Photos Spare Cycles MythBusters

Category: personal: consumer

October 19, 2008

'Tis mine


I know I have issues when I go to buy boxers and I come back with a MacBook Pro. I've avoided buying laptops as I've always had a work laptop, but that was before I was really into photography. Apple's revamp did my wallet in and is my first Mac purchase, though I've been using Macs at work for the past several years. Now that the case is much stiffer and has a virtual right click button, I can mostly shut my mouth about the differences between PC and Apple hardware.

I like the new revamp a lot. It feels much more sturdy, which is good considering that I bent the CD drive out of shape on my old Pro. The case also has the subtle detailing that I found lacking in the previous Mac Pro design and feels like a much more worthy successor to the Ti design. The trackpad is much smoother and the entire-trackpad-is-a-button is pretty sweet. I'm not sure about gestures yet: four-finger and three-finger swipes are pretty cool, but I'm still not used to accidentally triggering the resize gesture. It is inevitable that one of my nervous habits will collide with a new feature: tapping the mouse 'button' looks a lot like a pinching motion. Windows broke me of my shift-key tapping habit and Google Desktop broke me of my ctrl-key tapping habit -- I may go into nervous breakdown if I can't find a free key.

Oh, and I did manage to get the boxers.

May 3, 2008

New Bike!


See my spare cycles blog

January 30, 2008

Eye-Fi on the way and other camera bits

My Eye-Fi is on the way, prepare to see a spammage of low-quality point-and-shoot ELPH photos on my Flickr stream. I just read that the Nikon D60 automatically adjusts its power settings for the Eye-Fi --one of the annoyances the Eye-Fi setup tries to navigate you through is IDing your camera and then telling you how to adjust the settings so that your camera stays on long enough to transfer the photos. It's nice to see the product getting mainstream traction from camera makers.

I may have just complained about the Rebel XSi getting 12MP vs. the 40D's 10MP, though I realize that in practice 2MP at that size means jack squat. What would really set my heart aflutter is Sony's new 24.73MP, 6.3fps, full-frame sensor. Given my Sony boycott -- or rather my $8000+ worth of Canon equipment -- it won't be in anything I own, but I can always dream that a Canon 5D successor will have similar stats.

January 3, 2008

The 40D is coming

canon40d.jpg2008 has arrived (Happy New Years!) and soon my Canon 40D will as well. The $1149 price held and the Tour of California is only 45 days away, so its time to break in some 2008 gear.

I'm hoping that this is my main purchase for 2008 as 2007 was an expensive year: 70-200 f/2.8L with 1.4x extender, 580EX II, and 16-35 f/2.8 II. The 40D bumps my old Digital Rebel 300D out of the lineup and will mean that I no longer have to bug m every time I need to borrow camera equipment. I've heard recommendations for a 300mm lens to shoot finish lines, but I'm going to have to do a lot more pushups and earn a lot more cash before that becomes a reality. I still have a 35mm-70mm gap in my lens lineup, but with two camera bodies I'm happier going long and wide.

August 29, 2007

They're here: 70-200 f/2.8 and 1.4x

New Toy (the bigger one)

Two new toys arrived in the mail for me today: the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS USM and the Canon 1.4x extender. I've long been eying these as additions to my cycling photography arsenal, but I didn't view myself as 'worthy' of them at the start. Actually, price was probably more a factor. With the Tour of Missouri coming up, I figured now was the time to take the pocketbook plunge.

Experience matters for photography, but let's not kid ourselves. The person with the more expensive equipment will take better photos, at least for sports photography, where your photos have to been in focus to qualify. I took cycling photos for years with a film and analog Rebel, but it was the Canon 30D that immediately took things to the next level.

I'm hoping for the same sort of results with the 70-200 f/2.8 IS and 1.4x combo. The image stabilization in the 70-200 f/2.8 IS has a specific mode for doing panning photography, which is a popular staple of cycling photography (example). The extra advantage of the f/2.8 should also help in darker conditions, which my old 70-200 f/4 suffers in. One other bonus: weather sealing, which matters when you're trying to run around with a plastic baggie trying to keep the rain out.

As for the 1.4x, it's my compromise. It's been recommended to me that I pick up a 300mm lens, and there's been no lack of them at the finishing line of events that I visit. A 200mm isn't long enough in those situations and a 300mm collapses the depth of field better. Unfortunately, a 300mm requires man-of-steel arms to lug around. I've seen a photographer leave his 300mm in the media van rather than lug it around the course.

A 1.4x is cheaper and lighter. It will turn my 70-200 f/2.8 into a 98-280 f/4, which should fit the bill (an extender affects both the focal length and aperture). I was always worried that 1.4x or 2x extender would slow down my old f/4 lens too much, but the f/2.8 provides that extra breathing room.

I'll have several occasions in September to break the new equipment in. Hopefully it will perform well. In any case, it's another step towards guaranteeing that I never make money off of photography.

70200_28lis_usm.jpg canon14.jpg

June 30, 2007



Steve Jobs was on hand to bless the phones as we exited the store. Jobs wouldn't let me take his photo and an Apple store employee informed me that they wanted to, "protect his privacy," which seems odd given that he's Steve Jobs... at the Palo Alto Apple Store... on the day of the iPhone launch. There are better ways to protect his privacy. bp managed to snap a photo with one of the demo iPhones, except those aren't configured to send e-mail. So if you want to see a photo, check out the demo phones at the store ;).

I didn't get there until about 5pm and there were so many phones that I don't know if they sold out or not. One guy attempted to sell an extra phone to those in line at cost, which makes you wonder why he even bought the second phone to begin with. There was also an iPhone dissection that occurred in front of the store, which I may eventually post photos of.

Oh yeah, it's thinner than I thought it would be and Youtube looks better than Youtube. Now I just need to figure out the darn keyboard -- though I may have to wait awhile as this weekend in our move.

June 7, 2007

TiVo Series 3: It's Here!

tivo.jpgIt's definitely the most nicely packed TiVo I've ever received (similar to getting a MacBook). I rushed as quickly as I could through the setup process so that I could watch the NBA Finals in HD glory, and now there they are -- Tony Parker is kicking some butt.

