Tuesday, January 31, 2006

OpenRAW Survey

OpenrawlogoIf you are an avid photographer (professional or amateur) you should check out the survey at OpenRAW.org. Of course, you should take it as well.
Its all about your preferences here. They are trying to figure out what the opinions are, what is broken, and what it might take to fix it. If you have ever had to fight RAW format images, this is for you. Its not a long drawn out thing, either, so get on it!

If you have no idea what RAW images are, just move along, and don't worry about it. :D

Monday, January 30, 2006

Music Makes You Smart

G8Well, if you play it anyway. That is what a recent study is saying, as covered by the BBC.

Learning to play an instrument boosts intelligence and general well-being and should be a central part of the school curriculum, a study says.
So I have this question: With all of the studies out there saying that music education has such a profound and positive impact on the development of higher brain function, why are we still cutting music programs in schools, and at the same time wondering why test scores are going down?

It is interesting that even Plato knew the value of teaching music to children, and we still have to prove to ourselves that it is a worthwhile endeavor:

“I would teach children physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for in the patterns of music and all the arts are the keys of learning.”

Revolt Against the Big Record Labels

Header LogoHow do you get your music on iTunes? People have asked me this before, and I have had to say, “I have no idea.”
I found out this morning: You either have a contract with a record label that puts your music on iTunes (and/or the many other music services on the internet), or you pay an aggregator to store your works, and make it available to the various music stores.

This process will only take 9% to 50% of the profits of your music for the first few years. Which means that, after the iTunes' cut of about 20¢ on a 99¢ track you might, if you got a good deal, make 71¢ per track. Conversely, if you got the 50% contract, you might make in the neighborhood of 40¢.

Considering that it costs around $5000 to record and master a twelve track album, one would have to sell a ton of product to recoup costs. And that is a “budget” album.

If you are a musician who would like to try a different route, check out tuneCORE™. This service lets you send in your album, EP, or single for distribution on iTunes US store, Rhapsody, and any combination of four other iTunes stores around the world.

tuneCORE™ does cost something, but you don't surrender your rights and ownership of your music. It is also non-exclusive. Fees look like this: 99¢ for a one time delivery fee to iTunes US, and if you want to go to other stores, it is 99¢ per store. After that, there is a yearly $7.98 fee per album, EP, or single for maintenance.

They also handle your album artwork, and the liner notes, so that those are available to your adoring fans.

Sound cool? Check out tuneCORE™, and if you decide to try it, let me know how it works out. I don't have an album yet, but I am thinking hard about it, and this looks like a good way to distribute.

Friday, January 27, 2006

NAMM Goodies

Halo1Ever since I first heard about it, I have wanted to go to NAMM and see all the fascinating things that people/companies come up with. I get the idea that the large manufacturers are there in force, as in many other trade-shows, and there are a lot of smaller startups etc. that also show up.

I found a temporary solution this year though–NAMM Oddities. Barry Wood has done an excellent job of compiling some of the more interesting/offbeat things he ran across at the show.

Theses finds range from the absolutely fascinating, to the just plain odd. There are pictures, and videos available. He also provides links to the home pages of the respective companies. Great site.

Also of note is the O'Reilly story along the same lines (in fact, it was inspired by the page referenced above).

[via CDM]

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Luthier Link Dump

I am sure there are plenty of other offbeat guitar designs around, but you will find gathered here a few that are exceptional.

15.M294First we have the Manzer Pikasso I. You may have seen this around if you are a Pat Metheny fan, as it was custom made for him. It has four necks, and a ton of stings. The string tension on this puppy is around 1000 pounds (1000 pounds!!!).

Be sure to check the link for more pictures, and many other fine instruments (including the Manzer Pikasso II).

Fract-ScootNext up is Phil Sylvester's site. There are many one-of-a-kind guitars and amps here, and they are all playable. Some of the designs are way out there, but still very cool. It looks like they are all for sale as well, and the prices don't look very reasonable.

There is a page for his guitars, and a page for his amps; I recommend taking the tour of each.

DoubleFinally, and probably my favorite (I am biased here, and I'll tell you why in a moment) Mike Doolin is a luthier who makes very fine guitars. This guitar was custom built for Justin King, and it sounds amazing–as do all the Doolin guitars I have heard, and I own one (hence the bias).

Though the Doolin guitar you see here is highly customized, standard instruments are available. This is what I own, and I could not be happier to own it.

Have fun drooling over all this linkage!

