Keep on learning

July 13, 2006

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I would not have guessed that at age 31 I would learn a new way to tie my shoes. Thank you, internet for reminding me that you can always learn and improve. Even if you have been doing something the same way for most of your life.


CCleaner and HijackThis

July 12, 2006

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Cnet recommends a free tool called CCleaner that is supposed to have a registry cleaner as part of it. They also list HijackThis as a good tool to look for spyware on your windows machine if you are having specific problems. I've heard of that one before, but wasn't sure if it was legit. Seems so. Mainly, I'm posting these here so I can find them again later.


Poor drive support web site

July 11, 2006

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I was screwing around with my computer and deleted a peice of software that I needed to make my wireless internet connection work. Silly mistake, normally I don't uninstall anything because it always seems to lead to problems, but I thought it was messing with something else….. Anyway, I needed to reinstall it, but discovered that I can't find the CD. I've been straightening up and after organizing a bunch of stuff I can't find anything. Anyway, I searched for the part number in google and got to the manufacturer's web site where I could download the software. I had two options. The original version and version 4. The card itself didn't have any version listed so I tried version 1. No go. Then version 4. No go. After doing some looking around on other sites I saw people mention version 2 of the software. I went back to the equipment web site and walked thru it a different way and discover that both version 2 and 3 exist. I try v2 first, but no luck. Finally, I get to version 3 and at last the wireless connection comes back to life. Through a combination of bad (meaning no) version labeling on the physical part and a deceptive web page (only listing two of the possible four versions) I spent probably an hour and a half trouble trying to figure out what was going on and swaping software on and off my machine. This is a prime example of one of the things that the overall Computer Industry needs to start getting right. I'm fairly savy when it comes to computer stuff and it still took me what seemed like forever. Most people I know would have given up long before, and the problem wasn't with a bug in the software, it was just labeling.


Variable Vivitar 283/285 - follow up

July 11, 2006

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Yep. It works. I stopped by radio shack on the way home yesterday and picked up a box of assorted resistors (my local shop didn't have a single 100k Ohm potentiometer by itself). My flash is a 285 which has a little different pin out for the sensor. If you are looking directly at the flash, the resistor should be wired into the lowest socket in the center and the lower one on the left. Here is a shot of my first test using gator clips to wire up the flash. Vivitar 285 hack photo 1 After confirming that this worked, I bent the pins on the potentiometer and socketed it directly. (Technically, the potentiometer is really being used as a rheostat since only two of it's three pins are connected.) Vivitar 285 hack photo 2 All that's left now is to epoxy the parts together and you end up with a handy-dandy continuously variable manual strobe. In testing, with the dial in place, the max output of the strobe was about one stop under what it was without modification. Looking up online, one unofficial site has the resistance settings listed as 1/16 power at 24k, 1/4 power at 92k, 1/2 power at 168k, and an open circuit for full power. I'm not sure, but I think this means that using a 200k Ohm potentiometer instead of a 100k Ohm will get you back to full steam. So, last night while I was trying to go to sleep my mind kinda latch onto this and would let go. A potential next step would be to replace the potentiometer with a microcotroller and a set of resistors. The microcotroller could be setup to be run by remote control to choose a specific resistor set thereby providing the ability to adjust flash output without having to mess with the flash setup itself. By assigning each flash/controller setup a unique number, it would then be possible to setup lighting patters and easily switch between them. The specific application I'm thinking of would be shooting a band on stage. You could have a bunch of flashes setup around and above the stage before the show then switch out the lighting patterns during the performance from the floor. I'm envisioning the master controller being driving by a Treo or something with a touch screen so you could just tap "pattern 1" and it would light the lead singer from the side with a little back light. I've shot in a lot of bars with shitty lighting. Getting a setup like this would mean that given a little time, a ladder, and permission of the owner and band, you could get some really well lit shots.