  • New remote has a nice button snap and light-up buttons, but the shiny surface is a finger-/hand-print nightmare.
  • The new display with clock and recording info on the front of the TiVo is a very nice touch, as are the button controls so you don't have to find the remote.
  • Having a THX logo sequence at the end of setup is pretty cool.
  • Menus are much, much faster -- though I'm sure future TiVo service updates will slow them down.
  • Although it will play them, the Series 3 seems to have no idea what 7-1, 5-1, etc... (i.e. the HD channels) are on my analog cable. They don't show up in the channel guide and there is no program information. I hope this will change when I get CableCards, but, for now, recording channels is going to be a pain as I have to use the manual record options.
  • Comcast wanted $15 to come and install the CableCARDs now, but it's free if I wait three weeks: they waive installation fees when you transfer your service when you move. Go figure.
  • Comcast also wants $1.50/mo for the CableCARDs, which isn't much, but it's a bit of a crock as I am paying for their content protection.
  • Unanticipated cost: $50-100 for an HDMI switch as my TV only has one HDMI input.

June 4, 2007

TiVo Series 3: ETA 3 days

I gave in and bought a TiVo Series 3 from Amazon -- after rebate it should be $406.95. Why?

Plan A: Save up TiVo Reward Points and get a Series 3 for free. I already had 25,000 referral points, so I thought it might be a good bet. I started about a year before the Series 3 came out, expecting it to debut for about $500, but was blown away when it ended up cost $800. I was going to need a whole lot more reward points.

Plan B: Get more points. I figured it couldn't stay $800 forever and discounts were quickly showing up that priced it at $600. Eventually they would lower the number of reward points required, and whenever that was I would have even more points. TiVo did reduce the number of points required by 10,000, but then Plan B was shot: points expire after 2 years.

In all my patient waiting, I didn't notice that some of my initial 25,000 points were going down the tube. In the rewards e-mail that TiVo sends you, it reports # of referral points (A), # of credit card points (B), and total (C). Without taking the time to notice the total, everything looked normal. My referral points were stable, my credit card points were going steadily up, and within months I would have my Series 3. As it turns out, A+B is not equal to C. TiVo deducts them from the total without adjusting the other reports. By the time I had noticed, 10,000 points were down the drain. By the time I had built those 10,000 points back up, more than 10,000 would expire. In other words, Plan B failed.

Plan C: eBay! With the TiVo Series 3 available for $406, I can actually get one for 'free' by cashing in my reward points for other items. In fact, with the number of points I have, I can get two Bose Sounddocks and an iPod shuffle, or plenty of other items worth more than a TiVo Series 3. (many thanks to m for loaning me eBay Karma). If all goes well, I might even have some dough leftover, or I might keep one of those extra rewards for myself ;).

So, not exactly according to plan, but a long-held desire fulfilled.

May 24, 2007

My first flash: Canon 580EX II

580exII.jpgI got two presents in the mail today: a new flash and my first paycheck as a photographer. It's as if the karmic forces of photography were perfectly aligned today. If only all my orders from Amazon arrived with checks.

I've never had an external flash before. The flash recycling sound that most external flashes make gives me a headache and most of my photography has been shot at 200mm in daylight -- not the best use case. I had to consider a new addition to my gear once I decided to start shooting mountain biking. Dirt doesn't reflect as much light as pavement and you're also able to shoot a lot close to the riders. Both of these re-establish the flash as an important piece of gear.

Luckily, Canon recently announced the Canon 580 EX II, which is the virtually silent successor to the 580EX. It recycles faster, is smaller, and has better weather-sealing. It also adds a PC socket, which, according to Strobist, should make my life ever-so-slightly easier by not requiring any adapters for the Pocket Wizards that SportsShooter and Strobist are making me crave next.

I briefly had the 580EX (pre-II) by accident and already the 580EX II is feeling like a better piece of hardware. The build quality and hot shoe lock are much improved and I can't detect a hint of flash recycling noise.

I'm looking forward to giving it a test run, though there's definitely a lot more buttons to press now. As if I didn't have enough trouble getting dialed in, but I know I'm going to have fun with it.

Canon 580EX II

April 9, 2007

Branching out with a new lens

crossposted from spare cycles

canon1635II.jpgThe newest lens in my small arsenal is the recently released Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II. Its bigger, badder, and more expensive than its predecessor. The Mark I was known for being a bit soft at the edge, so much so that some people have gone for the half-as-expensive 17-40 f/4 instead. The Mark II helps re-justify the 16-35's greater price tag. Of course, none of that really matters if you're shooting with a Canon 10/20/30D or Digital Rebel -- the 1.6x crop factor of those cameras cuts off all the fuzzy bits -- but lenses outlast the bodies they're attached to. One day I hope to have a full-frame camera for shooting architecture.

I was in a bit of a rush to get this lens because I want to break it in at Sea Otter this weekend. The wideness will be more useful for MTB shots and will also help me get some nice panoramas of Laguna Seca. It will also be useful for road shots where I'm standing really close to the action.

Rather than recommend the same course of action to others, I'll list the pros and cons I debated in choosing this rather extravagant purchase.

Pros: * f/2.8 is fast and you'll need if you are planning on shooting in the woods or in bad weather * better edge sharpness than the Mark I, though not applicable for 1.6x crop cameras * 1.6mm wider than the 17-40mm f/4L on a 1.6x crop camera

Cons: * $300-400 more than the Mark I * Over twice as expensive as the 17-40mm f/4L. In fact, you could almost buy a 17-40mm f/4L and a 70-200 f/2.8L for the same price.

April 2, 2007

Arrived, finally

My Mimoco Chewbacca usb drive has arrived at long last (Mimoco wrote a letter to apologize for the long preorder delay). It's all good -- the protohoodie is even more hilarious than I thought it would be.

IMG_4539 IMG_4538

February 26, 2007

Post-race lens purchase?

My Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L lens was a champ during the Tour of California. Once I got a decent camera body to stick it on, its true quality shined like a diamond. But I have a whole void for < 70mm that I need to fill. Milling about the start area in Santa Barbara as well as the post-race interviews, it simply wasn't possible to frame a lot of shots unless I wanted closeups of nose hair.