Adobe's Lightroom Beta Progress Update

I have not had a ton of pictures to put through Lightroom Beta until my wife's birthday the other day. Here are my thoughts on how it worked for me:

The available equipment is within the guidelines set out by Adobe, however, it is at the very bottom end of things. The application runs okay with 5 megapixel .jpg files, but I shot in RAW for the birthday, and it ran a little slower with the larger file size.

I have only run into one bug so far. Some of the user interface did not collapse (it froze in the outward position) when I changed the available preferences.


  • The overall workflow seems very well thought out, and makes the development process much easier than any experience I have had in Photoshop.
  • I really like the ability to customize the user interface in so many ways.
  • The ability to “turn down/off the lights” is really useful as well (this basically puts a black screen around the photo workspace).

  • The in-built noise reduction does not seem to do much for me, though this could be the result of a mediocre camera sensor (i.e. so much noise in the first place that there is little the application can do).
  • Hardware requirements. This probably will not be as big of a deal to most people, but this application takes a lot of system resources. It would be nice if it took less.
  • Exporting photos was a bit strange. I did not see a way to batch export, and the export status is not completely obvious to find. (To be fair, though, this is one of the areas they are still working on.)
  • Price? I have not seen any kind of price yet, but if you have ever looked into purchasing an Adobe application...

I like using this app. Its fun, well designed, and I don't find myself wondering where to find things. I am curious to see what improvements are made as we go along (and I will keep you updated as I find out more).

Monday, January 23, 2006

ACLU And Your Future

I usually would keep my distance from the ACLU, but this is to humorous, scary, and timely to pass up. So what will ordering a pizza be like in the future?

Find out here. (Flash movie.)

[via MTP]

Searching For Pornographers

The Bush Administration's recent subpoena of Google's search engine information (as well as the requests for data from Yahoo! and MSN) has sparked quite a debate on the internet. Debate may not be the right word, as I have found nothing supporting the Administration's position, maybe I could use the word furor here.

Below are some excerpts from articles and links I thought would be of interest, and use:

From ECT:

It is inevitable that the government will start to seek out data for other purposes if it succeeds with Google, Burke warned. “The implications of [Google's subpoena] are profound. People have got to come to realize that, eventually, everything they search for is information that may be shared with government,” he said.

In the future, a database of search terms could be combined with other databases the government maintains, Burke conjectured. “A person may find himself having to explain why he wanted to find such and such on the Web without the benefit of any context.”

Another serious potential problem could arise due to misfiling or mishandling data through error. Burke noted that he has represented children and other people who have erroneously wound up on the No-Fly list in a number of lawsuits against the government. Burke's own name appeared on it, he said.

“This is not a new phenomenon. It happens repeatedly in the private sector too,” he remarked.
Here is a good article from Google Blogoscoped, and here is a “how-to” on BoingBoing.

I am certainly reconsidering how I use the internet is light of this controversy. The problem is that it is frustratingly simple to let your personal data be shared on the internet, whether it is convenience, or lack of technical knowledge (i.e. what you don't know can hurt you).

The bottom line here is that big brother is watching you, whether it is your shopping, your searching, what you do with digital content–somone is able to follow your digital trail, and can learn an awful lot about you.

HD-DVD and Blue-Ray Disk Restriction

I am sure this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but there are numerous reports on the internet saying that whichever format you choose, you may not be able to view it in its highest resolution.

The Advanced Access Content System (AACS) will be used by both formats, and will restrict the resolution to 960x540 when viewed over an analog connection. This is to prevent pirates from copying at the full resolution of 1920x1080.

Of course, never mind that the pirates (the real criminals here) will be able to find a way around it, and continue on their merry way, while the average consumer who has a HDTV with only analog inputs will be looking at substandard pictures.

What good are these advancements when, before they even come out, they are crippled by a middle-man?

In honor of this, as well as a related issue, I thought I would pass on this little treasure:


[via AT and Darkgate]

Also, I forgot to mention that in another AT article they point out that Setnator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) has drafted legislation which would, for all intents and purposes, render any type of copying illegal. Looks like he was handed a wad of cash to write it too.

In light of all these things, and since both Republican and Democrat “representatives” are complicit in this, and other privacy concerns, I find myself wondering what party I want to be associated with.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Nikon D200 Review

Imaging Resource has a review of the Nikon D200 up. They like the camera a lot, in spite of an apparent imaging problem having to do with a “banding” or “corduroy” effect from intense light glare.

