February 22, 2006

Digital camera opinions?

I'm looking to upgrade my digital camera... there are a few events coming up wherein I might wish to have a nicer camera, and my Canon PS40 is getting a little long in the tooth anyway.

After having read some blog buzz article about how popular the Panasonic Lumix line is, I've been watching. They just came out with a new Lumix, the FZ7, which appears to fit right into the middle of my desires.

Here's what I like about it:

  • Modest price for a 6mp that has huge optical zoom and good low-light/non-tripod characteristics.
  • Appears to have some lens options, at least, based on an eBay auction I found which listed alternatives. It's not as high-end as they go, but I don't think I'm to that level yet anyway.
  • Previous models get rave reviews.

So, since there are several folks out there who'll read this who know a lot more about the market than I do, I'm asking for feedback. Is this a bad idea? Should I get something smaller and lighter instead?

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January 26, 2006

Life imitates art....

It has begun. It wasn't enough merely to visualize a superhero who had both every gadget imaginable, but, more importantly, enough pockets to stash them all in (sadly, life really does imitate art). Apparently, it wasn't enough that people already jokingly suggest GG plotlines as if he weren't actually fictional, and not just inspired by me. Today, the process of acquiring such super-human attributes for myself has begun.

Today is my 2^5-2^2, er, 3^3+3^0, er, 28th birthday, and I got a black Scott eVest Classic Vest 4.0. I'm still only figuring out where all of the multitude of hidden features are, but I hope to report back soon on how well it carries the multitudes of gadgets I normally have with me. So far, so good, so very very good.

Today is also Piaggio 2x day - the day that the number of miles I've ridden on my Piaggio Typhoon passes twice the number of miles I managed to ride on my eGO cycle before it completely fell apart. I got there much faster, too - the eGO lasted almost a year and a half, but was broken down (and range-restricted) often enough that it didn't really serve as a replacement for my car. Meanwhile, the Piaggio has taken over almost all of my commuting. So, in a little over 10 months, I've replaced more than 3600 miles of travel with the Typhoon, saving 84 gallons, a more than 3/4 of a ton of CO2 emissions. Meanwhile, the eGO website has barely changed in that time. I guess I wasn't the only one with problems with their product.

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May 12, 2005

Amazon Waste: Why we have a trash problem in the first world

Dude, this is absurd. I ordered a Memory Stick Pro Duo 1Gb from Amazon, to use with my PSP.

It comes, in a huge box. Here's a set of photos to describe how absurd this is.

Unopened box from Amazon A selection of what was inside... The actual packaging of the Memory Stick The delivered products Perspective with box

December 02, 2004

ReAir, a refillable compressed air solution

Cute little thing, really. Just got it in the mail, after seeing it on MetaEfficient a few weeks ago.

Check out the second photo, with the contents list (you'll have to click through)... yes, it comes with some air, then you can put more inside, then, when you squeeze the top, you can, you know, get some of it back out. Think of it, really, as a portable, reusable air dispenser....

November 19, 2004

This is what comes of using your laptop too much...

This is what comes of using your laptop too much...

So, perhaps it's not as bad as kwc's iPod, but it still bites. This is an XBattery graph of my work Powerbook's estimated battery capacity. It goes back to close to the beginning.

Yes, I'd logged some serious hours on that machine, but most of them were with it plugged in. Hrm, perhaps that's the most disturbing part...

Battery life on this Powerbook started at about 4 hours. It now shuts off after about 1:25. Fortunately, unlike kwc's situation, I can probably get work to replace it, and the cost of replacing the battery is low (and physically trivial)...

April 08, 2004

Car shopping with my sister...

So, lately I've been car shopping with my sister. She's looking to replace her old car with a newer, safer, more fuel-efficient model. To that end, she's identified the following new car models of interest:

  • Toyota Prius

    Drives like a post-modern vehicle. There's not even an ignition anymore, just a "power" button. Very quiet. Fun in-dash touchscreen LCD (touchscreen? Why?) which shows things like power distribution, or a continuously updated histogram of efficiency for the last several periods of time. The newly re-styled 2004 has a huge hatch-back window, and a teensy little rear window. This is probably fine over time, but seems a little weird.