One of the longest discussions I had during the Tour of California was asking another photographer for recommendations as to which lens to get next. Two in my book ranked highly as contenders: the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L and the Canon 17-40 f/4L. The 16-35 is twice as expensive for the extra 1mm of wideness (1.6mm on my 30D), but the f/2.8 could come in handy if I start using it for mountain bike races. The 17-40 has an extra 5mm (8mm on 30D) of reach. Another plus for the 17-40 is that is much sharper at the edges than the 16-35, though this doesn't matter as much if you have a 1.6x crop factor camera (like the 30D). This photographer actually knew colleagues who turned in their 16-35s for 17-40s because of this sharpness issue (money wasn't an issue).

Canon may have settled the debate for me last week if I can locate the money:


The new Canon EF 16-35mm II is designed to improve the sharpness issues of its predecessor. Not much is known about this lens yet as I have not seen any hands on reviews. About the only complaint I see with the new specs is that it now requires an 82mm filter instead of 77mm filter, which will cost you a few extra bucks... but you should have a few extra bucks if you can afford this lens in the first place.

January 22, 2007

Wii'd up

I got my Wii, an extra Wiimote + nunchuk, WarioWare Smooth Moves, Madden 07, and (of course) Zelda: Twilight Princess. I played a game of Madden '07 so I could ignore the Saints being beaten by the Bears, broke-in my Mii on Wii Sports, and I played several crack-smoking levels of Wario -- odd(ly) fun(ny) is how I can best describe it. Zelda: Twilight Princess remains on the shelf -- I wish to savor it, much like how one saves the best part of a meal for last.

My Wii Code is 1418 3492 0962 8370. Get your own WiiBadge at!

FYI: Although it was not my source, I highly recommend Target for future Wii purchases (unless you're going for the $50 trade-in that Gamestop is offering). Targets in Sunnyvale and Mountain View had 70-80 Wiis. Best Buy had 30. Circuit City had 18.

December 26, 2006

Newest gadget

Luckily for d, gadgets do not have to be limited to things that play music or store photos. A gadget for me is anything that displays cleverness with respect to its function: double points if the gadget itself gives you more insight into the nature of the function. Thus, my latest 'gadget' is a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Why is d lucky? Because I consider the Dyson a gadget, it provides as much entertainment as using an iPod, much in the same way some might consider the weather channel on the Wii a game.

My aunt and uncle showed me their Dyson vacuum cleaner a couple years back and I've wanted one ever since. It feels like a vacuum cleaner designed by someone who really, really likes vacuuming. There's no height adjuster, just a simple switch you can hit with your foot to raise or lower the brushes. It also has a wand with extra long reach that you remove from the Dyson like Excalibur.

The best feature, though, is a clear bay in front in which you can watch the collected spin round and round, growing into a larger and larger gray-black Hedora monster. When it fills up, which actually happens frightfully quick, a simple switch detaches the bay from the vacuum cleaner. Your role then switches from vacuumer to hazardous waste disposal. You carry the chamber by its handle at arms length over the trash, stick the bottom of the chamber deep into the trash where you don't have to see it, and pull the trigger.

This visibility of collection is both fun and dangerous. I like watching the dirt swirl together like a mini tornado, but this dirt swirl also makes it clear that your carpet is never clean. The first time I used it, I got it to the 'max' line in a quick spin around the apartment. The next time around was less, but I have the feeling that no matter how many times you use the Dyson, it will collect something, even if it has to rip every stray fiber from your carpet. A particularly OCD person might be compelled to vacuum every hour, which could convince your neighbors that you're on amphetamines.

My only worry with the Dyson is that like most vacuum cleaners nowadays, it is mostly made of plastic. I don't see it lasting the 20 years my Kirby vacuum cleaner did. But I guess like any good gadget, it requests that you upgrade it every couple of years.


Photo of the Dyson's first run:


July 12, 2006

I'm a winner!

(crossposted from spare cycles)

I've been picking up some of the Tour Mania scratch and win cards from my local bike shop and today I won a Livestrong laptop! I am excited as this being my first-ever big prize win. Of course, I'm the last person that needs another computer and I'm not-so-excited about the taxes for the sucker, but I'll figure that out later.

You can also be a winner -- you can even play online at If you win a Madone 5.2 I'll trade you ;).

livestrong laptop

June 5, 2006

The 30D is here

But I didn't bring a lens to work so I have to sit and stare at it all day. How cruel. Help! GadgetGuy! Save Me!

Update: As parakkum, honeyfields, d, and m can attest, I giggled the first time I pressed the shutter button on the 30D. The frame rate is so fast in comparison to my Rebel. The Rebel is like "click. click. click." The 30D is "clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick." The camera still awaits its in-the-field test with fast-moving objects, but I think me and 30D are going to be good friends.

Continue reading "The 30D is here" »

June 1, 2006

Well, there goes my bank account

I just ordered a Canon 30d -- I'm hoping it's worth every penny because it's quite a mound of them. I'm trying to take my cycling photography to the next level and -- even though I'm not quite ready for it -- the 30d should alleviate some of my gripes with the Rebel 300D (hard to tell if things are in focus with viewfinder, can't activate AI servo independently, slow startup, low fps, etc...). Although I was jealous to see one of my co-workers with the Canon 5d, the 30d should actually be a better for action photography.

In other action photography news, as of Tuesday that wonderful blow-up-stuff show now has the rights to some of my photos for their Web site. Irony is delicious.

Continue reading "Well, there goes my bank account" »

April 4, 2006

They call it, 'MagnaView'

I'm starting to get addicted to United Nuclear. First it was aerogel, now it's magnets. Two of them items that caught my eye were the MagnaView fluid and the small neodymium magnets. The 'supermagnets' that can crush fingers also caught my eye, but that's about the last thing I want in my electronics-laden household.

I've wanted MagnaView fluid ever since I saw videos of it from SIGGRAPH. The small magnets were interesting because I want to make a traffic light trigger for my bike shoes. As it turns out, the small magnets are a little too weak: too weak to make a traffic light trigger and too weak to make the super spikes you see in on the United Nuclear page and in the SIGGRAPH ferrofluid sculpture.