Frontview-001The review above is detailed, but not as in-depth as this one. However, the former review is done with a full production model (models, as they had two), while the latter was done with a pre-production model (which should soon be replaced with a full review of a production model).

Friday, January 20, 2006

Fender's 60th Anniversary

0146002355 XlFender is celebrating 60 years this year, so, of course they came out with a few models to mark the occasion. Fortunately for me, they are not all in the “Sunburst” pattern (never liked it, and I am not sure why).

So, if you have the hankerin' for a new Strat, Tele, Jazz Bass, or Precision Bass you are in luck. They are only available until the end of the year (as in December 31, 2006), so make up your mind before then.

I have my 1980's Japanese Strat that I am very happy with, so I don't see myself getting one of these. But one always needs a good back-up axe, then don't they?

One can wish...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

15 New Gibson Models

Nope. Not those kind of models. From the site:
Gibson USA will dazzle NAMM attendees this week by unveiling 15 new models for 2006. Utilizing innovative designs while drawing on the rich history of the company, the new guitars include the genre-specific Menace and New Century models, the high-performance GT line, Las Vegas–themed semi-hollowbodies, and the beautiful and functional Vixen and Goddess series, among others.
I also saw something somewhere about a new Jimi Hendrix “Flying V” model, but alas, I could not find a link for that.

ProTools' Competition

For some time now if you have recorded a CD, it likely has gone through a program called Pro Tools. They are the dominant product in the industry, however, there are some others that have been gaining popularity recently.

One of those “others” is Logic Pro by Apple. I have never used this program, but it looks good from the screen shots I have seen (not that that is everything...), and I am interested in giving it a test-run at the very least. At $1000 for the application it is a good bit more than Pro Tools LE, and a good bit less than a Pro Tools HD system. Of course one would still need hardware after that initial $1000.

Apple Ensemble
Enter Apogee. They have partnered with Apple and created an A/D D/A converter for the Macintosh platformed Apple software. Its called the Ensemble, and it has four pre-amps, and other I/O ports enabling up to 36 channels of simultaneous audio. (More info here.)

It looks like one of the coolest features this has is the ability to digitally control the I/Os digitally via software UI. This is a feature that I do not think is available for Pro Tools hardware (at least at the LE level, which is where my experience lies).

Also of note is the Symphony, a PCI Express card for Apple's G5, which allows up to 192 simultaneous channels of audio. More info here.

Another thing that is important about this, is that many of the top studios are bypassing the Pro Tools I/Os in favor of Apogee's Digital/Analog conversion. This could be big. The major hurdle would be the PC/Apple gap, however, most major studios are already running on Mac's anyway.

[via CDM]

They Had Nothing Better To Do

88546604 Bd5Cceedfc OI think the world has just come to an end. At least close.
This 'Vette was recently for sale on eBay Motors. I am not sure who was more out of their mind: The car's “creator” or the person who had the winning bid (USD$ 30,000!!!!!).

I am going to crawl into a hole and try to figure out what this world is coming to...

[via Jalopnik]

Do It Yourself Music Promotion

For the musician Artist Server is a way to publicize your music, and interact with those who enjoy it. For the music fan Artist Server is a great way to discover new music and new musicians.

While at the moment most of the music on the server is in the electronic music area (Trance, Trip-Hop, Techno, etc.) it is open to all forms of music. They started out being geared exclusively toward the electronic musician, and changed focus last year.

I have not used the site in the capacity of a musician, but it looks like a good way to promote. If you try it out, or have tried it out by all means comment and let us know how it went for you.

[via MAKE]

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I figured I would kill two birds with one stone here. I found an interesting polling system that I thought I would try. I am also curious what readers think of the look of the blog.

So, we have a poll in the upper left. I will let you know what I think, when the poll is over in a week. So far it looks good, though.

The B4000

I am the type of guitarist who loves tubes. I love my tubes so much that I would rather heft an eighty pound tube amp than use a five pound digital emulator.

I also love the sound of the Hammond B3 organs. I have often said that I would learn to play keys just so I could play that instrument (the chances are not high, though).

Enough about me though, this is about CreamWare Audio's asb B400. It is a MIDI box that has all kinds of controls for emulating a B3 organ. As the site says: “The real B3TM is about 200 kilograms and sounds marvelous. The ASB is about 198 kilograms less. Sounds marvelous, too.”

