Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winter is Leave

The 5 days starting on Christmas Eve were remarkably tame. Cloudy for the most part, but warm. The snow meted at a staggering rate, and none has come to replace it. Today we had a gorgeous cloudless day, but the cold has returned with a vengeance.

So I went for a walk with some of my cameras to capture this late fall / late spring vista in the dead of winter. It is such a nice respite … Sophie even enjoyed a long walk today (before the photographic walk) because there was enough sun-warmed pavement for her to tolerate being out in the cold weather for half an hour.

The GX1 and Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye make a nice combination to capture my street a few houses down from my own yard. You can see my garage door and our cars at the far right edge.

The G6 with 14-140 sees the image like this …

And the GM1 with the 12-32 gets a bit wide, but still nowhere near the fisheye …

Considering that I accidentally left the GM1 set to 1000 ISO, I really like the tonality of that sensor. I think I will need to replace the GX1 with a GX7 one day.

Meanwhile, turning around we see the sun in the southwestern sky with the GX1, just over the houses. The sun never gets all that high in the sky at this time of year of course.

Facing east again, my yard has a yield sign that is warmed nicely by late afternoon sun. The G6 makes short work of subject isolation with the 14-140, here at 91mm (182mm EFL.)

A shot facing southeast with the moon hanging just above the trees. It will be hanging in a very nice location later thie evening. If I can stand the cold, I may pop out to get a few images. This G6 with 14-140 is at 78mm (156mm EFL) here.

The G6 again at 126mm EFL … as I said, it’s cold today.

The G6 once again … my neighbour’s Hydrangea looks great with the snow gone again. His new Blue Spruce makes a nice background.

Even though it’s only mid-afternoon, the shadows are long at 28mm EFL on the G6. But there is no snow at least Smile

The forecast calls for another lovely day tomorrow, albeit with a few clouds in the sky. But 2015 opens with snow on 3 of the first 4 days, with something like 15cm spread over those days. Can’t wait …

Monday, December 22, 2014

Battle of the Fast USB 3.0 Card Readers … Pretec P240 vs Kingston FCR-HS3

I have been frustrated with the Pretec P240 because I was unable to get really great speeds out of it. Or so I thought.

So I ended up ordering the Kingston from Future Shop, which turned out to be a nightmare where they sent it to the wrong address. I finally received it this week after a very long wait (more than a month) and was able to test it to see what real speeds looked like …

Only that’s not what I got from this device. In fact, it is just bloody awful. Let me show you what I mean …

First, allow me to mention that after performing a bunch of tests that the Kingston failed miserably, I decided that there must be a firmware update for it, and in fact I found one on their web site. So I updated the FW and reran the tests and, well, you’ll see …


This is the gold standard for testing disk speeds, but I found during this test that it gives you a peak throughout based on 5 iterations of each test and not the average throughput. So I don’t really trust it any more. Still, here are the results …

Note: I used two cards in my testing – the Transcend 8GB 600x card, which is a massive underperformer, and the Sandisk Extreme Pro 16GB 45MB/s, which sometimes performs miles above its stated speeds but always performs very well.

The Transcend test was really poor on sequential read, although sequential write speeds are consistent and indicate good performance for high bit rate video and high continuous rates. But you have to be extremely patient when dumping the cards because the reader showed 4 out of 5 tests at terribly slow rates and only one at the speed that was recorded.

And after the firmware updated, things did not get much better despite the spectacular intervals (only one of five each) showing 56MB/s random read at 512k byte samples and 46MB/s sequential read. The test still took a while because of the really slow intervals. Note that I used the Sandisk card here, which performs much better than the Transcend in any given test, but the Kingston could only show a spark of performance here and there.

The Pretec reader on the Transcend showed excellent results that were perfectly consistent from sample to sample. No waiting … always fast.

Video File Copy

But since this test was so variable, and since the results so not show how poorly the Kingston performed, I decided to take matters into my own hands and simply copy huge files back and forth. I chose a 1.65 AVI capture from my Screenpresso folder as the test. I copied it from my documents drive – a 2GB drive that is pretty fast – to each card. Then I copied the file to my temp folder on my scratch drive, a super fast RAID 0 striped drive consisting of a pair of Caviar Black 7200rpm 1TB drives. This sucker really goes, so the card could go as fast as it wanted to …

These results are really fascinating … I used the Transcend for a read test only, but I used the Sandisk Extreme Pro for a full suite of tests, before and after the firmware update.