The MagnaView fluid and small neodymium magnets are still fun to play with, but I'm definitely going to have to upgrade to a bigger magnet. My own manipulation of the fluid pales in comparison to the ferrofluid sculpture, but I've uploaded it to YouTube anyway in case you're interested.

March 18, 2006


paul and I ordered some aerogel from United Nuclear, fine purveyors of radioactive materials, super strong magnets, and other fine materials. I've long wanted aerogel ever since I saw ghostly pictures of this substance, which holds the Guinness world record for lowest-density solid, best insulator, and thirteen other records. I received two dime-sized pieces. They aren't as cool as an entire brick of aerogel, but at $40 for even these small bits, a brick is rather out of the question.


The aerogel feels like you're handling an impossibly light and miniaturized piece of pumice and it's just as prone to shedding little bits of itself. It's 90-99.8% air and the edges of the pieces seem barely defined. When the aerogel is placed against a dark background it's like blue smoke that comes out of a tailpipe when a transmission has gone awry. Against a white background it nearly disappears into a faint outline -- a lot of what you're seeing for the clear piece in the photo is little bits of the blue velvet from the packaging stuck to it. The blue smoke/clear effect is due to Rayleigh scattering -- the scattering of light by particles smaller than the light's wavelength. It's an extremely strong dessicant as it's essentially the same chemical makeup as the silica gel dessicant packets you sometimes get in packaging. You have to be careful holding it as it will suck all the moisture out of your hands. You also have to be careful as it isn't very difficult to crush it into smaller bits.

Making aerogel seems a bit out of the question for my resources. Either one must be able to make alcohol a supercritical fluid (280 C/1800 lbs per sq inch), hard and also highly explosive, or you need access to liquid carbon dioxide and make it a supercritical fluid (600-800 lbs per sq inch). (History of aerogel and description of how to make).

One of the questions people seem to have about our pieces is, "What are we going to do with them?" Well, we probably won't use it to catch comet samples, and I don't think I'll be using it as a microchip insulator. For now I think I'll blowtorch one of the pieces and then keep the other on my shelf :).

January 20, 2006

Case-ari iPod nano case review

case-ari caseI just received my Case-ari iPod nano case, which will replacing my homemade Altoids case. The Case-ari case is similar to the premium Vaja leather cases, but about half the price as they ship from Georgia instead of Argentina and they don't offer any customization.

I approve of the Case-ari case so far. It comes with a detachable belt clip and plastic screen protectors that you stick right on the screen and scrollwheel. Strangely there is no protector for the center button. The inside of the case is plush and there is a separate cleaning cloth. The customer service, from what I have seen, is good. Within a couple hours of my order they called to let me know that my chosen color was out of stock and gave me the choice of choosing a different color, cancelling, or waiting. The case also arrived with a free Case-ari keychain and signed personalized letter. All little things, but quite a lot for a $24.95 product when compared to the crap you might find for the same price in the Apple Store.

I liked the Altoids case, but I never quite finished it and it felt silly carrying around something as large as a regular iPod to transport a nano. I may revive the Altoids case for snowboarding or the like, but otherwise the Case-ari case will be absorbing most of the blows.

January 3, 2006

Farewell Mr. Sony


comparison pic 2

Three years ago, all of the remotes on my coffee table were Sony: TV, TiVo, PlayStation 2 and VCR. Now all that remains is that ancient device, the VCR. The PS2 remote has been surplanted by a Panasonic DVD remote, the Sony TiVo is out on loan, and now the TV will end up on Craigslist.

By the way, a lesson to all of you trying to get HDTV from Comcast, you don't need to pay the $5 for the set-top box or get a CableCARD or switch to digital cable or do any other nonsense. If your HDTV has a builtin tuner, then you should be able to get any broadcast HD channel by plugging in the cable to the back of the TV. You'll get HD ABC, Fox, etc... You won't get ESPN HD, Discovery HD, or any of the other pay channels, but you won't pay extra either.

January 2, 2006

My new baby

plasma tv

42" diagonal, a healthy 76 lbs. Due home on Tuesday.

Continue reading "My new baby" »

October 13, 2005

Toys, toys, toys! (Nano edition)


Screw the new iPod with video -- thanks to d I have a svelte small tiny iPod nano. My Elph is jealous. My only problem is that I don't have a sock small enough to hold it. Thanks d!

update: d got some baby socks (0-3 months) for my nano. They fit perfectly. Scary small. My baby nano.

September 28, 2005

Latest toy

I got a new SD300 to replace my old dead Elph that had served me well. I was annoyed to have to buy new memory for it, but when I turned it on with its new 1GB SD card and saw "873" photos left I was too happy to care.

August 30, 2005

Tuk Tuk

I love the new Tuk Tuk Thai/Asian grocery store on University Ave in Berkeley. I walk past it during one of my commutes and it always tempts me with Pocky and $4.25 heaping plates of takeout Thai food. I have not yet attempted to make a Thai recipe using ingredients purchased there, but they do have a tuk tuk sitting inside the store, which must be relevant somehow.

I had already been there five or so times, but it wasn't until my latest trip that I became convinced of the quality and authenticity of their goods. Read the extended entry if you care to find out...

Continue reading "Tuk Tuk" »

August 23, 2005

PSP: Partial Results

I've had more time to play with the PSP now that I got a 1GB memory stick for it. I succesfully downloaded some episodes of Battlestar Galactica that I had missed and re-encoded them for my PSP. Most of the setup was painless, but there is a lot of waiting between steps. At least I have several episodes now so that should hold me for awhile.

I had a much worse time trying to get TiVo programs onto my PSP. It appears that either you're lucky and it works or you're unlucky and you have to add some extra time-consuming steps and software. I'm an unlucky one so I'll have to re-experiment with my other options to see how they work out. I'd rather it not take 10 minutes for me to load 45 minutes worth of programming to watch on the train; at that point I'll just go back to reading books.

I dream of the process as simple as iPod + iTunes, though we as consumers have much less control over our video as we do our music. If Sony were consumer-friendly, they would have released a program for the PSP that would let me transfer my DVDs onto it painlessly. Instead, they want me to pay $21 for a UMD version of Kill Bill even though the DVD version is only $15. Go figure. The only comparison that comes to mind would be if Apple had released the iPod and told it's customers that it would only play $20 albums from the iTunes Music Store.