Variable Vivitar 283

July 10, 2006

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David is in the process of setting up a light kit using ever reliable vivitar 283 flashes. I think I've mentioned before that a 285 was my main strobe for several years. I've always used these flashes with their Auto setting where the flash figures out how much light it thinks the scene needs the provides that amount and cuts itself off. Whit David's talk of setting up the kit, I got to wondering if there was a way to control the light output so that you could have a consistent, controllable light burst. The goal being, for example, to setup two 283s pointed at umbrellas and dial one back a stop less than the other. A quick google and I found this page on high speed flash photography. While the topic is a little different, the solution looks like it'll work like a champ. The salient point on that page is #5. On a Vivitar 283, remove the Auto-thyristor module and plug a 100 k ohm varialbe resistor in the right two holes (as you are facing the strobe). You should then be able to dial in the amount of light you want the strobe to release with each flash. (I haven't tried this yet, but will soon. If you beat me to it, let me know if anything explodes.) If this works, as I expect it will, I'm gonna end up buying a bunch of 283s. This will also make it easy for me to set them up someday when I start doing my infrared band photography.


Time Off

July 09, 2006

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I've taken a little time off, and man, I needed it. Office holidays were for the 3rd and 4th so I took the last three days of the week of two. Nice trick to use three days of vacation for an entire week off. Of course, when I logged in a little while ago to check my email I had about 250 new messages in the inbox (some of which is spam that made it by the filter. There were an additional 150 in the spam box too.) So, tomorrow will be email day. But it's worth it. For the fun link as a welcome back, here's a very well done video edit.


Digital ICE

June 22, 2006

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I own a film scanner that I've used maybe 20 times since I got it. When I made the purchase my plan was to go through a bunch of my old negs and get them scanned in so I could play with them, or at least get a few of my favoriates into an online gallery. I just never really got a chance to get down and dig into it. I have the scanner here with me in Huntsville so that I can borrow some negatives from a friend whose wedding I shot and get some images for a sample book. I did the first few scans and started doing all the spot toning (or whatever the name of the digital equivilent is) that's required with old negs that have been printed off of several times. Then I remember that the scanner has a feature called Digital ICE that's supposed to help cut down on dust showing up in the scan. Holy Cow. It works great. Check out the before and after pics on this page. My negs aren't nearly as spotty as the example, but it does just as good a job of clearing them.  I wish this tech had been discovered and produced back in my old days when I was first transitioning to photoshop, but was still shooting everything on film. Would have saved me weeks worth of time that I spent spotting.


From a comment on the Media

June 22, 2006

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(This is the second part of a comment where I was responding to another post, but it got long enough that I decided to move it to its own post.) Truth be told though, I do try to avoid a lot of the coverage. I'm turned off by it, but not necessarily in the right way. It's the relentlessness of it that I think is getting to me. But, at the same time, I feel like it's lacking power. Instead of being engaging, most of it comes across to me as a kind of white noise. I really don't know what I'm trying to get at. There are a lot of aspects of this situation that I can't seem to get my mind around. The whole thing really is F.U.B.A.R. And when things are Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition like they are now drawing any single conclusion becomes and exercise in frustration. One of the few clear thoughts that I have is that we should not have gone into Iraq the way we did. It's absolutely not a black and white issue, but the way in which we got ourselves into Iraq has few possibilities of redeeming values. But that is past and now we are where we are and I can't really see any good outcomes among the potential near term futures. And from what I'm hearing in the media it sounds like our political and military leaders have the same problem. And, as is want to happen in our United States, instead of grouping together to try to figure shit out, we hurl political grenades at each other with the goal keeping/gaining power for whichever political party we affiliate ourselves with. It pisses me off that We, collectively, seem incapable of saying that something that The Opposing Party said is a good idea that every issues effectively becomes a choice from a binary selection. Option 1: You are with us. Option 2: You are against us. Fuck you if you want to talk and exchange ideas. Pick "1" or "2" or stay the hell out of the game. Incidentally, I'm a registered Independent, and I think more people (if not most) should be. From what I see, after people register for one of the two main parties they slide into a black and white way of thinking where any big issue, no matter how complex only has one answer. (Yes, that's a gross overgeneralization, but I'm ranting, so give me a little slack.) Anyway, I'll close with a quote: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


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