Archive for January, 2006

4 Things

January 27, 2006

Thank you to Kent Newsome for tagging me in his ‘4-Things’ list. It seems so trite and yet is so revealing at the same time. Here we go…

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:

1) Lawn Mower
2) Pipe Fitter
3) College Teacher
4) Structural Engineer

Four movies I can watch over and over:

1) Raising Arizona – we are on the same wavelength here Kent
2) Grosse Pointe Blank
3) Anchorman
4) Airplane

Four TV shows I love to watch:

1) The Colbert Report
2) Trailer Park Boys
3) Curb Your Enthusiasm
4) Bernie Mac

Four places I’ve been on vacation:

1) Quebec City
2) Las Vegas
3) Wales
4) Myrtle Beach

Four of my favourite dishes:

1) Pizza
2) Pizza
3) Special K
4) Pizza

Four websites I visit daily:

1) Bloglines
2) Flickr
3) Blogger

Four places I would rather be right now:

1) Holding my daughter
2) In bed catching up on sleep
3) Practicing photography outdoors
4) Wales

Four bloggers I am tagging:

1) Janet Tokerud
2) Tony Woodlief
3) Tor Bjornrud
4) Stuart Langridge

Wikipedia and Humility – like oil and water…

January 26, 2006

Todd Cochrane is pissed off because he’s trying to document his part in the popularization of podcasting in Wikipedia and he’s getting repeatedly edited out. While I understand the frustration he’s feeling, I think you can’t have the power of something like Wikipedia without having some of these problems. I still think its a great source of information and a wonderful example of how the web can connect people and be a useful tool for society. Todd, do you really think that when Brittanica documents podcasting, everybody who should be included will be included? I think not. The problem there is that if you are not included in their encyclopedia, you won’t have the chance to ever change that.

But don’t eschew the whole project as if it were bunk. Maybe knowing you were a part of something and having been a part of something is enough. There are many other ways to get the message out that you were part of it. Wikipedia is not the be all end all authority on everything. Complaining about it does not help your reputation. The people who listen to you and read your posts know what’s going on. Is that not good enough? See also, my post of December 20th for more thoughts on this subject.

Diving in Again

January 25, 2006

As is my usual behaviour, I’m diving headlong into photography and related subjects once again with having my new toy to play with. I was completely comfortable with, and did most of my learning with my two previous film cameras (a Canon AT-1 and a Canon Rebel Ti). That first camera was really what taught me the basics of photography (exposure, focus, depth of field and the like). It’s built like a tank and really completely manual. It was the cheaper version of the classic Canon AE-1, and was purchased by my father sometime during 1977. The AE-1 had automatic exposure (hence the ‘AE’) while the AT-1 was basically the same camera without the auto-exposure feature and associated technology.The internet of course proved to be a huge source of good information on how to use that camera, and in the course of trying to figure it out, I learned a lot about photography.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve again gone to the internet in search of more information on digital imaging and the management of digital photos. But this time we are 4 years further on and I find myself really turning to blogs and podcasts for a significant part of my quest for information. I’ve found two good podcasts on digital photography: The Secrets of Digital Imaging with Dennis Hays and The Digital Story with Derrick Story. Both are really good, with the former being a little heavier on the beginning digital photographer and more detailed in specific information and help, and the latter being a little more wide-ranging. There are lots of good blogs on the subject as you might expect. I’m still on the hunt for more good sources of information about digital photography and digital image management.

One neat thing I did find was a very nice (and free for non-commercial use) image viewer/converter/basic editor called FastStone. I’d never heard of it before and caught mention of it in this post (thanks Wes). It’s a nice photo viewer with some really nice features. It loads thumbnail images – including RAW files produced by my Canon Digital Rebel XT – very quickly and when you single click on a thumbnail it puts the image in a larger window in the lower left corner. The really neat part is it’s magnifier. When you click over that image window in the lower left it almost instantly brings up a magnified view of the image that can be moved around the whole image. This lets you very quickly inspect your photos for quality without opening up a separate editor or application.

The other feature of FastStone that really stood out for me was its fullscreen editing mode. This mode displays the photo full screen (no menus visible including the start menu) and hides menus on all four edges of the screen. It’s very intuitive to use and that wonderful magnifier is available in this view as well to inspect areas of the image closely. I just heard a description of the recently release iPhoto6 for the Mac that balleyhooed this type of full screen editing. Seems Apple weren’t first to the party on that one.