August 15, 2005

Kite camera acquired?

In my previous post I neglected to mention that I also got an Olympus 3020 digital camera for very cheap. It's 3MP, which is all I need from it as I will either use it for:

It's rather big and heavy, but given that others have managed to rig up SLRs to kites I think I should be able to pull off kite photography if I work up the nerve.

Giving in

A kinda sorta, but not really, broke my Sony boycott by getting a Sony PSP. But I don't think I actually technically broke the boycott as I got it at a charity auction, which means none of my dollars ended up in Sony's pocket. However, as I am now obligated to buy things for the PSP, like more memory with which to store episodes of the Daily Show and Battlestar Galactica, it all goes to show that I really have no backbone when it comes to gadget issues.

Steve Jobs can diss handheld video all he wants -- I watched Spiderman 2 on Sunday and I found it liberating to be able to walk around the house and do my chores (cooking, typing, photo retouching) while being entertained by a movie I love. The video quality is as good as a TV and is beautiful any which way you look at it. The true test, though, will be how easy I find it to load new videos onto it, which I will test out as soon as my larger memory card arrives.

August 10, 2005

Custom decals

I'm singing the praises of inkjet decal paper now. I picked up some sheets over at San Antonio Hobby Shop after I saw some in their display window and I'm now salivating with the possibilities. The combination of decals and inkjet satisfies that instant gratification need: see, print, attach. I feel much like I did when I first got my photo printer and gleefully went through stacks of photo paper, or when I was a little kid and I got one of those old dymo label makers.

For those who are interested, for less than $15 you can get:

  • inkjet decal paper (3 sheets)
  • decal bonding spray
  • clear coat

Those of you who built models as a kid should be familiar with the process. For those of you who aren't, you print the image out on the decal paper and give it a good coating of bonding spray. The bonding spray will make sure that the ink doesn't run. When it's dry you cut out the decal, soak it in water so that it comes loose from the backing. Lightly wet the surface that you're transferring to and slide the decal into position. Blot the loose water from decal and let it dry. Later on, give it two or three coats of clear coat to make it permanent.

June 3, 2005



Yesterday I went over to Allison BMW for their 3-series launch party. My main reason for going there was that I figured they would have lots of good free food -- gotta justify the high cost of my car somehow.

06-03-05.umbrella.small.jpgThe most striking impression I had about the new 3-series had nothing to do with the exterior -- BMW really Americanized and IKEA'd the interior of this car. The defining moment in this realization was when I noticed that for only $60 you can get an umbrella holder for the front passenger seat (comes with umbrella). Also, if five cup-holders aren't enough, the ski-bag add-on has been modularized; you can snap-in a storage module or two extra drink holders (in case your backseat passengers need 4 cupholders).

In the trunk they offer four optional mat accessories (anti-slip, fitted luggage, tray, and all-weather) as well as seven storage add-ons (grocery holder, drawer, tensioning straps, collapsible box, brackets, floor net, and organizer). Other interesting/odd options include: * coat hanger that mounts to the back of the head rest ($30) * remote control for your house lights ($79) * bicycle lift for your roof rack ($330) * two different attachable map lights ($25/$38) and a 'portable pocket lamp' that recharges in the cigarette adapter.

The only additional that really mattered to me was that they added a line-in and cigarette adapter under the console arm-rest. Lift up the cover and you can't help but picture your iPod nesting comfortably there feeding you good tunes.

[caveat: they've probably had a lot of these options for some time now -- I couldn't afford the accessories market when I bought my car in 2001 -- but seven cupholders???]

May 21, 2005

Cheap and wonderful

Blue boxA lot of the folks over in the Canon DSLR forum were recommending the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, so I finally picked one up. It's not an amazing lens, but the important part of the lens is it's price tag: $80. For $80 you get a lens that's small, light, and with a big 1.8 aperture. The autofocus sucks and the manual focus ring is a tad hard-to-use, but it was nice to my wallet and it can take some nice photos.

Flowers Plant Leaves Leaves Above the stair Beau Bunny

I also got some close-up lenses for my 70-200mm so that I can take zoomed-up photos of bugs and flowers. I haven't taken that for a spin yet.

April 21, 2005

Yet-Another TiVo

TiVo has a deal for rewards program members where you can get a 140-hour TiVo for free if you pay for a 1-year or lifetime subscription -- naturally, the TiVo-hoor that I am, I was on the phone within minutes ordering one. My little 40-hour was getting strained w/ four people using it, and my other 40-hour unit is still out on loan to a friend. Besides, now I should be able to keep an entire season's worth of MythBusters, no sweat.

There isn't enough room in my TV stand to store two TiVos, so I'm am offering my Series 2 40-hour unit out as a lender to friends with one condition: two weeks only (otherwise, I can't lend it to someone else).

Eventually I plan on using the 40-hour TiVo for testing the experimental Home Media Engine. Last time I played with this feature, my TiVo got extra slow and was more crash-prone, so it will be nice to be able to play with Google Maps and Flickr on my TV without worrying about stability.

March 12, 2005

Legacy sucks

I'm trying to update my laptop (video BIOS). The update software requires a floppy disk to install. My laptop does not have a floppy drive.

December 28, 2004

Last Christmas gadget? is a dangerous season for my wallet. My birthday comes two months beforehand, so during the period I have far too many excuses that enable me to upgrade/acquire gadgets. My current tally for the October-December period is (made possible by the generosity of my family): * Digital Rebel and 70-200mm telephoto lens * eTrek GPS receiver * Canon ip4000R wireless photo printer * Replacement battery for iPod * USB 2.0 Flash card reader * Netgear 802.11g wireless hub * 802.11b wireless adapter for TiVo * extra TiVo remote (free) * digital camera for sister

So many rebate slips to fill out...

The latest, and hopefully last of the acquisitions (except perhaps for a TiVo upgrade to a DVD recording model), is the Nokia 6820 that I have been talking about constantly ever since my 6800 [went through the wash][wash]. Since the washing incident, I had managed to put a hole through the plastic cover protecting the screen, which wouldn't be so bad except for it allowed all sorts of dust, dirty, and pennies to collect inside the screen, which meant that I would have to hold my phone at odd angles in order to see what was being displayed. So at long last, I now have a 6820, though perhaps not, as Cingular's systems were down yesterday and they still have not actually activated the new service. Seni seriously tempted me with his Web browsing demo of the 6620, but they wanted an extra $100 for it, and I couldn't justify the extra money (especially as I glanced at the huge hole in the screen of my phone that prompted its replacement).

