New Toy

The old PC has become a little cumbersome for my image editing needs and I had pretty much come to the conclusion that a new computer was in order.

My current Windows box is a AMD Athlon 64 I purchased in February of 2006. Even when it was new it as not all that great a computer. It was on the low end both in price and performance. I had bought it to replace a AMD K6 400Mhz computer with a 40 gig hard drive I had bought in 1999 so it was an improvement and so far has served me pretty well.

I began shopping for a replacement and found myself looking to Apple as a possible option for my impending upgrade. I weighed the pros and cons and determined that it could only benefit me in both my IT career and my digital photography. Sure there would be a bit of a learning curve, but I know a lot of Mac users who are more than willing to assist me in my transition.

After some hemming and hawing I settled on a refurbished 2.8 GHz 24″ iMac from apple.com. The savings were pretty significant when compared to a brand new unit and the specs were more than suitable for my needs. I ordered it online on Friday and it was delivered to my office on Tuesday the following week.

I gotta say, this thing is pretty slick. Out of the box and on to the network in just about 5 minutes. I set it up at the office and poked around a little before I took it home. I then spent most of the evening working out the kinks of getting a program called Synergy loaded on the Mac and the PC so that I could control both computers with a single mouse and keyboard WITHOUTH the need for a KVM switch. It’s a nifty and elegant little program that, when installed, lets you move the mouse seamlessly from one desktop to another and back again. The keyboard works on whichever computer the mouse cursor is on. It’s like a dual display but with two computer instead of one.

Of course this sent me all over the place as I first tried to install the command line server utility on the Mac before I discovered SynergyKM which is a GUI wrapper around the synergy command line tool and makes the setup and configuration much, much easier.

My efforts led me to explore the network preferences and other “control panel” like items of the Mac as well as got me to a command line pretty quick as I struggled to get it installed and working properly.

In the end, I was triumphant and now I have the PC and the MAC working side by side on my desk.

Next step will be to get the 24″ PC monitor connected as a secondary monitor on the Mac. My 24″ Westinghouse has HDMI and VGA connectors. It is connected to the PC using the VGA so I plan to connect to the Mac using the HDMI and then be able to switch the monitor easily from PC primary to Mac secondary.

I have the mini-DVI to DVI to HDMI connectors and just need a HDMI cable which I am expecting to have in hand today.

Please feel free to comment with any suggestions as to applications or Web sites you think I might benefit from as I explore this new system! Keep in mind that anti-spam features in place on this blog may make posting a web link difficult. Just suggest the name of the site and I will find it.

Technology Expert?

I was asked if I was available for an interview for ABC 13 for a segment on social networking. In the piece that aired on the 4:00 pm news I briefly explained the basics of Facebook and Twitter.

This aired on ABC
http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/video?id=6814053

These are the extended interviews that did not make the air but are on the ABC 13 Web site:

http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/video?id=6814048
http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/video?id=6814050

Tool User

Magnetism to the rescue!

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Magnetism to the rescue!

When you have your roof replaced, it generates a lot of waste as a byproduct. For the most part, the crew did a good job of loading it all into trucks and hauling it away. Several truckloads of debris by my reckoning.

Unexpected, but not surprising, some nails ended up in the pool. Now that it’s getting a little cold here, wading in and fishing them out was unpleasant thought. Waiting till summer was also not an option. I tried using the cleaning net attached to the telescoping pole, but could not quite scoop them up.

Then it dawned on me. I’ve had in my possession a chunk of ferromagnetic rock since my teenage years. I found it near some railroad tracks when I was a teenager and I’ve just hung on to it. By placing it into the cleaning net I was able to collect all of the loose nails at the bottom of my pool without much effort and, most importantly, without getting wet.

Shiny Euros

Shiny Euros

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Shiny Euros

We have received our travelin’ Euros for the upcoming trip. I love the colour of European money. The holograms are so pretty. It’s like play money in that it doesn’t look real, but it also evokes the passion I associate with travel. Having Euros in hand makes the whole thing more “real”, if that makes any sense.

Of course, being the shutterbug I am, I wanted to photograph the bills as a matter of course so I played with different configurations and ended up with the above shot.

When I had finished procressing the RAW file and went to open it in Photoshop CS3, the strangest thing happened. This message popped up saying “”This Application Does Not Support the Printing of Banknote Images”:

In doing some research, this seems to be the same for the new American bills that were recently issued.

What stikes me is that this is not a scan of the Euro notes. It’s a photograph and it doesn’t even include a complete, unobscured bill in the photo. Yet Photoshop recognized the content of the image and produced that warning and, presumably, will not print it in the unaltered form.

