Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Geotagging is a logical mash-up of GPS technology, digital photography, and digital mapping. In its most basic form you manually associate a map location with a digital photo. Photo storage sites like Flickr make this fairly easy. On Flickr, you can browse a map and see photos that were taken by other people at any location you might be interested in. Microsoft has a project called PhotoSynth that gives this process an injection of steroids.

Here is a typical Track Log on Google Maps with photo locations –

There are currently a few digital cameras that can automatically geotag your photos as you take them. These cameras have a built-in GPS device that adds position information to the Exif data that is stored in the photo. I fully expect this become a standard feature in the next few years. Cameras without built-in GPS devices can still get in this game by using an inexpensive external GPS Logger

Continue reading ‘Geotagging Digital Photographs’ »

I’ve been growing more concerned about home security over the past few years and decided to start investigating an alarm system for our humble domicile here on the hill. I’ve heard several people express their feelings of violation after being robbed. I can’t say that I place too high a value on my earthly belongings, but I do want to be a good steward of them. A DIY alarm system seems like a perfect solution (at least that’s what my inner geek told me). The name brand alarm companies are all too expensive. They give you a very basic system for free and then charge you $45 a month for monitoring (locked into a multi-year contract). I just couldn’t see this fitting into our budget. While searching around I kept hearing about a great monitoring company that was also very affordable. Alarm Relay charges less than $9 per month for monitoring.

This seemed like a green light for my project. Next I needed to shop for some hardware (yippee). I had decided on a Honeywell Ademco system and decided to purchase it from The Home Security Store. They have excellent prices and were very helpful when I had questions. These are the same professional systems that alarms companies install so I felt confident that it would meet my needs.

I came across a couple of forums that had lots of useful information and also provided answers to my questions.
http://www.diyalarmforum.com/

http://www.diysecurityforum.com/

Continue reading ‘DIY Home Security Alarm’ »

You may have read about my travails with trying to run a Continuous Inking System on my older Epson printer. I finally gave upon the CIS, it was just too much work and wasted time and ink and paper. I bought a very nice new Epson R1900. It can print up to 13″ x 19″ and even longer on roll paper. Right out of the box it has worked flawlessly. I miss the LCD control screen on the old printer, but the results are amazing. It uses 6 ink colors and a Gloss Optimizer as sort of a clearcoat finish. There is also a matte black ink for printing on non glossy media.

I’ve been using Red River Ultra Pro Satin paper and I really like the finish. The paper is fairly heavy at 65lbs and it just feels great when you hold it. The ink comes in those tiny 14ml cartridges and costs around $100 for the 6 colors and GlOp. I’ve been tracking consumption so far and have only replaced the GlOp (consumed twice as fast) after printing –
12   4″x6″
8     4″x5″
65  5″x7″
I’ll continue to track my consumption for a while and update with my results over time.

Taking photographs is like composing a song.
Printing your images on paper is like performing your song.

I learned a lot about printing and printer calibration so my time with the CIS wasn’t all a waste. I also feel that I’m now way more familiar with all of the advanced printer settings and how to get the most out of my printer using profiles. I’ve been using a wonderful program to make my prints for a few years now and still haven’t found anything better or easier. It’s called QImage. You simply tell it what size paper you are using and what size prints you want. It fits them on the paper automatically. The interpolation (scaling) is top notch. If you want to get the most out of your printer, I highly recommend it.

Regularly my CD ROM drive (actually a Pioneer DVD burner) just won’t read data CDs. If you insert a CD it will spin for a bit (activity light) and then just stop. The AutoRun doesn’t work and the Explorer popup never appears. If you try to open or explore you simply get the error message – “please insert disc” and the drive just ejects. Google reveals a LOT of people seeing this same problem. Nothing seems to work – even the Microsoft bulletin that suggests some obscure Registry tweaks. I kept searching and finally, 10 pages or so into my third try on Google, I came across another Microsoft bulletin – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/939052

The solution is –
Close Windows Media Player
I use the Zune Desktop Software as my pod-catching so it’s always running in the background.
I discovered that this also applies to the Zune Software too (must be closed)

That’s it – everything magically started working again. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a feature that somehow prevents piracy or whatever. I hope this helps someone who is struggling with this issue.

