Dorkier I Go

September 12, 2006 | Comments Off

I’ve finally infiltrated the ranks of the SLR dorks. It’s not a small club, by any means, but I just didn’t realize how dorky it was until we were getting our engagement pictures taken recently and another SLR dork came to ask our photographer what lens she was using (it was the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens) and inside I was a little ashamed. I mean, I *thought* about asking her what lens she was using, but I could tell that a) I couldn’t afford it, and b) it’s like asking a football player what brand of shoes he uses. I mean, where do you take the conversation from there? “Really? I use Adidas….”

Canon G2Nikon D50At any rate, I had subscribed to the “good photographers take good pictures regardless of equipment” philosophy and obviously I’m not a good photographer, but I immediately noticed better pictures using the SLR vs my aged “prosumer” camera. Here’s one example. Both images were taken at ISO200 (the D50 does 200-1600, the G2 does 50-400), f/4 from the same physical distance (I zoomed the G2 to get a similar composition). The picture on the left is the G2 taken at 1/60 sec with “17mm” focal length, which is definately not 35mm equivalent. The picture on the right is with the D50 taken with a 50mm lens at 1/25 sec. You can tell even in the thumbnail that the D50 isolates the subject better than the G2. I mean those trees are FAR, and in the G2 they’re fairly identifiable. If you look at the full size images you can see some graininess in the G2 image, but I can forgive it that, it sucks at anything other than the suggested ISO50. Even still, the difference to me seems like night and day.

A Different Kind of Techonology

September 12, 2006 | 2 Comments

AfterDentistry seems such an odd field to me: it’s half Spanish-inqusition and half quantum leap. Today I had my teeth whitened/bleached/lasered I don’t know. They did the bi-annual cleaning procedure, except instead of polishing with tasty fruit-flavored paste, I got bland grit in my teeth (the hygenist actually called it pumice) because the tasty stuff interferes with the whitening magic. Then they inserted (effectively) a vice into my mouth covered all the soft tissue with gauze, painted my teeth with “bleach” and pointed a very bright light (presumably “laser”) at me. It’s such an odd juxtaposition of technology.

The vice and gauze process takes a while, maybe 30 minutes. They also use a nifty gel on your gum tissue that hardens when exposed to their spaceman UV light (I’m assuming you’ve seen their UV guns, they are, in fact, very jetsons-inspired).

The process then consists of three 20-minute exposures to the light, replacing the bleach in between. One well known, and well disclaimed side-effect is teeth sensitivity, and I mean REALLY sensitive, which is the part I didn’t quite grasp. They kept asking me during the first two cycles if I was sensitive yet, and I kept looking at them with a puzzled “sensitive how?” look. During the third cycle I found out. Random shooting pains in my teeth, so that’s what they meant! Sensitive indeed, just breathing through my mouth cause me shooting pains, which is complicated by the fact that I’ve had some cold/allergy related stuffiness in the last several days. I took a sick day at work because the shooting pains made it very hard to concentrate on anything for more than a minute or two.

Earlier they did the X-Rays with the newer digital (filmless) technology, which I think is pretty cool as well.

Google Checkout First Impressions

August 22, 2006 | Comments Off

When I was ordering a lens from RitzCamera yesterday one of the checkout options was Google Checkout. There was a $10 discount for doing so and if you know me you know which one I picked. The actual checkout process was fine, no surprises and easy enough. But there seems to be some inefficiencies between getting the data to RitzCamera and back. I still don’t know what my order number is and it’s been 24 hours.

RitzCamera, for its part, is completely useless. I talked to one customer service rep who said he’d call me with my order number “at a later time”. When I asked what that meant, he clarified “15-30 minutes”. No call. I called two hours later and got a different representative who told me it could take 24 hours for the order information to be processes.

How are these guys communicating? Homing pigeons? If only someone could develop a technology that could instantly transfer information across long distances…. if only…

One nice thing about Google Checkout is it can provide to each vendor a vendor-specific email address, so the vendor never gets your real email address, if they’re the spam-happy type (this means YOU Dell) but this feature is working against me when I call RitzCamera and they ask me for my email address and I have to give them a 100 character long unpronounceable email address. So I try to use the Google Checkout “email the vendor” feature to ask them what my order number is. Here’s what I get back in an autoreply:

We have received your email message with the subject:
Questions about order #XXXXXX
If you do not get a response within 48 hours, please send your message again.
Thank you.

