Categories
mobile technology

Mobile bookmarks

My new cell phone has a 320 by 240 landscape 1.9″ screen, sharp and bright, that actually makes for a decent experience viewing web and WAP pages (or at least as decent as it can get on a sub-2″ screen). The landscape orientation is a real boon when it comes to writing messages and viewing photos as well. Since my mobile plan currently offers me unlimited web access, I’ve been looking at various websites that offer mobile versions of their content over the last couple of weeks – whenever I’ve had time to kill on the train, walking from place to place, and even in the office. This new-found ubiquity of access has actually changed the way I view and use the web – I can’t imagine having a phone without this feature in the future.

Some compromises are, of course, necessary to make reading a full news article for example, possible on a cell phone.

Categories
photography

Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit

The Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art is holding a retrospective of the French photographer’s work until August. They have a large collection of photographs on display, and while I don’t know a lot about street photography or photo-journalism, I was impressed by many of them. If I were to try to describe what I see, they:

  • are exclusively about people
    • often interacting with their environment, and vice versa
    • often interacting with each other
    • often reacting to a situation, or expressing a clear point of view
  • often have a strong sense of space and shape, that relates directly to the human subject(s)
  • often exquisitely, perfectly timed, freezing the decisive action or moment of the scene being played out
  • sometimes remind me of a Norman Rockwell painting, in the way humor is found through incongruity and juxtaposition (the word humanity also springs to mind)

Or if I were to put it another way, what he does for me, is capture succintly, people simply being people. Even in his commissioned portraits, his subjects rarely look directly at the camera, so that the final result feels more like one of his street shoots.

Categories
photography technology

DAM software

Digital Asset Management is becoming a big deal for many photographers, professionals and occasional shooters alike. I hadn’t really thought much about it before, but my recent acquisition and subsequent digitizing of historical family photographs brought home to me the need for a tool that would allow me to treat the collection as a library – complete with cataloging, search and organization functionality. A comprehensive survey of the DAM software market can be found here.

My basic requirements were:

  • Flexible labeling of photos – multiple labels, and ability to specify a label hierarchy
  • XML export of the catalog – including labels and their hierarchy
  • Support of open standards (IPTC, XMP) to avoid vendor lock-in
  • Ability to write these tags to the image files (or sidecar files), for the same reason
Categories
photography technology

Digicam deal

I popped into Bic Camera on the weekend, and got what I think is a bargain on a digital camera. Bic is selling the Fujifilm F31fd compact digicam, if you take into account their loyalty points and current campaign, for roughly USD170 – that’s about $50 cheaper than I can find on pricegrabber, and it’s probably worth noting that it’s initial release MSRP was USD399. Widely considered the best camera by far for low-light/no-flash pictures (and best-in-class battery life, at a rated 580 shots per charge), at the price it was hard to resist. With the current emphasis on megapixels by camera makers (it offers a “paltry” 6 megapixels worth of resolution), it’s hard to imagine another camera like this being introduced in the market again, at least for the time being. I really missed having a compact camera around on a recent trip to Malaysia – this one fits the bill nicely.

Categories
photography technology

Scanning prints

I have about 4-500 old family photographs from about 50 years ago that I thought would be great to digitize and distribute among relatives that are spread around the world – considering my paternal grandmother came from a family of thirteen, that’s a lot of interrelated history there.

So I got a Canoscan Lide 600F scanner from BIC Camera last night (178,000Â¥ – including 10% back in points, about USD135) – the salesman told me that the warranty and software were only good for Japan, but that I could download the drivers online. Sure enough, they were there on the Canon website, and I didn’t even bother opening the packaged CD. The device itself is relatively slim, and wonder of wonders, doesn’t need its own power supply, running off USB bus power (you need to use the provided USB cable though). The software was rather painless to install and get going – a machine restart was necessary for me, but not mentioned in the install guide.

I used Canon’s CanoScan Toolbox downloaded online, and for batch scanning of prints, it’s a breeze. Simply layout up to ten photos on the platen, and the software automatically straightens and crops correctly, provided you follow its guidelines of 1 cm between the platen edge and other photos – in this it does a great job. You need to set the correct orientation in a preview screen after scanning, and before saving – some way to automate this would’ve been nice. Perhaps the interface could have been a little cleaner, there’s a memory leak problem if you attempt to scan a number of times in the same session, so you need to restart sessions each time – not a big deal as I mapped one of the scanner buttons to bring up the Multi-Scan mode. Anyway, testament to how efficient the workflow was – I started last night and was done this evening getting through 478 photos, 4 x 6 and smaller.

Quality-wise, nothing to quibble over – scanning at 600 dpi, a 100% crop is shown below (without any sharpening). I’m very impressed with the technology and the whole experience.

Sample Crop

Now to start mailing those CDs out…

Categories
blogging technology

Making a start

Well, I spent a little time over the last couple of days evaluating blogging options for the website, and eventually settled on WordPress (what a great name for a blogging platform!).

Some of its pluses:

  • It runs off PHP, which means it runs on my current web host (which also provides MySql instances on the same plan). The learning opportunity was a big part of going with WordPress, as opposed to being hosted on blogger.com or wordpress.com.
  • XML-export of posts.
  • Wide user base, established community, theme and plugin availability.
  • Open source.

MovableType (another great moniker) was another option, but dependency on Perl, a much larger installation, a seemingly more powerful but less user-friendly dashboard put it behind WordPress (it’s also not open source, but for me that’s not a big deal). I did like its ability to publish multiple blogs from a single installation.

I was able to FTP-publish to my site from blogger.com, and liked its simplicity, but in the end wanted something that I could tweak under the covers a bit more.

After that, it was a matter of hacking away at the default theme to get it looking the way I wanted (a lot of inspiration coming from this great WordPress site), which took actually much longer than I expected. It’s been a good experience though, as it’s given me exposure to working with stylesheets, server-side includes, PHP, and inter-browser differences (the theme looks much better in Firefox than it does in IE). And it’s been just the impetus I needed to bring better organization to the site.

The site does seem slower with SSI, as do the blog pages in general, and in particular the admin pages. Looking around, this wp-cache plugin might be an option for better performance.