At least they haven't gotten around to being very pushy about it when you reject them.
is to have low expectations. =)
Anyway, some good advice although I don't agree with everything.
I was browsing through this news article about John Irving and Stephen King urging J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame to not kill off Harry in the final book when I found the following quote by King amusing:
"I made that dog up, it was a fake dog, it was a fictional dog, but people get very, very involved," King said.
And I thought to myself, "What kind of idiot gets that involved in a book???" Followed a split second later by, "Wait a minute, that's me!"
Back in my youth I was quite a voracious reader. Unfortunately, as I got older, I discovered a tendency (which I don't think I had when I was younger) to get a little too invested emotionally in a book. Wasn't every book, depended on the story. The one book that I distinctly remember me realizing that this was happening with was Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Very, very good by the way. But anyway, it was during my second time through it and things that happened in the book just started to bug me. Really, really bug me. Mostly it was when bad things happened to characters I liked. Or when I could sense that something really bad was about to happen. It got to the point where I couldn't continue it bugged me so much.
I had the same problem when re-reading Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince trilogy. It's not that I didn't like the path the author decided to take while telling the story, it was more like I empathized/sympathized way too much with some of the characters. So after awhile, I just stopped reading. Books at least. I still tore through magazines like tissue paper.
After a good number of years I eventually started reading novels again. And as far as I can tell, I'm no longer plagued by that particular problem. Guess it was just a phase. Or maybe I haven't found the right book yet. Although I no longer read as much as I used to, that's due more to lack of time and this silly thing we call the Internet. I just finished re-reading Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood for the third time and I was, once again, touched. For some reason I keep forgetting the plot of this book even though I know that I like it. So every now and then I re-read it, which isn't a bad thing because even though the coming-of-age lessons in the book can be of the simple run-of-the-mill variety, they're pretty much timeless, and it doesn't hurt to be reminded of them from time to time. My favorite line from this latest read through:
When I installed my new hard drive, I formatted it using the MacOS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled) option. After recently installing CS2, the above 3 apps just refuse to launch. Acrobat Professional works fine after all the updates have been installed. After finally checking out the system log, it appeared that Photoshop was having trouble loading libraries. Luckily it displays the path to the library that it's having problems with so after a bit more digging, I discovered that it was because some of the directory names had different cases. Manually renaming the bad directories to the right case solved that problem but now it's telling me that my user name, organization or serial # is missing or invalid. Which makes no sense since Acrobat works fine. So I'm assuming Photoshop is looking for the file that stores this info in a slightly different case and unfortunately I have no idea what file to look for.
So my only option is to back up everything and reformat, this time without the case-sensitive option. Pain in the @#!$!@#$!!!
Wow, it's official (at least I think it's official). Our solar system now has three new planets. This is a pretty exciting development. A few days ago they weren't even sure Pluto would be remaining a planet but not only did it remain, it gained a partner as well. This is the first change since 1930. 1930!
MovableType recently upgraded their version to 3.3 and with it comes the increasingly popular tags support. Finally got around to making use of it so you'll notice there's a new "Tag Cloud" section in the right-hand column. Still putzing around with it trying to figure out what I should and shouldn't tag but it's pretty cool so far.
Been reading Murakami's latest book, Kafka on the Shore, while stuck in jury duty and as usual, a good quotable line (or paragraph in this case). Two characters discussing people who lack imagination:
"Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe. Of course it's important to know what's right and what's wrong. Individual errors in judgment can usually be corrected. As long as you have the courage to admit mistakes, things can be turned around. But intolerant, narrow minds with no imagination are like parasites that transform the host, change form, and continue to thrive. They're a lost cause, and I don't want anyone like that coming in here. I wish I could just laugh off people like that, but I can't."
I purchased the original Nintendo DS system when it was first released only to sell it a few months later to help pay for the subsequent Sony PSP system. It didn't help that back then there was only one game that I considered buying and even that one I wasn't particularly wedded to.
Now, almost 2 years later, I've jumped back on the bandwagon and picked up this Nintendo DS Lite - Onyx system. And talk about having to handle it with kid gloves, this thing's more of a fingerprint magnet than the black iPod and PSP! The highly reflective glossy black surface takes up the entire top and bottom casing. This is one item you'll want to store with a chamois cloth. =p Although I've found that the microfiber keyboard cover that comes with the Marware Protection Pack for MacBook works pretty darn well too.
At least the playing area doesn't have the same glossy characteristics. The D-pad was surprisingly not stiff upon first contact which was kinda weird cause you usually expect a few days breaking in period for those things. Despite its smaller size, I haven't found it to be too uncomfortable yet...
Compared to its older brother the DS Lite is definitely much more svelte, without the fat bottom look. The entire system is actually the same width as the top case of the original DS. Definitely takes care of my prior beef with the original DS in that there seemed to be too much open/unused space just lying around.
The one thing about the DS Lite that just absolutely crushes the old DS is the screen (or screens in this case). The original DS screens were rather dim and grainy which I thought was rather odd for a system released at the time. Especially when compared to the PSP that came out shortly afterwards, the DS screen was a joke. These new Lite systems fixes that problem completely. Not only are the screens brighter but they seem to be much more colorful as well. The Lite is what the DS system should have been to begin with 2 years ago when it comes to the hardware.
And the first thing I did after removing it from the box? Slap on screen protectors of course. I've been using these Brando Ultraclears for awhile now and they're highly recommended in my book. They make them for pretty much anything that has an LCD screen. They are a bit pricier than the ones you'll find at say Best Buy or whatnot and you have to wait longer for them since they ship from Hong Kong, but I've yet to see another brand that's as easy to use. These things are great!
Anyway, hopefully I'll hang on to this one longer than I did the original. I now have 3 games for it that I play on a regular basis, but only one that I would actually play in public. How sad is that. ;-p Somehow I feel uncomfortable playing a cooking game or calling to my imaginary dogs in public. Go figure. ;-p But, this thing won't be leaving the house until the hopefully spiffy case I just ordered for it comes in.
Somewhat intrigued by a brief mention in November's issue of Wired, I took a look at Twitter, a site where you can keep your Twitter friends up to date on whatever it is you're doing or thinking. Hmm... is this really necessary? For one thing, do your friends really care enough to have to know what you're doing all the time? And I think it takes a certain level of ego to assume that people do care that much. Hmmm...
As most of you may have heard by now, yesterday at approximately 9:40 am PST Apple fans the world over collectively soiled themselves upon the introduction of the quite impressive iPhone. Unfortunately a little over an hour later this state of orgasmic bliss was rudely punctured by subsequent revelations that the iPhone would be (initially at least) locked to Cingular, would cost $499 (4GB) or $599 (8GB) (and that's AFTER selling your soul to Cingular for 2 years), and be available "in June" (which means the last day of June).
My prediction? If the UI is half as good as they make it out to be, it'll sell like weed in an upscale suburban neighborhood. People will still bitch about the price (as they do already) but they'll buy it anyway. Cause this is consumer America, baby.
Apple better incorporate the new UI features from the iPhone into their iPod line though. I think that will effectively snuff out third-party MP3/media players. Save for the few that survive cause of the diehard Apple haters out there.
But it seems at least the financial market is betting big time on the success of the iPhone. Apple stock jumped $12 yesterday and today combined. That's just insane.
Whether the wacky weather we've been having this winter is a result of global warming or just a natural cycle in Mother Nature's grand scheme of things, it's still a good idea to do as much as possible to support alternative energy sources and reduce carbon dioxide emissions (yes you can still breathe as much as you want wiseass). All I know is I can count on one hand the number of really cold days we've had in the NY/NJ area this late fall/winter. And even though it snowed for like 20 minutes today, it also hit 72 degrees just 5 days ago. 72 DEGREES. In JANUARY.
So if you have the means, support alternative energy. If your utilities company allows you the option of choosing to purchase electricity from alternative energy providers, do so. It doesn't cost that much more (I average less than $5 more per month). A good site to check out would be Green Mountain Energy.
Also visit TerraPass where you can learn how to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide you emit in daily life and purchase passes which go towards funding alternative energy sources. An interesting way to balance out your carbon footprint. Every little bit helps.
not mentioned during the keynote.
And why Colbert hates the iPhone.
Knowing some people out there they probably would need space for 150 kabillion contacts...
I've long resisted the temptation to purchase headphones for use with my old 3rd gen iPod. Never much of an audiophile, I figured my ears wouldn't be able to tell much of a difference between a $100+ pair of headphones and the stock ones that come with the iPod. For the most part the iPod headphones worked fine for me. Only thing I noticed was that with loud background noise I couldn't hear much of anything with them. But when it comes to pricey headphones, you definitely don't know what you're missing until you actually use them.
This actually wasn't my first foray into in-ear headphones however. Awhile back I had purchased the Apple iPod In-Ear Headphones when they first came out. That was a mistake. Couldn't get the things to stay in my ear so I sold them off real quick. But in anticipation of a widescreen iPod late last year (that never came to fruition), I decided to take another look at the headphones that were available. Based on the review at iLounge, I decided to pick up a pair of Etymotic ER-6i Isolator Earphones.
If there's anything I have that's worth selling, I usually give it a shot on good ol' craigslist first. It usually works out well since the buyer is local and I can meet them for a straight up cash exchange. It's not entirely roses though as prospective sellers also have to wade through their fare share of scavengers and outright scammers.
Scavengers I mostly ignore. You know, and they know, that their offer is ridiculously low but hey, maybe the seller's a dumbass and they'll get lucky. It happens. Hagglers, on the other hand, are fine. I always expect some amount of haggling so I usually bump up my initial price appropriately. I still wind up getting an acceptable amount and the haggler goes away feeling like he accomplished something. Win/win.
The emails that I find most amusing come from the foreign scammers. I'm not exactly sure why these guys still try to do what they do on craigslist. If you're a seller, and you fall for their line, you should just return your computer and stay off the web. For starters, craigslist has this convenient page that warns potential bonehead sellers what to look out for. And the emails that I receive are just chock full of signs that the person on the other end isn't who he/she wants you to believe they are. For instance:
"Hello, How are you today? I saw your item on display on craigslist and I'm interested in buying from you. I'll appreciate if you can give me a good description of the item and probably send to me the picture so I could see its condition. Please get back to me ASAP.Thank you."
Now, here are some tips for you scammers out there:
A couple more examples of what I'm talking about:
"What is the best price you offering for this item? will be expecting yourprompt response at your earliest convenient time."
"Hello i want to know if you still have this product for sale and what problem is having before i proceed with the payment, if no problem i will offer you some extra money to it."
I want to know, who, WHO falls for this type of stuff? Obviously somebody is otherwise we wouldn't be seeing this kind of crap constantly. It'd be a waste of the scammers time. Argh!
Anyway, even after all this I'll still hit craigslist as my number 1 selling destination. Just like with almost everything else out there on the web, the signal to noise ratio is annoyingly lopsided but the ones that do get through make it worthwhile.
I'm not sure why, but I'm mucho, mucho excited about this. Apparently they'll be in NYC in August.
Following in the steps of my first lens comparison post, I had the opportunity to test out 4 mid-range zooms recently: the venerable, battle-hardened Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L; its younger, lighter and longer-ranged sibling, the Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS; its wider, shorter-ranged non-L bastard stepson, the Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS; and its cheaper, luck of the draw distant cousin, the Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 EX DG Macro.
This is by no means a lab-grade test. Just me with a tripod, a 30D, these 4 lenses, and some spare time on my hands away from the baby. And it's just a comparison of sharpness. Sharpness alone doesn't make a lens but as a personal preference, I like my lenses to be sharp right from the get-go. Plus these results only show the sharpness of the particular copies of the lenses that I had in possession. Quality control is a bit of an issue with lenses so as always, YMMV.
The Canon 24-70 is obviously the gorilla of the bunch, weighing in at a hefty 2.1 lbs. Followed by the Sigma 24-70 at 1.6 lbs, the Canon 24-105 at 1.5 lbs and the Canon 17-55 bringing up the rear at 1.4 lbs. Length-wise the Canon 24-70 is the longest of the bunch with the other 3 pretty much the same length. Build-wise, the Canon 24-70 and 24-105 of course rule the roost with their L quality construction. While the Sigma 24-70 and Canon 17-55 EF-S are more plastic-y, their still considerable heft doesn't make them feel much cheaper.
In another installment of my lens sharpness comparison series, I now pit the solid, renowned workhorse, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS with its new younger and more svelte sibling, the Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS.
The 2.8 IS is big, heavy, and fast, weighing in at 3.2 lbs and 7.7" long while the 4 IS is significantly much smaller, lighter although a bit slower, weighing in at 1.7 lbs and 6.8" long. Diameter-wise, the 4 IS is smaller by 10mm which doesn't sound like much but when you see it in person it definitely is.
Word on the street is that the 4 IS is possibly the sharpest and best resolving zoom lens Canon has made to date. At half the weight of its 2.8 older brother and with a newer IS that's supposedly good for 4 extra stops of light, it almost makes the 2.8 obsolete. Or does it...
This is pretty sick. 10 fps??? I'm having enough problems handling 5 fps on my 30D much less having to contend with 10. Geez. But it sounds like it's going to be one hell of a camera. My gadget lust is ragin' right now. For more details on this monstrosity, check out the white paper. I'm almost afraid to see what the 1Ds Mark III is going to be like.
On a side note, I'm kinda glad they didn't announce the 40D this time around, means I can stick with my 30D for awhile longer. =)
Almost forgotten with the 1D Mark III hoopla is this potential gem that Canon sprung on us on the same day. It's a 7.1 megapixel camera that also shoots widescreen high def (granted, only 720p) video and looks more like a camcorder than a camera. As opposed to the camcorders that look like camcorders and also takes really crappy still pictures. And it's just slightly bigger than their Powershot series of point & shoots. I think it's pretty ideal for a new mom who doesn't want to mess with the weight and intricacies of an SLR. Hint, hint. ;-)
Doh! Found out today that one of the two best known multi-IM chat program on the Mac, Fire, has discontinued development. I had been using it ever since it was available for MacOS X. Wasn't until Tiger that I switched over to Adium. No reason for the switch, just thought I'd try something new. There are some parts of Fire that I still prefer over Adium, like the keyboard shortcut to log in to all your IMs in one shot, but that's kinda moot now. Maybe someday it'll be rekindled but until then, thanks to the developers who had spent so much time on it making it the super program that it was.
I decided this was more of a spew than a blog entry so I moved it to the appropriate place.
Following Fe's post, I figured I'd post my own list too:
Bold are ones I've read, italics are ones I didn't finish, and asterisks next to the ones I really enjoyed.
1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson*
7. Childhoodâ€™s End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Enderâ€™s Game, Orson Scott Card*
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopherâ€™s Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhikerâ€™s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice*
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson*
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock*
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks*
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
Read & Hated: 0
Read & Loved: 7
Started & DNF: 1
When I threw up this blog, holy cow 3 and a half years ago, I set it up so a bunch of folk could share in the blogging goodness. Times change and blogger attrition took its toll. Most started blogs of their own, others apparently have a really busy social life. Pshaw, who needs 'em. ;-p So I've renamed the blog to something more fitting the times and hopefully I'll get around to messing with the layout and design as well. Stay tuned...
This past weekend I decided it was a good time to give my old desktop a good scrubbing in anticipation of its upcoming delegation to our living room as our backup/data server. This particular unit I hand-built probably around 4 years ago and it's also been that long since I actually cleaned it. Erin's gone over the outside of the case a few times with a damp cloth but that's about it. So needless to say the task seemed a bit daunting when I disconnected it and brought it downstairs. Unfortunately I didn't think about taking any before pictures until after I had started the whole endeavor so you'll have to imagine what 4 years of caked-on dust and grime looks like.
The original plan was to take the computer out onto our balcony where I would used compressed air to blow out most of the dust. The computer had other plans...
I've been a user of My Yahoo for a long, long time now. It's my default page to be where I get my daily news fix. Awhile ago I noticed Yahoo had added the ability to create and customize avatars that you could use with your Yahoo account. Never paid attention to it until thirty minutes ago. And thus, I present to you... Angry Samurai Chef (in an office):
Due to recent viewings of Together and Nodame Cantabile, my current music interests have veered back into the classical realm. More on that later. But while trolling iTunes for music by noted violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, I found it absolutely hilarious that for her Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto CD (live recording), they had split out the applause that she gets in the beginning and at the end into 2 individual tracks and they were on sale for $.99 each! "Opening Applause" is 25 seconds long while you get more clapping for your buck with "Closing Applause" which clocks in at 1:18. Unreal. Although I guess after looking at the CD track list it's not really iTunes' fault since the 2 applause sections do seem to have their own individual track numbers.
Another annoyance that I find when purchasing classical pieces through iTunes is that not all works on a CD can be purchased separately from others. Many times they are but sometimes they aren't. I wonder how they decide how tracks on a CD should be sold. Seems rather random. Sometimes they'll let you purchase one movement of a piece by itself but the other 2 you can only get if you buy the album. The hell.
Man, Andy Richter just can't get no sitcom love. First, Fox pulled Andy Richter Controls the Universe after less than a season's worth of episodes and now NBC is slamming the door in his face; yanking Andy Barker P.I. after just 4 episodes. That's just wrong. Both shows were quite funny (or had the potential to be in this most recent case) and undeserving of their early demise. Hell, 30 Rock and The Office got off to slow starts too before hitting their stride. Just ridiculous. Apparently starring a doughy white boy in a comedy sit-com just doesn't generate ratings. Although The Drew Carey Show ran for 9 years. Bleh.
In my younger days I was a big fan of Battletech (robots of mass destruction!) and later on, Legend of the Five Rings (samurai CCG/RPG? I'm there!). What I enjoyed most about both wasn't actually playing the games (although the most recent Mechwarrior games were damn awesome), but the massive background and history that the creators came up with.
For Battletech, there's an entire line of easy-reading novels that take the reader through the most current developments in the Inner Sphere. I read a couple back when it first began a decade or so ago but lost track after awhile. Recently, I wondered how the story had progressed since then. Unfortunately, there's been a TON of books written since I last left off and attempting to sort out which ones deal with the main storyline is a real pain in the ass.
On the L5R side, what's cool about the story is that it's still being created and is dynamic. Because it started out as a CCG, major plot points in the ongoing saga are actually dependent on the clan affiliation of the winner in large tournaments throughout the year. That's a pretty good way of keeping people involved and interested. And even though the official site posts stories based on the outcomes of the tournaments, there's no historical timeline that one can easily read through to find out exactly what the hell's been going on in Rokugan.
Enter wikis. It's not just Wikipedia anymore. Content-specific wikis are sprouting all over the Interweb. A few minutes of rooting around brought up the L5R Wiki which seems to be pretty comprehensive so far. It's answered most of my questions even though I had to click around more than I'd like. Of course, being a wiki, the content is only as good as the people involved. The Battletech Wiki unfortunately is not as comprehensive and what can be found there is the same info that I already knew of.
But anyway, wikis seems to be the way to go when it comes to content sites (obscure topics or not). It's a quick and easy way to centralize information about particular topics provided enough enthusiasts contribute. And combined with some other Net 2.0 stuff, you wind up with sites like WikiMapia. Pretty soon, if not already (I'm not always 100% up-to-date on Interweb fads), "wiki" will just be another commonly used term. Like "google."
While "Made in China" has replaced "Made in Taiwan" on practically everything that's manufactured in the last decade or so, there's still a whole group of items that I'm much more leery of purchasing if it came from China. That item? Food.
With the current pet food fiasco that just keeps expanding, Americans are finally catching a glimpse of what a good chunk of Asia (or at least Taiwan) already knows about China and food. Namely, calling some Chinese food manufacturers "unscrupulous" is probably the best thing one can say about them. My dad's been working in China for the last decade or so and every time he comes back he always tells us, "don't buy anything in the supermarket if it comes from China." Apparently it's widely known in China and Taiwan that Chinese food manufacturers can't be trusted. They'll try to pass off crap as edible if they can and have no qualms coating their products with chemicals in order to make them look better. They'll even pick up any old crap off the ground and try to pass it off as Chinese medicine. Then again, Chinese medicine does look like some guy just picked up crap off the ground in the first place. ;-p
So when I first heard that the investigation into the pet food contamination was delving into China, I wasn't surprised. And now that the FDA is starting to question whether or not the melamine contamination was deliberate, it won't surprise me either if it turns out to be so. Anyway, hopefully there'll be enough of a fallout from this that the Chinese companies get their act together but somehow, I doubt it.
or just plain crazy. As mentioned in an earlier post, recent viewings of classical music themed anime and movies brought my current music focus back to the classical realm. Which is nothing new as I've concentrated solely on classical for stretches at a time in the past. Even took a music history class back in college that I very much enjoyed and aced to boot. But I have my quirks when it comes to classical pieces. For the most part, slow movements bore me to tears so I generally skip past them unless I want to fall asleep. So sophisticated classical aficionado I'm not.
This time around, I'm fixated on concertos, specifically two of the more difficult pieces out there: Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18. Why? Cause they happen to be the centerpieces for Together and Nodame respectively. Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto I've liked ever since I first heard it and is my favorite violin concerto out there, particularly the fast 3rd movement. Rachmaninoff's concerto didn't particularly strike me at first when I first got a CD of it a few years ago but after actually paying attention to it this time around, it's really a beautiful piece.
So just for kicks, I decided to compare different recordings of the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto by some of the best known violinists within the past few decades. After two weeks or so of constantly listening to the same 9-11 minute movement over and over again during my daily commute, surprisingly, I'm not sick of it yet. =) I couldn't imagine doing something like this with a pop or rock song. Anyway, my list of contestants (with my top 3 first):
Of course such a comparison basically comes down to personal choice. My fav 3 will most likely be different from someone else's. And at this level of performance, they're all very good anyway. For the top 3, Oistrakh is consistently top notch. I prefer Chang's 3rd movement more than Perlman's but if I consider the entire piece, then Perlman comes in before Chang. And while I believe Li Chuanyin's performance is top 3 worthy, I don't have the other 2 movements from him so couldn't do a full comparison. The Heifetz recording was a bit of a disappointment since I had heard so many good things about him. While the 3rd movement is supposed to be quick, I think he ripped through it a bit too quickly and because of that started to sound rather scratchy at the high and very fast sections. At the other end of the spectrum, Mutter had a very powerful sound and tone but went at it slower than I like. Fischer's performance is easily top 3 material as well but it's a tough group up there. Although she could possibly replace Chang in my top 3 list. I haven't had time to listen to her entire recording yet.
I suppose it's pretty nuts to purchase 13 copies of the same song just to do a comparison but I enjoyed it. It's a fantastic piece of work. As for Rachmaninoff's piano concerto, I only have 4 copies of it (Richter, Rubinstein, Bronfman and Lang Lang) and they're all great. Anyway, no matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the classical music world, you can't go wrong with these 2 pieces. Definitely timeless.
While poking around on Wikipedia looking up violinists, I started reading up on the creme de la creme's of the string family, the Stradivari. I had seen a show on the Discovery channel awhile back talking about the ice age theory as to why the instruments made by this famous luthier sounded as good as they do. I love that out of the couple of hundred Stradivari still in existence, most are accounted for, still used, and even named. That's just awesome. Interesting that two of those currently missing have the coolest names as well: Colossus and Herkules. If I was rich beyond my wildest dreams I wouldn't collect artwork, I'd collect these violins. They're works of art that can still be used to play other works of art. Is there anything else in the world that comes close? How many other things exist in the world that are 300 years old and still sound as good as they do. And that goes for the Guarneri's and Guadagnini's out there as well.
Interestingly, it seems like science has been able to finally replicate (and arguably surpass) the quality of these old Stradivari. These new Nagyvary's sound interesting. It remains to be seen if they'll stand the test of time like the Stradivari.
I believe I can touch the sky...
R Kelly song aside, the NY Times had an interesting article today on the declining interest in obtaining a pilot's license these days. I looked into it a few years ago but found the cost prohibitive although I would still love to go for one eventually.
Anyway, I found the following quote explaining how women learn differently from men to be pretty funny:
â€œWomen learn differently from men,â€ Mr. Kauffman said. â€œIf two men go up, they will scream and shout, and a transfer of knowledge occurs, and weâ€™d get back on the ground and go have a beer, and life is good,â€ he said. â€œIf you yell at a woman, sheâ€™d start crying, and sheâ€™d never come back.â€
And I would beg to differ on the following passage:
BUT some veterans fear the magic is gone for good. Men who returned from World War II having seen the Mustangs, Corsairs or Thunderbolts might have wanted to fly their own propeller planes. In the wars in the Middle East, the A-10 Warthog has not inspired the same ambitions.
