July 2005 - Chris Ullrich dot net
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July 2005

Interesting Sites ‘O the Day (and a little news)

From across the www direct to you. Some interesting sites that might be worth a visit. Especially if you are looking to kill a few minutes (or a few hours). Enjoy.

The Playstation 3 info page of things known so far.

Microsoft Windows Vista (i really love that name. no, really. at least no animal names. kinda tired of that too) info page with screenshots.

Some speculation on the innards of the Video iPod, to be released real soon (i am holding my breath. i hope it doesn’t take too long).

Some good tips that every webmaster (like me!) needs to know to enhance his or her use of Google Adsense.

This looks promising. Record everything on TV and play what you want. When you want. No more season passes or setting the timer on the VCR (although, if you really have a VCR, its time to move into the 21st century and get a Tivo at least. I mean really people, tape is so nineties).

And, it seems some debris fell off during the latest shuttle launch. It looked so perfect too. So, NASA has grounded the fleet again. Well, the comet thing was cool anyway. Can we get something else besides foam? It doesn’t work guys. You’re really, really, really smart. Think of something else. Please.

And last but certainly not least, some very cool tips on how to speed up Mac OSX. Many of these I already use. I guess I could have posted them too. Oh well, easier just to link to this guy. Less work for me.

Interesting Sites ‘O the Day (and a little news)

From across the www direct to you. Some interesting sites that might be worth a visit. Especially if you are looking to kill a few minutes (or a few hours). Enjoy.

The Playstation 3 info page of things known so far.

Microsoft Windows Vista (i really love that name. no, really. at least no animal names. kinda tired of that too) info page with screenshots.

Some speculation on the innards of the Video iPod, to be released real soon (i am holding my breath. i hope it doesn’t take too long).

Some good tips that every webmaster (like me!) needs to know to enhance his or her use of Google Adsense.

This looks promising. Record everything on TV and play what you want. When you want. No more season passes or setting the timer on the VCR (although, if you really have a VCR, its time to move into the 21st century and get a Tivo at least. I mean really people, tape is so nineties).

And, it seems some debris fell off during the latest shuttle launch. It looked so perfect too. So, NASA has grounded the fleet again. Well, the comet thing was cool anyway. Can we get something else besides foam? It doesn’t work guys. You’re really, really, really smart. Think of something else. Please.

And last but certainly not least, some very cool tips on how to speed up Mac OSX. Many of these I already use. I guess I could have posted them too. Oh well, easier just to link to this guy. Less work for me.

Yahoo gets into the widget business and other stuff

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Yahoo! for some reason decided that widgets were another great way of competing with Google. So, they purchased Konfabulator and today, debuted their own Yahoo! widgets site. They say Mac support will continue and may even get better as they want to be more “cross platform”. That’s nice. Will that make up for the less than stellar version of Yahoo! messenger now on the Mac? I hope so.

Also, quite a bit of fanfare for the new XBox 360 in Tokyo recently. Having seen it at the recent E3 event here in LA, I can say that it looks great and could help push Microsoft ahead in the console wars. Of course, there is a big difference between a demo and actual released product so anything is possible. It could still suck.

Lastly, Microsoft also wants to bring you the world. Or is that dominate the world? I get those mixed up sometimes. Anyway, they now have the Microsoft Virtual Earth site. Which is, of course, in direct competition with Google Maps. Which is better? Too early to say. However, I did have some issues using Virtual Earth with Safari 2.0 in Tiger so . . . . I guess it’s still Google Maps for me for now, which works perfectly fine in Safari.

Fad diet

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In order to help us figure out what is real and what we should and should not care about, CNet has posted its Top 10 Web Fads. Like it or not. Agree or not. It sure makes you think. Or not.

Whatever you think or feel you own it. Even if its influenced by the mass media or the cute girl who served you your Starbucks this morning. No matter what, that feeling is yours.

Enjoy it. No, I feel like going to bed. So, I am. Perhaps I will dream about Ellen Feiss.

Life with the Canon EOS 20D Digital SLR (so far)

I realize that when I write something here and say I am going to do something, I should probably do it. So, in that spirit, following are my much considered observations on the Canon 20D digital SLR. As a former Nikon user who previously had a Nikon D100 and used it frequently, the Canon has taken some getting used to. It’s not bad, just different.

Some people have also asked me why I switched from Nikon to Canon. My reasons are simple. I looked at the new Nikon cameras like the D70 and the new Canon cameras like the 20D and decided that I liked the 20D and its features. And, after a few test shots with the 20D, it felt right. So, that was it.

Plus, I originally had been a Canon user, owning the very cool EOS A2, before I ever got a Nikon so it was really more like I was going back than switching to something new. And, I had used one or two of the Canon “L” lenses that a friend owned and had really liked the way they work. Now, of course, I am in love with Canon “L” glass and that causes problems of its own because those suckers are expensive.