Transcend Ultimate 8BG 600x Read Test

First, the Kingston reader …

The valleys there show that the card frequently slows down to zero and simply waits. I have no idea what is happening, but I suspect that the card’s bus is resetting or something like that. It pauses for seconds … sometimes as much as 5 or more. To say this slows the copy is the understatement of the century.

Then I tried the same copy with the Pretec …

That’s much better. It goes pretty quickly and never pauses or slows down at all …

Now, I did not retest the Transcend after the firmware update, so let’s look at the Sandisk results next …

Sandisk Extreme Pro 16GB 45MB/s write Test

First, the Pretec write results:

Reasonable, if not breathtaking. The card claims sustained 45MB/s and never quite gets there. But writing is smooth and fast once it ramps up, which takes a second or thereabouts.

Note that, after the FW update, there is no ramp up time. It is going like snot at a sustained 39MB/s right from the get go. If the reader’s read speeds could match its write speeds, it would be quite something. But as we are about to see … it is a real joke as a reader, which unfortunately is the only job we buy these things to perform … sigh.

Sandisk Extreme Pro 16GB 45MB/s READ Test

The Kingston had the same pauses that we saw with the Transcend card, which made it agony to try to copy this file from it to a folder on a fast drive.

And after the FW update, things improved only slightly.

Instead of one fast burst, there were three. This did cut the time in half, but when compared with the Pretec, it is still a joke.

The Pretec did have one pause in the middle for a second or so, but the rest of the time it was breathtaking. It copied the entire file in the time it takes for the Kingston to get over one pause (of many) …

Yes, that is right … a 45MB/s card shows sustained copy speeds of over 100MB/s … OH … MY … GOD!

This was an old-fashioned annihilation of Kingston by Pretec. Wow …

So I no longer have reader envy. But I do have a paper weight from Kingston that cost me around 20 bucks, which was completely wasted.

Conclusion: Buy Pretec and avoid Kingston readers. I paid 20 bucks for the Pretec and 18 bucks for the Kingston.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Clipart … I am easily amused …

In preparing a document for a certain tax-related agency that has really screwed me this year by moving the office that processes a certain set of forms to a completely new location with no warning on the website (is that vague enough?) I ran across some really nice clip art to simulate stamps on forms. Very cool …

What do you think?

Note: When you paste these into a Word doc, you can immediately adjust them to float over or under text and get the effect you desire. I really like these.

I would have demonstrated here, but Word still does not play nice with Blogger.com (pathetic, really) and Writer does not have advanced formatting options (equally pathetic, really.)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Lights at Extreme ISO

Ok, I admit to being lazy when I shot these … but I was walking the dog and carried the GM1 in my pocket just for the halibut …

My next door neighbor did a nice job of decorating his property …

Yes, you can see massive grain and some funky color because these are shot at ISOs like 12800 etc … but for snapshots they are ok.

A few houses down is the most brightly lit house on the street … I really like this look …

His next door neighbor also has quite a few decorations and they really complement one another.

This next one would suit Halloween more than Christmas … creepy …

It was shot at 25600 by the way …

I plan on walking around with the dog when we get a nice fresh blanket of snow in order to capture the lights at low ISO. Stay tuned …

Winter is Come

A recent storm has left us with a foot of snow on the ground and we are suddenly in the middle of the dog days of winter, which really just means that you have to bundle up to leave the house and you have to brush or scrape the car every time you want to drive it. It’s a drag … but then we get those glorious sunny days that make it worth living in this part of the world …

Tell me that isn’t an inspiring vista … that’s taken from my yard …

Sophie quite likes the new look of her world, as she happily walks on the soft snow without issue. The salt bothers her when it is around, but right now we have a soft snow cover that is pleasant on her feet.

And of course she has no problems using the soft blanket as a bathroom …

And again, my neighborhood … so nice to look at on days like today …

I’ve always been partial to sunlight on brick … it just works for me …

The northeast is pretty nice if you don’t mind the odd storm to wreck your day … the views in sunshine are so worth it …

Thursday, December 11, 2014

National Geographic Fat Shaming Sign Debunked

A sign showing a skinny silhouette with an arrow pointing to the stairs and a fat silhouette with an arrow pointing to the escalator is a very unsubtle form of fat shaming. One was used in a National Geographic video documenting behaviors and their causes. No doubt they thought it was for a good cause, but of course it was based on a complete bullshit premise, actually two. That fat people never take the stairs, and that taking the stairs prevents obesity.

Ridiculous assertions that nevertheless find their way into society through the musings of the uneducated and the downright mean.

But you should read the coverage of this story and take a look at the original clip from the video at Yoni Freedhoff’s blog Weighty Matters.