Granted the Mustangs, Corsairs and T-bolts of the WWII era were fantastic planes but I loooove the Warthog. The problem isn't that the Warthog isn't inspiring me to want to fly. The problem is I can't fly a Warthog even after I get a pilot's license. If you told me I could fly a plane that mounts a 30mm Avenger Gatling cannon which fires milk-bottle sized rounds of depleted uranium at 3900 rounds/minute after I got a license, I would be all over that like white on rice. But I can't, so obtaining a pilot's license will remain on the backburner of my life. ;-p
About a week ago I packed up my PS3 and sent it out to Sony to be replaced because the video was freezing constantly. Just started happening a few weeks prior. In a couple of days, I'll be packing up my XBox 360 and sending it back to Microsoft to have it fixed because the console was freezing under a specific condition. Both are under warranty so the whole thing won't cost me a penny but still, kinda irritating. Not a huge deal though since I don't play console's as much these days.
I just thought I'd note down the differences between these 2 companies when it comes to support. First off, Sony:
So the reliability of these new console system hardware is a bit suspect. I don't recall ever having to repair a console system prior to now. Although my first PS2 bit the dust after 2-3 years, that's perfectly reasonable to me at least. By that time getting a replacement didn't cost as much as when they first came out. The issue with the 360 wasn't particularly severe, I had noticed it a few weeks after I bought it over a year ago but didn't really care to do anything about it till now. It was an annoyance more than anything. But I finally figured I'd put the extended warranty I had dished out for to some use at least.
As for my Wii, it's just sitting there minding its own business.
this post's for you. Stumbled on MyAnimeList.net the other day which allows you to keep track of your anime habit. Being a sucker for organizational functionality like this, I'm going to be hitting this site hard. So far I've only entered 25 series/movies and apparently I've watched 694 episodes and wasted 30.3 days watching them. DAYS. I think it's because I rewatched Maison Ikkoku so many times. ;-p I'm going to be horrified once I complete my list. You can periodically check on my progress here.
your loyalty today?
Can't believe I completely missed this earlier this week (must've been blinded by all the news postings about the immigration marches) but apparently May 1st is Loyalty Day!!! Yaaayyy!!! LOYALTY DAY!!!!! It's only the best holiday evaaahhhhh!!!!
Now back to your normally scheduled programming...
So last night I posted a for sale listing on everybody's favorite craigslist to see if anyone would be interested in my customized Waterfield Cargo bag. Customized because of the way they design the shoulder strap and the inclusion of only one cell phone side pocket. I had to have them reverse the two because I sling messenger bags over my left shoulder instead of my right. But anyway, early this morning I received a fairly innocuous "You still have this for sale?" email regarding the bag. When I replied in the affirmative, this is what I received in reply in its entirety:
Note:I will like to know why you want to sell this co's i dont pray for someone to sell his or her property purposely, because of problem which i can easily assist if i can, rather than advising him or her to sell it ok.
Alright now first off, I can expect something like this with stuff that I usually sell: computer, cellular and photo equipment. But a laptop bag???? Are you freakin' kidding me?!?!? Granted, Waterfield makes one insanely great bag but c'mon... now they're just grasping at straws.
But the scam emails do seem to be evolving. Besides the typical "I'll offer you more than your asking price" hook that I'm used to seeing, they're now trying to get you with the sympathy card too. Plus I'm kinda tempted to see exactly how this can play out cause reading the content, it actually sounds like a great deal if you ignore all the extraneous appealing to your greed/emotions crap. They're going to send me a USPS money order PLUS send me FedEx packing materials which they'll pay for through their FedEx account. What can go wrong, right? Yeah, right. =p
an easily impressed/placated consumer. Which makes me wonder why my list of businesses that I'm very happy with is so short. So far they include:
Bare Bones, creators of the insanely great BBEdit HTML/text editor ("It doesn't suck."®), wow'd me by notifying me of a feature I had asked them about months and months before. This was no mass email about a new upgrade, this was a direct "Hey, remember that feature you were asking about awhile ago? Guess what, we got it now." email.
Then there was Road Tools, with their CoolPad and PodiumPad. Must haves for laptop users IMO (unless you actually have them in your lap all the time). They sent me an entirely new pad along with a sheet of extra rubber feet for FREE when all I had emailed them about was whether or not I could purchase some rubber feet to replace those that had come unglued after years of use.
Waterfield impresses me with their absurdly well made Cargo bags. After 6 years of use the damn thing still looked like new. Back then, customer service was handled directly by the founder, Gary and he was always informative and polite. Nowadays they have others handling general email duty but it appears Gary still sends out thank you/your order has shipped emails. And the fact that they're willing to customize the bag for my quasi-left-handedness got them pluses in my book too.
And the latest addition to my list is Brando Workshop who I've purchased from numerous times now. Any time a gadget has an LCD that needs protecting, I get one of their UltraClear protectors. Possibly the best and easiest to use protector I've ever come across. I recently got a protector for a 5D and in the process of putting it on I was disappointed because they were smaller than the actual LCD area. So I shot off an email to them to let them know that their 5D ones were about a millimeter too small and their response was apologetic and they offered to send me a new one. Yay, more free stuff! ;-p Even more surprising to me because Brando is based in Hong Kong, and HK businesses aren't exactly known to be very people friendly. But maybe things have changed since last I've been there.
Looking at the list it appears that I enjoy shopping with smaller, privately-owned companies. They provide a much better and more personalized all-around consumer experience. I guess you pretty much pay for it with higher prices but if you're not scraping the bottom of your wallet to do so, why not?
One larger company that is on the brink of making this list is Newegg. Their online chat customer service is very useful and very good and their customer service agents are pretty liberal in making up for any perceived difficulties in fulfilling your order. Thus far I've gotten free upgraded shipping and some discounts from them over ordering issues. My boss accidentally bought an OEM mobo instead of a retail one and when he called to tell them about his mistake, they just told him to keep the OEM one and sent him the retail one without charging extra for it! It wasn't even their fault! Plus you can find some pretty good deals with them. The reason they're not currently on the list is because their Preferred Account functionality has issues if you're ordering stuff that ships from multiple warehouses. I had to place an order 5 times because of this and at the end it still didn't come out quite right. =p But otherwise they're a great place to go for computer, electronic and occasionally, photographic needs.
So everyone pretty much acknowledges that Americans are way too sue-happy for their own good but this one pretty much takes the cake. Umm, excuse me Mr. Hancock but, yeah it's sad that your MLB pitcher son died and all but let me see, he:
No sympathy here.
It all began four years ago when I spew'd about an intrepid woman with a site asking for donations to her boob fund. Fast forward two years and you get MyFreeImplants.com. A middle man if you will, bringing together women who want bigger boobs and the men who don't mind throwing money at strangers as long as they get to see pictures of big boobs. Fast forward another two years and Felix finally notices. =) Some things just don't move at Internet speed on the Internet. ;-p
In a way I admire the entrepreneurship of the MyFreeImplants guys but as for the premise of the site.... eewww.
a computer/video game that made a successful transition into a movie? I don't think The Sims is going to be the one that breaks out of that trend. What kind of a movie can you make out of a game that simulates life? Although I'll give them kudos if they keep the Charlie Brown teacher's "wah wah waah" method of speech in the movie and subtitle everything.
This post pretty much matters only to those who live in the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area so feel free to skip past this if that's not you.
Anyway, I'm just excited that K-ROCK is back! I used to be a fan back in 2005/2006 and was bummed when they switched to "Free FM". Now if only they can bring back The Booker Show, which was the funniest evening radio show in the area for awhile there. It was a sad day when that show stopped airing. Ah well, just having the music back is a good thing.
While this news of the first man-raised panda to be released into the wild being mauled to death by other wild pandas is sad, the following quote from the veterinarian painted an amusing scene in my mind:
This being China I pictured a Shaolin monk teaching the panda stuff like iron fist or eagle claw. That would be the bomb.
Today's critter death day for me apparently. Although a bit older news, I found this discussion on the current bee crisis in the US to be pretty interesting. Never knew bees were so critical to the agriculture industry and that beekeepers make a living carting around their colonies from farm to farm to pollinate stuff. They're the pimps of plant reproduction. =) All I know is I love me some honey.
Recently got rid of my old Waterfield medium Cargo and Timbuk2 Commute bags to make room for larger replacements. First up is this medium Biz collection hybrid messenger/backpack from BumBakPaks. I had been eye'ing their bags for awhile now and finally decided to pull the trigger on one. Their claim to fame is their Bak2Pak carrying system that lets you convert quickly and easily between backpack and messenger modes. As a backpack, the bag itself also sits down on your lower back instead of starting near your shoulders which is supposed to help put less strain on your back. Since I'm not getting any younger unfortunately, I figured this would be ideal, even if it looks kinda funny.
The front of the bag is pretty nondescript with a zippered pocket, 2 plastic latches and their logo. Having a zippered pocket in the front flap is key for me; one of the reasons I got rid of the Timbuk2 Commute bag. There's also a handy carrying loop on top.
Just a quick followup on the earphone comparison I put up in February. For the past few months I've been using the Etymotic ER-6i earphones exclusively over the V-Moda Vibe due to the ER-6i's better performance on the high and mids which made it a better choice for the classical music that I've been listening to. Interestingly enough, when I started listening to Linkin Park's new album, Minutes to Midnight ripped at 320kbps, I was surprised to hear that the bass on the ER-6i's seemed to be a LOT better than I remembered it to be. A quick subsequent comparison with the Vibe confirmed it. I'm not sure what the hell happened to my ER-6i's but its bass performance seems to be much better than it used to be. So much that now if I take everything (high, mid, bass) into account, the ER-6i's simply blow the Vibe away. Either the ER-6i has now fully been broken in or ripping mp3s at a higher bit rate minimizes the loss of data on the low end so that the ER-6i has more to work with.
As for the microphonics and occlusion effect on the ER-6i, I guess I've used it for so long now that I don't really notice it anymore. So I guess what I'm saying is that for the price, the ER-6i is really damn good, provided you're willing to wait a coupla months for it to hit its stride or you rip your MP3s at higher than 192kbps.
I've recently replaced my t-shirt collection with those from Threadless and was sporting Stick Figures in Peril yesterday. While on the PATH homeward-bound, I noticed an old lady, I'm talking really old, like 70 pushing 80, a bit hunched, skinny, varicose veins all over, looking at me and smiling. When she noticed that I was looking at her she smiled again and said "I like your shirt." I gave her a smile back. Then thinking I probably couldn't hear her cause I had my earphones on, she turned to her caretaker next to her and said, "I really like his shirt."
So there you have it. Little ol' ladies like bright red shirts of a skull and crossbones depicting various ways people can meet their maker. ;-) The elderly continues to amaze me every once in awhile.
Plans are being drawn up, camping equipment readied, it's going to be the PS3/Wii all over again. I suppose the easiest place to camp out in would be the 5th Avenue Apple Store since it's open 24/7. Unless they intentionally force all iPhone campers outside.
I'm still vacillating mightily on whether or not I want one. Logic tells me to wait for the next version since there's just so much missing from the initial version. But then the early adopter in me wants to eh... early adopt. Damn you Palm for being so pathetically inept. I would have been happy being iPhone-less if only you idiots got your act together and actually came out with a new PalmOS-based Treo that was finally worth upgrading to.
Next up is my new large Waterfield Cargo bag with Celeste Iridium trim and para-gliding buckle (instead of the previous aircraft buckle). I got rid of my previous medium sized Waterfield to make way for this one. The medium's main compartment was a tad too small for me. Once you had put your laptop in, there wasn't much room for anything else. This large version takes care of that problem. The bag material seems to be a bit stiffer than I remember but maybe that'll soften up with age.
yeeaah... because religion is a complete stranger to violence.
I actually played this game over the weekend and while I can't speak 100% for other first-person shooter fans, I did not, at any time, stop to think, "Oooo, this is a photo-realistic representation of the Manchester Cathedral. I'm gonna crush me some pews." At most I'll think, "Hmm... this location looks pretty cool," before moving on to the next cluster of mutated enemies to blow to bits.
I think the dean should have better things to worry about in the world besides:
For 99% of the players of this game out there, unless they're a church buff or live in Manchester, they will have no idea which cathedral they've been playing in. To somehow relate Manchester's gun problems with this game? Disingenuous.
sleep is good for you. Starting a bit over a week or so ago, Erin's been forcing me to hit the hay at midnight. And for the first time, I've actually been able to stick with it. Well, more or less, sometimes I'll slip an hour, but that's at most. So no more 2-3am bed times. An extra 2-3 hours of sleep nightly is actually quite nice. I'm not dozing on the bus to and from work, my brains not all muddled during the day, and I no longer feel like I need an afternoon nap when I'm at work. So I suppose I'll keep at it.
Unfortunately, no longer staying up late nights means my blog times (and other extracurricular activities) have gone down. Between this, playing with Devon, putting photos of Devon up, keeping up with my anime list, and work getting busy, not much time for much else. And I'm still backlogged with Devon's photos.
So my next big step will be to somehow manage my time more efficiently. Not a clue how to even start with that but I think for starters I'll actually try to do the stuff that needs to be done instead of getting sidetracked by another game of MLB 07 on my PSP. ;-p
So I got into work this morning and took a glance at my Gmail. Normally I don't pay attention to the text ads that are placed here and there but for some reason, this caught my eye:
Why? No idea. But since I have a phobia when it comes to clicking on ads, I manually entered that URL instead into a new Firefox tab. www.xoxide.com. Which brought me to a site that sells PC parts. Not exactly sure what that had to do with a Steven Seagal energy drink so I googled "Steven Segal Energy Drink" and found this link to the specific product on the site.
At a quick glance, I wasn't sure if this was a real product or not because the title is
Asian Experience???? WTF? And then it's also out of stock. And under Features, it reads, and I kid you not:
Mmmmm.... 100% pure Steven Seagal Juice! Yum! And right below that there's a warning about exploding Bawls due to cold weather during the winter months.
But apparently it is a real product, as the official website will attest. So, who's brave enough to try one?
This article made me sad. Growing up, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat was my favorite fighter jet by far. Having it show up on Top Gun was cool but I think the most awesome quasi-appearance was in the Japanese anime series Macross, aka Robotech here in the US. I bet the Navy pilots wished their rides could transform like the Valkyries. =)
At least my other favorite fighter plane, the Warthog, will still be around for the foreseeable future and beyond.
The NYPD has an arguably well-known reputation for being a bit trigger happy. Literally. So I found this article note-worthy for two things:
1. Does the police routinely just fly around in a helicopter looking for crime?
2. The description of them "trading punches with the crook" before apprehending him in chest-high water was a welcome change and a little comical-sounding. They could just have easily unloaded a couple of hundred rounds at him first. So kudos on displaying restraint.
Or is the lack of lethality due to the fact that this was the Queens PD and not Manhattan?
Apparently China really wants to one-up Japan in just about anything. Fer cryin' out loud it's just a bathroom people! No need to gussy it up like a love hotel.
Ok so I'm a bit tardy with this one but better late than never as the saying goes. By this time I've carried both the BumBakPak Biz and Waterfield Cargo back and forth on my daily commute a bunch of times each so I've gotta a decent idea of what I like and don't like about them.
Physically, the two bags are pretty much equally large. I've fit two laptops plus my 5D+lens and other odds and ends in both bags with ease. Carrying such a load, on the other hand, is much easier with the BBP in backpack mode as you have the weight distributed across both shoulders. The Waterfield, even unloaded, feels like a heavier bag so once you start packing on the pounds your shoulder really feels it, even with the shoulder pad.
The Waterfield is a deeper bag though so if you had to, you can cram much thicker objects into its main compartment than you can the BBP. For the moment I think I currently favor the Waterfield because the exterior is just much cleaner and simpler overall. The BBP, because of its transformable nature, has too many dangling straps and D-rings and what not all over. However, the BBP in backpack mode is definitely the more comfortable bag, especially when dealing with heavier loads. I pretty much never carry the BBP in messenger bag mode as the strap isn't too comfortable for my uses. But I'll probably wind up alternating if not daily, at least weekly between the two. Unless something calls for a heavy load in which case the BBP will get the call every time.
A few years ago, for reasons lost in the ethers of time, I decided to get my first dSLR: a Canon Digital Rebel. Compulsive gadget collector that I am, that probably wasn't the best of ideas as it just started me down another road of expensive things to acquire and play around with. Between then and now, I've moved through the Rebel XT, Rebel XTi, 30D, and finally, the 5D. And that's just the camera bodies. Don't even get me started on lenses.
Suffice to say, my "everything but the kitchen sink" days of lens buying is behind me as I've tried to just keep what I believe I'll actually use. Currently that leaves me with 5. Ideally I wanted to cut down to 3 but eventually settled on 4 as being more realistic. So I still have to whittle away a bit.
As for the 5 that I currently have, starting from left to right in the photo above:
In order of console appearance in the market, first off the XBox 360:
Luckily I've never seen the "Ring of Fire" but nevertheless had my 360 replaced for the reason documented here. Next up, the PS3.
The PS3 has been disappointing since its launch although the recently released Ninja Gaiden Sigma is pretty great and there's a bunch of upcoming games that I'm looking forward to as well. And last but not least, the Wiiiiiii.....
While the Wii is definitely the most compelling and fun of the 3 systems as far as gameplay is concerned, the age-old Nintendo weaknesses: kiddy games for the most part and unimpressive graphics still hold true. While I break out the Wii when guests are over, I inevitably gravitate back towards the 360 or PS3 when home alone. But that's just me.
Still not sure what all the hoopla over Twitter is but I figured I'd at least futz around with it for a little while to see if I'd somehow see the light. So I've added a new "My Twittering" section to the right-hand side of this blog which'll list my 5 most recent twitters (twits?). Feel free to add me if you're already using Twitter.
Earlier this week I decided to buckle down and take a look at RSS organizers/readers. I, like every other web addict out there, have a stable of websites that I eyeball on a daily basis. Prior to this week, how I checked up on these sites was basically to bookmark them all and throw them into folders differentiated by content type (Blogs, General Tech, Mac, etc.) and then right clicking on the folders and choosing the "Open All in Tabs" option. This generally worked just fine for me, the only hitch being if I had a folder that had like 20+ bookmarks, Firefox would hang a bit trying to load all 20+ sites at one time in separate tabs.
For news-related sites that had RSS feeds, I also fed them into my My Yahoo page, which also worked ok except the current beta version of the site doesn't seem to update the feeds reliably. And you're limited to the 10 most recent headlines.
So I asked around to see what other people were doing. Some were just using Firefox's built-in RSS feed support (aka Live Bookmarks). Which, as far as I can tell, is just a souped up bookmark. When you subscribe to a feed, Firefox creates a "live bookmark" that pretty much looks like any other bookmark except when you click on it, a list of headlines from the feed pops up for you to peruse. A step up from my original setup but not really all that much better I thought.
Another option is to use an entirely separate app, like NetNewsWire to handle my RSS needs. I nixed that idea real quick cause I didn't think having to run a separate application alongside the browser made any sense. Yes you can read entire articles in the RSS app but... why? It's not like I don't like having a browser open. Just didn't see the point.
So I decided to settle on, what else, Google Reader. Like other Google web apps, it's clean and pretty easy to use. Some may find the available functionality a bit light so far but it works just fine for my needs. I organize my feeds into folders (why folders here and not in Gmail?), and they get updated every few minutes. Or if you're the impatient type you can click on the Refresh buttons yourself. They actually work, unlike the mysterious update buttons on My Yahoo that give no feedback so I can't tell if clicking on them actually does anything.
You can also star entries that you might want to refer back to in the future and a simple click on the "Starred items" link will show you just the ones you've starred. Although it can get kinda unwieldy once you start starring tons of entries since there's no other way to categorize the starred items or search through them.
There's also the option to share selected feeds and entries which Google will then display on your "public" page which you can then tell your friends to browse to. And you can also use that to set up a "clip" that you can add to your own site. Unfortunately the clip isn't really very customizable yet (you can set the # of entries displayed and color of text for now) so I couldn't cram it into the right-hand column of this blog.
And there's a "Trends" section where you can see how many articles you've read/starred/shared and more interesting, how often a feed is updated per day. To sidetrack for a minute here: for some reason, after I started using Google Reader, I started noticing offhandedly that Gizmodo seems to churn out a lot more posts than its rival, Engadget. The same holds true for their video game sites (Kotaku vs. Joystiq). Now I've been visiting all 4 sites ever since their inception and truthfully, there's really no need as they pretty much report the exact same things throughout the day. A quick look at trends shows that the Gizmodo/Kotaku combo averages about 26 posts/day while Engadget/Joystiq comes in at 14.9/day. So I wasn't just dreaming and I guess if I really wanted to, I could just dump my Engadget/Joystiq feeds. And I suppose if there's no compelling reason for me to stick around (like enjoying the Weblogs, Inc. writers' witty writing style more than Gawker Media's or whatnot), I probably will.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. For me, Google Reader's turned out to be a pretty good aggregator of all my feeds. It works pretty reliably and it allows me to catch up on my feeds no matter which computer (or iPhone) I'm on. I pretty much never have to visit any of the added sites directly anymore unless I want to view comments or leave one of my own. Oh, and it has integration with Google Gears in case you need to go offline and want to take your unread feeds with you. I haven't had the need to do that yet so no comments there. Moving all my RSS feeds to Google Reader also trimmed down my My Yahoo page as well so it's no longer 50 pages long (so I'm exaggerating, just a little bit). So it seems I can officially lay my old blog bookmark folder to rest.
Every now and then I like to roam the netaverse in search of good deals on gadgets and photo gear. Moreso in the past, not so much in the present. But in the midst of these scouting expeditions, I often found myself thinking, "wouldn't it be cool if there was some way that I could get notified of items that I'm interested in that were just placed for sale?" Mainly for sites like craigslist, eBay and fredmiranda.com.
Well, recently I was reading the latest issue of Wired and in one of their "how to" articles they mentioned craig2mail which periodically emails you the results of a user-specified craigslist or eBay search. Which works via RSS feed. RSS feed... Hmm... The long dormant gerbil hibernating in my skull was rousted outta bed to get ye ol' rusty gears turning. Product search... RSS feed... interesting... Wait, what??? You can do that???
Lo and behold, you can do that. Basically just do a search in craigslist and eBay for whatever it is you want and look for the standard orange RSS graphic/link on the result page. In your fav RSS reader, subscribe to said link's URL and voila! You'll now be updated on every single item that matches your search. That's pretty much exactly what I was looking for. craig2mail takes it a step further and emails you with every new entry but I rarely need to know about something that badly. Keeping an eye on it in Google Reader is more than sufficient for me. Now if only fredmiranda would get with the times and RSS their forums I'd be a happy, happy man.
So anyway, that was my exciting web discovery for the week. I'd be more excited if I was actually looking for something but oh well, nice lil' tidbit to keep in mind for future reference.
Spending the latter half of my middle school and the entirety of my high school years in North Central Jersey, I saw my fair share of guidos. Apparently they've evolved a little bit since then as I don't remember such emphasis placed on dancing. But these 2 clips are pretty super.
Brought to my attention via Clublife.
of silly dancing people (and toys). Most of you have probably already seen the Haruhi dance in one form or another making their rounds on the Interweb. What I hadn't realized was that apparently this isn't just a US / Japan phenomena as this summary clip makes pretty clear:
Then I stumbled upon Youtube user plamoo's pretty funtastic stop-motion animation clips. And he doesn't just have ONE Haruhi dance clip:
He has two:
And as a bonus, he even has Gundams doing the Lucky â˜† Star dance:
The rest of his vids are pretty neat too watch too. Don't understand what the hell's going on but he's done a great job. Although I always wonder about the people who have the time to do stop-motion animation.
No, this isn't a zombie post. Just spent 10 minutes up'ing the RAM in my MacBook Pro from the default 2GB it came with to... 3GB!!! Yeah, yeah, doesn't sound like much of an increase but I had no choice, the maximum supported is just 3GB. Has something to do with the Intel chip set that Apple used.