People always want to get into the Canon v. Nikon debate much like the Macintosh v. Windows debate. It is usually a hotly contested issue where people take opposing sides and defend those sides with near religious zeal. I look at technology as a tool. A tool that allows me to accomplish things and sometimes even to create things.

The big question for me is always what tool can i use to do something and almost as important, what tool will help me do what i want to do and not get in the way. I use a Macintosh because it helps me and doesn’t hinder me (not usually anyway). Windows simply takes more time to get working correctly and requires more diligent maintenance. The Mac just works. Turn it on and go.

The same holds try for my choice in cameras. The Canon 20D was easy to use right out of the box and with minimal effort, allowed me to take some decent photos. Turn it on and go.

Anyway, let’s get on with it:

First, here are some specs on the camera:

8.2 Megapixel: 3,520 x 2,344 pixel images. Also 2,544 x 1,696 pixel and 1,752 x 1,168 pixel settings. Choice of Regular JPG or Fine JPG. RAW mode and also RAW + JPG mode which lets you choose which kind of JPG you get along with your RAW file.

1.6x lens cropping factor. You have to buy a 10 – 22 mm Canon lens for ultra wide shots; any 17 mm or 18mm lens will only give an angle of view similar to a 28mm lens on 35mm film.

5 Frames Per Second Shooting Rate. Good for the sports shooter. Or, for me who likes to bang out several frames in a row to up the odds of a “keeper”.

9 Point AI Autofocus which is very good but still, not perfect. Compared to the D100 or the D70, it is much better but compared to the Canon “Pro” DSLR’s, and their 45 Point Autofocus, the 20D leaves something to be desired. Most of the shots I have taken are in focus and focused on the area i intended. Some are not. It could also be attributed to operator error so at the moment, until I take more photos, I will say the focus speed and accuracy is good.

ISO 100 – 1,600 in full stops. ISO 3,200 also if you enable it in a menu. This is pretty cool and provides a decent image. I don’t intend to get into a situation where I need this setting but you never know.

Mirror lockup. This is excellent for use with long telephotos on tripods for exposures between 1 and 1/30 second. Not found on the D100 or the D70.

The controls are in different place on the camera than they were (are) on the Nikon. Which, of course, makes sense as they are from different companies. I’m not sure why this didn’t stop me when I first examined the camera in a store but I guess I was not paying that close of attention to all of the differences between the Canon and the Nikon.

Nikon cameras, for the most part, all have similar controls in similar places. So, if you can use one, you can pretty much use them all. Canon does the same across its product line as well but as I am a switcher, I didn’t have the benefit of familiarity.

In the store where i first took some test shots with the 20D I was able to use it with little or no problem. It’s very simple to operate and takes pictures quite easily. Really, you could just leave it set on P or on one of the other “Auto” modes and happily snap away, assured that the camera will take very good pictures without much intervention from you, the user. With its 8.2 megapixel sensor and Canon’s Digic II system, the camera is very smart and can do a good job all on its own.

But really, this camera isn’t the one that you get if you are just a casual shooter looking for a point and shoot camera. This is a pro caliber camera that in the hands of even a somewhat experienced shooter can produce stunning results. I am not that shooter yet, but I am working on it. The more I use this camera, the more I like it. I still sometimes miss the D100. Not because I think the 20D lacks something but mostly because I was used to the D100 and I felt like I knew it pretty well.

Of course, after a time I will feel the same way about the 20D I am sure. The more you use something the better you get with it. I already have the photographic fundamentals as I have been shooting pictures for a long time. I just need a better understanding of my camera and its capabilities and quirks. Then I can start to take pictures that I can be proud of again. Until then, my percentage of “keepers” will stay pretty low.

Here is a list of my current main camera kit:

Canon EOS 20D Digital SLR
Canon 580 EX Speedlight (powerful yet compact flash)
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Zoom Lens (this lens rocks!)
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens (best bang for the buck in Canon’s lineup)
Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM Lens (i like it and image stabilization is nice)

And, for fun, I also carry:

Canon Powershot SD300 Digital Elf Camera (i love this little camera and it takes some pretty damn good pictures. plus, its tiny and fits in your pocket)

Plus various other items and misc. stuff. All encased in my favorite camera bag:

The Lowepro Omni Pro with optional Hard Shell Case (i use a Pelican 1520) for travel.

Or, my new favorite camera bag, the Lowepro CompuRover AW which is a backpack that holds camera, lenses and laptop. It’s a cool bag.

More on my use of the camera and more observations as I continue to use it over the next few weeks and months.

New study says one third of all studies are nonsense

I just had to mention this. I find it funny. How many of you think its funny also? Let’s do a study and find out. The abstract of the study is also available. Good times.

Monday (what, again?)