There is only one picture, and no sound samples yet, but those are expected soon. No release date, or price yet either, but the “asb” stands for authentic sound box. Createdigitalmusic.com (where I found this) says that similar boxes in the “asb” line have gone for under a grand–which is also cheaper than an actual B3 by two thirds or so.

Apple MacBook Pro vs. PC Laptops

With Apple's recent move to Intel processors the company's competition for hardware has exploded. Now that it is easier to compare Apple's laptops to the products of other companies, the price is much more important.

There is an in-depth comparison of the new MacBook Pro to several other high-end laptops at NotebookReview.com It is done by a person who uses both platforms, and seems well-balanced and informative.

Whether you are interested in switching to Mac OSX, or just curious about the new MacBook Pro, this is a good place to start. It comes with a chart (more accurately: several charts) comparing the new Apple model with other competing brands based on specs.

Here is a quote:
A durable lightweight PC is not cheap to assemble so it obviously isn't cheap to sell. If durability and portability matter to you than [sic] you are probably willing to pay a little more for it. If these characteristics mean nothing to you that is fine – you have tons of choices and none of them will be an Apple.
If you are not interested in the entire article, there is a concluding summary, which does a good job of communicating the author's opinion.

The Standard System vs. The Metric System

I have posted the following before, but not here. This is really a re-worked version of the previous post anyway. Enjoy.

There are two major systems of measurement in the world: The Standard system, and the Metric system. While most of the world uses the latter, the US is stuck with the Standard system.

I was taught the metric system in grade school, and then it pretty much just became that parenthesis on the grocery store label (as well as the occasional wrench in the garage). More and more of my wrenches are metric, but I was told in grade school that we would be changing over to the metric system entirely.

What happened? Why have we not switched?

Living in Brazil has given me much time to think about the differences, as well as to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. Here are a couple:

  • It is much easier to do the math in the metric system; it is based on increments of 10, 100, 1000, and so on. I can tell you what 1.36 meters would be in centimeters without a calculator (and I am terrible at math). Without using a calculator, or writing anything down, and in less than one second tell me what 1.36 yards would be in inches.
  • The only good thing I really have discovered about the standard system, is that measuring temperature in F is more accurate.
  • The previous point is cancelled out, though, if one uses decimals after temperatures in Celsius.
  • For the most part, science uses the metric system exclusively (there are other scales for temperature especially, such as Kelvin).
Why doesn't the US just simply transition to the much simpler metric system?

I guess there are a couple of good reasons, like changing the speed limit and mile-marker signs. Kilometer marker signs would run a few million-billion dollars. Also, changing peoples minds about the metric system would be difficult. In many ways, though, those are really pretty small things.

Maybe I am just ranting. At any rate, wherever you are today, I hope it was less than 38º C.

The Cuban Proposal

Mark Cuban wrote a blog entry on the 15th that was picked up by internetnews.com's Roy Mark. I read the latter article first, and was quite put off by the way the proposal sounded.

This article makes it sound as if Cuban was proposing that all video content be a premium item on the internet–in fact, that anything taking a large amount of bandwidth would cost a premium.

By no means do I want to just write off the entire Roy Mark article, though. He has some valid arguments. It just seems he jumps to some conclusions that are not founded in the Cuban post, and fails to acknowledge that.

Mark makes it sound as if Cuban would have one users applications (all of them) communicate at a different speed from someone who is paying a premium. In fact Cuban is arguing that a specific type of application be accorded special expedience (i.e. bandwidth) over the internet.

Cuban used the illustration of a grandmother getting an exam of some sort over the internet and getting (paying for) a higher priority than the grandson who is uploading video of his latest prank. That is wonderful (though, I am not sure how probable the illustration is). It leads one to wonder, though, what it would take to pirate the higher bandwidth throughput; which is more likely to happen than not.

I don't completely agree with Cuban, either. His analogy of the HOV lane for the internet falls apart rather quickly for me. I have never had a problem getting to a site. I have had problems with a site loading. Most of these cases have to do with the amount of traffic at the server where the site is located–which would be a parking lot analogy, rather than a freeway analogy. The freeways are open and moving just fine. The focus needs to be more on the surface streets and parking lots of the internet.

The comments on the Cuban post are pretty insightful as well, the 14th one in particular.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Honda Commercial

I am not a fan of the ordinary commercials that one sees on a day-to-day basis, however, some commercials are exceptions. I ran across one such exception at Jalopnik.

It is an ad for a Honda Civic in which all the sounds are created by a choir, which is shown in the commercial. Very kinetic, very cool.

