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Fool On The Hill http://hugger.us Just a place for me to vent........ (c8 Wed, 15 Jan 2014 14:19:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Obamacare http://hugger.us/?p=1130 http://hugger.us/?p=1130#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 00:16:36 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=1130 The disaster that is Obamacare is baffling to me.

Lies, lies, lies (at least the MSM is finally starting to wake up)

  • “If you like your insurance plan, you will keep it.”
  • “What we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”
  • “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.”
  • “We’ll start by reducing premiums by as much as $2,500 per family.”
  • “It will create 4 million jobs-400,000 jobs almost immediately.”
  • ” Obamacare “pushed back on the undue influence of special interests.”
  • “We are on schedule, and will be ready for the marketplaces to open on October 1.”
  • “Regardless of how the Marketplace is managed, consumers will be able to access the Marketplace with ease.”
  • “We expect to resolve these issues in the coming hours.”
  • “Take away the volume, and it works.” “No, we don’t have that data.”
  • “[We] follow high standards regarding the privacy and security of personal information.”

The Obamacare website has 500 million lines of code, yet just 50 thousand simultaneous users crashes the system.

It has been estimated that only 60% of the entire system has been completed (there is no back-end).

The unfinished Obamacare website codebase is 5x larger than Windows 8 and Facebook combined!

The seminal book on IT productivity The Mythical Man-Month  claims that on average a programmer can create as many as 6 lines of code per day.
How did they get this much code? An Obamacare website programmer would have to write thousands per day.

Here are some other large websites for comparison –

Steam
7 million simultaneous users

Windows 8
80 million lines of code

Facebook
20 million lines of code
727 million daily users
1.2 billion monthly users
10 million concurrent users

Amazon
20 million daily users
55 million unique monthly users

Ebay
85 million unique monthly users

On December 1, 2013 the Obamacare website was declared completed

Update – On January 1 the HHS claimed that there were around 2 million people who signed up for Obamacare. I’ll skip over all of the arguments that these ‘official’ numbers are vastly inflated and just do some simple math. 5 million people were forced out of their existing policies in 2013. 2 million are now insured through Obamacare. This results in a net loss of 3 million insured Americans. Good work!

Moving the Goalpost

goalpost

 

The Empire State Building looks done to me

empire

 

The Hindenberg completed 80% of it’s landing

hindenberg

 The Titanic completed most of it’s voyage

Titanic_sinking

Potemkin Villages all the way down

potemkin

 

Mayor of Toronto always glad to help out

robford

If you water it down enough it will eventually become water.
No doubt this will be claimed to be a miracle - turning wine into water!
Watered-Down-Drinks
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2013 SOTU Address http://hugger.us/?p=1108 http://hugger.us/?p=1108#respond Fri, 15 Feb 2013 19:29:11 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=1108 (I’m not sure it was supposed to be this funny)

“It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government.”
I couldn’t agree more – 100%
Going to preschool ends up “boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime” and can help infants eventually “form more stable families of their own.”
Never mind that the two states Obama praised for their commitment to preschool Georgia and Oklahoma rank in the bottom third for reading and math proficiency, and college attendance, according to the Department of Education.
“As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.”
Sixteen of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities are in China. The New York Times reported just a couple weeks ago that Beijing’s air quality ranked a “crazy bad” 755 on a scale of 0 to 500.
“Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.”
After trending downward, insurance premiums spiked 9.5% the year after ObamaCare became law, and another 4.5% last year. And that’s before the main event happens in 2014, when ObamaCare takes full effect. One study finds ObamaCare’s mountain of rules and regulations will nearly triple premiums for young people. And his own health care experts say that national spending will shoot up 7.4% in 2014 and will climb 6% or more for the foreseeable future.
“We can’t cut our way to prosperity.”
Obama’s own record shows pretty clearly that we can’t spend our way to prosperity either.
Of special note related to the 27 new federal programs that he proposed – “Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.”
Once again I see complete truth in this statement.
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Pots & Pans http://hugger.us/?p=1098 http://hugger.us/?p=1098#comments Fri, 16 Dec 2011 20:39:15 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=1098 Let’s suppose you are a gourmet cook. You prepare a meal and share it with your friend. If he ever commented – “That was a wonderful meal. You must have some really good pots and pans!” you would likely introduce him to your carving knife.