Really, that’s your solution? If I don’t get a response within 48 hours, send it again? Isn’t that the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results)?

Thank you RitzCamera!

Opera mini

August 12, 2006 | Comments Off

When I find myself stuck in a boring place (like the DMV) I turn to my last hope for mindless entertainment: my cell phone. Up until recently I had very limited options. Backgammon was enough to entertain me for at least 10 minutes, but it was starting to get old. Surfing the web via GPRS with the built in WAP browser was mildly entertaining; I used to have a few trivia games bookmarked but they’re now defunct. A couple of weeks ago I read about Opera Mini and just this week I got to try it out. It is amazingly good for a 64kb program. As a point of reference, on my XP system notepad.exe is 68kb. And thanks go the mobile edition of Google Reader, I can keep up with my reading. It doesn’t support javascript or DHTML but one can hardly hold that against it. The UI took some getting used to but that’s likely because I was used to the built in WAP browser. If you have a phone that lacks a decent browser and supports MIDP 1.0 or higher take advantage.

More PSA to Lightroom details

August 4, 2006 | 4 Comments

I posted a link to my results to the Adobe Lightroom Beta forums and someone asked for additional details, and I realize I skimped on the technical stuff a little too much. Here are the details on the steps as described in the previous post. I got a lot of information out of people doing a similar thing: transferring PSA data into iMatch.
Continue reading More PSA to Lightroom details…

Lightroom Import Success

August 4, 2006 | Comments Off

Success importing PSA data into LightroomUpdate: I posted excruciating detail in the following post.

I was able to successfully migrate my PSA tag associations to Lightroom. In terms of working time I probably spent about 3 or 4 hours working on it (highly interrupted). The process more or less broke down like thie:

  1. Import the images into Lightroom
  2. Use PSATool to dump PSA catalog to text file
  3. Build keyword list from psa dumpfile
  4. Import keyword list into Lightroom
  5. Update the SQLite database to add the mappings

I could be a lot more turn key. It could be as simple as steps 2 and 5, but I wanted to manipulate the database directly as little as possible for my first attempt. There’s columns whose purpose is not entirely obvious to me and I’d just as well let Lightroom create most of the entries than do it myself. This way the only table we are manipulating directly is AgLibraryTagImage (the image < -> tag mappings), and this table is fairly simple. Likewise the AgLibraryTag table is easy to manipulate, but importing the keywords is the easiest step of the process (and there’s magic with the keyword lists it builds). Importing the files into Lightroom took a very long time (I’d guess 2-3 hours). And I only have about 5000+ images, some of the requesters on the Adobe boards had upwards of 15000. There is a lot of magic going on populating the Adobe_images and Adobe_imageFiles tables (mostly metadata caching).

I actually had written this post on Sunday night, thinking I had completed my task, but after I wrote this the import finished and it actually didn’t work. I thought I had missed some nuance of the schema but as it turns out, it was just a subtle bug in the import process. However, this led me to discover an reference that I hadn’t previously considered. To the side is a screenshot of my successful import.

Lightroom Follow-Up

July 28, 2006 | Comments Off

Lightroom SQL screenshotThis is probably the first time I’ve ever posted twice in one day, so I think my excitement about Lightroom shows. In the introductory video on the Adobe Labs site the demonstrator mentions that Lightroom’s backend is a relational database, I figured (based on the PSA history) that he was referring to MS Access. Then as I was digging around reading release notes, at the bottom there is a copyright notice for SQLite. So I downloaded the SQLite command line utility and sure enough the “preferences” files are SQLite databases. Here’s a screenshot of me doing some joins to get the image < -> tag relationships.

There is also a copyright notice for Lua in the release notes. It’s really encouraging to see large companies starting to take advantage of open source/public domain software in their commercial products. As a company they win by saving development time and using tested software. As a user I win because I (theoretically) get the software cheaper as a result and I’m not locked in.