Meanwhile, I’ll embed the video that Yoni made showing that even the world’s foremost experts on obesity know that taking the escalator is not going to seriously impact your weight loss goals.

The old adage “you can’t outrun your stomach” is as true today as it ever was …

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What is a Confident Idiot?

Well, according to this article by David Dunning from a few weeks ago, it is you, me and everyone else Smile

Credit to Weighty Matters, the blog of Joni Freedhoff for pointing me to that article. If you are not the perfect weight or if you succumb to fad diets a lot, you should be reading Yoni.

The article is interesting in so many ways. A few quotes to tempt you to go read it:

The trouble with ignorance is that it feels so much like expertise.

Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack.

What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.

An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.

He talks a lot about the “confidently misinformed”, a particular state in which someone has acquired a great deal of knowledge, but – and I am paraphrasing so you should go read the article – has passed this knowledge through a set of internal filters that have twisted it into something other than cold hard fact. For example, a lot of people have to ascribe intent to evolution to feel they understand it.

An example used is that Cheetahs run fast because they, as a group, realized that they would be able to catch more prey so they taught themselves how to run faster (again, paraphrasing.) Of course, what evolution really means is that faster Cheetahs are sometimes born by a fluke (think of how many world-class sprinters exist) and these faster cheetahs catch more food, live longer, and make more babies. Ergo, the slower cheetahs die out over the long run.

Everyone wants to apply patterns of behavior they have seen in one situation to other situations. The article goes into some depth about how we thought the planets stayed in orbit back in the 1500s and how even the greatest minds at the time would answer a question incorrectly on how a ball would travel once it left the confines of a curved pipe, for example. The article discusses the author’s study in some depth and this topic is great reading. I am deliberately being vague to encourage you to go read it. The link, again:


The author explores another brilliant example – the “at-will” clause that so many American employers cherish as the key to complete freedom to fire people for any reason at all. I will leave you to explore the article itself to find out what the scoop is on that, but trust me that the traditional defense of “people agreed to the clause” is completely misleading and is just another way in which rampant capitalism has eroded the work force.

(See what I did there? I applied one concept inappropriately to another area. No one is entirely immune Smile.)

Another excellent quote that explains a lot of what we see on the news and on open forums everywhere:

Every day, however, people rely on the cognitive clutter in their minds—whether it’s an ideological reflex, a misapplied theory, or a cradle-born intuition—to answer technical, political, and social questions they have little or no direct expertise in.

The article later goes into detail on why “wild-west” environments like the Internet have such rampant misinformation. Paraphrasing a bit, it is pretty obvious that people hear what they want to hear. Which means that a sentence that contains the work “not” can easily be interpreted to the opposite meaning by those that already believe the opposite. Sad, but that’s how our brains seem to work. Arguing with accurate information often leads to hardening positions of the misinformed.

I see that latter issue all the time. I was that guy when I first joined DPReview. But now I’m that guy who gets impatient with the truly obtuse who bravely soldier on with their utter nonsense because they have intuited a completely false bit of knowledge. Rampant BS is ambrosia for the misinformed. I just coined that, by the way … so remember where you got it. :-)

Generally, you should not put simple facts on the Internet unless you make perfectly clear what you are saying. They use a great example that again I will let you find for yourself.

There’s a lot more in there that you should find out for yourself. It is a great read. I will leave you with one final truism from the article:

The built-in features of our brains, and the life experiences we accumulate, do in fact fill our heads with immense knowledge; what they do not confer is insight into the dimensions of our ignorance.

Like everyone else, I struggle every day to understand how much I don’t know. If you don’t struggle with this, then either you are truly enlightened and have a deep understanding of yourself, or you are just another confident idiot. I will leave it for you to read the article and then decide ….

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

LCD Panel Shoot Out for Angle of View – DELL IPS versus NEC MVA versus HP TN

So … I have been upgrading the man cave to allow me to work on many things at once. My job requires a great deal of reading, some programming, and a lot of talking. And I like to keep separate concerns on separate monitors. One of those concerns is my work laptop, which is connected into the VPN at work and is online at all times (except when I am travelling and it is in a bag.) Since I only want one keyboard and mouse, I log into the laptop via Remote Desktop and leave it in full screen mode on its own monitor.

Of course, when I had only one monitor, that was a major drag. Constantly flipping windows to change contexts drove me nuts. So of course I acquired a second monitor. And more recently, there have been more separate concerns and I acquired another monitor. That necessitated a second video card. And so on …

The top left screen is my very first LCD panel. It is a 20” 1600x1200 NEC AccuSync 200VX, which sports an MVA panel – one of the first LCD technologies to be able to offer 178 degrees angle of view in both horizontal and vertical directions. It remains an excellent panel.