It only let me save the oringinal file as PNG and I have not tried to print it.

Technology is cool!

Touch The Android

When it comes to mobile computing I’m not a Mac or a PC. I’m an Android! That’s right, I am now the proud owner of what has come to be called the Google Phone.

Officially, it’s the G1 from T-Mobile. The phone itself is made by HTC and runs the an open source operating system created by Google called Android.

Much like the infamous iPhone, the G1 utilized the G3 network for fast Internet access, has a nifty touch screen and accesses an online application database to add programs and functionality to the phone.

Unlike the iPhone, it’s not slaved to the problematic AT&T network which seems to plagued with dropped calls and continues to make the iPhone less of a phone and more a clearing house for a pocket full of silliness.

It’s not an iPhone killer, but it comes pretty close. I got one because the monthly service is cheaper and more reliable than the iPhone, it’s open source so there’s a lot more potential for applications and it has a full QWERTY keyboard that’s accessible with a simple flick of your thumb…

The G1 has GPS and it’s fully integrated into Google Maps and it’s all tied to your Gmail account. When you first turn on the phone, you are presented with the Android logo and instructed to “Touch The Android” to get started and it configures your e-mail and downloads your contacts.

I really like the device and find it a joy to use!

Social Networking Experiment

Cynthia and I are going to Valencia, Spain next year for Las Fallas. As an experiment I am reaching out via Twitter and other social networking sites to see if I can make contact with technically and socially like-minded individuals in Valencia with the idea that I can glean more information about our destination from a person or persons who actually live there, and possibly have one or more contacts when we arrive.

Right now I am using the search feature of Twitter to see who lists Valencia as their home.

Right off the bat I have encountered some stumbling blocks.

1. Must weed through erroneous search results for Valencia, Venezuela and Valencia, California
2. Natives of Valencia, Spain tend to twitter in Spanish or Valencian (Catalan).
3. Erroneous results due to the recent Formula One Grand Prix held in Valencia

I have reached out to a few I have encountered that list Valencia, Spain as their home and that have twittered in English. One in particular appears to work in the IT field so I am hopeful.

Next up I am going to search around on Flickr which I actually think might be more promising. Socially networking photogs tend to be a friendly bunch as evidenced by the recent Assignment Houston gathering at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

I’m not sure how this will turn out but it should be interesting.

Día del orgullo friki

It’s Nerd Pride Day.
Shouldn’t there be a parade or something? I want a parade….

Basic rights and responsibilities of nerds

Rights:
1. The right to be even nerdier.
2. The right to not leave your house.
3. The right to not have a significant other and be a virgin.
4. The right to not like soccer or any other sport.
5. The right to associate with other nerds.
6. The right to have few friends (or none at all).
7. The right to have all the nerdy friends that you want.
8. The right to not be “in-style.”
9. The right to be overweight and have poor eyesight.
10. The right to show off your nerdiness.
11. The right to take over the world.

Responsibilities:
1. Be a nerd, no matter what.
2. Try and be nerdier than anyone else.
3. If there is a discussion about something nerdy, you must give your opinion.
4. Save any and all nerdy things you have.
5. Do everything you can to show off your nerdy stuff as though it were a “museum of nerdiness.”
6. Don’t be a generalized nerd. You must specialize in something.
7. Attend every nerdy movie on opening night and buy every nerdy book before anyone else.
8. Wait in line on every opening night. If you can go in costume or at least with a related t-shirt, all the better.
9. Don’t waste your time on anything not related to nerddom.
10. Try to take over the world!

Researching Camera Gear + Camera Geek Humor

The Sony Alpha 100 has been a good camera for me and I have gotten some very good results. Overall, I simply cannot complain. Still, I find myself jonesing for something new in my camera world and the desire runs the gamut from just just buying a new lens or upgrading my current camera to the Alpha 700 all the way to changing platforms completely to the Nikon D300 or the Canon 40D.


Side by side feature comparison of the A700, 40D and the D300

These cameras stack up VERY well next to each other in terms of features and capabilities. But try to make a decision based on unbiased opinion? Forget it! Discussion forums are littered with evangelists for each of the brands. Nikon and Canon devotees seem to be the worst. They bash Sony for simply being Sony and project a brand loyalty comparable to religious zealotry. Ask a Nikon user what to get, he’ll tell you Nikon and that’s that. Same for Canon users. And there’s a growing number of Sony-heads joining the fray.