One other great feature is it’s comparison mode. You ctrl-click on at least two images and it brings them up full-screen side by side and lets you zoom in and out with the scroll wheel and pan to all parts of the photos simultaneously. Tremendously useful for comparing similar digital images quickly.

What don’t I like about it? Well it’s editing features are fairly primitive. It has basic contrast and colour enhancement controls, sharpening, blurring, cloning, cropping (which is done quite nicely I might add) and other basic features. It’s no Photoshop, but then again it’s not supposed to be. One other thing that I’d like to see is a way of tagging the images. It will display and let you edit jpeg metadata, but there are no convenient tagging and searching features.

The thing about this program that really gets me is not only its speed in bringing up thumbnails of even very large images but rather the fact that it lets you view a heavily magnified but high quality view of the image almost instantaneously. There’s no disc whirring, no chugging or chirping, just BAM it brings it up and you’re panning around the image immediately.

I’ve tried XnView, IrfanView, and Picasa among others, but for image comparisons, quick touch-ups, cropping and basic editing, the speed and functionality of FastStone is pretty hard to beat, especially for the price – my favourite price by the way ;).

After all that, I’m still looking for something to tag and organize my images. I’m either thinking about using Picasa for this (sure it’s a very pretty program, but it seems so dead-slow at times) or something else. – Of course personally I’d like to use something from the open source community and I’m kind of afraid of locking myself into a library program and finding all those tags and all that metadata stored in some proprietary format that pisses me off 2 years from now when I decide to go with something else. I’m not a professional photographer (gawd I’d sure like to be but as they say, ‘the grass is always greener….’) – but I’d like something more ‘prosumer’. If anybody’s made it this far and has any suggestions, please let me know.

Y’know what I’d really like? Flickr for the desktop.

Will that be paper or plastic?

January 5, 2006

I just walked by a co-worker sitting at his desk with a plastic shopping bag tucked into his shirt collar as a bib, eating a plate of spaghetti. I’m not quite sure if it strikes me as funny, strange, or sad.

Building a New Blog and A-Listers Redux

January 3, 2006
Kent Newsome writes an interesting article about Why It’s Impossible to Build a New Blog in 2006 . In it he writes:

“First, to have a successful blog, just like any other web site, you need readers.”

Perhaps this sounds overly-idealistic, however ‘success’ is in the eye of the beholder. The blog I post to for family photos and family info is successful to me with only maybe 5 readers (click here to be the 6th! ;)). Indeed people may write to a blog to document things for posterity only; a kind of place to make an ‘I was here’ record for future generations to see. I have read many blogs which were not necessarily addressed to the general public or which did not have any intent of building readership. And many of them were interesting. I’m not sure success can be so neatly described by readership numbers or the intent to build and grow readership numbers.

But as I discussed with Kent and others back in July , I’m one of those who would sure appreciate more readers, but doesn’t depend on it. I still feel the same way. However the really interesting point made by Kent this time is:

“…So you get the haves linking to one another (and largely only to one another) and ignoring (or at best tolerating) the have nots, in an effort to boost their status and, perhaps more importantly, protect their shares of the readership pie. Anyone who argues this isn’t true hasn’t spent much time surfing around the blogosphere.”

So maybe in the same way that blogging zealots (and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way) talk about ‘routing around the mainstream media’, the have-nots should be routing around the so-called A-listers. More and more, I find myself avoiding many of the mainstream top level blogs and using search feeds from IceRocket and the like to find more non-mainstream info. This is NOT a subconscious thing, I do it on purpose. I want to find out what the B and C-list bloggers are saying about topics that interest me and I search them out specifically. Sure there’s chaff in amongst the wheat, but the wheat is damn good when you find it. I find myself getting tired of (maybe bored is the better word) reading the same people day in day out.

Although the big promise of opml-ized ‘reading lists’ will undoubtedly mean that not only can you read the same people every day, but you can read the same people that they’re reading… every day. That doesn’t sound like something that will interest me.

With the proliferation of blogs I agree that dreams of creating the next Instapundit or BoingBoing are misplaced for sure, but they can still be very worthwhile and rewarding. Anything that gets people to read, write and use their brains is rewarding. Being read by hundreds or thousands is a side benefit I think.