Photoshop Album and Lightroom

July 28, 2006 | Comments Off

A posting on Sree Kotay‘s blog alerted me to a product I had never heard of: Adobe Lightroom, and look!, a free beta. I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop Album (aka, PSA) for years now and it’s nice and all, but noticeably outdated and semi-abandoned. I watched the video on their site and decided that it was something that really appealed to me. It’s fairly slick and a little clumsy on my desktop. I only imported 6 images into it and it was using 250mb of memory (finally, a worthy memory hog worthy of competing with Firefox!). It is beta so maybe the memory footprint will shrink, but I really like it so far. One thing that appeals to me is that it doesn’t modify the underlying image. It *feels* like when you make a modification it applies it as a filter over the original image (non-destructive editing). I actually don’t mind PSA’s way of doing this; it makes a copy of the image called IMAGENAME_edited.jpg, but the Lightroom way seems to have some advantages. The in-program editing is really good, mostly obviating the need to take it into GIMP or Photoshop to do edits.

One feature that’s missing is importing from PSA (or heck, *anything*). I checked the feature request forum and fortunately I’m not the only heavy PSA user, there are many clamoring for an import feature. The most important data is the tags/labels associated with the images. This got me worried: was I stuck with PSA? Would the Anna graduate highschool while I’m still using software from 2002 to catalog her pictures? I started to search to see if I anyone had bothered to import PSA catalogs into their software. Along the way I found sweet relief. The PSA catalog is merely an MS Access database! Just to confirm, I made a copy of my catalog named test.mdb, and it opened right up in Access. Whew, dodged a bullet. I’ll just need to figure out how to get the data into Lightroom, and at first glance, not sure how easy that will be.

Adjusting the WordPress thumbnail threshhold

July 17, 2006 | 2 Comments

Long title for a simple problem. If you are using WordPress and are annoyed that it won’t generate thumbnails for pictures larger than 3 megapixels, the place to change this is wp-admin/inline-uploading.php . The line in question reads (line 87 in my copy):

if ( $imagedata['width'] * $imagedata['height'] < 3 * 1024 * 1024 ) {

Change the 3 to 4 or 5 or what have you. You don’t want to go too crazy since there are some valid concerns about memory consumption and speed. PHP has some configuration for how much memory a script my use (“memory_limit” in my php.ini) so you might have to raise this as well. Currently I’m resizing 4 megapixel images with the default 8mb memory limit without any problems.

Google Reader

July 3, 2006 | Comments Off

I might be more habitual than the average person – some friends even suggest I have some minor OCD – so I tend to get stuck in ruts with certain tools. It took me a long time to switch from Mozilla to Firefox (in fact, I still run it on the laptop and a workstation at work). For ages I was using Trillian as my RSS reader. It worked OK until I started following a lot of blogs and then it got unwieldly. About then I discovered Google Reader and I’ve been hooked ever since. And remember that entry about I *heart* Outlook, well I’m working on switching to Google Calendar. I even added my Reader starred items to the sidebar that you’ve probably hidden because it’s annoying. I wanted to express some interesting uses of these tools.

With calendar I intend for Leigha and I to have views of each other’s calendars. The interesting use will be adding her XML feeds to my Google Reader subscriptions, so I’ll be notified when she creates new events.

I have a label in my Reader configuration called “fast”. The idea is that only a couple of my feeds (Slashdot and MakeBlog) are high volume. All the others are fairly low traffic, so I want to read those first (especially if I have a few minutes before a meeting). The trick I learned today is using Firefox’s live bookmarks in conjuntion with my shared “fast”-labeled feed.

Some other things I’ve been wanting to get off my chest: Firefox’s memory leaking is completely annoying (I don’t think Mozilla ever got quite as large as Firefox seems to get). The other thing is that WordPress’s arbitrary decision to NOT thumbnail images greater than 3 megapixels is arbitrary, stupid, and not configurable. They seem to think this is not a problem. Finally, DilbertBlog is probably the funniest and most interesting subscription I have. I stay up late at nights just reading old posts.