Yes, its that time again. The beginning of the week. Oh joy. Actually, today was a “pretty good day”(tm) and I got a lot of work done. I even managed to sell my old 12“ Powerbook to a very nice person who paid in cash. So, that was good. I hope she likes it. I think she will.

On the computer subject the saga continues with my G5 tower. Being the do-it-yourself kind of person I am, I pretty much tried everything i could think of to try to get it from doing the random freeze and kernel panic thing. Sadly, I had no luck. Also, the guys at Melrose Mac in Burbank were pretty much no help either. Although, they did manage to replace my power supply so it doesn’t make the annoying noise it was making, so that is a point in their favor.

Sadly, they dropped the ball on the rest of it and so will not become the preferred repair place for me and people that i work with. As the problem was so random and seemingly had no root cause that I could determine, I felt the only place to take it was to an Apple Store. Fortunately, in LA we have several. I, of course, went to my friends at the Glendale Galleria for help. Not only do I like Jenn and the rest of the gang at the Glendale Apple Store, but I am also a preferred consultant for them as well and they send business my way. So, of course, I like that too.

I took the G5 to them last Tuesday, July 5th. One of the Genius bar guys, Tim, took quite a bit of time with it and examined it very completely. Even though it took some time, i appreciated his effort. Fortunately, the machine exhibited the same behavior for him as it did for me and he checked it in for ”extended diagnostics“. Now, almost a week later, I got nothing. He did tell me it would be 7 to 10 days before I would know something so I am not upset or anything. Like many customers, I want to have my machine back with me and working like it used to.

Like doctors, I’m sure that computer consultants don’t make very good patients so I will try not to call Tim every day with more suggestions on how we might get my G5 back on its feet. I think he probably has it under control. So, I will give him the time he indicated, then I will see what’s what. I think Tim and the rest of the Glendale Apple Store crew will come through for me as they always have. Of course, being how I am, I am already pricing a replacement should this drag on too much longer (like another few weeks waiting for parts or something like that).

It may seem strange to be thinking about buying another computer from a company who already has one of yours in for repair. I don’t find it strange at all. I like Apple and the Mac. I will always be a Mac user and will always buy Apple products as long as they are around. I don’t necessarily want to buy another G5 right now, what with the Intel Macs coming. But, the G5 is a proven and tested product so getting another one isn’t so odd. I don’t want to be the first one to get an Intel based Mac anyway. Not the first but maybe the second or third. I might try to hold off a little to see how they work. Besides, i think we’ll see Intel Powerbooks before Intel Towers anyway so a new tower is still, in my opinion, at least 6 months off.

Whatever happens with my G5, I know Apple will make it right eventually. It will get fixed or they will give me a new one. As t has already had a video card problem and a power supply problem, it might be getting close to the replacement point. Or, I will just buy another one and when the current one is fixed, sell it. Whatever happens, I will stick with Apple. Besides, where will I plug in my three iPods if I don’t have a Mac? In my Windows box? Come one, be serious. Although, Half-Life 2 does kick ass. Can’t play that on a Mac, no matter how fast it is. I guess I need to keep my Windows machine too. Oh well.

London Bombs

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Of course you have heard about the bombs in London today. For good coverage, check out my friends at Londonist and also quite a few links at BoingBoing and at Flickr there are several ongoing photo groups with pictures from the blasts etc.

As for me, my only response to this latest terrorist attack is to be even more determined to go on living my life and doing all the shit that I normally do. No fucking coward living in a hole in the desert who doesn’t have the balls to put on a uniform and face us like a man in a real war deserves any more of my attention than for me to say “fuck you”.

Anyone who straps explosives to his body and blows up a bus or train full of innocent working people isn’t worth a moment of pity or consideration. That person is a complete fucking moron deluded into thinking that he is somehow doing God’s work.

I’ve got news for you dickhead and for all you other terrorists out there, there isn’t a hole you can hide in forever. Sooner or later, we’re gonna be there. Then, you will know what real power feels like. Enjoy what few moments you have left fuckers because they are numbered.

Sorry if I am using more colorful language than usual but this kind of thing makes me angry and I feel like I need to express it. Anyway, I’m lucky that anyone I know or care about wasn’t hurt today. To those of you who have people you know and care about that were affected by these events, my thoughts are with you.

Ok, I’m done.

Gates says no to implants

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Microsoft honcho Bill Gates, although he believes in and loves technology, doesn’t want it to be a part of him. When people start implanting technology in their bodies (RFID chips and other BORG-like devices) he won’t be along for the ride. I guess there is embracing technology and there is becoming part of technology. I can’t say I disagree with him. And that’s probably a first for me. I can’t recall a time when something he said made much sense to me. I’m also impressed with the fact that I didn’t go for any of the obvious jokes that a post with a title like this could have had.

I guess I’m growing.