People often comment on my photographs. It usually goes something like this – “What camera do you have?” or “Wow, you must have a nice camera!”

Sigh…

No tool can replace the photographer’s eye.

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2011 Photography Gift List http://hugger.us/?p=1069 http://hugger.us/?p=1069#respond Fri, 16 Dec 2011 03:59:09 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=1069 Here is my list of *fairly* inexpensive gift ideas for your favorite photographer.
Make sure you shop around, but get a base price from Amazon or B&H first.
If you find a price that is a lot less, something is probably not right.
The bitter taste of poor service lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten!
Be sure to check out my gift guide from last year – http://hugger.us/?p=885

Long ETTL Cable $65
The worst place for a flash is on top of your camera. These long cords are perfect for getting your flash into a better position.
Lens Cap Clip $13
I got one of these free at a Camera show and it’s really pretty good. Unlike some other similar solutions, you only need one (it attaches to your strap).
LaCrosse Charger $50
The problem with many battery chargers is that they do NOT charge each cell individually. As soon as the cell with the most remaining charge is full, the charger shuts off. The cells with less charge never get fully charged. This charger is nearly perfect. Look at all of those displays (one for each cell). You can even select your charging rate.

Video Head Leveling plate $93
If you shoot video with your DSLR you have probably wasted a tone of time getting your tripod level so that you can pan horizontally. This leveling plate is wonderful for quickly getting your fluid head level even when the tripod isn’t.

Mini Ballhead $38
I love this tiny ball head for my flash work. It works very well inside a softbox and a million other situations.

Umbrella Adapter $28
I got an umbrella adapter with my Westcott light stand. It had a cold shoe and just didn’t work very well. This one is great. When combined with the mini ball-head above, it’s fantastic.

Umbrella Kit $69
This is a great value for this versatile piece of kit.

Tripod Bag $36
How do you tote around your stands, umbrellas and soft-boxes? This just looks classy.

Reflector Support Arm $50
This boom arm sits atop your lightstand and holds one of those folding reflectors. Perfect for those situations where you don’t have an assistant.

Nifty 50 – Canon 50mm f1.8 $104
The 50mm prime less. This Canon model is likely the best return on investment you can shoot with. Is your kit less too slow for indoor use? This one has a maximum aperture of f1.8 that works great in low light or when you want really shallow depth of field.

Lens Filters
The following three suggestions are all very useful. Just remember that a cheap, uncoated filter can turn your expensive red-ring beauty into a joke.
Neutral Density Filters $17
TIFFEN Variable ND Filter $190
This is like a zoom lens for neutral density – pricey, but cool!
Graduated Neutral Density Filter $50
Polarizing Filter $35

Photobook of Your Images $40
I love making photo books after a trip or special occasion. These guys are very good and do very nice work. They constantly have sales that can be up to 50% off.
Speedstrap $10
This this does a perfect job of attaching whatever you need to your flash (like a gel or reflector) without needing anything sticky or permanent.
Flash Gel set (w/ CTO) $20
This set is designed to help you correct or match your flash to the ambient light so that when you adjust the white balance in post, both the ambient and the flash are corrected together.
Gel Holder $20
Nikon Squeeze-style Lens Caps $4
These Nikon style squeeze caps are so much better than the stock Canon ones. The stock caps are almost impossible to remove if you have lens hood on while these are easy to remove.
Flash Bender $40
This is a very versatile flash reflector that can be bent into many useful configurations.
Memory Card Case $20
These are great and come with inserts that can handle Memory Stick, SD or CF cards.
USB3 Cardreader $27
I always buys fast memory cards – not so much because the camera needs it, but rather for the download performance. This USB v3 card reader takes it to a whole new level, providing your PC is so equipped.