Top right is my second monitor, a 23” 1080p DELL U2311H I think. This one uses an eIPS panel, which is the less expensive variety of IPS. IPS is the technology you want if you process images etc, as it offers excellent color fidelity. It also offers excellent angle of view, matching MVA.

The bottom right is also a DELL, the spectacular U2410, which has an H-IPS panel in it. A truly great panel and one of those 24” panels that has the original 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the becoming more common 1080p. This gives me much more room to work and I have to say that the panels look huge. This one was being sold on Kijiji by a young fellow at the University of Ottawa, and I got it for 220 bucks. Not super cheap, but for a large panel that can be calibrated to within a whisker of perfection, I don’t mind. The equivalent panel today is something like 400 to 500.

The bottom left is the lowly TN panel … something I thought I would never again buy. Well, I succumbed to the temptation because it is a gorgeous panel with very good angle of view horizontally and excellent sharpness and contrast, which comes from what HP calls “Brightview Technology” … marketing speak for “good.” And when reading Kindle books etc, it is nothing short of breathtaking. You can see how nice it looks in the image above. Bright and clear, just like the marketing team wanted you to believe. And I got it for 50 bucks, which makes the deal very sweet indeed.

However, it is far from perfect, as you will see in a moment. As I sit here with Gallery up on the HP, all the light text on dark background in the 4 inches from the right side is invisible. TN panels are notorious for having very poor angles of view. The standard is loose, so they often report 170/170, which is nonsense. The honest ones report 170/160 or 160/160. But that is still nonsense. In fact, horizontally you can already notice color shifts at the edges, just from the few degrees they are off center with respect to your eye plane. Vertically, they are often abysmal and this HP is even worse than that.

So … this test is pretty simple. Shoot them from below, above and far left. There is no room to shoot from the right, but you will see that the side view is very telling regarding the differences in these technologies.

Shooting from about 45 degrees from below shows that there is nothing going on. You can still see them perfectly. In fact, if there is anything to complain about, it would be that the DELL 24” might have issues at angles. Top right is not looking so good.

From above, the two IPS panels are looking a tad darker. The MVA looks amazing, and the TN also looks amazing. It does have a slight advantage, as it is tilted slightly upwards, but it remains near perfect.

Note: The HP is in portrait mode, which means that these two shots were testing its horizontal angle of view, which is always better on TN panels than the vertical angle of view. So what about its vertical performance, which I have telegraphed is going to suck?

Well …

OMG!! Yes, it really does that. In fact, I have Gallery running on it right now, and all the text on the right side is invisible. The angle of view is the worst I have ever seen.

Luckily, for my purposes, this is not an issue. But wow …

So the takeaway is that there is a very good reason why anyone doing color work would want IPS panels. There really is no contest. MVA has morphed over the years to A-MVA, and it definitely good for watching movies and working at angles to the screen. But color accuracy remains the domain of IPS. Even the cheap(er) eIPS panels are very good once calibrated.

And a plug for Kijiji … these two monitors are huge and really help with my work … I am amazed. And for the price of one decent smaller monitor, well, the value equation is excellent. I also got a smaller Samsung monitor in the summer on Kijiji. For 20 bucks. It is attached now to the MAC Mini for PianoMarvel duty. Although you have to be careful with Kijij, it can be a source of some decent monitors.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

No More iTunes

Well, it had to happen. ITunes has finally mangled my music library beyond all recognition. The spectacularly arrogant Apple engineers have created a real monster with this application, even though I had been enjoying it for the last few generations, since it stopped being utter crap in the later oughts.

But no … they could not leave well enough alone and they started changing the structure of my library without ever notifying me. So now I have this Frankensteinian  hodge podge of folders that are incomplete, duplicated, and just generally FUBAR.

Thanks Apple … never again.

I had set the library to D:\iTinesLibrary … a rather nice setup and trivial for them to use. I never cared where the metadata (library XML files, album art, etc) went, they were welcome to manage that. But I never gave it permission to restructure.

Yet here we are …


So what you see there is from BeyondCompare, a truly remarkable tool for comparing pretty much anything. Highly recommended.

What iTunes did at some point was to create a subfolder structure and start using that to manage my music. And things might have been fine had it respected the “manage my music” check box and asked me if it could move all my music to the new location. But it simply moved some of it and started using both locations. What a fricken mess!

You can see that a lot of the music is in the new location on the right, and some is in both locations. The red icons show you where there is duplicated music that is in fact in both locations but with different sizes. This duplication shows up in my new favourite streaming server, Plex. ITunes seems to weed some, but not all of the duplication out.