December 24, 2004

more toys

12-24-04.etrex.jpgJust received an excellent present from my UP/AJ: An eTrex GPS unit. A GPS unit + digital camera + Keyhole (or possibly USAPhotoMaps) should be the good recipe for some photo map goodness. I'm a complete GPS neophyte, so this should be interesting.

December 23, 2004

Guts and crumbs

There are many photos of dissected iPods on the Web, but these are the only photos of my dissected iPod. Neil was kind enough to send these along to me as I didn't have a camera at work to document my poor fixit skills. I'm mainly posting these as I want you to notice the subway sandwich in the background, which I was eating as I dissected the iPod in my lap -- and I wonder why my gadgets keep breaking on me.



  • Large blue thing: hard drive sandwich (two pieces of blue rubber with hard drive in the middle)
  • Little blue thing: new battery

Rockin' printer

My new ip4000r wireless printer rocks, as in, it's big and heavy like a rock and its print quality is awesome. It's also rock solid, as I managed to tumble it off of my nightstand onto the floor below (the print heads didn't even need realignment). I feel like being an hp commercial and covering the walls of my room with photos, but the economics of such a indulgence allow me to resist.

I must say, though, that I would never recommend this printer to my parents, or anyone else not technically literate. This printer is complicated through-and-through, including both the physical printer (tons of flaps/trays that fold up and down and slide in and out) as well as the lengthy setup software that comes with it. Or maybe these complaints are my excuse for having dropped my expensive toy...

December 22, 2004

Where does this go?

I put the new battery in the iPod -- rather interesting to see the innards -- but now I have this foam spacer piece left over. I wonder where it goes? (shake shake jiggle jiggle)

Today's Toys: Something old, something new

Tracking numbers tell me that by the end of the day I should have a Canon ip400r Wireless Photo Printer and a new battery for my iPod. With an 802.11 printer I feel the urge to place it somewhere completely incongruous, like sitting on top of the toilet for just-in-time-bathroom-reading-material printing or one-way messaging into the bathroom (e.g. "Hurry up! I need to pee!"). If toilet paper didn't jam the printer there would be so many more possibilities...

December 13, 2004

Boycotting Sony

I've already thought ahead for a New Year's Resolution and have chosen one that will be easy to keep: I'm boycotting Sony (just their devices, not ready to give up Spiderman movies just yet). Just a few years back this would have been unthinkable, as every remote I owned was a Sony remote (TV, VCR, PS2, TiVo), and I even had a Sony VAIO laptop. This comic would have captured me perfectly. Now, however, the TiVo has been replaced with a brandless Series 2, the laptop has permanently died (replaced by a Dell), the Gamecube grabs more of my attention, the VCR is an archaic device, and my TV emits a high-pitched noise that calls for its eventual replacement.

This symbolic exit of Sony devices of yesterday is matched by a general lack of interest in the Sony devices of today and tomorrow. I visited the Sony Style store last night in search of X-mas gifts and tried out both of their hard drive music players, the one with the weird grid buttons, and the one that's as small as a iPod mini. Both were awkward and ungraceful to use -- neither could tempt me away from my broken iPod.

Add on top of all of this poor PSP battery life and load times, stupid legal pressure and belated mp3 support, and my boycott is no longer New Year's resolution but, rather, a smart consumer choice.

December 8, 2004

Camera solution

digital rebelI converted my camera crisis into a monetary crisis. From all of your advice it seemed clear that I could get my elph repaired, but it would take time. Rather than end up with two small digital cameras, I caved into gadget lust and got the Canon EOS Digital Rebel so I can take photos in 6 megapixel SLR glory (~$660 after rebate from buydig). Not to be content with only spending 3 figures, I broke the $1k barrier by also getting a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Telephoto Zoom lens. My main use of my old Rebel in the past was to take landscape and sports photos, but I was always frustrated by my lack of telephoto capability. Although the lens I got is not ultrafast, it should do well enough for California-weather sports.


Continue reading "Camera solution" »

December 6, 2004

FRICK!: Help!

My digital camera has died. Unlike my broken iPod/Apple, I can't complain about Canon as much as the Elph's been through a lot -- it was solid as a rock, and I treated it like one.

Now, the important part: I really need to get the camera fixed ASAP, or I need some good recommendations on what to replace it with. My sister's having her kid in a couple weeks, and there's no way I'm heading to West Virginia minus a camera (at the very least it will be a good hand warmer outside in the snow). I have no clue as to where one goes to get a digital camera fixed quickly, or if such an operation is even possible.


December 5, 2004

So... much... furniture...

I apologize in advance to those who helped me move. This message may pain you.

I'm on the verge of a massive furniture purge. It turns out that when you move into a smaller place, what you thought wasn't very much furniture turns out to be a lot of furniture. Also, not being able to move particular possessions of mine makes me want to remove my attachment to them.

The definite purges (may already be claimed):
* twin-sized futon barcolounger (there just isn't room for two baroloungers in the living room, or two futons for that matter)
* printer stand

Possible purges:
* two black 3-shelf bookcases (Walmart particle board variety)
* two cherry five-shelf bookcases
* IKEA Poang chair (needs a new pad)
* guitar amp (need one that I can actually carry around)
* radiator-style heater (may already be claimed)
* snowboard for 6'2" sized person

We're trying to replace the bookcases with lighter ones, so a prisoner exchange would also be possible.

Feel free to contact me if you are interested.

November 10, 2004

F- you Apple

My iPod battery is going dead after one year of service. It lasts about two hours now.

October 26, 2004


Just to get an idea of how big the new laptop is, here are some comparisons between my work laptop and the new one.

It's so beautiful

The 1900x1200 screen... I see stars...