  • Honda Civic Hybrid

    Nice, drives just like a Civic, which I consider a very good car, if on the more modest-end. Consumer Reports always agrees. With the hybrid, you lose the ability to recline the rear seats, and there's a "hump" in the trunk for the batteries. It's a pretty solid car if you want one now, need a hybrid for the emotional or environmental benefit, etc. The analog-like "miles per gallon" display would probably help you train yourself to drive more mileage-efficiently. This is a feature missing on the Prius, but available on higher-end cars, like BMWs, that aren't even hybrids.

  • Honda IncyteInsight

    Dude, where's my car? Oh, sorry, that is actually the real reference. Well, the Incyte is tiny. Probably too tiny - it doesn't have much power, and it's really small inside. Putter-around-town kind of car, perhaps, but not of much wide use. I'd be afraid to get into an accident in it.... perhaps its very safe, but I'm skeptical.

  • Mazda 3/6

    The 3 is a re-labelled, updated version of the Protege/Protege5. I own a Protege from 2001, and the difference in drive/style is obvious. Consumer Reports still hasn't reviewed it for safety/reliability, but, assuming those look good, the Mazda3 looks like an awesome car. The Mazda6, which I guess is a replacement for the Mazda 626, is a pretty decent pseudo-midlife-crisis car, which still lets you fit in the family. A bit too cushy. I wouldn't want to own one of these if I was under 35.

  • Mini Cooper

    Very fun, and sporty. Pretty small, obviously, but it's also got tons of leg room, if you sacrifice the back seats. I can certainly see why it's popular. The biggest concern in my mind is how well it will hold up, and, given that its a boutique brand, how long (and, eventually, expensive) service on the thing will be available. If you're commuting a lot, or just only need a fun/status car, the mini would do an excellent job, and be a lot of fun to drive. Just not so good for hauling any serious volume of stuff, or driving to Tahoe.

  • Saturn Ion

    Cheap. Both in cost, but also in feel. And the sales guy was overselling the "easy sell" part of the Saturn buying process. But the care was pretty much ok. It's no wonder that most of their cars are sold to women, though.... it's not really very sporty.

  • VW Jetta/Bug

    I don't really know. The sales guy was a jerk. My sister and I arrived a few minutes after they closed, apparently. But, when we walked on the lot, we were told they were "open for a customer". That should have been the warning sign. Don't go to VW on Steven's Creek Blvd. More commentary if anyone wants to know, but it was absolutely completely unprofessional, and thoroughly frustrating. And we didn't get to test drive a thing...

That's it. Last I heard, my sister is probably going to get into the ~5month waiting list for the 2004 Prius. Anyone know a quicker way to get one?

March 08, 2004

Auto playlists from iTunes do refresh on the iPod!

I had actually convinced myself that the opposite was true - and it would be easy to believe. Play a playlist on your iPod, and hit the Menu button. Keep playing it, even if it's a playlist which should change after each song played (like my "Underappreciated" list, which is composed of a random selection of songs I haven't played within the last 6 months). It doesn't change, does it?

Originally, the 3rd Gen iPods didn't support adding songs to the "On The Go" playlist in real time, either. So, it's possible that the change actually happened after I acquired the iPod. Not clear. I thought I'd tested it all out when I got it.

In any case, auto-playlists do update. They just don't update while you're viewing them. If you want to see the refreshed version of your auto-playlist, you have to go up a level to the "Playlists" menu and then select your auto-playlist again. The new list you see will be the correctly updated one. iTunes updates the playlist constantly, so that's probably how I missed it to begin with.

This might, perhaps, actually explain why there's such a pause sometimes on accessing a playlist. I wonder how efficient the iPod database data structure is at this kind of thing at runtime? Does adding multiple criteria to an auto-playlist slow this down?

Am I the only one who hasn't noticed this?

February 20, 2004

What's on your iPod

Following on Ken's entry, here're the first 15 songs chosen at random from the 7703 songs.