What the hell kind of question is that? I'd cram 8GB of memory in my portable if Apple would let me (and if it was halfway affordable). If I need to have 4GB in my MacBook Pro, then Apple damn well better make it an option for me. ;-p Hmm... apparently the newest revision of the MBP does support 4GB now. Curses!
Anyhoo, the main reason I decided to bump the RAM is to see if it'd help with the performance of Parallels Desktop 3.0 any. Truthfully while the performance of these new virtualization programs are a step up from the old VirtualPC days, they're still pretty damn slow on portables. Of course they'll fly if you run 'em on a Mac Pro with 8GB RAM but not so zippy with anything less. Hopefully the addition of another GB of RAM will help but if not, guess I'll need to find some time to futz around with VMWare Fusion. Heard it was less of a resource hog than Parallels.
If all else fails, well, not much I can do. At this point I pretty much have the ol' MBP maxed out to the gills. 3GB RAM and a Samsung 250GB 5400RPM HD. I'll be working with this one for the next few years. Or until Apple finally decides to revamp their MBP design. ;-p
So last night I decided to sit down and take a slightly longer look at the new iPhoto '08 and see if any changes and features affect my photo workflow. The short answer: not really. Which is a good thing as I'm old enough to be set in my ways. ;-p
The biggest feature that Jobs touted was that now iPhoto will automatically group your photos into "events" (based on date/time I believe). For me, this actually made my workflow one step shorter in some cases. Prior to '08, whenever I downloaded photos from my camera to iPhoto, it would dump everything into one "film roll." Since I normally transfer photos on the same day that they were taken, each of my film rolls pretty much was an event to begin with. On the odd days where I'd have multiple events on my card, it really wasn't a huge deal to split them out into their own film rolls. With '08, film rolls no longer exist. So this new events based organization is basically an evolution of their previous film roll based organization. Which is nice cause that's exactly how I like to organize my photos.
The main reason I've had such trouble transitioning my workflow over to a more professional photo manager like Aperture is because I could never figure out a way to duplicate this film roll/event based organization outside of iPhoto. In Aperture, sure I can create folders for each event and dump the related photos inside, but there was no view where I could view the folders in descending date order. A work-around may have been to add the date to the beginning of the name of the folder but that's just ugly. Plus I use PS3 for all my RAW manipulation and photo editing anyway. Maybe Lightroom can do this type of organization but I haven't had time to check it out yet. Plus, iPhoto does what I want and is simple to use so I haven't really been that motivated to try anything else.
Anyway, back to iPhoto. Besides events, another change that I had to adjust to was assigning keywords to multiple photos. Previous versions had the keywords under the photo information popup but in '08 they've been moved to their own popup. So command-K instead of command-I now. And that's pretty much it as far as my personal workflow is concerned. There's plenty of other functionality available that I don't really use so won't comment about them.
The only other new functionality that I'm currently checking out is the Web Gallery. Basically you can choose a bunch of photos or an event or whatever, click on the Web Gallery button, select a few options and voila! You have a web gallery online. But you need to have a .Mac account for this to work. The interesting part comes with the options that you can choose for it. Stuff like allowing visitors to download the photos, allowing visitors to upload their own photos, and allowing anyone to contribute to the photos by emailing photos to a specific email address.
This last option was what I was most interested in because I had also heard of the "Send to Web Gallery" button on the iPhone that's supposed to exist after you update the phone software to v1.0.1. I must have spent like 45 minutes trying to get the accursed button to show up on my phone to no avail. Sure the email function worked fine if I specifically sent the photo to the given email address but I wanted that damned button!!! ;-p After tinkering around for awhile I just gave up and went to bed.
Interestingly enough, decided to check it again this morning and bam! the button is there. So apparently it takes some time for .Mac and the iPhone to figure out that they can link to each other. So what exactly does the button do? It allows you to choose which web gallery you want to upload the photo to and then creates an email message with the selected photo attached and addressed to the web gallery's email address. So it saves you from having to remember the email addresses of your potentially numerous web galleries. Which I guess is pretty nice if you're big into moblogging. The one I'm playing around with now is here. Figured it'd be a convenient way to throw up photos taken with my iPhone.
So while the '08 version of iPhoto isn't exactly a massive upgrade, it does make my life a teeny bit easier. It also does seem to run a bit faster overall as well.
When it comes to Interweb trends in the last few years, I've pretty much been slow to every single party. I checked out Youtube way back when it was just taking off and didn't find it overly compelling since I personally didn't have the time to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak. But as it has exploded in popularity, the amount of worthwhile clips are also increasing. Ran into this singer's clip on the 8Asians site and thought she was pretty great.
Marié Digby. She's got a very soothing voice and being easy on the eyes as well doesn't hurt. Apparently all this Youtube attention she's been getting within the last few months has really kick-started her career so it'll be interesting to see how it develops.
A few months back a good friend of mine set off to Macau after being recruited by her uncle to set up an English-teaching school there. At the time I didn't think much about it as English-teaching by expats is pretty commonplace throughout Asia. I always saw it as the fall-back job in those countries when a foreigner needed to pick up some cash or couldn't find any other form of employment. However, apparently some intrepid individuals in Hong Kong are taking it to a whole new level.
"Tutor God." Heh, I'm always amused by how the Chinese like to elevate anyone who's presumably super at something to god status. Buncha heathens. ;-p Although God of Cooking is pretty sublime. =) Anyway, things like this seem to be an uniquely Asian phenomenon. Somehow I don't see a Caucasian starting up a Chinese tutoring school in the US rising to such prominence. But I guess you never know. Stranger things have happened.
Thanks to intrepid reporter and former blogger, Andy, for the tip. ;-)
So Erin recently got the "temporary" addendum removed from her permanent resident status and I started looking into when she can become naturalized. US Immigration has a handy PDF named "A Guide to Naturalization" that lists the benefits and responsibilities of being a US citizen. I found the following line of interest:
Emphasis mine. It's unfortunate that this is only a "responsibility" and not a law. Although I suppose if it were a law a decent-sized chunk of the American population would have to be stripped of their citizenship and deported. ;-p Come to think of it, at the very least it'd be a pretty good additional punishment for those convicted of hate crimes. Serve your time then get your citizenship revoked and your ass shipped out of the country. I'd vote yes to that.
And just in case you're too lazy to flip through the PDF, there's really not that many responsibilities for US citizens:
Whoo hoo! Apparently I'm part of the budding trend amongst parents who get domain names for their babies! However, even we weren't dorky enough to choose Devon's name based on whether or not the domain was still available. =p Although I will admit that I did check. ;-p I figured it'd be better just to pick it up now and not lose out like I did with my own name and Erin's. But I'm not silly enough to give him his own email address yet.
Why would you even want to buy your name's domain name? Good question. I wonder if anyone would care if I bought say, felix*****.com, anonymized the whois data and started writing bad things about him and putting up supporting Photoshopped photos. Like he enjoys strangling puppies, eating Twinkies and cos-playing as Sailor Moon. Not that I ever would of course. I'm just saying. =)
Alright, you guys should already know by now that I can't resist a Haruhi Suzumiya dance video that's not just a bunch of clowns goofing around. A collage of a bunch of clowns goofing around, that I'm ok with. And then there's the 1500 Philippine inmates doing Thriller video. So obviously you know what's coming right? That's right, it's the same group of, but not quite 1500, Philippine inmates doing the Suzumiya dance:
Ahhh... the joys of the Interweb.
Oh it's been quite an exciting week to be a photography geek to say the least. First Canon impresses with the prosumer 40D and new flagship 1Ds Mark III and then two days later, Nikon answers with their, quite frankly stunning D300 and their first full-frame dSLR, the D3.
For those unfamiliar with the SLR scene, the Canon/Nikon rivalry is photography's version of the PC/Mac war. That being said, one would assume that I'd be a Nikon user since as with the Mac, the Nikon user mantra is that Nikon bodies are just so much more "user-friendly" than Canon's. Sound familiar? However, I'm not a Nikon user obviously. Primarily because I've used Canon digital cameras ever since the Powershot S10 so when I transitioned over to dSLRs, I just stuck with them. And also I believe at the time I got my first Digital Rebel, Nikon really didn't have anything similar on their end. I have in the recent past mulled picking up a D80 and the Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens so I can dabble but it's just too cost prohibitive. Unlike the Mac/PC scuffle, you can't share accessories (lenses in this case) cross-platform. Well ok, if you want to be really picky, you can use Nikkor lenses on Canon bodies but it's just too much of a hassle.
Now when you look at Canon's lineup and then Nikon's, I don't know about other people but I don't really see much overlap and it almost seems like the 2 companies planned it this way. In my mind, this is how the bodies line up in terms of price and features (from lowest to highest):
Nikon D40x < Canon Rebel XTi < Nikon D80 < Canon 40D < Nikon D300 < Canon 5D < Canon 1DIII < Nikon D3 < Canon 1DsIII
These 2 companies are simply alternating their products. You'll notice there's a Nikon gap between the 5D and 1DIII because Nikon does not have a prosumer full-frame that matches the 5D just yet. So I'm not sure if direct comparisons (like D40x vs XTi vs D80 or 40D vs D300 or D80 vs 40D) really work. Actually the only comparison that makes sense from a price standpoint would be the D40x vs XTi which I'd hand to the XTi simply because of the measly 3 AF points on the D40x. But it's tough to compare bodies from the XTi to the D300 range because the price and feature differences are significant enough between each that it makes it unfair to the lower-priced body. Personally, if circumstances were different, I'd seriously consider the D300 as my one and only camera. However, now that I've already drank the full-frame Kool-Aid, I'll wait to see what Canon does with the 5D revision. Probably pick up the 40D as a backup body in the meantime. Truthfully though, in this day and age, any body you get at that price range is going to be pretty kick ass. If you're completely new to SLRs, whether Canon or Nikon bodies are more "user-friendly" is inconsequential because you'll be learning everything from scratch anyway. And once you get used to one way, obviously the other way's going to feel not as friendly to you. You may also want to actually physically handle the ones you're interested in at a store since it's hard to determine the fit of the bodies to your own hands without actually feeling one personally. But just choose the one that you feel most comfortable with and that is closest to the max that you can afford (don't forget about the lenses cause they're definitely more important) and go out and take pictures! That's what you're getting it for, right?
The following two sites aren't ones I check on a regular basis but one of them at least is worth checking on every now and then, especially if you've got lil' ones afoot.
First up we have MyDeathSpace. It's an online obituary for people who have passed on and happen to have pages on either MySpace or Facebook. I found it strangely fascinating since my previous encounters with obituaries are just the usually matter-of-fact ones found in newspapers. It becomes much more interesting when there are photos of the deceased and detailed info involved. As far as I can tell, suicide by hanging seems to be a pretty common way to go as well as motor vehicle accidents. And then there's the one very unfortunate young lady who really wanted to go cause she took pills, slit her wrist and then took a bullet. Obviously not a site for daily visiting unless you're extremely morbid. Spending a bit too much time on it can be a tad too depressing.
Next up is Vision 20/20, a site that's a mash up between Microsoft Maps and the registered sex offenders list. Complete with photos of said offenders. Enter your address and voila! You get to see how close these creeps are you to. Somewhat disturbing to say the least, especially if you get a ton of hits in your immediate vicinity. Even if you don't have kids it might be useful to check out for real estate pricing purposes. ;-p
As Felix, along with just about everyone else in the blogosphere has already mentioned, the late week brouhaha between NBC and Apple is quite the made-for-TV drama. My thoughts on this align closely with those of John Gruber's over at Daring Fireball and as far as I can tell, it's NBC that's being hammered overwhelmingly over it. This is another one of those instances where NBC should have just shut the hell up since their posted response didn't exactly make things better.
Regarding the price increase issue, it's pretty apparent that Apple was just throwing out an alarmist, worst-case scenario to put pressure on NBC. NBC's response that they "never asked to double the wholesale price" but just wanted to "request for flexibility in wholesale pricing" sounds somewhat reasonable but Interweb denizens are obviously some of the most jaded and cynical folk around, especially when it comes to anything that has to do with DRM and/or having to pay (even more) money for stuff that can be easily/illegally obtained for free. But this "request" is obviously a prelude to a slippery slope that Apple definitely doesn't want to get anywhere close to. If actually given the opportunity, does anyone doubt NBC wouldn't take it to see how much they can push the prices before they start losing a significant amount of customers? And once the prices do start escalating at the Apple iTunes store, who do you think will be the first to be blamed? If you were Apple, would you want to deal with that crap?
As for the other request to Apple "to take concrete steps to protect content from piracy," that sounds fine in and of itself cause ok, they just want Apple to work on strengthening the existing DRM or something. But then they continue with "since it is estimated that the typical iPod contains a significant amount of illegally downloaded material." Are they out of their bleepin' minds??? Not only did they just call every iPod user a law-breaking pirate (which I'll admit is probably true to various degrees for the most part), but they want Apple to somehow restrict what their customers can and can't put in their iPods. Is this the Apple iPod or the NBC iPod? Yeah, kiss my ass is pretty much the appropriate response.
But I must say, NBC's got cajones for trying to pull this off against Apple. As Conan often likes to joke about, their primetime lineup had been stuck down in 4th place for years following the end of Friends. Suddenly they get a few decent shows going and they start acting too big for their britches. Hey NBC, if you want to do what you want Apple to do, then go design your own portable entertainment device, open your own online store, and find a way to convince millions of people that they'd really enjoy living by your benevolent, completely un-selfish rules. C'mon, you guys are part of GE! You bring good things to life, remember? Oh right, it's "imagination at work" now. Just don't overdo it, ok? Your imagination's starting to look more like delusions.
So after yesterday's Apple event, the Interweb is aflame with the sound of fair-weather Apple early adopters' shrieks of anger and despair. C'mon guys, you're giving us real early adopters a bad name. ;-p If you can't stand the short (and rapidly decreasing) shelf life of being on the cutting edge, then don't join the party. No company has to cater to the results of our lack of willpower when it comes time to outdate it with a new model or drop the price. Just take your lumps, accept it or learn from it, and move on. At least with the iPhone you have the possibility of getting free and rather significant usability updates to the software/firmware as opposed to the piddling bug-fix firmware updates characteristic of just about every other cell phone/MP3 player out there. The iPhone you've had for the last 2+ months didn't just get any worse functionally than the ones being released now at a lower price did it? Beh, FSJ has a bunch of posts concerning this matter (too much IMO), but I like this one best.
As for those who view the price drop as some sign of weakness on Apple's part, I smirk in your general direction.
Anyways, moving on, iBrate has got to be the dumbest iPhone app ever released so far. But what do I know, maybe some ladies out there will enjoy it. Then the complaints that the iPhone's vibrate function not being strong enough will take on a whole new dimension.
And in iPhone-unrelated news, I think this shirt is pretty cool. Although I'm a bit wary of actually getting and wearing it on the off chance that some psycho takes it to heart and decides to gut me like a fish. ;-p
Long time readers know I'm not exactly the person to go to when it comes to spiritual matters. But these two articles may change my mind:
So in the latter third of August, I placed a pre-order on Amazon for a certain product which will remain unnamed. Since it was over $25 it qualified for the free super savings shipping which I chose. Didn't think about it again until the last week of August rolled around and I started hearing that the item would most likely be shipping mid to end of the week. After looking up my order, discovered that Amazon was projecting an end of September/early October shipping date. Now I know orders are usually slower to ship if you go with the free shipping but a month difference is a bit absurd. So I changed the order to 2-day shipping which changed my estimated shipping date to the first week of September. What a difference an extra $16 makes apparently.
Unexpectedly, I received an "your order has shipped" email from Amazon on Saturday, Sept. 1 with estimated delivery date of Wednesday, Sept. 5. Given that it was Labor Day weekend, I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately as the weekend went on, I discovered that Amazon, for some then-unknown reason, had decided to send my order via UPS Ground. Unless my order was shipping out from somewhere one state over from NJ (which it wasn't, it was coming from Kentucky), there was no way I'd be getting my order in 2 days as I had specified. So I sent customer service an email to see what their logic was. The reply I received had the following two paragraphs of interest:
Now usually I'm a "let by gones be by gones" type of guy but I was irritated by this canned reply. Usually if a person specifies a shipping method that has an exact date range in the name, they want their product in that date range. I've never purchased anything online from any store, paid for two day shipping, and had the store send it via GROUND mail of any sort. If a person chooses two-day shipping, it's usually cause they want it in TWO DAYS. But apparently Amazon is saying, well we'll try to get it to you in two days but sometimes it might take up to four. WTF? Who does that? And apparently their "knowledge of carrier capabilities" even after millions of shipments still ain't that great. Plus I didn't spend $16 on shipping to have it sent Ground. If I knew that would be the case I would have just chosen standard shipping which would have come out to be less than half of the two-day shipping cost and arrived at the same time.
Blah, but anyways, I suppose overall it wasn't that big of an inconvenience since the item was delivered one day after I was realistically expecting it (although they shouldn't send out "your item has shipped" emails on weekends since apparently UPS doesn't pick up from them on weekends so your item wouldn't actually ship until the next weekday) and in the end, they did refund my shipping fee. But still, a bit of a sour experience and I'll think twice before shelling out for expedited shipping again.
After running into this monstrosity of a burger, it reminded me of my old post on Wendy's 3/4lb Triple with Cheese. I think the Japanese burger would be more fun to eat than the Wendy's one though. It's also better than Burger King's contribution to this class of super burgers, the Triple Whopper with Cheese. *sigh* In my younger days I probably wouldn't have batted an eye before wolfing down one of these artery-thickening burgers of death but now I just stand incredulous. All three however, still pale in comparison to the largest hamburger in the world.
For the second time in about just as many weeks, Southwest Airlines flight attendants have been accused of forcing a passenger to cover themselves up for "inappropriate clothing". I saw what the first girl was wearing, didn't seem inappropriate to me. Now while this article about the second woman has no picture, I found the ending quote by the etiquette teacher rather interesting:
Huh. So if you smoke, have a tattoo, and/or wear something a bit risqué you're a dirty, rotten liar. Nice. =p
So I've been puttering around with the new Canon 40D for the last week now and I've gotta say I'm quite impressed. The following two photos are resized crops taken with a Canon 50mm f/1.4, shot straight as JPEG, Standard Picture Style preset with no post-processing whatsoever.
And the following two are 100% crops of the full-sized JPEGs of the same photos:
Not too shabby.
I have yet to do an ISO 1600 and 3200 comparison between this and the 5D but from I've read on the photography sites, the 5D is still just a little bit better when it comes to low-light noise. Ergonomically the 40D grip and thumb groove are a tiny bit deeper but that tiny bit makes a pretty good impact as I feel like I get a firmer grip on the 40D. And Canon finally decided to show ISO on the top LCD at all times along with displaying it in the bottom strip of the viewfinder. You no longer have to hit the ISO button just to see what you're set at. It is a bit disconcerting to see all those modes on the mode dial (I think there's like 1 blank spot left on the thing) though.
So I'm still trying to decide what I'm going to do with this thing. Originally I bought it cause I thought it'd be nice to have two bodies. I figured I'd stick the Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS on the 1.6x crop 40D to get the extra range and then use the 5D for everything else. Then I thought well, maybe I can also use the 40D as a lighter vacation body where I can pair it with the Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OS and Canon 35mm f/1.4. Only problem with that is that I don't own either of those lenses. =p
So ok, maybe I'll just stick with one body. But which one? I really like the AF for the 40D as it feels to me that all the outer points work better than the ones on the 5D since each point is high precision cross-type as opposed to being just high precision on the 5D. Although the 5D has those 6 additional points clustered around the middle that makes tracking moving targets more accurate, I don't currently take all that many photos of moving objects. The cross-types help more with low-light AF which I find myself doing more often. The new Highlight Tone Priority mode on the 40D also appears to work pretty well.
On the other hand, I really do like full frame. It's nice that the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 actually gives me a range spanning from decently wide to short telephoto. On a crop body like the 40D, the 24-70 would be all telephoto. I suppose it wouldn't be difficult to swap the 24-70 for a Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS but even that gives me an actual range of 27-88mm which is not as wide. Although from my experience the 17-55 IS is a much sharper lens.
On another hand, going back to a crop camera will stop me from constantly wondering whether or not it's a good idea to pick up the Canon 50mm f/1.2, backfocus issues and all, as I can just repurchase the Canon 35mm f/1.4 which I had absolutely loved but had to reluctantly give up because it was too wide on a full frame.
And the final advantage of possibly keeping the 40D and selling the 5D now is that Canon will most likely upgrade the 5D in 2008 and chances are high I would upgrade to that, especially if the AF points are upgraded as well as the addition of the now-standard dust cleaning mechanism. So I can still get a decent amount now for the 5D on the used market as opposed to having to try and sell it when the price tanks even more after the next 5D is announced.
But if I do swap back to a crop body, that means I'll have to flip my lenses as well which, while not overly difficult, can be time consuming. Maybe I'll just return the 40D and take my chances on the 50L. *sigh* Guess I'll do a couple of more tests in low light situations before making a final decision. Thanks to Amazon's super 30 day return policy I've got another few weeks to play around.
So I've been clicking around Yahoo Mash over the weekend and while I'm no connoisseur of online social networks, it's got some interesting tidbits. The most obvious being the ability to modify not just your own profile, but the profile of any one else who lets you. By default, your profile is editable by your (soon to be ex-) "friends" but you can change that to just yourself, best friends, family or even anyone. And when I say modify, I mean modify. You can change pretty much everything except for your friend's display name, age/birthday and location. You can add modules to their page, rearrange their page, give their page a garish MySpace-type makeover, add porn clippings to their My Stuff module, write completely false information about them, etc. The sky's the limit. So choose your friends wisely. Or just change your setting so that only you can modify your page. But where's the fun in that?
Every change that is made to your page is logged however and their is a revisions page where everything that has happened to your page is listed in chronological order and where you can also choose to reject changes made by other people to your page which just removes them. So reverting your page back to some semblance of sanity isn't too difficult if you've been digitally toilet-papered.
The other feature that I thought was cool is the "this is fugly" link which basically strips the CSS of whatever profile you're currently viewing so that it appears in the plain jane black text on white background default appearance. This is for the safety of your eyeballs and your sanity when you accidentally come upon a profile by one of the artistically-challenged people out there who like to set really busy images as their page background or can't color-coordinate their way out of a paper bag. Often a problem that I witnessed on MySpace. Obviously it doesn't actually strip the CSS from the user's page, it just ignores it while you're viewing it. Pretty handy.
As for the rest of the site, the number of available modules to play with is relatively small currently but growing and what modules that do exist seem to be pretty basic at the moment and with a few of them it's not readily apparent what they're supposed to do or how you're supposed to use them. You're currently not able to change your page layout from the default two-column (left wide, right narrow) view but hopefully that'll be something that will be added later on. And unlike My Yahoo, any module can be dragged and dropped and reordered into either column which is nice (although there are some minor appearance bugs that need to be resolved with some of the modules when placed in the narrower right column). The default look of a profile seemed to me to be pretty plain and boring but I guess they're leaving it to the individual (and their friends & family) to jazz it up themselves.
And it also appears that they'll be opening it up for third-party developers to submit their own modules which apparently is Facebook-esque. I wouldn't know since I don't use Facebook. We'll see how that goes. Anyway, like I said, I'm not a big fan or user of social networks so I can't draw any comparisons between this and its predecessors and rivals but so far, I don't hate it. And messing around with your friend's profiles can be amusing. But we'll see how long that lasts. ;-) So if anyone would like to join in on the fun and I know you in some way, just let me know and I'll send an invite.
This past weekend I picked up one of the more anticipated titles for the PS3 since, well, ever: Heavenly Sword. Prior to this purchase, I was working my way through Ninja Gaiden Sigma. So I thought I'd post some thoughts on the two. First thing I'd have to say is, I've been playing NGS off and on for mmm, probably over a month now and I still haven't finished it. Heavenly Sword? Finished in one day. NGS is probably the most annoyingly difficult game I've ever come up against. HS has been accused of being rather easy (button mashing) and repetitive but I find playing HS much more enjoyable because of the more fun-looking moves that Nariko has. And you don't have to button mash in HS. HS is visually an impressive game, NGS is not bad in that department but nothing too fantastic. The numerous cut scenes in HS are quite good as well particularly the one where the evil King Bohan (modeled by Andy Serkis of LotR fame) is talking to his generals. I can see myself playing HS a couple of more times, NGS, not so much cause getting through it feels like such a chore. HS definitely should have been longer though. And there were two parts of the game that I thought were kinda cool prior to playing the game but which turned out to be not that cool during the game.