Glow Blower $9
This is a perfect size and it glows!

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First Loves http://hugger.us/?p=1059 http://hugger.us/?p=1059#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2011 23:39:25 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=1059 I really like photography. My first real camera was a film SLR; a Canon A-1. I purchased it in 1980 just before my first child was born. I loved that camera. It was the first multi-mode SLR – Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual. This should not be confused with what was probably the most popular camera of that period, the Canon AE-1. The AE-1 was shutter priority only. I had collected several nice FD lenses (manual focus): 50mm f1.4, 70-210mm f4.5, and 35-105mm f3.5. I even had the film winder. My old camera has been sitting in its bag for years now, ever since I purchased my first digital camera. I took it out the other day and noticed how the leather case was drying out and falling apart. I ditched the case and just enjoyed handling it for a while (no I didn’t shoot any film). As it lay on my desk I thought about what a waste it was just sitting there. My son has a Canon DSLR, but his collection of lenses is somewhat limited. We researched a bit and found a nice adapter ring that allows the use of FD lenses on today’s modern DSLRs. There are a few caveats – magnification, loss of light, and manual exposure only, but overall they are still useful. He immediately grabbed the 35-105 and the 70-210. He already had a 50mm f1.8 EF lens and the 18-55mm f3.5 kit lens (both auto focus and aperture). I’m glad the old lenses are getting some use now and being forced to shoot in manual requires you to think more about your shot and pay attention to the exposure. It’s like a mini course in photography.

This brings me to the leftovers – A-1 body, 50mm lens, and the winder. I have a lot of toys on my desk and the old A-1 seems to fit right in. I like just looking at it and picking it up every once in a while. I think it’s found a new home…….

Shot with my Canon 7D

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Replacing an old HDD with an SSD (Windows 7) http://hugger.us/?p=1051 http://hugger.us/?p=1051#respond Sun, 03 Apr 2011 02:35:56 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=1051 I got a really nice OCZ Vertex2 SSD for my birthday. I wasn’t really looking for a major project this weekend, but I thought I’d give it a go. You can of course simply install the new drive, reinstall Windows, reinstall all of your software and then restore all of your data and settings from a recent backup. I chose a simpler, faster way. I cloned my existing C: drive onto the new SSD and then configured Windows to boot off of the new drive. After I was sure everything was working, I reformatted the old C: drive and made it available to the system as a new volume. Here are the basic steps to follow –

If your new SSD is smaller than your old drive you will first need to shrink the old drive to an equal or lesser size. I’m assuming you will be replacing your old C: drive (boot volume).

  1. Get rid of anything you don’t need – clean out the junk
    The size of the Data must be less than the size of the new drive
  2. Run Accesories -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter
    This will pack the data down into the ‘front’ of the disk
  3. Right click on Computer -> Manage -> Disk Management
    Select the C: drive partition and right click on it
    Select Shrink Volume
    Hopefully the data is packed tightly enough to allow the disk to shrink to a size less than the SSD. If not lather, rinse, and repeat steps 1 & 2
  4. Download EaseUS DiskCopy (did I mention it’s free?)
    http://www.easeus.com/disk-copy/
    Burn a bootable ISO CD of DiskCopy
  5. Shutdown the PC
    Install SSD (SATA cable and Power)
  6. Boot into DiskCopy CD (may need to change BIOS boot order)
    You can check in the BIOS to see if the SSD is detected
  7. Use DiskCopy to copy the C: drive to the SSD
    (~40 min to copy 80GB from a Raptor to the SSD)
  8. Shutdown the PC
    Disconnect the old C: drive
  9. Start the PC it should try to boot from the new SSD
    Windows will likely offer to ‘repair’ the new boot disk after it detects that something has changed
  10. After the repair completes (if it fails to fix anything don’t worry)
    Start the PC and it should boot up fine
  11. Go back into Disk Mangement to Label the drive and Expand the Volume back it to it’s maximum size
  12. When you are sure everything is working as it should, shut down the PC and reconnect the old C: drive
  13. Start the PC it should boot normally from the new SSD
    Windows will likely offer to ‘repair’ the newly discovered drive (the old C: drive) that it just detected
  14. After the repair completes (if it fails to fix anything don’t worry)
    Start the PC and it should boot up fine from the SSD and have a new volume that contains all of the old C: drive
  15. Just leave it at this point (fixing the label and drive letter is OK) just don’t do anything to the data for a bit in case you need to go back to the old C: drive
  16. After you are certain that the new SSD is work as it should, you can use Disk Management to re-partition and re-format the old HDD.
  17. Check out the SSD tweaking suggestion here –
    http://www.computing.net/howtos/show/solid-state-drive-ssd-tweaks-for-windows-7/552.html