I finished watching the clip the second time, and had to wonder if the commercial would be successful in the sense that I was more enamored with the cool factor of the message vehicle than the vehicle itself (that was a convenient pun).

Link. (Flash site, large video)

Leap Sounds

I know I am a bit behind here, in that I am posting about something that took place over a week ago, but bear with me.

As we rang in the New Year this year, there was an extra second added to the atomic clocks around the world because of the slowing of the earth's rotation. In honor of this extra second, the Create Digital Music blog called for one-second compositions.

The results are posted here, and I think its pretty cool. You might want to check it out, its not that long.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Scary Small GPS Reciever


Engadget has a post about the worlds smallest GPS receiver.

Its great that it is so tiny, which could enable a watch-sized GPS unit, among other things. The first thing that came to my mind, though, is that its other uses could be slightly more nefarious.

Wait, I think I see a black helicop...

Darth Jobs?

Gizmodo has a great switch video up. Hilarity ensues.

It is pretty short, so don't worry about it hogging all your bandwidth for an hour.

Stunning Images

BoingBoing recently ran a story about Roger Waters' soon to be released opera called “Ça Ira.”

This was the first I had hear about the former Pink Floyd member writing an opera, which was fascinating in it own right. However, the pictures that are played along with the opera (a slide show with a chorus singing, as opposed to the traditional opera) in the link provided were absolutely stunning.

The opera is set in the days leading up to the French Revolution, and images from all three acts are on the site (it will take some time to view them all).

It is a large Flash presentation, so if you have dial-up, be forewarned. I still think this is one of those things you should look at, though (I would if I were on dial-up).

Here is the link to the slideshow. The photographer is Mark Holthusen.

Nikon Drops Film

1799 180
E-Commerce News is reporting that Nikon will be discontinuing all film models except the F6 and FM10 bodies.
This is no surprise to market analysts, according to the article.

I just wonder how long it is until film cameras become like the all-tube stereos of yore.

Interesting News Stories:

Here are a couple of interesting news tidbits I have run across this morning:

First, from the Telegraph:
All streams of Islam believe in a divine saviour, known as the Mahdi, who will appear at the End of Days.[...]

He is said to have gone into “occlusion” in the ninth century, at the age of five. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.

This is similar to the Christian vision of the Apocalypse. Indeed, the Hidden Imam is expected to return in the company of Jesus.
Personally, I experienced an erie sense of foreshadow as I read that.

Next, we have a follow-up on the Pat Robertson case; from the Time Magazine Online Edition:
Scour the Bible all you like for an apologetic prophet—one who publicly regrets having been “insensitive” to his audience—but you'll come up empty. Not so in today's world. Take Pat Robertson, Christian Right pioneer and host of the 700 Club. Last week, within a day of Sharon's massive stroke, the televangelist asserted that it had been God's punishment for leader's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip[...]
I am not sure that Mr. Robertson ever claimed the mantle of prophethood. But I am sure he meant what he said, and pulled it back because of the threat to his pet project in Israel (see article). There is also the possibility that he re-examined the Bible, and found reason to misinterpret reinterpret it.

Call me cynical, but this guy is making a mockery of Christianity, the Bible, and all they hold true.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Diesel Racing

Audi Diesel V-12 0106

And not just any racing, either. Le Mans racing.

Audi has a V-12 diesel that is 5.5 liters, and exceeds 650 hp with 812 lb.-ft of torque. All this with regulation twin turbos at 43 psi, and regulated intake diameter. (In other words, this thing could rock a few more steeds with larger, higher-pressure turbos.)

This redlines around 5,000 rpm, which is just slightly lower than gasoline powered hp equivalents which redline in the 8,000 to 12,000 rpm range (I don't remember for this class of cars, the more exact numbers).

I wonder what it sounds like. I also wonder what kind of transmission configuration they had to do to to get it to speed.

Well, one may never know. Here is the link to the original article that I found on Jalopalink.

Fly With Wi-Fi?

c|net's News.com is running a story about the FCC auctioning off the bandwidth currently used for the in-flight phones.

I admit that this is somewhat inevitable, as Wi-Fi Hotspots are popping up like mad all over the place. It is not all bad either, but I am not sure it is all good.

They are also considering allowing the use of personal cellular phones in-flight (as if the screaming children, and the person sitting next to you aren't enough already).