So I’m left doing a ton of research on my own, educating myself and looking at samples and reading reviews and so forth which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, at a moment when I was feeling rather overwhelmed and somewhat frustrated I did have a camera nerd/geek moment when I found a discussion thread announcing the upcoming release of the Nikon D90. In reading the specs I started to get a little excited thinking this is what I’ve been waiting for! As I kept reading my enthusiasm turned to confusion and then I just burst out laughing! Read for yourself.

I needed a good laugh at that point and that article delivered in spades.

There are many things to consider in staying with Sony, not the least of which is the financial commitment I have made in purchasing my lenses. Obviously to stick with Sony means less money out of pocket. The Sony A700 has dropped to around $1,300 whereas the Nikon D300 hovers up in the $1,800 range. The Canon 40D comes in the least expensive of all at around $1,200. But when you factor getting some good image stabilization and/or prime lenses for either Canon or Nikon and the cost of upgrade via platform hopping is moves close to, if not well into, the 4 digit range.

And really, would spending a ton of money changing brands yield better photographic results? Would I see such a difference in my output? Would someone really look at a picture and think “wow, great shot! If only that picture had the enhanced highlights and color depth of a Canon! Or the ever so slightly sharper detail of a Nikon with the uber-expensive lens?”

I am thinking “no”

Also, Sony has indicated their top of the line or “flagship” dSLR will be released later this year. The “Alpha 900” was announced by Sony for release later this year so there is hope that they are in this for the long-haul.

Keep in mind that I am by no means ready to drop $3,500 to $5,000 on a pro camera yet…Canon, Nikon OR Sony. But knowing that there’s an upgrade path remains a strong consideration. And who knows what will be on the market when AND IF I decide to take my camera gear to the budget disintegrating professional level?

There’s some pretty cool stuff happening with digital video that could completely change the landscape of professional photography. As Tom Petty says; “The future is wide open” (unintentional photo pun there).

I was thinking maybe I could the put aside the idea of any large purchase by just keeping what I have now and that’s when I started looking for lenses for the A100 as a possible pacifier for my desire to get something new.

In my research I found the Tamron SP AF 10-24MM F/3.5-4.5 DI II LD Aspherical (IF) and thought OOOOH! Super wide angle zoom! That would be cool. But then I saw it was just announced and is not available yet.

So here I am, musing the whole thing over and browsing the web and I keep learning more while spending nothing. And maybe that’s the best upgrade of all.

Stats

Back in September of 2005, about one month into my then new gig blogging for the Houston Chronicle, I published my answer to what I thought was a fairly unique problem with limited relevance to the general computing community.

Someone had contacted me with a problem. It seems that their computer display had turned sideways and wanted to know how to fix it. I figured out the problem and fixed it for them and decided to use it in the Helpline Blog under the title My screen is sideways.

Back in May of 2006 I marvelled at how many comments the post had received from people seeking an answer to the very same problem and thought to myself that 28 was a fairly staggering number.

Over the last few years the comments kept coming in and looking at it now there are 393 thank you comments on that post. 393 people who have managed to shift their display 90 degrees to the vertical, some not knowing how or why it happened while others readily blame the errant child or the curious climbing feline.

This has been the most response I have seen to anything I have blogged, ever. And I would have thought that was that and chalked it up to a happy anomaly or serendipity until I posted an answer to a flash.ocx problem simply called Flash.ocx error in February 2007. In just a little over one year that post has garnered 334 responses, all thank you notes from people who were seeking a solution to the same problem.

That’s 49 shy of my personal record and it won’t be long before Flash.ocx error surpasses My screen is sideways unless there’s a disproportionate shift in the number of babies and cats using keyboards relative the those who like to install second-rate, problematic screen savers.

It’s just mind boggling to think of all those sideways screen using, flash erroring people finding their solution in my tiny little database.

Of course, as Dwight points out, there’s computer support and then there’s this:

File Sharing

Lori Jones here in Houston got a letter from lawyers representing the RIAA indicating she is being sued for copyright infringement to the tune of over half a million dollars. Apparently her daughter had downloaded and installed Limewire to share music.

According to the lawsuit the half-million dollar price tag works out to $750 per infringement. That’s $750 per song. Pretty steep considering you can purchase the songs at the iTunes store for 99 cents a pop. On the plus side, they are willing to settle for a one time fee of $4,000.

You can see the whole story here.

Jeff Ehling from the local ABC affiliate station here in Houston, TX called me to setup an interview. Since I had taken the day off we did it in the comfort of my living room.

Strangely, this time I was only referred to as:

Jay Lee who hosts a radio program that specializes in computer issues