So the 2008 fall TV season started last night with a bang and I prepared for the occasion by deleting the entire past season of So You Think You Can Dance from our DVR. Erin never even had the chance to finish watching it. Oh well, more important things to be recorded. ;-) Like Family Guy's season opener, oddly named "Blue Harvest". Basically the MacFarlane take of Episode IV: A New Hope. If you're a Star Wars fan, you shouldn't miss it so once it hits BitTorrent or your download source of choice, get it. Immediately.
Good times, good times...
Martinelli's produces the best apple juice I've ever had. Nectar of the gods material. If you're an apple juice fan, this is the Holy Grail. I've been drinking their juice sparingly for years, mainly because they were so damn hard to find in stores. So I was quite happy to see that I was slowly able to find them in more and more high-end supermarkets in NJ and bodegas in NYC. Until one day I found this abomination:
Why is it that when a beverage company finds themselves becoming more and more successful, they have to go ruin what used to be very cool glass containers and replace them with cheapo plastic ones? Same thing happened with POM and their pomegranate juice. When I first noticed them they were using these unique bulbous glass containers. Now that they're everywhere, it's still bulbous but now all plastic. Phooey. It's not like they're charging us significantly less now that they're using the cheap stuff. At least Martinelli's seems to still be giving their customers the choice of glass or plastic. =p
First time I've ever seen a company protect their cans in such fashion. Trés chic. ;-p
Glad Jobs finally saw the light. Of course he makes it sound like that's what he wanted to do all along. ;-p It'll be a long 4 months for iPhone app devs.
My workplace is dog-friendly hence the occasional doggy photo that will pop up here. This is one of my boss' toy poodles, Bella, whom he brought in one day because her usual doggy pal was recuperating at the vets from surgery. She's very tiny and very cute and apparently doesn't get any bigger than she is now. I normally don't like poodles but for her I'll make an exception. ;-)
On a different photo-related note, it's galleries like this that make me regret giving up my 35L. As far as I can tell he's a former Nikon shooter who switched to a Canon 5D and the "holy trinity" of Canon primes (along with a 24-105L) earlier this year. Not that it matters which system he's using since the photos are all pretty great. But he seems to favor the 35L and puts it to good use. Maybe I should reacquire one... Eh, who'm I kidding, it's not like I'm out shooting models for a living.
So let me get this straight, Bandai discovered a way to create a never-ending bubblewrap keychain and have sold 300,000 in the first 10 days at $7 a piece (remember, keychain) en route to potentially 2 million in 6 months? I'm gonna pick me up some Bandai stock. ;-p Gotta love the Japanese though. I mean I love popping bubble wrap as much as the next guy but apparently not as much as the Japanese.
But seriously, does this actually work in Japan???
I've heard that Japan is generally a polite society but c'mon, I would think the way to stop gropers IS to draw attention to them. A good smack to the face or knee to the groin would probably work better than this as well.
What would it take for you to engage in mortal combat? ;-p
Since I last wrote about my earphones back in June, I've sold off both the Etymotic ER-6i and V-Moda Vibe in favor of the bit more pricey Etymotic ER-4p which I really like. To me it's a pretty perfect blend of clear highs, mids, bass and outside noise suppression. Its cord is of a much thicker and heavier quality which also helps cut down on microphonics and occlusion. The only faults I have with it are that it only comes with triple-flanged and foam earbuds and the connector is L-shaped. The cheaper ER-6i had two different-sized double-flanged earbuds included as well which I liked because I found using a double-flange with my right ear worked best. As for the connector, I tend to prefer ones that stick straight out.
Now, the one major problem I have with the ER-4p is really no fault of its own. It's Apple's fault that they made such an annoyingly non-conforming earphone jack for their iPhone. Because of the ER-4p's L-shaped connector, it won't fit without an adapter. I first tried the Belkin adapter (because it was the first to be released). Utter crap. Granted, it did what it was supposed to do but it looked absolutely horrible doing it. You basically had like 2 inches of stiff plastic sticking out the top of the iPhone. A few weeks ago I accidentally purchased the Monster headphone adapter. Accidentally because I didn't pay close enough attention to its design and thought that there was a flexible cord connecting the connector and adapter. There wasn't. Like the Belkin, it's flexible stiff plastic and while it's thinner than the Belkin, it sticks out even more! So that was returned as well.
And finally I tried the newly released Shure Music Phone Adapter for iPhone. I had high hopes for this one because it also had a built-in microphone and control button. Sounded good, but reality was much different. For one, the plastic housing containing the microphone and button was relatively large and just felt cheap although the plastic construction made it quite light. The button, while a good length and rubbery, needed what I felt was stronger than required presses to function (especially if you wound up pressing by the edges). And lastly, because the adapter already comes with a good 2-3 feet or so of cord, when used with any regular earphone (besides Shure's own), you wind up with an extremely unwieldy Franken-earphone. Very disappointing. So this got returned as well.
Luckily, by this time, V-Moda had just launched the second iteration of their Vibe Duo earphones for the iPhone. The first model came out rather quickly after the iPhone's introduction and while it had a built-in microphone, it didn't have a control button to go with it so you'd still have to yank out your iPhone from wherever it was stashed to answer calls or switch songs and such. Their new model fixes that shortcoming so I picked one up quick. Like it's Vibe predecessor, it's a very good set of earphones and I believe V-Moda was even able to get more bass out of this one cause the Vibe Duo's bass was good enough to even impress my bass-happy coworker with the Ultimate Ears. Obviously the thumpier bass takes its toll on the mids and highs but that's to be expected with single-driver earphones. The microphone/button housing on it is much smaller compared to the Shure adapter but the button is a tad too small as you usually have to fumble around with the housing for a bit before you figure out where it is. But otherwise, it works really well and has replaced the stock iPhone headset for me.
So what about my ER-4p? For now it's relegated to at home duty, plugged in to one computer or another. I ordered this 3" audio extension cable from RadTech but unfortunately it's backordered till mid-November. Hopefully I'll be able to get it in before our trip to Taiwan where I'll use it with the iPhone on the plane since it'll just function as a music player while we're out there. Griffin, along with some other no-name brands have also released adapters based on the same premise but they're usually about an inch longer and in this case, shorter is better. If only Etymotic would come out with an iPhone-specific set of earphones...
and to the point.
Not entirely correct but what the hey.
I've always been a sucker for new beverages on the market. Most of the stuff I try are one-shot only kind of deals, not good enough to warrant future patronage. Every once in awhile I run into something worth obsessing over. My current beverage of choice is this Half & Half Lemonade Tea by Sweet Leaf. Their whole line of beverages are certified USDA organic and not so massively sweet like Snapple. Plus I've always been a sucker for tea/lemonade mixes. I've also tried their Original Sweet Tea, Mint & Honey Green Tea, and Very Berry Hibiscus Tea and didn't like any of them except for the Half & Half. Erin liked their Original Sweet Tea though but she didn't see anything special about the Half & Half.
Unfortunately the only place I've been able to find this liquid goodness is at Mitsuwa. I've seen the brand at Whole Foods and A&P as well but they've never had the Half & Half yet. Fortunately we usually hit Mitsuwa every weekend and I'm single-handedly decimating their stock. If I see them on the shelves I buy them all. So far that's only meant 5 or 6 bottles max each trip. I'd buy them by the caseload if I could. So if you ever visit the Mitsuwa in NJ and see them for sale, don't buy any. ;-)
Ever since I started using a DVR, I rarely watch live TV anymore and I always skip through the ad breaks. This new Sony Playstation 3 ad however, was intriguing enough to make me rewind and actually watch the thing. Finally, an ad for the console that actually makes it look good. Prior attempts were relatively ho hum or just downright creepy. And the song's quite good as well.
can I install an OS or two in two days?
A LOT apparently. Earlier this week I received my Western Digital 320GB SATA laptop drive from NewEgg to replace the existing 250GB drive. Figured I'd do a clean install again (after already doing one a few weeks back for Leopard) but this time I'd also give Boot Camp a whirl.
Now my typical Mac hard drive setup is to partition it into 3 distinct drives: the main OS partition at 32GB, a separate application partition at 12GB, and whatever space is remaining in the third partition to house my data. Why split them up? So if I need to blow away the OS (like during a new OS X point upgrade) or if anything happens to the system for some reason, I won't have to reinstall my apps and data again. With that in mind, I partitioned my new drive into 4, the aforementioned 3 and then a new 32GB FAT32 partition to install Windows XP SP2 on.
After installing Leopard, I then ran Boot Camp. Problem: Boot Camp Assistant won't do anything unless your hard drive has only ONE PARTITION. !@#$!#$!!!! Fine, not a big deal, I hadn't moved any data into the new drive yet so redoing the partitioning was doable. So I repartitioned to one and let Boot Camp do its thing. So, second time through, I now have Leopard and WinXP installed. Now, how do I set up my other 2 partitions?
One of the features in Leopard that I was excited about was the ability to mess around with existing partitions using Disk Utility without it destroying the data. Of course it's still a good idea to back up before you start playing around but if it worked as advertised for the most part, I'm a happy camper. So, knowing this, my next step was to boot up with the Leopard disc, run Disk Utility and repartition the one big Mac partition into my usual three. And that's exactly what it did. So the whole repartitioning bit worked great. Only problem? I could no longer boot into Windows. If I opened up the Startup Disk preference pane, I could see the Windows partition but if I selected it and then rebooted, I got a "startup disk could not be found" or something to that effect error. Damn, back to the drawing board.
Alright then, screw Boot Camp. With Leopard, the only thing Boot Camp Assistant (BCA) really does for you is create the FAT32 partition that Windows needs to install into. I can do that myself using Disk Utility already so why bother with BCA and its asinine "one partition" only rule? So I booted up with the Leopard disc again, went back to my 4 partition scheme, installed Leopard, and then popped in the WinXP disc and rebooted. Problem, the WinXP installer couldn't see the FAT32 partition that I had set aside for it. What the hell. So maybe BCA was doing something more besides just creating the FAT32 partition?
By this time I was pretty annoyed about the whole situation so I just gave up. Recycled the FAT32 partition into my data partition and resigned myself to just using Parallels as I was before. However, the next day at work I was talking to our IT guy about it and he suggested that I try setting the partition to free space instead and take a look at the Apple Support forums to see if other people were running into the same issue. So that night, I first tried the free space route, no dice. Then I puttered around the support forums but no one was writing about the same situation that I was in. Then I google'd and found this site talking about how to triple boot Windows, Linux and MacOS X. While not exactly what I was trying to do, I found the answer to my problem in this section of the site talking about Disk Partitions and their Limitations.
Basically, Window's legacy MBR partitioning system is only able to see 4 primary partitions. So why wasn't my 4 partition system working? Because Apple reserves the first primary partition for something they call the "EFI System Partition." This extra partition doesn't show up in Disk Utility. You can only see it if you run "diskutil list" from the command line. So you actually only have THREE partitions to work with if you want Windows to install. Long story short, once I merged my applications partition with my main OS partition, THEN the Windows installer was able to see the FAT32 partition set aside for it and install properly.
Thankfully, setting up Parallels to use the WinXP partition directly as a virtual machine was a lot more hassle-free than setting up the WinXP partition in the first place so now I can dual boot Leopard and WinXP and use Parallels to run WinXP and Leopard concurrently. So after installing Leopard at least 5 times and WinXP twice, I'm finally a happy camper. =p
Oh, and the 320GB Western Digital drive? Working like a champ so far. ;-)
Whuh oh. I guess if your name begins with an "F" you're screwed. ;-p
So I was wandering around the grocery section of Mitsuwa tonight when I saw this. I was all set to buy a pack of it (4 for $6) but Erin wouldn't let me because she didn't think we'd be able to finish them all off by tomorrow. Apparently they've been around for quite awhile as this guy tried one back in 2004 but this is the first I've heard of and seen it. At first I was all excited that some crazy company had actually genetically modified an apple to taste like a grape but apparently no such chicanery was involved. It's just Fuji apples soaked in grape juice for an extended period of time. I guess if I really wanted to I could just do that myself at home. =p
So I'm listening to 92.3 K-Rock in the car as I normally do when a commercial for a new strip club comes on. In it, they promise that all their girls are under 200 pounds and that there are only TWO UGLY GIRLS. Emphasis, theirs. They repeat that last part a few times throughout the spot. I'm a little confused about their advertising strategy. Why only two? And how ugly is ugly? And doesn't emphasizing that there's only two make it seem like the main attraction to their place are the TWO UGLY GIRLS? And how do the TWO UGLY GIRLS feel about this? Do they know that they're the TWO UGLY GIRLS? I'm assuming they do. And were they hired specifically to be the two ugly ones in a room full of hotties?
I think this bears investigating. Listeners of K-Rock get free admission. Anyone wanna come? ;-p
Exhibit #1 (and only): Chessboxing.
What's next, ultimate fighting and parcheesi? Tennis and backgammon? The possibilities are endless.
For this most recent Taiwan trip, I knew I probably would want to cut down on as much weight as possible when it came to carry on luggage. That meant my regular Canon 5D with 24-70L, 70-200 f/4 IS, and 50 f/1.4 combo would probably be a bit too heavy and space-consuming. So I considered my options. I could have picked up a cheap Rebel XTi and paired it with the new Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OS along with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 but I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to check out the competition. So I assembled a used kit consisting of a Nikon D80, Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, and Sigma 30mm f/1.4. I considered getting the D40x instead but I just couldn't imagine being limited to just 3 autofocus points.
Hmm... it appears that hard drive manufacturers are on a roll with their notebook drives this past year. It's been what, a month and a half since I upgraded my MBP's drive to what was the latest and greatest then, a Western Digital 320GB. Today, Hitachi announced their new 400 and 500GB models due out in February. Half a freakin' terabyte. In a laptop. Freakin' A. Normally, I'd be all over that come February but unfortunately, this new drive is 12.5mm thick which won't fit in the slim MBP (9.5mm). Curse Apple and their 1" thick laptops! ;-p
But, these new drives will probably fit in the new Lenovo IdeaPads. It's been a couple of years since Lenovo took over IBM's notebook business and in that time, the quality of the Thinkpad line has suffered a bit (if our experiences at work with them is any indication). But Lenovo's finally venturing back into the consumer market with this IdeaPad line that looks not too bad. Gone is the distinctive matte black that was the signature Thinkpad style. It's still black, just a bit glossier. Gone also is the red trackpoint that was another staple of the Thinkpad line. It's definitely not light, with the 15" weighing in at 6.4 pounds but that would explain why it's also pretty cheap. I'm not sure why they bothered pointing out their "Frameless Screen" though since it's not frameless and it's not even that thin. Anyway, it's not something I would get for personal use but I could see myself looking into it if my parent's wanted to upgrade and I wound up not moving them to Apple.
First quarter of this year has the potential to be wallet-lightening of epic proportions with MacWorld starting on the 14th and then the PMA on the 31st. If everything that's supposed to be announced is actually announced, I'm freakin' screwed. =)
[UPDATE]: Awwwww yeaaaaahhhhhh!!!!! Looks like I'll be having that half a terabyte in my MBP after all. Just gotta wait an additional month.
So I've been mildly addicted to Amazon's recommendations page for quite some time now. When I'm really bored or vegging out in front of the boob tube while web surfing I'll go there and "improve my recommendations" by flagging anything they recommend that I'm not interested in or rating stuff that I already have an opinion of but just don't want. For the most part their recommendations are pretty on the level but every now and then it'll notify me of some interesting things.
But then, just the other day, they hit a new low. Advance warning, may be mildly NSFW. When I first saw this I thought it was a joke. But alas, it is not. There's even a part 2. And who can resist Star Ballz? C'mon, you know you're at least just a little bit intrigued. ;-p I know Amazon didn't used to deal with pr0n but apparently, after a little poking around on the site, that seems to have changed. Granted for the most part it's not Amazon themselves selling the stuff, it seems like it's more a result of them allowing third-party vendors to use their site as a storefront. But these products are working their way into other aspects of the site. Now it doesn't bother me that they've gone that route but fer cryin' out loud, at least recommend to me some good pr0n! ;-p
in midair. Exhibit #1:
Was a big fan of US fighter jets in my younger days (F14, F15, F16 in order of popularity) so the vid above was a bit disturbing. Stilll a great jet for its day though that F15. =)
So this year's MacWorld keynote has come and gone and what does Apple have to show for it? One ridiculously slim laptop. As expected, the new laptop "looks" phenomenal. 13.3" is a good screen size and while the memory is fixed at 2GB, that's not a huge issue for a laptop of this class. However, its lack of hard drive options is a downer (although potentially fixable) and the non-swappable battery is going to be a huge issue for a decent number of people.
In my ideal setup, I'd replace my current 15" MBP with a mid-range Mac Pro and this new MacBook Air. But realistically, that's a huuuuge chunk of change to be dropping at one time so it probably won't happen. Maybe I'll write it off as a business expense. ;-p But yeah, while it'd be nice to have one, it's not essential. Maybe I'll pick up one of the new Time Capsules instead to assuage my gadget craving. *sigh*
A certain product was brought to my attention recently that I think would be quite appealing to point and shoot photographers: the Eye-Fi. It's basically a 2GB SD card with built-in wireless that automatically transfers photos via 802.11 to your computer or a whole gaggle of online photo sites. Unfortunately for me, this first iteration doesn't support sending videos or RAW files so it's not a workable solution since the only camera we have that uses SD cards (Powershot TX1) we use mostly for video and I shoot RAW with my 5D but if they get around to adding the functionality then I'd be all over it. It's also rather pricey, coming in at $99 when you can get a regular 2GB SD card for under $15. What if you have a camera that only uses CF cards? Then this SD to CF adapter should do the trick. While for the pro photog it's probably no replacement for dedicated wireless transmitters that are around for dSLRs, it also doesn't cost a freakin' grand either.
So I'm hoping these guys do well cause then they'll have the ability to add the functionality that I need into it as well as maybe branch out into other memory card types, namely CF. =) Although I wonder why they don't have a CF version as well. If they can cram the wireless transmitter into the size of an SD card, CF should be a cake walk then.
start Devon's training soon, huh? ;-p
Seeing Fe's stainless steel cloth wallet last week reminded me to start looking for a new wallet yet again. For the last couple of years I've been puttering around with "slim" wallets that I can fit in my front pocket. I started off with a black leather Guess bi-fold that looked pretty much like this. Worked pretty well, had one full-length bill pocket, an ID window, 3 single-card slots, and 2 hidden pockets. Used that for awhile before trying out my current Dopp Regatta 88 Series Front Getaway Pocket which I loved at first. However after a year or so of use there are some things I don't like so much about it. Inbetween those two I also bought a Jimi which I still use. But it's where I cram all my extra, less-frequently-used cards so it's usually in my desk drawer until I know I need to visit Costco or something.
So why am I looking for a new wallet? Well, because leather wallets really suck after awhile. They start getting too soft and wrinkly and dirty and generally just looks like crap. From a storage capacity in relation to size viewpoint, the Dopp is really pretty darn excellent, with everything that I could possibly want in a thin wallet. It has one main folded-bill pocket, a windowed ID pocket on one side (that I currently have crammed with all my transportation-related cards: bus passes, driver's license, PATH cards, MetroCard, etc.), a reasonably-sized hidden pocket on the other side (currently holding infrequently used but important to have cards: health insurance, AAA, WageWorks, etc), and then 3 single-card slots on top of that. All in a non-folding unit which is great. So what's wrong with it? Well it's leather so the edges are starting to curl (which bothers me a lot for some reason) and it's looking rather worn. Since it's not a bi-fold, the cards that you put in the 3 single-card slots are pretty much exposed to the elements so they start looking really bad on the outward-facing side. And since it's thin leather, the front of my top-most card slot now shows raised areas where the raised areas of the card that's in the slot are.
So, what am I looking for in a wallet? Definitely not leather again. Currently I have it narrowed down to either the Checkered Texture Bi-Fold Wallet w/ ID window or the BigSkinny Thin Multi-Pocket Wallet, neither of which is perfect really. I like having the bi-fold to protect the cards in the card slots from extraneous wear but my ultimate wallet would have the ID window facing outwards instead of in. That way I don't need to flip open the wallet to show the window. I'm leaning towards the BigSkinny because the 3 card slots on the left are top-down instead of right-left. Easier to get the cards in/out with the top-down layout. Doesn't hurt that the BigSkinny is $55 cheaper either. Plus I wish the steel cloth one had the double wave pattern instead of checkered. *sigh*
Anyway, I'm not in a huge rush to replace my wallet so will poke around some more I guess but I haven't run across anything yet that's better than the two above for my purposes at least. If anyone has any other suggestions, let me know.
Recently I picked up all the Rurouni Kenshin box sets and in one of them, a promo disc was included with the very first episode of Voltron - Defender of the Universe (Lion version). Blast from the past, right? I remember it being such a classic cartoon back in my youth along with GI Joe, ThunderCats, He-Man and the like. So I figured what the hell I'll take a look for old time's sake.
O...M...F...G... I can't believe my generation actually watched and loved this show. It's so horribly, horribly, incredibly horribly bad. I'm crying hot tears of shame inside. The stilted voice acting, the "is that French? No wait, is it Indian? What the hell is it?" accent, and the craptastic dialogue ("We're space explorers and we need space!") combine into a maelstrom of suckitude unparalleled in my adult life.
I'm never watching any of those old cartoons again. Ever. I'd rather leave my cherished childhood cartoon memories resting peacefully in the hazy depths of my mind.
Would we have seen something like this if there was no WGA strike? Since they came back on the air, I think Conan hasn't suffered all that much. I like it when it's just him goofing around. He does a great job of it. The (or A, as it's been renamed during the strike) Daily Show did lose a lil' sumthin' sumthin' without the writers. And I haven't watched The Colbert Report in a long time so can't comment on any effects the strike may have had. But it's great to see the 3 cross-pollinatin'. Hope it's not the last time they do something like this.
As noted earlier, I picked up one of the new Etymotic hf2 earphones a few weeks back and have been using it exclusively during my work commute since then. My initial review on the sound quality between the hf2 and the V-Moda Vibe Duo remains unchanged. Both of these newer earphones pretty much follow their respective company's line: Etymotic places more emphasis on clear and accurate mid and highs while V-Moda places more emphasis on pounding bass. Between Etymotic models, the hf2 and the ER-4p has very similar specifications and real life comparison draws pretty much the same conclusion. Although at the same volume level, the ER-4p sounds louder than the hf2.
As for non-sound quality issues, the Vibe Duo buds are smaller and overall easier to put in and take out. It feels like the Vibe Duo buds don't seal as well due to their smaller size so noise isolation is less but it does not affect sound quality in general. The ER-4p and hf2 buds, when compared next to each other don't seem to be that much different size-wise but for some reason, the ER-4p's stick out of the ear a lot more than the hf2. I started using the foam eartips with the hf2 and they definitely are a bit more comfortable overall than the default triple-flange rubber ones.
I like the microphone piece on the hf2 a LOT more than the one on the Vibe Duo. The hf2 mic looks much larger than the Vibe Duo mic because it's wider and flatter and just a bit longer but it's very light so you don't feel any extra drag on that side of the earphones. Plus the mic button on the hf2 is soooo much easier to use. Even though the Vibe Duo button is larger overall, because it's more flush with the mic housing, I often have to fiddle around with the mic a bit before I can figure out where the button is. With the hf2, I instantly know where the button is at first grasp. The mic itself is located higher up on the hf2 which makes it at my lower jaw/chin level which is great. The Vibe Duo mic hangs a bit lower so sometimes I feel I have to bring it up a bit in order to be heard.
The cables of all three earphones are all different too. The ER-4p has a thicker plastic cable up until the Y split where it turns into this odd thin twisted pair cable. The hf2 uses the same thin rubbery plastic cable throughout while the Vibe Duo uses a thin cloth-like cable. I don't really have a preference between the three.
So it appears that once again I'll be keeping the Etymotic earphones over the V-Moda. Don't misunderstand, the Vibe Duo is a great pair of earphones (especially considering the price) but I personally favor clearer sound overall than deep, slightly-overpowering bass. To each his own obviously.