You should be noticing some speed improvements around now. This is not a magic bullet. It will not turn an old dog of a PC into a speed demon. The PC won’t actually run faster but programs will now load very quickly.

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I have an iPhone, shhhhhhh http://hugger.us/?p=927 http://hugger.us/?p=927#respond Wed, 26 Jan 2011 16:58:45 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=927 My company recently decided to switch from Sprint Blackberries to AT&T and we had a choice between a BB Torch Slider or an iPhone4. I decided to try the iPhone. My personal phone is an aged HTC Touch Pro running WinMo 6. I’ve been off contract for almost 2 years now and am anxiously waiting for Verizon to offer a Phone7 device before I sign another contract. Sure I could go with any of a number of Android phones (some are pretty good), but I have a hankering for Phone7. It really saddens me to see the iPhone come to Verizon before a Phone7 device. I’ll wait until WMC2011 is over and hopefully I’ll have a better idea what to do (jump ship or go Android). I so want to have my current phone meet Mr. Sledgehammer!

As much as I Dislike Apple, I’m very glad to have the opportunity to play with an iPhone without a huge commitment on my part. It’s great when the company pays. Here are my thoughts on this device after a few month of using it in a corporate environment.

The built-in Safari Browser is great, it’s miles beyond BB, WinMo and other older mobile browsers

The device itself is fast enough (hard to quantify, but I know what is too slow and this is OK)

There are some very good apps (the BB in particular sucks in this regard)

  • I do miss the Office apps that are built-in to WinMo

The on-screen keyboard is at least as good/easy as the BB (I have big hands -the Torch is even tinier)

The predictive text is really bad – so bad it becomes an amusement

The display is excellent

There are a few interface annoyances that seem poorly thought out, particularly in the browser

The main interface is simple and becomes uninteresting quickly compared to say Android

  • The difference is like comparing Fisher Price Little People to Legos

iTunes is horrible

iTunes App Store is horrible – only way to find something is to know its name

It’s not great for Mail when compared to the BB

  • Mail is the primary BB function on the iPhone it’s an app you need to run
  • BB vibrator is perfect

Contacts are handled oddly (multiple books, one way sync with Outlook: desktop –> phone)

It looks gorgeous – design is great, but…..

  • It made of mostly glass – company provided a huge Otter case that doubles the thickness (I take my chances without the cover)
  • It doesn’t feel good in your hand (sharp edges)
  • It’s so thin and flat that it’s hard to pick up and easy to drop
  • You can’t hold it between ear and shoulder
  • It requires you to hold it unnaturally (antenna problems)

Manual sync of email password is required when it expires (corporate policies)

The phone experience is poor (this is the main purpose no?)

  • An errant screen touch (or near touch) will dial
  • It doesn’t even need to be an errant touch – the screen does weird things during calls
  • An errant screen touch will hang up – on long calls with speakerphone where I need to mute and unmute it’s not unusual to have it hang up a dozen times – I’d bet most of the damage reported is purposeful…..
  • Separate contact lists strike again
  • The antenna problems are very real

The seamless Wifi integration is good

  • The constant Wifi nagging when near ‘foreign’ hotspots, not so much

Only a single 15minute meeting warning alarm (meetings – you know for work)

The auto-correct feature is hilarious, but possibly the most irritating feature of iOS. If you decide to turn it off you also lose spelling correction.