I took a few minutes and thought up some issues that might arise should this eventuality turn into reality:
  • Good thing: There are hours of entertainment on the web; it could make flights seem shorter.
  • Bad thing: The person sitting next to you is addicted to Skype, they know everyone in the world who has a phone, and they are not afraid to speak quite loudly.
  • Good thing: You can now check for that last minute email that you were dying to get (or send).
  • Bad thing: You are constantly tied to said email, and have no time to relax (same goes for the phone: See the second bullet.)
  • Good thing: Your deadline has an extension due to this available time on the flight.
  • Bad thing: Your evil, over-bearing boss (I have not had one of those for some time now) has access to you in-flight.
  • Good thing: “My laptop battery died, and I did not have a power adapter that worked on the plane. Sorry.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Google Earth For Mac

Google released their application called Google Earth for the Mac OS X platform yesterday (Windows version has been available for some time now). I got right on that and downloaded it.

Wow. I am really impressed with a great many of the features available here. This is one of the coolest applications I have ever used that I don't really have a use for. Of course, I am sure I will find a use for it at some point.

Free is such a good price.

Macoid Heaven

Yesterday was Apple CEO Steve Jobs' Keynote address at Macworld. After the last three months of rumors flying back and forth, there were many expecting great things from this “Stevenote.”

Intel, to be exact. Many were expecting the announcement that Apple would ship its first computers with Intel processors inside.

While I consider myself a fan of OS X, as well as of the computers that Apple makes, I have never seen a Keynote address by Jobs. So, even though I already knew what was going to be announced I surfed over to Apple's website to check out the QuickTime stream of the address.

In the past I worked with a company that organized events such as the Macworld Conference. We dealt with all the staging, sound, lights, video, and even coaching of CEO's speeches. I have seen a lot of new product introductions, and even more speeches by various CEOs.

Aside from the products, I did not notice anything unusual about Steve's style. Possibly, though, that is what makes him so unusual. This address was about the products; by forcing the audience's attention away from himself, and onto the company's products, the keynote covered a lot of ground in a (relatively) short amount of time.

He demoed the software himself, and clearly had been well-prepared for the demos (something I have seen some CEO's neglect).

In the area of software:

  • iLife '06 looks really good with the addition of iWeb to create, and publish various types of websites without using HTML, or other programming languages.
  • iPhoto also got what looks to be a really good upgrade. I would like to see it run on my computer, though, considering some of the performance issues the current version has. That said, the interface looks vastly improved.
  • GarageBand has some cool new features for podcasters.
  • iDVD and iMovie are still cool, and got a few new features as well.
  • iWork had some updates--but not the looked-for spreadsheet app (possibly named “Numbers”)
  • OS X (10.4.4) released as a free download
Also released, were the first Intel-equipped Macs:
  • The iMac: Same form-factor as the last version, just duo-core Intel inside (with no badge on the outside!!!). Its fast, very fast.
  • The MacBook Pro. This monicker replaces PowerBook, but the form factor remains much the same, with the addition of an iR port on the front for the Apple Remote, and Front Row. Also, they added an iSight camera to the upper bezel of the screen--genius. This machine is up to 5x faster than the last version of the PowerBook. Also has no “Intel Inside” badge on the outside.
With these products Apple may not be set to take over the world, but they definitely seem to be jostling for a better market share in the PC world. They need to work on pricing, though, which still seems a bit high.

Some fans of the PowerBook are bemoaning the name “MacBook Pro.” I do not think its great, but I have always thought that PowerBook was a bit awkward for a product name. I am not saying that MacBook Pro is better, but--it is different (I am still trying to decide if I like it or not).

It looks like it will be a good year for Apple, as long as they keep the quality of the products up, and the prices as low as possible. I am curious how soon the new desktops will be unveiled, and what kind of speed they will have. I guess I'll just have to wait, but then, I don't have money for a new computer anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter anyway.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Adobe's Lightroom Beta1: A Cursory Look

84565443 16Ed7F9E74 OAdobe Systems has recently made some noise in the digital photography world by announcing Lightroom.
Lightroom is viewed by most as direct competition for Apple's Aperture. Lightroom is available as a public beta to Macintosh users who are using OS X 10.4.3, and who have a 1 Ghz or faster processor with 768 MB of RAM (according to the press release, and other places on the site--however I know I saw somewhere that it said 512 MB). It is a free download.

Before getting into the features of the program, a little background on the user, and the hardware available: I have not used any of Adobe's most recent products. I have a very old copy (5.5) of Photoshop that I barely use, mostly because it requires starting up OS 9. I have not used Apple's Aperture, either (it would not even load on this laptop). In other words; when it comes to photo editing software I am a novice.