So in the end my library must again be reset. I will be removing the music from the itunes folders and will be consolidating it into a separate location. ITunes will be allowed to only manage its own data and not the actual music. It’s incompetence (and that of Apple’s software team) have broken my back after a decade of stuttering steps forward and then backward. And I have had it.

Plex is a far better streaming service and application set anyway … you really owe it to yourself to look into it … it runs on everything and the server is actually intelligent.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Phone Scammers

There are one of the many scourges of the modern world. They set up in places where they cannot be held to our marketing laws and they hire people who are effectively wage slaves. We treat those people badly on the phone when in fact we should be tossing their bosses in jail …

The worst group I have encountered is the air duct cleaning people. They tend to be relentless, although I must say that they have slowed the pace of their calling recently.

Meanwhile, I received a really peculiar call this morning … and here is the transcript. See if you can figure out what was peculiar about it ….

Ring, ring.

Me: Hello?
Him: Hello, this is credit-card services. I am calling you about your credit card. Is that all right?

Me: No, it is not all right. You did not identify yourself as VISA nor as my bank. So why on earth would you be calling me?

Me: Excuse me?



He seriously said that. Perhaps it was one of the bosses having a moment of veracity … we will never know …

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

1.75 Million

I have tailed off in my blogging over the last year or so, and I am not sure that I can reach the same intensity I once had about it. But thanks to all my readers for 1.75 Million page views. I hope you have found something interesting in all these articles …


Onward and upward we go …

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Published again in the Ottawa Citizen

For the second time in three weeks, one of my images will be used at the header in the Ourtown section of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper this coming Thursday. I’m very pleased, obviously. My thanks once again to Robbi Hay, the editor of Ourtown, for choosing my images several times per year.

This is a new image I had submitted some months ago, a squirrel munching on a nut in a tree at the Fletcher Gardens on Prince of Wales Drive.

Click on it to expand to a more readable size, and grab yourself a Citizen on Thursday to see the complete list of events.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fuji S1 – Review Part 31 – “Winter is Coming” in JPEG

Well, it appears that we cannot escape the “Stark” reality that winter is happening whether we are ready for it or not. In fact, we seem to “beheaded” that way right about now … with “Dire” weather hitting for two days in a row now … in fact, it would not take much more for me to hit “The Wall” ….

Ok, enough of this “Game of Puns” …

This is only loosely tied to the Fuji S1 review because, well, I shot these with that camera. And the JPEG angle came about because I reset the cameras before sending them back, which happens very shortly.

So I woke up yesterday morning to see snow on the ground and rooftops everywhere. By lunch, it had melted so I decided that it did not yet count as the arrival of winter. And that karma bought me the big dump I woke up to today. And it kept snowing … no chance of a quick melt this time. Sigh ….

So here is what it looks like when you shoot the S1 with a basic A Prio auto everything setup, and this is a full-sized JPEG so you can click on it and open it in a browser window.

Now, that’s a little cool for me. I prefer the snow to be white (neutral) instead of blue. But Fujis lean blue and so you have to live with it if you shoot JPEG and don’t process. And there is little on this camera to adjust in the JPEG settings.

But … I tweak everything, so it was a simple matter in Lightroom to adjust this: neutralize the white balance, open shadows, reduce contrast, add local contrast to the snow, reduce the size and sharpen to taste. Just a moment it took, and I applied it to all the snow images by synching it up. I did have to go and set white balance on each image, since the camera responded slightly different each time … in raw you would not have to, but the camera has applied a different white balance for each image and the pixels are bruised differently each time. That’s the big price for shooting JPEG.

If you look closely at the images, you will also not that the noise reduction even at base ISO removes a lot of the inherent sharpness of this sensor. That’s another big price to pay for shooting JPEG.

Here is the adjusted image … and by the way, this is shot from my front porch.

You could see it snowing against the dark background of my neighbour’s fence across the street.

I have a brick walkway and it appears that the brick retains heat while the sand in between does not …

Sophie (the pug) hates walking in the rain and snow is not much different. She pretty much refuses to go off the yard in this weather :-)

At full wide angle, the snow that has been hitting the front element of the lens is starting to show on the images …

But at zoom, it’s not much of a problem …

Now, here is that last image in the original JPEG for another comparison point …

Note: If you see the second image as neutral and the first image as very warm, then check your monitor’s calibration.

And that’s that … Winter is Here …

I am not fond of JPEG at all, but it did an adequate job on these images. At least as they are presented here. Were I to try to enlarge one, things might not turn out very well at all …