No way to copy music to the device or download updates without iTunes

  • The BB never had any updates (just got a new device)
  • Music was easy to copy to the BB via microSD card

The battery life is a small fraction of the BB (BB easily 3-4 days, iPhone lucky if you get 24 hours)

The tiny Apple white cube charger is very slow (not as strong as other larger USB chargers)

Lately I have been experiencing a rapid discharge of the battery (~8 hours sitting idle) – something is wrong

  • The white cube won’t charge if the phone is nearly dead (in the red)
  • I am beginning to think there are leaky apps that run down the battery even when idle

The iPhone is less business-like than the BB (more fun = less time on work)

Over 1/3 of folks here who initially got an iPhone have traded them in for a BB Torch. This amazes me. Given a choice, people wanted the iPhone. After using it, they wanted to go back to the BB.

  • One colleague who has an iPad and his wife has an iPhone traded his in for a BB
  • He felt like all he did was charge it constantly

Summary  –

The iPhone is a much better smartphone than my 4 year old Winmo or any of the current BBs, but there are other choices that can more than compete in this arena. It’s good, but no longer reigns supreme. It has a lot of small deficiencies in the corporate environment, but I won’t be trading it in for a BB. Perhaps things will be fixed and become less boring with the iPhone5. Is this the phone for me? I have a really hard time with such a complete sell-out to the Apple walled garden ecosystem, so the answer is No. My next personal cell phone will not be an iPhone. I’ll use my company iPhone whenever I need some slacker cred, but it’s not really me!

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20 Home Theater Gift Ideas http://hugger.us/?p=900 http://hugger.us/?p=900#respond Tue, 14 Dec 2010 20:07:37 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=900 I would label these suggestions as moderately priced. I don’t think anything is more than $200 and most are $100 or less. Don’t forget to check your baseline prices at Amazon!

Media Streaming Box

These Media Streaming boxes all offer similar types of network services – NetFlix, Hulu Pro, Flickr, Amazon Streaming, YouTube, and Web Channels. Read the reviews carefully to ensure that your intended use is available. I went with the WDTV because it was so highly rated for it’s ability to stream content from my LAN (NAS Storage).

WD TV Live Plus
Roku

Boxee Box
Popcorn Hour

NetFlix Membership

They will need either a Streaming box (from the previous suggestion) or a component already in the Home Theater that can handle this so check first. They now offer both ‘Disk & Streaming’ and ‘Streaming Only’ packages. My BluRay Player can handle NetFlix, but many TVs can do this now too.

Rii Mini Keyboard

This tiny keyboard can really make using online services like YouTube a breeze. It’s such a pain to type with just a D-Pad. Make sure your gear can use this before purchasing. It works fine with the WDTV box.

Current Sensing Outlet Strip

My sub-woofer is powered On all the time unless I manually switch it off. My receiver had no powered outlet to handle this task. This special outlet strip was the perfect solution for me – saves electricity too!

Auralex SubDude Subwoofer Isolation Platform

This is a great way to improve the bottom end.

Harmony One Universal Remote

The Harmony One is the heart and soul of my Home Theater system. Read my review HERE.

Movies

Can’t go wrong here! My suggestion – lots of exploding helicopters….. (c8

TV Package upgrade

How about upgrading the TV Package to the next level? They already have ‘America’s Top 100’? Get them the ‘Top 250’ package. See if they have or would desire the local network programming (same as you get with an antenna).

DVR

Most providers ‘rent’ their DVR. Pay for a years worth. Check with the provider carefully as they sometimes have small additional costs besides the hardware rental.