That said, I tend to pick up on things pretty quickly, and generally don't get to nervous with new software. I also seem to have an embedded artistic sense that helps with these sorts of things.

The equipment: PowerBook G4 Titanium. 512 MB of RAM (below the 768 MB requirement), 1 Ghz processor.

I recommend watching the video tutorial on Adobe's site. It is a long one at 20 minutes, it downloaded very slowly for me, but the server is probably seeing quite heavy traffic today as a result of the recent announcement. I also note that it seems they take a couple of stabs directed squarely in Aperture's direction.

Now to the software highlights:
Upon startup the user is greeted with a four-section, one window interface. It has a black background that highlights the pictures and the menus. The main images are in the center, flanked by menus on the left and right. In the lower section is the “film roll.” All of these panes are re-sizeable.

I imported some of my own work from my 5 mega-pixel Minolta DiMage A1. I can't say much for the image quality of the camera, but it is what I have to work with.
  1. The flexibility of the filing system is really nice: You can store your photos in your existing file structure, or you can import them directly. Either way, the editing is non-destructive, so you don't have to worry about whether you are editing the original or not (something I have done in Photo Shop several times).
  2. All the various menus are very user-friendly. I have had no trouble finding my way around.
  3. Many of the keyboard shortcuts are one-key. This is very easy to get used to.
  4. It is possible to dim the entire user-interface just by hitting the “L” key, and the buttons, though less-visible, are still usable. HItting the same key again cycles the interface to complete black, and again brings it to normal.
  5. It works on my machine. Even though my machine is well below spec in the memory category, this program retains its functionality; though with higher resolution photos, users may run into trouble.
  6. The slide show feature is very customizable, bringing the pro the ability to import company logo, name, and much other information, as well as the ability to export to a number of widely used formats--with more on the way.
  7. Though I have not tried it, the printing abilities are very interesting, and look very streamlined.
As with any beta release, this has bugs. Mouse-scrolling in the side menus does not work, and there are other, less-noticable bugs that are being worked out. I pushed the programs use of memory by importing a bunch of photos, and, while iTunes was playing, and a couple of other applications were open, scrolling through photos. The result was slower scrolling, and a slight hang-up, but nothing like when I open iPhoto.

84565519 A36F14Ac65 OThe pro-level photographer will not probably want to exclusively use the beta, but it looks promising. I know I am going to keep using it. It looks like they are positioning this to compete directly with Aperture. In my mind, if it works on this computer, and has even just a little more functionality for a better price, I am in. I will let you know if I change my mind.
Added photos, and the forgotten links (sorry to have left them off).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Superpowers Of ecto (And Other Wisdom For Future Bloggers)

83858061 80Ebc5B4B1When I started blogging, one of the first things I wondered about was why there was not an application that automated the many little tasks that I had to go through in order to get a post up. Coming up with the material is usually not a problem for me. Getting it from the keyboard to my page (on MSN's Spaces) was a pain.
After I figured out there were other free hosting options out there, I decided that I would check some of them out. I chose Blogger pretty much on a whim. I am sure there are better options out there, but this works for me--and its free.

Since I am on a Mac, and Safari (the default browser that comes with the OS) does not support WYSIWIG editors I downloaded Firefox. It works okay, but I was frustrated by a few things, like not being able to write offline. So began my search.

I had heard about ecto (not capitalized on purpose) from several different blogs that used it, and decided to try the 21-day trial. As soon as I opened the application I knew I would end up purchasing it. This application has templates for putting in your Technorati tags, syncs with del.icio.us, can ping multiple servers to let them know when I update, and many other things as well. While I am sure that other blog editing programs can do these things as well, I felt immediately at home with ecto's interface, menus, and overall functionality.

I post a lot of photos on my personal blog for my friends and family to see what I am up to since I am in a different country at the moment. ecto has made the process of formatting and posting those photos very easy with the formatting options it offers. I can wrap text around the photos, or not, I can change what clicking on the photo does, and alter the size of the thumbnails.

Something I did not expect, is that posting to multiple blogs is very simple with ecto. Once your blog's information is in the program, it will give you the option of publishing to the blog of your choice. Each blog even has its own keyboard shortcut!

If you don't know HTML, and want to make links like crazy, the link editor is very easily configured.