As a brief aside, my coworker recently purchased a pair of Shure SE530's and I got to play around with them for a little while. I confirmed that I'm not a big fan of the "over the ears" type of wear and I thought that the bass wasn't significantly heavier, nor the highs and mids significantly (if at all) clearer. So I'm not entirely sure the Shure is worth the $200 price premium over the ER-4p.
As an age-old and avid computer user, I've pretty much encountered and used the 4 more commonly known cursor control devices available in the market today: the mouse, the trackpad, the trackball, and the trackpoint. While I have no beef with any of the 4, I personally prefer the trackball because I'm an inherently lazy person. Why move your hand/wrist/arm when your fingers will do? I'm writing this post today to lament the fact that after 6+ years, there has yet to be a nice Bluetooth trackball available in the market by known brands such as Kensington or Logitech. It's a damn shame. But apparently the existing market for up-to-date wireless trackballs consists of me and probably a dozen other people scattered across the globe so neither of the two companies feel its worth it to come out with such a too-small-to-even-be-called-a-niche product. Fools.
Oh there has been attempts. More specifically, one attempt that ever made it to the masses. Simply named, The Ball, it was available for a brief time in late 2005-2006. Probably not a hit because it was basically an over-sized mouse with a trackball stuck on top. Didn't help that the company who came out with it had a bit of a shady reputation amongst Mac users as well. Probably still available if I looked hard enough but it doesn't look like something that would serve my needs since it only has 2 buttons.
Most recently, Kensington has released their SlimBlade Trackball Mouse which looks like they took Apple's Wireless Mighty Mouse, flattened it a bit and made it gray, and then stuck an extra button on it that let you switch the functionality of the tiny rollerball on top to function as a regular trackball. Intriguing and slim, but again, only 2 buttons.
What I would ultimately love to have happen is for Kensington to just release an updated Bluetooth version of their venerable Turbo Mouse Pro Wireless which I've been using for what feels like forever. I love this bad boy. I just don't love the big-ass receiver you need to plug into the computer to use it. As for the trackball itself, it's big, but comfy (especially with the wrist-rest that it comes with). It's got 4 big buttons surrounding the ball, a scroll wheel right above the ball, and then 6 programmable soft buttons (which I admittedly never use) at the very top. The entire thing is just very ergonomical and laid out wonderfully. Probably the oldest computer accessory I have that hasn't found its way to a landfill yet. Not only does it function as a trackball for me, I also routinely pick the ball out of its socket and just fiddle with it (like a hard stress ball) while pondering the mysteries of the universe or reading a particularly long blog entry. Throwing at unsuspecting significant others not recommended.
Every once in awhile I'll scour the Interweb to see if anyone's finally decided to test the waters with a Bluetooth trackball but so far, to no avail. I was going to email Kensington to see if they would finally do it but apparently I have to sign a submission agreement and mail it in. WTF, are we still in the 80's???
*sigh* So my search (and waiting) continues. Curses.
Recently Apple upgraded Aperture to version 2 which is supposed to pack a significant performance increase as version 1 was, to put it nicely, dog slow when working with a large library. However, the one factor that kept me an iPhoto user was the lack of "film rolls" (relabeled "Events" in the newest iPhoto) as an organizing structure in Aperture. I absolutely love this feature in iPhoto. It basically keeps all my events in order based on time automatically upon import. Newest photos/events were always at the very top. Aperture, with its folders and projects and albums seemed more complicated than it was worth.
However, I decided to finally just bite the bullet and migrate over to Aperture. It makes more sense workflow-wise since I'm mainly a RAW shooter and with the built-in RAW tools, I can probably do most of my post-processing in Aperture unless I really had to use some of Photoshop's plugins. What got me over the organization hump was this informative blog post and handy screenshot of how he was organizing his photos by date. So I'm basically using the same structure but I'm also adding the day to the names of my projects so that even they are sorted somewhat in date order.
When I first played with Aperture many moons ago and was trying to figure out the film roll issue, I had a feeling that it would have to come down to this. There's a lot more manual work involved with this style of organization in Aperture but I guess I can live with it. I'm also trying to actually add keywords and ratings to my photos from now on but it's just such a time consuming process. I'm sure it'll pay off in the long run but damn I wish there was a faster way.
So starting from 2008 I'll be organizing my photos with Aperture. Slowly feeling around in the program to figure out its full capabilities. Prior years I'll leave with iPhoto. I'll still need to use iPhoto occasionally as Aperture doesn't recognize movie clips (as taken with our Powershot TX1) though.
For those that may be mulling over the Canon 40D or Nikon D300 issue, here's a recent article on the matter that I fully agree with. The D300 has more features (which it should since it's $600 more) but the 40D gives you more bang for the buck. Having used both cameras within the past few months, I can authoritatively say that they're both great bodies and any bad photos you get from either camera will most likely be from user error rather than something wrong with the cameras themselves. I just ordered the 40D again to more fully test AF performance when compared to the 5D as I'm finding the 5D's AF system rather lacking when attempting to keep up with a high-performance toddler.
For those who haven't seen the cluttered study in our lovely NJ home, my home computing setup consists of my 15" MacBook Pro and this lil' PC, sharing a Dell 24" LCD along with a wireless Logitech keyboard and Kensington trackball via a 2-port KVM switch. Now this all worked pretty well for the past year or so but lately I wanted to change things up a bit by switching out the RF keyboard and mouse I've been using to newer ones using Bluetooth. I've already chronicled my disappointment in not being able to find a Bluetooth trackball but I figured I'd forge ahead and test out a Bluetooth keyboard, namely the Apple Wireless Keyboard. So I dutifully picked up one of these tiny Kensington Bluetooth adapters to use with my PC.
Now, the way the RF wireless peripherals worked in my setup was I had the USB RF receiver plugged in to a USB port on my KVM switch. When I switched to the Mac or PC, the machine would detect the keyboard and mouse and things would just work. So I figured, well, Bluetooth is supposed to replace the RF crap so it should work similarly no? Apparently not. There are two problems with Bluetooth that I ran into. One, Bluetooth peripherals need to be "paired" to its host. There's some security involved in this procedure which requires you to enter a random passkey during the pairing process. Problem is, the BT peripheral (the keyboard in this case) apparently only remembers one pairing at a time. So when I pair with my Mac and type in a the passkey, then pair with my PC and type in a different passkey, then switch back to my Mac, the keyboard no longer works with the Mac because the passkey is different. I'm not sure if that's a limitation of the keyboard or of all BT peripherals but man does it suck.
Secondly, on my lil' PC, the keyboard isn't recognized as a keyboard until Window loads up because that's when the Bluetooth drivers kick in. This normally won't be a problem if you're on a single-boot machine but on a dual-booter like my WinXP/Vista machine, you can't switch OS's. And in case anything ever goes wrong or if you need to fiddle with your BIOS, you can't do that either. I'm not sure at this point why my RF wireless keyboard works fine in this regard but the BT doesn't. A bit more investigation will be needed.
So I'm pretty disappointed with Bluetooth at the moment. For a technology that is supposed to be more advanced and easier to use than those that came before it and that it wants to replace, it hasn't been too impressive in my experience yet. Got a cool name though but that doesn't help me with my computing. ;-p But I'm not sure what I want to do right now. I really like Apple's Wireless Keyboard so I'd hate to return it. It's just tiny, tiny and looks pretty fantastic. Makes my already small Logitech diNovo look obese in comparison. One other problem I discovered while using it with a PC though is that I can't page up or down with it. Like the keyboards on the MacBooks and MBPs, there are no dedicated Page Up/Down, Home or End buttons. Instead, those are simulated by holding down the Function key and a corresponding arrow key. Works fine on Apple machines but a no-go with Windows. Maybe I'll lose my PC desktop entirely and replace it with a Mac Pro and do Windows completely via Parallels. Helluva more expensive option though. =p Worse comes to worse I guess it's back to RF I go. *sigh*
Yay, another Hollywood remake of an Asian movie/anime. Can you feel my enthusiasm?
I guess I should reserve judgment until more info is available. As for the original anime, I suppose the animation was ground-breaking at the time and the red bike was way cool but story-wise, eh, didn't do anything for me.
Office move late last week/early this week back to our previous temporary space from a year ago. Same building, different offices. Now we have a spectacular view straight down 9th Ave and I can gaze upon B&H (see crappy iPhone photo above) every day. This should be our last move until we end up in a permanent office space later this year/early next.
Have a couple of things I want to put up hopefully in the next few days. Been on the backburner for awhile. Like a new sling bag review, a brief review on "Asian Fit" sunglasses, and a review on the Pentax K20D. And possibly a few other minor tidbits here and there. Not enough hours in the evening unfortunately.
Regular readers will notice that computer upgrades have pretty much never worked out as planned where I'm concerned. This past weekend proved no exception. With the recent MacBook Pro Penryn upgrade, I was hankerin' for a laptop boost and even had a custom built 2.6Ghz version on order. But after further thought I decided that this latest upgrade wasn't worth the premium price and settled for a refurbed 2.4Ghz model of the previous generation for about a grand less. After selling my current model to help offset the cost, I'll have spent a comparatively minimal amount for the privilege of having a .07Ghz speed bump, maxed out 4GB of RAM (for optimal Parallels functionality) and a LED-backlit display. I can live with that.
Has anime in the US officially jumped the shark?
WARNING: Clicking on the photos in this entry will load up the rather large (~2-3MB) full-sized versions. All photos except for the very first one originally shot in RAW format and converted to JPEG using Adobe Photoshop CS3 with no noise reduction. But the ISO 1600 shots clean up pretty nicely with Noise Ninja.
Had the chance to play around with the new 14.6MP Pentax K20D paired with a Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 (24-75mm equivalent) for the past month and thought I'd write up my impressions on it. This will be in no way shape or form comprehensive as I didn't test every single functionality on the camera. I just used it as I normally would a DSLR and that was that.
In another installment of odd Japanese things, I ran across this music video of an idol girl group called AKB48 which has, incredibly, 48 members. Yeah, you read that right. Now I had heard of Morning Musume in the past and was pretty incredulous about them too but even they never went into double digit membership at any one time I don't think.
Now I'm sooo glad that for the most part, boy/girl bands aren't really "in" in the US music scene anymore but they're still going strong over in Asia and frankly I never understood the appeal. I mean having 4 or 5 guys/gals prancing around is already border-line annoying but why, why in the name of all that's good and holy would you create a group with 48 members? Even if they're broken down into 3 groups of 16 that's still 3 times as many members as there should be.
I originally read about this strippers hired to dance at a funeral story this past Sunday and while it was interesting in that the deceased was Taiwanese, 103 years old, apparently "famous for his interest in strip clubs," and had probably hit every single well-known club on the island, I was bemused for a couple of seconds and then moved on. Two days later, the story made its way to the 8Asians site which revealed a new detail that the first site had not touched upon. Namely that the poor fellow had passed after walking 3.1 miles. TO VOTE. Now that's dedication. Apparently he was equally passionate about watching gyrating naked women and exercising his right to vote. Hopefully he didn't die before he could actually vote.
So, to recap, an 103-year old Taiwanese man, well-known around town for being a connoisseur of strip clubs, died after walking 3.1 miles to vote in the 2008 presidential election and had a funeral with strippers. Ahh... politics and sex, forever intertwined. ;-p
Return visitors may have noticed that this blog suddenly looks different. Your eyes do not deceive as I've finally spent some time consolidating the templates and design of this site so that all the pages actually follow the same style and layout now. With my old style, basically none of the pages besides the main index and individual entry pages looked right. No longer a problem. I'll be doing more fiddling so don't be alarmed if things start blowing up left and right.
Yeah, you know that whole "Asians take studying way too seriously" stereotype? This isn't helping. =p
So I was quite excited to read Gruber's post on the changes Apple made to Spaces in the latest 10.5.3 update. Like Gruber, the limitation that Spaces had prior to 10.5.3 also prevented me from using it. Just played around with it and the current implementation is much more in line with how I'd like to use it so it's another feature that I can finally use. However, there's still a quirk that doesn't quite fit with how I like to work. Namely, what it does when an application is hidden.
Let's say I have Firefox windows open on multiple spaces and then hide the app. If I switch to another space and then command-Tab to Firefox, Spaces teleports me back to the space where I had originally hidden Firefox, even though the current space I'm in also has a Firefox window. I would much rather Spaces just unhides the app in the space that I'm currently in. Only if the current space doesn't have a window for the app should it send me to one that does.
Anyhoo, it remains to be seen if they ever change this but for now I'm just happy they've gotten as far as it is right now.
Posting has slowed to a crawl in the past few weeks due to deadlines at work and a sudden immersion into the massive and slightly disorienting flood of data that is FriendFeed. Why post when people on FF with more free time and wit has already done it for you? Anyhoo, I'll get back into the flow soon hopefully; as soon as work slows down a bit and I can rip my eyeballs from Google Reader and FF.
Since we got our bikes earlier this year, I've taken a couple of rides over to my old high school, Hanover Park. Back then, HP was rather different physically from other high schools that I had seen because instead of one large, multi-story building, the classrooms there were split up into a whole bunch of one-story buildings arranged around a huge expanse of grass along with one main (also one story) building that housed the administration offices, auditorium, library, cafeteria, band rooms, and a few other miscellaneous classrooms and the gym in another separate building. So moving from class to class required venturing outdoors which I thought was quite refreshing. It was my understanding (which could be incorrect), that the reason HP is so spread out was because it was built on rather swampy land. So they couldn't build one huge building for fear of it slowly sinking into the earth.
Since I graduated oh so many years ago, I've revisited the campus a couple of times and pretty much nothing had changed. Until this year. Apparently they've gotten some funding and are using it to connect the individual classroom buildings together two by two. I'm not entirely sure what's to be gained by these extensions besides I guess, locker room space (which was at a premium even in my day) but it seems to be a major undertaking. I believe there's some other modifications being done around the gym area but that wasn't as apparent to me exactly what they were doing there.
Now HP's mascot is and has always been, the hornet. Which back in the day I didn't think too much of. As far as I knew they were like bees but less hairy and more efficient stinging machines. That is until this article over at 8asians brought to my attention the Japanese giant hornet. Which is one impressive-looking, and totally badass flying insect. When 30 of these things can systematically annihilate a 30,000 member strong European bee colony in 3 hours without taking any casualties, you know they mean business. But then again, those European bees are just mindless drones. Not like the native Japanese bees, who have developed a way of defeating their mortal enemy by enveloping them into a "bee ball" and giving them one hell of a fever. But of course it's we humans who get the last laugh. Despite killing around 40 of us a year, we eat their young. Deep fried or as "hornet sashimi." Yum! =p
So yeah, I have a new found respect for hornets and hopefully I'll never run into one of those Japanese ones in my lifetime. Or any of those other 4 "most horrifying bugs in the world" either. Ugh, I get the skeevies just thinking about them.
As most of my friends know, when it comes to gadgety things that tickle my fancy, I tend to be an early adopter. The first Powerbook G3, the first Powerbook G4, the first black MacBook, the first MacBook Pro, the first Treo 650, the first iPhone, and many others, I've had them all. However when it comes to checking out Web 2.0 sites, I'm suddenly slow as molasses. It's not that I don't keep tabs on what the latest Web 2.0 site of the week is, I just haven't felt compelled enough for the most part to throw myself headlong into them.
I think the main reason is because the majority of these "sites du jour" are all "social" this or "social" that. If your site doesn't have a social aspect to it, just pack your bags and go home. So why's that a problem for me? Because I'm just not that social. I've typically liked my social gatherings small and preferably with people I actually know IRL. Even back in my old college days when I was heavily into MUD/MUCK/MUSH/MUSEs, I wasn't terribly social. I'm not anti-social (I did somehow manage to get married on a MUD once after all =p) but socializing just isn't a big deal for me.
However, it's not that I haven't tried to get involved in these social sites (Friendster, MySpace, Twitter, Pownce, et al.). But with each of these sites that requires you to ideally replicate your RL connections onto the Interweb, I consistently run into the same, insurmountable obstacle. Practically none of my RL friends give a rat's ass about these sites. I can count on half a hand the number of RL friends I can build a social network on these sites with. The two general replies I get when I query my other obstinate friends about joining these sites are "Like I have time for this sh**?" and "Eh, just doesn't interest me."
Is it because of my age group? I'm guessing the tweens, teens and twenties crowd are generally a lot more receptive to, and enthusiastic about online social networking than those past their third decade of life. And they probably have a lot more free time as well. I think by my age we already have our relatively set circle of friends, hobbies that don't involve socializing on the Interweb and a family life to tend to. Do we really have the time to invest in all these social sites that seem to pop up like weeds? I barely have enough time to keep up with my blogging and tweeting and Google Reader and FriendFeed as it is.
But it's not like I don't try. So lately I started to finally dabble in two sites that I've had accounts in for a while but just haven't gotten around to exploring until now: Flickr and Zooomr. Long story short, I prefer Flickr. It's just a cleaner-looking and easier to use site. Unfortunately it's not free (that 3 set limit for non-pro users is really freakin' annoying) but I can live with the $25/yr fee. Not saying that Zooomr is a bad site. For those who don't think they should have to pay for anything online, it's a great alternative. The Zipline doesn't do anything for me and the UI is just a smidgen too cluttered compared to Flickr but the ability to upload and view full-sized photos (without having to pay) as well as being able to set prices for your photos is cool.
Oh, but the one functionality that I just love on both sites? Geo-tagging!!! That's the shiznit yo. Although I did find it easier to do on Flickr than on Zooomr.
As for the social aspect on these sites, they both have the requisite ability for people to add each other as contacts and to leave comments on photos and to join groups and all that jazz. Zooomr's a bit more in your face with the Zipline so if you've got a group of friends who are into photography and like the whole online socializing biz, then Zooomr would be the site for you.
So going forward I'll probably use Flickr to house all my miscellaneous photos. Devon's stuff will still be over on his site as usual and I'll most likely still keep the bulk of my travel/family photos on my ol' gallery.
Possibly one of the worst-kept secrets ever in recent photography history, the Nikon D700 was announced a few days ago for release amazingly, at the end of July. Now this particular camera was expected as everyone figured Nikon would have to answer Canon's 5D eventually. I think most people however, were surprised at the speed that this camera actually came into being considering the D3 was just released late last year. On paper, its specs are pretty darn enticing. With the D3's sensor and AF crammed into a D300-like body, a few extras thrown in like sensor dust cleaning, and a price tag that's $2k less than the D3 (but ~$1.3k more than the D300), it's a pretty compelling product for those who desire a full-frame sensor and superb AF on a smaller, lighter body. Myself included.
So the missus and I spent a few hours of our free time this past weekend catching WALL•E at the local cineplex. I think this was our first movie at an actual theater in years but I just had to watch it what with all the hype and all. Typical Pixar fare, it was an enjoyable time. The environmental and social messages weren't particularly overbearing since it was covered in a humorous, and sometimes over-the-top manner. But because they appear somewhat light-hearted, those messages don't feel like they have much impact on my consciousness either. The best animated feature I've seen that makes you aware about man's impact on the land is Pom Poko by Studio Ghibli. It's quite a funny film yet never fails to bring a tear to my eye.
As for the romantic portion of WALL•E, let's see... (warning: spoilers ahead!) a short, puppy dog-eyed otaku who's only contact/knowledge of the opposite sex is through a screen finally meets a strong, confident, gorgeous, svelte career woman with an itchy trigger finger. After nearly vaporizing our otaku protaganist a couple of times, she falls into a coma after he gives her some nice herb, aka "plant." After more trials and tribulations, the woman finally develops warm and fuzzy feelings for the lil' geek after witnessing how devoted he was in taking care of her while she was in the coma. Struck by lightning twice yo! But by that time he's already three-quarters of the way towards the scrapheap of no return while attempting to help her achieve the all important "directive." Distraught, she desperately brings him back to life only to find out that he has amnesia! Curse you gods!!! But in the end, a little hand and forehead nookie is all that's needed to revive our plucky trashbot and they live happily ever after. To sum up it's a chick flick merged with a geek's wet dream.
Anyway, as I said before, it was an enjoyable film and I have no problems recommending it. It's cute and fun and what Pixar was able to achieve with minimal dialogue was pretty great. I'm not sure if it would be my favorite Pixar film to date (The Incredibles was pretty incredible) but it's up there.
So the first thing I did upon arriving at the office on Friday with my new iPhone 3G was hit my favorite screen protector provider to see if they had one compatible for the new phone. And they did, so one's winging it's way to me now and will hopefully be here in a week or so.
And since I was at the Short Hills Mall earlier today I decided to drop by the Apple Store to
laugh at the losers in line waiting to get their iPhone 3G check out what cases they had that would be worthwhile. ;-p And that's how I left the store with a black eye, torn shirt and bloody knuckles the Agent18 SHIELD. Also picked up a Power Support Crystal Film Set to use while my Brando ones are on the way.
First up was the crystal film set. While Brando is still my one true love, these protectors from Power Support aren't half bad. Pretty easy to put on and fit perfectly too. My application method is to make sure the cutout on the bottom fits around the main button perfectly first and then apply the rest of the protector upwards.
The Agent18 SHIELD fits perfectly as well. Since I rarely drop my gadgets, my case tendencies trend towards those that are as thin as possible that will protect against daily wear and tear and scratches. I started off with a similar clear, form-fitting plastic case for my original iPhone last year but came to dislike it eventually because even though it was form-fitting, dust and dirt and stuff still found a way in between the phone and the case so you had to periodically open it up to clean things out. I don't think this Agent18 case will be any different so I'm still keeping an eye out for CoZip. But the Agent18 does seem to fit a bit better than the one I had before so we'll see. It also has a ribbed texture on the left and right sides for better grip.
My condensed review of the movie, Wanted:
He was your father
They lie, I am your father
Bang bang bang, all dead.
I give it a 7, maybe 7.5 out of 10.
So if Google Analytics is any indication, there's a bunch of iPhonatics out there eagerly waiting for CoZip to update their polycarbonate slim fit case to fit the new 3G. I was one of those fanatics. Well, if you don't care about the brand (and you probably wouldn't since these things are all made in China anyway), and you don't mind feeling a bit ripped off, you can hit Amazon right now and pick up this Apple iPhone 3G Soft Polycarbonate Slim Fit Case + Screen Protector.
The good? It's pretty much exactly like the CoZip except it's got a ribbed texture running down the back and the right and left sides for less slippage.
The bad? They're charging you $25 for it compared to the CoZip which starts at $7. That's a pretty big rip. Sure you also get a screen protector but this thing is possibly the crappiest piece of clear plastic masquerading as a screen protector that I've ever seen. It's thick and it's not even cut smoothly. The edges on the bottom corners are all jagged. First thing I did was toss it in the garbage.
The eh... There's no hole in the back to let the Apple logo show through. Instead there's a "Kroo" logo. I know this may matter to some people more than others. It's a non-issue for me.
So there you have it. A slim polycarbonate case for the iPhone 3G has hit the market. Do with this info what you will.
Amazon blew my mind tonight by rolling out a new functionality that I had been wishing for for years now. Except I wasn't expecting it from them or any other already existing site. That functionality? The ability to add any item from any commerce site to your Amazon wish list. Humina humina. I don't know if it'll really work with any other site out there but from the limited testing I've done it works as advertised. I'm pretty psyched about this if you couldn't already tell. =)
For you bloggers out there (who haven't heard of it already), you may want to run your site's RSS feed through Wordle to get a nifty graphical representation of what you've been blathering on about lately. Fun stuff. ;-)
Now I've been a regular user of My Yahoo for eons and eons and stuck with it through its redesign and 2.0-ification. So I was a bit perplexed the other day when I was doing my usual news reading and noticed that the news article links I clicked on were now opening up in new tabs. Which most developers would agree is a major no-no. Although they did seem to have stopped a previous irritating practice of displaying only part of an article in a popup layer, forcing you to click on a "more" type of link to continue on to reading the rest. While this new development is less irritating, it's no less wrong. So seriously Yahoo, WTF?
So ever since I read Gizmodo's In Ear Headphone Battlemodo article a little over a week ago, I was intrigued by their praise for the Etymotic hf5. In the comments section I had asked the author if the hf5 was just the hf2 without a microphone and he answered in the affirmative so I didn't give the hf5 much thought after that since I already own the hf2.