They Dance Alone - Sting
Floor (Jars of Clay Cover) - UIUC Xtension Chords
High Hopes - Pink Floyd
Intro - Guru
Breathe Again - Toni Braxton
Have you ever - Offspring
After The Rain - The Samples
Paul Rosenberg (skit) - Eminem
Nation States - Propaghandi
Reba (yeah, some of my tags aren't so good...)
Tiger Army - Nocturnal
Territorial Pissings - Nirvana
Thank You (Live - Acoustic) - Dido
Hands Clean - Alanis Mrissette
I'm Real (Remix) (ft. Ja Rule) - Jennifer Lopez

Considering that something like 3200 of the songs on my iPod are collected from others, and, ergh, haven't even been played yet, this seems like a semi-reasonable cross-section of what's there. The vast vast collection of Punk which I came into possession of through a past collection-munging is slowly getting removed. Well, the stuff that sucks is, anyway. The wonders of 27gb of usable space is that this process can take a while. Likewise, though I have on the order of 30 CDs of college a cappella, only a few of them are actually allowed onto my iPod at a time. I like the stuff, but in moderation, for gosh sakes. Well, unless you're just too cool, in which case I probably keep all of your stuff in the iPod anyway.

January 12, 2004

Family video project

J shared me with a neat idea she had for a project a month or so ago. She wanted to interview members of her family in short video form, and create a set of DVDs for a future gift back to all who participate.

I didn't initially warm up to the idea. She feels a bit stronger about it, largely because her mom passed away a few years ago of cancer, and she wishes that people like me, who came along later than that, could've had something to know her by.

Eventually, I came around... mostly when I realized it gave me an opportunity to buy a new gadget or two. Actually, I felt some of the same desire to preserve my family. We're all notorious for avoiding being captured on film or other reproducible media. After having brought it up at home while visiting this holiday, I can see why - there were quite a few embarrassing photos and videos my parents dragged out.

Anyway, the project is going to take forever. Over the holidays, J and I took about 13 tapes worth of video, probably more than 10 hours worth. We were hoping for about a 20 minute interview per person... and most of J's family hit this mark. A bunch of my family, unsurprisingly, were more verbose. Oh well. We've probably still got that much more video to collect, and probably over a much larger time: we got all of the easy-to-find people already.

Next up is planning how to distribute people amongst the DVDs, and the slow and fairly time-consuming process of "importing" the miniDV tapes to my various arrays of large hard drives. Each tape can hold up to 10gigs worth of video, so it's going to take some careful storage management.

There were lots of good stories told by the old-timers. I hope to eventually add a category here and transcribe some, if only because it's going to be a long time until the Google of video search comes along... not to mention a long time before I start posting any kind of videos like that to the web.

Anyone have any thoughts on the various semi-pro video editing tools? I'm leaning towards Final Cut Express, but I've seen another couple of sets of tools around that look good, particularly PureMotion EditStudio, which, at least if you believe their hype, is a pretty quality product for a pretty decent price.

June 09, 2003

Electric powered commuting anyone?

Seems like, living in California, sooner or later you start to think about all of the various environmental problems we're so attuned to here. My latest one has been quick/environmentally friendly commuting.

I haven't finished doing my research, but there are several useful sites around. A great starting place is: Electric bikes

There are getting to be more options in this space. Specifically, my favorite of the bunch is the ego-2, more of an electric moped than anything. $0.10/charge, they say, and, with after-market 36v batteries, even a big guy like myself should be able to take it up to 30mph. That's quite a decent commute time.

May 27, 2003

Cross platform iPod?

So, for those of you who don't know, I bought the 30gb version of Apple's iPod a few weeks ago when it came out.

Generally, I'm fairly happy with it. I'm sure I'll have little blurbs here and there to share about my experience using it.

The most recent, however, was to figure out what the deal was with Apple's promise that this version of the iPod would no longer come in separate Windows and Mac versions. This was one of the exciting things about buying a new iPod... 30gb, yeah, that's wonderful. But, also, being able to dump a little music (yeah, I have that much to clear space for trotting some files around seemed very appealing.

Except it didn't work. I plugged it into J's laptop, and Windows dutifully installed a driver for a Firewire device, but then, rather than browsing the device, offered to format it. Ergh, not what I had in mind.

So, I tried another approach - maybe the included CD of software would solve the problem in some way? Ken has a machine with firewire on it, so I gave that a shot. Sure enough, it did work. To my detriment. I wasn't too surprised, but the Windows installer silently reformatted the disk, without so much as a warning. Lovely.

But, the good news is that I popped it back into my apple, and it still worked. Well, yeah, it was empty. But iTunes dumps songs on it, and it generally seems happy.

Take away? It's going to take an hour two load my 27.2 gigs of music back onto my iPod. And, I lose the cute little icon. But, I should have a cross-platform, USB or Firewire storage device that's almost as small as a deck of cards.