It will be mine, but first, a name

I sense my laptop approaching, or perhaps it's the UPS tracking number telling me that the truck is on its way. Either way, it will need a name. Suggestions? (I have re-enabled comments)

The ones I've thought of so far:

  • triplemocha
  • nohope
  • chunk
  • goonley

October 19, 2004

My new precious


I gave into the quarter-life crisis. Meet my new toy. It was hard to purchase, as I already have a swank work laptop, but I wanted to have a powerful personal laptop that I could keep in my room that would be quiet (which means I can use it as an alarm clock), be good for watching video (1900x1200) screen, be wireless, and cheap. In other words, as my co-worker phrased it, I wanted a $1000 fancy alarm clock that can play DVDs.


Dell has $750 off their Inspiron laptops (minimum $1500 configuration). This means I can pick up a new laptop for as little as $750 + tax. The offer is only good for today and I can't decide whether or not to pull the trigger, given that I already have a work laptop (but would really like one of my own to bastardize).

October 11, 2004


Bought a lot of stuff Saturday while hanging out w/ zealot in the city. There were the typical purchases (unread book count now at 58, some more DVDs for the movie list), but the real prize was a set of post-it notes with comic book characters on them. Each post-it has a picture of a superhero with an empty speech balloon that you can write the note in. Don't be surprised if your belongings get attacked by a band of superheroes speaking in my handwriting.

Other weekend highlights: Iron Giant/Eternal Sunshine at honeyfields, crepes with rcp, Presidential Debates spiced up w/ Daily Show footage

E-mail me if you want divx copies of recent Daily Show episodes, or of Stewart's infamous appearance on O'Reilly Factor.

September 20, 2004

Laptop Resurrection

Our tech guy here took my laptop apart into tiny pieces and reassembled into a whole beast again. There are a couple of ugly cracks, but otherwise it appears to be roaring once more. This probably means the end of the Powerbook experience, though it was fun I liked the applications on OS X; in general the freeware stuff tended to be much higher-quality than what you get on Windows, which suffers from (a) too much legacy (b) too much signal-to-noise (c) lower-quality developer tools.

However, I missed the zippiness of my Dell laptop. The turnaround time on some of my code edits was like watching grass grow. Extrapolating from my history file I spent 32 minutes today waiting for my code to load on the 500Mhz (almost 30 seconds per load). If I did the same task on my 1Ghz laptop it would have only spent 6-7 minutes (we clocked a 1.5 Ghz Powerbook at 11.5 minutes).

My conclusion: it would be nice to have a Mac around the house for non-coding tasks and to run Mac-only apps, but at work I can't live without my PC.

September 17, 2004

Death by Pavement

Apparently, a Dell X300 laptop cannot survive a fall from a car seat to the pavement below. It now awaits the services of the Dell Necromancer, who should have it reanimated by Tuesday or so. From now until then I'll be toting around a 15" TiBook, experiencing the wonders of not being able to access menus directly with the keyboard.

August 30, 2004

Cellphone shopping

Not for myself, as AT&T can't seem to drop the price on the Nokia 6820 that I want to upgrade to (I have the 6800). Honeyfields was looking for a new Cingular phone, so I had to entertain myself as she browsed through the demo models.

My entertainment, repeated at two different booths, went as follows: * begin playing with my cellphone, tossing/twisting/bouncing it around * let the cellphone drop and hit the floor * watch horrified looks of mall-goers walking buy (usually someone will say something like, "looks like he needs a new phone") * turn towards Cingular salesperson, make some point about the phone being really tough, showing him how its still working. * intentionally drop cellphone directly in front of salesmen, letting it break into about four different pieces (phone, battery, battery cover, sim card) * observe the truly horrified look of the salesperson

I scared one salesman enough that he started comforting his anthropomorphic cellphone (kinda how you might pet/comfort a bunny), going as far to get out his cellphone case and put his cellphone back in it, as if to protect it from my doberman cellphone.

June 7, 2004

My next phone?

It's about time for me to upgrade my phone again, assuming that AT&T hasn't changed their contract terms on me again so that I don't get a subsidized upgrade. I'm usually not one for cellphone upgrades, but my current phone (Nokia 6800) has had some physical damage that I've previously mentioned. Also, due to my inexperience with non-flip phones, I've also put a nice crack in the plastic cover over the LCD screen.

The Nokia 6820 is the successor to my phone, and it seems that it has added a lot, including Bluetooth, smaller form factor, and camera. I've also learned that for $45 I can get an SSH client for it (not sure it's worth that much money to me).

If anyone has any experience with the phone, let me know. The reviews look positive, and if I can snag a good deal it will probably be mine.

Nokia 6820 messaging phone | The Register
Nokia USA: Nokia 6820

May 10, 2004

Lord of the Rings RISK

I picked up Lord of the Rings RISK (the expanded Trilogy edition). Who's down to try it out? It's basically normal RISK on a map of Middle Earth, with even more complicated rules :)

March 17, 2004

A new toy

shredderAfter experiencing an incident of identity theft awhile back, I decided that I wanted to get a shredder. While I was browsing the different models, I decided that if I was going to be doing something as anal as shredding sensitive documents, I might as well make it fun, so I splurged for the Fellowes PS70-2CD. In addition to shredding fifteen sheets at a time, it can also shred CDs and credit cards. It makes such a satisfying sound when the CDs are being eaten. Now that's entertainment.

WARNING: there may be no shreddable materials left in the house by the time pqbon gets home.

March 8, 2004

My first iTunes Music Store purchase

I've managed to win three free songs from Pepsi cans (out of five tries from the vending machine down the hall). I've been debating my purchases carefully, as I would prefer to purchase songs that I wouldn't otherwise want to buy the album. One hit wonders fall into this category, but I'm not really into one-hit wonders. New tracks released just for a greatest hits compilation also fall into this category, as do B-sides for an album you already own.

I had my heart set on getting White Stripes' cover of "Jolene," as the vinyl 45 with the song on it sells for $25, but iTMS doesn't carry it. I then checked for the extra tracks that Soul Coughing had on their greatest hits album, but iTMS doesn't carry that either.

Nearly defeated, I saw a link on the front page to an "exclusive track," White Stripes' cover of Black Jack Davey, which is a B-side of Seven Nation Army. It's pretty rockin'.