Another feature I was very much looking forward to using was the mailing list. Once the initial setup is done, you can configure ecto to automatically generate an email to send to your adoring fans. The only complaint I have is that this is not working for me. I have submitted a recent request to support, but as of this writing I have not seen an answer.

There is a Windows version as well, though I have heard it is not as finessed as the Mac version. There is more information on the website (link below) along with screenshots and more feature lists.

Not all the features work with all blogs--for example, the trackback manager only works with Movable Type API (future functionality for other blogs is possible in the next version). That said, though, it is a well thought out application full of features (some of which I have yet to exploit explore). I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to make their blogging easier.

It is US $17.95 for the program, but I got my copy for cheaper via a Christmas discount.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pat Robertson Ticks Me Off [Rant]

I do my best not to comment on political/religious things here, unless they have something to do with electronics. I can't resist posting about this, though.

It seems Pat Robertson has some sort of Red-Phone with God. He makes these bold, flashy statements that garner all kinds of (the wrong) attention.
“He was dividing God's land, and I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America.'”
Does using archaic terms like “woe” make one more Godly? If so, I better get on that right away.

As a Christian myself, I am embarrassed at this type of insensitivity, not only toward Sharon himself, but toward the entire political process. How does this do ANYONE any good? Does he say these things to show off his staunch (read: stench) conservatism? Or is it just ratings he is concerned about?

He comes off as the nicest guy in the world, and he probably is, except he apparently has no control over his tongue. And that, according to my Bible is as bad, or worse than anything Sharon has done.

I am horrified at the way he represents Christianity to the world in such a public manner. Jesus did use very strong words against some people, but those words were directed at persons who were “whitewashed tombs,” not purely political leaders; Jesus even respected the government (much to the chagrin of the Pharisees) by saying; “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.”

A whitewashed tomb; what a picture. It is beautiful--eye catching on the outside. It sits on a hill in the cemetery, and catches the suns rays, gleaming in the warm light. Inside, though: Death, decay, rot, filth, stench. It is a remembrance of a person who has passed from this life to the next.

Maybe Robertson is right; maybe God has used his power to take away Sharon's place in government. But that is none of Robertson's business (with the plausible, yet unlikely--in this case--exception of Robertson being a prophet from God). The book of Job clearly states that no man can know the mind of God.

The ironic thing is that when Robertson falls ill, the ultra-conservative sector of Christianity will not say anything of this sort about him. They will say: “Our prayers and thoughts are with Pat Robertson and his family. Blah, blah, blah. We know that God is in control. Blah, blah.”

On this Robertson isn't just wrong, he is misrepresenting the truth. It is like he is looking into a curved mirror and believing that is how he looks in real life. Maybe I should not mix my metaphors, and just say that he is a tomb with a fresh bucket of white paint, and a nice big paintbrush in hand.
Robertson spokeswoman Angell Watts: “What they're basically saying is, 'How dare Pat Robertson quote the Bible?' This is what the word of God says. This is nothing new to the Christian community.”
What callous insensitivity (not to mention blatant misuse of Scripture, and lack of faith that God will work on His own timeline). If my Christian friend were living in some consistent state of sin, and I knew of it, then that friend suddenly fell ill, I would go to that friend in private and confront them--gently. This is the appropriate action; not to go in public and say: “That man is a sinner, and he is damned by God.” Nothing could be more self-serving, self-rightious, and divisive.

From an article on CNN.com:

Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, criticized Robertson's comments Thursday, saying the televangelist “has a political agenda for the entire world.”

“He seems to think God is ready to take out any world leader who stands in the way of that agenda,” Lynn said in a written statement.

“A religious leader should not be making callous political points while a man is struggling for his life,” he said. “I'm appalled.”

Ralph Neas, president of liberal advocacy group People for the American Way, said “it is astonishing that Pat Robertson still wields substantial influence” in the Republican Party.

“Once again, Pat Robertson leaves us speechless with his insensitivity and arrogance,” Neas said in a written statement.
These comments could not be more right.

[Update 1/12/06:]

Today there is another article on CNN.com with another development:

The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals, said the controversy “is a blow to evangelical-Israeli relations -- and the situation is unfortunate.” He said for the project to move forward, evangelical leaders “must exercise sensitivity and grace towards the people and leadership of the nation of Israel.”
[Update 1/13/06:]

Now he has written a letter of apology to Sharon's son. Of course, this is only after the Israeli government has threatened to disinvolve him from a pet project. There is a video of his apology speech there as well--he did not sell me, though.