The other day though, on a whim, I decided to google around for more info on the hf5 and surprisingly there was very little to be found, even on Etymotic's site. Oddly enough, Amazon already has them in stock. So I decided to try out a pair. In cool cobalt blue. ;-p No news flash here, the 3 models: hf5, hf2, and ER-4p sound pretty much the same to me. At first I thought I detected a bit more fullness of sound with the ER-4p's but I discovered that the cause was the rubber triple-flanged eartips. The default ones that the hf models come with are a bit smaller than the ones that are standard for the ER-4p so I had to insert the hf models deeper to get a better seal (or replace the hf tips with the ER-4p ones). So yes, with Etymotic's, creating that seal in your ear is critical for maximum performance.
Spec-wise, the hf5 is a tiny bit lacking in the high end of the frequency response: 20 Hz -15 kHz compared to 20 Hz -16 kHz for both the hf2 and ER-4p. I don't even think you'll miss much with that 1 kHz difference. Besides that (and the cord length), every other spec is identical. So I'll most likely wind up replacing the ER-4p with the hf5 for at-home use because I prefer the looks, fit and cord. You can't really go wrong with any of the three though.
For the past few weeks I've become pretty disappointed with the Canon 5D's AF performance, particularly with subjects on the move. Yes, I know it's not a body that's geared towards that type of photography but because that's the type of photography I need to deal with (chasing a toddler around should be made an Olympic sport), the shortcomings of the AF system is painfully evident. Performance of the outer focus points become inconsistent in decreasing light, the AI Focus mode takes too long to realize that the subject is moving, and while there's the option to turn on those extra tracking points around the center focus point to help with AI Servo tracking, that doesn't help when you focus using the outer points most of the time.
So while I (and I suspect a fairly large contingent of other Canon owners) sit around waiting for Canon to announce the specs for the 5D's successor, I figured I'd test the waters in the opposing camp again. To that end I got rid of my Canon zooms (only had 2 to begin with, although it was tough giving up that 70-200 f/4 IS) and a couple of other knick-knacks and I picked up the Nikon D700 and a Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G lens. The main attraction of the D700 to me (besides the FX sensor) is the pro-level AF system in a non-pro sized body. I'm eager to test it out to see how well it does tracking down a boy in flight and in low light conditions.
Preliminary usage over this past weekend proved favorable and I'll probably post a few samples later on when I have time to process them. The 24-70mm lens is quite nice and paired to the D700 makes for a pretty excellent, if somewhat heavy, combo. Unfortunately my Canon 24-70 f/2.8 sold quicker than I expected so I'm not able to do a comparison between the two but I'll be testing sharpness against the Canon 35mm f/1.4. We'll see if this Nikon zoom is really as prime-worthy as Nikonians always like to tout. Also have a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens coming in tomorrow which means I'll get to see first-hand how little light I can get away with while using a fast prime on this high ISO machine. That should be pretty exciting. =)
As far as ISO performance is concerned, from the little I've seen so far, I think I'm comfortable with the D700 up to ISO 3200 without much of an issue. ISO 6400 has to be pretty correctly exposed to do well. On the 5D I didn't think about anything up to ISO 800. ISO 1600 usually was ok but could look really nasty if exposure wasn't correct. ISO past 6400 won't be something I use often on the D700 though. Unless the exposure is perfect and all other stars are in alignment, there's not much use for 8000+ unless you shrink them down for web use or something.
But so far the D700 is really an excellent, excellent camera. It's going to take me awhile to figure out every aspect of it though which probably won't happen unless I decide to keep it. But in the meantime I'm looking forward to see how it fares against the 5D.
Alright, I received a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens today so how could I not try to pair it with the D700 and try to see what kind of result I would get in a room with minimal light. So I went downstairs into Devon's play area tonight with no interior lights anywhere turned on and the only light source being the street lamp outside that was dampened by our shades that were fully down over the windows. At first the camera wouldn't autofocus because there simply wasn't enough light. So I turned on the built-in autofocus illuminator which solved that problem. And the result is as follows. Focus was on the "F". This first shot is unprocessed besides conversion to JPEG and full-sized if you click through:
This next shot is the same as the first but I've run it through Noise Ninja before exporting as JPEG.
And this last photo I'm putting up to show how it would look as a regular pop-up photo on this blog. Meaning I sized it down to a width of 1024 and ran it through Noise Ninja before saving as JPEG.
So, yeah if you really needed to you can pretty much shoot in next to no light with the D3/D700. You can't shoot in absolutely no light (yes I tried) as the sensor needs something to work with. You obviously won't be using any photos taken in such conditions at full size but shrunken down to around a quarter of the size (which still makes it 1024 pixels wide) and then post processed for noise, the results are more than acceptable in my eyes.
As for the Nikkor 50mm lens, man it's freakin' tiny. So far it seems decent but further testing is needed. Stay tuned.
Since last year, Nikon has been doing a pretty good job of smackin' Canon around during DSLR product announcements. Last year Canon announced the 40D, Nikon counters pretty much immediately with the D300. Canon announces the 1DsIII, Nikon brings forth the D3. And then earlier this year, the D700. Just because. This latest round hasn't diverged from the script much as Canon announced (surprisingly) their new 50D and Nikon jumps in with their D90 which has (gasp!) video recording capability. While I'm not interested in either of these two bodies (once you go full frame... ah... ferget it), I do find the 50D interesting for what it portends for Canon's 5D successor.
First, the fact that they left the AF the same as the 40D was depressing. Previously I had written that I would have accepted it if all they did for the 5D successor was update the AF to what was on the 40D. After having to actually deal with photographing a toddler for the past few months, I'm not sure I can still say that. But current rumors (yeah yeah, take with grain of salt and all that jazz) has some sort of odd, never-before-seen 19-point AF for the 5D successor. I can only hope but I find the 19-point AF rumor to be a little suspect because the same rumor lists HD movie mode as a feature. I think any sort of movie mode makes more sense first in a more consumer-level DSLR like Nikon has with the D90. That's not to say that DSLRs at all levels won't have a movie mode eventually but it doesn't make much sense for Canon to unveil their's on a body like the 5D successor. Another interesting thing is this promotional blurb by a famous wildlife photographer who has tested the 50D stating that its AF is the fastest he's ever handled which is a little odd since it's supposed to be the same AF as what is on the 40D. Maybe there's been some tweaking of the AF algorithm behind the points.
However, there may be hope for Canon in the high ISO IQ department with the new DIGIC 4. While I'm not expecting them to surpass Nikon's D3/700 in that department this generation, they should at least match. With the critical test being from ISO 1600 to 6400. As I mentioned before, any ISO past that is purely marketing and simply won't be used much except for shrunken down web viewing. With that in mind, the first ISO 1600 shot from the 50D that I've seen looks pretty darn good. Not sure how much post-processing was done to it if any but the black areas seem to be devoid of any noise whatsoever. However, what grain there is seems to be a bit splotchier than what I've been seeing from the D700 which tend to be pleasingly uniform. But if this Canon sample was shot straight in JPEG that may explain the blotching. There's also this other ISO 1600 sample which seems to be pretty acceptable. There's also an ISO 3200 sample in that set but apparently it's not a true ISO 3200. But if Canon's new cropped sensor plus DIGIC 4 can contain noise so well, it bodes well for the images that their next full frame sensor + DIGIC 4 can produce. So because of that, I'm excited.
So Canon currently has half of the two major upgrades that I believe they need to do to effectively compete with Nikon's current offerings. Whether or not their AF will be good enough won't be known until the successor is announced and user tested. With the fiasco that their new AF turned out to be on the 1DIII, whatever they come up with will have to withstand much more intense scrutiny.
'k, so I'm a POM fan and I was pretty shocked to see these start showing up in my local bodega and over at Mitsuwa. From pomegranate juice to coffee??? And coffee laced with an "ultra-potent, 100%-pure polyphenol antioxidant extract" nonetheless. Seems to me to be a rather peculiar expansion of one's product line. Now while I'm not a coffee drinker, I have been known to be a sucker for a good and sweet iced coffee . This new POMx stuff? Not a fan. Probably because of the reduced fat milk. I like my milk full of all its fatty glory.
As I had mentioned in this previous entry, Nikon's 50mm f/1.4D lens was surprisingly small. Smaller than Canon's 50mm f/1.4 which is pretty small to begin with. Plopping this on the D700 after the hefty 24-70mm f/2.8 makes it almost feel like a small entry-level DSLR like the D60 or Canon XSi.
Performance-wise it's no slouch though. Definitely sharp enough. No USM/Silent Wave Motor but the noise while autofocusing isn't loud at all. Pretty quick AF too although it does seem to have a bit more difficulty in achieving focus lock in low light conditions. Plus it doesn't adjust as quickly under continuous focus tracking when compared to a G lens like the 24-70.
Caught a showing of the limited release movie, Ping Pong Playa:
Matures as a man with help
By paddling a Brit
It was an entertaining flick with many relate-able moments. Like the hybrid Mandarin/English conversations the brothers have with their parents. I give it a solid 7/10.
So the big news of the day in the photography world is that the moon is finally full and Canon's 5D Mark II has officially been revealed. And they weren't kidding when their tag line was "Destined Evolution." The 5DII is, for its intended market (landscape, studio & product photographers), not a shabby update. For everyone else, namely those who want a more well-rounded full-frame sensor body in a smaller form factor, it has one possibly major flaw. Namely it appears that the autofocus system has been retained from the original 5D, with a few minor improvements. Yes, the 3-year-old 9-point (only center point cross-type for f/2.8) AF system is still there. My initial reaction was, "Are you f*ckin' kidding me???" And that's pretty much still my reaction now. I don't know if I'm placing too much faith in Canon by thinking that maybe it won't be exactly the same as the old 5D, that they probably tweaked it a bit on the software side so that it works better in low-light than the original (I think I read that somewhere). Chuck Westfall, Canon's director of media and consumer relations, stated that the reason they kept the original AF was because tracking in AI servo mode on the 5D gave better results than the newer (and seemingly better spec'ed) system that are currently on the 40D/50D (9 point as well but all cross-type). Mainly because of the six additional invisible focus assist points surrounding the center point on the 5D that kick in during AI servo. What that means is that if you want to shoot in AI Focus or Servo mode to keep track of something, you have to always use the center point. What kind of crap is that??? I tried to use AI Servo using a non-center point a few days ago and it suuuccckeeddd. It sucked bad.
Most likely Canon's train of thought was that since the 5DII has 21MP, on the odd occasion that a 5DII owner will want to shoot something in motion, forget about composing in the viewfinder. Just use a wider lens, shoot with the center 1+6 points, and compose during post by cropping. You've got plenty of pixels to throw away so why not? Argghh!!!! And word is the reason they did this is because they want the folks who want a better AF system to upgrade to their pro 1D line instead. Not exactly a choice for me because the 1DIII isn't full frame and the 1DsIII that's full frame is $7-8k. Plus I want to keep the smaller body size, not lug around even more mass.
*sigh* So for me, the AF on the Nikon D700 wins for the type and style of shooting I like to do. The new AF microadjustment feature on the 5DII is nice though. Can store adjustments for up to 20 lenses or just set one overall adjustment for the body. As for the IQ of the 5DII, I'm pretty positive that even with the jump in megapixels, its IQ at high ISOs will be pretty impressive. I'm not talking about the ridiculous 12800+ ISOs but anything between 1600 and 6400. If it's as good as the D3/D700 and with 9 more MP, there's nothing to complain about there. The multiple Live View modes and new HD movie mode earns a "meh" from me. May be useful but not sure how much I'd actually use it until I have a hands on. It's nice that they crammed an infrared sensor in the 5DII though. That means the cheapo infrared RC-1 remote that until now only worked with the entry-level Rebel line will work with the 5DII. Cheap wireless shutter tripping, yay!
After shooting with the D700 for the past couple of weeks, it's really, really hard to go back. As a purely photo-taking machine, the D700 is pretty much flawless. Action shots taken in C mode (equivalent to Canon's AI Focus mode) worked very well regardless of which AF point used. 51 selectable AF points can be a pain in the butt to cycle through though so I have it configured down to only 11 selectable. And the Auto ISO functionality, lord how I love thee. Granted, Canon in the 5DII also has auto ISO but it's not as configurable or extensive. With Canon's auto ISO, you can set the ISO only up to 3200 and the camera will keep the shutter speed at 1 over whatever your lens length is at the moment. However, 1 over the lens length is often not enough to cleanly stop motion. With Nikon's auto ISO, not only can you select from the entire possible ISO range, you can also set the minimum shutter speed. So for chasing Devon around, I usually set the max ISO at 6400 and the shutter speed at 1/125s and then just shoot. No more time and moments lost checking on shutter speed and ISO settings, it just works. And when you're chasing around a toddler, every moment counts. =) It's like the D700 just became a large and heavy automatic point and shoot camera but I haven't seen a pocket P&S that will give me such quality results in ISO 800 much less 6400.
The only holdup with Nikon is still their lens lineup. Their 70-200mm f/2.8 VR needs a revamp to stop the vignetting when used on a full frame sensor. While their prime lenses are ancient, my recent experiences with their 50mm f/1.4 leads me to believe that it (and by extension the 85mm f/1.4) is perfectly acceptable for my uses while I wait around for new ones to come out. So I have basically two usable lens (although they are sufficient for the majority of my shots currently), the 50mm and the 24-70mm f/2.8. And that zoom is heavy. Maneuvering around with a 5D + 135L felt so light after a few sessions with the D700 + 24-70. It'd be pretty super if they came out with a 70-200mm f/4 VR that was comparable in IQ, size and weight to Canon's version.
So, even after Canon's 5DII was revealed, I'm still in the same predicament as I was before. Nikon should just hurry up and reveal their new lenses (if any) for Photokina. Not having a lens range > than 70mm is going to be problematic for me. Hear that, Nikon? One lens, one lens is all you need to bring out to win another convert. ;-p Ah, who am I kidding? My mind changes on photography stuff every other day. =p
No, not the 5D Mark II. Just the bastard stepchild that no one seems to care about. ;-p I figured I'd check out the 50D until the 5D Mark II is released at the end of November. Also thought I'd check out the new EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens for future vacation use. This just arrived today so haven't had time to actually test it out much yet. I was pretty surprised already just looking at the box though. This is the first time I remember seeing a camera/lens kit come with things other than just the lens. The kit price is basically the same as if you purchased the body and lens separately. BUT, this time, the kit also comes with an extra battery, the HOOD for the lens, and a 72mm UV filter. Shocking. Canon's been known to nickle and dime their customers on the hood front with their non-L lenses so this was unexpected. And the UV filter is Canon brand which probably isn't B+W or Hoya great but sufficient I guess if you really want some protection for the 18-200. And the 50D uses the same battery as the 5D so that's a plus.
As for the 18-200 lens, well, it's pretty much just like any other EF-S lens in build quality. I never really had an issue with the build quality of the non-18-55mm EF-S lenses so I won't blast it like the hardcore L snobs will but the Nikon version is nicer-looking though. ;-p Plus it has the Nikon equivalent of the USM AF motor AND is a little bit cheaper to boot. Lack of a USM motor is a bummer so AF noise is a bit louder than I'm used to. The IS seems to work pretty well even out at 200mm. Although I'm a little suspicious of the actual length at 200mm. It seems to me that the lens doesn't actually move much from 170mm to 200mm. I know these superzooms don't actually give you a true 200mm length but this lack of difference is a bit too noticeable.
So I'll be putting this baby through its paces starting tomorrow hopefully (weather's supposed to be kinda crappy here the rest of the week). Most interested in the high ISO and AI Servo performance. As well as the sharpness of the 18-200 lens. At first glance, physically it's not much different from the 5D. Feels and weighs about the same. Going back down to the smaller viewfinder was a rude awakening though. Although the info bar at the bottom is much easier to read on the 50D. The new LCD is obviously very nice and the menu layout and control is much better than the 5D although I believe nothing new from the 40D. Anyways, more later. =)
So earlier this year I tried out a Pentax K20D and 16-50mm f/2.8 lens for a short while and was pretty impressed by the combination. Back then I had taken a couple of center sharpness comparison shots against my bookshelf between the Pentax and my regular Canon 5D and 24-70mm f/2.8 combo and they basically just sat in my "Processed" folder for the past 5 months waiting to be written up. So yeah, this is long overdue. As usual, these shots were taken during the evening so only light source is a 6' tall fluorescent lamp that illuminates upwards towards the ceiling. Bodies were tripod mounted, 3 shots taken at each aperture and length and the best one taken from each set of 3. ISO set at 200, 100% crops of the middle of each photo. Center focus point which would be the white book with thin grey stripes and purple lettering in the middle. Books to the left are an inch behind the center book and the one on the right. So first up, wide open at 16/24mm.
As far as I can tell, very little difference. The Pentax may have just a smidgen better white balance but the Canon looks a bit smoother in general. But that's because of the body and not the lens. So on the wide end, both lenses are pretty comparable. No point in putting up the sample shots at f/4 and f/8 since they're exactly the same. Both of these lenses are quite sharp at the wide end.
So we'll move on to the telephoto end. 50/70mm at f/2.8.
Since the Pentax is a 1.5x crop camera, the 50mm is actually 75mm at the long end but I moved the tripod back a few so that the framing of the shot would be as similar as possible. Anyway, looking at these wide open results, it's odd to see that the Pentax suddenly has worse white balancing but it's superior in sharpness and resolution. Upon close inspection, the grey vertical and horizontal lines can be seen as consisting of tiny zig-zags instead of being just a straight line.
Even at f/8, the grey lines on the Canon side still look blurred while the Pentax is showing them exceptionally clear. No contest on the long end.
So what can be gleaned from this? Well obviously Canon and Nikon don't have a lock down on the ability to make exceptional and sharp lenses. Because the 16-50mm lens was designed for Pentax's crop digital cameras, it's physically smaller and lighter than Canon's relatively older 24-70mm. And in this case, its sharpness is better overall than the 24-70. However, you can really only see the difference when viewing the full-sized photos at 100% so for practical, everyday printing/web use, they'll both give great results. If I was a Pentax shooter and wanted a mid-range zoom that can rival anything out there, then the 16-50mm f/2.8 will definitely not disappoint.
Lot of people like the new car smell, I prefer the new gadget smell. Well, ok, I wouldn't mind a new car smell but that ain't happening for a while so new gadget smell is all I can get these days. ;-p
Anyway, this just arrived via FedEx this morning (one day early I might add) while I was getting ready to leave for work so all I had time to do were these 2 blurry shots. Full unboxing photos later this evening. ;-)
So, finally got the chance to open up my new MBP late last night. First off, I think the box is getting smaller with every release. As can be seen, the top lid of the box has a piece of thick black padding glued to it to protect the MBP which sits underneath like a big silver slab. Note the black "Designed by Apple in California" tag. You're going to see them in many places. Here, you pull on it to lift the MBP out of the tray that it sits in.
'k, so I'm pretty much done moving my data and stuff from my old MBP to the new one. This time around I used Apple's Migration Assistant to copy over all the apps and Library data. Worked without a hitch for the most part. One thing to keep in mind is that if you want to keep the same login name on the new machine, don't create it yourself on the new machine before you run Migration Assistant. It'll say that the user already exists on the new machine and ask you to enter a new one. But if it's too late, you can always change the name later. MacWorld has a nice article detailing ways to do it.
Running into some minor issues here and there but nothing that's not fixable. Big issue where Firefox wigged out and couldn't download anything, add-ons included. None of the usual debug actions worked (create a new profile, trash the pref file, etc.) until I just downloaded the app again and replaced it in my app folder.
Copying my Bootcamp WinXP partition over was a first. Used WinClone and surprisingly, it actually worked! Although had to try it twice because the first time the BootCamp partition was larger than the partition I wanted to copy it too (by like a meg or something ridiculous like that) so I had to shrink the BootCamp partition first before imaging it. Then after successfully replicating onto the Brick MBP, MacOS X could no longer mount it. I suspected it had something to do with MacFuse+NTFS-3G that I had just installed last week so reinstalling the two packages solved that problem. Parallels actually ran off the cloned partition without a hitch which was a surprise.
Booting into WinXP raised a few issues though. Keyboard and trackpad was completely unresponsive so couldn't even log in. After poking around, I discovered this handy post on Winclone's forum which worked fine. Not completely out of the woods yet though as WinXP doesn't seem to be able to see the wireless card on the new MBP. Will have to delve into that tonight. Also the trackpad driver isn't as intelligent as it is on MacOS X. What am I talking about? Ok, even though the new trackpad is "buttonless," my standard behavior when operating it hasn't changed. Meaning I track with my index finger while keeping my thumb on the bottom of the pad (where the physical button used to be). In MacOS X, it's smart enough to ignore the presence of your thumb. In WinXP, not so much. I have to make sure that only my index finger is touching the pad while I'm moving the cursor around, otherwise it doesn't work right. Hm, maybe there's a setting that I can play with in WinXP...
[UPDATE]: Using the Apple MacOS X Install DVD to uninstall all the BootCamp drivers first and then reinstalling them again fixed the issues I was having in WinXP. Although the trackpad is still a bit wonky when compared to using it in MacOS X.
There is one issue that I'm very annoyed about though and it has to do with the new Mini DisplayPort. Namely, it doesn't want to work with my DVI Switching box. As I mentioned in my unboxing post, I share an LCD and USB hub between the MBP and my desktop PC via KVM switch that supports DVI connections. The Mini DisplayPort doesn't seem to be able to detect the existence of the LCD through the switch. If I connect the LCD directly to the port though, it works fine. Really a pain in the ass if it no longer works and won't work in the future. Luckily I rarely turn on my desktop PC anymore but still it'd be nice if it worked as usual.
Oh, and one physical issue. The edges on the new MBP are a sharp 90 degrees now instead of having the slight rounded plastic lip on the older models. So if your forearm tends to rest on the edge, it's gonna start hurting real quick.
That's all for now.
[UPDATE]: Oh right, forgot to mention that I do like how the controller on my Etymotic hf2 works with iTunes to stop/start playing and skip songs. Very nice.
Had created this weeks ago and never got around to posting it as it was buried amongst my numerous Firefox tabs. Found it again while cleaning up said tabs so here it is:
Heard a lot of raves recently about Kung Fu Panda and Erin's sister left us with the DVDs for Devon so we watched it over the weekend:
Portly panda dreams
Of more than noodles and steam
Achieves great esteem
Pretty good movie. I'd give it an 8, maybe 9 out of 10. Devon wasn't as engrossed with it however as it's still a bit too talky for him. He was entranced by Wall•e though. Most likely because since there was so little dialogue to begin with, Pixar had to put extra effort into (and wound up doing a great job) of telling a story by visuals and sound effects alone.
Now Kit Kats rank high up on my list of favorite chocolate snacks so I was a bit befuddled upon seeing fruit-flavored Kit Kats at Mitsuwa. They have this "Muscat of Alexandria Grape Kit Kat" and some other berry flavored one. And it's not just fruit flavored, it's fruit AND chocolate flavored. I'm not a fan. I'll stick with the original, thanks.
So it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that when it comes to Apple products, photography equipment, and various other gadgetry, I enjoy living on the cutting edge. Equally unsurprising is that in doing so, I expose myself to technological issues that less fervent individuals would not run into. Previously I had posted about my disappointment with Bluetooth peripherals and how the old RF wireless protocol remains superior when needing to share a set of peripherals with multiple computers. Now in the intervening months since that post, I have been using Apple's wireless keyboard since I'd been pretty much ignoring my desktop PC. But I recently decided to switch back to my old RF Logitech keyboard and bring my PC back to life. Economic conditions and the performance of Parallels on a MacBook Pro being what they are, I seriously doubt I'll be acquiring a Mac Pro anytime soon and I definitely still need a dedicated Windows machine.
So I've been futzing around with Web 2.0 social media sites within the past year, sites like Flickr, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc. Now I'm used to individuals owning accounts in social media sites, but it never occurred to me that corporations would have them too. Not only own the accounts but actually hire someone to actively engage the community in their name.
The first time I ran into this was back in December when I tweeted about TurboTax. Just an offhand, flippant remark that I expected to be just read and ignored by my paltry few subscribers just like most of my other tweets. So I was completely floored when I actually received a reply. My first thought was, damn, that's kinda creepy. But then I thought about it a bit longer and decided that ok, that's actually pretty cool. Kudos to these companies hip enough to engage their customers/detractors in such a fashion.