Update – this problem also manifests itself with CDBunerXP running *very* slowly. Scrolling through lists of files is glacial. Same easy fix – just shut down WMP and the Zune player.

Update – this problem also manifests itself in Windows 7

Overview
Well I’ve had my Zune (80GB) for a while now and I thought a brief review might be in order. My previous music player was with a well loved iPod 3G (15GB) so I may make some comparisons. I believe that these comparisons are still mostly valid against the current iPod Classic. I had always refused to use iTunes and preferred using Anapod to transfer files, a Podcatcher (Juice) to get my podcasts and the music player of my own choice (currently Media Monkey). I tried following a similar path with my Zune. I quickly ran into problems. You must use the Zune PC software to transfer your music and podcasts to the device. At this time there are no alternatives. I started using Juice to get my podcasts. The Zune software can easily watch a podcast folder, but it doesn’t recognize them as ‘podcasts’. The Zune software is really good with podcasts and I quickly gave up trying to make Juice work. The Zune software makes listening to podcasts a totally automatic and hands off operation. It gets the new podcasts, keeps them for two weeks, transfers the new ones to the device, and deletes any that have been listened to. This is exactly how I want it to work. My reluctance to use the Zune software was unfounded. The build quality of the device itself is very good. The included earbuds are not in the same league with my Etymotics ER4s, but they are hands down better than the junk earbuds that come with the iPod. They are even better than the Apple In Ear Headphones (I own a pair). The inclusion of an FM radio is a nice extra. Did I mention that it plays music pretty well?

Continue reading ‘Zune Review’ »

I listen to a lot of podcasts. My interests are mainly technology and photography with a little Ravi and NPR’s TAL thrown in. I was very excited when I discovered that Alex Lindsay from the Pixel Corp had a new photography podcast called This Week In Photography. I went to the site to look around and grab the RSS feed for the podcast. The only RSS feed that I could find was for the blog. If you wanted the podcast you had to use iTunes. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to have their head stuck so far into a place that seems anatomically impossible, but I was wrong.  I wrote to them and asked for the URL for the podcast feed. I got two very snarky replies back from Scott Borne (quite the businessman): The podcast is iPod only (enhanced AAC not MP3) and the only place to get it is iTunes. I should have been able to figure that out without bothering him, because it was mentioned once in a blog post somewhere on the site. He said he could care less if I was able to listen or not. They had hundreds of other listeners. They don’t support any RSS catchers (like Juice), only iTunes.

Continue reading ‘Has TWIP seen the light?’ »

Taking photographs is like writing music. Printing the image on paper is like performing it.

I have an Epson Stylus Photo R340 than drinks copious amounts of ink – well it needs new ink very often. I run until the printer refuses to print any more and then replace the cartridges. I was always angered that I could still hear ink sloshing around inside the ’empty’ cartridge. I recently learned that if the print heads ever run dry, they are ruined. This may be why they always ensure that some ink remains. A set of ink cartridges for this printer (six color) are around $80. The R340 has been discontinued and the replacement printer, the R280, only costs $80. I don’t print huge runs at home (I often use WinkFlash), but the cost of what printing I do at home really gets my goat!

I’ve been searching around for tips on lowering this cost and the idea of bulk ink systems really appeals to me, but I’m always brought up short by the question of ink quality. I just couldn’t find any objective data about ink. Then I came across THIS POST. The basic conclusion is that the inks from Image Specialists are good (used by Ink Republic and MIS Ink), especially the Black, but the ink with the best Gamut was from InkJetFly. Both of these are slightly less glossy than the OEM inks. The best results are from the InkJetFly colors with the Image Specialist Black. The InkJetFly site also has some decent comparisons. The guy who runs IJF was so receptive to these results that they now offer this exact combination. The initial cost for the IJF system is around $120 – thats 10x the ink for 1.5x the cost.

OK – I’m sold (waiting for existing ink to run out)…… to be continued

Continue reading ‘Continuous Inking System’ »

Today’s DLSR cameras are so complex and have so many different functions that it’s easy to become overwhelmed and never delve into the creative potential of your investment. DSLRs make very poor Point & Shoot cameras. You need to think about how to configure it for each situation and locale. This takes time and some familiarity with your equipment. I find that my experience is so much better when I have time to set things up properly before the pressure starts. Some of the camera functions are easy to find and set, some are more complicated, and some are downright mysterious. I’ve been thinking about the different basic camera functions and my familiarity (or lack thereof) with them. I have started to run through a short checklist each time I turn the camera on. I always check – ISO, Focus mode, Metering mode and Exposure Mode. These are becoming second nature to me, but there are a lot more that still cause me to scratch my head.