BluRay Player

Do they have an HD TV and no BluRay Player? Prices have Really come down recently. Read the reviews and pay particular attention to the startup time. Don’t forget a disk or two (one of the best BluRay players is the Sony Play Station 3, but it’s on the more costly side)

Sling Box

Nerd Alert – This Suggestion is only for the nerdliest recipients (see if they have a smartphone).
THIS is what I’m adding to my system (special DVR model required).

Made to Length Cables

Nothing reduces cable clutter quite like having cables that are made to the exact length you need. No loops or tangles. I can hear you now – the Monster Cable I bought cost  $250….. Check MonoPrice out. They have such great prices you have to buy extras just to get your order to be more than the shipping!

Cable Loom

This is a great way to organize that nest of cables behind your Home Theater cabinet. This gift would work perfectly in combination with the previous one. Oh and don’t forget the labor.

Calibration Disk

A properly calibrated system can make a huge difference in how your system looks and sounds. These DIY Calibration Systems are not perfect, but they do a decent job. Depending on how nerdly the recipient is, either just offer to do it (keep the disk for yourself) or let them have the disk and do it themselves.

Wireless Dongle

So much of our Home Theater gear requires a network connection. This would be a nice gift for the unwired home that still needs network connectivity for the Home Theater. These are necessarily manufacturer dependent (check what the manufacturer offers first, but also see if something more generic will work).

Disk Library Shelving

Try Home Depot for some pre-finished shelves and mounting hardware. Think about future growth of the collection as you plan. Don’t forget to offer your labor to install them.

Alphabetic Dividers for Library

I have a large collection of disks and these Inexpensive Dividers add such a polished touch. Enjoy that link. I searched a coons age for these.

Video Library Database

This Software is great for large collection. It can output a web page so your collection can be online. If you have a lot of movies, consider buying or borrowing a barcode reader. It will save you hours when you are doing the initial data entry. You simply scan the barcode (or type it in) and the software fills in all of the details for each movie (similar to IMDB). An inexpensive barcode scanner makes short work of the initial data entry.

Speaker Wall Mounts or Stands

These Stands and Supports are a really nice finishing touch – don’t forget to offer the labor.

Ipod Dock for Receiver

This is receiver dependent. Figure if your target receiver can use one. They are usually made by the receiver manufacturer.

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20 Inexpensive Gift Ideas for the Photographer in your Life http://hugger.us/?p=885 http://hugger.us/?p=885#comments Sat, 04 Dec 2010 19:34:33 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=885 These gift ideas are mostly on the inexpensive side (under $100). A few of them (like software upgrades) may be a bit more. These are nifty gadgets that any photographer will love and perhaps find indispensable.

Recommended photo gear shopping sites –

B&H Photo & Video
Amazon
You may find cheaper prices elsewhere, but always start here. The sweetness of a low price is short lived, while the bitter aftertaste of poor service can last a long time.

Flash Modifier

Google ‘flash modifier’ or ‘flash diffuser’ and check out the many different designs that are available. Stofen, Gary Fong, Harbour Digital are brands worth checking out. You can even DIY. I’m looking for this one in my stocking this year.

GPS Photo Logger

Geotagging your Photos is loads of fun. Sites like Flickr and Picassa will place your tagged photos on a map. It’s really fun to see who else took photos nearby. Lots of choices here too – check the selection at Semsons. My personal favorite is the AMOD AGL 3080. You can read my thoughts about it HERE. Don’t forget the software you’ll need (it’s free) – GeoSetter

Bubble Level

Just a block of plastic with 2 or 3 spirit levels in it. Just slide it into your hotshoe for level shots. Photo Jojo has them.

Battery Pack

In my experience with Canon DSLRs and Battery Packs, 2 batteries are enough. If the camera uses AA batteries you might think about a rechargeable kit like the Sanyo Eneloop. These new batteries have one outstanding feature – they don’t discharge when you aren’t using them. They even come fully charged!

Memory Card

A fast memory card is really nice when you are downloading images to your PC. I really like the Sandisk Extreme series. Stick with the name brand here – it matters. If your camera uses SD cards you may be interested in a Eye-Fi card. It’s a combination memory card and Wifi Adapter.