Similarly, last night I posted the photo above to my Flickr account as my daily 365 Project photo (which, after 12 days is still going strong thank you very much. ;-p) and within a few hours, I get a notice that I was just added as a contact by SanDisk Corp. For what nefarious purposes, they have not yet revealed but pretty interesting nevertheless.
[UPDATE]: A few hours after posting this entry, I was added as a contact on Flickr by the e-Commerce Manager for The New Yorker Hotel and then received an email from him thanking me for taking pictures of his hotel, namely this photo. I should ask him for a discount. ;-p
So, a bit Big Brother-ish somewhat but overall it's interesting to see that an increasing number of companies either see value in these social media sites or are at least willing to feel around to see how they can work it to their favor.
So I finally decided to bite the bullet and get a Drobo to help with my photo archive needs. That $50 rebate was the straw that broke the camels back. Decided to go with it instead of a NAS because I still prefer the speed of a direct, physical connection between storage device and computer. I guess if I ever change my mind I could also pick up a DroboShare. Anyway, it arrived late last week and I pretty much had it up and running in half an hour. Would have been less if I didn't spend the time to take photos.
Physically, Sigma did one heck of an amazing job shrinking this lens. Usually 24-70mm lenses with a wide f/2.8 aperture are big and heavy but this new Sigma is nice and compact. Still heavy though. Plus the hoods tend to be huge (with the Canon & Nikon versions) so I'm not sure how Sigma's getting away with these shallow hoods on their 24-70s.
It still retains the 82mm filter size from its older brethren but at its full extended length, it's just about the length of the old model when retracted. Plus they finally went against the grain and made the lens short at 24mm and long at 70mm. All the 24-70s prior to this one were physically longer at 24mm and shorter at 70mm which I always found kind of strange.
Build-wise it's typical Sigma EX quality so nothing unexpected there. So physically it's beat the Canon/Nikon on size alone. The 24-70 is my main walkaround lens but I've often wished they were smaller and less noticeable than they actually are and this new Sigma delivers big time in that aspect. Hope the image quality will prove to be comparable to the big boys as well.
UPDATE: Well I ran my usual focus/sharpness tests last night and found this Sigma to be front-focusing significantly. Even the 5DII's lens microadjustment feature set to the max (-20) couldn't fix it. But got a new copy this morning so we'll see how this one goes...
UPDATE 2: Well that's 2 for 2. Second copy front-focused as well. Not as bad, but still there. On to lens #3. If this one doesn't work, I give up.
So in my previous entry I mentioned I was working on a 3-way shootout between the Canon, Nikon and Sigma 24-70s. Unfortunately I've run into a bit of a snag. Specifically, the new Sigma 24-70 refuses to autofocus properly with my Canon 5DII body. It front focuses by a good 5/8th of an inch at 70mm which is more than the AF microadjustment feature on my 5DII can correct for. I'm sure it front focuses at 24mm as well, it's just not as noticeable. And to top it off, this problem has happened with 3, count 'em, THREE, different copies of the lens. Manual focusing works fine though. Which would make me believe maybe there's something wrong with my 5DII. But then again, focus seems to be fine when I use my Canon lenses.
Anyway, I've got one final copy coming in from a different source on Monday so we'll see if that shows anything different. If not, I'll just go with what I have. In one of my Flickr shots, I mentioned that I wasn't particularly impressed with the Sigma's IQ at that point. Now I know it's because of the front focus issue. If I ignore the focusing problem and look at the areas of the photos taken with the Sigma that ARE in focus, they look pretty good. Even wide open. So I'm hoping this last copy will work out for me. Stay tuned...
UPDATE: Well it's official, my 5DII just does not like the Sigma 24-70 lens for some reason. The 4th copy that I just received also front focuses significantly. To the point where I can tell just by looking through the viewfinder that it's not completely in focus. *sigh* I'll still run my sharpness test with it but I'll have to focus manually. I'm not that great of a manual focuser but hopefully it'll work out.
Ok, I don't have as much time as I used to in my prior pixel-peeping posts so I'm going to make this quick. I'm posting a couple of 100% center crops at f/2.8 and at 24mm, 35mm, and 70mm for the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S and Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM lenses and my thoughts on them. All shots were taken on a tripod, no flash, ISO 200, RAW, opened in Photoshop CS4 with NO sharpening whatsoever and color/exposure adjusted to match across the board. Saved to JPEG w/quality set to 10. Each individual image below contain 4 slices: 1 each for Canon and Nikon and 2 for Sigma (1 w/autofocus (AF) and the other with manual focus (MF)). Focus was on the white book with purple lettering and light grey lines. The white book to the right of this one is at the same depth. The two books to the right of that is about 5/8" in front while the two books to the left are 5/8" behind. Before I took the crops, I had to shrink all the shots taken with the Canon 5DII down to the same dimensions as the D700 (5616 to 4256 width). Make sure to click on each image to see full size.
So, at 24mm, besides some color differences with the purple lettering, everything looks acceptable across the board. Although it appears that the Nikon and Sigma AF are front-focusing just a bit.
At 35mm, the Canon and Sigma (MF) look quite comparable. Nikon looks pretty good too but shows a little bit of front-focus as the red book all the way to the right seems to be more in focus than in the Canon and Sigma (MF) samples. The Sigma (AF) crop looks fuzzier than the others but the red book on the right looks well in focus.
And finally at 70mm, everything looks comparable except for Sigma (AF) which is way fuzzed out. This is the front focus issue I mentioned in my earlier post.
So, what's my conclusion? Well, when it comes down to center sharpness, all 3 lenses are quite comparable in my opinion. Sigma's downfall is its unusually bad autofocus. When the focus is on, it's darn sharp. If I really want to keep it, a trip for the 5DII body and lens to Sigma would definitely be necessary.
This copy of the Canon that I currently have is the sharpest I've seen wide open at the long end and I've been through quite a few. Downsizing the Canon 70mm sample caused it to lose a bit of detail since at native size, it's quite apparent that the light grey lines on the focused-on book are zig-zag which I've only seen resolved by 3 other lenses wide open that I've tested: the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS at 55mm, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS at 200mm, and the Pentax 17-50mm f/2.8 at 50mm. Actually with the full sized, manually focused shot of the Sigma, you can make out the zig zags a little bit as well.
As for the Nikon lens, it's no slouch either. This particular copy may be front-focusing a little bit on my D700 body but it's definitely not as bad as with the Sigma and is probably something I can fix with the micro-adjustment feature if it really bothers me (which it doesn't at this point).
Anyway, if you want to check out the non-cropped, full-sized shots (JPEG) for each lens so that you can check out the edges and corners and color and whatnot, you can download them all here. I didn't bother putting up stopped down samples cause there wasn't anything out of the ordinary with them and nothing new that you can't tell from the wide open samples. A bit sharper than at f/2.8 and not much difference between the brands.
So, is the Sigma worth it? At $900 it's about $350 cheaper than the Canon version and $800 less than the Nikon. If you want to take a chance that you'll get one with perfect autofocus, then yeah, the combination of size, IQ and price is pretty great. Especially if you're in the Nikon camp. Even if you're a Canon user, $350 is nothing to scoff at. But definitely test that focus at 70mm immediately if you do get one. Hopefully you'll have better luck than me.
Long time listeners will undoubtedly know that I'm a big trackball fan. So I was pretty stoked when Kensington announced their first new trackball in 6 years, the Slimblade Trackball. Yeah it isn't wireless (grrrr....), but it is a trackball. So I preordered one from Amazon and it was delivered to me a few days ago. So I figured I'd post a few unboxing shots and my initial thoughts on this highly-anticipated (ok, not really =p) trackball entry.
After a few days of use, I decided that the previously reviewed Kensington Slimblade Trackball could not overcome the handicap of not being able to program its two top buttons. Being unable to easily go back or forward a page while in a browser was severely crimping my style. ;-p So I picked up the 6 year old Kensington Expert Mouse instead. As you can see from the photo above, the two are pretty similar physically from a width and length perspective.
So, late last night our Comcast high-speed Internet went down. Called up support, chatted with the sweet-sounding customer service rep for awhile and the final solution was to have a technician come by later between 7-9am. Rep said the tech would call half an hour prior to arrival. Standard operating procedure.
Went to bed.
Dragged my ass outta bed at 7am to wait. Noticed that the network was working again. Cool. Figured I wouldn't bother calling them to cancel the appointment since in my prior experience with their techs, they would call (or not) and if no one answered, they'd move on to whoever was next on their list. So putzed around for awhile and then went to work.
10:30am, someone's calling my cell phone from a number I don't recognize. Ignore the calls as I usually do with numbers I don't recognize. Few minutes later, Erin calls to let me know the Comcast guy's inside poking around. Told her to tell him the problem went away which she did but apparently the guy figured since he was already there he might as well check the cable box and the cable modem and whatnot. Call Erin back half an hour later and she said the guy didn't stay for long (understandable since nothing was wrong) but replaced a coax cable. Uh, okay.
So in summary, the good:
• Customer service rep actually helpful and courteous.
• Appointments available really early in the morning (so ideally they can come before I've left for work, usually a little before 9am. Ideally.).
• Technician actually showed up.
• Technician showed up an hour and a half after appointed time and didn't call before coming.
Contrast this with my last experience with them where I waited around for the tech, called support after tech hadn't called at the end of the supposed appointment time range only to have them tell me that the tech called and because no one answered, I'd have to reschedule. Even though there was no way I could have missed the call cause I was waiting at home for the past 4 hours just for them.
So yeah, it was an improvement. Now if only they'd stop with these creeping rate increases. =p
So I've had my Flickr account for about a year now and for the last month or so I've averaged about 50-75 views per day (if that). I don't put a lot of stuff up since my 365 Project photos trickle in at one per day and most of the time I'll post photos directly to either my blog or Devon's site.
For the prior 2 weeks, the New York International Auto Show had been in town and so I had taken a bunch of pictures when we visited one day. Those photos I uploaded as a set to Flickr where they sat around for about 4 or 5 days before apparently suddenly hitting the limelight. Late two evenings ago, I started noticing a rather significant uptick in my Flickr stats. By the time I woke up the next morning, my current day view count was already up in the 30k range. I kept an eye on it throughout the day and was amused when every refresh of the stats page showed an increase in the hundreds.
I took the above screenshot when the Flickr day ended. As you can see, I supposedly amassed 68,945 total views across my Flickr photos, photostream, and sets. The prior day (which isn't shown here) my total was a bit over 600. Prior to this huge surge, my total view count since I created my account a year ago was 9,884. So in one day my total view count increased almost 7X.
Here you can see that the photos that were on the receiving end of all this attention were my shots from the auto show. And apparently, Bumblebee is a HUGE draw for people. Or is he? And why are my photos getting all this attention now when they had been living in relative anonymity for the past week?
Delving into the referrers chart reveals some answers I believe. Apparently, a good chunk of my shots were picked up in Yahoo's "Community & News" module for their Auto Show section. And guess which photo shows up in the #1 spot. Right, Bumblebee. So it appears that a good # of visitors came in from Yahoo Autos through the Bumblebee photo and then ping ponged around the rest of my car show set and even my photostream.
Some questions remain though. Like why is Bumblebee in that first spot? He's not the first photo in my set. And why are all my photos from that set showing up in that module? I can't be the only one who took photos at the auto show, tagged them and released them under Creative Commons. And what the heck is this "Unknown Source" referrer that's apparently piping in a bit over 20% of views. Plus, are these views actually from visitors coming through Community & News? Or are views being counted if someone just visits an auto-related page on Yahoo that calls up the Community & News module? I tend to think that they are actual visitors since I assume Yahoo's overall traffic is even heavier. And if that is the case, wow.
Anyway, not that I'm complaining or anything (except for the fact that this sudden spike of traffic is going to ruin that topmost "Daily aggregate views" chart for me for the next month. ;-p
Plus the interest seems to be dying down as traffic today is nowhere near yesterday's levels. Still high compared to my previous numbers though.
after Apple announces something.
Well I was in the midst of typing up a long-winded, rambling, and highly-sarcastic jab at the new iPhone 3G[S] price complainers when Gizmodo beats me to it. Oh well, guess that's why they're the experts.
As for myself, yes I pre-ordered. No I wasn't lucky enough to get the low noob/out-of-contract price but I wasn't shafted with the high end price either. On top of that I have a non-smartphone-inclined wife ("It's too big and I barely need a cell phone much less a smart one.") which means the proceeds of my existing 3G sale let's me get the new one for even less than AT&T's lowest price. Of course it would have been nice if I could have gotten AT&T's lowest price first which means the 3G sale would have actually made me some money but... not complaining.
So, I'm psyched to check out the new camera on the 3G[S]. Extra speed will be nice but the cam is what it's all about for me.
So, earlier last week, I heard that Eye-Fi had released the new Pro version of their wireless SD card. Clocking in at 4GB and with the ability to transfer not just JPEG, but RAW AND video files via wireless network, I decided to finally take the plunge and test it out with my Panasonic LX3.
Set up was a little trickier than I was expecting. The Eye-Fi Pro comes with its own USB card reader (although you can use your own) that you just stick in to an available USB port. After installing the Eye-Fi Manager software that's in the card, I ran it and immediately ran into connection problems. The software attempts to test incoming and outgoing connections through your computer's network connection and for some reason it was having issues on my MBP with incoming connections. So I hit the support site and tried everything I could find in their FAQ and forums, to no avail. Then I rebooted the computer and BOOM, connections all ready to go. After that, you sign up for an account on the Eye-Fi site and you're ready to go.
Configuration management for the card is done through the browser on their site and is pretty darn easy and comprehensive. I configured the card to connect to my wireless network at home (WEP security not supported if anyone's still actually using that security algorithm) in seconds. A very cool feature is that you can have the card do different things depending on what type of file it's transferring to your computer. For example, I have JPEGs being downloaded to the default Eye-Fi photo folder that is created under /Users/[your username]/Photos. But my RAW files go directly to the LX3 RAW directory I have on my Drobo. And any video files get automatically imported into my iPhoto. On top of that, you can have them automatically upload your JPEGs to any available websites that you set up like Flickr, Facebook, SmugMug, MobileMe, etc. The list is very comprehensive. The same can be done for video. And then, on top of all that, the card can geotag your photos before transferring them as well.
Sounds pretty nifty right? But how well does it actually work? If you're out and about and you have the setting turned on, the card will try to log in to any public wireless networks to upload your images and video. I have not had the chance to try this yet or if I had, I wouldn't know, because there's really no way for you to tell when the card is doing anything unless you happen to have a computer with you so you can keep an eye on what the card has transferred via the Eye-Fi management site. Transferring across my home wireless network works pretty much as advertised. The Eye-Fi Manager software will pop up a little window when it detects files being transferred that displays a thumbnail of the file and a progress bar.
Now, what are the cons with this setup? Well, the Eye-Fi card needs juice to be able to work. Which means your camera has to be on for it to do its thing. Which means pretty significant battery drain. Typically with my LX3, I carry it around for about a week at a time before needing to charge the battery. Over this past weekend, I took it out for one day, took about 90 RAW shots with it plus a few video clips, tried to keep it powered on long enough to transfer everything when I got home and it died before it could finish transferring. Now I didn't check to see how much power was left in the battery to begin with but I'm pretty sure it was at least over half full. This coming week I'll test it more fully. I'll probably set the LX3's LCD display to turn off quicker to save on battery power. And if it's still draining a lot, I'll turn off Hotspot support to see if that helps anyway. I also purchased an extra battery just in case.
Now if your camera's battery is kaput, you can also just stick the Eye-Fi card into your regular SD card reader. Once it gets power, it'll continue to transfer wirelessly. However, if the card's already in a card reader, what's the point in transferring wirelessly? Transfer through the card reader itself is much faster especially since it seems that the wireless transfer often works in little bits and pieces.
So, I'll withhold my final verdict until I'm able to test it out a bit more in the following week. I'm probably an abnormal user case anyway since I shoot only in RAW. JPEG files tend to be much smaller so if you shot only JPEG, power consumption possibly would not be as much of an issue unless you just take TONS of photos at once. At first glance, I do like the concept of the Eye-Fi. I also like the fact that you can direct different file types to different locations on your computer. And I have not yet tested the web service transfer functionality since I need to post-process my RAW files before uploading them to sites like Flickr. I can see this being useful for Erin's camera though where she just goes out and shoots and then the shots get automatically transferred to me when she gets home.
Finally polished off one of the three Blu-Ray discs currently on loan from Netflix.
Prima donna cast
Lost in jungle adventure
Become better men
I'll give it a 7 out of 10. The special effects were quite good (and obviously some were knowingly over-the-top). Really did enjoy watching Tom Cruise in this one and the rest of the cast had their moments.
So that bit of unexpected downtime only took umm... 4 months to recover from. =) But we took the time to change servers and services and update the blog engine to the latest spankin' version. A lot has changed between MovableType 3 and 4 so I'll have my work cut out poking around the new tools. Anyhow, more later. But it's good to be back! =)
So, it's been a little over a year since my last earphone post. Ever since I picked up the Etymotic hf2, it has been my preferred everyday earphone for use with the iPhone. However, the hf2 isn't without its problems. Or more specifically, one HUGE problem. There appears to be a manufacturing defect with the original hf2 that causes either the left or right channel to just cut out for no visible reason. The weak point seems to be where the cord meets the plug, cause if I messed around with the cord a bit right above the plug, the sound would come back, but immediately disappear again if the cord was moved. So it appears that the wire within the cord was breaking somehow even though the exterior plastic cord was fine. This issue happened not once, but THREE times in the past year and a half. Thankfully, Etymotic replaced the non-functioning ones free of charge since they were all under warranty. And I know it wasn't user error because after the first time, I was doubly careful every time I unplugged the earphones, gripping the plug and not the cord.
A more impatient fellow would have given up after the second occurrence of this issue and probably switched to another brand. Luckily for Etymotic, and unfortunately for me I guess, I still stuck with them because there weren't any other iPhone-compatible earphones that could compare at the time. When it wasn't broke, the hf2 was still the best-sounding microphone and controller-equipped earphone available.
Transcribing a conversation Erin had with Devon a few days ago (as told to me by Erin):
Devon: I have something stuck between my teeth.
Erin: Oh? Where is it? Let me see...
Devon: Something's stuck in there, you need to get it out with candy.
Erin: Something's stuck? Let me get the toothbrush.
Devon: Never mind, it fell out.
Mom: 1, Devon: 0.
With 30 days left in my first 365 Project, I've been looking ahead and pondering whether or not to continue in 2010 with the 365@50 Project. I'm still undecided. Maybe I'll take a year off first. But just in case, I'll be testing out a few 50mm lenses as I don't currently own one. In my previous forays with the 50mm (I've owned at one point or another: Canon f/1.4, Canon f/1.2 and Sigma f/1.4), I've never been completely excited about it. Sharpness wide open never seemed to be that great (although to be fair, I've been comparing them to my 85mm @ f/1.2 that's wonderfully sharp).
The first two to arrive are the Sigmalux (Sigma 50mm f/1.4) and the Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 ZE. The Sigma is still a tank, large and well-built. Bokeh is still as creamy as ever but this particular copy seems to be a bit softer than I was expecting wide open. The Zeiss follows more along the lines of the Canon and Nikon 50mm f/1.4s in size except it's fantastically well-made with its all-metal body (even the hood is metal!). Its bokeh does not lose out much if at all to the Sigma and it does seem to be sharper wide open although kind of hard for me to tell at times because it's still tough to nail focus through the 5D2's viewfinder (even with the EG-S focus screen) at that large aperture. But I'm very impressed with it. I just wish it had autofocus. =\
Anyway, I'm expecting the Canon f/1.4 and f/1.2 either today or tomorrow so will be posting another pixel peeping post in the next few weeks. Should be interesting. =)
Just a few things I thought were interesting/amusing in the past few weeks.
After opening up a box of Dunkin' Donuts and moving to grab a chocolate kreme one (basically a white powedered donut filled with chocolate cream with a dollop of decorative chocolate cream hanging out of one side):
Devon [all excited]: Don't eat that! It's got doggy poo on it!
Ah I love my kid, always looking out for my best interests. That is when he's not busy pretending to rip my head off. =p
Talking to my mother about my grandparents' old home (they've both passed on already) and why my mom and aunts haven't done anything with it yet, she mentioned that if they tried to sell it, it'd be a hassle cause they'd have to get my grandparents' permission. Confused, I asked her what she meant. Now, worshiping one's ancestors is pretty normal in Taiwan (I believe it's part of Taoism) and I had known that there was a little shrine on the top floor of the home where I'd always have to visit once whenever I returned to Taiwan to pay my respects to my grandparents. What I didn't know was that because this shrine was there, any future attempts to move it (which selling the home would ultimately lead to), required the deceased's permission.
And how exactly do you go about getting their permission? Basically you have these two curved wooden markers which you hold in your hand while standing in front of the shrine and conversing with them, explaining the situation and then asking for their answer. Then you cast the markers onto the floor (or whatever flat surface happens to be handy). Depending on which side up the markers wind up, that's your answer. If both markers land curving upwards, then the spirits have found your request highly amusing and are laughing their asses off. If both markers are curved down, then the answer is no. If one is up and the other is down, then yes.
To me, this seemed pretty much like gambling. Plus I couldn't see what was stopping anyone from just throwing the markers until you got your preferred answer. So then my mom went into some anecdotal stories (which I won't get into here to protect the innocent) about how the spirit(s) would keep refusing until the living had pretty much explained everything that could possibly be explained about the reasons for the request. Which, now that I think about it, is pretty similar to what parents have to go through when trying to explain things to toddlers. They're not verbal enough to let you know exactly what they're thinking so you wind up explaining things six ways to Sunday in an attempt to get them to logically accept that what you're trying to get them to do or believe is the right thing. Except I guess when you're talking to spirits you can't use the "Because I said so!" nuclear option. Or maybe you can, you'd just have to deal with some possible hauntings and unlucky events afterwards. =p Which again, is very much like dealing with unruly children. ;-p
But anyways, I just thought it was one of the more interesting conversations I've had recently. Plus the fact that the markers give you not just a simple yes/no answer but also a "we thought that was really damn funny" option I found highly amusing.
So today, practically the entire Northeastern seaboard was expecting to be hammered by the second of two major snowstorms within days of each other. Those of us north of Central Jersey were lucky enough to have avoided the worst of the first one that had dropped up to 2 feet of the white stuff in places. Earlier this week, I had decided to pull the trigger on a Canon 1D Mark III after seeing how ridiculously low (well, relative to other DSLRs ;-p) the price for these had gotten in the second-hand market after the release of the 1D Mark IV. I figured now was a good time to try out my first "pro" body plus I wanted to compare it to (and possibly replace) the newer Canon 7D that I currently have as my action cam. The 7D's a really impressive body with a great set of features but I haven't been entirely satisfied with the graininess of its high-ISO shots.
Luckily, the 1D3 arrived yesterday. Making today the perfect opportunity to test out its weather-proofing in the snowstorm. The snow was coming down quite heavily with occasional high-speed gusts of wind. I had ventured out into a prior storm with the Canon 5D Mark II but that one didn't match the overall intensity of today's brew. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to report that the 1D3 + 24-70mm f/2.8 lens passed the bad elements test with flying colors.
The camera was pretty much covered with snow after less than two minutes outside. After awhile I had melted snow running down pretty much every part of the camera and lens. At one point I brought the camera to my face to find that even the viewfinder was covered with snow. But a few quick and awkward wipes from a gloved finger and I was back in business.
The above two shots I took after coming back inside and doesn't fully represent what the camera looked like while outside. It definitely took a nice shower out there for about a hour and a half. But after a quick towel off after coming inside, the camera was none the worse for wear. The only thing I had to do was go over the front element of the 24-70mm with a brush and Lenspen to clean off the moisture stains and residual dust. Heft-wise, I was pleasantly surprised. Overall weight with the 24-70mm wasn't too bad. I never thought it to be too heavy while in use. I expect this to be different though with a beefier lens like the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS. I bolted that on last night and yeah, it was a damn heavy combo.