Two songs to go... (Nirvana's "You Know You're Right" is a likely candidate)

February 22, 2004

Cellular resurrection

My cellphone has miraculously started coming back to life, though, like me, it's a bit gimpy. The screen is every-so-slightly messed, and some of the buttons aren't working too well/not working at all, but I was able to make an intelligible phone call with it.

Part of the problem seems to be that the detergent fouled the contacts underneath the buttons, including the power button. I started pressing the power button in frustration and suddenly the phone turned on. Once the phone powered up, I discovered many other buttons were not working, but most of them were similarly fixed by sufficient pounding. So let this be your lesson kiddies: when something ain't working, banging on it in frustration is always is a good idea.

I'm still amazed that the phone is doing as well as it is. Time will tell if there is a small drop of water still in it that spoils the whole deal, but I retract my previous request for a cell phone. Those of you who know my previous phone know how sturdy it was, but I think that this little event with the washing machine may have given the Nokia 6800 first place in the ironphone competition.

Many thanks to Rosy, who was kind enough to respond all the way from Japan :).

GSM phone request

It looks like it will be a bit more expensive than I thought to replace my cell phone, unless I waiting three months. When I first switched to AT&T, their policy was that you could get a phone upgrade discount every six months. That has now been increased to nine months. I've only had my (broken) cell phone for six months now, so in order to not spend $200+ on a new cell phone, my best option is to wait.

My request to you all is that if you have a spare GSM cell phone that you're not using, is it possible for me to borrow it for the next three months? I'll make the same promise to you as I made to the pho list: I promise to take good care of it and keep it clean (without the use of laundry detergent).


February 21, 2004

So fresh, so clean

My cell phone just went through the spin cycle. I'm waiting for it to dry to see if it turns back on, but I'm 99% sure that even if it manages to power up, it will be like Jack Nicholson at the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I will have to do my dutiful role and smother it with a pillow, and find something large to throw through the window.

If you could please resend me your cell phone numbers, I would appreciate it. It will facilitate the education of the new cell phone, when I manage to purchase one.

At least it smells nice.

December 2, 2003

X-mas wishlist

...only one item, but it's a tad bit out of anyone's range:
EOS Digital Rebel

August 31, 2003

New seatpost

08-31-03.thomson setback seatpost.jpegFor those of you who like the truly mundane details of my life, I just got a new seatpost for my bike. It took me several months to realize, but my bike frame is actually too small for me. The folks at Chain Reaction pointed out to me that I can get a setback seatpost which will set my back in order. The seatpost I bought is the Thomson Elite, which, while pricey, already seems a whole lot better than the stock seatpost on my bike. It has two screws that let you adjust tilt and front/back separately, and it doesn't look like it's suddenly going to change angles on me when I hit a hard bump.

August 28, 2003

RIP: z505

My laptop (Verbal Kint) bit the dust this morning. It was a three-year-old Sony VAIO z505 that I got while in college. It didn't even give me any warning signs - it just shut off and no longer shows any signs of life. In more recents months it was demoted to glorified Web browser and mail reader, but it served me well taking notes and writing papers in college. It was the first laptop to really demonstrate that you could have a fully featured laptop that only weighed three pounds (which is why I bought it), and ever since I have been unable to use any laptop that weighs an ounce more.

August 4, 2003

Attention cellphone shoppers

Nokia 6800If you're unfortunate enough to have my cellphone listed in your addressbook, get ready to change the number listed there. I've decided to get the Nokia 6800. The main feature of the phone that you can't see in the photo is that it flips open to reveal a butterfly-like keyboard, which is really easy to use. After watching metamanda try to type a URL into another phone, I really began to appreciate how useful this would become.

I would have already bought it but it appears that you get a much better deal if you buy it online. Also, pqbon got the same phone yesterday and he's testing it out, so I'm just making sure the coverage will be good at 1010. We're also going to try and get a SyncML server up and running so that neither or us has to spend thirty minutes copying down our phone numbers from our cellphone address book. The SyncML server should also mean that I can add addresses/numbers to my address book from any computer (work/home) and have it appear on my cellphone. If I get the right software I should also be able to do calendaring stuff.

I know I told most that I was getting a camera phone. I was going to get the Sanyo 8100, but SprintPCS pissed me off to no end (first telling me that I couldn't get a rebate, then after I walked away calling me back to tell me that I could, and then wanting $55/mo for their minimum Internet-enabled plan), and I decided in the end that being able to type was a more important feature than being able to snap low quality photos. The LG VX 6000 does seem like a very cool phone, though.

June 27, 2003

Bagley Original Art

I've decided to make my first foray into the world of comic book original art. Here are two of the three pages I got (I don't have a scan of the third, but it is similar to the bench scene here):
this entry contains an image, click to view this entry contains an image, click to view

May 16, 2003

Treat your butt a new Pro TI Specialized BG Saddle. I got one today and my butt already appreciates it. It's got a much better surface than the lower-end models, so I highly suggest shelling out the $80 to get a seat that can hold you on the bike, rather than make you feel like you're always sliding off.

Dr. Minkow who invented the BG line spoke at PARC several months back. His anecdotes were rather interesting. When he first got Specialized to manufacture the seat, they were fairly worried. Biking is very steeped in Italian tradition, so many racers who looked at the seat dismissed it immediately (and also were adamant in denying any problems).

Minkow credits good science with helping overcome early dismissal. With the help of a well-publicized Stanford study and promotional stunts (including having cigrette smoking, booze drinking, tow truck drivers compete in a famous grueling bike race), the seat began to get some favorable press. Now that all is said and done, Specialized BG seats with the Minkow wedge are now Specialized's most successful product ever, and now nearly every seat manufacturer has tried to copy the design.

Minkow is now working on an ergonomic handlebar. Not that interesting to me, but more power to him.

April 4, 2003

Bike part links

I was chilling with Al at Jill's photoalbum party and he gave me some back and bike pointers. Pricepoint seems to have really good prices on parts. He also showed me the thudbuster line of suspension seat posts, which seem like a good replacement for my busted mountain bike seat post.

February 16, 2003

New boat

Today is my parent's anniversary and they got a new boat. It's a 22 foot Crest Caribbean tritoon. It probably looks like
...but I haven't actually seen it yet. I'm a little confused b/c the picture isn't a triple toon.

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