Lens Mug

I got one of these earlier this year and I love it. They come in Canon or Nikon models and look like the real thing. Available at Photo JoJo (check out their store for other great Photo Toys)

Compact Tripod

Gorilla Pods come in a great variety of styles that will work for a Compact P&S or a full sized DSLR. They have magnetic models and even one that is designed to support a flash.

Software Upgrade

Upgrade your photog’s favorite Photo Mangler to the latest version

Flickr Pro Membership

The Flickr Pro membership allows you to have unlimited photo storage.

Small MagLite for Camera Bag

A small, bright flashlight is a requirement IMHO. Try to get a split ring and attach a snap hook so it’s always available clipped to your bag.

Cable Release

A basic version (even the name brands) are just a switch on a short wire. There are also a wide range of inexpensive wireless models too as well as some that can shoot at intervals (for time-lapse).

Camera Strap

This is a great upgrade for any camera rig. I love my Optech strap.

Grey Card

An 18% grey card is the perfect tool for determining the correct exposure in difficult situations.

Collapsible Reflector

A reflective surface supported by a springy metal ring. A hand held reflector can give your shots that professional look. These often serve double duty by acting as a manual white balance target.

Camera Bag or Backpack

Look at LowePro Bags for ideas. Lots of other brands are equally nice.

Lens Hood

The current thought about using UV filters on your lenses for protection is – Don’t! There are some good reasons for this, but you do lose a measure of protection. A stiff lens hood makes a decent substitute as it fulfills its real purpose. I have one for each of my lenses (every lens has a different model hood). You store them by reversing the hood and leaving it on the lens.

Sensor Cleaning Kit

This is not for the faint of heart. Much research is needed before this should be attempted. They come in different sizes that match your camera’s sensor. I’ve used ones from American Recorder with some success.

Rocket Blaster

It looks like something from Buck Rodgers, but is really a simple blower for removing dust.

Microfiber Lens Cloth

These are special cloths that are designed to remove foreign material from your lenses with scratch the glass or coatings. Avoid the ‘kits’ with lots of useless junk and fluids. You might want to look at a Lenspen for something a bit more high tech that accomplishes the same thing.

Printing Supplies

How about a set of replacement Ink Cartridges? Shop around for a set (all colors in a pack) as they are a bit cheaper than individual cartridges (NewEgg offers these). Alternatively how about some nice paper stock? I love the heavy papers from Red River, but there other choices like card stock or even a few reams of regular inkjet paper.

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In defense of “Adequate Audio” http://hugger.us/?p=862 http://hugger.us/?p=862#respond Fri, 08 Oct 2010 13:57:04 +0000 http://hugger.us/?p=862 I’m from the old school of HiFi so please don’t misconstrue. I spent most of my high school and college years (~1970) lusting over MacIntosh, Marrantz and Bose. I remember hearing some Bose 901s and fell in love. Have you ever seen the Marrantz 150 FM tuner with the built-in oscilloscope? I got to play with these high end toys when I was young and they set my standards very high. Unfortunately my budget for such audiophile delights was non-existent. I bought my first true HiFi system in the Early 80s just as CDs were taking over. I was able to purchase a Kenwood system (all separate components) that pretty much fulfilled my audio lust –

  • 250 watt/channel Power Amp
  • Preamp
  • Surround Processor (w/ rear channel amp)
  • FM Tuner
  • Turntable
  • Dual Cassette Deck
  • CD Changer
  • Kenwood 3 way Speakers – 10” Woofers
  • Kenwood bookshelf rear Speakers

The components were all connected with a ‘network cable’ that allowed them to talk to each other. To listen to a CD you only had to turn on the CD player and it would switch on all of the other components and set up the inputs to play the CD. If you switched on the Turntable, it would switch everything over to that input automatically. I used it a lot for around 20 years. I used it to educate my children with the Beatles, Beach Boys, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jazz. Over the last ten years I’ve hardly used it at all. Now I listen to music on portable systems (Zune with Etymotics ER4 ear buds), very nice audio systems in my cars, and on my computer. For critical listening on my computer I start with a high end Creative X-Fi sound card, into a wonderful little T-Amp that I built (modded), and finally drive a pair of Klipsch RB35 reference speakers. Since I installed my new HT System in the living room, my Kenwood HiFi has been sitting in the basement covered in plastic.