It wasn't all roses shooting with the 1D3 though. For one, I probably won't ever use the vertically-oriented set of controls (nor will I ever buy a battery grip for the non-1D bodies) because I switch focus points using the little joystick. While this works fine in the regular horizontal position, the joystick is pretty much unreachable when shooting vertically unless you have massive hands. Then there's the lack of auto-ISO which I've gotten used to on both the 5D2 and 7D bodies. Yes, changing the ISO is pretty simple but still, I've gotten lazy. ;-p And also there's no way to save multiple custom shooting modes on the 1D3. And then chimping on a 230k dot 3" LCD is really a huge step down from the standard 920k units nowadays. Everything looks so murky comparatively.
As for the image quality, out of the camera, the images from the 1D3 at higher ISOs look noticeably less grainy than the ones from the 7D as expected. Other than that, I haven't noticed much else different between images from the two bodies. The only remaining aspect to compare would be the AF system, something that I haven't had the chance to try out yet. But so far, I don't think that a 1-series body would be the best fit for me. Right now the only thing I'm sure of with the 1D body is that I can take it out into pretty much any environmental condition without any hesitation whatsoever. The 5D2 and 7D weather-sealing may be just as good as the 1D bodies but I still feel more hesitant to bring those two out in the rain. Being able to hold the camera normally while shooting vertically would have been a plus but with the joystick location the way it is, that's pretty much not an option for me.
So for the time being, my dream camera still remains the full-frame sensor body of the 5D2 with the AF system of the 7D. C'mon Canon, that's not too much to ask for is it? =p
Those who know me know that I've been a pretty avid anime fan since my college days. There was a lull during my first few years in the workforce when it fell a bit by the wayside but it began again in full force these last few years thanks to the ease of obtaining torrented fansub content and the explosion of commercial releases available through retailers and Netflix. While I have watched a significant chunk of series in the past almost twenty years, I'm definitely nowhere near the top.
When it comes to my personal collection of commercially available titles though, I have a pretty meager set (see photo above). I collect commercial anime titles the same way I collect regular movie titles. It's gotta be something that I believe I'll actually want to go back and watch numerous times years and years down the line. Or it holds some sort of sentimental value to me. Cause let's face it, there's way too many titles out there (past, present and future), and not enough time to watch most of them more than once. Unless you're independently wealthy and don't have to work for a living. Plus with services like Netflix around, that takes care of the huge chunk of good, but not great titles that I may want to see. Sure, I may not be fully supporting the US anime industry (which has apparently been about to go belly up for the past decade now =p) to my utmost ability but I'll leave that to the current crop of young otaku who don't have a wife and kid to feed. Along with two other, even more expensive hobbies. ;-p
During my last visit to my folk's place I dug up an old CD (remember those?) that I had burned containing anime songs that apparently I enjoyed back then. This must have been at least 14 years ago. Frankly I'm surprised the disc is still readable considering the crappiness of some of the DVD-Rs I've had to deal with lately. But anyway, in the process of importing them back to iTunes, I figured I may as well share them with y'all. Most of them I still enjoy, a few I'm more like "Really? I liked this?" But anyway, without further ado...
So last year I took a photo of all the bags I currently had in my possession at the time. Recently I've rejuggled a good portion of my lineup so I figured I'd take another shot. The good news is I much prefer this current crop of bags than the collection from last year. The bad news is, I actually increased my bag lineup by one. Even I know that eight bags is a bit much. =p
Looking at last year's group, the only leftover from then is the Waterfield Cargo bag (top left corner), which remains my daily bag, and the Bumbakpak Hybrid (top right corner). You don't see the Bumbakpak in this year's shot because I completely forgot about it when I was taking the photo. The Bumbakpak is actually one I tried to sell but no one wanted to buy. Not even on eBay. =p
As for the others, the two Crumpler photo bags were sold off and replaced by a single newer version. The small blue/black custom Timbuk2 messenger bag's strap buckle broke and was replaced under warranty with the brand spankin' new red/black bag. The Tom Bihn Buzz sling bag was eBay'd off and the Lowepro Classified 200 AW photo bag was craigslisted to make way for the ThinkTankPhoto Retrospective.
New for this year are the two backpacks: the ThinkTankPhoto Shape Shifter and the Timbuk2 Grubstake. The Shape Shifter is what I brought with me on last year's trip to Taiwan. And I really like it. The only negative being that you can't store a body w/a lens mounted on it. Everything is separated into their own individual pouches. The Grubstake is actually my newest acquisition and the reason I got it is because I can actually cram the Crumpler Six Million Dollar Home photo bag into it. Along with my 15" MacBook Pro. Why in the world would I want to do that? Well, during our Taiwan trip last year, I had to stow the Crumpler into our check-in luggage so that I'd have a camera bag to use while out & about. The Shape Shifter is great for transporting your gear long distances but I wouldn't use it as a daily bag. Now with the Grubstake, I can put my camera gear into the Crumpler and then stuff the Crumpler down into the backpack, freeing up a decent amount of space in our other luggage. It's a pretty tight fit however. So if airport security wants me to take everything out to show them why I have a bag within a bag, it's gonna be a bit of a hassle.
The other two new bags are both photo related: the ThinkTankPhoto Retrospective 30 and the ShootSac. The Retrospective is the largest camera bag in my arsenal. Used when I need to carry more than one body. The ShootSac is primarily a very light and non-bulky lens holder and it performs its function quite well. Use it mostly when I'm going somewhere where I know I'll want my camera out and ready to shoot at most times so don't need to bag it.
Anyway, I'll probably do individual write ups on the bags in the future so that's it for now. =)
With my iPhones I tend to run through a couple of different cases throughout their lifetime. As is typical of every iPhone release, available cases during launch was pretty minimal. It was a little different this time around as Apple actually released their own bumper "case" for the iPhone 4. I passed on it though which apparently was a good decision. So I was fully expecting to be case-less for the next few weeks until the iPhone 4 cases started rolling in.
And then I walked into my local Best Buy store. Their iPhone 4 accessory section was pretty sparse. Not only because of the still early relative lack of options but because it was practically picked clean. Fortunately I was able to scrounge up one of these ifrogz LuxeLean cases which pretty much encapsulates everything I usually look for in an iPhone case.
Now my taste in cases, as in bags, runs to the minimalistic/barebones side. Since I don't make it a habit of dropping things, full on protection is not what I'm looking for. All I really want is a thin polycarbonate shell that hugs the gadget and protects the back and sides mainly from scratches. The ifrogz LuxeLean pretty much fits this to a T.
Most of the time, you can find these no-brand thin & slim cases on Amazon for like $10 or less. But that's usually a couple of months after launch and you pretty much get what you pay for. The ifrogz is a step up from those cheapo cases as the interior of the case is also colored (not the case sometimes if you go real cheap on Amazon) and they also put in a soft lining in the interior that covers a good portion of it. This protects the back of the iPhone from tiny dings and scratches that often occurs from small dust particles that can still make their way in-between these types of cases and the back of the phone.
Top and bottom protection is quite minimal, limited only to the corners really. The disadvantage is that most of the top and bottom are exposed and unprotected but the advantage is that most accessories that plug into the bottom port will work unimpeded with this case.
The right and left sides are mostly covered, with a large cutout for the mute and volume controls. They've also gone with a vented look for the sides which one may or may not like. I don't particularly mind it plus I think it's a good idea anyway since the iPhone 4 runs noticeably warm after extended use so any cooling effect will be helpful.
The back is fully covered with just the form-fitting opening for the camera lens and flash. And the ifrogz logo is small and unobtrusive towards the bottom. The feel of the case is nice and smooth. They call it the "Luxe Velvet Soft Finish." Um, sure. It feels nice to the touch but it's definitely not rubbery/grippy so if you've got naturally slippery hands, be warned.
Besides the green color that I got, this particular case also comes in iron and pink. Iron will most likely be the most popular but I rather like the green as it matches my Waterfield Cargo bag. =) Anyway, for those who prefer this type of iPhone case, the ifrogz LuxeLean will do the job quite nicely.
Recently I decided that our cookware and cooking utensils needed an upgrade because we ruined two of our ancient non-stick frying pans during our last camping trip. In the process of researching kitchenware, I discovered that knives, in particular, had some pretty sweet products available. Unsurprisingly, my collector's mentality kicked in and I started delving deeper into the world of Japanese kitchen knives.
For the past 8 years we've been using an el cheapo knife set that consisted of one 8" chef's knife and three slicers of assorted lengths (4", 6" 8"). I think we resharpened them once throughout their lives with a sharpener that my mother gave us. Part of the handle on one had even broken off. Suffice to say, we weren't particularly picky about our kitchen implements up to this point.
Taking advantage of two Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons that were available to us, my first acquisition was a Shun Classic 7" Hollow Ground Santoku. I figured, hey, all purpose knife, that pretty much fits our (or more specifically, Erin's) needs to a tee.
The Shun Classic, despite being Kai's intro line, is constructed quite well. At least to my amateur eyes. Way above the nameless brand we had before for sure. The thick, round, "D shape", Pakkawood handle feels great in my hand and the blade came out of the box impressively sharp. The Damascus look on the blade is subtle and attractive and the hollow ground indentations running along the length of the blade is supposed to minimize stickiness when slicing through food.
It may be surprising to hear for those who know me but I don't follow Apple rumors very much. So their newly announced Magic Trackpad came as a complete surprise to me. At first I was like, seriously? A trackpad accessory for the desktop? I had always been under the impression that trackpads were just a tolerated pointing device who's longevity was due to being the de facto controller on laptops. Personally I don't mind using trackpads but it never occurred to me that people would want to use them outside of a laptop.
Long time readers will remember that I'm traditionally a trackball guy. But I'm also willing to try new things. So it was that a Magic Trackpad found itself at my doorstep a few days later. As you can see, it's quite possibly the blandest looking Apple product I've ever unboxed. Just a flat grey slate for the most part.
It does match quite nicely with Apple's wireless keyboard. Though oddly enough it's just a tad bit longer front to back than the keyboard. You would think since this is Apple they'd go that extra mile (or centimeter in this case) and make it a perfect fit. Not sure what happened there.
Physically it's also a little smaller than my existing Expert Mouse. Well, significantly smaller if you take the trackball's attachable wrist rest into account. And much thinner too obviously. And the best advantage over the trackball: being wireless. Unfortunately, Kensington et al. have so far still refused to come out with a new wireless trackball.
Now when I first started using the trackpad, I started off having my hand positioned directly over it like you see above. Thumb and index finger down on the pad, all the other fingers held over it to be brought down when needed. This quickly proved to be a pretty poor way to work with the trackpad as holding the fingers up for extended periods of time gets tiring.
So after some experimentation, I'm now using this hand position above. Basically the hand gets moved to the right so the ring and pinky fingers which are the most unused get to rest on the table instead of the trackpad itself. Another workable position has my pinky gripping the right edge of the trackpad. The middle and ring fingers still hover over the surface mostly but for some reason, with the pinky having something to grip and thus the hand spread out wider overall, the hand doesn't feel as tired over extended periods as before.
Interestingly, if you rest all your fingers on the trackpad and move only one, two, or three at a time while keeping the others immobile, the trackpad still works as usual. This also works on my MBP's trackpad but was never something I had to consider trying because the trackpad on the MBP is small enough so that you can rest your usually unused fingers on the body frame around it.
I'm still unsure as to whether or not the Magic Trackpad can replace my trackball for everyday use. Scrolling, which I do often, with the trackball is much easier although I prefer the three-finger swiping to go back or forward a page on the trackpad. Left and right button clicking is about even, with the trackball maybe coming in ahead because of dedicated buttons for each action.
Just for comparison, the above shows my usual hand position when using the Expert Mouse. Thumb on left click button, index controls the trackball, middle finger rests on and controls the scroll ring, ring finger just rests on the frame inactive, and pinky presses the left click button if needed. Index finger also stretches over to click the top left and right buttons when I want to move forward or back a page. It's a much more comfortable device overall because every finger can rest somewhere on the trackball without inadvertently affecting things. With the trackpad, I discovered that whenever I was working in Photoshop, I'd often accidentally zoom in or out of the image I was working on as that app seems to not ignore the thumb contact correctly at times.
So for me, while the Magic Trackpad wins on size, portability, three finger swiping and lack of wires, the trackball does scrolling better and is just more comfortable overall to use which I think is a more important consideration for such a constantly used computer accessory. I'll keep using the trackpad primarily for another week or so to see if anything changes.
So a few weeks back I ordered this Incase Snap Case for the iPhone 4 through Apple's "We're Sorry You're Making Such a Big Deal Out of Nothing" program. ;-p It's not that I really needed it, having already gotten the ifrogz LuxeLean case beforehand which still works just fine. But who am I to turn down a free case? At the time it said shipping would be in 4 weeks so I think this came a little early.
As far as iPhone cases go, this one is pretty typical of the clear acrylic form-fitting cases I've had in the past with my previous iPhones. Compared to the ifrogz, as far as I can tell, it may be just a smidgen thinner but seriously, just splitting hairs at this point.
The left side of the case is a bit more encased compared to the ifrogz with separate cutouts for the ringer/vibrate switch and volume buttons. The case is thin enough so that operating these controls doesn't take too much getting used to compared to having just the phone uncased. Not sure why they embossed the "Made in China" on the inside of the case but that doesn't affect anything. The right side of the case I didn't bother taking a photo of cause it's just straight covered plastic with an embossed Incase logo towards the bottom.
The top and bottom of the case is pretty much exactly the same as on the ifrogz case. No surprises here. Easy access to all the controls, plugs and jacks at the expense of not so thorough protection.
And as you can see the back is pretty nondescript. The cutout for the camera lens + flash is not as form-fitting as on the ifrogz plus they encircled the edges of the cutout with what they call a "Flash Ring." Basically they just made the edges black so it cuts down on possible glare caused by the flash reflecting on the clear acrylic and bouncing back into the lens. I'm not a heavy flash user so not sure if this is truly useful or not but sounds good at least. =p You'll also notice from this shot of the back that like all clear acrylic cases, this one also picks up fingerprints quite easily.
You do get a bonus with this case though: a little dual-sided clear acrylic stand. Incase tends to include these little stands with their thin cases. I remember having a S-shaped black plastic one for the iPhone 3GS when I got their perforated case. They're cheap and kinda dinky but convenient and perfectly functional in a pinch.
As I mentioned it's dual sided so you can place the iPhone in at one of two angles. Not entirely sure what exact angles they are but something like 45 and 60 degrees would be my guess. And they only work with the iPhone placed horizontally. The iPhone will tip over backwards immediately if you place it vertically in the 45 degree angle. With the 60 degree it'll work but once you put any pressure on the phone it'll tip over. So just keep it in the horizontal position.
So, in a nutshell, this Snap Case is good if you're a real basic, no frills kinda guy. It's light and thin and gives you just the most basic of protection, mostly just against scratches. If you like to show off the look of the iPhone but still want some protection on it, then this case will be good for you. Like all clear acrylic cases though, I predict that the back of this one will wind up getting all scratched up after a couple of weeks. Better the case than the iPhone itself obviously but these types of cases don't usually retain their pristine forms for very long. Plus you'll have to wind up removing the case every now and then to clean out the tiny dust particles that will inevitably work its way in-between the back of the case and the iPhone itself. If you don't do this often, some of those particles can wind up scratching the iPhone. That may be less of an issue with these new iPhone 4s and their glass backs but it was definitely an issue on the previous iPhone 3GS.
Compared to the ifrogz LuxeLean, I probably favor the ifrogz a bit more at this point. The ifrogz, because of the colored paint has a more grippier feel to it than the Incase which can be quite slippery if you're not careful with it. And I like the felt-like backing that covers the interior of the ifrogz. That pretty much traps any wayward dust particles that make their way into the case and prevents them from moving around against the back of the phone. But besides that, both cases give you pretty much the same amount of protection with the least amount of size and weight addition.
A month or so ago I came across a posting on Friendfeed listing a couple of smartphone-friendly gloves. The Agloves were the only ones that seemed remotely interesting to me so I sprang for a pair. At $18, I figured it wouldn't hurt the wallet too much if they didn't pan out. Plus they give a pretty decent 90 day test period in case you really hate them for some reason.
When they arrived, I was pretty surprised at how thin they are. Made out of 60% polyester, 29% nylon, 7% silver nylon, 3% spandex, and 1% acrylic, they are a pretty snug fit too. The Northeast being in the midst of a cold spell the last couple of weeks, I was pretty apprehensive as to how they'd hold up under the mid 20s to high 30s weather we were having. After a week or so of use, I can say that they're warm enough if you're a regular urban commuter. The palms get chilly quickly once it hits around 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) or below but shoving them into your pockets or just closing your hands into fists solves that issue for the most part. For temperatures ranging from the mid-30s and above, the gloves are perfectly fine in the warmth department. At least for me. Obviously everyone's temperature threshold will vary. Oh, and you probably won't want to get into a snowball fight with these. =p
As far as how they work on the capacitive touch screens on iPhones and other smartphones, they work perfectly as advertised. It's like they're not even there. Really great stuff. I've also grown quite fond of the thinness of the gloves as they're the only gloves I've ever had where I could actually shove them into my pant pockets and root around for things by touch. Normally winter gloves are too bulky to even get them into the pockets or doesn't give you enough of a feel to them.
Prior reviews I've read all sort of ding them on the blandness of the style. I don't mind much since most gloves I tend to buy are either black, dark grey, or dark brown anyway. =p When I purchased my pair, they only had the M/L size in stock and I find them to fit quite well with just a little bit of slack towards the wrist area on the back of the hand. As of now, they seem to have all their other sizes in stock as well finally. One advantage to their thinness is that if you do need extra warmth, you can always wear a thicker pair of gloves over them.
So if you're an avid smartphone user and urban commuter who wants a pair of easy to use and light-weight gloves, then definitely give Agloves a look. If the majority of your exposure to the elements consists of you running from your home to the nearest mass transit station and then to your workplace, then the relative lack weather protection provided by these won't be a big deal.
Now prior to getting the Agloves, I have been using a pair of old Dot Gloves since last winter. The old knit version which consisted of two metal "dots" sewed into the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Style-wise, these were nothing to write home about either although they did eventually wind up being available in a lot more different colors than the Agloves. Being heavy knit, they also provide a lot better weather protection than the Agloves but at the cost of added bulk.
However, where the Aglove trumps the old Dot Gloves is in actual functionality. Even though the Dots Gloves fit me just fine, in order for the "dot" to work reliably and comfortably, you generally want it centered on the fingertip. But more often than not it shifted about so you really had to make an effort to recenter it to the proper position. And then in use, I always had to be a bit more deliberate in my touches for it to work reliably. And doing that really slowed me down. Plus I could also never get any sort of pinching motion between the thumb and forefinger to work reliably.
For now I still keep both pairs of gloves in my winter jacket pockets since they're both really not all that bulky, particularly the Agloves. I use the Agloves more since they're a lot easier to use but will break out the Dot Gloves if it turns out to be a bit chillier than the Agloves can handle. After being alerted to the new iteration of the Dot Gloves in this review, I placed an order for one of their new lambswool "iPhone Gloves." A couple of weeks wait time unfortunately but once they do come in I'll compare them to the Agloves. My guess is the old Dot Gloves will be hitting the trash can soon after.
Long time readers (if there are any left ;-p) will know that I'm a fairly extensive user of Apple products. So when the iPhone 5 officially opened up for preorder, I woke up at 3am just so I could place mine (64GB black AT&T).
Flash forward a week when the iPhone 5 is due to be delivered. I was home that day but UPS was tricky and showed up in the morning when I was out taking my kid to school instead of their usual afternoon time. So yeah, annoyed already. But, I do what I usually do when I miss an UPS shipment: call them up and tell them to hold it for me at the local distrib center (which is about a 15 min drive away). Their nightly pickup times are from 8:30 to 9:30pm. Figuring it'd be a busy evening for them, I show up at 8:00pm to an already lengthy line. It got to be my turn at a little after 9pm. Surprise, surprise, my package can't be found. Guy at counter says possibly the driver for my area hasn't come back yet and to just wait around. So that's what I do. About a half hour later, while I'm staring a hole into the counter guy's head, he updates me, "Well the driver did seem to have already been back but we still have no idea where your package is." Hrrrgghh.... But he does give my package info to their iPhone runner (just a guy who's sole purpose that night was to run around the center tracking down iPhone packages) and the wait continued. Another half hour goes by before the runner comes back and YAY, he has my package!
So I hightail it home since it's already been TWO HOURS that I've wasted on what should have been at most a half hour wait. At home, I open up the shipping box and pause for a bit when confronted with a white iPhone 5 box. Heart sinking, I flip the box around and yup, 16GB white iPhone 5. Frack. Double check the model and serial # on the shipping box with the ones on the iPhone 5 box. Didn't match. Double frack. WTF do I do now? Decided to give Apple customer service a call. "Sorry, due to extremely high call volume, blah blah blah. Try calling back later." *click* *dial tone*
So, iPhone 5 launch day BIG FAIL!
For the past year or so, I had been slowly becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the pixel density of computer monitors that I've been using for the past few years. As can be seen from last year's desk photo, I've accumulated three 24" displays over the years: an Apple Cinema Display flanked by two Dells. But after being spoiled by the high PPI displays on the cell phones and tablets of today, the low pixel density of the displays from yesteryear were starting to grate on my eyes.
For the past couple of years, my workhorse commute in-ear headphone was the Sony XBA-3iP, packing 3 balanced armature drivers and a built-in, full-suite (playback & volume controls) smartphone controller/mic. The reason I liked it was because it was one of the few, if possibly the only, 3-driver in-ear at the time that had a relatively small casing and didn't require being worn w/the cable looped up and around the ear. I absolutely HATE wearing headphones that way mainly cause the cables never stay in place for me. It was a pretty good pair of in-ears, not the absolute best reviews, but good enough for me. Unfortunately early last year the volume control broke. But since everything else about it was still good I continued to use them, until towards the end of the year when I finally started thinking about finding a replacement.
Embarrassingly enough, by that time I had completely forgotten exactly what was broken with the Sony headphones. Just that it wasn't 100% functional thus, I should replace it. So I wound up picking up a pair of the dual-driver Puro Sound Labs IEM500s for a dirty cheap price on eBay only to eventually realize much too late that the reason I wanted to replace the Sony was for the volume control, which the Puro had none to begin with. *facepalm*
But I liked the Puro well enough to switch to it as my main in-ears. After awhile though, GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) started nipping at my heels so I started looking for yet another replacement, this time with volume controls. And so I ended up with the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear. While this had all the functionality I wanted, I wasn't completely sold on the sound signature. So back to browsing on Amazon again for another pair that had a sound more in tune with what I like. And that's how I came across the 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones with In-line Microphone and Remote. I had never heard of 1MORE before but the reviews on Amazon were really good and the price was insane for a triple-driver. At about the same time, Grado apparently decided they needed some of my money as well and released their new iGe. They were priced the same so I figured I'd do a comparison to see how they would fare against each other.
So that's what this post is ultimately about, a 4-way in-ear headphone comparison. Before I get started, I would just like to make clear that I am in no way a full-fledged audiophile. I don't inspect every detail of headphone specs or look at/compare measurement charts or whatnot. I don't even know what much of the specs even mean. I just plug in the headphones, crank up some tunes, close my eyes, and listen. I can distinguish between highs, mids and lows and possibly make out differences in soundstage if I concentrate hard enough. But I can't wax poetic about the quality of each sound range. As for how I tested, since I use these primarily during my work commute, I just plugged them straight into my iPhone 6S. No amp. I'll also comment a little about the physical aspects of each pair of headphones. So, with that out of the way, here goes nothing.
After wandering around Best Buy during the current holiday season, I was surprised to see a burgeoning selection of true wireless earbuds actually available for sale in store. "True wireless" meaning that they're just two earbuds with nothing connecting them. First to market contenders already existed since a year ago: the Earin and Bragi Dash and the like but I figured the first ones of this product type would most likely not be very good and subsequent reviews pretty much affirmed that view. But the brightly packaged and slick-looking Skybuds attracted my attention so I decided to give them a shot. I subsequently also tested out the Sol Republic Amps Air and Jabra Elite Sport True Wireless Earbuds as well to try to get a better idea on what the audio quality of these latest Bluetooth earbuds were like.
But before we get started, I just wanted to make clear that my primary use case for earbuds is to listen to music and watch videos during my commute. So sound quality and control set are the more important criteria for me. With that out of the way...