I decided to put together a list of basic functions that I can go through and begin to commit the procedures to memory in the hope that I might be able to quickly recall them if needed.

Basic Camera Functions:

Exposure modes (especially AP, SP, P, and Manual)
Auto-Focus Point selection
Metering mode (spot, average, others)
Burst Drive modes
Burst Focus modes
White Balance modes (and bracketing)
Exposure Compensation (and bracketing)
ISO Adjustment
Manual Focus and Stabilization
TTL Flash modes
Self Timer
Mirror Lockup
DOF Preview
Bulb Exposure
Saved Image Quality
Other Menu Features (custom functions)
Histogram Review

The custom functions I mentioned above are where you may be able to redefine some of the controls and features to work more intuitively. I was able to set my AutoFocus Point Selection function to utilize the almost useless joystick button (Canon) instead of the default modal buttons and dials. Now I can easily change the focus point without looking away from the eyepiece.

OK class, now get studying. There will be a quizz next week!

Chances are, you have some scratches on your iPod’s screen. These scratches are fairly easy to remove and this technique can be applied to most anything that is plastic. Here is my old 3G iPod with some haze and scratches on the screen.

Continue reading ‘Removing Scratches from your iPod’ »

Pixels are dimensionless units.
DPI and PPI are only meaningful when you are printing or displaying.

300dpi is the basic resolution used in the print industry (magazines)
72ppi is the basic resolution used for screen displays (monitors)

When you display or print a digital image you have to map the pixels of your image to the display elements on your monitor or the dots of ink from your printer. You could simply match them up one to one. The resolution of your image would determine how big the displayed image will be. So let’s say we want to do this the easy way and print a single dot of color for each pixel in our image (no interpolation).

At 300 printed dots per inch –

2mp image (1600 x 1200) = 5″ x 4″
4mp image (2272 x 1704) = 7.5″ x 5.5″
8mp image (3456 x 2304) = 11.5″ x 7.5″

The quality should be great at these sizes. What if I wanted to print them at larger sizes? Let’s imagine I wanted to print my 2mp image at 8×10″. This would be double the size with 4x the number of pixels needed. Each pixel in our original image would need to be mapped to 4 dots on the print. Simplistically we would be enlarging the pixels 4 times and the quality would be poor (lots of jaggies). Somehow we need to create an additional 3x the original data and have it look good. You don’t have to only print at 1:1 to get good looking pictures. Images can be interpolated or resized. Some of the interpolation methods are better than others. The default bi-cubic image resize in Photoshop is pretty feeble. Resizing down isn’t necessarily easy, even though you are ‘just’ throwing data from your image away. You have to choose carefully what to throw away. Resizing up is somewhat harder – you are adding data to your image that wasn’t in the original. Some of the other, more advanced methods include:

  • Lanczos
  • Hermite
  • Pyramid
  • Mitchell
  • Bell
  • Fractals

When you are working with your digital images you can safely ignore PPI and DPI. These only become important when you display or print them. Most of today’s inkjet printers can produce output in the neighborhood of around 300 dots per inch when they print in high quality mode. They love to claim 720 or even 1440 dpi, but this is misleading (multiple dots for a single color).

I always disliked the requirement to do math and the poor quality that I was experiencing with Photoshop. I read some recommendations about a program called QIMAGE. It has a lot of the advanced interpolation methods built-in and is really easy to use. It knows about your printer and how to get the best out of it. I tried it and fell in love. It’s very easy to use. You specify how big you want the image(s) and what size paper it’s being printed on. The program will automatically fit as many images onto your paper as possible. It’s a labor of love from a one man shop and he’s very responsive and provides great service. He has slowed down recently, but people used to complain that he updated the software too often. Take a challenge and use the trial to compare your current at home printing program with Qimage. Even if you never print larger than your ‘no interpolation’ size, I think you’ll like the results and how the program works. It runs on Vista and has multi-core support.