You can read about my T-AMP project here – http://hugger.us/?p=27

I still believe there is a value in high quality audio. My listening habits have changed over the years, but I still hate compromising on audio quality. I’ll get to my point now. I love quality electronic gear and my home theater reflects this –

  • Samsung LN46A950 46″ LCD with matrix backlighting
  • Samsung BDP3600 Bluray Player
  • Dish Network Duo DVR VIP 722
  • Yamaha YHT-591 5.1 Receiver (4:1 HDMI) 105W x 5
  • 10” 100w powered Sub-Woofer
  • (Harmony One remote of course)

I rarely use this system to listen to music except as background (with Pandora). This system is mainly for watching video. I didn’t mention the speakers and here is where I differ from the popular, expert opinions I often hear. I can possibly see a value in spending more for a good Center Channel speaker and a good Sub-Woofer. Installing huge floor standing stereo speakers for the L&R front channels seems like a waste to me. This also applies to any other channels you may have (5.1, 7.1, Height, etc). I’ve heard it stated that 90% of the audio from a movie comes out of the Center channel. I just can’t see spending thousands on the L&R fronts when they are of such minor importance to cinematic sound. I ‘need’ my speakers to sound OK for video and also take up little space (small living room). I have found that these Yamaha speakers fill my needs very well –

I understand that these small speakers are full of compromises. I also trust that some engineer at Yamaha designed them to sound as good as possible within the capabilities of the receiver and design constraints. My HT is not a dedicated room where I could hide the speaker so smaller satellite style speakers were a definite plus. I have the three identical front speakers flush mounted on the wall*** and the two rears are on adjustable wall mounts. For my needs and budget they are fine. My speakers are in phase and balanced. TV and even cinematic audio rarely involve a pure stereo musical listening experience (the exception being the big soundtrack movies like Top Gun). Most of the time the music is in the background with effects and dialog on top. This argument is similar to one I remember from years ago – high end audio in your car is dumb. The car is so noisy to begin with, high end audio is wasted. Yes, there are minimum quality levels that are acceptable. I simply believe that above those minimum levels the benefits drop off exponentially as cost increases. My HTIB audio system is not the best, it is good, perhaps even very good and doesn’t deserve the harsh opinions that systems of this type often receive. There are two major shortcomings of this HTIB that require some minor work to overcome. The Yamaha remote is simply horrible. This is easily overcome with the Harmony One. The second shortcoming is how power to the Subwoofer is controlled. It’s always powered on. There is no audio sensing circuitry that will turn it on when needed. The receiver has no switched power outlet on the back (no non-switched either). This was solved with a current sensing power strip. When the power strip senses the receiver power on, it turn on the subwoofer.

I was listening to the Home Theater Geeks podcast by Scott Wilkinson this week. He is a true audiophile at heart and firmly believes in all that label entails. His guest this week was very interesting if you can get past his personality – Jeff Rona. Jeff is a musician and makes a living scoring movies. He uses top-of-the-line Pro Audio gear in calibrated environments all day for his work. His home theater is much more modest. His reasons for this were music to my ears. The last 20 minutes of the interview is where he describes his home system.

Home theater Geeks interview with Jeff Rona – http://twit.tv/htg36

*** Update
I have my TV wall mounted on an articulated Sanus mount. I have a window in the center of the wall and love the ability to move the TV over to the side when not in use (doesn’t block the window). Sometime I just watch it from the side. The wall mounted center speaker was sometimes several feet away from the TV. I recently found a center speaker mount from Sanus that securely holds the center speaker just below the TV. Now it’s perfectly placed no matter where the TV is positioned.

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